Proto-Punk in ten songs : part 2
Death were formed in Detroit by the Hackney brothers. They started out as a funk band, but after watching The Who perform, the brothers had an epiphany and started a rock band. This early funk influence may go some way to explaining how tight the band is: the rhythm is unstoppable. Politicians In My Eyes is featured on Death’s album …For The Whole World To See, which was recorded in 1974 but wasn’t released until 2009, due to a dispute with Columbia Records regarding their band name. Without a doubt, racial barriers were at play with Death: they were a black band without a black sound, and consequently at the time were deemed difficult to sell. Politicians In My Eyes was self-released as a single by Death, in a short run of 500 copies.
Kick Out The Jams – MC5
Kick Out The Jams was released in 1969. The album itself is unadulterated energy, and the title track is no exception. Kick Out The Jams is iconic not just for its influence over punk-rock, but also for often being cited by metal bands. Unusually for a debut album, MC5 recorded Kick Out The Jams live. A&R man Danny Fields – who signed MC5 to Elektra – concluded that no studio could capture the excitement and energy of MC5. Although on release, Kick Out The Jams received muted or even negative responses, Fields choice turned out to be a wise decision. Kick Out The Jams is now critically acclaimed and was ranked 294 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.
White Light/White Heat – The Velvet Underground
After disappointing sales of their debut album, The Velvet Underground parted ways with Nico and fired Andy Warhol. On their most recent tour they had experimented with improvisation. Where The Velvet Underground & Nico was a relatively tight album (the band had rehearsed for the recording sessions for a year), the aim with White Light/White Heat was to get their live sound on record. What followed was a cacophony of guitar-led noise. Lou Reed called it ‘the quintessence of articulated punk’, and John Cale described it as ‘a very rabid record.’ The album itself was recorded over two days. The title track is a concise number, with raw guitars providing a backbeat before the song breaks down into a tangled web of noise.
Personality Crisis – New York Dolls
Personality Crisis appears on New York Dolls eponymous debut album, which was released in 1973. It’s an album filled with super-charged rock and roll, and the repercussions of it were felt down the line by the Sex Pistols, the Damned and the Ramones. The album was produced by Todd Rundgren, who has since stated that “the irony is that I wound up producing the seminal punk album, but I was never really thought of as a punk producer, and I never got called by punk acts. They probably thought I was too expensive for what they were going for.” The New York Dolls were an equal influence on glam-rock, with their onstage cross-dressing. But it was their grounded music and attitude which influenced the punk movement.
My Generation – Patti Smith
Through Death, we have heard how The Who influenced punk-rock. Now listen to Patti Smith’s version of My Generation, which is a bonus track from a CD re-issue of her 1975 debut album, Horses. It was recorded at the Agora, Cleveland, Ohio in January 1976. Still, Smith’s performance manages to outdo The Who’s in terms of power and excitement. The release of Horses ensured Patti Smith’s position as one of the heads of the New York punk-rock scene. It is a landmark album for the punk-rock movement and managed to beat the Ramones debut release by five months.
All words by Toby Sligo. This is Toby’s first piece for Louder Than War and you can find him on twitter.