Saturday, October 12, 2019

Strange/Weird: Little Miss Strange

purchase [Electric Ladyland] because the whole album is one you should own if you are into owning your music

When I think back on it, my first listen to Electric Ladyland was one of a few musical experiences where I can remember most of the 5 Ws. I was maybe 14 and I had an invite to a limited audience, listening studio to hear the work. I left the room changed. In truth, I had already been "experienced" a year or so earlier when a friend played the Are You Experienced album, and I recall an even more abrupt awakening then - never had I heard anything remotely like this before. But even with that experience behind me, Electric Ladyland was ... stunning. electric. different. The sound system in the "auditorium" was pretty good: we are talking about the days when "stereo" was still cutting-edge, and good stereo with decent Hz rates and quality speakers even more esoteric - all of which meant that the phase-shifting and Hendrix's cross channel effects were pretty novel.

If I don't insert too much of my current perspective into this, Little Miss Strange was one of the weaker cuts from the album. I prefer the more melodic Rainy Day, Dream Away and 1983 ... A Merman [...]

When I listen to Little Miss Strange in 2019, it now seems obvious that it wasn't a Hendrix composition (indeed it wasn't: it is a Noel Redding piece) Curiously, by the time recording on Electric Ladyland had begun, Bassist Redding wasn't playing much of the bass on the album - Hendrix himself and the Jefferson Airplane's Jack Cassady were taking on some of the bass playing. Although I do believe the liner notes say that Redding did play on LMStrange.

The 1968 Rolling Stone review of the album calls this song the most commercial of the songs on Electric Ladyland. Hmmm - I guess I am not terribly representative of the commercial market: I would have chosen something more melodic, like the above (Rainy Day or even All Along the Watchtower). But the overdubbed guitar tracks (in 5ths is it?) work pretty well to provide an element of harmony to a song that comes across to me as kind of raucous overall.

And, yeah, this too, from the Randy Hansen Band:

Wednesday, October 9, 2019


'Charlatans UK', that is, one of those raggle taggle of bands having to append their country of origin to their name, at least in the states, to differentiate themselves from some earlier same-name who could sue. Thus we also have the 'UK Squeeze', at least initially, 'The Mission UK', 'The English Beat' and 'London Suede'. Strangely not ever in reverse, with no Skid Row USA or Outlaws USA, to differentiate from their british forbears, let alone the nonsense of prime 60s psychedelicists 'Nirvana' having to add UK when some Seattle upstarts, previously named 'Fecal Matter', stole their name decades later.....

Weirdo/Between 10th and 11th; 1992

Hey ho, rant over, and as good a way to start this piece as any, by commenting on that strangeness. But, you know these guys anyway, they got to a Billboard number 1 with this very song. OK, it was one of the Billboard subsets, Best Modern Rock, lasting in that spot for a full week in 1992. Modern rock doesn't seem such a bad title, as more accurate definitions struggled. Lumped in with Madchesteror Baggy even, in the UK, they were neither from Manchester nor particularly comparable with those that were, the Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays, not least in the emphasis on a driving hammond organ led sound and a distinct northern soul and mod influence. I think it this, for then, retro sound that caught my ears, largely unenamoured by the rest of the pack. From their second album, Between 10th and 11th, itself named after the the venue they played their first US gig, perhaps suggesting this was where they were setting their sights. (The venue? New York's Marquee, or as we call it in this country, the Marquee US.) Sadly the momentum was lost somewhat when the keyboard player, Rob Collins, was arrested and imprisoned for his involvement in an armed robbery, arguably a foolish move when on the cusp of breaking america. Stories vary.

One to Another/Tellin' Stories; 1996

However, he was still there for their next three records, for even if US sales were next to no more, they were gradually building up ever a bigger name at home. The fifth record, Tellin' Stories, went platinum, arguably bolstered by the injection of some dance/electronica tropes courtesy Tom Rowlands (Chemical Brothers) and Martin Duffy (Primal Scream). The latter had became involved as Collins had only managed half the album, ahead of driving off the road at speed, without his belt belt and with excess alcohol. He died.

A Man Needs To Be Told/Wonderland; 2001

I felt the band were never quite the same again, never as cohesive, becoming more under the influence of the undoubtedly charismatic singer, Tim Burgess, even if, keyboards aside, the guitarist and rhythm section remained largely constants. Album number seven, Wonderland, even tried a change in focus, as Burgess steered a country influence, triggered perhaps by his longstanding Dylan fixations. Guitarist Mark (no relation) Collins even added pedal steel to his repertoire, even if it is Daniel Lanois on the record. Next came a backflip toward dance again, with the appearance of more of Burgess's previously guarded falsetto. Whilst the critics poured admiration on these releases, I personally felt a sense of desperation creeping in, and although their popularity as a live draw remained, sales were receding. Simpatico, number nine, wasn't even given the opportunity of a US release. It actually took a web giveaway to kick things back into gear, although You Cross My Path did get a more formal hard copy release later in the same year, 2008. Much more like it, this was a blunt reminder of who they were and what they were capable of, blending their original sound with a host of bolder ideas, but with a swagger and confidence missing over much interim output.

Oh Vanity/You Cross My Path; 2008

Bad luck returned to their ranks a few years later, their drummer, Jon Brookes, collapsing on stage during 2010, later receiving chemotherapy and surgery for the subsequently diagnosed brain tumour, only playing with the band again briefly ahead of succumbing three years later. Two albums, in 2015 and 2017, have followed, the band playing on, a soulful older statesmanlike hue beginning to appear, if the second of these trades arguably too heavily on the presence of guests, Paul Weller and Johnny Marr. So, what now and what next? Their website shows only they are still sporadically on the road, with no signs yet of any new material, give or take this year's record store day release of old and variations.

Talking In Tones/Modern Nature; 2015

Plastic Machinery/Different Days; 2017

Postscript: I toyed with putting up the lyrics of the featured song, as much as anything to see if I could make it fit my own view that it was the song that provoked one Thom Yorke and his band, Radiohead, to respond with this. Sadly the lyrics couldn't give me that indulgence, I finding it impossible to guage quite what or who the weirdo in question might be, possibly even Burgess himself. But, and without checking to see if the chronology makes it even possible, nice idea, innit!

Strange/Weird: Goodbye Stranger

purchase [ Goodbye Stranger]

The longer SMM continues, the harder it gets to be original. Be it chosing a theme or nailing a song (harder still ... a band) that hasn't been previously posted. SMM has done a couple of Supertramp's before, but it looks like this is the first appearance of this song here.

There isn't much that's weird about Supertramp (far as I know) except for a strange conspiracy theory espoused by a Daily Mirror contributor that links 1979's Breakfast in America to 9/11 (read all about it here). In general Supertramp didn't particularly aim for the weird - certainly not in their musical style: it ws mostly designed to "hit")

Along that path, <Goodbye Stranger> is straight down the third-base line: probable base-hit into the charts. The album contains a number of top hits that - at the time - cemented Supertramp's place in history: The Logical Song, Take the Long Way Home as well as this one and the title track. Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies wrote hit after hit throughout the 70s and 80s before disbanding.

In a way, 1979 seems like a strange dream now: Breakfast in America. What a difference 40 years makes.  Back then, breakfast in America was a popular destination. Strange how time and events change our values. For those of us outside the US, is a trip to the US such a major goal? For those of us inside, do we still want all those people coming to have breakfast with us?