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‘Satisfaction’ shootout: DEVO VS the Residents VS the Rolling Stones (spoiler: the Stones don’t win)
02.26.2015
07:19 am

Topics:
History
Music
Pop Culture

Tags:
DEVO
Rollings Stones
Residents


 
The news release heralding Superior Viaduct’s reissue of the Residents’ deeply messed-up “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” b/w “Loser = Weed” single contains a quotation that rang oddly familiar to me:

The Residents’ 1976 version of The Stones’ Satisfaction is nearly everything the better known version by Devo from a year later is not: Loose, belligerant, violent, truly fucked up. A real stick in the eye of everything conventionally tasteful in 1976 America. Delightfully painful to listen to thanks to Philip “Snakefinger” Lithman’s completely unhinged lead guitar and mystery Resident member’s menacing vocal, this is a timeless piece of yellow plastic.

That blurb is from Brad Laner, a member of not one but two of my favorite bands and a former Dangerous Minds contributor, and in fact, it was a DM post about five years ago—a post I happen to agree with. The Residents’ “Satisfaction” IS pretty admirably unhinged, genuinely frightening, and a righteous fuck-you to a rock canon classic that, in some circles, remains beyond sacrosanct. Contemporary with their second album, the unfuckwithable Third Reich ‘n’ Roll, which, like the single, is an unsparing deconstruction of classic radio hits, many of which were still fairly new songs at the time. “Satisfaction” isn’t on the album—the Rolling Stones are represented there by a half-reverent, half-funereal take on “Sympathy for the Devil” in the album’s coda. While it did appear on the 1988 CD reissue as an extra, along with “Loser=Weed” and a couple of Beatles travesties, the wax itself is a rare collectible, fetching in the neighborhood of $35. Superior Viaduct’s colored vinyl repress, at $9, still feels a tad spendy for a 7”, but that’s way more manageable than procuring an original. It can also be had as part of a five-record bundle with reissues by Flipper, X, the Dils and the Germs, at $40 for the whole set. (I totally want the Flipper one, too, but that’s another post.)
 

The Residents, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction)”
 

 
Of course, DEVO’s version of the song is the one that most aggressively vies with the Rolling Stones’ original for definitive status, and how could it not? Obviously, the original is indisputably classic in every sense of the word, and after five decades, it’s still one of the most widely covered ‘60s songs this side of “Stepping Stone.” But who can really believe that song from Mick Jagger? By the song’s mid-1965 single release, he was already a gazillionaire rockstar heartthrob who probably had illegitimate children in all 48 contiguous US states, so did anyone seriously believe there was anything unsatisfying about that man’s life? For all its musical timelessness—good LORD, that riff!—the Stones’ version edges out Britney Spears’ cover for plausibility (neither singer was particularly “on a losing streak” at the time their version was released), but that’s about it. None of that does all that much to dull its effectiveness as an anthem, but I buy a song about sexual frustration and contempt for commercialism much more readily in the anxiety-ridden version by the brainy midwestern dorks in DEVO. Unlike the Residents, DEVO aren’t shooting for a takedown or a deconstruction; their version feels more like a successful effort to finally put the song in a proper context. Alan Myers’ freakishly asymmetric drum beat and Gerald Casale’s rubber-band bass line are every bit as capable of inducing existential dread in a socially insecure geek as Keith Richards’ ingenious three-note intro riff is of inducing “fuck yeahs” in a classicist, and doesn’t that speak more closely to the intent of the lyrics—not a single word of which DEVO changed?

More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Did the Beatles’ inventor promise to build them a flying saucer?
02.26.2015
06:57 am

Topics:
Music
Science/Tech

Tags:
The Beatles
Magic Alex


Magic Alex and John Lennon, 1968
 
If you’ve ever read a biography of the Beatles, you’ve probably come across the name of Alexis Mardas, or “Magic Alex,” as John Lennon called him. Mardas worked in electronics—Bob Spitz’s Beatles biography claims Alex was working as a TV repairman when he met the band—and the Beatles put him in charge of Apple Electronics, a company that was to have marketed Mardas’ inventions.

According to the books, Magic Alex was full of gear and fab ideas for the lads from Liverpool. Here’s one Ringo remembers: “He had this one idea that we all should have our heads drilled. It’s called trepanning. Magic Alex said that if we had it done our inner third eye would be able to see, and we’d get cosmic instantly.” My buddy Joel looked it up on wikiHow, and I am undergoing the procedure as I type this.
 

John Lennon and Donovan at Magic Alex’s wedding
 
When the New York Times called Mardas a “charlatan” in 2008, he sued the paper and issued a nine-page statement in which he attempted to set the record straight about his activities at Apple Electronics, his alleged role in the Beatles’ break with Maharishi, and the goodness of his name in general. (“As a result of these connections,” Mardas writes of his subsequent work manufacturing electronics, body armor and armored cars for governments around the world, “I developed personal friendships with the kings of Greece, Jordan, Spain, Morocco, and with the President of Egypt and the Prime Minister of Canada.”)

The whole statement is entertaining, but point fourteen is a special treat. In that section, to address “various allegations made by certain persons as to alleged promises by me to invent certain fantastical products,” Mardas enumerates every crazy gadget he is supposed to have pitched to the Fabs. I haven’t been able to read this list through once without laughing out loud. Can you?

I have never promised nor discussed, let alone try to invent any of the following:

14.1   an X-ray camera which could see through walls;

14.2   a force field which would surround a building with coloured air so that no one could see in.

14.3   a force field of compressed air which could stop anyone driving into one’s car;

14.4   a house which could hover in the air suspended on an invisible beam;

14.5   wall paper which could plug into a stereo system and operate as a “loudspeaker”;

14.6   an artificial sun which was intended to hover over Baker Street and light up the sky during the gala opening of the Beatles clothes shop, the “Apple Boutique” on 4th December 1967.

14.7   Magic paint which would make objects it was painted on invisible;

14.8   Electrical paint which could be plugged into a wall and would light up the room;

14.9   A flying saucer made from the V12 engines from George Harrison’s Ferrari and John Lennon’s Rolls Royce or

14.10   A force field around Ringo Starr’s drums that would isolate the drum sounds from the rest of the microphones in the studio. In this connection, I once had a discussion with John Lennon about this topic. I said that it was possible, theoretically, to create an ultrasonic barrier generated by ultrasonic transfusers. This would prevent sound travelling over a certain field. I never suggested that I would make such a barrier.

Just what is an ultrasonic transfuser, anyway? For fun, here’s point fifteen from Mardas’ statement:

15. Further, I deny any suggestion that I promised the Beatles in the presence of Liliane Lijn that I could levitate them using “electro magnetism” and also make them “disappear”. For a start, I never met this lady in the presence of any of the Beatles and the suggestion that I could “levitate” anyone is obviously absurd.

When Mardas refers to “certain persons” making these allegations, the Beatles themselves must be included among them. Some of these claims come from Paul, George and Ringo’s own mouths in the Beatles Anthology book. Paul: “He thought of using wallpaper which would act as loudspeakers.” Ringo: “Magic Alex invented electrical paint. You paint your living room, plug it in, and the walls light up!” George: “I was going to give him the V12 engine out of my Ferrari Berlinetta and John was going to give him his, and Alex reckoned that with those two engines he could make a flying saucer.” Faced with Mardas’ strenuous denials, one wonders where the Beatles got all these ideas, and why they attributed them to him.

In the outtake from Magical Mystery Tour below, a person who appears to be Magic Alex allegedly sings “Walls of Jericho.”
 

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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Einstürzende Neubauten attacks its audience with Molotov cocktails, 1983
02.26.2015
06:01 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Einstürzende Neubauten


Neubauten at The Cat Club in NYC, 1986, via Seele Brennt
 
Everyone and her uncle should seize the opportunity to see Einstürzende Neubauten play. Both of the shows I’ve seen were spellbinding. When it comes to jamming on air conditioners, those “cats” can really “blow,” and theirs is a singular beauty; it’s not like you can just go see the tribute band at the county fair instead.

While there are many historic Neubauten shows I would give a tooth to have attended, their November 19, 1983 gig in Oslo, Norway is not one of them. At that particular fun hootenanny, member Andrew (“N.U.”) Unruh threw Molotov cocktails into the crowd, like as in directly aimed them at human beings in the audience (“with a tight safety margin,” Blixa is careful to add). Here are Blixa Bargeld and FM Einheit’s memories of that show from the now scarce band-sanctioned oral history, No Beauty without Danger:

FM EINHEIT In Oslo, Norway, we played a gallery and chased people with Molotov cocktails. They also defended themselves: for instance, by trying to attack us with the ship turbine, which was actually one of our instruments. It was a pretty good riot in Oslo. That was fun.

BLIXA BARGELD For this show Andrew had prepared 20 Molotov cocktails. And Andrew actually made the audience run by throwing Molotov cocktails aimed right at them. They kept trying to escape but he followed them around the hall and, with a tight safety margin, threw burning gasoline bottles at them. That was great. One of the reasons I got kicked out of school was because I had started a fire. My expulsion had already been decided upon anyway, so I didn’t have anything to lose. But I was still the student body president, and tried to enforce my pseudo-democratic rights by decorating a “Schülermitverwaltungsversammlung”, a kind of student council assembly, with a fire bombing - in which no one was hurt - because I was no longer allowed to take part in the assembly. Fire is a medium of transformation. Fire, as an element of our lyrics and as part of the Einstürzende Neubauten stage show, accompanied us for quite a while. It was mainly Andrew who lit fires on stage. And then at some point we had to stop, because we realized that our audience practically expected this incendiarism from us. That’s when it started to get dull. But it was good, as long as we didn’t control it and so long as it wasn’t expected from us. It was normally Andrew’s job to set fires, and it began on his initiative.


Icelandic TV broadcast a couple minutes of that night’s performance of “Sehnsucht.” You can’t see any Molotov cocktails, but the show sure does look like it’s heading in that direction.

Einstürzende Neubauten’s most recent album is 2014’s Lament.

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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Teeny-tiny models of early synthesizers and analog recording equipment
02.25.2015
01:19 pm

Topics:
Art
Music

Tags:
synthesizer


 
I’m smitten with these tiny models of vintage synthesizers called “Analogue Miniatures” by artist Dan McPharlin. You know how something is so cute you kind of want to squeeze it to death. Yeah, I’m feeling it with these.

“Produced between 2006 and 2009, the “Analogue Miniatures” series was my attempt to pay tribute to early synthesizers and analogue recording equipment. Rather than replicating existing machines, the focus was on creating a revisionist history where analogue technology continued to flourish uninterrupted,” says Dan.

Each musical instrument is handmade using “framing matt-boards, paper, plastic sheeting, string and rubber bands.”

Here’s an idea for Mattel: They need to create a Moog synthesizer savvy Barbie doll, perhaps an homage to electronic musician Delia Derbyshire and include these tiny synths as apart of her kickass accessories. Seriously, how cool would that be? A DELIA DERBYSHIRE BARBIE DOLL, DAMNIT! I want one.

Please Mattel, make this happen.  And if not Mattel, some doll maker with an Etsy shop!

You can view more of Dan’s work here.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Below, a 2009 documentary on Delia Derbyshire:

 
via Bong Boing

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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‘We use the music as an exorcism’: Cabaret Voltaire takes over ‘Night Flight,’ 1985
02.25.2015
08:49 am

Topics:
Music
Television

Tags:
Cabaret Voltaire
Night Flight


 
For many ‘80s teens, the dearly beloved USA Network program Night Flight was a gateway to a whole wide world of cool shit that wasn’t being played anywhere else. There were definitely plenty of Friday or Saturday nights I spent gaping at J-Men Forever or a full Neil Young concert. In some ways Cabaret Voltaire was a perfect Night Flight band, both finding inspiration in European experimental art of the early twentieth century: Night Flight was named after an Antoine de Saint-Exupéry book, and Cabaret Voltaire was named after a legendary dada nightclub in Zurich.

On this particular summer night in 1985—the commercials for John Candy’s Summer Rental and Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II indicate the timing—Night Flight turned over a half hour of programming for what it called an “exclusive documentary” about the Sheffield postpunk masters.

Truly, hats off to the people at Night Flight for executing this in a way that the band itself might have dreamt up. The interview portions consist entirely of footage of Stephen Mallinder and Chris Watson speaking to the camera—there’s no stilted Q&A with a network stooge, it’s all suffused in an ashen b/w mode that is entirely in keeping with the videos we see, of “Just Fascination,” “Crackdown,” and “a special 8-minute version of ‘Sensoria’.” (I’m not sure, but I think this is the 12-inch version that was later included on #8385 Collected Works (1983-1985).)
 

 
In the interview bits, Mallinder says, “If we tried to be straightforward and direct, then it would be contrary to what we are as people, and music’s just an extension of what we are as people,” later saying, “We use the music as an exorcism.” Cabaret Voltaire was never a cheery bunch, and if you’re not into postpunk this entire half-hour will seem not much different from a dreary Sprockets imitation. If so, your loss, dummy!

Also heard during the segment are chunks of “Nag Nag Nag,” “Seconds Too Late,” and “Diskono.”
 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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‘You jive white motherf*ckers!’: Jazz legend Freddie Hubbard spectacularly blows his cool onstage
02.25.2015
08:10 am

Topics:
Music
Race

Tags:
jazz
Freddie Hubbard


 
The year is 1966 and legendary jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard is onstage in Graz, Austria as a sideman for Sonny Rollins.

Distracted by whistling and heckling, Hubbard furiously castigates the audience:

Fuck you white motherfuckers! FUCK YOU white motherfuckers! Well, okay. I’ll go home. If you don’t like me, kiss my ass! That’s right, cuz you jive. You jive. You jive. You white MOTHERFUCKERS! You the ones who started this shit! Lemme tell you - you the ones. Fuck you! FUCK YOU, you jive white motherfuckers! If you don’t like me, KISS MY BLACK ASS! You motherfuckers! Fuck it, I don’t care!

Johannes Probst writes on Big O:

I was talking to James Spaulding, who was in that group, and he remembered the night vividly. Hubbard was drunk and started cussing out the audience. So in the intermission the police kicked in the dressing-room door and took both Hubbard and Spaulding into custody. James was very angry with Freddie, because he had to spend the night in jail.

 

 
Below, hear the influential bebop trumpeter completely lose his shit on a room full of jive white Austrian motherfuckers:
 

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Discussion
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Forget that shitty ‘CBGB’ film, ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ from 1978 takes you inside the real CBGB


 
Three aspiring musicians: Richard Hell, Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd were looking for a place “where nothing was happening” for their band Television to play. If nothing was happening then the bar owner had nothing to lose. One day, down in the Bowery, Verlaine and Lloyd spotted a place initialed CBGB-OMFUG. They sidled across, went inside and talked to the owner a former singer and musician Hilly Krystal. As Lloyd recalled in Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain’s essential oral history of punk Please Kill Me, Hilly wanted to know what kinda music they played. They answered with a question:

‘Well, what does ‘CBGB-OMFUG’ stand for?’

He said, ‘Country, Bluegrass, Blues and Other Music for Uplifting Gourmandizers.’

So we said, ‘Oh yeah, we play a little of that, a little rock, a little country, a little blues, a little bluegrass…’

And Hilly said, ‘Oh, okay, maybe…’

 
01blitzramonebop.jpg
 
In fact, the only real stipulation for appearing at CBGB’s was to play new music, and although Suicide and Wayne County had already appeared at CBGB’s (after the demise of the Mercer Arts Center), it was not until Television, Patti Smith, The Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads and The Dead Boys started taking up residency that CBGB’s changed from something where nothing happened to somewhere it all happened.
 

 
If you were disappointed by the shitty CBGB’s movie made a couple of years back starring Alan Rickman, then you will get a better sense of the energy, talent and musical revolution that took place at CBGB’s in the mid-1970s with this hour-long TV documentary Blitzkrieg Bop . Focussing on The Ramones, Blondie and the The Dead Boys, Blitzkrieg Bop mixes live performance with short interview clips and a racy newscast voiceover. It’s recommended viewing.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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‘He’s a Woman, She’s a Man’: The Scorpions’ transgressive transgender lust anthem
02.25.2015
06:27 am

Topics:
Music
Queer
Sex

Tags:
heavy metal
Scorpions


 
Sure, everyone knows Germany’s Scorpions from their 1980’s (thinning) Hair Metal hits “Rock You Like a Hurricane” and “There’s No One Like You,” but The Scorpions career goes back much further. Their first album, 1972’s Lonesome Crow is (surprisingly great) proggy Krautrock. Over the course of the bands next four releases they shifted their approach to more of a hard rocking, proto-metal sound—a sort of Deep Purple on speedball. By the release of 1977’s Taken by Force, The Scorpions were in full-on assault mode.

 
The track we’ll be examining today is so musically (and lyrically, as we’ll see) ahead of its time, that I dare call it proto-thrash. The performance here from a German television show (how did this get on TV?) rocks so unbelievably hard that you can almost forgive Klaus Meine’s interpretive jazz-hands dancing.

What makes 1977’s “He’s a Woman, She’s a Man” so breath-taking is the stark way in which it deals with the subject of transgender that’s light years beyond what The Kinks were ambiguously laying out in 1971’s hit “Lola.” Granted, The Scorpions’ 1977 English-as-a-second-language is not necessarily sensitive to the titular character referred to as “it” throughout the tune; but a breakdown of the lyrics reveals the storyteller encountering a person of indeterminate gender, at first expressing shock and disbelief, but ultimately essentially saying “fuck it, I’m horny and attracted to this person regardless of my Teutonic heavy metal dude confusion.” The first two verses express bewilderment, the second two express acceptance.

I saw it walking lonely down the street
Cool like a cat and like a crazy dream
I’m looking twice again and can’t believe
It turned around and then it looked at me

I thought, “Oh, no”, it really couldn’t be
It was a man and was a woman too
He’s a woman, she’s a man

I think it really came from far away
I’m feeling hypnotized, I have to stay
It takes my hand and says, “Come on, let’s go”
We’re going home there’s nothing more to say

He starts to move, she starts to play
I need a body, why not you?
He’s a woman, she’s a man

The Scorpions were no strangers to being sexually confrontational in their art. The album which preceded this one, Virgin Killer, featured in its shocking original cover art a nude prepubescent girl with slivers of cracked glass just barely covering the area over her pelvic girdle. The cover, which frequently makes “worst LP cover of all time” lists, was banned in the US, as was the Hipgnosis-designed cover for their Lovedrive LP.
 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Discussion
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‘Moog Plays ABBA’: Australian synthesizer record rarity is fantastic goofy fun
02.25.2015
05:26 am

Topics:
Music
Superstar

Tags:
Moog
ABBA
Robin Workman


 
The mini-craze for Moog synthesizer albums that Switched-On Bach launched in 1968 yielded a bumper crop of kitschy delights, plenty of which are still waiting for you to rescue them from thrift stores. Some of them remain classics—Moog: The Electric Eclectics of Dick Hyman, with its indelible “Topless Dancers of Corfu,” is a keeper, as is Gershon Kingsley’s Music To Moog By, which features the ridiculously catchy “Popcorn,” but plenty of lesser-known efforts in the genre are larded with fun listens.
 

 
Specifically: in 1976, when international ABBA-mania was nearing its height, a wonderful Moog tribute to that band was released on the Australian label TeeVee Records, titled Moog Plays ABBA. The album was made by one Robin Workman, who largely built the songs around traditional rock instruments and played synth leads as stand-ins for vocals. Available biographical data about Workman is mighty scanty, though someone by that name is the longtime director of a company in Sidney called “Keyboard Koncepts.” Amazingly, within a year, following the release of ABBA’s completely HUGE album Arrival, Workman released the album anew—retitled Moog and Guitars Play ABBA: 20 Golden Instrumentals, and given a much less inspired cover—at almost double the original’s length, to accommodate remakes of almost every song from that new ABBA LP! So I guess he really liked it. Here are a few examples, and if this version of “Mama Mia” doesn’t make you smile, you have NO heart.
 

“SOS”
 

“Dancing Queen”
 
More Moogy ABBA after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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At first you’ll think this is the SHITTIEST demo ever put on tape, but give it a little more time…
02.24.2015
08:00 am

Topics:
Kooks
Music

Tags:
outsider music


 
Back in 2003, I temp-worked as a secretary in a recording studio. One day the boss comes by my desk and says “you have to hear this.” What he played then changed my life forever. You don’t come back from a song like “A Little More Time.”  It sinks its lamprey teeth into your mind.

The artist, “McFlee,” with his backing singers, “Photosynthesis,” had just finished a demo session in which they created this visionary masterwork of…uh… let’s call it Vibratospiritual Casiohop.

According to my former boss, who remains nameless to protect his innocence:

I remember [McFlee]  came by and wanted to hear himself on the mic one day so we let him put on headphones and hear himself. He was super stoked. [The engineer] called me in the middle of the session absolutely stunned at the weirdness of the whole thing.

The engineer on “A Little More Time” recollects:

I remember he set up right in the middle of the room with his keyboard and he had about five or six different beats he would cycle through,  and he was running everything live, and didn’t want to pre-record anything. We had the girls set up in the hallway for backing vocals. I just remember when he started the song I was waiting for the ending around the four minute mark, and was looking for Candid Camera around the seven minute mark of the eighth or ninth(?) chorus. I knew this was a classic in the making, and regret not having a camera rolling! It seemed like watching him, every “yeaaaaaaaaa” would get a little more animated, and he was getting comfortable about halfway through the song, with more and more vibrato.

“A Little More Time” hits all the criteria for the truest of “Outsider Music.” It’s an earnest effort to create something real and meaningful that breaks every possible musical and lyrical convention with zero self-awareness. It’s challenging in every way, yet holds its own as an impossibly unforgettable earworm. The track was recorded in September of 2003 and I was luckily able to sneak a copy out of the studio. This is a chopped/screwed edit which excises approximately eight minutes of instrumental passages. If you think this is “difficult music” in its present form, imagine it with an extra eight minutes of keyboard preset instrumental breaks!

Some have noted a striking resemblance between McFlee’s vocal stylings and those of Antony Hegarty (Antony and the Johnsons). Um, sure, why not?

Only a handful of people who were gifted dubbed copies have heard “A Little More Time,” but it’s worth exposing to a greater audience. The video, unrelated to the song, approximates what one imagines a live McFlee performance might possibly entail, and is provided to give the listener a visual to enhance the experience. Follow along with the lyrics or don’t. It doesn’t matter. Soon “A Little More Time” will be jammed into your head like a mental tapeworm, sucking out IQ points while lifting your soul to the heavens. 

Ladies and gentleman, prepare yourselves for the vibrato stylings and astonishing language liberty-taking of the one-and-only McFlee and Photosynthesis.
 

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Discussion
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