Brian Wilson – “Brian Wilson” (1988)

August 24, 2008 at 6:20 pm (David Fricke, Reviews & Articles, The Beach Boys)

This Rolling Stone review from July 14, 1988 was written by probably my favorite music critic of all time, David Fricke. This was written about Brian Wilson’s criminally underrated debut (self-titled) solo album. Great review by an excellent writer. I hope he doesn’t mind me printing this here…


Surf’s Up Again for Brian

We should, of course, be grateful that Brian Wilson has finally released his debut solo album, a mere twenty-one years after he scrapped his intended magnum Beach Boys opus, Smile, and retreated into a bizarre twilight zone of drugs, paranoia, self-doubt and familial intrigue. We should also be indignant that a genius as rare as Wilson’s, however psychologically handicapped, was left to wither and wander for so long, put to no useful purpose other than periodic exploitation by the Beach Boys as a creative crutch and promotional tool. In the six short years that his musical faculties were in peak bloom – 1962 to 1967 – Wilson transformed rock & roll as radically and irreversibly as his archrivals, the Beatles. Yet he really became a legend before his prime; his double whammy of ’66, Pet Sounds and “Good Vibrations” – arguably his greatest studio triumphs – portended a musical vision and promise that sadly went unrealized.
Brian Wilson is a stunning reminder of what pop’s been missing all these years. It is also the best Beach Boys long player since 1970’s Sunflower, although Wilson is the only Beach Boy on it. The songs are full of sunshine choirboy harmonies and sing-along hooks, while the rich, expansive arrangements echo the orchestral radiance of Wilson’s spiritual mentor, Phil Spector. The album even climaxes with an elegant eight-minute symphonette, “Rio Grande,” in which Wilson and his chief collaborator on the album, harmony singer and multi-instrumentalist Andy Paley, re-create the muralistic sweep of earlier Wilson operettas like “Surf’s Up.” Indeed, the luxuriant melancholy of “Melt Away” and the bright, Spectoresque sparkle of “Little Children” make you wonder if Brian Wilson truly lost the gift of music and the will to create during his Dark Ages or if his muse was simply bored, forever laboring in the service of the Beach Boys.
The eerie similarity in tune and texture of Brian Wilson and Pet Sounds, which was really a solo album in all but name, suggests the newly liberated Wilson has merely picked up where he left off two decades ago. That may seem like taking two steps backward to go one step forward, but this is backtracking of the highest order. “Little Children,” a previously unreleased Wilson song of early-Seventies vintage, is a bouncy sonic Xerox of “Da Doo Ron Ron,” with a melodic bridge lifted right out of “Mountain of Love.” The title song is an almost childish plea for world peace and universal distribution of TLC (“I was standin’ in a bar and watchin’ all the people there/Oh the loneliness in this world, well, it’s just not fair”) scored with whipped-cream keyboards and rainbow harmonies executed by Wilson and Paley with a reassuring warmth and impeccable accuracy that has Beach Boys stamped on every “oooh” and “aaah.”
Yet just as Pet Sounds was a sweet ‘n’ sour mix of utopian wishfulness and troubled romanticism, the songs of innocence on Brian Wilson are laced with the unmistakable pain of Wilson’s personal experience. Amid the sumptuous vocal harmonies on “Melt Away,” Wilson winces with pain and shrugs with resignation, looking only to lose himself in love (“The world’s not waiting just for me/The world don’t care what I can be/I feel just like an island/Until I see you smilin'”). On the face of it, “Baby Let Your Hair Grow Long” is a wry slice of nostalgic yearning – note the oblique reference to the haunting Pet Sounds ballad “Caroline, No” (“Where did your long hair go?”) – set to a funky fuzz-bass strut and jangly timpani. Halfway through, though, Wilson turns the song into a kind of self-admonition: “I’ve been waitin’ to see that change in you/You can do it just the way you used to,” he declares with unexpected resolve in a high, firm tenor as the wistful cooing of the Wilson-Paley Overdub Chorale dovetails with a cushion of synthesized cellos.
At least time and trauma have not eroded Wilson’s commercial instincts. “Night Time” and “Walking the Line,” which features Terence Trent D’Arby in a vocal cameo, are tasty pieces of car radio ear candy in the ersatz-white-soul mold of Wild Honey. “Let It Shine” is a bland little bopper written and co-produced with ELO’s Jeff Lynne, but “Meet Me in My Dreams Tonight” is a jaunty kitchen-sink spectacular (vibes, glockenspiel, organ, piano, harpsichord and calliope – and that’s just for starters) topped with shifting contrapuntal harmonies à la “Good Vibrations.” Even more encouraging is Wilson’s willingness to pick up his impressionist sound brush again in “Rio Grande,” written and performed with Andy Paley. Raindrop electronics, corny campfire singing, a real-life bluegrass band and eerie vocal sections that alternately sound like howling winds and rolling currents all blend into a cohesive suite of pastoral surrealism that, although lacking any great lyric profundity, reaffirms Wilson’s unique grasp of textural alchemy and symphonic movement.
The only thing missing on Brian Wilson is a real statement of direction or purpose. Even at its best, the album is the sound of Brian Wilson, now in his mid forties, starting over. Still, as new beginnings go, it’s as full of promise as Pet Sounds was in its time. Although Wilson’s longtime therapist, Dr. Eugene Landy, is credited on the album as executive producer (Landy tried to get some of his own lyrics on the album and, thankfully, failed), Wilson’s undeniable show of strength as a writer, singer and arranger implies that music is all the medicine he needs now. He’s also found an invaluable partner in Andy Paley, a veteran popster (the Sidewinders, the Paley Brothers) so well versed in Beach Boys lore that he ably simulates classic instrumental and vocal parts without lapsing into mimicry.
Which may or may not spell finis for the Beach Boys themselves. Wilson pays a heartfelt tribute to the blood ties that bind in the short a cappella piece “One for the Boys” – he and Paley stack golden harmonies in cathedral-like spires. But while the song has no words, Wilson’s tender lead vocal, which glides down into the lower registers with a nervous fragility, speaks volumes of both love and loss, as if Brian Wilson weren’t just “See you later” but really “Goodbye.” Wilson’s time, though, is long overdue, and this record shows that he is not only willing but able. Brian Wilson’s endless bummer, it seems, is finally over.

David Fricke

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German Oak – “German Oak” (1972)

August 24, 2008 at 4:35 pm (Julian Cope, Krautrock, Reviews & Articles)

Written in 2001 for the Head Heritage website (check out the link on this page), here is Julian Cope’s review of the band German Oak, of which I had never heard of until then (and have still never heard this album – I have heard 2 tracks by them though)….  


In the strange Olympic summer of 1972, the Dusseldorf instrumental group German Oak entered the Luftschutzbunker, or Air Raid Shelter, in order to record their eponymous first LP. Following in the footsteps of the percussive and organic Organisation and the remarkable Dom, German Oak had every reason to believe that this 3rd LP to be recorded by a Dusseldorf band would be warmly received. Unfortunately, German Oak were not only wrong in their assumptions that locals would embrace their music, but even local record shops rejected all the group’s attempts to sell the albums in city outlets. Such was their lack of success that 202 of the original 213 copies were stored in the basement of the group’s organist until the mid-1980s, when a thirst for undiscovered Krautrock finally brought German Oak back from the dead.
But what is the sound of a group that was so rejected during its time of recording? Well, imagine a brutally recorded, brazen and ultra-skeletal industrial white funk played with all the claw-handed crowbar technique of the Red Crayola recording their famous “Hurricane Fighter Plane,” over which is superimposed the what-instrument-could-that-be rumblings of Gunther Schickert’s G.A.M. meeting the Electronic Meditation incarnation of early-T. Dream. That is the sound of German Oak. Imagine Faust’s reverb-y schoolroom in Wumme being party to a jam between Riot-period Sly Stone on itchy-scratchy bass and the pre-Kraftwerk ensemble Organisation (specifically “Milk Rock”), without their being formally introduced, and with all the hang-ups that this would entail. Again, this is the sound of German Oak.
It is a strangely skin-of-your-teeth genius. It is a toe-curlingly heartfelt method acting of the most in-your-face kind. In places it’s a sort of gormless Gong, even a moronic Magma – a Teutonic tribe standing in the ruins of some Roman temple, playing barbarian riffs on classical instruments too sizes too small. Aerosmith’s Joe Perry once said: “When all you’ve got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” He must have been listening to German Oak.
With German Oak, what seems, after two minutes, to be a simplistic and worryingly trite riff, becomes, after 8 minutes, to be the only real-honest-riff-in-town. Like the legendary death-blues of Josephus’ (also 16-minutes-plus) epic “Dead Man”, this is music which does not hit you instantly in the face, but is an accumulative groove, building and building on the endless repetition of some bog-standard soul-type “Please Please Please” bass line or rhythm guitar sequence.
There is a remarkable space within German Oak’s music, which may have been caused by their ultra-rudimentary playing, or may have been because they just listened ultra-attentively to each other as each player struggled for the notes. But, whatever the reason, German Oak conjured up a mythical sound in the grand Krautrock tradition. And as a quintet without a lead singer, they were a rare five-piece who never got in each other’s way. Throughout the music of German Oak, the bass and the lead guitar are frequently mistakable for each other, until the fuzzy lead will slowly claw itself out of the sonic mire of sound and drag itself arduously and inelegantly to the top of the heap. The drumming is often furious and even overplayed, yet it is often the single constant of the group.
Perhaps German Oak hit the nail on the head when they credited group members as the “Crew” and refused to give full names. Such was their sense of space that they often sounded like a trio and actually never like five people. Perhaps, like Can, they worked in pairs and recorded in parallel as opposed to one live performance. But somehow I doubt it. The recording quality and attention to sound separation is far too slack and haphazard. No, I’m sure the reason that the characterless “crew” credit sums up German Oak’s attitude best, is because it conspires to make them all sound like the dwarves whose job it was to hold up the four corners of the Viking world-view. Separately they were nothing – together they were everything.
Wolfgang Franz Czaika, here known only as Caesar, is credited with “Lead- & Rhythmguitar”. The busy flourishes of insistent drumming are by Ullrich Kallweit, here known only as Ulli “Drums/Percussion”. His brother Harry Kallweit, just known as Harry, contributes “Electric bass/voice”. This leaves the tail-gunners’ places to be filled by the wonderfully-named Manfred Uhr AKA Warlock on “Organ/fuzz-organ/voice” and Norbert Luckas AKA Nobbi on “Guitar/A77/Noises”. And, like the simple Amon Duul 1 credits, the friendly nick-names make the group appear even more mysterious and out-of-reach.
The German Oak LP consisted of two very long Krautgrooves, one on either side, with a short organ themed instrumental intro and outro at the beginning and end. Side One begins like a crusty hunt led by hunt saboteurs, as the one minute and fifty seconds of “Airalert” fades in from the mists of time with a hopeful and entirely amateurly recorded organ. Side One is then given over to the enormous eighteen-minutes of “Down in the Bunker”, where feedback whistles and screams and factory interior-sized organ roars, whilst relentless hammering on metal suggests that the workers are in there building something over the din. Portentous manically-bowed cello-style film theme bass guitar and scraping cymbals rise out of the maelstrom to prepare the listener for the onslaught to come. Sonically, it is pure sound, like the primal intro beauty of G.A.M.’s 1976 album, or the pure sound of Guru Gurus’s UFO, and the opening section of Ash Ra Tempel’s “Amboss.”
As though recorded in a deep river gorge from beyond time with dozens of old fridges and cookers strewn across its banks, this proto-industrial sound truly invokes the ancestors. And it is perfectly understandable that German Oak’s sleeve notes read: “As we played down there in the old bunker, suddenly a strange atmosphere began to work. The ghosts of the passed whispered.” Far from being deluded, German Oak’s crew are understating – for this track is alive with the dead, awash with a flood of ur-spirits from the recent past and the days of Yore. Banshee-like glissando guitars and Mani Neumaier-like voices creep up the north side of the track, mount the battlements and howl at us and the members of the group.
Side Two begins with the reverb’d minor key horseback charge of “Raid Over Dusseldorf”. The whole bulk of side two is taken up by this furious and rudimentary psychedelic ride, reminiscent of the Chocolate Watchband. Indeed, my friend and Brain Donor guitar cohort Doggen has suggested that it is the rhythm of the horse which heavy rock most often emulates. I would tend to agree with this assertion, as this rhythm can be found everywhere in rock, from the central spine of the Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues” to the middle of David Bowie’s “Width of a Circle”. And I would even cite Robert Browning’s 19th Century poem “How they brought the good news from Aix to Ghent” as an example of how pre-rock’n’roll this rhythm really is.
The final track of the album is the 2-minutes short “1945 – Out of the Ashes”, which returns to the organ-led hunting sound of the opening “Airalert” before cross-fading into the tolling of a lone bell.
Though I am rarely a fan of extra tracks being added to CD reissues, we must count ourselves lucky in this case to have been handed the three superb pre-LP German Oak workouts located herein. The five-minute “Swastika Rising” sounds like the Plastic Ono Band meeting both Faust and Organisation; all rudimentary organ, splatter drums and a barely coherent and wandering psychedelic fuzz guitar. Following this, the ten-minute “The Third Reich” starts with a Hitler Rally speech, before slipping inside yet another hypnotic and insistently mesmerising teen Funkadelic groove with scything and Scythian psychedelic guitar. A brazen disabled lead guitar mindlessly scatters seedling riffs across an infertile field of unidirectional bass riffing and extremely formulaic drum fills, played relentlessly and robotically. The final extra track, “Shadows of War”, is like an overladen Chinook helicopter struggling to lift off from its pad; the organ chords seemingly weighted down by the reverb’d wodges of clawed bass. Then another Hitler Rally cut-up sends us into a collage of over hasty milk delivery as an obligatory Stuka raid finally cuts us down in a single all-terminal bomb blast.
I noted in Krautrocksampler that the German postwar youth scene was trying to work itself free of its recent Holocaust history, and German Oak in particular seem to have wrestled with these demons for longer than most. Their sleeve-note dedication seems all-the-more poignant and moving for its bathos and poor translation:

“We dedicate this record to our parents which had a bad time in World War 2.”

Julian Cope

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Battiato – “Meccanica” (1972)

August 24, 2008 at 4:34 pm (Music)

This combination of genius and overindulgent nonsense came out in 1972 on the charmingly-named Fetus album. Franco Battiato was an Italian prog-rock composer, who was influenced by Stockhausen and later worked with Jim Kerr of Simple Minds and opened up in concert for Brian Eno and Nico.  
The lyrics here are sung in Italian.

(Audio only)

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German Oak – “Swastika Rising” (1972)

August 24, 2008 at 4:08 pm (Krautrock, Music)

No, this is NOT a band of Nazis, despite the name of the song. They were a very obscure German rock band from the early 70s that combined hard rock, psychedelia and elements of the current Kosmische German rock scene, mixed with bits of Sly Stone and Funkadelic. Think of them as almost a proto-industrial garage rock band.
They grappled with the demons of their parents’ generation (hence the controversial song titles) but they were rejecting those fascist ideals, not favoring them. They were a very underground band, that recorded in less than ideal circumstances, which results in the subpar audio quality.  

(Note: the last 15 seconds of the song is garbled and then ends abruptly. I apologize for this)

Make sure to check out Julian Cope’s review of their self-titled album – of which I will be including on here shortly.

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Flower Travellin’ Band – “Satori” (1971)

August 24, 2008 at 3:53 pm (Music)

Rare 8mm footage of this obscure Japanese acid rock band, set to music from their 1971 album Satori (not sure which track off the album it is, since every song is simply numbered).  

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Julian Cope – “Faust: The Greatest Gimmick of All” (1995)

August 24, 2008 at 1:46 pm (Julian Cope, Krautrock, Reviews & Articles)

Written by singer Julian Cope for his excellent book Krautrocksampler, which came out in 1995. He turned me on to dozens of great albums in this genre. If he hadn’t become a critic, he would have made an excellent full-time rock critic (check out the website he contributes to – Head Heritage, under my “Blogroll”). 
I am printing his article on the band Faust. I hope he doesn’t mind… 

“The idea was not to copy anything going on in the Anglo-Saxon rock scene – and it worked…”
Uwe Nettelbeck, 1973

The Sound of Yourself Listening

There is no group more mythical than Faust. I bought my first Faust record over 22 years ago, but I could not tell you the names of the group members off the top of my head. And I could not tell you the names of all their songs, though I know them all better than almost everything else in my record library. I saw them live on their legendary 1973 tour, but you could show me 10 photos of Krautrock musicians, and I could not pick out the five members of Faust.
Faust worked under a conscious veil of secrecy akin to, and inspiring to, San Francisco’s The Residents. They were a conceptual band, and in isolation is how they were conceived. By the end of 1970, it became clear to Kurt Enders, an A&R man for German Polydor, that there was a place for the extreme new West German rock music in the international rock’n’roll sphere. But no-one had yet attempted an entirely new sound that broke all of the imported rules of the British and American scenes. He told this to the music journalist, Uwe Nettlebeck, who was extremely impressed and wanted to lead just such a project.
And so Faust was born – as cold and antiseptically as that. No, not really. It was a fabulous challenge and showed how, very occasionally, visionaries in record companies have been seen to get it absolutely right. Faust means ‘fist’, and a fist they were. Who the hell knows what their rehearsals were like in the Spring/Summer of 1971. Uwe Nettlebeck had spent Faust’s large advance on building a studio at Wümme. This old converted schoolhouse, between Hamburg and Bremen, became their place of learning (and de-learning) a style which was fuzzy, funny and extremely uncommercial, yet busted out with weird hook lines and extraordinary sounds. But when they made their debut at the Musikhalle in Hamburg, the press hated it. The audience didn’t know what to make of it, and so the whole public thing started very badly for them in their home country. And when the LP was released in late 1971, the sales were so poor as to be as legendary as the group would some day become. Some sources quote under one thousand records sold in the first months of Faust being released.
But Faust were good. In fact, they had made a very special first album. It just took time to get it. And when Polydor released Faust in Britain, the strongest appeal of their LP was that it was produced in clear vinyl, with a clear lyric sheet and a clear jacket, emblazoned with a fist in X-ray. The effect was dramatic. And at a time when a hype could kill a new band stone-dead, even John Peel wrote that when he first saw the album “. . . regardless of the music within, I had to acquire one.” Peel played the album all the time, and my Krautrock mates and I would all bore ourselves stupid, re-enacting the beginning of it, whenever we hung out together or took the train into Birmingham. It was such a catchy bizarre sound. It sounded like music from some parallel universe suspended in time and played through the oldest radio.
Extremely overloaded over-recorded synthesizers and radio static begin the album as fractions of “All you Need is Love” and “Satisfaction” burst in, followed by a vocal calling from another room, then a pretty schoolhouse piano (of course!), into a very arranged Zappa-esque horn piece which comes over a bit Teutonic, a bit “Lumpy Gravy”-ish. And in two minutes of music Faust has taken you into the most inventive editing territory rock’n’roll has seen. Faust’s unexpected success in Britain prompted them to focus themselves here, and the second LP, Faust So Far, was actually released here first. Again, it was a gimmick record – all black this time, with a black inner sleeve, raised black lettering on the record-label, and a set of 12″x12″ prints that illustrated each song. But this album was somehow far more confident that the first one. So Far opens with my favorite ever Faust song. “It’s a Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl” is a Temptations call and answer chorus over a boom-boom-boom-boom Mo Tucker one-chord trance-out. The rhythm guitar is on the same level as the Velvet Underground’s “Live 1969”, and the sax solo is my favorite on record. The production is clean and wants to be heard. It’s the same throughout the album, and proved that Faust cut it as an un-straight pop band, the same way early Roxy Music did. Polydor also thought so, and released So Far as a single. The B-side, “It’s a Bit of a Pain” reminds me of something from the third Velvet’s album. So where were Faust coming from? Though their influences are ultimately unimportant, when a group is as original as Faust, it’s impossible not to be overtly inquisitive as to how they came to this fabulous sound. And so to catch certain glimpses of other people’s attitude in their music is to heave a sigh of relief that, yes, they were human after all.

The Clear Album

Listen to the Mothers of Invention’s concert recordings from 1966 onwards and it’s just trash. Musical bollocks of the most merely capable variety. Faust live? This is a different thing entirely. Like all the greatest Teutonic groups, Faust were brought up with middle-European dances and a staple of folk and tradition which was not 4/4. As a consequence, German bands could get far more complex than U.S. and British bands would ever dare and it still sounds rocking and crazy, rather than a bunch of Twee Smug Gits. Find an old Caravan, Man or Henry Cow LP for 50p somewhere and compare it with this. I’m joking of course.
Four years ago, I had dinner with a very successful journalist who told me that he’d had to review Love’s Forever Changes for Q Magazine now that it was available on CD. Wow, I shouted. You lucky fucker! Yes, he said. But I know it so well I couldn’t summon up any real energy, so I just gave it 8/10. Forever Changes is  dark achievement. Were it an ancient text or a document it would be hidden from view and spoken of in obscure circles, But because it operates through the medium of Pop Music, it gets tarts like said Journalist giving it 8/10. This is a classic case of a man sleepwalking through life.
So now I have to set to and tell you about the first Faust album, and I will not let you down. For a start, its a big 10/10. No, make that 11/10. It defies categories. It’s a horrible noise. It’s cut-ups to the Nth degree. Part of it is just like Frank Zappa’s “Lumpy Gravy” (a funny bit, thank the Goddess.) It is super-gimmicky, syrupy in the weirdest places, and never outstays its welcome. But probably the strangest thing of all is just how good Faust sound when they are creating on the spot moments of rock’n’roll on the epic Miss Fortune. Here they transcend all studio trickery and here they come alive.

So Far

… As classic rock’n’roll album openers go, few beat So Far’s “It’s a Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl.” Tom-tons bom-bom-bom-bom for a few bars, then a low bass piano copies it in the thud-thud-thud-thud. Then the Krautrock Temptations coo to each other: “It’s a rainy day, sunshine girl, it’s a rainy day, sunshine baby.” Talk about a smart bloody opening. The best sax solo in the world chases the fade. It’s my favorite ever Faust song. Have I said that enough times, yet? I’ll be honest about it. I really like Krautrock.
Faust So Far was released in an all black sleeve. The album has a shiny blackness to the music. There’s an ominousness in the gross image that depicts the song “No Harm,” a small woman being attacked by a gargantuan man, which is disgusting and questionable. But I’m sure that it was intended to displease, though I can’t say that is any great reason for an artist to do such a thing. Elements of the Velvet Underground acoustic third album scene is picked out by Faust around this time. Also, the brass fanfare of the title track has a tough instrumental skank, pre-dating Can’s Teutonic reggae excursions. “Mamie is Blue” is yet another rip off of the Soft Machine’s “We Did it Again”, but the drumming/synthesizer playing duel is truly astonishing music, especially those electric drill funk noises. Side 2 also contains more of the typical Faust semi-cut-up-threatening-to be-a-song-any-moment trip.
I think they intended to record a Typical Rock Album as a basic standpoint, but they tried not to make the songs typical at all. Certainly, “It’s a Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl” is the classic opener, and “In the Spirit” closes So Far the same way “America Drinks and Goes Home” ends the Mothers’ “Absolutely Free”, the same way “Jugband Blues” ends A Saucerful of Secrets, the way “Something Happened to me Yesterday” ends the Rolling Stones’ Between the Buttons. Maybe I need a couple more examples. This is a great album. Search it out.

The Faust Tapes

It well befits the Myth of Krautrock that what became the figurehead of the genre originally bailed out of the shops at 49p! And even more incredible is the recent revelation that Virgin Records lost no money on the campaign. Steve Lewis, the man behind the scam, claims to have taken very few risks for what appeared at the time as an Heroic release. Whilst the master tape of Faust’s home-recordings was bought cheaply from Uwe Nettlebeck, the album sleeve was a glorious Warholian pre-punk mess. One side was press clippings that revealed just how freaked-out their home country had been when the Faust LP (‘Clear’) had first appeared in 1971. The other side was Brigit Riley’s monochrome op-art trip called ‘Crest’. And even this was an obvious and risk-free winner. Five or so years earlier, Leonard Bernstein’s out there “Music for our Time” LP had employed Riley’s ‘Current’ to fabulous effect. That the two different paintings could have been details of one larger work ensured in advance that The Faust Tapes would look great.
The album fades in slowly in a cacophony of rainy city blues, droning synthesizers and tonelessness. An abrupt edit cuts suddenly to a call and answer vocal and drum groove and. . . bang! A savage edit into. .. a ballad. Piano, drums, acoustic guitar, Eno-ish synthesizer and voice. A ballad. Except that the vocals were intriguingly trans-Atlantic and sounded insightfully psychedelic in a badly-translated way. It was charming: “When you leave your place and walk in someone other’s garden, Suddenly you see, it’s a woman’s colour in your mind to be.”
Most surprising about The Faust Tapes is the number of truly wonderful pop and rock songs hidden within the cut-ups and experiments of the album’s tangled grooves. And halfway through Side I is their most defining Krautrock riff of all. It’s another of Faust’s Krautrock/Family Stone/Temptations trips in the tradition of “It’s a Rainy Day”. A scientific German-American voice makes pronouncements over the groove and Gunter Wüsthoff’s sax tears along over a loopy breakneck driving beat, as the call and answer of life kicks in: “Chet-vah Buddha, Cherra-loopiz Chet-vah Buddha, Cherra-loopiz. Chet-vah Buddha, Cherra-loopiz Chet-vah Buddha, Cherra-loopiz.
50,000 copies of The Faust Tapes were sold in 1973 and the night they played at Birmingham Town Hall, it seemed as though those words could become a football anthem. The Heads were taking over. Soon after, as we lay in my friend Cott’s caravan listening to The John Peel Show, out of nowhere the DJ began to read out the names of the 20 or more songs from The Faust Tapes. The sleeve and label of the LP had showed no titles to any of the songs and Cott raced around trying to find a pen. It was all over in half-a-minute and all I could remember was some title about Humphrey Bogart. It took me a while to come to terms with the fact that John Peel was in on Faust’s intended wind-up of its audience – that we were only meant to hear the titles fleetingly and race around like half-wits. And Faust were right.
. . it was their persistence in the Entirety of their trip that makes them so legendary now. Even better, The Faust Tapes was the social phenomenon of 1973, and it finally brought the true avant garde into everyone’s living room, for a short while at least. But most of all this LP revealed just which side of the fence everyone was really standing. In April 1980, Jim Kerr, leader of dinosaurs Simple Minds, gleefully told me how he and his mates had all chucked their copies of The Faust Tapes off the roof of a Glasgow tenement. Enough Said? I’m sure that’s the phrase.

The Faust Tour

“In the midst of Faust-mouzik time ticks like a bomb.”

From Faust’s free 1973 Tour-handout.

It’s hard to explain the excitement that the Faust tour brought. In mid-1973, nobody had a clue who they were, or even if they existed at all. The name Uwe Nettlebeck was constantly heard, and rumour’s in the press abounded. The tour took on a sort of ‘underground event of the year’ vibe and even some of my hard-rock mates came to Birmingham Town Hall to see them. In the foyer were free Faust manifestos handed to everyone, and free Henry Cow posters. It was ironic, but perfect really, that Virgin had chosen such a lame bunch as Henry Cow to support. They played their wacky Cambridge University Degree music on bassoons and time-changes galore, and the guitarist ran to the side of the stage and put headphones on, and pretended to listen to the band in a jolly way. Ho-hum.
But then it was all change as the road drills and hand-painted upright piano came on stage. And the two pinball-machines, one on each side of the stage, facing outwards and connected to synthesizers. And the lights were all intense white, with extremely directional strobes that lit up the high ceiling of the Town Hall. It was 1973, and musicians usually soloed and looked to the audience for applause, and great ugly guys danced around in cheese-cloth singing about fucking nothing at all. And then Faust walked on – longhairs without flares, wearing those pale European straight-legs you’d see on hip German students over here in the early ’70s. I couldn’t believe it – they opened with “It’s a Rainy Day (Sunshine Girl)”. One played the drums, one played the piano and sung, one played acoustic guitar and sung, and the two others played pinball machines that triggered synthesizers – backs to each other on either side of the stage, as strobes caught the strings of the finest rhythm guitarist since Lou Reed. It was epic, it was brilliant, it had attitude enough to raze cities and it ruined every show I went to for at least two years after. At times they caught snatches of their songs and flung them about a bit, but they had concrete on stage and big road drills and their very Stooges’ Ur-punk presence awed me and shocked me.

Faust IV and the End of the Line

… After that, Faust were inevitably in a corner. They had become a part of mid-teenage British culture and The Faust Tapes was subjected to Monty Python-like rituals in the schoolyard, to see how much of it we knew and sort out the real Heads. When Faust IV came out it was an enormous letdown. I can’t think of anyone who bought it. The packaging was weak. The songs had real riffs, and there was a reggae song on it! That song, “The Sad Skinhead” is now one of their best, but I couldn’t see it at the time. And neither could anyone else. Faust IV, certainly as great as all but The Faust Tapes, was given the thumbs down. In truth, “Krautrock,”, the classic 12-minute epic that opened the album, is really just a continuation of their whole trip They followed it with amazing songs; “Jennifer” and “Giggy Smile” are Krautrock classics. But I suppose Faust IV didn’t have the innate sense of Moment that all their previous events/releases had. With hindsight, the sleeve was vastly inferior to all the others and maybe they should have stayed in Wümme instead of recording it in the Manor, in Oxfordshire. But hindsight does no one any good, and when Faust 5 was rejected by Virgin, Uwe Nettlebeck lost interest and Faust disappeared just as mysteriously as they had first arrived.
But the story did not end there. Faust were guaranteed immediate legend status for what they had achieved and, like Neu! and Can, were highly inspirational to the soon-coming British punk-scene. New albums of old songs have surfaced from time to time, Munich & Elsewhere, The Last LP, and 71 Minutes of Faust all contain unreleased songs in various configurations. But, greater than all their records, Faust tell of an heroic time when reaching for the stars did not have to include getting the stars in order to be successful.

Julian Cope

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“James Paul McCartney” (1973 – Part 2)

August 24, 2008 at 4:38 am (Music, Paul McCartney)

Ever the show biz pro, Paul did this TV special in 1973 called James Paul McCartney. Features live versions by Wings of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” “Little Woman Love” and “C Moon.”

More to come…

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Matthew Wilder – “Don’t Break My Stride” (1983)

August 24, 2008 at 4:35 am (Jamaican Music, Reggae)

Another pop-reggae classic, this time by Matthew Wilder – he was basically a one hit wonder. This was a Top 5 hit in 1983. He later worked as a producer for Christina Aguilera, No Doubt and Kelly Clarkson.

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Musical Youth – “Pass the Dutchie” (1982)

August 24, 2008 at 4:30 am (Jamaican Music, Reggae)

Everyone should know this one. A huge hit back in 1982 by this group of youngsters. This pop-reggae song was nominated for a Grammy and the band itself won the Grammy for best new artist in 1983. They disappeared soon after though.

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Scotty – “Draw Your Brakes” (1971)

August 24, 2008 at 4:20 am (Jamaican Music, Reggae)

From The Harder They Come soundtrack – this was originally known as “Stop That Train” by Keith & Tex and was a big rocksteady hit in the late 60s. This was one of the only big songs that Scotty (born David Scott) had. Great song though…

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