Rock Snobbery Selected Entries (Page 2)
NOTE: Given the complexities and interconnectedness of the Snob universe, cross-references between entries are common and are spelled out in CAPITAL LETTERS for easy identification.
Delaney and Bonnie. Frye-booted, syphilitic-looking married couple of early-’70s vintage (last name: Bramlett) who pioneered the “heavy friends” approach to a rock career, recording several albums of amiable but undistinguished blues chooglin’ in the company of such esteemed helpers as Eric Clapton, Duane Allman, George Harrison, and Dave Mason. (Their best-known album is called Delaney & Bonnie & Friends on Tour with Eric Clapton.) Though their time in the spotlight was short-lived, Bonnie Bramlett resurfaced in the late ’70s when she clocked Elvis Costello in a bar fight.
Dexys Midnight Runners. English pop group known to civilians as the one-hit wonders behind the 1982 song “Come On Eileen” but to Snobs as the vehicle of the audacious musical maverick and street tough Kevin Rowland, who led the band through three distinct incarnations. The first, as featured on the 1979 album Searching for the Young Soul Rebels, was a horn-driven northern soul refutation of Rowland’s punk-rock origins; the second, as featured on 1982’s Too-Rye-Ay, was the scruffy, fiddle-y, banjo-pickin’, overalls-wearin’, shirt-shunnin’ approach familiar to early-MTV viewers; the third, as featured on 1984’s Don’t Stand Me Down, was a critic-baiting hodgepodge of evangelical keening and Beckettesque spoken interludes, its weirdness compounded by Rowland’s perverse Brooks Brothers makeover of the band (madras shorts, plaid blazers, rep ties, Golden Fleece polos, etc.). Though Rowland today is considered a damaged nut job—he appeared on the cover of his 1999 album, My Beauty, in a dress and garters, apparently sincere in his desire to look sexy—Don’t Stand Me Down was re-appraised upon its CD reissue as a work of genius by Britain’s last great pop auteur.
Dion. Bronx-born tenor-survivor—full name Dion DiMucci—fetishized by Snobs not so much for his late-50s tenure in the Belmonts (“A Teenager in Love”) or his early-60s solo stardom (“The Wanderer”) as for his patchy later career. Thanks to a serious heroin habit, Dion took a five-year furlough from the business before re-emerging in 1968, Bobby Darin–style, as a sincere folkie. A subsequent incarnation as a street poet (tweed pimp hats à la Springsteen) was less fruitful. The CD reissue of Dion’s uneven, long-out-of-print 1975 album Born to Be with You—produced by Phil Spector when both men couldn’t get arrested commercially—has prompted flailing spasms of rock-crit overpraise.
DJ Kool Herc. Hulking, dreadlocked Jamaican expat known to all Snobs as the true originator of hip-hop, predating even the Kangol-capped DJs and MCs of the genre’s OLD SCHOOL. In the early 1970s, Herc, who was born Clive Campbell in Kingston and nicknamed Hercules in his Bronx high school for his athletic prowess, started deejaying at block parties. Attempting to recreate the dub-style rhythmic sparseness he remembered from parties in his homeland, Herc set up two turntables side-by-side, enabling him to run together rhythmic breaks, or break beats, from two copies of the same arcane record—establishing the foundation, figuratively and sonically, of hip-hop. (Herc enlisted an MC named Coke La Rock to rap lines like “Ya rock and ya don’t stop,” and later traveled from party to party with a whole posse of “Herculoids.”) A recalcitrant individual who has seldom recorded, Herc has enhanced his Snob cred by keeping a low profile.
Dobro. Brand name for a family of hollow-bodied, heavily ornamented resonator guitars developed in California in the 1920s. Long beloved by country, blues, and bluegrass players for their metallic, extra-twangy sound and gorgeous circular cover plates, Dobros are increasingly valued by rock-country hybridists like Wilco, Ryan Adams, and Lucinda Williams, especially the square-necked models, which afford a musician the priceless roots-sensitive visual opportunity to play a guitar horizontally in one’s lap.
Eat the Document. Unreleased documentary of Bob Dylan’s tumultuous 1966 world tour with the Hawks (later to be known as the Band), filmed, like the previous year’s Dylan-doc, Don’t Look Back, by D.A. Pennebaker, but this time in color, and edited in nonlinear, “impressionistic” fashion by Dylan himself. Commissioned as a TV special for ABC but shelved for being too weird, Eat the Document remains extraordinarily difficult to see—literally so in the poor-quality bootlegs in wide circulation. Even the “official” version occasionally screened in museums and arthouse theaters omits all but seconds of the the film’s most famous footage, of competitor-compatriots Dylan and John Lennon tensely trading shtick in the back of a limo in London before Dylan, haggard and ill, retches into the camera.
E-bow. Guitarist’s gadget that allows the player to create eerie drones and cello-like sustains. Introduced in the mid-1970s, the e-bow is a small handheld box that, when placed near a guitar’s strings, creates a magnetic field that results in a feedback-like wail that’s more controllable than actual feedback. The ’80s Scottish group Big Country used the e-bow to create its trademark “bagpipey guitar” sound, while Peter Buck used the device on R.E.M.’s least-enjoyable single, named, in tribute, “E-Bow the Letter.”
Eno, Brian. Egghead producer and electronics whiz with appropriately futuristic name and aerodynamic pate. Eno started out as the keyboard player for Roxy Music and went on to make his name as a producer (Talking Heads, Devo, U2) and pioneer of ambient music, the soundtrack for everything from aromatherapy to recreational drug use to booting up Windows 95. Eno enjoys his greatest Rock Snob status, however, for his ’70s solo albums, Another Green World, Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), Here Come the Warm Jets, and Before and After Science.
Erickson, Roky. Texas psychedelia kingpin often championed, like Skip Spence, as North America’s answer to SYD BARRETT. The oddball lead singer of the 13th Floor Elevators, Erickson was arrested for possession of drugs in 1968. Attempting to avoid jail time, he pleaded insanity and was committed to Texas’s Rusk State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, where electroshock therapy exacerbated his eccentric tendencies more than drugs ever did. Now lives under his family’s supervision in Austin, occasionally recording gonzo albums that actually get decent reviews.
Faithfull, Marianne. Marlboro-voiced pop survivor who has shed her earlier incarnations—as the English-rose chanteuse of the baroque-pop Jagger-Richards song “As Tears Go By” and the wasted Rolling Stones concubine who inspired and co-wrote “Sister Morphine”—to become the witty, Weimarish den mama of indiedom. Having first gone down this path with 1979’s comeback LP, Broken English, Faithfull cashed in her formidable equity as a Rock Snob icon by recording her 2002 album, Kissin’ Time, with top-ranking collaborators Beck, Billy Corgan, and Jarvis Cocker.
Flaming Lips, the. Late-blooming Oklahoma-based rock group, around long enough to have opened for the SEMINAL ’80s hardcore and punk-pop bands Black Flag, Hüsker Dü, and the Butthole Surfers, but now at the vanguard of a widescreen-psychedelia movement that also includes Mercury Rev and the Polyphonic Spree. Gradually sloughing off their scuzz-rock origins, the Lips won minor recognition for their hit “She Don’t Use Jelly” in 1994, before hitting the Snob mother lode with their melodious quasi-concept albums The Soft Bulletin (1999) and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002), which have turned their front man, the adorable, prematurely gray Wayne Coyne, into the Justin Timberlake of the Volvo-owning set.
Flange. Common pedal-activated effect that produces a “whooshy” sound in any instrument through which it is processed. Snobs employ this term to show off their ability to pronounce it correctly (“flanj,” not “flaing”) and their versedness in FX terminology. The Flaming Lips’ “The Spiderbite Song” announces itself in a hail of heavily flanged drums.
Fowley, Kim. Vampiric mainstay of the Sunset Strip scene; the Robert Evans of sleaze-pop. Born to a Hollywood family in 1942—his father, Douglas, played Doc Holliday on TV’s Wyatt Earp—Fowley, a gifted B.S. artist and strikingly tall, spindly figure, hustled his way into the music business in the early 1960s, actually managing to produce two top-five novelty singles in that era, the Hollywood Argyles’ “Alley-Oop” and the Murmaids’ “Popsicles and Icicles.” Thereafter, he earned scenester credentials as a Frank Zappa acolyte and freak-about-town, theatrically flailing his long limbs on the dancefloors of L.A.’s newly druggy clubs. Since the ’60s, Fowley has gained modest renown as an eccentric solo artist and minor-league producer, most notoriously as the man who manufactured the bad-girl group THE RUNAWAYS in the mid-’70s. But he’s found his true calling in recent decades as a glib, gossipy quote machine, making creepy, flat-affect appearances in film documentaries and E! television programs about Hollywood sordidness.
Fripp, Robert. Tiny British guitar god of nutty-professor mien. Having emerged in the late 1960s as the maestro of the compulsively time-signature-shifting PROG pioneers King Crimson, Fripp allied himself in the 1970s with Roxy Music refugee BRIAN ENO, who enlisted his friend to contribute a couple days’ worth of “Frippertronics”—the swirling, densely harmonic guitar sound the pair had developed together—to David Bowie’s Heroes. Fripp’s crucial contribution to Bowie’s peak achievement has earned him bulletproof status in Snob circles, despite such post-Eno taste lapses as his sundry attempts to retool King Crimson for the high-tech, post-patchouli age, and his appearance, in a Hello!-magazine photo spread, clinking champagne glasses in the bathtub with his wife, former ’80s punk-pop oddity turned TV personality Toyah Wilcox.
Gainsbourg, Serge. Raffish, joli laid French balladeer revered by kitsch-loving Rock Snobs for his sleazy-listening pop of the 1960s and ’70s. Despite hangdog looks and an inability to actually sing, Gainsbourg embodied the pungent flower of French manhood in all its Gallic glory, duetting and getting busy with such hotties of the period as Brigitte Bardot and English dolly bird Jane Birkin. A less edifying collaboration was 1984’s “Lemon Incest,” a duet with his then-12-year-old daughter, Charlotte. Gainsbourg died in 1991, five years after saying “I want to fouck her” while sitting beside Whitney Houston on a live talk show.
Gang of Four. English band of the late ’70s and early ’80s that, like Wire, caused critics to involuntarily use the words POST-PUNK and “angular.” Though the band’s Marxist politics (as underscored by their Sino-historical name) found few followers beyond the future members of Rage Against the Machine, Gang of Four’s sparse, funkified twitch-rock sound remains heavily influential, from those who evoke it knowingly (the Red Hot Chili Peppers) to those who evoke it unknowingly (Limp Bizkit). In keeping with the times, Gang of Four’s original lineup has recently reunited to belatedly reap the benefits of having been SEMINAL.
Hammond B3. Cumbersome, colonial-sideboard-resembling organ manufactured from the late 1930s through the mid-1970s. Favored, despite its size and weight, by rock, soul, and blues musicians in the pre-synth era for its loudness and versatility, and by latter-day musicians for its pre-synth “purity” of sound. Generally operated, since it lacks its own speaker, in conjunction with the equally unwieldy LESLIE tone cabinet. The Hammond B3 has featured on everything from Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” to the STAX recordings of Booker T. and the MGs to the PROG extravaganzas of Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer—though even Snobs are tripped up by the knowledge that it was actually a Hammond M102, and not a B3, that Procol Harum’s Matthew Fisher played on “A Whiter Shade of Pale.”
Hazlewood, Lee. Hard-drinkin’, ultra-manly producer of Native American extraction who first made his name working with twangy guitar slinger Duane Eddy and went on to become the premier auteur of Rat Pack– offspring kitsch, writing and producing material for Dino, Desi & Billy, and, most notoriously, for Nancy Sinatra (“These Boots Are Made for Walkin’”). Following a 1973 solo debut candidly titled Poet, Fool or Bum, Hazlewood moved to Sweden and made lousy movies. Currently living in America again, where his oeuvre has been lovingly reissued by a small label owned by Sonic Youth drummer and confirmed Rock Snob Steve Shelley.