Index Introduction Robert Johnson Elvis Presley The Beatles The Rolling Stones Patently Untrue Rock Facts #1 Simon and Garfunkel Hawkwind David Bowie What is Music? by Jez Moonbeam Pink Floyd Black Sabbath Queen The Osmonds Patently Untrue Rock Facts #2 The Great Vinyl Shortage Glam Rock The Great Disco Rush Sick London Punk Elvis Costello Goths Guns N' Roses Patently Untrue Rock Facts #3 The Jarvis The Spice Girls The White Stripes The Future of Rock
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Copyright ÂŠ Paul Farnsworth 2013 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission. All events, stories and claims are fictitious and do not pertain to the real life counterparts of the performers mentioned in this work. Do we really need to tell you that? Seriously, David Bowie isn't actually from Mars.
Introduction When music scholar and qualified sausage stuffer Professor Ricky Stratocaster published his first book, The Influence of Early Etruscan Agriculture in the Songs of Bruce Springsteen, reaction was polarised, like the audience at a surprise Meatloaf gig, or an elderly electric eel dropped into a magnetic field. It wasn't that his revelations were particularly incendiary or even interesting - it was merely the boldness with which he compiled an 800-page volume on a subject that was quite evidently bullshit. Professor Stratocaster, currently the visiting Professor of Funk at the Kentucky Institute of Twangology, developed his gift for expounding authoritatively without resorting to actual evidence at an early age. Or at least, that's what he says - like an overpossessive Scrabble player, it's difficult to take his word. As he puts it, it's very easy to be right. Too easy. If what you want is hard undisputable facts you just have to Google it. But writing absolute rubbish requires considerably more research to ensure that you don't inadvertently stumble across a truth. Stratocaster's most vocal detractors are quick to take issue with his approach. Consequently, the Professor's reaction to negative criticism is generally best described as 'violent', and his umbrage at bad reviews is usually expressed in the form of a pugilistic challenge. 3
That said, being a somewhat slight chap and not even remotely a 'fighty' person, such encounters are normally met with mild hilarity, in the same way that one might express amusement at a duck with a wellington boot on its head, or a confused bishop with his mitre caught in a revolving door. For instance, after taking offence at a review in The Guardian he challenged its author to a duel. The reviewer refused to take him seriously and declined to appear at the appointed hour, so Stratocaster went round to his house and threw stones at his bedroom window until the fellow stuck out his head and told him to piss off. Deciding that he had made his point, Stratocaster did indeed piss off, but feeling that he still needed to vent his frustration he had a go at the 75-yearold woman sitting behind him on the bus home. That woman beat the crap out of him, which is no surprise since history records that this is how most of Professor Stratocaster's expeditions have ended. This volume, The History of Rock, charts the development of rock and roll from its origins in the Mississippi Delta blues right up to the modern day, all without touching on anything that might be seen as being even remotely plausible. It is the result of over four years of diligently dodging the truth and many long nights spent painstakingly stripping away any statements which could accidentally be mistaken for fact. As the Professor has suggested many times in the past, Truth is Beauty but sometimes what the world needs is a big dose of ugly. 4
And, if anybody disagrees, he is happy to meet with them at dawn next Tuesday, at a location of their choosing, when the matter can be decided in a proper gentlemanly fashion.
Who was Robert Johnson, and how did he come to have such a pivotal role in the development of popular music? We know where he came from, where he was born, who his parents were, where he went to school, what he majored in at college, what football team he supported, what he did on Tuesdays, how he came to have one leg shorter than the other, his birth weight, his blood group, his favourite sandwich and the secret nickname he had for his winky. But so much about the man is still a mystery. What we do know is that he single-handedly invented Mississippi Delta Blues on Tuesday 4th April 1905, six years before he was born. Childhood friends paint a picture of boy of little talent who was given his first guitar for his fifth birthday by an uncle - mildewed, battered and riddled with woodworm, his uncle was a kindly man but the instrument was very nearly as dilapidated as he was. For the next three years young Robert used it as a makeshift baseball bat, until one day a travelling blues accountant called Howling Peter Figgins came to town and put on a show of double entry bookkeeping in the local cathouse. Young Robert couldn't help but notice that the thing he was playing looked not dissimilar to his baseball bat. It was a revelation! He had never previously realised that 6
sporting equipment could be so versatile and ran straight home and gave it a bash. From the moment he plucked that first string he knew he had to be a bluesman, and thinking that this must involve some sort of hat he bought a second-hand fedora before shuffling off to the church hall to give his now legendarily atrocious debut performance. And it was as he was being hurled backwards into the street by the angry congregation that he first came to understand the meaning of the blues. It was all about pain and suffering, and just so long as it was his audience that was suffering most then that would be perfectly ok with him. Despite his obvious lack of talent, Johnson hit the highway, literally playing for his supper - earning a sandwich here, a pickled egg there - as he travelled from town to town. But he knew that this couldn't go on. For one thing, his knees couldn't stand the constant roaming and his backside had never really got used to the rigours of skidding across asphalt as he was tossed out into the road. Either he had to give it up or get better. Robert Johnson had reached a crossroads. No one really knows how Johnson was able to become the most accomplished and highly regarded blues guitarist of all time. Many years after his death the rumour was put about that he had signed some kind of pact with the Devil. The story goes that one night when Johnson was at his lowest ebb the Devil came to him and offered to cut him a deal. In return for the gift of music, 7
Johnson offered up his immortal soul, but the Devil said that he really didn't go in for that sort of thing anymore. Instead, Satan settled for 60% of the worldwide publishing rights and continued to get royalties right up until 1983 when he sold his interest to Sony. However, historians at the Kentucky Institute of Twangology have recently dismissed this story as 'bullshit', claiming that Johnson's sudden musical metamorphosis was all down to the woodworm that lived in his guitar. Tired of Johnson's ham-fisted attempts at musicianship, they figured out how to play the instrument for themselves. And after twenty years of putting up with such a racket, those woodworm really knew the blues. None of this is true, by the way.
It is 1945 and the dark days of the war are finally over. Adolf Hitler's fatal plummet over the Reichenbach Falls has delivered the world from the fiendish machinations of one of the most heinous villains of modern history. With the spectre of armed conflict finally vanquished, the nations of Earth can once more return to a state of peaceful coexistence, cultural intolerance and cold loathing. Nevertheless... The war had exacted a terrible toll. Cities lay in ruins, nations were split asunder, and many years of poverty, austerity and hardship lay ahead. In short, it wasn't much fun for the kids - especially those who were keen to listen to the latest beats. The music scene was in a poor state indeed. There were no charts to speak of, MTV hadn't really got going and Robbie Williams had yet to be invented. Even the records themselves were difficult to come by, as most of the available vinyl had been melted down to make aircraft carriers. The only decent sounds around could be heard in dingy jazz clubs and illegal drinking joints, but these were not the kind of places that teenagers frequented. And quite rightly so. It was a murky underworld of vice and violence; an urban jungle where the only people fit to survive were those with quick wits, sharp eyes and 9
wooden livers. But that was all to change. The decade was drawing to a close, there was a new spirit of optimism in the air, and society was becoming more affluent and cosmopolitan. The turning point finally came when Chuck Berry, a seventeen year old filter cleaner in an Arkansas pickled onion factory, first picked up a steam-driven guitar and invented the fifties. He promptly teamed up with like-minded farmer’s boy, Jerry Lee Lewis, and the two of them set out on the road to rock and roll fame. That road led them to Vegas, where they soon attracted a following. Before very long, their own particular brand of music had spread like wildfire across the globe. Yes! Rock and roll was born. Everywhere the kids were a-shakin’ and a-jivin’ in their own skiffle bands, often making their own makeshift instruments out of tea chests, washing machines and abandoned jet engines from Nazi fighter aircraft. It seemed that with every new week, a new dance craze was born: the twist, the hucklebuck, the popspring and the Hardy reverse shufflestep, to name but those. Everywhere, the kids were getting down and digging it. Those that weren’t already in traction, anyway. However, rock and roll was still very much an underground thing, lacking the widespread appeal and mainstream recognition of other popular teenage pastimes, such as building camp fires, volleyball and
masturbation. That was all to change with the arrival of one man - Elvis. Yes, in 1952 Elvis "Pelvis" Presley was a forty-eight year old crooner doing matinees in a Las Vegas casino. When he heard about Chuck and Jerry, he saw the potential in no time. Within the year he had reinvented himself as a 17 year old rockabilly funkster, wowing oldies and youngsters alike with his electrifying performances on top US televisions shows like the Ed Sullivan Show and The News. He was noted in particular for his shockingly lurid and erotic style of dancing which set teenage girls aflame. In 1953, Congress made it a federal offence for him to appear on television from the waist down, and even as late as 1975, it was still illegal to view Presleyâ€™s arse without the signed permission of a county judge. But, as they say, there's no such thing as bad publicity, and all this attention did Elvis's career no harm at all. Within six months of signing his contract with RCA records, Elvis had eight number one hits - quite a considerable feat when you consider that he only actually released four records in that time. He was also at the centre of an extremely lucrative merchandising boom, lending his name and image not only to the usual run of posters and books, but also Elvis-themed bathroom fittings, Elvis-themed oven mitts and even his own, personally approved brand of Elvis-themed axle grease. Not surprisingly, it was around this time that he began to 11
amass a great fortune, and the rewards and accolades just kept coming. When 'Don't Be Cruel' was released in 1956, Elvis was presented with the key to the city of Baltimore. When 'All Shook Up' stormed up the charts the following year, the people of Maryland set fire to a cow in his honour. And when he scored a number one hit with 'Teddy Bear' he was given Paraguay - a country which is still owned by his estate, and which has become the spiritual homeland to many Elvis fans today. It seemed that everything was going just fine for Elvis, but scandal was lurking just around the corner in the shape of a small church mouse by the name of Colonel Tom Parker. In an interview with a local newspaper in Memphis, Colonel Tom claimed that Elvis couldn't actually sing a note and that he himself was responsible for the distinctive, crooning tones heard on all of Elvis's records. Apparently they'd had a special plinth installed in the studio so that Colonel Tom could stand level with the microphone. And when Elvis played live, Colonel Tom would cling to his shirt, beneath one of his lapels, belting out his greatest hits and occasionally hissing stage directions as Elvis mimed and concentrated on gyrating his pelvis. The story was treated with derision upon its initial publication. This, after all, was the paper that had previously claimed that J Edgar Hoover was made entirely out of papier mĂ˘chĂŠ - a claim which ultimately proved only half correct - and so people were content to take it with a pinch of salt. However, the 12
story received a very public boost when, at a concert later that very same month, Elvis's voice seemed to dry to a barely audible squeak, forcing organisers to cancel the performance barely a third of the way through. His publicist subsequently claimed that Elvis had succumbed to a particularly nasty cold, which had seriously affected his throat, but it seemed that the damage had been done. There were severe doubts about him now, so Elvis decided to lie low for a while and join the army. And it is at this point that we reach one of the most hotly debated chapters of the King's career. The official story of Elvis's time in the army has it that he spent two years in Germany, during which time he peeled a lot of potatoes, learnt to play the banjo and got to drive an amphibious vehicle a couple of times. It's all rather mundane, which is why many people have come to doubt this version of events. And they are right to do so, for now at last the true story can be told. Elvis was in fact a voodoo ninja karate expert, working for the CIA behind enemy lines. During 1958 he was dropped in Russia we're not told how, but some sort of parachute seems to be a likely possibility. Once behind the Iron Curtain he adopted the clever pseudonym 'Elviski' and was thus able to blend in seamlessly with the rest of the populace, sending back coded messages about troop movements and the whereabouts of vodka and furry hats. When Elvis finally returned to civilian life many people believed that he had undergone a noticeable 13
change. Some felt his music had lost its edge; others believed that his persona had mellowed. Some felt that his tendency to speak with a slight Russian burr and call everyone 'comrade' all the time lay at the heart of these subtle changes, and there were plenty who were prepared to entertain the notion that he had been switched with a Russian doppelganger. Whatever the reason, it's true to say that Elvis never recaptured the energy and vigour of his youth. Nevertheless, he became a consummate showman and his regular performances in Vegas were as much about spectacle and pizzazz as they were about music. People would come from all over the world to witness him singing 'Burning Love' whilst juggling different sized fruits and riding a flaming unicycle. And experts were almost universally agreed that his lion taming act was second to none. But sadly, all the circus skills in the world were not enough to save Elvis from a grisly end, and in 1977 he died, fatally, after choking on a toilet. Elvis was no more, and his fans would forever grieve his passing. The King was dead... Or was he? Maybe, just maybe, Elvis is still out there, using his voodoo cybernetic space karate skills to right wrongs, to protect the innocent and to fight for justice in a world in which one man can rarely make a difference. Today, still wanted by the government, he might just survive as a soldier of fortune. So if you have a problem, if no one else
can help, and if you can find him, maybe you can hire... Elvis. Probably. None of this is true, by the way.
The Beatles may have become the biggest band in the world, but John, Paul, George and Ringo started out as four travelling fishmongers from the sleepy fishing town of Liverpool on England's North West coast. Collectively they travelled the length and breadth of the UK, dispensing the freshest cod, whitebait and haddock to grateful housewives from the back of their colourfully painted Magical Mystery Van. But it wasn't just fish they supplied. Oh no. They did cockles and whelks as well. Oh yes, and they also did Rock and Roll! Influenced by the latest sounds from America, the 'Rollmop Tops', as they came to be known, rearranged, reinterpreted and eventually pioneered a whole new beat. Soon fans were flocking to see them as they toured the country, won over by their boyish good looks, their cheeky Liverpudlian humour, and their excellently priced plaice. It was only a matter of time before they were given the opportunity to make a record, and their first album, Please Please Me, was a top notch poperoony smash - thanks in no small measure to the free portion of hake given away with the first two thousand copies. Subsequent albums were promoted with similar offers: pilchards in brine came free with Beatles for Sale; a selection of prawns were shrink-wrapped to the cover of Help!; and Sergeant Pepper had crabs. 16
The Beatles became regular residents of EMI's Abbey Road Studios, where the smell of creativity was always in the air. Not just creativity, in fact. Other artists always knew that whenever the stale odour of fish swept through the building, it meant that the Beatles were once more pushing back the barriers of rock and roll fishmongering in studio 2. They were driven by a sort of restless energy. That same verve and vigour that had once urged them to sell slightly dodgy wet fish to unsuspecting middle-aged housewives from the back of a van, was now leading them in new and more exciting musical directions. From the very outset it had been obvious that they were different from the majority of their peers in the retail trade - even the man in the butcher's had said so - but now their creativity was bursting at the seams. The pressures of running a fish van was becoming too much, and so, during a tour of the US, they decided to call it a day. Their last pitch was outside Candlestick Park in San Francisco, where they sold three turbots to a man called Barry. Returning home, the Beatles sold their van to invest in a new fish restaurant in Soho. It was a bold new direction for the group, but ultimately it was doomed to failure, as Paul McCartney explains: "What we wanted to do was open a new kind of fish restaurant. A restaurant founded on the ideals of the sixties - community, opportunity, brotherhood and a 17
wide selection of exotic sauces. But we were very na誰ve. Oh, we knew all about fish, there's no doubting that. John knew more about bream than any man of his generation, and what George couldn't tell you about salmon simply wasn't worth knowing. As for Ringo, his tuna impressions made him an overnight star, and are still talked about today in parts of Finland, where the nights are long and they haven't got cable. But we weren't really businessmen. Sure, we knew all about pocketing change, and understood the value of a well placed thumb on a scale, but when it came to managing a restaurant we were all at sea. The trouble is, when people see you floundering like that - no pun intended well, they're quick to nip in and take advantage. And we were taken advantage of something rotten. People would just come in, order fish, then leave without paying for it. Usually they'd take the cutlery as well, sometimes the salt and pepper, occasionally the tables, the chairs and even the pictures off the wall. We were gutted. Literally." The Beatles suddenly found that their company was haemorrhaging money at an alarming rate. Drastic measures were needed to remedy the situation, so business managers were called in. They decided that the best way of preventing property and cash from going missing was to nail the doors shut. However, the pilferers were not to be deterred, and built an elaborate network of tunnels beneath the restaurant so that stolen goods could be spirited away without anyone even 18
realising it. The group finally recognised that something had to be done when Ringo was stolen. Police were alerted and a nationwide manhunt ensued. George Harrison eventually found him at a jumble sale in Cambridge. The big nosed drummer was hungry, confused, but relatively unscathed, and a snip at only 11s 4d. Controversially, the decision was taken to abandon the fish restaurant and turn it into a laundrette. Although it was seen as a risky move at the time, it turned out to be a tremendous success, and 'Beatleclean' is still in business today. But if the group failed to make ripples in the business world, their music more than made up for it. Perhaps characteristically, their most influential and experimental work came as a result of adverse circumstances. For some time, musicians and technicians at Abbey Road had complained of the overpowering stench of fish from the Beatles' studio. EMI bosses were under pressure to remedy the situation, but didn't want to offend their most lucrative artists. And so, for a while, they got into the habit of dropping hints wherever and whenever they could: hanging air fresheners in corridors, leaving deodorant in the studio, and so on. The Beatles, however, failed to get the message until one young executive, driven to desperation by the pong, forsook any attempt at tact and told John Lennon that he stank like a trawlerman's butt crack. 19
And so the Beatles reluctantly agreed that, henceforth, they would record on the roof. Happily, once they were out in the open, they felt a sense of freedom, and were better able to experiment with their music. Most of the Beatles' later psychedelic output was recorded on various rooftops in and around London, as they battled with gales, downpours, hailstorms and the terrifying and ever-present threat of pigeon shit bombardment. Indeed, they felt so at home up there, that they rarely ever came down. They had a network of walkways built, leading from rooftop to rooftop, so they could wander the length and breadth of the capital, without ever having to set foot on the pavements below. But whilst it was undoubtedly their most creative time, it was also the beginning of the end for the Beatles. Cut off from the rest of the world, the inevitable tension inside the group began to grow, spiralling out of control. Their final album (Abbey Road, initial copies of which came with a free commemorative mahogany lobster) was recorded on top of the Beatleclean building in just ten minutes, and subsequently elongated in the studio by physically stretching the tape. The Beatles went their separate ways. John Lennon forgot all about fish and moved to New York where he surrounded himself with small mammals and the occasional lizard. Paul McCartney went on to have a very successful solo career as a heating engineer, regularly fixing boilers in front of capacity crowds in stadia all over the world. George 20
Harrison stayed on the rooftops, singing ancient European sea shanties for lost mariners. And Ringo currently runs a jellied eel stall in Camberwell, where he does a roaring trade at the weekends. None of this is true, by the way.
The Rolling Stones
Had you been at Dartford railway station that fateful frosty morning in 1960 you would have witnessed the meeting that spawned what is arguably the world's greatest rock and roll band. At one end of the platform, Michael Phillip Jagger - lean, sinewy, with the poise and deportment of the ballet dancer he could have been had he not been ejected from the Gloria Body School of Interpretive dance for beating up a storm trooper during an end of term production of The Sound of Music. Standing opposite, Keith Thunderball Richards, lieutenant colonel in the 4thDistrict Wolf Cubs, trained in unarmed combat, deadly at fifty paces with a liquorice bootlace and fizzing at the mouth after an overdose of sherbet lemons. There was something in the air that morning, a buzz of electricity, a crackle of static and the smell of pig guts from a nearby pie factory. Slowly, warily, Mick and Keith approached each other, eyes narrowed, hot breath boiling through the cold November air, footsteps ringing shrilly across the stone platform, the tension palpable in the air until Richards tripped over a pigeon and landed on the track in front of the speeding 7.15 to Charing Cross. The driver slammed on the brakes but the result was inevitable. There was chaos - smoke and flame everywhere, the station littered with broken glass and 22
bits of train, passengers running to and fro, shouting and screaming and complaining that the buffet car wasn't open. But, miraculously, Richards pulled himself from the wreckage and casually sauntered off, smouldering slightly but otherwise unruffled. And although at the time he shrugged it off by explaining that he was wearing a particularly well-padded anorak, this became just the first of many incidents to suggest that Mr Keith Cannonball Richards was indestructible. Once Richards' ears had stopped ringing, he and Jagger started recruiting a band, teaming up with professional spoon player Brian Jones and, with the aid of a metal detector, finding bassist Bill Wyman hidden under a tarpaulin in a church hall in Stepney. Now all they needed was a drummer, whom they eventually discovered in the form of Charlie Watts, a Jazz Monkey who played with the Regents Park Zoo All Stars, and whom they signed up in return for a handful of bananas and a plastic bowler hat. At this point the band still didn't have a name; and so on the eve of their first gig Brian Jones picked one at random from a gardening catalogue. 'Biodegradable Mulch' was born and the band kept this moniker up until 1978 when they had to change it to 'The Rolling Stones' for horticultural reasons. That first performance made a great impression on the audience at the Marquee Club. And equally the Marquee Club made a great impression on Keith Richards when a section of the ceiling came 23
down and buried him beneath a pile of masonry. There was a horrified silence as the dust settled and one young lady even dropped her choc ice, but in typical fashion Keith emerged from the rubble, shook the plaster from his hair and carried on playing. As the band became more popular, young girls would come to Stones concerts to immerse themselves in the raw hedonistic power of the music and swoon at Mick's naked sexuality, whilst their boyfriends would take pot shots at the seemingly immortal Mr Richards and see if they could knock bits off. After fifty years of touring Keith's battered and cratered face became testament to the continual barrage of assorted ordinance, but never once did anyone ever come close to stopping him in his tracks. Not that there haven't been a few close calls. During the 1972 US tour Keith caught fire and burnt to the ground. He had to be refurbished, only to suffer subsidence when he was reopened to the public six months later. And in 1978 he was struck by a meteorite, an experience which he described some time later as being 'a pain in the hole'. Such events have accorded him legendary status: for instance, he provided the inspiration for the famous fictional pirate Captain Pugwash. And as the Stones continue to draw huge audiences, a recent Freedom of Information request revealed that their lead guitar player, Keith Tyrannosaurus Richards, was the chief test subject used 24
in the development of the most powerful substance known to man, Cillit Bang. None of this is true, by the way.
Patently Untrue Rock Facts
Def Leppard adopted their name in tribute to their first manager, Geoff Shepherd. Robbie Williams is the only member of Take That who knows how to make a soufflĂŠ. Will.I.Am can speak thirty-three languages, but only understands five. Original pressings of Genesis's Nursery Cryme album were made of sponge and soaked in Pepsi. It could be rung out into a bucket for a refreshing treat between sides. Mott the Hoople used to be incurable before the discovery of penicillin. Lou Reed is David Bowie's imaginary friend. There are three different types of rocks: igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic. (Note, this is probably the wrong type of rock fact). The Beatles hold the record for the most consecutive weeks spent at No 1 Acacia Avenue, Leytonstone. Elvis Presley was allergic to Tuesdays. Record players weren't invented until five years after the invention of the vinyl record. Officially, CD players still don't exist.
Simon and Garfunkel
Today Paul Simon is regarded as one of the world's greatest songwriters, but it would be more accurate to say that he is the world's worst draughtsman. It's not just that he's bad - he's dangerous, as his history of pencilrelated injuries would attest. According to Dr Robert Zimmerman, chief paediatrician at the Kings County Hospital and author of the bestselling 101 Things Found Wedged Up Celebrities, the infant Simon was forever being rushed into the emergency room after impaling himself on some apparently harmless writing implement whilst trying to draw a dinosaur. At least when he was younger he was only ever a danger to himself. Once he had embarked on a career drawing up plans for a firm of architects, it would be construction workers who risked life and limb as they desperately tried to work from his confused and disorderly etchings. The resulting structures often emerged as monstrosities of form and function, with rooms that were impossible to access, staircases leading nowhere and all in imminent danger of collapse. And in the case of at least one example of his work, experts have concluded from studies of its nightmarish topography and twisting, reality-bending floor plan, that the building doesn't actually exist within normal three-dimensional 27
space and is more akin to something from an Escher drawing. And so Simon's architectural blueprints were thought to be entirely useless until a friend happened to notice that if you squinted at them sideways they resembled a musical score. Furthermore, when he played it on a penny whistle and tambourine, it didn't sound half bad. Paul Simon's perceptive friend was none other than Art Garfunkel. Until 1962 Garfunkel had been a verb*, meaning to sway softly in the breeze, in the manner of a stick of corn or a tall tree. However, in November of that year he finally became a fully-fledged person, with arms and legs and teeth and everything. Together Simon and Garfunkel decided to form a duo - a practical decision since as there were only two of them a quartet would have been a stretch and a choir would have been out of the question. With Garfunkel playing his trademark penny whistle, washboard and tambourine, and Simon on protractor and set square, they soon chalked up a run of chart hits. 'Cecilia', based on the plans of a rural library, peaked at number 6, whilst 'At the Zoo' began life as an out of town factory unit. But their first number one was actually an extension to a small cement works in Michigan, which many music lovers will know better as 'The Sound of Silence'. Success then followed thick and fast, including arguably their most famous song, 'Bridge Over Troubled Water', which 28
was adapted from the plans for a cantilever bridge on the Delaware. However, by the end of the sixties their relationship was beginning to sour. Garfunkel was irritated at the musical direction that his partner seemed to be taking and Simon was becoming annoyed at Garfunkel not putting the milk back in the fridge. They decided to go their separate ways but then tragically, whilst attending an event at the Brooklyn Center for Advanced Boffinry, they wandered into a secure area, got caught up in a teleportation experiment and were inextricably merged into a single organism. The new creature, the Simongarfunkel, contained elements of the original duo, combining Simon's uncanny ineptitude with a pencil with Garfunkel's extraordinary ability to play the spoons. Sadly the Simongarfunkel still professed to have musical differences with itself and attempted to pursue two distinct careers. The Garfunkel half enjoyed some success as a film actor but the constant presence of Simon on the set - and indeed, in the shot proved to be a problem for most directors. The Simon half continued to enjoy success as a songwriter, frequently travelling the world to draw inspiration from the architecture of other cultures. But ultimately the strain of maintaining two different identities became too much and in 1994 the Simongarfunkel retreated to Graceland, former royal residence of the Burger King, where it now spends its time lurking in the basement, 29
emerging only occasionally for pretzels, ink cartridges and reunion tours. None of this is true, by the way.
*He Garfunkels, They Garfunkel, I have Garfunkeled.
Hawkwind were a space rock band from the planet Regulo 5 who came to Earth in a Silver Machine to teach the human race about universal love, galactic harmony and NVQ Level 2 bricklaying. Taking their name from the excessive flatulence that characterises their species, the band rapidly gained a following thanks to their soaring riffs, exotic sci-fi themed lyrics and special twofor one offers on masonry tools. From the very beginning the band knew that they would have to adopt human form in order to gain acceptance, but on more than one occasion their gigs ended in panic and confusion when Dave Brock's human face mask slipped. Subsequently the band employed basic shape-shifting techniques and the often random nature of these transformations has gone some way to explaining the varying line-up down the years. Although the band worked steadily throughout the early seventies, it wasn't until 1975 that they released their breakthrough album, Warrior on the Edge of Time, a collaboration with the celebrated sci-fi author Enid Blyton. Blyton, a notoriously difficult person to work with, frequently downed a bottle of scotch before breakfast, constantly demanded exotic fruits and fine Cuban cigars and would often prefer to engage the band in arm wrestling contests rather than knuckle down and 31
do some work. At this point in her career she had been dead for seven years and this inclined to make her a little cranky in the mornings. Nevertheless, in spite of the constant fights and the police raids, she still managed to turn in one or two interesting lyrics and played bass on 'The Wizard Blew His Horn.' Distracted by their success, the band allowed their spaceship to fall into the hands of a private firm who back-engineered the technology and developed the hover mower. A lengthy court case ensued and the band ultimately secured a royalty payment on all future sales. They also regained their ship in time to be recalled to their home planet, which was threatened with destruction following the instigation of a phase shift in its sun which would ultimately cause it to implode. Hawkwind managed to hollow out the core of their world and fit anti-gravitational gyroscopic space motors, which enabled them to steer it out of harm's way. Returning to Earth they played the Marquee to a packed audience on September 17th 1979. The following year was the start of a period of unrest for the band. In March Steve Swindells found a cloning machine, copied himself six hundred times and left to form the world's biggest solo act. The band also went through a succession of drummers until they eventually discovered Keith K-412, a synthesised robotic musician that had been developed especially for them by Professor Jez Moonbeam. The robot featured on the 32
band's next album, Sonic Attack, and Moonbeam himself accompanied it on the subsequent tour in order to change its oil, lubricate its pulleys and polish its nuts. Despite the robot having a twelve month parts and labour guarantee, the band was unsure about its reliability particularly after it started picking up interference from a local minicab firm at a gig in South London. Three days later it went haywire at a festival in Wiltshire, where it smashed up a beer tent, overturned a trailer and ate a dog before someone finally wrestled it to the ground and pulled out its batteries. The robot was subsequently dismantled, although there are unconfirmed reports that its CPU was recycled and is currently being used by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs to calculate tax returns. None of this is true, by the way.
No one would have believed in the last years of the 1960s that human affairs were being watched from the timeless worlds of space. No one could have dreamed that we were being scrutinized as someone with a microscope studies creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. And yet, across the gulf of space, a mind immeasurably superior to ours regarded this Earth with envious eyes, and slowly, and surely, he drew his plans against usâ€Ś
David Bowie fell to Earth in 1969 and promptly set about laying waste to human civilisation with his powerful heat ray. Oh, the humanity. However, when it was explained to him that this sort of thing was terribly bad form, he realised his faux pas and turned the whole thing in. Everybody was very good about it, they all had a bit of a laugh and everyone was the best of friends. Today a blue plaque commemorates the spot on Horsell Common where his first victim was vaporised. Instead of enslaving our planet, Bowie instead captured our hearts with his zany knockabout antics, wry cheeky grin and fully charged disintegrator pistol. Wherever he went audiences welcomed him with open arms and invited him to satisfy his insatiable alien bloodlust by feasting on their first born children. By now 34
Bowie had read a book on etiquette and so would politely decline the offer, telling them he had already had a boiled egg that morning. His audiences were always aghast at his dextrous juggling, but more than a little apprehensive when he wheeled out his laser powered nuclear mindpump and transmogrified the first three rows into giant intergalactic mutant spider people. Nevertheless Bowie was still confused when people screamed in panic as he rolled into town. After all, he was no monster, just a big fluffy bunny. Not literally, of course. Not like the vampire space rabbits of Praxis 6 who would rip your face off for the mere whiff of a space carrot. So Bowie did what anybody would do in his position â€“ he commissioned an opinion poll and found that over half his sample couldnâ€™t tell him from butter and that only 3% would be prepared to swap him for two of their usual brand. Bowie went off to have a word with his marketing people and found that his publicists - a firm called J, J, J and Jay, possibly because of some typewriter malfunction - were continuing to bill him as an alien warlord. 'David Bowie at the Royal Pavilion', screamed the posters. 'Be there or be imploded.' Bowie sued the company for damages. He was incapable of violence, he told the court, the heat ray misunderstanding notwithstanding. The judge sympathised with him but when her deliberations went on for too long he grew impatient and had her eradicated. 35
The court case signalled a new era in Bowie's career and he felt free to experiment with more exotic musical forms, such as releasing an album of high pitched shrieking which only dogs could hear, or a concept album which occupied six dimensional space and which you had to place your ears into two different planes of existence in order to appreciate. His work polarised critics, electrified his audience, magnetised the establishment and irradiated Mrs Doreen Wellsby of Stornoway. Meanwhile, Bowie went on to further fame and fashion, married a china girl called Blue Jean and settled down to become a diamond dog breeder in Suffragette City. None of this is true, by the way.
What is 'Music'? Professor Jez Moonbeam, lifelong Hawkwind aficionado and the inventor of automatic solar-powered salad tongs, explores mankind's continuing quest to understand this mystical art form.
Music comes in all shapes, sizes and colours, except green. No one has yet invented a truly environmentally friendly piece of music, even though teams of highly qualified hippies have been working on the problem for many years. And that's a real bummer. But what we're concerned with here are the big questions. What exactly is music? How can it have the power to evoke so much emotion? Why does some of it make people sick and what is the cure for Justin Bieber? Well I can't answer the last question - not ethically, anyway - but I can enlighten you about some of the other stuff. For many years it was believed that music was something intangible, something that could not be studied and quantified scientifically. Like something real cosmic, you know. But in 1742 Wolfgang Moonbeam, my ancestor and something of a dude, devised the theory that music was constructed of discrete elements, in much the same way that ordinary matter such as cheese or polystyrene is made up of individual particles of grit or fluff . His ideas were dismissed as 'poppycock', a scientific term peculiar to the eighteenth century which was generally applied to any theory that was 37
outlandish and thought to be incapable of being proven. In today's language we might use the term 'hokum', 'balderdash' or the standard SI unit of theoretical plausibility, 'bollocks'. Uncle Wolfgang 's theory was seen as extremely unlikely indeed, and today would probably measure something like seven or eight on the Bollock Scale, which is a lot of bollocks indeed. Added to this there was a certain animosity directed at Wolfgang because he was essentially a trombone player (which in those days was not seen as a proper science) and as such he had no business theorising about things that didn't concern him. And if all that wasn't enough of a drag, the year before he had performed an unauthorised experiment on a goose and the scandal had been blown out of all proportion. As indeed had the goose. Nevertheless, Wolfgang was cool about the whole deal and spent his remaining years - eight, in fact - trying to identify discrete particles of music by employing a special technique which he called 'listening very carefully'. He failed and died penniless and destitute, although this was less to do with his musical pursuits and more to do with his decision to invest his life savings in an outlandish scheme to breed clockwork pigs. Wolfgang's theory would have died with him had it not been for the work of Ernest Saleri, an extremely funky physicist and quantum flute player who, in 1962, revived this 38
long-forgotten two hundred year old theory. Based on really amazing developments in digital sound physics and his own work on the particle-wave duality of jazz, Salieri decided to see if there was any truth in this wild idea. To this end he put a string quartet into a centrifuge and spun it up in attempt to break everything down into its component parts. What he got was a lot of smashed up instruments, some barely recognisable mushy bits and four life sentences for murder, to run concurrently. But although his methods were dubious, he was one smart feller, because he was thinking along the right lines. For the last six years scientists have been trying to break music down into its component atoms by placing a saxophone into a particle accelerator and firing high velocity trumpets at it. Using this technique they identified individual particles of melody and tone, but for a long time the long-predicted 'rhythm boson' remained elusive. However, in January of this year scientists finally declared that they had found it. And it was blue. In fact the announcement was made on the very same day that a genetics laboratory in Aberdeen declared that it had created the world's first clockwork pig. So it seems that Uncle Wolfy was vindicated on both counts.
Since their formation in 1967 as the result of a chemical spillage at the London School of Economics, Pink Floyd has always been known as a highly experimental group. Initially eschewing the traditional bourgeois notion of using instruments, they instead experimented by banging sticks together, stroking rocks and rubbing dead leaves and bits of twig into their hair. The original creative backbone was Syd Barrett, well known amongst the residents of Chiswick for having a bike that people could ride if they liked. He didn't live in Chiswick but he invariably left his bike there. After recruiting rally driver Nick Mason, keyboard manipulator Richard Wright and bassist Roger Waters, whom Barrett discovered when he was building a wall for his parents' new kitchen extension, the band very soon began to get noticed. They were noticed mostly in shopping centres, and occasionally in cafes. Occasionally they got noticed on the bus, but then when you're going around with leaves in your hair, stroking rocks and banging sticks together, it's almost inevitable that people will notice you sooner or later. However, it was when they began to get noticed on stage that things really started to take off. At previous performances their audience tended to ignore them, only 40
occasionally taking an interest long enough to ask them to keep the noise down. This newfound fame sparked a change of direction, generally away from the Jobcentre and towards places where they could spend their cash. They also felt that they had exhausted the dead foliage and granite approach and started to experiment with foodstuffs. Barrett composed a 20 minute-long 'trifle' opus which became a favourite with audiences for many years, and Wright's frenetic pork chop solo cemented their reputation as musical innovators. Chart success quickly followed with tracks like 'Careful With That Paxo, Eugene' and the much loved 'Set the Controls for Gas Mark 5'. But fame came at a cost when, as a result of a badly filed tax return, the Inland Revenue declared that Syd Barrett did not exist. Barrett left the band in shame to be replaced by legendary axe hero David Gilmour. Quite how a lumberjack of his standing got involved with an innovative rock band is something that we must put down to a quirk of fate. What we do know is that Gilmour put down his axe, picked up a guitar and never felled a tree again (except for a charity gig in 1982 when he cut down a beech with a Gibson). The introduction of a guitar was a turning point for Pink Floyd. The other members decided to stop twatting about with groceries and started playing real instruments, although Wright would still use a fish finger keyboard as late as 1976. As it happens, 1976 would turn 41
out to be a notable year for another reason, as it was then that the music press revealed that drummer Nick Mason was a character from a 1950s pulp detective novel. Like Barrett before him he was forced out of the band for not being real. The band coped with this loss by throwing themselves into their work, producing the album Animals - performed, as the title suggests, using only animals. David Gilmour abandoned his familiar Strat and chose instead to play a dog which he open tuned in G. Waters experimented with three different types of Pig and Wright invented the 'sheep-cordian', an instrument which has since been banned by a special session of the European Court of Ovine Rights. This was to be Richard Wright's last contribution to the group, as it was subsequently discovered that he was a figment of his Uncle Clarence's imagination. Gilmour and Waters recorded one more album as a two piece before the record company found out they were both holograms and decided to pull the plug. It was an ignoble end to a great band, but it didn't stop them reuniting for one final performance at the Live 8 concert in 2005, when they appeared as the only fictional band on the bill. None of this is true, by the way.
When Tony Iommi was a widdle boy he ate rock and roll, slept rock and roll, breathed 100% enriched premium grade rock and roll. There was nothing he wanted more than to strut across a stage thrashing out power chords on his wailing axe; nothing he yearned for greater than to be revered by a baying crowd sent into paroxysm of ecstasy by the sheer awesomeness of his legendary technique. So it came as something as a disappointment to him when he left school and went to work on the night shift in a West Midlands pudding factory. Minding the flan pumps and overseeing the syrup deliveries were about as far away from music as you could get, and so Iommi would often slope off to some deserted part of the factory to practice his fingering technique on a Swiss roll. Often he would just sit behind the cream silos in the fudge packing room and dream of the big time as he watched the night sky pass through midnight phases of blue and purple and jet black. He would hear the hypnotic hooting of barn owls and catch glimpses of their shining eyes through the grubby factory window as their dark silhouettes hopped from tree to tree. But there was always one that sounded different. It seemed bigger, louder and curiously more rock and roll. Then finally one night he caught a fleeting glimpse as it swept past the window, dressed in just its underpants 43
and with its hair on fire. Shaped like a man, it moved like an owl and smelt like a tractor, and over successive nights Iommi managed to tempt it closer with handfuls of pilfered chocolate sprinkles. Over time he struck up a rapport with the shambling, wide-eyed creature, which he nicknamed 'Ozzy'. Abandoned as a child, Ozzy had been raised by a wise old owl called Hooty Mange Feather and now had a fear of the colour blue and was allergic to Smurfs. Like Iommi he also had a complete set of Topps football cards except for Charlie George of Derby County, and so Iommi asked Ozzy to join his new band, Black Sabbath. But then tragedy struck one night when Iommi was working on the cake lathe - an unstable ingot of suet exploded and took off the ends of his fingers. The talented guitarist thought that he would never weld a Belgian bun again until, in a moment of sheer genius, he managed to fashion replacement finger tips from some trifle sponges. He was back in the game. Or at least he was until his kneecaps were crushed a few days later as he was unloading a length of profiterole from a flatbed truck. Ever resourceful, Iommi made himself a pair of jelly knees, and it was perhaps no surprise that an increase in what doctors call 'wobbliness' subsequently caused him to topple over and get dragged into the custard press. He managed to struggle free, but not without losing a foot, although he was competent enough
by now to improvise a replacement with half a chocolate ĂŠclair and some liquorice bootlaces. By the end of the month Iommi's run of bad luck meant that he was almost 70% cake and as he was rapidly approaching his sell-by date his employers had no option but to let him go. Fortunately, Iommi's long nights of planning and practicing were about to pay off with the release of Black Sabbath's first album. It was an instant hit with music lovers and ornithologists alike and since that time most of the band has never looked back, with the exception of Ozzy who can rotate his head 270Â° and so consequently tends to do that kind of thing rather a lot. None of this is true, by the way.
The year is 1740 and a mysterious figure arrives in the court of Louis XV. Baron Frederique Von Mercury is an artist, musician and alchemist of some considerable reputation. He has travelled widely, lived amongst many different peoples and claims to speak over 200 languages. His three friends are all equally remarkable gentlemen: the celebrated physician Roget Taylor, astrologer and philosopher Dr Byron May and 'Deacy', a man of considerable intellect with a passion for contriving devices from bits of tin and springs and elastic bands and stuff. Collectively they travel under the name Queen but who are these mystical figures? Where do they come from? And is there any truth to the rumours that they are over five hundred years old and can count history's most powerful men amongst their closest acquaintances? One thing is certain: they delight the court with their whimsical songs and their many wild and exotic talents. Baron Mercury rapidly earns a reputation as a fascinating conversationalist and it is often said that he can talk the hind legs off a donkey - a trick he performs many times at dinner, until popular opinion decrees that this is cruel to donkeys and inconvenient for the poor sods who have to drag the befuddled and legless creatures out of the dining room. 46
Roget Taylor, on the other hand, causes quite a stir by compiling a reference book of synonyms although he feels that the book is incomplete as he never managed to find another word for 'thesaurus'. Dr May, it is rumoured, had personally cast a horoscope for none other than Gallileo, which predicted that an unexpected relationship was on the horizon, his lucky number was nine and that Tuesday would be a good day to do the Fandango. Deaky, meanwhile, claims to have taught Vivaldi to play the spoons, a move which exerts considerable influence over the future development of European classical music. But there are also dark mutterings of a more sinister nature. For example, it is alleged that Baron Mercury had assassinated the French King Henry IV and had afterwards confessed to his mother that he had just killed a man. Perhaps such unsavoury rumours are the reason they never stay in one place for very long. They arrive in a swirl of publicity, whip up a cyclone of excitement, then move on leaving nothing behind but faded t-shirts, dog-eared souvenir programmes and other assorted items of official merchandise. For today's musicologists, piecing together their movements is not easy, although we do know that the band have cropped up at regular intervals over the last few centuries. Here is a moderately amusing and lazily written list of those appearances:
• In 1789 Baron Mercury went into partnership with Luigi Galvani, the Italian physicist, opening a restaurant specialising in frogs' legs which ultimately failed when they were unable to pay their electricity bill. • In 1812 Taylor worked with Jane Austin on the initial draft of Pride and Prejudice, although his contributions were excised from the final manuscript, including the car chase and the bits with the flying saucer. • In 1879 Karl Benz enlisted the help of Dr May in developing the first automobile. Benz developed the engine, built the gearbox, refined the chassis and pioneered the ignition system. May put the stripe down the side. • In 1921 Deaky discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen and hid behind the sarcophagus for a year until Howard Carter arrived, just so that he could leap out and shout 'boo'. • And it is well known that Captain Robert Scott was considerably surprised upon reaching the South Pole to find that not only had Amundsen beat him to it, but Queen had played a concert there the week before. Yeah, lists are easy. discovered spandex and
Anyhow, in 1970 Queen black nail varnish and 48
astonished a whole new generation. But are we any closer to knowing where they came from? A cabalistic cult from the middle ages? Maybe. Pioneering geniuses from the age of enlightenment? Possibly. Immortal warriors from another world struggling to reach the time of The Gathering? Almost certainly not. My money's on Dagenham. None of this is true, by the way.
At the last count there were over four hundred thousand Osmonds and it wasn't so long ago that there was genuine fear that they would overrun the planet. Thankfully we now know that the population has reached equilibrium. The Osmonds were first discovered working in a barbershop by the impresario Snippy McAlister. Formerly a top stylist, McAlister had by this time hung up his curling tongs and moved into management, grooming many a promising young hairdresser for success. It was McAlister who first spotted Jeff Lynne giving feather cuts in an experimental salon in Carnaby Street; and had it not been for McAlister's eye for talent the world might still be unaware of Meatloaf's legendary blow wave. Right from the get-go it was clear that the Osmonds could pull a crowd, with people coming from all over the country to see them give a short back and sides. Gradually they started to play some of the bigger hairdressing festivals and it wasn't long before they were topping the bill. In the beginning there were only six Osmonds Merril, Jaye, Donny, Beaky, Mick and Titch - and quite often there would be arguments over curlers, or fights about thinning scissors. Mostly these were just minor 50
spats that amounted to little, but in time resentment grew. Things finally got out of hand at the National Wig Convention in 1971 when, just after the group went on for the second half of their set, a badly wired hairdryer exploded in Jaye's hand. There was widespread panic as the local hair brigade rushed to the scene and made the appliance safe. Jaye suffered seven degree burns, one more than the recommended dose, and doctors proclaimed that he would never drive a tractor again. The official story was that the group had been sabotaged by a rival salon but Snippy McAlister knew that it had to be an inside job. The Osmonds and their entourage were consumed with suspicion as the blame was variously placed on individual members. But when the smoking screwdriver was eventually discovered in Beaky's dressing room, he could no longer deny his guilt. Beaky was ejected from the group, a decision he took extremely badly and he swore to avenge himself by wiping out his brothers with a diabolical death ray. The episode was something of a setback for Osmonds and heralded a period of reflection, particularly for Donny who opened a mirror shop. They didn't perform in public again for another six months and when they finally reemerged they took a radical new direction. Hairdressing, they decided, was old hat. Whilst they were growing up Solly 'Scissors' Shapney, Colin 'Three Fingers' Phillips and indeed Snippy McAlister himself were all big stars. Kids looked up to them as heroes, had posters all over 51
their bedroom walls and collected their bubble gum cards. But this was the seventies, the music scene was where it was at and the Osmonds knew that they would have to adapt. It wasn't easy. Music and cutting hair might seem like two sides of the very same coin but in reality they were actually very different and at first Meryl found it very difficult to resist the temptation to drag members of the front row up on stage and treat them to a buzz cut. As for Beaky, well to date he has not made good on this threat to vaporise his former band mates, variously excusing himself by saying that he couldn't get the parts for his death ray or that the financing had fallen through. Nevertheless, he is remembered today chiefly as the 'Evil Osmond', and was last heard of attempting recruit henchmen in East Asia via a reality show called North Korea's Got Villains. None of this is true, by the way.
Patently Untrue Rock Facts
John Lennon was once arrested for wearing a loud jumper in a built up area after 7pm. Like ship captains, lead singers are legally empowered to conduct marriage services. Bass players can do Christenings. Roy Orbison invented the tin opener. Initial pressings of Blondie's Parallel Lines came without a hole in the middle - this had to be purchased separately. Deep Purple's classic Smoke on the Water was written in Montreux after Richie Blackmore's chip pan caught fire. Tears for Fears recorded their third album by accident - they were actually trying to invent a new kind of toaster. Ronnie Wood is the world's fastest guitar player. His licks are regularly clocked at speeds of over 90mph and have to be slowed down before they can be used in a recording. Elton John has the world's largest collection of antique socks. 'Metallica' spelt backwards is 'Trumpet'. Oddly, 'Trumpet' spelt backwards is 'minestrone'. Scientists cannot explain this. Led Zeppelin is the only band to have been assigned its own postcode.
The Great Vinyl Shortage
It's astonishing to think that because of the international vinyl shortage no records were pressed in 1972. Vinyl, as we all learnt at school, is made from cuckoo spit and nail polish remover and several factors conspired in '72 to make this a particularly rare commodity. Firstly the rocketing cost of oil meant that many people were turning away from traditional forms of transport and embracing alternatives such as the pogo stick and the space hopper. This of course was wonderful news for the environment, as well as being awfully good for the knees, but as cuckoo spit is the chief ingredient of space hoppers it contributed to the shortage. Add to this the increasingly refined behaviour sweeping through the cuckoo population which prevented all but the most socially unaware members of the species from gobbing everywhere and it became clear that a shortage would be inevitable. Actually, it isn't strictly true that no new records were pressed in this year. There was in fact an obscure, extremely limited edition run of a Fleetwood Mac single, but even then vinyl remained so scarce that the disc only had one side. In desperation record companies turned to recycling old records, although the process wasn't always effective and results were variable. Even with today's technology, recycling old records is quite a difficult 54
technique. Many people think that it's just a question of melting them down and reusing the vinyl, but these people are gits and don't know nothing about the intricacies of complex audio-chemical processes. Vinyl is what is known as 'aurally porous' a highly technical phrase that has just been made up by music scientists for the purpose of this article. What it means is that it will retain sound, even in its molten state, so that any new records pressed with the recycled material will contain traces of the old recordings. You can actually hear this effect on some of the records that were released at that time. For instance, if you listen very carefully to Donny Osmond's 'Puppy Love', you can distinctly hear several bars of 'How Much is that Doggy in the Window'. Chuck Berry's 'My Ding-a-Ling' has trace elements of both 'Rama Lama Ding Dong' and 'Who Put the Bomp (in the Bomp, Bomp, Bomp)', and 'You Wear is Well' by Rod Stewart is briefly enlivened by a few lines from 'Where Did You Get That Hat?' To try and remove this unwanted music, various anti-melody agents were mixed in with the molten vinyl to break the bonds between individual notes. This action would be repeated several times in a process known as 'remixing' which has given rise to the modern term 'remix', meaning a track which has been repeatedly tampered with until none of its original substance remains. The final result was an acoustic slurry which, after being heated to boiling point, passed through a 55
centrifuge then filtered through a sock, could be used to make new records. But even then the process wasn't always a complete success and it was still possible to hear George Formby cropping up during an Eric Clapton solo, or Bing Crosby interfering with Freddie Mercury's mezzo-soprano. Indeed, it is now something of a fad amongst musical archaeologists to re-examine pressings from this era and carefully strip away the surface music to reveal lost gems from an earlier age hidden beneath. It was just this method that led to the discovery of several previously unheard Buddy Holly songs, an alternative 24hour clock version of Bill Hailey's 'Rock Around the Clock', and a fascinating spoken word recording of Winston Churchill pissed out of his head and shouting at Lady Astor. None of this is true, by the way.
Originating in the UK in the early 70s, glam rock is stylistically hard to pin down. That is, until you realise that it's all about the trousers. In the sixties Marc Bolan was a mawkish, waiflike hippy, constantly under the threat of being crushed by his own acne. In the seventies he discovered spandex loon pants, formed T-Rex and suddenly it seemed like the whole world would be pulverised beneath the six inch heel of glam rock. Sure, the previous decade could boast some truly great trousers: mottled corduroy creations, tie-dyed pyjama pants and stonewashed wonders of flower power. But they were a shadow of what was to come. When Bolan first stepped out on stage sporting lurex jodhpurs, a florescent body warmer and four foot wide fibreglass epaulettes it was a wonder to behold. And surprisingly, no one laughed. Several people took a sharp intake of breath, one woman fainted and a man almost choked to death on a cheeseburger, but shockingly not a titter was heard. Soon everyone was donning their fanciest pants and joining a band. Roxy Music upped the ante when Brian Ferry modelled a pair of velvet dungarees augmented by flashing neon lights installed by his electrician friend Brian Eno. The trousers were extremely popular with promoters, as they found that there was no need to hire a 57
lighting crew, and so Eno set up Enossification Ltd to supply them to other artists. However, as Eno was a strict Seventh Day Brianist, his religion meant that he could only sell them to other people called Brian. In the end he only shifted three pairs, one to Queen's Brian May, one to Brian Connolly of Sweet and the other to the actor Brian Blessed, who used them to great success in a production of The Merchant of Venice at the Alhambra in Leicester. In fact to date it is one of only two occasions when a pair of trousers has received a standing ovation in a production of a Shakespeare tragedy - not including the 1962 production of The Tempest, when Sir John Gielgud's jockey shorts returned for an encore at the insistence of an ecstatic and electrified audience. Of course, Glam Rock wasn't just about the fashion. There was also music involved. Anyway, back to the trousers. Competition was fierce as everyone tried to outtrouser everyone else. There were neon trousers, laser trousers, glow-in-the-dark trousers. Noddy Holder of Slade sported a pair of mirrored strides which were subsequently confiscated by the Civil Aviation Authority after they were identified as a navigation hazard. Trousers became brighter, shinier and bigger. Elton John had doorways specially widened in order to accommodate his extraordinary pantaloons and The Bay City Rollers had to be rescued from a pair of bell bottomed breeches by the marines after being trapped 58
inside for three days. Mathematicians at Princeton even came up with something they called 'Trousers2'. This was a mathematical concept of a pair of four dimensional trousers which, although they could not be physically realised, were predicted to have bigger pockets. Clearly all this trouser nonsense could not go on. For one thing, there simply wasn't enough fabric in the world. And fashion being what it was, it was only a matter of time before something new would emerge. That something new was the modfather himself, Paul Weller, who crashed onto the scene in 1977 with his band The Jam, and astounded the world by singing cover versions of songs by Bread, Marmalade and The Rolling Scones whilst wearing some of the skinniest trousers the world had ever seen. In fact, his trousers were actually narrower than his legs. Within weeks Glam had practically died out, to live on only as a faint memory on the second-hand clothes racks of Oxfam stores, in the record collections of wedding disc jockeys and in those photos of your Uncle Tony looking like a proper tool, taken on the seafront at Skegness in 1975. None of this is true, by the way.
The Great Disco Rush of 1978
What is it that makes a grown man pull on a pair of DayGlo socks, slip into satin shorts and a sequined vest and spend his evenings careering aimlessly around a dingy club, alternately being blinded by strobe lights and falling over people in the dark? What force can make a balding, middle-aged, middle-management type prance across a Formica dance floor made sticky by a million spilt cocktails, wearing a tight white suit two sizes too small, occasionally stopping to strike a pose and point randomly at the ceiling in a feeble approximation of some exotic terpsichorean discipline? Disco. Even now the word sends shivers down the spines of many who fell under its spell. But what is disco, where is it, and why? And how many? According to Dr Wavy Collins of the Philadelphia Institute of Funkadelia we need to travel to the distant past to get some indication of the origins of this terrifyingly infectious blight on the music industry. Recent investigations into Cro-Magnon cave dwellings in France and Northern Spain reveal curious acoustic properties which Dr Collins suggests would facilitate some kind of primitive discothĂ¨que. What's more, examinations of rock art appear to depict coloured lighting, glitter balls and a woolly mammoth in a boob tube. However, several of Dr Collins' more vocal 60
detractors have stated publically that they find it hard to trust the theories of a man who spent much of the sixties dressed in a thrift store cocktail dress and wacked out of his skull on floor cleaner. More reliable theories date the origins of disco to the invention of glitter in 1968. Initially its devotees would gather secretly and with the aid of a few flashing lights and a rudimentary cardboard dance floor, they would bust moves to pioneers such as George McCrae, The Trammps and the Black Dyke Mills Band. In 1974 the movement suffered its first setback when at one impromptu gathering a disco inferno broke out, hospitalising fourteen people and causing over $30 worth of damage. The incendiary nature of disco prompted new health and safety laws which effectively outlawed such gatherings, but in 1977 research chemist Freddie Butterworth developed a flame retardant coating that could be used to treat performers. This heralded the arrival of new fire-resistant artists such as Chic, KC and the Sunshine Band and The Wurzels and suddenly disco was bigger than ever. New clubs sprung up every week, the charts were dominated by disco artists and sales of sweat bands went through the roof. 'The Great Disco Rush' is the name usually given to the largest musical exodus in history, with artists from many other genres unable to resist the temptation to jump on the shiny polyester disco bandwagon. Disco 61
blighted the careers of some of our most highly regarded and accomplished musicians, and the Bee Gees. With the benefit of hindsight it's easy to see why it destroyed the careers of so many artists. After all, who today has heard of acts like Martha Kemp and the Kemptations, The Electrified Fridays and Wombat Groovetown? I certainly haven't, that's why I had to make them up. And yet, had it not been for disco, these acts might be filling theatres today instead of cleaning them. Even those who did make it through to the other side rarely acknowledge this shameful period of their careers. Does Peter Gabriel ever recall the time he spent prancing about on stage in gold lamĂŠ hotpants? Has Bob Dylan ever played 'Disco Trousers' in the last thirty years? Would Elton Johnâ€Ś Oh, yes, actually he probably would. July 12th, 1979 is now known as the day that disco died, and no one really seems to know why. Dr Wavy Collins believes that it was due to the telepathic influence of a cabal of shape-shifting alien dinosaurs from the planet Mongo - but, as it has been pointed out, he spent the greater part of the seventies drying out in a clinic for the victims of the misuse of cleaning products, and as such his opinions really don't count for much. Maybe the disco inferno just burnt itself out. We can only hope that it never happens again. Of course, none of this is true.
Sick London London is famous for its landmarks, its history and its exciting, cosmopolitan atmosphere. But one of its biggest attractions is The Vomit Express - a whistle-stop tour of some of the many famous locations where dead rock stars have thrown up. George Harrison, St James' Gardens, 1980 George Harrison was charged with assault after he knocked a police constable off his feet with a regurgitated lamb vindaloo. At his sentencing the prosecution asked for three other curries and a garlic naan to be taken into consideration.
Jim Morrison, Millman Mews, 1970 Jim Morrison threw up on a nightclub doorman. The doorman later claimed that it was mostly tapioca with trace elements of cabbage.
The Big Bopper, Malet Street, 1956 The Big Bopper regurgitated 7 and a half pints of vomit in one recordbreaking hurl. The expelled material consisted of two partially digested steaks, a strawberry milk shake and four doughnuts as well as a quantity of vegetable matter that defied identification.
Keith Moon, Beaumont Street, 1971 Keith Moon projectile vomited through a door, punching a three inch diameter hole through solid cedarwood with a highly concentrated stream of diced carrots.
Marc Bolan, Oxford Street, 1972 The record held by Marc Bolan for the world's longest vomit still stands. He began at one end of Oxford Street at 10.15 pm on the 16th October 1972 and finished with a flourish twenty minutes later in the doorway of a shoe shop at the corner of Baker Street, to the rapturous applause of an appreciative crowd. Janis Joplin, Albany Street, 1968 Janis Joplin was sick into a Tesco's bag which she left under the rear offside wheel of a Mazda in a multistorey car park. 63
The emergence of Punk in the mid-seventies was largely a reaction to the contemporary music scene, increasing commercialism and the spiralling cost of Jaffa Cakes. Punk reached out to a generation who felt excluded from mainstream culture. Its ethos was that anyone could make music and as a consequence the punk scene was mostly comprised of people who couldn't. It was a philosophy that extended beyond music, particularly in the UK where punk attitudes infiltrated practically every section of society. Punk hospitals started to open their doors, staffed by amateur doctors and nurses who believed that training was just another form of state control. The world's first and last punk airline opened for business and operated briefly on the principal that airports were symbolic of fascist oppression and why the hell shouldn't they just land wherever they liked? And in 1977 Johnny 'Mucus' Ritchie narrowly missed being the first punk in space by only 100 kilometres when his homemade rocket toppled over in its milk bottle, shot through his neighbour's hedge and set fire to their cat. Not everyone who emerged from the Punk scene was a toneless, talentless chancer. Bands like Stiff Little Fingers and The Ramones reinvigorated the genre whilst others such as The Damned and The Clash professed a 64
lyrical maturity that lifted them above the crowd. For this reason they were excommunicated by the International Federation of Punk Rockers who ordered them to hand in their safety pins on the grounds that anyone who actually knew how to make a decent record had clearly 'sold out'. Punks preferred their heroes to be outrageous, outlandish and entirely devoid of talent. And no one summed this up better The Wombles. Who can forget the furore that was caused by their infamous appearance on the Today show, when Orinoco called host Bill Grundy a 'dirty rotter'? Grundy took offence at the phrase and goaded the band to say more, at which point Wellington told him to go fuck himself, which many people thought was fair enough. The incident did nothing to slow their meteoric rise to fame and very soon they got their own TV show, an early evening slot in which each episode saw them trash Wimbledon Common whilst giving the finger to passersby and screaming obscenities. Plot-wise it was a little thin on the ground, but the kids loved it and it did win them a BAFTA. Nevertheless, despite this success there was trouble around the corner. There had always been suspicions about bass player Tomsk. He had written all the songs and was a proficient musician, hence the unease. When he admitted in an interview that he was a fan of The Clangers, it was clear that he had to go. Tomsk was 65
sacked and replaced by Culvain MacWomble, whom no one had heard of because he was only in the books, but it was clear that the group was falling apart. Their TV show had been roundly condemned by self-appointed mentalist Mary Whitehouse, who claimed that that the voices in her head told her it should be cancelled. The band managed to weather this storm, but after a punch up in the BBC canteen with Basil Brush their days were numbered. The band split up shortly afterwards. Orinoco left to work in the dairy industry, mainly advertising butter. Culvain died in 1979 after ingesting a lethal dose of sticky buns and custard. Drummer Bungo Womble joined the girl group Bananarama, but left after just six months for fur-related reasons. And Wellington went on to produce the Sex Pistols. None of this is true, by the way.
As one of the more famous sons to emerge from the late 70s English pub rock scene, Elvis Costello's song writing talent, passionate delivery and ability to pull a decent pint have enabled him to pursue an eclectic career, slipping with apparent east from new wave to country, from doo-wop to jazz and blues. But there is more to this musical chameleon that meets the eye; an explanation which goes some way to explaining his shifts of style. The fact is that Elvis Costello is not one person but many, having been played by a number of different performers down the years. The original Costello was a 19-year-old secret lemonade drinker called Declan MacManus, son of the legendary and differently spelt Mick McManus, the all-in wrestler and inventor of the Pot Noodle. McManus was keen for young Declan to follow him into the ring so that he could pick up the change that fell out of his pockets when he got thrown. Declan, however, was having none of it. He wanted to be a musician so he bought himself a guitar and learned to play it by propping it up in the corner of his room and staring at it until it gave up. He also taught himself how to write music and in the process inadvertently invented a whole new form of notation in which all the sticks on the notes went down instead of up. 67
However, getting himself a gig was to prove more difficult. There was a very healthy London pub rock scene at the time, but the acts outnumbered the venues by a factor of sixteen to one, meaning that artists had to fight pitched battles for spots on the bill. It wasn't uncommon to venture out of an evening and witness Ian Dury laying into The Stranglers or Eddie and the Hotrods purely for the privilege of performing Billericay Dickie to a couple of old fellas playing dominoes in the back room of the Dog and Duck. Even in the more upmarket establishments, bands still had to compete for places, albeit in a more genteel manner - for example, via a few hands of whist or a word quiz. And even when they won, they were only permitted to stand quietly in a corner and not bother anyone. MacManus decided to circumvent the whole process and used his father's Pot Noodle fortune to buy his own pub, in which he was the main attraction. A record deal followed quickly afterwards and MacManus's alter ego, Elvis Costello, soon saw himself riding high in the charts. Not that it was all plain sailing and Costello was still plagued by controversy. For example, in 1979 he angered TV executives when, during a recording of Saturday Night Live, Costello abruptly halted his performance and went off to record an episode of Mork and Mindy instead. It was this incident that signalled the beginning of MacManus's disillusion with the music industry. The
following year he quit, dedicating the rest of his life to developing a new kind of potato waffle. MacManus's retirement left record company executives with a problem. Costello was still a big name and they didn't want to lose one of their most lucrative artists. Then one bright spark suggested that Costello should regenerate into Patrick Troughton. It was an astonishing idea, but it worked. Audiences were unsure at first but they soon warmed to the new Costello. Troughton continued to play the role for the next three years before he was replaced by Roger Moore. To date, eleven people have played Elvis Costello, including Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Frank Sinatra, Denzel Washington, Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon. The most recent incumbent in the role is the comic actor Jon Hedder, the youngest ever person to play the singer, and critics have remarked that he has brought a new lease of life to the franchise. None of this is true, by the way.
Goths are shy, retiring creatures who dress predominantly in black, shun social interaction and live in underground burrows on waste ground. They are chiefly nocturnal and their wide, pale eyes are perfectly adapted to low levels of light. They are not to be confused with Emos who often appear similar but are in fact a separate species, being more vulnerable, emotionally expressive and largely flightless. The first recorded sightings of Goths were in the third century AD, when they migrated from Scandinavia into what is now northern Germany. Originally an aggressive and warlike people, modern Goths bear little relation to their medieval ancestors, eschewing many of the old tribal rituals, spending more time in quiet introspection and hardly ever sacking Rome. It is believed that modern Goths have their origins in the work of Dr Peter Murphy, the English polymath, theoretical physicist and painter and decorator, who, in 1915, came up with a new shade of black. Murphy had previously worked alongside Karl Schwarzschild, whose work on black holes considerably advanced our understanding of these mysterious cosmic events. Murphy was particularly fascinated by just how 'black' a black hole actually was. If no light could escape from such an object then surely this had to be the blackest 70
black in the universe? This was something that crossed over into Murphy's decorating work, where the search was constantly on for ever darker shades of paint. Murphy had already developed 'Inky Black', but was never really happy with its slightly blue tinge. Then there was 'Raven Black', but this was too glossy. Finally he made the breakthrough: 'Goth Black', a colour so dark that light simply fell into it. Looking at Goth Black was like staring into a void, and it was Goth Black, when it was finally marketed as a hair dye in 1978, that was to characterise a whole new movement. But Goth culture is not just a colour scheme. There is an aching, endless sense of joyless misery as well, best characterised by its dark, gloomy music and brooding lyrics. During performances there is little interaction with the audience, as typified by the early gigs of Sisters of Mercy in which singer Andrew Eldritch would perform with his back to the crowd. Siouxsie Sioux went one better and rarely appeared on stage, usually singing from the wings or behind the backcloth. For one legendary 1978 performance at Brighton Polytechnic, she delivered the first half of the set from the car park before catching the night bus back home. This reticence to engage with their followers extends beyond the actual gigs. Whereas other artists might go to great lengths to generate publicity, Goth bands avoid promotional activity and personal appearances. Fans are unlikely to get hold of their idols' 71
autographs, or be granted a photo opportunity. In fact there is an unsubstantiated rumour that if you look directly into Robert Smith's eyes you will turn to stone. And the fans are equally standoffish. Most Goths revel in isolation and each thinks that he or she is unique, sharing nothing in common with anyone else and incapable of being understood by anybody. However, extensive laboratory testing involving Bunsen burners and pipettes and stuff has revealed precisely the opposite: broadly speaking, all Goths dress the same, are identically socially dysfunctional and they all think they're vampires. Nowadays Goths have all but died out. There are a few protected breeding colonies in Somerset, but anyone planning a visit should prepare themselves for a sad and disappointing spectacle: there is nothing worse than seeing a fat, middle-aged Goth wombling down the street towards you, the grey roots showing through his receding gothblack hair. Nevertheless they remain an important part of modern culture, as evidenced by last year's craze for cuddly Robert Smiths, the biggest selling toy of Christmas 2012. None of this is true, by the way.
Guns N' Roses
Formed in Los Angeles, Guns N' Roses were a punctuation-based rock band that became very popular with typesetters in the early nineties. Originally called Cheese and Onion, the band came into being when lead singer Crankshaft Daffodil, real name Harry Web, ran into a guitarist called Comma at a McDonald's drive-thru in Minnesota. After an exchange of insurance details, the two realised they had a common passion - burgers. To finance their love for happy meals, they decided to form a band. From the outset it was obvious that the pair came from very different backgrounds. Daffodil was the son of an Indiana tartan farmer and had spent much of his early life herding kilts. Comma, real name Reg Dwight, was a travelling ceramicist from Stoke-on-Trent in England, whose claim to fame was that he could throw a pot in forty seconds. At the time he met Daffodil he had just quit an itinerant troupe of potters following an argument over a teapot. After finding a bass player and a drummer in a Burger King down the road, the band was up and running but gigs were thin on the ground. Thinking that perhaps the name 'Cheese and Onion' might be holding them back, they decided to retitle themselves. Initially they changed it to Cheese 'n' Onion, which seemed a little 73
more rock and roll. When this didn't improve matters they considered Fish 'n' Chips, Ebb 'n' Flow and even Chip 'n' Dale, before finally settling on the name Guns 'n' Roses. Likewise Daffodil felt that his alias fell somewhat short of the mark and changed it to Carburettor Tulip, then Alternator Pansy and finally Gearbox Gladioli, before knocking all the flower references on the head and calling himself Axel Foley. Comma, meanwhile, experimented with calling himself Full Stop and then Semi-Colon, before arriving at Backslash. This got altered to Forward Slash, which he felt was more progressive, and nowadays it is generally just shortened to Slash. Initial single releases didn't generate much interest but then "Sweet Child o' Mine" marked the beginning of a run of punctuation-based hits that included "Live n' Let Die", "Knockin' 'n' Heaven's Door" and "Paradise 'n City". But despite the successes all was not well and ultimately Slash left because of typographical differences. In a subsequent out of court settlement he was awarded one of the band's apostrophes and retired to a town called Colon in Honduras with his wife, Caret, and their two children Asterisk and Ellipsis. Meanwhile Axel Foley continued with the now slightly retitled Guns N' Roses. Aiming to capitalise on their previous success he recorded a song in Morse code, figuring that a track composed entirely of dots and dashes couldn't fail to succeed. It failed to succeed. In 74
fact, it caused an international incident during a performance in Milan when it was misinterpreted as a distress call and resulted in an Italian emergency crew turning up, covering the band in spaghetti, inflating them with helium and instructing them to remain in bed for several days. Following the spaghetti incident, Foley recorded a song entirely in semaphore. Of course, listeners were treated to nothing more than the sounds of furious flapping, but the video played in heavy rotation on MTV and it didn't prevent them from winning a Grammy. In more recent years the band has stopped releasing records in order to concentrate on publicity, and have proven to be so successful that they have lately been approached by Unilever to market a new brand of edible lemon flavoured washing powder. None of this is true, by the way.
Patently Untrue Rock Facts
AC/DC are the only band that can be heard from space. Celine Dion is growing at a rate of 2mm a year. By 2020 she will be taller than a bus. Since 1985 EMI records has had custody of Sting's voice. Roger Daltrey was condemned by his local council in 1982 and only saved because a lottery grant paid for him to be completely rewired. Duran Duran took their name from Ming the Merciless, the arch villain in the film Dr Strangelove. Mama Cass tragically passed away after choking on a wheelbarrow. The Dog on the HMV label was decorated in World War II for its part in covert operations against the enemy. Only one of the Moody Blues is actually moody. The others are all quite upbeat. 'Hotel California' by The Eagles is the only known example of a palindromic record - it sounds exactly the same played backwards as it does when played forwards. 'Yes' were originally called 'Probably', and it wasn't until the release of their third album that they finally made up their minds.
There was great excitement in 1978 when, during a naked ramble through the Serengeti, the broadcaster and naturist Sir David Attenborough discovered the long lost Jarvis Cocker. Thought to be extinct, the last reported sighting of the timid and reclusive creature had been in 1879 when the explorer Stanley, whilst out one day looking for Dr Livingstone's car keys, inadvertently fell over one. At one time the Jarvis Cocker (Latin name Jarvus cockus) was a common sight on the plains of Africa. Its nests, known as 'sheds', were tall wooden structures wherein the Jarvis would spend long periods making pipe stands and bookends out of wood, only venturing out when it was necessary to acquire tea, sandwiches and glue. Attenborough's naked encounter with the Jarvis came as a shock to both parties, with the startled Jarvis fleeing into the bush and Attenborough rapidly scaling a nearby tree. However, once the eminent broadcaster had got over the shock, he realised what a rare discovery he had just made. By following the trail of wood shavings he tracked the creature back to its shed where he ordered it to come out with a loud hailer. The Jarvis responded that it didn't have a loud hailer, so Attenborough told it to come out with its hands up. The Jarvis replied "Come 77
out with my hands up what?" Attenborough replied that that was not what he meant. The Jarvis then said that it didn't know how to get the door open. Attenborough told him to turn the knob on his side. The Jarvis replied that he didn't have a knob on his side. Anyway, much hilarity ensued and the incident is now the subject of a successful farce in the West End, if you're interested. The upshot is that the Jarvis was captured and brought back to London, where Attenborough displayed both it and himself at the Royal Academy. Attenborough was booed off stage and told to go and put some clothes on but the Jarvis went down a storm, especially when it was discovered that it could play the banjo. It also caught the attention of the famous entrepreneur and circus impresario Dr John Peel, who bought the creature for an undisclosed sum, although this was later disclosed to be twenty five English pounds. Peel took the Jarvis on a tour of the UK, during which it never failed to draw a crowd. It was granted a personal audience with the Archbishop of Canterbury, given the freedom of the city of Liverpool and presented with a commemoration mug in Bristol. But unfortunately the Jarvis had a nasty habit of associating with common people and baring his backside at visiting American pop singers, so it was decided that he would henceforth perform from behind bars. This was a mistake.
Put a Jarvis in a nice cosy shed with the smell of wood shavings, a Thermos of hot chocolate and half a dozen copies of Practical Woodworker and he will be as happy as Larry. But put him behind bars to be ogled at by the public and wellâ€Ś even Larry would lose his shit if you did that. Sure enough, the Jarvis displayed what we might now term 'an adverse reaction' and at a gig in Sheffield he broke free of his confines and disappeared into the city, joining a group of feral musicians called Pulp. From time to time they surface to play the occasional festival, but for the most part the Jarvis leads a quiet life. Somewhere there is a shed where a halfglued model aeroplane sits drying on a worktop, where a freshly-planed length of pine waits patiently in a vice, where the dog-eared plans of a rudimentary coffee table quietly moulder in the gloom and where the Jarvis sits quietly, drinks his tea and dreams of Africa. None of this is true, by the way.
The Spice Girls
During the 90s girl power was the next big thing, and at one point many it was thought it could displace solar or tidal power as the main contender to break humankind's self-destructive reliance on fossil fuels. Sadly all efforts have failed to come up with an efficient way of harnessing this power that doesn't involve stuffing Geri Halliwell into a boiler. And whilst burning Spice Girls may seem like a good idea, sadly there are not enough of them to make it worthwhile. As everyone knows, there are only five: Scary, Ginger, Sporty, Baby and Ringo. Interestingly, in the not too distant past there used to be moreâ€Ś Keith Baxton is a Spice Girls fan, amateur archivist and part time butcher. In 2006 he was ferretting about in the British library when he came across an ancient volume dating from the late 1970s, hidden inside a copy of Smash Hits. The pages were faded and fragile, the manuscript was covered with dust and it was written in a form of English that died out over thirty years ago. However, after many months' hard work, copious supplies of Ribena and not a few paper cuts, Baxton announced that he had found the long lost Magna Popus - an inventory of all the bands in the UK compiled on the orders of Prime Minister James Callaghan upon his succession to the throne. Callaghan sent out his 80
ministers across England to every shire, every town, every farmstead to catalogue bands for the purpose of taxation. A guitarist would have to pay a shilling per annum, as would a bass player. A drummer would be charged two farthings and a singer would be required to pay half a crown. And if you played the organ, pennywurlitzer or Hammond pedalo-forte you would need to take a test and obtain a licence from the Lord Provost. Bagpipe players were ordered to be shot on sight. This is all very lovely, you might think, but aren't we rather a long way from the Spice Girls? Have patience, I'm getting there. The Magna Popus provided some fascinating insights, including the revelation that Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones had attempted to avoid paying tax by having his bass bricked up. However, Baxton's most important discovery came when he found a listing for the Spice Girls. Not only did it appear that the group had formed 20 years before their official history states, but they started out with twelve members. Baxton couldn't believe his eyes; several people have since doubted his ears and his nose has been the subject of an inquiry. But that's as may be - the fact is that there were seven Spice Girls that no one knew anything about and Baxton was determined to track them down. He found the first three easily: Nifty Spice, Sniffy Spice and Burpy Spice had all remained in the music industry, and had been in various girl groups over the 81
years. In fact for three days in 2010 they had briefly been the Sugababes. Meanwhile, Wheezy Spice and Shorty Spice had opened a cafĂŠ called Wheezy's Place, although they later opted to cash in on their association and renamed it The Spice Grill. The sixth Spice Girl, Baldy, had remained with the group for much longer and had appeared on early demos. However, there were tensions between her and the others which came to a head when Ginger accidentally backed her car over her. Twice. She left the band for health and safety reasons. Which left one Spice Girl unaccounted for - Tubby. Here Baxton drew a blank although he has theorised that she is being held in some kind of secret cryogenic facility so that future generations can clone Spice Girls of their own. This is probably nothing more than wishful thinking on his part, however. None of this is true, by the way.
The White Stripes
The White Stripes are a black and white band that has been colourised in post-production, mainly in red. Beginning their career as part of the garage scene, the band specialised in exhausts and shock absorbers, although they could certainly rewire an alternator in an emergency. Consisting of just two members, Meg White and her son Jack, the band's straightforward rhythms, stripped down production and free giveaways of air fresheners and screen wash quickly gained them a following with rock and roll motorists. In 2001 they outgrew the garage and moved into a warehouse, augmenting their sound with the addition of a forklift truck. This change of direction brought them to the attention of both a new audience and the IRS, and as a result they took a break from music and spent the following year filling in tax returns. Upon their return they adopted a more organic sound, releasing an album made of wood which was warmly received by fans even though it was unplayable on most equipment. On the subsequent tour the White Stripes played the album in its entirety, hiring seven arborealists and an army of woodsmen for the small deciduous forest that was now a necessary part of their stage equipment. Inevitably costs spiralled and the tour started to lose money at a fantastic rate, particularly when a virulent strain of Dutch elm 83
disease wiped out the second half of the show. Ultimately the inevitable happened. The band was declared bankrupt and their creditors sent in the lumberjacks. Was this the end of The White Stripes? Administrators fought hard to sell them on as a going concern, but legal complications concerning the ownership of Jack White put the sale on hold and the band spent the next two years in storage. When the situation was finally resolved, an administrative error meant that they could not be located. For a time it was believed that they were somewhere in Atlanta and auditors went around listening to abandoned storage units for the sound of drumming. Then rumours surfaced that they'd been found in an attic in Baltimore during a house clearance, but on further investigation it turned out to be Crosby, Stills and Nash. Well actually, it was just Crosby and Nash - Stills had snapped off, greatly reducing its value. Following the offer of a reward for information, Vanilla Ice was handed in at a local police station but there was still no sign of The White Stripes, until they were accidentally discovered by a small shepherd boy amongst the unclaimed baggage at a San Francisco bus terminal. Shortly afterwards they were sold at auction to Fox News, who intended to use them to provide lighthearted satirical songs at the end of their broadcasts. However, following a tip-off, experts discovered that Fox 84
had been duped and that they band they had bought were just a crude forgery constructed from papier-mĂ˘chĂŠ and string. The real band is currently in the possession of Canadian fan Chad Lever-Arch, who had bought them on eBay for $5.65 plus postage. Sadly they are no longer in mint condition - Meg White's fingers have broken off and been replaced by clothes pegs, and both members display signs of significant water damage due to being improperly stored. Also the fact that the duo are without their original packaging has drastically reduced their value. Nevertheless, Chad is seeking donations in order to get them professionally restored and hopes that very soon he will see them on stage once more, performing their wooden epic. None of this is true, by the way.
The Future of Rock
Futurologists tell us that within the next eighty years we will all be zipping around the sky strapped to personal jetpacks, take our vacations on the moon and be able to choose from over four different flavours of yoghurt. This much is obvious. But what about music? We have traced the history of rock and roll from those early pioneers such as The Rolling Stones and David Bowie right through to today's stadium fillers such as Bowie and The Stones. What might the future hold? What will our children and our children's children be complaining about as they float around in their anti-gravity podules whilst mind-melding with the great intergalactic consciousness and firing laser beams out of their arse? One person who thinks he knows is Casey Betamax, former columnist for What Scientist? magazine and presenter of popular music show Turn it Up, Mate. He believes that technology will have a decisive influence on future music, in much the same way as it has over the last few decades. For example, the invention of the vinyl record played a crucial part in shaping music - it made it round, whereas previously music had been cylindrical. More recently we have seen physical forms of storage disappearing, usually down the back of the sofa. Today we use devices such as computers, phones and 3D toasters to download and play music, but in the future 86
these will become obsolete as content is pumped straight into our heads via microwaves, psychic mind buggery or, as Casey Betamax believes, some kind of groovy futuristic socket hardwired into your skull. Inevitably there are going to be several competing formats, and Betamax advises opting for a USB as he reckons that you're going to look like a right twat if you have a serial port fitted. So what will this mean for the actual music? Well, Betamax is excited that by liberating music from the limitations of hardware it will be possible to create sounds that could not be duplicated in any physical form. He has already theorised that our current spectrum of notes, represented by the sequence Do-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol-LaSi-Do, could be greatly expanded, and he has suggested the addition of Po-La-Rum-Pum-Ping-Ding-Dong-Po, as well as ultra-Mi and infra-Fa. But even with the addition of these notes, the search will still be on to find exciting and interesting forms of new music. Over the past few decades so-called 'world music' has become increasingly important with instrumentation, rhythms and styles being adopted from various different cultures. Experimental composers, analytical musicians and session boffins are constantly researching new musical forms, such as the Patagonian Belching Songs of South America, traditional East Anglian knuckle cracking ditties and Czechoslovakian Squelching Melodies. Just last month, exploratory audiologist Kenny 'No Relation' Loggins scored a big hit 87
with a 60 minute recording of a Japanese man being sick into a bucket, although there have been claims that the middle section plagiarises a 1972 Santana track. But Casey Betamax believes that these efforts will not be enough. Vast and culturally varied as our planet is, there is only a finite amount of music available. Betamax believes that we will have to look to the stars for inspiration and he is one of the most vocal supporters of a new project designed to listen for alien broadcasts. The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Tunes Eventually Everywhere may seem like a bit of an uncomfortable mouthful, but pleasingly the acronym is SETTEE. Betamax believes that if the project gets the green light mankind will be able to finally tune into alien transmissions and illegally download space music, and Johnny Spaceman won't be able to do jack about it because their courts don't have jurisdiction. Obviously, all of this will eventually be true.
The University of the Bleeding Obvious: Vol 1
Kicking and Screaming
The University of the Bleeding Obvious: Vol 2
The Bongo Lectures
Death, Doom and Disaster
Goldilocks and the Free Bears
Free downloads at www.bleeding-obvious.co.uk/downloads/index.php www.facebook.com/pages/The-University-of-the-BleedingObvious/82040082342
Published on Dec 6, 2014
Ricky Stratocaster, visiting Professor of Funk at the Kentucky Institute of Twangology, chronicles the history of rock, from Robert Johnson'...