The Hill Views #2

SO, a little later than planned – I continue my stream of consciousness.

I mentioned last time that my year of 2016 was going to end with seeing Adam Ant perform “Kings of the Wild Frontier” again – but this time at the Roundhouse in Camden. Earlier in the year I was at his Brixton gig, which for me was an exciting and joyous occasion. I was given his first three records as Christmas and Birthday presents when they came out originally and I remember listening to them as a teenager as excited about the music as I was about his outfits and stripe across the nose. I knew about the Bow Wow Wow situation and firmly sided with Adam at the time. The pompous and magnificent drums, the chants of “we are family” ringing around my ears gripped me then, and it gripped me with my inner child at Brixton. It was marvellous. And here we went again at the Roundhouse as a sort of Christmas time gig. The energy he has on stage was incredible – time and time again racing around the stage, performing those tracks with exactly the same passion as before. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. It was a fantastic end to the year. You wanna know what he played – well here is a link:

Sadly his 2017 US tour has been tinged with sadness with the death of his guitarist Tom Edwards at the age of 41. However, with the support of Tom’s family the tour goes on and Adam continues to wow his audiences.

Finishing off 2016 like that was great, but it’s made me think about what I want to see this year. I’ve decided on “no nostalgia” but that’s going to be hard enough with some of my old favourite bands like The Wedding Present, Sigur Ros, The Primitives, Buffalo Tom, Teenage Fanclub and The Jesus and Mary Chain all touring at the moment. Either with new songs or without. I’ve nothing in the diary so far so I’ll have to keep you posted. I’m still resisting the urge. I’ve got to find some new things to listen to.

Anyway, I can still write about these “old” records – I think the joy of seeing Adam Ant was that it really switched me back on to what grabbed my attention musically in the first place – what sounds excited me, why, and how these things led me to explore other musical avenues. I can remember thinking “what else is out there” and then spending hours in our local record shop, flicking through lp sleeves, 7inch singles in the “alt” or “punk” or “Americana” or “Aus/NZ” sections… just picking out record sleeves that looked enticing, not really knowing what the music was going to be but making judgements on the artwork and what instruments were listed on the back cover (if any).

So what came after The Tubeway Army and Adam Ant’s records? Perhaps you will be dismayed to hear that I spent time in the company of Dire Straits, Genesis, Marillion (with Fish), ZZ Top, Pink Floyd, amongst others – whilst also finding my synth feet with Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk, etc.

It was only a matter of time before I decided to go deeper underground – to find the sounds that would really piss off my parents, and at the same time make me gasp or just think “what the hell is that?”

the-fall-hip-priest-and-kameradsMy elder sister came back one day from school having bought a record called “Hip Priest and the Kamerads” by The Fall. So she basically gave me my love of Mark E Smith’s band of not so merry men. She also introduced me to Ian Dury and the Blockheads but I drew the line when she started playing Simply Red records. I guess you can’t blame me for nicking her The Fall and Ian Dury records as punishment but “Hip Priest” was probably one of the records that completely changed my attitude to music. So basic in some parts, so reliant on the rhythm section – the sparse drums, the bass guitar driving the music and the tinny guitar all holding up some insane rantings from Mark E Smith.

Anyway. To the reason for this blog. There is one other record that I hold up as being pivotal in influencing my attitudes to recorded sound.

That record is by Dog Faced Hermans and is called “Humans Fly”.

dog-faced-hermans-humans-flyStarting off with the hand drawn logo on a mysterious black and white cover, to a tracklisting including songs called “How much vegetation have you got” “Mary Houdini” “Incineration” and “El Doggo Speaks” – I had to have it. I was curious about there being brass instruments being played on it, and when I got this mysterious beast home and started to play it I knew this was the kind of music I wanted to hear forever. It’s dis-chordant, it’s insane, it’s like nothing I’d ever heard before. I couldn’t marry up the beats which seemed to be in a different time signature to the guitars and singing. No, not singing, not speaking, not shouting. I still can’t describe Marion Coutts vocals adequately. The effect on me hearing her back then was again quite like nothing had gone before. How could you do that with sentences? It just blew everything away into a new universe. Of course you don’t need “verse chorus verse chorus middle 8 outro”. Why the fuck would you want that formula anyway? Bung a trumpet break in there why don’t you. Oh ok. Yeah. Smash it up. Dribble all over boring old Top 40 / Major Labels faces with their lame boring old formula. Sell a million records – Sod that. Let’s just sell 10. That’ll do.

Oh it’s classed as “post punk” now, but it was always more anarchic than that to me. They improvised heavily. If you remember Chumbawumba then if you said they copied Dog Faced Hermans and were a mainstream and sanitised version of them then you might be 0.2% closer to understanding what I mean. I put this down as the first truly “indie” or “alternative” record I ever bought. It was the one that I had found for myself, not relying on anyone giving it to me, or saying “listen to this” or hearing about it by word of mouth.

It was there in the record racks, all mysterious and strange looking, with its plastic protective sleeve. Calling out to me to take it home to play.

When the needle hit that groove, and I turned up the volume to drown out my screaming parents protests I knew that Humans did indeed Fly. I knew that the amount of vegetation I’d got, was not enough. The rain it DID raineth and when El Doggo Spoke, everyone would listen and it would be me controlling the volume.

Rob Boyd – 7th Feb 2017

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