Hmph… No entries the last week. It’s this thing called “Real Life” which took over: work, commitments, domestic life, socialising, etc. No time to sit in front of a computer and tap away at a keyboard on the obscure nonsense which seems to dominate this web site. It’s now 9:30 on a Sunday morning, a beautiful day outside, I’m sober as a judge – after having not touched a drop all weekend – and I’ve decided to commit myself to at least writing something for anyone reading this. Here goes…
The federal election: I do not wish to speak of it. It’s too depressing. Let’s talk about this DVD I rented last night instead, it’s the best thing I’ve seen in an eon: THE OLD GREY WHISTLE TEST. The ‘Whistle Test (let’s call it OGWT from now on, OK?) was a British pop show which ran from 1971 to the mid ‘80s (I’ll assume that’s when it finished) which also undoubtedly featured every crap musical outfit of its day (some of which are featured here), but was also blessed with live performances from a bevy of artists which will pique your interest and then some. The DVD features two discs and possesses enough highlights to blow one’s mind and may even prompt you to excitedly ring up friends late at night to tell them of your bounty(and such was the case last night). Truth is, the best moments here sent tingles up my spine and made me break out in a sweat, they’re that good. Here’s some real LexDev-approved highlights:
Curtis Mayfield – “We Gotta Have Peace”, from his brilliant sophomore solo album, Roots. A stripped-back, percussion-heavy rendition, this one went on repeat several times.
John Martyn – “May You Never”. Aaah, gets me teary…
Roxy Music – “Do the Strand”, with Eno on board, all the gang decked out in glitter, Ferry poncing about. Great stuff, I get a feeling this version might be included on that First Kiss bootleg I reviewed a few months back.
New York Dolls – “Jet Boy”, ‘nuff said!
Tim Buckley – “Dolphins”, yep, the Fred Neil classic done in style, though unfortunately not solo, but backed by the group who – judging by their “session muso” look (ie. bad clothes and facial hair) - played on his appalling Sefronia and Look At The Fool LPs. Still, it’s a great version and nice to see him on the screen.
The Damned – “Smash It Up” and “I Just Can’t Be Happy Today”, with Sensible and gang completely destroying the songs and all their equipment by the end of the performance. That’s punk rock, kiddo.
Public Image Ltd. – “Careering”, probably the disc’s finest moment. The essential Lydon/Wobble/Levene/Atkins quartet belting out the Metal Box-era dub/kraut doom mantra in apocalyptic style. This noise-laden version puts to rest any claims that PiL were “not really a band” or whatever nonsense they bandied about at the time: these mofos could really play as a unit.
Robert Wyatt – “Shipbuilding”, his Costello-penned early ‘80s surprise hit, w/ Wyatt decked out in his Che military outfit, complete with khaki beret. The revolution will be televised!
OK, on top of that there’s a few OK-ish performances from folks I love, namely Captain Beefheart (points off since it’s a song taken from his “sell-out” Blue Jeans/…Guaranteed phase, complete with that dreadful backing band of moustachioed hacks he employed), Iggy Pop (a sleepwalking rendition of “I’m Bored”, which sums up his performance perfectly) and Tom Waits (sorry, I only like his post-1983 work). But wait, there’s more! There were a few things which even took me by surprise, such as the early ‘70s pre-stardom Wailers (Bob Marley in tow, of course) and their mindnumbing run through “Stir It Up”, complete with dub phasing and spacey keyboards; Bruce Springsteen’s(!!!) arse-kicking, run-for-the-hills, ma take on “Rosalita” (yeah, so fucking sue me, The Boss is A-OK by me: at the ripe old age of 30 I purchased Nebraska, Darkness on the Edge of Town, Born To Run and The River for a nickel a piece – and if you’d told a 15-year-old Dave Lang that in his 30s he’d be buying Springsteen albums I woulda spat in your eye – but I’m older, grumpier and uglier and willing to lay this on the line: GREAT FUCKING ALBUMS, pal, and his rendition of “Rosalita” had me dancing around the loungeroom in the kind of funkless stupor that only a man with five centuries of Anglo Saxon heritage behind him watching a live Springsteen clip could muster); Lynyrd Skynyrd and their ‘70s stoner-redneck anthem, “Freebird” (hardly a fan of this mob, and the gormless singer looks like he’s stuck in a coma, but the guitar/drums heroics on display here, especially in the way-too-long axe solo, at least dazzled my mind for a few minutes); and lastly… AHEM!... let me clear my throat: an early REM performance of “Moon River” and “Pretty Persuasion”. A band I could care less about, though if one must be honest, I’ll state that at one point, at least as a live unit, they could belt out a pretty nice Buzzcocks/Byrds hybrid that doesn’t make me want to throw up and kill the person next to me.
Let’s wrap this up. In addition to all this you get a bunch of people whose names will forever mean nothing to me: XTC, Talking Heads, Japan, Bonnie Raitt, Rory Gallagher, Dr. Feelgood, The Specials, Little Feat, Randy Newman; a few who should’ve been gunned down at birth (The Police, Focus, Elton John, Meatloaf, Tom Petty, Simply Red, U2) and one of the strangest performances I’ve ever seen from a duo I’ve never, ever heard of: Otway & Barrett, a guitar/vocal duo who sound like a stripped-down stoner-rock version of The Shaggs and should be putting out limited-edition 8”s (make mine marble-blue, thanks) on Stomach Ache or something. Never heard of ‘em? Join the club, but their whacked-out (though not necessarily “good”) stage act at least has me scratching my head.
To sum it up: beg, borrow or steal. Skip the drivel, surprise yourself with the energy and style of acts you’d previously dismissed and have your brain splattered all over the walls with the mind-melting Best Of The Best. If my half-assed local video store has this for my perusal, then yours likely does, too. Hop to it!
A quick HIGH FIVE before this weather gets too nice to keep me indoors…
1) THE FALL – Grotesque CD
Not the kind of listening I usually associate with summery days, but it’s working the charms right… now.
2) ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE – The Cenultimate Galactic Bordello Also the World You Made 4-CD box
Brand new, hot off the presses, etc. Four CDs, four very long songs, all recorded in the last year. Yup, OK, some of this is a bit “stretched”, but by any standards it’s still a fine thing I may prattle on about at a greater length in the future.
3) CURTIS MAYFIELD – Roots LP
The OGWT DVD had me pulling this out for a run-through. A voice which melts butter and soothes the soul, Curtis, man, CURTIS! I fuckin’ love the guy.
4) ROBERT WYATT – Solar Flares Burn For You CD
… and then I pulled out this: the best odds & sods collection of recent years. An excellent mix of Rock Bottom outtakes, soundtrack works and experimental pieces. I recommend this for any Wyatt neophyte, it’ll make your day but good.
5) MOTHERS OF INVENTION – Uncle Meat 2CD
One day, I swear, I will write an article entitled “In Defense of Frank Zappa” for this site. I understand the loathing some may feel towards this man – the sneering, the “virtuosity”, the box sets of guitar solos, the toilet humour, the fans...ugh, those fans – but let me state this: everything the man did w/ the Mothers from 1965-’70 I will take to my grave. For what purpose, I have no idea, but I think the point has been made. I think.
PS - By god, STOP THE PRESSES! A mistake was made in my last entry: Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments did not split up after '95's Bait & Switch. They stuck around 'til '97 to release the highly non-selling Straight to Video. Now you can all sleep easy.