THE KINKS: The Lost Masterpieces

Whenever someone asks me to choose between The Beatles or The Stones I will sometimes reply with ‘neither’. Instead I will say The Kinks. There is something special and close to my heart about that band. Throughout the 60s they had hit after hit and were certainly one of the leading British groups of that era. Yet many listeners of The Kinks I feel only penetrate the surface of this great band. They know the hits, but few venture beyond those songs as popular as they may be. I came to the band a little late. I first got into the group via a greatest hits compilation I purchased when I was 19. As much as I cherish all those well loved songs, what struck me as odd was that the compilation ended at the 1970 hit single Apeman; as if the group ceased to exist after that song. It seems to be the same with many other Kinks compilations.

Most of their well known hits are from the time when they were signed in the UK to the Pye record label from 1964 until 1970. The vast majority of their most well known songs such as You Really Got Me, Sunny Afternoon, Tired Of Waiting, Waterloo Sunset, Days and Lola fall within those years. Personally, my favourite years are from 1968 to 1975. I love those early songs and they will never get stale and always retain a timeless quality to them. For me though, the most exciting years are when the group’s chief songwriter Ray Davies began to compose these brilliant and ambitious concept albums starting with the 1968 album The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society (TKATVGPS) and ending with the 1975 album Schoolboys In Disgrace. Those albums receive mixed reviews from fans. For example, the former is today frequently heralded as a classic landmark album and can be seen in many ‘greatest albums of all time’ polls. The latter album, on the other hand, gets invariably torn apart. Perhaps those journalists and listeners never even bothered to actually listen to Schoolboys? They probably saw the hideous front cover and decided that they didn’t need to investigate further; their prejudices already set in stone.

During the few remaining Pye years, The Kinks released some very strong albums. In 1968 they released the aforementioned TKATVGPS album. Then the following year they released the album Arthur, which is just as good as VGPS and is equally held in high esteem. The final two albums they released on Pye were the 1970 studio album Lola Vs Powerman And The Moneygoround and the 1971 soundtrack album Percy for the film of the same name. Lola Vs Powerman… produced the hit singles “Lola” and “Apeman”. The former is one of the band’s best known songs.

After the band left Pye, they signed a new deal with RCA records in 1971. Their tenure at RCA would last for four years and during this time the band continued on it’s trajectory of releasing concept albums. Just as they signed to RCA, they released the album Muswell Hillbillies. It’s a strong album with some fine songs on it. The next year they released the album Everybody’s In Showbiz. Personally, I have mixed views about this album. On one hand, I like Ray’s ideas and inspiration behind it as well as songs such as Celluloid Heroes and Sitting In My Hotel Room. Both these songs are excellent. Celluloid Heroes has gone on to be covered by multiple artists – most notably Bon Jovi. It contains some of Ray’s finest lyrics.

Then in 1973 and 1974, the band released two albums; Preservation: Act One followed by Preservation: Act Two. All in all, neither of these albums were particularly well received by music critics at the time; especially the Preservation: Act Two album. However, after listening to both those albums I have come to the conclusion that they are the two lost masterpieces of The Kinks’ cannon of albums. And it is those two albums that I want to make the centre of this article. Whilst it may be too controversial to say that they are the best albums by The Kinks, I think I can firmly say that they are Ray Davies’ most ambitious works. It doesn’t matter whether one thinks those albums are a success or a failure. I don’t personally think they are a failure. What I will say is that those albums took Ray down avenues he never, or at the minimum only casually, ventured down before. He had already explored subjects like greed, poverty, inequality and injustice in society earlier on via songs like ‘Dead End Street’, ‘Brainwashed’ and ‘Powerman’. But on the Preservation Act albums he goes right into the heart of darkness. The Village Green Preservation Society(VGPS) album is almost soft liquor by comparison. Whilst the songs on VGPS are very strong and vivid, they are also accessible. They don’t rock the boat nor do they, at least superficially, take the listener to an ostentatiously dark and uncomfortable place. The Preservation Act albums, on the other hand, are much more polemic.

We’ll start with the Preservation: Act 1 album from 1973 before delving more deeply into Preservation: Act 2. One of the gems of this album is the song Sweet Lady Genevieve – a song that could fit quite comfortably with the cannon of better known Kinks hits. Of the two Preservation Act albums this one is lighter in tone and there are even echoes of the earlier VGPS album via songs like Sitting In The Midday Sun and Daylight. Another pearl on this album is the song ‘Where Are They Now?’…

I’ll sing a song about some people you might know
They made front pages in the news not long ago
But now they’re just part of a crowd
And I wonder where they all are now.

For me this song is an affectionate tribute to all the mavericks. The individual and special people who were a blast of colour in a world that is becoming increasingly colourless and homogenous. In the context of the earlier VGPS album that would be characters like Johnny Thunder. Some strands of humanity are evident on Preservation: Act 1. But this is deceptive. The presence of the song Money And Corruption/I am Your Man poisons any idyllic and romantic notions…

Money and Corruption
Are ruining the land
Crooked politicians
Betray the working man,
Pocketing the profits
And treating us like sheep,
And we’re tired of hearing promises
That we know they’ll never keep.

With this song Ray dives straight into the underbelly of the system – taking it on like a firebrand revolucionario a la Hugo Chavez. This continues and is reinforced in the end refrain part of the song with it’s Communist Manifesto overtones…

I visualize a day when people will be free
And we’ll be living in a new society.
No class distinction, no slums or poverty,
So workers of the nation unite,
Workers of the nation unite,
People of the nation unite.

This song sets the tone for the follow up Preservation: Act 2 album. On the later released bonus edition of the Preservation: Act 1 album is the song ‘Preservation’, which wasn’t featured on the album when it was originally released. It’s lyrically not only a very strong song but totally encapsulates the spirit of both Preservation albums as a whole. It also, along with the song Here Comes Flash, introduces the character Flash, a central figure in the follow up album who represents everything that’s wrong in the world – a psychopathic, greedy, amoral, corrupt and duplicitous individual who lacks empathy and is only out for himself. He is the type of person that would make Gordan Gecko blush…

Once upon a time
In a faraway land
Lived a villain called Flash
He was such a wicked man
He terrorized the people
He broke arms and crushed hands
He ruled with a fist and he purchased all the land

Then he plowed up the fields and cut down the trees
For property speculation
And he did it all for a pot of gold
And for his own preservation

Preservation: Act 2 is a dark unsexy beast of an album. Whatever light there was on Preservation: Act One has now been blocked out. If VGPS is all rural fields, church fetes, strong bonds of trust, tea and scones and strawberry jam, then Preservation Act Two is polluted rivers, eyesore landscapes, revolutions, and societal collapse where everyone just looks after number one. The VGPS album has a kind of innocence to it. Even the mildly dark characters in the album like in the song Wicked Anabella completely pale in comparison to Flash. The world of VGPS is a paradise compared with the world of Preservation: Act Two, which represents a paradise that is well and truly lost. It is about as east of Eden as one can get.

The life portrayed in Village Green is overall idyllic and peaceful. Yet it is a bubble shielded from the truly evil and disruptive forces of life. It is naïve to think such a life like that one can just go on forever. Flash hadn’t yet pitched up to turn things upside down.

The first song on Preservation: Act 2 to really get things going is the song When A Solution Comes

When a solution comes,
It’s gonna breathe right down on everyone.
When a solution comes
It’s gonna cover up the clouds
And eclipse the sun
And black out a pale blue sky,
And everybody’s gonna be terrified,
Because they’re all going to feel the bite
And there’s going to be a revolution

‘Days’ this song is not; in that iconic song from 1968 there is sadness, loss and grief. But there is no bitterness. There is no hate nor is there fear. This is evident in the following lyrics;

You took my life,
But then I knew that very soon you’d leave me,
But it’s all right,
Now I’m not frightened of this world, believe me.

Yet in When A Solution Comes there is a change in the weather. This is the beginning of a new period of fresh hell that will reign down on all of society. In the book The Fourth Turning, the authors William Strauss and Neil Howe look at the world over the last 500 years and locate a series of cycles each lasting a generation. Within each generational cycle are four turnings. The first turning represents a ‘high’: this is a period of stability. Trust in institutions is strong and individualism is weak. A new civic order is established the old values regime collapses The second turning represents an ‘awakening’ where the civic order established in the first turning begins to come under attack from a new values regime. The third turning represents an ‘unravelling’. During this era trust in institutions begins to weaken and individualism strengthens. The first turning civic order collapses at this point and eventually taken out by the new values regime. The forth and final turning represents a ‘crisis’. By this time the world is in chaos as the the new values regime replaces the original civic order created in the first turning with a new one.

In the context of the trilogy of all three Preservation albums, the song When A Solution Comes represents the ‘unravelling’ phase of society. It is not in the full ‘crisis’ phase yet, but it is already well on it’s way. On the other side of the coin, the opening title track of the VGPS album in some ways represents many attributes of the first turning….

We are the Village Green Preservation Society
God save Donald Duck, Vaudeville and Variety
We are the Desperate Dan Appreciation Society
God save strawberry jam and all the different varieties
Preserving the old ways from being abused
Protecting the new ways for me and for you
What more can we do

The lyrics of the title track of that album for me evokes a strong sense of unity. A sense of everyone looking after each other. Not allowing society to disintegrate. Keeping the peace. And that requires making an effort and caring. Once people stop caring, apathy begins to prevail and with that goes the ties that bind paving the way for disruptive forces to take over. The consequences of this are probed deeply in Preservation: Act 2.

The song Shepherds Of The Nations is one of the strongest songs on the album and in my view represents the new horror show of this dark turning….

Down with sex and sin,
Down with pot, heroin.
Down with pornography,
Down with lust.
Down with vice lechery and debauchery
.

We are the new centurians.
Shepherds of the Nations.
We’ll keep on our guard
For sin and degradation.
We are the national guard
Against filth and depravity,
Perversion and vulgarity,
Homosexuality.
Keep it clean.

When all of a sudden all basic freedoms that were once taken for granted have now been eroded and a new cabal of neo-puritan Gestapo-like folk have taken over the asylum. Rather than the world taking a step forward and continuing to evolve and flourish, it has been abruptly thrown off its course and has taken a thousand steps backward towards some unfolding new sterile, lifeless and fearful Middle Ages era wasteland; where all the flowers start to wilt and die, and turn a new shade of grey. All the colours of the Village Green world now dulled to cigarette ash.

The song Nobody Gives is another dark slice of what it’s like to be in the living in the middle of a turbulent fourth turning style world…

I can’t understand why everybody’s quarreling,
Nobody gives in case they lose face,
And everybody’s guilty and everybody’s innocent,
And the fact of it is nobody gives any more.

Once upon a time there was a period of peace, stability and trust amongst one another. The aforementioned VGPS title track nails that sense of societal harmony perfectly with the lyrical couplet, ‘Preserving the old ways from being abused / Protecting the new ways for me and for you‘. But in the song ‘Nobody Gives’ everyone has turned against one another. They have become fearful and full of mistrust. Any attempt at simply performing any altruistic acts of kindness is simply not worth the bother and in a climate of unanimous fear this could even backfire. Thus it is easier and safer to just not care anymore.

As the song gathers pace, it takes the listener on a vivid and sombre journey through the roots of this social breakdown leading to, in the example of this song, the rise of Hitler…

Back in nineteen hundred and twenty-five
There were thousands of people struggling to survive.
There was hunger, unemployment and poverty,
Then in 1926 they decided to be free
So they all went on strike and
The workers told the unions, who blamed it on the government,
The politicians blamed it on the strikers and the militants,
Everybody’s guilty and everybody’s innocent,
But the fact of it is nobody gives any more.

Back in nineteen hundred and thirty-nine
There were scores of German military waiting in a line,
And the Fatherland wanted what the world wouldn’t give,
And then Hitler decided he could take what was his,
So they all went to war and said
Kill all the left-wing intellectuals,
Annihilate the Jews and wipe out their race,
Eliminate the weak because they’re ineffectual,
And the fact of it is nobody gives any more.

In 1923, when Germany was then the Weimer Republic, the country experienced a period of devastating hyperinflation. This had the effect of throwing millions of citizens into acute poverty – especially those who didn’t own any hard assets that could protect them from this inflation. Any savings in the local currency that had been accumulated via hard work and over a long period of time had very quickly become worthless. The grinding poverty and desperation aside, one can also only imagine the extreme anger and injustice felt by those who had lost all their life savings. They wanted blood and someone to blame. Hitler emerged at a time when this anger and desperation was reaching boiling point. It is only when a society is in meltdown and in the eye of a fourth turning that a figure as evil Hitler can rise to the top. In a Village Green world of togetherness and mutual respect for one another, Adolf wouldn’t stand a chance.

Overall, I think both these Preservation Act albums should be essential listening and certainly deserve to be much more wildly known. They not only complement the earlier and more well known VGPS album, they also give the listener a glimpse into the more intricate and visionary workings of the mind of Ray Davies. I think this was perhaps lost on some of the music critics who were reviewing both albums at the time. The lyrics aside, I think some credit also needs to go to Ray’s brother Dave. Generally, I don’t think he gets another credit as a guitarist. His guitar work is a really important part of both albums and I feel it sets the tone very effectively on some of the songs.

Two further albums followed in 1975, Soap Opera and Schoolboys In Disgrace, before the group left the RCA record label. Like the earlier Preservation Act albums, neither album got overly favourable reviews. Yet I think they are both interesting in their own ways. Soap Opera is a flawed hit and miss album yet the concept behind it is strong and very relevant. I particularly like the songs Everybody’s A Star (Starmaker) and You Can’t Stop The Music. The former song quite simply describes how anyone can be a star; even the blandest and most personality and talent bereft of individuals. Ray created a character called Norman to personify such people.

Schoolboys In Disgrace also has it’s moments. Unfortunately, it suffers from a front cover that is quite frankly a veritable abomination. I feel it unfairly undermines the whole album. That is certainly one reason why many listeners do not give this album a proper chance. However, those who look beyond this monstrosity of an album cover will be rewarded for their curiosity. It is not a perfect album, but there are some gems on there like Schooldays, I am In Disgrace and The Hard Way . It is also conceptually a very interesting album as it is based around a disruptive and unruly schoolboy who would eventually develop into the vile and evil character Flash of the earlier Preservation Act albums. So, in a way, this album plays an notable role next to those albums. It is an important part of that complex puzzle.

By Nicholas Peart

3rd July 2021

(c)All Rights Reserved

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Through Manchester’s Musical History

Manchester skyline

A lot of the music I regularly used to listen to in my younger years came from the city of Manchester. Joy Division, New Order, The Fall, The Buzzcocks, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, The Happy Mondays and Oasis all hail from this city. I would need a good few weeks to navigate the entire musical map of Manchester, but since I only had a day for this, I had to be selective.

From my modest Air BnB lodging, located in the district of Higher Broughton in the north of the city, I take a city bus towards Strangeways prison. You may think what on earth does a prison have to do with Manchester’s music scene? It was however referenced in the final album by The Smiths, Strangeways Here We Come. Located in an industrial and non-descript part of the city, the entrance to Strangeways is an architectural gem. There are not many people passing by on this early morning and I don’t feel the urge for some unfortunate to take my picture next to the gates. I am glad I didn’t.

 

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The entrance to Strangeways prison

 

From Strangeways I walk towards the Arndale Shopping Centre in the centre of the city. I was hoping that today would be an overcast day to set the scene for the places I’d be visiting, but there’s sadly not a cloud in sight. I am truly disappointed. After purchasing a sandwich at Sainsbury’s Local, I board the city tram for Deansgate located on the southern edge of the city centre.

Close to Deansgate station I only have to walk a short distance until I am face to face with the site of the legendary Hacienda nightclub. During those heady ‘Madchester’ days during the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Hacienda was well and truly bopping with a big enough supply of ecstasy doing the rounds to fill a good few Olympic swimming pools. Today the site of the club is now home to a block of luxury apartments.

 

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By the site of the Hacienda nightclub 

 

A brief history of the Hacienda and its origins. The club was originally established by the founder of Factory Records, Tony Wilson, in the early 1980s. Factory Records played a central role in Manchester’s music scene since the late 1970s signing Joy Division (and subsequently New Order), the Happy Mondays and many other local bands. As instrumental as the label was to the local music scene, it was also victim to a streak of tremendous bad luck in failing to sign some of the city’s most successful talent. It came very close to signing The Smiths (yet Wilson doubted Morrissey’s potential and ability to be a pop star and encouraged him to be a novelist instead), missed the boat with The Stone Roses, and, allegedly, turned down Oasis. Much of the funds for the establishment and running of the Hacienda came directly from New Order’s royalties. The Happy Mondays, despite their commercial success, contributed towards the financial downfall and bankruptcy of Factory Records in the early 1990s. Yet it was very much the irresponsibility of Tony Wilson to give the band upfront an advance of almost £1m in cash to record their final album in Barbados in 1992. Most of the money went up, literally, in crack smoke and very little towards the actual recording of the album. The Hacienda plodded on for a few more years before shutting its doors permanently. Yet in it’s heyday during the late 1980s it was the place to be and the coolest club not just in the city of Manchester but across the whole country if not the world.

Also close to Deansgate station is the original site of the Broadwalk, which was a small live music venue in the city. For me it will be forever associated with the place where Oasis played their first live gig in 1991. Back then Noel Gallagher was a roadie for the Oldham band The Inspiral Carpets. It was only when he joined the band a year later in 1992, establishing himself as the main songwriter and driving force, that Oasis began to develop. In 1993, Oasis played a brief set at the King Tuts Wah Wah club in Glasgow, where Creation records founder Alan McGee spotted the band and signed them to his record label. The rest is over documented music history.

 

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Site of the Broadwalk music venue where Oasis played their first ever gig in 1991

 

From Deansgate I catch a bus out of the city centre to Salford. I must add that Google maps has been of great assistance in helping me navigate this city, finding the right buses and trams and, more importantly, saving me a good deal of time. After a few stops on the bus, I disembark off a busy dual carriageway close to a large Sainsbury’s supermarket. I desperately need to pee. I resist the temptation to do it near a bush close to a housing estate and duly cross the dual carriageway making a dash for the toilets inside Sainsbury’s. Returning to the bus stop, I walk a few blocks through a series of quiet residential streets until I encounter the iconic redbrick building of The Salford Lads Club. It was of course here where The Smiths posed for that infamous photo featured inside their seminal The Queen Is Dead album. I find a passer-by to take a photograph of me by this legendary site.

 

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By the iconic Salford Lads Club; a place forever associated with The Smiths 

 

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The Smiths at that same location 

 

A couple of blocks away is a bus stop with a direct bus to the district of Stretford. The Old Trafford, the location of Manchester United football club, is located over there, yet it isn’t football I’ve come for. Stretford is where a young Stephen Patrick Morrissey once lived before finding fame as the lead singer and lyricist of The Smiths. From the bus stop where I disembark, it is a 15 minute walk to reach his house located on Kings Road. When I approach the junction with Kings Road, there is a cheap takeaway joint serving kebabs, pizza and fried chicken. The childhood home of the one of the most celebrated vegans on the planet is about a two-minute walk away. I am mighty hungry, but I resist the urge to purchase a ‘donar wrap’ en-route to Chez Moz.

Kings Road is one wide empty street full of predominantly semi-detached suburban houses. I soon arrive at number 384. In one of the small top floor rooms of this house, an adolescent Morrissey would be furiously typing verse on his typewriter, reading Oscar Wilde and listening to The New York Dolls, Sparks, Sandie Shaw and other acts beloved by him. Oh, and the curtains would be forever closed. Morrissey often dreamt of stardom regardless of how remote the chances seemed to be for a cripplingly shy young man from greater Manchester. In fact, although Morrissey mixed with the local music scene of the city during the late 1970s and early 1980s, the consensus around that time was that he was the least likely person to make it as a pop star from that scene. And any such notion was immediately ridiculed. He was best known as the village idiot. Steve The Nutter. Bad judgement. The rise of Morrissey into one of the most iconic and influential pop stars of all time is one of the greatest black swan events ever to occur in the history of popular music. Nobody saw it coming.

 

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At 348 Kings Road in the Manchester district of Stretford; The home of an adolescent Morrissey

 

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A photograph of an adolescent pre-quiffed Morrissey taken during the late 1970s

 

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In the 1980s as lead singer of The Smiths

 

It was at this very address that, one day in 1982, a young guitarist by the name of John Maher (later better known as Johnny Marr), rang the doorbell to enquire as to whether Stephen would be interested in being the singer for a new band he was trying to put together. Morrissey could’ve easily just told the boy to go away, but thankfully he didn’t as this encounter would eventually change his life, propelling him from the bedroom to global stardom.

Leaving 384 Kings Road, I walk for some time towards the nearest tram metro stop, from where I board a tram all the way to the southern Manchester district of Didsbury Village. Didsbury Village is a well-heeled part of the city reminiscent perhaps of Hampstead or Muswell Hill in North London. I take a break here and order some lunch. There are some great charity shops in this neck of the woods too. Didsbury Village is the springboard for the less well-heeled district of Burnage, where the home of a young Liam and Noel Gallagher is located.

Walking away from Didsbury Village and past Burnage train station, I soon locate Sifters record shop. This is the place where Liam, Noel and their older brother Paul used to buy (or maybe, dare I say, pilfer?) their records. It is also namechecked in the early 1994 Oasis single Shakermaker in the line, ‘Mr Sifter sold me songs when I was just fifteen’. Unfortunately, the shutter is down. I read that today it was supposed to close at 5pm yet its currently only after 3pm. Perhaps Mr Sifter wanted a day off? Nevertheless, I get a young tattooed lad on his bike to take a picture of me by the shop.

 

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By Sifters Records in Burnage; a popular haunt of the Gallagher brothers

 

Now I commence the final part of the tour towards the home of the Gallagher boys. Burnage is a rather sedate part of the city. Nothing much goes down here. Yet its in no way the craphouse that perhaps Noel makes it out to be. The only other landmark I remember is some large Chinese restaurant whose name I can’t recall. Past the busy Kingsway dual carriageway I carry on towards Burnage Lane before arriving at Cranwell Drive where their old home is located. It’s a modest nondescript semi and that is all.

 

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The home of a young Liam and Noel Gallagher

 

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Early photo of the Gallagher brothers (Noel, Paul and Liam) with their mother Peggy

 

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Photo of Liam and Noel taken sometime in the 1990s 

 

Many years ago, I read their brother Paul’s book on their upbringing and it was a pretty shocking read. Their father Tommy was a violent man who used to beat Paul and Noel regularly as well as their mother Peggy. Thankfully, sometime around the early 1980s, the local council were able to move their mother and the boys to another house and this is the house. I believe their mother still lives there, but I could be wrong. As with Morrissey’s childhood home, I refrain from knocking the door out of respect for the privacy of the current residents as tempting as it may have been.

I have no desire to linger longer in Burnage so I catch a bus on the Kingsway road back to central Manchester for a well-deserved pint.

 

By Nicholas Peart

©All Rights Reserved

More Golden Nuggets From Outer Space

Late last month I wrote a post reviewing the seminal Nuggets compilation album of forgotten 1960s American psychedelic garage rock singles. These are timeless and magical songs and I feel that there are many more ace singles from around that time that also deserve investigation. So in this post I am featuring more of these gems, which hope you will all enjoy as much as I have…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nuggets: A Sample Of Songs From The First Psychedelic Era (1965-68)

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Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era is a seminal album of American psychedelic/garage rock singles released in the second half of the sixties. It was compiled by the founder of Elektra records, Jac Holzman and Lenny Kaye, who later became the lead guitarist in Patti Smith’s band. This album was originally released in 1972 and was an enormous influence on the punk movement towards the latter part of the 1970s.

I remember when I first purchased this album one summer’s day ten years ago in 2006, I was simply blown away by the music. Of course I’d already heard many ace songs from that time but discovering this album was like finding a buried treasure chest containing many brilliant but forgotten songs of that era. Sometimes I get upset for having been born too late and what I’d give to be transported back to that time; watching one of those bands in some dive bar somewhere in San Francisco. When I listened more to the album it almost became like a vicarious journey back to those fertile and exciting days. This also coincided with my early travelling days. On long bus and train journeys I’d get lost in these amazing songs; like noise from other galaxies enfolding me.

Below I am featuring a taster of this wonderful album with some of my favourite tracks. I hope you enjoy them and get inspired by these gems…

 

The Remains – Don’t Look Back

 

 

The Castaways – Liar, Liar

 

 

The Amboy Dukes – Baby Please Don’t Go

 

 

Sagittarius – My World Fell Down

 

 

The Third Rail – Run Run Run

 

 

Text by Nicholas Peart

25th August 2016

All rights reserved

South African Hip Hop

Last weekend when I arrived at my hostel in the Maboneng district of Johannesberg, I dumped my stuff in my dormetory room and headed for the bar. There I met a couple of friendly Joberg students. I was not planning on having a big night but in the end I ended up partying like it was 1999. We concluded the evening at Stones nightclub in Melville which is a lively and energetic hotbox den of all the latest SA hip hop sounds. I am no connoisseur and, albeit a strange obsession with DMX, know very little of the genre. Anyway, here are some videos motherf***er…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Death Of David Bowie, The Future and 3D Printing

This is a piece I wrote on January 12th 2016, a couple of days after David Bowie died

I’ve been thinking about nothing but David Bowie these last couple of days. So many of his songs are playing in my head; Sound and Vision and Heroes being the most popular. Heroes always makes me pause and be deeply pensive. There’s something majestic and timeless about that song. Like millions of others around the world I am saddened and shocked by his early death. I had no idea he was so unwell even though I was a little suspicious that something was not right regarding his sporadic movements over the last decade. Another clue that perhaps all was not well was from watching the video to the 2013 song Where Are We Now? from his penultimate album The Next Day. It’s a beautiful, haunting and deeply reflective song. More importantly, it seems to me like he’s seriously questioning his own mortality. When I initially saw the video to that song I could see real pain in his face and I began to feel very sad for him.

In my selfish state of mind I was hoping that he would tour again but I can now kiss that option goodbye. I remember one day back in 2003 pondering on whether to see him live at Wembley Arena. The Dandy Warhols were confirmed as his support band. That day I was at the Stargreen ticket office on Argyll Street in Oxford Circus and the lady at the desk told me they still had tickets left for the show but I foolishly declined on the grounds that I thought the £65 ticket price was too high. As the years went by and I got more deeply into Bowie’s music the desire to see him live increased exponentially but that was never to be as, after a heart attack in 2004, he retreated into splendid isolation with his beautiful wife Iman and the rest of his family. I have seen his compadre Iggy Pop live many times (and I even saw his other soul brother Lou Reed live once but he was dreadful and in a foul mood that day, which was a huge disappointment for me) and as special as Iggy will always be to me, I still regret not taking that unique opportunity to see David live. But life goes on man.

Taking a slight tangent, I often wonder what kind of people the people born today and in the last few years will grow up to be? I don’t know what the world is going to be like in 2020 let alone in 2030 or 2050. I humbly predict that by 2100 there will be no purely organic/biological human life still standing. I think by then all humans will be at least trans-human (half human/half machine). If the inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil’s 2045 prediction for ‘The Singularity’ comes true then by 2050 artificial intelligence will be on par if not far more advanced than human intelligence. The question now is will this advanced level of AI further benefit our lives? Perhaps we can augment our bodies with AI technology in order to be compatible with AI itself as far as logical/mechanical intelligence is concerned? Or will it have dystopian consequences and wipe us all out? Some prominent figures such as the scientist Stephan Hawking and Tesla founder Elon Musk have already publicly expressed much concern that a situation like the latter may very well happen and Musk has even gone as far as to spend a large chunk of his vast fortune on AI research.

By the beginning of the 2020s I predict that 3D printing will slowly start to become mainstream. Currently 3D printing machines are the preserve of scientists and a smattering of ‘geeks’, innovators and early adapters. It is also still rather expensive to acquire a 3D printer but with time costs will decrease and the technology will only get more advanced. I think 3D printing will be the biggest thing to shape our lives since the Internet. 3D printing now is what the Internet was back in 1994/5. Give it time.

Now back to the subject of David Bowie, there is an interview he did with Jeremy Paxman in 2000. At one point in the interview they were talking about the Internet and what it meant back then. Paxman seemed to have little belief in the power of the Internet and stated that he thought it was just a ‘tool’ whereas David disagreed and saw it as potentially a much bigger and larger force (both good and bad) to what it currently was. In fact, Bowie was one of the first major artists to utilise the Internet as a platform for his music when it had just become mainstream back in 1997. Now let’s fast forward to 2016. The Internet plays an enormous role in our lives. It has also disrupted many industries in the process. The one that really springs to mind is the music industry. Many will remember the Napster saga involving members of Metallica back in 1999 but how many back then could have foreseen the colossal impact that illegal downloading would have on an entire industry worth billions of dollars? For many creative people; especially writers, musicians and digital photographers, this is now the age of Free Content. Yet what the Internet has enabled is an instant connectivity and strong social networking facility with an enormous and growing number of people around the globe, which was not possible before.

 

David Bowie talks about the Internet with Jeremy Paxman (2000)

 

Back to 3D printing. The main casualty of this emerging technology is going to be the mass manufacturing industry. “Made In China” will become a thing of the past as every household becomes a factory. Big mass manufacturing businesses like IKEA will either have to adapt in the face of this growing technology or potentially face serious challenges to their current business modal. I believe that the next 5-15 years are going to be very interesting.

For more information on this I highly recommend that you purchase a copy of The Curve by Nicholas Lovell. It is a riveting and incredibly insightful and enlightening book which is very ahead of its time. Furthermore, it is an indispensable book to have with many helpful and practical solutions if you are a creative person struggling to make a living in a world of free content.

 

by Nicholas Peart

12th January 2016
London

 

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