Friday, April 20, 2012

Like Flies On Sherbert & Show # 400

1n 1979, Alex Chilton released his debut solo album Like Flies On Sherbert. The album was panned by many critics and often labelled as a terrible album, but the album explored the very make up of Alex Chilton’s roots as he ventured into a Memphis Roots Rock territory combined with the energy of Punk. The album was also recorded rather loosely and is at times loose and sloppy Like Flies On Sherbert features a gritty, honest off kilter charm. It is an album that captured the songs in a moment, mistakes, chaos and all.

Produced by Alex Chilton and Jim Dickinson, Like Flies On Sherbert is a reflection of Alex Chilton’s life at the time, which is often called his “crazy” period due to many factors. He had recently re-located to New York after the break up of the Power Pop band Big Star and embraced the Punk scene recording and released The Singer Not The Song EP in 1977 and The Bangkok single in 1978. After producing music and working with The Cramps in Memphis, Chilton began work on Like Flies On Sherbert with Jim Dickinson which can be also seen as a reflection of his time working with The Cramps, who often embraced a Rockabilly Punk influenced sound. Like Flies On Sherbert was recorded at Sam Phillips Studio in Memphis and Ardent Studios. The sounds captured on the album are chaotic, sloppy and at times off beat. It was a sound that deconstructed not only the layered Pop and harmonies and myths of Chilton’s previous bands Big Star and The Box Tops, but also Rock and Roll music in general. This method was a conscious decision on Chilton’s part who had this to say of the album many years after its release in the book It Came From Memphis:

"My life was on the skids, and 'Like Flies on Sherbert' was a summation of that period. I like that record a lot. It's crazy but it’s a positive statement about a period in my life that wasn’t positive.”

The resulting twelve song album Like Flies On Sherbert was originally released in a limited edition 500 pressing run on Peabody Records. It featured several Chilton originals and many obscure cover songs. There is a cover of KC & The Sunshine Band’s “Boogie Shoe’s”, Jimmy Newman’s “Alligator Man”, and music by The Carter Family and others. Chilton’s version of Ernest Tubb’s “Waltz Across Texas” is executed in a lazy fashion, which resembles a drunken version of Elvis Presley’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky” at times. Of the Chilton originals some of the highlights include “My Rival” a cathartic song which emphasizes the chaotic nature of the recording sessions featuring tape hissing, chunky guitar rhythms, and a broken minimoog synthesizer. The was song written the previous year while Chilton was still in New York, as the song draws to a close it falls into a chaotic bliss as guitars begin to feedback and broken minimoog rhythms provided by Jim Dickinson waver in and out. Dickinson had this to say of providing the minimoog synthesizer for the song in an article posted on Paste Magazine:

The Minimoog was sitting around broken at [the studio]. I played it and all I did was twist knobs."

Other highlights include the single released for the album “Hey Little Child”, which was recorded at Ardent Studio along with “Baron of Love Part II” on August, 16th, 1979, which coincided with the second anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death. “Rock Hard” is a driving Memphis Rockabilly influenced track, while “Hook Or Crook” is a song that, which like “Rock Hard” has a driving, pounding drumbeat, but is mixed in with reverb drenched vocals, sloppy country guitar rhythms juxtaposed alongside a Garage Rock guitar sound that resembles a Rolling Stones influence. The album ends with the title tracks “Like Flies On Sherbert” a song that has an eccentric almost Psychedelic Pop influence that can be seen as an extension of Big Star's album Third/Sister Lovers. When the album was re-released by Aura Records in the UK, it differed slightly in track listing most notably adding Chilton’s version of “Boogie Shoes”. The song has since been included along with many others on recent re-issues of the album.

While Like Flies On Sherbert may not have been critically acclaimed by everyone at the time of its initial release, there were some positive reviews for people that did not just dismiss the album as a mess in Creem Magazine and in Sounds. It is now seen, as with the album Tonight’s The Night by Neil Young as a cult classic. The albums cover was a photo by William Eggleston, a photographer that also provided the photo for the now cult classic Big Star album Radio City. The albums cover is a collection of strange looking dolls sitting atop of a Cadillac, which can be seen as an indication of the albums contents. Like the dolls on the cover which appear out of place, Like Flies On Sherbert has many songs and sounds that at times seem to not fit right, but along with these songs there is like a Cadillac, a certain class and charm to them.

This Week's Play List:

1. Light Bulb Alley – Pepper Spray
2. The Reply – Memphis Train
3. The Movements – She Said
4. Red Light Driver – Celeste Celeste
5. Arctic Monkeys – The Blond-O-Sonic Shimmer Trap
6. Result - Suburban Addicts
7. The Primmers – Funny Stories
8. The Spelling Mistakes – Feel So Good
9. Devo – Space Junk
10. Dot Dash – Learn How To Fly
11. Brazilian Money – Lost All Sense of Time
12. Alex Chilton – My Rival
13. Alex Chilton – Rock Hard
14. Queens of The Stone Age – Outlaw Blues
15. Johnny Cash & The Avett Brothers – One Too Many Mornings
16. Indian Wars – Sitting On The Steps
17. The Mongrels – Play My Guitar
18. Cold Warps – Hole In My Head
19. X – Your Phones Off The Hook, But You’re Not
20. Simply Saucer – Bullet Proof Nothing
21. Elvis Costello & The Attractions - Night Rally
22. Alex Chilton – Hey Little Child
23. Alex Chilton – Waltz Across Texas

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for April 17. Or subscribe to Revolution Rock as a Podcast.


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