In 1978, Vic Godard was considered by many, and in particular the musical press, as one of the punks who would become a star, or at least, would do a long and fruitfull career. We were all wrong and it is a great waste. I don't really know what happened in Vic's brain in 1979 and 1980, but he decided to dramatically changed his mind about his musical direction, and if his first album was quite an achievement (but not as much as a Subway Sect album building a sound on this single would have been), his later lounge style did please me at the time but retrospectively, seems a commercial suicide. But maybe it could have worked, I don't know. When it was released, I remember thinking he was trying to become commercial and not that he was trying to kill himself artistically. However, he failed. But back in 1978. With "Ambition", he signed one of the greatest songs of the punk wave. Somewhere between Buzzcocks and the Only Ones, with echoes of Television and Marc Bolan, it is all punk needed to become. Using strange little organ sounds and not the usual punk drumming, avoiding any "new wave" tendency such as XTC or Wire were driving what was first a brutal and simplistic music, Vic Godard and his Subway Sect was really doing something important for the future of the movement. Spectacularily, this song did not lose any of its emotional potential and has travelled through the years quite well. If you are one of those thinking that punk was a bad flash in a loosy pan, give it a try here. "Different Story", the B-side (with the text on the cover) is also excellent.
Here's the lyrics of "Ambition"
You can take it or leave it as far as we're concerned. Because we're not concerned with you. What you want is buried in the present tense. Blind alleyways allay the jewels". I am a dried-up seed can't be restored. I hope no-one notices the sleep on me. I've been walking along down this shallow slope. Looking for nothing particularly. Am I guided or is this life for free. Because nothing ever seems to happen to me. And I won't be tempted by vile evils. Because vile evils are vile evils...
Alex Harvey is with Alain Kan the main reason I created this blog. Some of their songs seemed irreparably lost and nobody seemed to care. If most know Alex had a career before the 4 years that lasted the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, few were and still are interested by his musical life during the 5 years between the SAHB end and the tragic and irreparable Alex's death on 4 february 1982, one day before his 47th birthday. Sad since he released a great album with his new band (The Mafia Stole My Guitar, on which the wonderfull "The Whalers" was chosen as B-side for this single) and 2 singles, the one here being the last one he saw released when still alive. Released in may 1980, it means that Alex had no record out for almost 2 years before he died. It's quite incredible when one knows how he never gave up and wanted to play and record again and again. But so where these times, sometimes cruel for artists such as Kevin Coyne and Alex Harvey who had contributed more than anybody to the punk movement and who were cited by punks (at least John Lydon) as true influences. The A-side was an attempt to recreate a Bob Marley song, surely because it seemed a good idea for the charts. It was not and we must admit that the cover is not convincing. Of course, it's not bad, but honestly it's far from the greatest achievements of the past. The B-side is so fantastic that it makes this single a great one. Once again, it is a self-made cover since there was originally none. The picture of Alex is of course a reference to the text of "The Whalers". I'm quite happy with my choice on both sides and, maybe I'm wrong, but I think that he would have liked it. So enjoy it here. In a few days, I'll post another post-SAHB single, never included on various compilations, and published the year before this one.
I think it is pleasant to listen with the text on the screen, so I put the "Small Axe" one (from Bob Marley) but also the deeply moving one of "The Whalers"
(big Tree) Small Axe. Why boasteth thyself. Oh, evil men playing smart and not being clever? I said, you're working iniquity to achieve vanity (if a-so a-so). But the goodness of jah, jah. I-dureth for-i-ver. So if you are the big tree, we are the small axe, ready to cut you down (well sharp), to cut you down. These are the words of my master, keep on tellin me no weak heartshall prosper, and whosoever diggeth a pit shall fall in it, fall in it. And whosoever diggeth a pit, shall fall in it (... fall in it). If you are the big tree, let me tell you that we are the small axe, sharp and ready, ready to cut you down (well sharp), to cut you down(to cut you down)(to cut you down). These are the words of my master, tellin me that no weak heart shall prosper. And whosoever diggeth a pit, shall fall in it, uh, bury in it. And whosoever diggeth a pit shall bury in it, uh (... bury in it). If you are the big, big tree, we are the small axe, ready to cut you down (well sharp), to cut you down. If you are the big, big tree, let me tell you that we are the small axe, ready to cut you down (well sharp), to cut you down, sharpened ...
The Whalers (Thar She Blows). Gimme the spear. Gimme it quick. And I'll kill the son, of Moby Dick. I'll throw the carcass on the boil. Sell my soul for bloody oil. Murder in the silver foam. Grab the gold and sail back home. Slaughter cubs and mummy too. Here's a perfume just for you. Thar she blows, thar she blows. There she blows. See the spout. Money is what it's all about. In leopard skins and tiger shoes. We all sing the dog food blues. Sling it on the rusty deck. Rip the sinew from its neck. You can't complain, it's fair enough. We kill it and you buy the stuff. Thar she blows. Thar she blows. I'm a whaler man, a buccaneer, the butcher boy. Born a hero dyin' slow. You're only blubber what did I say here today. Will you be here tomorrow? Will you be here tomorrow?
Imagine you receive a CD-R from someone who liked what you wrote in a music mag (always Xroads since I do not write anywhere else) and, after only a few minutes listening, you know that you have here one of the best singer and songwriter living on this planet, someone that will take place next to John Lennon psychedelic-era, Syd Barrett Pink Floyd-era, Lou Reed Velvet and Transformer-eras, Jonathan Richman and Robyn Hytchcock (all eras) and some other ones, but in no way smelling like plagiarism. And what is the most incredible (and scandalous) is that this young man has no label, no record released although he's still composing fantastic songs and have a real charisma on stage. From this time, I write on him as often as I can (always in the same mag, maybe not the most appropriate to stimulate curiosity) and I got the privilege to be one to those he regurarily writes emails. I asked him some days ago the authorization to establish my own Best of among the 39 original songs he sent me in the last months. He answered yes and seems curious of my choice. Honestly, I could include almost all of them if the criteria was to like them or not since I don't think possible to completely dislike one of his songs (the same with Peter Perrett for example). But here are the 11 eleven ones (hell heaven?) that I listen to again and again and again. Some of them are in my top 100 of the best songs ever composed (such as the great "Love song" you can listen to at the end of this post, but also "Sleep", a delicious recent one that should be known by everybody including you). The Lennon's influence is much more marked in his later songs and the musical arrangements are always chosen with a rare intelligence. JFG lives in France (like Elliott Murphy and I sometimes wonder why they stay in this cul-de-sac country where rock has not any chance to feed his man) and I hope that an English or American reader will be as enthousiastic as I am and send these songs to some label that would have the great idea to release them on CD. Here I imagined a vinyl release with 20 min or so on each side (self-made cover again of course, using pictures of him on stage). I made the choice of the order of the songs taking into account their recording dates (although JFG did not specify them clearly I must say) and the sequence I would have liked to find on a record. Enjoy enjoy and enjoy it again here.
Melanie has been someone very important in my life, either in musical or in personal terms, but it's not the place here to talk about it. I've tried my best, in particular via the Crossroads/Xroads mag, to contribute to the public reevaluation of this incredible singer songwriter, maybe the most European of all US singers (to be Ukrainian may have helped). Here, we found her in 1978, and in a very singular phase of her career. After a long 5 years period during which her success faded away due to the release of rather uneven albums, Melanie seeming more interested to care about her children than her records, she missed a great comeback in 1976 with the Photograph LP, that surprisingly flopped. With Ballroom Streets, it seems that the project was to make of Melanie a sort of rock singer leading a gang of male musicians. It is to note that she's rather lean, and it will be, to my knowledge, one of the only times in her life. Honestly, this apparent commercial bet is a complete success. She reveals herself a great band singer, and shows a swinging genius that even her fans were surprised to hear. Behind her, the band is competent but could have been better. In brief, this double vinyl LP recorded in Live condition in front of a small assemblee, had a lot of qualities to convince the press and the public that the Photograph LP was not a one-shot. Unfortunately it failed to reach this objective and Melanie would then drown deeper and deeper in obscurity. The reason of the present post is that all the CD versions of this double LP have sacrified 4 from the 18 songs, and among them, I think that 3 should have found their way in the reeditions. First, "Groundhog Day", from Photograph, a gorgeous song with such a so delicate smiling despair colour in Melanie's voice. Then, "Friends & Company", also from Photograph, with its long and very good instrumental final, that closed the LP. There was also the classic "Any Guy" from the Affectionately album (her second), strangely omitted of the CD versions. And last, a rather weak song, "Holdin' Out" from the Madrugada album. You'll find them here on this virtual EP with a self-made cover. Sorry for the low quality of the vinyl rip, but my original one is not in quite good and my technical skills to produce MP3 from analogic sources could still improve. I hope however that you'll find some pleasure. Enjoy here.
Here the lyrics of "Groundhog Day"
"I've grown fat I've grown a beard I've grown alone Seems no one comes to stay in my loneliness Sometimes love and sometimes none I'm out of luck but I'm not done Today is Groundhog Day Take me to a party take me to a room Where there ain't no corner For me to run into I think I'm gonna have to touch everyone in the place A game of hearts playing face to face How long a line to a space Where I look at mine You know I'm gonna have to touch everyone in their place Feel every part tasting every taste How much more running in place will it take to find It's Groundhog Day I've grown fat I've grown a beard I've grown alone It must be a year Today it's Groundhog Day, Groundhog Day Oh take me to a party Take me to a party I think I hear the music playing, ooh Take me out of my room I gotta get to a party Take me, take me to a party Take me out I think I gotta get out of my place I hear the music playing"
Between 1989 and 1994, I had a kind of compulsion for buying noise, sludge and doom US singles. All these bands were quite unknown at that time, and there was no difference for us between a new Unsane and a Schmortlurtz (or Schlong) single, since both were obscure bands from nowhere (remember it was a time without any web for the poor French spiders we were to gather some any information). Among them, some became famous (eg. Unsane) and sometimes more than famous (eg. Nirvana), and some remained in their eternal obscurity. Honestly, it was sometimes possible to predict their future and I can't say I'm surprised thant Schlong never made it. But I would not have bet a cent (a Euro one but in these times, it was still Francs) that Unsane would become so referential. All this to hide that I don't know a thing about this band from Florida... except that they are from Florida (and still, I'm not sure). I read that "schlong" and more specifically "schlong stroker" is the term for anybody practicing masturbation, the same way than a "branleur" in French "se masturbe" (you won't say that this blog doesn't contribute to help you learning foreign languages). Contrary to what you may think, I did not made the cover by myself as the Rikki Nadir one yesterday. This is the real one. If I post this 2 songs single, it is primary for the elegantly titled "Proctology disaster" (and I know what it is about, I've been operated myself of this sensitive area of our intimacy some years ago), an extraordinay piece, not of meat but of sludgy noise with some Drunk with Guns elements. The instrumental part of the second half of the song is gorgeous. The best now is to leave you enjoy this proctology disaster here, the other side being titled, quite similarly, "George Bush". I hope a French sludge band will take the idea and call one of his shit "Nicolas Sarkozy". He deserves it.
My fave music style is doom. Among various doom substyles, my fave one is sludge. Every sludger has his (her?) own definition of what is sludge and I won't give mine here in poor English. I wrote my own sludge story (in my native language on a collective magazweb and you can find the text about this EP here). For me sludge was born around 1989 and 4 bands seem at the source of this muddy sound. Here's one of them: Fu Manchu. This 3 titles EP released on the Slap A Ham label (6th one) represents the step from the Melvino-Sabbath style to what will become some months later the true sludge sound. The band will change direction as soon as the next single and will later cultivate a much more punky stoner approach (and less palatable to my ears). The vinyl rip (not mine) is not first class but with sludge it's not quite a problem. Consider that as an historical sonor document (but these are 3 fucking great songs too). Enjoy there.
Here's the second single from Alain Kan's Gazoline band. Very different from the previous one. A real punk gem. For me, the only example of a successfull French punk single. The lyrics are in the file because it's not very easy, even for French speaking listeners, to understand exactly what the hell is singing Alain Kan. Honestly, I knew that this would not last. Alain Kan had a much more varied musical world than the one featuring in this single. That said, an LP would have been great and would have remained the only real punk album in this country. Here is a link about Alain Kan (in French). Enjoy (it is really short, don't miss the beginning).
Here's a picture (taken at the Olympia's punk night) showing that Fred Chichin (soon to form the Rita Mitsouko) actually collaborated with Alain Kan. They are both somewhere now, but where?