THE ROLLING STONES: Their Satanic Majesties Request (LP, Decca TXS 103, 1967)

The Rolling Stones - Their Satanic Majesties RequestThis isn’t the original release, as it doesn’t have the amazing 3D sleeve that so blew my mind when I saw a copy some years ago – although that was, mainly, because the three-dimensionality was of a similar low quality to the novelty measuring rulers that I used to have at school in the mid-1980s – so I guess this may not have actually been released in 1967. The labels on the record suggest by their design that this release may have been from the 1970s or later? Not sure.

I love the creative excesses of the late 1960s – layer upon layer of pushing the envelope and booting open the doors of perception:

  • Let’s have a picture of us on the sleeve, but let’s have it in three dimensions.
  • Let’s not just have a picture of us looking like any other band – why don’t we dress up as psychedelic wizards and place ourselves in an opulent Toytown setting?
  • That’s good, but we need more – let’s not have Side A and Side B, but call them instead Frontside and Backside. Why not, indeed?
  • Loving that, but we need yet more – let’s have a gatefold sleeve. Every band and their dog has a gatefold sleeve these days.
  • Gatefold it is. But let’s make sure that the gatefold contains one of the most complex, faux-Renaissance-through-a-futuristic-mind’s-eye illustrations anybody has ever seen. Yeah?
  • Yeah. But let’s also make sure that the illustration also includes a giant maze, with ‘It’s Here’ in trippy lettering at its centre.

And so it went. All of these conversations probably taking place before the music was actually even written.

Aleister Crowley and Satanism in general had a surprisingly large influence on some of the more out-there musicians of the late 1960s. The Beast 666 is in the crowd on the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper sleeve, the Stones got wound up in the whole magick/Kenneth Anger scene, Black Sabbath pretty much constructed their entire early career around the suggestion that they were actually evil demons, and so on. Yet, all of these bands were simultaneously being extraordinarily famous, and listened to by housewives and schoolkids around the world. Funny how things go, isn’t it? If similar things were to happen these days – mainstream artists hooking up with Satan and underground film-makers, whilst quaffing endless amounts of hallucinogens, I don’t think culture could take it. The resulting implosion with the Daily Mail offices at its core would probably swallow civilisation.

JETHRO TULL: Stand Up (LP, Fame FA 4130861, ?)

Jethro Tull - Stand UpThis isn’t the original release of this album, which came out first in, er… [quick internet research…] 1969. This is some wacky reissue that, as far as I can tell, isn’t the reissue from 1973 that’s mentioned in lots of places. So I guess that this record was never actually released, and therefore doesn’t actually exist. However, I’ll persevere under the belief that it does exist, and that I haven’t lost my mind. The back cover does mention both Fame and Chrysalis, so maybe this is the Chrysalis Records reissue, or some kind of odd second pressing of it. I can’t be bothered to investigate and find out, which is strange, as I normally love that kind of pointless detail.

Apparently the original cover artwork incorporated a pop-up gatefold element, so that when it was opened woodcut images of the four band members stood up. Stand Up, you see? It’s a shame that my copy doesn’t have this – it’s a plain old non-gatefold sleeve – as I’d love to see that. I quite like this cover artwork; the faces of the band are somewhat terrifying, but it’s nicely executed, and perhaps that’s what people looked like in 1969. Drugs, and all that.

Two memories come to mind when I think of Jethro Tull:

One: My old friend Matt from ‘back in the day’ (as people say), had an original copy of Jethro Tull’s Thick As A Brick with its excellent newspaper-style cover. I used to enjoy looking at that artwork. The record was also, if memory serves, either two side-of-an-album length ‘pieces’, or even a single work split over two sides. Either way, a healthy example of over-the-top self-belief and flamboyance. Not many successful artists these days would release such an album. (Again, drugs, and all that).

Two: Jethro Tull’s performance on the Rolling Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus film, featuring Ian Anderson standing on one leg and playing flute. I really love the way he plays the flute with such gusto:

[googlevideo=http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6046328113991991942]

Superb! If that entire film isn’t an example of ‘drugs, and all that’, I don’t know what is…

THE STATIC WAVES: Wear The Suit (7″, Sound Of New York, ?)

The Static Waves - Wear The Suit

The Static Waves were a fuzzy indie-pop-noise kinda band from the mid-nineties*, a member of which I was in touch with via the fanzine/mail scene of the time. As far as I remember, I’d had a couple of their demo tapes and then I was very pleased to hear they’d decided to release their own debut single, ‘Wear The Suit’. As is often the case with self-released records, the purist in me would suggest that the band made a few rookie errors by missing out on a few details:

  1. The wraparound sleeve opens left-to-right, rather than right-to-left. Now, it may just be me who finds this irksome, so I’m prepared to let this one go.
  2. Sound Of New York records was the band’s own label (and that’s to be admired), but they neglected to give this record a catalogue number. Shock! How can it be catalogued without a catalogue number?! The runout groove doesn’t help, it merely shows the pressing plant’s ID for the record – AH 24388, if you’re interested. However, if I remember rightly, the band may have been from York (in the UK), which would make Sound Of New York records a pleasingly witty label name.
  3. No release date is shown anywhere on the sleeve or the record itself. This is a popular oversight in my experience, but that doesn’t make it a good one, people. Look to the future! All I can now say is that this record was released ‘in the mid-nineties’ – not exactly watertight historical accuracy, is it?
  4. What, no inserts? I always find it a shame when a band’s released their own product and neglected to stuff it full of all kind of free bits and pieces of ephemera. Photocopies are cheap and everybody has a pair of scissors somewhere. Live the dream! Add some inserts!

These tongue-in-cheek points aside, excellent work The Static Waves; more bands should release their own records. I guess back when this came out there was pretty much no internet as we know it today, so releasing stuff had to take the form of physical products. Bands are releasing their own records ten-a-penny right now, they’re just coming out in the form of downloads and fancy technological jiggery-pokery.

Can’t beat a good real record, though.

*Oh, and it seems that the band were still going until 2006!

BABYLON DANCE BAND: Someday (7″, Trash Flow TF03, 1990)

Babylon Dance Band - Someday

I’ve mentioned before the pile of American indie 7″ singles that I once bought from eBay (both here and here), and this is another from that batch.

Now, I have no idea whatsoever who Babylon Dance Band are, or how they fit into any kind of lineage of music. I’d never heard of them before receiving that pile of records in the mail, and I’ve never heard of them since. Let’s look at the evidence available on the back of this record’s sleeve, and a bit of internet research, to try and piece together some information:

  1. The record is released on Trash Flow Records, which was based in Hoboken, New Jersey.
    Very little information out there on this label. It seems they also released singles by Seam, King Kong and Love Child, if those names mean anything to you. However! The label owner seems to have been a fellow called Ken, who also ran a radio show called Trash Flow Radio, as well as writing gig reviews. Possibly he still does? (For your information, trashflow.com will introduce you to ‘the first Trash Hauling Software to be available for Windows’).
  2. The photograph on the cover is of 1069 Bardstown Road.
    Where is this road? Is it in Louisville, Kentucky, where the tracks were recorded? If so – that address is now the location of a Taco Bell. But, more importantly, it was previously the site of ‘Louisville’s first “Punk house”‘, where Babylon Dance Band first met! I like how this story is coming together.
  3. The tracks were recorded at Mom’s Recording Studio, Louisville.
    This studio still seems active. They don’t have a website that I can find, but here’s a photograph of what seems to be the building.
  4. The band members are Tim Harris, Tara Key, Sean Mulhall and Chip Nold.
    Tim Harris is now a photojournalist.
    Tara Key is an important figure, and it seems Babylon Dance Band were important also.
    Sean Mulhall now teaches at the University of Louisville.
    Chip Nold wrote The Insiders’ Guide to Louisville and Southern Indiana.
  5. The sleeve copywriter didn’t understand apostrophes.
    Evidence from the back of the record’s sleeve: Back Cover Photo’s by John Nation. Not only a misplaced apostrophe, but also a Questionable Use Of Capital Letters. (And who is John Nation, you ask? Why, he was a photographer for Louisville Magazine for thirty years).

So there you have it – isn’t the internet clever? From this record by a previously unknown (to me) band, I’ve now glimpsed into the world of Babylon Dance Band, who it seems were big cheeses in the Louisville punk/hardcore scene, and who have pleasingly continued to live and contribute to that city and the state of Kentucky. What’s more, I’m now aware of louisvillehardcore.com, and its fantastic ‘History’ section, which is an exhaustingly comprehensive guide to a city’s musical heritage – and remember, Louisville was the birthplace of some cool bands like Slint and The For Carnation.