Tuesday, 11 October 2022

THE CAN - Sounds, May 1970



Can recorded the mighty Monster Movie under their own steam. No major label showed an interest in releasing it, so they pressed it themselves in the autumn of 1969. This created a buzz in the local underground, prompting Liberty to put it out in February 1970. Here's perhaps the first major interview with a band member - Holger Czukay. It was conducted by Rainer Blome for the Cologne-based music magazine Sounds and appeared in the May 1970 issue. The translation is by me. 


How does your music differ from that of other bands? Probably primarily because of the somewhat unusual production process? 
Our production process is indeed different. It's not like a producer summons us into the studio at a set time and says, 'You can make your record in the time available'. We set up a studio in Schloss Norvenich near Cologne and only then did we make the record, without producers - we did it ourselves. Technically, of course, we're not nearly as well-equipped as the big companies. We can work with 4 tracks but not with a normal 4-track recording device, only with the help of tricks - homemade tricks. But the most important thing is that we have unlimited time. We work until the feeling is there, then make the recording. It helps tremendously not to have to work under constant time-pressure. 

Did you go into the studio with fixed ideas, or did everything just develop there? 
We go into the studio completely unprepared, nothing is written or planned beforehand. The studio is also our ideas workshop. 

There's a piece on your record entitled Mary Mary, So Contrary, for which The Can is credited. I also know it from an American folk duo whose name escapes me at the moment. Don't get me wrong, I'm not accusing you of plagiarism, I'm more interested in how you work, where you get your song concepts from. 
Our singer, Malcolm Mooney, brought this song idea with him. It's an American children's song that we originally played straight, then made something new out of. But that wasn't really a 'concept'. With us a 'concept' only arises when a piece is already finished. We usually just start playing something - maybe one of us plays something he has previously thought about that he wants to play. Of course, the others don't know it and just play along with it. Since we let the tape recorder run, we may decide afterwards that it was valid, that it could be developed further by adding this or that, changing the harmony at another point or not. Or perhaps one person says to the other, 'Do this or that a little differently'... That is how we create the pieces. It's improvised teamwork, and occasionally what we have played spontaneously is the end result. 

So that's the playing process for your pieces. What do you then do with the recorded music? Is it manipulated technically, or do you just mix the tracks according to dynamics? 
First of all, Monster Movie consists exactly of the music that we played in the studio. Of course, we work with playbacks, but this method is only ever used from the point of view of whether it agrees with the ideas that arose while playing. 

Were the electronic effects on the LP created whilst playing? 
Partly, yes, but - for example - the buzzing noise that runs throughout Father Cannot Yell was added later. But we never use electronic effects for mere decoration. They always have a direct connection to the music. We don't care for gimmicks. Of course, listening to what we are playing, occasionally one of us finds that the sound has to be tweaked at a certain point in order to sound better. 

Your singer Malcolm Mooney (who is no longer with you) is from America. Could you tell us about him? 
Malcolm was originally a sculptor and has travelled over almost all the world. He always has a saxophone with him. Irmin met him in Paris in 1968 and shortly thereafter he came to Cologne and joined us as a singer. He's a natural, so to speak, because he had never sung before. He not only improvises the music, but mostly the lyrics as well. Even on You Doo Right, which previously had fixed lyrics, Malcolm changed his lyrics while recording. It isn't entirely true that he isn't with us any longer, because he's still part of our group. He got pretty sick and went back to New York. It may be that he comes back next month, or in a year. In any case, he remains a member of the Can. But in the meantime we're trying to find a replacement for him. 

Surely you don't literally mean that your current singer Lee Gates only works as a stand-in? 
No, of course not. Lee sings very differently, and our music changes because of him. 

I want to return to my first question, because you haven't quite answered it yet. How does your music differ from that of other bands? 
We don't set out to differentiate ourselves from other bands, but I don't think anyone drums like Jaki, or anyone plays guitar like Michael. It's like we talk a different language, even though we use the same words. In this respect, everyone from the Can is different from every other rock musician in the world. 

Where do you see your position as regards Anglo-Saxon pop music? 
I listen to a lot of things in order to inform us. We don't have any role models, though of course we like a few things. Jaki used to have role models in jazz: he wanted to drum like Max Roach, but that's more or less over. 

When an unbiased listener listens to your LP, it's tough. Someone who's only listened to English or American bands before will maybe discover similarities to groups like the Velvet Underground.  
Okay. Good. Then he discovers them. There are so many bands in 'new' pop that there are bound to be similarities. The Velvet Underground has a similar line-up to us, so why shouldn't the sound be the same? 

Do you think that records made by good German (or non-Anglo-Saxon) groups will stand a chance in the future? 
For sure. For example, I know that the first Amon Duul LP has sold well, and Monster Movie is doing very well too. The company has already sold more of them than it ever thought possible. Original music will always prevail, regardless of whether it is played by an English, American, Danish or German band. Maybe there aren't that many groups in Germany that are good yet, but it's probably only just beginning. Perhaps more publicity should be given and more performing opportunities created. It would be great, for example, if German promoters allowed German bands to open on tours by well-known American or English bands. It's definitely better than having third or fourth-rate bands perform just because they're from England. 

The playing opportunities in Germany are probably also limited because you can't play in most clubs. They're too old-fashioned, too small and without the right atmosphere. In what framework should your music be presented? 
Right, the existing clubs are old-fashioned. Nobody feels comfortable in them. The best are clubs like those in London, New York, San Francisco, Birmingham, Detroit, Boston and Chicago, or the Creamcheese in Dusseldorf. People need to be able to dance, watch movies, drink and move. Basically, the concert halls are shit because they're only built for classical concerts, with all the trimmings. 

The Can has existed since the autumn of 1968. Have you consciously refrained from becoming well-known? 
Yes, quite consciously, because we felt we first had to grow together as a group - that is, to be able to offer good music - before we presented ourselves to the public. We also turned down offers to perform because we wanted to be 100% happy with ourselves first. To put it bluntly, we don't believe in firing half-cocked. We only played in Zurich for three months in 1969 because we had the chance to take part in Max-Peter Ammann's production of Prometheus at the Stadttheater, which turned out to be a bad decision. Otherwise we have made film music for Peter Schamoni, Roger Fritz and Franz-Josef Spieker. 

You now have a pretty good group dynamic. Would a new man fit in? 
Actually, anyone can play with us. Even Roy Black [a popular schlager singer – RMJ], who would certainly sing differently with us. What's important is that everyone offers each other the freedom to do their own thing. For example, if Jaki had made a huge spectacle on his drums right from the start and dominated everything so that the others couldn't unfold, that would not have been possible. A new man would have total freedom, we would under no circumstances force him to work in our direction. Our music is too flexible for that. So a new man would inevitably change our music. 

Are you already working on a new record? 
Yes, we have recorded a single and one track that will be released on a Liberty sampler in May [Soul Desert, on Electric Monster Rock Show - RMJ]. This will also be included on our next LP, which we are working on. Of course, that won't take forever. We think it will be ready in the autumn. We're going to do some ideas that we've come up with already, things we've done before but haven't got on tape yet and want to finish. 

You have a production company called 'Inner Space' and have contracts with a Munich promo company and with Liberty. Does the record deal secure you an income? 
No, the contract does not secure us a fixed income. It all depends on how the LP sells. Our contract provides for at least two LPs and two singles over the course of 1970. We received a small advance, but that will be accounted for later. Our contract, which is valid for 3 years, came about like this: I took the finished Monster Movie tape from company to company for months. Either one of them said, 'It's pretty nice for a German group, but the Americans and the English do it better' or another said, 'It's very good but you come from Germany. You have to write a few hits first so that you become known'. Such are the prejudices against German groups in the German industry. At first Liberty was no different, so we then spontaneously decided to press the album ourselves. It was only via this detour that Liberty suddenly showed great interest. Liberty in England was also enthusiastic about the record and immediately offered to release it.

So a German pop group has it incredibly hard, no matter how good they are. What do you think of the idea of starting a cooperative of progressive German groups, as was recently attempted on the initiative of Tom Schroder from SONG in Mainz? Could that improve the situation? 
In principle, it's an excellent idea for German groups to set up a co-operative with a few organisationally talented people. With an over-arching presentation one could awaken listeners to the fact that there are German bands with something to offer. 

That would definitely be an advantage. But such a co-operative could also have the disadvantage of giving rise to a kind of sectarianism stemming from too great a national identity... The German Jazz Federation failed because of this. 
Of course, it would be shit if that happened. Such a co-operative should not act nationalistically, it should remain open to the international community. The only justification for such an association would be that it would contradict the prejudice that there are no good German groups. Once that has been achieved, it would no longer have any reason to exist.



Tuesday, 7 June 2022

IPSISSIMUS: 'A heavy sound with walloping drums'

Ipsissimus released only one single, Hold On / Lazy Woman, which appeared in April 1969. The A-side is a belting cover of a song previously recorded by Rupert’s People and Sharon Tandy, while the B-side is a heavy psychedelic blues by their bassist Steve Oliver. Steve was kind enough to tell me the band’s basic history for posterity, as below...

"Len Deathridge, Reg King, Chris Evans and I met at Eastbury Secondary School in Barking in the early 60s. We formed a band called the Colts, with Len on lead guitar, Chris on rhythm guitar, me on bass, Reg on drums and a guy called Len Morgan singing. We were discovered in 1963 by Norman Newell, who produced Shirley Bassey for EMI. He didn’t sign us up but he did record Len Morgan as a solo act (under the name Tony Nelson), with us backing him. 

 

That opened the door for us to play on sessions for various other people including Frank Ifield, and to provide backings for demos or auditions at Abbey Road on Saturday mornings. One was for Gary Glitter, although he wasn’t called that then, and another was for Graham Bonney. We were in and out of Abbey Road up until 1970, but we only saw the Beatles on one occasion, in the canteen, and we didn’t speak to them. 

 

We used to rehearse in a youth club in Barking, which the Tremeloes also used, and produced our own demos there on a Revox machine. We got a contract with Pye as a four-piece, I can’t remember how, and made a single that came out in October 1965. The A-side was an American folk song called San Miguel and the B-side was a song of ours called Where Has Our Love Gone. The producer was Mike Smith. 

 

In 1966 we began to focus on covers of harmony material by The Beach Boys, the Byrds and the Mamas & the Papas. We gigged two or three nights a week all over the country, often at colleges, as well as having a regular Sunday lunchtime session at the Merry Fiddlers in Dagenham. We tended to play in local pubs or halls rather than London clubs, though we did once play at the Electric Garden in Covent Garden in 1967. We supported the Herd, Episode Six, Family and various others at this time. We were aware of drugs, of course, but we weren’t at all druggy ourselves and we didn’t see an awful lot of them around. 

 

Over the course of 1968 we developed a heavier style. Sometime that year my brother-in-law Tony Sales replaced Chris Evans on rhythm guitar and we decided to rename ourselves – the Colts seemed pretty naff by then, and our manager Dave Matthews saw the word Ipsissimus in The Devil Rides Out by Dennis Wheatley.

 

Dave’s brother Bob drove our van. When he heard Rupert’s People playing Hold On he suggested that we could do our own version. It was in our live set for a long time and always went down well. It became our signature song, I suppose. On stage we would stretch out on it, and Len used to do a section through an amplified Stylophone, which made various weird sounds – he even played it through a wah-wah!

 

We continued to provide backing for EMI auditions, some of which were performed at EMI’s head office in Manchester Square, where there was a small theatre. Various A&R men and producers and engineers would be milling around. At one Saturday morning session there we played Hold On as a warm-up and the producer Jonathan Peel and the engineer Norman Smith pricked up their ears and both offered to record us. In the end they agreed to proceed together. Dave negotiated with EMI and they paid us enough to buy new amps, for Len to buy a Fender electric 12-string (the first in the country) and for me to buy a 5-string Fender bass. 

 

Our single was recorded over the course of a long day (and into the evening) at Abbey Road in March 1969. If you listen carefully you can hear Len playing Stylophone behind the chorus on Hold On. Norman and Jonathan were both there, but Norman did most of the work. We taped more than the two songs that were released – one other song (whose title escapes me) featured Norman playing harpsichord. When the single came out in April Tony Blackburn played it and said how awful it was, adding that it was nowhere near as good as Tamla Motown. 


By then we were doing quite well as a heavy band, and often supported big-names at the Dagenham Roundhouse, the King’s Head in Romford and other venues in Chadwell Heath and Stratford. We played with bands including Led Zeppelin, Taste, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. The problem was that they all tended to play so loudly that most of the subtlety of what they were doing was lost - at the Dagenham Roundhouse everyone had to play through the house PA system and drums were never miked.

 

NME, April 26th 1969
Our EMI contract called for a minimum of two singles, with an option for further singles and an album. The problem was, by the middle of 1969 we were moving back towards folk-rock and wanted our second single to be a cover of Someday Soon by Ian Tyson, with The Gallery by Joni Mitchell on the B-side. We recorded it but EMI had signed us as a heavy band, so they turned it down and it never got released. We also had our own material in the same style, but they didn’t like that either so they dropped us. Jonathan Peel was unimpressed by our change of style and it all fizzled out. 


Chris White of the Zombies then showed an interest in recording us independently, so we made some demos with him, but they didn’t get anywhere. We never split up, we just evolved into different line-ups and styles. For several years in the 70s we played pub-rock as Jerry The Ferret, then morphed into more of a country band. I had no idea anyone was interested in the Ipsissimus single until fairly recently. Sadly Len Deathridge and Tony Sales have passed away, but I’m still in touch with Reg King."

Wednesday, 9 March 2022

RICK HOPPER - CAMBRIDGE, AUTUMN 1967

In the course of researching my current book I have been looking through old copies of Varsity, the main student newspaper at Cambridge University, published every Saturday during termtime. For the eight issues of 1967's Christmas term, Rick Hopper - an undergraduate at Jesus College - contributed a pop column.     

Rick had been a prefect at Eltham College, a private school in southeast London, where he was friends with Mick Jagger's brother Chris. Upon leaving they travelled around Europe together, and Rick's interests tilted towards the emerging counter-culture. He began at Cambridge in October 1966 and was closely involved with underground music there, singing with the Pineapple Truck, one of the university's two psychedelic bands, the other being 117. Sponsored to an extent by Mick Jagger, both groups spent the summer of 1967 in London, where Rick developed trenchant views on the pop scene that are reflected in his columns.     

The Pineapple Truck in 1967 (Rick is second left)

On February 23rd 1968 he compèred Under The Influence, a 'happening' in Cambridge at which Nick Drake made his formal live debut. He went on to work as an A&R man at Transatlantic Records, and perhaps his most lasting contribution to the musical world was his early championing of Kate Bush, whom he apparently introduced to his friend David Gilmour. He subsequently managed Sandpiper Books in Brighton, and is no longer among us.

 

I hope you'll enjoy his columns, which provide a candid and immediate insight into a lot of music that is now regarded reverentially. (As ever, click to enlarge them.) And if any of you have a copy of the two tracks the Pineapple Truck recorded in 1967 (Blow Your Mind Away and Whiskey Man), I'd love to hear them...

 

October 14th 1967


October 21st 1967


October 28th 1967


November 4th 1967


November 11th 1967


November 18th 1967


November 25th 1967


December 2nd 1967

Monday, 20 May 2019

LEWIS BEACH MARVIN III AND MOONFIRE


Needless to say, 1960s California was full of weird and wonderful individuals. One such was the late Lewis Beach Marvin III.

Wealthy and well-connected, he was espousing hippie values (in particular vegetarianism) well ahead of the curve, and as of 1957 he occupied a peculiar temple / menagerie / home named Moonfire (the moon apparently being a symbol of death and fire of life) high up in Tuna Canyon, where he hosted numerous 'happenings' as of the mid-60s.

In 1966 he published a manifesto called Moonfire: Ancient Life & Death Symbols, which outlined his passionately held 'live and let live' philosophy.

He was featured in the Mondo Hollywood documentary (from which the image above is taken) the following year, and made a documentary himself in 1968, entitled Moonfire, which was released that June; he screened it inside a tent on Sunset Boulevard, with the Common People performing before and after.

He was a familiar figure at rock festivals, protest marches and other counter-cultural gatherings in the late 60s, typically holding a placard bearing slogans such as 'LOVE YOUR ANIMAL FRIENDS, DON'T EAT THEM' (that one was at Woodstock); he also handed a lamb to Jim Morrison backstage in Miami in 1969 (there's a well-known photo of Morrison holding it).

He was intermittently covered in the local media, but little is known of him as of the mid-70s.

Here's what I have found.


Los Angeles Times, Sunday September 19th 1965


Los Angeles Times, Sunday June 12th 1966


Mondo Hollywood review, Los Angeles Times, Sunday October 1st 1967

Los Angeles Free Press, June 14th 1968


Los Angeles Free Press, June 14th 1968


Los Angeles Free Press, June 21st 1968


World Countdown, July 1968


The Los Angeles Times, Thursday June 27th 1968


Los Angeles Free Press, July 12th 1968


The Province (Montreal), Monday October 7th 1968


The Miami News, Saturday October 4th 1969


The Independent, Friday July 23rd 1971


Los Angeles Times, Sunday June 24th 1973 (i)


Los Angeles Times, Sunday June 24th 1973 (ii)


Los Angeles Times, Sunday October 28th 1973 


The Delta Democrat Times, Thursday November 1st 1973




Los Angeles Times, Friday November 9th 1973 


Los Angeles Times, Monday January 24th 1977


Los Angeles Times, Thursday October 15th 1992

Friday, 8 March 2019

GALACTIC RAMBLE - revised and expanded edition


Ten years after the first edition of Galactic Ramble came and went, I'm delighted to say that a revised and hugely expanded second edition is now exclusively available HERE as a limited hardback costing £100 (plus p&p). 

It completely supersedes the first edition, being more than twice as long (well over a million words) and containing a massive amount of new information and imagery. 

They will not not be reprinted; when they're gone, they're gone!

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

THE MOVE by Michael English

Between December 1968 and May 1969, the British teen monthly Rave published a fantasy comic strip featuring the Move, by the great Michael English (half of the Hapshash & The Coloured Coat design duo). I'm not sure if it's been seen since, so here it is in full.







Tuesday, 8 May 2018

XXXRECORDS and a spot of Confusion


Having devised their instantly recognisable sound at rehearsals, Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker made their live debut as Cream on July 29th 1966, and gigged prolifically thereafter. One early performance was at the London club Klooks Kleek on November 15th 1966 (shortly after the release of their debut 45, and shortly before the release of their debut album). 

Someone recorded the show, which consisted of Lawdy Mama, Sleepy Time Time, Crossroads, Stepping Out, Sweet Wine, Meet Me In The Bottom and N.S.U.. Sometime thereafter, the recording was pressed onto vinyl, with no label or artwork, but the matrix codes ‘CJG LP 1A’ and ‘CJG LP 1B’ stamped into the respective run-outs. 

It can be seen on Discogs here:


Though Discogs has disallowed sales of bootlegs, copies of it occasionally surface on eBay; one fetched 50 GBP there on February 13th 2018, and can be seen here:


On April 9th 2018, the well-known UK record dealer Graham Cross - aka xxxrecords - sold an intriguing album on eBay, which fetched 576 GBP. It was, he wrote, the work of a band called ‘Confusion’, and can be seen here:



No band of that name was previously known to have been operating in the UK at the time. As if that weren’t enticing enough for collectors, he added that the disc was an ‘UNKNOWN PRIVATE PRESSING’ containing ‘AWESOME PSYCH BLUES’, and was ‘ONE OF THE RAREST LPs ON THE VERY SOUGHT AFTER DEROY LABEL’, and ‘A ROUGH LIVE RECORDING WHICH CLEARLY THE BAND MUST HAVE GOT MADE’. 

Cross confidently dated his discovery to 1966, and suggested that it had been pressed by Island Records, as well as Deroy. The only hard clue as to manufacture was that ‘MACHINE STAMPED ON EACH SIDE IS 'CJG 1 LP A' & CJG 1 LP B'.

Knowing of the Cream bootleg, you might assume that he was mistaken, and had somehow failed to identify one of the most famous bands in rock history as the performers in question – but you would be wrong. ‘CONFUSINGLY (THOUGH HE OBVIOUSLY ISNT PLAYING ON THIS LP!) THERE ARE REFERENCES MADE ON THE LP TO ERIC CLAPTON BY THE BAND, AND THERE ARE 2 OR 3 CREAM COVERS, AS WELL AS A FEW OTHER TRACKS I CANNOT IDENTIFY!!!!’ continued his listing.

For the time being, the identity of Confusion must remain a mystery; only one other copy of their album is known to exist. It was sold on eBay in July 2012 for 636 GBP (also by Graham Cross) and can be seen here:


Were you a member of Confusion? Do you know someone who was? Do you have a copy of this lost recording by them? If so, please drop me a line!