NICO / BLIXA BARGELD / LIQUID LIQUID / NEW YORK DOLLS / WET PICNIC

Here’s a bunch of re-postings of stuff from the old Post-Punk Junk blog. I figured I’d offer up this stuff in big chunks, more about rather than parceling it out bit by bit, in order to get it out of the way.

NICO – live, 1983

I love Nico. I used to hate her; I couldn’t stand her in the same way that most people tend to not. But I grew to love her every flat syllable, and I think that alongside “Desertshore” (1970), her greatest album might just be “Drama of Exile” (1983). Yeah, sure, by that time she was a shell of her former self, but her performance on it just seems so right, even in the face of her descent into personal hell.

This live set from what I presume to be 1983 comes from the DVD “Nico: An Underground Experience”, (which also features a live set from England in ’79). The absolutely wonderful movie mag Shock Cinema reviewed the DVD thusly: “…a recently unearthed performance, shot on video in some grungy, shithole club. And though a must-see for hardcore Nico fans, there’s no denying it’s a sad artifact. Appearing totally strung out and lost, white-knuckling the microphone like a crutch, and looking like an Avon Lady exploded in her face, this is the “Sunset Boulevard” of music videos.

Cherry Red, the record label that put out this DVD, says on the back of the box that “the film is hardly stunning, yet this somehow enhances its authenticity”. Personally, I’d rather that you, like me, enjoy the set genuinely for its genuine qualities, rather than ironically for its genuine qualities. Do be warned, though: in the interview segment, the interviewer starts off by asking Nico if she’s bothered by other interviewers doing nothing but harping on the Velvet Underground days, and proceeds to do nothing but ask her more Velvet Underground questions.

Nico – “An Underground Experience”: Live ’83 (ZIP file)

BLIXA BARGELD – “COMMISSIONED MUSIC” (1994-1995)

The industrial push-and-pull of Einstürzende Neubauten is all well and good, but it’s this particular solo album of Blixa Bargeld’s, “Commissioned Music”, combining work done for a film (“Jahre Der Kalte”) and a theater production (“Dumpfe Stimmen”) in the mid-’90s, that captivates me. The tonal dread that permeates the Neubauten catalogue is here in abundance, but instead of a landscape filled with banging metal plates, gentle chamber orchestra scrapings are combined to sweet oblivious effect with terrifying throat noises and repetitive minimalist drones, as if this was the work of Harold Budd on meth. It might seem cheesy conceptually, but here, Bargeld actually does pull off a wonderful cover of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”; dissonant as all hell but still touched by a mad magic, it’s one of the standout tracks on the record.

This CD was originally released on Ego, which, according to Trouser Press, was: “…a label Einstürzende set up for their scoring endeavors in theater and film. (The group’s own issue on the imprint includes “Die Hamletmaschine”, composed for the stage, and “Faustmusik”.

Blixa Bargeld – “Commissioned Music” (ZIP file)

LIQUID LIQUID (1980-1983)

A great deal of the music released on the legendary NYC record label 99 Records, such as stuff by ESG, Bush Tetras, and Y Pants, has currently come back into print, but some of the most in-demand music, that of Liquid Liquid, came back into print in 1997 by way of the Beastie Boys’ in-house label Grand Royal, and subsequently fell back into limbo here in the U.S. when Grand Royal folded a few years ago. Last week, I got an e-mail request for some Liquid Liquid tracks, and when I saw how much the Grand Royal re-issue CDs were fetching, I thought it best to make the whole thing available.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of Liquid Liquid; I instead prefer similar groups like A Certain Ratio, Maximum Joy and ESG (although, to be truthful, ESG can get kinda boring and same-y as well). This mostly has to do with the vocal style of frontman Sal Principato, whose reverberated yelps tend to distract and distance rather than draw me into the grooves. Yeah, ACR’s Simon Topping can be just as grating, but there’s something a lot less calculated about his approach that makes it more palatable. Regardless, this collection of Liquid Liquid’s first three out of four EPs for the 99 label, as well as some live recordings, is surely worth your time. Interestingly enough, the three EPs were sequenced on the CD release in reverse order: three, two, then one.

Optimo.co.uk’s 99 Records page has some things of note to say about the Liquid Liquid releases. Of the first EP:

Liquid Liquid were originally a much more punk sounding band called Liquid Idiot who had one release before reforming as Liquid Liquid and basing their sound around a much more percussive framework. They would invite members of the audience to bring their own percussion to their gigs and at one of these, they were so impressed when Dennis Young brought a marimba that they invited him to join. They listened to lots of reggae, Fela Kuti, gamelan, samba as well as a lot of then current post punk music but developed their own unique sound which they called ‘big beat’ (a term some English producers would use more than a decade later for something entirely different).

Bassist Richard McGuire had heard from Glenn Branca that he was having a release on 99 so dropped a tape off at the shop. Ed checked out one of their downtown shows and decided they were ideal for 99. This first release is predominantly live and shows what a formidable live act they were. ‘Bellhead’ in particular sounds incredibly powerful for a live recording – the force of Scott Hartley’s kick drum is quite astonishing and even today on a modern club soundsystem it sounds fantastic. With a distinctive sleeve designed by their own in-band artist, Richard McGuire, this was an impressive first release. Oddly, ‘Rubbermiro’ from this EP would later appear in an episode of Miami Vice.

And, of the third EP “Cavern” and the debacle that ultimately brought forth the destruction of the 99 label:

This EP was Liquid Liquid’;s most accomplished recording so far and ‘Optimo’ and ‘Cavern’ became big club hits. ‘Cavern’ became a huge hit in the newly developing hip hop scene and the 99 shop was inundated with people looking for the record with THAT bassline. It would go on to sell almost 30,000 copies. At this point in time, sampling was a very new phenomenon and no one was really sure what the legal situation was with regards to sampling other people’s records. ‘Cavern’ was such a big hit around New York that summer that it wasn’t long before Sugarhill Records, the first label to commercially exploit hip hop, appropriated the bassline for the backing to Grand Master Flash’s ‘White Lines’. As they were fans, initially Liquid Liquid were delighted that Flash had used ‘Cavern’ but when it became a global hit their attitude changed somewhat. Ed in particular was outraged and contacted Sugarhill to try and get payment. Sugarhill hadn’t actually sampled ‘Cavern’ but had got The Sugarhill Band (who would ironically later become Tackhead, the biggest band on his friend Adrian Sherwood’s On U Sound label) to replay the bassline and also appropriated other elements of the song, right down to Sal’s words (Sal’s ‘slip in and out out of phenomena’ was changed to ‘something like a phenomenon’). This was when the nightmare began.

Sugarhill were renowned for shady business practices. The raps on their first hit release ‘Rappers Delight’ were stolen from other rappers and they weren’t known for paying out to anyone. Various stories have been told that indicate Ed was threatened and there are tales of Bahlman being ‘taken for a ride in a car’, Sugarhill people intimidating employees and customers at the 99 store and vague mentions of Mafia involvement. Nevertheless, despite intimidation, Bahlman pursued this through legal channels and eventually it came to court. In a case that would set precedents with regard to sampling law, the judge ruled in favour of 99 and Sugarhill were ordered to pay out. Unfortunately, partly due to their shady business practices, Sugarhill didn’t have the money to pay and filed for bankruptcy. This was the final straw for Ed who had put all his energy and money into the case and by all accounts was now a broken man. He decided to get out of the music business and urged all the artists on 99 to do the same. Unfortunately, when Ed left the music business he also left ESG and Liquid Liquid somewhat in the lurch as they had no contracts with him and the rights to their records would remain in limbo for years. As Liquid Liquid were on the verge of imploding anyway, this wasn’t too much of a problem for them but it would cause huge problems for ESG in the years that followed. To this day Ed still fiercely guards the master tapes to all the 99 releases that he regards as his.

The story doesn’t quite end there. Some years later a DJ friend of Richard McGuire’s informed him that Duran Duran had covered ‘White Lines’ so McGuire hired a lawyer and went after them. An out of court settlement was agreed upon with Duran’s lawyers and the Liquids finally got their payment. By this time Ed was long gone and it’s not even known whether he is even aware that justice was finally served. ‘Cavern’ has gone on to become a bona fide hip hop classic and has been used in several films. That bassline is possibly one of the most famous and instantly recognisable in the history of music. For someone who never really considered himself that much of a musician, this is a fact that to this day amazes McGuire.

Liquid Liquid – 1980-1983 (ZIP file)

NEW YORK DOLLS – live on “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert”, 1974

Fringe Underground sez:

The Dolls’ apparently successful performance, as far as the home-viewing audience was concerned, actually featured some TV trickery. Unbeknownst to the rest of the nation, the Dolls did not go over well with the in-house audience. Therefore the show’s technical crew had to dub in the feverish audience applause and enthusiastic screams that greeted the set of fellow Kirshner performers Rufus—who inexplicably played to a far more rapturous response.

New York Dolls – live on “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert”, 1974 (ZIP file)

WET PICNIC – “BALLS UP” EP (1982)

After being a part of the influential Argentinian ’70s group Arco Iris, Santaolalla moved to Los Angeles and formed the New Wave outfit Wet Picnic (which only released one EP before calling it quits) in-between doing a solo album and becoming a collaborator and producer for another L.A. outfit, The Plugz. Wet Picnic’s sound is gentle, yet somehow rocks. Since Santaolalla’s first language is not English, the lyrics sometimes suffer, but the music manages to skirt by on charm. After his Wet Picnic days, Santaolalla went on to do more solo records and soundtracks (such as “Amores Perros” and “Brokeback Mountain”, the score for which recently won him an Oscar), and to produce albums by Café Tacuba.

I was first introduced to the band by their live appearance on “New Wave Theater”, featuring an explosive version of their song “Tension”. During the performance, you can watch Gus sweating what must be three or four bucketfuls in the span a few minutes, in addition to the astounding sight of all the tendons in his neck looking like they’re about to burst at any moment. Also, there’s actually a music video of their song “He Believes” floating around somewhere!

Wet Picnic – “Balls Up” EP (ZIP file)

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823 Responses to NICO / BLIXA BARGELD / LIQUID LIQUID / NEW YORK DOLLS / WET PICNIC

  1. maxeythecat5 says:

    I have been looking round for this for I dunno how long…I can’t thank you enough for finding it!! A real gem of a record and I’m so very grateful to you for posting it…cheers!

  2. marc64 says:

    Thanks so much for posting the liquid liquid!!!!!

    You made my year!

    I have been scowering ebay, record shops, and websites looking for this record and now I finally get to hear it!

  3. hisskgospel says:

    Again, thanks for Liquid Liquid. I first heard ‘cavern’ as a video on MTV’s AMP back in ’95. It was at 2 in the morning and I’ve never forgotten it. Thanks!

  4. Wildo says:

    Thanks for the killer update to my music collection. Great stuff, thanks for bringing it to us. Some of this stuff I never would have heard of. Excellent.