Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Expert texpert

My last post hinted at a long history of reading about music. I think it started with a great NZ music paper from the 1970s - 'Groove'. I have clippings from the time - Black Sabbath, Led Zep, Beach Boys, Beatles, Jethro Tull, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep (sadly yes - I had a thing for the Heep - Very 'Eavy/Very 'Umble and Demons and Wizards were early acquisitions). During the 70's I also collected the UK's 'Sounds' weekly. Lots of great articles and posters - Pink Floyd, Yes, and others were diligently clipped and put into scrapbooks. The 80s were a bit barren - the occasional 'Rolling Stone', 'Circus' and 'Crawdaddy' but there wasn't any weekly or monthly that I actually collected. It was more a case of whatever was on the cover drew my attention. This was until I went into a bookshop in St Lukes in the mid 1990s and saw 'Mojo' magazine The first cover I saw was of Howling Wolf. Howling Wolf!!!!! This was a monthly that captured my heart and I've collected every copy since. I am the demographic - guys in their late 40s, early 50s who collected 'Sounds' and 'Groove' in their teenage years. And yes it is mainly guys. Go into Real Groovy and count the ratio of grey haired men to women of any age. Particularly if you just concentrate on the vinyl bins.

The latest Mojo had that feature on Ry Cooder I mentioned in the previous post. My top five Cooder albums:
5 Chicken Skin Music - Ry does Tex Mex and it's brill.
4 Boomer's Story - Another fantastic collection of songs. Stand outs - 'Dark end of the street' and 'Rally 'round the flag'.
3 The Border - 'Across the borderline' is one of Ry's best - it appears on at least 2 different albums with different lead singers. This one with Freddy Fender (yes that Freddy Fender) is sublime.
2 Into The Purple Valley - Every song is great and where else will you hear 'FDR in Trinidad'?
1 Showtime - one of the greatest live albums ever - deduct a point for the first song being a studio recording (even tho 'School is out' is a great song).

Looking at the showtime cover I realise that I particularly love vinyl covers that have no title attached of the artist or album title. Showtime has Ry on stage in what looks like a club setting with a weak spotlight on him. He's smiling (make no mistake - this is feelgood music - even when he's playing depression era songs like 'How can a poor man stand such times and live' and 'Dark end of the street'). A poster stuck to the wall is the only hint this is Ry's album and even then Flaco Jiminez's name is equally readable.

My top 5 album covers without title look like this:

5 Wings - Wild Life - Paul in the water with his best innocent pose. Band perched on a tree branch - great picture.
4 Led Zeppelin - Houses of the Holy - wow - I still remember the thrill of buying this in Sydney. The cover is better than the music inside!
3 The Beatles - Hey Jude - a collection of singles for the US market in 1970 was one of my Christmas presents in 1970. The cover is taken from the last publicity shots taken of the fabs - at John's place - Tittenhurst. They look terrific!
2 John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band - the one with Yoko and John under a tree at Tittenhurst. A fantastic picture - restful and at peace - nothing like the music inside. The Yoko picture reverses the position of the two under the tree.
1 Beatles - Abbey Road - an iconic portrait that needs no words.

Finally - sad news about Phil Spector. I like his mix of Let it Be (rather than Macca's naked attempt) and he deserves credit for the awesome simple sound he got on John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. He's always been weird I guess and the various stories over the years don't paint him as a rational genius I'm afraid. On the news clips he looks like he hasn't got a clue what's going on! Very sad.

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