Mick Farren

ARTICLE ABOUT ABBA FROM New Musical Express, April 24, 1976

I think Abba deserves a place on my blog. Creators of some of the most melodic music ever and with a production that still holds it own among a lot of albums produced today – this is a music phenomenon you just can`t ignore.
What happens when you send a punk rocker like Mr. Farren to investigate this phenomenon? Well, his research on the band is not quite up to the standard one should expect looking at the names he gives the girls in the band. But otherwise, it is a funny and well-written collection of words on a band that fascinates the world as much now as when they ruled the world 40 years ago.

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What`s squeaky-clean, exquisitely produced, Scandinavian and goes “OOMPAH”? OOMPAH? OOMPAH!

The answer to the riddle is ABBA … and here`s Mick Farren to ask it

They`d told us that Stockholm`s numero uno disco nightclub was a place called Alexandra`s. From the way the muscle on the door looked at you when you told them you had a table booked, you could almost believe it was the city`s most exclusive niterie.
Inside, it`s black glass, mirrors and the kind of Edwardian whorehouse lampshades that they were selling in Biba`s five years ago.
On the miniscule dance floor a young woman who looks like a kind of lumpy, muscular Bibi Anderson is performing something that resembles a cross between the frug and Canadian Air Force Advanced Physical Training Routine. Another equally strapping couple join her on the floor. They start into a soft core porn-by-numbers version of The Bump.
An overweight computer salesman leads an equally overweight young woman out to join the other couples. They press against each other. The salesman rubs his hands over her thighs. They sway, roughly in time to the music. Right at that moment it`s Barry White. Later it evolves to the 1966 Spencer Davis Group.
At nearly three pounds for a drink it`s not even possible to get drunk. The whole image of Sweden as wall-to-wall Britt Eklands falls apart at the seams.
And who sent us into Alexandra`s, this feast of Scandinavian delights? None other than Bjorn Ulvaeus, one of the masterminds behind the group called Abba, the first Scandinavian pop ensemble ever to make a dent in the international entertainment industry.

I guess the only way you could have failed to be exposed to Abba`s particular brand of open-face, Ultra-Brite pop is to have spent the last twelve months in a sealed fallout shelter. Only someone totally insulated from radios, televisions and even pub juke-boxes could have missed them. Since their Eurovision Song Contest win in 1974 with a song called “Waterloo”, their music has poured forth in an unrelenting stream from just about every kind of electronic medium.
They`ve had hits (not one but virtually sequential hits, one after the other) in Britain, the U.S.A., most of Europe, Hong Kong, the Phillipines and Australia. In Australia they beat both Sinatra and Andy Williams in T.V. ratings with their telly special. About the only market in the world that they haven`t solidly dented is Japan, and that seems only to be a matter of time.
Right about now (unless you`ve already given up and turned the page) you`re probably wondering what in hell am I doing going on about Abba? Has Farren lost his marbles, suffered brain damage, been bribed? (Funny you should mention it – Ed).
No, my friends, it is not what you fear. Just bear with me a while longer and all will be made clear.
Anyone who comes so fast and hard out of left field and sells so many millions of records has to qualify as a PHENOMENON. A squeaky clean phenomenon for sure, nowhere in the same bracket as Lou Reed, but a phenomenon just the same.
“Wait a minute,” you cry, “surely if a big corporation hype is being undertaken it`s no great hardship to use a band that`s a novelty in terms of its country of origin? Isn`t it just the Osmonds in a Bergman location? If they did it in Salt Lake City they can do it in Stockholm.”

That would be quite true, except for one thing, Abba are not the product of some faceless corporation mogul in the Hollywood Hills, with I.B.M. time and lots and lots of money. Sure they`re a manufactured product, but the men behind them are Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, who happen to be in the group, and Stig Anderson, who is the boss of the almost one-man Polar Records label that had previously catered solely for the Scandinavian market.
In form and style, their closest antecedents are the early days of Motown – or maybe Philles.
Once again I hear the cries starting – Abba? Motown? Philles??
Okay, I know Abba don`t sound anything like either Motown or Philles. They aren`t funky, they have no soul and they`re bland to the point of making baby food seem raunchy. It`s the structure that produces the music that I`m talking about – and also the fact that a frightening amount of work goes into each one of their records.
Admittedly, to an ear that`s been weaned on rock and roll it`s hard to detect. I`d dismissed Abba as audio pablum and closed my mind whenever I heard “Mamma Mia” in the pub until a couple of my noble colleagues pointed out just how complex the Abba backing tracks were.
They were right, too. It took quite a while to strip away the eager, healthy vocal sound, the cute-to-the-point-of-moronic lyrics and the continually bouncing Nordic boom-boom hereafter referred to as Eurobeat. Once that`s done, you`re actually left with a pop structure in the grand manner of The Beatles or Spector.
So grand, in fact, that it would be more than likely to go clean over the head of the average Abba punter.
The whole thing was sufficiently intriguing that, when the chance to go to Stockholm and look at Abba in their natural habitat came up, I went to investigate.

The natural habitat of Abba varies between a large, rather elegant house near the centre of Stockholm and an island retreat outside the city. The house is where all Abba`s business is transacted; the country house is where they retire to at regular intervals to write, record and produce more songs.
The first part of the Abba story came from Stig Anderson. Anderson has medium-length hair and the craggy features of a Hemingway character. He has been in the music industry since the early `60`s.
In 1971 his partner died and it was suggested that he hire Benny Andersson as a producer. Benny brought Bjorn Ulvaeus and as Benny and Bjorn they created a couple of Swedish hits. Then, teaming up with the two girls they made “Ring Ring” which, although it made no mark on the U.K. market, was a major hit in Northern Europe. From there, world domination was in sight.
While Andersson talks, he is constantly interrupted by calls and secretaries. His office is just what you`d expect of a Swedish record company whose main attraction is Abba. It`s all bright, clean, stripped pine efficiency. The only thing in the entire room that doesn`t fit with the squeaky clean image is a big, almost life size painting. It`s of a schoolgirl in gymslip, crisp white blouse and straw boater. Her blouse is unbuttoned and one breast is exposed. Her discreet and presumably masturbating hand has slipped under her skirt. The style is ultra realism. It`s the only sign of decadence in the whole Abba operation.
Stig Andersson is a very definite part of the team that produces Abba`s records. He writes some of the lyrics and generally lets Benny and Bjorn use him as a kind of sounding board. They try out new songs on him first and depending on his response they decide what`s commercial and what isn`t. Although I can no way go along with his taste there`s no denying that, so far, he has an uncanny feel for public taste, but so, for that matter, has the editor of The Sun.

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We move downstairs to a basement office to meet the group themselves. A photo session is winding up. Abba have been decked out in Daily Mirror Pop Club T-shirts. The two girls, Frieda and Anna, drop into instant posed animation for the camera. In between they seem kind of bored.
Benny and Frieda are engaged. Bjorn and Anna are married.
That`s right, folks, it`s a family act.
Bjorn Ulvaeus is thin and intelligent, he tends to do more of the talking. Benny Andersson is bearded and jovial. Anna and Frieda have the aloofness of the professionally decorative. It quickly becomes clear that they do not play any great role in the creative side of the act. Shortly after the interview they leave the room.
There`s a little initial fencing around. The two men are open and friendly. They are neither idiots or cynical pap-pushers who calculatedly feed the public what they think they want. They obviously like the work they`re doing, take great pains with it and are anxious to extend their creativity as far as possible.
They are both products of the somewhat isolated Scandinavian pop scene. Bjorn played with a folk outfit called the Hootenanny Singers, while Benny was in a band called the Hep Stars who played “Hermans Hermits songs and that kind of thing.” Just the name conjures up pictures of what these groups must have been like. I have visions of earnest Swedes solemnly intoning M.O.R. babble learned off the records.
“You have to realise that, in Sweden, we don`t have the rock and roll background that there is in Britain or America. We listened to Chuck Berry and The Rolling Stones of course but we didn`t quite grow up with them in the same way that you did.”

I ask them about Eurobeat. Why are they so obsessed by that jolly, obnoxious boom-boom?
Benny volunteers: “This is the popular traditional music of Nothern Europe. Our folk songs sound like that. The first instrument I ever had was an accordion. My parents bought it for me when I was about ten.”
An accordion! It seems to almost symbolise the problem of Abba. It fits, but it`s hard to explain. Outside of maybe Clifton Chenier, as far as I`ve ever been concerned, the only good accordion is a dead accordion. I think we have maybe defined the culture gap, if not bridged it.
Earlier, in Stig Andersson`s office he had played me a cut called “Intermezzo” from the album “Abba.” It`s obviously the prime example of Benny stretching out beyond the song Song For Europe format. It`s an instrumental from the Wakeman/Emmerson/Moruz bag, except the Eurobeat bounces through it. It is impressively put together. A lot of work and technical skill obviously went into it and it gets right up my nose. It also proves that Eurobeat is so deeply ingrained in the souls of these Swedes that they will probably never lose it.
The time comes when there`s no getting round the central unpleasant question: “How come you take so much trouble with the production of the music on your record and then stick these moronic lyrics over the top?”
I do my best to phrase it more politely, but it still comes out sounding mildly insulting.
To my surprise nobody is actually insulted. Benny shys away slightly. “We don`t want to write political songs. We don`t want to turn our records into speeches.”
I explain I didn`t mean politics, just imagery and content. Love songs can have a hell of a lot more depth than anything Abba have ever attempted. I point at examples like “Yesterday,” “California Dreamin” and “God Only Knows.” Bjorn looks thoughtful.

“I`m glad you brought this up. It is possible that we`ve been concentrating too much on the music and neglecting the lyrics. You have to realise that it is very hard to create images in a foreign language.”
“You always write in English.”
“Yes. So few people speak Swedish.”
“It wouldn`t be possible to do something part English and part Swedish, the way McCartney used French in “Michelle?”
“Anything`s possible. I think we are becoming far more fluent in English. Since we`ve been touring we find it much easier to express ideas.”
The interview changes into a discussion of lyrics. Both Benny and Bjorn seem anxious to learn all they can. It could simply be a case of flatter-the-journalist-so-he-writes-nice-things, but I do get the feeling that these guys who have suddenly started producing world-wide hits from what must be a musical backwater, want to soak up information like sponges.
The conversation moves on to morality.
“Don`t you feel that, with Abba, you could almost be turning out a kind of palliative; jolly songs that create the illusion that things aren`t as bleak as they really are?”
“Bleak?”
“We are in the middle of a depression.”
“We don`t plan in advance what we are going to do. We just go to our island and record whatever`s in our heads.”
Bjorn joins in: “We have not felt the effects of the depression too much in Sweden.”
I think about the people merrily knocking back their £3 drinks. Perhaps he`s right.

There`s one other thing I feel I ought to find out about. Abba are a group who have been promoted to a large extent by the medium of television. What do they do when they play live?
“We don`t play a great many concerts. It`s a problem to reproduce what we do on record live. When we do play we have something like 17 people on the stage.
“We also don`t like to be committed to lengthy tours. It means we can`t go out to our island and record. This is the most important thing.”
“Surely when you go to America to play concerts you`re going to be pushed into the Las Vegas circuit?”
“We don`t want to become a Vegas act.”
That is very firm. I wonder how these earnest Swedes are going to deal with the big league music Mafia.
“You don`t feel the need to play regularly to a live audience?”
“Not at the moment, but things are always changing.”
A bottle of Aquavit comes out and the interview winds down. I don`t really feel I`ve got the whole picture. I`m not sure I`d have it if I spent a whole week with Abba. Finally Bjorn drives us back to the hotel. This, in itself, is pretty unusual for a pop star.
I suppose that brings us back to where we came in: The gymnastic frug in the discotheque. Abba (and young Sweden, for that matter) appear serious, hard working, painstaking and eager.
Unfortunately, they don`t have natural rhythm. And that`s why Abba are Abba, and not The Beach Boys.

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Yes, THAT group would be even more exciting over the years.

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: Mick Ronson, British Country Music Festival, Rolling Stones, J.J. Cale, Magna Carta, Dr. Alimantado, Steve Harley, Osibisa.

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: geirmykl@gmail.com
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 Black Sabbath from New Musical Express, October 11, 1975

Personally I think this album is one among many that Sabbath did that I enjoy a lot. I think this was a case of NME assigning the wrong guy to review a great album. The result is plain to see, and it goes awfully wrong for all involved. For historic purposes – here it is!

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Black Sabbath: Sabotage – (Nems)

Record review by Mick Farren

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I think it was Lester Bangs who put forward the proposition that people who went to Black Sabbath concerts derived their pleasure from ingesting massive amounts of downers and simply let the noise of the band vibrate their chest cavities, thus bypassing the ear altogether.
The problem with this thesis is that it hardly holds true for Black Sabbath`s records. You can scarcely achieve this kind of effect on the average home stereo without facing instant eviction.
There simply can`t be enough hermits and mountain dwellers to put this unpleasant record at number 9 in the charts.
At this point the fact has to be faced that Black Sabbath are simply low consciousness music.
(At this point the ingratiating critic slips in a disclaimer).
There is nothing essentially wrong with a low consciousness. It`s simply that I find it hard to relate to. I don`t have one. Neither do my knuckles trail on the ground when I walk.
Little Richard used to call rock and roll the healing music. Daily Mirror columnists like to call a tune “infectious”. This has to be atrophy music.

It`s heavy metal that`s so far into its half life that decay is almost complete.
The snap and fire of Jimi, the MC5 and even the early Who has been transformed by Sabbath into a ponderous, rolling THING that crushes all in its monomaniac path.
Is there no handsome young scientists who will come and save us in the nick of time?
Just as religoid chorales and tired shock tactics fail to disguise the essentially brutal thud-thud structures, the five cent psychiatry in the lyrics fails to boost them to even B movie stature.
Some couplets are dull gems of hothouse illiteracy.
How about: “Everybody`s looking at me / They`re paranoid inside / When I step outside I`ll feel free / Think I`ll find a place to hide”.
Then the subject enquires if he`s going insane. His only answer is loony laughter.
This isn`t psychodrama, It`s an amusement park ghost train. It has the same cheap, lowest common denominator, dubious thrill quotient while totally lacking the kind of gaudy innocence that might make it redeemingly charming.
It`s also highly successful, and probably causes brain damage.
Can I please take it off now?

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I have personally transcribed this from the original paper and you are free to use it as you like. If you use it on your own webpages – please credit me or put up a link to my blog.

This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Roxy Music, Bay City Rollers, Bruce Springsteen, The Doors, The Who, Dave Mason, Mott.

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: geirmykl@gmail.com
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 Frank Zappa FROM NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS, April 26, 1975

I didn`t know about the court case described in this article before I started to read this paper recently. I knew about his fight against the PMRC ((Parents Music Resource Center) in the mid-eighties, but didn`t know that he fought another case ten years earlier with the same theme regarding censorship. There should be more Frank Zappa`s in the world.

Have an enjoyable read!

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`What is a groupie?` asked his Lordship…

Mothers albums nestle amongst the legal papers. A stereo system has been set up in front of the judge. The scene is Law Court Seven. The topic: The Suppository Principle Of Culture. Adjacent matters of interest: dog continuity, The Groupie Papers, and the magnetic deviation of San Clemente.
Kids – be upstanding for Uncle Frank…

Pictures: Joe Stevens
Report: Mick Farren

On monday April 14 at 10.30 in the morning Bizarre Productions began to sue the Royal Albert Hall in front of Mr. Justice Mocatta. This drama took place at the Number Seven Court of the Law Courts in the Strand.
The issue was the cancellation of The Mothers Of Invention/London Philharmonic presentation of “200 Motels” originally scheduled  for February 8th, 1971, at the Albert Hall.
For those of you who don`t remember the exact details, perhaps this is the time to remind you. The Zappa concert was planned as a kind of gala two-pronged promotion, intended to boost both the movie of “200 Motels” and the Mothers` subsequent UK tour.
At the last minute, the Albert Hall cancelled Zappa`s booking and refused to allow the concert to take place. The reason they gave was that they considered parts of the script to be obscene and objectionable.
On the night of the concert, the TV news showed apparently angry protests by fans outside the Albert Hall.
Zappa and his business manager Herb Cohen (the partnership that constitutes Bizarre Productions) decided to sue. They are currently claiming damages against the management of the Albert Hall for both the financial loss caused by the cancellation and the resulting loss of important publicity.
The case took four years to come to court.

Let`s move on to the first Wednesday of the case.
Number Seven Court is a high-ceilinged room, all grey stone and aged panelling – that strange combination of Kafka and Camelot that appears to have been the Victorian ideal of justice.
Among the wigs, the thick leather-bound books and the faint air of dust in the light streaming through high-mullioned windows, Frank Zappa cuts a somewhat strange figure.
He has made some endeavours to meet the court halfway. He is wearing a conservative brown-check suit, a white shirt and what looks unnervingly like an old school tie.
The effect is hardly a total success. With his hair hanging loose, some way below his shoulders, he looks, if anything, a little reminiscent of Tiny Tim.
At the start of the afternoon session Zappa has already been on the witness stand all morning and for part of the previous day. Under examination he speaks very quietly and on a number of occasions the judge has requested that he speak up. It is obvious that this case is not going to be turned into any kind of theatrical spectacle.
Not that the proceedings are without a few surreal touches.

Mothers albums nestle among the imposing bundles of legal paper. A stereo system has been set up in front of the judge. The counsel for the defence has a large dictionary of American slang in front of him. It has a garish red, white and blue cover.
The judge has already listened to a good deal of the “200 Motels” album. He received most of it with his head sunk in his hands. He complained that he couldn`t hear the words. He refused to have the track “Penis Dimension” played in court.
Mr. Justice Mocatta had already read the lyrics and he found them objectionable.
There have been other odd touches of the kind that always seems to occur when the world of rock-and-roll confronts the very different world of law.
The judge has had problems with the terminology of rock. The word “groupie” seemed to puzzle him.
“Is a groupie a girl who is a member of a group?”
Zappa shakes his head.
“No, she is a girl who likes members of a rock-and-roll band.”
The judge has encountered other troubles.
“When I started this case, I knew very little about pop and beat music. I knew it was to do with rhythm, banging, and an infectious atmosphere. I didn`t know it was anything to do with sex or drugs.”
Zappa points out that the majority of pop music has some kind of sexual connotations.

One of the first highlights of Wednesday afternoon was when Zappa was shown one of the now-legendary posters of him sitting naked on the can. The counsel for the Albert Hall asked if the poster had been produced with his knowledge.
There was a short pause.
It hardly seemed possible that anyone could be photographed in the privacy of their own john without having knowledge of it. Zappa answered carefully. The poster had been published without his consent.
The subject was pursued no further.
One of the points of the Bizarre case is that if the Albert Hall management had objected to the lyrics, Zappa would have been both willing and able to adapt and change the words, had he been consulted. He alleged that he could have done it at very short notice.
In order to demonstrate this, Zappa`s counsel handed him a script of “200 Motels” and asked him to “render the lyrics suitable for a socially-retarded audience”.
(“A socially-retarded audience” is the term used by the Bizarre side for the kind of crowd who would find the Mothers` lyrics objectionable).
Zappa started to render. The results were startling. Lines came out like: “The places she goes/Are filled with guys from Pudsey/Waiting for a chance/To buy her Sudsy.”
This was the moment, reading in a slow deadpan voice, when Zappa the witness came closest to Zappa the performer. The judge, however, seemed confused.
“Pudsey?”
Zappa`s counsel attempted to help.
“Pudsey, Yorkshire, m`lud.”
“It`s produced some fine cricketers, I believe.”

Soon after that, Zappa completed his testimony and left the stand. He walked straight out of the court. It seemed to be a signal for most of the spectators to rush out for a smoke.
Zappa sat on a bench in the corridor. He looked tired.
“You realise I can`t say anything about the case.”
Inside, Herb Cohen is running the fiscal and logistic facts about the deal on the Albert Hall.
The long-haired legal clerks who seem to have taken time off to watch Zappa decide to go back to work. One of them expresses a very positive desire that Zappa will win.
At just after six the same evening, Joe Stevens and I walk through the gilded portals of The Dorchester in Park Lane. We have come to talk to Frank Zappa.
Up in room 640, Frank is already talking to a rival journalist. The journalist is a fairly nondescript, average rock writer.
He has a lady with him. She possesses the most amazing nipples.
As far as it is possible to judge through the knitted silk sweater, they are roughly half the gross mass of her breasts. Perhaps it`s an illusion, or maybe even a device from Frederick`s of Hollywood.
Zappa has changed out of his court clothes into pink jeans, a tan sweater, orange socks and brown slip-ons – not Gucci, however. No little chains across the tongue. (How`m I doing, Lisa?)

He looks even more tired than he did in court and sits almost motionless in a Dorchester brocade armchair. He`s obviously unhappy at the fact that the next afternoon he has to fly back to New York, and go almost directly from plane to stage to play a concert with the Mothers.
Joe and I are offered coffee.
Frank does it in a way that makes it very clear that requests for large bourbons or tequila sunrises will not be entertained. We settle for coffee, and wait politely while the rival journalist notes down Frank Zappa`s top twenty in rather slow longhand.
There is a long discussion that centres around the enema scene in Paderewski`s opera “The Devils of Loudon”. This is a prime item in Zappa`s top twenty.
Another item listed is anything by Richard Berry. It appears that Richard Berry, the man who actually wrote “Louie Louie” and recorded it as Richard Berry And The Pharaohs, sold the entire rights to the song for $5,000.
Zappa considers Berry one of the most important figures in the West Coast rhythm-and-blues scene of the Fifties. He even goes into detail:
“He heard a band playing a Latin instrumental called `Cha Cha Loco`. It had the same basic ba-ba dum, dum-dum riff. Berry scribbled some words down on a brown paper bag. That`s how `Louie Louie` was written.
“The Kingsmen later mutilated it.”
All fascinating stuff. Hardly to the point, however.
The rival journalist has finally finished and it`s time to get down.

What about the trial, Frank?
“I can`t talk about the trial.”
After having spent nine days at the Old Bailey a couple of years ago, defending myself on a criminal obscenity rap, I still have a morbid interest in the legal process, particularly where it encompasses censorship.
I ask Frank if he`d be willing to talk, off the record, about the general background of the case.
“No.”
Why? (Politely).
Zappa is very matter-of-fact.
“I don`t trust anybody.”
Just then the phone rings. Frank has a five minute conversation with his lawyer. He hangs up, and looks around the room.
“I will have to ask you all to forget anything you might have overheard.”
The turnround is fortuitous. Fate (or the GPO) forces the Twentieth Century Zen master into a position of human. We smile, and the conversation is duly forgotten.
It`s kind of hard to hold a conversation when the central topic of interest is verboten. The only answer is to take care of business and let the pearls drop where they may. I cop out and go for an awful stock opener.

Do you have any plans to play the UK?
(At least I didn`t get the answer “Play them at what?”)
“We have no plans for England at all. It is a simple matter of being unable to find suitable venues.”
It`s obvious you like to play in Britain. You sell records here, and generally make money when you tour.
“London is very important. If a person plays in England it contributes to the over-all European promotion. The media are in London. You get written about in London, and it gets translated for other European countries.”
I ask him if he has ever explored the possibilities of Alexandra Palace. I`m very fond of Alexandra Palace with its pillars and fountains.
“I understand it`s impossible to get a sound there.”
The Grateful Dead managed it with their monster sound system.
The Zappa deadpan comes down.
“I only deal with mortal equipment.”

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The conversation moves on.
The next subject is Captain Beefheart. Zappa seems pleased that this has come up.
“I can officially tell you that Don is a member of The Mothers Of Invention. He is part of our current US tour.”
Zappa consistently refers to Beefheart as Don Vliet. They`ve been friends since their teens, cruising for burgers together and singing along with the radio. It makes a touching picture.
“Don will be singing, playing harmonica, dancing and having a good time for the first time in his life.
“He had a very harrowing experience with the last band and his management. They made a fool of him. He called me up and asked for help.
“I told him that the Mothers were holding auditions on Tuesday and Thursday, and that he should come along. He flunked the first one, but the second was okay.”
All this after he`s been badmouthing you for the past three years or so?
“There really has never been any animosity on my part. He asked for help. Any idea of a feud between us is quite pointless.”
Frank becomes more animated as he starts to elaborate. It seems as though he has a real affection for Beefheart.
“The way he relates to language is unique, the way in which he brings my text to life. Of course he has problems. His memory causes him trouble. He won`t be separated from his sheets of paper that have his words written on. He clings to them for dear life.

“He also has a literacy problem. He can hardly read. He also has trouble staying on a beat. Captain Beefheart has no natural rhythm.
“He does have this thing inside him. It`s dynamic and he wants to express it. In a voice like Howlin` Wolf.”
The conversation veers from Beefheart and moves on to Howlin` Wolf. It`s a strange experience to see Frank Zappa actually talking in a tone that comes close to awe.
“The Howlin` Wolf could really get across.”
The Wolf talk goes on. Wolf anecdotes come too fast to record. Zappa also relates his persona as a Wolf fan to Beefheart and his new slide-guitar player. Beefheart`s harmonicas seem to play an essential part in the new Mothers repertoire.
The rival journalist asks if Frank is moving towards a blues thing. Frank smiles and nods. You get the feeling that it could be like no blues ever seen on the planet.

We move from Wolf and Beefheart to the general area of people like them – individuals with a unique talent, but one that can`t be pigeonholed by the entertainment industry.
“In society today those people get the worst deal. Society retards the individual. An example is Bob Dylan. When he came out with `Like A Rolling Stone` the industry reacted by creating `The Eve Of Destruction`.
“You could say that I hire the handicapped.”
Zappa goes on to define.
“I admire anyone who makes a positive statement, even if it`s moronic, I can admire the positively moronic, anyone who sits down and says this is my statement, stick it up your ass.”
I venture a Zen pupil joke.
“The suppository principle of culture?”
I get the deadpan. “That`s the kind of thing they talk about in court.”
Then, later, Zappa used the phrase himself a couple of times.
I venture an awkward question. How does Frank relate the early Zappa – the abrasive social commentator – to the present-day, very individualistic musician?
What happened to the political songs, Frank?

Zappa dismisses the whole thing very quickly. Not quickly enough to betray embarrassment, just sufficiently fast to indicate that it`s not very interesting.
He sees his songs as timeless. He`s written “Brown Shoes Don`t Make It”. He`s written “Trouble Coming Every Day”. They are still appropriate. He doesn`t need to write them again.
If you have a band with Mark and Howard in it, you find yourself documenting the trivia that form society.
“People in fifty years` time should have documentation of monsters like Cal Worthington.”
Cal Worthington is a singing cowboy used-car dealer who has immensely long TV commercials during L.A.`s late, late show.
So the groupies and the stars on Hollywood Boulevard say John Provost and Leo G. Carroll are as important as Richard Nixon?
“In a way. I have written a song about Nixon.”
Son of Orange County?
“No, another one. It`s called `Dicky`s Such An Ass-hole` or `San Clemente Magnetic Deviation`.
Magnetic deviation?
“Aviation pilots stay away from the San Clemente area. There is a deviation from the earth`s normal magnetic field around San Clemente island. That`s not actually where Nixon lives, but it`s very close.”
There`s speculation in room 640 about alien invaders sitting on San Clemente island plotting the whole dirty business. When Grand Funk tell you aerosols are going to destroy the atmosphere you`re frankly not impressed. When Zappa starts on the earth`s magnetic field, you tend to give it a little more credibility.

We make a jump to his more recent work.
It turns out that he spent the period off the road after his Rainbow accident working on his singing. He confesses that he never had much confidence in himself as “the dynamic lead singer in a rock-and-roll band”.
A lot of this experimentation took the form of fitting words to guitar licks.
So `Penguin In Bondage` is simply a set of words fitted around a riff?
Zappa pauses to light a Winston.
“`Penguin In Bondage` is a true story.”
Everything stops dead.
Would you like to relate it?
“It`s far too personal.”
The conversation goes round and round. More journalists come in. Soon everyone is vamping on each other`s action. It tends to be confusing.
Frank seems delighted. A session of “Whatever happened to” seems a painless way to ace out the competition.
What happened to Larry (Wild Man) Fischer?
“Larry Fischer is still on Sunset Strip. He still sells original songs for a dime, and my address and phone number for fifty cents. He carries his album under his arm. He wants to make another one. It ought to be called `The Cheek of Wild Man Fischer`.”

The twelve-album set that constitutes a history of The Mothers in unreleased material?
Zappa looks a little sad.
“This is a very difficult and expensive project. We currently have someone canvassing retailers. If we can get orders for five thousand, the company will release it, but it`s very difficult.”
The Groupie Papers?
Zappa looks enthusiastic. The Groupie Papers seem close to his heart.
“My secretary Pauline was transcribing them, but that stopped. Noel Redding also asked for his diaries back. Cynthia Plastercaster still lives about a hundred miles from Chicago. She`s still keeping diaries. Miss Pamela has a straight acting job. She plays the ingenue in a soap opera called `As The World Turns`. Miss Sparky, another of the G.T.O.s. wants to do a parody of the show called `As the Turd Whirls`.”
Frank warms to his subject.
“They really would make a fantastic book. There are Cynthia`s diaries. Pamela`s diaries and Noel Redding`s diaries. They start out by not knowing each other, and slowly they converge. At first they talk about each other, then they meet.
“It`s a dramatic, factual insight into the Sixties and rock hysteria.
“The main problem with putting the book into logical form is how you arrange the separate continuities.

“You have Noel. He joins Hendrix and keeps a diary, all in code, of how many girls he had and what they did. Then you have Pamela who records, at nine, how she cried when Caryl Chessman, the red light bandit, was executed and Cynthia, whose father attacked her because she had unnaturally big tits for her age.
“There`s a sequence when Pamela falls in love with Cynthia. The problem is that Cynthia isn`t the least bisexual. Pamela hocks her record-player and, without any real idea of what it`s like, goes to Chicago in the middle of winter, to get into Cynthia`s pants.
“There`s a very sad Polaroid picture of them both sitting up in bed after it has all been a terrible failure.
“Cynthia`s diaries are quite incredible. She makes strange clinical notes about who she balled, and if she casted them. There`s even notes on how she goes about locating rock stars. They would be great for Sherlock Holmes.
“Her diaries are scientific and detached, even down to the formula of her different casting materials.
“She also draws cartoons – strange and well-executed. They`re rather like Little Orphan Annie, except she`s chasing down-who`s an example?…say Paul Revere and the Raiders.
“It would make one hell of a movie.”

After that it seemed as though it was time to leave.
Journalists just kept coming. How could we top the true story of the Groupie Papers? Then, as Joe and I were making our farewells, it happened.
Frank Zappa introduced us to The Dog Continuity.
“It`s not actually so much of a Dog Continuity as a Poodle Continuity. It recurs on each record. It`s an abstract concept, much in the way that Rembrandt added brown to all his colours. That`s the level.
“On the next album it will be conceptually reduced to the word arf.”
With that, we left.
It wasn`t quite the end, though. We caught up with Frank at Dingwall`s.
He sat calmly enjoying himself, comparing it to the late Max`s Kansas City, eating one of those Dingwall`s hamburgers that for some inexplicable reason come encased in Greek bread, praising Jackie Lynton`s Grande, and telling one of the waitresses that she “had a fine walk”.

Hensley was big enough to warrant a full-page ad! Nice.

Hensley was big enough to warrant a full-page ad! Nice.

I have personally transcribed this from the original paper and you are free to use it as you like. If you use it on your own webpages – please credit me or put up a link to my blog.

This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Steely Dan, Al Green, Pete Atkin and Clive James, Joe Walsh, Sweet, David Allan Coe, Carla Bley, Syl Johnson, The Pink Fairies.

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: geirmykl@gmail.com
2. The offer should be around or upwards of 20 $ (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 Kiss FROM NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS, February 22, 1975

The last time I posted something with Kiss in it, I had a lot of traffic to my site, so here is an album review of their very first album, first printed in NME almost exactly a year after its original release. Never too late to do a review of this wonderful album, but Mr. Farren had a really lousy day at the office when listening to this.
So, for the sake of historic interest – here it is for you to digest.

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KISS: “Kiss” (Casablanca)

Album review by Mick Farren

Up until Max Bell gave us his reasoned defence of Kiss a couple of weeks ago, I had assumed they were simply an also ran in the glitter stakes who had taken the S+M vampire make up to the point of overkill and altogether missed the boat.
After reading Max`s piece I made a serious attempt to bypass the fright mask cover portrait and take these people seriously as a potential great high energy band of the 1970s. I fear, however, that they are a long way from being the MC5.
Kiss have made the error of thinking that energy generation in rock and roll is a matter of formula. They use the cliches that have been developed over the years by every high energy band.

They seem to have a kind of ignorant faith that the rock audience is conditioned to a Pavlovian response to music after all this time, and will jump to the banal like a rat up a maze. Ring the bell and the dogs dribble, hit a power chord and the kids run out and buy your record. It is a logical idea for these jaded decadent 70s, but fortunately it isn`t true, quite yet, although it could provide the scenario for the next Bowie album.
The greats of high energy like Townshend and Kramer used power chords, stops and searing runs to lash the audience to higher levels of ecstasy. It was an almost subconscious physical link that started a feedback ring between the musician and the listener that built to a greater and greater high.
Most of the great energy players knew how to form the circuit, but they couldn`t isolate a formula behind it.

Kiss have attempted to process all that has gone before and produce the feedback by an effort of logic, and it just doesn`t work.
The album might have been saved had their rhythm section been less tricky and more energetically oafish, but despite all their efforts, the outcome is simply plodding.
To make matters even worse, they don`t seem to be singing about anything. It`s hard to tell. The vocal sound is so compressed that the lyrics are almost unintelligible.
I sincerely hope Kiss aren`t the high energy band of the 70s, although if they are, I could explain why the planet is so low on fun.

Kiss_first_album_cover

I have personally transcribed this from the original paper and you are free to use it as you like. If you use it on your own webpages – please credit me or put up a link to my blog.

This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Status Quo, Bryan Ferry, Robin Trower, Alan Freeman, David Bowie, Elton John, Larry Coryell, Hank Marvin, Eric Clapton, Kursaal Flyers, Todd Rundgren.

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: geirmykl@gmail.com
2. The offer should be around or upwards of 20 $ (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 David Bowie FROM NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS, November 16, 1974

Here it is, finally another article from those golden days. Have you missed me? Well, sometimes paid work must take presedence over this little hobby of mine. Today you get an article from one of Bowie`s adventures in America. They were still a little confused over yet another change of direction for him. If they only knew what we know now!
See you later, and enjoy!

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Mr. Bowie has left the theatre

Report: Mick Farren

And yes, we KNOW we`ve used that headline before – but what else could we call it? Funky Dory? The Man Who Souled The World? Just how corny d`you think we can GET?

New York`s Radio City music hall, with its elaborate art deco Thirties interior, must be the ideal place to present a David Bowie show. Unfortunately the decor wasn`t enough to hold up the first two shows.
All reports seemed to agree that the first early stagings in the five night stint were on the abject side of rotten. On the Sunday night, however, Bowie finally pulled it together and staged one of the finest live rock spectaculars that New York has been treated to in years.
In many ways New York is Bowie`s city. It lends itself to the kind of social orchestration at which he really excels.

As early as “Hunky Dory” days, he was courting the approval of the established Gotham Art Gang who have their epi-centre atWarhol`s Union Square Factory.
Later, when his phenomenon burned bright in the sky, New York was, above all, the city where his style and image became the blueprints for the kids who roam the hothouse nightlife of Max`s or the 82 club. Bowie was the mother code for their experiments in the transexual exhibitionism that has never been so successfully exploited by the likes of The New York Dolls and Wayne County.
Of course, Bowie has had an effect on kids throughout all of “Western Civilisation” where rock-and-roll has seeped in, but it`s been nowhere more intense than in New York City.

Despite the adverse reactions to the first Radio City concerts, the effect was still as strong as ever. The crazies in the 82 might vehemently put down the Wednesday-night show, but they still felt constrained to disguise themselves in costumes from various stages of Bowie`s development.
A couple of bad shows weren`t enough to stop the parade of look-alikes and oddities putting on their finery and hitting the the street because David was in town. Hot Tramp was still the signal in the afterhours booze-and-disco joints for the high spots in perverse juvenile display, and the kids from the suburbs – and even the small upstate towns – painted sinister bat-wings across their cheeks, climbed into their glowing spacesuits and Busby Berkley outfits, and headed downtown.
The show they got, however – the experiment that reached its peak on Sunday night at Radio City Musical Hall – showed them a David Bowie who was very different from any previous incarnations.
If you have to find a frame of reference for this new-look Bowie, the closest thing to it would be the James Brown Show, though that`s hardly an adequate description.

The performance opened with the predominantly black thirteen-piece Mike Garson Band, including six back-up singers and guitarist Earl Slick from the previous tour.
They do a swift, choreographed sub-Stevie Wonder, bless-all-the-people-and-don`t-forget-the-children act for fifteen minutes. An intermission follows, and then the slow moody curtain opens with the Garson squad doing a funky, almost “Talkin Book”-style, “Diamond Dogs”.
Finally The Man comes out.
Bowie is a strange combination of Funk, Katherine Hepburn, Dickensian Tweed dyke, and the young Elvis Presley in a blue workshirt, loosely knotted tie and ultra-short, tight tweed jacket.
He swaggers across the stage swinging a W. C. Fields walking-stick. Moves like a cross between Fred Astaire and James Brown.
The phenomenon of David Bowie fronting what amounts to an avant-garde soul show is a strange thing to watch.
It`s also a joy.

David Bowie is, in essence, totally unoriginal. He constantly borrows, steals and adapts.
This is particularly noticeable in his visual presentation. He`s almost like an animated flick-book, moving fluidly from one pose to the next.
The creativity lies in the outrageous juxtapositioning. One moment he`ll hit a bent knee, guitar slung across his back, pointing finger, total reproduction of a classic Elvis Presley photograph – the next he`s instantly switched to the brave little girl, a la Judy Garland. It`s almost uncanny how he can tread such a dangerous path with so much expertise.
The posters out for this tour proclaim the message “David Bowie in a Complete New Show”.
In some respect, the completely new thing about the show is the source Bowie is now borrowing from. He`s discovered the delights of being part of a funky-but-get-down-rock-and-roll band. Of course, it`s progressive stuff, but the British kids` favourite soul mannerisms are all there.

He struts the stage like Otis Redding. He combines with the vocal unit to wring the maximum out of every song.
To the consternation of the loyal and true fans, a few of whom came back to the hotel to show the security guys their 8,000 press clips of their David, the songs do tend to get mangled out of recognition.
Imagine “1984” done in the style of The Temptations, or “Rock `n` Roll Suicide” turned into a soul sobber on the scale of “I`ve Been Loving You Too Long”. The prospect is at once awesome and objectionable. It depends on the conservatism in your heart.
The whole thing has the streamlined professionalism of a chitlin` circuit soul review.
The change-overs, although still slightly sloppy, went like lightning compared to the usual standards of first division rock-and-roll. The curtains are used for dramatic effect, and at the end of the show, after a statutory “Diamond Dogs” encore, a voice announces that “Mr. Bowie Has Left The Theatre”. It kills the kids demanding a Second Coming stone dead. They leave the theatre with a fine sense of quietly hunting for more.

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The party afterwards at the Gramercy Park Hotel gave the New York Glittzers a chance to mingle with the cast and characters of the Radio City ensemble.
Bowie, supping on sturgeon and sipping Dom Perignon, held animated conversation with David Johanssen of the Dolls, Tony Visconti, and Wayne County (sans wig and looking very straight).
Talk ranged over a January `75 tour of Brazil, the Liz Taylor/Bowie silver screen debut shelved till next year, an album recorded in Philly for release in January, and the April/May/June tour of England, Scotland and maybe S. Ireland and the Continent.
Next day the rumour mill tells us that Bowie`s leaving early to drive to Cleveland, the next stop on the itinerary.
This kind of irrelevant information is very important in the incestuous little community that hangs around any major rock tour. Vampirella and chums fade from the lobby, and slink off to their lairs to lurk in wait for the next passing superstar. The rest of us make our own plans for the hop to Ohio.

On the plane to Cleveland I sit next to a character in an expensive brown business suit and cashmere sweater. It turns out that he`s a tour manager for Ringling Brothers Circus.
Ringling Brothers open in Cleveland the same night as the Bowie concert. The Circus has booked the biggest arena in the city. Bowie has the second biggest.
Ringling Brothers are sold out for twenty days. David Bowie and his completely new show are only sold out for one.
Rock-and-roll is put firmly in its place.
It rallies slightly when the circus man remarks that his younger clowns have been warned that, if they sneak off to see Bowie and miss the show, they are liable to be fired.

The Cleveland Public Auditorium is about the size of Wembley`s Empire Pool. Its decor is a little more sprightly, but the acoustics have the same air-hanger rankness that eats even the best P.A. for breakfast. To make matters worse, Bowie is suffering from laryngitis and his voice is failing fast.
He works hard, pulling with every register that hasn`t been burnt out, but it still doesn`t sound right.
The only thing to save the show are the musicians. Behind Mike Garson`s rather overbearing conducting and multiple keyboards, they carry Bowie to, if not a semi-triumph, at least a suitable show for Cleveland.
Cleveland`s a solid, serious industrial town sunk in rain and mounds of pollution.
The audience is for the most part in sensible blue jeans and lumberjackets. A few are decked out in fancy coats and fancy shirts, a few have daubed Aladdin Sane/lightning-flashes on their faces – but lower down are their best Friday night a disco frocks.
One young lady rushes forward and nervously hands Bowie a bunch of white flowers. He holds them for a while and then hands them to Miss Ava Cherry, one of his back-up singers. He explains that it is her birthday. It`s all very polite and homely.

There`s nothing like the gangs of ravening androgynes (a blast from the past) who rushed the stage in New York. The musicians even grin at each other while they play.
Bowie appears tongue in cheek, a little camply outrageous, but basically friendly. Although he cops a few of Jagger`s poses, there is no hint of Satanic Majesty. It`s all so nice that you could almost see him joining Elvis and Tom Jones on the casino circuit.
He also looks incredibly tired.
The show is shortened to an hour and there is no encore. The curtains close and before the clapping and yelling have seriously gained momentum the “Mr. Bowie Has Left The Theatre” booms out. The audience obediently leaves.
The police department herd out the stragglers and it`s all over. Kids walking home in the rain are bitching a little about how short it was, but nobody makes any serious complaint.

Back at the Holiday Inn, things are far more stable than they were in New York.
There are a few grungy Vampirellas in primitive face-jobs and some ladies maintaining they represent local radio stations. The roadies, security men, and journalists move in. They exchange heroic professionalisms, treat the ladies as colleagues and start asking them to come up to their rooms.
Bowie appears and vanishes in a flurry of retainers. He comes back, but again splits.
The drummer and bass player of his band commandeer the local combo who are playing in the bar. Bowie returns for a third time and finally settles in a corner to smile and watch his boys have fun.
In an evening of juxtapositions, one in particular stands out.
On our way out of the auditorium, two posters stare down from the wall. One announces Bowie – the other James Brown for the following week.

The motives behind this odd change of direction can for now remain only as speculation.
It could be that Bowie, having moved as far as he could in terms of rock spectacle, is now re-examining his music. The other alternative is that he is Retreating From The Edge in the basic Bob Dylan scenario.
Either way, Mr. Bowie seems, for the moment, to have left the theatre.

A really strange ad, but very confident!

A really strange ad, but very confident!

I have personally transcribed this from the original paper and you are free to use it as you like. If you use it on your own webpages – please credit me or put up a link to my blog.

This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Tangerine Dream, Tim Rose, Bill Bruford, Peter Noone, Jack Bruce, Roy Harper, Hatfield and the North, Dave Cousins, Frank Zappa, Planxty, Andrew McCulloch.

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: geirmykl@gmail.com
2. The offer should be around or upwards of 20 $ (US Dollars) to be considered. (This includes postage).
3. We conduct the transaction through my verified Paypal account for the safety of both parties.