Saturday, September 17, 2011
Ultravox was a pioneering New Wave band until its leader John Foxx left, and Midge Ure turned the band into a successful and schmaltzy neo-romantic combo. Foxx, however, went on to produce even more radical doom-laden electronic pop with the albums 'Metamatic' and 'The Garden'. 'Burning Car' is in my opinion the best song that didn't make it on either of those records, you had to get the single. To me 'Burning Car' was the ultimate New Wave song, love being declared with a car burning in the background, sung in an almost disinterested voice, the futuristic electronic sound evoking a future of dread. I readily prefered this kind of apocalyptic vision over the more cheerful Kraftwerk who seemed to be embracing the future. But clearly Foxx was heavily influenced by Kraftwerk and he certainly influenced others as well. When my pals and I arrived in New York in 1981 on our US trip, we took a taxi from La Guardia airport to Manhattan passing through a desolate part of the city, crumbling apartment housings and - burning cars! John Foxx' bleak vision was apparently not just an acquired attitude. And everytime I see burning cars on the news - this song comes back into my head. Today, John Foxx is as prolific as ever and is still creating interesting music.
Friday, September 16, 2011
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Some songs turn into your personal anthems and some bands accompany you all your life. Pere Ubu is one of those bands to me. My pal Arno and I would meet on evenings at his place (this was in the late 70s/early 80s), we'd drink a huge bottle of Retsina wine with some cheese, and we had a list of songs we'd play at full volume and which we'd sing along with. 'Final Solution' was one of those anthems. I'll be mentioning the other ones over time. We pretty much got acquainted to Pere Ubu's music from the start, I had their early singles, and of course I immediately got their first album on its release, 'The Modern Dance', easily one of the great classics of rock music. I wasn't into punk, I prefered music with a bit more sophistication. Although 'Final Solution' comes along mightily as a punk song, the lyrics are more of a parody than to be taken seriously. But you can sing along very easily. Pere Ubu is one of those bands I've seen live most often (I also have their complete catalogoe of releases), they are great live performers and a legend, but they hardly ever get an audience of more than 100 people, sadly. It was a sensation to us that Pere Ubu currently are on tour performing their early singles and first album in a retrospective kind of program. Of course, Arno and and I were there and we sang along to 'Final Solution' - together with the few other people that found their way to the concert.
The girls won't touch me
Cos I've got a misdirection
Living at night isn't helping my complexion
The signs all saying it's a social infection
A little bit of fun's never been an insurrection
Mamma threw me out till I get some pants that fit
She just won't approve of my strange kind of wit
I get so excited, always gotta lose
Man that send me off
Let them take the cure
Don't need a cure
Need a final solution
Buy me a ticket to a sonic reduction
Guitars gonna sound like a nuclear destruction
Seems I'm a victim of natural selection
Meet me on the other side, another direction
Don't need a cure
Need a final solution
Sunday, September 11, 2011
I used to have a great record with ritual Tibetan music, which I used in one of our first performances, now I got this 3-cd box set, suppsodely one of the best collections.
For a long time in my teens and beyond I was a huge Frank Zappa fan, still am today, but at one time most friends and acquaintances would see me as that Zappa guy. Only recently I visited a used record store and the guy behind the counter came right up to me to ask a specific Zappa question, although I didn't know he was!
My luck was that I had a very bad start with Frank Zappa. Inspired by Raoul Hoffmann's book Zoom Boom on innovative rock music that was a great help to me finding inspirational music I bought the soundtrack 200 Motels. Besides having heard some (sensational) titles by Zappa on radio this was the first album I actually purchased. It was quite a shock and gave me nightmares for at least 3 days. I hated it and even tried to sell it, in vain, of course. I still don't cherish the album that much, but I worked myself through the album piece by piece, bit by bit, until I understood it musically. To make a long story short, I was not done with Zappa yet.
So I got the Uncle Meat album, another recommendation from a book, Siegfried Schmidt-Joos' and Barry Graves' Rock-Lexikon, one of my first 'bibles' on music. It was on their list of the 100 rock albums essential to a collection (till 1976, that is), and I was immediately taken in. This was to me an ingenious collage of all kinds of music, very much in the style of the creepy pop-art cover. There are so many surprises, so much humor (musically and lyrically), wonderful melodies set in almost as throw-aways and powerful atonal passages, it's overwhelming. I still love to listen through it, at best in complete (it's a double album). At the time my family took a vacation in a small mountain town in Austria, and without a record player I quickly copied the 2 records on cassette for the trip. All through that rainy foggy horror week in the Alps I spent every free minute to listen to Uncle Meat, I even learnt to play the Uncle Meat theme on piano, although I couldn't really play piano. Most of the main melodies pop up in my head every once and while even today, especially the main theme and King Kong.
Interestingly, Zappa used a lot of the music from here and integrated it into his The Yellow Shark composition which was performed with a classical orchestra here in Germany. I can only recommed that album as well.