Saturday 20 June 2020

The United States Of America ‎– "The United States Of America" (Columbia ‎– CS 9614) 1968

Another group vying to be the first electronic rock group was the ironically monikered, United States Of America.
Their name was of course an provocation—“a way of expressing disdain for governmental policy. It was like hanging the flag upside down,” as the group’s Dorothy Moskowitz explained.The United States of America somehow sounded like a counterculture state-of-the-union address. Their debut album was the work of a group of UCLA students working under the direction of Joseph Byrd,a former student of John Cage,and ,the irony doesn't stop with the group name,a card-carrying Communist (well done you're in the club!?).He envisaged an avant-garde rock band with radical politics at its center, the Psychedelic Crass, and from that combustible starting point came a suite of music that pulls in all directions. Psych-rock and musique concrète leaks into trad jazz and ragtime,a much parodied Psychedelic era genre,and more evidence that Pysch Humour,alongside anyone who is 'stoned' just isn't funny,but with Moskowitz’s beautiful but effectless voice soothing the irritation somewhat.
Never play Ragtime or Dixieland jazz...EVER!


1 The American Metaphysical Circus
2 Hard Coming Love
3 Cloud Song
4 The Garden Of Earthly Delights
5 I Won't Leave My Wooden Wife For You, Sugar
6 Where Is Yesterday
7 Coming Down
8 Love Song For The Dead Ché
9 Stranded In Time
The American Way Of Love
10.I [Part 1] - Metaphor For An Old Man
10.II [Part 2] - California Good-Time Music
10.III [Part 3] - Love Is All
Bonus Tracks
11 Osamu's Birthday
12 No Love To Give
13 I Won't Leave My Wooden Wife For You, Sugar
14 You Can Never Come Down
15 Perry Pier
16 Tailor Man
17 Do You Follow Me
18 The American Metaphysical Circus (Alternate Version)
19 Mouse (The Garden Of Earthly Delights)
20 Heresy (Coming Down)


mandolinny said...

Byrd is arguably best known for, when the major labels launched their legal and PR battles against Napster et al, testifying in court that Columbia had kept his LP in their catalog for decades, and never sent him a royalty statement.

My absolute favorite work of his is the arrangement of "Crucifixion" on Phil Ochs' Pleasures of the Harbor-- electric harpsichord, full orchestra, synthesizer and, at the song's climax, tape manipulation. All of which so terrified Ochs' audience that when the obligatory CD box set came out, the version used of this song was a proper folkie live performance with his own guitar accompaniment.

Wolfgang said...

Great album with that lovely "The Garden Of Earthly Delights", covered by Snakefinger!

I hope this is not too off-topic: Do you know The Secret Society Of The Sonic Six? I think they are absolutely outstanding and something to discover. Most of their stuff is available at Bandcamp. I find it amazing how creative this couple are, given the fact that almost any musical territory in electronics seems to be explored. Sometimes they remind of early Cabaret Voltaire, sometimes of Chrome or mid-phase Ministry, but all in all I find nothing they could be compared with. What do you think?

Philip Johnson said...

Here's Dorothy Moskowitz on Sesame Street a few years later...

parmalee said...

@ mandolinny: I had no idea that Byrd had worked on that Phil Ochs' piece. Makes sense, in retrospect.

Dorothy Moskowitz has claimed that Nico had really wanted to be a part of The United States of America. Could have been interesting, but I always got the sense that Byrd was one of those who obsess over being off by a fraction of a cent, and perfect pitch wasn't one of Nico's strengths.

parmalee said...

Also, I wonder who made the executive decision to go with Byrd's vocals on "Wooden Wife"--what were they thinking?