Friday, 26 February 2010

Lou Reed: Satellite of Love (a-side), Iggy Pop: I Need Somebody (album track)

American Glam part 5

Much has already been written about the work that David Bowie did with Lou Reed and Iggy Pop in the early seventies, so I won’t add much more here.

‘Satellite of Love’ is taken from the album ‘Transformer’ a Bowie and Mick Ronson produced record from 1972. It was issued as the second single in February 1973. Transformer introduced Reed to a wider audience especially in the UK, with the record proving to be Reed’s commercial and critical zenith.

This was to cause resentment in Reed because of the shadow that the record cast over the rest of his career. After the records release Reed and Bowie had a fairly public argument that ended their working relationship for many years.

Mick Ronson, who was at the time the lead guitarist with Bowie's backing band, played a major role in the recording of the album, serving as the co-producer and primary session musician (contributing guitar, piano, recorder and backing vocals) and arranger, notably the lush string arrangement for 'Perfect Day'.

Reed has praised the beauty of Ronson’s work on the album. David Bowie, can be heard providing background vocals throughout the record, and especially on Satellite of Love.

Though this song first saw the light of day on Transformer, it dates back to Reed's previous band The Velvet Underground, and a version of the song recorded by The Velvet Underground surfaced on the ‘Peel Slowly And See’ box set.

Iggy Pop and David Bowie first met in 1971, and there is no doubt that Pop's career received a boost from his relationship with Bowie. The album ‘Raw Power’ was originally produced and mixed by Pop himself, unfortunately, Pop's first attempt wasn’t very good as he mixed most of the instruments into one stereo channel and the vocals into the other.

‘MainMan’ management demanded that the album be remixed, but Pop initially refused. So MainMan informed Pop that if the album were not remixed by Bowie, the album would not be released. Pop eventually agreed.

Due to budgetary constraints, Bowie remixed the songs (except ‘Search and Destroy’ which still retained Pop’s original production) in a single day in an inexpensive Los Angeles studio.

It is said that Columbia executives insisted on two ballads, one for each side of the record. These two "ballads" were 'Gimme Danger' and 'I Need Somebody', both much more ominous and menacing than traditional ballads.

Guitarists James Williamson and Ron Asheton have both stated that they prefer Bowie's original mix of the album to Pop's re-mastered version that appeared many years later. The version of I Need Somebody here is the Bowie mixed version.

After the albums release Bowie continued to support Iggy Pop, but drug abuse was again to blame for stalling Pop’s career for some time. Years later Bowie and Pop would relocate to West Berlin where Bowie helped write and produce 'The Idiot' and 'Lust for Life' during 1977. These became Pop's two most acclaimed albums as a solo artist.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

New York Dolls: Lonely Planet Boy (album track)

American Glam part 3
The New York Dolls formed in 1971, and over the next three years they became the premiere American glam rock band. Musically they are based in the "dirty rock of the Rolling Stones, girl-group pop, the Stooges and Bowie glam".

The band's proto-punk sound signposted much of what was to come in the punk rock era; their visual style influenced the look of many new wave and 80s era glam metal groups, and they began the local New York scene that later spawned the Ramones, Blondie, Television and Talking Heads.

Initially, the group was composed of singer David Johansen, guitarists Johnny Thunders and Rick Rivets (who was replaced by Sylvain Sylvain after a few months), bass guitarist Arthur "Killer" Kane and drummer Billy Murcia. The original line-up's first performance was on Christmas Eve 1971 at a homeless shelter, the Endicott Hotel.

Late in 1972, the New York Dolls embarked on their first tour of England. During the tour, drummer Murcia died after mixing drugs and alcohol. He was replaced by Jerry Nolan. After Nolan joined the band, the Dolls finally secured a record contract with Mercury Records.

Todd Rundgren whose sophisticated pop seemed at odds with the band's crash-and-burn rock & roll produced the band's eponymous debut, which appeared in the summer of 1973. The record received overwhelmingly positive reviews, but it didn't stir the interest of the general public; the album peaked at # 116 on the U.S. charts.

The band's follow-up, Too Much Too Soon, was produced by the legendary girl group producer George "Shadow" Morton. The album was another commercial failure, only reaching # 167 upon its early summer 1974 release.
The band are another American glam act championed by Morrissey. A Jobriath compilation put together by the ex Smiths vocalist was called ‘Lonely Planet Boy’ after the New York Dolls song.

In 2004 the band reformed with three of their original members, two of whom, David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain, continue on today and have released two records of new material. The original bassist, Arthur Kane died shortly after their first reunion concert.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Jobriath: Heartbeat (album track), Movie Queen (album track)

American Glam part 2
Jobriath was the stage name of Bruce Wayne Campbell an American glam rock singer from 1973 to 1974. He is credited as being the first mass-marketed pop star, and the first to be openly gay. Even today with his music championed by people such as Morrissey, he is still a largely forgotten figure on the musical landscape.

Jobriath's first, self-titled album was well-publicized at the time, but sold poorly. With its Broadway-style vocal flamboyance and thinly veiled lyrical references to homosexual love, male prostitution and sadomasochism, the songs were wrapped in huge arrangements with overwrought orchestral interludes and a bevy of female backup singers.

Oddities like "Morning Star Ship" shared vinyl with emotive piano ballads like "Inside" and bizarre, songs like "What a Pretty."
The first album was quickly followed by the second “Creatures of the Street”. Although his two LPs sound amazing even today, he was inevitably viewed as a Bowie copyist by the music press, who cruelly dismissed the artist. The public, who had been initially interested in the hype surrounding Jobriath soon unleashed a backlash of ridicule and indifference.
And so his LPs, treasured by many collectors as forgotten gems of the original glam era, went out of print for thirty years, with Elektra seemingly uninterested in reissuing them on CD.

In later years Jobriath sought to distance himself from his previous solo career, taking a new name, Cole Berlin, and adopting a new style - cabaret. He played out the rest of his life in local cabarets, clubs and parties. By the time the contract was up, Jobriath was dying of AIDS, which eventually took his life on August 3rd 1983. He was 37 years old, and his passing went largely unnoticed and unsung.

The following is taken from an article by Rob Cochrane that appeared in the November 1998 issue of Mojo Magazine.
“Glam rock was a movie in search of a soundtrack. Today, Velvet Goldmine is that movie, but 25 years ago the publicity machine roared into action to kick-start the strange yet true story of Jobriath.

In late '73 you couldn't open a music magazine without seeing rock impresario Jerry Brandt barking up the qualities of what he claimed would be the year's hottest new star. With Bowie busting out all over Britain and even stirring a sensation Stateside, the flamboyantly theatrical and shockingly un-closeted Jobriath would surely clean up in the biggest rock market in the world.

Eddie Kramer, producer of Jobriath's eponymous debut solo album, was famed for his work with Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. He remembers Jobriath as "a romantic soul, really. He wanted orchestrations like old film music, though he knew nothing about scoring. So he bought a book on orchestration and within a week he'd come up with scores of a haunting quality. These were recorded in Olympic Studios in London with a nine-foot grand piano and a 55-piece orchestra.

On the album's release in October '73, a media blitz ensued. Full-page ads were placed in Vogue, Penthouse, Rolling Stone and the New York Times, all reproducing the sleeve image of Jobriath as a discreetly nude statue creeping on smashed legs. The image dominated Times Square on a 41ft by 47ft billboard over the festive period and was also plastered across 250 New York buses.
A mere six months after the release of the debut came Creatures Of The Street, a rapid follow-up by any standards. "Some of the music is very haunting. If Jobriath had come out, excuse the pun, let's say during The Village People's success in the late '70s, he could have very well become a major star. "Timing is everything."

Monday, 1 February 2010

Alice Cooper: Teenage Lament 74 (a-side)

American Glam part 1

In America, unlike the UK, glam rock (or glitter rock as it was known) was much less successful as a commercial genre. Bands that became popular on the US glam scene were a lot heavier and raw and less ‘bubblegum’ than their UK counterparts. Eventually Popular American glam rock acts such as Alice Cooper, The New York Dolls and Kiss rivalled the success of similar British artists such as David Bowie, by using a different stylistic and sound in their music.

Although glam rock is primarily a UK-centred genre and initially had a nebulous impact in the US (artists such as T Rex and Roxy Music had only a fraction of the success they had in the UK), glam rock rapidly influenced popular culture to the point where acts as disparate as The Osmonds and the Rolling Stones wore some glitter and makeup. Even though their music didn’t have much to do with glam rocks general themes.

Alice Cooper’s (real name Vincent Damon Furnier) career spans more than four decades. With a stage show that features guillotines, electric chairs, fake blood, boa constrictors and baby dolls, Cooper has drawn equally from horror movies, vaudeville, and garage rock to pioneer a grandly theatrical and violent brand of heavy metal that was designed to shock, and fitted in perfectly with the emerging glam rock scene.

Alice Cooper was originally a band consisting of Furnier on vocals and harmonica, lead guitarist Glen Buxton, Michael Bruce on rhythm guitar, Dennis Dunaway on bass guitar, and drummer Neal Smith.

The original Alice Cooper band broke into the international music mainstream with the 1971 hit "I'm Eighteen" from the album ‘Love it to Death’, which was followed by the even bigger single "School's Out" in 1972. The band reached their commercial peak with the 1973 album 'Billion Dollar Babies'.
"Teenage Lament" was a UK # 12 in 1974. The song features backing vocals by US divas Liza Minelli and Ronnie Spector. The song can be found on the 1973 album Muscle of Love’.
Image taken from "Marvel Premiere" # 50 by Marvel Comics Group.