Friday, February 22, 2019

Watching Rafferty Turn Into A Serial

The Teardrop Explodes : Sleeping Gas

In February of 1979 the Liverpool band Teardrop Explodes released "Sleeping Gas", their debut single on their hometown's Zoo Records label. Some in the rock press would call it the Single of the Week, according to Julian Cope's website.

The band came together years after after bassist/vocalist Julian Cope has been a short-lived trio called The Crucial Three with future Echo and the Bunnymen founder Ian McCulloch and future Wah! leader Pete Wylie. A few more short-lived bands later, Cope has formed a new post-punk group with a penchant for 60's psychedelia. Just before they agree to call themselves A Shallow Madness, organ player Paul Simpson shows them a Daredevil comic he's reading.

In his memoir Head On, Cope writes

"There was this story, in a Super D.C. comic, about a battle in Central Park, involving Namur, the undersea god, and the superhero, Daredevil. The whole story comes to a climax as the sun blots out and suddenly, for no reason at all, the Teardrop Explodes. It made no sense, the story made no sense at all. We tried to figure it out and we couldn't. But it was a great name for a group. I loved it. It was like The 13th Floor Elevators or The Chocolate Watchband. And no-one had a name like that. September '78 was all short dour names. Ours was far-fucking-out."

Also far out: the psychedelic lyrics of "Sleeping Gas" with its repeated refrain "You can watch Rafferty turn into a serial/You can watch rafferty turn into a serial /You can watch rafferty turn into a serial/ Just like a cartoon by AAP/ Oh it's just like a cartoon by AAP. 

Rafferty was a Patrick "The Prisoner " McGoohan's televison thriller while AAP has the distribution rights to Mr Magoo, Popeye and Merrie Melodies cartoons.

Above : the third Teardrop Explodes performance and the very first television appearance. They're playing one of the B sides to "Sleeping Gas"on Tony Wilson's Granada Television programme 'What's On', transmitted from Manchester. By this time Bill Drummond and David Balfe are managing both Teardrop and Echo, whose first single would come out in May.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Did Someone Say Wanker?

The Stranglers : Straighten Out

On February 21, 1979 The Stranglers released the live album Live ( X Cert), featuring tracks recorded in London clubs as far back as 1977. Fans of the album love the energy, the loud bass, the track listing and the stage banter.  You can almost smell the sweat dripping off the ceiling and the sense that there are too many hot blooded lads in close quarters.

As the band gets ready to launch into "Dead Ringer", someone in the crowd yells "Wanker!". Hugh Cornwell stops the concert and steps up to the mic . "Did someone say wanker?" he asks. "Where is he?" The crowd sounds like it's pushing and shoving. "C'mon," says Cornwell. "Isn't he even going to own up?' The album peaked at U.K. #7.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Sky Cleared Up

George Harrison : Blow Away


I think what happened between this album and the last album (Thirty Three and 1/3) is that everything has been happening nice for me. My life is getting better all the time, and I'm happy, and I think that it's reflected in the music -George Harrison

On February 20, 1979 George Harrison released his self-titled album, one of the very best of his career, and one that still gives me great pleasure forty years on. I realize now I bicycled across state lines, a major infraction at my boarding school, to buy a copy of this album in Millerton, New York's Oblong Books and Music store. All I had heard at this point was Top 20 hit "Blow Away", but I was hooked. 

With the help of Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood and producer Russ Titelman ( Randy Newman's Good Ole Boys, Ry Cooder's Paradise and Lunch), Harrison gives us ten catchy songs that reveal his domestic bliss with new wife Olivia and the recent birth of his only child Dhani. 

Critics were for the most part pleased. In his review for Rolling Stone, Stephen Holden calls George Harrison his finest album since All Thing Must Pass:

George Harrison is refreshingly lighthearted. The austere, pontifical tone is gone, and the singer sounds more like a happily eccentric gentleman/mystic than a burningly devout Krishna advocate.

Robert Christgau is less kind, grading the album a C:

 In which Harrison returns to good old commercial rock and roll, he says, presumably because he shared songwriting on one track with Gary "Sure Shot" Wright and let Russ Titelman produce. Well, there is a good song here -- "Faster," about a kind of stardom. He remembers! 

Although better known for embracing the cultures of India and Hindu, George Harrison was also an avid fan of Formula One racing. Especially after he befriended three time World Champion Jackie Stewart, who inspired the 1979 single "Faster" and even appeared as the chauffeur for the video.
" It's fascinating when you know the drivers and the teams and all their problems, and you can see them as people, " Harrison once said. " Because they are just people, but to go to work they have to get in this car and do 180 miles an hour."

For most of us, this was the first time we got to hear Harrison's White Album era "Not Guilty", which may in fact be guilty of airing some of The Beatles dirty laundry with lines like:
I won't upset the apple cart I only want what I can get 
I'm really sorry that you've been misled 
But like you heard me said  Not guilty

My favorite deep cut is "Dark Sweet Lady", his love song to Olivia, which ends with the simple line "I love you dearly".

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Tentacle In Hand

John Cooper Clarke : I Married A Monster From Outer Space

Even before I was famous, I’d always been recognized. People thought I was someone.-John Cooper Clarke

In February of 1979 the Manchester punk poet with the Keith Richards shock of hair,  John Cooper Clarke, released a new single, "Gimmix" b/w "I Married A Monster From Outer Space", on a limited edition orange triangular shaped record. "Monster" comes from Disguise in Love, an album recorded with some help from Be Bop Deluxe's Bill Nelson and Pete Shelley. His trademark rapid fire poetry came, in part, from his use of pep pills.

Unfortunately he would spend much of the 80's addicted to heroin, living in a Brixton flat with Nico. It's not something he ever likes to talk about. In a response to a Guardian readers asking him how to quit heroin, Cooper said:

It can be done, clearly, but it ain’t easy. I like to say I did it in two ways: gradually, and suddenly. The fact is you need help, though. My message is always the same: don’t even do it once. I think it is dangerous to think it is anything to do with having an “addictive personality” or any of that bollocks. Anyone would dig it. Anybody. Why? Because it is fabulous the first time. Don’t ever do it. And, gadus, good luck with your attempts to rid yourself of this terrible affliction. I pray that you are successful.

Monday, February 18, 2019

The Only Way To Feel The Noise

Motörhead : Overkill

"Overkill to me is like a 757 just flying like five feet over your head. There's so much power."
-Robert Trujillo , Metallica

In February of 1979, Motörhead released the U.K. Top 40 hit "OverKill",  the title track from the first of two albums they would make this year. Produced by Jimmy Miller (Exile on Main Street, Traffic), Overkill finds the power trio getting their classic speed metal sound together. In the documentary The Guts and the Glory, drummer Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor tells how he inspired the sound of the single when Lemmy and "Fast" Eddie Clarke walked in on him trying to play his double bass drum set up as fast as he could.

I always wanted to play two bass drums but I always said to myself, 'No, I'm not gonna be one of these wankers who goes on stage and has two bass drums and never even fuckin' plays 'em'. Not until I can play 'em. So I got this other bass drum and I used to get to rehearsals a couple of hours before the other guys and just practice, you know, just sit there going (mimes kicking with both feet) like running, or something like that...I was actually playing that riff, just trying to get my coordination right, when Eddie and Lemmy walked in, and I was just about to stop and they went, 'No, don't stop! Keep going!'...And that was how Overkill got written.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Gimmee The Bridge Now

Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers : Bustin' Loose

On February 17, 1979 "The Godfather of Go-Go", the DC-based Chuck Brown,  along with Soul Searchers,  topped the R+B charts with "Bustin' Loose". It would spend 4 weeks at #1 and even become a Top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart. As party music nothing beast go-go and yet, musically, this is one of the few times this genre went big outside of the nation's capital. 

The Washington Nationals baseball team still plays the song when the home team hits a home run, and in 2002 Nelly took Pharrell's advice and used the "Bustin' Loose" hook as inspiration for his smash hit "Hot in Herre". 

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Gold Diggers Arise

Sparks : La Dolce Vita

In February of 1979, Sparks released their newest single "La Dolce Vita", the addictive result of a stunning partnership with the Italian disco music producer Giorgio Moroder. Whereas Rod Stewart, KISS, The Beach Boys, The Grateful Dead and Wings would jump on the disco bandwagon and embarrass themselves, Sparks and Morodor give birth to a new synth-disco sound that sounds timeless to these ears. The single gave us a preview of No 1 In Heaven, one of the finest albums of 1979. In March of this year, Sparks is releasing a lavish double CD and double vinyl edition of the album featuring bonus songs.

Of the album, Ron Mael has recently said “The most thrilling albums to make are those where you go in not having much of a clue what you’re doing or where you’re going, and where, at least once every thirty minutes, you ask yourself, ‘Is this what it means to commit both artistic and commercial suicide?’ That was the case with the 'No.1 In Heaven' album.”