I went to see a free performance by Llyn Foulkes last week (a day after I saw The Residents - can this year get any weirder?) and even tho I was a half-hour early, there was a shockingly long line around the UCLA Hammer Museum courtyard, and I couldn't get in to the show - I had to watch it on video in another room. Gol darn it! I'd seen him twice before and there was a crowd of maybe...30? What are all these people doing here at a show by a 78-year-old eccentric singing about old L.A. whilst performing on a crazy one-man-band contraption of honk horns and tuned cowbells? That's my department!
Hey, I get to be an old punk-rocker now: (snearing) "I was into Llyn Foulkes before anyone. All his fans now are poseurs."
I guess the fact that the prestigious Hammer Museum is in the midst of a career retrospective of Foulkes' paintings had something to do with it. Or the awesome tremendous influence of this blog, as I've written about him before. Yeah, that's probably it. So while much verbiage is being spilled about his visual art, his music only gets mentioned in passing. Okay, this is my department: he's crazy brilliant, starting with his instrument building - his 'Machine' is huge and heavy, not the usual guitar w/harmonica holder/cymbals on the legs kinda one-man-band. He's a tremendous performer, skillfully honking out the 'horn charts,' grabbing drumsticks and playing melodies on cowbells and a xylophone, blowing free-jazz on a hose, rubbing his foot along a bass guitar on the floor as his other foot hits various drums and cymbals.
And he's a good songwriter. Original tunes are a rarity in this gimmicky field, and Foulkes' memories and observations of Los Angeles (and his own foibles) are a perfect match for his swingin' tunes, inspired by the big-band and Spike Jones records of his youth. The Jones influence is prevalent not just in the tuned cowbells, but in the funny sound effects that punctuate the songs, lightening up the sometimes morose nature of the lyrics. His singing's okay, but has a rough charm.
It looks like his sole release from 2004 has vanished, so I'm giving you-all not only its original contents, but 5 more recent performances, audio recorded off various videos. All origs, except for a cover of Hank William's "Your Cheating Heart."
Llyn Foulkes and his Machine - Live!