Monday, March 09, 2009
ANDY BOWN : NO ORDINARY LUNY
"Luny" is NOT a typo. It's in the lyric sheet that way. An ordinary maniac of the Spike Milligan or Porky Pig variety would spell it 'Looney" but not our Mr. Bown, the well known typing error. (Yes, it's "Bown" not "Brown" and no, it's not "Alan Bown" it's "Andy Bown.")
"No ordinary Luny" is a phrase on his song "Nobody's Fool," only one of many that address madness of one kind or another. Another is a sprightly C&W tune with the refrain, "Crazy girl, she shot the man she loved."
How about "I've Got God on The Phone" in which a descent into a strait jacket begins by having a "blind black boy" in the back of his car, and how his "white shoes got gravy stains." Another tune, "Etcetera," upbraids a girl for a similar indiscretion: "I heard about the way you got picked up the other day, a spade in a pink Chevrolet. Was he rich and lonely?" "On "P.S. Get Lost" he declares "the sheets, they don't tell lies," as he not only witnesses the mess left by his girlfriend with another man, but tells the world of his embarrassing humiliation. On "Nobody's Fool," Andy dishes about a tart, "She tell me stories I believe every word she said. She mess up my boy friend, she mess up my boyfriend's head." Is he singing as a woman, as a gay guy, as a tranny...do we want to know?
If you know Bown's name at all, it's probably in connection with saner rock music. He was leader of the pop-glam band The Herd in the late 60's (till the attention focused on cutie lead guitarist Peter Frampton), and since 1982, has played bass and written songs for the journeyman rock group Status Quo (and never was there a name more fitting).
But solo (two albums on Mercury, two on Capitol) Bown explored unique territory on his own. His songs back in the 70's were often perverse and morose, with giddy ups and hoarse-drawn downs. The manic-depressive aspects of Andy Bown's solo career include ballads even more grim, sulky and morbid than his contemporaries, Gilbert O'Sullivan, Jimmy Campbell and Matthew Fisher. Some songs are as cringeworthy in their honesty as Harry Chapin's, with confessions of failure in love and life. "Eventually," one of his most poetic and shoegazingly heroic numbers has him in breathy (or is it last-breathy) mode, facing up to the fact that "eventually, my eyes are gonna close," and never open again.
On his last Capitol solo album (not released in America) he dared to expose a bruising, impotent scene as the husband who has lost his wife to another man and foolishly calls up the man expecting some kind of apology. His rival is not sympathetic, leaving Bown "so angry, I was cold," his world a "savage crazy blur." Not exactly the most masculine reaction, huh? Yet Bown's artistry allows for such a moving confession. He's left mumbling "money, pens and women can be lost the way they're found."
Happily, Bown's albums aren't completely sad, they skip into light fandangos, with songs that at least have catchy, if not frenzied melodies to go with the strange lyrics. The mockingly bawdy single "New York Satyricon Zany" makes fun of some trendy, wacky free spirit who seems alarmingly like Bown himself in camp-mode. Camp-mode also serves on the aforementioned upbeat beat up "I Got God on The Phone," where our hero cheerfully notes "bone orchards bloom" all around, and admits thoughts of suicide dance in his head, especially after kinky interracial gay sex.
Your RS download can't possibly contain all the grand tracks on Bown's albums, but don't despair, the world of dollar bins and desperate recession-starved eBay sellers can supply you with the all the vinyl, and cheap.
This "Best of solo Bown" has no tracks from his second album, "Sweet William," at least not the American version (apparently a British pressing had "New York Satyricon Zany" and other tracks released as singles). Many good album tracks on the other three were sacrificed for the sake of obscure singles that are much harder to find. Perhaps a future post will feature his late first wife Carolyn (aka Caroline Attard) who led "Storyteller," a band that released two albums (1970, 1971) produced by Andy along with Peter Frampton. There's nothing here from the easily found "The Herd" or "Status Quo." Bown wrote all the songs and produced Judas Jump's album "Scorch" but he left the lead vocals to Adrian Williams. Little of the Herd, Quo or Jump material written or sung by Bown is anywhere near the heights or depths of his solo work.
Here's some annotation, as you submit yourself to Bowndage:
1. And If My Love/P.S. Get Lost. Andy segues from a brief glimpse toward the cemetery to an embarrassingly masochistic tale of getting a "Dear John" letter from a heartless bitch.
2. Eventually. A meditation on a "beautiful viper" draws Andy into a grim but strangely comforting reality: "Eventually my eyes are gonna close...my words turn to bone...the streets have forgotten my footstep...life's a joke..."
3. If It's All the Same to You/Please Remember Me. A sweet and sour ballad of letting go leads to a progressively more anxious plea: "Please be good to me and to my memory...bless and pray for me. I'm in my agony..."
4. Nobody's Fool. She's "no ordinary "luny." Andy is both a first rate bassist and Hammond organ player. This one has a thundering bass line plus prowling keyboard accents.
5. I've Got God On the Phone. Check the opening discordant splash of bitch-slapped chords and then pay attention to the delerious dada of the mad, death-obsessed lyrics. "Bone orchards bloom..."
6. Another Shipwreck. The kick-off to Bown's last solo album, heroic and doomed. This is a guy who'd get rescued from the Titanic only to be booked onto the Lusitania.
7. Good Advice. "It's just a spiral from contentment to despair." A sadly touching tune. At least the album's cover had the visual joke of Andy contemplating the "good advice" of getting his head shaved by a skinhead barber.
8-10. Singles: Feeling Better, Help Me and One Forward Two Back. Play them in reverse order, too.
11. New York Satyricon Zany: A jagged Jagger'd put-down of someone who probably looked like Holly Woodlawn impersonating Bianca.
12-13. Tarot/Lulli Rides Again. A-side "Tarot" was a successful TV theme song.
14. Supersonic. The theme echoed the intent of the TV show where Roy Wood or Jackie DeShannon lip-synched their latest chart topper.
BOWN for Glory via rapidshare
BOWN for Glory via Box