If Pete Frame were to do one of his Rock Family Trees on fuzzed-up druggy drone rock he’d inevitably land up (*by way of Spiritualized, Spectrum and even (The) Verve)) at Spacemen 3. Long before Bobby Gillespie had grown tired of his Byrds LPs, Spacemen 3 were the ultimate ‘record collection’ band. Spouting a seemingly never-ending list of achingly cool records by artists I had barely heard of, let alone heard in their music press interviews (Stooges!? Sun Ra!? Electric Prunes!? Silver Apples!?) they totally blew me away with their track Revolution. Being an impressionable 19 year old at the time, into guitars in a big way and with an obsession for cheap fuzz boxes, Revolution hit me between the eyes with all the subtleness of a Sonny Liston left hook.
Revolution was recorded on some rare vintage Vox guitar or other, replete with switches that fuzzed the guitar at source without the need for effects pedals. No doubt though Spacemen 3 further fuzzed the sound of the Vox by adding fuzz pedals to the guitar’s signal as it made it’s way to the amp. It was overloaded and it was incessant; Repetitive. Relentless. Remarkable! Riff upon riff after riff upon riff – the sort of simple stuff I could play on that plank of wood I called a guitar when I plugged it into my Rocktek distortion pedal – buzzed away in the foreground while a studiously bored-sounding Sonic Boom (Peter to his Mum) with an impossible-to-place accent (Rugby, middle England! Really?) ranted and raved on top, trying to sound as cool as the heroes he name-checked in those interviews I had been reading. I got the feeling copious amounts of drugs were involved and, later on when I was a bit more wordly-wise and able to decode their interviews, I realised there certainly had been.
Later on I also realised that Revolution was perhaps not as original as I had first believed. The riff could’ve come from any old garage rock nugget, but that’s not the problem. Every band does that when they’re new (and not so new) to the game. I brazenly stole the Revolution riff for one of my band’s greatest hits, if truth be told. But that’s another story for another time. And there’s plenty of tracks out there with the word ‘Revolution‘ in the title. But only one seemed to steal and appropriate bits of the lyrics from Iggy Pop’s I’m Bored (shitty mp3 here);
“I’m bored. I’m the chairman of the bored………..I’m sick. I’m sick of all my kicks,” drawls the Ig. “I’m sick, I’m sooooo sick………and I’m tired, I’m sooooo tired”, parrots Sonic Boom.
And only one Revolution seemed to borrow large chunks of John Sinclair’s rabble-rousing and indeed revolutionary rhetoric at the start of the MC5’s Kick Out The Jams;
“Brothers and sisters! I wanna see a sea of hands out there…let me see a sea of hands…I want everybody to kick up some noise…I wanna hear some revolution out there brothers…I wanna hear a little revolution…Brothers and sisters…the time has come for each and every one of you to decide, whether you are going to be the problem or whether you are going to be the solution…You must choose brothers…you must choose…It takes five seconds . . . five seconds of decision . . . five seconds to realise your purpose here on the planet…it takes five seconds to realise that it’s time to move, it’s time to get down with it…brothers, it’s time to testify and I want to know…are you ready to testify?…Are you ready? I give you a testimonial – the MC5!”
“I’m having that!” thought a sticky-fingered Sonic, and putting pen to paper came up with the following – “And I suggest to you that it takes just five seconds…just five seconds of decision…to realise…that the time is right… to start thinkin’ about a little…Revolution!”
I suggest to you, Sonic, that it took just five seconds….just five seconds to rip that off. OK, so it’s hardly Visions of Johanna and, aye, most of the lyrics are lifted from other records, but 24 or so years later (ooft!) Revolution still does it for me. It’s been playing on repeat as I’ve typed this up and it still sounds as angry as a jar of wasps on a windowsill in July.
For added listening pleasure, here‘s Mudhoney‘s straight-up cover (with added swearing and methadone-referencing lyrics). And, here‘s that 10 mins + outake?/outfake? of The Beatles‘ Revolution that surfaced a few years ago and forced Plain Or Pan into temporary meltdown for a coupla days. Go, go, go, tout de suite, before The Man notices…
*When Spacemen 3 disbanded in the usual drug-fuelled ego-fest fashion, Jason Pierce formed Spiritualized and Sonic Boom formed Spectrum. Jason’s girlfriend and sometime band mate Kate left him for lanky, manky old Richard Ashcroft and his Hush Puppies and went to live in a house, a very big house in the country.