18.6.15

SON HOUSE : Top Gear session - 6th July 1970 (Radio broadcast).

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"Several years ago when I was driving to Frank Freeman's Dancing School in Kidderminster with Captain Beefheart, the Captain told me that the person he most admired was Son House. And if somebody had told me two or three years ago when this programme started thatwe would be having Son House on Top Gear, I wouldn't have believed them, but we do & it's a joy that he is, because Son House basically is where it all began."

Remarkably, Eddie James "Son" House Jr. was 68 years old (& still touring!) when he recorded this session for John Peel's Top Gear show back in July 1970. Transmitted on 11th July - producer John Walters' birthday - Peel appeared both delighted & somewhat flabbergasted to have Mr. House on his show - "the nicest show we've had for as long as I can remember".

Earlier that month, Peel had attended a Son House performance at Oxford Street's 100 Club & was reportedly furious that some factions of the audience were rude enough to talk throughout his set, culminating in Peel clambering on stage to reprimand the culprits, demanding they either be quiet or go home, & offering to personally refund the cost of their tickets so that the rest of the crowd could listen undisturbed.

The session was taped on 6th July at the BBC's Playhouse Theatre in London's West End, & was produced by Walters with engineer Pete Ritzema. A recording of the complete hour-long show is available online if you can be bothered to search for it - replete with further sessions from Kevin Ayers' recently-formed Whole World troupe & Bristol's best-forgotten East Of Eden.

Track-list: My Good Gal / Monologue 1 / Death Letter / Monologue 2 / Grinnin' In Your Face.

(Son House portrait by Robert Crumb from his Heroes of The Blues Trading Cards series.)

Mississippi Department of Corrections

17.6.15

DAVE GRANEY & THE CORAL SNAKES : At His Stone Beach EP (Fire 12", 1988).

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Dave Graney - droll lounge-loving troubadour, safari-suited cowboy punk, laconic Renaissance man, eccentric Australian icon, etc - formed legendary post-punk band The Moodists in 1980 from the debris of Adelaide-based outfit The Sputniks with long-term partner / drummer Claire Moore, & Steve Miller, later drafting in Chris Walsh (The Negatives, The Fabulous Marquises) & ex-Fungus Brains guitarist Mick Turner (a member of The Dirty Three nowadays), to concoct the anomalous mid-'80s leather-clad ex-pat scuzz triumvirate of Engine Shudder, Thirsty's Calling, & Double Life, bagging themselves a gone-in-a-heartbeat Creation Records' contract into the bargain, before discreetly disbanding eight years later:

"We lived & played in the derelict, bohemian Melbourne suburb of St. Kilda & when we travelled to Sydney, we played almost exclusively in the derelict, bohemian inner city suburb of Darlinghurst. In Australia, the suburban pubs were where you went to pursue a career in music. We only played the inner city venues. We never even really tried to venture any further. In essence, most of the inner city crowd all came from the outer suburbs & didn't really want to go back. In late 1983 we moved to London where we spent the rest of what was our career... Our friends & contemporaries were The Go-Betweens, The Birthday Party, The Laughing Clowns, The Triffids, The Died Pretty, The Beasts of Bourbon... Our first shows in the U.K. were opening for The Fall & The Go-Betweens. I would characterise it as more of an inerior, mythological trip we were on. All the music we heard & the magazines we read were imported. It was all exotic & so very far away. I loved living in London & touring in Europe. It was dramatic & exciting. I learned so much & was able to dive into my obsessions & interests: pulp crimes books & rock music. Saw lots of great live music. I landed in 1983 with £70 & spent 40 on a leather jacket. I never intended to return to Australia but ultimately didn't have the right heritage or visa to stay."

When The Moodists formally fractured in 1987, Graney, Moore & Walsh briefly renamed themselves The White Buffaloes & released their comprehensively shunned My Life On The Plains LP, wherefrom Graney's Buffalo Bill-indebted raconteur-persona slowly began to evolve. Resting place of the classic "Robert Ford on the Stage" & the unassumingly lovely "Girl In The Moon" - still two of my absolute favourite Graney songs - its covers of Gram Parsons, Fred Neil, & "The Streets of Laredo" must have sounded resolutely alien alongside Surfer Rosa, Isn't Anything, Viva Hate, & Daydream Nation. But I wouldn't know because, like virtually everybody else, I was too busy dribbling over Hairway To Steven to give it the time of day (sorry, Dave). The White Buffaloes were pre-dated by a formative & equally short-lived incarnation of The Coral Snakes - featuring ex-Orange Juice / Josef K guitarist Malcolm Ross (who'd appeared in The Moodists' terminal line-up with O.J.'s David McClymont) & Rudi's Gordy Blair on bass - who only managed to record a solitary e.p. for Fire Records in 1989 before visa issues finally forced Graney & Moore back to Australia. Produced by Barry Adamson, At His Stone Beach's four croon-fronted piano-led songs similarly made little-to-no impression. At this point, Graney maintains, he was largely concerned with becoming a writer for other artists - preferably female vocalists - which perhaps explains why this germinal clutch of songs sounds so different to The Moodists' well-established vernacular? Though Graney's major breakthrough followed a couple of albums later with the reformed Coral Snakes' Night Of The Wolverine LP in 1993, it's My Life On The Plains, & particularly At His Stone Beach, that I still pluck off the shelf most frequently.

Reportedly, Graney is currently supervising the digital release of the acoustic demos for Night Of The Wolverine & some unreleased late-period Moodists recordings. Let's see what happens.

Je te tire mon chapeau: The Beige Baron at Brown Noise Unit.

Another life flashed before my eyes

9.6.15

KLEENEX : Live at Concordia, Zürich - 12th (or 13th) March 1979 (Cassette recording).

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"It was a small scene & everybody knew everybody. When we started, we just had four songs & we played for our friends. We played the four songs in fifteen minutes & they'd say "Go again! Go again!" so we'd play the songs again for four hours. We thought it would be fun to do the single with our four songs for our friends - the same four songs we would play at gigs for hours & hours until we got tired. Somehow John Peel got the E.P. & he played it over & over. Rough Trade heard it - they organised a tour for us in England. We were on a package tour with The Raincoats & Spizzenergi. It was a great experience.

In the beginning, we were just in Zürich & we never thought that we would go abroad. The Kleenex company found out about us & they said we had to change our name or otherwise they will call Rough Trade to destroy all the records & we couldn't sell them anymore. We had to pay thousands of Swiss francs for this so we had to decide to change the name. Also, Regula Sing left & then we thought we were city indians or small like Liliput, little girls.

We had great support in Zürich, it all started with this youth riot. I was a bit older than the people in the riots, but it's a small town & there were these political questions & we had to say what we thought. We didn't have songs like "Fuck The System" like other bands had. We didn't throw stones & smash windows. We stood there & played songs. Though it sounds like nonsense words, it always had to do with the situation." - Excerpts from an interview with Marlene Marder by Jason Gross, Perfect Sound Forever, May 1998.

Parenthetically, I've dragged the lake (so to speak) hoping to discover what Kleenex's former members have been up to since Liliput separated in the mid 1980s, but details are scant - that's to say: non-existent. Other than Klaudia Schifferle 's well-documented subsequent career as a prolific & highly respected painter / sculptor, the only other information I've found refers to Marlene Marder's work with the World Wildlife Fund. Any more for any more?

Set-list: You / Nighttoad / Hedi's Head / (Unknown) / Madness / (Unknown) / Nice / Ain't You / Lust - Thumblerdoll / I Love You (1) / I Love You (2) / Beri-Beri.

Never mind the bollocks

8.6.15

PINK INDUSTRY : What I Wouldn't Give (Zulu 7", 1984).

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"Nothing that's got any potency is ever accepted by the established art world at the moment of potency... it's only in retrospect that they're able to assimilate it into their culture" - Jayne Casey talking about the KLF, though she might just as well have been talking about her own unjustly neglected Pink Industry.

Big In Japan & Pink Military - two storied arbors of Merseyside's punk &s post-punk eras ("A magical portal where a generation of Liverpool musicians discovered the lexicon of life", she says) which both included Jayne as vocalist - have never really captured my imagination (look, I've tried, but...). Pink Industry, however, are a band that I've admired since the early 1980s - from the moment I heard John Peel broadcast their penultimate session (of four) for him. August 1983, in fact.

Following the dissolution of the short-lived (but highly regarded) Pink Military in 1981, Jayne dispensed with the idea of joining another default-4-piece post-punk guitar band, choosing instead to collaborate with local multi-instrumentalist Amrbose Reynolds (who'd also played briefly with Big In Japan, as well as the embryonic Frankie Goes To Hollywood). Pursing a distinctly more electronic (& experimental) direction than before, the duo operated a revolving door policy as far as supporting musicians were concerned, though guitarist Tadzio Jodlowski would be recruited on a full-time basis in time for their second LP.

Perpetually hampered by a debilitating dearth of funds & a frustratingly "make-do" collection of equipment, it's (arguably) the band's fleshed-out BBC sessions that capture them at their most impressive. Sadly, said recordings are only accessible via grainy Youtube uploads (from disintegrating timeworn cassettes) nowadays - though a handful of them allegedly appeared on a limited edition pressing of an already impossible-to-track-down Brazilian Pink Industry compilation CD a few years ago. Of their trio of cheaply recorded (at home) but near-perfect LPs, only the first, 1983's Low Technology, has ever been reissued - carefully repackaged & sympathetically remastered by Germany's Isegrimm label. It's a dispiriting situation, but perhaps Jayne & Ambrose prefer it that way? After all, sometimes it's better to simply draw a line & walk away...

1984's provocative "What I Wouldn't Give" 7" - with it's cheeky Morrissey-bedecked sleeve - slid briefly into the top ten of the independent singles chart upon release but still passed most people by. A lot gem, it's one of Pink Industry's finest productions: Jayne's carnal drawl - a sort-of Marlene Deitrich-meets-Lou Reed affair if you can imagine that? - weaves an enticing path between Ambrose's languid dual basses, the pulsating drum machine, & an apparitional sax submerged in a slough of opiated sound effects. An unusual, thought-provoking, & curiously timeless record by one of the '80s great "lost" bands.

Leave it buried at the bottom of the bed

6.6.15

NICO & THE FACTION : Live at Gaskessell, Bern, Switzerland - 28th November 1986 (Cassette recording).

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"I don't have a home. (On my passport) it says "ohne festern Wohnsitz", which means "without a fixed address". And I prefer that, because it's like being married when you have a home. God, it's terrible. I lived on a ship, but I don't live there anymore. I live in Brixton now. Hell's Kitchen on the Lower East Side in New York is much more dangerous. When you live in a dangerous place, you also become increasingly dangerous. You might just wind up in jail.

I grew up on opera with my mother taking me when I was a child & it sort of got branded in my brain. But I always preferred jazz already, as a young adolescent I preferred jazz,  free jazz. I met Bob Dylan & he sort of changed the idea that I had that I should only sing torrid, torrid songs, you know, love songs. I started singing Bob Dylan songs - when I was on three Ready, Steady, Go! shows in England, two Dylan songs & one Gordon Lightfoot song. (Dylan) sang me a number of songs when he used to baby-sit for my son, & so I asked him if I could have if I could sing that song, he sent me a demo with the melody & the lyrics. Dylan's manager, Albert (Grossman) bought me a ticket & said I should come over there (to America). That's how I met Andy again, whom I'd met previously in Paris. I only wanted to be with the underground people, I wasn't interested in fashion anymore, & I also had studied acting with Lee Strasberg, which helped me a lot to sort of discover myself like all young people always have to discover themselves.

(Jim Morrison), he was my soul brother. He taught me to write songs. I never thought that I could. He really inspired me a lot. It was like looking in a mirror then. Musically, I might get inspired by Egyptian music, & some Pakistani music. Arab music. I love Arabic music. Music like Philip Glass, Stockhausen, Steve Reich, I love that too. I want to write more songs in India. I'll stop there for a month. Then I have to go to England & continue singing. I would have liked to have gone to the Amazon river, just sail along & record my record there with the drumming..." - Extracts from an interview by Steven Walker, Melbourne, 19th February 1986.

Set-list: My Heart is Empty / Purple Lips / Procession / Harry Hudson / Janitor of Lunacy / König / Frozen Warnings / You Forgot to Answer / I'll Be Your Mirror / Tanamore / Eulogy to Lenny Bruce /
Fearfully in Danger / Genghis Khan.

Das lied vom einsamen mädchen

4.6.15

THE CURE : Live at Markthalle, Hamburg - 16th October 1980 (Cassette recording).

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""It's fun watching people disintegrate." C'est la bloody vie. Crumpled in the back seats of a minibus erratically bumping & grinding through the wasted plains of Benelux. Acne, dirty clothes & hotel rooms. Unglamourous "sufferings". The pitfalls of this falsified situation. A bedroom-bound school band sensible enough to remember & retain the aura & values of those Saturday gigs in the church hall - uncluttered & direct. Dancing down the lonely aisle of my teens, only to be stopped in my tracks by the eerie cascade of Seventeen Seconds. Morbid, hateful, tender & frightened. Growing up in public, exploring & expanding the grey matters of one black & white incident, canning a mood & repeating it relentlessly in the bedsits of (other) young lovers. Sometimes it's hard to believe all that sound is emanating from just the 3 figures washed in the alternating blue, white, red, green floods of light. "All Cats Are Grey" drifts by through the clouds of dope smoke hanging in the hall. I close my eyes & think of Hawkwind, the Buzzcocks, Pink Floyd, Joy Division. "I'm still not sure what people make of us. We did a gig with The Fall, & Mark E. Smith just sat there saying we were a bunch of art school wankers, & there he was going through the same old motions, pissing himself up to bring out his feelings. Who's totally wired?"" - Excerpts from Playing For Today, an article by Simon Dwyer, Sounds, 8th November 1980.

Side 1: The Holy Hour / Play For Today / Three Imaginary Boys / Primary / 10:15 Saturday Night / Accuracy / In Your House / At Night;
Side 2:  M / Fire in Cairo / Boys Don't Cry / Another Day / Jumping Someone Else's Train / Another Journey By Train / Grinding Halt / A Forest / Seventeen Seconds.

Everything's coming to a grinding halt

3.6.15

TALKING HEADS : Live at The Old Waldorf, San Francisco CA - 3rd December 1977 (Cassette recording).

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By the time Talking Heads played this December 1977 show, their "Psycho Killer" 45 was already an established underground hit & David Byrne was well on his way to becoming a commanding on-stage presence - terse & economical rather than, as per somewhat muted earlier recorded performances, nervous & reticent ("I was a peculiar young man", quoth he, "borderline Asperger's I would guess").

With Jerry Harrison on-board, filling out their once-skeletal sound with keyboards & additional guitar, the band sound lean, tight, & super-confident. Recorded at Bill Graham's Old Waldorf music hall in San Francisco, their set was broadcast on local FM radio & quickly bootlegged as part of the oft-referenced Sharp Objects series. In addition to offering an opportunity to hear formative versions of these songs before Eno fed them through his subtle textural processing devices for More Songs About Buildings & Food, it's also far better than anything on the officially released - & profoundly disappointing - The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads live LP.

Sadly there were no Question Mark & The Mysterians covers on this occasion, just a smidgen of 1910 Fruitgum Co. flavoured bubblegum.

n.b. Tina Weymouth photograph taken from Big Star #3, pub. 1978.

Set-list: Uh-oh, Love Comes To Town / With Our Love / The Book I Read / Artists Only / Stay Hungry / The Big Country / New Feeling / Thank You For Sending Me An Angel / Who Is It? / Psycho Killer / No Compassion / No Compassion (Reprise) / 1-2-3 Red Light.

I wish you wouldn't do that

2.6.15

SLEEPARCHIVE : Elephant Island EP (Sleeparchive 12", 2004).

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Teutonic basement techno with a gratifying android crunch.

Some time ago, a friend of mine was listening to a Sleeparchive mix on his iPod while wandering across town to pick up some lunch. Passing a bustling building site, he instinctively leapt into the street, confusing the sounds on his headphones with the clatter of falling masonry & fearing imminent death. I can't think of a greater recommendation than that, frankly...

Listening back to "old" (a decade being a relative eternity in club music terms, of course) productions like this, it's not difficult to see why so many admirers of progressive electronica were comprehensively dismissive of - for instance - Factory Floor's app-driven Blast First era.

Sleeparchivist Roger Semsroth is currently based in Berlin & continues to release new music under various guises, here & elsewhere.