Saturday, March 24, 2007

caroliner rainbow | a bit frightening

caroliner rainbow open wound corale | rise of the common woodpile

as i've mentioned before, in the middle of the 90's i started a degree as a mature student.
everyone seemed so YOUNG.
i felt so OLD.

i made some good friends - as you do.
but there was one guy on my course who had a remarkably similar taste in records to me.
we'd spend afternoons listening to kenny process team, old ron johnson records, wingtip sloat.
stuff like that.

then one day i stumbled across a record in his collection by a band called caroliner rainbow open wound corale and i was fascinated.
the record came in a hand made cover - basically a brown envelope with bits of paper stuck to it.

inside the music was surreal campfire country rock played by deranged psychopathic aliens.
yes, that's a good description.

i had to get me some.

caroliner rainbow susans & bruisins | the cooking stove beast

a few weeks a later my copy of "the cooking stove beast" by caroliner rainbow susans & bruisins dropped through the door.
the record was more of the same - wierd and otherworldly, it left me feeling slightly queasy but wanting more.

the cover this time was made from what can only be described as 2 metres of filthy and stained material.
it wasn't (and still isn't) nice to touch.
i still feel the need to wash my hands after playing it.

the same friend that introduced me to caroliner went on a shopping trip to london - we met in the pub when he got back:

him: you'll never believe what i saw in rough trade.
me: what?
him: a caroliner t-shirt!
me: no!?! did you buy it?
him: well....no.
me: why?
him: because it was an old potato sack with hole cut in it for the arms and head and the word 'caroliner' scribbled across it in felt tip pen. i'm not paying £10 for that.
me: .....oh.

i was in college one day using the computers and stumbled upon an interview with the band.
they were asked about their hand made covers.
the interview went something like this:

interviewer: so you hand make all your covers then?
caroliner: yes - we use junk we find in the streets on california.
interviewer: that will explain why the cover of my copy of [album title] smells of incense.
caroliner: your lucky man, some of them smell of shit.

caroliner rainbow customary relaxation of the shale | sell heal holler - your glorious burden

a couple of years later i was in the rough trade shop in covent garden and happened across a copy of "sell heal holler" by caroliner rainbow customary relaxation of the shale.
(they keep changing the suffix of their name)
the record was even more out there. barely audible songs hidden under layers of grime.
this time the record was wrapped in disposable incontinence briefs packaging.
it's got some nasty stains on it again.
not pleasent.

i still knew very little about the band and so i did a bit more research.
they claim to make music channelled through the spirit of caroliner the singing bull - a side show act from the USA of the 1800's.
caroliner's act was to write and perform her own songs.
(you read right)
the story goes there family owned the bull and, on it's death they ate it which gave them the power of remembering the animal's songs.

at least that's how i think it goes.

eventually i got bored with the records - like you do with everything - and they were left filed away on my shelves.

caroliner rainbow rear end hernia puppet show | rear end hernia milk queen

fast forward to 2002 and i'd just gone to live in italy (a whole different story for a whole different blog!).
there was a record fair in a town only an hour's drive away.
wandering around the stalls there were the usual offerings - hundreds of nina hagen records (looking back i wish i'd bought them), endless aisles of dire straits records, you know.

but in one corner there was a stall selling old punk records - dead kennedys, pistols etc.
i started to have a casual flick through and suddenly, there in front of me was an object that at once terrified me and made my heart race.

it was a caroliner rainbow 6 LP box set.
6 LPs in a found box.
i opened it - it was basically the band's back catalogue to date gathered together, hand made sleeves and all, in one handy-scary-filthy-wonderful-sickening-bewildering package.

i handed the bemused stall holder my 40 euros and drove home.

it frightens me but i LOVE IT.

go here for more info on caroliner rainbow.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

the re-emergence of underground labels - or how to spend money like water.

through the 80's i bought a hell of a lot of cassette releases.
this ended up in starting my own label and trading cassettes with label-folk around the world.
by the early/mid nineties the whole cassette underworld started to turn (back) towards releasing vinyl.
looking through the slew of catalogues from underground distributors like fisheye and betley welcomes careful drivers (both also labels in their own right) there was just masses to choose from.
and, for me at least, it was the first time in years that EVERYTHING sounded interesting.

at this time i was doing a degree as a mature student, working in a small record shop part time and bringing up a child.
all these records were an escape.
it simply reminded me of the excitement i felt a decade before when, as a teenager i'd spent my time living in the local record shop.

i distinctly remember looking through a fisheye catalogue that dropped through the door one morning and thinking "rather than fool myself by just buying one or two records and then buying one or two more in a few weeks time, i might as well by a whole stack now".
i wrote a cheque for over £100 and sent it off to paul fisheye.

paul, bless him, wasn't always the quickest mail order bloke and my order took over a month to arrive.
it was a long month.
and it meant of course that while i waited for this package i ended up ordering bits and pieces from other places too.

i took another part time job, cleaning a local high street store early in the mornings to make sure my finances didn't get too out of hand (it didn't help).

so, here then is a list of three of my favourites from this time (very roughly circa 1993-1997):

harry pussy | harry pussy

HARRY PUSSY were my absolute favourite. a 3 piece fronted by drumming screaming beauty adris hoyos. i don't think i can properly explain the screeching whirlwind that HP created. punk free improvisation? primitive rock noise? dunno.
what i do know is that they sounded like nothing else on earth - fresh, exciting and thoroughly frightening.
siltbreeze, who released a number of their records did a retrospective CD a few years ago. track it down if you can.

wingtip sloat | half past i've got

wingtip sloat came a close second for my affections. semi-improvised red neck white collar trash rock. the sloats had songs you could (almost) sing along to. released on the marvellous vhf records who have been threatening for far too long to release a retrospective CD.

irving klaw trio | irving klaw trio

oh i don't know how to order all these records. now i've thought about irving klaw trio i think they may be second to harry pussy. no wingtip are second. or are they?
irving klaw trio were a jazz inflected chicano improv group who roared. their self titled LP is a must have, but failing that their "utek pahtoo magoi" CD on road cone is storming too.

there're so many more bands and labels to talk about - hood, inca eyeball, gag, evil moisture - but they can all wait for another time.

Friday, March 16, 2007

julian cope | coventry | 1991

if you've read this little blog of mine from the beginning you'll know that julian cope was (almost) single handedly responsible for getting me out of the heavy metal habit and into listening to indie pop.

julian cope | peggy suicide

in 1991 "peggy suicide" came out.

julian cope | droolian

cope had spent a year or two wandering in the wilderness, releasing strange roky erikson style campfire albums like the sublime "skellington" and the rather frazzled "droolian", but "peggy suicide" saw him back in full control and creating huge pop songs.
"peggy" was quite rightly called a future classic by almost everyone who talked about it.

i'd never seen cope live but i'd wanted to and, i think, i needed to.

he was to be playing 2 nights at the tic-toc in coventry - a nice, middle sized venue (500 people maybe?) in a dodgy part of the city.
i had a friend at coventry university and so i bought he and i and a couple of other friends tickets for both nights.
it cost me a small fortune but i felt these people needed to see him as much as i did.

there was no support act - cope's band came on and did an hour's worth of songs from the "peggy" album, then cope played 45 minutes alone with an acoustic guitar before the band joined him again for another hour's worth of golden oldies and greatest hits.

so, this is what happened.

we went into the venue, we bought a drink, we took up a good position in the hall - close to the stage, but not too near the front - and we waited.
i could hardly speak.
i just stood there watching the stage and waiting.

the band came on and started up.
the julian cope walked on stage in his black leotard and pumps.

the entire audience jumped and cheered.
i didn't.
i burst into tears.
i cried.
i was truly overwhelmed.
my friends, with a slight smirk i guess, put their arms around me and calmed me down.

(what a wimp!)

from beginning to end the show was sublime.
whatever problems you (and nowadays i) might have with the wigged-out-stone-circle-worshipping-wizard-dressing cope when that man is on form there is NO ONE better at holding an audience and , to put it simply, PERFORMING.

at the end of the show i noticed the bass player in the corner of the venue so i went over and had a word.
"come and find me tomorrow night", he said, "i'll introduce you."
"just find me."

i barely watched the next night.
i just wanted it to be the end.

i found the bass player and true to his word he led me back stage.
one other guy had been allowed back there too.
he walked up to julian cope and in a big bold brash voice said, "hi jules!"
"you do not call me jules", came the reply and with that he was dismissed.

so i approached cope and politely said, "hullo mr. cope, it's a pleasure to meet you."
he smiled, shook my hand, signed the record i took with me and then scared the bejesus out of me by looking very intently into my eyes and asking, "so...have you read about kram the worm god?"


"um. no. no i haven't."

"well i think that perhaps you should."

i quietly said goodbye and made a swift exit.
all those questions i had for him were gone.
i just wanted to be somewhere else.

oh, but i love him.

smiths | wolverhampton | 1986

smiths | the queen is dead

how were we to know?
having loved the smiths since hearing the early singles (mentioned elsewhere in this blog) i'd wanted to see them live so badly.

but how were we to know?

how were we to know that "the queen is dead" tour would be the end of the smiths?

i got tickets for the smiths' wolverhampton show - i'd be going with my cure-loving friend - and we caught the train.
i can't explain just how excited i was.
i, like so many other spotty teenage boys, simply adored the smiths. lived for the smiths. doted on the smiths.

most of the concerts i went to didn't have merchandise like t-shirts and stuff.
you didn't get that a lot with indie bands.
just a few records and cassettes on a table in a corner.
but of course the smiths were HUGE.
i bought a t-shirt.
(i've spent a while looking round this here internet thing for a picture of the shirt but i can't find one).
it was a pink shirt with a red print on the front - a small boy eating an ice cream cone.

i put it on in the toilets of the venue.
so did everyone else.
there was a sea of pink.
boys in pink.

with a good 30 minutes or so before the show started and the standing room at the front of the stage (i suppose you youngsters would call it the "mosh pit" nowadays) already looked far to scary to me and my friend.

we decided to take a position up on the balcony looking at the stage from the left hand side.
and in fact, due to the shape of the wolverhampton civic hall, we were far closer to the stage and the band than most of the rest of the audience.

supporting the smiths that night were the truly dreadful raymonde.
45 minutes of dire dour indie timewasting.

or was it just the anticipation of the smiths that made raymonde seem so awful?

finally the moment arrived.
prokofiev's "march of the capulets" blasted from the PA and the smiths came on.

i don't remember much of the show.
i simply stood in awe from beginning to end.
i didn't even cheer.
it was all a bit too much.

shortly after the tour ended the smiths split and that was that.
as i've mentioned before, personally i didn't like any of the band's last few releases - "last night i dreamt...", "strangeways" etc - and so for me the end of the smiths was a low in terms of records.

but it was a huge high in the case of seeing a band at the heights playing a show that turned the audience into raving, screaming animals.

surely that's how gigs should be?