Recently over in England, someone dug up some old tapes of a band called Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, a band who may have gone largely unheard of for the rest of time, were it not for the fact that their drummer was one Ringo Starr. Yes, two years before he started drumming for The Beatles, Ringo was in another, showier pop band that may have influenced the early glam-rock scene. Maybe not, but we'll at least be able to hear what they sounded like when their album is released later this month.
Aren't there other performers out there with tapes tucked away in a basement or closet somewhere? Perhaps of an earlier musical project they'd rather never saw the light of day? Oh, there simply must be!
Why, we can almost picture the surprisingly detailed descriptions, which we are certainly not making up...
5. The Tape: Cry the Lies of Night (2002) What It Is: Gotye's old screamo band
Come on, you knew he had to have been in one. Recovered from the attic of a girl the bassist once dated, Gotye's first music project sounds like what would happen if early My Chemical Romance listened to every Thursday album over and over one weekend, then got drunk and forgot all of it.
The guitars are tuned at least six steps down, and the drums sound like they're being recorded inside a Winnebago rolling down a cliff. All of the songs are about girls, possibly the same girl as is consistent with the genre. There are no pop hooks to be found as in Gotye's signature "Somebody That I Used to Know," as the songs themselves seem to have been cut up stanza by stanza, fed into a bingo-ball spinner, and then reassembled in random order.
Sample song titles: "It's Not Love But It's Not Hate (Okay It's Hate)," "Piercing the Cold Dead Dark In a Rusty Raft," "Pardon Me But Could You Very Quickly Just Acknowledge That You've Killed Me?"
4. The Tape: Ain't Afraid (2000) What It Is: Nicki Minaj's old girl group
How did Nicki Minaj get so weird? Perhaps the answer can be found on the dusty old CD purchased at the estate sale of a dead record producer. A 16-year-old Nicki, going by the stage name Taanyaa Craazy, made up one third of flash-in-the-pan R&B group Ain't Afraid, a blatant Destiny's Child ripoff.
The three members of Ain't Afraid routinely talk over one another, steal each others' verses, sing each others' harmonies, and flat-out bicker on what had to be the first takes of a wisely aborted recording session. "Why you chasin' me?/ You know I ain't gonna be/ No kind of rebound girl," Minaj nee Craazy sings on lead track "Rebound Girl," before stopping to shriek "Bitch, do not be reaching over here at my lyric sheet! This is my motherfuckin' verse!" at one of her bandmates, known only as "Cinna Red" and "Diva D" in the handwritten markings on the CD itself.
Indeed, the CD does not have a proper cover, but instead came in a blank jewel case adorned only by a Post-It note upon which is angrily scrawled "Fuck this shit!"
Sample song titles: "Divas 4 Destruction," "Smooth-Ass Renegade," "Independent Ho"
3. The Tape: Intrinsic Chromatic Measurements (2007) What It Is: Avant-garde experimentalism from the band Sheer Heightened Rookery, the original incarnation of English-Irish boy band One Direction
Before they sold out, those deceptively bland, pretty kids in One Direction were into some complex intellectual shit. On this multimedia disc discovered on a convicted sex offender's hard drive, Sheer Heightened Rookery puts the listener through a challenging but rewarding ordeal.
Lead song "Time?" is simply a cacophony of egg timers, maybe hundreds of them, ticking all at once while the band members scream, moan, and sob Talhaiarn's poetry in its original Welsh. Found instruments are all over the album, with Liam Payne preferring the sound of miscallaneous glass bits inside a running vaccum cleaner, while Zayn Malik takes the more direct approach of repeatedly bashing an old iron bedframe with a crowbar.
The boys' ability to play unusual instruments is nothing short of astounding, with instruments such as the zither, the glass armonica, the waterphone, the daxophone, and many more appearing throughout. The time signatures threaten to distort space-time itself, and the lyrics alternate between whispered secrets, recited formulas, and anguished screams. When the boy band made their drastic stylistic change later on, the world lost an impressive, if utterly unmarketable, group of savants.
Sample song titles: "Leibniz's Majesty Undone," "Six and Seven, If Memory Replenishes," "All Aglow, Immolated (Phoebus Afire)"
2. The Tape: The Tear the Man Down Sessions (1974) What It Is: Evidence that Hank Williams Jr. toyed with Communism
Known today for his extreme right-wing views as much as he was known for fusing country and rock in the late '70s, an ancient 8-track tape stashed inside a safe buried under Ajax Mountain shows a bizarre period of experimentation in Williams Jr.'s life.
From a time when Bocephus was churning out mostly tame, radio-friendly country and western, the Tear the Man Down Sessions reveal an angry young man singing bitterly about wanting to wreck the status quo and burn the establishment. The stringently pro-Union "Work Together" sounds downright Marxist in its views, threatening to "string up these modern-day railroad barons by their lyin' tongues."
Indeed, the singing often breaks down into furious ranting, with each song ending in either defeated muttering or footsteps, continued, distant ranting, and a slamming door. When Williams Jr. reaches the end of side two, a guitar audibly drops to the hard ground after which we hear a resigned "Shit, man. Shit."
Sample song titles: "Unite To Fight," "According To My Needs," "Them Greedy Sonsabitches In Their God Damned Limousines"
The Tape: 1. Count On Cowboy Cletus (1980) What It Is: Children's songs... by David Allan Coe
After his first underground novelty album Nothing Sacred's success, David Allan Coe flirted briefly with a 180-degree turn in the other direction. Recovered from the ruins of an exploded moonshine shack in Alabama, the only surviving copy of these demos features Coe vascillating wildly between child-friendly lyrics and the sex-infused profanity common in his other underground works.
Whenever Coe forgets a lyric, which is often, he breaks his cheerful Cowboy Cletus character and fills in the holes with blue humor. On "Count With Me," he sings "Count with me, 1, 2, 3/ It's as easy as ABC/ Count on sticks, 4, 5, 6/ Tell your Mom to suck my dick." Coe and his fellow musicians laugh over much of the recordings and become audibly drunker as time goes on, becoming nearly unintelligible by the end of side two.
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"Zebras are horses with stripes, with stripes/ In jail I killed a guy with a pipe, a pipe," he slurs, adding "Nah, fuck it, we'll fix it later." Later never came, however, and the project was abandoned. Too soon, in our opinion.
Sample song titles: "The Magic of Colors," "S-P-E-L-I-N-G," "All You Little Bastards"