Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Sonic's Rendezvous Band—
City Slang (stereo)/City Slang (mono)


Released 1978 on Orchide
The Seth Man, October 2000ce
There’s one thing about energy: it cannot be destroyed or created, only transferred. And it must have seemed for a few years in the late seventies when this band was alive and ever-kicking that the ‘Total Energy thing’ that once resided within The MC5 had come to roost in the carpet bombing qualities of Sonic’s Rendezvous Band. Together for less than three years, they released only ONE song during their all-too short and unsigned existence: “City Slang.” It’s been voiced that the outdated stereo/mono flipside organisation was Fred “Sonic” Smith’s promotional decision (even though another track, “Electrophonic Tonic” was already recorded for the B-side.) Luckily, Smith’s musical vision dwarfed his perplexing promotional ideas for this single holds some of the most explosive playing to emerge from Detroit, ever.

Ex-Up Gary Rasmussen’s bass and Scott “Rock Action” Asheton’s bass/drum clunk the intro, but when “Sonic” Smith and Scott Morgan’s rhythms jump in, the rest of the track pulsates into circuit-blowing powerdrive for the duration of the single. At several points the energy levels just seem to rise and rise as Smith’s choppy, blistery riffing over lyrics that still confound to this day. There’s an electric piano buried under the whole thing, which rises during a brief break, probably added to flesh out the proceedings. FLESH OUT?! What a laugh. There’s NOTHING to flesh out here -- It’s a full, sonic wall of sound and they’re tearing ass at full tilt into one of the highest of Detroit anthems ever. “Sonic” never seems to run out of those mountain climbing buzz-sawing riffs, and Rock Action’s drumming is a half-filled cereal box being shaken and miked through a Marshall Major cabinet into a near-seamless noise rhythm. Yeah, ‘seamless’ is a word that comes closest to defining the tight but loose action of Sonic’s Rendezvous Band. And Smith’s solo during the coda just builds and builds, ever spiraling, into a transcendental, fucking off across the sky in sheer abandonment of everything -- except energy. And energy in all its forms obviously found Fred “Sonic” Smith an attractive and utterly reliable conduit.

A record shop acquaintance recently told me he picked up the original Orchide single of this at a SRB show in the Midwest, and it was one of the best live shows he had ever witnessed. Except for the second time he saw them.

(This track is now available on the Mack Aborn Rhythmic Arts CD “City Slang”, as well as a 12” EP of the same title with two unreleased tracks. Do yourself a fayvuh and buy both or live in regret forevermore. These things don’t stay in print FOREVER, like they should, you know?)