Isolation Mix Twelve

I’m not sure that the title of these mixes holds true any more but onward we go. This week’s hour of music is coming from the punk and post- punk world and the long tail that snakes from the plugging of a guitar into an amplifier and someone with something to say stepping up to the microphone. Some Spaghetti Western as an intro, some friendship, some politics, some anger, some exhilaration, some questions, some disillusionment, some psychedelic exploration and some optimism to end with.

In History Lesson Part 2 D. Boon explains his friendship with Mike Watt, the importance of punk in changing their lives, the singers and players in the bands that inspired him and, in the first line, the essence of punk as he experienced it.

‘Our band could be your life
Real names’d be proof
Me and Mike Watt played for years
Punk rock changed our lives

We learned punk rock in Hollywood
Drove up from Pedro
We were fucking corn dogs
We’d go drink and pogo

Mr. Narrator
This is Bob Dylan to me
My story could be his songs
I’m his soldier child

Our band is scientist rock
But I was E. Bloom and Richard Hell
Joe Strummer and John Doe
Me and Mike Watt, playing guitar’

Ennio Morricone: For A Few Dollars More

Minutemen: History Lesson Part 2

Joe Strummer/Electric Dog House: Generations

X: In This House That I Call Home

The Replacements: Can’t Hardly Wait (Tim Outtake Version)

Husker Du: Keep Hanging On

The Redskins: Kick Over The Statues

The Woodentops: Why (Live)

The Vacant Lots: Bells

The Third Sound: For A While

Spacemen 3: Revolution

Poltergeist: Your Mind Is A Box (Let Us Fill It With Wonder)

Echo And The Bunnymen: Ocean Rain (Alt Version)

Pete Wylie: Sinful

Carbon/Silicon: Big Surprise

Isolation Mix Seven

An hour and a minute of stitched together songs for Saturday. This one caused me a bit of a headache at times. It was an attempt I think at first to try to join some dots together in terms of feel or sounds, with a nod to Kraftwerk following Florian Schneider’s death last week. There was an earlier version that went quite techno/dance for the last twenty minutes but I then went back and did the end section again. I’m still not sure I got it quite right, and think I may have tried to cover too many bases stylistically, but my self imposed deadline was approaching so ‘publish and be damned’, as the Duke of Wellington said. Although he wasn’t dealing with the business of trying to get spaghetti westerns, indie dance, shoegaze and leftfield electronic music to sit together in one mix was he?

Ennio Morricone: Watch Chimes (From ‘For A Few Dollars More’)

David Sylvian and Robert Fripp: Endgame

Talk Talk: Life’s What You Make It

Saint Etienne: Kiss And Make Up (Midsummer Madness Mix)

Spacemen 3: Big City (Everyone I Know Can Be Found Here)

Beyond The Wizards Sleeve: Diagram Girl (Beyond The Wizards Sleeve Re- Animation)

My Bloody Valentine: Don’t Ask Why

Jon Hopkins and Kelly Lee Owens: Luminous Spaces

Kraftwerk: Numbers

Death In Vegas: Consequences Of Love (Chris and Cosey Remix)

Chris Carter: Moonlight

Simple Minds: Theme For Great Cities

Durutti Column: It’s Wonderful

I have a significant birthday fast approaching. A few months ago we had planned that today would be a day of celebrating with anyone who wanted to join us, starting with lunch and few beers in town and then a tram pub crawl southbound out of the city centre towards Sale, stopping off in Old Trafford (maybe) and Stretford (definitely) before some drinks locally in the evening. That obviously isn’t happening. I’ll have to re-schedule for my 51st.

Come On Take Me For A Ride

In 1987 Spacemen 3 released their second album, The Perfect Prescription, an album where the sequence of the songs and the music the group recorded attempt to recreate a trip, highs and lows and inception to comedown. It paid homage to Lou Reed’s Street Hassle and covered the Red Krayola’s Transcendental Radiation. The album is, like all of Spacemen 3’s records, a manifesto and the inner worlds of Sonic Boom and J Spaceman expressed on tape. Later on in 2003 an alternate version of The Perfect Prescription was released, a double CD called Forged Prescription. This was the original tracks as recorded by the group in Rugby in 1987 plus some demo versions. Pete and Jason had streamlined the songs for the album’s 1987 release, removing a lot of the guitars and stripping them back, because there was no way to replicate them live and it seemed to make sense to put out an album that they could play live. Some S3 fans will tell you the more elaborate versions on Forged Prescriptions are superior to the Perfect Prescription ones. Some prefer the ’87 songs and the ’87 running order. I’m not sure it matters that much, they’re all great, just variations of each other. One thing both the Forged Prescription album and the various re-issues of The Perfect Prescription have in common are the B-sides to the Take Me To The Other Side single, including this one…

Soul 1 

A combination of mid- 60s Rolling Stones, psychedelic guitar parts, bent strings, horns (sax and trumpet) and the beatific mindset of Spacemen 3 playing in a a recording studio box with no windows in an industrial estate in Rugby during the summer of 1987. Gorgeous. This song, the opener on The Perfect Prescription and the beginning of the trip, appears on Forged Prescriptions in demo form and shows the twin guitars of Sonic/Pete Kember and Jason preparing for blast off.

Take Me To The Other Side (Forged Prescriptions demo)

Forged Prescriptions and all the re-issues in recent years of Spacemen 3’s albums on vinyl, plus various albums of demos, early recordings and live albums, have appeared on Space Age Recordings, a label owned by their former manager Gerald Palmer. The former members of the band, Pete, Jason and original bassist Pete Bassman have all said in public that Palmer has been ripping them off for years, releasing records without their input, paying little or no royalties, stealing their copyrights (logos etc) and asked fans not to buy the re- issues. Palmer (obviously) denies it all. One of those situations that leaves fans with moral dilemmas. I suppose for physical product on Space Age buy it second hand if you can. Forged Prescriptions is an album that I’m sure you can find digitally for free if you look around some of the corners of the internet for a few minutes.

I See A Change Coming

There’s a lot going to happen this week. It looks like this week will present the only chance for our elected representatives to assert the fundamental principal of British democracy- that parliament is sovereign in the UK, not the government or the Prime Minister. If Johnson and Cummings plan to drive a No Deal Brexit through by proroguing parliament is going to be stopped in the Houses of Commons and Lords then this is it. I hope they are up to it.
The large numbers of people out over the weekend marching show that there is public outrage and fears about this Tory right wing power grab but the pressure has to be maintained. Although Albert Square was fairly full on Saturday afternoon there were significantly more people shopping in the Arndale Centre or going to watch City play Brighton. There is an apathy about the English, a feeling that it couldn’t happen here coupled with the view that Johnson is a man of action and he’s getting things done. Marches and demonstrations are easily ignored by governments. A million people marched against going to war in Iraq. If parliament fails this week, the numbers on the streets and the intensity of the marches have to be increased. I sometimes think that witty placards and polite marching isn’t necessarily going to do very much and that the only way the strength of feeling will be noticed is if things start getting smashed up. I’m not one to advocate violence but it worked with the Poll Tax.
It turns out that the people who talked so loudly in 2016 about taking back control and returning sovereignty to the mother of parliaments don’t really give a fuck about that- they are ignoring the very thing they said they wanted to restore. What the last week has shown is that this country seriously needs a revolution, a wholesale change in its systems and practices. At the very least the UK needs a codified and written constitution, formally setting out the powers of the different branches of government with clearly delineated checks and balances. This necessitates a Head of State with actual political power who would have the constitutional right to resist the request from three members of the Privy Council to prorogue parliament last week. The Queen had no way to do this. I have no idea if she wanted to resist or didn’t but that doesn’t matter. Politically constitutional monarchy is dead in the water and has to go. Outdated, hamstrung and archaic, it serves no practical or political purpose. The House of Lords has got to got too, obviously, replaced by an elected second chamber (private education needs abolishing as well if we’re going to break down the completely unrepresentative run of Prime Ministers who went to Eton). We need significant change, asap.
In 1989 Spacemen 3 called for a revolution. The one that Sonic Boom had in mind may have more due to the harassment he got due to his chosen lifestyle and the supply of hard drugs in the Rugby area than any real political concern but he does get to the point with ‘well I’m through with people who can’t get up off their ass to help themselves change this government and better society’ before concluding ‘hold on a second… I smell burning… and I see a change coming round the bend’.

Monday’s Long Song

I’ve been doing a lot of Spacemen 3 related posts over the past few weeks/months. For some reason something has clicked back into place and their music (and that of the post Spacemen 3 bands, especially Sonic Boom’s Spectrum) makes perfect sense currently and is right where my head is at. They are/were also very good at the long song, two chords repeated blissfully for as long as you like, a kind of focused looseness.

The Perfect Prescription was Spacemen 3’s second album, released in 1987 The album was supposed to replicate a drug trip, from start to finish, the highs and lows. This double track is the peak, the orchestral Ecstasy Symphony part ebbing into a cover of Red Krayola’s Transparent Radiation, mid 60s DIY psychedelia from Texas (recorded and released in 1967 and with fellow traveller Roky Erickson on harmonica).

Ecstasy Symphony/Transparent Radiation (Flashback)

Sonic Boom In The Pink Room

Sonic Boom played The Pink Room at YES, Manchester’s newest gig venue, on Wednesday night in a small upstairs space called the Pink Room (it’s painted pink and has a bit of a Warhol/Factory vibe going on). The room holds about 250 people and the gig wasn’t sold out. The post- Spacemen 3 trajectories of Pete Kember and Jason Pierce are a bit mystifying, Spiritualized playing grand venues to thousands while Sonic Boom/Spectrum plays to the low hundreds. It gives a better gig experience though if you prefer intimate and up close but you can’t help but feel Pete has been shortchanged somewhere along the line.

Sonic takes the stage with one other musician, a guitarist with long, centre parted hair who is wearing a Spacemen 3 t-shirt. Without much in the way of introductions he begins playing the riff to Transparent Radiation, Spacemen 3’s cover of The Red Krayola’s 60s psyche- rock classic. After this slow, repetitious opener Pete doesn’t play guitar again until the end, instead sitting at a table with keyboards, synths, a sampler and an array of pedals, cables, leads and plug ins. From hereon in Sonic digs deep into his bag and plays a selection of songs from his back catalogue- long, slow, hypnotic tracks, loops and drones from the various boxes on the table, all sorts of delay and echo going on. One song often melts into another, the pedals continuing to give out their sounds, loads of tremelo and wobble, as one ends and the next begins. We get All Night Long and Lord I Don’t Even Know My Name from two different Spectrum albums, Spacemen 3’s Call The Doctor and Let Me Down Gently, all perfectly illustrating Sonic’s talents, lyrics that are either melancholic or devotional over the top of undulating synths and waves of sound, drones and loops and repetition. There’s no drummer so the songs never get that injection of oomph and power a drummer brings, instead they glide by complemented by the trippy visuals projected onto the back wall. In the middle of the set Sonic starts manipulating a vocal sample. The set list website says this was during I Know They Say (from Spectrum’s Highs Lows And Heavenly Blows) but I don’t recall that song being the basis of what becomes very improvisational, Sonic constantly triggering the vocal sample, stuttering it, repeating phrases, building in intensity on and on, for what must have been ten or fifteen minutes. He goes back to the guitar for the penultimate song, a fairly blistering take on Suicide’s Che. Pete then tells us something along the lines of ‘this is where we fuck off back stage for a few minutes, you clap and then we come back out but that’s bollocks so we’re just going to keep playing’. He fiddles with a few boxes, sets them going for a finale of Big City (Everybody I Know Can Be Found Here), the highlight of Spacemen 3’s Recurring album and the band’s last single, Sonic’s psychedelic, acid house influenced peak- the pedals and synth pumping the song out, the guitarist using an e-bow to play the top line  and Sonic leaning in to deliver and repeat the lines, ‘everybody I know can be found here/ let the good times roll/ waves of joy/ yeah I love you too’, for fifteen blissed out, mesmerising minutes. Waves of joy indeed. I wish he’d tour more often.

This is the ten minute version of Big City from back in 1991, still sounding magnificent nearly thirty years later.

Big City (Everybody I Know Can Be Found Here)

And this is a 1992 single by Spectrum, also off their album Soul Kiss (Glide Divine) out the same year.

How You Satisfy Me

When Tomorrow Hits

I’m going to see Sonic Boom play next week, in his Spectrum guise, which I’m really looking forward to. I recently discovered this album, Indian Giver from 2008, recorded by Pete Kember and legendary producer Jim Dickinson (appearing as Captain Memphis)- a man for whom the word legendary is fully deserved. On Indian Giver they revisited Spacemen 3’s cover of Mudhoney’s When Tomorrow Hits and it is all you need for this Wednesday morning, two chord, Stooges-inspired, fuzz rock par excellence, a song going off like a slow explosion.

Indian Giver by Spectrum

Monday’s Long Song

Not sure any words are needed to go with this piece of music from Spectrum in 1994, one of Sonic Boom’s post-Spacemen 3 masterpieces (from the album Highs, Lows And Heavenly Blows). If you like loops, space echo guitars, phasing and a general, gentle sense of being set adrift, this is for you.

If you’d like something more abstract, just ten minutes of wobbly drones then this one from 1993 may be your cup of tea.

Ecstasy In Slow Motion

Honey

Back in June I posted a new single from Death In Vegas. Honey is a slow burning, pulsing techno track graced by Sasha Grey’s seductive vocals. I’m still playing it now, still finding it one of those songs that gets right into me and makes me feel alive. In September it gained a video, mainly close ups of Sasha’s face while she coos that she would die for you.

The Los Angeles photographer Blake Little covered people in honey for a series of pictures and a book called Preservation. Being draped in honey might be rather nice but it must have taken ages to get clean afterwards. More here.

Honey is a bit of a theme in art and music- warm, sticky and sweet, an everyday luxury. More honey?

The Los Angeles photographer Blake Little covered people in honey for a series of pictures and a book called Preservation (including the one above). More here. Being draped in honey might be rather nice I would have thought but it must have taken ages to get clean afterwards.

Jim and William Reid’s Honey, like their Candy and Cindy, was a love song to a girl or a drug (or both). Here they are on The Tube, introduced by Paula Yates on Friday night in 1985, still with Bobby Gillespie playing the snare drum. Black leather, pale skin, feedback.

Earlier this year I posted another Scottish band’s tribute to Honey, The Pastels whose Baby Honey is a wonderfully shambolic B-side from 1984.

Baby Honey

There are plenty of other honeys on my hard drive- not sure that’s a sentence that is going to keep me out of trouble- Johnny Burnett’s Honey Hush, Lee Hazelwood’s Silk ‘n’ Honey, Orange Juice’s Simply Thrilled Honey, Martha Reeves and The Vandellas (We’ve Got) Honey Love, Duke Reid’s What Makes Honey? and Prince Fattie and Hollie Cook’s Milk And Honey but this one seems to round this off the best. Spacemen 3 were into honey (of course they were). It was the opening song on their 1989 album Playing With Fire, an album I have revisited a lot earlier this year. Honey is a Pete Kember song that opens with a blast of wobble, some descending chords and plucked guitar notes. The whispered vocal arrives a minute in and everything is stretched and phased, pleasantly distorted. ‘Honey won’t you take me home tonight?’ Pete asks, ‘the night is warm and the stars are bright’. Pete’s meditation drifts on, blissfully and before fading out just before three minutes. ‘Surely there ain’t nothing we can’t do’.

Honey

Playing With Fire

In his book Playing The Bass With Three Left Hands Spacemen 3’s bassplayer Will Carruthers recounts the time a royalty statement arrived in the post, at a time when he was skint, and opening it to find out he had made the princely sum of £0.00. This is when he starts to open his eyes to music being a business, an industry, and not just some friends making music. He goes on to discuss the Spacemen 3 song Suicide, the only joint Kember-Pierce composition on Playing With Fire, a song Will points out the two men received royalty payments for writing- an instrumental, two note groove-drone, based on a Stooges riff (in itself ripped off an old blues riff), in tribute to Martin Rev and Alan Vega. That’s how songwriting works. The song was agony for Will to play, his left hand clawed on the strings and neck of his Gibson Firebird bass. This version was included on the cd release of Playing With Fire, a live version recorded while they were on tour in The Netherlands. It is magnificent and as an extra you can feel Will’s pain while it plays.

Suicide (Live)