When Winona and I conceived of this weekly project, we envisioned
ourselves unearthing obscure gems from the cavernous KSPC vinyl
collection. We fancied ourselves two fearless explorers, spelunking
for the hidden sonic treasure buried in the depths of compilations and
split seven inches. We wanted to find that perfect obscure thing. You
know what I’m talking about. A cover of Nirvana’s “Smell’s Like Teen
Spirit” done by a female all-dwarf Palestinian punk septet recorded
twenty years before Kurt Cobain was even born, that sort of thing.
Reality, unfortunately, often crushes your dreams like a mean-spirited
and bored 13-year-old boy would an ant’s fragile body and, for better
or worse, you may already know my pick from this week. KSPC listeners
are a savvy crew. However, this band is new to me and hopefully new to
you as well. And, hell, if you’ve heard of these guys before, revisit
this wonderful band and song.
I’m talking about Half Japanese, a punk duo formed by brothers Jad and
David Fair in Coldwater, Michigan around 1975, according to their
Wikipedia page. Specifically, their seventh studio album, the
ostentatiously titled The Band That Would Be King. Track two: “Daytona
Beach.” I enthusiastically recommend you listen to the whole thing, as
I’ve done as I write this review. It’s sounds like something I can
only call bedroom punk. The brothers Fair play it loose and
loud–spastic out-of-tune guitar, tinny drums, reedy (apparently I’m
gonna use this word in every review) vocals, awesome.
“Daytona Beach,” however, is a lazy summer jam–complete with
meandering slide guitar–about how great Daytona Beach is and how many
girls one can find there. I generally start giggling about 5 seconds
into the song when Jad deadpans, “This one’s called Daytona Beach.”
What’s not to love about lines as perfectly stupid as: “Girls in cars
and girls in fun / Hot pizza from the kitchen / Daytona Beach, Daytona
fun / This town is really bitchin’?” Have yourself an ironic summer,
Moondog on Prestige Records
By Winona, M.D.
In response to my co-worker Joseph’s ironic discovery, I present that elusive gem, guaranteed to bring any hipster the street cred he/she/they deserve. It was a totally unintentional find and for as shallow and pedantic of a reason as ‘I really liked the name of the artist.’ Moondog. MOOOOOndog. I’ve had Moonage Daydream stuck in my head for a few days now and Zappa’s kid Moon Unit recently came up in a heated debate I had with my little brother, so I grabbed the album. Little did I know…
Moondog is someone I have never heard of, though I feel like I probably should have.
Moondog, born Louis Thomas Hardin (May 26, 1916 – September 8, 1999), was a blind New York musician who made a choice early in his life to reside on the streets and play music in public. Eccentric in appearance and personality, he fashioned outfits for himself based on his interpretation of the Norse god Thor. Hmm. I guess I’ve seen stranger things in the city? Well, probably not.
The music on the album we have here at KSPC are some of his first studio recordings off of Prestige Records. They feature minimal and often percussive instrumentation, and a “street track” that mixes in sounds of Manhattan streets along with Moondog’s original compositions. Some tracks feature poems read by Moondog or his wife, Suzuko. Others highlight instruments invented by Moondog himself, most notably the Oo (a triangular stringed instrument struck with a clava) and a Trimba (a triangular drum).
My first impression of Moondog was one of absolute awe. And I guess I wasn’t the only one to think this upon first hearing how masterfully he plays a recorder or even a piano. Composer Philip Glass reportedly took Moondog’s work “very seriously” and other musicians like Janis Joplin and even The Beatles included nods to Moondog in their own music.
Moondog’s life seemed to be a happy one that oscillated between periods of remarkable fame and relative anonymity. His music is soulful and raw, well constructed and definitely avant garde. The diversity of the tracks on the self-titled album here at KSPC is astounding and minimal, and a listen or three… or four… is highly recommended.
Not included on our particular album but reminiscent of the work we do have (and this video includes a photo!), here is one of his recordings of “Pastoral.”