A blog covering the best in underground sounds, based in Dublin, Ireland
Sunday, July 17, 2011
Album that Changed My Life # 3, ZZ Top - 'Fandango'
I don't often talk about my past but I feel this little piece warrants it, brings the choice of album into context and explains exactly how my musical taste and the way I listen to it has evolved..... I grew up in a large Georgian house in West London situated next to a printworks staffed with villains and a motorbike shop ran by the head of the local Hells Angels chapter who was obsessed with Led Zep IV. My father, who I have not seen nor heard from in over 19 years ran an electronics business from the old workshop downstairs. He used to design and build bespoke amplification and giant speaker cabinets for the local reggae scene, no doubt contributing to my love of massive amps....... He had a passion for valve powered hifi and in particular Leak, a local builder of handwired stereos and radios which is what brought the vinyl collection I grew up listening to life with exquisite dynamics. The sound of anything through the Leak monoblocks would delight, but the album that really sang to me was ZZ Top - Fandango. A tour de force in all shades of blues rock from the aching lament to his jeans, Blue Jean Blues to the heavy duty riff rock blueprint Nasty dogs and funky kings, this album overflows with soul. Side A is a live recording that postively sizzles with Rev Gibbons tone, and the criminally overlooked rhythm section of Dusty Hill on bass and the masterful drumming of Frank Beard. Side B is a collection of studio recordings that contain some of the most heartfelt and potent guitar you will ever hear. Hearing this through the sometimes unreliable Leak power amp section really brought it to life. There is something about valve amplification that adds a little voodoo to the music, not that this album needs it, it just serves to reinforce the magic. I was hooked the moment I heard it. This is organic music from the heart. It isn't overtly technical but it has balls. In abundance. Music you hear and feel, something the mainstream has long since lost. The only good thing about living next to a main road squeezed between a printworks and all those motorbikes was the volume levels I could listen to it at, which is the way all good music should be heard. Perhaps why the power amps were unreliable was the use they were given. I still hanker after the same setup to this day, they run about £1000 a pair if you can find them......... The sounds of Led Zep and Motorhead constantly emanating from the bike shop, ZZ Top, Pink Floyd, Dire Straits from the Leak and Alan Freeman's Radio 1 rock show on my bedroom radio all contributed to my musical education, something I feel very fortunate to have had around me. Probably one of the only things the old man ever gave me that was worth anything. Something I am continuing with my own daughter now. She will know what a cassette is, what a record is, how it should sound and what a magical and profoundly powerful force music is. And I take Fandango as the turning point that really woke my ears up.