Out There #6

December 20, 2017 at 14:12

A 70s punk rom-comPennebaker meets Depeche ModeHow a Boston Globe Reporter Tried to Reunite The Kinks and Ended Up With a MovieWelcome to Jack White’s Temple to Vinyl Remastering, Reflecting: Everything Still Turns to GoldThe music industry is full of pompous bores – and that’s just the writersThe Bird is the Word, says Richard Meltzer

A hell of a haircut

October 25, 2017 at 09:13

Forty years ago today, on tour with the Clash, Richard Hell. I go into some detail about Malcolm McLaren’s attempt to bring Hell to London in 1975-ish in my Sex Pistols book (which is actually a book about Malcolm McLaren)  something that Richard Hell himself writes about in his excellent autobiography, I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp. McLaren was captivated by his look, and – particularly – by the way he wore his hair. Something that made him stand out from everyone else.

There’s a fascinating interview by David Dalton, published in Gadfly in 2002, that had Hell pondering what it was about rock’n’roll haircuts that made them work, and how that led him to come up with the look that many saw as the prototype punk haircut.


 

“My conclusion was that it was grown men more or less wearing haircuts that five year olds of their generation wore. What kind of haircut, I thought, did I have when I was five or six? All the kids I grew up with had a kind of crew cut called burrs. It was a ship-to-shore crew cut that grew out because you didn’t go to the barber that often and it all became ragged. That’s the way I remember coming upon it but I think the Rimbaud thing kicked in quickly. The issue of the literary magazine I was publishing when I was about twenty had a big picture of the photo of Rimbaud you’re talking about and a well-known picture of Artaud in the asylum who also has a haircut that’s very similar.”

Out There #5

September 20, 2017 at 14:07

Wim Wenders pictures the Kinks Ray Davies on hipsters, Pete Townshend and why he fled Tony Blair’s BritainExile in Los Angeles Nik Cohn: ‘I was right: the Stones, after the age of 30, didn’t create anything good’

The Who smash it up

May 25, 2017 at 15:18

I recently found myself watching the infamous nightclub scene in Antonioni’s Blow-Up that features Jeff Beck smashing up his guitar during a Yardbirds’ performance. It turns out that the Yardbirds had not been Antonioni’s first choice to perform in this scene. He had already tried and failed to persuade The Who – whose debut singles had been released in late 1965 and early 1966 – to re-enact the destructive onstage act that he had been told about; and had also considered the Velvet Underground (but they were far away in New York).

The Who at that time, in many ways, were a strange mix of the familiar and the new; but perhaps more conscious of the stage as the medium for pushing performance to extremes through the use and abuse of amplified sound and DIY pyrotechnics (i.e., smashing up equipment), but also in allowing their songs to expand in scope and intensity as the setting or occasion demanded. The music – even in its more ‘contained’ recorded version – already would occasionally exhibit greater aggression and more punch than anything before it; the ‘farthest out of any rock extant’ at the time, in the words of Phonograph Record magazine’s resident expert on all things extreme, Metal Mike Saunders. There is some irony in the fact that the title of the Who’s first album when it was released in America was, The Who Sings My Generation, when surely what they do is smash it to pieces.

The Who’s debut album in America (Decca Records), April 1966.

The title song’s collapse into an aural heap was almost a metaphor itself for the hastening of that hoped-for early demise (‘hope I die before I get old’ etc) that would become another variant of the intergenerational theme of rock’n’roll rebellion. The songs of The Who are saturated with images of teenage alienation, but also – repeatedly – the lure of a kind of liberation from all the weight that holds anyone down and stomps on dreams.

‘Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere’ was about blowing up limits, breaking down the barriers to free expression – something that meant slightly different things to the band’s twin frontmen. The former art student Townshend’s more Romantic sentiments – freedom to roam, and so on – were punctuated by the verbal swinging boot of Daltrey, the former sheet metal worker who in fact started the band, whose contribution to the lyrics were in lines that gleefully anticipated ‘kicking in doors’ that stood in his way. In the interplay of the main two focal points – the lead singer and the main songwriter – the Who had found, and for a time would refine, a violent energy that was often formed into precise blows, yet able to spill out like a wrecking ball. But it wasn’t long before it was refined into something more controlled.

‘I Can See for Miles’ – from 1967, little more than a year after ‘My Generation’ – doesn’t so much continue the early experiment with crashing through the limitations of the rock/pop form, whose symbolic constraints took shape in the form of the 7-inch 45rpm record, usually clocking in at around three minutes. It is refined into visions of the infinite, of boundless expansion and travel and bursting the limits of corporeality. It was something that seemed to underpin Townshend’s aborted ‘Lifehouse’ project and is evident, too, in some of the songs from that project that ended up on Who’s Next, such as ‘Going Mobile.’

Semi-Detached

December 23, 2016 at 22:55

‘The Kinks: Songs of the Semi-Detached’ by Mark Doyle (expected 2018).

Of all the great British rock bands of the 1960s, none had a stronger sense of place than the Kinks.

The core members of the group grew up in what George Orwell once described as the “inner-outer suburbs” of North London, a safe, unexciting land of launderettes and lace curtains, the kind of place to which working-class families moved once they could afford to escape the East End. They were part of a postwar generation of working-class English kids excited by the raunchy energy of American rhythm and blues, and after a few years of global success with hits like “You Really Got Me” and “All Day and All Of the Night” the Kinks seemed destined to leave their humble origins far behind. Instead, lead singer and songwriter Ray Davies retreated from the swinging world of rock stardom into an England of semi-detached houses and afternoon teas. It was an unlikely setting for pop music greatness, but from 1967 to 1971, with the London suburbs acting both as muse and base of operations, the Kinks created some of the greatest albums in rock and roll history.

 

 

This book will position the Kinks, and Ray Davies in particular, as poets of twentieth-century English suburbia. Like George Orwell, J. G. Ballard, and Charles Dickens, Davies both satirized and empathized with the plight of the ordinary people of England, depicting them as essentially decent (if occasionally indecent) folk fighting against a host of powerful, inhuman forces. Davies understood their struggles – against bureaucracy, conformity, technology, and so-called progress – because he was struggling right along with them, only his foes took the specific forms of record companies, family obligations, financial turmoil, and his own bandmates (especially his unruly brother Dave).

Uncomfortable with rock stardom, uneasy in his marriage, and unimpressed with the swinging London of Soho and Carnaby Street, Ray always seemed to be a step or two removed from whatever was swirling around him. The songs he wrote from this position of semi-detachment abound with wit, anger, and humanity. They offer up paths of escape (to the English countryside, to Oklahoma, to the jungle), find fleeting comfort in nostalgia, and confer a touch of nobility upon little suburban men who catch trains and pay down their mortgages. In their very precision – in their very Englishness – Davies’ best songs from this period achieve a kind of universality. His characters’ struggles are not just the struggles of men and women in England in the 1960s and 1970s, but of anybody who’s ever tried to live like a human being in the this modern world of ours.

The book covers the period of the Kinks’ early success in 1964 to their creative peak in 1967-71, focusing especially on five albums: Something Else by the Kinks (1967); The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society (1968); Arthur (Or, the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) (1969); Lola vs. Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One (1970); and Muswell Hillbillies (1971). It will also contain an epilogue that compares the Kinks’ development to that of other English rock acts, concluding with a discussion of the Kinks’ sonic and thematic influence on the punk scene of the late 1970s. It draws upon a growing body of academic and non-academic writing about the Kinks, including two memoirs by Ray Davies and one by Dave Davies, as well as press interviews, album and song reviews, concert films, and other materials from the popular media. The discussion of the band’s social and cultural contexts will draw upon Mark Doyle’s expertise in modern British history, historical scholarship on postwar consumer culture and suburbanization, and the writings of other astute observers of suburban England, especially George Orwell, whose influence on the Kinks (and many other British rock acts) was profound.

 

About the Author

Mark Doyle is an Associate Professor of History at Middle Tennessee State University who specializes in the study of British Imperial History. He is the author of Communal Violence in the British Empire: Disturbing the Pax (Bloomsbury Academic, 2016) and Fighting Like the Devil for the Sake of God: Protestants, Catholics, and the Origins of Violence in Victorian Belfast (Manchester University Press, 2009).

Out There #4

November 29, 2016 at 14:03

Obsessed with mortality, God-infused, and funnya list of car crash songs in case you are interestedCameron Crowe’s script for Almost Famous aka ‘Untitled’ David Dalton’s rumination on the Sex Pistols, punkgeist, rock theology and Sid

The Passenger

October 23, 2016 at 23:34

‘Iggy Pop: The Passenger’  by Stephen Barber (expected 2017-18) will take an original approach to the fifty-year anti-career in music and noise of Iggy Pop – with its dominant preoccupations of ecstasy and nihilism, self-laceration and audience-confrontation, hedonism and death – and the ways in which it has inspired innumerable musicians, artists, writers, filmmakers and other prominent cultural figures, internationally, throughout those five decades.

 

 

Iggy Pop’s work as the singer with The Stooges (1967-74 and 2003-14) delineated and propelled the principal themes of punk-rock in the USA; equally, from the many North American sources of European punk-rock, it was the sonic response of The Stooges to boredom, social stultification and subjugation which especially resonated in mid-1970s Britain and animated UK punk-rock, as in The Sex Pistols’ seminal rendition (1977) of The Stooges’ ‘No Fun.’

Above all, Iggy Pop’s early performance style – with its intensely corporeal focus, punctuated by razorcuts to the skin and collisions with the audience, and contemptuous of musical technique – broke with the more relaxed, pleasure-oriented performance idiom which had been largely prevalent for rock music’s first decade. Iggy Pop’s work also has a distinctive capacity to evoke beguiling cityscapes, often in the form of songs (such as ‘The Passenger’, 1977) narrating cities seen through the windscreens of moving cars on freeways or in transits between nightclubs. The experience and perception of cities form pivotal presences throughout Iggy Pop’s work, from the industrial cities of Michigan in The Stooges’ work, via West Berlin during his mid-1970s art-driven collaborations with David Bowie, to Paris in his death-preoccupied recent recordings.

Iggy Pop’s contemporary work – alongside art-collaborations, film-soundtracks and film-acting, his radio and public lecture work for the BBC – forms an extraordinary summation in its capacity to analyse both its own disintegrative course over the decades and also to reflect on current dilemmas in digital, social and political cultures. That public lecture work notably reveals the ways in which Iggy Pop’s music can be gloriously funny in its desperate, last-ditch black humour and coruscating self-mockery. The book will explore the status of the internationally acclaimed new recording, Post Pop Depression (2016), Iggy Pop’s collaboration with members of Queens of the Stone Age that directly evokes his 1970s work with David Bowie, and which he has intimated will be his last recording.

This book will assess the special, always-awry status of Iggy Pop which leads his devoted audience to view him as an exceptional figure in music history, and will explore his work in its many obsessions: with sonic and corporeal assaults, with the invocation of cities, and with memory and death in the contemporary digitised world.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

STEPHEN BARBER is Professor in Art & Design History in the School of Critical Studies and Cultural Industries at Kingston University, London. He is the author of over twenty books, most recently: Performance Projections: Film and the Body in Action (Reaktion Books, 2014) and Pierre Guyotat: Revolutions and Aberrations (Vauxhall and Company, 2016). A new book, Berlin Bodies, will be published by Reaktion Books at the beginning of 2017.

New Rose

October 22, 2016 at 07:04

22 Oct 1976. Release of ‘New Rose’ by the Damned on Stiff Records, the first UK punk single. Above image is of the front (left) and back (right) cover.

 

 

The Damned, signing with an indie label, were the fastest out of the blocks, even though they had only played their first gig supporting the Sex Pistols in July ‘76 at the 100 Club in London.

Clash …

October 9, 2016 at 07:15

09 Oct 1976. Tonight, the Clash in Leighton Buzzard at the Tiddenfoot Leisure Centre, which – in the words of journalist Kris Needs – “was one of those council hangars better suited to bingo and comedians.” The Clash were actually the opening band for a local R&B outfit, The Rockets.

The Clash were photographed here by Sounds journalist, Jonh Ingham who remembers:

“This was their fifth gig. From memory the stage had carpet on it, which ran up the wall and both Mick [Jones] and Joe [Strummer] took runs up it while playing [ … ] They finished their set in 30 minutes because all the songs were about 2 minutes long; the promoter went mental because they were hired for an hour set. Joe came running over to me asking what they should do … as if being a seasoned music writer meant I had the answers! I told him to play the set again and throw in some oldies if they knew any. They played “White Riot” and 3 or 4 more and the promoter seemed placated.” [more here …]

ZigZag writer Kris Needs recollects that when he arrived at the venue, it was “half full of local hippies, rock fans and lager meatheads, who draped themselves over the comfy chairs. There couldn’t have been more than ten punters of a punky disposition in the whole joint. First place we hit was the bar – and immediately encountered were the Clash. There were no dressing rooms to speak of so they were just hanging about waiting until the time came to go on.

For some reason, I found myself perched next to Mick [Jones] – the bloke I’d seen knocking about in the Portobello Road and Camden areas. He knew he’d seen me before too. It all came out when we did that inevitable first meeting gushing about music. The Stones, the Dolls, Iggy and the Stooges…oh, and Mott The Hoople.

‘That’s it!’, we both said at the same time. The Rainbow Theatre in ‘72, Elephant And Castle College in ‘73, Croydon … the dates kept coming. When I was running Mott’s fan club, I often went backstage, and that’s where I first met Mick.”

Metallic K.O.

September 25, 2016 at 08:50

25 SEPT. 1976. In UK record stores this very day – on import from France – was Metallic KO by Iggy and the Stooges. Compiled from concert tapes recorded in 1973 and ‘74, including part of the Stooges final ever performance – 09 February 1974 – in Detroit.

09-25-1976-Metallic-KO-01With the sudden upsurge in punk in London that summer, 1976, there were a number of emerging bands playing in a style that could be traced back to the likes the Stooges, but none of them had yet made or released any records. As a result, Metallic KO would be ‘the first Stooges album released into a world that was ready for it’ (according to Iggy biographer, Paul Trynka).

As a side-note, Metallic KO was released on Skydog Records, a label run by a Parisian named Marc Zermati, who – according to Savage – was part of a collection of garage rock aficionados that would refer to themselves as ‘punks’ as early as 1973. McLaren met him in ’73 after he followed the NY Dolls to Paris.