1977: Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols

BollocksPunk freaks a lot of people out. It should. That’s its job. Well, not its job so much as its point.

When the physical force from the hand-shakers, the whistle-stoppers, the marketing executives and the self-proclaimed pretty faces (telling you what toothpaste “real” men prefer) strong-arms the poor, the isolated, the abhorred, the shunned and the ugly (a term invented by pushers of beauty products as a counter for what constitutes “beauty”), the thin line separating the “ordinary” from the “irregular” breaks. Wars are started over such actions. Lives are lost and serenity is disfigured.

“Anger can be power.” – Joe Strummer of The Clash

From the charred rubble of society rockets a familiar phrase longing to reach the ears of the desperate that question if such a powerful phrase could exist. A phrase silenced and eradicated by the powerful, yet so innate to our most basic of human instincts. The phrase: It doesn’t have to be this way. Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols gave a voice to that phrase; a voice that, because of legal battles with the Magistrates’ Court, record label arrests, and outcries from the feeble masses, almost wasn’t heard.

I’m a believer in giving credit where credit is due. The Ramones are often credited as the first “official” Punk band, so, yay Ramones, but they don’t come close to matching the social impact unleashed by the Sex Pistols… and the Sex Pistols only released one studio album! Surprisingly tame by today’s standards, the music on Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols is secondary to its message. The tracks are catchy, the lyrics are in-your-face and often intentionally hilarious. Well produced and professionally executed, this album isn’t near as abrasive as one would think given all the trouble surrounding its release.

Sub MissionPunk is present to force the masses to question their decisions. The hoi polloi hate Punk because it makes them look at themselves and recognize their abundant shortcomings and their sheepish declarations. They know they’re feeding a corrupt and biased system but they don’t want to be bothered to remember. I know. I’m one of them. But the idea behind Punk, albeit a nightmare for some, is the saving grace for those whose voices are subdued.

Greed is a learned trait. The desire for power and wealth by means of silencing those who oppose you is the backbone of a Capitalist society. The Sex Pistols recognized this. They stood atop a mountain of vehement listeners and shouted, “It doesn’t have to be this way!”

Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols is Shakespeare to authors, columnists and poets alike. It stands as one of the most monumental moments in music, and was a turning point in 20th Century history. It is, by all means, a necessity.

1976: Open Sesame

Open SesameCuts so deep, they hit the bone! Robert “Kool” Bell and his groove-Gang deliver brass-happy, (b)ass-slappin’, tummy-rubbin’, good-time-Saturday-night, Funk & Blues (F&B) music. There must have been a sizable influx of babies born 9-months after the release of this album.

Kool and the Gang effortlessly transition from dance floor front-runners to dusty, sun-filled, carefree, early evening comfort music. Because, you know, you need to get-down-on-it just as often as you need that lazy stroll through the park with your hands in your pockets. Kool was hip to this, and it’s apparent throughout Open Sesame.

A very, very upbeat album, Open Sesame’s main focus is, without a doubt, the single most popular theme throughout all pop music: Love. With titles like, Gift of Love, L-O-V-E, and the 3-minute lyrical chant of “Whisper you love me” on the Side 2 opener, Whisper Softly, Kool and the Gang make no effort to hide the untimely power that drives their feel-good approach to making excellent groove music.

Fan Club InfoThe highlight to this album would have to be Super Band. With lyrics like, “Super-cali-FUNK-a-listic-expi-ali-docious, the Super Band,” how could you not fall in love with this band? I mean, they’re super! They say so themselves!

1976 must have been a 365-day party. It’s no wonder the masses were hung-over for 1977 and the early beginnings of arguably the most important genre in the history of music: Punk.

1975: Pictures at an Exhibition

TomitaCapitalizing on the early 70’s popularity of reinvented “Electronic” adaptations of Classical classics, Isao Tomita focuses on the 1874 suite by Russian composer, Modest Mussorgsky, titled, Pictures at an Exhibition. Isao Tamita creates a very dark and dreary wall of impending, electronic-doom-music… AND IT’S AWESOME!

70’s Electro was made famous in large part by Walter/Wendy Carlos’ invigorating take on the works of Ludwig van Beethoven in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. Although the back sleeve accurately indicates that (up to that time) electronic instruments had only been around for nearly 50 years (with the ethereal launch of Leon Theremin’s well, Theremin in 1927), there were only a small handful of “Electronic” albums obtainable by the social conscious. Four that I can think of are 1) the groundbreaking Soundtrack to Forbidden Planet in 1956, 2) George Harrison’s first studio album (yes, THAT George Harrison), 1969’s Electronic Sound, 3) Walter Carlos’ 1968 debut, Switched-On Bach, and 4) the 1966 release of The In Sound from Way Out! by Perrey and Kingsley.

Tomita BackCreating electrified modernizations of decades-old classics must have been difficult for some to digest in the mid 1970’s… boy were those narrow-minded purists in for a treat when Disco hit just a few short years later.

The late 60’s/early 70’s electronic movement is definitely something to explore. To say it is little more than a Classical suite or symphony with an electronic filter would completely sell this infant-like genre depressingly short. The guitar, invented in the 13th Century, didn’t get electrified until the 1930’s. Electronic music has yet to hit its centennial mark… imagine its overwhelming future. Isao Tomita did, and it’s evident by his work on Pictures at an Exhibition.

1974: Who’s on First?

Who's on the Cover? Naturally.Today we take a look at the record; a 12” spherical disc, not only as a vehicle for music, but also as an interactive time capsule for important, historical milestones. Although it need not be stated that the contents of today’s post preceded 1974 by over three decades, the release of this record is significant because it offered, arguably, the most famous comedy routine ever to be recorded, to a legion of new listeners. I am, of course, referring to Bud Abbott & Lou Costello’s classic, Who’s on First?

The classic baseball routine is as renowned as Baseball itself. Abbott & Costello’s Who’s on First? is Baseball’s unofficial psalm. It was so perennial, that Time magazine deemed it the Best Comedy Sketch of the 20th Century. Who knew this sketch would be so loved by so many people? He did. Who did? Naturally…

BackstopWho’s on first? is as synonymous with Baseball as Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson, and Rickey Henderson. And since the baseball season is underway (seems as though nobody informed the Milwaukee Brewers), I felt it appropriate to focus on this release from 1974 above all others.

This timeless compilation also offers a Moby Dick sketch, a Hertz U-Drive sketch and a complete broadcast of The Abbott & Costello Show, “exactly as heard on November 9, 1944.” A must for comedy and Baseball fans alike, Abbott & Costello’s Who’s on First? will forever live on wherever Baseball is played. Enjoy!

1973: Tres Hombres

Tres HombresI’d mistakenly written-off ZZ Top by the time I saw them at Alpine Valley in 2003. It took less than a minute into their first song for me to realize how strikingly wrong I had been about this Texas Blues-Rock band.

I’m not going to tell you anything you don’t already know about these guys. Yes, they formed in 1969. Yes, they’ve been around for over 40 years, yes they are still touring and yes, the three members have ALWAYS been Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard (listed on the back of this album as Rube Beard). What I will impart on you is the desperate suggestion of not doing what I did. Don’t write-off this band without giving them a proper listen. This is 1973, and this is American Blues-Rock at its finest.

Tres Hombres (translates to “Three Men,” courtesy of The Prudent Groove) is ZZ Top’s first Top Ten record, and the band’s third release overall. Although ZZ Top’s First Album (1971) and Rio Grande Mud (1972) offered a glimpse of the unquestionable talents of these “Three Men,” it wasn’t until Tres Hombres and its soul-crushing hit, La Grange, that the music world saw just how incredible this Texas band was.

TracksLa Grange is a nonstop, blood-boiling staple of Blues inspired Rock ‘n’ Roll. It’s chock-full of hard-rocking fire with a groove so catchy, you’ll swear you’re hearing it blasting from a dead-silent room. If you ask me, ZZ Top never reached the creative watermark set by La Grange, but looking back at their extensive catalog throughout their 44-year existence, they’ve come pretty damn close a number of times.

Do yourself a favor and pay attention to those rumors spreading around about that brothel outside La Grange, Texas. Word has it they have a lot of nice girls-ah! Oh, and don’t forget a ten-spot for the door.

1972: You Don’t Mess Around with Jim

Croce CoverAs far as solo songwriters go, there are three that loom atop all others. Presented in no particular order, because honestly, how could you logically rank these three? First is Van Morrison, who is probably the most obvious of the three. Second is Paul Simon, who is perhaps the most critically acclaimed of the bunch due to his hugely successful duo before branching out and going solo, and last but certainly not least, is Jim Croce.

Croce kind of flies under the radar when grouped with the great Morrison and Simon. His gentle, free-spirited storytelling, his whimsical acoustic guitar work, his clever, heartfelt and often hilarious lyrics, and the fact that he accomplished his timeless arsenal of music by the time of his untimely death at the age of 30 sets him apart from the aforementioned pair. The fact that the bulk of his success happened, unfortunately, after he passed, doesn’t take away from the emotional weight of his music.

LyricsYou Don’t Mess Around with Jim was Croce’s third and most successful album, spending 93 weeks on the charts. Due to the extraordinary single, Time in a Bottle, which peaked a year after his unfortunate plane crash, You Don’t Mess Around with Jim was the best selling album for five weeks in 1974. It’s sad ol’ Jim wasn’t around to see how many people admired his great work.

R.I.P. Mr. Croce. 1972 belongs to you.

1971: Bet I’ll Six!!

Rich - After HoursI didn’t get into “Craps” – After Hours until 1998, some 27-years after its initial release. This mundane fact, however, doesn’t detract from the laugh-out-loud hilarity offered by the “Crowned Prince of Comedy… His Royal Highness, Richard Pryor.”

I’ll humbly admit, that it was the Beastie Boys who inadvertently introduced me to the Great Comic Wizard. It was the sampling of Mr. Pryor’s, “I ain’t goin’ no place. MOVE me!” that starts Flute Loop, from the 1994 issued, Ill Communication that hooked me. If the Beasties sampled it, in my mind, it must be good. A philosophy still practiced to this day.

Craps is a vulgar, adolescent-minded, orgy-inducing nightmare of laughs. Keep in mind I’m focusing on this album instead of The Kinks’ 1971 country-influenced album, Muswell Hillbillies. For those who know me, they know that’s a BIG deal. For those who don’t know me, that’s a BIG deal. It doesn’t get any better than The Kinks… unless, of course, you’re talking about Richard Pryor.

Track ListThe astounding number of quotable one-liners from this album is enough to force any up-and-coming comedian to return to their pizza delivery job. Rich’s cocaine-induced flow is unmatched in terms of laughs per minute (LPM’s). Pulling absolutely NO punches, Richard Pryor suggests the scenario of a white president (at that time Tricky Dick Nixon) having a black baby, the genitalia-arousing boxing skills of Sugar Ray Robinson, a marriage proposal perfectly coupled with a male’s sexual release (I’m trying REALLY hard to keep these descriptions PG), spousal orgy advice, and an adolescent Rich’s response to the inquiry of a concerned father over what his daughter is doing behind a locked door… here’s a spoiler, Rich doesn’t have any pants on.

These are just a few of the MANY examples of comedic genius delivered on this essential album. If you’re in the mood for funny, it doesn’t get any better than Richard Pryor.

1970: Long As I Can See the Light/Lookin’ Out My Back Door

Light LabelFor the next 30 posts, or until I get bored, the post number will correspond with the year in which the post’s subject was released. It could be an album review, a song highlight, or an insert advert. The choices are by no means the best of any given year, nor are they my favorite. They are instead a representation of the digable grooves in my collection, broken down by year. With me? Ok, cool.

For 1970 (post #70), I’ve chosen CCR’s (Creedence Clearwater Revival) Long As I Can See the Light/Lookin’ Out My Back Door 45. CCR had some driving, Southern Rock-inspired jams in their heyday, and Long As I Can See the Light is NOT one of them. This is not to say it is inferior in any way. On the contrary. With its simple lyrics and low-key, slow-rollin’ drawl, Long As I Can See the Light reminds us that we can always go back to where we came from, so long as the offer is still extended. We all, at one point or another, feel the need to move on… to explore the vast unknown of uncertainty. But we’d like not to dismiss the comfort of returning home, when it becomes undeniably necessary.

Back Door LabelI can’t hear Lookin’ Out My Back Door and not picture the Dude smokin’ a jay and banging the roof of his car to Doug Clifford’s beat. It was used perfectly in The Big Lebowski, but given the song’s brilliance, I’d imagine this song would fit perfectly in any film that featured it.

My favorite line is, without question, “A dinosaur Victrola listening to Buck Owens.” In a song bursting with visual abnormalities (“A statue wearing high heals” or “Tambourines and elephants are playing in the band” for example), the image of an old Victrola shouting Buck Owens ditties always makes me chuckle. It’s easy to picture John Fogerty mentally returning to a happy place during the drug-induced hallucination he sings about in this song, and it’s generous of him to take us along on that ride.

I could have easily focused on Zeppelin III, Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround – Part One, Dylan’s Self Portrait, McCartney’s solo debut, Joni Mitchell’s Ladies of the Canyon, or even Bitches Brew, but for me, 1970 screams Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Post 69: The Way to Groove and the Way to Suck Eggs

ΚΕΦΑΛΗΞΘ

Officially titled ΚΕΦΑΛΗΞΘ, Ministry’s 1992 release is often referred to by its alternate banner: Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs. Industrial Metal’s junky grandfathers, Al Jourgensen and Paul Barker (Hypo Luxa and Hermes Pan, their respected aliases as music producers), close out their undeniable stint of groundbreaking Industrial Metal with this, the third major release by the Jourgensen/Barker brigade. Ministry had been releasing New Wave BS since 1983, but it’s unlistenable. They REALLY didn’t start until Barker joined in 1988. “We call it, the departure point.” – Bruce McCulloch

Starting with 1988’s The Land of Rape and Honey, and continuing with 1989’s The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste, 1990’s In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up (their live, and best in my opinion), and finally with 1992’s ΚΕΦΑΛΗΞΘ, Ministry single handedly created the iconic Industrial Metal sound. Pretty boy Trent Reznor and his vastly inferior NIИ be damned! About the only ups Mr. Reznor had was that he could control his heroin habit, thus granting him more commercial success. (I still can’t take Nine Inch Nails seriously, but I will admit their viral campaign for Year Zero was pretty amazing.)

ΚΕΦΑΛΗΞΘ starts with the Grammy nominated N.W.O. (losing out to pretty boy’s Wish), followed by Just One Fix (the 12” cover to this single features the William S. Burroughs painting, Last Chance Junction and Curse on Drug Hysterics, btw).

photo(1)Track 3 is the second in the TV series. A collection of various samples from obscure television shows set to a bed of Industrial thorns. TV III, the non-album track on 1995’s The Fall single is arguably my favorite Ministry song, but that’s a post for another time.

Track 4 features samples from the hit 80’s cartoon, G.I. Joe, and is titled, Hero. Jesus Built My Hotrod follows, then comes arguably the only skippable track on the album, track 6’s Scarecrow. This unfortunate cloud is quickly lifted and all but forgotten by the title track, Psalm 69… clearly the climax of the album.

Corrosion and Grace round out the album, offering well deserved breathers after an intense, Industrial workout.

ΚΕΦΑΛΗΞΘ, or Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs is by far not Ministry’s best, but it does neatly sum up an unparalleled 5-year adventure, unimagined by anyone before, and untouched by anyone since.

April Come She Will

Sounds CoverApril has come (as if you didn’t know), and she brought with her an excuse to write about one of my all-time favorite songs: Simon & Garfunkel’s April Come She Will.

You wouldn’t know by listening to it, but it’s actually a pretty short song. Clocking in at only 1:49, April Come She Will is the shortest track on the 1966 masterpiece, Sounds of Silence. Although written by Paul, April’s sweet melodic melon collie was sung by Art. It must have been difficult for Mr. Garfunkel to go to work each day. I mean, sure, Art Garfunkel is great in his own right… great singer, great range, but his partner is Paul freakin’ Simon! One wonders how powerful Simon & Garfunkel would have been without Art. Maybe he was the man behind the successful curtain. Who knows?

April LyricsApril Come She Will is the prefect soundtrack for those moments when you just wished you were somewhere else. Alone, walking between silent, somber trees, or alone, walking amongst a sea of warm strangers, this dreary song reminds us that new eventually becomes old, and judging by the song’s length, how quickly that can happen. A kind of hopeless notion if you think about it.

May April offer you blossoming new beginnings, and may September not rob you of the aging beauty of those beginnings. Old doesn’t need to lose its alluring frenzy. We just need to be reminded of how new it once was. Here’s hoping September doesn’t forget to remind us.