Monday, April 18, 2011
Until I got ill I was exploring early Alice Cooper, when it was still a band not a person or at least on that transition point (which I think was up till Welcome to My Nightmare?). Wikipedia or something similar told me that actually the transition from Alice Cooper the band to Alice Cooper the man came about because everyone in Alice Cooper the band decided to do solo albums, including Alice Cooper the man, and of course his would have to come out under the name Alice Cooper. So that kind of spoilt things for everyone else. That said, it’s a nice story but the others’ solo albums actually didn’t come out, did they. I am not over my Alice Cooper jag actually, when I was in JB today I scoped out the Alice Cooper section but the oldest record there was Welcome to My Nightmare which I have been pretty familiar with for about thirty years or more, and I can pretty much manage without. The early Alice Cooper, when it was a band, is a lot of fun and very diverse. I have always loved the singles – ‘School’s Out’, naturally and ‘Elected’ and ‘Department of Youth’, but when I was in Hobart a few years ago I was fraudulently sold a double Alice album which turned out to have only one Alice record in it (the other was an unplayably scratched copy of an album by Spirit). Anyway the one Alice disc in that set is actually a repackage of their second album, and it’s a blast. I love it. There is a song on there that so totally sounds like Sea and Cake it’s absurd! And that’s not even the best song.
I also have Killer.
Anyway, since I was ill I have got into David Bowie. Don’t know why. I have been playing Pin-Ups a lot. It’s a pretty lame album in some ways, and in others, it’s totally spectacular. It reminds me of course of the covers side of Todd’s Faithful (now, why would that be) but the thing I really like about it is that it’s so breathless – he just bangs out the songs, and some of the versions are tremendous. The version of ‘Friday on my Mind’ is probably the worst, though it’s hard to be entirely certain of that because it’s also the best song on there, so perhaps it’s just the disjunct between a fairly lame version and a near-perfect song. So I have been enjoying Pin-Ups, particularly the Pretty Things covers I guess and, strangely because the song itself has never grabbed me until now, ‘Here Comes the Night’.
I have four David Bowie albums: Pin-Ups, Scary Monsters, Low and The Lodger. I really like Scary Monsters so I am listening to that now. My favourite song is ‘Fashion’, and my least favourite is ‘Ashes to Ashes’, in fact I have never, ever understood the appeal of ‘Ashes to Ashes’, or rather, I have never understood why I dislike it so much. Doesn’t matter. ‘Fashion’ makes it all better! It comes straight after on the album too.
Speaking of old men, I drove New Estate’s old men to Gowrie station this evening and we listened to Jack Bruce’s Songs for a Tailor on the way. This was one of the, or perhaps the, first rock album I bought with my own money, I seem to recall I was a pre-teen, so I suppose I have been familiar with it for around 35 years. Serious. More than familiar, it has been one of my favourites ever since pretty much; I like almost everything about that record, not exclusively but certainly in part because of the amazing drumming which is usually by John Hiseman but sometimes by John Marshall, and Jack’s playing and singing too of course. The bass is perhaps a little show-offy and spurty for 21st century taste (not that I necessary have that taste – I certainly didn’t in 1977) but the piano playing is solid. Chris Spedding’s guitar is sensational, and Dick Heckstall-Smith can’t be beat.
It has been a musical day. I spent some time at JB this afternoon just looking really but I did buy the new Human League album, Credo. I have only listened to the first three tracks so far but they are pretty remarkable! I listened to the first two in the company of the old New Estate men and we had to laugh, and then I listened to the third track – about an old man meeting a young girl called Sky who either died or wasn’t really there or he died, I’m not sure – which was just masterful, and I also laughed at that, and I was in Safeway buying drinking chocolate, but there wasn’t anyone else around.
Side two of Scary Monsters is not as good as side one, though there is a plus – it doesn’t have ‘Ashes to Ashes’ on it. I may dig out Low and The Lodger now, two records I have never really had much time for.
NB just remembered that probably the second ever album I bought with my own money was The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust, a record I have always liked but no longer seem to possess. I should replace it. I do remember thinking at the time I bought Ziggy Stardust that I hoped no-one thought I was gay for owning it, though to my credit it didn’t stop me owning or liking it. A bigger deterrent to becoming a Bowie fan was RCA records, which were so flimsy! That company, for no reason I can comprehend, made albums so thin they were like flexidiscs! ABBA records were kind of the same. Now I’m thinking – isn’t it odd that I bought stuff like Jack Bruce, who was a million-selling artist in various incarnations but was certainly ‘adult’ and jazz-rock, then stuff like David Bowie… and then jumped straight into ABBA fandom (then the Beatles, which in hindsight seems even daggier and more obvious).
Actually of all things Ten Years After might have been inbetween Jack and Dave… a group I never think about at all these days and I don’t think anyone else does either! I wonder why I bought that record. It was an album called Cricklewood Green, if I remember rightly. I really liked it. I also bought an early Jethro Tull album… I think called Benefit. The odd thing is I wasn’t exactly meandering in the dark in the mid-late 70s, because the phenomenon of the rock history-consumer guide had come into being (thanks Lilian Roxon) and so it was possible to find out about stuff. I was still making instant/panic buys however, because I had an enquiring mind about music and I just wanted to take it all on, as much as I could. I guess at that time approximately I was into Pink Floyd too – I had that double album A Nice Pair which combined the first two albums, and I did really like the Syd Barrett stuff, but I also had Obscured By Clouds, which I think came just before Dark Side of the Moon and was quite earthy, and I liked that a lot too, though lyrically it seemed a little predictable (which was the whole Pink Floyd story to my mind, after Syd was chucked out). DSOTM was a must-have in those days but it was and remains a shitty record.
Oh it was also around this time I started enjoying Randy Newman – it was one of those weird zeitgeisty things where I had heard of him and liked him, I think via Good Old Boys which is probably still my favourite of his albums, and then he had a hit with ‘Short People’ and he was suddenly this minor phenomenon. Here’s a peculiar memory – in probably 1979 a band came and played at our school one lunchtime, they were called Daniel, they did one album I think around that time, the name of the band was bad enough and I don’t think anything was going to get any better for them, but anyway they did a version of ‘Short People’. Everything was turning in on itself.
The best Randy Newman album is Good Old Boys, my favourite is Born Again. The best David Bowie album is Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust probably, and it is probably also my favourite. The best Pink Floyd album is generally considered to be Dark Side of the Moon, I can’t really nominate a favourite of theirs. The best Jethro Tull album is often said to be Thick as a Brick, my favourite is the first one, but I’ve never heard Thick as a Brick. The best Jack Bruce album, if there is enough people interested for there to be concensus, is probably Songs for a Tailor which, yes, is probably my favourite though Harmony Row is as strong, I would say. OK thanks for hearing me out.
* The next day: I went to the Record Fair at the Ukrainian Hall. I only had $22 which was probably a good thing all told. Because I didn’t get that Splodgenessabounds album, which I saw for the first time ever, for $25. I heard the song ‘Simon Templar’ in 1980 and I wanted to own it then, but it just never seemed to happen, but I never forgot the song. This was in fact the first time I had ever seen a record claiming to contain the song ‘Simon Templar’. Anyway I didn’t have enough to buy it, and thinking about it later, I didn’t really want it anymore anyway. The only copy of Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust I saw was $30 so who can be bothered with that. I wonder what Diamond Dogs is like. All the Alice Cooper albums (Love it to Death, etc) were too expensive too. In the late 70s I would have loved a copy of Lace and Whisky. Now I can’t even stomach the idea of an album with a name like that.