30.5.10

Voice Of Seven Thunders (2010)



A to dopiero miła niespodzianka - zespół Voice Of Seven Thunders. Niecodziennie wpada w ręce płytka, na której od słuchania od razu cieplej się w sercu robi. Grupa gra bardzo dziwną mieszankę stylistyczną - rasowy garaż oparty na psychedelicznych motywach, ale też folk a nawet swego rodzaju ambient. Musicie tego posłuchać bo na prawdę warto zainteresować się tą pozycją.

Chris Walmsley - Percussion, Drums
Carim Clasmann - Mastering
Rory Gibson - Bass
Ricky Tomlinson - Synthesizer, Guitar, Vocals, Engineer



Bolton-based guitarist Rick Tomlinson couldn’t have picked a better name than Voice Of The Seven Woods when he first made an impression back in 2007; if ever there was a record that evoked the sound of a mysterious Tolkien-esque forest, it was his self-titled debut. All deftly finger-picked acoustics and hushed Nick Drake-like vocals, it was a bewitching listen, made all the more intriguing by the hints at darker psychedelic vibes that lurked around the record’s edges. It also sounded defiantly hand-crafted, the sound of Tomlinson, partner in crime Chris Walmsley and a couple of other wide-eyed enthusiasts weaving together their wispy melodies.

With no other studio release under that name since then, the arrival of a record bearing the title of Voice Of The Seven Thunders raises some questions: is this the same act? Why the slight but significant change of name? If it’s the same musicians, then what’s the difference?

The answer to these questions arrives appromimately 15 seconds into Voice Of The Seven Thunders as the deceptively slight ‘Open Lighted Doorway’ gives way to mighty THWACK of ‘Kommune.’ With a massive blast of drums, wavy Eastern rhythms wafting straight out of a worn copy of Houses Of The Holy, and the kind of fuzzed-up, in-your-face psychedelic guitar solos that would make ex-hippy dads swear ‘they don’t make em like that any more’, the second track takes your breath away.

And so it goes, with only the briefest respite from the psychedelic onslaught provided by the occasion acoustic interlude. If Voice Of The Seven Woods was music to sit idly by a stream by, Voice Of The Seven Thunders contains sounds to drive recklessly to – ‘The Burning Mountain’ virtually compels the listener to grab the nearest form of transport, hot wire it and race incessantly towards Mordor.



Of course, louder, faster and heavier doesn’t necessarily mean better when it comes to accomplished folk musicians, and there’ll probably be a couple of fans initially disappointed by Tomlinson’s turn towards rock’s startling dynamics. They’d be wrong to feel that way though – he returns to the beautifully sparse, fluid acoustic stuff on ‘Dry Leaves’ before revving the engines once again, whilst towards the album’s close ‘Cylinders’ finds Tomlinson borrowing from electronic and ambient worlds to create an epic piece of musical texture.

And, after the initial shock, there’s plenty of beauty to be found beneath the muscular dynamics. Tomlinson’s playing is an absolute joy to hear, whether you’re nodding slowly or thrashing your head around wildly, and the band he’s got billowing up a storm behind him aren’t half bad either. Whether it’s Seven Woods or Seven Thunders, this particular guitarist is brewing up something extraordinary amidst the hills of Lancashire.

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Quincy Jones - Exploring The Music Of Henry Mancini (1964)



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Quincy Jones - Conductor
Drums - Osie Johnson
Jimmy Buffington, Ray Alonge, Bob Northern - Horns
Mundell Lowe, Vincent Bell - Guitars
Toots Thielemans - Harmonica, Guitar
Gary Burton - Percussion (Vibes)
Bobby Scott - Piano
George Berg, Jerome Richardson, Phil Woods, Roland Kirk , Zoot Sims - Saxophones
Billy Byers, Quentin Jackson, Richard Hixson - Trombones
Clark Terry, Snooky Young - Trumpets

As modern big-band leaders go, Quincy Jones in the '60s would be first choice for many composers who wrote for a television series or the cinema. Though not the original themes, Jones was quite able to produce a full album featuring Henry Mancini's famous songs from movies and the small screen. This collection of the familiar and obscure Mancini done in 1964, preceded famed epic scores written by Jones from films The Pawnbroker and The Deadly Affair. It comprises several well-known hit tunes and a smattering of cuts not easily identifiable as the hummable and memorable Mancini classics. Taken from three separate sessions, the bands assembled by Jones are loaded, including Jerome Richardson, Billy Byers, Urbie Green, Clark Terry, Ernie Royal, Snooky Young, Mundell Lowe, Zoot Sims, Phil Woods, and Seldon Powell, Drummer Osie Johnson plays on all tracks, pianist Bobby Scott is a central figure, as are bassists Milt Hinton and Major Holley. A young saxophonist and flutist named Roland Kirk appears on four tracks, and the emerging vibraphonist Gary Burton is on another eight. A burgeoning talent, Jones was 31 when these recordings were made, and gaining momentum for his talents in Hollywood and Los Angeles. Though everybody knows "Baby Elephant Walk," they might not have heard the thorny electric guitar, staccato bells, and bowed bass and vocals via Holley and Hinton that Jones inserts into this version. Where the cool and slinky theme from "Pink Panther" also has the bassists jiving vocally and using their arco techniques under flutes and finger snaps, "Mr. Lucky" is the epitome of Count Basie like cool, while the spy music of "Peter Gunn" retains the bassists trickery as Burton's electrically echoed marimba and a Phil Woods alto sax solo broaden the scope of "Peter Gunn"'s field. "Dreamsville" is a luscious ballad with harp and piano featured, "Days of Wine & Roses" starts typically pristine but runs into detailed, progressive interpretations, and "Moon River" is completely changed up into a waltz with Kirk's irresistible small saxello solo. The very hip, easy swinging "Odd Ball" is certainly the least-known Mancini piece not related to any cinematic connection, as quickened horns contrast against the slower beat and the choppy chords of Scott. The obscure "Charade" is really a jewel of the brilliance in re-arrangement Jones proffers, and perfectly deserving of its title. As slowed 3/4 in quicker 6/8 time signatures surface via an obtuse ostinato bassline, the horns accent fully juxtaposing lines swinging amongst a bit of psychedelia. A cute waltz is "Bird Brain," bouncy and fun with the flutes ricocheting off the walls, while "And Don't You Forget It" is a cowboy samba appropriate for any spaghetti western. Harmonicist Toots Thielemans is featured on one track, the ballad "Soldier in the Rain," with the sighing horns as the precipitation. How Jones is able to interpret Mancini's music with such diversity and new ideas is positively amazing, providing a unique listening experience for even the staunchest Q fan. ~ Michael G. Nastos, All Music Guide

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28.5.10

Cold Sun - Dark Shadows (1969)



The story of how Austin, Texas was transformed from a sleepy little college town into a world- renowned mecca for rock and country music has been told many times. It's a neat hippie saga with heroes and martyrs, a few emblematic anecdotes and no loose ends… or so it seems.

But what if there were some loose ends, what if there is a whole tapestry hidden under the Vulcan Gas-into-Armadillo HQ saga as usually told? Maybe the psychedelic era didn't end with the 13th Floor Elevators, and maybe it didn't begin with them either? - Patrick Lundborg

This article has also appeared in print
in MISTY LANE magazine #18, 2003.

© Patrick Lundborg and Lysergia.com, 2003-2008

One of the earliest recognitions of Austin's new and elevated standing in the music business came with a Chet Flippo article in a 1974 Phonograph Record Magazine. The piece, which is written from an insider perspective, presents an already finalized view of how the preceding 10-year period had played out in Austin and Texas as a whole. By and large, this is the story which has been propagated through subsequent retrospectives. Too large murals of the International Artists label, Vulcan Gas Co, and the few hit or hit-bound artists are painted, while many of the key elements of what constituted a scene - the KAZZ-FM station and the related Sonobeat label, the teen clubs, the legendary Baby Cakes group, the Elevators' rapid fall from grace in the late 1960s - are missing.

Of course, this is just another case of how the victors, in this case the cosmic cowboys, are allowed to remember what they feel like remembering, and then pass it on for the history book writers. But as we're beginning to learn, the victory hymns aren't necessarily the most accurate chronicles, nor the most interesting.

Reaching down into the tapestry of vintage Austin music I found a mysterious strand that seemed to run through a lot of these areas. The thread comes in psychedelic colors, spun into a lizard skin pattern, and forms the previously untold story of COLD SUN.

I

There was a mythical Austin that is the root of all subsequent myths about it being such a ‘cool place’. That time was so magical and wondrous that the memory of it still fuels the fake scenes there, today.

Thirty-five years later Cold Sun founder Bill Miller has few fond memories of the era that brought Austin music to national recognition. According to him and others who were there at the beginning, or 2 seconds after the beginning, it was already going downhill in late 1967 when the Vulcan Gas Co opened. Just like its west coast big brother city of San Francisco, the preceding years of 1965 and 1966 were the true golden age of Austin. This assessment can also be found in Stephanie Chernikowski’s charming 13th Floor Elevators reminiscence, first published in Not Fade Away #1 magazine in 1975. According to Chernikowski, the storm clouds were gathering over the Austin freak scene in mid-1966, a full year before the so-called Summer Of Love.

In 1966 Bill Miller and his friends were too young to be part of the UT-based Elevators circle, yet followed what was going on around the band, and other hot local acts such as the Baby Cakes and the Wig, with great interest. Miller was an unusual teenager with unusual interests that included pet lizards – big ones – and the more esoteric sides of American pop culture, interests that live on to this day. Many thought him to be older than he was, and his active networking in what was then just a small town with a tangible music scene, gave him a good grasp of the goings-on. There were the two local radio stations, KNOW and KAZZ-FM, the latter being the hipper as they did not ban “You’re Gonna Miss Me” but in fact made it a hit. The father-son team of Bill Josey Sr & Jr that ran KAZZ-FM also operated Sonobeat, Austin’s only record label at the time. Over at the Austin Statesman paper there was Jim Langdon, a local Ralph Gleason who wrote excitedly about the new “psychedelic rock” of the Elevators. The huge UT campus and related Ghetto scene supplied a bohemian undercurrent to the city, as it had for several years. But Austin was still just a local scene and noone thought of comparing it to the rich, legend-filled musical heritages of Houston and San Antonio.

Too young to have been part of the mid-1960s teen music explosion Bill Miller and his guitarist friend Tom Mcgarrigle formed their first band in 1968. The band was called Cauldron, and apart from Miller and Mcgarrigle featured John Kearney, who had played drums with Roky Erickson in his pre-Elevators band, the Spades. Cauldron soon changed their name to AMETHYST, and played at the local “I.L Club”, which was the first psychedelic underground club in Austin. The small club, named after and run by Ira Littlefield, was located in a rough East Austin (the black part of town) neighborhood and had a sign upfront that read "Famous Beatnik Bands, Nightly". Conqueroo played there several times. Some Amethyst recordings exist from the I L Club; these remain unheard but it appears that even at this early stage the band relied solely on original material such as “See What You Cause”. During this period there was some member shuffling including a succession of lead vocalists who failed to work out right. Drummer John Kearney has commented that Miller’s long, complex songs required plenty of rehearsal, one reason for him to later leave the band.

Already at this stage Bill Miller had found the instrument that he would continue to favor throughout his career, the autoharp. Autoharps were unusual but not unique within rock music at the time; some folk-inspired bands like the Lovin’ Spoonful and the Charlatans used them, or at least posed with them for pictures. But in a development similar to how Tommy Hall had turned the concept of “jug”sounds upside down with the Elevators, Miller decided to take the autoharp into places it had not been before. The instrument was adapted and rebuilt into a fully electrified unit, and Amethyst’s music was arranged to accommodate and make full use of the unearthly sounds of the electric autoharp. Most people have heard Miller’s instrument as used on the famous Roky Erickson & the Aliens recordings from the late 1970s, but 10 years earlier it resounded around local clubs in Texas.

While Amethyst was building up a repertoire and re-shuffling its members, the Austin music scene was changing rapidly around them. Despite releasing their masterpiece “Easter Everywhere” album in November 1967 and playing Vulcan Gas the same month, local heroes the 13th Floor Elevators had been going downhill ever since returning from California in late ‘66. The later line-ups of the band were arguably the best in terms of musicianship, but a lot of people were lamenting the loss of energy and excitement from early 1966. Many other teen club bands from the pre-hippie era that had spawned the Elevators were also gone or disappearing, and almost none managed the transition into the “progressive” times of the post-Sgt Pepper late 1960s. Golden Dawn, who partook in the local LSD revolution as "Elevators protegés", fell apart shortly after their brilliant I A album had been released. Bill Miller recalls that Dawn key figure George Kinney stopped by at a few Amethyst rehearsals. The Baby Cakes merged with the Wig into the heavier Lavender Hill Express and their former bands were soon forgotten. As everywhere else harder drugs entered the picture and rock music itself was splintering off into various directions. From the very beginning Vulcan Gas Co booked new local bands that represented these changing directions, such as the Conqueroo (S F Bay Area acidrock) and Shiva’s Headband (embryonic country-rock). There was also a constant back-n-forth between Texas and San Francisco, as many bands tried their luck in the Bay Area only to discover it jam-packed with starving rock bands.



Bill Miller - autoharp, vocal
Mike Waugh - bass
Tom McGarrigle - guitar
Hugh Patton - drums
Mike Ritchey - bass

Bill Miller’s Amethyst weren’t terribly impressed with this new direction and scene, which would ultimately lead to the grand 1970s days of the Armadillo World Headquarters. Amethyst was a young band, but the members had been around in the days of genuine excitement. Rather than picking up steel guitar, or get a speedfreak guitarist that could imitate Johnny Winter, the band continued along their specific vision as represented by its two constant members, Miller and lead guitarist Mcgarrigle. The two had plenty of ideas and ambition, and for a while ran their own rock club at Jubilee Hall down in Houston (maintained by notorious preacher Freddie Gage). After giving up trying to find a lead singer they settled on sharing the vocals between them, and soon Miller handled the majority of them. Apart from the Elevators heritage, which is obvious in the band’s subsequent recordings, Miller kept abreast of developments in other parts of America and added the Doors and Velvet Underground to his list of influences. Velvet Underground would play Austin in 1969 after Vulcan Gas had somewhat reluctanctly booked them; the shows were a success and another indication of something else cooking locally, apart from the country and blues mutations. Miller was there, naturally, and had a conversation with Lou Reed backstage regarding the 13th Floor Elevators.

II

If it ain’t peyote, it ain’t from Texas

Beyond the college student and redneck clusters there were strange developments in and around Austin at the time, and Amethyst/Cold Sun were connected to many of them. Unusual characters crowd their history, such as the band’s friend and future Roky Erickson exorcist/bodyguard Winston “Wink” Taylor, member of an esoteric Christian splinter church led by Father Robert Williams ­– this congregation later counted Roky’s mom Evelyn among their members and assembled in a church that once served as a rehearsal space for the Elevators. Taylor and his friends used to live in the Serpentarium, an abandoned snake farm outside town. This circle included soon-to-be Cold Sun bass player Mike Waugh, and the enigmatic Johnny Love, a Hollywood-style singer and dope dealer who many locals thought was a government agent. For a while the Snake Farm residents had a band going called Alpha Centauri. On the enemy side there was the notorious Captain Harvey Gann, chief narc officer in Austin, known to always wear a bright red suit when conducting a raid. Gann and his team watched the Elevators and other local rock bands very closely.

Bill Miller himself still had plenty of space to allow his special interests to grow, and in fact made the local papers when his huge tegu lizard ran away and was put into a dog pound, from which it promptly escaped. Other Miller projects included building a complete Dr Doom (the Marvel comic book villain serenaded by the Elevators) costume, although it did not progress beyond a completed metal glove. One interest that would have direct impact on Cold Sun’s music was ancient Egyptian mythology, as heard on the “RA-MA” track from their Sonobeat tapes, an 11-minute epic that also invoked Lemurian elements. And psychedelic drugs were of course everywhere, as they had been in Austin long before the Elevators started handing out free LSD at local gigs. Miller recalls that “a wider cross section than one would imagine did peyote. The 60s beatnik-peyote scene seemed to know no beginning - it had been among the hip as long as the hip had existed since way before acid was invented. It was legal and could be purchased in cactus shops and plant stores. Things were actually more cool before acid appeared.

An official secret of the town was Dr Hermon, a Viennese immigrant who the straight Austin medical establishment referred to as "Crazy Harry". Hermon had a Federal licence to prescribe and administer LSD, marijuana and mescaline/peyote. The Austrian psychiatrist carried a jet set air about him and was into concepts like hypnotism, nude therapy and psychedelic evolutionary therapy. His eccentric image and non-conformist behavior put him in contact with the Austin music underground, which he supplied with psychedelic drugs for several years. Captain Gann and the narcotics squad were aware of this, but Dr Hermon’s medical licence made him difficult to bust. Hermone’s rapport with the rock musicians was such that he was appointed doctor for Roky Erickson when Roky was staying at Holy Cross Hospital in 1968, recovering from a nervous breakdown. Unsurprisingly, in this case Hermon made sure not to involve the patient with drugs. Gann and his narcs later managed to crack down on Hermon, who was forced to leave Austin in a haste.

John David Bartlett, a local musician who worked with the latter-day Elevators and was signed to International Artists recalls hanging out with the Amethyst members: "We had many late fuzzy evenings at Bill's tiny apartment at the base of Castle Hill. There was an old white wood frame building that rambled up the hill. It had been divided into tiny efficiency apartments for the more adventurous of Austin's scene in those daze and had stairs that went up the outside along the hill. It was like an extention of the old Texas Ghetto, with a younger crowd. My house up on Blanco at the top of Castle Hill tended to attract a lot of jam monkeys. That's where we first met Bill and Tom. Tom was such an intense and great guitarist. Bill's first band didn't attract as much attention among my crowd as Cold Sun. I think I heard them only once. But in 69' we all were cut loose from the mooring and on a fairly consistant high. I remember one night best. Sitting at Billy's apartment and he played a new song. Hard dischordant autoharp as Bill screamed 'we live beneath Spider City' [from "South Texas"]... I've got to underline the way Tom looked in those daze. Dark and beautiful. And Billy all in black."


Cold Sun live in the Palmer Auditorium, circa 1971

Fred Mitchim, member of the same young Austin scene, recalls his first encounter with Miller and McGarrigle at the Castle Hill freak complex: "I was listening to my friends talk about how Bill was so relieved to have his own place so he wouldn't have to keep his stash in a jar in the back yard any more. This story was my first impression of Bill moments before I met him for the first time. As we headed up the pathway I heard Cold Sun for the first (and most memorable) time. I was struck by the originality of these psychedelic yet also dark songs. And of course Bill's electric auto harp against Tom's searing single note double picking fuzz box echoplex leads. Really nice. When they finished my friends introduced me and I remember noticing Bill to be the first "dressed all in black" person I had met. Back then 6 foot tall Tom would wear no shirt with a orange tuxedo tails coat, red bell bottoms, blue rubber health food sandals, with 3 feet of black hair."

III

Around the time of the Velvet Underground shows at Vulcan, Bill Miller hooked up with another of his sources of inspiration, former Elevators drummer John Ike Walton, who had returned to Texas after a spell as a session musician in California. The newly recruited Amethyst bass player Mike Waugh introduced John Ike to Miller and the band. It seems Walton was on the verge of becoming a member of Amethyst, replacing Roky Erickson’s old Spades drummer John Kearney in an ironic twist, and while he soon bowed out he would play an important part in the band’s evolvement.

From his Elevators days Walton was familiar with Bill Josey Sr who ran the local Sonobeat label, and he suggested that Josey would check Miller and Amethyst out. After having sold the KAZZ-FM radio station in the Fall 1967 to focus on their record label, Josey Sr and Jr had released a string of interesting 45s with local artists, including the only record that the legendary Conqueroo ever would release, as well as excellent singles by the Sweetarts and non-Austin band the Thingies. The label’s story has been chronicled in some detail in Not Fade Away #2, which oddly contains no mention of Cold Sun. Beyond a fairly impressive release catalog, Sonobeat took special interest in the technical aspects of record production, and in fact claimed to be the first label anywhere to feature a mono compatible “solid state stereo” sound on their early 45s. Around this time – 1969 – Josey was working with local band Mariani, named after and lead by their drummer but noted mainly for teenage wiz kid lead guitarist Eric Johnson, as well as with Johnny Winter whose reputation was already growing beyond Austin’s borders in the wake of a Texas music feature in Rolling Stone magazine.

Bill Miller remembers the first demo session, as almost everything else connected with the band, very clearly: “John Ike told Josey about me and he asked Mike Waugh to set up a meeting. I think the first time Josey heard me was in the studio. Mike and John Ike had only heard me play solo, through an amp at my house. Josey had me record a long demo - about 15 or 20 songs with me singing into a mic in the drum room and with the harp pickup plugged directly into the board. That first demo was supposedly a song demo. I recorded it in one night. That was when Josey`s studio was still in the basement of his house. During the recording of that first demo, he phoned Vince Mariani and had him come over. I saw him from the booth, staring at me and smirking. I emerged from the booth right after recording ‘Here In The Year’ followed by ‘God Is A Girl’ and met Vince, who said to me first off, ‘Man, you`re really a freak’".

Bill Josey Sr was sufficiently impressed with Miller’s demo recordings to offer the band a development deal, where they would work on their music in order to produce recordings that could be pitched to major labels. Sonobeat made demo LPs of Mariani and Johnny Winter following the same principle, as well as a little known folk-oriented artist named Bill Wilson. When John Ike Walton did not join the band they brought in drummer Hugh Patton instead, and with a complete line-up in place they were ready for the recording studio. One final question that needed to be solved was the band’s name, however – they weren’t really Amethyst anymore, and in lack of a name Josey would refer to them as “The Bill Miller Project” for the time. About halfway into the sessions the band came up with COLD SUN, which would stick for the rest of their career. The band still used the Amethyst moniker for a few live gigs around this time.

As with many things in their history, the name “Cold Sun” is enigmatic. The 1989 retrospective album on the Rockadelic label that first brought the Sonobeat recordings to light didn’t even appear under that name, but as “Dark Shadows” which is the title of a popular 1960s mystery TV series. In the liner notes Miller denied ever having been in a band called Cold Sun, and suggested that they had always been called Dark Shadows. However he had referred to the band’s real name in a 1976 interview, where he mentioned that before playing with Roky Erickson in the Aliens he “spent seven years developing the electric auto-harp with a band called Cold Sun”. The name itself is derived from the legends of MU, made famous by the writings of Col James Churchward and more recently by the great 1970s rock band of the same name, led by Merrel Fankhauser. MU and the Lemurian mythology was popular in Cold Sun circles, although Miller says that he tried to come up with an even better band name later on.

IV

After using a local club for recording, the Sonobeat label had set up their own recording studio in the basement of the Joseys’ house. The early stages of the Cold Sun project were located to this basement studio, but the material actually preserved on tape was made at yet another Sonobeat studio in a building on North Lamar that also housed the KOKE radio station, owned by Austin’s then-mayor Roy Butler (ironically, KOKE was Josey’s old KAZZ-FM restructured and renamed). This is where all known Cold Sun recordings were made. Miller estimates the total time for the project to roughly 6 months, including work tapes, demos and actual recording sessions. All of the material had been written prior to the Sonobeat deal, but went through various changes and upgrades as the sessions progressed. There were also a few songs from the first demo tape that were discarded along the way, among them "God Is A Girl", "Graduation Day" and "Do The Ray" which were all written by Miller – the latter being the band’s “dance tune”, inspired by Roger Corman’s "The Man With The X-Ray Eyes" – and “Mind Aura” and “Shifters” by lead guitarist Tom Mcgarrigle. Vince Mariani and Bill Josey both suggested that Miller do all the lead vocals, which may have been the reason that Mcgarrigle’s tunes weren’t used. Incidentally, Cold Sun bass player Mike Waugh was well familiar with Josey, having been used as an in-house session bassist on many Sonobeat recordings before joining the band.

Despite the creative and seemingly unproblematic nature of the sessions, Miller recalls that “Bill Josey did not understand where we were coming from musically. We couldn`t explain to him what`s happening, so I explained to him that Tom and I are simply, ‘Lou Reed fans’. He didn`t understand that, either.” Josey may have had a greater input on the technical aspects of recording Cold Sun than the actual music, and as Miller remembers him “Josey was indeed a wizard - maybe the closest thing that Texas had to a Joe Meek. Josey invented the Sonotone Black Box - a mysterious device, some sort of compressor. I do remember Eric Johnson recording with the Black Box , but he only used it to a minor degree. Johnson did not understand it. Neither did I. I played through it, too, to try it out, but never recorded with it.” The highly unusual autoharp likely ticked Josey’s interest, as there were no precedents for how to record it. As it turned out the autoharp was fed directly into the board on most songs, as was the bass. The Cold Sun recordings were originally intended to be in quadraphonic sound, one of Josey’s pet interests at the time.

In addition to musical arrangements, a lot of work was put into the lyrics. Miller isn’t very proud of them today, but they still stand head and shoulders above the usual hippie fantasy nonsense from the era. Every song has several lines that stick in memory the way well-written rock lyrics do. The vast majority of them were written by Miller, but input and inspiration also came from Mcgarrigle and band friend Winston Taylor. Another lyric collaborator of Cold Sun was Sonobeat associate Herman Nelson, a square-looking middle-aged man who behind his façade was known as a local mystic and white magician. Miller recalls the source for the tracks like this: “Whatever ideas other than Colonel Jim/Mu stuff came from me, Tom and Winston. ‘Ra-Ma’, ‘Fall’ and ‘Twisted Flower’ were very much Churchward influenced. ‘South Texas’ and ‘See What You Cause’ were not, really, and ‘South Texas’ was mostly a 100% psychedelic anthem drenched in peyote. ‘For Ever’ and ‘Here In The Year’ were 100% me . Only ‘Fall’ and ‘Ra-Ma’ contained lyrics by the other 3 people.

A numerological infatuation shared by Josey and the band members influenced the Cold Sun lyric writing and recording, according to Miller:

Josey was superstitious. He believed that the Johnny Winter album’s exact track length was a lucky number. It was 43 or 45 minutes and - oh, I forget how many seconds. You can check the Johnny Winter length - you will find that it is exactly the same length as the Cold Sun album - exactly, to the second. ‘Ra-Ma’, and ‘Fall’ had to be made longer to fit that time frame and a song that Tom wrote was dropped at Tom`s insistance; he was as superstitious as Josey and prone to suggestion in those areas – fearful of certain numbers. So was I. I was desperate for more lyrics and am afraid those weak lines were not very real, just whatever would rhyme. I wrote the weak lines, myself. It was still a bit short in length, so Josey got the idea to add the wind chimes thing at the end of ‘Ra-Ma’.

The running order presented on the 1989 Rockadelic issue of the Sonobeat tapes differs markedly from how Miller and Josey had envisioned the album back in 1970. This is their original, intended track order:

1.- "South Texas" (Miller)
2.- "Twisted Flower" (Miller)
3.- "Here In The Year' (Miller)
4.- "For Ever" (Miller)
5.- "See What You Cause" (Miller)
6.- "Fall" (Miller, Taylor)
7.- "Ra Ma" (Miller, Mcgarrigle, Nelson)

While there are pros and cons of both structures, one could opine that “South Texas” would have made for an extremely strong opening, and that the album as a whole would build to an appropriate climax with “Ra-Ma”, as originally planned.

Regarding the musical re-arrangements during the sessions, Miller recalls that:

Only ‘See What You Cause’ remained the same, even the technique of having Tom play bass and the bass player play lead guitar. Tom had no intention of playing bass, but it worked well on that song to do it that way. He and Mike both were cool about that. ‘Fall’ was the same musical passages as before, but, with new words added and the old lyrics 100% discarded - except the part about Dodge - that lyric was the same as the older version. The harmonica was also new in the ‘Josey’ era. In that photo of Cold Sun, you can see a harmonica holder attached to the top of the autoharp if you look closely. It was a harmonica holder with the neck piece removed, which I`d slide into place through brackets on the side of the harp - I would swivel the harp to ‘center’ and use the harp itself as a holder - while playing it - playing both instruments simultaneously.

The vocals on the Cold Sun album have confused people as there seem to be two different lead vocalists, sometimes switching parts from one line to the next. The truth is that both vocalists are Miller, who in spite of not being a natural vocalist shows a remarkable versatility on the tracks – he will move from a dark, Jim Morrison-influenced vocal style into a piercing, Roky Erickson-like acid-punk voice seemingly without effort, and without ever revealing what is his “true” style. The vocal harmonies were handled by Mcgarrigle and Waugh, with Waugh given two lines of lead vocals on “Twisted Flower”; a source of amusement during the sessions, according to Miller:

I really wanted Mike Waugh to sing the whole song and he wanted to, very much. However, he was not as good as me on that song as lead vocalist , except for those 2 lines. Bill Josey said, ‘He sounds like Jerry Lewis, and I don’t mean Jerry LEE Lewis!’. Josey later named the middle section (‘Yes, I receive the calls ...’) the Jerry Lewis bit. In vocal sessions, Josey would say, ‘OK, lets try to improve on the third line of the Jerry Lewis bit.


Bill Miller

Here are some other Miller comments on the Cold Sun tracks:

Here In The Year

Regarding the end section Josey said: 'That is so beautiful. Surely you aren`t really going to let Tom put NOISE over that?'. Later, I laughingly told Tom. His reply was, 'Well, cry me a river'. That song was not a Peyote song, though. It was a prediction of the Internet – but with links to the Ethernet. The original verse was ‘Here in the year 1969’. Lame, huh? Well, it was 1970, finally, and counting - and doubts increased about Josey cutting the ‘Columbia’ deal - I was motivated to alter the lyric a bit.

Ra-Ma

All bass you hear in the beginning 'dreamy' segment is my thumb doing bass lines on the autoharp as I play the other strings with my fingers… Does the harmonica RUIN it? Does it help? I think it`s good on Ra-Ma. Josey liked it on that song. He smiled. I got it on the first take. I play lead guitar on the first part with vocals, 'Crocodiles line the banks ...' etc. I wrote that guitar part and did not want Tom to waste time on it – he was too busy with other parts. Later, of course, he learned it for the live performances. Does ‘Ra-Ma’ sound better or worse, now that you know it was about Mu ?

Fall

Herman Nelson wrote far more for Josey than I realized. I had forgotten that he wrote the melody and lyrics to Mariani`s 'Re-Birthday'. I remembered a couple of lines he wrote for Cold Sun - 'Fall'. 'Willow binds like steel/from your lotus wheel' Actually that was written for a different song - If I had used his words in the song he wrote it for, you would hear, 'You may never see what you cause/You may never see what you cause/Willow binds like steel/from YOUR lotus wheel/from YOUR lotus wheel'. Funny, huh?

See What You Cause

It was an obvious tribute to Roky, whom I had never met at that time. I was good at ghost writing for Rok even back then. That came in handy as I arranged 'Bloody Hammer', 'Night Of The Vampire', 'Two Headed Dog', and others.

South Texas

Inspired by a weekend in South Texas with 2 girls from Corpus Christi and a big bowl of peyote salsa and a drive-in Mexican restaurant with these great big fried tortillas. There was a motel crawling with these tiny geckos. Geckos have voices. Peyote is more AUDIO oriented than any other drug, as far as I know. Tom Mcgarrigle sounded like a Gecko with his guitar, at times.

Twisted Flower

The ‘Bass’ solo at the beginning is actually the autoharp. The drum clicks start it off and then the autoharp comes in with the heavy booming autoharp bass strings playing the bass solo, then Mike Waugh decends into what is a brief 'Bass duet' before the guitar and harp come in with the higher stuff.

VI

The basic idea for the Cold Sun studio project was that Josey would pitch the finished recordings to a major label, Columbia being the one most frequently mentioned. The method of pressing vinyl demo discs in a limited run was going out of fashion, as modern tape techniques simplified the demoing process. The Mariani LP from 1969 was the last of the Sonobeat vinyl demos, and as the Cold Sun sessions were wrapped up in the Spring 1970, stereo cassette and quarter track dubs of studio tapes were used for presenting the material. This is the reason no demo LP or acetate exists from the original sessions (note: the infamous Cold Sun acetate dates from a later stage, detailed below). Unfortunately, Sonobeat’s financials were under pressure at this point and Josey may not have been able to put enough weight behind his Cold Sun pitch. The label had scored a substantial PR hit with Johnny Winter, whose “Winter” LP from early 1969 (later re-released as “Progressive Blues Experiment” on UA) was recorded with Sonobeat before Winter signed his huge deal with Columbia, but it appears that little or no profit from it ended up with Josey. In the case of Cold Sun it’s possible that the band’s unique brand of psychedelia did not match what record labels expected from an Austin band at the time. In short, no contract was signed, and Sonobeat itself went into low-profile.

Bill Josey Sr kept working with recordings of various local artists in a new studio outside Austin before becoming ill in 1976 and passing away shortly after. His son Bill Josey Jr who had been involved with the label and the KAZZ-FM station, using the on-air DJ alias of “Rim Kelly”, showed some interest in reviving the label in the 1990s, but nothing has yet come of these activities. Bill Miller remembers Josey Sr fondly. “I lost track of Josey news around the time I began to help Roky develop his songs, a few months before BliebAlien did local shows - must have been circa late 1974. I don`t think Bill Josey did much more before his fatal illness, but have wondered what he did in that period. Things were moving so fast. I regret not visiting Bill Josey again. He was a great man, gave a lot to the Texas scene.” Bill Josey’s and the Sonobeat label’s full story still remains to be told.

The Cold Sun saga was far from over, however. The band kept working on their material and gigging locally now and then. Bill Miller recalls several new tunes from the post-Sonobeat era, such as "D.J.`s Locker", "The Worldwide Voice Of James" and "PayOla". A live recording from the time includes "Out Of Phase", "Where The Shadows Lie”, and "Live Again". Most of these were written by Miller, who was the band’s driving force at this stage. Tom Mcgarrigle actually left the band for a period, but came back shortly after. Bass player Mike Waugh, whose musicianship is still held in high regard by Miller, unfortunately left the band and had to be replaced - a very daunting task according to Miller. After another bass player didn’t work out Waugh was replaced with a Mike Ritchey, and with Mcgarrigle back this was the Cold Sun line-up for the rest of the band’s career. The on-stage photo of the band from the Palmer Auditorium (where Bob Dylan had played a legendary show back in 1965) shows this last line-up.

Fred Mitchim recalls the live Cold Sun like this: "On stage Bill would be slumped over his harp and Tom would be standing real straight like Cipollina. My memory of how they were perceived by the locals is from the 2 or 3 times I saw them play. In the clubs it went right over most people's heads. At this time I'm positive no one had ever been exposed to anything like Bill's wide eyed scary psychedelia. At the high point of each set Bill would turn a fuzz box on his harp and play it with a kitchen knife. As I was saying... Zoom... right over their heads. I don't remember them playing out that much but it seems like they we're always slaving over the album they were recording so if you were not a local musician you might not know much about them and back then almost no one was allowed to hear the recordings."

JohnDavid Bartlett has similar memories: "The 'over the head' reference is true. There weren't that many live Cold Sun shows as I remember. But at the ones I saw, when a song would end the musicians in the audience would howl, while the rest looked like the audience in "The Producers" at the end of "Springtime for Hitler".

The band was never a success locally. It appears that their music simply was too far removed from what was happening around Austin, the parallel infatuation with country and blues “roots” music being all the rage, and the city’s growing national exposure giving increased credence to that orientation. Cold Sun built partly upon the 13th Floor Elevators, but the Elevators were dead and buried in 1971 and people wouldn’t even admit having once liked them. Their other musical influences were urban and intellectual, and wholly alien to what was going on. As Miller recalls, “We played shows that were a faithfully reproduced live version of the album - but better. We were not that serious about playing in Texas, but would have played more. When you hear that album, whatever it is that makes you like it, you should understand that the same thing that makes you like it served to make clubs and brats in Austin NOT like it”. They weren’t without supporters, though: “Vince [Mariani] never missed any show we did. We reminded him of some lost element from childhood - carnivals. After one show he said, ‘You guys sound like you just walked out of a space ship’".

VII

The band soldiered on into 1973 with Miller busy learning the ropes of the music industry. Tom Mcgarrigle left the band permanently, and Miller relocated briefly to Memphis and worked on his business network. Cold Sun was on the back burner, but another and equally interesting phase was just around the corner. Some time earlier mutual friend Winston Taylor had introduced Miller to Roky Erickson, who had been released after 3 years in Rusk State Hospital and was back in Austin. Miller recalls an early encounter with Roky: “One day, I entered Roky`s house and he had allowed a pile of wax candles to melt into the center of the shag carpet until the carpet became the wick of the giant candle, burning brightly. Roky was sitting on a large chair smoking a J. A man with long hair, glasses, and white robes was at his feet. Roky was barefoot and the man was washing his feet in some special ceremonial golden platen - presumably filled with Holy Water? The man used a special cloth and every motion seemed like some specialized routine, some ritual.”

Roky Erickson’s career was essentially back to zero at this point. There were some one-off Elevators reunions, but not much else. Roky had a network of friends who helped him through his Rusk period and after, among them Patrick Mcgarrigle, younger brother of Cold Sun’s lead guitarist. In an effort to revitalize Roky’s rock’n’roll career Patrick Mcgarrigle wanted to put a band together, and as part of this Bill Miller was contacted. Bringing in “the only two musicians in Texas I could trust”, Mike Ritchey and Hugh Patton were selected for the rhythm section, and so BLIEBALIEN was born. As Miller points out, this band was essentially Cold Sun under a new name, with Roky on guitar instead of Tom Mcgarrigle. Roky had written a massive number of songs – perhaps as many as 200 – while in Rusk, and the BliebAlien project aimed mainly at arranging these for a rock setting. Live gigs weren’t a priority, but as a local show at the Ritz unexpectedly was booked, Miller was called in to join the band. This marked the beginning of a phase that later would lead to Roky Erickson & the Aliens being formed, an outfit who should need no introduction. The BliebAlien and Aliens years lie outside the scope of this article, but will hopefully be covered elsewhere. According to Miller, it is “even stranger” than the Cold Sun saga.

This isn’t quite the end, however. Sometime around 1973 Cold Sun bass player Mike Ritchey had taken the Sonobeat master tapes and had an acetate made from them. The main reason was that he wanted to be able to replay the recordings – on which he doesn’t actually play – on regular hifi equipment. As far as can be determined, only 1 single acetate was made, and remained in Ritchey’s possession. At one point he played it for Roky Erickson, who was surprised as he hadn’t heard of neither Cold Sun nor Bill Miller’s songwriting capabilities. As Miller tells it, Roky confronted him after hearing the acetate:

ROKY : "Now, Bill, who is the writer in this band?"
BILL : "You are, Roky. Why would I want Bill Miller for a writer when I could have Roky Erickson? Do you think I`m stupid?"

Soon after this incident the Cold Sun acetate and the band itself disappeared off the face of the earth; the only trace of them anywhere was a brief 1976 interview reference by Miller. As it turned out, it would be 15 years before anyone heard of Cold Sun again.

VIII

At one time my greatest fear would have been the thought of anyone hearing the old Cold Sun recordings.

In 1989, Rich Haupt and his partner Mark Migliore of the Dallas-based Rockadelic record label were approached by Michael Ritchey, who knew Migliore since before. Ritchey wanted them to hear something with his “old band”. As Haupt recalls it,

It was a 3 or 4 song acetate labeled Cold Sun.....needless to say when we listened to it we were blown away. Michael got Mark in touch with Bill Miller and he tried to work out a deal to release the material. After many conversations, Mark gave up and concluded that these songs would never be released as Bill was pretty adamant about NOT releasing them. I asked Mark if I could give it a try and after many hours on the phone I think I convinced Bill that his material was GREAT and that it would be a shame if no one got to hear the LP. Bill finally agreed but there were some details that were difficult to work out. The biggest obstacle was the name of the band. Michael Ritchey, who was responsible for getting the ball rolling (although he was in the band AFTER the recordings) insisted the name of the band was/should be Cold Sun. Bill on the other hand insisted on Dark Shadows, which was something he made up years after the band was defunct. I did my best to compromise and printed both "names" on the cover. The second big issue was the inserts that went in the LP. Bill wanted his extensive notes while Michael wanted a more simplistic, coherent insert. Again I tried my best to compromise and put Bill's notes in 1/2 the LP's and Michael's in the other half. There is no question that this is the best LP we have had the privilege of releasing, and hopefully Bill is glad that it ultimately has worked out the way it has. I could have pressed MANY copies of this both on vinyl and CD over the years but have stuck to my word of only releasing 300 copies.”

It should be pointed out that the acetate was not the source for the Rockadelic reissue, but rather dubs from the original Sonobeat master tapes, which were still in Miller’s possession. The acetate only features about 2/3rds of the material on the Rockadelic record, and is in pretty worn shape -- a fact that didn't keep it from selling for a whopping $10.000 on the record collector market recently. The actual deal reached between Rockadelic Records and Miller was unusual:

All Rich Haupt paid me for the album was: A giant billboard sized picture of Simone Simon. He said - "If you let me release this, I will pay you. How much money do you require ?" I said, "I would require a giant billboard sized picture of Simone Simon, so I can erect a proper shrine for worship." Rich said , "Who is Simone Simon ?". I told him: Star of "Cat People", the icon star of Jacques Tourneur, who was the David Lynch of the 1940`s. Jacques Tourneur directed "I Walked With A Zombie". So, Rich got me a giant picture of Simone Simon. And I sent him the Josey reel dub from the Josey master.

The album front cover was designed by Rockadelic, while Miller suggested putting the tegu lizard on the back. Apart from the liner note insert, the package included a color on-stage photograph of the band. The release was an instant success among fans of underground psychedelia, and the 300 numbered copies sold out very quickly. Despite having been bootlegged (in inferior sound and without inserts), it now changes hands for over $100. Even after the album was released Miller was unimpressed with his old recordings, and would not discuss the Cold Sun era. It would be several years and much prodding from fans across the world before he recognized that they may have great value, even if they failed to wow the world back in 1970. As of this writing plans for a CD release of the Sonobeat masters, and hopefully some bonus live material, are in progress. Meanwhile, Miller – who today is known as Billy Angel – has entered a third, or fourth, phase in his career, now as autoharpist with the Blood Drained Cows, a Southwestern rock band that also features members from 1980s legends the Angry Samoans. The Blood Drained Cows are gigging frequently around USA and have a new CD out, titled “13”. On stage the band plays a 13th Floor Elevators cover, thus closing a circle that began in Austin 1966.

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24.5.10

Picchio dal Pozzo (1976)

Zespól  Picchio dal Pozzo powstał w 1976 roku w Genui. Tworzyli wyjątkową muzykę na włoskiej scenie progresywnej, pozostawiając po sobie cztery bardzo ciekawe albumy pełne surrealizmu i spontaniczności.

Ich pierwsza i zarazem sztandarowa płyta to intrygujące dzieło posiadające wszelkie znamiona znakomitej muzyki spod znaku włoskiej sceny Canterbury. Wszystkie utwory są skomponowane bardzo starannie i zagrane z wielkim smakiem tworząc niepowtarzalna atmosferę. Muzyka dzięki wykorzystaniu różnorodnych instrumentów i efektów dźwiękowych ma wiele warstw i odcieni oraz posiada spore awangardowe a nawet psychodeliczne naleciałości.


A sort of open group, based around the nucleus of Aldo De Scalzi (younger brother of New Trolls' Vittorio), Griguolo and Beccari and with large use of external collaborators.

Their first album was released by De Scalzi's label Grog, one of just five releases on this collectible label, with help from various artists from Genova such as Vittorio De Scalzi, Ciro Perrino and Leonardo Lagorio from Celeste, Renzo "Pucci" Cochis from Jet.

Often described like a sort of Italian Canterbury sound, their first album includes an original blend of different sounding, based on keyboards and horns, with surrealistic lyrics and vocal effects. Interesting and intriguing, the album is worth a listen, and is very far from everything else in the Italian prog field.



Their four years break has been recently documented by the CD Camere Zimmer Rooms, with very good quality recordings from the 1977-80 era, an interesting release with a very nice introducing track as Il Presidente with irreverent lyrics on the then President of Italy.

Their second official album was made in 1980, this time on L'Orchestra label after their collaboration with Stormy Six and the Rock in Opposition movement. Another interesting album, still with complex rhythm changes and various influences, this also had a flexi single included.

Many of the musicians involved in Picchio dal Pozzo have followed their career in the later years, and a new four-piece line-up, featuring De Scalzi, Griguolo, Lugo and Di Marco, has released a new album in 2004. Called Pic_nic @ Valdapozzo this contains some recordings from late 2002 based on some sampled unreleased vocal experiments by Demetrio Stratos, who briefly assisted the band around 1979. An instrumental album for the most part (except for the Stratos experiments and a single vocal track), this is far from their older albums though it keeps a good quality. Some of the typical sound the group had created in the 80's is still there, though the album is closer to jazz and relies much more than in the past on improvisation, the surreal lyrics of the earlier albums are sadly missing!  (italianprog)

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23.5.10

Angel'in Heavy Syrup - Vol 3 (1995)



Muzyka Angel'in Heavy Syrup może zostać opisana jako specyficzna mieszanka prychodelicznego rocka i popu, często porównywana do stylu 'Krautrock', popularnego w Niemczech w latach siedemdziesiątych; w wokalach natomiast pobrzmiewa inspiracja tradycyjną muzyką japońską. Producent Hiroshige Jojo, znany z tworzenia muzyki określanej jako 'gitarowy noise-terror', dał im w swojej wytwórni Alchemy Records dużą swobodę działania, dzięki czemu AiHS mogły stworzyć własny nowatorski styl, odcinając się tym samym od swoich muzycznych mentorów. Ich medytacyjno-progresywny rock niektórzy krytycy określali jako tak zwiewny i wzniosły, że mógłby się 'zmieszać z eterem'. (jame-world.com)

Mineko Itakura - bass, vocal
Mandrake Yoko - drums
Nine Nakao - guitar, vocal



Angel'In Heavy Syrup is a three-girl rock band formed in Osaka, Japan, in 1990. This is their fourth release - as you can guess from the title - and marks their return after a gap of nearly five years. Mineko's sweet-voiced and distinctively Japanese vocals are married with a rock sound which is warm and familiar, and not at all consistent with Monotremata's declared devotion to "dissonant soundscapes". For the benefit of those for whom English is a second language, I am also bemused by the apostrophe in the title.



A shimmeringly lovely piece of Japanese neo-psychedelia, the third album by the all-female quartet Angel'in Heavy Syrup is as delicate and insubstantial as music can get before it tips over into formless ambient waves of sound. Although these lengthy pieces have extended instrumental passages, all of the music sounds composed in a traditional sense. There's little if any improvisation here. The 11-minute opening track, "Breath of Life," is like classic Can in its organic-feeling ebb and flow, before it finally explodes into an almost Hendrix-like solo by lead guitarist Mine Nakao toward the end. That outburst and the swirling, wah-wah-enhanced "Bokudake-ga" are about as heavy as this album gets, but even the latter song has a lightness of feel that makes it skip and twirl where other bands would simply lumber. The rest of the album is considerably more fragile-sounding, with bassist Mineko Itakura's wispy vocals floating over an ether of guitar noise and gentle percussion, like My Bloody Valentine playing in a room next door to a sleeping infant. Even "Water Mind," which features drummer Tomoko Takahara doubling on fusiony flute and works up a supple groove akin to some of Gong's jazzier moments, remains sweetly graceful. The American edition of Angel'in Heavy Syrup III includes an eight-minute bonus track, "Introduction I: Naked Sky High," taken from the previous Japan-only release Angel'in Heavy Syrup II. ~ Stewart Mason, All Music Guide

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The Meters - First (1969)



Na przełomie lat 60-tych i 70-tych The Meters byli grupą sidemanów zatrudnianych przez najważniejszych producentów z Nowego Orleanu. Stali się wówczas prawdziwą instytucją tamtejszej sceny, otwartej na wpływy karaibskie i stanowiącej kolebkę nie tylko jazzu, lecz także nowoczesnej „czarnej maszyny rytmicznej” w ogóle. Bębniarz The Meters, Joseph „Zigaboo” Modeliste uchodzi za geniusza czarnej perkusji, zachwycając ekonomiką grania, zręcznym wykorzystywaniem luk między beatami, umiejętnością godzenia dysonansu i dyscypliny w ramach polirytmii. The Meters asystowali przy narodzinach disco i nagrywali autorskie albumy. Ich drugi album „Look-Ka Py Py” to ascetyczny konkret, który brzmi jak jamajskie rocksteady wykonane przez Jimi Hendrix Experience, oczywiście bez solówek. Mocne, a jednocześnie przesycone luzem nadmorskiej prowincji owianej karaibską bryzą, którego próżno szukać w nerwowym miejskim funky Browna. (Rafał Księżyk)

W 1969 roku ukazała się także pierwsza płyta zespołu The Meters, która zdobyła wówczas dwudzieste trzecie miejsce na liście Bilboardu w kategorii Black Albums. Zespół założyli w połowie lat 60. czarnoskórzy nowoorleańczycy, by wkrótce wytyczyć szlaki, którymi podąża po dziś dzień wielu muzyków. Zachęcam więc i Was do wgłębienia się w funkowe riffy gitarzysty The Meters - Leo Nocentelliego. (Krzysztof Inglik)



Joseph Modeliste - drums
Art Neville - keyboard,vocal
Leo Nocentelli - guitar, organ
George Porter Jr - guitar,vocals,bass

One can one say about the Meters of New Orleans? In a city steeped in the funk, they are the godfathers. In a nation full of funskters, they are legends. The band is the foundation of what we know as funk today. Dr. Dre is funky – he owes it all to the Meters. George Clinton is known for being funky but he doesn’t even come close to the Meters. Cameo? They are not even on the same funk map. In fact, there are very few people who can share the same funk influence as the Meters – perhaps James Brown, but even his Motown Gospel soul has to tip its hat to the Meters. For the longest time, the early recordings of the Meters were virtually impossible to find. But now, thanks to Sundazed Records, the Meters first five albums The Meters, Look-Ka Py Py, Struttin’, Rejuvenation and Fire on the Bayou are available on disc. In addition, the label has also released the recordings of Lee Dorsey, who was one of the first musicians that the Meters played for. With no further ado, lets jump into the funky world known as the Meters.

The Meters have their humble beginnings in a New Orleans neighborhood when Art Neville, after a short stint in the Navy, started his own R&B band. Prior to his time in the armed forces, Neville made a name for himself with his 1955 single "Mardi Gras Mambo" with the group the Hawketts. This tune was an instant local hit that still ripples through the streets of New Orleans every February. In the mid-1960s, Neville recruited George Porter Jr. (bass), Joseph "Zigaboo" Modeliste (drums), Leo Nocentelli (guitar), his two brothers, Aaron and Cyril (both vocals) as well as an additional saxophonist for his new band, Art Neville and the Neville Sound. After booking their first gig at the Ivanhoe, a small stage venue located in the heart of the revelry laden Bourbon Street, the owner suggested that Art downsize the band. Instead of making the band a family affair, Neville opted to retain the strings and drums to complement his organ playing. Art and his brothers had plenty of time to strut their stuff together and ultimately did with the formation of the Neville Brothers.

Prior to this collaboration, Porter, Modeliste and Nocentelli were off doing their own projects, not really making any significant musical impact. The jazz influenced Nocentelli grew up listening to Dixieland and was recording in Detroit prior to joining Neville. Nocentelli’s guitar work can be heard on Motown albums by the Drifters, Martha and Vandellas and even the Supremes' "Where Did Our Love Go?" Porter was playing in different gigs around town including stints with Earl King and Irving Bannister & the All-Stars. As for Porter’s second cousin, Modeliste, he had met Neville earlier when he sat in with the Hawketts. Modeliste wasn’t even the original drummer. He replaced the sickly original time keeper (Glenn) of whom none of the members can even remember his last name. The end result was a band similar to Booker T and The MGs in terms of instruments and sound



It was the quartet’s raw funky sound at the Ivanhoe that caught the eyes and ears of legendary New Orleans producers Marshall Sehorn and Allen Toussaint. The duo saw an even more suitable comparison to Booker T and the MGs – Art and company would serve as the ideal backing band for the multiple artists that came through their studio, Sansu Enterprises. Art and Toussaint were no strangers to each other’s work as the two collaborated in 1962 for the tune "All These Things." One of the first items that Sehorn and Toussaint addressed was that the band needed to change its name. The story behind the naming of the band is murky. The rumor mill suggests that the band picked a name out of the hat and the Meters were born while other stories suggest that Sehorn and Toussaint bestowed the name. Just as Booker T backed up classic Stax albums by Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Carla Thomas, Albert King and Sam & Dave, the Meters served as the back up band for Earl King, Chris Kenner, Betty Harris, as well Toussaint's own music efforts. The one singer that gave the Meters their first real opportunity to shine was Lee Dorsey.

Although Lee Dorsey grew up in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward with fellow musician Fats Domino, Dorsey spent much of his early life away from the Crescent City. In 1936, the ten year old moved to Portland, Oregon – a location that could not have been more geographically, climatically or musically dislocated from the Big Easy. By the time the United States had entered the war against the Axis powers, Lee was fighting for the Navy in the South Pacific. It was this time as a seaman that Dorsey also learned another method of fighting – boxing. After receiving a battle wound, Dorsey continued to ply his trade as an extremely successful featherweight boxer throughout the northwest. The five-foot tall Dorsey, who went by the name "Cadillac Shorty", fought until his retirement in 1955 and then returned to New Orleans.

Within three years of his arrival in Nawlins, Dorsey quickly made the conversion from scrappy fighter to soulful singer and ultimately caught the attention of the always talent identifying savvy of Sehorn and Toussaint. Under the tutelage of Sehorn (who was working for the NYC record label, Fire/Fury), Dorsey scored a hit with the song "Ya Ya" that reached #7 in the Billboard Charts during the summer of 1961. Three years later, Sehorn, Toussaint and Dorsey collaborated for another hit "Ride Your Pony". Through Toussaint’s writing ability, Dorsey recorded classic songs such as "Get Out of My Life Woman", "Here Come the Hurt Again?", "Working on a Coalmine" and "Work, Work, Work." All of this R&B tunes were recorded under the local record label, Amy Records and feature the combination of Dorsey’s easy going soulful vocals, Toussaint’s superb writing skills and Sehorn’s uncanny sense of production. Between the 1965 and 1969, the three slammed the airwaves with one soulful tune after another. Sundazed Records has now released Ride Your Pony and The New Lee Dorsey, which not only contain the original albums but also a whole slew of B-sides and unreleased tracks.

During Dorsey’s hit making tenure, the Sansu studio band played the music, but this was long before the arrival the Meters. It was not until 1969 that Art, Joseph, George and Leo first had an opportunity to record with Dorsey. The final tracks on The New Lee Dorsey highlight the Meter’s presence with the tunes "Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky (From Now On)", "There Should Be A Book", "Candy Yam", "Give It Up", "What You Want Is (What You Get) and "I’m The One". The properly named "Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky (From Now On)" would have a lasting effect on the funk music scene as everyone from saxophonist Lou Donaldson to percussionist Poncho Sanchez has covered it. After these sessions on Amy records, Lee Dorsey took off for greener pastures with a larger label. But it was during those sessions that really opened the light on the Meters and gave them the opportunity to record alone.

While serving as Sehorn and Toussaint’s studio band, the Meters had an instrumental view on the musical world. The singers and the studio band almost never saw each other as the majority of the work was accomplished through multi-track recording. With this in mind, it seemed only obvious that the Meter’s first album would be 100 % instrumental. Vocals didn’t seem to matter when it came to recording for their 1969 debut album The Meters for the Josie label. The album spurned multiple hits that would set the pace for both the Meters and the entire New Orleans funk sound. The album contained long time Meters favorites such as "Cissy Strut", "Sophisticated Cissy, "Ease Back", "Cardova" and "Here Comes the Meter Man" which defined the Meter’s sound – simple in structure but deep with the rhythm. In a sense, the Meters defined the basic characteristics of the groove. While Funkadelic, Cameo, James Brown and Sly Stone are synonymous with funk, these artists look to the Meters for the basic down to earthy and raw sound.

Since the formula seemed to work for The Meters, the band kept to the theme for 1970’s Look-Ka Py Py. The album’s title track hit #11 on the R&B charts. Remarkably enough, the song was written while the band was riding in the car from New Jersey to Atlanta. Zigaboo discovered a rhythm that was created by their Mercury’s two burnt pistons. The band improvised to the beat, threw in a chant and the next thing they knew, they were in Atlanta cutting the song. Six months after the recording of Look-Ka Py Py, the band returned to more friendly recording confines of New Orleans and the famous studios of Cosimo Matassa to lay down the tracks for Struttin’. Like their first two albums, Struttin’ was no exception to the Meter’s panache for creating the funkiest of hit instrumentals. This album produced two popular tunes - "Chicken Strut", which featured Zigaboo’s chicken cackling and "Hand Clapping Song". The album also brought Art Neville’s singing ability back to the spotlight. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, Neville’s voice was his primary asset but when the band started working for Sansu Enterprises, his vocals were put on the back burner. Appropriately enough, Neville’s return to singing was marked with a version of Lee Dorsey’s "Ride the Pony", which Allen Toussaint penned five years earlier. The remaining vocal tune was a version of "Darling, Darling, Darling". These two vocals comprise only 1/7 of the present album with the remaining 6/7’s containing the relentless tandem of Modeliste and Porter, the slinky organ of Neville and the wailing solos of Nocentelli (...)

Struttin’ marked the last album that the Meters recorded with the locally ran Josie label. By the time 1972 rolled round, Josie had gone bankrupt and the band signed with Reprise Records, a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Despite the new label, Toussaint remained as the band’s producer and Sehorn stayed on as their manager. Although all of the ingredients for the patented Meters funky gumbo were still intact, the hits were no longer as prolific as they were with the Josie label. What was lost with the lack of hits was gained with some truly integral installments of the Meters sound. The first album with Reprise was 1972’s Cabbage Alley. The name itself was an enigma for New Orleans is a land of Crawfish Etouffe, Jambalaya, Gumbo, Shrimp Po-Boys and Artichoke Pie – the idea of eating cabbage in the Big Easy is as foreign as eating New England clam chowder in Belize. Regardless, the album was named after a small back street located in New Orleans so the title retained a tie to the city. Musically, the album was a major vehicle for Leo Nocentelli who wrote four of the albums songs and co wrote another four. Prior to this album, the Meters wrote all the songs collectively. With Cabbage Alley, the band took a noticeable turn towards creating a pop song. The band no longer walked into the studio, pressed record, jammed for six hours straight and sifted through the tapes afterwards. There was a deliberate effort to make a pop-oriented album and the Meters stumbled through the process. The album ultimately had some creative highpoints such as Nocentelli’s ballad, "Lonesome and Unwanted People", and the Latin tinged "Soul Island". The latter song came to fruition after the band’s spirited tour through the Caribbean. The album also featured a remake of Professor Longhair’s "Hey Now Baby" (renamed to "Cabbage Alley") as well as a version of Neil Young’s "Birds"(...)

This rise in popularity but decrease in hits is best displayed during the years after recordings of Rejuvenation and Fire on the Bayou. The band’s playing ability caught the eye and ear of musicians everywhere. In 1975, they played for a private party for Paul McCartney and also recorded on one of his albums. They also played on albums by Robert Palmer, Dr. John and Labelle as well as opened for the Rolling Stones on tours throughout the United States and Europe. As a recording unit, the Meters recorded the Wild Tchoupitoulas with Cyril Neville and members of the famed Mardi Gras Indians. This was a fine album but a departure from the Meters sound. After this recording, things went sour as Toussaint and Sehorn left the band, which ultimately led to disputes over the Meters name. As a result the band split up in 1979.

21 years later, the music of the Meters is still alive and well. Art Neville and George Porter Jr. formed "the funky Meters" in the mid 1990s and continue playing the Meters tunes with the same funk abound. George Porter and Joseph Modeliste also have their own bands while the Neville Brothers are always playing the New Orleans vibe. If anything, the songs of the Meters can be heard everywhere. One of the band’s earliest singles, "Cissy Strut", has been played by every bar band from here to San Diego and it has been recorded by pianist Johnny Lewis, organist Big John Patton, bassist Jaco Pastorious and guitarist John Scofield. Guitarist Grant Green further immortalized the Meters with the swinging "Ease Back" and "Hey Pocky Way" was a popular part of the Grateful Dead’s repertoire throughout the late 1980s (...) (Brian Knight)

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22.5.10

The Burnin Rain - Iwasaka & Pictures In The Fire (1991/1992)



The Burnin Rain is the ultimate psychedelic garage band on this planet, because they play a completely unique type of almost brain-dead,drug-soaked sixties garage and acid rock of their own. (Freak Beat Magazine)

It's a dark and foul-smelling rainy night.By the flickering light of the last remaining neon tube of smashed publicity sing watching over an incredibly filthy back ally in downtown Dallas.Three rats eating from a slowly disintergating,blackly swollen corpse of a crack addict. Suddenly a loud metal clatter runs through the deserted ally in this shunned neighbourhood. The round heavy metal lid of a derelict sewer system is thrown aside by a enormous force and out of this hellish black hole gulps a thick, green-glowing smoke. The rats stop chewing on the rotting meat of the extremities of the corpse and stare in fascination ant the black hole,from which suddenly rises a dripping wet,shiny black claw holding a square,flat object.A beam of insane terror runs through the beady little eyes of the rats that squeak in fear and gallop out of the ally at full speed. This could only mean one thing that Rockadelic Records have released the new record by The Burnin Rain (Ritual medicine Show). (Freak Beat Magazine)

The Burnin Rain have established them selves completely as a serious cult band in Europe.This is pure,crude and unpolished garage-psych as it's ment to be. I think that "Gwendolyn" must be one,if not the best Rain songs I have heard so far. The guitar is just incredible and one is tempted to put it on the level with immortal (Cold Sun) "Dark Shawdows" album that Rockadelic pressed.Though the over all atmosphere is completely differnt.With the soulfulgrooves of of the song "The Undergroud" the band is always expanding into different directions. What I like about The Burnin Rain is that they are immediately recognized as a pure Texas psych band that uses the jug and a dry guitar sound that places them among the logic heirs of the stand out band that have been knighted Texas psych garage greats.Just take the song "Black Cat Night" with it's circling guitar themes that take you eight miles higher than all these fake wanna-bees. With primitive crawling vocals,soaring guitars and swelling organ I can't think of a better psyche-garage Texas band that I have listen to that is better than "The Burnin Rain". (Gregor Kessler Gore Magazine)



Mike Pemberton -guitar, vocal
Erich Anderson - guitar, keyboards
Bobby Faubion - bass
Chris Gore - drums

"Currently extant Texas band,but it's psychedelic roots run deep" (Spin Magazine)

"Burnin Rain is pure Texadelia, a band that would not sound out of place on an International Artist comp. This is one hell of a guitar album,which has been fighting for space hereabouts with the likes of The Dead Moon for the past month or so. (Phil McMullen Bucket Full of Brains)

"Mike Pemberton started out as the token ‘white’ boy playing bass in an all-Black funk band in the late 70’s . It was a memorable experience to say the least. In the early 80’s he joined Deep Ellum band, ‘Model 12’, with Chris Gore and....A very handsome guy, with a laid-back attitude, Mike eased onto the scene with flair and self-assurance minus the cockiness we could all do without. In the tradition of the ‘13th Floor Elevators’, ‘The Chessmen’, ‘Mouse and The Traps’ and ‘The Nomad’s meet the “Burnin’ Rain”, brainchild of Mike Pemberton and Mark Migliore, founder, Rockadelic Records, conceptualized in 1988. Using vintage ‘Vox’ guitars, amps and fuzz boxes they hired Jim Edgerton for vocals , Erich Anderson sounding very Manzarek-esque on Vox Organ and brilliant , veteran rock drummer Chris Gore. In a typically bohemian environment, replete with lava lamps, incense, carpeted walls, in an old brick two-story
four-plex on Worth Street in historical East Dallas, their highly palpable chemistry shaped the sounds that quickly become ‘Burnin Rain’.



The first session produced “Piece of your Love”, and “All Night Long”, (the third 45 rpm on Rockadelic Records), a quick- selling 500 !. Within two months of the band’s formation, Mark Miglioure and Jim Edgerton split to form their own band, “Fish Eye Lens”. The surviving members located an old high-school pal, Dan Connelly, (formerly of ‘Danny and The Daylights’) to fill out the gap on vocals and lead guitar, producing their first effort, “Visions” on the ‘Mind and Eye’ label, with distribution through Rockadelic Records, Dallas and ‘Resonance’ of The Netherlands and New York City. The grainy, raw effects on tunes like, ‘Smoke Stack Lightening’ were due in part to a classic four-track Crown reel-to-reel recorder and a Gretch guitar owned by Pemberton. Danny’s natural swagger with the guitar and his organic, coarse, blues-driven voice brushed on the final touches of what would become one of the hippest, most talented bands in Deep Ellum, and the Southwest.

The next 10 months were spent honing their dazzling, vibrant 12-song repertoire. Within a month of pressing, Semiphore Records in Holland heard their music, instantly signed the band, repressing ‘Visions’ with 4000 sold as they began recording their second album, “Iwaska”. Iwaska is a South American vine that local shaman used in ritual ceremonies, inducing a drug-like trance with visions of places they never physically inhabited… . Featuring seasoned local Dallas chanteuse Cricket Taylor on the psyche-rock, bluesy, swaying duet with Danny, “Dreams”, opening with a light rainstorm track layered underneath, “What is it that you want, or do you really know, dear? Tell me do you have a dream ? Well find it , chase it, la la la… …..” Oh, you’ll sing along, trust me. “I have let others get to me at times, but I won’t let it stop me, no, I’ll let it inspire me, I will”……the sweet echoes of a voice too early taken , Danny Connelly’s haunting layers in harmony plead “Don’t let your dreams go too far”…..get ready for the chill.

Their third record, “Pictures In The Fire”, was a triumph in its simplicity. Still retaining the raw, edgy sound with a more finessed, mature result, noted especially in the title song, with Pemberton singing, they left you wanting more….Their live shows were etched into the memory of those fortunate enough to experience them, from live shows at Club Clearview to the Frye Street Fair, with a sound that endures the test of time, and now anyone can access the beauty of Burnin Rain!" (Lyric LaCeile)

Found on some unknown bloggers. Thanks to anonym.

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18.5.10

Joy Division - Les Bains Douches 18 December 1979 (2001)


Joy Division - brytyjski zespół rockowy założony w 1977 roku w Manchesterze. Wykształcił się z punkowej grupy Warsaw, grał mroczną, przesyconą rozważaniami nad sensem życia muzykę. Ostatecznie jego styl muzyczny zaklasyfikowano do post punka. Grupa rozpadła się w 1980 roku, po śmierci wokalisty Iana Curtisa. Pozostali członkowie utworzyli wówczas nową formację - New Order.

W 1977 roku, w okresie największego nasilenia działalności ruchu punk, dwóch kolegów ze szkolnej ławy - Bernard Sumner (używał w zespole pseudonimu Bernard Albrecht) oraz Peter Hook udali się na koncert Sex Pistols, który odbywał się w ich rodzinnym mieście Manchesterze. Jak się później okazało koncert ten zmienił oblicze muzyki lat 80, bowiem Sumner i Hook spotkali na tym występie urzędnika i początkującego poetę Iana Curtisa. Panowie przypadli sobie do gustu i postanowili założyć własny zespół, w którym mogliby tworzyć muzykę utrzymaną w punkowej stylistyce. Mimo iż żaden z nich nie potrafił grać na jakimkolwiek instrumencie muzycznym, a ich czas zajmowała praca w fabrykach, mieli dość zapału, by ten plan wcielić w życie.



Ostatecznie nowo powstały zespół został nazwany Warsaw na cześć piosenki Davida Bowie Warszawa. Na pierwszych próbach i koncertach grupa występowała w składzie: Ian Curtis (wokal), Bernard Albrecht (gitara elektryczna), Peter Hook (gitara basowa) i Steve Brotherdale (perkusja). Szybko jednak zadecydowano o odsunięciu Brotherdale'a, a na jego miejsce znaleziono Stephena Morrisa i kontynuowano próby. W pewnym momencie stało się jasne, że Warsaw nie będzie zwykłym punkowym zespołem - zadecydowały o tym niesamowite brzmienie gitary basowej oraz sterylna perkusja. Zespół stał się wkrótce słynny w okolicy z powodu dziwnych zachowań muzyków podczas koncertów chory na epilepsję Ian Curtis często w szokujący sposób zabawiał publiczność, a i czasami zdarzały się mu ataki choroby podczas występów, podobnie niekonwencjonalnie zachowywał się porywczy Peter Hook. W tym okresie grupa zmuszona była jednak zmienić nazwę - okazało się, że w Londynie istnieje zespół o nazwie Warsaw Pakt. Fascynujący się historią wokalista wybrał nową, szokującą nazwę Joy Division od tzw. dywizji radości, czyli oddziałów więźniarek obozów koncentracyjnych z czasów II wojny światowej, które świadczyły usługi seksualne pilnującym ich żołnierzom.

Sława lokalnego zespołu wystarczyła, by wkrótce zarejestrować w 1978 roku An Ideal For Living, EPkę, która ukazuje styl wczesnego Joy Division. Niedługo potem doszło do poważnych zmian w stylu gry Curtis chciał czegoś więcej niż prymitywnego i agresywnego punku, stąd wysunięcie na pierwszy plan gitary basowej Hooka i perkusji Morrisa i obarczenie Albrechta dodatkową rolą klawiszowca jak się później okazało, instrumenty klawiszowe zaczęły odgrywać w muzyce zespołu ogromną rolę. Wówczas wykształcił się charakterystyczny dla dojrzałej twórczości zespołu mroczny, depresyjny styl, który podkreślał równocześnie niesamowitą manierę wokalną i przejmujące teksty wokalisty. Była to zupełna nowość w świecie rocka, stąd zainteresowanie ze strony słynnego DJa BBC, Johna Peela. Joy Division nagrało na potrzeby audycji Peela kilka utworów, które w latach 90. ukazały się w wersji kompaktowej. Wizyta u słynnego radiowca ułatwiła grupie podpisanie płytowego kontraktu z firmą Factory, co zaowocowało wydaną w czerwcu 1979 roku debiutancka płytą "Unknown Pleasures". Na albumie zebrano skomponowane dotychczas utwory grupy z okresu, gdy porzucono już koncepcję Joy Division jako zespołu czysto punkowego. Dzięki temu wydawnictwu grupa mogła ruszyć na dużą trasę koncertową po Europie.

Niestety, nagle stan zdrowia Iana Curtisa zdecydowanie się pogorszył - jeżeli dotąd ataki epilepsji były zamierzonym i pożądanym podczas występów efektem, to teraz zaczęły paraliżować koncertową działalność grupy. Nie przeszkodziło to w zakontraktowaniu amerykańskiej części trasy koncertowej i przystąpieniu do prac nad nową płytą. W międzyczasie na singlu wydano również jeden z najlepszych utworów w dziejach zespołu "Love Will Tear Us Apart".

Kilka lat niezwykle aktywnej działalności nagraniowo-koncertowej doszczętnie zrujnowało zdrowie psychiczne i fizyczne wokalisty. Mimo iż publiczność i krytycy wysoko oceniali jego działalność artystyczną, a i jego życie rodzinne układało się dobrze, to stan psychiki wokalisty wciąż się pogarszał. Ta sytuacja znalazła ujście w tekstach zawartych na ostatniej płycie studyjnej zespołu, "Closer". Jest ona dziś uważana za największe dokonanie Joy Division, charakteryzuje się zimnym brzmieniem (co jest zasługą zwiększenia roli syntezatorów), depresyjnym klimatem i ukazuje ostateczne zerwanie zespołu z punkową estetyką. Po zamknięciu sesji nagraniowej do Closer zespół zaczął czynić przygotowania do zapowiadanej na drugą połowę maja 1980 roku trasy koncertowej po Stanach Zjednoczonych. W tym celu grupa wystąpiła 2 maja na Uniwersytecie w Birmingham, wkrótce okazało się, że był to ostatni koncert w dziejach Joy Division. Rok później zapis tego występu wydano na płycie zatytułowanej "Still".



Nocą 18 maja 1980 roku Ian Curtis popełnił samobójstwo, wieszając się na kablu od suszarki. O kontynuowaniu działalności jako Joy Division nie mogło być mowy. Ostatecznie zespół rozwiązał się po wydaniu w czerwcu 1980 roku nagranej wcześniej płyty "Closer". Nie był to jednak koniec wspólnej działalności Hooka, Morrisa i Sumnera. Wkrótce założyli oni popularną rockową formację New Order. Niepublikowane nigdy wcześniej na długogrających płytach utwory znalazły się na kompilacyjnych albumach "Substance" (1988) i "Permanent" (1995).

Płyta "Les Bains Douches 18 December 1979" jest zapisem najlepszych fragmentów koncertów Joy Division z przełomu 1979 i 1980 roku, mających miejsce w Paryżu, Amsterdamie i Eindhoven.


Formed in the wake of the punk explosion in England, Joy Division became the first band in the post-punk movement by later emphasizing not anger and energy but mood and expression, pointing ahead to the rise of melancholy alternative music in the '80s. Though the group's raw initial sides fit the bill for any punk band, Joy Division later incorporated synthesizers (taboo in the low-tech world of '70s punk) and more haunting melodies, emphasized by the isolated, tortured lyrics of its lead vocalist, Ian Curtis. While the British punk movement shocked the world during the late '70s, Joy Division's quiet storm of musical restraint and emotive power proved to be just as important to independent music in the 1980s.

The band was founded in early 1977, soon after the Sex Pistols had made their first appearance in Manchester. Guitarist Bernard Albrecht (b. Bernard Dicken, January 4, 1956) and bassist Peter Hook (b. February 13, 1956) had met while at the show and later formed a band called the Stiff Kittens; after placing an ad through a Manchester record store, they added vocalist Ian Curtis (b. July 15, 1956) and drummer Steve Brotherdale. Renamed Warsaw (from David Bowie's "Warszawa"), the band made its live debut the following May, supporting the Buzzcocks and Penetration at Manchester's Electric Circus. After the recording of several demos, Brotherdale quit the group in August 1977, prompting the hire of Stephen Morris (b. October 28, 1957). A name change to Joy Division in late 1977 -- necessitated by the punk band Warsaw Pakt -- was inspired by Karol Cetinsky's World War II novel The House of Dolls. (In the book, the term "joy division" was used as slang for concentration camp units wherein female inmates were forced to prostitute themselves for the enjoyment of Nazi soldiers.)



Playing frequently in the north country during early 1978, the quartet gained the respect of several influential figures: Rob Gretton, a Manchester club DJ who became the group's manager; Tony Wilson, a TV/print journalist and owner of the Factory Records label; and Derek Branwood, a record executive with RCA Northwest, who recorded sessions in May 1978, for what was planned to be Joy Division's self-titled debut LP. Though several songs bounded with punk energy, the rest of the album showed at an early age the band's later trademarks: Curtis' themes of post-industrial restlessness and emotional despair, Hook's droning bass lines, and the jagged guitar riffs of Albrecht.

The album should have been hailed as a punk classic, but when a studio engineer added synthesizers to several tracks -- believing that the punk movement had to move on and embrace new sounds -- Joy Division scrapped the entire LP. (Titled Warsaw for a 1982 bootleg, the album was finally given wide issue ten years later.) The first actual Joy Division release came in June 1978, when the initial mid-1977 demos were released as the EP An Ideal for Living, on the band's own Enigma label. Early in 1979, the buzz surrounding Joy Division increased with a session recorded for John Peel's BBC radio show.

The group began recording with producer Martin Hannett and released Unknown Pleasures on old friend Tony Wilson's Factory label in July 1979. The album enjoyed immense critical acclaim and a long stay on the U.K.'s independent charts. Encouraged by the punk buzz, the American Warner Bros. label offered a large distribution contract that fall. The band ignored it but did record another radio session for John Peel on November 26th. (Both sessions were later collected on the Peel Sessions album.)


During late 1979, Joy Division's manic live show gained many converts, partly due to rumors of Curtis' ill health. An epilepsy sufferer, he was prone to breakdowns and seizures while on stage -- it soon grew difficult to distinguish the fits from his usual on-stage jerkiness and manic behavior. As the live dates continued and the new decade approached, Curtis grew weaker and more prone to seizures. After a short rest over the Christmas holiday, Joy Division embarked on a European tour during January, though several dates were cancelled because of Curtis. The group began recording its second LP after the tour ended (again with Hannett), and released "Love Will Tear Us Apart" in April. The single was again praised but failed to move beyond the independent charts. After one gig in early May, the members of Joy Division were given two weeks of rest before beginning the group's first U.S. tour. Two days before the scheduled flight, however, Curtis was found dead in his home, the victim of a self-inflicted hanging.

Before Curtis' death, the band had agreed that Joy Division would cease to exist if any member left, for any reason. Ironically though, the summer of 1980 proved to be the blooming of the band's commercial status, when a re-release of "Love Will Tear Us Apart" rose to number 13 on the British singles chart. In August, the release of Closer finally united critics' positivity with glowing sales, as the album peaked at number six. Before the end of the summer, Unknown Pleasures was charting as well.

By January of the following year, Hook, Morris, and Albrecht (now Bernard Sumner) had formed New Order, with Sumner taking over vocal duties. Also in 1981, the posthumous release of Still -- including two sides of rare tracks and two of live songs -- rose to number five on the British charts. As New Order's star began to shine during the '80s, the group had trouble escaping the long shadow of Curtis and Joy Division. "Love Will Tear Us Apart" charted for the third time in 1983, and 1988 also proved a big year for the defunct band: the reissued single "Atmosphere" hit number 34 and a double-album compilation entitled Substance reached number seven in the album charts. Seven years later, the 15th anniversary of Curtis' death was memorialized with a new JD compilation (Permanent: Joy Division 1995), a tribute album (A Means to an End), and a biography of his life (Touching From a Distance) written by his widow, Deborah Curtis. In 1999, the Factory label began a program of concert-performance reissues -- all overseen by the remainder of the original lineup -- with Preston Warehouse 28 February 1980. (John Bush)

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