Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Julian Cope’s Album of the Month

Mirrors

Mirrors


AOTM #38, July 2003ce
Released 1982 on Underground Records
Recorded in 1974-5, and released in 1982 on Underground Records.

Side One
  1. How Could I? (2.44)
  2. All My Life (3.50)
  3. She Smiled Wild (4.03)
  4. Inside of Here (3.04)
  5. Fog-Shrouded Mist (4.41)
Side Two
  1. Shirley (4.37)
  2. Cindy and Cathy (1.32)
  3. I’ve Been Down (4.12)
  4. Hands in My Pockets (2.14)
  5. Violent Shadows (5.17)

Note: Preparing the Monoshock article late last year, I was fascinated to see they’d done a version of the Mirrors’ song “Everything Near Me” for the other side of their REMAKE-REMODEL-in-a-sandstorm “Model Citizen” 45. As a huge early Pere Ubu devotee, I’d dutifully got hold of the other Hearthen Records releases and especially loved The Girls’ Ubu-esque “Jeffrey I Hear You”/”The Elephant Man” 45. However, the Mirrors’ sole Hearthen 45 didn’t touch me one jot and I didn’t even keep a hold of it. Too much Velvets retro at a time when everything great seemed entirely new? Mebbee. But hearing Monoshock’s cover made me pull out this unofficial French LP I’d picked up back in 1982 and it shocked me how excellent the whole thing was. Since then, I’ve been playing it continuously and it’s just got better and better.


Klimek, Marotta & Crook

What’s up with that?

Jamie Klimek had great long hair, strummed a deep green Gretsch Tennessean guitar, wrote obvious melodic rock’n’roll songs like Lou Reed and had a surname like ‘climax’. Now how rock is that? Klimek once wrote that when “we saw the Velvets at LaCave. I saw God … and realizing that I needed only 2/3 of my vast musical knowledge to play ‘Heroin’, we were off … I studied the V.U. Sub-Moronic Easy Guitar Book… From the start, we rehearsed originals along with Velvets covers… aside from loving them, we did the Velvets because they were easy.”

Good start, innit? Sounds like the beginning of a classic rock autobiog. I know they did “I Can’t Stand It” and “Some Kinda Love”, as well as sub-Velvets stuff such as Eno’s “Baby’s on Fire” and his “Here Come the Warm Jets” instrumental. Fucking ay. So how come Jamie Klimek isn’t name-dropped alongside the rest of the 70s anti-prog clowns and refuseniks that wouldn’t take Yes for an answer? Unfortunately, I CAN tell you why. It’s because he came out the mid-70s Cleveland scene alongside Electric Eels and Rocket from the Tombs, and we all know what happened to them, don’t we kiddies. Ignored, ignored, no contemporary commercial releases, so forgotten, forgotten, re-assessed, then forgotten again, until the Int’net comes along and finally allows the cybergeeks and megaraks to have their say. Unfortunately, since what they’z saying ain’t worthy of hawking into a spittoon, yooz stuck with little old eye1 to seal the deal! So here goes:

She’s Not There

In the post-Tin Pan Alley/pre-Prog days of 1960s rock’n’roll, Jamie Klimek’s singular use of Lou Reed songs as vehicular access to his own sweet muse was a fairly acceptable method. Hell, you spend all day learning somebody else’s chord sequence, it seems kinda Commie to keep their words and give ‘em full song credit, when you could just change the lyrics (which probably din’t mean shit in any case) and bask in the reflected glory of the great man yooz ripping. I mean who wants to be known for doing Dylan covers when you could just change the words and become legendary for writing songs that are Dylanesque!

Besides, in those bad old days, it used to be that certain of the more eclectic pop groups had such a wide range of styles that once in a while a song might be released that the public definitely needed more of. But the originators were just so totally ON ONE it surely weren’t gonna be them who provided it – wasn’t “Satisfaction”’s most vocal detractor Keef himself? So a song such as The Jaynettes’ “Sally Go Round the Roses” was probably dismissed by its own creators as just one of 10,000 girl songs, and needed genii such as Lou Reed and Andy Warhol to pick up the sheer meditational profundity of its twilight ‘tweentime structures, and subsume its mysterious genius into their own work. Same thing happened with The Zombies’ 1964 epic “She’s Not There”, which the band themselves never even came close to re-visiting but whose bass parts, drum parts, keyboard stylings and minor key melodrama was lifted with extraordinary vision and percipient thoroughness by the Doors for a magnificent (and genuinely exploratory) six album career of sub-Nietzschean post-Jungian pub-banter. As late as 1970, even a comparative neo-veteran like David Bowie could take the unique(!) pseudo-Caribbean stylings of Ray Davies’ “Apeman” and “Lola” and weld entire concept albums to that singular 12-string guitar thrum and Welsh-Pakistani ur-whine. If that ain’t true genius, then clue me dudes.

Which, of course, brings us back to that Master of Appropriation Lou Reed. He couldn’t sing so he intoned like Bobby Dylan, when he needed a song title, he nicked a bunch of standards and “What Goes On” off the Beatles. He nicked the beginning of the Stones’ “Hitchhike” for “There She Goes Again” and The Vagrants’ heavy version of “Respect” for “Waiting for the Man”, and when Jagger moved into that BEGGARS’ BANQUET vocal territory Lou couldn’t rip, he just got Doug Yule in to do it for him. In that synthesis lies the genius of originality – no matter how many years of intellectual hindsight, tell me who else coulda put that little package together. No-fucking-one! Give Lou Reed the chords and the melody and the hookline and STILL he made songs that we could never anticipate.


Ain’t Hung Up on Originality

And so we come to Jamie Klimek and the brief story of the Mirrors. There’s no point in even discussing originality here, for that was hardly Klimek’s cause. He wasn’t trying to break down the boundaries of rock’n’roll, more accepting the artistic restrictions set up by The Velvet Underground and working within those limits.2 Hell, this guy even refused to allow the Electric Eels’ leader John Morton in the band as bass player because “he had a mind of his own and I wanted to nip that sort of thing in the bud.”

WRUR Cleveland Radio Broadcast


So I’m certainly not damning Klimek with faint praise when I say he walked the Path of the Velvets. Wouldst that others could have accepted such ‘divine’ restrictions and followed blessed elders such as the Lou (and I know at times I’ve been as guilty of stepping off the divine map as the next geek, so include me in all that aforementioned damning). It’s just like that TS Eliot thing he wrote in his essay THE METAPHYSICAL POETS, and I know I come back to it again and again, but its genius is essential to understand the rock’n’roll. He said that, unlike ancient cultures, we have a tendency to judge our poets and artists most positively by how DIFFERENT they appear from everybody else who has gone before, whereas culture used to appreciate the grand tradition and, therefore, happily accepted the metaphor of an artist clearly following in another’s footsteps. So dig the Mirrors BECAUSE they’z like the Velvets rather than in spite of that fact, and you’ll instantly enjoy this record 100% more.

MIRRORS opens with “How Could I?” - a “Who Loves the Sun?” with 3rd Velvets album stylings and backing vocals, Doug Yule bass, Mo drumming, that spindly/melodic electric geetar and an “I’ll be your Mirror” gentility. Yet, for all this, the real strength is in Klimek’s disarming vocals, which ain’t like Lou at all and seem wholly original. At the end, the song speeds up into double time at the end just like any self-respecting Velvets cats should only much more believably. Straight away, we must accept the Mirrors’ Velvets metaphor or the band withers before your eyes. Accept the metaphor and Jamie Klimek’s muse can ride right on top of the whole thing, because this ain’t lyrically caught in Lou’s thrall one iota. Klimek’s his own man and he’s spoken to by the Goddess, the great female, in a manner that the cynical sometime pseudo-homo Lou could never have approached. Indeed, from that angle Klimek’s as much of an anti-Lou and Jonathan Richman’s “I’m Straight” persona was. Klimek’s songs are all girl songs, be they about dead Shirley, star-fucking wannabes Cindy, Cathy, Bobbie and Jackie, or impenetrable female mists both Classical and barbarian.

“All My Life” is the best song on the album. It’s a deeply moving mid-afternoon looking out the window just-my-imagination love song about a muse who is ‘always’ and ‘never’ here. It’s “The Ocean” but it ain’t. It’s side one of the 3rd velvets’ LP but it ain’t, because it’s far more emotional. Klimek is Dylan as seen through broken Ray Davies shades, while drummer Michael Weldon smashes cymbals to death in a Mo Tucker frenzy and with a confidence only the non-player could summon up.

Looking back, I was a schmuck for not getting the metaphor of “She Smiled Wild”, because it’s deadly genius is just the sound I was listening to at the time. This time it’s Robby Kreiger’s Dylan “Running Blue” voice over any-Velvets (hell, this riff is the Summum Bonum, the fucking Everyvelvets!). The sky rains dying seagull guitars and the Kelts run for cover, as Klimek repeats one single phrase over and fucking over again.

Clearly, the Mirrors were as much forged on the FOGGY NOTION 7” bootleg as any other Velvets record. But then again, so was half of the 1977 punk scene. With the accessibility of music via Napster and gemm.com, it’s difficult for all you young’uns to understand how mysterious unreleased and bootlegged material was back then. My mate Cott reel-to-reel’d the first Roxy Peel session and made us cool cats on the block with our high kwoll 30” per second knowledge of such vital stuff. Bowie’s version of “Waiting for the Man” was a Peel sesh only available on an orange Sign of the Pig bootleg, and if you hadn’t heard it you had to make believe you had. That 7” of “Foggy Notion” was so legendary I even bought The Count’s I’M A STAR LP for the cover version therein because anyone who did that song was making a statement of deadly intentions.

“Inside of Here” is that high camp Caribbean-esque 1970 Ray Davies as done by 1971 Hunky Dory Bowie that I was talking about earlier. I reckon this is the ultimate autobiographical song because Klimek remained entirely on the outside of the music industry and woulda be a great star had he been given the chance. However, this chance was never to be offered. I feel intense compassion for the guy, especially for the hiccuping smile with which he sings:
“They eating each other when they want a snack,
Yeah, two steps forward and one step back.”

The long-dangly-earring wearing Paul Marotta changes from piano to organ on the coda and it’s magnificent. It’s said that Paul Marotta was given heavy shit for bringing keyboards in to the Cleveland scene, but he was one sensitive arranger and player that later moved into the Electric Eels and formed the ultra-abrasive Styrenes as guitarist, so his multiple-sensibilities clearly informed much of the Mirrors sound.

Side One closed with the harmonium and wayward belltone blues guitar of “Fog Shrouded Mist”, a total total 3rd Velvets LP “Murder Mystery” meets Nico’s “It Was A Pleasure Then”. Its success is in its creators’ utter love and devotion to their heroes. Again, we especially need this music so late on in the Velvets’ eulogy, not only because most so-called Velvets-influenced bands are so one-dimensional (they’re basically linear), but also because the originals have been around again and undermined their legend by replaying in arenas what was once the moment but which has now been set in cement. And, for me at least, here at the end of side one is enough of a new “Murder Mystery” to be a whole new genre in the making:
“And darkness and darkness and death and confusion…
And darkness and light and light and confusion.”

Certainly, if schmorks like Joe Perry and Stephen Tyler can get away with such obviousness as a Jagger/Richards carbon copy thing for twenty-five years, it would be churlish not to accept these guys extremely stylish metaphor.

Side Two opens with the beautiful Hearthen 45 I so squalidly rejected all those years ago.
Mostly, “Shirley” is the Velvets’ “Rock’n’Roll” with Shel Talmy death-trip lyrics, which are (in any case) half of Lou’s Berlin trip mixed into an insubstantial Reedian middle-8 about ‘curiosity killed the cat’ that still jar-r-rs my senses. However, the guitar theme is devastatingly pretty and during the 80s I’d kill to have written it. Furthermore, the coda is pure Shangri-las, with dying caterwauling seagull guitars, grand piano, big washes of drone organ, with Klimek over and over telling “Shirley I love her, and I miss her so.” Then we’re off into one minute and thirty-two of uproarious wailing scene squabble with “Cindy and Cathy”. The repeated call-and-answer chorus of “Love me… Fuck you!” is quiet genius and very funny.
“Cindy and Cathy and Bobbie and Jackie, they all wanna get here fast…
Tweddly Dee and Tweedly Dum. Dee dum dee dumb dumb dumb!”

“I’ve Been Down” is a 1975 take on the Velvets’ the LIVE 1969 album meets LIVE AT MAX’S KANSAS CITY. You can even imagine Klimek being happy to hear talking and glasses clinking because it puts him in mind of his own heroes’ live albums. Paul Marotta does some synth stuff that sound like a heraldic French horn that really sets you shivering. Again, a superbly obvious traditional-cum-novelty chord sequence prepares you for Jim Crook’s fucking devastating guitar break. He shits such a big load on anything this side of Lou, you feel churlish even mentioning the influence. Now, how many times does that happen? And the Crook knows JUST what notes to play – this guy is so clearly also a songwriter himself first and a guitarist second. I mean, no fucking guitarists are normally sensitive enough to allude to the song melody in a solo, they mostly ride roughshod over it like they ain’t never heard the thing before. But this guy is confident just like Mick Ronson was.

“Hands in my Pockets” is the Mirrors’ version of “Looks Like I’m Falling in Love”, which weren’t even (officially) released when they did their version and wouldn’t be for about a decade. As a statement of hipness, as I commented before, you can never beat covering unreleased songs by legends. Strange thing is it sounds more like the Primitives or Beach Nuts than the Velvets themselves, and really makes me wanna hear Mirrors’ versions of other Velvets stuff.

The album closer is called “Violent Shadows” and is so deadly that I want (NEEEED!) a whole album of this. So somebody take just this song and make a whole band around it, please. It’s Donovan being Nick Drake singing “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” down a storm drain, as recorded as an out take for the more outre moments on Nico’s CHELSEA GIRL. Got me? Its beauty is utterly devastating in a weird Kalakackra manner and reminds the entire world that nothing is ever a rip off. Five minutes long and it shoulda been 15! It’s the end of a deeply cool album and makes me wanna search through gemm.com and buy up all the copies I can find.


End of the Road

Jamie Klimek once wrote about how, in late summer 1975, the Mirrors played: “Extermination Night. The big show. Three bands. Seventy-five cents. Mirrors, Rocket From The Tombs and The Electric Eels. Paul Marotta was playing in both Mirrors and the Eels… We did our usual excruciatingly loud set, Rockets did their comedy routine and cut holes in each other's clothes, and the Eels (gas-powered lawn mowers, chain saws, meat cleavers, blow torches) exterminated one and all. That's entertainment.“

It’s tragic to think how unsung every one of those bands would remain until decades after their demise. Of course, tapes were passed around and I’ve still got all the handmades people sent me – even think of them as the ‘real’ album covers nowadays. When I asked two of the Monoshock guys what had prompted them to cover a Mirrors tune, it was the exactly same thing. Grady Runyan wrote:

“I remember the big Mirrors thing being a live in '75 cassette. To this day I
don't think that stuff has come out properly or even been booted. ‘Everything Near Me’ wuz on there, and I think it was Scott/bass who suggested we learn it. For some reason I ended up the singer and not knowing the words I had to make 'em up. The tape as a whole is very good, some would say in league with the Velvets’ LIVE 1969 LP.”

Rubin Fiberglass concluded that the Mirrors were “the missing link between the melodic lo-fi of the Velvets and trashy primitivism of the Fugs. To us they were a classic
70s, Cleveland version of all those unknown, anthologized garage bands of the 60s. We were particularly drawn to Cleveland bands and, while the Electric Eels and Rocket From The Tombs/Pere Ubu captured our most imaginative avant/bombast, the Mirrors lo-fi guitar chunk, screeching solos and floor tom pummel felt much more at home to our garage band sensibilities.”

Hands In My Pockets LP

Like Les Rallizes Denudes, all the Cleveland bands have now become genuinely legendary. Unfortunately, their lack of ‘official’ releases has meant that fans themselves have generally been in charge of the material, and we got Marc On Wax’s T. Rex releases as clear evidence of how bad that can be. It’s meant that the Rocket From The Tombs album was a sink clogger of unplayable dimensions, a super-concentrated everything’s-as-good-as-everything-else Spanish galleon of under-editing. It meant that the Electric Eels ‘hits’ got subsumed into the (f)art-o-scribble of their free-form sax guano. And it means that the only Mirrors LP currently available is the too-much-already of HANDS IN MY POCKETS (run by fanatics so fervent they even named their label ‘Overground’ in homage to the original bootleg!). However, because the Mirrors were so damned catchy, this last album mentioned is deffo the best of the litter, and worth checking out, hell it’s listenable all the way through if you really wanna know!

But September 18th, 1975, was the last date the Mirrors ever played. Jamie Klimek felt the band was getting nowhere and Cleveland Council did not issue black armbands. When Paul Weller’s Style Council released the abhorrent COST OF LOVING LP in early 1987, the reviews were so bad he had the nerve to compare his misunderstoodness to that of D.H. Lawrence half a century before. Having suffered many times myself, but – like Weller - always from INSIDE the record industry, I would suggest he should’ve listened to the Mirrors if he wanted to understand true Outsider Rock’n’Roll. Being told by the Polygram managing director that your new LP sucks whilst drinking his coffee and standing on his plush carpet has gotta be a damn sight better than having the doorman eject you without even the stockboy hearing your demos. Such was the fate of the Cleveland bands, and dammit can’t you hear it in their sounds.



FOOTNOTES:
  1. One piece of errant bollock consciousness that riled me up was this nugget: “Debate amongst commentators is often around the subject of whether Mirrors were proto-punk or proto-no wave?” Bull-ownee! No Wave? Like James Chance and DNA and Mars and all the other we-ain’t-got-no-songs-but-how-the-smack-flows numb numbs, I think not.
  2. At least Jamie Klimek never set up the same kind of barriers that Scott Walker created – Hell, I still sometimes wonder how I got through all those opaque Matt Munro vocals stylings to hear the actual real Walker behind it all (musta just liked Matt more than I ever knew!).


Single Discography
“Shirley” b/w “She Smiled Wild” (Hearthen Records HR 105)

Album Discography
MIRRORS (Underground Records 1982)
HANDS IN MY POCKETS (Overground Records)