Saturday, April 21, 2007

No Fun...

...can still be fun, even Saturday/Sunday Fun, if it's a song performed by Iggy Pop and the Stooges.

That's the original version of the tune, from the bands 1969 debut lp, 'The Stooges'. And for the die-hards, here's a faster studio version the group recently recorded, or an insane live version from a couple years ago.

"Well c'mon! Well c'mon! Well c'mon! Well cum on!"

It's my firm belief that most of us who create with words or pictures (write and/or direct) all secretly wanted to be actors...or rock stars.

I know I did.

A quick trip down memory lane. I played piano and guitar when I was growing up. Not particularly well, but passable....not embarrassing. And through high school and early university, different configurations of five of us would get together in a friends basement to jam...and write and record songs. You see, our friend's older brother had sound-proofed half the space and purchased a reel to reel 4 track recorder. Now I know a lot of you have no idea what I'm talking about so here's a pic... might find one gathering dust in your parents crawlspace beside their old stereo turntable.

Our 'studio' was stocked with several microphones and a bass guitar and acoustic guitar, plus a variety of percussion instruments (bongos, maracas, tambourines, etc.). I provided two electric guitars with an amp and a small electric piano. Another friend put together a five piece drum kit.

We were the stereotypical garage band.

Over the next half a decade or so, we went by several monikers, including The Spinal Chords (pre-Spinal Tap) and The No Sisters Band (guess what, none of us had any sisters!). And we filled reels and reels of tape. Unfortunately, our basement studio friend eventually went 'mohawk' and started collaborating with a dark and twisted soul who was really into Joy Division and Public Image Limited. I was always more of a new wave, mainstream pop dude, but still asked if I could join their outfit. The truth came out in our parting conversation...he told me I was 'too rock and roll' for them (but apparently my bass-playing younger brother wasn't).

I remember feeling crushed at the time. How did I turn out so 'uncool'?

So my best friend/drummer and I pooled our cash and bought a Tascam multi-track cassette Portastudio. We took over a sound-proofed room at the university drama department and with our fav singer and two new musicians, set about recording a half dozen songs with dreams of getting it released as an EP. The 'released' part never happened, but the tunes did get finished. And if I should ever get around to transferring them to digital from metal cassette master, they might just find their way onto this blog.

We'd usually lay down the majority of the songs live on two of the tracks, and then overlay either vocals or lead guitar on the other two tracks. It was pretty basic stuff, nothing to scream and shout about. But a lot of fun to produce.

And when the writing and recording was done, we jammed and played 'No Fun', '96 Tears', 'Gloria', and 'Hang On Sloopy'; 'Wild Thing' and Louie Louie'; and let's not forget 'Rock n' Roll', 'Sweet Jane', and 'Waiting for the Man' (The Velvet Underground); plus anything by The New York Dolls or Lou Reed or Bob Dylan and Neil Young ('specially those long jammers like 'Cowgirls in the Sand' and 'Down By The River').

And it goes without saying, MC5's 'Kick Out The Jams'.

Why these particular songs? Well, I could say because of what they represented or the passion and energy they possessed or how the songs spoke to us, but the reality was...they were easy to play.

Minimalist and raw, simple and to the point...they were three or four minute bursts of energy that captured the energy and excitement of youth and manifest themselves into rock n'roll songs. And we could play them.

"No fun to be alone
Walking by myself."

Therein was the fun...and the moral of the story. We were making music... together. Not necessarily beautiful music, but music nevertheless. And unless you're a multitalent like the Artist Now Known Again As Prince, it takes several musicians and their instruments working as a cohesive unit to write and/or perform a song. It ended up being a great training ground for grasping the concept of necessary collaboration that's needed to create film or television.

Of course, any remembrance of garage rock wouldn't be replete without a tip of a hat to the mother lode that is known as Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era...

For the uninitiated, THIS collection was the stuff that brought rock and roll out of its wasteland in the mid-60s...and spawned the 70's movement we came to know and love as 'punk rock'.

Do garage bands exist today? I'm sure they must (see The Hold Steady or Arctic Monkeys), but I'm getting old and most likely out of touch. Still, I often wonder what cover tunes the garage bands of today play as staples...what's their 'inspiration'? As much as I'm fond of the 'Nuggets' era, part of me hopes we've moved forward and it's not the same songs anymore.

For another post, I'll explain why I dig Dig! - the rock documentary from a couple years ago that followed the rise to and/or fall from stardom with retro West Coast psychedelic bands The Dandy Warhols and Brian Jonestown Massacre.

No fun? Fun!

SONG&ARTIST? - "Ask me, baby, why I'm sad
You been out all night, know you been bad
Don't tell me different, know it's a lie
Come kill me, honey, see how I cry."


Juniper said...


Anonymous said...

the new Iggy rocks, I liked it