Thursday, November 17, 2011

Polls! Polls! Polls!

After chatting with some folk about my blog, I've decided to put up a few polls. I respect honest feedback, so I've decided to ask for some before I consider making changes to the blog. Please, feel free to comment, in addition to voting in the polls.

In the meantime, there will continue to be a lack of posts for a few more days, as I am trying to better learn CSS, to improve both the blog and the contents of my swelling, itching brain.

Friday, November 11, 2011


(self-released, 2003)

In honor of today being National Metal Day, or something, I will be featuring one of my favorite lesser-known metallic ensembles. On a side note, why the Hell is 11-11-11 a metal day? All I can think is because the numbers add up to 6, as in 666, the number of the beastie. But, if that's the reasoning, then today should be International Patrick McGoohan Day. Hmph.

Math time!

Don't'cha' love Venn Diagrams?

I do! Or, I should say, I did when I was a wee schoolboy. I think. That was a while ago.

Anyhow . . .

My friend Elizabeth, whom I've mentioned before, informed me sometime in the late '80s that she'd seen God. As it turned out, she meant she'd seen Avail play in Richmond, Virginia (an hour away) the night before. Embarrassed as I am to admit this, I have to admit I've never heard them. I've heard plenty of positive stuff about them, however, and Elizabeth generally has excellent taste. One day, I will check them out. I promise.

What does this have to do with anything?

Well, Richmond musician Erik Larson first made a name for himself as Avail's drummer, Erik Larson (see above diagram). Yes, I wrote that intentionally. I don't think he was playing with Avail when Elizabeth saw them, but that is beside the point, dammit. He went on to play guitar in the stoner metal band Alabama Thunderpussy, who were also from Richmond, which is not now, and has never been, in Alabama. Unless someone has been lying to me.

'Round about 2003, three fifths of ATP started the side project Axehandle (see above diagram). They toured a bit and released one album, the eponymously-titled Axehandle. They originally released it themselves as a professionally duplicated CDR, and I bought a copy when I saw them that year. Their setup was rather unique, I must add. The aforementioned Erik sang and played rhythm drums, ATP drummer Big Shirley (AKA Bryan Cox) played lead drums, and ATP guitarist Ryan Lake stood behind them, playing a single guitar (a Les Paul, if I remember correctly) through two massive Marshall stacks. It was awesome, so I bought their CDR. The CDR also turned out to be awesome, and Small Stone Records apparently agreed, as they did a proper release on regular, regulation CD the following year. I've chosen to use the cover from the CDR version above, though, as I bought it first, and I like it better than the new cover down here. A lot better, actually.

Tragically, Axehandle never released anything else. Tragically 2 (The Electric Boogaloo), they never released their horrific cover of Phil Collins' I Don't Care Anymore. Seriously, it was menacing as Hell when they performed it at that show. Lyrically, it fit right in with their other anger-and-psychosis-and-violence drenched material; it was a good fit percussively, as well.

BTW, I saw Brass Castle for the first time that same night. They rapidly became my favorite local band, amidst a ton of great local bands, and will most definitely be featured here at some point.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Terror at the Opera

Terror at the Opera
I'm in the Eye
7" single
(Ypsilanti Records, 2004)

The cover for Terror at the Opera's album Snake Bird Blue intrigued me. The duo (Gretchen and Faith) are pictured in what looks like a color Polaroid from the 1950s.

No, I don't know when Polaroid introduced color film! Get off my back!!

Anyhow, it reminded me of my all-time favorite pop vocal duo, the fabulous Barry Sisters! The CD was in a bargain bin for only $3, so there was no way I was gonna pass it up. It turned out to be a rather haunting, lo-fi and low-key affair, that actually sounded more like Yoko Ono (her often charming, slightly off-key singing voice, rather than her amazing, shrieking, ululating voice) singing gypsy folk songs than The Barry Sisters. No matter. I adore Yoko (and now Terror at the Opera, too)!

Terror at the Opera's now defunct website turned me on to this single, released sometime after the album. It took until just a few weeks ago to finally find a copy, though! It turned out to be limited to only 300 copies (on clear vinyl, to boot), so I'm not entirely surprised.

Today's song is either the B-side, if you go by the back cover and/or label's long ignored MySpace page (which I found after I found the single), or it's the A-side, if you look at the mastering numbers in the matrix. Imma go with B-side. Enjoy!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Jimi Hendrix
"She Went to Bed with My Guitar"

Sometimes, I swear I'm a mind reader! I just know that some of you dear readers out there want to explore the music of Jimi Hendrix, but you don't know where to start, what with all the studio albums, 8-tracks, live albums, cereal boxes, box sets, etc.

Well . . .

Problem solved!

According to the cover of this album, it's Jimi at his best, and they couldn't call it that if it wasn't true. Right? Right???

No doubt, you've heard of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, featuring Jimi on guitar and vocals (yep, just like today's song) along with bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell (did he have unimaginitive parents, or what?). I'm not sure who is drumming on this session, but Mitch absolutely pales in comparison! There's no bass, so I can't really comment on the lack of Noel Redding. However, there seems to be a cat walking on an Ace Tone organ in a few spots, and that's far more exciting than just a buncha old notes that have probably already been used elsewhere.

I'm going to stop here and let the man responsible for getting this excellent release (plus two more volumes!) out into the world. Take it away, Mike!

It was Autumn 1964. A cruel wind, freezing and sullen, ripped the profuse scum and garbage off Bleeker Street and sent it flying out of sight above the houses. Sharp pieces of grit lodged in my legs and spattered my eyes. Even soda cans went crashing down the street. Behind me a howl went up. My friend and I turned round fast. Behind us, someone had been hit in the face by a flying soda can.
"Hey Jimi, are you alright?" said my friend Jake (former lead guitar with the Jugs). He knew everyone in the village. "Sure you're okay?"
"Yeh, Yeh" said Jimi. "Long as my guitar's cool, I'm cool." "In New York City, it's law of the jungle, fittest survive, you dig."
We laughed. All the while I was staring hard at this strange figure. It was the first time I had seen him. In those days, extreme poverty kept him on the streets, sometimes even sleeping there a few hours in the early morning in someone's back doorway. He would carry his guitar on his shoulders always. His jacket was black and frayed. His bowler hat was perched on his huge mass of hair.

I was to see Jimi several times more that winter. Usually he rushed past me on his way, unseeing. In those days, he was totally unknown in New York. Only he and a handful of others were aware of his incredible musical power. Back and forth among that handful Jimi would come and go, all day and night, seeking, learning to refine and re-define, grasp his powers and master them, develop and explore his talents upon the highest apex he could achieve.
And among the several places where he jammed running from one jam to the next, he met those musicians who could contribute to his search. One night coming out of Stanley's Bar on Avenue B, I bumped into Jimi.
"Come over to my pad and play some music," I said. He fell in with me silently. He was always quiet, almost shy, so different from the Jimi on stage.
I am a piano player unknown except among musicians, mostly those of the New York avant-garde music scene, though I had always felt there could be a meeting between this form and rock.
That night we played far into the dawn and it was the most astonishing experience of my life. Eagerly I awaited more. Jimi came round many more times that winter, playing sounds that shattered all conventions and traditions exploring areas with feedback and electronic effects that had never before been touched. This was the pure Jimi, the pristine musician, resplendent in his crystalline form, unsullied by fame and unstained by fortune.
Sometimes I would turn on the borrowed Sony to get an idea of where the music was leading to. Everytime we played back we would laugh and shake our heads in amazement and exhilaration. Occasionally, too, a Conga drummer would sit in with us, not always able to follow the intricacies of the rhythms I patterned out with my chords and la la la's. And so these recordings came about.

Jimi, just before his death, talked to me about them. He felt there was a spontaniety there he had been unable to achieve with his trio; something he had sought ever since but never again experienced. He would like to see them turned into records. He told me this two weeks before his death. We were both in New York. We spent a long time talking old times. He remembered our free form experiments done in my East 11th St. pad when we had both been kids with musical stars in our eyes.
"They'd make better records," he said. "Than some of the shit that's making me so much bread."
"I still have the tapes Jimi", I said. "Okay, why don't you come to London," he pleaded quietly. "That was real music." I asked him if this meant he was no longer playing real music. He did not answer. I asked him if he remembered how he had played to my chords and the two of us had achieved a spontaneous rapport so quickly and smoothly under my youthful direction. He laughed. He remembered only too well.
"Your structures, Mike," he said, "were your own. You were great. But you didn't make it. I did. Strange, Mike, you never made it. And strange I feel jealous of you."

Two weeks later, in London, he was dead.

Mike Ephron

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Fallen Angels
"The Kid Gets Hot"

Fallen Angels
The Kid Gets Hot
7" promo single
(Arista Records, 1975)

I know what you're all saying, now that LGBT History Month is over; "Hey, Lightning, so Looking Glass eventually evolved into Starz, right? What was the missing link? What transitional fossil can you provide to prove your claim? How do we know Starz didn't just spring, fully-formed from the fingertips of God?"

Well . . . here it is! The second (of two) promo-only singles released by the Fallen Angels way back in 1975 on Arista Records. The first was a cover of "(Just Like) Romeo and Juliet", by the way, except they slyly dropped the parentheses.

First, note the songwriting credits: P. Sweval and M.L. Smith. Those are Pieter Sweval and Michael Lee Smith, respectively. Pieter had been been the bassist (and writer of several songs) of Looking Glass, and Michael was the future vocalist for Starz. Now, you can't tell from this single, but the other members of Fallen Angels were drummer Joe Dube and keyboardist Larry Gonsky, both ex-Looking Glass, and guitarist Brenden Harkin, future Starzer. For historicity's sake, I must divulge that Smith and Harkin were both members of the final line-up of Looking Glass, after vocalist/guitarist Elliot Lurie (the one who wrote and sang their mega-smash hit "Brandy") left to go solo. Gonsky was replaced with a smokin' guitarist named Richie Ranno, Joe added the mysterious middle initial X, and the Fallen Angels became Starz.

I know of at least one Looking Glass single recorded with the final, post-Lurie line-up, but I can't tell you much about it 'cause I only just bought it off eBay a few minutes ago. The A-side is "Highway to Hollywood," written by Gonsky, and the b-side is "Rock This Town," which was later recorded by Starz for a demo in 1975. Maybe I'll post the single after it comes in the mail.

According to an interview that I skimmed an hour or so ago with Starz guitarist Richie Ranno, there were two post-Lurie Looking Glass singles; no info yet on what the other was, sadly.