Thursday, February 26, 2015

Without Correction

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 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'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 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 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 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.


  1. Well, it *is* a mess but that's not to say it's not a beautiful mess. To use phrase that I think has been applied elsewhere - wrecked majesty. I'm with you on the horrors of over-produced clap-trap. Give me Alex Chilton going wild any day of the week. My only gripe would be the inability to spell 'sherbet'. Perhaps it should have been 'Schubert'.

    1. You and autocorrect...the draft is littered with red lines.

      Mrs. Dickinson misspelled it for the cover layouts and they all decided it seemed right for the record. Hard to argue considering. Certainly better than the initial title...Like Flies on Shit.

      It's a mess...but it's a deliberate mess. Majestic indeed.

    2. There's a very, very tasty looking Big Star 4 disc set I've just seen in town. Must get - when Mrs. B. let's me throw twenty quid around.

    3. Have you seen Nothing Can Hurt Me?

      Not only is it a great documentary but, it's very it should be. I love how most of them look like typical middle aged Boho put on. Dickinson's place is whacky but in a genuinely Southern way.

      The piece when Chris Bell's sister is trying to say she'd rather have Chris than the music...her unwillingness to come right out and say it because would be a kind of so Southern and it's the kind of subtle cultural marker that you rarely ever get in American tv and film productions.

      I couldn't recommend it enough.

  2. Good post. When Alex Chilton's on, he's really on. Jim Dickinson's O How She Dances is a Bagging Area favourite.
    Swiss Adam

  3. I don't know anyone else who even likes this record, let alone owns a copy. Mine is stashed in a box somewhere upstairs and listening through these cuts again has given me the urge to go and dig it out.

    1. Sadly, I don't own one of the original 500 copies.

      I don't know if you clicked on the Jim Dickinson link but among the many bands that he worked with or produced...the Triffids do appear.

  4. Picked up mine on Aura around 1983.
    Confused about the whole Jim Dickinson thing. Gil Norton produced 'Calenture'. Maybe Dickinson helped out on some of the bonus cuts on the expanded edition. Jim was certainly behind the desk for two great Green on Red LP's though, 'Killer Inside Me' and 'Here Come the Snakes'.

    1. I'd take that pressing.

      Yeah there seem to be a lot of demos on the tracks they list for Calenture. That list is ridiculous....Ronnie Milsap!

  5. The tracks I've downloaded from Alex Chilton CDs to iTunes (the only place I listen to music any more, apart from the occasional vinyl session) are Hook or Crook, Can't Seem to Make You Mine, My Rival, Like Flies on Sherbert and my favourite, Bangkok. I was quite fond of Big Star, but, to be honest, those early Box Tops singles are still my favourite Chilton tracks (I'm old, okay?) - I'm embarrassed to think how many times I must have played "The Letter" in a row the day I bought it, and I still have a tendency to shout "Oh, YES!" when it comes on. He was 16 when it was recorded.

    Sorry, I'm rambling. Great post.

    1. Ramble on.

      The Box Tops songs are great...they're just a different product all together...just as Chilton's records are a different product from BIg Star.

      Bangkok is awesome. You gotta get I Wish I Could Meet of my favorites from anybody. It's from the same session as Sugar Sugar.