Monday, January 13, 2014

TC: My Black Sabbath Party


Black Sabbath: Black Sabbath, Vol. 4, 1972 (American release), album sleeve: photo by Christian Montone, 15 July 2010

Black Sabbath, Vol. 4 (Vertigo)

As the Sabs poured into "Wheels of Confusion" like giant gobs of wet cement gushing from the heavens in the never-ending sameness of a taffy-pull performed by mutants, people began pouring into my house. One by one they instantly began digging the Sabs, nodding, heavy dudes one and all. Everyone picked up that old Sab neck-wobble trip where your head sort of rocks back and forth on your neck python-fash, right? Where the organ comes in over the big slow power chords; no it's not an organ, call it a component, yah, straight out of the Middle fucking Ages! Sorta walks right on out. Like some giant prehistoric plant learning how to walk ... right over your house ... so boogie while you can. But you can't lose that dyno chthonic zoomout riff 'cos it's right there in the middle of the next song, "Tomorrow's Dream," which got us so zonked we felt absolutely heavy. The cat did too. Then on into a foxy sorta Carole King piano folk song or something, whew, "Changes," kind of David Bowie we guessed, hey orchestra right? What? Went its evil way? Ooh. The room got kind of deep and spacey, brown all over, and the notes then sounded sorta white coming out of that ... y'know? Like a snowfall? It went on forever. We could dig it. Like we dig chewing gum made out of caulking compound. Right? So then can you conceive of a piercing tone followed by reverberating percussion noises called "FX," huh, that was the next tune, then we got tight with some heavy familiar Sab vibes again, swimming right up there to deep space where nothing hears or talks, right? "Supernaut." My sister had a vision of electronic buffalo ranches on Uranus, so help me. The drum solo in this song did it to her. Also, my watch stopped. But the Sabs didn't. Who needs a watch? I ripped it off my wrist & stomped on it. Slowly. Crunch. Side one groaned to a close, but soon side two followed it, without delay adhering to the walls of one's septum — the total "icicles in my brain" riff — right — "Snowblind," no less — climbing those big staircases made out of vanilla fudge, right up into your mind — so feed your nose, hey? God's a Fuzz Tone, right? The Abominable Snowman? Hey. La Fucking Brea! The tar pits was a heavy scene, right? Ask Freud or Dave Crosby. What a streaming feast of nerve gobble anyhow! But on with the snow, I mean show. Time for a Pez break. Whew. Monster slowness of the unelusive strikes again: "Cornucopia." I about fell out. Ten-ton dogs snarled in the mouth of the volcano. Storms of liquid metal blasted their way into the soap factory. Soaring zoos, etc. Then on to babies' time; breakfast on a sleigh in Hawaii with violins, titled "Laguna Sunrise." All sweet lime stripes across a popsicle spiced with Quaaludes, right. A million artichokes can't be wrong. Dreaming in the sun with their eyes open? Sweet music must end. Grunting, we tumble on into the new dance craze, you guessed it, "St. Vitus Dance." You drive me nervous. Pieces of hair got into my mouth during this one. Same old power saw on Venus move, lovely. "Under the Sun" starts out slow, like dinosaurs yawning, then it speeds up a little. Or does it? I can't tell. Fantastic four-second guitar solo by a gorilla in there somewhere, right — beautiful — gorilla! The Sabs pour it on, man, it's right near the end of the record now and here's a great three-second drum solo by a polar bear, no shit! Put mud in my ears if I lie! I can dig it! Great buncha chords there too, I couldna chose better myself, whew, we're thudding down toward the ultimate rip chord now. Gotcha. Over and out. Molten rocks hurtling across space imitating the origin of the universe, you dig? Ah, lay those chord slabs on my grave ... whew. The Sabs are genius.

Tom Clark: My Black Sabbath Party, a review of Black Sabbath, Vol. 4 (Vertigo, 1972), Rolling Stone, 7 December 1972

Black Sabbath: Tomorrow's Dream/Laguna Sunrise, 1972 (German single release, Vertigo), record sleeve: photo by Klaus Hiltscher (Affendaddy), 8 October 2012

I wish I could tell you that every word of the above is (or was) true. Then again, I also wish that I could tell you that every word isn't (or wasn't).

My career as a record reviewer was, as they say, short-lived, and really not all that much fun while it lasted, despite the surprising daily arrival of abundant vinyl freebies in the broken mail box on a dirt road in the then-middle of Nowhere.

Of course the freebies stopped once the reviews began to appear. Industries are like that. Don't ever expect an honest review of anything from anybody who's in the industry. Doesn't matter which industry we're talking about here, in my experience they're all the same in this respect. That's entertainment, like they used to say. Not that it's all that complicated, duh. Everybody on the free stuff list is always in the industry, whichever industry it is. Until they aren't. I wish I could count all the lists from which I've been stricken. But then, I've been stricken with worse, in this slow, inexorable, quicksand-vertiginous swirling-down-the-blocked drain of the completely meaningless Vertigo reissue years.

This particular record, by the by, was probably the worst I was ever given to review.

The review adopted the point of view of a fictive persona assembled from several suspects of the period.

But don't just take my word on this as the last, though indeed it may well have been the first, given that time is now known to have traveled more slowly in that stage of the deglaciation. 

Ragnarok at Blackrock: Led Zeppelin VS Black Sabbath... who wins you decide [Blackrock, Brighton, UK]: photo by Wang Dang Doodad, 10 July 2011

The largest collection of cassettes I have seen in 30 years is upstairs at That '70s House in Penrose, Illinois. Black Sabbath, the Beastie Boys, the Ramones and Bauhaus are standard fare here, but there is some variety with the Beatles and INXS also represented.  A large selection of LPs are "stored" downstairs...: photo by Bill (BillsExplorations), 13 December 2012

Black Sabbath, Vol. 4 (Vertigo, 1972): photo by Greg(ory), 3 December 2012


ACravan said...

I enjoyed the review quite a bit. I loathed Black Sabbath when I was younger, but am forced to admit that following what seems like a century of occasional passive listening, a few things have sunk in and acquired what I'd describe as a patina of "quality" relative to some of their lesser genre peers. And Ozzy's autobiography, which I've perused at Barnes & Noble, has many funny, self-deprecating moments. I think what has mainly retarded "rock criticism" as a field has more to do with its lack of a studious and disciplined approach to its subject (knowledge of music would be helpful to those critiquing records) and generally terrible writing, than with industry-supported corruption of the critic cohort. Of course, you can't discount occasional undue influence, which always exists, but at this point in the contemporary, wrecked-by-theft music industry, when Rolling Stone is no longer a music magazine and they employ rock critics/historians in the "American Studies" departments of actual universities, it's almost a nostalgic memory, like what they used to call "modern art." The visuals here are wonderful and bring back happy memories. Curtis

Mose23 said...

One of Brummagen's two offerings to the world (this and the alienation of the factory system).

Is it too late to say sorry?

ACravan said...

Further response: Birmingham gave the world The Move and, come to think of it, Traffic. No apologies necessary (from these quarters, at least, unless you wish to include Duran Duran in the apology). Curtis

Mose23 said...

The Move and Traffic were grand. Thanks for reminding me, Curtis. I have a fondness for early Dexy's too.

ACravan said...

Early Dexy's; early (Denny Laine period) Moody Blues. Yes to both. I wasn't joking about Ozzy's autobiography, by the way. It's quite funny and it's utterly unpretentious, which is unusual for a rock star work in that genre. In Tom's Black Sabbath review, I detect the influence of a Rolling Stone critic of that era named J.R. Young (I prefer Tom's version, though) mixed with a soupcon of John Mendelsohn. It's funny that Black Sabbath actually eventually obtained critical credibility and respectability. I don't think that was ever their aim, which might be one of their strengths (similar to the Stooges before Iggy became self-conscious). Back to the salt mine (where I store my old cassettes). Curtis

TC said...

An academic critic has suggested that this piece is a sendup of Lester Bangs.

Sorry about that, dead wrong.

Never heard of J. R. Young. Never imitated any Mendelsohns, Brahms or Liszts.

Nah, I guess I just thought those rock critics of the era were too... what would the word be... boring???

The influence here would be entirely extraliterary (as it were), a simple miming of the speech patterns of certain stoner dudes who roamed the backroads of West Marin in that hoary epoch.

As to Brum rock groups: toward the later days of my half decade of residence in Angleterre, there rose to prominence certain clever Brit lads who were adept at locating and copycatting American R& B, to variable effect, none more good at this than Birmingham's own... let's hear it for the lads...

Spencer Davis Group: Gimme Some Lovin' (released UK Oct. 1966, this performance 1967)

What perhaps ought also to be mentioned here, speaking of influences, and in case anyone is actually interested in this topic, is this:

Homer Banks: Ain't That a Lot of Love, writ by Homer Banks & Deanie Parker, released on Liberty UK 1966

ACravan said...

Both records absolutely wonderful and the Homer Banks, particularly, speeds up the and warms the heart. Wow. I detected no influence of Lester Bangs in your review. Curtis

Delia Psyche said...

It's better poetry than anything by Bangs I've read. Very readable. & I intend to play my Master of Reality & Paranoid LPs tonight.

TC said...

David, your loyalty to the neglected survivors of the Tar Pits is entirely touching, and may Lester rest in peace without my ever being able to read a sentence he wrote without laughing out loud.

(No, wait, it might be helpful therapy, I haven't actually laughed out loud in several barely endurable decades -- broke the mirror last time! -- so what the heck happened to that old stack of Creem abandoned in the barn...?)

Jonathan Chant said...

Pastiche or no, they don't write 'em like this any more.