Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Julian Cope’s Album of the Month

Various Artists - Guitar Explosion 2

Various Artists
Guitar Explosion 2


AOTM #42, November 2003ce
Released 2002 on Fly Agaric
  1. NEGATIVE SPACE The Calm after the Storm (6.33)
  2. BOFFO SOCKO Hurricane (2.01)
  3. THE LITTER Blue Ice (3.10)
  4. ORANG-UTAN Chocolate Piano (6.33)
  5. FRIJID PINK House of the Rising Sun
  6. THE MICKEY FINN Garden of your Mind (2.33)
  7. BLUE CHEER Out of Focus (TV Spot Live) (4.07)
  8. KENNY & THE KASUALS Journey Thru Tyme (2.33)
  9. THE LIVING DEAD Forbidden Fruit (4.29)
  10. MACABRE Lazy Lady (3.45)
  11. THE SPIDERS Don’t Blow Your Mind (2.35)
  12. INCREDIBLE HOG Tadpole (3.28)
  13. CRYSTAL CHANDELIER Suicidal Flowers (2.24)
  14. RANDY HOLDEN Blue My Mind (5.33)
  15. THE STOOGES What Ya Gonna Do? (4.54)

Note: It’s hard to believe I first wrote about this garage dirtbag rock’n’roll over 20 years ago in N.M.E.’s ‘Tales From The Drug Attic’. Stranger still is the fact that this stuff still keeps on coming and coming. But with NUGGETS now re-issued in a sumptuous 4CD box and this brand new series GUITAR EXPLOSION extending the time boundaries somewhat, I figured now was a better time than ever to re-evaluate this emotionally-stunted yet sonically Awe-Waillian post-teen dripshit.


ACID DREAMS

ACID DREAMS

Turds on a Bum Ride

Like all of the greatest rock’n’roll albums, GUITAR EXPLOSION 2 is a stone classic because it’s taken something traditional and accepted and time-honoured (how many more psychedelic compilations can we find room for? Right?), and still adds just enough of its own sparkling novelty to make you wanna run back to every previous similar comp and play ‘em all back to back, which is what I been doing this past coupla months. In the case of this particklier comp-eye-layshon, we seem to be having the early 70s hangover/crossover carefully served to us rather than thrust upon us, by the cunning inclusion of certain hoary ‘60s compilation standards such as Crystal Chandelier’s uncredibly Doors-laden ‘Suicidal Flowers’ (was this song ever a real 45? I mean I’ve never even heard about a B-side AND my mate Psychedelic Paul doesn’t own it!) and Kenny & the Kasuals’ fantastic maudlin ‘Journey through Tyme’ (which – like the 13th Floor Elevators’ ‘Tried to Hide’ – is just a [wholly necessary] re-write of the Kinks’ utterly unsung ‘Come On Now’, B-side of their Number 1 ‘Tired of Waiting For You’ back in ‘65). Furthermore, like PEBBLES and others, we get a whole load of uncredited radio ad jingles thrown in which really soup up the whole stew – preparing us for bizarre errant early ‘70s genius such as … But before I go into the meat of the matter, let’s have a quick overview of the genre to see from how, from why and from where this strident complain-o-thon riffaholism first emerged.

UGLY THINGS

UGLY THINGS

Lenny Fucking Kaye

In the beginning there was NUGGETS. Nothing else followed and its case appeared to have been closed as soon as it opened. Hard to believe now but old Doc Rock Lenny Kaye was so far ahead of the pack that when NUGGETS was first released in 1972!!! - Get down on yo’ Goddess-worshipping knees and hail this hero NOW, errant motherfuckers – ahem, excuse me, anyway when NUGGETS was first released the Nazz track on that double LP was only 4 years old! I copped my copy in 1977 during the punk thing and spent all of 1978 getting hold of all the Seeds, Elevators, Love 45s and LPs for next to nothing and wedging them in with current stuff like Pere Ubu’s 45s, their THE MODERN DANCE LP, the first Suicide LP, the Human Switchboard EP, and all the Metal Urbain releases – in other words the fucking real deal shit (for all you youngies 1978 was the year of Powerpop as punk died a slow Rich Skids death)

CICADELIC SIXTIES

CICADELIC SIXTIES

Anyway, in the face of no new NUGGETS, out comes a whole series of 7” EPs on the Moxie and Calico labels celebrating the Sons of Adam, Chocolate Watchband, the Sparkles and all these new names of one-off non-hit garage losers especially tailored to those of us with post-punk letdown. Hot on their heels came full 12” LPs righteously named PEBBLES in the wake of the NUGGETS legacy. Purporting to be Australian, these semi-official bootlegs were all at least seven tracks per side and introduced all the stuff that is now so standard I ain’t gonna yawn you to death by even popping a mench. Suffice to say, the flood gates opened and irrigated our souls with the kind of music that my generation thought had started and ended with the Yardbirds’ single song performance in the movie BLOW UP. The best compilations were distillations of every refusenik thought you ever had set to burn-up weird-out guitar/organ debauchers that frequently became the sole statement of a particular group. In the case of ACID DREAMS, you gotta hold of 18 bands with songs to die, nay LIVE for, 18 woulda/coulda/shoulda beens that created enuff ‘what ifs’ to inhabit brain for months on end. Soon, other similar essentials were being reclaimed from beyond the shamanic portals of Mher’s Door, to be dispensed under fablious titles such as MIND BLOWERS, OPEN UP YER DOOR, PSYCHOTIC MOOSE & THE SOUL SEARCHERS, THE CHOSEN FEW, [the hand-painted] EVERYWHERE CHAINSAW Volumes 1&2, WHAT A WAY TO DIE, A GATHERING OF THE TRIBES, CICADELIC SIXTIES AKA PSYCHEDELIC 60s [don’t ask these geeks to be consistent, pul-leeze], TEXAS FLASHBACKS Volumes 1-4, THE NEW ENGLAND TEEN SCENE, OFF THE WALL, plus the British madness of CHOCOLOATE SOUP FOR DIABETICS 1-3, the upsidedown Australian loser-weed Yardbird/Misunderstood genius of UGLY THINGS, with mentions also going out for GLIMPSES 1&2, PSYCHEDELIC UNKNOWNS, TURDS ON A BUM RIDE, SCUM OF THE EARTH, ENDLESS JOURNEY, bla-dee-bla-dee-effing-bla…

NEW ENGLAND TEEN SCENE

NEW ENGLAND TEEN SCENE

By 1984, I was awash with these compilations and had racked up eighty-five of the suckers before I screamed ‘Enuff!’ The weirdest was definitely the 10” flexi called THE MAGIC CUBE, whose free-standing 3D cardboard sugar cube I stupidly constructed one stoned afternoon in ’85. My ex-manager even taped/raped my own lovingly collected garage library and put out his own series called GONE 1-4 – thus scoring big on the credibility stakes - and paying me back by giving me one fucking copy of each LP! But the best of all this stuff was the BACK FROM THE GRAVE series, which was not particularly early on the bandwagon but which captured the spirit better than any other. Grizzly sardonic sleevenotes had become the fashion for these things and BACK FROM THE GRAVE’s guy wrote better than anyone – though his artwork was (in those Frankie Says Boy Georgian times) rather anti-gay in a Mid-Western Bible Belt queers-shag-steers stylee!

New England Teen Scene Magazine

New England Teen Scene Magazine

Which all brings me back to GUITAR EXPLOSION 2, whose sleevenotes [typically] seem to slag off every band on the album as though that ain’t gonna undermine the product and put off the prospective buyer by making him (women don’t buy this shit) feel a turkey for shelling out for such a ticket to Loserville. However, we gots to accept these guys’ metaphors as it’s all just so much tradition nowadays whatever. And besides, I remember the first vinyl GUITAR EXPLOSION from way back and a right sorry thing it was, so don’t come on all high’n’mighty just coz U-goddit so right this time, M’Luds.


BG’s One Eye

Whatever, let’s depersonalise a bit und move on to the matter in hand. GUITAR EXPLOSION 2 opens with the six and a half minutes of Negative Space’s true epic ‘The Calm Before The Storm’. It’s a derailed mordant staccato guitar chug reminiscent of DMZ’s later but equally vast ‘When I Get Off’, utilising archetypal complain complain lyrical stance over an initially drummerless Standells’ ‘The Night Time is the Right Time’ type of thang but reduced to bus-lane speed (though the driver of this particular sucker ain’t recognising any fare stages, ta very much).

PSYCHOTIC MOOSE & THE SOUL SEARCHERS

PSYCHOTIC MOOSE & THE SOUL SEARCHERS

Boffo Socko’s ‘Hurricane’ is barely 2-minutes of classy 1970 ever-ascending riffola, propelled by the magnificent teenage drumming of Geof O’Keefe, who was cool enough to be always photographed in an Iggy Pop t-shirt (back then dammit!). As part of the Bobby Liebling grand plan, it’s fair to say this is better than every Bang song ever, and cops loads from both Dust LPs whilst improving their menace sevenfold.

Next off is the Litter’s darn tootin’ high falutin’ ‘Blue Ice’ from their once ridiculed/now worshipped 1969 LP EMERGE. Time was you couldn’t hear a nice thing said about this record and even British copies were regular £1 binners, though I paid 25p for mine in summer 1972 (sic sic sic). However, ‘Blue Ice’ is clearly a Detroit classic with one of the best strangulated psychedelic geetar hooklines ever, and that rhythm git fer shure spawned Montrose’s ‘Space Station No. 5’ giving rise to Stiff Little Fingers’ ‘Suspect Device’ (hush ma mouth if I’ve been here before with this bit o’yesterday’s news).

TEXAS FLASHBACKS 1

TEXAS FLASHBACKS 1

Then we hit a genuine bit of mystery with the 6 minutes of Orang-Utan’s ‘Chocolate Piano’: a late Litter, sub-MC5, proto-Montrosean blast of Detroit rhythm that sounds like it coulda influenced any of those Sabbath Iommi descending runs and probbly did. And boy is it dumb! Especially when the singer wails: ‘No, No, No, No… Yeah!’ Phantastic!

Next up Frijid Pink’s ‘House of the Rising Sun’ comes hurtling outta Detroit 1970, and I totally take issue with (a) the sleevenotes having us belief they wuz from Minnesota when this was down-the-line Detroitsville all the way, and (b) the not-hit appellation with regard to this record, which is standing right outside the walls of GUITAR EXPLOSION as this sucker was a real Goddam hit AND a big one at that. Number 4 in Britain and number 7 in the US! Hail, I remember hearing it on the radio all the time.and Gary Ray Thompson’s soaring stratospherical fuzz geetar – aping the Nuge’s ‘Journey to the Centre of the Mind’ singing/siren call – when hoists the song above every other version of this bar-room singalong except mebbee for the Flower Travellin’ Band’s deadly accurate total rearrangement a coupla months later. From what I can remember of my mate Herb Leake’s Deram 45, the B-side ‘Drivin’ Blues’ was fairly bollocking also.

WHAT A WAY TO DIE

WHAT A WAY TO DIE

I’d guess that The Mickey Finn’s Stepping Stone-style homage to Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze’ shoulda been a lot more successful than it was, especially as the splatter chatter drumkit shedbuilding reaches unfathomable crescendos just as the solipsistic singer announces to his girl how she will achieve bliss in the garden of HIS fucking mind! Oo-er, I think weez talking pre-Women’s Lib period here, mama – kinda reminds me of the bit on the coda of ‘Open Up Your Mind’ by the Nuchez when the singer implores, urges, cajoles and finally bullies his chick to free her inner self with the chavinistic giveaway “Do what I tell you, girl!”

Blue Cheer’s performance of ‘Out of Focus’ is as fucking unreal as you’d expect a TV spot on the 1960s Steve Allen show to be. “The Blue Cheer… Run for your lives!” asides mein host with genuine fear as Messrs. Stephens, Whaley and Peterson crush chickens runs with JCBs and make The Who’s famous destruction of Tommy Smothers’ acoustic guitar look like the showbiz pre-fabricated rebellion it probably was. Only the Cheer managed the Zero Emasculation/No Compromise of their sound that few even aspire to achieve, and that’s surely exacerbated by the lack of duels with himself that Leigh Stephens was allowed in live situations. None of those “sub-sub-sub-sub Hendrix guitar overdubs [that] stumbled around each other so ineptly they verged on a truly bracing atonality” as M’Lud Lester Bangs so percipiently quipped long ago. Man, they wuz grungy.

THE MAGIC CUBE 10

THE MAGIC CUBE 10"

The Kasuals’ aforementioned rip-off of The Kinks’ ‘Come On’ is one of the few genuinely scary ‘60s comments on the perils of the LSD trip. A magnificently-formed lament in the Standells’ “Riot on Sunset Strip’ tradition, and equipped with R. Dean Taylor ‘There’s a Ghost in My House’ fuzz - dammit, you gots to feel sorry for the poor sap thinking he’s ‘reached his sad destiny [which is] to be trapped in the walls of time’. Jesus, Attis, Mithra, how many times I felt such feelings on an acid trip. ‘I wanna come back from the world of LSD’ is a humorous cry only to those who ain’t laid such stuff on themselves. And how often are we genuinely moved by song on a psychedelic compilation? Well babies, only this and The Wig’s ‘Crackin’ Up’ ever really brung me to tears, but as tears are for queers in this genre of music, let’s heed Alex Harvey and March On!

SCUM OF THE EARTH

SCUM OF THE EARTH

Ah, the sound of the American North-West! I’m talking of course about the Living Dead’s totally undateable ‘Forbidden Fruit’, which coulda been laid down any time between ‘64-66 and is claimed for ’69! Ordinarily I’d scream No Fucking Way In Hell, but as that land was (and still is, as we saw during the heights of Seattlemania) an in-between hinterland law-unto-itself Nearly Canuckian homeland of the ultimate juss-don’t-wannabe, then 1969 it is. For despite the raging Ralph Neilsen & the Chancellors style vocals and the Sonics saxophone and the frat-obsessed Swamp Rats/One Way Street/Sparkles/Novas one-mike drumming, the evidence for a later provenance is there in the song’s time of 4 minutes and 29 seconds. Hail babies, the mere fact that it’s over 2 minutes long means we got the tamperings of hippiedom somewhere within this mo-sheen. And what a festival of sludge-trudge it is, too. Poor guy’s horny for a chickie in the school disco but he’s gotta girl at home and can’t make a move. So the poor sap’s reduced to Ron Jeremy-ing his own ding-dong and pawing the reluctant earth. No bourgeois sub-plots here. Nice.

GATHERING OF THE TRIBES

GATHERING OF THE TRIBES

I hesitate to use the term ‘legendary’ casually nowadays, but as this is the further work of the uber lord Bobby Liebling, then ‘Lazy Lady’ has to warrant some kind of grandeloquent bigging up. Hail, in their various guises Macabre was either a Mid West Sabbath or a late-come Bleib Alien dependent on yer point-of-view. It was way back in ’84 that A GATHERING OF THE TRIBES first whacked us in the head with the heavy heavy darkness of ‘Be Forewarned’, but its B-side here reveals a deffo Ace Frehley snot-speak vocaleeze redolent of ‘Shock Me’ and a great story about a heavy ex-girlfriend who disses Liebling by buying up the whole block he lives on and turfing him out of his apartment. Sweet.

SON OF THE GATHERING OF THE TRIBES

SON OF GATHERING OF THE TRIBES

Which brings us to the strange ‘tween world of proto-Alice Cooper on the Spiders’ 1967 single ‘Don’t Blow Your Mind’. Okay, so this record is simultaneously just okay AND marvey, Harvey. That is, it attempts a Yardbirds approach to ‘Hang on Sloopy’ that barely cuts it, in the process straddling sounds so unappealing that you gots to rip the sucker off and replay it again and again. What’s up with Dennis Dunnaway’s telegraph wire bass? What producer said Neal Smith could hit drums like that? Best of all, though, is just how unlike future Rock Gods this lot sound. Makes me wanna fast forward five years to the next shitter on this disc.

EVERYWHERE CHAINSAW (Handpainted sleeve)

EVERYWHERE CHAINSAW (Handpainted sleeve)

Okay, so no fucker woulda veckspeckted a proto-Pere Ubu Street Wavean angle to a late come US psyche band. But that’s precisely what kind of platter Incredible Hog seem to be serving up here. However, in place of Allen Ravenstine’s buzzing fly EML synthesizer, the Hog whammies us with tapes of babies crying and jams on that sucker. Dammit I like it. Driven by a wonderfuel Hawkwind/Elevators Brockian drone riff, this track succeeds not for its heavy-ness but for its sheer motorik Krautability. And you gots to admit there’s nothing finer than a vocal line that entirely follows the moron guitarist’s melody.

Next off is that veteran of multiple psyche compilations, Crystal Chandelier’s venerable ‘Suicidal Flowers’. First appearing on 1978’s PEBBLES VOLUME 3, I still ain’t found the original and not for want of trying. As the sleevenotes say, this hamfisted take on the Lizard King is more Iron Butterfly than Doors, especially the (what) interplay between fuzz guitar and calliope organ. The vocals however be summat else again and will guarantee this song’s place on another 20 compilations at least – meanwhile those fucking intellectual rock crits will still be parping about how bad the Liz was. Unwell motherfuckers, listen here to his idiot bastard son and even in this decadent form you gots to admit Mr. Mojo Risin’s metaphor was never less than a catchy genre-creating beast.

EVERYWHERE CHAINSAW 2

EVERYWHERE CHAINSAW 2

Oh, so old Randolph is finally turning up on the compilations eh? Things is looking up! Yup, the Ur-Donar of the dark double axe Sir Randy Holden, late of Blue Cheer and POPULATION 2 is here to lock down the groove to a steady 17 mph, like some Victorian carpet installer, with glue and industrial-sized staples. How did he get this pedestrian? Well, legend tells us that the drummer played bass keyboard at the same time which virtually insisted upon the OAP rhythms of life. Dunno if I believe all that though, especially as Randy’s self-written whole side 2 of NEW IMPROVED BLUE CHEER was at least as sludgy, morose, unrelentingly Midland and Wodenish in its 6-feet-under Dead March salutations.

This album finishes with a priceless bit of radio advertising exhorting us to see the ur-kinder of bad Mr. Ignatious Popular and cohorts. Best part is that it’s all stated matter-of-factly by the kind of guy who woulda been turned off by the viciousness of the ‘Goodbye to Love’ guitar solo. Then it’s off into their pre-first LP “What Ya Gonna Do?”, which is a kind of Krautian MC5 without the guitar solos thing and immense in a remarkably un-remarkable way.


But hail, babies, this whole disc is all the purty music that the later Ig magnanimously invited us to ball to. All I can say is git down and get with it. Compilations rarely come better than those of the garage psyche variety and me, I’m garage psyched to be back in its turbulent saddle once more. So roll on GUITAR EXPLOSION 3, CHOCOLATE SOUP FOR DIABETICS 6, TEXAS FLASHBACKS 17, PEBBLES 23… I’ze there and I’ze doin’ the nasty!