Monday, January 19, 2009

Flipper Rules, OK?

Obligatory Cut and Paste job from Wikipedia and/or AllMusic.

Because research is for librarians and egghead kid sisters. And that's not punk. It is, however, borderline emo.

Which only goes to show you: librarians and kid sisters are emos.

You're so bored, cause you're boring!
- You Nought Me

Named after an infamous dolphin... Or birth defect babies... Or an insane band member's habit of naming every pet he ever owned 'Flipper', Dagwood Bum's Sled formed in San Francisco in 1979. Will Shatter, Bruce Lose, Ted Falconi, and Steve DePace quickly tired of having to explain the witty double entendre to hapless punk rockers like the Dead Ken-I-Gotta-Pees and Soupy Sales. So they went back to calling themselves Flipper.

It was a bold move in a career defined by bold moves. And drugs. Lots and lots of drugs.

I guess you can say music, too. But music is so yesterday; Flipper is next Tuesday at 4:36PM EST!

Back (L-R): Steve DePace, drums - Ted Falconi, guitar
Front (L-R): Will Shatter, bass & vocals - Bruce Lose, bass & vocals

No less than respected punk legend Henry Rollins called Flipper, and I am quoting here:

"Blah Blah Look at my tattoos Blah Blah Denis Leary Blah Blah VH1 Blah Blah Heavier Than You!!!!"

And, well... if it is coming from Henry Rollins, you'd be silly not to take it as gospel. He is a spoken word artist, you know. Just like Jello Biafra!

And that crazy bag lady down the street who cries drunken soliloquies to her long dead child. But I don't see her getting her own VH1 show or college spoken word tours, you two-bit carnies.

How much are kids being charged to hear your live-action infomercials, anyways? Whatever it is, I'm sure you'll end up blaming Ticketmaster.

Set it and forget it!!

Subterranean Records #SUB 07
A Mayfly Link (@320kbps)

Subterranean Records #SUB 25
Christ Almartyr Blog

Blow'n Chunks (Front), 1984
ROIR Records #A-126
Hangover Heart Attack Blog

Gone Fishin' (Front), 1984
Subterranean Records #SUB 42
Christ Almartyr Blog (again)

Subterranean Records #SUB 53
Nothin' Sez Somethin' Blog

And now I'll take some questions from the readers. Sound fun?

Q - You claim to be a punk, yet insult everything about them in most of your blog postings. What the hell is up with that?

A - Thanks for your question.

Q - Do you think youre funny? What's with the post on Johnny Rotten man?

A - Whoa! One question at a time please.

Q - I didn't think your Sid Vicious joke in the post from Dec. 20th was funny. How dare you! #%$@ You and the horse you rode in on, buddy!!

A - I'm sorry. Was there a question in there?

Note: If you have a question that you would like answered, feel free to drop me a line. Comments are always welcomed. Henry would approve...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ari-Up: Punky Reggae Queen of Many Names

Even before the breakup of all-girl punk outfit the Slits in 1981, Ariana Forster; aka Ari-Up (aka Ari Stepper; aka Baby Ari; aka Madussa; aka Whatever the hell she wants us to call her this week) began lending her extraordinary vocal talents to various ground-breaking earthbeat productions. Even if the press didn't see it, artists such as Nina Hagen, Talking Heads, Adrian Sherwood, and Neneh Cherry valued her contributions to their expanding world-view.

When one lays out the recorded work Ari-Up either fronted, contributed to, or appeared on from 1978 until disappearing to the dancehalls of Jamaica in 1983, it is perplexing that the woman's influence on the world music explosion of the mid-80s is not better noted by music scribes.

Then again, music critics, video DJs, and latent feminists proclaimed Paul Simon's wonderful Graceland (1986) as 'the most refreshing thing since oxygen tanks' in trying to celebrate that albums 'innovative use of world music in Tin Pan Alley Folk-Pop'. The hucksters.

After gushing their ignorance so blatantly, who can fault music historians for missing the boat so badly on Ari-Up. They've got the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to worry about. Not to mention the burden of perpetuating the myth of Björk's originality.

That's a big responsibility!

- The Slits (L-R), Viv Albertine, Tessa Pollitt, Ari-Up

It has been suggested by journalists interviewing the woman that Ari-Up's growing interest in reggae and dub during the late 70s was the catalyst of the shocking change in musical outlook of the Slits from sonically brash to the experimental. An interesting, if not butt-kissing assessment. I would tend to credit the many converging influences surrounding the Slits during the 1977-79 period - including, but not limited to legendary Roxy DJ Don Letts managing the band for a spell, Nora Forster, the mother of Ari, dating and eventually marrying reggae aficionado John Lydon, and the general influence of Public Image Limited's first two releases. But what do I know? I do not get paid for this!

Whatever the influences, the Slits' output during the bands lifetime was remarkably different from any of their first wave U.K. punk rock brethren. You know - the ones that got all of the press and after-thought recognition.

Good thing I do not trust anyone in the mainstream that reports on the many forms of entertainment we gorge ourselves on. If I did, I'd probably be blogging about Amy Winehouse. Or Metallica.

He sold more records than Elvis and The Beatles, you know.

The recordings of Ari-Up, 1978-1983

Nina Hagen Band - S/T (Front), 1978 -- CBS Records #CBS 83136
Contribution: Music & Lyrics, Pank (track 11)
Frisian's Other Favorites Blog

On-U Sound Records #On-U LP 01
Contribution: Vocals
Not Rock On Blog

Rip Rig & Panic - God (Front), 1981
Virgin Records #V 2213
Contributions: Vocals (track 4)
Down Underground Blog
Cherry Red Records #BRED 21
Contributions: Piano, Organ
Global Groove Blog

On-U Sound Records #ON-U LP 05
Contributions: Keyboard
Devotional Hooligan Blog

Statik Records #STAT LP 02
Contributions: Vocals, Piano, Percussion
Rocket Remnants Blog

On-U Sound Records #ON-U LP 21
Contributions: Vocals
Rocket Remnants Blog

Note: Besides the Slits albums and Talking Heads' Fear of Music, which can be found elsewhere on this blog, the only Ari-Up appearances during the period in question I am unable to link to is the My Love 12" and 7" singles by New Age Steppers (both released in 1981) and Prince Far I & The Arab's Cry Tuff Dub Encounter Chapter III (1980) - which features Ari providing backing vocals on 'Shake the Nation'.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Compilation Compost

Being a young music lover with a spartan budget, I typically ended up snagging compilation albums in the hopes of finding something new and improved.  

More often than not, I'd end up regretting the purchase.  

Too often, compilation albums are nothing more than a means for a record company to squeeze every last dime out of a song or artist before moving on to the next flavor of the month.  

But sometimes... sometimes you could strike gold.

- Rat Music For Rat People (Front), 1982 - Go! Records #GO 003

Not too long after I first began purchasing my own music, I stumbled across Rat Music For Rat People.  The title excited me.  Would there be songs about giant rats and their unwilling food source?  

Not as such.  

But the band listing was almost as interesting as the title: Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains, Circle Jerks... haha!  A band named Flipper?  Neat!  D.O.A., Crucifix, TSOL, Avengers, and The Dils.  

It was a risky purchase.  I knew of four of the ten bands, but had only actually listened to Black Flag and the Circle Jerks.  And it was a live album.  Even then I knew that live albums were never to be trusted. Unless it was Johnny Cash.  You could always trust Johnny Cash...

In the end, I swung the deal on the merits of the Dead Kennedys name.  That was sure to irk the hippie vampire.  

It ended up a wise purchase - and a sucker buy at the same time.  

- Cracks In the Sidewalk (Front), 1980 - New Alliance Records #NAR-001

The next four or five compilation purchases I would make were, for one reason or another, flat-out amazing...    

Cracks In the Sidewalk introduced me to the glory that is the Minutemen.  And the cover art genius of Raymond Pettibon.

From then on, I would buy every single album that featured a Pettibon cover.   
Did someone say sucker buy?  

The artists: Minutemen, Black Flag, Saccharine Trust, Kindled Imagination, Artless Entanglements, and Sharp Corners.  

Like any self-respecting (i.e., recovering) punk, I've still only heard of the first three bands.  

- Let Them Eat Jellybeans (Front), 1981 - Alternative Tentacles Records #Virus 4

Let Them Eat Jellybeans! would be the start of a long held appreciation of the Alternative Tentacles label.  It was also the high point of my compilation buying streak.

To this day, the track listing still blows me away.  It is amazing that Alternative Tentacles was able to put together the line-up:

Flipper, Ha Ha Ha -- D.O.A., The Prisoner -- Black Flag, Police Story (with Dez!) -- Bad Brains, Pay to Cum -- Dead Kennedys, Nazi Punks Fuck Off -- Circle Jerks, Paid Vacation -- Really Red, Prostitution -- The Feederz, Jesus Entering From The Rear -- The Subhumans, Slave to My Dick -- Geza X, Isotope Soap -- Bpeople, Persecution, That's My Song -- Wounds, An Object -- The Offs, Everyone's a Bigot -- Anonymous, Corporate Food -- Half Japanese, Fun Again -- Christian Lunch, Joke's On You -- Voice Farm, Sleep 

Great, great stuff.  

- The Blasting Concept (Front), 1983 - SST Records #SST 013

After snacking on Jellybeans, I immediately picked up The Blasting Concept.  After digesting that one, I would run out and buy the Minutemen's Double Nickels on the Dime double LP.  It might well be the strongest back-to-back-to-back purchases I would ever make.

Four tracks by the Minutemen, three tracks by Black Flag (featuring all three of the Flag's lead singers up to that point), two tracks by the Meat Puppets, and individual cuts by Saccharine Trust, Overkill, the Stains, Würm, and the mighty Hüsker Dü; what was not to like?  

Not too damn much.

Unless you consider that SST Records would eventually bloat itself into a coma, Alternative Tentacles would ugly itself with petty infighting, New Alliance Records would die with Minutemen lead singer D. Boon, and Rat Music For Rat People would spawn two banal sequels.  

Go, Team Punk!

Links of Interest:

* Cracks In The Sidewalk, 1980 - Cosmic Hearse Blog
* Let Them Eat Jellybeans!, 1981 - Lucid Media Blog
* Rat Music For Rat People, 1982 - Stealingofanation Blog
* The Blasting Concept, 1983 - The Blasting Concept Blog

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Zoogz Rift: Mix Tape Hero

Having stumbled across a post at an excellent blog the other day, I got to thinking about one of the more rewarding artists in my ever-bloating music library: Zoogz Rift.

Zoogie Whatsit?  

Oh yeah...

Described by crotch-less music critics as 'imaginative', 'stimulating', 'irritating', 'vitriolic', 'reactionary', 'paranoid', 'patience-defying', 'scrupulously obscene', and 'iconoclastic',  Zoogz Rift is as much an original as his self-admitted influences Captain Beefheart, Frankie Appaz, John Cage, Salvador Dalí, Lou Albano, Jerome 'Babe' Horwitz and Ayn 'The Lariat' Rand.  

And if you know at least four of the names on the above list, you are well on the path towards being a self-important, latte-drinking dolt. Congratulations!  I'll be sending out membership forms as soon as possible.

- Zoogz Rift (center) & The Amazing Shitheads

With a discography spanning 27 years and 763 albums, some might suggest that Zoogz Rift tilts a bit towards the prolific.  But don't you believe them.  Heck, don't even believe me!  Don't believe in your television, your dog, your fashion sense, your favorite record reviewers, or your schools; simply believe in yourself.  

And the fact that Zoogz Rift is best listened to in self-created mix tape form.

I'm not sure what it is about his music.  I own and cherish approximately 10 Rift albums.  With the possible exception of Amputees in Limbo (SST Records #122, 1985), I find it very difficult to listen to any of his albums in their entirety.  Yet I listen to each of them on a regular basis.       

The closest comparison I can make to the music of Rift would be to that of Beefheart, but only on a superficial level.  Structurally and lyrically, Rift shares a lot with the good Captain.  But while Beefheart & The Magic Band stayed within the blues framework, no matter how far out there they travelled, Zoogz Rift & His Amazing Shitheads veered over a much wider range; jazz, rock, punk, new wave, twerp pop, you name it.  

I guess it boils down to the duel edge of eclecticism.  If done well - and in small doses, musically eclectic outfits can be a rewarding challenge (see The Suburban Lawns).  More so than even the best of straight-forwards.  But if you are going to make an entire career out of being as varied as possible, expect a tight rope walk.  

And long falls when you take a misstep.          

One thing that I can say about Rift and his band that might sell them to those on the fence:  Snag Idiots On The Miniature Golf Course (reissue: SST Records #123, 1987) and check out The Great Apes Ate Grapes.  Tell me that isn't one of the greatest little songs you've never heard.  

On and on, Rift & The Shitheads create some of the more memorable riffs you'll ever get stuck in your head: My Daddy Works for the Secret Marines, Evil Eye (both off Amputees in Limbo), Sit Down & Shut Up (off of Ipecac), Dense Rain-Black Forest and Asphyxiated (from Villagers)... 

Wonderful Mix Tape material.   

Links of Interest:

* Enough Zoogz Rift to choke the Son of Sam's dog - Feelin' Kinda Froggy Blog

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

PiL: The Commercial Zone Funhouse

After releasing Flowers of Romance in October of 1981, Public Image Limited found itself in a state of entropy.  

Whether it was darker drugs revealing fangs, John Lydon's lessened involvement due to outside interests, or power plays by both guitarist Keith Levene and on-again-off-again drummer Martin Atkins, the Limited Corporation mirage that all parties had strived so hard to present as viable since their foundation in 1978 threatened to splinter.  

Frankly, when one considers all that the band had to go through in their first few years, it is a surprise they survived as long as they had:

* A seemingly never-ending legal tussle between Lydon and former Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren set the table for...

* A crippling lack of funds, which resulted in guerilla production, performance and management methods that more often than not pissed off fans and...

* A hostile press which attacked the band - and in particular Lydon at almost every opportunity.  Pay back for Lydon acting such a jerk to them during the Pistols days?  You betcha.

- Public Image Ltd., Phase One - (L-R) Keith Levene, Jah Wobble, Johnny Rotten

When you also factor in the loss of founding member and bass sculptor Jah Wobble in 1980, the four baseless police raids in a little over a years time, the infamous American Bandstand, Tom Snyder, and Ritz nightclub appearances - not to mention Warner Brothers Records dropping the band in early 1982 and the band's fateful decision to forgo touring, a state of entropy was probably to be expected.  

After all, these were 20-something year old kids on the proverbial chopping block.  The most grounded of adults tend to crack under such immense pressures; asking and expecting it of someone so young is a cracked mirror reflection of our own seemingly low-key and unimportant lives.
The 20th century taught us to throw entertainment figures on lavish pedestals. And we complied.  Lucky Lindy, Houdini, Frankie, Elvis, Bobby Zimmerman, The Beatles, The Sex Pistols, Little Michael, Madonna, Britney, Princess Diana's Car & Anna Nichole's Corpse... on and on and on; an endless parade of cultural icons for our purchasing pleasure.  

You know they are cultural icons because keychains, tee-shirts, and Rolling Stone Magazine would never lie.   Would they?  

Then again, who is at fault?  The con man who sells the snake oil, or the sucker who constantly buys it?

- Commercial Zone: Limited Edition (Front), 1984 - PiL Records Inc. #XYZ007
To the members of Public Image Limited, the snake oil was becoming a hemlock.

The partnership between band (and corporate) visionaries Lydon and Levene began to deteriorate to the point of no return during early 1983.  The official story is that arguments over mixing the This is Not a Love Song 7" single (Virgin Records #VS 529, September 1983) would lead to Levene's departure from the group.  Of course, He said/She said also points towards Levene's escalating drug problems, Lydon's selling out the 'PiL Ideals', and Atkins' spiteful power plays as the true culprits.  Who really knows.   

It has been argued that Keith Levene's departure from Public Image Limited significantly impacted the creative output for the remainder of the band's run.  Isolationists... er, I mean Purists will even suggest that PiL essentially died with Levene.  

Perhaps.  Perhaps the charges are nothing more than a case of sour grapes.  The same type of sour grapes that saw the PiL debut release and first line-up slandered to high heaven by a large segment of fans as not being 'Punk' enough.  And the same type of sour grapes that contemporary Lydon champions chew on during their 'Never Judge Eras' slants.

It is always best to judge for oneself.              
- This is What You Want...This is What You Get (Front), 1984 - Virgin Records #V2309  

Five of the recordings that the band had been working on at the time of Levene's departure would eventually be rerecorded for the eventual (and official) This is What You Want... This is What You Get album (released: July, 1984).  

In a preemptive strike, Levene would release the original recordings in the United States as Commercial Zone in November of 1983.  In August of the following year - and a month after This is What You Want... was released, Levene pressed 30,000 copies of the tweaked Commercial Zone: Limited Edition long player for European release.  
Lydon and Virgin Records, Public Image Limited's record company at the time, were not pleased.  Virgin going so far as to order all pressings of Commercial Zone: Limited Edition destroyed.

Thankfully enough copies of the album survived, as it offers fascinating contrast to the 'official' releases of the immediate post-Levene period -- This is What You Want... and the Live in Tokyo album, which was recorded mere months after Levene left.  

- Live in Tokyo (Front), 1983 - Virgin Records # VGD3508

One suggestion:  Follow the link, check out the blog that hosts it, then download Live in Toyko.  Afterwards, burn the mp3s onto a compact disc and promptly throw it out of a window.  Or force your Hannah Montana loving daughter to listen to it as punishment.  

It is about the only satisfaction you'll be able to muster after listening to such crap.
If you dig it, so be it.  Who am I to question anyone else's opinions.

I could end this with a joke about how it doesn't matter what you think, because everyone knows that PiL died after Wobble left; thereby making the entire piece a contradictory farce.  

Haha!  Isn't that a riot?  

Just like Johnny Rotten!!

Links of Interest:

* Fodderstompf -- A Communications Company.  Not a website.
* Commercial Zone (U.S. Pressing) -- Commercial Zone Blog
* The Ritz Nightclub Riot! -- The Mayfly

Note:  As an example of the emotions that Public Image Limited brought out in people, I've thrown out a link to the infamous Ritz nightclub riot.  I've pieced together various sources in an effort to replicate the events of the evening in as accurate form as possible. 


Friday, January 2, 2009

King Sunny Adé & His African Beats

- Juju Music (Front), 1981 - Island Records #ILPS 9712

After the death of Bob Marley, certain record executives began scratching their heads in effort to replicate the money-making potential that a 'Voice of the Third World' could provide.  Granted, Marley never lit up the charts during his lifetime - but what did that matter?  Money was to be had.

They tried the living Wailers - and various other reggae talents, but that didn't work.

Peter Tosh's stance on the shit-stem would never allow it.  Bunny Wailer was too square.  Prince Far-I was too Heavy.  Burning Spear was too... well, I'm not sure why Burning Spear never caught on.  If anyone had a legit shot at chasing Marley's Ghost, it would have been Winston Rodney.  Too bad the sheer quality of the man's work diminished after Marley passed. 

Nope.  The suits decided to turn towards Africa itself.  

Who is more Third World than Africa, Bud? 
Um... I don't know.  Parts of Asia seem pretty bad.
Yeah.  But you can't shake your ass to xylophones and gongs. 
Why not, Bob?  My wife shakes her ass to lasagna cooking!  
Ha Ha!  No, seriously...

Arista Records opened the door by signing Nigerian Afrobeat sensation Fela Kuti.  Not to be outdone - and to forever prove to the world just how innovative they were, Island Records' Chris Blackwell, in turn, signed Nigerian Jùjú star King Sunny Adé. 
The clever little marketing execs had all bases covered, going so far as to dub Sunny Adé the 'African Bob Marley'.  Record reviewers would soon follow suit.  

Too bad neither of them helped the cause.

Whether or not it had to do with slumping sales figures, failed expectations or - as reported, Adé's refusal to include English into his music, Island Records would cut ties with him in 1984 after three powerful long-players.  

Say what you will about moronic record executives, but the short-lived marriage between King Sunny Adé and the mainstream produced brilliance; the Juju Music, Synchro System, and Aura albums are now considered Adé's trinity.

- Aura (Front), 1983 - Island Records UK #ILPS 9746

While those three albums are an excellent place to start, Adé's self-released Ijinle Odu (1982) and Ajoo (1983) brings the jùjú picture into better focus for the uninitiated.  

Someone once said that if you listen to King Sunny Adé & His African Beats and do not find yourself bopping to the rhythms, you must be dead.  

Or chronically white.

Nope.  No angst here.

Links of Interest:

* Juju Music, 1981 -- Bravo Juju Blog
* Ijinle Odu, 1982 -- Snap, Crackle & Pop Blog
* Ajoo, 1983 -- No Condition is Permanent Blog