Now that we’ve identified some crucial differences between the American and British takes on the brass rock sound, let’s hear how the Germans interpreted the genre. Strikingly different from Colosseum and Galliard, and light years removed from Lighthouse or Gas Mask, Pinguin infused this thunderous style with a native Teutonic slant on their lone 1972 release Der Grosse Rote Vogel. Equally spellbinding for these Anglophonic ears is how Pinguin actually sang in German, a rarity amongst rock bands from their country. Being no expert on the Germanic musical vocabulary, I can only guess that the rhythms and arrangements which comprise these four compositions are somewhat indebted to the Bavarian marching band tradition. I’ll allow you to extend the definition:
Archive for July, 2007
An inquiry on Mod in a prog forum today prompted the following ruminations, drawn from my personal background in the subject of English rock subcultures.
I find it strange how the participants of the original Mod movement turned their backs on that scene entirely, with most of them becoming hippies, and how members of bands like The Action splintered into the likes of jam rockers Mighty Baby and smooth rockers Ace.
In contrast, the Mod revival (and the closely-related Two Tone craze) yielded many figures who would become lifelong loyalists of the Mod aesthetic. Paul Weller, for instance, has never really strayed from Mod, he’s simply moved from the youthful and raucous side of the Mod spectrum (cloning the early Who back in ’77) to a more mature and refined end, first by embracing the rhythmic and soulful elements which had been dear to the original Mods (the Stax and Motown affections of late-period Jam) and onto his modernized takes on early ’60s easy-listening and bossa nova styles with his next band the Style Council, apropos to the sophisti-pop (for want of a better term) movement of the late ’80s (Everything But the Girl, Swing Out Sister, etc.)
Now I’m not exactly sure whether those last styles were popular amongst the original Mods, who never even seemed to pick up on the original ska craze of the ’60s (well, except for Locomotive) but I have seen more current Mods embrace the softer end of the post-rockabilly/pre-progressive spectrum, particularly from the French and Brazilian musical quarters. Then again, newer Mods consider just about anything from the first British Invasion on up through the early popsike scene (Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera, Skip Bifferty) to be ‘Mod’, which lends greater latitude for their infinite loyalty to that scene, obviating their embrace of the ‘bloated’ developments in white rock which the original ex-Mods had perpetrated by the end of the ’60s.
Whenever I see a young Mod on the street, however, I can’t help but wonder will *he* become a hairy Neanderthal within four years time? These days, not likely. It’s just so funny how the ’60s made it look as though the metamorphosis from pixie haircuts with under-sized suits to Amish beards with slack, rural attire was some natural, predetermined rite of passage.
So who were the Mod bands and what did they sound like, asks the enquiring AOR/progster?
Right behind The Who and The Small Faces were:
The VIPs – who briefly included Keith Emerson before he formed The Nice and the others became the popsike Art, who eventually added American Gary Wright and settled on the name Spooky Tooth, who went through numerous personnel shifts until late-period guitarist Mick Jones scrapped the band and salvaged their concluding style with a new band, Foreigner… how’s that for coming a looong ways from Mod?!
..and numerous others like The In Crowd (Steve Howe and Keith West‘s pre-Tomorrow configuration) The Game (who morphed into the proto-prog Grail) and the Bo Street Runners (Mike Patto‘s pre-Timebox unit.) I’d leave out The Syn because they were formed amidst the popsike explosion, the catalyst for a radically different set of aesthetics which buried Mod and wound up spawning hard rock and prog by the end of the ’60s.
Then there was the whole late ’70s Mod revival with The Jam, The Jolt, The Chords, The Purple Hearts, Secret Affair, etc. Additionally, the Two-Tone bands (The Specials, The Selector, Madness) were adopted by the Mods, though concerts were often marked by battles between waring factions of Mods and Skinheads.
Here are my blurbs for the two Dutch entries in my ever-evolving Top 30 Albums of 1970:
Mr. Albert Show – Mr. Albert Show. Punchy, melodic, jazz-imbued pop rock which indeed puts on quite a show by alternating male and female vocals amidst a backdrop of fuzzy guitar/organ (often of the “which is which?” variety) and sax interplay. The rebop and the estrogen would sorely be missing on their plodding follow-up, 1971’s Warm Motor.
(P.S. My views regarding their second album have evolved somewhat since writing that initial blurb. Whilst deprived the cathartic immediacy of its eponymous predecessor, patient persistence does reward with Warm Motor when revved up without the excess stowaway tracks.)
Earth & Fire – Earth & Fire. A Dutch band that didn’t Americanize and, hence, missed the Spring 1970 Neaderbeat Invasion. The flat, androgynous vocals of Jerney Kaagman may fall short on emotion, yet her direct and often strident delivery ignites the raw propulsion of this band’s simple yet anthemic style of organ-based, martially driven melodic pop.
(warning: lame profile)
Earth & Fire
Here’s a blurb I once posted on Usenet regarding an old fave:
If you ask me, the finest band ever to hail from the Netherlands were Kayak, who purveyed that curious hybrid of late 60’s Anglo pop and early 70’s symphonic prog which has (for lack of a better term) been labeled by some of us more probing pop aficionados as *pomp pop.*
The most squarely symphonic Dutch band (as in Yes/Genesis sounding) was Flyte, who emerged with one album, Dawn Dancer, towards the end of the 70’s (sorry, no link.)
The more I’ve delved into the brass rock genre, the more I’ve come to find how different the well-known US and little-known UK stables were from one another. North American bands like The Sons of Champlin and Ambergris drew heavily from the Stax/Volt sound, whilst others crossed that with MOR schmaltz (the post-Kooper Blood, Sweat & Tears) and Beatlesque pop (Chicago.)
The UK variant was much more indebted to the post-Mayall school of blues rock, in confluence with the emerging strands of progressive rock. Even earlier, the “big bands” of the beat era like The Graham Bond Organization, The Artwoods and Zoot Money and the Big Roll Band (who lacked the pop appeal of their chart-bound contemporaries, yet featured superior musicians) employed sax/organ augmentation and, fittingly enough, happened to include many future brass rock players in their lineups, namely Keef Hartley, who would front his own namesake unit, and Jon Hiseman and Dick Heckstall-Smith, the mainstays of the original Colosseum.
Someone on progressiveears today complained how they felt that the 1971 eponymous one-off LP by The Dog That Bit People was a disappointing follow-up to early brass rock heavyweights Locomotive, in which several members had played with Norman Haines. Here was my response:
If you’re looking for a continuation of the Locomotive sound, you’re much better off with this:
The Norman Haines Band
The Dog That Bit People arrived at a completely different musical location, which sat at the nexus between Beatlesque pop, folk rock, proto-symphonic, and the pervasive strands of country rock. In essence, DTBP were cut from the same early ’70s cloth as bands like Byzantium and Stackridge, and not Locomotive or The Norman Haines Band.
What I find really surprising is that Locomotive actually began their recording career as a ska band (yep, the original UK ska craze of the ’60s did in fact influence an Anglo act.) Hard to believe that the same group of guys who had been rude boys back in 1966 and ’67 would morph into brassy psych rockers in less than two years time.