Sunday, June 30, 2019

Got A Rolls Royce


Swell Maps : Vertical Slum


In June of 1979 the Birmingham art punk band Swell Maps released A Trip to Marineville, their debut album. Founded by brothers Nikki Sudden and Epic Soundtracks, Swell Maps sounds like what happens when teenage boys start a band in the basement after listening to Can and sipping some of mom's hand sanitizer. In other words, I agree with Pitchfork's assessment that it's "weird and wonderful".


The album is not all as musical as the selections posted might suggest. There are arty sound collages that are really just a loud noises and some droning keyboards that might not signify anything at all. It is up to the listener to return again and again to find out what sticks.


"Midget Submarines" is one of the numbers that will certainly stick. This is the kind of post-punk sound that foreshadows Sonic Youth and Pavement. 


Friday, June 28, 2019

Choking On a Bed



Public Image Limited : Death Disco

[Purchase]

On June 28, 1979 Public Image Ltd released "Death Disco",b/w "No Birds" the first single from the forthcoming Metal Box. Lydon wrote that the song was for his mother who was dying of cancer. 

"When I had to deal with my mother's death, which upset the fuck out of me, I did it partly through music. I had to watch her die slowly of cancer for a whole year. I wrote 'Death Disco' about that. I played it to her just before she died and she was very happy. That's the Irish in her, nothing drearily sympathetic or weak...She was tough, my mum. She asked me to write a disco song for her funeral. This was hardly happy stuff."

Not with lyrics like :
Watch her slowly die 
Saw it in her eyes 
Choking on a bed 
Flowers rotting dead

While Jah Wobble lays down a cool to cold bass line and David Humphrey plays something of a disco beat, Keith Levene plays some crazed guitar with traces of Edvard Grieg's "The Hall of the Mountain King". 


Two days after the single's release, John Lydon joined the panel of Jukebox Jury. Brutally honest, Lydon hated everything from Donna Summer ("I hate it. It's awful") to The Monks ("Patronizing rubbish") and clashed with Alan Freeman. Eventually he walked off the set.






Thursday, June 27, 2019

Hanging From Your Daisy Chains


Siouxsie and the Banshees : Playground Twist


On June 24, 1979 Siouxsie and the Banshees released "Playground Twist" b/w "Pulled To Bits",  a single from the forthcoming album Join Hands. The single would peak at U.K. #28 and earn critical praise from NME's Roy Carr who wrote:

"If Ingmar Bergman produced records, they might sound like this. The listener is immediately engulfed in a maelstrom of whirling sound punctuated by the ominous tolling of church bells, phased guitars, thundering percussion, a surreal alto sax and the wail of Siouxsie's voice. It demands to be played repeatedly at the threshold-of-pain volume to elicit its full nightmarish quality"



The video juxtaposes our favorite goth with children to young to know how much mascara it takes to make a statement.  The B side may be about these very same children pulling wings and legs off bugs the way my sister did because she didn't want her new pets to run away. 




Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Cellars And Chittlins'


Joni Mitchell : Goodbye Pork Pie Hat


In June of 1979, Joni Mitchell released Mingus, a collaboration with jazz great Charles Mingus as well as such musicians as Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Jaco Pastorius and Don Alias. Most Joni fans don't rate this highly among her many albums, but it's certainly the most unique and well worth some attention. For a taste, check out "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat", originally composed by Mingus as a tribute to Lester Young.




To promote the album Mitchell shared her love of jazz with Los Angeles Times jazz journalist Leonard Feather:

My jazz background began with one of the early Lambert, Hendricks and Ross albums, the one called 'The Hottest New Sound in Jazz.' It was hard to find in Canada, so I saved up and bought it at a bootleg price. I considered that album to be my Beatles. I learned every song off of it, and I don't think there is another album anywhere - including my own - on which I know every note and word of every song.



 "I couldn't do 'Cloudburst,' because of the very fast scat singing, but I did record two numbers out of that set: 'Twisted,' which was in the 'Court and Spark' album, and 'Centrepiece,' which was incorporated with 'Harry's House' in the 'Hissing of Summer Lawns' album."



"I was also impressed by some of the Miles Davis albums; first 'Sketches of Spain,' with Gil Evans and the large orchestra; but later, Miles' smaller combo things like Nefertiti' and 'In a Silent Way' became just about my all time favourites in any field of music. They were my private music, the albums I loved to listen to on my own. I never thought about making that my kind of music."




"Mingus was a legend, of course, I'd heard of him as far back as my high school days. Then years later, John Guerin, the drummer, played me a record of Mingus' 'Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,' the elegy for Lester Young, but it wasn't until many years later, when I began to learn the piece for this album, that I really saw the beauty of it."



Mingus had been trying to track down Mitchell after hearing Paprika Plains" from her "Don Juan's Reckless Daughter" album.

 "In the middle of it I had this passage for about seven minutes of improvisational playing. Charles apparently heard in it some kind of strength, and an adventuresome spirit, because I had been trying for years to extend the limits of what constitutes a song."

In April of 1977 Mingus called from a wheelchair with news that he had written six songs with Mitchell in mind. She visited him in New York, talked through the night, listened to old Mingus albums together, and discussed lyrics. 

Mitchell spent ten days with Mingus and wife Sue in Mexico. Out of the relationship came four songs. After Mingus passed at the age of 56, his wife sent Mitchell some audio verite of Mingus which appear as "raps" on the album. 

Here's one of the new Mingus compositions to which Mitchell added lyrics, "The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines".


As Mitchell prepared for the release she told Feather:

"I'd be surprised if it wasn't well accepted in the jazz world, because it contains all the best elements of that music: It's very spontaneous, creative and fresh. As for the pop field, I dare not make any predictions. I hope people will find it accessible, but I know how intimidating great musicianship is to a lot of people."

Even critics had problems with the album, finding Mingus pretentious and Mitchell out of her depths. Robert Christgau gave the albu. a C+ writing "Okay, okay, a brave experiment, but lots of times experiments fail". 

Down Beat's critic, on the other hand,  called Mingus a wonderful piece of work:

From all reports, the trepidation in Joni Mitchell's heart as to how this project might be accepted has been matched only by the skepticism of scores of jazz purists. But the proof is here, and Joni and her critics can forget their fears. Mingus is so ambitious, so painstakingly constructed and so special, that even in those moments when the deed fails, the thought carries the day. And when it all clicks as on "Porkpie Hat", which, after three hearings, I can no longer listen to dry-eyed--it soars with the breadth and majesty Mingus so often achieved.



Tuesday, June 25, 2019

What Changed Your Mood


Pretenders : Kid


In June of 1979 The Pretenders released their second single "Kid" b/w Tattooed Love Boys.  Slower than the original demo version, the song features a memorable guitar line by James Honeyman-Scott and a vulnerable vocal performance by Chrissie Hynde. The single peaked at U.K.#33.


The B-side is a stronger song but a difficult listen since Hynde revealed in her 2016 book Reckless: My Life as a Pretender that it's inspired by a sexual assault she endured at the hands of a Cleveland biker gang. She wrote 

"Now let me assure you that, technically speaking, however you want to look at it, this was all my doing and I take full responsibility. You can't f--k around with people, especially people who wear 'I heart rape' and 'On Your Knees' badges." 

She even quotes one of her assaulters who told her "Shut up or you're going to make some plastic surgeon rich!" 


 Both songs would appear on the 1980 debut album The Pretenders.

Monday, June 24, 2019

A Little Driving on a Saturday Night


Sniff 'n' The Tears : Driver's Seat


On June 24, Sniff n The Tears entered the U.K. charts with  "Driver's Seat". One of the all time perfect pop songs, "Driver's Seat" would peak on the Billboard Hot 100 chart at US#15. (In November of 1980, the song would hit the Top 10 in The Netherlands). They may have been one hit wonders, but singer Paul Roberts had a second talent he could rely on,as a visual artist. Roberts painted all the band's album covers.


Saturday, June 22, 2019

Where The Broken Hearts Stay


The Cramps : Lonesome Town


On June 20, 1979, as The Cramps wrapped up a U.K. tour with The Police, IRS Records released Gravest Hits, a 12" EP compiling both sides of their first two 1978 Vengeance singles, "Surfin' Bird" and "Human Fly", with an added fifth track, a cover version of "Lonesome Town".



The U.K. tour had been a critical smash with Max Bell of NME writing:

Everything about The Cramps is perfect, from their swinging light bulb and voodoo incantations right down to their backline rockabilly maelstrom.London has not witnessed a classier New York export since The Ramones.

After a June 8 show at Manchester Free Trade Hall, future Smiths frontman Stephen Morrissey wrote to Sounds :

The Cramps are worth their weight in gold for making The Police seem like a great big sloppy bowl of mush. The Police, hardly dabbling in degrees of the unexpected, presented a farcical imitation of their Rock Goes To College thing--several people clapped, but then, I suppose someone has to. The Cramps were enough to restore faith in the most spiritless. They have it all, and their drummer is the most compelling in rock history. Back to The Cramps or perish.


When the Cramps returned to New York in July they signed with IRS and began recording their debut album with Alex Chilton producing.

Friday, June 21, 2019

A Sound of Distant Living


Japan : Life in Tokyo


In 1979 Japan released "Life In Tokyo", written and recorded with disco producer Giorgio Moroder. It would be reissued over and over again until it finally made the U.K. charts, peaking at #28 in 1982. It certainly sounds like a song from a year Duran Duran, ABC and Soft Cell scored  top 10 hits than 1979, when Gary Numan's Tubeway Army and Squeeze were competing with Anita Ward and McFadden and Whitehead.

This was a new turn for Japan, a band that had sounded more like Glam Rockers up to this point. They now have the arty synth pop sound that would carry Japan into the charts, and Sylvian's lyrics reveal his infatuation with all things Asian. Japan, the country, was so far the only place in the world embracing Japan, the band. Not for much longer.

The single also marks the beginning of David Sylvian's dominance of the band which would break up in late '82.


Thursday, June 20, 2019

Spies, Secrets and Communiques


Dire Straits : Lady Writer


On June 15, 1979 Dire Straits released Communique, the follow-up to their self-titled debut album. Not a huge departure from its predecessor, the album sold well as critics were leaping off the Dire Straits train . Robert Christgau noted this in his B- review: 

Boy, people are getting bored with these guys fast--if they don't watch out they're gonna last about as long as Looking Glass or the Lemon Pipers. Just another case of "substance" as novelty, I guess--doesn't sound bad, but they'd better up those beats-per-minute.





Robert Palmer : Bad Case of Loving You


Robert Palmer scored a Top 20 hit album thanks to his cover of Moon Martin's "Bad Case of Loving You". It's all a pretty straight-forward rock, unsatisfying.  Rolling Stone's Stephen Holden wrote 
"Academically, everything works. Technically, Secrets is impeccable, but it's too dispassionate to achieve the ominous resonance Palmer wants. "

Then on the final two tracks, "What's It Take?" and "Remember to Remember", Palmer double tracks his vocals in way that's actually very cool. I wonder if this is what attracted  Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads. They would produce his next album, Clues. Palmer would even get to play percussion on Remain in Light.




Carly Simon : Vengeance


Carly Simon released Spy, her last album for Elektra. The single "Vengeance" peaked at U.S.#54 but she won a Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female for the song. In a review for Rolling Stone, Debra Rae Cohen wrote:

Here, Simon’s rough, bold voice — powerful and affecting as ever — seizes center stage with husky promise and, like a dormitory storyteller after lights out, threatens revelations. But even discounting the mediating layers of studio polish, she winds up sounding strangely distanced from her material. 

Simon would spend the early part of the 80's recording harder rocking songs .




Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Gonna Be Alright


The Flamin' Groovies : Jumpin' In The Night


In the Summer of 1979, The Flamin' Groovies released Jumpin' In The Night, their last album for Sire Records and the end of the band's major label dream. The album kicks off with the title track, a classic Groovies/Brit invasion style rocker.


It's followed by a few more strong songs like "Next One Crying", "First Plane Home" and "Yes I Am" before the album is dominated by covers, like "Werewolves of London", "Absolutely Sweet Marie", "Down Down Down" and three Byrds songs. 


The result might make the listener conclude, as the record company did, that the Groovies were running out of their groove, but I'd rank this among the best of their albums, after Shake Some Action, Teenage Head and Now.



Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Jog For The Master Race



Dead Kennedys : California Über Alles  


In June of 1979, the San Francisco punk band Dead Kennedys released their debut single "California Über Alles", an attack of then Governor Jerry Brown and his New Age beliefs. 

Carter power will soon go 'way 
I will be Führer one day 
I will command all of you 
Your kids will meditate in school

Jello Biafra suggests a Brown presidency will lead to "suede denim secret police" knocking on doors and taking "uncool" people to showers where they will be put to death by "organic poison gas".


Recorded a second time for the album Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, released in June of 1980, the single peaked at U.K.#4. Dead Kennedys were well on the way to becoming America's most famous punk band.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Hiding the Tears in My Eyes


The Cure : Boys Don't Cry


In June of 1979 The Cure released "Boys Don't Cry" b/w "Plastic Passion". The catchy non-album single did not chart in the U.K. though it peaked at #22 in New Zealand.  Re-released with a new voice and new mix in 1986, "Boys Don't Cry" finally got the attention it deserved, peaking at U.K.#22.

"The pop songs like “Boys Don’t Cry” are naive to the point of insanity," Robert Smith would tell Rolling Stone in 2017. "But considering the age I was and the fact that I had done nothing apart from go to school – no real life experience, everything was taken from books – some of them are pretty good."

 Apparently a favorite of Wham's Andrew Ridgeley, the song may seem upbeat until you realize the singer is despondent over his role in a break up: "I tried to laugh about it/ Cover it all up with lies/ I tried to laugh about it /Hiding the tears in my eyes".



The B side "Plastic Passion" is as good as anything on The Cure's debut album, Three Imaginary Boys


Sunday, June 16, 2019

Asphalt Boys


Cabaret Voltaire : Nag Nag Nag

[Purchase]


"I firmly believe Cabaret Voltaire will turn out to be one of the most important new bands to achieve wider recognition this year. Wait and see."
-Andy Gill

In June of 1979 Rough Trade Records released Cabaret Voltaire's "Nag Nag Nag", the industrial post-punk band's single. It's grating as hell, but it's also breaking new ground, paving the way for the merger of industrial music and dance music. As one RYM user noted : 

I can't help but wonder if this is something like the post-punk equivalent of The Velvet Underground and Nico's oft-repeated story that almost no one bought it, but everyone that did started a band. Because holy Jesus you can draw a pretty straight line from this to dozens and dozens of bands that came after it.





Friday, June 14, 2019

Lights Are Flashing, Cars Are Crashing


Joy Division : Disorder


On June 15, 1979 Factory Records released Unknown Pleasures, Joy Division's debut album. The only Joy Division album released during singer Ian Curtis's lifetime, it has grown in status every decade. Unknown Pleasures has now topped the user reviewed database Rate Your Music as the top album of 1979, over London Calling, The Wall, Fear of Music and Entertainment!.

In 1979 NME's Max Bell called the album with its distinctive dark cover "memorably psychotic", writing:

All the material bears the mark of obsession and personal experience; it's stark, alarmingly defiant. Curtis delivers his parts with dramatic flatness, as semi-chants, matter-of-fact monologues, pushing out the meaning in spurts...Unknown Pleasures is an English rock masterwork, its only equivalent probably made in Los Angeles 12 years ago: The Doors' Strange Days, the most pertinent comparison I can make. Listen to this album and wonder because you'll never love the sound of breaking glass again.


Some of the credit for the lasting appeal of Unknown Pleasures belongs to producer Martin Hannett. The album has a spacious and atmospheric sound that contrasted with the band's live performances. At first the band members resented what Hannett had done. This is Bernard Sumner:

The music was loud and heavy, and we felt that Martin had toned it down, especially with the guitars. The production inflicted this dark, doomy mood over the album: we'd drawn this picture in black and white, and Martin had coloured it in for us.

But Peter Hook would later say "There's no two ways about it, Martin Hannett created the Joy Division sound."

It was also Hook, who in 2011, revealed how Factory owner Tony Wilson and band manager Rob Gretton bought Curtis a greatest hits album by Frank Sinatra hoping Curtis would take some tips from the legendary vocalist's way with melancholy tunes. You can judge whether it worked:

There was a song called "I Remember Nothing" and the lyric is "We were strangers" and I thought to myself "Ah, he got it from Frank Sinatra" because he didn't have any words for it and he had been listening to the Frank Sinatra album downstairs in Strawberry ( Studios) and I think that was a direct rip.


The album was praised by most critics ( although Melody Maker's Mary Harron wasn't so impressed:"I found at least half of it to be turgid and monotonous, and the vocals heavy and melodramatic—Jim Morrison without flair.") but failed to enter the U.K. charts.  

Today you'll find Unknown Pleasures getting near unanimous praise, as one of the 1970's greatest debut albums. It's taken 40 years but, as some have said, it's a grower. 




Thursday, June 13, 2019

With the Dim Lights On


The Cars : Let's Go


On June 13, 1979 The Cars released Candy-O, the follow-up to their self-titled platinum debut. With Queen producer Roy Thomas Baker at the controls, the Boston band delivered another quirky set of new wave tunes including "Let's Go", the first song by The Cars to hit the U.S. Top 20. 


The entire album has a fresh feel and a sexy cover courtesy of pin-up artist Alberto Vargas.  It's paced faster than the debut even if the songs aren't quite as good. (There's probably a good lesson in here by the way for rock bands.) I liked it at the time but I was also beginning to have my doubts about the band. Friends told me their New Haven concert wasn’t  any good.


Most critics  heaped praise with some reservations. The album did not score a place on 1979's Pazz and Jop Critics Poll, despite Robert Christgau of the Village Voice grading the album a B+:

Hooks are mechanical by nature, but the affectlessness of these deserves special mention; only listeners who consider "alienation is the craze" a great insight will find much meaning here. On the other hand, only listeners who demand meaning in all things will find this useless. Cold and thin, shiny and hypnotic, it's what they do best -- rock and roll that is definitively pop without a hint of cuteness. Which means that for them "alienation is the craze" may be a meaningful statement after all.


Tom Carson of Rolling Stone found fault in the album's sound:

It's almost inevitable that Candy-O, the Cars' second album, doesn't seem nearly as exciting as their first. The element of surprise is gone, and the band hasn't been able to come up with anything new to replace it. Candy-O is an elaborately constructed, lively, entertaining LP that's packed with good things. And it's got a wonderful title. But it's a little too disciplined, a shade too predictable. You never get the idea that these guys are going out on a limb, reaching for something dramatically beyond the safe borders of their proven appeal. Instead, there's a sense of relying on established devices, of shaping the songs to fit "the Cars sound," that's unusual in a group so young, and the record sounds familiar the first time you hear it. Candy-O is a good album that never remotely threatens to turn into a great one.



If anything, the Cars are even more facile musically than they were before, but that same facility makes Candy-O sound like glib product too much of the time. It doesn't feel urgent the way the first record did. On The Cars, the group found a perfect middle ground between the New Wave's revisionist spirit and the mass audience's growing conservatism. These guys didn't catch the spirit of the time so much as perform a neat balancing act between its contradictions. Wit and epic exuberance, not artsy trappings, made the Cars special, and they haven't given us nearly enough of those qualities here. What the band doesn't seem to realize is that all that tight-assed posturing is trite and ultimately tiresome. Rick Ocasek + Company are a more interesting, less gimmicky group in almost every way than Cheap Trick, but they've never done anything as humanly moving as "Surrender."


I don't dislike Candy-O -- after all, it sounds better than practically anything else on the radio -- and I still like the Cars. They're a good band. Their virtue is they're never anything less than that. Their limitation is they've yet to prove they're anything more.





Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Long As You Can Get It Up


The Knack : Frustrated

[Purchase]

On June 11, 1979 The Knack released their debut album, a brilliant Mike Chapman production brilliantly marketed by the old Beatles label, Capitol Records, featuring one brilliant single "My Sharona". Let's hold off discussing the single for another day. Get the Knack shot up to the top of the American album charts. In the U.K., it only peaked at #65. Maybe they saw through the pop sheen and manipulation. Yu see, this is an album with one major goal: rock out the teenage boys with songs about lust, lusty girls and girls who are not lusty enough. "Frustrated"? Weren't we all? 



The album scored only a B- from critic Robert Christgau who wrote:

Cognoscenti I know tend to couch their belief that this is the Anti-clash in purely technical terms -- harmonies treacly, production punched up, and so forth. Bullshit. I too find them unattractive; if they felt this way about girls when they were unknowns, I shudder to think how they're reacting to groupies. But if they're less engaging musically than, say, the Scruffs, they have a lot more pop and power going for them than, say, the Real Kids. In other words, "My Sharona" is pretty good radio fare and let's hope "She's So Selfish" isn't the next single. Face it, this is a nasty time, and if the Stranglers are (or were, I hope) Sgt. Barry Sadler, these guys are only Freddie and the Dreamers. Docked a notch for clothes sense



Even in the sexuallys aturated 70's Rolling Stone critic Ken Tucker was somewhat taken aback by Doug Feiger's lyrics . 

Infusing all the smart primitivism, however, are Doug Fieger's elastic whine and appallingly bald opinions. Legions of jaunty rockers have uttered repressed moans for their girlfriends, but Fieger comes right out and salivates with the drool of a witty satyr: "She's your adolescent dream/Schoolboy stuff, sticky-sweet romance/And she makes you wanna scream/Wishin' you could get inside her pants." 

That's from "Good Girls Don't," just one in a series of songs addressed to young women whom the singer wants to know only in a carnal sense. Fetid ideas like Fieger's are usually the stuff of panting heavy-metal bands, and easily ignored in the blare. But by couching his rampaging id in the locutions of classical pop rock, Fieger makes his callousness inescapable: he practically rubs your face in it.






Monday, June 10, 2019

Playin' With a Horse


Nick Lowe : Big Kick, Plain Scrap!


On June 9, 1979 Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds each released a classic power pop album, recorded during the same sessions using their same Rockpile bandmates. 

Nick Lowe's Labour of Lust followed up his eccentric Jesus of Cool with Lowe's only U.S. Top 40 hit, "Cruel To Be Kind".  (We're saving our discussion of the single for later in the year. ) For reasons I'll never understand the album was out of print for twenty years, though Basher: The Best of Nick Lowe featured seven of eleven songs on the American version, including "American Squirm" (recorded with Elvis Costello and the Attractions) and "Big Kick, Plain Scrap".


Finally in 2011 Yep Records brought this classic album back to record store shelves with the help of this little seen promotional video.



Dave Edmunds : Girls Talk


On the very same day, Edmunds released his best album, Repeat When Necessary. The lead off track, Elvis Costello's "Girls Talk" peaked at #4 on the UK Singles Chart and #12 in Ireland. 

Edmunds recalls :

 "Elvis came to the studio one day, and he said, 'I've got a song for you.' And he gave me a cassette. Now, it wasn't very good - it was just him on a guitar, and he was rushing through it at a furious pace. At first I couldn't see it. I really liked the complete new arrangement and feel that I put to it. I'm not sure Elvis liked it, mind you. He's quite an intense person and he's quick to point out things that he doesn't like." 


Repeat When Necessary also features "Crawling From the Wreckage", written by Graham Parker and Hank DeVito's "Queen of Hearts", covered by Juice Newton two years later. 

In 1979 the BBC aired a documentary about Rockpile. Have an hour? Watch these good friends at work, having a drink and a smoke. At 42:00 Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy hangs out at a recording session. 


Saturday, June 8, 2019

Cattle Beware of Snipers


Wings : To You


I didn't mean [Back to the Egg] to be underground, but it's nice 
-Paul McCartney

On June 8, 1979 Wings released Back to the Egg in the U.K., the band's final album. In its day it was critically lambasted with Rolling Stone declaring Back to the Egg "the sorriest grab bag of dreck in recent memory" and although it did reach the top 10 in album sales, it has been forgotten by many.

At the time McCartney justified the album in this way:

 "It was just sort of a back-to-the-beginning kind of feeling for us, while we were making it. We were sort of trying different things, while we were making it, and that seemed to sum it up -- Back to the Egg. A back-to-square-one kind of thing, you know?"


I knew nothing of the reviews and picked it up the first chance I got. Why didn't I spend that money on Ram? Isolated in a Connecticut boarding school, I didn't know firsthand the punk scene that inspired "Spin It On" or the Rolling Stones's "Lies" from Some Girls. I just heard a 36-year old man trying to rave things up beyond what his voice could handle.

I have always had a fondness for something that sounds tossed off like a demo. So the deep cut "To You" remains a favorite track from the album.


It's obviously not the first one that comes to mind for anyone else. The single was "Getting Closer", a Top 20 hit featuring the unforgettable lines "I'm getting closer, my salamander" and "cattle beware of snipers". What would John have said had Paul shown him the lyrics? 


"Arrow Through Me", with its Miami style disco beat, is another single from the album.It crept into the U.S. Top 40 barely.  On the B side of the single was another Back to the Egg track, a U.K.#35 riff rocker called "Old Siam Sir". McCartney's voice had never sounded so strained.





Friday, June 7, 2019

And the Rubbers You Hide


Gang of Four : At Home He's A Tourist


On June 7 1979 Gang of Four released  their debut single with EMI, "At Home He's a Tourist" b/w "It's Her Factory". One part punk anthem ( that extraordinary jagged Andy Gill guitar introduction!) , one part dance floor filler, the single would only peak at U.K.#58. Had Holden Caulfield been a character written in 1979 instead of the mid 1940's, he might have shared the alienated viewpoint here. Imagine Caulfield seeking meaning to his existence on a disco floor, with rubbers hidden in his top left pocket. Two steps forward; six steps back.


"It's Her Factory" is the "woke"  melodica driven B side. I hear criticism of  the way the media patronizingly portrays women. All together, one of the best and most essential singles of 1979



Thursday, June 6, 2019

The Aim Without Suffering


Robert Fripp : Exposure


In June of 1979 Robert Fripp released Exposure, his debut solo album. Though he was hardly solo, with musical contributions from Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Peter Hamill, Terre Roche and, perhaps most surprisingly, Daryl Hall.

Fripp dissolved King Crimson following the release of 1974's Red and eventually moved to New York City in 1977 where he checked in on the punk rock scene. He plays guitar on Blondie's "Fade Away and Radiate" and produced albums by The Roches Peter Gabriel and an as yet unreleased record by Daryl Hall. 1977 is also the year he played those twin guitar solos on David Bowie's "Heroes".

Fripp was obsessed with the year 1981. At one point he was convinced the world would that year so in 1979 he established a campaign he called "The Drive to 1981", three years of very hard and very public hustling.

Exposure is exhibit A.

"'Exposure' deals with tweaking the vocabulary of, for want of a better word, 'rock' music," he told Melody Maker's Allan Jones. " It investigates the vocabulary and, hopefully, expands the possibilities of expression and introduces a more sophisticated emotional dynamic than one would normally find within 'rock.'"


Exposure was originally supposed to be part of a trilogy along with Peter Gabriel's second album and Hall's Sacred Songs. First RCA rejected the Hall album. Then they asked that Hall's vocals be removed from all but two tracks on Exposure. (You Burn Me Up" and "North Star")

Fripp flew  Peter Hammill of Van der Graff Generator to New York .

"He came into the studio dressed in a rather svelte and smooth fashion, took off his nice cloths and got into a smelly dressing-gown, poured himself a liberal dose from the bottle of cognac he'd brought with him, and went in there and started delivering the goods. Great man. Very nice man. He said that when he began singing he wanted to be the vocal equivalent of Hendrix. Conceptually, he was right on the beam. And he delivers, I think."



Though it may not have been the album he originally envisioned, Fripp was very pleased with Exposure.

"As a whole it's so good. So good. I think probably, in terms of the genre, it's conceivably the best record in the past five years, perhaps longer. I don't think of it as a 'progressive' rock album. I think in a sense it rises above ALL categories. In a sense it's a compendium, none of the components are in themselves innovatory, but nothing is dated."


Many of the lyrics are written by Fripp's girlfriend, an American therapist named Joanna Walton. As he explained to Canadian college radio DJ Dick Tooley 

She's in fact a native New Yorker, and one level Exposure has to do with the kind of way a man and woman relate to each other in a contemporary situation, trying to be free of all the archetypes and so on. And how difficult that might be. So You Burn Me Up, I'm A Cigarette is my love song to Joanna. I May Not Have Had Enough Of Me, But I've Had Enough Of You, Chicago and North Star are her love songs to me.


Exposure received a rare 5 star review in one of the Rolling Stone Record Guides and a B+ from Robert Christgau who wrote 

Fripp has always been a bit of a jerk, but over the years he's figured out what to do with the talent that goes along with his affliction. This concept album earns its conceit, orchestrating bits and pieces of art-rock wisdom--from punk to Frippertronics, from King Crimson to singer-songwriter--into a fluent whole. Maybe soon he'll get smart enough to forget about J.G. Bennett. "It is impossible to achieve the aim without suffering" isn't exactly big news, and old Crimson fans will swallow side two without the caveat 


    In 1985 when I was a program director at my college radio station I chose this six year old album for one of our Classic Album hours and was actually stopped on the street and thanked for the choice.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

With Anxiety


The Ruts : Babylon's Burning


On June 5 1979 The Ruts's new single was about to debut on the U.K. pop charts at #61. "Babylon's Burning" would be one of the great singles of the Summer of '79, peaking at U.K.#7, and providing a soundtrack as Margaret Thatcher's  anti-union, anti-immigrant, monetarist policies took effect. 

The Ruts started out playing free benefit gigs, working with the reggae band Misty, responding to the rise of the fascist National Front with the "Rock Against Racism" movement. The Ruts continued to sing about the same causes as reggae bands in songs like "S.U.S.", "Jah War" and "Babylon's Burning".  Not that everyone thought it was right. As the single climbed the charts, the band received letters from black activists saying they should leave out all references to Babylon because only black people can understand things like that.

After touring with The Damned, The Ruts would be offered opening slots with Thin Lizzy and Van Halen. They would turn down both.