Sunday, December 4, 2016

Listen to the beat

I was interviewing David Byrne Saturday about his Imelda Marcos disco opera "Here Lies Love" coming to Seattle in the Spring, and our conversation veered into the former First Lady's love of disco, which lead to my confession that I only recently discovered and now adore Donna Summer's A Love Trilogy even though I was firmly on the Rock side of the Rock vs Disco debate back in the day. But I'm still listening to Donna Summer and I'm listening a lot to Bohannon. 
   "Bohannon? He's the minimalist ," the Talking Heads founder said. 
   He's also the artist celebrated in the Tom Tom Club's most famous song "Genius of Love", though I forgot that fact when the name slipped out.
  Yes, Bohannon was a minimalist. All about that beat. That chicken scratch guitar. And no more than one chord if he could help it. ( I could have sworn he was the disco artist with the biggest influence on Talking Heads but perhaps not). From 1976, this is "Bohannon's Beat" from an album whose title could have only come from the disco era, Dance Your Ass Off.

I'll have more about my David Byrne interview later.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Dem come fe kill Bob!

On the night of December 3, 1976 at least three assassins stormed Bob Marley's Kingston, Jamaica home firing automatic weapons . Bullets struck Marley, his wife Rita and his manager Don Taylor. To this day the identity of the gunmen and their motives are a mystery.

 What is known is that Marley wanted nothing to do with the politics that had sent the island nation on the brink of civil war. Marley said "Every law is illegal. Every government of the face of the earth is illegal. Only Jaa Law should be followed."

Marley did not trust politicians and one would soon remind him why. The superstar wanted to play a free concert for his countrymen and had to negotiate the venue with the unpopular Prime Minister Michael Manley who was up for election. When they settled on National Heroes Park, the National stadium, Manley announced the election would be held just days after he'd appear onstage with Marley. The appearance was that Marley would seem to be endorsing Manley. That angered Marley but outraged the Jamaican Labor Party faithful.

 There were death threats. And despite having bodyguards in place, the assassins broke into the home, hitting Marley with a bullet in his arm which would be there for the rest of his life. Rita Marley was grazed by a bullet to the head. Lewis was hit several times. Marley played the concert two days after the shooting, and although he would say he recognized at least one of the shooters he never told the police.

 If you're looking for a song that might be a reflection on that night you probably need to go to his Survival album and the track "Ambush in the Night":

Ambush in the night
All guns aiming at me
Ambush in the night
They opened fire on me now
Ambush in the night
Protected by his majesty

Friday, December 2, 2016

Crawling up the Wall

On the week of  December 2, 1976 10cc returned to the UK charts at #37 with a new single, "The Things We Do For Love". But there was something missing on the 45 single cover. Actually two somethings : founding members Kevin Godley and Lol Creme. Intrigued by their invention, the gizmotron, a device that made electric guitars sound like synthesizers, Godley and Creme bailed on Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman earlier in the year.

Godley recalls why they departed 10cc after four superb albums on the excellent podcast Sodajerker On Songwriting:

When Eric and Graham came in with a song they'd written to begin the next album, it was like "Oh God, that is so fuckin' dreary. It's so predictable and boring. Why don't we just fuck off and do something with the Gizmo? "And of course at that age, you are very ballsy and you take chances and that's what we did.

Stewart recalls his reaction to the split in a BBC radio interview:

We were on such a winning curve, Graham Gouldman and I had to decide, are we going to be 5cc? Are we gonna scrap the name completely? Well, we thought we, no, we'd better carry on because we, this is 10cc, we are 10cc, this band. Two of our members are leaving us and that's not our problem, but we've got to carry it on.   

While Stewart and Gouldman kept the 10cc name and spent the rest of the 70's with hits like "Good Morning Judge" and "Dreadlock Holiday", Godley and Creme explored their artistic indulgences with a sprawling three record set called Consequences, which eventually came out in late 1977.

"It turned into a monster. It turned into our Heaven's Gate," Godley admits. " For God knows how many reasons. And the idea was to make the kind of music that was nothing remotely like 10cc...when we realized that 'Oh.We've actually spent 14 to 18 months doing something that people think is a pile of shite".

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Filth and The Fury

On December 1, 1976 The Sex Pistols outraged British television viewers with shocking language during an interview they were never supposed to do. Queen had been booked on Today With Bill Grundy but backed out at the last minute. So EMI sent their label mates instead.

The Sex Pistols were told to show up at 4 PM for the 6 PM taping. They spent the two hours in the Green Room, taking advantage of the free alcohol. Grundy was there too, drinking and leering at Siouxsie Sioux.

In his memoir Anger is an Energy, John Lydon remembers :

It was actually me that swore first. Grundy goes, "What was that?' "Er, a rude word!"I didn't really want to be the first arsehole out the door with it, but there you go--he goaded me into it, so there it is. "You asked for it. It's not my fault at this point onwards, your honour. I am innocent" If you really understand the way the conversation's going, it's deeply fascinating. It should be in a psychology course, because of all the different things going on in all of our minds at the same time. It amounts to this Harold Pinter kind of scene.

It was guitarist Steve Jones who came on with the most confidence, calling Grundy a "dirty sod", a "dirty old man", a "dirty bastard", a "dirty fucker", and finally, the curiously phrased "fucking rotter".

"It was hilarious, "Jones would say later. "It was one of the best feelings, the next day, when you saw the paper. You thought, Fucking hell, this is great! From that day on it was different. Before then , it was just music, the next day, it was the media."

Manager Malcolm McLaren was less pleased.

Captain Sensible of the Damned says "After the show, (he) really tore into them, He was convinced they'd blown it. He was appalled. "You fuckin' idiots, you've ruined everything. We're finished". He was apparently in tears. He thought it was all over. The vibe was bad for the rest of the day.

For a long while it certainly seemed like McLaren was right. In two days the Sex Pistols were scheduled to headline a UK "Anarchy tour" with The Clash, The Damned and The Heartbreakers ( who arrived at Heathrow that day with Nancy Spungen in tow). The opening night gig at Norwich University was cancelled, as were all but three of the nineteen dates. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Tie-Dyed Vibes

Here's a special treat: a song I would play every so often just before sunrise on a 2 AM to 6 AM shift at my college radio station in New Orleans. Diga Rhythm Band is an ensemble led by Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and Indian tabla player Zaki Hussain. Jerry Garcia plays on two tracks on the 1976 album Diga (including "Happiness is Drumming", an early version of "Fire on the Mountain"), but this is the eight minute track that elicits the most smiles and actually got some play at discos.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Shake Your Rump

In the week of November 29, Billboard Magazine designated The Bar Kays' "Shake Your Rump to the Funk" as a power play, leaping ten spots from #52 to #42. The infectiously funky tune not only would peak at #2 on the R and B charts and #23 on the US charts, but would top the charts in Japan! The entire Too Hot to Stop album is tight, a return to form for a band that lost four original members in the same plane crash that killed Otis Redding.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Tea at the BBC

In November of 1976, The Clash spent two days in the Polydor studios where they recorded five songs : "White Riot", "Career Opportunities", "Janie Jones", "London's Burning" and "1977". Their session came after Sounds stringer Kris Needs reviewed their November 18 gig at The Nag's Head : 

"The Clash are now firing with more compressed energy than a flame-thrower at full blast. They play with almost frightening conviction and intensity, each number a rapid-fire statement delivered like a knock-out won't be long before some record company wakes up."

  It was Polydor that woke up first. Guy Stevens, who would later produce London Calling, pushed the band through the sessions. They sound as urgent as ever. Then engineer Vic Stevens convinced Joe Strummer to clearly enunciate the lyrics. He did. "And it sounded like Matt Monroe,"  Strummer would later tell NME. "So I thought 'I'm never doing that again'."
   Polydor has already missed out on signing the Sex Pistols. They wouldn't get The Clash either. CBS Records signed the band on January 25, 1977 ( the day punk died according to the fanzine Sniffin' Glue). But there was more than one hot band in England at the time. Polydor signed The Jam for 6,000 pounds.

The Clash interviewed by Janet Street Porter on Nov 28. 1976.

Joe Strummer said he sounded like Matt Monroe in his Polydor Demo vocals.