Rough Trade 1991. RTT240R
This 12″ came free with the first few (UK) copies of the Piouhgd album. It comes with no information at all, nor can I find anything on the net about it, so all I can tell you is that it contains three remixes of Hurdy Gurdy Man, originally on the album and also a single. I have no idea what the remixes are called or who did them. I suspect that it was intended as a separate release, but only a handful of test pressings were made which were given away when the project was abandoned.
The song is a Donovan composition from 1968, and the Butties are surprisingly faithful to the original, especially the extreme vibrato Donovan used. Donovan used John-Paul Jones (of Led Zep) for the noisy guitars on his version – there are more noisy guitars here. The result I think is excellent and it suits their style very well. These remixes mostly obsess over detail – picking a small element of the original which they emphasise and repeat it to make something which is both instantly recognisable as a remix, but also totally new. The idea of a Butthole Surfers remix 12″ is bizarre, but the quality of these mixes means they pull it off I think.
Piouhgd has been re-issued and you should buy it. It’s not their best work, but it’s a fine album and includes the Widdowermaker EP, but not these tracks.
Shimmy Disc 1988. SHIMMY011
This is one of my favourite albums of the 80s. It’s an insane sprawling psychedelic masterpiece, without doubt the highlight of Bongwater’s career, and main man Kramer too for that matter.
The most obvious starting points for getting to grips with this massive work are the large number of cover versions. There’s a bonkers version of Led Zep’s Dazed And Confused sung in Chinese, a slowed down, dark performance of Gary Glitter’s Rock n Roll Pt II, a surprisingly straight cover of The Soft Machine’s We Did It Again, a couple of Beatles tunes.. the list goes on.
There’s lots of effective tape manipulation courtesy of Ann Magnuson which adds to the insanity – there’s something really effective about well chosen snippets of spoken word sandwiching the musical parts. Magnuson also contributes some very surreal stories – Iranian Country Club is a favourite, and then there’s the cheeky David Bowie Wants Ideas, although he’s morphed into David Byrne by the end of the track.
Like an earlier Kramer related post, the length of this album makes it a bit overwhelming, but it is worth the effort.
Moksha 1987. SOMACD1
Luke Marshall wanted to hear this, which seemed like a good enough reason to dig it out.
If you’re only familiar with the Shamen’s drug soaked dance records, this psychedelic pop album, their debut, might come as a bit of a surprise. It’s still recognisably them, mainly because of the vocals, but the style is very different.
It’s a strong album – the song writing is very good and they pull off the retro psychedelic sound with aplomb. Vocal harmonies, mad guitar effects; it’s all there and remarkably well played for a debut album. It also hangs together pretty well as a coherent whole.
In Tape 1985. ITTI 023
Ah, Yeah Yeah Noh. A band whose records I rarely play but whose lyrics I often find myself quoting and whose songs I often find myself humming. They really couldn’t play that well, and the singer, Derek Hammond was terminally flat, but neither of those things stopped them from being entirely wonderful and Peel favourites. Early in their short career the amateurishness of their playing added to the charm, although as their competence grew, lineup changed and they drifted into psychedelia, they became less original, but still a rewarding listen.
This EP is from the start of their psychedelic phase. The title track is typically sardonic social commentary, and the other highlight is the lengthy Jigsaw which includes manipulated announcements from John Peel, presumably giving details of one of their sessions for his programme, together with a cheeky and I imagine unauthorised Beatles sample. It ought to be a disaster, but actually works pretty well. The cover claims it’s 4 separate tracks, but really it isn’t and I’ve ripped it as such.
The fourth track is worthy of special mention. It’s a cover of The Beatles’ Rain by The Psychedelic Filberts, which YYN claimed they found in the basement of a studio in Leicester. At the time that story was obvious nonsense, especially with the obvious Leicester FC reference, but it wasn’t clear what it actually was. It turns out it was Diesel Park West, also from Leicester. Why they appear on this EP is anyone’s guess.
All their original albums and singles are long deleted, but there is a mighty fine retrospective on Cherry Red which is worth a tenner of anyone’s money. Rumour has it that their entire back catalogue will be re-issued at some point.
Shimmy Disc 1993. Shimmy 055
I first became aware of Kramer as one half of the hilarious/excellent Bongwater when I bought their debut Double Bummer. One day I may get round to ripping that. However his name crops up all over the place. He played bass for the Butthole Surfers for a while, and turned out a surprising amount of solo material. What I didn’t notice at the time was his production work on some of the most interesting US music from that period, including Galaxie 500’s albums and some of Low’s material. Perhaps though he’s best known for the label he ran, Shimmy Disc which seemed to be a home for all the insanely brilliant American bands back then who no-one else would touch.
Owning a label is key to understanding this release. It’s so self indulgent, so vast and so, well, nuts, that it could only ever have been self released. 36 tracks across 3 LPs or 2 CDs for a debut solo album eclipses even George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, including as it did an LP of jam sessions. This is all proper songs! What’s most surprising is that he pulls it off. It veers in style from psychedelic rock referencing The Beatles to Led Zeppelinesque instrumentals. He’s also been listening to the 13th Floor Elevators, Syd Barrett, The Grateful Dead and well, most of what’s been worth listening to since the 60s. This is a guy who understands music intimately and really knows how to bring all these influences together into an insane rock opera. It is of course pretty unmanageable – a good one for a rainy day, but there’s surprisingly little filler here.
Temple Records 1985. TOPY S 009 + TOPY H 009
Discogs: double 7″
For some reason I have both the 12″ and the double 7″ of this release, but it is a favourite. Godstar is about the late Brian Jones who died just before the Stones famous 1969 Hyde Park gig and has since been credited with all sorts of mystical powers. I wouldn’t know about that, but it’s certainly the sort of thing you’d expect Psychic TV to pick up on.
The cover claims that it’s from the soundtrack of a forthcoming film, although I’ve never heard of it actually being released or even finished. The title track is very Stones inspired, which is quite a departure for PTV, although they do a really good job of it, especially on the 7″ version which is by far the best. Hard to imagine such a listenable track was created by someone who was a founder member of Throbbing Gristle. The remainder is a bit patchy, but the Hyperdelic mix works well.
More recently, Psychic TV founder Genesis P Orridge has become better known for his attempt to create a hybrid being with his wife, which involved him having radical plastic surgery in order to look like her. She died a few years back, leaving his project not just bizarre to everyone else, but also tragic.
A vinyl rip at last! This is an old one done before I had my current system, but it still sounds pretty good.
This EP came out in 1992, round about the same time as Piouhgd, when the band’s uncompromising weirdness, especially during their live shows had started to diminish. They were panned for it of course, and it’s certainly true that compared to their landmark Locust Abortion Technician from 1987, this EP was a bit of a disappointment.
20 years down the line though it stands up pretty well. It’s not as groundbreaking as their earlier work, but it’s a pretty good slab of psychedelic punk worth of 15 minutes of anyone’s life.
This is ripped from the UK vinyl issue on the achingly cool (back then) Blast First! label, which for reasons unknown is a 10″, unlike the US 12″ issue. It also came out as a CD.
Further listening? Well for me Locust Abortion Technician and Hairway To Steven catch the band at their peak. Both are startlingly inventive and defy categorisation, but are also listenable unlike the chaos of their earlier stuff. Get them from those delightful tax evaders at Amazon if you really must, but preferably at a proper record shop. There are also loads of free (low quality) MP3s on their web site.