The Great 70s Project: 1972

1972 AD.  The year that bored suburban teens attempted to resurrect Dracula, in a much maligned Hammer film that’s actually quite good fun.  The year that Bolan’s musical craft was at its most perfect; the year Ziggy Stardust came to Earth and changed Bowie’s fortunes forever.

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ROBERT REX WALLER, Jr. – Fancy Free

robert rex waller jrA prolific songwriter and member of Los Angeles’ I See Hawks In LA, Robert Rex Waller, Jr puts his mark on 2016 with a covers project ‘Fancy Free’. Named after the Oak Ridge Boys hit that has pride of place midway through his thirteen track journey through the past, his choice of title could also refer to the decrease in pressure that comes from having material already written.

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EDITORIAL COMMENT: Incomplete (or rambling thoughts on collecting from an obsessive music fan)

Right up to the 1980s, things were fairly simple as a music fan.  Your favourite bands released singles and albums and, as a loyal fan, you bought them knowing you’d kept to your end of the bargain.  Sometimes singles weren’t part of albums and in that case you got something extra.   Things started to change in the 1980s when the picture disc started to make regular appearances, thus meaning an occasional extra purchase.  Labels like ZTT (run by business-minded Trevor Horn and Paul Morley) were quick to capitalise on marketing strategies – with bands like Frankie Goes To Hollywood, they made sure that different formats had different mixes and different edits.  In the case of the fledgling cassette single, they even went an extra step by including unreleased bits and pieces from the cutting room floor, often to fans’ bemusement and eventual delight.

Not everyone was as keen to play the game.  Towards the end of the decade, Morrissey – in a spiteful lyrical snide against his then record company’s repackaging of Smiths material – gave us the lyrical legend “reissue, reissue, repackage…re-evaluate the songs, extra track and a tacky badge”. Some bands stuck rigidly to the old model of single release followed by album…and then a couple more singles (often with something extra on the b-side, sure; but once that was done, you knew that was it, at least until the next outpouring of new material in a couple of years).

By the mid-90s, albums would occasionally appear as special editions.  This usually involved a bonus disc containing a handful of extra songs (or in the case of The Beautiful South’s excellent ‘Carry On Up the Charts’ anthology, a whole disc of hard to find b-sides) or live material.  Another easy choice for the consumer: you chose to buy either the standard release or fork out a few extra quid for that bonus disc – job done, everybody happy.  Bon Jovi’s ‘Keep The Faith’ was among the first to mark a shifting tide towards fan-testing, record company greed when the special edition appeared months after the original album’s release.  This staggered release ensured almost everyone had purchased ‘Keep The Faith’ already…but would they buy it again?  Of course they would – if not everyone, then at least a good proportion of the die-hards would want that extra material.  Why wouldn’t they?  The floodgates were open.

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VACATION Transmissions EP

vacation epFor their fourth EP, US lo-fi/anti-folk duo Vacation take on some familiar – and not-so-familiar – tunes by other artists.  As Tori Amos proved time and again, you can take the most rocking numbers and reduce them to a minimalist piano ballad with reasonable ease, almost to the point where the once unimaginable becomes predictable.  In some ways, Vacation play by a similar rule in that their chosen material gets stripped down and re-imagined in an echoing lo-fi acoustic fashion, but whereas Ms. Amos, Emm Gryner and countless other artists always ensure there was accessibility even within their most bizarre reimaginings, these guys just want to strip things back to their most stark.  This results in at least one tune that’s anything but predictable.

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