The Music Machine in B&W…
Listen/Download – The Music Machine – Trouble
The end of the week is here, and thanks to a veritable mountain of real world responsibilities/commitments, my brain is good and fried (just like the rest of me).
I need something that’ll put a little pep in my step, so I’m dipping into the ‘recent acquisitions of music that I’ve known and loved for decades folder’ for something extra tasty.
I have been a Music Machine fan since I picked up the vinyl Best Of that Rhino put out in the early 80s.
Long thought of as a garage/Nuggets band (thanks to the one-hit-wonderfulness of ‘Talk Talk’) the Music Machine were much more than that.
Where the 60s garage zeitgeist was filled with one-off bands that made it into the studio and bashed their heads against the wall for a raucous song or two, the Music Machine, and their leader Sean Bonniwell were a band with a vision*.
While they were certainly ‘punk’ in both the ‘wild six-teez ponk zound’ and in the broader sense, they were musically light years beyond many of their contemporaries, experimenting with odd time signatures, complex melodies, and unusual lyrical themes, all presented with the bad-ass all-black, single glove bizarre front that was guaranteed to cement them in the public mind as outsiders.
And outsiders they were, but with one foot planted securely inside the border of the mid-60s Sunset Strip.
It might benefit those that weren’t aware of the Music Machine to hear them before looking at pictures of them, because almost every snapshot I’ve seen of the band verily screams ‘L.A. 1966!!’, and while some of their music screams it just as loudly (like today’s track, for instance), a lot of it seems from another place and time entirely.
I was lucky enough to grab an OG copy of their first album (on Original Sound) recently, and while I’d had a few of their 45s (and that greatest hits LP) for many years, there were a couple of songs on the album that I hadn’t heard in close to 20 years.
Today’s track is one of those.
Now, when I get my hands on new vinyl, the intake process is generally pretty standard, in that I let it pile up for a while, then head on over to the turntable, record the tracks I like to a digital recorder, edit them and convert them into MP3s and stockpile them for both blogging and personal enjoyment.
Most of the time I’ll skip around an album, dropping the needle here and there until I settle on a couple of tracks I like.
The Music Machine album (‘Turn On the Music Machine’) was an exception to that rule. Even though there’s a fair amount of cover material alongside their better known (and a few more obscure) originals, the ‘sound’ of the group is so distinct that I decided to record the whole thing.
The album opens with the aforementioned ‘Talk Talk’, which clocks in at under two minutes, and is so deeply engraved in my mind that I barely paid it any mind, no doubt turning my back on the turntable so that I might surf the interwebs as the record was digimatizing.
But then, right after the needle rode those few silent grooves between songs, all of a sudden BING BANG BOOM and the memory circuits started firing in my head. It was one of those instances where I was hearing a song I absolutely loved but hadn’t heard in years and it was amazing!
I grabbed the jacket and saw that the song in question was ‘Trouble’ and in a few short seconds all the necessary connections were made.
Man, what a tune!
When I made mention before of the Sunset Strip vibe I was not – as they say – whistling Dixie.
‘Trouble’ in just a hair over two minutes encapsulates everything that was amazing about the slightly rougher, garage-ier side of the Sunset Strip. Once the repeating fuzz guitar riff starts in, your mind immediately fills with images of caged go-go girls in fringed dresses.
I’ve made mention in the space before about the kind of manufactured, hip artifice with which the mid-60s scene was portrayed in movies and on TV, in which you weren’t really getting an unvarnished picture of the kids on the Sunset Strip, but rather a simulacrum as processed through the prism of mainstream pop culture (generally handled by people a generation – or more – older than those being depicted).
Though Bonniwell and the Music Machine were definitely first-generation inhabitants of that oeuvre, there’s something about ‘Trouble’, specifically the guitar line that transmits, along with the usual ‘youth in rebellion’ stuff, a sense of pure fun.
‘Trouble’ sounds like that. It’s the Seeds on the ‘Mothers In Law’, Lucy and Viv dressed in hippy mufti lost on the Strip, Sonny and Cher on American Bandstand, movies like ‘Don’t Make Waves’ and ‘The Cool Ones’. Compressed into two minutes and eleven seconds of fuzz and angst is a subliminal slide show of swinging, West Coast sunshine.
Or maybe it’s just me, but I doubt it.
Back in the day, when a bunch of 80s kids were refitting the 60s on our own era, this is the kind of thing that really hit home.
I mentioned the zeitgeist before, which literally translated means ‘time ghost’ or more clearly ‘spirit of time’, and ‘Trouble’, maybe above all other Music Machine songs is really a small, clearly defined sample of the spirit of 1966, at least as it existed in Los Angeles.
I hope you dig it, and I’ll be back on Monday.
*Interestingly, three of them – Keith Olsen, Ron Edgar and Doug Rhodes – ended up in, or working with Curt Boettcher in the Millennium