Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Can—
Turtles Have Short Legs/Halleluwah


Released 1971 on Liberty
The Seth Man, October 2001ce
This was Can’s third single, issued at the time of release of their colossal double LP, “Tago Mago.” Its A-side, “Turtles Have Short Legs” was unavailable on album until it appeared years later on the “Cannibalism 2” compilation. It’s unlike any Damo-era Can piece ever, appropriating an absurd Teutonic toy town piano phrase that winds up subverting it in waves into a slow, untrammeled monster. There are no lyrics although Damo IS singing -- but even then the most discernable lines are easily misheard. And those that aren’t are vamped ridiculously by Damo into exaggerated Japanese-accented English, transposing his ‘L’s and ‘R’s as though to put on his detractors, A return lyric comes on like a punch line, as repeats of (I think) “Oh, we can pile it on!” ensue over the buoyantly together group bash out/playtime vibe. But for all its joviality, this confounding track manages to gradually turn over in its sleep into a dense thicket of instruments galloping at a loping pace. All other instruments fall away at two separate clearings with only Damo and the drums to continue alone unfettered only to wind up as a succession of drum rolls and barking vocal pronouncements. Once back into the full ensemble fray, Holger Czukay starts pumping up with his space-filled Jaguar bass lines, and Damo throws in a line about “a cigalette (sic)/Not for the toking.” The guitar-dominated coda, sees Michael Karoli playing around the edges of all the unpeeled paint upon the walls of Schloss Norvenich with extra sensory mojo and feeling at top volume as circling drums just continue pressing onward and upwards; drummer Jaki Liebezeit soon hitting his cymbals not with sticks but carefully aimed and stamina-directed tree trunks, beating the piece to rest.

From the “Tago Mago” album comes the B-side, “Halleluwah.” A heavily truncated excerpt of an already exquisitely edited and performed prehistoric, grooved sex-out, it featuring Liebezeit’s non-changing pace of drumming effortlessness is completely locked into Czukay’s Jaguar bass which provide a broad and free canvas for Karoli to break in with partially erased pencil strokes rendered with trebly and filigree explorations as Irmin Schmidt is content to submit small clusters of Farfisa chopping at will. Can muster a steady, rocking groove on “Halleluwah” that gathers a strength and momentum from its propulsive drive with endurance for any length of time. But it was necessary to whittle the original “Halleluwah” down from its original 18:32 minute length to fit the mastering constraints of a 45rpm single, so from the hands of Can bassist and sound editor Holger Czukay came a re-creation of the cleansing experience of the original, full-length track’s sexually epic qualities by drawing together separate excerpts and then reassembling it seamlessly out of order. And as a final touch, it was fashioned to run at exactly the same length of time as “Turtles” on side A: 3 minutes and 30 seconds.