Saturday, November 26, 2022

Liner Notes - mindcandy 1 of ?

 There was a time when all long-playing records - and some short-playing records - had liner notes on the back.

Obligatory it was.

Sometimes perfunctory and showbiz-smarmy "introducing the band" jobs... other times wanna-be hep ramblings.

Then people stopped doing them - late Sixties, probably to make room for artwork, or because "the music speaks for itself". The bands, now capital A artists didn't need any suits introducing them or pre-framing the pictures that would shortly unfurl across your stoned mind.

 I tend to associate the fading away of liner notes with the transition from bands with a definite article in front of them to bands with no definite article - from The Hollies to Cream. Or The Spencer Davis Group to Traffic.

Oh they would still crop up now and then (Roxy Music had a great impressionist word salad on their debut album, penned by Simon Puxley, Ferry-friend-turned-sort-of-PR).

And they started to reappear here and there in the 1980s, in a sort of ironic, deliberate-throwback way (ABC's singles)

Here are some liner notes of, er, note( some of them my own findings and others gleaned from the activity / acuity of others, via a thread at Dissensus - big up all, especially the stalwart William Kent)

Starting with my favorite, for this great album by Tim Rose, almost capsized by the unintentional (or are they?) double-entendres of this drooling liner note by the record's producer David Rubinson.

I always loved this one even though it seemed both silly and sad by 1980 or whenever it was that I picked up this 1972 compilation of The Doors, Weird Scenes Inside the Goldmine . Bruce Harris was The Doors's publicist but he really seems like a true believer - even more mesmerized by Jim than that fanboy who wrote No One Here Gets Out Alive. Or Oliver Stone for that matter.

Aforementioned Ferry friend Dr. Simon Puxley on the first Roxy Music album inner gatefold

I. Punman did a great sleeve note for ZE's Mutant Disco compilation - with ZE I think there's an air of retro-chic to even having a liner note on your record. I don't recall any others though, on say the Kid Creole albums.

Unreadable, alas, here

Slightly more readable version here -

Andrew Loog Oldham, who was a sort of composite of Simon Puxley ideologue and an actual hustling manager, used to do liner notes for the Stones early albums.

For the Rolling Stones No. 2 he penned this:

 the back of Thin Lizzy's Jailbreak is like a specific subgenre of liner note, where it's setting up the narrative concept or mise-en-scene of the album

Pseudo-ethnographic Folkways style sleevenotes for this Nick Cave release

Patti Smith effusions - not lyrics, not quite liner notes - a spiritual shemanifesto / shamanifesto?

Pete Shelley on Can!

Joe Strummer handwritten job for Lee Dorsey comp on Charly 

We enter the age of postmodernism - irony and retro. A series of liner notes for ABC singles (but not the album Lexicon of Love) penned by singer Martin Fry. Note also the cute period touch of instructions on how to best care for your vinyl. All very much part of their anti-rockist shtick of "back to the days of professional entertainment".

Also in a pomo gesture (but also journo Bob S's respect for music writing) Saint Etienne have featured a liner note on every one of their albums, I believe, starting with this Jon Savage mini-essay. I was delighted to contribute one to Sound of Water.

Liner note or artwork? I say, artwork - Barbara Kruger avant-la-lettre in fact. XTC kept this deconstructive gambit going through all aspects of the second album - the record label itself, the adverts for album and singles, the tour promotion campaign, I expect there was badges / T-shirts / merch. 

More quasi-ethnograpic sleevenotes for The Residents possibly slightly iffy recreation of the Inuit lifeworld on Eskimo.

The real Inuit ethnographic thing 

Eno instructs you on how to set up your hi-fi to best hear his music. 

Robert Fripp manifesto

Morley at ZTT!





“Everywhere — all over Africa and South America, if you visit you see these suburbs springing up. They represent the optimum of what people want. There’s a certain sort of logic leading towards these immaculate suburbs. And they’re terrifying, because they are the death of the soul. And I thought, my god, this is the prison this planet is being turned into.”[1]




“the dark religions are departed and sweet Science reigns”[2]






















45 RPM





 PROPAGANDA NOW. ’Every day our cause becomes clearer and people get smarter’[1]

“One of the most remarkable characteristics of human nature,” writes Lotze, “is, alongside so much selfishness in specific instances, the freedom from envy which the past displays towards the future.” Reflection shows us that our image of happiness is thoroughly coloured by the time to which the course of our own existence has assigned us. The kind of happiness that could arouse envy in us exists only in the air we have breathed, among people we could have talked to, women who could have given themselves to us. In other words, our image of happiness is indissolubly bound up with the image of redemption. The same applies to our view of the past, which is the concern of history. The past carries with it a temporal index by which it is referred to redemption. There is a secret agreement between past generations and the present one. Our coming was expected on earth. Like every generation that preceded us, we have been endowed with a weak Messianic power to which the past has a claim. That claim cannot be settled cheaply. Historical materialists are aware of that.[2]


The news item’s role is probably that of preserving within contemporary society the ambiguity of the rational and the irrational, the comprehensible and unfathomable; and this ambiguity is historically necessary as man still needs signs (which reassure him) but also signs which are uncertain in content (which make him irresponsible…)

This is a twilight condition of consciousness: neither high noon nor tender night. And precisely for this reason our relationship with mass culture is itself interminable. There can be no conclusion or certainty, where the very structure of communication has founded the reign of perplexity, of dissociation, of procrastination ‘The consumers relation with the real world, with politics, history and culture is not one of interest, investment or engaged responsibility — rather, it is one of curiosity … One must try everything: in fact man in consumer society is tormented by the fear of ‘missing’ something, any enjoyment whatsoever … It is no longer desire or even taste or specific inclination that is in play, it is a generalised curiosity motivated by a widespread anxiety’ — the all pervasive anxiety of Riesman’s radar-man, always ready to pick up signals from the outside world and, especially, always uncertain as regards their decipherment. This is no longer the anxiety described in ‘Beyond The Pleasure Principle’, which was motivated by the fear of trauma, that is, by the conviction that the outside world is fundamentally hostile to the individual. It is no longer the state of mind of one who lives in the constant expectation of danger: it is the anxiety of always feeling on the verge of — but only on the verge of — finally grasping the object of desire, the meaning of life, the rules of the game.[4]



Dream Within a Dream

“the most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all it’s contents”[5]

The Murder Of Love

“…the idea of crime is able always to ignite the senses and lead us the lubricity”[6]


“the imagination is like an engine that can work on many different fuels: but it must be powered, and sex, properly used, is a fuel of high potency”


“the dark religions are departed and sweet Science reigns”[7]

Sorry For Laughing

“…always two strangers uniting in the interests of torment”[8]

Dr. Mabuse (The First Life)

“the greater an individual’s power over others, the greater the evil that might possibly originate with him”

The Chase

“reliance on powers of reason does not come easily: it is opposed to our basic animal instinct”


“the comtemplation of the world independently of the principle of reason”[9]

The Strength to Dream

“…so it is”

ZTTIQ 3 Action No. 13 ‘beauty love and danger’

ZTTIQ 3 Action No. 13 ‘repetition plus variation’


Die Religion der Sozialdemokratie by Wilhelm Dietzgen ↩
Theses on the Philosophy of History by Walter Benjamin (1940) ↩
La Nauśse by Albert Camus (1938) ↩
Signs Taken for Wonders: On the Sociology of Literary Forms by Franco Moretti (1983) ↩
The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft (1928) ↩
The 120 Days of Sodom by Marquis de Sade (1904) ↩
Vala, or The Four Zoas by William Blake (1807) ↩
Comment c’est by Samuel Beckett (1961) ↩
Arthur Schopenhauer ↩


At this ZTT archival website - - they have the full Punman notes for the ZTT's soundtrack album of Nic Roeg's disappointingly mid Insignificance -  (apparently extracts from IP's "Cravings" - I assume some Barthesian never-completed-work)

The narcissist suffers from too much inner dialogue. The eye of one’s consciousness is forever looking at one’s own action. Yes — let us try to keep the notion clear — a narcissist is not self-absorbed so much as one self is immersed in studying the other. The narcissist is the scientist and the experiment in one. Other people exist, have value to the narcissist because of their particular ability to arouse one role or another in oneself. And are valued for that. May even be loved for that. Of course, they are loved as an actress loves her audience.

amazing… but true



the shape of the universe is INSIGNIFICANCE

side one

introducing Tony Curtis as the SENATOR

“it sure is a dog of a night…and tomorrow it’s going to be a dog of a day…”

Michael Emil as the PROFESSOR

“I didn’t choose America…I don’t care”

Theresa Russell as the ACTRESS

“We have an awful lot in common”

Gary Busey as the BALLPLAYER

“So you screwed another shrink”

1. A Dog Of A Night produced and performed by STANLEY MYERS

2. Remember Remember produced and performed by HANS ZIMMER

3. Relativity One and Two and Three performed and produced by STANLEY MYERS

4. Forever (What The Hell) produced and performed by STANLEY MYERS

5. Wild Hearts produced by David Briggs and Will Jennings performed by ROY ORBISON

side two

including dialogue spoken by Tony Curtis, Michael Emil, Theresa Russell and Gary Busey

1. B-29 (Shape Of the Universe) produced and performed by HANS ZIMMER

2. Life Goes On produced and arranged by Jon L. Waters performed by THERESA RUSSELL

3. Jupiter Suite produced by Stanley Myers and Brian Gulland performed by GIL EVANS and his orchestra.

4. World Of Theory (Explode) produced and performed by HANS ZIMMER

5. When Your Heart Runs Out Of Time executive producer Otto Flake performed by GLENN GREGORY and CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN

6. It’s A Dog Of A Night produced and performed by STANLEY MYERS album ticks off with no words WILL JENNINGS When Your Heart Runs Out Of Time


so what is it to be said at this hour of Apocalypse? Whatever we say, it will be deferred. And we have been given Insignificance in the interim: a vision or version of the Apocalypse that turns out to be far from apocalyptic. It has adopted a different tone. In fact, and this is far from insignificant, it couldn’t be funnier. Or — and it may amount to the same thing — further from the truth. Apocalypse here is charactered into a kind of parodic America dream populated by nameless phantoms…

So that Insignificance will have taken in…a distress signal…a planned overthrow of names…a stroke of fate…one night in Manhattan…a bit of the American Dream left over…from the other who fell…a vanishing act…a catastrophe…the apple’s fall…the law above us and around us…the coincidence of ‘relativity’ with the ‘beginning’ of cinema…all the other doubles (double sexes) in Roeg’s camera…a roll of the dice…a play on eternity…a repeat performance…a disgusting mask…don’t look…two in one: the double reflexes…the coin drops…the curtain falls…perish the thought…the muzzle of desire…the face of God…the second hand…the work of time…the end of the day…goodbye (wave)…the shape of the universe…as insignificant as an autograph…a passion played…for the time being…AND WE WILL TAKE OUT

ACTRESS Have you got a watch…because you’re gonna need it. Now…we have to imagine this room is the entire universe. We begin together some place in space time. We synchronise at…what does your watch say?

PROFESSOR Eight fifteen.

ACTRESS Eight fifteen. Now I travel away from you at a hell of a speed…say one fifth the speed of light, and I travel for five minutes and it gets me here. Now. I look at my watch. It says twenty minutes past eight. But it’s not very reliable. So I look across the Universe to check with your watch. And what does your watch say?

PROFESSOR Twenty minutes past eight.

ACTRESS Not to me it doesn’t. It says nineteen minutes past eight. Because twenty minutes past eight hasn’t reached me yet. It takes a minute for me to see your watch. Because it takes a minute for the light to reach me. See? So your watch is getting slower and slower. Now comes the thousand dollar question. Remember, that if you look at my watch it’s gonna take a minute for it to reach you too. So now what do you say my watch says?

PROFESSOR Nineteen minutes past eight.

ACTRESS Which means…you say I’m going more slowly than you, while I say you’re going more slowly than me…So, given a constant frame of reference within which to experiment…according to Galileo’s original principles and accepting that light always travels at a hundred and eighty six thousand two hundred and eight two point three nine seven miles per second in all directions at once. Then the main point I have demonstrated is that all measurements of Time and Space are necessarily made relative to a single observer. And are not necessarily the same for two independent observers. And that is the Specific Theory of Relativity…Isn’t it?

PROFESSOR Amazing. But True!

We were the chorus commenting on the decree of destiny as disclosed in the development of a supreme incident. There was dramatic quality in the very staging: the traditional ceremony, and it the background the picture of Newton to remind us that the greatest of scientific generalisations was now, after more than two centuries, to receive its first modification…a great adventure in thought had at last come home to shore.

“He was no kind of fanatic…as incapable of true rancour, spite and animosity as a eunuch is of marriage…he faked it all and couldn’t understand anyone who didn’t…His whole method of operation was complicated because he would get a guilty feeling and get hurt after he had blasted someone…He wanted so desperately to be liked. He didn’t anticipate the results of what he was doing…”

amazing…but true



…is wasted

…is lost

…is found

amazing… but true

…in the nick of time…

“The Shape Of The Universe” is a long playing record souvenir of Nic Roeg’s Insignificance. The souvenir contains on Side One A DOG OF A NIGHT, REMEMBER REMEMBER, RELATIVITY ONE AND TWO AND THREE, FOREVER (What The Hell) AND WILD HEARTS (…time). On Side Two B-29 (Shape Of The Universe), LIFE GOES ON, JUPITER SUITE, WORLD OF THEORY, WHEN YOUR HEART RUNS OUT OF TIME, DOG OF A NIGHT and ticking…off. Artists: Stanley Myers, Roy Orbison, Gil Evans, Hans Zimmer, Theresa Russell, Will Jennings, Glenn Gregoy and Claudia Brücken. Trumpet solo in Jupiter Suite: Lew Soloff.

The souvenir plays at 33⅓ IN STEREOPHONIC for over forty minutes.

To be acknowledged…

Music recorded at Lansdowne Studioes, Lille Yard Studios, Abbey Road and House of David in Nashville.

Souvenir assembled and edited by Paul Morley at Sarm West London: engineer Bobby Kraushaar.

Jupiter Suite: engineer Chris Dibbell.

Wild Hearts and When Your Heart Runs Out Of Time mixed by Nick Ryan.

Keyboards on When Your Heart Runs Out Of Time: Midge Ure.

Soundtrack supervised by Ray Williams for The Pollyanna Film and Music Company Ltd.

Glenn Gregory (Heaven 17) released courtesy of Virgin Records.

Claudia Brücken (Propaganda) released courtesy of ZTT Records

Stills photography: Dacotah

Photograph of Nic Roeg: A.J. Barratt.

Notes: extracts from Ian Penman’s ‘Cravings.’

Sleeve framed by XLZTT ‘more time please’

Correspondence: Paul McDonald and Chris Auty.

The souvenir graciously takes it’s place as number fourteen in Zang Tuum Time’s infatuated Action Series: ‘It is the traditional task of the prophet to denounce systems of rule and life which deny the freedom of the flesh or the imagination.’

A round of special thanks to David Briggs, Tonia Duvall, Alan Mercy and Tommy Valentino.

Names missing from the credits will know who they are.

A volume of coincidences and wonderings compiled by Neil Norman and published by Sidgewick and Jackson to accompany the film Insignificance is recommended to those who wish to take their time further.

(Zenith logo) a Zenith production distributed by Palace/Recorded Releasing

And so we might say coming out of Insignificance, we were only on our way to this exit after all, an end which refuses the end.


Insignificance is just nothing.... what I call a "Time Out film", gushily reviewed at the time, barely remembered, leaves not an imprint in your "image-repertoire" if you'll pardon my Barthesism. Hurts to say of my favorite all time film maker but after Bad Timing and the first 30 mins of Eureka! there's nothing at all, not a shred. 

Mark E. Smith wordsmithery

A lot of the M.E.S. liner notes are track-by-track comments - a throwback to how a lot of 1960s liner notes went through an album's delights song by song - except of course here they are gnomic tangents, cryptic and/or barbed asides...

some of these M.E.S. liner scribblings are literally mise en scene - styled as screenplays or script fragmnets

liner notes as design as graphomania as the untidy mind of M.E.S. writ large

a liner note of sorts that blew my 16 year old mind - pages from a pretend book called Scritto's Republic

According to Pitchfork, Kurt Cobain's liner note to the Nirvana compilation Incesticide is legendary

"A while ago, I found myself in bloody exhaust grease London again with an all-consuming urge to hunt for two rare things: back issues of NME rumored to be secretly hidden in glass casings and submerged in the fry vats of every kebab machine in the U.K.and the very-out-of-print first Raincoats LP.
The NME search was a clever, saucy upstart of an attempt to be, uh, nasty. However, the Lord and Julian Cope himself know how we need, need, need, the NME to embrace the unifying hands of our children across this big blue marble and NIRVANA's tarty musical career. So please bless us again -- we'll forever feed off of your high-calorie boggy turbinates.

In an attempt to satisfy the second part of my quest, I went to the Rough Trade shop and, of course, found no Raincoats record in the bin. I then asked the woman behind the counter about it and she said "well, it happens that I'm neighbors with Anna (member of the Raincoats) and she works at an antique shop just a few miles from here." So she drew me a map and I started on my way to Anna's.

Sometime later, I arrived at this elfin shop filled with something else I've compulsively searched for over the past few years -- really old fucked up marionette-like wood carved dolls (quite a few hundred years old). Lots of them... I've fantasized about finding a shop filled with so many. They wouldn't accept my credit card but the dolls were really way too expensive anyway. Anna was there, however, so I politely introduced myself with a fever-red face and explained the reason for my intrusion. I can remember her mean boss almost setting me on fire with his glares. She said "well, I may have a few lying around so, if I find one, I'll send it to you (very polite, very English)." I left feeling like a dork, like I had violated her space, like she probably thought my band was tacky.

A few weeks later I received a vinyl copy of that wonderfully classic scripture with a personalized dust sleeve covered with xeroxed lyrics, pictures, and all the members' signatures. There was also a touching letter from Anna. It made me happier than playing in front of thousands of people each night, rock-god idolization from fans, music industry plankton kissing my ass, and the million dollars I made last year. It was one of the few really important things that I've been blessed with since becoming an untouchable boy genius.

It was as rewarding as touring with Shonen Knife and watching people practically cry with joy at their honesty. It made people happy and it made me happy knowing that I had helped bring them to the UK.

It was as rewarding as the last Vaselines show in Edinburgh. They reformed just to play with us in their home town, probably having no idea how exciting and flattering it was for us (and how nervous we were to meet them).

It was as rewarding as being asked to support Sonic Youth on two tours, totally being taken under their wing and being showed what dignity really means.

It was as rewarding as the drawings Daniel Johnston sent me, or the Stinky Puffs single from Jad Fair's son, or playing on the same bill as Greg Sage in L.A., or being asked to help produce the next Melvins record, or being on the Wipers' compilation, or Thor from T.K. giving me a signed first edition of Naked Lunch, or making a friend like Stephen Pavlovic -- our Australian tour promoter who sent me a Mazzy Star LP on vinyl, or playing "The Money Will Roll Right In" with Mudhoney, or having the power to insist on bringing Bjorn Again to the Reading Festival, or being able to afford to bring my friend Ian along on tour just to have a good time, or paying Calamity Jane five-thousand dollars to be heckled by twenty thousand macho boys in Argentina, or asking my friends Fits Of Depression to play with us at The Seattle Coliseum, or playing with Poison Idea at a No On Nine benefit in Portland organzied by Gus Van Zandt, or being a part of oen of L7's pro-choice benefits in L.A., or kissing Chris and Dave on Saturday Night Live just to spite the homophobes, or meeting Iggy Pop, or playing with The Breeders, Urge Overkill, the T.V. Personalities, The Jesus Lizard, Hole, Dinosour Jr., etc.

While all these things were very special, none were half as rewarding as having a baby with a person who is the supreme example of dignity, ethics and honesty. My wife challenges injustice and the reason her character has been so severely attacked is because she chooses not to function the way the white corporate man insists. His rules for women involve her being submissive, quiet, and non-challenging. When she doesn't follow his rules, the threatened man (who, incidentally, owns an army of devoted traitor women) gets scared.

A big "fuck you" to those of you who have the audacity to claim that I'm so naive and stupid that I would allow myself to be taken advantage of and manipulated.

I don't feel the least bit guilty for commericially exloiting a completely exhausted Rock youth Culture because, at this point in rock history, Punk Rock (while still sacred to some) is, to me, dead and gone. We just wanted to pay tribute to something that helped us to feel as though we had crawled out of the dung heap of conformity. To pay tribute like an Elvis or Jimi Hendrix impersonator in the tradition of a bar band. I'll be the first to admit that we're the 90's version of Cheap Trick or the Knack but the last to admit that it hasn't been rewarding.

At this point I have a request for our fans. If any of you in any way hate homosexuals, people of different color, or women, please do this one favor for us -- leave us the fuck alone! Don't come to our shows and don't buy our records.

Last year, a girl was raped by two wastes of sperm and eggs while they sang the lyrics to our song "Polly". I have a hard time carrying on knowing there are plankton like that in our audience. Sorry to be so anally P.C. but that's the way I feel.


Kurdt (the blonde one)

As well as bigging up the Raincoats here, Cobain also wrote a nice note for the first-time-on-CD reissue of The Raincoats's debut album in '93 (and presumably his enthusiasm and clout led to it coming on DGC, Nirvana's record label):

I know a lot of coolies who suck and feed off the fact that they know about and (supposedly) enjoy unknown, obscure band of present and past. These coolies thrive on their own little discoveries like those tiny fish who attach themselves to bigger fish and parasitically feed off the hosts' droppings and burnt coffee.

The Raincoats were not very well known in the States - I don't know about the U.K. and Europe. In fact, I don't really know anything about The Raincoats except that they recorded some music that has affected me so much that, whenever I hear it I'm reminded of a particular time in my life when I was (shall we say) extremely unhappy, lonely, and bored. If it weren't for the luxury of putting that scratchy copy of The Raincoats' first record, I would have had very few moments of peace. I suppose I could have researched a bit of history about the band but I feel it's more important to delineated the way I feel and how they sound.

When I listen to The Raincoats I feel as if I'm a stowaway in an attic, violating and in the dark. Rather than listening to them I feel like I'm listening in on them. We're together in the same old house and I have to be completely still or they will hear me spying from above and, if I get caught - everything will be ruined because it's their thing.

They're playing their music for themselves. It's not as sacred as wire-tapping a Buddhist monk's telephone or something because if The Raincoats really did catch me, they would probably just ask me if I wanted some tea. I would comply, then they would finish playing their songs and I would say thank you very much for making me feel good.

- Kurt Cobain, June 1993

Morrissey under the influence liner notes


In the early 1970's Manchester the grinding horrors of daily life are softened by song. My life is high walls topped by spiked glass, and the whirl of school boy tribulations are lifted only by cheaply recorded noise. Im our troubles, we cut a dash to youth clubs of squalid barrack buildings, or to where hall chairs are cleared in city chrches. Packed to blackness, the boys do a leisurely stride and somehow call it dancing, arms strategically and stiffly held apart from the body. The girls dance with a self-conscious air of not being watched, hunched together like chattering rats, kiss one and die of typhoid fever.


Like a child in a dream I watch, terrified and delighted. The dancefollr is swarming for "Stop Enoch Powell", "Vietnam", "Double Barrel", "Young Gifted and Black" and for "Swan Lake" by The Cats. Nothing touches me other than song, and night is kinder than day. I am drawn in and held back by the same desire. No words express the agony of the soul like a souring song, and here, we are exactly what our school teachers tell us we are; nothing.


How I feel is beyond my power to tell, so I wait to be led by the singing vpices that reach to me. Without them, I am at the mercy of savages who shape radio and television with a dreadful nothingness. Until, suddenly, a mystery song is played on Radio One in 1972, which I catch four times, details of which are never given by the DJ who is, of course, too busy jabbering away about him-self, and of whom the record clearly gets in the way.


The song words fall out like a lazy argot, the vocal melody starts me - yet I cant understand a single word. Years later, when I find myself behind a micrphone in a recording studio, I use the melody of this mystery song as my guide. Guide - to what? To where? I explain this to Boz Boorer in 1989 and tell him that although I've never again heard that strange record, the melody remains stuck in my head. As I begin to hum it to him, he immediately names the song, the artist, the label, the history, and gives me a seven-inch copy of the 1972 re-issue on Apple. It is "Saturday Nite Special" by the Sundown Playboys, who speak and sing in Acadian French. When Cajun music first flourished in the dancehalls of southwest Louisiana, the rooms had neither amps nor micro-phones, so the singers (usually male) had to sing high and loud to be heard above the instruments (usually accordian and fiddle). Vocals would be belted out without restraint - usually in C or D - and overstretched to an almost female tonality. Some recordings are magnificent without anyone ever needing to say why. It's as if the Great do not need your approval.


How empty life would have been without The New York Dolls.


Here it all began.


A reference point of human squalor, The New York Dolls irked all the little square priggish men who controlled the music buisiness at every level, and to whom the Dolls meant only one thing : trouble.


In 1973, I could not think of any band who resembled The New York Dolls. Daydreaming in Religious Studies, I read how David Johansen says he models himself on Carol Lombard, to which I laugh out loud. "we're like Herman's Hermits" says Johansen, "everyone's gotta sneer" But we're not butch." At 13 I fully realise - this is most certainly IT. I back my school books with pictures of the Dolls, and to hell with Man Ure. My older school-free friends travel to Leeds to spend the night with the Dolls at the Dragonara Hotel after the Dolls university gig, and return to me with tales that witness madness. The New York Dolls are indeed the roughest of trade, David Johansen is Leo Gorcey, Johnny Thunders is Billy Halop - and they sing about Diana Dors. A 13 year old Manchester schoolboy could want for no more. "Trash" reminds me of "All Grown Up" by The Crystals, and of John Garfield's far-away gaze in the film 'Saturday's Children' (1940). It is a fantastic achievement for five boys who otherwise would have ended up in hotel catering, or amoungst the heroined dead. The New York Dolls were the world's most perfect pop group,but they were far too free, far too happy, far too un-hung up, and thus their end was foredoomed.


On the flipside of happy, the Nico net caught me early. Her voice equalled the sound of a body being thrown out of a window - entirely with out hope, of this world, or the next, or the previous. Onstage, she moved like a big bleak creaking house, never once altering the direction of her eyes. I am in love. Her harmonium heaves and swells like crashing waves answering each other. If Nico could've laughed, she would've. But she couldn't, so she didn't.


'meet me at the desertshore

where land and water meet....'



Of all of life's vanities, the singing voice reveals the most. Every day life is troubled by the inevitable advancing darkness, where our only certainties are pitiless decay and the final port of Death. Our days are stacked with pretended joys. But, so what. By 1974, the primary disrupter is an irascrible soul who hates the fluffy, and on her debut recording of "Hey Joe" Patti Smith sings : there's barbed wire between my legs, y'know....'


.....a line that would surely have thrown tammy Wynette some-what. But the Smith waif sings as firmly as her health allows, and in 1975, becomes a vital centre. "Hey Joe" is the inevital consequence of a teenager who has been buried alive, and we call back to those who reach out. Personal gratification isn't everything, after all. Patti Smith was, of course, punished for knowing too much, but she provided a world and a journey to those who cared to listen. Similary, Marc Bolan's woven words were deep rivers of verse which, if you understood them, you were in serious trouble. They gave nothing, except the basic fun of being pieced together. When Bolan is quizzed on television about his own lyrics, he doesn't know what to say. However Bo(b) (dy)lan remains - in my mind's ear - the sound of late 1960's Notting Hill bedsits, unsuitable daytime heat in busy London Parks, the future not yet behind us, and we are on our way. I see T. Rex live in 1972, and I meet the singer three years later, when I request the binding autograph, and although there is no one but he and I around for miles, the Stamford Hill boy declines the request. Just too much trouble. I am still amazed at the brevity of Marc Bolan's success, and at the speed of his decay, and by how people who knew him never seem to say anything nice about him. But, weren't we made to be this way?


'prance proudly in the garden villas with the sun'


Only a similar mental anquish could steer the songwriting pen of Ron Mael, who appears to play for marx-ist laughs, but whose lyrical take on sex cries out like prison cell carvings. In a glorious surge of deserved success in 1974, the very comprehensive lyric sheets accompanying Sparks albums prove that Ron Mael is clearly driven to tell, yet he answers the media by skillfil Quietism and by impersonating various walls. Ron Mael is an undoubted genius, and where else would a true genius live but in the catacombs of hell? Ron asks his younger brother Russell to sing the words - in chilling falsetto. Russell sings in what appear to be French italics, and has less facial hair that Josephine Baker. It is a scream, because the songs are screams.


'capacity 400



I see seating for three cos of me


Are we all seated properly now?


We shall begin.....'



Who on earth would write a pop song in such a way? A song about an arts and crafts competition where 'lovely Claudine Jones/has to come to push her quilt', but where Tracy Wise gets a prize. There is no category for this madness - except the category of madness, and Sparks are only let down by their name. At 14, I want to live with these people, to be - at last! - in the company of creatures of my own species.


Gliding in without oars, Ludus belong to the sea. Linder comes into position wgains the light, at double-sail, holding her words prepared. The weight of despair lifts like a deceptive fog only because the voice sings. "Breaking The Rules" might appear to be a statement, but like all Ludus songs, it is really a question laid out like a statement. This is the delightfully recurring now-that-you've-got-me-where-I-want-you Linder trick. I want to be caught. Linder's tags of verse offer advice, strength, warmth, sustenance and inspiration, as she sings - not roughly, but firmly. I want to be caught twice. My mouth cannot close whilst "Breaking The Rules" plays, just as the imagination chatters convulsively through Nat Couty's "Woodpecker Rock", Charlie Feathers' "one Hand Loose", Jummy Radcliffe's "The Forgotten Man", and Jay Bee Wasden's "De Castro". Of these last four, I would not pretend to know any background details, but the happiness these songs give me seems, now, to be everlasting - even if this is music played with a lop-sided grim, then please hook me. Diana Dors, too, is warm to the skin. The voice teeters with a knowing smile, but the heart is on the gravel as she tells us so much more than what she literally says, a double-tier of sexual urgency.


In the real world of pop songs, genius drags the always reluctant world along. Awful to listen to on first play, the first Ramones album stays beside me almost 30 years on. A cruel £5.29 on import in 1976, this is an album of criminal ballads, and "Judy is a Punk" still sends a shock through the blood, complete with red-herring lyrical lift from "I'm Henry the Eighth I Am" ("second verse/it's the same as the first"). At Manchester's electric Circus to promote their debut album, the Ramones move across the stage like human remails floating ashore. Smallpox brought them together. Joes is whooping cough on two impossibly long legs. Someone who has been murdered in a hospital bed looks better than Joey.


The Ramones do nothing to conceal their disibilities, and once again I am in love.


'and oh I don't know why/oh I don't know why


perhaps they'll die? Oh yeah


perhaps they'll die? Oh yeah




And then, "third verse/it's different from the first" - I'm just glad they alerted us.


Will we ever get out of these pop swamps alive?


Will we ever get these songs out of our bloodstream?


Will we ever be allowed to forget?


Klaus Nomi's dismal dignaty placed him beyond the reach of crassly commercial success. His was a life quite apart from knife-plunging press reviews (as if any pop writer could ever possibly know).


Nomi sang like a man trapped in the body of a dead girl. "Death" is his dying speach, after which he was - quite literlly - led away to die, and early bull's eye for the AIDS machine-gun. The words have a dreadful ring because they came true, and so soon:


'remember me



remember me


but ah, forget my fate'.



Klaus Nomi's name, and the names of the others on this CD, conjure an atmosphere and a special standard because they were (or are) true pop artists. The mere sound of their names is as powerful as their work, so that we only need to hear that name in order to glide into a half-dream state. It is the terrifying power of the true pop artist, who seems to finally come into full bloom only at the hour of Death (as if life is just not quite the point). Klaus Nomi, Nico, Johnny Thunders, Marc Bolan, Diana Dors, Joey Ramone, Charlie Feathers and maybe several other voices and players on this CD all now rest with the martyred dead.


Will I, too, die?



Charles Mingus got his psychotherapist to write liner notes for The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady

The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady [Official Review] Lyrics
When Mr. Mingus first asked me to write a review of the music he composed for this record, I was astonished and told him so. I said I thought I was competent enough as a psychologist but that my interest in music was only average and without any technical background. Mr. Mingus laughed and said he didn't care, that if I heard his music I'd understand. This is the uniqueness of this man: he jolts with the unexpected and the new. He has something to say and he will use every resource to interpret his messages. After all, why not have a psychologist try to interpret the projections of a composer musician? Psychologists interpret behavior and/or ideas communicated by words and behavior - why not apply this skill to music? It's certainly a refreshing approach that Mr. Mingus suggests
As Nat Hentoff has stated, "Mingus is ingenuous," ever growing, looking for change and ways to communicate his life experiences, his awareness and feelings of himself and life. His early and late life sufferings as a person and as a black man were surely enough to cause sour bitterness, hate, distortions and withdrawal. Yet, Mr. Mingus never has given up. From every experience such as a conviction for assault or as an inmate of a Bellevue locked ward, Mr. Mingus has learned something and has stated it will not happen again to him. He is painfully aware of his feelings and he wants desperately to heal them. He also is cognizant of a power dominated and segregated society's impact upon the underdog, the underprivileged and the minority. Inarticulate in words, he is gifted in musical expression which he constantly uses to articulate what he perceives, knows and feels
To me this particular composition contains Mr. Mingus' personal and also a social message. He feels intensively. He tries to tell people he is in great pain and anguish because he loves. He cannot accept that he is alone, all by himself; he wants to love and be loved. His music is a call for acceptance, respect, love, understanding, fellowship, freedom - a plea to change the evil in man and to end hatred. The titles of this composition suggest the plight of the black man and a plea to the white man to be aware
He seems to state that the black man is not alone but all mankind must unite in revolution against any society that restricts freedom and human rights
In all three tracks of Side I there are recurrent themes of loneliness, separateness and tearful depression. One feels deeply for the tears of Mr. Mingus that fall for himself and man. There can be no question that he is the Black Saint who suffers for his sins and those of mankind as he reflects his deeply religious philosophy. His music tells of his deep yearning for love, peace and freedom. A new note has crept into his music. Where once there was a great anger now one can hear hope. As with much of his past music, Mr. Mingus cries of misunderstanding of self and people. Throughout he presents a brooding, moaning intensity about prejudice, hate and persecution
In the first track of Side I there is heard a solo voice expressed by the alto saxophone - a voice calling to others and saying "I am alone, please, please join me!" The deep mourning and tears of loneliness are echoed and re-echoed by the instruments in Mr. Mingus' attempt to express his feelings about separation from and among the discordant people of the world. The suffering is terrible to hear

In track B, the music starts with a tender theme. It is a duet dance song in which many emotions of relatedness are expressed - warmth, tenderness, passion. The music then changes into a mood of what I would call mounting restless agitation and anguish as if there is tremendous conflict between love and hate. This is climaxed by the piercing cries of the trombone and answering saxophones as if saying the "I" of personal identity must be achieved and accepted
Track C begins with the happiest of themes. Here Mr. Mingus himself plays a classical piano reverie backed by a lyrical flute and cymbals. It is sweet and soft and has a lightness rarely seen in Mr. Mingus’ music. But once again the music shifts into a tonal despair and brooding anguish. The theme suggested by the title is the peace and happiness of the free person contrasted with the pain and tears of the black man. Mr. Mingus uses many forms of technique and instrumentation to reflect his meaning. He told me his use of the Spanish guitar was meant to mirror the period of the Spanish Inquisition and El Greco’s mood of oppressive poverty and death
Side II develops all these themes in a very carefully worked out musical composition in concert style, repeating and integrating harmony and disharmony, peace and disquiet, and love and hate. The ending seem unfinished but one is left with a feeling of hope and even a promise of future joy
Mr. Mingus thinks this is his best record. It may very well be his best to date for his present stage of development as other records were in his past. It must be emphasized that Mr. Mingus is not yet complete. He is still in a process of change and personal development. Hopefully the integration in society will keep pace with his. One must continue to expect more surprises from him
-Edmund Pollock, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist



1 comment:

  1. So many great ones there, but my favourite have to be the liner notes to Thin Lizzy's Jailbreak, because of the opportunity they provide to out-pedant the dullards who keep making the same joke about the lyrics to 'Jailbreak', the song. THEM: "Tonight there's going to be a jailbreak, somewhere in this town? Hur-hur, maybe try the jail!' ME: "Well, actually, in the dystopian world depicted in the liner notes to the Jailbreak LP, the entirety of Dimension 5 could be described as a jail: a prison society ruled by the Overmaster. So, in fact, a jailbreak could indeed occur anywhere in the town."
    Annoying, clearly, but I think they deserve it. And defending Phil Lynott's reputation against the underestimation of these saloon-bar bores is a righteous cause.


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