Nachts im Busch
Ethno Chip Nachts im Busch 7" (Ateliers Fabrikneu, 1983)
I was prepared to write that I know nothing about this other than I found it for a buck in some record store. And then I got a little creative with a google search and typed "ethnochip." This is what I now know.
EthnoChip was a music project done by German performer/artist Manu Trokes and photographer/artist Marc Altmann. According to Trokes' bio, EthnoChip released just one record, played one concert by themselves (1983), and did a collaboration with producer/Krautrock pioneer Conny Plank called Make me zoo, Pizza Star, Politicaticke (1984). And then they were gone.
Today you get just one song from this three song 7". Do not worry, you are not missing much by me not posting the other two (so please no "post the other songs"). What you are getting is by far the best thing on this record. Trust me.
The Percussive Phil Kraus
Phil Kraus The Percussive Phil Kraus 7" (Golden Crest, 195?)
I was digging through an annual radio station record sale when I stumbled upon this. Not knowing who Phil Kraus was but taken in by the sleeve and the words D.J. Copy Not For Sale. I knew this was worth the dime I would be charged for it. And, wow, I'm glad I am ten cents poorer.
According to the notes on the back of the sleeve, Phil Kraus was born in 1918 and started playing xylophone at the age of 8. He went to Julliard on a scholarship in 1935 and upon graduation joined the staff band at WNEW. The group became known as The Five Shades of Blue and was a pioneer in the use of vibraphones. Phil spent the early days of television playing with Ted Steele, Morey Amsterdam, Martha Raye, Sid Caesar, Perry Como, Jackie Gleason, Ed Sullivan and others. He also recorded with Percy Faith, Hugo Winterhalter, Benny Goodman and others.
The biography is impressive, to be sure, but it hardly reflects what you are about to hear. On this promo ep, Kraus and band play an exotica that reminds me of early Martin Denny and the spookier sounding music of the Three Suns, with the dream-like quality you hear on Eric Dolphy's Out to Lunch.
Link Wray 1929 - 2005
Link Wray 1929 - 2005
I was 7 years-old when I got my first guitar. I wanted an electric guitar but what I got was an acoustic almost as big as I was. My dad told me that I could have an electric if I did well on my lessons and practice. I was doomed. My small hands barely fit around the guitar's neck so making chords was difficult. Add to that, my guitar teacher only taught me chords and what I got to play with those chords was shit like Michael Rowed His Boat Ashore and Shoo Fly. I told him I wanted to play rock & roll solos. He said he didn't know if that's what my parents would want ! I was screwed.
The first rock & roll record I ever cherished was Duane Eddy's Have Twangy Guitar Will Travel. At 5 years-old, I snatched it out of my mom's record collection and it has never gone back. I played it over and over, especially the song Rebel Rouser. For pre-teen me, Duane Eddy was soul music. It was what I wanted to play on guitar but what my guitar teacher forbade me to play. No Duane Eddy riffs? No point in practicing the guitar. I never owned an electric until I was an adult (and I still can't play Duane Eddy!).
I was 13 or 14 when I first heard Link Ray's Rumble. It was like a shot of ice water in the spine. So cool, so dark and so mysterious, my Duane Eddy records (I had a few by then) got tucked away. Link Wray was the man. I searched for LPs, I dug for 45s. But in the late 70s, no one cared about Link Wray except the Brits and the Cramps. Unless you found them used, Link's records were impossible to find in the US, at least for teen me. For a few years the only thing I had was that well worn copy of Rumble. Then one day I happened upon a English bootleg of Link Wray singles. It was $7 which was a lot of money for a record in 1981, but I bought it.
I had been into punk rock for a few years by the time I got that Link Wray record collection, however even Black Flag didn't prime me for Link's version of Willie Dixon's Hidden Charms. Tortured, horny, raw, primitive and with the most twisted guitar outro, Hidden Charms might as well be punk rock. Fuck it, Hidden Charms is punk rock. Who cares if it was recorded in 1965. It has everything that makes punk rock great.
So on this holiday, when you are gathered around the table about to chow down, give thanks for Link Wray. His guitar did as much for the sound of rock & roll as Elvis or the Beatles. He is who people should keep in mind when using the phrase "guitar god." And now he is dead. No one knows how he made it to 76, but he did and he played his music til the very end. Thanks Link!
Canyon Woman / Warm Body
St. John Green Canyon Woman (Flick Disc, 196???)
The Wild Brothers Warm Body (Love, 196???)
I've long maintained that if one needs proof that God (if s/he exists) is a smart ass, look no further than the penis. It is the most absurd looking of all the body's parts, one that truly deserves the nickname "Dork." Anyone who possess one knows all the silly stuff that can be done with a penis - stuff it into itself so that it can "bloom," make it "talk," tuck it between one's legs and stumble around screeching "I'm a girl! I'm a girl!," etc. God bless the mate who has witnessed and puts up with this tomfoolery.
A perfect aural representation of the penis is the male sex grunt, one of the least sexy things a man can do. The male sex grunt has no art or style and when an amatuer loveman tries to fluff up his grunt, it sounds even dumber than it does undressed. Rather than embarrass myself and cool my lover's heat, I take the fifth when "making love." I am a stealth lover, a strong silent sexpot. I have clued in on how stupid "Uhhh uhhhh uhhh grrrrrnnn grrnnnn oooo baby oooo yeah yeah gnnnt uhhhh" sounds.
There are, however, plenty of folks who think that grunting is akin to music. And lucky for us that there are a few who think grunting should be incorporated into music. While many a blues man and R&B singer have worked sex screams into their act, only a few have grunted. The king of the R&B sex grunt is James Brown. JB, though, is a genius so rather than grunt away, he disguised his grunt as a percussive "heh," an act that revolutionized modern music and saved many a R&B singer embarrassment (at least until Barry White took back the grunt and dressed it up in silk, spawning thousands of imitators).
In 60s rock & roll, the king of the sex grunt is Jim Morrison, who, you might be interested to know, was also the king of the lizards. Jim took a hint from his namesake and also grew an new set of skin over his grunt. Rather than come out with a "uhhhh grrrrrnnnnnntttt," he added a moan on the front and a scream at the back, followed by another moan. The result was something like "Mmmmmm mmmmmmm gggggrrrrrnnnntttttt screeeeeeeeee mmmmmmmmmnnnnnnnn." Then there is Jim's growl-grunt, which went like this: Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrnnnnnnnnntttttttt! But the best trick the Lizard King has was turning words in grunts, such as "the wayyyyyyyayyyyyyyy-nnnntttttt!" A poet, Morrison was able to turn the grunt into more than a grunt, an ubergrunt, if you will.
Fortunately, the rockers influenced by Jimbo weren't as bright at the shouters who followed JB. Those who stayed at the Morrison Hotel tended to hump in the rooms marked psychedelic. These are the proud men who give us the psychedelic sex grunt. Today I give you two of my favorite examples.
St. John Green are a somewhat legendary psych band from the Topanga Canyon in Southern California. Tromping around the same terrain as Charlie Manson (himself a pretty good folk grunter) and his wacky pals, SJG made one record under the guidance of genius huckster Kim Fowley and then disappeared. Fowley calls SJG the one failed Fowley band that should have been huge. Folks like Julian Cope claim that SJG's one album is a lost heavy psych classic. Both overstate their case. SJG were an entertaining band for sure but more comic book than mind-blowing. One specialty of SJG was putting apocalyptic verse to droning organ freak out, a feat which makes Hawkwind's "resident poet" Bob Calvert sound like Dylan Thomas. Not that such a thing is bad. I enjoy over the top silliness as much as the next guy, but it doesn't make for a record that needs to be listened to with the lights out (as Julian Cope suggests). Even if singer Ed Bissot was able to get off the couch and stop gobbling acid and potato chips long enough to get his band down to the Sunset Strip to hustle their act, SJG would have been just another also ran.
The St. John Green song that contains the most grunting is the astounding Canyon Woman. Even though Fowley claims writing credit on this classic, it is a straight rip off (sans lyrics and males sex sounds) of Nina Simone's See Line Woman - not that is bad, but we need to give credit where credit is due. My two favorite moments in the song are when Bissot sings "tongue like a cat" and the male orgasm crescendo.
Though the Wild Brothers are from Sacramento, I know nothing about them other than the brothers' names are Rick and Joe. Being that the A side of this single sounds like some rancid fusion of Charlie Rich and BJ Thomas, I doubt that the Brothers Wild were looking to go psychedelic on the flip. However what else shall we call that insistent wah wah, nutty organ and hypnotic rhythm? And then there is the grunting. It is so good it makes me squeem!
With that, I ask you to enjoy some psychedelic sex grunts.
In Praise of Oxala and Other Gods
In Praise of Oxala and Other Gods: Black Music of South America LP
I first started picking up international records (to hell with the term "World Music") in my early twenties after stumbling on a copy of Temiar Dream Music of Malaya on Folkways. I was completely blown away. The sounds I heard coming out of my speakers were not like anything I had ever heard. Alien as the sounds were, I could connect: Like the best punk rock or free jazz, there was something true in what I was hearing. I really can't explain any further - this isn't something that happens intellectually. You've either feel this connection or not. I did.
That connection sent me in a scurry to find more records in the Ethnic Folkways series. I borrowed my boss's van and hit all the record stores in the area. In one weekend I had stripped Sacramento and its suburbs of every available Folkways record. I picked up about 30 titles, from Pygmy chants to the sounds of sea animals to field recordings of cable cars. I was amazed at what I heard. Folkways opened up a whole new world of sound to me and became my favorite record label (and still is). But there was a problem: I had plundered Sacramento of Folkways records (for the time being) and I was jonesing for more international tunes. Enter the Nonesuch Explorer series.
My first Nonesuch Explorer album was Golden Rain. Recorded by David Lewiston and released in 1969, it is the debut record of the Explorer series. One side is gamelan, the Indonesian "classical" music that uses bells, gongs, and percussion to make a beautiful, lush sound. The flip is a recording of the Ramayana Monkey Chant. If Temiar Dream Music sounded intense to me, the Ketjak was mind destruction. Twenty minutes of an extreme web of percussive voice that is more powerful than a stadium full of Marshall stacks, my first listen to the monkey chant left me trembling. It also hooked me on the Explorer series.
Again, I set out to pillage Sacramento. While most of the Nonesuch Explorers I found are good, the ones that take the step into greatness are all recorded by David Lewiston. The hit to miss ratio for Lewiston rivals Barry Bonds. People sometimes ask, "If you could be someone else, who would you be?" I think it is a silly question and pass on it. However, if you want to ask, "If you could have someone else's ears, whose would they be?" I would claim John Peel for my right and David Lewiston for my left.
One of my favorite Lewiston recordings is on the album In Praise of Oxala and Other Gods. On this record, Lewiston has collected recordings of the Black South American descendants of slaves. Some of the songs, especially those of Brazil, are chanting and percussion, more ceremonial than celebratory. However, there are two cuts from Columbia that are downright funky. These are the two I present to you.
According to the liner notes both tracks were recorded in Buenaventura, a port town on Columbia's Pacific coast. The songs combine both Spanish and African melodies and rhythms to make a shuffling style that sounds related to both calypso and more modern dance music of the west coast of Africa. Unfortunately, the custom at the time of the record's release was not to identify the musicians, so our funky Buenaventurians remain anonymous.
I've dropped needle on Arrullo San Antonio at the end of dance parties before and it created a frenzy of funky, drunken dancing. Los cholitos is one of my favorite songs ever. If someone was to go against my wishes and stage a funeral for me when I die, it is one of the songs they must play.
Starting Salary: $22,275.00
Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band
Starting Salary: $22,275.00 LP (Embo, 1980)
I hold in my hands a record that is so 1979 college campus, I'm getting a contact high. The cover shows a sloppily dressed marching band. People are shirtless, wearing a variety of hats, and giant neck ties. They also stand with their instruments. In the front line are the drummers. In front of them are empty beer kegs. In the back are sousaphones, their bells painted with messages, swirls, and a giant eyeball. Inside the gatefold, the band members pose how they please. There are people dressed as devils and pharoahs, a lot of guys are missing pants, some one is grabbing a woman's tit, more kegs are present as well as copies of porno mags - the picture is certainly inthe spirit of the movie Animal House. The back cover has a partially beer stained photo from the 1930s or so of the Stanford University Military Band. The inner sleeve contains a gonzo style story about breaking into another university's trophy case by smashing the glass and then taking a trophy home as a souvenir. The special thanks list contains the recently deceased Keith Moon, the recently disgraced Hamilton Jordon, Jack Daniels, and Hunter S. Thompson. The first side of the record are mostly marching band songs, though modified to suit the band. The second side contains covers of songs by The Who, The Kinks, The Zombies, Edgar Winter Group, David Bowie, and the Tubes.
The LSJUMB started in 1963 after the bands members went on strike. They got a new director who pledged to let them do whatever they wanted to, got rid of traditional marching band costumes and songs, and dressed however they wanted and played a lot of rock and roll songs. They also became a scatter band and started getting into trouble.
A scatter band is different from a marching band in that it spells out words or makes shapes, instead of marching in formation. In the Stanford Band's case, that meant doing a tribute to the recently kidnapped, Cal student Patty Hearst at the Big Game against Cal (UC Berkeley) by making a formation of a hamburger bun which was missing a patty. During the 1971 Rose Bowl game half time show, the band first spelled out OHIO STATE and than quickly rearranged themselves to spell OH SHIT. This was broadcast on NBC to a national audience. They were banned from the next year's bowl game. In another spelling fiasco, the band first formed HI FOLKS and then shifted the top of the O to the top of the L to spell HI FUCKS. This, too, made it on TV and got them banned.
Here, the band performs after a 1979 game with UCLA in Stanford Stadium. I've picked two songs for you because, well, when was the last time you heard a marching band do Suffragette City or White Punks on Dope? While you are listening to this, imagine a stadium full of excited students and puzzled alumni hearing the band chant WHITE PUNKS ON DOPE!
The liner notes end with "It frightens me even more to think that the Stanford Band album of 1979 may be an artifact someday: uncovered, perhaps with other mementos of the Class of 1980...If those who find it want to play it, they will probably have to borrow a fragile antique turntable from a local museum of ancient technology...I hope that when they hear the music play, they will realize that the spirit it was first performed was part of a great tradition." Here! Here! Bottoms up!
Ozzie Android Love b/w Organic Gardening 45 (Make Me, 1977)
Every town has their vintage punk idols, at least one band that has a rep nation/worldwide. The general music listening public may not know of these bands, but record freaks will. In my hometown of Sacramento, California, the "legend" is the Twinkeyz, a great psych punk combo who released 2.5 7"s and an LP. The Twinkeyz are not much of a secret to the punk/proto-punk underground, thanks to the work of Karl Ikola and his record label, Anopheles, who has reissued all of their stuff. (The Twinkeyz are, however, unknown to most of their hometown. When Ikola reissued the complete Twinkeyz discography on CD in 1998, no local publication reviewed it. Anopheles vinyl release of assorted Twinkeyz tracks never received notice in the Sacramento area's press. Even our so-called alternative weekly ignored it.)
As most towns have a Twinkeyz, they also have their Ozzie, a cool underground band that either didn't catch on "back in the day" or hasn't been championed by anyone since. Ozzie formed about 1974, when a group of musicians and music freaks got together and started jamming. Like many folks across the US, Ozzie were moved by the freakier side of Sixties/Seventies rock and roll. Their turntables were loaded down with Captain Beefheart, Bowie, Roxy Music, and the Stooges, as well as assorted ESP platters and various English prog records. Their bookshelves were filled with avant art books and absurdist plays. They dressed up and glammed out. And then there was the drummer, a greaser into Jethro Tull and Alice Cooper.
Ozzie's music reflects their influences. Songs range from rock art/theater pieces that are soaked with satire to out and out proto-punk glam rockers. Unfortunately, very little Ozzie saw vinyl (two 45s and one 7" ep) and what was released tends more toward the band's Tubes meets Zappa meets Manzanera than proto-punk. By the time of the band's third release (under the name Anonymo, as to avoid threatened legal action by the other Ozzie), they had gone "new wave," adopting an Oingo Boingo goes prog sound.
And then there is their first single, Android Love b/w Organic Gardening, one of my fave Sacramento records. To be honest, it is half the record I am crazy about. The song Android Love is one of my favorite glam punk rockers ever. The songs starts off with a small drum roll, a simple bass line, a synth squall, some accented guitar and away it goes. The mid tempo rocker hits the verses like a mutant Troggs song and slides into a driving chorus punctuated by the craziest, out of control, over the top drum rolls. A guitar kicks in over a sung verse, soloing in a style that remotely sounds like Lou Reed meets Mick Ronson. And then the topper, a bridge which consists mostly of tom rolls and vocals into a "rock" guitar solo and the Roxy Music - For Your Pleasure - style ending. The vocals have a faggy glam quality to them and the song is about having an android as a girlfriend.
The flip is a Tubesesque prog rocker, with a punk punch. It is mostly instrumental - the band chants "organic gardening" at the song's end. Organic Gardening is not as immediate at Android Love. It does not have the glam vocals or whacked drumming. But repeated listening does it justice and makes it a very strong b-side. Musically it is a better song than Android Love, but the a-side is the a-side for a reason.
The 45 came out in 1977 on Make Me Records, the label of Sacramento punk/new wave promoter, Bo Richards. It was produced by David Houston, who was a member of the now-legendary Public Nuisance and also produced the Twinkeyz. One thousand were pressed in five different sleeves (each band member had "his own" sleeve). These are not common and did not receive very good distribution outside Northern California. In fact, many collectors don't even knows this exists. As the glam/prog side of punk and proto-punk has yet to catch on among collector scum, you still have a chance of stumbling across one of these gems.
A bit of this weekend's harvest
The Mauds Soul Drippin' b/w Forever Gone (Mercury)
It is funny how what time of day you listen to something influences what you hear. Right now it is morning and I am alone in my girlfriend's apartment, half dressed and half awake, and this Southern boogie-woogie meets Motown White boy band (basically another MC5/Grand Funk ripoff) sounds really good. When the coffee kicks in and the day warms up, this might sound like total bullshit, but right now I am diggin' it.
Big Hog Pefferley & the Loafers Jump & Shout b/w I'm not Goin' to Work Today (Sound Stage 7)
Great early R&B in the mode of the Olympics, the Marathons, or early Isley Brothers...and that is good enough to knock some sleep out of my eyes. I'm not Goin'.. not only has a nice calypso thing (while still being R&B) but has inspired me to keep this boxer shorts, t-shirt, and socks attire going for a couple more hours.
Willie Walker & the Alpacas Money Mad Man b/w Three Hundred Sixty-Five (Freedom)
Great crawling early rock & roll that would have had a bunch of yelps & hicups for vocals has some hillbilly grabbed it instead of this Black group. However the White boys wouldn't have inspired drunk Saturday night dance floor grinding and maybe even some dry humpin'. 365 is a bit more uptempo. It has a nice shuffle going.
Lucky Peterson Blues Band 1-2-3-4 b/w Good Old Candy (Today)
Six year-old Hammond organ prodigy gets taken under the wing of Willie Dixon and does a slow one lifted from Please, Please, Please and slow funky one that is supposed to be about candy but has some pretty suggestive lines. What makes this is the organ playing is over the top and the kid's screams are fucking priceless. When Lucky starts singing it totally reminds me of Jr. & His Soulettes.
Phil Baugh Live Wire (Longhorn)
Forget the flip. Live Wire is a fucking great C&W instro with the kind of speedy hotshit guitar picking you expect from Roy Clark and Chet Atkins. Nothing really to the song, just some blazing fret runs, but that is good enough for me.
Wanda Jackson This Gun Don't Care b/w I Wonder if She Knows 45 (Capitol)
Late 60's C&W Wanda which means it has that Nancy Sinatra meets Nashville polish. Great fuzz guitar and who doesn't like it when Wanda Jackson threatens to cap someone? I Wonder... is straight from the Hank Williams school of country ballad - nice vocal melody, depressed Saturday afternoon bar room feel, and a very nice slide guitar.
The Ivy Three Yogi b/w Was Judy There (Shell)
A novelty song about Yogi Bear done in Yogi & Boo-Boo Bear vocals over an early rock & roll background. Not bad, especially since these guys were a bunch of Ivy League dorks. Was Judy There is a ballad and has a very nice guitar lead and some good vocals. Not a great record, but good enough to keep around for a while. The ballad might actually grow on me.
The Kandy Kanes Hard to Tell b/w Ask the Wind (Sound Track)
A great girl group single from 1966 with that Everly Brothers meets garage punk sound. If it had some fuzz it would be a killer. The Kandy Kanes sound like the grandmothers or mothers of the Pandoras, Del-monas, & Thee Headcoatees. This is definitely worth tracking down if you are a girl group or Girls in the Garage enthusiast.
Deon Jackson Love Makes the World Go Round b/w You Said You Loved Me (Carla)
Just threw on some jeans because this San Francisco morning is a little crisp, but that is fine because the sky is clear and it is gonna be in the 70s today. Fucking paradise and Deon Jackson is a nice soundtrack to that feeling. A very nice Smokey Robinson-style "everything is cool cuz I'm in love" song. It has a lazy jump to it and the vocals are great, especially with the vibes behind them. You Said... has a tough Otis Redding meets Dion sound to it. This is why god invented the 45.
Richie Dennis & the Group Dear Judy b/w Forever & a Day (Cameo)
Sappy 60s pop song with some talk over and seagull sounds. Good backing vocals and "Latin" horns. There really isn't much to this songs but all the gimmicks and the good stuff collide to make it a keeper. Forever... mates Shadow Morton with the Searchers and comes off as the better of the two.
Tony Pass Spring Fever b/w True True Love (Atco)
I am trying to figure out why I picked this up. It has that mid-60s pop does rockin' rock & roll sound. I am expecting a "dirty sax" to bust in anytime. This is the kind of shit that set the table for guys like Bruce Springstein and Billy Joel and Broadway rock & roll musicals. The flip improves things a bit with a Motown bit and a bubblegum feel to it, but it still lacks keeper status. Ah now I see why I picked it up: It is a Jeff Berry production. Well, throw this in his pile of losers.
The New Vaudeville Band Finchley Central b/w Sadie Moonshine (Fontana)
Is there a bubblegum group more loathed than the New Vaudeville Band? I have a friend who literally turns red with anger every time he hears Winchester Cathedral...so of course when I find some kind of special picture sleeve copy of that single for cheap, I buy it and give it to him as a gift. Well, if I played him Fichley Central, he would probably beat me with a stick and I would certainly deserve it. This is the Vaudeville Band's obligatory London subway stop song. It is a piece of crap and the flip is even worse. I am predicting that any day now there will be some neo new vaudeville scene with hipsters wearing coon skin hats and hipsterettes flapper dresses. It is bound to happen. You have been warned.
In the I've been snaked department: Terminal Boredom has posted an MP3 from a record (or maybe it is a demo version of a song from said record) that I'd been planning to do. It is from the Iowa punk band Splayed Innards' one and only 7". Way back in 2000, I wrote in Maximum Rockandroll that I thought the record was one of the best 7"s of the 1990s. The band had sent me a copy about 1996 and then they disappeared. I heard from them again when that MRR piece ran and got more from them. It is a great record and I am glad Dave Hyde hyped it on Terminal Boredom. If you like early 80s style Midwestern punk rock, check it out.
Jim Ellis Unification LP (Thunderhead, 1978)
Welcome back to the world of the self-released record. Unlike the world of the major label (and even the indie), the only filter for the private pressing is the artist himself. The songs, production, record's artwork, everything is determined by the artist. What you get is pure. That purity can be insane, brilliant, total crap, boring, odd, or some combination of those qualities. Given the choice between checking out something by a name producer or an unknown self-released record, I will always go for the unvarnished vision.
Jim Ellis is a singer/songwriter from Knoxville, Tennessee. I am guessing that this is his first record. It has all the earmarks of a self released record: The graphic layout is crude, the studio where it was recorded is fronting as the record label, there is a big picture of himself on the back, he thanks the studio for "giving him technical assistance," and, the big giveaway, he makes absolutely clear in the credits that he is responsible for everything.
You are going to hear the best two songs on Unification. Both are his rock & roll side and are clearly influenced by glam. But unlike 99% of all glam bands, Jim Ellis is back by just a bongo player. The first song is a very earnest tribute to David Bowie, in which he cops a Mick Ronson guitar sound. The second song is his announcement that he is going to rock & roll (or in Jim's case Roc & Rol). After the singing, Ellis goes into a very nice, hypnotic instrumental part. What starts off as kind of dorky actually winds up being pretty great.
Since this record, Jim Ellis wrote the theme to the TV show WKRP in Cincinnati, a children's musical which appeared on PBS, and music for the '96 Olympic Games in Atlanta. Here are his roots.
They Call the Wind MARIA
The Bounders They Call the Wind MARIA b/w Mia 45 (Highland, 196?)
When Lerner and Loewe wrote the Broadway musical Paint Your Wagon I really doubt they ever thought the play's signature song would wind up in the hands of some teenage garage punk band, but it did. How, I can only imagine:
Somewhere in the American Midwest, four teens are in their garage pounding out a half assed version of Gloria. They finnish practice and Young Timmy saunters into the dining room. His mom says, "Why don't you and your friends play something normal people would like." "Mom, normal people like rock and roll." "You know what I mean, Timmy. Why don't you play something people like your dear mother would like to listen to." "Yeah sure, mom. You have any ideas," replies Timmy as he pours himself a glass of milk. "Why, yes I do. Why don't you play something from a musical. People like Broadway. Why don't you play They Call the Wind MARIA. It is very popular." "Well, I guess we could try," says Timmy as mom comes over and pats him on the head.
Who knows? Maybe that was the scene. Then again, maybe it was some label hack who thought he could sell Broadway garage punk. Whatever the case, the result is pretty jarring. It is pretty obvious that Lerner and Loewe had no intention of They Call the Wind MARIA (pronounced "mariah") ever being adapted to rock & roll. The song just isn't written to conform to the rock form. So when the Bounders take a run at it, the song sounds like a square crammed into a round hole. Add pounding drums, a fuzz break, and an odd ending and you get a pretty unique rendition.
The flipside is a ballad called Mia and it isn't any closer to normality than the plug. As the song progresses it sounds like someone is poking them with a stick: Their voices get more and more agitated, yet they still seem shackled. These teens sound like they want to break out but something is holding them back. The song ends and it is as unsettling as the Lerner & Loewe.
Again, this is a mystery record. I have no idea where the Bounders are from. The producer is listed at The GreenFields. If you google Bounders and GreenFields you will find hundreds of links regarding Lord of the Rings - a bunch of stuff about orcs and hobbits and rangers.
Another Stack of Singles
I knew I had a bunch of computer work to do to day so I boxed up some 45s and brought them to the job to play while I pounded shit out on the computer. On a break I wrote up what I heard. So here is another run through of 45s I recently picked up (mostly 60s stuff):
The Trade Winds Mind Excursion b/w Little Susan's Dreamin' (Kama Sutra)
By the title you would think psychedelia. Nope. Straight up Sixties pop. Mind Excursion has a harp. Little Susan has some of the sappiest lyrics I've heard in quite a while but is a nice mellow bubblegum tune.
The Family Tree Electric Kangaroo b/w Terry Tommy (Paula)
I'm a sucker for bubblegum songs about animals and this one has suckered me in. Electric Kangaroo is Solid midtempo, Sixties, strum strum pop with cool backing vocals and a really stupid sounding "boing boing" effect. Terry Tommy has a mellow Lou Reed feel to it, at least until the chorus and then it gets louder and sways. Again the backing vocals are pretty cool.
The New Breed Green Eyed Woman b/w I'm in Love (Diplomacy)
Sacramento garage with some folkiness to it. I've heard this before but never owned the 45. I remember first hearing this and wanting to be excited because it is from my home town but being disappointed. Years later, this sounds pretty good. Not jaw dropping but a solid Standells ripoff and a good poppy number.
The Johnny Otis Show The Watts Breakdown b/w You Can Depend on Me (Okeh)
Solid dance floor funk from Oakland's Johnny Otis. Recommended. The b-side is a nice ballad with a some cool talk through vocals.
Layng Martine, Jr. Love Comes & Goes b/w Crazy Daisy (Date)
Love Comes... is good strummy Sixties folk pop with some vocal silliness and a nice C&W style guitar solo. The flip blows.
The Persuaders Thigh Spy b/w Thin Line Between Love & Hate (Atco)
Not only a great name for a song, but Thigh Spy is solid funk about checking out girls in mini skirts with tough Temptations-style backing vocals. The Persuaders version of Thin Line... is a great wah wah ballad in the mode of the Del-Fonics, with some tasty backing vocals (Did you eat?). A great record.
The Nightcrawlers Little Black Egg b/w You're Running Wild (Kapp)
After hearing the Pagans version of Little Black Egg a thousand or so times, it is nice to hear the original. I don't know what took so long, other than I suspect that this was a regional rather than a national hit. Great hypnotic guitar lead that got smushed by the Pagans. Running Wild is a very very cool song that bridges surf, and rockabilly. Sounds like if teenaged Dick Dale and Gene Vincent fronted a garage band.
The Side Show Nickels & Dimes b/w Little Miss Know It All (GRT)
Straight up Boyce & Hart style bubblegum. Any power pop band looking for cover fodder should dig this pup up and check out Little Miss Know It All. Very easy to hear the Rubinoos or Nerves doing this one justice. Two great sides.
Mel & Tim Backfield in Motion b/w Do Right Baby (Bamboo)
Sweet soul that doesn't quite jump out at you. The fake background cheers and football motif in Backfield... make it worth a few listens, but it isn't the stone classic that folks make it out to be. Do Right Baby has a funky groove and is the better of the two.
Bill Paterson Ninety-Nine Miles b/w Capture It (Public!)
99 Miles is good mid-Sixties country pop about a condemned man being driven to the gallows. The b-side is a crooning ballad which would have sounded great done by Roy Orbison but is flipside fodder here.
Dave York & the Beachcombers Beach Party b/w I Wanna Go Surfin' (P-K-M)
Beach Party is throwaway, rockin' pop with a lot of party sounds in the background and a honkin' sax. Actually it sounds like really shitty Duane Eddy with even shittier vocals. I Wanna Go Surfin' is total ass. Honky tonk piano over a shimmy rock sound with deep corny vocals. This could have been great if they would have thrown in a really stupid talk over on the bridge, but nope. This just plain out sucks.
The Volumes I Love You b/w Dreams (Chex)
A pretty cool dowop record with high soaring vocals. This is a little "too Black" for Happy Days, but it isn't raw. A good listen, especially if you are unfamiliar with these songs. It will get played a few times and there is a possibility I Love You might even click with me.
Eternity's Children Sunshine Among Us (Tower)
A good Sixties pop song with a slight touch of psych, a good instro break, and a guitar that sounds like it exported from Os Mutantes. In fact, this really does have a poppy Os Mutantes feel to it.
Staten Island Ferry Candy Bar b/w Charlie Chan (Event)
Crazy bubblegum. On Candy Bar, the Voxx pumps, there is a nice Chin-Chapmanesque drum break, and some good ba-ba-ba backing vocals. I am not sure what the "everybody is tryin to get a piece of my candy bar" metaphor is supposed to mean. Is it some kind of Gay code? Or a message to scat lovers? Til my dying day I will pick up any record with Charlie Chan in the song title. The Ferry steer away from racist stereotypes (mostly) and do a rockin' song about the character Charlie Chan, which could air anywhere with little ire resulting.
Joe Butler Revelation: Revolution '69 (Kama Sutra)
Yeah, Kama Sutra is the cultural hotbed of revolution! "I'm afraid to die but I'm a man inside so I need a revolution." This is a pretty shitty mishmash of Dylan and psychedelia which sounds like it was done by a bunch of jackasses in suits and beads, the kind of hippie you see on the Mod Squad or Wild in the Streets. However, Scott the Cynic kinda digs this one. It is moronic enough to be good.
Lee Fields Bewildered b/w Tell Her I Love Her (Bedford)
Before Lee Fields had a second career fronting bad ass funk bands in New York City, he was backed by okay soul bands. Here he does one ballad and one JB-lite number. Interesting if you really dug his Problems LP (which is one of the best funk records ever released) and want to hear where he came from, but not a necessity.
The Feathers Give Him Love b/w To Be Loved By You (Kapp)
Give Him Love is bubblegum with a fuzz guitar and a nice sing-a-long chorus. To Be Loved... is a nice soul ballad. Nothing special here but if you stumble on it for a buck, better than a candy bar.
Corkey The Cat b/w Hey Mister (1-2-3)
No, not that Corkey! This Corkey does Sixties pop with odd changes. I really don't understand the logic of the song structure of The Cat: Symphonic pop, to swaying, to a Bo Diddley part, to a mellow string part, to a "Goin Back to blah blah blah" sounding part, to the na-na-na's. They lyrics don't make much sense. Hey Mister sounds like the Bee Gee's song Massachusetts but with a slide guitar and really, really dumb lyrics that try to be the rebel to everyman without saying anything. A curiosity if nothing else.
The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly Gypsy Lover (Mercury)
Sometimes I forget how fucking big Grand Funk was and how many shitty bands they inspired. Here is one of them. Funny thing is that if you pumped up the fuzz and the volume on this these guys would go over with all the assholes who try to be the MC5 of 2005. Yes, this is that shitty.
Bunker Hill Hide & Go Seek Pt 1 &amp;amp; 2 (Mala)
GREAT early R&B song by the incomparable Bunker Hill. Screaming, gut bucket, dance tune that might as well be proto-rap. I know that there is this record and I've heard a track on one of the Back From the Grave comps, but never ever find stuff by him. Has anyone comped this guy's singles yet? Norton! Here is a project!!!
El Nino Dice Go-Go
Milissa Sierra / Los Espias Baby A Go-Go LP (Columbia Mexico, 1967)
There are times when you know that the record gods are on your side. Friday, I walk into my favorite record store. It has been a month since I've been there because I have been too damn busy to visit. The owner of the store is excited that I have shown up. He tells he has several boxes of LPs that no one has gone through and there is sure to be some stuff in them that would interest me. He points me to the boxes and I dig. There are several records from Latin America that look interesting - a ten inch by Germaine Montero, a Nicaraguan LP called Miriam, and Baby A Go-Go. I have no idea what is hiding in the grooves of any of them but I know that I will be paying two or three bucks each for them so why not take a chance?
I get to my lady's place and throw Baby A Go-Go on the turntable and WOW! It is the reason why I hunt for records. I look at the cover and a baby is shimmying on the head of a drum. The back has song lyrics and kid-like drawings next to the song titles. In the middle back are liner notes by the songwriter/producer Milissa Sierra, along with a picture of her (she is a handsome woman). I've heard tons of kid's records and many "of foriegn origin," but I wasn't prepared to hear a great Mexican garage punk record! Whaaaaat? Yup, all the songs are done by a 60s garage band, but it gets better. Unlike a lot of non-American garage bands, Los Espias do not forget the land from which they dwell. Mexican melodies and musical hooks pop up throughout the record. The screaming, shouting, and cheering is also turned up a notch.
All these extra touches happen because it is a kid's record and, for the most part, there are no rules when it comes to children's music. You can mesh any and all music forms, you can sing about a frog or your backyard, you can stop the song where you "shouldn't" and throw in a part that "doesn't fit." There is more freedom in children's music than there is in any other genre. (For a great contemporary children's band that plays both rock and roll and doesn't obey any rules, please check out Dragibus.)
I spent Sunday afternoon looking for info on this record and got nowhere. I do know that Milissa Sierra wrote and produced a few other kid's records, but I know nothing about Los Espias. So on that note I can't be helpful. I can however turn you on to Baby A Go-Go. Pull up those diapers and get ready to rock!
The Three Suns Favorites 10” (Royale, 1954)
My introduction to the Three Suns came with this record. A thrift store find, it is a gem. Eight eerie tunes, pushed along by organ, accordion, and guitar, make up this record. This is a “greatest hits” collection of sorts, though, from what I can gather, two songs are exclusive to this release.
What makes a good Three Suns’ record is the simplicity of the songs. I don’t mean the songs are easy to play or are dumb. As far as I can tell it takes a bit of skill to play a Three Suns’ song. No, what I mean is that the arrangement of their best work is simply done. There is no clutter. The songs are stripped down to accommodate the three instruments and nothing but. Sans filler, the instruments, especially the accordion and organ are allowed to fill space in such a way that the songs swell when they need to and when an instrument drops out, the others are accentuated the way they should be.
The organ and accordion (and the engineering) also bring an otherworldliness to the songs. My first impression upon hearing the song, Midnight Time, was, “These guys must be dead now.” The songs are haunted and very much of a different time. And, yeah, sure, they were recorded in the 1940s and 50s but they sound like they would have been of a different time even then. Even the vocalist (who, I don’t know) sounds not of this (or any) time. To say that the Three Suns’ music sounds timeless is not untrue.
After this record, I bought several other Three Suns albums. One was a collection of dance tunes. The other a record from the 1960s, with a line-up different than the classic combo of Al and Morty Nevins and cousin, Artie Dunn. I was disappointed. Unfortunately there are dozens of Three Sons records and there is not real way to determine which one is good and which one is bad other than to listen to the things. Fortunately, Three Suns records turn up in thrift stores, in good condition, fairly often, though this one is pretty scarce.
Music for Parties
Silicon Teens Music for Parties LP (Sire, 1980)
There is a long list of subgenres that have been unacceptable to the critical czars of rock & roll, the rock establishment. Until recently, bubblegum music has not been given any due. Humor in rock & roll has never been valued. Punk rock not from London or New York is shunned. Non-Anglo/American rock & roll is pretty much ignored (unless it is Krautrock). Novelty records are ridiculed. And party records aren’t taken seriously.
In some ways, critical blindness to the above genres is fine. Too often critics and academics analyze music as if they were boning a fish. Word after word slices through the meat of the music and what we are left with is dead, dry bone.
Luckily, rock & roll spawned a fan culture, a universe of freaks who talk and write passionately about bands and records, people who do not know or care about the rules our cultural czars come up with. It is with this attitude I present to you the Silicon Teen’s Music for Parties LP.
Read the sleeve of Music for Parties and you would think that the Silicon Teens were “real” band. In reality, the Teens are one guy, Daniel Miller, the man who created Mute Records with his seminal synth punk/industrial “band,” the Normal.
The Silicon Teens are like the Normal in that they are pretty much synthesizer, drum machine and vocals. But unlike the Normal, the Teens are not full of dark humor and angst. Instead, the Teens are, as advertised, Party Music. Because they are all electronic and were around when all electronic bands were rare, they are considered a novelty. Toss away the two labels and what you really get is a rock & roll band.
The Teens cover some classic rock & roll songs (Judy in Disguise, Memphis Tennessee, Let’s Dance, Red River Rock, etc.) and play some tasty originals. All the songs are poppy and full of fun. The direct, anti-experimental approach the Teens take to rock’n roll makes me think that if the Ramones or the Rezillos went electronic, this is what they would sound like. For a recent example, I point you to Amsterdam’s Nazis from Mars.
One would think that with Daniel Miller’s legacy, the Silicon Teens would be taken seriously or at least given their due. They are not. Though they were clearly out in front in applying electronics to pop and should be seen as punk pioneers, The Teens rarely rate mention by rock & punk intelligencia. But, who cares anyway? Critical ignorance means you can find this record in bargain bins with ease. And please do. You won’t be disappointed.
T.V. Playtime is one of the Silicon Teens' originals. Just like Eddie was originally a hit for Heinz Burt, the bass player for the Tornados. It was written by Geoff Goddard in tribute to Edie Cochran. The original single was produced by Joe Meek.
Love God, Love One Another
Black Humor Love God, Love One Another LP (Fowl, 1982)
I first heard of the band Black Humor as many others did, via a review in an early Maximum Rocknroll, in which the band was taken to task for the reverse label of this LP being a graphic of a swastika made from crutches, song titles such as Auf Weidersehn Juden, and lyrics making fun of teenage political punks who had the answer to all the world's problems. The review received a reply from one of the band members. He stated that the symbolism of a swastika made out of crutches should be pretty obvious, that Auf Weidersehn was about people playing victim and the band had Jewish band members who agreed with the song's sentiments, and that teenage political punks do not have the answer to all the world's problems. He added that any intelligent person would have been able to figure these things out and if anyone wanted to hear what Black Humor was about than they should check the record out themselves and ignore MRR.
Now I've never been a MRR basher and think that many of its critics tend to pick mercilessly at a few obvious faults and blow them up out of proportion. They give MRR too much credit for "brainwashing" the scene and not enough for aiding the internationalization of hardcore punk and the revival of the DIY punk (including garage punk) scene of the 1990s. However, it is very easy to box MRR up as just some piece of agitprop when moronic reviews such as the Black Humor one appeared in its pages. To MRR's credit they let the band respond to the review (to which MRR replied that they would take a wait and see attitude toward the band).
This little controversy wedged itself deep enough in my teenage mind that when I came across a copy at a Tower Records warehouse sale in the early 80s, I snatched it up. Thinking I was in for the most offensive record ever made, I was sorely disappointed when I got home and played it. Ironically, the record from that haul that grabbed me the most was the pre-nazi Skrewdriver's All Skrewed Up. The Black Humor record? It got filed between Black Flag and Black Randy, taken out once a year for a relisten...and it still didn't click.
Fast forward to the late 90s and Min from the A Frames is raving about this band Black Humor. I tell him I have the record and I'll trade him for something. I don't know what garbage I got from him. Maybe it was twenty-five bucks. I don't know, but six months later, I find another copy in a local record store. I buy it and play it thinking maybe Min is right. Nope. Nothing. I throw it on ebay and sell it for forty bucks. A couple years pass and yet another copy shows up in a record store. It is priced at $3.98 so I buy it. I get home and throw it in a stack. Some months go by and I finally get to it. I don't know what it was but that listen it finally sinks in. What makes this revelation so strange is that the record should have grabbed me years earlier.
Black Humor's one and only LP has the mood of Cleveland 1976. You can easily imagine them on some bill with the Styrenes or Pere Ubu. They share the same raw emotional streak that runs through the Electric Eels or Rocket from the Tombs, as well as the darkness of the Easter Monkeys of a few years later. But Black Humor wasn't from Cleveland. They were from San Francisco, home of the most politically minded bands of the day, many of them playing at speeds and with pep far more spunky than what came out of Cleveland.
Ahhh but Frisco was also home of Flipper, not to mention a healthy synth punk and pre-dance industrial scene. Looked at in that context, Black Humor fits very nicely in the city's "art punk" underground. Black Humor takes Flippers nihilism and runs with it. They lyrics are hateful, wishing people dead or being glad that someone has died. The song titles are among my favorites: Too Stupid to Die, Kill Them!, I Should've let 'em Die! Subtlety has little room in the words of Black Humor. The music, though, does have undertones and switches mood. It also has a sound that is markedly San Francisco and that is because the guy recording it is Tom Mallon, who also turned the knobs for Toiling Midgets, Flipper, Arkansas Man, Fuck Ups, and many other of Frisco's glummest.
From what I've been able to find out, Love God... only came out in a pressing of 500, so it is a miracle that I found three copies of the thing. Each copy is in a hand made cover. About half the songs on the record are as good as any American DIY punk ever made. The other half are okay.