Julian Cope’s Album of the Month

Lord Buckley - In Concert

Lord Buckley
In Concert

AOTM #41, October 2003ce
Released 1958 on Fontana Records
Side One
  1. Supermarket (3.36)
  2. Horse’s Mouth (1.00)
  3. Black Cross (4.05)
  4. The Naz (10.10)
Side Two
  1. My Own Railroad (4.48)
  2. Willie the Shake (2.56)
  3. God’s Own Drunk (6.34)

Note: I once saw a Sly Stone documentary in which the Family Stone’s trumpeter Cynthia Robinson did Sly’s mid-60s DJ patter for the camera. It was entirely copped (word-for-word) from the opening lines of ‘The Naz’ sketch from this Lord Buckley LP. Years later, indeed just one week ago, I put this LP on for the first time in a coupla years and was shocked at the sheer enormity of its lucid dreaming psychobabbling amphetominging influence on me too. Dammit, it was like listening to myself speak. This was fundamental shit on the same level as the Five, John the Sinclair, the 13th Floor Elevators and the Stooges… at least. I’d always presumed I’d copped the whole Greedheads schtick from Sinclair’s scene, but – hey Sinclair and Tyner wozz all jazzers before they wozz beats and I’d known this Lord Buckley LP at least eight years afore I knew Sinclair’s texts. And Richard Bock AKA Lord Buckley had been spouting this stuff in the jazz clubs of Chicago since before WW2! Hail yeah, this was the shit and the heads had to know! Dammit, I’d even sampled Lord Buckley for my RADIO SIT-IN release and know sucker nude it… Know? No! And if mebbee some o’them did already knew’d, then they had to be Re-Knew’d! Yup, it’s Payback Time! We gots to honour thee ancestors!

M'luds, M'ladies, Beloveds...

M'luds, M'ladies, Beloveds...

We Gotta Knock Out the Greedheads

There are only two things I’ve ever stolen at a truly Revolutionary level, that is: on a mystical higher consciousness level in which I knew (on a specifically gnostic level) that my ownership of said colossal artefact/great spiritually endowed document would in the Long Term turn the world off its kilter however imperceptibly at first (ie: first 10 years of my being its keeper). One was John Sinclair’s dementedly essential Guitar Army and the other was this record. It was 1981 and I was a drug-addled popstar stalking London’s underground record stores. I hit one shop just as some Beefheartian voice came screaming out over their sound system:

“But first, we gotta knock out the Greedheads!”

For the next forty minutes, this howling priest, this blathering stuttering Loki, this African shaman, this Cheyenne medicine man, this stentorian bicameral British Raj colonel-cum-Vachel Lindsay in full flight proceeded to mewl and sing, rail and wail, coo and sigh, pelt and belt out a helter skelter rant after tumultuous damning rant about the rotten politicians, city planners, the first supermarkets and their low low prices, and how – by loading up your stuff on a shopping trolley and schlepping it around the place, you were working for them… the Greedheads… This was 1958 and the prices of groceries were going up and up and by pushing the “Mother cart”, yooz working for them. You’ll even take shopping carts and pushin’em into other carts, noted M’Lud Buckley. Man, I laughed and I cried, and sat goggle-eyed in the corner of this tiny record store and wondered what the fuck! (Never pushed another shopping cart back to the entrance way again, I can tell y’all). What had we lost? If this druid was telling us it’s bad in the late ‘50s, what’s the real deal here in early ’81? (22 years on brother and sisters, what then is the real Kim Deal on the 21st century Ronald McTimberlake?)

And all this immaculate conception that Lord Buckley was trotting out here in the record store veered wildly from pedantic Disneyeque Toad of Toad Hall to Delta wailer on the edge of time, a John Lee Hooker-isn’t-a-Looper that up-ended all my love of Beefheart in one fell swoop from this one time airing. Fast and Bulbous? Got me? Not anymore, cap’n. For Beefheart had entirely copped note for note every bit of Lord Buckley’s very own speshul hip-patwah! I was now foaming & drooling in some Soho diskery giving Noddy and Big Ears to a 1950s LP recorded over seven years before Don Van Vliet’s first record. Indeed, I never listened to the Beef after 1981 for this very reason.

You think I was without compassion?
Will you check this sucker out before you judge me?
Lend your ears to the rolling as-it’s-a-happening ‘God’s Own Drunk’ and tell me it ain’t ‘Orange Claw Hammer’ without the bogus field-recording interference hiding the edits.

Fer shoor I believe you can cop somebody’s riff over and over but note-fer-note just don’t make it with me. Take ‘Satisfaction’ and sing other words over it, great. It’s generic rock’n’roll and it should be public domain. But however much I loved the Five, I hated them nicking the Troggs’ “I Want You” AND crediting it to themselves. Rip it off, babies, cop the lick in its entirety, but declare its provenance when the press comes a-knocking! That undeclared shit is for the Led Zeps of this world. So you think I was happy to hear some voice unknown declaring in Beefheartian tones how:
“God’s lantern was a-hangin’ in the sky.”

Anyway, here I am sitting on the Soho sofa and my being a fucking popstar is clearly winding up the proprietor of this shop no end. He was doing all he could to ignore me, but being on drugs I was dancing around like I’d found the Grail (which I had). And I needed this LP like no other, but being managed by Bill Drummond I had no money, natch. Finally, me and the counter guy started eye-balling and in an instant he knew I was some remarkably hip aristocrat with one long term EYE on the world. Take it, brother, says he – take the motherlode and spread its Gospel. Pay me back when next you hit the Soho swamps. Don’t hold your breath, mutters this punk into me booties and Lord Lucan’d it down the street.

Drinking of the good juice!

Drinking of the good juice!

U Dug Him Before... Re-Dig Him Now!

So why am I telling you all this?     Padding!

You cain’t review this Lord Buckley LP without telling his patter. And seeing his patter on paper is unlovely because the jungle fires of his rhythm and the cut of his jib and the slip of his tongue as the air leaves the lung remains unreachable outside the hearing of it. Of course, I may just be a sack-o-cack writer but that’s my alibi and I’m shielded behind it. Hail babies – I just can’t REACH IT!!!

How do you review a ‘50s guy who defines cool as having ‘the sweet fragrance of serenity’, or who refers to Jesus as The Nazz and calls him a ‘carpenter kiddie’ who heals ‘a little cat with a bent frame’. How d’you tell your potential audience on the first run through this LP they’z gonna miss half the jokes in a furious flurry, an onslaughter of slanguage, but hang in there whatever, brothers and sisters cause it’s a priceless commodity forged in the heads of the backwards-facing ‘goodbye’ witchdoctors of the American (astral) Plains; a Zoroastrian anti-chariot rant by a pedestrianised priest of the pastoralists; a barking Odin v. Loki I-known-U-are-but-what-am-I tellathon in the mead halls of Valhalla and re-constituted in the Chicago jazz club hinterlands in a wooden structured Odineque temporary watering hole… How d’you paraphrase a piece like ‘Willie the Shake’ that takes Shakespeare and changes famous quotes to such as:
“The bad jazz that a cat blows wails long after he’s cut out.”

You don’t, babies. You gots to listen to his schtick and that’s why we gots the Album of the Month facility. When it comes to Brother Bock1, all I can do is be the Dude who brings the Doodoo. This record is even more superb because of the strange jazz instrumentation that supports his derailed stream-of-consciousness muse, as piano, trumpets, drums and even a female Gospel singer orchestrate the proceedings. That’s because Buckley had been a child of the ‘20s; a comedian born of the Chicago ganglands.

The Best of Lord Buckley

The Best of Lord Buckley

Indeed, he’s been described by friends as ‘a combination of Salvador Dali, a madman, a dandy and a real lord’. Part Indian and born in Stockton, California, in 1906, Buckley had an enormous ability to take all of his influences wide ranging as they were and subsume them into a multiple You’re Never Alone With A Schizophrenic character that leapt from class-to-class (hell from race-to-race) mid-sentence and woulda been pretty adroit at changing species if the point could thus be better made. Historically, Buckley was at the end of his career with this LP and would live only two years after its release, dying in 1960 at the age of 54. When he croaked, his obituary read:
"Sir Richard Buckley-Lord of Flip Manor, Royal Holiness of the Far Out, and Prophet of the Hip-has gone to his reward. It probably won't be as swinging as his life, but Valhalla will have a hard time keeping him down. It is terribly difficult for anyone who really knew Richard Buckley to think of him as dead. It is more like he has been on an extended engagement in Reno and can't get back to town.”

Amen. And when you listen to this LP and look for a context in which to see him, remember too that the early ‘60s magazines wrote of Lord Buckley that his “presence is felt strongly in the Mort Sahls and Lenny Bruces of today. The "blast 'em and insult 'em" school of comedians popular today was actually started by Buckley when, back in the twenties, he became the pet of one of the big Chicago gangsters, who set him up in a nightclub because he liked the way [Lord Buckley] put on the suckers. Of course, [Buckley] had the protection of this gangland element during that period, and possibly he never got over it. He carried a bit of it with him always. He never really expected retribution to come or be paid. [Lord Buckley] always figured he would get away with it, and he usually did. It seemed predestined that Dick could never really become successful during his lifetime. He used up all his luck just staying alive.”

There’s unsung and there’s UNSUNG, babies. I really feel we got one of the latter here.

  1. Consulting the Goddess Sophia on the Etymosphy of Richard Bock/Lord Buckley, his aberrant muse is clearly motivated by his ur-provenance as the ancient buca, or brownie, that sparrying spirit that gleefully undermines authority. We see it also in the character of Shakespeare’s Puck, and in the crazy W. Country spirit of Bugley of Cley Hill, both of whom derive from the same root as the bogeyman, the ‘boggart’, the Scottish ‘buckie’, the Welsh ‘bwci’; all interfering underworld supernaturals with a naughty little bugger’s mission to undermine. This is Lord Buckley Inner Nutshell. Note should also be made of the Bock as the Germanic Buck, or horned stag, the demonising of the horned God being the reason that bugger has come to have two entirely polarised meanings: one as the aforementioned naughty little bugger and the other as horny anal rapist fuck-up.