Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Various Artists-KRIS NEEDS PRESENTS...DIRTY WATER: THE BIRTH OF PUNK ATTITUDE 2-CD set (Year Zero England, available through Forced Exposure)

Talk about sayin' one thing and doin' another (sheesh, maybe Jay Hinman was right to call me on the carpet for my brazen hypocrisy!). Here I go dishing out hard-begged money for this more or less history of punk rock collection of which 99.999...% of the tracks enclosed already resides somewhere in the bunker, and this after bitching and moaning to you readers about how I will NEVER AGAIN purchase various music compilations brimming with toonz I've possessed for years! I know what you're STOOPID of me to do something as cost-worthy as this, especially when I could be using my entertainment allotment for items a whole lot more unique to my ever-brimming collection of records and tapes! Really, aren't there already way too many punk history collections out there tracing the style all the way back to some old 101ers or Damned track totally ignoring anything prior to 1976 not to mention the Amerigan/Continental slant on the form? I remember the import bins just chock fulla 'em at one time and they all seemed kinda worthless, but this one's remarkably different so maybe it's not like my purchase was a total waste after all!

Far from it, for this ain't another slapdash toss out being dangled in front of the puerile punque class who've suddenly come upon quite a bitta dosh, nor is it yet another mangling of the NUGGETS credo either! Naw, this one's a pretty durn good excavation of the whole p-rock attitude/make up and not only that but it covers all of the bases (and a few you didn't expect) while revealing exactly what it was that eventually gathered as that big pimple on the ass of the music industry some time during the jaded seventies. And to put the frosting on the balls it's a pretty smart collection that was compiled by a smart guy so why should anyone with half-a-braincell complain?

Considering that the more-than-half-a-braincelled person behind the selection, execution and 76-page enclosed booklet is none other than Kris Needs what else really can be said? Although Needs' moniker might not register within the canyons of your mind it does in this rockfan's cranium, he being one of the rescuers and leading lights during the late-seventies days of ZIGZAG magazine having single-handedly having dragged it up from its SoCal singer/songwriter and prog-rock origins by updating it for the new generation of wastrels, resulting in an even better magazine than it had been earlier! (It was good enough to begin with, if one would only bleeb over the hefty coverage of the English College Nerd sounds being pushed and get to the Beefheart of the matter!) Needs was also a major contributor to (well, at least he got his name in it!) AYLESBURY ROXETTE, a rather good if neglected fanzine from back in the days when fanzines really did seem to matter to those lucky enough to afford 'em. And even when I wasn't looking his name would pop up here and there whether it be an issue of CREEM METAL ROCK & ROLL or some other forgotten relic of the eighties which seemed like such a frustrating time for high energy rockers like myself. Well, at least he was still at it while many of his seventies compats had died or were withering on the sidelines being replaced by a buncha dolts who were so outta-it that they couldn't even tell a Jaki Leibzeit from a Chris Karrer!

Needs is definitely one of the all-time best English rock writers ever and one who fortunately didn't do any skedaddling unlike many a promising talent. He's perhaps even up there with Nick Kent, Charles Shaar Murray and Mick Farren as far as all-important English rockscribes go and eons ahead of such over-rated swill as Julie Burchill and Caroline Coon in case you needed to be clued into that piece of well-disseminated information. Needs' style was always affable down-to-earth talk-to-you, a Lester Bangs Jr. and undoubtedly one of the few scribes on either side of the ocean left who doesn't exactly make longtime followers such as me wanna puke like I tend to when coming across some of the modern-day rock "critiquing" extant on the web and elsewhere.

Listening to his personal selection of punk credo favorites whilst reading his still-astute scribblings in the waning days of 2010 is akin to getting a blast from the high energy past tossed at you at a time when you thought that it was all dead 'n buried and you were the last goon standing. I'll tell you, this set excites me the same way that CLE magazine. BACK DOOR MAN and THE NEW YORK ROCKER could, or listening to the CBGB and Max's albums/playing Rocket From the Tombs for the very first time, or spinning the Troggs even only now I'm an old and decrepit living-in-the-past washup who obviously doesn't know that life and music has passed me by! And hey, in the here and now very few things such as music or rock raving can penetrate my obviously burned out psyche to heights such as this, and for that I give DIRTY WATER extremely high marks for attaining what I had thought would have been the impossible!

Acting his typically unsettled self, Needs throws everything at us under the guise of presenting a "proto-punk" history lesson and hey, the mess actually WORKS! Starting with the sixties garage greats then heading into late-sixties territory before trailing into glamville and the local Amerigan precursors working in their own private vacuums, Needs presents for us a slew of punk-relevant platters in a seemingly willy-nilly fashion but his narrative style and the way the Seeds to T. Rex to Sun Ra (!) flows naturally makes it all seem like...the most logical way to present this music dontcha think?

Disque one sets the stage with two "NUGGETS"-period classics, the first being none other than the Standells' mid-sixties smash which this collection takes its title from whilst the second's none other than the Seeds' all-time under-the-radar fuzz fave "Evil Hoodoo". From there we go from the Deviants' '67 "Defecting Grey" re-chop "Garbage" to the Pink Fairies "Do(ing) It" to Gene Vincent to the Flamin' Groovies and T. Rex on and on through Mott the Hoople (doing "Moon Upstairs" which was so in-cue with the late-sixties hard-slop ideal that even the Dictators covered it!) and the Monks, not forgetting Sun Ra, MC5/Up/Stooges and all points in between. Definitely a nice cross-section of just exactly what there was out there passing for a pre-punk gulcher in sound, and what makes it all so crucial is that Needs manages to keep the continuity with his tell-it-to-ya style that works in a strangely copasetic way few really could successfully pull off.

The other platter continues on the same path of fanzine-inspired punk wretchedness starting off with HAVE A MARIJUANA-era David Peel, a guy who probably would have been taken more seriously as a New York Rocker had John & Yoko left him alone to Suicide, the Silver Apples, the Dolls, the Last Poets (!!!) and a few too-close-to-punk-to-actually-be-it types as Dr. Feelgood and the Saints. Even Rocket From the Tombs, the Dictators, the Red Crayola (here billed as Red "Krayola" but since this was before the suit I beg for accuracy) and the oft ignored Third World War pop up which only goes to show the spindly roots of the thing we call punk rock which had been spreading about and nurturing for a pretty long time before the news finally hit Mr. and Mrs. Front Porch.

Even a few wha' th' hey? surprises pop up such as the Silhouettes' '57 chart-topper "Get a Job" which, while seemingly out of place amongst the likes of Iggy and Sky, eventually makes more sense appearing here than it would had the song ended up on some "History of Protest and Social Consciousness" collection back in the early-seventies! Don't laugh...I remember back when I was twelve reading some Scholastic Magazine-issued book on "rock" which traced the evolution of the early-seventies "relevant" stylings all the way back to "Get a Job" and "Summertime Blues" which I gotta say seemed silly enough of a statement to make even back then! Of course this was all just a typically early-seventies aimed-at-the-brats dissection of the entire BLESS THE BEASTS AND CHILDREN-esque youth doldrums custom made for all of the armchair hippies I used to go to school with, but sheesh, the idea that somebody could have actually made such a boneheaded statement such as this should've made me chop up the entire sixth-grade classroom with an ax outta pure angst! I mean, going from such fun expressions of youthful frustration as "Get a Job" and "Summertime Blues" to the solemn swill of "Easy to be Hard" and "Things Get a Little Easier (Once You Understand)" is quite a harrowing ride but back then some writer evidently made the connection in his own 1971 moralistic socially unconscious way. Wonder what he's doing now...probably got raped to death by some street gang during his tenure as a social worker in the roughest part of town in order to "atone" for his own whiteness.

And boy, hearing the Sensational Alex Harvey Band bellowing out "Vambo" really sent me back to the spring of 1975, a place I wouldn't want to spend any time other'n for the fact that I was constantly listening to THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM which I guess shows that maybe I wasn't as retrogarde as I always remember myself being.

Strangely enough the entire shebang ends with a track by reggae meisters Culture, and although I never cozied up to that particular style like the English nebs who fostered it on us in the first place did it does seem like the most fitting way to end a good 2 1/2 hours of sonic eruption. But really, I don't understand the appeal of reggae music which never did hit any deep core being within my soul or some other hippie babble like avant garde music or punk did. Maybe somebody could explain it to me without resorting to using sick white liberal jargon.

Needs' enclosed booklet would make for a mandatory purchase even on its lonesome, if only for the insight and recollections he poured into detailing the backgrounds and personal opines regarding each of the acts appearing here. In fact if he would have offered us the book only and left us do the musical gathering ourselves I would have been happy enough. It is nice hearing all of this music in one compact set though and true, I would have done it quite differently had I been the well-respected longtime rock journalist being asked to compile a proto-punk double-disc history, but I still find Needs' opinions, tastes and general execution of this project way more than the adequate and undoubtedly vastly superior to how it would have materialized in the hands of your typical industry hack. In fact, the entire project is a pretty ingenious work of rock craftsmanship...kinda makes me wish that there was still a ZIGZAG magazine looking like it did back in the very early seventies with a more fanzine pallor to it if only so's I could read the raves of the likes of Needs regularly 'stead of having to bid on crumbling old issues via ebay whenever the homesickness hits.

But hey, even though I am not a rockscribe star maybe I am capable enough of creating my own version of DIRTY WATER. Of course it won't go by that name since I would leave that particular track off the list, but no matter what name gets slapped on the thing it would make for a great double-set. Perhaps it would be a compilation that's even more high-energy and mind-expanding because it comes from my suburban Amerigan ethos which Needs would know nada about, but who knows. Imagine in some other, better dimension where my talents are recognized and my fame and fortune achieved, a double Cee-Dee set consisting of what I would consider the most important proto-punk items extant complete with a 76-page screed choc full of insightful, free-flowing revelations and reiterations regarding an era it seems just about everybody but the most manic of rocksters have forgotten. (Note some similarities to the actual deal, though being on the same wave-current some of our personal opines would undoubtedly clash.):


Mickey Hawks and the Nightriders-"Bim Bam Boom"
The Rock-A-Teens-"Woo Hoo"
The Primitives-"The Ostrich"
Sandy Bull-"Memphis"
The Deviants-"I'm Coming Home"
The Sonics-"Cinderella"
Sonny Sharrock-"Soon"
The Electric Eels-"Roll On Big O"/"No Nonsense"/"Spin Age Blasters" (live)
Smegma-"Auto Suk"
Big Brother and the Holding Company-"Light is Faster Than Sound"
Mogen David and the Winos-"Nose Job"
Chinaboise-"The Greatest Story Ever Told"
The Magic Tramps-"Ode to James Dean"
Les Rallizes Denudes-"Smokin' Cigarette Blues"
Amon Duul I-"Snow Your Thrust and Sun Your Open Mouth"
Mahogany Brain-"Hot Milk Elbow"


Rocket From The Tombs-"Sonic Reducer" (with opening restored)
Budgie-"Homicidal Suicidal"
Umela Hmota 3-"Radzi Bychbyl z Kamene"
Patti Smith-"Brian Jones"
Cromagnon-"Ritual Feast of the Libido"
Kongress-"Space Savior"
Art Ensemble of Chicago-"Rock On"
Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters-"The Aerospace Inferno"
The Red Krayola-"Listen to This"
Yoko Ono-"AOS"
Stalk-Forrest Group-"St. Cecelia"
Spunky Spider-"You Won't Come"
Moses-"Shock Treatment"
The Left Banke-"Love Songs in the Night"
Eno-"Seven Deadly Finns"
Tony Williams' Lifetime-"Beyond Games"
Monti Rock III-"The Tennessee Waltz" (from THE MERV GRIFFIN SHOW)


Bill S. said...

While we all can nit-pick the selections here, I must say that this is an incredible mix of tracks. While most of us BTC-ers will have 75% of it or more (although I'm lacking the Monti Rock track...I remember him well from his Merv Griffin appearances!), this would blow the mind of some 17-year-old hearing it today, causing him/her to throw out the window the stupid revisionist rocknroll history thrown at today's youth by MTV, Rolling Stone, and other parties who have never "gotten it" and never will. If only this compilation were available at every BEST BUY in North America...
oh well...hope you are enjoying Man With A Camera!

Anonymous said...

No Crushed Butler - It's My Life?

Papa Jon said...

whoa. Almost a Back to the Future moment. This is not unlike a comp you would have made back in the mid-80's and been laughed at for even suggesting it would appear on a compact disc. you have to crank out that long threatened book on this stuff before someone with far less depth on the topic beats you to it.

Serena WmS. Burroughs said...

I made the mistake of skimming this piece the other week, and I looked at the intro, then at the tracklisting, and thought "Wow, Kris Needs did a great job," then I went back and re-read it and thought "That makes more sense." Re The Left Banke: my friend Ched knows Steve Martin, the singer of the band, and there is supposed to be a reunion in the works.

Bryce said...

Would love to hear anything by Moses (or Milk) beyond what's on the Denny Carleton mix cds. Was there a release I missed?

I take it from your compilation that you've obtained a copy of the full cut of Sonic Reducer. Is it as incredible as the excerpt and all those old Black to Comm's would have me believe?

Finally, when/where is "ejection" from? Thought I had a good selection of Mirrors official and otherwise, but I am so relieved to hear there's more gems out there I haven't even dreamed of.

Christopher Stigliano said...

What's on the Carleton CDs anyway? I ordered that from CD Baby years ago but it was out of print and a restock never did arrive! However "Shock Treatment" was released on a cassette of Carleton's back in the late-eighties although the mix wasn't as hard as the take right off the acetate, which is the source I would probably use if I were to actually compile a flesh and blood disc of the above selection of goodies.

NEVER heard the entire Rocket From the Tombs version of "Sonic Reducver"! My inclusion of this is merely a long-held desire I do not think will ever come to fruition.

Mirrors' "Ejection" would come from a live recording made during a lunch time gig at a Cleveland State University hangout during June of 1974. In case you didn't know the song is a cover taken off the CAPTAIN LOCKHEED AND THE STARFIGHTERS album, a very good interpretation too even if the thing sounds as if it were recorded in a concrete bunker. This one appears on some under-the-counter collection of Hawkwind ephemeria that had been flying around on cassette in the early-nineties, and it's a proverbial wowzer to in case you have to be told so!

Anonymous said...

For an mp3 of PSmith - "Brian Jones" (and many others):