Sunday, March 31, 2019

Those We Missed

Magazine : Permafrost

On March 30, 1979 Magazine released Secondhand Daylight, the band's second album. Less immediate and darker than the debut, this is an album that grows on you. Among the tracks I've learned to enjoy is the absolutely nasty closer, "Permafrost", with the lines "As the day stops dead /At the place where we're lost/ I will drug you and fuck you /On the permafrost". Sounds like somebody's got a bad case of the Monday's. (Selected as a Mojo Buried Treasure)

The Only Ones : From Here to Eternity

The opening track to The Only Ones's second album, Even Serpents Shine, paints an ugly picture of drug abuse. "From Here to Eternity" begins with the line "I see a woman with death in her eyes/ But I don't have the time to pray /For her salvation or for her soul /She walks her chosen way", and it doesn't get much chipper. 

Scars : Adultery


In March of 1979 the Edinburgh post-punkers Scars released their first single Adult/ery on the Fast Product label which also launched the careers of The Mekons, Gang of Four and The Human League. Volanic!

Bad Company : Early in the Morning

Back from a year of rest after endless touring, Bad Company delivered Desolation Angels in March of 1979. Those of us who were distinguished members of the Columbia Record Club were sent this album and far too many of us kept it. I rolled my eyes as I listened to the album for the first time in years, especially when Paul Rodgers sang "I'm a rhythm machine/ You know what I mean". But his "Early in the Morning" has a low key feel that hasn't aged a bit. Nice to find a nugget when you're not even looking.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

The Angels Are Sheep

Sparks : No 1 Song in Heaven

In March of 1979 Sparks released No 1 Song in Heaven, the result of a dynamic collaboration with the Italian electronic dance producer Giorgio Moroder. Gone were the guitars, bass and piano. Enter sequencers and synthesizers. Layers upon layers of them surrounding  Moroder's preferred percussion and drum player Keith Forsey. The title track may have only peaked at U.K. #14, but it's one of Sparks' catchiest ear worms. It even inspired the sound of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart".

Here's where Sparks should get their due. Almost every act that tried their hand at disco embarrassed themselves. Some lost fans for good, and all for a fad that would fade away by year's end. These bands let disco define their songs. Sparks and Moroder redefined disco and came up with a sound that would define 80's dance music. 

And they recorded a song from the perspective of human sperm.

Robert Christgau gave the album a B+ wriitng:

Anglophilia's favorite androids were destined from day of manufacture to meet up with some rock technocrat or other, so thank Ford it was Giorgio Moroder, the most playful of the breed. They even got a minor dance hit out of it--"Beat the Clock," a good one--but that's not the point. The point is channeling all their evil genius--well, evil talent, then--into magic tricks. Like the ultimate voice-box song. Or the title tune, which sounds like "Baba O'Riley" and then breaks down into Eno (or is that Gentle Giant?). Fun fun fun.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Clinical, Intellectual, Cynical

Supertramp : The Logical Song

On March 29, 1979 Supertramp released Breakfast in America, an album that infiltrated both pop and album oriented rock radio for the rest of the year, spawning four singles, topping charts all over the world and selling four million copies in the United States.

The first single was "The Logical Song", a Top 10 hit and cited as the favorite song of the year by a bloke named Paul McCartney. Hodgson wrote the song based on his memories of boarding school similar to the one where I was studying when the song first made waves on the radio.

He told Songfacts how the song came to be:

"'The Logical Song' was born from my questions about what really matters in life. Throughout childhood we are taught all these ways to be and yet we are rarely told anything about our true self. We are taught how to function outwardly, but not guided to who we are inwardly. We go from the innocence and wonder of childhood to the confusion of adolescence that often ends in the cynicism and disillusionment of adulthood. In 'The Logical Song,' the burning question that came down to its rawest place was 'please tell me who I am,' and that's basically what the song is about. I think this eternal question continues to hit such a deep chord in people around the world and why it stays so meaningful.

What stands out to these ears forty years later is how much Supertramp has simplified their sound. Roger Hodgson  ("Give A Little Bit") was supposed to be the pop tunesmith of the band; the hitmaker. And his "Logical Song" did hit U.S.#6 while his "Take the Long Way Home" peaked at #10, but Rick Davies' "Goodbye Stranger" was also a major hit and a fan favorite, peaking at U.S.#15. Not bad for a song that may be about one night stands. 

Stephen Holden reviewed the album for Rolling Stone :

Breakfast In America is a textbook-perfect album of post-Beatles, keyboard-centered English art rock that strikes the shrewdest possible balance between quasi-symphonic classicism and rock + roll. Whereas Supertramp's earlier LPs were bogged down by swatches of meandering, Genesis-like esoterica, the songs here are extraordinarily melodic and concisely structured, reflecting these musicians' saturation in American pop since their move to Los Angeles in 1977.

Supertramp's major problem is an increasing dichotomy between their rhapsodic aural style and a glib, end-of-the-empire pessimism. The music in "Gone Hollywood" is so suffused with romantic excitement that it's difficult to believe the ennui the lyrics claim: "So many creeps in Hollywood/...Ain't nothin' new in my life today." Though laced with nice, Beach Boys-style falsettos, "Goodbye Stranger," an uncharacteristically happy fantasy about endless one-night stands, seems far more honest.

But the only cut that really wrestles the dichotomy is "The Logical Song." In this small masterpiece, singer Roger Hodgson enacts an Everyman who excoriates an education that preaches categorical jargon instead of knowledge and sensitivity. "And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable, clinical, intellectual, cynical," he declaims, reeling off three- and four-syllable assonances with a schoolboy's tongue in cheek worthy of Ray Davies and the Kinks. Flamenco flourishes and a hot sax break help deflate the tune's self-pity with a wonderfully wry humor.

The next "logical" thing for these guys to do with their awesome technique is to turn it more toward this sort of ironic drollery. Then Supertramp might become not only the best-sounding art-rock band in existence, but one of the most interesting.

Village Voice critic Robert Christgau was not so kind, grading the album a C+ , writing:

I like a hooky album as well as the next fellow, so when I found that this one elicited random grunts of pleasure I looked forward to listening hard. But the lyrics turned out to be glib variations on the usual Star Romances trash, and in the absence of vocal personality (as opposed to accurate singing) and rhythmic thrust (as opposed to a beat) I'll wait until this material is covered by artists of emotional substance--Tavares, say, or the Doobie Brothers.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Face the Fire

Dan Fogelberg : Face the Fire

On March 28, 1979 the Unit 2 reactor of Three Mile Island experienced a partial meltdown, leading to small radioactive releases near Middletown, Pennsylvania. 140,000 people --everyone within a 20 mile radius--were evacuated. No one was hurt and the exposure to radiation levels were a 1/6th of those for someone receiving a chest x-ray, but the public fear and distrust of nuclear power skyrocketed. It didn't help that a disaster thriller about a nuclear plant meltdown, The China Syndrome, has been released just 12 days earlier and 

Artists, still distrustful of a government responsible for Vietnam and Watergate, were part of the anti-nuclear demonstrations. Dan Fogleberg responded by plugging in an electric guitar and writing "Face the Fire", which would appear on his album Phoenix:

I hear the thunder three miles away
The Island's leaking into the bay
The poison is spreading
The demon is free
And people are running from what they can't even see

In September hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated at rallies in New York City where China Syndrome actress Jane Fonda spoke. At night Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, Carly Simon and Jackson Browne were among the stars that performed. Orleans frontman and future congressman John Hall organized the event with Bonnie Raitt, Browne and Graham Nash.

It had the desired effect I guess. In 2005, the coal-electric industry accounted for 40 percent of U.S. energy-related carbon emissions, making it one of the country’s single largest sources of greenhouse gas. , while countries like  France which get 80% of their power from nuclear plants

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Where's My Shades?

Ian Hunter : Just Another Night

In March of 1979, Ian Hunter released You're Never Alone With a Schizophrenic. Reunited with his Mott the Hoople guitarist Mick Ronson, who also took on some producing roles, Hunter rocks through the set list with members of the E Street Band including organist Roy Bittan, bassist Gary Tallent and drummer Max Weinberg.

The first single from the album was "Just Another Night", a straight forward rocker that peaked in the United States at #68.

Best known in the States is "Cleveland Rocks", which became the theme song of The Drew Carey Show as play by The Presidents of the United States. Hunter told  he wrote the song because someone needed to stand up for Cleveland:

What it was, when we first came [to the U.S.], you had those talk shows like Merv Griffin and Johnny Carson, and I noticed that they’re always taking the mickey out (making fun) of Cleveland. If there was a town to be taking the mickey out of, it was Cleveland. And I’m like, “That’s not right. Because we didn’t get discovered in L.A., we didn’t get discovered in New York. We got discovered in Cleveland, as did a lot of people.” The same with (David) Bowie…Cleveland was way ahead. You’d play Cleveland and [the venue] would be full. Everywhere else, it would be like 150 people staring at you, saying “What is that?” And so that’s why I wrote “Cleveland Rocks.”

The album is schizophrenic, settling into ballad mode for "Ships", a song about fathers and sons and the distances they must overcome. Strangely, Hunter's labelmate , Barry Manilow,  covered the song and hit the U.S Top 10 with it later in the year. Hunter told 3 Songs Bonn how it happened:

It was confusing. What it was, was that Clive Davis who is head of Arista now. He was head of Columbia Records in those days. If Clive liked a song, when his big artists came in he would put it on in the background during a meeting and the idea was that the artist would pick up on the song. That’s what happened with ‘Ships’. Manilowe’s father had just died. Clive’s sitting there talking to him and Manilow starts getting into ‘Ships’ and that’s how that happened.

Robert Christgau gave the album a grade of B writing 

Six winners out of nine on this mini-comeback, and he doesn't seem to be straining, either. But that's not entirely a blessing--the musical territory is conventionally good-rockin', and only on the gnomic "Life After Death" and the second verse of "When the Morning Comes" does he reconnoiter lyrically. The titles of the bad songs--"Bastard," "The Outsider," and "Ships" (in the guess what)--are warning enough

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Playing Kill-By-Numbers

Tubeway Army : Down in the Park

In March of 1979 Gary Numan's Tubeway Army came out with a brand new sound, relying heavily on synthesizer on the single  "Down In The Park", the first release from their upcoming Replicas album. Although it wasn't a hit, it remains one of Numan's favorite songs and one he still plays in concert.

Numan is obsessed with science fiction of a dystopian nature, as the lyrics reveal:

Down in the park 
Where the mach-men meet the machines 
And play 'kill-by-numbers' 
Down in the park with a friend called five 
I was in a car crash 
Or was it the war 
But I've never been quite the same…

The world may not have been ready for "Down in the Park". But the band's next single, "Are Friends Electric?" would replace Anita War'd "Ring My Bell" as the #1 song in the United Kingdom. And not a cheery smile in sight!

Monday, March 25, 2019

Don't Say It

Wings : Goodnight Tonight

On March 23, 1979 Wings released the new single "Good Night Tonight" b/w "Daytime Nighttime Suffering". It would peak at both U.K. and U.S. #5. Only McCartney could have ever come up with "Goodnight Tonight", featuring his catchiest bass lick since "Silly Love Songs" as well as yet another call back to the days of British music halls. That breakdown with the conga drums and the heavily processed vocals does nothing for me, and unfortunately that part gets extended in the seven minute long 12-inch version. Is it disco? Every bit as much as John Paul Young's "Love Is In the Air", which is to say not so much.

Wings fans will often argue the B side is better. McCartney gave his bandmates the weekend to write a song good enough to back up "Goodnignt Tonight", which would have earned someone a small fortune in royalties. Instead McCartney walked in with "Daytime Nightime Suffering", which has remained one of his favorites.

"That’s a pro-women song,"McCartney told Billboard Magazine. “'What does she get' for all of this? 'Daytime nightime suffering.”'It’s like the plight of women. You were saying about the Beatles stuff and my stuff being very humanistic. And I say that’s what I would be most proud of — as would any artist."

Fun fact: two minutes in you can hear McCartney's infant son James crying.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Elvis Stands Accused

Elvis Costello and the Attractions: I Stand Accused

On March 24, 1979 Elvis Costello opened his Rochester, NY concert with "I Stand Accused". By that time, news of his ugly encounter at a Holiday Inn bar with Stephen Stills and Bonnie Bramlett had spread like wildfire. In his book Complicated Shadows : The Life and Music of Elvis Costello author Graeme Thomson gets Attractions bassist Bruce Thomas to admit they started the altercation as the alcohol flowed. 

“Stills said, “If you hate us so much, what are you doing in our country?”,’ recalls Thomas. ‘And Elvis said something like, “We’ve come to take your money and your women.” Then it just got worse. “What about our music?” “You haven’t got any good music.” “What about James Brown?” “James Brown?” Bang! That’s pretty much how that one started. It was just us being obnoxious bastards.’
In this instance, being obnoxious bastards culminated in Elvis describing James Brown as ‘a jive-ass nigger’ and Ray Charles as ‘nothing but a blind, ignorant nigger’.

The timing couldn't have been worse. The new album, Armed Forces, has just hit the Billboard Top 10 in America. On March 30, CBS Records called an emergency press conference to get Costello --now followed around by two armed policemen as bodyguards--to apologize and answer questions about whether he was a racist. Behind the scenes, record execs discussed dropping Costello from the label. They certainly stopped promoting the album. By the end of April, Armed Forces has dropped out of the Top 30 and the new single, "Accidents Will Happen", didn't even break into the Hot 100.

In his book Unfaithful Music + Disappearing Ink Costello writes of the incident:

I’ll have to take the word of witnesses that I really used such despicable racial slurs in the same sentence as the names of two of the greatest musicians who ever lived, but whatever I did, I did it to provoke a bar fight and finally put the lights out.
 It was an absurd overstatement of opposites, a contradiction in terms. 
Just as people say “bad” when they mean “good.” 
Surely this was all understood. Didn’t they know the love I had for James Brown and Ray Charles, whose recording of “The Danger Zone” I preferred to watching men walk on the moon? 
“My love for the world is, like, always.” 
How could you not know that? 
It seems that they did not. It took just five minutes to detach my tongue from my mind and my life from the rail it was on.

It's always interesting to see how people react to sudden fame, especially when they're expected to live up to some nasty misanthropic image. Costello may have deep regrets about the incident, but he also believes it might have saved his life. Like Dylan with his motorcycle accident, Costello would need to take a breather before he started trying to win back his fans.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Slide Down the Banister

Siouxsie and the Banshees : The Staircase (Mystery)

On March 23, 1979 Siouxsie and the Banshees released a new non-album single, "The Staircase (Mystery)" b/w a cover of T.Rex's "20th Century Boy". It would enter the charts two days later at U.K.#33, peaking at number 24. As we shall see, this would be the highlight of a not very good year for the band.

Melody Maker reviewed the new single in this way :

"The Banshees have been able to come up with a couple of slices of excellent music for their singles. 'The Staircase' hasn't anywhere near the commercial potential or immediacy of 'Hong Kong Garden', but nevertheless it's a great song. A sinister almost mesmerising tune, dominated by Siouxsie's unorthodox vocals – it grows and matures with each play." 

A review in Smash Hits compared the song to "late 60's acid rock:

The "mystery" of the song is solved if you speculate that the band were zonked out of their brains when they wrote it. This is not necessarily a criticism;  just an observation. In fact both sides of the record are powerfully attractive.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Filthy White Lies

Motörhead : Stay Clean 


On March 24 1979, the same day AC DC began recording Highway To Hell, Motörhead released Overkill, a classic album that reveals a band that has found its sound. And that sound is thunder. Overkill peaked at #24 on the UK charts. Kerrang! magazine listed the album at #46 among the "100 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums of All Time". 

A few years before he died Lenny Kilmister told Rolling Stone

I don't remember much about the period surrounding Overkill. But I do remember that working with Phil and Eddie [Clarke, guitar] was easy back then. The producer Jimmy [Miller] recorded him tuning up his guitar, and he said, "I'm ready." I said, "Right, we got it." But he was not mad. Jimmy did a very good job.

Among the classic tracks is "Stay Clean", which is not about what you'd might think. 

According to Lemmy :

I’m just saying, “Stay clean and listen to your parents.” I wasn’t really thinking about anyone in particular when I wrote it. It’s not about drugs or alcohol; it’s just “stay clean.”

Lemmy told Rolling Stone the second single from the album was eventually dedicated to Wendy O. Williams of The Plasmatics. 

Wendy was a problem child. She was all over the place. It was a bit awkward all around, but we did our best. She was not easy to work with in the studio. We later dedicated “No Class” to her, ‘cause she had no class [laughs]. She was very good in bed.

Lemmy says he wanted Tina Turner to record "I'll Be Your Sister". 

"..I like writing songs for women. In fact, I've written songs with women. I've been called a sexist by some factions of radical, frigid feminists (the kind who want to change the word manhole to personhole, that kind of crap), but they don't know what they're talking about.." 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Beach Boys Disco Stumble

The Beach Boys : Here Comes The Night

On March 23, 1979 The Beach Boys released a nearly 11-minute disco version of "Here Comes the Night" as a single from their new album L.A. (Light Album). You can still find some fans who have something nice to say about the album ( after all Dennis Wilson sings on two songs), but most agree Rolling Stone critic Dave Marsh who concluded the album "is worse than awful. It is irrelevant".

 That's part of what makes the band's attempt to recast this Wild Honey deep cut into a a dance floor filler such an awful concept and creation.  Apparently both Brian and Dennis weren't happy with the decision, and I'm not sure how those two get overruled, but here's proof: the worst moment in the entire Beach Boys catalog. And it fell only four places short of the U.S. Top 40, peaking at U.S. #44.

The original.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

She Falls For the Suckers

Graham Parker : Local Girls

In March of 1979 Graham Parker and the Rumour released Squeezing Out Sparks, a critically acclaimed album that topped The Village Voice's year-end Pazz +  Jop critics' poll . Following the poor sounding Stick to Me and The Parkerilla, a poor selling live album, Parker was able to get out of his US contract with Mercury. But, with soundalike Elvis Costello in the charts,  he'd also lost all the momentum he'd built with his first two albums (Howlin' Wind and Heat Treatment), among the best of the decade. 

Now he had a new group of songs he desired a new approach in the studio.

"I couldn’t hear any horn section for one thing," he says in an interview on his website. "I couldn’t hear so much as a nod towards the R+B/soul and blues values I’d been employing since that first album either, making the approach I should take a bit of a mystery. But I did feel like a band performance and production style change was needed to suit these new songs, probably influenced by the minimal approach of punk and this hastily conceived ‘new wave’ term that had finally hit the high street late in ‘77 along with the release of the Sex Pistols record. To me, these acts were a long way from what we were doing. Our music was deliberately dense. What punk or new wave acts used two keyboards (organ and piano) three guitars (one acoustic and two electrics), and often layered backing vocals that were actually in tune - and in the case of “Stick To Me” a string section conducted by none other than David Bedford? What we did was the complete opposite musically from both of these alleged genres.

" Not wanting to fall into a sudden graveyard labelled “banger old pub rock R+ B bollocks,” I definitely felt a need to thin things out a bit; a mercenary tactic no doubt, but the idea began to interest me."

The album was produced by Phil Spector arranger Jack Nitzsche, who had worked with Neil Young  and the Rolling Stones (Let It Bleed). 

"Jack Nitzsche was a name I recalled from the odd reference on early Stones EP's and Neil Young’s 'Harvest,'," recalls Parker. "And there he was again popping up in the guise of producer of a Mink de Ville record I’d recently heard a few times on radio called “Spanish Stroll.” Apparently, this track was deemed a new wave record by people who knew what the term meant, so with no other thought than that, my manager got hold of Nitzsche and he agreed to the job. Once I got to know him I found out that he’d played tambourine on “Satisfaction” and arranged classic hits for Phil Spector."

Parker credits Nitzsche with making a strong impression on the album.

He knew, for instance, that although I had written "Can't Be Too Strong" (the actual title: someone added the word "You" in post) in a jaunty country rhythm that to record it in that way would be a total cop out and got me to slow it to a crawl and sing it like it meant something. He also knew that the band were playing to their own skills, but not playing the songs. He was not impressed with this attitude. Once he’d clarified his position (that the songs were the important part of this, not the musicianship) things happened quickly, as they often do when the excess is swept aside, and the album made itself.

Among the critical acclaim:

Robert Christgau gave the album a rare A grade, writing :

An amazing record. Parker's mood, which has narrowed into existential rage with a circumstantial root, makes for perfect, untamable rock and roll. Guitar, drums, vocals, lyrics, and hooks (and more hooks) mesh into ten songs so compelling that you're grateful to the relative lightweights for giving you a chance to relax. And if Graham is pissed off merely because he's not a big star yet, he translates his frustrations into credible, emotionally healthy anger--the kind you feel when they can't fit the real news into print.

Rolling Stone's Greil Marcus writes Parker's vision might be more compelling on Squeezing Out Sparks than on earlier records :

the belief that, as F. Scott Fitzgerald put it, “life is essentially a cheat”; that penetrating to the source of one’s emotions is necessary to a decent life but not a guarantee of it (nothing is); that struggle, not happiness, is what life is all about. But Parker has never tried to apply that vision to a subject as difficult as that in question here.

To mark the 40th anniversary, Quake Records has released a remastered edition of the album with new cover art and some bonus live tracks from the band's 1979 performance at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Begging's Not My Business

Squeeze : The Knack

Spring is the season of rebirth and in the Spring of 1979, Squeeze bounced back from their dreadful John Cale produced debut album with Cool For Cats, a pop album full of catchy songs about sex obsessed young men and the trouble they find. The album contains four U.K. hit singles, launching the band into the spotlight. The most memorable of the songs is "Up the Junction", the last of the tunes the band recorded for the album. 

Glenn Tilbrook recalls to The Guardian :

I came up with the little keyboard melody that Jools plays at the beginning, just before I sing: “I never thought it would happen with me and the girl from Clapham.” We made the video in the kitchen of John Lennon’s old house, where he’d done the Imagine video, with the white piano and the door that read: “This is not here.” What a place to visit when you’re starting out! We’d spent all day making the video for Cool for Cats, and had had quite a few beers. Then the director said: “Oh yeah – and we’re going to do Up the Junction, too.” That’s why we look so bleary.

Chris Difford adds :

I never “got a job with Stanley, who said I’d come in handy”, but I loved those Ian Dury-type rhyming couplets. The line “I’d beg for some forgiveness, but begging’s not my business” still makes me chuckle. It sums up male stubbornness.

I actually bought the album after 1980's Argybargy and found a lot of the lyrics sophomoric; the keyboards intrusive. Almost every song is about sex. Of course the average age of the five members was 22. Critical acclaim, which would include comparisons to Lennon and McCartney, were still a year away. 

"I don't particularly want to be taken seriously by the NME or anybody like that," Glenn Tilbrook told Smash Hits in March of 1979.

"No, neither do I," Chris Difford agreed. "It doesn't worry me personally whether people take us seriously or not. We'll either get through to people or we won't. I don't think there's much we can do to influence that course of events in so far as releasing records that we think will be taken as serious artistic statements".

Monday, March 18, 2019

Dynamite Such a Sweet Surprise

Roxy Music : Ain't That So

On March 16, 1979 Roxy Music released Manifesto, the band's return after a three year hiatus. A lot happened since the release of 1975's Siren. Punk music challenged all the rules of progressive rock. Disco proclaimed a danceable beat was the key to chart success and some of the kids were embracing new bands inspired by old Roxy Music ( Ultravox! and Japan, to name just two). 

With its dreamy wash of keyboards and Ferry's crooning vocals, Manifesto would offer a blueprint for all of the sophisticates involved in New Romantic era. Even the otherwise bland "My Little Girl" starts off sounding like Kick era INXS.

"Ain't That So" is a deep cut that I would play on my college radio show after playing something by The Meters or the Neville Brothers. You'd have a hard time placing the funky band until Andy Mackay's sax kicks in.

Manifesto finds Bryan Ferry, fresh off of several hit solo albums, still in the role of the heartbroken but suave James Bond of rock n roll. Guitarist Phil Manzanera also recorded some solo albums and worked with Brian Eno. The sides are divided into an East Side and a West Side. 

The title track is one of the most successful songs on the album. Its lyrics are inspired by a Claes Oldenberg poem called 'I Am For An Art' which begins with the stanza :

I am for an art that is political-erotical-mystical, 
that does something other than sit on its ass in a museum.

Although the album would rank 30th in the Village Voice's Pazz + Jop critics poll of the best albums of 1979 and receive four stars in one of the Rolling Stone record guides, early critical reaction to Manifesto was not warm.

Comparing Manifesto to a disappointing reunion album by The Byrds, Rolling Stone critic Greil Marcus wrote "The new record is a lovely footnote, but it can lead nowhere. " 

Mark Bell of NME was also not taken by the album, writing 

Ultimately, I found it hard to work up much enthusiasm for Manifesto and a replay of "Would You Believe" and "Sea Breezes" indicates why. In many ways the band have come full circle without evolving anything dramatically new – at least -not according to those initial standards 

But The Village Voice's Robert Christgau grades Manifesto an A- (This isn't Roxy at its most innovative, just its most listenable--the entire "West Side" sustains the relaxed, pleasantly funky groove it intends, and the difficulties of the "East Side" are hardly prohibitive. ) 

Melody Maker's reviewer is also a fan ("Certainly it pulls some punches. But, reservations aside, this may be the first such return bout ever attempted with any degree of genuine success: a technical knockout against the odd").

A U.K. #2 hit, "Dance Away" would tie "Love Is The Drug" as Roxy Music's highest charting single until their cover of John Lennon's "Jealous Guy" topped the charts in 1981. More on that song in April.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

U.K. Top 20 : March 19, 1979

U.K. Top 20 March 19, 1979

"Clog Dance", an instrumental by two members of the Electric Light Orchestra and new singles by Queen and The Village People enter the U.K. Top 20, a list made up of far too many disco songs as well as a few classics that will always stand up to the test of time. (I'm looking at you Gloria, Elvis, Lene and Chic).

1 I Will Survive --Gloria Gaynor
2 Oliver's Army --Elvis Costello and the Attractions
3 Lucky Number --Lene Lovich
4 Something Else /Frriggin' In the Riggin' The Sex Pistols

 5 Can You Feel the Force? Real Thing

 6 Tragedy -The Bee Gees
 7 I Want Your Love --Chic
 8 Keep On Dancing Gary's Gang

 9 Waiting For An Alibi -Thin Lizzy
 10 Into the Vally --Skids
11 Painter Man-- Boney M
12 Get Down-- Gene Chandler

13 Don't Stop Me Now --Queen
14 Hold the Line --Toto
15 Money in My Pocket --Dennis Brown

16 In the Navy --The Village People
17 Clog Dance --Violinski

18 You Bet Your Life --Herbie Hancock
19 Get It --Darts
20 Turn the Music Up --Players Association

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Northern White Crap That Talks Back

The Fall : Frightened

On March 16, 1979 The Fall released Live at the Witch Trials, a debut album recorded and mixed in a Camden studio in just two days. On the album's second track, "Crap Rap 2/Like To Blow" founder Mark E. Smith declares "We are the Fall, Northern white crap that talks back." The band, an instant cult sensation, would be talking back for nearly 40 years before Smith's death in 2018.

The album begins with "Frightened", a creeping five minute tune that takes us into the dark streets of Manchester with Smith explaining why he'd rather go home than interact with girls on a dance floor: "I feel trapped by mutual affection /And I don't know how to use freedom/ I spend hours looking sideways/ To the time when I was sixteen." (NOTE: Trying to interpret any Mark E Smith line is a huge gamble. If Smith were still alive, he's tell me I was full of shite.)

The early reviews of the album were mostly positive. Record Mirror giving it a full five stars and describing the album as "a rugged, concerned, attuned, rebellious jukebox". Sounds reviewer Dave McCullough also gave it five stars, calling it "an album of staggeringly rich, mature music, inner questioning hand in hand with rock and roll at its fiercest, its finest, its most honest, rock and roll at its naked, most stimulating prime." The Village Voice's  Robert Christgau gave it a B+ rating, writing " in this icky pop moment we could use some ugly rebellion."

We'd be hearing a lot of ugly rebellion from the Slang King and his come and go troop of band mates. They would average two to three releases a year, evolving into an almost pop band when Smith fell in love with a California girl named Brix. Time has been kind to Live at the Witch Trials, which was released on Miles Copeland's Step Back label.

 A legendary band's first album is almost always a fascinating listen, just to hear how fully formed they were at the stop.  Here, Smith is already enunciating those "Ah's" at the end of words, forming rhymes where there were none just so that he could continue his cantankerous diatribe against the music industry or other powers that be. Some bands never make a better record than their debut. I believe The Fall did, but here is where the search began for the real thing to fill their rebellious jukebox.