Monday, April 27, 2009
Well, okay, technically the kid he ate this morning is crying. But it's the same thing.
GEORGIE LEONARD, One Man Band (US Private Label LP, 1971)
It’s been called “twisted folk psych” by many dealers, and that’s a good start. But Georgie Leonard’s 1971 homemade album One Man Band is much more than that – it’s twisted, alright, and if clowns give you nightmares, I’d stay away. Georgie’s a mix of Syd Barrett, Kim Fowley and John Wayne Gacy, all wrapped in one creepy little package. That’s not a BAD thing, mind you – I kinda like him. But yeah, clowns DO freak me out.
Of course, Georgie’s take on “The Clown” doesn’t help. He starts out by singing “I am the clown who will make you laugh,” but if that’s true, it’s the uncomfortable kind of laughter you have right before a giant meat cleaver comes slashing through the circus tent. In Georgie’s carnival, Bozo comes equipped with a red polka-dotted fuzz guitar, which he unholsters at the end of each verse with some LETHAL ripping fuzzed-out licks, spitting hot flames of cotton candy distortion at the kids in the front row, while his backing band of Killer Klowns provide the demented calliope theme music. He continues to sing “Don’t worry, people” over and over again, as if the throngs of panicking blood-caked Cub Scouts streaming through the back of the Big Top should just be ignored, but your feelings of unease are finally validated a the end of the song, when Georgie the Ritalin-Fueled Psycho Clown unleashes his final proclamation to the people in the cheap seats:
“Step right up! See the elephant fall down and break its neck, ho ho ho!
Step right up! And for the same admission price, you too will see the world blown to pieces!”
Great, but does it come with a trapeze act? And some sea lions, I LOVE me some sea lions. It shouldn’t surprise you, then, when Georgie later sings about “The Lake,” the first thing that comes to mind is Camp Crystal Lake. And yeah, it’s another dark song – a moody head trip similar to Pink Floyd’s “Set the Controls” with more of an actual song structure. Which sets the stage nicely for some simmering, undead Curved Air style violin to battle to the death with a great echoed-out teen prom queen guitar, most likely wearing a hockey mask like the cover of John Cale’s Guts. One wonders why this album wasn’t produced by Lucio Fulci.
“Ernie the Nark,” recorded in 1974 and included here as a bonus 7”, is a big-double-fisted-FUZZ-saturated garage psych BEAST that sounds a lot like Kim Fowley’s demented late 60’s rants. “Hi, I’m Ernie and I’m a Nark. Y’know, kids, smoking dope leads to heroin.” Sure thing, Georgie. Just like laughing at circus clowns leads to evisceration. We got ya. Now we’re just backing away, slowly.
Georgie claims that Weather Report bassist Jaco Pastorius plays on “Ernie the Nark,” but Jaco fans disagree. I’m not one of ‘em, so I just throw that out there. But a Jaco fan who also happened to KNOW Georgie Leonard (who apparently went by the name Georgie Porgie in his stage shows) claims that Mr. Leonard lived with his sister in a creepy old grey castle in Hollywood, Florida. And THAT I believe. And judging by what I hear on One Man Band, that’s one house my Girl Scouts will NOT be selling cookies to.
SQUID POP METER SEZ: 7 out of 10
BEST TAKEN WITH: A Joy Buzzer and a Lemon Meringue Pie to the Face
Thursday, April 23, 2009
If you think every all-girl band is cute, well my friend, guess again.
THE MYSTIC ZEPHYRS 4, "Oh...My Hands"/"Youth Quake" (US Two:Dot label, 1972)
AMAZING garage pop single for all those who thought the SHAGGS were crude. They ain't got nothin' on the mighty Mystic Zephyrs 4 - this all-girl garage band make those chicks sound like the Yardbirds, if'n ya know what I mean. This is absolutely stone-cold BRILLIANT stuff here, a bunch of Dazed and Confused rock babes trying desperately to stay in tune (they don't) while someone bangs on a defective department store organ and their 85-year-old grandmother tries to keep up on drums (I guessed on that one, at least that's what it SOUNDS like to me). Amazingly, the girls sing en masse ALL THE TIME, which, besides being fucking creepy, meant that if they all sang each note at the same time, there was a greater chance that one of the four might actually hit it. If it weren't already drowned out by Mildred behind the Ludwigs, who lays down some of the most INSANE drum fills of all time! I mean, they carried Keith Moon off the stage for less.
So what's a song with a great title like "Oh...My Hands" about anyway? Well, you see, someone in the Mystic Zephyrs 4 has blisters on her hands from playing this song so much, because it's the only way she (they?) can cope with the loss off her (their?) ex-boyfriend. So she goes to the doctor and he gives her relationship advice (as many surgeons are wont to do), to which she replies (and justifiably so) "Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo." Now this was still a year away from the Stones "Heartbreaker," so the love doctor had every right to commit the young lady right there on the spot, but he didn't, instead probably wondering why all four Mystic Zephyrs talk simultaneously EVERY SINGLE FUCKING TIME like creeped-out Village of the Damned sisters with guitars which is actually kinda hot now that I think about it especially if they're all dating the SAME LUCKY DUDE. Anyway, to wrap this up because I can see you're drifting off, her (their) hands now feel a lot better but her (their) heart ain't healing so she can only come to the conclusion that the doctor gave her bad advice. Luckily, the song ends before she can file a malpractice suit, or before all four Mystic Zephyrs descend on the Doctor with hypodermic needles like those freaky Little Sisters at the end of Bioshock. Oh...my...hands! They're...covered...in...blood!
As for "Youth Quake," just remember the chorus. "We're a Youth Quake! We're a Youth Quake, yeah!" Now imagine four girls singing it in unison in the hallways of the Overlook Hotel. Pleasant dreams, everyone.
THE SQUID POP METER SEZ: Redrum, redrum.
BEST TAKEN WITH: Sleeping pills and a momentary loss of muscular coordination.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
My head would have a few more cheerleaders in it.
ZOOT MONEY "WELCOME TO MY HEAD" (Capitol, 1969)
Zoot marches on, as the liner notes to his 1969 album Welcome to My Head proclaim. He started out as leader of the Zoot Money Big Roll Band, which became “a rut” in 1967, so he got a new band, legendary British psychsters Dantalion’s Chariot, better known as Police guitarist Andy Summer’s first band. They were “innovate, psychedelic and together,” the liner notes claim. “So was Zoot.” When the Chariot failed to catch fire, Zoot once again left – this time joining up with the psychedelic late Sixties Animals. “Only a Zoot Money could out-charisma an Eric Burdon,” say the less-than-humble notes again, but neglect to mention that only an Eric Burdon could decide to break up his white psych rock band in search of something much funkier (War). Oh well. As they say, “Zoot marches on.” And this is Zoot on his own. Welcome to his head, man.
Okay, not completely alone - he brought along Vic Briggs from the Animals to produce and arrange, and that, it turns out, was a wise decision. Together, Zoot and Vic created a dreamy orchestrated popsike MASTERPIECE that, amazingly, still hasn’t been reissued. Yet if you hold this album up to any of the more beloved, revered British popsike records of the late 60’s – World of Oz, Skip Bifferty, Pretty Things – it’ll hold its own, thank you very much. It’s more sweeping, grand and majestic than the Chariot or the Animals – thanks to Vic’s string arrangements – whether Zoot’s creating big orchestrated pop moments or overpowering heavy guitar riffs.
So what exactly WAS bouncing off Zoot’s cerebellum in 1969, you ask? The grand British dreampop of “The Man Who Rides the Wind” recalls the World of Oz, Peter Lee Stirling or the early Bee Gees, and is supposedly dedicated to either Tibetan Yogi Jetsun Milarepa or Jimi Hendrix, depending on who you ask. Just don’t ask me - I always get those two mixed up. “You’ve Got to Believe It” is a memorable slice of catchy brass pop with a positively soaring chorus that rises up about a foot off the surface of the black grooves each time it plays. And the absolutely PERFECT lounge jazz freakbeat pop of “The Decision Hour” is a quintessentially Austin Powers slice of British soundtrack grooviness, baby, a long-lost outtake from the sessions to Bedazzled, complete with dolly bird backing vocals from mini-skirt thigh-high-boot heaven. It should come with its own liquid slides.
But the real highlight of Zoot’s psychedelic medulla oblongata has to be the punishing “Eight is the Color,” an absolute MONSTER of a jagged freakbeat guitar riff that takes its cues from George’s “Taxman” and then plays it with the fierce, double-and-triple tracked speaker-shredding abandon of 1970 King Crimson. It’s heavy enough to make Cream sound like the Critters, or the Jetsun Milarepa Experience sound like Spanky and Our Gang. And this right after a soothing slice of soft pop. Must be a left brain/right brain kinda thing.
Sadly, Welcome to My Head, despite its brilliance, didn’t make Zoot into an international pop star, and so his solo career went on hold until 1980’s Mr. Money. But in between, Zoot kept himself busy with various projects, including Centipede, Kevin Coyne and Kevin Ayers. He’s even got an acting career on the side. Zoot marches on.
SQUID POP METER SEZ: 7 out of 10
BEST SERVED WITH: Ritalin, Potassium and Head Cheese
Thursday, April 16, 2009
It's a strange walking man. That'll make sense later...
THE MANDRAKE PADDLESTEAMER, "OVERSPILL" (BOOTLEG ALBUM)
Parlophone dropped the ball on these guys. Big time. If there were ever a band who WOULD have released a KILLER album but never got the chance, it was Mandrake Paddlesteamer. The evidence is all here, in the form of demos, acetates and blistering John Peel sessions. Unfortunately, only one single got an official release – “Strange Walking Man” b/w “Steam,” one of the first releases recorded at Abbey Road Studios. Both of those songs have been well-comped, and rightfully so, but what the rest of world HASN’T heard is the rest of this band’s mighty output. If you close your eyes and imagine what Abbey Road Studios could have done with the rest of the demos on Overspill, you’ll have to agree that Mandrake Paddlesteamer’s album would have been one of the pinnacles of British popsike. Oh, and in case you were wondering which albums Parlophone DID release in 1969 (instead of Mandrake Paddlesteamer), how does Bill Coleman’s A Paris 1936-1938 grab ya?
The band’s website points out that Mandrake Paddlesteamer were one of the few bands explicitly formed to “create an English version of the total music/lifestyle trip then being espoused by the California scene,” and if you understand that, then you probably still have a half dozen blacklight posters of topless afro goddesses hanging on your bedroom wall. In other words, while most of the British psychedelic bands – Pink Floyd, Wimple Winch, the Pretty Things, Tomorrow, the Koobas – started out as R&B, jazz or blues bands, the Manrake Paddlesteamer was specifically created to be a psychedelic rock band from the start. Whether that affected their ability to swing, rock or groove like an old R&B, jazz or blues band I don’t know. But judging from what I hear in THESE grooves, it wasn’t a problem.
If anything, the only frustration you’ll feel listening to Overspill is wondering just how AMAZING a song like “Cooger and Dark” could’ve been had the band been given a chance to flesh it out with some Abbey Road production tricks. As it stands, it’s still a MONUMENTAL slab of blistering heavy freakbeat psych that sounds just like primetime Cream. Even down to the Jack Bruce-alike vocals. Pre-anointed Eric Clapton would’ve KILLED for a power guitar riff like that one, and that great descending minor key hook in the chorus is pure Disraeli Gears. There’s also a live John Peel take on Side B, proving the band could nail this puppy down every chance they got. Maybe it’s fortuitous that “Cooger and Dark” never got a proper studio recording – perhaps the Abbey Road treatment would’ve tamed it. As it stands, both the demo and John Peel takes are two of the rawest, most primal slabs of heavy psychedelia you’ll ever hear. And I STILL don’t know what the title means.
Likewise, you can hear how the rough demo of “Overspill” could’ve easily become a British popsike rival to the Koobas’ classic “Barricades” with a little help from a mixing board. It’s 5:25 of acid-riddled ambition, a complex multi-part head trip that could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Pretty Things’ “Defecting Grey,” Tomorrow’s “Revolution” or Wimple Winch’s “Rumble on Mersey Square South.” And if that don’t get ya, maybe the fuzzed-up Indian stomp of “Steam” will. I wonder if Hipgnosis would’ve designed their album cover.
Which brings us nicely to one of the most amazing Syd Barrett soundalikes ever created by a man whose last name isn’t Hitchcock – a song so unlike everything else on Overspill, you wonder if it’s even the same band. But “Easy Living” is an absolute masterpiece of acid-fried Pink Floyd toybox lunacy, the sound of a madcap laughing while madness slowly sets in. Only when the band erupts with a frenzied onslaught of ripping freakbeat fuzz does this even BEGIN to sound like the heavy Koobas-inspired band heard elsewhere on Overspill, and if you could imagine “Barricades” crossed with “Bike,” this is what you’d be humming while the men in the white suits set you up for another round of shock therapy. It’s another acetate-only track whose non-release should be viewed as a musical crime, but the sound quality’s really good. Hard to believe this, as well as the other songs on this rare album, have yet to see a proper release. In a year when Parlophone WAS able to rush out copies of the immortal Jazz in Britain – the 20’s. Boggles the mind.
So if you’re okay with acetate/demo fidelity, Mandrake Paddlesteamer’s Overspill is one of the most complete – okay, probably the ONLY complete collection of this band’s awesome output you’ll find. Heck, even the band’s website has only FOUR songs. Lucky you - here’s a whole album’s worth of late 60’s gems, rescued from oblivion because a stupid major label didn’t realize what they had. But Mrs. Mills’ timeless classic Back to the Roaring Twenties – Parlophone DID get that one out in 1969. It’s all about priorities, isn’t it?
CHECK OUT THE BEST TWO SONGS RIGHT HERE:
SQUID ACID METER SEZ: 9 OUT OF 10
BEST SERVED WITH: Hallucinogens and Miracle Ear
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Oh, I see. Her press badge is on her boob! And he wants to PRESS her BOOB! Oh what wacky linguistic hijinks!
THE GRUMBLEWEEDS, "IN A TEKNIKOLOR DREAM" (UK PHILIPS, 1972)
Not being British, I have no concept of how big the Grumbleweeds were back in the early to late 60’s. From what I’ve read, they were one of England’s most popular TV comedy troupes, which means they were probably good friends with other funny British acts of the 60’s and 70’s like Monty Python, Benny Hill and Emerson Lake & Palmer. But the Grumbleweeds were also musicians, which kinda separated them (at least from ELP), and in 1972 they were given the chance to record a full album of “serious” music. Which doesn’t mean this is some stuffy classical recording, it just means that In a Teknikolor Dream is an album of genuine popsike SONGS as opposed to comedy skits. So it won’t get as many laughs out of you as Matching Tie and Handkerchief, “Ernie, the Fastest Milkman in the West” or Tarkus. But then, how many records DO?
As good as In A Teknikolor Dream is – and it’s REALLY good, by the way, as in “you’d never know this was a comedy troupe” good – it’s still kinda funny that something this immersed in a color wheel of psychedelic Swinging London whimsy should get released as late as 1972, the year of Sweet and T. Rex and Bowie. I mean, this sounds like an unreleased Pretty Things album sandwiched somewhere in between S.F. Sorrow and Parachute, and with that day-glo flower power Happy Mr. Sun cover art, you might find yourself checking the credits again for any involvement by the World of Oz or the Brothers Gibb. If it is a parody of 1968 British psychedelia, it’s pretty good. A little late, perhaps, but hey, if Mel Brooks could release Spaceballs ten years after Star Wars, then give the Grumbleweeds a break already.
I mean, it HAS to be a parody, right? Just check out the title track – that big stompin’ heavy Chocolate Soup rhythm and gruff Arthur Brown vocals sounds like a perfect knockoff of the Pretties’ “Baron Saturday,” doesn’t it? And those falsetto harmonies all over “Fiona McLaughlin” just SCREAM Parachute, even if the beautiful baroque pop music itself sounds more like a Curt Boettcher production or something off Left Banke Too. “Never Before” starts out like a catchy pub singalong off the Kinks’ Something Else with some meatier Creation-esque freakbeat fuzz guitar thrown in, before giving way to a loungey verse that sounds like something Paul McCartney might’ve written during the White Album rehearsals. And the big ballad finale, “Lady,” is one of the best spoofs on Horizontal/Odessa-era Bee Gees I’ve heard in a LONG time. Shoulda wrapped this cover in red velvet flock, huh? Heh heh, okay see, NOW I’m laughing. This is supposed to be funny, right? Like when Benny Hill used to konk that little bald guy on the head all the time. I get it now.
Put it this way – whether or not you treat this as some pre-Dukes of Stratosphear psychedelic London spoof/tribute, or as a real legitimate album of songs put out by a group that also happened to be comedians on the side (like Black Sabbath, for example), the Grumbleweeds’ In A Teknikolor Dream is a big old Hapshash and the Coloured Coat poster of Swinging Sixties day-glo fun. Now if you’re expecting REAL comedy, may I interest you in Pictures at an Exhibition?
LISTEN TO IT RIGHT HERE:
SQUID POP METER SEZ: 6 out of 10
BEST SERVED WITH: Hash Brownies, Whoopie Cushions and those Godawful Kidney Pie Things they Serve in London