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Portrait Of An Artist As A Young Nerd

August 2, 2013

Portrait Of An Artist As A Young Nerd


I have been listening to music since I was five. My brother
and a cousin of ours are the main 
responsibles that fact. They were metalheads. On a different level, my
father also influenced me with his musical tastes. He was more into the classic
stuff, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, Leonard Cohen and,
when he felt like rocking out, the Scorpions. So, in 1983, with the addition of
a record player to our household, gone were the simple tapes and along came a
few records.

This is a story of five songs that changed my life and made
me who I am today (sonically speaking, of course). 
By the way, the picture you see here is me, aged 5, with my
brother, aged 13. We are wearing handknit jumpers with the AC/DC logo made by
our mother.

Motörhead – Back At The Funny Farm (‘Another Perfect Day’,
1983. First heard in 1983. The place: Melodia Infantil, Cacem)
 

The year was 1983. I was five. That means this event took
place thirty years ago. I have an older brother who, at the age of 13, had
started listening to hard rock and heavy metal. AC/DC and Whitesnake were among
the first records in our house. Information was scarce back then and we had to
rely on magazines and a weekly sixty minute radio show to know what was going
on, hard rock and heavy metalwise.
A name that kept popping up quite often was Motörhead. The
description and the photos of the band told about something loud, fast, furious
and vile. When we read they had a new record out, my brother and a cousin of
ours went on a pilgrimage to the local record shop and took me along with them.
We got to the appropriately named ‘Melodia Infantil’
(‘Child’s Melody’ in English and a record shop that also sold children’s
clothes)  and asked if they had any Motörhead
records available. Lo and behold, Another Perfect Day was presented to us. ‘Can
we have a listen?’ we inquired and a listen we had.
Even though this happened thirty years ago, it seems like
yesterday. The moment the needle struck the record, we were blown away. I don’t
think the guy that worked there knew exactly what Motörhead was and what he was
unleashing through the shop’s speakers. The volume was so loud it was almost
inaudible.
By 1983 standarts, Lemmy had the most gravel/grave sore
throat voice anybody had ever heard and as we went home, we couldn’t form an
opinion as we were speechless. We just liked it and we couldn’t figure out why.
Though ‘Another Perfect Day’ is not one Motörhead’s most
acclaimed records, it was through ‘Back At The Funny Farm’ that we got our
introduction to the loudest, meanest, foulest, filthiest power trio ever. God
bless Melodia Infantil for allowing us to have a listen at an almost indecent
and possibly illegal volume.
Footnote-though he endured years of loud music on the home
stereo, my father never frowned or disapproved what we listened to. There was
an exception to that rule – Motörhead. (Oddly enough, Spiritualized also gained
that distinction!)
Monster Magnet – Cyclops Revolution (‘Superjudge’, 1993.
First heard in 1993. The place: my bedroom, Cacem)
 

Fast forward ten years. The world had changed a bit. With
Nirvana and the Grunge movement, there was an easier access to new alternative
and off the wall music. The supposedly freakier, the better. Jane’s Addiction,
Soundgarden and a myriad of other bands became household names.
Luckily for me, four guys from New Jersey were lumped into
the alternative pile of bands that were coming out at the time, even though
they stated they didn’t listen to music made after 1975. Those four guys were
called Monster Magnet.
I read about Monster Magnet in 1991 on an interview
promoting ‘Spine of God’ but it was only in 1993 that I actually heard them. By
now, there was a radio station where all things alternative was on air at any
given time of day. So, when the presenter said ‘And now here’s Monster Magnet’s
latest record with the track Cyclops Revolution’, I remembered that interview.
As the song started, the slow strumming of a single guitar
and all the multitrack varying speed voice delays behind the vocals caught my
attention. The moment everything starts to rise with all the instruments coming
into play, you can tell there’s going to be an explosion and when that happens,
there’s a full mountain of sound falling on top of your head and you get blown
away by the sheer intensity and energy of the song. The body jolts, your eyes
close and you fall into a trance that gives you enough power to take on the
world.
I just knew I had to get that record. I listened to
‘Superjudge’ so many times, it chipped the paint off of the cd. Even though
Monster Magnet lost their magic fire in 1995 (at least for me), they still
remain one of my life defining bands and that song changed yours truly forever.
Hawkwind – Born To Go (single b-side, 1973. First heard in
1995. The place: my bedroom, Cacem)
 

Having an older metalhead brother in the 80’s, the
inevitability of listening to Motörhead is inescapable. Having an older
metalhead brother in the early stages of becoming a music nerd, is not so
common. As true music nerds in the making, we soon found out Lemmy once belonged
to an entity called Hawkwind.
In 1984, Hawkwind released ‘Night Of The Hawks’, a 12″
that featured Lemmy. Thus Hawkwind fell under our radar. When ‘Live Chronicles’
came out in 1986, it was perfect for us. What better way than a live record to
find out about a band that already had an extensive record output? My brother
listened to the record. I devoured it. Though nowadays it seems tame when
compared to their 1970-75 highlight years, it was the only Hawkwind record I
listened to for a few years (partly because you couldn’t really find that many
Hawkwind records available in Portugal).
Come the ages and, by chance, I had a teacher in high school
which happened to be a Hawkwind fan. So, in return of me taping him ‘Live
Chronicles’, he lent me a few Hawkwind tapes of older material. This, matched
with a friend of mine who had a double vynil compilation that he had
‘borrowed’, became my introduction to their Early Golden Years. I must confess
it was hard to get into being a part of the sonic attack as opposed to falling
victim of said attack mainly due to the fact that the track selection wasn’t
that great. One track changed all that for me. The song: Born To go. Soon, I
was also born to go.
I was transfixed by the nightmare it conjured. It was the
sound of an acid crazed, speedfreak  crew
on the verge of losing control of a crumbling spaceship on its way towards the
sun. The thing is falling apart and they still try to manoeuvre it to avoid
collapsing into the heart of our galaxy. They were born to go and off they went
through space, taking me along for the ride.
As the song twists and turns on the second verse, your body
feels like the spaceship, swerving and twisting, reacting to the angular turns
that take place, trying to regain control of what is going on.
As the song nears its end, you realize you didn’t smash into
the anything but you suspect it’s not going to be an easy trip because you know
danger lurks behind every star, planet or comet in space. Specially because you
have Hawkwind at the helm of this spaceship. The truth is, you stop caring and
you actually join the crew for the whole journey and you never looked back
again.
Neu! – Hallogallo (‘Neu!’, 1972. First heard in 2001. The
place: Kingsize Records, Lisbon)
 

Once upon a time, there was a record shop in Lisbon called
Godzilla that evolved into Kingsize Records. It was there I first bought Dr.
John (‘Gris Gris’), Captain Beefheart (‘Clear Spot’), proper ZZ Top (‘Tres
Hombres’), Make Up (‘I Want Some’) and countless others.
It was ran by five guys, each with a specific music genre
(hip hop, reggae, punk/hardcore, etc). The rest that didn’t quite fit into any
genre they called it ‘Guitar Music’, which is perfect to define a bigger
picture about music than the one we sometimes think is much more reduced. You
had Guitar Wolf, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Mark Lanegan side to side with
Lynyrd Skynyrd, Deep Purple mk I, Amon Düül II, Can and so on. When, in 2001,
Neu!’s records were re-issued, where could you find it? That’s right, Kingsize
Records.
My main man in the shop was a slightly older German guy
called Mark. He was a cool cat that would talk about Trans AM and Blue Öyster
Cult on the same sentence, sharing the same knowledge, logic and passion about
music that I also have. All the while, I was also learning some more about more
bands. When it was time to listen to Neu!, he said: ‘Get ready because you’re
gonna love this…’.
The moment Hallogallo started, I was hypnotized. The images
that went through my brain were just outstanding! It’s the perfect soundtrack
for a long car ride. I imagined highways in a mix of speeding slowmotion where
colours become distorted and lines appear uniformly in continuous motion. Soft
curves that ran smoothly with far horizon hills morphing into overdelayed
layers of sound, each reacting to new sounds that came to the fore as the song
progressed. The drums, always steady, imposed the rhythm, pulsing the music
into forever. True motorika.
When it finished, ten minutes had passed but it felt like
ten seconds. I was not on acid and I didn’t need to be. Hallogallo is one of
the ultimate aural trips that still sends me on a journey I do not wish to come
back.
Footnote-Nowadays I have a band and we have a song called
‘Kingsize Mark’ dedicated to Kingsize Records and my main man Mark Braun.
John Fahey – On Doing An Evil Deed Blues (‘Blind Joe Death,
Vol. 1’, 1967. First heard in 2003. The place: Discolecção, Lisbon)
 

Somewhere in 2001, I came across the name John Fahey.
Unfortunately, it was in the obituaries lists of many music magazines. His name
showed up again regularly in 2003 with the release of ‘Red Cross’. Even though
the internet was available, I was never a big fan of newer technology, always
prefering the old ways of scavaging record shops and picking up records either
because of the cover or because I read the name of a band somewhere and it
stuck to my head. With John Fahey, it was a combination of the two.
It was Christmas time. Looking for presents for my brother,
which invariably involve records,  John
Fahey’s ‘Blind Joe Death, Vol. 1’ appeared in front of me. By now, me and my
brother had gone to the roots of rock and roll and were immersed in early blues
like Skip James, Son House, Charley Patton and whatnot.
Now, I knew there was some sort of blues link to John Fahey
but when the time came to hear his music, surprise is not an effective word to
describe what I felt. On Doing An Evil Deed Blues hit me like a sledgehammer of
acoustic sound. It was bluesy but, at the same time, it had a rootsy americana
feel to it. True American folk without the protest element so often associated
with American folk music. This was definetely no Pete Seeger.
Before I actually gave the record, I listened to it
obssessively, over and over again. I just couldn’t get enough of it. John
Fahey’s guitar playing is mind boggling to the point I couldn’t figure out if
there were any overdubs or if it was all recorded in one go. Sure ’nuff, there
were no overdubs, just a few effects and that was it.
Though there are songs I like best (like Variations On A
Cuckoo), it was that first one that grabbed me by the balls, proving you don’t
need a triple stack of loud guitars to be as gutwrenching as John Fahey. A
simple and delicate acoustic guitar is enough to bend your mind and open up
your horizons. That’s what happened to me at least.
I hope this more personal recount on how I discovered some
bands didn’t bore you. At the same time, feel free to comment and tell some of
your life defining moments through music you experienced.
Column made by Carlos Ferreira/2013
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2013
One Comment
  1. zenthing

    Hi Paul, thanks for posting this, it was a revelation! I have been a massive Hawkwind fan since I was 13 (nearly 40 years!) And I feel exonerated! I own and love all of your choices apart from John fahey, which I aim to correct

    Cheers!

    Harry, England

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