Sunday, December 26, 2010

Michael Gira on Elton John etc/The Murk of Daily Existence/Give Me the Cramps Any Day/Take Me to the Pilot of Your Soul

When did Patti Smith stop wearing B.O.C. t-shirts? After she and Lanier broke up? Anyway, one before the fall. A barn archive photo from left: Clive Davis, Elton, Patti, Peter Frampton and John Reid. Elton holds a ribbon present from Patti prior to performing before 20,000 fans at Madison Square Garden. John-ologists will know John Reid as none other than president of Elton's Rocket Records, his personal manager for Dick James Music and a member of the Rocket Board of Directors along with Bernie Taupin and Gus Dudgeon. I plan a Frampton Humble Pie era write-up in 2011.

I recently read a great and intriguing interview with Michael Gira in Self-Titled that made me laugh out loud. Who knew that Gira and Alice Bag bonded over Elton John while Gira was in LA? Here is Alice, Michael and Rick Jaffe in late '78 or early '79 at Alice's parents' house from Alice's excellent webpage.

This of course being prior to Gira's leaving for New York to found the Swans and world-wide fame. Did I mention that he is coming to Auckland early next year and has asked Pumice personally to open the show. In the interview, Gira waxes upon his love of the Mothers, early Yes, "No New York," Dylan, Willie Nelson and Elton - in short, a sweet read:

Elton John. I listened to Elton John, David Bowie and Roxy Music obsessively when they came out. I haven't heard it in years, but the austerity of that second Elton John album stands out. In the early days he was more earnest and low-key, but I like the way he turned into Liberace. . . [a]nyway, I saw a special on Elton John on TV maybe a decade ago, and I was in awe. Creatures like him are what make the rest of us retreat and slink away into the murk of daily existence, cowering and furtive, only to emerge again when the light and sound and magic of an Elton John lures us, hypnotized, out of our dismal caves.

There are a lot of great quotes to break down, but for my pals Damon and Darren, here is Gira on "punk" - not revisionist, but let's say, honest:

Any straight-down-the-line punk rock. Anything by the Clash. Ha ha! I hate the fucking Clash! I'm sure they are (or were) nice fellows, but they always seemed like temporary rebellion music for college students. And Gang of Four--don't get me started on them. Blaaarrrgggghhhhh! Give me the Cramps any day. "Anyway, I think, ultimately, though it erupted at the right time and was an assault on complacency initially, and at least nominally aggressive and virulent--all qualities I applaud-- punk rock was music for joiners, for people who needed to be a part of something, and inevitably it became very claustrophobic and stylized. True punk rock would be Throbbing Gristle or SPK. "Then again, to contradict myself, I liked-- though I couldn't listen to them now--Black Flag, the Dead Kennedys, the Germs, and later even the Buzzcocks, Magazine, Wire, the Fall, etc. Hardcore??? [It's] veiled homo music for jocks.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Philosophical Conversations/Hide with Mirrors/CLE #3/Fauvist Music 1975/See Me on the Bigbeat show

Nothing like seeing John Morton and Dave. E's lyrics Hit Parader style. Just the words you know as well as any school poem you memorized. From CLE Magazine #3 found in the barn. How could I have missed the Elton John reference in "Cyclotron" until now though I did know about Mirrors?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Oh, I forgot the important thing, the group's record is excellent/Big Star "When My Baby's Beside Me" 45/UA Records "House Freak" Marty Cerf

Name checked in Marty Cerf's February 1973 Big Star 45 review: Paul McCartney, Emmit Rhodes, the Count Five, the Yardbirds, the Guess Who, Alice Cooper, Albert Hammond (Snr.), the Troggs, Roy Head and the Traits, Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, Vince Taylor, Elvin Jones, Sonny & Cher, the Hollies, the Beatles, the Honeycombs, the Doobie Brothers and the Byrds. For some reason, Marty never really gets his due as a writer. He and Greg Shaw were responsible for making Phonograph Record Magazine so great during its brief and golden run. Meltzer even said that Marty was one of the few editors who let the writers write. Always nice for an excuse to look into some of the referenced artists - maybe some records you need to dig out yourself. From the barn archive and the PRM stash purchased from the Shaws.

PRM Magazine, February 1973

And a little gratuitous Guess Who - first a Neil cover and then a ripping "Shakin' All Over":

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Rockcritocracy 1970-1971/Jonathan Richman on Schmucky Stage Performers/The Great 1970 Fusion Funhouse Debate/Ben Edmond's Perfect Hair

The socratic method of teaching was in full force when I was in law school last century. In rock criticism, not so much, eh? However, we do have an example of some serious Paper Chase styled socratic battling - by honest to goodness Bostonians no less - slugging it out over perhaps the greatest lp of 1970. At some later date, I will argue with one and all that pre-mustachio Gordon Lightfoot's "Sit Down Young Stranger" captures the ennui of 1970 on personal terms just as valid as Iggy's or Altman's Brewster McCloud. Some forty years on, I equate 1970 with Johnny Bench, "L.A. Blues," "If You Could Read My Mind" and the Astrodome.

Who are these Bostonians tackling the Stooges in real time? Well none other than Jonathan Richman and Ben Edmonds. For historians, these are primary source documents. I have included them many times in bound readers for my pre-punk history of American music course. I haven't seen the Robert Matheu Stooges book and unless a copy is going to be air dropped into the bush and/or money lent, I won't see one soon. This "debate" may in fact be reprinted therein so do let me know. From the barn archive, Fusion Magazine 1970, courtesy of Chris over twenty years ago, and boat freighted to the other side of the planet for your enjoyment NOW. Chris always seemed to take Richman's review as a total pan. I guess it turns into a mild ad hominem attack on Iggy at the end but even that is tempered somewhat. American icon Ron is given much praise. WHOA Jonathan, not many people can say that they got off the Stooges bandwagon by 1970 because they didn't like "Funhouse" as much as the first lp and because Iggy's "schtick" got old. Jonathan is one smart cookie as he reads the tea leaves and sees the the blowback excitement of "Metallic K.O." three years early. As to the Christopher Milk ad, yeah Mendelssohn is pictured in the great rock crit shot from an early 1971 Phonograph magazine and I dug the first half of the "I, Caramba" book. A Davies fan for all time.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"The Psychic Starship that is Called Can"/O.D.'d On Life Itself 1977/Psychic Guerillas/Teenage Depression/Michael Karoli’s Cheekbones

There were a couple of ways to go with your Can fandom in 1970’s Britain. You could be like the Godfrey brothers, spectacularly harnessing the Can canon into something completely new. They fully assimilated and mutated “Full Moon on the Highway” off the underrated and essential avant-garage classic that is “Landed” like none of their contemporaries. That Epic Soundtracks could later record such heartbreaking solo tracks that wouldn't have sounded out of place on "Runt: The Ballad of Todd Rundgren" or a Brill Building compilation is just proof of how far reaching and omnivorous their musical consumption.

There was another path to follow if you liked Can. As a time capsule of the sensibility of a particular group of young persons circa 1977 (Oxford), you could do a lot worse than to examine the particulars of “OD” magazine. OD adheres to the three "H's": Hammill, Hillage and Harper (also known as "psychic guerillas" to the OD crew).

Remnants of a post-hippie but staunchly "progressive" mentality coming to grips with punk and dedicated to underground comics, krautrock and “freek festivals,” there is no real counterpart in the states. Here is what Steve Lake said in 1977: “The way I see it there are two versions of Anarchy in the UK 1977. There’s the Mark P. blueprint which consists of everybody producing magazines and posing in fashionable clubs while sipping expensive government drinks. And there’s the alternative view which says you go out and take your freedom . . . if a few weeks of alternative living in rural Britain’s cosmic countryside, dropping loads of acid and warming up around firey chillums, appeals to you – then any one, or several, of the following events could well be your ‘cup of tea.’” Uh, thanks Steve, but I think I would rather hang around and see the Heartbreakers with drinks than sit around "fiery chillums" with the great unwashed.

Stonehenge is listed as the June 18th-26th site and even better, at 1976's Meigan Fair in South Wales, Steve Hillage AND Nik Turner turned up to jam! Did I mention that this was written by a the same guy who helped found Crass-anarcho styled rockers Zounds! Who knew?

OD magazine decided in a stroke of Solomonic genius to print two covers to the same issue. On one side you get a “reet” cover of Irmin Schmidt. Flip the magazine over and you get the Eddie and Hot Rods cover. What is of interest here at Waitakere Walks, and the source of much amusement, is the shaggy dog story of the two Oxford free-festival minded heads trying to interview the uber-classy Irmin Schmidt of Can. The setting is the “Saw Delight” tour in 1977 after travelling to London from Oxford with some elaborate theory of the I-Ching to drop on the “psychic starship that is called Can.” The sophisticated continental style which cares more for the adoring blonde fans and "scoring" chocolate bars than the two loon pant clad interviewers is in such contrast to the “freedom” ethos of the zine that these two guys don’t gather that they don’t breathe the same air as the rock elite whose music they adore and take copious drugs to.

Here is "Saw Delight" era Can live:

We had to keep the gratuitous shot of Roy Harper who really deserves a future write-up.

Even though it is two years earlier, a track from what to me was the best avant-garage lp of 1975 - at least until I heard the Rob Jo Star Band lp recently. My guess is that OD rated "Landed" as too mersh and/or simple - their term is the backhanded "patent ordinariness." Fucking hippies:

I have no idea who these guys are but they may be on to something – dig the vocalists slippers. This will do until I can post Crawlspace with Ed Flowers and now joined by guitarist Grady Runyan tackling this classic in the way that only the 'space can do. Joe can tackle Rosko any day and Bobzilla is a modern day Jaki if there ever was one.

More antics from O.D. - almost Savage Pencil-esque in the photo booth hi-jinks.

What is a bit of a wake-up to the OD folks is that their other cover stars, Eddie and the Hot Rods, give them much the same treatment via the press office of Island Records: “5,000 people are phoning me up every day asking if they can speak to the Rods.” We do like "the Rods" in 2010 and find the lyrics to "Teenage Depression" a-ok despite the TV "clean" version and "Do Anything You Wanna Do" a great pop number as well. The Seger cover rocks as much as a Seger track can (and some clearly rock).

Here is Eddie and the Hot Rods. Come on guys – one of my favorite 70’s pop lyrics CHANGED: well im spending all my money and its going up my Nose!!!!

This front man ain't no Ricky Williams: