Monday, September 29, 2014

Bernie Green Plays More Than You Can Stand In Hi-Fi

Hey, it's this blogs' 10th anniversary in a couple of weeks! What are we doing? Where's the party at? I have no time to plan anything, but I'll show up. Heck, I'll bring the beer.

By request I've re-upped lots more Zoogz Rift than you can stand, not necessarily in hi-fi.

Bernie Green only made a few albums as bandleader, but they are eccentric indeed. The fact that one of them was done in association with "Mad" magazine should tell you something. This release isn't really Space-Age Pop, swing, or exotica, nor are we exactly in Spike Jones novelty territory either. I don't know what to call it - big-band circus music, maybe? RIYL: orchestral Raymond Scott, or Carl Stalling. 

The exciting percussion-fest  "Railroad Train Samba" shares album space with the self-explanatory "Saxophobia," the ambitious (and quite insane) "Concerto For Calliope," and a cartoonish version of the Cuban standard "The Peanut Vendor." Perhaps fearing that this was indeed more than his listeners could stand, Green cools out with some low-key easy-listeners ("Summer," "Idyl") that aren't at all funny or eccentric, tho I do dig the noir mood of "Caesar's Soliloquy."

Big thanks to windy for this one!

Bernie Green Plays More Than You Can Stand In Hi-Fi (1957)

A1La Sorella
A2Mister Peepers Theme
A3Ragging The Scale
A4Railroad Train Samba
A5The Virtuous Orchestra Suite
A6Caesar's Soliloquy
A7National Emblem March
B1A Frangesa
B3Concerto For Calliope
B5Double Blues
B7The Peanut Vendor

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Story of the First Voice Synthesizer, The SONOVOX

By request, now back up:
- Strange novelty songs collection "Fun Music"
- Zoogz Rift "Murdering Hells Happy Cretins"

Long before Peter Frampton's talk-box, the Vocoder, or Autotune, there was the Sonovox, demonstrated here in what must surely be the strangest "pop" music of the 1940s:

Anyone have a spare Sonovox lying around? It's almost David Dole's 100th birthday, and he'd really like one. Granted, the considerable historical importance of this gizmo almost assures that it won't be found in too many attics or garages - museums, more like.  But he really deserves one. After all, he was one of it's first users. 

If any invention was truly out of time, the Sonovox is it. It's ability to create strange electronic sounds and music would have been welcomed in the post-Moog '70s and '80s when bands like Kraftwerk and Zapp were artificially processing their vocals. But, incredibly, the Sonovox was invented at the height of the Big Band era. For the most part, people didn't really know what to do with it. But our special guest poster today is here to tell us about the one industry that did utilize the Sonovox: advertising. 

I am quite amazed and delighted that Mr. David W. Dole is able to give us this first-hand account of the history of the Sonovox. I don't know if it's story has ever been told in such detail in public before. Here's the man himself:

Sonovox enthusiasts: It must have been around 1942... I was 28 years old - working in the "broadcast department" (of course then that meant "radio" only) at Henri, Hurst & McDonald - an ad agency - 520 No. Michigan- Chicago. About 1940, in California, Gilbert Wright was dressing for the day and was using his new electric razor with which to shave. Some 15 feet away - in the bedroom, his wife called to him with a question. He answered while stroking the electric razor over his throat. Mrs. Wright called to him: "What did you say, honey? - it sounded like your razor was talking to me!" Voila! Birth of an idea! 

Gil thought it thru - and about two years later he and wife were visiting her brother (I think that was the relationship) in Chicago - and putting out the word they had something new and unique called Sonovox for which Gil had obtained a patent. Gil's brother-in-law was a partner in a radio rep firm on Michigan Avenue. The word went out, through the brother-in-law's sales reps to the timebuyers in Chicago that Sonovox was issuing an invitation to visit the radio rep firm and learn about Sonovox. I was interested and visited - and learned how to become a Sonovox articulater. I spent perhaps 6 or 7 lunch periods - slightly extended - using Gil's equipment plus a 10" Victor Red Seal phonograph record of Andre Kostelanetz orchestra of some 40-60 musicians playing "Mary Had A Little Lamb". 

I was particularly interested in the capabilities of Sonovox and how it might effect my then current job. You see I had been a radio sound effect artist in Minneapolis and had moved to Chicago and joined the agency for John Morrell and Company - meat packers - in Ottumwa, Iowa for their product, then the largest selling dog food in America. On the program, encouraged by the announcer's "Come on, boy. That' it. Sit up! Speak, speak:" And with that I would whine, growl, and end with "Woof, woof, Red Heart" The announcer would repeat it - "That's it - Red Heart"... in three flavors: Beef, Fish and Cheese! Americs's largest selling dog food!" I was curious as to whether Sonovox might either put me out of business as a sound man - or would be a tool to use in place of my live performances ! Turned out neither! 

As I was deciding on this, Mrs. Wright came to me, complimented me on getting the use of Sonovox down pat and asked if I would consider making a trip to New York on their behalf as an articulator. It seems that they had sold the idea of using Sonovox to Bromo Seltzer's agency - articulating a steam engine chugging along repeating "Bromo-Selt-zer - Bromo- Selt-zer", but that Mrs. Wright had been the articulator and the client felt that the product would be better represented if the articulator was a male. (The Sonovox technique is sexless but the client was not persuaded.) I replied "Yes, be glad to". But it proved un-necessary - the client was convinced Sonovox was sexless. 

I'm still in the market to acquire Sonovox equipment with which to entertain my grandchidren! Know where I can acquire a unit? David W. Dole 

There are a number of wonderful old "sono" radio commercials you can listen to here: 
PAMS advertising  

The other early adopters of the Sonovox were children's record producers. I've uploaded one such goodie from 1947, plus a bonus track: an mp3 of the audio from the above Kay Kyser video, from the 1940 film "You'll Find Out". 

"Sparky's Magic Piano"

Much thanks (and happy birthdaty!) to David Dole.

Oh, and he would also like to pass on one of his other innovations:

Use DOLE DATNG - Briefest and best! "JA" is January. All other months use 1st and 3rd letters: FB MR, AR, MY, JN, JL, AG, SP, OT, NV & DC. Letters ALWAYS in the middle - with date and year interchangeable but 2 numbers for "day" and 4 for "year". Copyrighted 1996 but free for all! 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

100 Copies of The Beatles' White Album Playing At The Same Time

Artist Rutherford Chang says: "I collect first-pressings of The White Album and currently own 1,034 copies." As part of his 'White Album' project (which also includes a record store only stocked with copies of you-know-what arranged according to serial number) he somehow got 100 of them to play at once. I wonder how? Sounds quite good tho, like 100 needles were dropped onto 100 turntables at pretty much the same time. Then they slowly go out of phase, like an old Steve Reich tape-loop piece. Surprisingly wonderful, e.g.: "Julia" (end of side 2) whips up a really nice drone. And I hadn't actually sat down to listen to the White Album since I was a kid, so it's also an interesting way to revisit the album.

Four 20+ minute tracks, one for each side of the White Album, plus lots of pics of White Albums in various states of decay:

Rutherford Chang - We Buy White Albums

Reminds me of another Beatles-related oddity, a very skillfully executed mashup album based on the absurd (or is it?!) premise that someone visiting another dimension where the Beatles never broke up brought back a cassette of one of their later albums. It's actually made up of tracks from various Beatles solo releases. The whole crazy story, and the album download, is available here:

The Beatles Never Broke Up

Thanks to Amadeus, And Count Otto!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Ultimate Ultimate Xanadu

Not just the ultimate Xanadu collection. No way, we leave that to other, poorer blogs. We've got the Ultimate Ultimate Xanadu collection. Two disks worth of covers of songs and documentary snippets relating to a film I've never seen. But since the wiki entry on it says that it was the inspiration for "the Golden Raspberry Awards to memorialize the worst films of the year", then maybe I should see it. Apparently there's a sizeable cult for this 1980 "romantic musical fantasy film" - these 2 disks are boiled down from a 20-disk fan collection.
Tho it's heavy on the electro-disco and ELO outtakes/rarities, there is still a variety of sounds here. Particular faves: Klaus Wunderlich's disco organ instrumental (in my world, '70s discos don't have DJs spinning the BeeGees, they have old guys playing the organ); what sounds like an inept school or amateur theater cast (disk 2, track 4); a Japanese pop-punk girl band called Tiger Shovel Nose; Hemes House Band (and I usually hate house music); and a "bossa-nova toy pop" version of the title song. Tho I suspect I'd like a bossa-nova toy pop version of anything. Brazilian band La Sound even covered the entire soundtrack (?!), tho we get just one song from it here (disk 1 track 16), a nifty lounge finger-snapper. 

This plethora of Xanadu-nocity comes to us courtesy of Don-O, the man behind the Hour of Crap podcast, the Twilight World 'zine, and many other useful pursuits. This was originally a project of his Xanadu fan site, in which he whittled down the collection of Robert Porter, who ran a Jeff Lynne fan site. Lynn is of course the man behind the Electric Light Orchestra, who provided much of the music for "Xanadu."

Didn't think I would like this much, but the unrelenting, irresistible perkiness of the damn thing wore down my resistance, and I was happily bopping around to all this nonsense. Drive yourself and everyone around you crazy with lots and lots of versions of an Olivia Newton-John disco showtune! "A place where nobody dared to go":

Ultimate Ultimate Xanadu disk 1

Ultimate Ultimate Xanadu disk 2

Thanks to Don and the Xanadu Preservation Society.

Friday, September 19, 2014

FILTHY FRIDAYS: Buddy Lucas "Shake Rock Rattle And Roll"

Judging by this incredible album, punk rock was invented in New York 20 years before the Ramones debut, by a black saxophonist playing instrumentals. You doubt me? Ladies and gentlemen, behold! the one album I've been dying to post here on our series of wild, post-war weekend-starters.

Buddy Lucas "Shake Rock Rattle And Roll" (18 songs)

If "lowbrow" music of the pre-rock crit era ever gets the respect it deserves, this album would be a Holy Grail collectible. I mean, just look at that artwork! 

Your momma was wrong: sometimes you can judge a book by it's cover, and the pulp-paperback, late-night, lurid cover of this 195? album perfectly suits the music, which ranges from mid-tempo striptease grind, to all-out proto-hardcore rockers like "Stand Up" and especially "Stampede" that must have seemed fairly incomprehensible to a Fifties audience. Perhaps that's why Buddy "Big Luke" Lucas had to pay the bills with session work.  That's him blowin' on Dion's "The Wanderer" and Frankie Lymons' "Why Do Fools Fall In Love," amongst many others. 

Oh, and how do you know that a '50s recording artist is black? They're not pictured on the album cover! The pic of Mr. Lukas below was collected elsewhere off the inter-webs. The actual back cover of this album contains no info, just a black-and-white rendering of that Bukowski-drumming-with-Jayne Mansfield front cover drawing.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sounds Of The San Francisco Adult Bookstores

Thirteen minutes of supreme silliness apparently recorded on location by Gregg Turkington, the nut behind the hilarious anti-comic Neil Hamburger, and the fiendishly clever Warm Voices Rearranged anagram record reviews site. The narrator, presumably Turkington, speaks in a mock David Attenborough voice. Copies of this record came with a free tissue. 

Clicking on the title will wisk you off to DivShare-land, where a wondrous world awaits!

The Golding Institute "Sounds Of The San Francisco Adult Bookstores" (1997)

Tuesday, September 09, 2014


When will it end?!  Still more bizarre international ethnic versions of Western pop hits. And by 'ethnic' I also mean American and European styles like bluegrass (# 6) and polka. Also: several Trinidad steel drum tracks (# 1, 9, and 18); the Moog hit "Popcorn" played as a South American chicha; Guns'n'Roses go cumbia; The Buggles go Bollywood; a jazz classic performed on sitars and tablas. And wasn't Bob Marley a lot more fun in the '60s, when he was covering the Archies?


1. Amral's Trinidad Cavaliers - The World is A Ghetto
2. Arsenio Rodriguez & the Afro Cuban Sound - Hang on Sloopy
3. Bappi Lahiri - Auva Auva ("Video Killed The Radio Star"/India)
4. Bob Marley - Sugar Sugar
5. Brave Combo - Double Vision cha cha
6. Bruce Hornsby-Ricky Skaggs - Superfreak
7. Cachicamo con Caspa y Leiko el perro de la IIIII dimension -Sweet Child o' Mine (Venezuela)
8. Chang Loo - Jambalaya (Hank Williams/China)
9. Esso Steelband - I Want You Back 
10. Jimmy Sturr - Splish Splash polka
11. Kiyohiko Senba and his Haniwa All Stars - Kono Mune no Tokimeki o  ("You Don't Have To Say You Love Me")
12. Lelu Thaert - Dance Soul (Booker T & The MGs "Hip Hug Her"/Cambodia)
13. Lennie Hibbert - Nature Boy ("It Was A Very Good Year"/Jamaica)
14. Los Tropicanos - My Sweet Lord (Brasil)
15. Petty Booka - Girls Just Want to Have Fun (Japan/Ja-waiin)
16. Chicha Libre - Popcorn Andino (Gershon Kingsley's "Popcorn"/Peru-USA)
17. Sachal Studios Orchestra - Take Five (Dave Brubeck/Pakistan)
18. Sapodilla Punch - Hold on I'm Coming
19. The Polka Floyd Show - Another Brick in the Wall

In case you missed 'em:
Vol. 1

Vol. 2
Vol. 3
Vol. 4

Friday, September 05, 2014

FILTHY FRIDAY: An Album By The Munsters That Isn't By The Munsters, But By The Go-Gos, But Not Those Go-Gos

Someone on the internet sez:

"THE MUNSTERS-  "The Munsters" TV show characters are only pictured on the cover, along with their cool George Barris designed 'Munster Koach' custom car, but do not appear on this scarce novelty cash-in, performed uncredited mostly by RCA records surf trio, The Go-Go's: Jim Infield; Roger Yorke, and Bill Wild, pre-Ruben and The Jets. Produced by Joe Hooven & Hal Winn, the guys behind Johnny Crawford's hits, & who later founded the Double-Shot label. Decca Mono."

Much of this week's assortment of mid-century lowbrow entertainment isn't sleazy at all. Actually this monster- themed amalgamation of surf, hot rod, novelty, bubblegum, and garage rock is pretty kiddie-friendly and wholesome. The utterly ridiculous "Frankenstein Had A Hot Rod Car" lives up to that boss song title, with lyrics that mention Beatle wigs, and surfing (Frankie "hangs 12"), all set to the tune of "Ol' McDonald had A Farm." 

But then we have the burlesque bump-n-grind of "Vampire Vamp," which doesn't seem appropriate for children, even with goofy Chipmunks voices added. "Eerie Beach" is an exotica instrumental, complete with birds calls, that isn't eerie or horrific at all. Both were probably leftover tracks the producers had lying around and threw in for filler. Hooray for filler! Theremin-ish electronics and sound effects pop up from time to time. And the last three tracks get down to raunchy garage rockin' (with xylophone) business. Hey, turns out this Friday might be a bit filthy after all.

"The Munsters - The Munsters"

A1Munster Creep2:35
A2Frankenstein Had A Hot-Rod Car2:26
A3$1.98 King Size Voodoo Kit2:03
A4Vampire Vamp1:50
A5Herman's Place2:15
A6(Here Comes The) Munster Coach1:55
B1T.V. Monster Show2:07
B2Eerie Beach2:13
B3Make It Go Away2:10
B4You Created A Monster2:07
B5Ride The Midnight Special1:46
B6Down In The Basement

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

JANE BIRKIN "Lolita Go Home"

Filthy Mondays? If last week's Kay Martin album whet your appetite for songstresses known more for sex appeal than singing abilities, check this 1975 product of the post-birth control pill, pre-AIDS "Sexual Revolution." Music for water beds, wife-swapping parties, and singles bars where people may have actually said things like "Your place or mine?" 

This album was released six years after France's greatest musical export Serge Gainsbourg recorded the all-time heavy-breathing classic duet "Je t'aime... moi non plus" with non-singer English actress Jane Birkin. This time out, Serge contributed original songs like the lovely disco-lite title track, and "Bebe Song," one of his catchier creations, all sung by Jane in her best French-as-a-second language come-hither voice. These are mixed with unlikely porno-funk versions of English language standards that are usually sung with a swingin' beat. Dig the fantastic take on Cole Porter's "Love For Sale" that's pure shag-carpet '70s polyester electric-piano sleaze. It's the kind of thing that shouldn't exist, but fortunately it does. 

"Lolita Go Home" 

Music by Serge Gainsbourg, words by Philippe Labro; except where indicated
  1. Lolita go home 
  2. What Is This Thing Called Love? (Cole Porter)
  3. Bebe song 
  4. Where or When (Rodgers, Hart)
  5. Si ├ža peut te consoler
  6. Love for Sale (Cole Porter)
  7. Just Me and You
  8. La fille aux claquettes  (Words and music by Serge Gainsbourg)
  9. Rien pour rien 
  10. French graffiti 
  11. There's a Small Hotel (3:05) (Rodgers, Hart)
Arranged and conducted by Jean-Pierre Sabar

Thanks again to Count Otto Black!

Friday, August 29, 2014

FILTHY FRIDAYS: Kay Martin And Her Body Guards

Speaking of Rodney Bingenheimer, had a very lovely request to re-up our hypothetical, theoretical "Rodney On The ROQ Vol 4" comp. Judging by the number of hits it has received, it appears to be one of this blog's most popular posts. (Don't forget, there's also a Vol 5.)  And now to continue our exploration of The Golden Age of Sleaze, witness this 1958 album:

Kay Martin was not only a topless model, but a lounge performer. The perfect woman?! 
Dig the kooky cover of "Blue Moon" a la The Champs' "Tequila," the rockabilly rumbler (with unexpected three-part harmonies towards the end) "I Ain't Mad At 'Chu," and a version of Gershwin's "Summertime" that sports the new-and-improved lyrics: "Your daddy's a flip and your mommy's a gasser."  If you were expecting something more Rusty Warren-ish and ribald, you may be surprised by such dark, weird, atmospheric gems as "The Heel," "Johnny Guitar" and the self-explanatory "Swamp Girl."  When she tries to play it straight on standards like "Sentimental Journey," it isn't too interesting - she sings  better than you'd expect, but not that well. Her enthusiastic Body Guards (rock that accordion!) chime in from time to time.

Kay Martin And Her Body Guards

A2Blue Moon
A3Big Mamou
A4Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man
A5Sentimental Journey
A6I Ain't Mad At 'Chu
B1The Heel
B3Swamp Girl
B4I Got It Bad
B5Johnny Guitar
B6Baby, Did You Hear

Two of her other albums are available elsewhere on the intar-webs, one on WFMU's Beware of the
Blog, and her christmas album is out there somewhere, don't remember where. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Ronald Vaughan IS Isadore Ivy, Spaceman At Large

There's something a about Ronald Vaughan. Just look at him, standing to the left of legendary Los Angeles radio D.J. Rodney Bingenheimer. He is apparently an old pal of Rodney, and can be seen in the documentary film "The Mayor Of The Sunset Strip" performing a bit of his song "Jennifer Love Hewitt." I read somewhere that he actually got in legal trouble for stalking famous actress Hewitt, tho I can't find confirmation of that now. I wouldn't be too surprised tho, judging by the weird, creepy feel of his music. Still, it's often a funny, even somewhat catchy weird, creepy feel. He often performs live in a silver spacesuit.

This is most of his low-budget pop album, replete with naive, clunky lyrics, and distracting vocal effects on nearly every celebrity-obsessed song. The 58 second "Uri Geller's Bending The World" swipes the melody of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town", just as the song "Paula Abdul" rewrites "Louie Louie" as "Paula Abdul - Whoopee! - You are so cool." "I Live For That Song" ends at the one minute mark, just as it seems that he's on to something. "See ya!" sets new lyrics to a vaguely familiar '70s hit (Fleetwood Mac? Tom Petty?). But it's not a Weird Al-style parody. Perhaps he just couldn't be bothered to come up with his own music. And whose version of "You Only Live Twice" is more sexy: Nancy Sinatra's original, or Ronald's?

Let's all give a big thankyouverymuch to James, C. for this one, the M4M superhero whose previous gift to us all was the "Brain in A Box" set.

Ronald Vaughan IS Isadore Ivy, Spaceman At Large

The H.L. Twist 
You Only Live Twice
Uri Geller's Bending The World
Paula Abdul
Stargate SG-1
How Important Can It Be?
I Live For That Song
Girls Before Swine
Jennifer Love Hewitt
Three Starlets
Boris Karloff Didn't Meet The Runaways

A number of tracks from this album have been left off due to terrible sound. But not to worry: they're mostly unnecessary alternate/instrumental versions. The last two tracks are vocal numbers that I've included despite the sound, because, well, one's called "Boris Karloff Didn't Meet The Runaways." And it's only 1:40 long.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


Squares beware!  We're in week 3 of our salute to the most tasteful of mid-century tastelessness. And here's another album that probably makes the most amount of sense at a party where everyone's stoopid drunk. A really great compilation, released in 1992, of '50s/'60s r'n'b, and if you think that means the same, tame Motown, Drifters, Platters, etc., well, check this action, daddy-o. We're talkin' way gone, wild, crazy screamin' novelty tunes and failed dance crazes by unknowns, with songs like "The Chicken Astronaut," "Mo Gorilla" and "The Boss With The Hot Sauce" that are at least as good as their titles, maybe even better. This is the "Nuggets" of soul, and should be as famous. Fans of the Specials will recognize the original version of 'Sock It to 'em J.B.,' but otherwise this stuff is criminally obscure. Compiled by Todd-o-Phonic Todd from WFMU?

IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT THE SOUND: This entire album appears to be panned somewhat to the left. I can't find another copy on-line, and the used copies on Amazon are pretty expensive and who knows if they're any better.  You can't correct panning on iTunes (good job, Mr. Jobs!), so check your computer output. It's something like: Control Panel/Sound/Playback/Speakers/ Properties/Levels/Audio Output/Balance and turn the left way down.  Or just crank it thru speakers real loud after everyone's had a few.

 "Shakin' Fit"

1. Nervous - The Fabulous Playboys
2. Love-Itis - Harvey Scales & The 7 Sounds
3. The Chicken Astronaut - The Five Du-Tones
4. Standin' On The Corner - Dorothy Berry
5. I Live The Life I Love - Willie Parker
6. Whiplash - The Shells
7. Mo Gorilla - The Ideals
8. What's The Matter - The Gardenias
9. Welfare Cheese - Emanual Laskey
10. The Dog - Junior And The Classics
11. The Chicken Scratch - J.C. Davis
12. The Wallop - The Tabs
13. The Frog - Sir Guy
14. Skin The Cat - Jimmy Merchant
15. Shakin' Fit - The Pyramids
16. My Baby Likes To Boogaloo - Don Gardner
17. Ain't That Bad - Pancho Villa & The Bandits
18. Damper Down - Bobby Davis
19. Sock It To 'Em J.B. - Part 1 - Rex Garvin & The Mighty Cravers
20. Grandma Bird - Four Holidays
21. Gotta Change - Kitty Love
22. Wang Dang Dula - Donald & The Delighters
23. Whip It On Me - Sonny Raye
24. Hey Sah-Lo-Ney - Mickey Lee Lane
25. Boss With The Hot Sauce - Davis Jones & The Fenders
26. Sticky Pig Feet - R.T. & The Pot Lickers
27. The Cow - Bill Robinson
28. Heartattack - Don & Dewey
29. Get Down - Harvey Scales & The 7 Sounds

Monday, August 18, 2014


For those moments when you need to get away from the idea of music as, y'know, tunes, what with all those distracting rhythms, melodies, lyrics and other fancy accouterments, and you just want to, as Cage said, let music be itself: tracks from recommended new(ish)* releases that soothe body and soul in a colorful sonic bath. And by "soothe" of course I mean that this ain't no New Age audio wallpaper, but can get rather dark and weird at times.

27 minutes of: ambientabstractnoise

1. Philip Jeck "1986 Frank Was 70 Years Old" (from "Surf") - Turntableism as ambient sound collage; guest vox from Woody Woodpecker.

2. Back Magic "Future Graves" (from "Chorus Line To Hell") - Duo's guitar/drum lo-fi racket sometimes resembles actual rock music, and quite nice rock music at that; then we get to this chilling instro, based on a keyboard and air-raid siren sound effects; the apocalypse has never sounded so appealing.

3. Carolina Eyck & Christopher Tarnow "10,000 Bells" (from the as yet unreleased "Improvisations for Theremin and Piano, Vol 1") - Another duo, but they're German, and have had music lessons. Eyck in fact, studied under Lydia Kavina, Leon Theremin's grand-niece and former member of Messer Chups.

4. Allen Ravenstine & Robert Wheeler "Nocturne" (from "City Desk") - YES!! The once and future synth wizards of the mighty Pere Ubu have teamed up for two albums ("City Desk" and "Farm Report") of pure unadulterated analogue electro improv sci-fi soundscape loveliness. "At points one or the other musician would leave the room, letting the antique synthesizer fill in his parts until he returned." 

5. Chris Campbell / Grant Cutler "Song 2" (from "Schooldays Over") - The all-too-brief album is a meditation on Ewan MacColl's 1961 Irish folk ballad about kids moving straight from school to backbreaking labor; the song is teased apart and beautifully reconstructed on such self-descriptive tracks as "Pump Organ, Gongs, Balloon Bassoons." Marimbas, glockenspiels and kotos also join the keyboards in beautiful melancholy.

6. Chris Campbell "Water Mirror" (from "Things You Already Know") - Campbell's really been hittin' it lately, what with his work for the crucial Innova label, and not one but two excellent recent albums. On this one, a fairly large cast perform both on standard stuff and on invented instruments and oddities like propane tanks, psaltrys, and singing bowls for something in between ambient, minimalism, and freak rock. So nice.

I also quite liked THIS

* Except for the Philip Jeck which came out in 1998 but I only just discovered it.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

FILTHY FRIDAYS: A 40-Minute Long Twist Song

Five years before The Velvet Underground recorded "Sister Ray," the utterly unknown Paul Livert & The Lions recorded two sides of non-stop primal rock'n'roll madness. There were many records released to cash in on the Twist dance craze, and most of them get pretty boring after a while. But this one could ignite any alcohol-drenched evening of debauchery - it's all instrumental (in the ever-reliable 12 bar blues form), all raunchy honkin' sax, wacky slide guitar, fat organ, and relentlessly pounding drums. The momentum builds until the final minutes of side one sounds like everything's about to fly out of control. Side 2 is a little more relaxed (maybe they burned themselves out) but those nutty Hawaiian guitar solos are almost cartoonish. And the sax player is always on.  

Paul Livert & The Lions: "Chicken Twist" (1962) side 1 and 2

Despite the "Vol. 2" tag, there apparently was no Vol. 1 - they're "lion" to us (har har!).

We kicked off our new weekly "Filthy Friday" series last week because I've been pondering: is 'cool' dead? A number of events coincided recently: an article (in Slate I think?) asking: what does cool even mean nowadays?; the Smithsonian Institute photo exhibit "American Cool" currently on display thru Sept (doesn't something have to be dead, stuffed and mounted before it's in a museum?); reading a lowbrow art zine complaining about how the 'nerds and squares' have taken over; and being stuck in traffic in front of the Los Angeles Convention Center hosting an anime convention and being dumbstruck by the sheer volume of nerdliness on display. 

I don't hate nerds, as I'm sure everyone has a little nerd in them somewhere, but it has occurred to me that with the recent deaths of Lou Reed and the last surviving original Ramone, there are precious few cool icons left. Any young Miles Davis or Johnny Cash sorts coming up today, or just pale imitations? Meanwhile, the rise of internet culture, political correctness, ComicCon-type stuff, etc is all making mid-century culture look increasingly alien...and to some of us, attractive.  No wonder "Mad Men" is such a popular show. 

On a musical level, few rock critics even bother with the pre-Beatles/Dylan era. Sure, they give props to Elvis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, etc., but for the most part, the lower-income, chemical-fueled, sleazy aura of early rock (like its cultural contemporaries burlesque/strip clubs, exotica, nightclub comics) doesn't get much respect and is something that's rarely examined. It doesn't fit in with the Rolling Stone/Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame-approved view of history. Like how jazz, born in brothels and for years primarily a dance music, has somehow become 'America's Classical Music.' All of this takes the fun out of it. And is bad history to boot. Much of the music I'll be featuring here was found in the 99 cent bin, has never been digitally reissued, and as I have been unable to find much info about these artists, is apparently forgotten.

I believe cool developed as a way for at-risk people to deal with a cruel world. You could either curl up on the ground whimpering in fear, or put on your shades, act like you're above all this nonsense, and have a ball. But life in the Western world is generally getting easier (I emphasize 'generally'), so cool, like an evolutionary adaption that is no longer needed, atrophies. Bad-ass '50s actor Robert Mitchum actually served time on a chain gang. Today's Tom Cruise-types have only served time in acting classes. Which is probably why the hip-hop world and it's aura of street authenticity has so successfully moved into acting. (Ice T? Coolest guy on TV.)

Of course, there will always be poor and oppressed people, so maybe cool will take new forms. But til then, we're hosting an Irish-style wake for cool, inviting over all the hepcats 'n' flipped chicks, beatniks, hot-rodders, greasers, strippers, lowlifes, drunks, comedians who 'work blue', and JDs, breaking out the booze, watching 'B' movies, and whoopin' it up here every week til I run out of bargain-bin vile vinyl. We gonna party like it's 1959.