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The fierce funk rock of Mother’s Finest, ‘the most dangerous opening band in rock’
05.18.2018
09:12 am
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Atlanta, Georgia funk legends, Mother’s Finest.
 
So imagine this; you are one of, let’s say, nine-thousand or so fans who came to see Black Sabbath at the International Amphitheater on November 25th, 1976 in Chicago. Perhaps like some die-hard Sabbath fans, you weren’t super-jazzed with the band’s seventh album Technical Ecstasy, but like any devout headbanger, you go to the show because Black Sabbath still fucking rules. What you are not expecting is a mind-blowing performance by Sabbath’s opening act, funk ‘n’ roll outfit, Mother’s Finest. In fact, they gave the boys from Birmingham a run for their money and then some, by way of platform boots, raging guitar riffs and soul-soaked rhythms on par with Sly & the Family Stone. Hot damn.

Mother’s Finest had just released a self-titled album on Epic containing the single “Niggizz Can’t Sang Rock & Roll,” which the band had reworked from a single they recorded in 1972, “It’s What You Do With What You Got.” The album did well enough to get them the same bill as huge international acts like Sabbath, AC/DC and The Who, with performances so powerful they rivaled the headliners—earning them the title of “most dangerous opening band in rock.” The band’s second album, Another Mother Further featured a more amped-up rock sound which included lifted licks from none other than the king of riffs himself, Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page. Page’s guitar work on 1975’s “Custard Pie” was distinctly replicated by Mother’s Finest guitarist Gary Moore (not to be confused with Irish guitar god Gary Moore), on the band’s cover of The Miracles’ 1963 song, “Mickey’s Monkey.” Rock historians have often pondered why Zeppelin never sued the band for siphoning Page’s unmistakeable jams, though this also reminds one of Zeppelin’s long track record when it comes to ripping-off their musical predecessors.

At this point, I’d like to jaw a bit about Mother’s Finest’s vocalist, Joyce Kennedy—the funky fireball still fronting the act to this day. While she was in elementary school, Kennedy and her mother moved to the musical hotbed of Chicago in 1955. Chicago record label Chess was a huge champion of musicians like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Willie Dixon. Chess’ success during the 50s and 60s would help pave the way for future superstars from the city like Curtis Mayfield, Chicago, and Rufus and Chaka Khan (who Kennedy would be compared to during her own career). So it should be no surprise that the young Kennedy started singing shortly after her arrival and even had a couple of minor local hits in her teens. After meeting another local vocalist, Glenn Murdock, the pair would start performing as a duo on stage and in real life after getting married. In 1975, Mother’s Finest was born and their timing could not have been better as they were surrounded by other stereotype-smashing diverse groups like War, and Brooklyn funk-rockers Mandrill.

Much more Mother’s Finest, after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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05.18.2018
09:12 am
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Trevor Billmuss: The psych-folk singer who released one delightfully strange LP and then vanished
05.18.2018
08:57 am
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Family Apology
 
When discussing rarely heard rock artists, the “enigma” word has certainly been overused, but British singer-songwriter Trevor Billmuss is truly a mysterious figure. After an album of his tunes was released—and failed to sell—Billmuss vanished. The LP, Family Apology, is now quite obscure. It’s also a stellar example of orchestrated psych-folk, and is worthy of wider exposure.

In September 1970, Family Apology was issued by the UK label, Charisma Records. A single consisting of two songs from the LP also came out at the time. The album was produced by John Anthony (Roxy Music, Van der Graaf Generator, Queen). Anthony was an in-house producer at Charisma, a label that primarily released prog rock records.

Billmuss wrote the thirteen tracks that make up the Family Apology LP. The material is very British, with ornate orchestration and the occasional acoustic guitar. To my ears, he sounds like a cross between Donovan’s flowery acid folk, and the surreal, darkly whimsical work of acid casualty, Syd Barrett. Many of Billmuss’s compositions concern the universal themes of love and heartbreak, but he’ll throw in wonderfully head-scratching lines like, “the crisis of decision ‘bout your nephew’s circumcision was tragic relief” (“September”). The old timey arrangement and British humor heard on the cutting break-up song, “Whoops Amour!,” brings to mind the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, and I can totally imagine a young Robyn Hitchcock covering “The Fishing Song,” which includes the lyric, “flippy flappy fishy in the bathroom.” In album opener, “The Ground Song,” Billmuss sings about class, the desire to escape a family so dysfunctional that he’s “dying to do my famous little disappearing act,” and the randomness of existence. The surreal poetry of the first verse will later turn into a rousing refrain.

The ground is in my hand and my hand is in my elbow
And my elbow is in my arm and my arm is in my shoulder
And my shoulder is in my chest and my chest is in my carcass
And my carcass is on my legs which are standing on the ground

Neither Family Apology nor the 45 charted. It seems that a combination of factors contributed to Billmuss’s lack of success: Charisma was chiefly a prog rock label, and probably didn’t know what to do with Billmuss; as great as the LP is, the time for this sort of music had essentially passed.

Wrong place, wrong time.
 
Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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05.18.2018
08:57 am
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When Johnny Thunders endorsed Jesse Jackson’s presidential bid in song
05.18.2018
08:51 am
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Let it be said that I had this, at least, in common with Johnny Thunders: we both supported Jesse Jackson’s candidacy in 1988. I was just starting the fourth grade, and Johnny was getting ready to graduate from the planet Earth, but we were both willing to forgive Jackson’s offensive characterization of NYC as “Hymietown” and his prudish condemnations of “sex-rock.”

This video of Thunders’ impassioned plea to the American soul comes from September 4, 1988, the last day of the Hotpoint festival in Lausanne, Switzerland. The DNC had come and gone, with Bill Clinton’s windy nomination and Michael Dukakis’ narcotizing acceptance speech. No matter: Johnny Thunders still liked Jackson’s chances, and if he was discouraged by Dukakis’ nomination or Bush’s subsequent election, he gave no sign. He kept “Glory, Glory” in the set in 1989, and when he entered the studio in 1990, Thunders was still stumping for the Rev.

Here, weeks before the first broadcast of the Willie Horton ad, Johnny Thunders sounds like a schoolboy telling the Swiss festival crowd why he’s for Jesse Jackson. Then he “takes them to church”:

Okay! Well, I’m from America, and we’re having a presidental—presidential election. And I think, uh, the only person that I think is worthy of being a president of America is Jesse.

Oh, Jesse!

Oh, Jesse, Jesse Jackson!

Ooh, Jesse, Jesse, Jesse! etc.

More after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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05.18.2018
08:51 am
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Ghouls, H.P. Lovecraft & beyond the beyond: The deeply creepy creations of artist John Holmes
05.17.2018
10:49 am
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A painting by British artist John Holmes.
 
From the time he held his first solo art exhibition in 1961, the art of British painter and illustrator John Holmes has expanded the minds of his fans with his imaginative take on monsters and other makers of mayhem. After hustling his craft hard in the early 60s, a few years later Holmes found himself busy working almost non-stop creating artwork for all kinds of publications including Playboy and UK women’s magazine, Nova. Later, Holmes would hook up with the art director for British publishing company Granada Books, and his ghoulish illustrations would be used widely on titles from authors such as H.P. Lovecraft, Samuel Beckett, Thomas Pynchon and perhaps most famously on the cover of the 1970 edition of Germaine Greer’s book, The Female Eunuch. Holmes’ floating female torso for Greer’s book was preceded by his disquieting work featured on the album cover, gatefold and back of Ceremony: An Electronic Mass—the collaboration of prog rock band Spooky Tooth and French electro-producer Pierre Henry .

Initially, Holmes’ work was much more abstract—a stark contrast to his strangely realistic work which would make him famous. His art was also widely used for the popular series The Fontana Book of Great Horror Stories—and if you were a child of the late 60s, 70s or even the early 80s, I’m sure you will recognize at least one of Holmes’ eerie, minimalistic paintings in this post. Much of what follows is NSFW.
 

Holmes’ artwork which appeared on the cover of an edition of H.P. Lovecraft’s ‘The Tomb (and other stories).’
 

The cover of Thomas Pynchon’s ‘Gravity’s Rainbow.’
 

Holmes’ cover for the 1973 book by Poul Anderson, ‘Beyond the Beyond.’
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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05.17.2018
10:49 am
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New book collects every issue of the Crass zine ‘International Anthem’


The ‘domestic violence issue’ of International Anthem, 1979
 
This deserves more press than it’s received: a new book collects every issue of International Anthem: A Nihilist Newspaper for the Living, including two never before published. The volume is an official product of “the publishing wing of Crass and beyond,” the venerable Exitstencil Press.

International Anthem was Gee Vaucher’s newspaper, but denying its connection to the band would be a challenge. Its 1978-‘83 run coincided, roughly, with Crass’s (as opposed to, say, Exit‘s), and the Crass logo sometimes appeared on the paper’s cover (see above). Eve Libertine, $ri Hari Nana B.A., Penny Rimbaud, G. Sus (aka Gee Vaucher) and Dave King contributed to its pages.
 

Gee Vaucher collage from International Anthem #2 (via ArtRabbit)
 
The book contains scans of the originals (“bad printing, creases, mistakes and all”), reproduced at full size. If it is good to buy quality art books, it is better to buy them directly from the artist. Buddhists call it “accumulating merit,” and they say you want to do a lot of it in this life, so you don’t have to come back as Eric Trump. Below, consume two hours of Crass programming broadcast on Australia’s JJJ Radio in 1987, featuring some Crass texts read in Australian accents and contemporary interviews with Gee and Penny at Dial House.

Help Gee Vaucher collect 20 million hand-drawn stick figures for her World War I project.
 

Posted by Oliver Hall
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05.17.2018
08:47 am
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Psychedelic druids Lumerians return with ‘Call of the Void’
05.14.2018
12:02 pm
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Lumerians, those psychedelic druids of the transdimensional extra-terrestrial motorik realms are returning. The genre-hopping mind-benders of uninhabited deep space are known for incorporating anything and everything into their futuristic sonic gumbo—pulsating krautrock, noise, free jazz, drone and dub. It will come as no surprise that after a four year hiatus they’re still experimenting sonically on their upcoming album, Call of the Void.

Vocalist Jason Miller explains: “If Transmalinnia represented the exploration of an alien world and The High Frontier a voyage through space, Call of the Void is a penetrative exploration of Earth through an alien gaze gone native—the weight of gravity, the build-up of pollution and sediment, experiences of ecstatic revelry and tragedy.”

The core founding members of Lumerians are Chris Musgrave (drums/percussion), Jason Miller (vocals, synth, organ, guitar), Marc Melzer (vocals, bass, synth) and Tyler Green (guitar, synth). The intensely interlocked rhythm section of Musgrave (sometimes he sounds like Jaki Liebezeit and other times like Tony Allen) and bassist Melzer undergirds what the rest of them do, putting me in mind of Can, Hawkwind, Neu! and Soft Machine at once, but I still can’t help thinking of them as The Ventures of this era.

Their third “official” album—not counting two collections of improvised compositions called Transmission from Tellos III & IVCall of the Void, will be released on June 22nd on the London-based indie label Fuzz Club. The album is dedicated to the memory of Barrett Clark, Lumerians’ long-time friend, sound engineer and collaborator who passed away in 2016 during the tragic Ghost Ship warehouse fire. Recorded mostly at their own New Telos Sound studio built in the site of a former church in Oakland, California and at Hyde Street Studios—formerly known as Wally Heider Studios and the location of legendary recordings by the likes of Neil Young, Jefferson Airplane, David Crosby, Herbie Hancock, Creedence, Fleetwood Mac and countless others.

To announce the album the band have shared the lead single “Silver Trash,” a song about both “a very memorable camping trip us and some friends took in Big Sur or an encounter with inter-dimensional beings in the Redwoods of the Pacific Northwest.” Doesn’t sound like an either/or proposition! Listen LOUD:
 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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05.14.2018
12:02 pm
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‘I am your Pantherman!’: Sink your claws into this killer one-man band glam rocker
05.11.2018
09:01 am
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Pantherman
 
In the mid-1970s, Dutch musician/songwriter Frank Klunhaar took on the persona of costumed glam rocker, Pantherman. Klunhaar was inspired by the rock-n-roll spectacle he witnessed during a 1974 Roxy Music gig in Rotterdam, as well as the surrealistic character of the 1969 film, Fellini Satyricon. He was also influenced by multi-instrumentalist Todd Rundgren, and was a big fan of Jobriath.
 
Frank Klunhaar
 
In his modest home studio, Klunhaar went about recording the Pantherman demos, doing so without any outside assistance. He describes the experience and his process on his website.

Being 23 years of age, somewhat naïve and having just a little experience in the music business, I felt no artistic boundaries or limitations whatsoever at that time and recorded ten songs, including “Pantherman” and “You Are My Friend.” The general direction was meant to be really loud rock on strong rhythms in combination with surrealistic, cinematic and theatrical experiences with sex, humour and sophistication.

Soon, a manager friend of Klunhaar’s helped get him signed to Polydor Records. Released in a handful of European countries, Pantherman’s first 45 hit stores in May of 1974. To promote the record, Klunhaar appeared on the Dutch TV program, Nederpopzien (sadly, the footage is probably lost). Wearing a mask and custom-made black leather suit, Klunhaar mimed for the cameras, and Pantherman was truly born.
 
Pantherman 45
 
Pantherman—both the character and the song—personifies the glam rock era. Gender-bending was a big part of the glam aesthetic, and Pantherman often appears feminine in photographs. His costume is strange and tough-looking, but he’s always pictured holding a stuffed animal, keeping it all very tongue-in-cheek. “Pantherman” is heavy yet still melodic, and conjures up imagery of an otherworldly, almost nightmarish figure, but does so with a playful menace. Listen closely and you’ll realize this is actually one sensitive cat! Just a killer track.
 

 
“Pantherman” caused a bit of a stir in the Netherlands. Here’s Klunhaar explaining the response:

The reactions were rather mixed: One part of the “serious” Dutch media in-crowd considered the record weird and somewhat offensive—the lyrics and vocals were too controversial for them—another much smaller part was excited and thrilled.

Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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05.11.2018
09:01 am
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‘Love Buzz’: The psychedelic sounds of Dutch rock superstars Shocking Blue
05.10.2018
04:51 pm
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Dutch band Shocking Blue.
 
On February 7th, 1970 the number one song on the Billboard Chart was “Venus” by Dutch band Shocking Blue, which the band released as a single in late 1969. Tom Jones quickly followed with his own cover of “Venus” on a self-titled compilation album put out by Decca in 1970. Sixteen years later, Bananarama got the top spot on the Billboard Charts with their energetic version of “Venus.” The weird kids loved Shocking Blue, too: Krist Novoselic of Nirvana was once quoted referring to Shocking Blue’s Klaasje van der Wal as “a bass god.” Compliments don’t get much better than that, do they? In fact, Nirvana’s very first single on Sub Pop was a cover of Shocking Blue’s “Love Buzz.” The Prodigy also covered the song with samples from the original song.

Shocking Blue experienced a lot of success thanks to “Venus,” “Mighty Joe,” and many of their other psychedelically-tinged singles, though “Love Buzz” really didn’t get through to their fans—but vocalist Mariska Veres did. Veres’ voice had both the deep, sensual tones of Cher, and a strong similarity to Jefferson Airplane powerhouse, Grace Slick. Veres’ good looks didn’t exactly hurt the band’s popularity either. Known for her long black hair (which was in truth an incredible wig), huge green eyes enhanced by massive lashes and black eyeliner, and her groovy outfits, Veres was impossible to ignore. After replacing original Shocking Blue singer, Fred de Wilde, Veres would help the band score their first gold record with the success of “Venus.” Veres wasn’t new to rock and roll when she joined Shocking Blue at the age of 21; she had been performing with bands in and around The Hague since she was sixteen. Shocking Blue hung around until 1974 when the band called it a day. Veres dove directly into a solo career but wasn’t able to recapture the same hit-making magic as her collaboration with Shocking Blue produced.

Mariska Veres was sadly lost at the way-too-young age of 59 in 2006.
 

Veres posing with a gold record in Amsterdam.
 
Much more after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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05.10.2018
04:51 pm
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Serge Gainsbourg’s pop art science-fiction cartoon ‘Marie Mathématique’
05.08.2018
03:18 pm
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Incroyable! Hosting the legendary French pop show Dim Dam Dom in 1965, Sandie Shaw introduces the first installment of “Marie Mathématique,” an animated short made by “Barbarella” creator Jean-Claude Forest. Serge Gainsbourg wrote the music and sang André Ruellan’s lyrics. The Marie character is the younger sister of Barbarella—she’s sixteen—and her adventures take place in the year 2830.

In total, there were six installments of “Marie Mathématique.” There was never a proper soundtrack release, but it was bootlegged.
 

 

Another five episodes of “Marie Mathématique,” after the jump…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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05.08.2018
03:18 pm
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Nina Simone at Montreux 1976: ‘Everybody took a chunk of me’
05.08.2018
11:09 am
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Few musicians put as much of themselves into their performances as Nina Simone. Even by her standards, however, the concert she gave for the attendees of the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland on July 3, 1976, was an especially vivid display of temperament, humor, frustration, and frayed emotion.

That evening, Simone set the tone early. Her first words after taking her seat at the piano, before breaking into a rendition of the Rodgers and Hart standard “Little Girl Blue” put the audience on notice:
 

I haven’t seen you for many years since—1968. I have decided I will do no more jazz festivals. That decision has not changed. I will sing for you—or we will do and share with you a few things. After that I will graduate to a higher class I hope and hope you will come with me. We’ll start from the beginning.


 
Simone’s haughtiness and general emotionality does not diminish throughout the set. At one point, she is obliged to tussle with a misbehaving mic stand—the moment (eventually) becomes quite funny. Before one song, Simone admonishes any listener who might threaten to relegate her, at that moment a resident of Liberia, to the category of just another ignorant black artist: “I do speak French, you know. I am not like all those black musicians who come over here and get locked into their own thing and never speak one worrrrd,” moments before praising Montreux and its “terrible, wonderful peacefulness. It permeates everything that is here. It attracts me and holds me, and I hope that I’m permitted to stay amongst you for a little while.”

In one odd moment, Simone belligerently demands to ascertain the whereabouts of David Bowie, who had recently moved to nearby Blonay—she becomes irritated to learn that he’s not in the house. (Two years earlier, Bowie and Simone had developed a tolerably intense friendship, conducted mostly on the telephone, during which Bowie helped her get out of an emotional funk. Simone said of the relationship, “He told me that he was not a gifted singer and he knew it. He said, ‘What’s wrong with you is you were gifted—you have to play. Your genius overshadows the money, and you don’t know what to do to get your money, whereas I wasn’t a genius, but I planned, I wanted to be a rock-and-roll singer and I just got the right formula.’”)

Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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05.08.2018
11:09 am
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