So the other day, I was listening to Rattus Norvegicus, which contains one of my favorite tracks, “(Get a ) Grip (on Yourself).” For a long time, I’ve liked this song but didn’t realize until a couple of years ago that it was the Stranglers. (I entered the Stranglers fray with Dreamtime, but worked my way back to La Folie, another of my favorite albums. Anyways, I digress.)
Because I spend too much time commuting, I get ideas about RTH posts in my head while I’m driving, but by the end of a long day with too much screen time, I don’t get around to writing down and researching a lot of my ideas. Here are a few thoughts I had while listening to this song and this album. Please feel free to pick up my slack and help me write this post.
Is Rattus Norvegicus one of the best and overlooked punk albums? I mean, it contains quintessential punk lyrics territory: violence (pro), sex (pro), anger (pro), poverty (con), religion (sarcastic con), government (con and more con).
Is there a place in a punk band for a keyboardist? (Especially, one duded up like depicted in this video…)
Did Mark E. Smith crib Hugh Cornwell’s sneer and style of vocalizing?
What kind of a wanker would use Latin for a punk album title?
Are there other songs that lose their titular punch by too many parentheses?
Mick Farren‘s one of those legendary rock ‘n roll underground characters I’ve read much about dating back to a youth pouring over Trouser Press, yet still know little of. Every few years I tried to grab a hold of him, but he’d slip away. I’ve heard music of his bands, The Pink Fairies, Motorhead, and The Deviants, and I know he crossed paths with many musicians I love from the hippie and punk scenes, but I never got a grip on the man himself. I hope you did.
Now he’s dead, having died onstage at a recent show. Feel free to help me understand more about the scene-stirrer whose life and works I, mostly, missed. (Oh, how I know our old friend Happiness Stan would have some choice experiences, likely involving a lady friend and an outdoor festival, with the music of Farren ringing in his ears.)
Care to tell us about the day you went punk? (*Or indie or goth or whatever—it’s all part of a similar coming of age process.) Come on, I bet most of us still recall that special moment when we crossed the threshold and made our first bold punk rock statement. Remember when James Franco‘s Daniel went punk on Freaks and Geeks to impress a cute punk girl?
How’s it goin’, man? I apologize for not getting back to you about the whole “Good Day Sunshine” and “Got to Get You Back into My Life” thing, but I’ve been pretty busy lately: cleaning rust off beer cans, removing name stickers from record labels, experimenting with other foods for the brats to eat besides kielbasa and hot dogs…that kinda stuff. Anyway, no defense of those songs is necessary. If a listener can’t zero in on the magic of those numbers, something’s just not right. For some reason or another, reflecting on the majesty of those songs got me thinking about the whole New York Punk scene. And how much the actual music from the scene sucked. My exhaustive research shows that most of the scene’s music came from very pretentious brains with limited playing skills. And when those same pretentious brains gained chops, the music got even worse.
From what I can gather, the only good thing about the New York Punk Scene is that it influenced a whole slew of Brits who churned out loads of dynamite, well=balanced records. By well balanced, I mean well written, well performed, and well produced. A simple system of checks and balances miraculously kept even the most pretentious of songs on an even keel. Take the entire Gang of FourEntertainment lp, for example. God only knows what the lead singer is going on about (ranting in that manner is common when one has nothing worthwhile to say and is still expected to gain an audience’s attention). He is saved by the construction of the songs, the chops of the band, and the producer’s ability to make all the noise sound like a truck blasting its way through the listener’s speakers. I hear none of this in even the most acclaimed New York productions. There’s a thinness there that permeates nearly all of the recordings, save a few. No surprise there. What else should one expect from records which are, for the most part, written, performed, and produced by pinheads.
That said, I’m glad to say I am able to list 6 and a half winners from the New York Punk scene. There are always exceptions to the rule. The following titles still hold up after repeated listenings:
1) “The Tide Is High”
2) “Sunday Girl”
3) “Hanging on the Telephone”
5) “The Hardest Part”
6) “Heart of Glass”
Honorable Mention: “See No Evil” (regardless of the fact that it sounds like it was recorded with wooferless equipment courtesy of the Soundesign Corporation)
Speaking of well-balanced things, I think I’ve presented a more than fair argument for my dislike of anyone making a noise in or anywhere near CBGBs during the mid- to late-70s.
Maudlin, my only fear at this point is that I might lose your support. Maybe you can come up with 10 gems from the scene. I gave it my best shot, but I couldn’t do it. There just wasn’t anything from the scene even close to a track with the overall quality of “Good Day Sunshine” or “Got to Get You into My Life.” There wasn’t even anything on the level of a second-tier ’60s title like “Let’s Live for Today”. And for that matter, I couldn’t find a single title that gave even something like “Elusive Butterfly” a run for it’s money.
If you see it differently, more power to ya. If you’ve got the 10, give ’em to me.