Tuesday 30 August 2022

Bite the Wax Tadpole

 



A golden hour in the silver disco

Released 31 August 2022. Hey, at least it’s not September this time! From the global trip of our last album Mundivagrants we have selected some targets and let fly. This is a bunch of short punches, most of which you can dance to. And why not. Muhammed Ali was a great mover on the canvas so boxing/dancing? It’s all the same. To prove the point the cover shows me, with a couple of my little guys, getting down with it.

>Bite the Wax Tadpole here<

Here’s what’s coming your way on the floor:

Are we there yet?

Are we where yet? If the 2020s have taught us anything so far it is the need to rename our species from Homo Sapiens to Homo Stupiens. Our main skill seems to be in ignoring warning signs while devising new and more imaginative ways of destroying ourselves. We are the only creature that routinely craps in its own nest.

Shiny metal disco

Music may be one of the only things that can save us. It just depends on how it’s used. Get on board.

Soft red needles

Pohutukawa are native New Zealand trees that grow around the northern coast in rocks and old lava. In summer they are covered in scarlet flowers that drop a carpet of red petals on the ground. They are a rare and beautiful thing. This song is the flip side of Serf City.

Nun squirters

William Burroughs has a lot to answer for when it comes to spawning pretentious artists and writers, but his cut up technique is still fun to play with at times. In this case we grabbed a bunch of progressive rock band names and threw them up in the air. Cheap, pointless and frivolous – like a lot of things.

Point of no return

You have basically reached the point of no return the moment you are born. What you do after that is up to you. If you have had the experience of growing up in a small town, then had the misfortune of going back there later in life, this song is for you.

It’s a trap!

Pretty self-explanatory. ‘Freedom’ is ultimately another illusion.

Holiday porn

Do you get sick of motorway billboards taunting you with flawless images of glamorous holiday spots? I sure do. How many of us have ever gone surfing as the sun goes down in some ideal tropical hot spot? Thought not. Having spent time in the tropics, what they don’t show you on those billboards is the crust of plastic waste along the high tide line.

They say

They say you should do this. They say you should do that. They say a lot of things.

Qbgone (Cold blooded mix)

This is the vocal version of Qbgone. Global warming is a conspiracy to keep the reptilians alive. They say that too, right kids?

What could possibly be more important?

Apologies here for some lyrical similarities to “Know your enemy” on Hit the # Key, but they cover similar territory. This one slams it home a bit more though. Narcissism is a mental illness. It isn’t a key performance indicator for a world leader.

White swan on the Black Sea

This is what narcissism in a world leader leads to.

Here be monsters

There is no chart of the world wide web. Krakens, tritons and sirens await.

Recycled heart

It’s amazing what you can do with recycled materials these days. What doesn’t kill you makes you dance harder.

Rubber time

The Voyager probes have just managed to creak their way out of the solar system. Humanity has entered galactic space for the first time. Hope the aliens they encounter have a decent turntable. In a million years we might see you ‘round.


Saturday 9 July 2022

White Swan on the Black Sea

It seems like an eternity already and Putin’s political ego trip still shows no signs of ending. Instead the world is held to ransom while we wait for grinding WWI style trench warfare to reach its inevitable tragic end. Words aren’t enough to say how dangerously evil this all is, but at the same time you know getting up on a soapbox labeled U2 isn’t going to help either. About the most pretentious thing you can do as a musician is to think that writing a song is going to change the world, so we haven’t. This is a simple snap shot from a war zone to try and keep the ugliness in people’s minds before they start getting numb to it. The biggest danger is to give up and turn your back. You have to mentally speak truth to power, especially when that power is a lie.

This is the first of a new batch of material due to go up later this year. Hopefully the war will be over by the time the rest of the songs are released.

Take a seat though the roof has gone

The stage is strewn with broken pawns

It’s a ballet of carnage going on and on

The only thing dancing is a dying swan

 

These are the 11 most effective charities for supporting Ukraine:

World Vision

International Medical Corps

Save the Children

Action Against Hunger

Doctors Without Borders

Project HOPE

International Rescue Committee

Heart to Heart International

CARE International

Razom for Ukraine

Voices of Children

Saturday 7 May 2022

The Greatest Records You Never Heard (but need to before you die) Part One

 As I said last time, it's a strange time to be alive. I think the last two years have been an intelligence test for the human race and guess what: we failed. What should have been a chance for everyone to mobilise against a common enemy and develop a shared understanding of the important things in life, was hijacked by self-serving narcissistic politicians whose re-election hopes trumped everything (geddit). Stand up Trump, but also a few others, like that bearded git in India and that gonzo dickhead in Brazil whose names aren’t even worth remembering.

And just when the world starts to emerge from the other side of Covid what happens. Some other self-serving narcissistic politician decides to start a war that could potentially engulf the whole of Europe, if not the world. Way to go Homo Stupiens.

Village idiot's convention, NZ
Village Idiots Convention, New Zealand 2022

With all of this going on it is hard to stay adjusted to the ‘new normal’. The new normal being the same old shit with added lies and madness courtesy of fringe individuals that once upon a time would have been referred to as village idiots. Now they have access to social media they are instead referred to as ‘influencers’. Yep, they’re influential alright. Just ask the kids in New Zealand that had eggs thrown at them by tin foil hat wearing Nazis because they were wearing masks on their way to school (I kid you not). That was the new low reached during the far-too-long occupation of New Zealand parliament grounds in March. Actually the Nazis weren’t wearing the tin foil hats, they were sitting around in tents waiting to execute any politicians they could capture. The eggs were probably chucked by bubble blowing hippies in between pilates sessions. What with the mud and their own shit (literally) they were wallowing in, it was like Woodstock without any decent music and with the KKK as house guests. Surreal? Nope, it’s the ‘new normal’. Oh yeah, and the world is flat as well (apparently).

So what to do? Well folks, this is still a music blog so maybe we should get back on topic. The segue from the above being, that what reaches the mainstream isn’t always what you need to hear. For my sins I have a day job that requires me to get up about 6:30am every day. To gently rouse myself I have the radio set to a nice tame classic shits station. There is the risk of being woken by something hideous like “True” by Spandau Ballet, so it’s a bit like Russian roulette at times. That said, they drag out a lot of obvious fodder from the ‘classic’ period of rock (ie the 70’s and 80’s), some okay, others not so much.

Which got me thinking about the hidden gems from those Halcion days that most people are blissfully unaware of, but should know more about and really hear before Putin nukes us. Hence the theme of this post.

So in no particular order as usual I present to you a purely personal and very subjective list of the greatest recordings you have, most likely, never heard.

Manassas

Manassas
In 1971, Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young fame was looking for a bunch of guys to play with that didn’t come with massive egos and unchecked baggage. He decided to team up with Chris Hillman of the Byrds, and more lately the Flying Burrito Brothers, to play some old timey country as a break from the treadmill. He enjoyed it so much that he brought in some friends from the LA music scene that could also play latin and rock, and decanted to Florida where they all moved into a massive house and started jamming together (as you did). The result was the short lived, but utterly awesome Manassas.

Stills booked studio time and started recording pretty much everything they came up with during an intense period of creativity that led to their self titled debut double album, released in 1972. “Manassas” stands up with some of the other landmark recordings of that year, partcicularly the Rolling Stones double platter “Exile on Mainstreet”, for which it is a creative and sonic cousin. As it was a double album, it was split into four, with each side dedicated to a different style of music. The side with the country and blugrass tracks aren’t my bag, but they are still good songs, mainly written by Hillman. The other three sides contain latin, folk and blues rock. Stills' song writing is at its peak and he hits each style with a consistent quality. In a way it’s an extension of his two previous solo albums, but with a band that is able to switch between styles at the drop of a hat, often within songs. Every track could be named as a highlight, but the massive “Treasure” that sort of closes the album is a tour de force that has to be heard. Stills guitar and vocal tracks are also a highlight, ironic for a band-centred album. His solo acoustic guitar playing always sends a chill through me.

A European and American tour followed, then it was pretty much over as the members moved on to other projects. One follow up album was released but it counts as just okay, not outstanding.

As far as one-off projects go, Manasssas was a huge achievement. The fact that there were no singles and no flashy promotion meant it was largely forgotten in the rush of the decade that followed, making this a crucial artefact for people with an ear for classic rock.

Todd Rundgren

Something-Anything
“Hey, I know him”, I hear you say. But do you? Todd is best known as a producer, lending his skills to such significant albums as Meat Loaf’s “Bat out of Hell”, the debut from the New York Dolls and XTC’s commercial breakthrough “Skylarking”. How many of you are familiar with his own albums though?

Todd had a prog rock outfit called Utopia during the 70s that managed to out-bombast the usual supects, but that isn’t what I’m talking about here. He also produced a couple of eccentric songwriter records in the early 70s that are again out of scope. The topic is ‘The Greatest’. If you think about classic 70’s rock you will have a sound in your head that you’ll refer to. Maybe a bit of acoustic guitar, guitar solos definitely, horns perhaps, backing vocals maybe, a dash of piano, nice verse-chorus structure. Yeah that’s it. But who made the most quintessential 70’s rock sounds? That’s right – Todd did on his 1972 double album “Something/Anything”. This is an album that is immediately familiar but one you have most likely never heard. Recorded partially live in the studio it is also a bit meta in that it shows a record being made while you listen to it. Not every track is a winner, but as with “Manassas” (released the same year), the bits that stand out are high water marks of classic rock. It’s also funny as hell at times!

Latin Rock – Malo and Pirana

Malo
Latin rock – that’s Santana right?

For most of us that’s about as far as it goes, but with a whole continent of people potentially making it there is going to be a bit more to it than that. I’m targetting latin rock here, not latin funk, samba and other styles, and perversely I’m not even focussing on bands from South America. That’s how obscure this is.

Malo might be known by some due to the fact that they were led by Carlos Santana’s younger brother Jorge. Being a younger sibling myself I know what it’s like to see your big brother get all the attention, and that’s kind of what we are looking at here. Carlos’s band is multi-platinum selling for a reason, but that doesn’t diminish the quality of Malo. Listen to their first two albums and sweat to the heat of the jamming.

Pirana
Pirana are from Australia, of all places. Not known for its huge latin poulation, Pirana were in fact a bunch of Aussie blokes that were smitten by Santana and liked to jam live. Great musicians all of them, but their first album lacked a lot in the song writing department and is probably best forgotten. Their second album though, imaginatively title “Pirana 2”, is a quantum leap up. Featuring a cover that even looks like a Santana LP, this one really fries the shrimps. Wisely it is mainly instrumental, so you don’t have to endure the endless “love your brother” lyrics of the first one, and the production and arrangements are all top drawer, so it stacks up with anything released by the bros Santana. Pretty much unavailable from the moment it came out it has recently been unearthed for all to enjoy. Go get it.

Kiwi Rock – Ticket and Sneaky Feelings

Let’s jump the Tasman and come home (for me anyway). New Zealand is home to a lot of great musicians, and most of them are reasonably obscure internationally, so it would take a whole website to do this entry justice. As a little entrĂ©e I’m going to focus on two of my favourites that produced music that would stand up anywhere.

Ticket
Ticket were New Zealand’s primo acid rock band. Featuring the uniquely fluid tones of guitarist Eddie Hansen, these guys were best appreciated live where they would sometimes play an entire set without stopping, allowing the songs to float into each other and leaving the audience either entranced or bored witless, depending on whether their chemical of choice was brewed or synthesised in a lab. A bit hard to capture in the studio, their two albums don’t really do them justice, however their second one “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie” is still brilliant in its own way. An aging hippie guy I met through e-Bay dubbed me a tape of his copy back in the 1990’s, but it has since been re-issued on CD so it can now be enjoyed by all relatively easily.

“Let Sleeping Dogs Lie” has a great set of songs that are surprisingly tight given their live reputation. There is even a tongue in cheek track taking the piss out of themselves in a mock live setting with the audience booing for them to get off. Ticket were booked to tour Australia supporting Black Sabbath when Eddie suddenly decided to quit the band and become a hare krishna (as you did). The rest is, as they say, history, but the “Eddie Hansen is God” graffiti hung around on city walls for a few more years until the weather eventually washed the last traces away.

Sneaky Feelings
Sneaky Feelings were one of the original ‘Dunedin Sound’ bands that released their songs on the legendary Flying Nun label. A four piece guitar band featuring two main song writers, these guys approached their music from a more subtle space than a lot of their label mates did. Most of the original Flying Nun bands were heavy on the “White Light/White Heat” vibe with added post-punk fumes, and liked to crank things up live and in the studio. Sneaky Feelings were more influenced by West Coast 60s sounds, with the guitar jangle of the Byrds an obvious starting point. They had the talent to translate those influences into their own sound though and produced a sublime album in 1984, “Send You” that gently beat the crap out of anything released anywhere in the world. Featuring only eight tracks, and barely over half an hour long, it is a thing of rare beauty that seems to exist somehow out of time. It could be a lost 60s gem, but is too loud, or it could be a power pop classic a la Big Star, but is too simply arranged. It could even be an electric folk record, but is too upbeat. There is one dud song on it that tries to get a bit Leonard Cohen on it, but apart from that, this is essential listening for anyone.

Little Feat and Black Crowes

Lowell George
Okay these guys are a lot better known, but while people know the names, they haven’t necessarily heard their music. Little Feat came from LA and were initially associated with Frank Zappa’s gaggle of freaks. As usual their first album was patchy, but they hit their stride on the subsequent “Sailing Shoes” and “Dixie Chicken” platters. Leader Lowell George had an earthy but surreal approach to lyrics and a great sense of humour. He was also an incredibly expressive guitar player. He sadly died in 1979 after the band had passed its peak, making their later reunions completely irrelevant.

The Black Crowes are good old boys from down South that sometimes get unfairly lumped in with LA hair metal bands. That sucks. Their first three albums were big sellers so why are they here? Well their fourth one “Three Snakes and One Charm” didn’t connect with the punters and critics the same way and has been a bit neglected. Which is wrong, because it has some of their best songs, genuine psychedelic overtones and guest appearances by members of Funkadelic. Still not obscure enough? Well, this post is talking about recordings, not just albums, and the best way to appreciate these two bands was to hear them live.

There are two essential radio recordings of Little Feat recorded at Ultrasonic Studios in upstate New York in 1973 and 1974 that have been widely bootlegged and are now available to all via Youtube and other sources. These give the best representation of their unique swampy rock’n’roll feel and feature songs they didn’t release on any albums. Lowell’s between song comments and introductions also add to the gumbo with their unique flavour.

Black Crowes
The Black Crowes also jam live in ways only hinted at on their albums and have likewise been widely bootlegged. Their peak came during the aforementioned “Three Snakes” tours, where their live act developed an epic and organic ebb and flow that is completely unrivalled, even by supposed masters like the Allman Brothers and Led Zeppelin. Those who attended those shows experienced rock and roll at its most transcendent. The rest of us can only get a taste through some high quality soundboard bootlegs, but hey, it’s better than nothing.

Kraut Rock

Steig Aus
Now there’s a horrid bit of branding. The word ‘kraut’ is to Germans what the ‘N’ word is to African Americans, so how people have got away with using the term kraut rock for about half a century is beyond me. So I’m going to use the term euro-rock instead if you will indulge me.

As far as cult genres go euro-rock can’t be beat. Largely ignored outside of Europe at the time, it would have stayed unknown but for a few notable British hipsters that recognised its unique flavour and approach. It was progressive in a way that British and American prog rock wasn’t, basically a lot less self indulgent, and focused more on funk and jazz roots than on the classical and theoretical takes on rawk favoured by dinosaurs like ELP, Yes, et al.

Euro-rock needs a post of its own, which I promise to get onto later, but at a high level you need to hear albums by Embryo, Atlantis, AR & Machines, Gila and Frumpy. Embryo in particular are incredible and have been going for about four decades, although they have been more involved in ethic sounds for about three of those. You should track down their 1973 albums “Rock Session”and “Steig Aus” immediately and marvel at how such high quality music could be so unknown by the world for so long.

Julian Cope was the highest profile British hipster to embrace euro-rock and he wrote a book on it (literally). The blogs “Old Rock News” and “Krautrock Maniac” are where to source the sounds these days. Get busy.

The Soft Boys

Underwater MoonlightStarting around the same time as punk but related to it only by an aggressive approach, Cambridge’s Soft Boys are unique in the history of rock’n’roll and largely unknown, but for a devoted cult that followed leader Robyn Hitchcock into an equally obscure solo career. Their initial EP was a spiky affair with jarring rhythms and fever dream lyrics that is what they call ‘an acquired taste’. Their first album, “A Can of Bees” toned things down a bit, but only a little. If you imagine DEVO doing Bowie’s “Aladdin Sane” with added Who harmonies over the top it will give you an idea of what you’re in for, but the reality is the Soft Boys were even weirder than that. Musically it is reasonably accessible, but lyrically Robyn Hitchock was still reveling in his love of nightmare imagery and surreal story lines. The result is like finding a sweet looking meringue only to bite into it and find it tastes like fish. This album inspired an oblique reference in “Nought” on our first album.

What you really need to hear is their second album “Underwater Moonlight”. This is classic powerpop with the bonus of Robyn’s best (and funniest) lyrics setting it apart. The range of material is gobsmacking, from the deliberately arthythmic “Old Pervert” and the intense paranoia of “Insanely Jealous”, to the should-have-been-a-hit “Queen of Eyes” and the epic title track, it doesn’t miss a step. The Rykodisc CD re-issue expands it with outtakes, covers and B-sides and is essential listening. Released in 1980 when ‘new wave’ was what was hip, this disappeared without a trace. A crime.

And, of course, us.

Yes indeed – hit the release list in the sidebar while you’re here.



Friday 10 December 2021

Qbgone

 Part 3 of an occasional series.



As the man says, these are super scary times. I’m not sure at what point it happened, but some kind of collective insanity seems to have got a grip on a large percentage of the population of the western world. The most obvious cot case being the good old U S of A, which always tends to lead the stats when extreme events are in play. According to this now conventional madness, the USA (and by extension, the World) is being run by a cabal of Satan worshipping paedophiles that also enjoy a bit of human sacrifice on the side. Some schools of thought also include the notion that this cabal is not of human origin, but is comprised of reptilian aliens that can shape shift into human form. Take a moment to read that again. People actually believe that shit.

The inside skinny on this was provided (I say “was” because I’m not sure if the people who subscribe to this cult still care about him or not) by a ‘deep state’ insider going by the code name Q. Starting a few years back, and in the style of Wiki-leaks, he was drip feeding allegedly top secret files to followers via an obscure online chat application. Which immediately raises the question, if it was so earth shattering why use the most obscure platform possible to get it out to the public? But logic doesn’t feature in any of this so I’ll stop there before I even get started.

So his group of followers developed a quasi-religion (complete with shaman) that also incorporated, in no particular order, old testament fire and brimstone Christianity, UFO-ology, illuminati-style elitism, scientology, political conspiracy theory, international planned germ warfare and general xenophobia / racism. About the only people not included were the Masons for a change (but maybe they are a bit too mainstream for them). As we now know, this putrid granola of wild speculation and paranoia produced Qanon. The building blocks date back to the end of the Twentieth Century, but it took the appearance of the great orange Potus to catalyse it into a movement. If you try hard enough you can no doubt find references to Trump in the Book of Revelations and the prophecies of Nostradamus. I would be disappointed if there weren’t because it would suggest these theorists aren’t doing their job. Fueled by a constant stream of lies from the top, its devotees have grown in both number and fervour to the point that they felt motivated enough to overturn a democratic election.

The rest is, as they say, history.

As a wise person once said, it isn’t where you come from that worries me, it’s where you are going. And the future does not look good. It’s bit like trying to turn around the driver of a run-away truck when they are out of their minds on meth, and all you have to reason with them is a copy of the road code. If I put on my Nostradamus hat I would predict that America will sink into a second civil war at the start of 2025, with whoever wins then setting their sights on the rest of the world. Religious fervour is hard to stop, especially when it has its finger on the trigger of the largest nuclear arsenal the world has ever seen. The irony of the US preaching to the Middle East about the evils of nuclear weapons shouldn’t be lost on you at this point. Exactly who can’t be trusted?

Even if Trump choked on his Big Mac tomorrow it still wouldn’t change anything. The thing about mad conspiracies is that they morph to suit the times. If they believe JFK Jnr is about to make a comeback and the Queen is a reptile they will believe pretty much anything. And one in six Americans now believe this stuff. That’s about 55 million people in the US alone, or the same number of people as the population of England. All the futurists in the late Nineteenth Century never predicted that the world would be going insane early in the Twenty First. Weren’t we supposed to be living in an enlightened Utopia by now?

Anyway enough already – it really is too scary. Besides, there is only one alien cult worth listening to and that's us, right kids?

Disclaimer:

As with previous broadcasts of this nature, this is presented as a free public service and no ownership is claimed for any of the material herein. A note that this is generally pretty offensive so no minors and no one with a nervous disorder should click play. But if you arrived here because of the Q reference I would encourage you to listen – you need help.

Wednesday 15 September 2021

Mundivagrants

The Hopkinsville Goblins


For some reason we seem to be putting out a new release around September each year. So predictable. It’s honestly not intentional, especially since my little guy’s internal clocks are set to a different time zone to the rest of the world.

With most of the planet locked down for the last 12 months or so, opportunities for conventional approaches to music have been severely curtailed, so we have been left to wander the Earth mentally and musically without much of a compass to guide us. The result has been a diversion into some of the most maligned musical territory in the world. We ended up exploring New Age and World music for hidden opportunities. Why? Because it’s there, silly. And what else were we going to do?

It would have been right and proper to take on conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers given the current situation, and we might still do that in one of our public service broadcasts on Youtube, but no. I wanted to escape a bit and travel the world without leaving home.

My little guys are always surreptitiously travelling the world, so for them it was just a matter of diarising the whole thing and giving me the lonely planet skinny to work with. So for those of you not put off by the threat of New Age and World sounds, here is what you are looking at.

The focus of this is on rhythm and how rhythms can intersect, even though they exist in separate physical and cultural spaces. We are going to zig-zag you around the world in about 40 minutes and let you see it through our shades. If Dick Dale got together with members of Can on a backpackers tour of world, and then wrote a symphony about it on their return, they might have come up with something like this. But it would have lacked the ambient icing on the cake, which is where we come in. If you like our atmospheric stuff like Light Well, Synaesthesia and Nullarbor & Void, you should love this. The main difference is that with Munidvagrants you can even dance to it.

Take the trip here: Mundivagrants.

Tracks:

Mundivagrants (18:48)

Obsquatulate (3:53)

Peregrinations (18:02)

Jiwaperjalanan (2:21)

All music and production by Alvis Impulsive; (P) and © Banzona Music 2021.

Wednesday 25 August 2021

Lockdown listening

It’s kind of ironic that New Zealand and Australia are currently involved in new covid lockdowns when the rest of the world is starting to move out of them. Especially here in New Zealand, where we have managed to avoid a few covid bullets and ridden out the storm in quiet isolation. Now a single delta case has expanded out into a couple of hundred within a week and we are all locked into our home bubbles again for a fortnight (at least). Lockdown 2.0 is obviously not as much fun as lockdown 2020. There is no novelty value anymore and it’s simply a matter of enduring groundhog day after day for a few weeks.

Interestingly the mental impact this time isn’t so great, since we have all been there and done that before. Anxiety, uncertainty, fear – not so much (although it’s clear delta isn’t something you should play around with). Now it’s just boredom that is the enemy.

So apart from “working from home”, the main challenge is how to fill in time. During the first lockdown I had a lot of trouble working out what I wanted to listen to. Nothing really felt right. This time around it isn’t so hard, but the main focus has been on how to fill in time and stave off the boredom with music. So with that in mind I have put together a list of steers for anyone in the same boat. The common factor here is that these are all artists that produce long pieces of music. No three minute songs here. These will fill in a good quarter of an hour or so at a bite, so they will help your day to fly by. This post also serves as a neat segue into our next release, but more about that in September.

The art of jamming has largely been forgotten and/or abandoned over time. It suits a live environment with an audience committed to going on a journey with the band. The 1970’s saw jam bands thrive. Some might say it was too healthy and the jam garden was allowed to grow a lot of tall and thick weeds, but at its best there wasn’t much to touch it for its ability to take you on a trip.

Jamming started in the world of jazz obviously, since jazz is by definition an improvisation. It crossed over into rock at the tail end of the sixties in the American West Coast ballrooms and developed further into festivals and concert halls everywhere as the seventies progressed. A lot of festivals actually saw both jazz and rock artists on the same bill, probably best illustrated by the 1970 Isle of Wight festival where Miles Davis debuted his “rock” band to an international audience. That cross-pollination was a feature of the seventies and led to some of the most inspired music ever created, laid down to willing and receptive audiences, many of whom would literally go all night with multi-artist bills. There is a great Rolling Stones bootleg in circulation where the band goes on at 3:00am and Mick is confused as to whether they are continuing from the night before or getting everyone up for breakfast.

Then punk happened, the eighties arrived and everyone got obsessed with shiny glossy things that provided cheap thrills and instant gratification. Jamming was driven into forgotten backwoods in the southern States and parts of Europe that couldn’t care less anyway.

So let me hip you to some of this transcendental goodness. Most of it is unashamedly from the golden era in the early seventies, but there are also a few more recent pointers to keep things a bit fresh.

Allman Brothers

Southern rock. 
Let’s get straight to the heart of the matter. The southern USA was essentially jam band territory. Still is. What started out in San Francisco with acid rock bands like the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service was translated into something altogether more soulful and satisfying. The Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd are probably the best examples, but there were plenty of others equally committed to playing all night. You can also add to this Humble Pie and the original Fleetwood Mac, despite the fact they were Brits, because they spent a lot of time in the States on the concert circuit. The best thing about these guys was that their jamming was focused on a groove, it wasn’t an indulgent show of ability, which you could say the likes of Led Zeppelin and lot of prog bands were guilty of. Bands like the Black Crowes and Govt Mule have carried on what has become a southern tradition into the nineties and noughties. There are plenty of examples to go with, but my advice is to track down live recordings of these bands and pretend you are in the audience as best you can.

Neil Young and Crazy Horse

We’re going to be here for a while
.  They didn’t play 15 minute epics, but the seventies also saw the high water mark of some rock artists playing for a looong time. Neil Young would do an hour long solo set before bringing on Crazy Horse for another two hours of rock. Likewise Bruce Springsteen would pretty much play his entire back catalogue if you let him. Tom Petty was another who would play a couple of dozen tracks in a set that featured plenty of jamming. Did the audience care? Hell no, and you shouldn’t either. There is a ridiculous 5 LP box set by Bruce Springsteen that admittedly spans a decade, but is programmed like a concert. You get the idea.

Miles Davis Pangaea

Fusion.  
So rock and jazz got together and had a baby. There is a warning flag on this though. A lot of fusion is self indulgent crap of a similar kind to prog rock. When it’s good it’s very good, but buyer beware. My advice here is to stick to the obvious players like Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis from around 1970 – 1975, and preferably closer to 1975 than earlier. It’s that specific. Miles Davis’ Pangaea and Agartha sets are sublime (although Miles himself is off colour on much of them because he was sick at the time) and Herbie’s work with the Headhunters is also essential.

Santana Lotus fold out

Latin
.  Basically War and Santana. War started life in the spotlight as backing band for Eric Burdon, but went their own way in the seventies. They are a bit lighter than a lot of the other bands on this page and feature a harmonica as a main solo instrument. Nice though, especially their extended instrumental jams. Santana are the daddies here though. Carlos hit a rich vein of inspiration in that key 1970-75 period. Caravanserai is one of my favourite studio albums, but it is blown away by the Lotus live set recorded in concerts from Japan in 1975. Lotus was originally only released in Japan as a triple album (with an incredible fold out design that is a product of the time in itself), but has since been made more accessible. It’s jaw dropping how a band can jam so wildly and be so tight at the same time. There are plenty of well recorded bootlegs of Santana from all around the world during this time, so if you want to explore further get googling. One recorded in Alaska springs to mind…

Brian Eno Music for Airports

Ambient.
  Change of pace. Ambient music is intended to form a background to activity. Music for airports. No pussyfooting. You have to be careful with ambient music though. It can slow down time too much rather than filling it in. For that reason I’d generally avoid this during a lockdown situation as it could have you climbing the walls. If one must, Brian Eno’s ambient stuff is the most accessible (read ‘boring’), and Robert Fripp, Harold Budd and other krauty minimalists also have their moments. Another goodie is a solo album by Edgar Froese from Tangerine Dream entitled “Epsilon in Malaysian Pale”. Say what now? Apart from the decidedly pretentious title, this album features two side long tracks that attempt to transport you to a tropical Asian jungle. And almost succeed.

Prince Lovesexy tour

Prince.
  Surely not. What’s the purple one doing here? Well, his princeliness was one to jam live. The song Purple Rain was often dragged out to about 20 minutes and Head regularly made ten. He would often throw several tracks together into long medleys going back and forth between them in the same way that James Brown did. He was also so prolific and varied that you can spend days going through his back catalogue and not get bored. I miss this guy.

Acid Mothers Temple

Acid.
 No list of time bending music would be complete without some genuine acid rock. Not the tame, sub-blues that passed for acid rock in the original San Francisco explosion in the sixties. I mean stuff like Gong, Hawkwind and Acid Mother’s Temple. Brain fried, guitar and effects laden stews of sound. I’ve linked you to our page on Gong, but you also need to check out Hawkwind’s Space Ritual and pretty much anything live by Acid Mother’s Temple. You need to be in a strong frame of mind though, otherwise you might get crushed.

So there you go. This little list should see you through. And if the music doesn’t, the googling possibilities should. Like I say, we will be back in September with our new release. It would also fit onto this page, but we’ll have to keep it for freer days. In the meantime, you can check out our other stuff top right.

Stay safe and get vaccinated peoples. It’s the only exit from this mess. You wear a seat belt don’t you? Same thing. It will save your life.



Monday 3 May 2021

Throw the man a dime

Busking sucks. Standing on cold streets, feeling exposed, putting up with smart ass comments from passing strangers for hours, before finally sifting through the lolly wrappers for the chump change to buy your next burger. It’s not a great gig, but you would earn more from a day of that than you would from a year on Spotify.

I’ve said before we aren’t in this for the money, and it’s probably just as well, because earning a living from music these days is nigh on impossible unless you are ‘lucky’ enough to become a puppet of some multi-national entertainment corporation. The Covid pandemic has exposed this more than ever. With musicians unable to work live they are relying on streaming and vinyl/CD sales to get their chips. With CD sales evaporating and vinyl still a bit of a luxury item, that leaves streaming as the main source of ‘income’.

Hands up all those who think musicians must be creaming it in this brave new world of instant access music. Not so fast. Here’s some basic facts to help you make your mind up. Spotify’s average payment per play on its service is $.0038 USD. That’s 0.38 cents. That means an individual artist on that pay would need to have around 3,000 plays to earn one hour’s worth of the minimum wage in Britain. So for a 40 hour week that would be 120,000 plays or 6,240,000 plays to earn the minimum wage for a year. For one person. Building that kind of following without live promotion is impossible.

At the same time, Spotify has tripled in value during the Covid pandemic, and its founder is now a certified billionaire. The gap between business owner and ‘employee’ has never been so stark since the days of cotton production in the slavery days. Streaming services basically say take it or leave it, since they hold all the aces. And it’s true. What else exists at the moment?

If it continues this way real music (as opposed to corporate product) is going to be another 21st century extinction.

The kind of absurd inequities highlighted in music are playing out all over the world in almost every industry. The flip side of globalisation is that it benefits the few on an international scale, while leaving the vulnerable exposed to the shifting sands of local exploitation. What do you mean you want a living wage? Get it from someone else – I need to build a tennis court on one of my super yachts thanks and my private jet needs upgrading. I can go to another country and find cheap labour if you want to make a fuss.

Revolution is never pretty, but the appetite for it will continue to grow as the 21st century progresses. Then we’ll see how much sway the mega corporations have over individual governments. Will governments repress their own people to stay onside with the billionaires club? Of course they will. You can bet your last wooden nickel on it. But the same tools that make the mega corporations powerful can be used against them to deflate their power. People have to organise themselves to create their own global communities outside of governments to compete as a way of avoiding messy and violent show downs with the powers that be. Access to technology hasn’t been limited. Yet. And there are some vastly clever people out there that can do it.

So where does all this leave your average musician right now? There is a ground swell of protest from established artists who are sick of being exploited, and there is an appeal to the parliament in Britain to try and get some kind of regulation in place. That’s fine if it puts pressure on the corporations, but it isn’t going to hit them where they live. They are exploiting musicians, so if there are no musicians left, what are they going to do? As I say, musicians need to start working together to claim some kind of territory for themselves. Any kind of alternative streaming service with a fairer payment system will do the trick, preferably owned by the people who are benefiting from it. Sounds like communism? If you say so, but what the fuck is wrong with people supporting each other to destroy a corrupt and exploitative regime? It’s better to die on your feet than live on your knees, and you should never die wondering.

The only problem is that artists of any kind are historically a selfish and bitchy crowd with no desire to help anyone except themselves. So on top of a commercial shift we are also requiring a complete cultural shift. And given how the covid pandemic has exposed the weaknesses in human nature, you would need to be a massive optimist to see the light emerging at the end of the tunnel. The times we are living through are tough, but tough times lead to the strongest solutions and those who can adapt best will eventually win out. It will be interesting to see what that looks like, and that alone should be enough to keep you looking ahead.

If you feel like chucking us a fraction of a cent or two, you can find our releases listed top right. I’m saving up for some new bass strings in 2023.