The Knack – “My Sharona” (Video – 1979)

February 16, 2010 at 12:02 pm (Music)

The Knack’s classic 1979 smash. Leader Doug Fieger passed away on Feb. 14th at the age of 57 due to cancer. I post this video in his honor. RIP…

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Bill Holt – “Dreamies” (1973)

February 16, 2010 at 12:32 am (Music, Reviews & Articles)

This review of this strange, obscure homemade record comes from Joe Tangari, Jan. 3, 2006, on the Pitchfork Media website…  

For one year in the early 70s, Bill Holt lived the real American dream: quitting your job to do something you love. In his late twenties and supporting his Delaware family with a disheartening 9-to-5 gig, he decided to make a go of a career in music, in spite of having next to no first-hand musical experience. He holed up in his basement with an acoustic guitar, a few chords, a Moog synthesizer, and assorted electronic devices and created what would prove to be his only opus: Dreamies.

The album is a triumph. It’s difficult to even place it in context because it’s such an oddball little record, on the one hand probing whatever corners of his mind Holt felt were worthy of exploration, and on the other deftly preserving a sense of popular songcraft. Holt structured his album in two side-long suites, “Program Ten” and “Program Eleven.” The numbers he chose were not random: He saw his work as a direct continuation of what the Beatles did on “Revolution 9,” packing it with found sound, including a couple of boldly snatched samples of “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “Oh! Darling,” and “All You Need Is Love.”

Not that sampling other peoples’ records got him into trouble. The simple fact is that almost no one heard the album upon its initial release, and the situation has barely improved since. In fact, until Gear Fab records resurrected Dreamies back in 2000 for a limited release, the album was completely unavailable outside of collectors’ circles, qualifying it for genuine Lost Classic status. This most recent reissue sounds absolutely fantastic, presenting Holt’s hi-fi vision with brilliant clarity, subdivided into tracks of more manageable lengths.

As the album opens, President John Kennedy mingles with a field of insects, making his famous payload/payroll gaff in a speech about the space program. This gives way to Holt’s acoustic guitar, slowly descending through some basic chords and his mellow, double-tracked vocal. This trippy little song becomes the backbone of a 26-minute odyssey that teeters on chaos at points as radio transmissions, snippets of title fight broadcasts and recordings of shattering glass interrupt and fade, all the while dappled with Moog overdubs. Holt hands the melody to the Moog on occasion, but mostly uses it to create the album’s weird, buzzing ambience.

On the flip side, “Program Eleven” is more aggressive and downcast, featuring a loop of Holt’s whispered exhortation to “just dream” used as a rhythm, along with numerous samples of gunfire and TV commercials. Holt also appears to have made some of his own field recordings, as apparent subway announcements and dinner conversation leak into the texture, fighting with simple psychedelic pop for the listener’s attention while Moogs climb and descend scales. Eventually, the suite veers into jarring passages of noise and overlapping voices.

The overall effect is something like a primordial Olivia Tremor Control, and easily as wild and unfettered as anything the Residents were doing in the 70s. Dreamies has its obvious and acknowledged influences — the Beatles and John Cage chief among them — but it’s also clearly the work of an untutored auteur dissecting his own mind in the basement on reel-to-reel. Holt never recorded again, as the financial losses he suffered making the album forced him back into the workaday world, but more than 30 years later, his one moment on tape still sounds incredible.

Joe Tangari

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