Suicide-LIVE 1977-1978 6 CD set (Blast First, also available through Forced Exposure and Volcanic Tongue)
Here's one package that I wasn't exactly bustin' at the seams to snatch up, but since I still do harbor at least the slightest bit of respect/interest/curiousity regarding the late-seventies first-LP period Suicide I decided to get this $70-plus box before I felt like too much of a Johnny-cum-lately. And yeah, six full disques of Suicide taken from the private tapes of Howard Thompson (noted limey a&r man who I guess had good enough tastes to sign MX-80 Sound to Island) might seem like a mighty redundant offering for those of us who have all of the available live cassettes of the day and more, but sucker for punishment that I am I fell for the whole meal deal and actually doled out the moolah for this slightly-tempting box set. Remember, Suicide's '78 tour of Europe (which this set documents) was definitely chock full of some of the most self-destructive gigs in rockism history next to the Stooges' '73 cross-country jaunt and really, how could I afford to pass up the promise of total hatred and blood-smeared rock loathing as this?
Really, how could any rockism fanatic out there up nose at these six disques brimming with that great Suicide electro-thud rock? This ain't the Suicide of the "nice" yet commercial second album...naw, these tangy tidbits were recorded just before the lure of flash and disco caught Vega and Rev by the electrodes resulting in a number of records that didn't quite jazz me the way their oft-referred to debut had. Quality ain't that bad either, akin to some good audience tapes of the day that always seemed to sound better when transposed to digital, something tough for an analog lover like me to say but it's true so why should I deny it! And naturally the entire package is done swimmingly, complete with a booklet more of which I will prattle on as the review progresses!
The first two disques feature Suicide on home turf in En Why See playing at such haunts as Max's Kansas City and the once decidedly anti-Suicide CBGB, and as you can guess the local fans are out there rooting for the local team. (Only on the tape of the early '78 Palladium gig do we get to hear any of the massive booing that would become part and parcel of their European tour, but that's only because the audience was probably there for the glitzy headlining act and didn't want any part of Suicide's street rock.) Perhaps the most interesting aspect of these En Why See tapes is the presence of this yodelling guy that Blast First's Paul Smith refers to as the "Shouting Man" in his booklet notes, some chump who moans along with the familiar Suicide numbers and does these weird spazzy wails of unbridled approval in between numbers! This guy also pops up on a 1981 recording of Suicide live at the Peppermint Lounge that I have, not to mention a bootleg EP of Johnny Thunders/Wayne Kramer's Gang War and believe-it-or-not but a scant few people actually remember this wailing weirdo who sounds like he was released from Bellvue a tad prematurely! Anybody out there know who this dude is? If so please make his name and cell number known to us as soon as possible! Who knows, a recording contract with Lexicon Devil just might be in the offering!
It isn't until Suicide hits the Olde Country that the fur really starts flying, with Suicide facing a whole load of yobs out for the Clash and Elvis Costello "deeply offended" over Suicide's New York thrust and, in typical European football/political thug fashion make their opinions known in the most vocal (and voilent) ways possible. Oddly enough these gigs are pretty strong in sound and content, and perhaps are enhanced by the raucous response those lilly-livered europeons give to one of the bestest rock groups to ever hit the boards. Some of this, like the famed Brussels show which ended with someone swiping Vega's mic, has been floating around for quite a long time and frankly I think a few things here were taken from the famous ROIR HALF ALIVE tape but it ain't like I'm complainin'. I will say that you might be smart to play these disques piecemeal over the course of a few nights or even a whole week lest you get bogged down in way too many takes of "Harlem" to the point of mental collapse (not that it wouldn't be a fun way to go, though make mine "96 Tears"!).
There are some nice surprises on these platters like an English radio ad for the Suicide and Real Kids albums (!) plus some backstage patter with Vega, Rev, Thompson and Miriam Linna gabbing abour something which I can't make heads nor tails of considering the quality. I guess that's all part of the official bootleg feel of this, and maybe the information to be found here will come to good use...once somebody transcribes it!
And, as to signify a happy ending, this box set ends with a typically powerful Max's set with the boys home from battle and in front of a friendlier buncha miscreants than the ones they hadda put up with the past few months. In a way, it does warm the cockles of my heart to see that the two of 'em made it back OK.
While I'm at it, I should tell you that the enclosed booklet it a joy to behold just like all of those other well-detailed Cee-Dee enclosures coming out with just about every juicy slice of heretofore unknown historical facts we sure can use a lot more of. The mandatory flyers ("Suicide are the Seeds of the 70s!"-Lester Bangs) and snaps are of course here and reprinting a review of MELODY MAKER's Richard Williams (consider him the "anti-Welch" if you like) was a stroke of genius, but the best bunch outta the batch just has to be the inclusion of Miriam Linna's Red Star press releases (or shall I say "communiques") which, like all of her scribblings, are worth repeated reading and not only while you're on the toilet trying to overcome the hemmorhoid struggle. Insightful true, and perhaps these tasty rarities create more of a mystery as to just where the famed rock writer/drummer/record label head is coming from, perhaps even more than her subject matter. Gee, I remember when Linna was always putting down things like punk rock and new wave at one moment, then she would be writing articles on groups like the Feelies (while praising Devo in the process!) and the Ramones the next which really confused a kiddo like me who was living in the heart of AOR-land where anything that wasn't Van Halen was punk rock, and thus loathed with a vengeance. Well, reading these press releases where the lady's hyping up Suicide to the hilt while minutely detailing the struggles they had at their shows with the Clash and Costello, while not writing retch-inducing comments about how sucky those acts are, really is startling! Perhaps they made her edit it out since she's not being paid to present her own opinions here, but if you think that I'm still pretty mixed up about all this then you're probably right as usual!
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7 minutes ago