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There are, broadly speaking, two types of people in the world. Those who realise that the Wavy Gravy compilations are the greatest albums in the history of mankind; and those who suffer from unsightly genital warts. Which are you?
(That's basically the entire review, right there. Unfortunately, not even the streamlined new dooyoo will let me get away with that, so I *suppose* I'm going to have to go into the tedious detail.)
For many years there have been these bootleg compilations doing the rounds, generally referred to as Wavy Gravy 1 and 2. It seems that they were cobbled together from three obscure and long out-of-print albums (apparently) compiled by a 60s DJ called Wavy Gravy (I assume that's not his real name - I think he's the guy who made the famous announcement about not taking the brown acid at Woodstock.). The sound quality on the bootlegs was pretty lousy, obviously having been transferred from tape or vinyl (probably tape) and no one knew most of the track titles, whether all the songs were included, or even if they were in the correct order. But now, finally, one of the original source albums has been released on CD, with remastered, listed tracks. Hopefully this will sell well enough to see the other two compilations reprinted.
The album itself contains a mixture of genres. There are weird country songs about serial killers, failed novelty songs, dance crazes that didn't catch on (and possibly weren't meant to), dire comedy records, and other assorted novelties. I assume all the songs come from the 60s. Thrown into the mix are some of the finest exploitation-movie radio trailers ever recorded. If there's an overarching theme (and I don't think there necessarily is), it's horror - the cover should give you some idea, showing an absurd monster of some description (I think from a real film, although I can't identify it). This is about cheap, hilarious horror films; wrong sex; and music that probably shouldn't have happened at all. It's so much better than the sum of its parts. This isn't *just* about music so bad it's funny, or so jaw-droppingly weird you can't believe it exists. This is a *lot* of fun to listen to, and is guaranteed to be a big hit at parties, assuming your friends are as cool as me.
Anyway, with 36 tracks I'm not going to describe all of them in any detail, and I'm not even going to bother mentioning the names of the artists since no one's heard of them. There are various incomprehensible dance songs (presumably trying to create new crazes along the lines of The Twist). The best is the tongue in cheek redneck rockabilly 'Bacon Fat' ("It goes diddly diddly diddly diddly diddly diddly diddly diddly womp womp"). Other dance highlights include the toe-tapping 'Go Go Gorilla' (a title which exemplifies what's going on on this album) and The Lone Twister ("Getting dizzy, honey? That's what I like!"). Most of the instrumentals probably served similar purposes - trying to get kids onto dancefloors (but probably not encouraging them to touch one another). The best is 'Bumble Bee 65' (imagine the Batman theme re-worked by Joe Meek).
There are a variety of bad comedy songs with a horror theme ('The Big Green', about a monster with a taste for rock n roll; 'Ghost guitar', a Shadows-style guitar track with a bit of echo slapped on and some buffoon doing an appalling Bela Lugosi impersonation over bits of it) or about death ('Slide her under the door' - "Your girl has just been run over/By a great big steamroller"). Other songs, if not intentionally comic, are surely there to be laughed at, such as 'His Name is Jesus' a potent combination of devotion and yodelling. And then there's a cover of 'Wild Thing' by someone purporting to be an American senator trying to connect with the youth vote. This is probably the track that most people remember after only one listen, and it's a doozy. It's the only song on the album I'd actually like to know more about; I assume it can't possibly be what it claims to be, but regardless, it's one of the funniest things ever recorded.
There are also a nice bunch of macabre country songs. The melancholic 'Rubber Room', about solitary confinement, is by Porter Waggoner, probably the only recognisable artist name on here. 'Psycho' is a bleak but jaunty song from the perspective of a serial killer. And 'LSD' is a downright cheery song about a man messing his life up through drug use ("I started taking LSD, it gave me quite a kick/Better than booze and easy to use, but it made me mentally sick"). I can't tell if it's meant to be a joke or a cautionary tale; at this distance it likely doesn't matter.
The songs are punctuated by radio ads for the likes of 'Humanoids from the Deep' ("They hunt human women. Not for killing. For mating!"); 'The Virgin Witch' ("She's the girl with the power to turn you on. To turn you *off*") and 'Psychedelic Circus' ("Ladies and gentlemen, you've heard about it, read about it. But have you ever seen a psychedelic circus?"). There are so many, and if you get this album you'll come to love them all like your own siblings. My current favourite is 'I Dismember Mama' ("Let's not kid each other. You see it in the headlines every day, I finally had guts enough to put it on film!"). There are also snippets of looped dialogue from a Russ Meyer film and some shouting from an excitable preacher ("Somebody give the Lord a handclap!").
The one cause for concern here is that the old copy I had contained a hilarious but obscene little poem about necrophilia ("The maggots fell out of her asshole and the hair slipped off of her head..."). This has been replaced by an ad for 'Kingdom of the Spiders' - it's good stuff, but it ain't what I wanted to hear. It's possible that the poem on the old bootleg compilations shouldn't be there, and wasn't on the original at all. But I fear the re-release might have been bowdlerised. This could have serious consequences if they do release the other volumes, as there's some pretty filthy stuff on them. Are we to be permanently deprived of "How many young guys do you know who stick a full inch of tongue up a girl's ass"?
Well, obviously not, as I'll be keeping the old version anyway, but I'd hope that if the other volumes do appear they'll be as complete as possible. There's a rather annoying text piece in the sleeve notes, but otherwise no explanations about any of the tracks. This is generally a good thing. I'd prefer not to know anything about them. They exist; anything else is beside the point.
Even with the potential act of censorship, I still have to give this five stars. As I said, this isn't just a 'so bad it's funny' deal. This is about uncovering the weird relics that could have been the soundtracks of all our lives in an alternative reality. This is what tried to be the mainstream once upon a time but didn't make the grade. This is about people listening to early rock n roll and thinking "By crikey, this new style of music is the perfect medium for a comedy record about the Loch Ness Monster!" This is about promising the world and delivering nothing. Above all, this is about 'Shanty Tramp' ("Teenagers will not be permitted to see Shanty Tramp without the written permission of their parents!").
It can be had on amazon for about £11. This is the greatest album ever and anyone who doesn't love it is a fool. A fool!
(Incidentally, someone has copied bits of this review to use in their profile entry on myspace. Quite flattering, but a bit odd.)