Beginning of the Enz


Original New Zealand release

When I was a kid, I’d ride my bike to the local Licorice Pizza, eat the free licorice and spend hours going through the racks, looking at just about every lp in the Rock section. It didn’t take me long to discover the “Import” racks. It was where all the most interesting stuff lurked.
I didn’t know what to think when Mental Notes arrived some time in 1976. I couldn’t stop looking at it. They didn’t look queer enough to be Glam, so what were they? Some kind of Art Rock? Whatever they were I bought something else that day which I’ve not only forgotten, but probably didn’t like anyway.
Before I had a chance to change my mind, my buddy X-C Polymer (Mr. Malibu Fire) snagged it. He made me a cassette copy of the album, which I ended up playing to death. (The lp was rescued by chance from the 2006 “Malibu Fire”).
It was smart and clever, which I’m usually suspicious of, but the sound had elements of Roxy Music and The Kinks, so I was predisposed to like it.
Produced by Phil Manzanera, Roxy Music guitarist extraordinaire, and at the time, one of the coolest dudes in Rock and Roll, the album is stuffed chocka block with ideas, in a good way.
Decades later I discovered Mental Notes as first released in New Zealand was in reality a different album, and the version I knew was a mostly rerecorded second album released in New Zealand as Second Thoughts.

I bought their next album, Dizrythmia, the day it came out, which turned out to be one of the most disappointing followups I’ve ever heard. The music was so different, and less interesting, they almost sounded like a different band. Two original members had left, among them the principal songwriter, Phil Judd (also the artist responsible for that amazing cover) leaving Tim Finn in charge. Neil, Tim’s little brother, replaced him. The best songs were two left-over Phil Judd compositions.
“Nice To Know” is a credible Beatles pastiche, and probably not an accident, as it was produced and engineered by Geoff Emerick, The Beatles and George Martin’s engineer of choice.

What impressed me about Mental Notes was that after playing it 10 times I still couldn’t anticipate what was coming next. I found it dense and complicated, yet totally engaging, which doesn’t happen often. When it does, I’m usually hooked for good.
Phil Judd succumbed to the pressures of life on the road and left the band. You can see in his cover painting that when everyone decided to get “funny” haircuts, he shaved his head, not usually an indicator of mental stability.

For the whole Split Enz saga:
BTW I gave wikipedia money.

Slightly Updated exported version

Late Last Night
Lovey Dovey
Matinee Idyll
Sweet Dreams
Time For a Change
Walking Down a Road
Nice To Know (from Dizrythmia)

Tangoed Up In Blue


Luis Albert Spinetta likes a crowd

Luis Albert Spinetta likes a crowd

Here’s another artist from left field catching me completely off guard. I was working on a 3 cd set of obscure prog rock, and I needed one more album or artist to make it complete. I checked out  Sakalli, a veritable gold mine of high quality music, specializing in 60’s and 70’s rock (with an emphasis on prog), looking for something I’d previously missed, when I stumbled upon Almendra. I’m not sure why I’d passed them up before, perhaps because they were from Argentina, and their albums were from 1969 and ’70, which is a little early for prime prog rock.

Spinetta Y sus amigos Almendra

Spinetta Y sus amigos Almendra

I downloaded Almendra II, listened to half of “Toma El Tren Hacia El Sur”, thought it had promise and burned a cd to play in the car (one of my favorite listening rooms). Later that day I returned to Sakalli, and similarly, Pescado Rabioso caught my eye.

70% of what I download without first hearing isn’t worth the effort, time, or hard drive space, but this was something else again.

The first song from Artaud also sounded worthy of a burn. I listened to the whole thing while assembling my annual Christmas cd’s. It wasn’t until I went back to reread Almendra, or check out another Pescado Rabioso album that I realized the same artist was responsible for all this music.

I ordered a ham, not a glam, sandwich

I ordered a ham, not a glam, sandwich

He is Luis Alberto Spinetta, and the founder, singer, songwriter, and guitarist in Almendra, Pescado Rabioso, and Invisible, all considered legendary in the history of Argentine rock.
Last week I downloaded eight albums, two are doubles. This covers The years from 1969-1976. He is still active.
It was really difficult picking out seven representative tunes, as the albums are all worth listening to in their entirety.
There are many songs over 6 minutes long which are really little suites.
The sound is uncluttered with the musicians playing the majority of the music live in the studio together.
It’s some of the most original and exciting rock music from anywhere I’ve ever heard.

Not square, but the record was round.

Not square, but the record was round.

His album Artaud, essentially a solo album released as Pescado Rabioso, was initially package in an oversized cover, awkwardly shaped, which would not fit comfortably into a standard record rack.


Anything but

Anything but

Luis Alberto Spinetta is an Argentine musician, one of the most influential of South America, and together with Charly García and Fito Páez is considered the father of Argentine rock. He was born January 23, 1950, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in the residential neighbourhood of Belgrano. As a kid he listened to all kinds of music: folklore and tango, and a little bit later, rock. As with almost every other rocker of his generation, The Beatles would change his life. In 1967, in the midst of a repressive political climate, he formed a band called Almendra with school mates.
It was 1969 and his band, Almendra, recorded their first album. The band started recording and playing intensely and it became successful almost overnight. Almendra composed its own songs and the lyrics were in Spanish (something radically new). The subtlety and beauty of their sound would be one of the milestones (maybe the first) of Argentine rock. After two albums that enjoyed radio diffusion and deserved fame, the band split. Spinetta composed and recorded a new solo album, but an inadequate environment (he would later say that the mood of Argentine rock and rockers of those times were too “heavy” and negative for him) and the vast changes that success effected on his life made him leave the country.
After a lengthy stay in Europe, he returned to Argentina and formed a new band: Pescado Rabioso. It was destined to be as mythical as Almendra. With a far more powerful sound and expressing the tension in the streets of an increasingly violent Argentina, Pescado recorded its first album in 1972. It was both a continuation of the creative stream of Spinetta and a drastic change in the style of his music and lyrics. The band recorded a second album; although a third one carried its name, Pescado was by then dissolved; Artaud, recorded in 1973 and mostly a solo album by Spinetta, was a major breakthrough. Partly based on the writings of Antonin Artaud, Spinetta exorcised many of the demons of his past in this album. This process would open the door to a new era in his music.
In 1974 he formed a new band, Invisible. With his new band he recorded three albums; Invisible, Durazno Sangrando (together with Artaud, hailed as his best album ever), and El Jardín De Los Presentes. With Invisible, he left the powerful and rough sound of Pescado; the new tunes were more harmonic, soft and mellow, yet his work remained essential and revolutionary. Following this line, he embarked on a solo project, A 18´ del Sol, after dissolving Invisible in 1976–77. By then, ten years later after starting his career, his style had become a delicate amalgam of old and new; the old pop and (proto) heavy rock had merged with various elements of jazz and bossa nova. That unique flavour would become his style during the next half decade.
After recording and editing a failed album in the United States in 1979 (the only album that Spinetta lamented ever doing), with lyrics in English and destined to the US market, Spinetta returns to Argentina and starts a prolific era: he would record two albums with a short-lived Almendra Revival (one with original songs and the other live), and embark on a new project: Spinetta Jade.

More recently

More recently

Ana No Duerme
Toma El Tren Hacia El Sur
Algo Flota En La Laguna
Viajero Naciendo
Las Habladurias Del Mundo
En Una Lejana Playa Del Animus
Nino Condenado

Music To Traverse The Ceiling By


Different than the original, yet the same, too

Different than the original, yet the same, too

I had to post something to get that bad taste out of my mouth, and rehabilitate Brian Eno’s legacy instead of dwelling on an unfortunate, if lucrative, association.

I love this version of “1/1” by Bang On A Can.
I think Eno’s original has benefited by being played by live musicians.
The fact that they were able to score Music For Airports is remarkable.
I usually play this version these days because I like the way the instruments and the room sound.

I admit the first time I heard Music For Airports I was underwhelmed. It was new, and sounded like Fripp And Eno without the electric guitar, which I needed as an anchor. I think because of the piano I gravitated to “1/1” soonest. In the three decades since it has found a comfortable spot in my psyche. Airport ambience would benefit greatly by it’s presence.

A few years ago I picked up the version by The Bang On A Can All-Stars.

Here’s a brief excerpt from their 1998 liner notes:

“What Eno didn’t imagine was that his piece would be realized with live musicians. In his analog studio, methodically stringing out bits of tape and looping them over themselves, he hadn’t anticipated that a new generation of musicians would take his music out of the studio and perform it on live instruments in a public forum. Over at Bang On A Can we have always searched for the redefinition of music, exploring the boundaries outside what is expected……..All of the music on this disc has been created by living people in real time. Each of the four movements was recorded in a whole take on analog tape.”

Bang On A Can All-Stars: Maya Beiser, Robert Black, Lisa Moore, Steven Schick, Mark Stewart, and Evan Ziporyn

Back of original album

Back of original album

These are the liner notes from the initial American release of Brian Eno’s “Music for Airports / Ambient 1”, PVC 7908 (AMB 001)


The concept of music designed specifically as a background feature in the environment was pioneered by Muzak Inc. in the fifties, and has since come to be known generically by the term Muzak. The connotations that this term carries are those particularly associated with the kind of material that Muzak Inc. produces – familiar tunes arranged and orchestrated in a lightweight and derivative manner. Understandably, this has led most discerning listeners (and most composers) to dismiss entirely the concept of environmental music as an idea worthy of attention.

Over the past three years, I have become interested in the use of music as ambience, and have come to believe that it is possible to produce material that can be used thus without being in any way compromised. To create a distinction between my own experiments in this area and the products of the various purveyors of canned music, I have begun using the term Ambient Music.

An ambience is defined as an atmosphere, or a surrounding influence: a tint. My intention is to produce original pieces ostensibly (but not exclusively) for particular times and situations with a view to building up a small but versatile catalogue of environmental music suited to a wide variety of moods and atmospheres.

Whereas the extant canned music companies proceed from the basis of regularizing environments by blanketing their acoustic and atmospheric idiosyncracies, Ambient Music is intended to enhance these. Whereas conventional background music is produced by stripping away all sense of doubt and uncertainty (and thus all genuine interest) from the music, Ambient Music retains these qualities. And whereas their intention is to `brighten’ the environment by adding stimulus to it (thus supposedly alleviating the tedium of routine tasks and levelling out the natural ups and downs of the body rhythms) Ambient Music is intended to induce calm and a space to think.

Ambient Music must be able to accomodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.

September 1978

I spent a great deal of time staring at the diagrams on the back cover. This was a tremendous influence on my understanding of music. At the time I had no idea composers like John Cage routinely drew pictures instead of scoring music.

For fun I include Fripp and Eno’s “Evening Star”, their most concise and fiery collaboration, from their 1975 album Evening Star.

Evening Star

The Great Unknown Ollie Halsall


“Ollie may not have been the best guitarist in the world, but he was certainly among the top two.”

John Halsey, 1997 (Drummer for Patto)

Ollie Halsall 1974

Ollie Halsall 1974

“Allan [Holdsworth] was very meticulous, very clear. He had a vision about what he was trying to do. Ollie was a lunatic, a chameleon, again: in any circumstance he’d find a way to make it work. Interesting guy! I liked Ollie a lot.

“I never heard him in PATTO, no. He just came recommended to me, and when we played we hit it off, I thought he was great. When we were a trio, we did some fantastic gigs – Mark Clarke, Ollie and me.

Jon Hiseman 2004, Drummer, founder of Tempest

I had been planning a Patto post for some time when a few days ago I stumbled upon Tempest, another top-flight band that managed to stay off my radar an unusually long time. This is especially surprising given my fondness for Patto and my long familiarity with Ollie’s work in Kevin Ayers band. The little I’d read didn’t prepare me for Living In Fear, The second album by Tempest, released in 1974.
He was a replacement for Allan Holdsworth, and the album generated even less interest than the first one so it seemed like an insignificant side project. As it turns out Ollie was the principal songwriter and singer, as well as keyboardist, playing synthesizer for the first and last time. Usually everyone focuses on his playing, but his gifts as a singer and songwriter are considerable, Living In Fear sounds a lot like a less jazzy Patto album, with Ollie’s voice and phrasing quite reminiscent of Mike Patto’s.
It is also forward looking as the cover of The Beatles “Paperback Writer” is revved up in a way prototypical of punk rock almost four years later.

Oliie, John Hiseman, And Mark Clarke

Oliie, John Hiseman, And Mark Clarke

“When I joined Tempest, I was surprised by the amount of Heavy Metal material that they were doing”, he rationalised to Melody Maker in July. “I was very surprised, because I thought they were going to be into something very different from that, because I was writing the material.
“I wanted them to do more songs, but I don’t think they really wanted to be drawn in that direction. I was always more Interested in singling and songs and writing than Instrumental things, but Jon Hiseman always wanted an instrumental-based band.”
-Ollie Halsall

“Given that late-period Tempest was essentially Halsall – chief singer, songwriter, guitarist, pianist, synth-player – plus a rhythm section. Ollie’s comments on the band’s musical direction might well be considered a trifle disingenuous. Be that as It may, his departure sounded the death-knell for Tempest.”

-David Wells-May 2005-from The Ollie Halsall Archives

Peter John ‘Ollie’ Halsall (14 March 1949 – 29 May 1992) was a left-handed guitarist and is best known for his role in The Rutles, the bands Patto, Timebox and Boxer, and for his contribution to the music of Kevin Ayers. He is also notable as one of the few players of the vibraphone in rock music. He was known as Ollie because of his distinctive way of pronouncing his surname with a dropped ‘h’. The Ollie Halsall Archive was established in 1985, with the aim of documenting and promoting the work of a unique musician.

Halsall came to London in 1967 to play vibraphone with the pop rock outfit Timebox (which included bassist Clive Griffiths and keyboardist ‘Professor’ Chris Holmes. Halsall took up guitar, they enlisted Mike Patto on vocals and drummer ‘Admiral’ John Halsey.

It has been suggested that the electric guitar parts played in Donovan’s psychedelic 1968 single “The Hurdy Gurdy Man” were played by Halsall.

In 1970, following the departure of Holmes, Timebox evolved into the band Patto. They played a unique blend of progressive Jazz rock featuring Halsall’s guitar work, which developed legendary status.

In 1973, Halsall left to join Jon Hiseman’s Tempest. After less than a year, he quit and did numerous sessions including a track for Kevin Ayers which this led to a permanent position in Ayers’ band The Soporifics.

In 1975, Patto staged a brief reunion comprising just three benefit gigs. The reuniting of Halsall and Patto sparked the formation of Boxer during 1975. Boxer never reached its true potential, as Mike Patto died in 1979 during the mid term of their contractual obligations to the Virgin record label and are best remembered for their debut album Below The Belt and its controversial sleeve design.

Probably the best known recording of Halsall is his work on the album The Rutles (1978), on which he plays many of the instruments and provides backing and lead vocals, most notably on the tracks “Doubleback Alley”, “With a Girl Like You” and “Get Up and Go”. Eric Idle was cast in his place in the accompanying film and Halsall only featured as a very minor cameo role as Leppo, the fifth Rutle who became lost in Hamburg.

During 1976 Halsall had rejoined Ayers with whom he stayed for the next sixteen years. In 1989, he replaced ill Enrique Sierra of Radio Futura, a Spanish rock band.

A finished solo album remains unreleased – produced by Robert Fripp.

Halsall died from a heroin overdose in 1992.

Whilst working with Radio Futura, Ollie volunteered to chaperone one of the band who had become hooked on heroin. Although a drinker, Ollie had emerged relatively unscathed from his rock career. so it came as a complete shock when he died of an overdose in 1992, having spent all his considerable earnings on heroin.

He had been hooked on it by the very musician he was trying to protect, who had insisted that, whilst a more expensive pastime, there was no danger if you smoked instead of injecting.

On the night of 29 May 1992, in the flat he shared at 13 Calle de la Amargura (‘Bitterness Street’), Madrid, desperation drove Ollie to try the cheaper way. He misjudged the quantity and was found dead the next morning.

The Musicians’ Union paid the expenses and his girlfriend, singer Claudia Pujol, brought his ashes back to be scattered on the beach at Cala Deià.

Sittin’ Back Easy
Living In Fear
Paperback Writer
Yeah Yeah Yeah
Waiting For A Miracle
Dance To My Tune

Vegetable Man


Same photo session as the back of "Barrett" 1970

Same photo session as the back of "Barrett" 1970

So much has already been written about Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd that I don’t think I can really add any new insight.
Like everyone else in 1973 I was enthralled by Dark Side Of The Moon. It was some of the first music after the Beatles broke up that seemed to carry on their tradition of innovation and solid studio craftsmanship.

In many ways I liked the follow-up, Wish You Were Here, even better. It was my favorite album to play at low volume and fall asleep to in my San Diego State dorm room during the 1976-77 school year. I used to spend a ridiculous amount of time in record stores wishing I had more money. I collected a handful of Pink Floyd albums. A lot of them were pretty bad. The best part of UmmaGumma was the picture on the cover of all their gear. (I thought their movie filmed in Pompeii was a frightening bore). I liked Relics, mostly because I was charmed by “Bike”, even though it bore no resemblance to Dark Side Of The Moon. I became aware that there was an apparently brilliant former member by the name of Syd Barrett. I found out that Wish You Were Here was apparently about him. I bought the double album containing Barrett, and The Madcap Laughs both of his studio albums, re-released on Harvest in 1974, due to the enormous popularity of his former band.

The first time I played it I was put-off by the crudeness of the music. The lyric I heard as “Ice cream Baby, I seen you looking good the other evening” stuck in my craw. The music sounded like it was made by a crazy person, which was disturbing.
For some reason I taped the whole thing before I warped the records over a hot plate and returned them to The Wherehouse(record chain). I don’t remember what I exchanged it for, but I’m sure it was something worse, that at the time, seemed better.
I’d play the tape for friends as a curiosity, introducing it as “This guy founded Pink Floyd, went crazy, made this music and disappeared”. Each time I’d let it play a little longer, and pretty soon I was hooked. Some of it was, and is, pretty painful listening, hearing the struggle to get those songs on tape. Still there was something so compelling that Syd has, to this day, never left my playlist.

From the "Madcap Laughs" session 1969

From the "Madcap Laughs" session 1969

What I’ve collected here are some of the more obscure gems. “Vegetable Man”, and “Scream Thy Last Scream”, are some of the last attempts at coming up with a hit single, in the wake of “See Emily Play” that Syd wrote before being booted out of the band. For some reason they are not included in the newish 3 cd re-release of Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, the first album by Pink Floyd, and the only one featuring Syd as a leader. The story I’ve heard about “Vegetable Man” is that Syd was picked up and taken to the studio, where there was enormous pressure on him to come up with another hit. The lyrics are a catalog of what he was wearing at the time. It was rejected by the label, as was “Scream”. “Lucy Leave” and “King Bee” are acetates recorded as demos in 1965, and why they only appeared recently I chalk up to the information age we are living in. I have the files, but I’m not sure of their origin. These days the difference between unreleased and released is a pretty porous border. “Two of a Kind” was recorded for the John Peel Show, and “Bob Dylan Blues” is from a recent compilation, originally from a cassette owned by David Gilmour.

Here’s the connection I’ll make that I haven’t seen before:
While on their disastrous, and abbreviated US tour, Syd got a haircut from Vidal Sassoon in New York which he hated. This is the haircut that “looks so bad” in “Vegetable Man”.
Here can be seen said haircut in a promotional video made for “Jug Band Blues”,
Syd’s last contribution to a Pink Floyd album.

Syd, "Wish You Were Here Sessions" July, 1975

Syd, "Wish You Were Here Sessions" July, 1975

Barrett had one noted reunion with the members of Pink Floyd, which occurred in 1975 during the recording sessions for Wish You Were Here. He attended the Abbey Road session unannounced, and watched the band record “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” — a song that happened to be about Barrett. By that time, he had become quite overweight, had shaved off all of his hair (including his eyebrows), and his ex-bandmates did not at first recognize him. Eventually, they realized who he was and Roger Waters was so distressed that he was brought to tears. Barrett’s behavior at the session was erratic, and he spent part of the session trying to brush his teeth by keeping the brush still and jumping up and down. Roger finally managed to ask him what he thought of the song, and he simply said “sounds a bit old” and walked out of the studio. This would be the last time any member of Pink Floyd would ever see him. There is a reflection on the entire day in Nick Mason’s book Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd. A reference to this reunion also appears in the film The Wall, where the character Pink, played by Bob Geldof, shaves off all of his body hair after having a mental breakdown, just as Barrett had.

Vegetable Man
Scream Thy Last Scream
Lucy Leave
King Bee
Two Of A Kind
Bob Dylan Blues

Out Come The Freaks


Was Not Was
I grew up in the suburbs behind So-Cal’s Orange Curtain, in the most whitebread place, outside of the midwest, to be found just about anywhere. As a result, big cities fascinated me, and anything remotely urban. In the very late ’70’s Rap mutated out of funkin’ disco, along with it’s lesser known cousin, “Mutant Disco”. Was (Not Was), Material, Defunkt, James White, Kid Creole and The Coconuts, were just some of the artists in my urban fantasy sountrack. Throw in Kraftwerk, Africa Bambaata, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Sandanista!, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and you get an idea what kind of mix tapes I was making my friends.
On my first adult visit to New York City, in August 1981, WAS (NOT WAS) was on my Walkman knock-off the first time I came over on the Staten Island ferry, having just bought a joint from a black kid as I was getting on the boat, and openly smoked down with the cars on the lower deck.
I got off the ferry and walked into Manhattan. I knew right then I had to live on this part of the planet.

“Out Comes The Freaks” and “Tell Me That I’m Dreaming” are from WAS (NOT WAS) (1981).
They were sued by Eddie Harald, former high school acquaintance, who they name check in the first verse, when they released “(Return To The Valley Of)Out Come the Freaks” on Born To Laugh At Tornadoes (1983).
“Dad I’m In Jail” is from What Up, Dog? (1988), the phone call who hasn’t fantasized making?


Was (Not Was) is an American eclectic pop group founded by David Weiss (a.k.a. David Was) and Don Fagenson (a.k.a. Don Was). They gained popularity in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Weiss and Fagenson were childhood friends who grew up together in suburban Detroit. Partly due to Fagenson’s poverty they decided to form Was (Not Was) in 1979. The name of the band was derived from Fagenson’s son Zane, who enjoyed contradicting words such as “Blue” with “Not Blue”. Their first recording was “Wheel Me Out”, a 12-inch dance record for the avant-garde ZE Records.

Their first album Was (Not Was) (1981) was an amalgam of rock, disco, Weiss’s beat poetry, Reagan-era political-social commentary, and jazz. On vocals they recruited Harry Bowens and “Sweet Pea” Atkinson, who proved to be distinctive, soulful front men, who frequently found themselves singing absurdist and satirical songs, alongside tender ballads. The MC5’s Wayne Kramer, The Knack’s Doug Fieger and Mingus trumpeter Marcus Belgrave were among the guest players.

In 1982 the group played on a rare solo album for lead singer “Sweet Pea” Atkinson called Don’t Walk Away.

The eclectic Born to Laugh at Tornadoes (1983) had even more guest musicians, including Ozzy Osbourne rapping over electro, Mitch Ryder belting out a techno-rockabilly number, Mel Tormé crooning an odd ballad about asphyxiation, and an abstract funk piece called “Man vs. the Empire Brain Building”. Singer Donald Ray Mitchell joined the group as third lead vocalist.

In 1988 they found their biggest hit with the album What Up, Dog?, which featured the singles “Walk the Dinosaur” and “Spy in the House of Love”. Special guests included Stevie Salas, John Patitucci, Frank Sinatra, Jr., and a writing credit for Elvis Costello. Artist/animator Christoph Simon created videos to accompany some of their songs, such as “What Up Dog?”, “Dad I’m in Jail”, and the Tom Waits-style “Earth to Doris”. These appeared on MTV’s Liquid Television and in various film festivals, including the Spike & Mike festival. About this time, the Was Brothers developed separate careers as producers, film scorers, and music supervisors.

The group followed up with Are You Okay? in 1990, spearheaded by a cover of “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone”. Guest musicians included Iggy Pop, Leonard Cohen, The Roches, and Syd Straw. After a tour with Dire Straits in 1992 and a UK Top 5 single with “Shake Your Head” (vocals from Ozzy Osbourne and Kim Basinger), Weiss and Fagenson drifted apart and nothing was heard from the band but a compilation album Hello Dad… I’m in Jail. Some members, however, did appear on Don’s Orquestra Was project Forever Is a Long Long Time (1997), which re-interpreted Hank Williams in a jazz/R&B vein.

In 1997, Steve Winwood released a tune which borrowed not just the title of Was (Not Was)’s single “Spy in the House of Love” but also the bass line and other elements. However, no lawsuits ensued (or were settled out of court).

In late 2004, Was (Not Was) reformed and were back on stage for a two-month club tour through the Northeast and East Coast of the US, as well as California, Missouri, Ohio, Illinois (including stops at the House of Blues in Cleveland and Chicago), Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania (in the Trocadero in Philadelphia). In October 2005, they played four gigs at the Jazz Café in London.

In 2008, they released their fifth studio album Boo!, featuring guest appearances from Kris Kristofferson, Wayne Kramer, Marcus Miller and Booker T. Jones, plus a song originally co-written with Bob Dylan nearly 20 years earlier.

Detroit’s Metro Times described the band as “an endearing mess… …a sausage factory of funk, rock, jazz and electronic dance music, all providing a boogie-down backdrop for a radical (and witty) political message of unbridled personal freedom and skepticism of authority.”[1] On April 22, 2008, they performed on the British show Later… with Jools Holland, and on May 2, they were the musical guest on Late Night with Conan O’Brien.

The band kicked off its American tour on April 30, 2008, performing a well-received 2-hour set at Johnny D’s in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Out Come The Freaks
(Return To The Valley Of)Out Come The Freaks
Tell Me That I’m Dreaming
Dad I’m In Jail

The Curse Of The Mekons


The Mekons

The Mekons

The curse is of course an unwillingness to compromise and the lack of success that goes with it. I have no idea how popular they are at this point. I’m sure they still play Maxwell’s, in Hoboken, where back in the day they probably shared bills with the likes of REM, the B-52’s, or other bands that went on to find fame and fortune. Except for a brief experience with A&M, who soon dropped like them like the proverbial hot potato, they have spent their entire career on Indie labels making their music difficult to find. When I went to record stores or cd shops, I’d make a quick check to see how deep their catalog went by looking for artists most didn’t bother to carry. After searching for Kevin Ayers, and Roy Harper, I’d check for anything by the Mekons.

The Mekons are a British rock band. Formed in the late 1970s, they are one of the longest-running and most prolific of the first-wave British punk rock bands.

The band was formed in 1977 by a group of University of Leeds art students that included Jon Langford, Kevin Lycett and Tom Greenhalgh – the Gang of Four and Delta 5 formed from the same group of students. They took the band’s name from the Mekon, an evil, super-intelligent Venusian featured in the British 1950s-1960s comic Dan Dare (printed in the Eagle). The band’s first single was “Never Been in a Riot”, a satirical take on the Clash’s White Riot. For several years the loose-knit band played noisy, bare-bones post-punk, releasing singles on a variety of labels. The Mekons’ first 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, featured pictures of the Gang of Four on the back cover. After 1982’s The Mekons Story, a compilation of old recordings, the band ceased activity for a while, with Langford forming The Three Johns.
By the mid-1980s (revitalised by the 1984 miners’ strike) the Mekons had returned as an active group. The band was now augmented by vocalist Sally Timms, violinist Susie Honeyman, ex-Damned member Lu Edmonds, accordionist/vocalist Rico Bell (a.k.a. Eric Bellis), and former The Rumour drummer Steve Goulding, and Dick Taylor, original guitarist of The Pretty Things.

They began to experiment with musical styles derived from traditional English folk (tentatively explored on the English Dancing Master EP prior to the hiatus), and American country music. Fear and Whiskey (1985), The Edge of the World (1986) and Honky Tonkin’ (1987) exemplified the band’s new sound, which built on the innovations of Gram Parsons and blended punk ethos and left wing politics with the minimalist country of Hank Williams. Subsequent albums, such as The Mekons Rock’n’Roll, continued to experiment with diverse instrumentation (notably the fiddle and slide guitar).

The Mekons Rock and Roll was the band’s first major label release. Issued by A&M Records in 1989, Rock and Roll was not a commercial success, but it was met with critical acclaim.

Just as the Mekons began to grow in critical stature, their relationship with A&M Records became tense, and the Mekons were soon dropped by the label, unable to fulfill their commercial expectations. However, they continued to record at a prolific rate, releasing such notable albums as 1991’s The Curse of the Mekons, 2000’s Journey to the End of the Night, and 2002’s OOOH!. In April 2009 the Mekons returned to the studio to complete a new collection of songs, although it was unclear how these would be released as their label Touch and Go had gone bust.

Jon Langford has been busy as an artist and as founder of several solo and band projects, including the Waco Brothers (a punk-meets-Johnny Cash-like ensemble) and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts (exploring the music of Bob Wills, Johnny Cash and others). Besides his solo albums he has released CDs with Richard Buckner and Kevin Coyne.

The band has toured and recorded with a mostly unaltered lineup (Langford, Greenhalgh, Timms, Goulding, Bell, Edmonds, and bassist Sarah Corina) throughout the 1990s and early 21st century, and has a highly devoted following.

The Mekons today-ish

The Mekons today-ish

The Curse
Memphis, Egypt
I Love Apple
Chemical Wedding
I Can’t Find My Money
Hole In The Ground



All Killer No Filler

All Killer No Filler

The Days of Wine and Roses by the Dream Syndicate was, and is, one of my favorite albums.  Influenced by Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, but distilling all the elements into a mix that outshines the source. “Then She Remembers” is a song both the Velvets and the Stooges wish they wrote. Unfortunately this original lineup’s instability proved to be their undoing. Nothing else in their catalog comes close to the cohesiveness of  this  first release.
I had the good fortune to see them at Club 88 or some other West LA dive shortly before the departure of Kendra Smith.
Near the beginning of the first set Karl Precoda got mad at his guitar, or Steve Wynn, it was hard to tell, and walked offstage in a huff. The rest of the band followed. After a minute or two, Wynn came back alone, and played a solo set accompanying himself on electric guitar. It was cool, I guess. I stayed for the second set to see what would happen.
The whole band came out and just tore it up. Whatever pent up frustration there was backstage was let loose in a blistering, and unforgettable, set.

Steve Wynn, hogging the covers

Steve Wynn, hogging the covers

While attending the University of California, Davis, Steve Wynn and Kendra Smith played together (with future True West members Russ Tolman and Gavin Blair) in The Suspects. Moving back home to Los Angeles, Wynn recorded a single called “15 Minutes” (as in 15 minutes of fame) as his intended farewell to music. Instead, while rehearsing in a band called Goat Deity, Wynn met Karl Precoda, who had answered an ad for a bass player, and the two joined to form a new group, with Precoda switching to guitar. Smith came to play bass, and brought in drummer Dennis Duck, who had played in the locally successful Pasadena-based Human Hands.

Duck suggested the name “The Dream Syndicate” in reference to Tony Conrad’s early 1960s New York experimental ensemble (better known as the Theater of Eternal Music), whose members included John Cale, co founder of the Velvet Underground.

On February 23, 1982, The Dream Syndicate performed its first show at Club Lingerie in Hollywood. A four-song EP was recorded in the basement of Wynn’s house and released on his own Down There label, and the band quickly achieved local notoriety for its often aggressively long, feedback-soaked improvisations. Obvious sources were The Velvet Underground (the Dream Syndicate could be called early VU revivalists) and Television, but echoes of the Quicksilver Messenger Service and Creedence Clearwater Revival could also be discerned. “It was an overnight thing,” Wynn recalled of their success. “There was no dues paying. It was very weird, and it screwed us up in some ways.

The band was signed to Slash Records, whose subsidiary Ruby Records released its debut and by far best-known album, The Days of Wine and Roses, in 1982. The next year saw the UK (Rough Trade Records) release of the album’s anthemic lead track, “Tell Me When It’s Over,” as the A-side of an EP which also included a live cover of Neil Young’s “Mr. Soul.”

Tell Me When It’s Over
Then She Remembers
Until Lately

The Man With The Foldback Ears



I heard this song in the same set as “Bim Bam Baby”, on WFMU, late one night in in early 1989. Posting that song caused the memory of “The Man With The Foldback Ears” to surface. At the time I always had a cassette in the machine so I could snag anything interesting.  The next day I brought the tape to work and made everyone listen.  No one knew what to make of it, the delivery was matter of fact, the content utterly surreal. One co-worker stopped being friendly to me. Later I caught her looking at me like I was a critter. There was no Google back then so finding out more information was out of the question.

I thought about going down to the basement and trying to dig up the cassette, but knew the search would be futile, I was just down there and none of the WFMU cassettes are labeled with anything but the date.

Out of curiosity, a few minutes ago I typed in “The Man With The Foldback Ears”, hit Enter, and within a minute had the song.
Then within another minute had the background, some of which can be found below.  Next I had the pictures.

Sounds like it looks

Sounds like it looks

Bible Belt Surrealist

In 1988, a mysterious album appeared in record stores. At first glance, Car Radio Jerome was full of silly nonsense with songs like “Upper Lip Of A Nostril Man,” “The Man With The Foldback Ears,” and “Hittite Hot Shot.” Listening to it though, one discovered darker undertones in songs like “White Woman,” which became downright ominous in “Car Radio Jerome.” By the time the album wrapped up, the “French Toast Man” was selling kids tasty goodies so rank that rats dragged it out of garbage pails and keeled over dead. In the last cut, a clinically depressed relative of Elvis croons his weepy ballad of woe “Pneumatic Eyes”—and blows himself up. The records ends with a hand grenade going off. Whether one loved, loathed or feared it, everyone had more or less the same question: What kind of human being had perpetrated Car Radio Jerome? It was attributed to Fred Lane and the Hittite Hot Shots. But who were they? No one had ever heard of the group. They never toured, never made videos, never once appeared on Johnny Carson.

In fact, the Reverend Fred Lane did make public appearances, though not many and none outside of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He first appeared at the Raudelunas Pataphysical Revue in 1975, a show mounted by Raudelunas, a group of artists in Tuscaloosa. The origins of their name is as obscure as those of Lane. According to Ron ‘Pate, the leader of the band the Debonairs which accompanied Lane at the Revue, “it was an Armenian family name meaning ‘moonlight’ or ‘worship of the moon as a deity.’ ”

Fred Lane was called upon to emcee the Pataphysical Revue, which was a stage show held on the opening night of an exhibit of Raudelunas art at the University of Alabama. He took the stage in a form that would soon be familiar to a few friends and aficionados, if not the country at large: a snap-brim fedora, sunglasses, cutaway tux, boxer shorts, pink socks, and wing-tip brogues, all accented by a few Band-Aids on his face. Lane, backed by Ron ‘Pate and the Debonairs, opened the show with a swinging cover of “My Kind of Town (Chicago Is).” After performances by the Blue Denim Deals Without the Sleeves, the Nubis Oxis Quarum doing the music of ancient Rome, the Captains of Industry all-appliance orchestra, and the world premier of Anne LeBaron’s “Concerto for Active Frogs,” Lane sang “Volare” to close the show.

A recording of the show, entitled Raudelunas Pataphysical Revue, was released on the local Say Day Bew label. Despite an original pressing of only 500 copies, the disc had a remarkably wide impact. It was picked up eventually by Recommended Records in England; their catalog read “Nothing I’ve ever heard is remotely like this.” As a result Raudelunas Pataphysical Revue sold more in Europe than the United States. Ironically, most orders were from American customers. In 1998, The Wire, an English music magazine, named the Pataphysical Revue one of the “100 records that set the world on fire.” The record has never been completely out-of-print—some 20 copies were still available in the summer of 1999—and tentative plans are afoot for a CD re-release.

Fred Lane wrote another play around the same time, I Talk To My Haircut. It was never staged but the songs Lane wrote were released along with those from the earlier show in 1983 on a Day Bew album, From The One That Cut You. The story of I Talk To My Haircut— what folks remembered of it more than 20 years later—took place in a hotel and involved the bellhop in the title song. That song and “Rubber Room” are two of the most remarkable big band arrangements on vinyl. The first features a brilliant Dick Foote solo, described by ‘Pate as “the sound of a tenor sax being strangled.” “Rubber Room,” a Lane masterpiece, opens with the Reverend crooning over a lounge piano, before he starts to swing: “I’m sick of my job/I’m sick of my wife/I’m sick of your face/I’m sick of this life/Gonna go to the store/Buy me some hardware, my dear.” Lane sings of his plans for the hardware while ‘Pate and the Debonairs vamp like an asylum orchestra. For a moment one hears people laughing, glasses tinkling, like there’s a party going on. Lane doesn’t notice it; he’s too busy singing off the contents of his shopping bag, or his mind, who knows which. The Debs slide down a few ragged glissandi and Lane wraps up it up: “I’m a happy, sappy son-of-a-gun/Living in a rubber room!” The Debonairs bray out one final blast.

Lane’s last record, Car Radio Jerome, was recorded in December of 1985, using the core of the Debonairs, including Cyd Charisse, Don “Pretty Boy” Smith, and Dick Foote, performing as the Hittite Hot Shots. There was no show, no art exhibition behind the album. “We were just trying to get a record company to sign us up,” Lane said. It must have worked. Shimmy Disc released it in 1988 and followed it up with the re-release of From The One That Cut You the next year. Car Radio Jerome was a catalog of styles: big band, country, kid songs, free jazz, spaghetti western, and a little musique concréte.

In the summer of 1999, Lane had laid his own basic tracks for a new album to be called Ice Pick To The Moon. He had finished about 12 songs for the record, including a gospel number entitled “I’m Gonna Go To Hell When I Die,” and he writes new pieces regularly. Asked what his message would be to the youth of America, Lane thought for a moment. “I guess it’s like the French Toast Man said,” he answered, “evacuate your bowels, eat a hot lunch, and don’t be late for school.”

—Gerald E. Brennan (article shortened for space consideration-Ed)

The Man With The Foldback Ears



Yes onstage '78 tour? Looks to be post Bruford.

Yes onstage early '70's. Looks to be post Bruford.

This is a fantastic piece of music. I’ve managed to avoid the original, by Simon & Garfunkel, so far. The song itself is a little dated, no one has to look for America anymore. It’s the same strip malls full of chain restaurants and stores everywhere.

I have the compilation, “New Age Of Atlantic”, on which this originally appeared .  It’s another Malibu house fire survivor. This particular file is a bonus track on the latest edition of “Fragile”.
I lifted the following from Sakalli music blogspot, and it is obviously the same source as wiki, it’s word for word in places, except there it’s stated this came from a session between “Fragile” and “Close to the Edge”. The liner notes on the cd do nothing to clear this up. I’m going with the version included here. Nothing like a little controversy. Keep the comments flowing.

Tony Kaye was replaced by the classically-trained Rick Wakeman, who had just left Strawbs, and proved to be the last piece in the puzzle of the ultimately best line-up of the band. As a soloist, Wakeman proved to be a good foil for Steve Howe. He also brought two vital additions to the group’s instrumentation: the Mellotron (which Kaye had been unwilling to employ) and the Minimoog synthesizer. Surrounded by banks of keyboards, Wakeman’s flowing blond hair and sequened cape provided a strong visual focus on stage.

The first recording by this lineup (Anderson, Bruford, Howe, Squire and Wakeman) was a dynamic ten-minute interpretation of Simon & Garfunkel’s “America”, which originally appeared on a compilation album (“New Age Of Atlantic” 1972). The mellotron work (end of track) was actually played by Bruford. It was both the end of one era (their last non-original track) and the beginning of another, showcasing all the elements of the new Yes sound in place.