Tymon Dogg (violin), Joe Strummer and The 101’ers.
Did anyone outside the London squatter and tube station busking scene of the 1970s know who Tymon Dogg was before he appeared as guest bandleader on The Clash’s Sandinista, where he sings and fiddles his way through one of the 3-album set’s most-challenging long songs? The vibrato on Dogg’s voice makes Feargal Sharkey’s voice sound straighter than John Wayne.
Listening to the previously unknown Dogg take his best shot on a major-label release this morning I started thinking about other unknown or cult artists who were dragged into the spotlight on a major artist’s record. The Clash made a habit of this practice in the latter half of their career. I thought of the English folk singer, Roy Harper, who no one in America (at least) had ever heard of prior to getting called in to sing lead on Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar.” Was he well known in England when he got the call (and before Led Zeppelin name-checked him)? At the risk of exposing myself as grossly ignorant, has anyone heard Roy Harper sing beside the moment the Floyd invited him to shine on like a crazy diamond?
Surely there are many other cult and unknown artists who’ve gotten their big chance in the spotlight? Who stands out for you? Are there interesting circumstances behind this person’s sudden appearance on the big stage? Did anyone grab that moment and explode onto the scene as a star in his or her own right?
So it occurred to me the other day that if aliens were to beam down from Mars and ask “Hey what do the Clash sound like?” and I could play them just one song … it would be “Safe European Home.” I know, I know Give ’em Enough Rope is a bit muddled production-wise, but this song has almost every Clash touchstone: the classic Mick Jones single-note guitar, the typical Clash Break … the reggae bit at the end, and Joe’s classic singing. When he hits the “They got the weed, they got the taxis” the song achieves “lift off” in my opinion — in a way few Clash songs do.
I’m up for a Battle Royale here. (My guess is this is well-trod ground.) Look it may not be the “best” song in their cannon … but truly emblematic in my humble opinion. What’s better?
Wow, here’s an oldie-but-goodie, first posted almost 5 years to the day, that many of our current daily participants have not had a crack at. This thread is so old that Wilco has had time to change its chemistry at least one more time. Enjoy.
This post initially appeared 1/28/07.
Changes in band chemistry need not ruin a band’s sound, but they will alter it greatly – sometimes for better, sometimes for worse, sometimes for something just as good and interesting as the orginal but…different. Today, I’m most concerned with the first and last categories. We need not spend much time on the “for worse” category. Remember, this is a site to which fans on Ron Wood-era Stones need not apply. Continue reading »
The recent rifts over Billy Joel had me yearning for something that we all could agree on. I stumbled across this series of videos from an episode of Eight Days A Week, a British music talk show. Not only did it offer a well-spoken and coifed Green Gartside, a grey but tactful Nick Lowe, and rock critic/pseudo groupie Janice Long, but the discussion covered such a wide assortment of musicians circa 1984 that it seemed that we all could find something to love.
In part 1, we have the conundrum of a whether a member of Culture Club‘s solo attempt is any good. We move along to some footage of The Clash at Shea Stadium and discussion of the jettison of Mick Jones.
In part 2, we have fun the Liverpudlian way, with Echo and the Bunnymen.
And in part 3, we hear about Pogue Mahone and other pub bands of the time.
Along the way, we are also treated to references to Neil Diamond, Elvis Costello, The Moody Blues, and the latest band to jump the pond, REM.
The following piece made its way up from the lp-jammed basement of E. Pluribus Gergely.
Once a month or so, I spend about 2 to 3 hours in my basement chopping up cardboard into mailers for my record bidness. Truth be told, that’s when I listen to music. When I’m in the car, it’s usually NPR. Sad but true. Anyway, before the chopping ensues, I head over to the stacks to pick something out to listen to while I chop. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked up something like Electric Ladyland and said, “Too much work to get to ‘All Along the Watchtower’,” ‘Crosstown Traffic,’ and a few others.” Really, you’ve gotta have a Hitler-like ego to think you can keep the interest of any listener for more than a single serving.
After racking my brain for a good half hour or so, I arrived at the following list of essential double LPs.
Charlie Parker, The Very Best of Bird (all the Dial sides with just a few outtakes). And yeah, I know it’s like a greatest hits thing, but I’m letting this one slide because it’s the best way to hear all that Dial stuff in one shot.
The Beatles, White Album. Yep, it’s all great. “Wild Honey Pie,” “Revolution #9,” “Why Don’t We Do it in the Road”…absolutely necessary. It’s all over the place, and it’s my favorite Beatles album, probably because it’s jam packed with a lot of unexpected weirdness that works extremely well together.
The Rolling Stones, Exile On Main Street. Still on my list despite the fact that it dies after “All Down the Line,” the opening track on the fourth side. As I’ve stated before it’s the ultimate statement of “Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll.” The cover, the 3 decent sides, and the snapshots on the inner sleeves (especially those of Mick and Keef and Jack at the microphone and Keef finishing off a sandwich whilst having a smoke) make it the LP that mom and dad worry most about in your teenage record collection.
The Clash, London Calling. The ultimate statement of life-changing rock. Again, that killer album cover, 4 sides of doozies with only a track or two of filler, and finally…2 inner sleeves jam packed with the lyrics to all the songs. The revelation that Strummer’s M16-like yammering is actually on a ’63–’66 Dylan lyric level is mindblowing. And continues to be so. On a recent trip to Hellerstown to buy a bunch of garage 45s, I revisited London Calling for 456th time and still heard things for the first time.
And that’s it. “What,” you ask, “no Blonde on Blonde?” Hell no. I can honestly say I never need to hear “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” ever again. It goes on and on forever, which is most probably what’s behind the meat of the thing. Dylan most probably wanted the world to know that he was the first to be skillful enough to fill a whole side with a single song. You know what? Nice try, but it doesn’t really work.
“No Freak Out?” Again, forget it. Jam “Trouble Every Day” somewhere on side 1 or 2, leave out the second wax slab of Edgar Varese/noise poop, and you’ve got a real winner. Again, too much ego and not enough good ideas.
“No Beatles Live in Hamburg ’62?” Just between you and me, I wanna add that thing to my list in the worst way, but I absolutely and positively cannot defend 4 sides of monotonous mach schau “Red Sails in the Sunset” sturm and drang. My weakness? Anything “Beatles” remains utterly fascinating. I would read a 600-page tome by George Martin’s tailor should he choose to tell all.
As far as greatest hits releases are concerned, real thought went into The Beatles: 1962–1966, The Beatles 1967–1970, Hot Rocks, More Hot Rocks, and The Kinks Chronicles. To put it bluntly, no filler. Come to think of it, add The Rolling Stones’ Through the Past Darkly (that “stop sign” looking thing) to that mix and you more or less have everything found in Townsman andyr‘s record collection. That’s not an insult. That’s a high five. That’s andyr in a nutshell. No time for bullshit.
Who knows. Maybe I’m wrong about all this. Maybe some of you see Refried Boogie, the 40-minute second LP of Canned Heat‘s Living the Blues, as an argument for the existence of God. Needless to say, your insights are always greatly appreciated.
Usually I don’t go in for this whole isolating the instruments, but there’s a cool thing going on here. I think Paul Simonon gets a bad rap as a bass player. He might have started off weak, but he did his thing well and really grew into it.
You can check out all the separate tracks for London Callinghere.
For god knows what reason a recent issue of Rolling Stone has a cobbled together piece on The Clash. I love The Clash and for years read everything I could on them, but there came a point when I could no longer stomach another hashed-over exercise in myth-making. Tell me something I don’t know already, maybe even some details on how particular records were made. Instead, as this Rolling Stone article does, it’s more of the same-old, same-old: band members from broken homes, The 101’ers, Keith Levene and the London SS, the dawn of Thatcherism, idealism of The Clash contrasted with the nihilism of the Sex Pistols, Bernie Rhodes, the sprawling blah blah blah of London Calling, etc. Enough! The same goes for another one of my favorite bands, The Beatles.
I’m finishing a biography of Elvis Presley, written by one of his Memphis Mafia cronies. I think this is the first Memphis Mafia memoir I’ve read. His close personal friends shed new light on the man. Last night I read about the time he smoked pot. For me, at least, there may be plenty more to learn about the King. I feel the same way about Bob Dylan. Until I see a police report and photos from his motorcycle accident, I hold out hope for learning new details about this great artist.
For what favorite artist would you like to see a moratorium placed on new biographies? Is there anything new you may learn about one of these artists? Perhaps a fellow Townsperson can revive your interest in reading a new biography on said artist. For instance, if anyone can tell me a single new thing about The Clash that I don’t know already, I’ll promise to finish reading this boring Rolling Stone article.