Record Review: Shriekback – “Live At The Orange ’94” UK CD-R

shriekback live at the orange '94 album cover

Shriekback | UK | CD-R | 2020

Shriekback: Live At The Orange ’94 – UK – CD-R [2020]

  1. The Preparation
  2. Over The Wire
  3. Unsong
  4. Captain Cook
  5. Hostage
  6. Dingle Dai
  7. Faded Flowers
  8. Berlin
  9. Invisible Rays
  10. Seething
  11. Pretty Little Things
  12. The Consummation

This offering popped up a short while back and after sampling a track, ‘Seething” that the band sent to the mailing list to get a handle on its audio quality. The band themselves likened it to a bootleg, which hit the mark honestly. Knowing that, I was enamored of this almost “lost in the wilderness” phase of the band, and here was a chance to hear some of the material that would eventually manifest on the great “Naked Aped + Pond Life” album of acoustic Shriekback! This was the only such sonic artifact claimed by Mr. Andrews of that period, so I used my fortnightly stipend to see what it was all about.

It speaks volumes that of all of the many Post-Punk bands I enjoyed and collected, only Shriekback ever played the acoustic game this exceedingly well. As I often rail about my favorites going all singer-songwriter once they realize that it could be easier money than trucking around a rock band hither and yon, the important thing for me is that I grew up in the singer-songwriter era. I didn’t like it then, and I [mostly] don’t like it now. In fact, that was the reason why I gravitated to Post-Punk Rock in the first place. It had zero to do with this sound and attitude. If I had wanted to hear Jim Croce, I would have been listening to him instead of Simple Minds and Ultravox!

That said, Shriekback [as recounted in the liner notes here] were playing in acoustic format for reasons of economy/autonomy. As a 4-5 piece without amps, they could still ply their trade without the overhead of P.A. rental in a period when the band was on tentative ground fiscally. As Mr. Andrews stated here, the music industry was beginning it’s downward slide from unreliable to unstable. In a few years, Napster would do its best to kill it off entirely. It can be said to have succeeded, 20 years later.

What made this more than acceptable, was that in no way were the textures and attitudes that made Shriekback who they are mitigated by the fact that the sounds were acoustically driven. By jingo, these were all still Shriekback songs with that ineffable artistic P.O.V. that we can count on getting from them every time out, no matter what the stylistic shifts that may be occurring. Better still, the stringed things here were all from the more obscure to Western ears tributaries of music. Lu Edmonds played the saz. Simon Edwards played bass and sintir. Mark Raduva played didgeridoo and the more common mandolin. The core of Martyn Barker and Barry Andrews played drums and accordion, respectively. Everyone but Andrews doubled on percussion. So this is a zesty, heady mix that offers much flavor to take the place of the normal synths and guitars. One could even get used to it.

The album opened and closed with a pair of instrumentals that would do any belly dancers in the range of hearing proud. “Over The Wire” let it be known that even in Persian/Turkish drag, there was still just one Shriekback and even a cut from the misfired “Go Bang” could take on new and vital life if given a lifeline with a more interesting arrangement and performance. “Unsong” was one of the four songs here that would later turn up on the “Naked Apes + Pond Life” album that first alerted me to the vivacity of an acoustic Shriekback back in 2002, when I bought that CD in Tower D.C. [r.i.p.]. I had heard about the semi-legendary “Captain Cook” and it’s appearance here did not shy away from the more anthropological aspects of his journey. I would expect no less from Shriekback.

“Hostage” and “Berlin” seemed to be only partially cooked in their early forms here. The latter took several minutes of simmer until it began to approach “boil.” These were perhaps the most throwaway aspects of the program. The two Shriekback songs any fan would recognize here were no stretch, being the largely acoustic numbers that they had always been, even in the context of their respective albums.

The fully disclosed acoustic qualities of the recording [I’d be willing to bet a Walkman® recording model was to blame here] revealed a mic placement close enough to get the band captured with what sounded like a fair stereo image reasonably well… along with all of the reveling patrons probably inches away from the stage, too. If I were grading this as a bootleg, I’d say that it rated a C+ for a mic recording. But, that was discussed up front, and the sample track sent to the mailing list was typical of this recording, which, it should be stressed, was 100% consistent from start to finish. No jostling the mic noises competed with the music.

And the music was pretty tasty sauce. This was the only acoustic Shriekback recording [that the band knows about, at any rate] and thus it was offered as an archival piece. To finally hear “Captain Cook” and material like the spiffy “Dingle Dai” was worth having a less than Spectoresque recording.  The final verdict? Acoustic Shriekback worked a charm and was worthy of this release for fans of a certain disposition. The band can reach back to this sound and style at any time and I’m more than fine with it. The only thing that Shriekback seemingly failed at was going ‘mersh. There are still some left to buy if this has your name on it, but they won’t last forever.

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Want List: John Foxx + The Maths – “Howl” UK CD/LP

john foxx and the maths howl LP and CD cover

As is now the fashion, fans will have to choose between various bundles of physical product

After what seemed to be a several year wait, advance word came last Monday that the next John Foxx + The Maths album was coming on May 15th, 2020. It would have longtime John Foxx guitarist Robin Simon joining with Foxx, Benge, and violinist Hannah Peel for a dive into quite another kind of sonic bucket for the The Maths. Advance word filtered out last year where Foxx cited a Velvet Underground influence to the new music; which was something he had assumed had manifested in his career but after examining it, he discovered that he really had not hit that target to his satisfaction.

john foxx + the maths howl CD cover

Metamatic | UK | CD | META65CD | 2020

John Foxx + The Maths: Howl – UK – CD [2020]

  1. My Ghost
  2. Howl
  3. Everything Is Happening At The Same Time
  4. Tarzan And Jane Regained
  5. The Dance
  6. New York Times
  7. Last Time I Saw You
  8. Strange Beauty

The basic format is the digipak CD but the Foxx webstore also has two colors of LP [black and yellow, as on the Barnbrook cover] available with and without the CD in a range from £10.99/CD to £46.99 for both color LPs and the CD in the big bundle. Actually, there are only seven variations, so kudos for keeping the options down to a modest level. In the past I have bought Foxx releases on LP and CD but the LPs have not had color variations. I imagine I will opt for the CD with maybe one, but not both of the LPs. The yellow vinyl is £2 more so maybe I’ll go for black. At any rate, my UK trip is just a month away, so I won’t be pre-ordering this until some time closer to the May 15th release date. However, I did immediately buy the pre-release DL single!

john foxx and the maths howl single cover

Metamatic | UK | DL | 2020

John Foxx + the Maths: Howl – UK – DL – [2020]

  1. Howl [single version] – 3:34
  2. Howl – 5:20

I bought the single on Bandcamp on Monday morning. What a bracing, chaotic glamrok sound! It was a surprising dive back into the howling feedback of “Ha! Ha! Ha!” only allied this time with a Bauhaus-like dark, sexy whipcrack beat courtesy of Benge, who also played the filthiest synth bass imaginable. The synthesizer factor here was as low as it’s been for Foxx since certain tracks that second Ultravox! album. It’s primarily Simon’s show as the howling chaos of his playing was front and center here. Foxx hung back here, his voice run through a chorus and further distortion for a distancing effect, proffering only the barest hint of guidance to the raging stallion of Robin Simon’s guitar. The lyric seemed to be purely a response to Simon’s playing.

“I see you stand in the middle of a storm
And all the traces are gone, gone, gone
Howl downtown, let the beast out
Let the beast out …now!” – “Howl”

It first blush, the tone of the playing struck me as being cut from the cloth of Gang Of 4’s Andy Gill [r.i.p.] as I immediately heard the kind of serrated, violent chording that Gill played on cuts like “To Hell With Poverty.” Further listening [and commenter Brian on the Foxx website forum] had me admitting that there was also evidence of Fripptone® ca. “Scary Monsters [and super creeps…]” to be found here… only amped up to astonishingly aggressive levels.

The guitar was in your face and down your throat from the get-go, but further playing revealed that Benge was playing valuable counterpoint here with all of the rhythm under his command. The lurching synth tone only ever got a bit of spotlight on the middle eight, which was the only part of this that sounded remotely like what we expect from a John Foxx project.  I also love the aggressive mixing that Benge and Foxx oversaw here with Simon’s guitar cutting in and out of the mix with hard, percussive edits that were shocking in their abruptness. Hear for yourself below.

If the aggression from “Ha! Ha! Ha!” has made a surprise return here, the huge difference was that the sheer, paint-stripping violence of the bleeding edge/bleeding ear sound of that album was channeled into something far more sexy here. In that respect, my favorite “Interplay” track, “Catwalk,” was the closest touchstone to this sound. It had that sort of swagger at its lurching core. I could not have imagined anything like this up front, so I’m eager to see what other surprises await us in two months. In the interim, you may pre-order below.

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Posted in Core Collection, Record Review, Want List | Tagged , | 12 Comments

Man Parrish With Steven Jones Revisit Electropop Roots on “The Art of POP”

Man Parrish electro pioneer

Would you buy a used tune from this Man [Parrish]?

No sooner than we took a deep dive into the multifaceted world of Giorgio Moroder then the word came over the transom that Steven Jones + Logan Sky vocalist Mr. Jones revealed that he had found a few spare hours in between recording albums with his full-time partner to team up with NY Electro pioneer Man Parrish on a new album of classic electropop cover versions. A glance at the proposed roster reveals at least a pair of Moroder hits in “Neverending Story” as well as the true 80s ground zero that was “Flashdance.” Other tracks caught in Parrish’s net included Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love,” The Buggles’  “Video Killed The Radio Star,” Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams [are made of this],” Depeche Mode’s “Just Can’t Get Enough,”and presumably the Bananarama/PWL arrangement of “Venus.” The odds that it was the Shocking Blue arrangement… nil, probably.

man parrish + steven jones - moskow diskow cover

Parrish Digital | US | DL | 2020

I have managed to hear a taster in the duo’s cover of Telex’s still relevant “Moskow Diskow” which is the perfect track to be talking about after yesterday’s evocation of “Trans Europe Express” and “I Feel Love,” because this Telex track from 1979 was nothing if not the Belgian bastard love child of those two songs! Back in 1980/1  [memory’s blurred…] chasinvictoria passed along his US copy of “Neurovision” by Telex to me and I was quite taken with the Belgian trio’s deep plunge into the sort of electrodiscopop that Kraftwerk and Moroder were trailblazing. Unsurprisingly, Sire Records at the time crafted a Frankenrecord® [a US specialty] out of bits and pieces of 1979’s “Looking For St. Tropez” and 1980’s actual “Neurovision.” In a look at just how small the world really is, Telex enlisted Moroder veterans Sparks to write the lyrics for their third album, “Sex” for 1981!

So that was how I was familiar with “Moskow Diskow.” I used to have a cassette tape of it from 40 years ago back when Home Taping Was Killing Music®. All I have of this tune for possibly several lifetimes were memories, and yet I can state with clarity that the job that Parrish + Jones have done with this venerable electrodisko firecracker was utterly breathtaking. The high-stepping bass sequencer was shot through with portamento explosions of synths while the high-bpm rhythm track kept the wheels of steel turning. Best of all, Steven Jones managed to embody my beloved “deadpan women” trope of vocalizing for a rare example of the deadpan male voice! He has proven that you don’t actually need the xx chromosome to sign with the chic detachment of a male Grace Jones. Just the will to do it.

man parrish + steven jones flashdance coverOther than the fact that it’s merely a 3:57 track, [where is the extended remix?] there is nothing wrong and everything right with their Telex cover! The notion was that Parrish will release each of these 25 pop tracks he’s recorded with Jones and two other vocalists [as well as himself] a fortnight apart with the whole project compiled into “The Art of POP” album [possibly on 2xLP] at the end of it all. Alas, “Moskow Diskow” will be the second single, due on March 1st. The first single to reach the usual streaming/DL venues will be the duo’s first Moroder cover of “Flashdance” in two days. Then the third track, their “Tainted Love” cover, will follow two week on the heels of “Moskow Diskow.” See where this is headed? Every other Saturday for a year you will have a new track to investigate. As I’m immune to the platinum charms of “Flashdance” [your mileage may vary…] below you may find a link to the glorious Telex cover.

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Posted in Deadpan Women, Want List | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Moroder Week: Day 7 – Donna Summer – I Feel Love 12″

moroder week headerWhat else could we end Moroder Week with but the truly seminal single “I Feel Love,” by Donna Summer? I can only typify the effect of this song’s appearance in 1977 as cataclysmic? I was still listening to Top 40 radio but would be moving on in a year from then; ironically, due to the over saturation of disco in our culture. But not before I heard this astounding paradigm shift of a record first. A record so unique and singular, that it seemed to appear out of thin air to dazzle one and all with its transformation of the disco beat into an utterly new form.

It bears repeating that prior to this record, disco was crafted by producers with anonymous armies of session men making a quick buck with smooth, string synth laden music that was easy to dance to and was built around the common template of bass/guitar/drums/keys. When this song appeared in May of 1977, only Kraftwerk sounded remotely like this. That year “Trans Europe Express” proffered a metallic, more industrial funk to blindside dancers worldwide. I can’t find the date of release, but it’s safe to assume that both Mororder and Kraftwerk were operating at the same time to make both “I Feel Love” and “Trans Europe Express” and have them released in 1977.

The Donna Summer album it ultimately came from was a concept album called “I Remember Yesterday” with song themes/vibes running the gamut from the 40s to the 70s and the thought was to make a leap into what the songs of the future might sound like. Moroder was no stranger to Moogs, so he reasoned that something highly synthetic would fit the bill. To that end, “I Feel Love” was written and recorded to finish off the time spanning concept.

MORODER WEEK Day 7 – Donna Summer: I Feel Love US 12″

donna summer i feel love 12

I remember hearing this song and immediately falling hard for its relentless machine energy. It began with a modest synth drone rising in volume that was nothing particularly groundbreaking. The soft sheen of that soon gave away to the crux of the song; a relentlessly percolating but simple bass synth loop that was taken into whole new realms of complexity by running its signal through a delay unit that fattened and doubled the notes played in an almost binaural fashion, with the original sequencer in the left channel and the affected playback in the right. Making the energy oscillate between the two channels constantly.

It’s important to note that I only ever heard this song in mono back in 1977 and heard in that way, it seemed like the sequencing was truly groundbreaking as I knew nothing about delay units. And the sequencers of the time must have been terribly limited. I don’t even know if one could program this sound in so many notes. Listening today in stereo one can pan the song hard left or right in playback and be rewarded with what seemed like two slightly different tracks; neither of which had the crazy, berserker magic of the final mix! Listening to the left channel revealed a polite four-note bass sequence, sounding not terribly different from the one in Thompson Twins “Doctor Doctor,” in all candor. It was in perfect synch with every rhythmic element in the mix for that channel. A listen with the song panned hard right revealed the effected bass synth rhythm completely at odds with the “drum” track. To hear just that channel is actually an anxiety-provoking process as it sounded completely asynchronous.

But…they made beautiful music together. A shimmering, coiled, relentless, autobahn cruiser of a song that urged one to speed in the slick night streets in the sports car of their choice. Waiting for that perfect moment when the strobing of the white lines in the road were at the same frequency as the sequenced bass line. Nirvana. Dance music would never be the same again. The synthetic genie had escaped the bottle. David Bowie [him, again] has told the tale of he and Eno recording “Low” in Europe in early 1977 when Eno ran in proclaiming “I have heard the sound of the future! ‘This is it, look no further. This single is going to change the sound of club music for the next fifteen years!” Which, 43 years later, sounds a bit disingenuous.

The only acoustic element that they could not coax from the Moog [on loan from Eberhard Schoener] for love or money was the bass drum sound. So that fell at Keith Forsey’s feet, but with his timing, was not a big issue. Elsewhere the hi-hats were crafted from white noise patches given the right ADSR envelope. The slipstreaming feel of the track was further enhanced by phased waves of synth percussion interjected at various points to gently stimulate the song’s vibe without ever once derailing that monolithic bass rhythm. Suggestions of dubbed out synth interjections were also paced throughout the song in the absence of any melodic development.

The melody of the song came down to the singer alone and Donna Summer was content to float above the relentless machine energy of the song by singing in multitracked Arabic scales in the most haunting way possible. That was a bold creative decision that can’t be underestimated in making the song sound even more singular. A more straightforward vocal performance might have hobbled the revolutionary aspects of the song. In any case, it certainly had an influence on Deborah Harry the next year when Blondie cut “Heart of Glass.” One can certainly hear the influence of Donna Summer on Harry’s performance there.

The album and 7″ version of the song were identical at 5:53. That was pretty long for a 7″ single. There might have been a promo edit that I heard on the radio since I do not recall many songs [save for “Bohemian Rhapsody” or “American Pie”] stretching to that length. For this 12″ version of the song clocking in at 8:15, the song was arranged into three movements, with each one breaking down about two to three minutes in and having all of the other elements of the mix drop out save for the all-important bass sequencer.

In the last week, I’ve heard this song countless times and am still in thrall to its revolutionary sound. After dozens of listens back to back, the 8:15 length has gotten to the point where it feels half that length to me. I normally listen to this song at least once a month. It is one of the songs I keep on my iPod Touch at all times because it is always there for a quick pick-me-up. Even during my disco-numbed years of 1978-1980 I always set this tune apart from the rest of disco music as being far ahead of the pack.

amy adams and bradley cooper groove to i feel love at studio 54 from american hustle

Amy Adams + Bradley Cooper getting down to “I Feel Love” in David O. Russell’s “American Hustle”

But the truth was that I only had happy memories of the song until 2013, when watching David O. Russell’s “American Hustle” film and being blindsided by a Studio 54 sequence where the two principals met on the dance floor to this song. That served as a potent reminder of its unearthly power. It finally came down to seeing seeing The Maestro play back a few minutes of the song in a Moogfest 2014 panel resulted in too many tears to ever take it for granted again, so I went to iTunes the next day and discovered the 8:15 extended version that is with me at almost all times.

I’ve lost track of how many songs over the ensuing 43 years I have in the Record Cell that have liberally grafted some of this song’s still potent DNA into their shoots, but suffice to say that any time that I hear that potent bass synthesizer sequenced sound in service to another song I think to myself “thank goodness!” Because there can’t be too many songs in the world that traffic in this sort of machine/drone energy. It’s motorik and also seems to stop time simultaneously. It takes my breath away. If I could only have one song to take into the sunset, I daresay this could be the one.Forget about Desert Island Albums, or Top 10 lists. If “I Feel Love” were the only song I had to listen to, I believe that I would be in good hands.

Ultimately, this song was the reason why we had Moroder Week at PPM right now. There are many fine songs in his repertoire. Some of which sound similar to this, but many more that absolutely do not. Then there are some Moroder productions that I would not even deign to listen to. But this was The One. The classic Moroder sound that will be chipped into his tombstone, and for good reason. If all he had ever done was to facilitate “I Feel Love” then his place in music history would still be assured.

I’m done gushing, but I would be remiss if I did not recommend Simon Reynolds amazing dive into the song’s history here at Pitchfork. It’s practically “I Feel Love: The Motion Picture” until the actual thing comes along.

Now that we have contemplated the perfection of some fine Giorgio Moroder achievements during Moroder Week here at PPM, it’s time for a little fun. I think it was maybe my wife [?] that alerted me to the wonder of the Adult Swim short film below. It is a brilliant, multi-leveled spoof of not only Moroder, but his synthetic competition in the marketplace; riddled with hyper-obscure references that I dare you to completely spot. Courtesy of co-director Charles Ingram, we now present…

Live At The Necropolis: The Lords Of Synth!

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Posted in Bowie, Record Review, Satire, seminal single | Tagged , , , , , | 21 Comments

Moroder Week: Day 6 – David Bowie – Cat People LP version

moroder week header

I had seven Moroder tracks to write about and I didn’t want less for a theme week, and yet this weekend was far too busy to squeeze in two more posts, so we are continuing Moroder Week for two more days.

david bowie cat people US single coverI remember hearing on MTV in 1982 that Giorgio Moroder was writing and producing another Paul Schrader film soundtrack following on the heels of the hit “American Gigolo” OST two years previous. Moroder already had a reputation for creating hit soundtracks that had already won him Academy Award® gold so this was high profile, but MTV especially cared because the title theme this time would be sung by David Bowie! Bowie only released two songs in the interim between 1980’s “Scary Monsters [and supercreeps]” and his megasmash “Let’s Dance” album due to him waiting out the terms of his RCA contract and legal agreement with former management company MainMan. The previous year, he recorded a hit single with Queen on EMI and in 1982 this single on MCA. I bought it as soon as it was released and liked it so much [including the instro Moroder B-side], that I bought the full album and sent the single to chasinvictoria as a birthday present that year.

MORODER WEEK Day 6 – David Bowie: Cat People 1982 LP Version

giorgio moroder - cat people soundtrack cover

Backstreet Records | US | LP | 1982 | BSR-6107

I bought the album because it had the full length 6:41 version of the song instead of the 7″ edit of 4:08. We had that instead of a 12″ single in America at the time. The UK/Italy/Europe got a 12″ with the album/single version on it. The sound here was a million miles away from the “typical” Mororder sound. There were barely evidence of any synths here. Just a fog-like synth drone in the gradual, deliberate intro over the funereal percussion by Moroder mainstay Keith Forsey. A radical injection of tablas, also by Forsey added a whiff of eastern spice to the baleful vibe. Then, when the tension couldn’t get any tighter, Bowie began singing his lyric in a vibrato-laden baritone that could hardly have been more portentous. The tempo was about as slow methodical as the previous year’s “Your Name [Has Slipped My Mind Again]” by Ultravox. It was most definitely a feline prowler extraordinaire for its first 1:50 until Bowie shattered the tension as the song surged into rock tempos on his protracted howl of “And I’ve been putting out fire… with gasoliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine!

From that point on the instrumentation shifted to a standard rock tempo and sound with electric guitars, bass, and drums. There were rock organ fills in there by Sylvester Levai that were very retro but Moroder mixed them low. This one was so far outside of the Moroder wheelhouse that even the maestro only played guitar and bass on the album. This was a pure rock sound made with session men and his faithful drummer in tow. The only synths in the “active” part of the song, apart from the samples cat growls on synclavier, was the percussive synth pulse that traveled throughout the song, pacing the drums, until the the last bar of instrumentation dropped out before each verse to let it flicker in the light, briefly.

The LP version was longer by several minutes than the single, allowing for either Michael Landau or Tim May [the credits don’t specify] to add a sleek guitar solo further from the rock crunch of the rest of the song, on what sure sounded like a guitar synth. The tone attained on that solo brought the sound close to a sitar with lots of sustain, which circled back to the tablas in the intro. On the face of this, this was the not an innovative record designed to break boundaries. But it was a record carefully built around the not inconsiderable chassis of a masterful Bowie vocal performance that supported the themes and mood of the film it was placed in.

These was nothing wrong with “Cat People [Putting Out Fire]” in its first incarnation. Upon hearing it, all was still right in the Bowie Universe. Then, a year later a newly recorded version of “Cat People [Putting Out Fire]” surfaced  in service as a B-side to the new David Bowie single, “Let’s Dance.” If we had to withstand the letdown of the A-side, then the new B-side version was insult to injury. The moody Moroder version aced the Nile Rodgers production in every conceivable way, except for maybe sales. The single topped the Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, and New Zealand charts while barely scraping into the UK top 30 or the US Hot 100 [at#67]. While “Let’s Dance” was a worldwide smash that at least netter Moroder some fine songwriting royalties for his efforts.

david bowie - cat poepple Australian long 12" coverLast post, JT had commented about Blondie and Moroder recording a long take of “Call Me” and editing it down for 12″ and pop usage. The exact same thing happened here with a 9:40 take being edited down to the 6:45 LP cut, and a 4:08 7″ edit. We know this because the unedited 9:40 full length take [reputed to have synth and sax solos in its long coda] was released as the mislabeled 6:45 LP version on an OZ 12″ by mistake. Alas, one of these puppies would set us back at least three figures and with Bowie gone, it’s not getting any cheaper.

Next: …Paradigm Shift


Posted in Bowie, Core Collection, Record Review | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Moroder Week: Day 5 – Blondie – Call Me Spanish 12″

moroder week header Yesterday we considered a band once compared to Moroder and Blondie. Today it’s the real thing, but with a twist. In 1980 the biggest song of the year in America was “Call Me,” the collaboration between Giorgio Moroder, then making his name as a soundtrack king in addition to his pop/disco success, and Blondie who were one of the biggest pop groups in the world. The title song to the Paul Schrader film “American Gigolo” was number one for weeks in the United States. It ranked at or near the top at over a dozen nations worldwide. It was as close to a universal hit as possible in that simpler era.

blondie llama me 12" single on salsoul cover

Blondie on Salsoul!

I had once bought the Chrysalis US 7″ single with the 3:30 single edit and instrumental B-side. It may still be in my 7″ collection, but I seem to recall no longer having a copy of that. Interestingly enough, there was no US 12″ single version of the inescapably popular song. The only way to get “Call Me” on US 12″ was with the extended Spanish language translation which, in a “I still can’t figure out how that happened” way was licensed from Polydor, who had issued the “American Gigolo” OST to the US specialty Salsoul label that catered to the Latin community. But in all honesty, I didn’t even know about his in 1980. I only found out about this alternate version of the single when I chanced upon the UK 12″, which was also of the extended Spanish version [“Llama Me”] when browsing the bins at Rock + Roll Heaven in 1993. I bought a trio of UK Blondie 12″ers that day; all priced at $8.00 [see sticker].

MORODER WEEK Day 5 – Blondie: Call Me [extended Spanish version] UK 12″

blondie - call me UK 12" spanish version cover

Chrysalis ‎| UK | 12″ | 1981 | CHS 12 2514

I think that the key to the genius of “Call Me” as a pop song was the factor that gave Moroder so many headaches when recording the song. I saw him give a talk at Moogfest 2014, and he cited locking horns with drummer Clem Burke over how often to place fills in the song. Lord of the Fills® Burke was gunning for every four bars, while Moroder was a 16 bar kind of guy. He said they compromised at every eight. Moroder should be thankful. There’s not much to the song except for its driving urgency. The energy of the song was rock disco of its era with rock dominating at about 75/25%. The disco component of the tune was simply down to the classic Moroder sequenced bassline, doubled as ever, through an analog delay.

The key to the relentless urgency of the song was in how Burke’s fills expertly echoed the rhythm of the bass sequence. The intro let us know that right up front as it pulled us into the song immediately. Then we were caught in a driving groove that wouldn’t quit. With Burke’s drums adding a circular fill every few bars to make of the song a perpetual motion machine. And crafty Clem also used hi-hat fills to keep the momentum moving ever onward, even when the drums were playing it cool. This song had the energy of ouroboros; the snake eating its own tail in an endless cycle.

This extended mix was 6:16. Longer than the 3:30 7″ mix by far, but still shorter than the 8:00 version on the “American Gigolo” OST, which I’ve never heard. The format of this “extended” version was to build a second movement at 3:45 with the guitars dropping out to leave the sequencer, bass, and drums dropping down to “cruising speed” for a minute while Debbie Harry vamped expression vocals with the title [still in English] for a meandering vocal solo that even went out of key at one point! At first I was shocked by the loose qualities of her vocal. Surely if Moroder had been on site during the re-recording of her vocal [I suspect not] he would have put her to task to tighten up her performance. But now I have come to see it as an endearing quirk to the otherwise highly professional song.

After Debbie got to solo, it was Chris Stein’s turn when at the 4:45 point he then got a minute to solo on guitar as heralded by a pick scrape. It was also a little ramshackle, so I’m guessing that Debbie and Chris masterminded the notion of recording a Spanish language version of the song on their own and did this session quickly and cheaply. That the OST album was on Polydor US while the single from it was on Chrysalis, was probably down to inter-company negotiations of some complexity. I can only imagine what the lawyers of Polydor and Chrysalis thought when Blondie ended up recording a Spanish version of the song and then licensed it to Salsoul in America, but making it did ensure that many Spanish speaking countries got a 12″ single of the hottest song of the year for their markets. Given disco’s emergence from the black/latin/gay communities, Blondie probably saw this as giving something back to the crowd they drew inspiration from.

It is interesting hearing the song in Spanish, but the backing vocals where the men and Debbie sing “Call Me” remained on the master untouched. And she still sang the bridge and phrases elsewhere in the song in French and Italian as on the English version. It’s incredible, but the fact is that every worldwide commercial 12″ single of “Call Me” is of this 6:18 Spanish language version. I guess if you wanted an even longer version in English, you bought the soundtrack. Moroder got another huge hit worldwide with this and as he co-wrote and produced the song, it undoubtedly added much to his bottom line while giving him rock credibility to widen the scope of his work going forward. Was there nothing this guy couldn’t do if he put his mind to it?

Next: …There’s Nothing Like A Dame

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Shriekback’s “Some Kinds Of Light” Album Is Now On Sale

I had reviewed the excellent new Shriekback album in December as I had helped to crowdsource its recording sessions and got in on the early end of distribution. Now the band have it for sale to the rest of humanity and that is the operative word here as the album brims with the sort of deep emotional resonance they are no strangers to. The suite of the last three songs may go down as their finest hour yet as we can see from the new video just released for “The Fire Has Brought Us Together.” Courtesy of the lens of the band’s favorite videographer, Howard Davidson. Play it right now, unless you are mad.

shriekback - some kinds of light UK CD coverThe CD comes with a DL for £10.00 [$13.01, today] but immaterial girls and boys may opt for the DL only at £7.00 if that’s the way you roll. Click now and click often.

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