5/24/17

Sparks - Big Beat Live at Capitol Theatre (1976)





















1975 will see the second Sparks mutation (after the "Island English period"), maybe one of their most deleterious and unexplainable one (but there'll be unfortunately some more in the future). Weird, in 1976 (an awfully bad year for rock music, it was the urgent that punk wash that away), to adopt a half-hard rock format for such a band. Surely at the times, the general climax has led Ron Mael to take this path (looking back at the Billboard US top 100, I don't really see such a trend in the charts but maybe I miss the point) but it was truly a cul-de-sac and a false step for the band that lost in one year all its newly acquired credibility. I must confess that I didn't follow them at the times and considered they were lost for the cause. It would take quite a time before I get back to them (with Whomp That Sucker in 1981 and their synth-pop 1981-84) period but more enthusiastically with Lil' Beethoven in 2002). So, here we are at the now mythic Capitol Theatre of Passaic in the New Jersey, with the Mael bros and a brand new band who... how to say that without being too rude... does not really match the sparkling glam playing of the previous line-up. Weird as the US backing bands of US artists that had made it in England during the 73-75 period were weak compared to their English pairs (think of John Cale for example but also Ian Hunter). Anyway, it's an interesting testimony. It was filmed and you got the video below. For this post, I tried to improve the sound quality and think I succeeded, at least substantially, so this post is a more interesting that it is supposed to be, this concert being easily available, even on a live compilation album (Sparks Live 1976-82) but with a less satisfying sound. I also created a cover sleeve with an unused picture of the Richard Avedon session that provided the official cover sleeve of Big Beat. Catch it here. More Sparks live to come.


5/19/17

Sparks - B. Sides and a A fake LP (1974-76)

I've always wished that the non-album songs that featured on the B. sides of Sparks singles during their Island years would be gathered on a mini-Lp to be listened to independantly of the associated album. So I did it myself. I'm aware that there are some differences between these songs (not leftovers of second quality but fantastic tuned and arranged tracks). For example, the strong and thick Muff Winwood production of the four formers is rather different from the more sophisticated but weaker Tony Visconti production of "Profile" and still more from the ugly production of the Holmes and Lesser on the two last songs, the latter belonging more to the next period (the Columbia one, although in the UK they were still on Island) than to the great Island one. No matter, I think it's good to have these underrated forgotten songs all together gathered. So catch them here. More Sparks to come.





5/15/17

Subway Sect - Ambition / Different Story 7" (1978)



Weird I'd never re-up this one since the first post in 2009 (almost 8 years, it's crazy). It's one of the best single of the punk era and have never been altered by time. So here it is again. Thanks to Paul for requesting it. I should post more Vic Godard in the near future. 

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. "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...



5/10/17

Buzzcocks - Live in Hamburg (1981)

Back to my Buzzcocks fixation with this incredibly great concert recorded in Hamburg on the 23rd January 1981, i.e. only few weeks before the band gave up (at least Pete Shelley was the main responsible for that but United Artists was no more supporting so they hadn't enough money to go on). Great because the band has here more energy and skill that he has ever had, even in its punk days. They play fast (all the versions are played faster than in studio and even than in previous live versions) and furious (aggressivity is at its summum). They are no more the poppy side of punk and didn't take the new wave path as so many of their pairs (unfortunately Pete Shelley would take it some months later). They are dark, rough and powerfully melancholic. And above all, the audience is great, very responsive and enthusiastic. Not the kind of ones they met in the US or in the UK anymore. But Germany was always a land of welcome for musicians and bands after their peak of success and is more faithful than most of their original countries (Nikki Sudden and Kevin Coyne among others found refugees there). But back to Buzzcocks. The setlist mainly consists of their main hits but they play 4 songs of their splendid three part-singles (Diggle's "Why She's A Girl From The Chainstore" and "Airwaves Dream" and Shelley's "Strange Thing" and "What Do You Know?") released during the previous autumn (and recently up on FS). Surely their failure precluded them to perform all of them during concerts (I would have loved to hear "Are Everything" and the genius "Running Free" too). And there is a live (and stunning) version of "I Believe" which is not so frequent. This concert was filmed and provided a live DVD (see the Youtube capture below) that I used to make the cover sleeve, but it's great to be able to listen to it without the image too. Surely one of the best live testimony of the band and one of the greatest live capture ever. The sound quality is quite correct. I didn't separate the songs since this kind of thing must be listened in its continuity. Catch this gem here.



5/9/17

Paul McCartney - My Love / The Mess 7" (1973)


Recently asked for a re-up of this single, I do it, 7 years after the initial post. A great single, either for side 1, one of his hits that made him reconsidered again by those who despised him since the Beatles separation, than for side 2, showing the raw and rough side of Macca, too rare for me but it's good when he does it. Note that this song did not benefit of any official studio release but only a live one (such as "Soily" a little bit later). Strange these rocker songs failed to satisfy Macca for inclusion on his studio albums. He should have done, this would have strengthened a little bit his records. Catch it here. Below, the official clip for "My Love" and another great version of "The Mess" played on a TV show in 1973.

Paul McCartney often used the B-sides of his singles (or Wings singles but is it different?) to try things and it resulted in the best (see here) or the worst (quite often unfortunately). Here is one example of the former with "The Mess", a song recorded live that shows that PMC can put intensity and loudness in his rock (remember "I'm Down" or "Helter Skelter"). The A-side was a hit worldwide and is a nice love song but I'm not anymore sensible to it whereas others Macca love songs still move me a lot. Can't explain why.









5/7/17

Sparks - Live at Record Plant (1974)




















This is a recording made by the band  in September 1974, during their US tour, between the release of their widely acclaimed and successful Kimono My House album (issued in May 1974, #4 in UK but only #101 in the US)) and its follow-up Propaganda in November 1974 (only 5 months later, a tour-de-force) which would be a little bit less successful in UK but fared better in the US. This is the reason why there are 2 songs form their next-to-come LP in the set ("Something For The Girl With Everything" and "B.C."). Otherwise, you find the 2 hits "Amateur Hour" and "This Town...", the latter in an extended version (not far from 6 min). The 4 other songs are from Kimono My House. This intimate concert (only some claps at the end of each song) would be broadcasted on KMET-FM's some days later. The sound quality is very good and this live-in-studio can be listened to as if it was an official release (which is not). What's interesting is to realize that the music that Sparks played on Kimono My House was not due to some highly sophisticated studio manipulations, but that the band was able to play it live as it was, showing the natural dimension of this surprising and singular music, that aged so well. Since the Mael's brothers are on the way to publish their 23rd album next September, it's a good opportunity to jump in their old material, and primary in some less-known testimonies such as the previous posts and this one. Catch it here. Note that I used the cover sleeve of one CD LP of this recording.



5/6/17

Halfnelson (Sparks) - A Woofer In Tweeter's Clothing Demos (1968)



I forgot to re-up this one as it was requested. Sorry. This is an interesting testimony of the Mael brothers' beginnings. More in the text I wrote in the initial post below. Catch it here.

Before Sparks, there was Halfnelson, and before the first officially released album of Halfnelson, there was this album called A Woofer In Tweeter's Clothing, a title that the band will use again for the first Sparks album (is it clear?). This album was worth releasing and it's a shame it was not and that it's now a forgotten one, cos' there are many excellent songs among the 12 featuring on it. Some will resurface later such as "Saccharin and the War" or "Roger", but in rather more sophisticated versions. What is clear is that the band had the british pop in the DNA of their songwriting, except for a strong Beach Boys influences. For the sleeve, as many, I was inspired by this information that "Ron Mael designed a sleeve depicting someone flying pas the Eiffel Tower on a surfboard in front of a bright moon". I didn't find the visual material to reproduce the original idea but tried to provide something not too ugly (others have done it, and I did a new one only for the pleasure, not cos' I thought I was doing better). Moreover, the sound version here was found on this site, a much improved sound compared to the vinyl rip you can find elsewhere. Enjoy this testimony of what a great duo was the Mael brother since the beginning of their long lasting career.