Monday, May 16, 2011

Press Play and Read Along: The Tale of Tarkus

In 1971, British Progressive Rock giants, Emerson Lake and Palmer (abbreviated simply "ELP") released their second (and in my opinion their greatest) album, Tarkus. Tarkus arrived at a perfect time for ELP and their listeners alike. With psychedelic and hard rock at its pinnacle, the concept of a part armadillo - part machine adventuring though a fantasy landscape and encountering other partially mechanized creatures actually worked quite well.

The common gatefold version of this record makes the experience worthwhile. Each track on side A coincides with the included storyboard ("Eruption"," Stones of Years", "Iconoclast", "Mass", "Manticore", "Battlefield", and "Aquatarkus"). This is exactly how Tarkus was presented to me about ten or eleven years ago by a friend while out in Columbus, Ohio. His introductory quote was: "DUDE. You HAVE to hear Tarkus. He's this armadillo tank thing that fights exciting battles!" Needless to say, I was intrigued and later impressed by his LOUD demonstration of the record. In years to follow, nearly all my friends as well as I would end up with a copy of the album in our collections.

Above: Tarkus gatefold inner detailing the adventures of Tarkus.

For the past decade or so, all of my record collecting friends have found a way to bring Tarkus into a nerdy music conversation, but mostly for satirical purposes. The album is occasionally still demoed in our respective homes and there always seems to be that "new guy" who has not yet experienced Tarkus. Despite our facetious dealings with the record, most of us have admitted that the album is actually decent, especially when presented using high quality equipment.

Above: Me and my friend Tom listening to Tarkus circa 2004.

As for taking Tarkus seriously, some ELP fans take this album a little too seriously. For example: In a 2006 online auction, a white label promo (seventies records that are white label promos are sometimes pressed as Mono recordings often furthering their collectibility) sold for upwards of three thousand dollars. Even more recently, a very early and scarce pressing of this record sold for about the cost of a new car.

Is it the ebb and flow of the 5/4 time signature, the menacing keys, or the somber vocals that make Tarkus the enigma that it remains today? Or is the real mystery the question of how one record can both be available in excess for a buck in countless thrift shop dollar bins, and yet also be adored by prog rock fanatics?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bruce Foxton fucking rocks, man!

OK I can't personally vouch for this statement, but a friend of mine casually made this comment and it stirred up an idea for me. If in fact Mr. Foxton (best known for his work with British rock group The Jam) does "fucking rock", meaning he rocks as a normal, personable human being, then he would join the very short list of rock stars who deserve any such mention. I've heard a thousand stories about fans meeting their idols and both being floored by his or her social integrities or broken hearted by the rudeness they were subjected to. Now I want to hear what other people think. So tell me a story about when you met that rock star and what you thought of him or her. I'm going to pick a handful and list them here, with or without your name credited - you just let me know how you want it to appear.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Very strange fantasy disco/electro 12" I came across.