No Sleep ‘til Made in Japan

Merriam-Webster defines ‘completist’ as ‘one who wants to make something (as a collection) complete’. Hmmm. When I looked up the word, I was sure it would be listed as a medical term, because this affliction has been causing me great pain and suffering for most of my life.

My name is Bob Mayo, and I’m a Completist.

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Deep Purple’s landmark live lp ‘Made in Japan’ was originally released on double-vinyl in December of 1972 (April of ’73 in the US). I bought it sometime around 1979, and it’s been in my personal Top Ten ever since. It’s my sincere belief that this album contains rock music’s greatest recorded performances (my late friend Larry Boyd would disagree, and insist that the Who’s ‘Live at Leeds’ holds that title; I’ll grant it’s a strong contender). As an avid reader of liner notes and credits for all of my lps in those days, I knew that the album was culled from 3 shows: Osaka on August 15 & 16, and Tokyo on August 17, and that the best versions of the songs performed would have been chosen for the album. I never felt the need to hear the unused tracks, and never thought I would ever get the chance anyway. I was not yet fully in the grip of completism.

In 1982, I was stunned when I first saw an imported copy of a compilation album called ’24 Carat Purple’ from 1975 that contained a live version of ‘Black Night’, recorded in Tokyo on 17 August, 1972. So… ‘they’ decided to release another track from the MIJ gigs? Knowing it was out there, I had to have it. That may have been the moment where I was bitten by the completist bug. Sometime around 1991, I obtained a bootleg cassette of the entire August 16 Osaka show, which despite the terrible audio quality and increased pitch/speed due to multiple generations, at least revealed that the legendary ‘no overdubs’ claim is true (at least for the August 16 show). As the CD Age dawned, and I bought ‘MIJ’ on compact disc, I wondered, with the increased capacity of the format, why the cruel, unfeeling monsters at EMI hadn’t made it a 2-disc set and included some of the unreleased material. My completist tendencies were beginning to manifest themselves.

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While in Europe in 1993, I stumbled across a 3-disc Deep Purple set CD called ‘Live in Japan’. I was completely unaware of its existence (this was before the internet), and I snapped it up and clutched it to my chest lest another rabid MIJ fan try to pry it away from me. A feverish read of the booklet revealed that it contained almost all of the material recorded in Japan in 1972. Almost. Sure, it presented more than what was included on the original ‘MIJ’, a lot more, actually; but it still wasn’t everything. Each CD in the set contained a different show, and so 5 recordings originally released on ‘MIJ’ were included here, in an attempt to reassemble the running order of each gig. Still, 4 recordings (mainly the encores) could not be included due to time constraints. So while the set contained a total of 16 previously unheard recordings from DP’s August ’72 tour, we also get 5 ‘MIJ’ versions we’ve all known for decades, occupying the space that could have been given to the final 4 unreleased recordings. Maddening. I was at this point, a total completist. Or complete totalist. Or raving lunatic.

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In 1998, the depraved, sadistic subhuman slime at EMI Europe announced the release of a 25th anniversary edition of ‘Made in Japan’, newly remastered and featuring a second disc of…. The Missing Encores! YES!! FINALY! Hurrah! Wait, wha—?

Deep breaths…

Of the 6 encores performed over 3 nights, 2 of them were released on the 3-cd Live In Japan, and 3 were included on the remastered ‘MIJ’… leaving only ONE SONG from the three 1972 Japanese Purple gigs as yet unreleased. It was a version of ‘Black Nigh’t from the August 16 Osaka show. The wicked, degenerate cretins who control Deep Purple’s catalog were clearly plotting to see how much torture I could take before my head exploded. Soon after getting the CD in the mail, I also noticed that this 25th anniversary edition has most of Ian Gillan’s stage banter edited out. Happy Anniversary! The classic line “Can we have everything louder than everything else?” was GONE. To save 23 seconds of running time. Who was making these decisions? Names! I needed NAMES!!

I eventually remembered that I had a cassette of the August 16 Osaka show, which contained the missing ‘Black Night’. It was 1998, and not everyone had the desktop equivalent of a recording studio on their laptop just yet, so I took the cassette to a local recording studio, where the engineer transferred the song onto 4” tape, slowed the tape speed to correct the speed and pitch, and used some of his other magic electric doohickeys to clarify and otherwise improve the sound quality. He burned the resulting track onto a CD. THERE!! I DID IT! YOU BASTARDS!!

With the advent of iTunes, I was finally able to group together all of the related tracks from several disparate sources, and recreate the Japanese Purple gigs in their correct running order. Yes, one of the encores still kinda sounded like shit, but I had come as close as humanly possible to recreating the audio from those 3 nights.

And then…

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‘Listen, Learn, Read On’, a 6-cd box set, was released in 2002. It was and remains the biggest and most comprehensive set of Deep Purple material ever released at 74 tracks total, 24 of them previously unreleased at that point. One of them was the Holy Grail: ‘Black Night’, August 16, Osaka. In all its pristine, mixed and mastered glory. I replaced my cleaned-up bootleg version of ‘Black Night’ with this version. The tremors stopped; I started sleeping through the night again.

Soon after spending about one hundred bucks on the 6-disc set, it dawned on me why the depraved inbred reprobates at EMI had withheld that one final song for so long. Holding it back for the ‘L,L,RO’ box set was added incentive for folks to shell out big money for a massive 6-disc set that was 64% material that potential buyers likely already owned. But what the wicked, soulless cretins in charge didn’t understand was that we Purple fans (completists) would have had no issue spending 100 bucks on 24 unreleased Deep Purple tracks, Holy Grail of not. I’ve spent more on less.

You still can’t buy a complete version of the audio from Deep Purple’s three nights in Japan in August of 1972. You’d have to buy the Made in Japan 25th Anniversary Remaster, the 3-CD Live In Japan set, and the 6-CD Listen Learn, Read On box (ooooh, sorry; it’s now out-of-print). iTunes is currently selling a woefully incomplete version of ‘Live in Japan’, with only 14 tracks and absolutely zilch in the way of liner notes, credits or recording info. It’s listed as a ‘partial album’. WTF good is that? There has been internet chatter about the corrupt, villainous perverts at Warner Bros. releasing a 40th Anniversary set, but as we head into Autumn of 2013 with nothing confirmed, this looks doubtful.

Jon Lord R.I.P.

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The Song Remains… Completely Different

Let’s face it: Led Zeppelin peaked with ‘Led Zeppelin IV’. Or whatever you choose to call it.

‘Houses of the Holy’ was a bit of a come-down, with Plant’s high-register vocals sounding comical in places, and two throwaway tracks, “The Crunge” and “D’yer Mak’er”, wasting about 7.5 minutes of the record. And no one’s ever going to convince me that ‘Presence’ is a great or even good album. The band sound thin, tired, and worn-out, and the songs (yes, with a few exceptions) are weak. ‘In Through the Out Door’? Please.

Many would argue that the mighty Zep peaked with ‘Physical Graffiti’, often referred to as Led Zeppelin’s tour de force, their magnum opus, their epic masterwork. I agree with all the hyperbole; the record, as delivered, is amazing, and perhaps their definitive work. But there’s another album hidden inside ‘Physical Graffiti’, an album that is seldom acknowledged when this record is discussed. Of the 15-tracks on this sprawling 2-record set, only 8 were recorded for at Headley Grange in early 1974 for Led Zep’s sixth studio album. It’s these 8 songs that make up the real ‘Physical Graffiti’.

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Why pick it apart? For those interested in following Led Zeppelin’s career trajectory, or their creative arc, the version of ‘Physical Graffiti’ that we all know and love does not paint an accurate picture of where the band was in terms of songwriting or musicianship in 1974, as it contains 7 songs (almost half of the album) that were recorded years before the ’74 sessions; some as far back as 1970. While there’s no doubt that Zeppelin’s outtakes and throwaways are far superior to most bands’ best material, the inclusion of so many older songs here obscures what was really going on with the band musically and creatively at this period in their history. Dealing with the material from the ’74 sessions exclusively is the only way to truly understand and appreciate Led Zeppelin’s 6th studio album.

So what have we got here? The eight songs at the heart of ‘Physical Graffiti’ (in order of their appearance on the album) are:

Custard Pie
In My Time of Dying
Trampled Under Foot
Kashmir
In the Light
Ten Years Gone
The Wanton Song
Sick Again

This ‘album’ clocks in at a little over 53 minutes, which is why the band, rather than cut out 10 minutes of new material, opted instead to expand the project to a 2-record set by adding some leftovers from previous sessions. This moved the album away from being a major statement like ‘Exile on Main Street’ or the ‘White Album’ and into compilation album territory. But with the older songs eliminated, one can appreciate the record in an entirely new and different way. I have the songs set up this way in my iTunes, without all of the extraneous material, and have been listening to this version of the album for a few years, long enough to have fooled my brain into perceiving it in the same way it perceives ‘Houses…’ or ‘Presence’ or ‘III’. For me, this is Led Zeppelin’s 6th album… This is ‘Physical Graffiti’.

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The verdict? No surprises here; it’s still great. But removing all of the extraneous material reveals what could easily be considered Led Zep’s heaviest album. It’s certainly their last great one. Any band would kill to sound this vital, this dangerous, on their sixth studio album. The production is a little ragged (Plant himself called the sessions ‘really raunchy’); however, the lack of the fourth album’s production polish suits the material. Many of the vocals were cut live and are a tad low in the mix, perhaps to hide the rough edges evident in some of the performances. Page’s multi-layered guitar arrangements, at the forefront on ‘Houses…’, are in evidence everywhere. John Paul Jones, Zep’s secret weapon, shines on keyboards in several songs, most notably on “In the Light” and “Trampled Under Foot”. Bonham sounds absolutely massive, as ever. The songs are at once hard-hitting and dynamic; crushing blues, wistful balladry, Middle Eastern prog, and razor-sharp hard rock— the only thing missing is an acoustic number. But what this version of the record lacks in scope when compared to the double-album version, it makes up for in raw creativity, not to mention raw power. It makes perfect sense as a successor to ‘Houses…’, has its own distinct personality, and is more than worthy of recognition on its own without all the extra baggage.

Zep Fans: Take a few minutes and set up the real ‘PG’ in  your mp3 player and check it out with fresh ears; revisit the classic record and discover the buried treasure within. I still think they peaked with ‘IV’. But the true ‘Physical Graffiti’, not that overblown yard sale of a 2-record set, is my favorite Led Zeppelin album. After all, I ‘produced’ it myself.

You’ve Been a Dynamite Audience

 …In which I recommend 3 live albums based solely on the audiences therein. 

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Originally recorded in 1964/65, ‘The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl’ wasn’t released until 1977, as several engineers and producers felt the sound quality was inadequate. In terms of the commercial viability of a posthumous Beatles release, they were right; the Beatles’ performance can barely be heard through the din of thousands of screaming teenage girls. But the clamor for an official live Beatles recording was intensified by the rise of bootlegs in the 70’s, and Capitol finally relented with a George Martin-mixed version of the Hollywood Bowl tapes. Compared to other live rock albums of the era (B.B King’s 1965 ‘Live at the Regal’, James Brown’s 1963 ‘Live at the Apollo’, etc), ‘The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl’ is a mess. For all intents and purposes, it’s a field recording of 18,000 hysterical adolescent females. The feeble attempt at musical accompaniment provided by the Beatles pales in comparison to the never-ending onslaught of near-white noise intensity provided by their fans. The band, performing without stage monitors and recorded onto just 3 tracks, soldier through the chaos, at times sounding tentative, at other times, terrified.

If, however, you view ‘The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl’ as an historical document, it’s incredible. If later generations should ever struggle to recall exactly what ‘Beatlemania’ was all about, they need only spin this record for a reminder. As a snapshot of an important time in music history that can never be repeated, it’s indispensable. And as the only official live album by the biggest and most important rock and roll band ever, it’s a perfect artifact of the frenzy they created in this country. It truly has to be heard to be believed. Incredibly, this album has never been released on CD, despite its having reached #1 in both the US and the UK. Somebody get on this. 

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On July 17, 1982, an unsigned blues trio called Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble walked onto the stage at the Montreux International Festival. It was the first time an unsigned band had ever played the prestigious European event. Double Trouble were booked on an all-acoustic night, and as the unknown band began their very electric set, the audience let its displeasure be known. Loudly. Three years later, Stevie Ray and his band returned to the Montreux International Festival a conquering hero. And the audience greeted him as such.

Both shows were recorded. ‘Live at Montreux 1982 & 1985’ was released as a 2-CD set in 2001 and provides a ‘you are there’ perspective on both shows. The 1982 disc shows the band burning through their early material despite the open derision of the festival audience, heard loud and clear in between songs. No attempt was made during production to minimize the impact of the audience’s overwhelmingly negative response throughout the 1982 show, and if you’re a musician or performer of any kind, it’s not easy listening.

All things considered, the 1982 show is the better of the 2 shows presented here. Both the performances and the recording quality are better here than on the 1985 disc. The band is crackling with nervous energy while Stevie plays his ass off, trying to prove himself and shut the naysayers upwhile the booing just gets louder and louder as the band progresses through the set. There’s a DVD version of this release that also presents both shows, and the final shot from 1982 showing Stevie walking off the stage, head down, is heartbreaking.

Thankfully, the 1985 Montreux performance is also part of the package. While the performances and recording quality on the 1985 disc are subpar, it still provides the perfect antidote to the underlying creeping dread of the ’82 show: the roar of the crowd welcoming him back. Pop this baby in just for the first 30 seconds, and hear Montreux’s apology to Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble.

Metallicko

February 9th, 1974; The Michigan Palace in Detroit: The setting for the not-quite-historic last gig by Iggy and the Stooges. The show was recorded by a fan and later given to Stooges guitarist James Williamson, who later turned the tapes over to the French bootleg label Skydog. ‘Metallic K.O.’ was released a few years later, in 1976. As an ‘Official’ live album, it’s a disaster. No legit label would have ever touched this; only Williamson’s involvement keeps it from being classified a ‘bootleg’ release. But over time, ‘K.O.’ has become a valid and important piece of the Stooges legacy because it presents Iggy in all of his confrontational, audience-baiting glory. This important element of the Ig oeuvre that had never been captured on the Stooges studio records.

The excerpt below is taken from a 1974 essay by Lester Bangs, and describes his experience attending the show that immediately preceded the one recorded for ‘Metallic K.O.’

The audience, which consisted largely of bikers, was unusually hostile, and Iggy, as usual, fed on that hostility, soaked it up and gave it back and absorbed it all over again in an eerie, frightening symbiosis. “All right,” he finally said, stopping a song in the middle, “you assholes wanta hear ‘Louie, Louie,’ we’ll give you ‘Louie, Louie.'” So the Stooges played a forty-five-minute version of “Louie Louie,” including new lyrics improvised by the Pop on the spot consisting of “You can suck my ass / You biker faggot sissies,” etc.

By now the hatred in the room is one huge livid wave, and Iggy singles out one heckler who has been particularly abusive: “Listen, asshole, you heckle me one more time and I’m gonna come down there and kick your ass.” “Fuck you, you little punk,” responds the biker. So Iggy jumps off the stage, runs through the middle of the crowd, and the guy beats the shit out of him, ending the evening’s musical festivities by sending the lead singer back to his motel room and a doctor. I walk into the dressing room, where I encounter the manager of the club offering to punch out anybody in the band who will take him on. The next day the bike gang, who call themselves the Scorpions, will phone WABX-FM and promise to kill Iggy and the Stooges if they play the Michigan Palace on Thursday night. They do (play, that is), and nobody gets killed, but Metallic K.O. is the only rock album I know where you can actually hear hurled beer bottles breaking against guitar strings.

The record is a harrowing listen, and not for the faint of heart. It’s performer vs. audience, and the hostility is palpable from both sides. Bangs is not exaggerating about the exploding beer bottles; ice, light bulbs, glasses, even eggs can be heard impacting the instruments, PA equipment, and the musicians themselves. Iggy provides a running commentary through his responses to the crowd’s attempts to derail the band’s performance (which was already seriously off-the-rails from get-go). Iggy is clearly getting off on the audience interaction and feeds it with non-stop threats, taunts and verbal abuse until it’s clear the band are in serious danger at the end of the set. An aura of imminent disaster permeates ‘Metallic K.O.’ It’s a miracle no one was seriously injured, or even killed. But to Iggy Pop, it isn’t rock and roll if it’s not dangerous.