July 31, 2010
Tonight were a bunch of early Powerpoppers, Drummer Man (1978) was their first single; it was a sizable hit in England at the time, big enough to land them on Top of the Pops. I like the song, especially the "Lazy Sunday"-Cockney rasp of their singer, reminds me a bit of a pop band called the Look (that had a 1980 hit with "Tonight"!) (I'm sorry, I've just finished reading Nick Tosches' Where Dead Voices Gather, and as a result I'm seeing occult musical connections everywhere.)
Funny thing is, there are 38.000 Powerpop compilations out but Drummer Man - or any song by Tonight, who're supposed to have done 4 singles - isn't on any of them. Guess they should have put it out in a hand-crayoned pressing of 148 copies, with half of the press run melted by an irate ex-girlfriend, in order to warrant Powerpop credibility.
July 23, 2010
The Bintangs were the closest thing the Netherlands had to the Flamin' Groovies. Starting out in the 60's as a typical bluesy Nederbeat group, by the turn of the 70's they excelled both at meaner-than-the-Stones bluesrock and fun uptempo rock & roll, the latter under the guise of Kraaijeveld (an offshoot that gradually came to include all original Bintangs members!). They had a couple of pretty big hits and made some critically-acclaimed LPs, although their 1969 debut LP Blues on the Ceiling is relatively overlooked. Like the title says, here they turn the blues upside down, changing chestnuts like Smokestack Lightning around until they're barely recognizable. This "freaky" approach lasted only one record.
Fast forward six years: Kraaijeveld's 1975 swansong Johnny Do It Faster is a great piece of glammy proto-punk that wouldn't have seemed out of place on Clap Your Hands & Stamp Your Feet. After this, they'd continue as a reconstituted Bintangs, releasing the classic Genuine Bull LP (recorded at Rockfield studios, to continue our Groovies analogy!).
July 21, 2010
LOST SOUNDS FROM A LOST YEAR
Infexion, Castricum, 1979
1979 seems to be the Lost Year of Dutch punk. The first bunch of bands faded away, the second bunch were just starting out. There were maybe only one or two records released in that year, but as a gestation period for punk's second wave ("punks that started making music" as opposed to "musicians that started playing punk") it was a hotbed of activity. Activity that slowly switched from the "big" clubs like Paradiso to small, squatted, self-organized places like NoName and Kaasee, where loads of legendary bands like Bugs, Gospelfuckers, Infexion, 123, the Duds, Ketchup, (Amsterdam) Scabs, Motorboat etc. would play, bands that never got around to making records to assure their place in "KBD" annals.
Early 1979 I spent a lot of time in Amsterdam. My parents and I went to the Scientology church every week; this wasn't as bad as it sounds, the people working there were mostly nice (if misguided), underpaid hippies, and the boredom of their "communication course" was relieved by the thrill of walking around Am'dam during the coldest winter ever. (Ironically, that very Scientology church was briefly squatted and used to put on punk gigs in the early '80's.) It's funny how, a stone's throw from much of this punk activity, the 11-year old me never, ever encountered punks or saw other evidence of punk (flyers, grafitti). I guess that goes to show how much of history is dictated by the artifacts future generations can hold, look at and listen to. In other words: records!
Infexion from Amsterdam were one of the "biggest" punk bands of the period; they played at the legendary 1979 Punk Festival that had the village of Castricum invaded by crazy punk hordes (and was called off after one day!). On these two demo tracks you hear a band that's already moving towards the ultra-fast 4/4 style of the Nitwitz and Pistache BV.
Dumb Dumb Cop
July 19, 2010
THE FIRST PSYCHEDELIC RECORD EVER
"Nobody Knows What's Going On (In My Mind But Me)" by the Chiffons, 1965. Written by Brute Force, later of "King of Fuh" fame.
July 15, 2010
Punk was over by 1986. That doesn't mean there weren't any great punk records made after that, but that particular dynamic that fueled all the changes and mutations up 'til then had gone static. Howard Devoto called it Negative Drive, I call it WHATEVER'S POPULAR OR COOL, DO THE OPPOSITE! To some, punk mutations like Grunge, Straight Edge, Cowpunk or even Twee Indie Pop might seem silly in retrospect, but the whole point about them was, they came about because people would go: EVERYBODY HATES COUNTRY; LET'S PLAY COUNTRY*! (*Insert Disco or Metal at will.) Or: EVERYBODY'S PLAYING AS FAST AS THEY CAN, LET'S PLAY AS SLOW AS WE CAN! Or: EVERYBODY'S INTO TAKING DRUGS AND LIVING UNHEALTHILY; LET'S, LIKE, DO THE OPPOSITE! By the mid-80's, all these twists and turns had become rigid institutions themselves. The last spasm of this Punk Dynamic might have been that often misunderstood thing called Emo. So, what was Emo all about? It was Hardcore kids going: EVERYBODY'S RUNNING AROUND WITH SHAVED HEADS, ACTING TOUGH AND SINGING ABOUT RONALD REAGAN; LET'S WEAR GLASSES, READ POETRY, THROW FLOWERS AROUND AND SING ABOUT OUR DEEPEST EMOTIONS! Makes sense now, doesn't it?
Even though the bands involved hated the tag - which means something entirely different today anyway - the greatest Emo bands in my book were Rites of Spring and Gray Matter, who both put out brilliant LPs in 1985 before promptly disbanding in true Dischord Records fashion. Another fine example of the original spirit of Emo was the 1988 EP by Moss Icon. Greta Garbo on the cover, that's brilliant! Someone at MaximumRocknRoll must have gone: "What's this? Why don't they use pictures of El Salvador torture victims?" Even better is singer Jon Vance's dedication on the lyric sheet: "and lastly, thanks to the beautiful Greta Garbo for... well, you know what I thank you for Greta, rest well dear, sweet girl, Rest." (Picture bald HC dude going "HUH??") I bought the EP off the band after hearing it on John Peel, it came packed in a piece of recycled cardboard. I love the primitive, almost clumsy sound, it reminds me a little of early Funeral Oration. Oh yeah, check out the sob at the end of What They Lack!
P.S.: I sold my copy a couple of years ago to someone who was desperate for it, which is why i asked a ridiculously low price. Just last month I found another copy, at a ridiculously low price. Whoo, karma!
Hate In Me
What They Lack
I'm Back Sleeping Or Fucking Or Something
Kiss The Girls And Make Them Die
July 13, 2010
ROOTS OF PALINGPUNK
1 Euro at Kringloop KaKee, Zwaag (one of my faves). BZN, of course, are the biggest-selling Dutch pop group in history. They're also from Volendam, the village where I grew up. That they actually played some pretty heavy rock before they switched to middle-of-the-road schlagers is sorta semi-well known. I never cared much for the StatusQuochuggachugga of their 1973 hit Sweet Silver Anny (which can be found on the otherwise brilliant Clap Your Hands and Stamp Your Feet comp), but when I first put on The Bastard, my mouth fell open. This sounds exactly like the Sex Pistols! In 1971! Well, o.k., a cross between the Move and the Sex Pistols (but then again, the Sex Pistols themselves sounded like a cross between the Move and the Sex Pistols on their best tracks). The lyrics are pretty sick, too, about a rapist or something (do I really hear "while I rape you, I let you die"??). Even the long laid-back part at the end is kinda cool (in a Love/Forever Changes way). Volendam punk history needs a thorough rewriting.
July 12, 2010
(A while ago I wrote the following piece for Christoph Lampert's photobook We Call it Punk, to accompany some pictures he shot of the Vernon Walters)
"The Vernon Walters were a little band I played guitar in, around the mid/late eighties. It wasn't my first band, nor my last one, nor the best or most successful one. But somehow it's the band I have the fondest memories of. The combination of endless, alcohol-fueled fun and zero responsibilities that came with crossing the continent in a smelly old van at that particular age is something that will never come back. Me and (fellow ex-VW) Joost's current band Sack-o'-Woes still occasionally try to live it up, but there's all kinds of stuff that gets in the way; like for instance having a driver's license. Why on earth did I ever take driving lessons? In the old days we just jumped into the van, started having fart contests or Rubberen Robbie singalongs, and rolled out when we'd arrived at our destination. Now I have to do all this boring stuff like drive, find the place, park the van, sip Coke all night, etc. etc.
Well, it's just one of those things that will never be the same now our Tour Mother Hans Engel has gone (he died in 2003). Apart from being the Vernon Walters' frontman, main lyricist and singer, he was also the one arranging the shows, putting out the records, contacting the people and getting us anywhere we had to be. He did pretty much everything short of wiping our bottoms, giving us free rein to behave like a bunch of idiots. It was great. The tours of Germany were the best; I think we did about five of them. Loads and loads of fun places to play; cool non-stuck up audiences that would go crazy even if they'd never heard of us; all the beer we could drink; nice places to crash. Two or three weeks of that and our mental age would be lowered to about half our actual age. I recall Joost walking around in Hamburg pretending to be a retard, jumping in puddles when unsuspecting citizens were passing by. Or me drawing penises on every person depicted in every magazine and newspaper I could find in this bar. Or the time when our drummer Danny started the drum intro to one of our songs at half the proper speed. This went on for about five minutes without any speeding up, us scratching our heads and leaving him to it. He then quit, to bemused looks of audience and band members. Upon which he started again, at the exact same speed. After another two minutes we grudgingly started to play along, snail-like; after that, the tempo picked up ever so slightly, to reach just about the right amount of bpm by the time we reached the end of the last chorus.
A big factor in this process of losing our minds was the sheer scale of the punk/squatting scene in Germany at the time. I mean, in Holland we had a couple of cool squats here and there, but Hamburg's Hafenstrasse, that was something else! It felt like the squatters had taken over the whole of St. Pauli, especially when we first glanced upon the famed Stortebeker building, painted from top to bottom in loud designs and slogans. About halfway through the first time we played inside the building, the electricity broke down. While doing some a capella improvising we saw several cop cars outside, lights flashing. In a matter of seconds there was a riot going on between a bunch of squatters and the riot squad, all done up in helmets, shields, the works. We stood looking through the window fearing for the windows of our van, but as suddenly as it started, it stopped. So we played the rest of our set. The day after, the newspapers wrote about how the squatters had started (huh?) a "terrible riot" landing "several policemen in hospital". The police were apparently looking for a "car thief" who, in the next column, mysteriously morphed into an "ex-RAF-member". Wow! This piece of villainous Bild-style gutter press put the icing of the cake of our first Hafenstrasse experience.
We'd play the Hafenstrasse another 3 or 4 times later on, always great. No more riots though."
Here's 3 tracks from the VW's first record, the Hoodoo-Do Da Coruba EP. This was before I joined them and it's my favourite. Hans had sorta dropped out of punk a couple of years before, so when they started the VW it sounded more like 1981 than 1986, without any of the post-Hardcore cliches then rampant.
The Truth About You
Y Va A Caer
July 11, 2010
SON OF EETUSMAKELIJK, PART 1
Just got this at the great marktplaats.nl. Les Baroques were famed for using a bassoon, which sounds a bit like a flock of geese on this particular track, one of their earliest ones (1966). Great goofy vocals, too (I'd swear he sings "mongol" instead of "mine, girl"!). Their biggest hit was Such A Cad Am I, prompting the misheard answer record Sure He's A Cat by the Cats (who used an oboe instead of a bassoon).