Sunday, 20 February 2011

Amboy Dukes - Marriage on the Rocks/Rock Bottom

Pre-Redneck Ted

This is an amazing album - experimental and eclectic and exhilarating. It was recorded in 1969 and released I think in 1970. I bought the vinyl somewhere in California in the early 70s when I was visiting my family in Los Angeles. I remember also buying a second-hand pair of Levis from a large pile of similar in a cool shop somewhere else in California. They were the best I ever had. I also bought a pair of blue and white striped jeans you could only buy in the States and I wore them on the plane back to England and no one laughed, at least not to my face.

In loving this album you have to divorce your feelings for the Ted Nugent then from the Ted Nugent now. There may in fact be no difference in his actual thoughts and feelings across this time, but his current right-wing and gun-totting views did not appear on the album, unless 'Get Yer Guns' was a premonition of his contemporary right-to-bear-arms advocacy rather than the revolutionary fight for freedom I imagined in those instinctive or wishful thinking listening days of the early 70s.

I didn't know who the Amboy Dukes were when I bought the album either. All I saw was four long-hairs faintly appearing from the shadows of a black cover, and assuming I read the back, the song titles had the weird and wonderful and therefore attractive descriptive nonsense that would suggest this was the kind of far-out music I would freak out to, for example 'The Inexhaustible Quest for the Cosmic Cabbage'. That was a much more expansive statement than 'Fresh Garbage' - what more could a young hippie desire?

Whatever the intricacies and/or hidden messages of the lyrics, the music thrilled me then as it does now. The opener 'Marriage' [in 3 parts] is a full-on prog instrumental with the occasional mix of garage and classical guitar, symptomatic of the whole album's rich and varied mixtures. Such a start was bound to hook me at that time. The second track 'Breast-fed Gator' is classic 70s rock with heavy metal vocals and the spirit of Blue Cheer. I've already mentioned the third 'Get Yer Guns' and it's the line 'it's time to take over this place' that I will have transformed, rightly or wrongly, as a call to metaphorical arms against the establishment of the time. Who would have known then that it was Nugent's future call to allegedly shit in Saddam Hussein's bidet when he made a visit to the former leader's war room as a reward for entertaining the US troops in Iraq in 2004?

'Non-conformist Wilderbeast Man' is a brisk rocking track in the vein of Ten Years After to keep the aural heart pumping. The fifth 'Today's Lesson [Ladies and Gentleman]' has a wild guitar and screaming-in-pain vocal sandwich that plays across the stereo speakers in the brilliantly obvious way it was so simply mixed in those days.

My favourite track is the sixth 'Children of the Woods' and it starts side 2 of the vinyl. This is the funkiest number and has a stonking guitar solo. Again, the lyric 'free the children of the woods' probably appealed to my naive sense of making a stand against the world - whatever that world represented because it was important to be against it - and it is the anthemic chorus 'free the little children' [ahhh] that leads into the track's wicked and wondrous wow-wow guitar solo.

The last two tracks conclude the album on its eclectic high. The penultimate 'Brain Games of Yesteryear' is a rocketlaunched garage rocker, and the last 'The Inexhaustible Quest for the Cosmic Cabbage' is a mishmash of styles - what one reviewer has called 'cut and paste' - and it is the most psychedelic with its jazz sax woven in and out of the variations, these variations including Beach Boy echos, Beatlesesque [or more aptly George Martin] soundbites, chanting, and an overall Zappaesque aural aura.

It's a great listen. My cover has a bullet-hole in the top left hand corner [OK, I know what it is really...] and I'm guessing Nugent shot a few for target practice before he moved on to the animal world and, if he had his way, the anti-West 'tyrants' of the world. I think shitting in their bidets is quite a sane and sensible alternative to shooting.

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