28 February 2011

Lawnmower Deth - Can I Cultivate Your Groinal Garden?

OK, clearly I can't manage weekend updates - too much going on, I am crap and human.  Hurrah.
I'll actually write other things at the weekend, I think. However that doesn't stop this track 23 being shorter than it took to write this introduction.  Seven entire seconds....

It's there between 2.52 and 2.56. So a little faster live.  The above video is what you can really call 'their greatest hits - live'  In two and a half minutes. So what type of music were they? Cornball thrash metal.  A bit like Napalm Death but with northern humor. Not many bands can get away with songs like "Weebles Wobble, but they never fall down" and "You've got no legs, don't come crawling to me"

Unsuprisingly, not many videos of them or that track.  They were great and inspired far too many bands. Really.  That first album of theirs - everyone who was into metal bought. Superb, immature piss taking and fun.
Do you want to know how popular they really were?  They appeared on Boon in the late 80's as themselves. Now that's popular....

As a band they took on a variety of nom-de-plumes based on quality lawnmowing devices. My favourite was the bass player "Mighty-mow Destructa-mo". Even for one of their Christmas shows they came on stage in the style of Judas Priest (who rode motorbikes on), except on ride on lawnmowers.  They never made it big, unsurprisingly, and split up in 1994, after about 6 years. They were thought of as a comedy band and were never taken seriously, simple as that.  They tried at the end to tap into the 'new punk' ethos coming out of America - Blink 182 and the like, but it was too late - even a cover of Kim Wilde's "Kids in America" didn't help...

But as time went on their influence came to the surface with bands that came to the fore.  So much so they were asked to support "Bullet for my Valentine" and play at the Download festival. They, of course had to find each other, buy some instruments and learn how to play their instruments again. But that would be the easy bit....

Since then they have been touring again, happy, stupid and employed in what they loved to do in the late 80's.  Lucky Sods.

25 February 2011

John Coltrane - Psalm

At last, a bit of Jazz - nice.

Not the easiest piece to 'get' and it may just sound like a bunch of 'noodling', but take it from me when it comes to 'Good noodling' and 'Bad noodling' this is the best.

It is the fourth and final section of one of the most important albums in jazz - A Love Supreme, which is one of those albums if I find it in a strangers collection, I know I will like them. To lots of people it does souns a bit like this though:


The whole of the revolution of jazz at around 1958/59 with Miles Davis et al probably culminated in this album, full of brand new ideas of modality and improvisation, which have inspired just about every genre of music, albeit without direct knowledge of this work. Psalm, which closes the album actually has lyrics which he 'interprets' with the horn - playing the words. A musical recitation, if you will.

No, I don't follow it either. If you want a sample of these lyrics to follow....

"God breathes through us so completely...
so gently we hardly feel it... yet,
it is our everything.

Thank you God.


All from God.

Thank you God. Amen.

No.  Still don't get it.
What I hear is a spiritual, religious piece full of melancholy, passion and heart. Relaxing and awesome in the true sense of the word.

If you like it, go and buy the album - it IS a classic. So there-fore always cheap.

24 February 2011

Queen - A Kind of Magic

I'll be honest, I was tempted not to do this track, but it turned up, and I did say "The Good, the Bad, the Crappy".  And this is crappy.

Now let's get this straight - why is this on my playlist? Sentimentality. I loved Queen. I thought they were the greatest.  Brian May was one of the main reasons I liked up a guitar. This track is pure 80's trash though.

Queen started as a faux Led-Zep band with loud, interesting guitars and really very heavy musicianship. They then went through a 'prog' style, ending, miserably as a pop dinosaur. No inventiveness, making up soundtracks for Flash (pretty good) and Highlander (tripe) which this is from.

At the time, I was a schoolboy, and nobody had heard of rap or metal, and grunge wasn't even on the cards in '86 in a Home Counties Grammar school. So I liked Queen. At least it wasn't Jackson. I played this album mercilessly, One Vision rocked harder than anything before and Princes of the Universe had the fastest guitar I had ever heard. Wonderful.

This was the title track and listening back to it now, I am shamed. It did get me to go back and get the older albums, which was how I really got into music.  If you want a 'heads up' go back to 'Queen 2' or 'News of the World' great stuff there for a pop band. So thank you for that Freddie. Shame this song is so lifeless.

The live show when it was on The Tube on Channel 4, my parents videoed for me, and I still embarrasingly know it by heart. Freddie prancing around, Brian May with his stupid hair and jacket, Roger Taylor who will never win a drummer of the year competition and John Deacon, who remains someone to look upto in music. 
Yes, his playing is bloody great for a pop band (listen to Liar and even some of the later stuff on The Miracle), he wrote some great songs (Another one Bites the Dust anyone?)
But not that.  When Freddie died, he quit. Queen was over and apart from the tribute gig (I was there) he quit.  I think he even stated "Queen died with Freddie, why try and continue - it's pointless".  Quite bloody right. That thing with Paul Rogers was a joke. And as for the version of We are the Champions with Robbie Williams..."It is one of the greatest songs ever written but I think they've ruined it." "I don't want to be nasty but let's just say Robbie Williams is no Freddie Mercury. Freddie can never be replaced – and certainly not by him"

He had made his money, lost a friend, no need to roll out the rotting carcass of a band to make money from idiots.  Respect due.

Whatever your feelings about Queen, this track and it's members you have to admit, they could put on a live show.

23 February 2011

Bomb the Bass featuring Justin Warfield - Bug Powder Dust

After yesterdays entry I went and re-listened to almost exclusively Guided by Voices.  So what should be here is something by them.  It isn't, because it didn't really follow the rules to the right, so track 46 of a previous day (twice twenty three) has been in reserve and it's another bloody corker.

Bomb the Bass (Tim Simeon) was one of the most important Hip Hop acts in the UK in the late 80's introducing to the mainstream dance music with cuts such as "Beat This" and his work with S-Express and production with Nenah Cherry. It can be said that the whole "Smiley Face as part of Acid house" culture can be traced back to TIm Simeon's first album, where a smiley stained with blood graced the cover.  Did nobody realise it came from Alan Moores Watchmen at the time?

Justin Warfield as the rapper just creams it in this - as an artist he has covered just about everything to some extent from Jazz to Physcadelic rock, but he will be associated with this track more than anything else. Unless he murders Bono. Just putting it out there.

The track samples an old bassline from Flora Pumin by Weather Report's bass player - below you can see how it just called out to be sampled.

But that's not what sets it apart.  For me two things are paramount about this track:
Firstly, it has been used and remixed so many times - K&D, Dust Brothers and the Chemical Brothers have all released mixes - you have heard it before. It really did help start Breakbeat and was on a hundred different compilations
Secondly and this is why it is so personal for me is the lyrical content. It may seem at first to be a bit 'weird' and 'druggy', but when you take the lyrics apart, it is an homage to William Burroughs and particularly to "The Naked Lunch" which I had been reading for the third time when the track was released, and just about getting to understand. Burroughs himself had pioneered 'cut and paste' in literal form way before DJ Yoda was born and had used it to great effect in Naked Lunch. I wish I could expand upon how the Beatnik movement of American literature affected me when I came across it, but I just don't have the talent.

Cronenburg tried to make Naked Lunch into a film.  He clearly read different things in the book than I did, as it doesn't really have such a defined story as he puts down on celluloid. A better media form for his work has been achieved, I think with putting it to music - which the Disposable Heroes of Hiphocracy managed, but they are sure to turn up later.

It's complete freedom in prose was something that chimed with me, you didn't need to remember the rules such as 'never start a sentence with and or because' you don't need beginning, middle and ends. Ecstasy.

Justin raps not to 'big himslef up' along the lines of other rappers with meaningless boasts, but shouts loud in a cut up style proclaiming his understanding of Mogwamps, Black Centipedes and Bug Powder Dust - all from Naked Lunch.

Hell, as he says this track has "...more flavour than a packet of Macaroni"

22 February 2011

The Breeders - Shocker in Gloomtown (Live)

At last the Breeders. Probably my favourite rock / grunge female fronted band. And before you start joking, I can probably name a dozen others.

1 minute 23 seconds of pure noise from one guitar, playing the same note over and over again. How can that be cool? Goddamit they are, it is.
The Breeders were started by Kim Deal who at that point in the late 80's was the bass player for The Pixies.  Frank Black, however was getting a bit big for his boots, and was starting to believe all his own crap - a danger when you get famous, I believe.  There fore, when Kim came forward with a few ideas for songs, he batted them away, with an attitude which Roger Waters would look up to.  So Kim went off to start her own band.  I am sure The Breeders will turn up again here, so we can talk about the bizarre history of the personel later on.

Check out the 90's video. See it wasn't just fast because it was live. God I love the 90's underground.  Especially when it got popular. 
Now the bad news... Although this has all the hallmarks of a Breeders track, with the lo-fi pride and harmonic lyrics, it isn't theirs.  It's a cover.  No I didn't realise until recently either. Just look carefully at who is at the window....

What's worse is that I owned the original, but didn't realise it at all.  The original was by lo-fi pioneers Guided by Voices, who have aged worse than the Breeders. Except Kristen Hersh - who wasn't really in the breeders, I know.

Guided by Voices were another early 90's outfit (from Dayton, Ohio near half the band) speciallising in sub 3 minutes songs recorded on poor quality equipment.  They were however rather prolific and this track is from way back when....  I think they may have even changed more recent performances closer to this version - why not.

Geting back to Frank Black, after a couple of successes with the Breeders, he realised he had been a huge arsehole, and although he never apologised, he did get Kim to add more to the Pixies on later albums and tours. 

When someone is this good you don't give them a reason to quit.

21 February 2011

Brian Eno / Jah Wobble - Spinner

Now I had the weekend off, and didn't even get to 23 tracks today.  Even on my journey there and back I was listening to audiobooks or podcasts. So no music really.  Except, for some reason this album kept turning up on my travels....

Now I bought this in Stroud in 1995 and remember listening to it, half drunk on the floor of a room I was supposed to be sleeping in. It was so trippy and different to 'normal ambient' music that it kept me awake.
It is a great bit of work between the ambient guru / super producer Brian Eno and punk / dub bassist Jah Wobble. How they got together is beyond my understanding, except that they are both rather strange chaps and both prove that you can't judge a musician on his most famous or earliest bands.  If you did this should sound like a cross between P.I.L. and Roxy Music.

It was also a strange working relationship. Eno, after finishing off production duties on Bowies excellent album 'Outside' had written an entire new ambient album.  Instead of releasing it, he shipped off the tracks to Jah Wobble who remixed, cut up and re-wrote the entire thing.  Some tracks (like the one above) you can hear this more obviously than others. Really subtle ambient melodies ramped up with heavy, heavy dub lines and engineered to within an inch of its life. All in all one of my favourite of Brian Eno's works with other people.

In the liner notes Jah Wobble notes that it worked perfectly as a soundtrack for a long walk along the Grand Union canal, and with this in mind I used it to cut out the chatter along the South Coast at the weekend.  It's not a good starter for people to get into Ambient or Dub, but it certainly is accessible.

Mellow, inventive, fairly pretentious but beautiful.

17 February 2011

Phish - Bathtub Gin

Now, a track I can get my teeth into, but still only half an hour to write it all.
I love this track, so much to say, so little energy left in me today in which to say it....

A tough long day, and a worse one tomorrow, but that wont explain this little slice of childish surrealism.
I was introduced to Phish, by a certain chap, the skinny, successful version of me.  I even remember learning the guitar solo in his huge student room, trying to find somewhere to sit, whilst he joyously explained everywhere I sat had been made filthy thanks to his previous weeks experimentation.  Dirty boy.

A simple pluck/strum of the same shapes that Santana uses all the ruddy time.  What makes this better is the clean stuccato guitar playing a counter rhythm to the drums, bass walking on by and piano grabbing bits of Bernstein and Rhapsody in Blue. That, the silly lyrics, the pause at about 2.50 and the beautiful simple tuneful solo which gains a few voices singing along and then a harmony (3rd below?). I just love the Sesame Street backing vocals on the second half. Joyously free and unhinged.

Too much fun - Let's remember that Phish are a "Jam Band".  This came originally from neccessity (not knowing enough tunes) moulding themselves into a Grateful Dead type band with long improvised solos and then into a heroin addicted mess. I can't tell what they are on here, but the song is still the main focus for the people here. Therefore live, it does go on a bit, sometimes enjoyable, sometimes dreary.

My most abiding memory of it? That smelly old room, singing along to our respective girlfriends and being looked at as though we were mad.

We're all in this together and we love to take a bath.

Public Enemy - Cold Lampin with Flavor Flav

A good old bit of old school Public Enemy - just a shame it's Flavor Flav.....

Oh yes, he's lampin, lampin, he's cold cold lampin.
Probably not my first rap album, but still probably in my top 2, along with Fear of a Black Planet.  I remember a friend at school over twenty years ago lending me a cassette with these on.  It was then like nothing else I had heard.... Once upon a time, rap was new, and underground. There was serious fear amongst the white middle classes of the home counties not understanding what was going on, their little Patricks and Ruperts walking around with PE patches on their jackets along with ACDC... I remember one friends parents ripping the patches off and throwing them away because they feared he would be stabbed because of them. Nowadays I get threats of being stabbed in my Valentines cards.  Pre-printed.

It didn't stop me liking them though. Looking back the influences have spread through my appreciation of music, writing and attitude.
Musically PE and these two albums in particular were an extension of Burroughs 'cut up' ideology, just read the liner notes to the Eno/Byrne album 'My Life in the Bush of Ghosts' - Terminator X writes at length on how after hearing that album, he realised that music could be created by taking little bits of other sources and looping them. Of course we call that sampling now. Fantastically rhythmical and aggressive. Chuck D's lyrical prowess vocalised the area and situations (Nurtute rather than Nature) around him - I still rate him higher than any other rapper. The inspiration comes from the beat poets and religious and cultural icons such MLK Jr. Just imagine what came after (NWA, Onyx, RATM, Wu Tang Clan, Jay Z etc) that just couldn't have existed without him. And as for attitude, think simply accross the musical spectrum to the Metal and Punk genres - it's identical. No surprise when PE joined with Anthrax - whic in itself inspired the whole Rap/Rock genre. Not all good news then.

Then we come to Flavor Flav... so much more than just the Bez of Rap with a clock round his neck and this track proves that. A rapper in his own right - not as good as Chuck D, but still ahead of the crowd and a real showman who shows he can stand on his own here. How far does this inspiration go?

I think the weirdest usage I have seen of this track is in Jim Jarmusch's great film Ghost Dog with Forrest Whittaker. An elderly Mafioso hit man is seen reciting with love Flavor Flav's lyrics in the bathroom just before being shot in a most original way by Whittakers hit man.

Just odd, but no odder than a middle class boy at a Grammar school in England doing the same thing....

15 February 2011

Pink Floyd - Run Like Hell (DSOT)

Another case of great band, great song, poor version.
However, this was the first Pink Floyd album I ever heard and it made a great impression on me....

I went back and found that they had written some really innovative left field tunes and were groundbreaking for their time.  But that isn't really this song, this version, or to be honest, this band.

The song originally comes from what is their second best known album - The Wall.
You probably own it.
Lots of people do, to be honest.
With all the infighting that went on during this period of the bands history it can sort of be considered a solo album of Roger Waters with a couple of tracks by Dave Gilmore. And this is one of them. It comes near the end, in the middle of side 4 and was used from then on to close the live shows.

The Delicate Sound of Thunder album, which this version comes from was the first live Pink Floyd album after Waters was thrown out / quit for being a dictator / arsehole and slap bang in the middle of the eighties.  Just look at the haircuts and clothing. Pitiful.

The tour and studio album of this period are contentious for not having Waters, who was considered the main songwriter and driving force behind the post- Syd Barret Floyd. What emerged was a different beast to before - more accessible, a broader sound (note the backing singers, extra guitarist and horns) and an immensly successful touring machine. It was probably due to this popularity that the live album was released.
At the time, I loved it, finding the clear, clean recording something I could appreciate.

I first heard it at my 'Uncle' John Morgans home in Scotland when he was showing me how his expensive CD stereo worked.  I had grown up with a rickety old family Hitachi all in one record player and tape deck that couldn't amplify a fart. I didn't realise that music could be appreciated for its recording clarity - until that moment, everything was scratchy, muffled or stretched.

I went and bought a portable CD player and this album with my first couple of months pay from paper rounds and a weekend job at McDonalds. It's been that way ever since, I think.

Now there is a better live version - from the last tour they did - and you can find it on the Pulse album. Yet again, I can say "I was there". Probably not from this precise day, but the day after the seating famously collapsed. Great visuals to match a slightly better version of the band. One of the backing singers is the great Sam Brown, who I still maintain is one of the greatest female soul vocalists in Britain.

Musically, a simple sounding strummed D string with some flourishes and descending 3 note chord structure. My guitar teacher gave it to me to practice two things (i) understanding how you can use those tricky thin strings to make chords all alone without all the bass and (ii) timing.
Gilmore uses a pretty heavy delay to get all those echoing repeating notes chime out, and it has to be said, it's pretty darn difficult to keep time. Very good for practice, even now.

Now here is a rarity - the fabled recording of the original Wall tour, probably in Earls Court. Why bother with all the hiss and poor quality? I think the instruments sound better.  Later in life I found that all the recording on the DSOT had been cleaned and poished to within an inch of it's life digitally. Nowadays, to me, it sounds weak and empty - just listen to how rich this is. Perfection is not neccesary, perfection is boring and sterile. Thats why grunge came along in the 90's - to mess things up a bit.
Just watching that reminds me of a quote from Gilmore about Waters after he left; "He's a great songwriter, you can't take that away from him.  It's just that he's not a very good bass player."

Finally lets watch what it was originally written for - as part of the Alan Parker film "The Wall" - if you want to look up what it is all about, go to google. Is it alienation of touring, megalomania, paranoia, the problems of not having a father around?

Don't care.

In this, we see the hero 'Pink' transformed into a horrific Nazi figure with bother boys and horrific views to match.  Fun bit? Yes.  That is Bob Geldof, the last of the smelliest of hippies as the evil uber nazi, Pink.
Does it change the way I feel about the song itself?
A little, but it doesn't stop it being a great song. And it doesn't stop the fact that it is one of the reasons I love music as much as I do now. Thanks to John Morgans expensive stereo and a bored young boy transfixed by the chiming of a delayed guitar.

Jimi Hendrix - Daytripper

Well, I forgot to post/write one yesterday, even though track 23 was a corker, so as not to let the side down, it's a double post Tuesday.
I walked in yesterday and there was trouble with the old 'uns, Eastenders was blaring its awful shouting confrontational nonsense and I was pissed off.  I really should have played this track to remedy the situation....

This was the first Hendrix album I bought, thinking in my Naive Youth that a double album in a BBC studio would be top quality entertainment.  How wrong I was. I played it to the end and it gave me one of the worst migraine headaches of my life.  I was laid up in agony wondering how anyone could like this noise. 

However I kept to my rule about listening to music (always give it 3 plays - you never know when a tune might grow on you) and by the end I realised there was something good there.  I didn't think this man was a guitar God or even better than It Bites guitarist, but I began to appreciate the noise and songwriting.

The Live at the BBC album isn't the best, and I wouldn't reccomend it to a first time listener, but I would burn them this track - a cover of the Beatles "Day Tripper". A pretty good tune on it's own, but given the Voodoo Child treatment it really zings. Rumour has it that on the day of release of Sergant Pepper, the Beatles went out to see Hendrix play, and sat in the Royal Box.  He opened his set with a cover of their own title track, except blistering and noisy.  They were amazed that not only could someone learn the song and arrange it in such a short time, but also change it to be his own so expertly.  I really wish I could have heard it.

Another version I have never heard before, but with what sounds like steel drums! No video can I find of him playing it live. :(

However go back to the first link and play it again. 

Listen to the background vocals....

Sounds familiar doesn't it?

Could it be a certain Mr. Lennon adding a bit of extra magic?
Bloody sounds like it to me - a musical bit of history.

13 February 2011

Bonus - How to rate music in iTunes

You will have read off to the right hand side how I choose these tracks - at sort of random.

Sort of.

I use various playlists in iTunes, and when you have 60 thousand tracks in your music collection, you ought to give it some rules to play to.  I'll go into playlists and logic in iTunes at a later date, as well as slag it off a bit, but first we ought to look in to rating songs.

Rating songs is really very helpful when setting up playlists, but you need to set your rules for rating before you start playing with it.
If you right click on a track you will see one of the options is Rating - 'None' and then one to five stars.
I would prefer zero to ten stars, but I have to work with what we have.

None - Lets get the most important one out of the way first - what does 'No stars' mean? Does it mean 'I don't like this'? Does it mean 'I hate this song'? NO.
It means "I have not rated this song" - It means absence of rating.  This is really important and when you understand all that this can define when moving onto playlist generation.

***** - 5 Stars - This means as close to musical perfection as possible. No higher praise for a track, this is for the 'Desert Island Discs'.  Out of my chossen 60 thousand tracks only 900 (and dropping) tracks are worthy of 5 stars. Examples include; Bombtrack - RATM, The Grand Wazoo - Zappa and Toy Box - Portishead. Imagine a track so good that you would not grow tired of hearing it 30 times in a row. It has to be that good.

**** - 4 Stars - This means in my mind "A Great Track". Something above the ordinary, but not the best. In my library there are 1,321 songs with 4 stars.
Not something you would have played at your funeral, but something you wouldn't mind played at the disco to your wedding. Examples include; Rocky Mountain Way - Joe Walsh, Timeless - Goldie, Day Tripper - Jimi Hendrix at the BBC.

*** - 3 Stars - A pretty darn good track. Not something to live your life by or listen to three times in a row, but you wouldn't mind hearing it twice in a week. It might be worth learning it on guitar and you might sing it in the car.  There are 2,341 songs with 3 stars on my hard drive from Ohio - CSNY to Changes - David Bowie.

** - 2 Stars - A reasonable track. Nothing stand out about it, but also nothing too awful. You would like to hear it again, but probably only after a month or so. When I filter "Good and Bad" tracks, three stars and above is good, two and below isn't. Think of Mettalica's version of Breadfan - a pretty good track, nearly a three, but the production is weak, the song itself isn't really to my tastes (a bit vile) and I would be annoyed if I heard it twice on my journey to Scotland. Other examples would be Status Quos version of Wild side of Life - a great song, performed badly by boring farts.

* - 1 Star - Shit.  Awful. Kill it with fire. You want to make sure this track doesn't turn up on your iPod ever again - mark it as crap. If you have a way of marking the song as 'Crap' you can add it as a fliter on your Playlist to stop it turning up again. Now, I quite like the Beatles, but some of the tracks are pretty poor - In My Life is sappy crap - one star, 5 Piece Chicken Dinner on the Beastie Boys otherwise excellent Pauls Boutique - one star. Nightvision - Daft Punk? Over-mellow sub-standard mood killer on an otherwise superbly paced album - one star.  Phil Collins? Oh yeah, he gets it too.

The point of this is not about being super anal and marking all your songs rating them for 'musicianship, recording quality, sonwriting and diction'.  It's about helping iTunes discriminate between music you like and don't like.  When I next write a bonus it will be about Playlists and how we can get decent filters working to make the music played on your iPod a better choice.

One final thought.
You can and should change your opinion on a song at any time.  I do - a track comes on and I see it is 3 stars, but I hate it suddenly - take it down.  Whilst writing this I saw a few tracks on 5 Stars that just don't deserve it - hands up Tupac's California Love - that bad-boy is a 4 Star now as is Led Zep's Bron-y-Aur Stomp.

Moby - Thousand

Remember when Moby was cool and doing really quite experimental, diverse cutting edge dance music?

Not really a surprise seeing as he is now (a) bloody successful (b) bloody rich (c) the most boring man in music.  Just sample that old tune and put a beat on it baldy.
Many, many moons ago Moby sat down and wrote this truly weird peice of music, which I think turned up on the B-side of the original pressing of "I Feel it"

Think back to the heady days of 1993 - what were you doing, what were you listening to?
At the time, I had realised that perhaps Slayer and Queen were not the greatest and only bands in the world and there was a lot more music out there.  I was lapping it up, wherever it came from.  I remember heading round to Ian Jones pad one night with Richard 'awlright boyz' as we were slightly drunk as we were both bored, expecting to find a filth stained misery hole.

I was fairly right in my expectations - it was fairly empty except for a hole in the wall, a massive stereo, turntable, rave posters and a huge glass jar, which he was trying to fill with cigarette ash.  He refered to this jar as "Grandma" and about a year later he threw it out of the window.  The glass broke leaving a solid cylinder of condensed fag ash. Horrid.

However, I remember him playing us his favourite music which he thought we might like - and he was pretty spot on. He shoved on the soundtrack to Passion of the Christ by Peter Gabriel, UFOrb by the Orb and this monstrosity by Moby.

I believe it still holds the record for the fastest song in the Guinness book of records at a thousand beats per minute.  Hence the name.  Hopefully you have played it now and found that it starts off fairly sedately a semi-soulful techno piece of music which slowly builds to top speed over about a minute then abruptly stops.
It does this three times, and if you are in the right 'mood' that sudden stop physically and emotionally damages you. In my case, probably for life.

A stroboscope for the ears.

I loved getting this played at raves and club nights watching the dancers who were the worst for wear trying to keep up with the music unaware that it was speeding up. God bless people on drugs - always funny to watch. Nearly every time there were people dancing to this they would collapse at the end confused and exhausted.

Is it great? No
Is it groundbreaking and original? Yes
Do I love it? Yes, and everytime I hear it, I think of Ian Jones' 'Grandma' in that glass jar.

12 February 2011

Ensemble Modern / Frank Zappa - Moggio

Right off a toughy.  Why? Because there is only two recordings on YouTube of just the right version - and they are both ugly as sin. That and the performers and choice of track are not the best.

The last bit of work Frank Zappa completed before his death in 93 was a celebration of his classical and "difficult" pieces with the German Ensemble Modern.  They are pretty individual themselves, able to choose exactly which pieces of work to perform and picking ones which are not usually popular.
Not only did they ask Zappa permission to perform some of his experimental electronic music (thought of for decades as 'impossible to perform') but they financed it themselves, flying out to Laurel Canyon for practice under his supervision. 

Frank was so impressed by their ability to handle such musically dense pieces they decided to put on a show known as 'The Yellow Shark" (or Der Gelbe Hai to my german ex...) By the time this was finally performed, Zappa was so ill, he managed to make it to only one performance and passed away soon after.
For years I had the poster on my wall and treasured it. Hopefully some of the other tracks (one live album and one studio) will turn up on this blog

The track itself comes from probably my third favourite period of Zappas work, when he had the then young guitarist Steve Vai onboard. Vai first and foremost was a Zappa fan and a dilligent student of Joe Satriani and inspired by the speed of Van Halen. Even his title on the albums he appeared on was "Stunt Guitarist" due to his precise virtuosity. It was this ability to play complex fast passages that gave Frank the ability to write these rather perverse runs and flourishes knowing that they could finally be played.

In my mind there are better pieces of this style to hear on the original albums (RDNLZ) and better pieces by the Enseble Modern (G--spot Tornado and Night School). Some of the performance, particularly in the fourth movement is a bit sloppy and the bass is annoyingly loud.

What remains tantalising is the promise that there are still two finished album in the vaults - one of 'Modern Music for Dance bands' called "Now Dance Me This" as well as Zappa conducting the Ensemble Modern through the formative works of Edgar Varese and Igor Stravinsky.

We can but wait for the Zappa Family Trust to remove their fingers from their arseholes.

11 February 2011

Chas and Dave - Margate

I'd rather have me a day down Margate with all me family.

I thought it would take longer than 3 days before I had to explain my music tastes to this level already, but rules are rules and this is the 23rd track to be played today, so I'd better explain myself. Firstly, press play for 2 minutes of Cockney nonsense.

God almighty it's awful isn't it? So why is it on my iPod and why the hell is it rated and turning up on any playlist not titled "don't play this".
Simple - I like it.
History wise, I'm supposed to be related through my motthers parents to one of them.  Which one? Nobody seems to remember, but thats by the by. The early eighties were a strange old time for music, Glam had gone and punk/post punk wasn't really available on Tony Blackburns Saturday morning radio show. We had this instead. My brother and I knew loads of Chas and Dave because (i) it was on the Radio (ii) you could easily remember the lyrics, they were clear and repeated a lot and (iii) its designed for a sing-a-long.

Even now that we are 'grown up' and well spoken middle class chaps brought up in the home counties, we still like Chas and Dave, it won't be the last time they turn up here.

Margate itself was probably their biggest hit, remeniscing over family jaunts down to the seaside town of Margate which was almost designed and certainly boomed with the 'working classes'. Like in the video, huge groups of family and work colleagues would band together to rent a coach and head down to the seaside for the day to "have a pill of jellied eels at the cockle stall".  I've never had eels or cockles and the only pills I have are from the doctors.

It doesn't stop it from being exactly what it is - a harmless bit of 'rockney' fun.
As for having a "Day down Margate with all my family"? Well, that would be a bloody nightmare.

10 February 2011

Jimi Hendrix - All Along the Watchtower

Thank God the second one wasn't something dreadful, but probably one of the greatest cover versions.

The first time I heard it properly and appreciated it was in Withnail and I as the heroes head out of London in a half broken Mk2 Jag into the hellish weekend in the country.  The director Bruce Robinson wanted the two Hendrix track in his film so much he ponied up £30,000 of his own money to make sure they were in.  That's the kind of love people have for this track.

Originally written and performed by Bob Dylan in a slightly different guise only six months before Hendrix released his version, it was clearly the product of one of Dylans falls into christianity and religion.

Just listen to that bloke go on....
Hendrix, however heard something different to other people and reworked the song into something far greater.  Clearly having a vision of what he wanted it to sound like, he took ages making sure the version people would remember would be just right.  His quest for perfection so pissed off Noel Redding he walked out of the session. Eventually after getting through a couple of session musicians Hendrix himself played bass on the final version.

Unlike yesterdays look at Raw Power, Hendrix knew his way around the studio and spent months redubbing lines, re-doing solos until he was happy.  The finished song was released and hit No 5 in the UK charts. The flowing Wes Montgomery 'octave' runs and jazzy double stops between lines is pure Hendrix and it's this version that most people copy.

Not the greatest quality, but the song, as they say lives on.  Bob Dylan loved it - wheras most people I am sure, rather resent cover versions, Dylan said this:
"It overwhelmed me, really. He had such talent, he could find things inside a song and vigorously develop them. He found things that other people wouldn't think of finding in there. He probably improved upon it by the spaces he was using. I took license with the song from his version, actually, and continue to do it to this day."

 Pretty gracious.  Whenever I hear it, I'm always impressed by the space age engineering and swooping notes from left to right during the solo and am taken back to that great journey to Penrith at the end of the Sixties with a drunk co-pilot and no bloody Asprin.

09 February 2011

Iggy and The Stooges - Gimmie Danger

Before any "Lust for Life Insurance" there was a band called The Stooges in Detroit which was probably one of the main predocessors of punk. Their singer was a kid called Jim Osterburg but luckily he changed it.

Gosh darn it - this song is the same age as me, and Iggy Pop is probably the only person on the planet who has aged worse than me. This song hasn't though.

No video from 37 years ago, but that doesn't stop this being a fantastic rocking track - with the raw detroit sound mellowed only slightly by the addition of a plinking reppetetive piano. How? What? Who?

Well for their third album, things were not going well for the Stooges, alcohol, drugs, fighting - the usual for a band which was so original and not getting any airplay or notice in the wider world.  That is to say except for a certain Mr Bowie.  David Bowie brought the human scrotum that is Iggy Pop over to the UK to get to record a solo album. Didn't work out so they went back to LA and grabbed the old band.

If you want to know more on the story of Pop and Bowie - go and watch Velvet Goldmine.
Three warnings though -
(i) it's not 100% fact. Probably about 50%
(ii) you get to see Ewan McGregors 'bits' - no need for that.
(iii) and unrelated - I am in it.  Oh yes. It is true. I was paid in cigarettes and beer.
     A fiver to anyone who can find a frame with of me in this film.

However, back to the story Mr Pop was going to produce the thing himself. During what can only be considered one of the happiest accidents of all time, the heroin addicted Pop bounced all the instruments, including drums down from 24 tracks to one, and the levels all far too high.


Long story short, he called for help and got David Bowie to spend what was probably an interesting day in a mixing studio to try and get something out of it.

Imagine being given this tape -  and asked to mix it. One track of instruments and one track of vocals.  There is nothing to mix. Certainly not in 1973 when you didn't even have basic digital technology. Bowie had some eqs and some strange effects to hand and managed this.  Top marks to the man. Pop tried to remix it himself in 2002 and it is one of those 'remasters' that genuinely sounds worse. We have a carefully cleaned and panned mix with all the traits of earlier Stooges material out there in the Raw.  Power, distortion from microphones and passion from all concerned.

The song itself can almost be considered a ballad by Stooges standards, with meticulous rather creepy lyrics building from a monotone crawl culminating in a screetching howl of an animal in pain three minutes later. Guitar wise, there are three sections, with careful simple sub melodies chiming out to hypnotise like a serial killer.

Bloody brilliant - I can't  unfortunately find a good live version on YouTube, but below is a short really crap documentary.  It has great footage however of skinny Jim with all his absurd antics.

Yes, I do want to be Iggy Pop. Except without going through all the shit he did.
And I don't want to end up looking like a walnut in an elephants knacker sack.