Weekend links 468

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“The atom shall work for peace…” Soviet poster promoting the benefits of nuclear power.

• RIP Mac Rebennack aka Dr. John Creaux, The Night Tripper. Dan Auerbach remembers the man whose return to funky form, Locked Down, he produced in 2012. Elsewhere, Michael Hurtt details Mac Rebennack’s pre-Dr. John exploits; some of his music from that period is linked at the end of this post. Entries at YouTube are inevitably skewed to the present but among the older clips you’ll find these: The Doctor and his band in full voodoo regalia miming to Zu Zu Mamou on the Something Else TV show; audio extracts from a Dutch festival performance in 1970, here and here; more quality audio from a 1972 concert in Syracuse, NY; and an hour-long Chicago TV show from 1974 featuring Dr. John, Professor Longhair, The Meters, and Earl King.

• More Tangerine Dream: all the soundtrack music for Vampira (1971), a drama-documentary directed by George Moorse for German TV. Recommended to those who like the group’s Ohr period.

• More Chernobyl: a photo-essay by Tom Skipp featuring survivors of the disaster, and from 2013, Hari Kunzru‘s report from the Exclusion Zone.

• At The Quietus: Lottie Brazier on The Strange World of Stereolab, and Ned Raggett talking to Liz Harris about her Nivhek project.

• The sixth edition of Wyrd Daze—”The multimedia zine of speculative fiction + extra-ordinary music, art & writing”—is out now.

Clark Ashton Smith: The Emperor of Dreams, a DVD of the feature-length documentary by Darin Coelho Spring.

• Moon Wiring Club is back this month with fresh releases at Bandcamp, a YouTube post, and the EVP MVP Mix.

• Once the “Swingingest Street in the World”: Rob Baker on pictures of Carnaby Street 1924–1975.

• New video footage of Coil playing live at All Tomorrow’s Parties, 6th April, 2003.

Dean Hurley explores life after death on Philosophy of Beyond.

Tom Walker on Harry Clarke’s uncanny visions of Ireland.

Alex Barrett on where to begin with Alain Resnais.

• Martin Parr’s Soviet space dog collection.

Dennis Cooper winds you up.

Storm Warning (1959) by Mac Rebennack | Morgus The Magnificent (1959) by Morgus & The 3 Ghouls | Sahara (1961) by Mac Rebennack & His Orch.

A Reverbstorm jukebox

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Another in a series of posts that supplement the forthcoming Reverbstorm book. Music, especially the rock’n’roll of the mid-50s to the mid-60s, was an important motor in Reverbstorm‘s creation: the title comes from the lyrics to Paul Temple’s song, and the song itself was included as a CD-single with the first issue. Each issue opened with a playlist of ten pieces of music offered as a complement to the narrative. We alternated the choices: David Britton chose the first ten, I chose ten for the second issue and so on. Dave’s choices were mainly the rock’n’roll he’s been listening to all his life while I tried to balance this with a more eclectic selection. But in Reverbstorm itself it’s the rock’n’roll that’s referenced the most, and it was this era of music we were both listening to a great deal during the composition of the series.

What follows is a guide to some of the songs and instrumentals referred to in the book, together with some of my favourite tracks from a compilation tape I used to play repeatedly while I was drawing. A few of these tracks are very obscure one-off singles so this list serves an additional function in saving people the trouble of hunting around.

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Bo Diddley (1955) by Bo Diddley
Part 3 of Reverbstorm, “The Big Beat of Apes”, is subtitled “Bo Diddley meets William Hope Hodgson”, and it’s to the Bo Diddley Beat that we’re referring. Diddley recycled his highly influential riff/rhythm many times, and inspired many cover versions, pastiches or outright thefts. A heady mix of these may be heard on one of the key albums for the creation of the series, a 1989 vinyl-only compilation entitled Bo Did It! which gathered seventeen obscure Diddley Beat singles. A couple of these are listed in Lord Horror’s radio playlist seen in part two, while others are present in this list. But this Bo Diddley song is where it all begins.

Bottle To The Baby (1956) by Charlie Feathers
Classic hiccoughing rockabilly and a favourite of Savoy cult band The Cramps who covered Feathers’ I Can’t Hardly Stand It. Bottle To The Baby gets a mention in part 3 while Charlie himself is quoted in part 8.

The Monkey (Speaks His Mind) (1957) by Dave Bartholomew
A moral tale from Mr Bartholomew, also quoted in part 3.

Esquerita And The Voola (1958) by Esquerita
Often cited as the guy that Little Richard stole all everything from, the very flamboyant Eskew Reeder Jr had an erratic career which yielded this berserk highlight, the B-side of his Rockin’ The Joint single. I first heard this when Dave played it in Savoy’s Peter Street shop one day and couldn’t believe how crazy it sounded. It’s also hard to believe it was on a major label. Play loud.

Hootchy-Koo (1958) by Larry Williams
Larry Williams was the prince of big bawdy numbers like this, and a favourite of The Beatles who covered three of his songs. The version I used to listen to was a slightly different demo recording (not on YT, unfortunately). Lucy Swan liked Hootchy-Koo so much she mentions it in her Lord Horror-related novel The Adventures of Little Lou.

Rumble (1958) by Link Wray
The ultimate swaggering riff and the moment where the guitar takes over from the saxophone as the locus of menace in popular music. Most people have probably heard this in the background of the Jack Rabbit Slim’s scene in Pulp Fiction but you’ll find it elsewhere, notably a Ry Cooder cover version in Streets of Fire, the highlight of an otherwise lacklustre film.

Alligator Wine (1958) by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
The witches’ recipe from Macbeth gets reworked by Leiber & Stoller as a swampland love potion for Screamin’ Jay.

Storm Warning (1959) by Mac Rebennack
Before a bullet ruined one of his fingers, Dr John was guitarist Mac Rebennack whose early career produced some impressive singles such as this Diddley Beat instrumental. That title is now impossible to disassociate from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Tall Cool One (1959) by The Wailers
The Wailers, a Seattle group, are often listed now as The Fabulous Wailers to distinguish them from Bob Marley’s group. They had a knack for catchy instrumentals; in addition to this there was also Mau Mau.

Wang Dang Doodle (1960) by Howlin’ Wolf
Given a choice between this version of Willy Dixon’s song and the later Koko Taylor recording (which includes Dixon on vocals) I’d probably choose Koko’s but the Wolf came first, and this was the one Dave listed in the first issue of the series.

I Want Some of That (1961) by Kai Ray
One from the Lord’s playlist in part 2.

Let There Be Drums (1961) by Sandy Nelson
Sandy Nelson made a career out of recording drum instrumentals. This thundering opus is his finest moment.

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Bo Did It! (1989)

Boom Stix (1962) by Curley and The Jades
Who the hell were Curley and The Jades? Don’t ask me but this obscure single from the Bo Did It! collection manages to weld a Sandy Nelson drum break to the Diddley Beat.

Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow (1962) by The Rivingtons
One of the great nonsense hits, and endlessly imitated afterwards, the title gets a mention in part 2. Kim Fowley had something to do with the release so it’s fitting that he’s wound up with Savoy as well, having written the insert notes to the recent Fenella Fielding album.

Surfin’ Bird (1963) by The Trashmen
Of all the copyists and imitators that chased The Rivingtons’ success none can approach these two minutes and twenty seconds of demented genius.

The Fourth Dimension (1964) by The Ventures
I find a little of The Ventures’ twanging instrumentals usually goes a long way, like many of these groups they work best on compilations. But I do like The Ventures in Space which is where this spooky David Lynch-style number originates.

Strychnine (1965) by The Sonics
Psycho would have been the obvious choice here but I tried to avoid being predictable. Everything The Sonics recorded sounds cranked to the point of distortion, and this is no exception. Garage punk at its wildest.

Bop Diddlie In The Jungle (1966) by Tommy King and The Starlites
Another track from Lord Horror’s playlist found on the Bo Did It! collection, this is Bo’s Diddley Daddy relocated to a jungle setting.

Electricity (1967) by Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band
The whole of Reverbstorm is dedicated to Trout Mask Replica but this was a track from one of my playlists. A compelling argument for why there should be more theremins in pop music.

I Wanna Be Your Dog (1969) by The Stooges
Lust For Life was the album I was playing a lot whilst drawing but this song was another of Dave’s choices. One of the Savoy “Lord Horror” singles in the 1980s was a cover of Raw Power.

Garbageman (1980) by The Cramps
And another of the Savoy “Lord Horror” singles was a cover of this unstoppable beast from The Cramps. “Do you want the real thing, or are you just talkin’?”

Previously on { feuilleton }
Reverbstorm: Bauhaus Horror
Reverbstorm: an introduction and preview

Exuma: Obeah men and the voodoo groove

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Do Wah Nanny by Exuma (Kama Sutra LP, 1971).

I came down on a lightning bolt
Nine months in my Mama’s belly.
When I was born, the midwife scream and shout,
I had fire crystals coming out of my mouth.
I’m Exuma, I’m the Obeah Man!

So you’ve listened to Dr John‘s Gris-Gris over and over and become addicted to its swampy, voodoo-inflected psychedelia. Where to go next? Dr John’s subsequent career isn’t much help even though he dallied with voodoo themes on his next couple of albums; nothing there quite achieves the distinctive flavour (dare we say “gumbo”?) of his first album. Praise Dambala, then, for Exuma, whose career was launched on the back of Dr John’s success but who often manages to sound more “authentic” (whatever that means) than the New Orleans maestro. These are recording studio confections so authenticity doesn’t really enter into it even though both artists strive to sound like feathered and beaded voodoo-priests lifting the curtain on their spooky rituals.

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins was one of the first to go this route in the 1950s, albeit in a more comical fashion, with I Put A Spell On You (1956) and the very swampy Alligator Wine (1958). The latter wasn’t written by some chicken-sacrificing Baron Samedi but by Leiber and Stoller, a pair of Jewish boys in New York City. Mac Rebennack also started out doing rock’n’roll novelty records, among them Bad Neighborhood by Ronnie & the Delinquents and Morgus The Magnificent by Morgus & the 3 Ghouls. His new persona of Dr John (full designation: Dr John Creaux, the Night Tripper) was taken wholesale from Robert Tallant’s Voodoo in New Orleans (1946), a book which features a chapter detailing the exploits of the original voodoo chieftain of that name, and whose text includes a number of the songs and chants (including the classic I Walk on Guilded Splinters) adapted by Rebennack for Gris-Gris. His debut album sounds like it was recorded in some deconsecrated church in a New Orleans swamp but was actually created between very mundane pop sessions at Phil Spector’s Los Angeles studio with other session musician friends. Which brings us to Exuma. But who was Exuma? Perfect Sound Forever asked the same question:

Who was Exuma?

• He was a spirit who came from a planet, now extinct, brought to us on a lightning bolt, who had communed with Charon, the ferryman of the River Styx and Vodun priests. When he informed the world of his travels and even warned of Armageddon, he left the Earth, perhaps tiring of the corporeal and moving to the ethereal.

• He was born McFarlane Anthony McKay on Cat Island in the Bahamas in the early 1940’s. He then relocated to New York, to study architecture at the age of 17. He ran out of money for his studies and in 1962, participated in folk music hootenannies. Gaining confidence, he started a group called Tony McKay and the Islanders. He also was in a show called A Little of This ’n’ That in 1965, along with Richie Havens.

• He was a marketing nightmare. Who knew how to peg him? Finding his records has never been an easy task. Often, through dint of color, he was placed in the Soul or R&B bin, even though his music, while soulful, does not belong in either. When his first album was released in 1970, there were sections for music of other countries, however, since he lived in New York and recorded for Mercury, it may have looked out of place there. His music was not Ska or Reggae. He was a contemporary of Bob Dylan’s and Peter Paul and Mary, even playing the Café Wha? and the Bitter End in Greenwich Village, but his music wasn’t quite from the same branch of Folk singing as Dylan, Woody Guthrie or Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. His albums couldn’t be placed in Rock; besides, who would get it if it was put there?

All of the above answers are, in varying degrees, “correct.”

Continues here. Typically with fugitive culture of this kind there isn’t much information around but there’s another appreciation of Exuma’s talents here. As with much black music there’s a political dimension also, despite the magickal doodlings. On Fire in the Hole from the second album, Exuma sings “You can’t build a nation off of bloodshed and expect the blood not to stain the land.” The reference originally would have been to the Vietnam War but that line and others can’t help but have a resonance today.

McFarlane Anthony McKay left the planet Earth in 1997 but happily his early albums are all available on CD. If you’re feeling unfulfilled by current servings of musical minestrone get yourself down to the swamp for a dose of gumbo, authentic or not.

Exuma (LP Mercury 1970, CD TRC 1993)
Exuma II (LP Mercury 1970, CD TRC 1993)
Do Wah Nanny (LP Kama Sutra 1971, CD Castle 1993)
Snake (LP Kama Sutra 1972, CD Castle 1993)
Reincarnation (LP Kama Sutra 1972, CD Castle 1993)
Life (LP Buddah 1973, CD Castle 1993)
Penny Sausage (Inagua 1980)
Going to Cat Island (??)
Universal Exuma (??)
Rude Boy (ROIR 1986) (originally released as Street Life)

Previously on { feuilleton }
Metabolist: Goatmanauts, Drömm-heads and the Zuehl Axis
A playlist for Halloween
Ghost Box
Voodoo Macbeth
Davy Jones