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Your pre-debate musical playlist inspired by Donald Trump!

Hey America! Here’s a wild Donald Trump-inspired playlist that all the hip kids are tuning into! I did an expanded version of this on my Intoxica radio show on This should keep you in “the mood” until the debate!

And here we go!

More Trump-inspired music for all you hepcats and pussycats after the jump…

Posted by Howie Pyro | Leave a comment
Do you think you hate the Grateful Dead? Give ‘Terrapin Station’ a try, you might change your mind
12:07 pm



I’ve noticed how posting something about the Grateful Dead on Dangerous Minds tends to bring out both very pro and sometimes very con views from the peanut gallery about the band, or rather, when you look a little bit closer, about their fans.

The fans, the Deadheads themselves, it seems to me, were always the stumbling point for a lot of rock snobs who might otherwise have loved what the Dead had to offer.

I, too, was one of those snobs who turned up my nose at going to see Dead shows many a time (which I now regret) even though I loved them on record. The whole hippie thing felt terribly anachronistic to me, a PiL, Kraftwerk, Throbbing Gristle, Nina Hagen, Residents, Psychedelic Furs-loving kid, during the postpunk era (There was also the factor that I might actually meet the sort of girls I wanted to meet at, say, a Siouxsie and The Banshees show, but never at a Dead show, if that makes sense. It was a time management thing!). The fading tie-dye shtick felt even more dated in the 1990s. Today, I wish I’d gone to see a Dead show. My loss, truly.

Nevertheless, I’ve been going through quite a bit of a Grateful Dead phase lately, and I’ve found over the years, that this journey always comes full circle for me to their 1977 masterpiece, Terrapin Station. As great as American Beauty and Workingman’s Dead are, Terrapin Station is the one that stands out to me. It’s truly a remarkable album, but especially the title title track which takes up all of side two.

Have you ever heard it? If not, what are you waiting for? Press play.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Email from the edge: Rock journalist takes on a deranged REO Speedwagon fan club president & wins!
09:51 am



REO Speedwagon back in the 80s.
Back when I was attempting to finish college (unsurprising spoiler alert: I dropped out) I met future long-running rock journalist Ken McIntyre and since hooking up back in Boston in the late 80s, we’ve been close pals (despite losing touch for a while when I ran away from home and landed in Seattle in the late 90s). Penning for Classic Rock Magazine and Metal Hammer for the past decade under the very metal moniker “Sleazegrinder” my heavily tattooed BFF has interviewed pretty much everyone that had a hit record in 1976. McIntyre has pretty much seen it all but nothing could have prepared him for his bizarre interaction with a woman named “Kathy” who was running a Yahoo-based REO Speedwagon Fan Club back in mid-2000s.

So brace yourselves DM readers because when it comes to levels of insanity this email exchange is beyond bat-shit crazy and truly the product of a dangerous mind.

The amusing cover of REO Speedwagon’s 1979 album ‘Nine Lives.’ Former REO guitarist Gary Dean Richrath is pictured front and center.
When McIntyre got the assignment to pull together a feature for Classic Rock on REO Speedwagon (a band responsible for various relentless earwigs back in the 1980s such as “Keep on Loving’ You” and “Take it on the Run”) he reached out to “Kathy” to see if he could get ahold of former REO guitarist (and the writer behind “Take it on the Run”) Gary Dean Richrath to get “his side” of the REO Speedwagon story. What you are about to read is a verbatim transcript of McIntyre’s email correspondence with “Kathy” that quickly spiraled out of control and devolved into a slugfest of epic proportions. So fire up your bong or grab a drink (I’m quite sure it’s noon somewhere) because you’re going to need it. Here we go!

McIntyre: Hi Kathy, I’m wondering if you can help me out…I’m a writer for Classic Rock magazine, and I am working on a feature on the band for the May issue. I’ve spoken to Bruce and Kevin, and I would love to speak to Gary to get his side of the REO story. Do you know how I can reach him? Any info would be greatly appreciated.

Ken McIntyre

Kathy: Hi Ken: Sorry, but Gary is a gentleman, and prefers not to respond to Cronin’s slamfests. Glad to see they’re using you to hype the new album. It’s going to need a lot of help, since their last live album, “Arch Allies” sold less than 50,000 copies—with the help of Styx.

McIntyre: Jesus, Kathy. They are not “using me” for anything. It’s an objective story on the history of what, apparently, is your favorite band. Thanks for the jaundiced comments. Wish Gary had the chance to speak for himself.

Kathy: Hi Ken: How many times do you think Gary ‘s been asked these questions over the last 18 years? How many times does he have to get slammed by Kevin before he’s had enough? JESUS is right! I get tired of it myself. You’re telling me that in this interview with KC that has nothing but glowing reports about Gary, and how that offer is still open to re-join the band? When the day after his VH1 interview he threatened to sue them and demanded a re-edit? And told fans the next day that Dave Amato was in the band “forever?” Forward it to me, and I’ll run it by Gary. Until then…. good luck! LOLOLOL!

McIntyre: You obviously have some sort of bizarre agenda. And you can keep it.

Kathy: And you obviously don’t know much about the history of this band. Good luck promoting the UK tour.

McIntyre: Can I just ask, out of curiosity, why you would be so rude to a complete stranger asking for simple information? It seems odd to me.

Kathy: Sorry, but I answered your questions honestly and forthrightly. If you want to be pissed off about not scoring an interview AND throw a tantrum by trying to insult me, that’s seems counter-productive to me.

McIntyre: Kathy - I am not pissed off at all, nor am I throwing a tantrum, I am just trying to figure out why you are being hostile. I have no agenda one way or the other. How would I know whether Gary has been answering the same questions for 18 years? I am not a member of the REO fanclub. It doesn’t matter to me whether I “score an interview”, or not. I certainly get paid the same whether I talk to Gary or I don’t. I was simply trying to get both sides of the story. What is odd is that you are treating me like I am from some enemy camp. And Kathy, that is not answering my questions honestly and forthrightly. Honestly and forthrightly would have been, “Sorry, I choose not to help you with this matter.” That would have been fine. Instead, you chose to be needlessly aggressive. I would really like to know why. What have I done to you, except ask a question?

Kathy: You claim you’re not pissed off, throwing a tantrum, or a member of the fan club. Our records show you just signed up tonight. You’re batting 0-3.

McIntyre: Aye yi yi, I signed up for the Yahoo group for research. And you have no evidence of the other two. I meant ‘fan club’ in the metaphorical sense, which I’m sure you knew. That hardly counts as ‘0-3’. Prior to receiving my assignment for Classic Rock, I had not listened to, or thought about, REO Speedwagon for 20 years. I had no idea Gary left the band or who he even was a week ago. I am from Boston, which is not exactly REO territory. Whether you choose to believe that or not is your business, but it’s the truth. My pen name is “Sleazegrinder”, after all, which certainly doesn’t sound like the sort of person who would normally listen to Midwestern arena rock, does it? I have had to soak up as much info as I can about the band, and the Yahoo group was one tool for that. What I don’t get is why you wouldn’t want to cast a better light on “REO fans”. Are they all like you? I would not feel welcome at an REO show if they were.

I just wish you would act like a real person instead of whatever mawkish persona this is. If you are just trying to ward me off the Richrath trail, congratulations, you have done so. But I would still like to get to the root of your rudeness to me. Do you honestly think I have bad intentions?


Kathy: Gosh, Kevin forgot to tell you about Gary ? Sounds like a riveting interview!

McIntyre: Incredible. What a remarkable horror you are!

Jesus CHRIST. Now I need a drink. And somehow the well-chosen words from McIntyre’s SOL salutation “remarkable horror” barely seem to scratch the surface of this 80’s throwback trainwreck. After pouring through the “REO FANS” site it appears that “Kathy” has moved on to other things, perhaps a job with a cable TV company in which she can use her unprovoked argumentative communication skills to talk customers out of cancelling their service or an operator for a suicide hotline.

H/T: Rock journalist Ken McIntyre

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
A young Patti Smith and Jonathan Miller star in a 1971 BBC doc about New York City
09:05 am



Jonathan Miller became famous in the cast of the great 1960s comedy show Beyond the Fringe, sharing the stage with Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, and—I can’t tell if a heart emoji would be out of place here—playwright Alan Bennett. To this day, Dr. Miller is well-known in the UK as a public intellectual, prominent atheist, TV documentarian and opera director. (During the early 1980s, Miller was briefly famous in America, too, as the host of the popular PBS history of medicine, The Body in Question, and as the author of the best-selling book of the same title. He was often a guest on Dick Cavett’s talk show for an entire week at a time.)

In 1971—YouTube says ‘72, but I’ll take Miller’s biographer’s date—Miller returned to New York, a city he’d first visited when Beyond the Fringe played Broadway a decade before, and he brought a BBC camera crew. West Side Stories: Two Journeys into New York City juxtaposed his impressions of New York City and those of a very young Patti Smith.

She looks and sounds like Rimbaud if he just stepped away from a stickball game, which is to say she’s already, as Oliver Stone made Ray Manzarek say, “making the myths.” Patti talks Godard, rock journalism, “slopping the hogs,” spending the whole day on 42nd Street for fifty cents, and the first porno double feature she watched (Orgy at Lil’s Place and Blonde on a Bum Trip), all with unusual verbal facility and charm for a 24-year-old.

In my whole life, no matter where I lived—Chattanooga, Chicago, South Jersey—I was always an outcast. Y’know, even in my own neighborhood, even in my own family. I looked different than my whole family. I always felt alien. Not that I wasn’t loved, but people thought I was weird-lookin’ and skinny and all that. I had an eyepatch which I’ve since got rid of. And I never had no friends or boyfriends. When I came to the city, my whole life changed.

The uploader of this footage, YouTube user Pheidias Ictinus, claims it was the cameraman’s idea to interview Patti:

This film was made by the director Tristram Powell. At the suggestion of his cameraman he went to meet Patti and she ended up as an integral part of the film he was making with Jonathan Miller. The decision was made on the fly, during filming in New York, it was not part of the original concept. That’s what you call creative freedom.

Who would Jonathan Miller’s cameraman tell him to interview in today’s Manhattan? Some tech guy? I can’t wait to turn on the TV in 2047 and hear some tech guy reminisce about New York on the roof of the Chelsea Hotel. Lord, take me now. . .
Watch after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
‘Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father’: Sonic Youth, the Wedding Present and the Fall’s tribute to the Beatles
10:45 am



In 1988, NME got in on the ground floor of the burgeoning turn-of-the-‘90s fad for tribute compilations when it released Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father, a song-for-song recreation of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by various artists with popular or cult followings in the UK, including several tracks that have held up quite well by the likes of the Fall, Courtney Pine, and Sonic Youth.

At the time, the original album had recently been the subject of much 20th-anniversary fawning by midlife-ing Baby Boomers, but in hipper circles its rep was in the shitter, as undergroundists vastly preferred a heavier psychedelia stripped of that acutely Barrett/McCartney/Davies’ penchant for Edwardian whimsy. In just a few years, the rise of Brtipop would slow much alt-handwaving of the Beatles’ legacy, but in 1988, the advance guard would have been happy to bury it. Accordingly, much of Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father drips with a viscous irony. The Scottish soul-pop band Hue and Cry attempted a pretty drastic transformation of “Fixing a Hole,” but it falls short of its ambitions. The Three Wize Men’s version of the title song is similarly transformative, and it certainly has moments, but it’s acutely ‘80s UK hip-hop, of which I’m really not a fan. YMMV, of course. Wet Wet Wet’s version of “With A Little Help From My Friends” is icky and fey, and only merits mentioning because that band was a big enough deal at the time that they alone probably accounted for at least half of the copies of the record sold. The Triffids’ version of “Good Morning Good Morning” is not only the worst thing on the album, it might be the worst thing period.

The comp shines more brightly when its artists aren’t afraid to get weird without trying to erase the source material. The Wedding Present’s contribution, an amped-up version of “Getting Better” with Talulah Gosh’s Amelia Fletcher, is exactly as you’d expect that band to perform the Beatles—poppy and bouncy, yet aggressive and clamorous as all hell. Sonic Youth, in the thick of their dense, twisty, and epic Daydream Nation era, are a beautiful match for George Harrison’s raga-rock freakout “Within You/Without You,” and in fact that cover eventually re-emerged on one of Daydream Nation‘s later reissues. The very very eccentric Frank Sidebottom—the spherically-headed masked singer who inspired the 2014 film Frank—does an absolutely wonderful remake of the very very eccentric John Lennon music hall paean “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite.” The Courtney Pine Quartet’s instrumental take on “When I’m Sixty Four” is a tremendously fun piece of lounge jazz. But the original album’s great set-piece—“A Day in the Life”—is also the tribute’s huge closer, and that song is handled with incredible reverence by the Fall. You’d figure of all bands the Fall would have been likely to go in for the piss-take, but no. It’s quite a stunner.
Listen after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Twenty hilarious minutes of Hugh Cornwell from The Stranglers insulting the audience
09:11 am



The Stranglers arrested for inciting a riot in Nice, France, 1980
One of my favorite Stranglers tracks belongs to the spoken word genre. The B-side “An Evening with Hugh Cornwell” is just 20 minutes of Hugh talking to audiences on the Aural Sculpture tour, c. ‘84/‘85. It’s a bit like Lee Ving from FEAR winding up the crowd in The Decline of Western Civilization, but slower to build and, for me, even more hilarious. It made me sob uncontrollably with laughter the first three or four times I listened to it.

The other two tracks on the Stranglers’ Official Bootleg twelve-inch, “Hitman” and a live version of “Shakin’ Like A Leaf,” surfaced on the recent B-sides compilation Here & There, but “An Evening with Hugh Cornwell” has never been released in digital format.

A sampling of Hugh’s wit and wisdom that doesn’t spoil the best laughs:

What’s wrong? What’s happened? Has it been a depressing day in Sheffield… again?

If you paid ten pounds, you’re a mug! You’re an absolute mug. I wouldn’t pay ten pounds to see us. I wouldn’t! I’d go out and buy two LPs.

Most—all musicians would come up here and say what a great place Newcastle is and you’re all such wonderful people, but I’m not going to say that, ‘cause I think that Newcastle’s awful. Oh, it’s an awful place.

Someone up here is really thick ‘cause he’s thrown his identity card here. He’s gonna forget who he is. Oh no, it’s a lady.

Listen, after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
‘Dream of Life,’ impressionistic study of Patti Smith
01:51 pm



Fashion photographer Steven Sebring exhaustively documented Patti Smith’s wanderings for 11 years after her return to public life in 1995. Of his movie Dream of Life, which came out in 2008, Sebring says, “I want to turn people on to Patti Smith.”

Dream of Life is mostly black-and-white, quite impressionistic in style, and (unfortunately) stints on live performances of Smith on stage. Nevertheless, it’s a fascinating portrait of one of the most important figures of the NYC downtown scene that blossomed in the 1970s.

Camille Dodero wrote an amusing stanza (in Smith’s voice) about this movie in the Village Voice. It goes like this:

As long as I can remember I sought to be free
Bob Dylan once tuned this guitar for me
My mission is to give people my energy
Fred, Jesse, and Jackson are my family tree
New generations, rise up, rise up, take to the streets
Me and Flea talking about pee.

In Dream of Life Patti jams and reminisces backstage with her old lover Sam Shepard, visits her parents in New Jersey and has some burgers with them, and has an amusing conversation with the bassist Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Her admiration for Allen Ginsberg, Rimbaud, and Dylan is a constant. And I’m pretty sure she invented the Salvation Army look that has been fashionable for some time.

Watch ‘Dream of Life’ after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Byrne & Allen: David Byrne on ‘alt country’ cult hero Terry Allen’s 1979 masterpiece
11:18 am



David Byrne writes on influential artist and “alt country” pioneer Terry Allen‘s classic 1979 album, newly reissued by Paradise of Bachelors.

A SLEEPING BAG IN THE WEST TEXAS SCRUB: Reflections on Lubbock (on everything)

Well, I’m here in NYC, chopping onions, and “Amarillo Highway” is playing—so I’m dancing and singing and crying all at the same time. It doesn’t get much better.

I once hitchhiked cross-country and got dropped off on that Amarillo Highway, just as it was getting dark, and a little cold (it’s the High Plains). I was tired, and it was the middle of nowhere (I was not in town), so I walked out into the West Texas Plains scrub and just pulled out a sleeping bag and lay down. That’s a way of saying that highway draws up some pictures in my mind.

So does Lubbock—it must have been 1979 the first time Talking Heads played there, and someone had made a banner to hang by the stage that said in big letters “this ain’t no disco.” These, as some might recall, were the days when disco was viewed as formulaic factory-made music that was threatening “real” music—rock or country, or whatever. The sign had nothing to do with the subject of the song— an imaginary scenario where urban warfare breaks out in the U.S.A., and the singer realizes the revolution is more important than nightclubbing. Whatever. I was a little confused—I liked some disco music!—but I kept mum about that, as I perceived it was meant as compliment.

So … years later … like the instrumental time segue in “The Wolfman of Del Rio” and the one in “The Girl Who Danced Oklahoma” (he does it twice!)…. I was living in L.A., and like many who wash up there, I had aspirations to make a picture. A writer I admired said, “You need to meet Jo Harvey Allen and listen to Terry’s music!” I took that advice. There was some hilarious miscommunication—I think when we first met, in Fullerton, I wrote my contacts on a McDonald’s bag that Jo Harvey promptly threw out. I persevered; I loved her show As It Is in Texas, and by then I was addicted to Terry’s music.

What was Mr. Psycho Killer doing there? The answer is self-evident—listen to this music. Why did Joe Strummer and Terry’s friend Joe Ely become fast friends?

Fast forward… we all became great (if sadly often long distance) friends. I never thought much about it—it all seemed as natural as breathing—but later I realized that, although Terry and I come from different worlds, we do a lot of the same things—music, theater, art—with complete disregard for definitions and boundaries. It all made perfect sense to me, but it didn’t always make life easy, as not everyone gets that. Terry has navigated those waters (or highways, I guess I should say) with skill and maybe some West Texas dance moves, managing to avoid some of the rocks and perils that are strewn about such a hairy career path.

Anyway, back to the record. Terry sometimes sings from his own, or what I assume to be his own, POV—his commentary on Joe Bob, the local football star who “goes bad,” is Terry’s version of schadenfreude, as is “Truckload of Art,” a well deserved comeuppance. “Oui” lays out the painful dilemma many a struggling artist or musician has to consider. But just as often Terry is singing from the POV of the character in the song—like the braggart in “Amarillo Highway.” And sometimes he sings in the third person too—he describes what someone in the song does or feels, and suddenly we’re watching them, watching from Terry’s West Texas vantage point … watching the waitress or the kid who gets his first “release” (took me a while to figure out what that meant!) on “that vinyl tuck and roll.” They’re all described with tender, loving sarcasm, which is a default with Terry. You know you’re OK when he starts seriously teasing you.

The music—first of all, God bless Lloyd Maines, whose hands are all over this album. Secondly, having sat in with Terry more than once, I know that these songs are not as easy to play as I, for one, might have assumed. Sometimes there is an “extra” bar, and sometimes there’s an “extra extra” bar, as the music often follows the lyrics and the peculiar phrasing of the singer. Terry is a storyteller, after all, and the cadence and timing of the words cue the punchlines. Though the music might be vernacular—a mix of country, Latin, and Texas rock—he blends those genres to fit his own ends. It’s familiar sounding, but at the same time something’s off, and that something is what intrigues; it’s what keeps you paying attention.

I’ll point out that there are Latin rhythms present in some songs—not that surprising, as Buddy Holly, that other son of Lubbock, did the same. The Latin and Mexican tinge is ever present in music of all types from that part of Texas. It is absorbed and becomes part of the songwriting and musical grammar of everyone who emanates from that region. It adds a lilt and swing and some ironic references as well (e.g., cocktail lounges) … it adds to the meaning of the songs. The border is fluid, when it comes to music at least.

These songs were written and recorded quite a while ago— so how do they hold up? Pretty damn well, I would say, but I’m not an impartial judge. Musically, this record could have been made this year—“Americana,” it’s called now—and it would be judged an amazing record still.

What does the title mean? To me it means that Lubbock, the town where (this is not my joke) it’s so flat, if you stand on a chair you can see your own backside, is like a sauce that flavors all of these songs. What’s the leather chair on the cover mean? I don’t know. There have to be some mysteries left unexplained, I guess.

So if you’re reading this, it’s too late—my words can’t convince you to buy the album. But maybe I can convince you that appreciation for Terry’s art, and this is surely art, is widespread. It goes well beyond Texas. In my opinion it’s art that uses a popular form, hijacks that accessibility and familiarity, and says things you’d never expect those forms to say. This is not regional music or regional art—it touches folks cutting onions (now sautéed) here in NYC and wherever folks’ ears and hearts aren’t stuck in a rut.

—David Byrne, 2016


Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Il Gruppo: Ennio Morricone’s darkly avant garde experimental musique concrète krautrocky noise group
09:46 am



Quite a mouthful, that title, I do agree, but I wanted to get the entire point across at a glance in the headline, this being the Internet and all…

In the early 1960s—playing mostly trumpet and flute—the great Italian cinema maestro Ennio Morricone became a member of Gruppo di Improvvisazione di Nuova Consonanza, a musicians collective with evolving membership started by Franco Evangelisti. The players were dedicated to “anti-musical” systems compositions, electronic sounds, serialism, musique concrète and noise. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians described Evangelisti as “one of the most radical minds of the Italian postwar avant garde” and he was known as a sort of heady, highbrow “scientific” composer, interested in the effects of sonics and their effects on human perception. He was the author of an influential book From Silence to a New Sonorous World, published in 1980, the year of his death.

The ensemble—also known as “The Group” or “The Feed-Back”—called their technique “Instant Composition” although nothing was ever composed per se, but improvised directly to tape. Utilizing “noise”—in the sense advocated by John Cage of considering everything, including the kitchen sink, as musical—the group worked their unique mix of free jazz improv meets harsh atonalities, electronic blorts, bleeps, drones and pounding percussion into a handful of albums and Morricone’s memorably intense soundtracks to Elio Petri’s A Quiet Place in the Country, Enzo Castellari’s 1971 giallo Cold Eyes of Fear (“Gli occhi freddi della paura”) and the utterly insane Eroina where each song was meant to simulate the effects of a specific drug! The three main people involved were Evangelisti, Morricone and the darkly Dionysian avant garde composer Egisto Macchi. Others came and went.

At times il Gruppo sounded positively funky, at others like a proto-Einstürzende Neubauten going psychedelic beatnik. Or a lot like Can, Faust or Amon Düül II. When Morricone’s trumpet is heard most prominently, they can sound surprisingly in sync with the druggy wigged-out “electric Miles” era output of Miles Davis in the 1970s. They were noisy, yes, but these guys were also extremely accomplished musicians—each a respected middle-aged composer—so there was nothing even remotely primitive about what they were doing. Improvising, sure, but not merely fucking around. Think early John Zorn meets Karlheinz Stockhausen or Luigi Nono and you’ll at least be in an adjacent ballpark to where Gruppo di Improvvisazione di Nuova Consonanza did their thing.

Zorn wrote the liner notes for their 2006 box set, Azioni, which is a good place to start, perhaps aside from the soundtrack to Cold Eyes of Fear, which I also highly recommend.

“Seguita” from the ‘Cold Eyes of Fear’ soundtrack (1971)
More after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Downs’: A stoned and chaotic unreleased Alex Chilton track from new Big Star box, ‘Complete Third’
09:18 am



Big Star - Complete Third

I was getting very destructive in a lot of ways then, and I was trying to capture that on recordings. –Alex Chilton

On October 14th, Omnivore Recordings will release the Big Star boxed set, Complete Third. Nearly ten years in the making, the collection includes all of the demos, rough mixes, alternate takes, and final masters that could be unearthed from the infamous 1974 Alex Chilton/Jody Stephens recording sessions that would produce the third—and for decades, final—studio album released under the Big Star moniker. As many of you reading this surely know, Big Star released two incredible albums on Ardent Records that should have been pop hits, but sank without a trace (largely due to poor distribution). By the time of the recording of what would become Third, two of the founding members—including Chilton’s songwriting partner, Chris Bell—had split. The Third sessions took place during a particularly rough patch for Chilton.

I was getting pretty crazy and into some pretty rotten drugs and drinking a lot. And I just wasn’t thinking in any practical terms at all after having the first Big Star albums go pretty much unsought.

Much of the Big Star mythology has to do with their third album, which wasn’t released until 1978, long after the band’s demise. The record label’s choice of album title, track listing, and even the use of the band’s name has been called into question—something that continues every subsequent time the record is retitled, reconfigured, and reissued. In the liner notes for Complete Third, the mysteries that still surround the project are explored: Why were the recordings shelved for so many years? What is the album title? Is there a definitive track sequence? Were the recordings meant to be released as “Big Star” or under another name entirely? Was it actually intended to be Alex Chilton’s solo debut? Was the album even formally completed?
Alex Chilton
Alex Chilton

What would become commonly known as Third was recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis over a four-month period. Jim Dickinson was the producer, and John Fry, owner of the Ardent label and studios, was the main engineer. Dickinson brought an experimental approach to the proceedings, which immediately impressed and inspired Chilton, and thus greatly influenced the outcome, while the strange and pleasing ambience captured on the album is attributed to Fry, who also created the final mixes. At the time of the recordings, Big Star was on the verge of collapse, and many of Chilton’s other relationships—like those with his girlfriend/muse, Lesa Aldridge, and John Fry—weren’t exactly stable either. The sessions were, by all accounts, tumultuous. For starters, Chilton and drummer Jody Stephens taped the basic tracks live—which would normally be fine and dandy, only Chilton didn’t play his demos for Stephens ahead of time. Things really got out of hand during wild late night overdubbing sessions, with all sorts of people coming and going and drinking and drugging. All this craziness ended up having a major impact on the recordings.

If you take enough bad drugs and drink enough you’re gonna be writing some pretty strange music. –Alex Chilton

The bleakness and debauchery present on a number of the songs is palpable, resulting in a voyeuristic quality that can be awkward and unsettling. Many of the arrangements will strike new listeners as odd, like on “Big Black Car,” in which the sound of silence was incorporated. How “Dream Lover” would flow wasn’t even thought out, so what’s heard on the album is the arrangement being created as it was recorded. The frequent presence of strings, which are absolutely gorgeous, add additional layers of melancholy to the somber, druggy tracks.
Jody Stephens
Jody Stephens

The darker tunes were offset by loose, up-tempo rock numbers, with many of the songs crashing to a halt at their conclusions. One of the notable highlights is Chilton’s defiant, “You Can’t Have Me,” featuring a dazzling synth-bass part and a rousing middle section that sounds like it’s gonna burst at the seams.

And then there’s “Downs.” Neither blue in mood, nor a joyous-sounding rocker, it IS stoned and chaotic—the oddest track on the fantastic, out-there LP. It’s also the spark that ignited the Third sessions.
Chilton and Lesa Aldridge
Chilton and Lesa Aldridge

Written by Chilton and Aldridge, “Downs” is an ode to the couple’s preferred form of intoxicants. It was composed in Chilton’s apartment, with Chilton handling the music and Aldridge coming up with most of the lyrics. Chilton was so pleased with the results that he quickly recorded a guitar/vocal demo and rushed the tape over to John Fry, who was impressed enough with the track that he gave the go-ahead to record an album.
Chilton and Fry
Chilton and John Fry

When it came time to record “Downs” at Ardent, Fry commented—within earshot of Chilton—that he thought the song had the potential to be a hit. BIG MISTAKE. Chilton, who made two commercial albums with Big Star, only to see them flop, was no longer interested in trying to make hits. In an act that could be described as self-sabotage, Chilton went out of his way to make the track radio unfriendly.

Chilton: “Let’s do the snare drum with a basketball!!”

“I remember the look on his (Fry’s) face,” Dickinson later recalled. “If Fry had just not said how good it was….” So, believe or not, a deflated basketball was indeed used on “Downs.” Steel drums were also brought in, giving the track a wobbly feel. Adding to the unsteadiness is Chilton’s vocal, as he slurred the melody, either to match the lyrical subject matter, or simply because he was out of his head.

Dickinson would go on to say that Chilton “destroyed” the song.
Jim Dickinson
Jim Dickinson

I have to say that I dig “Downs.” It’s just so gloriously fucked up! How it turned out surely made an impression on the man himself, as it points towards the ramshackle form Chilton’s music would take during the second half of the 1970s.

But don’t take my word for it. Dangerous Minds has scored the premiere of John Fry’s early mix of the song, one of the previously unreleased alternate mixes included on ‘Complete Third,’ and you can hear it after the jump…

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Leave a comment
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