Sunday, 23 May 2010

Mothers' Boy

This takes me back - not to Atlanta, Georgia or anywhere like the West Coast - no, back to North London; to nineteen-eighties' sun-soaked afternoons, chillin' out at a friend's house, French-doors welcoming an appreciative breeze, sharing a few beers, getting Chinese-eyed, all while listening to Little Feat.

It did tend to be Waiting For Columbus that was spinning; but I have since gained this little beauty, capturing the classic lineup of Little Feat at what I feel was their peak period, 1974.

This is a far more intimate, and authentic recording than Columbus - which is still an essential album, especially the recent expanded version, that's well worth getting - but this gig is absent of the horns and brass they later brought in; filling out their sound and to a certain extent, for me, giving it too much production value.

It's in the rawness of this recording that its real value lies; and at 320, it sounds superfine.

Me ol' mucker Hackenbacker once described Little Feat as 'cocaine for the ears', and he was spot on. Coke vibes just ooze from their sound.
(Liam Gallagher eat your heart out.)

It's curious in a way that I've always loved Little Feat, as I'm really not a fan of that West Coast, country-tinged, rock, boogie kind of thing.
The Grateful Dead, New Riders, The Burritos, Poco, Barefoot Jerry, even The Byrds, they just never did it for me; I never really connected.
But Little Feat; well, they're a different kettle of fish altogether.

Essentially, in a nutshell, it's all about Lowell George.
For me, he was Little Feat.

But of course as a band, all the elements worked so well together.
Bill Payne's jazz-rock styled keyboards juxtaposed with a very funky rhythm section, and George's legato-styled chromium slide - a Sears Roebuck eleven-sixteenth wrench socket - supported by Paul Barre's rhythm guitar just worked so damn well.

And many of the songs, especially from this period, are mini-masterpieces.
George used to write songs in what he described as a 'mosaic style': fractured, different, often quite oblique parts, stitched together into a single song; breaking away from the conventional formula so associated with this style of rock.
Something I feel he gained from serving his apprenticeship with The Mothers of Invention.

There are two stories associated with how Lowell George came to leave The Mothers.
Number one is that George played Zappa his song 'Willin'', and Zappa told him it was so good he had to leave the band and go off and get his own outfit together.
The second being that George played Zappa his song 'Willin'' and Zappa immediately sacked him for writing an ode to dope.
Both stories are plausible.
Zappa disbanded The Mothers of Invention encouraging them to form their own or infiltrate other bands to carry on where they had left off.
But then again Zappa was notoriously anti-drugs, and George was apparently quoted stating 'Zappa sacked me because I wrote a song about dope'.

(Which reminds me of one of my favourite anecdotes about Zappa, told by Pamela Zarubica, one time Suzy Creamcheese, as cited in Ben Wilson's The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play:

'At the end of the show, on the way out some typical type came running over to Frank seemingly to shake his hand. Instead, he placed a small object in it which I immediately recognised to be hash.
I should have grabbed it and marched out the door, but all the people were standing around to see what Frank would do.
He just looked down at the hash and said, 'What is it?'

The numbers of freaks stood around in complete shock, trying to figure out how the freak of them all could not only not want the hash but not even know what it was

which all seems to go along with and support the second version of how Lowell George came to 'leave' The Mothers.
But before he left he did get to play on the Zappa project, the wonderful GTOs' album (FZ not wanting to be play on the album himself, fearful that his inclusion would detract interest away from the band), so his time with Zappa wasn't all bad.
And in essence, if he did sack him, forcing him to go off and form his own band, from George's perspective, it really was the best thing Zappa could have done for him.

Of course, George is a very idiosyncratic player, but there are indications occasionally in his playing that hint at Zappa's style; particularly evident during his solo in 'The Fan', probably my favourite Little Feat number; in fact the whole track isn't a million miles away in sound from what Zappa was doing around 1974 (think of albums such as Over-Nite Senstaion and One Size Fits All).

The whole set consists of excellent versions of their songs, and they're really smokin': very hot.
But the most poignant song here is without doubt 'Cold Cold Cold'.
A song that has a macabre sense of foreboding about it; a song that seems to predict Lowell George's own demise.
The opening lines, in hindsight, seem distinctly precognitive:

'Cold, cold, cold,
Cold, cold, cold,
It was freezing cold in that hotel'

George dying of a heart attack, aged thirty-four, five years after this recording, in a hotel room at the beginning of a solo tour.
But essentially Little Feat were a good time band.
And that's the way they should be remembered.
Their music is uplifting; life affirming, and like the best things in life: very, very moreish.

Little Feat -Electrif Lycanthrope (1974)

Rock & Roll Doctor
Oh Atlanta
Two Trains
The Fan
On your Way Down
Spanish Moon
Skin It Back
Fat Man in the Bathtub
Cold Cold Cold
Dixie Chicken
Tripe Face Boogie

CD rip to mp3s raised to 320kbs (deservedly!)
Give your ears a toot here


Anonymous said...

This is the recording from Ultra-sonic studios in NY. Very good recording

roy rocket said...

Superb; you know, I just can't stop listening to it...

Let's Find H-Man A Wife said...

It was a shock wave when Lowell George died. Thanks for this.

roy rocket said...

It's the most fitting effigy.
He was special. Soulful.
Glad to share
Regards, roy

roy rocket said...

Tell me more...

. said...

There's an expanded version of this, which is very nearly the greatest thing I ever heard. A+ quality and performances, and I made a swell n' nifty cover for it from a Neon Park painting, so it looks like a real album as well as sounds like one. If yer interested, give me a call on the internal line.

roy rocket said...

I think I know of the expanded version; but aren't the other tracks from a different recording session?
And if it is the version I know, you can hear the joins, so to speak.
Am I anal-retentive?
Wouldn't mind having a butcher's at your nifty delineation though...

shoarthing said...

Hi - link to all 9 tracks from this WLIR-FM session at

Johnny T said...

Mr. Rocket....Thank you thank you thank.... you this has to be the best Little Feat recording I've heard;Not just the sound quality, but also the Band is playing tight and funky.Beautiful stuff Sir.Thanks for sharing this gem.