Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Kim Fowley—
Born To Make You Cry/Thunder Road


Released 1967 on Original Sound
The Seth Man, April 2002ce
Kim Fowley was (and remains) an enigma, man of many unique talents, a man with no shame...and a wild man on the prowl. From the time of his earliest solo records, he took a stance located between novelties of unease and goofball nightmares with an almost supernatural instinct for only the best, the worst or the ugliest in pop music while giving it all a shove with both hands into the future.

In 1967, he hopped labels from Tower to Original Sound (a small Hollywood-based label best known for its releases by The Music Machine) where he recorded a ridiculous yet wonderfully perplexing single, “Fluffy Turkeys”/“Young America Saturday Night.” But once completing work on what was to be his second solo album (the modesty-named “The Incredible Kim Fowley”) Original Sound lost interest and it was subsequently shelved, remaining unreleased to this day. But if either of the two singles Fowley recorded for Original Sound were originally intended for the album, then it was probably “Born To Make You Cry” and its attendant B-side “Thunder Road” that made the label uncertain as to Kim’s commercial potential (not to mention mental health) as well as nervous enough to back off from releasing an entire album of similar material from the Los Angeles wunderkind and visionary.

Why? Because both sides of “Born To Make You Cry” / ”Thunder Road” were uncontrollably killer rant’n’roll and sounds like a bizarrely before its time union of Iggy and Tommy James & The Shondells. Maintaining that undeniable catchiness and backed by Mars Bonfire and members of Steppenwolf, Fowley unleashes an unorthodox vocal style which sighed, gurgled, screamed and shouted out punctuations while simultaneously directing and daring the band to follow his muse wherever it went: and that usually meant climbing the studio walls. “Born To Make You Cry” is a mid-tempo drum and cowbell whack-out over a grinding rhythm guitar and a clutch of simple organ chords as Kim’s vocal directives start the track, rapping, “Everybody: turn up your radios! Everybody: get ready! -- This is it!” and then straight into the main verse of: “I...I am of the sky...I...I can teach you how to fly...” with organ punctuation borrowed from the first Steppenwolf album. Fowley will then coo the ungentlemanly couplet:

“We / We are now as one... / Now / Now I have to run...”

Didja ever? He beats about as little around the bush as he cajoles the band during the breakdown to once more get ready...several times no less. And sputtering the whole time, almost in an effort to sabotage the group’s steady backing. But it doesn’t make them waver one iota for all his frenetic spittle flecking of microphone, studio glass and walls. But for all his inchoate squawking, he somehow manages to find the time to breathlessly comment on the organ’s slight “Gloria” vamp with “...‘Gloria’...well, here comes some more” and it’s just bass, drums and more of Kim’s expectorating into the microphone while continually baiting the band and trying to fluff their cue with the a series of halting, near slavering false starts the like of:

“Get ready for it...oh, uh...
Get ready now, everyone...
Here we go:
Ga!
Ga!
Get ready!
Owww -- Wroulll -- ouuulll...
...woof!”

As though swatting to tilt them off their tightrope until finally a cymbal gets hit. Whoa: Kim’s finally psyched them out, commenting “Ohhhhh...almost.” This makes it all plunge directly right back into the main refraining of his Stagger-leering without missing a beat. Woof, woof. The song builds up right in time to be faded out, and the drummer’s been resigned to incessant cowbell pitter-pattering to either dethrone or provide at least some sort of contrast to Bonfire’s impressively free and blistering lead guitar.

The flipside “Thunder Road” is equally as insane, with Kim even more guttural as he struggles relentlessly against the boundaries of the song, the band and his own mind. “Thunder Road” is more lyrically sparse than “Born To Make You Cry” and in fact: I think the title itself comprises about half of the sum total lyrics. The musical backing on is a stripped down gallop, except for the ‘chorus’ (if you can call it that) where they all bash and freak out as Kim does likewise vocally, hollering, snarling and spitting out the word ‘thunder’ in a variety of ways, like: “THUN-DAAAH! Thun...duuhh!!!! ...ooooo... Thunduh!!!... aarrgghh... plxxyngh!... Thundah, thundah, thundah...yeaugh!!!” as well as sneaking in some fairly impressive thunder imitations (“Ccchh-kkk!!!!”) as though standing out in the flat desert nighttime while hoisting a lightning rod in process of catching a passing, vengeful nimbostratus column as lightning rakes the sky and thunder rolls through his mind...

This single points to the direction Fowley would take to its cumulatively demented conclusion on his 1968 album, “Outrageous.”