Granada Television produced this fascinating TV time capsule “It’s So Far Out It’s Straight Down” as a special part of their Scene at 6:30 series. The program focused on the young counterculture / hippie scene in London and features Miles, the Indica Gallery and the editorial board of The International Times underground newspaper. Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso and Lawrence Ferlinghetti are seen at the International Poetry Incarnation and we are taken to The UFO Club where Syd Barrett and the Pink Floyd are playing a live version of “Interstellar Overdrive” (Also heard on the soundtrack is an early version of their “Matilda Mother,” then called “Percy The Ratcatcher” and “It Can’t Happen Here” by The Mothers of Invention).
Paul McCartney is a talking head interviewee in the studio, intelligently discussing the nascent underground scene. Macca was an active part of the London underground, financially supporting the Indica Gallery and bookstore—he even built the bookshelves himself—and IT. McCartney, the Beatle who soaked up cutting-edge culture and avant garde influences long before the rest of them did, is seen in four segments during the show, and as a wealthy, intelligent and well-respected person representing the counterculture to people who might fear it, as you’ll see, he knocks the ball straight out of the park:
If you don’t know anything about it [the counterculture], you can sort of trust that it’s probably gonna be alright and it’s probably not that bad because it’s human beings doing it, and you know vaguely what human beings do. And they’re probably going to think of it nearly the same way you would in that situation.
The straights should welcome the underground because it stands for freedom… It’s not strange it’s just new, it’s not weird, it’s just what’s going on around.
“It’s So Far Out It’s Straight Down” was broadcast in March of 1967, so it’s pre-Summer of Love. The time seems so pregnant with promise. This is the exact moment, historically speaking, when pop culture went from B&W and shades of gray to vivid color. If you put yourself in the mind of a kid from, say the north of England watching something like this on television during that era, it’s easy to see how this film would have brought tens of thousands of young people into London seeking to find these forward-thinking cultural movers and shakers to become part of “the happening” themselves.
Without knowing the full provenance of this footage featuring golden couple Paul and Linda McCartney larking about in front of a camera, it’s a wee bit difficult to know if it is outtakes from a music promo or indeed, as claimed by the man who transferred and uploaded it to You Tube, Larry Jamieson, a “lost” home movie made by the McCartneys while holidaying in New Zealand sometime during 1997:
This is a damaged super 8 film of Paul and Linda having some fun making a home movie. I restored what was left of this film many years ago and forgot about it. It is over exposed and out of focus in parts, but it is a personal treasure.
But the clip’s provenance doesn’t really matter as what we have here is the Mozart of pop music, Paul and photographer, activist, and musician Linda McCartney making a sweet little film which is all the more moving because we know how this particular story ends.
Linda McCartney’s usual long, blonde, flowing locks have been cropped short as she was then undergoing treatment for breast cancer, which had spread to her liver. Sadly, McCartney died in Tuscon on April 17th, 1998. As a grieving Macca suggested at the time, perhaps the best way to remember Linda is to donate to a breast cancer charity—one that doesn’t support animal testing—or better still “go veggie.”
Christmas 1965, Paul McCartney secretly recorded an “album” at his home in London as a present for his fellow bandmates John, George, and Ringo. There were only three discs ever made of this special festive recording, which have since either worn out or disappeared. This is how author Richie Unterberger described Paul’s Christmas album in his mammoth book The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film:
For years, it had been reported that Paul McCartney recorded an album at home around Christmas 1965 specifically for the other Beatles. Supposedly, it included singing, acting, and sketches, and only three copies were pressed, one each for John, George, and Ringo. In a 1995 interview with Mark Lewisohn, Paul confirmed this in some detail, explaining, “Yes, it’s true. I had two Brenell tape recorders set up at home, on which I made experimental recordings and tape loops, like the ones in ‘Tomorrow Never Knows.’ And once I put together something crazy, something left field, just for the other Beatles, a fun thing which they could play late in the evening. It was just something for the mates, basically.”
Continued McCartney, “It was called Unforgettable and it started with Nat ‘King’ Cole singing ‘Unforgettable,’ then I came in over the top as the announcer” ‘Yes, unforgettable, that’s what you are! And today in Unforgettable...’ It was like a magazine program: full of weird interviews, experimental music, tape loops, some tracks I knew the others hadn’t heard, it was just a compilation of odd things. I took the tape to Dick James’s studio and they cut me three acetate discs. Unfortunately, the quality of these discs was such that they wore out as you played them for a couple of weeks, but then they must have worn out. There’s probably a tape somewhere, though.”
If it ever turns up, it might be the earliest evidence of the Beatles using home recording equipment for specifically experimental/avant-garde purposes—something that John and Paul did in the last half of the 1960s, though John’s ventures in this field are more widely known than Paul’s.
Barry Miles in his biography of McCartney Many Years From Now notes the former Beatle had been regularly making experimental tapes for his then grilfriend Jane Asher which pips Lennon to the post as far as pioneering the avant-garde. As McCartney told Miles:
I would sit around all day, creating little tapes. I did one once called Unforgettable and used the Unforgettable Nat King Cole “Is what you are ...” as the intro. Then did a sort of “Hello, hello ...” like a radio show. I had a demo done by Dick James of that, just for the other guys because it was really a kind of stoned thing. That was really the truth of it.
This stoner recording has popped up on bootlegs but thanks to DM pal author, biographer, musician, and all-around good guy, Simon Wells we can share with you the whole of McCartney’s Unforgettable Christmas recording from 1965.
I’m reliably told that photographs are polysemous—that is they have multiple meanings which can change depending on mood or understanding of what the image represents. Seems legit.
So let’s take, for example, the picture posted above of three long-haired guys hanging around some city street in the 1970s. It kinda looks like a regular snap of buddies hanging together. But, as soon as we realize its a pic of John Deacon, Roger Taylor, and a rather cool-looking Freddie Mercury of Queen, this picture takes on a whole new meaning.
Now that we know who it is, we probably want to know where this picture of Freddie and co. was taken. The trio was photographed standing outside 143 Wardour Street, Soho, London, in 1974. Next, I suppose we might ask, What were they doing here? Well, from what I can gather, it was taken during a break in the recording of the band’s second album, Queen II at Trident Studios directly opposite. Then we might inspect the image to glean what feelings these young nascent superstars are showing.
Photographer Watal Asanuma beautifully captured the personalities of these three very different individuals (and to an extent their hopes and ambitions) in a seemingly unguarded moment. Queen was on the cusp of their chart success with the “Seven Seas of Rhye” and the imminent release of “Killer Queen.” This photo now has a historical importance because of what we know this trio (and Brian May) went on to achieve.
I guess some of us might even want to go and visit the location to see where exactly Freddie or Roger or John stood and maybe even recreate the photo for the LOLs. It’s a way of paying homage and drawing history into our lives.
For those who can’t make it all the way to London, Music History, the Twitter presence of Rock Walk London, has been compiling selections of such pictures and making composites of the original image with a photo of what the location looks like today. Okay, so it saves the airfare but more importantly It’s a fun and simple way of bringing to life London’s rich history of pop culture in a single image.
If you like this kinda thing and want to see more, then follow Music History here.
More then and now pix of Jagger, Clash, Floyd, and more, after the jump…
Gadget-crazed Dangerous Minds pal Chris Holmes sent on these ultra trippy videos from his opening sets spinning tunes for Paul McCartney’s “One to One Tour”:
These videos were captured live with a 360 VR cam during three different DJ sets opening for Paul McCartney on the “One on One Tour.” Two sets are from earlier this month in Detroit at the Little Caesars Arena on October 1st and 2nd (the night after the Las Vegas shooting and Tom Petty’s heart attack). The third set is from last year’s weekend 2 of “Desert Trip” at Coachella on October 15th, 2016.
The video was shot on a single static 360 VR cam, and all the effects and movement were done in post.
Chris Holmes’ opening DJ set for Paul McCartney’s “One on One” tour, October 1, 2017 at Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena
Oct 1 Detroit Little Caesars Arena
1) “Early Days” DJ Chris remix Paul McCartney
2) “Mamunia” DJ Chris remix Paul McCartney and Wings
2) “Check My Machine” DJ Chris mix Paul McCartney
4) “Mother Nature’s Son” DJ Chris mix The Beatles
5) “Blackbird” DJ Chris Parallel remix Blood Sisters/Billy Preston
6) “Dance Tonight” DJ Chris mix Paul McCartney
7) “Waterspout” DJ Chris mix Paul McCartney
8) “Country Dreamer” DJ Chris mix Paul McCartney
9) “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road” DJ Chris mix The Beatles
10) “Uncle Albert/Hands Across The Water” DJ Chris mix Paul McCartney
11) “You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)” DJ Chris mix The Beatles
12) “Get Back” DJ Chris mix Deidre Wilson Tabac
13) “Seaside Woman” DJ Chris mix Linda McCartney
14) “We Can Work It Out” DJ Chris motown mix Stevie Wonder
15) “Help” DJ Chris motown mix David Porter
16) “Too Many People” DJ Chris mix Paul McCartney
17) “Ram” DJ Chris mix Paul McCartney
In 1980, Paul McCartney released his first solo album since 1970’s eponymous McCartney. Cleverly titled McCartney II, it’s a so-so album at best, as a fair few Sir Paul’s albums are, and it remains noteworthy mostly because he recorded it entirely by himself while Wings was in stasis pending their breakup a year later, and because it contains “Temporary Secretary,” a wonderfully bonkers experiment in synth based electro-pop that’s held up well enough to have earned some overdue respect in recent years.
The lead-off single from that album was the kinda crappy but virulently catchy “Coming Up.” It boasted a chipmunk vocal effect that struck a lot of people as so weird that Columbia records promoted the single’s B-Side, a 1979 live version of the song performed by Wings in Scotland, as the US single, which actually worked, and the live version became the one that ended up on best-of comps. There’s a great story about John Lennon hearing the song for the first time, related by Tom Doyle in Man on the Run:
Lennon was being driven by [personal assistant] Fred Seaman through Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island, when he first heard “Coming Up” on the radio. “Fuck a pig, it’s Paul,” he exclaimed, before turning up the volume and nodding along. “Not bad,” he decided at the song’s conclusion. He asked Seaman to buy him a copy of McCartney II and set up a new stereo system in his bedroom specifically so he could listen to it. The next day, “Coming Up” was still rattling around John’s head. “It’s driving me crackers,” he told Seaman, before venturing the opinion that even if its parent album was patchy, at least Paul was back trying to do something eclectic and experimental.
“Fuck a pig, it’s Paul”: The immortal words of one of popular music’s most politically aware and sensitive bards.
That McCartney album is credited by some sources as one of the factors that motivated Lennon to get off his ass and record the music that would find its way onto Double Fantasy, his last album of new music released in his lifetime. But lest anyone think all was hunky-dory between Lennon and McCartney, Lennon also had some sharp words about the cringeworthily goofy “Coming Up” promotional clip—in which a video-composited McCartney played every instrument (except Linda McCartney’s backing vocals) in a band called “The Plastic Macs,” a dig at Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band—saying that it must have been a dream come true for McCartney, who always wanted to be the only member of the band.
Trainspotters will note that in addition to portraying his own younger self in that video, McCartney also pays homage to Ron Mael of Sparks, Hank Marvin of The Shadows (easily mistaken for Buddy Holly), and Andy Mackay of Roxy Music, among others. In 1980, that was a difficult technical feat which won that video a lot of attention. Now, of course, such compositing techniques are far more effortless, and director Adam Harding has used them to pay ridiculous homage to (or make fun of?) that classic McCartney video with Melvins drummer Dale Crover, in a hilariously stripped-down way. “Bad Move” is Crover’s first solo video, from his first full length solo album The Fickle Finger of Fate on Joyful Noise. (Yes, he did a solo E.P. in 1992 as part of a KISSparody the Melvins did. And then there was last year’s six minute $100 record/art object Skins…) In Crover’s video, he plays three members of his band, sharing his stage with Acid King bassist Dan Southwick in costume as The Birthday Party’s Tracy Pew (!!!), and producer Toshi Kasai as keyboardist—well, I honestly can’t say who that’s supposed to be.
Imagine, if you can, a country starkly divided by wealth inequality, where a small number of rich people lead lives of extravagant luxury and everyone else fights over the crumbs.
Now imagine that the most vulgar of celebrities, having ascended to high office by appealing to racist and sexist tendencies in the electorate, has announced a plan to slash health care in order to build up the military. Far from bringing him down, sex scandals only make him appear more powerful and exciting to his base. And what, exactly, is the nature of his relationship with the Russians?
Of course, I could only be talking about Nosher Powell, the real-life English boxer and actor who portrays “Cockney fascist” Home Secretary Nosher Powell in the dystopian 1987 comedy Eat the Rich. The dialogue is as quotable as that of Tapeheads or Repo Man. Early on, a diner at the posh eatery Bastards addresses a label head played by Miles Copeland:
Look, Derek, forget funk rap. It’s dead. The kids are getting hooked on socialism.
“OK, we’ll sack the blacks and sign the reds,” Copeland replies. It’s a cruel, cynical, racist—did I mention racist?—society.
The great Lanah Pillay stars as Alex, a hero for our time. Alex becomes a revolutionary after she’s fired from her waitressing job at Bastards, where she served koala and panda meat to one too many horrible jerks. And joining Lanah and Nosher from the world of UK showbiz in this movie right here is everyone and her fucking uncle: Lemmy, Shane MacGowan, Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French, Hugh Cornwell of the Stranglers, Sandie Shaw, Beatle Paul, Bill Wyman of the Stones, Koo Stark, Angela Bowie, and The Young Ones’ Rik Mayall all make appearances. Most of the soundtrack (and the soundtrack album) is by Motörhead, and at one point in the movie, Lemmy climbs onstage to play “Dr. Rock.”
When it comes to someone of the staggering musical achievements of Paul McCartney, there’s a whole lot to document, and a great deal of it has indeed been exhaustively documented. If you want to know what city Paul and the other members of the Beatles were in on any given date in 1966, you just have to look it up.
And yet, some stories fall through the cracks, escape wider attention. Take for example the full instrumental cover album McCartney released in 1977 under the name Thrillington, the one that was a track-by-track cover of his 1971 album Ram. It wasn’t until 1989 that he admitted in public that he was responsible for the Thrillington album.
Remarkably, the album was recorded in 1971 during the Ram sessions but got shelved when Paul and Linda McCartney turned their attentions to the formation of Wings. Six years later the album was released to modest (very modest) fanfare—but officially, McCartney had nothing to do with it. The only hint that he might have been involved was the painted image of his face in the control room on the album’s back cover art.
Paul and Linda McCartney looking dapper
The conceit of the Thrillington album was that it was the product of a “fictitious socialite” named Percy “Thrills” Thrillington. Skiffle lover McCartney couldn’t resist reimagining Ram as an album from the 1930s, so he redid the album as something you might find in an Agatha Christie book, complete with Art Deco typeface and a cover image of a swank dude in a tuxedo (and a ram’s head) playing the violin.
There’s not a thing wrong with this album from a musical standpoint. For instance, “Monkberry Moon Delight” isn’t the only track to feature some truly ass-kicking horn work, and “Dear Boy” sounds uncannily like a Pet Sounds outtake. McCartney was arguably the most gifted producer of pop music of his generation, and this album certainly reflects that.
Wikipedia states that many people had a strong suspicion that this was a weird McCartney lark. There’s a report on the album in a June 1977 issue of Rolling Stone that seems to wink its understanding of the real creator of the music. For instance, the article states that the PR bio “claims” Thrillington to have been born in 1939 and to have studied in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for several years. “Percy Thrillington” is such an obviously invented name that it’s not quite clear whether the author knows that Thrillington is McCartney or just that something hinky is up. The item ends with what might be taken as a knowing reference to McCartney’s image on the back cover.
Back cover, Thrillington
Obviously a lot of people had their suspicions and then some, but the real story of the Thrillington album is that it mostly ... just got forgotten. In late 1989 journalist Peter Palmiere asked McCartney about it at a press conference in Los Angeles. Paul cried, “What a great question to end the conference! The world needs to know! But seriously, it was me and Linda—and we kept it a secret for a long time but now the world knows! You blew it!”
We all know that author William S. Burroughs is one of the “people we like” on the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s album cover, but did you know that Burroughs was actually around when Paul McCartney composed “Eleanor Rigby”? Apparently so. Over the weekend, I noticed the following passage in the book With William Burroughs: A Report From the Bunker by Victor Bockris:
Burroughs: Ian met Paul McCartney and Paul put up the money for this flat which was at 34 Montagu Square… I saw Paul several times. The three of us talked about the possibilities of the tape recorder. He’d just come in and work on his “Eleanor Rigby.” Ian recorded his rehearsals. I saw the song taking shape. Once again, not knowing much about music, I could see that he knew what he was doing. He was very pleasant and very prepossessing. Nice-looking young man, hardworking.
The connection here was, no doubt, author Barry Miles. Miles started the Indica Bookshop in London with McCartney’s financial backing. Miles states in his book In the Sixties that Burroughs was a frequent visitor to the shop. When the Beatles started their experimental label Zapple, with Barry Miles at the helm, the idea was to release more avant garde fare, such as readings by American poets Michael McClure, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Richard Brautigan and comedian Lenny Bruce. McCartney set up a small studio that was run by Burroughs’ ex-boyfriend, Ian Sommerville, who also lived there, and this is why Burroughs would have been around.
It’s always thought that John Lennon was the far-out Beatle, but it was in fact Macca who was the one obsessed by Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Cage and Morton Subotnick, not Lennon (he got there later, via Yoko).
The “Eleanor Rigby” section from ‘Yellow Submarine.’
When The Beatles split-up in 1970 the music press divided the pop world into two camps: those for John Lennon and those against Paul McCartney (who, coincidentally met each other for the first time 59 years ago today). That both camps were basically the same thing meant McCartney had rough ride from “hip” musos over the next decades.
McCartney was painted as straight, safe, vanilla and very very bland—the sort of music yer mom and dad listened to when riding an elevator. It was fueled in large part by his former songwriting pal John Lennon’s vicious public spat with him. Lennon excoriated McCartney in his song “How Do You Sleep?” claiming the only thing he’d done was “Yesterday.”
Lennon was perceived as cool. McCartney was seen as square, fake and lacking any real artistic credibility—whatever that may be. He was the lesser half of the writing partnership Lennon & McCartney. This was how the music press in general and the British music press in particular painted the former Beatles. Of course it was wrong—very wrong. McCartney was the cool one, the smart one, the one who was hanging out with all those avant garde artists on the edge. He didn’t have to try on different party hats to find out who he was—he knew instinctively. The way the music press wrote about him you would never have known. But then again music journalists only write for themselves and their tiny band of fellow journalists—they do not write for the public or really understand that popular music is meant for all—the clue’s in its name—it’s not an exclusive club.
How McCartney weathered it all while starting out on his solo career, raising a family with his wife Linda, then forming the band Wings reveals just how strong and determined a character/a talent is James Paul McCartney.
Understandably, post-Beatles McCartney was always cagey about giving interviews. He knew (and knows) how interviewers turn words to fit their own preconceived opinions and how interviewers like to make themselves the star of the interview.
One of McCartney’s best ever interviews came in 1978, when he was featured in a short film for Melvyn Bragg’s The South Bank Show.
McCartney and Melvyn Bragg, 1978.
The South Bank Show was devised by Bragg as an arts magazine show that would cover high and low art—from TV and films to theater and pop music. This seems utterly run-of-the-mill now but back in the seventies this hi/lo concept was considered shocking. Pop music was in no way comparable to classical music. Television was never in the same class as theater, etcetera etcetera. Bragg was challenging the perceived orthodoxy when he kicked the whole thing off with The South Bank Show in January 1978, creating the kind of mix of high and low culture we take so very much for granted today.
The South Bank Show was originally a magazine program that featured one or two short films, plus a studio interview and usually some kind of performance. During the first series this morphed into one hour profiles of artists, writers, film directors and performers which remained the format.
Paul McCartney appeared in the very first episode in a short insert documentary filmed during the recording of the song “Mull of Kintyre.” McCartney is open to Bragg’s questions and even goes so far as to explain how he writes, giving examples of some of his best known songs. He also discusses the hurt he felt over the bust-up with Lennon and ends by explaining how he gets a thrill from hearing people whistling his tunes—or as he goes on to say, how he once heard a bird whistling a riff from one of his hits.
The following is the whole interview repackaged for Bragg’s The South Bank Show: Originals series recently broadcast on Sky Arts. It opens with Bragg talking about his memory of interviewing McCartney and contains comment from journalist Clive James who rightly describes Paul McCartney as a genius.
Fans of The Venture Bros. everywhere adore two ostensibly peripheral characters, henchmen 21 and 24, who toil for the evil mastermind known as .... the Monarch! Voiced by the show’s creators, Eric “Doc” Hammer and Jackson Publick (Christopher McCulloch), respectively, the pathetic duo of intermittently loyal “muscle” functions as a bizarre Greek chorus on the events of the Venture universe even as their very presence points up the inherent absurdity of Bond-esque masterminds who seemingly have little trouble assembling armies of goons with no mention of pay, working hours, overtime, parental leave, etc. (For reference, 21 is the chubby one who has a crush on Dr. Girlfriend; 24 is the taller one who for no known reason sounds like Ray Romano.)
Several years ago, Hammer and Publick undertook a cover of that most annoying of Christmas ditties, Paul McCartney’s kudzu-like 1979 effort “Wonderful Christmastime.” Right now on my Facebook feed, I’m following a heated discussion as to whether “Wonderful Christmastime” is the worst song of all time or merely the worst Christmas song of all time; as of now, it appears to be a tossup. Two years ago Dan Harmon and Jeff Davis spent several minutes excoriating the tune on an episode of Harmontown (jump to minute 47 for that bit).
Whatever your take on the song, which reportedly earns McCartney $400,000 annually, Publick and Hammer treat the Xmas numb-er with all the, er, respect that it deserves, which makes for one highly amusing Yuletide video.
Before Ali G, Borat and Keith Lemon, “Norman Gunston” was trolling celebrities with his bogus interviews for Australian television. Gunston was the madcap creation of actor-comedian Garry McDonald, who ambushed celebrities and probed them with his microphone and excruciatingly dumb questions.
Gunston made his first (brief) appearances on the Pythonesque Aunty Jack Show in 1972, before becoming the “legendary un-personality” on spin-off series Wollongong the Brave in 1974. With his shiny blue suit and his face covered with blood-spotted pieces of tissue paper, the beautifully observed Gunston was an instant hit.
Gunston excited to be probing a Beatle.
Over the years, Norman Gunston interviewed Paul and Linda McCartney, Cheech and Chong (who he mistakes as comedy duo Morecambe and Wise), and Lee Marvin (caught in a airport terminal). Sometimes the stars played along—like a flirtatious Karen Black or Frank Zappa, who happily jammed with the harmonica-playing Gunston, or Muhammed Ali who said to Gunston “I’m punchy, what’s your excuse?”
Occasionally, the celebs didn’t know how to handle Gunston—like an eyeballing Elliott Gould, or a confused Warren Beatty, but their desperate responses only add to the comedy.
I’ve been fairly unrestrained in expressing my abiding fandom of the commercially underachieving ‘90s rock band Failure, both in real life and on Dangerous Minds. They had everything I loved—dense and creamy distorted guitar tones, gripping tension-and-release dynamics, emotive, anxious melodic and lyrical content that FAR surpassed the one-dimensional angst typical of the period’s radio rock. The poor sales of their masterpiece Fantastic Planet contributed to the band’s end, though time has rehabilitated the album and it’s now considered an influential classic, which set the stage for Failure’s reunion last year. The announcement of that tour made me as giddy as a kid on Christmas morning, and I drove three hours to once again catch a band I utterly adored but hadn’t seen in concert since 1992.
As it happens, there was more than just a tour in the offing—Failure have fully reactivated, and their first album in 19 years, The Heart Is A Monster, will arrive next week. I’m confident that fans of Fantastic Planet will be more than satisfied—I typically take a dim view of reunions, and if Monster was in any way unsatisfactory, I’d be properly bitching up a storm about it. But no. It’s goddamn glorious. The band conceived Monster as a continuation of Planet, and even picked up the numbering of its interstitial segues from where the prior album left off. I’ll not subject you to lengthy gushing, it’s streaming in its entirety on Entertainment Weekly’s web site if you want to judge for yourself. I recommend listening from beginning to end in a sitting if you can swing the time. (I should add that they’re on tour now, and later in the summer they’re doing dates with another neglected ‘90s favorite of mine, Hum, about which I’m kinda headsploding.)
One of Failure’s most illuminating, and just flat out most fun albums wasn’t even a Failure album, but a 1995 time-killer project. Waiting for Fantastic Planet to be released and unable to tour, Failure prime movers Ken Andrews and Greg Edwards teamed up with ex-Tool bassist Paul D’Amour and keyboardist Chris Pitman (Tool, Blinker the Star, and I shit you not Guns N’ Roses) to record a superb album of transformative ‘70s and ‘80s cover songs under the name Replicants, a winking Blade Runner reference. What could have just been a goof turned out as an extremely strong work in its own right, and their eponymous album is not just my favorite covers album, it’s been one of my favorite albums period for 20 years.
A contemporary article in the UCLA Daily Bruin of all places provided a look at the band’s formation and intent:
Ken Andrews, lead singer of the Replicants, has been stuck in a “Warehousy loft-type space” for about a year. Tired of the white-walled complex and its “big air conditioning ducts,” he wants to be out and on the road. But the tortured musician must continue mixing and producing in his “utilitarian” studio.
“I’m really sick of it. I really want to play live now,” complains Andrews. However, the current band member of Failure and frontman for his side project the Replicants manages to remain laid back and positive. And with good reason. The Replicants have just released a self-titled album of covers of tunes ranging from the Beatles to the Cars. Snatching countless enthusiastic reviews, the project includes the talents of one Tool member (Paul D’Amour), one Eye In Triangle musician (Chris Pitman), and one other Failure member (Greg Edwards). And, once Andrews’ soon-to-be-released Failure album hits stores, he will be able to return to his beloved stage.
Strangely, a four-track demo tape of the haphazard group landed on a desk at Zoo Entertainment. Before they knew it, the Replicants were an official band with an offer to record an entire album of cover songs. “At that point, we had no idea what to do,” explains a baffled Andrews. “Everyone would just bring up songs and either we would all agree or we wouldn’t and I think everyone sort of got their one song that maybe other people didn’t want.” However, they could all agree on one thing: The Replicants would have their own musical freedom.
“We like doing the Replicants because we could do different versions of these songs in ways that Failure or Tool wouldn’t,” Andrews says. For instance, neither spawning ground for the creative forces of the Replicants would think to record Missing Persons’ “Destination Unknown” with an industrial/techno spin. Each song was dealt with individually, following no preconceived notion of the album’s overall sound. This system provided a good musical balance for Andrews and his associates.
Some of the transformations are huge (John Lennon’s “How Do You Sleep?”), some are closer to mere production-values updates (obligatory cover-band “Cinnamon Girl”), but pretty much every revamped tune on the CD has some kind of a tonal shift to the darker. One simple and actually sorta brilliant minor-key modulation imparts a wholly unexpected sense of dread to Replicants’ version of the Cars’ bouncy “Just What I Needed.” See if you ever unhear it.
Being one of The Beatles meant being mobbed, followed and even stalked everywhere you went. They quit Liverpool for London for its mix of anonymity and excitement—and because everything happened there. Eventually, John, George and Ringo moved on to the stockbroker belt to find peace, quiet and happy isolation. But even there, Lennon had unwelcome visitors who wanted a photo or to say that they understood what his songs were about, and touch the hem of his clothes.
Eventually, Lennon moved again, this time to New York where he said he could walk the streets without anyone bothering him. Going by these fan photographs of Lennon in London and New York, it’s obvious he was just as mobbed by devoted fans in the Big Apple as he had been back in the Big Smoke.
These fan snaps capture Lennon from the late 1960s, through his relationship with Yoko Ono, to just before his untimely death in 1980.
John Lennon signing an autograph outside the Abbey Road Studios, 1968.
Getting it or not getting it to varying degrees are Kate Bush, Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Cliff Richard, Steve Harley, Mick Taylor, Peter Gabriel, Paul Cook, John Lydon, Meatloaf, and a surprisingly astute young Leif Garrett putting in their two cents on the topic of “Punk.”
According to the caption on YouTube, these comments aired in December 1979 on a program called Countdown on a specific episode called “End Of the Decade.” Presumably this is something from the archives of Australian television. It looks like an editor’s raw “selects” in the formulation seen here.