Friday, January 30, 2015

Simon's got a big white car, and his bird never wears a bra (Splodgenessabounds) # 359

Splodgenessabounds Simon Templer (sic)/ Michael Booth's Talking Bum, Two Pints Of Lager (Decca, BUM 1, 1980)

The distinctive British humour emerges clearly over these three songs. 

Being a New Zealander who has had roughly equal exposure to American and British cultural artifacts over the years via mass media, I don't find I prefer one lot of comedians to the other, but...

...the definitely more nuanced British sensibility often comes across better on comedy records. 

Simon Templer is a case in point (the misspelling of the surname may be deliberate - who knows? It was the tail end of punk). 

It's a piss take by Max Splodge et al on the Simon Templar character, better known as The Saint - a mega cool rakish Robin Hood style character. Roger Moore played him on TV and was perfect in the role.

Hidden gems: The B sides are great. Two hilarious! and Michael Booth's bum is in the great smutty British Carry On tradition of fart jokes.

Monday, January 26, 2015

It's hard to stay one step ahead of you (Split Enz) #356-358

Split Enz One Step Ahead/ In The Wars (Polydor, POLY 100, 1980)
Split Enz History Never Repeats/ Holy Smoke (Polydor, POLY 110, 1980)
Split Enz I Don't Wanna Dance/ Shark Attack; What's the Matter With You (Polydor, POLY 113, 1981)

These singles trace Neil's increasing ability to stay one step ahead of brother Tim - both One Step Ahead and History Never Repeats are landmark songs in the Enz's catalogue and therefore in New Zealand music. 

Although neither single could break into the top spot on NZ charts they both sold well at the time, assisted by some cheap but clever MTV friendly videos.

One and History are both light years away from the Phil Judd years (although, with The Swingers, Phil would also move right away from his experimental SE years). Instead these are more mainstream pop songs.

Tim tries a bit too hard to be current with I Don't Wanna Dance and comes up short.

Hidden gems: Tim's In The Wars is spirited - a nice chorus, but wasn't considered strong enough for parent album Waiata

Neil's Holy Smoke is lively but also wasn't good enough to appear on Waiata.

Shark Attack and What's The Matter... are live versions. I saw the band live a number of times and their live excitement has never been communicated well onto live vinyl.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

If there's a better way I'll learn it (Split Enz) #354-355

Split Enz I See Red/ Hermit McDermitt; Message Boy (Mushroom, K 7284, 1978)

Split Enz Things/ Semi Datached (sic) (Mushroom, K 7643, 1979)

To my mind there are distinct phases to the Split Ends/Enz story:
  • Prologue - Split Ends release two singles and appear on New Faces
  • Act 1 - Split Enz - Phil Judd and Tim Finn in control, Mike Chunn on board
  • Act 2 - Tim Finn in control (Neil ascending)
  • Act 3 - Neil in control (Tim descending, then no Tim)
  • Epilogue - reformations
These two singles are firmly in the transitional zone into Act 2 with Tim in control and younger brother Neil finding his feet.

I See Red is a Tim song and is a frenzied blast of raw kiwi rock and roll. It works, spectacularly! A classic!

Things is a Neil song (although Tim and Neil sing great co lead vocals) and is catchy in a clever XTC pop way. Although undeniably catchy, it's still not quite firing on all cylinders. 

Neil was paying attention though as we'll see in the next post.

Hidden gems: The bizarre image years of weird haircuts, weird makeup, and weird clothes were becoming a thing of the past but Hermit and Message both have that kind of weird vocal quirkiness to them still.

Semi Detached (but spelled incorrectly on my copy) is a kind of Charlie or Stuff And Nonsense style ballad. For my money Tim nailed it more on those other two titles.  

Sunday, January 18, 2015

How's your day been today? (Split Ends) #353

Split Ends The Sweet Talkin' Spoon Song/ One Two Nine (EMI, HR 512, 1973)

The first time is often the best, in my experience.

The first time I clapped eyes on SE was on the New Faces TV programme in 1973. It wasn't quite the same experience that I'd had watching The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, but it was close.

They came second to last in the finals but Sweet Talkin' Spoon Song by the uber cool looking fellow kiwis had already become absorbed into my brain for evermore.

A school friend (take a bow Michael Budd) gave me a copy of the single (their second as Split Ends - the name would change to Split Enz for the third), and it quickly became a favourite in my collection.

This was a clever, fun, singalong, inventive song and a huge moment in NZ music. The song shape shifts around old time music hall, Small Faces mod, Beatles inspired invention/ harmonies, The Who's Pictures Of Lily style lyrics and barbershop. 

It just burrows into your skin. Cor!!!

Hidden gem: Oh yeah baby! One Two Nine retains the mandolin hook from the A side, as well as the invention and the pop smarts in glorious style. 

Sorry to be so gushy but this was a secret world of musical wonder that was right up my alley in 1973 and still is!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Hurry me back there (Splinter) #351 - 352

Splinter Costafine Town/ Elly-May (Dark Horse, K 5756, 1974)

Splinter Half Way There/ What Is It (If You Never Ever Tried It Yourself) (Dark Horse, K 6413, 1974)

Splinter was a duo - Bill Elliott and Bobby Purvis (both on vocals) who were together from 1973 to 1984.

You'll possibly remember Bill Elliott from The Elastic Oz Band record that John Lennon used to record his God Save Us single

George Harrison's intentions of signing Splinter to Apple Records fell through but they became the first release on his Dark Horse Records label.

The A sides are Beatle-ish pop songs without the innovative edge that characterised the Fabs. Costafine Town in particular is a fine song though - warm, catchy, atmospheric and expertly played. 

Which is not a surprise given the array of talent who fronted up at Friar Park to take part in the sessions: George as himself, Billy Preston, Gary Wright, Alvin Lee, Jim Keltner, Klaus Voormann are only the most well known.

Half Way There is a folk style ditty - nice and light with nice harmonies, but without the x factor that would make it a hit. Good album track though.

Hidden gems: The pleasant, tasteful soft pop stuff continues on the B sides without really distinguishing themselves or demanding attention - think Klaatu! All songs are from the parent Dark Horse albums.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

I opened my eyes and I saw you (George Harrison) #350

Ronnie Spector Try Some, Buy Some/ Tandoori Chicken (Apple, APPLE 33, 1971)

Originally, this track was given to Ronnie as part of a comeback record produced by George and Ronnie's husband at the time - one Phil Spector.

A few year's later George did a vocal track and used the song on Living In The Material World

I actually prefer Ronnie's vocal - she manages to convey a bucket load of emotion via her delivery, whereas George's strained version smacks of being filler for an album.

Hidden gem: Is it me or does Tandoori Chicken sound a lot like Linda McCartney's Cook Of The House (both of which rip off Buddy Holly)?

And so - to the videos: Ronnie and George's versions are followed by a mash up of the two - you can try some, you can buy some... 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A blade of grass through the vortex of sound (Patti Smith) #346-349

Patti Smith Group because the night/ GOD SPEED (Arista Records, AR 11688, 1978)

Patti Smith Group Privilege (Set Me Free); Ask The Angels/ 25th Floor; A Poem Babelfield (Arista records 12", POP 1, 1978)

Patti Smith Group Frederick/ Fire Of Unknown Origin (Arista Records, ATA 709, 1979)

Patti Smith People Have The Power/ Wild Leaves (Arista Records, 104889, 1988)

Because The Night (upper or lower case- it matters not) was huge in its day but over familiarity since then (it's turned up on countless compilations)  has led to...well- not contempt - this is Patti bleedin' Smith after all, but a diminishing of power. Though, having said that, the version on her Live at Montreaux DVD from 2005 definitely rocked. Maybe it's context, being surrounded by other Smith songs, that helps. 

Patti is no elitist snob; she is obviously not opposed to having hit records. Frederick and People Have The Power are attempts at writing pop songs and she manages that feat with aplomb. Frederick, in particular is glorious. Todd's pop sheen production is perfect!

Hidden gem: Patti subscribes to the notion that B sides should contain nuggets not included on albums so all of these singles contain interesting material.

The live version of 25th Floor and the poem Babelfield (with its torrent of words and images) are especially extraordinary.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Shake it up, baby. (Patti Smith) #344-345

Patti Smith Hey Joe (Version)/ Piss Factory (Sire, SRE 1009, 1974)

Patti Smith Hey Joe (Version)/ Radio Ethiopia (Live version) (Arista Records 12", 2CO52-60133z, 1977)

Patti Smith!!

I've blogged before about Patti because I've had a long term relationship with her music and poetry since 1977:

Hey Joe is an interesting choice for 1974. Patti wraps the surreal story of Patti Hearst around the song made most famous by one her idols - Jimi Hendrix. Hey Joe was also his debut single!

Tom Verlaine's on guitar with Lenny but, unfortunately, like the Hearst story, this one has dated a lot.

Hidden gem: The real Patti is on side 2: Piss Factory is for me one of the greatest performances ever. It's at heart an autobiographical rolling poem about punching the clock on a production line. Patti's delivery is total commitment - she absolutely shakes it up! Richard Sohl's piano is an equal star - his driving piano drives Patti ever forward and the peaks just keep building up. An amazing song!

The 12 inch version of Hey Joe has a live version of some songs loosely called Radio Ethiopia. Sure enough, it includes that riff from Radio Ethiopia but there are also excerpts from other works including Rock and Roll Nigger in early pre Easter form.