Saturday, January 28, 2023

Nick Kent - Television - New Musical Express - February 1977














A record deemed so momentous they made the review into a cover story / inside spread


Television 

Marquee Moon   

New Musical Express, February 1977

by Nick Kent 


Cut the crap, junior, he sez and put the hyperbole on ice.


I concur thus.


Sometimes it takes but one record----one cocksure magical statement, to cold cock all the crapola and all purpose wheat chaff mix'n'match, to set the whole schmear straight and get the current state of play down, down, down, to stand or fall in one dignified granite hard focus.

Such statements are precious indeed.  'Marquee Moon' the first album from Tom Verlaine's Television however is one:  a 24 carat inspired work of pure genius, a record finely in tune and sublimely arranged with a whole new slant on dynamics, centered around a totally invigorating passionate application to the vision of mastermind Tom Verlaine.

Forget all the New York minimalist punk stuff. Television's music is the total antithesis, and to call them punk rock is rather like describing Dostoevsky a short story writer.

Television's music is remarkably sophisticated, unworthy of even being paralleled with that of the original Velvet Underground whose combined instrumental finesse was practically a joke compared to what Verlaine and Company are cooking up here.

Each song is tirelessly conceived and arranged for maximum impact, the point where decent parallels really need to be, made with the very, very best.

Dylan and early Love spring to mind, the Byrds cataclysmic 'Eight Miles High' period, a soupcon even of the Doors and Captain Beefheart and their mondo predilections, plus the very cream of those psychedelic punk bands that only Lenny Kaye knows about.

Above all though, the sound belongs most undoubtedly to Television, and the appearance of 'Marquee Moon' at a time when rock is so helplessly lost within the labyrinth of its very own inconsequentiality. Where actual musical content has come to take a backseat to 'attitude' and all that word is supposed to signify, is to these ears little short of revolutionary.

My opening gambit about the album providing a real focus for the current state of rock, bears a relevance simply because here at last is a band whose vision is centered quite rigidly within their music----not, say, in some half-baked notion of political manifesto mongery with that trusty, thoroughly reactionary three chord backdrop to keep the whole scam buoyant.

Verlaine's appearance is simply as exciting as any other innovator's to the rock sphere---like Hendrix, Syd Barrett, Bob Dylan---and yes, Christ knows I'm tossing up some true-blue heavies here, but goddamnit I refuse to repent because the talents of Verlaine's Television just damn excites me so much.

To the facts then---recorded in A&R studios, New York, produced by Andy Johns---the album lasts roughly three quarters of an hour and contains eight songs, several of which have been recorded in demo form at least twice before, and have been performed live innumerable times.

The wait has been worthwhile because the refining process instigated by some hesitant non-recording contract months has sculpted the songs into masterpieces that are here, present for all to experience.

Side one makes no bones about making its presence felt, kicking off with the full-bodied thrust of 'See No Evil'. Guitars, bass and drums are strung together fitting tight as a glove, clenched into a fist punching metal rivets of sound with the same manic abandon that typified the elegant ferocity of Love's early drive.

There is real passion here, no half-baked metal cut and thrust---each beat reverberates to the base of the skull, with Verlaine's voice mixed perfectly into the grain of the rhythm.  The chorus/climax is irresistible anyway---Verlaine crooning, "I understand all destructive urges and it seems so perfect . . . I see . . . I see . . . no e-v-i-i-l-l."

The next song is truly something else---'Venus de Milo'. It 's simply one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard (the only other parallel to it is Dylan's 'Mr. Tambourine Man') a vignette of sorts, dealing with a dream-like quasi-hallucinogenic state of epiphany.

"You know it's like some new kind of drug, my senses are sharp and my hands are like gloves.  Broadway looks so medieval, it seems to flap like little pages . . . I fell sideways laughing, with a friend from many stages."

'Friction' is probably the most readily accessible track from this album, simply because with its cutting anarchic quasi-Velvets feel, plus (all important) Verlaine's most pungent methedrine guitar fretboard slaughter.  Here it'll represent the kind of thing all those weaned on the hype and legend, without hearing one note from Television, will be expecting.

The song has vicious instrumentation and a perfect climax which has Verlaine vengefully spelling out the title F-R-I-C-T-I-O-N, slashing his guitar for punctuation.

The album's title track closes side the first side.  Conceived at a time when rock tracks lasting over ten minutes are somewhere sunk deep below the subterranean depths of contempt, 'Marquee Moon' is as riveting a piece of music as I've heard since the halcyon days of  . . . O'h, God knows, too many years have elapsed. 

Everything about this piece is startling, built around Verlaine's steely runs and meshed with Lloyd's intoxicating counterpoints. Slowly a story unfolds---a typically surreal Verlaine ghost story involving a Cadillac pulling up to a grave yard and the disembodied arms beckoning the singer to get in while "Lightning struck itself", and various twilight rejects from 'King Lear' (that last bit's my own fancy, by the way), babbling crazy retorts to equally crazy questions.

The lyrics as a scenario for the music are utterly compelling.  It transforms from a strident two chord construction to a breathtakingly beautiful chord progression, which acts as a motif/climax for the narrative as the song ends with a majestic chord pattern.

'Marquee Moon' is the perfect place to draw attention to the band's musical assets.  Individually each player in Television is superb---Verlaine's guitar solos are sublime; they are in short a potential total redefinition of the electric guitar.  As it is, Verlaine's solo constructions/coltraneisms are always unconventional, forever delving into new areas, never satisfied with referring back to formulas, simply he can solo without ever losing the point.

Richard Lloyd is a good foil for Verlaine.  Another fine musician, his more fluid conventional pitching and manic rhythm work is the perfect complimentary force, and his contribution demands to be recognized for the power it possesses.

Fred Smith on bass is an excellent solid player; he holds down and controls the undertow of the music with great skill.  His understanding of what is required of from him is a real pleasure to listen to.

Billy Ficca, a delicate but fine drummer, using every portion of his kit to colour and embellish.  I can only express a quiet awe at his inventiveness.

Individual accolades apart, the band's main clout lays in their ability to function as one and perhaps a good demonstration of this can be found in 'Elevation', side two's opening gambit.  Layer upon layer of gentle boulevard guitar makes itself manifest, until Lloyd holds the finger-picked melody together and Verlaine sings in that truly incisive style of his.

The song again is beautiful, proudly contagious with a chorus that lodges itself in your subconscious like a bullet in the skull---"Elevation don't go to my head", repeated thrice until on the third line a latent ghost-like voice transmutes, "Elevation" into "Television".  Guitars cascade in and out of the mix so perfectly. 

'Guiding Light' is reflective, stridently poetic---a hymn for aesthetes ---shimmering with lovely piano lines played by Verlaine. 

'Prove It', the following track is a potential single.  Verlaine spits and seats his command on the vocal---"This case . . . this case I've been working on so long  . . . so long."  And of course that chorus which I still can't hesitate quoting---"Prove it . . . Just the facts . . . Confidential."

Final song on the album is 'Torn Curtain'.  A song of grievous circumstances (as with many of Verlaine's lyrics), the facts---cause and effect---remain enigmatically sheltered from the listener.  The structure is indeed strange, with Verlaine's vocals at their most yearning.  The song is absolutely compelling and I can't think of a single number written in the rock idiom that I could possibly compare it to.

So THAT'S IT.  'Marquee Moon', a work of real genius suffice to say---O'h listen it's released on Elektra and reminds me of just how great that label used to be.  I mean this is Elektra's finest record along with 'Strange Days'.  Tom Verlaine is probably the single most important songwriter/guitarist of his kind since Syd Barrett.

If this review needs to state anything in big bold, black type it's simply this:  'Marquee Moon' is an album for everyone, whatever their musical creeds and/or  quirks.  Don't let anyone put you off with jive turkey terms like 'avante-guard' or 'New York psychos'.

This music is passionate, full blooded, dazzlingly well crafted, brilliantly conceived and totally accessible to anyone who (like myself) has been yearning for a band with the vision to break on through into new dimensions of sonic overdrive and the sheer ability to back it up.

Tom Verlaine and Television are out there hanging fire and cruising like meteors above all the three chord wonder boys.

Prove it?  They've already done it; all you have to do is listen to the album, and levitate along with it.

They are one band in a million, the songs are some of the greatest ever.  The album is 'Marquee Moon'. 


Thursday, January 26, 2023

Julian Cope - Tales from the Drug Attic - NME - December 3, 1983


 



















Tales from the Drug Attic - Julian Cope's legendary paean to 1960s garage bands / punkadelia / psych)


published in NME, December 3, 1983



"The Dog-star rages! Nay 'tis past a doubt, All Bedlam, or Parnassus, is let out." - Alexander Pope


When I tell you about psychedelia, you can forget all the Peace-Love-Dove shit. You can forget about all the hippies you ever hated. You can forget about the understanding and the answer. Cast your mind back to the question.


Cast you mind back 5-10-20 years to the first time you ever thought about sex. When a penis, a vagina, were new words in a book.


They fit together, you say? One gets hard and one gets soft? That's repulsive, I'm going to be sick. Never think about it. Do my parents do it? Why did they invent it? Will I ever do it? Why did they invent it? I hate everything.


Your first psychedelic experience. The ship goes down with all your sanity.


So here we are - Psychedelia, when the question gets bigger and bigger, and the answer fades out obsolete.


Forget Timothy Leary and forget about the Tom Wolfe stories. When LSD hit the world, the intellectuals thought about it and the rest freaked out. 


It's the rest we're interested in. 


It's the rest who made the music. Not The Grateful Dead, not Quicksilver Messenger Service, not the Moody Blues. The ones we should be interested in are the 17-year-old kids from Birmingham to Albuquerque who took acid and tried to play old Van Morrison/Stones riffs. Suddenly they were something very new. True they couldn't play very well and the singer didn't know the words, but we all mean it don't we? So we could be bigger than anyone.


"Look out, I'm gonna get my seven Cadillacs, And maybe I'll drive around the World" - The Silver Fleet


^^^^^^^^^^^


The singer in every great psychedelic group was 5' 10". He stooped because his friends were small and he felt like a spaz. He sung about being himself, his ideal self, which was really Mick Jagger.


His real life was a dry-wank.


This is psychedelia.


Garage-music overproduced in four track studios. Musicians who wanted to be so famous. fuck, I'd sell out if I know how to! People who were too nihilistic to ever get it together.


Say yes to - Ed Cobb, Sky Saxon, Syd Barrett, Roky Erickson, Eddie Phillips, Arthur Lee, Moulty, Mouse, Dave Aguilar, and all the others who never could.


In their hunchbacked Twilight Zone, they made the best, most formidable sound ever. Rock powered emotion in all kinds of music. Arthur Lee? you say. Wimp music! Sky Saxon? A spoilt rat-faced child!


Then fuck you I say. Fuck your lack of compassion, your world concern, and for forgetting the individual, the small want-to-be-big individual who tore out great handfuls of his soul for a promise of a no-meaning 15 minutes of fame.


I love them. I love their misery. I see their parallels strewn out in front of me: Patti Smith, with baby, in some Midwest Hicksville, thinking she is at peace. Marc Almond hysterical and praying for fame with an on-off switch. John Cale's waking dream of one daytime radio play. Peter Hammill seeing his reflection in Mega-Bowie, Mega-Gabriel, Mega-Marillion. They are many. And I love them too.


So forget the Hippy.


We're talking of pre-Hippy, when even the quietest music had an intent that could not be ruffled.


A three chord riff, delicate voice and; "Oh, the snot has caked against my pants," - Arthur Lee 1967


This is psychedelia. One album, almost alone, inspired new love and attitude to the music.


"I just hope you have as much fun letting it spin as I did putting it together." - Lenny Kaye, on 'Nuggets', 1972.


For the time being, I shall presume that everyone has a copy of 'Nuggets'. If you know nothing else about psychedelia, you should know this. If not, put the paper down and go and listen to all the basics: The first Pink Floyd, 'Revolver', Traffic, The 13th Floor Elevators, 'Sgt. Pepper', 'A Web of Sound', 'Forever Changes', etc.


'Nuggets' was and still is the basic introduction. It gave us groups that were then so obscure but now, to a mass of people, are favourite listening. It introduced us to The Seeds, Chocolate Watchband, Elevators, Remains, Standells, Electric Prunes and so many others who had classic but unknown songs released. By now we know that had also recorded classic LP's. 


But during the '70's, these LP's were sold next to garbage like Strawberry Alarm Clock, Josephus, Blue Cheer, Bubble Puppy, anything on International Artists. You had to listen to all the I.A. catalogue to find out that the only things necessary were the 13th Floor Elevators LP's.


Psychedelia was being sold as hippy music by charlatans who thought any journey-thru-my-inner-mind-man nonsense was hip.


But the influence of 'Nuggets' was deep-rooted. This supposed 2nd Division music was the real psychedelia.


"Between thought and expression lies a lifetime" - Lou Reed


SO HERE we are in 1967. The Beatles have already previewed what's going to happen with 'Revolver'. The Rolling Stones are about to give psychedelia a bad name with a piece of 90% trash called 'Their Satanic Majesties Request'. The Yardbirds are featured in Blow-Up, a far-out forerunner of Zabriskie Point where Jeff Beck destroys his guitar during 'Train Kept A Rollin'.


In the US the vanguard was being led by Grace Slick, Jerry Garcia, John Cipollina and more mid-twenties graduates intent on rationalising the scene. The Doors had signed to Elektra, successfully promoting previous Elektra biggie Arthur Lee into Total Paranoiac.


And then came the group who drew the line between the hippies and the rest.


They were The Mothers of Invention. They had been signed as a blues band by an acid raving A&R man who committed suicide by self-immolation when the bill for their first masterpiece, 'Freak Out', came to over $20,000. The Mothers were unsafe and unsanitary; unhealthy leaders of the real underground.


Frank Zappa was shrewd enough (and old enough) to laugh at the very scene which bought his records. His songs were anything but the anthems-of-togetherness adored in Haight Ashbury. They were vile attacks on both straights and weirdos. Songs like 'Plastic People', 'Flower Punk' and 'Trouble Every Day' were vicious. Yes, you could laugh, but how did we know he wasn't laughing at you?


The Mothers sound even influenced the suburban punk groups. Teddy and His Patches, from San Jose, did a mind-blowing cover of 'Suzy Creamcheese', available on 'Pebbles III'. Psychedelia Piss-takes continued with 'I'm Allergic To Flowers' by Jefferson Handkerchief. The punks were becoming yippies, long haired peace-haters. It even swept to Britain with the Mothers-influenced Deviants.


In 1967, Frank Zappa produced 'Loose Lip Sync Ship', an instrumental 45 by The Hogs. The Hogs were really The Chocolate Watchband, a collage of musicians like by Ed Cobb, writer of 'Tainted Love' and producer of millions. Until 'Nuggets', The Chocolate Watchband were unrecognised. Now three LP's are re-released and there is even a new 'Best Of' compilation.


A raw diverse R&B group, they were the true psychedelic incarnation of The Rolling Stones. Clattering Bo Diddley beats, zinging guitars, their singer Dave Agular genuinely believed that Mick Jagger was ripping him off. At a time when the right place at the right time counted for so much, The Chocolate Watchband were horrendously mistimed.


Their only hit, 'Let's Talk About Girls', was recorded in such a rush that Dave Agular was not even there to sing it. Don Bennett, a writer and a friend of Ed Cobb, was asked to sing and it started a long relationship. Bennett also wrote some Standells songs and created a precedent for Ed Cobb: the producer used The Chocolate Watchband as a pallet for weird ideas. On the first and second albums the group playing is often utterly different from the supposed line-up. 'Gone And Passes By', the very best song they ever recorded, is a subterranean Stones, played like Brian Jones was actually getting his own way for once. Zing, electric sitar over zombie bone dance, cavernous recording and voodoo-Dr John, 'Walk On Gilded Splinters' into Beefheart's 'Kandykorn'.


Yes they hit low, but when they were up, they left everyone else wanking.


Richard Marsh was an image weasel, sucking on lemons and waiting for fame. In early 1966 as Sky Saxon, 'Pushing Too Hard' made his group The Seeds massive. On front covers of teen mags all over the US, Sky Saxon and his three suede cohorts stared out, eyes wrinkled and blinking, anxious to get back to their nocturnal two-chord world. The follow-up to 'Pushing Too Hard' was 'No Escape'. In all ways, it was the same song. Sky Saxon felt his one emotion very intensely. 


You can make a commercial success of almost anybody. Lassie was massive and even Noele Gordon had her day. But in Sky Saxon, we have to draw the line. His ideas imploded and whole albums were devoted to the worship of the E and D chords. The other Seeds were his wanton disciples. Organist Daryl Hooper used the same solo in at least 10 songs. In one uncharacteristically different song, 'Nobody Spoil My Fun', the group has to shift completely during Hooper's solo, so intent is he on playing his regular part.


For the Seeds , success was an uncomfortable bonus. How could Sky Saxon maintain his role as the world's whipping post when they sold records? Titles like 'You Can't Be Trusted', 'It's A Hard Life', 'Can't Seem To Make You Mine'. 'Two Fingers Pointing At You', all sung by a 10-year-old hysterical brat, were to have limited appeal. Their LPs became primeval classics and Saxon held the banner for all punk singers. After three studio and one brilliantly fake live album, his focus became hazier and hazier. A change of style for a terrible blues LP and later a change of name to Sky Sunlight. The backyard and the world became one place. A bit like Roky Erickson.


The 13th Floor Elevators were the Texas group. On International Artists of Austin/Dallas/Houston, they had a massive hit with Erickson's 'You're Gonna Miss Me'. This had already been a local hit for Roky's early group, The Spades, in 1965. By 1967 he was eating peyote, the psychedelic desert drug, and turning on all the local groups who spent the previous months lamenting Texas' lack of surf.


There is now a brilliant six LP set called 'Flashbacks' available which includes covers of such Elevators classics as 'Splash 1' and 'Reverberation'. Tom Verlaine talked wildly of Televisions debt to the Elevators and songs like 'See No Evil' from 'Marquee Moon' are inspiring proof. Television even opened with a cover of 'Fire Engine' from the 'Psychedelic Sound of...' album and their live 'Arrow' LP includes a brilliant version.


Groups like Rising Storm and Mystic Tide took the brutal sound for themselves and even Iggy Pop was enmeshed for a while. 'Flashbacks III' includes an unsafe and magnificent 'I Can Only Give You Everything' by the Iguanas. With a young Jimmy Osterberg on drums and singing, the song nightmares along over cattle crossings and iron bridges. With a familiar Elevators screech-siren sound, the whole song begins and ends in the tunnel.


"I am from Mars," claimed Roky Erickson in an interview. The journalist wondered, had he any proof?


"I call my mother Ma," he replied.


After the first LP Erikson went into an asylum. The second album was written mainly by the other , more coherent members of the group. The only other weirdo was John St. Powell who changed his name to Powell St. John. Erikson repaired, came out of the asylum to record 'Easter Everywhere', the new album. After that he freaked out again and went back to the asylum.


There were no real weirdos in The Electric Prunes. They formed one maniac intent on destruction. All their early recordings are so raw, they are almost unplayable. On 'You've Never Had It Better', from the 'Everywhere Chainsaw' compilation, they are singing from purgatory to a world with no ears. Their manager, a TV personality called Ben Willow, was intent on making them huge. A deal with Reprise and a tab of acid for the in-house writers.


In Hey Presto time, Nancy Tucker and Mary Mantz gave them 'I Had Too Much Too Dream Last Night' plus a follow-up 'Get Me To The World On Time'. Both singles were classically produced psychedelic punk, fake far-eastern organ and ratty vocals. The songs were hits but the LP was a real bore. They didn't seem to have much control and it was mainly wimpish slush.


'Underground was their second LP and is still available. It was their classic. More in control, they start with the brilliant 45 'Great Banana Hoax', Bo Diddley rhythm and squealing Farfisa. The whole LP was massive with its scythe guitar sound and Pete De Freitas clatter. On 'Hideaway', the drums go crazy and the guitar shrieks. On 'Children Of Rain' the organ phases in a familiar funfair avalanche. On 'Antique Doll' the bass is treacherous, the voices sweeter than need. It's their only consistently great moment. After this they gave over power to a writer/arranger called Dave Axelrod. He is guilty of producing two of the weakest ever albums; 'Mass In F Minor' and 'Kyrie Eylson'. These are bogies up the nose of a great group. Amen.


THE BASICS of British psychedelia are far better known. We've all heard 'See Emily Play', 'All You Need Is Love', 'Paper Sun', 'Hole In My Shoe', but it's hard to separate the good from the shit. Psychedelia here became as style. Every group had a rainbow-abstract-world-in-my-head sleeve. Even Vince Hill and Noel Harrison had 'weird' hits. If they were noticing it, it must be selling.


But what about the others? What about the failures?


The biggest losers were The Creation. They were so close to making it. Pete Townshend asked their guitarist, Eddie Phillips, to join The Who. He wouldn't so Townshend joined The Creation fan club.


Because of their lack of success, Creation fans tend to over-rate them now, so intent on telling us what should have been. True their songs are pretty great. 'Painter Man' and 'Life Is Just Beginning' are so like nursery rhymes, so hummable. When Boney M had a hit with 'Painter Man', it was no shock.


Onstage The Creation were pop-art; Kenny Pickett would stop singing and spray-paint a canvas behind him. Eddie Phillips used a violin bow before anyone, and on all their records, his guitar is so barely controlled that it often feeds back during verses. Edsel have released 'How Does It Feel To Feel'. It's a put together LP and it's great.


But even more manic were The Misunderstood. Like some blues version of the Pop Group, plundering both The Yardbirds and Bo Diddley, and ending up like Captain Beefheart; all crescendos and screeching steel guitar.


Until last year their recordings were rare, rare. Then Cherry Red put out the 'Before The Dream Faded' LP. Get it, it's good. I used to hate 'Who Do You Love', but their version made me rethink, it's like a different song, even delicate in parts. Of course they weren't successful, but they did leave California and live on chips for a year while they tried to make it. 


For most of the American groups the major influence was obviously The Rolling Stones. But look further and you'll see the other main groups were The Pretty Things and Van Morrison's early group.  Them.


Listen to any US compilation and Them feature everywhere in both songs and attitude. Versions of 'Gloria', 'I Can Only Give You Everything' and 'Baby Please Don't Go' are found throughout. Other songs such as 'Mystic Eyes' were a perfect blue-print for the plundering US garage groups. Listen to The Rising Storm, the Mystic Tide duo, and The Moonrakers.


The Shadows of Knight hit big with their version of 'Gloria' and took Them's style for 'Oh Yeah' and 'Light Bulb Blues'.


Ironically, early Them singles featured session men backing Van Morrison. Decca, in their usual three-piece suit attitude, had no faith in the group.


Eventually, Them split from Morrison and went to Texas, the place which had always loved them so much. They recorded some of their best songs there, such as 'Dirty Old Man' on the 'Moxie' no. 2 EP.




^^^^^^^^^^^


'Nuggets' instigated a whole new genre: The Psychedelic Compilation. In 1979, two sets of  these albums appeared called 'Pebbles' and 'Boulders'. Both were influenced by Lenny Kaye's 'Nuggets' idea but on a far more wanton and amateur scale. Tracks were often so obscure that no tapes were available and the original scratchy single had to be used as the master.


For a while, these two were essential. They gave a glimpse of previously unknown groups. They have also built into hefty sets. 'Pebbles' now has twelve LPs and 'Boulders' nine.


I've never been a fan of the 'Boulders' series. The sound quality is poor and the tracks are available on many of the newer compilations. But 'Pebbles' still has many essential volumes in Numbers 1,2,3 and 5.


Volume 3 is pure garbled garage psychedelia. Some of it is just plain terrifying.


On 'Spider And The Fly' by The Monocles, the singer is a ten-year-old whose body is turning into a spider. He cries "Help me, help me" as he devours his mother, thinking she's a fly.


Of 'Flight Reaction' by The Calico Wall, it is impossible to print a description. If you don't have this album then buy it. Is it essential? Is the moon made of cheese? Songs with titles like 'Horror Asparagus Stories', 'The Reality Of (Air) Fried Borsk' and 'Suicidal Flowers' are essential to any collection.


The volume you have to have is No. 5, the Punk Masterpiece. Every song has the same theme:


singer meets girl, girl bogs off


singer loves girl, girl screws singer's arch rival


singer loves girl, girl is unaware of singer's existence


On 'No Good Woman' by The Tree, the singer berates his girlfriend,"You're ugly and you're fat, and you've got no teeth". Why does he stay? He sings the whole song with his finger pointed at her throat.  "I bought you two Mustangs, and a Cadillac".


The album treats women as though they were a tank regiment, to be beaten down into submission.


Unfortunately the latest compilations now make 'Pebbles' and 'Boulders' seem pale in comparison. While these two have wandered into boring areas, the new US and British albums are getting rawer and more far out than ever.


^^^^^^^^^^^


The heir to the 'Pebbles' throne must be the 'Psychedelic Unknowns' LPs. At first just a two EP set, five albums have now been issued. These include real classics: most obviously 'In The Past' by We The People. 'In The Past' also covered by The Chocolate Watchband, is one of the most beautiful psychedelic songs ever, with a high balalaika guitar sound and raga rhythm. At the time, We The People were complete unknowns but the Eva label, from Paris, has issued their 'Declaration Of Independence' album which is raw and beautiful.


The Calico Wall, refugees from 'Pebbles', turn up with a death wail called 'I'm A Living Sickness', a kind of walking pace Doors. Other names from 'Pebbles' included The Squires and The Split Ends, and there's a double speed cover of Love's 'My Flash On You' by The Sixpence.


I've talked about the 'Texas Flashback' series before. They really are necessary but are now very hard to get. Easier to find is the 'Mindrocker' series, again on Eva. You may find you have doubles of certain songs but it's justified because they are all so good. Volume 4 is easily the best. Based on an old bootleg called 'Acid Visions', Eva has added four Moving Sidewalks tracks and created a new LP. The sound is better than the earlier album and cheaper, but you don't get the wonderful one-off sleeve.


I won't spend vast amounts of time on each compilation, but there are certain vital ones and 'Back From The Grave' is a biggie. The guy who has released its two volumes is a maniac. Into the music at 12, he is now 25 and spends his time driving a hired car the mid-west of America in search of gems. These albums are worth it for the sleeve notes alone.


The groups on these albums are true danger. Long hair? No Faggot Way!! The Malibus, The Brigands, Ralph Neilson & The Chancellors. You'd never get names like that in a psychedelic revival. And at the top of the pile is The Nova's version of 'The Crusher'. Sung by a 200lb. redneck, it devours the Bananmen version. 


The same attitude reigns for 'What A Way To Die', a new US compilation and probably the best so far. Subtitled "Forgotten Losers From The Mid-60's", it is incredible, so violent and fucked-up. 


From Chicago, and probably with Lou Reed writing, are The Beechnuts with 'My Iconoclastic Life'. As the sleeve says, it is one of the scariest records ever.


"My life is nil, I just take pills


sit for hours just watching the flowers".


Richard And The Young Lions are another one-off classic with the amassed guitars and tubular bells on the start of 'You Can Make It'. They're featured on the sleeve and look like members of five different groups. Other big features are the Human Beinz before they wimped-out and the first ever Standells recording. Whoopee!


Others to look out for are 'Psychedelic Sixties' volumes and the two 'Off The Wall' albums. These are very much garage psychedelia.


For out and out wierdos, look for 'Mindblowers'. The sleeve is a bit cosmic in orange and yellow swirls but the music is faultless, with an early 13th Floor Elevators recording of 'Tried To Hide'.


But the true find is 'Go Insane' by The Doors. It's one of three acetates left and is a blues-rant of song later to become 'Celebration Of The Lizard'. I love it. Morrison sounds so young, unformed voice and no chest beating. For Doors freaks , it's on White Rabbit Records.


The final US essential is 'Psychedelic Moose And The Soul Searchers', an album of magnum opuses ranging from Mouse and The Traps wail of Jeremiah's 'No Sense Nonsense' to The Blue Things 'Orange Rooftop Of Your Mind', a kind of Yardbirds thing, Actually, The Blue Things appear on about seven different compilations and each track is incredible. And there we leave America.


^^^^^^^^^^^


The British compilation scene is very restrained compared with its US partner. Albums like 'Not Just Beat Music' have been around for a while but the brain damage was only really started with 'Chocolate Soup For Diabetics'. Now running at three volumes, 'Chocolate Soup' is out-and-out classic.


Volume 1 opens with 'Train To Disaster' by The Voice. Like waiting for a late night tube, it comes screaming out of a tunnel and pummels you in the head. Typical end-of-the-world lyrics and snotty, sneering vocals. It ends in a pandemonium of guitars and treads your face into the ground.


The Misunderstood are featured but even they are upstaged by the mania of The Craigs' 'I Must Be Mad'. It's 'I Can See For Miles' at breakout speed, a commando raid of guitars, the drummer frantically over-playing to make up for his lack of time-keeping.


On The Tickle's 'Smokey Pokey World', the melodies are bright and the acid-guitar line is so pure and simple. One real weird-out is a group called One In A Million. Both of their featured songs are The Jam if they hadn't "Souled-Out". Gruff Weller voice, identical Foxton harmonies, how I wished they'd gone in this direction.


Chocolate Soup has a companion album of psychotic R&B called 'The Demention Of Sound'. Far more raw, it features The Bow Street Runners and The Sorrows, both raw and unmanageable. If you like Cherry Red's Misunderstood LP then you'll love this. Syn, who are on 'Chocolate Soup', are featured here as their blues incarnation, The Syndicates. 'Crawdaddy Simone' is a blues 'European Son', surging across the Russian Steppes.


The man behind Chocolate Soup is Sean Gregory. I've no idea who he is but I love him for his records and for his sleevenotes.


Chocolate Soup also has a two-volume brother in 'Electric Sugar Cube Flashback'. Pressed in the US it features many of the Chocolate Soup bands plus other oddities such as 'Jabberwocky' by Boeing Duveen & the Beautiful Soup and 'Scene Through The Eye Of A Lens', an early Family song when Roger Chapman still sounded like Fergal Sharkey. Best track is 'Gong With The Luminous Nose' by the ubiquitous Fleur De Lys. They have tracks on many compilations, each one a Who/Yardbirds dream of a song.


"Nine times the colour red


Explodes like heated blood" - The Zodiac


That colourful piece of doggerel is included to warn you. There may be many great new LPs around but some of the compilers are obviously intent on flooding a brilliant market with Hippy crap.


For example, if you buy 'Perfume Garden I' you get a brilliant shot of charged punk psychedelia. You get The Eyes, The Birds, and a whole load of riches. But beware if you buy Volume II, you get a whole bunch of hippy and pre-heavy metal with a couple of classics thrown in. I read a 4_ star review in Sounds and smelled an incense burner reviewing it.


The Psycho label which releases 'Perfumed Garden' is a weird conglomerate of classic and bad. Similarly, 'Endless Journey I' on Psycho is dirty and brilliantly fucked up whilst 'Volume II' is failed Mellotron groups who would have killed for a Roger Dean sleeve.


Anyway, enough slagging good intentions. The final album deserving of a mention should really go in a "miscellaneous" category. It's 'Ugly Things', a compilation of Australian psychedelia. I included it here because of its British sound; very Yardbirds, very Pretty Things. They promised Volume II about three years ago. But while that has never surfaced, the rest just keep coming.


^^^^^^^^^^^


If anyone is wondering "where's the Byrds section?" and "what about Buffalo Springfield?" forget it. Yes, they were great too, but everybody knows about them. Everybody should know about these groups, too. I hope in 1996, there are articles about Aztec Camera, Flipper, The Undertones, Alan Vega, Pere Ubu. Everyone remembers them now. But everyone should remember them always.


If anyone is wondering where to buy these albums, them you'll just have to look. The best shops are Vinyl Solution in London, Midnight and Venus Records in New York and maybe G.I. Records in Edinburgh. You can find them everywhere if you try.


I hate revivals of any kind so I hope the Psychedelic Revival has finally died down. But one group that has to be mentioned is The Chesterfield Kinds. Their LP could be from 1967, so close is it to the original. They only record the most obscure classics and are pure Chocolate Watchband.


I hope loads of people can be moved by this music but I have one savage plea:


Don't Turn Hippy On Me.




DISCOGRAPHY (Some have no record label)


Nuggets (Elektra)

Chocolate Soup For Diabetics, Vols. 1, 2, 3. (Relics Records)

Pebbles Vols. 1-12 (BFD)

Boulders 1-9 (Moxie)

Electric Sugar Cube Flashbacks 1 & 2 (A.I.P.)

Back From The Grave 1 & 2 (Crypt)

What A Way To Die (Satan)

Mindblowers (White Rabbit)

Psychotic Moose & The Soul Searchers (P. Moose) 

Texas Flashbacks 1-6 (Flashback)

Ugly Things (Raven)

Off The Wall 1 & 2 (Wreckord Wrack)

Psychedelic Sixties 1 & 2 (Cicadelic)

Acid Dreams

A Gathering of the Tribes (and Son of...) (Bona Fide)

Mindrocker 1-8 (Line)

Demention of Sound (Feedback)

Perfumed Garden I (Psycho)

Endless Journey I (Psycho)

Glimpses 1 & 2 (Wellington)

The Chosen Few (A Go Go)

Psychedelic Unknowns 105 (Calico)

Magic Cube (10")

New England Teen Scene (Moulty)

Everywhere Chainsaw

Relics (dB)

Oil Stains (dB)

Burghers

Texas Punk Groups (Eva)

Sound of the Sixties (Eva)

High in the Mid-Sixties

Hipsville 29 B.C.


BEWARE OF...


Perfumed Garden II

Endless Journey II

Glimpses III

Pennsylvania Unknowns

Houston Hallucinations

Echoes In Time


Sunday, January 22, 2023

Jarvis Cocker - Singles column - Melody Maker - October 27 1999

Singles... Reviewed by Jarvis

Melody Maker, 27 October 1999

[no idea who did the written bits that preface Jarvis speaking - which are in quotation marks - ghastly specimens of that late-stage-UK-music-press shouty-coarse comic mode)


Travis: Turn

Highpoint of "The Man Who", owns a City and Guilds in Advanced Showstopping and bombastic enough to blast holes through Neptune.

"This sounds like Travis. Slightly maudlin. It's difficult because initially when you hear their songs, you find them quite dull, but they do often become quite catchy the more you hear them. It was good that it ended when it did, because it had elements of wanting to be an anthem, and I thought it was gonna go on for another three minutes with a big guitar solo. Not really my cup of tea, but I've no doubt it'll do very well. They get played a lot on Radio 2 and I tend to listen to Radio 2 these days. It didn't offend me, but it didn't grab me either." 3.5/5

Five: Keep On Movin'

Giving up on their dream of being an EMF who wash, Five break out the sitars, the gospel backing singers and a strange squeaking noise like a Pekinese being startled with a radish.

"It must be a boy band because you get a different voice coming in on the second verse. Everybody has to have a turn, don't they? I haven't got a clue because that's not my scene. That's got the worst guitar sound ever at the beginning of it. Oh, it's Five (Sings a snippet of Everybody Get Up). Well out of five, I'd give that a one. It wasn't as good as 'Everybody Get Up', was it? That was just bland." 1/5

Dixie Chicks: Ready To Run

Sounds like Dolly Parton collaborating with B*Witched, if you can imagine the unspeakable pan pipe'n'pedal steel hell that entails. The Dubliners must've shagged Garth Brooks and then, nine months later, shat the Dixie Chicks out of their stinking, bloated, fiddly-diddly arses.

"This is absolute shit. I would've thought it was B*Witched, but they've only just released a single, haven't they? Is it Shania Twain? Younger than that? Give me the first letters of the first and second name. D and C? Dirty Cows? I feel like I'm in an Irish pub. And that bloody violin's a bit piercing. Violins at a clog dance is all right and quite a lot of ELO wasn't bad, were it? You can imagine it in those certain kinds of plastic theme bars, a very sanitised kind of pretend folk. Not keen. They look very healthy, though." 1/5

Guided By Voices: Hold On Hope

Hang on. So Alan McGee signs some past-it old codgers who can't remember what a proper recording studio looks like, leaves them alone to do whatever the f*** they like for a few months, and they come back with the best song of their career?!?! Shurely shome mishtake?

"Is it Semisonic? Has it got a chorus? You'll have to tell me who this is. Guided By Voices? I've heard the name but I've never heard them. It's all right. It sounds like the singer's trying to be John Lennon, I'm sorry to insult them by comparing them to Semisonic. Not particularly my bag, but all right. I'd imagine it would be a hit. They didn't always play the chords you'd expect, so there was a bit of imagination. And there was one bit of tune which was quite nice. I wouldn't buy it, but I wouldn't turn it off the radio." 1/5

Ricky Martin: Shake Your Bon-Bon

ARRRREEEEBAA!! The rubber-limbed Latin Lothario with the mile-wide mouth and a cock the size of a carnival float returns to shaft us soundly up the vida loca with his sexy salsa heel-clickin' shenanigans.

"Did he say 'Latin lover?' Is it Ricky Martin, then? 'I wanna lay ya in the Himalayas'? That would be a bit cold, then, wouldn't it? You could shag a yeti. It's not as good as 'Livin' La Vida Loca', is it? Did I live la vida loca? Oof, not half. My hands were the colour of ochre afterwards, No doubt it will be a big hit because he's the star of the moment, isn't he? Out of five, I'd give that two and a half. The extra half for the line about wanting to lay you in the Himalayas." 2.5/5

Bows: Britannica

Mumsy! That evil zombie clone of Dot Allison is in the wardrobe again! She's gonna get me with her spooky and rather pointless intelligent drum'n'psycho-violin'n'bass!

"It's all right. I don't think it's particularly original. The sounds are quite nice, but, for me, it's standing in that mid-range of being not terrible but not particularly grabbing. I can imagine it being played in a wine bar. I wouldn't throw up, but I probably wouldn't wont to stay all night." 3/5

The Crocketts: Nintendo Fallacy

Ah, that's better. Lovely soothing music box tinkles like ickie sugar plum fairy-waries playing hopscotch on Camberwick Green until - aaaaaarrgghhhh! - the Satan bastard offspring of Feargal Sharkey descends atop a flaming guitar of solid shite! Epileptic Molko anyone?

"The start was nice, it's gone downhill a bit now. If they got rid of the fuzzy guitar, it wouldn't be so bad. You keep thinking it's gonna go into a Sparks song as well. It's better than Semisonic, but it's got a poor chorus and the Larry The Lamb bit didn't do him any favours. The Crocketts? That's a bad name to call yourself. You're asking to be called a crock of shit, aren't ya? A bit jangle, weren't it?'' 3/5

Shola Ama: Still Believe

Shola still believes in love. Not all that impressive, unless she's spent the past year going to Hefner gigs with Damon Albarn. Can she die now, please?

"So this is a lady solo artist. Initials? SA? Shirley Arkwright? Sheila? Sarah? Oh, Shola Ama! Well this is dull, innit? It's got a gospel choir on it, which is a very big turn-off for me, especially after all that rock gospel stuff this year. It's hard for me to judge this sort of music because I don't know anything about it. It's that kind of mid-paced, pleasant nothingy type song. Can it stop? She hasn't had anything out in quite a while, has she? I wouldn't say it's a very strong return." 2/5

Beck: Sexxlaws

Ahhh, what's liddle Beck, the kooky chameleon, gone and done this time, eh? Northern soul trumpets? Bit Dexys, bit Radleys? Still an easy challenge for our Jarv, who has decided to guess the acts as they appear.

"The singing sounds like Beck. I haven't heard this before. That's unusual for him. When the brass started, I was afraid because I don't really like brass, but the banjo balanced it out. I'd probably have to hear that a few times. It must be hard because there's so many people trying to rip him off now. Was it Embrace who've done a song that sounds like a really shit version of Beck? That's f***ing appalling that song, especially the kazoo. That does go quite close to being pastiche, but it's got a few little twists and turns in it, a few daft noises and I do like the banjo." 3.5/5

Soothsayer: Can You Dig It

Boo Yakka! The Weird Al Yankovic of rap goes that one step beyond the page and sounds like Pop Will Eat Itself! In spooky voices! Nurse! The anti-skunk paranoia serum!

"It had worrying elements of being wacky. Some of the words and that weren't bad, but the music seemed really pedestrian in the background. I suggest he gets a better DJ. (Checks credits) Dr Israel should go back to his kibbutz. He wants to get someone with a little bit more funk." 2.5/5

Urusei Yatsura: Yon Kyoku Iri EP

Starts like a heavy metal Fun Lovin' Criminals, before diving joyously into the acid pool of Hiroshima death noizzze in which all Scottish musicians, apart from Travis and Runrig, are required to bathe thrice a day.

"UY? Urban Youth? Unavoidable Yawn? Can we stop it, please? That was crap. Just the most basic, indie sludge. Sounds like it could've happened any time in the last 10 years and it would still have been bad." 1/5

Jungle Brothers: Get Down

OK then, how about a jazz rap reworking of Kool And The Gang's "Get Down On It' with sporadic Charleston interludes and the sound of someone pissing against a wall?

"That's cheating, having someone else's chorus. The piano is all right, but the rapping is poor... This is a group, with the initials...? JB? Oh, it's them, innit. Jizz Bucket. The Jungle Brothers? They're supposed to be good, aren't they? That were crap. The best bit was the 'Get down on it' but I'd prefer to listen to the original version. It's all right when they take a song that you wouldn't be allowed or want to listen to and make something good out of it, but when it's like this, when the original song is quite good... that gets a one." 1/5

Junior Carter And West Street Mob: Breakdance Electric Boogie

'On your knees! On your back!' intones a vocoder robot like a Beginner's Guide To Breakdancing for morons. Jon Carter from Wall Of Sound is behind this, apparently. He deserves to be about six feet under it.

"If I had me piece of lino with me, I could do a bit of breakdancing, bit of robotics. I say they should've left it alone, not bothered remixing it. Fast forward to the B-side [Roots Manuva remixing 'The Message' by Grandmaster Flash]. Well, they've done a good job of screwing up that song, haven't they? The original of that was quite edgy, but they've made it into a lounge jazz thing. Bad idea. Just re-release the original one, I'd say. I'll never breakdance again." 1/5

Birth: Sweet Idol

A trip-hop version of early-Eighties soft rock types Godley And Creme. If you can conceive a concept more worthy of kneecapping, then send it in to the usual address and you could win a trip round to Birth's house with a chisel!

"A group beginning with B? The Bogards? Bulimia? BSE? Birth? More like after-birth. Sounds like a Semisonic B-side to me. Bland, yet offensive, which is quite a feat. Maybe it's fatigue setting in." 1.5/5

The Dumper (This week's absolute stinker!)

Semisonic: Closing Time

Beelzebub's own drinking tune.

"This sounds familiar as well. Is this Semisonic? It is! It's all in the name with that band. When has anything semi been good? A semi-lob-on, a semi-final, it's always halfway to something. It's semi-music, semi-good, which is no good at all. That's the worst one because it'll get played on the radio and it'll impact on my day in a bad way." 0.5/5

Jarvis' Single Of The Week...

Ian Brown: Love Like A Fountain

'Am I coming home yet?' sniffles rock's favourite former jailbird, his vocals muffled as if having his face pushed onto the floor of a shower cubicle. Then he's off on the techno chain gang, dreaming of soaring over those barbaric walls on wings of gilded melody. Pity, then, that he still sings like a crackgibbon with its nads stapled to a burning lamp-post.

"I've heard this one before. This is Ian Brown, isn't it? Yeah, I quite like this one. Let's see the picture."

No oil painting, is he?

"He is now. Yeah, I like that one. Everybody's always slagging his voice off, but think he's got a good voice. It was good in The Stone Roses because without his voice it just would've sounded like a heavy metal group. There's always been a dance element to his music. I don't know who did the picture but I like that too. It's a bit of a Crying Boy picture." 4/5


Sunday, January 15, 2023

Paul Johnson - The Menace of Beatleism - New Statesman - February 28 1964

RIP Paul Johnson, one of those archetypal British figures who started out on the left and then drifted through the course of his life to the right (see also Kingsley Amis, once a Soviet-line communist). During the latter half of his writing life, alongside countless curmudgeonly columns (and apologias for the likes of Pinochet) he would pen books like The Intellectuals (which I found recently in a Little Library in our neighbourhood) that caustically dissect the motivations  and personal failings of radicals such as Shelley and Marx, concluding that as a type they share a certain coldness and inhumanity, and altogether lack the vital internal checks-and-balance known as a sense of humour.  (He also wrote a whole book about humour and the comic imagination). (Ain't it funny how these folk who are obsessed with the English character and the importance of humour, etc etc, often seem to be perpetually grumpy, embittered, scowling types). But back when he was still on the Left - indeed high up the masthead of the New Statesman - Johnson wrote this instantly-scorned tirade about the Beatles and their generation. It is squarely ("square" being the word) in the Leftist grain of the time in its  view of pop culture as, well, "anti-culture," in Johnson's words. The critique is a sort of homegrown Methodist-tinged version of Adorno: from jingle-singles to Hollywood pablum,  pop is as a "mass-produced mental opiate" and it is alo the crude cutting-edge of Americanisation at work within Britain, eroding its ties to the rich, enduring high culture of Europe (referenced here with comparisons between today's slack-jawed, gum-chewing 16-year-olds and Johnson and his pals aged 16 thrilling to "our first performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony". The viewpoint is very similar to that of Christopher Brooker in The Neophiliacs, even though the latter is coming from a High Anglican Christian view of society as ideally static and hierarchical whereas Johnson at this point would have been committed to change and egalitarianism. 


 Paul Johnson 

The menace of Beatlism

New Statesman, 28 February 1964

Mr William Deedes is an Old Harrovian, a member of the cabinet and the minister in charge of the government’s information services. Mr Deedes, it will be remembered, was one of those five ministers who interviewed Mr Profumo on that fateful night and were convinced by him that he had not slept with Miss Keeler. I remember thinking at the time: “If Deedes can believe that, he’ll believe anything.” And indeed he does! Listen to him on the subject of the Beatles:

They herald a cultural movement among the young which may become part of the history of our time . . . For those with eyes to see it, something important and heartening is happening here. The young are rejecting some of the sloppy standards of their elders . . . they have discerned dimly that in a world of automation, declining craftsmanship and increased leisure, something of this kind is essential to restore the human instinct to excel at something and the human faculty of discrimination.

Incredible as it may seem, this was not an elaborate attempt at whimsy, but a serious address, delivered to the City of London Young Conservatives. Not a voice was raised to point out that the Emperor wasn’t wearing a stitch. The Beatles phenomenon, in fact, illustrates one of my favourite maxims: that if something becomes big enough and popular enough – and especially commercially profitable enough – solemn men will not be lacking to invest it with virtues. So long as the Beatles were just another successful showbiz team, the pillars of society could afford to ignore them. But then came the shock announcement that they were earning £6,250,000 a year – and, almost simultaneously, they got the stamp of approval from America.

This was quite a different matter: at once they became not only part of the export trade but an electorally valuable property. Sir Alec Home promptly claimed credit for them, and was as promptly accused by Mr Wilson of political clothes-stealing. Conservative candidates have been officially advised to mention them whenever possible in their speeches. The Queen expressed concern about the length of Ringo’s hair. Young diplomats at our Washington embassy fought for their autographs.

                                                                                                                                                 

The growing public approval of anti-culture is itself, I think, a reflection of the new cult of youth. Bewildered by a rapidly changing society, excessively fearful of becoming out of date, our leaders are increasingly turning to young people as guides and mentors. If youth likes jazz, then it must be good, and clever men must rationalise this preference in intellectually respectable language. Indeed, the supreme crime, in politics and culture alike, is not to be “with it”.

Before I am denounced as a reactionary fuddy-duddy, let us pause an instant and see exactly what we mean by this “youth”. Both TV channels now run weekly programmes in which popular records are played to teenagers and judged. While the music is performed, the cameras linger savagely over the faces of the audience. What a bottomless chasm of vacuity they reveal! The huge faces, bloated with cheap confectionery and smeared with chain-store makeup, the open, sagging mouths and glazed eyes, the broken stiletto heels: here is a generation enslaved by a commercial machine. Behind this image of “youth”, there are, evidently, some shrewd older folk at work.

And what of the “culture” which is served up to these pitiable victims? According to Mr Deedes, “the aim of the Beatles and their rivals is first class of its kind. Failure to attain it is spotted and criticised ruthlessly by their many highly-discriminating critics.” I wonder if Mr Deedes has ever taken the trouble to listen to any of this music? On the Saturday TV shows, the merits of the new records are discussed by panels of “experts”, many of whom seem barely more literate or articulate than the moronic ranks facing them. The teenager comes not to hear but to participate in a ritual, a collective grovelling to gods who are blind and empty. “Throughout the performance,” wrote one observer, “it was impossible to hear anything above the squealing except the beat of Ringo’s drums.” Here, indeed, is “a new cultural movement”: music which not only cannot be heard but does not need to be heard.

If the Beatles and their like were in fact what the youth of Britain wanted, one might well despair. I refuse to believe it – and so will any other intelligent person who casts his or her mind back far enough. What were we doing at 16? I remember reading the whole of Shakespeare and Marlowe, writing poems and plays and stories. At 16, I and my friends heard our first performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony; I can remember the excitement even today. We would not have wasted 30 seconds of our precious time on the Beatles and their ilk.

Are teenagers different today? Of course not. Those who flock round the Beatles, who scream themselves into hysteria, are the least fortunate of their generation, the dull, the idle, the failures: their existence, in such large numbers, far from being a cause for ministerial congratulation, is a fearful indictment of our education system, which in 10 years of schooling can scarcely raise them to literacy. What Mr Deedes fails to perceive is that the core of the teenage group – the boys and girls who will be the real leaders and creators of society tomorrow – never go near a pop concert. They are, to put it simply, too busy. They are educating themselves. They are in the process of inheriting the culture which, despite Beatlism or any other mass-produced mental opiate, will continue to shape our civilisation.


Thursday, January 12, 2023

RIP Jane Suck / Jane Solanas























Sounds punk-era legend Jane Suck - who later wrote for NME as Jane Solanas, presumably an alias in homage to Valerie as in SCUM Manifesto - has died. 

Here is Suck's intro / manifesto co-written with Jon Savage for Sounds's landmark New Musick feature package that started November 26 1977 and continued  on December 3 1977.















And here is a piece she wrote as Solanas that is markedly different - a sympathetic take on Kate Bush at a time when the music press still largely scorned her as a kook with an overly dramatic / decorative and passe style of art-rock.  ( Indeed even in the dek / standfirst, written no doubt by some male editor, they can't resist getting some digs in: "Kate Bush has moulded herself in an icon of pop erotica — so much that suburban couples claim her breasts stimulate their love making. Yet to like her voice and music is the ultimate in being uncool. Jane Solanas decides to give Kate the benefit of the doubt." )


KATE BUSH profile

NME October 15th, 1983

by Jane Solanas


"Dear Kate

I love you. My brother is in the army and he's a git. I couldn't tell anyone else that. And no one else seems bothered about soldiers getting blown up young. I know you care. I just don't know you…"


"Dear Kate

Me and my wife watched you on the tele and we found your breasts stimulate our love-making…"


"Dear Kate

Your being Roman Catholic interests me…"


^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

There is the school of thought that Kate Bush is for mums and dads. Freakily lovable. The ET of pop — something to laugh at when females impersonate her on TV by donning explosions of brown wig, making stabbing actions with their hands, all the while wailing like a cat fight.

And there's a school who believe Kate Bush is "profoundly subversive", like Fred Vermorel.

Fred — more familiar to NME readers as Malcolm McLaren's old philosophical sparring partner, and co-author of a brilliant book, The Sex Pistols File — for some reason, freaked on Kate's nipples, which stuck out on the first EMI promotional poster, and went on to weave an almost demi-goddess identity for her, largely drawn from the rustic history of the Bush clan and Kate's turbulent schooldays. (EG: why did Kate never fight back when girls pulled her hair?)

But among a younger generation, the school of thought seems to be that liking Kate Bush is about as hip as owning a set of Melanie albums or else that she is… wonderful.

Someone at EMI said:" I 've yet to see anyone sum Kate Bush up."

Kate Bush said: "The thing I don't like about NME is it seems so cynical…"

Those are the two main problems.

^^^^^^^

It would be so easy to be horrible about Kate Bush. A hundred, even affectionate, jokes immediately come to mind.

The press tend to think Ms Bush is immune to satire, innuendo and downright rudeness. Somehow it's alright for Simon Bates to phone her up live on Radio 1 and bellow down the receiver about Kate's bank balance and sex life. The press can always say, "fuck you, you turgid cretin", but a household name is trained to be polite. It's a shame.

But on the other hand, Kate Bush is enigmatic, and what do you do when you don't understand someone? Either attack them ("Kate Bush is a spaced-out druid with lush tits…" is a familiar cry), or build fantasies around them a la Fred Vermorel.

I fell foul of the latter approach. I had so many preconceptions about the woman it was becoming painful. I expected her to be into horror movies, astrology, mysticism and sex, and based my questions around those subjects. I also expected her to have a sense of humour that would have me rolling in the aisles. I asked about the Kate Bush sense of humour at EMI and was told, yes, it existed but it was "off the wall". Unfortunately, it seemed to be out of the room when I was present, but then I shouldn't have expected a side-show.

I don't think the press would get Kate Bush so wrong, if she did not marry her music, which is strong enough already, to a controversial visual presentation. We've all got an instant picture of Kate Bush to draw on: "Oh yeah, she dances, don't she?" being another familiar cry. But think about it, how many dancing songwriters can you count on one hand?

Kate Bush has been somewhat dogged by her past, particularly in the light of the fact that she has been out of the public eye for over a year and her last major tour was as long ago as 1979. Hence impressions of Kate tend to be hopelessly outdated.

I never saw Kate Bush live, and had no interest in her work until the release of the 'Sat In Your Lap' single, so I asked EMI to show me some videos. I watched the Hammersmith gig from '79 and got a total shock: all Kate's songs which were finely imprinted on my brain were transformed into something straight out of Salem's Lot.

I got the impression that the 21-year-old Kate Bush was trying to be Peter Pan, but to me she came across as Varoomshka crossed with a vampire. It was genuinely frightening watching Kate stalking around the stage in various strange garb being man handled by two male/slave dancers, and pulling pained expressions with that extraordinary face of hers. Subtle it wasn't.

Four years on, Kate has calmed down a bit. I watched a preview of her Single File video; as might have been predicted, she is in her element on video. There's still quite a lot of frantic arm waving (and jeezus has she got a pair of arms!), but when she interprets her later material, she's easily one of the most entertaining musicians on film. The one's to look out for are: 'Army Dreamers' (see Kate get blown up), 'There Goes A Tenner' (see Kate blow a safe), 'Sat In Your Lap' (see men wearing goats' legs) and 'The Dreaming' (see God?).

Kate Bush hit her artistic peak on The Dreaming album. Yet sadly it wasn't recognised as an important or courageous album, and caused more confusion than fuss. The three singles taken from it, 'Sat In Your Lap', 'The Dreaming' and 'There Goes A Tenner', were her finest ever and sounded to me like sure-fire radio hits. But the Radio 1 DJs (except David Jensen) tittered nervously, and 'The Dreaming' just about did the whole station in.

She blew away that MOR' Wuthering Heights' image by changing her voice (lowering it) and injecting aggression into the music. There's a note on the bottom of The Dreaming album instructing you to play the record LOUD! Before, Kate Bush as a flaming great noise would never have occurred to anyone.

Kate Bush has always been a unique talent on the music scene. Her individuality and imagination are unusual in an industry which constantly makes do without either. As a songwriter she has the ability to take intriguing subject matter — yes, Wuthering Heights, Houdini, Henry James' The Turn Of The Screw, aspects of war, anything from aborigines getting mowed down by trucks to soft porn — and condensing it into song.

She wrote one of the best anti-army songs ever ('Army Dreamers'); and, of course, she has that voice, distinctive and constantly changing.

Her attitude to work is interesting. It's well known that the EMI machine has been good to her, allowing an extraordinary freedom in the running of her career. But there is still the pressure to promote herself and she has wilfully taken a back-seat. She spent so much time working on The Dreaming, she knackered herself and scrapped plans to tour. She is currently working on new material, but this is still only at the demo stage, and how long she will spend in the studio throwing her voice of walls is anyone's guess.

She is reluctant to do press because of bad experiences. She seems obsessed with doing things right, be it a performance or a photograph, and she does not seem afraid to wait. I find that a rare quality.

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The interview I did with Kate Bush for two hours in a dance studio in South London was marred by the preconceptions I mentioned earlier.

I've got only one clear impression of Kate Bush's personality: she's sweet. She wouldn't stomp on a spider if it was three inches wide and crawling through her hair; she wouldn't shout at anyone no matter how obnoxious they were being. I got the feeling that all the energy other 25 year olds might expend on being sassy, sexy and a minor hell-raiser in order to impress their personality on the world, for her is contained and released in her work.

This is not to say Kate Bush outside of a studio or off a stage is vacuous or innocent, but she is unusually quiet. I saw no trace of the extrovert that comes across in her music: I don't think I gave her enough scope to talk about the things, chiefly her songwriting and her dancing, that she would have liked to.

A lot of the time was spent patiently explaining no, she wasn't into this or that, or no, that was an interesting way of looking at it, but not her way. As a "fan", I was probably cute. As an interviewer, a load of crap.

For example, I liked the way she handled this question:

Fred Vermorel wrote a curious thing about your lacking aggressive emotions. Yet The Dreaming seemed to work because it sounded so aggressive. Can you comment on that?

"I think the last album is about trying to cope… to get through all the shit. I think it was positive, showing how certain people approach all these negative things (war, crime etc). I don't think I'm actually an aggressive person. I think I can be… but I release that energy in work. I think it's wrong to get angry. If people get angry, it kind of freaks everybody out and they can't concentrate on what they're doing."

I thought that was an admirable piece of logic. I wasn't so keen on Kate's surprised dismissal of my question on her sexual identity as a female performer:

I once saw a photograph of you taken from your live tour and you were covered in sweat and licking the barrel of a gun. I found it erotic but frightening, because it was so blatant. (I also accused her, after watching the video of the Hammersmith gig of oozing sex all over the stage.) What, as a performer, are your feelings with regard to an audience's erotic reaction to you?

"I suppose it's something I don't really know about. Your energy on stage dictates the character you are (then). I'm too subjective. I just see me… either I get embarrassed or it's working."

It seemed to be news to Kate that her visual presence might have a dramatic sexual effect on people. I closed that part of the conversation with a muttered, "Well, it must be my filthy mind (chortle)". But later I remembered all the comments I'd heard when I'd told people I was going to meet Kate Bush: "tits" and "naked photographs" being uppermost.

Also, in a later question about her initial press identity, Kate remarked, "When I first appeared the press couldn't handle me in any normal way. I was the girl who sang in a funny voice with — 'The Body'…"

There is a video on the Video File that shows "The Body" to wonderful effect. As you can imagine, I buried the next question, Do you think women get off on you?, in fine flippant style. But I liked her candidness in other areas.

Do you like books?

"Yes. But I'm a really slow reader. Every time I read a good book it's in my head for weeks… like The Shining (Stephen King), that went straight into a song."

We had already established that Kate was a keen film fan when I asked this one:

Do you like gory things or taboo subjects?

"Some taboo subjects definitely attract me… I don't think I do like particularly gory things. Like, Don't Look Now, Psycho (films Kate likes), its not the gore so much as the emotional effect — the distortion. I don't think I'd ever go and see Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday The 13th, things like that. It think it's sick. You KNOW everybody is going to die disgustingly. I prefer films that work around the subject, build you up…"

Did you ever go through the hippie stage?

"No. I was just a few years too young. In some ways my attitudes could be associated with the time. I mean, I was growing up in the '60s…" (EG: Kate is well gone on The Beatles).

Were you ever into teenage (fashion) cults. Like a skinhead (titter) or something?

"No. I don't think I ever felt I could be convincing enough in any of the roles."

Do you ever get drunk?

"I don't really like alcohol. It doesn't get on with my body… (But) I've got a strong stomach. I can eat a lot… a great combination of things."

Well, I think it's far more interesting to know that Kate Bush is a gut than that Lena Zavaroni is a Freudian anorexic.

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You wouldn't believe how physically small Kate Bush is. After the interview, I looked down at her and, for a split second, I wondered how she'd ever make it across the street, let alone be someone people would like to touch, annoy, know. She lacks the cynicism and mistrust of the '80s, yet she's got a single-mindedness that transgresses all the pitfalls of fashion and falling sales. We should stop bugging her.


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And here is Solanas reviewing a book by her erstwhile hero / ally / role model (?) Julie Burchill



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More Jane Suck through the auspices of Sounds Clips