Monday, December 27, 2004

Music (sort of): Before You Die, Listen to a Really Terrible CD

The best-selling author of The Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency, The Kalahari Typing School for Men and The Sunday Philosophy Club, and the "second-best-selling author of children's books residing in Edinburgh," has a little-known facet as founder and "lousy bassoonist" in the Really Terrible Orchestra.

I've never had the pleasure of hearing a performance by the RTO, but a friend who is traveling in Scotland for Christmas called me specifically to recommend them. "Ye canna imagine how really turrible these musicians are," he informed me. "Between the greetin'* of the oboes and the off-rhythm performance of the percussion section, it was truly amazing that anything resembling music emerged."

I asked him what they had played. He confessed, "I'm no sure—it was either Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring or Here Comes Santa Claus.

The well-named concert group, which includes some of the intellectual luminaries of Scotland and England, has now released a CD. No longer do you need to travel to Scotland to assail your ears with the outpourings of, well, music-like noise, generated by the RTO. I'm sure it will be available through Amazon soon.

This would make an appropriate next-year Christmas gift for the guy who gave you the fruitcake this year. Start a regifting tradition today.

*greeting: Scottish regionalism for sobbing, crying, prob. related to "grieving."


Anonymous Vern Halen said...

I don't know if anyone can like MMM - maybe tolerate is a more suitable word. And yes, I'll agree Mr. Reed has all kinds of chutzpah (sp?) - Sister Ray itself should've put him in the Chutzpah Hall of Fame. But I can listen to Sister Ray very often, actually; MMM however - that's some kind of a cruel joke, especially since there's no punch line.

Portsmouth Symphonia - sounds interesting - maybe Rhino will reissue it someday.

Another great nonalbum is The Replacements' boot The S!!t Hits the Fans, where the 'Mets drunkenly trash 70's metal covers by Sabbath, BTO & Bad Company in front of a paying audience. Too funny.

Wed, 29 Dec 2004

2/23/2005 5:32 PM  
Anonymous Nick Jones said...

"I don't know if anyone can like MMM."

Trust me on this, I do: I still have the original vinyl. And so does Sonic Youth, apparently, as they used a sped up version of the final repeating groove in the background of one of their songs. ('Life is a Hole'?)

Wed, 29 Dec 2004

2/23/2005 5:34 PM  
Anonymous Nick Jones said...

The cruel joke is that RCA even released MMM, apparently thinking that
Reed's name would sell anything!

Wed, 29 Dec 2004

2/23/2005 5:35 PM  
Anonymous Vern Halen said...

Well, to be perfectly honest, if I couldl find a cheap copy of it I'd buy it just to say I have it. I used to have the 8 track (!). But the ast time I saw an import vinyl copy of MMM it was close to $30 - too steep for me.

And someone mentioned Nico - there's some mighty strange music there! I have Marble Index & Desertshore on vinyl. I read her bio - died in a bicycle accident?!?! Where's the perfect tragic ending for a 60's icon?

Thu, 30 Dec 2004

2/23/2005 5:37 PM  
Blogger DrPat said...

MMM: Music, Mind, Machine (Amsterdam)?

Music, Mirth, Madness (KUCI 88.9 FM)?

Much More Music (CHUM TV)?

Thu, 30 Dec 2004

2/23/2005 5:37 PM  
Anonymous Mike Kole said...

Vive Kitsch!

I recently bought the Portsmouth Sinfonia on Ebay. Guess I got lucky, as I snagged it for $12. Since I have an CD burner that accepts analog inputs, I have it now gloriously on CD.

It's horrible if you are listening to it in the hopes of hearing actual music or representations of the 'popular classics' Eno had the gang play, but it can come off as high comedy otherwise.

Their take on the Blue Danube Waltz is awesome. I used it for years on radio as a background for idiots in the news reporting.

Cleveland college radio legend Steve Wainstead used to play thrift store records on his night show. He'd find things like the Westlake Jr. High Marching Band albums, and lounge acts that inexplicably put out albums, covering stuff like "My Way" and "Light My Fire". Wretched, but hilarious.

Just in Cleveland underground rock lore, though, I would recommend checking out Sockeye. Completely inept musicians, hilarious un-PC offensive lyrics, and inappropriate cussing galore. The 'jams' of dimented Supie T (aka Superstar
Dan Theman, Dan Smiley, etc.) are also a laff riot. Dan would sing his jams with his voice as the guitar; meaning, he would do a verse and then break into a bridge or a solo, screaming "weedlie weedlie wee". Horrible music. Check out Scat Records' website, as they released some stuff by both of these 'acts'.

Daniel Johnston, the Tinklers, hell- almost anything on Shimmy Disc...

There were all kinds of challenging Japanese acts- Zeni Geva, KK Null, the Boredoms... all very loud and out there, capable of clearing a room in seconds.

There was a series of records called "The Beat of the Traps". These were the songs that resulted from those ads in the back of magazines that said, 'put your poetry to music! send $49 and your lyrics, and we'll send you a 7" 45-rpm record!' Bored session musicians cranking out canned rythyms with awful rhyming shit. A classic in this vein is John Trubee's 7" called "Blind Man's Penis". Trubee decided he'd mess with that format and send in offensive stuff, just to see if they'd record it. They did, but they altered the line "Stevie Wonder's penis is erect because he's blind" to "A blind man's penis".

Ah, the good ol' days of college radio, unburdened of any format, free to fart around with any dismal thing that crossed my path... Big fun!

Thu, 30 Dec 2004

2/23/2005 5:42 PM  
Anonymous Tom said...

Where's their site? I've gotta hear what these guys sound like, but their site appears to be non-existent. That is just not fair. You don't happen to know of any sites to download some samples, do you?

2/23/2005 5:51 PM  
Blogger DrPat said...

I've found lots of references to the author (McCall Smith) as a member of the RTO, but nothing in the way of sound files for sampling. I had never heard of the RTO before Alec called me from Edinburgh. I did discover in the course of Googling that there is a band named "Bad Music".

Who knew?

Wed, 29 Dec 2004

2/23/2005 5:54 PM  
Anonymous Lono said...

being a rock guy... your rock guy... I have to throw this one in. If we are discussing the worst piece of music ever committed to acetate, I am going with Nico's 'Chelsea Girl; live'.

Wed, 29 Dec 2004

2/23/2005 5:55 PM  
Blogger DrPat said...

But there's a difference, I think, between accidentally creating a smelly piece of music, and deliberately, with malice aforethought and practice, conspiring to produce a really terrible performance.

Otherwise, why would McCall Smith, who plays the bassoon in their gigs, show up to practice with a jury-rigged clarinet (and then never play it even at practice)?

Still, they sell tickets. And now, reportedly, a CD.

2/23/2005 5:56 PM  
Anonymous Vern Halen said...

Sorry there Mr. Lono, worst rock (?)recording of all time is The Shagg's Philosophy of the World. And Dr. Pat - worst intentionally malicious recording of all time is Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music, which contains no Metal or Music, and maybe even no Machines - it's pretty hard to tell. I sat through the whole thing only once, and once was enough, thank you.

Wed, 29 Dec 2004

2/23/2005 5:58 PM  
Anonymous Nick Jones said...

I dare say that I am one of the few (the only?) that actually likes Reed's MMM. Not only am I a fan of all music experimental and/or extreme (Edgard Varese and Charles Ives to Fred Frith and Diamanda Galas), but the story also goes that MMM was Reed's Double Flip Off to RCA to finish up his contract. Gotta admire the man's chutzpah!

Wed, 29 Dec 2004

2/23/2005 5:59 PM  
Anonymous Nick Jones said...

And is anyone here old enough to remember The Portsmouth Symphonia? An art school project, created by Gavin Bryars and including Brian Eno, the raison d'etre was a combination of concert-ready players and enthusiastic amateurs, with the results being either excruciating or hilarious, depending on your degree of reverence for the classical masterpieces (I had a friend who begged me to take the record off after the first few cuts).

The premise was that Beethoven enjoyed going to rural taverns to listen to his music being played by musicians who weren't quite up to snuff. True or not, the results were quite amusing to me, and it seems a shame that the two albums I own have never been released on CD. You can still find the vinyl being sold, but only if you feel like shelling out $100 or so.

Wed, 29 Dec 2004

2/23/2005 6:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think MMM is fab! I have it on cd, and have listened to it loads. It's full of ever changing textures, and sounds like a factory of machines getting down after closing time.

Would love a copy of the P S record. I've only seen a few bit's of old film footage, but it had me on the floor.


2/02/2007 6:24 PM  
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