It is perhaps very telling that all of the review blurbs on the back cover of Andy Partridge and Todd Bernhardt's Complicated Game: Inside the Songs of XTC are written by fellow musicians and songwriters. Andy Partridge has always been a musician's musician.
Complicated Game is a series of candid and detailed interviews with Andy Partridge about many of XTC's most well-known songs. Todd Bernhardt, the interviewer, is a fellow musician, XTC mega-fan, and friend of Andy's, so they don't shy away from discussing the nitty-gritty details of chord changes, instruments used, studio hacks, and other compositional and engineering minutia.
In the chapter on "Senses Working Overtime," Andy explains how the whole song came about as he was fooling around on a new Martin guitar and he played a "messed-up E-flat." He thought it sounded very Medieval so he tried to find other chords that went with it (A-flat minor and D-flat). He says the rest of the song sort of composed itself from there. We also learn that "English Settlement" was their "new instruments record." The bandmembers had all just gotten new instruments (Andy, the Martin, Dave Gregory, a 12-string Richenbacker, Colin Moulding, a fretless bass) and they were excited to noodle around on them to see what they could do.
There are many other interesting and fun revelations in the book. "This is Pop," from White Music, was Andy's way of rejecting the pigeonholing of the punk label, making sure that everyone was reminded that this is pop music, plain and simple, and that ain't a dirty word. Read the rest
"I Love the new Monkees record!," is something I thought I'd never hear my adult self saying, but I've heard myself saying it. The three surviving members of the 60s made-for-TV rock band (Davy Jones died of a heart attack in 2012) have recently released Good Times!, their 12th studio album and their first since 1996's Justus.
Babymetal made their US TV debut when they performed their song "Gimme Chocolate!!" on Colbert's Late Show last night. Read the rest
In the 60s and 70, Cambodia had a thriving, free-wheeling rock scene. Then along came the Khmer Rouge. Filmmaker John Pirozzi hunted down the surviving members of that scene and created a terrific documentary about it.
It's called “Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll,” and is currently touring around the US; check the schedule here to see if it's playing in your city, and when. The soundtrack is obtainable here.
Cambodia had surf-rock, psychedelia and hard rock, with Drakkar (pictured below, in middle age now) being an example of that latter genre. Pirozzi hunted down as many of the living musicians as he could, and -- as the New York Times reports -- he discovered some harrowing stories:
Among those they found was Sieng Vanthy, a young singer in the 1970s who is seen in clips dressed like Cher and dancing like a wild Grace Slick. In one of the film’s most heartbreaking interviews, Ms. Sieng Vanthy — her face frozen by a stroke — says she survived an encounter with Khmer Rouge soldiers only by telling them she was a banana seller, not a singer. She died in 2009.Read the rest
“The Khmer Rouge understood the value of the artists and their connection to the larger public,” Mr. Pirozzi said. “They’re the voice of the people. You can’t control them, so you eliminate them.”
Touch Seang Tana, of Drakkar, has another chilling survival story. In a Skype interview from Cambodia, where he is a scientist, he recalled being summoned by a soldier at a prison camp who had a guitar.