Tunin' the motor, like a weekend boater
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Thursday, August 30, 2007
Ok, new feature here, but a pretty simple concept to grasp. Lately I’ve been listening to an absolute TON of garage/psych compilations, pursuing an increasingly obsessive dream of becoming familiar which each and every single genuinely wild n’ tripped out ‘60s gem amid the masses of entirely unremarkable obscurities that cackling collectors and compilers seem to rejoice in flooding the world with via a seemingly endless stream of outrageously packaged, randomly assembled compilations.
Perhaps they do this in order to satisfy some quasi-sadistic urge to inflict some of the same “needle in a haystack” style hard labour upon the casual listening public that they themselves have suffered through a lifetime of stockpiling warped garage-sale 45s, bidding outrageous sums for unheard acetate obscurities at record fairs and so on. Or maybe they just realize they’ll make more cash to keep their own excavation/reissue operations going if they release 17 volumes of “Blinding Yellow Bicycle Rings: Prime Scandinavian Pop-Sike Fizz 1968-72” than if they behave like sensible human beings and cut it down to, say, three good ones.
Either way, getting the most out of this particular musical infatuation inevitably involves breaking out the machete and cutting through some serious sugar-coated undergrowth to get to the good stuff. So to make things a bit more interesting, I’m going to throw on a compilation disc for the first time, and throw down my thoughts into MS Word as I listen, so that you can, um, take the journey with me so to speak. Be warned: it might get ugly, it might get geeky, but it might just be… amazing.
So, starting in relatively shallow waters, we shall begin, for no particular reason, with Disc Three of Rhino’s Nuggets II: Original Artyfacts From The British Empire And Beyond: 1965 – 69 box-set. Let’s go!
1. Cuby & The Blizzards - Your Body Not Your Soul
I think I saw a picture of these guys on the internet somewhere; they looked pretty gnarly. This record is a fairly ok fuzz-garage stomper; “I want your body baby / I don’t want your soul!” Nice one Cuby, that’s sure to win her over.
2. The Twilights - Cathy, Come Home
Hmm… don’t like this much at all. Sounds like a sugary, low-budget British studio-bound affair.
3. Les Fleur De Lys - Circles
This is a fairly rockin’ bit of British fare. Fleur De Lys did quite a few good tunes within that whole Shel Talmy mod/psych crossover thing. This is a Who cover, and I think I actually like it better than their version (better vocalist), although it’s no “Can’t Explain” or “Substitute” obviously.
4. The Matadors - Get Down From The Tree
The Matadors huh? I wonder where these guys were from… would be dumb of me to assume Spain, but wherever they call home, these guys have a definite Latin-imitating –American thing in the vocals. Good octopus-drummin’ freakbeat stomper anyway – I could do the twist to this, except where it goes all slow at the end…hmm.
5. Q65 - Cry In The Night
Ho yeah! Q65! This is more like it! Holland’s premier garage-punk nutters with another short, sharp blast of straight-up r’n’b/punk. Rough-ass production, really ragged, energetic playing, great lyrics, good tune and good times all round! Party on, Q65!
6. Los Chijuas - Changing The Colors Of Life
Los Chijuas..? From a Spanish-speaking country I’m assuming..? Mexico at a guess? But, I mean, “Les Fleur De Lys” are English, so who knows. Great Standells-esque organ-driven sound here anyway, but with far more melodic vocals. I’m sure this would go down a storm on any '60s-focused dancefloor – it’s got a real nice swing to it.
7. The Bluestars - Social End Product
Man, this is fucking furious!! – Totally vicious, juvenile delinquent ranting song in the vein of The Seeds or The Lyrics ‘So What?’, but with totally harsh, headbanging instrumental bludgeoning, ala The Sparkles ‘No Friend of Mine’; “I cop a label as an angry young man / because I don’t fit into the masterplan / Under society’s microscope / I may look funny, but it’s no joke!” The next time some sausagehead starts insisting punk rock began in the ‘70s, whack this one on for them. Seriously, replace the organ with another guitar, make the beat about 50% less ‘oom-pah’ and this could be, like, The Dead Boys or The Exploited or something. Plus the singer makes with a great kinda leaking-gas-pipe “ssssssssss” noise throughout, and that always gets me excited. Best song on this comp so far!
8. The Syndicate - Crawdaddy Simone
This is pretty great too – sounds like it should be a John Lee Hooker style tough-boogie number, but the band have this kinda noisy, arrhythmic, proto-industrial thing going on that completely murders the blues. Plus some seriously damaged no wave guitarwork! It seems the Simone of the title isn’t the hot chick one might expect, but actually some mysterious, menacing cat ala Roy Orbison’s “Domino”. Holy shit, that’s the most cracked solo I’ve heard in months! Great, unusual, sleazy un-groove going on here and… oh my god, culminates in a load of just totally out-there atonal, space noise! Magnificent!
9. The Sound Magics - Don't You Remember?
I listened to this about 30 seconds ago and can’t think of a damned thing to say about it, so… yeah, guess I don’t. Has a kind of a melodramatic, slightly Latin-tinged thing going on.
10. The Guess Who - It's My Pride
Sounds much like you’d expect an early Guess Who single to I suppose – a boozy, leery Doors knock-off, somewhat in the spirit of a fat man on LSD being pushed down some stairs. Pretty solid stuff maybe, but, sorry folks, The Guess Who have never really floated my boat.
11. The Open Mind - Magic Potion
Nice ‘Magic Bus’ era Who stylings here, with a classic ‘we don’t actually know anything about drugs, but doing a thinly-veiled song about ‘em seems to be the done thing’ lyrics. Occasional outbreaks of Ron Ashton-worthy distortion/wah-wah abuse are the highlight for me.
12. The Missing Links - You're Driving Me Insane
The Missing Links have a reputation as Australia’s wildest / most notorious ‘60s group, and on the basis of this barely coherent chunk of sexually frustrated menace, I can believe it. The guitarist flings around some huge, Townshend-esque windmilling licks before launching into a totally ripping skronk solo that don’t give a damn for nobody, whilst the rhythm section sound like they are actually being physically attacked – maybe by the singer? – as they valiantly try to keep time. “When you kiss my lips / you’re driving me insane!!”; I have a feeling the citizens of Melbourne or wherever would have slept a lot safer at night if these guys’ girlfriends had loosened up a little and just, y’know, seen to their needs once in a while.
13. The Jury - Who Dat?
More knuckleheaded freakbeat raunch for us here, with real levels-in-the-red compressed production. The guitarist just repeats the first six notes of the “Have Love Will Travel” riff ALL THE WAY THROUGH. I ask you! This one’s very ‘Back From The Grave’ I guess.
14. John's Children - A Midsummer's Night Scene
I fucking love John’s Children! They did loads of great stuff besides their all-time weird-rock classic ‘Desdemona’ (included on another disc of this box-set), and can always be relied upon for a good bit of totally OTT brit-psych freakout, with a sense of humour and enough of their mod roots intact to resist complete dissolution by the sugar-lumps-and-afternoon-tea brigade. Not to mention Marc Bolan popping in to do his whole rock n’ roll gnome thing every now and then. Anyway, this one’s a great slab of thugs-takin’-acid Summer Of Love euphoria – “..In the park/getting dark/eating the heat/there’s an eye/in the sky/ melting your feet..”. As usual it sounds like they were going bonkers in the studio, with insane reverb, looped, echoed vocal chants, reversed bits, random noises, boinging trampoline guitar notes… you name it.
15. The Sands - Listen To The Sky
More ambitious than your average Nugget, this starts out like a mid-period Beatles character song and builds into a soaring pop melodrama about a doomed Spitfire pilot that sounds SO SO SO like it should have been stuck in the middle of The Pretty Things ‘SF Sorrow’. Has an outro consisting of air-raid sirens and machine gun noises that just goes on and on and, hey wow, it wasn’t the outro after all, the song’s come back in for some more dynamic guitar action!
16. The Mockingbirds - How To Find A Lover
I suppose a good first step toward finding a lover might be to NOT spend all day talking jive about obscure trash-psychedelia records and then publishing the results on the internet, but sadly The Mockingbirds have no such down to earth advice to offer on this unremarkable bit of baroque-pop fluff, so I’ll just carry on.
17. The Idle Race - Days Of The Broken Arrows
Never really been a huge fan of The Idle Race, despite their high critical standing amongst fans of this-sort-of-thing. They’re more imaginative than most admittedly, but a bit…. irritating, no? This is one of their better tunes though, I guess. Pleasantly crazy, but y’know, early Floyd and Soft Machine existed at this point, so…. why would you, really?
18. The Elois - By My Side
‘The Elois’? I wonder where these guys were from? Pretty uneventful tune anyway, in the context of the whacked out fare on this disc at least. Meh.
19. The Factory - Path Through The Forest
Oh, now this is fantastic. A British psyche classic of the first order I reckon. Strips away all that stupid post-Sgt. Pepper gloop for a simple lesson is true, dark psychedelic romanticism; an urgent ‘chase-scene’ rhythm, a great, subtle vocal performance sounding like it’s being beamed in via a transistor radio and drifting shards of feedback guitar imitating owl-hooting, growls and sharpened knives. Wordlessly weird and ineffably fascinating and atmospheric, like the musical equivalent of emerging from technicolour brambles to see the sole light in the gable window a derelict Victorian parsonage silhouetted against depth-defying blue-black sky…. THIS is what it’s all about!
20. Episode 6 - Love Hate Revenge
Oh my god! Opening verse: “I bought a dog from an old bearded lady / I called it Tanya and it looks just like you / and although it might sound kind of crazy / I can make you feel anything I want you to” – GENIUS! Musically quite interesting, with a faint raga vibe and some “Mother’s Little Helper” sitar-y bits, but man, these lyrics are absolutely whacko! I’m really not sure how to best respond to an upbeat pop song about a guy who tortures a dog because he thinks the pain will be magically transferred to his ex-girlfriend. Kudos to whoever dug this one up, but, um, moving swiftly on…
21. The Status Quo - Pictures Of Matchstick Men
..AAGH! No denim or misguided ponytails in evidence in the early twee-psyche incarnation of The Quo of course, but on the basis of this their penchant for mind-numbing repetition of simplistic themes was already well-established. A lot of people seem to really dig this record. Gimme ‘Sweet Caroline’ any day.
22. The Voice - The Train To Disaster
Top drawer bit of flailing, chaotic fuzz-punk. The vocal melody is a bit weak, but makes up for it with great ‘Eve of Destruction’ style apocalyptic lyrics. Nice!
23. The (Australian) Playboys - Sad
I like the “(Australian)”. Do you think there was a lawsuit with some other Playboys from a different country? Musically this one’s a bit so-so anyway. If I’m interpreting the lyrics right, the singer appears to be in a deserted seaside town, looking for a guy named “Sad”, which is an… odd lyrical theme.
24. The Slaves - Slave Time
Hmm, doesn’t have quite the same appeal as “MONK TIME!” does it? Don’t really know what the hell is supposed to be going on here, but it’s a bit fucking rubbish to be honest. I wonder if they dressed up as slaves or something? Who knows, who cares.
25. The Red Squares - You Can Be My Baby
More Who/Creation chops. Christ, the drummer’s going to get a hernia if he’s not careful!
26. Scrugg - I Wish I Was Five
‘Scrugg’? What kind of a name is that? – the kind of thing you call your band when you wish you were five presumably. Makes me wish I was 80 and listening to Ralph McTell, and that all this horrid electrified madness would just GO AWAY.
27. The Downliners Sect - Glendora
Ah, let’s end things on a high-note! Hopefully The Downliners Sect need no introduction, neither as primo Billy Childish inspirations nor as one of Britain’s rawest, most eccentric and generally bestest ‘60s bands. ‘Glendora’ isn’t anywhere near my favourite song by them, but I guess it’s fuzz/tremolo guitar and funny, psyched out lyrics render it more in the Nuggets spirit than their more characteristic blues and country rave-ups. Great, untutored girly backing vocals too! Cracking!
WHAT WE HAVE LEARNED:
1.Generally speaking, this disc reinforces my belief that whilst European bands in the ‘60s were more imaginative and open-minded than their American counterparts, particularly in regards to production values and guitar pyrotechnics, they were nevertheless * less rocking * in an indefinable but very important sense.
2.The Who have got a lot to answer for.
3. Ten of the tracks here are over three minutes! They’d never have stood for it in the States, I tell you. Bloody Beatles.
4. My head hurts and NO WAY do I want to hear any fuzz guitar or vox organ for…ooh, at least 12 hours.
TOP 3 TRACKS:
1. The Factory – Path Through The Forest
2. The Bluestars – Social End Product
3. The Syndicate – Crawdaddy Simone
(If you’re thus inclined, buy Nuggets II: Original Artyfacts From The British Empire And Beyond here.)
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Some proper new posts coming up within the next few days, honest.
In the meantime:
1. Deathblog Supplemental
Stereo Sanctity is very sad to hear of the death of Max Roach. Whilst I'm still too much of a jazz neophyte to attempt to do justice to his 60 year career spanning god knows how many musical epochs, I can at least testify that everything I've heard with him playing on it kicks ass, and that everything I've read suggests he was a really great guy too. I direct you toward the more authoritative obits on Destination:Out and Locust St. for further details (and music).
2. Cambodian Confusion
In the cause of making me look like slightly less of an idiot, I would like to draw attention to the really awesome Cambodian psyche / rock n' roll song which I played toward the start of my last radio show, and credited as "A2" by "Cambodian Rocks". I rather suspected this was a somewhat unlikely title for a record, and indeed subsequent investigation has led me to discover that Cambodian Rocks is in fact the title of a compilation album compiled by collector Paul Wheeler, which was put together straight from a bunch of tapes he picked up whilst travelling across Cambodia, and issued with no track info whatsoever. So it seems that when Shadoks came to put together their "Love, Peace and Poetry: Asian Psychedelic Music", from which I took the track, they ripped it straight from Wheeler's comp and simply called it "A2" cos it was the second song on side one.
There is a certain amount of confusion here, in that Wheeler's "Cambodian Rocks" was put out by a small and seemingly deliberately mysterious label called Parallel Worlds, and although it caused a bit of a stir amongst underground muso types, no further information, online or otherwise, was forthcoming. However, the "Cambodian Rocks" title has subsequently been hi-jacked/reappropriated by a label called Khmer Rocks, who have issued four volumes under that name. In their favour, they seem to be operating on a more well-informed/official basis, but on the other hand they also seem to be concentrating more on the slightly more staid pop music of Cambodia's bigger musical stars, rather than the fuzzed out "circle dance" craziness of the Parallel Worlds comp.
There is a certain crossover of tracks between the Parallel Worlds and Khmer Rocks comps however, and despite a few fragmentary/confused tracklistings I've found floating around the internet (the existence of two competing albums with the same name doesn't help!), thanks to this excellent post on Far Eastern Audio Review (what a great site, by the way), I'm pretty sure I have finally identified the song in question as "I'm So Shy", performed by Ros Sereysothea.
Got all that? - good.
Whichever way you look at it, the whole business is somewhat ethically and legally dubious, as highlighted by this brief but necessary blogpost. But, after the psyche geek/cultural tourist wrangling dies down, all we have left is the music, and the basic point is, IT IS UTTERLY RULE-ASS, and your chances of living as a happy human being are likely to be significantly increased by exposure to it. So here it is again:
Mp3 > Cambodian Rocks A2 / Ros Sereysothea - "I'm So Shy"
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Presenting 86mb of pure, kaleidoscopic GET-DOWN music, incorporating the sounds of Cambodian Rocks, The Red Krayola, Aretha Franklin, The Flies, The Animal Collective, Charles Mingus, Jaqueline Taieb, The Ethiopians, Oakley Hall, Al Green, The Blinders, No Age and more.
For the first time, this radio show is split into 9 mp3 segments for more convenient listening: after expanding the zip file, just import them into iTunes (or equivalent) as a new album or burn them to CD, and enjoy. A track-listing and the above example of my awe-inspiring photoshop skillz are also included.
As ever, any queries, problems, comments, praise, criticisms etc. are gratefully received.
Labels: radio show
Monday, August 06, 2007
Well it was pretty inevitable Lee Hazlewood would die sometime this year, so the world has had a long time to get used to the idea, but it’s still a little sad, and undoubtedly an event worth marking.
If I were to go for a full recap of Hazlewood’s career and the various roles he’s played over the years, his influence upon pop culture etc., this would be a very long post indeed. Whether you’re familiar with the guy or not, do a Wikipedia or a Google, and have some fun getting (re)acquainted with a flawlessly idiosyncratic CV that pretty much defines the notion of a “cult musician”.
Personally, I’ve always found Hazlewood’s work to be a bit of a cipher… easy to enjoy, yet difficult to fully engage with. That he was a masterful songwriter and producer with a singular creative vision and, of course, an extraordinary voice is obvious from the word go, but to try to get a solid line on where exactly he was coming from – there lies the challenge that sets him apart. His songs, and his public persona, walk a line between emotional authenticity and self conscious showbiz sleaze so fine that when you find yourself caught on the hook of one of his beautifully constructed dead-love laments, it feels like just that; being caught on a hook. Is Lee sharing his emotions with us here, or just grinning behind the studio console as he fashions a better hook for next time?
And similarly, even his goofiest pop songs manage to convey a weird fascination, a sense of something deeper and more personal going on. Despite his deep love of simple, accessible pop and country music, it seems like, whether by accident or design, Lee Hazlewood was incapable of ever making a record which was, strictly speaking, “normal”. Who else, when presented with the lucrative chance to help turn Frank Sinatra’s daughter into a star, would take a chance and hit the world with something as shockingly kick-ass as “These Boots Are Made For Walking”, and follow it up with a record as astonishingly unique, baffling, beautiful and otherworldly as “Some Velvet Morning”? And who else, in the whole of history, could have taken that risk and had it pay off in the form of huge financial / chart success and a some of the most amazing, distinctive pop records of all time? And then disappear into the shadows just when his face is on the cover of a million-selling LP?
Maybe it was this kind of ambiguity that was responsible for it as much as his much-praised refusal to play by the industry’s rules, but either way, there is something impeccably fucking COOL about the way Lee Hazlewood never became a massive star, something that I think serves as an inspiration to all musicians who choose to follow their own ideas of creative success outside of the mainstream. At different points in his career, I’m sure Lee could easily have made it big in the pop mainstream, whether as an Andy Williams style swinging crooner, an iconic country star or even, at a push, a Leonard Cohen-esque moody singer-songwriter. The fact he was an extremely smart and talented operator with proven hit-making potential and personal connections to some of the biggest people in Hollywood would probably have helped his case too, but, for whatever reason…. he chose not to. And chose instead to make records like these:
If nothing else, the man certainly deserves the respect of all lovers of great album covers.
At the risk or over-simplification, it is almost as if at some point, he decided that being genuinely cool was more important than being rich n’ famous…. and just went with it.
And, I would venture to suggest, Lee Hazlewood managed to die in a manner just as cool as that in which he lived his life. Not that a slow death from cancer is very cool in itself of course, but to return to the music scene as a slightly weird elder statesman figure, play a few final shows, record a typically perplexing and funny / dignified "reflections on death" album (‘Cake Or Death’), do a few warm and wisdom-filled interviews with fans and smaller publications, sit back as the plaudits roll in from hipsters the world over, and pass away quietly somewhere just outside Las Vegas (a VERY appropriate location). If you're gonna die, that's the way to do it.
So I guess everyone is gonna be playing ‘Some Velvet Morning’, and rightly so, but I thought I’d take the opportunity to share a few of my other favourite Hazlewood tracks with you, beginning with his own rarely heard version of his best-known song.
I’ll admit I know nothing of the context of this recording, but I get a real kick out of imagining it was done shortly after Nancy dumped Lee as a lover(??) / co-star / producer….. SUCH amazingly expressed ‘fuck you’ bitterness here – I love it. Also note how Hazlewood manages to put across a great “buncha guys rockin’ in the studio” vibe, even though it’s clearly quite a lavish big band production job – his vocal adlibs are solid gold. Definitely my favourite version of this song.
Mp3 > Lee Hazlewood – These Boots Are Made For Walking
Seems like Lee always had a couple of good slouching, drunken self-pity songs lying around, and this next one is a killer.
Mp3 > Lee Hazlewood – After Six
And just in case you’re getting the impression this Hazlewood guy was some kind of lounge lizard chucklemiester:
Mp3 > Lee Hazlewood – Your Sweet Love
One more for the road:
Mp3 > Lee Hazlewood - I Am a Part
So long Lee.
Friday, August 03, 2007
A SHORT POST ABOUT LOVE
Yes, that’s Love with Arthur Lee, not Love the unknowable abstract force that drives the universe onward, so you can breathe easy readers.
It is now one year since Arthur Lee shuffled off this mortal coil and, entirely by coincidence, I find myself more obsessed than ever with the 1966 single that perhaps represents the pinnacle of his group’s unique rock n’ roll alchemy: the two minute and twenty second assault on the senses that is 7 & 7 Is. It’s a tune which I’d assume most of you will already be familiar with, but if not, strap yourself in tightly, and hit the link below:
Mp3 > Love - 7 & 7 Is
Love are of course best remembered today for ‘Forever Changes’ – an unparalleled masterpiece which crams reflections on paranoia, drug psychosis, collapsing societal values, the blurring of the link between the ego and universe and the vicious chasm between innocence and experience into convoluted, visionary song structures, and yet is somehow routinely written off by inattentive listeners as an example of carefree, summertime pop.
This is not a misapprehension which could ever be applied to ‘7 & 7 Is’. For whilst much of Love’s other significant material hides it’s true colours behind conventional folk-rock jangle, soaring melodies and lush, baroque arrangements, ‘7 & 7 Is’ defies any such rationalisation. It represents a different side to the band which was rarely realised on their studio recordings: that of a gang of feral street-punks, contemptuous of all and whacked out of their gourds on everything their record company pay-checks could buy, absorbing the emerging music/drug culture faster than they could comprehend it and, in the form of records like this one, issuing forth mercurial howls of confusion from the heart some acid and speed fried flower-punk netherworld that the squares couldn’t even begin to imagine.
For, no matter how many times you hear it in clubs or on compilation albums, ‘7 & 7 Is’ is never normalised. No matter what angle you examine it from, It remains UTTERLY FUCKING INSANE.
As any ‘60s aficionado will tell you, even the best garage/psyche cuts start to fall into quite predictable generic boxes after you’ve listened to enough of them, but not so this Molotov cocktail of a record. That amphetamine-crazed mariachi gallop of the drums, setting the pace faster than a sober human brain can easily comprehend..? That completely over-the-top tremolo / reverb / distortion thing on those huge guitar flourishes, like Link Wray caught in some blazing yellow technicolour nightmare..? The frenzied, echoed count-down to a sampled atom-bomb explosion…?? Followed by a totally incongruous tension-release blues breakdown, like some ancient breakout from ancestral memory?! And man, don’t even get me STARTED on the lyrics and vocal delivery or we’ll be here all day…. never mind why in the hell it’s called ‘7 & 7 Is’.
Needless to say, there is nothing else in the realm of rock n’ roll before or since that really sounds much like this. It packs so much invention and pure violence into such a short timeframe, without the reassurance of any kind of logical framework…. the song seems like it’s over before it’s even begun, leaving listeners reeling; “Did that record actually just HAPPEN, or did something go wrong with my brain…?” Truly warped, street-level psychedelia, forcing synesthesia upon innocents like a hammer between the eyes.
There’s a rumour that Love once played a concert where they concluded their set with ‘7 & 7 Is’, and at the song’s ‘explosion’ moment, Arthur Lee pulled out a fake gun and pretended to blow his brains out.
Picture that whilst listening to the song, and imagine what an incredible theatrical moment that must have been! I’d like to think that as his ‘body’ fell, the band moved seamlessly into the blues breakdown bit and the audience looked on speechless with shock in a moment of weird calm.
And I’ll give you another great rumour for yer money too:
Although it’s been denied by band members for obvious legal reasons, the story persists that at one point Johnny Echols and Ken Forssi from Love financed their drug habits by carrying out a series of armed hold-ups on donut stalls around L.A.
The press called them “The Donut Robbers”.
“The Donut Robbers”. Incredible.
BOOM-BIP-BIP, BOOM-BIP-BIP, YEAH!
Thursday, August 02, 2007
HEY PETE, THANKS FOR THE HOMEMADE BIRTHDAY CARD - IT RULES!
Mp3 >The Donnas - Da Doo Ron Ron
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