Friday, November 30, 2012

40 Year Itch : Stones Record "Angie" Demo

Following their exhausting, drug-fueled North American "STP" Tour, The Rolling Stones gathered in Jamaica in late November to begin sessions for their follow up to Exile On Main St. Although the Stones would never admit it, something was missing. Sure,  the single "Angie" would hit #1 in the US in 1973 and so would  the album Goats Head Soup.  But this hit and miss record marks the end of the classic Rolling Stones album era which began with Beggars Banquet in 1968 and included Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Exile.

Writing for Creem, Lester Bangs said 
"There is a sadness about the Stones now, because they amount to such an enormous 'So what?' The sadness comes when you measure not just one album, but the whole sense they're putting across now against what they once meant..."  

Who's Angie about? David Bowie's wife? Richards has said Angie is heroin : ("Heroin, you're beautiful/  But ain't it time we said goodbye"). 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

40 Year Itch: Those We Missed from Nov '72


I'm reading Neil Young's Waging Heavy Peace ( skip the first 50 pages and Neil starts to settle down and tell his story). I think it's fair to say Neil's the kind of guy who likes to have a lot of plates spinning at the same time. Journey Through the Past is the soundtrack to an experimental, critically panned concert film that wouldn't be seen for two more years. Unreleased on CD, among the best stuff is this seven minute Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young version of "Southern Man"


With her debut, The Divine Miss M, Bette Midler introduces audience to the brassy, self-mocking "Bathhouse Betty" who first stole hearts in cabaret shows performed in NYC gay clubs. The album went Top 10 and remains a fan favorite.



With the help of "Brand New Key" ( I got a brand new pair of roller skates/ You got a brand new key) , Melanie became Billboard's #1 Female Vocalist of 1972. Her follow-up, Stoneground Words, is the work of a mature, intelligent artist. Naturally nobody bought it. Yet , today it is often referred to as a great under-heard classic.



Basically, Cream's Jack Bruce replaced a heroin addicted Felix Pappalardi on bass to form a new version of Mountain. But by changing their name, Leslie West, Jack Bruce and Corky Laing could renegotiate their record contract. The result was a whopping $1 Million/ Three Album deal. The label didn't care for the debut album enough to promote it but Why Doncha is worth a listen for those who like their riffs heavy and bass lines plodding.



After years of recording albums on his own Takoma label, the inventive guitarist John Fahey released his first Reprise album in November of 1972. Of Rivers And Religion would be selected as one of top ten albums of the year by Time Magazine and Robert Christgau says it's Fahey's best but most critics weren't so kind.
I haven't found the time or desire to get to know all of Fahey's work. To me it sounds as good as anything else I've heard him do.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

40 Year Itch: Focus III

The greatest things Dutch guitar god Jan Akkerman ever did wasn't with Focus. It was refusing to play with Sting "because I didn't like his music".

Anyway, Focus followed up their international prog metal yodeling classic "Hocus Pocus" with this double album, Focus III, released in November of 1972. The yodeling is kept to a minimum tho I think you can hear some hints of operatic singing about two minutes into  "Sylvia", a major hit everywhere but in the US. To my ears this sounds like a really bad TV theme. An adventure show starring a lifeguard and his pet chimp. "Surf Chimp" I think we'll call it. Starring Jan Michael Vincent.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

40 Year Itch: On Butterflies and Lilac Sprays

In Kicking And Dreaming, Nancy Wilson tells the story of searching for Joni Mitchell on Sechelt Island off the British Columbia coast. This is years before she became famous herself. Nancy had read that Joni owned an 80 acre farm on the 15 square mile island. The journey proved fruitless. Islanders who could have pointed the way usually sent Nancy in the opposite direction.

Though I can't prove it, I always felt I recognized the backdrop of Joni Mitchell's For The Roses. It couldn't be anything but an island on the Sunshine Coast, a slightly sunnier cousin of Washington's San Juan Islands. And the nude gatefold pretty much seals the deal.

But enough about the cover. Released in November of 1972, For the Roses offers a transition between the stark instrumentation of 1971's classic Blue and the Tom Scott/ soft jazz explorations of 1974's Court And Spark. While it may be some people's favorite Joni Mitchell album, For the Roses doesn't work for me anywhere near as well as the two albums surrounding it. Naturally there are songs that sounds like Blue ( "Banquet", "For The Roses") and those that sound like Court and Spark ("Barangrill" and the US#25 hit "You Turn Me On ( I'm A Radio)" which even gives us a glimpse into the forthcoming boho hit "Help Me").

Two of the more interesting cuts, at least to me, are "Blonde in the Bleachers" and "Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire". The first one may very well be a message to Graham Nash about those "sweet mysteries" groupies offer but about my half way in it becomes a message to groupies about Graham Nash and all of the other rock n roll men:
 You can't hold the hand Of a Rock'n'Roll man
 Very long
 Or count on your plans With a Rock'n'Roll man 
 Very long 
 Compete with the fans For your Rock'n'Roll man 
 For very long

 And the astonishing lyrics of "Cold Blue Steel" relate an urban nightmare from the perspective of a junkie:
 A wristwatch, a ring, a downstairs screamer 
Edgy-black cracks of the sky "Pin-cushion-prick- Fix this poor bad dreamer!"


  For The Roses isn't the first Joni Mitchell album you should buy, but you're missing out if you ignore it altogether.

Monday, November 26, 2012

40 Year Itch: Slayed?

Yob-Rock at its finest. Though their impact on US charts was minimal. Slade owned the UK Charts between 1971 and 1976. They placed 17 consecutive singles into the UK Top 20 including 6 Number Ones. The ultimate Slade album is their UK#1  Slayed?, released in November of 1972. It features the chronically poor-spelling band's huge hits (UK#1) "Mama We're All Crazee Now" and (UK#2) "Gudbuy T'Jane" as well as "Look At Last Night", perhaps the band's most introspective song:

You'll be right here today/Gone Tomorrow
Maybe they'll care today/But not Tomorrow

Fate can be fickle with the famous. Three days after playing a sold out show in London, drummer Don Powell crashed his Bentley into a wall killing his girlfriend and nearly himself. As Noddy Holder said of that moment: "We were riding the crest of a wave, then a week later Don hjad his crash. He was given 24 hours to live. It all came crumbling down in one day".

Sunday, November 25, 2012

40 Year Itch: Grey Lagoons

On November 25, 1972 Roxy Music performed a three song set on the BBC arts program Full House. You'll hear a bit of "Re-Make/Re-Model", "Ladytron" and a new song, "Grey Lagoons", which would appear on the band's second album For Your Pleasure.


The sound is tinny and the picture is low-res but it's worth your time if you're a big fan of Roxy Music. Phil Manzanera takes quite the solo on "Ladytron". Andrew Mackay and Bryan Ferry trade off solos ( sax and harmonica) on "Grey Lagoons". Despite his eye-catching appearance, Brian Eno doesn't get many isolated shots at all. There's one near the end.

This week Bryan Ferry releases The Jazz Age, a collection of 1920's style takes on Roxy Music/solo Ferry  classics.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

40 Year Itch: Space Chuggin

Space rock pioneers Hawkwind followed up their #3 UK charting single "Silver Machine" with their third album  Doremi Fasol Latido, a record that would appeal to the same "fanboys" of the early 70's who liked sci fi novels, prog rock and dropping acid in their basement apartments. This is the first album to feature bassist Lemmy from Motorhead and drummer Simon King. Doremi Fasol Latido was recorded at  Rockfield Studios in Wales which Lemmy described as a barn surrounded by mattresses. To appeal to the fanboys, the back cover includes the legend: 

 The Saga of Doremi Fasol Latido is a collection of ritualistic space chants, battle hymns and stellar songs of praise as used by the family clan of Hawkwind on their epic journey to the fabled land of Thorasin.

In his review for Sounds, Martin Hayman  gets to the essence of space rock's appeal:

The bass and drums batter on with unflagging pace, synthesisers swirl and whistle around the thunderous block riffs whose endless repetition generates that numbed hypnosis, tuneless and menacing voices incant largely incomprehensible lyrics. This is not to knock Hawkwind: the sound they are getting is thicker, fuller, more convincing than ever before. Its total effect is pretty devastating, but the means by which the effect is achieved is no revolution in sound."

The subsequent tour included dancer Stacia who was the subject of an earlier post. This clip includes some NSFW shots of Stacia and Lemmy's explanation of how he joined Hawkwind.

Friday, November 23, 2012

40 Year Itch : Two Beauties from November '72

Colin Blunstone could sing the obituary section of a newspaper and make it gorgeous. The former Zombies singer released his second solo album, Ennismore, in November of 1972. The lead-off track, "I Don't Believe in Miracles", was he first single and peaked at #31 in the UK. It was written by Argent singer Russ Ballard. In fact Argent backed up Blunstone on most of the album making this the closest thing to a new Zombies record any fan could hope to hear. This album and the first solo effort, One Year, are both offer beautiful examples of baroque pop. These days you don't have to choose between the two. Amazon, I noticed, offers a box set of the first three Blunstone solo albums for  $13.78.

The eclectic Englishmen who make up Stackridge never took their music too seriously. Band members were made up of a former timber yard worker, a bookstore clerk, a cleaner in a birdseed factory and other odd jobbers. With titles like "Keep On Clucking", "Syracuse the Elephant" and "Father Frankenstein Is Behind Your Pillow" you know the phonograph needle is about to land on something odd. But the music is also quite beautiful and diverse. The title cut is a multi-tracked vocal wonder but that's just one aspect of the album. There's also reggae (!) and heavy duty prog rock to be found on this exceptional effort. Critics loved it. The public ignored it. The follow-up, The Man in The Bowler Hat, would be produced by George Martin.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

40 Year Itch : Thanksgiving at Sing Sing

There was a riot at Sing Sing Prison but it was a riot of music, emotion, enthusiasm and good feelings. What a day. What a concert!
-Jerry Oster, New York Daily News

On Thanksgiving Day in 1972, Joan Baez her sister Mimi Farina, B B King, The Voices of East Harlem and comedian Jimmy Walker performed at the maximum security prison Sing Sing in New York State. Joan Baez opened with " I Shall Be Released". Then her sister joined her for a duet of the Spanish song "Viva Mi Patria Bolivia". Finally Baez sang her own  "Prison Trilogy" with the chorus "And we're gonna raze, raze the prisons/To the ground".

Then it was blues giant B B King's turn. He performed three numbers : "How Blue Can You Get?", "Someone Really Loves You" and "I Think You're Cheatin' On Me Baby".


A documentary called Sing Sing Thanksgiving, released in 1972, intercuts the performances with inmate interviews.

The concert must have gone pretty well. A few week later an almost completely unknown musician, just signed to Columbia Records, performed a two hour show with his pick up band at the Sing Sing chapel. His name was Bruce Springsteen. He let Clarence Clemons sing the Buddy Miles tune "Them Changes" and pretty much stuck to covers. Of the audience, Springsteen said "They're tough dudes. They got nobody to impress at all. It was good that they liked us."

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

40 Year Itch : Alligator Lizards In The Air

The critics never forgave America for "A Horse With No Name".  Aping Neil Young was bad enough. Knocking the real Neil Young out of the #1 singles chart with a Neil Young sound-alike was nearly criminal. Having lyrics like "the heat was hot" in that song was apparently unforgivable. The Rolling Stone Album Guide still gives all of America's studio albums one star ( "Disastrous") ratings and the most recent edition complains of thin production and sums up the band's discography in this way: "Without exception, all America's records are lame.

That really isn't fair. First of all, I think Dewey Bunnell really does share Neil Young's reedy voice. And America wasn't the only band trying to hit it big using the Crosby, Stills and Nash formula. As for thin production, Homecoming opens with a perfectly engineered single in "Ventura Highway". "Only In Your Heart" shares the the piano-based do-it-yourself feel of an early Paul McCartney solo album. 

In fact, only Dan Peek's Come-To-Jesus single "Don't Cross The River' could really be called "thin". How bad could America be when the band eventually attracted both George Martin and Beatles engineer  Geoff Emerick?
 If you're ready to give America a second chance, Homecoming is the place to begin.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

40 Year Itch: Aloha From Hawaii Press Conference

On November 20, 1972 reporters gathered at the Hawaiian Village Hotel where Elvis Presley announced he'd be performing a live concert called "Aloha From Hawaii" on January 14, 1973 that would be beamed around the world via satellite.He also announced the concert would also raise money for the local Kui Lee Cancer Fund. If the King seemed a bit off, he may have been tired. Elvis had performed three shows on November 17 and 18.


 To prepare for the concert Elvis rehearsed like mad and lost about 20 pounds by dieting and training with his Karate master Kang Rhee.

Reporters were told about a billion people in 40 different countries would see the live broadcast. More than saw the moon landing. That's probably not even close. In fact, most Americans didn't get to see the concert until April of 1972 when NBC broadcast the concert.

Monday, November 19, 2012

40 Year Itch : An Ocean Full of Faces

Seventh Sojourn, released on November 19, 1972 is the seventh and last of a stretch of gold albums released by the classic line-up of the Moody Blues before group members took a long sabbatical to pursue solo careers. Its late 1972 release helped ensure Seventh Sojourn would be the #1 Billboard album for weeks leading to Christmas.

The best known song on the album is the US # 13 single "I'm Just A Singer ( In a Rock n Roll Band), Justin Haywards's response to fans trying find deep wisdom in Moody lyrics.  Charles Manson was still in the news for the murders he and his followers committed in the belief that the Beatles' "Helter Skelter" was citing a race war. Of course, the worst thing Moody Blues lyrics could inspire would be some kind of  New Age retreat in an Arizona desert.

For the most part this is a pretty satisfying effort but will it make a Moody Blues believer out of you? There's a second single in "Isn't Life Strange" with  its Bee Gees reminiscent opening. The bass line to the lead off track, "Lost in a Lost World" might remind you of the Talking Heads version of "Take Me To The River". Our fave cut is beautifully arranged "The Land of Make-Believe".

Sunday, November 18, 2012

40 Year Itch : "American City Suite" Peaks at #27

1972 began with an epic hit single in the eight minute long #1 "American Pie" and ended with another epic single , Cashman and West's ten minute "American City Suite", which peaked at #27 on November 18. Terry Cashman and Tommy West were best known for producing Jim Croce hits like "Operator", "You Don't Mess Around With Jim" and "Operator" .

With the help of great studio musicians, including Jeff "Skunk" Baxter ( Steely Dan, The Doobie Brothers) on guitar and Jim Gordon on drums, Cashman and West recorded the suite as a tribute to Cashman's hometown of New York City. The first of the four songs ( "Sweet City Suite") in the suite will remind you of Simon and Garfunkel. The second part, "Hello Jack",  was removed, so the single would run just 7 minutes. The final two songs are called "All Around The Town" and " A Friend is Dying". That friend is NYC.

As Cashman told

"It was actually four songs strung together as a suite. Tommy and I signed as an act, Cashman and West, with ABC Dunhill. We had written a number of songs, but I really wanted to do something that would be special for the album. And it was a very sad time for me. A lot of my friends were leaving the city and going off, getting married, and you know, things were changing. I was 30 years old, and New York where I had grown up all my life was really deteriorating. It was a very bad time financially, and it was a time of turmoil and of racial strife. It looked like the city was gonna collapse. This great place where I had grown up and enjoyed so many friendships and so many good times - the city that I love - was actually dying. I was going into our office the next day, and I said to Tommy, 'I had this thought about New York in particular, but it's really happening to all the Eastern cities. They're decaying and white people are moving out of the cities and going to the suburbs. There are only very rich people and very poor people in the cities, and homelessness.' We started talking about the whole phenomenon, and we came up with this idea to do a song about how it was, which was the first movement of the first song of the suite was called, 'Sweet City Song,' and it was very happy, it was about growing up in a city where everyone got along and it was fun to be there - rock and roll was in the air. And then tracing that through, going away to school and coming back and seeing that things had changed, and then the third movement is an up-tempo song about how things were at that particular time as opposed to ten years before. And then it goes into 'A Friend Is Dying,' which is the last movement of 'American City Suite,' which is about the city dying. And that's the way it seemed to us at the time. That it was not only New York City, but all the Eastern industrial cities were having the same problems."

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Blancmange Picks All Time Top Ten

To promote the 1982 Blancmange debut album Happy Families,  founders Stephen Luscombe and Neil Arthur gave Smash Hits a Top Ten list showcasing their love of synth pop and exotic world music. This list comes courtesy of Brian at Like Punk Never Happened.

Friday, November 16, 2012

40 Year Itch: David Bowie Writes "Time"

David Bowie performed two concerts in New Orleans in mid November. The first was uptown, November 14 at the Jesuit university, Loyola, which always had a better meal plan than Tulane University across the street. The second was November 22 at The Warehouse downtown, where Jim Morrison performed his last show with The Doors and where a friend of mine made out with a shockingly beautiful girl at a 1982 Talking Heads concert and discovered she was a he. It was sometime during this week that he wrote "Time" which would greatly benefit from the piano theatrics of Mike Garson when it was recorded a month later at Trident Studios.

The song is best known for its line : "Time; He flexes like a whore/ Falls wanking to the floor". RCA was fine with the masturbation imagery but removed the line "in quaaludes and red wine" from the US single. Not a big fan of the cabaret theatrics of Bowie, I like other things on 1973's Aladdin Sane a great deal more ( "Panic In Detroit", "The Jean Genie", "Cracked Actor").

Thursday, November 15, 2012

40 Year Itch: You Hit Me With A Flower

With his long overdue success finally attained, David Bowie also seemed to have picked up 3 "Get Your Idol Out Of Purgatory" cards. 

He used the first one on Mott The Hoople by providing them with a Top 5 UK hit in "All The Young Dudes". 

Another would be used on (Z)Iggy Pop by producing his final Stooges album, 1973's Raw Power

But his most memorable intervention was in the career of Bowie's idol and inspiration, former Velvet Underground leader Lou Reed. Just months after Reed released his mostly flat, poorly selling eponymous debut, Bowie and his guitarist Mick Ronson flew Lou out to London to record Transformer.

The album offers mostly two styles: a glammed-up update of the Velvet Underground sound ("Vicious", "Hangin' Round", "Wagon Wheel") with a few nods to gay life ("Make Up", "I'm So Free") and a New York-centric form of cabaret ("New York Telephone Conversation", "Goodnight Ladies"). 

         Then there are the three songs that anchor Transfomer. With syrupy string arrangements from Ronson, "Perfect Day" is a sweet ode to a day of bliss that may or may not be about heroin. "Satellite of Love", a Velvets leftover, is a song about jealousy, with David Bowie "bom'bom'bom-ing through much of it.. Eventually Bowie sings "Sata-Oooh" which must have seemed strange at the time. ( Apparently there were all kinds of yelling tirades and crying jags between Bowie and Lou.)

And then, buried at the end of Side A, there's one of the oddest songs to ever hit the Top Ten. 

With its double bass lines from Herbie Flowers,"Walk On The Wild Side" has this almost journalistic way of describing the characters Reed met at the Warhol Factory. The song was part of a musical based on Nelson Algren's 1965 novel A Walk On The Wild Side that Warhol has commissioned Lou to write

There's the famous drag queen Candy Darling who "never lost her head even when she was giving head."

There's Holly Woodlawn who came from Miami FLA, shaved her legs and then he was a she.

There's actor "Little" Joe Dallesandro who never once gave it away.

There's Sugar Plum Fairy Joe Campbell who went to the Apollo and you should have seen him go go go.

And finally there's Jackie Curtis who thought he was James Dean for a day.

 "I always thought it would be kinda fun to introduce people to characters they maybe hadn't met before, or hadn't wanted to meet" explained Lou. How that strategy produced a hit single is almost as big a mystery as how that song ever got played on the radio in the first place. And the colored girls who sang were called the Thunderthighs.

I don't know if Bowie and Lou Reed worked together a lot after Transformer. Lou yelled at Bowie so much, the latter could be found embracing the toilet in a foetal position. But it was a hit. So Ziggy's work was done. Now all Lou had to was carry around this "transformed" persona for the rest of his life.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

40 Year Itch : The Jackson 5 Live in Paris

The Jackson 5 spent the first half of November 1972 touring Europe to promote Lookin' Through the Window, the very first album I asked somebody to buy for me. By this point, Michael Jackson's voice had changed from boy soprano to tenor and his solo career was beginning to eclipse the band's. "I Wanna Be Where You Are" is one of the great singles of 1972.

Where are the sounds of screaming girls? Apparently in France, audiences come to concerts to hear the music.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

40 Year Itch: The World Is A Ghetto


"The World is a Ghetto" may have sounded like one of the most political statements of the years, especially coming from a band whose members had still vivid memories of the Watts riots. But War's 1972 album, which would go on to be one of the best selling albums of 1973, is a celebration of ghetto life. To mark the 40th anniversary of The World Is a Ghetto, here's an interview with one of the band's founders, the harmonica wizard Lee Oskar


Lee Oskar, a founding member of the 70's pop-funk-jam band War, grew up in Denmark where he was given his first harmonica on his sixth birthday.

I remember the first time I breathed on it it would literally play me.
It would sound just like a symphony
I got hooked and that's where it all started

At 17, virtually pennyless, Lee moved to the US where his virtuosity on the harmonica and his easy-going nature eventually led to his friendship with Eric Burdon. Burdon had recently left The Animals and wanted to find a new band.

They drove around LA until they found a funk band in a dive bar. Together they would all form War. A strange name in the age of peace signs and flower power.

Everybody walks around saying "Peace!" and I always said "Peace? Nobody is at peace within themselves. The war within ourselves is what makes us be creative" and somebody pulled that out of my conversation and said "Hey let's call it WAR!" and that's how I remember it coming about.

From the very beginning War discovered the songs that worked best were the ones that came out of long improvisational jams. That suited Burdon just fine.

We would get on stage and we would basically improvise.
Eric might even set up a scenario "Ok guys, we're gonna go on a rocket ship and we're gonna fly to the moon and you're gonna be the captain"

In 1970, One of those jams landed at #3 on the U-S pop charts. It was called "Spill the Wine" and its chorus is one of those classics nobody knows the real words to.

You spill the wine and you take the pearl.
Not girl.
Pearl. --which was acid back in those days so he was talking about spill the wine.Take the pearl.

After Burdon left, the band played on. War scored more Top Ten hits. Among them, "Why Can't We Be Friends?", "Low Rider",The Cisco Kid, and "Slippin' Into Darkness". All of them emerging from jam sessions.

We were never successful when we tried to tell anybody what to play.
There would be an argument or fight or something.

The music stayed fresh even as the question the press asked Lee grew stale.He couldn't avoid being asked what was it like being the only white guy in a band of brothers.

I didn't have a hang up about stuff that I noticed a lot of people had
I remember one time somebody yelled "Hey Brother!" like that and then comes up close to look at me and asks "Are you a brother?"
So there were all these clich├ęs between white and black and all that and I hated that frankly.I thought it was pretty arrogant or whatever.

That wasn't his only frustration.
Lee had trouble finding good harmonicas.

I would literally take every dime I had and buy every harmonica.
Hopefully I would find one out of ten that was good or something.
That was my passion: to be surrounded by my tools.

So Lee teamed up with a Japanese company to make Lee Oskar harmonicas.
How good are they?
Bluesman Junior Wells was buried with a tray of Oskar harmonicas.
Magic Dick of J Geils Band says "I just think, as a musical tool, they're a great musical tool so I can't think of a better endorsement to give them than that."

To listen to Lee play today is quite astonishing if you've never heard a harmonica played as a jazz instrument. He has, in his lifetime, expanded the possibilities of what conventional harmonicas can do.

But Lee isn't all business. He's always looking for a chance to play. Especially with other War veterans, who for legal reasons have to call themselves The Low Rider Band.

The integrity of the music and the jam band that we've always been
That's still there
That's the real deal
That's what The Low Rider Band is.
Nothing homogenized.

Lee can even be found jamming around Seattle these days.
That six year old who got a magical harmonica for his birthday still needs to find a play.

I get grouchy if I don't eat.
I get grouchy if I don't play music.

Monday, November 12, 2012

40 Year Itch : Whole Oats

Daryl Hall and John Oates, the #1 charting duo in rock and roll history, released their debut album Whole Oats on November 12, 1972. It didn't attract a whole lot of attention then but, in retrospect, maybe it should have. Produced by Arif Mardin ( who helmed great albums by The Rascals and Dusty Springfield), Whole Oats fills out the folksy sound these favorite sons of Philadelphia had created by plugging in funky guitars, horns and other instruments.

 "Fall In Philadelphia" sounds exactly like what Elton John was recording in his honky chateau on the other side of the Atlantic. The album opener, "I'm Sorry", is a bouncy pop tune that would have sounded right at home on AM radio. Overall, the album is a bit of a light weight. It would be followed up with Abandoned Luncheonette ( featuring the then flop single "She's Gone"). The third album, the Todd Rundgren produced War Babies, nearly killed their career. Then Atlantic Records re-released the single "She's Gone" in hit the Top Ten...and the rest, as they say,  is history.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

40 Year Itch: A Song for Syd Barrett

40 years ago this month ex-Soft Machine guitarist Kevin Ayers released as a single "Oh! Wot A Dream", a song about his eccentric friend Syd Barrett:
 You are the most extraordinary person /
 You write the most peculiar kind of tunes /
 I met you floating as I was boating /
 One Afternoon”.


 The song appeared on Ayers's 1973 album Bananamour, his follow up to 1971's acclaimed Whatevershebringswesing which featured the memorable single "Stranger in Blue Suede Shoes.


Friday, November 9, 2012

More Krautrock From 1972

Popol Vuh

  1972 was an exceptional year for Krautrock and for German rock and roll. And there is a difference. Krautrock is that experimental form of rock n roll based on the work of minimalists and mad scientist composers like Karlheinz Stockhausen. Bands like Can ( see yesterday's post) , NEU!, Popl Vuh, Faust, Kraftwerk, and Cluster are clearly Krautrock. The great Twenty Sixty Six And Then is probably just German  rock and roll ( as is Grobschnitt). Bands like Amon Duul, Embryo  and Guru Guru straddle the two. So if we can in the time we have left, we'll deal with the others later. This is just an overview of Krautrock circa 1972.

For their debut album, former Kraftwerk members Klaus Dinger ( drums) and Michael Rother ( guitar) knocked out this influential album of experimental sounds and lyrics in just four days with the help of Can producer Conrad Plank. You can hear the future sounds of Bowie, Eno and Thom Yorke over the 4/4 Motorik beat that became one of Krautrock's trademarks. Fair warning: not everything is as enjoyable as "Negativland". Some of the stuff on this album will clear the room.

This is far more interesting than the drummerless sophmore effort Kraftwerk 2 despite the latter's astonishing 17 minute epic dronefest "Klingklang" which anticipates the sidelong title cut on 1974's Autobahn.


After experimenting with ambient sounds, Florian Fricke shelved his synthesizers and created an album inspired by sacred music using organic instruments. There's an East meets West vibe here but for the most part Hosianna Mantra is as lovely and ethereal an album as you'll ever find.


Faust has a notorious aversion to anything even slightly conventional. That holds true on the second album, So Far. After all, the most memorable English lyrics on the album are "Daddy, take the banana! Tomorrow is Sunday!" ( If you have a twitter account I dare you to tweet this line). I played the opening cut "It's a Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl" to my 10 and 7 year old kids and they loved it.

Years before collaborating with Brian Eno, Cluster was a trio of German experimenters using electronic sounds to create ambient atmospheres. With their second album, you can drone out in your noise reduction headphones and try lip reading your children telling you how hungry they are. Or you can just close your eyes and float up into a psonic stratosphere in your own mind.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

40 Year Itch: Ege Bamyasi

This was the first Can LP I bought brand new (Torquay 1972) and it is still my favourite. 
-Julian Cope

There is probably no better introduction to the sonically trance-inducing, highly experimental world of Krautrock than Can's approachable fourth album. That's despite its fairly unapproachable name Ege Bamyasi --which means Aegean Okra in Turkish.

Thanks to a hit single, "Spoon", which hit #6 in the German charts and sold 300,000 copies, Can had enough money to rent out a large cinema in Weilerswist. They nailed 1,500 army surplus mattresses to the walls for soundproofing and began work on the album that would accompany "Spoon".

It wasn't an easy session. Guitarist Michael Karoli was falling ill to what would turn out to be a perforated ulcer. And keyboardist Irmin Schidt and vocalist Damo Suzuki were obsessively playing chess. Getting the album finished involved some chaotic, last minute recordings which may explain some of Suzuki's slap dash lyrics like "Hey you, you're losing, you're losing, you're losing, your Vitamin C".

For his part Suzuki says nobody should be looking for wisdom in his lyrics:

"I can't sing, so I use the voice as an instrument, " he told Mojo Magazine." I'm not interested in anything in particular, that's why I sing about nothing. I improvise melody and texture too...Sometimes it sounds like English, French or German, but really it is the language of the Stone Age."

The album did get finished on time. Ege Bamyasi to much critical acclaim at the time. Melody Maker called Can "the most talented and most consistent experimental rock band in Europe. England included." The album remains highly though of with even the vaunted hipsters of Pitchfork giving it a 9.8 out of 10.

CAN tells their own story--including how Damo first took the stage without ever rehearsing with Can-- here

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Curt Smith of Tears For Fears Picks His Top Ten

To promote their singles "Pale Shelter" and "Mad World" ( then climbing to #3 on the UK charts) , Tears For Fears vocalist, bass player and keyboardist Curt Smith offered this art rock Top 10 list to the October 28th issue of Smash Hits which comes courtesy of Brian at Like Punk Never Happened.