I am out of town tonight, out of town to say the least. I am writing to you now from Amman Jordan. I am out on a little trip to see some things. Engineer X and I did a show similar to this one about two years ago and I wanted to do it again, this being the month of October. Here are the show notes from last time around, I think they are Fanatic enough for all:
Fanatics, happy October again! Tonight we are going to do something we have never done before: one broadcast / one album. I really wanted to play all the studio tracks from The Damned's 4th album, released in 1980, The Black Album. TBA was a two-LP set with a live side, which I am leaving out to concentrate more on the studio work, of which there's quite a bit of. I am sure there is more information about TBA around but I can't seem to find it. Here's a few facts: The album was released in October of 1980 on Chiswick. The line-up had changed since the band's previous album, Machine Gun Etiquette with bass player Algy Ward being replaced by Paul Grey of Eddie And The Hot Rods but the core of the band, Dave Vanian on vocals, Rat Scabies on drums and Captain Sensible on guitar was still intact. The album was different than MGE in a lot of ways, leaving behind the louder rock sound and attack for more elaborate arrangements, subtlety, ambitious instrumentation and an increased level of experimentation, shown in the song, "Curtain Call," that takes up a whole side of the album and tracks at over 17 minutes. The band worked with Hans Zimmer on one track, "The History of the World (Part 1)" but past that, produced the album themselves. In the summer of 1980, the band recorded tracks at Rockfield in Wales. Some of the tracks used for singles and such, like "Rabid (Over You)" and "White Rabbit," were recorded months earlier at Wessex Studios, the studio where MGE had been recorded.
I don't know if their plan was to record a double album. The Damned were a very chaotic band and I have to wonder if they had a real concept of what they were going to do when they got to Rockfield besides try to get some songs recorded. If you look at TBA, it's really not a double album in the classic sense like Electric Ladyland or The White Album and I wonder if the band sought to stretch the album out to a two-LP length for the ironic comparisons to the iconic Beatles' White Album. Now THAT sounds like something The Damned would do! So, basically, what you have is an album with an extra 12” of cool stuff and that's why I chose to just stick with the studio recordings of TBA. The live material is easily found on the recently released expanded version of TBA. I don't have a great deal of information on the album. I have looked but have been so far, unable to locate much on the album. It's too bas as it's one of my favorite records of all time and perhaps my favorite Damned album. What I would give to round up some members of the band and get some of the facts on how they put this one together but wonder what they would remember of an album that's almost 30 years old. TBA is unlike anything they did before, the previous three albums don't even hint at what was to come and I think that's one of the things that fascinates me the most about this album.
So, since I cannot provide much actual information on the album, I will have to rely on my easily induced, self-indulgent fan-boy blather to fill up some space here.
I remember when The Black Album came out. I was 19 and living in Virginia at the time. I was working at Häagen-Dazs. I didn't get every copy of the weekly British music newspapers so I was not up on release dates. When a new album by a band I liked came out, it often took me awhile to find out about it. I don't remember exactly when I got my hands on a copy of TBA but I remember listening to part of it in Ian's room and liking it immediately. The album was very different than Machine Gun Etiquette, which I had played so many times. I liked the album the first time I heard it although I must say, I didn't pay that much attention to the live side and really concentrated on the studio stuff.
You Fanatics understand the power of connecting with a band or an album for whatever reason. In the case of an album, you might play it again after years of not hearing it and whatever it was that moved you about it is now gone and you might not remember what it was about the album that knocked you out in the first place. Sometimes though, the album takes you back to a certain time and place and that can be very powerful.
For me, The Black Album was one of those right time / right place albums. The moodiness of the album was perfect for me in those days, being the moody, scowling bastard I was. It was and still is, one of my favorite after dark / late night listens. I never listen to this album in the day time, that's one of my rules. The Black Album is best enjoyed at night. When I am off the road, I listen to it at least one to two weekend nights a month. I don't know about you Fanatics, but I am a seasonal listener. Some albums work better at certain times of the year for me. I know I have worn you out on detailing some of them to you so I will spare you now. I find the topic fascinating though, what music works when, what the music triggers in your mind and why, etc. Being moved to distraction when you hear a certain song or album is one of the best parts about being a music Fanatic. You go through so many changes in your life but that song or album sits there unchanged and when you hear it again, it becomes a powerful reference point. It's as close to a time machine as I can get. There a several albums and songs that do this to me. The Black Album is one of the big ones.
This album was released during the last autumn before I joined Black Flag. When I listen to this album, I think of those times. Autumn of 1980 was the last fall season of my teen years and the last one as a DC-area resident. By the following summer, I had joined Black Flag and moved to California. My life was very different from then on. There's a book I did many years ago called Get In The Van that has a picture beginning of the book of myself and a lot of other people standing together outside of a Teen Idles show on October 31, 1980. In the photograph, you will see members of many DC bands, Teen Idles, future members of Minor Threat, The Slickee Boys and many others. Those were good times. It was a small scene and you would go to a show and know almost everyone there. Scenes like this never last, they become bigger and as changes inevitably occur, something is lost. Times like the one depicted in the picture are to me like the time between inhaling and exhaling, like that small fraction of time before the air you're breathing out extinguishes the candles on your birthday cake. During that fall, the ice cream store I was working at had a lot of quiet evenings and on many nights, I would stare out the door into the darkness as people and cars rushed by, wondering what I would do with my life. I remember the walks back to my apartment were heavy with the thoughts of a young man; the introspective intensity and furrowed brow heaviness that often accompanies youth. I went to a lot of shows in those days, and was in a small band later in the year. We lived for the music. Music was more than something we listened to. For many of us, it was almost our entire lives. I didn't know what I was going to do with my life, not at all. I didn't know how much longer I could stick it out at the ice cream store and I didn't know what I was going to do next. I did know that I was going to be listening to a lot of music. I knew that the band I was wasn't going to go anywhere past a few shows but that was fine. It was a blast being in a band and feeling a part of something, that was good enough for me.
The next several months were some of the best times in my life. Shows were great, the local music scene was thriving. Dischord Records came into existence and there was an excitement at the shows. We knew we were part of something very special. Winter gave way to spring and then into summer. Black Flag came to the east coast for the second time in a few months. They held auditions for the singer vocalist slot. I went for it, got the job and left town in July of 1981. The autumn of the previous year right up to that point were very memorable and I still think of those times with great fondness. I always try to be in DC at least a couple of days every October. This year, the schedule worked out very well and I was afforded three days here. The Black Album was one of those heavy rotation records for me then and now. I try to listen to a lot of different music, you know how we Fanatics are. That being said, there are a few records that really nail it down for you to the point to where you don't really know if the record is even any good, all you know is that it means a lot to you. I think many of you really understand what I mean. Well, for me, The Black Album is one of those. I do hope I have not prattled on too long and gotten too emo on you. I hope you enjoyed the show tonight.
Album pressing information: I have tried to include all the information I could find on different pressings of The Black Album and the related singles and 12” releases. I have no idea if this is complete but it's the best I could find. This list does not cover re-pressings of the album in any territory, reissues on the Big Beat label or the IRS Records single and comes from my own collection so there is a good chance there are some things missing, although I have tried to make it complete as I could. I have never heard of any test pressings or acetates of any of these in collections or anywhere else. Doesn't mean they're not out there!
Black Album - Chiswick (UK)
Black Album - IRS (USA) single LP version
Black Album – Chiswick (Italy)
Black Album – Chiswick (Spain)
Black Album – Chiswick (Australia)
Black Album – Chiswick (Greece)
Black Album – Chiswick (France)
Black Album – Chiswick (Germany)
Black Album – Chiswick (Japan)
Black Album – Sounds Marketing (Japan)
Black Album – Sampler test press with proof cover
History Of The World (Released 09/80)
History Of The World / I Believe The Impossible – Chiswick (UK)
History Of The World / I Believe The Impossible – Chiswick (Germany)
History Of The World / I Believe The Impossible / Sugar & Spite (12") – Chiswick (UK)
White Rabbit / Seagulls / Rabid (Over You) - Chiswick (France)
White Rabbit / Seagulls / Rabid (Over You) - Chiswick (Germany)
So, those were the notes from the show. I don't think I could do them any better this time around. Since the writing of above, there has been a limited edition of 666 double-LP sets printed of this. I have checked one out and it sounds fine but no real improvement over the original pressings. If you are interested in checking out this album, there's a very easy to find anniversary CD edition that sounds good and has some good extra tracks. In other Black Album news, the actual cover art for the album, a design created by the band's singer, Dave Vanian, has been located. It resides in a private collection. I have not seen it yet but hopefully will next year.
I know this was a bit of a conceptual stretch but if there's any audience who listens to this station would enjoy this, I think it's this one. Next week, we have a show, very heavy on the conceptual. I know that many of you will be down at the Park Plaza at the KCRW party but for those of you who won't be there, we have put together a show that is sure to have something unlistenable for almost everyone. I think you will like it, check it live or on archive if you get a chance. Until next week, STAY FANATIC!!!
E-Mail address for Henry: HenryOnTheRadio@AOL.com
01. Wait For The Blackout / The Black Album
02. Lively Arts / The Black Album
03. Silly Kid's Games / The Black Album
04. Drinking About My Baby / The Black Album
05. Twisted Nerve / The Black Album
06. Hit Or Miss / The Black Album
07. Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde / The Black Album
08. Sick Of This And That / The Black Album
09. The History Of The World (Part 1) / The Black Album
10. 13th Floor Vendetta / The Black Album
11. Therapy / The Black Album
12. Curtain Call / The Black Album
13. Rabid (Over You) / b-side
14. Seagulls / b-side
15. Sugar And Spite / b-side
16. I Believe The Impossible / b-side
17. Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde (Capt. vocal??) / Black Album Roughs
18. Curtain Call (alt. voc., etc.) / Black Album Roughs
19. Drinking About Baby / Radio One Sessions
20. Dr. Jeckyll & Mr Hyde / Radio One Sessions
21. Hit Or Miss / Radio One Sessions
22. History Of The World / Radio One Sessions
23. Lively Arts / Radio One Sessions
24. Wait For The Blackout / Radio One Sessions