Live 1977 – 1978
Blast First Petite
An awesome aural document it has to be said. Equally recognised as being one of the most controversial and confrontational ensembles to emerge from a 70’s New York scene in states of perpetual transience and credited with being not only being one of the forefathers but prime movers of the burgeoning punk scene, Suicide where a law unto themselves. Pure, primitive and potent their sound a curious and at odds distillation of primal rockabilly unearthed and excavated from the formative years of rock ’n’ roll (think of a wasted and out of it youthful Elvis) pierced and petrified by droning mind arranging halos of looped electro charges whose bloodline could be traced back to the Silver Apples whilst equally assuming a strange tribal like mantra and a seemingly skewed psychedelic sensibility. Embraced first and foremost by the New York no wave scene, they were ripe for it – the absence of guitars the reliance on the visual – Rev’s solemn emotionless farfisa / synth delivery and Vega’s pained shrieks, yelps, barks and screams made them a cult attraction on the brief turbulent scene – Suicide sounded and looked no one else around at that time, no other band could divide audience reaction quite like them – you either hated them with a vengeance or loved them with a faintly admired loathing that you weren‘t them – the middle ground didn’t exist.
Admittedly I arrived at Suicide a little late, well I was still a youngster getting to grips with the fall out of punk and being spoon-fed a shed load of killer slabs of vinyl by the Velvets, Dolls, Reed, Stooges and various Nuggets styled garage tape compilations in the hope I suspect that I’d have a decent working knowledge of where the true spirit of ’76 had come from – you’ll be happy to note that I kindly passed up on Jethro Tull. Anyhow Suicide came to the attention somewhere around late ’79, I’d spied somewhere a play list of favourite tunes put forward by Generation X’s Billy Idol and in amongst the oddly contrasting disco vibed entries (if that is I recall them rightly as disco vibed) I spotted a listing for Suicide’s ’Dream Baby Dream’. It took a few months before I could nail the blighter as my own – remember these were the pre internet / you tube days no of this typing into google the name of band and having all their back catalogue in MP3 springing up before your very eyes and ears – no sir – this was bloody hard graft, word of mouth, perplexed looks from record shop staff and the such like. Now obviously ’dream baby dream’ was a polished pop focused affair produced by the Cars’ Ric Ocasek no less – it was not – I repeat not a fair advance warning of their earlier career material.
In retrospective they have been hailed as the godfathers of techno, industrial and electro pop, their brand of primitive sci-fi rock ‘n’ roll has satisfying stood the test of time while most of their contemporaries and peers at the time have faded badly into obscurity – this archive captures the duo at their rawest and perhaps at the most crucial phase of their entire career. The press spot warns that the recordings aren’t for the feint hearted – and bugger us if they aren’t right.
Limited to just 3000 copies worldwide and spread across 6 discs housed in a box and including a 40 page booklet with detailed recollections and commentary culled from Howard Thompson’s own personalised notes and thoughts of the band jotted at the time – (Howard Thompson was of course the man responsible for tying the duo up to the Bronze imprint and letting them loose on a British / European audience). These recordings form a bootleg archive of Thompson’s and others personal recordings of Suicide shows from the period – here re-mastered by Denis Blackham and committed to CD by the label responsible for redefining British listening tastes in the mid 80’s (Blast First) by securing releases by the likes of Sonic Youth, Big Black and the Butthole Surfers among the positive who’s who hall of signatory fame).
Basically what you get are twelve sets dating from between September 1977 and August 1978, included here are some of the first appearances of the duo witnessed on this fair isle including one notorious Clash support slot where under the hail of Clash chants they were lucky to escape with their lives being exposed to the kind of brutal violence never seen focused on a band at the time. Mindless bastards aside Suicide figured far better in the provinces – of those solo dates only their appearance at Liverpool’s Eric’s has survived to surface here the bonus being it’s a complete set Also included spots on their own turf at Max’s and CBGB’s as well as recordings from Germany, France and Belgium. Admittedly the set is a for die hards affair unless of course you don’t mind waging through 5 hours of live material and countless versions of ‘Cheree’, ‘Frankie Teardrop’ (which still chills the blood), ’ghostrider’ and ‘rocket USA‘ but then when you think about it most aficionados will have these recordings stashed about themselves already – that said nothing beats the frantic and sometimes psychotic first hand appearance of these legendary slabs doing damage on the hi-fi especially if it means hearing their wired and kaleidoscopic version of ‘96 tears’.
Key moments –
How do you separate them – quite possibly ‘Frankie teardrop’ from the Eric’s gig and ‘96 tears’ culled from the Berlin Kant set whilst not forgetting a serious rare airing of an Our Price Radio spot.
For those wanting to do some further research there’s an excellent resource site at http://www.limbos.org/suicide/suicide2.htm
from July 2008