Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Are you coming to or coming from?

Download: SLAPP HAPPY "The Drum"

I'm surprised how few friends know this song and it's apparently not in print anymore (and no one aside from other old farts seems to care about Bongwater's cover of it) so I post the song here. I think of this tune as a crucial part of any "indie" musical education, if not classicke rocke 101 then I guess 201, up there with "Shoplifting," "Armenia City in the Sky" and "Political Song for Michael Jackson to Sing." It's from the album Acnalbasac Noom -- the original versions of songs that later appeared on 1974's tamer Casablanca Moon. Surprise, the label (Virgin) said these versions were too rough and weird or whatever, so Slapp Happy re-recorded 'em.

The thing is, who ever thought that Slapp Happy were gonna sell any records in the first place? Why not go with their raw, freaky versions made with the raddest musicians working at the time? Would you ask the Shaggs to redo "Foot Foot" to make it more radio-friendly? I know things were different thirty years ago, but S.H. singer Dagmar Krause is hardly Eric Carman, same for songwriter/ guitarist Peter Blegvad. Robert Wyatt was quoted at the time as saying " I'd like to see Slapp Happy go straight to number one." But as much as he looks like God, I guess he in fact is not God. Do take a minute to soak that in; I'll wait.

The "raddest musicians working at the time" line refers to the fact that the Noom recordings were done in 1973, in Germany, at Faust's Wumme studio, the converted schoolhouse where all that Faustmagik happened backintheday: Faust the backing band, Uwe Nettlebeck the producer. FUCK! You could make a great record under those conditions.

Now, I fully understand that this sort of thinking which I occasionally slip into -- "Ohhh my Gawd, how can you not know every obscure musician/ artist/ author/ painter that I randomly happen to be obsessed with since I am a complete dork tryping this in my underwear right now???!!! What the fuck is wrong with you?! You never hard Skip Spence or read Against Nature? You never jerked off to a Gustave Moreau painting (not that I ever have, really -- I'm not that into mythology) and dreamt you were Victor Brauner's best friend? You do not own every single Document reissue?" -- is not the very friendliest train of thought, but I do hope it is tempered by a preacherly enthusiasm or at the least a doddering, Professor Doofus-ish uhh, "charm." I abhor obscurantism for its own sake, and always have. I think it's that ELO maimed me at such an early age? Ehh, whatever. Please stop me before I talk about ELO again.

Elitism and snobbery are unpalatable traits except when flirtingly handled by a cute person you want to have sex with, or when you're talking about a really, really obvious and objective f-a-c-t -- like how U2, Coldplay, Interpol and Modest Mouse are each far worse than Supertramp... But then, it's like, why even bother? The older I get, the less snobby I am. Really!!!

Plus also too -- wasn't that an experimental British band in the early '80s with a girl singer? Plus Also Too? -- I only get a Scrawl album returned for my search results -- now there is a band neither over nor underrated, Scrawl -- uhhhhh, where was I? Ohh yeah, cute girls tend to like those bands I just mentioned. So you're pretty much fucked (or more precisely not-fucked) if you act all ultra-exclusionist snob-boy about it all.

Anyway, back to work for me -- wish me luck getting over this cold everyone in Portland seems to have this week, despite the weather being scarily Spring-like.


Blogger Phil said...

yes, one of their very best songs. i've been amazed since 1975 that no-one really knows about then apart from a small bunch of like-minded individuals. but, ya know, they got lots of press in the NME at the time so it wasn't from a lack of publicity.

11:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey mike, great track. love the grape and huysmans, but what does Document reissue mean? email me at and let me know. i feel out in the cold.

4:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's another neat cover of The Drum by a band called The Impossibles, from 1991.

7:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Slapp Happy, my favorite band ever. Just today bought a copy of Casablanca Moon/Desperate Straights CD because I'd never heard the Virgin versions. Someone on the internet was picking and choosing, which version of each song he liked better, sometimes it was Casablanca, sometimes Acnalbasac. Maybe it's familiarity, every since my Faust obsession led me to ask the folks at Adult Crash what Slapp Happy was all about and they put on the Drum, but I have to stick with Acnalbasac Noom. I do however, love the song Haiku.

11:21 PM  

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