Counter Action: Edition 2
The latest installment in our monthly feature series sees our mystery man behind the counter provide the lowdown on the best record he has discovered as of late. There is no criteria, a tune is a tune is a tune is a tune according to him. Last time around he introduced us to 32nd Turnoff but this time he brings with him a whole new selection. Listen up diggers. here is a brand new jam.
The Flying Lizards
Our mystery man behind the counter has gone a bit gooey for this oft-overlooked slice of post-punk goodness from the Flying Lizards, best remembered (if at all) as those curious one-hit-wonders whose ‘novelty’ version of ‘Money’ was a fluke hit in 1979, this second (and final) album released by Virgin in 1981 is a forward thinking mix of tape loops, found sound, dub, disaffected vocals, funk and all manner of musical flotsam and jetsam…
Have a bash on this for proof positive…
Although ostensibly a band, the Lizards (as no-one called them), were the brainchild of David Cunningham. Born and raised in Ireland, Cunningham would study visual art and music at the dusty environs of Maidstone College Of Art/Kent sometime in the early ‘70s – ahead of the curve, studying film and visual installation, Cunningham’s avant-garde sensibilities were well and truly stoked, couple this with previous form having recorded bands at secondary school and you’ve got the makings of a proper little Brian Eno.
Enlisting the help of fellow art school student Deborah Evans, the pair set about recording a deliberately ‘bad’ version of Eddie Cochran’s US ‘50s affluent teenager angst anthem ‘Summertime Blues’, Evans’ cut-glass tones and oh-so arch/stilted vocal style the antithesis of all that was loose and wild about the original – less bike leather, more Imperial Leather.
The single, recorded for a paltry £20, was subsequently picked up by Virgin and reissued in 1978 using the band name Flying Lizards. Evidently taking no notice of the old adage that ‘lightning doesn’t strike twice’ Cunningham and Evans took to dismantling another ‘60s classic, this time Barrett Strong’s ‘Money’ (by way of the Beatles that is). The single was an unexpected hit, Virgin saw £££ signs, leaving Cunningham to dig a little deeper into his bag of musical tricks…..
The Fourth Wall LP
Although in places it continues the playful nature of the debut LP, (the cover of Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Move On Up’ is possibly an ironic reworking too far), Cunningham upped the weird factor (hooray!) and made a record that cared little for continued commercial success.
Album opener, the skewed new wave nugget ‘Love & Other Strangers’, might get just a tad Lene Lovich to these 2016 ears but things soon take a turn for the weird(er). ‘Glide/Spin’s’ opening roll of tinny drums is like a brief whisper from some ‘70s roots dub LP, before the real avant funk fun begins. Throw in some wonderfully disinterested vocals from ‘70s/’80s New York ‘no-waver’ Patti Palladin, trademark frippertronic guitar lines from Mr Fripp (well whaddya’ expect?) and you’ve got a neat slice of disorientating psychedelia.
‘In My Lifetime’ ratchets up the funk factor further with weird staccato rhythms, disjointed sound effects and primitive sampling. ‘A Train’ goes further still down the musical rabbit hole with Palladin’s vocals fed through some kind of effects unit – sounds like Talking Heads having a dust-up with Grace Jones – and that can only be a good thing right?
‘New Voice’ closes Side One, it ditches the funk and instead offers up an immersive wave of primitive electronics, organ and sound effects, it’s beautiful/scary in equal measure and is on a par with Eno’s (him again) ‘Ambient: On Land’ LP.
Flip it over for the swirling, druggy, psychedelic haze that is ‘Hands 2 Take’, riding in on a bed of low-end saxophones drones and incessant crack of the snare drum, a quick recce on the credits list reveals a pop nugget curveball too…one of those saxes is played by Petere Gordon, that’s him on Arthur Russell’s/Dinosaur L’s ‘Clean On Your Bean’ (he’s also just collaborated with Tim Burgess). Released as a single (yes really) the video gives it some quick edit/trippy visuals action (on a budget mind) with just a hint of the erotic (or was that just me?)
Which leads me onto where we came in – ‘Another Story’, tape loops, metronomic rhythm, cut-up/spliced vocals and fragmented guitar – like the missing link between Brian Eno and Liquid Liquid!
What happened next?
Patti Palladin was a bit of a face on the Batcave scene in the early ‘80s before making a few records with Johnny Thunders; she still writes and performs. Deborah Evans-Stickland retrained as a psychotherapist – and more recently made a guest appearance on Richard X’s album. As for David Cunningham, he kept true to his avant muse, producing a series of Michael Nyman’s minimalist soundtracks before moving on to lecture in art education, he also creates installation works based on “real time exploration of acoustics”…….there’s also the small matter of that posthumous ‘Secret Dub Life Of The Flying Lizards’ released by Piano in 1995……………
There’s been no official reissue of the LP but you can get second hand copies on Discogs…..