notes for "1970s underground pop" (mix for internet radio)

[I am working on a mix for (open source) internet radio streaming. Below are notes explaining my choices. The mix is scheduled for this Thursday, Nov. 11, 8 pm Eastern on ffog's Myocyte show on tilderadio and anonradio. Please note that with the recent time change the mix is an hour earlier than it's been for the last 6 months. The official time for the mix is Nov. 12 at 0100 UTC.

Update, November 12, 2021: Thanks to all who listened and/or commented last night. The archived version of the mix in mp3 form is here.]

In the bleak mid-'70s, a time when horrible songs by Elton John and Captain & Tenniel dominated the airwaves, a mutated form of '60s pop song persisted in the college radio underground. This mix examines pop themes in the prog rock, dub, punk, and jazz rock subcultures of the '70s. Some fairly eccentric '60s songs are also sprinkled in for context. Many of these artists are now considered classic but at the time, only music nerds were listening to them.

Donovan's "Wear Your Love Like Heaven" kicks off the set, mainly to show how effortlessly it segues into a quite different song, Genesis' "Trick of the Tail." "Trick," coming from a then-arty band known for its portentous, doom-laden catalog, surprises with its catchy vibe and sprightly Brian Wilson-esque vocal harmonies. The doom isn't completely absent, however, in this concise science fiction fable of a Satyr-like humanoid from a parallel universe who is imprisoned on Earth and jeered at by people who "got no horns and got no tail." "Love Street," by The Doors, continues the keyboard pop of the first two songs and also has some odd mystical elements, particularly that "store where the creatures meet," which causes Jim Morrison to wonder, suggestively, "what they do in there."

desperate_straights350w

Infectious piano (by Ray Manzarek) drives "Love Street" and the same can be said for Anthony Moore's ivory-tickling in "Apes in Capes," a joint Slapp Happy/Henry Cow project. In 1975 Dagmar Krause's warbling vocals sounded downright strange, and they still do. Another chanteuse from the skewed side of pop, Dorothy Moskowitz of the short-lived '60s art-rock outfit The United States of America, sings about "Coming Down" from an acid trip. She never "belts it out" a la Grace Slick but maintains an air of beatnik cool as she sings of Reality, which, as we know, "is only temporary."

A startlingly clear "alternate mix" of The Mothers of Invention's Freak Out has recently surfaced on the web, yielding tonight's version of "You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here," sung by Mr. Zappa, alternating vocal chores with the late great Ray Collins. Before Zappa could afford elaborate horn charts he played a kazoo, and this is possibly the most sarcastic use of that instrument ever heard. Next up is a '60s throwback from 1978, Tina Peel's "Knocking Down Guardrails." A friend of mine was the roadie for this band and I fondly recall sitting with him on the stage at Max's Kansas City one night after all the band's instruments had been packed up. (I also once visited Tina Peel frontman Rudi Protrudi in his Alphabet City apartment.) The same year, Tuxedomoon released "New Machine," which didn't look back to the '60s but rather forward to the '80s, with its beatbox, synths, and anguished vocals from Winston Tong. A trace of the former decade can still be heard, however, in Michael Belfer's unabashedly psychedelic guitar wails.

Next we hear an improbable (but smooth) transition to Curved Air's "Not Quite the Same," a song about masturbation sung with impeccable English reserve by Sonja Kristina Linwood, over a tight arrangement of trumpets, trombones, violin and VCS3 synth. Although keyboardist Francis Monkman didn't write the song (that was Linwood and violinist Darryl Way), a similar eclectic style can be heard in Monkman's later soundtrack for the film The Long Good Friday. Then, DC art rock band Grits takes us "Back to the Suburbs," in a Zappa-esque plea for regression to babysitters, bowling alleys, and other markers of a safe childhood in the burbs, after the singer finds it too much of "a strain to be alive and so neurotic." Infantile regression can also be heard in Zappa's own "Let Me Take You to the Beach," expressing a simple desire for a weekend weenie-roast, made to seem ironic only because everything Zappa writes is sarcastic.

revolution_dub

Kevin Ayers' evocation of a romantic Paris sidewalk cafe, "May I?," complete with accordion and street sounds, nowadays could be instantly summed up with the words "trigger warning." Nevertheless, Ayers' perambulating bass and Lol Coxhill's ethereal sax perhaps succeed in charming us more than the dated come-on in the lyrics. Meanwhile, Can's Damo Suzuki is having none of it with "Don't Turn the Light On, Leave Me Alone," a melange of gypsy-caravan ambience and rock jam, propelled by Jaki Liebezeit's always-seductive drumming. The spirit of collage continues with Lee Perry's "Doctor on the Go," a slinky reggae beat layered atop a British sitcom that blares tinnily from a TV monitor (or so it sounds). Then it's back to the '60s with Rajput & The Sepoy Mutiny's amazing, struggling sitar rendition of "Up, Up & Away." This gem languished in obscurity in the US until its inclusion in Re/Search's 1993 anthology Incredibly Strange Music, Vol I.

"That's Ramsey F---ing Lewis, right there," announced l0de AKA Zak ZYZ on his YouTube radio show, as he listened to "Cry Baby Cry," an over-the-top lounge-jazz version of John Lennon's song. "Lounge" then had its avant garde apotheosis 10 years post-Lewis with Gary Wilson's cult LP You Think You Really Know Me, from whence comes the next tune, "You Were Too Good To Be True," a winsome, slap-bassed instrumental. Quentin Tarantino already rediscovered the penultimate track, George Baker Selection's "Little Green Bag," and used it in the "cool gangsters walking" intro of Reservoir Dogs. And lastly comes The Modern Lovers' "Old World," from the period before Jonathan Richman went full-blown twee, included here for the organ work by soon-to-be-Talking-Head Jerry Harrison, as well as the involvement of '60s-turned-'70s-trailblazer, John Cale, who produced this track.

Playlist

0:00 Donovan, 7 inch, Wear Your Love Like Heaven (1967)
2:20 Genesis, A Trick of the Tail, A Trick of the Tail (1976)
6:40 The Doors, Waiting for the Sun, Love Street (1968)
9:24 Slapp Happy/Henry Cow, Desperate Straights, Apes in Capes (1975)
11:32 The United States of America, The United States of America, Coming Down (1968)
14:09 The Mothers of Invention, Freak Out, You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here (1966)
17:44 Tina Peel, :30 Over D.C.~~Here Comes The New Wave!, Knocking Down Guardrails (1978)
19:15 Tuxedomoon, No Tears EP, New Machine (1978)
23:33 Curved Air, Phantasmagoria, Not Quite the Same (1972)
27:17 Grits, As the World Grits, Back to the Suburbs (mid-'70s, released 1993)
31:23 Frank Zappa, Studio Tan, Let Me Take You to the Beach (1978)
34:06 Kevin Ayers and The Whole World, Shooting at the Moon, May I? (1970)
37:56 Can, Soundtracks, Don't Turn the Light On, Leave Me Alone (1970)
41:34 Lee Perry & The Upsetters, Revolution Dub, Doctor on the Go (1975)
45:24 Rajput & The Sepoy Mutiny, Flower Power Sitar, Up, Up & Away (1968)
47:35 Ramsey Lewis, Mother Nature's Son, Cry Baby Cry (1968)
50:50 Gary Wilson, You Think You Really Know Me, You Were Too Good To Be True (1977)
52:45 George Baker Selection, 7 inch, Little Green Bag (1969)
55:58 The Modern Lovers, The Modern Lovers, Old World (1976)

my friend the reptilian

steadman_reptilian

A friend of mine is a one-percenter and thinks he is self-made. His lack of empathy for the little people is staggering. If you lost your house due to covid quarantining or related job-loss, well, many people have internalized the American Dream but let's face it, not everyone is prepared or qualified for the responsibilities of home ownership. And if a private equity company snaps up the house, along with hundreds of other homes lost to similar misfortune, who is better qualified to manage the house? If the market determines that the US will turn from a nation of homeowners into a nation of renters, that is as it must be, because the market is all-wise.

These companies won't gouge on the rent because the renters will leave (i.e., become homeless). Nevertheless, the market entitles owners to charge the highest rent they can, and if it means warehousing the property until a better class of tenant comes along, so be it. It can be a tax write-off.

Who is a better landlord, a professional property management company, or grandma-with-a-spare-room who may or may not call the exterminators? Grandma also might do unprofessional things like not raise your rent for several years, or let you skip a payment. She would be, of course, a poor specimen of Homo Economicus, and the sooner she loses *her* house the better the country will be.

Addendum: The experimental drug hesitancy causing workers all over the US to resist employer vaccination mandates can only be the result of "ignorance," my friend also said (in the same conversation above).

Addendum 2: Illustration by Ralph Steadman, from Hunter S. Thompson's book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

notes for "2000 Tech House" (mix for internet radio)

[I am working on a mix for (open source) internet radio streaming. Below are notes explaining my choices. The mix is scheduled for this Thursday, Oct. 28, 9 pm Eastern on ffog's Myocyte show on tilderadio and anonradio.

Update, October 29, 2021: Thanks to all who listened and/or commented last night. The archived version of the mix in mp3 form is here.]

If you happened to be in New York City in the year 2000 and hung out at Chinatown's Good World Bar & Grill on a Wednesday night, you may have heard the tunes in this mix. The Bowery Boogie website remembers Good World as a happenin' place and lamented its passing a few years later:

Just like CBGB’s, Max’s Kansas City, Studio 54, Danceteria, The Mud[d] Club, Twilo’s, The Saint, The Sound Factory, Tonic, The Crobar, 8BC, Club 57, The Paradise Garage, The Peppermint Lounge, Save the Robots... The Good World Bar is now just a memory. And we loved being a part of it and will always miss it...

"The first alternative restaurant below Delancey" (as the owners described it in their goodbye notice) is now an ugly glass building. Bowery Boogie remembers:

It was a Scandinavian-inspired cool kids hang which got its start in 1999 when co-owners Annika Sundvik and John Lavelle converted a sketchy Chinese barbershop (i.e. brothel) into Good World. New York Magazine called it a “pioneer” in the area, championing its “long beer list, house cocktails, and rear courtyard.” All under the watchful eye of a stuffed caribou.

Annika and John invited me to spin records on Wednesdays and generously gave me a cut of the bar. I started off playing my own collection and then became obsessed with finding current music suitable for a place where people were eating and drinking (and occasionally illegally dancing -- this was the Giuliani era of crackdowns on fun). From January to November I gradually built up a collection of "deep house" vinyl scarfed at places like Satellite Records and Throb. Near the end of my tenure one of the co-owners complained "you started out great and now you're just like all the other DJs playing this damn stuff." Considering my learning curve I took it as a compliment but I wasn't around much longer after that conversation.

For this mix, I used the original wax and did a "rough cut" using two turntables and a mixer. All the sounds were eventually digitized and timestretched to compensate for my mediocre beatmatching skills. There is some mashing up, too. Most of these are "deep house" or "deep tech house" tracks released the year I was DJ'ing. It was a fun year. People were still smoking in restaurants back then and the place was always full.

00:00 Dan Electro "I Hear Music in the Air" (Better EP)
06:16 Phunky Drakes "Guilty (Classic Rework)" (12")
12:44 Noisy Beach "Stax Music" (Where's Montpellier? EP)
19:37 Harley & Muscle, "Friends and Enemies" (House Church EP)
25:41 James Flavour "Full Flavour" (If the Pimp Calls Back EP)
28:05 Forme "Instant Space" (Aqua-note EP)
32:18 B-Funk Production "Ladies and Gentlemen" (Ladies and Gentlemen EP)*
32:18 Steve Bug "Magic 120" (B_Series Vol.1 EP)*
37:52 Sascha Funke & Djoker Daan "Yachad" (Doppelpass EP)**
37:52 Leandro Fresco "Amor International" (Amor International EP)**
40:40 Scott Findlay "Untitled" (The Modern Dance EP)
44:34 Fish Go Deep "Sweeter" (Flying Funk EP)
47:40 Betamax Crew "Abrasera" (The Betamax Crew EP)
51:21 Cozy Creatures "Wanna Sing" (12")
56:54 [Reprise/filler] Steve Bug "Magic 120" (B_Series Vol.1 EP)

*B-Funk and Bug are mashed up, hence the duplicate start time
**Funke and Fresco are mashed up, hence the duplicate start time

The essay above also appears on the anonradio blog.