HASIL ADKINS "No More Hot Dogs" Not the most original choice of song to post I know, but there still might be a few folks out there who've not encountered the authentically out-there thrills of rocka-hill-billy Haze, the true wild man of rock and roll, in his prime. The one man band was found dead in his Madison, WI home yesterday at the age of 67. I never saw Hasil Adkins live but thanks to the great Norton and a host of European labels, he had a resurrected career starting in the mid '80s, and did start touring for the first time in decades.
I always thought the Detroit Cobras should cover this here song -- would be cool to hear a woman sing these words... Anyway, yeah, ummm, it's not exactly a feminist anthem. More here at the 'FMU blog.
GARY HIGGINS "Thicker Than A Smokey" The sun is sunning and the blooms are blooming and Spring has totally sprung out here in the Pac NW... meanwhile tomorrow I officially enter MIDDLE AGE, as, barring unforeseen circumstances, I will turn 37. Thank goodness the ideal soundtrack to such a groovy yet mildly melancholy scene arrived in the post yesterday: the fabulous-sounding reissue of the 1973 LP Red Hash by Gary Higgins, due in July on Drag City. Maybe I'll even write about it at someplace other than an e-commerce site... we'll see. Nothing against e-commerce, now--that's how I've made my living for the most part, for like 7 years. Damn, that's a long-ass time! (Birthdays make me all reflective and shit.)
Interesting developments are in the works for a record release party -- I'd say more but I've been sworn to secrecy by the producer of this shebang, the great Zach Cowie, who called every single Gary Higgins in the Connecticut phonebook to find the guy and see about reissuing the album! How rad is that? You know there're more than three... [Breaking news -- Zach writes for a minor correction: for the record, i WROTE to every gary higgins i could find and talked to just about every psych-collecting-weirdo around the globe!...hehe] Thanks to Zach for permission to post this tune, which many will recognize from its being covered by Ben Chasny on tour and on the last Six Organs record (and how retarded do I feel for not calling it out in my review for AMZN)? Ohh well, I'd never heard it before.
One of our favorite obsurantismophiles, Richie from OP, says this on AMG about the brother: Little is known about Gary Higgins, who released one rare album in 1973, Red Hash, on the small Nufusmoon label. While the record was generally in tune with the mellow singer/songwriter style of the early '70s, it was somewhat more distraught and eccentric in its manner than most such efforts, with an accent on melodies and vocals that were sad without sinking into gloom. It's been reported that Higgins was in prison in Connecticut in the early '70s, though it's not certain whether he might have been in or out of jail at the time the LP was recorded.
PS: I'm guessing dude was NOT in jail when the album was recorded (he did a "two-year, nine-month sentence for possession of marijuana" according to Pitchfork).
JAMIE LIDELL "Live at the Royal Hall Festival London 2004 (Quicktime file)" I generally stray from posting directly to other sites but this is a record label's site so they oughta be able to handle it -- besides it's not like I'm Fluxblog or anything, traffic-wise -- but mostly just 'cause this guy is totally radonkulous. Woah. One man band, formerly half of Super_Collider, he's sort of like Arthur Russell meets Prince meets corner beatbox champ meets Roxy Music on the live video. And, as you can see from this link here (lo siento...), which apparently was first up on Fluxblog, dude rocks it like Otis (!) or something. For real.
Also, if you peep the lyrics, then check out my screed from earlier this AM when I shoulda just hit my knees in prayer/meditation instead of posting, you might grok that this is EXACTLY THE SONG I NEEDED TO HEAR TODAY. Thanks, Mischpuschim!
Ohh, and I like his bio. Those are not words I regularly utter.
ABNER JAY "Bring it with You" So, the last few years have been good in many ways for me, but also rife with funky health stuff and depression -- shit I haven't even wanted to talk with close pals about, but now that things across the board seem to be a lot better I'm realizing how much they've just sucked, not that long ago at all. For a variety of plausibly good reasons(really!), I've been wayyyyy too slow with everything, which bums me and makes me more harsh on myself and as a result I freak out and am even slowerrrr, either as a result of taking on a whole 'nother project, or kind of shooting myself in the foot somehow, an art I excel at... Anyway, I just I feel not solely liek the boy who cried ze wolf, but I feel like the boy who cried wolf while trying to paint with his foot, sing a concerto (you know, with his mouth), and win the hot dog eating contest at the same time. Yeah, that boy... Which makes me, at times, a one man band of self-pity, defeat and solipsistic despair! I can say "woe is me" a thousand ways! You think I'm kidding?! Hah. OK. I am. But also, I'm not.
Actual one-man-band Abner Jay really dealt with issues of depression and drug addiction in a fucked-up/ outsider-blues/ bad comedy way. As a result, I absolutely love him. (Wait, I'm not insinuating I've relapsed here as I've not! -- I am about to plagiarize myself from a review I wrote for the Seattle Weekly a year and a half ago -- that's 'cause I'm lazy, like I said already. OK.)
On one of Jay's best songs he says "I crave cocaine but I can't find nothing here in Atlanta/'Cause them hippies done used it all up!" Now, I like to think of myself as a fairly intrepid crate digger, especially when it comes to raw, weird blues music, but neither I nor anyone I know had ever heard of "one-man band" Abner Jay until this year, when the Swedish reissue label Subliminal Sounds released One Man Band, a best-of disc culled from small label LPs made in the '60s.
Jay is an anomaly in every sense. One of the last recording performers from the days of minstrel shows, he played an electric six-string banjo, began most every song with a series of off-color jokes, and played the snare with one leg and the kick drum with the other. This South Georgia native's picking style was swampy and bluesy, while he used his voice in an extended, powerful moan to talk of the difficulties of sharecropping, hard drugs, and Vietnam. It's safe to say you've never heard anything like it.
That reminds me; has anyone spoofed Roadshow with vinyl? "I'm sorry sir, but this is NOT an original of Walk Among Us, as you can plainly tell by this mark on the matrix here -- see where it says 'Porky Prime Product'? These albums weren't mastered in the UK!"; "Your grandfather's hip-hop flyers from the late '70s and early '80s are priceless, especially with this photo you have of him in battle stance -- provenance means everything to serious hip-hop collectors!"; "Do you have any fucking idea what 53 original Saturn LPs in Mint/ Mint condition would bring at auction in today's marketplace?" etc. This has to have been done. Right?
It's easy to see why Wizz was as influential as Davey Graham, Bert Jansch and Martin Carthy when it comes to British folk-blues guitar god-ists of the early '60s, though he didn't record until the late '60s. He was more the busker type. If you like Jansch (and who doesn't?), there's a lot to like in Wizz Jones, more than his name even (a great name, lame pee jokes aside).
"Magical Flight" is taken from the 1977 album of the same name, which the great Maddy Prior also appears on; it's been reissued on CD. "Dazzling Stranger" is from the 1995 album of the same name and is only on CD -- it's the only re-recorded 'greatest hits' record I can think of that doesn't suck but then again all I can think of at the moment as a corollary are those thousand Troggs albums from the '80s that forget to mention these are dreadful new versions, not the ones you want...
THE FALL "Who Makes the Nazis?" THE FALL "Hip Priest" I'm all for bygones being bygones as much as anyone, but it is worth noting that the new Pope is a former member of the Hitler Youth (who were not a band -- and which was of course compulsory) and much more recently, as head of the Institution formerly known as the Inquisition, he's personally responsible for reminding all Catholic clergy that a 1962 Vatican edict was still in effect and expulsion would result for those not following it. This cheery document states that all victims of sexual abuse at the hands of clergy are supposed to enter a vow of silence about the whole business, and let the Church deal with it, not authorities -- instead of you know, being partly human and rational about the issue of kidfucker priests. Regardless, I'm sure he'll be a ruling Holy Father and unite us all in peace and harmony and love for humankind and stuff.
I rarely post music that's readily available -- am making an exception for this special occasion -- the songs will be taken down very quickly -- both are from Hex Enduction Hour, quite likely one of the ten best records ever, ever, ever.
WORLD OF POOH "Squirm Test" It’s no secret that an awful lot of the best ensemble music is created in an atmosphere of mutual dislike, even outright hatred. I got my first glimpse of this when asking members of Husker Du and Black Flag about their repective bandmates, as a young fanzine lad back in the day.
Didn’t realize until well after they’d broken up that the SF-based World of Pooh had this sort of dynamic going on; apparently the band’s lyrics (“Stay away your flesh disgusts me,” etc.) had something to do with Brandan Kearney and Barbara Manning (allegedly) being lovers/ ex-lovers. The chorus to the only song they sang and wrote together went "I'm on the wrong side -- always." Which reminds me of my marriage -- 'nuf sed.
Their music was terse, poppy and loopy, and they jammed very econo. It all made perfect sense at the time, coming on the heels of Byron Coley’s great Urinals bootleg 7”s and the waning of Flying Nun/ nascent ascendancy of the XPressway scene (i.e. noise-pop to pop-noise). I only saw them once, at CB’s ca. ’90, one of the best shows I ever saw. Anyway, Trouser Press liked 'em. Bad boy Brandan Kearney said in an interview that "World of Pooh started out as this childish keyboard-heavy trio in 1983, then mutated into pretty straightforward indie-rock by 1987 or thereabouts." Barbara has said over the last few years that a reissue of their only, rare LP Land of Thirst is in the works, but according to the great Jack Cole via the also-great Agony Shorthand blog, we're just going to have to wait.
I would rather have the vinyl than the CD reissue, of course, myself, so I'll keep checking the "W" section at record shops. I spend a bit of time looking for stuff I used to own and got rid of for decent reasons (I didn't like it at the time), stupid reasons (I was broke), and much stupider reasons (I needed drugs, maaan). Whether it's this small book of translations of Francois Villon done by (I swear -- though I can't find it listed anywhere!) Ron Padgett (wait, maybe it was Larry Fagin?) or that 7" where Dutch band the Shanks cover Wreckless Eric's "Whole Wide World" (produced by Mayo Thompson, too!) -- yeah I'm pretty much always looking for these things I used to have.
PASTOR JOHN RYDGREN "The Lord Is My Shepherd" I have a small sampling of albums from the late '60s/ early '70s where religious folks try to talk in the hip lingo of the day to attract the far-out kids to the savior Jesus Christ 'cause he's where it's at and stuff. They're really interesting and funny for about 70 seconds. I wish I had any records by Rydgren, but the dude's "spirit of Reformation" LPs were self-released and made for airplay only (he himself had shows on WPLJ and then WABC in the '60s), not to mention they're really amazingly good (or what I've heard is anyway) so they are crazy-rare.
The swingin' Lutheran pastor never cleared his use of the songs he'd rap over, either, which means even today if you wanted to reissue them it'd have to be as a boot (as Silhouette Segments was in a reduced form --double LP to single LP-- on vinyl in 2000), unless you are heinously rich or something. An original of Silhouettes went for $108 a year ago -- that's less than most Ammon Duul One LPs but out of my personal range. Ummm, and another is available here for only $1800.
Oft-compared to Ken Nordine, and it's easy to see why, what with that beat/ noir deadpan delivery over the crazy music, Pastor John (1932-1988)'s cover collages are pretty striking and I'd bet he did them himself -- check this out. Also, another, more swinging MP3 is here. Oh, and WFMU has one here. Ohhh, man here's another one here! Didn't even need to spend $1800...
THIS HEAT "Health & Efficiency" (live) This live version of "Health & Efficiency," from Krefeld, West Germany, in 1980, originally released on cassette by the Independence label in '86, is by now fairly well-booted; there's a CD version called Cold Storage, named after the studio they recorded in. I have it on vinyl, a two color paper cover sleeve marked Live. I don't listen to it very often, but each time I try to figure out what it woulda been like to see this band live, and in Germany if the whole connection to bands such as Faust would have been that much more pronouced or what.
That also makes me recall how when I visited the Faust folks in Hamburg in 1990 and caught their first show in 15 years almost by accident, I was shocked how few people were in attendance, and oover a spaghetti dinner pre-show that the band took me out to (a total highlight of my life? yessss) how the band said in their entire career they'd only played in Germany like less than six times, how they played more often in the U.K., how the only other German band they ever listened to was Ammon Duul I, and I was just blown away at how different my idea of the scene was versus the reality of it.
Of course, this post is about This Heat and not Faust -- sorry, I get so easily carried away!!! If I were actually smart, you could call me a rambling professor. Instead I'm more akin to the stoned waiter who blathers on about something of interest to him for four minutes when really all you want to know is can you have it without the anchovies!
I played this record, well the studio version anyway, "Health & Efficency" (what a song, I love how it goes on for so long) in a sushi joint the other night and three people asked what it was -- and there were only like seven people dining at the time!
Hey, there. How you doing? Last night I dreamt I was being chased by killer robots in the post-apocalypse. I had to hide on the roof so they didn't see me. Usually I post songs on here; I don't feel like it this time, and I need to wait a day or so to have more bandwidth.
So, let's just get to know each other a little bit, OK? What's your favorite color? Mine is probably blue. Well, unless you can really call rust a color.
I mean, I guess it's obvious: both works deal with real-life cases from around the same time (1800 and 1828, respectively) of the responses to "wild boys," kids raised in the wild or in total isolation, who had no sense of language or socialization at all, who'd been abandoned or worse, and who just appeared all of a sudden in the center of a village. The "scientific" approaches to these cases were fascinating, and terribly sad. I do find it awesome that, as Kaspar Hauser had not been taught a tongue, it was assumed by some he must speak Hebrew, as that was the language of the Bible. Also, I like the fact that the Aveyron "wild boy" was accepted and cared for by the rural peasants he first appeared near, who simply fed and clothed him and didn't turn him over to the authorities.
THE PRISONERS "Mourn My Health" Of all the thousands of garage rock songs about absolute alcoholic despair, this might be my favorite. And hey, I know this is the second time I've posted a track by the Chatham-based Prisoners. Maybe that's 'cause I really like 'em, and have for about twenty years now? Perhaps.
Way down yonder in the promised land, run and tell your mama 'Here's the NuGrape Man'
NUGRAPE TWINS "I Got Your Ice Cold NuGrape" It’s springtime (in case you didn't know), which means, when it’s not raining, that it is perfect weather for cute skirts and soda pop, two of my very favorite things, ever ever ever. The excellent Internet Archive has this to say about this song (which might perhaps add a bit of a historical perspective to the "ohhh my" news items surrounding Burger King’s decision to pay rappers to include rhymes about the fast food chain in their songs): Recorded on November 2, 1926. Not much is known about the Nugrape Twins. Based on their few recordings, they might have been a gospel group. This recording may have been a plug for Nugrape, a soda pop popular in the South similar to Orange Crush. Only different.
Meanwhile, everyone’s Dylanologist-slash-boomer-pop-pundit and general smartypants Greil Marcus says this about this tune and another by the NuGrape Twins extolling the virtues of this soda pop in the context of a brief review of that Document collection Sinners and Saints: the Nugrape Twins' odes to a drink that will make you a better person and bring you closer to God. OK, so he didn't have much to say, that barely counts as a mention, but if Greil listens to it, so should you. Right?
I have nothing else to say; I'm still lost in thoughts of skirts and soda pop.
At dinner with my wonderful pal Lisa last night I opined that miso soup would liven any meal whatever, going so far as to suggest that all nationalities of cuisine adopt it as their own -- as it's the perfect "opener" for Japanese, why not Italian, Thai, Greek, Mexican, etc? Similarly, I feel that any mix tape of any sort would benefit from a short ditty from Ivor Cutler, the Glasgow dreamer.
Today I just want to listen to recordings from the '20s and '30s of Sacred Harp singing -- they're great in and of themselves but are pretty weird since, due to recording constraints of the time (small studios), you'd often have far fewer people getting recorded than would normally sing in church together. Of course, the same thing is true of the blues, where dozens of people would typically play percussion on the sides of a jook joint while the blues singer played, but that's a subject for another day.
Eight years ago I interviewed my ex-cousin-in-law, K.W., about what it was like to grow up in a family who regularly sang songs from the Sacred Harp songbooks, participating regularly in “singings.” Going back over this made me fabulously hungry for Southern food! Shit, take me to Chester’s in Chattanooga, now! Hah. Anyway, here’re some excerpts from the email interview with her:
"While I did not realize it then, Sacred Harp singing is a form of worshipping God in His language, music. I love Sacred Harp singing; it is a sound you won't hear anywhere else,” K. wrote. “When I hear those strains, it is like going home to a time when the world wasn't so complicated — to a time when simple things satisfied. It reminds me of a time when you could sit in friends’ homes and know you were welcome and loved. I learned a lot of pure Scripture from those old songs that I can bring to mind from time to time. Now, of course, it reminds me of my Dad and brings a lump to my throat for a moment.”
Her father's maternal grandfather, W.P., was a singer. "But he learned the fundamentals from one of the old teachers that would go from county to county holding the singing conventions," K. explains. "He used the B.F. White Sacred Harp book, revised by W.M. Cooper and others. He led in all the Texas conventions and was president of the East Texas Singing Convention for several years. He sung devotedly (almost every Sunday and sometimes the Saturday before) from 1949 to 1990. Of course, he sang even when he was a kid."
Her first exposure to the music was in the fifth grade, in 1949. "We would get up very early on Sunday morning and head out to wherever the singing was to be. It was usually in a little country frame church hidden in the woods. Although, occasionally it would be at a courthouse or community center and yes, the OLD singers never liked it as much in those buildings as the old country churches," where the scene was more intimate and the acoustics perfectly suited to the four-part melodies. The singers traditionally form a square (called a "hollow square") as they sing, each side to the square singing the four parts to vocal music, defined in Benjamin Franklin White's text as "Base, Soprano (Tenor), Alto and Treble."
"The first singers to arrive would immediately start tuning and warming up. If you were just a little late, when you drove up, you would hear the most heavenly sound drifting out of that old country church. The singings would start about or in the morning. A secretary would call out a leader, followed by another leader. Each leader would lead their favorite song or if it had 'been used,' the singers might say, 'Lead so and so' and of course they would. They could sing almost any song from the book. Daddy 'keyed' the songs and sang lead. I sang alto. I believe he was prouder of me for singing Sacred Harp than any thing else I accomplished in his lifetime! After all the adults had lead, they would call each child who would get up and lead and there were a bunch of them."
This is a democratic, social music. "Every singer usually led two songs in the morning and two in the afternoon," Wiedener explains, "except when there were too many singers to get around to all the leaders." What all does leading involve? "Really, just waiting for the key from the keyer and usually you sung the lead when leading instead of your part should you be an alto, treble or bass. You kept the time with an up and down motion with your arm. I always looked to my Dad to set the pace and give the key. Sometimes the leader will choose too high a pitch for most of the congregation. Many times the tune would be pitched too high, and they would tap the floor with a foot and re-key the song in the right pitch. If it was too high or too low, we usually started over."
"We would have a short mid-morning break for the ladies to 'powder their noses' in an outdoor toilet. At lunch time, we did have dinner on the grounds with some of the best food you've ever tasted. Mostly country folks with big gardens so lots of fresh out of the garden good taste: peas, beans, potatoes, greens, fried chicken, cornbread, and a host of rich simple desserts (cakes and pies). If some of us kids were out playing or running, we would soon be called back by the sounds of the music as the singers resumed for the afternoon. We would usually sing until about and everyone would go their separate ways. Oh, if it were a two-day singing, you would never worry about a motel. You were welcome at any singer's house who lived in the area." Dinner on the grounds is a very important part of the Harp singing thing; people rarely get together in large numbers for social occasions in the South unless there's gonna be a lot of food.
Cooke was one of the first black artists to have his own label, and his production work was really strong -- umm, and he could kinda sing, too. And talk about a man with a message -- "Change Is Gonna Come," released just two weeks after his shooting death at an LA motel in December of '64 -- not to get all boomer on you, but it's hard to think of a more moving Civil Rights tune. I don't know if it's growing up in a post-CoIntelpro/BushCo/ etc. world, but if you told me that Cooke was murdered by the CIA/ FBI, would any of us be really surprised? I believe the answer is hell no.
Alasdair Roberts has a new album out: eight delicate, awesome interpretations of traditional murder ballads. I haven't seen the album make much of a ripple at all, though. Is it that he makes the folk music but it's really not noticably "new," "weird" or "American"? I do dig that contemporary takes on Scots-Anglo folk are not so capital-I important, which is probably all for the best. Anyway, there are more crucial things for "the press" to cover -- like, there should be at least a thousand articles expounding at length on M.I.A.'s politics/ not politics and the legitmacy thereof; why the bland and tired MOR-fests of Keren Ann and Beck exist in such an exciting middle of the road that you should care and stuff; whether Colin could really kick Conor's scrawny ass or not; and more about Bloc Party and Kaiser Chefs because we really need to also care about bands not fit to tie the sneaker laces of the fucking Knack.
This here song, taken from the 2001 LP Crook of My Arm, is the polar opposite of a murder ballad, though I suppose the psychopaths among us might just see it as the prelude to one. It's one of those tunes that makes you just want to roll down the grassy hill with the boy or girl you adore, and then go sip a shake together while staring into each others' eyes. Just do all of that ridiculous stuff they do in bad movies, when you feel like no one else is in the room but your sweetie, that kind of stuff. You might know Shirley Collins' version? Yeah well, I like Alasdair's version a lot better.
Speaking of cheesiness and unpopular sentiments and sentimental film, I have pretty strange taste in movies, running from abstract classic avant garde flicks to treacly heart-pulling schtick. Every time The Right Stuff comes on cable I have to watch at least a chunk of it; last night I was marveling at the little effects that superlative "non-objective" filmmaker Jordan Belson was called on to add to the film -- the floating pure orbs of color and cloud formations the astronauts see when they peer out their capsules? That's Belson. Does anyone know what he's been up to in the last dozen years? I don't think he's passed away and I hear he's still active, but on what? And why'd he remove his films from distribution in the first place?
Attention New York friends: I just learned that Unica Zurn, the amazingly talented and underknown Surrealist visual artist/ writer who used to be Hans Bellmer's lover, has a show now at Ubu, which is located near the base of the 59th Street Bridge. The show is up for another 12 days. I love the Ubu Gallery (they had a museum-level Brauner show there a year or two ago that slayed me), and the two times I've seen Unica's work in person it was a total aesthetic-gasm. One of those times, at that big exhibit of Ahmet Ertegun and Daniel Filipacchi's collections at the Guggenheim, they had a notebook of Unica's under glass open to one page and I wanted soooo badly to see the other works! (Alas, and stuff.) There's a PDF of the full exhibition catalog here, FYI.
These "automatic" drawings are her best work -- it's so loopy and mystical and assured. It's very psychedelic (she dropped mescaline with Michaux in the '50s). And it has a Minnie Evans (mediumistic)/ Scottie Wilson (the dots!) thing going on, as well as being sort of Moroccan (her pops collected art and artifacts from Africa and Asia). It's much more delicately sensual than Bellmer could ever think of being. Damn. Also, Alexander Ross has new work up at Feature.
I just found a copy of my best-of mix CD for 2001; tacked at the end of it was this (still) unreleased gem by Sam Beam, who'd yet to officially release any music at that time. I was introduced to his stuff by Ben Bridwell of the great Carissa's Wierd; Ben's brother was best pals with Sam. Initially I was going to release Sam's music on the label I helped start with fellow ex Amazon music editor Steve Halloran. But that never happened, making Iron & Wine my second-biggest personal coulda been a contender story (the first being Girlysound, of course!) I am not sure what the title of this tune is really, but I bet it's not what I called it initially, which is "The 'And Fuck Like A Dog' Song." Anyway, like everything by Sam, it's pretty goddamn great.