Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Discrediting Myself For You

In December of 1978 the industrial music pioneers Trobbing Gristle released D.o.A: The Third and Final Report. Fall asleep with this album playing on your headphones and you may wake up screaming.

Pitchfork describes the album as "a nauseating masterpiece, and an essential recording". AllMusic states that the album "finds the group assembling collages of computer noise, cassette tapes on fast forward, looped feedback and tape hiss, surreptitiously recorded conversation, threatening phone calls, and much more, all to a grand alienating effect, the sound of a gray day in a British tower block after all the drugs have run out."

It didn't help matters that a photo of Genesis P-Orrdige used as the album cover a photograph he'd taken of a friend's daughter exposing her knickers while playing. The band would split acrimoniously, dealing with the same kinds of fractious relationships as Fleetwood Mac. In their wake they would leave a discography that would influence the likes of Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Pseudo-Galactically Crass

In December of 1978 Jean Michel Jarre released Equinoxe, the follow up to his million selling Oxygene. Not all critics had kind things to say about the trance inducing album. 

Davitt Sigerson of Melody Maker scorned the record, saying "it is as slushily, pseudo-galactically crass and vapid as last year's Oxygène. The melodies are trite, harmonies predictable, textures almost determinedly hackneyed (even down to artificial 'weather' effects to generate mood). There isn't even much that's danceable." 

In Record Mirror Steve Gett considered the album to be "very artificial, and as a result quite emotionless ... As far as I was concerned the effect was one of sleep inducement, basically because it seems so lifeless and infinite, never reaching a specific goal but merely drifting on."

Nevertheless, the album sold more than a million copies in France, peaked at #11 on the UK album chart and #126 on the Billboard 200 chart.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Whizzing Like a Shooting Star

Recorded in 1976 with fellow Stones Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts, Keith Richards' cover of Chuck Berry's "Run Rudolph Run" was finally released in December of 1978. It's his first solo single, released ten years before the album Talk is Cheap. It was again released in October of this year for Record Store Day.

The Eagles covered Charles Brown's "Please Come Home for Christmas" in 178 and scored a Top 20 hit in the US and peaked at UK #30. This is the first Eagles song to feature Timothy B. Schmit on bass.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Believing in an Open Sky

In 1978 Giorgio Moroder released "Chase", an infectious disco instrumental from his Oscar winning  Midnight Express soundtrack that may have you driving faster than you should. It made the Billboard Hot 100 in January 1979, peaking at number 33, and the UK Singles Chart, peaking at number 48. Art Bell would later adopt the song for his Coast to Coast radio show.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Melodrama In Your Eyes

On December 8, 1978 Public Image Ltd released First Edition, a hard rocking album that reveals singer Johnny Rotten's true musical passions were not the sloppy hard rock of the Sex Pistols but, rather, the sounds of dub reggae, Can and even the out of this world sounds of Captain Beefheart. With the spacey bass of  the self taught Jah Wobble and the frenzied guitar of Keith Levene, Rotten --now reclaiming his birth name, John Lydon tackle gut-wrenching  subject matters dear to his heart.

The earlier single "Public Image" was the declaration of independence: "I will not be treated as property". That the album was released in the dead weeks of December still pisses off Lydon.

There were other subject matters. As Lydon writes in his memoir, Anger is an Energy:

All demons come from religion, and the Catholic religion is the most serious demon of them all. "Annalisa" is about a young girl who died when her parents allowed the Catholic Church to perform an exorcism on her in a small town in Germany. That poor girl was fucked by the stupid environment she was in--a small town full of small-minded people--and I believe her problems really were that she was coming of age as a teenager and she was coming to grips with all the things that teenagers go through- that sense of individuality and rebellion and indeed sexuality. Her overtly Catholic parents were trying to stifle that, and , after trying to pursue her in countless ways, they starved her to death.
"Purge the demon".

Some fans looked for commentary about The Sex Pistols and manager Malcolm McLaren. The song "Attack", with the lines :"You who guarded all the who buried me alive" is indeed about McLaren. 

The silly album closer, "Fodderstompf", with its repeating line "We only wanted to be loved" is one of the decade's most obvious attempts at album filler. PiL needed the nearly eight minute tune to hit the running time Virgin stipulated before they would release the album. Thus, the line : We only wanted to finish the album with the minimum amount of effort which we are now doing very successfully

Friday, December 7, 2018

Praying For You

Al Green : Wait Here

In late 1978 Al Green released Truth N Time, his final album for Hi Records and the last of his secular albums . It's a mixed bag. I'm more impressed with the originals on side one than any of the cover versions or anything else that follows. Though critical expectations were high, following The Belle Album, Truth N Time did not sell. For the decade and a half, Green would record gospel albums for Myrrh.

The dean of rock critics Robert Christgau gave the album a grade of B+, writing: 

Reports that Green was no longer writing all his own material worried some supporters, but in fact composition has counted for very little in Green's recent work and is generally improved here. This is his most careful and concise music since Livin' for You; in fact, it's too damn concise, clocking in at 26:39 for eight cuts, although the sustaining 6:07-minute disco disc version of "Wait Here" would have put it over half an hour. None of the originals are quite up to "Belle" or "I Feel Good," but every song is solid, and two audacious covers of songs heretofore recorded exclusively by women are his best in five years. The intensity of the 2:12-minute "I Say a Little Prayer" (dig that male chorus) is precious in a time of dance-length cuts, and although I know Green devotes "To Sir With Love" to his dad, I'm glad Proposition 6 was defeated before its release.  

Rolling Stone's Dave Marsh

Al Green is so charismatic he could make you wonder about the taste of Guyanese Fla•vor•aid. There’s an element of danger about everything he does, a sense that at any moment he could be revealed as a complete charlatan—and that it wouldn’t matter. If he hadn’t been a great musician, he might have become a master street politician or a preacher (he’s dabbled with the latter anyway). What saved him was his vision.

While Truth n’ Time, Green’s second self-produced and mostly self-written LP, lacks the monumental peaks of last year’s The Belle Album, it has much more focus. Al Green is now involved in the full-scale exploration of black musical forms, and he takes on a wide variety here: gospel (“King of All”), disco (“Happy. Days,” “Truth n’ Time”) and pop (“To Sir with Love,” “Say a Little Prayer”) are only the most obvious. These genres shift and overlap, so that Green preaches during the most danceable cuts and dances through the most preachy. In “Wait Here,” he even explores the blues. “Going down to Memphis/See what I can see,” he sings in the second verse, echoing Ma Rainey’s primordial “See See Rider,” then later adds: “Gonna wait here till my rider comes.” The surface of “Wait Here” is just modern dance music, but underneath it, there are about four hundred years of black cultural history. The message is still inchoate: Is Green aiming to make his listeners restive or disruptive?

 Maybe both. Al Green isn’t only a visionary, he’s something of a mystic, too. Truth n’ Time views these two concepts as inseparable, and if Green is enough of a rationalist to contend that all we need is time, he’s also sufficiently adept at metaphysics to view time as a very elastic concept. He has to see it that way. Otherwise, how could he control the tempos of his records so beautifully?

 Though disco was clearly a dominant commercial factor in Truth n’ Time‘s conception, it’d be a grave error to attempt to pigeonhole this artist. Green’s music can no longer be contained by any one genre: like all great American pop, his work has ceased to be a matter of formulas and become an internal dialogue. While this may breed a certain degree of insularity, it also means that when Al Green turns the full power of his gaze upon his audience, the sensible listener covers his face in awe.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Your Radio and Your Lies

In December of 1978 the all female Swiss punk rock band Kleenex released the timeless single "Ain't You". I'm not kidding about the "timeless" bit. This song could have been released this week.  When the tissue company forced them to change their name, they became LiLiPUT. Missed by most critics at the time, a 1993 reissue of the band's three year output continues to be hailed by hip indie rock fans. The song was also featured on the 1980 Rough Trade compilation Wanna Buy A Bridge?