the

flying

lizards

 

 

 

    Side A
      01) Der Song von Mandelay  [2:27]  [Bertold Brecht/Kurt Weill]  (the UK version titles this song 'Mandelay Song')
      02) Her Story  [4:37] [General / Strike / Goldman / Solomon / Cunningham / Evans]
      03) TV  [3:51]  [General / Strike / Solomon / Cunningham / Evans]
      04) Russia  [6:11]  [Cunningham]
      05) Summertime Blues  [3:09]  [E. Cochran / J. Capeheart]
    Side B
      06) Money (That's What I Want)  [5:52] [Barry Gordy Jr. / Janie Bradford]
      07) The Flood  [4:57]  [Cunningham]
      08) Trouble  [2:46]  [Cunningham]
      09) Events during Flood  [3:25]  [Cunningham]
      10) The Window  [4:52]  [Cunningham]

Sleeve notes:
Recorded at Berry Street and Brixton, London
Engineered by Dave Hunt and David Cunningham
Sleeve by Laurie Rae Chamberlain (xerography), Richard Rayner-Canham (photography) and David Cunningham

Description: Thanks to the break-away success of the "Money (That's What I Want)" single, this Dada/Fluxus inspired debut album by The Flying Lizards became an instant sleeper (even being released on 8 track!), and ultimately made it onto a certain generation's list of "favorite albums of all time" because of it's catchy humor and accessibly abstract qualities. Arty and erratic, but somehow symmetrical, this album has everything from irreverent Zappa/Residents humor and catchy Kraftwerk robotics, to Eno sound-scapes and chilly, Joni Mitchell-esque ballads framed in Cage found-sound hi-jinks. The postmodern subjects of the album are often presented in a quirky and robotic sound that was appropriate for (and slightly ahead of) it's time. Yet for the Lizards, even when the sound of the music is stop/start herky-jerky and Devo-esque, it's mid tempo sound is heavily reverb-ed, spacious and soothing. In some of the album's brightest moments, themes of 80's materialism and Orwellian prophecy are conveyed not with synths, samples and deconstructed 4/4 beats, but with sounds of breezy dub, homemade percussion and the hum-able summer dusk ambiance of your favorite modern suburb.
    Side one confidently starts off with an obnoxious version of Bertold Brecht and Kurt Weill's "Mandelay Song". Any radio friendly listeners scared off by this screetching decoy probably shouldn't stick around anyway. Using machine gun-speed piano, clattering snare drum, mock-operetic vocals by Deborah Lizard (real name: Deborah Evans) and a horn section that sounds like it's played by suffering asthmatics - it almost ends up as a reverent version of a song that is so inappropriate anyway that it ends up doing a conceptual double flip -  a perfect way to start the record. This is sharply contrasted by the next two numbers; "Her Story" and "TV" are both harmonious little tunes despite the delicate cacophony created by found-object drums, wah-wah guitar, smatterings of computer data and delicious vocals by Deborah. The lyrics mix Reganomics with feminist anthems and bohemian clichés, Deborah singing "...you can still make money by singing sweet songs of love" and Cunningham comrade Julian Marshall chiming in to repeat "I think you're very...  very...   very...  very...  very...  " until long after the song has ended. The roots and "feel" of later music groups such as Stereolab, Saint Etienne and Portishead can inarguably be traced back to the Lizard's odd vision through this LP, exemplified perfectly by these two tracks (however the Lizards would prove, despite their brief and sporadic existence, to be a bit more imaginative that all those artists combined). Almost ending off side one, the next (very long) piece, "Russia", is a strange marching song rant with David and crew slowly chanting Sanskrit to marching (dub-inspired) bass and snare drum, with oddly sequenced samples weaving in and out of the robotic rhythm..
    Now, the first time I heard the Lizards' cover of "Summertime Blues" I stated that Deborah's vocal stylings sounded like that of a kidnap victim being forced to sing at gunpoint over the telephone by her captors in order to prove her still living status to her rich loved ones, the fear and apprehension in (and mere presence of) her vocal cords canceling out any need for harmony or key (or singing). "Summertime Blues" was really Cunningham's "Pop Culture Blues", the first official Lizards song, this deconstruction of the hallowed Eddie Cochran anthem wanted to comment on (and probably rip the rug out from under) the mechanics of classic rock and roll, but also pay it's own warped homage to the new industrialized and suburban society that spawned it. Deborah's deadpan, disembodied recitation of the famous lyrics over David's ironic drum/guitar/piano interpretation of the classic beat sounds like a high school youth anthem intended for the captain of the football team that was hijacked at the last minute by that brainy, mis-fit girl who sat in the back of art class in an act of square peg defiance.
    Side two starts out with the Lizards' now (in)famous cover of the Bary Gordy Jr./Janie Bradford/Beatles tune "Money (That's What I Want)". If you haven't heard it (and there can't be too many of you), it's a post-structuralist act of appropriation that ironically out-smarted it's de-ducers by becoming a rock and roll classic of it's own kind. Building itself on the mischievous ground work that "Summertime Blues" laid down (but this time with more confidence - and better recording techniques), the song successfully mixes heavily reverb-ed bass, booming drum (reportedly recorded live in a large room with a single microphone, achieving it's echo-y sound because the cord wasn't long enough to get close to the drum), guitar, piano, loud handclap crashes (slamming doors?) and sci-fi bleeps and bloops. This serves as the backing track for Deborah's now trademark mannequin singing and ghost-like "whoooo-whoooo" backing vocals by "The Random Brothers".  It's hard to put your finger on why, but it all makes for an infectious and instantly likable (laughable?) groove that is easy to plug into, probably because of rather than despite it's strategic lunacy. Even kids from middle American roller rinks who didn't know the Beatles from Duchamp could dance to the song's wickedly funky beat, which they did in record numbers. And even though David Cunningham might have had a saboteur's agenda with this song in Beatles-proud England, on the other side of the Atlantic it made an early 80's America (giddy with their first tastes of 'new wave' and ravenous for more) want to wear a garbage bag and 3-D glasses, spray their hair green and dance like a robot in front of a Warhol painting, which they also did in record numbers. This song's inclusion on a zillion and counting "80's" music compilations and film soundtracks attests to it's forever-icon status. The album version of the song is quite lengthy and after it finishes it's homage, goes into a long instrumental jam of sorts that mixes sound effects and found samples (just what is that talk about appearing between the speakers anyway?) around the skull-thud beat.
    The album takes a surprisingly pleasant turn from that point. "The Flood", "Trouble" and the super-soporific "Events During the Flood" are three pulsing, Krautrock-ish, and very effective ambient sound-scapes that mix Eno qualities with pulsing throbs (a heartbeat on 'Trouble'?), floating poly rhythms, peppers of samples, wailing/whispering vocals that sound like they were recorded in a far-off canyon (they are indeed there on 'The Flood' - listen again), and a hundred other layers that slowly reveal themselves over repeated listens. Done with drummers from This Heat and The Pop Group, the bass player from Aswad and final mixing and arrangement (and vocals?) by Cunningham - the results are an excellent and effective triptych.
    The album's closing track, "The Window", is many people's favorite song on the record. A surreal ballad written and sung by British music journalist Vivien Goldman, it has chilly lyrics about a girl sitting in her room while her possibly un-dead ex-boyfriend sits outside the window watching her. Does he want to kill her? Will she find the strength to fight? Did she remember to the lock the door tight? Should she just remain motionless? Is it all just in her head? "Sometimes I think he's a vampire/He's making holes to drain blood..." Vivien alternativley whispers and sings with remarkable aplomb. It probably should sound scary but it's somehow heart warming. Maybe it could have been the theme song to Roman Polanski's "Repulsion" - the melody and lyrics echoing inside Catherine Deneuve's head as she sits in her flat, arms reaching out for her from the walls and ceiling. Vivien's haunting vocal style, over tinkering piano melody and a percussion section that sounds like gently clapping cinder blocks, closes out the album with a spine chilling stun. Towards the end of the song, when the music stops momentarily and Viv's relaxed "doot-doot, doot do-do-do-do-do's" kick in - everyone in the room's got goose bumps.
    And what of the quiet sounds that secretly inhabit the spaces between the songs? The between-track noises credited to "Additional recordings made in Munich, Maidstone and in transit" on the sleeve (the UK version of the sleeve bothered to credit them anyway)? In the end they're just one more strange layer. They actually give the album even more breathing room, more psychic space between the speakers as it were. It's like you're witnessing the whole record performed live in a large concert hall: the ever-so-quiet footsteps, creaking doors, snippets of conversations, outside street roar and birds being the awkward, incidental noises heard by an audience that isn't quite sure if it's supposed to applaud or not between the numbers. How appropriate.

 

 

Mandelay Song   [2:27]  [Bertold Brecht/Kurt Weill]

Mutter Goddams Puff in Mandelay,
Sieben Bretter an der grunen See.
Goddam, was ist das fur'n Etablissement,
Da stehen schon funf zehn die Bretterwand entlang,
In der Hand die Uhr und mit Hohe.
Gibt's denn nur ein Mensch in Mandelay.
Menschen sind das schonste auf der Welt
Denn sie sind zum Teufel wert ihr Geld.
Und es ware alles einfach in der Ordnung,
Wenn der Mensch der drinn'ist, nicht so langsam ware.
Nehmt dem Browning, schiesst mal durch das Turchen,
Denn der Mensch, der drinnen, hindert den Verkehr.

(chorus):
Rascher, Johnny he! Rascher, Johnny he!
Stimm't ihn an, den Song von Mandelay.
Liebe, die ist doch an Zeit nicht gebunden,
Johnny, mach rasch, denn hier geht's um Sekunden,
Ewing nicht stehet der Mond uber dir, Mandelay,
Ewing nicht stehet der Mond uber dir.

Mutter Goddams Puff in Mandelay,
Jetzt ruht uber dir die grunen See.
Goddam, was ist das fur'n Etablissement,
Jetzt stehen keine funf mehr die Bretterwand entlang,
Jetzt gibt's keine Uhr und kein Hohe.
Und kein Mensch mehr ist in Mandelay.

Damals gab's noch Menschen auf der Welt
Und die waren eben wert ihr Geld.
Jetzt ist eben nichts mehr auf der Welt in Ordnung,
Und ein Puff wie dieses, kennt man heute nicht mehr.
Keinen Browning mehr und auch kein Turchen,
Wo kein Mensch ist, da ist auch kein Verkehr.
 

Her Story  [4:37] [General / Strike / Goldman / Solomon / Cunningham / Evans]

Knights in shiny armour
Always takes the key
History, history, hypocricy
But you can still make money
By singing sweet songs of love

(chorus):
I own you
You don't own me
You are my territory
This is a love song
This is a love song

I blame our books
I blame the TV
I blame top twenty for my jealousy
But you can still make money
By singing sweet songs of love
 

TV  [3:51]  [General / Strike / Solomon / Cunningham / Evans]

I knew you'd go far
In my white convertible car
Recline in my seat
Lying back in this heat
Look me up on channel three

So sophisticated
Charming and educated
And I hope you don't mind
Nothing's harder to find
Someone sensual like you

Elton John's style
With an eagle profile
Small screen smile
Coquille St. Jaques
Coquille St. Jaques

I think you're very, very, very,
Very, very, very, very, very, very...

Etends moi
Au dessous de toi
Je suis une sphinx
Les genoux a chacque cote
De vos cuisses

It won't take long
Oh you're so strong
Recline in my seat
Back in this heat
In my white convertible

I told you before
You've made me so sore
With your foot on the floor
All the way to my door
Your beautiful teeth, what's underneath?

There's nothing left to do

I think you're very, very, very,
Very, very, very, very, very, very...
 

Russia  [6:11]  [Cunningham]

I think I'll go to Russia
'Cause I don't like porn or cocoa
I think I'll go to Russia
'Cause I don't like porn or cocoa
I must explain I'm not complaining
I'm just having fun
I must explain I'm not complaining
I'm just having fun

I think I'll go to Russia
'Cause I don't like porno girls
I must explain I'm not complaining
I'm just having fun
I think I'll go to Russia
'Cause I don't like porno girls
I think I'll go to Russia
'Cause I don't like porno girls

The horrors in your daily paper
Those aren't true at all
I know I'm gonna live forever
'Though it beats the rule
I must explain I'm not complaining
I'm just having fun
I must explain I'm not complaining
I'm just having fun

Summertime Blues  [3:09]  [E. Cochran / J. Capeheart]

I'm gonna raise a fuss
I'm gonna raise a holler
About working all summer
Just to try to earn a dollar
Every time I call my baby
Try to get a date
My boss says
"No dice son you gotta work late"

(chorus):
Sometimes I wonder
What I'm a gonna do
But there ain't no cure
For the summertime blues

Oh my momma, papa told me
Son you gotta make some money
If you wanna use the car
To go riding next Sunday
Well I didn't go to work
Told the boss I was sick
"Now you can't use the car
'Cause you didn't work a lick"

I'm gonna take two weeks
Gonna have a fine vacation
I'm gonna take my problem
To the United Nations
Well I called up my congressman
And he said, quote
"I'd like to help you son
But you're too young to vote"
 

Money (That's What I Want)  [5:52] [Barry Gordy Jr. / Janie Bradford]

The best things in life are free
But you can give them to the birds and bees
I want money

(chorus):
(That's what I want)
That's what I want (That's what I want)
That's what I want (That's what I want)
That's what I want (That's what I want)

Your love brings me such a thrill
But your love won't pay my bills
I want money

Money don't get everything it's true
What it don't get I can't use
I want money

I want money
I want to borrow some money
In fact I want so much money
Give me your money
Just give me money

"Need some directions for it
It should not appear between the speakers
In a correctly tuned system"
 

The Flood  [4:57]  [Cunningham]

Don't say no?
To my life again
Like the parts
That make up just the beginning

I am burning, burning, burning,
Oh I'm burning, burning, burning,
Oozing cauldron, cauldron of pleasure
 

Trouble  [2:46]  [Cunningham]

(instrumental)
 

Events During Flood  [3:25]  [Cunningham]

(instrumental)
 

The Window  [4:52]  [Cunningham]

Can you hear him bang on the window?
(He's throwing things at the window)
Can you hear him bang on the window?
(He's throwing things at the window)
Can you hear him bang on the window?
(He's throwing things at the window)
Can you hear him bang on the window?
(He's throwing things at the window)

(chorus):
I don't want to let him in
I wish he wasn't twice my size
Don't want to let him in
I wish he wasn't twice my size
Don't want to let him in
I wish he wasn't twice my size
Don't want to let him in
I wish he wasn't...

Sometimes I think he's a vampire
(He's making holes to drain blood)
Sometimes I think he's a vampire
(He's making holes to drain blood)
Sometimes I think he's a vampire
(He's making holes to drain blood)
Sometimes I think he's a vampire
(He's making holes to drain blood)

Sometimes you fight for the world
Sometimes you fight for yourself
Sometimes you fight for the world
Sometimes you fight for yourself
Should I sit and listen
Sit, wait, listen hoping that the door's shut tight?
 

Note: the Virgin Japan CD bothered to transcribe these in with the lyric sheet, so here they are:

Additional recordings made in Munich, Maidstone and in transit - between track noises

between tracks 1 and 2: "Some people look really horrid, I'm starting to feel ill now."
between tracks 2 and 3: "OK, have a good evening."
between tracks 6 and 7: "A dime? Ten cents, ten P", "Ten P, no it's not ten P", "Ten P"