Sunday, April 21, 2024

do the hokey cokey (hell / heaven)


Of the three, Arthur Brown is perhaps the least hokey

It must have been genuinely alarming for parents and middle-of-the-roaders to see this witch-doctor prancing in the Top of the Pop studio, fringed with flames

Taunting the squares in their sitting rooms: 

"You fought hard and you saved and earned

But all of it's going to burn...

You've been living like a little girl

In the middle of your little world

Also, this is 1968 - riots and sit-ins and disorder in the streets. "Burn baby burn!"

It's like a frightfully English mummer show / Medieval carny type version of the Doors's Dionysianism (keyboard-dominant sound too)

Of course those three do not exhaust the rock thematics of Hell, the Devil, Satan, etc

Huge amounts more in the metal area

Hmmm, doing the Stones or Sabbath seems too obvious

What else? 

I was about to say Killing Joke were an genuinely infernal band (before they shlocked out)

And then saw that actually have a song on this topic, or near it 

Revelations is the ungodly peak 

I assume "pandys" is some kind of reference to pandemonium in its original / literal meaning 

Probably crops up a lot in soul and country and reggae and such

Ah, how could I forget?  Not hokey at all this, absolutely terrifying. I tried to listen to this album in the dark when I first got it, but had to turn the lights back on. 

Had a very pleasant conversation with La Galas in, I think, late '86, interviewing her in cafe in Queensway. 

Thursday, April 18, 2024

esto era mañana / música electrónica femenina

These tunes appears in a playlist + commentary at The Wire of mind-bending works by Latin-American female electronic composers, among them Vânia Dantas Leite, Beatriz Ferreyra and Nelly Moretto .... the playlist is compilated and annotated by Alejandra Cardenas, co-editor of Switched On: The Dawn of Electronic Sound by Latin American Women.  

Published by Contingent Sounds out of Berlin, the  book represents a double decentering of the received narrative about electronic music history: it focuses on the Latin American contribution, and further focuses on the role of female pioneers such as Graciela CastilloHilda DiandaJocy de Oliveira, Renée Pietrafesa Bonnet  among many others

Co-edited by Luis Alvarado of Buh Records, a Peruvian label that specialises in reissuing Latin American avant-garde and experimental music, including works by Jacqueline Nova and Oksana Linde


Release rationale: 

"The official history of 20th-century avant-garde electronic music has been predominantly narrated from the point of view of Anglo-American and Western European experiences and largely remained focused on its male protagonists. To destabilize this history, this editorial project presents a collection of perspectives, essays, interviews, archival photos, and work reviews centered on the early electronic music production by Latin American female creators, who were active from the 1960s to the 1980s. The book also brings us closer to the work of a new generation of researchers who have focused on offering a non-canonical reading of the history of music and technology in Latin America. The publication is the record of a new vision, an account of the condition of being a woman in the field of music technology at a time when this was a predominantly masculine domain.... 

"The texts that make up this publication are organized spatially and conceptually, rather than following a chronology. The selection of female composers profiled sheds light on a variety of relevant aspects: key musical contexts, experiments with technologies (such as tape, electronic synthesis, the first commercial synthesizers), diverse formats (i.e., radio art, electroacoustic pieces, installation, multimedia, theater, film, etc.), intertwined with themes, such as migration, memory, identity, collaboration, interdisciplinarity, social engagement, the acceptance of electronic music, etc. Moreover, the framework of this editorial project opened a space for intergenerational dialogue and a meeting of aesthetics, as many of the authors gathered as collaborators are composers and sound artists themselves....

Edited by: Luis Alvarado and Alejandra Cárdenas

Composers and sound artists featured in this historical account include: 

Alicia Urreta, Beatriz Ferreyra, Elsa Justel, Eulalia Bernard, Graciela Castillo, Hilda Dianda, Ileana Pérez Velázquez, Irina Escalante Chernova, Iris Sagüesa, Jacqueline Nova, Jocy de Oliveira, Leni Alexander, Margarita Paksa, Marietta Veulens, Mónica O’Reilly Viamontes, Nelly Moretto, Oksana Linde, Patricia Belli, Renée Pietrafesa Bonnet, Rocío Sanz Quirós, Teresa Burga, Vania Dantas Leite, among others.

YouTube Playlist 

Monday, April 8, 2024

the original Metal Boxes

"The album was originally released on vinyl in a circular novelty package of a metal replica of a giant tobacco tin, inside which was a poster created with five connected paper circles with pictures of the band members. This proved too expensive and not successful as the tins tended to roll off of shelves and it was quickly followed by a paper/card replica with a gatefold cover."

Talking about this, of course

The bit about the tins rolling off shelves tickled me, I must say.

I don't remember having that problem with Metal Box myself, though. 

I was amazed when reading up on Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake  to discover just how hugely successful it was - six weeks at number one in the UK.

"Lazy Sunday" was a #2 hit in the spring-summer of 1968


"They make it very clear they've got no room for ravers"

But verily tis something that hast Droppeth Away Unto Nothingness

I can't think of Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake ever having been a reference point for groups, even though it's Peak Psychedelia, or the last gasp of it. 


Another anticipator of Metal Box would be this release

Not metal, admittedly - but the concept is the same: a drab-looking utilitarian style of packaging... in this case, reinforced cardboard

Inside the carton, the album itself has a whole other cover with the band as sailors on the town (possibly a nod to the musical On the Town) and about to get up to debauched malarkey  (outcome depicted on the flip)

And then there was even more on the inner sleeve

The record's theme was sex (hence the idea of the plain brown wrapper) and it was supposed to be a return to a music-first direction after the ultra-theatricality of the Billion Dollar Babies tour.  Alice here submitting to the rest of the band's desires

Nobody was convinced or interested. 

Now John Lydon was a huge fan of Alice Cooper, although I doubt he was a fan of this record, as it's utterly denuded of inspiration. He did describe Killer as the greatest hard rock album of all time.

He was also a fan of the Small Faces - or at least the Sex Pistols were, they covered some of their tunes if I recall correctly.

The idea of the metal canister apparently came from Dennis Morris, their photographer friend, though. 


There's probably other earlier examples of canister or chest-like containers for recordings - monumental box sets in the world of classical music, for instance. 

Later examples of tinned records? 

Chain Reaction issued 'career round-ups' of their artists's vinyl-only output on compact disc, encased in finicky metal containers. Some purchasers complained that this packaging damaged the disc. 

Feel like I got sent something by Merzbow in this sort of packaging. 


Going back to where we started - Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake

Never quite got on with the Small Faces - there's something off-putting about them - the voices, even the look of Steve Marriott. Even the name of the band! 

But I love the combination of heaviness and groove on this tune, with the phased drums and colorized bass and the warm psychedelic keyboard. 

Another Small Faces song I adore is "Itchycoo Park"

Now, where did that religious-y, choirboy-like quality come from?  

The Who went into that high, pure zone with their singing as well.

It seems to be a uniquely British contribution to rock. 

Well, there was The Byrds, I suppose. "Eight Miles High".... some of the songs on Younger Than Yesterday and Notorious Byrd Brothers.

Perhaps it's the resort to folk and country vocal styling, as opposed to rhythm-and-blues. Neither folk nor country do sex, as such. There's no carnal heat. 

But the English psychedelic era stuff has a distinctly churchy quality, almost Anglican.

Psalmic. Monkish even.

The "she was a virgin of a humble origin / she knew of no sin" section of this 

Think of the vocal tonality in "Rain" by the Beatles - this sort of pulsating awe. There's nothing like it in rock prior to that, which the exception maybe of "Eight Miles High"

It seems to relate to  a certain kind of LSD-triggered ascesis, or at least an above-it-all fleshlessness -  rock becoming disincarnate, its mind on higher things.... no longer this-worldly.

Apparently Ronnie Lane got into Sufism. 

Actually there is also the Beach Boys, to be fair. "God Only Knows" etc.

Now Phil Knight's a big fan of Marriott's next venture, Humble Pie. Completely different vibe - earthy, sweaty, rutting. Following the lead of Canned Heat.

I have never been able to summon the intestinal fortitude to try the Pie, I confess.

Newly recovered footage of the Pie playing at Biba's, of all places - the glam-rock-aligned retro-boutique turned department store. 

Friday, March 29, 2024

Old Wave / New Wave cusp

It's the 50th anniversary of the founding of Trouser Press, celebrated by the publication of an anthology. 

In my mind, I always think of Trouser Press as archetypally New Wave, in part because of the graphic look of its famous record guides.... 


.... but also because all the issues I've ever seen have had New Wave (in all its senses - punk... skinny-tie power pop... and the MTV Brit Invasion era groups that we in the UK call New Pop) artists on the front cover. 

So I was surprised to learn that the magazine actually predates punk. It was founded in 1974. 

What defined its orientation, in fact, was not championing the New Wave, since that  didn't exist then... 

It was  Anglophilia. 

It was initially called Trans-Oceanic Trouser Press - hungry hands reaching across the Atlantic, to where the Good Music was - Great Britain.

Anglophilia so pronounced for a while it billed itself as 
"America's Only British Rock Magazine" !

Which sounds like a play on, and deliberate definition against, Creem's self-billing as "America's Only Rock 'n' Roll Magazine" (itself self-definition against Rolling Stone).

So originally Trouser Press was Old Wave, simply because there was no other Wave.  

Instead it believed that the Britannia ruled the (air)Waves. 

I suppose even the word "trouser" is Anglophiliac, given that Yanks say "pants"

Although looking into it, seems they say "trouser press" over here as often as "pants press"

If like me you've always thought of  Trouser Press as Noo Wave throo and throo, it's quite the surprise to see all these   
soon-to-be-decreed "Boring Old Farts" featured so heavily - the Queens and the Whos. 

Even outright proggers like Camel! Ex-Procol guitarman Robin Trower!

The first time an American artist gets the front cover treatment is Todd Rundgren - a chronic Anglophile himself - in July 1978, which is the thirtieth issue of Trouser Press.

I was surprised how long the coverage of Old Wave dominated. Deep into 1978, the B.O.F.'s are still getting nearly all the front covers - and the majority of the features inside too. 

Groups like Gentle Giant! the Strawbs! 

Endless appearances for Petes Townsend and Frampton. 

For Jeff bloody Beck. 

"Reviews A-Plenty" - what is this, the Mayor of Casterbridge?

Sparks featured - a group that some Britcrit or other quipped was "the best British band in America" or words to that effect

That cover looks like a beer mat. 

do the hokey cokey (hell / heaven)

  Of the three, Arthur Brown is perhaps the least hokey It must have been genuinely alarming for parents and middle-of-the-roaders to see th...