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Sunday 30 October 2022

Half An Hour Of Can

There's a part of me that feels like whenever I post anything by Can I become the narrator of LCD Soundsystem's Losing My Edge...

'I'm losing my edge/The kids are coming up from behind/ I'm losing my edge to the kids from France and from London/ But I was there.... I was there in 1968/ I was there at the first Can show in Cologne...'

Can's music is so other, so different from so much else. It feels like it could only have been create din West Germnay in the late 60s, a period when the de- Nazification of the immediate post war years was seen as being completed (by the authorities) and the new war, a Cold War, was now a much bigger concern to both sides than what Uncle Dieter did during the war. The kids born in the FRG in the aftermath of World war Two grew up in the politically charged environs of the mid- to- late 60s, student protests across the western world against the war Vietnam and American imperialism, the decades long rising tide of anger in the US about civil rights, the events of Mai '68 in Paris, the spread of hippy ideals and music, long hair and casual attitudes to life, the Soviet invasion of Prague that shattered many European Communists... all this and in West Germany the actual front line of the Cold War and the increasing gnawing sensation that your teachers, university lecturers, neighbours, parents even, had not really told you what they did during the war. Drummer Jaki Liebezeit said by 1968  the prevailing attitude among the youth was 'don't trust anyone over thirty'. The musicians that became Can (and Neu! and Amon Duul and Kraftwerk and Popul Voh and Faust and all the other bands born in the same period but all sounding very distinct from each other eventually) were also concerned with rejecting not just pre- war German culture, the schlager pop and traditional German music tainted with Nazi- ism, but also the music coming from the USA. The new West German music needed to be progressive, modern, confrontational, a rejection of other influences and decidedly European. 

Can's music from their beginnings in 1968 to their ending in 1979 (and subsequent reunions) marries the avant garde with psychedelic rock and thanks largely to Liebezeit with a funk rhythm that is unmatched. The motorik beat, the seemingly endless, metronomic drumming, is Liebezeit's gift. The musicians that became Can with him- Holger Czukay, Irwin Schmidt and Michael Karoli plus the vocalists Micahel Mooney and then Damo Suzuki- seemed to make music without a leader, without a single dominant force, sharing the responsibilities for writing and playing together and they often sound like they're playing in a circle, facing each other, locked into the music. 

Half An Hour Of Can

  • ... And More
  • Moonshake
  • Vitamin C
  • Oh Yeah
  • Future Days
  • Mushroom
  • Mother Sky (Pilooski Edit)
...And More is the b-side to their 1976 hit single I Want More, Can finding a sort of krautrock/ disco hybrid. The single was a UK hit, their only one, and led to an appearance on Top Of The Pops.

Moonshake is from 1973's Future Days album, also a single and a short, almost pop structured song on a an album of much lengthier experimental, more ambient tracks. Future Days is the title track from that album. 

Vitamin C is from Ege Bamyesi, released in 1972 and as good a starting point as any- it was mine. 

Oh Yeah and Mushroom are from 1971's Tago Mago, their second album and often held up as their masterpeice. It was they recorded in a castle near Cologne after Mooney left the group and they discovered Damo Suzuki busking. 

Mother Sky in its original form is fourteen minutes long and appeared on their 1970 album Soundtracks, after being recorded for a film called Deep End starring Jane Asher. Pilooski's edit is from 2007.

Damo Suzuki continues to tour, turning up in towns across the world and recruiting local musicians to back him on stage as his Sound Carriers. Every night a different line up, every gig different. Back in the late 00s I was out in Manchester for a few drinks with friends and we walked past Night And Day. As we passed the venue the door swung open and I looked in and could see Damo Suzuki on stage at the far end of the bar. 'Fucking hell', I said, 'That's Damo Suzuki'. At that moment three men came through the door, the one at the front saying, 'I wouldn't bother lads, it's shit'. 

On the other hand, my friend and brother- in- law Harvey played with Suzuki as a Sound Carrier in Leicester one night several years ago and still I think sees it as one of those incomparable nights.


The Swede said...

I was listening to this mix earlier whilst doing my chores, paused it after 18 minutes to nip upstairs and frustratingly couldn't get the blighter to play again upon my return. Still, it was glorious while it lasted. I've now downloaded the file, it's playing without issue and sounding bloody marvellous. What a fine way to spend 30 minutes on a Sunday morning. Thanks SA. Great Damo Suzuki tales too.

George said...

I was expecting a 30 minute track. Not that I'm complaining, though.

Swiss Adam said...

I did think about that George, thought it might be a lazy way of doing it.

jesseblack said...

Top drawer Adam

Khayem said...

Nice one, Adam. I passed up a chance to see Damo Suzuki play a small venue in Bristol called Fiddlers in the early 2000s. Wish I'd said yes.