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‘A Few Tunes Between Homicides’: Never before released song by Lead Belly! Dangerous Minds exclusive
06:12 am


Lead Belly

That great American blues/folk artist Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter was born on January 20, 1888 (or 1889), making today the 127th (or 126th) anniversary of his birth. He’s known today for popularizing songs like “Goodnight Irene,” “Midnight Special,” and “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” as American folk and, eventually, rock ‘n’ roll standards, but in his day, Lead Belly was widely renowned for having been in jail. A lot. Thrice, in fact—once on a weapons charge, once for killing a man, and a third time for trying to kill a man.

Remarkably, Lead Belly literally sang his way out of prison! His second stint was cut short by a pardon issued after Lead Belly wrote a song honoring the then-Governor of Texas Pat Morris Neff, and he repeated the stunt during his third hitch, in Louisiana (though as he may have been eligible for a good-behavior release anyway, it’s disputed whether it was really the song that did the job). It was while he was serving that third sentence that Lead Belly was recorded in performance by the famous father-son team of folklorists John and Alan Lomax, which of course is how we know him today. From an essay by Smithsonian Folkways archivist Jeff Place, which will appear in the forthcoming 5-disc retrospective Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection, and which we’ve edited for length:

Angola was one of the worst prisons in the South; it was probably as close to slavery as any person could come in 1930. Lead Belly became known around the prison for his singing and guitar playing. This was the situation when John Lomax wrote the prison warden L.A. Jones about visiting on behalf of the Library of Congress to record prison songs.

John Lomax and his young son Alan were traveling and recording African American folk songs in prisons in the South. They were hoping to find older African American vernacular music not “contaminated” by the popular blues and jazz of the present day, and they felt long-term prisoners who had been isolated from society might just be the answer. Fresh from recording some of Lead Belly’s fellow prisoners at Sugarland on July 5, 1933, they arrived at Angola on July 16. Lead Belly was suggested to them as a good singer to record, and they realized they had really made a “find.”

The Lomaxes made 12 recordings. Lead Belly saw an opportunity in this situation for himself and “wondered if a pardon song” might work again. Unlike Neff, Louisiana governor O.K. Allen did not tour prisons, so Lead Belly didn’t have access to him. When the Lomaxes returned the following July to record 15 more songs, he had a special one prepared, “Governor O.K. Allen.” He asked if John Lomax would deliver a recording of the song to Allen’s office. Lead Belly had previously written asking for a pardon as well. It is not known whether Allen listened to the song, but Lead Belly was officially granted a pardon on July 25, 1934. Again, the state maintained it was purely on the basis of “good time.”

Lead Belly’s meeting with the Lomaxes was re-enacted for a short newsreel film that, luckily, survives. Here it is, featuring Lead Belly and John Lomax woodenly playing themselves, with a darkened garage standing in for a prison yard. It’s kind of ridiculous, and to a viewer today it’s full of embarrassing values dissonance (loads of “yassuh” racism, unsurprisingly) but on the other hand, it’s motion footage of Lead Belly performing “Goodnight Irene!”

After his third release, in 1934, Lead Belly made a go of a singing career, abetted by the Lomaxes, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, and tantalizingly lurid newspaper descriptions like “Murderous Minstrel,” “Virtuoso of Knife and Guitar,” “Two-Time Dixie Murderer Sings Way to Freedom,” and by far my favorite for its sheer over-the-top sensationalism, “Sweet Singer of the Swamplands Here to do a Few Tunes Between Homicides.” Lead Belly fell out with Lomax in 1935, but his career continued, and in 1948, he would make his final recordings. Again from Jeff Place:

During the 1940s, Lead Belly met two individuals who would become important to his final years of life, Frederic Ramsey Jr. (1915–95) and Charles Edward Smith (1904– 70). Both men were record collectors and jazz scholars and had recently jointly published a book, Jazzmen (1939). They were interested in researching early African American music from the South to search for the roots of jazz. Lead Belly’s repertoire was a perfect resource in this quest. Ramsey felt that Lead Belly’s repertoire had been under-recorded and wanted to get as much of it as he could on tape.

Ramsey got to know Lead Belly socially after the war. “Lead Belly used to come up and visit, and people would come and visit, and we would really throw parties, and you couldn’t stop that guy from performing. I mean, he did it, you could have paid him nothing, he’d come there and have a good time and he would play”. One night Huddie and Martha were invited to the Ramseys for dinner, and Ramsey showed Lead Belly the new machine. Ramsey had hung drapes in his apartment to simulate the sound dampening in a recording studio. Lead Belly wanted to try it out, although he had not brought his guitar, not planning on playing. Ramsey had only a cheap microphone. With Martha’s occasional help he recorded 34 songs that night. Better yet, the tape deck allowed the recording of the introductions and the stories behind the songs. There would be three evening sessions (with the guitar at the other two, along with much better RCA mics borrowed from Moe Asch), and more planned. Lead Belly left for a European tour before additional sessions could be arranged. “Anyway, I think we had maybe three or four gatherings, and I could be wrong about this, it certainly wasn’t all done in one evening, but he used to come and once he… he was a guy who got really comfortable, once he got started, he wouldn’t stop.”

That many of these last recordings were recorded unaccompanied was sadly prophetic. Lead Belly would soon be exhibiting the symptoms of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), which robbed him of his ability to play before took his life near the end of 1949.

The aforementioned Folkways set, Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection, is the most comprehensive career-spanning retrospective of his work yet, and is scheduled for release on February 24th, 2015. Packaged in a 140 page 12x12” book, it features over 100 songs on five discs, 16 of which have never been released. One of those unreleased songs comes from that guitar-less session at Frederic Ramsey’s apartment. It’s called “Everytime I Go Out,” an original composition that doesn’t appear to have ever been recorded in any other form. We at Dangerous Minds are thrilled to be able to debut it for you today.

Previously on Dangerous Minds
The only film footage of blues/folk legend Leadbelly
Kurt Cobain and Mark Lanegan’s short-lived Leadbelly tribute band
The amazing old Paramount Records ads that inspired R. Crumb

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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The Magick & Madness of Geoff Crozier, psychedelic shaman, trickster, evil court jester
03:12 pm


Geoffrey Crozier
Geoffrey Krozier

Although he (apparently) vanished off this mortal coil in 1981, three decades after his death musician/magician Geoffrey Crozier (or Jeff Crozier or Geoffrey Krozier or any number of variations on that theme) still makes ghostly appearances all over the world via documents of his work that have been posted posthumously on the Internet like freaky little occult bombs with long fuses.

Crozier was called “the high priest of exorcism-rock,” “the Mad Magician,” “High Priest of Magick” and billed as a “voodoo psychedelic magician.” To think of him as merely an Aussie Alice Cooper (or Arthur Brown for that matter) is to entirely miss the point of the truly impressive CHAOS this guy was able (and quite willing) to orchestrate as a performer. Alice is, and always was, just a stage act. This guy obviously meant it. Like a man possesed, Crozier was also clearly doing whatever it was he was doing for his own benefit and only secondarily for the audience’s entertainment.

Suffice to say, I don’t think anyone who ever saw the man perform, let alone they who performed with Geoffrey Crozier, ever forgot him. Although he played with quite an assortment of different musicians, it seemed like his modus operandi changed little throughout the years. Loud music. Pandamonium. Pyrotechnics. Flashing lights. Illusions. Always a distinctly Dionysian, if not downright evil, flavor to the proceedings. No matter who was backing him at a given time, the idea was to have them just “play”—that is play whatever, basically, I don’t think he was fussy as long as it was half or fully crazed.

Duncan Fry, who played guitar in one of Crozier’s earliest groups, writes:

What he wanted was free-form continuous music for the 30 minutes or so that he performed, while clouds of oily smoke, flashpots, and strobe lights alternately choked and dazzled the audience. Most of the musicians who turned up for the audition couldn’t handle such a laissez-faire attitude to the music side of things.

“But what songs are we going to play?” they would whine. “No songs, just play, play” Geoff would reply, setting off another flash pot.

While Crozier did his thing, he would talk-sing in a freeform surrealistic schizophrenic poetic manner, often using snatches of Aleister Crowley. The effect was not unlike a demon-possesed jabberwocky-spouting Vivian Stanshall in many respects.

Here’s a loose transcription of the sort of thing he’d…uh… rap, quoted from a fascinating 2006 post about Crozier on Julian Cope’s Head Heritage website:

“Pope Pubic, 13th of March, April 1972 and the year of rats as big as cats, hmmm, what a well-hung door… Flamshot was his well-oiled name, and he was a supreme and utter no nonsense around here mate or I’ll rip your lungs out and flush your entrails into my hair he said. Face me when you talk to me, son of a tinker’s curse, all hail the redback, and let’s take drugs together, and let’s get pissed together and let’s fuck one another and let’s drown in one another’s bubbling bloodbath as we cut each other’s throats… mmm I’d like to see you squirm, I’d like to see you burn, and finally the coin stopped spinning and fell back to earth, and they both got what they wanted… a Shiva hand-job!”


There are fragments of Krozier’s biography scattered here and there (the best perhaps being “Geoff Krozier – A Magik Story” an essay from his friend and collaborator Rob Greaves). The (very) short version is that he was born Jeff Crozier in Australia in 1948, started off as a stage magician/illusionist in the mid-60s at a young age. His act was becomes something darker and much wilder incorporating psychedelic rock music with the formation of what ultimately became known as Geoff Krozier’s Indian Medicine Magik Show, having previously been called The Magic Word, or when they performed in more conservative parts of Oz, the Magic Pudding!

He ends up in New York during the punk era, living on Staten Island in a tiny room with “a dog called Schroeder, a black cat named Quasar, a dove named Tweedledee and a monkey with the unlikely moniker of Sarcophagus Mayhem.” There he performs with Kongress, a mind-bending mid-70s NYC punk outfit that also included berserk No Wave legend Von LMO on drums and Otto Von Ruggins on synthesizers. (We’ve covered Kongress before on the blog here). After that implodes—Crozier and Von LMO apparently felt homicidal towards one another—he returns to Australia, is given the Australian Society Of Magicians’ Magician Of The Year award and in 1980 he hooks up with an electronic group called The Generator (or Rainbow Generator) and records and performs with them.

Crozier hung himself on May 17th 1981. With the details of his biography scattered hither and yon like digital ashes, it’s impossible to say too much about him with much assurance. Google him yourself and you’ll see what I mean. [Try alternate spellings of his name: Jeff Crozier, Geoff Crozier, Geoff Krozier, etc to tease out more mentions of this fascinating character.]

The clip below is an insane 1970 vintage performance of Geoff Krozier’s Indian Medicine Magik Show from an Australian television program called Hit Scene that has got to be the single most demented thing anyone did on TV (let alone in private) anywhere in the world that year. As I watched this, I wondered how such a thing could have been allowed to happen and I found that the answer that Krozier’s day job at the time was as a set painter at Channel 9, so he had connections at the various TV shows taped there and was able to fill in at a moments notice if another act cancelled, so that is the answer as to “how” something this insane occurred and was beamed into middle class living rooms some 45 years ago.

However it happened, I’m just glad that it did. Press play….

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘They tried to make us look like the Clash!’ Van Halen’s rejected first album cover
03:08 pm


The Clash
Van Halen

Here’s a wonderful story reported by Greg Renoff over at Ultimate Classic Rock. Today we think of Van Halen and the Clash as occupying very distinct places in the hard rock firmament. Influenced by Jamaican reggae, the Clash is all about anger, political resistance, and liberation, while super-noodly arena-rock heroes Van Halen boogies to a decidedly sexier party backbeat. But that wasn’t so clear to the executives trying to figure out how to position Eddie, David Lee and the gang. At the time of Van Halen’s self-titled first album in February 1978, one of the most visible bands in the world was the Clash, whose own self-titled first album had been shaking things up for almost a year. 

It wasn’t like Van Halen was unfamiliar with punk and its cousin, new wave—on the contrary. Punk had long since hit the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, and Van Halen had been in lineups at the Whisky à Go Go nightclub with bands like the Mumps, the Dogs, and the Motels. In a meeting with Warner Bros., the first stab at the album cover was presented—and it was a disaster. Not only had the designers misunderstood the band’s name to be Vanhalen, but the downbeat photo—Michael Anthony looks like he’s just eaten a bad Quaalude or something—placed Alex Van Halen in the foreground while natural ham David Lee Roth is practically snoozing in the background.

It didn’t take long for manager Marshall Berle and the band to reject the cover. As Eddie would later tell Guitar World, “They tried to make us look like the Clash. We said, ‘Fuck this shit!’”

After absorbing Van Halen’s criticisms of the preliminary cover art, Warner Bros. hired photographer Elliot Gilbert to shoot the band onstage at the Whisky, which made for a completely different impression. Eddie is waving his famous Frankenstrat around like he’s Nigel Tufnel or somebody. Add Dave Bhang’s silver, winged VH logo and you had a glitzy, balls-out look that was perfect for the new cocks on the walk. Eddie later said that after the band saw the logo, they “made [Warner Bros.] put it on the album so that it would be clear that we had nothing to do with the punk movement. It was our way of saying ‘Hey we’re just a fucking rock and roll band, don’t try and slot us with the Sex Pistols thing just because it’s becoming popular.’”

Here’s Van Halen on the Clash’s turf, London, at the Hammersmith Odeon on June 1, 1978, playing one of the best tracks off the debut, “Little Dreamer”:

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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‘The Side Effects of the Cocaine’: Mini-comic about David Bowie’s coked-up, paranoid years
10:15 am


David Bowie

Nearly five years ago, in August 2010, Sean T. Collins (writer) and Isaac Moylan (artist) posted “The Side Effects of the Cocaine” on a Tumblr dedicated for the purpose. It had as a subtitle, “David Bowie 01 April 1975-02 February 1976,” which puts us squarely in the Thin White Duke era, of course, covering Station to Station (the title of the comic comes the title track of that album), Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth, Bowie’s appearance on Soul Train, Bowie’s Playboy interview, conducted by Cameron Crowe, who also wrote “Ground Control to Davy Jones,” a profile on Bowie for Rolling Stone that appeared in February 1976. As Peter Bebergal wrote in his excellent book Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll, “When a nineteen-year-old Cameron Crowe visited David Bowie for a Rolling Stone magazine interview in 1975, he found a coked-out Bowie lighting black candles to protect himself from unseen supernatural forces outside his window” of his home in Hollywood.

In that Playboy interview Bowie made some comments about the appeal of fascism that would get him into trouble:

Television is the most successful fascist, needless to say. Rock stars are fascists, too. Adolf Hitler was one of the first rock stars. ... Look at some of his films and see how he moved. I think he was quite as good as Jagger. It’s astounding. And, boy, when he hit that stage, he worked an audience. Good God! He was no politician. He was a media artist himself. He used politics and theatrics and created this thing that governed and controlled the show for those 12 years. The world will never see his like. He staged a country.

Bowie’s diet during this period was famously red peppers, milk, and cocaine, with more than a soupçon of fame and paranoia.

It’s one of Bowie’s best and most interesting periods—Station to Station is my favorite Bowie album—and in “The Side Effects of the Cocaine” Collins and Moylan take a peek at the romantic/fucked-up mythos of that period. What is the significance of the dates April 1, 1975-February 2, 1976? Well, April 1, 1975 was the date that Bowie severed ties with MainMan, Tony Defries’ management company, and it’s that scene that kicks us off in the comic. On February 2, 1976 was the start of his Isolar tour, in Vancouver, British Columbia, which ends the comic. You can read an account of that show by Jeani Read under the title “Sinatra Having a Bad Dream,” which presumably ran in the Vancouver Sun the next day (but I don’t know this):

Bowie performances are-have been-legendary for being massively orchestrated orgies of visual and musical sensationalism. Which makes the current offering the biggest no-show of his career. And possibly the best. The thing was absolutely brilliant, maybe for its sheer audacity than anything else, but brilliant nonetheless.

Dressed in black 40’s style vest and pants, white French-cuff shirt, edge of blue Gitanes cigarette pack sneaking out of his vest pocket. Posturing-a naked kind of elegance now, brittle and brave-in front of a bare essential band of guitars, keyboards, drums and bass, on a bare black stage in the bare glare of white-only stage and spots. Looking about as comfortable as Frank might fill-in as lead singer for Led Zeppelin, and even within that assuming total control over the proceedings.Bowie has always said that on stage he feels like an actor playing the part of the rock star.

Collins and Moylan take a slice-of-life approach with Bowie’s life, with the proviso that his life wasn’t anything like a normal person’s at this time. Towards the end some of the panels feature Bowie making utterances from his Playboy interview.

Click here to read the whole thing.






Here’s “Station to Station” being rehearsed in Vancouver prior to the Isolar tour in 1976, for those who want to hear the title line. Note that Bowie forgets the lyrics, but the band soldiers on:


Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Think ‘Kokomo’ is the Beach Boys’ worst single? THINK AGAIN.
07:59 am


Beach Boys

It was really only a couple of years, from the zeitgeist-altering success of Saturday Night Fever to the notorious Comiskey Park Disco Demolition‘s galvanizing of backlash, that disco was overwhelmingly pre-eminent in pop culture, but for those two years, my god, it was assertive. It seemed like pretty much every above-ground musical and nonmusical artist had to somehow nod to disco, whether or not that artist had even the slightest prior obeisance to the dance floor. Popular artists of all stripes, from punk prime movers Blondie, to blues-steeped British Invasion-era stalwarts like the Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart, to country rockers the Eagles, to metal’s most brazen buck-chasers Kiss, all released disco songs, or at least adopted disco’s production strategies. And then by 1980 it was like it never happened, though of course, if there was ever indeed a “battle” for the charts between disco and rock, rock’s “victory” was definitely pyrrhic, as today’s pop radio norms are much deeper in disco’s debt.

That resolute fad had plenty of absurd expressions, some of them actually really funny in hindsight. One truly baffling example was when, in 1979, the goddamn BEACH BOYS of all bands capitulated, releasing the shamelessly pandering 12” single “Here Comes The Night (Remix).” Produced by band member Bruce Johnston for their preposterous last-ditch attempt at late ‘70s relevance L.A. (Light Album), it clocks in at over ten minutes. To be exact, it’s a 10:42 litany of unexceptional four-to-the-floor beats and kitchen-sinked disco tropes that have almost nothing to do with the original song, which appeared on the Beach Boys’ middling 1967 album Wild Honey. Here’s that original:

FAR from their best work, but not utterly terrible. Like its predecessor Smiley Smile, Wild Honey was conceived and released in the immediate aftermath of the implosion of SMiLE, and though it’s enjoyable enough, the band’s failure to follow up Pet Sounds with anything of like quality left their rep in the crapper, so sales were poor. One can only guess as to why “Night” was the song they decided to disco up. Maybe it was because the let’s-fuck lyrical content fit with disco’s hedonistic character? It just seems like it would have made more sense, since they were pandering for sales anyway, to remix a song that had been popular in the first place. It didn’t even work. L.A. was poorly received, and from there the Beach Boys began their descent into Mike Love’s traveling no$talgia act. I will say this for “Night,” though: it may be the one Beach Boys song to feature a vocoder, and of that, I vigorously approve.

Previously on Dangerous Minds
‘The Ethel Merman Disco Album’
Disco-tastic Italian Beatles medley from 1978 will melt your brain!
Worst Led Zeppelin cover of all time? Disco duo Blonde On Blonde cover ‘Whole Lotta Love,’ 1979

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Have sex and lose weight at the same time with Sexercise
06:44 am



For couples who want to shed a few extra pounds without getting out of bed there’s a new “rhythm method” of love-making which will help them “work up a sweat between the sheets.”

The UK’s second largest health and beauty retailer Superdug has just released a free download of a 22-minute track called “Sexercise” that is intended “for couples looking to get athletic in the bedroom.”

The track was produced by a group of fitness experts who analyzed the sex lives of 2,000 British couples and discovered the average length of a UK sex session was 22minutes 48seconds. With this in mind they created a track full of changes in tempo and beat intended to encourage couple’s fat-burning love-making sessions. The track has a “warm-up” intro for foreplay before gradually increasing the beat for an explosive climax.

An average love-making session can burn up 101 calories in men and 69 calories in women, and is a lot more fun than going to the gym.

At the launch of “Sexercise” head of retail health at Superdrug Cari Newson said:

“Over the years, the many health benefits of sex have been well documented, from beating stress and relieving pain, to bringing couples together and boosting confidence, as well as, of course, as a form of aerobic exercise.

“We commissioned this track as a fun way to show the health benefits an energetic love making session can have. It’s an easy way for couples to incorporate exercise into their daily routine, but just remember to always practice safe sex.

“Whether it’s advice on sexual health, family planning or weight management, our in-store healthcare experts at Superdrug are available to offer free advice to help customers with their health and wellbeing goals in 2015.”

If this floats your boat then you can download the track here.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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‘Boom Chicka Boom,’ the lost Pixies song
10:26 am



I got into record collecting because I decided when I was thirteen that I had to have every note the Pixies ever played. In the early 90s, this holy mission entailed spending a lot of time, and such money as I could get my hands on, acquiring European bootleg CDs at shops and record fairs. These used to be advertised euphemistically as “rare live imports.” Despite their widely variable sound quality, often ridiculous titles and blurry, flimsy covers, they sold for about double the price of legit albums. That’s a lot of allowance money; some musicians were not pleased. I have heard tell that, one day c. 1992, Courtney Love walked into Aron’s Records (RIP) in Hollywood and liberated every “rare live import” in the Nirvana section. It is also said that she gave everyone within earshot a piece of her mind.

It took years of hoarding this stuff before I realized what a strange hobby it was to collect recordings of Pixies shows. The Pixies were not famous for busting out new arrangements of old favorites or wild improvs in concert; it wasn’t as if I could dig through my collection and say, “Dude, you know the November ‘89 shows? Check out this 12-minute version of ‘Tame’ from Lupo’s. It’s so heavy—it’s like Santiago’s playing the seven ages of man!” No, aside from a few small variations here and there—the keyboard intro Eric Drew Feldman added to “Gouge Away,” say, or the extra part in old performances of “Subbacultcha” that became “Distance Equals Rate Times Time,” or the slowed-down ending of some versions of “Nimrod’s Son”—the live versions of Pixies songs sounded just like the records. That’s why it was such a surprise when they invited Paul Shaffer and the World’s Most Dangerous Band to take solos during the two groups’ massed performance of “Trompe le Monde” on Letterman

The really good stuff in my teenage nerd hoard was the B-sides, radio sessions and demos. In the intervening quarter-century, just about all of those recordings have been officially released or re-released. For whatever reason, the exception is this fine rocker, “Boom Chicka Boom,” from the band’s early days in Boston. Here’s a decent recording of the Pixies playing the song on Emerson College’s radio station in January 1987:

There’s camcorder footage of a 1986 performance of “Boom Chicka Boom” here.

Because so many Pixies lyrics concern unexplained phenomena, I’ll leave you with this. Two Orange County papers reported that the Pixies played “Boom Chicka Boom” on the first night of their engagement at the El Rey in 2013. But I was there, and they didn’t play it, and it wasn’t on the band’s set list or anything. (Though a new song called “What Goes Boom” was.) Get Fortean Times on the horn.

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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The Rolling Stones, Phil Spector and Gene Pitney get drunk and record the X-rated ‘Andrew’s Blues’

Boozing it up
Boozing it up (L-R): Phil Spector, Gene Pitney, Brian Jones, Andrew Loog Oldham, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, and Mick Jagger

On February 4th, 1964, the Rolling Stones entered Regent Sound Studios in London for a session. The group had released a couple of singles at this point, and the studio was quickly becoming their go-to spot. For this recording, the band was joined by some special guests: singer/songwriter Gene Pitney, Graham Nash and Allan Clarke from the Hollies, as well as genius record producer Phil Spector. By night’s end their combined efforts resulted in a few completed tracks, including one called “Andrew’s Blues,” which is quite possibly the raunchiest song the Stones have ever committed to tape—yes, rivaling even this infamous number.

In his autobiography, Stone Alone: The Story of a Rock ‘n’ Roll Band, bassist Bill Wyman wrote about the wild session, which was produced by their manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, the subject of “Andrew’s Blues”:

We’d become friendly with Phil Spector and attended a star-studded party in his honour thrown by Decca a week earlier; so he continued the friendship by dropping in our recording. Graham Nash and Allan Clarke of the Hollies also came and later Gene Pitney arrived direct from the airport, with duty-free cognac. It was his birthday, and his family custom was that everyone had to drink a whole glass. Pitney played piano while Spector and the Hollies played tambourine and maracas and banged coins on empty bottles. We recorded three songs, ‘Little by Little,’ ‘Can I Get a Witness’ and ‘Now I’ve Got a Witness,’ which we invented on the spot. The session then degenerated into silliness, but everybody had a great time cutting ‘Andrew’s Blues’ and ‘Spector and Pitney Came Too’-—both of which were very rude.

Though officially unreleased, “Andrew’s Blues” changed hands for years before the Internet and is now readily available via YouTube. The tune is a twelve-bar blues and very much resembles another number with the same structure, Tommy Tucker’s “Hi-Heel Sneakers,” which had been released just weeks earlier (the song was part of the Stones’ live sets for a time, and a studio take has been leaked).

The main vocalist on the track is Gene Pitney, who became the first artist to cover a Jagger/Richards composition when his version of “That Girl Belongs to Yesterday” was released as a 45 in January of ‘64. Pitney was introduced to the Stones by Oldham the previous November and promptly demoed the song with the band. Oldham, in addition to his duties managing the Stones, would soon become Pitney’s publicist.

The boys lovingly take the piss out of Oldham in “Andrew’s Blues,” but they also mock the hell out of Sir Edward Lewis, the founder and chairman of Decca Records—the Stones’ label—and the track as a whole can be seen as a commentary on the music business. Or just a drunken lark.

Here’s a lyrical sample:

Yes now Andrew Oldham sittin’ on a hill with Jack and Jill (Jack and Jill)
Fucked all night and sucked all night and taste that pussy till it taste just right
Oh Andrew (yes Andrew), oh Andrew (yes Andrew)
Oh suck it Andrew (go on Andrew), fuck it Andrew (go on Andrew)
Oh Andrew Oldham (yeah), a guy who really know his way around (down down down down)

In his book Phil Spector: Out Of His Head, author Richard Williams called the track “startlingly obscene,” and fifty years on it still manages to shock. This is partly to due the fact that the lead vocals are largely handled by Pitney, who had a very straight-laced public image.

As for “Spector and Pitney Came Too,” a song with that title has been bootlegged, but is essentially an instrumental version of “Andrew’s Blues” with some hot lead guitar added.

Okay, escort your mom out of the room, ‘cause here comes “Andrew’s Blues”:

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Discussion
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Elvis Costello’s TV commercial for ‘Get Happy!’
08:24 am


Elvis Costello

This is one of those “just press play” posts. This is a funny, slapdash TV commercial from 1980 in which Elvis Costello hawks his record Get Happy! in the style of a K-Tel shill. What more do you need to hear? Enjoy.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Psychoactive sci-fi surrealism: The book covers that inspired XTC’s Andy Partridge

I’d love to live in a world where the great commercial artists of the past—the visionary men and women who could easily have been heralded “fine” artists if they weren’t jobbers—were household names, while blandly inoffensive pop singers had to hold yard sales to make rent. But it ain’t so and surely never will be. Today’s case in point is that great painter of otherworldly pulp sci-fi covers, Richard M. Powers.

Trained in Chicago, Powers became a force in the publishing industry in the ‘50s and ‘60s, working for houses like Ballantine and Doubleday, and bringing an incredible stylistic versatility to his work—his work in the horror genre could be a whole separate post, and you’d not likely know just by looking that they were by the same artist who executed the works you see here. His early covers were of a type with much mid-century pulp fiction art, but as the ‘50s progressed, he began a move towards a signature style derived from surrealism. Less the sort of an-ordinary-object-is-doing-something-weird surrealism associated with Magritte or Dalí, more the timeless, placeless, deathless dreamscapes of Gorky, Matta or Tanguy, set as much in outer space as inner. By the mid to late 1960s, that style harmonized rather nicely with the psychedelic art that was spreading from music culture to, well, everything.

The best bio I’ve found for Powers is by film writer C. Jerry Kutner, on an Earthlink site that looks like it could almost date back to Powers’ 1996 death:

Powers became the virtual art director of Ballantine’s science fiction line, creating not only the cover illustrations (front, back, and occasionally wraparound), but the entire design of the books including positioning of the title and other text, selecting and coloring the typefaces, and sometimes even handpainting the lettering. Ballantine gave Powers the freedom to experiment endlessly. The more he got away with, the further he went. Reach For Tomorrow is a striking early experiment. The subject matter is a city on an alien planet. Or is it? The shapes of the city, alternately rounded and spiky, resemble blobs of clay or melted wax more than they do any realistic architectural construction. The city rests in the middle of a silent desert, closer in look and feel to the paintings of Salvador Dali and Yves Tanguy than the other SF artwork of its era. Furthermore, the format of this painting is horizontal. To view it correctly, one has to hold the book sideways!

By the late ‘50s, the world of the SF paperback had been conquered by “the Powers style.” In addition to painting more than a hundred covers for Ballantine, Powers was the artist of choice for Berkley, Dell, and numerous other SF publishers. Powers’ success encouraged other SF artists like Ed Emshwiller, Jack Gaughan, and Paul Lehr to experiment with surrealism and abstraction. Powers’ art, in turn, assimilated the styles of most of the major surrealists of this century, not only Dali and Tanguy, but Calder and De Chirico, Miro and Kandinsky, Klee and Ernst. Sometimes the homage is obvious, as on the cover of Star Wormwood, a non-fiction work in which a watercolor of a man sitting in an electric chair resembles Francis Bacon’s “Screaming Pope.”

Arthur C. Clarke, Reach for Tomorrow
J.G. Ballard, The Voices of Time
And another one, because why not.
Lester Del Rey, Robots and Changelings
Robert Wells, The Spacejacks
William Tenn (pseudonym for Philip Klass), Of All Possible Worlds
More brilliant covers, plus music after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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