Saturday, July 6, 2013

Diggin' In Melbourne

Diggin’ in Melbourne

So, I’ve been away in Melbourne for the best part of a week, ostensibly to watch Black Sabbath – whom originally booked an Australian tour with no New Zealand dates. I therefore organised to go and see them in Melbourne, with an old friend coming down from New South Wales (thirteen hours on the bus) to see them with me.

Frustratingly, Sabbath later confirmed NZ dates in advance of the Australian shows. I did consider going to the Auckland show (which coincided with both International Record Store Day, a Beastwars in-store and me actually being in Auckland for work) but eventually decided to save the money and hang on for Melbourne.

So, on arrival – suitably for my bogan mission - I get horrifically drunk on bourbon with my good friend (who I’ve not seen for three years); so much though that I’m so hungover that I’m not able to drink at Sabbath’s show.

Which is in the evening. So first, I go digging.

Northside Records, 236 Gertrude St, Fitzroy
I recently watched a documentary about crate digging in Melbourne which had a brief piece about Northside on it. Effectively, it’s a soul specialist – with a showing of other related genres. Based on the description on the documentary, I made a beeline to Northside and got stuck into their disco crates.

‘D’ Train “You’re The One For Me” Prelude 12” Single
I probably spent too much money on this, but hey – it’s on Prelude (as is ‘Keep On Movin’ by Musique, which cost me a dollar and is one of my favourite disco tunes). It’s a bit of bleepy post-disco goodness from 1981 and it’s phat.
Star City “I’m A Man” T.K. Disco 12” Single
Very camp, pop-disco. The B-Side is frankly, terrible but it’s such an attractive sleeve (still shrink wrapped and with the label inner), oh – and there’s a drum break on the A – so it’s in the bag. Next!
Candido “Dancin’ And Prancin/Jingo Breakdown” Suss’d 12” Single (Re-issued from Salsoul)
A noughties Joey Negro remix on the A isn’t what actually interested me in this one. It’s got the acapella’s for both tracks, which is a great start. Additionally, it’s got the original Shep Pettibone Dub Mix of “Jingo Breakdown”. Almost as interesting is the catalogue listing on the rear cover for all of this labels reissues of Salsoul tracks. I see that “You’re Just The Right Size” by Salsoul Orchestra (which I’ve loved since I heard Fabio play it when he was standing in for Gilles Petersen on Radio 1) was reissued. Interesting….

Karen Young “Hot Shot (Vocal)/Hot Shot (Instrumental)” West End 12” Single
A huge hit but a disco classic nonetheless. My visiting friend had just bought a record player and I was explaining my rules for digging. I’d actually already said that I was more than likely to buy anything that I found on Salsoul, Prelude, Casablanca and West End. I guess I had a lot to live up to.

Bettye LaVette “Doin’ The Best That I Can (Short Version)/Doin’ The Best That I Can” West End (Promo) 12” Single
Another proper smash – and it’s an original ’78 promo.

Julius Brown “Party (Vocal)/ Party (Instrumental)” West End 12” Single
No idea. It’s on West End and it was cheaper than the others, so I took a punt.

Donna Summer “Melody Of Love (Wanna Be Loved)” Casblanca 2 x 12” (Promo) Single Set
7 x stunning mixes including David Morales and “the incredible original jam”, according to the cover.

Dazz Band “Let It All Blow (Long Version)/Let It All Blow (Instrumental)” Gordy 12” Single

Later Motown (post 1980) can be a bit dodgy and I bought this on the basis that it was Gordy, expecting it to be earlier. (Which is stupid, incidentally, because it’s on 12” so would be what, ’76 at earliest). As it turns out, it’s actually quite electro and fast but will work later on in a mix alongside something like Xena’s “On The Upside” (

Brothers Johnson “Stomp” bw. L.T.D. “Back In Love Again” Unidisc Dance Classics 12” Single
Brothers Johnson’s “Stomp”, I know I have on 7” and I think I’ve got an LTD 7” in the ‘to be sold’ box. I wanted “Stomp” on 12” because it’ll be easier to mix. It’s actually a mid-price reissue (from A&M), but I’m not a purist.

After the disco, it was onto the LP’s, both old and new.

The New Rotary Connection “Hey, Love” Cadet Concept LP (Re-issue)
I wasn’t actually looking to buy any new LP’s during the dig but I saw this and jumped for it. “I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun” is one of my favourite songs of all time (it would actually jostle for top spot), so was a bit of a no-brainer. Alongside this on my must-buy list would be The Skullsnaps LP and 24-Carat Black – bagged in an instant.
Richie Havens “The End Of The Beginning” A&M LP
A couple of times since starting this blog, the world has lost artists whose work means a great deal to me. One of those losses was just last week, when I heard that the great man Richie Havens had passed away. I first heard Richie Havens (as I’m sure many did) whilst watching “Woodstock, though later grew to love more of his material. (To the extent that I even kinda like his version of the Beatles, “Lady Madonna” and I HATE that song). I saw this for $5 and despite being in pretty poor quality, felt I needed to rescue it.

KPM Music Recorded Library “Wessex Tales and Elements” KPM Music LP
KPM is one of the most highly regarded Library music labels, beloved of alternative hip-hop producers. I’m ashamed to say that this is the first of theirs that I’ve bought, but I’m starting to produce again, so it’s likely to be the first of many.  I’ve just found out from DJ Babu (off Youtube, not personally) that he collect Telefunken, so I’m not alone there either.

In addition to their priced vinyl, there’s a load of crates of dollar records on the floor and (as usual) there was a couple of things that I left, that I really should have bought. (A Chic 12” with a medley/re-edit of about four or five of their tunes, which for some stupid reason I didn’t think was worth $1.00 at the time).

Izit “Say Yeah” Tongue & Groove 12” Single
Izit guitarist/mainstay and Tongue & Groove label owner Tony Colman is now much better known as label CEO of liquid-funk/drum & bass superlabel Hospital and as none too shabby DJ and Producer London Elektricity. Colman remixes here on the flips “Mustard Mix” and toughens up what is a pretty smooth acid-jazz track elsewhere. For a dollar, I’m happy to own it as part of a wider collection of his tunes.
Guru feat. N’Dea Davenport “Trust Me” Cooltempo 12” Single / Guru “Feel The Music” Cooltempo Promo 12”
Another one of those heroes, sadly silenced in recent years. $2 for 2 Guru Jazzmatazz 12”s is ridiculous. I absolutely loved the first Jazzmatazz LP (which I own on a Chrysalis LP) and thought that it was interesting to find the single released simply as Guru (although it does credit Donald Byrd playing on the flip, “Loungin”, which is also off that LP). I’ve not actually listened t0 Jazzmatazz Part 2, though I did buy it on CD about a fortnight ago. It’s all cyclical, man…

As we headed over the road from Northside, heading towards civilisation in search of a vegeburger, a copy of the Disco Demands compilation caught my eye - displayed in the window of a rather cool record store/bookshop.

The Searchers, 93 Smith St, Fitzroy
Whilst I’d already spent what I intended to for the day, I came away with a few more interesting pieces.

Master Boogies Song And Dance “When The Shit Hits The Fan (This Mix)/When The Shit Hits The Fan (That Mix)” West End Records
It was turning out to be a rather West End sort of day by this point.

Sly & The Family Stone “Dance To The Music (Medley)” T.D Records Inc. (Promo) 12” Single
Sly Medley taking in “Dance To The Music”, “Dancin”, “Music Lover” and a reprise of “Dance To The Music” over 9 minutes on the A and bonus beats and a couple of others on the flip. Of extremely dubious legality. Why I thought that this was worth $10 AUS, when ten minutes earlier I didn’t think the Chic one was worth $1? Me either.

Pavement “Slanted And Enchanted” Matador LP (Reissue)
Absolutely no connection to anything else I bought that day and scant connection to anything else I now own on vinyl. I saw that (later Pavement LP) “Wowee Zowee” was reissued recently and thought to myself, “If I see a copy of “Slanted” I shall buy it…” This came out when I was thirteen and was a hugely important LP for me at the time. I loved their even more aggressively lo-fi (singles and rarities collection) “Westings By Musket & Sextant” and the next LP chronologically, “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain”. Is this the beginning of me going out and impulsively sourcing the important indie records of my youth? God, I hope not. (Yes).

Additionally, we also did happen across a tofu burger with sesame soy mayo from Huxtaburger (106 Smith St), which was really damn good.

So, onto the main event.
Black Sabbath with Shihad
Rod Laver Arena Melbourne
01st May 2013

We, along with it appeared the vast majority of others, timed our arrival at the Rod Laver Arena to coincide with the end of NZ’s formerly Melbourne resident Shihad’s set.

We saw the last song, which I can only say was as wildly average as anything else that I’ve heard by Shihad. 

They clearly didn’t put bums on seats, so why the hell Beastwars - an up and coming local (by that I mean Australasian) band didn’t get booked, I will never know.

So, after what can only be described in arena rock show terms as a lighting quick changeover, a curtain dropped onto the stage, the lights dimmed and a certain, slightly mumbled, slightly muffled, Birmingham accent could be heard. There was a huge roar of greeting as an air raid siren sounded and the opening notes of ‘War Pigs’ boomed out across the arena.

I’ve never been a ‘metaller’ per se, but it’s impossible to overstate the influence of Black Sabbath on music that I’ve loved in the past – be it Black Flag, Nirvana, Kyuss et al.

Seeing Black Sabbath (or at least ¾ of them – apparently Bill Ward was unwilling to accept the contract that they offered him) was a truly awesome experience.

Whilst it's a shame that he wasn't there, his replacement Tommy Clufetos is unbelievably, jaw-droppingly, now in my 'dream band line up-fantasy football league imaginary line-up-top trumps' band, amazing. 

The band (understandably) concentrated on their first four (pre-Ozzy departure) LP’s with a smattering of new tracks including a couple off their forthcoming “God Is Dead”. (Including the cloying “Loner”, which was the set’s lowest ebb).

Ozzy (whom it will be news to no one) was a bit up and down and was clearly unfamiliar with reading off an autocue for the new songs. That said, his between song banter was lovable (the “make some noise…. I can’t f**king hear you!” and throwing buckets of water over the audience was expected. The continual “cookoo” noises, less so) and he nailed the older songs.

In addition to the incredible opener, the band tore through virtually all of their best known favourites; “Snowblind”, “Children Of The Grave”, “Sweetleaf”, preceded by a meaty solo by Geezer Butler -“N.I.B”, “Black Sabbath”, “Iron Man”, a particularly thundering take on “Fairies Wear Boots” and then happily (and expectedly) “Paranoid”.

So, a couple of days later, we’ve gone for a wander into St. Kilda to check out the shops, when my friend encounters a set of (to him) inviting steps up to a little hippie clothes/jewellery shop. We head up and lo-and-behold they sell records.

Mainly new, mainly hipster afrobeat (not that there’s anything wrong with that) but with a few second hand pieces.

Richie Havens “Portfolio” LP

I think my Mum’s got this one. Again $5 and again rescued because of my grief that Richie recently passed away. One of music’s great, great voices silenced.

So, credit limit reached and breached and my chum still grubbing about in stacks of yack wool beanies, I give in and partake in a mug of chai, taken from a huge urn bubbling away on the counter.

Whilst I’m outside, I look through the window and see the record stand from the reverse. I notice some items that I didn’t notice on initial inspection. If there’s one thing that makes this collector excited, it’s 7” boxsets….

‘Riddimentary’ 6 x 7” Greensleeves Boxset (with sticker , badge and T-Shirt)
Holy Ini Kamoze – whilst the actual box is of terrible quality (it’s just a cardboard box, rather than something to display) the content of this Bonobo curated collection from 2011 is undeniable. $50 well spent. Okay, so I’ve really reached budget now.

So, back to Sabbath at the Rod Laver Arena.

I wake up the next morning with ears ringing and tell my girlfriend that Sabbath was everything I hoped it would be. I explain that there are now very few remaining bands of my bucket list.

Perhaps the only one remaining of that ‘Monsters of Rock’ designation is perhaps Aerosmith.

Similarly to my experience with Sabbath, Aerosmith have recently played in New Zealand. Bizarrely, they only played one show, right the way down in Dunedin (pop. 130k, positioned in the far south of the South Island of New Zealand and about $400 for a flight from where I reside in Wellington).

Based on my upcoming Melbourne trip and house purchase, I can’t afford to go. I notice at the Rod Laver Arena on my way in that there’s Aerosmith posters up. “Oh, they must have played recently on the same tour as the Dunedin show…” I tell myself.

We head into town on the tram on Thursday morning and I notice a billboard, again advertising Aerosmith on the Saturday night. The coming Saturday night.

Budget overruled – bucket list emergency.

Aerosmith with Dead Daisies
Rod Laver Arena Melbourne
04th May 2013

Okay, so we know that for the last ten years, Aerosmith have seen a backwards and forwards, to-and-fro conflict between Steven Tyler (pop hitmaker and celebrity) and Joe Perry (rock and blues purist and the reason, along with the blonde girl off ‘Fame’ that I picked up a guitar) between third-party provided hits and down and dirty rock & roll.

You would have thought however that whatever your motivation (be it huge success or musical integrity) that you’d have some interest in who your opening band is.

Then Dead Daisies are quite simply a bog standard, fairly decent bar band. The sort of thing that you’d expect to see at an IT companies Christmas party. Cool logo though.

Logo aside - I arrive at the venue and immediately think that the song that they’re playing sounds like ‘Stay With Me’ by the Faces. I sort out my merch (when else are you going to be able to buy a pack of Aerosmith badges) and head to my seat realising that they are actually playing ‘Stay With Me’ by the Faces.

After a forgettable original, they finish their set with The Beatles’ ‘Helter Skelter’. They’re clearly as surprised as anyone else that they’re here and have a band photo taken with the (2/3 empty) arena as a backdrop. I remember that the bumf about them on the internet says that the singer's been on TV talent shows. It figures. 

So, I take my seat at the rear left of the Arena and immediately kick myself that the $30 saved by taking a bronze rather than silver seat was a bad choice.
Aerosmith’s stage has two massive risers at the sides and a pontoon reaching right out to the rear of the stalls. I wondered why stalls tickets were more expensive than seats for a change. Tyler’s going to be right out in amongst it.

Joe Perry + Ampeg Dan Armstrong. Gasp,

And that he is, from set opener ‘Same Old Song and Dance’ the (slightly creaky jointed) vocalist is at one with his audience. Yes, you’ve seen the microphone stand with the scarves on it and the humping the monitors a million times, but he’s still a totally captivating performer.

The audience (especially in the cheap seats) are a really weird mix. A load of very young, very straight looking couples (it is a Saturday night, after all) looking in each other’s eyes, singing ‘Crying’, ‘Don’t Want To Miss A Thing’ and the other nineties mega-hits (‘Living On The Edge’ is accompanied by a really cheap looking video of Tyler and Joe Perry looking round a Sea Shepherd ship – one of the night’s weirdest moments), with trackpants-wearing bogan oldies losing their beans to the eighties material (‘Love In An Elevator’, ‘Janies Got A Gun’, a largely acappella ‘What It Takes’ and an absolutely blistering take on ‘Permanent Vacation’s ‘Ragdoll’ with Perry on lapsteel).

Weirdly, it appeared to be only me (at least from my section) who was familiar with their seventies (and in this muso’s opinion, never bettered) material.

I got the triple whammy though – the set ending with ‘Walk This Way’, a blackout (where you could see a grand piano being rolled out) before an “encore” (it was less than spontaneous) of ‘Dream On’ (complete with a piano top Joe Perry guitar solo) and ‘Sweet Emotion’ as a closer.

I once read a review of Aerosmith in Rolling Stone magazine that said something along the lines of ‘they’re at their best, when they’re being over the top’. Well, that just about covers it.

The only sad note for me was that Tom Hamilton was absent due to illness. One hopes that whatever’s troubling him is short lived.
The rest of my break went past in a blur of wine and cheese (check out “Fromagerie” if you’re ever in Melbourne) bar a quick pop into a book shop in St, Kilda, which, lo-and-behold, sold records, resulting in a Ltd. Edition Light In The Attic 7”.

Charles Bradley's a bit of a recent favourite and I'm really excited to see the forthcoming documentary about him.

Orange vinyl. Who can resist that?

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