Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Bob and Eric at Blackbushe in 1978

I love the expression on Eric Clapton's face in this photo. He has joined Bob Dylan on stage for the encore finale at the famous concert at Blackbushe Aerodrome in July 1978. I imagine he's trying to follow the changes as Bob runs through Forever Young or whatever it was they were playing.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

David Bowie interview with the NME, 1974

This interview is featured in the anthology "Greatest Hits - The Best of the NME" published to hit the Christmas market in 1974. The book also features interviews with Mick Jagger, Slade, Ray Davies, Lou Reed, Sly Stone, Syd Barrett and the New York Dolls, among others. But since it is one year today since we lost David Bowie, I thought I would share the interview he did with Charles Shaar Murray. In it, Bowie reflects on his 'rock star experiment' with Ziggy and what drives him to keep the whole thing fresh and interesting.

Bowie was always open and honest with good interviewers and CSM gets him to open up on his feelings about stardom and success. He also reveals his feelings about certain bands and, in particular, remembers how The Who were not really Mods, in the sense that he was a Mod, right on top of the latest fashions, rather than five months behind like The Who.

So I hope you can read it. Click on each page to enlarge it. Enjoy. Love on ya!


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Discipline - The return of King Crimson, 1981

The shock of the new - that's how it felt to behold the reformed King Crimson in 1981.

Six years previously, Robert Fripp called a halt to the band, which by then was just a three piece with John Wetton on bass and vocals and Bill Bruford on drums. They were at the peak of their popularity, but that was part of the problem for Fripp. They had become like a conventional rock band and he didn't want that. The closer they got to the mainstream, the less comfortable he became.

He wasn't idle in the immediate aftermath, and indeed as Bowie's go-to guitarist from Heroes to Scary Monsters (1977-80) he made his mark on the mainstream in any case.

In 1981, news came through that Fripp had a new band. Me and three bandmates, all big Crimson fans, bought tickets for the first gig in London, May 1981 at Her Majesty's Theatre, Haymarket.

They were called Discipline. We had no idea what to expect but we hoped they would play some old stuff. We certainly didn't expect it was going to be a life-changing experience, in the sense that this new band was making music from the future, and their influence would endure into KC’s music to this day.

So Discipline started off the concert playing a new track (called Discipline as it turned out) and the first thing that struck me was the rhythm, a hypnotic pulse driven by Bruford's electronic drums, but with a distinctive bass. This was the first time that most of us had ever seen a Chapman Stick, and wielded by the (nowadays) acknowledged master of the instrument, the distinctive dome of Tony Levin.

Then all hell broke loose! The band launched into Thela Hun Ginjeet. We were pinned back by the dual onslaught of Fripp and new lead guitarist Adrian Belew producing all manner of sonic fireworks. Bruford attacking his kit with staccato rolls. This was most people’s introduction to Belew and none of us had ever seen anything like it. This must be what it was like to see Hendrix doing the Star Spangled Banner or the swoops, swirls and explosions of Machine Gun with the Band of Gypsies.

Each new track was distinctive, from the "this is a dangerous place" storyline of  Thela Hun Ginjeet to the sheer shimmering beauty of Matte Kudesai, or the interstellar soundscape of The Sheltering Sky.

Vintage footage of 'Discipline' playing Thela Hun Ginjeet

They played some old too. Red was tucked into the set early on and they played Larks Tongues part 2 as an encore. But to be honest, they seemed tame in comparison to the new stuff. Like Elephant Talk, a bizarre but compelling statement of the new Crimson, which many people now feel surpassed the classic albums of the 70s.

King Crimson on US TV in December 1981

Soon afterwards, an almost inevitable name-change, from Discipline to King Crimson, took the band into a highly successful period, artistically and commercially, that has sustained right up to the latest line-up, which still owes much to the inventiveness of the 1980s version.

Everyone has their favourite period of Crimson and there have been so many different phases. But 35 years on from this particular gig, I can still remember how we were blown away by this new music.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Zappa/Mothers - One Size Fits All, reviewed in Sounds 1975

Fans of Frank Zappa's early and mid 70s albums rate 'One Size Fits All' as one of many career high points. Featuring some of the band's stage favourites from the period, including Inca Roads, Florentine Pogen and Andy, it is a consistently excellent record musically, with outstanding contributions from his core group members at the time, George Duke, Ruth Underwood, Chester Thompson and Napoleon Murphy Brock.

Here is Pete Makowski's review from the weekly UK music paper Sounds from June 1975 when the album was released. Not particularly detailed or illuminating, but it does reflect the widespread acceptance of the album, one of his most enduring recordings. Some Zappa purists dismiss the mid-70s material (the trilogy of Overnite Sensation, Apostrophe and the OSFA) because it marks the closest Zappa ever came to the mainstream. But their accessibility is entirely due to the quality of the songwriting and the playing.

The basic track for the opener, Inca Roads, was taken from the recording of a 'TV special' in Los Angeles, the video of which reveals just how tight and well-rehearsed the band were, as all Zappa's bands were!

The solo on the album is lifted from a show in Helsinki during the 1974 tour of Europe. This is typical of Zappa, who recorded pretty much everything and rarely let a good performance go to waste.

There's one story told by drummer John Guerin (who appears on the Hot Rats album track 'It Must be A Camel', and also on the Apostrophe' album).

Guerin didn't recall playing on the Apostrophe sessions. Zappa had liked the drums at another recording session and simply isolated them to create a new song, which turned out to be Excentrifugal Forz.

Guerin told Modern Drummer magazine: "Frank was a genius in the editing room. For instance, on the Hot Rats album, we let the tape run most of the time. There was no music, he just directed different feelings, or we’d establish a groove and he’d cut it off. Then, a few months later, an album with actual songs would come out. That was the beauty of his editing.”

On One Size Fits All, the track Sofa #2 features a lyric in German, the translation for which is typically bizarre:

I am the heaven
I am the water
Ich bin der Dreck unter deinen Walzen  (I am the dirt beneath your rollers)
(Oh no, whip it on me, honey!)
Ich bin dein geheimer Schmutz (I am your secret smut)
Und verlorenes Metallgeld (And lost metal money)
Ich bin deine Ritze (I am your cracks)
Ich bin deine Ritze und Schlitze  (I am your cracks & crannies)

I am the clouds
I am embroidered
Ich bin der Autor aller Felgen  (I am the author of all tucks)
Und Damast Paspeln  (And damask piping)
Ich bin der Chrome Dinette  (I am The Chrome Dinette)
Ich bin der Chrome Dinette  (I am The Chrome Dinette)
Ich bin Eier aller Arten  (I am eggs of all persuasions)

Ich bin alle Tage und Nachte  (I am all days and nights)
Ich bin alle Tage und Nachte  (I am all days and nights)

Ich bin hier  (I am here)
Und du bist mein Sofa  (And you are my sofa)
Ich bin hier  (I am here)
Und du bist mein Sofa  (And you are my sofa)
Ich bin hier  (I am here)
Und du bist mein Sofa (And you are my sofa)

Yeah, my Sofa

In the absence of the 74 shows on Youtube, seek out the DVD entitled 'A Token of His Extreme' which contains the whole show and for fans of this period Zappa is well worthwhile

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

August 1970 and a new supergroup emerges - Balls

One can only imagine the excitement and the buzz in the music world in the summer of 1970 as the latest in a long line of 'super groups' announced itself in the music press. Denny Laine, pre-Wings but already a name in the business from his time in the Moody Blues and vocal on their first hit 'Go Now', got together with two other 'names'. Well, not exactly legends at this point, but both Trevor Burton and Alan White had made their mark. Burton was lead guitarist in The Move who were still going but now with new guy Jeff Lynne on guitar. Alan White, pre-Yes and before his joint smoking stint with Terry Reid in the Glastonbury Fayre film, got together and, quite rightly, surmising that this was a bit of a laugh and it wouldn't go anywhere, called themselves 'Balls'. 
Could have been worse, I suppose, had Laine decided he was the 'name' in the band, they would have been Denny Laine's Balls. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Did someone film Hendrix recording Electric Ladyland?

I am reading the booklet that came with the Experience Hendrix mid 1990s CD reissue of Jimi's 1968 masterpiece Electric Ladyland.

I'm intrigued by this passage in the notes to the CD: 

"For 16 days in May 1968, an ABC-TV film crew followed the Experience to stage and studio. Shooting began at the Record Plant on May 3....The footage begins with scenes of a groupie sketching Jimi as he records Voodoo Chile. The scene cuts to the control room where Eddie (Kramer) tells an interviewer 'Jimi's music is here to stay'. Mike Jeffrey and Chas Chandler were also interviewed while Jimi was filmed writing lyrics."

I think I know a fair amount about film footage of Jimi, but I have never heard or seen anything related to this ABC footage. Surely, it it does exist, it would have seen the light of day by now. But if it didn't exist, how could the Experience Hendrix CD notes be referencing it? 

The latest extended release of the Classic Albums program, now made available by Experience Hendrix as 'At last...the beginning: the making of Electric Ladyland' offers some glimpses of the Record Plant sessions, visuals only, no sound.

The DVD is worth getting for the extra footage, most of which features engineer Eddie Kramer peeling back the layers of the backing tracks to show the detail and the unique vision that Jimi applied to the album. Some of this is just beautiful, especially the rhythm tracks behind 'Have you ever been...'

Another thing this extended episode reveals is that on the original acetate of the album, the 'white-coated men at CBS' had got the name of the album wrong. Many years before Kirsty MacColl turned it into a joke album title of her own, here it is, Electric Landlady!

Here's a clip from the original Classic Albums program, which contains brief footage from the Record Plant sessions at the very beginning:

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Margin Gaye bargain from the early days of CD

File under: Before the record companies knew how to market their back catalogue in CD format.

Again, no idea how much this one is worth, but what a twofer? Arguably Marvin Gaye's finest albums on one CD!

Bought in the mid/late 80s for £5, this is a classic example of the early days of CD, when there really wasn't much choice in terms of available back catalogue to buy. The record companies were trying to figure out this new format and were unsure whether people would go out and buy music on CD they already owned on vinyl. So the back catalogue stuff was chucked out at discount prices and in packages like this.

Soon enough, they realised people were embracing CD as a format; packages like this one were swiftly withdrawn and the individual albums were marked up to £15.