Thursday, July 30, 2015

underwater moonlight

The Soft Boys were out on a limb and felt it coming on in floating currents so powerfully strong they set the body free and hatched an undersea classic.  The Cambridge based group had challenged the punk ethos with their daring debut 'A Can Of Bees'; but with their second album, they found the perfect balance of psychedelic beat and jangle pop. 

A major change came with new bassist Matthew Seligman, who forced the band to simplify their musical approach:   "I couldn’t cope with all the chord changes...But you have to remember, we were just this tiny little band. That is the thing that can be most misunderstood at this remove of time. We were a tiny band with a little indie album. Everything that happened afterwards with the record is thoroughly deserved. I just wish I could go back and show you - it wasn’t in the cards for us. Our band seemed to be the most ephemeral thing, so much promise but nothing delivered at all.  [Underwater Moonlight] is a lovely piece of history. But I don’t know how it happened...I never saw anyone ’arrange’ anything.  Things would fall into place, without anybody saying anything." 

  'Underwater Moonlight' was produced by Pat Collier and Mike Kemp at Alaska and James Morgan studios in London and by the staff at Spaceward Studios in Cambridge, England.   The sessions featured  Robyn Hitchcock on guitar, vocals, and rhythm bass;    Kimberley Rew on guitar, vocals, bass guitar, and synthesiser;    Matthew Seligman on bass guitar;    and   Morris Windsor on drums and vocals;    with    Gerry Hale adding violin;   and   Andy King on sitar.  

Rew reveals:    "I think we hit our stride with Underwater Moonlight  ...  Financially, the second album was done bit by bit.  Every time Robyn got enough money together we could record a few songs at a time.  Pat Collier was a great producer- he didn't change our sound at all.  He was sympathetic and had a natural feel for it.  He was low-key and confidence inspiring...The songwriting certainly changed.  Robyn was always developing- his songs appealed directly to peoples' feelings.  The curtain of dark imagery just got thinner and some light came through.  In the early days, we'd have competitions to introduce little twists into the music.  We stopped that by the second album and simply supplied the musical setting for the songs...We were always playing live in Cambridge.  You had the pub-rock phenomenon there.  It was the pub-circuit after pub-rock was over.  We did manage to break into the London circuit but we really didn't get any further than that.  When we toured nationally, punk became a problem for us.  It was the current thing that the kids subscribed to.  Because of that, we couldn't get an audience in Sheffield or Leeds.  The strength of being individual wasn't good enough.  We did get to go to New York in 1980 but that's as far as we got, geographically...We were just contemporary with punk so it tended to set the tone at the time.  You were forced to justify why your band wasn't punk then...For the Soft Boys, people weren't patient enough for '60's-type, mainstream rock.  That was seen as old-fashioned and because of that, the group couldn't break through commercially."

Hitchcock harkens back:   "The first one was 'Can of Bees', and there was in fact another one as well before that which we recorded for the Radar label but aborted. The first good one though was 'Underwater Moonlight'. It’s one of the albums I’m most proud of. It’s certainly the best Soft Boys album...I have made albums since then that I like as much probably...'Underwater Moonlight', however, is definitely up there. It’s like saying though: is it better to be 20 or 40? Neither is, it’s just different. Life isn’t a means to an end, it’s just a series of moments that you make the best of. 'Moonlight' was the work of four young guys in their mid/late twenties and I thought it was pretty good really. I'm definitely pleased with it, and I’m glad it has survived...I pictured the Soft Boys a bit like civil servants. They were powerful, but you wouldn't see them. They were invisible, but they had a huge influence. Funnily enough, that's kind of what happened...My vision of them was that they had been filleted, they had no bones so they could slide under doors and then come back up, like in the Terminator movies, so they could get anywhere, through a keyhole or under a door. They would be bloodless, like they had been drained like Halal, but they would be alive . They didn't have bones and they also had a tremendous sexual appetite in some ghastly way that was left to the imagination. I thought this is too good so I had I had to write about in a song and came up with 'Give it To the Soft Boys'...We were also in one sense all very soft. We were middle class, mother’s boys, wouldn’t hurt a fly, couldn’t confront anyone never mind each other, very nice people who avoided eye contact and really liked Monty Python and kind of laughing at things quietly in silent laughter. Anyway, there it was in a way. We did become invisible, but an influential force after our demise...I felt quite sour about it all which never helps because no one loves you when you’re sour and angry! I remember there was a bill at the Electric Ballroom in London with the Psychedleic Furs, and the Bunnymen, the Teardrop Explodes and Wah, and I thought 'Fuck it ! No one asked us.'...They were a bit younger and in some ways they were more sort of post-punk that us. They were people who had been through punk and had decided to get onto a bit of a psychedelic trip where we were pre-punk and we didn’t really adopt psychedelia. It was already there in our system. They discovered psychedelia and decided to wave it as a flag whereas we didn’t wave it as a flag. It was what we were anyway. A lot of them were from Liverpool, so they were probably a lot more outside-world friendly; Cambridge is rather sheltered." 

Windsor waxes:   "Robyn didn’t really understand what pop music was about.  He was headed in that direction; he wanted to go there. But it is not, at his core, what he is about.  [Underwater Moonlight] was his misinterpretation of pop music.   That was the great thing about the Soft Boys:  We got everything wrong - in all the right ways." 

"Queen of Eyes"

Robyn Hitchcock (The Soft Boys) - The Queen of Eyes from Child of Psi on Vimeo.
from "Underwater Moonlight"

"I Got the Hots"

"Insanely Jealous"

"I Wanna Destroy You"

"Kingdom of Love"

"You'll Have to Go Sideways"

"Innocent Boy"  bonus 7"

"Only the Stones Remain"

'Underwater Moonlight'
full album:

All songs written and composed by Robyn Hitchcock, except as noted.

Side A
1. "I Wanna Destroy You"   2:52
2. "Kingdom of Love"   4:10
3. "Positive Vibrations"   3:10
4. "I Got the Hots"   4:42
5. "Insanely Jealous"   4:15
Side B
6. "Tonight"     3:44
7. "You'll Have to Go Sideways"   Hitchcock, Kimberley Rew 2:57
8. "Old Pervert"   Hitchcock, Rew, Matthew Seligman, Morris Windsor 3:52
9. "Queen of Eyes"     2:01
10. "Underwater Moonlight"     4:17
bonus tracks
11. "He's a Reptile"   4:27
12. "Vegetable Man"  Syd Barrett  2:59
13. "Strange"   2:59
14. "Only the Stones Remain"   2:50
15. "Where Are the Prawns?"   6:06
16. "Dreams"   4:37
17. "Black Snake Diamond Rock"   4:24
18. "There's Nobody Like You"   3:11
19. "Song #4"   4:35

reissue bonus disc: ...And How It Got There
1. "Old Pervert – Section 1"   1:38
2. "Like a Real Smoothie"   3:43
3. "Alien"   3:13
4. "Bloat (Extract)"   1:00
5. "Underwater Moonlight"   6:24
6. "She Wears My Hair"   5:22
7. "Wang Dang Pig"   3:56
8. "Old Pervert – Section 2"   1:31
9. "Insanely Jealous"   5:03
10. "Leave Me Alone" Lou Reed  6:45
11. "Goodbye Maurice or Steve"   3:14
12. "Old Pervert – Section 3"   0:36
13. "Cherries"   2:54
14. "Amputated"   4:22
15. "Over You" Bryan Ferry, Phil Manzanera  4:00
16. "I Wanna, Er... (Extract)"   0:42
17. "Old Pervert – Section 4"   1:24

bonus 7"
1. Innocent Boy (Studio outtake)

up on the sun

Meat Puppets weaved warmth with an enchanted invisible sound like a hot pink volcano in the heart of a tornado.   With the universal critical acclaim afforded 'Meat Puppets II' the trio attempted to record their next album themselves; but the poor sound quality led them to book time at Total Access Studios in Redondo Beach, California.   They cranked it out over three days from January 26 to 28 in 1985 with  SST house engineer Spot engineering the sessions.  'Up On The Sun' features  Curt Kirkwood on guitar and vocals;   Cris Kirkwood on bass and vocals;   and   Derrick Bostrom on drums.     

Cris Kirkwood:    "That’s definitely a neat record. One of the things about being on something like SST, where their main focus wasn’t strictly about the amount of records sold, is that they had somewhat of a limited budget. So that record was made really fast. But we’d already recorded most of that stuff at home. We’d actually figured that stuff out… pretty much entirely. So we were able to go into the studio and make it really quick. That’s a neat record. There are all sorts of cool memories about that particular record."

Derrick Bostrom:   "In 1984 we rented a half inch eight track machine or maybe it was a quarter inch eight track machine.  We rented a machine from our local music store and began laying down demo’s for Up on the Sun.  We were actually hoping to flat out record the album ourselves in our own homes using the, at the time popular, DIY ethic, because we didn’t like the fact that SST had made us wait eight months to mix our record, six months or whatever.  So our plan was to finish the record in our living room.  We started getting into fidelity problems.  I didn’t like the way the drums were sounding.  I tried one strategy, which was popular at the time, which is to record the kick drum, and then record the snare drum, and then record the hi-hat, and the other guys didn’t have patience for that, and it didn’t work out very well.  Basically, it was just too lo-fi and too cheap an approach and we got a lot of really great demo’s out of it, some of which got completed, some of which didn’t, and it’s all pretty muddy as you might expect.  So eventually we were like, 'Ok, we know all the songs.  We’re going to rehearse really well and then we’re going to go in and do a three day blackout,' which is like Friday through Sunday.  That was the January sessions.  The first thing that I encountered was getting everything post-miked, and everything sounding right.  You’ve got to take your live performance and figure-out if it works in the studio.  We wanted to go for a certain clean kind of sound and once we miked up the drums I was having trouble getting the sounds I wanted.  And once again I encountered, as I did throughout my career, that nobody really wanted to wait for me to get my parts right.  They were like, 'Get your drum parts done so I can move on to my parts.'  So I had to leave the building, take a walk around the block for a half an hour until I could get my head around it.  And then in the process I had to simplify a lot of my parts down, specifically a lot of the kick drum parts, because I needed to get consistent audio quality.  Once I was able to get my parts rearranged on the fly, while the clock was ticking, we were able to move forward.  And the record benefits from the streamlining of the arrangements because it’s got a lot more of an immediate kind of up-tempo and spontaneous feel to it.  But there was a certain amount of on-the-fly rethinking of what I was going to do.  And I was able to get it done and we were able to get the whole thing done by the end of Sunday night:  basics, overdubs, vocals, mixing, cutting, sequencing and it was fucking done.  That was definitely an incredible thing for us to do."

Curt Kirkwood:  "[The crazy funk progressive sort-of-hippie-dance-record sound is] probably from The Who's Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy...Or The Who Sell Out  era of the The Who.  Shit, Jimi Hendrix.  Then The Minuteman were an inspiration at that point as well.   Wire too.  Of course, Parliament Funkadelic.   It was a cool little riff.  I was trying to do more with harmony vocals.   I was really starting to understand harmonies outside of country music and that came to me from the music of The Who.  Then also through the music of The Eagles as well.  I was really working on that with Up On The Sun.   I was also working on overdubbing guitars on Up On The Sun too because on Meat Puppets II we didn't have any of that.  With Up On The Sun we had a full studio at our disposal ... Reggae’s always been there [in our sound]. We used to listen to as much dub as we did punk rock, probably more. Something like Up On The Sun, I’ve noticed, has a lot of ska and disco. We would never have been able to do straight up reggae. It owes as much to Culture Club as it does to the real Jamaican stuff, though, honestly. Who doesn’t like Culture Club?"

'Up On The Sun' 
full album:

All songs written and composed by Curt Kirkwood, unless otherwise noted. 

1. Up on the Sun - 0:00
2. Maiden's Milk - 4:03  Curt Kirkwood/Cris Kirkwood
3. Away - 7:23
4. Animal Kingdom - 10:51  Curt Kirkwood/Cris Kirkwood
5. Hot Pink - 12:17
6. Swimming Ground - 15:44
7. Buckethead - 18:51
8. Too Real - 21:14
9. Enchanted Pork Fist - 23:26
10. Seal Whales - 25:55
11. Two Rivers - 28:15
12. Creator - 31:37

0:00 Up On The Sun
4:03 Maiden's Milk
7:23 Away
10:50 Animal Kingdom
12:14 Hot Pink
15:42 Swimming Ground
18:47 BucketHead
21:10 Too Real
23:21 Enchanted Porkfist
25:51 Seal Whales
28:11 Two Rivers
31:32 Creator

33:42 Hot Pink
37:37 Up On The Sun
42:06 Mother American Marshmallow Curt Kirkwood/Cris Kirkwood
46:33 Embodiment Of Evil
48:26 Hot Pink

SST - The Tour 1985

00:56 - SWA
12:00 - Saccharine Trust
27:40 - Meat Puppets
42:50 - Minutemen
54:30 - Hüsker Dü

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

full house

Fairport Convention carried on with this powerful and exciting traditional folk rock hybrid.    They had gone through several lineup changes after their debut Fairport Convention in 1968, with Sandy Denny replacing departing singer Judy Dyble for three groundbreaking albums released in 1969:     What We Did on Our Holidays,  Unhalfbricking,  and  Liege & Lief .   After that Ashley Hutchings went on to form Steeleye Span and Sandy Denny left the band as well.  

Simon Nicol reveals:    "We were without a singer. No one was willing: no-one wanted to be the first bus out of the garage. I suppose that Swarb was more used to being in front, in the limelight, than the rest of us. Richard and I were both more shy. So Swarb got pushed out there by default. And as Richard's song-writing became more central to what we were doing, so he came forward more too. It's natural that a writer should present their own songs. I just joined in for variety. Of course, Richard and I had sung backing vocals before - even though you couldn't hear them.    I can't remember who decided that we should all live together although, of course, we'd done that successfully in Winchester the previous summer. But it was Robin Gee, our road manager, and I who were saddled with finding somewhere for the band to live and rehearse. After we'd looked at the Angel in Little Hadham - twice if I recall - I remember phoning round everyone to tell them it was too bleak, too spartan, grubby, damp, inadequate bathrooms and so on. But by the time we decided the Angel would be no good, Swarb and his family was on the way there from Milford Haven in a removal van.    As things turned out, the Angel was OK even though it was pretty basic and freezing cold. It ended up as quite a headcount there. Robin and Richard were the only singles at first, though another roadie called David Harry joined us later. The rest of us were married - DM and his missus, me and mine, Swarb with his wife and stepdaughter, and Peggy and Chris with their baby daughter. One bathroom, one sink, one kettle for all of us! But everybody was happy and it worked socially. We were remarkably tolerant of one another: 'Who's had my bleedin' cornflakes?' Nobody would do the washing up though - it would mount up until Chris Pegg put on her marigolds and put us to shame.    Musically, it was hugely important. We were still incorporating Peggy and we were working on a lot of new repertoire, and putting the older material into the perspective of what was effectively a new band. To do that fairly quickly obviously meant a lot of songwriting and a lot of rehearsal. We'd work hard all afternoon then toddle down to the Nags Head about seven or whenever it opened. Life went on pretty evenly really - mind you, it was a bit of a shock when the building got half demolished by a truck."

'Full House' was produced by Joe Boyd and engineered by John Wood at Sound Techniques in London during February and March of 1970 with vocals recorded at Vanguard Studios in New York City in April of 1970.   The sessions featured  Dave Swarbrick on vocals, fiddle, viola, and mandolin;   Richard Thompson on vocals and electric guitar;   Dave Pegg on vocals, bass guitar, and mandolin;   Dave Mattacks on drums, percussion, harmonium, and bodhran;   and  Simon Nicol on vocals, electric & acoustic guitars, bass guitar, and electric dulcimer.   

Thompson looks back:   "I suppose it’s what they call roots music these days. Some musicians, myself included, feel connected to a tradition that we can go back to for a long, cool drink of water occasionally. You may get “modern” from time to time, but the modes and harmonies of the old music always ring through. They talk about this a lot in classical music—Debussy told Stravinsky that he had to make his music more “Russian.” And of course all those English composers like Britten, Delius, and Vaughan Williams were always recycling the past. In Fairport, we felt real resonance in the music—it was giving back the tradition to the British audiences. I’m still plowing the same field, but it’s a very large field, and I haven’t seen the end of it yet."

'Full House' 
full album:

Side one
"Walk Awhile" (Richard Thompson, Dave Swarbrick) – 3:57
"Doctor of Physick" (Richard Thompson, Dave Swarbrick) – 3:37
"Dirty Linen" (Traditional, arrangement by Dave Swarbrick) – 4:17
"Sloth" (Richard Thompson, Dave Swarbrick) – 9:19
Side two
"Sir Patrick Spens" (Trad. arr. Fairport Convention) – 3:30
"Flatback Caper" (Ronald Cooper, Trad. arr. Fairport Convention, O'Carolan) – 6:24
"Poor Will and the Jolly Hangman" (Richard Thompson, Dave Swarbrick) – 5:31
"Flowers of the Forest" (Trad. arr. Fairport Convention) – 4:04

"Now Be Thankful" (the original mono mix) (Swarbrick/Thompson) - 2:24
"Sir B. McKenzie's Daughter's Lament for the 77th Mounted Lancers Retreat from the Straits of Loch Knombe, in the Year of Our Lord 1727, on the Occasion of the Announcement of Her Marriage to the Laird of Kinleakie" (Trad. arr. Fairport Convention) - 2:52
"Bonny Bunch of Roses" (Trad. arr. Fairport Convention) - 10:48
"Now Be Thankful" (a new stereo mix) - 2:24

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


Black Sabbath fought a private war with supersonic neurotic dreams in the providence of sorrow that issued this baroque metal writ.   The group had evolved from a blues rock dirge to a more progressive sound over the course of five albums  (Black Sabbath  and  Paranoid in 1970;    Master of Reality in 1971;    Vol. 4 in 1972;    and   Sabbath Bloody Sabbath in 1973) with huge success; but at a cost.  

Geezer Butler reveals the emotional backdrop for their next album:    "Around the time of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, we found out that we were being ripped off by our management and our record company. So, much of the time, when we weren't onstage or in the studio, we were in lawyer's offices trying to get out of all our contracts. We were literally in the studio, trying to record, and we'd be signing all these affidavits and everything. That's why it's called Sabotage – because we felt that the whole process was just being totally sabotaged by all these people ripping us off."

'Sabotage' was recorded during February and March of 1975 at Morgan Studios in London, England and  features  Ozzy Osbourne on lead vocals;   Tony Iommi on all guitar, piano, synthesizer, organ, and harp;   Terry "Geezer" Butler on bass guitar;   and  Bill Ward on drums and percussion (piano/backing vocals on "Blow on a Jug").   Will Malone did the arrangements for the English Chamber Choir.  Black Sabbath is credited as co-producer with Mike Butcher, who co-engineered with Robin Black.   David Harris was the tape operator and saboteur.   

Iommi considers:   "It's more of a basic rock album, really in the same way that all the albums up to 'Master of Reality' were, but we've taken a lot more care in the way this one is produced.  We spent a lot of time on 'Volume 4' and 'Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath' but they were moving away from a oneness of approach.  'Volume 4' was such a complete change we felt we had jumped an album, really.  It didn't follow suit because we had tried to go too far and again 'Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath' was a continuation from it.  We could have gone on into more technical things and fulfill a lot the band is capable of achieving and which we don't necessarily do on stage either.  But we decided we had reached the limit as far as we wanted to go...We've always got to be satisfied with what we are going ourselves.  We don't just play for our audience to satisfy them.  We play to satisfy ourselves but we hope that communicates to our audience and that it satisfies them.  We haven't held back because we've thought we are getting too involved - you can't put yourself in that kind of position.  We felt we wanted to get back to a more basic thing."

Osbourne says:   "By the time we did Sabotage we were all fucked up with drugs and we discovered we'd been viciously ripped off. And that cover is horrible. I'm dressed up like a homo in a kimono. But you've got to understand the times. There was no MTV, no one to guide us."

'Sabotage' reached number forty-four in Germany,  thirty-three in New Zealand, twenty-eight in the US, fourteen in Denmark, nine in Austria, seven in the UK, and number six in Norway.

full album:

Lyrics and music by Black Sabbath (Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne and Bill Ward)

1. Hole In The Sky- 0:00
2. Don't Start (Too Late)- 3:59
3. Symptom Of The Universe- 4:48
4. Megalomania- 11:17
5. Thrill Of It All- 20:59
6. Supertzar- 26:55
7. Am I Going Insane?(Radio)- 30:38
8. The Writ- 34:56
9. Blow on a Jug - 43:09 

live 1975