Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

The Buzz—
You're Holding Me Down/I've Gotta Buzz


Released 1966 on Columbia
The Seth Man, December 2006ce
Cropping up on garage/beat compilations since it first saw light on “Searching In The Wilderness” and subsequently “Best of the Rubble Collection 2,” “The Rubble Collection 7,” “Joe Meek RGM Rarities #2” and “Joe Meek; The Alchemist of Pop,” this eternally classic slab of ’66 UK dementia by the aptly-named Buzz has recently reappeared yet again: as a limited-release reissue 45 and on the collection “Joe Meek Freak Beat: You’re Holding Me Down” taking place of pride as both subtitle and opening track of said comp. After secretly existing for years as one of the very best works produced by Joe Meek ever, it’s good to see “You’re Holding Me Down” gaining recognition with each passing year for it is one of not only one of Meek’s most out-there productions, but it is one of the most aggressive pre-punk British singles from the mid-sixties.

From the liners of “Joe Meek Freak Beat” I discovered the names of two band members Tam White (vocals) and Johnny Turnball (one of the guitarists) along with the fact The Buzz hailed from Edinburgh and traveled south to London to record their second single, “You’re Holding Me Down” / “I've Gotta Buzz.” The compilation also includes the Meek-composed flipside, and although not one-twentieth as impressive as its title and causing vast indifference the one and only time I played it, it matters not: for the A-side I’ve played hundreds of times over the past two decades and it more than makes up for the dearth of action on the B-side.

For the entire 3:05 duration of “You’re Holding Me Down” the vocals and guitar tracks are bathed in excessive echo to emboss them with unusual depth, setting them apart from the immediate surroundings of the rhythm section. It’s more than just embossed, it’s the title lettering for the film poster of “Ben-Hur” where they stand hundreds of miles tall as though hewn out from an entire desert mountain in deep relief to make it seem like The Buzz were the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse armed with beat instruments while representing archetypal garage punk attitudes towards women, which were always extreme: idealised virgin attraction, she-devil fright, whore-loathing anger and low-self-esteem frustration at said female’s unresponsiveness to any and all sexual advances. The protagonist never winds up getting laid and ALWAYS winds up getting lied to and in rarer and more merciful instances, the girl just gets dumped and zitfarm vocalist brags how one day he’s gonna be on top and one-day-you-gonna-get-yours-oh-baby-yeah... Yeah, right.

But with the case of The Buzz, even though said feminine object of desire gets cut loose for lying and holding them down, they sure seemed more than moved enough by the encounter that they depth charge the song at the end with an extended rave-up of the utmost psychosis as a 57 megaton device in the form of Joe Meek echo and compression is dropped on top of it all. Their level of energy aids Meek’s technique to make everything sound even more fucked up than it would be, anyway as the echoed treatments keeps the ‘now’ of the recording staggered into several shockwaving lengths of... N O W.

The full ending of this song I was previously unacquainted with, even though it’s been decades since I first encountered it on the excellent “Searching In the Wilderness” compilation of trans-world/British punk from the sixties. Always thought that the fade-out was the way the original release ended and never had a reason to think otherwise. But it wasn’t so, as revealed several years ago on a limited edition CD reissue of “Rubble” Vol. whatever that surfaced, holding a version with the fade out pushed forward a few seconds later. That was reason enough to freak, but on “Joe Meek Freak Beat” it’s even longer: by 14 whole seconds. Which may seem like no big deal, but it is if you’re talking about “You’re Holding Me Down” by The Buzz. It’s fucked up, fierce, flat out fried and several other adjectives that begin with an ‘F.’ It’s perfect in every way. The vocals are great and billow in bursts of echo in the chorus as stentorian Townshend-like guitar windmills blast in accent over the main verses while the traps rap out a distant dint with the bass. What was once first sung all achingly fucklorn now gradually winds up going medieval all over everyone’s ass as vocalist Tam White loses it completely over a squall of twin guitar echoes screaming at top speed with neck-veins-a-poppin’ all out of his mind and in your face. Half of it isn’t so much words as deep hurt plus regret plus being anguished beyond both tears and hatred and into a near-wordless vocal incantation to fuck-off-forever-I-never-loved-you-anyway-ya-lying-clingy-bitch-blah-blah-blah over and over and over into a frothing vortex where vocals, the backing chorus “Go back!/Go back!”, the electronic signals of the guitars and the drums all have unraveled and swirl together into a single pulse that contracts and expands restlessly with each twitch of the dials at the Meek controls. He’s seeing her face when she told him a lie, then red, then ultraviolet AND the point where they join in electromagnetic space as it howls off into oblivion.