Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Vital Organs

In my early teens, in the mid-1970’s and before the shockwave of punk hove into view and changed everything about the way I saw the world, I was briefly obsessed by the music of The Doors. Like many others, I suppose I was drawn by the air of dark mystery which attached itself to Jim Morrison, only amplified by the tragic circumstances of his death and the rumours that it had been faked by the singer himself.  Over time I tired of all of this hokum and I rarely seek out the band’s music these days, although I’m always rather surprised to realise how much it can still stir within me when I do come across it.
The element of The Doors sound which has stayed most in my consciousness, though, is Ray Mazarek’s organ playing and I was greatly saddened to hear of his recent death, at the all-too-young age of 74.

Manzarek’s passing set me musing on the sound of the electric organ and particularly its use in instrumental surf music. Now, it’s far from an uncommon  to hear an organ on surf recordings (including by my own former band, Dead Man’s Curve, with Johnny Deadman on Vox Continental), but it was nevertheless good to receive the eponymous debut CD from Alabama’s High Fidelics in the post last week. Robert Hoffman (who previously added organ to the sound of the fabulous Penetrators) is the keyboard wrangler with these guys, taking a prominent role on refreshingly varied tunes such as New Killer Ray, Spy Smasher, Black Dahlia, the ever-so-slightly bizarre collision between The Shadows and The Nice, that is Aquestriana and the Starsky and Hutch soundtrackery of Theme From Kismet. The album dates from 2012, but apparently a new one is due later this year, and I'm certainly looking forward to hearing it. One word of warning, though. The album only plays on one of my CD players, which is in the bathroom. Makes a great accompaniment to a refreshing shower, though!

While we’re on the subject of organs, I would like to point you towards this guide to combo organs, introduced by the ever excellent Blodwyn P Teabag, a woman who once slept on the living room floor at HangNine Towers, when her former band, The Thurston Lava Tube visited Brighton.

Now you might think that Blodwyn is slightly over-egging the pudding with her bold assertion that, “…it is possible to record a piece of music without an organ on it, but it won’t be as good,” and one band who might agree with you are the West Samoa Surfer League, a three-piece from Ulm in Germany, featuring two former members of The Space Rangers.  Their new CD, the Moments of Truth EP, dropped through the letter box within a day or so of The High Fidelics’ release.  No organs whatsoever on these six tracks (two of which are Point Zero), but plenty of full-on in-yer-face high-energy surf music, with covers of Dave Myers’ Moment of Truth, The Pharos’ Pintor and Bobby Fuller’s Stringer joined by the splendidly named What Would Takeshi Kovacs Do? It’s great stuff from the latest in a line of German bands and it would be good indeed to see them playing in the UK at some point in the future. Brighton beckons perhaps!

Coming soon: the new album from Man or Astroman? and the Surfer Joe Summer Festival.

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