Let the Beat Build #14: January 2014
Spotify playlist: http://open.spotify.com/user/karlward/playlist/1cfl4deLDnuatYnCtX1JTE
Diversions playlist: http://open.spotify.com/user/karlward/playlist/6w2KjkGRijItOaS52dKaW4
1. “Girl You’re No Failure” - Larry Gus. KW: What is “digging in the crates” these days? Aside from actually digging in the crates? A while back I looked up the current DFA roster and dropped a bunch of tracks from those artists into a playlist. I listened to the whole thing. This was a jam. I might not have ever heard it otherwise. See the cat? See the crate/cradle? Was it you who sent me the Adrian Younge video about how to dig? Classic. Brainteaser: when Younge set up a store “for diggers” where all the records are already hand picked, it is crate digging? Probably. No. Kind of. But anyway, what’s digging now?
2. “Citadel” - The Rolling Stones. JW: It all begins with the gamble. Before the gamble is part of the excitement, it is the cost of getting to where you want to be. My first Bob Marley, Led Zeppelin and John Lee Hooker albums were all bought with fingers crossed because I knew I wanted their albums, but I didn’t know which one. Part of this stemmed from the pressure of blowing all of my allowance on one album at a time. That economy punished you for guessing wrong. But sometimes guessing wrong was soooo right. So before it dig deeper into my version of crate diggin’ (Truck stop rack, discount bin, used record store…) I wanted to pick one of my favorite songs from my first intentional gamble. I bought Gigantes Del Pop: The Rolling Stones, on cassette, not knowing it wasn’t one of their original albums. I’m sure the logic was that it has multiple songs I had heard of and thus felt like a decent investment. And it was. It was years later that I would ever hear Parachute Woman again. And Citadel? Never. KW: You know, I never thought too much about it, I always thought he was saying “passion woman,” or maybe “passionate woman.” Parachute woman. There you go.
3. “Boogie In Your Butt” - Eddie Murphy. KW: I guess it was in college when I started shopping for weird music in truck stops. I’ve always carried a lot of music with me, but truck stops tend to have the element of surprise. Example: For the Record, or, um, other stuff David Allan Coe released that you can’t hear on Spotify, and maybe shouldn’t hear anywhere. One time I was coming back from New Mexico with my friend and his girlfriend when I picked up a bargain basement copy of Eddie Murphy. We were somewhere in West Texas when Cindy had to take the wheel because Chris was laughing too hard to drive. “Boogie In Your Butt” almost claimed another three victims that day. I think we pulled over, listened to it again, and then put it away, for highway safety reasons. West Texas ain’t ready for that jelly. JW: “Put a trash can, in ya butt. Put a little bitty man, in ya butt.” Amazing.
4. “Frankenstein” - Edgar Winter Group. JW: We were somewhere outside of Gainesville. Or was it Seagoville? Or was it Kerrville? We stopped for jerky. I was lured in by the feathered masculinity of Loggins/Messina, but was drawn to this apparition. “Dude, dude DUDE! He’s got a song called Frankenstein! We’re getting this. And that scrolled horoscope.” Little did I know I had heard this and other nameless power classic rock classics on an average Sunday with 92.5 KZPS. Edgar Winter is all four horsemen of the apocalypse. KW: Jeff Beck, or Johnny Winter, is supposed to go here. Johnny Winter was in like every guitar magazine, and he is from Beaumont, I always meant to check him and his brother out. Jeff Beck is not from Beaumont, but he was also in every guitar magazine I ever read. I’ll find some way to get both of them in here, maybe. But first, to the radio...
5. “Muffin Man” - Frank Zappa with Captain Beefheart. KW: One night we were listening to either KPFT or KTRU in Houston, I was probably in the eighth grade, and this truly weird stuff came on. My brother and I recorded it (to cassette!) and listened to it over and over. “Muffin Man” is maybe not one of the most popular Zappa tracks. We dug in the crates and bought the only Zappa we could find, We’re Only In It For The Money and Lumpy Gravy, which are weird as hell and not much like “Muffin Man.” It was not until much later that I dug into Zappa on my own, when I had access to a friend’s entire Zappa collection one summer.
6. “Earache My Eye” - Soundgarden. JW: I call this “Alt-Crate Digging”. We used to go to monthly CD Conventions. I don’t know, is that what you’d call them? They predated the brick and mortar used CD stores, maybe even created them. Every month, record dealers, bootleg dealers, distributors of rare or hard to find videos, would rent a stall in the least impressive event space in some Marriott in Richardson or Garland or something. We'd go out there thumbing through 9 mint copies of Steel Wheels trying to find a rare Zeppelin or the Tractor In My Balls Mr. Bungle tour shirt. I was a huge Soundgarden fan, as I may have mentioned, and was building up my collection when I found this bootleg of Louder Than Love live tracks plus two. The other was Big Bottom, the Spinal Tap hit from Smell The Glove, and this one. It's a little noisy, but emblematic of the vibe and necessity of grunge and the active exorcism of the suburban ideal. I eventually figured out that this cover is the song that Cheech & Chong play to win the Battle of the Bands, in Up In Smoke. KW: Me and this song go way back. I watched Up In Smoke many times, stretching all the way back to elementary school. When my friend Quinn asked me and a bunch of his friends to put all of our “personal theme songs” on a mix, my choice was “Earache My Eye.” I wasn’t expecting the Soundgarden version to even come close to the original, but “People laugh at me but I just think it’s funny / Cause I’m a big rock star so fuck you.” That’s actually great. Going in I didn’t expect it to get me like that.
7. “Sugar Sugar” - The Germs. KW: This is blown out wasted L.A. punk genius, also recorded live at the Whisky, also a cover. “I just can’t believe the loveliness of loving you, I just can’t believe it’s true, you’re a fucking sissy anyway.” Up until that line I was like “is this good?” and then I was like “holy shit that’s fucking genius.” Then later, “you’re fucking it up!” and “I know.” YES. I’d heard about the Germs from way back, I think In Utero was new when I first heard about them. And then Mike Watt has mentioned them over and over again. But I never encountered anything by them until Spotify came along. I’m sure M.I.A.: The Complete Germs is not something you’d encounter in most record stores, I know I never saw it. Like Mumps, it’s one of those obscure but not insanely obscure finds that Spotify is good for.
8. "Wild and Crazy" - Dr. Octagon. JW: Damn, this list is getting nasty. I was once in Rhino Records in Westwood, flipping through the cheap bin. The cheap bin in a used CD shop. I came across Instrumentalyst and decided to buy it. I'd known of Dr. Octagon but never heard any. On the way home it blew my mind. Quite literally I was entranced. Years later I found out the original album name was Octagonecologyst, and what I had was an instrumental version, no Kool Keith lyrics, just beats. I have to say, I may like that one better. But alas, Spotify doesn't have it.
9. “No Surprise” - Fugazi. KW: Stereogum says End Hits is the worst Fugazi record. That’s nonsense. I bought End Hits at a Best Buy in D.C. I listened to almost nothing else for a week, while holed up in a hotel room in Herndon, Virginia. I love every song on End Hits. If Spotify had Wugazi, I might have put “Suicide Surprise” or “Floating Labels” here.
10. “In The Light” - Led Zeppelin. JW: Quick, off the top of your head, how many hits does Zeppelin have? Not Billboard shmits, but well-known, rocking fucking jams. Tons. But there’s even more than those. In 1993 they released a 4 disc box set of essentially greatest hits, previously unreleased tracks and b-sides. It was a good way to dig deep past D’Yer Maker and find points of entry to the evolution of their albums. Physical Graffiti was a foundational album on the bridge to Prog Rock, but people are more familiar with Custard Pie and Kashmir. Don’t let the length of this jam or it’s Yes-like intro dissuade you, it is pelvis swerve and thrust goodness. KW: I have to say Physical Graffiti shaped my understanding of music to a great degree. Picture a long haired kid with Physical Graffiti on the platter: drop the needle “Bron-Yr-Aur”, listen, pick up the needle, repeat, ad infinitum.
11. “My Friend” - Jimi Hendrix. KW: Everybody else stopped after the three Experience albums. After I got all of those, and Jimi Plays Monterey, Jimi Plays Berkeley, Band of Gypsys, and the Rainbow Bridge video, I got The Cry of Love on cassette in the eighth grade and played it all night, all summer. I have fond memories of staring at the wall of cassettes for sale at the music store in the mall, hoping that maybe they had a new Hendrix tape I hadn’t heard yet. “My Friend” never makes it onto Hendrix best-of compilations, which is how you know they aren’t really best-of. These are some of his finest lyrics, on top of the music he did better than anyone else, that strange crossroads of R&B, blues, rock, country, folk, and psychedelia.
12. “Beginnings” - Jimi Hendrix. JW: I’ll see your Jimi and raise you my Jimi. <pause>. I once heard a song. It moved fast and was dope and was really catchy. I never remembered where I heard it, and there was no logical way to figure out how to find it. I just had to hope I’d hear it again. For years I had this tune and cadence in my head. When I practiced drums, I’d try to play it on the toms because they had rhythm and tone and it was the best I could get. Finally they got permission to finish First Rays of the New Rising Sun, the album he was working on when he died. And Beginnings was on it. I realized finally that I’d heard this song on the Radio One box set years before. But because the format of the albums was like you were listening to a radio show, they had played a clip of Beginnings in a transition and not as a full track listed. Frustrating. But worth the wait. I feel like this was a case of the crate digging me.
13. “Powder Blue” - Ween. KW: Those runs remind me, oddly enough, of “Powder Blue.” It’s a deceptively well crafted song, and everyone playing on the track is a stone cold pro. I’m reminded of John Frusciante’s assertion that electric guitarists all still want to be blistering virtuosos, but being an electric guitar virtuoso was basically shut down by Hendrix so folks ought to try to take the guitar in a different direction. I disagree with him, I don’t think Hendrix exhausted all possibilities--rather, he sketched out the possibilities for everyone else. And as for virtuosos, here are a bunch of virtuosos playing it like it’s easy. And, also, Muhammad Ali. I picked this up at Poor Richard’s, a CD stand that used to be outside Tom’s Diner on Broadway. Crate digging, for me, often works like this: someone tells me I should check some band out, I don’t, and then years later I stumble across it and remember and pick it up. I can’t remember who told me about Ween, I think it might have been my sister’s friend, the one who was super into the Butthole Surfers. That’s a funny statement. Anyway, I was getting heavy into country at the time and I saw the CD and thought “Ween has a country album?” Yes they do, and it’s glorious.
14. “Casino Queen” - Wilco. JW: This is arguably a classic. But like you, I find a lot of my favorite music after finally relenting to the recommendations of trusted advisors. By the time Yankee Hotel Foxtrot came out, I had already been denying interest in anything called “Alt-Country”. It really took me about a year after it’s release and periodic promises from my buddy before I gave YHF some time. “Don’t even mess with the old stuff.” he said. “This new album is a different kind of music, and it’s totally in the center of where are heads are at right now.” “Look, start with this one (YHF) and then work your way back to the beginning. It gets more and more cuuuntry-ish as you get back to the beginning, but it’s worth it. A.M., even at it’s most country in flavor, is still a little bit different. It might be the love of the tropes with the absence of the cultural agenda that stinks up pop country. Either way, I love Wilco, and really felt rewarded for burrowing my way back to the beginning. KW: I have the YHF Demos, which are amazing. “Cars Can’t Escape!”
15. “Mystifies Me” - Ron Wood. KW: Spotify fail.
15. “Pictures of Adolph Again” - Bill Fay. I’d put the Jim O’Rourke/Glenn Kotche cover here if I could. Not because it’s better, but because I have a fever and the only prescription is more nasty fuzzed out guitar solos. I first heard Wilco in the summer of 2002, a couple hours before I decided to catch I Am Trying to Break Your Heart at a little arthouse. I was moved by Tweedy singing “Be Not So Fearful” and talking about what the song means to him. Not too long after that, I think I was in Kim’s on St. Mark’s and I happened upon Time of the Last Persecution and I was like “no way!” It’s so good I don’t even mind the apocalyptic Christian theme that runs through all these songs. Also Fay looks disorientingly like my brother. About a year after that I heard the O’Rourke/Kotche cover on an Internet-only release called Protest Records, which was put together by Thurston Moore and had a bunch of great artists on it protesting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Anyway, here’s a version I just heard for the first time today while digging through the sudden influx of new Bill Fay releases that happened while I wasn’t paying attention.
16. “Ding Dong” - Waipod Phetsuphan. JW: I don’t know if this will prove to be a good transition or not, but I just can’t get this Thai Molam music out of my head. I’m writing this post from Bangkok, and I’ve just opened a door wide open. I had heard a song by Sroeng Santi this summer that was a Thai psych-funk-rock that was both unique and also unapologetically inspired by Black Sabbath’s Iron Man. A loose translation of the lyrics did not jive with Sabbath’s so I didn’t think it was a cover. But rather, talented, inspired artists in a culture that had limited access and acceptance of the current pulse of rock music in the west. So they play “in the style of…” and incorporate their own traditional styles while emulating these amazing sounds they’re hearing. I think of two analogous moments: Roger Waters and Dave Gilmour (and Jimmy Page, and everyone else) bloodying their fingers trying to recreate Howlin’ Wolf et al and also the Clipse mixtapes (and Children of the Night et al) rhyming over known tracks. I figured there should be more music like this, and it turns out there was. But much of it is gone, because most people got rid of their shit. I talked with DJ Maft Sai at his ZudRangMa record shop, and he said that US/UK sounds were making their way throughout Thailand, in part because American GI’s would have them at bases and share them around. Those bases were near towns where fledgling music scenes were emerging and combining traditional Thai music and instruments with Jazz. Anyway, the point is, there’s not a ton. And Maft’s record label got access to some masters, and re-released some of the old records in small editions. He also said he’d find a record and the household where he found it had been using it as a cutting board chopping things on it. You’d hear this great beat and then all of a sudden the needle would hit a huge gash and then dismount. Point is, this is the first crate digging I’ve done in a while, and just feels right. KW: Maybe Bill Fay isn’t what you drop at a party. No DJ could follow the dance floor carnage.
17. “Kai Wawa” - The Mercury Dance Band. KW: Oh yeah. Jim Jarmusch strikes again. I picked up some Ethiopian and Ghanaian jams after I saw Broken Flowers. I actually looked for the soundtrack, couldn’t get it for some reason, and decided to dig around and found some great stuff via writeups of the 60s/70s music scene that was happening in different African countries. Adrian Younge talked about how Morricone was listening to R&B and trying to reinterpret those sounds as a score composer. I’m sure there was something like that going on in Ghana, which had its own wild music scene that was fusing local music with the powerful influences coming in from the US and the UK.
18. “Yer Bounda Fara” - Ali Farka Touré. JW: I worked on a photo shoot of Vieux Farka Touré, his son. I had not known a lot/anything about West African music, but I was told his dad was a big deal, the “Bob Marley of Mali.” “The people love him and follow him in the streets,” they said. Though I agree, there is a clear John Lee Hooker analog though they clearly hadn’t influenced each other directly. This song begins very similarly to Bottle Up and Go. Is it me? Or do you feel some Kuti coming on?
19. “You Can Listen, You Can Talk” - Carsick Cars. KW: Here’s Zhang Shouwang from Carsick Cars talking about crate digging in China. I’ve said elsewhere that Americans like rock, but the Chinese need it. Zhang has an obviously avid ear for guitar composition and styles. Carsick Cars are one part Daydream Nation, one part White Light/White Heat, one part maybe John Zorn, and one part something I don’t know nothin’ about. I bought this on CD in Austin at the merch table after the Carsick Cars / P.K. 14 show.
20. “Cooky Puss” - The Beastie Boys. JW: Man, what a journey. I liked what you said about China. I thought, who else needs rock? The Russians? The Japanese? I looked that up, learned a miniscule bit about Visual Kei but Spotify just gave me some garbage music box J-Rock. That sucked. Thought about some Yoyogi Park Rockabilly, which took me down a spiral of American Rockabilly. That was short-lived though because I grabbed onto some Jerry Reed. Smokey & The Bandit 2 was on tv the other night and I was explaining the concept difference between that series and the Cannonball Run series and how Reed was the anchor. I couldn’t find That’s Alright Mama on Spotify but I did find Sugar Foot Rag. If I were a hip hop producer, that might be crate gold. The first 5 seconds is DOPE BEATS. The next 15 seconds would give Moby a ¾ chub. But once the “fiddles” come in, it all goes to shit. And I just didn’t want that coming up on shuffle all the time. So I went back to Carsick Cars. Now may be a good time to admit that I’ve been experimenting this month. Up to this point, 1.16.14, I haven’t listened to any of the songs we’ve been playing. I have been listening to Diversions, but I’m basing my selects on what you’ve been writing. Should be a fun surprise for me at the end, but I hope I didn’t fuck anything up. Can’t wait to hear Zappa. Anyway, I did not know who John Zorn was. Whoa. That’s some other shit. I do know who MMW are, and thought about moving in that direction. I once described to someone that the Beastie Boys learned how to play the instrumentals on Check Your Head from Medeski, Martin & Wood, and they learned from the Meters. That is, of course, an unsubstantiated oversimplification that does injustice to all of them. But I was young. And Combustication was funky. Then I thought, what is some funky, disjointed, ennui elixir? Rock that someone needed? “Ask my supervisor, he’ll help you!” KW: This is the Beastie’s take on “Asshole Dub,” I mean, cold has to be. “Cooky Puss” was the song that someone you knew had heard, but no one had ever actually heard. I knew the story about the big lawsuit around this song, but never heard the actual song until Some Old Bullshit came out.
21. “Friend to Friend in Endtime” - Lungfish. KW: I don’t know anything about Lungfish. I had to dig through the Dischord discography just now to find this song, which I heard like five years ago, loved, and then forgot about. Looking for “Asshole Dub” reminded me of it. D.C. was a cauldron back then, just like downtown Manhattan, just like L.A. Again, this is one part something I don’t know nothing about. Where did this jam come from?
22. “We” - Brad. JW: In 2014, if I said, “Stone Gossard” you’d say, “turducken?” But in 1992, if Pearl Jam’s orthodontist made an album, you’d give it a try. I think they got their name because the name they wanted was registered to a dude named Brad and he wouldn’t give it up. This album still kinda of holds up. It represents the undertow of the Seattle grunge wave. The album was made for fun, and you can tell. Their second album was made to sell. It was on the playlist loop during the 3 weeks I worked at Abercrombie & Fitch in the Glendale Mall. So was G Love’s hit from when he sold out. An even bigger crate digger is Satchel (check out their bio for the arabesque). I bought their first album at Housing Works when I was visiting NYC. I got it on the strength of Brad, which I got on the strength of Pearl Jam, which I got on the strength of Temple of the Dog. Just kidding. Though I love TotD. “I’m goin’ hongraaaaaaaaayyyyyyy, e yeahhhhhhhhh”
23. “The Witch” - The Sonics. KW: Speaking of getting into something on the strength of something else, quote:
“The Sonics. The Sonics. The Sonics. The Sonics.”
I’ve been meaning to put together a monster playlist of all the best tracks from all the groups mentioned in “Losing My Edge,” you know, a compilation of every good song ever done by anybody. The Sonics are raw. It’s lame that I’m just hearing them now.
24. “Give the Mule What He Wants” - Queens of the Stone Age. JW: Wow, that IS good. And the Sonics’ bio is really interesting. Garage band, monster, raw. Truly, I thought of Kyuss, though I didn’t think we could handle the truth. But QOTSA? I think this sums it up:
Karl Ward @karl_ward Jan 13
Dear .@qotsa don't let Sting be the only man in history to go out like this. Help .@robdelaney live the dream http://robdelaney.tumblr.com/post/73217283587/what-about-the-rumor-that-you-have-licensed-this-books …
25. “Mr. Alphabet Says” - The Glove. KW: Robert Smith said this whole record was made in a state of total depravity, a constant flood of mushroom tea, enough drugs to cause personality dissociation, and a different horror movie as each song’s inspiration. I looked for this album for years. I finally found it in a used CD bin at a record store on Westheimer in Houston, filed under B instead of G. I was blown away by the deep strangeness of it, and I still am. And long before I knew much about what was going on when he was making the album, I was aware of the menace and depravity just under the surface in these songs. I found it much more interesting than the faux depravity going on in a lot of the metal I was listening to back then. I have to say it’s always a really hard choice between “Mr. Alphabet Says” and “Perfect Murder.” I’ve seen the movie Blue Sunshine. You’d probably dig it.
26. “Girls of Porn” - Mr. Bungle. JW: I tried to resist. I did. But there’s just not a better Bungle to play. This is special music. For special people. It requires just the right dose of something, without too much. Because no one wants wicked clown nightmares. When Faith No More came out with Epic, Mike Patton seemed like the Scott Weiland of Anthony Kiedis. But then, we (the royal we) listened more closely and realized that he was an evil genius. Mr. Bungle is that evil genius’ psychotic uncle. Don’t stare directly at him.
27. “The King of Parking” - Sprawl. KW: Matt Kelly from Sprawl (and Middlefinger, and Les Saucy Pants, and the rock play Bluefinger) is a Houston cult figure. There’s a saying that every Houston musician has played with a member of Sprawl, which is almost certainly true. I’ve played with Sprawl co-founder Nick Cooper his brother Dan Cooper (various shows in NYC--not in Houston). Playing with Nick Cooper was maybe the most intimidated I’ve ever been on stage, that guy is insanely talented. Every time I hear Mr. Bungle I think of Sprawl. Crazy awesome, thoroughly strange, and virtually unknown outside of the Texas music scene. I remember seeing their posters in the local record stores back in the day, along with 30footFALL, dead horse, and a lot of other great Houston bands that definitely qualify as digging in the crates, then and now. One of my first big Spotify digs was for anything from the local scene in Houston from about 1980 on, and finding the Sprawl records on Spotify was a highlight for me.
28. “Blow Your Head” - Fred Wesley & the JB’s. JW: Sprawl, like Rufus, is the man. This made me think of Fred Wesley. Fred was in the JB’s. Fred was in Parliament/Funkadelic. Fred was in Abraham Inc., a klezmer funk band that I shot at the Apollo years ago. He was a really sweet and generous subject. And his trombone was ludicrous. You know that guy has seen some shit. This song was sampled 95 times. Most notably Public Enemy No. 1. Too Short feat. Will.I.Am, Fergie and Snoop Dogg was not a highlight.
29. “King Conundrum” - Free Radicals. KW: I spent a few days racking my brain and pinging my friends trying to remember and then find a song that I liked ten years ago but couldn’t remember the name of the artist or the song. After a few days I remembered the title, “Steady On.” Then after another day of searching online I found the band name, Stoney Clove Lane. And it’s good! This was a different kind of digging, searching through the digital flood for something barely remembered that was never popular. But it’s not on Spotify. So in lieu of “Steady On,” and because this next one has to follow Fred Wesley, here’s more of that super cross pollinated Houston madness, stage full of motherfuckers, klezmer, dub, some kind of funk/jazz/thrash interlude. Just the best.
Let the Beat Build #14: January 2014