Posts Tagged ‘The Seeds’

Masterpiece: Ramones

25 March 2010

[Today: ONETWOTHREEFOUR!...]

“HEY!… HO!… LET’S GO!” From the first line of the first song on the first Ramones album, it was clear that this band was on a kamikaze mission to take rock & roll back to its leather jacketed roots. Recorded over 17 days in February of 1976, at a cost of just $4,600, Ramones features 14 songs that clock in at around 28 total minutes, with barely a breath between them (or just enough time for bassist Dee Dee Ramone to shout his famous “ONETWOTHREEFOUR!” count in). With titles like ‘Loudmouth’, ‘Chain Saw’ and ‘Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue’, these musical hand grenades combined New York swagger with low-brow pop culture, including references to horror movies, comic books, CIA operatives, Doo-Wop, drugs and male prostitution.

This album was constructed like a comic book – short, simple and graphic, each song framing a vivid panel of down ‘n dirty NYC life that sticks with you. But Ramones isn’t important so much for what it includes, but for what it leaves out. Stripped to its core, this music blasted a minimalist trail through the showy solos and pretentious wankery that pervaded rock in the mid-70s. The Ramones were so off the path of typical 70s rock that one early review graspingly described them as a cross between The Seeds and The Byrds. In truth they were probably closer to a combination of The Stooges and The Archies (with a healthy dollop of Phil Spector’s girl groups), but no musical comparisons can capture the essence of this group – they were true originals in a world of copycats.

Typical early reviews dwelled on how dumb this group was, and interviews were peppered with dat and dis to emphasize the point. The group also endlessly endured the back-handed compliment that they helped create a formula for punk rock. The Ramones were surely influential, but there’s never been another band quite like them. If their music was so simple and stupid, it should be more easily replicable. But making great music out of minimal parts isn’t easy – it’s incredibly hard, and the riffs that Johnny Ramone created out of a few chords have more than stood the test of time. Songs like ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ and ‘Judy Is A Punk’ still have the power to get under your skin and make you want to beat on the brat…

Listen: Blitzkrieg Bop

Listen: Judy Is A Punk

Listen: 53rd & 3rd

Buried Treasure: Black Monk Time

18 July 2009

[Today: It's Monk time...]

Monks | Black Monk Time

Many bands – including The Kinks, The Seeds, and The Stooges – can make compelling claims to the mythical title of The First Punk Band. But none has a more interesting case for the honor than The Monks. This group of American G.I.s stayed on in Germany after their military tours were completed in the early 60’s and, as The Torquays, became one of the better-known beat bands in Hamburg. Beat music was the European equivalent of what became known as “garage rock” in the US – regional acts with a sound based on a combination of rock, R&B and skiffle. The Monks’ brand of Beat was dubbed “Hard Beat” because it featured buzzing distortion, ringing feedback, and angry lyrics. But the short, sharp melodies of their 1966 album Black Monk Time – with song titles like ‘I Hate You’ and ‘Shut Up’ – were much closer to the primal energy of what would become Punk than even The Seeds and Kinks on their nastiest days.

The Monks were probably best-known in their time for their wild look – they wore monk-like robes and had their heads shaved into monks’ tonsures, which provided a startling visual contrast to their sound. But guitarist Gary Burger, drummer Roger Johnston, bassist Eddie Shaw, organist Larry Clark, and banjo player Dave Day will be remembered in the long run for their music. Burger’s yowling vocals, Day’s electrified banjo and Clark’s wild organ runs set The Monks apart from any band before or since. In spite of their eccentricities, the group was exceedingly popular in Germany for a time, toured regularly, and often played to audiences numbering in the thousands.

Like the Ramones a decade later, The Monks were good-humored about their style (this, after all is the band that claimed ‘I Hate You’ was a love song, and wrote a tune called ‘Cuckoo’ in an effort to crack the charts) but also intensely serious about their music. “The idea that Americans were dying for a questionable reason was the catalyst that had caused us to sing ‘Monk Time'” wrote Shaw in his fascinating 1994 band bio, Black Monk Time. “It was a screaming incomprehension caused by the growing suspicion that a government may not reflect the real interests of its people.”

Black Monk Time was the first in a planned trilogy of albums that was to include Silver Monk Time and Gold Monk Time. But the band was dealt a serious blow when Polydor refused to release the album stateside, for fear that it would be too controversial. And when the album failed to chart any singles in Europe, Polydor dropped them, and it was only a matter of time before they broke up. Sounding every bit like Henry Rollins, Shaw defends The Monks sound by saying “Our message is positive because it’s true.” Listen, and The Monks shall set you free…

Listen: Monk Time

Listen: I Hate You

Listen: Complication

*****

Watch The Monks play live on German TV, circa 1966:

And…

A Dozen Modern Albums That Sound Like 1969

10 May 2009

Here are a dozen albums released after 1990 that sound like they could have been released in 1969…

The Stairs | Mexican R 'n' B
The Stairs | Mexican R ‘n’ B

Year it was actually released: 1992

Why it sounds like ’69: Lo-fi, with lots of gratuitous drug references, Mexican R ‘n’ B sounds like it might have been recorded on LSD. The modern corollary to bands like The Remains and The Seeds, The Stairs are now but a musical footnote from the early 90s.

Listen: Weed Bus

The Black Keys | Thickfreakness
The Black Keys | Thickfreakness

Year it was actually released: 2003

Why it sounds like ’69: The Blues reached the apex of its influence on popular music around 1969, and The Black Keys are a band that’s all about the blues. Fuzzed out to the max, Thickfreakness fits right in with the spirit of what some of the freakier bluesniks of that time were up to.

Listen: Have Love Will Travel

M. Ward | Transfiguration Of Vincent
M. Ward | Transfiguration Of Vincent

Year it was actually released: 2003

Why it sounds like ’69: This is no frills, acoustic music that features Matt Ward and his guitar, along with bass, drums and some piano. Ward’s guitar is reminiscent of John Fahey, and he sings like a choir boy channeling Howlin’ Wolf. If this album had been released in 1969 it would currently reside in the top 50 of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums Of All-Time.

Listen: Helicopter

Devendra Banhart | Cripple Crow
Devendra Banhart | Cripple Crow

Year it was actually released: 2005

Why it sounds like ’69: This is some freaky hippie wailing. There is nothing about Devendra Banhart that doesn’t scream 1969.

Listen: Heard Somebody Say

The Mighty Imperials | Thunder Chicken
The Mighty Imperials | Thunder Chicken

Year it was actually released: 2001

Why it sounds like ’69: This is raw gut-bucket funk, and Joseph Henry’s occasional vocals are dynamite. If you dropped this one on the turntable, you’d have to convince listeners that it wasn’t released in the late-60s.

Listen: Joseph’s Popcorn

Madeleine Peyroux | Half The Perfect World
Madeleine Peyroux | Half The Perfect World

Year it was actually released: 2006

Why it sounds like ’69: Peyroux sings with the phrasing and feeling of a modern day Billie Holiday, but her sultry, sophisticated style is at home in any era. This woman makes me purr…

Listen: Blue Alert

The White Stripes | The White Stripes
The White Stripes | The White Stripes

Year it was actually released: 1999

Why it sounds like ’69: Like Thickfreakness, the Stripes’ self-titled debut is of a piece with the power-combo blues bands of the era. And seriously, covering both ‘Stop Breaking Down’ and ‘St. James Infirmary Blues’ is a late-60s move, not a late-90s move.

Listen: Stop Breaking Down

Black Lips | Good Bad Not Evil
Black Lips | Good Bad Not Evil

Year it was actually released: 2007

Why it sounds like ’69: This is sloppy, Nuggets-ready rock that sounds like it was concocted in a garage and produced by Frank Zappa. [On LP, the last track on side two is grooved backwards, so you have to put the needle at the end of the album to play the song, which spins out towards the edge of the record!] You’ll feel like you’re tripping after listening to an entire album of this stuff…

Listen: It Feels Alright

Dave Alvin | Public Domain: Songs From The Wild Land
Dave Alvin | Public Domain: Songs From The Wild Land

Year it was actually released: 2000

Why it sounds like ’69: Alvin’s take on traditional music – songs of “…honkey tonks, railyards, barnyards, backyards, church choirs and bedrooms” as he put it in his eloquent album liner notes – is kin to the lost-music explorations of groups like The Band and The Flying Burrito Brothers.

Listen: What Did The Deep Sea Say?

Raphael Saadiq | The Way I See It
Raphael Saadiq | The Way I See It

Year it was actually released: 2008

Why it sounds like ’69: Saadiq’s neo-Soul was inspired by Motown groups like The Temptations and The Four Tops, and The Way I See It sounds every bit like a vintage, chart-topping Motown release.

Listen: 100 Yard Dash

Erik Truffaz | Out Of A Dream
Eric Truffaz | Out Of A Dream

Year it was actually released: 1997

Why it sounds like ’69: Tapping the same creative vein as Kind Of Blue, Truffaz’ debut sounds more like 1959 than 1969. But well-executed ballads are timeless, and Out Of A Dream would have provided an interesting jazz counterweight to the fusion that Miles Davis was making at the time.

Listen: Down Town

Air | Moon Safari
Air | Moon Safari

Year it was actually released: 1998

Why it sounds like ’69: This album features French electro-pop that was created on vintage synthesizers and keyboards and tips its cap to Burt Bacharach on more than one occasion. Moon Safari wouldn’t have stood a snowball’s chance of gaining popularity in the 60s, and inevitably would have become one of those “great lost albums” that record geeks like me spend so much time tracking down.

Listen: La Femme d’Argent

Fleet Foxes | Fleet Foxes
Fleet Foxes | Fleet Foxes

Year it was actually released: 2008

Why it sounds like ’69: Fleet Foxes’ pastoral songs are distant relatives of the folk experimentation of artists such as Fairport Convention and The Incredible String Band. This is one of many albums on this list that sounds more like the 60s than the 00s…

Listen: Blue Ridge Mountains

Masterpiece: Nuggets

3 April 2009

[Today: The compilation that helped unleash Punk...]

Various Artists | Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era (1965-1968)

Nuggets was the brainchild of rock journalist Lenny Kaye, who dreamed up the set in the early 70’s, at a time when re-issue albums and nostalgic compilations were the domain of labels like K-Tel and Ronco. The original 1972 double album set* dipped into rock’s then-recent past to rescue 27 fuzzed-out, psychedelic singles by the likes of The Electric Prunes, The Shadows Of Knight, The Seeds, and The Remains. These bands were all influenced by the British Invasion, and because their enthusiasm and attitude far outstripped their musical abilities and sales figures, they were left to their own devices by otherwise occupied record labels. Taken individually, these songs are flashes of brilliance from obscure 60’s garage bands – collectively they represent the foundation of Punk rock.

The songs compiled here are living proof that great Rock & Roll doesn’t require great chops, and the number of bands influenced by that revelation is incalculable. But many of them started showing up in the mid-70’s, wearing leather jackets and playing a minimum-chord/no-solo form of primitive rock that came to be known as Punk. Nuggets is bare-knuckles tough, but much of it is also drenched in lysergic acid, and the songs here that don’t overtly reference tripping make up for it by aurally recreating the experience. The Thirteenth Floor Elevators, for example, is a band that shouldn’t be enjoyed while operating heavy machinery.

Amazingly, Nuggets still sounds fresh and vital – a timeless reminder that most bands are just a bunch of kids getting together for the love of music and trying to create something magical. And sometimes they even do…

Listen: I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night) [The Electric Prunes]

Listen: Pushin’ Too Hard [The Seeds]

Listen: You’re Gonna Miss Me [The Thirteenth Floor Elevators]

Listen: Psychotic Reaction [The Count Five]

*[Rhino released an expanded, 4 disc set in 1998]

*****

Nuggets is the 100th album to be featured as a ‘Masterpiece’ on this blog. Here are the rest, in order of appearance:

1) Led Zeppelin | Physical Graffiti [4/16/07]
2) The Stooges | Fun House [4/18/07]
3) Miles Davis | Kind Of Blue [4/21/07]
4) Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry | Arkology [5/3/07]
5) Van Morrison | Astral Weeks [5/5/07]
6) Pink Floyd | Wish You Were Here [5/14/07]
7) The Byrds | Untitled [5/17/07]
8) Minutemen | Double Nickels On The Dime [6/8/07]
9) Various Artists | Anthology Of American Folk Music [6/24/07]
10) The Flying Burrito Bros | The Gilded Palace Of Sin [7/7/07]
11) Nick Drake | Pink Moon [7/17/07]
12) The Beatles | Abbey Road [7/24/07]
13) Charles Mingus | Mingus Ah Um [8/6/07]
14) Duke Ellington | Ellington At Newport [8/8/07]
15) Hank Mobley | The Turnaround [8/11/07]
16) Elvis Presley | The Sun Sessions [8/16/07]
17) Funkadelic | Maggot Brain [8/21/07]
18) New York Dolls | New York Dolls [8/29/07]
19) Neil Young | After The Goldrush [9/2/07]
20) Marvin Gaye | What’s Going On [9/11/07]
21) AC/DC | Highway To Hell [9/14/07]
22) Johann Sebastian Bach | The Brandenburg Concertos [9/26/07]
23) The Rolling Stones | Some Girls [9/28/07]
24) Various Artists | The Harder They Come [10/7/07]
25) Miles Davis | Bitches Brew [10/12/07]
26) The Beach Boys | Pet Sounds [10/17/07]
27) Jeff Buckley | Grace [10/23/07]
28) Black Flag | Damaged [10/30/07]
29) Curtis Mayfield | Curtis/Live! [11/1/07]
30) Junior Wells | Hoodoo Man Blues [11/10/07]
31) Motorhead | No Remorse [11/13/07]
32) Spinal Tap | Spinal Tap [11/16/07]
33) Led Zeppelin | Led Zeppelin IV [11/24/07]
34) The Velvet Underground | Loaded [11/27/07]
35) Old & In The Way | Old & In The Way [12/1/07] *selected by The P
36) John Lennon | John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band [12/8/07]
37) Talking Heads | Remain In Light [12/11/07]
38) Parliament | Mothership Connection [12/16/07]
39) U2 | Achtung Baby [12/21/07]
40) Oscar Peterson | Night Train [12/24/07]
41) J.J. Johnson | The Eminent Jay Jay Johnson, Vol 2 [1/4/08]
42) Otis Redding | Live In Europe [1/9/08]
43) Pearl Jam | Ten [1/13/08]
44) Donald Byrd | Long Green [1/18/08]
45) The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band | Will The Circle Be Unbroken [1/22/08]
46) Sly & The Family Stone | There’s A Riot Goin’ On [1/28/08]
47) The Seeds | The Seeds [2/1/08]
48) The Beatles | Rubber Soul [2/6/08]
49) Marvin Gaye | Let’s Get It On [2/14/08]
50) Jimi Hendrix | Electric Ladyland [2/18/08]
51) Steve Earle | I Feel Alright [2/25/08]
52) Soundgarden | Superunknown [3/4/08]
53) Various Artists | Willie Wonka & The Chocolate Factory [3/9/08]
54) Culture | Two Sevens Clash [3/16/08]
55) Various Artists | Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack [3/23/08]
56) John Coltrane | A Love Supreme [3/30/08]
57) Fela Kuti | Zombie [4/7/08]
58) Joni Mitchell | Court & Spark [4/17/08]
59) Nirvana | Unplugged In New York [4/27/08]
60) Willie Nelson | Red Headed Stranger [4/30/08]
61) Neil Young & Crazy Horse | Rust Never Sleeps [5/15/08]
62) The Flaming Lips | Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots [5/19/08]
63) Black Sabbath | Master Of Reality [5/27/08]
64) Steely Dan | Greatest Hits 1972-1978 [6/2/08]
65) Beastie Boys | Check Your Head [6/7/08]
66) Cannonball Adderley | Somethin’ Else [6/13/08] *selected by The P
67) The Doors | L.A. Woman [6/18/08]
68) Quicksilver Messenger Service | Happy Trails [6/23/08]
69) INXS | Kick [7/1/08]
70) Buena Vista Social Club | Buena Vista Social Club [7/9/08]
71) The Rolling Stones | Exile On Main St. [7/17/08]
72) The Meters | Funkify Your Life: The Anthology [7/28/08]
73) Art Pepper | Intensity [8/6/08]
74) Van Halen | Van Halen [8/15/08]
75) Tom Waits | Rain Dogs [8/29/08]
76) The Temptations | Psychedelic Shack [9/7/08]
77) Toots & The Maytals | Funky Kingston [9/14/08]
78) Pink Floyd | Dark Side Of The Moon [9/20/08]
79) Johnny Cash | American Recordings [9/25/08]
80) Bob Dylan | Blood On The Tracks [10/6/08]
81) Thelonious Monk | Thelonious Himself [10/10/08]
82) Santana | Abraxas [10/20/08]
83) Joy Division | Closer [10/31/08]
84) Sam Cooke | A Change Is Gonna Come [11/5/08]
85) Judas Priest | British Steel [11/16/08]
86) Andres Segovia | The Segovia Collection [11/24/08]
87) Gerry Mulligan & Chet Baker | Mulligan/Baker [12/1/08]
88) Buzzcocks | Singles Going Steady [12/15/08]
89) Smashing Pumpkins | Siamese Dream [12/27/08]
90) Traffic | Traffic [1/7/09]
91) Eric Clapton | 461 Ocean Boulevard [1/14/09]
92) Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five | The Message [1/23/09]
93) John Martyn | Solid Air [1/30/09]
94) The Beatles | The White Album [2/6/09]
95) Radiohead | OK Computer [2/19/09]
96) T. Rex | Electric Warrior [2/26/09]
97) Ryan Adams | Heartbreaker [3/5/09]
98) Cheech & Chong | Cheech & Chong’s Greatest Hit [3/19/09]
99) Bob Marley & The Wailers | Exodus [3/25/09]
100) Various Artists | Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era (1965-1968) [4/3/09]

Masterpiece: The Seeds

1 February 2008

[Today: A nasty relic from a pioneering pre-pre-punk combo...]

The Seeds - album

Lots of 60’s groups acted tough, but The Seeds were the real deal. The photo on the back jacket of their self-titled 1967 album shows four guys who look like they’d enjoy nothing more than jamming your teeth down your throat for you. The music inside does little to dispel that menacing first impression. The band doesn’t play well, but they assault their instruments with a primitive aggression that translates into simple sonic perfection. Meanwhile, lead singer Sky Saxon goes about his business with a sour sneer that makes Mick Jagger sound positively polite.

The Seeds are an important link in the history of rock because they proved that it was possible to make powerful music without relying on technical perfection. Many other bands reached the same conclusion around the same time (some of the best are anthologized on Lenny Kaye’s historic Nuggets compilation), but The Seeds were the most raw, aggressive, nasty ensemble to make great music not in spite, but because of their musical limitations.

‘Pushin’ Too Hard’ and ‘Can’t Seem To Make You Mine’ were actually hits, but it was fool’s gold – The Seeds were not destined to become a household name. However, their rough and ragged sound inspired the next generation of primitive rockers (The Stooges, MC5, New York Dolls) who would in turn play a huge roll in the birth of punk music. It’s probably not the legacy that the group set out in search of, but it’s a fine legacy just the same.

Listen: Pushin’ Too Hard

Who Put The Bomp!

31 January 2008

Bomp! - Saving The World One Record At A Time

Greg Shaw was some kind of music fan. As a teenager in the mid-60s, he helped found the fanzine Mojo Navigator – one of the first publications to present serious writing about rock music, and a prime inspiration upon the birth of Rolling Stone. During this time, he secured the first published interview with The Doors. After Mojo Navigator folded he partnered with future wife Suzy to start up the highly influential magazine Who Put The Bomp! (later known as simply Bomp!), which Shaw then spun off into Bomp! Records, his Los Angeles record store and label of the same name.

Shaw was a true believer in the healing powers of rock & roll, and one of the early champions of the ‘garage bands’ of the 1960’s. In his world, The Standells were as big as The Beatles, and The Seeds were greater than The Stones. Incredibly, he predicted in print that the sound of his beloved garage bands would lead to a mid-70s music revival, accurately describing the punk movement three years before it happened.

Bomp! Records produced albums by many punk and post-punk luminaries, including Iggy Pop, Devo, and The Dead Boys. Shaw: “I know how to find good music that isn’t getting any exposure, and I can give it a little bit of exposure, and that gives me more pleasure and satisfaction than anything else I can think of doing.” He worked tirelessly doing just that until his death in 2004, along the way providing a guiding hand in the careers of modern day fuzzmeisters such as The Black Keys and The Black Lips.

Bomp! – Saving The World One Record At A Time serves as a scrapbook of – and tribute to – Greg Shaw’s work. Here Suzy Shaw and Bomp! contributor Mick Farren compile highlights of Shaw’s various publications, from his beginnings as a Tolkien/Hobbit geek all the way up to the lost mockup of the final, previously unpublished issue of Bomp!. It’s all presented in facsimile form, so it feels like you’re flipping through the original publications. This is a revealing look at the essence of a guy who believed that “fans should have absolute control over the direction of rock & roll” and lived his life as an example of how to make it happen.

*****

[The double-disc collection Straight Outta Burbank: The Bomp! 25th Anniversary Collection is an excellent primer on the sounds that Greg Shaw loved and worked hard to champion.]

*****

Read the New York Times’ obituary for Greg Shaw.


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