Sounds Magazine - Tuesday, January 10th, 2017
It was December 1982 when my brother lost his life to a bear in the woods of Chilliwack, British Columbia. He rushed unthinkingly toward my prostrate naked bacon covered body, as he saw a 600lb grizzly bearing down on me, snaffling up the juicy rashers. But my brother wasn’t to know that I had the situation under control. Too bad for him.
Within a year I’d made the bacon mask that I’ve worn in public ever since – on stage at comedy clubs, in the mall, even on dates that, inevitably, usually end with me dining alone. “I see you brought your own trimmings”, laughed one waiter, south of the Canadian border, as I sat on my own in a Tacoma diner at Thanksgiving. Asshat!
Sometimes, I even wear the bacon mask in private, like when I’m listening to my late brother’s hefty collection of vinyl slabs and bootleg tapes, still stacked in his forest shack. I go up there on quiet nights, when the snow has fallen, to begin shoveling through his sonic stash, and sometimes it’s like he’s there with me. And by the end of the night, as usual, I am sick of the sanctimonious fuck, even though he isn’t even there.
San Francisco songwriter Terry Dolan’s unreleased eponymous 1972 debut Terry Dolan (High Moon LP – HMRLP06), canned inexplicably by Warner Brothers mere months before its release, but known to my brother via a bootleg tape trader reel-to-reel, is exactly the sort of obscurity my patronising prick of a sibling prided himself on having secured. Well, now High Moon have issued it legitimately, for everyone to hear, you dead and rotten butt-wipe brother, and your secret stockpile just saw its currency further devalued! Suck it up, ghost boy!!
And thank the record collector Gods they saw fit to lay this one on us again. Dolan took Greenwich village singer songwriter structures and exploded them into San Francisco jam band grooves, with producer and sixth Stone Nicky Hopkins hammering the ivories, The Tubes’ Prairie Prince on drums, the Airplane’s Spencer Dryden supplying percussive thrust, Country Weather’s Ritalin-gobbling Greg Douglas on guitar, Dolan’s future long-term lieutenant Quicksilver Messenger Service’s John Cipollina dropping some distinctive licks, and your actual ever-lovin’, all-singing, all-dancing Pointer Sisters on holy-roller backing vox a plenty.
The irresistible Inlaws And Outlaws was already a radio hit in its demo form, when producer Hopkins was called away at the end of the album’s side 1 sessions by Stones commitments, and replaced by British pianist Brit Pete Sears of acid-mods Les Fleur de Lys, Lemmy’s psychedelic world music hippies Sam Gopal, and prog-folksters Jade, who steered the rudderless vessel of Dolan’s debut safely home. And then Warner Brothers dumped it with the trash, unceremoniously, without explanation.
Dolan and Cipolina’s partnership, as Terry and The Pirates, went on to flourish, largely under the radar, until the mercurial guitarist died in 1989, but High Moon records set history right with this forensic reconstruction of the Terry Dolan album that never quite was, even down to the Warner Brothers logo on the label.
Listening to Dolan’s album again reminds me of an especially tedious night in the mid-seventies, when my late brother tied me to a chair, played me Les Fleur’s Who cover, Circles, the whole of Jade’s drippy album, a bit of the Dolan tape, some Copperhead demos and some early Rod Stewart sides and said he’d beat me with an ice hickey pick until I guessed what connected them. The answer was Pete Sears. I’d never have guessed. I was just a kid. Thing is, the prick would have beaten me even harder if I’d known the answer.
The Shoe Box Tapes by Bob Brown with The Conqueroo (Shagrat – ENT 020) is another posthumously assembled collection, of recordings made between 1972 and 1977, that my late brother had on various contraband reel to reels. The Conqueroo were exactly the kind of lost and barely-documented early Texan psychedelic band my brother loved to crow about owning.
One 1968 single, I’ve Got Time, was all the Conqueroo left behind, but here’s a bunch of demo tracks by front-man Bob Brown and various alumni, mainly under the names Texoid and Moon Pie, recorded long after their brand of vaguely lysergic twelve bars had fallen from fashion. Now Brown’s blues loom out of the undocumented darkness with the same kind of ghostly presence that haunted the old pre-war plantation recordings that inspired The Conqueroo themselves. Move fast on this one, faithful followers, as Shagrat records has already shut up shop.
Petals From A Sunflower by Tales Of Justine (Grapefruit – WCRSE6034) is a Frankenstein assemblage of demos and unreleased tracks, which once again my late brother had on illicit spools of tape, a legendary acetate, and a lone single, by the largely unrecorded Potters Bar trio, fronted by fifteen year old David Daltrey and produced, managed and orchestrated by the future musical theatre prostitutes Tim “UKIP” Rice and Andrew “Lloyd” Webber, the Fred and Rose West, respectively, of British popular music.
Squint your ears and you can hear that Tales Of Justine were a post-Pink Floyd toy-town psyche outfit trying to introduce art-school fuzz action and occasional music concrete clatter (check the Rick Wright falling into a cement mixer middle eight of Evil Woman) into their oeuvre, but shepherded relentlessly toward the middle ground by suits who just didn’t get it, suppressing the group’s more experimental moments in the hope they’d come to heel and turn into The Applejacks.
Fatty and the pudding-bowl monk even snaffled Daltrey to front out the original production of their gospel bubblegum cash cow Joseph’s Buttfucked Piss Hat, and then spat a squandered batch of his own chewed-up compositions back at him, smeared with orchestral music theatre goo, though Daltrey’s own stylings still seep through the fug of Morpheus and Aurora.
Eleventh Obsolete Incident is one of many tracks here which, if someone had been allowed to splash some Townshend-style windmill guitar over the junctions of the chord changes, would have totally kicked ass, and it tantalised me, even as a teen listening to this stuff in my brother’s shack at his insistence, what these recordings could have been.
The stone psyche classic here is Sitting On A Blunestone, which my dead brother had on a rare acetate, an Eastern-tinged, hashish-groover, that the squares at EMI left to burn out unattended. And by the time of the 1969 recordings included here a dispirited band had clearly lost their way, finally morphing into the sometimes spirited mid-70s pub rock Byrds copyists Starry Eyed And Laughing. And, typically of his bad luck, Daltrey even flew the coup before that group enjoyed its own modest success.
And the message of this particular Tale of Justine? That The Man is a solid brass dick. He was then. He is now. And he always will be. But thanks to Cherry Red’s Grapefruit imprint for sensitively repackaging some special childhood memories.
Last up in a thin month is Search and Reflect by The Spontaneous Music Orchestra (Emanem – EMANEM5209), a double cd set of the albums SME + = SMO (1975), and SME + SMO – In Concert (1982), which my brother had on vinyl back in the day, and some contemporaneous live tapes, which he also had in a shoebox somewhere.
I’ll be honest with you, I can’t quite figure out what came from where and unless you’re an adept of European Free Improvisation you’re unlikely to appreciate any noticeable progression of ideas and approach in the seven year interval between the recordings herein. Save to say this shit is vastly historically important, showcasing in an augmented setting the most vital originators of British improvisation, bad-assed jazz-heads who built the genre from the ground up in after hours sessions at Covent Garden’s Little Theatre club in the mid-sixties;
John Stevens on the drums (who you’ll know from John Martyn’s most out-there ‘70s moments); and Evan Parker and Trevor Watts and Lol Coxhill on the saxophones (without whom no British free jazz), amidst two dozen other free players, including Lindsay Cooper on cello and Robert Calvert on soprarino, neither of whom are the more famous Lindsay Cooper or Robert Calvert, from Henry Cow and Hawkwind respectively.
If you’re hanging in there waiting for tunes you’re going to be hanging in there a long time, pilgrim, but if you’re wanting to be overwhelmed by vast universal pulses of keenly intuited sound, and then scratched at by a cosmic storm of cutlery and wire, like an early Ash Ra Tempel album re-recorded using whatever was to hand in the cellar of a spooky restaurant, prepare to have your mind blown.
As a little kid, when my late brother would lay this shit on my unformed eardrums, I wasn’t sure about it. Now it makes most of his sixties and seventies stash seem irrelevant, cowardly even. Bong-brained dopers would sit around in that shack, trying to keep their pin-prick minds focused until the moment where the Guess Who or Rush, or some other piss-panted losers, finally ditched song structures and cut their hairy asses loose.
But these beardo cardigan jazz refuseniks start at the point that rock experimentalists of the era spent twenty minutes trying to arrive at. Whooosh! And we’re gone, mamma. Real solid gone!
And so am I true believers. Still hungry for my manna? I spin this shit weekly on Wednesday nights on Resonance 104.4 fm in London, and you can listen on-line to Baconface’s Global Globules at https://www.baconfacecanada.com/global-globules.
Peace! I’m outta here!! You shoulda killed me last year!!!