Wire’s 100 Records that set the world on fire while no one was listening. 21 – 25

One of the dire pleasures of trawling my way through the Wire 100 records that set the world on fire is discovering music that slices in at the heart of something I have always liked anyway. That is what we have in this list of five. From the cruisy blues of Ram John Holder to the lilting sweetness of Buffy Saint Marie, here is the raw listening pleasure at the heart of a beat you may have already expereinced a little further away from the nexus. But that is part of the poit of the entire Wire series, and partly why I feel this list woke somethign inside of me that has never been put to sleep.

 

 

Ram John Holder

Black London Blues

This album sits on teh list as much for the lyrics as for the music. This album represened a period of British history. Holders songs, inlcuding “notting Hill Eviction” gave us a view of life as this man lived i, after decades of economic depression, world war and austerirty.  Thousandss of people just like him were caught in the slums of Britian at this time. As Wire tells us, lyrics like “regent Street is out of bounds / Unless you have a hundred pounds” spoke of a crucial part of British history. The blues were big in white suburbs like Richmond and Ealing, but were rarely used to describe the poor black conidtion. This is a break thrgouh album for these and other reasons. One of my favourites off the list.

Of course eventually he became a British actor. His theatre career saw him perform on the major stages in London such as the Royal National Theatre, theDonmar Warehouse and Bristol Old Vic.

 

 

Phil Ochs

Rehearsals for Retirement

Phil Ochs was an American protest singer (or, as he preferred, a topical singer) and songwriter who was known for his sharp wit, sardonic humor, earnest humanism, political activism, insightful and alliterative lyrics, and distinctive voice. He wrote hundreds of songs in the 1960s and released eight albums in his lifetime.

Ochs performed at many political events, including anti-Vietnam War and civil rights rallies, student events, andorganized labor events over the course of his career, in addition to many concert appearances at such venues as New York City’s Town Hall and Carnegie Hall. Politically, Ochs described himself as a “left social democrat” who became an “early revolutionary” after the protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago led to a police riot, which had a profound effect on his state of mind.

I’m not into protst songs particularly, but this album is beyond special. These lyrics border on the existential in their dark confrontational aspect. Its mixture of angry disillusion and impassioned optimism is entirely disarming. Scathingly satirical social comment and scarily lucid self-analysis combine to provide a sublime drivetime sound track to the collapse of Western civilization. Eioght years after the relese of this album, persued by governement agenst, drinking problems and the ghosts of counterculture ideals, he commits suicide and is lost to the world forever.

 

 

Buffy Sainte-Marie

Illuminations

Buffy Sainte-Marie,  is a Canadian Cree singer-songwriter, musician, composer, visual artist, educator, pacifist, and social activist. Throughout her career in all of these areas, her work has focused on issues of Indigenous peoples of the Americas. Her singing and writing repertoire includes subjects of love, war, religion, and mysticism. Illuminations, released in 1969, was the sixth album by Buffy Sainte-Marie. Though most of the tracks did away with the backing she had used on her previous two albums, Illuminations had a completely different sound from anything she had previously done. From a basis of vocals and acoustic guitar, Sainte-Marie and producer Maynard Solomon used electronic synthesizers to create a sound that was much more experimental music than folk. Indeed, Illuminations was the first quadrophonic vocal album ever made, and on songs like the album’s only single “Better to Find Out Yourself”, her voice is completely altered by a Buchla synthesizer. On its initial release, Illuminations was an utter disaster commercially, failing to get anywhere near the Billboard Top 200 and being deleted and largely disowned by Sainte-Marie within a few years. it is now considered to be the mother of all occult albums. Its a stunning eerie listen.

 

 

Sonny Sharrock

Black Woman

Warren Harding “Sonny” Sharrock was an American jazz guitarist. He was once married to singerLinda Sharrock, with whom he sometimes recorded and performed.  One of few guitarists in the first wave of free jazz in the 1960s, Sharrock was known for his incisive, heavily chorded attack, his bursts of wild feedback, and for his use of saxophone-like lines played loudly on guitar.  Sharrock began his musical career singing doo wop in his teen years. He collaborated with Pharoah Sanders and Alexander Solla in the late 1960s, appearing first on Sanders’s 1966 effort, Tauhid. He made several appearances with flautist Herbie Mann and also made an uncredited guest appearance on Miles Davis’s A Tribute to Jack Johnson, perhaps his most famous cameo.

He had in fact wanted to play tenor saxophone from his youth after hearing John Coltrane play on Davis’s album Kind of Blue on the radio at age 19, but his asthma prevented this from happening. Sharrock said repeatedly, however, that he still considered himself “a horn player with a really fucked up axe.”

This album, with a cast of New York free jazz all-stars including pianist Dave Burrell, bassist Norris Jones (aka Sirone), trumpeter Ted Daniel, drummer Milford Graves, and more, features Linda Sharrock’s Patty Waters/Yoko Ono-influenced vocals, with healthy dollops of soul and gospel. This is an amazing amazing album. I never quite got over this one.

 

 

Silver Apples

Contact

Silver Apples are an American psychedelic electronic music duo from New York, composed of Simeon Coxe III, who performs as Simeon, on a primitive synthesizer of his own devising (also named The Simeon), and until his death in 2005, drummer Danny Taylor. The group was active between 1967 and 1969, before reforming in the mid 1990s. They were one of the first groups to employ electronic music techniques extensively within a rock idiom, and their minimalistic style, with its pulsing, driving beat and frequently discordant modality, anticipated not only the experimental electronic music and krautrock of the 1970s, but also underground dance music and indie rock of the 1990s.

Contact is the second album by Silver Apples. The cover and inner artwork generated a lawsuit from Pan Am Airlines. The cover features the Silver Apples in a plane cockpit with drug paraphernalia and the inner artwork showed the band amongst plane wreckage playing banjos. Pan-Am was quite unhappy about it. Contact, their second album, a four-track recording fusing layered oscillators, sustained chords, frantic skitterings of unearthly insects and Dan Taylor’s metronomic drumming, is the sound of the American dream dissolving into a nightmare. Simeon’s vocals are thin and piercing, incanting spaced-out paranoia or rambling wistful stream-of-consciousness shards pre-dating Underworld’s dislocated lists.  They disappeared into obscurity quickly, but not before influencing many bands and movements into the future.

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