Jul 292011

Let it Rock!

Maybe this has happened already in the history of rock, but if not, can Rock Town Hall collectively design the Zardoz of rock?

I know some of you find director John Boorman‘s 1974 sci-fi flick starring a ponytailed, Zappata-mustachioed Sean Connery running around in a silk diaper/mankini through a world full of identically built hippie handmaidens wearing loose-fitting halter tops “interesting,” but any time I see this film I’m stunned that a post-Bond Connery would appear in something this, uh, interesting. We’re talking the Ultimate James Bond here, so if we can’t find a major band or solo artist coming off their best-known series works to release a ridiculous, futuristic concept album, let’s create such a scenario.

I’m not the world’s greatest fan of The Who‘s Tommy, which can be seen as a pretty ridiculous concept, but there’s some great rock ‘n roll on that record. The post-Saturday Night Fever Bee Gees‘ doing the Sgt. Pepper‘s movie may come close to what I’m looking for, but that debacle was centered around the movie—and even at their commercial peak most of us wouldn’t have expected much more artistically out of the brothers Gibb. Nothing ever released by Styx qualifies. That band blows. I need a post-Bond—level Titan of Rock running around in a musical mankini.

I look forward to the beast we identify and/or create.



  56 Responses to “Rock Town Hall Creates the Zardoz of Rock”

  1. tonyola

    In 1976, Patrick Moraz – keyboardist for Moody Blues and Yes – put out a Brazilian-flavored prog concept album called Story of I about some gigantic futuro/mystico tower in the middle of the jungle that can fulfill people’s fantasies and a pair of lovers who break the rules of the tower. The story is ridiculous and the music is completely over the top with Moraz over-over-overdubbing synthesizers to a fare-thee-well. If that isn’t bad enough, there are also dumb vocals in soulless Euro-bland voices. The whole affair is beautifully played and produced, but even to this hardcore prog fan the results are hard to take in anything other then small and very occasional doses. It’s both a stunning achievement and an utter load of pretentious horseshit.


  2. hrrundivbakshi

    “Music From the Elder” by KISS. No contest — this is exactly what you’re looking for. Here’s a very helpful “story of the album” video to help explain why:


  3. Old school! Thanks for remembering that.

  4. alexmagic

    Music From the Elder came out three years after KISS had made KISS Meets The Phantom of the Park. On the Connery scale, he’d have to have made Highlander II between Diamonds Are Forever and Zardoz for that analogy to work.

    The closest anyone ever got to a Rock Zardoz is probably the rumored Kubrick-helmed, Beatle-starring adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. The idea that such a thing was at least genuinely discussed by the various parties involved blows my mind.

  5. Anything involving KISS does not qualify. They aspired to Zardozian depths from the git-go. Now that Lord of the Rings-Beatles-Kubrick extravaganza is just the kind of thing I’m talking about. Was this for real? Please share any details.

  6. The Beatles thing is too nebulous. How far did they really get in planning that thing?

    If we’re talking rock films, it has to be Neil Young’s sci-fi comedy Human Highway, co-starring Russ Tamblyn, Dean Stockwell, Dennis Hopper and Devo.


    Here is the entire version of “Hey Hey My My” which I think is legitimately awesome.


  7. Yes, and Young also attempted to reach Zardozian depths with the likes of Trans, but still, Neil Young was already fairly established as his own man, wasn’t he? He was Her Majesty’s Service, or whatever they called that (I was never a big Bond fan), material.

    For starters, for instance, I’m thinking something of the magnitude of Bob Dylan seated at that convivial table in Berlin with Bowie, Iggy, and Lou. Or Ziggy-era Bowie suddenly revisiting the hellhound on Robert Johnson’s tail with note-perfect, solo acoustic blues performances at the sites where Johnson was recorded.

  8. misterioso

    If you read Townsend interviews ca. 1970 about Lifehouse, then that is what you are looking for: completely off the wall nuttiness, the band and the audience and the music all fuse into one, man! But there are two problems: 1) it never materialized and 2) basically all the songs he wrote for it happen to be tremendous. (As you note, Mod, Tommy has similar problems: the concept is all over the place but it’s still a great record. It took the “genius” of Ken Russell to restore the crackpot nature of the concept to front and center. Thanks for that, Ken.) It is still amazing to me that he managed to create such great music out of such ridiculousness.

  9. 2000 Man

    I feel bad for you that you remember that album! I’d say equally pretentious and crappy is Rick Wakeman’s Lisztomania, which was the soundtrack to one of the worst movies ever made.

  10. diskojoe

    I’m currently reading Ritchie Unterberger’s latest book, Won’t Get Fooled Again, which is about this period of the Who. It seems that the only person who understood the Lifehouse concept was Pete himself. Again, it’s amazing that 2 of the most overplayed classic rock songs (“Baba O’Reilly” & “Won’t Get Fooled Again”), as well as a classic album (“Who’s Next”) came out of this lunacy.

  11. Doesn’t Pete claim that, somewhere within the labyrinth of half-baked ideas that was spilling out of his noggin with Lifehouse, he predicted the internet? In your face, Al Gore!

  12. BigSteve

    Reading through that old trainwreck thread was instructive. Does Prince’s Graffiti Bridge best fit the parameters here?

  13. Ooooh, that’s a good one!

  14. Or maybe “Parade”, which was the soundtrack/companion piece to his terrifyingly awful film, “Under the Cherry Moon”. It did have the hit single “Kiss” on it, but I don’t think anything else from the album was well received (I can’t be sure, as I never really payed much attention to Prince).

  15. Hell no! Parade is my favorite Prince album.

  16. In fairness to the artist we need to eliminate all movie soundtracks. The marriage of rock and film is almost always doomed to fail.

    We’re getting some good examples of actual trainwrecks, but I’m still looking for stuff along the lines of the visionary would-be trainwreck of Lifehouse. If no other artist has had the ambition to map out something to the depths of Zardozia that Townshend had in mind, maybe we can do the work.

  17. If you go back to the Rock Trainwrecks thread, you’ll see erstwhile Townsman Homefrontradio suggest Smashing Pumpkins’ Machina. I think that’s a good candidate. Very Lifehouse-y.

  18. That’s fine, I really just wanted to mention “Under a Cherry Moon”. Man, did that suck!

    How about Pete’s middle-age crisis record, “All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes”? It’s a kind of unwieldy concept album…and really kind of a mess, as far as I’m concerned. Any album containing a song with the line, “Let me tell you a little more about myself…”, I would think, is worthy of consideration.

  19. What about Roger Water’s “Music From the Body”? — The only reason I even know about this one is my college roommate had it on album and it really, really, sucked. At that time, all he listened to was Pink Floyd – ugh!. He now plays in an Americana jug band!


  20. Good one, but still…what really could have been expected from Smashing Pumpkins? Could you say they fell from a Bond-worthy perch?

  21. Wasn’t Lifehouse supposed to be movie, too?

  22. Never heard that one, but the bits of pieces I’ve heard of Waters’ post-Floyd albums make me think they are strong contenders.

  23. I also like that Townshend album.

  24. I knew the Pumpkins would get knocked off for post-1982 reasons. Never the less, they well and truly walked off a commercial cliff with that album, after ruling rock radio and MTV for quite a while. And like it or not, Billy Corgan is the face of Winner Rock.

  25. BigSteve

    I love Pete, but he’s a serial offender when it comes to overwrought concept albums. White City and Psychoderelict don’t fit here only because they’re not coming immediately after his best work.

  26. BigSteve

    David St. Hubbins’ and Derek Smalls’ musical based on the life of Jack the Ripper, Saucy Jack, would probably have been a contender, but it was never completed.

  27. Have you recently listened to Pete’s “Cowboys” album, Oats?

  28. Are you kidding!?! I envied them the concept of “Saucy Jack”! They envied themselves, too…

  29. alexmagic

    I reject your rejection of the Beatles Lord of the Rings adaptation. At this point, I’m sure nobody remembers how far along it actually got, but the thread also calls for hypothetical created scenarios, and there’s been enough apocrypha built up that we even “know” that George was going to be Gandalf (the wizard), Paul & Ringo the hobbits and John would have been Gollum, which seems weirdly appropriate.

    What if that thing actually happens? Does it forever destroy their legacy? Does it quietly vanish? Do they do songs for it? Do they reuse the ring from Help! for the magic ring they have to destroy?

  30. diskojoe

    Doesn’t anybody remember another Rick Wakeman project about the Kinghts of the Roundtable that was performed live on iceskates?


  31. THANK YOU, alexmagic, for bringing a clear-headed view to this topic. For what it’s worth, I fully support the initiative to build off this apocryphal scenario. Brian Epstein might have made a good Billy Baggins – or better yet, how about Hamburg-era Little Richard in that role? Admittedly I only know the movie version of this story, but I’ll do my best to pitch in. Who plays the character that was eventually played by the handsome, former husband of Exene? How about Clapton? His work in the Tommy movie is severely underrated.

  32. Oh man! That’s genius! It’s practically “Zoo Animals on Wheels”! Looks like a serious contender to me.

  33. BigSteve

    I love that it’s myths AND legends.

  34. misterioso

    I think so, yes!

  35. misterioso

    Bobby B., I agree that All the Best Cowboys is at times awkward and uncomfortable, but it also has some great stuff, including Slit Skirts, which contains the offendingly narcissistic line. (That line always cracks me up, and I’d like to think Pete knows how self-absorbed it is.)

  36. misterioso

    If I considered Yes a height from which this is a notable dropping off, I think I would vote for this just based on your description.

  37. Well, relatively speaking…

  38. And it’s not even Yes but just one member. Also, I’d say Yes, like KISS, was constructed for Zardozian depths.

    It’s too bad Dylan’s 19-hour film from the ’70s wasn’t contained in anything beyond an album. What’s it called, Renaldo and the Loaf? Renaldo and the Claire de Lune? I’ve never seen it, but had all that energy gone into an album we might have had the pleasure of contemplating Dylan in a mankini.

  39. tonyola

    Not only do I remember Moraz’s album, it’s in my collection!

    As for Wakeman, most of his big-theme records are overstuffed crap. Journey to the Center of the Earth and King Arthur are terrible and normally I like pretentious stuff. His only remotely listenable theme album is Six Wives of Henry VIII, which at least doesn’t have choruses and orchestras.

  40. tonyola

    Yes, Music From the Body is pretty bad. Much of it was composed by Water’s friend Ron Geesin, who also helped out with the orchestrations and choruses on Atom Heart Mother.

  41. misterioso

    It’s a mere 4 hours. It only feels like 19 hours. And, disappointingly (for the purposes of this discussion), the music is mostly excellent, being from the Rolling Thunder Revue shows.

  42. “Renaldo and Clarabell”, I think. Isn’t that why he was wearing clown makeup during that period?

  43. But you see what I mean about him pouring his vision into the music, rather than staging a film, which by most accounts is unwatchable? It’s easy for a musician to make a spectacularly bad movie, but more difficult to achieve such a spectacularly bad feat in their given medium.

  44. Sorry, I should have typed “interesting,” not “bad.”

  45. tonyola

    I have the first two CDs of the Lifehouse Chronicles box set, and there is a hell of a lot of great music on them. Most of the songs were on other Who albums and early Townshend solo albums, but they’re substantially different and surprisingly fully developed – much more so than on the Scoop records. These are not fragments. Look at this list of song titles:

    Teenage Wasteland
    Goin’ Mobile
    Baba O’Riley
    Time Is Passing
    Love Ain’t for Keeping
    Too Much of Anything
    Music Must Change
    Greyhound Girl
    Behind Blue Eyes
    Baba O’Riley
    Sister Disco
    I Don’t Know Myself
    Put the Money Down
    Pure and Easy
    Getting in Tune
    Let’s See Action (Nothing Is Everything)
    Slip Kid
    Who Are You
    Join Together
    Won’t Get Fooled Again
    The Song Is Over

    Seriously, these CDs are in their own way as good as anything the Who have done.

  46. misterioso


  47. tonyola

    I like that Cowboys album. Difficult in spots but Pete pulls it off.

  48. misterioso

    Tony, it’s been a while since I thought about all of this, but maybe you can clarify for me: what are later songs like Sister Disco and Who Are You, among others, doing here?

  49. tonyola

    I haven’t read the full Lifehouse story or the Chronicles liner notes, but it seems that “Sister Disco” and “Who Are You” were part of the concept all along. Perhaps someone has info to the contrary?

  50. tonyola

    I guess we can include Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway which closed out the Peter Gabriel era. It’s about the surreal adventures of a NYC street punk and the story line and lyrics are both pretentious and inane. However, it’s a fave prog album of mine because I can tune out the lyrics and concentrate on the often-great music. But I’m an avowed proghead – others might not see it this way.

  51. misterioso

    I have no information, but I simply don’t believe that those Who Are You songs were written contemporaneously with what seem to me the “core” Lifehouse songs that were released on Who’s Next, as singles, or on Odds and Sods. They simply doesn’t compute. Also–and, I realize, as ever, Pete is not the world’s most reliable source of information–I remember reading an interview with him where he talks about the genesis of the song Who Are You lying in events in 1976 or 77. Likewise, Sister Disco is hard to accept as having been written pre “the disco” era. Now, maybe in retrospect Pete saw continuities, musical or otherwise, between these later songs and whatever it was he had in mind with Lifehouse.

  52. misterioso

    Sorry, should read: “that simply doesn’t compute.”

  53. BigSteve

    From a wikipedia article: “Townshend never abandoned hope that Lifehouse might someday become a reality. He continued to write songs for the project throughout the ’70s….”

  54. misterioso

    It’s possible, BigSteve. But I smell revisionist history at work.

  55. Not quite the “post-Bond—level Titan of Rock running around in a musical mankini” I was seeking, but I just came across this Peter Tork number from the Monkees’ 33 1/3 Revolutions per Monkee special. It’s quite Zardozian:


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