photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
its always cool to learn about the INSPIRATION for ART. longtime BRITISH music periodical NME on their youtube channel has for several years had an ongoing video series called SONG STORIES in which they have celebrated musicians explain the initial spark and CREATIVE PROCESS that brought about notable tracks. past participants include JOHNNY MARR (THE SMITHS), PETER HOOK (JOY DIVISION), DAVE GROHL (FOO FIGHTERS), TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB, BRETT ANDERSON (SUEDE), PHOENIX, OLI SYKES (BRING ME THE HORIZON), IAN MCCULLOCH (ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN), JOEY SANTIAGO & DAVID LOVERING (THE PIXIES), JIMMY EAT WORLD, GAVIN ROSSDALE (BUSH), ROYAL BLOOD, BOBBY GILLESPIE (PRIMAL SCREAM) and COURTNEY BARNETT among many others.
while i understand that MUSIC, LITERATURE and ART all have unique narratives that brought about their CREATION, the SOLIPSISTIC truth of the matter is that their longevity is how such became intertwined in the countless personal narratives of individuals the world over. for me music is the ultimate time transportation vehicle as i can listen to a STRANGLERS song and immediately be back in my parents old dilapidated HONDA ACCORD being driven to a weekend soccer match in the early 1990s. the POWER OF MUSIC is not in the CREATOR but in the LISTENER, who effectively completes the circuit.
although as a fan of art i still love getting to know how songs were constructed and what value they imparted or exorcised on the part of the SONGWRITER. endlessly INTRIGUING. NME's SONG STORIES is definitely worth further investigation. highly recommended.
i have clear memories of long nighttime car rides with my father alongside the BURGAN oil field in KUWAIT on our way to and from some company gathering in the desert listening to MIND BOMB (EPIC, 1989) by THE THE on the stereo. some records are just perfectly paired with a specific location and the GEOPOLITICAL, RELIGIOUS concerns of MATT JOHNSON and the plodding, expansive guitar evocations of JOHNNY MARR could not have been better coupled with the countless nocturnal gas flares that populate the globe's single largest sandstone oil field.
mind you this record was released more than a year before the invasion and subsequent liberation of KUWAIT, but its appeal as an almost prophetic vision of a new emerging century dominated by ANCIENT HATREDS and RELIGIOUS PERSECUTIONS still feels prescient and absolutely relevant. the story i read somewhere, and i am paraphrasing here, is that JOHNSON tasked MARR (who at the time had recently departed from THE SMITHS) with make soundscapes of the sky expanding and the earth eating and collapsing in on itself to which the guitarist plainly retorted something to the effect of "mate, i just have this piece of wood here with some strings and electronics." but that is essentially what the dude did. tracks like "ARMAGEDDON DAYS" and "GOOD BYE BEAUTIFUL" are some of the most spacious and expressive compositions of his career to date (which is saying something because he has had a brilliant and legendary career).
MIND BOMB really is quite the COLLABORATION, partly because it solidifies MARR's preternatural ability and reputation for seamlessly creating and working within the particular specifications of a demanding writing partner known for being quite INSULAR and keenly DELIBERATE with their lyrical intentions and ambitions. JOHNSON is a THOUGHTFUL, ENGAGED citizen that has the capacity to collapse global political concerns with themes of the MUNDANE and the PERSONAL. all too often the experience of listening to THE THE songs is one of discerning obtuse lyrics rather than enjoying a melody, but MIND BOMB (as well as its subsequent MARR-collaborated follow-up DUSK) is on another level entirely where the aural compositions matched and maybe even superseded the already high ambitions of the lyrical content.
if you are a fan of INDIE ROCK or THE SMITHS or just transgressive ROCK N ROLL in the high lyrical tradition of LOU REED, NEIL YOUNG, BOB DYLAN and the like, definitely check out MIND BOMB. it is well worth the effort.
i am always on the hunt for live music series online. it probably comes from attempting to initiate one myself. i recently came across LIVE @ 885FM which showcases live performances by upcoming as well as established INDIE ROCK acts in their studio out of CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. notable participants during pre-pandemic times include that of JOHNNY MARR, BOB MOULD, NADA SURF, BEST COAST, RODRIGO Y GABRIELA, ROLLING BLACKOUTS COASTAL FEVER, JENNY LEWIS, INARA GEORGE (of BIRD & THE BEE), KURT VILE, BLITZEN TRAPPER and FIRST AID KIT.
obviously this is a take on the model spearheaded and popularized by the longstanding live performance series out of KEXP in SEATTLE, but honestly who cares? i love the fact that there are a multitude of radio stations (including KCRW in SANTA MONICA) providing quality, professionally recorded and mixed content of bands playing live.
we all win. especially when legacy radio stations have the pull to draw in first-rate talent, as is the case with 88.5FM.
basically everything related to THE SMITHS i was was predisposed and probably indoctrinated to appreciate from my father. he's definitely to blame for my love of all things MORRISSEY and JOHNNY MARR in all their permutations. i can place myself in our beat-up burgundy early 80s HONDA ACCORD shuffling along IMPERIAL HIGHWAY with him listening to tapes of BONA DRAG (HMV, 1990) or STRANGEWAYS HERE WE COME (ROUGH TRADE, 1987) on the stereo as he drove to work in LA HABRA on a typical sunny SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA afternoon.
i distinctly remember when he received the early ELECTRONIC singles "GETTING AWAY WITH IT" and "GET THE MESSAGE" and how i'd stay in his office reading CALVIN AND HOBBES listening to them on repeat. i had no idea who BERNARD SUMNER or NEIL TENNANT was or even NEW ORDER or PET SHOP BOYS for that matter. but this was my introduction to ELECTRONIC MUSIC in general. ELECTRONIC (FACTORY, 1991) by ELECTRONIC was the basis for all other further explorations into SYNTH POP and INDUSTRIAL MUSIC in my teens. basically everything from DEPECHE MODE to KMFDM and THROBBING GRISTLE started with those first few ELECTRONIC singles for me.
i dont believe the single "DISAPPOINTED" was initially on this album, but i think it was released as a single around that time. for me those three singles ("GETTING AWAY WITH IT," "GET THE MESSAGE," and "DISAPPOINTED") are permanently etched in my experience of early childhood.
a few years ago i saw JOHNNY MARR playing a solo set at IRVING PLAZA in NYC with my father and brother and he played "GETTING AWAY WITH IT" which was beyond cool. i know i come across as a fanboy (because i am), but the versatility of his musicianship in various contexts is pretty mind-blowing. it is probably why myself and many others are always interested in what collaborations or musical avenues he is venturing down next.
if you are not familiar with this record, in my opinion it is definitely the ELECTRONIC record to find.
i know that JOHNNY MARR is an internationally beloved INDIE ROCK "god-like genius" whose work with THE SMITHS has made him an icon to millions. he has likewise also experienced an amazing career as a journeyman collaborator who has performed and recorded with everyone from THE THE, BERNARD SUMNER (of NEW ORDER), KIRSTY MACCOLL, OASIS, MODEST MOUSE, THE TALKING HEADS, BRYAN FERRY, THE CRIBS, JOHN FRUSCIANTE, THE PRETENDERS to even the noted film composer HANS ZIMMER.
i think what gets lost in that extended discography is the creative streak he has been on with his solo career for the past decade. if you havent done so already, definitely check out and investigate the man's solo work. then again we are talking about JOHNNY MARR here, it was already ordained to be great.
can't believe this actually happened but THANK YOU so much to JOHNNY MARR for reposting us on twitter. it is definitely the coolest thing ever and we appreciate it.
when AMERICANS think of public radio the dry, educational shows associated with NPR usually come to mind. these shows, much like their PBS television counterpart, are meant to enrich and cultivate thoughtful dialogue on a myriad of subjects.
this is not the BRITISH model at all. they have a celebrated station dedicated solely to news called the WORLD SERVICE, but they also have a number of stations dedicated to the arts, including BBC6 which is dedicated to modern ALTERNATIVE MUSIC (i.e. INDIE ROCK, TRIP HOP, ELECTROCLASH, ALTERNATIVE ROCK, INDIE POP, PUNK ROCK, etc).
the professionally mixed live performances are particularly well produced and include the likes of TRICKY w/MARTINA TOPLEY-BIRD, IGGY POP, THE PIXIES, LIZZO, JOHNNY MARR, QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, BEAK> and STEPHEN MALKMUS & THE JICKS as notable past performers among many many others.
definitely worth a listen.
thank god for AMEOBA RECORDS.
no doubt this series was meant as a way to garner interest in the sheer sea of available for purchase records, tapes, cds, dvds, posters, books, zines and various merchandise at their flagship stores in HOLLYWOOD, SAN FRANCISCO and BERKELEY, but man is it still cool to see what cultural artifacts jazz up influential musicians.
i only went to AMEOBA in HOLLYWOOD once when visiting a childhood friend of mine in nearby ORANGE COUNTY (where i grew up pre-NIGERIA). AMEOBA for me was like visiting MECCA. it was a sacred place, they literally had everything. i remember i got an out-print (at the time) copy of PRINCE's SIGN 'O' THE TIMES (PAISLEY PARK FILMS, 1987) concert film for cheap. really too bad the place closed doors so some asshole could put up some condominiums. just what the world needs. regardless, id put AMEOBA up there with the greatest stores ive ever walked into, which come to think of it, the only one that comes close at the top of my head is the FNAC CHAMPS ELYSEE in PARIS.
anyway, its always cool to hear musicians talk about music, so below are the episodes with SUNN O))), GARBAGE, THE MELVINS, WAYNE KRAMER, DELTRON 3030 (DAN THE AUTOMATOR & DEL THE FUNKY HOMOSAPIEN), JOHNNY MARR, MASTODON, CHUCK D, BILLY BRAGG and HIGH ON FIRE among many many other notable musicians, past and present.
parodies by nacrowe
depending on your persuasion regarding DEER GOD RADIO, this episode is either the best one we ever did by far, or it was a complete disaster. i like to think its the former as THE SMITHS are one of my three favorite bands of all-time (the other two in my holy trinity are DEVO and JANE'S ADDICTION).
i was basically raised on the work of MORRISSEY and JOHNNY MARR by my parents and have been a fan since early childhood. TOM FERRIE of THE NOWHERE FAST SHOW and a co-founder of MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC is a certifiable super-fan of the band and upon seeing the "bat signal" of my social media promotions, swung by for the show. basically we talked the entire time about THE SMITHS, just none of it on air. so this is a playlist of THE SMITHS, the solo work of MORRISSEY and MARR, as well as collaborative projects (all MARR) with the likes of THE THE, MODEST MOUSE, BRIAN FERRY, THE CRIBS and ELECTRONIC making it arguably one of the strongest ones to date.
just no commentary. at all. just the playlist unbroken pure and simple.
maybe i should redo this show in the future? nah, no reason to ruin a perfect thing.
photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
as corporate propaganda goes, ERNIE BALL MUSIC MAN's online STRING THEORY video series on YOUTUBE is pretty effective. they basically created extended interviews with such notable players as JOHNNY MARR, DAVE NAVARRO (JANE'S ADDICTION), JERRY CANTRELL (ALICE IN CHAINS), KIRK HAMMETT (METALLICA), DARON MALAKIAN (SYSTEM OF A DOWN), JADE PUGET (AFI), TOM DELONGE (BLINK 182), STEPHEN CARPENTER (DEFTONES) and J MASCIS (DINOSAUR JR) among many others, all explaining how they came to play guitar and what being a musician / songwriter means to them. somewhere, of course, they mention the strings.
there has definitely been a move towards these types of online cross-promotional infomercials (well-produced as they are) by various companies in the retail guitar space, each showcasing how their product in concert with products by other notable manufactures support recording and touring musicians and allow them to pursue their art. and just in terms of marketing i think that is a smart move since it equates your product with the quality of other well-known brands, in this case guitar manufacturers like FENDER, GIBSON, IBANEZ, G&L and PAUL REED SMITH and amp companies like MARSHALL, MESA-BOOGIE, FRIEDMAN, FENDER, DIEZEL, ORANGE and BOGNER among others.
in terms of each artist, hearing them talk about their influences and how they came about playing guitar as they strum off iconic riffs through their live rigs is just such a sweet spot to hit for any fan of guitar playing. i can never hear enough of "THIS CHARMING MAN" or the solo from "THREE DAYS" in its entirety, no matter the context.
kinda feel guilty for showcasing blatant, unapologetic corporate propaganda, but oh well. enjoy!
JOHNNY MARR is a singular talent whose legendary partnership with MORRISSEY in THE SMITHS puts him, in my mind, in the highest echelon of songwriting talents that rock music has ever produced. his story could've ended there but he went on to expand his musical vocabulary by pursuing an expansive career that includes collaborative efforts with the likes of TALKING HEADS, PET SHOP BOYS, BRIAN FERRY, THE PRETENDERS, THE THE, ELECTRONIC (with BERNARD SUMNER of NEW ORDER), BILLY BRAGG, KIRSTY MACCOLL, OASIS, BLACK GRAPE, MODEST MOUSE, THE CRIBS as well as a stellar string of successful of recent solo releases.
all that being said, what struck me most from reading his autobiography SET THE BOY FREE (DEY STREET BOOKS, 2016), which deals with him recounting his extraordinary career was his ability to be in the moment. this moment. i cant imagine what it must be like being defined work (however transcendentally awesome) you did as a teenager. for him it was a determined focus and drive, perhaps rooted in his struggling IRISH immigrant MANCUNIAN working-class upbringing, that allowed him to not get caught up in the hype and hysteria of riding such a phenomenal critical and artistic wave so early.
as a fan, i'm always struck by his career choices which always appeared to each be a labour of love and over time he cultivated a following that came with him, which is incredible given that most successful artists are mindful of no alienating their audience. if anything MARR is taking them on the journey with him.
i want to add that MARR's voice as a writer is very direct and deliberate and this has to be one of the better written autobiographies i have read in recent years. perhaps this shouldn't come as a surprise given the literary aspirations of his work over the years and the quality of project collaborators he has sought out. i wouldn't expect anything else but quality in his writing.
as NOEL GALLAGHER is apt to saying with regards to MARR, "dude is a fucking wizard." by all means, check out his work if you haven't and down the road after a lifetime of enjoying his music, consider reading his excellent autobiography.