Archive for the ‘Kraftwerk’ Category

Amon Duul II

Friday, April 20th, 2012

Listen: Pigman / Amon Duul II

Back when Rich Fazekas oversaw the college promotion department at United Artists Records with Marty Cerf, the label was pretty much my favorite. I was nuts about Family and anything Roy Wood had involvement with. That meant The Move, The Electric Light Orchestra and Roy Wood’s Wizzard, all on the roster. Then there was Hawkwind, Brinsley Schwarz and their distributed labels too, especially Blue Note, with Bobbi Humphrey and Marlena Shaw. He and I were on the phone daily, literally daily. Rich at the label’s Sunset Blvd office in Los Angeles, me at my college radio station’s pathetic office in Rochester New York, fairly desperate for a way to trade up, out and to a label job located in a real city.

Rich meanwhile, always tried to convince me about some of the German acts they had too. Occasionally he’d slip one of the UK pressings he’d been serviced with by bands like Neu or Can, and often pounded me on the US released albums from Amon Duul II. I was clearly more in pocket with the pop singles by Roy Wood’s projects or even Family 7′s, as opposed to six or eight minute meandering album tracks.

Then one afternoon, Rich called to say he’d just overnighted me a new Amon Duul II release, but this time it was a 7″. Well alright, a single by any prog rock act, usually sliced into three minutes from something much longer, had always been a form of collectibility. I never needed much justification to horde a 7″, and still don’t.

When ‘Pigman’ arrived the next day, the title alone had me interested. After all, it put everyone else at the station off immediately, a good initial sign. Although not what I was expecting, having aligned them more with Kraftwerk or Faust, I still wanted to like this, the label copy looked great. The band’s name being one I’d never seen on a 7″. These things excited me.

Those ahead of the curve college radio programmers never gave their albums much of a break with airtime, and ‘Pigman’, the band’s first and only US single, didn’t change the shut out. And I don’t understand it any more clearly now than then, given the record had tongue in cheek country verses with hard rock chorus riffs. Seems it should’ve been eaten up.

Oh well, a nice 7″ pressing to have. I never see it around much these days either.

Power Pill

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Listen: Pac Man (Mickey Finn’s Yum Yum Edit) / Power Pill
Pac Man (Mickey Finn's Yum Yum Edit) / Power Pill

How strange was that Grammy award acceptance speech from Dave Grohl a few weeks back? Dear me, he doesn’t at all seem comfortable that his Foo Fighters rock music possibly needs a fresh breath to creatively compete with newer genres, much more reflecting the sound of technology and instincts of a younger generation. This either minutes before or after an embarrassing attempt to musically collaborate with Deadmau5.

Yes, he proclaimed some rather curious mentions about singing into a microphone, learning to play your instrument, implying as long as that instrument isn’t a computer, one’s heart, imperfections and all, will prevail with better music resulting.

Huh? I guess to him, his band’s processed and polished output, to these ears at least, all apparently now recorded in his garage then tweaked to old school sonic perfection in a most high end mastering facility, is the real deal. Rock’s new soul. To each his own I suppose.

Point being, soulful music can be made on machines just as with traditional instruments if the creator has the heart he was mentioning, and the talent. His comments were not unlike Mitch Miller dismissing Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones in the early 60′s. Quite disappointing from a guy known to be supportive, friendly and a comrade.

Case in point, Power Pill. This one-off side track from Richard D. James, aka Aphex Twin, has more relevance today than many of the current metal posing as punk tunes being force fed down the pike by totally tuckered guitar playing 40 somethings. Check the timeline, the ‘Pac Man’ single is twenty years old.

The early 90′s, even the late 80′s, were indeed the formative periods for electronic music’s stronghold beginnings, finally surfacing in the DNA of a generation whose parents opened their ears and record shelves to Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Faust, Neu, Can, Henry Cow and many more.

Released by Roger Ames’ brilliant FFRR label, you need both the 12″ and the desperately hard to find 7″ of this one. My favorite version, Mickey Finn’s Yum Yum mix, miraculously made it to the 7′s B side in edited form.

I first heard ‘Pac Man’ on a BBC Radio 1 John Peel evening session program, driving around in Gary Crowley’s car after a rather late night at Jake’s. Never mind. I made it to the Oxford Street HMV that very next morning to scarf one of the five copies in their rack. I know, very short sighted leaving the other four behind.


Sunday, February 26th, 2012

Listen: Expo 2000 (Kling Klang Radio Mix 2002) / Kraftwerk
Expo 2000 (Kling Klang Radio Mix 2002) / Kraftwerk

Commissioned to write the theme song for Expo 2000, at least that’s my educated guess, this one snuck out in December ’99. Well in Germany that is, then the rest of Europe one month later, peaking at #27 in the British singles chart. Although a decent showing, no one ever seems to mention ‘Expo 2000′ much, despite, at the time, being Kraftwerk’s first commercial recording of new, original music since the release of ELECTRIC CAFE in ’86.

They performed ‘Expo 2000′ at Hammerstein Ballroom on their last New York trip, June ’05, a show never to be forgotten.

When released, EMI were smart enough to accompany the commercial version with numerous promotional 12″ and cd pressings, sprawling many remixes and edits. The UK company, as with most British labels, must have felt obligated to couple two of them for the dj only 7″ pictured above.

I almost blacked out when hearing about the 45 for the first time, as if all the other promo configurations weren’t enough to send any sane human over the edge.

Thanks to Merck Mercuriadis, a small box turned up at the Sony offices for me with all the bits. Fond memories still linger of the moment I unwrapped that package.


Sunday, December 25th, 2011

Listen: The Robots (Edited Version) / Kraftwerk

A virtue worthy of living by: the holiday is all about giving, and showing the ones you love that you love them. In keeping with that holiday spirit, I’m giving more than usual. Two A sides. They were separately released in the UK as consecutive singles: ‘The Robots’ then ‘Neon Lights’. But in the US, coupled as and A and B. Although in reality, 2 A’s.

Despite ‘The Robots’ reaching #20 in the UK pop charts, of course in the US, it got no airplay. Hey, here’s an act that still isn’t even considered for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Are you a member of that deciding committee? I hope so. Because that means you are reading this and I’m able to tell you: you’re a fucking idiot and/or a coward.

That’s cool actually. Kraftwerk have been so loudly ignored by that self appointed bunch that they’re spotlighted more for not being in than if they were.

Speaking of those committee bozos, when they learned I owned the original London Records sign, the one that graced the doorway of the label’s 539 East 25th Street offices in New York, they asked me to please donate it to the museum. I really couldn’t part with it. Understand, I still have rocks collected in kindergarden, unable to throw anything away. How could I possibly just give this sign to anyone? Well as a result, I was kicked off the voting panel. How great is that?

‘The Robots’, released in the thick of our addiction to punk, was accepted as part of the family. Everyone I knew worshiped it. Corinne was the singles buyer at a one stop then, and ordered a ton of them, hence the jukebox tab below.

And if you have been lucky enough to see Kraftwerk perform this live, well, nothing more needs said.

Listen: Neon Lights / Kraftwerk

Equally equal in greatness, ‘Neon Lights’ was possibly more palatable for airplay…so I thought. I worked radio promotion at the time. Although my employer was MCA, I spent most of those meetings with program directors talking about worthy records to be considered, usually on competing labels. During that period, Kraftwerk was both my topic of discussion and usually of battle. Little good it did either the record or yours truly, but to end the post as I started it, with a virtue to live by, it was the thought that counted.


Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

Listen: Isi / Neu
Isi / Neu

Shaving off just over a minute from the full length, opening track on NEU ’75, their third album, meant 3:55 worth of hit single potential got itself pressed onto a hopeful UK 7″, anxious to follow Kraftwerk and Mike Oldfield into the charts.

From the way history implies, copies didn’t go much further than from occasional shop counter tops to Julian Cope’s and David Bowie’s houses. Not surprisingly, little to no airplay nor sales transpired, making even the promo pressings scarce.

Nowhere near as raw as expected, my initial few listens didn’t find me returning for multiple plays, not at first. But through the years, ‘Isi’ makes for a handy set breather during my Sunday afternoon record hops at the house, on rainy days, particularly in the autumn. Try it sometime.


Saturday, November 13th, 2010

Listen: The Robots (Edited Version) / Kraftwerk KraftwerkRobots.mp3

Thirty two years. It’s a long time.

Well that number represents two things: how many years ago ‘The Robots’ was released and how many years behind contemporary music just about every commercial radio station in America is. They still have no idea.

Believe me, liking this single or Kraftwerk in 1978 got you many a cross eyed look. No worries, I was used to them. The same facial expression greeted me for loving The Pretty Things first album, The Pink Floyd’s PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN, even that wild and zany Jimi Hendrix Experience. Yes, other kids would shoot stuff at my crowd in the school hallways for our queer tastes. I recall one classmate hassling me for liking “the nigger that wears women’s clothes”. True.

Upstate New York was not a very open minded place in the late 60′s.

Now I guarantee you, most of those ignorants are still listening to these very bands, yes still.

Fast forward to 2002. I’m working at Columbia and our chairman had decided to sign David Bowie. He passed around the demos from HEATHEN, his forthcoming label debut. Settling into a weekly A&R meeting, he asks me what I thought of the songs.

“Garbage. I hate them.”

“What! You never liked Bowie? You didn’t like ZIGGY STARDUST?”

“Boss, when I liked ZIGGY STARDUST, I got laughed at in the hallways and chased home after school by bullies.”

There was no way this guy was into a bloke wearing a fake fur top shaped like two rabbit ears, hot pants, seamed fish net stockings and stilettos in ’72 (David Bowie’s exact outfit at the Syracuse Landmark Theater that very year).

In truth, there was no replacing the pulse of those moments, like championing any of the above in their prime, when you’re insatiable for the sonic palate cleansing these genre inventing acts provided. It was a rush. You felt high every time you listened, and you couldn’t listen enough.

Like Kraftwerk, THE MAN MACHINE. A defining work of music that changed culture, introduced the world to the sound of technology. And a whole bunch of people still don’t even know that it has yet. That’s how far ahead of their time Kraftwerk were/are.

You’re going to be dead for an awful long time, so don’t ever, ever miss them in concert if you can help it. In many ways, there is no better live act. When it comes to electronic music, only The Chemical Brothers come close, and they’re a completely different experience altogether.


Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

TomitaUSA, Tomita, RCA, Snowflakes Are Dancing

Tomita, Tomita, RCA, Snowflakes Are Dancing

Listen: Arabesque No. 1 / Tomita TomitaArabesque.mp3

Born in 1932 and still active today, Isao Tomita began composing for film and television as early as ’55. By the late 60′s, he turned his attention to electronic pieces after hearing Walter Carlos, whereby he performed classical music on the Moog synthesizer. Isao acquired a Moog III and began building a home studio. He started arranging Claude Debussy’s pieces for synthesizer and, in ’74, transformed those works into SNOWFLAKES ARE DANCING. When the album was released; it became a worldwide success, even in the US.

Corinne and I worked at Discount Records on the Syracuse University campus then. She ended up overseeing the classical department. This was in the day when record stores, particularly Discount, stocked very deep catalog titles. Classical music collectors are as eccentric as we pop hoarders. They would come in daily, she had a real following, almost groupie-like. I was never intimidated though. Talk about nut jobs – one guy was even a priest and super hysterical. With a sense of humor like no other, he made constant fun of the nuns, and had us round the parish a few times for some home cooked dinners. We scraped by in those days, preferring to spend cash on drinks and of course records. Those invites were God-sends, so to speak. It was a real blast of a summer though.

During that period, Tomita’s album started to gain traction. There was always a diverse in-store playlist variety going on. Everyone employed was a record crazy of some sort – all with extreme and bizarre musical tastes, yours truly included.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when the RCA salesman came in and handed me a bunch of Tomita 7′s, on red vinyl, a real anomaly in those days. All those sales guys gave me their promo singles, NO ONE else wanted singles. It was heaven.

TomitaSnowflakes, Tomita, RCA, Snowflakes Are Dancing

Listen: Snowflakes Are Dancing / Tomita TomitaSnowflakesAreDancing.mp3

She started spinning SNOWFLAKES ARE DANCING, and that baby would fly out of the shop as a result. A bunch of us were into Tangerine Dream and Faust, Amon Duul II, Can and of course Kraftwerk.

Think about it, ‘Autobahn’ was a hit single then. Would that happen on crap US radio now? And we thought it was bad then…anyways, Tomita fit right in. Everyone was content, which many times wasn’t the case, particularly as the night hours wore on and we all started getting buzzed.

This guy was, well still is, amazing. In 1984, he released CANON OF THE THREE STARS, featuring classical pieces renamed for astronomical objects. Rightly so, he credits himself with inventing The Plasma Symphony Orchestra, a computer synthesizer process using the wave forms of electromagnetic emanations from various stars and constellations for the sonics of that album.

Tomita has performed a number of outdoor Sound Cloud concerts, with speakers surrounding the audience in what else, a ‘cloud of sound’. He did a serious ass concert in ’84 at the annual Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria called Mind Of The Universe, get this: mixing tracks live in a glass pyramid suspended over an audience of 80,000 people.

He performed another concert in New York two years later to celebrate the Statue Of Liberty centennial (Back To The Earth) as well as one in Sydney for the ’88 Australian Bicentennial. That performance was part of a $7 million gift from Japan to New South Wales, which included the largest ever fireworks display at that time, six fixed sound and lighting systems — one of those on a moored barge in the centre of a bay, the other flown in by Chinook helicopter — for the relevant parts of the show. A fleet of barges with Japanese cultural performances, including kabuki fire drumming, passed by at various times.

His most recent Sound Cloud event was in Nagoya, Japan in ’97 featuring guest performances by Ray Charles, Dionne Warwick, and Rick Wakeman.

Of course we knew nothing of any Tomita history back in ’74. We just loved SNOWFLAKES ARE DANCING. Hopefully he’ll come back to New York one more time. We will not miss it.


Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

Hey Girl Hey Boy / The Chemical Brothers

Listen: Listen: Hey Boy Hey Girl / The Chemical Brothers HeyBoyHeyGirl.mp3

How often do you see a 7″ single by The Chemical Brothers? Actually this was the first of two, that I’m aware of. And it’s US only. If ever there was a great night out, it’s at one of their live shows. You almost, like with Kraftwerk, The Ramones, Suicide or The Cramps, need not bother going to see anything else ever again. Well that’s a bit strong, but not far fetched. This also was a favorite call and response number I sparred off with between myself and our daughter Ping when she was about 5, so pretty sentimental. Even though it’s fairly current, and well known, it’s still a great single – and sounds amazingly good in the Seeburg.


Friday, June 20th, 2008

Numbers / Kraftwerk

Listen: Numbers / Kraftwerk

If you don’t know about Kraftwerk then go away, do some research and start the first day of the rest of your life. But if you do, you may not know something pretty interesting: this was actually released as a single 27 years ago. 27 years ago!!! Were Bob Krasnow and Mo Ostin ahead of their time back at Warner Brothers then, or was the rest of society behind the times? The answer is simple. Here’s the US single only version.