Saturday, September 17, 2022

retro-quotes #6868584 (the return)

"For stasis, as I intend the term, is not an absence of novelty and change — a total quiescence — but rather the absence of ordered sequential change. Like molecules rushing about haphazardly in a Brownian movement, a culture bustling with activity and change may nevertheless be static." 

from Leonard B. Meyer's 1967 book, Music, The Arts, and Ideas 

Friday, September 9, 2022

the word "retro" (an intermittent series)

When did the word "retro" enter common parlance? Or music-critical parlance?

My sense is that sightings of that word are rare before 1980.

Certainly back in the first half of the '70s, it was not a term in common use - when I read through all the Roxy Music coverage of that time, it never popped up once (even though it's nowadays a cliche to talk about them as retro-futurist).

Then in the early '80s, "retro" starts to crop up. It parallels the rise of a raft of phenomena that seem aligned with retro-spection: the emergence of what we would now call vintage; record fairs; the mushrooming number of reissue labels; the seepage of concepts like postmodern and postmodernist into the discourse. There was a term "retro-nuevo" that was bandied about in, I think, the mid-Eighties. 

Here's an early use of "retro" - Robert Palmer's  Retro Rock, a limited-edition vinyl release. It's listed in Discogs as follows: 

Robert Palmer – Retro Rock

Label: Clayton Webster Corporation – RR-82-20
Format: Vinyl, LP, Transcription
Released: Oct 5, 1982
Genre: Rock, Funk / Soul, Non-Music, Pop
Style: Classic Rock, Public Broadcast

A1 Give Me An Inch 2:47
A2 The Sailin' Shoes Medley 8:15
A3 Kid 2:53
A4 Work To Make It Work 4:27
A5 Gotta Get A Grip On You 3:27
A6 How Much Fun 3:18
B1 Jealous 3:28
Which Of Us Is The Fool Medley (10:47)
B2.1 Which Of Us Is The Fool
B2.2 We Got Love
B2.3 Pressure Drop
B3 Can't We Still Br Friends 3:10
B4 Got A Bad Case Of Loving You 4:42

At first I thought this was one of those publicity records that labels used to send to radio stations - to be played on air as if it were a real interview, or as promo just to sway deejays and producers. It has the look of a career to date recap - Palmer's greatest hits and non-hits. 

But actually it turns out that this is a vinyl document of a TV or radio broadcast. And it's the show that's called Retro Rock. And it seems to specialize broadcasting old concerts. This show was broadcast in October 1982 but the recording is from seven years earlier.   

But then there's some anomalies in this account - most glaring, how could Robert Palmer have performed a 1979 song by The Pretenders in 1975

The press release also references the performance including Palmer's "smash single" from a few years ago, "Bad Case of Loving You" . That was a medium-sized hit  in America in 1979. It was originally written and recorded by Moon Martin in 1978. Something is not right with this press release and the dating of the concert! 

If I was more familiar with Palmer's oeuvre I could probably spot some more temporal discrepancies. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

record collection rock

Not one of those Pete Frame rock family tree jobs, but an "influence map" of Pavement (who are currently gearing up for their 30th Anniversary Tour, jeepers) taken from Perfect Sound Forever, Rob Jovanovic's 2004 book 

Close ups:

Pavement - along with Saint Etienne, Urge Overkill, Teenage Fan Club and of course Primal Scream - were a key group for me in terms of  formulating the notion of "record collection rock".

For a while there was this regular column in Melody Maker called Rebellious Jukebox, a page where a musician would run through a list of records significant to them. Stephen Malkmus did one. Alongside the writing (or speaking? ) style and the tone (drily droll and couched in that slacker-ironical mode of the time) what struck me was that Steve seemed to have listened to everything. Every record that had ever come out. So one minute he'd be referencing 999 or some other second-division Brit punk group, the next it would be Sandy Denny or Fairport Convention.. There'd be a passing reference to Nurse With Wound or Nocturnal Emissions or something like that. He'd enthuse about Ege Bamyasi but perhaps some really obscure Krautrock would be cited too.  The piece was erudite - that's the only word for it. 

Thinking about it now, without the piece to hand (I've got it somewhere, in some folder or other), I feel there might actually have been serious gaps in the knowledge. Swathes of not-mentioned-at-all stuff : nothing danceable, electronic, or for that matter, Black.... pop too was absent. And indeed those things are all conspicuously missing from the Influence Map above. 

Still, the overall impression at the time of reading was that here was a chap, still only in his twenties, who had listened to EVERYTHING, had a take on EVERYTHING, and was capable of wresting enjoyment out of the utterly generic or desperately minor as easily as the obviously canonic and alternative-pantheonic. I didn't know at the time that some in Pavement had worked as record clerks, a job that would lend itself to playing anything and everything that came through the store, just for fun and curiosity and to fill time (also to annoy / bemuse the customers). That was one way to acquire a deep education in rock and its tributaries. Another way would be working at the college radio station, with its library of records and the flood of new freebies that would come in back in those days when college radio actually mattered and played a big role in alternative music promotion. 

But as well as vast knowledge, another byproduct of this immersion would be detachment - it's almost inevitably a byproduct of an omnivorous cultural diet. There were still some firm and sweeping opinions. In this piece, or perhaps another similar one, Malkmus opined that "you guys" (meaning the British) had had two great moments - early '70s folk-rock and the late 70s-early-80s postpunk DIY thing. But ultimately, increasingly, one's taste and listening got widened so much that strong allegiances or fanaticisms would not emerge.  

Very like Bob 'n' Pete in Saint Et, in fact - but being American and alt, obviously without the affection for chartpop. 

update 4/11/2023 - the column turns up courtesy of Nothing Else On. But I seem to recall another one as well with different references