Saturday, September 10, 2011

A WHOLE HEAPIN' HUNKERIN' BUNCH OF ROCK 'N ROLL ACTS I SURE HOPE I CAN GIVE A LISTEN TO SOMETIME IN THE VERY NEAR FUTURE!!!

And really, why not, since I never thought for the life of me I would get the opportunity to hear such groups as Rocket From The Tombs, the Magic Tramps, Kongress, Umela Hmota (2 and 3 included), Milk and Tender Buttons, but I did. However, for every "obscure" underdocumented group out there who I eventually did get to hear there must be at least ten interesting obscure-os who I have missed out on, and frankly the whole lot of 'em might be worth the time and energy to seek out even if I'd have to pester the owners of such rare booty until doomsday for them to make their secret stash available to the people, man!

Here are just a few (maybe ten, maybe fifteen, maybe three!) rock 'n roll acts of the past that I really would like to hear, if only because of a writeup I once read or the fact that somebody soon-to-be-infamous was in the group or perhaps just due to good ol' rock 'n' roll mythology. Whatever, I'm sure hopeful that the bearer of such obscurities that happens to read this post will undergo metanoia and make these wares easily available to all which would be grand! Frankly, I get this feeling that the groups to be mentioned will remain unknown now and forever because, really other'n myself who would want to hear this stuff outside of the groups' mothers?

But try on I will, and who knows, maybe this post'll elicit a few good responses and maybe help sate my curiosity at least until the next round of rock mythmaking rears its ugly head!

1) Flamingo Road-Here's a pretty well under-the-covers New York act that I never would have known about 'cept for a very positive review of the group's CBGB audition courtesy of none other than Russell Desmond in the pages of his CAN'T BUY A THRILL fanzine way back in 1977. The infamous rock journalist-type scribbled down his opines after making a music-oriented jaunt up the East Coast way back in that rock active year, and if I do say so myself he done writ a nice piece where Desmond not only mentioned how he helped these young upstarts out a bit in the roadieing department but how their music was fantastic in more of an early-seventies innovative way 'stead of in late-seventies new (soon to be "gnu") wave copycat fashion. Desmond even name-dropped the Sidewinders and Hackamore Brick in his piece with typically titillating results, though not as a description of their style or influences but perhaps regarding their entire "aura" as a loud, local teenage rock 'n roll combo.

Also mentioned as a strong Flamingo Road influence were Mott the Hoople, something which I guess Desmond brought up because right after their showcase who else but Ian Hunter should stroll into CBGB only to see some more "patented" punk group doing a Ramones imitation which kinda irked Desmond because if Hunter would have been there an hour or so earlier he woulda seen a group that he perhaps coulda produced and made at least a good cutout-bound album with, and we all know we sure coulda used more of those back in those cost-conscious days, right?


I often wonder what happened to Flamingo Road considering the stellar rah-rah they were given here, and to his credit Desmond did end his writeup pondering just that considering that he hadn't read a word about 'em anywhere since their eponymous debut. As if he ever would, considering how the rock press in En Why, although concerned with acts who may have represented a late-seventies sense of punkdom, shied away from those who were more or less playing their punkitude filtered through late-sixties/early-seventies hard rockdom. I can tell you that Flamingo Road's name did pop up on at least one '77-era Max's Kansas City giglist, and I could only hope that they continued on perhaps under a new name with perhaps a record or two under their belt that might just surface and surprise all of us one of these days! Still, Flamingo Road might have been one of those under-the-counter En Why acts that coulda amounted to something, if only the majority of local rockscribes didn't seem to have their heads firmly placed upsides the behind of Robert Christgau!*

2) Master Radio Canaries-Here's another oddity, a Long Island group that I've been interested in hearing ever since reading a few on-line blurbs about 'em thanks to the Alien Planetscapes website which is easily enough obtained via the linkup on the left. From what the blurbs (and the comments on this very blog) have said, the Master Radio Canaries were a space rock oriented bunch who used to have wild parties at their Long Island digs with plenty of hallucinogenic stimulation which I guess went along swell with the music they would be inundating their friends with. Along with many a local act they even made it to the New York during the great underground rock upheaval of the mid-seventies although the only gig that I ever saw listed of their was at Max's Kansas City during the summer of '76, and then on a weekday bill featuring three other bands! Kinda makes me wonder if they could get into their extended space jams with such a limited amount of time to play, and given that the group also utilized not only a home-made light show but dancers (including a ballet dancer and some guy doing robot moves) I wonder how their act would have worked on a relatively small stage, the kind most of these outta-the-way clubs undoubtedly possessed. The Canaries also reportedly had what you might call avant garde jazz leanings which led them to get booked at none other than Don Cherry's club, I believe it was called either Environs or perhaps The Brook, and there is a glowing recollection of the show that can be found on the Master Radio Canaries  segment of the Alien Planetscapes  site which only makes me wanna know even more than what is obviously being presented to us via this often limited web.

I was in touch with the group's drummer Andy George (who also worked as a soundman for various acts and dives throughout the late-seventies) who gave me a nice rundown on the group from their German guitarist Ken Kern (who met George while attending Minneola High School) as well as the development of the act from their school beginnings to stabs at professional breakthrough. One thing that George did mention to me was that the main influence of Master Radio Canaries was more or less the European progressive rock of Emerson Lake and Palmer, Yes, King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin, Van Der Graaf Generator, Pink Floyd and Genesis to name a few. Nothing to really excite me true, but their love of the German underground of Can as well as Roxy Music and Gong did have me thinking that perhaps this was one outta-nowhere act that I could get behind even if their musical chops might veer into directions that I do feel rather uncomfortable with, queasy musical constitution of mind and all!**

George also did mention that there were loads of Master Radio Canaries tapes lying around and yes, these things do deserve to see the light of day. There was even this really great looking Master Radio Canaries flier that George said would have looked great cover-art wise! Haven't heard anything about a Master Radio Canaries release as of late (the last I've been in touch with the guy was back in June of '09) so something inside me sez that maybe it's time I drop him an email to like, encourage him to get the project up and runnin'! CD Baby awaits you George, as does at least one rather curious aficionado out there!***

3) The Ratz-Of all of the local groups that got their 15 minutes of fame via BACK DOOR MAN these guys may have been one of the more interesting ones, or at least one of the more interesting ones that never did release any booty that I know of. What really piqued my interest in these guys (who had that smarmy new wave look down pat, and in 1975!) was when someone wrote in to BDM asking if they were Tujunga's answer to the Velvet Underground. Well, at least that was a good start!

4) Bitch-Another New York act lost to time, at least their singer's long forked beard and general get up has me thinkin' a good early/late-seventies mix up of various hard rock stylings that were above par yet never would go anywhere with all of the competition in tow. Reports had the singer marked as a local freak who just vamoosed into the ether, a fate which seems to have befallen not only the groups on this post but many of the half-million acts that traipsed upon the local rock stages from the early-seventies until that fateful day when CBGB closed thus putting a cap on the seventies for good!

5) The Seventh Seal-I've blabbed on enough about Detroit's first psychedelic band co-led by future Commander Cody guitarist Bill Kirchen and bassist Ron Miller, but after all these years recordings continue to elude us all. Hey John Sinclair, if you're really as people-oriented as your type claim to be how about releasing some of this music for us people anyway? And while you're at it, don't go 'round making a profit on it 'r anything!

6) Mong-While Andy Paley's Sidewinders sorta came, saw and conquered the New York intelligentsia rock scene in 1972 brother Jonathan's Mong attempted to do the same a good four years later. Some waves were made, but any chance of recording were shot when the group was disbanded so Jonathan could join his brother in a surf-pop update which actually landed 'em in the pages of 16 as well as on the stage of CBGB. But hey, props must be given to a group in 1976 who not only performed "I Fought The Law" a good year before the Clash but the closing theme to FIREBALL XL-5 which proves that they, along with the Electric Eels, were pumping classic television consciousness into their repertoire long before the B-52s and various new wave ginchies thought of it a good half-decade later!

7) Psy Free-Often touted as the premier krautrock band, this trio led by future Tangerine Dream/Ash Ra Tempel/solo star Klaus Schulze never did record. That doesn't mean that there aren't some hotcha tapes recorded in the most dismal of situations wallowing about somewhere, and although I do get the feeling that my anticipations might overwhelm the reality if I ever do get to hear this group I'm also sure that there would be more than a scant amount of fun historical value that I could ooze outta it.  Not for Teutonic wanksters only.

8) Harlan and the Whips-Mentioned on this blog a number of times in the past, Harlan and the Whips were, along with Bernie and the Invisibles, the Savage Tractors and Serena WilliamS Burroughs' various endeavors, an example of what was going on beneath the already way underground Cleveland scene of the v. late-seventies. Led by David Solomonoff, the Whips were a drummerless trio whose sound was compared to WL/WH Velvets and TROUT MASK Beefheart, and frankly these guys were so under-the-concrete that their performances were limited to private get-togethers and confused customers who'd walk in on their rehearsals in the back room of the Coventry bookstore right next to Tommy's. Johnny Dromette was interesting in doing a single taken from a rehearsal tape which Solomonoff gave to Paul Marotta to transfer from cassette to reel, though the Drome empire crumbled around the same time and the tape somehow got lost in transit. If it ever surfaces I hope a reactivated Drome will crank out a release as soon as possible!

9) Man Ray-Name-dropped in passing more'n a few times by not only group bassist and industry mover Richard Robinson but his wife Lisa, Man Ray must have been one of the most legendary "wha' th'?" groups ever. Lisa's description of their planned stage set up (white clothing and instruments bathed in white light) and how their stark aesthetics were only then (1975) being utilized by the local underground rock groups made them the most interesting rock concept I've heard about in quite some time. But did they or didn't they exist? I was told that Lenny Kaye was a member, but is this that act that he had with rockcrit Robert Palmer that was mentioned in the IT CAME FROM MEMPHIS book or what? Many questions do need to be answered and soon, for I get these extraterrestrial vibrations in my mind that tell me Man Ray were the perfect encapsulation of the best of '66 Velvets filtered through '77 New York No Wave, and boy am I salivatin'!

10) Damage-Not too sure about this one, since  Ralph Alfonso (in the pages of his Toronto Scene History for BOMP!) had 'em sounding like one of the craziest exponents of free rock the early-seventies could hope to come up with while some on-line descriptions had me thinkin' more hippie jam band crams. Pessimistic me sez it's probably way more of the latter'n the former, but then again, I think I was wrong once in my life...

11) David Roter-Yeah, I know that this venerable Blue Oyster Cult lyricist has a number of albums to his moniker, but I'm not talkin' "The David Roter Method", his long-time group that featured various Blue Oyster Cult and Dictators in its ranks but the David Roter of solo folkie fame! Y'know, that same Roter who had been a force on the En Why guitar strumming scene since the early-sixties (a real trick considering how he was born in the late-forties!) whose career was being touted by such rock writing stalwarts as Richard Meltzer and Bobby Abrams ever since the late-sixties making most if not all of us wonder just who the heck this guy was! Known for such numbuhs as "I'm a Doper (And Not Ashamed)" as well as having a style and swerve that Abrams had compared to everyone from Syd Barrett to Wild Man Fisher, the folkie Roter seemed like such a switch from the usual strumbos to the point where I wonder wny his late-sixties rep. never did get the royal treatment one would think it deserved. Hey Al Bouchard, if you were such a friend of the guy howzbout giving his memory a royal treatment collection complete with a detailed history so at least one more rock 'n roll mystery'd be cleared up once and for all!

12) Metteyya's Voice-Have no idea what these guys were about, but they sure had a cool name, and a unique one too considering how this act was popping up at CBGB in the midst of the new underground rock renaissance. I have they feeling they might have been more psycho-proggy 'n mid-Amerigan punk, but then again sometimes the borders can tend to get blurred...

Now, I could go on and mention every other group real or imagined that might have popped up on the radarscope o'er the past thirtysome years from Junior Birdmen and Sorcerers to that one group the future Pagans in the Hudson brothers had where they'd perform on Milk's gear in between sets at the Willoughby Ohio YMCA, but I do have to stop somewhere. No doubt as soon as I post this 'un some act I've totally forgotten about due to frustration'll pop right into my mind to which I say...well, there's always Part Two...
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* And whaddaya know, but when I decided to comb the internet for at least a shard of information on Flamingo Road which I hope might have surfaced somewhere what do I find but an entire website dedicated to the group who I guess have reformed and have not only done a show or two but they've even recorded an album's worth of material! True, I sometimes shudder at the thought of these guys in their late-fifties doing what shoulda been done in their mid-thirties, but still I am curious enough to find out more about 'em and even order their disque when finances deem it proper. I still get the feeling that I might be in store for a straight-ahead rock excursion in the Sidewinders/Hackamore Brick vein, though experiencing something along these lines at my advanced age makes me wonder...should I consult a cardiologist or endocrinologist first?

**Really, don't be too surprised that a few more progressive rock-oriented acts could be espied at the lower Manhattan rock clubs during this period in time. Pentwater, a Chicago progressive rock act heavily into the same import-bin stuffers as the Canaries, played CBGB and then Max's during an East Coast tour during the late-autumn months of 1976 while around the same time there was a group called Amber Waves that was playing Max's with regularity, at times getting the entire bill to themselves so's they could perform their very own rock opera, "Justice and Sundown". Figuring that, due to this fact these guys were perhaps outta the same post-Who mold as the Planets, Fast and a variety of groups who were hot on the local scene at this time, I was surprised to discover that Amber Waves were heavily into the prog scene, and that in fact Max's had even set aside a special showcase night for Manticore Records to check 'em out. Manticore liked what they heard, but at this time the entire label was falling apart along with the ELP tour which was destructing right in front of everybody's eyes so that was the end of any chance of Amber Waves making any records, and from what I could tell that was the end of Amber Waves as well. Well, at least they had a pretty neat name, even if they also had a Mellotron that used to break down mid-song all the time!

***A recent lowdown from a local fan of seventies underground rock and faithful BLOG TO COMM reader "Arctic Ranger" gives a li'l more info on the Canaries. Ranger says that the description of the show on the Alien Planetscapes site was not one of the Canaries but of an earlier version of the act called Mazumba! For the most part the Canaries were a five-piece consisting of guitar, bass guitar, ARP synth, percussion and drums and they mostly did about 40-minute sets of instrumental music with perhaps some spoken word, all ending with their set-closer "The Idi Amin Factor". The Canaries played CBGB a few times as well, though they preferred staying close to the Long Island digs for shows. Ranger described their sound as being akin to a "space rock Grateful Dead", and if you think such a description is going to necessarily scare me off well, I am made of stronger stuff (I think!).

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'd never heard of Flamingo Road but apparently they reformed earlier this year and have even released a CD:

http://flamingoroadband.com/homepage.html

Anonymous said...

Oops - ignore me.I hadn't finished reading!

Anonymous said...

this is the kind of archival digging that BTC is known for and that makes BTC the most essential music read online...sent you some more movies and music yesterday...including Ornette's 2-LP "Chappaqua Suite," which I hope you don't already have...if you do, now you've got two!
Bill S.

Anonymous said...

Mong were great and yes they did FIREBALL which was great and also old SIDEWINDERS material like RENDEZVOUS...I have live stuff...I bet they got into the studio at least once. I remember them opening for television.

bk

Anonymous said...

Great read all way through for a scene totally unknown(especially the more obscure musical acts,and perhaps the best?)here in Greece and not only musically...And how about this charming mini lp of Kieran Liscoe and the Attitude(Max'Kansas City Records)with its bar rock meet soul leanings at the early eightees?Ah,and the Nitecaps,Sponsors(produced by Adny Shernoff),Sicilian Vespers etc.Nick

Christopher said...

Nick---know what you mean. I actually reviewed the Liscoe mini-album in the probably final issue of my own fanzine a good almost-decade back. Too bad his career eventually fizzled out along with a good portion of those groups who were playing the New York Scene of the seventies.

Anonymous said...

The early incarnation of Master Radio was called Makumba not Mazumba.

And MRC did sound like the Grateful Dead, their jams went on and on, so much so that they often got their power turned off by club owners!

I don't know how anyone can link them to Gong, Can, Crimson. It was space jam shit.