THE COLOR OF NOISE (MVD Visual/Robellion Films) Blu-ray/DVD combo

by admin  2nd Dec 2015 Comments [204]

By Doug Sheppard

 

The combination of an unbearable mainstream and inadequate underground made the ’80s the worst decade of the rock ’n’ roll era. Hardcore, postpunk and thrash metal played out quickly as MTV, radio and major labels spattered the manure of crass, overproduced corporate music awash in synthesizers and obnoxious loud drums. Worse, conformity that rejected the ’60s counterculture pervaded throughout society, giving rise to religious fanatics and other ignoramuses (e.g., the PMRC) who sought to censor what little truly alternative sounds were out there.

If you didn’t fancy derivative, wimpy college rock that rocked only slightly more than Peter, Paul and Mary, there wasn’t much — and by the late ’80s, there was virtually nothing. Punk and metal were mostly clichés, the garage revival was going nowhere, and rock ’n’ roll in general lay dormant. Into this late ’80s void came a louder, noisier underground as heard on new labels like Sub Pop and Amphetamine Reptile.

The story of Sub Pop is well known, but Amphetamine Reptile went undocumented — until now. The Color of Noise tells the story of a label that was essentially Sub Pop’s evil twin: rawer, ruder, darker and more provocative — yet almost as influential in making the 1990s better than the 1980s and helping lay the groundwork for the future.

Amphetamine Reptile (named after a slight mishearing of Motörhead’s “Love Me Like a Reptile”) reflected the ambitions of its owner, Tom Hazelmyer, a guitarist and veteran of such Minneapolis bands as Todlachen and Otto’s Chemical Lounge — not to mention the US Marines — who founded the label to put out records by his noise rock combo, Halo of Flies.

Like Sub Pop after its humble beginnings, Hazelmyer soon found an audience of dissatisfied youth ready to embrace his iconoclasm. His label signed more likeminded noise rockers like the Cows, God Bullies, Unsane, Boss Hog and the band that put AmRep on the map, Helmet. As the releases and European tours for AmRep acts mushroomed, so did the imprint’s rep for provocative artwork (by renowned artists like Frank Kozik, Coop and Derek Hess) and uncompromising DIY ethos. If the ugliness and outrage of AmRep bands reflected distaste for the ’80s itself, who could blame them?

Hazelmyer himself and every AmRep band of significance is interviewed, as are sleeve artists, label employees and outside observers like Jello Biafra. The Color of Noise serves as much as a bio of Hazelmyer — also a restaurateur and print artist — as it does the story of his label, but that makes sense, as the two are inextricably linked. The cinematography is first-rate, interspersing quality old clips of AmRep bands in various clubs worldwide with colorful presentations of flyers and sleeves and, of course, interviews with the provocateurs who shared Hazelmyer’s vision.

The parallels to Sub Pop are striking. Both hailed from cities — Seattle and Minneapolis — that produced some of the greatest local rock scenes of the ’60s. The labels not only did joint releases, but saw overlap in bands that recorded for both. And just as Sub Pop went big with the rise of Nirvana, Helmet’s ascent to platinum status with Meantime in 1992 ensured that AmRep (which then sold Interscope Helmet’s debut, Strap It On) would be a viable business proposition for years to come.

Or at least until 1998, when Amphetamine Reptile went dormant — with only sporadic releases since. But even if it didn’t last as long as Sub Pop, which continues to this day, its influence is almost as significant. The 1991 revolution that turned many heads in the direction of alternative sounds was mostly spurred by Nirvana, but Helmet — and therefore AmRep — was also part of the mix. Doom metal, stoner metal, garage rock and the psychedelic revival all existed before then, but undoubtedly got a boost when, yes, the alternative briefly became the mainstream and told impressionable teens that there was something else out there.

Today’s mainstream might be worse than ever, but the underground is healthy. We owe Amphetamine Reptile and other vintage indie labels gratitude for laying — or at least strengthening — the groundwork when bands didn’t have the reach and immediacy of the Internet. And we have The Color of Noise to thank for preserving an interesting piece of rock ’n’ roll history in this fine documentary.


Twinkle 1948-2015

by admin  23rd May 2015 Comments [2088]

Twinkle (Lynn Annette Wilson-Rogers), singer and songwriter, born 16 July 1948, Surbiton, Surrey; died 21 May 2015, Isle of Wight.

 

By Alan Clayson

 

“Terry,” maiden single by Twinkle—who has died of cancer, aged 65—caught if not the mood, then a mood of 1964. Concerning a biker who, irked by his girl’s infidelity, zooms off to a lonely end of mangled chrome, blood-splattered kerbstones and the oscillations of an ambulance siren, it had been an instant cause célèbre. As well as distressing the BBC, it also suffered a banning on ITV’s Ready Steady Go, not for the death content so much as its non-conformity to the series’ Mod specifications—for there was no doubt about Terry’s identity. There was, however, some speculation about Twinkle’s: a London dolly-bird in her John Lennon cap, striped jumper and kinky boots—“I never wear anything except boots” ran one press release—singing about a leather boy with a greasy quiff. It was like West Side Story, wasn’t it: a Mod loving a Rocker?

Moreover, the upbringing of Lynn Annette Ripley—pet-named ‘Twinkle’ from birth—was centered on gentrified Kingston Hill where Surrey merges with London, and  embraced chauffeurs, maids, meeting royalty – and a private education that she endured rather than enjoyed at Kensington’s select Queen’s Gate School. Other former students included the Redgraves and Camilla Parker-Bowles, the future Duchess of Cornwall.

(more…)


Trevor ‘Dozy’ Davies: Obituary by Alan Clayson

by admin  19th Jan 2015 Comments [1918]

As the Beatles are to Liverpool, so Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich are to Salisbury. Indeed, the Wiltshire county town displayed its pride in the group via the placing of an honorific blue plaque on the wall of the City Hall on the 40th anniversary of their “Legend Of Xanadu” topping the British charts in 1968. The previous year, the group had occupied five concurrent positions in West Germany’s Top 20, and had beaten the Beatles by over three thousand readers’ votes in a poll organized by the federal republic’s principal pop journal Bravo—which also published a major news item detailing 24-year-old Dozy’s wedding in November 1968.

‘Dozy’ was Trevor Davies, who attended the primary school in Enford, then a Wiltshire farming community, prior to studying at Durrington Secondary Modern—and a road-to-Damascus moment when Buddy Holly and the Crickets appeared in Salisbury in 1958. “I was young and impressionable,” admitted Davies, “but Buddy astounded me just by his very stage presence.”

Acquiring an acoustic and then an electric bass guitar, Davies joined the Beatnicks, where he found himself alongside Ian ‘Tich’ Amey. By 1961, however, the two had been incorporated into Ronnie Blonde & the Bostons with John ‘Beaky’ Dymond, David ‘Dave Dee’ Harman and drummer Stan Poole. After the departure of vocalist Blonde in 1962, Dave Dee became nominal leader when they undertook first professional bookings, zig-zagging across Scotland at a time when Britain’s only motorway terminated at Birmingham, and such an odyssey was truly hellish. Then came arduous seasons in Cologne and Hamburg clubland which led to the replacement of Poole with Mick Wilson, a friend of Davies.

Now a hard act to follow, Dave Dee & the Bostons acquired a shrewd management and songwriting team in Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley which, combined with a change of name, led to a maiden Top 30 strike with “You Make It Move,” and its “Hold Tight!” follow-up coming with an ace of Number One. So began a four year run of world-wide hits that embraced artistic progress that went beyond orthodox beat group instrumentation—as illustrated by the use of balalaika on “Okay!,” and a South American charrasga on “Zabadak!” (which lent its name to a present-day DDDBMT fan club magazine). Moreover, the quintet’s parameters as composers of B-sides and LP tracks were proficient, even adventurous—as instanced by 1967’s psychedelic “The Sun Goes Down’ “co-written by Davies, with its an abrupt concluding tape-edit that anticipated that in the Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” on Abbey Road. In retrospect, the chasm between the ‘rock’ of the more intellectually revered Beatles, and the ‘vulgar’ pop of DDDBMT is far from unbreachable. In parenthesis, Davies proved an assured lead vocalist when required—as instanced by “Hands Off” on the second album.

Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich. Trevor 'Dozy' Davies 2nd from right.

Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich. Trevor ‘Dozy’ Davies 2nd from right.

By 1969, however, DDDBMT and their mentors were running out of ideas, and the group split in two. Dave Dee went solo while Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich (as ‘DBMT’) attempted to rise anew with a prog-rock repertoire, as instanced by a mild cause célèbre of an album, 1970’s Fresh Ear Me). One associated single, “Tonight Today,” penetrated the Top Ten in the Netherlands.

Inevitably perhaps, both factions of the old firm resumed an intermittent recording career together in 1974 with “She’s A Lady.” All members continued, nevertheless, however, to pursue extra-mural projects, as Davies, Amey and Dymond did in Tracker. Yet despite a well-received tour of Germany, this promising trio sundered in 1975. Davies also functioned as one of Woodsmoke, a country & western duo, and recorded songs penned solely by himself for submission to other artists. Then DBMT reunited in the late 1970s, most conspicuously with “In the Coven,” a single that might have been a surefire smash had it been attributed to Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich during their “Zabadak!”-“Xanadu” commercial prime.

It was not heard on stage, however, when DDDBMT began focusing chiefly on the Sounds Of The Sixties nostalgia circuit (with a set that sometimes included a showstopping Johnny Cash impersonation by Davies) while tilting occasionally at the charts with such as 1983’s disco-tinged “Staying With It,” a revival of Manfred Mann’s “Do Wah Diddy Diddy,” and grafting a Status Quo-esque blues-boogie rhythm onto “Here We Go,” the soccer match ditty that lives in its Offenbach melody.

Though Dee died in 2009, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich were still performing together sith the enthusiasm of their younger selves until Davies was diagnosed with acute pancreatic cancer a week before his own death.

He is survived by his wife Yvonne, children Darren and Sarah, and five grandchildren.

 

‘Dozy’ (Trevor Leonard Ward-Davies), born 27 November 1944, died 13 January 2015