Category Archives: music
articles on artists, groups, genres
“Occult hero’s eccentric, psychedelic post-punk … patchouli-oil scented esoteric pop [and] paisley shirt recidivism… Roland has been acclaimed a steampunk prophet…not without honour in his own land, either.”
(from the album review by J. Wirth)
It may be of little concern to the bureaucrats who drew up the Trade Descriptions Act, but it’s an undeniable fact that there isn’t much punk in steampunk. At least not of the three-chord thrash variety spat out by the snotty, glue sniffing, safety pin and spiky hair, pogo-till-you-puke brigade who stormed the barricades back in ’76, or ‘Rock’s Year Zero’ as the NME would have it. Back then it was ‘Anarchy In The UK’ and the wholesale slaughter of the dinosaurs of corporate rock. Now it’s more like anachronistic fashion accessories in the UK and US as the likes of Abney Park, Sunday Driver and Vernian Process describe a dystopian fantasy world through rose-tinted goggles with a sentimentality that would make the late Bill Grundy doubt he could goad them in to saying something risqué about Queen Victoria.
In 1985, just prior to the release of the ‘VU’ album (a collection of previously unreleased tracks recorded in 1969 and intended for their fourth album), I had the privilege of interviewing Nico, Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker for a national Sunday newspaper. At the end of each interview I mentioned that I was preparing a new album (to follow ‘Burnt Orchids’) and asked if they would consider playing on it, if I could get the multi-track tapes shipped to the States. They agreed and Sterling seemed particularly keen as he was eager to get back into music after taking time out to study for a university degree. I remember that he was very complimentary about my songwriting after he heard the tapes (backing tracks with guide vocals, not demos) and in a couple of telephone conversations he mentioned that he found the structure of the songs unusual and that interested him. But the tape formats were not compatible with the equipment in the studio he was using at the time and I let the project lapse, assuming that we would sort it out at a later date. I even had a letter from his attorney asking me to give him extra time, but I had an offer from UK psych label Bam Caruso and needed to deliver an album by a certain date, so I shelved the songs I had written for the VU and moved on. Then, sometime later, Sterling died and so did Nico.
It was not until last year, 27 years(!) after writing those songs that I thought of digging them out, dusting them off and recording them as I had been itching to get back to playing with a rock band after a year spent creating a solo acoustic project (‘Grimm’). The resulting album, ‘Bates Motel’ (which also includes songs written for a John’s Children reunion album at the invitation of frontman Andy Ellison), is released next month on the German label Sireena Records.
We had such a positive reaction to Paul’s interview with blues legend John Lee Hooker that we persuaded him to brave the cobwebs and the creepy crawlies in the crypt of Roland Towers in search of more archive interviews. We’re delighted to say that he emerged some hours later with four more transcripts, The Velvet Underground, actor Peter Cushing, Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull and this one – a conversation with Mark E. Smith of The Fall.
Mark E. Smith has a reputation for being a rather prickly character, but I found him very pleasant and easy to talk to. The interview was conducted for the now long defunct ‘Stereo’ magazine sometime in 1983, if memory serves me correctly, and by necessity focused on his Hi Fi and record collection, but is interesting nevertheless.
“Beware of strangers bearing gifts”, it is said. And when someone lent our hero a cash & carry card, he ended up with a queer old set up, a Sovereign S45 music centre.
“It’s got a really cheap fuzzy sound,” confessed Mark, “but I was poor at the time and someone lent me their Arbour credit card. I bought the cheapest thing they had. It’s like a radiogram without a radio. A one-piece system. I bought it about a year ago and it cost around 125 pounds at the discount price and is made in the UK. But I couldn’t say how many watts it is. It can be loud though. I like a lot of volume.” Read the rest of this entry
IT may not be fashionable to say so, but I have always had a soft spot for early Jethro Tull and that is why I had no qualms about featuring a flute on ‘Captain Blood’ and later on ‘Pan’, though one American fanzine dubbed it “the spawn of Satan” (the flute that is, not my song)! I was therefore delighted to meet the band’s frontman and songwriter Ian Anderson in 1989 and to have had a chance to ask why it all went hideously wrong during ‘A Passion Play’! Only kidding, though I did manage to slip that question into the conversation, though I worded it more diplomatically of course(*).
Since the mid-Seventies Jethro Tull have been vilified as self-indulgent, pretentious and archaic, yet their albums continue to sell close on a million copies each year, their concerts are sell outs in Europe and the USA, and they picked up a Grammy for best hard rock album of ’87. Not bad for a band who are often written off as ‘too old to rock and roll’. Read the rest of this entry
I HAD a very interesting discussion this week with a fellow Bolan fan who enjoyed ‘Cosmic Dancer’, but was “annoyed” that I didn’t share his passion for some of Marc’s later tracks. Fair enough. Why should we all like the same songs? Just because we are drawn to the same artist there is no reason why we shouldn’t have our personal preferences.
I have a particular fondness for the Tyrannosaurus Rex era which I know many fans and a previous biographer don’t share and I happen to play the early (Sixties) singles almost as often as I play ‘Electric Warrior’ or ‘The Slider’. I would like to think that I have a broader taste in Boley music than many – beginning in ’65 and taking in (almost) everything up to and including ‘Tanx’ in ’73 – but having been both a music journalist and a recording artist myself for more than 30 years I would also like to think that I have acquired an ear, or a sense, for when an artist is cruising in neutral or recycling the same old clichés until something more interesting turns up. All songwriters do it, but the best have the courage to dump a song when it doesn’t cut it. Read the rest of this entry
A fan we know claims to have seen extracts in which she talks about the evening she and Marc were staying in a high-rise apartment in the US just after Marc had signed to Casablanca, so this would be 1974. At one point they became aware of two small lights on the window. Marc swore that he saw a demon sitting on the outside window sill looking in (shades of ‘Nightmare At 20,000 Feet’ from ‘The Twilight Zone’, don’t you think?). He returned to England a short while later claiming the demon was the reason for his return. What is interesting—and not a little disquieting—is that Gloria claimed that Marc saw the demon again at the house in Richmond only days before his death. He told her that he had also seen the image of a lady in the garden which he described to the builders who were working there at the time. They weren’t surprised to hear of the spectral sighting as the description fitted that of the lady who had previously lived there. She had committed suicide. (Thanks to ‘G’ for this story).
Here are another couple of titbits of information I came across during my research but left out of the book. Read the rest of this entry
GREETINGS fellow Bolan admirers and welcome too, to those of you who may be curious as to why the diminutive Mr Feld retains a fascination for connoisseurs of quality rock music more than three decades after his untimely death.
This site, together with the Cosmic Dancer Facebook page, is not simply a source of information and a place to post feedback on the book, unpublished photos and other items you might have unearthed, but will also serve as a place to share anything Bolan related. Maybe some of you remember reading my fanzine ‘Cosmic Dancer’ back in ’78, or going to screenings of ‘Born To Boogie’ at the Essential cinema in Soho? Care to share your memories and your thoughts on how much Marc has meant to you, or what you think of recent releases?
By the way, the pix that appear on the Facebook page include two unpublished photos of Marc taken, we think, in ’71 and could not be included in the book because we couldn’t identify or trace the photographer. Thanks to Marc Arscott for allowing us to feature them here. The two young men seen in Bolan T-Shirts recording their debut single in July 1979 are yours truly and his friend Danielz who went on to form tribute band T.Rextasy. Both of us owe an incalculable debt to Marc for inspiring us and speaking for myself, it is only with the publication of ‘Cosmic Dancer’ that I finally feel that I have repaid it.
But first, let me address the subject of why I kept myself out of the book… Read the rest of this entry
THOSE of you who have heard ‘Strychnine’, my mini album of cover versions from 1992, might be interested to know that recently a slew of very tasty psychobilly compilations have been issued – including a couple compiled by (the late) Lux and Ivy of The Cramps. (All thanks to the 50 year copyright rule which means that record companies no longer have to pay royalties on recordings from the 1950s).
As well as the original version of ‘Strychnine’ by the Sonics you can find such hidden schlock classics as ‘The Crusher’, ‘The Mummy’, the breathlessly demented ‘She Said’ by Hasil Adkins and ‘She’s My Witch’ all of which should have been included in one of those ‘1000 records you should hear before you die’ books but weren’t. Shame on them. Read the rest of this entry