Tuesday, July 27, 2010


There's a bunch of street musicians of all sorts in the neighborhood I live in. There's one group that plays all of the songs that I hated from the mid-seventies with about a half a dozen singers all singing at once, with relentless tamborine bashing. There's the bluegrass-ish group that have a revolving cast of surprisingly good pickers (one with "Fuck the devil" painted on his banjo. I dig that.) And then there are the percussive groups, the worst of which (gutterpunk drum circle, I'm talking to you) couldn't carry a beat in a bucket. When I walk past the latter, it just makes me think "nice try, but you need to get serious if you're going to do this" and consider what a more caring person might do. They'd load up an mp3 player with Konomo No. 1 and explain to them what it means to be really resourceful.

Konomo No. 1 take DIY to whole new level. Just about every instrument, including their microphones and amplification, were fashioned from, literally, junk. Their thumb pianos form the basis of their music, with car parts used as percussion, an carved wood microphone (amplified with the aid of an alternator magnet), a whistle here and there, some vocals over bull horns...you get the idea. All of this is played at a volume that can be heard over the traffic and noises in the urban settings that they play in. This can lead to distortion, which they embrace, partly out of necessity and partly because most of the musicians came from outlying areas and have not been exposed to slickly produced music.

It's been said that Konono No. 1's music is a primitive form of trance, but that's selling them short. The origins of trance were primitive. In other words, they're a crudely amplified version of the real deal. While it isn't the type of music that you pour over every note, when it's on for a few minutes you find yourself getting into the rhythm of whatever the hell it is that they're banging on, and groove to it as a whole.

From their debut "Congotronics":
Konono No. 1 - Paradiso mp3 (right click to save) at FMLY
From their newest album "Assume Crash Position":
Konono No.1 – Guiyome mp3 (right click to save) at Rollo & Grady
Konono No. 1 - Fula Fula mp3 (right click to save) at Passion of the Weiss

Konono No. 1 video at YouTube
Konono No. 1's page at Crammed Discs
Konono No. 1 page at Wikipedia
Public Service links:
Raise Hope For Congo: Learn more about conflict minerals and violence against women in the Congo
Run For Congo Women
Women For Women International

Saturday, July 24, 2010


I heard "Here Comes the Sun" yesterday, twice. That's a song that just sort of gets under my skin. I think it all stems from seeing some hippy playing it, sitting cross-legged in the school quad, a long time ago. It was after the sun came out, after days of rain. (I know, just fuckin' gag me.). It was that, or the whole "deeet-um-doo-ba" thing.

I've found myself in this situation before. and one song that could wipe the slate completely clean was "Rumble," by Link Wray. It worked, but that was after only hearing "Here Come the Sun" once. Last night, I added "Blue's Theme" by Davie Allan & the Arrows as a chaser, just to play it safe.

These are mandatory listening if you're not already familiar with them. Not "highly recommended" or "essential," but mandatory. And, should you find ever yourself at a party, and there's no Bluto available to work his magic, these should do the trick.

Link Wray - Rumble mp3 (right click to save) at CoopStuff
The Link Wray Story at Perfect Sound Forever
Dave Allan and the Arrows - Blue's Theme mp4 at the Pop Sucker

Monday, July 19, 2010


I recently came across a post on Living in Stereo, in which the author wrote about a day when he mentioned to his class of college composition students that it was Chuck Berry's 80th birthday (the post was from 2006). He was dismayed that not one of them knew who he was. It was a great post, and it got me thinking; not of Chuck Berry, but for some reason, my brother Tim and Hasil Adkins. A weird correlation, I know, but follow me here.

My brother loved to do things just to tweak a person's everyday experience. An example: one time I was in Tower Records with him, and he was an aisle over. He walked up to a total stranger, with an album picked at random, and said "You should really get this one. It's an excellent record. I think you'll like it." Of course, the person had a totally puzzled look on his face, and may have thought my brother was a kook. This didn't matter a bit to Tim. All he cared about was that the guy undoubtedly walked away wondering what the fuck that was all about.

It was when my brother's prankster switch turned on. Opportunities to change a person's preconceived notions of what's normal. Wouldn't it have been great, I thought, if Tim had the opportunity that this college teacher had? After finding out the students had no clue who Chuck Berry was, he probably would have done something like convince the impressionable students, with no knowledge of early rock n' roll, that Hasil Adkins was, in all actuality, a significant rock n' roll figure. Their ignorance essentially left them as blank canvases, and, knowing Tim, he would have taken full advantage of that. Not just to fuck with them, but to send them out into the world thinking that Hasil Adkins was the shit. Which, of course, he was. Tim convinced me of that long ago. Hasil Adkins was a significant figure, not Chuck Berry significant, but significant nonetheless.

He and I first heard about "the Haze" in the pages of Kicks magazine, which had a decent run of about thirteen years (79-92). It was crudely laid out, with the feel of a scrapbook, but with incredibly informative and often hilarious text. There were only seven issues, but they were packed. The folks that put it out, Billy Miller and Miriam Linna started a record label, Norton Records, and reissued oddball records, including Hasil Adkin's early stuff. They really had the goods (and still do). Tim bought the "Out to Hunch" LP, and was off to the races. He loved turning people onto it.

I have a picture of Hasil Adkins on my bulletin board, that was put there, conservatively, about 19 years ago, right about the time Hazemania hit Chatsworth Blvd. It was from an old Kicks magazine. Back then, I wrote "Cut yo head off" on it, because that was a line in "No More Hot Dogs," which was one of Tim's favorites, and that was a line he often repeated. Often. Oh yeah, another endearing quirk of Tim's was repeating the odd lyric, or even a line from a friend's dialog or prank phone call, out of context, and often. "Mr. Egyptian, you're a goddamn liar." "You look like a clown." "It would be an honor sir." "No Nazis in the ice cream!" "Let's go somewhere else to mix the drinks." "Pertainin' to..." "No go diggy di." He had a lot of them. And more than a few came from Hasil Adkins.

Hasil Adkins - She Said, and The Hunch mp3s at Kogar's Jungle Juice
Hasil Adkins - No More Hot Dogs mp3 (+ video) at Fuck Yeah Go Team
Hasil Adkins - The Great Lost Album at Beware of the Blog
Hasil Adkins' Official Site Hasil Adkin at Wikipedia
The Hasil Adkins Hazequarters: Interviews with Billy Miller and Miriam Linna, and Hasil Adkins
Norton Records
Norton Records at Wikipedia

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Ever had a music teacher who cared? I did. In Junior High, Mr. Wells told the class that there was a new band that he had read about, called Blood, Sweat & Tears. He then played the LP for the class, pointing out different parts that he thought were of note. In a matter of months, every kid in that class would be saturated with the music he played, courtesy of Top 40 stations that ended up playing them relentlessly. But he taught an important lesson that day; he taught us how to really listen to music. That said, he wasn't unique. There are music teachers everywhere who perform at all different levels of giving a shit. Some really, really give a shit. Conrad Johnson was like that.

Conrad Johnson was not really just a music teacher. To hard core funk fiends he's known as the teacher who catalyzed the Kashmere Stage Band, transforming them from a ordinary high school band into a world class funk powerhouse. He taught them to play, took them into the studio, and produced their (now highly collectible) eight LPs and three 45s. Between 1969 and 1977, they won 42 out of 46 band competitions. In recent years, their music has been sampled and reissued, elevating the once tightly guarded DJ secret to legendary status. Today, many of the former members are still professional musicians. That's a music teacher who cares.

If you have any doubts that their music merits attention, wait until you hear them. Below are links to three pages, with a song on each. "Kashmere," an original, is the bands signature song. "Thank You" is a Sly cover, and "Take Five," is an awesome reworking of the Dave Brubeck hit. (Really, though, I recommend getting the two disc compilation "Texas Thunder Soul 1968 - 1974.") The other links are worthwhile too, all of them. Dig in.

Kashmere Stage Band - Kashmere mp3 atMotel de Moka
Kashmere Stage Band - Thank You mp3 at LifeSignsProject
Kashmere Stage Band - Take Five mp3 at CarlSandburgVisits
Kashmere Stage Band Movie Premiere Reunion story and video at Soul Sides
Thunder Soul, the movie, official web site
High Resolution image of the movie poster
Kashmere: A High School Band's Staying Power at NPR.org
Kashmere Retakes the Stage, article about a 2008 benefit reunion at the Houston Chronicle
Conrad Johnson's Obituary at Stones Throw
Kashmere Stage Band discography

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Just what you wanted, right? More half baked soul from Wayne Cochran. I give him credit. He tried. And there wasn't anyone quite like him..but, gawd...

Wayne Cochran and the C.C. Riders - Sleepless Nights, Going Back to Miami, and Harlem Shuffle mp3s and a video at Aquarium Drunkard (NOTE: Right click on song titles to save)
Earlier post with more Wayne Cochran here

Monday, July 5, 2010


For the past 40-plus years, UK label Trojan Records has licensed reggae from Jamaican labels, re-releasing them occasionally in their original version, sometimes with overdubs, and quite often in compilations. The results have been mixed (particularly the overdubbed records), but chances are, if you lived in the UK, and you were/are into reggae, Trojan product has crept into your crates.

The Trojan Story was a 1972 three LP set that traced the years from 1961-1971, which is a great time span if you're at all into hearing the development of pre-roots reggae. For instance, the first cut, Laurel Aitken and the Carib Beats' cover of "Bartender" (1961), is a great example of how early ska adopted rhythms from R&B, particularly New Orleans style R&B. It's a pity that there isn't a compilation putting together the early pre-reggae sound system selections, because that was a whole other ball game. Operators would travel to the states and bring back obscure jazz and R&B records in order to have them as exclusives, featuring them at their outdoor dances (but not before scratching out the artist and title). This was serious stuff, with each sound system employing spies, enforcers, and sometimes gangs to disrupt other sound systems' dances.

Back to the set in question: Dinosaur Gardens posted the entirety of the 48 song Trojan Story, in individual mp3s, each listed with the year of release. These were posted in 2008, but the links are still live, so dig in. Oh, and another thing. The Infinite Wheel link below is a definite go-to link if you ever wanted to fuck around with dub, but didn't want to commit to a career change. There's a lot of exploring to do there. Just click away; after you learn the label-less navigation, it's really a hoot.

The Trojan Story, 48 reggae mp3s at Dinosaur Gardens
Trojan Records site
Jamaican Label Art, a comprehensive gallery of Jamaican reggae record labels
Infinite Wheel's Dub Selector, the ultimate time suck for wanna be dub mixers

Thursday, July 1, 2010


You know how, a few years ago, you started seeing well-off middle aged women with their highlighted shag Quatro-cuts, and their accessorizing (pre-fab distressed jeans, scarfs, boots, etc.) and you're sure they think that they're pulling it off? (There's a male version of the poseur-rocker too, usually with a Harley or something suitably "dangerous.") Imagine that same brand of clueless-ness, in the mid-sixties when they find out that that crazy Campbell soup artist is staging a happening, with droning music, a weird light show and dancers with whips.

At the time, Andy Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable probably seemed like the hippest, "let's be daring" thing going. Today, it's interesting in an anthropological sense, but not nearly as threatening. Granted, there had to have been some genuine freaks at the shows, you know that with Warhol's name attached to it, there were more than a few rich wives and their "not-so-sure-about-this" husbands. This is all just speculation (because, to be honest, I'm too lazy to research), but I'm willing to bet that Warhol's crew of crazy kids (Velvet Underground , et al) genuinely thought this was some sort of mind expanding freakout statement. And Warhol may well have been laughing all the way to the bank. Even if he didn't make much on the actual shows, it paid dividends in what it did for his brand/image, and that's gotta add to the value of traded art.

Whatever, we still look to it as a reference point. And it's thirteen minutes of some noisy-ass shit.

Andy Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable with The Velvet Underground at UbuWeb (1966) VIDEO
Two more clips! at Plaztikmag (1967) VIDEO