ULTIMATE BILGE PUMPING (originally appeared in RIOT 77 issue 6)


We’re all competing for elbow room…. I tend to grab my reading material and stand near the Bunty comix – There are a number of reasons for this, but the obvious are most important. I look seedy and the little girls who want to actually purchase the lollipop press I’m blocking won’t come within 10 yards. Secondly, who the fuck wants to be standing beside some fat specky balding rock guy in his forties getting excited over news of 20th anniversary Marillion digipack reissues with extensive liner notes by Fish or an imminent Yes boxset ( excuse my ignorance if there already has been one ) in the hot gossip columns of Classic Rock magazine. For the right ( wrong ) person, this sort of news can be instrument to the release of an unpleasant scent. I’m sure you’ve smelt it from that guy beside you on the bus… a muddy, masturbatory, soggy bedroom carpet hum…. kind of like a bag lady musk.

A YES box set…… utter bollox for fat bald nerds!!!!

But in many ways we empathise – Me and fat specky balding rock guy in his forties ( not bag lady! )… I’m there for the same reasons… we’re stealing information from the music press, rather than buying because, contents assessed, you can read anything you need to know from a scattering of the worlds stodgy rock mags in about 7 minutes…. how many AFI interviews do you really need to see?

So rock guy is there, enthralled by Gary Moore tour dates or some article on Lindsey “ lookin’ out for love “ Buckingham’s collection of guitars. I’ve spent 30 seconds on Hot Press ( not overly impressed by the amount of times the words Glen and Hansard are mentioned ), about 3 and a half minutes on Kerrang ( curious to see how mainstream rock press reviewed the Puget Sound CD ), 2 on something or other in MOJO, and for some reason that escapes me I picked up a partisan rock epistle, drawn by some small but curious sub heading on the cover.

Rummaging through the content, I can’t help but notice that a dangerous number of hair bands from the 80’s are back in business. It’s surprising that most of these people are still alive, but I guess too many arseholes have driven into the drugstore forecourt and gone, “ Dude, Faster Pussycat ruled, what are you doing putting gas in my car? “. Being recognised after you’ve snorted your fame and fortune has to be the ultimate rape of dignity. So, for a whole host of wrinkled cock rockers, it’s bury the hatchet with the rest of the band, drop the endless legal wrangling with ex-management and get back to basics. It’s gotta be better than filling cars with juice, praying that drivetime lite station on the car radio doesn’t play your big hit. And as long as you’re not having a human barbecue like Great White, or throwing bottles at your audience, or killing members of other bands while drunk driving in your Ferrari, you’re not really doing any harm. Speaking of which, even Hanoi Rocks are back in business, which is actually good news! Music has been getting very carbon copy monotonous in Scandinavia ( well – we can blame the swedes in particular ), and having both Turbonegro and the Rocks back on the map means that there’s some big guns in town to show the “ 5 young fukwits with vests and quiffs “ how to actually do it.

What halted me in my tracks was an ultimate band feature… I’m not sure if it was a readers choice thing or an uninspired filler, but it was pretty lame. You know the sort of thing… your dream group made up from a bunch of legends. We had Bono on vocals, Hendrix on guitar, Keith Moon on drums and another bunch of you-can-probably-guess-whos… I actually can’t remember the others but our educated guesses wouldn’t be far off target ( I think flea may have been the chosen bassist ). It was typically mundane, unimaginative stuff… devised by a brain a mere rung higher on the ladder than that which owns the 20 Cd yuppie couple collection ( you know the one – 2 Oasis Cds, 3 Tarantino soundtracks, Abba Gold, Best of Blondie, some classical CD that came free with pasta sauce, the Verve, Coldplay, Mel C, Stereophonics, RHCP, Robbie Williams etc… ).

THE DESCENDENTS – No room for Wattie here!!!!!!

This was a wasted opportunity – some play safe space filler that pointed nothing towards the band being ultimate – just full of successful standards. What would often be cited as ultimate – ie – a band full of musicians considered top of their field, is likely to be a recipe for disaster… a glut of vanilla choices – the lack of imagination was a grave disappointment, but that’s humans for you. With the example on hand, there’s little doubt that Bono would have stapled himself onto the reputation of Hendrix or Keith Moon, had they still been alive today, but the pock mark on the result was the distinct lack of consideration for the symbiosis of the band, how it might actually sound…. It’s quite obvious that grouping musicians on success credentials would never work, probably something most people wouldn’t even consider.

The ultimate collaborative effect doesn’t need every pop-culture face to produce results… Look at the work Johnny Cash has done in the last few years….. A dying legend, under the production guidance of Rick Rubin ( remember, this is the guy who gave the world REIGN IN BLOOD ), realising his best work in a very long time with songs from Trent Reznor, Tom Petty, Neil Diamond, Nick Cave and Glenn Danzig. There’s a lot more to be excited about there than some dead rock stars carpet taped together. That’s overkill, it’s not necessary. Talent and insight are separate entities…. for years the music press had a big problem with Fishbone because they didn’t know how to define them. Here’s a band that had elements of Parliament, Funkadelic, 2 Tone and Bad Brains… in short, Too much talent. They were famously described as 7 Frank Zappa’s in one band… Quite often one Frank Zappa was way too much, as is evident on a number of his solo poxed double players. On the opposite side of the coin, take the original Miles Davis Quintet…. did it really matter that Red Garland was accused of being a cocktail pianist, and Paul Chambers an adequate bassist, when at the helm were John Coltrane and Miles Davis. A stunningly brilliant and overbearing rhythm section would have ruined the results.

These things need a mediator, or more often, a dictator. A bunch of humans together is generally bad news, but leaders always emerge from the natural order. It’s well documented that Greg Ginn built and ruled Black Flag with an iron fist and subsequently ruined it. Ritchie Blackmore did the same with Rainbow. In many ways Lydon did the same with PIL.That’s the path of the dictator, and there’s little you can criticise in the madness of it all. Maybe if Charles Mingus were available, he could have orchestrated some results from this readers-poll standard ultimate band. However further consideration would suggest that he would have smashed his double bass over Bono’s head, as was occasionally a characteristic of the tempestuous Mr. Mingus.

MINGUS – Would you pick a fight with this man??????

There are already very many ultimate bands… I mean, what could you possibly add to the Descendents that may have improved a handful of classics? …..Bono? …….I don’t think so. You couldn’t really add him to anything if you think about it… he slots into his own band but his detestable persona sits like an ill fitting orthopedic shoe elsewhere. He’s no John Lydon, no Roy Orbison, No Legendary Stardust Cowboy, No Damo Suzuki, in fact, I challenge the record to note one admirable characteristic he possesses. You simply cannot produce an ultimate band from faces that surf the froth of wider appeal with professional expertise. For fans of the blasting concept, Slayer may very well be the ultimate band, but would they benefit from the addition of “ The ultimate guitarist ”, Hendrix????? Could the Beatles or The Pistols or the Exploited have benefited from his addition to the ranks? I couldn’t see it working somehow…… and Keith Moon… his current dead state doesn’t make him any more a contender than Dave Grohl or Josh Freeze or Chuck Biscuits or whatever other rent-a-drummers are out there breaking sticks. Look at Blondie’s Clem Burke, easily Keith Moon’s equal behind a drum kit, but he lasted a mere 2 weeks in the Ramones in the 80’s. Somehow he just wasn’t right. As for the plank spankers….. proficient as Flea may be, he’s not gonna slot in everywhere. His stint with FEAR in ‘82 was pretty short lived as his playing style just didn’t suit, and FEAR weren’t exactly reknowned for being sloppy incompetent musicians. Likewise, Les Claypool failed to make the cut in Metallica stakes twice!!!!!

Very many fans of musical grime consider Discharge to be among the ultimate of punk bands. Stand back and look at it, what do you see? I see crud. That’s about as ultimate as crab lice, who are way down the pecking order of majestic STDs, as you undiscriminating urchins well know. Black Sabbath and Can were both, in their own strange way, ultimate bands, but their respective members have had the dignity to admit they can’t cut it any more and have laid their giants to rest. Flavour of the moment is the aforementioned AFI. To many kids they’re currently the ultimate rock band on the planet, and although SING THE SORROW is the first chart album I’ve become familiar with in a long time, I still see a band capitalising on groundwork laid on by so many imperfect luminaries, which will always kinda ruin it for me. Riding high on the second or 3rd strongest album they’ve recorded, a good marketing strategy, being in the right place at the right time, makes them about as far away from a dream team as they can possible be, but try telling a 17 year old that……. It would be quite an embarrassment to be bashed in public by 40 teens with studded wristbands……..

To be a contender for the seat of ultimate, it’s gotta have the ridiculous element. Our noble world leaders – Bush, Mugabe, Ahern ( ahem! ) are all ridiculous, so it stands to reason that our music should bend that way too!!!. Something wacky and weird and flakey and dumb and risky to the reputation of all involved. For the rock enthusiast, what about the original Danzig band ( W/ Chuck Biscuits ) and Elton John tickling the ivories doing songs specifically written for them by Jim Steinman, produced by Rick Rubin. It’d be the stupidest record in the world, which would make it the perfect rock record. As an aside, I was surprised that Texas natives The Polyphonic Spree, a band currently accepted by music press and music nerds alike, have simply found a way to package Jim Steinman dynamics in such a way that the public don’t notice they’re liking something they’d otherwise laugh at!!!!

It’s quite evident that you can’t approach the issue with a one-size-fits-all mentality, but I’ve considered this from a personally tailored point of view……….. What about Mr Paddy Moloney on his trusty uilleann pipes, throwing a bit of squibbldy eye here and there, with the backing of Dave Lombardo behind a massive trash metal drum kit doing what beelzebub put him here to do, and Jah Wobble cementing it all together with that monolithic “ filling popping “ bass rumble. Again, it’s rawk territory so Rick Rubin would be the man for the knobjob! I can hear it in my brain and I think it may actually work. That’s a band I definitely want to see strutting their stuff yet I can’t imagine meeting with much approval going public on this. Some asshole would only argue that there’s a more deserving bass player, or that I need a certain guitarist and vocalist, and the whole thing would be ruined…. full circle, back to the bilge pump, gently ebbing towards being a bullshit Bono/Hendrix/moon glut again. Who knows, we could all be full of shit with our suggestions… maybe the Garda band is the ultimate band and we’re all to spoilt with the inane bullshit we’re into to actually take notice.

PADDY MOLONEY – Wretch Falafel’s favourite gnome!!!!!!!

Back at the magazine racks, I’m stealing what information I could possibly benefit from knowing and fat specky balding rock guy in his forties is doing exactly the same thing. I quickly thumb through old pictures of various Fleetwood Mac’s, hoping someone doesn’t see me and think that I’m genuinely interested in the feature. I’m wishing that some mag would do a 20 page spread on the career of Laibach. Fat specky balding rock guy in his forties is wishing for a 20 page spread on Magnum. My 7 minutes of data theft are up long before their time. I’m beginning to feel ill. There’s just too many pictures of Lindsey Buckingham to handle. The security guard knows that I’m walking out of there with with up to 300 words of text in my brain I didn’t come in with. There isn’t a damn thing he can do about it. Looks like fat specky balding rock guy in his forties is gonna be there a lot longer. His data theft yield will be a lot more fruitful than mine. I guess to become a real master criminal I’m gonna have to swallow my pride and take a step into the world of “ the forbidden music “. – BOZ 


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