"Several years ago when I was driving to Frank Freeman's Dancing School in Kidderminster with Captain Beefheart, the Captain told me that the person he most admired was Son House. And if somebody had told me two or three years ago when this programme started thatwe would be having Son House on Top Gear, I wouldn't have believed them, but we do & it's a joy that he is, because Son House basically is where it all began."
Remarkably, Eddie James "Son" House Jr. was 68 years old (& still touring!) when he recorded this session for John Peel's Top Gear show back in July 1970. Transmitted on 11th July - producer John Walters' birthday - Peel appeared both delighted & somewhat flabbergasted to have Mr. House on his show - "the nicest show we've had for as long as I can remember".
Earlier that month, Peel had attended a Son House performance at Oxford Street's 100 Club & was reportedly furious that some factions of the audience were rude enough to talk throughout his set, culminating in Peel clambering on stage to reprimand the culprits, demanding they either be quiet or go home, & offering to personally refund the cost of their tickets so that the rest of the crowd could listen undisturbed.
The session was taped on 6th July at the BBC's Playhouse Theatre in London's West End, & was produced by Walters with engineer Pete Ritzema. A recording of the complete hour-long show is available online if you can be bothered to search for it - replete with further sessions from Kevin Ayers' recently-formed Whole World troupe & Bristol's best-forgotten East Of Eden.
Track-list: My Good Gal / Monologue 1 / Death Letter / Monologue 2 / Grinnin' In Your Face.
(Son House portrait by Robert Crumb from his Heroes of The Blues Trading Cards series.)
● Mississippi Department of Corrections
Dave Graney - droll lounge-loving troubadour, safari-suited cowboy punk, laconic Renaissance man, eccentric Australian icon, etc - formed legendary post-punk band The Moodists in 1980 from the debris of Adelaide-based outfit The Sputniks with long-term partner / drummer Claire Moore, & Steve Miller, later drafting in Chris Walsh (The Negatives, The Fabulous Marquises) & ex-Fungus Brains guitarist Mick Turner (a member of The Dirty Three nowadays), to concoct the anomalous mid-'80s leather-clad ex-pat scuzz triumvirate of Engine Shudder, Thirsty's Calling, & Double Life, bagging themselves a gone-in-a-heartbeat Creation Records' contract into the bargain, before discreetly disbanding eight years later:
"We lived & played in the derelict, bohemian Melbourne suburb of St. Kilda & when we travelled to Sydney, we played almost exclusively in the derelict, bohemian inner city suburb of Darlinghurst. In Australia, the suburban pubs were where you went to pursue a career in music. We only played the inner city venues. We never even really tried to venture any further. In essence, most of the inner city crowd all came from the outer suburbs & didn't really want to go back. In late 1983 we moved to London where we spent the rest of what was our career... Our friends & contemporaries were The Go-Betweens, The Birthday Party, The Laughing Clowns, The Triffids, The Died Pretty, The Beasts of Bourbon... Our first shows in the U.K. were opening for The Fall & The Go-Betweens. I would characterise it as more of an inerior, mythological trip we were on. All the music we heard & the magazines we read were imported. It was all exotic & so very far away. I loved living in London & touring in Europe. It was dramatic & exciting. I learned so much & was able to dive into my obsessions & interests: pulp crimes books & rock music. Saw lots of great live music. I landed in 1983 with £70 & spent 40 on a leather jacket. I never intended to return to Australia but ultimately didn't have the right heritage or visa to stay."
When The Moodists formally fractured in 1987, Graney, Moore & Walsh briefly renamed themselves The White Buffaloes & released their comprehensively shunned My Life On The Plains LP, wherefrom Graney's Buffalo Bill-indebted raconteur-persona slowly began to evolve. Resting place of the classic "Robert Ford on the Stage" & the unassumingly lovely "Girl In The Moon" - still two of my absolute favourite Graney songs - its covers of Gram Parsons, Fred Neil, & "The Streets of Laredo" must have sounded resolutely alien alongside Surfer Rosa, Isn't Anything, Viva Hate, & Daydream Nation. But I wouldn't know because, like virtually everybody else, I was too busy dribbling over Hairway To Steven to give it the time of day (sorry, Dave). The White Buffaloes were pre-dated by a formative & equally short-lived incarnation of The Coral Snakes - featuring ex-Orange Juice / Josef K guitarist Malcolm Ross (who'd appeared in The Moodists' terminal line-up with O.J.'s David McClymont) & Rudi's Gordy Blair on bass - who only managed to record a solitary e.p. for Fire Records in 1989 before visa issues finally forced Graney & Moore back to Australia. Produced by Barry Adamson, At His Stone Beach's four croon-fronted piano-led songs similarly made little-to-no impression. At this point, Graney maintains, he was largely concerned with becoming a writer for other artists - preferably female vocalists - which perhaps explains why this germinal clutch of songs sounds so different to The Moodists' well-established vernacular? Though Graney's major breakthrough followed a couple of albums later with the reformed Coral Snakes' Night Of The Wolverine LP in 1993, it's My Life On The Plains, & particularly At His Stone Beach, that I still pluck off the shelf most frequently.
Reportedly, Graney is currently supervising the digital release of the acoustic demos for Night Of The Wolverine & some unreleased late-period Moodists recordings. Let's see what happens.
Je te tire mon chapeau: The Beige Baron at Brown Noise Unit.
● Another life flashed before my eyes
"It was a small scene & everybody knew everybody. When we started, we just had four songs & we played for our friends. We played the four songs in fifteen minutes & they'd say "Go again! Go again!" so we'd play the songs again for four hours. We thought it would be fun to do the single with our four songs for our friends - the same four songs we would play at gigs for hours & hours until we got tired. Somehow John Peel got the E.P. & he played it over & over. Rough Trade heard it - they organised a tour for us in England. We were on a package tour with The Raincoats & Spizzenergi. It was a great experience.
In the beginning, we were just in Zürich & we never thought that we would go abroad. The Kleenex company found out about us & they said we had to change our name or otherwise they will call Rough Trade to destroy all the records & we couldn't sell them anymore. We had to pay thousands of Swiss francs for this so we had to decide to change the name. Also, Regula Sing left & then we thought we were city indians or small like Liliput, little girls.
We had great support in Zürich, it all started with this youth riot. I was a bit older than the people in the riots, but it's a small town & there were these political questions & we had to say what we thought. We didn't have songs like "Fuck The System" like other bands had. We didn't throw stones & smash windows. We stood there & played songs. Though it sounds like nonsense words, it always had to do with the situation." - Excerpts from an interview with Marlene Marder by Jason Gross, Perfect Sound Forever, May 1998.
Parenthetically, I've dragged the lake (so to speak) hoping to discover what Kleenex's former members have been up to since Liliput separated in the mid 1980s, but details are scant - that's to say: non-existent. Other than Klaudia Schifferle 's well-documented subsequent career as a prolific & highly respected painter / sculptor, the only other information I've found refers to Marlene Marder's work with the World Wildlife Fund. Any more for any more?
Set-list: You / Nighttoad / Hedi's Head / (Unknown) / Madness / (Unknown) / Nice / Ain't You / Lust - Thumblerdoll / I Love You (1) / I Love You (2) / Beri-Beri.
● Never mind the bollocks
"Nothing that's got any potency is ever accepted by the established art world at the moment of potency... it's only in retrospect that they're able to assimilate it into their culture" - Jayne Casey talking about the KLF, though she might just as well have been talking about her own unjustly neglected Pink Industry.
Big In Japan & Pink Military - two storied arbors of Merseyside's punk &s post-punk eras ("A magical portal where a generation of Liverpool musicians discovered the lexicon of life", she says) which both included Jayne as vocalist - have never really captured my imagination (look, I've tried, but...). Pink Industry, however, are a band that I've admired since the early 1980s - from the moment I heard John Peel broadcast their penultimate session (of four) for him. August 1983, in fact.
Following the dissolution of the short-lived (but highly regarded) Pink Military in 1981, Jayne dispensed with the idea of joining another default-4-piece post-punk guitar band, choosing instead to collaborate with local multi-instrumentalist Amrbose Reynolds (who'd also played briefly with Big In Japan, as well as the embryonic Frankie Goes To Hollywood). Pursing a distinctly more electronic (& experimental) direction than before, the duo operated a revolving door policy as far as supporting musicians were concerned, though guitarist Tadzio Jodlowski would be recruited on a full-time basis in time for their second LP.
Perpetually hampered by a debilitating dearth of funds & a frustratingly "make-do" collection of equipment, it's (arguably) the band's fleshed-out BBC sessions that capture them at their most impressive. Sadly, said recordings are only accessible via grainy Youtube uploads (from disintegrating timeworn cassettes) nowadays - though a handful of them allegedly appeared on a limited edition pressing of an already impossible-to-track-down Brazilian Pink Industry compilation CD a few years ago. Of their trio of cheaply recorded (at home) but near-perfect LPs, only the first, 1983's Low Technology, has ever been reissued - carefully repackaged & sympathetically remastered by Germany's Isegrimm label. It's a dispiriting situation, but perhaps Jayne & Ambrose prefer it that way? After all, sometimes it's better to simply draw a line & walk away...
1984's provocative "What I Wouldn't Give" 7" - with it's cheeky Morrissey-bedecked sleeve - slid briefly into the top ten of the independent singles chart upon release but still passed most people by. A lot gem, it's one of Pink Industry's finest productions: Jayne's carnal drawl - a sort-of Marlene Deitrich-meets-Lou Reed affair if you can imagine that? - weaves an enticing path between Ambrose's languid dual basses, the pulsating drum machine, & an apparitional sax submerged in a slough of opiated sound effects. An unusual, thought-provoking, & curiously timeless record by one of the '80s great "lost" bands.
● Leave it buried at the bottom of the bed