15.12.14

THE RAINCOATS : Live at Acklam Hall, London - 10th May 1979 (Cassette recording).

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Early Raincoats live recordings are unusually scarce, & this one - which took place beneath the Westway at Ladbroke Grove's shabby Acklam Hall during their very first British tour - is the best I've heard. It was taped shortly before the release of their eponymous debut Rough Trade LP, & both Cabaret Voltaire & Switzerland's Kleenex were also on the bill I believe?

Needless to say, it's a cheerfully shambolic delight - spiritedly cacophonous in places, but concise & cogent in others. And best of all the vivacious Palmolive (aka Paloma Romero) was still clobbering the drums at this point. Fresh from her stint with the original explosive Slits line-up (with whom she co-wrote virtually all of the songs that would appear on Cut), she only remained with The Raincoats for the duration of this tour, jumping ship after a mere 6 months citing a growing dissatisfaction with the music business: "I vividly remember after one of the concerts... watching people leave the venue wasted & with a sadness & heaviness about them, & I thought, I'm helping to make them like that... I didn't want to just go along with something because it was popular or profitable."

Though on their subsequent records (1981's quietly radical Odyshape for example) The Raincoats would very quickly evolve into something far more exploratory & profound, it's still difficult to ignore or deride the impassioned & vehement beauty of fiery live sets like this one. "The Raincoats are so bad tonight", remarked Danny Baker at the time, "that every time a waiter drops a tray we'd all get up & dance" - though that was possibly a backhanded compliment, bearing in mind he'd already eschewed the still-amorphous (post-)punk camarilla by then & was advocating tepid "working class" soul-boy clichés in the NME's weekly singles column instead (big mistake, his loss, c'est la vie).

Set-list: No Side To Fall In / No Looking / Life on the Line / The Void / Lola (Kinks cover) / Adventures Close to Home / Off Duty Trip / You're a Million / Fairytale in the Supermarket / In Love / No Looking (encore).

● NEW LINK! Off duty trip

14.12.14

ESSENTIAL LOGIC : Wake Up EP (Virgin 12", 1979).

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Essential Logic's brilliant but ill-fated Wake Up EP, the result of a curtailed deal with Virgin Records, was inexplicably excluded from Kill Rock Star's otherwise definitive Fanfare In The Garden anthology, due either - one assumes - to CD time constraints or R. Branson's annoying licensing department playing hard-to-get.

Recorded during William (Whiehouse) Bennett's fleeting reign as guitarist, Wake Up was quickly withdrawn (& the band quietly dropped) when the omnipotent Walt Disney corporation threatened litigation over the record's unsanctioned cover image. Though 3 of it's 4 songs were hastily re-taped for Rough Trade's frenetic Beat Rhythm News LP (included in it's entirey on the K.R.S. collection), the oiginal takes are suitably different - noticeably edgier performances, less fussy production, etc - to warrant their inclusion here. If nothing else, hearing them will almost certainly send you off in search of the rest of the band's oeuvre, which can only be a good thing - but don't forget to give Lora's work with Mayo Thompson's frequently bewildering Red Krayola a listen too (I'm a huge fan).

Bennett, incidentally, would meet pioneering electronicists Daniel Miller & Robert Rental in 1979 while the 3 of them were touring as part of a multi-band Rough Trade package & purchase a surplus EDP Wasp keyboard from them: "an uncontrollably vicious beast of a synthesiser that subsequently became the heart of the Whitehouse sound". And the rest is history, as they say...

Essential Logic also recorded a superb John Peel session around the same time as the EP, though it's not currently listed in the BBC's otherwise-comprehensive Keeping It Peel archive. Peculiar, eh?

Further rumination: "Punk promised that you could become a new person. You could live a new life in a new world - & to live in it you needed a new name. It was late 1976 in London when 15-year-old schoolgirl saxophonist Susan Whitby answered an ad placed by a would-be "punk" band in the now defunct Melody Maker. The Band turned out to be X-Ray Spex, led by one Poly Styrene, who had left "Marion Elliot" on the sidewalk. Susan Whitby became Lora Logic.

Punk wasn't supposed to be "logical" - it wasn't supposed to make sense. The name set Lora apart, even as it brought her into the fold. It suggested a certain reserve, a step back, a raised eyebrow. As Lora lifted her horn & dove into Poly Styrene's songs - every one a critique of the world at large & the punk world spinning with it - that eyebrow never came down. When Lora was pushed out of the group & set about finding her own music, it jiggled.

In 1978, Lora formed Essential Logic & made "Aerosol Burns", which the ambitiously independent label Rough Trade sent out into the world. There was an EP with Virgin in 1979, headed by a fire alarm of a song called "Wake Up". A sense of danger & desire runs through the music like a wire: time is running out. Lora began almost every vocal singing high, her voice shaking, the shaking becoming a style, a point of view; then often her voice thickened, & she seemed to suck the fast pace of her band into her own doubt, or bounce it off her own frustration. With a small guitar-bass-drums ensemble, her saxaphone set the scene or led the sound out of it's circle - led it like a beckoning finger. (It) leaps with a stop-time dance beat, the vehemence of a woman insisting she will be as unexpected, as unwanted, & move as quickly, as she pleases.

Lora was on the edges of an experimental, avant-garde scene at Rough Trade, adding sax to a cut on the first Raincoats album, appearing with cult outfits Scritti Politti or Swell Maps, moonlighting in Mayo Thompson's reconstituted Red Crayola. On red Crayola's 1981 Kangaroo? she is absolutely unfettered, singing as if she's flying over the band, all but pulling it into the air with her.

Always, Lora Logic has made odd music. A punk band wasn't supposed to have a saxaphone in 1977. In 1980, avant-garde post-punk artists on Rough Trade didn't sound girlish, as if they knew a secret they'd promised not to tell. In Red Crayola, no one else knew to sing as if there were secrets they didn't know. In no (other) time have people been able to leave their time, giving you the feeling that the war raging outside your door is not real. But punk was, as Lora Logic put it last year, a time "when a lot of people got heard."" (Griel Marcus, 2003.)

Lora's only post-Essential album (so far), 1982's Pedigree Charm, found her exploring increasingly meditative, earthier sounds - befitting, perhaps, her blossoming interest in the Hare Krishna movement, to whom she'd shortly (& contentedly) devote her life. Following an arranged marriage in the early '80s, Lora reportedly ended up raising her children & pursuing a peaceful, spiritual existence in a manor house owned by George Harrison, a long way from playing sax at The Roxy to a herd of glued-up punks. And if that sounds like I'm sneering... you're mistaken. Frankly I'm rather envious.

n.b. The photograph of Lora & guitarist Phil Legg (aka Ashley Buff) was taken on Clarendon Road, Notting Hill in September 1979 by David Corio.

Waddle ya play?

11.12.14

DEUTSCH AMERIKANISCHE FREUNDSCHAFT : Live in Bonn - 22nd December 1980 (Cassette recording).

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Düsseldorf's were one of the first underground bands I worshipped as a school kid. They seemed infinitely "cooler" than Devo, Squeeze, or New Musik (because they were) - so much so that I took my copy of Gold Und Liebe with me to the barber at the end of the street so I could get my hair butchered into a council estate version of Robert Görl's utilitarian haarschnitt. They were another flock of beautiful mutants (Cabaret Voltaire, Fad Gadget, The Fall, et al) that I initially spied in Smash Hits (who adored them), & they were on the front cover of one of the first copies of the New Musicial Express I purchased too.

That said, no matter how much as I obsessed over their 3 Virgin Records LPs back then, it's the preceding Die Kleinen Und Die Bosen - incidentally the very first long-player on Daniel Miller's fledgling Mute label - that I found myself gravitating towards as my musical proclivities made a bee-line for the margins. At that pivotal juncture, with Wolfgang Spelmens still slinging out lacerating splinters of anarchic sheet metal guitar & Chrislo Haas's dazzlingly innovative pulsing synths to the fore, they were an anarchically brilliant live concern, as that record's second side - recorded in February 1980 at Camden's Electric Ballroom as support to Wire (the same show Documentary & Eyewitness was eventually collaged from) - ferociously corroborates. By the time they'd advanced to Virgin early the following year, Görl & Gabi Lopez had ruthlessly pared themselves down into a brutally efficient 2-piece industrial dance machine, were methodically applying a Stalinesque scorched earth policy (I'm joking) to all evidence of their guitar-toting past, & were primed to embrace bona fide pop-stardom at home in West Germany. "Kebabträume", their sardonic & ridiculously popular debut Mute 45 - performed 3 times (!) during this insurgent Bonn appearance - would be re-fashioned into an anthemic (& moderately more chart-palatable) rendition for their swan-song album in 1982. In Germany, at least, it would also be their final single, until reforming in 2003 (& again, for a 30th anniversary tour, in 2008).

Recorded while they were temporarily operating as a trio - Haas had already departed & Spelmans would follow before the year's end, making it one of his final appearances with D.A.F. before Die Krupps' Tina Schenkenburger was drafted in as on-stage tape op - this unreleased Bonn performance is far, far superior to Music For Midgets' semi-official & disappointingly messy Live In Berlin cassette.

Set-list: Co Co Pino / Tanz Mit Mir / Der Räuber und der Prinz / Volkstanz / Ich bin die Fesche Lola / Nachtarebit / Die Lippe (early version) / Osten Wärht am Längsten / El Basilon / Kebabträume / Knochen Auf Knochen / Ich und die Wirklichkeit / Co Co Pino (2) / Die Lustigen Stiefel / Nachtarbeit (2) / 42.00 / Kebabträume (2) / Kebabträume (3).

Ich liebe dich mich räuber

10.12.14

PALAIS SCHAUMBURG : Live at Das Metropol-Theater, Berlin - 13th December 1981 (Cassette recording).

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I've been scraping the mould off of an ancient, abandoned hard-drive lately, & have discovered a few rather pleasant surprises stuffed down the back of my virtual chaise lounge... More audile anomalies to follow in the blink (or 2) of a presbyopic peeper.

So, whatever happened to Holger Hiller anyway?

Set-list: Wir Bauen Eine Neue Stadt / Die Freude / Macht Mich Glücklich Wie Nie / Aschenbecher / Herzmuskel / Morgen Wird der Wald Gefegt / Eine Geschichte / Kinder der Tod / Ahoi, Nicht Traurig Sein / Telefon / Deutschland Kommt Gerbräunt Zurück / Rote Lichter / Fischlein im Wasser.

Hello, Dolly!