Saturday, May 26, 2018

Butcher, It's Meaty

On May 26, 1978 Radar Recoprds released the second single from The Soft Boys,  "( I Want To Be An) Anglepoise Lamp" b/w "Fatman's Son", both written and sung by Robyn Hitchcock. Hitchcock is one of rock's most eccentric songwriters, blending his own sensibilities with those of John Lennon, Syd Barrett, The Beach Boys and The Byrds. The single stiffed and Radar dropped the band which also consisted of Kimberley Rew, later of Katrina and the Waves.

Friday, May 25, 2018

The Languid Wallop

Coming off Pink Floyd's "In The Flesh" Tour which ended with an increasingly agitated Roger Waters spitting at a fan, the usually reclusive David Gilmour had helped secure Kate Bush a record deal and was now ready to make his own statement, a solo album released May 25,  1978. 

 Fans, reading between the lines of songs like "There's No Way Out of Here", could sense Gilmour's state of mind.

 “This album [David Gilmour] was important to me in terms of self respect.," Gilmour told Circus Magazine. "At first I didn’t think my name was big enough to carry it. Being in a group for so long can be a bit claustrophobic, and I needed to step out from behind Pink Floyd’s shadow.” 

Michael Bloom, writing for Rolling Stone, was not all that impressed with the album, which went gold

In his work with Pink Floyd, David Gilmour's exact, blues-based guitar solos function as tense pivotal points that set the stage for the next revelation. On his first solo album, however, Gilmour simply flirts with his own crystalline perfection. Drummer Willie Wilson (from the Sutherland Brothers and Quiver) and bassist Rick Wills (a ubiquitous hack from Frampton's Camel, Roxy Music and the reconstituted Small Faces) are constrained to the sluggish tempos favored by Floyd, and Gilmour dives in like a duck to water. But the alien overview, the philosophical paradoxes that make Pink Floyd's lazy playing so poignant and pregnant, are sorely missed here. Gilmour affects a bland innocence in the face of earthly perversity in lyrics barely worthy of Samuel Beckett's shoeshine boy. 

 One cut stands out: "Short and Sweet," coauthored by muckraker Roy Harper. A longtime Floyd ally -- he sang the biting "Have a Cigar" on Wish You Were Here -- Harper is widely regarded as the most uncompromisingly honest songwriter in England. Here, he articulates the existential riddle of David Gilmour better than Gilmour himself can. 

 There's nothing amiss with David Gilmour as an immaculate guitar sampler, but as far as providing genuine ideas -- forget it.

Future Rolling Stone Album Guides would mostly share the sentiment, although I swear there was a four star review in the second edition.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Fly Her Away

In May of 1978 The Motors released their sophomore album Approved By The Motors, which featured their biggest hit, the U.K. #4 "Airport". Andrew McMaster says he wrote the song while living under the Heathrow flightpath. The follow-up single, "Forget About You", reached number 13 in the U.K. charts. The band would break up before releasing  their third album Tenement Steps in 1980. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Beaten Black, Beaten Blue

In May of 1978 the punk rock band Angelic Upstarts released their debut single "The Murder of Liddle Towers", an anti-police diatribe recounting the death of a 39 year old electrician who was allegedly beaten by police outside a nightclub. He died three weeks later.  An inquest into the death returned a verdict of justifiable homicide. 

The case also inspired Tom Robinson's " Blue Murder" and "Liddle Towers" by the skinhead band The Crux. 

Liddle Towers

Why did he die, or did they lie? 
I think he's dead, so a doctor said 
He was beaten black, He was beaten blue 
But don't be alarmed, it was the right thing to do 
The police have the power, Police have the right
 To kill a man to take away his life 
Drunk and disorderly was his crime 
I think at worst he should be doing time
 But he's dead He was drunk and disorderly and now he's dead 

More than two decades after its release, their debut single, "The Murder Of Liddle Towers", was included in Mojo magazine’s list of the best punk rock singles of all time. With other blue collar punks, the Upstarts became the forefathers of the Oi skinhead movement although they were anti-racism and never flirted with right wing elements.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Suck My Socks

On May 27 a mysterious seven inch from someone named Klark Kent was released on green vinyl, in a green sleeve,  on the Kryptonite label. The press release suggested Kent came from a Welsh fishing village and could only speak a New Orleans patois but we would all soon learn the singer of the U.K. #48 hit "Don't Care" was none other than Stewart Copeland, the drummer of The Police. He'd offred the song to his band but Sting just couldn't relate to lyrics like 

I Am The Hottest Thing You Ever Will See 
You Know I'm Something It Ain't Easy To Be
 I Am The Neatest Thing That Ever Hit Town 
There Isn't Anything The Could Bring Me Down

Monday, May 21, 2018

Functioning Automatic

In May of 1978, Kraftwerk released Die Mensch-Maschine (The Man Machine) ushering in an age of electronic pop music that would inspire everyone from Gary Numan, to The Human League, from Depeche Mode to New Order.  Kraftwerk has always been one of the most mysterious bands of the rock era. Upon first listening to their album, you might think the band has decided to keep its most human qualities as distant as possible from the music they play.

"We are playing the machines, the machines play us," Ralf Hütter explained at the time. "It is really the exchange and friendship we have with the machines which make us build a new music."

With time, listeners pick up on Kraftwerk's wicked sense of irony, most apparent at the record launch in Paris where the press were greeted by the Kraftwerk automatons. If the press criticized their music as so cold they could have been written by robots, then the band members would give them real robots.

For many, the highlight of the album is "The Model", a song so ahead of its time it would take five years before it would reach the U.K. Top 40, sounding not at all out of place among the likes of Soft Cell and The Human League. The model may be beautiful but she is just as much of a robot as anyone else, "posing for consumer products now and then".

The Man Machine is the greatest statement Kraftwerk would ever make. In fact, it's so perfect the band would never come close to topping it. They took a three year break before releasing Computer World. Soon Hütter and bandmate Florian Schneider would become obsessed with cycling, riding up to 200 kilometers a day.

The world's greatest technological rock band would be side tracked by something as simple as a bicycle.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Psychic Frequencies

On May 20, Blondie's new single "(I'm Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear" peaked in the U.K. charts at #10. The music may be straight-forward by the double tracked lyrics are quite complicated, referencing kismet, theosophy, R.E.M, levitation and the stratosphere. Departing bassist Gary Valentine wrote the song about the telepathic experiences he believed he was having with then girlfriend Lisa Jane Persky ( who played the teenage daughter in The Great Santini opposite Robert Duvall).

"During the Iggy {Pop} tour we discovered we were having the same kind of dreams or found we were thinking of each other at the same time.," said  Valentine. "Although we were thousands of miles apart, we were still in touch. Thinking of this one afternoon, it all came together in a song."

The single, from Blondie's second album,  Plastic Letters,  was not released in the United States.