Charles Shaar Murray

ARTICLE ABOUT David Bowie FROM New Musical Express, August 26, 1972

You can`t get a much better live review than this one. Bowie must have been pleased with this one, including the praise of his legs.
Read on!

Bowie – dry ice, nice legs and absolute ascendancy

By Charles Shaar Murray

GOING TO THE Rainbow these days is definitely an outing, an excursion, something of a treat. Unfamiliarity breeds respect, and though the cheerful hippies who used to sell you hot dogs and guide you to your seat have been replaced by bored-looking usherettes, there’s still that thrill as you wait for showtime. Mr. and Mrs. First Nighter… this is your life.
David Bowie’s show is definitely a spectacular in the grand tradition. A Bowie concert is your real old Busby Berkeley production. Bring on the dancing girls — or rather the Astronettes with Lindsay Kemp, wheel on the dry ice machine and put some mystique back into the whole deal.
Opening act Lloyd Watson proved that the blues do indeed go on, and on, and on, and on. He’s a good singer and plays fair slide, but his original compositions are really dire. Harsh though it may be, I’m afraid that Lloyd does not have the weight to play a gig like this. All he did was to ensure that the bar did good business.
With their performance at the Rainbow, Roxy Music proved that they are now in a major band not just in the eyes of publicists, friends and a few partisan journalists, but to audiences as well. Starting out with their glitzy teenage hit single “Virginia Plain,” they played a tight, neat set of songs from their spiffy first album. Each number earned a successively warmer response, and Phil Manzanera’s guitar temper tantrum went down especially well. They closed with “Remake/Remodel” and went off to a standing ovation — well, a few people were standing up to clap and lots more were calling for an encore. Onwards and upwards — and here’s looking at you kid.
Lou Reed later described Bowie’s set as “amazing, incredible, stupendous — the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.” While Lou is not exactly the most impartial of observers on things Bowie, he knows a good show when he sees one, and this was perhaps the most consciously theatrical rock show ever staged — and, by the by, it made Alice look like a third-form dramatic society. With a multi-level stage, a light show, sawdust on the floor, the Spiders in all their glory and a backstage Matthew Fisher playing piano, it could hardly fail, and it didn’t.
Right from his entrance, walking through a cloud of dry ice up to the microphone to sing “Lady Stardust” (while the face of Marc Bolan was projected onto a screen by his side). Bowie provided a thoroughly convincing demonstration of his ascendancy over any other soloist in rock today.
With perhaps the finest body of work of any contemporary songwriter, and the resources to perform this work to its utmost advantage, there really isn’t anything going that tops the current Ziggy show. Other, more basic, performances have got me off more and higher — Hendrix, the Dead, Berry, Winter, Steeleye and the Crows to name a handful — but David Bowie has stuff going for him that most people haven’t even thought of yet.
And he’s got nice legs, too.

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Having a re-think here. As some of you know I will always print articles with the 5 most read bands/artists on this blog. Today these artists are in an all-time perspective: Ritchie Blackmore (Rainbow), Deep Purple, Lemmy (Hawkwind), Steve Howe and Ian Hunter.
This is part of the reason for the article printed today.
To shake things up and make it easier for other artists to be featured I will change this list from now on to be the 5 most read artist/bands in the last year, counting from whatever date that I post something. I hope this will inspire you to share articles with your favourite artists.
And the ones leading the pack right now are: David Bowie, Lemmy, Paul Kossoff (Free), Pink Floyd and Marc Bolan.


Hunter opts out of suicide plan…

Removing his shades to reveal those innermost thoughts, our man discourses on America`s problems and some of his own.

By Charles Shaar Murray

“I`m not into committin` suicide for rock and roll. I`ve thought about it on numerous occasions, but I figured, `Well, no, man…`”
Ian Hunter, upper facial sector fearlessly bared to the elements, whatever elements may be lurking in a hotel room at three in the morning (This means that he had his shades off – Ed), is simultaneously demonstrating the elegance of his sprawling technique and his skill at the noble and arcane craft of speaking coherently with a minimum of blood in his alcohol stream.
“`…if you`re going to be a miserable bastard, you might as well be a miserable bastard in relative comfort`.”
These days, Our Mister `Untah may be a bit too old and a bit too rich to maintain his membership in the International Punko Society, but when the majestically snotty head waiter barring the door of the hotel restaurant refuses to admit your genial reporter, his celebrated subject and their respective lovely wives on account of Ian is wearing a singlet and jeans, it would seem that age and money do absolutely nothing to bridge some of them old `60s gaps.
And to think that Ian once recorded Sonny Bono`s “Laugh At Me”, a song written after El Bonola got tossed out of a dumb L.A. nosheteria because of his unpruned follicles.
Talk about ironies! Talk about twist endings!
Anyway, we get served someplace else, talk about this and that, get ferociously pissed and return to the hotel to discuss the other thing; said other thing being I.H.`s nifty thought-provoking new album`s worth of toons, “All American Alien Boy.”
Those of you who haven`t yet obtained a copy thereof please rectify said omission instantaneously or sooner; you can finish this when you get back and you`ll find it a lot clearer.

“AAAB” is a living-in-America as opposed to being-a-tourist-in-America album, and like the album, Hunter`s conversation reflects his alternating delight, confusion and horror at his adopted home (“If you took all the ladies out of Bath and York and put `em in San Francisco you`d have the most magnificent place in the world, but it`s full of weirdos”).
He`ll rap on about American politics (which subject had previously aroused in him the most profound absence of interest) with, I`m afraid, more energy and lucidity than sophistication, and then toss a hand-grenade at the departing back of the topic by pointing out, “I tried to keep it light because what does a kid who lives in Warrington care about American politics?
“Everything`s different over there. The garages, the supermarkets, even the milk. They put poison in the bacon…”
I yawned. To this day I`ll swear it was the wine.
“Stop yawning when I`m talking!” responds Mr. `Untah, and proceeds to recount an occasion when your friend and mine Lester Bangs stitched him up by waiting until the assembled company “had got completely spaced and then all of a sudden out of the blue he asked, `What do you care about the poor people?` Oh, Christ. I knew exactly how that was gonna come out in print…”
Truth to tell, I`d contemplated no particular verbal ambush or journalistic mugging – but Ian had set himself up so nice. “Well, what do you care about the poor people?”
“That`s personal. I mean, if you`ve been to St. Louis and you`ve seen Martin Luther King Boulevarde in February and you`ve got any feelings at all… it`s weird, man, seeing people in light summer coats when it`s 20 below, standing around in doorways.

“They try and go into the shops where it`s warm, and they get kicked out. The dogs shiver in their sleep. I was on Martin Luther King Boulevarde just after they`d cleared part of it; they`d just put a lot of black people into a new complex, but they weren`t allowed to take their dogs and there were a lot of wild dogs hangin` about.
“It was real ironic that this was on Martin Luther King Boulevarde, which was supposed to be a tribute to him, but it was derelict. The dogs were sleeping in the gutters and shaking from the cold. What do you do with that?
“I couldn`t even write a song about it. That`s bursting into tears time because you feel like a prat that it ain`t happenin` to you, and you feel that you should go out there and give `em ten grand, but I didn`t. I`m remarkably stupid on that level, because I don`t really react until two days later. Believe me, I`m genuine about this: I really suffer for that.
“But not half as much as the people who have to live it. I mean, I live all right. If we genuinely cared for everybody who didn`t have nothin` we`d be dead within a week from the sheer agony of that carin`. It`s a weird world; very primitive, very middle ages. The word `modern` is obscene.”
I recalled talking to Bowie after his Trans-Siberian jaunt three years ago, and D.B. saying that 75 per cent of Russia`s population were still living in the 13th century.
“Well, that just about sums David Bowie up. He`s a remarkably stupid person when he`s talking on an international level, because he don`t know anythin` about anythin`.”
But he loves talking in those terms.
“I know, but he just talks through `is arse. It`s just that the word `modern` is so weird. I`ve always found that the height of pretention – `modern`. When I was workin` on demolition in Northampton, we were renovatin` a place which had been a newspaper office, and we found papers from 1812. It was just like today`s paper. They had H.P.: it was like 13 quid for a Welsh dresser and a table and four chairs and it was like two quid down, two bob a month. The prices were different, but the write-ups were exactly the same.


“They burn witches now just like they burned witches then. That`s why I observe more than participate. I ain`t got much truck with people, really…
“That`s why I`m more resigned; that`s why I can`t summon up, perhaps, the energy that Bowie would have. I could be wrong, I could be terribly wrong, but I just don`t think it`s all worth bothering about except to see that I`m all right, that I get through. I haven`t got suicidal tendencies or anything; it`s just that it`s absurd, so enjoy yourself in your own little way, `cos the crusaders of the `60s… oh, God, you oughta see `em. They`re all writin` books now. It`s pathetic!
“All the revolutionaries sayin` `Oh, we didn`t mean it. Actually we did attempt to incite a riot.` Rolling Stone was founded on the fact that they didn`t…”
Ian Hunter tells himself and others that he`s not concerned midway through a rap wherein mention of any of his recent songs leads into discussion of matters political, social, religious, economic or ethical.
He writes an album three-quarters devoted to such topics (“On the last album most of the lyrics were invented. I hate writing like that; I much prefer to have a headful of lyrics which just come out.”), is an avatar of defiant punkhood, and makes an album with only two hard-rock tracks on it, will declare himself unimpressed by the Feelgoods and The Ramones but enthuse about Sailor.

He will declare himself shocked and surprised when critics cite Dylan references when discussing “AAAB,” an album so redolent of the Zim`s mannerisms that the comparison has arisen spontaneously from every single person to whom I`ve played it; who keeps his bread (but definitely not his head) well down under them floorboards; who will self-consciously short-circuit an idea out of sheer self-deprecation even when it`s more than worth following up and then almost instantaneously become criminally self-indulgent with something that`s little more than the conceptual equivalent of a leaky bucket.
He will take himself seriously when he should be taking the piss, and bring himself down when he should keep on keepin` on.
Still, Ian Hunter has purpose, passion and perception; he has enough sophistication to know when not to be sophisticated; and he controls his ego rather than vice versa. Plus he has a conscience and a sense of humour.
After all, he ain`t committing suicide for rock and roll. Which is just as well at a time when (as Ritchie Blackmore once said) “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are filled with passionate intensity.”


I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!

This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Paul McCartney, Twiggy, Stuart Sutcliffe, The Flamin` Groovies, The Ramones, The Who, Eric Clapton, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Jefferson Starship, Weather Report, Roxy Music, The Crusaders.

The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!

1. Send me an e-mail if you are interested. Send it to:
2. The offer should be 15 $ (US Dollars) to be considered. (This includes postage).
3. We conduct the transaction through my verified Paypal account for the safety of both parties.

ARTICLE ABOUT Ian Hunter FROM New Musical Express, May 15, 1976

Here we go again with yet another Ian Hunter article. Why do you like Hunter so much, you may ask? The answer is that I don`t especially like him more than others on this blog. As some of you know, I promise to post all articles I find of the 5 most visited bands/artists of my blog. And those artists are right now: Ritchie Blackmore, Deep Purple, Lemmy, Ian Hunter and Steve Howe.
If you want the same treatment for your favourite artist, you need to get people to click on the articles with them in it. That`s all!


IAN HUNTER: All American Alien Boy (CBS)

By Charles Shaar Murray

There exists a subtle difference between a tax exile and an expatriate.
It has more to do with the way that someone carries themselves than the reasons that sent him away. Rod Stewart is a tax exile, pure and simple, whereas John Lennon is an expatriate. Stewart sounds to have lost touch with his background without having established any real temporary root system; artistically as well as politically and geographically, he is in limbo.
On the other hand, Lennon determined from the outset that if he was gonna live in America he was sho `nuff gonna righteously live there and involve himself as fully in American cultural, social and political life as anybody else on his block; without denying his Englishness he was simultaneously going to do his damnedest to be a good American.
It ain`t for nothing that Ian Hunter shouts out “Look out Lennon here I come – land ahoy-hoy-hoy!” as he bawls himself hoarse on his way into the first chorus of the title song of “All American Alien Boy”. The slightly pretentious title proves itself nothing more than a direct summing-up of Hunter`s stance as resident rather than tourist, a stance which enables him to transcend the superficiality of the out-of-the-limo-window-I-saw generally written by jetstream Anglos buzzing through to deliver boogie to the natives, while utilising his distance from England to recollect emotion in tranquility – or vice versa.

If Lennon is one of the spectres who stalk the landscape of this album, the other Ghost Of Rockanroll Past who`s right in there rattling his chains is Bob Dylan. On the strength of this album it may well be appropriate to nominate Hunter for a second term as This Year`s New Dylan. He`s deliberately cast much of the album in a “Blonde On Blonde” mould, utilising the master`s devices with a knowing pointedness, manipulating the associations, implications and resonances of the instrumentation and the inflections of his own expertly Zimmer Twins vocals for specific effect.
The only occasions when his grip falters is where, despite his mastery of Lennon and Dylan`s use of boisterous humour, he fails to infuse into his mixture the sly irony of his models: the irony that enables Dylan to use the device of saying “The moral of this storreeee” in “Frankie Lee And Judas Priest” and not sound heavy-handed, whereas Hunter flubs the trick in “Restless Youth”, a musically exciting but lyrically suspect sympathy-for-the gunsel song in Maestro`s “Joey” tradition (it even refers to “Little Italy”, f` Chrissakes!).
So, picking up on New York like any starstruck English Dylan freak would, and maybe seeing Dylan`s adoption of his erstwhile pal and partner Mick (“I aren`t a session man”) Ronson as vaguely symbolic, Hunter has ditched the last vestiges of Mott-style rock and roll in favour of his deliberate, conscious, yes-I-know-my-rights-and-am-of-sound-mind-and-body-and-do-knowingly-willingly-that-which-I-am-about-to-do Dylan act.

The album`s opening cut “Letter To Britannia From The Union Jack” is to-and-about Britain, and uses the rather strained metaphor heralded in the title to sound a slightly discordant note of national pride and please-get-it-together-England.
It`s the first of a fairly small cluster of moments on the album where Hunter seems unable to find language that will match the power of his attempted statement and thereby debases his theme while uncomfortable emphasis is thrown on his linguistic fumbling.
On the title cut, however, he`s in roaring form. Gerry Weems` blasting Ronsonesque lead guitar cuts in right on the heels of “Union Jack”`s fade, underscored by Jaco Pastorius` bass, Aynsley Dunbar`s stomping drums, accompanied by Hunter`s own monolithic piano chording, before the inimitable David Sanborn (formerly of the Butterfield Blues Band and “Young Americans” – period Bowie) blasts a path for a bellowingly self-assured Hunter sneering like some Dylan/Jagger fusion.
It`s a fine song, though in its opening stages the solos by Pastorius, Sanborn and Weems that interrupt the verses irritate despite their excellence, and Hunter has a fine old time machine-gunning tortuously rhymed lyrics and racing the band to the changes. His Dylanisms seem endearingly cheeky rather than offensively derivative:
“Don`t get slugged get mugged get bugged or they`ll sling you in the jug. Sweep you under some rug, give you some drug, pull out the plug and then..
I mean, howcum Bruce Springsteen didn`t write that?


From getting hilariously confused with brash Americana and TV commercials, he drifts back to his distant youth and gets misty-eyed about the callous teendream who rejected the young Hunter in “Irene Wilde”. “A Barker Street Bus Station non-affair” is how he characterises it, proving that he still has his background together.
“Restless Youth”, which ends the side, is by far the heaviest rocker on the album. Chris Stainton comes off keyboards  for his one crack at bass, and he clearly hasn`t forgotten how to crank a Fender bass up to the bonecrunching impact level of his playing on Cocker`s “With A Little Help From My Friends”.
“Rape” proves again that Hunter has a lot to learn from Dylan about writing political songs (and let`s just leave “Mozambique” right out of this, okay? I never liked the damn song in the first place anyway), “You Nearly Did Me In” has a gorgeous chorus (with backing vocals by Freddie and Roger of Queen, gang!) and a nice drift to it.
Hunter unleashes his killer punch in “Apathy 83”, which demonstrates that his ability to slice rock and roll right down the middle is completely undimmed. He also pulls off his most inspired Dylan reference of a heavily Dylan-soaked album with “Was it General Sheridan who said that the only good good man is a dead good man? It was not me, babe!” delivered in the most ringingly triumphant Bobby-the-Zee tones imaginable. He clinches with:
“Nostalgia is starting to focus too late, intelligence is starting too itch.
And there ain`t no rock and roll no more, just the music of the rich.
`N it`s apathy for the devil, apathy for the devil, apathy for the devil.
Apathy`s at fever piiiiiiiiiiitch!”

His final song, “God”, is stone Dylan with Stainton laying down an organ part so Kooperish that if you woke Al up in the middle of the night and played it to him he`d probably think it was him. Hunter`s God opens up the dialogue with “I`m gonna kick your ass, `cuz all you ever do is ask, ask, ask” and ends with “Behave yourself, see you around!” which is probably pretty much how God would talk if Ian Hunter was writing his scripts.
“All American Alien Boy” is a difficult and fairly uncompromising album; it`s uncomfortably personal, occasionally crude and self-indulgent, and it`s by no means an unqualified success. However, it`s also hugely revealing both about the subjects it discusses and the man who made it, and one which has by no means diminished my admiration of Ian Hunter.


I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!

This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Ramones, Genesis, Erich Von Daniken, Eric Carmen, Elton John, Nils Lofgren, Stanley Clarke.

The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!

1. Send me an e-mail if you are interested. Send it to:
2. The offer should be 15 $ (US Dollars) to be considered. (This includes postage).
3. We conduct the transaction through my verified Paypal account for the safety of both parties.

ARTICLE ABOUT Mott The Hoople and Black Sabbath FROM New Musical Express, April 10, 1976

This is one of those “double” reviews of albums that I`m personally not very fond of. But here you have it. Two albums reviewed for the price of one or something… Personally I find the Sabbath one a great collection of tracks even today, but Mr. Murray wouldn`t agree with me. Enjoy!


You too can have a legend like mine

Takes only two minutes a day – in your own home!

Mott The Hoople: Greatest Hits (CBS);
Black Sabbath: We Sold Our Soul For Rock `N` Roll (Nems).

By Charles Shaar Murray

A cornucopia of aspects: Compilations seen as examples of the Gentle Art Of Putting Compilation Albums Together, compilations as someone`s idea of the best and most important aspects of the artist in question, compilations as distillations of the essence of the artist and thereby lynch-pins for discussion of the artist`s Galactic Importance, Social Significance, Role in the economic exploitation of the rock-sensitive sections of the populace and occasionally New Jersey.
The Mott album was put together by the current incarnation of the band with the assistance of Stan Tippins, tour manager and close associate of the band since Year Dot.
It covers the CBS years: i.e. from “Dudes” (1972) to “Saturday Gigs” (late `74); the period from the entry of David Bowie to the departure of Ian Hunter.
It contains all the hit singles – that`s “All The Young Dudes”, “Honaloochie Boogie”, “All The Way From Memphis”, “Roll Away The Stone” and “The Golden Age of Rock And Roll” – the last two singles, which didn`t catch public interest too tough (“Foxy Foxy” and “Saturday Gigs”), and a clutch of album tracks: Pete Watts` big moment “Born Late `58” and Ian Hunter`s two melodramatic chest-beating keynote speeches “Hymn For The Dudes” and “Ballad Of Mott The Hoople (March 26, 1972, Zurich).”

Which is fair enough, obviously. “Born Late `58” is no cultural triumph, but it provides continuity with the current Hunterless Mott (who, after all, compiled the album). “Hymn” and “Ballad” are both crucial tracks, but the inclusion of both at the expense of equally crucial (and far more dynamic) pieces like “Sucker” and “Violence” balances the album far too heavily towards the portentious end.
“Saturday Gigs”, whatever its merits/demerits in its original incarnation as a single – the overly self-centred autobiography-of-Mott latter verses blow it for the far more universal opening verses – was just tailormade to be the last track on a Mott The Hoople bestof.
Still, those are individual quibbles with an individual view of the music of what was certainly one of the best and most important British bands of the first half of the `70s – and while we`re on individual quibbles, I still think “Honaloochie Boogie” sucks – and it should go without saying that anyone who wasn`t Hoople-conscious at the time owes it to his/her rock and roll soul to get this album.
On a trivia level, however, it would appear from the packaging that various old wounds dating from the Mott/Hunter/Ronson hara-kari of a year or so back are still more than a little septic.
The cover photo has Hunter – undeniably the group`s Heavy Duty Figure during its hey-day – unobtrusively stashed away behind Morgan Fisher, while Pete Watts in all his glory holds sway front`n centre.


On the back liner spread and the photo insert, there ain`t one single pic of Mick Ronson – who for better or for worse was a member of Mott The Hoople for a while, even though none of the present Motters have any cause to remember him with any affection – and the unfortunate Ronno is simply listed as having played guitar on “Saturday Gigs”, just as, say, Andy Mackay is listed as having played saxophone on “Boogie” and “Memphis.”
He`s also conspicious by his absence from any mention in CBS`s PR chief David Sandison`s liner note.
It may seem petty to go into all this, but it was a lot pettier for Tippins, Watts, Fisher, Griffin et al to turn Ministry Of Truth and attempt to re-write history like this.
Ronno was in Mott – no matter for how short a time and no matter how unhappily – so give the dude his due, boys. An album of this nature is supposed to be a picture of what went down, not a means of avenging old grievances. Be British about it, f`Chrissakes.
The Sabs` album, on the other hand, is beset by no such problems. For one thing, they`ve had the same line-up all along, so there`s no danger of the album being turned into a battlefield by warring factions. For another, they`ve only ever had one hit, so there`s no need to worry about conflicting identities as a singles band vs. album/concert band.

What it is – fanfare please, maestro – is A Monument To The Work Of A Great Group.
Wisely enough, it concentrates on the band`s early material; working on the principle that the Sabs` current young audience will be more likely to have, say, the last three albums as opposed to the first few. Therefore, the first two albums, “Black Sabbath” and “Paranoid” are re-presented virtually in toto, and its various successors are represented proportionately on a sliding scale (i.e. the more recent, the less tracks).
Mind you, it don`t make that much difference because apart from the reactionary intrusion of strings, pianos, synthesisers and other softening/broadening devices introduced to vary the monolithic belabouring of guitar, bass and drums, it all has remarkable internal consistency (when I was a snob – i.e. before I Saw The Light – I would`ve said that it all sounds the same). “We Sold Our Soul For Rock `n` Roll” – I think I`ve seen that slogan somewhere before, like on NME tube-card ads – is wall-to-wall pneumatic-drill riffing in wide-screen Skullarama, heavy as two short planks and monomaniacally psychotic/obsessive rock and roll.
I`m proud to say I love every beautiful braindamaged crushingly obvious moment of it. Cross my heart and hope to…


I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!

This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Woody Herman, Howard Schuman and Andy Mackay, Man, Roy Wood, 50`s Rock and Roll, Boxer, Al Jarreau, Bill Wyman, The Bothy Band, Mike Dorane, Billy Connolly, Fats Domino, Led Zeppelin.

The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!

1. Send me an e-mail if you are interested. Send it to:
2. The offer should be 15 $ (US Dollars) to be considered. (This includes postage).
3. We conduct the transaction through my verified Paypal account for the safety of both parties.


ARTICLE ABOUT Led Zeppelin FROM New Musical Express, April 10, 1976

This is a masterclass in how you slag off an album. Even if you like this album, you must admit that the trashing done by Mr. Murray is utterly great. If I made an album of music that someone didn`t like – this is how I would like to be told. Almost a piece of art this one. Have a nice read!


How a stampede of rogue elephants missed me by inches

By Charles Shaar Murray

Led Zeppelin: Presence (Swan Song)

Zep albums are like Sherman tanks or platoons of charging elephants: stand in front of one of those, baby, and you best believe you`ll know that something`s just run you over.
“Trampled Underfoot” wasn`t just one of the Zep`s most psychotically irresistible wrecking-ball riffs; the title was the keynote to the entire Led Zeppelin experience.
With “Presence”, the hand-brake`s off the steamroller again and someone`s just chewed through the rope that keeps the rogue males corralled; only this time instead of being right behind the eight ball waiting for the apocalypse to come and swallow you whole, you`re sitting pretty up on a nearby hill with a Thermos flask and a bunch of sandwiches wrapped up in wax paper watching the carnage below in relative comfort and worrying about the ants in your socks.
In other words, I thought my razor was dull until I heard this album, and that reminds me of a comparison that`s so specious I`m ashamed to even think of it myself. Lemme explain.
If – strictly for the purposes of argument – we accept the analogy of hard rock as musical incarnation of feisty rough`n tumble streetfighter, then Led Zeppelin are beginning to bear an increasing resemblance to some hard-as-nails ex-Commando unarmed combat instructor who could undoubtedly take out our imaginary street-fighting yobbo in four seconds flat and be calmly picking his teeth by the time his adversary stopped twitching.

In terms of all matters relating to expertise, and even “feel” in its primary sense – for reference, check out all those funk bands who`ve mastered every single known “funk” device but are so well-oiled and precise that they`ve long ago ceased to be funky in the real as opposed to formalised sense – Led Zep can, quite effortlessly, piss from a great height over any competitors within a Marshall stack`s range of them – not that there are that many to begin with.
I mean, nobody has the orgasmic macho bit down anywhere near as well as Mr. Plant. There ain`t a drummer alive with John Bonham`s pace, time or shoulders. I can`t think of a single bass player who could hold down John Paul Jones` gig without fumbling the ball by either trying to get flash or failing to carry the weight.
As for Mr Page… sheeeeeiiiiit! He`s as near to absolute storm centre as you can get without being either a genius (vide Hendrix), a dangerous loony (Beck) or a musical kamikaze pilot (James Williamson of the Stooges, Wayne Kramer and Sonic Smith of the MC5).
The capacity for organisation which is one of Led Zep`s greatest collective strengths – i.e. when it allows them to marshal their admittedly awesome resources to the utmost – carries with it the seeds of their greatest failings:
the radiation of an unmistakable aura of calculatedness which mars totally the spontaneity – or, to be more precise, the illusion of spontaneity – which is essential if a piece of rock and roll is to be anything more than mere weightlifting, if it`s going to transcend calisthenics, or even gymnastics, and achieve the dimension of dance or sex or violence – anything as long as it provides an analogue of something real.

First the good news.
“Presence” is solid, non-stop, copper-bottomed, guitar-bass-and-drums Led Zep rock and roll.
No mellotrons, no acoustic guitars, no boogies-with-Stu, no-hats-off-to-Harper, no funk or reggae piss-takes: just mercilessly methodical two-fisted pounding Led Zep for the entire duration.
Now the bad news.
There ain`t one single candidate for the Led Zep All-Time Killer Hall Of Fame in the whole caboodle.
Right from the beginning the Zeps have been hauling irresistible cranial lightning bolts from out their grab-bag.
From hats of seemingly infinite capacity they`ve conjured sixty-ton rabbits like “How Many More Years”, Communication Breakdown”, “Whole Lotta Love”, “Dazed And Confused”, “Moby Dick”, “Thank You”, Immigrant Song”, “Black Dog”, “Rock And Roll”, “Stairway To Heaven”, “Trampled Underfoot”, “Kashmir”, etc., etc.
There`s nothing on this album that leaves any residue after the first play.
The album`s best stroke is “Nobody`s Fault But Mine”, with a waving forest of overdubbed phased guitars, muscular jostling bass and drums and Plant alternately howling over the band and moaning in the pauses – a la “Black Dog”, he added as an afterthought.
It`s credited to Page and Plant, which would come as a considerable surprise to Blind Willie Johnson, who was under the impression that he wrote the song in 1928.
Nick Kent told me one time that when he did his first-ever Jimmy Page interview he raised the point that many alleged Page-Plant songs – notably “Whole Lotta Love”, “Bring It On Home”, “The Lemon Song”, “Black Mountain Side” and “In My Time Of Dying” – are either traditional or else straight lifts from the likes of Willie Dixon; Page got extremely defensive.


As well he might – if Blind Willie were still alive and had a good lawyer, he`d be along to collect his dues.
The royalties that Skip James got from Cream`s “I`m So Glad” – Clapton not only gave him his full composer credit but personally made sure that he got the bread – enabled Skip to die in relative peace and comfort, a fact attested by his widow.
Any rock and roller who steals from a bluesman is an asshole.
I hope Elvis Presley had a few sleepless nights after Arthur Crudup died in poverty without ever seeing one penny in royalties from “That`s All Right Mama”, and I would think that by now Jimmy and Percy could afford to pay Willie Dixon his dues for “Whole Lotta Love” and “Bring It On Home”.
(Anyone desirous of checking out these assertions need look no further than Sonny Boy Williamson`s “Bring It On Home” and a Muddy Waters track called “You Need Love”, which is “Whole Lotta Love” with a slightly different beat, but the same lyric and melody and almost the same riff.)
“Achilles` Last Stand” (presumably a reference to Plant`s temporary cripplehood at the time of writing and recording) gets its head down and charges remorselessly ahead, “For Your Life” is a grunt`n-stutter job in both the vocal and riff depts, “Royal Orleans” is short and sharp, “Nobody`s Fault But Mine” has already done bin dealt with, “Candy Store Rock” hustles and stabs, “Hots On For Nowhere” is vaguely swing-ish (i.e. what Glenn Miller would`ve sounded like if he`d been a murderously heavy four-piece rock band), and “Tea For One” has the pace, feel and licks of a slow blues but isn`t.
Sha da da da da yip yip yip yip mum mum mum mum sha da da da da…

“Presence” falls into the back row of the Zep canon (“Led Zeppelin”, “Led Zeppelin II”, “Led Zeppelin IV” (the runes album) and “Physical Graffiti” being the front-runners and “Led Zeppelin III” and “Houses Of The Holy” being the runners-up).
It represents yet another demonstration of the band`s mastery of form and an all-time low in the content department. Someone (I can`t remember who, but my mother used to keep quoting it to me) once said that genius is ten per cent inspiration and ninety per cent perspiration.
“Presence” is the proverbial ninety-nine and forty-four hundredths perspiration.
Mitigating circumstances: I don`t think anybody else could do anywhere near as well with this material, and I`m sure that Zep can slaughter any rock audience that you or Peter Grant or any promoter currently functioning can assemble with this stuff.
But the sad fact remains that despite the excellence of the playing, singing and production, “Presence” never gets any higher than simply being a demonstration of capabilities and an exercise in style.
However, let`s look on the bright side.
Zeppelin are rock and roll`s greatest ground-to-ground tactical nuclear missile, so let`s not listen to any more cry-baby whining about Britain being a second-class military power.
After all, if the Russkies start any hoohah, we`ll just beam this mutha at Moscow and we`ll have `em begging for mercy before the end of the first side.


A double-page spread for the ad of the album severly shot down by Mr. Murray

I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!

This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Woody Herman, Howard Schuman and Andy Mackay, Man, Roy Wood, 50`s Rock and Roll, Boxer, Al Jarreau, Bill Wyman, The Bothy Band, Mike Dorane, Billy Connolly, Fats Domino.

The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!

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