Idols Melting in the Summer Sun

Pale and hungover and hiding behind enormous black sunglasses, they looked small in the full light of day. Indeed, stranded in the wilds of New Jersey, they were looking around themselves as if they had never before seen the full light of day.

The few mentions their Lollapalooza sets received in the music press that year would inevitably make some reference to “vampires caught out after dawn.” But the truth was, they didn’t look like anything so glamorous. They looked lost and forlorn.

The Reid brothers had always snubbed the conventions of rock star bombast. Early Jesus and Mary Chain shows in 1985 and 1986 had lasted twenty minutes or less, the Reids playing the entire time with their backs to the audience. Their first singles had been delayed by the Reids’ insistence that they be pressed with a ramshackle “Jesus Fuck” tune on their B-sides. Their drummer’s kit for those early shows consisted of two tiny snares, the bass player’s instrument had only two strings. Their music had been approvingly described as the sound of someone in another apartment down the hall, playing the Velvet’s “Sister Ray” at maximum volume while also shearing sheets of aluminum with a table saw. And the people—which in the Chain’s case meant the London music press, then the London club scene, then Anglophile college-radio geeks in America—ate it up.
Continue reading

The ENIT Festival

enit_festivalI wasn’t at Woodstock. In August of 1969, I was more into Rocky & Bullwinkle than Neil Young. That, however hasn’t prevented me from being a bit of a geek on the subject of Woodstock, as only someone who never had to endure the traffic, the rain, the filth, the cold, the lack of food and water, the insect bites, and the many subpar performances could be.

As such, I’ve been looking forward to the release of “Woodstock: 40 Years On, Back to Yasgur’s Farm,” by Warner Rhino, a 6-CD set with a greatly expanded roster of bands and songs presented at the celebration of “3 Days of Peace and Music.” The set, “sequenced in chronological order of performance and featuring 38 previously unreleased recordings” should represent a significant improvement over Warner’s lackluster and weirdly joyless 4-CD set released in 1994, if only because it restores and expands the contributions of stage announcers Chip Monck and John Morris, as well as the Rain Chant and other crowd chatter. It will be interesting, after all these years, to hear Woodstock renditions of songs by Quill, Sweetwater, Bert Sommer, The Incredible String Band, and Ravi Shankar (among others).

The ’80s, the decade that encompassed my late teens to early twenties, wasn’t a prime decade for big music festivals. The trend had pretty much exhausted itself by then. The music changed, too, as anyone who has seen clips of the US Festival (Los Angeles, 1982 & 1983) can attest. There was nothing very inspiring about watching MTV-launched New Wave bands (Missing Persons, Quarterflash, Men At Work, a fledgling and awkward U2) flail tinily on a battleship-sized stage. The music wasn’t about community, after all. It was about fashion. Fashion and marketing.
Continue reading