Saturday, December 03, 2011

A SOUNDTRACK FOR THE SEVENTIES---DONE MY WAY!!!

I just happened to be thumbing through Nick Kent's boffo seventies history/memoir APATHY FOR THE DEVIL last night, and while perusing the handy-dandy list of albums scrunched in the back of the book that Kent mentioned as being the creme-de-la-best of that decade the idea struck me that """""I""""",  no bout-a-doubt-it hands down and all that, could do a much BETTER job of compiling a more accurate collection of seventies longplaying movers and shakers! Not only that, but the idea struck me as something that would be an excellent topic for a weekend post, especially considering how I really don't have any fresh material to write on about at this time down and out blogschpieler that I am. I must humbly admit that although our tastes certainly do overlap I pretty much topped Kent's choices all hollow (and on a number of levels as well)...it's non-debatable that most of his choices are "spot on" as the English say, but as I've mentioned way too many a time the guy was, and remains, bogged down into a lotta dull singer/songwriterisms for my constitution! And in a field of Iggy/Dolls/punk worship, his paens to the likes of Joni Mitchell stick out like a pretty sore Canadian-transplanted-to-Southern California thumb!

OK, I guess that's his business, and at least the man ain't no Chuck Eddy which is something we can all be thankful for!  And although I probably haven't heard all of the best records to come out of the seventies I know that I've made some rather excellent choices in these selections along with the prerequisite (and much desired) explanations/analysis, all the while of course being totally subjective to my own personal tastes and beliefs which I have no compunction but to force down your throat! (As if Kent's own choices weren't subjective, but I guess he has the right to spout off his faves considering his punk credo not to mention all of the drugs he imbibed during his creative height!) I know you'll beg to differ w/regards to some of my entries and will tell me so in the most uncomplimentary, vile way possible, eh? Anyway, I dare you to...feh!

1970

The Mothers of Invention-WEASELS RIPPED MY FLESH (Bizarre/Reprise)-The seventies might have been Frank Zappa's decade, but by '69 he had already disbanded the original Mothers of Invention and was slowly but steadily getting his comparatively dull jazz fusion chops down pat. At least this final album by the original group stands as their best ever despite or perhaps because of its cornucopia of styles and downright nerve-bending appeal. My personal favorites include "The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbeque", Little Richard's "Directly From My Heart to You" (with special guest Don "Sugarcane" Harris), "Dwarf Nebula Processional March and Dwarf Nebula", the Lowell George-yelped "Didja Get Any Onya?" and of course the feedback-drenched title track even if Zappa just has to put on his typical airs of condescension towards his typical audience lapping it all up when it's all over and done with. Did I ever tell you that I (with the encouragement of my teacher) did a presentation on Zappa in high school music appreciation class (senior year) and played the "Dwarf Nebula"/"My Guitar..." pairing as well as a track from 200 MOTELS and ended up getting a "C" anyway...undeserved because the teach was mad at me for (allegedly) inadvertently knocking the knobs off of his new stereo system. Wha' th'...so he turned out to be an unmitigated jerk. What else is new?
***
Tim Buckley-STARSAILOR (Straight/Warner Brothers)-One thing you can thank Zappa for is helping along the career of this oft-neglected singer/songwriter who sure did a helluva better job at it than most of the El Lay types who cluttered up the days of Vietnam protest with their whole wheat mental breakdown we were supposed to feel sorry for them about. After filling up one side of his Elektra contractual obligation album LORCA with a heavily avant garde jazz-inspired vibe Buckley presented an entire album of his post-Coltrane visions which were just too "out" for the fans who had latched onto him during his HAPPY SAD days. True this eventually was the inspiration for a lotta Joni Mitchell jive to come but Buckley did it first, and a whole lot better.
***
The Stooges-FUNHOUSE (Elektra)-Although fans of Cat Stevens would say otherwise, this album was perhaps thee ultimate way to say WELCOME TO THE SEVENTIES to hoards of maladjusted teenage rock and roll mouth-foamers worldwide. Can't think of a better way to get anybody ready for the sleaze, decadence, degradation and utter stupidity that decade would unleash on us. Massive hard rock blare which used to get called heavy metal permeates through a primitive pulse music that owes as much to the Troggs and Seeds as it does the Velvet Underground and Who, all ending in a mass of avant garde wail thanks to the appearance of mystery saxophonist Steve Mackay. Do you think that this album has a cult following? Judging from the name dropping mentions throughout various mid-seventies issues of CREEM and DENIM DELINQUENT I would kinda think so myself.
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Sonny Sharrock-MONKEY-POCKIE-BOO (BYG Actuel)-Between the above items and this 'un the seventies sure got off to a rollicking start, or at least these platters served as the proper counterpoint to the various embarrassments that were taking place within the once wild and woolly world of rock 'n roll. Not that MONKEY-POCKIE-BOO was a rock album, but given the atonal spree and outright sonic splatter it sure as shootin' coulda been one!
***
David Bowie-THE MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD (Mercury or RCA, depending on whether or not you were cheap enough to pick up the cutout version so prevalent in mid-seventies bargain bins)-By the early eighties Bowie didn't just seem like but was another industry joke, but those who could remember his pre-Ziggy persona would always point to this particular album as evidence that the guy could play rock 'n roll without anybody pouring hot lead up his hiney. Considered Bowie's heavy metal masterpiece by people who remember what that term meant before a lotta subpar swishers co-opted it, THE MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD's dark, depressing air certainly did fit in with the general mood of the world making me wonder why it didn't do better during its original Mercury release days. A winner from a guy who shoulda done more for stylophones than Rolf Harris ever did!
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The Flamin' Groovies-FLAMINGO (Kama Sutra)-Amidst the rock (no "roll") scenes prevalent on both the AM and FM mindwaves this one certainly stood out amongst the utter dross that era is still known for. But then again, who was looking for a straight-ahead rock 'n roll platter with nods to the fifties and sixties all wrapped up in a neat early-seventies package? Not the kid across the street who used to parade about with Grand Funk Railroad albums in hand, savvy?
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The Velvet Underground-LOADED (Cotillion)-Like in the case of the Stooges, was this record the death knell for the sixties or the harbinger of seventies things to come? For their final album foray the Velvets reached back to their early days for inspiration and came up with an album that in many ways set the tone for a whole lot of garage-induced efforts to come out in the following ten years. And when the likes of Blondie, the early Talking Heads and Television were making their recording debuts a good six years later this sounded all the more current!
***
Alice Cooper-EASY ACTION (Straight/Warner Brothers)-The Zappa/Herb Cohen sausage mill was really on a roll in '70 not only issuing an inordinate number of Mothers albums that were bound to sell bazillions by their covers alone but records by a whole slew of acts signed to the Bizarre/Straight family of labels that were intended as tax writeoffs but were pretty gawrsh-it-all good in their own right (well, at least some...). The second Alice Cooper album being amongst 'em, a true winner despite the hippies at ROLLING STONE relegating it to their "condemned" section. Okay, it might not be a smooth sail all the way through (esp. with the atypical SoCal-styled soft schmoozers "Shoe Salesman" and "Beautiful Flyaway") but it sure kicks the tarts outta Melanie! Along with STARSAILOR proof that Zappa at least had some musical appreciation that extended beyond his phony public persona, and given the hybrid of PRETTIES FOR YOU-era psychedelia, heavy metal and plain post-Stooges styled addledness a strange one for Zappa to have associated with, dontcha think?


1971

Hampton Grease Band-MUSIC TO EAT (Columbia)-This one sure came and went faster than you can say "death or ugha-bugha!" Not that the concept of mixing the burgeoning Southern rock stylings of the day with Frank Zappa-derived weirdness was something that was totally out of the ken of human comprehension, but this Atlanta group did just that with two platters fulla downhome RFD riffage mixed with West Coast freakdom that kinda reminded me of a mad mashup of the Allman Brothers, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Captain Beefheart. A unique experience featuring a crazed redneck vocalist with about as Deep a Southern accent as you can imagine hollering out non-sequiturs while the rest of the group keeps up in a particularly post-psychedelic manner that you think woulda got 'em a contract with Bizarre Records like snap! Columbia eventually signed these guys through future Capricorn head Phil Walden and rushed this out to a public that couldn't care less back in the spring of '71 where it stiffed and earned its reputation as the second-worst selling rock album in the label's history! That tale might be about as apocryphal a quote as the Eno one about the Velvet Underground's first album and how everybody who bought it formed a band, but that's how these legends are made, eh?
***
Hackamore Brick-ONE KISS LEADS TO ANOTHER (Kama Sutra)-Is this post just another excuse for me to re-write about musical acts that I've blabbered on about for the past thirty years awlready? It sure would seem so, but compiling a list of the most important rock 'n roll albums of the seventies and leaving this particular bargain bin wonder out would be more than criminal. If the cover shot of four New York City punks posing on a tenement fire escape wasn't enough to sucker you in then maybe a spin of the group's definitely garage-oriented music would. Imagine a mix of Crazy Horse with or without Neil Young and LOADED-period Velvet Underground, then conjure up some moves that wouldn't be heard at least until the debut of Patti Smith's HORSES a good four years later. Now let it sink into your minds that this music was being created by some of the most unassuming, down-to-earth guys who had no pretensions about being "rock stars" or big time hustlers of any kind. No wonder it went from the "New Artists" rack to the cutout bin overnight!
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The Flamin' Groovies-TEENAGE HEAD (Kama Sutra)-Looking back from the perspective of a good four decades it's sure strange to think that the Groovies would have been allowed to record three albums to date. You'd think that a band of their sub-punk caliber would have been lucky enough to make just one before being consigned to the trash heap, but stranger things have happened and these San Franciscans fortunately were given the go ahead at the forward-thinking Kama Sutra label for this winner that jumped the guns on a lotta seventies epiphanies. You can hear everything from rockabilly revival to pre-punk on this party discs to end all party discs, and not only that but, as in the case of Hackamore Brick, Richard Robinson produced the entire shebang making me wonder when somebody is gonna give this guy his dues even though he was an industry whore (but one I could only have wished to have been!).
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Black Sabbath-PARANOID (Warner Brothers or Vertigo if you prefer)-It's amazing just how much of the heavy metal oeuvre has oozed from the pores of this album; everything from Tony Iommi's stark guitar leads to Ozzy Osbourne's demonic-torment vocals has manifested itself in the metal to come for years on end. However, it's even more amazing how metal as a whole REJECTED a whole load of lessons to be learned from PARANOID---the slow burn jazziness of "Planet Caravan" or the spine-twist ending of "War Pigs" being just two subtle examples. Of course judging from their following albums I don't think Sabbath learned themselves either.
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T Rex-ELECTRIC WARRIOR (Reprise)-The beginning of a legend, and one putting an end to the sixties psychedelic dream while giving birth to the seventies glitter punk stomp. I've spilled enough regarding this album but the mere thought of those days when I'd stare at the cover in the record department just dying to hear what was inside is enough to fill even longer and more boring reviews than the ones you're reading today!
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Alice Cooper-LOVE IT TO DEATH and KILLER (Warner Brothers)-If '72 was Alice Cooper's breakout year then '71 was the Cooper band at their creative peak. After two entertaining if (perhaps) uneven albums LOVE IT TO DEATH showed the band focused and ready not only for attack, but to successfully take the Stooges formula and run to the bank with it which is more than the Stooges could do back then. KILLER was even more direct in its approach and also direct in the way that it influenced the early-seventies punk rock contingent (talking Rocket From The Tombs and the Electric Eels) the same way the Stones and Yardbirds influenced Alice and company back when they were mere Earwigs. Once Cooper made it to the top most of the magic was gone, and by the time he was hanging out with Jack Benny and George Burns we knew it was gonna be lace and whiskey from here on in. But hey, better him than Iggy, who would have just made a big fool of himself had he ever got lucky enough to get booked on HOLLYWOOD SQUARES!
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The Pink Fairies-NEVER NEVER LAND (Polydor)-It's funny, but at a time when it seemed as if most of the record buying populace wanted to forget that psychedelia had ever happened in the first place acts like Hawkwind, Kevin Ayers and these guys were keeping the memory of '67 alive. Well, at least the Fairies were doing it with a heavy helping of Detroit-styled rock tossed in making this the album the MC5 could have made but they went with HIGH TIME instead. Okay, sometimes NEVER NEVER LAND does drag when it gets into the Floydianisms of "Heavenly Man", but when the guys cook on everything from "Uncle Harry's Last Freakout" to "Teenage Rebel" they're taking 1967 and adding it to 1971, and getting 1977 punkitiude as a result! A surprising outta-nowhere hit from a group that (thankfully) never did get outta the Ladbroke Groove of things!
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YOKO ONO/PLASTIC ONO BAND (Apple)-Ono, like former Fug Tuli Kupferberg, was one of those innerlectual avant garde types who couldn't tell a Gene Vincent from a Joe Clay unless Lamonte Young was standin' right between 'em. But when Yoko was thrust into the rock 'n  roll world she made a number of albums that stand the test of time more than her subsequent singer/songwriter platters which were vain attempts to get people to "like" her (as if they every would!). One of the bloodiest scars passed off as music since FUNHOUSE, complete with that fantastic track done with Ornette '68 of which I would like to hear more. And if you don't believe me then believe Eddie Flowers who was ranting and raving about how it was this particular platter (or at least b-side "Touch Me") which readied him up for the big avant punk explosion of the late seventies and perhaps his own solo work!
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David Bowie-HUNKY DORY (RCA)-A marginal choice considering how this one is less rockin' than THE MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD yet more engaging than the followup releases. At least "Queen Bitch" has that teenage punk drive to it and even if Bowie never did have his images down pat at least that'n a selection of the tracks he did with clear Velvet Underground influx would have made a good album, y'know? Jacques Brel meets Andy Warhol might be a good summation.
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The Rolling Stones-STICKY FINGERS (Rolling Stone)-I don't really think so, but I don't want to earn the ire of the rabid Rolling Stone lovers who might tune into this blog. Well, if I wanted to be really jugular-aiming I coulda put JAMMING WITH EDWARD here (or was that '72? Soooo long ago...)
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The Mothers of Invention-200 MOTELS (Bizarre/United Artists)-Again, a "controversial" inclusion, but next to the blah for blah's sake of JUST ANOTHER BAND FROM LA and the dialogue-riddled even if brilliant in spots LIVE AT THE FILLMORE EAST the mix of orchestra favorites, straight-ahead rockers and usual bizarraties made it a fun enough farewell to the second-generation Mothers. Hey, has Rhino Handmade ever reissued those Flo and Eddie albums that came out on Reprise? I remember special ordering 'em way back in 1975 and they were out of print even then!
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Amon Duul-PARADIESWARTS DUUL (Ohr Germany)-Best of these commune thumpers' brand of totally whacked out psychedelic discs recorded around the time when psychedelic certainly seemed like a dirty word. Mike Stax (in the pages of one of his late, lamented Beathaven Records catalogs) said it sounds like a three way jam between the Jefferson Airplane, the Velvet Underground and the Manson Family which only goes to show you that he'd say just about anything to sell records! Especially if it's true...

1972

ROXY MUSIC (Island, Reprise or Atco...take you pick!)-I still find it hard to comprehend how these guys ever made it so big time. Really, with an album as good and as uncategorizable as this (owing enough to the English progressive cause with glam overtones and enough Velvet Underground Stoogianisms to confuse even the staunchest adolescent out there) you'd think Roxy would have been a one-shot wonder raved about in hushed tones a good forty years later. But I dunno, I still think that the shuffling of influences with such smoothness is an asset, and better these guys had a career than some of the also-rans who were cluttering up the import bin scene at the time!
***

Sandy Bull-DEMOLITION DERBY (Vanguard)-I usually hate folkies but this guy's mix of everything from country to blues to rock 'n  roll really has an appeal to my own sense of underground credo. Too bad this one didn't get around more or else the seventies would have been less hippydippy singalong and more varied even!
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Yoko Ono-FLY (Apple)-Gotta say that after this 'un it was all over. True you can hear the roots of her faux singer/songwriterdom creeping in even this early in the game, but when Yoko's yelping and bellowing like a wounded hyena and the guitars are cranking up then the spirit really does move me. True it doesn't know whether it wants to be John Cage, Carole King or Iggy Pop but it's kinda fun watching the three of 'em wrassle each other!
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Can-TAGO MAGO (United Artists)-Living inna USA this 'un totally passed us by (in fact the "mainstream" press over here didn't start mentioning these guys until 1974, and then in an offhand, sidebar sorta way) but I guess that if you were in England there was no way to escape this German onslaught of sonic fury and other teutonic delights. Get the new 40th anniversary edition complete with an additional live disque that's bound to clear up the acne on your butt!
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THE SIDEWINDERS (RCA)-Along with the Velvet Underground, Stooges, Dolls and Magic Tramps these guys were getting touted as being the "house band" at Max's Kansas City which wasn't quite the case, but considering all of the other house bands who played that famed haunt what's wrong with creatin' a li'l mystique anyway?. Eight years later it would be Von Lmo, the Zantees and BMT's who would be getting that honor, but in '70/'71 it was the Sidewinders et. al. who were sorta laying out the battleplans as to what would transpire in the East Coast underground rock sphere at least until the likes of Madonna came about and washed it all away. But man, why these Sidewinders (as opposed to the later-on post-Giant Sand ones who surprisingly also got a contract with RCA!---not that I can pass judgment on 'em never havin' givin' 'em a spin!!!) never made it I'll never know. Some called 'em a good group in the Rolling Stones trad while Richard Nusser in the VOICE thought he heard Velvet ruminations but whatever, these guys put out a good kicker of the buttocks platter which certainly didn't deserve to go deep six the way it obviously did. Now if it came out in '77 and deep-sixed, that would be better!
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Mott the Hoople-ALL THE YOUNG DUDES (Columbia)-Yes, there are many reasons one could hate this album, but just because a whole load of eighties-rock dolts and doofs went gaga over Ian Hunter and Mott the Hoople ain't good enough a reason for you to dump on 'em. Oh yeah, I did forget about Mick Ralphs...sorry.
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T. Rex-THE SLIDER (Reprise)-This is one of those albums I keep meaning to pull outta the pile yet either forget to or can't find it. But whatever the case, wasn't this the one that the fans who discovered 'em when they just started to go electric thought was the last good 'un  before the big fall? Hefty points though for containing a number of bona-fide classic numbers like "Baby Strange" and "Ballrooms of Mars", not to forget one of the earliest references to Max's Kansas City (and Patti Smith) on record!
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Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band-CLEAR SPOT (Reprise)-Nice cover concept and a pretty enticing if comparatively subdued effort from Beefheart and crew. Still has enough of that strange spider sound that bored Britishers would ape with relish on self-produced EPs a good decade later, only with a lot more taste and lack of finesse that's always made rock 'n roll that edgy music I like. After this one well...I did mention how I thought UNCONDITIONALLY GUARANTEED sounded fine in the light of the teens so maybe even a spin of THE SPOTLIGHT KID would be fitting in a seventies context? Or should I just sit 'em all out until SHINY BEAST like everyone else? As usual, your vote counts!
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Various Artists-NUGGETS (Electra...later on Sire)-OK, this double set contains nothing but mid/late-sixties punk/psych treasures that were mostly forgotten by the general populace at the time, but oh what a set it was! Along with the Dolls, Stooges, Modern Lovers, Sidewinders etc. a huge influence on what was to transpire in the latter portion of the decade, and not only that but a platter that I'm positive helped renew interest in the likes of Sky Saxon and Roky Erickson long after most people had written 'em off as a buncha sixties hasbeens.

1973

The Stooges-RAW POWER (Columbia)-Predictable choice true, but can you think of a better if obvious inclusion when it comes to post-Vietnam/pre-disco brain muddle? It's funny,  I can remember 1973 yet I can't recall hearing  anything about the Stooges or their big comeback album and subsequent career which pretty much fell apart before everybody's eyes. I guess that's what I got for sticking my nose inside copies of SPIDEY SUPER STORIES rather than CREEM, but no matter what my excuses may be it can't hide the fact that if RAW POWER had only entered my life a lot sooner than it had maybe I wouldn't have been the miserable wretch I was during my youth. I would have been locked up in a padded cell, but at least I would have retained my dignity
***

Doug Snyder and Bob Thompson-DAILY DANCE (New Frontiers)-There always was plenty of talk going on about the similarities and perhaps even cross-influences between punk rock and the avant garde jazz scene, but this album's the first that I know of which can claim to be equal parts both yet is alien enough that neither camp would dare claim it to be part of their particular clique. Doug Snyder plays the guitar as if he's trying to imitate the sounds heard on a tour of a steel mill working beyond capacity during the height of World War II while Bob Thompson's vast array of percussives come off like a million Maureen Tuckers sending log drum messages inside your head. Reviewed by myself at least four times throughout my stellar "career" so I guess one more mention won't hurt!
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Eno-HERE COME THE WARM JETS (Island)-Even I can still remember the huzzuh bubbling about when Eno's first solo album came out in the waning days of '73. Well, HERE COME THE WARM JETS certainly was a fresh and unique platter that you knew was gonna inspire an entire generation of morons and it did, but I won't hold that against Eno. But in retrospect, it's sure nice to know that somebody could have made an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink album like this which took ideas such as electronics and distortion to new heights, without ending up sounding like Todd Rundgren.
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Can-EGE BAMYASI (United Artists)-Judging from the likes of everybody from Ian MacDonald to Hot Scott Fischer (and Eddie Flowers via two fanzine writeups!) EGE BAMYASI was the last real expression of early-Velvets-styled avant rock with hefty doses of Stooge mania tossed in, and judging from the majority of doofs who worship at the altar of this platter maybe they were right.
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THE NEW YORK DOLLS (Mercury)-The first and best from the leaders of the New York glam parade. Why labels didn't take a cue and start signing the Magic Tramps, Ruby and the Rednecks and the rest of the glitterboys after the success (for wont of a better term) of this one remains one of the great mysteries of life.
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Sparks-KIMONO MY HOUSE (Island)-By the time the seventies had clocked out the Brothers Mael and whoever they were with were being portrayed as the biggest nebbishes that ever came out of the seventies English cuteboy rock brigades, and maybe that's why even I wasn't exactly champing at the bit to pick up any of those latterday Sparks albums no matter how cheap they were and easy to find. But at least in the mid-seventies there seems to be a certain coolness to Sparks...dunno if it was their playing up to the English smart pop (T. Rex, Roxy Music...) contingent or Ron Mael's mustache. Probably was their album covers, but anyway I'll stick by these guys even if their eighties spawn was pretty disturbing to say the linn-drum least!
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The Pink Fairies-KINGS OF OBLIVION (Polydor)-Good enough to warrant a US release! Larry Wallis takes the helm of the group and helps drag out the Deviant legacy at least another two years!!! Of course it was so good you knew it wouldn't go anywhere.


1974

Eno-TAKING TIGER MOUNTAIN BY STRATEGY (Island)-Eno's second, and last good dive into the cesspool of sound. Again many moves here reverberated in not-so-wonderful ways throughout the following eight or nine years but I can't really fault the man. I can fault him for most of his new age career misfires, but I'll leave that for another place and another time (maybe).
***

Roxy Music-COUNTRY LIFE (Island or Atco, depending)-Eno may have been doing fine on his lonesome during this time in his "career", but Roxy's output proved that his departure surely wasn't the death knell that I have the feeling a few pundits out there thought it was gonna be. Nice, slick (to its overall advantage)  and thoroughly decadent in the boffoest CREEM way imaginable. Not only that, but the gal on the right really has a nice set of juggins on her!
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Big Star-RADIO CITY (Ardent)-Boy I've really had a hard time thinking up enough good albums to have made it outta the year of '74 intact, but this one does stand as perhaps one of the best even though that mere fact would surely slip by the usual FM-bred rock dolts. And just about every one else come to think of it. Perhaps the last great early-seventies proto-punk album before the era of quickie cutout garage masters such as this and the Sidewinders gave way to the era of punk records that were actually taken note of by the public in a good year or so's time.
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Sparks-PROPAGANDA (Island)-OK, I never got to hear the late-seventies Sparks records, but considering what a snoozer INDISCREET turned out to be this was the Brothers Mael's last top-notcher for quite a long time. It's got enough of that gooshy mid-seventies lush deca-pop to it that I immediately want to revert to those days while hearing it, and have on numerous occasions had to be restrained from running into the bathroom with a copy of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC and a jar of Vasoline upon hearing the opening strains of the title track!


1975

Lou Reed-METAL MACHINE MUSIC (RCA)-After Reed's comparatively pale post-Velvet Underground career got off the ground in the early-seventies this double LP set came off like the aural equiv. of those snuff films from South America whose legend were circulating amongst the denizens of High School USA. My mental idea of what this sounded like was quite different than what it actually was, and in some ways I think my take woulda made for a much better release! But until I become an aged faggot junkie who led a sixties cult band I guess my MMM would just be a buncha jagoff unlike Lou's effort which remains an unquestionable masterpiece
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NEU '75 (Brain)-Saying goodbye to the early-seventies krautrock scene on one hand and hello to the late-seventies punk rock era on the other. People who thought that krautrock was just Genesis with a lotta schnitzel tossed in should listen to this one and see where all of those British fops got their own ideas in a short while!
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THE DICTATORS GO GIRL CRAZY (Epic)-Never has an album received such a buildup in the hip press (fanzine or otherwise) yet suffered such a humiliating defeat in the marketplace. Thirty-six years later we all know who has been vindicated, but back then it was like they sure coulda used a little filthy lucre their way, y'know...
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Patti Smith-HORSES (Arista)-Unlike the Dictators, at least the huzzuh surrounding the arrival of this platter translated into decent sales and visible teenage recognition, two important elements of any real seventies deca-chic success. Of course it helped that Patti had a great band and the music took everything that we liked about the sixties and molded it into a seventies frame of mind. And it permeated enough into the mindsets of everyday teenage psyches that I can even remember one schoolmate who just hated that loud and obnoxious punk screech (he being more of a Cat and America guy) but he loved Patti, and if she could get this guy to give her a spin who knows what she could've done with the rest of mellow teendom?
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The Sweet-DESOLATION BOULEVARD (Capitol)- The Sweet's shelf-life didn't quite last as long as some would have hoped...after all, by the time the seventies clocked out they had lost their lead singer and were trying to survive by cranking out some mighty tiresome offal. But at least when their cylinders were clicking they were able to produce some mighty surprising high energy wail that had the folks at CREEM and BACK DOOR MAN crawling the walls as if it were the second coming of John's Children. The English writers didn't care for 'em one whit, which I guess is one of those things that doesn't translate across national boundaries or something like that.
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Zappa/Beefheart/Mothers-BONGO FURY (Discreet)-It must've been a disgrace for Captain Beefheart to have been reduced to being a member of the Mothers of Invention, but after the poor sales of his previous albums he was lucky that he could get any job! And Zappa, then riding even higher on the FM/progressive rock scene than he had even in the sixties, was lucky enough that Beefheart was around to make this live album sound as good as it was. Even better than ROXY AND ELSEWHERE (which only made it because of the cover pic where Frank gets a hand job onstage) because of Beefheart's natural talents and the way he could make usually duff Zappa numbers sound good if he sang 'em!

1976


MAX'S KANSAS CITY 1976 (Ram)- Along with the LIVE AT CBGB set perhaps the first taste most got of the New York rock scene that was getting so much attention thanks to a buncha rock crits who were trying to be the "first" to "discover" this group or that. Notable for three Wayne County songs, Pere Ubu's "Final Solution" (and at a time when its reissue was being held up because of Max's!) and of course the dreaded Suicide.
***
Patti Smith Group-RADIO ETHIOPIA (Arista)-Boy do I remember the hoots of hate this 'un produced during the final days of 1976! I mean, finding a positive review of Patti's sophomore longplayer anywhere was akin to finding a virgin in West Middlesex but I still thought it was the best, a record that mixed everything from MC5/Velvet Underground-styled free rock to pre-suck heavy metal that typified where rock 'n roll really stood in a year where groups like Boston and Journey (or were they big in '77?) had suddenly climbed to the top of the scrap heap. The title track alone is worth the price of admission with its free-jazz like assault that was directly influenced by the MC5's room-clearer "Black to Comm" as well as that obscure group Lenny Kaye had with former Insect Trust/rock critic Robert Palmer, tapes of which Patti and Lenny would listen to for their own musical (amongst other things) inspiration. How about releasing those for us hungry rock maniacs anyway...after all, it's obvious from this blog that I sure could use a li'l inspiration myself!
***
The Flamin' Groovies-SHAKE SOME ACTION (Sire)-I'm sure that many people who had written the Groovies off as dead 'n buried in '72 were surprised to see this one come out, and not in the cutout racks either. Don't worry though, since SHAKE SOME ACTION would eventually join the Kama Sutra albums in the $1.99 bins within a short while which is of course where I picked mine up. But the Groovies' mix of mid-sixties Beatle rock done in a mid-seventies punk drive manner was something that certainly set the stage for at least one aspect of that monster which was comin' at us known as new wave, but don't blame 'em too hard.
***
THE MODERN LOVERS (Home of the Hits)-The rockpress putsch regarding this 'un still resonates within my beanie, but although I was really really really tempted to get this one so bad I hadda wait a good three years to get my copy! And do you know why? Because this one was originally distributed by PLAYBOY records and I didn't want my folks catching me with a copy thinking I supported the pornography business! I hadda wait until ABC records did the Beserkley dist. job before laying a hand on this legendary platter, but after all's said and done and I've heard this powerful and teen-honest music all I can say is...what a putz I most certainly was! Like, I coulda gotten the cassette release of it which woulda hid inna collection a lot easier, or just stuck it in the back of the stack where they were least likely to look. Of course, it wasn't until I was at least nineteen when I figured out to do stuff like that!
 ***
Elliot Murphy-NIGHT LIGHTS (RCA)-Hooo boy, was this one also hated by the rock crits of 1976 who really were tryin' to outdo each other with their snide asides and comeuppances regarding the once-laureled "singer/songwriter" Murphy, who was (I supposed) hitting the skids once this third album of his arrived on the scene. But sheesh, with a group consisting of ex-Mod Lovers Jerry Harrison and Ernie Brooks plus drummer Andy Paley backing him up on about half the tracks, not to mention special guests like Doug Yule (taking a break from his snooze-like American Flyer) giving NIGHT LIGHTS the proper underground credo, how could anything go wrong? The Patti tribute holds up loads more than critics such as James Woolcott and Georgia Christgau (I think) claimed, and the general feeling is so MAX'S KANSAS CITY 1976 (and a li'l '77 even!) that this shoulda been on the jukebox there post haste!  Sure the lyrics come straight outta pretentious city, but at least the Arp String slush helps this one out quite nicely....and I HATE Arp Strings too!
***
THE RAMONES (Sire)-More than Blondie or Talking Heads (both of whom showed their true colors as time and fame rolled on) the Ramones' debut stands as the beginning of the reconquista of rock 'n roll after a good two or so years of relative calm. Funny how I thought these kids were actually high school students (and just as nerky as me!) back then who got their chance to make a record...if only my preconceived images were true, but hey, this one is still a real killer.
***
Brian Eno-DISCREET MUSIC (Obscure)-Definitely not a rock item, but back then this was a pretty brainy choice of spin for a guy who was taking this avant garde thing in for the first time. Ambient mush turns you into Karen Quinlan on the a-side, while Baroque goes Bop on the flip.


1977

Zappa/Beefheart/Mothers-CONFIDENTIAL (Wizardo)-I was gonna leave bootlegs offa this list but only once in a lifetime does a platter such as this come about to startle and inspire, as well as throw down the gauntlet to those who say that such music should not be allowed to be heard. What this was, was that somebody got hold of a Zappa/Beefheart radio "interview" (mainly just Zappa and Beefheart reminiscing to old recordings) made during the pair's '75 tour and edited it in between various classic Magic Band/Mothers rarities and, using an offhanded comment by Zappa himself, made it look as if this were in fact an authorized bootleg. Besides getting our first taste of "Metal Man Has Hornet's Wings" from the Zappa/Beefheart group the Soots circa '63 there are tracks from the more recent jazz-oriented Mothers (who weren't bad mind you, at least compared to what Zappa would eventually become), the original group doing the first ever take of "King Kong", a TROUT MASK REPLICA track being passed off as a demo and other funzies which will appeal to fans of both the Zappa and Beefheart camps. Wouldn't mind hearing the entire tape of the first honest-to-goodniz Mothers of Invention gig! Splattered color vinyl means that you're gonna be paying a lot more than the $4.99 I laid down for the thing oh so long ago!
***
Wire-PINK FLAG (Harvest)- Wire has had more of an influence on what was to come than any of their compatriots. More than the Sex Pistols or any of the English p-rock exponents, Wire's mix of Ramones punk and Velvet Underground art rock was special enough to earn them a berth on the Harvest label at a time when they were just starting to flounder away from their joss stick roots. Even a guy who is not that crazy for a good portion of the late-seventies UK punksterisms can settle back and enjoy Colin Newman and company help nudge rock 'n roll to its next logical level.
***
SUICIDE (Red Star)- Next time anybody comes up to me and sez that Suicide were great because they gave way to the likes of Soft Cell and Human League I'm gonna bop 'em inna ol' schnozolla! Next time anybody comes up to be and sez that Suicide were great because they were one of the better exponents of late-sixties bared-wire intensity reshaped for the decadent seventies I'm gonna buy 'em a steak dinner. Unless it's Brad Kohler...found out he's a vegetarian so it's strictly Morningstar Farms for him!
***
The Stooges-METALLIC KO (Skydog, or Import Records if you're Amerigan)-The big Iggy comeback of the year is something that thirty-five-years later (!!!!) remains about as controversial as any major rockism disturbance in the atmosphere. That year saw no less that four legitimate longplayers featuring him with or without his Stooges in tow being released, and from what I can tell these records did pretty well in making a dent in the consciousnesses of the teenage record buying audience to the point where at least that gal in Calculus class knew that Iggy had something to do with Bowie, or something like that, y'know. But for my money this 'un was the tops, better'n his RCA albums as well as the infamous KILL CITY...recs which weren't bad by any measure and in fact quite aerie! Live and uncensored in Detroit making for perhaps "thee" ultimate live experience ever captured on wax until Suicide's 23 MINUTES IN/OVER/UP BRUSSELS.
***
Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers-ROCK N ROLL WITH THE MODERN LOVERS (Beserkley)-This one was hated by many of the people more attuned to the new wave uprising of the late-seventies, but I find myself liking this late-seventies Richman a lot more'n the other Beserkley releases which I thought were nice in and of themselves. Maybe that's because when I first heard it I was going through yet another one of my sickening ennui-laden bouts with existence and the acoustic melodies seemed to smooth over the rocky chasms like resin sealant on a ridge-laden tooth. It does make for nice Sunday afternoon settle-back enjoyment but sheesh, even this far down the line all it does is make me feel as insecure as I was when this album first flew in and out of the racks nationwide.
***
MX-80 Sound-HARD ATTACK (Island UK)-Notice the relative absence ('cept for the Wire LP) of English punk rock gunch in this column? Well, sticking my neck out even further on the guillotine I'll let you know that I left the usual Sex Pistols/Clash types off this list because frankly, I feel that although their efforts were fine enough they just can't measure up to what was being done elsewhere as far as suburban teenage punkisms go. In fact, I could make the argument that English punk rock's finest hours were during the early/middle portion of the seventies when groups like Spunky Spider and Stud Leather were releasing singles on small outta nowhere labels and getting little monetary or critical compensation for it. I could make the argument, but right now I'm a li'l tired and don't want to get into it for the sake of saving a li'l energy...

What does this have to do with MX-80 Sound? Well, they were about as Amerigan as you can get, and thought they seemed to fall into that "punk" category because they had short hair and played something that didn't sound like ELP you could only call 'em punks if you wanted to call Neu the same. Actually these guys were rehashing the best of early-seventies heavy metal moves filtered through an equally early-seventies punk motif (back when the metal/punk interface was mighty blurred) and added a whole lotta satire, sarcasm and influences from all over the hotcha rock boards into their sound. And this, their longplaying debut, was a mighty example of just where all of that mid-Amerigan rock was supposed to be headed, though I guess there were too many roadblocks (and not of "sound") being tossed in all of these groups' way.

Still, a brilliant debut from an act that still seems to be creeping and crawling as if 1976 never did end. You can't really understand just how much of an impact MX-80 has on my life to the point where I can recall the exact day, time, moment and spiritual haze I was in when I first heard 'em on that hot summer day way back when.
***
Television-MARQUEE MOON (Asylum)-Total surprise, especially since this group was being hyped so much at the time that you woulda thought that an album woulda come out in '75 when the news regarding these "punk flashes" was fresh. Well, I will admit that I'd take the Eno demos and related recordings of the day over the legit debut, but MARQUEE MOON still has not only the group's best-known numbers (at the time) but a pretty intense slow burn that does come off about as jazz rock or as psychedelic as it does punk. Ex-TV Richard Hell's Voidoid's BLANK GENERATION album figures along the same lines as well, and shows the perfect dichotomy that had made the original group tick so, only to tear everything apart like you knew it would.

1978

Pere Ubu-THE MODERN DANCE (Blank)-If you were the kinda guy who could afford to read every underground rock-oriented fanzine available during the late-seventies you woulda thought that Pere Ubu were the Stones to Devo's Beatles, or some other equally ridiculous analogy. But while it didn't take Devo too long to go from being underground to industry it took Pere Ubu at least two albums before going from underground to happyhappy. At least this debut platter presents the group during their early post-Laughner days before the mood swing back when David Thomas was still Crocus Behemoth and the specter of Laughner was still lurking about somewhere.
***

Various Artists-NO NEW YORK (Antilles)-Kenneth Anger once wired a Woodstock film collector asking him for money so he could make a movie about an artist whose work was consuming him to the point where it would eventually overtake him unto death and he wanted to capture it all before the grisly process had taken its toll. Maybe Brian Eno had the same thing in mind when he recorded the New York no wave before it too splintered into various other forms that would bear little semblance to the sound at its height. And Eno was right, for not too soon after no wave would evolve/distort with groups breaking up or reshaping and end up something quite different (and less enthralling), or better yet turn into something that was a pale shadow of its former self making many aficionados of the form mutter...wha? But at this point in time the sound was fierce and pretty potent, the logical end point in the previous twelve or so years of rock's evolution from the Velvets through the Stooges through Sonny Sharrock through the New York underground. Maybe after this nothing really did matter anymore.
***
Various Artists-STIFFS LIVE (Stiff)-Nick, Elvis and Ian before that whole Stiff aura began to waft into giddier new wave-y musicianship even the flacks at ROLLING STONE could appreciate. And Eric and Larry did well too, the former unfortunately not able to replicate the success of his labelmates and the latter pretty much acting as the underground connection between early-seventies thud and late-seventies smart pop. It was an exemplary live set once you get down to it from the days when even those more commercial gnu wave bands we've come to loathe sounded a whole lot sweller'n that gaggy AM/FM twaddle that Chuck Eddy built an entire writing career on.
***
The Dictators-BLOODBROTHERS (Asylum)-Like a few noteworthy fans of the day, MANIFEST DESTINY doesn't quite grab me the way I guess it should, but this 'un certainly was a return to Dictators glory past. Hard rock (or heavy metal in the classic CREEM sense) with hefty nudges to '67 Who tossed in, drenched in the tough vocal maulings of the one called Handsome Dick Manitoba. It'll even break your heart, like on the sad teenage lament "No Tomorrow" which is the big hit Alice Cooper shoulda had but by then it was too late.

1979

THE CRAMPS GRAVEST HITS (IRS)-Yeah, just a collection of early single sides rushed into the shopping mall record shop market to mingle alongside a wide array of Jackson Browne wares, but whatta collection!!! Shows the talents that they were at the beginning of their long career and gives an inkling of how that talent would grow and be nurtured blah blah snooze snooze you know the schpiel already so why read any further?
***
Chrome-HALF MACHINE LIP MOVES (Siren)-Can you think of a better way to close out the decade than with this apocalyptic piece of avant punk that still sounds as futureshock as the day it came out? Monster vocals hovering over electronic crash mixed with percussive clang sounding like the Familiar Ugly being tossed off a cliff in the back of a trailer. This was supposed to be the sound of the eighties only a buncha twee types happened to get hold of the reigns and what we ended up with was...Madonna?
***
Pere Ubu-DUBHOUSING (Chrysalis)- Ubu's last stand before the big deep-six into areas I'd prefer not to talk about. Better production and execution than the debut, and the thought of "Thriller" playing through the night during the month of April that year still reminds me of the incessant pressure and mind capsize that I hadda endure during that sorry period in my existence. Along with Swell Maps, the Raincoats (see below) and the Red Crayola (ditto) the sound of Young America (and Young Canada, Young England, Young Germany...) going belly up.
***
THE RAINCOATS (Rough Trade)- As you know I loathe the term "post-punk" with a passion, and I find it really snobbish to refer to groups such as the Raincoats with such intellectually skewered terminology that was probably invented by some brainiac rock critic whose attention was turning from punk rock to British Weekly flash-in-the-pan faster than you could say Gary Bushell. True these gals' power would eventually diminish in the light of the pale eighties but the Raincoats sure released a doozy with this debut platter that  had a stronger Velvet Underground lurch to it than many of the groups who were getting the Velvets tag hoisted upon 'em left and right. So good that even the irritating English lower class socialist wonkisms don't get me down.
***
The Red Crayola-SOLDIER TALK (Radar)- I really liked this record because it proved that the garage band rock of the mid/late-sixties was still in full force and alive under the new guise of seventies underground screech, which is something that the likes of Greg Shaw and Lenny Kaye knew already but it was grand that the news was filtering down to people on my level by this time. And hey, SOLDIER TALK was a special treat because all of the guys from Pere Ubu were aboard to help out in one way or another so it was like getting even another platter outta that crew, who obv. were becoming very busy in the midst of their new-found "success" if you wanna call it that. Along with the original C/Krayola albums which were being reissued by Radar at the time a prime example of the old saying "if you wait around long enough anything will come back in style"!
***
The Contortions-BUY and James White and the Blacks-OFF WHITE (Ze)- In this part of the country everybody thought New York was all disco and Studio 54 but the people who lived there knew better. To them it was more of the gritty underside of life, the hard scronk of the likes of Suicide and the Contortions, groups who seemed to be saying goodbye to the seventies in the harshest ways possible outside of Throbbing Gristle. The Contortions especially were very notorious in the burgh, and their two albums for Ze released towards the end of the year pretty much give you an idea of at least one side of the avant garde coin which was packing 'em in at clubs such as Max's Kansas City as well as all of those flybynight outfits trying to cash in on the new thud. BUY may take a little getting used to with its brittle sound though the herky-jerk of James Chance will overcome you upon impact. The funk punk of OFF WHITE, while sounding pretty thin and white itself, works in its own universe and doesn't care one whit about you. Frankly the music this led to (mainly the free jazz contingent on punk turf) was a whole lot more to be desired but BUY and OFF WHITE were something pretty large in their own right at least when it came to things like New York and underground rock and hypodermic needles...stuff like that.
***

Brian Sands-REHEATED CHOCOLATE TANGOES (Bizart)-OK, so like I'm perhaps the only diz on the face of this earth who waxes poetic o'er this 12-inch mini-LP/maxi-EP release on colored vinyl'n all, but maybe I won't stop yapping until everybody on the face of this earth agrees with me. Ex-Milkman Sands whipped up a nice stew here, more'n just the "juxtaposition of sound" that Anastasia Pantsios dismissed this as, and hearing him and his band (including ex-Milk/Circus/Andy Gerome guitar mauler Al Globekar) take on various Tyrannosaurus Rex, Buddy Holly, Gerry and the Pacemakers and Captain Beefheart forms sounds just as meaningful to you (as an unrepentant rock 'n roll fan) today as it would had you heard this 'un when it first hit the stores late-'79 way.  Oddly enough, a lotta future Amerigan underground stylings in the eighties seemed to echo the same retro-cum-futuristic ideals that Sands laid forth on this debut. Not surprisingly, none of 'em even came close.
***
TOM VERLAINE (Asylum)-Considering that ADVENTURE didn't quite live up to MARQUEE MOON's promise of an actual beyond-cult career for Televlsion, this Tom Verlaine solo debut sure comes off like what I woulda hoped LP #2 woulda been. Not to detract from ADVENTURE's own special approach, but TOM VERLAINE has that special spark, grace, approach and feeling that somehow made me more of a TV fan than I originally thought I could have been! Now please, somebody release that "unissued album" Television did when Peter Laughner was in the band for an entire week...that might revisionize my opinions re. this group even more!

9 comments:

Jalmo said...

You da man, Mr. Stigs!

Anonymous said...

Very Very nice, have got or had every one except Doug Snyder and Bob Thompson.
Have a listen to Throbbing Gristle '2nd annual report' while perusing their 'Wreckers of Civilisation' tome, a mind altering trip to the seventies well worth the effort.

Keep the faith,
Mike

Jalmo said...

...This slab was criminally missed: Waddle Ya Play/Beat Rhythm Newz by the fabulous Lora/Essential Logic. Not de rigueur new wavist posturing. Honking wonderful. And there would be more missed, I am sure. But I have to clear the dust out of my sclerotic sulci.

Anonymous said...

Can we expect a free jazz version of this list for next weekend?

Christopher said...

Not enough bandwith.

Anonymous said...

Any hope of a post of (i) the equally necessary 7"ers (ii) post 70s releases of 70s recordings?

Weasel Walter said...

i wish the current era was this cool, but it isn't!

Robert Cook said...

Essential Logic: YES!!
Red Krayola "Soldier Talk": YES!!

I agree with (and have) many of your other choices. Zappa's "Weasels Ripped My Flesh" was the first Mothers album I bought, (the only other being whichever one had "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" on it), and of all Zappa I've heard over the years, "Weasels" is, yes, the best by far and only Zappa lp one ever need own.

I'll argue that Ubu's "New Picnic Time" belongs with "Modern Dance" and "Dub Housing" to make a trilogy of masterpieces. To this day, I've never been able to "get" "The Art of Walking," but the several later (post-reunion) Ubu lps with Allen Ravenstine still part of the crew are, if not up to the heights of their first trio of records, enjoyable enough.

Brian said...

"Brown Shoes" was on Absolutely Free, which I purchased on 9-11 in a naive gesture of patriotism.

Speaking of Terminal Towers, I'd call that (or the Datapanik 12") the thickest third leg in Ubu's discography. But I can't even say a trilogy of masterpieces is possible since the 2nd side of "The Modern Dance" is such a hodgepodge. "Real World" is the only song on par with side A. "Humor Me" is spoiled by those trendy reggae affectations; the live take on "Terminal" has it all over the studio pooper. "Over My Head" is "Heaven" had Crocus and Ravenstein dumped rock for the hi-brow "industrial wedding" circuit. Not a major flaw, had they not kept taping for six minutes while the janitors swept up. ("Thriller!" and "The Book Is On The Table" show "Sentimental Journey" for the con-job it is.) "Life Stinks" was better as a dry joke. Laughner saw the value in gallows humor. David Thomas does not - earnest self-pity is more his style. Overcooking Pete's throwaway into slapstick, sticking it in the traditional hit single position on the major label debut their dead friend could only dream of, and not "Seventeen" or "So Cold". Add those two, move "Stinks" to b5, recast "Sentimental Journey" as the driving "Heart of Darkness" + Ravenstein epic I hoped it would be, and even with "Over My Head" it's the best American New Wave album of '78. Fold in either side of "Heaven"/"My Dark Ages" and it's the best album of '78.

I can't really tell New Picnic Time from The Art of Walking. I still like them more than the '90s stuff where they sound like the It's embarrassing: I go to museums and ask why the latest timepieces aren't on display, only to be asked why I've got picnic baskets on my feet.

Chris, have you ever heard the circa 1980 Pere Ubu live set/autistic freak show from disc four of their Datapanik CD box? When I heard it I The titles are "Dub Housing" titles. The music is a different story - does "Mayonnaise Pizza" ring a bell? Makes "Birdies" sound like "30 Seconds Over Tokyo".

I really need that Red Krayola album. I didn't even know it existed. I've got the "Wives In Orbit" single - great. Another killer is their "Born In Flames" 7" on Rough Trade with Lora Logic singing - call it the Plastic Ono Coats, all your favorite chickies in one sound. RK played a scorching triple guitar set in '98 here in PDX. I gave him the Spin Age Blasters EP I'd put out (and BTC gave one of the only sympathetic reviews - thanks again, Chris, the next ones'll be better). London hadn't altered his basic Texan decency and he hung with us nobodies for a good hour telling us about everything from I.A. to R.T., how the plant kept rejecting the Eels' 7" for being "too loud" and treating us like comrades in arms. Great chap and despite some of the above David Thomas was just as cool when my Black To Comm-inspired Avant Garage Association (formerly my Jr.High D&D group) saw him in '95. We brought him a poncho with lots of dogs on it and when security wouldn't let him bring 15 teenagers backstage he hung with us in the parking lot the whole time. (I think he was the first person who ever told me about the internet.)