A little late night listening inspired by Marc’s post. I felt the need to present one of the best recorded pieces by Yes, the much-maligned yet utterly wonderful UK prog band: The nine and a half minute epic (what else?) Sound Chaser from 1974’s Relayer LP. The by turns angular, noisy (check all the subtle micro-synth bits scurrying across the stereo field) and lovely classically structured song reflects a band emboldened by their huge fame to stretch out and attempt something decidedly outside of pop music. Also our man of the day, Steve Howe is a total demon here. Wild and unpredictable, with a nasty, almost Link Wray-esque tone. This is not your bog standard hippy-prog rock. Once again, please excuse/ignore the goofy visuals in the fan vid below.
Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. The original line-up of The Pop Group are reforming for 4 dates and perhaps more this September! I’m sure it’s too much to ask for them to make it to the States, although I did once see Mark Stewart+Maffia play to about 50 people here in Los Angeles. Say the fellas themselves:
There was a lot left undone,....we were so young and volatile….Let’s face it, things are probably even MORE fucked now than they were in the early 80’s…..and WE are even more fucked off!
Jimmy Skafish broke punk in Chicago in 1976 during an audition night at the now-defunct B’Ginnings nightclub in Schaumburg. Wearing an old ladies one-piece bathing suit and a purple page boy haircut, Skafish sprinkled the crowd with holy water while spewing bilious, fury-driven songs that terrified the entirely unsuspecting crowd. It was the first of countless performances at which the audience would literally desire to kill the outrageous singer, but it was also the birth of punk in Chicago. ~ Bob Kurson
The band known as Skafish was, in essence, lead singer, composer and conceptualist, Jim Skafish. An eccentric genius with a nose the size of a suburban carport, Jim’s music defied easy categorization, sounding at times like a demented lounge singer or Zappa on helium, his music fused punk’s rawness with jazz experimentation, melodic pop and the blues. The sound was innovative and the lyrics were painfully autobiographical, describing child abuse, alienation and rejection. Over six feet 3 inches tall and with tits, Jim, looked like a transsexual who decided to bail on the process before the surgeon had finished the job. He was, by his own admission, a freak. And he should have been a superstar.
I used to strip down to an old lady’s one-piece bathing suit with a babushka and then do the fucking ‘Sign of the Cross,’ . I would wear tube tops and diapers onstage, and one time in Europe I wore a baby’s bonnet with pee-stained underwear.
His debut album, Skafish, was the first record released by Miles Copeland’s I.R.S. label.Though Skafish toured Europe with The Police, XTC, UB-40, Squeeze, English Beat, and U-2, playing anywhere from 8,000 seat arenas to 45,000 seat stadiums on a daily basis, the band never managed to become a commercial success. I.R.S didn’t even bother releasing the their second album. Jim quickly faded from view - ahead of his time, misunderstood, and ignored.
A recent video of Skafish performing Disgracing The Family Name.
For those of us who had an opportunity to see Skafish perform, as I did in 1977 at CBGB, his talent and stage show were indelible. As was his album. The good news, for those who are curious and those who are fans, is that Skafish has released a compilation of his best songs titled What’s This? 1976 - 1979. If you’ve never had the pleasure of hearing Jim’s music, now would be a good time to start. And as it was over 3 decades ago, it’s still ahead of its time.
Louisiana swamp rocker Dale Hawkins proves in this video that punk rock was around waaaay before The Seeds, The Germs or The Ramones. With his sneering vocal style and Pork Pie hat, Hawkins looks like a low rent Frank Sinatra (or a member of The Specials) and sounds like a Bayou version of Johnny Rotten. Yeh-Yeh (Class Cutter) is a wiseass classic and juvenile delinquent’s dream. Sadly, Dale died of cancer in February of this year. But he never stopped rocking, performing until shortly before he died. He left behind several dozen recordings, most of which are still in print. His biggest hit was Suzie Q and that song alone places him among the immortals of rock and roll.
Although I was too young to ever see them live, The Germs loomed large in my musical upbringing. They made deliciously evil sounding records that were irresistible to my friends and I. The legend of Darby Crash made its way out to us in the suburbs of Los Angeles and tales of “Germs burns” and other sordid activities titillated us as we blasted their sole LP and gazed at the spooky photos of the band members on the back cover. I tell you this because Rhino Handmade has just put out a limited edition CD of the final Germs show from December of 1980. Now here’s the thing: The Germs sucked live. The redoubtable Jonathan Gold does a wonderful job of describing what it was like to be there, but still I must ask: Has there ever in the history of music been a singer so utterly incapable of singing in time live as Darby Crash ? Have a listen to the clip below from said show and hear for yourself, then compare that to the truly wonderful contents of their classic first E.P. from ‘78 after the jump. I’m pretty sure all I missed out on by never seeing them live was a head injury !
Once again Tony Coulter has drawn my attention to another lovely gap in my knowledge of obscure 80’s post-punk Belgian no wave prog something-or-other music. Des Airs, who released only one E.P. were a co-ed affair, the distaff portion being especially notable for boasting vocalist Catherine Jauniaux of Aksak Maboul (about whom, more later), The Work, etc. and bassist/vocalist Fanchon Nuyens who would later go on to form Zap Mama. The first clip below starts out as a slovenly take on of all things an appropriately perverse Peter Cook and Dudley Moore song! What could at first be written off as a novelty tune turns seriously funky at around 2:30 when the drunken waltz groove turns itself inside out. Surprising ! The second clip is another spartan and funky no wave workout from the same E.P.
As James Spooner’s 2003 documentary Afro-Punk has shown, the black/punk marginalization continuum is as old as punk itself, and only scene demography has obstructed its full flowering. Indeed, its [anti-]institutional roots can be traced as far back as the early-‘80s establishment of the Black Rock Coalition in New York City by Vernon Reid and Greg Tate.
With this excellent video, veteran Baltimore MC Labtekwon plunks down a chit into the sweepstakes, positing punk as just another spot for forward-thinking hip-hop to grind. His dude-tacular flow seems a hat-tip to Mike Muir’s campy victim monologue in Suicidal Tendencies’ “Institutionalized,” and his new album NEXT: Baltimore Basquiat and the Future Shock is forthcoming.
Quite a polarizing and still edgy sounding 1981 single by The Work. The Work being Henry Cow founder Tim Hodgkinson’s early 80’s post-punk combo. Sounding every bit like their studio mates This Heat having a battle royale with Captain Beefheart‘s Magic Band, this violently convulsive tune is the very definition of apoplectic rage. And this was only 1981 ! Imagine how angry this would have been had it been recorded in the Bushco era ! Fortunately there’s enough bile in this track to apply to any other past or future outrage you’d care to. Art rock sticking it to the man !
It’s hard to overstate the effect upon our psyches of things we’re exposed to when we are young and impressionable. For better or worse, these things stay with us forever and if we’re lucky these things are also of enduring quality and mystery. Such is the case with myself and the little known band Monitor, whose sole 7” single I chanced upon at Slipped Disc record store in Sepulveda, CA around 1980. I was already at this time quite the ardent Devo fan and I could tell they too had vaguely similar aesthetics, especially in Steve Thompsen’s virtuoso synth manglings. So enchanted was I with this lil’ slab o’ vinyl that I tracked them down and started hanging around with them and sneaking into all of their shows. That I soon found out they attended the same high school as I, 10 years earlier, only deepened my affection for them. As it happened they were just preparing to release their one and only self-titled LP which while retaining its electronic foundations revealed a darker, more psychedelic sound. And then, rather suddenly it was over. Drummer Keith Mitchell went on to fame with Mazzy Star, guitarist Michael Uhlenkott formed The Romans, Steve Thompsen eventually joined LAFMS improv trio Solid Eye and bassist (and major early crush object for yours truly) Laurie O’Connell disappeared into Northern Californian suburban family life. There are periodic rumors of re-issues and even a book documenting their fleeting existence, but for now all that remains are the handful of recordings and this one live clip from New Wave Theatre, which as far as I can tell was their very last performance together.