Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Royal: Prince



Prince et al: While My Guitar ...


I lived in a place where MTV did not shine for many of its early years. Of course, you can undoubtedly get it now even in Shabaab/Somalia. But,  as a result, we used to videotape hours’ worth on slow speed VHS and watch it over and over. We had the full Purple Rain film, and of course 1999. At about that time Prince seemed to me to be musical royalty personified.

Like many of you, I kind of lost track of Prince  over the years – probably about the time he changed his name to a symbol/the artist formerly known as Prince. I do guess I last bought Emancipation. And he appeared to be trying to defy the major labels by marketing his music online. For a while.

 
I still have a lot of respect for the man. While I wonder about his direction (not so sure about whether I really like this Charlotte live stuff, even if the stage show aint bad at all), I gotta admit that his rather flamboyant performance in the clip I am featuring re-establishes his credit in my books. You’ll have to wait till about minute 3.30 to see him do his thing, but you can look out for the man with the red fedora a bit earlier. If you ever wanted proof of his royalty, this has got to be it.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Royal: Court of the Crimson King

 

King Crimson: Court of the Crimson King
[purchase]


I am not going pretend that I was ever overboard about King Crimson just because the name fits our theme. Sure, I listened (heavily) to the “Court of the Crimson King” album back when it came out. Who didn’t? Geez: the cover itself was almost reason enough to give it a few listens.

Besides, the music genre was quite in line with many of the other popular styles of the day: Yes, (the original sound of) Genesis …, so, sure, I followed their psychedelic influenced music for a while.

I’ve noted before: one of the perks of blogging here is that more often than not it leads to further learning. I wonder if you would also be as astonished as I was to hear that King Crimson is still making music? All along – since the 1960s, Robert Fripp has kept the band alive – with various hiatuses. Uncut.co.uk even announces that Fripp and other previous KC band members are due to/were due to perform this week (Sept 1, 2014) in the 8th incarnation of the band. Who would have believed they were still around?

And as to this choice of song: there is more to my selection than just the name (enough in itself perhaps): Like much of the other works I cite as related (Yes, Genesis), there is – IMHO – a rather regal air to the song. Is it the American perception of the British accent as being somehow “superior”? Is it the references to historical issues that the shortened timeline of US history cannot match?

 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

OFFENSIVE(?) : KINKY FRIEDMAN





Uncertain if this is sorta timely, given the rash of recent trashings of Jewish businesses in the UK, and further afield too, no doubt, in the wake of the current Gaza debacle, about which I am going to deliberately stay shtoom about, believing that the problem is the argument between the state of Israel and the would-be state of Palestine, rather than which side of the kosher/halal counter you lie. This is more a reminder around the never too far away waft of anti-semitism that permeates, given half the chance. And in the same way as niggers and queers have reclaimed words they now may only use, ain't the best way to respond is by ridicule?

Richard Samet Friedman was born nearly 70 years ago and is the self-styled most famous jewish cowboy in the world, something Lorne Greene and Michael landon, joint stars of Bonanza, might take issue with, but he is certainly the one who has taken that coveted title most overtly to his 5-starred heart. I doubt his parents originally envisaged his place in the entertainment canon to turn out as it did, he being a bit of a childhood chesss prodigy, later graduating as a psychology major at the University of Texas in 1962. It was there college mates labelled him Kinky, on account of his "jewfro" hair. Before music grabbed him full time, he served time in the Peace Corps and as a teacher. In 1971 he first formed his seminal band, as Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys, along with similarly ironically titled Little Jewford, Big Nig, Panama Red, Wichita Culpepper, Sky Cap Adams, Rainbow Colours, and Snakebite Jacobs, encouraged as much by the disgust of his father for this "negative, hostile, peculiar thing" he had formed. 

The early 70s were a good time for country-rockers, and it was the not unlike-minded Commander Cody, of his Lost Planet Airmen fame, who gave Kinky his first break, but it took a while before he became, by his own allegation, the first full-blooded Jew to appear at the Grand Ol' Opry. In itself this was no mean feat, his speciality being offence, or rather the lampooning of the political and received, often phobic, correctness of the day, whether it be around his race, social commentary or good old plain filth. Time for a song, and I clearly have to play his most famous song, the evocatively entitled "They ain't makin' Jews like Jesus anymore", for which YouTube is awash with live versions. I use that one to show off the poetry inherent within the sentiment. His next most famous song led to the National Organisation of Women calling awarding him the male Chauvinist Pig award of 1973, a prize taken with pride. I'm sure you're ready to hear Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Buns in the Bed. (Sadly, it's not very good, aging particularly badly. Casual racism remains a far better target than does serious anti-feminism, unless it's just me.) 

When his hit dried up he moved into literature, in particular that of crime fiction, featuring a wise-cracking Jewish sleuth called....... Kinky Friedman. Then, following an earlier failed bid to become Justice of the Peace for his area (as a republican), in 2004 he launched a bid to become Governor of Texas, with such convincing slogans as, "My Governor is a Jewish Cowboy" and "He ain't Kinky, he's my Governor", genuinely surprised not to be taken seriously and to being trumped into 6th place with 13% of the vote, in retrospect quite a solid achievement. Amongst policies to pay more for teachers, greater border controls and a suspension of the death penalty, the full legalisation of marijuana was perhaps a step to far for the moral majority of the Lonestar state. As late as last year he was threatening to once more enter the fray, but it is also evident that he has simultaneously kick-started his musical career and persona. In my research(!?) for this piece I came across this fascinating interview, which encapsulates the man and his myriad mythologies very neatly. I have to say I'm not entirely sure how offensive he comes over as in 2014, probably little, but I well recall the sharp intakes of breath as I described the man and his songs at a dinner party some years ago, failing to appreciate that both the host and the main body of his guests were the cream of local west midlands Jewry. Hey ho. I wasn't invited back.  

The song! 

A book!

Donate to his animal rescue centre!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Offensive: GG Allin

[purchase a documentary]

Time to really go for it here.

I first heard about GG Allin from the early Drive-By Truckers song “The Night GG Allin Came to Town.” As Patterson Hood tells the story, he and Mike Cooley were living in Memphis in 1991 as their first band, Adam’s House Cat, was disintegrating. They were poor, miserable and hated Memphis. GG Allin played the Antenna Club on November 16, and Hood and Cooley didn’t go—they were broke and weren’t fans. But the next morning, they were at a local restaurant, filled with an older crowd, just after church, and they overheard a couple, described in one version of the story as Thurston Howell III and Lovey, reading an article about the show in the local free paper, and being generally horrified. The lyrics to the song are pretty graphic, but here’s a transcription of the actual article at issue, and it is even better. For example:

To put it bluntly, Allen [sic] grossed out the audience at The Antenna Club. He defecated on the stage, then appeared to eat it and spit at the patrons. Allen, who is the lead singer, also beat his forehead bloody with a beer bottle and put a microphone up his rectum. The drummer performed naked.

My favorite line from the article is, though:

G.G. Allen will not be invited back to the Antenna Club, [club owner] McGehee said, although "people would pay for them to come back. He's got everyone talking.”

An excerpt from this very performance is the video above—it is offensive, but doesn’t include any of the feces-related material. (It also cuts off part way through—but if you aren’t satisfied, just Google him, and you will find many more videos not suitable for, well, pretty much anything.)

Allin was a pretty disgusting character. Literally born Jesus Christ Allin, to a spectacularly delusional and dysfunctional set of parents, Allin probably could have used someone to set a few boundaries. Instead, Allin described his childhood as “very chaotic. Full of chances and dangers. We sold drugs, stole, broke into houses, cars. Did whatever we wanted to for the most part – including all the bands we played in. People even hated us back then."

A drug addict and violent criminal, Allin served time for "assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder" on a female companion, and his psychological evaluation diagnosed him as having a “mixed personality disorder with narcissistic, borderline and masochistic features.” Before accepting a plea bargain, Allin claimed that the conduct at issue was consensual, and admitted to cutting the woman, burning her, and drinking her blood, but argued, in mitigation, that she did the same thing to him. So, that made it O.K.

After getting released from prison in March, 1991, Allin went on tour, which was documented in a film directed by Todd Phillips, who later directed the slightly less offensive, but substantially more successful Hangover movies.

In June, 1993, Allin was playing The Gas Station on the Lower East Side of New York, and something happened during the second song that angered Allin (accounts vary as to what that was, but it probably didn’t take much). Of, course, he trashed the club, then walked out, naked and covered in blood and feces, followed by his fans. He ended up at a friend’s apartment, continued to use drugs and overdosed. Allin died wearing a silver Nazi helmet. Here’s a first hand account of Allin’s last night, written by the legendary Legs McNeil, which differs in many details from the Wikipedia account. McNeil’s version is more fun to read, though, and better written.

Allmusic calls Allin “arguably the most degenerate and outrageous figure in rock history.” And based on my research, it seems like a pretty good argument.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Offensive: Vomit Launch


Vomit Launch: Stillness
[purchase]

Choosing a band name should be a big deal. You would think that deciding how you are going to be known to the world makes a difference. Although I’ve never been in a band, lacking sufficient musical talent and all, I’ve always imagined deciding on a name is an important issue for the members to hash out and come to some sort of an agreement. Often, the name of the band sends a signal to what the music is going to sound like. I mean, Gentle Giant is going to be a prog rock band, Metallica, is, of course, metal and The Pure Prairie League will play country rock. For a while, in the 80s, you knew that if a band was called The [insert generic noun here], the likelihood of seeing a bunch of guys in skinny ties playing poppy new wave was pretty high.

Punk rock, though, by its very nature, wants to shock, and its emergence led to a bunch of bands that purposely chose names to offend. The Sex Pistols, of course, were not the first punk band, but they may have opened the door to a more widespread use of offensive names. I remember being told by the WPRB station manager that we couldn’t say the name of the Dickies, which to this day seems overly cautious, especially since he never seemed to have a problem with the Dead Kennedys. Bands that choose aggressively offensive names, mostly punk and metal acts that I won’t specifically mention because they might show up during this theme at some point (but here are a couple of good lists) did so to signal that they didn’t care about mainstream success and were thumbing their noses at major labels, big time radio and large venues. In some ways, it was a kind of reverse psychology—attracting people by being repulsive.

But, frankly, this strategy can backfire. If you make music that actually might be popular, is catchy and not at all offensive, choosing an off-putting name could essentially torpedo your career. And, it appears, that may have been what happened to Vomit Launch.

Vomit Launch was started in 1985 by a bunch of friends in Chico, California who decided to form a band. After a few rehearsals, they were offered a gig, and therefore needed a name. According to the band’s website, a couple of the band members “drank a bunch of wine and created a list of possible band names for future use. Unfortunately among these names were Truckload of Fuckers, Fuckload of Truckers and Vomit Launch. Needing a name with a ‘gig’ fast approaching, the band decided Vomit Launch would be a fantastic choice!”

I would suggest that they were wrong.

Although the band released a few albums, opened for some well-known acts, and even had a video that aired once—partially—on MTV, by the end of 1992, they were done. Like so many obscure bands, they still have their fans, who reminisce longingly about their short career, but I’d like to suggest that with a less offensive name, they might have been more successful.

I’m not exactly sure how I first heard of Vomit Launch. I’m pretty sure that it was as a result of my eMusic account. When I joined that service back in 2005, it was a quirky service focused on small, indie label acts and allowed an incredibly generous number of downloads a month for a low price. (Apparently, there was a period when it was essentially an all you could eat buffet, but I missed that). You overlooked the wonkiness of the website and its strange policies because it had lots of interesting music, cheap. And this allowed you to download stuff that you might not otherwise consider. Over time, eMusic has morphed into a service that has most, if not all, major label content. It is still somewhat valuable, but Its quirks are less charming now that it is competing directly with iTunes and Amazon. I think it is still worth it, especially at the low, grandfathered rate that I pay. But that’s another issue entirely.

My best recollection is that one of their songs was a free track, and admittedly amused by the name, I downloaded it and found that contrary to its name, it was a good, wholly inoffensive, new wave-ish song. I downloaded a second, similarly good song, and pretty much forgot about the band, until recently, when I got into a discussion somewhere (Facebook?) about bands with offensive names. Coincidentally, I wrote about a song by the Butthole Surfers on another site, and that all led to this theme.

I hope this didn’t offend anyone.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

OFFENSIVE : SNUFF ROCK

Tough assignment, boss! OK, could have been easy to wade into Wayne/Jayne County territory with some uber-punk swearies, but, on stripping away the counter-cultural and taboo-breaking schlock tactics, let's agree the music was, well, a little thin........ But during this same time period, roughly 77-80, punk rock year zero onward, is a golden one for unearthing golden little rotten apples of impurity, all being required is something of even just a little merit to fit our bill. (Whaaat? And this from the man who posts Chris de Burgh?!?) And then I remembered this!




Snuff was a film that relied more on hype than hope for it's trajectory towards any legendary status, purporting to be "genuine" footage of a murder, whereas it was merely an earlier dismal and dismally made slasher pic called "Slaughter". When this bombed on release, it lingered awhile in the vaults until some unrelated footage could be tackily  tacked on to the end, so as to cash in on the popular urban legend of snuff films, i.e. the filming of an actual slaying. With a rough cut and abrupt "finish", it was palmed off as being for real, with fake protesters being hired by the distributors to picket any performance, to drum up custom. This worked, to a degree, with the NYPD having to look into it and dismissing it as no more than conventional trick photography. The public were also told that the "dead" actress had contacted the Police, wishing to assure her fanbase she was still alive and in many fewer pieces than the film might otherwise suggest. (But as wiki says so often, this reference needs corroborating..........)

Alberto Y Los Trios Paranoias were a comedy rock band from Manchester, UK, plugging away on the live circuit since 1972 and until a decade later. Actually very good musicians, they were a staple on the live circuit and at festivals between those years, with merciless lampooning of any number of their more earnest compatriots, from Lou Reed to Status Quo, accepting that you really had to be there, comedy and rock seldom cutting it away from the live experience.Come 1977, and arguably running out of targets, the idea of combining the punk ethos with snuff films came to them, whereby the band kill themselves on stage in the name of the ultimate anarchist expression. Every night. This actually began as a play, and was premiered at London's Royal Court Theatre, no less, with the Albertos playing all the parts and all the instruments, albeit with a more conventional "show" as their support act. And I was there, having been the recipient of a ticket as thanks for giving up my room to a pair of old chums, up in London for a week. As is the way, the original soundtrack recording became available as a record, albeit merely an EP (extended play, kiddos), 7 inches of vinyl with 2 tracks aside, something I still own with pride and play with pleasure. These were 3 parodies of the big 3 of the english punk movement, the Sex Pistols, the Damned and the Clash, along with the then, de rigeur, roots reggae association with punk. I heartily endorse you to seek this one out, this time my link being for real, rather than a sop to the digital download police as to my what me innocence around posting youtube links. See if you can guess which this one is:



A footnote: C.P. Lee, one of the key lynchpin members of the group, is now Senior Lecturer in Film Studies and has written a brace of worthy tomes about Bob Dylan, actually well worth reading.                                      





Monday, August 18, 2014

Offensive: Camarillo Brillo



Frank Zappa: Camarillo Brillo
[purchase: Camarillo Brillo]

The Wiki informs us that Camarillo is the location of a mental institution and that there were housed therein patients whose hairstyle was "frizzed out" as a result of electro-shocks. I had come to my own conclusion that his use of "Brillo" certainly referenced certain other human "curlies". Quite likely that both are possible: Zappa had a way of pushing societal limits, almost to the point of being offensive.

SMM has numerous other Zappa posts [http://sixsongs.blogspot.com.tr/search/label/Frank%20Zappa], and most of them verge towards the offensive either in title or in content: Don't Eat the Yellow Snow, Stinkfoot, Dinah Moe Humm, I Am the Slime ...

Overnite Sensation is likely Zappa's most offensive oevre: the picture frame that surrounds the cover artwork is one step short of nasty. Kind of a modern Heironymus Bosch.



Camarillo Brillo is only one of several songs on the album that push the limits of the acceptable  - that is assuming that you are not among those who find rock 'n roll to be the devil's music to start with, of course. But this goes well beyond what the 1950's critics had in mind when they condemned rock. Just check it out:

She stripped away
Her rancid poncho
An' laid out naked by the door
We did it till we were un-concho
An' it was useless any more


For my part, back when this came out and I was in my impressionable 20s, I memorized every line of the lyrics. I can still more or less sing along the entirety of the album from memory - 40+ years later. It was/is Zappa's irreverence for societal norms that brought meaning to his music. Aside from his guitar chops: the YouTube live versions don't even approach the guitar skills of this, the studio version.