Will be posting again real soon, you just wait. In the meantime take a bite outta HOMER HENDERSON, the greatest One Man Band to trod the land since . . . well since Bobby “Enlightening Beam of Axonda” Brown played for quarters to gawking Venice Beach longhairs back in the hippie daze. Using Telecaster, harmonica, snare, bass drum, and a great TX holler, here Homer gives us a rendition of Dale Bramhall’s “Cotton Club Revue” that makes me wonder just what kinda craziness my dad got up to at those state fairs he attended in Dallas in the early 50′s. Go to it, Homer . . .
COLD SUN – Dark Shadows (1970, as reissued by World In Sound, 2008) – Fucking hell, man – has a more potent slab of synapse-stretching, darksoul-wrenching TX psych ever been waxed? This is one sub-13TH FLOOR ELEVATOR group who could’ve actually given Roky & co. a run for their mind-melting money. And they go one further by replacing the amplified jug with an electric autoharp! I haven’t consciously listened to autoharp since Sunday school sing-a-longs in the late 70′s . . . but Bill Miller’s playing of it is so disarmingly simple and emotionally effective, ya find yourself wishing others – THE DOORS? THE VELVET UNDERGROUND? – had thought to throw an a-harp in their mix too. Bill’s earnest vocals are ones of a true peyote believer; clearly, he’d experienced moments whilst tripping that he couldn’t not try to interpret into sound/words. The band follows along diligently through the winding tunes in an occasionally halting but admirably determined fashion, matching Bill’s freakdom with the dedication of dudes who totally believed in their leader’s oddball vision. That these fellas would eventually reemerge with Roky Erickson as BLIEB ALIEN in ’74 makes all the sense in the world (read about that and alot more besides here). Though ultimately it’s irrelevant, since COLD SUN were capable of creating and recording sacred music all by themselves, a full two years before Roky was released from Rusk State Hospital. It’s that accomplishment that’s blowing me away right now.
Gotta love Texas Trip Lords, man – some of the ballsiest Trip Lords this world has ever produced. This CD is making me wanna drop acid again, and right NOW. Anybody got a couple of good-quality microdots to spare? Make damn sure to slip inside this house as you pass by – you won’t regret it.
COLD SUN – “South Texas“
What I listened to on the TX leg of recent my USSA holiday (detail here):
Man, 50-something Hill Country hippies are just the best.
And while we’re on the subject of Austin . . . you ever get to thinking much about 70′s HARD ‘N’ HEAVY BLUES ROCK from TEXAS? I sure as hell do, all the freakin’ time. So I’ve come up with what were, unequivically, the very best 70′s hard ‘n’ heavy blues rock Texans, in reverse order of rockgodliness. Cap a Shiner Bock, turn it the fuck up and GO TO IT:
5. Nitzinger – “Boogie Queen” (from the Nitzinger LP, Capitol Records, 1971) This Fort Worth John Nitzinger guy came up writing songs for local boys BLOODROCK before cutting loose on his own. He went mersh straight away, blatantly shooting for the charts – but for a year or so there, hard rock WAS mersh – or so he believed. So here, in between cheesedick pop attempts, he’s singing about cockfights, ticklelicks, & boogie queens while playing a bit of mean bluesy gtr, and he’s ditched the progressive organ stuff that bogged down B’ROCK. You want something more? Well he’s also got a chick drummer, and she ain’t half bad! If only all mersh rock sounded this ROCKIN’!
4. Point Blank – “Tattooed Lady” (from their Second Season LP, Arista, 1977) Manager/producer Bill Ham’s forgotten second-stringers who dished a couple solid, hard-as-nails recs in the mid-70′s, before trading it all (the blown amps! The ugly bikers! The groupies with knife scars and missing teeth!) for a wimpy DOOBIE BROS. sound by the end of the decade. But early on, I can almost imagine them giving ZZ TOP a run for it – if only they’d been a bit smarter about their presentation. Their good-ol’-boyisms might grate on you (esp. if you’ve ever had your ass wupped by a bunch of hairy, backwood TX rednecks), but I fucking love it. So does DICK DESTINY, and he oughta know.
3. Johnny Winter – “Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo” (from the Johnny Winter And LP, Columbia, 1970) You really can’t talk about Texas blues rock without mentioning the whitest mofo of them all. And yeah I admit his records are pretty inconsistent, what with all the “heavy” covers of 50′s R’N'R standards. Me, I tend to throw on the records by his stylistic offspring (like RORY GALLAGHER) more frequently. But hey loose was actually his thing: get loaded and go hog wild, mess be damned. And I think we can all agree that approach has it’s merits. Plus, he always sang desperate, like he meant it. This record – featuring the counterpoint gtr talents of the diminutive RICK DERRINGER – was recorded about 2 seconds before JOHNNY fell completely under the spell of almighty H. He eventually cleaned up, but never really found his way back to his early peak. This early, groovy version cuts the later, 3-ring circus arrangement RICK D. came up with and made a bundle on.
2. ZZ Top – “Ten Dollar Man” (from their Tejas LP, London Records, 1976) I once met an Austinite who’d attended ZZ TOP’s “Texas-Size Rompin’ Stompin’ Barndance And Bar-B-Q” concert at UT Austin in ’74 – this hippie got scared so bad by the big bad BOOG (ok so it was probably the dearth of working toilets too), he didn’t go to another RNR show for a decade. Oh fuck yeah!
The first 6 ZZ TOP albums are damn near flawless. To take something so simple like Texas boogie, and shape it/knead it/accessorize it and fucking REINVENT IT in the countless ways they did, spoke of something akin to natural born genius. They had taste (Billy only drives the finest hotrods), they had a wicked sense of humour, and boy did they have BALLS. My favorites from the period are their 1st LP (wherein you can still hear the dregs of their collective 60′s efforts), “Just Got Paid” from Rio Grande Mud (timeless!), and the whole of Tejas (the most diverse of the early records). But I love every moment of that run. What a world we’d live in if hipsters were routinely looking back to study this stuff, instead of NICK DRAKE or whomever. It’s a crime that some of these records STILL haven’t hit CD in their original form. Hot tip: HOLD ON TO YOUR VINYL until their label gets a clue and restores the 70′s drum tracks.
1. Stray Dog – “Speak of the Devil” (from their Stray Dog LP, Manticore, 1974) Their early recordings are MANNA FROM HEAVEN. That shit is some of the most ambitious, unrestrained, hip-swivellin’ bluesy hard rock action ever commited to tape. The guiterrorist responsible is W.G. “Snuffy” Walden (he’d go on to play with FREE for a day or two during the Heartbreaker sessions, before going totally hack in the 80′s) and oh man is he ever ON FIRE here. And he sings like some possessed, southern-fried LEE HAZLEWOOD worshiper! Die-hards love this rec so much, there’s like 4 bootleg CDs you can get of extra tracks/alt. mixes/live stuff from this period. Do avoid the second record like the plague . . . but Snuffy deserves a choice seat in heaven for laying this extra large, golden egg. A double-yolker fr sure. More cowbell! More EVERYTHING!
(Oh and honorable mention goes to Johnny’s bro, Edgar. THE EDGAR WINTER GROUP and their They Only Come Out at Night LP is great great great, but perhaps not specifically-blues enough to get on this list. Check it out though, it’s a sweet summertime record.)
Thanks to Pro Keds for the hot, blue, & righteous photo
Seeing Roky Erikson play recently got me thinking back on the two and half years I spent living in Austin, Texas (’93 – ’95). I did ok there, when not badtrippin’ on magic mushrooms. It never ever felt like my town, you know. But hey that was fine: I finally finished my BA, met some really good people, and did a heck of alot of naked hill-country swimming while out there. Not to sound softheaded, but it was a simplier period in my life. I’ll always remember it fondly.
I also saw a buttload of bands during that time. It was fucking easy: just catch a bus up South Congress to 6th Street, and walk from there. Or easier still, just amble off the UT campus and slide in to The Hole In The Wall most any evening of the week. You really couldn’t go wrong. I saw some pretty heavy shit: Holy Mountain-era SLEEP (they had the gall to hit me up for pot), HELIOS “during any given chord, at least half of my 30 gtr pedals will malfunction” CREED, a pre-Cobain-murder EARTH, Nik Turner’s SPACE RITUAL(!), the godlike MOTÖRHEAD. I also caught 90′s alt. biggies MAZZY STAR and URGE OVERKILL, as well as lost 80′s nutters HALF JAPANESE and DUMPTRUCK. Oh: and don’t forget THE STEVE LACY SEXTET and THE WILLEM BREUKER KOLLEKTIEF! Yeah I used to sit still (barely) for some jazz, too.
I met a great guy named Pat going to those shows, who’d become a gig-going pal during my last few months there. He was older/wiser – he’d been around for the Armadillo World HQ daze in the 70′s. He’d let me in on little secrets, like what an amazing gtrist TOMMY BOLIN was, or how great WISHBONE ASH were live with that bitchen twin gtr attack of theirs – actually far better than a QUICKSILVER MS had been on their early 70′s decline. I picked up alot from that guy.
The band I saw most (other than maybe GIANT SAND) was Austin’s very own TEXAS INSTRUMENTS. Musta seen em a half dozen times at least, and the fact that Pat knew a bunch of other regulars there made those evenings feel extra cozy. TI were so perfect in that relaxed set/setting – the endless beers, the overblown amps, the layered vocals, the cutting Dylan/Boon lyricisms, the folkrockin’ GNARL & TWANG of it all. They’d started in the 80′s with a more tangled-up and off-kilter MEAT PUPPETS/MINUTEMEN sound, only to even out nicely by the time I got there to become nothing short of a goddamn natural wonder. It was as close to a native Austin sound as you might find at the time – anybody who saw em then knows what I’m talking about.
And the rest of you? Well, there’s a few CDs/LPs out there (early ones on the Rabid Cat label; later ones on Doctor Dream Records) but I’d recommend a time machine if you wanna really find out what you missed. Pat, if you’re out there and still rockin’, this one’s for you.
Texas Instruments – “The King of Nothing” (from Speed of Sound, Doctor Dream Records, 1995)
Here’s a video for their tune “One From the Other” from the same record:
15/10/07 edit: OH! And a ’93 live clip has finally made it to YouTube! Do check it out, it does em justice: