WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . .

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WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . VERNON DALHART: Are you ready for the country?

9 Sep 2013  |  4 min read

While it's not uncommon to hear people speak of some kind of "parallel universe" where another and different version of ourselves might exist, few would actually believe it exists. But every now and again someone comes along who . . . The child, born in northeast Texas on a cattle ranch in 1883, had the perfect name for a country singer who had been brought up tough in a... > Read more

The Wreck of the Old 97

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . STRAWBERRY WALRUS: Let me take you down . . . and down

5 Aug 2013  |  2 min read  |  8

The jury will be out on "the worst album ever" until the judge directs it on exactly how we define the word "worst". For many "worst" would immediately be something by an anodyne boy band, some middle-of-the-road crooner or a cult hero like non-singer/non-player Jandek. But here goes nothing with a guy called Gary Murtha from Mississippi who writes under... > Read more

When John Met Yoko

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . KLAUS NOMI: Twinkle twinkle little star . . .

1 Jul 2013  |  3 min read  |  1

There have been some remarkable voices who have landed in rock culture -- that strange world where people like Tom Waits, Antony Hegarty (of Antony and the Johnsons), Yoko Ono and other people clearly not "rock" end up in the same magazines as Aerosmith, U2 and Lady Gaga. One of the strangest voices -- and most visually engaging images -- belonged to Klaus Nomi who began his... > Read more

Valentine's Day

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . G.G. ALLIN: Pottymouth not potty-trained

3 Jun 2013  |  2 min read  |  1

We might as well get it out of the way quickly: G.G. Allin was a shit-eater. He also threw his excrement -- poos and wees -- at his audiences, punched people in the crowd and told Jerry Springer's television show he would rape women on stage but that was okay because women at his performances should expect that so couldn't be surprised. He took as many drugs and as much booze as he could... > Read more

I Live to be Hated

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . YOKO ONO: The noises from within

11 Apr 2013  |  6 min read  |  1

Yoko is a concept by which we measure our pain -- New York graffiti, 1970. A voice that comes once in a lifetime; unfortunately it came in ours -- Critic Jim Mullen, 1992 Yoko Ono was always an easy target. Conceptual artists who mount exhibitions of chess sets where all the pieces are white, or write books which consist of ambiguously and unintentionally... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . LEON THEREMIN: The sound of sci-fi and nightmares

11 Mar 2013  |  3 min read  |  1

You gotta hand it to inventor Leon Theremin, no one else had thought of a stringless cello. And if that sounds a bit Dada or like an installation at a Yoko Ono art exhibition, be assured. It was the real thing. Theremin invented an electronic stringless cello for the British conductor Leopold Stokowski. He also developed an early form of television which his homeland, Russia,... > Read more

The Swan

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . WILD MAN FISCHER: Psycho street singer and shouter

11 Feb 2013  |  2 min read  |  2

Given Frank Zappa's proclivity towards oddball performers and different musicians -- Captain Beefheart, the GTOs, the Shaggs -- it's hardly surprising he should be the one who brought Wild Man Fischer into the vocabulary of outsider musicians. And Fischer was very outside. In '68 Zappa recorded a double album of Fischer's singing and rants as An Evening with Wild Man Fischer, the title... > Read more

Monkeys Vs Donkeys

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . ABNER JAY: Play dem bones and skulls

28 Jan 2013  |  2 min read

There is an interesting photo of singer and one-man band Abner Jay in the late Seventies playing at what is described as a folk festival. As he pours his all into whatever song has captured him, by his side is a young girl playing the bones. That is, she has what looks like the skull of a horse or cow strung around her neck and she is playing it with what appears to be a femur. The... > Read more

My Testimony (1963)

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . THE COMMERCIAL ALBUM: Well, if you're so smart . . .

14 Jan 2013  |  3 min read

The code for a commercially successful pop song is relatively simple to crack: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, a different but similar bit (usually referred to as the bridge or middle eight), then verse, chorus, chorus . . . Of course there are variants (the Beatles' She Loves You for example cleverly starts with the catchy chorus) but basically that's it. It comes down to verse/chorus. You... > Read more

Picnic Boy

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . ZOOGZ RIFT: Speaking more than Frankly

7 Jan 2013  |  3 min read  |  1

Because his music and career was so diverse, heretical and dispirate, few would try to follow in the footsteps of Frank Zappa. He seems to have spawned no progeny. With one notable exception: Zoogz Rift. Mr Rift -- born Robert Pawlikowski in '53 -- recorded a couple of dozen albums for the SST label, among them Idiots on the Minature Golf Course, Amputees in Limbo, Can You Smell My... > Read more

With My Bare Hands (extract only)

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . THE SHAGGS: Sisters doing it for themselves

3 Dec 2012  |  3 min read  |  3

When Don Emerson realised his sons Donnie and Joe had musical ambitions he was enormously supportive. He bought them instruments and then, on the family farm in Washington state, built them a studio and started on a venue (with a backstage area) for them. Although the Emerson's sole album Dreamin' Wild in '79 didn't sell, disappeared and became a cult item until recently (that story and... > Read more

What Should I Do?

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . JANDEK: Stranger in an even stranger land

23 Nov 2012  |  3 min read

In his very interesting 2001 book about cult figures and outsider musicians Songs in the Key of Z, Irwin Chusid had chapters on some figures (Wild Man Fischer, Syd Barrett, Florence Foster Jenkins, Daniel Johnston, Tiny Tim, Harry Partch etc) who have largely been accepted into the grand pantheon of the weird but rather wonderful. And then there were the others like the talentless Shaggs... > Read more

Cave In On You

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . THE MONKS: Gabba Gabba Hey Hey we're the Monks

30 Aug 2012  |  2 min read

Because of its lo-fi, raw and untutored quality, the Black Monk Time album by a group of five former GIs who had been stationed in Germany in the early Sixties has been widely hailed by the likes of Jack White, Iggy Pop, Jay Reatard, Fred Cole of Dead Moon and many others who favour its elemental quality. The fact that it has been largely out of print (and the band broke up shortly after... > Read more

I Hate You

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . ROKY ERICKSON: Calling occupants of interplanetary craft

5 Mar 2012  |  5 min read  |  1

Compared to Roky Erickson, Syd Barrett – who checked out of Pink Floyd and reality in the late Sixties -- had it easy. Where Barrett took enormous amounts of LSD, spun out and stayed in the house for most of the following four decades, Erickson did the hard time. After enjoying the first wave of success with 13th Floor Elevators when their classic garageband single You're Gonna... > Read more

Reverbaration

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . SKIP SPENCE: Oar in dark water

5 Mar 2012  |  4 min read  |  2

Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd and Roky Erickson of Thirteenth Floor Elevators don't own the category of "mad Sixties acid casualty" exclusively. Alexander Spence -- aka Skip Spence -- deserves to be entered among the "tuned in, turned on and dropped so far out he couldn't come back". In the years before he died in '99 at age 52, he had become an itinerant,... > Read more

Little Hands

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . LARAAJI: Relax, you are feeling sleepy

4 Jan 2012  |  3 min read

Rather cruelly, when the English rock writer Andy Gill reviewed the Laraaji album Days of Radiance back in 1980 he opened with "Zzzzz . . ." Fair call in some ways, but in its defense the album was the third in Brian Eno's ambient series and the second side was taken up with two long pieces entitled Meditation #1 and Meditation #2. And you could hardly expect someone who played... > Read more

Meditation #1 (extract only, from vinyl some surface pops)

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . DANIEL JOHNSTON: In a mixed up, shook up world

24 Jan 2010  |  3 min read

Being eccentric or even downright loopy has never disqualified anyone from a career in rock culture. Indeed, some would argue being slightly off-beam is a prerequisite. Rock is littered with oddballs: acid-damaged Syd Barrett, who signed out of Pink Floyd in '68 and reality shortly after; those Fleetwood Mac guitarists who went walkabout mid-career; Brian Wilson lolling on his bed for a... > Read more

Daniel Johnston: Happy Time