Ruby: 40 Years of Radios Appear

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Radio Birdman – Radios Appear

Released July, 1977 on Trafalgar Records

1540 KHz on the AM band:  that was the original broadcasting position of legendary Sydney radio station 2JJ (later 2JJJ, or “Triple J” when it crossed over into the FM market).  From it’s inception it was a home for the experimental, the odd, and the alternative – stuff that wouldn’t get played on other Australian radio stations.  The growth of Australian cool starts from it’s inception in 1975, when it was founded to be a government-funded radio station meant to appeal to the 18-25 demographic.  Radio Birdman, a group of Aussie Stooges fans, were among the bands the station championed at the very beginning of the punk rock era.

Radio Birdman were unlike anything else that Australian radio was playing at the time; while it might be somewhat correct to call them “Australia’s Sex Pistols”, this does Radio Birdman a disservice.  The band weren’t cobbled together, they could play their instruments, and they didn’t rely on cheap shock tactics to sell their records.  In fact, Radio Birdman’s early success was as much a result of their hands-on work ethic as it was their killer rock ‘n’ roll tunes; their records were initially sold out of their trunks, before and after shows.  The band provided the example, and from them the punk DIY ethic was born into Australia.

Those killer rock ‘n’ roll tunes, though:  Radios Appear had them in spades.  The band name and album title give key clues as to their influences.  “Radio Birdman” came from a misheard lyric on The Stooge’s “1970”, and tracks like “T.V. Eye” and “Murder City Nights” bear the scars of a definite Stooge’s obsession.  “Man With Golden Helmet”, however, shows another side of the band, one that is hinted at in the title of the album; “Radios appear” is a line from “Dominance And Submission” by Seventies hard rock icons Blue Oyster Cult.  “Descent Into Maelstrom” and “Love Kills” combine the two, marrying a harrowing, relentless beat to a more free-wheeling and progressive melody and structure.

Radios Appear is both the debut and the highwater mark for the band.  Their second LP, 1981’s Living Eyes, was released three years after the band broke up, and while the band reunited in 1996 and continues to tour intermittently, new music has been spotty at best.  For a pure rock ‘n’ roll experience – filtered through Michigan proto-punk – however, Radios Appear is one of the finest efforts of that legendary year of 1977.

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Goodnight Scott Asheton

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Stooges drummer Scott Asheton has passed away at the age of 64.

The Stooges were perhaps the seminal proto-punk band, eschewing the peace-and-love ideal of the day in favour of the three Fs:  feedback, fucking, and getting fucked up.  In an era where rock ‘n’ roll had a tendency of being a bit fey and esoteric, the Stooges skewed in the opposite direction.  They played like cavemen, bashing out howling songs of go-nowhere lives with a snarling abandon that wouldn’t fully come into vogue for a decade.  Like primitive Sixties garage rock heroes like the Sonics, Monks, and Troggs, they banged out three-chord anthems to teenage wastelands built around brother Ron Asheton’s swirling feedback and the pound of Scott’s drums.

From 1967 to 1974 they prowled the United States, selling virtually no records and freaking people out with singer Iggy Pop’s wild onstage antics.  After falling apart in an implosion of booze, heroin, and commercial failure, Asheton took over the drumset of Sonic’s Rendezvous Band, featuring garage-soul guru Scott Morgan and fellow Detroiter Fred “Sonic” Smith, formerly of the MC5.  When Smith put the band on hiatus to marry another proto-punk (American poetess Patti Smith) in 1980 Asheton followed Morgan around through various projects including The Scott Morgan Band and Scott’s Pirates.  In 2003 he joined up with the reunited Stooges to tour endlessly; in 2007 the band released a fourth album, The Weirdness.  In 2009 his brother Ron died and in 2011 Scott suffered a stroke after a performance at a festival in France.

Iggy Pop had this to say about Asheton’s death:

“My dear friend Scott Asheton passed away last night. Scott was a great artist, I have never heard anyone play the drums with more meaning than Scott Asheton. He was like my brother. He and Ron have left a huge legacy to the world. The Ashetons have always been and continue to be a second family to me.

My thoughts are with his sister Kathy, his wife Liz and his daughter Leanna, who was the light of his life.

Iggy Pop”

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0mRfECsHrc]

-“1969”, from The Stooges (1969)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJIqnXTqg8I]

-“I Wanna Be Your Dog, from The Stooges (1969)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SD-uF8uisA]

-“T.V. Eye”, from Fun House (1970)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bX275Crxxc]

-“Fun House”, from Fun House (1970)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDNzQ3CXspU]

-“Search And Destroy”, from Raw Power (1973)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOV66-W9QeM]

-“Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell”, from Raw Power (1973)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtqTAvv2kDA]

-“City Slang” – Sonic’s Rendezvous Band, late 1970s

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wyn6ZSCQ3M]

-“Pirate Music” – The Scott Morgan Band, from Rock Action (1988)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcnPMLHN7S8]

-“You Can’t Have Friends”, from The Weirdness (2007)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rafqwwETXM]

-“Sex and Money”, from Ready To Die (2013)