Sunday, June 29, 2014

Review: Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain's Visionary Music by Rob Young (Book)

My parents were into folk music. They'd go to clubs that had young men standing around singing with their fingers in their ears. Their friends were all into it too; we'd go to the Yorkshire Dales or the Peak District; everyone would get drunk and challenge each other to races over Pen-y-Ghent and back, and then they'd sing folk songs.  I assumed that people had been singing the Derby Ram, Tam Lyn and going Morris Dancing for about a thousand years. 

So I picked up this thick book, Electric Eden, to find out a little bit more about British Folk music. It turns out I was wrong. There's nothing really authentic about people – folk – singing folk music, and nothing much more authentic about recording artists, like Pentangle or the Fairport Convention, singing folk music either. "Authentic" is a problematic word.

But that's all right, because it turns out authenticity doesn't matter. Although the book  subtitle is "visionary music" it's actually about "visionary spaces" – psychogeography – although I realized this only about half-way through. The reviews I've read seem to think Rob Young is writing about music – easy mistake to make, since he devotes literally hundreds of pages to discographies and track-by-track descriptions of folk music records. But on thinking back, I remembered the book started out with a journey, a trip through a real landscape, telling  the story of Vashti Bunyan, her man Robert and her horse Bess taking a vardo from England to the Isle of Skye on a two year journey starting in 1967.  Bunyan is not provably a relative of Paul Bunyan of Pilgrim's Progress fame, says Young, "but the name is richly evocative of quests in search of paradise." Bunyan, who disappeared for about forty years after this trip, is not the most obscure folk singer discussed in this gigantic tome. And she's certainly not the only one who set out, as we used to say, "to get our head together in the country".

Now, we all know that Hunter S Thompson was somewhere outside of Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold – Bat Country – and Kraftwerk sang about how sie fahren, fahren, fahren auf der Autobahn, but as Young points out, unlike the US or Europe, Britain is not a place where the road trip is the thing itself. In the UK, "the British road is a road to the interior, of the imagination rather than a physical coverage of the distance. […]  All rambling efforts are focused on byways, lanes, hidden walks, undiscovered villages, forgotten churches, ruined walls and weathered stones […] There is the sense that one wants the landscape, and the history it contains all to oneself."

Accordingly, in between the exhaustive descriptions of almost every folk record made in Britain between about 1960 and 1974, there are the interludes where many of these people go to get their heads together in the country. My own favorite, covered briefly in the book, of course, is Robert Plant and Jimmy Page setting off to a cottage in Wales called Bron-yr-Aur, whereupon, on getting their heads together, they wrote Stairway to Heaven, among other things.  Getting heads together in the country dates back at least as far as the early 1900s, with composer John Ireland seeing fairies while walking among barrows and Neolithic sites, and his eventually settling in the Weald of West Sussex from where he could see the Chanctonbury Ring; through the Incredible String Band living in a cottage in Balmore and Glennconner, Scotland; through Donovan's purchase of three Scottish isles for a commune; through Graham Bond rehearsing a band called Magus with Carole Pegg in "a spine chilling country house in the middle of a wood"; through Paul McCartney relocating to the Mull of Kintyre, to anarcho-punk band Crass, who lived (and may still live) in a 'reality asylum' in Epping Forest.

Here a little matter of authenticity arises again. The British landscape is not unchanged from the time Stonehenge was built, or even the time when Tam Lyn was allowed back from Faeryland to live with his baby mama in the real world.

 In order to have a sufficiently robust country in which to get one's head together, one needs an acceptably idealized Britain. A widespread dream of "Britain" began at about the time of the Industrial Revolution, when the Commons were inclosed, and the men who had previously lived off of the Commons went to newtowns to work in their novel Dark Satanic Mills.  The banal reality of farm life was forgotten in favor of William Blake's Jerusalem, an altogether more stirring image of a green and pleasant land, one in which Jesus had walked, or at least Joseph of Arimathea had planted his staff at Glastonbury Tor where it grew into a mighty tree, and later a mighty music festival. It's a land of ley lines, megaliths, Silbury Hill and long barrows. The Romantic William Morris (a favorite of Jimmy Page) also hearkened back to this sort of British Dream Time, when Britain was perfect and the Grail Knights quested at the behest of a damsel, before Britain's industrial fall. A little later, J R R Tolkien, unhappy at the lack of purely English folklore, made up his own fictional landscape, pitting the very trees themselves against the steam boilers and pits of Saruman. Peter Pan's home, Neverland, plays a part and of course, Alice's adventures down the rabbit hole also redrew the maps of psychic England. The folk musicians in this book may live in Epping Forest or perform at the Stonehenge Festival, but they pass without even seeming to notice back and forth through Middle Earth, Wonderland and Blake's Jerusalem, as the fancy takes them.  Robert Plant sings of The Battle of Evermore, where the Ringwraiths arrive in black, though the setting otherwise suggests Anglo-Saxons skirmishing with Celts. 'Pon a hill, Tyrannosaurus Rex sing of the seal of seasons and kings and dwarfs, and quote from Tolkien.

What threw me initially was that the definition of psychogeography  originally specified an urban geography; it is tied in with the concept of our relationship with architecture. Will Self expanded the definition of Psychogeography in his book of the same name: he described it as "a meditation on the vexed relationship between psyche and space" and he chronicled walks not only in the standard grimy city locales of hipster psychogeography like London, New York and more London but also in the spaces between them. Yet the term does not readily stretch to landscape.  The leap came when I realized that Jerusalem, the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, Gondor and the Shire were builded here. They are architecture. Getting your head together in the country is getting your head together in a built environment, one of shared Brittanicity, if that's a word.

Young discusses a similar phenomenon of developing a shared, but inauthentic  (although by now I've given up caring about that word) history in a section on mysticism, where he points out that Alex Sanders' reinvention of modern witchcraft included a text called The Book of Shadows which had elements taken from Shakespeare's plays, Crowley, Yeats and a book by Charles Leland called Aradia.  It's a pastiche, but every modern witch, to be accepted, had to borrow an existing Book of Shadows and copy it in his/her own hand. The work was simultaneously individual and yet common to all. Earlier, Rob Young had made a relatively throwaway point that Morris Dancing is like a Cargo Cult, which puzzled me for a moment. And then I had to agree – it's people ("stealing from their own grandparents" rather than Native Americans or Indian sitar players, as Tinymixtapes said, rather peculiarly, in a review of the book) doing something they've seen done before, that used to work, even if it doesn't work now.  Getting your head together in the country is a Cargo Cult of its own. The Britain may not be "authentic" – it may even be Neverland – but the ritual has the intended effect. 

I couldn't imagine where this book would go after the early seventies, and it turned out neither could Rob Young, even with the benefit of his not writing it until the aughts.  There are still  folk musicians around – for example Billy Bragg – but Young isn't interested in the protest side of the genre. Instead, he goes down his own rabbit hole, into London Bridge station on the London Underground, to observe bands I've really never heard of (being out of the scene here in California) but who, on inspection, don't appear to have much truck with folk music whether produced authentically by the folk process or simply following in the tradition.

Ambient electronica and Acid House are mentioned and the recognizable names are Eno, Genesis P Orridge, Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin and The Orb. Benjamin Zephaniah reimagines Tam Lyn as an urban tale of immigration, a war refugee held tightly throughout a court appearance as his evil forms - such as pimp - are called up and dismissed and he becomes just a man again. Although the overarching project Young discusses is called The Imagined Village, it has a feel of real psychogeography, the fedora-wearing variety that spawns China Mieville books and people who think about Hawksmoor too much.

The road goes ever on, but the London Underground goes round in circles.

Reading a recent article by Will Self on Stonehenge one remark resonated: Self said that he normally got to Stonehenge by taking the A303.  This unusual intrusion of standard Brit car-speak (all British men love to discuss which A road and which B roads you should have taken to get where you are now, and tell you exactly why the one you took was wrong) into a conversation about a largely psychic construction struck me as hilarious but it makes a good short summation of Electric Eden.

I can't imagine many people will read every word of this book (except perhaps my old friend Roger) but you're guaranteed to get something out of it, whether it's a historical thread, a discussion of Third Ear Band, or a round-up of getting your head together in the country.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Jack of Hearts - falling in love with rock stars

There's a very interesting article that went around the Jack White community recently, dug up for us by Kali Durga.

It's William Giraldi's Jack My Heart, published by the Oxford American on June 24. It's the story of a man's obsession with a rock star.

It's interesting because it goes into some detail about infatuation from a male-on-male perspective. I've never met a man who's confessed to any similar feelings. In my own experience, when completely caught up in a pop act, men, at least online, say things like this:

Larry: "We need a mix of a 1971-era Preening Rhinoceros where the Mellotron doesn't dominate Parry's lute as it did on Dread Pirate Roberts, the 1983 BootOleggo Nihon Co. vinyl bootleg of the second set of June 12th 1971. I already have Audience Source 2 in FLAC (thanks, Gary and Harry!). I'm looking for Audience Source 3 but can't afford Brobdingnagian Dreams, the silver from El Empresa Contrabando Japon├ęs on eBay, and I missed the vine that went around last year. Can anyone upload a copy for me and I'll mix the two using BuffaloDroppings 3.1.2.x  on my Ascaris to bring out the miked instruments?" 
Barry: "Yah, bro, I have Brobdingnagian Dreams, but it's the pressing with the violet-tinted farm midden on the cover, not the one with Parry wearing a tweed overcoat on a Vespa." 
Larry: "No good, that release was sourced from the SBD with overdubs from Audience Source 4."

"Parry did NOT use the HogHonker Geetar Octavio pedal with the modified rectifier during Rupert's Stiffle on the 14th August. He only used it for the first two shows that month, and then it was back to the WhammyFart Guitar Gizmo pedal until the tour break in August. "
Larry: "Remember the lime green vinyl pressing of Tabes Dorsalis Live at the Kunstwerks? The one with the run off groove inscribed by Mother Theresa in Latin and the cover hand-painted by Lady Gaga and only five were pressed and three of those were buried in solid gold boxes under the rocket launch pad concrete at Cape Canaveral and the..." 
Barry: "Yes, obviously, I know all about it. I wrote the 40 page history of the variant pressings for Tabes Rulez! Magazine last year." 
Larry: "Well, yesterday I was in Pittsburgh for a meeting of the International Society of Bores, and someone tipped me off to this tiny record shop in the barrio and on the wall was a copy of lime green TDLATKW! And the guy sold it to me for $500!" 
Gary: "Bah, that's nothing. Nothing! Last week I went one yard outside my house to a flea market that had just been set up by total coincidence and there was a wizened Italian organ grinder there. I gave him 5¢ and his monkey handed me a lime green TDLATKW. In a gold box. And the organ grinder gave me 3¢ change! And he played Preening Rhinoceros on his organ for me!"

It appears likely that this sort of obsession is one and the same with trainspotting and stamp collecting. But not William Giraldi. He was in love, L.U.V.  This is a man who is so verklempt that he does not dare actually set foot in Third Man Records, even though he knows Jack is not selling t shirts behind the counter. 

He uses the "a" word: Authenticity.

So this was beginning to get at the core of my obsession with the White Stripes: authenticity, yes, and artistic integrity, and making the imposters accountable. Jack and Meg recorded on eight-track analog tape. No computers, no digital malarkey, no synthetic tomfoolery or over-dubbing. Jack’s guitars were ages old and one had a hole in it, the one he swapped for at a pawn shop when he was a teen. They didn’t use a set list; every song of every show was spontaneous—an antidote to formula and fatigue—and frequently Jack stopped a song halfway in, raged into a different song, and then picked up where the first song left off.

Giraldi is a novelist and some sort of English teacher, and is prone to unusual adjectives. Women at concerts are "olden", "antique" and "senescent". Jack White is "epicine", twice.  

Here is a taste, from later on, when he has gotten far enough along the path to gain some hindsight:

I’d discovered my own artistic sensibility, my own method of artistic selfhood. Artists obsess over other artists, over the masters, because we want to be them, want their aptitude and cunning and force in the world. We want to touch our targets of veneration because we’d like to filch pocketfuls of their godliness with the wish of becoming gods ourselves. We obsess over what is doled to us in pieces but denied to us in total, but only until we gain the daring to achieve our own brand of mastery.

I guess that's the take-away message. It leaves me completely blank, and I'm hoping that this is a male/female thing and not that one of us is nuts.

Like pretty much anybody else, I'm prone to obsessions, or as Giraldi so generously allows, "If you’re a prepubescent lass with Bieber eyes, infatuation is fine." From 13 or so, I've had my things for pop stars and for movie characters. (Not movie stars so much: I get storytelling and so it's the characters that do it for me.) The 'prepubescence' has lasted quite a long time - until my senescence, in fact. But I've never waded deep enough to feel this riptide get a hold and drag me.

Jack White curfewed at Dublin show. Not that he cares.

Jack White is on tour - Glastonbury tonight! Fire up your browsers! - and played Dublin's Royal Hospital Kilmainham on the 26th. The Kills were the support act, and Alison Mosshart came out to sing Jack's Love Interruption with him during his set.

I love the way he grabbed her and got her to fight back for the song's line "grab a hold of me and fight me". She's pretty good at fighting. It's lucky that they weren't singing one of the dismemberment songs from that album (Blunderbuss). If they'd acted out "cut off the bottoms of my feet, make me walk on salt" (from Freedom at 21) I doubt if it would make me grin as much.

Apparently there is a curfew in Dublin, so the PA was shut down before Jack was finished with the show.  Here he is singing Goodnight Irene (with Alison on second vocals) until the PA shuts off, when, unfazed, he just asks the audience to sing it with him instead.

This tour is shaping up pretty well, I'd say.

Edit to add: Some more views of the songs - better sightlines but incomplete.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Dib Cochran and the Earwigs - Oh Baby/Universal Love/Deep Summer (recording of single)

I was reading an interminably long web page about David Bowie's involvement in the Occult. It wasn't convincing, in general - it had that cramped-yet-loping-Gollum-style that characterizes Dr. Bronner's Soap labels and the handwritten screeds sent to the heads of observatories bearing proof that Einstein was wrong. But what really convinced me was when the writer implied that Marc Bolan and Tony Visconti had recorded an album as Dib Cochran and the Earwigs in 1972. Out of maybe a thousand "facts" in the article, that was the only one I could instantly dismiss from memory. It was a single. It was in 1970.

Collectors pay a couple of hundred pounds for a copy of the single. The internets have it, of course, so here's Oh Baby by Dib Cochran and the Earwigs for frees. I'm not sure if this is the released single or an outtake (sorry, I'm just not that obsessed), but it's close.

(Thanks to uploader Weilderofwords.)

Here's the first track on the B-Side, Universal Love.  Love the Beatles meet Bach vibe, along with a tiny touch of the atmosphere of Bowie's Low, which I assume is the Visconti influence at work. Very different from the normal Marc-pop of Oh Baby only the thickness of 1970-era vinyl away on t'other side.  It's Rick Wakeman tickling the ivories on this one.

(Thanks to uploader steve01274)

Here's the second track on the B-Side, Deep Summer. It's very familiar; it sounds like an outtake from A Beard of Stars, but it's nice to have it around, isn't it?

(Thanks to uploader purplepeace59 [link dead; this is a different uploader])

Marc wasn't finished with Oh Baby (and why should he be? It's a very catchy tune) and he recorded it with T. Rex as well. YooToob has preserved that for posterity too.

(Thanks to uploader trexmarcbolan.)

Saturday, June 21, 2014


I'm still reading  Electric Eden, by Rob Young - it's a long book - and today I reached the beginning of the end of the Folky road: The Stonehenge Festival's growth and its subsequent short sharp death at the Battle of the Beanfield.  It's an appropriate thing to be reading at the solstice, even though it was simply an accident. 

Displaying a better sense of organization than I do, Will Self has a piece in today's Guardian about Stonehenge and its modern history, that is the history of people who looked at the history of Stonehenge, and British Heritage's recent guardianship of the stone circle. (No Grauniad pun intended.)  It's entitled, "Has British Heritage ruined Stonehenge" - and I suspect that "ruin" is a pun - and is worth a read.  Self mentions the festivals, the hippies and crusties as he calls them, and the Battle of  the Beanfield

The Stonehenge Free festival began in 1974, and during the following decade the numbers of celebrants and revellers descending on the stones to dance the shortest night of the year away grew and grew. The so-called Convoy – a cavalry of hippies, anarchists and crusties that moved around the country from festival to festival – became the focus of the secular authorities' displeasure. Goaded by local landowners, in June 1985 the then chairman of English Heritage, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, took measures to suppress the Free festival. Riot police with helicopter support were called in, and the Convoy was tracked down to a Wiltshire bean field on the border where many hairy heads were unceremoniously cracked. The following year, the Public Order Act was passed by parliament, in part to suppress events such as the solstice celebration.
I remember all that nonsense fairly well. Not only was I living in England at the time, but I'd been to a festival at Stonehenge, and although I was not part of the travellers' group (that was after my visit) a great time was had by all. I can't remember a thing about the music or the festival itself, except the part where just after dawn on the solstice, after the Druids had done their ritual, a large number of us crawled under the barbed wire and sat around inside the stone circle. It was a great deal of fun, mostly because we thumbing our noses at The Man, as one did in those days, but it was not particularly magical, or sacred or visionary.

Will Self from the Guardian article.

In fact, I'd been once before as a small child, before English Heritage roped it off in 1977, and had wandered around inside the circle at that time. Like Will Self in the referenced article, I would recommend that a traveler looking to find The Old Weird England go to Avebury instead. Stonehenge is tiny. It's a marvel and all that, they dragged 11 stones 160 miles from Wales and so forth, but it is not that impressive to a modern person used to skyscrapers and even boats the size of palaces. The sheer size of Salisbury Plain dwarfs it. As flat and as closely cropped as a football pitch, the surrounding nothingness reminds one of the failure of Ozymandias to impress us with his works - all around the lone and level grass stretches far away. Avebury, by contrast, is enormous and the modern buildings in amongst the standing stones give you a sense of scale, and some sense of how important it must have been to the builders to put these things together. Why, we'll probably never know, but you are very impressed with their determination to do it.

As well as stone circles in the Cotswolds, Northern England, the Orkneys, there are more in Ireland and France, which I have not yet seen. Electric Eden is doing a good job of reconnecting me with the sheer age and gravity of Britain's landscape, but has not (at least yet) mentioned that the borders of this landscape don't match the modern borders of Britain.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Down Among The Dead Men (various media, various dates)

I'm reading a fascinating book, Electric Eden, by Rob Young, that chronicles "Britain's visionary music", by which it seems to mean, so far, folk music. I've learned a bunch which I may write about in due course, but today, let's talk about Down Among The Dead Men.

In a discussion of Fairport Convention's Liege and Lief, he refers to the deep folk content of that record. The Padstow Obby Oss and Pace Egging, for example. Then he says,

"Other artefacts include John Dyer's poem, "Down Among The Dead Men", and a postcard (discovered in the Farley House attic) of the gravestone of Thomas Thetcher, a grenadier whose preserved tombstone is situated in the churchyard of nearby Winchester Cathedral. Savage death and ritual resurrection: upon those lodestones was Liege and Lief erected."

Now Down Among The Dead Men is also the name of one my favorite science fiction stories.  It's a story about a military commander whose men are built from already dead warriors and therefore perfect fighting men in body. It turns out they are not necessarily perfect fighting bodies in, er, mind.

I had no idea that the title was from a poem, but who was I kidding? Half of SF titles are from a poem somewhere. So I looked it up on the Goog.

The John Dyer poem itself, is not about heroism.

It's actually a metaphor - drink, and throw your empty bottles on the floor with the other dead men (bottles). No combat is implied, nor for that matter savage death and/or ritual resurrection.

No aspersions to cast on the Electric Eden book, which I love so far, but it's interesting to me what I can get out of chasing a reference down the internet rabbit hole. How amazing to live in a world where "folk music" that tentatively got "saved" - or not - a hundred years ago is amenable to annotations by someone in an armchair.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Jack White in concert at the Fonda 2014-06-10 (Pro-shot video)

I don't even have my copy of Lazaretto yet but I did get to see a live Jack White band set, courtesy of NPR here.  They streamed it, but they have left the video up and it's still playable.

I don't know how long the live stream is left up, so watch it while you can.

The crowd is a bit hopeless. I know I've been scathing in the past of rock bands who want to "feed off the crowd's energy" (man) but even I manage to clap my hands together and say "yay!" every now and again. It's the done thing. No one seems to have told this audience about it, though.

Any time you can watch something for free, it's a bonus, but I heard the set the next day (at the Mayan) blows this one out of the water, in terms of everybody's energy level and the fact that Jack jumped off the stage and walked behind the rail, so the front row of people got to touch him, which I would guess is probably better than watching a streaming video.

This band, the Peazzards (I guess, since Buzzcocks was already taken) is very blue, isn't it? Jack, you're sending yourself and your band blind. Change the lighting! It's also a little bit high-pitched what with a fiddle, a theremin and a squealy guitar player. A full-metal rock and roll band would have a growly saxophone to add a bit of dirt.  Free suggestion there, Jackie.

I'm hearing some of these songs for the first time, so I'll listen to this again today to get a better idea of them. The old faithful songs do sound different with this band. Some work better with a full band and some sound a bit busy. And I know I'm immersed in the Led Zeppelin remasters at the moment, but that version of Ball and Biscuit  (the first encore) sounded so much like The Lemon Song that I was singing the wrong words. "Came home last night, worked as hard as I can. I bring home my money, you take my money, give it to another man..." Of course I'd pay good money to hear Jack sing squeeze my lemon 'till the juice runs down my leg. He seems to have found his filth mojo recently and stopped pretending that everything is about sisters, friends and candy canes, so I suppose it's not out of the question.

Edit to add: Here's another video stream from KROQ. It's only up for another few hours though, so I won't make a separate post about it. It also has The Lemon Song version. :)

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Girl with a glass eyelid

I know these embedded objects are hard to see. If you're interested, here's a photobook of mine. If not, click on, friend.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Lazaretto - Jack White (video 2014)

A new Jack White video.

And it's the manliest ever!

Well, that was quite a video. 

One of my favorite music videos is Michael and Janet Jackson's Scream, which shared that high key aesthetic and also, now I come to check it, featured breaking glass screens and guitars. Jack's newest reminded me of that. However, Michael's cost $7 million, whereas I bet Jack didn't spend more than $17,000 on his. And Michael's was a bit girly, let's face it.

Jack's video was just bursting with testosterone!!!11! Shattering glass, pry bars, muscle cars doing donuts, fuzzy dice, bulls, spitting, balls, skeletons, flames, playing in an asbestos suit (due to said flames), wrecking ball, manly drummer in skintight trousers, someone twiddling his knob so hard I thought it might tear off, an explosion and a snake!

It was so filled with manliness I had to go have a shave afterwards. 

Not with me? Come on, the first shot is an inside-facing-out view of someone thrusting Jack plug into a tight socket!

They don't make them like this any more! Well, not until now!

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Led Zeppelin and their wacky analog recording techniques explained

Very interesting article in the Wall Street Journal today, synced with the release of the newly remastered Led Zeppelin releases.  It's called The Making of Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love, and has new material from Jimmy Page, George Chkiantz and Eddie Kramer.

When I first heard Whole Lotta Love, on LP (or "vinyl" as they say nowadays for some reason), one bit that stood out was the way that Robert Plant's vocals were foreshadowed by a quiet, eerie repetition of the line that (unlike most repetitions) preceded the actual line, "Way down inside, woman, you need..."

You can hear it at the four minute mark here.

At first I thought that the line was sung so loud that I was hearing 'ghosting', something breaking through from the next groove, but I never heard a similar thing on "a vinyl". When I started reading books about Led Zeppelin, I got the impression that this was Jimmy's invention, and was called either backwards echo or pre-echo. They had statements like these:

...the track's famous "middle section." This was an abstract (but carefully rehearsed) gyre of sound - clamoring trains, women in orgasm, a napalm attack on the Mekong Delta, a steel mill just as the plant shut down. It had a strange, descending riff that Page sculpted with a metal slide treated with backwards echo.
(Quite obviously no one else than Stephen Davis in Hammer of the Gods. A wonderful prose stylist even if the band didn't like his book!)

...the famous psychedelic middle-section of 'Whole Lotta Love', in which Plant's howling lust-maddened vocal improvs are mixed with an other-wordly cacophony of special effects, from the backwards echo of the slide guitar to the grinding sound of a steel mill, orgasming women, even a napalm-bomb explosion...
(The much later and yet eerily similar phrasing of Mick Wall, in When Giants Walked The Earth - perhaps the first and the second passages together only count as one citation.)

Drenched in reverb as it was, "Whole Lotta Love" featured Page's innovation of backward echo, which he had tried as far back as the Yardbirds and on the earlier "You Shook Me" against Glyn John's reservations that "Jimmy, it can't be done."
(George Case in the very readable and recommended Jimmy Page: Magus, Musician, Man.)

Pre-echo, baby. Run the tape backwards and print the echo to another track, then flip it and it comes first. Cool in both sound and concept.
(geo, a person of the internet.)

It turns out, per the conversations in the WSJ that I, and many others, were reading something into it that wasn't there.  The vocal is a print-through or bleed through from another track - but not on the record, on the master tape. It's not done deliberately by reversing the tape and rerecording it, it was just there already.

From the WSJ article:

Mr. Kramer: At the point where the song breaks and Robert slowly wails, "Way down inside…wo-man…you need…love," Jimmy and I heard this faint voice singing the lyric before Robert did on the master vocal track. Apparently Robert had done two different vocals, recording them on two different tracks. Even when I turned the volume down all the way on the track we didn't want, his powerful voice was bleeding through the console and onto the master.Some people today still think the faint voice was a pre-echo that we added on purpose for effect. It wasn't—it was an accident. Once Jimmy and I realized we had to live with it on the master, I looked at Jimmy, he looked at me and we both reached for the reverb knob at the same time and cracked up laughing. Our instincts were the same—to douse the faint, intruding voice in reverb so it sounded part of the master plan.
Mr. Page: I hadn't heard anything like that before and loved it. I was always looking for things like that when I recorded. That's the beauty of old recording equipment. Robert's faraway voice sounded otherworldly, like a spirit anticipating the vocal he was about to deliver.
Mr. Kramer: By adding reverb, we made his faint voice more dynamic, and it became part of rock history.

So you learn something every day!

The rest of the article is well worth a read too.


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