Bruce Haack – “Party Machine” (1983)

June 30, 2009 at 8:00 pm (Electronica, Funk)

This funky, techno dance track from electronic pioneer Bruce Haack comes from 1983 (some might think this is from 1978 but it’s not), and was made with hip hop producer Russell Simmons, using then popular vocoderized vocals.

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Enoch Light and the Light Brigade – “Hi-Jack” (1975)

June 30, 2009 at 7:35 pm (Music)

This song will be familiar from Jennifer Lopez’s hit song “Jenny from the Block” (again off her This Is Me…Then album). This song comes from 1975.

Enoch Light was a classical violinist, bandleader and recording engineer. He is credited with being one of the first musicians to go to extreme lengths to create high-quality recordings that took full advantage of the technical capabilities of home audio equipment of the late 1950s and early 1960s, particularly stereo effects that bounced the sounds between the right and left channels (often described as “ping-pong”). 

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Debra & Ronnie Laws – “Very Special” (1981)

June 30, 2009 at 7:25 pm (Music)

This 1981 R&B song was sampled by Jennifer Lopez on her song “All I Have” from This Is Me…Then (2003).

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Idris Muhammad – “Loran’s Dance” (1974)

June 30, 2009 at 6:54 pm (Jazz)

Taken from the drummer’s Power of Soul album from 1974, comes this tune that was sampled at the beginning of The Beastie Boys’ classic 1989 album Paul’s Boutique

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Jim Langdon – “The 13th Floor Elevators” (1965)

June 30, 2009 at 4:10 pm (Music, Reviews & Articles)

One of the earliest mentions of The Elevators in print. This short blurb comes from the Langdon’s Nightbeat column in a late 1965 edition of The Austin American Statesman (the band’s hometown newspaper). The article makes note of Roky Erickson’s previous band The Spades, as well.
This was basically the first rumblings of what soon became known as “psychedelic” music…


Roky Erickson’s new band – the 13th Floor Elevators – opened the Jade Room Wednesday and Thursday nights.

The band drew good crowds both nights despite competition from one-night appearances of Roy Head (Wednesday at The Swingers) and Stan Getz (Thursday at Municipal Auditorium.)

While Roky is still as exciting as ever, and the personnel of the new band sounds good individually, the group will need a little time to jell to match the continuity of the old Spades.

And those who might have been curious as to the contribution of the amplified jug in the new group were probably disappointed, for the jug, even amplified, was hardly audible over the amplified guitars and bass.

Jim Langdon

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Karen Schlosberg – “XTC: Celestial Postcards” (1987)

June 30, 2009 at 1:54 pm (Music, Reviews & Articles, XTC)

A Creem article from July 1987 on Swindon, England’s finest, right after they released their masterpiece Skylarking, which unfortunately did not make them the big stars they should have been…oh well…such is life… 


An update on the attempted Americanization of XTC. For an eighth full album the trio is told, as reported by stalwart singer/songwriter/guitarist Andy Partridge, to “go away and write something that sounds American.” An American producer, Todd Rundgren, is lined up for them and Partridge is told, in no uncertain terms, to “shut up and be produced.”

The result, Skylarking, says Partridge, is probably “more English than [the record company] knows what to do with. I think they got the impression that we were going to do something like Simple Minds or U2, something that you could put your girlfriend on your shoulders to in a stadium somewhere.”

Hadn’t record company execs in charge of dictums listened to previous XTC albums? Partridge laughs. “Probably not. You probably hit the nail exactly on the head there.”

XTC has been, throughout their eclectic 10-year history, perhaps the most British band in existence. Partridge and fellow songwriter/singer/bassist Colin Moulding, with guitarist Dave Gregory, have crafted a unique sound that captures emotion, history and philosophy in a haunting style. And this timeless feel has become stronger as the band’s voice matured: from the delightful jumpy energy of Drums and Wires‘ ‘Life Begins at the Hop’ and ‘Making Plans For Nigel’ to Black Sea‘s ‘Towers of London’; from the pastoral-turning English Settlement‘s ‘Senses Working Overtime’ and the exquisite jewels of Mummer such as ‘Love on a Farmboy’s Wages’ and ‘In Loving Memory of a Name’ to The Big Express‘s ‘All You Pretty Girls’ and the current Skylarking, with its recurring themes of seasonal and cyclical rebirth (more songs about weather and girls).

Partridge agrees with the “timeless” description. “We pirate our favorite musical forms: psychedelic music’s in there, jazz is in there, there’s straight-ahead pop stuff, there’s vaudeville, there’s classical – it’s all thrown in, completely unabashed. It could be any time from 1880 to 1980-something, maybe even 2080-something.

“I feel it’s kind of related to Mummer,” he continues. “It seems to do a tangent to what Mummer threatened; it seems to take one of those threats and work it out totally, the lush English countryside, strings, rusticism – if such a word exists; if not, I’ve just invented it – side of things.” Partridge speaks in perfect asides, punctuated often with quick witticisms. And he did just invent a word.

One of the tangents XTC threaded into Skylarking resulted from the trio’s lighthearted, affectionate foray into psychedelia as the Dukes of Stratosphear with the 1985 EP 25 O’ Clock, which Partridge says, ‘was the most fun we ever had making a record. There was no pressure. You didn’t have to be yourself; it was a psychedelic masked ball. It was a chance to say thank you to all those loopy, senseless groups that altered our schooldays. [The Dukes] are what we could have been for five minutes had we been the right age. I’m too young to be a hippie.”

After that heady plunge into paisley, though, the trio had to be careful. “We just became very aware that, with the next thing we recorded, we were just going to have to slap each other’s wrist if somebody said, ‘Hey, let’s put a backward guitar solo…’ I think everyone was alarmingly aware of making a psychedelic album again, and even though we consciously tried not to, [Skylarking] came out rather psychedelic – there’s strings on things and there are no real synthesizers as such, so it sort of sounds pre-’80’s, at least.”

That the LP is a somewhat baroque and ethereally-textured collection is due to Rundgren’s hand. “He wouldn’t do anything vaguely political or noisy,” says Partridge. “He tended to go for personal relationship, small-horizon songs. Todd obviously likes non-harrowing music.”

It’s rather ironic that, even though XTC did not get along at all well with the Woodstock hermit (“The atmosphere was so bad, everyone was getting so argumentative, I thought we were just going to split up and fall apart”), and the resulting LP was so far from the American sound the execs lusted after that Partridge says “initially they didn’t even want to put this album out,” XTC might yet have a hit with the tune ‘Dear God’. And that is an irony within an irony, because at Partridge’s demand, the song was not released on the first pressings of Skylarking.

Seems the young American girl singing on the track was originally envisioned as a young English boy (“It’s like the wrong sex and wrong accent – other than that it was perfect,” laughs Partridge), and Andy felt that another song he had written, ‘Another Satellite’, was better. “So I sort of threw a tantrum and said, ‘This must go on, take ‘Dear God’ off.’ But it looks like ‘Dear God’ will be going back on in any case,” he adds, chuckling.

It would be lovely to hear XTC’s distinctive and intelligent pop songs permeating the radio, although it’s bound to be a sporadic occurrence, since the lads’ sound is probably too different to sit well with contemporary radio programming standards. Another irony, since XTC is constantly being compared to one of the most successful groups in pop history, the Beatles.

“This isn’t something that we work on,” emphasizes Partridge. “We get a lot of mail saying ‘My favorite two bands in all of history are you and the Beatles.’ I think it’s because we have a lot of eclectic tastes in music and we’re not afraid to bung them all in. What comes out is this kind of multi-colored stew that the easiest way to define is: ‘Oh, the last people that maybe did that kind of multi-colored stew thing were the Beatles.’ It’s quite flattering, and it’s very good ego stuff, but it’s not commercially viable in big amounts. I’m beginning to get rather mercenary about art. Nearly 10 years of good albums, come on, can I have some cash please, now,” he says, laughing.

Though the thread of financial depression (and half-joking paranoia at being sentenced to be struggling Cult Faves forever) runs through Partridge’s commentary, he and his compatriots still forge hopefully on, passionately creating music for art’s sake. “We’re sort of idiots, really,” he says cheerfully. “We just love making records. We do tend to get the rough end of the stick, but we’re pretty optimistic. Well, actually, Dave’s an incredible pessimist, but I balance that out by being absolutely, aggressively optimistic.

“You can’t do one thing too much because then you’ll die – life is about 50 percent no and 50 percent yes,” Partridge says. “I hope there is [a balance on the record], ’cause I’d hate to make a record that was all one thing. What’s worse than a wallpaper book with all the same sample on every page? A meal of entirely chocolate. The fun about chocolate is you suffer your Brussels sprouts and then your reward is a bar of chocolate. It’s called balance.”

And possibly good news for fans. Partridge is showing signs of mobility, perhaps leading to something vaguely resembling concert appearances – which the band had sworn off for nearly five years, due to an acute audience-phobia that made him physically ill. A live radio broadcast was being set up in Britain, and, Partridge adds definitely, “I’m sort of kind of semi-interested in doing that kind of thing again. Not for money – a good tour was breaking even. Just maybe it’s time I got up and lost some weight and shook my bum under some lights again…I don’t know.”

Karen Schlosberg

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John Clellon Holmes – “The Horn” (1958)

June 30, 2009 at 12:31 pm (Kenneth Rexroth, Poetry & Literature, Reviews & Articles, The Beats)

Kenneth Rexroth wrote this review of Holmes’ “jazz novel” for Saturday Review, Aug. 2, 1958…


A Jazz Novel


John Clellon Holmes is famous as the inventor of the Beat Generation. But if he is himself a Beatnik, he is a Beatnik with insight, a coherent Beatnik. His novel Go was not so ambitious as a “work of art” as Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, let alone The Subterraneans. But it is far more comprehending. I know the point of beat literature is precisely its lack of comprehension — oh, I dig — but if you want to understand the little group of Greenwich Villagers Allen Ginsberg so pathetically called “the best minds of my generation,” Go is the book.

The Horn is about Negroes and jazz, subjects about which the Beatnik, by definition, knows very much less than nothing. So The Horn is hung up on its own dilemma, but not badly hung up. Holmes shares the jazz mystique, the fascination with jazz as a way of life common to all — American and foreign — bohemia today. If (as Norman Mailer has characterized him) the hipster is an imitation Negro, the characters in The Horn are the kind of Negroes the hipster tries to imitate. Holmes is a conscientious craftsman, with considerable understanding of humans and their motives, and his fictional honesty redeems him. He says, “Finally Negro people are forever out of reach of white people, no matter how the whites strive or how they yearn.” This is certainly the worst sort of Negrophile mystique. In jazz they call it “Crow-Jimism.” The only answer to it of course is, “Well, what are you doing writing this novel?”

Nevertheless, his people are, for many pages at a time, simply people, with rather special conditions of tragedy, but finally with purely human tragedies, like you and me. The mystique distorts; this is not the life of Negro jazzmen, but it is remarkably close. As a matter of fact, The Horn, like Go, is a roman à clef, and the distortion of Negro life and of the jazz world is proportionate to Holmes’s inventions and departures from the facts in the lives of his originals.

His people are close enough to real life for one powerful conclusion to come through and slap you in the face. What a horrible life! Now the hipster, the Beatnik, imitates the horror. He likes it. The characters in On the Road don’t have to live that way. The Negroes in The Horn do, and they don’t like it a bit. As a social document The Horn is a shocking exposé of working conditions of the Negro in the entertainment business.

The writing is pretty dithyrambic. Algren and Kerouac are not the best models for Holmes, with his more pedestrian talents. In spite of this, the mystique slowly drains out. What finally emerges is a novel of tragedy and disgust — “The Jungle” of the life of a jazzman in the days of bop. What a life for artists to lead! Thousands of Modiglianis and Soutines and Utrillos and Artauds in all the ugly jazz joints of America. No center possible for life at all except the immediate act of art which is jazz — so beautiful and gone in an instant into a smoky, noisy, drunken room, like Brancusi’s “Bird in Flight” in Doré’s “Inferno.”

On one point the mystique does not catch Holmes out. Carried away by the fervent bop propaganda, he does attribute far too much to the music as music. All the storm and stress of the bop revolution was about nothing more than the introduction of a few chords which were commonplaces to Beethoven, the use of the saxophone as a woodwind, which is what it is, rather than as a novelty instrument, and a slightly more flexible treatment of the standard jazz beat — 8/8 or 12/8 instead of always 4/4. Even today the new “1958 Harlem Hard Bop” sounds like nothing so much as very simple, extra loud Berlioz. Like almost all jazz buffs, Holmes shows no signs of knowing what goes on musically in jazz — he digs it — it sends him. It doesn’t really send the musicians, they just tell the customers that. They know what they are doing. The real touchstone of musical appreciation in modern jazz is the young bassist — called Billy James in the book, but obviously a real person well known to all modern jazz fans — whom Holmes puts down with a series of sneers. To be brutal about it, he has something of the tone of “Who’s this uppity nigra with his Juilliard education?” Holmes is still looking for that jungle note.

It so happens that in real life this man [Charles Mingus] got his first date as a high-school boy with Kid Ory, who is jungly enough for anybody, was brought out in New York by Oscar Pettiford, who is pretty funky still, was known all through the bop era as “The Bird of the Bass” though still just a kid, and today is the foremost single pioneer of the kind of modernist jazz that Holmes mistakenly thinks bop was. He is anything but a snob and if he did walk to the mike once in Minton’s and say, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is not jazz; these are very sick men,” nothing shows how right he was more than the retelling of the episode in this very book. (But then, what is a novel for? Revenge is sweet. He — the original — recently drove a bunch of noisy Beatnik would-be “jazz poets” out of the club where he was performing. They were friends of Holmes’s.)

Fortunately, things are no longer quite so bad as they were in the days of this novel, the Thirties and Forties. A period of minor musical revolution in the till then extremely hidebound world of jazz happened to coincide with humanity’s worst world war and with the concomitant social and cultural breakthrough of the American Negro. The story of Lester Young’s persecution in Army stockades is far more awful than any of the episodes from his career reworked in this book. Los Angeles or Harlem, Buddy Collette or Don Byrd, the young Negro musician coming up today will never comprehend just how awful it was, what a cruel price, the price of life itself, older jazzmen paid to put him where he is. The Horn is a pretty accurate picture of that life — that life and that death. They can read about it there. I don’t think they are going to have to live it. If some of them do, it will be because they want to — like the Beatniks who think it’s kicks.

Kenneth Rexroth

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Gary Snyder – “Buddhism and the Coming Revolution” (1969)

June 30, 2009 at 8:47 am (Gary Snyder, Reviews & Articles, The Beats)

This is a slightly revised version of an article Snyder wrote in 1961 called “Buddhist Anarchism” for a City Lights publication called Journal for the Protection of All Beings #1. This revised version came out in 1969 in a collection called Earth House Hold 


Buddhism holds that the universe and all creatures in it are intrinsically in a state of complete wisdom, love and compassion; acting in natural response and mutual interdependence. The personal realization of this from-the-beginning state cannot be had for and by one-“self” — because it is not fully realized unless one has given the self up; and away.

In the Buddhist view, that which obstructs the effortless manifestation of this is Ignorance, which projects into fear and needless craving. Historically, Buddhist philosophers have failed to analyze out the degree to which ignorance and suffering are caused or encouraged by social factors, considering fear-and-desire to be given facts of the human condition. Consequently the major concern of Buddhist philosophy is epistemology and “psychology” with no attention paid to historical or sociological problems. Although Mahayana Buddhism has a grand vision of universal salvation, the actual achievement of Buddhism has been the development of practical systems of meditation toward the end of liberating a few dedicated individuals from psychological hangups and cultural conditionings. Institutional Buddhism has been conspicuously ready to accept or ignore the inequalities and tyrannies of whatever political system it found itself under. This can be death to Buddhism, because it is death to any meaningful function of compassion. Wisdom without compassion feels no pain.

No one today can afford to be innocent, or indulge himself in ignorance of the nature of contemporary governments, politics and social orders. The national polities of the modern world maintain their existence by deliberately fostered craving and fear: monstrous protection rackets. The “free world” has become economically dependent on a fantastic system of stimulation of greed which cannot be fulfilled, sexual desire which cannot be satiated and hatred which has no outlet except against oneself, the persons one is supposed to love, or the revolutionary aspirations of pitiful, poverty-stricken marginal societies like Cuba or Vietnam. The conditions of the Cold War have turned all modern societies — Communist included — into vicious distorters of man’s true potential. They create populations of “preta” — hungry ghosts, with giant appetites and throats no bigger than needles. The soil, the forests and all animal life are being consumed by these cancerous collectivities; the air and water of the planet is being fouled by them.

There is nothing in human nature or the requirements of human social organization which intrinsically requires that a culture be contradictory, repressive and productive of violent and frustrated personalities. Recent findings in anthropology and psychology make this more and more evident. One can prove it for himself by taking a good look at his own nature through meditation. Once a person has this much faith and insight, he must be led to a deep concern with the need for radical social change through a variety of hopefully non-violent means.

The joyous and voluntary poverty of Buddhism becomes a positive force. The traditional harmlessness and refusal to take life in any form has nation-shaking implications. The practice of meditation, for which one needs only “the ground beneath one’s feet,” wipes out mountains of junk being pumped into the mind by the mass media and supermarket universities. The belief in a serene and generous fulfillment of natural loving desires destroys ideologies which blind, maim and repress — and points the way to a kind of community which would amaze “moralists” and transform armies of men who are fighters because they cannot be lovers.

Avatamsaka (Kegon) Buddhist philosophy sees the world as a vast interrelated network in which all objects and creatures are necessary and illuminated. From one standpoint, governments, wars, or all that we consider “evil” are uncompromisingly contained in this totalistic realm. The hawk, the swoop and the hare are one. From the “human” standpoint we cannot live in those terms unless all beings see with the same enlightened eye. The Bodhisattva lives by the sufferer’s standard, and he must be effective in aiding those who suffer.

The mercy of the West has been social revolution; the mercy of the East has been individual insight into the basic self/void. We need both. They are both contained in the traditional three aspects of the Dharma path: wisdom (prajna), meditation (dhyana), and morality (sila). Wisdom is intuitive knowledge of the mind of love and clarity that lies beneath one’s ego-driven anxieties and aggressions. Meditation is going into the mind to see this for yourself — over and over again, until it becomes the mind you live in. Morality is bringing it back out in the way you live, through personal example and responsible action, ultimately toward the true community (sangha) of “all beings.”

This last aspect means, for me, supporting any cultural and economic revolution that moves clearly toward a free, international, classless world. It means using such means as civil disobedience, outspoken criticism, protest, pacifism, voluntary poverty and even gentle violence if it comes to a matter of restraining some impetuous redneck. It means affirming the widest possible spectrum of non-harmful individual behavior — defending the right of individuals to smoke hemp, eat peyote, be polygynous, polyandrous or homosexual. Worlds of behavior and custom long banned by the Judaeo-Capitalist-Christian-Marxist West. It means respecting intelligence and learning, but not as greed or means to personal power. Working on one’s own responsibility, but willing to work with a group. “Forming the new society within the shell of the old” — the IWW slogan of fifty years ago.

The traditional cultures are in any case doomed, and rather than cling to their good aspects hopelessly it should be remembered that whatever is or ever was in any other culture can be reconstructed from the unconscious, through meditation. In fact, it is my own view that the coming revolution will close the circle and link us in many ways with the most creative aspects of our archaic past. If we are lucky we may eventually arrive at a totally integrated world culture with matrilineal descent, free-form marriage, natural-credit communist economy, less industry, far less population and lots more national parks.

Gary Snyder

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