While seeming like a staple of 70s prog that made its way into 80s hard rock, Hobbit Rock was pervasive enough in its quiet little way to live through punk rock and become part of the unique little pocket of time when there was something called postpunk. Only punk in sharing the DIY ethos, this was a sonic world of flanged and chorused guitars, heavy keyboard atmospherics and abstract and sometimes unsettled lyrics.
Scotland made an impressive contribution to postpunk, exemplified by the career of Simple Minds. Their first album an above average blend of Bowie/Roxy influences, they moved into moodier and more unique territory on a second album nourished by the postpunk currents then starting to flow. While Simple Minds would go on to a more streamlined sound and mass success, Scottish postpunk is also well-represented by the lesser known and short-lived band Scars.
And does Scottish postpunk relate to Hobbit Rock? Yes, indeed, it does, as this Scars song and video demonstrate. Four guys running together, a veritable fellowship, leaving their town and heading to a tower where some sort of evil awaits, while the song fluctuates between the brighter and more melancholy edges of longing.
I meant to comment on Harlan Ellison’s passing. A writer who influenced so many people, and probably as much for his never dull, frequently entertaining personality displayed in many public appearances. I was more of a fan in my teen years than when older, but I always enjoyed his comments and just knowing that he was out there.
And, of course, he wrote one of Star Trek‘s greatest episodes:
Also, Steve Ditko. When I was a whippersnapper, I found a torn copy of Doctor Strange Classics in a comic shop, getting it from a reject bunch for something like four-for-a-dollar along with a beat-up Silver Age Tales to Astonish. Ditko’s surrealist, psychedelic art was mind-boggling, and led me to further joy reading his original Spider-Man stories in Marvel Tales.
Here’s a book-themed (and groovy) look at the weird wonder of the art of Ditko:
And . . . Dolores O’Riordan of the Cranberries. The voice of otherworldly nineties Celtic pop music, and a band that was one of the best things about the nineties:
There was a musical variety show for hipsters called NIGHT MUSIC somewhere around ’89 through ’90. I can’t remember if this was syndicated or if it was an NBC show that was on after SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE (which I rarely watched after 1991). Anyhow, at this point when alternative rock music was still not heard much on the radio and the mainstream explosion of Nirvana was still a ways off on the horizon, there were some rock groups that fit pretty well into a line-up that included jazz players, old blues musicians, and artsy experimentalists. The never mainstream Pere Ubu was at their most mainstream right then, and showed up in an episode that I missed at the time. This is a pretty catchy song for such a weird band, and they perform it well. The singer’s stomping of invisible, imaginary bugs is a hoot.
To the best of my knowledge, Guadalcanal Diary never showed up on NIGHT MUSIC, but they should have. By the late ’80s there were a number of alternative jangle bands like The Katydids, Let’s Active, and the sometimes philosophical Guadalcanal Diary, named for some reason after the movie and novel that documented one of the U.S. Marine Corps’ key moments in WWII. All of these bands were at least as good as R.E.M., with mostly better vocalists, and without the self-pity tendencies that sometimes brought down The Smiths. Some people claim that this song was borrowed heavily in another song by country mega-band Alabama, but I haven’t explored that and have no opinion.
OK, I really like the Professionals now that I’m hearing even more of them, so that’s a good excuse for an obvious transition to another Professionals song. It’s another silly early ’80s video, but this one is a little more creative. Also, note that this is an earlier line-up of the band as a three-piece with a different bassist. Paul Cook and Steve Jones are terribly underrated:
From the three pieces of a triptych is a short step to a song titled “1 2 3.” This is the Professionals, an underrated and short-lived band started by Steve Jones and Paul Cook, the original two Sex Pistols. The Professionals were at least the equal of their old band, and some of their material was used in the movie Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains. In this video, enjoy Steve Jones’ (1) hair and (2) the epic battle with microphone stands.
Bach’s St. Matthew Passion thematically flows right along to the best Medieval prog rock song ever, and perhaps the only Medieval prog rock song ever. This is “Triptych” by Roxy Music, and it’s truly extraordinary that something like this ever came out of popular music: