Thursday, 26 November 2015

Recovery Revival This Weekend

RAGE on the ABC are having a celebration of all things 90s Indie rock this weekend with repeats of their now-classic Saturday Morning show Recovery.

The show ran from 1996 until sometime in 2000. Why would anyone in 2015 really care about this show?

At the height of the Indie rock boom in the mid-90s came this program on Saturday morning, live to air, commercial free, with live performances, interviews and stories of interest to the Triple J crowd of the time. It gave voice to a series of young people who had very little television experience and a public stage for many bands for whom we might not have been able to see live anywhere else.

Recovery was truly a unique animal. Sure there were crazy variety shows on TV at the time, like Hey Hey It's Saturday, but they were mainstream and had different intentions for their audience. Recovery was completely off the chain, a 3-hour blast of anarchic mayhem where anything that was possible would probably happen, however unlikely. Led by eyebrow-ringed, skate-show wearing host Dylan Lewis, this program was somehow held together with his patience and off-beat personality.

Lewis was also a lightning rod for some of the show's more memorable on-air mishaps. For example, Frenzal Rhomb were interviewed by him while they decided to take an electric razor to his head. Green Day came on for an interview completed off their faces and proceeded to spend most of their interview swearing live to air before kicking the house band off their instruments and launching into two verses of their most recent swear-along anthem "The Grouch".

Along with some memorable performances, it was a program of the sort that just doesn't occur on TV anymore. There's too much at stake for such risk taking these days.

Towards the end of its run the show's format changed, to a shorter show with fewer (and then, in the last few shows, none) live performances as the then Liberal government (with its anti-ABC bias) squeezed the broadcaster's budget.

Above all the show was just damn good fun. For those who think nothing good musically happened after the 80s, take a look at this special on Saturday night...

Vale Cynthis Robinson, Sly and the Family Stone

It would be remiss of any music blog NOT to mark the passing of Cynthia Robinson, co-vocalist and trumpet player in Sly and the Family Stone.

Sly and the Family Stone were one of the first (and only) truly integrated and egalitarian bands to ever exist. They integrated male and female members, people of different races, and made some of the most vibrant and joyous music ever, at the height of the Woodstock era when there the Vietnam War was sapping everybody's faith in humanity.

Cynthia was at the forefront of this, sharing lead vocals with Sly Stone on many of their tracks, such as "I Want To Take You Higher", "Dance to the Music" and "Sing a Simple Song". She was the one exhorting us all do dance or, if you didn't feel like then "All the squares go home!"

She was also a formidable instrumentalist. Her trumpet solo on "I Want to Take You Higher" is a thing of beauty.

After 1970 Sly Stone became heavily addicted to various substances and the music became quite dark at times, however Cynthia's contributions never diminished. After the band imploded in 1975 she went on to play for former Family Stone member Larry Graham's Graham Central Station and with George Clinton.

Her contribution is underrated and deserves more attention. Vale Cynthia, you will be missed.

Monday, 23 November 2015

How did I miss it?

More and more frequently these days, I'm discovering great music from bands who have just recently broken up, having been toiling away for years under the radar for diminishing returns.

It frustrates me because I've missed them when they were active, the first time around. Especially if they were a local band whom I could have seen playing at a venue close to here. 

But why am I missing out? You see it's one thing to be a Gen X or Gen Y kid who has just discovered Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited" LP. It's totally another to discover a band last week whose nine year career came to an end 12 months ago. 

My hunch is that this is going to be an ongoing phenomenon for me as the years roll on. My theory as to why is this: 

As you read this right now, whether it is within a day of two of publication or 2 years down the track, at this very moment there is more music available to each of us in the world right now than there is available opportunities to listen to it. At the time of writing, Spotify and iTunes have libraries of 30 million-plus songs, and while they overlap they're not identical. They don't have copies of everything ever recorded (yet). 

There is no way anybody is ever going to be able to listen to all that music.  If you did ever listen to it just once, (factoring in the shortest of Guided by Voices tunes and the longest electric Miles Davis live jams to come up with an average song length of 4.5 minutes) it would take you 256.673 years before you started over at the beginning. 

Couple that with marketing - nobody can possibly be aware of every new release unless one is totally immersing themselves in release schedules and press releases. And even then...

With those statistics, it's almost inevitable I'll miss something along the way. It doesn't mean I'll stop searching for great new music. But it does explain why I will probably continue to have these "why didn't I discover this earlier" moments when it comes to finding new music. 

I just hope the creators of the music don't mind me turning up late to the party...

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Newcastle Music #5: v Spy v Spy - "One of a Kind"

Everyone knows and loves the Spies, but not everyone knows they basically formed when bassist Craig Bloxom and guitarist Mike Weiley met as students at Nelson Bay High School in the 1970s. They moved to Sydney, met drummer Cliff Grigg and the rest is history, really. They met and lived in the inner city abandoned buildings of pre-gentrified Sydney in the early 1980s when the band started out. They made a few reggae-fried EPs before signing with Midnight Oil's management and label Powderworks for the "Meet Us Inside" EP, from which this track is taken. After releasing their first LP "Harry's Reasons?" they moved onto WEA records and released 3 albums which are arguably their most famous works: "A.O. Mod. TV Vers", "Xenophobia (Why?)" and "Trash The Planet".

Craig Bloxom is now a commercial chef, but still reforms the band to go out on semi-regular tours. The band have a large following in South America, especially in Brazil.

This clip is filmed on the northside of Newcastle Harbour on Stockton Beach, at the wreck of the Sygna.

Newcastle Music #4: Muzzy Pep

Muzzy Pep were Maitland boys who have an esteemed place in Australian Music by being in the winners circle next to Grinspoon and Killing Heidi as winners of the original triple j Unearthed competition. This is one of their cleverly written bouncy pop songs with their usual intelligent lyrics.

After Muzzy broke up lead singer Errol went solo and released some great tunes under the name of Errol JM and guitarist Scott formed alt.Country band Great Dividing Range and then a proto-Guided By Voices pop band called Forever Since Breakfast

It was 20 years ago today...that the Beatles reunited

20 Years ago today The Beatles reunited for a mammoth TV retrospective called "The Beatles Anthology" with an accompanying 9LP/6CD Outtakes and rarities compilation to go with it.

To go along with it, they issued two singles, the first of which celebrates its 20th anniversary today. Entitled "Free As a Bird" it was reconstituted from a home cassette recorded demo by John Lennon. The other three assumed "John was away for the weekend" and finished it without him.

They enlisted the help of Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) frontman Jeff Lynne to produce the two singles. Longtime Beatles producer George Martin declined as his hearing was beginning to fail at that point. Lynne was a curious choice of producer. Suggested by George Harrison, as he'd produced his "Cloud Nine" LP and was a member of his group Travelling Wilburys, Jeff had no doubt fulfilled a dream of his by working with the Beatles.

You see, Jeff's work in ELO always took its cues from the Beatles' experiments with orchestral instruments: "Eleanor Rigby", "I Am The Walrus", "A Day In The Life" et al. ELO didn't necessarily succeed in sounding like The Beatles as Jeff may have envisaged. He did, however, succeed in making The Beatles sound like ELO.

You see, everything Jeff is credited as the producer on all sounds the bloody same as ELO. These two singles were no different. That doesn't make them bad. In fact they're quite listenable. It just doesn't make them as idiosyncratic as the rest of the Beatles' catalog. These sound more like footnotes or, more to the point, "afterthoughts" rather than worthy additions to the canon.

The video for "Free as a Bird" was beautifully animated, full of references to the Beatles folklore and history. After the song finishes proper, there's a strange little reprise that has some garbled message from John that has been warped to sound mysterious, and some ukulele playing in the style of George Formby, whom George Harrison was obsessed with at the time and onward in his later years.

As a single release it didn't set the charts alight, but it was perfect fodder for plugging the release of the "Anthology" which was responsible for repositioning the Beatles in the forefront of every music-lovers mind as the premier band of the Rock era, irrespective of how old you were.

Take a look at the video again below:

Friday, 20 November 2015

Newcastle Music #3: Heroes - "The Star And The Slaughter"

Contrary to popular belief, Cold Chisel were NOT on stage at the Star Hotel in 1979 the night the crowd rioted over the pub's closure. The band who were were called Heroes. Chisel memorialised the social upheaval surrounding the riot, as that resonated with their audience.

Heroes played that night for an emotional crowd for nearly 3 hours and when the band were starting their final encore, the police stormed the venue and tried to take the gear off the band, including the mic of the singer. The singer had his jaw promptly thumped in the scuffle and then it was on for young and old. A riot ensued with cars upturned and set on fire. 43 arrests were made and 12 injuries.

The sleevenotes to the Cold Chisel album "Chisel Gold" note that "The closing of the hotel on Wednesday, September 19, 1979 was the last straw for a generation which had seen massive unemployment, government cutbacks and little future in an age of economic rationalism. To take away rock & roll was good grounds for a stand-up fight which is what the police got when they arrived in force. Police cars were overturned and burnt, civilian cars were attacked and the Star riot – the largest public disturbance since the Springbok tours of the early Seventies – scared the shit out of the establishment."

Heroes issued this, their own memorial of the event on their first LP in 1980.

Newcastle Music #2: Hound - "Easy Way Out"

Hound, otherwise know as Vaseline Machine Gun, were a hard rock band formed in Newcastle in the early 90s.

These guys traded in Screaming Jets-styled riff-rock, with a vocalist that was a dead ringer for Bon Scott. Their 1994 EP was released under the moniker "Hound" presumably to avoid a lawsuit from the makers of Vasolene. Their 1996 album "Because He Can", named after a punchline to a lewd joke about dogs, sunk without a trace and the group were never heard of again.

Still not a bad listen however.

Newcastle Music #1: Tamam Shud - "Lady Sunshine"

Inspired by my Facebook challenge of posting seven songs in seven days, I have been looking at bands from Newcastle NSW. And why not? The Australian music scene is littered with brief flashes of brilliance with no lasting legacy. It's about time we created one...

Tamam Shud were a surf band originating out of various Newcastle R&B outfits, the most famous of which being the Sunsets, who had released a few singles through Festival Records in the mid-1960s.

These guys were apparently huge within the hippie/surf community along the East Coast in the late 60s (I wasn't born then so I'm only going on heresay)."Lady Sunshine" is taken from the soundtrack of a surf movie called "Evolution" by Paul Witzig. The band's follow up record was the first release on the newly formed Australian subsidiary of Warner Brothers records. Called "Goolutionites and the Real People" and released in 1970, it is now one of the holy grails of record collecting, with mint condition copies now worth the price of a small second hand car.

Probably the band's biggest claim to fame is their contribution to the soundtrack of the legendary surf movie "Morning of the Earth". The band split up not long after, only to reconvene again in 1995 for the LP "Permanent Culture" and in 2003 for the "Long Way To The Top" oldies package tour.