It’s the now thing! It’s happening!

Saturdays are good these days.

I’ve managed to shoehorn my various work commitments into the five week days for the first time since I became self-employed and find myself able to lie abed Saturday mornings reading and listening to music. It’s great.

I can’t even think why now, but I found myself idly searching “Electric Prunes” on YouTube and was pleasantly surprised how much stuff there is. It makes you think…

As an earnest west-country lad buying vinyl for the first time back in the eighties, and already claiming to be “over” post-punk, my head was comprehensively turned by a group of friends sharing their Byrds and Stones LPs. A well-trodden path that everyone has to take at some point – I’m glad I found it good and early.

Prone as I was to taking things to preposterous extremes, though, I ventured further (and furthur) into the fuzzy realms of psychedelia and the garage punk bands. And in many ways I’m not sure I ever came back. I developed something of an obsession with the Electric Prunes at this time.

Of course a lot of this stuff was ridiculously hard to get hold of back in the pre-Internet stone ages (look it up, kids). But somehow records like this being so utterly unobtainable to a doe-eyed school boy never at any point put me off, and indeed it all added to the gooey allure of such rare stuff.

The most exotic, the most iconic, the most obsessed-over of them all were…

The Electric Prunes

I don’t need to tell you that the Prunes’ biggest hit, “I had too much to dream last night”, was an actual, bona fide “hit” on both sides of the Atlantic in 1966 and that it lives on as the lead track on Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets record. The follow up “Get me to the world on time” also charted.

A quick glance through Amazon reveals all sorts of Prunes recordings that you can get hold of now at the click of a mouse, including an actual complete recordings box set (which is winking at me demurely as I type); but back in the day unless you had the clout to go to a mail order dealer and pay through the nose, it was all about living off scraps, this, from Easy Rider, being one:

This scene follows on from the death of Jack Nicholson’s character (“I still say they’re not going to make the county line”) and I first saw it at an inexplicable midnight showing at the ABC cinema in our very own redneck city. The walk home through Coney Hill in the wee small hours was a bit uncomfortable.

As well as not being sure what “Kyrie Eleison” meant, I was also unaware that this track came from their not-entirely-successful Mass in F Minor album and pretty much signalled the end of the Prunes as a real group – I believe most of the record was played by session musicians, and although there were a couple more records afterwards, in truth they didn’t have much to do with the original members.

Here’s another of the snippets I had of the Prunes:

We all wanna sound like the Prunes, right?

This was included as bonus track on of one of the Pebbles records I bought and full as Vol 2 is with real classics, this might well have been my favourite track of all.

Eventually, I succumbed and paid the genuinely ridiculous price of £20 for an original copy of the second Electric Prunes, Underground (without knowing any of the songs on it, or even that it did not contain either of their two big hits). It came with the original cellophane on it which I instinctively kept intact for a while but later foolishly ripped off and discarded. I was genuinely embarrassed to tell anyone how much I had spent on it at the time (these were the days of albums costing not much more than a fiver) and in fact it may well be that this is the first time I’ve told anyone. That’s OK, I feel like we’ve become friends by now… (I’ve just looked it up online and it’s worth a cool £18, now).

It’s actually a great album, as psychedelic as anything I’d heard then and possibly now as well. Here’s a clip of the Prunes playing the opening track, “The Great Banana Hoax” – close your eyes and imagine yourself an unsuspecting greenhorn, raised on Joy Division and the Specials in Thatcher’s Britain, seeing music in glorious kaleidoscopic  pan-technicolour for the first time. And then check out the shirts…

Something of a truly psychedelic experience.

You’ve not been coming to this site for so many years without knowing that this sort of stuff is now very much My Thing, but the template was pretty much cut at this point in an impressionable mind’s formation. Paisley shirts (check); farfisa organ sound (check); fuzz-tone guitar (check); electronic jiggery-pokery (very much checked). I guess the only thing missing is that wah-wah fx pedal, but as you know that was to come.

Here’s probably the best live clip of all which features each of the above in spades, plus James Lowe (looking not unlike Peter Fonda) playing the signature autoharp that first appeared on “I had too much to dream last night”.

Caught in all their gaudy, metallic glory. Heady times to be growing up…

Baila, monstruo, baila!

Two months…

I can only apologise…

Well, Yuletide came and went, and jolly nice it was too – rich food was eaten, exotic drink was taken, gifts were exchanged, a truckload of telly was watched. Great to have something like a normal Christmas after the rather sad spectacle of the previous one. Just what we needed.

But that’s all in the past now, Twenty Two is upon us and it’s time to strike out confidently, knapsack slung boldly over one shoulder, eager looks upon our still-naïve faces, ready to claim the possibilities and shiny promises of a brand new year.

So, who’s for some more Spanish garage?

Jessy Bulbo / Las Ultrasónicas

Actually Jessy Bulbo’s garage rock years are behind her, Las Ultrasónicas, her band of foul-mouthed, Mexican pistoleras all gone, a thing of a rather gloriously misspent youth. Which is all rather a shame. I was unaware of them at the time and missed them completely of course, and even though their last record came out in 2007, Jessy Bulbo, their charismatic bassist and singer had by then already left.

There’s not a lot of live footage that I can find of Las Ultrasónicas before Jessy left, but fortunately you only really need this, “Monstruo Verde” – “Green Monster”:

This track covers most of the band’s preoccupations (and of all right-thinking sorts, surely?) – B movie monsters, swampy-guitars, dancing – and it’s sung in Spanish with plenty of wah-wah, what’s not to like? It’s the opening track from their debut album, Yo Fuí Una Adolescente Terrosatánica which is chocfull of this sort of Cramps-ish nonsense and I love it, foolishly and without reservation.

I gather the band were also pretty notorious for a, shall we say, “outspoken” attitude to sex, and to be quite honest some of the lyrics make me blush, but that in itself is no bad thing. I’d imagine that making some middle-aged white git squirm with embarrassment would be something of a badge of honour for these potty-mouthed young things.

Recorded in two days as a demo in 1997 and pretty much thrown away at first, it encapsulates something of a “don’t give it another thought” attitude of which I’m always a little envious. It’s all tremendous, throwaway fun.

Here’s another track from the record, their very own theme tune, “Tema de las Ultras”:

As I said, Jessy Bulbo left the band ten years later and pursued her own slightly chequered solo career which has seen her cover all sorts of esoteric bases. Here she is, replete in leopard skin catsuit, banging away at “Maldito” (an Ultrasónicas song) for TV:

but there’s quite a stream of newer recordings on her own YouTube channel, some of which are terrific. Listen to this:

Great, isn’t it? Particularly keen on the clattering, cluttered work of the two drummers…

As I said, there’s a pile of these performances to wade through on her channel and I can see myself posting a few more of these…

2022! Come meet the new boss!

That’ll do…

It’s been a funny year, to understate things somewhat.

This pretty much tells the story…

[Very much hoping to get my hands on the new Jah Wobble retelling of this…]

I’m not tired and it’s so late – moving fast everything looks great!

A chance comment on Twitter has led me down a bit of a rabbit hole this last couple of weeks and resulted in me staging an audacious foray up into our top room, where all my CDs and records are currently languishing, somewhat neglected.

The converted top room has been pretty much out of bounds the last few months because the Pandemic has washed The Boy and his charming girlfriend up there once more while they are between flats. I’d recently spruced it up after he’d moved out some years ago, bought a decent amp & speakers and installed all my music up there in the style to which it deserved to be accustomed. Needs must and all that, and it’s all still up there, Miss Havisham-style, the occasional commando raid notwithstanding.

This time, one of the CDs I liberated was the Keith West-inspired Tomorrow album which turns out to be pretty much as I remembered, lots of cheery British psyche, all backwards guitars scampering back and forth in the headphones mixed with knowing, laddish vocals, more than a few moments of dreadful English “whimsy” and a few respectable stabs at innovative new forms. I guess it goes the way of a lot of British psyche ultimately, paving the way for the horrors of po-faced seventies prog and epic rock.

The other album I’ve been listening to a lot of this week is the ever-rewarding and already blogged SF Sorrow, and I’m sure the sharper-minded of you (and that’s all of you, right?) will have worked out where I’m going with this…

Mid-sixties UK being the hopeful hodgepodge of imagination and ambition that it was, there was room for all manner of types: earnest but dull music students got high with genuine rogues and weirdos – thankfully, for every Steve Howe, there was a Twink…

Twink

I’ve mentioned John “Twink” Alder before (this post about the Pretty Things) and shared the footage of him on French TV,  “interpreting” SF Sorrow, painted smile fixed icily across his face (presumably in the certainty of the fearsome clumping he was going to get from Phil May once they were offstage).

You could be forgiven for not realising, however, that Twink was, nominally at least, the occupier of the Pretties drum-stool (indeed he proudly maintained a band tradition of loopy drummers) but he also played on the Tomorrow record, as well as drumming for the In Crowd, the Pink Fairies and the Birds, also forming a band with Syd Barrett (think on that…) and jamming with Hawkwind (even auditioning for them, unsuccessfully, as a guitarist!).

Here’s a recording of the Pretties playing Hyde Park which features Twink and includes a Byrds’ cover a couple of Electric Banana tracks and a cover of “White Bicycle” which does not quite have the zany charm of the Tomorrow version, but is still quite a listen:

There’s also some footage of Twink playing bongos and drums with the Pink Fairies which is quite fun. To be honest, the Fairies are a pretty hard listen at times, and you’d do as well to turn Larry Wallis down and enjoy a few minutes of Twink, spliff in mouth, pounding away on his kit.

(The other drummer is Russell Hunter as you’re asking…)

One of the other projects, the frenetically networking Twink also did was his own Think Pink album that he released not long after SF Sorrow. He has referred to the two records as being comparable classics, which is generous, to say the least. Think Pink is … well… patchy – a mixture of feral psychedelia and more horrible whimsy (Tolkien and Lear have a lot to answer for…) It does, however, contain the wonderful “Ten Thousand Words in a Cardboard Box” which I’ll leave you to track down, if you don’t already know it.

Instead, here’s a clip of a recording Twink made in 1977. It’d be fair to say that most of the sixties musicians found the transition into the fire-sale that was Punk a tricky old business. Most of them pretended it had never happened, some feigned amnesia about their pasts, but a few, like Twink and many of his grimy Pink Fairies / Hawkwind drinking mates found it less of a leap.

Here’s a recording of another Twink band, The Rings, playing at the 100 Club

It’s a decent, heartfelt slice of nervy discontent that stands up pretty well against some of the stupider efforts of his contemporaries and which features Twink as a front man rather than drummer. I’d love to think he broke out the grease paint and reprised his acclaimed SF Sorrow performances but according to Sounds he spent most of the set at the back of the stage, trying to avoid being spat on (those curls…), and shortly after left because of “musical differences”.

Wikipedia claims that Twink also had an acting career, appearing in an adaptation of David Copperfield (this I can imagine) and episodes of Allo Allo (I’m trying hard not to imagine this…)

To be honest, the list of bands, stand-ins and gigs Twink was involved in is seemingly endless. And in an (ultimately unsuccessful) attempt to clear this up, here’s quite an endearing interview with the man to finish with:

(“Yeah I played with Jimi Hendrix twice, shall I tell you about that?”):

“Twink, is this love?”

Sometimes they don’t tell the truth…

Not really listening to a whole lot of new music at the moment – funds a bit tight, gigs still a bit iffy, a fair amount of work from home still, so not driving around so much. It’s all a bit of a barren landscape, truth be told.

But… I am still minded to spend the odd afternoon excavating a gluttonous decade’s downloading, having accrued unrealistic amounts of music. And amongst other things, I’ve spent a bit of time rediscovering this criminally underrated collection from NowAgain Records – Forge Your Own Chains

Smiling Faces Sometimes

(This might get a bit YouTube-heavy…)

This track, recorded in 1971 by a group of US Army players moonlighting from their military duties, called East of Underground, is probably my favourite. It’s got such a tight, disciplined feel to it, powered by the remarkable drumming of one George Daniels, who possibly only got the gig because he claimed to have worked with James Brown. I love me a wristy drummer, over-confident and bristling with ambition, and this guy could well have learned his trade under the hire ‘em, fine ‘em, fire ‘em tutelage of the Best. I also love the relaxed, sloppy feel of the rhythm guitar and the fact that the band appeared to have at least three great Mayfield-inspired vocalists, whose withering, salty tenors greatly enhance the weary paranoia of the lyrics – jealousy, misery, envy indeed (or…  Bobby BlackmonLarry Watson, and Austin Webb, to the their friends).

I like a bit of soul music as much as the next man, but I’m strictly an amateur and don’t go much further than the sixties. Turns out that “Smiling Faces Sometimes” is a Temptations song, written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, recorded in 1971 but almost immediately handed it over to label mates (and Whitfield’s psychedelic playthings) The Undisputed Truth who made it into a hit the same year.

It’s a pretty good version but not as good as East of Underground’s. What it lacks in class, however, it more than makes up in brass:

(So many questions…)

It’s a mystery to me though why the Temptations’ own version has never forced its way into my consciousness. Buried away in the 1971 album, Sky’s The Limit, it’s 12 minutes of brisk but unhurried brilliance, bathed in near-constant, hypnotic wah-wah, rich strings and an unlikely oboe. Kick off your shoes… you don’t have anywhere better to be…

There’s not quite the bitter, restlessness of the East of Underground version but neither does it have the hothouse early bloom of the Undisputed Truth’s outing.

It grows, it develops, it rises… What a song!

Beware!

Does anyone even know what you might look like?

To say I’m a little tardy on this would be, well… pretty much standard for these pages, but nonetheless somewhat understating things. Anyone else who counts has already been here, said it, seen them and moved on.

But unfashionably late, here I am.

Anyway, the sun’s out (it’s October, by criminey!), I have a ticket for Kingsholm this afternoon and I’m no longer working weekends – let’s not waste time on foolish recriminations. Who knows when I’ll next have the time to fritter away on sharp music and clumsy words? (Although, next weekend’s looking quite good…)

Squid

In short, I’m really enjoying the Squid album, Bright Green Fields. It’s a whole bunch of awkward, unexpected fun. I doubt I’m the first to draw parallels with 2019’s young blades, Black Midi, but that same incoherent, ambitious energy is spaffed about all over Squid’s debut.

Watch this busy, engaging KEXP performance and come back in a few minutes…

I love Ollie Judge’s hectic drumming (and of course the fact that he sings too – let’s never take singing drummers for granted…), plus all the other percussive contributions that add so much colour to an already overloaded canvas. I love the various sonic tickertapes each song shamelessly models, like some overconfident second year fashion student. I’m also really keen on the lengthy brass intrusions that change mood really, really effectively.

But I’m also struck by how many guises Post Punk still takes however many years it is after Metal Box. I can hear PiL and the Fall here (of course), loads of XTC and even all sorts of hints at the “funk” post punk bands that came next and that I generally despise. Not here, mind.

This is a great set but doesn’t even include my favourite track off the album, “Boy Racers”. This song I really do love. I love it for all of the above reasons – frustrated trebly guitars, itchy rhythms and that long unhurried dreamy outro. What clever stuff…

How many ways can young fellers find to play around atonally on their fretboards? God save…

Previous Older Entries