Tag Archives: Devo

Urgh! A Music War – Suppose they gave a music war and everybody came?


Getting older sure does sneak up on a person (I won’t cop to “old” just yet, just “older”). It’s a shock to consider that people born in 1994 are now old enough to vote. To me, the modern world began in the ’80s. That’s when we started getting computers, when I graduated from high school (1983), and when we got New Wave. There are a lot of adults out there who never even heard of many of my favorite artists, including ones I tend to assume everyone knows about, just because they were popular when I was in my teens and 20s.

That’s why the recent availability of Urgh! A Music War (1981) is so important. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a documentary that gives a snapshot of the music scenes in America and England at the time. The performances are absolutely electrifying. Some of the performers are well-known, others less so, some I never heard of till I saw Urgh. I think it would be a great introduction to New Wave and Postpunk music.

Some of the better known performers include The Police (no surprise there, the documentary was produced by Miles and Ian Copeland, brothers of Police drummer Stewart Copeland), Oingo Boingo, Devo, Gary Numan, Dead Kennedys, Magazine, Gang of Four, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Cramps, XTC… I’m not going to list them all, but it’s basically a who’s who of the 1980s. There were also some killer performances by acts like 999, Toyah Wilcox, John Cooper Clarke, Au Pairs, X, Skafish and more (They might be well-known to people that are hipper than I am, as plenty of folks are).

I finally got a chance to watch the whole thing last weekend, thanks to a friend who wanted to introduce all his friends to the documentary that shaped his musical taste. I had seen it in bits and pieces before, but never got to just sit down and watch it through. It only became available on DVD recently. Before that, people were paying over $40 for used VHS tapes and scouring the Internet for bad DVD-R copies.

If you’re a music lover, this ought to be in your DVD collection. It will soon be in mine. Meanwhile, here’s a taste.



My friend saw this when he was a teenager and immediately went out and bought everything in Gary Numan’s discography. Growing up in rural Texas, if I had seen this when it was new I don’t know what I would’ve done. It certainly would have had a huge impact – seeing it in my 40s impressed the hell out of me.

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Filed under music, new wave, postpunk, review, video

Loving the Alien – Little Green Mixtape (or maybe not so little)

As a longtime science fiction buff, I have been very excited by recent news that there could be life on Saturn’s moon Titan. Of course, it’s a lot more likely that it will turn out to be a chemical process (although what is life, really, but a chemical process?), and if there is life, it will most likely be microbial. But I can’t help but think there’s something more substantial out there. Little green men. We might not meet them, but it’s a lot of fun to think about them. A while back I put together a CD-R full of songs about aliens. Kind of in the tradition of the mixtape only a lot bigger. You can get a lot of mp3s on a CD-R. I fudged on the concept here and there — the point was to find songs I liked. I had a lot of fun digging through my CD collection and the Internet and I found the following:

Byrds – Mr. Spaceman
Blue Öyster Cult – E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence)
Carpenters – Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft (The Recognized Anthem of World Contact Day)
Creedence Clearwater Revival – It Came Out Of The Sky
David Bowie – Starman
David Bowie – Hallo Spaceboy
David Bowie – Loving The Alien
David Bowie – Life On Mars
DJ Spooky – Object Unknown (w/ Kool Keith)
Dr Octagon – halfsharkalligatorhalfman
The Wipers – D-7
Husker Du – Books About UFOs
Babylon Zoo – Spaceman
Dr. Octagon – Aliens
Jefferson Airplane – Have You Seen the Saucers [live]
Jefferson Starship – Home
Jefferson Starship – Have You Seen The Stars Tonite
Jobriath – Space Clown
Jobriath – Morning Star Ship
Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers – Here Come the Martian Martians
Kelly Family – Fell in love with a Alien
The Kinks – Animal Farm
Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry – Starliner
The Meteors – Attack Of The Zorch Men
Misfits – I Turned into a Martian
Patti Smith – Birdland
Pink Fairies – The Pigs Of Uranus
The Pixies – Motorway To Roswell
Radiohead – Subterranean Homesick Alien
The Rezillos – Flying Saucer Attack
Roky Erickson – Creature With The Atom Brain
Roky Erickson – You’re An Unidentified Flying Object
Seu Jorge – Starman
The Wildhearts – Sky Babies
Sheb Wooley – Flying Purple People Eater
Spacemen 3 – Starship
Yellow Magic Orchestra – Cosmic Surfin’
Judas Priest – Freewheel Burning
Styx – Come Sail Away
UFO – Martian Landscape
Billy Thorpe – Children of the Sun
War Of The Worlds – Eve Of The War (Hybrid Mix)
A Flock Of Seagulls – I Ran (So Far Away)
Joe Meek And The Blue Men – I Hear A New World
Split Enz – Poor Boy
A.R. Kane – A Love From Outer Space
The Byrds – C.T.A. – 102
Lustmord – Aldebaran of the Hyades
Fountains Of Wayne – I Want an Alien for Christmas
The Stranglers – Waiting For The Men in Black
Neil Young – After the Gold Rush
The Legendary Pink Dots – The Saucers are Coming
Kaleidoscope – Beacon from Mars
Deep Purple – Space Truckin’
Björk – Earth Intruders (Mark Stent Extended Edit)
Bikini Kill – Alien She
Blondie – Rapture
Boyracer – Area 51 Revisited
The Comsat Angels – Red Planet Revisited
The Comsat Angels – I Come From The Sun
u.f.o. feat. Dee Dee Bridgewater – Flying Saucer
ESG – UFO
Cletro, Eddie – Flying Saucer Boogie
Towa Tei – Mars
Teenagers From Outer Space – Prepare to Possess Earth’s Women
Monster Magnet – Space Lord
Buddy Clinton – Take Me To Your Ladder ( I’ll See Your Leader Later)
Kansas – Nobody’s Home
Scary Bitches – Lesbian Vampyres From Outer Space
The Wildtones – Martian Band
Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
Buchanan Brothers – (When You See) Those Flying Saucers
Joe Satriani – Surfing with the Alien
Bonzo Dog Band – Beautiful Zelda
Atomic Mosquitos – Alien Roundup
Billy Bragg & Wilco – My Flying Saucer
Creedence Clearwater Revival – It Came Out Of The Sky
Cabaret Voltaire – Venusian Animals
DJ Spooky – The Terran Invasion of Alpha Centauri Year 2794
Dr. Octagon – Aliens
Japan – Alien
Kool Keith – Livin’ Astro
Leonard Nimoy – A Visit To a Sad Planet
Meat Beat Manifesto – Oblivion/Humans
Meat Beat Manifesto – The Tweek
The Residents – You’re a Martian/Home
Robert Gordon – Flying Saucer Rock ‘n’ Roll
Sonny Day – Creature From Outer Space
The Ventures – The Fourth Dimension
Twinkeyz – Aliens In Our Midst
Tool – Faaip De Oiad
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Zero From Outer Space
Dane Cook – Abducted
The Telescopes – My Name Is Zardak (Drop Your Weaponz)
The Busters – Space Patrol Orion
Bela Fleck & The Flecktones – Flying Saucer Dudes
The Cramps – Mojo Man From Mars
Devo – Auto Modown/Space Girl Blues
Feathers – space alien blues
Little Walter – Flying Saucer
Perrey-Kingsley – The Little Man from Mars
Placebo – Mars Landing Party
Smokey Wilson – The Man From Mars
Little Shop of Horrors – Mean Green Mother From Outer Space
Butch Paulson – Man from Mars
Cibo Matto – Sci-Fi Wasabi
Add N To (X) – Take Me To Your Leader
Queen – Flash
The Astral Army – Interstellar Shortwave
Aqua Teen Hunger Force – A Typical Mooninite Weekend
Cacogenic Systems – Alien Probe
Hanzel Und Gretyl – Take Me To Your Leader
Tony Mattherhorn – Man From Mars
Neanderthals – Werewolf from outer Space
Ran-Dells – Martian Hop
Leonard Nimoy – Alien
Klaatu – Calling Occupants (Of Interplanetary Craft)
Marty Quinn – Genuine UFO Contactee
Mellotones – Flying Saucers
Sam Space & the Cadettes – Take Me To Your Leader Cha Cha
Floyd Robinson – My Little Martian
Jesse Lee Turner – The Little Space Girl
klaatu – the loneliest of creatures
Julian Cope and the Teardrop Explodes – Spacehopper
Jesse Lee Turner – The Little Space Girl
Hermann, Bernard – Klaatu
Brownsville Station – The Martian Boogie
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Third Stone From The Sun
Jamiroquai – Cosmic Girl
Jorge Ben Jor – Space Man (Homem Do Espaco)
Pete Johnson – Death Ray Boogie
Pink Floyd – A Saucerful Of Secrets
Pink Floyd – Let There Be More Light
Pixies – The Happening
The Prodigy – Out Of Space
Robyn Hitchcock – Welcome to Earth
Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3 – Adventure Rocket Ship
Slowdive – Souvlaki Space Station
Smashing Pumpkins – Spaceboy
Spacehog – Spacehog
Legendary Pink Dots – Terra Firma Welcome
The Webb Brothers – Beyond The Biosphere

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Crazy 8s – albums I used to own on 8-track tape

Anyone else remember the 8-track tape? It was a terrible format in many ways. Once I finally had to switch, I realized that. But I am still nostalgic about it. I had quite a stack of those things when I was in high school. All my lawn mowing money went into them. I made this list on Rate Your Music a while back, before I started my blog. I’m not going into detail here like I did on RYM — you’ll have to check it out there if you want to know why a rock ‘n’ roll kid had albums by Neil Sedaka and Walter Murphy — but here is the bare bones version of my 8 track collection, the best I can remember:

Boston – s/t

Van Halen – s/t

Blue Öyster Cult – Fire of Unknown Origin

Devo – Freedom of Choice

Aerosmith – Greatest Hits

Electric Light Orchestra – Time

AC/DC – Back in Black

Cheap Trick – Dream Police

April Wine – The Nature of the Beast

Eagles – Hotel California

Kansas – Audio-Visions

Queen – The Game

Various Artists – Heavy Metal: Music From the Motion Picture

Journey – Departure

Journey – Escape

Walter Murphy – Rhapsody in Blue

Bee Gees – Here at Last … Bee Gees … Live

Three Dog Night – Joy to the World: Their Greatest Hits

Styx – Paradise Theater

Neil Sedaka – A Song

Pat Benatar – Crimes of Passion

I toyed with the idea of just copying my whole list over to WordPress with all its descriptions, but I think I’d rather use this as an introduction to the list feature on RYM, one of the best aspects of my favorite site on the Internet. I have several fun lists there, including a non-musical one about parasites you shouldn’t look at unless you have a really strong stomach. Anyway, check out this list and my others too. And if you have the inclination, check out some of the other users’ lists. I always enjoy doing that. You never know what you might find. I’ll dig up a few and promote them here in the future. See if this doesn’t get you hooked: http://rateyourmusic.com/lists/

Also, give Rate Your Music a spin in general. There’s so much to enjoy for any music lover – rate your albums, write reviews, talk to a knowledgeable (if sometimes a bit rowdy) community of music lovers. They have turned me onto so much good music.

The site has also expanded to encompass movie reviews and ratings. If that’s your thing, you’ll also find plenty to keep you occupied.

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Filed under commentary, music, pop, rock, Uncategorized

When good music was truly a treasure – music discovery before the age of the Internet

A few years ago, I dumped a bunch of old cassette tapes in a box, carried them to the Goodwill thrift store and said, “Take what you want and throw the rest away.” The box contained a jumble of commercial cassettes and homemade mixtapes. I spent hours making some of those mixes from LP records and CDs, so I could listen to them on the road or give them away to other music lovers. Others were given to me by a friend. They just weren’t important anymore and I needed the closet space.

Now I kinda wish I had hung onto some of those mixtapes, even though I only have one beat up little jam box to play them on. They were a link to the past. A past that not everyone shared.

I realized that yesterday when I saw a question in the forums on RateYourMusic, a site that’s been my home on the web since 2002: How did music lovers find and treasure those obscure gems before the Golden Age of the Internet? The question surprised me, but it shouldn’t have. A lot of young music lovers are coming of age who have never known a time without personal computers and the Internet.

Now, so much great music is at your fingertips if you can just figure out where to look. It’s more of a case of looking for a needle in a haystack. When I was in my teens and 20s, seeking out obscure musical gems was more like an old-fashioned treasure hunt.

First a bit of context. I was born in Texas in 1965 and grew up in a small town where most easily accessible music was Top 40 pop, country music and Spanish-language conjunto (I avoided the last two categories until relatively recently). I really came of age as a music lover in the late ’70s. Disco and mellow pop dominated the AM band in my neck of the woods and hard rock was a tasty forbidden fruit you wanted but mostly couldn’t have. We heard a bit of new wave, but punk was completely unknown. I wasn’t satisfied and was constantly on the hunt for great new music.

Here’s how I went about it:

Radio

Just like today, radio was a frustrating medium. Playlists were determined by money, not art – or even coolness. It just got worse and worse as time went on, especially when the automated playlist arrived, sometime in the ’80s. But it wasn’t useless. Late at night, I would lie in bed, with my ear glued to the radio, constantly tuning and searching. Sometimes, if the ionosphere was in a giving mood, I could listen to 99.5 KISS, a pioneering hard rock station from San Antonio that broke a lot of bands that later became big names – like Rush and Triumph. I heard AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” (I thought it was “Dirty Deeds and the Thunder Chief”) on that station before it was officially released in the U.S. There were also a couple of great hard rock stations that fought one another for a little slice of the airwaves – KNCN “C-101” at 101.3 FM from Sinton-Taft (near Corpus Christi) and KLOL 101.1 FM out of Houston. I first heard “Whip It” by Devo from one of those stations. Not sure which.

Other people’s record collections

I have a relative who really lived it up in the ’70s. His official class motto was “Learn as if you’ll live forever,” but he claimed the real motto was “Live as if you’ll die tomorrow.” He has since turned into a civilized family man, but over that period of unbridled fun, he put together one whopper of a record collection. It featured lots of great music from the hippie era that evolved into what became known as hard rock and later on, metal. As a teenager I loved to dig through it. Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top, Wet Willie, Rare Earth, Vanilla Fudge, The Beatles, Grand Funk Railroad… I never knew what I might find, but I always knew it would kick ass and it never let me down.  I went through a similar stage of music discovery with my dad’s extensive collection of classical music.

Music stores

There were no music stores in my town of 2,000. Medium-sized Victoria had Musicland and Hastings, which were mediocre and overpriced. I still pored through what they had. Any time I had a chance to shop for music in any real city like San Antonio, I took advantage of it. I used to buy 8-track tapes on band trips using the money Mom had given me for food. Later on in the CD era, the music stores still sucked, but began to have displays full of cut-outs, something you never see anymore. They would drill holes or cut little grooves in the cases of CDs they couldn’t get rid of and sell them at big discounts. I bought those at random and sometimes discovered great music. When I moved into the Austin area and got access to Waterloo Records and Cheapo Disks, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

Friends & classmates

Back in the olden days, we used to have flesh-and-blood friends. No texting or e-mailing or instant messaging. No place to upload or download anything. You shared music in person. It was a social experience, and a great way to discover new music. When you heard something awesome coming out of someone’s speakers, you found out what it was. When you found something awesome, you invited your friends to come over and listen. You might loan an album or tape out and let them play it for a while and tape it. Or, to make sure they didn’t lose it or damage it, you’d tape it for them.

On special occasions, we might get to take music to school and play it. When I was a freshman in high school, some kid got permission to play Boston’s debut album over the PA. That totally blew me away. I first heard Van Halen from a portable 8-track player during a Boy Scout campout, AC/DC’s Back in Black and Cheap Trick’s Dream Police I discovered on the band bus and I discovered the Cars’ first album while hanging round in the band hall.

Mailorder

For a few years in the ’90s, I got stuck in a little backwater about a half an hour from Waco. Waco was a medium-sized city with bad radio and not much of a record store (Hastings, yippee). I got tired of driving into Waco looking for tunes and coming back empty-handed, so I started ordering from a catalog. There were little descriptions and if you liked something, you put a check in an envelope and sent it off. I really looked forward to those packages in the mail. I ordered some good reggae that way and got a wonderful compilation of hits from blues singer Big Maybelle Smith.

Mixtape

The mixtape is a lost art. Music lovers spent a lot of time making them for years, from the vinyl LP era right into the CD era. I made them for myself, so I could play favorite songs on the road or in the Walkman, while walking or mowing the lawn. Or I made them specifically with others in mind. I could go with a theme and title it — for example, “Long Hard ’70s” featuring songs over 6 minutes long from groups like Zeppelin or Trapeze; or I could just be as random as possible. I liked to make mixes where every song was a surprise – reggae followed by grunge, followed by classical music, followed by blues, etc. It was a personal thing. The person I gave it to knew that I was either trying to give them just what I thought they would like, or give them a little slice of my own taste in music, or a bit of both.

We fretted over which brand to buy – Maxell, Memorex, TDK. You had to get something that held at least 90 minutes, so you could get two full albums onto it (maybe). If you cheaped out too much, you could really tell — you’d get a lot of hiss. The 100-minute cassette seemed like a huge innovation at the time. You could get one album on each side without worrying about cutting a song off if it ran a bit longer than the standard.

I hit the jackpot in the ’90s when a friend who had worked at a college radio station gave me a bunch of his old mix tapes. He turned me onto postupink, which was a whole new branch of rock ‘n’ roll for me at the time. That’s how I found The Chameleons, Ultravox, Shriekback, Tones on Tail, Killing Joke, Inspiral Carpets, House of Love, Levitation and lots of others. He usually wrote the name of the song, not the group, so I still had a lot of hunting and discovering to do, trying to track everything down on CD.

We don’t really get to do that anymore. Now that you can burn a jillion songs on a CD-R, DVD or  load them onto a portable player, there’s not much room for personalization. No thought about what song should follow another, no room for a theme.

The Internet was a godsend for people like me. There are now so many ways to discover and share music, so many ways to avoid commercial radio and find the good stuff. I wouldn’t want to go back to the way it was. But there’s also a downside. When you don’t have to try as hard to get new music, it doesn’t mean as much to you. It’s more disposable, easier to take for granted. Every song, even one you like, is just one file among thousands on your hard drive. If you lost it, you could probably download it again within minutes.

I’d like to get some comments on this from other music lovers old enough to remember a time before the Internet. Also, if you get a chance, pay a visit to the thread in RateYourMusic that inspired this post: “I have a question to music lovers who have been treasuring music before the Golden Age of Internet!” It’s already got some interesting posts.

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