Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Raincoats, etc.

I've been back in Exeter again for a bit - working, and jamming a lot with Henry (saz and percussion workouts), Henry and Keith (Orbis Tertius? material) and Henry and Richard (filling in for Keith for their 5 Rhythms "wave" rehearsals). Unfortunately I missed the last COTD session at St. Stephens (just Keith and James T that time) as that coincided with that Deerhoof gig in London. Some of this stuff has been getting recorded. Eventually I'll compile a worthy collection and make it available here.

But I've also found time to re-engage with some of my favourite early 80's postpunk sounds - Young Marble Giants, The Slits and, especially, the oh-so-wonderful Raincoats.

The Raincoats The Raincoats
The Raincoats, in reflection, 1981; Ana, Gina, Vicky

I found this on a Raincoats site:

"I don't know anything about The Raincoats except that they recorded some music that has affected me so much that whenever I hear it I'm reminded of a particular time when I was (shall we say) extremely unhappy, lonely and bored. If it weren't for the luxury of putting on that scratchy copy of The Raincoats' first record, I would have had very few moments of peace. I suppose I could have researched a bit of history about the band but I feel it's more important to delineate the way I feel and how they sound.

When I listen to The Raincoats I feel as if I'm a stowaway in an attic, violating and in the dark. Rather than listening to them I feel like I'm listening in on them. We're together in the same old house and I have to be completely still or they will hear me spying from above and, if I get caught - everything will be ruined because it's their thing. They're playing their music for themselves. It's not as sacred [sic] as wire-tapping a Buddhist monk's telephone or something because if The Raincoats did catch me, they would probably just ask me if I wanted some tea. I would comply, then they would finish playing their songs and I would say thank you very much for making me feel good.

Kurt Cobain, June 1993

The Raincoats, live 1979
The Raincoats - Ana, Gina, Vicky and Palmolive, live in '79

I also found this, from the liner notes to Nirvana's Incesticide album:

"A while ago, I found myself in bloody exhaust grease London again with an all-consuming urge to hunt for two rare things: back issues of NME rumored to be secretly hidden in glass cases and submerged in the fry vats of every kebab machine in the U.K. and the very out-of-print first Raincoats LP.


In an attempt to satisfy the second part of my quest, I went to the Rough Trade shop and, of course, found no Raincoats record in the bin. I then asked the woman behind the counter about it and she said "well, it happens that I'm neighbors with Anna (member of the Raincoats) and she works at an antique shop just a few miles from here." So she drew me up a map and I started on my way to Anna's.

Sometime later, I arrived at this elfin shop filled with something else I've compulsively searched for over the past years - really old fucked up marionette-like wood carved dolls (quite a few hundred years old). Lots of them... I've fantasized about finding a ship filled with so many. They wouldn't accept my credit card but the dolls were really too expensive anyway. Anna was there, however, so I politely introduced myself with a fever-red faced and explained the reason for my intrusion. I can remember her mean boss almost setting me on fire with his glares. She said "well, I may have a few lying around so, if I find one, I'll send it to you (very polite, very English)." I left feeling like a dork, like I had violated her space, like she probably thought my band was tacky.

A few weeks later I received a vinyl copy of that wonderfully classic scripture with a personalized dust sleeve covered with xeroxed lyrics, pictures, and all the members' signatures. There was also a touching letter from Anna. It made me happier than playing in front of thousands of people each night, rock-god idolization from fans, music industry plankton kissing my ass, and the million dollars I made last year. It was one of the few really important things that I've been blessed with since becoming an untouchable boy genius.

Touching, isn't it?

I can remember a trip from Canterbury up to Cardiff in about 1990, to visit my friend Mark and see Slowdive supporting Ride - The Raincoats' Odyshape was in my walkman (with The Go-Betweens' 16 Lovers Lane on the other side) the whole way there and back. If you haven't heard Odyshape, you really should give it a listen. It's even got Robert Wyatt playing drums on some tracks.

This is also rather sweet. It looks like The Slits got their record company to fork out for them to spend a day riding horses in fancy dress and hanging out in some beautiful woods! Contrast with this, from The Vortex Club a few years earlier... And their admirable refusal to mime vocals is taken to another level on this particularly ridiculous clip from some German TV programme. (Syd Barrett sitting cross-legged on a mushroom refusing to mime to "See Emily Play" on American Bandstand in 1967 comes to mind.)


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