Archive for January 2010
The first true classic album was recorded at the end of ’83 and beginning o ’84. There was this idea that each member of the band should be the ‘celebrity’ whose ego would inflate the band’s name to include their possessive. It didn’t last as an idea beyond this album – ‘Dai Cox’s Radioactive Sparrow.’ But it meant that Cox was designated lead singer. And how. First off was to set up a system where Dai could drum and sing at the same time, plugging a mic into a 5 watt amp that was then placed by the Panasonic. It’s a system the band would use for many years, especially blending the amplified voice with another backing (fronting) vocal recorded up close and direct (heard here when Brooce enters on ‘Why Is Jon?’
Burpt Perhaps was so named for the totemic belching that ornaments each song at its climax, a flatulent framing device courtesy of Cox’s unique interpretation of the lead singer’s exaggerated self-importance. The album has many breakthrough moments: Bargefoot’s turntablism on ‘Psychedelic Capsule’ (a stone classic that has continued to appear on Best Of… compilations); live-burke xenochrony on ‘Day Of Stop Worship’; ‘Cavatina’ played in authentic ‘Kak’ tuning on ‘Absolute Gauls’; and, most importantly, the plunderphonic co-opting of Ceefax backing tracks for Dai’s star turns (‘Lost Love’, ‘Two For Tea’ etc.).
It’s hard to separate the thin, spiky post-punk grit of ‘Someone At The Door’ and the avant-anarchy of ‘Psychedelic Capsule’. Both songs got the band excited about what they could do, the latter they played backed umpteen times collapsing in laughter and lurid self-congratulation, Cox’s closing burps certainly teaching Bono and them a thing or two.
This was the last album made as school kids. The Spring and Summer of ’84 saw a lot of time spent studying, humping, partying, and Bargefoot spent his savings on a Tascam 244. By the time they reconvened in the Autumn, the band would have a new sense of purpose and identity…
PLUS Niklus on ‘Day of Stop Worship’
Recorded at the Old Mill (Shed, Dining Room, Study) December ’83 and January ’84.
1) Someone At The Door
2) Why Is Jon?
4) Psychedelic Capsule
5) Day Of Stop Worship
6) Lost Love
7) Two For Tea
8) Headache Aspirin Advert
9) Fuckin’ Tog
10) Lavatory Music
11) Nohme Canabis
12) Somewhere In Summer
14) Absolute Gauls
Sparrow’s 8th album represents another transition, a non-event stepping stone between more definitive moments – indeed, it is a good illustration of how energy and execution remain unyielding without the unhinging spark of Kak elation. That said, Fuck Off Heron is certainly better than Bnaal Emon Pip: Brooce The Solo Years. In the grand scheme of Kak, it plays a shadowing role to the following record, Burpt Perhaps! – partly by means of accentuating the perspective, from utter shite to subliminally sharp. But there are points of intersection and dissection that are significant, too: Fuck Off Heron signals the end of the first period, its recasting of ‘Magnetic Cow’ as ‘Magnetic Can’ts’ marks the band’s final farewell to the Ozzy era; and Dai Cox’s inaugural lead-singer spot on ‘Coffee Was Foul’ (sort of the album’s stand-out track), introducing the super-awkward crapness of his one-dimensional rhymes driven by 75% belief trammels, something that would become a defining feature of the band over the next three years.
During this period (end of ’83/beguine ’84) Heaving and Brooce (with Dai in tow) started dressing Goth, wearing make-up and crimping hair that was increasingly dyed black or red or something, going out in Porthcawl rather than Bridgend because of the former’s general tolerance for counter-archetypal male posturing. Bargefoot wasn’t involved because of the manner in which he entertained his lady-beast. The other three would take amyl nitrate and enhance their nightlife with public, murky-corner self-harming bouts, carrying razor blades in their wallets so as to be able to score forearms daintily during the musics they weren’t dancing to. Which all serves to explain the lyric ‘Then she showed me/Her little puppy/That didn’t want to be cut…’ on ‘Laughing Gnomes’, Heaving and Brooce’s party-piece rendition of the Bowie song, which they devised as a tribute to the girls they hung out with in Porthcawl who went to Archbishop McGrath, Bridgend’s only Catholic comp.
Oh, and Fuck Off Heron also introduces the Moog (Micromoog) bought for £50 in what was at the time a disappointing, budget compromise because Moogs were then regarded as market dregs in a pop environment where Howard Jones and that were making the Roland Juno 6 (and such) the keyb to crave. The Moog would become a wily pointing agent over the years to come, finally getting flogged on ebay in 2006 to some woman in France.
Dai Cox/Brooce Boyes/Heaving Stews/Bill Bargefoot
Recorded in the Shed and at Merthyr Mawr Road, Autumn 1983
This is sort of where it really starts. The first album to emerge from the bitty époque wherein Bargefoot and Cox (and later also Boyes) were pursuing the domain of normal rocking, having a band (The Sculpture Drinks) and rehearsing regularly with non-Kak musicians who took music seriously, who liked Rush, and Queen, and so on. The opener, ‘Anal Entry’, was recorded as a one-song session just before the ‘serious’ band members turned up for practice, Brooce stealing in ahead to burn it up before the repression of careerist aims-halitosis contaminated the air. The band (the real band, Sparrow) were thrilled at how ‘Anal Entry’ came out, the first indication that Kak could deliver material that could almost rock for real. It became the band’s first proper ‘hit’ in the network of hand-to-hand tape potlatch at school – where first they garnered peer respect simply by dint of being a band, ‘Anal Entry’ gave them a rep. And Bill’s mum even insisted, legendarily, on playing it while the family were at the dinner table.
As an album, it’s almost a classic, but the last two songs are rubbish (well, dull anyway), so it tumbles in the final strait. However, tracks like ‘Faecal Obsession I’, ‘The Copropheliac’ (about Mozart) and ‘Paul’s Birthday’ have enough adventure to make them truly seminal in the evolution of Kak.
Trivia tosh: The Paul of ‘Paul’s Birthday’ was Paul Burston who went on to become Time Out’s gay columnist and occasional gay-issue expert-pundit whenever there are big topical debates about the age of consent etc. And the tight brief-sporting lap featured on the cover is actually Tom Jones. Tom Jones – but just his pants, balls and thighs, man.
Oh, and the announcement of the date as ‘16th of May 1982’ at the start of ‘The Pube In A Loob’ was deliberately misleading – the idea was to record a session and present it as vintage archive material.
Brooce Boyes/Bill Bargefoot/Dai Cox/Heaving Stews
Recorded in the Shed, Summer 1983
1) Anal Entry
2) Faecal Obsession II
3) My Mini’s Broken Down Again
4) Abortion 83,000
5) The Pube In A Loob
6) The Copropheliac
7) Paul’s Birthday
8) Proboscis Manoger
10) The Rose & The Chain
11) Next II (83)
Kakutopia’s 21st Century serialization of the Sparrow story corrects the chronology here. The 7th album gets posted before the 6th. Both albums were assembled in the autumn of 1983 from tapes made between late ’82 and spring/summer ’83, but Pants features more material from earlier than Lovely Noise for Lovely Boyes, and, more importantly, the very first sessions to feature Heaving Stews whose role on RS6 is more substantial than here. Stews had long been interested in musicians like Syd Barrett, Scott Walker and Captain Beefheart (unusual tastes among Welsh comprehensive youth in the 80s). When he encountered Radioactive Sparrow, he naturally spotted things that spiked his interest, so he came to the Hut to interview the band for Bridgend hospital radio, also recording a ‘session’ alla John Peel – neither was ever broadcast and sadly the tapes are now lost. But from then on, Stews became a critical voice that frequently upbraided the lazy fellas for slipping towards rock industry habits and clichés (something that consumed much of 1983). He was in the habit of sitting in on sessions and keeping an eye on the band’s historical commitment to crafting a music that took his own heroes’ aesthetic as a starting point and blowing it wide open (sooner than submitting to the drab conformisms of the ordinary, allowing the creative spirit to merely dissolve like used bog roll at the Ogwr sewage plant).
Indeed, Kak became a secondary pursuit for Bargefoot, Boyes and Cox for most of 1983 as they wasted much time and energy on their rehearsing pop band the Sculpture Drinks – on more than one occasion Stews heckled ‘Sell-outs!’ from the audience during gigs. A major turning point came when he sat in on a session at Boyes’s house during a school lunch hour in September ’83. The guys weren’t in the habit of ducking out to Boyes’s house at lunch time to record – in fact they did it twice only. Quite why they did it remains a mystery, but they did. They did do it. Boyes had been experimenting with using found material as backing for songs (see ‘Faecal Obsession II’) and invited Stews and Bargefoot to a quick sesh using live Radio 3 as the source. The result was ‘Johnny the Sheepshagger’, which features Stews for the first time, here merely tapping the bean bag he was sitting on. But his critical response was emphatic – this was what Sparrow could and should be like. The session sparked a flurry of activity that produced the final tracks for both albums (6 & 7), as well as a newly invigorated belief in the band’s identity and status in each of the members’ lives.
As an album, it feels like one. The opening track is superbly misleading, a solo effort by Boyes dubbing his own, conventional guitar soloing over a play-along backing disc, (it’s essentially dull), brilliantly ruptured by the intrusion of ‘Sheepshagger’’s mushed Tchaikovsky tanglings with Bargefoot’s drop-D turge-trudge nd Boyes’s Basil Fawlty tritone bass motif. Subsequent patches of arbitrary fiddle are punctuated by stand-out tracks all from the same ‘Sheepshagger’ session: the remarkable U2 cover, ‘I Will Follow’ set against Welsh-language radio; ‘Air’; and ‘Bum Hard’, a reprise of their as-yet un-re-released confused-’81, hard-rock staple.
Looking back, it reads like a manifesto, initiating new habits, unearthing new avenues for the extraction of laughs from rock & roll’s absurd paradigms. Its partner, Lovely Noise… is more significant in terms of full-blooded content.
Tracklisting & Credits
1) Faecal Obsession II
2) Johnny The Sheepshagger
3) Blue & Purple Pubes In E Major
4) My French Coffee & Chicory Mixture
5) I Will Follow
7) Father Xmas Wets His Bed
8) Kum By Yer Milord
9) Bazoomaz Not Dead
11) Bum Hard
12) Mirror Laundry (Bonus Track)
13) Sheepshagger II (Bonus Track)
Plus Emma Scott on ‘Kum By Yer Milord’
Recorded at Merthyr Mawr Road & The Hut 1982-83