Monday, December 3, 2012

How Heavy Metal Is Just Childish Sludge And Rockin' Horse And The Beatles Rock- Some Key Observations

I have recently had two really obnoxious comments thrown at me by the same bastard on YouTube which have permanently cemented my hatred of heavy metal fans or as they are called "Metal Heads" (they certainly don't have a brain inside their heads and that term "Metal Head" should tell you that) and most heavy metal bands- even going back as far as the band this whole fight has been over- Black Sabbath. Now I will admit that I'm never gonna go against a band as awesome as Sabbath were with Ozzy and even some of the Dio and Tony Martin stuff I think is cool, but it just doesn't do it for me.
If I had to choose even between an original UK Vertigo Swirl copy of a brilliant early Sabbath masterpiece like PARANOID or their remarkable first album and a UK Parlophone first pressing of RUBBER SOUL, REVOLVER, or any number of records I could name by The Beatles I would throw the Sabbath record back in the racks and buy the Beatles record in two seconds. Ozzy Osbourne, bless him, himself has said that he never would have gone into music if it hadn't been for The Beatles and before Black Sabbath you must remember that Birmingham had many bands that were even more exciting than that amazing foursome who made music history. There were not just the more progressive or folksier bands from Traffic to Fairport Convention to Spooky Tooth to Led Zeppelin to most of the original nucleus of The Moody Blues there also was The Move, The Idle Race, and a magnificent band called World Of Oz or simply Oz- I've never figured that one out.
                     -The Beatles Live On Forever Even When Music Becomes Fragmented-
       England was losing its empire and its political world power in the mid to late 60s and early 70s with fatal errors like going into Northern Ireland and poor financial investments, but it wasn't losing any of its power as a musical World Power to rival almost anywhere else- certainly they and the Germans/Dutch creamed us in the 70s as I've so often said! Rockin' Horse came from the city that spawned the greatest band ever formed, the band that made everything and that means everything possible The Beatles. After watching Magical Mystery Tour on Blue Ray last weekend I'm even more adamant about melodically engaging music leveling boring, plodding, preening, macho, sick-in-the-head heavy metal rubbish. I don't even own any Black Sabbath records. I'd rather have spent my hard earned money on something like the band I will be dealing with shortly named Rockin' Horse who came from Liverpool long after most people had written the city off as sinking back into a depraved working class community that had past its prime than with any number of heavy metal rubbish bands coming from fertile communities in the UK when it came to noise with nothing else added in. During The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal there were a lot of exciting bands who added that missing ingredient to their hardcore power rocking- melodies. Diamond Head came along with a very melodic and very dramatic sound and with just a little more luck they could have been heavy metal's Beatles, but sadly for them and many great bands it just wasn't to be. By the mid 70s Liverpool was really being overshadowed by other Northern cities like the recently tragically hard hit York and Leeds in Yorkshire and so when a band came from Liverpool it no longer had that magic ring that the name of the city had back when The Beatles ruled everything. What has been forgotten is that The Beatles will always have the majestic and magical power that no other band can have and that will last as long as there is a World or even after there is some New Earth like talked about by one of the best metal bands Denmark's Pretty Maids. Pretty Maids combined strong melodies, classical influences, power rock guitars, and some savage vocals into a few really great songs, but proof of the long standing Beatles influence in rock would lie with the melodic powerful sound of fellow Danes Skagarack or Austria-of-all-places' Opus. Either way you want to look at it with the obvious Beatles and harmony rock influenced bands or heavy acts who actually had great songs any band who came after The Beatles owed a huge amount of their viability to them or else they were worthless.
                              -Yes It Is Rocking Time For Rockin' Horse-
  Rockin' Horse came out of Liverpool when the city still had the freshness of The Beatles reverberating from it and their careers before Rockin' Horse go back to the days of Merseybeat madness. I had heard Rockin' Horse's masterpiece YES IT IS a little over 7 years ago and not quite got it, but with the acquisition of a mint real copy (my old one was a blank label test press) this record is up there with the band I rave the most about here and who also came from brilliant Liverpool- The Koobas. Described by some as a "Power Pop Classic" YES IT IS is in fact not power pop at all. To a lot of people "Power Pop" means post Beatles rock and to me it means something harder, something more like an even more high volume Move like The Sweet (one of the best bands ever formed) or 80s bands like Journey, Drive She Said, Skagarack, Treat. Well I suppose for me the line between "Power Pop" and "AOR" is a bit more vague than to most people. Listening to Rockin' Horse quite frequently and loving their YES IT IS album, the only one they ever made, more with each spin I've come to think that this album is The Koobas if they'd continued, the 1960s Swinging London and Mod vibe if it had gone more sober, and at the same time Honeybus and Tin Tin with some heavier moments thrown in. However, what amazes me the most about YES IT IS is that this album covers the full ground from the beginnings of The British Invasion right through to The Beatles' psychedelic period to the end of their career on ABBEY ROAD. A 5 piece band led by Bass guitarist/vocalist Billy Kinsley and mainly by the late (I believe) rhythm guitarist/vocalist Jimmy Campbell they also included super great performances from lead guitarist Bobby Falloon, keyboard player Mike Snow, and their Ringo like drummer Stan Gorman. Nearly all the songs are written by Jimmy Campbell with 3 or 4 contributions from also brilliant Billy Kinsley and in his past musical career Campbell had always come up a bit short- sounding like Lennon without the inspiration much of the time at best or at worst like some Godawful Cat Stevens or MOR Cliff Richard wannabe on his horrendous Vertigo release HALF BAKED. He had apparently made one of the best psychedelic Mod singles of the 60s as part of 23rd Turnoff, but YES IT IS clearly is his finest hour- this is Jimmy Campbell how he should be thought of, cherished, and remembered.
   Every track on this album tries something a little bit different from the early rock and roll meets early Beatles greatness and nostalgia of "Biggest Gossip In Town" to a song that combines 1967 period music with 1964 and 1970 period pop/rock in the song that immediately follows it "Oh Carol, I'm So Sad." There are heavy pop psych numbers like the amazing title track, the closing almost heavy progressive pop psych of Kinsley's "Julian The Hooligan," "Don't You Ever Think I Cry?" and the Badfinger meets Koobas meets Honeybus brilliance of "Delicate Situation" to softer more pastoral moments like "I'm Trying To Forget You," "Son, Son," "Baby Walk Out With Your Darlin' Man" (horrible title I know, but a great song), and the somewhat pastoral yet very psychedelic "You're Spending All My Money" which will completely blow the mind of anyone who has got half a brain.
          -A Rousing Sound To A Quiet Melancholic One With Meaningful Words-
    The musical sound of Rockin' Horse is a mix of joyous and reflective, but the lyrics to their songs are anything but upbeat. I've recently gone through a horrendous falling out and so I've been listening to a lot of "Break Up" music and that's what this album clearly and obviously is. The lyrics are almost all about horrible endings to relationships, unrepressed sorrow, and a real sense of longing for happier, better times that are now long in the past. There isn't the same amount of despair that there is in Badfinger's almost handwritten epitaphs which started to come about even at their beginning, but this is not an album of sunshine, flowers, and the Summer Of Love when it comes to the words. There are no heavy orchestrations. There are no hugely obvious production wonders like backwards tapes or songs covered in phasing and other trappings of the psychedelic era, but if your idea like mine of the perfect post 1968/1969 pop psych record is one that has the fuzz guitar meltdowns, trippy overtones, and inventive songwriting of prime period Beatles moving into the Honeybus and early (although I will admit I love EVERYTHING they did) Blue era than this album is a masterpiece and the best it ever got. Jimmy Campbell and Billy Kinsley can both sound amazingly like the best of John Lennon during his most inspired periods when he and McCartney were writing incredible song after incredible song and instead of ripping Lennon and McCartney off they have learned from them and apply that to their very impressive songwriting. Sometimes such as in "Golden Opportunity, "Son, Son," "I'm Trying To Forget You," and "You're Spending All My Money" Campbell sounds a lot like Pete Dello and Ray Cane in Honeybus and that as I have said is another good comparison for some of the songs on the one and only Rockin' Horse record. 1971's YES IT IS is Honeybus or The Beatles gone into a downtrodden lyrical frame of mind with the high spirit and exuberance of the best times of the 1960s in England and I would say that a companion LP if you want something to counteract the unrestrained sadness in the lyrics would be another record I got in the same deal the brilliant P.C Kent UPSTAIRS COMING DOWN on British RCA from 1970 or Shape Of The Rain's masterpiece from 1971 on the RCA Neon imprint RILEY RILEY WOOD AND WAGGETT. What I can also tell you about YES IT IS is that though the production of every song is like that of a finely honed understated beautiful painting the heavier psychedelic guitar flourishes and tripping out harmonies/vocals of prime REVOLVER through to MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR period Lennon are here in abundance just contrasted with some painstakingly crafted introverted soft rock tracks. Even progressive fans will have to appreciate the workout the heavily distorted electric piano gets on "Julian The Hooligan" which in its original version on this record wipes the floor with the more polished up remake by Kinsley some years later on the pretty good Liverpool Express album. YES IT IS is also a very important and very special, very impressive album because it is not just a one off, but a once-in-a-lifetime masterpiece. This is The Beatles if they had lasted or if they had regrouped. If they had settled their differences and gone back into the studio together this is most certainly how they would have sounded. John and George would have been proud of this album. McCartney And Ringo would rate this as high as I do if they heard it. They wouldn't feel like their music was ripped off from them or this was an imitation they would find it rewarding and refreshing. I think that's the best way to sum Rockin' Horse and YES IT IS up. Give me this and a nice dose of Queen for my heavier mood any day over any wank off selfish self indulgent noise-for-the-sake-of-noise nonsensical rubbish and I'll be feeling much better in the face of any adversity life has to throw at me. I can make it with just a little help and encouragement and a lot of great music and YES IT IS is some of the best music ever made.

1 comment:

  1. You certainly got the spirit of the Rockin' Horse album right, and all concerned were of the opinion that something special had occurred when the record was finished. One misconception that has continued over the years is that it was a Liverpool band. Although Jimmy, Billy and I were all from Liverpool, I was living in London, along with Stan and Bobby was working as a session man. Stan was a Londoner, and Bobby was a Scotsman.
    The project was a vehicle for Jimmy and Billy initially, and the other three of us were basically hired guns, although a group closeness developed over the making of the album, and we were given more leeway by producer Hal Carter, also a Liverpool man and Billy Fury's legendary road manager, than was usually the case for session men. However, Billy and Jimmy were definitely in the drivers' seat throughout.

    In an interesting twist, the only live appearances that Rockin' Horse ever made were as Chuck Berry's backing band on his hugely successful 1972 European tour( which spawned "My Ding-A-Ling"), and as Stan and Bobby didn't do that tour, we went out as a true all-Liverpool quartet, Dave Harrison (a Liverpool friend of Billy and Jimmy) taking the drum chair over from Stan.

    It's been a great source of satisfaction that the album, which sank without a trace when first issued, has become such a highly thought of piece of work in subsequent years, due to the various re-issues, although, sadly, Jimmy and Hal didn't live to see it.

    Michael Snow