Neil Young takes a break while shooting Journey Through The Past and visits a music store on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. He gets righteously upset when he discovers poorly recorded bootlegs of his live performances. This was back in 1971. Neil is still pissed off. This time around it’s MP3s. You can’t accuse of him not being consistent.
New York, 1999: Blondie’s first show in their home city for 17-years.
Having split-up in November 1982, Blondie’s started reform as a band in 1996, when Debbie Harry and Chris Stein contacted original members Clem Burke, Jimmy Destri, and Gary Valentine. This tentative re-grouping led to a tour and eventually a mixed-bag of an album No Exit, which was recorded without Valentine, who was once again out of the band by 1997. No Exit gave Blondie, their first UK number single, “Maria,” in 20-years.
Blondie: Live in New York 1999 mixes old favorites, with new songs from No Exit. The show was originally recorded for VH1, and a longer version was later released on DVD.
02. “Hanging On The Telephone”
03. “Screaming Skin”
04. “Forgive And Forget”
06. “Union City Blue”
07. “Sunday Girl”
09. “Call Me”
10. “Boom Boom In The Zoom Zoom Room”
Blondie are currently on tour, playing the Isle of Wight Festival next weekend, details here.
Next week marks the first release on DVD and Blu-ray of Rockshow , the two-hour plus 35mm concert documention of Paul McCartney and Wings’ 1976 American tour.
It’s a corker.
The “Wings Over America” tour (or “Wing Over The World” if you saw them elsewhere) was the largest tour that McCartney had mounted to that point (there were two small scale UK college tours in 1972) and based on the evidence of Rockshow (filmed in front of 67,000 fans at the gigantic Kingdome in Seattle and at smaller shows at The Forum in Los Angeles and New York’s Madison Square Garden), it must’ve been the very, very best time to have seen him perform other than during his Beatles days. (In any case, it was the first time North American fans had a chance to see McCartney perform since the final Beatles show at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park in 1966.)
The set list is a motherfucker (song for song, the same as on the Wings Over America album) incorporating Macca’s very best solo material (“Band on the Run,” “Live and Let Die,” “Venus and Mars/Rockshow,” “Jet,” a magnificent “Bluebird”), five well-chosen Beatles numbers (“Blackbird,” “Lady Madonna,” “The Long and Winding Road,” “Yesterday” and “I’ve Just Seen A Face”) along with an excellent cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Richard Cory.” (I kept waiting for Denny to sing “Wish that I could be… John Denver” but that never occurs in this version, sadly.)
The incarnation of Wings seen and heard in Rockshow are Paul and Linda McCartney, drummer Joe English, and guitarists Denny Laine and Jimmy McCulloch. Brass and woodwind players Howie Casey, Steve Howard, Thaddeus Richard and Tony Dorsey were also along for the tour and again, other than the Fab Four, this was the very best band McCartney ever worked with. Rockshow captures him at a time when he was on a creative, personal and commercial peak and he’s obviously having a grand fucking time, grinning from ear to ear. (Not to damn the great man with faint praise, but this WAS his post-Beatles career peak. The indifferent London Town came next and it was all quickly downhill from there…)
If you owned the triple LP Wings Over America set, you probably recall its distinctively murky, hissy sound quality. Here, the restored audio has been expertly realized and the super-clean 5.1 HD DTS surround mix can rattle the walls (I’ve been playing it a lot these past few days, I sure hope my neighbors like Paul McCartney!)
The camera work in Rockshow is solid enough (no allowances were made for the movie crew, so it’s often shot from the side or through mic-stands)) and since this was pre-MTV, the editing isn’t hyper-kinetic and you actually have a chance to see the musicians playing their instruments for at least several seconds at a time. Picture quality is kinda “eh” for 35mm on Blu-Ray (to my eye it appears to be 16mm blown up to 35mm and it’s more than a little grainy in the darker parts). Frankly, although I’d put this on and play it all the way through, it’s not like I’m ever going to sit there and watch it all anyway. Like most people, I just dip in and out of concert DVDs, so the picture quality (which isn’t bad, mind you, not in the least, it’s just not great either) doesn’t really bother me. It’s all about the audio quality in my book, and this sucker is the tits in the high fidelity department (I would never listen to Wings Over America again owning this one)
Occasionally there are continuity problems, as the group wasn’t all wearing the same clothes for each concert that was filmed, and at one point Denny Laine’s bass magically changes from a black Precision Bass into a blonde Telecaster. Something else that I found slightly amusing was during “Magneto and Titanium Man” when a huge Jack Kirby-drawn mural drops (after a little coaxing) then sits there, unmoving for the length of the song. Today that would be an animated 3-D CGI HD video spectacular, but I suppose that stadium rock was still in its infancy then. Another smile comes during “Live and Let Die” where it looks like the smoke bombs and pyrotechnics weren’t all that much fun for the band to experience from the stage.
For its minor faults, Rockshow is a delight, even the cutaways to the young audience members are charming. In his liner notes, BBC radio’s Paul Gambaccini describes them as “not baby boomers overcome by emotion as they recall the music of their childhood, these are young people hearing the music when it was still fresh”:
“When the camera focuses on individual faces during “Blackbird,” we see persons who are alive in the moment, completely engaged by the experience. They do not realize that, in 2013, they will be tearful with joy to have such beautiful memories.”
But don’t think this can only be enjoyed as a nostalgia trip, it rocks like a motherfucker.
Frankly, I get sent a lot of DVDs, but after I watch something once, I usually just toss it, give it to a friend or trade it in. Most DVDs are disposable to me, but I’m keeping this one. Rockshow is actually worth buying and making a part of your collection. Had a free review copy not arrived in the post last week, I’d have bought my own copy anyway. I’d rate Rockshow five stars out of five. If it sounds like something you think you might like, you probably will like it. A lot.
Rockshow came out on Betamax and laserdisc in the early 1980s, but it has not been available (legally) for over 30 years. EagleRock’s DVD and Blu-ray release makes the full concert available for the very first time ever. The excerpt below, from The McCartney Years DVD should whet your appetite for the full thing.
It’s the forty-sixth summer since the original “Summer of Love,” and June can’t go by without a psychedelia reference, can it?
The Electric Prunes, formed in the staid environs of the San Fernando Valley rather than the hip Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco, were among the first psychedelic California bands typically associated with the free, experimental, blissed-out, drug-enhanced summer of 1967. The original Prunes were Ken Williams on guitar, James Lowe on vocals and autoharp, Joe Dooley on drums, Mark Tulin on bass and Dick Hargrave on organ. Their best-remembered song “I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night” was included on the Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968 compilation, which became hugely influential on the younger musicians who started punk a few years later.
Above, Mass in F Minor
However, some of Electric Prunes strangest work came in 1968, when their manager Lenny Poncher convinced them to make an electric, psychedelic rock version of the Roman Catholic mass, Mass in F Minor, written by composer David Axelrod. Flower children probably did not dance to this album. Not surprisingly, Mass in F Minor has not been heavily used as actual liturgical music either, despite Catholic youth leaders’ desire to incorporate guitars into masses (in an effect to be relevant) for 30 years or so. This was followed up by another religious-themed album written by Axelrod, Release of an Oath: The Kol Nidre—a prayer of antiquity. This album combined Jewish and traditional Christian liturgy. The Kol Nidre service is intended to release a penitent from an oath “made under duress and in violation of his principles” according to the album’s liner notes and is still performed in synagogues today. Recording these two albums proved to be a stressful experience for the band, and they broke up during the recording of Release of an Oath. Axelrod had to bring in session musicians to complete the album.
Above, Release of an Oath
Above, The Electric Prunes do “I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night” on The Mike Douglas Show, and then they jam with Barbara Feldon, “Agent 99” from Get Smart!
For fans of Neil Innes, The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and the ‘80s British TV show The Young Ones, The Idiot Bastard Band is a wonderful mingling of these loves. The glory that is the Idiot Bastard Band currently consists of: Ade Edmondson (“Vivian” from The Young Ones, among other roles elsewhere), Neil Innes (Bonzo, Rutle and “seventh Python”), Phil Jupitus (improv comedian who is a panel member on the BBC’s Never Mind the Buzzcocks), and Rowland Rivron (drummer, member of Raw Sex, and comedian). Nigel Planer (“Neil The Hippy” from The Young Ones) has also been an occasional Bastard, (Sadly member Simon Brint (other half of Raw Sex and a composer) committed suicide in 2011.)
The Bastards are above all a comedic act but in the longstanding vaudeville or small town pub-closing time drunken singalong variety. Their songs include the wartime oldie “Who Do You Think You Are Kidding, Mr. Hitler?” the standard “Big Rock Candy Mountain,” “I Was Supporting Madness,” “Flop-Eared Mule”, The Bonzos’ “I’m the Urban Spaceman,” “How She Never Had An Orgasm” and “Isobel Makes Love Upon National Monuments.”
Ade Edmondson is already a member of the highly entertaining Bad Shepherds, who play folk versions of punk and New Wave songs with traditional acoustic instruments.
So on to part two, In which we look at more recent nu-disco acts, mostly spanning the last decade or so, and mostly centered around the disco hub known as New York City, with some excursions to London, New Jersey and Oslo.
Thanks for all the feedback on the last post guys, it’s appreciated, and apologies in advance for not being able to fit everything in. If you think there’s something I have missed out on, or if there’s or an act or a dj you think people should know about, leave a comment. Anyway, let’s get to it:
Horse Meat Disco
Disco music does not exist on some abstract plain, of course, it is primarily music for the dance floor, designed to make you move your ass first, feel second, think lastly (if at all). So I couldn’t do a run down of the roots of “nu-disco” without mentioning an actual club that plays both disco and nu-disco music, where you can actually see and hear disco being consumed as it was intended to be, in the here-and-now and not the way-back-when. That club is Horse Meat Disco, a weekly Sunday afternoon/evening/night party hosted in the Eagle, a seedy bar in the heart of South London’s gay Vauxhall district. Through this ongoing weekly residency and a very fine series of compilation albums on Strut, Horse Meat has done more than any other club to rehabilitate disco, and they’ve done it not by stripping it of its “embarrassing” connotations, the kind that quickly turn off the overly-serious house head, but by going all out. For too long “nu-disco” was missing the spark that made disco itself so enticing in the first place: a sense of mischief, sexiness and most importantly FUN. Horse Meat Disco has helped reclaim disco from the boring head nodders and returned it to its primarily audience: gays, women, people of color. If you think disco music is a dead scene, frozen in amber and cocaine, then think again, you haven’t lived till you’ve experienced it with a heaving dancefloor of sweaty homosexuals, its rightful home. Horse Meat Disco is by far the best party in London, and the four man resident dj-team manage to share a lot of that love when they play in other clubs all over the world, or remix/produce their own tracks.
Horse Meat Disco interview for Groove Fest:
Norway: Lindstrom, Prins Thomas, Todd Terje
You’d think it would come as a bit of a surprise that the country responsible for the best nu-disco outside of New York or London would be snowy old Norway, but then house-heads in the late 90s were well aware of the disco talent in that small, northern country, thanks to releases by Those Norwegians, Bjorn Torske, Rune Lindbaek and Telle Records. Royksopp brought the “Norse house” sound to the global stage, but it was a producer by the name of Lindstrom who turned disco upside down, round and round, with the release of “I Feel Space.” A real dancefloor smash whose rising melody lines can still slay to this day, “I Feel Space” feels more genuinely Moroder-esque than anything on Random Access Memories, and is a brilliant demonstration of how to capture that era and feeling without resorting to expensive studios packed full of original 70s gear. Lindstrom’s studio partner Prins Thomas has also been busy carving out a niche for himself as one of the best house djs in the world (he is, if you ever have the chance to see him spin, take it!) and has been releasing some excellent Norwegian nu-disco on his own Full Pupp label. And that’s not to mention their protege Todd Terje, a master of the re-edit who has branched out into his own original productions over the last few years, culminating in the critically lauded Inspector Norse release from last year, and this years brilliant single with Lindstrom, “Lanzarote”:
Lindstrom & Todd Terje “Lanzarote”
After the jump DFA, Glass Candy, Escort, Chromatics, Arthur’s Landing, Hecules & Love Affair and more…
And also this video, which inspired me to write this whole primer in the first place, in the hope of bringing more attention to acts I like and tracks I love, like this one. THIS is how you revive disco, robots please take note:
In 1972, film-sound editor and composer Martin Ziechnete was visited by two members of East Germany’s ruling party, the SED. Somehow, they had heard about his experiments with Western-style electronic music, exploring the motorik and music kosmische sounds of West German bands like Neu!, Can, and Kraftwerk. Ziechnete was to go with them in an official car.
“I feared I would lose my job, at the very least,” Ziechnete says in an interview that accompanies Kosmischer Läufer: The Secret Cosmic Music of the East German Olympic Program 1972-83, Volume One. “It would be very bad for someone who worked on party films to be seen to be influenced by the enemy. We drove in silence to the outskirts of Berlin to what I later found out was an athletics camp. They knew all about me and my idea. They questioned me about the concept for hours then left me alone in the room.
“Later an official from the Nationales Olympisches Komitee came in and told me I would begin to work on the project immediately.”
It all pulses, drones, and bleeps like the Krautrockers that inspired Ziechnete, but feels even more like a transmission from a lost universe. We don’t know how much this music helped East German athletes, but it must not have hurt: the GDR always punched above its weight at the Olympics.
Nike was hailed for its marketing genius when it hired the likes of LCD Soundsystem, Aesop Rock, and the Crystal Method to create hip indie running soundtracks. Kosmischer Läufer proves that East Germany beat them to it by decades.
Ziechnete’s half-hour program was designed and paced to accompany a 5k run, complete with warm-up and wind-down bookend pieces. The fourth of the five pieces, “Tonband Laufspur”, kicks hard to the finish line:
UPDATED: It looks like we were hoaxed about the true origins of this music - it was made recently in Scotland, apparently - but we’re leaving the post up for posterity (and because the music’s still good).
Let’s give Dwight Twilley some love on his birthday.
The Dwight Twilley Band came along in 1976 and renewed my hope in rock ‘n’ roll. I had pretty much stopped paying attention to new music in the mid-70s. There were some exceptions—Roxy Music, Marc Bolan, Bob Marley, Toots And The Maytals—but overall I couldn’t get with most of what was being unleashed on the airwaves. I spent my time listening to jazz and the blues, when I listened to music at all. But when Twilley came along he had the energy and hooks I’d been missing in pop music since the English Invasion and the psychedelic garage rock era in America. Twilley melded rockabilly with Beatlesque melodies, suburban rec-room rock and hard-driving riffs that paved the way for power pop and punk. TDTB played loud fast songs that felt classic and fresh at the same time.
TDTB were basically just two guys, Dwight and Phil Seymour, who grew up on a diet of The Beatles and the kind of honky tonk sound that permeated their hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Tulsa Cats like Hank Thompson, Bob Wills and J.J. Cale can be heard in the way Twilley and Seymour toss that roadhouse swing into the Liverpool sound. And they definitely picked up on the spirit of Buddy Holly drifitin’ east from Lubbock.
TDTB’s first two albums, Sincerely and Twilley Don’t Mind, are knockouts, filled with one great pop tune after another. With their pretty boy good looks and solid live shows, they should have been big stars, but the usual record company problems and tension between Twilley and Seymour created the kind of bad mojo that has felled many a great band.
Phil Seymour pursued a solo career, but died of cancer in 1993. Dwight Twilley hasn’t stopped writing and recording. His last two abums, Green Blimp and Soundtrack, feature Twilley fired-up and writing some of the best and most personal songs of his career. Good stuff from a rocker whose musical punch hasn’t softened as he’s grown older.
Here’s some footage of The Dwight Twilley Band with guest guitarist Tom Petty on the short-lived CBS children’s show Wacko from 1977. The YouTube clip says “1978” but I’m pretty sure that’s wrong. Wacko ran for 10 episodes in 1977. It never made it to ‘78.