Archive for July, 2007


Jesus Christ Superstar

I bet when most people think of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” the musical written by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, they only think of that over the top, overplayed, and kind of annoying chorus to the title song, which is otherwise a really great song (which you’ll remember if you hear it: “Every time I look at you I don’t understand, why you let the things you do get so out of hand…”). It was played frequently on the radio in the 1970s, but that annoying chorus is what sticks in your mind. The other radio hit was “I Don’t Know How To Love Him,” which is a pretty nice song, but the thing is, everything else on the 1970 double album is BETTER. It’s a great album, and I can’t really express how much I like it still without sounding a little insane. So I’ll leave it at that.

There have been a lot of records and versions of JCS over the years, including musical revivals (you might be able to catch one now, in fact, or in the near future), including a pretty insane movie version, but I will always be partial to this original recording– it’s the record with a dark brown cover, no pictures. You can probably find it in thrift stores pretty easily, and I should try to find a clean version of it because the one I have is scratchy and has a few skips, which breaks my heart.

There are too many good songs to mention, and it’s impossible to even know the names of the songs, because they run together, stop and start on a dime, and there are various versions of some of the main themes. After starting with the title song, there’s “What’s the Buzz,” “Everything’s Alright,” and “This Jesus Must Die,”–  really the whole first side is amazing. “Damned For All Time,” is another standout, and one everyone might remember, “Herod’s Song,” was pretty shocking to a young kid. My brother and I loved this record, and I think we got a lot of the Bible story from it, but also loved it as 1970s rock– Ian Gillan from Deep Purple was singing the Jesus part, and there are a lot of musicians of that era playing. The nice thing is, it’s still a Broadway show musical, so it’s somehow more listenable to me than a lot of heavy metal, but there are those heavy metal elements– it’s really surprising– suddenly a guitar will cut through the strings, and then there is a soul chorus, and then a horn section.

It just starts out so great, after a the overture and title song, there is the “39 Lashes” theme with an awesome guitar riff backed by an orchestra, then a classic Moog synthesizer comes in, then another guitar part that sounds so present in the recording that you want to look over in your room to see if a long haired guy with platform shoes is sitting there on his amp. Then out of nowhere a Hammond organ, and it sounds like Deep Purple for awhile, then it’s back to Broadway.


Keith Jarrett “The Survivor’s Suite”

I guess my 17 year old self must have read how awesome Keith Jarrett was, so I bought this record even though I didn’t listen to any jazz at that time–  though I was really into piano, which this dude was famous for playing– so the record starts, and– no piano! It sounds like a goddamn flute! But there is no flute in the credits. It says KJ is playing the soprano sax– could that be it? Or the bass recorder? I don’t know, but we played recorder in music class in high school. If I could play piano, I sure as fuck wouldn’t be messing around with a recorder! Okay, then– finally some piano. But what’s that? Is someone humming along? Or is that a fucking kazoo?

The cover is really intriguing– a grainy, color photo (by KJ) of some fucked up house on the edge of a lake. It’s definitely European (or white trash Christian)– it’s got a mansard roof, but a modern looking tower– I can’t tell if it’s old or new. Ten partially shuttered windows reveal nothing. But what I never noticed before is that there is a swimming pool in front! And like 16 randomly placed lawn chairs!

Side One– “Beginning”– is low key and pleasant. I like it, especially once the piano kicks in. Side Two– “Conclusion”–  they’re going nuts! But then they settle down, and so it kind of goes between Ornette Coleman and “Charlie Brown’s Christmas.”


The Jam “Setting Sons”

It’s 1979 and their fourth album– these guys must have been feeling like dinosaurs! The album cover is terrible– and it’s a bad sign when a band makes ironic use of military style stenciling and imagery– it’s an indication that they have run out of ideas, or maybe know that the sun is setting on their British and youthful take on youth and Britain.  The picture of what one must presume are the band members has them in military garb, and bronzed! Every indication is that the LAST album was the last one for The Jam.

But I guess this album cover, and the even worse inner sleeve, is screaming, “Forget about the art direction, listen to the music!” It’s surprisingly good– or maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s on par with the first three records, maybe getting a little too fancy at times, a little too poppy, but there are some really good songs. “Little Boy Soldiers” is interesting, and “Saturday’s Kids” is a great song. And there is a nice, high energy version of “Heat Wave.” (Normally I think a sped up, higher energy version of a well-known song is the wrong approach, but this one really seems to make sense.)

I’m not sure why I bought no more Jam records after this one, but at that time I was really anti-pop, and I was looking for the more hardcore, more USA-centric stuff, I guess. Though somehow I never owned a Black Flag record.


The Jam “All Mod Cons”

Maybe this one (it’s now 1978) has less edge than the first two, but after listening to it a couple of times it’s really growing on me. “To Be Someone (Didn’t We Have a Nice Time)” is a great song. “In the Crowd” is really nice. There is a pretty good band picture on the cover. The drummer has a cigarette, once again. The guy named Foxton has a crazy haircut– a great example of what we in the haircutting trade call a “CP” (circumcised penis)!


The Jam “This is the Modern World”

This one is also from 1977– they were cranking them out. There is a really good back cover picture– the band playing live. And a good picture on the cover, them standing there, looking really young, but then again, older. The drummer has a cigarette between two fingers.

This one is a little more poppy than the first, and more arty– but pretty much the same– high energy, high intensity. Again, I like the poppy stuff more now than when I was younger. There is a good cover of “In the Midnight Hour.” It’s the standout song, for me.

I’m kind of unexcited about any of the songs upon listening to it, but I listen again and the last four songs just really connect with me: “Here Comes the Weekend,” “The Combine,” “Tonight at Noon,” and “Don’t Tell Them You’re Sane.” So I listen to it over several times. Very exciting– this is the most fun I’ve had listening to The Jam in SEVERAL DECADES!


The Jam “In the City”

This was always my favorite Jam record, their first LP, from 1977– I like the cover, black and white photo of the band in a bathroom with spray-paint on the tile– and I like how high energy it is. I hadn’t listened to them in years and years, though, kind of afraid it would be another disappointment due to time and the memory. I’m surprised at how fresh this record sounds, though– not dated at all. Maybe some lyrics are, but that’s okay. “In the City” and “Art School” are still my favorites, but I’m surprised at how much I like the poppier songs now, “Sounds From the Street” and “Non-stop Dancing.” I guess the more R&B the song is, the more I like it– and the poppier it is, the more I like it– as opposed to when I was younger and liked the more punk stuff. They are angry, and also optimistic– and that’s nice– I don’t think I thought about that 30 years ago– but it somehow makes a lot of sense now.


Iron Butterfly “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”

This is one of those records, the title song anyway, that is always just going to be way too familiar to ever appreciate the way one might have when it came out– though, when you actually listen to it, and it’s not just in your mind, it  does sound a little fresh. I can never really enjoy it, though, because the lyrics drift between “can’t understand them” and lame, and it really kind of gets worse as it goes along. It’s sounding pretty good when he says something that sounds like, “Don’t you know I harvest the truth.” What?! But then, gets really lame when he says, “Oh, won’t you come with me, and walk this land– pleeeeeeese take my hand.” Yikes!

I have a pretty clean copy of this record, but whenever you see it in thrift stores and at garage sales, it’s ALWAYS water damaged for some reason.  Moldy. Cat piss. Bong water. Side Two pretty much sucks dead wanna be hippie beads, throughout.


The Gun Club “Miami”

This second record seems like it was ten years after the first (just because the first was such an EVENT for me), but it says it was 1982. It sounds a little cleaner, it’s a little less exciting, but still there are a lot of good songs: “Brother and Sister,” “Bad Indian,” and “Fire of Love” (which is a cover, a great song, and not to be confused with the TITLE of their first album, which does not contain a song by this title). Really, the only song I don’t like on this record is “Run Through the Jungle” which is– don’t be fooled by the lyrics– CCR’s train song.  Oh, this record also has a pretty awesome cover and back cover.


The Gun Club “Fire of Love”

At one time I might have put this on the list of my favorite albums of all time. I got this record in my store when it came out (1981) in an order from Slash Records. It was awhile before we listened to it, and when we did we were all blown away by it. It was a kind of intense, psycho blues that sounded somewhat traditional, but totally new.

The lyrics are pretty extraordinary, and there are too many good lines to paraphrase here to do it all justice. The only bad song is– you guessed it– the train song.  They had to go and do the half-hearted, obligatory train song. But there are so many good songs on this record– there’s like three records worth of killer songs: “Sex Beat,” “For the Love of Ivy,” “She’s Like Heroin to Me,” ” Jack on Fire,” “Fire Spirit,” and even more.

I saw them play in Tucson in early 1982, and they were pretty intense. It was worth the trip to Tucson. This guy Jeffrey Lee Pierce was my hero for awhile.

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July 2007