In January 1982, Bruce Springsteen, then thirty two years old and an established rock star, recorded a set of demos in his New Jersey bedroom for what was intended to be his follow up to The River, a double album issued in 1980 which had reached the top of the US Billboard.
All parties involved had grand expectations for this new album, and these demo recordings, including, as they did, Born In The USA , which was to become Bruce Springsteen’s signature hit only a few years later, promised an impressive album.
In Heart Of Darkness: Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, David Burke explores the album from a multitude of angles. From the nature of the material itself and the history of American folk music which foretold it, to the legacy and influence on later generations of musicians.
The book takes an in-depth look at a record whose very existence defied the commercial and corporate nature of the music industry yet which has proved itself to be a timeless classic.
Win a copy Heart of Darkness: Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska by David Burke
Buzzin Music has teamed up with Cherry Red Books to offer a copy of Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska by David Burke to one lucky reader!
To enter to competition, simply answer the question below:
PLEASE NOTE: THIS COMPETITION HAS NOW CLOSED
What year did Bruce Springsteen record demos on a 4-track portastudio that would later be released as the album Nebraska?
Submit your entries to email@example.com with the subject line: ‘Nebraska Comp’ (other subject lines will not be entered) with your full name, address & contact number.
This competition ends on 3oth October 2012.
The editor will randomly choose one winner from the correct answers. The editor’s choice is final.
Heart Of Darkness – Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska by David Burke is published by Cherry Red Books.
The second wave of punkrock was much grittier, hardcore, thrash and from the working class streets of the UK, not fashion shops and art colleges. From 1980 to 1984 the UK was full of punk rock groups. They dressed almost identically with outrageous and dirty spiked hair, leather bike jacket, tight ripped drainpipe jeans and Dr Martens boots.
No better example of this hardcore, fast, furious, aggressive style of music, compete with screaming spit-driven vocals were Discharge.
By 1979 The Sex Pistols had split, Sid Vicious was dead and the punk euphoria of 1976/77 had dissipated into mainstream fashion and commercial pop-driven ‘New Wave’. A two-headed beast rose from the ashes. On the one hand, what became known as ‘post-punk’ included musicians formerly associated with the likes of the Sex Pistols & Buzzcocks exploring unknown territories of post-rock music with bands like PiL & Magazine. On the other, was the start of a second wave of punk that aligned themselves with Jimmy Pursey & Sham 69 rather than the Sex Pistols & Johnny Rotten.
The second wave of punk was much grittier, hardcore, thrash and from the working class streets of the UK, not fashion shops and art colleges. From 1980 to 1984 the UK was full of punk rock groups. ‘Young spotty herberts’ (as my mother used to call them) dressed almost identically with outrageous and dirty spiked hair, leather bike jacket, tight ripped drainpipe jeans and Dr Martens boots. On the back of leather jackets would be D-I-Y designs of studs, patches & favourite bands.
No better example of this hardcore, fast, furious, aggressive style of music, compete with screaming spit-driven vocals were Discharge.
In 1980 a local record shop owner, Mike Stone, decided to form his own record label – Clay Records to promote local east midlands bands. The first release was to be ‘Realities Of War’ a four track EP that, with the help of Radio 1 DJ John Peel sold way more than either Mike Stone or Discharge could have imagined. Within months and without warning, Discharge was leading a ‘new’ movement that swept across the UK. The following EP, ‘Fight Back’ was even better.
‘War’s No Fairytale’, ‘Fight Back’ & ‘No TV Sketch’ are the best examples of the power and noise of this second wave of punk.
Discharge released more singles on Clay between 1980 & 1982 ‘Decontrol’, ‘Never Again’, ‘State Violence State Control’ and the 12” ‘Why?’ – all of which, in my opinion, capture Discharge at their peak. In 1982 they released their debut album – ‘Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing’ & followed that with ‘Never Again’ in 1984. But by 1984 many of the second wave of punk bands had erred towards Oi! an offshoot that entangled punk with ignorant right-wing politics or as with Discharge towards heavy metal in an attempt to sustain their popularity.
The peak of popularity for this style of music was short-lived, as was my own interest. But in his excellently research and definitive book, Burning Britain: The History Of UK Punk 1980 – 1984, Ian Glasper opens with a short introduction to the topic, in which he explains the book only covers the so-called hardcore punk groups of the time and purposely ignores the groups associated with Crass & anarcho-communist politics. This, he suggests, is another topic for another book. To cover the four years of punk between 1980 & 1984 he divides the chapters into geographical areas of the UK. First up, the south west, including the likes of Beki Bondage & Vice Squad, Disorder & Chaos UK; each chapter subsequently introduces the main protagonists with a short history, interviews with key members and a selected discography.
Burning Britain: The History Of UK Punk 1980 – 1984 took me on a happy nostalgic trip down memory lane of times spent listening to John Peel and the likes of Discharge, Anti Pasti & The Anti-Nowhere League between my formative school and college years.
These days, rarely do I play music from the either the first or second wave of punk but as I read through each enjoyable chapter, I couldn’t help but don my headphones & listen to the likes of ‘Fight Back’ (Discharge) , ‘No Government’ (Anti Pasti) & ‘Flares & Slippers’ (Cockney Rejects).
A few groups that straddle the original punk movement of 1976 – 79 such as Angelic Upstarts & UK Subs are rightfully included as they continued to play through the second wave, unlike Sham 69. But I was surprised to see the inclusion of UK Decay (‘The Black Cat’ EP, ‘For My Country’, ‘Unexpected Guest’) & The Wall (great single ‘Barbed Wire Ghetto’) and The Adicts as I would argue they had nothing to do with this movement.
Burning Britain: The History Of UK Punk 1980 – 1984 by Ian Glasper concludes with a look at a few of the more influential labels – Clay, Riot City, No Future and more recently, Captain Oi; and a list of websites for some of the bands & labels included in this well written book that is a must-have for anyone who had the pleasure to live through it or want to know more.
Burning Britain: The History Of UK Punk 1980 – 1984 by Ian Glasper is published by Cherry Red Books.
Before I even opened this book, I fell in love with it! A sumptuous hardback cover photo of Elvis strumming his acoustic and singing his heart out; with a cut out to top and right with the word ‘Rockabilly’ designed to mimic the King of Rock n Roll’s debut album cover; and one ‘borrowed’ by The Clash for their album, London Calling.
In 1977 I was a 12 years old quietly listening to Radio Luxembourg on my little yellow transistor radio pressed against my air when DJ Tony Prince announced in a broken voice that Elvis, the king of rock n roll, was dead. At the time the only effect this had on me was surprise that it meant so much to someone that he stopped playing the contemporary music I tuned in every night to hear, and began playing back-to-back songs by Elvis Presley (though he was the president of the UK fan club)!
I never forgot that night in August 1977, though rock n roll at the time for me was God Save The Queen, The Sex Pistols and The Clash. But as I became older, and the constraints of Punk Rock made way for Post-Punk and New Wave, influences from further afield began new hybrids of music in the late 1970’s. Retro sounds merged with punk angst and soon there was a flood of new terms and genres to describe new sounds.
In 1979 my musical tastes were broadened by the re-emergence of Ska music as The Specials paid homage to 1960’s Jamaican legends such as Prince Buster, while a group called The Cramps took influences from old 1950’s Rockabilly, b films, 60’s surfing and garage music to create a grungy, dirty, punk-riddled Rockabilly sound that had music journalists fighting over new labels – Punkabilly, Psychobilly, in fact anything with ‘billy’ in the title.
Like The Specials signposted me to 1960’s Jamaican Ska and Bluebeat, The Cramps opened my ears to less commercial, garage punk Rock n Roll and in turn the original recordings for the Sun Records label by Elvis Presley. Great songs like ‘Mystery Train’ and ‘That’s Alright Mama’ sounded so wonderful to me, where my opinion of Elvis and Rock n Roll had hitherto been tainted by the likes of ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ & ‘Hound Dog’. It was not so much the quality of the songs, but the clean, over-produced production that left me cold, whereas the original Sun recordings gave the music a certain edginess and something more akin to garage and punk.
So, now I am reviewing an illustrated history of Rockabilly music – a music born out of country, bluegrass, jazz, and the blues in the 1950’s that became known to the world in a more commercial sense as rock ‘n’ roll.
Rockabilly: The Twang Heard ’round the World – The Complete Illustrated History by Greil Marcus tells the history of the genre and its main characters. Of course there is a large splash on Elvis Presley’s first steps to becoming the ‘king of rock n roll’ along with other great Sun Recording artists like Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis; along with such legends as Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly & Wanda Jackson along with lesser known artists of the day, as the book relives the golden years of Rock n Roll between 1955-1959 full of photos, movie posters, rare records, the guitars and the fashion.
The story picks up again in the late 1970’s with the revival of Rockabilly with bands such as The Cramps and The Stray Cats. I never knew Brain Setzer, the amazing guitarist & singer with The Stray Cats almost joined The Cramps in 1979 before he enjoyed a short burst of worldwide success in the early 1980’s with songs ‘Runaway Boys’, ‘Rock This Town’ & ‘Stray Cat Strut’. During this period, the UK was flooded with garage punk / rockabilly bands influenced by The Cramps, those early days of rockabilly from the 1950’s and garage punk of the 1960’s; and the final chapter is a show of strength for the influence of rockabilly today in the music and fashion of artists like Imelda May.
This is a truly great book, a wonderful read, assembled with great loving care by Greil Marcus and worth every penny to all rockabilly psychos or just plain music lovers that have ever wondered where rock n roll came from.
Rockabilly: The Twang Heard ’round the World – The Complete Illustrated History by Greil Marcus published by Voyageur Press in hardback priced £20.00 (RRP).
The Ten Rules of Rock And Roll, Collected Music Writings 2005-2011 by Robert Forster
Ex Go-Betweens front man Robert Forster has updated his collected musical writings, The 10 Rules of Rock And Roll, drawn primarily from his column for Australian magazine The Monthly. He started writing these pieces in 2005 having had no previous journalistic experience, aside from an article on hair care for Manchester fanzine Debris, in which he recommended “Always comb your hair before washing. This loosens the hair on your scalp and makes the shampooing far more effective”. Sound advice indeed. Sadly this article isn’t included in 10 Rules but can be viewed here.
Forster seems to have taken to the task of Rock Critic rather well as he was awarded the Pascall Prize for criticism soon after picking up your pen, a gong declaring him to be Australia’s top critic no less. Has he thus become an example of poacher turned gamekeeper in his new role? On the contrary he believes that a love of music unites rather than divides rock critics and musicians, and his enthusiasm for music new and old is evident throughout his collection of reviews.
Given the title of the book it seems to make sense to list his 10 Rules here. Without further ado:
1. Never follow an artist who describes his or her work as ‘dark’.
2. The second-last song on every album is the weakest.
3. Great bands tend to look alike.
4. Being a rock star is a 24-hour-a-day job.
5. The band with the most tattoos has the worst songs.
6. No band does anything new on stage after the first 20 minutes.
7. The guitarist who changes guitars on stage after every third number is showing you his guitar collection.
8. Every great artist hides behind their manager.
9. Great bands don’t have members making solo albums.
10. The three-piece band is the purest form of rock and roll expression.
Who could argue with any of this?
Robert Forster seems to have been given a wide brief as the subjects of his musings range from Glen Campbell to Bonnie Prince Billy via Bob Dylan. On each he casts his songwriter’s eye in a respectful manner, saying of Campbell, for example, “what is interesting is that Glen Campbell is in the search for new horizons while the old rebels – The Stones, The Who – are bogged and scared. Perhaps Campbell was meant to last”. Although clearly an advocate of the literate song writing style of Dylan’s work he finds Modern Times to be an untidy affair, where “you realise that someone else is needed to push Dylan on his material and the way it might sound”. His tone is that of an insider, unwilling to engage in an easy disparagement of an individual, instead focusing on the merits of the work.
In “Lost Women Found” he writes adoringly of the uncompromising quality of the music of Vashti Bunyan, Sibylle Baier & Connie Converse. About the latter he states; “All she had were the songs and her circle of friends. But it has turned out to be enough, as it did for fellow singer-songwriters Sibylle Baier and Vashti Bunyan, all of whom put songs in a bottle and kissed them goodbye, not knowing that one day the bottle would drift back, carrying the dreams and emotions of youth, to be picked up by an audience far larger and more appreciative than the one that greeted the music at its inception.” Such words send one heading off to the search engines to find out more about these artists and to listen oneself to the material about which he eulogises. This is a thematic thread that runs through the book.
As well as album reviews there are a few live and book pieces in which Forster writes knowingly on the business he has inhabited for over 30 years. However the most moving pieces are the two about his soul mate and Go-Betweens co-collaborator Grant McLennan, who died of a heart attack in May 2006. In “A True Hipster”, written in the immediate aftermath of the death of his great friend, Forster charts the genesis of their fruitful relationship, revealing much on how they worked together. Surprisingly for those of us who know The Go-Betweens he says of McLennan; “He called me “the strategist”. He was the dreamer. We both realised, and came to relish, the perversity of the fact that this was an exact reversal of the perception people had of us as artists and personalities in the band – that I was the flamboyant man out of time and Grant the sensible rock. In reality, the opposite was true”. What great friends they stayed though thick, thin and solo ventures.
Having broken up in 1989 the band reconvened in 2000 to produce three more LPs, with the promise of more to come. In “Demon Days” he writes poignantly about their last musical collaboration and how “I lost my best male friend and my working partner: the one who’d been with me through countless performances, studios, rehearsals, airports, tour buses, bad television shows, hard-to-find radio stations, songwriting bedrooms and kitchens; the one I thought I still had a future with.” Out of a wish to honour the memory of such times came “The Evangelist”, an album containing two songs McLennan had written shortly before his untimely death.
Robert Forster continues to record music and perform live but one can expect further additions to a body of written work that is so well informed. He is most certainly a musician who falls into that rare group who can effortlessly write about his craft. However, I trust that he won’t give up the day job just yet as I, for one, would miss him.
The Ten Rules of Rock And Roll, Collected Music Writings 2005-2011 by Robert Forster is published by Jawbone Press.