All My Vinyl, part v
Here’s another batch of write-ups I did for the minds.com Vinyl Collector group, aggregated for my convenience and yours. You know, just trying to make our junk internet a little less ephemeral and more useful, at least with regard to my stuff, a futile, thankless job as I’m well aware. If you’d like to join in the fun (and it is fun) you can sign up for minds here; or just lurk. Bye for now.
Funky Junction — Funky Junction Play a Tribute to Deep Purple / Stereo Gold Award Records / MER 373 / UK / 1973
On the back cover: “Funky Junction are an exciting new group that has the pulse of today. In this tribute to Deep Purple, they play many of Purple’s hits. UK and world wide audiences are acclaiming them for the great group they are.”
Record collecting can lead you down some strange, not to say stupid, pathways, especially if you’re a semi-autistic completist, like me, and also especially if you really love Thin Lizzy, like me. There’s no earthly reason to own (or know about) this not-so-hot Deep Purple “tribute” exploitation album other than the fact the band playing on it happens to be a fledgling Thin Lizzy (that is, Phil Lynott, Eric Bell, and Brian Downey.) Well three fourths of the band, anyway. They recruited an Ian Gillan sound-alike and keyboardist from the Dublin group Elmer Fudd to make it sound more Deep Purply.
(I, of course, and the world I suspect, would prize it more highly had Phil Lynott done the lead vox, but his decision not to “go there” was probably wise. You can hear his distinctive bellow in the largely buried back-ups from time to time.)
This album was a straight-up sleazy low budget knockoff to capitalize on the popularity of Deep Purple, put together by a German businessman-hustler called Leo Muller (alias Dave Miller.) There are actually only five DP covers on it… the rest are public domain standards like the slightly re-titled “Rising Sun” (as in “House of the…”) and some funk-psych instrumentals, all credited to Muller on the label. The generic cover bears no credits at all, and the band pictured is actually Hard Stuff (whose guitarist, John DuCann, just coincidentally played with Thin Lizzy briefly on a 1973 German tour.)
Thin Lizzy, still largely unknown in 1972, was paid £1000 for their services. They rehearsed for a couple of hours, then recorded the whole album in one day. And it shows. This is some sloppy playing, slapdash production, and questionable engineering. However, there is an appealing energy in it nevertheless. I’m sure it is substantially a matter of projection on my part, but I believe I can discern some hints of the Thin Lizzy spirit somewhere in the mix. Even if it is chiefly of only historical interest, that’s something I love and I will take in any form I can get it in.
I was in fact pleasantly surprised when I put it on today for the first time in some time. The instrumental “Palamatoon” is credited to Muller, but sounds very much like an improvised jam to me and it is some quirky psych go-go music that would work great in a film or on a mix tape. Just knowing that Phil Lynott is playing the bass would be enough for me, but that’s an easily recognizable Eric Bell on the guitar, drunk-stoned-sloppy as it is and spiraling out of control as it does in several places. It’s still a sound I dig, whiskey in the jar and all that. And “Dan” is an elegiac guitar only rendition of (I think) “Londonderry Air”/ “Danny Boy”, Hendrix-inspired yet quite apparently Bell’s work and really quite lovely. Fight me.
(There’s another, even more preposterous, Funky Junction record out there, a similarly sketchy Gladys Knight and Pips rip-off… fortunately it does not secretly feature Thin Lizzy, nor, as far as I know, any other band I am compelled to try to collect in toto. So I don’t have to try to collect it. Thanks for that one Leo, seriously.)
I say this every time I put it on: I don’t know if I’ll ever listen to it again, but, you know, I’m glad I have it. Thin Lizzy forever.
(Original post on minds.com here.)
The Humans — “Beat” e.p. / Beat Records / HIT 1234 / 1979
As so often, it was a matter of “right place at the right time” for this record and me. The time was 1979, the place was Bay Area college radio which turned my high school bedroom into a showcase for what was happening in the punk / “new wave” (which was still happening, though arguably winding down.) This encompassed the great and important along with the obscure and, well, let’s not say unimportant but rather relatively ephemeral.
Because that’s the thing about those years of radio: it was never clear to me which was which. It was on the radio. It all seemed like a big deal, whether it was the Clash, or, e.g. the Humans. The song “I Live in the City” was played a lot on KALX, KFJC, KZSU. I had no way of knowing the band doing it was a small time local group, small time relative to the Clash anyhow: in effect, to use the term I coined to describe my own group much later, a “dumb little band.” Regardless, this song got way, way into my head, just as important to me then and now as “Tommy Gun” or “No Action” or “Alternative Ulster” or whatever. I tend to think of it when I’m walking around cities, and have for decades. It’s possible I may have seen the film/video on a VideoWest broadcast as well: viewing it now it’s familiar and I’m sure it would have appealed to me. A lot of punk bands had songs about being “in the city.” I got that. I took this one just as seriously as any of them, though I detect a bit of irony and silliness now that I was more or less blind to at the time.
Anyway, that riff is seared into my brain. And I still love it. I tried many times to write my own songs like this, never managing it.
I doubt many people these days think too much about the Humans, and I don’t know much about them, other that they were from Santa Cruz and that a couple of members were, in an earlier era, in the rather more well-known (but still pretty obscure in the grand scheme) surf band Eddie and the Showmen. Subsequent to this (I would venture to guess) self-released 7" e.p. they had a brief stint in legitimate show business: I.R.S. released, in the following year, a double 7" featuring “I Live in the City” (not sure if it’s the same recording) and “Play” along with a couple of live surf instrumentals, followed by an LP (which I haven’t heard.) Listening to the song now, though, man it really takes me back, which is, I must admit, bittersweet. Those were not good times. But records like this, and this particular one, were the good bits.
Iggy Pop — New Values / Arista / AB 4237 / 1979
“I wish life could be Swedish magazines…”
My favorite by far of Iggy’s post-Stooges records and among my favorite albums full stop. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the Bowie stuff, but this one has something that that stuff doesn’t, owing perhaps, to a meat-and-potatoes rock and roll approach… or something.
Despite the bare-bones construction, the production nevertheless conceals some truly dizzying artistic and production subtlety. Former late-period Stooge and Kill City collaborator James Williamson deserves a lot of credit for producing this thing with uncharacteristic restraint while preserving the unique energy of the performances. Though Williamson is credited on guitar as well, he has acknowledged that it was Scotty Thurston (who played the live piano on Metallic KO and on Kill City) who laid down almost all of the guitar on the record, as well as keys and arranging the (subtle but great) horns. In fact, while Iggy’s singing and writing, and, just, sheer presence are as compelling as ever, the real star of the show here is Scotty Thurston’s interlocking stereo guitar tracks, surely the best Stones-style guitars ever recorded by anyone other than actual Stones. And possibly better, in a certain sense, as it distills that approach to its essence. By my lights some of the best guitar playing and sounds ever pressed onto vinyl.
The whole thing has an overarching, quite compelling, mood as well, as consistent in its own way, as that on the Stooges’ Funhouse, and never approached thereafter. The sounds alone create a world of their own. The lyrics are by turns dumb, clever, absurd, surreal, and genuinely poetic. A lot of it is just beautiful nonsense, for which there is certainly a place in rock and roll. Otherwise there’s no nonsense at all on this record. It’s a pure, guitar-fueled, rock and roll locomotive, unlike anything else in Iggy’s catalogue or anyone else’s.
— whole album on youtube.
— Here’s Iggy’s legendary appearance Australian TV, a chaotic interview followed by some fantastic refusnik lip synching of “I’m Bored:; no one else, surely, can stick the mic down his pants with such, er, business-like panache.
— original post on minds.
Herman Brood and His Wild Romance — Herman Brood and His Wild Romance / Arista / SW 50059 / 1979 (1978)
Herman Brood was an iconic rock and roller, kind of like a Dutch Iggy Pop but with a lot more sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Especially, it seems, the drugs. His struggle to keep his head above water in the stormy sea of rock and roll excess and debauchery finally ended when he ran off a hotel roof and fell to his death, leaving behind a wry suicide note (“party on, I’ll be seeing you”) and a rather astonishing artistic legacy. It certainly astonished me when I stumbled on it, anyway. He seems to be virtually unknown outside his home country (despite a bit of a blip on American music blogs sparked by the 2007 release of the Dutch biopic Wild Romance — that’s how I stumbled on him.) But he’s the real deal.
The present copy is an American 1979 release that substantially replicates his most notable Dutch album, 1978’s Shpritsz (which is German slang for “syringe” evidently.) It is a basic, classic, standard mid-70s rock and roll sound (think Goat’s Head Soup era Stones, or New York Dolls) in big stage revue form (horns, female back-up singers, big arrangements); it’s also just a bit new wave-ified. But it has a little something extra that is kind of hard to put your finger on.
Nevertheless I’m going to try to put my finger on it. It’s partly the cautionary tale of the man who rode the rock and roll beast all the way into the ground: when you know the ending, you can hear the record as the soundtrack to a tragedy, a denouement that many of the songs directly foreshadow. (Nothing new about this in rock and roll, of course, but this is an example of it.) Mostly, though, it is the very familiar, almost “traditional,” sound referenced above made just ever so slightly strange by the underlying Dutch identity. He sings convincingly in English, but the vowels are just a bit unusual. Mick Jagger, presumably, taught him to address us as “child”: it sounds quite different coming out of Brood’s larynx, but there’s still undeniable “soul” there, which is a surreal combination when you’re not used to it. (More “soul” than Jagger, you might be saying, and I’d say you’d be right.) The lyrics are, quite unusual in such a situation, rather clever and manifestly literate; but also, ever so slightly askew. e.g., can you think of another rock and roll anthem that reads like this?
I’ve seen the macrodynamic, and the psychedelic trash
Symphonic Nellies, pretending high class
I’ve seen those funky assed turkeys
On their big platform disco shoes
The new wave hype, the old jive juice.
I love the way he says “funky assed turkeys.” And I love the line: “Rock & Roll addiction is a festerin’ habit / You gotta keep on playin’ like a paranoid rabbit.” If you don’t love it too, well then, I don’t know what to do with you.
It is a true rock and roll anthem too, the real deal, as great as anything in that category. The fact that it ends with “when I do my suicide for you, I hope you’ll miss me too”, well, see above. Foreshadowing, yeah? From the guy who sang “Dope Sucks” just a few songs ago, no less. I’m not saying it’s a great thing that self-destruction is part of the wild romance of rock and roll, obviously, but it is part of it, and much great art has been created by people like Herman Brood, singing and dancing, and writing, their way to destruction and oblivion. Well, we’re all doing that, in a way, aren’t we?
(Black Francis of the Pixies recorded an album consisting entirely of songs that reference Brood, which I haven’t heard yet. I first read about it during that 2007 music blog blip and meant to check it out but never did. Maybe one day.)
notes: — Herman Brod and His Wild Romance, a great performance of “Rock ‘n Roll Junkie”
— another great performance, “Dope Sucks”
— Herman Brod and His Wild Romance — Shpritsz LP.
— Herman Brod and His Wild Romance US LP on discogs.
— Black Francis — Bluefinger on discogs.
Dr Hook, the Rolling Stones, censored songs…
On the subject of Dr Hook (stepping off of GenXpat’s post of Dr Hook’s “Sharing the Night Together”), here’s a charming oddity — the BBC decided that Dr. Hook’s big hit “The Cover of Rolling Stone” couldn’t be played because its mention of Rolling Stone magazine constituted advertising, which was against their policy.
A gang of BBC DJs got around this by playing the record in studio and yelling “Radio Times” over the chorus. (The Radio Times was, and still is, I presume, a TV Guide-like magazine published by the BBC itself.)
The record company did a pressing of this version for British radio but it came too late to catch the buzz.
To my knowledge, Dr Hook never made the cover of the Radio Times. Still, in either form, this is one of my favorite songs. Lyrics by Shel Silverstein like all those old Dr Hook songs. I used to have this single when I was, like, nine, and I used to scream it out continually, loud but with a flat, semi-autistic affect. “Fox on the Run” too. I was that kind of kid.
So I was thinking about that Dr Hook “Cover of the Radio Times” thing (where the BBC DJs effectively edited forbidden lyrics by yelling new ones over it in an impromptu “overdub”) and I dug out the Rolling Stones’ Goat’s Head Soup, thinking I’d do a Vinyl Collector write-up on it, because, famously the song “Star Star” (né “Starfucker”) was heavily censored on the US vinyl release version. So I looked it up on YouTube and I learned five things I didn’t know:
[a] that it is possible now to hear the uncensored version;
[b] that, for whatever reason, I prefer the censored one! Probably it’s mostly because it’s the one I grew up with, but the sloppy, utterly confusing overdub of “pussy” and the sudden, clumsy reverb effect to obscure the name John Wayne are hilarious and rather charming. The recording seems a bit flat and featureless without them. I spent many many hours of my obviously misspent youth trying to figure out what they were saying and referring to with the line about fruit and Carly Simon’s you-know-what, which I wouldn’t have understood at the time and maybe still don’t quite get. The best part, in a way, is that Steve McQueen remains crystal clear when he makes his entrance in the lyrics because he’s the guy they got a written promise from not to sue them.
[c] If there is a video of the censored version anywhere on YouTube, I couldn’t find it! I’m an anti-censorship guy as you know, but as I prefer the censored mix, I’m glad I have the record, reversing the usual state of affairs. Kinda strange.
[d] It’s probably the greatest Rolling Stones song, certainly my favorite to listen to at this particular moment.
[e] looking at the lyrics, I really really thought the line was “yeah you and me we made Fred Astaire, balling through the silver screen.” I used to love that it referenced Fred Astaire along with John Wayne, even though it arguably sullied their memories, but now that I know it doesn’t do that I feel a little diminished.