Nocturnal Admissions

Between 1972 and 1977, Bryan Ferry, with and without Roxy Music made 9 of my favorite albums.
In the early-mid ’70′s, Roxy Music was about the coolest band around. They made 5 of them, each one better than the last.
They weren’t childhood friends. They weren’t childhood friends. Bryan found everyone through advertisements in Melody Maker.

In early 1970 he auditioned for King Crimson, as a replacement for Greg Lake. Although Robert Fripp and Pete Sinfield felt his voice was unsuitable, they were impressed enough to help the fledgling Roxy Music get a contract with E.G. Records.

Andy Mackay replied to Ferry’s advertisement, not as a keyboard player but a saxophonist and oboist, though he did have a VCS3 synthesizer. Mackay knew Brian Eno from university days, as both were interested in avant-garde and electronic music. Although Eno was a non-musician, he could operate a synthesizer and owned a Revox reel-to-reel, so Mackay convinced him to join the band as a technical adviser. Before long Eno was an official member.

In June 1971, Paul Thompson responded to an advertisement placed in Melody Maker, “wonder drummer wanted for an avant rock group”.

Originally naming the band Roxy, Ferry changed it when hearing of an American band with the same name. “Roxy Music” was partly an homage to old cinemas and dance halls, and partly a pun on the word rock.

In October 1971 he advertised in Melody Maker seeking the “Perfect Guitarist”. Phil Manzanera was one of about twenty players who auditioned. However, Manzanera did not get the gig; the successful applicant was David O’List, former member of The Nice. The group were impressed enough with Manzanera that he was invited to become Roxy Music’s roadie, an offer which he accepted.

Bands of brothers tolerate conflicts better than a bunch of free agents. Roxy Music was never stable. They didn’t even even have a permanent bassist, but rather a rotating group of temps.

Davy O’List was edged out due to some kind of altercation with Paul Thompson prior to getting their record deal. In the meantime, roadie Phil Manzanera had secretly learned all his parts. Their first BBC sessions feature O’List. It’s interesting to compare and contrast their styles.

Bryan Ferry pursued a solo career concurrent with Roxy Music, using wonder drummer, Paul Thompson, and Roxy’s rotating bass players. Andy Mackay is the only member, besides fired Eno who doesn’t participate. He was replaced by Mel Collins. Chris Spedding largely handles the guitars, although Davy O’ List and Phil Manzanera both make appearances.

Three of the four solo albums are dominated by covers. In fact he was one of the first to tackle material not normally associated with rock n roll.
“In Your Mind” (1977) is all original material.

Then two things happened. In 1977 Jerry Hall left him for Mick Jagger, and “The Great Paul Thompson” quit due to musical differences.

Ferry’s “The Bride Stripped Bare” (1978), and Roxy Music’s “Manifesto (1979) suffer greatly from his absence, and instead feature the slick hired gun sound he’s mostly stuck with ever since.

Paul Thompson’s return did wonders for Roxy Music’s 2001 reunion tour and the reulting 2002 double live album.

In March 2005, it was announced on Phil Manzanera’s official site that the band, including Brian Eno, would record an album of new material. The project would mark the first time Eno worked with Roxy Music since 1973′s “For Your Pleasure”. After a number of denials that he would be involved with any Roxy Music reunion, on 19 May 2006 Eno revealed that he had contributed two songs to the new album as well as playing keyboards on other tracks. He did, however, rule out touring with the band. Had the record been released as a Roxy Music album, it would have been the first album since “Manifesto”* on which original drummer Paul Thompson performed. The album has, however, been released as a Bryan Ferry solo album entitled Olympia.

I’m glad they didn’t call it a Roxy Music album.

This compilation comes from his first four, 1973-77. The Roxy Music titles are covers.


Nocturnal Admissions

Nocturnal Admissions Too

*although Thompson is listed as a member of the band, two other drummers are also credited, and the drums, overall, lack any of Thompson’s signature sound.

Sonic Bloom

When Sir John rang me up he was in bad shape. Obviously drunk.

“I’m fucked, mate,” was all he could say at first, then, “I can’t finish me bloody album for fuck’s sake!” He always sounds Irish when he’s drinking.
“It’s the Irish talking”, he’ll say, pointing at the word on the bottle above “Whiskey”

He was working on a solo album after giving most of his adult musical life to the band. They’d all quit and now the bass player hates him, apparently.
After the second blown deadline, his label insisted on an outside producer, and he’d rejected everyone they’d suggested.

I got the next flight to London and by tea time the next day I was in beautiful downtown Swindon, dodging hipsters. I had a schwarma at Mamoun’s, a Tiger brew or two at the Splash and Spasm, and thusly fortified, hired a car and rode out to his country estate. I never count on being fed out there. The cook is still mad at me for making a rude joke concerning “bangers and mash”.

I felt a fair amount of trepidation as we turned off the A419, halfway to Cirencester, onto the long drive into the property, and rode past the empty zoo cages, now somewhat overgrown, and signalling disrepair. A family of hedgehogs it’s sole captives.
The maid indicated he was out by the pool, where I found him shut in the cabana. With much cajoling he appeared, dressed in a rumpled terry cloth robe, a V-neck T-shirt, lightly dusted with bisquit crumbs, pink sunglasses, and matching plastic flipflops. He looked terrible. Worse for wear than the topiary animals out by the zoo.

“I need you to be my producer, mate,” he said, sheepishly.

With that, he handed me a thumb drive with over 160 songs on it.

“I’ll see what I can do,” I said.

“I’m sure you’ll make it right as rain,” he said managing a smile, as I wondered about the metaphor. How could rain be “Right”?

“I get to play GOD, er Todd,” I thought, and pondered that troubled history. A masterpiece and a thirty year grudge.

We locked ourselves in the former garden shed, now studio, lit a phatty, and got to work.
I was dumbstruck by the overall quality of the material.
Although there were plenty of throwaway tunes, and self-indulgent experiments, it was obvious there was a great album in there (A double as it turned out).
The first thing I did was get rid of everything that hearing once was enough.
I avoided the overly familiar material made famous by the band.

“WWTD” (What Would Todd Do?), I wondered. He’d roll up the sleeves and do some heavy lifting, while not being too concerned about stepping on any toes. Who has time for that? In other words, beat the thing into shape.

I rolled up my sleeves and dove in. Once the basic tracks were selected, I got fairly intrusive (Sir John’s words, paraphrased without expletives), giving about half the songs tighter intros. Many were too long. “Little Lighthouse” was marred by almost a minute of noise it didn’t need at the end. I gave it a proper one. Through brutality, I made room for more music.

“My Land Is Burning” required no such attention. A perfectly rendered closer if I ever heard one.

Sir John Johns is a great songwriter, fine vocalist, and nifty guitarist. I like his version of “Shake You Donkey Up” about 100 times more than what ended up on that, to my ears, unlistenable album, by the band. I hate the drum programming, but somehow his use of canned drums here doesn’t bother me.
Perhaps because Sir John otherwise sounds so fresh. Nothing like first takes without band politics as a backdrop.
After spending so much time with this material, the band’s versions can sound somewhat overworked.

I’m not sure how he feels about “our” record, as he hasn’t returned my calls. I will someday get even for the “gift” he left in my suitcase.
The uniformed guys with guns weren’t amused.

I think it’s a terrific personal statement, and after this experience,
probably the only solo album we’ll ever get out of him.

Put it on again, indeed!

Sonic Bloom

Sonic Bloom Too



I was busy with another project (building a guitar) and didn’t have any ideas until last night when I went through the library and started pulling tunes. Even then, it doesn’t always work, and I admit I’ve spent days tinkering with the sequence. Not this time.

I grew up with Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, ELP, and the rest.
None of them are featured here.
This is music I’m less familiar with than usual.
Most of it is from years of trolling blog sites for things I’d only read about in the past.

For example, Mogul Thrash is the band John Wetton left to join Family, before leaving them for King Crimson. I never expected to find it, but thanks to the internet, I have FLAC files.

I hope you like mellotron.

I tended towards shorter songs when possible. My favorite Genesis song, for instance, “Supper’s Ready” is a whole album side and clocks in over 20 minutes. Add “Close To The Edge”, and “Lark’s Tongues In Aspic Pt 1″, and there’s an entirely epic cd length mix.

The Italians really “got” Prog and some of the best bands were from there. “Impressioni Di Settembre”, an old favorite, was somewhat blandly re-recorded by PFM in english as “The World Became The World”, the title track to their second american release, but I’ve always preferred the original Italian version.

Also here is Il Volo, another of the best, represented by “Il Canto Della Preistoria (Molecule)”, which also transcends it’s lack of english with some truly extraordinary guitar sounds.

Amon Düül II is from Germany, and technically krautrock.

Aphrodite’s Child is from Greece, and features Vangelis, long before “Chariots Of Fire”.

Brian Davison was the drummer in the Nice. This 1970 solo album is nothing like his former band.

Tempest was a power trio freaturing Ollie Halsall, sadly best known for playing “Paul” on The Rutles recordings. He briefly joined this band, wrote all the songs, and sang lead on the album they recorded and left, to play with Kevin Ayers.

Bram Stoker is a band who left behind an album with nary a trace of other info. This is one of those that collectors go nuts for. Same goes for Pete Fine’s.

I only downloaded Aubrey Small a few days ago, and barely know “Smoker Will Blow”. This description caught my eye:
“The recording experience at Trident became intoxicating and at times even became somewhat surreal. For one number “Smoker Will Blow”(producer)John Anthony had the idea of putting orchestration on the track as it was too simple. Within a matter of days arranger Richard Hewson appeared together with a huge assembly of the finest jazz and orchestral musicians available. Here was another highly respected musician who had a list of high profile credits to his name including the Beatles, Bee Gees, Diana Ross, Art Garfunkel, Fleetwood Mac, Supertramp, Chris Rea among others – another who’s who! The band watched from the control room with amazement as an extraordinary and complex soundscape unfolded on their song”.

Kaleidoscope was an English band whose roots were in ’60′s psychedelia, and released some really exceptional music, but for some reason ended up with less than nothing. This song is the closer to an album they finished in 1971, but didn’t see release until 1992.


Prognosis Too


I liked the new neck so much I regretted not doing a better job painting it, so I repainted with 20 coats of lacquer, and upgraded the pickguard. Now it’s finally finished. 1987 Fender Japan 50′s reissue body with Fender licensed USA made late ’60′s style neck. Tuners, and except for the ’90′s Les Paul humbucker, original hardware.

Now I Know High

“The Grape’s saga is one of squandered potential, absurdly misguided decisions, bad luck, blunders and excruciating heartbreak, all set to the tune of some of the greatest rock and roll ever to emerge from San Francisco. Moby Grape could have had it all, but they ended up with nothing, and less.”
-Jeff Tamarkin

Peter Lewis – rhythm guitars, vocals
Jerry Miller – lead guitars, vocals
Bob Mosley – bass, vocals
Skip Spence – rhythm guitars, vocals
Don Stevenson – drums, vocals

Their first album, “Moby Grape” (1967) is widely recognized as a classic.
While recording their second in New York City, Skip Spence’s schizophrenia began to take over. Famously chopping down a band member’s hotel room door with a fire axe. He was committed to Bellevue for six months while Moby Grape soldiered on, finishing “Wow” (1968). Skip never returned to the band full-time. While incarcerated, he wrote enough songs to record “OAR” (1968), in Nashville, playing all the instruments. It’s an un-hinged masterpiece, in many ways similar to Syd Barrett’s post Pink Floyd albums.

Then came “Moby Grape ’69″, “Truly Fine Citizen” (1969) also recorded in Nashville, and finally,
“20 Granite Creek”(1971). Although Spence was no longer in the band they included him when possible, depending on his health.

This compilation covers their initial run.

They have disbanded and reformed many times, and often having to use a fake name as their manager, Matthew Katz, hung on their contract like a drowning man to a log, or worse, a sociopath. They signed their contract under duress, with a large dollop of naivete, resulting in not even owning the name Moby Grape.

From wikipedia:
“Matthew Katz insisted that an additional provision be added to his management contract, giving him ownership of the group name. At the time, various group members were indebted to Katz, who had been paying for apartments and various living costs prior to the group releasing its first album. Despite objecting, group members signed, based in part on an impression that there would be no further financial support from Katz unless they did so. Neil Young, then of Buffalo Springfield, was in the room at the time, and kept his head down, playing his guitar, and saying nothing. According to Peter Lewis, “I think Neil knew, even then, that was the end. We had bought into this process that we should have known better than to buy into.”

Due to continued legal battle between the band and Katz over ownership of their name, pseudonyms were used during several decades for performance or recording purposes; including Mosley Grape, Legendary Grape, Maby Grope, Fine Wine, and The Melvilles.

Moby Grape today:
Peter Lewis – rhythm guitars, vocals
Jerry Miller – lead guitars, vocals
Bob Mosley – bass, vocals
Joseph Miller – drums (son of Jerry)
Omar Spence – vocals (son of Skip)
Don Stevenson – drums, vocals (guest appearances)

They were all incredibly talented, and Jerry Miller deserves to be included in any conversation about guitar heroes.


Now I Know High

(Before) Before And After

The cover art is a silk screen print I made in 1978.

I vaguely knew Eno as the guy Eddie Jobson replaced in Roxy Music. At the time I was only familiar their third and Eno-less album, “Stranded” (1973).
I picked “Here Come The Warm Jets”, Eno’s first, because it looked slightly glam, and the title Zappa/Beefheart/Alice Cooper loony. The song titles were just as nuts.
Then I saw that Robert Fripp and John Wetton, two of my favorite musicians from my favorite band, King Crimson were involved.
Buying it was a no-brainer.
It’s Proto-punk Glam rock is nothing like the ambient works he’s largely known for today.
“Baby’s On Fire” features a Robert Fripp solo over 3 minutes long, which stands as some of his most fiery work.
From “Here Come The Warm Jets” to “Burning Airlines Give You So Much More”,
“Taking Tiger Mountain(By Strategy)”, from 1974 is much less ramshackle, but fortunately just as quirky.
When “Another Green World” came out in 1975, things were changing. About half of it is instrumental, pointing the way to his groundbreaking ambient work, “Music For Airports”(1978).
Unlike his previous albums, which were recorded in a very short time, “Before and After Science” (1977) was two years in the making. I never got into that one. I thought it was a little slick and bland.
My original plan for this mix was to be career spanning. I began by listening to Disc 3 of the irritatingly packaged and annotated Eno Vocal Box.
It consists of “R.A.F.” b-side of “King’s Lead Hat”, cuts from “My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts” an impressive yet ultimately dull album, 90′s collaborations with John Cale, “Nerve Net”, and the withdrawn “My Squelchy Life”.
While it wasn’t entirely without charm, it bored me to death. So much so that I nearly gave up.
Fortunately I decided instead to start from the beginning.
There is something in his first 3 albums, that has been missing for decades.
It was before he knew what he was doing. Before success, acclaim, and high profile productions for other artists.
I’m a fan, and he’s been a huge influence on my work as a musician, and a painter. While I like and respect his recent work, these early attempts at rock stardom continue to scratch my itch for art damaged excellence.

Two songs are technically by Phil Manzanera. “Miss Shapiro” is from “Diamond Head” (1975). Eno co-writes and sings. “Third Uncle” is from “801 Live” (1976). He is the vocalist and writer. Backing musicians are the usual suspects.


(Before) Before And After


Before Too

A fun fact I ran across:

Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy (Chinese: 智取威虎山; pinyin: zhì qǔ wēihǔ shān) is a Chinese film from 1970, during the height of the Cultural Revolution. The film was directed by Xie Tieli and was based on a contemporary Beijing opera, one of the eight model plays allowed during the Cultural Revolution. The story is based on the novel Lin hai xue yuan (林海雪原) and tells the story of an incident in 1946, during the Chinese Civil War.
Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy has been identified as one of the most watched films of all time. Official Chinese government statistics claimed a total audience of 7.3 billion through the end of 1974. The large audience can be attributed to the fact that few films were produced during the Cultural Revolution, and almost all earlier films were banned; nevertheless, the average village held ten film showings per year, and failure to attend could have been seen as a sign of political deviation. Hence, Chinese citizens would have been expected to see the film multiple times during the Cultural Revolution era.

All Hail The King

I frequently comment, “Nothing after Exile on Main St”, or “Nothing after Who’s Next”, or “Nothing after Wish You Were Here”, so it shouldn’t be suprising I’ve always maintained “Nothing after the Army” in regards to Elvis.
And that was being generous, because I really meant “Practically nothing after SUN”.

Upon his return from the Army there was a decade of terrible movies with soundtracks full of indifferently recorded shlock like “Do The Clam”, “Harum Scarum”, and “Spinout”.
Then there was the brief moment of the “’68 Comeback”, which showed he could still do it, if he wanted to.
And then it was just “Fat Elvis”, whose stage show seemed as bloated as he’d become.

Here is a review by Bob Claypool for the Houston Post in late 1976:

“Elvis Presley has been breaking hearts for more than 20 years now, and, Saturday afternoon in the Summit—-in a completely new and unexpected way—-he broke mine. The show was awful, a depressingly inchoherent amateurish mess served up by a bloated, stumbling and mumbling figure who didn’t act like the King of anything, least of all Rock n Roll.”

I can think of no other major artist whose catalog has been so ineptly, and hapahazardly managed.
Endlessly repackaged beyond recognition, it’s really hard to get a handle on.
As far as I knew, all you really needed was “The Sun Sessions” and “Elvis Gold Records Vol 1″.
I bought all four discs of “The Complete ’50′s Masters”, even though most of the essentials are on the first two. I didn’t think to bother with the ’60′s or ’70′s.

In the mid ’90′s, I read Peter Guralnick’s awesome two volume biography, “Last Train To Memphis”, and “Careless Love”. I began to appreciate “Supiscious Minds” and “Burning Love”, and became curious about the later sessions, as his new producer, Felton Jarvis heroically tried to salvage what was left of the King’s career.

On August 6th, with a sense of obligation and morbid curiosity I downloaded “Way Down In The Jungle Room”, a new collection of his very last sessions, in 1976.

I remember reading in “Careless Love”, just how hard it had become to get Elvis into the studio.
He was whacked out on pills and knew he wasn’t really up for it.
An improvised studio was set up in Graceland. Elvis kept the musicians waiting for days before coming downstairs.

I just re-read the chapter, and it’s amazing anything was accomplished.

I didn’t bother listening to any of it until Monday night. “Way Down”, the opener, knocked me right out. In fact, nothing sucked. I got the idea for the Weekend mix. I pulled other songs from sessions after the ’68 Comeback.

On Tuesday (August 16), out of curiosity, I looked up his death only to find it was that very day 39 years ago.
Sal posted something about Gungadin and his Bongos. I didn’t see any mention on FaceBook, even though most of my friends are musicians. Elvis had truly left the building.

He didn’t overdub. All the performances were recorded “live”. And it’s worth hearing if only for James Burton’s guitar.

Two of my all-time favorite albums are Gram Parson’s “GP”, and “Grievous Angel”. On them he used the core of Elvis band: James, Ronnie Tutt (drums), Glen D. Hardin (keyboads), and Emory Gordy(bass).
Elvis’ “Never Been To Spain” was recorded at MSG, on June 10, 1972. In September the guys were working for Gram, in his quest for “Cosmic American Music”.

I think He and Elvis represent the Yin and Yang of the same whole. I hear a killer band with two very different singers covering a lot of the same ground. I couldn’t say which was the darker half.

I included a “live” track from MSG in homage to the fake “live” medley of “Cash On The Barrellhead/Hickory Wind” on “Grievous Angel”.

Clearly Gram was influenced by Elvis, who I wish had taken a crack at “Ooh Las Vegas”, and can only imagine what he would have done with “$1,000 Wedding”. The last song here, “If That Isn’t Love”, reminds me of “Hickory Wind”.

I doubt Elvis really knew who Gram was, although I can imagine him asking James, “How’d it go with that hippie boy?”, to which James might have replied something like, “It was okay, but he’s no King of Rock N Roll”. He’s said he didn’t think much of it at the time, but to his surprise, no interviewer since doesn’t ask about working with Gram.

In this collection, I avoided familiar hits, and the cluttered bombast of his live shows in order to hear how good “Fat Elvis” really was. I wanted it to sound like a killer double album. What you’d put on right after “GP/Grievous Angel”, in order to extend the vibe.

His voice is always there and the band’s killing it.

It’s noticeable that his studio patter in the early ’70′s, as evidenced by “If I Were You”, was ebullient, while there’s an ugly cranky-ness at the core of the jokester on the last sessions. He was the original redneck opioid addict after all.

I think he still “had it” as a singer until the very end. He was a bonafide musician. He had both rhythm and pitch. Check out his piano accompaniment on “After Loving You” (1969). Rock solid.

He was the greatest and most sadly squandered talent I can think of. Except for maybe Gram Parsons.

All Hail The King

All Hail Too


Long, Long, Day

“It’ll be easy” I said to myself, “Just throw something together”, I lied. A good mix goes through several permutations. Getting everything to flow, so that it follows a thread, is always a challenge.

Who knew The Hudson Brothers were capable of producing such a slab of prime Pop/Rock, sounding as much like late-period Beatles as Badfinger? This was always the opener and really set the tone.(1974)
Legend was led by Mickey Jupp. The drummer left shortly after this (1971) to join T-REX, where he became known as Bill Legend. Fat bass-line reminds me of Macca.
“Lonely Blue Boy” (1958) is one of those songs everyone should hear. Vocal crick as art.
“The Power Of Your Love”(1969) from the sessions that produced “Suspicious Minds”. The last time Elvis was thouroughly engaged and at a creative peak in the studio. Long Live the King.
“In The Ghetto” was written by Mac Davis and recorded by Elvis in 1969. Given recent happenings in Chicago, it seems particularly relevent. This version by Nick Cave (1984) was when I realized he had a future after The Birthday Party.
“Sam” (1969) is a rare slice of midwestern psychedelia. Unreleased until 2013. It features the singing of Linda Bruner, who recorded 4 songs and vanished.
“Dripping With Looks” (1987) is a massive riff I never get tired of.
“Little Bit Of Magic” (1969) is very rare. Rosco originally recorded for SUN, in Memphis. His early singles featured a piano style which contributed to the formation SKA in Jamaica. Rosco left music during the ’60′s, moving to Queens to run a Dry Cleaners.
In 1969 he cut this single and released it on his own label. In the ’80′s he briefly returned to music, but stayed with his original SUN material. It’s too bad he didn’t make more music like this. What a voice! I imagine Bryan Ferry covering it back in the day.
It’s hard to believe “Electrify Me (1979) was considered punk rock when it came out. I hear a little RT in the guitar breaks.
If Nick Lowe and Rockpile never covered “Move It Baby” (1964) they should have.
The Shazam (2002) drop some classic Big Star style pop/rock. These guys deserve a bigger audience.
I love everything about “Pass You By” (1996).
“Wonderin’” (1983) is the only keeper on “Everbody’s Rockin”. It was written in 1970.
“WPLJ”-Frank genuinely loved Doo Wop and R&B. From “Burnt Weeny Sandwich”. I keep meaning to try it. Not the radio station.
Swamp Dogg, not Snoop Dogg. From “Total Destruction Of Your Mind” (1970).
“I Got It all Indeed” is the only song I know from “Theosophy”, Pete Molinari’s 2014 album.
“Life Is Good” is one of my favorite songs from my favorite Los Lobos album.
“Jimmy Was” is the title music from “Sling Blade” (1996).
I’ve always thought Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus’ voice sounded a little like Jerry Garcia’s, and the gorgeous pedal steel on this song really makes the case.
“Chicken” (2014) by Bill Patton brings things down to a gentle simmer while we get a little introspective.
“I Remember Cissy’s Baby and the noise on the block,
And seventeen policemen that were in a state of shock,
She had it on the pavement she had it on the ground,
out popped the baby with the cops all around,”

-(1970) Jake And The Family Jewels.
Some fine storytelling. It just goes from there.
“Gone Like the Water”(1996) by Freedy Johnston is beautifully rendered. Perfect.
John & Beverly Martyn made two albums. “John The Baptist” is from “Stormbringer”(1970). His early work is some of my very favorite music, but soon he went MOR and made some records I’d rather not think about.
This demo of “Seeing” is far superior to the version which turned up on “Moby Grape ’69″. Featuring Skip Spence’s original vocal.


Long, Long, Day

Glam Slam

With the sad passings of David Bowie, and Dale “Buffin” Griffin, it seemed only right to put together a tribute to “The Golden Age Of Rock n Roll”.

Right away I was reminded all that glitters isn’t necessarily “Glam”. In fact there isn’t that much of it as the whole era collapsed the minute it became a category. But the influence continues. Many elements that seemed new are now standard features.

Glam checklist: Theatrical make-up and stage persona. Image conscious with a fondness for fifties styles and POP Art mashups. Saxophones, female back-up singers, Flashy lead guitar stylist as foil to singer. Muscular rhythm section. Elements of prog.

Even though there is no Glam without Bowie, he doesn’t appear. Instead Bauhaus represents with their faithful, lively rendition of “Ziggy Stardust” (1982, number fifteen on the UK singles chart), illustrating how glam morphed into goth. Just because the dinosaurs are gone doesn’t mean we’re not surrounded by birds. If you know what I mean.

In the valley of The New York Dolls, you mean. Generation X’s “Valley Of The Dolls” is straight up glam. It’s only missing chick singers and saxophones. From their sophomore effort. When they were still a band.

“Rock Star” is from “Velvet Tinmine” a collection of obscure UK singles from the era (1973-5), and is by Bearded Lady. I found a page in wikipedia and there is really nothing to know.

“Needles In The Camel’s Eye”, worked so well for Todd Haynes during the opening of “Velvet Goldmine”. It’s the most successful part of the movie.

A lot of art rock got lumped in with glam, and Kevin Ayers wore the make-up. “Interview” is kind of a bookend to David Essex’s “Rock On”.

Queen knocks it out of the park with “Now I’m Here”. Epic on every level. Sheer Heart Attack indeed.


Glam Slam

Weed, Whites, And Wine

I’m “Willin’” to admit that Little Feat’s “Sailin’ Shoes” just might be my favorite album of all time.

I’ve written elsewhere about the life changing moment I received “Looney Toons And Merrie Melodies” (1970), a Warner’s Loss Leader’s 3 record set I sent away for.
“Strawberry Flats” was the third song on side one, after Faces “Had Me A Real Good Time”, and Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”, and before Fleetwood Mac’s “Tell me All The Things You Do” from “Kiln House”.
I liked the other songs, and I bought all those albums too, but “Strawberry Flats” stood out. So many ideas packed into a little over 2 minutes.

I didn’t know what a record store was. All I knew was the local Target equivalent. They didn’t have “Little Feat”, so I settled for “Sailin’ Shoes” with it’s bizzarre cover art.
From the chiming opener, “Easy To Slip” I liked it. A lot.

I’ve come to recognize it as a perfect encapsulation of it’s time and place. Southern California in the early ’70′s. I hear elements of Country Rock, CSNY, The Eagles, Flying Burrito Brothers, Warren Zevon, Captain Beefheart, and of course, The Mother’s Of Invention.

I’m on my third vinyl copy and have the cd.

This compilation is a tribute to Lowell George, founder and guiding light. He was a tremendously gifted guitar player, singer, songwriter, producer, and bandleader. It recreates the order I first heard them. “Strawberry Flats” followed by “Sailin’ Shoes” in it’s entirety, and then highlights from “Little Feat” and “Dixie Chicken”.

Lowell George met Bill Payne when he was a member of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention.
Payne auditioned for the Mothers, but didn’t join. They formed Little Feat along with former Mothers bassist Roy Estrada and drummer Richie Hayward from George’s previous band, The Factory. Hayward had also been a member of the Fraternity of Man whose claim to fame was the inclusion of their “Don’t Bogart Me” on the million-selling Easy Rider film soundtrack.
The name Little Feat came from a comment made by Mothers’ drummer Jimmy Carl Black (The Indian of the group) about Lowell’s “little feet”. The spelling of “feat” was an homage to the Beatles.

There are three stories about the genesis of Little Feat.
One has it that George showed Zappa his song “Willin’,” and that Zappa fired him because he was too talented to be a sideman, and he should form his own band.
The second version has Zappa firing him for playing a 15-minute guitar solo with his amplifier off. The third version says he was fired because “Willin’” contains drug references.
On October 18, 1975 at the Auditorium Theater in Rochester New York while introducing the song, George commented that he was asked to leave the band for “writing a song about dope”.

In any version, Zappa was instrumental in getting George and his new band a contract with Warner Bros. Records. The eponymous first album delivered to Warner Bros. was recorded mostly in August and September 1970, and was released in January 1971. When it came time to record “Willin’,” George had hurt his hand in an accident with a model airplane, so Ry Cooder sat in and played the song’s slide part.
“Willin’” was re-recorded for “Sailin’ Shoes”, this time with guest Burrito “Sneaky Pete” on pedal steel. It’s the the first Little Feat album to feature cover art by Neon Park, the artist responsible for Zappa’s “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” (On which Lowell is a member of The Mothers).

Despite good reviews, lack of success led to the band splitting up, with Estrada leaving to join Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band (And even more lack of success).

In 1972 Little Feat reformed, with bassist Kenny Gradney replacing Estrada. Also added was second guitarist Paul Barrere, a friend of Lowell’s from Hollywood High, and percussionist Sam Clayton (brother of session singer Merry Clayton). As a result the band was expanded from a quartet to a sextet.

I was so excited when “Dixie Chicken” came out, until I played it. They had 3 new people in the band and it tilted towards New Orleans, and lite funk, which was not what I was looking for.
However, the title is a classic and “Fat Man In The Bathtub” is one of their finest moments.
I didn’t hate the album.
Then came “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now”. Another Neon Parks cover, and a reworking of two songs from “Sailin” Shoes” played as a medley. Which I now understand was made to better reflect their live shows at the time, for which they were getting quite a reputation, but to my ears was a travesty.
I didn’t buy any more of their albums after that.

George continued to produce the albums, but his songwriting contribution diminished as the group moved into jazz fusion, a style in which he had little interest. In August 1977, Little Feat recorded a live album from gigs at the Rainbow Theatre in London and Lisner Auditorium in Washington, DC. “Waiting for Columbus” is considered by many to be one of the best live albums of all time, despite the fact that significant portions of George’s vocals and slide work were over-dubbed later in the studio. It was released in 1978, by which time it had become apparent that Lowell George’s interest in the band was waning, as was his health.

In an interview with Bill Flanagan (for the book Written in My Soul) conducted eleven days before his death, George made it clear that he felt the demise of Little Feat was due to his having allowed the band to be run democratically, with the result that Payne and, to a lesser extent, Barrere, had a presence as songwriters and in production which was disproportionate to their abilities.

Nowhere on the wikipedia page I reworked for some of this does it mention that Lowell’s drug use was a contributing factor to his abdication of leadership in the band. Or that Zappa fired him for smoking dope.

His only solo album, “Thanks, I’ll Eat It Here” (1979) is mostly covers. I’ve never heard it.

Too bad there isn’t more of this.

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The Curse Of The Mekons

The Mekons should be better known. They are so much more interesting than Radiohead, or Oasis, for instance.

They were briefly signed by A&M, and released one great album, “The Mekons Rock ‘n’ Roll” in 1989, but the fit was poor, and they were soon back to indie purgatory.
Their next, “Curse Of The Mekons”, which is even better, didn’t even see a US release initially.

I used to gauge a new record store by how many Kevin Ayers albums they had. Then I’d check for Roy Harper and Lee “Scratch” Perry. A quick indication of the depth of their catalog.
In the early ’90′s I added The Mekons to the list. Their cd’s were pretty hard to find, but over the years I managed to collect a baker’s dozen. This compilation covers from 1987-2002.

Formed in 1977 by a group of Leeds University art students: John Langford, Kevin Lycett, Mark White, Andy Corrigan, and Tom Greenhalgh (Gang Of Four and Delta 5 came out of the same group of students). I just now found out that they took the name from the Mekon, an evil, super-intelligent Venusian featured in the British 1950-1960′s comic Dan Dare.

The band’s first single was “Never been In A Riot”, a satirical take on The Clash’s “White Riot”.
They’re debut album, “The Quality Of Mercy Is Not Strnen”, was recorded using the Gang Of Four’s instruments, and due to an error by the Virgin Records art department, features pictures of that band, instead of The Mekons on the back cover.

Through the years, the band’s musical style has evolved, incorporating country, folk, rock, and occasional experiments in dub. These days, The Mekons are often described as a post-punk, cowpunk and/or alt country band.

The Mekons
Jon Langford
Tom Greenhalgh
Sally Timms
Sara Corina
Steve Goulding (The Rumour)
Susie Honeyman
Rico Bell
Lu Edmonds (The Damned)
J. Mitch Flacko

Past members
Ben Mandelson
Dick Taylor (original Rolling Stone and Pretty Thing)
John Langley
Kevin Lycett
Mary Jenner
Robert Worby

Mekons Mekons Mekons


I highly recommend the terrific documentary, “The Revenge Of The Mekons”

Mekons Mekons Mekons