Tuesday, March 17, 2015

a bit of fuckology

Beloved of my late brother and my not-late brother and me.... the Sex Pistols's "No Fun" !

Heard this version first, and the Stooges only quite a bit later

So for me the Pistols version is "the original"

And I do believe it to be objectively superior on every level -  wilder, more unleashed and rampaging - mustering a greater level of malevolence

It's more fun too - the kick-off  bit of Rotten gleefully announcing  / promising


here we go now

a sociology lecture

with a bit of psychology

a bit of neurology

a bit of fuckology

no fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuun

"No Fun" the "original"-eclipsing remake introduces a truth that the likes of Legs (splutter) MockReal will never ever face

The Brits (whisper it) done punk better

Done it realer

(Needless to say I love The Stooges.)

(The Dolls though.... well, "New York" on Bollocks wipes the floor with, doesn't it? Uses their career, their oeuvre, as a  damp rag. Objectively)

(Ramones, yes, very nice, but just fun 'n games)


  1. Rock music (as opposed to "Rock'n'Roll" which was just another teenage American music fad) is a British invention of course, which is why there were no Sixties/Seventies US bands that could "rock" with the same massive, machinic intensity of the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Black Sabbath, The Who etc., except maybe a small number of avant-garde types like Blue Cheer, the MC5 and Stooges, who could just about do a sloppy imitation. Most "good" US music of the era is folk, country or jazz derived. If it's loud, it's normally noodly to boot, cuz they just don't understand the structural element. (I'll be going into this in The Doors book.)

    The great exception of course is Jimi Hendrix, who had the good sense to get a British rhythm section.

    Post-punk is even more of comprehensive - there's no American band that gets close to Killing Joke or The Sound or even Bauhaus for structural grandeur. You get something like Big Black about five years later, which is basically Gang Of Four lite. Or Husker Du with that ridiculous tupperware drum sound. What the Americans excel at is projecting cool - it's what they do instead of creating impressive musical structures - Ramones are the very epitome of this.

    btw, "London Boys" by Johnny Thunders is a great reply song to "New York", probably because it has Jones and Cook playing on it.

  2. i appreciate the jingoism A LOT

    i really do

    and i think you're onto something about the structural grandeur - there is a starkness to the riff structures and the use of space in British rock - it's like we see the sound as much as feel it or hear it. whereas American rock is often more mushy and organic in its production, as-if-live. I always think of Grand Funk Railroad / Allman Brothers c.f. all the stuff coming out of the UK at roughly the same time, from early metal to blues progressives like Groundhogs ("Cherry Red" a case in point) to the glitter bands.

    But... aren't the Doors often a good example of the things you say the Brit bands are doing? "Texas Radio and the Big Beat" etc

    There's a quite a bit of hard-rocking radio fare of the American first half of 1970s that has structural grandeur levels approaching the Brits e.g. James Gang, a few Aerosmith things. What about Lynyrd Skynyrd? I suppose often these groups were heavily influenced by Zep etc - following the Brit lead

    As for postpunk, what about Television? Pere Ubu? Starkness and grandeur present in decent amounts.

    Or Devo?

  3. Well, I'm obviously exaggerating just for the fun of it.


    The Doors were probably the best US rock band of the Sixties (of all time I think) but they took what was probably the easiest UK template to copy which was The Animals - one that relied on moody keyboards rather than complex kinetic rhythms (and The Animals were a great, great band).

    You can certainly find American bands that are structural, sometimes in a modernist way like Ubu, but with British bands it's almost a default characteristic. On the whole, I think the reason everyone thinks that Americans "rock" is that they endlessly go on and on and on and on about how much they "rock". Skynyrd, ZZ Top etc. are really good, but they're only at the same standard as British second-tier bands like Bad Company and Budgie. The only non-UK band that have equaled the best British groups is AC/DC. And they were all born in Scotland.

    another btw, "Solid Gold" is by far the best Go4 album. Listen to "Why Theory?" a few times, as that's the easiest one to get into. You'll thank me for it.

  4. I'm with you with the Doors-love

    Enjoy also the cheeky idea that the Animals (very US black music indebted surely? they even have a song making fun of themselves as ersatz don't they? the one about Bo Diddley seeing them live and being disparaging) were the original template that the Doors are copying

    Think i agree about structuralism as the default characteristic of all Brit rock - again it's that distanced relationship to the source music that enables "us" to see it in schematic fashion, like an architectural blueprint rather than a living thing

    Gang of Four being a supreme example

    "Why Theory?" is one of the two or three songs on Solid Gold I like ("paralysed" and maybe "if i could keep it for myself")

    but otherwise I vehemently non-concur

    so vastly prefer Entertainment!

    prefer the dessicated sound

    and i think the contents are much more.... stronger as songs (and lyrics) but also, to use your term, structural

    the riff-diagrams fit the diagrammatic analyses of relationships, marriage, consumerism, etc

    i'll never get past the disappointment i felt after coughing up my hard-earned egg-stall Saturday market money for Solid Gold the week it came out and then getting the record home and playing it....

    factual tidbit of mild interest: the guy they got to produce Solid Gold - Jimmy Douglass, who had been in Slave I believe - went on to be Timbaland's right-hand man, his engineer and thus a lot to do with the sound of all those great late 90s R&B records.... the best of which were very structural and architecturally exposed

  5. "He'd Send In The Army" is awesome.

    I don't think British people look at American music in a distanced way - I think the likes of the Rolling Stones, Dr. Feelgood etc. were desperately trying to be real African-Americans. But they inevitably abstracted the original music as they tried to replicate it, whether they wanted to or not. I'm not sure what the mechanism was, maybe British life was just more regimented, the way of thinking was more linear or something. Also, the British are more tribal, less individual, even despite the neoliberal programming.

    There's a good video on Youtube by John David Ebert where he talks about The Beatles as being a "tribal response" to Elvis - the sovereign individual Presley is countered by an anonymous gang who all look and dress the same.

  6. What do you think of Sparks? American, but "English"

  7. I only know the hits. They sound very Euro to me, but perhaps that's just cuz one of them looks like Hitler.

    Funny thing about the bands we've been talking about is that there's a real monumentalism to them, whereas British, and especially English culture is supposed to be "quaint". Because it's a small island etc.

    But quaintness like The Kinks, Blur etc. seems to be an unnatural affectation. The real British sound is HUGE.

  8. Sparks had an English band behind them on their breakthrough / biggest / best album Kimono My House, and a slightly different but still English backing band on the next couple of almost-as-good albums. So (and this only just occurred to me) that were sort of the Jimi Hendrix Experience of glam. Indeed their manager John Hewlett had been in a Sixties Brit beat band (John's Children) so the parallel would be with Chas Chandler ex-Animal masterminding Jimi's monster success in the UK. Except JH then went on to conquer America whereas Sparks remained a cult in their homeland.

    I thought of Sparks because the sound is clean, clear, sharply delineated, and although there's a lot of campy, retro, almost proto Wes Anderson stuff in the mix, vocally and lyrically and sometimes with the arrangement embellishments, at core it's quite a muscular sound, anticipating aspects of New Wave. You hear little advance glimpses of Wire and The Skids and things like that.

    What do you think of Queen?

    That's a good point about the monumentalism of Brit rock in its prime. Some of the songs by Led Zep, the scale it's executed at is.... awe inspiring. Not exactly "moving", I rarely feel anything like emotion or connection when listening to Zep.... but you just sort of gasp.

    In defence of The Kinks, they did do "You Really Got Me" you know!

    But also on Village Green Preservation, even though the thematics are quaintness and quintessential Englishness, there's a rolling glory to some of the tunes - my favorite is "Animal Farm" - that is a huge sound.

    Vaguely connected, what do you think of Neil Young? A certain kind of US rockcritic regards him as the "truest" rocker of the American 70s. It's sort of a lean, but big sound.... not rootsy or bar-band-y.... hard rock with a lonesome folky tang but mostly in the vocals, not really in the music at all.

    Would also be interested to see how your arguments alter in re. the 90s, when out of America there's a lot of hard, heavy, big-sounding rock music - Soundgarden, Nirvana (ripping off Killing Joke on one tune), Kyuss, Alice In Chains, even (although i don't like them at all really) Pearl Jam.... I suppose so far as they take their bearings from a mixture of Sabbath, Beatles, Sex Pistols etc, US grunge / alt-rock could be said to back up your argument

  9. meant to add - meanwhile in the 90s, as regards the U.K, the rock flame pretty much sputters out....

  10. Neil Young is great. He's Canadian isn't he? A wee bit distanced himself. Queen I haven't got an opinion on at all really.

    One thing I've come to think is that a lot of Americans probably can't hear the structural elements in British music - they're not culturally attuned to it. It's like American critics like Greil Marcus often praise the least sonically ambitious British artists - Elvis Costello, solo Clapton, the Mekons. There's a one-line dismissal of "Heaven Up Here" by Robert Christgau were he refers to it as a "psychedlic dirge" or something, whereas I hear it as a record made up of lots of very precise, deliberate sonic effects. It's like Christgau or Marcus can't hear music in 3D. Probably why they like Dylan.

    Speaking of which, what about U2's "Rattle and Hum"? A sop to the American market, with all the cinematic sound effects turned down in favour of nods to authenticity - gospel choirs, Dylan himself. It shows how shrewd Bono and co. were.

    As to the 90's then yes, there's not much British rock worth listening to, but then everyone's moved on to dance music, with a kind of rump indie to remind people of the old days. I think that's when the Americans play catch-up - Fugazi belatedly get the bass-heavy Stranglers/Gang Of Four thing going for example.

    Another thing I think is important is the sixties British groups were the first real bands. Before that, the American groups were backing bands (Bill Haley's Comets, Buddy Holly's Crickets etc.) or family businesses (Beach Boys, Everly Brothers). I think the British come up with the concept of the band-as-gang, confederates with a unified intention, again very tribal.

  11. That's funny about Heaven Up Here. There are one or two dirgy (but great) tracks on it ("All My Colours", "the Disease") but most of it as you say it's very geometric and sculpted. "All I Want" is like a diagram of rock dynamics or something.

    I was only recently listening to Crocodiles for the first time in a decade or so and that's another incredible Britpostpunk space / structure reinvention of rock.

    To be fair, those American rock critics you mention were v. enthused by e.g. Gang of Four - particularly Marcus. But otherwise you are generally right about bias towards a combo of rootsy Americanism + lyrics + passion as what they look for and hear in British music. So it's Van Morrison, Rod Stewart/The Faces, Clapton... and then circa New Wave, it's Graham Parker, Elvis Costello... and then in the mid-80s, it's the Mekons who become the US rock critic cause celebre as regards as British music.

    And in terms of their own countries output, it's The Band, Randy Newman, Jackson Browne, Warron Zevon.... as you say the Dylan-and-after thing is very strong.... does Dylan ever do anything that could really be described as rock?

    I dunno about the Rattle and Hum point - i don't think they needed to do a sop to the American market, which was totally conquered by the Unforgettable Fire / Joshua Tree sound - which I'm gathering you find more impressive as structural music (I would agree). I think U2 got caught up in some ideological trip that was very mid-late Eighties - there was a lot of talk in music culture/discourse then about roots music, about soul and blues and folk and country.... not exactly retro but more like an earnest attempt to plug back into the America sources of it all... also a lot of reissuing of old soul records that then became huge hits.... in a way the sister record to Rattle and Hum is George Michael's Faith, with the jukebox and the iconic guitar in the video .... I don't think it worked that well as a sop either, not sure the Rattle and Hum singles were nearly as big in the US as 'With Or Without You" /' Still Haven't Found' / 'Streets Have No Name'

    that gang thing is very interesting... i guess the very Brit rockers were individuals or indiividuals + band - Cliff R and the Shadows, Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, ... but by the 60s it's the gang thing as you say. then again you get names in the US like the Sonics, the Byrds.

    an American rock'n'roller who has that structural thing going on is Eddie Cochran, he had a particularly strong impact in the UK.... he produced his own records, didn't he?

    I remember hearing 50s r'n'r golden oldies on the radio in the early 70s and mostly they sounded ancient, incredibly dated, from another era altogether - but the two things that didn't were "Summertime Blues" and "Shakin' All Over' by Johnny Kidd

  12. Yeah 50's stuff generally sounds dated, and that's because I think it's a totally different genre - rock'n'roll is NOT rock. It's a thread like soul or gospel or r'n'b - an indigenous American musical genre that would have come and gone without leaving much of a trace if it hadn't been responded to on the other side of the Atlantic. There was a BBC documentary about 6 months ago about the early British rock'n'rollers - Cliff, Billy Fury, Joe Brown - and the survivors all said that they expected the thing to pass (had passed) away for ever, and the Sixties boom was a total surprise to them. If it wasn't for The Beatles, stuff like Jerry Lee Lewis would probably be the subject of Folkways anthologies or something.

    The Byrds were knocked together as a kind of panic response to The Beatles. McGuinn was still recruiting when they recorded "Mr. Tambourine Man" which is performed by just McGuinn and a bunch of session musicians. It's amazing that they were musically so successful given the alacrity with which they came into being. They're quite a spacious-sounding band, but not very rock.

    The funny thing is there's another long-standing idea that the Americans do "rock" and the British do "pop", but I think that's totally arse-about-face. The strongest American Sixties music is not really rock, it's pop with a few rock sounding elements (along with folk etc.) - like the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Creedence etc. Bands that are about as hardcore as The Hollies. Even with something like metal, it's the Americans who soften it and turn it camp and hokey, starting with Kiss*, and then the hair metal bands.

    * I originally mis-typed that as Kriss.

  13. That's interesting what you say about Pop Vs Rock.... which country does what

    I think the misapprehension comes from the fact that 'pop' is not a dirty word in the U.K. for various reasons, whereas it generally has been in America (possibly because the showbiz mainstream is so much more blanketing in its saccharine phoney-niness, requiring a sort of Beat/counterculture investment in authenticity, "outside society is where I want to be" etc). That continued into the 90s with grunge and with Joe Carducci's Rock and the Pop Narcotic, with pop cast as the innocuous, debilitated, escapist / vacuous Other to rock's virile fertility.

    in UK though in the Sixties all the exciting going on were considered "pop" - the fashion, the new design, the music, satire boom etc

    it's revealing that the first two major UK books on the music / youth culture are Nik Cohn which was originally titled Pop From the Beginning (later titled Awopbopaloobop), and George Melly's Revolt into Style: The Pop Arts in Britain

    whereas I think the American equivalent early books referred to Rock or Rock'n'Roll

    (ha! i just looked this up, the Cohn book was given a different title in the USA - Rock from the Beginning)

    your argument that the Brits invented rock definitely appeals to the patriot in me - i've argued that this massive investment in Dylan on the part of US rock writers is overcompensation for the fact that with the Beatles Stones Yardbirds/Cream/Led Zep Sabbath etc etc Britain dominated the sixties and much of the 70s - not bad for a country with one-fifth the population of the USA

    i'm trying to think of exceptions and counter-examples... Carducci attributes enormous importance to surf bands and greaser groups that pre-existed or temporally coincided with the British Invasion - esp outfits from the Pacific North West.... the Sonics, the Wailers... Link Wray.... "Louie Louie"... even Paul Revere and the Raiders

    where does Velvet Underground fit into your calculations? Not really rock, I suppose

    I once made a list of great-to-good bands with tallies for each nation per decade. In the Sixties, there was band after great band in the UK ledger; but with America, it didn't take long before I was getting to things like Spirit and the Rascals and Electric Flag

  14. Well, I think the "authenticity" itself is kind of a compensation for the fact that American music was always softer than British music. It's a kind of ersatz toughness that is absent from the music itself. Take Motorhead for example - what American band in the late 70's was even in the same universe when it came to ferocity?

    And the garage thing is a bit of a fig leaf as well. I can't remember who said it, but it was an American journalist, who pointed out that, actually, The Yardbirds' "I'm A Man" shits on The Count Five and Shadows Of Knight etc. that supposedly took it as a launch pad for something wilder.

    You be the judge!:


  15. Bit hard to compare a live Yardbirds performance with studio recordings by Count Five or Shadows of Knight ... who know how raw 'n' ragged they got in the live situation....

    the Yardbirds did some great stuff on record but overall it seems to be bit more polished and less crazed than the US garage punk which is sloppier and cruder -more lo-fi - and also has that caricature of a cariature, advances-through-parody dynamic going for it... even more fuzztone, even more ridiculously macho-swaggered and spiteful

    but then i think the best version of "psychotic reactions" isn't even Count Five, it's this other outfit Positively 13 O'Clock


    Re. who in late 70s America came close to Motorhead for ferocity... not many contenders, agreed. A few years later, Black Flag maybe?.

  16. Yeah, Black Flag for one album only.

    But then after that you get the likes of Megadeth, Metallica etc. and American music definitely takes the lead in terms of mightiness.

  17. Yes, Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, Slayer, etc. American music took the lead in ferocity for sure in the early to mid eighties, and Britain has never really recovered. It was all indie nonsense and baggie blandness with dance music that only Brits danced to and Beatles references for the rest of the nineties. The Oasis/Blur war which never translated across the Atlantic and music that all the hype in the world could make neither good nor interesting. Americans stopped paying attention to English music en masse at that time and there's no sign of its reemergence.