Friday, December 27, 2013

#19 Love - Forever Changes

Round about twenty years ago an Australian friend of mine came to visit me when I was living in Warsaw in Poland. We had got to know each other in Germany one of my previous ports of call. He was a good fellow. One of the things I remember most about his visit was going down to Warsaw's main synagogue so he could pay his respects to his father who had left Poland just before the Second World War for the long trip down to Australia and a new life. Sensible man.
As I said Ian was a good bloke. Entertaining, bright and funny. A very good heart. He did have the habit of grabbing hold of the remote control and changing channels from a programme you were watching though. Never the most desirable characteristic in a house guest. There's another episode I particularly recall. We were listening to a compilation C90 cassette mix of mine. Everybody of a certain age will know exactly what I'm talking about. They were religiously compiled acts of love.
Alone Again Or the first track from Love's great masterpiece Forever Changes started playing. When it came to the line 'I think that I could be in love with almost anyone' Ian almost visibly bristled. 'Come on. Take off this hippie crap and put something decent on.' I tried to reason with him, it was difficult to know where to start but he wasn't having it so in the end I complied. I think he wanted to put on something like Weezer one of the cassettes he had brought me or Elastica perhaps. Humph!
We're not in touch anymore. Nothing to do with this episode honestly. The last I heard he was a golf coach back in Australia and had started a family. I wish him well. As I said he was a good bloke. But twenty years on I need to call him out. Ian Rubenstein you were wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong! Alone Again Or and Forever Changes are as good as it possibly gets. I won't tell you where you can stick your Weezer tape!
'Looking like a born again. Living like a heretic. Listening to Arthur Lee records. Making all your friends feel so guilty about their cynicism. And the rest of their generation. Not even the government are gonna stop you now. But are you ready to be heartbroken?'
These lyrics, from Lloyd Cole & the Commotions great first album Rattlesnakes (released in 1984), were probably the first I ever heard of Arthur Lee and Love. It was a good sign. Pretty much every name Cole drops on the record and every musical influence that went into the making of that record is worth tracking down. They had good taste.
It wasn't particularly difficult to unearth Forever Changes from there. For an album that hadn't sold particularly well in the UK first time round it still had a relatively high profile. This is testament to the sheer, undeniable quality of the record itself. It was still in print and readily available. I bought it at some point over the next couple of years when I got to university. I've been playing it ever since and don't plan on stopping any time soon.
'It's difficult to convey just what a dash Arthur Lee must have cut when he first broke through on the Strip in 1966.... They were a unique phenomenon: an interacial 'two-tone group playing an extraordinary hybrid of R&B, folk rock and psychedelic pop. And Arthur was at the centre of it all, a black freak on the white scene, a ghetto punk in beads and pebble glasses.'
The first great misnomer about the band is their name.
'Jerry Hopkins who briefly managed them...thought they should have called themselves Fist, a sentiment later echoed by Peter Albin of Big Brother & the Holding Company, who felt Hate would have been a more apt name for the group. But if Love were hoods, they were psychedelicized hoods, and the tension within the band between punk and flower was part of what made their songs so compelling.' 
Some of the early Love records are almost as special as Forever Changes but I won't be reviewing them here. At first they were a garage band not a million miles from those great set of groups so lovingly compiled a few years after the event by Lenny Kaye on Nuggets. However, they were a cut above every one of those bands, (with all respect to the 13th Floor Elevators), great as their individual statements were. Love really should have been huge. But they were utterly uncompromising. Menacing.
Love on American Bandstand. 'I was as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs' Arthur Lee
This clip says a lot about them and explains why they were destined to fall short of where their talents and ambition might have taken them. They're doing their take on a Bacharach and David song but this is hardly Dionne Warwick or Cilla Black. Love have twisted it into a new shape, much nastier than anything any other American group was serving up at this point in time. The Velvet Underground and The Doors were still months away. MC5 and The Stooges barely embryos. But everything those four bands went on to try to do in terms of challenging and trying to subvert American straight conformist culture Love are doing here. 
It's a deranged, edgy, dangerous performance. The audience seems nonplussed at points. Lee is quite clearly tripping out of his tree and seems to have been doing so for quite some while. There are echoes of other bands, mostly of The Stones, in their look, hair and clothes and the way they carry themselves but they're strange, distorted echoes. Brian Maclean looks like Brian Jones developing a thousand yard stare midway through a tour of duty.
The stand up drum kit surely predates the Velvet's use of it. Drummer "Snoopy" Pfisterer, seems as if he can barely maintain a basic beat (he was relieved of his duties before the band got round to recording Forever Changes). Johnny Echols twin necked guitar looks plain odd. It's certainly not necessary for this song. The band are dressed in the Sunset Strip's hippest brightest garb but they look decidedly ill at ease. Lee is constantly licking his lips and swivelling around trying to keep track of the camera. They don't fit. Sorry, but if every man jack of them is not on some heavy reality shaking intoxicant it really doesn't show.
When the presenter comes on at the end of the song and tries to converse with the band the sheer abyss between Love and the straight culture they're half-heartedly trying to make inroads into becomes almost embarrassing. It's an incredible document of its times. However, it seems doubtful whether the appearance on the show would have sold them a single record. Except perhaps to some strays who would probably have found their way into Love's coop anyway eventually.
“Only when a group really reaches the top, can their careers withstand what they may suffer from being continually rude and uncaring to fans and reporters alike. In my opinion, Love will soon be on many blacklists in the music industry, rather than in the ‘little red book’ where they want so badly to belong.” Rochelle Reed
From here Love powered on to 7&7 Is (their only Top 40 single) and Da Capo where they really gave an indication on what they could do. The set of songs on the first side Stephanie Knows Who, Orange Skies, Que Vida, Seven & Seven Is, The Castle and She Comes in Colors, are as good a suite as anyone came out with as 1966 became 1967. The second side is a 19 minute blues jam called Revelation which is less necessary. And so to Forever Changes which they recorded in the summer of 1967.
This record doesn't need me to plead its case. Almost fifty years on now its reputation is assured and will probably only grow regardless of what Ian Rubenstein has to say on the matter. It's as good as the very best in 1967, some year for rock music, which puts it up there with The Velvet Underground & Nico, Sergeant Pepper and the first two Doors albums, Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Surrealistic Pillow, Younger Than Yesterday and Are You Experienced. For me I'd put it in a class on its own with the Velvets debut right now and it's much better produced than that album. It's that good. It's an astonishing document.
First song Alone Again Or? still sounds pretty great to me despite Rubenstein's scorn echoing back across the years. It's the obvious hit single off the album. Everything else is too strange, too long, too baroque, too dark for American radio despite their beauty. Between Clark & Hilldale and Bummer in the Summer are the only other 45 candidates to my ears though the latter's title alone might have disqualified it. Alone Again Or? on the other hand could easily have been huge given the airplay.
It's still by far Love's best known song. It became a de facto hit over the years. The Damned chanced their hand at it. Shamefully. Did they like it at all in the first place?
Ironically the song is MacLean's not Lee's. It's more upfront, romantic and wistful than most of the album that follows, lacking the ingrained cynicism evident in Lee's songs. Whether the 'I could be in love with everyone' is to be taken at face value is up for question. Somebody said it to him after all. The fact that the guitars are fiercely acoustic rather than electric is one of the things that make it stand out so much from most of what was around it at this point. This album has so much space. When the mariachi brass kicks in whole careers are born. Belle & Sebastian's for starters.
Forever Changes seems completely different now to how it must have when it came out. The whole '50s to '80s dream of Rock music as a vital force for change, a politically driven process has been consumed, chewed, swallowed, gestasted, digested, flushed  and emitted out of the other end of the system and then sold on to ensure the whole process remains a going concern. It's been a tragic process for committed punters and potential activists to observe. The fact that music might be about more than just something nice to listen to. There are still folks waiting to dispense their gullible pennies. There always will be.
This doesn't make the product as something to listen to any less diverting. A product without the meaning it originally intended to convey can still be a beautiful even powerful object. Worth adoring in itself. A case in point is the second song on Forever Changes. A House is not a Motel . It's one of the best things I've ever heard. A thing of beauty.
'To listen to Forever Changes is to relive the moment when the spiritual tectonics of Los Angeles shifted under the weight of the Great Collapse. The record conjures up an image of this city quite similar in parts to Nathaniel West's conception of L.A. as a place perpetually teetering on the brink of infernal apocalypse.'
A House is not a Motel has everything for me. A great gloomy, eerie  melodic guitar intro. Drums kick in. Then the  vocals. Such a beautifully compressed twelve seconds of life. 'At my house I've got no shackles. You can come and look if you want to.'  Lines written by a black man living in a castle. In the hills above LA with his band. Scared of being shipped out to Vietnam at any moment. 'Through the halls you'll see the mantles. Where the light shines dim all around you. And the streets are paved with gold and if someone asks you, you can call my name.'
Love had already lost it by the time they came round to recording Forever Changes through varying fears, addictions and compulsions. In the demoing stage it became evident that at least a couple of band members were too strung out to play their parts properly. Session musicians were drafted in. Eventually band members got their acts together and made it to the final mix. But you can hear the pained, agonised withdrawal process within the spaces on the record.
This song is a huge haunted house. Lee's vocals are in a space of their own as are the guitars and the drums. 'More confusions. Blood transfusions. The news today will be the movies for tomorrow. And the water's turned to blood. And if you don't think so. Go turn on your tub.' After two minutes drums quicken, Lee's vocals intensify. And the mostly acoustic guitars become fully electric ones. That sound like Hendrix coming in from both speakers.  Echoing asylum laughter. Perhaps a cliché at this distance. The guitars shudder away. Then you hear an effect that sounds like electric noise gurgling down a plughole. Then it's done.
'We were obsessed by Love. Forever Changes is very elegant, but very dark - maybe LA has always been an evil place and [lead singer] Arthur Lee picked up on that before anyone else. Like Johnny Rotten, he could see beyond the version of reality sold to us and could describe things as they are in poetic terms.' Bobby Gillespie
To be fair to Rubinstein, he might have been onto something with his ill established opinion on Love when it comes to Forever Changes third track Andmoreagain. Good job he never heard it. I've always shut my ears to it over almost thirty years of listening to it because I knew what was coming next. Sure it's beautiful. But at the same time it's a dreadfully sentimental slice of cod medieval whimsy with orchestration straight out of the Da Capo sessions. That was five months ago Love! You've developed completely different narcotic addictions now. Get with the programme!
'In the morning we arise and start the day the same old way. As yesterday the day before and
All in all it's just a day like. All the rest so do your best with. chewing gum and it is oh so
        repetitious. Waiting on the sun.'
Fourth track The Daily Planet is the programme. 'In the morning we arise and start the day the same old way,'  have been thirteen of the wisest words on earth to me on dark weekday, workday mornings for at least the last ten years. It's strange how it took me twice as long as Arthur Lee to realise how meaningless life is. He worked it out between 21 and 22. Still, he was mightily talented, in control of a fat record contract and living in a castle in the LA hills. He was also gobbling LSD (allegedly) and convinced he was about to die (that bit comes from the horses mouth). Well, I'll catch up eventually. Though I'll have to give the intake a miss. Great cyclical drum pattern on this song and echoed double tracked vocals. The Plastic Nancy character in the song is a typical hippy-ism which places the song in its year. Nevertheless, a great pop moment.
The Daily Planet was pivotal to the recording of the album and the shape it would end up taking. The first song of the sessions, Neil Young sitting in as he was pencilled in to co-produce before commitments with Buffalo Springfield made the idea untenable. Given the general unhinged condition of several of the group Phil Spector's 'Wrecking Crew' backing band, (Hal Blaine, Billy Strange and Carol Kaye) were brought in. The rest of Love protested tearfully and were re-assigned and the tracks were remixed with them playing the following day . The sessions preceded as true collaborations from this point on.

'He's chucked his band out. Because they weren't cutting it. They got them back in. And they've played a blinder.' John Head, Shack
Next song Old Man is MacLean's second and final writer's contribution to the album. It's potentially even more winsome than Andmoreagain but unlike that song for me it's such a thing of beauty that it transcends potential hippy trappings and endures. I've had it spinning round my head for a couple of days while I've taken time off from reviewing this. It's about trying to understand the nature of love and life's eternities from what I can understand. Forever Changes is such an object of wonder partly because it's arranged so well and the contrast it offers from song to song. Old Man is nothing like the song that precedes or succeeds it and works perfectly within its context for that reason.
Arthur had this big house right on top of Mulholland Drive,” recalled Ken Forssi, “and we’d look down over the city from there. Arthur would sit up there staring out and wondering about all the ambulances.” On few other ’60s albums is the Vietnam war hovering so obviously in the background.'
Griffith Park
'Sitting on the hillside. Watching all the people die. I feel much better on the other side.' This is a pretty creepy way to start any song, made particularly eerie and unsettling when accompanied by sweet circling acoustic guitars. Forever Changes appeals and endures because of its beauty, its songs but also because of its prescient quality. It predicts the end of the LA hippy dream and also goes further to soundtrack some basic, eternal human truths. It sees the ugliness. Bobby Beausoleil was an early hanger on at the fringes of the Love circle. When MacLean replaced him on guitar he drifted off and attached himself to Charles Manson's Family. A couple of years later with the Tate-La Bianca murders there was blood and paranoia all over the Hollywood hillsides that Love inhabited and wrote about. The murders don't reflect on Love themselves in any way even though Beausoleil was involved but with this album and the track The Red Telephone especially they saw it coming. They were living through the madness themselves.
More than any other song I know The Red Telephone hovers for the course of its five minutes between polar opposite states. Light and darkness, sanity and madness, heaven and hell, peace and war, freedom and incarceration, life and death. Lee famously thought he was about to die at any moment during the making of the record between 21 and 22 and this was his final statement. He nearly did die a couple of years later and lived a dark, threatened but nevertheless charmed life over the succeeding decades.

'Arthur overdosed in his Mullholland Drive house. ' Some friends of mine found me dead,' he recalled later. 'Luckily they were paramedic types who knew what to do to save my life. I mean I was lying in the bathtub blue.'
'They're locking them up today. They're throwing away the key. I wonder who it will be tomorrow. You or me. We're all normal and we want our freedom'
The Red Telephone is the album's great act of non-compliance, of studying the entirety of the American system and wanting to step outside its machinery once and for all. The work of art it compares most closely to is probably One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest which came to the same conclusions; that the machinery would probably endure but still needed to be rattled and challenged.   
Lee himself was imprisoned in the 1990s for possession and firing of a firearm. The case against him was sketchy in the extreme and a long term prison sentence was enforced on California's scandalous three strikes and you're out jurisdiction policy. Lee saw it coming figuratively if not in real terms. He understood the way the system operated and the place he occupied within it. The track is a great beautiful creepy, cautionary statement. A masterpiece within a masterpiece. The centre point of the album itself. The end of Side One.
The Whisky a Go Go - 'Here they always play my song'
Between Clark and Hilldale, between The Byrds and The Doors, between '65 and '67 Love were kings of LA's Sunset Strip. Arthur Lee never let future interviewers forget the fact.
"We had the West Coast sewn up. I didn't trust nobody. I wasn't going on the road and play for $20 when I could play at the Fillmore for thousands. I had it made in one place, and I was kind of leery of going to a place I'd never been. I think I definitely made a few wrong decisions."
The place to have seen them would have been the Whisky a Go Go, the location of which Love chronicle on Side 2 Track 1, Maybe the People Would Be The Times Or Between Clark and Hilldale. It's the most upbeat thing on the whole record. The only time along with possibly Bummer In The Summer that Lee takes himself and his band outside the confines of the Bela Lugosi mansion and down onto the streets of LA itself.
It's a breeze. The most apparently joyous moment on the whole record. The trick it's built around, to start each line with the final word of the last is sustained throughout. It swings. It flies. A great hit single that never was. And possibly it never was because beneath its shiny, joyous surface, lurks Lee's trademark melancholy. It's lyrics are about the glamour, colour and life on the scene but also about the fakery, the essential phoniness of the Strip's whole façade and Lee removing himself from it. The lyrics could be quoted as further evidence of his death fixation.
'When I leave now don't you weep for me
I'll be back, just save a seat for me
But if you just can't make the room
Look up and see me on the...

 Moon's a common scene around my town
Yeah where everyone is painted brown
And if we do get stuck away
Let's go paint everybody grey
Yeah, grey, yeah.'

'Though acid may seem revelatory for the first two or three trips it starts to become a hall of mirrors thereafter... Forever Changes is exquisitely arranged but everything is slightly out of place. When the Manson Gang wanted to unsettle Beach Boy Dennis Wilson they broke into his house, moved three or four things around the living room, then left. Forever Changes is similarly intimidating. It's certainly mind altering'
'Oh the snot has caked against my pants. It has turned into crystal. There's a bluebird sitting on the branch. I think I'll take my pistol. Love - Live and Let Live.'
By this point you realise you're in the company of one of the best albums ever made. I bow to no-one in that judgement. Sorry Rubenstein. Live And Let Live, changes the pace again. Along with The Red Telephone and album closer You Set The Scene it's one of Forever Changes three great set pieces.
That doesn't make them the record's best tracks necessarily. The standard throughout is so consistently high that I'd find that quite impossible to rank in any real way. Andmoreagain, is always the only moment when my attention drops slightly. But these three songs depart completely from pop music in terms of structure and sentiment and the expansive mood they set allow Lee to properly get things off his chest.
This whole album comments on such basic central, important themes that we all recognise and feel deeply in a way that few other albums I know of have. In a way it's the ying against the yang of The Velvet Underground & Nico which was being made on the other coast of America at round about the same time. Except that Forever Changes was blessed with daylight whereas the Velvet Underground album played out entirely at night.
Live And Let Live moves from the snot caked against Arthur's pants to the bluebird to the couch to the bigger picture very quickly. 'Served my time. Served it well. You made my soul a cell'. And then from there to 'Write the rules. In the sky. Ask your leaders why!' From there we go back to the snot caked against Arthur's pants and the searing guitar that brings the track to the end.
Forever Changes is a deeply political album in a quite removed, uninvolved way. Because it's involved very directly with personal rather than political consciousness. It's involved with changing people one by one rather than systems at first remove the way bands like the MC5 and The Clash tried to. It makes a lot of the rhetoric seem quite foolish. Perhaps it was right. What after all has changed in the American political system since 1967, with the exception of voting in a black president, in comparison with the changes each and every one of us go through every day? Forever Changes.
I'm currently listening to a vinyl  copy of Sergeant Pepper which a friend kindly gave me. it's better than I remember. If it had four of five A Day In The Lifes it might come some way to living up to Forever Changes. But it doesn't. So much of it is vaudeville, music hall. It says so much less about the human condition than Love's album to me and as a result resides firmly in its shadow.
'Ace "Good Humor" ice cream salesman Biff Jones, while on his peddling route, is attacked by three thugs chasing a platinum blonde, Bonnie Conroy. They leave after stuffing Biff into the freezer compartment of his delivery vehicle. Biff loses his job. Bonnie shows up and asks Biff to spend the night in her living-room as protection against the gang. He agrees but awakens to find Bonnie a cold corpse. Biff thinks he has killed her but when he returns with the police the corpse has disappeared. Biff is implicated in a murder and robbery at a factory where he was seen making his rounds on the night of the crime. His girlfriend, Margie Bellew, secretary to Stuart Nagel, special investigator for the Peerless Insurance Company, warns Biff he is the prime suspect. Together, they hunt for the missing blonde in order to establish his alibi. Johnny, Margie's kid brother, and fellow-members of "The Captain Marvel Club" save Biff and Margie in a schoolhouse where they have been cornered by the gang. ' Summary of The Good Humor Man, comedy, crime caper made in 1950
I've never been to California and I probably never will. But The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This gives me the sensation that it's a realm of illusory, indescribable beauty above dark seams of sadness. As I said Forever Changes is played out in daylight never more so than in this song. I don't know whether the film described above has any relationship with the Love song halfway through the second side of Forever Changes. Probably not. Good Humor is an American brand of ice creams. Apparently the film summarised above is a comedy. You wouldn't really know it. The lyrics of the song below are apparently an ode to beauty. It's certainly another beautiful song. Again, it's not quite clear if this really tells the whole story. Disquiet and unease hum with the hummingbirds
'Hummingbirds hum, why do they hum, little girls wearing
Pigtails in the morning, in the morning
La da da, da da da da

Merry-go-rounds are going around in and all over
The town in the morning, in the morning
La da da, da da da da

Summertime's here and look over there, flowers every-
Where in the morning, in the morning
La da da, da da da da'
'It didn't avert the demons banging at the door of Love's mansion, but Forever Changes serves as an eternal reminder of the other side of idealism's coin.'
Bummer In The Summer dips into recognisable territory for once. It's a Dylanesque putdown, very much in the vein of Like A Rolling Stone or Positively 4th Street but still distinctively Love. It's quite an odd artefact for the so called Summer of Love .
'In the middle of the summer I had a job bein' a plumber
Just to pass till the fall it was you I wanna ball all day
Ah-we were walkin' along, honey, hand in hand
I'm a-thinkin' of you, mama, when you're thinkin' of another man
But you can go ahead if you want to
'Cause I ain't got no papers on you
(No, I ain't got no papers on myself
It's sour but all the more likeable for that. It's Lee seeing through the hippie façade. They're heading back into the garage but taking their acoustic guitars along with them. It's pretty much the most concise (less than two and a half minutes) and direct thing on the record. The riff is a slightly mutated , extended take on classic early Kinks or Troggs. It sounds great loud.

And so to You Set The Scene the album closer and Lee's big statement on a record of big statements. It's a song with at least five separate phases. It's got such a sure grasp on melody and dynamics. Barely anybody could match them this is such a peak and this was an era of truly great bands and artists. It says something all of its own. The production and arrangements are peerless. The horn and string sections take it to a whole new plateau of beauty and poignancy than the band could have achieved on their own. It touches on so many things. It seems to me to be focussed on the very process of living with all it's contradictions. It never draws conclusions.
 Everything I see needs re-arranging
The album is quite demented, soaked in acid but utterly beautiful. It remains out there in a space of its own. Though the original band split up pretty much directly after this they made a record that will last as long as anyone ever wishes to cup an ear to this kind of thing. This will be a long, long time. It's had a phenomenal influence. Ask Julian Cope. Ask Bobby Gillespie. Ask the Stone Roses. Lee fortunately, lived to see his vision, talent and sheer bravery vindicated. For the last few years he toured his record to adoring audiences. It's rare that these stories have such an ending. Ian Rubinstein wherever you are I hope you've heard this record and recognise it now for the untouchable masterpiece it surely is.

Julian Cope's 'Tales from the Drug Attic'

Julian Cope's NME article from 1983 detailing the delights of Psychedelia.

Few souls dare to wander the madcap landscape of the forgotten psychedelic relics of the 60's, that no person's land between sanity and oblivion. Julian Cope is one of those fearless few who knows that who dares, grins. This is his story.

"The Dog-star rages! Nay 'tis past a doubt, All Bedlam, or Parnassus, is let out." - Alexander Pope

WHEN I TELL YOU about psychedelia, you can forget all the Peace-Love-Dove shit. You can forget about all the hippies you ever hated. You can forget about the understanding and the answer. Cast your mind back to the question.

Cast you mind back 5-10-20 years to the first time you ever thought about sex. When a penis, a vagina, were new words in a book.

They fit together, you say? One gets hard and one gets soft? That's repulsive, I'm going to be sick. Never think about it. Do my parents do it? Why did they invent it? Will I ever do it? Why did they invent it? I hate everything.

Your first psychedelic experience.

 The ship goes down with all your sanity.

So here we are - Psychedelia, when the question gets bigger and bigger, and the answer fades out obsolete.

Forget Timothy Leary and forget about the Tom Wolfe stories. When LSD hit the world, the intellectuals thought about it and the rest freaked out.

 It's the rest we're interested in.

 It's the rest who made the music. Not The Grateful Dead, not Quicksilver Messenger Service, not the Moody Blues. The ones we should be interested in are the 17-year-old kids from Birmingham to Albuquerque who took acid and tried to play old Van Morrison/Stones riffs. Suddenly they were something very new. True they couldn't play very well and the singer didn't know the words, but we all mean it don't we? So we could be bigger than anyone.

"Look out, I'm gonna get my seven Cadillacs, And maybe I'll drive around the World" - The Silver Fleet

THE SINGER in every great psychedelic group was 5' 10". He stooped because his friends were small and he felt like a spaz. He sung about being himself, his ideal self, which was really Mick Jagger.

His real life was a dry-wank.

This is psychedelia.

Garage-music overproduced in four track studios. Musicians who wanted to be so famous. fuck, I'd sell out if I know how to!

 People who were too nihilistic to ever get it together.Say yes to - Ed Cobb, Sky Saxon, Syd Barrett, Roky Erickson, Eddie Phillips, Arthur Lee, Moulty, Mouse, Dave Aguilar, and all the others who never could.In their hunchbacked Twilight Zone, they made the best, most formidable sound ever. Rock powered emotion in all kinds of music.

 Arthur Lee? you say. Wimp music! Sky Saxon? A spoilt rat-faced child!

Then fuck you I say. Fuck your lack of compassion, your world concern, and for forgetting the individual, the small want-to-be-big individual who tore out great handfuls of his soul for a promise of a no-meaning 15 minutes of fame.

I love them. I love their misery. I see their parallels strewn out in front of me: Patti Smith, with baby, in some Midwest Hicksville, thinking she is at peace. Marc Almond hysterical and praying for fame with an on-off switch. John Cale's waking dream of one daytime radio play. Peter Hammill seeing his reflection in Mega-Bowie, Mega-Gabriel, Mega-Marillion. They are many. And I love them too.

So forget the Hippy.

We're talking of pre-Hippy, when even the quietest music had an intent that could not be ruffled.

A three chord riff, delicate voice and; "Oh, the snot has caked against my pants," - Arthur Lee 1967THIS IS psychedelia. One album, almost alone, inspired new love and attitude to the music.

"I just hope you have as much fun letting it spin as I did putting it together." - Lenny Kaye, on 'Nuggets', 1972.

For the time being, I shall presume that everyone has a copy of 'Nuggets'. If you know nothing else about psychedelia, you should know this.

 If not, put the paper down and go and listen to all the basics: The first Pink Floyd, 'Revolver', Traffic, The 13th Floor Elevators, 'Sgt. Pepper', 'A Web of Sound', 'Forever Changes', etc.

'Nuggets' was and still is the basic introduction. It gave us groups that were then so obscure but now, to a mass of people, are favourite listening. It introduced us to The Seeds, Chocolate Watchband, Elevators, Remains, Standells, Electric Prunes and so many others who had classic but unknown songs released.

By now we know that had also recorded classic LP's. But during the '70's, these LP's were sold next to garbage like Strawberry Alarm Clock, Josephus, Blue Cheer, Bubble Puppy, anything on International Artists.

 You had to listen to all the I.A. catalogue to find out that the only things necessary were the 13th Floor Elevators LP's.Psychedelia was being sold as hippy music by charlatans who thought any journey-thru-my-inner-mind-man nonsense was hip.

But the influence of 'Nuggets' was deep-rooted. This supposed 2nd Division music was the real psychedelia."Between thought and expression lies a lifetime" - Lou Reed

SO HERE we are in 1967. The Beatles have already previewed what's going to happen with 'Revolver'. The Rolling Stones are about to give psychedelia a bad name with a piece of 90% trash called 'Their Satanic Majesties Request'. The Yardbirds are featured in Blow-Up, a far-out forerunner of Zabriskie Point where Jeff Beck destroys his guitar during 'Train Kept A Rollin'.

In the US the vanguard was being led by Grace Slick, Jerry Garcia, John Cipollina and more mid-twenties graduates intent on rationalising the scene. The Doors had signed to Elektra, successfully promoting previous Elektra biggie Arthur Lee into Total Paranoiac.

And then came the group who drew the line between the hippies and the rest.They were The Mothers of Invention. They had been signed as a blues band by an acid raving A&R man who committed suicide by self-immolation when the bill for their first masterpiece, 'Freak Out', came to over $20,000.

The Mothers were unsafe and unsanitary; unhealthy leaders of the real underground.Frank Zappa was shrewd enough (and old enough) to laugh at the very scene which bought his records. His songs were anything but the anthems-of-togetherness adored in Haight Ashbury.

  They were vile attacks on both straights and weirdos. Songs like 'Plastic People', 'Flower Punk' and 'Trouble Every Day' were vicious. Yes, you could laugh, but how did we know he wasn't laughing at you?

The Mothers sound even influenced the suburban punk groups. Teddy and His Patches, from San Jose, did a mind-blowing cover of 'Suzy Creamcheese', available on 'Pebbles III'. Psychedelia Piss-takes continued with 'I'm Allergic To Flowers' by Jefferson Handkerchief.

 The punks were becoming yippies, long haired peace-haters. It even swept to Britain with the Mothers-influenced Deviants

.In 1967, Frank Zappa produced 'Loose Lip Sync Ship', an instrumental 45 by The Hogs. The Hogs were really The Chocolate Watchband, a collage of musicians like by Ed Cobb, writer of 'Tainted Love' and producer of millions.

Until 'Nuggets', The Chocolate Watchband were unrecognised. Now three LP's are re-released and there is even a new 'Best Of' compilation.A raw diverse R&B group, they were the true psychedelic incarnation of The Rolling Stones.

 Clattering Bo Diddley beats, zinging guitars, their singer Dave Agular genuinely believed that Mick Jagger was ripping him off. At a time when the right place at the right time counted for so much, The Chocolate Watchband were horrendously mistimed.

Their only hit, 'Let's Talk About Girls', was recorded in such a rush that Dave Agular was not even there to sing it. Don Bennett, a writer and a friend of Ed Cobb, was asked to sing and it started a long relationship.

 Bennett also wrote some Standells songs and created a precedent for Ed Cobb: the producer used The Chocolate Watchband as a pallet for weird ideas. On the first and second albums the group playing is often utterly different from the supposed line-up. 'Gone And Passes By', the very best song they ever recorded, is a subterranean Stones, played like Brian Jones was actually getting his own way for once.

Zing, electric sitar over zombie bone dance, cavernous recording and voodoo-Dr John, 'Walk On Gilded Splinters' into Beefheart's 'Kandykorn'.Yes they hit low, but when they were up, they left everyone else wanking.

Richard Marsh was an image weasel, sucking on lemons and waiting for fame. In early 1966 as Sky Saxon, 'Pushing Too Hard' made his group The Seeds massive. On front covers of teen mags all over the US, Sky Saxon and his three suede cohorts stared out, eyes wrinkled and blinking, anxious to get back to their nocturnal two-chord world.

 The follow-up to 'Pushing Too Hard' was 'No Escape'. In all ways, it was the same song. Sky Saxon felt his one emotion very intensely. You can make a commercial success of almost anybody. Lassie was massive and even Noele Gordon had her day.

 But in Sky Saxon, we have to draw the line. His ideas imploded and whole albums were devoted to the worship of the E and D chords. The other Seeds were his wanton disciples. Organist Daryl Hooper used the same solo in at least 10 songs. In one uncharacteristically different song, 'Nobody Spoil My Fun', the group has to shift completely during Hooper's solo, so intent is he on playing his regular part.

For the Seeds , success was an uncomfortable bonus. How could Sky Saxon maintain his role as the world's whipping post when they sold records? Titles like 'You Can't Be Trusted', 'It's A Hard Life', 'Can't Seem To Make You Mine'. 'Two Fingers Pointing At You', all sung by a 10-year-old hysterical brat, were to have limited appeal.

 Their LPs became primeval classics and Saxon held the banner for all punk singers. After three studio and one brilliantly fake live album, his focus became hazier and hazier. A change of style for a terrible blues LP and later a change of name to Sky Sunlight. The backyard and the world became one place.

 A bit like Roky Erickson.The 13th Floor Elevators were the Texas group. On International Artists of Austin/Dallas/Houston, they had a massive hit with Erickson's 'You're Gonna Miss Me'. This had already been a local hit for Roky's early group, The Spades, in 1965.

 By 1967 he was eating peyote, the psychedelic desert drug, and turning on all the local groups who spent the previous months lamenting Texas' lack of surf.There is now a brilliant six LP set called 'Flashbacks' available which includes covers of such Elevators classics as 'Splash 1' and 'Reverberation'.

Tom Verlaine talked wildly of Televisions debt to the Elevators and songs like 'See No Evil' from 'Marquee Moon' are inspiring proof. Television even opened with a cover of 'Fire Engine' from the 'Psychedelic Sound of...' album and their live 'Arrow' LP includes a brilliant version.

Groups like Rising Storm and Mystic Tide took the brutal sound for themselves and even Iggy Pop was enmeshed for a while. 'Flashbacks III' includes an unsafe and magnificent 'I Can Only Give You Everything' by the Iguanas. With a young Jimmy Osterberg on drums and singing, the song nightmares along over cattle crossings and iron bridges. With a familiar Elevators screech-siren sound, the whole song begins and ends in the tunnel.

"I am from Mars," claimed Roky Erickson in an interview. The journalist wondered, had he any proof?"I call my mother Ma," he replied.After the first LP Erikson went into an asylum. The second album was written mainly by the other , more coherent members of the group. The only other weirdo was John St. Powell who changed his name to Powell St. John.

Erikson repaired, came out of the asylum to record 'Easter Everywhere', the new album. After that he freaked out again and went back to the asylum.

There were no real weirdos in The Electric Prunes. They formed one maniac intent on destruction. All their early recordings are so raw, they are almost unplayable. On 'You've Never Had It Better', from the 'Everywhere Chainsaw' compilation, they are singing from purgatory to a world with no ears.

Their manager, a TV personality called Ben Willow, was intent on making them huge. A deal with Reprise and a tab of acid for the in-house writers. In Hey Presto time, Nancy Tucker and Mary Mantz gave them 'I Had Too Much Too Dream Last Night' plus a follow-up 'Get Me To The World On Time'. Both singles were classically produced psychedelic punk, fake far-eastern organ and ratty vocals.

 The songs were hits but the LP was a real bore. They didn't seem to have much control and it was mainly wimpish slush.'Underground was their second LP and is still available. It was their classic. More in control, they start with the brilliant 45 'Great Banana Hoax', Bo Diddley rhythm and squealing Farfisa.

 The whole LP was massive with its scythe guitar sound and Pete De Freitas clatter. On 'Hideaway', the drums go crazy and the guitar shrieks. On 'Children Of Rain' the organ phases in a familiar funfair avalanche. On 'Antique Doll' the bass is treacherous, the voices sweeter than need. It's their only consistently great moment.

 After this they gave over power to a writer/arranger called Dave Axelrod. He is guilty of producing two of the weakest ever albums; 'Mass In F Minor' and 'Kyrie Eylson'. These are bogies up the nose of a great group. Amen.

THE BASICS of British psychedelia are far better known. We've all heard 'See Emily Play', 'All You Need Is Love', 'Paper Sun', 'Hole In My Shoe', but it's hard to separate the good from the shit. Psychedelia here became as style. Every group had a rainbow-abstract-world-in-my-head sleeve. Even Vince Hill and Noel Harrison had 'weird' hits. If they were noticing it, it must be selling

.But what about the others? What about the failures?

The biggest losers were The Creation. They were so close to making it. Pete Townshend asked their guitarist, Eddie Phillips, to join The Who. He wouldn't so Townshend joined The Creation fan club.

Because of their lack of success, Creation fans tend to over-rate them now, so intent on telling us what should have been. True their songs are pretty great. 'Painter Man' and 'Life Is Just Beginning' are so like nursery rhymes, so hummable. When Boney M had a hit with 'Painter Man', it was no shock.

Onstage The Creation were pop-art; Kenny Pickett would stop singing and spray-paint a canvas behind him. Eddie Phillips used a violin bow before anyone, and on all their records, his guitar is so barely controlled that it often feeds back during verses. Edsel have released 'How Does It Feel To Feel'. It's a put together LP and it's great.

But even more manic were The Misunderstood. Like some blues version of the Pop Group, plundering both The Yardbirds and Bo Diddley, and ending up like Captain Beefheart; all crescendos and screeching steel guitar.

Until last year their recordings were rare, rare. Then Cherry Red put out the 'Before The Dream Faded' LP. Get it, it's good. I used to hate 'Who Do You Love', but their version made me rethink, it's like a different song, even delicate in parts.

 Of course they weren't successful, but they did leave California and live on chips for a year while they tried to make it. For most of the American groups the major influence was obviously The Rolling Stones.

  But look further and you'll see the other main groups were The Pretty Things and Van Morrison's early group. Them.Listen to any US compilation and Them feature everywhere in both songs and attitude. Versions of 'Gloria', 'I Can Only Give You Everything' and 'Baby Please Don't Go' are found throughout. Other songs such as 'Mystic Eyes' were a perfect blue-print for the plundering US garage groups.

 Listen to The Rising Storm, the Mystic Tide duo, and The Moonrakers.

The Shadows of Knight hit big with their version of 'Gloria' and took Them's style for 'Oh Yeah' and 'Light Bulb Blues'.Ironically, early Them singles featured session men backing Van Morrison. Decca, in their usual three-piece suit attitude, had no faith in the group.

Eventually, Them split from Morrison and went to Texas, the place which had always loved them so much. They recorded some of their best songs there, such as 'Dirty Old Man' on the 'Moxie' no. 2 EP.'NUGGETS' INSTIGATED a whole new genre: The Psychedelic Compilation.

 In 1979, two sets of these albums appeared called 'Pebbles' and 'Boulders'. Both were influenced by Lenny Kaye's 'Nuggets' idea but on a far more wanton and amateur scale. Tracks were often so obscure that no tapes were available and the original scratchy single had to be used as the master.

For a while, these two were essential. They gave a glimpse of previously unknown groups. They have also built into hefty sets. 'Pebbles' now has twelve LPs and 'Boulders' nine.

I've never been a fan of the 'Boulders' series. The sound quality is poor and the tracks are available on many of the newer compilations. But 'Pebbles' still has many essential volumes in Numbers 1,2,3 and 5.Volume 3 is pure garbled garage psychedelia.

 Some of it is just plain terrifying.On 'Spider And The Fly' by The Monocles, the singer is a ten-year-old whose body is turning into a spider. He cries "Help me, help me" as he devours his mother, thinking she's a fly.Of 'Flight Reaction' by The Calico Wall, it is impossible to print a description.

 If you don't have this album then buy it. Is it essential? Is the moon made of cheese? Songs with titles like 'Horror Asparagus Stories', 'The Reality Of (Air) Fried Borsk' and 'Suicidal Flowers' are essential to any collection.

The volume you have to have is No. 5, the Punk Masterpiece. Every song has the same theme:singer meets girl, girl bogs offsinger loves girl, girl screws singer's arch rivalsinger loves girl, girl is unaware of singer's existence

On 'No Good Woman' by The Tree, the singer berates his girlfriend, "You're ugly and you're fat, and you've got no teeth". Why does he stay? He sings the whole song with his finger pointed at her throat. "I bought you two Mustangs, and a Cadillac".

The album treats women as though they were a tank regiment, to be beaten down into submission.

Unfortunately the latest compilations now make 'Pebbles' and 'Boulders' seem pale in comparison. While these two have wandered into boring areas, the new US and British albums are getting rawer and more far out than ever.

THE HEIR to the 'Pebbles' throne must be the 'Psychedelic Unknowns' LPs. At first just a two EP set, five albums have now been issued. These include real classics: most obviously 'In The Past' by We The People. 'In The Past' also covered by The Chocolate Watchband, is one of the most beautiful psychedelic songs ever, with a high balalaika guitar sound and raga rhythm.

 At the time, We The People were complete unknowns but the Eva label, from Paris, has issued their 'Declaration Of Independence' album which is raw and beautiful.The Calico Wall, refugees from 'Pebbles', turn up with a death wail called 'I'm A Living Sickness', a kind of walking pace Doors.

 Other names from 'Pebbles' included The Squires and The Split Ends, and there's a double speed cover of Love's 'My Flash On You' by The Sixpence.I've talked about the 'Texas Flashback' series before. They really are necessary but are now very hard to get.

 Easier to find is the 'Mindrocker' series, again on Eva. You may find you have doubles of certain songs but it's justified because they are all so good. Volume 4 is easily the best. Based on an old bootleg called 'Acid Visions', Eva has added four Moving Sidewalks tracks and created a new LP.

 The sound is better than the earlier album and cheaper, but you don't get the wonderful one-off sleeve.I won't spend vast amounts of time on each compilation, but there are certain vital ones and 'Back From The Grave' is a biggie.

 The guy who has released its two volumes is a maniac. Into the music at 12, he is now 25 and spends his time driving a hired car the mid-west of America in search of gems. These albums are worth it for the sleeve notes alone.

The groups on these albums are true danger. Long hair? No Faggot Way!! The Malibus, The Brigands, Ralph Neilson & The Chancellors. You'd never get names like that in a psychedelic revival.

 And at the top of the pile is The Nova's version of 'The Crusher'. Sung by a 200lb. redneck, it devours the Bananmen version. The same attitude reigns for 'What A Way To Die', a new US compilation and probably the best so far.

 Subtitled "Forgotten Losers From The Mid-60's", it is incredible, so violent and fucked-up. From Chicago, and probably with Lou Reed writing, are The Beechnuts with 'My Iconoclastic Life'. As the sleeve says, it is one of the scariest records ever."My life is nil, I just take pillssit for hours just watching the flowers".

Richard And The Young Lions are another one-off classic with the amassed guitars and tubular bells on the start of 'You Can Make It'. They're featured on the sleeve and look like members of five different groups.

 Other big features are the Human Beinz before they wimped-out and the first ever Standells recording. Whoopee!

Others to look out for are 'Psychedelic Sixties' volumes and the two 'Off The Wall' albums. These are very much garage psychedelia.

For out and out wierdos, look for 'Mindblowers'. The sleeve is a bit cosmic in orange and yellow swirls but the music is faultless, with an early 13th Floor Elevators recording of 'Tried To Hide'.

But the true find is 'Go Insane' by The Doors. It's one of three acetates left and is a blues-rant of song later to become 'Celebration Of The Lizard'. I love it. Morrison sounds so young, unformed voice and no chest beating. For Doors freaks , it's on White Rabbit Records.

The final US essential is 'Psychedelic Moose And The Soul Searchers', an album of magnum opuses ranging from Mouse and The Traps wail of Jeremiah's 'No Sense Nonsense' to The Blue Things 'Orange Rooftop Of Your Mind', a kind of Yardbirds thing,

 Actually, The Blue Things appear on about seven different compilations and each track is incredible. And there we leave America.THE BRITISH COMPILATION scene is very restrained compared with its US partner.

Albums like 'Not Just Beat Music' have been around for a while but the brain damage was only really started with 'Chocolate Soup For Diabetics'. Now running at three volumes, 'Chocolate Soup' is out-and-out classic.Volume 1 opens with 'Train To Disaster' by The Voice. Like waiting for a late night tube, it comes screaming out of a tunnel and pummels you in the head. Typical end-of-the-world lyrics and snotty, sneering vocals. It ends in a pandemonium of guitars and treads your face into the ground.

The Misunderstood are featured but even they are upstaged by the mania of The Craigs' 'I Must Be Mad'. It's 'I Can See For Miles' at breakout speed, a commando raid of guitars, the drummer frantically over-playing to make up for his lack of time-keeping.

On The Tickle's 'Smokey Pokey World', the melodies are bright and the acid-guitar line is so pure and simple. One real weird-out is a group called One In A Million. Both of their featured songs are The Jam if they hadn't "Souled-Out". Gruff Weller voice, identical Foxton harmonies, how I wished they'd gone in this direction.

Chocolate Soup has a companion album of psychotic R&B called 'The Demention Of Sound'. Far more raw, it features The Bow Street Runners and The Sorrows, both raw and unmanageable. If you like Cherry Red's Misunderstood LP then you'll love this.

  Syn, who are on 'Chocolate Soup', are featured here as their blues incarnation, The Syndicates. 'Crawdaddy Simone' is a blues 'European Son', surging across the Russian Steppes.The man behind Chocolate Soup is Sean Gregory.

 I've no idea who he is but I love him for his records and for his sleevenotes.Chocolate Soup also has a two-volume brother in 'Electric Sugar Cube Flashback'. Pressed in the US it features many of the Chocolate Soup bands plus other oddities such as 'Jabberwocky' by Boeing Duveen & the Beautiful Soup and 'Scene Through The Eye Of A Lens', an early Family song when Roger Chapman still sounded like Fergal Sharkey.

 Best track is 'Gong With The Luminous Nose' by the ubiquitous Fleur De Lys. They have tracks on many compilations, each one a Who/Yardbirds dream of a song.

"Nine times the colour redExplodes like heated blood" - The Zodiac

That colourful piece of doggerel is included to warn you. There may be many great new LPs around but some of the compilers are obviously intent on flooding a brilliant market with Hippy crap.

For example, if you buy 'Perfume Garden I' you get a brilliant shot of charged punk psychedelia. You get The Eyes, The Birds, and a whole load of riches.

But beware if you buy Volume II, you get a whole bunch of hippy and pre-heavy metal with a couple of classics thrown in.

  I read a 4_ star review in Sounds and smelled an incense burner reviewing it.The Psycho label which releases 'Perfumed Garden' is a weird conglomerate of classic and bad.

 Similarly, 'Endless Journey I' on Psycho is dirty and brilliantly fucked up whilst 'Volume II' is failed Mellotron groups who would have killed for a Roger Dean sleeve.Anyway, enough slagging good intentions.

 The final album deserving of a mention should really go in a "miscellaneous" category. It's 'Ugly Things', a compilation of Australian psychedelia. I included it here because of its British sound; very Yardbirds, very Pretty Things. They promised Volume II about three years ago. But while that has never surfaced, the rest just keep coming.

IF ANYONE is wondering "where's the Byrds section?" and "what about Buffalo Springfield?" forget it. Yes, they were great too, but everybody knows about them.

 Everybody should know about these groups, too. I hope in 1996, there are articles about Aztec Camera, Flipper, The Undertones, Alan Vega, Pere Ubu. Everyone remembers them now. But everyone should remember them always

.If anyone is wondering where to buy these albums, them you'll just have to look. The best shops are Vinyl Solution in London, Midnight and Venus Records in New York and maybe G.I. Records in Edinburgh. You can find them everywhere if you try.

I hate revivals of any kind so I hope the Psychedelic Revival has finally died down. But one group that has to be mentioned is The Chesterfield Kinds. Their LP could be from 1967, so close is it to the original. They only record the most obscure classics and are pure Chocolate Watchband.

I hope loads of people can be moved by this music but I have one savage plea:Don't Turn Hippy On Me.

DISCOGRAPHY (Some have no record label)
Nuggets (Elektra)
Chocolate Soup For Diabetics, Vols. 1, 2, 3. (Relics Records)
Pebbles Vols. 1-12 (BFD)
Boulders 1-9 (Moxie)
Electric Sugar Cube Flashbacks 1 & 2 (A.I.P.)
Back From The Grave 1 & 2 (Crypt)
What A Way To Die (Satan)
Mindblowers (White Rabbit)
Psychotic Moose & The Soul Searchers (P. Moose)
Texas Flashbacks 1-6 (Flashback)
Ugly Things (Raven)
Off The Wall 1 & 2 (Wreckord Wrack)
Psychedelic Sixties 1 & 2 (Cicadelic)
Acid Dreams
A Gathering of the Tribes (and Son of...) (Bona Fide)
Mindrocker 1-8 (Line)
Demention of Sound (Feedback)
Perfumed Garden I (Psycho)
Endless Journey I (Psycho)
Glimpses 1 & 2 (Wellington)
The Chosen Few (A Go Go)
Psychedelic Unknowns 105 (Calico)
Magic Cube (10")
New England Teen Scene (Moulty)
Everywhere Chainsaw
Relics (dB)
Oil Stains (dB)
Texas Punk Groups (Eva)
Sound of the Sixties (Eva)
High in the Mid-Sixties
Hipsville 29 B.C.


Perfumed Garden II
Endless Journey II
Glimpses III
Pennsylvania Unknowns
Houston Hallucinations
Echoes In Time

This article originally appeared in the New Musical Express on 3rd December, 1983.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Primal Scream - Young, Loud & Snotty

In 1985 my younger sister had this NME article posted on her bedroom door.

Primal Scream in 1985. Wishing they were Love.

                               Young, Loud & Snotty

Time's Up! NEIL TAYLOR puts his typewriter where his gripes are and pleads on behalf of new, young pink-rock style groups (like PRIMAL SCREAM and THE BODINES) as they rebel in the face of trad-rock invasion from America. Supposrting shots; LAWRENCE WATSON. [This was part a joint article about The Bodines and Primal Scream, which is why they are talking about The Bodines]

Exit The Bodines: Enter Primal Scream

If something doesn't happen soon, next year will see the demise not of independant music (that was last year's funeral) but of the music business itself: the monster will devour it's mentors in the form of falling sales and old, sagging journalists keeping under the stench of their own rotting taste.

As The Bodines depart for their live perfomance, it's not difficult to think that it amounts to nothing. All there is going to be after this is anger.

"To me it's just the total fucking erosion of British culture by America crap!"

Bobby Gillespie, lead singer with Primal Scream, leans back in his seat to deliver the final blow to trans-Atlantic tat: it's familiar table talk again.

"I just think that new bands in this country are choked even before they're born. There's a lot of new, really good pop groups in Britian who are totally fucking ignored as a result of American rock and inverted fucking racism on the part of journalists..." 

 What has undoubtably been the finest (later) Creation release release - Primal Scream's 'All Fall Down'/'It Happens' - has been privately applauded by the press butup until now no-one has had the initiative to put their pen where their penchant is.

These Glaswegians - Bobby on vocal, James and Paul on gutars, Robert on bass, Martin on percussion, and Tom on drums - formed last June, and they have since developed into one of the most potentially brilliant new bands. Building a sound upon delicate percussion, a probing bass, and meticulous melodies, they have developed through the obvious (though useless for attracting major attention) medium of the live concert. And every outing, Bobby Gillespies' voice has strengthened, whether delivering love songs like the slow, gently rising 'Leave" or more pungent flowing songs, like the outstanding 'It Happens'.

"We've only played a small number of concerts," comment Bobby, "But that's deliberate. We never want the attitude that so many bands have, the sort of 'let's go and play any old dive' outlook, bands that start out as pub-rock bands are pub-rock bands for the rest of their lives, no matter how successful they are".

"Instead, we've been organising gigs to help our friends. We hire a room every two weeks and put bands on. The first band we put on was The Loft, and they where followed by Big Flame. We'll be the third band, and then we'll get The Pastels, then mabe The Shop Assistant, and then...who knows?"

From A Whimper To A Scream

As Bobby Gillespie see it, two things are important for the development of Primal Scream, Firstly, the group - like all new groups deserves more radio coverage, or rather easier access to it, than they are getting. Secondly, they feel that the press should give them (and others) the access to the sort of audience that their single won't reach if it is marketed along the lines of a 'normal' indie singel. And overriding both of these problems is the inescapable link between Bobby Gillespie, drummer with The Jesus and Mary Chain, and Bobby Gillespie, singer with Primal Scream.

"I don't want peope to think 'oh that's the guy from The Jesus and Mary Chain, better check the single out', because that's just shit, it's secondhand," claims Bobby.

"I want people to appreciate us for what we are and not who our friends are. Remember, I was in this group before I joined the Mary Chain, and the only reason I joined them was because they needed a dummer and I could keep time. I can't fucking drum!"

"This groups shoud make it on it's own merits but it's so difficult getting radio play - too many DJs just sling indie records in the bin. It's not that I think we should be given hours of radio play a day, it's just that we should have access to compete on equal terms with those records that so seemingly get automatic airplay. Our songs are melodic, they're accessible - all we're asking for is a chance".

The chance Bobby Gillespie wants is the chance to prove that Primal Scream are a classic band, lifting the good points of past 'classic' bands (Love, Velvet Underground) and delivering them up into a new era.

Live, their songs glide on waves of harmony and rhythm - bobbing though sounds like 'Careless' with its flowing melody and pumping bass - and ignore the total contradiciton that lies at the very heart of the band: Primal Scream present a sound so soft, yet as peope they are bitter and hard, though in love with what they are doing. As Bobby admits, the situation is the exact opposite of the Mary Chain, where the band's persona is wimpy but their sound bitingly hard.

Times' Up: Where Are The Young Men?

SO WHERE, then, are Primal Scream going?

"We need more money," comments Bobby, "and some fucker's got to give it to us!" When we recorded our single I was clock-watching all the time, and it reflects in the end product. it has to".

"What we want in the future is enough money to record properly. I don't mean six months in a recording studio recording one single like Tears for Fears or some other shits - that's disgustingly decadent! We just want enough time." 

Warning. Some of the music here positively drips

 "The tragedy in this country in the music business is that people don't realise that young groups, if they were given the chance to record properly and be promoted properly, would sell as manyy records as major groups".

"I care about about music and what really fucking annoys me is seeing so many people viewing music solely as a business venture. It cripples talent, and I'll give you one example that proves it. If the June Brides' single 'Every Conversation' was produced properly and put out on a major and plugged, it would be a number one, because that record is a classic pop song! It's a sin when a record like that sells only 700 copies. What sort of fucking state of affairs is it when talent like that is totally ignored?" 

 That's not whining. That's the music business in 1985."

What more can I add?

Originally appeared in
NME, 3rd August 1985.
Copyright ©
IPC Magazine Ltd.