Category Archives: 1970s

LES RALLIZES DÉNUDÉS: Electric Pure Land (2LP)

Les Rallizes Dénudés - Electric Pure Land

As seems befitting for a release by the influential, yet reclusive Japanese avant-garde band” Les Rallizes Dénudés, this double album – the first from the band in my collection – provides few hints in its packaging to what it is, who released it, when it was released or what it contains. Indeed, except for a series of stylised Japanese letters on the back cover, the only text is the band and album name on the spine, in incredibly small, widely-spaced letters.

So, I don’t know what label this is on – if any – and if it has a catalogue number. I’m not sure when it was released, although it only began to appear in and on a variety of reseller catalogues and websites within the past couple of months. None of these carry any particularly insightful information, but what I can glean is that this three-side set – one of the sides of the clear vinyl double album set is blank, smooth and without music – is that it’s a document of a live recording from 1974.

If what Wikipedia says is true (and I think I’ve heard this from other sources also), the band never released anything official, and all subsequent albums and CDs that have become available are bootlegs, mostly of live recordings. I’m somewhat in awe of the fact that in today’s know-everything internet age, a band can still exist with such a shroud of mystery and wonder.

Musically, the recordings here are pretty rough, but unquestionably powerful. Clutching at mainstream straws, there may be a combination of Hendrix, Pink Floyd and Can going on here, but that doesn’t really sum up the sonic oddness in this record; more recent acts such as Mainliner, Acid Mothers Temple and Fushitsusha reveal more of a Les Rallizes Dénudés influence perhaps, in an almost wholesale embracing of feedback, and little fear in operating almost entirely outside of conventional musical rules, while retaining a meta-melodic sense of tune that’s rather compelling.

The artwork, as mentioned, is sparse, portentous and enigmatic: an eclipse on the front; those Japanese characters on the back; images of solar flares across the inner gatefold; two paper inserts showing images of mysterious chunks of (moon?) rock. Cosmic.

Volcanic Tongue (from where this record was purchased) often say things better than anybody else in their descriptions of records, so I’ll end with their description of Electric Pure Land: “When Rallizes generate this kind of insane, form-destroying/higher minded six string euphoria it feels like they are the only group on the planet, taking the sound of the guitar as a conduit for electricity to its ultimate post-psych/noise ends.”

TANGERINE DREAM: Alpha Centauri / Atem (2LP, Virgin VD 2504, 1976)

Tangerine Dream: Alpha Centauri / Atem

Record companies love to repackage and resell existing product, but in the case of this double album – which compiles a couple of Tangerine Dream’s early releases (Alpha Centauri was originally out in 1971, Atem in 1973) – I don’t have a problem with it. It’s a convenient way for me to hear a couple of albums that I haven’t heard before, and the artwork and gatefold sleeve is most pleasing.

Anyway, it’s kind of a moot point, as I was only around three years of age when this record came out, and wasn’t even alive when the two albums were originally released. So it’s not as if I was compelled to complete a collection by buying multiple formats. That said, I’m pretty sure that if I happen across either Alpha Centauri or Atem in their original single-album releases, I’m likely to buy them. Such is the mindset of a collector.

I bought this record very recently, as part of a small haul of stuff found at a Sue Ryder sale. You see, the charity Sue Ryder has its headquarters quite near to where I live, and they regularly hold large-scale sales of the kind of thing that hasn’t yet made it into any of their charity shops. This includes a room full of records, and from time to time there are some gems to be had.

As it’s a new purchase, I’ve only yet listened to Alpha Centauri, and haven’t moved beyond it as it’s so good. It sounds like the more abstract, bits-between-the-bits sections of early 1970s Pink Floyd, stretched out to cosmic extremes and played using early synthesiser technology that provides rich, affecting soundspaces. I’m not sure whether the Tangerine Dream personnel were reeling from the influence of gargantuan amounts of hallucinogenic substances, or if they were floating in a drug-free new-age appreciation of space and emotion – or perhaps both? Whatever they were up to, they created some deep music here – and, as the liner notes say within the gatefold: “This album is dedicated to all people who feel obliged to space”. Gotta love the early-to-mid 1970s.

The double album’s gatefold sleeve shows the Alpha Centauri artwork on the front, and the Atem artwork on the back. However, both have been augmented with the other’s title, included in a way that’s artfully and nicely executed. Inside the gatefold, there’s a glorious photograph of a dark, shimmering landscape, right out of the journey-through-space-and-time segment of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Both the Alpha Centauri and the Atem artwork is credited to Monique and Edgar Froese: Froese is a member of the band; Monique is his wife. As they were married in 1974, this means that they collaborated on the artwork before marriage. Maybe the art brought them closer together? Who knows. Very sadly, Monique died in 2000. Froese, and Tangerine Dream, continue to make art and music.

Link: Tangerine Dream

LOU REED: Transformer (LP, RCA NL 83806, 1972)

Lou Reed - Transformer

I’m not the biggest fan of Lou Reed, although I was sad when he passed away. I did quite enjoy his notoriously confrontational and prickly persona in interviews – or maybe it wasn’t a persona, maybe he just was that grumpy; rock stars should be different to ‘norms’, through being either unpleasant, or remarkably nice, or out-there in some way. It’s just the music – it doesn’t really do it for me.

Transformer is a classic album, sure, and it includes the played-to-death-but-let’s-not-hold-that-against-Lou-Reed angst/emotion of ‘Perfect Day’ and ‘Satellite Of Love’ as well as the swinging slouch of ‘Vicious’; I just can’t help but compare Reed’s solo work – Metal Machine Music notwithstanding – with The Velvet Underground, who are still for me an alarmingly strange and richly listenable band. This happened a lot as the ’60s became the ’70s – musicians who were once psychotically whacked-out and edgy seemed to dip into a more comfortable glow of success, money, classier drugs and self-reflection.

My copy is a little beaten-up and scraggy around the edges, which seems fitting. I think I picked it up from a charity shop at some point in the past – it’s one of those records that’s prevalent in such establishments.

It’s easy to forget (for me, at least, as I’m capable of forgetting this morning’s breakfast) that David Bowie was heavily involved in Transformer – both in a producer capacity and also as a musician, assisting with arrangements and as part of ‘The Thunder Thighs’, Reed’s backing band. That band also included Klaus Voorman (that single ‘n’ in his name is how it’s spelt on the record sleeve), the fellow that illustrated the front of The Beatles’ Revolver. Small world, this rock’n’roll world.

Great sleeve on this album – with subtly jarring typography that is at once ‘trad’ and disjointed; Mick Rock’s contrast-up-to-the-max photograph with the album’s electricity-themed title echoed in the green and red lines around the guitar. According to the back of the sleeve, art direction on the album was by Ernst Thormahlen; according to <a href=”http://www.allmusic.com/artist/ernst-thormahlen-mn0001762310/credits”>the internet</a>, he also had a hand in the design of albums by The Velvet Underground, Golden Earring, Steve Harley and Dead Boys.

A footnote: Extracting this record from my shelves made me realise that the R section seems to be – gulp – not in alphabetical order. I must rectify this, forthwith!

VARIOUS: Easy Listening (2LP, Polydor 2675 002, ?)

Easy ListeningI love the photographs on this sleeve – a happy female music listener on the front, and a happy male music listener on the back. The gatefold sleeve opens up to reveal nothing more than an overview of other Polydor releases that the keen easy listening fan could purchase: “Polydor and easy listening go together”, it says. So, that means a variety of releases from easy listening heavy hitters like James Last – including All Aboard! With Cap’n James, whose cover shows James Last in naval gear sporting a cheeky, knowing glance, and Bert Kaempfert, Roberto Delgado and Norrie Paramor.

This double album, then, would seem to serve as a taster for the rich world of easy listening that Polydor had to offer – it’s a compilation featuring all of those heavy hitters and more, listed in a gloriously tasteless selection of typefaces on the front cover. It’s a great album, too: I purchased it second hand at some point in the early 1990s, when a wave of easy listening nostalgia was sweeping the UK, most obviously in the form of Top 40 hits by Mike Flowers Pops, but also in a huge number of club nights like Smashing, Blow Up and Disques Vogues that were taking place. For a time, everybody seemed to be wearing charity shop clothing and dancing badly to whatever cheesy-yet-brilliant, richly orchestrated records the DJ could find that week. Maximum enjoyment was reserved for those songs that cranked up the Hammond organ swirl, whipping up the crowd into a frenzy of retro excitement.

There’s no release date mentioned on this record, but I’d imagine it came out in around 1970 or so. The cover states that this double LP set originally sold for 19’10d. According to this handy ‘old money to new money’ currency converter, that equates to around £10, if it were being sold today. That’s kind of a bargain – over twenty tracks over four sides of vinyl! For a time, this compilation was worth a little bit, as it includes ‘Daydream’ by The Gunter Kallmann Choir, which was heavily used as the basis for 2004’s ‘Daydream In Blue’ by I, Robot, which was all over the place that year, as memory serves.

SUICIDE: Suicide (LP, Red Star BRON 508, 1977)

Suicide - SuicideThis is one of those albums that’s widely held up as massively inspirational, a classic, but simultaneously one that would very likely be unheard of by all but the most informed ‘man in the street’. Suicide were associated with the New York-based No Wave microscene of the late 1970s, but seemed somehow detached from it, defiantly (and definitely) getting on with things on their own terms. I wasn’t in New York in the late ’70s – I was in a sleepy, refined suburb of Liverpool – but everything I’ve read seems to suggest that Suicide’s live performances were something of a trigger to much of No Wave’s aggressive, confrontational stance. I’ve also read, however, that Suicide took things further than their peers/followers may have wished to, with more in the way of actual violence and up-in-your-face shock tactics being employed.

Regardless of history and context, I think Suicide hold up as a 100% cool band for several reasons:

  • The name. Single-word band names are often a good thing, but once somebody’s taken the word, it’s gone forever, and may have been wasted. Suicide (the band) seem the perfect match for suicide (the word) – nihilistic, direct, unequivocal.
  • The artwork. This record’s front cover is superb. No messing about, just elegantly shattered typography and gory streaks of blood. It could have been a neo-goth faux-artistic statement of a sleeve, but the white background sets it off as such a stark image that it seems as if it’s always existed, and somehow created itself as a direct result of the music within.
  • The band members. As the sleeve says: ALAN – Vocals. MARTIN REV – Instrument. Again, stark and direct. Reclaiming the name ‘Alan’ as something cool and otherworldly. ‘Instrument’: that’s all you need to know. Alan’s band surname was Vega; neither Alan or Martin’s band surnames were their own. According to Wikipedia, their original names were Boruch Alan Bermowitz and Martin Reverby. Those in themselves are pretty cool names.
  • The music. If you haven’t heard it, well, you should listen. I don’t think anything has ever sounded like the music on this album, beforehand or afterwards. What do you know, it’s on Spotify.

For all their coolness, Suicide almost destroyed their own myth for me when I saw them perform a few years ago. The terror and risk I was expecting was pushed aside and replaced with slightly camp onstage prancing, oversized shades on a man who wasn’t as young as he used to be, and – although this wasn’t their fault – being made to perform on a huge stage that completely usurped the whites-of-the-eyes closeness that I think is really necessary to experience this music being played live.

I say they almost destroyed the myth, but they didn’t succeed. This album is strong enough to pretty much deal with any such assaults on its integrity.

MIKE OLDFIELD: Tubular Bells (LP, Virgin V2001, 1973)

Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells

And… the Tubular Bells! This album reminds me of a lot of things. I only bought a copy for myself around five years ago, but a copy was owned by my parents and I used to really enjoy listening to it. The B-side, in particular, with its sober voiceover announcing the huge variety of instruments played on the piece, I used to love (and still do). Maybe it appeals to the cataloguer/collector-type in me, to have the elements of the music filed into a series of proclamations across the duration of the record?

My parents had a modest but excellent quality stereo system on which records were played as I grew up in the 1970s and ’80s. They used to know a couple that we lived next door to, and I recall them getting in an extraordinarily futuristic-looking Bang + Olufsen stereo when I was probably around eight or nine years old. It looked like a weird, space age table; sleek, silver. That kind of thing predated the fetishistic ‘look at my technology’ obsessions that enveloped much of the 1980s – but it looked darned cool, at the time. Funny how Bang + Olufsen haven’t really moved away from that glossy presentation of actually rather simple technology, even thirty years later.

I have a vague memory that their stereo was actually quadrophonic, but that may be a fake memory. I was young, after all. Another strong recollection of that couples’ household is that their chair and table legs were placed onto small metal disc-shaped trays, to prevent them digging holes into the carpets. Not sure why that’s a memory, as it’s possibly one of the most unimportant things one could keep in one’s mind.

Odd how this record, except for some dabblings in the record shop industry, pretty much signalled the launch of the now mega-globo-huge-corp Virgin. It was a cool record label for a time, and if a label can be defined by the first release that they decide to put out, Virgin was a fantastically hippy-dippy experimental dreamer of a label.

MAGAZINE: Touch And Go (7″, Virgin VS 207, 1978)

Magazine - Touch And Go

I picked this up a couple of years ago from a second-hand record shop. I was drawn to it less because of it being Magazine and more because of the title ‘Touch And Go’ being, I presume, the inspiration for the amazing Touch And Go record label who’ve released stuff by a barrel-load of outstanding bands. Magazine I’ve yet to be convinced by – they’re one of those bands that I’m constantly told are brilliant, and I’d love to love them, but they never seem to click. I don’t dislike them by any means; they just kind of pass me by in a musical sense. I’ll soldier on. Maybe it’s like with food, where if you eat something you don’t like eight times you’ll begin to enjoy it. Magazine are my brussel sprouts.

Fantastic cover design on this record. It has a touch of the Saul Bass style with its off-kilter modernism, and reminds me of Blue Note’s cover designs in the typography and dynamism.

It’s funny that the now ultra-gigantic Virgin monster used to be just a modest little independent record label. Well, maybe not modest – perhaps just simple. When Richard Branson was putting together his first release (Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells), was he scheming away and imagining running train companies, airlines, space travel companies? Here’s a brilliant (if true) Wikipedia paragraph about the early days of Virgin – Powell is Nik Powell, another of Virgin’s starters:

Branson & Powell had initially run a small record shop called Virgin Records and Tapes on Notting Hill Gate, London, specialising particularly in “krautrock” imports, and offering bean bags and free vegetarian food for the benefit of customers listening to the music on offer.

I’d love a record shop like that to exist today!

Oh, and if you’re wondering, ‘Goldfinger’ on the B-side of this record is a cover of the Bond movie theme.

ALICE COOPER: Pretties For You (LP, Warner Bros. WS 1840, 1972)

Alice Cooper - Pretties For You

I bought this album very recently on eBay after reading about it in the rather excellent Shindig magazine. It’s Alice Cooper’s debut, from back when Alice Cooper was both the singer and the band’s name, and it’s waaay different to what you might expect from having heard his much better-known later work. This is straight-up psychedelic rock music – nothing like the later, heavier stuff that Alice Cooper released, although there are some hints in here – and it’s brilliant. There’s a lot of hair in this band, as made very clear in their photos inside the gatefold sleeve. The early seventies was a very hairy time. Alice Cooper were, for this album:

  • Alice Cooper: Vocals and harmonica
  • Neal Smith: Drums and vocals
  • Dennis Dunaway: Bass guitar and vocals
  • Glen Buxton: Lead guitar
  • Mike Bruce: Rhythm guitar, vocals, piano and organ

I wonder if they still keep in touch? Glen Buxton and Mike Bruce continued working with Alice Cooper for much of the following years, the other two seem to have pretty much disappeared. Here’s a fact: Alice Cooper (the band) were initially called The Nazz, but changed their name after realising somebody else (Todd Rundgren) had already snagged the name. If you’re wondering, the name comes from a Yardbirds song, ‘The Nazz Are Blue’.

Strange cover for an album this, isn’t it? It’s a painting by a guy called Ed Beardsley. I wish that instead they’d used the photograph on the back, showing the skinny, hairy band in their finest pseudo-sci-fi gear, like they’d just wandered in off of the set of Flash Gordon.

ISAAC HAYES: Shaft – Music From The Soundtrack (2LP, Stax 2659-007, 1971)

Isaac Hayes - Shaft - Music From The Soundtrack

Isn’t Isaac Hayes cool? Look at him up there in the top right hand corner, he’s all untouchable hipster, shades, slaphead and all. Was it him that did the album called (I think) Hot Buttered Soul or something like that, with a cover depicting nothing but an extreme close up of his bald bonce? If you’ve got it, flaunt it, I guess…

I’ve still never seen Shaft in full, or indeed any other of the famed ‘blaxploitation’ pictures of the ’70s. Are they actually any good, and worth seeing? You’d think that I was some kind of major fan though, as I own not only this official soundtrack, but also the eponymous theme tune on a 7″, as well as an album consisting of a complete cover version of the soundtrack by the gloriously-named Soul Mann and the Brothers. This is what happens when you scour charity shops for music over years and years and years. Owning multiple copies of essentially the same thing seems perfectly rational when they’re just 50p or a quid a pop.

Opening up the gatefold sleeve I’ve actually just answered my question above re: Hot Buttered Soul. Yes, it was Isaac Hayes, and that artwork is pictured here alongside that of some of his other works including the marvellously-named Black Moses. What a time for empowerment, for confidence, for rights and for music!

FREE: The Free Story (2LP, Island ISLD 4, 1973)

Free - The Free Story

Wow: this two-album compilation is a line drawn in the sands of self-belief. You won’t find many bands that a mere five years after their inception merit a collection of such perceived importance and value as this one. Gatefold sleeve; numbered (“The Free Story is released in a limited edition”, state the huffy liner notes); printed inner sleeves that themselves contain further record-protecting bags; and a stapled-in four page booklet that talks through, in more detail than most people would like to know about, the history of the phenomenon known as Free. And you thought that they were just that band that did ‘All Right Now’? Hell, no. If you’re taken in by the majesty of this tribute, you’d be justified in thinking that they’re the greatest musical event of the past fifty years.

There’s a whole ton of long-haired, flare-trousered, coke-fuelled 1960s-fallout self-confidence on display here. It’s hard not to be seduced. Bands these days just don’t seem to mean it quite so desperately or convincingly as those that emerged blinking from the excesses of the ’60s into the mysterious 1970s. I want every band to mark their fifth anniversary with this kind of double-album tribute to their Story So Far. It’s like the music industry equivalent of a celebrity kiss’n’tell (ghost-written) biography.