Raw Power, Iggy & The Stooges 3rd album, the first to be credited to Iggy and… and featuring a slightly different line-up to the late 60s version is a loud, abrasive, violent album. Danger lurks around every panther-snarled verse and every slash of razor blade guitar. It’s uneasy listening and totally essential.
Bowie and Pop, Berlin drug buddies, relocated to Germany in a failed attempt to kick their habits and, in Bowie’s case, help kick-start his pal’s solo career. They even did so in matching outfits.
You can say what you will about the drugs, but they certainly made for prodigious times. Bowie crammed in an insane amount of work over this short period of time. His Berlin trilogy of albums with Eno notwithstanding, as well as manning the mixing desk for Iggy he regularly found time to be out on the randan with a visiting Lou Reed, a combined weight of 8 stones and a generous handful of grams.
Dave, Iggy and Lou. There’s your Berin trilogy right there.
One of the first tracks Bowie and Pop tackled was Tight Pants.
Iggy Pop – Tight Pants
From the enthusiastic count-off and in, Tight Pants is overloaded gutterpunk blooze straight outta 1972; nagging, insistent, a proper primal scream of snakehip guitars with needles ramped round in the red.
There are Supremes handclaps perhaps, or maybe just a heavily slapped snare – it’s hard to tell from the cardboard box production – alongside riff upon riff of juddering guitar, vying for earspace with the Iggy barks and yelps, but far as garage band rockers go, it’s a whole lot of don’t-give-a-damn snarling fun, with a guitar solo in the outro that sounds like a wheezing tramp running over broken glass.
Tight Pants was eventually redone, louder, clearer, less murk and maybe perhaps less menace, renamed Shake Appeal and ended up on Raw Power, with Bowie firmly at the controls to ensure those needles (on the monitors not intravenously) stayed as far into the red as they could go.
Iggy & The Stooges – Shake Appeal
It’s oft-considered a sloppy production, out of step with the musical landscape of the era, but it certainly captures a proto-punk spirit that would, within a few years, be omnipresent in the underground.
Most of your favourite bands have listened to Raw Power back to front and inside out in an attempt to capture its flying majesty. James Williamson’s guitar in particular is a beautiful maelstrom of whirling feedback and ear-splitting, jagged riffing, the real star of the show in spite of Iggy’s hang-dog American drawl. Fantastic stuff. Play loud, as they might say.
I’ve Seen Everything, Trashcan Sinatras‘ 1993 sophomore album (as they say over there) had the prime eight o’clock slot in last night’s #TimsTwitterListeningParty. Curated by the mushroom-heided focal point of The Charlatans, the concept, should you not know, is simple; cue up the album, pour a drink and open your Twitter feed on as many devices as you can handle (the reason for that is clear once the listening party gets underway). At the appointed kick-off time, drop the needle, press play, click the link or whatever you do to consume your music and, as the album spins forth, follow the hashtag while the band Tweet info and gossip and recount their memories of writing the tracks, all the while interacting with the fans as they go along. You’ll need multi-taskable fingers that can fire rapid text at key moments – “that lyric!“, “that riff!” etc and simultaneously respond to comments that you find yourself tagged in. It’s a bit of a dizzy gallop to be truthful, but highly enjoyable and a great way to spend another evening in lockdown. The community spirit as it plays out is nearly as good as being at a gig. Nearly. You knew that already though.
In the afternoon leading up to the evening’s big event, the Trashcans were sending out little reminders across social media and, in the midst of it all, the news broke that Kraftwerk‘s Florian Schneider had succumbed to cancer and passed away. In no time at all, the Trashcans’ Twitter feed had posted this brilliant picture;
It shows a wall in front of a gas works, the legend ‘KRAFTWERK’ splayed across its Victorian bricks in industrial spray paint. Not just any wall, though. The gas works are in Irvine (actually, were in Irvine – they’re long-gone), original home to both the Trashcans and myself, and were boundaried by the wall (also long-gone) on Thornhouse Avenue at the Ballot Road/Bank Street end, across from the old tennis courts (they’re still there).
When I was younger I lived at those tennis courts – my pal and I jumped the fence in the morning for a quick couple of sets before jumping back over in advance of the caretaker opening up at noon. We’d play all day on our £5 season ticket, run home for tea, run back again until it closed at 8 o’clock then hide round the corner (near TCS bass player Davy’s house, as it happened) until the caretaker had locked up again, then jump the fence one more time and play until it was too dark to see the luminous furry ball until it was past you.
When Wimbledon was on, the part-time tennisers turned up in their dozens looking for a game and it wasn’t unusual to find yourself without a court for an hour or more. That’s when the gasworks’ wall became handy. There were three parts to it – the picture shows two – and there was a clear yet unspoken hierarchy to using it. The section with the wee yellow sign and the ‘ERK’ part of the graffiti was centre court and was reserved for only the best players. Even if you were the only person there, you’d think twice before using it. Gary Singleton and his fierce left-handed serve might be along at any top-spinning second. So you’d stand on the opposite side of the road, aim for one of the other two sections and serve towards it. The wee curved section below was just about the same height as a net, so you could practise serving and volleying to your heart’s content, at least until the ball skited up from the curved section or pinged off the jutting edge that separated the three sections (where the edge of the ‘W’ above disappears next to the ‘E’). If the ball hit either of those parts, you’d lost it forever to either the gas works or the hosiery that was next to it.
Back to the photo though. Who took it? And why did they take it? It’ll be at least 35 years old. Back then, photography certainly wasn’t as disposable as it is these days. Spools were bought. Development paid for. ‘Quality control’ sticker removed in shame. Someone intentionally took this picture and kept it for posterity. I don’t know if it’s Davy’s photo, but I like to think he snapped it one grey day in 1981. As I’m writing, I’m beginning to wonder if Davy maybe even graffitied the wall then took the picture, cool proof that he’d adorned the wall should it be washed off within the week. Until the day it was eventually washed away or the wall was knocked down (whatever happened first), it had seemingly always been there. Back at the time, as I clobbered tennis balls back and forth from it each July, I had no idea who or what Kraftwerk was – ironic, given that it means ‘power station’ (close enough to a gas works, I’d argue) although by the time of The Model and Tour de France, it became apparent that this was uber-hip graffiti in a town that was anything but.
Kraftwerk – Die Roboter
There will be people far more qualified than I that will write about Kraftwerk in the next day or two. Electronic pioneers, they’ll say, with soul at their synthetic heart. Perhaps even the most influential music makers since Lennon & McCartney – just look and listen to artists as disparate as Joy Division and Afrika Bambaataa if that sounds too far-fetched. I love love love the first side of Autobahn, its German-engineered, fan-cooled engine kicking off a wonderfully meandering road trip, and I’ve a particular penchant for the German-language versions of their better-known stuff – Die Roboter, for example. Strange, linear pop made by serious-faced boffins in matching suits, it still sounds like the future over 40 years later.
I also love how Berlin-era Bowie made no secret of the fact Kraftwerk were hugely influential to him on a trio of albums that have subsequently been hugely influential on others. Influenced by/influence on…. it’s the power that keeps the music world spinning ad infinitum. Here’s the tribute to Florian that eases you into side two of Dave’s “Heroes” album.
As is the way at this time of year, lists, polls and Best Of countdowns prevail. Happily stuck in the past, the truth of it is I’m not a listener of much in the way of new music. Idles seem to dominate many of the lists I’ve seen, and I want to like them, but I can’t get past the singer’s ‘angry ranting man in a bus shelter’ voice. I’ve liked much of the new stuff I’ve heard via 6 Music and some of the more switched-on blogs I visit, but not so much that I’ve gone out to buy the album on the back of it.
If you held a knife to my throat though, I might admit to a liking for albums by Parquet Courts and Arctic Monkeys, both acts who are neither new nor up and coming. I listened a lot to the Gwenno album when it was released and I should’ve taken a chance on the Gulp album when I saw it at half price last week, but as far as new music goes, I think that’s about it. Under his Radiophonic Tuckshop moniker, Glasgow’s Joe Kane made a brilliant psyche-infused album from the spare room in his Dennistoun flat – released on the excellent Last Night From Glasgow label – so if I were to suggest anything you might like, it’d be Joe’s lo-fi McCartney by way of Asda-priced synth pop that I’d direct you to. Contentiously, it’s currently a tenner on Amazon which, should you buy it via them, is surely another nail in the HMV coffin.
2018 saw the readership of Plain Or Pan continue to grow slowly but steadily in a niche market kinda style, so if I may, I’d like to point you and any new readers to the most-read posts of the year. You may have read these at the time or you may have missed them. Either way, here they are again;
An article on the wonder of The Specials‘ b-sides.
Iggy Pop‘s Nightclubbing is a fantastic product of its environment. It was written by Iggy and Bowie during a particularly decadent period in time, when they hung with Lou Reed in the off-beaten spots of Berlin and and took all manner of pills, powders and potions just to keep themselves alive and creative. It pulses with a creeping electro throb, a jack-booted mechanical goose-step that never changes tempo, never changes rhythm but always sounds menacing. It’s louche, sleazy and vaguely sinister and to this day is just about my favourite Iggy track.
Iggy Pop – Nightclubbing
It was written after one of their many Berlin benders, when Bowie suggested the ‘We walk like a ghost‘ lyric. The Thin White Duke pounds out the skewed honky tonk blues on the upright piano while Iggy half-sings, half-narrates the tale of an average night out in Berlin for the three of them. You can see them, can’t you, a trio of messed up, pale-faced druggy rockstars stalking the city like a gang of up-to-no-good alleycats seeking their next kick.
‘Nightclubbing, we’re nightclubbing……we’re what’s happening…….we meet people, brand new people….‘
The Specials‘ Nite Klub (the spelling is important) on the other hand is as far removed from Iggy et al as Venus is from Mars. A frantic punky, jerky and ska-based, exotica-tinged knee-trembler round the back of The Ritz, one eye over your shoulder on the lookout for a bouncer or her pals or her actual boyfriend or something, it tells the tale of Friday/Saturday in N.E. Town in late 70s/early 80s provincial Britain.
The Specials – Nite Klub
Most nite klubs in those days were big and cavernous and left-over relics from a bygone age when times were simpler and people had more disposable income. The local Scala or Locarno or Roxy or Palais or whatever had seen better days and bigger crowds as a dancehall and might’ve by now been doubling up as a bingo hall. It may well have been on its way to becoming a cinema. The Specials sing of a club fraught with tension and the notion that at any time soon, you might get your head kicked in, either by a local who doesn’t like the fact that you went to a different school/grew up on a different estate/looked funny at him or by one of the bow tied neanderthal bouncers employed to keep (cough) order in the place.
‘I won’t dance in a club like this,’ bemoans Terry Hall. ‘All the girls are slags and the beer tastes just like piss.’
We’ve all been to those places. Some of the best nights of my life were in them. And some of the worst.
Billy Fury. Your granny knows him from such staple Hit Parade fodder as ‘Halfway To Paradise’, ‘Wondrous Place’, ‘Last Night Was Made For Love’….. do I need to go on? Billy and Cliff Richard battled it out for the dubious tag of ‘British Elvis’, but the more sussed among us really knew that Elvis was in fact the ‘American Billy’.
Upturned collar? Check. Lip curl? Check. Half-collapsed quiff? Check. Forget the songs listed above and instead listen to this. ‘Ain’t Nothin’ Shakin’ But The Leaves On The Trees‘ is a hand clappin’ enhanced primal rocker that could’ve sat neatly on any Nuggets-type compilation you care to mention. How Fury got from garage band howling blues to slush like ‘Colette‘ is anyone’s guess but, wow, when he was on form there was clearly no-one like him. His manager obviously gave him his stage moniker round about this time, otherwise he’d have been forever known to the world as Billy Ballad. Incidentally, The Beatles version of ‘Nothin’ Shakin’…‘ can be found on their ‘At The BBC’ album. It sounds pish.
Morrissey was a big fan, so much so that he nicked half his look from Fury. Look here. As too are those talented wee fuckers in The Last Shadow Puppets. They stuck their own version of ‘Wondrous Place’ on the b-side of their ‘The Age Of The Understatement‘ single. Understated indeed – a churchy organ, some brooding bass, a top vocal and some Duane Eddy twang halfway through. What I like about this lot is that they all look similar, they even sound similar when they sing and they are clearly very talented. A bit like The Beatles. But then, obviously nothing like The Beatles. I’ve already posted their version of Bowie‘s ‘In The Heat Of The Morning’ (here) and if they keep up their high standards of self-imposed quality control I think these two youngsters could be around for years to come. A bit like The Beatles. But then, obviously as I’ve already said, nothing like The Beatles as well.
2 more decent UK garage band rockers to follow. These days, Dave Berry may be more comfortable touring the country in those terrible 60s nostalgia shows alongside such 3rd divison outfits as The Swinging Blue Jeans and The Tremeloes. Back in the day he was equally comfortable blasting out tough R&B tunes as he was crooning pop ballads. One such record was July 1964’s‘The Crying Game’ (number 5, fact fans), much later also a hit for Boy George. The A-side was the pop ballad. The B-side was something else entirely. Along with his backing band The Cruisers, he came up with this proto-punk snarling rabid dog of a record. ‘Don’t Give Me No Lip Child’ is a belter, and given that the Sex Pistols strangled and choked it into something resembling a cover version, John Lydon thought so too.
Before they became The Who, The High Numbers released ‘I’m The Face’. The sound of Swinging London, it was written by Peter Meaden, their amphetamine-fuelled manager stroke publicist. This tune is essentially Slim Harpo‘s ‘Got Love If You Want It’ with new lyrics designed to reflect the culture of the times – a classic mod-stomper of a record that was a paen to all things Modern (not modern). Of course, as is more often than not the way with fantastic records, the single was a flop. According to some sources, the only copies that were actually sold were bought by Meaden himself, in a crap attempt at chart rigging. Ivy League jackets. Buck skin shoes. I’m the face baby, is that clear? Clear as crystal, little Roger!