Released 1972 on private press
Reviewed by achuma, 13/12/2006ce
Shot 262 (0:54)
Shot 275 (3:09)
I’m Coming (3:20)
Lucifer were a very obscure London group of the early 70’s who existed in a vacuum of mystery. They have nothing to do with the mediocre New York group called Lucifer, who existed at the same time and released at least one album, nor with the dark’n’wacky Mort Garson occult-themed Moog album released as ‘Lucifer – Black Mass’. This Lucifer were too uncommercial and uncompromising to be acceptable to any record companies, so they took it upon themselves (well, he took it upon himself – see below) to make their (his) own records and release them on their (his) own label in 1972 and 1973. So little was known about this mysterious band until recently that most of the information I was able to find had to be derived from advertisements in the English and American underground music press (thanks to http://www.polenta.dircon.co.uk/luci.html which has scans of these), and from the original vinyl records themselves (which I’ve never seen or touched, but have CD-R copies of). As the debut, ‘Big Gun’, has recently been reissued by Dynamic, accompanied by a little more background info, it seems as good a time as any to give a bit of an overview of what I’ve managed to find out about Lucifer, and to review my favourite of the two albums, ‘Exit’. But first the background.
Lucifer was actually one guy, Peter ‘Lucifer’ Walker, ex-member of the psych-pop group The Purple Gang, best known for their banned hit ‘Granny Takes A Trip’. Walker, a bit of an oddball, was into witchcraft and joined a coven in the late 60’s to further get into it. After floating around a bit, Walker resurfaced using only his nickname of Lucifer, and began to cultivate the myth of Lucifer as an actual underground band, as opposed to one guy living probably alone in a moldy attic somewhere with a tape recorder and stolen instruments. Promotional photos included in music paper ads and in the first LP never showed more than one guy at once, and facial features were obscured in all but one shot, but the pictures seemed intended to give the impression of at least two or more different band members.
Lucifer’s first release was the 1972 single ‘Fuck You’, self-described as “a love song – fuckrock”, which was offered for sale through mail order for 50p (plus postage and handling), including a free ‘Fuck You’ poster. This was advertised in Oz #41, with a photo of the lower half of a guy holding a guitar and with his jeans button open and one hand holding his crotch! An ad for the single in Oz #42 limited the offer to 10 copies per order, as “retailers are bootlegging at higher prices”. The singles were to raise money to enable Lucifer to do a full album.
An ad in the May 20 Record Mirror also offered their next single, ‘Prick’, as part of a 1 pound deal including the previous single and a poster. It had a photo of the back of a shirtless long haired guy standing in a field with legs spread and guitar strapped on, with a blurry evil-looking black dog up front looking into the camera. May 27 Melody Maker also advertised ‘Prick’ and featured a cropped version of the same photo.
An ad in the July 8 Record Mirror offered a 1 pound package of the two singles plus a third, ‘Don’t Care’, “in a triple mini-album”, plus two colour posters and a “1 pound token for Big Gun” (or a token and posters for free, with SAE), as a promo for their first album, ‘Big Gun’ [private press, 1972; cat. LLP 1]. The ad also had a photo showing a long-haired guy in silhouette standing with the sky behind him, hair blowing in the wind and Rickenbacker bass strapped on, looking very much like Roger Waters, except you can’t see any of the guy’s facial features. The tokens seemed to be a pretty stupid idea, and offered nothing to prospective fans except as a memento to keep. The tokens were little tickets to be sent in – with 1 pound – for a copy of the album, which you could buy anyway for the same price through the usual mail order ads. Maybe it was meant so people could reserve copies to ensure they didn’t miss out.
The July 29 NME featured another ad that read “On July 7th two middle-aged employees of Scotland Yard came and seized all our copies of F—K YOU. They are using them as EVIDENCE! We may be charged soon with OBSCENITY!” then “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”, backwards, followed by “Why don’t you fine us 2 pounds you stupid motherf—kers? We just committed BLASPHEMY”. The ad offered the album ‘Big Gun’ for 1 pound, and said that the next 1000 copies would be signed (is it likely there were more than 1000 pressed anyway? Or maybe he got a dirt cheap deal for pressing thousands of the things and then couldn’t move them?).
An ad in the October 14 Record Mirror offered free badges, which were white with a black upright trident symbol.
The December 9 NME featured a bold ad that read affrontingly “You will hear a lot of faggot slop this Christmas. Break it up with the sound of the Antichrist.” Now Lucifer was offering 13 free badges with each copy of ‘Big Gun’, one badge for each track on the album.
The second and last album, ‘Exit’ [cat. LLP 2], is usually listed as a 1972 release, but as there’s no mention of it in the Dec. 9 NME ad, it must have come out in the last part of December if that’s true. An ad for this album (not sure where from) reads “Rock-electronics by LUCIFER with sound-effects and dialogue from the soundtrack of the motor-cycle shock film EXIT”, and offered the album for the same price as before, with a different colour poster.
An ad in the March 17 NME (1973) offered copies of their new single ‘Mr. Jack’ for free until the end of the month, upon receipt of 10p for postage and handling. All three of these singles might now be more collectable than the albums, at a guess (the albums are pretty rare themselves), and none of them feature on either of the Lucifer albums (no b-side titles were mentioned in any of the ads I’ve seen).
After this, Lucifer more or less vanished without trace. I have no idea what happened to Walker beyond this point. Surely one of the most obscure and mysterious (one-man) bands ever to have entered the public eye!
Due to the name and image, Lucifer have grown a bit of a reputation as some kind of evil proto-metal outfit, although the music on their albums (I haven’t heard the singles) doesn’t really reflect this. It’s not nasty-sounding, it’s not heavy, it barely even rocks at all, and the lyrics aren’t ‘evil’ in content or delivery. The albums are, however, odd and definitely an underground affair, far, far away from the mainstream.
‘Big Gun’ came in a totally black sleeve, and for that alone some folks might put Lucifer in the ‘rock legends’ basket. I shouldn’t need to tell you why! The label of the record featured the Roger Waters-like pic mentioned above. It came with an insert sheet (which I haven’t seen myself, just read a description of) that had band photos – presumably the same pics used in the aforementioned ads (which I have seen) – and some typed notes – “Lucifer is English but we have this cave in Arizona where we record a lot of our stuff”. This sounds like some attempt at self-mythologising to me, as it seems unlikely from reading the advertisements that Lucifer could afford to fly back and forth between London and Arizona too often, let alone own land with a cave. However, stranger things have happened, and the albums do sound a little like they could have been recorded in a cave. Well, a dingy urban cave, anyway, is easier to imagine as fact.
By and large this album is pretty much lots of the same kind of thing. That is, shambolic and basic r&b structures played with an ineptness and otherness that is weird and intriguing rather than just bad. The instruments frequently play a bit out of time with each other, or at least the drums do, tuning is sometimes off, and the level of musicianship is rudimentary at best, and quite sparse and understated (1). There’s a subtle crude electronic treatment to some of the songs that adds a slightly strange air to the proceedings. It mostly sounds kinda like The Godz (the ESP label band, not the later biker hard rock band) trying to sound like The Deviants, or at least The Deviants at their scrappiest, and not really coming close. Despite the derision I seem to be heaping on this album, it’s actually kinda cool, though I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s great, or remarkable for any reason other than it’s outsider oddness. Some tracks have a strange charm that stands out, such as the suitably hypnotic ‘Hypnosis’, which nonetheless still has a very basic 12-bar blues structure like most tracks on the album. ‘Want It’ is another great hypnotic track that reminds me slightly of a bare-bones sub-version of German group Sand and their album ‘Golem’. Some tracks have no drums, and tend to sound a bit better for it, because whoever played the drums (must be Walker, I assume in the vacuum of evidence) seemed to be so stoned (or simply rhythmically incompetent) as to be suffering a serious time lag. Otherwise the instrumentation is bass, guitar, vocals and occasional harmonica and piano. One track though, ‘Winter’, is a spoken piece with no other instruments. (2)
And next came ‘Exit’, the eventual subject of this review. This was a much more interesting album to me than ‘Big Gun’, although some folks do seem to consider ‘Big Gun’ the better of the two for them. The musicianship seems to have slightly improved in the months between the two albums, and the music itself become more experimental. This one came in an all-yellow cover with the band name, album title and song titles written on in black marker.
I’m not sure what to make of the notes mentioned above regarding the motorcycle film ‘Exit’ – whether the album was used for the soundtrack, or if they covertly used sound samples from the film to make an album inspired by it in some way, or even if the film was ever made. Regardless, the music on the album doesn’t seem to bear any relation to what you’d expect to hear in a biker film, though there are some sounds of motorcycles being ridden around occasionally. Still, I guess Gong’s ‘Continental Circus’ soundtrack also isn’t really what you’d expect to hear in a motorcycle film, although, even not having seen that film, I gather it wasn’t a ‘biker’ film but a docufilm about a motorcycle race and the participants.
This album features some really long tracks (one, the opening ‘Burn’, is over 14 minutes), taking the basic r&b structures from the first album but stretching them out into minimal hypnotic explorations that are more focused in a quiet way. Drums are almost entirely absent (the last track, ‘Drums’, is just echoed and otherwise treated percussion, ending with motorcycle sounds) and there’s an added element of subtle synthesizer and primitive electronic treatments and sound effects (such as waves crashing against the shore) that turn it all into a kind of primitive psychedelic cosmic rock (though ‘rock’ isn’t really an appropriate term for this bare-bones, mellow exploration), even more reminiscent of the caveman Sand vibes hinted at on the track ‘Want It’ from ‘Big Gun’. Not as good or realised as Sand by any stretch, but pointing in the same direction. Sometimes it sounds like there’s just two basses playing around each other, along with the synth (or maybe it’s just an electric organ) and occasional subtle treated fuzz guitar (or maybe it’s synth that sounds like light fuzz guitar). Some of the album, such as the track ‘Exit’, are more purely electro-acoustic with echoed electronic treatments of natural sounds and experimental use of instruments, devoid of any conventional musical structure. The brief ‘Shot 262’, on the other hand, consists of what seems to be a treated recording of someone pissing into a urinal! ‘Shot 275’ is just a strange scripted 2-way conversation between a murderer and another guy, the kind of thing that might have been chopped up with weirdness on an early Ron Geesin album. Other than that, it’s long, meditative stretches of bass guitar with washes of sound effects and electronics. There’s little point in trying to describe the album further than that, at the risk of dissecting it to the point of death. If you can find a copy, just get yourself in a contemplative mood and get washed away within the dusty grooves, and I think you’ll see what I mean. This is minimal talent alchemized into an unusual minimalist psychedelic proto-ambient gem, albeit a bit of a crusty one!
1. Walker doesn’t seem to have been much of a musician, in the sense of playing any instruments, having previously been only the singer and kazoo player with The Purple Gang.
2. Rock writer Martin Popoff, in his 2003 book ‘The Collector’s Guide To Heavy Metal Volume 1: The Seventies’ [Collector’s Guide Publishing Inc., Ontario, Canada], reviewed this album –
“This is quite possibly the coolest metal collectable I’ve ever encountered, and it ain’t exactly for the music, but the whole Spinal Tapped presentation to the thing. Remember, the year’s ’72 (that’s important), and metal is still just breaking. Well, Lucifer are twenty years ahead of their time, doing Black Sabbath’s first album unplugged... a bit of Butler’s bass here and there, mad hippie vocals, some fledgling synth skronks, and a percussive display that crosses mellow Santana with beat bongos. The record cover? Completely black both sides, just like Spinal Tap’s Smell The Glove. But the boys throw in a sheet with awesome metal photos (the drummer looks just like Dave Wyndorf), with the bass player shown backdropped against a stormy sky, hair blowin’ free, machine heads glowing with fright (this stellar shot is also used as the record’s centrepiece). Brief typed missive sez, “Lucifer is English but we have this cave in Arizona where we record a lot of our stuff.” Which about sums up this unique toss-off: Kyuss, on mushrooms, in a cave, with a bass and not much else.”
I disagree with Popoff on many points here, not least of which is his awarding the album 4 out of 10 on his ‘heaviness scale’. This record is barely a 1, going by the manner in which he uses this rating scale in reference to other albums in the book. It’s not heavy metal or even hard rock, even in a late 60’s/early 70’s sense, barely even rock at all in fact, and there’s not really a guitar chord in sight. Distortion is limited to occasional weedy fuzz guitar ‘leads’. The bass playing is miles from Geezer Butler and not similar to his style (the comparison is an insult to Butler, the way I see it), the music sounds nothing like the first Black Sabbath album, even ‘unplugged’, and nor is there any resemblance to Kyuss or Santana that I can hear. No insult intended towards Popoff, who’s entitled to voice his opinion, but he sure can have a weird and inconsistent way of judging things that I just don’t get sometimes. Regardless, it was because of this review that I became aware of this band and sought out the music, even if it led me to expect something fairly different and more musically skilled and inspired than what the album actually delivered.