February 22, 2007
A hundred years from now, when some mutant punk historian casts his three eyes on the Dutch hardcore punk scene of the 1980s, how many bands will have stood the test of time? Bands that, apart from making a bunch of great noise, also had passion and originality (and the records to prove it, of course)? I'll tell you which two bands: Pandemonium and Funeral Oration! Pandemonium is a story all by itself, and while I knew those guys vaguely on a "hi how ya doin" basis, I can proudly tell my grandchildren I was hanging around Funeral Oration when they made their masterpiece, one of the greatest Dutch punk records, Communion. I was in a band with their bass player and we practiced together in a squat called Het Kasteeltje (the Little Castle) in Amsterdam. The Little Castle was a stinking hellhole, well, at least the practice room was; a former bank vault in the basement that had fungi growing on its walls (the pics with the "prison door" on the back of the Mornington Crescent EP are taken there); when you got out you'd smell of fungi the rest of the day. (We'd try burning incense but the combined smell of incense and fungi was even worse.) FO's singer Peter Zirschky wrote all their songs at home on a Spanish guitar with one string missing; he was incredible prolific, churning out all 15 Communion songs in 3 or 4 months! But his guitar playing on their early stuff sounded kinda weird, like he was trying to strangle his instrument. When former Gospelfucker Tos Nieuwenhuizen took over guitar duties, he completely transformed their sound with his meaty power chords and Black Flag-meets-Gen X soloing. Apart from that, Tos was incredibly cool because he was from the first punk generation and had done cool stuff like travel with the Damned back in '77, and visit famous pen pals (Ian MacKaye! Poison Idea!) in the US. While we were using the cheapest impossible-to-tune firewood imaginable, Tos had a great old Gibson SG which he played through an old Marshall stack. This setup sounded great as long as there wasn't anything wrong with the amp, which was most of the time, in which case it sounded like shit. (Ironically, nowadays Tos is Amsterdam's leading guitar amp doctor!) Unfortunately this was the case when they entered Dolf's Koeienverhuur studio in April 1985 to record Communion. FO drummer Ferry owned two drum kits; an old one which was in the practice space, and a new one which he never used because he was precious about it. When he installed those drums in the studio it appeared it was never ever used at all, the skins were still slack, so it kinda sounded like wet newspapers. The basic tracks sounded horrible; Tos re-did his guitar parts a couple of times and got a good sound in the end, but the ugly "guide" guitar is present in the mix (coming to the fore in the intro of "The heart of all"), giving it this typical murky sound, as if there's dust under the needle. When Peter recorded his vocals somehow it all fell into place, the noisy backing tracks perfectly complementing his singing; he pulled out all the stops, laying different melodies on top of eachother and screaming his heart out Bob Mould-style (Zen Arcade, then just out, was a big fave and obviously an influence). I'm still amazed at the way he did all that stuff off the top of his head, totally unrehearsed... The hardcore Brian Wilson!
FO put out Communion themselves; the Eddie Janney (Rites of Spring) photo credit on the sleeve is no joke, he was another famous friend of Tos and shot the picture while visiting in Amsterdam. Soon thereafter, things sadly imploded as my band broke up and Tos left Funeral Oration, to reappear some 2 years later in God. (I've heard he's currently in the live line-up of Sunn O)))) (that last bracket was the closing bracket, by the way)
Funeral Oration have been going on post-Tos for many years, putting out many pretty good records, but they'd never repeat the murky magic of Communion. But then again, who would?
(This is all of Side 1, maybe I'll post the other side some other time!)
February 16, 2007
GEORGE ROPER'S FAMILY TREE
Most of my friends were really crazy about the Subhumans, but somehow they never really registered with me. A bit too "rock", too proggy, too much genre-hopping within one song, or maybe it was because they emerged at the exact moment when I was going head-first into US fasterlouderstuff? My friends would buy all their records, and tape me stuff that I would listen to two or three times. The funny thing is, about two years later I was heavily into 60's/70's rock, having bought my emigrating hippie uncle's record collection, and I'd lend those same friends my Pink Floyd records because they'd heard the Subhumans were into them!
One of the first punk shows I saw were the Subhumans, A-Heads and (Dutch punkers) Hollands Glorie at local youth center Troll (which, hippie name notwithstanding, has seen lots of great punk bands throughout the years). For some reason the Subhumans went on before Hollands Glorie; some people came in late to discover they'd missed the headliners (which was pretty cool of course, just be there on time!). I remember being amazed at the way they looked: two longhairs, one regular-looking guy and on vocals (as my friend Rude Swearing put it) George Roper's son! Remember, this was back when people were counting eachothers studs to check out how punk they were. It was a great gig, but to be honest I don't remember much about the music, not knowing any of their songs. Apart from "No Thanks", their track on the Wessex '82 comp EP, which I didn't care much about although I was slightly intrigued by the lines "So they put you in the papers and worked out your family tree". A family tree? Like, your ancestors and stuff? A look at the sleeve's back cover cleared that one up: there was a huge family tree of the four bands on the EP, going back all the way to 1978 and featuring great names like Audio Torture, Maggotz, Stupid Humans (you guessed it, a forerunner of Subhumans!), etc. This must have been the start of my life-long fascination with family trees (god knows how many times I've tried to make one myself, for one result look here).
Listening to the Wessex '82 EP now, the Subhumans track still doesn't really rock my boat. But the other 3 bands have more than stood the test of time: Organized Chaos play some pretty fast and imaginative hardcore; A-Heads sound really slick and poppy but nice and punchy anyway. My fave song is the one by the Pagans (not to be confused etc...) though, a great dramatic melodic-but-rockin' track reminding me of The Wall more than a little.
Subhumans - No Thanks
Pagans - Wave Goodbye To Your Dreams
Organized Chaos - Victim
A-Heads - No Rule
February 08, 2007
HI HA HONDELUL!
First time I met Maarten van Oudshoorn was when my band and his new band De Kift (who'd just formed) first shared a stage around 1988. We'd just arrived; there was a crate of drinks standing on the bar. I looked around like a good boy scout to ask someone if I could take a drink from it. Maarten, who was sitting at the bar, quietly hissed "Just take it, it doesn't matter," while looking the other way as if we were doing something really illegal. Later I found out this was Maarten in a nutshell: nice guy with a bit of a street fighter persona. On stage that night, De Kift blew the roof off the place (figuratively speaking as this was the Bunker in Rotterdam which was underneath a road); the music was great but Maarten's energetic, er, declamating and bull-necked stage presence was just the finishing touch. We were amazed this was the same guy who'd sung for Pistache BV on their classic 1982 Koesette tape. Back then he still sounded like a 14-year-old schoolboy (probably was), although the menace with which he spat out his rolling R's was already there. I never saw Pistache BV play live, but on this page you can see a short clip of them playing the Oktopus club, Amsterdam. Like a lot of Dutch bands in the interbellum between old punk and hardcore, Pistache BV played a very fast 4/4 beat (I still have a lot of respect for their - and the Nitwitz' - drummer; done some drumming myself, but playing at this speed gave me acute RSI), but the songs on the tape, as well as their 3 contributions to the first Als Je Haar Maar Goed Zit LP, are a notch above most Nederpunk of the day; music as well as lyrics (mostly Maarten's) are really catchy, and most songs have a one- or two-line chorus you can shout along with ("Hi ha hondelul!"). Which is why this tape was a pretty big "hit" in punk terms. (First time De Kift played our home town, we'd written a bunch of old Pistache lyrics on the walls, at which Maarten laughed coyly...) Pistache BV were also one of the few bands that would work at getting gigs (a very un-punk thing to do for some, back then!) so they played a lot throughout the country. For some reason a lot of ex-Pistache/ Eton Crop-members later worked as music journalists (Pistache drummer Roy Mantel worked for music paper Oor); Maarten stayed true to his roots, contributing to Johan van Leeuwen's great Nieuwe Koekrand 'zine.
Anyway, I'd like to thank sonic-devil (if he's reading this) for providing me with the following rips...
Blind En Doof
Philips (from Als Je Haar Maar Goed Zit comp LP, 1982)
Hi Ha Hondelul
T.V. Prive (from Koesette, split tape w/ Eton Crop, 1982)
February 01, 2007
EET U SMAKELIJK'S FIRST BIRTHDAY
Exactly one year ago this week I put the first EetUSmakelijk post online. I never thought I'd make it past 10 posts, and here we are! When I started out there were only a couple of blogs (that I knew of), and they were mostly about American punk/HC. Now there's literally hundreds of them, covering every sonic nook and cranny imaginable. A couple of the early ones have since quit, which is understandable considering the time put into it, and the fact just about every rare punk record has already been posted! I'm not planning on quitting any day soon, even though I'm fast running out of rare records to post. For me this blog's never been about rarity anyway. It's mostly about digging up old memories and providing (scratchy) background music to it. So, I might as well use this occasion to look back on how I started collecting. Collecting, as in actively searching for old stuff, as opposed to buying the new stuff that was around. For me, the Big Bang was issue nr. 15 of MaximumRocknRoll, which came out in July 1984. On the front there were just a lot of (badly reproduced) 7 inch sleeves, and the word "COLLECTING". Inside was an article by Tesco Vee of Meatmen/ Touch & Go fame with yet more (even more badly reproduced) pictures of old punk records next to it. The article was funny rather than informative, although there's a great innocence about it, this being pre-big bucks days:
"Occasionally I get frustrated at not having certain records, and bid outrageous prices to get them. This is essentially a bonehead move, as it only raises the price of what everyone else must pay. But if the record is worth $20 to you, pay it..."
More than the article, I was intrigued by the pictures, endlessly poring over every one of them, trying to find out the names and titles. Nowadays it's hard to remember how little information about this kind of stuff could be found (it took me 5 years to find out what, for instance, "EYES TAQN" meant!). Even now it's a great puzzle to look at (only just now I recognized Wire's "I Am The Fly", that's how badly it's printed, ha ha), with some super rarities (Fix, Necros, Misfits "Cough/Cool"), one Dutch record (The Mollesters' "Plastic"; back then I thought the band was called Lesters!), lots of Dangerhouse, but surprisingly mostly easy-to-find English stuff. Those old sleeves looked so great, especially compared to most predictable post-Crass/ post-HC-designs of the day, I figured the music had to be great as well! So that's how I set out to find those old punk platters...
For this anniversary, I'd just like to show a couple of those great sleeves accompanied by one mp3 each, covering the not-really-rare (and therefore seldom posted) UK variety.
Early Lurkers sleeve done by the great Savage Pencil (whose own band Art Attacks' single was also shown). Dismissed by some as Ramones copyists, B-side "Mass Media Believer" shows they did have a style of their own.
Great song, as urgent and in-yer-face as the sleeve pic. I know it's not rare but I got as much of a kick out of finding this than I got finding the Helmettes single.
Posted the flipside not too long ago, here's the A-side (different from the version on their LP, by the way).
Nice collage type thing from pop-punk pioneers the Boys; here's the flipside "Whatcha Gonna Do", which sounds a lot like Status Quo's "Down Down"!
Back then I thought the band were called Enemies. Great, melodic tune written by Philip Chevron, later of the Pogues.
The Mekons' (and Fast Product's) first. A pretty sophisticated-looking sleeve for such an ultra-primitive record. I like the way the shouty vocals jump out at you in "Heart and Soul".
Famous drummer moonlighting as obscure punk rocker in "Don't Care".
Early Step Forward release, with a pre-Adam & the Ants Marco Pirroni doing some mean soloing on "Man Of The Year". My copy was pressed a little off-center, so I had to file a bigger hole for your listening pleasure!