I still don’t have an official archive set up yet, but here’s links to the first three shows. The first show is available as a 48 kbps MP3; the other two are 64 kbps MP3s.
Six of One: 6-3-2010 (#101)
Six of One: 6-10-2010 (#102)
Six of One: 6-17-2010 (#103)
The Velvet Underground's "White Light/White Heat" single, on Verve Records
The Velvet Underground had its roots in a meeting between New York native Lou Reed and Welsh native John Cale in 1964. Lou Reed was a college student who played with garage bands and had worked as a songwriter for Pickwick Records. Cale had moved to the United States to study classical music, but was also interested in rock music. Reed and Cale formed a group called The Primitives, with Lou Reed as the guitarist and lead vocalist, and Cale playing other instruments and also providing vocals. Reed soon recruited college classmate Sterling Morrison, who played guitar, and the band added Angus MacLise to play percussion. The quartet called themselves The Warlocks, then the Falling Spikes, and they finally settled on the Velvet Underground. Angus MacLise, left the band when they decided to take a gig playing Summit High School in Summit, New Jersey in 1965 (for the princely sum of $75); he viewed this as a “sell out” and was replaced by Maureen “Mo” Tucker, the younger sister of a friend or Morrison’s. Andy Warhol became the band’s manager in 1965 and helped them secure a recording contract with MGM’s Verve Records. He also suggested that they record with the German-born model Nico, who sang on 3 songs on the Velvet Underground’s debut LP, “The Velvet Underground and Nico”, released in March 1967. The album was a modest commercial success, peaking at #171 on the U.S. Billboard chart, although sales were undoubtedly hurt as a result of the album being pulled from stores by MGM as a result of a legal dispute with “Chelsea Girls” cinematographer Eric Emerson (he claimed that a still from the movie had been used on the back cover of the album without his permission).
The Velvet Underground subsequently severed ties with Andy Warhol and Nico, and began work on their second LP. The album, “White Light/White Heat” was recorded in September 1967 and released on January 30, 1968, entering the Billboard chart at #199, and remaining there for 2 weeks before sliding off the album chart. The album showed Lou Reed and John Cale pulling the band in different directions, containing both Cale-inspired noisefests like “Sister Ray”, and shorter, more conventional, almost pop-ish numbers written by Lou Reed, like the title track. Although this album proved to be the last hurrah of the Reed-Cale collaboration (Cale would leave the band in September 1968 before work on their third album started, and was replaced by Doug Yule), it did contain today’s featured single: “White Light/White Heat” b/w “Here She Comes Now”.
“White Light/White Heat” demonstrates why when MGM president Mike Curb decided to purge MGM of all hippie/drug-related acts, the VU’s days on the label were numbered. “White Light/White Heat”, unlike some of the band’s other songs (e.g. “Heroin”), sounds like a commercial for amphetamines. The song features only a few chords (the verses only have 2 chords – A and D – and the chorus includes 4 chords – A, D, G, and F), but the chords are all downtuned a whole tone. The enthusiasm that Reed exudes as he sings suggests that speed was his drug of choice at the time: “Oh, I surely do love to watch that stuff drip itself in/Watch that side, watch that side/Don’t you know gonna be dead and dried”. And while he notes that it’s “messin’ up my mind”, it’s doubtful that he thinks this is an unwelcome side effect. There’s a great dissonant, droning guitar chord at the end (G), perhaps influenced by Cale. The song is relatively short (2 minutes and 45 seconds), but in concert it became a showcase for Reed’s guitar work, and, as a result, the version on “1969: The Velvet Underground Live” is three times as long. John Cale and Sterling Morrison sing backing vocals on this track (the “white light/white light/white heat/white light” backing chorus). Cale also plays a rollicking, barrelhouse-style piano on the track, not unlike he does on “I’m Waiting For The Man”. This song has had a major influence on glam rock and punk, and was covered by David Bowie and Mick Ronson, not to mention Reed himself, who resurrected it on his live LP “Rock and Roll Animal” (1974).
The B-side of the single, “Here She Comes Now”, seems even more minimalistic than “White Light/White Heat”. It is possible to replicate the entire lyrics in this posting, because there are only 9 lines in the song: “Here she ever comes now now/She ever comes now now/She ever comes now” (repeated several times) and “Oh oh, it look so good/Shes made out of wood/Just look and see”. The lyrical content is mysterious; the song is credited to Morrison, Cale and Reed, and they claim that it is “a 7-line thesis on the possibility that a girl might come.” It works for me. The song consists of 3 chords (D/C/B5), and although it’s a rather simple song, the piano playing of Cale and the light touch of Mo Tucker on the drums (not to mention the melodious dissonance of Reed on guitar) impart a unique sound to the track. Whereas Reed sounds passionate on “White Light/White Heat”, on this track he sounds indifferent and impassive, a vocal styling that he would hone to perfection during his solo career and that one suspects was an influence on many artists (David Bowie comes immediately to mind, but undoubtedly there are others). The song was originally intended to be sung by Nico, who did sing it live several times. A demo was recorded with Lou Reed singing vocals; this version had two additional verses and was released on the 1995 box set “Peel Slowly and See”. By the time the Velvet Underground recorded the LP “White Light/White Heat”, their collaboration with Nico had come to an end, and “Here She Comes Now” was again recorded with Reed supplying the vocals. The song clocks in at 2 minutes and 4 seconds, making it the shortest song on “White Light/White Heat”. Incidentally, Nirvana apparently did a cover version of this song, released in 1991 as part of a split single with The Melvins.
The single (catalog #: VK10560) was released by Verve Records, and was the last Velvet Underground single released by Verve Records (subsequent singles would be released on the parent label, MGM). No picture sleeve was issued with the single. The label is blue, with the Verve Records logo across the top, the band’s name on the left side, and the track name on the right side. I’ve profiled quite a few singles in this blog, and this does seem to be one of the more unusual labels. The band would be active for a few more years, but commercial success still eluded them. “The Velvet Underground”, the band’s third album and first with Doug Yule, was issued in March 1969 but failed to make the Billboard album chart. They spent much of 1969 on the road (which yielded the abovementioned live LP, released by Mercury Records in 1974), and recorded a number of studio tracks, many of which went unreleased for many years due to disputes with MGM. Finally, in 1969, MGM president Mike Curb decided to drop all hippie/drug-related acts from the label and the VU were unceremoniously dropped from MGM. They were snapped up by Atlantic Records, who issued their fourth album, “Loaded”, on their Cotillion subsidiary in August 1970. The album contained 2 of their most radio-friendly tracks – “Sweet Jane” and “Rock and Roll”, which garnered considerable airplay – but Reed became disillusioned with the band while recording the album and left the band. Doug Yule became the new singer/lead guitarist, and Walter Powers was recruited to replace Yule on bass. Sterling Morrison left the band in 1971 to pursue an academic career, and was replaced by keyboardist Willie Alexander. This lineup was touring the U.K. in 1972 when their manager secured a contract with Polydor Records; Yule sent the band back to the United States and recorded the fifth Velvet Underground LP, “Squeeze” (1973), essentially by himself. A new lineup was assembled to tour in support of the album (which was released only in Europe), but when the brief tour ended in December 1972, Yule pulled the plug on the band. Yule assembled a new band, called it the Velvet Underground, and toured the New England bar circuit in the spring of 1973, but other than Yule, this band had no connection to the old Velvet Underground, although they did play VU covers. The band has essentially been defunct since 1972, although Reed and Cale have reunited on several occasions, and the classic lineup of Reed-Cale-Morrison-Tucker finally reunited in 1992. The band toured Europe in 1993, but before long, Reed and Cale had a falling-out and the VU were in limbo again. The death of Morrison in 1995 seemed to put an end to any talk of a reunion, although Reed and Cale put aside their differences to perform (along with Tucker) at their Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction in 1996.
External links – I couldn’t find any footage of the VU performing – does any such footage exist? Well, here’s 2 links anyway:
Lou Reed and Pete Townsend performing White Light/White Heat
White Light/White Heat “video”
The "White Punks on Dope" single
The Tubes was a band formed by high school friends from Phoenix, Arizona. The Beans and The Red White and Blues band relocated to San Francisco in 1969 and merged, forming The Tubes. The original lineup consisted of Fee Waybill (vocals), Bill “Sputnik” Spooner (guitar, vocals), Roger Steen (guitar), Prairie Prince (a.k.a. Charles L. Prince, guitar), Michael Cotten (synthesizer), Vince Welnick (piano), and Rick Anderson (bass guitar). Re Styles (vocals) and Mingo Lewis (percussion) were also fixtures of the early Tubes. Their forte was in being media savvy and having theatrical skills, and several of their numbers (e.g. “Mondo Bondage”, “Sushi Girl”) turned into full-fledged theatrical productions in their live shows. One critic even went as far to note that The Tubes were born to create rock video, but arrived several years too early. (Jakubowski and Tobler, “MTV’s Who’s Who in Rock Video”) In 1973, The Tubes opened for the New York Dolls, Iggy Pop and Led Zeppelin; the following year, they recorded a demo for A and M Records, who signed them and released their debut album in April 1975. That album spawned today’s featured single: “White Punks on Dope” b/w “What Do You Want from Life?”.
“White Punks on Dope” was supposedly written as a “tribute” to their rich, white fan base in San Francisco, and it definitely ranks as one of The Tubes’ early classics. It starts off with a guitar-driven, synthesizer-laden opening, which sets the tone for Fee Waybill’s unconventional vocals (at times the lyrics are barely sung, and he conveys the sense of the main protagonist’s desperation while delivering lines like: “Other dudes are living in the ghetto/But born in Pacific Heights don’t seem much betto”. Listening to this track, one senses that radio stations must have had a hard time figuring out exactly where on the musical spectrum The Tubes reside. They certainly have the punk attitude, which is probably why they were selected as the opening act for the New York Dolls and Iggy Pop, but they sound much more musically proficient than most punk bands (which perhaps explains why they opened for Zeppelin). And their elaborate stage act evokes comparisons to Alice Cooper and Slade, although musically they seem quite a bit different than those bands. Although Cotten’s synthesizer plays a prominent role on some of the band’s tracks, here the guitars are the driving force behind the track, and the synthesizer compliments the track rather than providing the back bone for the sound. The late Vince Welnick’s piano is also there, clearly audible and also playing a complimentary role in filling out The Tubes’ wall of sound. The message of the song – that being a white rich kid on drugs isn’t much fun is driven home with lyrics like these: “I go crazy ’cause my folks are so f**king rich/Have to score when I get that rich white punk itch/Sounds real classy, living in a chateau/So lonely, all the other kids will never know”. There’s a nice false ending to the song, before the song fades back in, and the music stops, giving way to someone babbling in Japanese. Even though the running time of the track is 6 minutes and 49 seconds long, the single contains an unedited version of the song, and how cool is that? The anthology “T.R.A.S.H. (Tubes Rarities and Smash Hits”) contained a 3 minute long version of the song (with the F word expurgated) that I assume a radio edit version. Al Kooper’s production, by the way, is flawless, giving the song a clean, professional sound.
The B-side of this single, “What Do You Want from Life?”, was also an early Tubes classic and a staple of their live show. The song opens with Cotten’s synthesizer – it plays a more prominent role than in “White Punks On Dope” – giving way to a melody provided mainly by the rhythm section (Anderson and Lewis). Welnick’s piano, sounding like a rollicking, barroom piano, punctuates the music at appropriate points. The theme of the song – an attack on American materialism – is explored brilliantly in the lyrics: What do you want from life/To kidnap an heiress/Or threaten her with a knife/What do you want from life/To get cable TV/And watch it every night”. But for me, the real highlight of the song is the laundry list of consumer items listed at the end of the song: “Well, you can’t have that, but if you’re an American citizen you are entitled to: a heated kidney shaped pool/A microwave oven–don’t watch the food cook/A Dyna-Gym–I’ll personally demonstrate it in the privacy of your own home/A king-size Titanic unsinkable Molly Brown waterbed with polybendum” – and so on. This was expanded on in the live version of this song included on the “What Do You Want From Live” in which the band plucked a fan from the crowd and offered her prizes, simulating a game show; offering her a lifetime supply of 7-Up, Waybill promised her “cavities for the rest of your life”. But even though the song is well-suited to Waybill’s ad-libbing on stage, the studio version is quite good, unlike many of the other songs on the debut LP, in which some of the songs consciously created for the stage ultimately fall flat.
The single (catalog #: 8591-S) was issued without a picture sleeve. I couldn’t find a picture of the original single (the one pictured is a reissue), but I assume it would have had the arch-style A and M letters in the background with the song title across the top and the band’s name across the bottom (above a smaller A and M logo).
The Tubes performing White Punks on Dope in London
The Tubes performing What Do You Want from Life live in 2007
Cover to Budgie's "If Swallowed, Do Not Induce Vomiting" EP
Budgie was formed in 1967 in Cardiff, Wales; their original lineup consisted of Burke Shelley (bass guitar, vocals), Tony Bourge (guitar, vocals), and Ray Phillips (drums). Their debut, self-titled album, a slab of blues-influenced hard rock which was produced by Black Sabbath producer Rodger Bain, was released in 1971. They followed this up with “Squawk” (1972); their third album, “Never Turn Your Back On A Friend” (1973) contained the hit “Breadfan” which was later covered by Metallica. Ray Phillips was replaced by Pete Boot before the release of Budgie’s fourth LP, “In For The Kill” (1974).
By late 1974, Boot left the band and was replaced by Steve Williams. “Bandolier” (1975) was the first LP Williams recorded with the band, followed by “If I Were Brittania, I Would Waive The Rules” (1976). Bourge subsequently left the band, and “Big” John Thomas was recruited to replace him in 1978, leaving Shelley as the sole remaining original band member. Budgie recorded 4 tracks to “break in” Thomas, but these tracks were initially left unreleased although they did release the LP “Impeckable” that year. In 1980, however, the initial sessions with Thomas saw the light of day when the EP “If Swallowed, Do Not Induce Vomiting” was released. This is today’s featured EP.
Side 1 opens with “Wild Fire”, a straightforward rocker built around a 4-chord riff. Thomas rocks on as Shelley and Williams fill out the sound, and Shelley wails away with a voice that sounds somewhat like Rob Halford’s. The lyrical content isn’t particularly inspired; with lines like “I can’t talk/I can’t walk/I can’t think/I can’t drink”. “Wild Fire” is about a woman who is wild, we might assume; the testosterone-driven lyrics compliment the music well, and the rhythm section provides a solid backbone to the band’s sound. There’s an inspired guitar solo about 2 minutes and 55 seconds into the track, giving new guitarist Thomas a chance to shine. For hardcore Budgie fans, listening to “Wild Fire” surely brings back memories of their early 1980’s barnstorming performances.
The second track is “High School Girls”, which features an even simpler (3-chord) riff. This time, Thomas and Shelley play the same melody for most of the song, with Thomas again getting his own guitar solo about 1 minute and 37 seconds into the track. Shelley’s guitar seemingly plays a more pivotal role on this track, although Thomas gets a chance to display his guitar proficiency. The lyrics are not all that different than the first track: “Well she’s dreaming the boys through their day/She goes out and about in her way/And the teacher is perfectly down/’Cause she’s strutting her stuff through the town”. There’s some great wordplay here, though: “But she can’t get away from the rules/It’s a hell of a bondage in school”. But in the chorus, Shelley reassures us that “[S]he’s just a bad, bad, girl”. Like most Brownsville Station songs, this one’s not going to change the world – or even the musical landscape – but it’s an easy listen.
Side 2 starts off with “Panzer Division Destroyed”, which if nothing else shows Budgie’s knack for catchy song titles. This song features a relatively simple rhythm played in 4/4 time, not unlike Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”. The song runs almost 6 minutes, and much more so than the first 2 tracks, it is a showcase for the guitar work of Budgie’s 2 guitarists, especially Thomas. The lyrics, which tell of the grisly fate of a Panzer division from a decidedly British point of view, are pretty pedestrian as far as heavy metal lyrics go: “Hear me call, panzer division destroyed/Power gun pounding and well deployed/Every man seems to burn, die in hell/Twisted steel, twisted mess sealed the deal”. Still, they compliment the martial-sounding melody quite well, and since the real draw here is the axemanship of Thomas, the song doesn’t require the lyrical subtlety of a Bob Dylan.
The final track is “Lies Of Jim (The E-Type Lover)”, which I found to be the most compelling (although the melody is somewhat similar to “Wild Fire”). The song is about a bounder who is humorously brought to book for his misdeeds. It contains a dreamy lyrical passage: “Love is not a thing you buy/Love is not a car/Or compensation for the man/Who lost a precious Jaguar”, which is essentially an interlude in an otherwise upbeat rocker. This is definitely the most atypical song on the EP, and once again the song is anchored by raw but powerful guitar licks, courtesy of Thomas and Shelley.
This EP (catalog #: BUDGE 1) came with a picture sleeve (well, it was a 12-inch EP, after all), with a black and white photo of the band. The label (at least on the West German release) featured the orange RCA label (with the RCA logo on the left side oriented on the Y-axis, with “Victor” written on the right side along the X-axis). The artist name was printed across the top with track information written underneath. “If Swallowed Do Not Induce Vomiting” is considered by many to be Budgie’s last creative gasp, although they successfully rode the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal for a few years, even headlining the Reading Festival in 1982. They built a following in Poland, becoming one of the first heavy metal bands to play behind the Iron Curtain. Their last album was released in 1982 and the band was defunct by 1988, although they re-formed for one-off gigs in San Antonio, Texas in 1995, 1996, and 2000. They also re-formed to tour from 2002 to 2006, touring the U.K., Texas, and returning to post-Communist Poland during that period.
Budgie – Wild Fire
Budgie performing Panzer Division Destroyed in Warsaw, Poland in 2007
Budgie performing Panzer Division Destroyed in Sweeden in 1999
Budgie performing Panzer Division Destroyed in Poznan, Poland in 2007
Sonic Youth's "Teenage Riot" single
Sonic Youth’s history began in early 1976 when Thurston Moore moved to New York City. Interested in punk, Moore joined the Coachmen, a guitar-based quartet. Les Renaldo, an art student at Binghamton University, became a fan of the Coachmen and he and Moore became friends. Renaldo was a member of Glenn Branca’s electric guitar ensemble, which toured Europe and the United States. After the breakup of the Coachmen, Moore began jamming with Stanton Miranda, whose band, CKM, featured local artist Kim Gordon. Moore and Gordon formed a band, which went through several name changes before settling on Sonic Youth by June 1981. Moore asked Renaldo to join the band, and he agreed. Initially, each member took turns playing the drums, until they recruited drummer Richard Edson. Branca signed Sonic Youth as the first act on his record label Neutral Records. In December 1981, the group recorded five songs in a studio in Radio City Music Hall. The material was released as the “Sonic Youth” mini-LP, which, while not commercially successful, got generally favorable reviews. Edson then quit the group and was replaced by Bob Bert, who was the drummer for Sonic Youth’s first full-length album, “Confusion Is Sex” (1983). Later that year, the band released “Kill Yr Idol” (1983), a German-only EP. During the early 1980s, the band was well-received in Europe, but the New York press largely overlooked Sonic Youth and other noise rock bands. But after another tour of Europe in 1984, the band got rave reviews in Sounds an NME, resulting in the band reaching new levels of popularity in New York City, playing shows almost every week. That same year the band released their first live album, “Sonic Death”, on the Homestead label (Moore and Gordon also married that year); the band had a dispute with Branca over royalty payments and defected from Neutral Records. Their next studio album, “Bad Moon Rising” (1985) was critically acclaimed in the U.K., yet the band was still largely ignored by the New York music press. Bob Bert quit the band after the supporting tour for the album and was replaced by Steve Shelley. The band switched labels again, signing with SST Records in early 1986 and began working on “Evol” (1986) with Martin Bisi. They released a concept album, “Sister” (1987), before switching labels again, this time to Enigma, which released their double album, “Daydream Nation” (1988). The lead single from the album was “Teenage Riot”/”Silver Rocket”/”Kissability”. This is today’s featured single.
"Teenage Riot" flexi-disc from The Catalogue magazine (U.K.)
“Teenage Riot” starts off with Moore and Renaldo playing a repetitive, almost staccato melody, accompanied by Kim Gordon’s mumbling of phrases like “spirit desire” and “say it, don’t spray it”. This opening slowly builds and develops until, 1 minute and 22 seconds into the track, it gives way to a popish hook, which is soon supplemented by Thurston Moore’s vocals: “Everybody’s talking ’bout the stormy whether/And what’s a man to do but work out whether it’s true?” The song has a genuinely catchy melody and arguably represents a turning point in the band’s history as their first real pop song. Looking at mainstream pop culture through a decidedly interesting prism, “Teenage Riot” was quite popular on college radio, and was one of the signature tunes of “Daydream Nation”, and indeed of Sonic Youth’s entire career. With tunes like these, it’s not surprising that Sonic Youth was soon signed by a major label (Geffen), presaging the alternative rock explosion of the early 1990s.
“Silver Rocket” begins with a minor key melody, which gives way very quickly to the songs punk-flavored main riff. Moore’s vocals begin 50 seconds into the track, which switches to a cacophony of detuned guitars 1 minute 32 seconds into the song, which is what one would typically expect from a Sonic Youth song. After a little over a minute of this, however, the band returns to the main riff for the final verse of the song, briefly returning to the noisy soundscape of the middle part before coming to a conclusion at the 3 minute 47 second mark.. Overall the track has a garage-like feel to it, but it is much more mainstream alternative than many of Sonic Youth’s earlier material, and along with “Teenage Riot” is one of the band’s more accessible songs.
“Kissability” rounds out the 3-song maxi-single, and is a fast tempo song with driving guitar rhythms punctuated by Kim Gordon’s tuneless vocals: “Look into my eyes, don’t you trust me/You’re so good you could go far/I’ll put you in a movie, don’t you want to/You could be a star”. Throughout the song, Shelley’s insistent drumming provides a solid backbeat to the song. The band’s noise rock roots show through much more clearly on this track than on the other two, but even so, the main riff is quite catchy and even the instrumental break is only moderately indulgent. “Kissability” fits in well with the other tracks on “Daydream Nation” and is a worthy addition to the Sonic Youth catalog.
This 12-inch single was issued in October 1988. No picture sleeve was included with this release. In 1990, Sonic Youth released their first album on for Geffen, “Goo” (released on Geffen subsidiary DGC), which continued the trend of recording more accessible material than their earlier work. In 1992, they released “Dirty”, which featured the song “100%”. The band reached new levels of popularity with “Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star” (1994), which was their highest-charting album up to that point, peaking at #34 on the Billboard album chart. In 1995, the band released “Made in USA”, a movie soundtrack made up of previously unreleased material recorded in 1986. That same year, the band headlined the Lollapalooza music festival; shortly afterwards, their ninth studio album, “Washing Machine” (1995) was released, containing several tracks with Kim Gordon playing guitar. In 1996, the band established their own label, SYR Records, which would be utilized to release a series of experimental, avant-garde EPs. Their next full-length album was “A Thousand Leaves” (1998), which was also the first album recorded in the band’s private Manhattan studio, which was dubbed Echo Canyon.
Television's "Little Johnny Jewel" 45 RPM single, released on Ork Records in August 1975
In the early 1970’s Television began as the Neon Boys, a band which featured teenage friends Tom Verlaine (guitars, vocals) and Richard Hell (bass guitar, vocals) as well as drummer Billy Ficca. At the end of 1973, the band re-formed as Television, adding rhythm guitarist Richard Lloyd. They got a regular gig at CBGB’s in New York City, and soon developed a cult following. In 1975, the band recorded a demo tape with Brian Eno for Island Records. Island opted not to sign the band, and soon afterwards, Richard Hell left the band, apparently due to increasing friction between he and Verlaine. Fred Smith, briefly of Blondie, replaced Hell as Television’s bassist. Having been snubbed by Island, Television released their debut single, “Little Johnny Jewel (Part One)” b/w “Little Johnny Jewel (Part Two)” on their own Ork label. This single also happens to be the featured single of the day.
“Little Johnny Jewel” is actually a seven minute-long song that was split into two parts for the single. The song did not appear on their first full-length LP, “Marquee Moon”, and as far as I know was not released on LP or CD until 2005. This is rather a shame since it seems to be an excellent song. “Little Johnny Jewel (Part One)” starts off with a three chord melody being strummed on Smith’s bass guitar; he is shortly joined by Verlaine, who at first is plucking a guitar rather tunelessly before playing a more coherent melody. Although Richard Hell had left the band by this point (and took his songs with him), the lyrics of “Little Johnny Jewel” mirror to a certain extent the nihilism of Hell’s “Blank Generation” (although it’s not as if Hell had cornered the market on nihilistic song lyrics). Verlaine evokes comparisons to Lou Reed in his vocal stylings as he barely sings, delivering the lyrics in almost a speaking voice: “Now Little Johnny Jewel/Oh, he’s so cool/He has no decision/He’s just trying to tell a vision”. The lyrics of part one tell the story of the protagonist referred to in the song title; the first verse ends with “[h]e loses his senses”, at which point the band launches into an instrumental break that closes out part one. As one critic has noted, “[t]he tense atmosphere of the track is rooted in the sparse interplay between bass and drums and builds towards a wide-ranging and inventive, but importantly thin sounding, guitar solo that was a sign of things to come.” [Steve Taylor, “The A To X of Alternative Music”, p. 261]
“Little Johnny Jewel (Part Two)” starts off in the middle of that same instrumental break, with Verlaine occasionally lapsing into plucking away at his guitar tunelessly, while Smith and Ficca provide the backbone of the band’s sound. What we end up with is a rather fluid, angular sound that smacks off free-form jazz. This takes us to the final verse, which starts about 2 minutes and 50 seconds into the track, and takes us right up until the end of the song. What is interesting about the final verse is that while one might expect some resolution – what happened to Little Johnny Jewel after he went to the airport and lost his senses, anyway – instead we get an admonishment: “Oh Little Johnny Jewel/He’s so cool/But if you see him looking lost/You ain’t gotta come on so boss!” While I openly admit that I find as much reason to look for hidden meaning in these lyrics as I find reason to look for hidden meaning in the lyrics to “Travelin’ Band”, this is still intriguing stuff.
Sleeve of 12-inch version of "Little Johnny Jewel"
The record (catalog #: Ork 81975) was issued without a picture sleeve. The record had a rather plain-looking red label, with the track name across the top, the label name in capital letters on the left side, the catalog number and running length on the right side, and the band’s name and other information on the bottom. Note that this was a monophonic single (as denoted on the right side of the label), which was rather unusual in 1975; almost all 45 RPM records issued, at least in the United States, had been issued in stereo since the early 1970’s. But then again, if WPIX can air an interview of Donald Rumsfeld in black and white in 1975, I guess you can have a mono mix of a single in that same year.While “Little Johnny Jewel” wasn’t an overnight success, it did become an underground hit and attracted the attention of major record labels. In 1976, the band released a British EP on Stiff Records further expanded their reputation, and they signed with Elektra Records, which released their debut album (“Marquee Moon”) in 1977. It didn’t chart in the United States, but it reached number 28 in the U.K. and launched their Top 40 single in the U.K., “Prove It”. Television supported Blondie during their 1977 tour, which still didn’t do much to improve their popularity. Their second album, “Adventure” (1978) did better in the U.S. than “Marquee Moon”, but still failed to chart, although it made the Top 10 in the U.K. Not long after the release of “Adventure”, the band suddenly broke up, apparently due to tensions between Verlaine and Lloyd. Thus the band would have to remain content with their status as one of the legendary bands of the punk era, although there would be a short-lived reunion in late 1991 (they broke up again in early 1993).
Television performing Little Johnny Jewel live in Dublin in 2002
Television performing Little Johnny Jewel live in Central Park