30 December 2008

Screaming Lord Sutch - Jack the Ripper

Normally when looking at any piece of banned or censored material from two decades ago or more, there's a sense of indifference to it. In rock music in particular, what counts as operating on the outer edges of outrage in one decade seldom means much ten years later once the dust has settled. Does The Shamen's "Ebeneezer Goode" still shock anybody, for example? I would have thought by now it's even included on late night "Retro Party Flashback!" shows on local independent radio stations, probably preceeded by a naughty chuckle from the DJ as he or she puts it on. Frankie Goes To Hollywood's "Relax" certainly seems to be played like it was never the subject of censorship these days.

It's a genuine surprise, then, to encounter a banned single from the early sixties which still causes you to do a sharp intake of breath now. In this case, it's not so much the song which feels questionable (although there is a case to be made there) but the video itself - featuring Sutch knifing various women gleefully in his role as Jack the Ripper. Whilst the song itself is an ace piece of very early rock music, where Joe Meek and Sutch combined to created a track which was raw and seething in comparison to their slick and somewhat twee British peers, the video is an uncomfortable watch. It would be banned even now.

Much has already been written about what Screaming Lord Sutch and The Savages contributed towards rock music, and summarising it here is going to be a tough job. Suffice to say, the band were formed as a reaction against the poor state of British popular music rather than out of a desire to be slick and professional. Hence Sutch and his merry crew would utilise stage props, extremely loud amplification, wild drumming and unpredictable behaviour, such as, on one occasion, setting fire to effigies of Cliff Richard. The few clips available online now point towards an act that seems somewhat corny by present day standards, but it's important to consider just what else there was around at the time. Compared to the aforementioned Cliff or even any number of Brian Epstein approved Merseybeat pros, there's something quite unique about them which (cliche alert) was ahead of its time. Whilst other acts were polishing their boots and steam ironing their suits for their appearances on prime time television, Sutch and the Savages were too busy being unbroadcastable. More to the point, they were largely excellent musicians (Noel Redding, Jimmy Page and Ritchie Blackmore all passed through the ranks at some point) immersing themselves in rock and roll and allowing themselves to improvise and occasionally appear out of control. There are numerous reports to the effect that they were one of the best live bands in the country at the time, and whilst I'm obviously far too young to have ever witnessed them, the amount of professional musicians willing to testify to the fact has to count for something.

Less appreciated is the fact that The Savages drummer, Carlo Little, was actually Keith Moon's teacher, offering him lessons when he first purchased a kit. Therefore, Moon's frantic, wild style owes a great deal to the band. You can read Little's account of their meetings here:

Whilst Sutch was always a great lover of outrage and practical jokes, one can't help but feel that the Monster Raving Loony Party (a joke political party he set up to campaign in various elections, for the benefit of any overseas readers) did ultimately blot his copy book, causing him to be remembered as a "character" and figure of fun rather than one of British rock music's first eccentrics, and a pioneer of sorts. Their output was inconsistent, Sutch's voice was certainly nothing to write home about - although his rather character-filled imperfect vocal style predates a lot of other artists as well - but the stir they created clearly got a lot of musicians thinking about how to present themselves, alternative ways of playing, and also what place outrage and unpredictability had in rock music. Anyone declaring that in terms of sales and commercial appreciation versus actual influence on music they were effectively the British Velvet Underground would be greeted with derision. They would also probably be sent down a dark cellar somewhere and whipped for crimes against critical judgement, but somewhere in that statement lies the kernal of a truth.

While we're here, it's possibly also worth looking at the 1977 disco version of "Jack The Ripper", which is rather less pleasing, but does include Sutch sounding ever so slightly like Nick Cave in places. Probably a coincidence, but a cheering one nonetheless.

27 December 2008

Bobak Jons Malone - Motherlight

Bobak Jons Malone - Motherlight

Label: Morgan Blue Town
Year of Release: 1969 (re-issued in 2001 by Edsel)

As this blog has suffered from some Christmas downtime and it's been awhile since the last update, I thought I'd return with something more substantial than the last piece of seven inch vinyl I found in a local second hand store.

The history behind this album is somewhat fishy. It would seem that music business entrepreneur Monty Babson had decided to expand his interests beyond his existing Morgan Studios (sometime home to the Rolling Stones amongst lesser sixties stars) and its damp squib of a record label, and into the area of serious, "progressive" artists on a new outlet called "Morgan Blue Town". Sensing that the musical talent probably lay right under his nose with the numerous session boys who beavered away in the studio at all hours, he asked three of them, Wil Malone, Andy Johns (younger brother of Stones producer Glyn Johns, whose name was bizarrely changed to Jons for the sleeve credit) and engineer Mike Bobak to come up with something suitably forward-thinking for the album market. Babson's deal was not the stuff many would be envious of - he asked them to work late at night during studio dead time, and made them sign an agreement which stated that they lost the rights to their work as soon as they created them. Mike Bobak has since gone on record as saying that he didn't mind this arrangement as "it was never going to sell a million", and perhaps the ad-hoc band also used the duff contract as an excuse to indulge artistic tendencies which might otherwise have been reigned in.

The resulting "Motherlight" album is not without its flaws. "Wanna Make A Star, Sam" smacks of filler, even if it does lyrically predate Pink Floyd's "Have A Cigar", and "Burning The Weed" is a novelty track only worthy of a few listens before the joke wears thin - although astonishingly, it was supposedly the inspiration for DJ Dee Kline's 2000 hit "I Don't Smoke". Beyond those slip ups, however, lie six other tracks which utilise eerie lyrics, dissonance, and adventurous use of studio technology to create one of the more unsettling albums of the era. In particular, "House of Many Windows" is a triumph of the pre-prog, post-psych period, using some strangely effective (rather than outright pretentious) surreal lyrics in tandem with wobbly, giddy piano work and doomy organ passages. "High on A Meadow Lea" is another prime example of bad trip psychedelia, the undercurrent of something threatening and nasty continually tugging at the song's good melodic intentions.

For an album issued in 1969, "Motherlight" is actually an enormously forward-thinking piece of work, stylistically predating a lot of material which other bands would bring out in the seventies, but excusing itself of pompous excess which many other acts would fail to do. Clocking in at just over half an hour long, the album makes its point without outstaying its welcome, and doesn't bash ideas to an early death with tedious long, repetitive instrumental passages which add little to the experience. It's a finely balanced and interesting piece of work, and not for no reason is it frequently talked about amongst collectors.

In fact, "Motherlight" would always have been a dead cert for this blog were it not for the fact that it's been frequently written about on just about every other psychedelic and progressive website in the entire world, but as none of the old uploads for it seem to be available anymore, this seems like a good time to put it out in the public domain again.

As for the people involved, Bobak, Jo(h)ns and Malone all went on to successful careers in the music industry as session players, engineers and producers - Wil Malone, in particular, has worked on arrangements with Massive Attack and The Verve, whilst Andy Johns co-produced Television's "Marquee Moon". This album may have only sold cultishly well in Holland and been largely ignored elsewhere, but the talent working behind it was enough to set the individuals involved up for life.

Track listing

1. Motherlight
2. On A Meadow-Lea
3. Mona Lose
4. Wanna Make A Star, Sam
5. House of Many Windows
6. Chant
7. Burning The Weed
8. The Lens

Now commercially available again and therefore unavailable for download here - so please don't ask!

20 December 2008

Second Hand Record Dip Part 22 - Les Surfs - Go Your Way

Les Surfs - Go Your Way

Who: Les Surfs
What: Go Your Way (b/w "Chained to a Memory")
When: 1965
Label: RCA
Where: Wood Street Market, Walthamstow
Cost: 50p

The current state of the singles collecting market means that I can afford to make the odd mistake now and then. Whereas a lot of stores in the past would have happily priced up any old obscure sixties nonsense at ten pounds purely because it was obscure nonsense, and for no other reason, now things appear to be getting more reasonable. True, some hucksters are presently trying to flog off Beatles singles for extortionate sums of money purely because they are out-source pressings from when EMI's in-house facilities were stretched to capacity, even though to all intents and purposes they are exactly the same product, but besides that... there's a recession on. Haven't you heard?

This means that items I would have walked past back when people were pricing them up in a barmy fashion I now take a punt on... sometimes it pays off, and very frequently I'm afraid it doesn't. Take this single, for instance. I was absolutely convinced that Les Surfs were probably some kind of French surf rock band, which would have been impossible to walk past for the same price as a bar of Snickers - but it transpires that they were actually a family act from Madagascar who did a reasonable, if rather unexciting, line in harmony pop.

Apparently huge in many European countries but never quite breaking through in Britain, Les Surfs are still much loved by a lot of sixties pop collectors, and their material certainly has a certain warmth and naive charm. Dick Dale, however, it most definitely is not.

18 December 2008

Crazy World of Arthur Brown - Nightmare (b/w "Music Man")

Crazy World of Arthur Brown Nightmare

Label: Track
Year of Release: 1968

Poor Arthur Brown. His career started out in an enormously humble way, regularly playing psychedelic nights in tiny basement bars around London, before - seemingly out of the blue - "Fire" shot to number one in 1968 and changed his status overnight. From that point on, everybody involved with the act had to find a way of keeping a terrifying looking man wearing firey headgear in the public eye. This is inevitably where the problems started.

There's no question that there was more to Brown than screeching, shouting and demonic organ solos, but to be frank, his act could never be fairly described as 'pop'. The track "Give Him A Flower" proves that there was a fantastic Bonzos-esque sense of humour going on as well, but even in that case the jokes were possibly too niche and too knowing for mainstream consumption. Perhaps with this in mind, "Nightmare" became the follow-up to his number one, and lo and behold... nobody bought it.

"Nightmare" is even more threatening than "Fire", consisting mostly of a determined, full-on organ riff topped off with Brown's demonic screaming. It's not a bad record at all, but had Radio One played this during the daytime, it would have terrified the wits out of most of the nation - gone is the almost groovy hook, and instead there's a lot of terror and minimalism in its place. No horn section this time, I'm afraid.

Cases have been made for Arthur Brown by numerous critics at numerous points, and the claims that he 'invented Heavy Metal' and 'inspired Alice Cooper' are by now tremendously well-known. It does seem very sad, then, to think that the only major mention he's received on television in the last ten years has been on Chris Morris' Brasseye special, where "The Crazy World of Arthur Brown" was revealed as being a slang phrase for a paedophile. As if being an undeserved one-hit wonder weren't enough of a problem...

16 December 2008

The Pre-Curve Toni Halliday Entry

The Uncles - What's The Use of Pretending?

Label: MCA
Year of Release: 1984

Ah, Toni Halliday... it's impossible for her name to be mentioned without my eyes glazing over in a dream-like state as I remember my adolescent fondness for her. When the band Curve were at the peak of their powers (in 1992) I had a poster of her on my wall which stayed put for many years. Besides being involved with some of the more interesting, dense and adventurous alternative pop of the period, where clattering drum patterns, effects laden guitars and revving bass lines all collided, she also coated the singles with her own gentle, honey-sweet singing voice, delivering lyrics which were frequently barbed and defiant.

At the time, though, they were greeted with a great deal of suspicion. Far from being fresh, naive young souls on the indie block, Curve had a history which was considerably less credible. Not long before their first EP found its way out into the world, Toni Halliday had been releasing very middle of the road pop singles - this lead to accusations that she was "cashing in on alternative rock" from some sources. I still find this somewhat unbelievable. "Alternative Rock" - in its truist, non-Kaiser Chiefs, non-Ting Tings form - is a particularly tricky beast to cash in on, seldom paying a musician's rent. Had Halliday and Dean Garcia wanted to make a fast buck, it seems more logical to me that they'd have tried releasing some novelty dance singles sampling children's TV theme tunes, or perhaps attempted some cynical cover versions. Playing with effects pedals on guitars and releasing songs with lyrics like "It's never enough to swallow those pills/ Now I'm sick, and always will be" is an odd way to approach multi-platinum success.

Nonetheless, to have some understanding of where the cynicism came from, it's really worth listening to some early Halliday singles. The first proper release she was involved with was The Uncles "What's The Use of Pretending" which is actually a piece of utterly forgettable pop music with cheap, brassy synth noises and Tears for Fears inspired electronic oriental instrumentation. Toni's voice doesn't yet have any subtlety, yelping the vocals in a jerky, eighties style rather than the soft but savage approach she later developed. The B-side "Deep Water" even goes so far as to be outright crap - it's a long, long way from here to the "Doppelganger" album, and that's for sure.

At the tail end of her solo career in 1988, not long before Curve came into being, "Love Attraction" saw the light of day on Dave Stewart's "Anxious" label...

Toni Halliday - Love Attraction

....and in terms of ideas and range it's a huge improvement, albeit not one which is likely to have set many Curve fans' pants on fire. There's not a big difference between this and a great deal of the middle of the road solo artist pop that scattered itself throughout the lower half of the Top 100 in Britain at the time, but there's a confidence about it which is impossible to entirely dismiss.

Of course, all of this begs the question of how the giant leap from middle-of-the-road solo artist to alternative hero was achieved so quickly, and I'm afraid my answer isn't very interesting - it was probably a case of somebody with a varied musical taste suddenly deciding to do her own thing after years of having a rather unimpressive solo career filled with compromises (see also: Tori Amos). Feel free to download the above two examples below, although I apologise for the scratches on "Love Attraction" and its B-side "Child":

Probably the best thing I can do is leave you all with a YouTube video of Curve's "Coast is Clear" just to remind you of what we're talking about...

14 December 2008

Medicine Head - It's Natural (b/w "Moonchild")

Medicine Head - It's Natural

Label: Barn
Year of Release: 1976

Medicine Head have always been a curious case, so far as I'm concerned. Depending upon who you speak to, they were either "Forward thinking punk rockers playing the blues in a minimal and daring way", "A pretty good rock band, good for a couple of quid on the live circuit, actually", or "purist bores who were lucky to last as long as they did with one idea". That's what my three imaginary friends said on the telephone when I rang them up just now, anyway (they don't get together in one place very often - there would be too many fights).

For my part, I find it hard to understand how a duo who began with so much credibility could become so seldom referenced. Consisting of John Fiddler on vocals, guitar, piano and drums and Peter Hope-Evans on harmonica, jew's harp and mouthbow, they played blues tinged rock and roll stripped down and raw. John Peel adored them so much he signed them to his own label, Dandelion Records, and even gave them their first hit "(And The) Pictures in the Sky" - a minimal thumper with jew's harp, humming, rather T Rexy lyrics and bar-room boogie piano which, for however 'worthy' that sounds, is actually bloody ace, not making much of an impression first listen, but worming its way into your head slowly and finally setting up home there for good. Had it been issued in the sixties rather than 1971, we'd probably be talking about it a lot more than we presently do.

The whole "Two Man Band" schtick of Medicine Head, plus the blues influences, does make one wonder if Peel recognised bits of the White Stripes in them at a later date. It's true to say that The White Stripes are a lot better, and less hairy, and more noisy and less considered than The Head, but the template remained much the same. A standard quote in reviews of their gigs at the time seemed to be "It's astonishing how two people playing the blues can make so much noise!", which, of course, became the standard line for virtually every hack seeing Jack and Meg for the first time in the late nineties. Perhaps when somebody else comes along and does it for a third time fewer people will have their expectations confounded.

By the time "It's Natural" slipped out in 1976, Medicine Head had already managed to have a top ten hit and three top forty hits on Polydor, but no hit albums. After it became clear they weren't going to have their contract renewed, they moved over to Slade manager Chas Chandler's label Barn, who began to handle their affairs.

One of their final shots, "It's Natural" is a slightly tame beast despite its rolling groove. There's some nice guitar twanging in there and I still find the whole thing impossible to dislike, but it couldn't sound less like a single if it tried - the fact it flopped, then, should not bother us unduly, but the fact that the band were heading towards the end of their careers possibly should have done. For all their hair and beards and worship at the alter of thousands of sacrificied bluesmen, part of me thinks that there was something quite DIY and intriguing about them which didn't quite 'fit' the excesses of prog, and the fact that they've been relegated to a very minor footnote in rock music since seems a bit unjust.

Shortly after this single, the band split, and neither John Fiddler or Peter Hope-Evans have played together again since.

11 December 2008

Karel Fialka - The Eyes Have It

Label: Blueprint
Year of Release: 1980

I've always found records which failed to entertain the Top 40 but gained a lot of airplay fascinating. It must cause pluggers everywhere to come crashing back down to earth as they realise that their job alone cannot guarantee a hit. It must also cause the artist a certain amount of grief - who do they blame, the distribution, the label, or their own song?

Perhaps Karel Fialka has given the above a lot of consideration over the years, because "The Eyes Have It" was a total smash in airplay terms, even managing to get (as you can see) a Top of the Pops slot despite only climbing as high as number 52. Although back in the day TOTP were known for doing things like this now and then, getting a new act on to the show on a Thursday night without a hit would still be considered a major victory for any plugger. Despite the exposure, the public clearly decided not to bite, and it went ignored to the extent that even when he did finally get a hit with the truly irritating "Hey Matthew" seven years later, most people didn't seem to remember his past.

"The Eyes Have It" isn't without its charms, although it's very much a period piece and would have sounded utterly out of place if released three years later. For 1980, however, it has all the correct elements - those mechanical, jerky, dispassionate vocals much loved by many major label New Wave one-hit wonders (See also: Flash and the Pan), an insistent, slogan driven hook, and some synth noises which now sound dated in a charming way. As much as eighties production values seem to be making a resurgance, it's precisely this kind of record which seemingly never gets revisited by the present cool kids on the block. As a result, it seems more distant to me and makes me feel more nostalgic than something like XTC's "Black Sea", which has been ripped off more times than I can be bothered to count in the last six years (not that this stops it from being a superb album, of course, just a very heavily plundered one).

It's as well to be realistic, however, and for all the rigid mechanical sloganeering stomp of this single, it was possibly all a bit too minimal to ever have had much chance of being more than a minor hit. Blueprint were also a subsidiary of Pye Records who were known for being dreadful at breaking any new artist at this point in time, and the two factors combining can't have helped Karel Fialka much at all. The upshot of that is that "Hey Matthew" gets used in pub quizzes as an example of a one hit wonder, when to be perfectly bloody honest I'd be happy to forget it ever happened. Such is life.

8 December 2008

Earl Brutus - The Early Singles (Well, most of them...)

Since uploading the last set of Earl Brutus mp3s some entries ago, I'm both stunned and reassured to discover that they are the second most popular reason people come to this blog from Google (See if you can guess the most popular reason. It's not hard). It's surprising because whilst they had a hardcore army of fans throughout the late nineties, their records never sold in staggering quantities even with the might of Island's marketing muscle behind them for their second album. It's reassuring because, of course, they frequently made some of the best music of the latter half of that decade - warped, demented, occasionally ramshackle but always invigorating krautpunkrock records with whopping great glam rock beats tacked on, rather like furry dice to the windscreen mirror of a mud splattered Volkswagen stock racing car.

At a time when a lot of bands were frequently prissy about their work, they reminded us that sometimes spontaneous, messy chaos is at the root of a lot of good rock music. And so it proved - the first album "Your Majesty We Are Here" was written and recorded in two weeks flat, and still sounds a hell of a lot better than most albums that year which had huge budgets. It shames the major players to such an extent that when they signed to Island, I (wrongly, as it turned out) fretted about their material losing its edge.

The main thing to bear in mind when listening to these pre-major label singles, then, is that the B sides probably aren't going to be a good introduction to the band for newcomers. In the fortnight "Your Majesty..." was put together, it doesn't seem as if there was a lot of meat left on the bones to dish out to the singles buying public. For the most part - and with one or two choice exceptions - these are instrumental curios or rum little doodles which aren't up there with the band's best. The A sides, on the other hand, are largely different from the mixes on the album and sound as fresh and brutal as ever.

Two things in particular you should pay attention to are "Bonjour Monsieur", the second single from the band which never made it on to the album, and is up their with some of their best material, and the utterly ludicrous "Flash Versus Tarkus" mix of "Life's Too Long" which uses dialogue from the film "Flash" to rebuild the single.

Missing from this download set, I'm afraid, is the 1993 single mix of "Life's Too Long" backed with "Valley of the Slimkings", which I've never seen a copy of anywhere - if anyone can help or enlighten me or even upload the damn thing, I'd be grateful. Also, completely unlisted on the Wikipedia discography is the limited edition 1995 Christmas single "Single Seater Xmas", which I also don't have a copy of, and also seems to have been absent from second hand record store shelves for as long as I've been looking. Still, that was available as part of the download for the "Your Majesty" album some time back, and you can't have everything...

For further information, click on the "Earl Brutus" tag at the bottom of this entry.

Bonjour Monsieur (b/w "On Me Not In Me")

Earl Brutus - Bonjour Monsieur

Label: Royal Mint
Year of Release: 1995
Source: 7" vinyl rip

Navyhead (b/w "North Sea Bastard")

Earl Brutus - Navyhead

Label: Deceptive
Year of Release: 1996
Source: 7" vinyl rip

Life's Too Long

Earl Brutus - Life's Too Long

Label: Deceptive
Year of Release: 1996
Source: CD single

1. Life's Too Long
2. I Love Earl Brutus (Introducing Shinya)
3. Motarola
4. Life's Too Long (Flash Versus Tarkus)

I'm New (b/w "Like Queer David" and "Mondo Rotunda")

Earl Brutus - I'm New

Label: Deceptive
Year of Release: 1996
Source: 7" vinyl rip

4 December 2008

Frazier Chorus - Typical

Frazier Chorus - Typical!

Label: Virgin
Year of Release: 1989

"Inspired by no-one/ other groups bore us/ how can you say we sound like Frazier Chorus?" - 'Girlfriends Finished With Him' by Half Man Half Biscuit

The only surprising thing about this particular Left and to the Back entry is that it took so long for me to bother to upload it here - after all, I uploaded a Chart Show clip of the video nearly two years ago, which has since been sitting pretty on YouTube by itself picking up plentiful hits.

Frazier Chrorus were probably one of the ultimate cult bands in the late eighties and early nineties, picking up an audience from all over the genre spectrum. "Ravers", if we wish to clumsily use early nineties tabloid speak, apparently purchased their album "Sue" to enjoy as comedown listening. Stranded C86 kids with no off-kilter arty bands to appreciate in the Madchester flood snapped up their records with joy (Stuart Murdoch out of Belle and Sebastian was one of them). I might be imagining it, but I'm also fairly sure that Radio Two played them once or twice, and the then yuppie targetted, CD lifestyle dominated magazines "Q" and "Select" had plenty of praise to heap on them. Radio airplay may have proved to be a problem, but for awhile it seemed as if they might be precisely the kind of odd band which breaks away from the indie fringes - the type of act for whom uniqueness might prove to be an advantage rather than a stumbling block.

Despite the Half Man Half Biscuit lyric above, nobody really sounded much like Frazier Chorus at the time (even Jona Lewie, despite the protestations of a couple of critics) with their hushed, whispered vocals, and use of flutes, strings and chiming glockenspiels. They sounded rather like an act who had raided the school instrument cupboard and then been forced to rehearse quitely in the library before being introduced to the world - and whilst that should be an awful, awful prospect, it created a bizarre noise which was at once richer and more varied than their contemporaries, as well as introducing some gentleness and introspection to a rather boisterous music scene. In fact, it's a noise which suits eighties production values incredibly well (unlike a lot of the other poor sods who had to record at the time). The fussy, velvety nature of most studio activity from the period seems to work in their favour.

It didn't all take off perhaps quite as well as some people expected, obviously, but the amount of affection they created is still very apparent in many online communities, and they seem to be remembered to a greater degree than (for example) more successful alternative acts of the same period like The High.

As a footnote, it's worth adding that apparently Martin Freeman is lead singer Tim Freeman's brother, and the character in "The Office" was partly based on him [citation needed - ed]. A point to ponder whilst you listen to the "Typical" twelve inch single, perhaps...

1. Typical (Extended Mix)
2. String
3. Born with a Headache

Oh, and here's the video clip:

3 December 2008

Eddy Phillips - Limbo Jimbo (B/W Change My Ways)

Eddy Phillips - Limbo Jimbo

Label: Charisma
Year of Release: 1976

We haven't had too many examples of singles on this blog which should be filed under the section "You Couldn't Get Away With It Nowadays (and perhaps that's just as well)". Of the few we've had that have felt uncomfortably iffy, none of them have been by a respected cult star, so let's all hold hands together as we break new ground with this particular obscurity, because it's a long way down.

Before I start explaining the content of the single, I may as well begin by saying that I'm a fan of The Creation and think that the bulk of their sixties recorded output deserves the respect it receives from aficiandos. Whilst fans of obscure sixties garage and psychedelia can sometimes be a little too free with their praise, using superlatives to describe any number of mediocre flops, The Creation really should have broken through. Any band capable of recording "Making Time" and "How Does It Feel to Feel" has already earned a well-deserved mention in the rock history books so far as I'm concerned, and there the argument can rest.

Despite the above, when lead guitarist Eddy Phillips tried to launch his solo career on the world in 1976, surely nobody could have been expecting this. Utilising riffs from The Creation's sole hit "Painter Man", "Limbo Jimbo" tells a tale of Jamaican immigration which is borderline offensive to say the least. "He got in trouble with the law", sings Eddy in a fake accent, describing Jimbo's arrival in Britain, "He limbo'ed under a ladies door". I don't have any statistics for what the crime rates were in Britain for Jamaican males limboing their way into ladies quarters without permission, but I'd be willing to bet it wasn't that much of a problem. We'd surely have heard about it.

Further stereotypes and cliches abound, and we are told towards the end of the sorry tale that Jimbo wants to return to Jamaica to the nice weather and (most mysteriously of all) "DA TORNADOES!"

Anybody expecting a blistering piece of mod pop is going to be very disappointed indeed by this one, as it's closer to in style to Typically Tropical than The Creation, and Eddy Phillips must regularly thank his lucky stars it was never a hit - his band's reappraisal might otherwise never have happened in the eighties. The flip side "Change My Ways" is a piece of country-tinged rock that sounds like the sort of thing you'd have expected him to return with after spending so long away - the A side seems to be mysteriously overlooked by people writing about the man.

For what it's worth, I doubt the single is meant to be malicious, and we can probably just about get away with referring to it as "dated kitsch" and moving swiftly on.

1 December 2008

Psychic TV - Good Vibrations

Label: Temple
Year of Release: 1986

"Good Vibrations" probably sits right up there with "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "A Day in The Life" as songs which should never be covered, and would only be touched by either somebody desperate to take the piss or one who felt very, very daring.

It's difficult to say what category Psychic TV's version of this song falls under, but there's something about this whole package which is enticing in a peculiar way. Ostensibly, the band haven't bothered to significantly change the original arrangement of the tune, and have for the most part in fact faithfully replicated the entire thing - but then there are some unsettling and wobbly undercurrents to the version which make it seem as sinister as Dennis Wilson's friendship with Charles Manson. The video is also an absurd cocktail of colourful random "goofball" antics, like some deliberately badly realised eighties recreation of a sixties promo clip, and the combined effect is actually a tiny bit confusing.

Technically speaking, it's hard to justify including Psychic TV on a blog like this one. They may not have had any proper "hits" as such but, along with Genesis P-Orridge's first band Throbbing Gristle, the shadow they've cast across the music scene is long. It was, after all, they who sampled Peter Fonda saying "We wanna get loaded and have a good time" from the film "Wild Angels" before Primal Scream got their hands on it, and Throbbing Gristle who were pioneers for the industrial music scene. All that said, this version of "Good Vibrations" seems to have been largely forgotten about even by the band's fanbase - which isn't that surprising, considering the fact that most fans seem to frown upon their pet bands releasing cover versions as singles, and are frequently desperate to forget them - and the video seems to have fallen to the back of everybody's brains despite getting some terrestrial TV exposure on "The Chart Show".

There was a rumour at this point that Genesis P-Orridge was quite keen for Psychic TV to worm into the mainstream, and it's possible (although I've no concrete proof) that this was supposed to help push them through where they could go on to cause untold damage. Obviously, however, a lowly Top 75 chart placing was all that really awaited them, and it was not to be. It's hard to say whether that's just as well or not.