Friday, July 30, 2010

red army fetish

Judy Nylon, now sixty-two years old, arrived in London sometime in 1970. 

Between the death rattle of the swinging 60s and the arrival of glam rock, most of the British Isles - the media would have had one believe - was deep in the grip of a very public mourning over the demise of The Beatles.

Beards predominated, as Nick Kent - and assorted terrified children - observed. 

Dense thickets of facial hair deep enough to hide a monkey in.

Divorce and therapy became the order of the day. A primal scream or two, if one could gather together enough coin. While up and down the country everybody's mum and dad was stroking their chin and brooding over Alex Comfort's "The Joy of Sex", I was still getting off on "Meet the Monkees"; glueing my fingertips together in the struggle to get an Airfix B-52 off the ground.

Look ma, no prints.

Patti Palladin took a little longer to scrape together the airfare. Connecting briefly with Nylon via a transatlantic telephone conversation; leaving New York City three years after John & Yoko moved in, nailed the windows shut.

By 1974, of course, the complexion on and around the Thames was a good deal more refreshed. The popular charts were once more ablaze with spots. Teenage acne. Jimi Hendrix was dead, and his closest living relation was a diminutive imposter who had not long since traded his white swan for a metal guru. 

Jim Morrison's beard floated south in a bath tub in Paris back in '71, and by 1974 even Marc Bolan no longer seemed quite so elfin. Of course, by then he'd been on the game for close to ten years.

Suzi Quatro from Detroit was in vogue. Paper Lace. Mud. The Rubettes. 

A predatory paedophile called Gadd. 

In hindsight, there was really very little fairy dust being flung around. Snorted. Despite all the glitter. Nothing remotely glamorous. The London which propelled Snatch out of obscurity into more of the same was a soot bricked Dickensian warren of shysters; apprentice Fagins peddling smack on the side; swarthy entrepreneurs from the Midlands resembling Fred West.

In fact. The beards might have been shorn but, underneath the undrneath, it was all still business as usual.

Look a little closer and one is hard pressed to unearth a single genuine teenager lurking near the top slot. Just a bunch of corseted paunches masquerading as puppy fat. Propping the stage door open to usher in an endless procession of wan underage meat.

Between 1974 and the emergence of punk commercially, any blushing roué on stacked heels was virtually guaranteed an audience. Just chauffeuring the Glitter Band radiated enough of a spark to leave an adolescent open to persuasion.

I suspect.

Well. It might not have been Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Butt. A steel capped size nine in the seat of the pants was nevertheless just what the doctor ordered.

"I.R.T.", back to back with with "Stanley" on Lightning Records and Bomp in 1977, may have basked a little in the receding spectacle of a sweet jane disappearing into the dark maw of the subway painted on "Loaded", but really it had more to do with those fluoroscent tunnels trailing under Piccadilly Circus; a blinking strip light in Finchley Central.

Rumour continues to circulate that The Damned's Captain Sensible makes his presence felt on "Stanley", but so far as I'm aware it has never been corroborated. Exactly who plays on it subject to speculation. Judy and Patti have never openly dispelled the myth, but The Heartbreakers play a later documented role in their fabric of conspiracy.

In 1978, Snatch very nearly scraped the bottom of the UK Top 40 with a double A-Side - "All I Want" b/w "When I'm Bored" - featuring ex New York Doll and one time Heartbreaker, Jerry Nolan on drums. It got to No. 54 and promptly sank without a trace. Nylon and Palladin appeared unperturbed.

There followed a collaboration with Brian Eno. Another single: "R.A.F.". By then I only had time for Hurricane fighter planes.

In 1983, Pandemonium Records compiled a string of demos and those all too few 45 releases titled, simply, "Snatch". Irritatingly, although it includes versions of the tracks which appeared on the 1980 Fetish issued EP, "Shopping For Clothes" - their final release, produced by John Cale - those versions differ markedly from the (uncompiled) original Fetish product.

The Pandemonium curated mixes are a good deal crisper, more commercial than the Fetish issue. Interesting, but only by way of contrast.

Now. I did not buy into this snatch of vinyl first time around. "Shopping For Clothes" passed me by. The following vinyl rip(s), then - so far as I can gather now completely out of print - were cribbed from the now defunct Direct Waves.

SNATCH: JOEY from "Shopping For Clothes b/w Joey / Red Army" 12" (Fetish Records) 1980 (UK)
SNATCH: RED ARMY from "Shopping For Clothes b/w Joey / Red Army" 12" (Fetish Records) 1980 (UK)

a fluttering of owls

Some years ago, too many years ago, I was arguing with my then partner over breakfast. I no longer remember exactly what prompted it or where it went from there. I had arrived somehow in my thirties - a good way past the stain of the big "3-0" - without hitting the panic button, and I couldn't summon the energy to do much more than grunt.

We were sat at the table - me in my boxer shorts, she in my boxer shorts too - and the grey light shone like a beacon through our tenement window. The table was big and round, dressed with some kind of cloth to protect the faux teak, and for all our squabbling the setting was fairly civilized.

"Listen," she might have said, "you are turning into some kind of old fart."

"Well," I retorted, "You can gripe all you want. If I don't wash the dishes and occasionally drag the hoover around we would be up to our knees in shit."

Perhaps she had returned back from a night out with her friends to find me darning a hole in my jacket pocket. That might have torn it. That, or the fact I was content to do my drinking at home.

The last gasp of punk rock. Mending holes. Needlepoint.

The words were washing over me when I noticed a lump on my thigh. I prodded the raised flesh, immediately fearing the worst, moving back in my seat to shed a little light on it.

"Sure," I said. "Uh-huh. Whatever you say, dear."

Actually. Bar the music burbling from the stereo, we more or less fell back into the not quite truce of silence. Each with our separate ashtray, a carcinogenic his and hers.

Well. I poked at my leg until I was all but certain it was merely a boil. I dug my fingers under it and bore down until I felt something give.

It did not so much erupt as ignite like an indoor firework. As fascinating to behold as these inocuous little brown pills which, when lit, keep going until they leap up out the box and hang like ripe intestines. As big in diameter as a plug of toothpaste.

"Dear Christ!" I exclaimed. "Just look at that thing!"

My partner got up and left the table with a dignified little snort of contempt. I did not give a fig. I felt only a peculiar sense of liberation. As if the accumulation of a decade or so of bad karma was being exorcised inch by inch. Drained out of me by invisible shamans. Operating at ceiling height, somewhere in the cornicing.

Chemicals, certainly, but more than that. Arrows. Slings. Toxic mutterings from an industrial zone in deep space.

The minute it was done, I jumped up and danced into the bathroom to splash what passed for iodine over the evacuated area. Oh, I was light headed; cleansed. And only the tiniest of indentations. Not even the trace of a scar.

Our cat, Biff - a gentle old tom who could be found most nights under the tables of the free house three doors down - lay grooming himself on the floor as I bathed the wound. Owlish, alert, but quite disinterested.

Of course. By two or three o'clock that same afternoon, I was back to pouring all that bad shit in, I did not hesitate or waver. What started out, quite benignly as some kind of karmic zit, quickly mutated into something more entrenched. 

Subcutaneous. Learning to conceal itself, slyly burrowing deeper.

What did you expect ? A happy ending ?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

newtown #1 | take two

That is thing with new towns. Architectural interventions. Less than ten years on, the paint is worn; the litter and graffiti proliferates. Thirty years on, and the third generation has evolved its own indecipherable mother tongue.


On 19th September, 1977, Arianna Forster, Viv Albertine, Paloma Romero, and Tessa Pollitt - collectively The Slits - recorded four tracks with Tony Wilson at BBC studios.

Three of those songs would be later worked on in the spring of 1979 - by which point a suitably retiring Palmolive slipped on her raincoat to be replaced by Budgie - at Ridge Farm Studios. Produced by Dennis Bovell for Island, "Cut" eventually hit the racks almost two full years after that session's initial broadcast on The John Peel Show, 27/09/77.

"Vindictive" would not see a commercial release until its inclusion on the 1987 Strange Fruit EP release of that first session, five years after the group disbanded.

It was subsequently repackaged - alongside their second Peel session from April, 1978 (broadcast May 22nd) - as a budget LP and CD issued in November, 1988.

photograph, sans palmolive, by anton corbijn.

THE SLITS: NEWTOWN (19/09/77) from "The Peel Sessions" 12" EP (Strange Fruit) 1987 (UK)

Monday, July 26, 2010

silkwood, wormwood, taggart | ghetto defendant

My wife sat down to watch the latest instalment of "Taggart" last night, hobbling on to our screen with all the weariness of a geriatric nosing after a curled fish supper. I caught most of it out the corner of one eye. Preoccupied as I was with clipping my toenails.

It has never been the same since Mark McManus withered away in hospital. It was never really much to begin with, I suspect, but between McManus and the local topography it sometimes sufficed.

Last night's episode was filmed on location in the Gorbals. Right on my doorstep. Shored up with an implausible imported cast.

The topic, loosely, was one of urban regeneration.

One scene was even filmed in the high rise my wife occupied before we were married; the only vaguely successful attempt at refurbishing a twenty-two storey apartment building in two square miles.

"Look at that!" we exclaimed. Stupidly agitated at just seeing the tedious rejunivated on tv.

A clinically depressed woman sat frozen in her armchair drinking tea, the view west through her double-glazed picture window noticeably marred by a few indiscreet palm prints. Placed there, no doubt quite diligently, by some halm-fisted old fruit.

Let me tell you. That building is almost immaculate - sensibly maintained - but in the summer its tenants bake in central heating. Unhealthily indulged. Passing out between floors while struggling to escape for cigarettes. A loaf. 

The episode was filmed some time in winter, I believe. The housing association closed down one lift for the better part of two days just to ensure a few rampant egos were not compelled to rub shoulders with the great unwashed.

They could not have similarly enticed a pampered cast into our own freezing building. The windows leaking condensation and howling drafts; the coffin sized elevators stacked with junkies on gangrenous legs.

There is not enough shortbread or 12 Year Old Single Malt in Glasgow to bribe a unionised film crew to set foot in such filth.

Briefly, the backdrop was one of heroic politicking. A lone ranger riding side-saddle on behalf of a seething inarticulate mass. 

The truth is more a prosaic tale of design and procrastination by committee. The vacillation of the inept or plain corrupt as they waver between chasing awards and profit. The same the world over. That would have made for a genuine crime worth persuing. That might have made for good television.

Well. I might be a whingeing ineffectual bastard, I won't deny it; if you have made it this far down the page - and I have my doubts - let me pause and advise you that this post is distressingly long-winded. And I might as well warn you while I'm at it that I'm not about to let anybody off the hook by stapling on some oblique gem of a song.  

Just so you can scroll quickly to the foot of it and dispense with the reading.
There. I've said it. This is just another instance of my scraping three shades of shit off the chest. Unbuttoning my shirt and letting it spill. You might as well fuck off now while the going's good.

All right with you ? Good. See you later.
In January or February this year, we called in the buildings inspector.

"Before you begin," I said, poking a hand out between raised glass and drizzle. "Take a look at this."

I ran my fingers lightly along the sill and four or five inches of mulched wood came away without any teasing. A plague of wasps could not have made a more thorough job of it. The buildings inspector sniffed and examined the mould creeping along the perished rubber seal.

"No doubt about it," he said. "All the windows are rotten, subject to water penetration. I don't need to see any more to get a handle on it, but I had better do it by the book."

I was relieved. I had thought it might have taken more of a fight, but here he was, writing it up without argument.

"Listen, " he said. "I'll submit my report and you should hear word back in two to three weeks. They're putting in new windows, finally. They're putting up the cages to make a start on the worst of it."

Should might be the most overrated word in the English language.

The cages went up, but I could see little activity. Four weeks came and passed. I was about to pick up the telephone when two more men arrived without warning to measure up those bad windows. All the windows are uniformly the same dimensions, but what do I know ? At least things were progressing.

A month or so later and the cages came down. And not a new uPVC window in sight. I scurried about peering up at the building from every side but I could not detect any.

This would have been approximately the same time the foul smell appeared in the ground floor foyer.

The children would travel down in the lifts to set out for school in the morning and gag as they sprinted to the front door. My wife would hurry back with groceries and lock herself in the bathroom to vomit.

Twice, I telephoned the Ghetto Housing Authority.

"What's it got to do with you ?" a voice enquired the second week around. "Do you actually live there ?"

"Of course I live here, " I said. "That is the reason I'm telephoning. Maybe it's a bad mop. It smells like a bad mop. I'm not suggesting nobody is actively cleaning up in here, everyday I see pople pushing around a mop, but the smell is indescribable. Appalling. The same smell follows you into the lifts now too."

"It's not a mop, " the voice snapped. "Those mopheads are changed regularly."

"So I'm given to understand, " I said. "The woman I spoke to here last week told me the concierges are not permitted to use bleach, these days. Disinfectant. A health and safety ruling. Just what's the procedure with rotating those mops, anyway ? Do the concierges in our block have access to running water ?"

I have lived here for more than ten years, but I still have no clear idea how things work. Every second day or so I might see one concierge or another disappearing into a mysterious warren of rooms just off the ground floor lobby. I say hello, but that is as far as it goes. The job they do is far from pleasant. Unrewarding. Like most jobs.

The voice on the other end of the line had no more of an idea of shop floor procedure than me.

"How the hell should I know ?" the voice screamed in my ear. "I am a housing officer. Not a concierge."

"Listen," I said. "I don't give a rat's arse whether you breakfast at city chambers. This is the second time I've raised this same complaint. I expect something to be done about it. I'll bet that if there was a similar stink right outside your office it would disappear pretty damn fast."

I was close to losing it entirely. I barely managed to hang on to the phone.

"I'll get back to you," the voice rasped. The connection went dead.

That rat's arse was just a figure of speech, a little rash maybe, but as it was it proved queerly prophetic. One has to be careful when dealing with the GHA. They can use your own words to stitch you up as efficiently as a death squad operating out of a cubicle somewhere in Latin America.

Good for screwing dissenters out of their hovels. Precious little else.

The smell, you will have guessed, was later traced to a decaying rodent in a disused room.

One night, possibly late last summer when the foyer door was taken off its hinges and left yawning invitingly for close to two weeks, it appears it wandered in off the street and squeezed under the locked interior door. Its mummified remains discovered inside an open trunk only when one concierge grew so disgusted that he resorted to breaking and entering.

The irony is not lost on me.

Well. The smell gradually faded after the rat was dug out and disposed with. The windows, though. That's another story.

It is a well established fact that the roof of our building bristles with all manner of antennae and masts. From one mobile telecommunications industy to the next, the Ghetto Housing Authority milks huge annual profit from what goes over its tenants' heads. There is little doubt in my mind that those profits explain why this one building remains standing while all around is demolition; chaos; splinters and dust.

For years now I have idly wondered whether we all crackle radioactively from the unseen effects of sustained bombardment.


Those supplemented rents certainly explain why the GHA might be prompted to protect its investment. Raking it in year after year, spending next to nothing on the upkeep of core stock while projected demolition dates come and go.

And so, when they finally went ahead with the scheduled demolition of the building just adjacent to us, and all these people still living here, they had little option but to confront the unpalatable option of spending some of that cash.

"Let's give those radioactive little bastards some new windows," the minutes might have read. "Face facts. Too many fuckers are beginning to ask questions."

So. Where was Karen Silkwood while all of this subterfuge was going on ? who didn't blow the whistle when those cages came tumbling back down ?

Where was our local MP ? MSP ? City councillor ? That one man band prancing about on "Taggart" ?

As I mentioned previously when covering our recent flaccid general election, not one politician of any party or stripe appeared on our doorstep to canvas. Dance a little. Feign hard of hearing while cupping an ear. It is hard to pretend that a jutting twenty-three storey apartment does not exist, even should one chose to avert one's gaze.

A blight on the landscape. Inescapable.


Well. A little bird whispered to me that those cages came down when it was discovered the frightful network of satelite dish and transmitter had spread right across our roof like so much poison ivy.

They just could not get those cages in place where they were most needed.

And all the while the distasteful sight of more recently deployed uPVC windows being stripped out of that empty shell less than one hundred yards away. Rooted out with hammer and chisel. Jettisoned prematurely in advance of the plastic explosive.

We went down there to speak to a housing officer in person. Some of them coasting into retirement. Others just out of school.

"Well," a young woman responded. "We are still waiting for the Building Inspector's report. There's been some delay."

She was not at all discourteous. The job had not gotten to her yet.

"Jesus," I said. "That is some delay. He filed his report four months ago."

"You have to understand," she went on, "a lot of permanent staff have been on holiday. Some of our key people have just this month or so retired. We'll let you know as soon as we get word back. We'll keep you in the picture."

"Is there any substance to the allegation that those masts extend so far over the roof that the GHA can not carry out essential repairs ?" I enquired. Feeling more like Jimmy Olsen than Karen Silkwood. Less competent. Decrepit.

She pursed her lips.

"That's a new one on me. I've certainly not heard anything to that effect. There is, however, a funding shortage, as I'm sure you are aware."

And so. Yet more weeks fly past.

There has been so much rain here recently that I am reminded the winter will be upon us all too soon. They will evacuate us briefly to detonate the charges some time in September. We will be back inside for tea. The drilling will eventually cease just in time to welcome in the gales. Sheets of glass buckling under sheets of still more rain.

Water puddling under the sills. The sudden cold taking us by surprise again.

The absence of silence will get to you. The tension of it just makes things worse.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

divided alien | kif-kif da bus

On the eve of Planet Gong's scheduled European tour through March to April, 1978, archastral projectionist, Dingbat Alien was allegedly assailed by dark forces set loose in the here and now. The doors of perception stood ajar but Alien's free pass was permanently revoked.

From Planet Gong:

"I couldn't actually get on stage. It was as though there was a an invisible curtain of force that was stopping me from going through the door. I threw myself at the open door and bounced back, off nothing. And this blew my mind so thoroughly that i just ran out of the theatre into the rain and started hitch hiking on the road with all my clothes, my stage clothes, my costume and face painted with fluorescent colours. And then a woman looked at me so strangely that i started thinking i was a murderer and i was hiding in the bushes. Finally i got picked up by somebody who had left the concert and was taken home, and then i had to realise that i had to leave gong, so that's the way it all ended."

The non event in Cheltenham - a centre of healing since mineral springs were discovered there in 1716 - marked the unforseen end of a chapter. Without fanfare, the alliance forged between Gong and Here & Now simply ceased to exist. In the material world, at any rate.

Allen decreed the band were free to continue to traffic as Planet Gong, but collectively Kif Kif, Steffe, Keith the Bass and singers Ano and Suze da Blooze elected to return the name first assumed squatting in Ladbroke Grove in 1974. Reclaiming the moment, regrouping and scouting Deptford Fun City for props.

Capitalizing - in the kindest sense only - on their sharing the bill with Captain Beefheart at the Paris Hippodrome a year earlier, and the subsequent release of "Live Floating Anarchy 1977", Here & Now embarked on a free tour with Mark Perry's Alternative TV. Falling into loose formation with Mark E. Smith and small wonder, Patrick Fitzgerald along the way.

Profit was never on the agenda. Between March and December, 1978, Here & Now committed to four grueling British free tours, playing several key festivals. Deeply Vale included. The sleeve to their shared live LP with ATV - "What You See... Is What You Are" - poses the family collective in front of their converted bus, No. 777, a motley tribe harking back to Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters and the Incredible String Band of "The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter".

Only Mark P. vents ambivalence. Stuffing his fingers into his mouth. A half-baked pantomime of self-induced vomitting.

Or merely scoring a jacket potato.

Frank Honest documents in his rediscovered "Gospel of the Free" that Deptford Fun City successfully sabotaged the first 1,000 pressings of the Here & Now / ATV joint venture; ensuring that the Ladbroke Grove side hit point of sale recorded backwards. My own heftily discounted vinyl copy - £1.75 - clearly left the factory after the jest was put right. Like their tour bus, though, it has not survived. Inveterate nostalgics may redress a similar loss in full by hyperlinking promptly to kill your pet puppy.

"It's not surprising that the details of that year are rather blurred. Not surprising really that, on the mid-winter solstice, on the way back in to London after the last gig of the last tour of 1978, our new bus broke down. But completely. The crankshaft had snapped from the strain."

"...thus endeth the Gospel of Free according to Frank Honest", and thus endeth a minor sin of omission.


The Charly Records EP - released, I believe, in 1979, after "What You See... is What You Are" can be found on the 1996 French Spalax CD reissue of "Give and Take" with two other bonus tracks: "End of the Beginning" and "Choke a Kola".

HERE AND NOW: ADDICTED from "Dog In Hell b/w Floating Anarchy Radio / Addicted" EP (Charly Records) 1978 (UK)

HERE AND NOW: ADDICTED from "What You See... Is What You Are" LP (Deptford Fun City) 1978 (UK)

PLANET GONG: FLOATIN' ANARCHY from "Live Floating Anarchy 1977" LP (Charly Records) 1978 (UK / France)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

poche town

I suppose this might have been prompted by Beer and his travails with the French in Dope City. Or my own stubborn imperviousness to learning a second language.

A disinclination to hop on a bike and peddle green onions.

Joe Falcon got busy with an accordion from the age of seven. Born near Roberts Cove in southwest Louisiana, on the Bayou Plaquemine Brule, Falcon is credited with the first authenticated recording of Cajun music. Period. His "Acadian One-Step" is collected on volume two of Harry Smith's "Anthology of American Folk Music", issued through Folkways in 1952.

A bible of sorts for those with an ear for the arcane or overlooked.

On April 27th, 1928, Falcon and Cléoma Breaux - the woman he would later make his wife - arrived in New Orleans on the recommendation of George Barrow, a jeweler from Rayne, and recorded a number of songs for Columbia Records. "Allons à Lafayette", cut on 78rpm as a result, more than justified Barrow's nose for a diamond in the rough and sold beyond expectation.

Falcon and Breaux toured the dance hall circuit across Louisiana on the back of sales in the thousands, moving west through Texas before arriving in New York in August of the same year.

On the cusp of the Great Depression.

Wed on the anniversary of their New Orleans session in 1932, still more material was recorded in New York City; Atlanta; San Antonio.

Now. I am far from adequately schooled in American Folk Music and its provenance. My own ear twitches this way and that. Sometimes acute. Often hard of hearing.

I had always assumed that Cajun music was exclusively a French delinquency. Self-contained, immune to integration. It is curious that Rayne itself was not so much an Acadian enclave, but a "small German community". Old Weird America - a site I came upon when teasing out a little historical detail - documents that Cajun music was originally played on fiddle, but that the preferred first instrument of choice was supplanted by the accordion after it was introduced to Louisiana by German settlers.

And that the "fiddle was re-introduced during the Western Swing craze and soon Joe’s music became out-of fashion."

Cléoma Breaux died young in 1941. By this time, their popularity was already on the wane. The couple recorded their last session in San Antonio, 1937. Joe remarried and continued to perform with his second wife sitting in on percussion, but there are no archived studio recordings of his later Silver Bell String Band.

Still active in the 1960s, at the time of Cajun music's revival, Falcon refused to step foot back in the studio; citing disillusionment with the record industry as just cause to play only for cash money. Up front and in the hand. In that nine year period between 1928 and '37, Falcon and Breaux released forty-five records and little in the way of recompense.

It is not documented that Falcon directly held any one label accountable for Cléoma's death, but the implication is all but palpable in his refusal to accept the invitation from Chris Strachwiz to record again in 1962. Despite his contempt for unworkable contracts, a live performance, recorded at the Triangle Club, Louisiana by enthusiasts, Valerie and Lauren Post in 1963, was issued first on vinyl through the independent Arhoolie label and subsequently on a CD which corrects much of the earlier sound imbalance.

It stopped raining here this morning for the first time in two days. July is not a summer any more, but a ritual time of monsoon which continues long into August.

If I lean far enough out my window, I might get lucky and hook a catfish on a dangled length of string.

photograph: lake charles, louisiana, may 1948, by Michael rougier.

JOE FALCON & CLÉOMA BREAUX: POCHE TOWN from "Cajun: Early Recordings" CD (JSP / The Orchard) 2006 (US)
JOE FALCON & CLÉOMA BREAUX: ACADIAN ONE-STEP from "Anthology Of American Folk Music (Volume Two: Social Music) " LP (Folkways) 1952 (US)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

handcuffs | restraints

'hassle', not 'haysil': april 29, 1936 - april 25, 2005.

"...I said, 'could I smoke ?'"

Uncharacteristically understated, on first inspection, the Haze nonetheless lets rip here - at 1'20", and towards the fade - with a chilling approximation of a police siren wailing. Just one of 7,000 reputed original compositions penned and recorded for various labels, not least Norton, between 1962 and his death as the result of vehicular manslaughter.

No manic cackling, sadly, or full tilt pulse laid out bare, but the a-side to this third outing on the Avenue label - operating out of Kentwood, Louisiana - still packs enough attitude to sink a latrine choked full of stools.

A casual mumbled eloquence Jagger might have sold his soul to emulate.

Both sides can be found on the 1985 Dee Jay Jamboree compilation, "Chicken Walk", named after Adkins' infamous 1962 release for Air Records, printed first in Miami, Florida.

photograph by ralph crane, 1969.

HASIL ADKINS & HIS HAPPY GUITAR: DUNCENS from "Duncens b/w Jenny Lou" 45 (Avenue, La.) 1966 (US)

boone county feet | blisters and grass

I am hurtling through those backwoods in the company of Jesco White and Hasil Adkins, heads lolling and spooling drool, when we hit a fork in the road. A box elder stump with a 7 ½ lb axe embedded straight through its heart.

Spitting feathers. Entrails.

Well. I just about piss myself when White hops up on that deadwood and proceeds to dance. Flat foot to bounce and shuffle, the soles of both shoes skimming up a mess.

I fall back in a stupor. The jalopy listing in the ditch with both doors hanging. The radio pushing in and out. Adkins set to cackling.

That unhinged sound again. A Boone County fox loose among the chickens. Wads of fur knotted on the wire and a scrabbling of claws on shit festooned tin.

When I come to they are gone.

"What's that ?" I mumble. An evangelical booming of torment and a sulfer stink fading to a whisper on the AM dial.

The spirit is all but wasted too, and my stomach is hurting. I sit the empty bottle upright on the stump and vomit in the ditch. My eyes bulge like yolky eggs about to burst over my cheekbones and puddle on the grass. My trembling hands and knees belong to somebody else. I find a half smoked cigarette in my shirt pocket and smoke the rest while the insects lap at the sweat on the back of my neck.

I have no heart to swat at them or chase them away.

A couple of vehicles pass me on the road to somewhere else.

A small Japanese manufactured family saloon and an expensive 4 x 4 Dodge with scarcely a trace of mud on the sills. A smear of face peering out at me as gears shift and it nudges into the incline. Two shrivelled raisins jammed in sullen folds of flesh and a tiny downturned crease for a mouth.

Well. Forty minutes or so of this and I am ready to straighten out.

I unravel myself somehow. Stagger up like a new born doe; legs buckled, joints and ligament at sixes and sevens. I climb into the jalopy and start her up. Then switch it off again. I snatch the keys out of the ignition and eject the tape.

Slam it in first and walk away.

It is not too far, I don't think, to make it by foot. My socks have worked loose inside my boots but even hopelessly inebriated I have the instinct of a homing pigeon. No more hot dogs. My head is a rattling milk churn. My chest is packed with lard.

If I make it home in one piece, I promise to avail myself of healing. Pour a little water in that gin.

Some Quinton Claunch. Bill Cantrell.

CHARLIE FEATHERS: I'VE BEEN DECEIVED from "Peepin' Eyes b/w I've Been deceived" 45 (Flip Records) 1956 (US)

CHARLIE FEATHERS: DEFROST YOUR HEART from "Defrost Your Heart b/w Wedding Gown Of White" 45 (Sun Records) 1956 (US)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

a mellifluous clash | a cobbling of posts

BYG 529.029. magick sibling, daevid allen. note the lower case.

gare de lyon train station, may 1968. on the cusp of toppling de gaulle.

smyth & allen remain in France. EMI insists on submission.

As the title suggests, this is in no small part a collision of two archived posts; from August 2008 and September of the same year respectively.

I have very nearly finished an often interrupted reading of Bob Chapman's "Syd Barrett: A Very Irregular Head". My own is muddied from the ill-advised combination of unhealthy preoccupation with the past and living in the here and now. Of revisiting the scene of an accident in slow motion while simultaneously avoiding pressing engagements.

Clowns and Jugglers; Chinese Whispers.

What makes for an excellent book is not its recounting the familiar, but the gathering of threads and dispelling of myth. An almost forensic shredding of layers of fabrication.

Nobody but a dedicated obsessive could have achieved what Chapman has.

So. Like several of the subjects Chapman interviews, I have often wondered what might have been had Syd managed to hook up with Daevid Allen. Not so much those members of The Soft Machine who contributed to Malcolm Jones' Abbey Road sessions, but the Daevid Allen of Gong, proper.

Painterly investigators of paranormal activity. Parachutists.

It's a big 'if', "Little Lib". Ad Libitum.

"I am full of dust and guitars".

Whatever the pop credentials of Syd's Pink Floyd - before it succumbed to its architectural bent - Roger Keith Barrett burned free form jazz. In later years, constricted. Living John Cage's "4'33"".

Inside a raging din.

Previously, September 24th, 2008:

More from London's Ladbroke Grove in the slightly gnarled (and bent out of) shape of original Australian Soft Machine member, Daevid Allen, a beatnik of wondrous pedigree and mischievous aspiration. Gong first chimed in early 1969 in Majorca with partner, Gilli Smyth, on the run from the police following the Parisenne student demonstrations of '68. Smyth and Allen drafted flautist, Didier Malherbe into their game, who they "claim(ed) to have found living in a cave on Robert Graves’ estate". Highly unlikely, but, in a world heaving with pothead pixies and governed by flying teapots, one can never absolutely rule it in or out.

Mr. Allen is a one man lighthouse keeper. A veritable Jonah The Baptist.

Written and performed by Daevid Allen and Gilli Smyth. Produced by Jean Georgakarakos and Jean-Luc Young.

Recorded September & October 1969 Studio ETA, Studio Europa Sonor, Paris. Plucked and pulled from the ether with intuitive guile.

GONG: (FABLE OF A FREDFISH) HOPE YOU FEEL OK from "Magick Brother" LP (BYG Actuel) 1969 (France)
GONG: COS YOU GOT GREEN HAIR from "Magick Brother" LP (BYG Actuel) 1969 (France)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

nine weaves of being

through an enneagram darkly by ib. manett as herself.

Manett is all woman.

An "Enneagram 4" currently residing in Brooklyn by way of Guam.

She writes, "the organs sound kinda trippy dippy, I didn't mean for that but I like it. I didn't even write it with the organ riff, but when I got to my friend Mark's studio, he had this beautiful vintage keyboard, so I thought why not ?"

Why not, indeed. I had to look up 'Enneagram 4' to get a handle on the spectrum. A typology variously referred to as the individualist; visionary; or slacker. If you are acquainted with the scribblings of Ouspensky and Gurdjieff you may be familiar with the Fourth Way.

A school I nominally enrolled in once in an esoteric hour, and subsequently flunked. I have no idea which part of the model my own personality infests.

Then or now.

Not so much a five dollar question as a nine point conundrum.

Nevertheless, I like Manett's "Spider" immensely.

Just this side of dark and gently foreboding, Grace Slick on Quaaludes or Hope Sandoval liberated from them, and my spine just beginning to adjust to the chiropractic magick of laying flat for the first time in years.

If all this sounds a little "Blade Runner", let me assure you Manett is not to blame. Whether androids deliberate on electric sheep is of little consequence, save that I slept my first dreamless sleep these last few nights. Revelled in a little straight time.

The brief word Manett slipped me was a good deal more relaxed. Concise. And. Anyone who covers both T. Rex and the Voidoids in the blink of an eye is more than all right in my book.

I am a slave to tangents. Woven intricacies.

MANETT: SPIDER from "Citholic" EP (No Label) 2010 (US)


Friday, July 9, 2010

fetch me a rickshaw | our bed is on fire

arson scare. adpapted from a photograph by grey villet, 1960.

This post is a week behind schedule; the agony prolonged by the arrival of a mail order bed and the dismantling of the old. A brand new futon to be exact.

The sagging fold down sofa which formerly occupied house room grew just too torturous. Full of ominous creaks and organ jarring spills. Like a decrepit family pet dragging its belly across the floor, ultimately euthanasia came a shade too late.

In canine years, it had the stuffing knocked out of it before it could walk.

Cole from Max & the Wild Things emailed me last Sunday that their - equally - long overdue album is at last in the bag. And very fine it is too.

Where some of the songs should be familiar to long-term aficionados and regulars on the bleachers - in various incarnations, not least live from The Basement - the execution here is taut and farther refined. Tracked and mixed at Welcome to 1979. Mastered in Ohio.

More importantly, while the brothers Traynor and Clint 'Max' Wilson step up a gear with Sam Stewart on guitar, as a unit they shed little in the way of disrepair and attitude. The edges remain mercifully ragged; its volatile core undoctored.

100% analogue and 90 US proof.

From the outset I warned of "concrete evidence that Tennessee continues to distil raw proof talent of the calibre of a first rate Jack Daniels".

Well. The vat has merely matured.

I would have been forgiven for dragging out that old sofabed and shooting if full of holes. Instead, I almost broke my back hauling it away to be disposed of humanely.

I ought to have set it on fire and partied. Sitting on an upturned crate, licking the flames. Well. The walls around here tilt too close to boogie, wholesale arson was never on my mind. Still. I would have liked to watch it burn. Crackling with resignation; roaring without a sound.

Recorded & Mixed by Chris Mara @ Welcome To 1979.
Assistant Engineers: Bert Stone & Brandon Jaehne.
Mastered By Tommy Wiggins.

Produced by Mikie Martel, Chris Mara, and Max & the Wild Things.

MAX AND THE WILD THINGS: GOT NO MONEY from "Max And The Wild Things" CD (WT1979) 2010 (US)


Thursday, July 8, 2010

the last loose nickel

a doctored photograph by loomis dean, paris, 1959.


The CD, "Break Through in a Grey Room" comprises a collection of cut-ups recorded in the 1960's in various hotel rooms in New York, London and Paris... recorded circa 1965 with Ian Sommerville between the Chelsea Hotel; 210 Centre Street, NYC and London, and owes as much to Sommerville's technical innovations as Burroughs' readings. "

WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS: BURROUGHS CALLED THE LAW from "Break Through In Grey Room" CD (Sub Rosa) 1994 (US)

time added on

The game is two halves of uneven possession,

won and lost from corner to footstool. Coffee table
and kitchen sink. Dishes, ahtrays, spindle legs.

In my mind I am still smoking Navy Cut behind the
goalposts - a late substitution, an opportunist -

adrift somewhere between 1974 and four years on.

Avoiding the pitching cross, passing on the play.

Even now I take up position near the window. The
peddle bin. Coming up on the wing in the last five
minutes, hanging on to the ball for too long, the final
whistle halting the curve mid sentence. An ill timed
delivery inches too late in the back of the net.

The old Malagan possessed impeccable timing. Not
for the faint hearted. From bull neck to sable brush,
it was a signature theme. An admission of thrust;
a genius for the kill. Always closing, always closing.

Never without his audience. From studio to cashier's
transfer. His ability, his finish, was a thing of beauty.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

vachel lysol blues

lincoln's stovepipe.

Well. I confess I was not even remotely familiar with American poet, Nicholas Vachel Lindsay until Bill Altice opened my ears.

Unless The Gentlebear got there first with an antique photograph of a bowler hat in an avalanche.

My memory is full of holes. And travellings beneath the ice.

Born in Springfield, Illinois on November 10th, 1879, by convention Lindsay ought to have been content merely to enjoy the fruits of inherited wealth. Instead, he abandoned medical studies at Hiram College, Ohio and eloped to New York City with his mu

Instructing his parents by letter that he was ill-suited to follow in Lindsay Sr.'s footsteps as genial frock-coated general practioner, the young fool promptly enrolled at the New York School of Art and began peddling "Rhymes To Be Traded For Bread" on the street.

"But, son," his mother protested, "doctors may dabble in pastries every Sunday."

Vachel Lindsay was smitten. A lifetime of courtship and financial woe opened its arms to receive him. Where an indulged dolt like Crowley went in search of Himalayan peaks - thrashing at his team of Sherpas - Lindsay peddled poetry on the road beween Jacksonville and Kentucky; Springfield and New Mexico.

On blistered foot, cap in hand.

Performance is key, he swore, corresponding with Yeats: "
an aural and temporal be chanted, whispered, belted out, sung, amplified by gesticulation and movement... punctuated by shouts and whoops."

Variously considered the "father of singing poetry"; the "Prairie Troubadour"; or a "racist misguided primitivist", of course it ended badly.

Despondent and in ill health from spreading the word, Vachel Linds
ay drew a line under it in December, 1931 and choked back a bottle of Lysol.

His last words, it is reported, might have tumbled straight from Jimmy Cagney's crumpled lips:

They tried to get me, those punks. Well. I got them first..."

And that is where it might have ended. Save that Bill Altice is something of a resurrectionist.

The following is his "duet with the American poet Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931) from his poem "The Chinese Nightingale" (1922). From a forthcoming compilation CD, "Nescroscopix (1970-1981)." "

Ah. This hits the spot medicinal gargles otherwise fail to reach. I hope it incites as much as it delighted me.

the plague doctor.

anonymous german engraving, left, and as he appeared
in a 1931 advertising campaign for Lysol Disinfectant.

THRUMPER: MAYAK B.A. from "Necroscopix (1970-1981)" CD (Artifacts/yclept) 1981 / 2009 (US)

gang of four | content

Gang of Four are back with content over product. A share of profits pledged to Amnesty International.

Arriving on the heels of The Mekons and Human League, four men from Leeds promptly introduced an unsettling essence to Bob Last's Edinburgh based Fast Records in 1978. A seething undercurrent of ennui, an agitated dislocation as informed by Hearpen Records as transitory exposure to year zero.

Gang of Four's tenure with Fast was brief.

Co-opted by industry giant, EMI, their "Damaged Goods" EP was famously re-recorded at The Workhouse studio in the Old Kent Road for the album, "Entertainment!"; released in September, 1979. EMI might have held the monopoly on paper, but with artwork designed and executed by King and Gill, Gang of Four continued to infect every facet of their product with an unshakeable DIY ethos.

A single from the album, "At Home He's a Tourist", almost succeeded in assailing the Top 40. A sheduled appearance on Top of the Pops failed to materialize when the collective refused to play ball and doctor their lyrics for prime time consumption. The BBC responded with a blanket ban.

Relations with EMI soured.

A subsequent issue on Warner Bros. - 1982's "I Love a Man In a Uniform" - failed to ignite when Margaret Thatcher led the country into a war with Argentina over the contested sovreignty of the Falkland Islands. Even as dysentry was being introduced into the water supply over a calculated radius, Gang of Four were once again subject to collateral damage. Fast tourists on the run from Mao.

Gang of Four seemed - if not cursed - plagued by coup d'état.

In 2004 the original four reunited, but at this juncture only Jon King and guitarist, Andy Gill remain commmitted; Thomas McNeice and Mark Heaney occupying the elliptic core once deftly maintained by Dave Allen and Hugo Burnham.

King and Gill are unrepentant:

"We’re emerging blinking into the light after many months locked in Andy’s studio, clutching Gang of Four’s new album: Content...

A share of any profits from pledges will go to Amnesty International who campaign for internationally recognised human rights for all, and Plan International who promote child rights to end child poverty."

I find that essence rare. Well. Certainly far from overcooked.

If you mysteriously resisted "Entertainment!" thirty years ago, their debut album can still be purchased through Rough Trade Shops. New "Content", and exclusive access to a digital bundle of artifacts, can be ordered or downloaded directly from Pledge Music.

GANG OF FOUR: YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE MAD from "Content" CD (Pledge Music) 2010 (UK)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

milton on drowning | waving one's hands in the air

The breeze comes at a price.

Each time we step out, tiny flecks of paint and metal are sucked up from the demolition site. Whipping against exposed flesh. Not quite drawing blood, but leaving face and neck scored. Livid.

"Fuck off." I spit.

Dragging my son to one side as a tin of coke two thirds full is lobbed from a fifteenth storey window. Erupting on the grass. Embedded like a shell.

It happens all the time. Minute acts of random disorder. We tiptoe through them half asleep, it is a wonder we have have not been killed or maimed. And there is not much wood left to touch. Concrete and glass. Rude steel girders.

Seals and Croft were cocaine dandies. Listless infatuists. Like Milton eulogising drowning, the gentrified swine.

And you can't leave your own windows open anymore. The debris flies in and coats every surface. Upending dog-ends in the ashtray on the sill.

It is Baghdad. After the war.

Well, not quite. Closer.

Two evenings ago, my stepson goes down to the shop on the corner to buy some soft drinks. We send them out as a pair, but one absconds by bicycle. Presently, the intercom screams. It is clear he is distressed.

He falls through the door clutching three bashed cans. Cherry Cola. The plastic bag shredded; carried off on the wind.

"What's wrong ?" we ask. "What happened to make you so upset ?"

I take the tins and set them down in the kitchen. One sizzling its stream of syrup into the sink.

"I fell and banged my head," he says. Taking off his glasses and checking for damage. Big round tears rolling down each cheek. "The bag was cheap! I had to carry all four cans... One of them spilt all over me."

We tease it of him.

It seems he tripped on the kerb. Falling headlong. Glasses flying.

A man hurries over to see if he is alright. At least that is how he sees it.

The man - balding, stinking of whisky - stretching out one hand. Gathering up the loose change tumbling out of my stepson's pockets. Rolling on a nudge.

Making off with it.

Agile as a crab.

"Jackpot!" I snap. "Which way did he go ?"

It is a pointless gesture. Each and every evening there is a steady line of men and women coming and going between here and those two or three off-licences on various corners. Many of them balding. Reeking of alcohol.

My stepson is not inclined to venture back out to identify anybody. We pour him a bath. His sister comes back in shortly. We lock her bike in the drying area we share with two other families.

If it is not nailed down somebody will claim it.

photograph by ken heyman, USA.

Friday, July 2, 2010

mod my bed, gonna lie in it

Produced by the great Shel Talmy, this Harry Vanda and George Young classic was seemingly released first in the UK through Parlophone.

Sometime in 1977, I purchased London's "Summer of Love" EP solely for their cover of this one perfect song. Ten years later, again, and the hostelry which kept my pool cue racked behind its bar still carried the original Easybeats pressing on its jukebox.

I plugged in my change on a Monday, a Tuesday. Sometimes a Friday. That, and Them's "Gloria" kept me grounded as I chalked up a corner pocket shot and threw down the vodka.

In my head I was not so much rewriting, as amending the soundtrack to "Mean Streets". Updating the wing tips. Living it like it was - almost - 1973.

If you didn't know me well, I looked the part. If you were unlucky enough to know me at all - and I was frequently at odds with polite engagement - I was mostly a belligerent sod. Good to go, and keen to stay on the table.

Touted as "Australia's Beatles", there is merit in the observation. In 1966, while still signed to Parlophone through Ted Albert, manager Mike Vaughn convinced New York City based United Artists Records to sign a five-year contract to publish and distribute all future overseas releases. Formerly a real estate agent - and sharp as a tack - Vaughn brokered the deal with more acumen than Brian Epstein similarly evinced. A clownfish swimming with barracuda.

On July 4th, '66, Vanda returned home after recording a 'farewell' tv special in Sydney with his band to find his wife had overdosed on barbiturates. Allegedly, his young son was dispatched to live with relatives in the Netherlands while The Easybeats relocated to London just six days after the incident.

Vanda's wife was not alone in fearing the worst. Shortly after their arrival, UA vetoed sessions recorded with Albert at Abbey Road and secured Talmy on the strength of services solicited by The Kinks and The Who.

"Friday On My Mind" scored the number one spot in Australia, a top 10 position in the UK, and a respectable 16 on the US Billboard Charts.

Stevie Wright: vocals, percussion;
Harry Vanda: guitar, vocals;
George Young: guitar, vocals, keyboards;
Dick Diamonde: bass, vocals;
Gordon 'Snowy' Fleet: drums.

Produced by Shel Talmy at IBC Studios, London.

THE EASYBEATS: FRIDAY ON MY MIND from "Friday On My Mind b/w Made My Bed: Gonna Lie In It" 45 (Parlophone / United Artists) 1966 (Australia)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

itunes 9.2 and the song which was

It has been unusually humid. Late last night, I wallowed naked on the sofa and emptied out my pores. An oil slick on the upholstery.

Granted, we have slipped into July on a tide of televised soccer, but it takes me by surprise every year. The widget reads 17°C as I type, yet the windows are flung open to the late morning drizzle.

The sounds pour in until our apartment resembles a small factory. Hammers rising and raining down. Bald rubber tyres throwing up a surf.

And the trains. Always the trains. Harassing late into the night. The bastard son of Ernest Borgnine, rattling chains.

By whatever trick of physics, every tortured creak is amplified. Floating up to the 22nd floor like a noxious gas. At 2:00 AM we might catch every second word of a whispered conversation at street level, an altercation three blocks away.

That anomaly has made me its bitch.

The canvas blind comes undone and flaps wildly until I get up and rescue it. Really, there is no need for it at all. Nobody can see me padding back and forth. In undershorts. Scowling. I tie it down because I can't stand the way it gets plucked out the window to dance like a flag. A surrender from the projects. It takes me two or three attempts to properly secure it. Knocking the cigarette across my face. In the end I am tempted to set it alight.

I have not slept properly for weeks. I fall into it fitfully. When I succeed in snatching a few minutes of slack jawed death, a gale of snoring rouses my wife.

"ib!" she gurgles. "You're snoring again, you bastard. I can't take much more of this."

Not so much a gurgle as a snap, if I am honest. A ginger snap. A sentry with elbows as sharp as any bayonet.

The blind has worked itself loose again. A wind is working up from south, rushing in from the kitchen and forcing me away from the keyboard. Reminding me that I punctuate my afternoons with squandered words.

I can't remember why I began this post. I think it was my intention to warn one and all not to update software. To the tune of 9.2, specifically. A terrible build.

In architectural terms, it is every bit as awful as a high rise apartment block. Full of holes and crippling corners.

I suspect this might be of little interest to you. Well. Upgrade at your peril. It might not screw your metadata, but it may just metaphysically f@ck with your head. Still. It's not all bad. Macintosh might not be the open source pugilist of old, but at least it is not Microsoft. I may lean out my window, like Dylan's distant neighbour, but that does not necessarily labour the fan.

When I sat down originally what I wanted to say was this. Don't be seduced by what everyone else is wearing. You just might wake up to find yourself stopping traffic in Hirohito's burned robes.

Another fat ass dribbling cellulite on the hard shoulder. The slow lane at best.

And. The circular saw has started up at last.

Of course. I am in no position to dole out advice. Next time your train idles on those last few hundred yards of rail, paused brokenly on the approach to Glasgow Central, lift your chin off your chest and sneak a glance at that high rise jutting south east of the river. Grey and black like a rotten incisor.

If you see a torn curtain flagging there, you will know I've given up.