Monthly Archives: July 2012

Rocks In The Attic #112: Aerosmith – ‘Live! Bootleg’ (1978)

Rocks In The Attic #112: Aerosmith - ‘Live! Bootleg’ (1978)This album is overlong. The performances are sloppy. The mix is pretty murky. But I love it.

Of all of the Aerosmith albums that I initially bought when I got turned onto them, this one represented the ‘way in’ to their back catalogue. Other than 1980’s Greatest Hits and 1991’s Pandora’s Box, there wasn’t really any other comprehensive Aerosmith compilations available in the early 90s when I started to listen to them. Now it’s gone the other way and I believe that when I last counted, their (officially released) compilations and live albums were just about to overtake their count of studio albums. That’s a pretty bad statistic, but proof that record companies will plunder and plunder an artist’s back catalogue, endlessly re-releasing the same songs over and over again, as long as there’s a willing public to buy them.

In terms of chronology, this 1978 release comes between 1977’s Draw The Line and 1979’s Night In The Ruts – in their only fallow year (up to this point they had released a studio album every year since their 1973 debut). If Draw The Line didn’t signal the end of the band due to their over-reliance on drugs, this surely did.

Aside from the hits (Walk This Way, Sweet Emotion, Dream On, Back In The Saddle), the set covers a heap of decent album tracks which wouldn’t see the light on Greatest Hits and in most cases would have to wait until Pandora’s Box to get the attention they deserved.

But the real treasures of the album are those live tracks not recorded in stadiums and arenas like the majority of the material. There’s Last Child, recorded in a Boston Club; a stunning cover of Come Together, recorded at the band’s rehearsal space; and in I Ain’t Got You and Mother Popcorn, two covers showcasing the band’s R&B influences, recorded for a radio performance in 1973 when promoting their first album. I have that 1973 Paul’s Mall performance in its entirety on CD – a fantastic set – and a true live bootleg album, unlike this one which is CBS Records’ attempt to capitalise on the trend of professional-sounding bootleg albums in the late 70s.

There’s just one more reason I love this album: the photos on the gatefold showing Joe Perry playing his red BC Rich Bich –  truly awesome, and in terms of body-shape, the best looking guitar I’ve ever seen.

Hit: Walk This Way

Hidden Gem: Mother Popcorn

Rocks In The Attic #111: ZZ Top – ‘Degüello’ (1979)

Rocks In The Attic #111: ZZ Top - ‘Degüello’ (1979)ZZ Top’s first album after their beard-growing hiatus is a gem. I guess this is where that clean production sound on blues albums of the 80s (eg. Stevie Ray Vaughan) started. On Degüello, it’s very noticeable that the band sound very different to their earlier albums. The guitar tone is very clean, and both the bass and drums sound clearer, with more separation than on their five earlier albums.

It’s more of a transition album really – bridging the gap between their earlier, dusty, swamp blues, to the more electronic – and contemporary  – work on their 80s album. The album after this, El Loco, would hint further towards the New Wave sound they would employ to great success on Eliminator.

During the sessions for this album, a couple of songs required a horn section. Instead of doing what most bands would do, and employing a group of studio musicians, they recorded the horn parts themselves, calling themselves The Lone Wolf Horns. A photo of the trio as the horn section on the album’s inner sleeve shows Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill showing off their new chest-length beards, standing next to Frank Beard displaying a decent bit of facial growth himself, putting the dampener on that oft-recycled fact that he’s always the clean-shaven one.

Hit: Cheap Sunglasses

Hidden Gem: I Thank You

Rocks In The Attic #110: Wilson Pickett – ‘Wilson Pickett In Philadephia’ (1970)

Rocks In The Attic #110: Wilson Pickett - ‘Wilson Pickett In Philadephia’ (1970)I found this in the sale racks at Real Groovy in Auckland. I figured it must be a relatively decent release as the record was brand new – indicating that it was a reissue – so I quickly surmised that the general bad taste of New Zealand record buyers had left it languishing in the ‘New Items’ racks for so long that the staff decided to put it in the sale racks. I held onto it until I got it out of the shop – and what a find!

This album represents Pickett’s first recording outside of the Deep South, and away from the familiarity of Memphis and Muscle Shoals. It has a slightly grittier and funkier sound than his earlier work, but it’s nicely held together by the studio band and producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.

Hit: Help The Needy

Hidden Gem: Get Me Back On Time, Engine Number 9 (Part 1)

Rocks In The Attic #109: Mamas And Papas – ’20 Golden Hits’ (1973)

Rocks In The Attic #109: Mamas And Papas - ’20 Golden Hits’ (1973)It’s funny that there’s a Lennon & McCartney song on this album – a very good cover of I Call Your Name (in addition to a cover of Twist And Shout) – as Denny Doherty has a real resemblance of John Lennon, as the cover of this album shows. And I guess John Phillips doesn’t look too far away from George Harrison circa 1968.

I can’t remember why I bought this album. I guess with a lot of 60s artists, as it was a time before the LP had really become the in-thing, it makes a bit more sense to go for compilations over (usually) hastily assembled studio albums (which in most cases are simple compilations of singles and B-sides anyway).

I used to work with a guy in Oldham who was obsessed with The Mamas & The Papas. I never really saw the attraction really – although there are some very nice harmonies on here. I guess they’re a bit like a prototype Abba really, five or so years before that group hit the big time. Although if you were to go the whole way and change the name of the band to the band members’ initials, they actually sound more like a hip-hop group: DJMC.

Hit: California Dreamin’

Hidden Gem: Creeque Alley

Rocks In The Attic #108: Manic Street Preachers – ‘Generation Terrorists’ (1992)

Rocks In The Attic #108: Manic Street Preachers - ‘Generation Terrorists’ (1992)It’s funny how your perception changes as you get older. I used to love this album when I first heard it – strangely after I had been introduced to Indie and Britpop (as it would have made more sense to have been into this when I was a fully-fledged rocker). I used to think this was a very edgy, attitude-driven album – but it sounds a bit tame these days.

When I first got into music and all I was interested in was rock, I used to read the likes of Kerrang! and Metal Hammer and I would see mention of the Manics all the time, but I hadn’t heard anything by them. I did have a rock compilation and Motorcycle Emptiness was on it, and it’s such a slick song that it’s no wonder that I wasn’t drawn in by it.

I remember I used to be able to get free tickets to gigs at The Academy and the three Manchester University venues, through a friend of the family. Once I was given tickets to see a band – I think it was The Almighty – and for some reason the ticket I was told to use was a Manic Street Preachers ticket to a gig at the same venue that had been cancelled. The ticket had a big black mark drawn on it. It got me into the gig fine, but I later worked out that it must have been originally for a gig cancelled when Richey Edwards disappeared in 1995. Using that cancelled ticket for a gig by a different band was probably the first time that the Manics came onto my radar.

I can’t remember what turned me onto them big time – it definitely wasn’t the ‘comeback’ album, Everything Must Go, that came out a year later. I didn’t appreciate that album at the time (too Indie / Britpop for me at the time). Whatever – or whoever – it was that turned me onto them did something major. I became obsessed with the band – well, with their first three albums anyway. I did eventually start to appreciate Everything Must Go, and I was probably besotted with the band the most when This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours was released.

I used to listen to this album – their debut – repeatedly while walking into University in my third year. It made a bit of sense walking through the red light district of Huddersfield (where the Yorkshire Ripper had picked up some of his victims), listening to some of the lyrics of this album. Although I like the out-and-out rock of this album and its follow-up, Gold Against The Soul, it’s really their third album, The Holy Bible that got to me. I’d put that album into my top-5 albums back then, and it’d still be in my top-5 now.

Generation Terrorists has one major drawback – and that is its length. It’s a double album – the band initially said they’d release this, their masterpiece, headline Wembley Stadium for one night, and then split up. The album would make a killer single disc (and a heap of decent b-sides), but there’s really too many average songs towards the end.

Hit: Motorcycle Emptiness

Hidden Gem: Nat West – Barclays – Midlands – Lloyds

Rocks In The Attic #107: Various Artists – ‘Inglourious Basterds (O.S.T.)’ (2009)

Rocks In The Attic #107: Various Artists - ‘Inglourious Basterds (O.S.T.)’ (2009)Of all of Tarantino’s films so far, this is probably the one I’ve liked the least. Death Proof was pretty poor, for no other reason than it was just plain boring; this film however, was insulting in its revisionist fantasy retelling of WWII events.

The soundtracks jars slightly too, because among snippets of Morricone film scores (which prop up the album), there are odd choices that sit in-between them.  Songs like David Bowie’s Cat People (Putting Out The Fire) or Billy Preston’s Slaughter would have fit into any other Tarantino soundtrack – but as an accompaniment to a period film, which otherwise is well scored with Morricone’s western themes, they feel just a little too much out of place.

The vinyl artwork for this soundtrack is very nice – made to look like a very old 1940s release, with water marks around the edges and publicity shots from the film printed with Ben-Day dots.

Hit: The Verdict – Ennio Morricone

Hidden Gem: White Lightning (Main Title) – Charles Bernstein

Rocks In The Attic #106: Dire Straits – ‘Making Movies’ (1980)

Rocks In The Attic #106: Dire Straits - ‘Making Movies’ (1980)I’m as much a fan of minimalism as the next man, but I sincerely hope that the person who designed this album cover was fired immediately for being incredibly lazy. What an opportunity: to design something – a piece of art, even – that will be consumed by many people; and the best you can manage is a blank red cover with a blue edge which makes the album look like an office file.

Musos tend to dislike Dire Straits, and they have good reason to, as they’re the very definition of Dad Rock; but this album comes a whole five years before the global hit Brothers In Arms and it doesn’t have the disadvantage of sounding like it belongs in the 80s, like its successors commonly do.

Hit: Romeo And Juliet

Hidden Gem: Solid Rock

Rocks In The Attic #105: The Police – ‘Outlandos d’Armour’ (1978)

Rocks In The Attic #105: The Police - ‘Outlandos d’Armour’ (1978)As far as debut records go, this has to be one of my favourites. It’s a little bit punk, a little bit reggae, and all wrapped up in a minimalist pop recording. People don’t tend to like The Police because of Sting’s later crimes against music, but I prefer to ignore his faux-bohemian noodlings and concentrate on his work in this band.

They’re just a perfect band: in Sting, you have a bass-playing, pop song-writing vocalist (with an unmistakable, high-register voice that’s very difficult to emulate); in Stewart Copeland, you have a jazz inflected drummer, who’s not scared to try something new (his timing and beat on Roxanne takes it uncharted territory for a pop song); and in Andy Summers, you have a slightly older guitarist (he played on stage with Hendrix, and counted The Animals as one of his former bands!), with a very progressive approach to chord progressions.

Those sort of attributes can sometimes weigh a band down – but probably because they’re all as equally talented, you don’t really hear anything too weighty or self-indulgent. I’ve heard David Fricke from Rolling Stone magazine say that after the assassination of John Lennon, the next big event in pop music to have a global impact on the youth of the day was when The Police split up in the mid-80s. Although they became a watered-down version of themselves on their later albums, you can understand, with this debut, how they made such an impact.

Hit: Roxanne

Hidden Gem: Next To You

Rocks In The Attic #104: Nirvana – ‘MTV Unplugged In New York’ (1994)

Rocks In The Attic #104: Nirvana - ‘MTV Unplugged In New York’ (1994)Released following Cobain’s suicide, I guess this is the first example of Geffen Records cashing in on his death. None of the other contemporary bands that recorded an Unplugged performance on MTV went on to release them on record (except for Alice In Chains and Alanis Morrissette) – the tracks usually found their way onto singles as B-sides (or existed in full only on bootlegs). An Unplugged album was more of a classic rock thing to do – hence the releases by Clapton, Dylan, Bryan Adams and the Page & Plant reunion.

I wasn’t a fan of Nirvana at the time this was released – mostly because I didn’t like that he wasn’t particularly a good guitarist. Learning the guitar will give you crazy notions and put you off bands like that. I later realised that it’s far more important to be a good songwriter than it is to be a good guitarist; a guitar solo is never going to change anybody’s life.

Trying not to like them, and failing miserably as this performance was getting a lot of airplay on MTV, the songs started seeping in and I started to become a Nirvana fan, purely by osmosis.

You know those famous questions – ‘Where were you when Kennedy was assassinated?’ or ‘Where were you when the Berlin Wall fell?’ – the first such question I can remember in my lifetime was ‘Where were you when Kurt Cobain shot himself?’ The answer: travelling home in a taxi, on a Friday night, leaving Middleton and just reaching Chadderton. We asked the taxi driver to turn the radio up, and still shocked, had to explain to the taxi driver who had died.

Hit: Come As You Are

Hidden Gem: Oh Me

Rocks In The Attic #103: The Clint Boon Experience – ‘The Compact Guide To Pop Music & Space Travel’ (1999)

Rocks In The Attic #103: The Clint Boon Experience - ‘The Compact Guide To Pop Music & Space Travel’ (1999)Ex-Inspiral Carpet and local boy done good Clint Boon started this band as I was playing in a band in Oldham at the same time. They even used to use the same rehearsal rooms as we did (but then again so did Thin Lizzy, but that’s a story for another day). Being the only venue in Oldham dedicated to Indie and Britpop, the band also used to come into 38 Bar / The Castle on weekends, where I would DJ. One such evening got me Clint’s autograph on this record.

I think I only bought this album on the strength of White No Sugar, which really is a decent tune (although the mix on the re-release version of the single is far superior to the mix on this album). The rest of the album isn’t that great – it’s exactly as you would imagine an organ-based Britpop album to sound like.

The most grating thing about this album is the opening track – an eight minute poem about Oldham recited by Boon’s American wife against a jazz inflected background. Sheer indulgence and a track that immediately turns you off the album as soon as you’ve turned it on.

I remember DJing once, and in the bar that night was Richard Stubbs – bass player in The Clint Boon Experience, and a bit of a prick thinking he was the local rock star (although I later found out that only Clint was signed to a record contract – the rest of the band was simply hired help). Stubbsy’s girlfriend walked over to my booth and asked me: “Can you play a song for Stubbsy. It’s his birthday. You know, Stubbsy – from The Clint Boon Experience.” “Who?” I replied, “Ken Boon? Never heard of him.”

Hit: White No Sugar

Hidden Gem: You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down