Ten albums in ten days: Albums that changed my life.
This post was originally published and posted over the period of ten days on Facebook in answer to a nomination and was written and edited on each day.
I usually don’t do these sorts of things. Not because I’m anti-social. Indeed, nobody has actually asked me yet…apart from Charlotte Rodgers. However, Charlotte has nominated me and because it’s Charlotte I’ll do it. I have a list somewhere of my top ten (which is incredibly difficult for me because I have as some of you probably guessed a music consultant’s library and love of numerous albums to many to be restricted to just ten) So here we go…
Day one. Geoffrey Love (4 September 1917 – 8 July 1991) known as Geoff Love, was a prolific British arranger and composer of easy listening and pop versions of film themes. He became famous in the late 1950s, playing under the pseudonym of Manuel and The Music of The Mountains. While still at the tender age of eight I made the below album my first album purchase. I looked unsuccessfully for the TV themes of my favourite shows but sadly to no avail since the licensing of TV music during the 1970s was at best medieval. In steps Geoff Love to do smart and sympathetic cover versions sold in places like Boots (yes, they carried vinyl once) and Woolworths. The album “Geoff Love and His Orchestra Play Your Top TV Themes” was an album that I learned music composition from. I love this album. Some loathe it. Later on aged eleven I created my own sick and twisted songs by taping my own foul obscene lyrics over the top of Geoff Love and His Orchestra Play Big War Movies. Through the use of tape recording and cutting of these very tracks I created mutations which then lead me deeper into experimentalism. The years went by and I lost almost all of my earthly possessions through random enforced homelessness. Then one day five years ago this lovely album appeared magickally to me in a charity shop in practically near mint condition. Thank you Geoff. I’m very grateful indeed to you and your superb craft. You taught me well.
Day two. Two John Baker at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop albums of rare & unreleased recordings 1954-1985 were released in July (Volume One) and August (Volume Two) in 2008 on http://www.trunkrecords.com complied and in part produced by Alan Gubby, head of the excellent Buried Treasure record label. So why this album? I first came into contact with John’s music, like many unsuspecting children during the 1970s through a scheme called ‘Watch With Teacher’. Childhood memories of long summer afternoons spent on hard wooden floors with necks forced upwards towards over sized TVs on tripods come to mind. In the interval between the programmes music of roughly one or two minutes were played underneath a fixed static picture of a countdown clock. It is in this short time period that many pieces of what are now called ‘library music’ were played. John Baker’s Electro Aggression was one such piece. On moment of hearing this I was astonished and immediately in love with the notion of electronically based electronic sound though my admiration of the Doctor Who theme music and many other sublime Radiophonic Workshop sounds had already permeated and tattooed itself to my isness. Therefore The John Baker Tapes Volume Two is my second choice purely for the genius of Electro Aggression (released under his moniker John Matthews) and the memory of hearing it for the first time way back in the 1970s. Bless the internet.
Day three. Escape from Noise is a 1987 studio album/concept album by Negativland. It marked the band’s first release on an established independent record label, SST Records. On this album, they continued to develop their experimental style. The group also incorporated elements of pop music with shorter tracks and more conventional melodies. “Christianity Is Stupid”, a track featuring samples from the propaganda movie If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?, layered over a buzzing and droning hard rock groove, proved to be an enduring signature song. I first heard the track ‘Yellow, Black and Rectangular’ on John Peel’s radio show in the mid 1980s (a few years before during a freezing cold November night outside Broadcasting House in the early 1990s when I had the actual honour and privilege of meeting him while handing over a demo tape). John Peel wasn’t just a DJ, he was an audio sommelier of the highest order, informing and educating me purely through his exquisite taste, introducing me to numerous new music forms some of which remain with me to this day. My love of Negativland from that first radio hearing on his magnificent show lead me down some surreal moments, which include during a vinyl excursion in London hearing Negativland’s highly litigious, rare and superb 12″ U2 single which I fortunately purchased on sight. Thank you John. You will always be in my heart.
Day four. The Faust Tapes is the third album by the German krautrock group Faust, released in 1973. The album sold well in the United Kingdom (50,000 copies) because of a marketing gimmick by Virgin Records that saw it go on sale for the price of a single (49 pence). This exposure introduced British audiences to Faust. I was first introduced to this beautiful record via a C90 tape that had Portishead’s Dummy on the other side copied by a fellow squat mate called Louis Perry who was a kind, talented and highly creative musician. At 1:13 mins a saxophone honks. To me this sounds exactly like the door horn of the squat door a group of us lived in during the period of 1994-96 in North London. I didn’t live there because it was a cool thing to do. I lived there because I was made homeless and playing in a band called The Martians who some of which were based there. While I lived there and played the album on my cassette player I constantly went to the door to see if anyone was there because of the saxophone honk at the beginning. This single record and Julian Cope’s book KrautrockSampler turned me onto a deep long love affair of German experimental music that remains strong with me to this day.
Day five. My Life in the Bush of Ghosts is the first collaborative album by Brian Eno and David Byrne, released in February 1981. Borrowing its title from Amos Tutuola’s 1954 novel of the same name, the album integrates sampled vocals and found sounds, African and Middle Eastern rhythms, and electronic music techniques. It was recorded prior to Eno and Byrne’s work on Talking Heads (official)‘ fourth album Remain in the light (1980), but sample clearance problems delayed its release until several months after. In 2001, Q magazine asked Eno whether he and Byrne had invented sampling. He replied: “No, there was already a history of it. People such as Holger Czukay had made experiments using IBM Dictaphones and short-wave radios and so on. The difference was, I suppose, that I decided to make it the lead vocal on the album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.” As soon as I saw the cover of this album my instinct kicked in and I immediately purchased it at Acorn Records in the early 1980s. This beautiful little record shop was a second home to me. It was here that I spent many happy hours flicking through the vinyl (no CDs, downloads or indeed internet back in the day) It was wonderful to be served by folk such as the lovely John Parish, who I’d followed and supported while he played in his excellent group Automatic Dlamini in a pre-PJ Harvey Yeovil. I used to contribute a comic strip called “Weird Town” to a magazine called Feeding the Fish, a Yeovil music zine that covered all of the local bands, gigs and reviews etc. When I got the album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts home I knew that this was the future. It sounded like and brought forth feelings of infinite wonder (similar to my feelings upon hearing Kraftwerk’s Autobahn for the first time). The design, the drop dead production and the deeply surreal sound palette make it an important and much beloved album for me.
Day six. Gruts is an amazing album by Ivor Cutler, originally released in 1986 on Rough Trade Records. Ivor Cutler (15 January 1923 – 3 March 2006) was a Scottish poet, songwriter and humorist. He became known for his regular performances on BBC radio, and in particular his numerous sessions recorded for John Peel’s influential radio programme, and later for Andy Kershaw’s programme. He appeared in the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour film in 1967 and on Neil Innes’ television programmes. I was first introduced to Ivor’s wonderful work via an ex-girlfriend in the 1980’s who had created a C90 of this album and Philip Glass’s work The Photographer on the other side. During the 80’s I developed a taste for spoken word; Dylan Thomas, The Beat Generation (1950’s) poets and Ivor were all on my turntable and in my bookself. I began to write poetry myself and eventually self published two books of poetry which I created using photocopy machines. I sold these books on Camden Bridge, London and appeared throughout the 1990’s in various clubs/venues around London and Los Angeles and still write to this day. My spoken word album ‘Special Wings’ is out there on numerous digital platforms if you wish to listen to it. I saw Ivor Cutler live during one of the three occasions I took part in the Edinburgh Fringe festival. He was incredible. His presence was golden and he was very funny. During the rehearsals for one of the Edinburgh shows I was working on I spent some time in the BBC Broadcasting House since the group I was a part of all worked there and had access to their facilities. One day while I was leaving after rehearsal I entered the lift (for my US friends please replace with elevator) and there was Ivor with a producer friend of his. I was in awe of him. He had a sailor’s cap on, tons of weird and fantastic badges (buttons) on his jacket and was eloquent beyond words. Fortunately my damned crippling shyness was in full bloom since I later found out that Ivor had a strong sense of old school protocol and required an introduction before he spoke with random folk. This didn’t make him in any way a snob, just a gentleman with a firm sense of bygone etiquette and a sublime, dry and overwhelming magickal sense of awareness.
Day seven. Silver Apples is the debut studio album by the American psychedelic duo Silver Apples. It was released in 1968 by record label Kapp. This fine psychedelic electronic music duo from New York was active between 1967 and 1969, before reforming in the mid-1990s. It was composed of Simeon (born Simeon Oliver Coxe III), who performed on a primitive synthesizer of his own devising (also named The Simeon) The Simeon was/is an electrical hybrid containing 16 oscillators, foot pedals, a bank of telegraph switches, a couple of wah-wah pedals, Echoplexes and a very very loud speaker. Christened after its inventor as a promotional ploy by the savvy marketers at KAPP, Billboard likened the rig in 1967 to a junkyard that “sounds like a mating call between two IBMs.” “We always thought it was more like the mating call between a jackhammer and a Veg-O-Matic,” said Simeon Coxe. The second member of Silver Apples was and, until his death in 2005, drummer Danny Taylor. They were one of the first groups to employ electronic music techniques extensively within a rock idiom, and their minimalistic style, with its pulsing, driving beat and frequently discordant modality, anticipated not only the experimental electronic music and krautrock of the 1970s but also underground dance music and indie rock of the 1990s. I was introduced to this beautiful album while on an acid trip with an ex-fellow band mate from The Martians and his friend a music journalist known to me only as “Mick”. The experience of hearing this album for the first time is included in my autobiographical blog ‘Martian Mindsurfing – LSD and Psilocybin Encounters, Rituals and Experiences in the 1990’s by Sheer Zed’ which can be read in full here for those of you with an interest in this subject ☛ https://sheerzed.me/…/martian-mindsurfing-lsd-and-psilocyb…/ This stunning album is so far ahead of the curve, the curve is curvelessly curved. However, the visionary work of Raymond Scott and the album Manhattan Research Inc. (Raymond Scott album) cannot ever be over looked and I highly recommend them both for listening.
Day eight. “You can take this from me and then get outta here…” Bruce Lee, Fist of Fury. The Crackdown is the fifth studio album by English industrial band Cabaret Voltaire. It was released in August 1983, jointly through record labels Some Bizarre and Virgin Records. The Crackdown was Cabaret Voltaire’s first album after Chris Watson’s departure and first released on Some Bizzare, recorded and mixed in two weeks Studio album by Cabaret Voltaire December 1982 at Trident Studios, London, England. The above Bruce Lee quote is the sample that starts at the beginning of the ace track ‘Animation’ which was drum and rhythm programmed by the wonderful Dave Ball from Soft Cell. The whole album was and still is a major influence on me. During a visit to see my now recently deceased schizophrenic father in London in 1983 I came across the vast advertising 3D artwork of this album inside the window of Virgin Records Megastore in Oxford Street. I was already aware of Cabaret Voltaire through my school friend Spencer Kelly, a musician in a punk band who I’d done some tape artwork for. He’d told me about the song ‘Nag Nag Nag’. Upon seeing the advertising in Oxford Street I asked one of the cashiers while I was purchasing the album if the hanging mobile of band member Stephen Mallinder would be available sometime. The cashier said that all of the artwork was up for an in-store employee raffle, such was the desirability of this particular display. The album came bundled with the remarkable Drinking Gasoline album which in itself is a stunning recording, the track Ghost Talk being a firm favourite. As fate would have it some decades later I met the real non-cardboard version of Stephen Mallinder at a We Are Wrangler gig along with his lovely band mates. Life is strange. Music is magickal. Sound is a cosmic force and a persistent enduring fascination with me.
Day nine. “He’s chameleon, comedian, Corinthian and caricature” Hunky Dory is the fourth studio album by David Bowie, released on 17 December 1971 by RCA Records. My sister has this record in her collection. I had already been exposed to Bowie’s music via the radio with his singles from the sixties into the seventies impregnating themselves into my brain. The Stylophone solo heard in the background during the opening verse in Space Oddity being a clear highlight for me. My sister had other records in her collection (Tea for the Tillerman by Cat Stevens, Rock On by David Essex, Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd and The Saturday Night Fever Film Soundtrack) but this was the one I tended to focus on. This album began a life long obsession with David Bowie. Everytime he charted I looked for his Top of the Pops performances and always felt treated to his electric and engrossing energy. Hunky Dory exposed me to the idea of androgyny. The back cover photograph of David showed me that you could be anything or anyone you wished to be, unrestricted by gender, mindset and so called normalising values that were projected by the culture around me. The album’s sleeve had the credit “Produced by Ken Scott (assisted by the actor)”. The “actor” was Bowie himself, whose “pet conceit”, in the words of NME critics Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray, was “to think of himself as an actor”. Imagine being an autistic child in the 1970s listening to his bipolar disorder sister’s copy of this record and then hearing the song Bewley Brothers for the first time. It’s the eerie conclusion to Bowie’s landmark album and it’s easy to dismiss as creepy nonsense. But the meaning snaps into place when you learn the story of Terry Burns, Bowie’s older half-brother, who was hospitalized with schizophrenia and would eventually commit suicide in 1985. The dreamlike lyrics don’t lend themselves to a literal interpretation, instead offering abstract imagery of mental illness, substance abuse and mutilation. In an interview with the Daily Mail, Bowie describes the genesis of the song: “The only pipe I have ever smoked was a cheap Bewlay. It was a common item in the late Sixties and for this song I used Bewlay as a cognomen – in place of my own. This wasn’t just a song about brotherhood so I didn’t want to misrepresent it by using my true name. Having said that, I wouldn’t know how to interpret the lyric of this song other than suggesting that there are layers of ghosts within it. It’s a palimpsest, then…Unlike the rest of the Hunky Dory album, which I had written before the studio had been booked, this song was an unwritten piece that I felt had to be recorded instantaneously…It’s possible that I may have smoked something in my Bewlay pipe. I distinctly remember a sense of emotional invasion.” Using the cut-up technique Bowie had created a subliminal frontal assault weapon of genius proportions. I love this album and Bewley Brothers is my all time favourite David Bowie song. This knackered Zedian chameleon is not just a small slow-moving Old World lizard with a prehensile tail, long extensible tongue, protruding eyes that rotate independently, and a highly developed ability to change colour but a deeply grateful entity still changing, shifting and morphing across the aftermath and legacy of David’s beautiful and transformative artscape.
Day ten. If You Can’t Please Yourself, You Can’t Please Your Soul by Various Artists (SBZLP 001). Some Bizzare Records was founded in 1981 and its founder was Stevo Pearce. Genres explored: Experimental, electronic and post-punk. The label was launched with the release of the Some Bizzare Album, a compilation of then unsigned bands including Depeche Mode, Soft Cell, The The, Neu Electrikk and Blancmange. Later acts on the record label’s long roster included Cabaret Voltaire Official, Psychic TV / PTV3, Test Department, Yello, Einstürzende Neubauten, Coil, Swans and Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel. Many of these bands were included on the label’s 1985 compilation album If You Can’t Please Yourself, You Can’t Please Your Soul. This is a gateway multi-dimensional transformative album for me, crafted in an aircraft hanger and then rolled out to start it’s bombing run as one of the most satisfying, rugged and ravishing compilation records to grace my turntable and possibly of all time. While at Acorn Records one day in the mid-eighties as I was ritually flicking down the aisles of vinyl I happened upon what was possibly the only copy in Yeovil and possibly in Somerset. It was like finding a lost segment of the dead sea scrolls. I hurriedly purchased it. Taking out the album from the record bag the full impact of the cover arrested me for quite sometime. I didn’t actually play the record until an hour or so had passed and I was able to take in the entire contents, inserts and magnificent artwork by the late Andy ‘Dog’ Johnson, Huw Feather and the stunning face ripping front cover art by Val Denham- Artist & Musician. My own personal copy purchased in 1985 is now signed by Val Denham herself. Val Denham is one of my favourite visual artists. She has done work for (to name a few) Marc Almond, Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV. Her books the excellent Dysphoria and Tranart – The Art of Val Denham on the superb Timeless imprint are an essential part of any good art library. I had the sincere pleasure of meeting & recording Val and her fabulous group Silverstar Amoeba way back in 2016 at the immense Psychoanalysis, Art & the Occult Symposium which you can all read about here in full if you so wish to explore further into this fascinating and engrossing subject ☛ https://sheerzed.me/2016/05/11/viva-the-%e2%80%8epsychartcult%e2%80%ac-revolution-psychoanalysis-art-the-occult-symposium-at-candid-arts-london-5-8-may-2016/ I was fortunate enough to remix the Cabaret Voltaire track ‘Product Patrol’ as featured in the unique festival http://www.darkoutside.co.uk which Stephen Mallinder himself called “an excellent and twisted mix”. I cannot express how much I love and adore this album and all of the musicians and artists therein. It is a totemic and nuanced vortex of spiritual blood fire dripping in edge, tactical posture and sublime mutant expression. You really do need to get a high definition copy for the full and rich experience it truly is. A series of unfortunate runs of homelessness in the 1990s were not enough for me to lose grip of my beloved copy which I will clutch onto and will never be separated from. It will be in my coffin as I go to vinyl Valhalla and head towards that massive vinyl party in the sky. Long live vinyl, long live art, long live music, long live Mr. Zib Cisum who adorns the cover of this sacred album and long live transformative records like this. When all was shit this vinyl was a life raft and a shield. The wheel is turning. Magick happens.
Thank you Charlotte for the nomination to do ten albums in ten days. I’m knackered now and I’m sure everyone else is too. When you open up your life to the world through music and magick, it’s not the individual notes that are important but the whole composition that counts. You cannot hide behind music, it is the naked truth and shines like the sun. May all of your compositions endure and your life be happy and full.
Acknowledgements and thank you: Discogs, Wikipedia, YouTube, Google, Apple, Duck Duck Go, Val Denham, Frank Maier, Vanessa Sinclair, Carl Abrahamsson, Alan Gubby, Stuart MacLean, James Singleton, Red Bull Music Academy, Jonny Trunk and Charlotte Rodgers.