The BellRays probably like themselves more than I do

And I do like the BellRays quite a lot. At one point I was even considering getting a t-shirt. And I bought and album of theirs. From a store.  Serious stuff.

But I get the feeling the band, particularly the guitarist and singer, already have all the top spots in their fan club taken.

I came across them a while back on an mp3 blog and was struck with the vocals and playing on “Hole in the World”, from an early album. Then I got hold of a later album Have a Little Faith and liked the single, “Third Times the Charm”, for totally different reasons. I was all prepared to buy into the band wholsesale when I started reading their  press releases and promo guff…

Blues is the teacher. Punk is the preacher. It’s all about emotion and energy, experience and raw talent, spirit and intellect. Exciting things happen when these things collide. Bob and Lisa made the BellRays happen in 1991 but they weren’t really thinking about any of this then. They wanted to play music and they wanted it to feel good. They wanted people to WANT to get up, to NEED to get up and check out what was going on. Form an opinion. React. So they took everything they knew about; the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, the Who, the Ramones, Billie Holiday, Lou Rawls, Hank Williams, the DB’s, Jimmy Reed, Led Zeppelin, to name a very few and pressed it into service. It was never about coming up with a ‘sound’, or fitting in with a scene. It was about the energy that made all that music so irresistible!

Wow! Really? Hmmm. Does a soul garage band really need a manifeto? Do they need to state their raison d’etre so explicitly? Can’t you just, y’,know…form one and play? It’s only rock and roll, after all.

Subsequent reading on the internet has only backed up this impression that good ole Bob and Lisa and co take themselves WAY too seriously. I know this shouldn’t matter to me as a listener but it does. I can no longer hear a bunch of good musos and a big black lady who happens to have a very good voice. All I can now hear is a bunch of musos who think they’re doing this incredibly serious revolutionary thing and they’re not, led by a big black lady whose ego is so big it probably needs its own dressing room, separate to hers.

In summary: Listen to BellRays, they are good, but do not engage them in conversation or ever, ever read anything they say about themselves. If you want manifestos, try Marx.

Hole in the World

Third Times the Charm

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Whinging for Perfection

I am always going on about Australian band HUNTERS and COLLECTORS to people, and they do not always get me.

Often, they are fellow Aussies who only became familiar with the band in the 90s, and they either know for their more commercial stuff, or they dismiss them for being too commercial. (It’s true, they became very pop-rock in the 90s, and even had a particular single that became very popular with Australian Rules TV broadcasters.)

Or, they are from outside Australia and haven’t necessary heard them, or, don’t realise how good they were.

So, I am here to solemnly swear and attest that circa 1986, this band were the best live band in Australia, and maybe one of the best anywhere. During that long and dubious decade where fads and synths and haircuts ruled, these guys chose to do pub rock, blues guitar and horn driven, melodic and percussive, rhythmic and funky, arty and loud, angry and funny and dangerously weird, and all fronted by Mr Mark Seymour, one of the best singer-shouters my country has yet produced.

The lyrics were Australian, and intriguing – holding down a D, fanging home to your girlfriend, girls with fingers like green ginger roots, all trucks and beers and memories spread out on the road – and this meant a lot to me, and it still does. So many “Australian” song-writers are basically just generic American-style country artists who bung in the name of an Australian town every so often, and they don’t actually sound like suburban Aussies at all. But everything about this music smelled of Footscray, the Hume Highway, and Cartlon Draught. Somehow they just got it.

I saw the band four or five times at the ANU Union Refectory or the upstairs section at the Uni Bar in Canberra, and once at the Trade Union club, and every time, they totally blew my face off.  I have never seen a tighter band which somehow had such a loose, jamming energy. They could build tension like no other band I have ever seen (except maybe the Breeders  and that could have been a fluke).

Don’t believe me? Well, first off all, ignore pretty much everything past Human Frailty (1986), which is their last fine studio record. There are other people who will buy their later work, so you and me can concentrate on buying the older stuff.

You should start with this record, The Jaws of Life, from 1984.  The modern re-release includes the entire Payload EP, from 1982, Trust me, this is one of the finest Australian rock albums ever made. If Amazon are out of stock, keep trying, anywhere you can.

Here’s some sample tracks to pique your interest.

TOWTRUCK (from the Towtruck EP, 1982)

I COULDN’T GIVE IT T YOU (from the Jaws of Life LP, 1984)

 

 

Remember Me, Marlena

We had an Easter Monday Jam with the Posse of Wonderful (variously called Law of the Sea, The Night Terrors, Grown Man Cry, or Hey Let’s Play Some Music.)

In amongst all the Beatles etc, one of the tracks was a version of Sinnerman, which I find is a spiritual made popular by the Weaver’s long before Nina Simone got to it. Our version of it rocked out at about seven minutes, still well short of her epic version.

In the same mood and the same key, we did a bang up job of Blue Boy”s Remember Me, that 90’s dance hit with the sample from Marlena Stewart’s Woman of the Ghetto.

I find that my wife, despite not being at all a woman from the ghetto, can really pull off quite a believable version of this. I have had it in my head ever since.

Our version was actually much better than this…

Here’s the original Marlena Stewart live track. Our version was not much better than this. How could you be?

You can download the mp3 here:

Woman Of The Ghetto

Unbeknownst: Sinking in Quicksand

INTERESTING MUSIC (by Steve McKenzie and Lee Pfitzner):

Quicksand

Bring Out Your Dead

Down Below

Heavyhead

Snowflakes

Song From Years Ago

This is fine music, if I do say so. Punk and post-punk afficianodas might not like it as much as other stuff I do but as far as I’m concerned it’s the equal of all my other gear. It was made between 2006 and 2008 in Adelaide and Honiara. If I ever end up settling in one place, I might like to form a band doing this sort of thing. There’s more to follow in this vein, too.

BORING BACK STORY / SITE NEWS:

Back about eighteen months ago I had the zany notion that it would be possible, somehow, to market and plug all my various different musical products under one name: Unbeknownst. (I chose the name partly because I liked the idea of forming a band by stealth over the internet). I made a website – now stangnant – called Unbeknownst Recordings where I intended to put up all my different styles of music. I got the domain name, bought a space upgrade so I could host mp3s, and I was cooking with professional-smelling gas. Temporarily…

Looking back, I now realise this was a bogus idea, borne in a tropical heat haze and fuelled by whiskey and soda. I record with Lee only very rarely and haven’t added anything new to that site in over six months…except that all the mp3s for this site have to be hosted over there. But this site is where the action is. So, it’s really starting to look like this has all ended up the wrong way round…

To cut to the chase, I’ve imported the old Unbeknownst mp3s post over here. That domain and upgrade will expire in May. All the old files will remain, but beyond that, I’ll do all my hosting over here…

Great Southern Steve.

GSS vs George Thorogood

monopolyGeorge Thorogood? You mean the toad-like guy with the bad hair who made a fortune out of cheese?

Yes, I do. Now, I wonder how much of the sentence “some of his early stuff is actually quite good” I can get out before you hit the back button on your browser. You seem to be still reading, so…

George and his band the Poppets (later the Destroyers) went into the studio to record what would have been their debut album, Better than the Rest, in 1974. It’s an album of blues covers from the likes of John Lee Hooker and Willie Dixon, and while it certainly isn’t better than the rest, or even some of the rest, it’s alright.

I guess that’s why MCA decided not to release it until 1979 after he had two solid albums of cheese under his belt from the previous two years. “We don’t want to confuse people with this quality music, George,” said his R and A man, Les Befriends. “You want to win over the musical heartland of America, you gotta play real crap.” So, the album was shelved for five years.

Tucked away on side 2 are two tracks featuring George solo, playing slide guitar and singing. These are, I must say, really quite fine. I’ve posted them both here as well as my own version of Huckle Up Baby, which I make sound kind of folksy because I just can’t play blues very well. Miss Me When I’m Gone also features me on the bass. I don’t know whether it adds anything but it was fun to do.

Whose version of Huckle Up do you like more?

And more importantly, who do you think would win in a fight?

My money is on me. He’s quite old now…

(Satire impairment warning: “Les Befriends” does not exist, nor did he ever say either of those things. And lots of people probably really like George’s first two albums. I’m just not one of them.)

george_thorogood2

steve-thorogood