13.5.16

SUICIDE : Craig Leon sessions, aka "1977 Demos" (Archival studio recordings).

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Suicide's eponymous debut LP, a demonstrable (punk) rock music milestone, was released in December 1977 on manager Marty Thau's Red Star Records to complete bemusement in the U.S. - Rolling Stone magazine dismissing it as "absolutely puerile" - but to immediate and voracious deification by the British music press. Since the mid '60s, Thau had pursued a career in management and publishing for the Buddah and Paramount labels, concurrently marketing several of that decade's biggest bubblegum hits while working on early solo albums by Van Morrision (Astral Weeks, Moondance), John Cale (Vintage Violence), Cass Elliot, and Biff Rose. Quitting Paramount in 1972 to champion the New York Dolls' cause, he quickly immersed himself in N.Y.C.'s mushrooming underground scene, shepherding the Ramones, Blondie, and Richard Hell (amongst others), and subsequently founding his own label, the aforementioned Red Star, to showcase local talent.

Brooklyn's combative Suicide were the first band he signed, on the basis of a demo tape (not this one) passed to him by Phibes-ian organist Martin Rev. Having spent the previous half-decade performing them live, Rev and frontman Alan Vega knew the songs back-to-front, and Suicide was recorded in 4 intense days at Ultima Sound - an out-of-town facility frequented by Bruce Springsteen, Dusty Springfield, James Taylor, and the Ramones in it's previous 914 Studios incarnation - with dub-influened producer Craig Leon (the effects on Vega's lurid vocals were achieved with the same Eventide delay unit Lee "Scratch" Perry was so enamoured of). Once the sessions were complete and Leon had returned to California, Thau remixed several of the tracks, adding further layers of eerie delay, while Vega completely changed (and vastly improved) the lyrics to "Frankie Teardrop", perfecting his unnerving tour de force. (n.b. Jump to the comments section for some clear-cut elucidation on this subject from Mr. Leon himself.)

It's Leon's "unfinished" mixes that I've included here - historically they've been consistently mis-labeled as "1977 demos" so it's possible you may recognise some of them. They're all noticeably different to their Red Star variants, and bookending the session are 2 versions of the hitherto unreleased "Whisper", a crooning '50s-style ballad fronted, for once, by Rev rather than Vega. Though the alternate early attempt at "Frankie Teardrop" herein was belatedly released (as "The Detective Meets The Space Alien") on the B-side of a limited edition Blast First 10" a few years ago (long gone, I'm afraid), the rest of these recordings remain otherwise unavailable. Officially, at least.

10 comments:

  1. Per Craig Leon on Twitter (@craigleon): If they're quite dry with prominent Bass drum sound they are live to 2tk of takes not mixes. Many more FX on the mixes.

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  2. He also says "unable to download these but the other "demos" I've heard are demos for Max's and/or monitor 2tk roughs of early takes."

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  3. Thanks for putting up these early monitor mixes and works in progress. None of these were intended to be finished mixes though.Your "facts" are a bit inaccurate. I didn't "return to California". I briefly went to California to do a previously scheduled recording and returned to my home on the East Coast. I went back into Ultima with MT and we did the mix of Frankie Teardrop which had the new vocal on it. While I was in L.A. Marty had done a series of mixes with the FX that were in place there and printed as well. One or two worked and were used on the album and the others were technically not useable.I mastered the album with Marty shortly after that. Cheers. Craig

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  4. Intriguing stuff, gents... many thanks for taking the time to clarify and enlighten. I've been listening to that first Suicide LP for 30 years now, so it's fascinating to uncover recordings of this nature c/o the internet and pick out the Lilliputian (but nonetheless palpable) differences in sonic detail, etc - I was very surprised to discover most of these tracks have never been released, interest in stuff like this has never been keener has it? :)

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  5. Love to see interest in details of older work. BTW I always keep running logs and monitor mixes of every stage of a recording. It comes in handy at the time that you would least expect it. Recently I was able to recreate the mono mix of The Ramones first album for the upcoming 40th Anniversary package using my handwritten notes and copies of the original 1976 monitor mixes from the sessions. A number of them were in mono as I planned to do both a mono and a stereo version of the album. The stereo came out in'76. The mono had to wait until 2016. Cheers, Craig

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  6. I can certainly see the reasoning behind that, a mono version of the Ramones' debut = the absolute zenith of the "less is more" ethos I suppose? ;)

    Coincidentally, when I first bought that LP as a kid my hi-fi only had one functioning speaker and I spent a few frustrating weeks listening to it sans Johnny's guitar, ridiculous eh?

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  7. Anonymous16.6.16

    big thanx for always having something in the pocket for us lost souls. Saludos from patagonia.

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  8. Is this Rikky Rooksby or a different Rooksby writing this blog?

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  9. An Other.

    Who is this Rikky imposter?

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