Salient. Victoria University Students Newspaper. Vol. 38, No. 2. March 11, 1975
It seems like a three dimensional rock dream at the moment, now that we've been connected into the international rock grid.
When every act you ever dreamed about is passing through Auckland airport like it was the last stop before the Great Antarctic Rock Paradise.
Well what happens when a country the size of New Zealand is confronted with the legends of a distant culture?
And tomorrow the Tourist Board may get the Beatles. Anything. And at the same time there's a national scene which craves definition, recognition: and bands not owned by the Breweries; whose managers walk the streets, the country dangling their acts like an unclean cock that people don't want.
But it's not a cock. It's a perfect arrow, and a sign which says: Here! .... Now! And why aren't you writing about us? Helping. We've an audience: we've got the music: the spirit. Everything but the goddamn press who can take rock out of the men's room! Liberate it from the wretchedness of eternal Saturday night partying!!!
Will the rock press please stand up! ... Oh I see ... you're already up, . . and did I see you moving?
Last week I heard a local band at a dance in Northland. The night was foul: it had been raining the whole day and outside the hall it was cold and miserable. Inside, Saxonhair were playing to a small crowd; around us one or two danced, while others stretched out along the walls. Semi-darkness. The band was decidedly cool. After a while I thought they were excellent.
At the centre, Chris: playing guitar with real grace: leading the band, the crowd into rock and roll; Greg pointing his trumpet somewhere between the ceiling and a lowered microphone and blowing on top of the drummer, bass and second guitarist. Best of all were the singers, Kate and Kelly. With her hands thrust into the pockets of her jeans, Kate is the group's indifferent star. In the wooden confines of St Anne's Hall her voice assails, commands; with the addition of Kelly's harmonies she sounds like my old favourite, Grace Slick. The fat sound ("Get off My Cloud', 'Satisfaction', 'It's alright Mama') warmed the hall with good spirit, moving the crowd, which was getting bigger, to leaping, jumping, rocking freedoms. It was alive all right: like the concerts we've seen at the Town Hall in the last two years. It was rock music.
So after this discovery I listened to Free Spirit, the new release from Hudson/Ford, and ask: what does this album contribute to the greater pantheon of rock music? Of course I'm disappointed: maybe these standards are too limiting, even too high ( I don't really think so), but this album doesn't rate.
First track, 'Take A Little Word', is six and a half minutes long. Here:
I had to run away
To find a hideaway
So all I've got to say
It would only take a little word ...
To come back to you, to come back to you.'
Like most of the music on this album, the arrangement is pointed and smooth, the production slick. Yet, except for the production, this album has nothing to with the seventies, and even less to do with rock.
So I'd have to call it pop-or British folk/rock, which is much the same thing. The simple melodies and romanticism are reminiscent of early Strawbs, the band which spawned Richard Hudson and John Ford. Strangely enough the music is much closer to American pop, circa 1967/8: the Monkees, Every Mother's Son, Dino, Desi and Billy were playing music like this when I was in the fourth form at college. It was music that we all grew out of.
No I don't want adulation
Give me appreciation
Cause I'll be high as a steeple
When I can play to the people.
(I don't Want to be a Star)
They could have come from 'Tommy' or 'Quadrophenia'. Daltrey could have screamed these lines; they could be dramatic. Instead they are delivered without any attention to dramatics and lack conviction. As I say, preseventies; pre-consciousness.
Finally, the back cover shows the boys leaning on an old Ford with California plates: they resemble British gangsters, the ones you see in Michael Caine films. Two have receding hairlines, and one looks overdressed (like an aging rock star). It's competent cover art, and the anachronisms and incongruities it points up are a statement of where the band is at musically. None of the songs are as strong as last year's single, 'Pick Up the Pieces', and this album doesn't fulfil the promise of 'Nickelodeon', their first album.
Mott the Hoople Live
The Good live album is the occurrence rare. In fact, it almost ought to be the occurrence unheard of, because the business of making a record-let alone the experience of listening to is-is a hefty dam in the stream of shared consciousness between performer and audience. The characteristics of the concert, transmuted on record, often seem less marvellous, less exciting, and no long tracks of applause and brouhaha can make up for that.
So: there's that about live albums generally. Add: nine of the fourteen tracks on 'Mott the Hoople: Live' have turned up on previous albums. Conclusion: this is a disappointing album. Comment: Not so fast, Billy, not so fast.
This is a terrific record. Mott the Hoople have always been a cut above the average glitter and decadent, downer rock working machines, from their early, Dylan influenced material to the more incisive tunes of later times. I said it 18 months' ago, and I stand to it; but this set, which is whoop and holler from its first to its 49th final minute is astonishing, yet this is not because out of the studio, the hoople goes hog wild. I know people who consider that the group's progression since 'all the young dudes' has been too clipped and tense and I see what they mean, without feeling it. However while most of 'Mott the Hoople, Live' is obviously a more unbuttoned record, it is nothing like an orgy of on-and-on jamming. Only the long medley that occupies most of the second side is significantly longer than the average single cut, yet within the extended framework that live work permits are concentrated extraordinary quantities of energy. You hardly notice that the material is nominally familiar. It's as if the electricity behind it came from an entirely different type of current.
Probably, in describing live records, it's more useful to think about the overall effect than to select tracks for comment. Here, for instance, you perceive that the audience is out there, vociferous enough, but clearly separate; the group's sounds are what the record is made of. It isn't always so in these times (compare the Grateful Dead's live sets). But I like the old way better. Among other things, it doesn't exclude the listener who wasn't there when it happened (as six sides of tomfoolery live in Europe tends to do). The gramophone record was invented to bring the stage into the drawing room, but with a lot of live albums I can't escape the feeling that the music is coming from someone else's drawing room. It's like 'The Fly' horror movies, the atoms have to be transported and reassembled, but something goes wrong. But with 'Mot the Hoople; Live' the reconstitution process is entirely successful. The music goes round and round and it comes out here.
This, then, is a live album that asks for no ifs and buts from its hearers. It was recorded by the way in London and New York at the Odeon Theatre, Hammersmith and the Uris Theatre on Broadway, respectively.
Queen: Sheer Heart Attack
The everglades again: you'll do a lot of wading before anything like terra firma surfaces. Sheer Heart Attack is a good title but seven of the 13 tracks on it aren't sheer, none of 'em are sunny and only one ("Flick of the Wrist') is convulsive enough to induce listener heartburn.
Queen, or more rightly Freddy Mercury, have a problem: How to tell your polytechnic '68 mates they're just not needed any more.
The bugger-off story shines best in Eric Carmen who may be a teenage broke-heart en chanson but frosted ice in the management/economics circle. When it came time last year to tidying up The Raspberries' viability outlook, David Smalley and Wally Bryson, Carmen's bosom pals from Cleveland College, were cast out and the new-look group climbed up out of the muck with a hit LP and a big hit single 'Overnight Se nsation',
Freddy should take a lesson.
His sweet with the emphasis on choric vocals and change-da-riff-alla-time are far and away Queen's best asset and sometimes he amuses, as in the continuing saga of the Seven Seas of bye.
Side one, for instance, would be mary if fellow-Queenists, Brian May and Roger Taylor, had stayed out of the picture. 'Brighton Rock', a longish contribution from May, is Ok but his 'Now I'm Here' and Taylor's 'Tenement Funster' are heavy fluff alongside Mercury's pieces.
Slip into side two and all this back-handed talk looks fair enough. It's booring like the Guess Who's last four albums and even Mercury takes a dive into banality with his two-part 'In the Lap of the Gods'.
The solution lies in pulling in the reins. Namely, pulling in May and Co and leaving the song-writing to Mercury.
Any old queen worth her gold tiara knows her politics: like, keep democracy out of the monarchy.
Freddy should take a lesson.