Thursday, June 30, 2011

the curse of the mekons

These Yorkshire punk dinosaurs embraced the abyss and anarchism and went down swinging with mythic swagger on the most diverse and engaging album of their career.  The band had been iconoclastic from the very beginning with their art punk debut 'The Quality Of Mercy Is Not Strained/Strnen'.  They reinvented themselves and spawned alt-country in the process with 'Fear And Whiskey' and 'The Edge Of The World' before experimenting with world beat and electronic music for 'So Good It Hurts'.  Their underground classic 'Rock 'n' Roll' should have been breakthrough; but it was compromised by their relationship with executive from their new label A&M.  The sessions for the followup did not fare any better.  

To embrace the sense of doom, the band assumed diabolical pseudonyms for the liner notes:   Lu Cipher  and John "The Dubmaster General" Gill on bass;    Steve "Ghoulding" Goulding on drums;   Guy Crackers and Ian Caple on engineering;    Jon "Dee Fanglord" Langford, Tom "In The Green" Greenhalgh,  Ken Litemare,  and  Brendan "Crowkey" Croker on guitar;   Neil Yates on trumpet;   Gavin Sharp on saxophone;   Jon "Dee Fanglord" Langford, Tom "In The Green" Greenhalgh,  Sally "Endora" Timms,  Ken Litemare,  Eric "Rico Hell" Bellis,  and  Brendan "Crowkey" Croker on vocals;    John Hart on trombone;   Jon "Dee Fanglord" Langford and Tom "In The Green" Greenhalgh on synthesizers;    Susie "Samantha Herebemonsters" Honeyman on violin;   Tom "In The Green" Greenhalgh on harmonica;   Jon "Dee Fanglord" Langford  on banjo;   John "The Dubmaster General" Gill on melodeon;   and Lu Cipher on  bagpipes, cumbus, and Norwegian flute.   The proceedings were produced by  The Mekons and Ian Caple.  

'The Curse of the Mekons' was only available as an import on the Blast First! label for over a decade because A&M refused to release it. Perhaps because of how intensely they railed against the machine, their relationship with the execs at A&M deteriorated and they were dropped. Even as their records garnished more critical acclaim; they were deemed commercially unviable. 'The Curse of the Mekons', indeed.

The country honk of 'The Curse' sets the stage like a manifesto.

"Magic, fear and superstition
this is the Curse of the Mekons
you'll be called on by our crew
it's no joke I'm telling you
on our stone heads and leaky hearts
we'll leave our mark to say we called"

The weeping country beauty of 'Wild + Blue' was originally done by Nashville star John Anderson.

"It's four in the morning and you're all alone
With no place to go, why don't you come home?
I'll be right here little baby waitin' for you
I know you've been wild and blue"

'Funeral' long version

'The Curse of the Mekons'
full album:

The Curse 03:45 
Blue Arse 02:50 
Wild and Blue 02:54 (John Scott Sherrill)
Authority 05:00 
Secrets 05:20 
Nocturne 04:57 
Sorcerer 04:33 
Brutal 04:35 
Funeral 03:28 
Lyric 03:57 
Waltz 04:25 
100% Song 05:21

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

blonde on blonde

When Bob Dylan released the sprawling dense tapestry of this revisionist blues rock masterpiece, it cemented his place in music history. Bob Johnston who had produced 'Highway 61 Revisited' was brought back when it came time to record again. Dylan first attempted to record with his new touring band the Hawks in New York; but when the sessions floundered Johnston suggested moving to Nashville, where top notch session musicians filled out the sound. 'Blonde On Blonde' reveals more depth with each listen, the intricate musicianship complements his poetic revelations.

"The closest I ever got to the sound I hear in my mind was on individual bands in the 'Blonde On Blonde' album. It's that thin, that wild mercury sound. It's metallic and bright gold, with whatever that conjures up. That's my particular sound. I haven't been able to succeed in getting it all the time. Mostly, I've been driving at a combination of guitar, harmonica and organ."

The laughing carnival raveup of 'Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35' tied Dylan's greatest success with 'Like A Rolling Stone' by reaching number two on the pop chart. Despite it's confusing title and the fact that the song was banned by many radio stations for its druggy refrain: "everybody must get stoned!" During the session, everybody did. Dylan would not play the song "straight". The brass band only adds to the effect. Also, the band members swapped instruments during the session.

"Well, they'll stone you and say that it's the end
Then they'll stone you and then they'll come back again
They'll stone you when you're riding in your carand they'll stone when you're playing your guitar
Yes, but I would not feel so all alone

The conquering, poetic 'Visions of Johanna' was originally called "Seems Like a Freeze-Out". Some think it's about Joan Baez. The protagonist is focused on an absent Johanna while with a willing Louise and her "handful of rain." It's not clear if Johanna is a person or a work of art.

"Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
You can tell by the way she smiles
See the primitive wallflower freeze
When the jelly-faced women all sneeze
Hear the one with the mustache say, "Jeeze
I can't find my knees"
Oh, jewels and binoculars hang from the head of the mule
But these visions of Johanna, they make it all seem so cruel"

'I Want You' was allegedly written about model Anita Pallenberg who was dating Brian Jones (who wore a Chinese shirt) when Dylan hung out with him in London. The rivalry culminated in a late night car chase and crash that left only bruised egos.

"Now your dancing child with his Chinese suit
He spoke to me, I took his flute
No, I wasn't very cute to him, was I?
But I did it, though, because he lied
Because he took you for a ride
And because time was on his side
And because I

'Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again' might be inspired by the turmoil over Dylan's going electric.

"Now the rainman gave me two cures,
Then he said, "Jump right in."
The one was Texas medicine,
The other was just railroad gin.
An' like a fool I mixed them
An' it strangled up my mind,
An' now people just get uglier
An' I have no sense of time.
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again."

The materialistic satire 'Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat' was released as a single and peaked at number eighty one.

"Well, you look so pretty in it
Honey, can I jump on it sometime?
Yes, I just wanna see
If it's really that expensive kind
You know it balances on your head
Just like a mattress balances
On a bottle of wine"

'Just Like A Woman' has been said to be inspired by Edie Sedgwick who became involved with Dylan when they both lived at the Chelsea Hotel.

"It was raining from the first
And I was dying there of thirst
So I came in here
And your long-time curse hurts
But what's worse
Is this pain in here
I can't stay in here
Ain't it clear that
I just can't fit
Yes, I believe it's time for us to quit
When we meet again
Introduced as friends
Please don't let on that you knew me when
I was hungry and it was your world.
Ah, you fake just like a woman, yes, you do
You make love just like a woman, yes, you do
Then you ache just like a woman
But you break just like a little girl. "

The surreal epic 'Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands' filled side four of the double album. Dylan later said (in the song 'Sara') that he wrote the song for Sara Lownds.

"With your mercury mouth in the missionary times
And your eyes like smoke and your prayers like rhymes
And your silver cross, and your voice like chimes
Oh, who do they think could bury you ?
With your pockets well protected at last
And your streetcar visions which you place on the grass
And your flesh like silk, And you face like glass
Who among them do they think could carry you ?
Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands
Where the sad-eyed prophet says that no man comes
My warehouse eyes, my Arabian drums
Should I put them by your gate
Oh, sad-eyed lady, should I wait ?"

'Blonde On Blonde'
full album:

All songs written by Bob Dylan.

Side one
1. "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35"   4:36
2. "Pledging My Time"   3:50
3. "Visions of Johanna"   7:33
4. "One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)"   4:54
Side three
1. "Most Likely You Go Your Way And I'll Go Mine"   3:30
2. "Temporary Like Achilles"   5:02
3. "Absolutely Sweet Marie"   4:57
4. "4th Time Around"   4:35
5. "Obviously 5 Believers"   3:35
Side two
1. "I Want You"   3:07
2. "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again"   7:05
3. "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat"   3:58
4. "Just Like a Woman"   4:52
Side four
1. "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands"   11:23

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

crowded house

The Crowdies endured a cramped Hollywood bungalow to record the Beatlesque pop of their polished debut album with Mitchell Froom. They were originally a quartet called "The Mullanes" (after Neil Finn's middle name) with Craig Hooper from the Reels. By the time they signed a deal with Capitol Records, Hooper was out and the label wanted them to change the name. After lots of discussion,"Largest Living Things" gave way to "Crowded House" in reference to their living quarters. The songs run from angsty rock to jangly pop to beautiful ballads and the clean production lets them speak for themselves. Though 'Crowded House' was a hit around the world; it would take the album an entire year to reach the top of the album chart in Australia.

Songwriter and lead singer Neil Finn recalls: "Paul Hester and I went onwards from Split Enz to Crowded House, we wanted to be in a three piece band that could fit into one rental car . We found our bass player Nick Seymour , fresh from the catwalk, clearly loving the attention. We liked how he wore his bass low, had aspirations to funk and after a while we let him paint our suits with Masonic symbols. Despite all that and along the way we became a really good band. I think we tried to make ourselves even smaller by turning to acoustic, bass, snare drum, three part harmonising our way through lounge rooms and restaurants, busking, unplugged, whatever they ended up calling it on MTV. It made us very interested in our audience and we learnt how to draw them in, to sing together like it’s a party.That became our way of doing things, wishing for accidents, showing artifice and awkwardness the door."

The shimmering 'Don't Dream It's Over' was a worldwide smash, topping the charts in Canada and New Zealand and peaking at number two in the US. Producer Mitchell Froom did the 'Whiter Shade of Pale'-ish keyboard solo. The song has been used to promote the New Zealand Tourism Board.

"There is freedom within, there is freedom without
Try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
There's a battle ahead, many battles are lost
But you'll never see the end of the road
While you're traveling with me"

'Something So Strong' was one of the first songs Finn wrote for Crowded House; but it was reworked in the studio to the extent that Froom got a songwriting credit as well. It peaked at number three in New Zealand and was a top ten hit in the US and Canada.

"Love can make you weep
Can make you run for cover.
Roots that spread so deep
Bring life to frozen ground."

'Now We're Getting Somewhere' was a top forty hit in New Zealand.

"When you took me to your room
I swear I said surrender
Ooh when you opened up your mouth
I saw the words fall out
Though nothing much has changed
I swear I will surrender
And there is pain in my heart
We can choose what we choose to believe"

'Mean To Me' was Crowded House's first single. It was only released in Australia, where it made it to number twenty six on the pop chart.

"I could not escape
A plea from the heart
You know what it means to me
She said don't walk away
I'm down on my knees
So please don't be mean to me"

Crowded House - Mean To Me by jpdc11

'World Where You Live' was the first single released outside of Australia; but it peaked at number forty three there.

"And here we lie against each other
These four walls could never hold us
We're looking for wide open spaces
High above the kitchen
And we're strangers here
On our way to some other place"

The funky album-closer 'That's What I Call Love' was co-written by Finn and Hestor. Bass player Nick Seymour's playing on the demo for this song is allegedly what got him into the group.

"Feeling devastated
That's what I call
Livin' in your memory
That's what I call
Tired and deflated
That's what I call love"

'Crowded House'
full album:

All songs written and composed by Neil Finn, except where noted. 

1. "Mean to Me"   3:15
2. "World Where You Live"   3:07
3. "Now We're Getting Somewhere"   4:09
4. "Don't Dream It's Over"   3:56
5. "Love You 'Til the Day I Die"   3:31
6. "Something So Strong" (Finn, Mitchell Froom) 2:51
7. "Hole in the River" (Finn, Eddie Rayner) 4:02
8. "Can't Carry On"   3:57
9. "I Walk Away"   3:06
10. "Tombstone"   3:30

11. "That's What I Call Love" (Finn, Paul Hester) 3:39

Monday, June 27, 2011

freak out!

The world got its first taste of the ultimate freak with this hysterically diverse and artsy proto-punk concept album. Who could imagine that these Mothers could've gotten a record contract? Frank Zappa took over R&B cover band the Soul Giants and headed for Los Angeles, where they got a record contract with jazz label Verve. Caught between the squares and the hippies, 'Freak Out!' regurgitates the doo-wop teen-romance pop of the day and transforms it into a subversive satire that at the same time shows genuine affection for the form. Throughout this ambitious double-album you will find garage rock, white blues, melodic pop, extended rock operettas, and moments that approach jazz fusion. The album lost money but eventually became a cult classic. It sold better in Europe and influenced The Beatles' 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band'.

"If you were to graphically analyze the different types of directions of all the songs in the 'Freak Out!' album, there's a little something in there for everybody. At least one piece of material is slanted for every type of social orientation within our consumer group, which happens to be six to eighty. Because we got people that like what we do, from kids six years old screaming on us to play "Wowie Zowie." Like I meet executives doing this and that, and they say, 'My kid's got the record, and 'Wowie Zowies their favorite song.'"

The guitar riff that starts the album apes the Rolling Stones' 'Satisfaction'. 'Hungry Freaks, Daddy' "was written for Carl Orestes Franzoni. He is freaky down to his toe nails. Some day he will live next door to you and your lawn will die. Drop out of school before your mind rots from exposure to our mediocre educational system. Forget about the senior prom and go to the library and educate yourself, if you've got any guts. Some of you like pep rallys and plastic robots who tell you what to read. Forget I mentioned it. This song has no message. Rise for the flag salute."

"Mister America
Walk on by
Your schools that do not teach
Mister America
Walk on by
The minds that won't be reached
Mister America
Try to hide
The emptiness that's you inside
When once you find that the way you lied
And all the corny tricks you tried
Will not forestall the rising tide of
Hungry freaks, Daddy . . ."

Zappa says that when producer Tom Wilson first heard 'Who Are The Brain Police?' in the studio, he was very surprised: "I could see through the window that he was scrambling toward the phone to call his boss—probably saying: 'Well, uh, not exactly a "white blues band," but...sort of.'"

"What will you do if the people you knew
Were the plastic that melted,
And the chromium too?

'Wowie Zowie' "is carefully designed to suck the 12 year old listener into our camp. I like the piano and xylophone accompaniment in the second chorus. It is cheerful. It is harmless. Wooly Bully. Little Richard says he likes it."

"Wowie Zowie, baby
Love me do
Wowie Zowie
And I'll love you too
Wowie Zowie, baby
I'll be true
I don't even care
If your dad's the heat"

'Trouble Every Day' "is how I feel about racial unrest in general and the Watts situation in particular. It was written during the Watts riot as it developed. I shopped it briefly around Hollywood and no one would touch it...everybody worries so much about not getting any airplay. My, my. " Producer Tom Wilson had only heard the band perform this song at a club. Thinking that they were part of the growing "white blues" trend, he signed them right away.

"Well, I seen the fires burnin'
And the local people turnin'
On the merchants and the shops
Who used to sell their brooms and mops
And every other household item
Watched the mob just turn and bite 'em
And they say it served 'em right
Because a few of them are white,
And it's the same across the nation
Black and white discrimination
Yellin' "You can't understand me!"
'N all that other jazz they hand me
In the papers and TV and
All that mass stupidity
That seems to grow more every day
Each time you hear some nitwit say
He wants to go and do you in
Because the color of your skin
Just don't appeal to him
(No matter if it's black or white)
Because he's out for blood tonight"

'Freak Out!' 

full album:

1. Hungry Freaks, Daddy
2. I Ain't Got No Heart
3. Who Are the Brain Police?
4. Go Cry on Somebody Else's Shoulder
5. Motherly Love
6. How Could I Be Such a Fool
7. Wowie Zowie
8. You Didn't Try to Call Me
9. Any Way the Wind Blows
10. I'm Not Satisfied
11. You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here
12. Trouble Every Day
13. Help, I'm a Rock (Suite in Three Movements)
*I. Okay to Tap Dance
*II. In Memoriam, Edgard Varèse
*III. It Can't Happen Here 
14. The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet (Unfinished Ballet in Two Tableaux)
*I. Ritual Dance of the Child-Killer
*II. Nullis Pretii (No Commercial Potential)