Monday, April 24, 2017

Marc Bolan and Hawkwind/"For the group that should have written Star Wars and didn't"/Ruminations on Devo, Neu! and Hippies [Repost May 2013]

The Hawklords Riddle (Melody Maker, November 13th, 1978.  Robert Calvert: " "I want to do a piece of music that reflects schizophrenic mania, rather like the Velvet Underground's 'Murder Mystery'."!!Mike Davies talks to Bob Calvert and Michael Moorcock
Q: Are we not hippies? A: We are not Devo, either
This article was not originally conceived as an apology for Hawkwind (or the Hawklords, as they're now styled). However, David Blake's review of their Hammersmith show, carried in Melody Maker a couple of weeks back, forced a modification of approach, because it seemed to crystallise many of the prejudices and misconceptions that the media have about the band.
Although not a long-standing admirer of their music, especially in the days of the ear-blasting Sci-Fi rock, I have always felt that their concepts and ideals are more than worthy of support, especially since the release of "Quark, Strangeness and Charm" last year. I point this out merely to show that this isn't a devoted fan mouthing off about their total cosmic awareness, but somebody who is infuriated by blind put-downs of a very original and deeply thought-out concept.
Let's examine the two main slagging-off points of the review. First, the tired old cliche of 'faded hippies' was thrown, not only at the band, but also at the audience - which was depicted as a bunch of drug-smashed, drunken unwashed louts. That was compounded by the accusation of ripping off Devo's use of industrial themes and dramatic movements. What the reviewer failed to notice was the fact that the audience went absolutely bananas, and gave the band the kind of reception that hasn't been seen at Hammersmith for many a gig.
When I spoke to Bob Calvert and Dave Brock I was able to raise the points made in the review and take a more objective view. I was also able to talk to author Michael Moorcock who has had a close association with the band since its' inception. The Devo connection is not a totally irrelevant point to make in view of Calvert's involvement with the industrial concepts that loom so large in the present stage set, but even on a basic level that could be discounted by parallels of thought: it is not impossible for two people to have the same ideas independently.
More telling is the fact that Hawkwind have been involved with industrialisation and technology for far longer than Devo have been wearing surgical masks, etc.. Without wishing to answer Blake on his own level, it should still be pointed out that, back in 1973-74 one of Hawkwind's biggest strongholds in America was was the area around Akron, and the band played there six or seven times. Chicken or egg? The "metaphysical factory" theme of the current album, and the stage settings, are merely an extension of the early space celebrations that Hawkwind were involved in during their middle period, a joyful awareness of the machine age glorified in their classic "Silver Machine" single, and which is self-evident in their use of industrial overtones on numbers like "Forge of Vulcan" on the "Quark" album. To ease out a few more comparisons, there is an overtly Germanic tone to the Hawkwind/Hawklords history, moving from an almost Wagnerian approach in the "Space Ritual" to a Metropolis scenario for the current show.
That German connection could also be applied to the cold starkness of Devo, yet it's more than likely that the sources differ. Calvert points out that "a lot of German bands like Neu and Kraftwerk have been influenced by early Hawkwind lyrics. Dave Brock, in fact, wrote the sleeve notes for Neu's first album." It's interesting to see that Buzzcock's Pete Shelley continues a tradition by adding his observations to the recent Can double re-issue. Actually the coldness of the industrial/factory approach owes far more to Bertold Brecht than it does to the Akronites.
Bob Calvert: "I was inspired by Brecht's 'sprechtesang' -speech song- which gives a very Germanic feel to our machine-gun lyrics." Brecht is very much a city writer, and one can hear the influences showing through in the music, just as they acknowledged a debt to Hesse in "Steppenwolf" on the "Amazing Sounds" (sic) album: "A lot of people who live in cities are influenced by what goes on within them, but we're influenced by the cities themselves".
Next, there's the point about the use of movement. Calvert again is bitter about that. "Last year one of the papers, I think it may have been Melody Maker, said that if one got bored with the music 'you can always watch Bob Calvert's inimitable movements'." Now it seems that those same movements are being interpreted with a curious use of hindsight. Certainly there are influences in the use of movement and dance, one of the most important in both Calvert's own movements and the choreography of the dancers being that of the Japanese Noh theatre which Calvert readily admits. "I go to fringe theatre quite a lot, more than to rock concerts. I don't listen to albums, much either; I try to keep my musical influences pure, both consciously and sub-consciously."
The venomous backlash against the whole concept of 'hippiedom' and the ideals it embraced is hard to understand. As Brinsley Schwarz sang, "What's So Funny 'Bout Peace Love and Understanding"? Surely certain ideals are not outmoded, even if the exterior fashions may be. In many ways, the punk explosion owes a lot to the same awareness that prompted the initial hippie movement, and if Sham 69's "If The Kids Are United" isn't a '78 version of "Woodstock", what is it? Nor does the audience composition bear out the image of 30 year-old long-locked drug fiends; a vast proportion of the crowd at the Hawklords' Birmingham gig were in the 14-19 bracket, and they have as much to do with Scott McKenzie and Donovan as do Siouxsie and the Banshees.
Michael Moorcock has been involved with the band since he was dragged along to see a very early gig. He has written for them and has worked with them onstage. His own books have always tended to pre-date the times, especially the Jerry Cornelius sequence, and they deal with technology and the city in the same fashion as Hawkwind. He is firmly convinced of the conitnuing relevance of the band. "One reason why Hawkwind are still going strong these days is because the current scene has caught up with them. One of the reasons I conceived the Cornelius books was to try and make technology ordinary - that's what I liked about watching DikMik and Del Dettmar in the early days. That's why I liked Hawkwind, because they weren't anti-technology, they celebrated it - unlike a lot of science-fiction writers and performers. "When I first saw them they seemed like barbarians who'd got hold of a load of electrical gear; instead of being self-conscious and pseudo-intellectual, they were actually *of* the electronic age. They weren't impressed by their own gear.
"This was at the height of the swinging Sixties, and popular culture was attaining a level of excellence it had only ever hinted at before, it was becoming concerned with real things. It gave the lie to the Richard Hoggett thesis, in Uses and Literacy, that you can't be good *and* popular. "You had a sudden sense of renaissance in genuine popular art, and you could actually make a living at it, and you were working in areas where people weren't looking over your shoulder all the time. "I think that's what's gone wrong with rock'n'roll now; there's far too much attention being paid to it, too much criticism. It explains the whole punk movment, shifting away from areas where standards were being applied, as a reaction. It celebrates the city too, as does Hawkwind. I think nearly all their best stuff has been connected with the city and technology."
Bob Calvert warms to the suggestion that the band are completely of their time, yet is reluctant to see them as prophets. I suggested that in a lot of respects they were a teleprint band. "Yes, it is like that, I think we're probably more influenced by the news than anything else. At one time we were actually talking about having a point in the set where we could perform a spontaneous item directly influenced by a major news event. "In '25 Years', which is about the small man, the average person's plight, there's a point where I read what's in the Daily Mirror on the day we're doing it. That's teleprint music, and what's very interesting is that we often pre-date events. 'Urban Guerilla' was released just before the concerted IRA attacks on London and it's still relevant today. One does wonder about how much psychic influence is at work." "Henry Miller used to think of the artist as an antenna. It's the same with 'Psi-Power' - these things are emerging now as more than just hippie mystic concerns. It's fact, I'm not saying that we're prophets or anything. "I felt that the early band was expressing what was going on, with the whole space programme, and the concern with communication and industry. That's what people living now should be concerned about. It's no good coming on with a show about a revolutionary in the Peruvian mountains.
"In spite of the New Wave, people are still singing about problems with their girlfriends. That's not enough. William Burroughs was right when he said that if man is going to become a space age creature, he has to drop a lot of ties. The punk thing didn't do enough. Literature and other forms of art have abandoned those restricting and limited fields of vision. "I want to do a piece of music that reflects schizophrenic mania, rather like the Velvet Underground's 'Murder Mystery'. Modern writers use their materials in a far more adventurous way than modern musicians do. I think what we're trying to do is a form of modern art, rather than providing a cosmetic effect. We're trying to make music that actually reflects the way we feel about the world." The material in the current set, drawn from early works as well as the present album, and the as-yet-unreleased 'PXR5', shows their concern with the present day rather than the uncertain future; as Moorcock says "the future is such an obscene idea". Listen to '25 Years', 'The Age of the Micro-Man' ("who sees the detail but never the plan") , 'Automation', or the haunting 'The Dead Dreams of the Cold War Kid', all from the current album, or long-established stage numbers like "Robot" and "High Rise" for proof of their commitment.
The success of their concerts clearly indicates that the Hawklords could well survive without another word being written about them - as Kid Strange said "those who know, know" - but perhaps the observations of Calvert and Moorcock have cleared away a few misconceptions and unclouded a few prejudices. The Hawklords aren't a bunch of crazed anachronisms; sure, they have influences, but let's at least recognize those influences for what they are and not place the burden of the media's current pet concept on musicians who've been developing their ideas for several years, and who have probably given more to the New Music than they've taken from it.

Friday, April 21, 2017

"Reg Presley Really Wants a Hit"/"Reg is in his best Iggy voice" - The Troggs "Strange Movies" revisited

All time fave Troggs cover? For the past twenty five plus years I have been partial to Mirrors 1974 demolition of “Feels Like a Woman” live at the Viking Saloon in Cleveland. Reading Alan Betrock’s (or is it Mike Saunders') dead on take on the Troggs’ 1973 double A-side single of “Strange Movies/I’m on Fire” in the December 1974 TRM from the barn has me heaping superlatives on what at this date is a stone cold proto-punk classic. There are various versions of “Strange Movies” but the single version is the one to hear. This may be Reg's "My ding-a-ling" though without the hit part. Or am I thinking of a continuation of a uniquely British theme following Michael Powell's 1960 classic "Peeping Tom." Their live rendition on Bowie’s “1980 Floorshow” is good though the outtake may be better. The 2002 version is worth investigating as well in all its compelling creepiness. Troggs week this and every week here at Waitakere Walks HQ.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Beach Boys cover California Dreamin' (1986)

I didn't know how much I needed the Beach Boys to give me a literalist interpretation of California Dreamin' in video. The only reason I am aware of this track was that Lenny Kaye did a nice write up of the Beach Boys catalog here including some odds and ends collections which referred to a Roger McGuinn guest spot on a cover of California Dreamin'. This era is a gap in my knowledge and even predates the Stamos/Kokomo lineup. Have the Beach Boys ever looked more serio - not a smile to be had. However, this video includes McGuinn, Papa John Philips as a vaguely occultist priest (with candelabra)/saxophonist and Michelle Phillips going to a white wedding and has a great all around 1980's vibe. Dig the Beach Boys wearing some serious Unforgiven western black dusters/trenchcoats or are they getting ready for an Opryland residency? Carl, Al and Bruce in top form here no doubt:

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Sandy Bull: Live Public Access TV in Marina del Rey October 23 1989

Wow. After listening to Sandy Bull for several decades at this point (and cursing myself from missing him play in Southern California around the time of the Jukebox School of Music lp), I have often wondered what he was like live. That ended until I came across this public access footage last night. Just jump to the 7:50 mark. How did I not know about this? Just Sandy in excellent form solo and with Senegalese drummer and percussionist Aiyb Dieng. Just as good as you thought it would be, and having seen Xylouris White a couple of weeks ago, my quest continues. I have some screen grabs for ya as well.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Claw Hammer live 1992

I was pretty shocked to see that this clip is 25 years old now. I can’t think of another band that I saw more often in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s than Claw Hammer. Just one of the best live bands at the time and one that played out a LOT. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of video out there though there is an early public access tv thing that is not yet on youtube. What I like about this clip is that it does capture their live power - as well as Al Hambra, Rob and Bob’s hair and Jon’s tucked shirt (thanks Whittaker!) looking like he was outta a 1972-3 J.C. Penney catalog. Man, did I proselytize about these guys to the extent that I even won over my hardcore Lazy Cowgirls contingent to going to see them at EVERY possible opportunity. Gotta hand it to Dave Laing and Dog Meat/Grown Up Wrong Records (and Eddie Flowers' write up in Forced Exposure) for really getting the ball rolling. Dog Meat of course was responsible for putting out the posthumous Imperial Dogs lp and then Grown Up Wrong put out the first 45s by both Claw Hammer ("Poor Robert") and Crawlspace ("Silent Invisible Conversation") - both bands I religiously followed at the time in LA. The Imperial Dogs lp was a MAJOR deal at the time to me and my friends. As I followed Australian rock pretty close in the era and it was funny that Grown Up Wrong put out the two best local bands of the time . . . . that we had to get on import!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Terry Knight: Songwriter/Beatle Bones 'n' Smokin' Stones

Anybody who delves deeply into the Grand Funk Railroad catalog will eventually end up at the first two Terry Knight and the Pack lps, or the great early 1970's cash-in lp, "Mark, Don and Terry, 1966-67." As far as I can discern, the two Terry Knight lps were never released in New Zealand. Yet, as a SONGWRITER, Terry Knight had a number one hit in New Zealand in 1969 with Shane's cover of his great Paul-is-Dead Beatles oddity "Saint Paul," which is played on oldies radio here as much as say Tommy James' "Crystal Blue Persuasion" from the same year. Shane was the singer with the great Pleazers who had a NZ nugget with a tribute to the late, great Ray Columbus (seen below). Say what you will, Knight had a knack for writing great songs referencing both the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. Yet what the "Mark, Don and Terry" lp is missing is perhaps one of Knight's finest moments, the Pack's awesome Stones inspired debut 45 "How Much More (Have I Got to Give)" from 1965 which abounds with Stones references (and the plight of long-haired men in Flint, Michigan). I can picture Greg Prevost, Peter Zaremba or Mike Stax just tearing up a cover of this Terry Knight nugget. And I am not sure how Knight's great Dylan swipe missed the compilers of one of my favourite boots of the last 15 years, The Dylan Kynd.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Sounds Single of This and Every Week/The Saints on Return of the Saint/Don Rickles and the Germs (Repost April 2012)

So the Dickies were the first of the Masque-era Los Angeles punk bands to hit the UK followed by the Go-Go's the following year. And although Alice Bag's memoir may be the superior read, you could do a lot worse than the excellent first half of Belinda Carlisle's memoir Lips Unsealed for some debauched tales of the era. I digress. The Saints were among the first to show the Brits how it was done, after the Ramones of course, and shared the stage with them as well in the UK. I am reminded of Dylan in No Direction Home trying to divine where all those early songs came from. Do Chris Bailey and Ed Kuepper wonder the same thing? Dylan and the Ramones where living in one of the most culturally rich cities in the world surrounded by scenes which offered early support. The Saints incredibly created some of the 1970’s most perfect music while in Brisbane. Anyone who has not heard The Most Primitive Band in the World which dates from 1974 really needs to do some backpedaling. While Brisbane 1973-74 was not like the backwater portrayed in the seminal Australian film Wake in Fright (which each and every reader of this site needs to see), it was close enough which makes the foundling Saints’ achievement even that much more incredible. These were not kids hanging out at the Riot House, seeing Iggy crawling on the sidewalk on the Sunset Strip, or camping outside Freddie Mercury’s hotel room and then forming a band. As I have said before, one of the truly unacknowledged cultural movers and shakers of the last half century is named Lenny Kaye. It was his Nuggets comp that hit Brisbane in 1974 - two years late you may note - (along with the contempo Dolls, Stooges, MC5, various 50's greats, the Missing Links etc) that powered this earth shattering music. Proof that record nerds who are fine musicians can change the cultural world, no? Anyway, here you have the review that changed the game, and an interesting video curio. My old pal Maxwell in LA is who hipped me to the original Saint on telly. So it makes total sense that the actual Saints who by then had decamped to the UK make an appearance on the Return of the Saint show in 1978. In the same year, and it is buried back in my subconscious that I saw it at the time it was broadcast (along with Joe Namath’s short lived Waverly Wafers), the Dickies appeared on Don Rickles’ CPO Sharkey AND the Germs got their first name check on national US television. Check it all out below.





Now this is the kind of thing that I would screen if I was given an IMAX theater with a bar:

Friday, January 13, 2017

Lemming "Father John," "Queen Jacula"and "Lucifera"/"Don't Look Behind (Trampa macabre) (repost January 2014)

One of my favorite contemporary video pieces that I saw in Mexico City back in January (2014), at the show "La voluntad de la piedra" at el Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, was "Don’t look behind (Trampa macabra"), Leo Marz's giallo-inspired, critical exegis of terror (or is it curatorial horror given the Mexican art world cameos).  I doubt Leo is familiar with most excellent Dutch glam rockers Lemming but I think he would like the low budget Argento/Suspiria vibe that their Dutch television performances from 1974 to 1975 reek of: the essential "Father John" (about a monk!) and "Queen Jacula."  And I will posit it here first. Is not Lemming's great dancer in these clips, Lucifera (RIP), the continent's low budget glam answer to Stacia? Thanks to Robin for originally introducing me to the greatness of Lemming back in 2006.


Marz's full piece is now

Trampa Macabra from Leo Marz on Vimeo.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Magazine Love/Rupert Murdoch and the Masque/Memories from Over the Edge

I have a distinct memory from the late 1970’s of flipping through copies of New West magazine (we must have briefly had a subscription). Los Angeles magazine already existed (and was almost purchased by the New Yorker). But New West for those that don’t know was an attempt by the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York magazine to break into the Los Angeles/California market with a California-centric take of new journalism mixed with the cultural and political coverage found in its east coast brethren. New West was launched before the bicentennial, hitting the stands on 12 April 1976. However, what I didn’t know until stumbling onto a stack of New West in a thrift store about 25 years ago (and currently residing in the barn) was that the Masque and LA punk was presented to suburban Los Angelenos and San Franciscans in non-sensationalist manner. In addition, it turns out that the article (which is spot on and could have been written today) was written by none other than the screenwriter of the Waitakere Walks favourite Over the Edge, Charlie Haas. In fact the music sensibility of Over the Edge is made even more clear by this great write-up on the Masque, and was not some random music supervisor's choice. Photo of Chloe Pappas, stylist of the Screamers was taken by Matthew Rolston, likely still a student at that time at Art Center in Pasadena and Interview magazine photographer. Who knows if Rolston has a large set of yet unseen Screamers and Masque-era photos. A second Masque coffeetable book may need to appear. In any event, enjoy this slice of late January 1978, and hopefully it will change your perception that the Masque was limited to the pages of Slash, Flipside, Search and Destroy and Lobotomy. The LA Times via an old fave Kristine Mckenna did shine a light but no thanks to the likes of the other staffers (Go-Go's classis "Robert Hilburn" anyone? but who knew that it made it to the pages of glossy magazines. "You don't love me/You love magazines/Those glossy pages they go to your head"