Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Kazoo-ming, who?

The Kazoo.

It doesn't exactly cause an anticipatory excitation of the soul, does it?
It hardly conjures up the pastoral or the sacred, let's admit it.
And I'm not sure I recollect any great kazoo period: no golden age or even passing fad.

The only person I tend to associate with the 'instrument' nowadays is the poet Michael Horowitz; who finds the need to end the reading of a poem with a Yankee-Doodle Pigeon type kazoo fanfare! And to be quite honest, it bugs the shit out of me.

I can only recall one kazoo 'break' within a song where the hum-oriented rasping of a spitty membrane sounds at all appropriate, and that's The Mothers' 'Hungry Freaks, Daddy', from the Freak Out album.

That was until I heard this.

This, in my opinion, is one of the greatest collection of covers ever recorded, juxtaposed and put out there.

Now some might say that this is nothing but an absurd novelty record, and the Temple City Kazoo Orchestra leader David Humms with those down at Rhino Records were having a bit of a laugh and a joke; but in a post-post-modern world, who knows? They certainly look pretty sincere to me. What do you think?

This e.p., one of the first Rhino Records released, kind of summed-up what they were all about in the late 70s.

Before they became a reissue label Rhino specialised in producing recordings for outsider musicians, such as Wild Man Fisher (producing their first 45, essentially a commercial entitled 'Come to Rhino Records' - checkout the excellent movie Derailroaded for the back-story to that little project - save that for another posting...).

Now, Rhino is a very different animal.
To the extent that this early piece of punk-situationism isn't even mentioned on their own web site!

Maybe I have the only copy!

At only four tracks long: it's long enough.
It's just right. Anymore and you'd want to attempt to break the world's discus record with it; any less and it would leave you salivating; slavering for more.

Beginning with a Vegas flourish; the humming rises slowly, shaping and forming the classic notes of 'Also Sprach Zarathustra', and then before you know it, it's as if you've been thrown into a slaughter house for cats. (I find it best to listen to this track via distorting plastic speakers.)
Before you have time to draw breath, the seventies are alive again, and the technicolour nylon hum of white disco 'music' bursts forth.

The version of 'Miss You' is a lot more emotionally raw than the Stones' original, I feel. It's far more vital; more authentic - the Kazoo really seems to ratchet up the emotional intensity of the blues, as you can imagine.

In classic tradition, they save the best till last. Again, in some ways out-classing the original, this 'Live' version of 'Whole Lotta Love' is staggering. Literally.
The hum-work is tremendous. Lips bled for this recording, and they must have known this could only be achieved once; truly making this recording the Trout Mask Replica of the kazoo genre.
So look out for it in ten years time or so, perhaps it will be up there, alongside the top few, the best, the classics.

The Temple City Kazoo Orchestra - Some Kazoos. 1978.

2001 Sparch Kazoostra
Staying Alive
Miss You
Whole Lotta Love

get it here


brokedownengine said...

Absolutely insane. Not sure I could handle more than 4 songs either. Thanks for this rarity.

Sam said...

I've already got two of these, which is enough for me. But if you fancy a bit more kazoo there are some Fall tracks which feature it, notably 'The NWRA' and 'New Face In Hell', both on 'Grotesque' LP.

Beowulf said...

First heard this On John Peel Show and went out and bought it, and I've still got my copy in the loft, but haven't heard it in years, so thanks for ripping and sharing it, there was/is a full LP by them but I've never heard it only seen it in a Record Shop many years ago

Anonymous said...

This is wonderful. I could handle a box set's worth, no dramas. Many thanks for this exceptional post!

A Dashing Blade said...

"Maybe I have the only copy!" . . . nope!

roy rocket said...

Good for you!
Although, who's to say you didn't get it from me...?
Bless, roy