Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Veldt - Marigolds EP

I always get a little angry nowadays when I think about The Veldt. These guys should have been HUGE - or at least a lot huger than they were.

It must have been sometime in late 1991 when I first heard about these guys, when one of the music rags I regularly read back then (it might have been SPIN, but it's been so long now I simply don't recall) carried a short article/interview with them. There might have been a picture, but maybe not. What I DO remember about the feature was something one of the band members said about their music being sort of a meld between English dream pop and acid house music. I specifically recall one of the band members saying: "Yeah, Cocteau Twins are definitely 'in the house'!" Being both a huge Cocteaus and house music fan back then, reading that quote made my ears prick right up - I couldn't WAIT to hear what these guys sounded like. In the meantime, I tried to dig up some additional information about them, but there wasn't much to be found. A lot of what I came upon about The Veldt was dug up much later.

The Veldt evolved in 1986 from Psycho Daisies, a hardcore punk band that played in and around the Chapel Hill, North Carolina area. Initially, it was just vocalist Daniel Chavis, his twin brother Danny on guitar and friend Robert Jackson on drums, but by 1988 Jackson had moved on and the Chavises recruited Martin Levi behind the kit. Their sound also evolved, from a pure punk attack to a more nuanced, melodic, guitar-driven sound, owing more to The Jesus & Mary Chain and Lush than Black Flag and Agnostic Front. The band spent its first couple of years paying its dues initially on the college and small club circuit in North Carolina, trying to build a fan base.

Being a dream pop/shoegaze band in an area home to emerging alternative acts like Archers of Loaf and Superchunk was hard enough for the group. But this band had another major, more obvious difference from these associated acts that they had to work especially hard to overcome: The Veldt's members were predominantly African-American.

If you think being a black alt-rock band in the Southern United States at that time wasn't that big of an issue . . . well, I'll let Daniel Chavis describe it:
"Race was definitely an issue. No matter where we played in the South it was the same thing. We would get asked if we were a reggae band, if we were a funk band, if we were an R&B band; people who had never heard us would say, ”If you like Living Colour you will love these guys!” We didn’t/don’t sound a thing like Living Colour! Yes, race was an issue - but you can’t state the obvious because then people say you are whining!"
Despite these issues, The Veldt gigged constantly in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill region, and by mid-1990 the band developed a strong following in the South Atlantic states, drawing both white and black fans to their shows. The rest of the music industry began paying attention to what the band was doing. The Veldt was offered a supporting slot for portions of The Jesus & Mary Chain's 1990 North American Automatic tour, and in the next year played several Southern shows as an opening act on The Pixies' Fall 1991 US tour - nearly unheard of for an unsigned 'local' act. Music fans overseas (especially in England) also began to take notice of the group's sound. The Veldt developed an even larger European audience, and the groups over there who were their inspirations and contemporaries became their friends and mentors. The Cocteau Twins' Robin Guthrie became especially close with the band, as did other artists on the 4AD roster, such as the members of A.R. Kane (known in the English music press as "the black Jesus & Mary Chain") and recording engineer Lincoln Fong.

Around the same time that the magazine article I saw appeared, The Veldt signed a deal with Stardog Records, ostensibly an 'indie label', but in actuality a subsidiary of recording giant Polygram, created initially as an imprint for the release of Mother Love Bone records after that band signed with the label in 1989. And in early 1992, they put out their first disc, the Marigolds EP, a recording presided over by both A.R. Kane and Fong (Fong also plays bass on the EP). On Marigolds, you can hear the definite influence of My Bloody Valentine and J&M Chain in the alternatively swirling/grinding guitars, along with the heavy percussion sound inherent in some of A.R. Kane's later work. But the main difference between the sound of these aforementioned acts and The Veldt was in Daniel Chavis' aggressive, powerful vocals - he's not pussy-footing it around here. Just listen to "CCCP", the opening cut:

The album was generally well-received, and more good things started happening for the band. The success of the record led to Stardog putting them out on the road again, this time under more comfortable circumstances (the band was provided its own tour bus). Over the next two years, The Veldt crisscrossed the country, serving as an opening act for The Church, Lush, and their friends The Cocteau Twins. Just before their tour with the latter band, The
Veldt left Stardog to sign with major label Mercury Records, who heavily courted the band based on the strength of Marigolds. As good as their first EP was, their major label album debut, 1994's Afrodisiac, is even more incredible. Frankly, it's an lost shoegaze classic, rivaling anything ever released by their genre compatriots Slowdive or Ride. Just listen to this cut, "Soul In A Jar", and tell me that you don't agree:

Listening to Afrodisiac now, it's hard to fathom why this disc wasn't massively successful. Perhaps it was the rise of grunge in the early 1990s; maybe it was the decline of shoegaze (punctuated by the decades-long hiatus of My Bloody Valentine after two acclaimed albums in the late '80s/early '90s). Or more likely (and in Chavis's later estimation), Mercury just didn't know how to promote and market a black alt-rock band. According to the band, the label attempted to pigeonhole and shoehorn the group into specific genres and expectations, and The Veldt wasn't about that at all. Reportedly, matters came to a head when Mercury sent the band out as an ill-advised opening act for The Smithereens, a situation not satisfactory for either group. The Veldt asked to be taken off the tour, and from that point onward things deteriorated between them and Mercury; the band earned a reputation in the industry as difficult prima donnas.

After leaving the label, the group released two follow-up albums, 1996's Universe Boat on small indie label Yesha Recordings and Love At First Hate on End Of The World Technologies (their own label) in 1998. Both discs, while good, were poorly supported and little-heard. The Chavis brothers subsequently threw in the towel on The Veldt, and morphed into New York City-based 
alt-rock band Apollo Heights. Apollo Heights released the amusingly (and appropriately) named album White Music For Black People in 2007, assisted once again by their old friends from The Cocteau Twins, and new friends such as members of TV On The Radio.

I think that in many ways, The Veldt was a band both before and after its time. "Before", in that it took the music industry a while to catch up with what The Veldt was about. But I think in recent years, they 'got' it, based on the success of rock bands with black/African-American members like TV On The Radio and Bloc Party. And "after", in that The Veldt was committed to a style and genre of music (shoegaze/dream) that had pretty much run its course just as they peaked.

But like merry-go-rounds and men's fashions, things tend to come around once again. The Chavises recently reunited The Veldt, and for the past two years have been playing to appreciative audiences around the country. I think that, like the labels, music fans also finally 'get' them as well.

And speaking of 'get', here's something for you to have, too: The Veldt's Marigolds EP, released on Stardog Records in early 1992. Enjoy, and as always, let me know what you think.    

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Friday, January 24, 2014

The Beatles - Star Club (Live) (Purple Chick) (2 Discs)

More Purple Chick Beatles stuff, in the lead-up to the fiftieth anniversary next month of the beginning of the British Invasion. I was debating with myself whether to post either this one or the Strong Before Our Birth set, and decided in the end to go with this one. Neither of the two has the greatest sound quality, but I think that in terms of familiar songs and better performances, Star Club is superior.

The Beatles' final two Hamburg residencies occurred in the late fall and early winter of 1962, their first with new drummer Ringo Starr (who had replaced Pete Best that August). The group wasn't thrilled about going back to Germany for these gigs, especially the last one in late December - by then, their star and popularity was one the rise in Britain. Their first UK single, "Love Me Do", had been released that fall and was climbing the charts, eventually reaching #17. Basically, they felt that they had outgrown Hamburg. However, the gigs had been booked months in advance, and as such they were obligated to return.

Ted "Kingsize" Taylor, leader of Kingsize Taylor & The Dominoes (pictured), another British band in residency at the time in Hamburg, was the original source for these recordings. After claiming that he received the Beatles' (specifically John Lennon's) permission (allegedly in exchange for buying beer for the band during their performances), Taylor arranged for the Star Club's stage manager, Adrian Barber, to record the performances on an old reel-to-reel recorder he rented, with all of the songs fed into the machine through a single mike set up in front of the stage. These recording sessions took place during several periods between Christmas and New Year's Eve, 1962 - no one is quite certain how many individual gigs made it onto the tape.

Barber captured 33 separate tracks played by The Beatles during these sessions (some more than once), along with five additional tracks played by the group's supporting bands, the aforementioned Kingsize Taylor & The Dominoes and Cliff Bennett & The Rebel Rousers. All but two of the Beatles songs ("Ask Me Why" and "I Saw Her Standing There") were covers. As befitting a single-mike, reel-to-reel live recording, the sound quality of Star Time isn't of the highest fidelity; at times, it's difficult to make out the vocals, or even to identify exactly which band member is singing. But the performances themselves are rollicking, raw and loose, quite possibly the last time The Beatles played with this sort of abandon. As such, this set is a good counterpoint to some of the later Beatles live recordings (such as the Before America set I posted here earlier), to see how much they matured musically in their early career.

Kingsize Taylor held on to these tapes after The Beatles made it big, and in the mid-60s he tried to sell them to Beatles manager Brian Epstein, but due to their relatively poor quality Epstein wasn't interested. Taylor then forgot about them until the early '70s, when he made a go at prepping these songs for eventual release. As the story goes, he gave the tapes to a recording engineer, who did nothing with them and who later abandoned his office, leaving a lot of his items behind - including the reels, which Taylor and his friends rescued from a trash pile.

Taylor finally found a purchaser for the tapes, and after an unsuccessful attempt by The Beatles to block it, the first commercial release of these sessions was put out by Lingasong Records in 1977. Over the next two decades, various versions of the Star Club tapes, edited and unedited, licensed and bootleg, and with varying track sequencing, were released by several sources. When Sony Music released their version in 1991, The Beatles began taking legal action again. The case was finally decided in the band's favor in 1998, with the judge determining that Taylor's story about Lennon granting him permission to record them back in 1962 was complete hogwash; to quote George Harrison, "One drunken person recording another bunch of drunks does not constitute a business deal." The Beatles were granted exclusive rights and ownership of the tapes . . .

. . . that is, until Purple Chick got hold of them.

Here's the track lineup:

Disc 1 (all songs by The Beatles unless otherwise noted):
25 December 1962:

1: Be-Bop A-Lula (vocal: Fred Fascher)
2: I Saw Her Standing There
3: Hallelujah I Love Her So (vocal: Horst Fascher)
4: Red Hot
5: Sheila
6: Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey Hey
7: Shimmy Like Kate
8: Reminiscing
9: Red Sails In The Sunset
10: Sweet Little Sixteen
11: Roll Over Beethoven
12: A Taste Of Honey
13: Ask Me Why
14: Long Tall Sally
15: Besame Mucho
16: I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry (Over You)
17: Twist And Shout
18: Mr. Moonlight
19: Falling In Love Again
20: I’m Talking About You
21: I Remember You
Disc 2 (all songs by The Beatles unless otherwise noted):
28 December 1962:

1: Nothin’ Shakin’ (But The Leaves On The Trees)
2: I Saw Her Standing There
3: To Know Her Is To Love Her
4: Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby
5: Till There Was You
6: Where Have You Been All My Life?
7: Lend Me Your Comb
8: Your Feet’s Too Big
9: I’m Talking About You
10: A Taste Of Honey
11: Matchbox
12: Little Queenie
13: Roll Over Beethoven

31 December 1962:

14: Road Runner
15: Hippy Hippy Shake
16: A Taste Of Honey
17: Money (vocal: Bobby Thompson)

Bonus tracks - 31 December 1962:

17: Sparkling Brown Eyes (Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes)
18: Lovesick Blues (Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes)
19: First Taste Of Love (Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes)
20: Dizzy Miss Lizzy (Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes)
21: Hully Gully (Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers)
Enjoy The Beatles' Star Club, all tracks edited and cleaned up to the highest possible quality by the good folks at Purple Chick and released in 2008. The sound isn't perfect, but these sounds should be appreciated more for their historical importance than for their fidelity. Whichever way you decide to approach these discs, have a listen, and as always let me know what you think.

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

LiLiPUT/Kleenex - LiLiPUT (2 Discs)

I began applying to graduate school while I was living over in New Zealand - spending practically every night after work for more than a year investigating programs, writing essays, and gathering information and recommendations. It was a long, grueling and nerve-wracking process, made even more difficult by the distance I was away from the places I was applying to and the technology of the time (keep in mind that I was doing all of this at the very dawn of the Internet/email age, so most of my work was being done at the library and my applications and appeals were being forwarded via regular (i.e. 'snail') mail). I looked into a number of university MBA curricula, with the goal being to get into one of what were considered the "best". I wasn't necessarily concerned with the university's location or ambiance, or whether it was the right 'fit' esthetically for me - I just wanted to get into what was considered a "top-ten" school (as per the annual U.S. News magazine rankings). Under that methodology and consideration, the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business, a perennial Top Five pick, was the place I had my heart set on.

I forwarded all of my applications in late 1994/early 1995, and that spring I received news that I had been accepted to four schools, the University of Rochester (William E. Simon), the University of North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler), the University of California at Berkeley (Haas) . . . and Darden. I'll admit that the first two schools were essentially 'safety' picks - I had no intention of spending two years freezing my ass off in northern New York, and I'd visited UNC before and wasn't all that impressed. Although I'd been to the San Francisco area many times before, and used to live in nearby Monterey, I'd never actually been to the Berkeley campus. However, the thought of attending school in California was very intriguing . . . but in the end, I went with my head and did what I thought was right, and accepted the Darden offer. I flew back to the States that June, and started classes in Charlottesville that fall.

During my first month in grad school, the local PBS station in Charlottesville began airing the first in a ten-part documentary series, The History of Rock & Roll, an international effort jointly produced by the influential public television station WGBH in Boston and the BBC. The concept behind the miniseries was unique; instead of focusing on the big names, monster bands and landmark events in rock history, the programs would focus instead on the creators, innovators and visionaries - the sources and influences that made popular music what is today. For example, the first episode, "Renegades", dealt with the growing popularity in the late '40s and early '50s of R&B and blues music, "race" music previously relegated to black radio. The show featured interviews with former WLAC Nashville radio hosts from that era (whose late-night R&B shows were heard across the country thanks to the station's broadcasting power), and the owners of Chicago's Chess Records, ostensibly a jazz/blues label that nonetheless released several important records early in rock history. A later episode, "Blues In Technicolor", covered the San Francisco psychedelic rock scene from its origins right through to Altamont, with Ken Kesey, Ravi Shankar and Country Joe McDonald providing interesting commentary on the music and times. Every one of the shows was excellent. I didn't miss an episode that fall, and recorded every single one of them on my VCR for later viewing.

My favorite of all the Rock & Roll episodes was the second-to-last one, simply titled "Punk". In a tightly-constructed hour, the show went through some of the origins of punk, from Jonathan Richman's Modern Lovers and Lenny Kaye's Nuggets '60s garage-rock compilations, through the New York art scene and the dawn of CBGB's and into the British punk explosion and the influence of Jamaican music on the movement. The portion of the show regarding reggae and how it affected the music of The Clash and other English bands included a brief clip of a music video for "Typical Girls" by The Slits and an interview with the band's frontwoman Ari Up:

Although I had heard of The Slits long before I saw this show, I didn't own any of their music or really know that much about them. So I went running to my old reliable resource, the Trouser Press Record Guide, to glean whatever information I could about them (in addition, I ran out the very next day and bought Cut). What I found was interesting: The Slits were considered to be one of a celebrated triumvirate of great, groundbreaking female-led bands that emerged in the early years of punk. I'd also heard of the second band mentioned in the book article, The Raincoats (after quitting The Slits in 1979, drummer Paloma Romero, aka Palmolive, joined The Raincoats). But the third band, Liliput (or as they preferred it, LiLiPUT) was completely unknown to me, and I dug deeper to find out more about this group.

LiLiPUT had its origins in the late '70s Swiss punk scene (yes, there was a punk movement in that country, just like in several other places across the globe - you don't seriously think that punk's rise and fall took place only in Britain and America, do you?).  Two Zurich musicians, bassist Klaudia Schiff and drummer Lislor Ha, formed a nameless band with two male friends in early 1978, and with the most rudimentary of skills and less than a half-dozen songs, played their first gig at a local club.  In the audience of that first show was postal worker Marlene Marder.  As soon as the set ended, the men quit the band; but just as quickly, a mesmerized Marder stepped in as lead guitarist.

The trio recruited a lead singer, Ramona Carlier, aka Regula Sing, and by the summer the group released an EP on Swiss label Sunrise Records, calling themselves "Kleenex". Although only a limited number of discs (about 500) were pressed, one of them made it into the hands of influential UK DJ John Peel, who played it on his BBC show. Another reached the editors of Sounds magazine, 
who made it their "Single of the Week". All of this recognition fueled British demand for the record; reportedly, the lion's share of this first pressing was smuggled into England by the sleeve designer, who sold the discs across the country at premium prices. It also brought Kleenex to the attention of Rough Trade Records, who quickly signed them and released their first domestic single, "Ain't You" b/w "Hedi's Head" that November.

It was after the release of their second Rough Trade single in 1979, "Ü" b/w "You", that the band found itself in a little legal hot water. The Kimberly-Clark consumer products corporation, makers of Kleenex tissues, threatened legal action against the group and label over the unauthorized use of their trademarked product name. Kleenex quickly changed its name to LiLiPUT, and continued its release of Rough Trade singles under their new moniker - "Split" b/w "Die Matrosen" in 1980, and "Eisiger Wind" in 1981. Throughout this period, the band went through numerous personnel changes (mainly drummers and vocalists), with Schiff and Marder being the only constant members. Despite this, both singles were hits in the UK.

LiLiPUT released two albums on Rough Trade, a self-titled release in 1982 and Some Songs, released in December 1983, shortly after the group decided to break up. LiLiPUT never toured America, and for that matter didn't do much touring in Europe either. While they existed, they seemed perfectly content to remain close to home in Switzerland, making music as part of several other artistic projects band members were into (Schiff, as Klaudia Schifferle, was and still is a widely-recognized modern art painter; Marder wrote a couple of books). After their disbandment, the band's records quickly achieved legendary (although mostly unheard by the majority of the world) status. During the '80s, there were flashes of acknowledgement and tribute here and there. Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon cited LiLiPUT as one of her influences when she arrived in New York in the early '80s. And Book of Love included a cover of "Die Matrosen" on their 1986 debut album. But those nods were few and far between. As that decade wore on, LiLiPUT/Kleenex became little more than a footnote in punk rock history.

All of that changed in 1993, when Zurich-based Off Course Records released a two-disc compilation of the band's entire output. In one stroke, the group's entire back catalogue was made available; a welcome release, but due to Off Course's limited size and distribution, extremely difficult for all but the most dogged and dedicated to get their hands on. Of course, when I read about this hard-to-find disc in the mid-90s, that only whetted my appetite for it. I searched for LiLiPUT through the rest of my time in grad school and for years afterward, without success.

I spent two years at Darden before I graduated with my MBA. In that time, I came to respect the grad school and the university as a whole, but I never learned to like it there. UVA takes great pride in the fact that it is one of the oldest institutes of higher learning in the country, and that was founded by the great Thomas Jefferson. The campus is beautiful, rich in history and full of world-class facilities and amenities. For some reason, I naively thought that the area around the university would reflect that stately, cultured image the university built for itself, and would be akin to Venice during the Renaissance - a progressive, intellectual melting pot. At the very least, I thought that there would be a lot of cool, funky stuff going on close by the school, similar to what I experienced when I lived in Athens, GA, home to the University of Georgia (UGA), a few years earlier. I was looking forward to some cool bars, great music, and interesting activities to try when I wanted to take a break from my academics.

But in my experience, UVA was a far cry from UGA - or even Navy, for that matter. Far from being a center of culture and learning, the city of Charlottesville itself was very much a typical small Southern city, full of (what were in my opinion) hicks and low-brows. I'll never forget my introduction to the locals on my first day in town; I went to a supermarket just outside the college gates to stock the kitchen in my new apartment, and stepped out of my car in the parking lot only to encounter a slovenly, heavy-set woman shrieking at her two brats to "get [their] asses in the car - now!" Yes, I know that can - and does - happen pretty much everywhere, but for it to occur at that place and time was extremely off-putting, and left a deeply negative impression of the city and its people in me. 

As for the nightlife there, it left much to be desired. In the mid-90s, Charlottesville was still huffing and puffing with pride over the fact that The Dave Matthews Band, which had just hit it big, had gotten its start there a couple of years earlier (Matthews was a bartender at Miller's, one of the downtown watering holes, before starting out). The unfortunate result of that was that practically every local band playing out in town while I was there tried to sound like Dave Matthews - and I fucking HATE the Dave Matthews Band like I hate the Devil. So you can imagine how all of that went down for me. There were a couple of non-musical bars I went to off and on, and there was at least a decent record store (Plan 9 Records) downtown. But all in all, Charlottesville really didn't do that much for me. Most of my weekends there were spent either studying, or I'd drive 90 minutes up the highway to my folks' place in Northern Virginia and hang out in Washington, DC.

Traditionally, the University of Virginia is where the state's monied elite attend college, and as such there was a strong undercurrent of snobbery and entitlement present at the school. My grad school contained a number of former UVA undergraduates, who all knew the "secret handshake", so to speak, and were loath to allow many others into their tight-knit little klatch. Other exclusive groups quickly formed within Darden, and to be honest being part of something like that really wasn't my bag. I don't know whether it was my Navy experience or something else, but I'm more inclined to judge and befriend individuals on their personal qualities and merits and how they treat me, rather than joining up with a pack. So, instead of being a place where thoughts and ideas were aired and discussed, Darden quickly devolved into a glorified elite prep school; the cliques and castes there were just as rigidly defined and exclusively populated. I was accepted as a student there, but I never really felt accepted for who I was.

The Darden course of study was excellent, and I learned quite a bit while I was there. But I have few fond memories of the place, and almost no nostalgia for the days and months I spent there. A few years back, I was talking with a friend about our separate grad school experiences, and he asked me to sum up my time at UVA.  I answered: "The school was great, the professors were excellent, and the academic program was top-notch - the only way Darden could have been better for me was if I was the only student attending." By my count, I've had over 25 permanent addresses in my life, in locations all over the U.S. and some foreign countries. Over the years, I have been back to visit all of my former residences and locations . . . with one exception: in the nearly twenty years since I left Charlottesville, I have never returned.  Academically, UVA was just right for me; in every other aspect, it was a bad fit.

After graduating from Darden, I moved to Texas, where I worked for a financial company for several years. I moved to New England in early January 2001 and began working for FleetBoston Financial. The nature of my position had me flying all over the country, working with teams analyzing potential acquisition opportunities. Unfortunately, the first places I was sent to that winter were, basically, places you didn't want to visit during the cold weather months - cities like Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit. I was looking forward to going somewhere halfway decent (and moderately warmer), and finally had my chance when I was sent out with the team to the West Coast, to evaluate an opportunity in San Francisco.

There had been buzz building in music magazines for more than a year prior to my San Francisco visit that efforts were being made to finally re-release the long-out-of-print LiLiPUT Off Course compilation. Just before I left on my trip, I heard the news I'd been waiting to hear for years - there was an actual release date, which would coincide with my time in the city.  Upon arriving in town, I immediately contacted the Amoeba Music store on Haight Street (the World's Greatest Music Store in my opinion, as I've said before) to ensure that they would be carrying it on the day it came out.  They told me that they wouldn't have it, but their sister store in Berkeley would have it available.

Late one afternoon, I took the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train over to Berkeley, to pick up my reserved CD at the Amoeba over there. On my walk from the BART station down Shattuck Avenue and across town to the store on Telegraph Avenue, I took stock of the area. Berkeley seemed like a fairly interesting city, full of coffee shops and bars. It took no time at all to get to Amoeba and purchase the coveted music; it was cool to finally have the album in my hand! The record store was located in close proximity to the UC Berkeley campus - only a block or so away. So I decided before I went back, I would take some time, walk around, and check out the school and area more thoroughly . . .

Hours later, I rode the BART Millbrae line back into San Francisco, slumped into a seat, deeply depressed, with my head pressed against the window for almost the entire journey. Did you ever have one of those moments when you realized, with painful clarity, that you made the wrong decision? That's how I felt after that stroll around the Berkeley campus area. From the moment I stepped onto the grounds, I felt comfortable - no snooty, old-money vibe coming from that school. People were out and about on the grounds, some scurrying to classes or study halls or wherever, others sitting around talking or just mingling. People actually made eye contact and said hello to me as I walked by, which I found astonishing. There was music coming from odd corners of the campus, from windows playing cool tunes (apparently, it helped to have Amoeba so close!) or from someone just strumming a guitar in the grass.

The one thing I didn't see in anyone's face was tension, a feeling I had almost every day at Darden. Everything and everyone was just mellow - and not in a hippie-dippy sort of way, either. I've mentioned before in an earlier post that one of the things I've always liked and appreciated about the San Francisco area was how non-judgmental people were; as long as what you were into wasn't a nuisance or bothering anyone, folks were pretty much cool with it. The feeling I got from Berkeley was that that same sort of attitude prevailed. The streets around the school were full of brightly colored buildings and funky, eclectic shops and restaurants that I would have loved to have frequented if I lived there. The more I looked around that afternoon, the more I was convinced that UC Berkeley would have been the right place, and right choice, for me. That school and that area would have been the PERFECT fit for me, in every way.

I was still bummed by the time I got back to my hotel room in the city, so I opened up the CD set and began listening to tracks off the compilation, hoping that would cheer me up somewhat. And I must say that I was pleasantly and happily surprised at what I heard. Instead of the grinding, abrasive punk practiced by the majority of their contemporaries, LiLiPUT took a different tack; their music didn't neatly fit into the one-word categories
of 'feminists' or 'punks' or 'artistes'. To quote writer John Dougan:
"Their music was not punk in the loud, fast economical sense; the band was forging a different kind of punk, one that was gleefully anarchic, avant-garde, unrestrained and suffused with a giddy, almost palpable sense of joy."
It's the sound of a group of musicians having a blast playing music together, and not really giving much thought to whether their songs would be popular or 'mainstream' enough. They weren't necessarily thinking about critical success or commercial gain - the members of LiLiPUT were making music essentially for their own enjoyment, and in spite of (or more likely, because of) their unabashed exuberance and ignorance of the unwritten rules of their particular genre, they gained a small but widespread and appreciative audience. They didn't conform, and do what they were 'supposed' to do or what others told them they could or couldn't do - they just did what felt right and good and fun to them. They listened to their hearts, rather than their heads . . . a lesson I wish I had followed years earlier, when I made that choice between grad schools, and ended up in a place that wasn't quite right for me.

What happened for me happened; the past is the past, and you live with your choices. But I found that sometimes it really IS better to stuff logic and pragmatism, and go with what you feel rather than what you think.

And so much for all of that. Here, for your listening pleasure, is LiLiPUT, the two-disc compilation containing the band's complete output - five singles, two albums and fourteen unreleased tracks - originally released on Switzerland's Off Course Records in 1993, and re-released on Kill Rock Stars on February 20th, 2001. Enjoy and, as always, please let me know what you think.

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Friday, January 3, 2014

The Beatles - I Hope We Passed The Audition (Purple Chick)

Wellsir - welcome to 2014. Let's get this year started off right . . .

This is going to be a big year for The Beatles, with the fiftieth anniversary of their debut on the American Ed Sullivan Show coming up next month. So brace yourself for a deluge of Beatle-related articles, shows, tributes, magazine covers, interviews, music releases, etc. over the next few weeks, as every Tom, Dick and Harry of a media outlet climbs aboard the nostalgia bandwagon (Never mind the fact that they'll be selling that nostalgia to a vast majority of people who weren't even alive when the British Invasion began that snowy February day so long ago . . .).

And we here at Pee-Pee Soaked Heckhole will be no exception (ha ha!)!

Here's my first Beatle entry of the year - a collection of early Beatles recording sessions from 1961 and 1962, provided by our good friends at Purple Chick. This disc includes the output from the series of Polydor recording sessions conducted in Germany with Tony Sheridan in June  
1961, during the band's Hamburg residency, with The Beatles (billed as 'The Beat Brothers') serving as Sheridan's backing group. This was the session that produced the single "My Bonnie", the song that eventually brought the band to the attention of a key figure in their rise to stardom, Brian Epstein.

[Contrary to popular belief, the Sheridan sessions were not the group's first visit to a recording studio. During an earlier trip to Hamburg in October 1960, the band was asked to back Lou Walters (of Rory Storm's Hurricanes, another band in residency there) for a three-song session at Akustik Studios. Pete Best was unavailable that day, so Harrison, Lennon and McCartney sang harmonies and played with the Hurricanes' drummer, Ringo Starr - the first time the four future Beatles ever played together.]

This disc also includes, in its entirety, the famous Decca audition in London on January 1st, 1962, the band's first formal audition for a British record company. This was the tryout that was infamously rejected by Decca a month later, with the comments "Guitar groups are on the way out" and "The Beatles have no future in show business" - still considered one of the biggest mistakes in music history (although in Decca's defense, from most accounts, The Beatles' song selection and nervous, tentative presentation that day did little to showcase the band's talents and versatility . . . in addition, the band the label ended up signing (Brian Poole & The Tremeloes, who auditioned the same day immediately after The Beatles), were locals, and as such would mean lower travel expenses for Decca than the Liverpool-based Fabs).

Here's the music lineup:
1. My Bonnie (German Intro)
2. My Bonnie (English Intro)
3. My Bonnie
4. The Saints
5. Cry For A Shadow
6. Why (Can't You Love Me Again)
7. Nobody's Child
8. Ain't She Sweet
9. Take Out Some Insurance On Me, Baby
10. Like Dreamers Do
11. Money
12. To Know Her Is To Love Her
13. Memphis
14. Till There Was You
15. Sure To Fall
16. Besame Mucho
17. Love Of The Loved
18. Hello Little Girl
19. Three Cool Cats
20. September In The Rain
21. Take Good Care Of My Baby
22. Crying Waiting Hoping
23. The Sheik Of Araby
24. Searchin'
25. Sweet Georgia Brown
26. Besame Mucho
27. Love Me Do
28. Sweet Georgia Brown
29. Sweet Georgia Brown
30. I Hope We Passed The Audition

Tracks 1-6: June 22-23 1961
Tracks 7-9: June 24, 1961
Tracks 10-24: Decca audition, January 1, 1962
Tracks 26-27: EMI audition, June 6, 1962
A superb and detailed examination of the events leading up to and including The Beatles' Decca audition (including a synopsis of the best existing recordings for each song - guess which source was selected?!) can be found here on the Comprehensive Beatles blog. I can add nothing to this excellent writeup.

So I'll leave it at that, and leave you all with this: I Hope We Passed The Audition, released by Beatles bootleg masters Purple Chick in 2006. Enjoy, and as always, let me know what you think.

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