VA – Cash Cow: The Best of Giorno Poetry Systems (1993, ESD)

We gave a party for the gods…and the gods all came.  – John Giorno.

I’ll admit it.  Hüsker Dü were the draw for me here, or more specifically their contribution, a devastating Metal Circus outtake, “Won’t Change,” equaling or outpacing anything on that classic 1983 ep.  This entire album is worth downloading for that song along, but if you’re anything like me this compendium of songs having previously appeared on a myriad of Giorno Poetry Systems releases (a synopsis of what GPS entails follows in italics after my essay) will reward you otherwise as well.  In essence, Cash Cow corrals an inadvertent “who’s who” of the post-beatnik syndicate, with most of the participants hailing from ground zero itself, New York City.  First and foremost, it introduced me to John Giorno himself, a somewhat confrontational poet who rubbed elbows with Andy Warhol in the early ’60s and generally speaking his reputation and inspiration snowballed from there.

William Burroughs factors in significantly to Giorno’s life, and he contributes text from Naked Lunch and then some.  Laurie Anderson’s spoken word soliloquies are particularly jarring thanks to some eerie vocal manipulations, Patti Smith gets deep, and Frank Zappa reads a portion of Burroughs, you guess it, Naked Lunch.  Giorno himself makes a brief appearance, of course.  His startling “Hi Risque” is a lascivious AIDS-era lament that’s almost certain to implore your attention.

And there’s more music as well.  Cabaret Voltaire and Philip Glass were never my style, but their inclusion amidst the proceedings is fitting.  Buster Poindexter’s “Totalitarian State,” is relevant today as it ever was, and Glenn Branca’s clangy, sixteen minute piece “Bad Smells” is surprisingly approachable.

Cash Cow isn’t for everyone, particularly those with a strictly ‘pop” palette, but I got more out of this than I expected, and maybe you’ll come away a little more enlightened too.  I’ve included a bonus John Giorno spoken word monologue, which happens to be a sheer favorite of mine.  An explanation of Giorno Poetry Systems (penned by the man himself) and full tracklist follows:

Giorno Poetry Systems (was) a non-profit foundation under which many projects were born. The record label called Giorno Poetry Systems eventually built up a catalog of 40 titles, ushering poetry onto the radio alongside rock, jazz, etc. for the first time. The Dial-A-Poem service, begun, in 1968, was a huge success. Not only did we ourselves get millions of calls, we inspired the creation of dial-for-stock market info and dial for sports-info services, etc. We also foreshadowed by a generation the explosion of 1-900 telephone promotions, not to mention the delivery of the Internet over phone lines. we produced poetry videos, videopaks and films. We formed bands and toured like the rock’n’ rollers. We displayed poetry on the surface of ordinary objects, producing silk-screen and lithograph Poem Prints. We established the AIDS Treatment Project in 1984.

But in 1965, even before founding Giorno Poetry Systems, I began recording my friend William Burroughs, starting with tape experiments at his Centre Street loft and with Brion Gysin at the Hotel Chelsea. Before the year was out, with my earlier inspirations turning into tangible performances, electronic events and sound pieces at a show at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, I began Giorno Poetry Systems.
01-Cabaret Voltaire – Ride Baby Ride
02-William S. Burroughs – The Do Rights and Naked Lunch
03-Debbie Harry – Moroccan Rock (Pipe Of Pain)
04-Buster Poindexter – Totalitarian State
05-John Giorno – Berlin & Chernobyl, Hi Risque
06-Husker Du – Won’t Change
07-Laurie Anderson – Song From America On The Move
08-Philip Glass – A Secret Solo
09-Patti Smith – The Histories Of The Universe
10-Coil – Neither His Nor Yours
11-Diamanda Galas – Eyes Without Blood
12-Glenn Branca – Bad Smells
13-Frank Zappa – The Talking Asshole
plus: John Giorno – We Got Here Yesterday

Articles Origin: VA – Cash Cow: The Best of Giorno Poetry Systems (1993, ESD)

Wild Giraffes – Ensemble and Majorettes 7” (1978)

Request fulfilled to the individual who asked for this, and while I’m not in possession of the original artifact, another blogger made this available several years ago.  I featured one of the Wild Giraffes later releases, their 1981 platter Right Now.  Regarding this 45, “Love Me” is a delightful way to spend 150 seconds (or so).  Quintessential DIY power pop from it’s halcyon era, brimming with harmonies, a ringing guitar fill, and warm reverb that charms like no ones business.  The Giraffes approach the flipside, “When I Find Out” with a grittier, serrated edge not dissimilar to the garagey tendencies of The Troggs.

A. Love Me
B. When I Find Out

Articles Origin: Wild Giraffes – Ensemble and Majorettes 7” (1978)

A Conversation About ‘Pitch Pairing’ Drum Sticks

Drum sticks. Not a lot has changed over the years. They are still basically a lathed piece of wood with a taper and a tip on one end. Not really controversial in any way. But sticks are very essential to drummers, as they are direct extensions of our hands. The right stick can make all the difference in a performance.

This leads me up to a recent Facebook question and discussion about pairing and pitch matching sticks. I remember as a youth buying a new pair of sticks in a sealed plastic bag. Basically, what you bought was what you got. There was nothing done at the factory other than taking 2 sticks of the same size/designation, and putting them in the bag. I noticed back then that sometimes one stick would be heavier than the other. Or that one would be slightly warped. That was just the way things were, so you learned to live with it and got on to drumming.

Today’s drumsticks: nice and neat

Today, sticks are usually in a cardboard sleeve, so you can take them out, inspect them, and even try them on a pad before buying. This is obviously a vast improvement over the old days. And sticks are also factory matched to pitch and weight, so not only do your sticks feel the same, when you tap them, they sound the same. This is great, but not the end all, be all that some people seem to think it is. You can still buy 2 pairs of sticks that will differ in both weight and pitch—that’s just the nature of wood. 

You gotta keep ’em separated… 

That leads us to a few important performance aspects.

  • If you play snare drum in the symphony, you really do want a pair of sticks matched in pitch so that your press rolls sound smooth as silk. Or if you are playing Ravel’s ‘Bolero,’ you want the snare drum pattern to sound even, with each note the same.
  • When you are practicing on a pad, you are by yourself and can hear every inflection and nuance. Ideally, a matched pair of sticks will give you the same, consistent sound from each hand.
  • But what, if like the majority of drummers out there, you play drum set? The mechanics here are completely different: one hand mainly plays on the cymbals, while the other hand mainly plays on the snare drum. If you have 2 different pitched sticks, no one will really be able to hear it. Also, within the context of a band, the sound difference between 2 sticks will easily be lost within the din of the other musicians playing. This is especially true in a heavily amplified band.
  • What about the drummer, who like me, buys 12 pairs of sticks and puts them in a stick bag, grabbing whatever 2 sticks to play with? I do know some guys who keep their sticks all separated and only use them as factory matched pairs, but really? Most pros don’t have the time to worry about that.
  • There are also stories of certain legendary jazz drummers using 2 different types of sticks, because to them, playing the cymbals was very different than playing the snare drum.

Now this is not to denigrate the idea of pitch matching sticks. I actually think it’s a good thing. It’s especially nice when a pair of sticks weighs/feels the same in your hands. I like that sort of evenness. But when I play a gig, I bring a bag full of sticks, mallets, etc, and don’t have the time to sort through things to find a perfectly matched pair of anything! I just grab something and get on with the music.

The moral of the story is: advertising slogans and selling points are great, just don’t let them get in the way of creating the music.

~ MB

Deconstruct Yourself™

Articles Origin: A Conversation About ‘Pitch Pairing’ Drum Sticks

Lovers Under Pressure – Island tape (199?)

Not long after I made Minneapolis’ Love Under Pressure’s first album (The Elvis Years) available for public consumption I was contacted by an alum of the trio who informed me there were a couple of subsequent releases I might be interested in hearing.   The cassette ep I’m sharing today was one of them, generously provided by said alum (who for now shall remain nameless).  Perhaps with the exception of the gutsy “Promises,” Island finds LUP gravitating to a milder tact.  Music-heads of left-of-the-dial staples like Agitpop, Dumptruck and the Pedaljets will find something to relish here, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say these Mpls lads could have roped in listeners of say, Crowded House as well, provided the right exposure of course.

01. Your Life Story
02. Island
03. Dear Johnny
04. To Olive From Catherine
05. No One’s Watched Before
06. Promises

Articles Origin: Lovers Under Pressure – Island tape (199?)

Majesty Crush – P.S. I Love You (1996, Vulva)

Here’s an approporiate album title for Valentine’s Day if there ever was one.  Sadly, word went out two weeks ago that Majesty Crush frontman David Stroughter passed away, without much of a causation of death provided.  Never knew him personally, but I was gonzo for Majesty’s one and only full length, ’93s Love 15, a nuanced Yankee response to heady, Brit shoegazer/dream pop.  I’ve been sharing two independently released M/C eps, Fan and Sans Muscles for virtually the entirety of this blog’s lifespan, but news of David’s passing had me scurrying to Discogs to see if there had been anything I missed within the realm of his bygone band.  As it turns out there was a missing piece of the puzzle after all, the record I’m sharing today.   

P.S. I Love You, was released in 1996 in a startlingly low quantity of 200 vinyl copies, predominantly distributed in Majesty’s stomping grounds of Detroit, MI.  Someone had recently uploaded some vintage M/C clips on YouTube, and in the comments for one of them I put the call out for a digital version of this exceedingly scarce and long sold-out piece of wax.  Within a matter of days someone came through, with a nice clean rip of the album, all seven songs, that were exclusive to the disk at the time of it’s release.  Love 15 had major label backing, but by 1995 the band retreated to their own Vulva Records.  Sonically, P.S… is considerably rawer, albeit not as clingy to the ethereal ethos of Love 15.  Oddly enough, the opening “Unless I See You Again” opens with the stanza “the sun’s going down on my life,” a line that would become soberingly prophetic in a couple of decades.  Writ large, the record isn’t a downer, just deliciously bittersweet with noisome, effects-laden guitars that will ring delightfully in the ears of any distorto-pop aficionado.

Stroughter eventually relocated to Los Angeles, and minted a new indie pop posse, P.S. I Love You, obviously named after Majesty’s elusive parting shot.  A heartfelt remembrance of Stroughter can be found here.  Special thanks to whomever took the time to digitize this record, and for the images.

01. Unless i See You Again
02. Gemini
03. Monkey
04. Kowalski
05. Everybody’s Bored
06. Since the Prom
07. Teen Beatles

Articles Origin: Majesty Crush – P.S. I Love You (1996, Vulva)