KEVIN AYERS/SOFT MACHINE VIDEO!
Hi. I got this one about two-and-a-half-months back but I'm only reviewing it now. Wanna know why? Seems that the guy who dubbed these probably "classic" to someone-or-other performances by Kevin Ayers (plus some documentaries on Soft Machine and Robert Wyatt respectively) is a friend and one-time associate of a certain person who really rankled my ire as of late, and though I wanna drop the subject completely and act "above it all" you know, I really can't. Call me an immature petty and vindictive slob and you'll probably be right, and call me even more thin-skinned than I was during the not-so-calm days of YOUR FLESH and you'll be even righter, John! It's just that...here I am, a guy who's a miles ahead of EVERYBODY rock and gulcheral writer in on the gonz game for well over two decades who should have been (but never will be) awarded the laurels and rewards due such a person of my upstanding stature, and all I get for it is a whole slew of abuse and flung dung that (you know) I never deserved in the first place! An' yeah, I know that the man who made this video for me had nothing to do with the crimes perpetrated against me, but let's just say that things were pretty much too close for comfort for me to both fully appreciate this tape and acknowledge persons "A" and "B" as pals'n that really shouldn't have anything to do with anything, but sometimes I do tend to heap on a lotta "guilt by association." Really, I take things so seriously that I couldn't even STAND to play ANY MUSIC that was being reviewed by any of the people in question for a long time, which is a shame because I had just bought a cartload of Art Ensemble of Chicago albums and I couldn't BEAR TO LISTEN TO THEM KNOWING THAT ONE OF THE EVIL PEOPLE IN QUESTION WAS REVIEWING THEIR WARES POSITIVELY...I JUST COULDN'T STAND TO LISTEN TO ANY OF IT DAMMIT!!! That's how pee-yoed I had been for quite a long time, and frankly the anger and frustration (over a lack o' JUSTICE I might add!) only makes the wound sting a li'l more'n it should. Too bad I'm not Miles Davis, or I can order a bitta healthy retribution against the King Curtises of my life, but hey, I'm just another lousy petty peon so I guess I gotta get used to my lot in life as the TOILET FOR THE TERMINALLY HIP!!!
Anyway this associate of friend or whatever of person "A" sent me a videotape of some Kevin Ayers things from British tee-vee as well as some Soft Machine and Robert Wyatt thingies that he also decided to slap on, and although he dint exactly want me to "review" the thing and said it was made purely for my "enjoyment" I decided to write about it anyway since there's really nothing else to do right now. So, in order to stave off boredom even more here's a rundown on what was on the VCR which I'm sure even you'll get a swift kick inna pants outta.
Kevin Ayers on British musical shows like TOP OF THE POPS and OLD GREY WHISTLE TEST or both. Or none. I really dunno since all these shows tend to run together to me but I gotta say that I think the music performed on both and the way they were presented sure beats the way Amerigan tee-vee was doing up rock on those late-night shows in the seventies I used to try to stay up and watch in order to be "grown up." Hah! Those IN CONCERT and MIDNIGHT SPECIAL presentations were soooo infantile once you got down to it, with the "hip" producers knowing nada about how to make rock music palatable for a nation of stone freaks. Oh well, that's another blog, but I really like watching these Ayers videos not just for the UK feel, but for the music extant.
Good moment---Ayers and The Whole World on some show doing "May I." This was a song that showed Ayer's, er, continental side off almost like what Bryan Ferry would be doing with Roxy Music in a year or two with images of some decadent European at one of those French outdoor cafes with the umbrellas onna tables 'n everything looking at some sexy gal asking if it was hokay if he just eyeballed her a bit. Kinda Velvet-y too, with a feeling akin to something Lou shoulda put on his BERLIN LP a short while later. On television it's presented perfectly, with the accordian cranking out the usual French cheese and Lol Coxhill playing soprano sax with a little goatee (By the way, is his WELFARE STATE album on Caroline from 1976 any good? I never saw that one imported or CD'd, or publicized much for that matter) and that's Mike Oldfield on guitar there, and it's easy to wash away his pregressive/avant garde inclinations away after hearing him do his better-than-you'd-dare-admit leads. As I said in the mag...if only someone inna USA got hold of this stuff and presented it for us hippie-drenched teenbos of the time...it sure would have been much better than watching Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show speak for their generation, if ya know what I mean!
Another interesting Ayers bit...watching him, all glammed out with makeup and in shiny seventies glitter limpwrist clothing, mouthing "Falling In Love Again" from his YES WE HAVE NO MANANAS disc. I told you earlier that I got this one (on the UK Harvest and not the USA ABC label) recently even though I first heard it in 1977 when it came out and thought it was a drag then. Well, I haven't had the desire to spin it yet, but it was nice to at least see Ayers lipsynching this Marlene Dietrich number after all these years and I probably woulda gotten a kick outta if had I seen the thing fresh. It's kinda funny to see Ayers doing the sissyglam thing in '77 when that style was on the wane, but it does fit in at least with what was going on a few years earlier with a real camp backing that coulda been Wayne County's or even something from an Adrian Street record (!), and that ending where the piano Ayers was leaning against explodes seems to be the fitting touch, perhaps Ayers' final comment on the glitter movement? I dunno, but to me it would seem like Ayers was putting a cap on things himself considering how the punque goings on were pretty much sending Ayers and that whole early seventies prog-rock gang straight to the unemployment line!
Now onto the Soft Machine. Y'know, I was really intrigued with them ever since I read Lillian Roxon's blurb on them in her famed encyclopedia just like I was intrigued with her entries on the Mothers of Invention, Fugs, Silver Apples, Velvet Underground and Remains. The idea of a rock group playing avant garde jazz and being too avant for the rock guys and vicey-versey just struck a chord with my mid-teen psyche, and although the Machine's Columbia two-LP set (the one with the soft-serve ice cream cover as I liked to think about it) as well as the Harvest import BUNDLES were easily enough available, it was their early material I was seeking which I eventually found in a flea market. And I gotta say that I did get more than enough enjoyment outta them, but it's like they haven't been spun much in the years since I went whole hog into Velvets/garage concerns for some odd reason. I still have those early platters in my huge collection somewhere, but haven't had any time, luck or ROOM to go through the entire shebang to find 'em!
Still, that video is pretty snat. You get an actual documentary on 'em with neat clips of some rehearsals in one of those quaint English homes and shots of the band tossing their instruments (organ, drums, cello...) into the back of their mini-van while neighbors sunbathe in the raw, but it seems like right when everything is beginning to cook the thing's over. At least we get some blippoid lightshow effects which obscure the group more than the Exploding Plastic Inevitable ever could. Still good for the history lesson as is the German track from later-on ('70?) with a more British/avant/fusion style and a still-walking Wyatt making cool sounds into his mic. Funny, the Germans could present rock & roll on tee-vee better'n the Amerigans, and you'd think they would have been too strict and ordered to do so!!!
Closing the video's a documentary on Robert Wyatt. Now, I gotta say that Wyatt ain't exactly one of my faverave people and other'n his work on those old Brian Eno albums I couldn't bother to listen to him anymore. There was a time when I would spin things like RUTH IS STRANGER THAN RICHARD a lot, but then after a few years something crept into my psyche and said "Chris, this music is boring!!! It's droning in a negative way and there's no spark or dash to it!!! Why listen to this when you can go to the record shop and dish out good money for a copy of NUGGETS which you'll get a big kick outta!!!" And that li'l voice was right (for once), since it was the unadulterated teenage snarl of the sixties garage bands that began to capture my psyche and things like MATCHING MOLE'S LITTLE RED RECORD has remained in my cassette box for way longer than I can imagine.
Anyway, this Italian documentary on Wyatt is kinda dungeon if you ask me. (Not that you did, but I figured anyone bored silly enough to actually wanna seek this blog out to perhaps learn a little bit would be interested in me espousing on just about any shard of information at hand no matter how inane it may be.) Wyatt doesn't make for an interesting subject matter (I just got one little tidbit of relevant information outta this, the part where Wyatt related the saga about Theolonius Monk patting him on the head in lieu of an autograph!), and let's just say that a GOOD PORTION of his solo career isn't anything that makes a rock & roll legend. The usual hanger-on types, the old musical pals etc. gather 'round and heap on the standard praise, and frankly I didn't get anything outta that because it all seemed too, uh, structured. believe me, I would have much preferred that Wyatt be the honoree at a Dean Martin Celebrity Roast...I mean, at least those were entertaining!!! Fortunately this documentary swooshes over a lotta Wyatt's bad traits like his unflagging devotion to the old form of WORLD PEACE THROUGH MASSIVE OPPRESSION political fun and games that seemed to die down once revelations of Pol Pot and other world-savers began filtering out of the various workers paradises around (not that these things shouldn't be discussed...I'm only glad they weren't because I know that somehow they would be used to present Wyatt in an even more positive light!), but even with the whitewashing and Elvis Costello this documentary comes off worse than one of those PBS projects you still come across once in awhile!
Gotta give thanks to Mr. "B" for sending this along. A hearty tip of the BLOG TO COMM hat to you despite any poor choices of association you may have been involved with. Just hope there ain't any 180-degree switcharoos with you like there were with a few others out there in cyberbackstabland...I mean, one things the oft-mentioned Ayn Rand was right about was when she said DON'T TRUST ANYBODY!!!, and with such sage words I think I better just keep my eyes wide open with regards to just about ANYBODY bearing gifts out there who may decide to use something against me in the court of public opinion!
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
KEVIN AYERS/SOFT MACHINE VIDEO!