The second in a series of post concerning my favorite records.
Reviewing Alex Chilton's Like Flies on Sherbert for Allmusic, David Cleary tells us...
"...this release is a dreadful disappointment. Production values are among the worst this reviewer has ever heard: sound quality is terrible, instrumental balances are careless and haphazard, and some selections even begin with recording start-up sound."
Then, horror of horros...."Chilton's false-start vocal on "Boogie Shoes" is simply left in without correction".
"Without correction"? It wasn't left there on purpose for a purpose beyond Cleary's capacity or willingness to accept. There is a proper way to do things and this was not it...it was an error left uncorrected. I guess Jim Dickinson just didn't know what he was doing.
Cleary is well within his duties to point out the haphazard nature of the record. Let 'em know that if they're looking for The Ballad of El Goodo...it's not here. As for what's correct or incorrect Cleary can stick it above his collar...right up his butt.*
I wonder if he bothered with Bach's Bottom...surely his head would have exploded at Free Again (version 1)..."Put some kung fu on it this time"...or if he heard Chilton's sessions from 1970, before Big Star...
Throughout the sessions Dickinson would record players while they were warming up and use those takes. There's the oft reported anecdote that Chilton wanted Dickinson to play guitar because he still played like a teenager. The illusion created by crafting is removed. The false starts and uneven mixes...the overdubs to hide blank spots...it creates a level of uncertainty for the listener and when the whole thing comes off it is exhilarating.
I don't think there's any irony in the record...even the cover of Boogie Shoes sounds like earnest fun. How many songs have buried..."trampled" on even...by well crafted, precise production? Still, the potential for a meta reading can't be denied. They knew, Jim Dickinson certainly knew, what they were doing. Others got what they were doing too. It's impossible, at least for me, to see Slay Tracks hit with the impact it did and not think of Like Flies on Sherbert.**
Finally, one reviewer complained that they all sound drunk and high.
Playing rocknroll while drunk and high on the dope. Well...I swanny!
That's Memphis David...it may not play in Cincinnati, Oh-hyy-o but, nobody gives a damn.
*I've got the Trouser Press Record Guide from the 80's and the one they published in the 90's. In the 80's, Trouser's take on Bach's Bottom and Flies is as vitriolic as Cleary's...accusing the records of "trampling" on Chilton's songs. By 95, Bach's Bottom was an "intriguing stop/start" record.
** I think this is what they call foreshadowing.