ORGANISATION – TONE FLOAT (1969)
Although most musicians associated with the Krautrock scene usually argue that it didn’t even exist as such except in the collective conscious of British music critics, on first spin of Organisation‘s sole album, Tone Float, the discerning listener will have little doubt that the album is a product of late-1960s/early-1970sDusseldorf.
Heading Organisation were Florian Schneider and Ralf Hütter, who famously went on to form Kraftwerkand have almost as famously been unfairly sniffy about their excellent pre-Autobahn output. Organisation’s only album was produced by Konrad “Conny” Plank and, since its 1970 release by RCA Victor, has long been out-of-print. The other members of Organisation were Basil Hammoudi, Butch Hauf, and Fred Monicks. After the band’s disorganisation Hammoudi joined another one album wonder, Ibliss, who released Supernova in 1972.
Just as Organisation, for all of their mysticism and experimentation, were resolutely grounded in late ’60s German krautrock scene, it’s hard to imagine Bird Nest Roys having come from anywhere other than the fertile indie scene of New Zealand in the 1980s. Indeed, the band formed in the vicinity of Waitakere and was comprised of Big Ross (Ross Williams), Little Ross (Ross Hollands), Deberly Roy (Deborah Shadbolt), Dominic Stones, Peter Moerenhout, and Warwick Wakefield.
For a one album wonder Bird Nest Roys were fairly prolific, having debuted with the Whack It All Down EP in 1985 which was followed by two singles, “Jaffa Boy” b/w “Bus Stop” and “I Need Your Love.” They were a natural fit on Flying Nun Records, who released their eponymous album in 1987. A compilation of all of the band’s recordings titled Me Want Me Get Me Need Me Have Me Love, was released in 2013.
After they flew the coup, the members of Bird Nest Roys followed other non-musical pursuits although Stones went on to play in The 3Ds and Snapper. They returned to the nest in 2008 for a performance in Aukland.
Like many people born after the 1960s, I first heard The Count Five‘s “Psychotic Reaction” on the seminal compilation of ’60s punk, Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965–1968 (1972). The tune (a not especially scary slice of psychotic psychedelia made even less frightening by the sight of the members wearing Dracula-style capes) was for me one of the highlights of the compilation and sent me out on a quest to find more from the band.
The core of Count Five were John “Mouse” Michalski and Roy Chaney — two transplants from theMidwest — who co-formed The Squires in San Jose in 1964. After several line-up changes they were joined by John “Sean” Byrne, Kenn Ellner, and Craig “Butch” Atkinson and after adopting the inspired gimmick of dressing like bloodsucking surfers rechristened themselves The Count Five.
“Psychotic Reaction” was released in February 1965. It was re-released in 1966 at which point it rose (appropriately) to the number five spot on the Billboard charts. The band released their sole full-length, also called Psychotic Reaction, on Hollywood‘s then-new Double Shot Records, which along with two Whocovers, included nine songs which in several cases sound like little more than re-workings of their only hit — which itself sounds quite indebted to the early singles of The Yardbirds (which were, of course, even more heavily indebted to American Blues musicians). In other words, it’s not drawn from an especially deep well of inspiration and experience but that’s sort of what makes it such a highly enjoyable example of garage rock.
In 1969 the counts quit the band for college and, despite their bonafide hit, seem to have somehow vanished from the public’s memory until 1972, when they appeared on Nuggets and were evoked in Lester Bangs‘s essay “Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung.” The Count Five reunited in 1987 for a single performance in Santa Clara, California. Drummer Butch Atkinson died in 1998 and lead singer John Byrne died in 2008 from cirrhosis of the liver.
The Bodines (not ever to be confused with Waukesha, Wisconsin‘s BoDeans) were a jangle-pop band from Glossop, England comprised of Michael Ryan, Paul Brotherton, Tim Burtonwood, and Paul Lilley. In 1985 they released a debut single, “God Bless” b/w “Paradise,” on Creation. After its release Lilley was replaced by John Rowland. Their second single, “Therese,” was included in the famed C86 compilation.
Their profile thus raised, they secured a deal with Magnet, who released their debut album, Played in 1987. Despite its quality and what should’ve been the Midas Touch of Ian Broudie‘s production, the album only reached 96 in the UK charts — this was, after all, the height of the Stock Aitken Waterman-era. Having utterly failed to trouble the likes of Rick Astley and Mel & Kim, the Bodines apparently had no choice but to disband.
The band briefly re-formed with Spencer Birtwistle in place of Burwood in 1999. After re-breaking up, Rowland went on to form The Rainkings with several former members of Inspiral Carpets, Ryan went on to form Medalark Eleven, and Birtwistle played in one-album-wonders, Laugh, which evolved intoIntastella. Played was re-released (with bonus tracks) on compact disc by Cherry Red in 2010.
Jet is a brilliant name for a band which I suppose it’s been used by at least 31 different musical acts. The best in the fleet was the British band of the 1970s. That Jet was co-piloted by Andy Ellison and Chris Townson (formerly of another one album wonder, John’s Children, and before that, The Silence), David O’List (formerly of The Attack, The Nice, The Misunderstood, and Roxy Music), Martin Gordon, Peter Oxendale, and Trevor White (who’d played in the power-pop band, The Jook, with Townson as well).
O’List had played with The Attack, The Nice, The Misunderstood, and Roxy Music and White had played, alongside Townson, in the obscure power pop band, The Jook. That Jet were so tuneful is a bit surprising given the fact that Ellison and Townson had previously played in John’s Children, a one album wonder for whom songwriting seemed to be among the least of the band’s concerns.
Jet released just one eponymous album on CBS in 1975 (released on compact disc in 2002 by Radiant Future). Though a bit late to the scene, it was a pleasing collection of Glam Rock which decidedly owes a bit of a stylistic debt to Sparks, with whom Gordon and Oxendale had also briefly performed. After Jet’s final flight, Ellison, Gordon, and White went on to play in the New Wave band, Radio Stars, Oxendale went on to form the studio production unit West End, and Townson died in 2008.
Without question, Suede were one of the few real highlights of 1990s British rock. The ice cold glam rock revivalists arrived on a wave of hype somehow fully and masterfully formed and proceeded to deliver one of the best debuts in rock history. Then, before even completing their uneven follow-up, their star guitarist,Bernard Butler, exit stage left.
Suede soldiered on — hiring not one but two young guys to fill Butler’s enormous shoes. Butler — widely viewed as the greatest rock guitarist since John Squire or Johnny Marr — embarked on a less-than-interesting solo career before creating much better music as one half of McAlmont & Butler and as a producer for the UK’s last great rock band, The Libertines.
When Suede disbanded in 2003 it was hardly the big news that Butler’s departure had been a decade earlier. Given the acrimony of Butler’s departure, when news emerged that he and Suede’s singer, Brett Anderson, were working together, expectations were cautiously high. The two, joined by Makoto Sakamoto, Nathan Fisher, and Will Foster of Delicatessen, Jaques, and Lodger) returned as The Tears in 2004 and releasedHere Come the Tears, in 2005.
There’s nothing earth shattering on The Tears’ debut and there’s nothing within that wouldn’t fit nicely on any Suede album but if their intention was just to create a strong set of songs and finish some unfinished business then they succeeded (although I can’t understand why they didn’t release the best song, “Co-Star,”as a single). Unfortunately, The Tears dried up almost as quickly as they’d begun, in 2006. Afterward Butler returned his focus to production and Anderson embarked on a solo career before reforming Suede, again (without Butler) in 2013.
WHITE NOISE – AN ELECTRIC STORM (1969)
If White Noise sound a bit like a rock record made by The Doctor backed by The Tomorrow People that’s probably because it was a project of BBC Radiophonic Workshop members Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson and their friend David Vorhaus. Debyshire, although uncredited at the time, is now well known for her groundbreaking recording of the Doctor Who theme. Before White Noise, Derbyshire and Hodgson had also performed in the electronic act, Unit Delta Plus, with Peter Zinovieff.
White Noise formed in London in 1968 and released An Electric Storm the following year on Island Records. Island has released their sole album several times over the years on both vinyl LP and compact disc. Six years after the dissolution of White Noise, Vorhaus began recording and releasing solo works on Virgin as White Noise but are White Noise in name only.
Because they were under contract at the BBC, after the break-up of White Noise, Derbyshire and Hodgson composed (as “Li de la Russe” and “Nikki St. George“) the electronic scores for ITV‘s series, The Tomorrow People and Timeslip. Hodgson eventually left the BBC and formed Electophon with John Lewis and they were sometimes joined by Derbyshire.
The Modern Lovers need no introduction — or so I thought. When I mentioned them to the singer in a punk band a month ago, he said he’d never heard of them or Jonathan Richman so here’s their story — keeping it brief for everyone else.
The Modern Lovers were formed in 1970 by singer Jonathan Richman, who’d grown up in Natick,Massachusetts and first played live in 1967. After graduating high school in 1969, Richman started theVelvet Underground-inspired band with John Felice, David Robinson, and Rolfe Anderson. The band played their first date supporting another one album wonder, The Sidewinders (the membership of which included Andy Paley of yet another one album wonder, The Paley Brothers).
Anderson and Felice were soon replaced by Ernie Brooks and Jerry Harrison, who performed on several recording sessions before Richman broke up the band in 1974 over disagreements in their musical direction before they’d released an album. Felice went on to play in The Real Kids, Robinson went on to play with The Cars, and Harrison became a member of Talking Heads. Brooks has since worked with numerous musicians.
After the Modern Lovers separated, Richman embarked on a career as a solo performer when, in 1976, Beserkley Records released a posthumous Modern Lovers album recorded in 1972 (with one song from a 1971 session) titled The Modern Lovers. Later, Kim Fowley would similarly piece together a set of songs taken from 1973 sessions (although claim they were from earlier) and release them, somewhat misleadingly, as The Original Modern Lovers — a set which includes some of the same songs. It should be noted that Richman regards neither as a proper studio album although many of his fans, with respect, do. Richman maintains that his recording career properly began with 1976’s Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers (1976), which began Richman’s use of the Modern Lovers as a moniker for the various backing musicians who performed and recorded with him from 1976 till 1988.
Geoff Gill, Mal Luker, Mick Rowley, Phil Peacock, and Zeke Lund formed The Shots in 1965, who released one single, “Keep A Hold Of What You’ve Got.” A name change to The Chords Five preceded the release of “I Am Only Dreaming.” After Peacock’s departure, the remaining four were reborn The Smoke, and despite the family name of the departed, fell decidedly toward the peacockish end of the Mod spectrum.
In case the single entendre of their moniker went unnoticed, they dropped a single which made drug references behind the thinnest of veils, “My Friend Jack.” A bindle full of naughty singles followed including“Have Some More Tea” b/w “Victor Henry’s Cool Book,” and “High in a Room.” Their only album, …It’s Smoke Time is a pleasant dose of Creation-like late-Mod/pop psych that characterizes what’s retroactively been termed Freakbeat.
After The Smoke cleared, Gill returned as a member of the bands Fickle Pickle and Beaver Brothers. Lund went on to work as an engineer. …It’s Smoke Time was re-released on compact disc by Air Mail Archive in 2006 and on vinyl in 2012. A compilation of all of that album plus tracks from The Shots and later recordings was released as by Sequel as High in a Room: The Smoke Anthology in 2002.
Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in Amoeblog, diaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art Museum, Form Follows Function, Los Angeles County Store, Skid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Magazine, LAist, Eastsider LA, Boing Boing,Los Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.