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Monday, 25 April 2011

Bizarre One Hit Wonder: "Neanderthal Man" by Hotlegs (1970)

Seeing as I mentioned this strange single release in the Ramases review which I unearthed recently, I thought it deserved a post of it's own.
Actually, thinking about the unexpected success of the 'song', I often think about how that success led to other events.
Manchester songwriters and musicians- Kevin Godley, Lol Creme and Eric Stewart had been experimenting in their combined lair known as Strawberry Studios, so named and inspired by The Beatles' chart hit, "Strawberry Fields Forever". Graham Gouldman was also a member of the in-house recording team, but was not part of this particular session.
They had been trying different ideas and techniques whilst recording drums, so they had chosen a rhythm and Lol Creme began to sing/chant some words to provide something for drummer Kevin Godley to keep in time to, seeing as this wasn't so much a track they were recording, but more to do with learning different recording techniques.

Seeing as they had quite a few people passing through their studio to either record or rehearse material, there were often people asking these young session musicians how things were shaping up and also asking what they themselves had been up to recently. One such man was the Phillips label boss Dick Leahy, who had previous contact with some of the lads from the mid 1960s, where they had all been involved in either performing or songwriting with different groups. After enquiring as to what exactly they'd been up to, they had told Leahy- "oh nothing really", but still played this drum and recording experiment. Leahy was absolutely blown away on the spot and pronounced what he heard almost straight away saying "It's a hit....I'd buy it!". Quite a strange reaction from a label boss especially on hearing something that wasn't exactly a 'pop song'!
The name Hotlegs was chosen after the nickname the studio owners had for their studio secretary Kathy Redfern, she also used to turn heads especially when she would wear short skirts or that eras fashion statement for young females- hot pants.

It would seem that Kathy was quite influential to the four musicians, as when they later found fame as 10CC, she would often provide a view to some of their later recordings and experiments. She was the one who asked them not to throw away a song called "I'm Not In Love", one of the best love songs she had ever heard, which was almost certainly heading for the bin until a more positive light was thrown it's way.  This dreamy song was penned by Eric Stewart, who when asked about what led to it's inspiration, said that although he loved his wife, to keep saying the phrase "I love you" seemed to lose it's meaning when heard so often.
After the song was refined and reshaped, Kathy was asked to add the "big boys don't cry" spoken vocal which appears in the middle of that song, a song which in hindsight, was also a big slice of technical innovation long before the advent of digital sampling and recording.
Also, strange things abound when you think how by pure chance, different events and decisions, lead on to greater things.
Strawberry Studios hosted some big names who recorded there like the Syd Lawrence Orchestra,  Neil Sedaka and Paul McCartney and it was also the place where, in April 1979, Joy Division recorded their stunning debut album.

Kathy Redfern: Inspirational secretary

The site of Strawberry Studios in Stockport, Cheshire, North-East England.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

It's in the trees #2

Prompted by my mate who does the Spent Time Blog, who said it was high time I did another 'trees post', here is the second installment, showcasing some mighty fine trees. The first photo is the one he sent me to include in the post.
It's a very bizarre looking specimen that could be some sort of petrified Kraken or even Lovecraft's Cthulu incarnate(!). It's location is in Hawkstone Park golf course in Shropshire, England.

The second selection are from the grounds of the great Soughton Hall (Plas Sychdyn) in the village of Sychdyn, Flintshire, North Wales. The actual hall looks like something that could have been used either in an old Hammer Horror classic, or maybe an episode of Man In A Suitcase.

The last batch shows what was named 'The Ugly Tree' from sometime in my childhood. Far from ugly of course, it is located at Bryn Eithin, which is on the road up to Moel Fammau, which is on the road out of Mold towards Rhuthun in Flintshire, North Wales. There were a few spring lambs about and as you see in the last photo, some black and white ones which look like miniature frisian cows!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Scary 1970s very afraid....

...not so much a case of 'lock up your daughters, sisters or mothers', more like 'lock up anything with a backbone and a pulse'! These chaps knew what they wanted and knew how to get it!  arrrrrrgh!   

(click images to enlarge and to also read the sales pitch!)

Review: Kato Mori Frith - Death Ambient (Released 1995 on Tzadik)

First put online on the Head Heritage website in 2004

Kato Hideki - Bass Guitar

Ikue Mori - Drum Machines

Fred Frith - Guitar

A brief look at the people involved.
Ikue Mori played drums as part of DNA in the late 1970s, a group which was part of New York's 'No Wave' scene which raised more than a few eyebrows as they pushed the boundaries of Punk/Avant/Freeform and crossed over into each territory, much to the alarm and/or delight of all who witnessed them.
She has since become one of the shining lights in the 'improv' world with her manipulation of the drum machine amongst many other pursuits.

Kato Hideki was an original member of Japan's powerhouse collective- Ground Zero in the early 1990s.
He recorded with Bass Army- a Japanese trio of bass players (!), he has also performed live with the likes of John Zorn (the man behind the Tzadik label), Turntable magician Otomo Yoshide and ex-Scorn/Napalm Death/Painkiller player- Mick Harris.

Fred Frith was a member of the leftfield 1970s British outfit Henry Cow, he was also in their later 'incarnation'- The Art Bears and has since gone on to release a string of solo recordings and has had just 'one or two' collaborations under his creative belt as well as being called for his services to a wide range of music makers including The Residents and Robert Wyatt.

As with most of the releases on Zorn's Tzadik imprint, you can never predict just what you are going to hear- but there will be one thing for sure- it's going to be an album of incredible sound composition and experimentation.

When you see the line-up of guitar, bass guitar and drum machine, you would probably expect an updated version of the late Metal Urbain!
To expect this array of instruments to be limiting, would be to say that a pen and paper is limiting, but equip these ultra talented individuals with them (, bass and drum machine that is!) and a grand tapestry of sound soon enfolds.

Hideki's bass tones are an overall wash in themselves, whilst the doctored and midi- driven drum machines in Mori's hands produce sounds which have you scratching your head and finding it hard to believe the origin of their source.

Fred Frith is an incredible guitarist, one of the few people who can just have a basic guitar to amp set up- with almost no effects (apart from his trusty volume pedal) and coax tones and colours in a kaleidoscope of scrapes, plucks, brushes and strums.
He's not afraid to use something more than a plectrum either- shoe polishers have been known to be part of his many accessories.
This music does have to have time to grow on you though, especially with those unfamiliar with any of the names here.

Tracks like "Imperial Thorn" have an almost Ennio Morricone feel, all rubber band bass dumps with Frith flicking trebled phrases into the air which gauge the landscape with Mori's reverbarating and spiked percussives.
"Alchemy" is a very fitting title for the groups manouveres with Mori providing some glass droplets from her machines as Frith and Hideki provide a 'quiet happening'.

"Broken Blue" is a sonic conversation with some wonderfully odd guitar sounds, some heavy drummachineing (ha!) and sparse bass notes.
Sparse is the operative word with these tracks and to carve these odd but magnificent snapshots, relies on the seasoned ears of the people involved.

"Flash" is one of the longer pieces at just over 5 minutes.
But it unfolds into a mini-barrage of low rumbling bass figures, feedback enriched guitar while a swarm of god-knows-what rises out of Mori's pandoras box of tricks.

The final track-"Ways Out" has a Frith playing a delicate succession of chords to a slow thump rhythm.

I suppose 'Death Ambient' is a good description for this odd but 'rewarding' CD and is far from what some might think of as being 'arty noodling'.

The trio took on board the name Death Ambient, releasing another album of their sonic photos entitled "Synaesthesia", a word which, when looked up in the dictionary, gives the telling description, which you could apply to this collection of works from these musical explorers:

"A condition in which one type of stimulation evokes the sensation of another, as when the hearing of a sound produces the visualization of a colour".

Made by explorers....for explorers.

Written by Tim Jones march 2004

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Genius at work...

(any excuse to post something about Michael Gira)

...I think that apart from the fact that he writes some great songs and constructs marvellous music with the help of some fine musicians, the other factor is that he has really lived a real turbulent life in his earlier years and also worked really hard in countless shite jobs whilst being in total poverty and has been in some very unsavoury predicaments in his life, but it all adds to his whole spectrum of life experience which has fed and continues to feed his creativity....the range of emotions in every stage of his recorded output through the years is truly dynamic, he also has a great grasp of experimenting with sound and bringing the best out of the folks he works with too... plus he has an incredible voice!

Swans info here...

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Review: Ramases - Space Hymns (Released 1971 on Vertigo)

First put online on the Head Heritage website in 2004

Ramases: Vocals
Sel: Vocals

Eric Stewart: Guitars, Moog Synthesizer
Lol Creme: Guitars, Moog Synthesizer, Piano
Graham Gouldman: Guitar, Bass Guitar
Kevin Godley: Drums, Percussion, Flutes
Martin Raphael: Sitar

First things first, anyone who likes the more 'folk' drenched albums associated with the former World Serpent related groups-e.g. Current 93, Orchis etc., or any people seduced by older albums by the likes of Dr.Strangely Strange, Incredible String Band, Comus etc., then you would probably take to this, although, it doesn't necessarily sound the same as any of those names mentioned, but you could maybe relate to it.

Housed in a lavish fold-out album sleeve with a remarkable Roger Dean painting depicting a rocket bursting up into the night sky, this would catch many a person's eye in the early 1970s, especially when you opened out the full package and see that the 'rocket' is in fact a church steeple which has launched upwards being disengaged from the building!

A friend of mine bought this album on the strength of the cover alone, a few years after it's initial release.
As you could imagine, our close throng of teenage ears were eager to hear what this was all about, a blistering onslaught of german progressive keyboard workouts maybe??

Wrong! that time I/we thought it was a load of daft folky-driven, non-descript nonesense and proceeded to give said friend a hard time when the usual bouts of playful group mocking sessions would unfold.....a simple mention of the name 'ramases' would always be a sure-fire retort when one such skit would fly my way (sorry Steve!).

For years later, I would often think about this's cover, it's odd songs and (in particular) the solarised photo on the inside cover of the album showing a shaven-headed Ramases and his wife Sel standing side by side with their right arms out-stretched, each holding aloft a frail shaft of corn. I then managed to 'secretly' obtain a copy of the LP myself.

The Ramases story is an odd but interesting one and yet not without a sad, unjust ending.

Martin Raphael aka Barrington Frost aka Ramases, was born in Sheffield, England in the late 1930s and after teaching physical education in the army, went on to make a living selling central-heating systems in Scotland.....until the Egyptian God Ramases appeared to him and told him the true meaning of the Universe.
With no time to lose, he adopted his new moniker and thought the best way to get the message across would be to inform the youth of the day.
In 1968 he secured a recording contract with CBS(!) and released the single- "Crazy One/Mind's Eye" by Ramases & Selket.
In 1970 he signed to Vertigo and entered Strawberry Studios in Stockport with the future members of 70s UK pop act- 10 CC.

"Life Child"-
Echoed, distant flutes resound down the valley as the music then fades in with wah-wah guitar, heavily strummed acoustic guitar and fairly solid drums. There's a very fitting psyche-guitar section in the middle, probably to hook the punters in on first spin.
Well, it was always the first track you would hear, if you asked the record shop staff to play an album out of the racks or if you were lucky enough to get a headphone booth.
It's also laced with some buzzing bass synth notes and builds up quite a pace after Ramases sings such lines as-

"I see the wreckage on the ground... Life Child!"

"Oh Mister"-
A song that I thought was daft years ago, sounds great fun now with it's- 'If you can't play along, bang on some percussion' commune feel.

"And The Whole World"- is a melancholy folk song that I can't listen to sometimes as it gives me an incredible rush of sadness.
The power of 'simplistic' music....from the other end of the spectrum.
There's a nice short vibes solo too.

This is where the oddness is though, as the next track-
"Quasar One"- has Ramases and Sel singing with strange nasal tones and puzzling lyrics.
Percussion, guitar and bass merge together with slightly feverish chanting that builds up (and out) twice, before dreamily drifting off before those nasal vocals come in again. An excellent, blissful track.

At a running time of just over two minutes and consisting of the line-"You're the only one Joe, the only one", the track, yeah, you guessed it! -
"You're The Only One" can be forgiven for scratching your head and thinking "what the....???"
I don't know, what IS the strange pull of all this...?, this track, over the years, often plays in a loop in my head...not suprising as the line is repeated over 30 times.

Just when you think you are going further towards going round THAT bend...

"Earth-People"- comes in via something that sounds like backward tape church-organ before acoustic guitar strumming and backwards flute gives Ramases the cue to sing-

"After I've travelled the deserts of Zeus
After I've heard the birth of a planet
After I've journeyed the oceans of silence
After I've found how true they are............"

The sound is so becalmed, especially by Sel's marvellous vocals and more flutes weaving through the voices.

"Molecular Delusions"-
Buzzes of sitar (credited to his former-self!), Ramases sings distant megaphone lines alternating with multi-tracked vocals that chant the title in slow repetition.
Trivial but bizarre and I'll mention it anyway, you can also hear the word "fuck" spoken very clearly, coming out of the left speaker just a minute or so into the song, which makes you think- Was it a mistake? Did he spill some tea in the studio? We'll never know.
There's a pleasant overall 'eastern touch' to this, which again is great in that it creates a very relaxed mood.

Is a more straight-ahead sing-a-long song, with later washes of background synth as the song is relayed with loaded statements-

".....don't burst your bubble....the air's your bubble.....don't burst your bubble or you're in trouble....."

To drive the point home the song leads to a reverberated moog blast which bursts it all to a sudden close.
A single version was recorded and released in 1971 with the synth effects more pronounced.

"Dying Swan Year 2000"-
Solo voices sing about 'beautiful things dying' while people look away.
Not a minute in length and yet it's got quite a chill to it.

"Jesus"- is another very melancholy song. It gives me a shudder when I hear it, similar to the feel of the previous 'And The Whole World' in it's
ability to make you feel helpless with sadness, but also like hearing some kind of strange eerie christian cult record.
Goosebumps never fail, especially with Sel's frail "aah aah" backing vocals at the end of certain lines.

"Journey To The Inside"- closes the album and begins with some strange low thudding synth noise and sounds like the needle has stuck on the run-out groove.
It loses the 'traditional' instrumentation in favour of rapid breathing backward tape-loops and curving low moogs and high pitched jittering synth twitters...
"Oh...what are you going to do with me..." -he intones as the moogs become on the verge of going out of control as they fade to bring the track to a close, but not before a conversation captured in the studio between Ramases and the players and studio hands, ending with cosmic words from the man himself....

"....but I think it goes further than that...I go into a molecular thing as well....the comparative distances between electrons and nuclei in molecules in every very comparative to the distances in our own solar system...if you took a pill to get smaller and you...vanished... get smaller and smaller and vanished inside that chair that you're sitting....."

One of the strangest albums I've ever heard, in the way the melancholy nature surrounds you but doesn't drag you down.

It's also very addictive, although you CERTAINLY won't believe it on the first few listens.
It has now been issued on CD by Repertoire Records.

Another album was released in 1975 named "Glass Top Coffin" (also on Vertigo).
Then nothing else was heard until reports surfaced with the news of his death (by suicide) in the early 1990s.

The book "England's Hidden Reverse" by David Keenan, detailing the stories of the groups Nurse With Wound, Current 93 and Coil, features a small photo of the Ramases & Selket debut 45 picture-sleeve on the front cover photo-collage, Current 93's David Tibet being a fan of Ramases for many years.

In 1970, just before 10CC found pop success, they had recorded a simplistic but excellent single -"Neanderthal Man"- under the name 'Hotlegs'.
This bizarre chant-driven song, got to number 2 in the UK charts, number 22 in the US and a number One slot in Italy.
It sold over 2 million copies worldwide.
Elton John, who was an unknown session player at this time, also recorded a version for a budget-priced LP collection of sound-alike hits.

It was revealed years later, that this song, in lyrics, style and content, had been 'lifted' from the Ramases/Sel repertoire.

Written by Tim Jones october 2004

Monday, 21 February 2011

It's in the trees #1

No. 1 in an occasional series of interesting looking trees. This grand looking specimen with some great twists and shapes in it's trunk, was located at Gwysaney Hall near Mold, Flintshire, North Wales.  

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Tears of joy time: Something for the weekend.

A great clip of The Small Faces playing live on German TV in 1966. I love the opening bars where the late great Ronnie Lane is thumping hell out of his semi-acoustic bass which leads into a cracking performance from all four concerned.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Mag Blag: A date with Fate

(click images to enlarge)

(click images to enlarge)

Lady Gaga - Is she still a puppet of sinister dark forces and the New World Order?

Baphomet's Girl

Whilst sorting out and clearing out a few bookmarks as you do, I came across an article from a while back that I'd saved from the Vigilant Citizen site. It concerns that marvellous and talented young gun, Lady Gaga. Now even if you think said article is maybe going off on quite a wild tangent, regarding the occult connections between our world famous shining star and the dark forces of our sinister world rulers, it still makes for amusing reading to say the least. 
Plus, reading the comments after the article reveals quite a few people whose heads have been popped by the article. But, nothing throws all the conspiracy ranting out of the window, like the fervour and devotion of the Lady Gaga fan which is distilled by the likes of 'Isabella', the last to comment.