Monday, 20 May 2013
Another TSOM thirtieth anniversary is upon us – the release of the 12” version of Alice (MR021), which heralded the first official release of a cover version from a band which was quickly developing a reputation for live renditions of other people’s songs. The Stooges’ 1969 was a perfect choice for the band’s official first studio cover (Leonard Cohen’s Teachers had featured on the 1981 demo tape and 1969 had already been heard in Peel Session format) for a variety of reasons. Not only was it one of the high points of the live set at the time, and not only was it an excellent choice for what was originally to have been a US only release (via Braineater), but for Eldritch it also spoke volumes for the Sisters’ place in and relevance to rock’s pantheon. On one level 1969 confirmed Iggy as one of Eldritch’s main influences, whilst on another the lyrical content gave further clues to those originally tempted to lump the band in with others that this was a unique group with no “scene” mentality. Whilst the nihilism (…war across the USA...nothing here for me and you…another year with nothing to do) was familiar to those whose punk odyssey had begun with the Pistols, the age of the protagonist (Last year I was 21) was that of Eldritch when he began to include the song in the live set, and the two chord blues riff was perfect for a band still finding their way musically, the year itself (1969) gave a greater clue to AE’s own musical vision. He had a fascination with this period, when the hippy dream turned sour and the American Dream became quagmired in an amalgam of acid and napalm, race riots and retribution. It was a theme he would return to a year later with Gimme Shelter, and in interviews both at the time and subsequently he namechecked the Altamont Free Festival (with which the song was synonymous) as “when rock music stopped for a second and we began”. With the UK’s 1981 riots and punk reduced to the cartoonish Exploited mohawks and the radical Crass movement, Thatcherism and unemployment promising both No Future and No Fun for the nation’s youth, the timing was perfect for a band who understood the rock life cycle to emerge. Though as a Teenage Sisters Fan in 1983 with little knowledge or interest in Altamont, 1969 was just another welcome slab of merciful madness and magic, Doktor Avalanche’s somewhat brutal beat offset by the mechanised hand-claps, and Eldritch’s angst-ridden screams echoing ear-piercingly over Marx’s strangled one note guitar squall, whilst Adams and Gunn plodded through repetitive bars of soulless punk blues. As the only new recording on MR021, 1969 guaranteed healthy sales for the band’s first 12” release, and gave a further boost to the original double A-side songs which were the first real recruiters of a national following that still remains strong three decades later.