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In The Land Of The Blind, The One Eyed Man Is King.
on 2 May 2011
When Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus first uttered those famous words above, I'm sure that he didn't have a little known rock 'n' roll group from Detroit in mind. But when, in 1974, three african-american brothers by the birth name of Hackney (Bobby, Dannis & David) decided to record a 12-song LP, the title of which was to be a call to arms for the worlds undivided attention, he could well have been contemplating their eventual destiny & place in musical history.
The Death story truly belongs in rock 'n' roll mythology. The three brothers were first introduced to the magic of 'the devil's music' by their father when in the early 60's he sat them down to witness the first of The Beatles legendary performaces on US variety show 'The Ed Sullivan Show' (Febuary 9th 1964). The day after this momentus occasion it is reputed that David Hackney was to find a discarded guitar in an alley behind their family home and set forth to learn all the wonders that the instrument had to offer. Brothers Bobby & Dannis soon followed suit and the story of Death's inception is now set in stone. Nearly.
When the brothers first started out they were plying their trade as an R&B group (back when that term actually meant something) calling themselves Rock Fire Funk Express. It was only with the epithany that an Alice Cooper live show brought them that urged David and his siblings to change their name to 'Death' and take a more rock oriantated approach to their own music. In doing so they were to become one of the real fore-runners of the punk movement of the late 70's and attain a truly special place amongst the great 'lost' bands of theirs or any era (you know the place, it also contains The Modern Lover's teenage angst, The Soft Boy's psychotic doodlings & d.boon's eternal soul).
After recording a 12 song LP in 1974 the band were asked by Columbia Records to change their name (more preciscely they were asked by american uber-producer & executive Clive Davis, who has had a major role in countless acts careers, most notably Janis Joplin, Iggy Pop, Earth Wind & Fire and, uh, Milli Vanilli. Kind of falls away a little with that last one, no?). When the band point blankly refused, apparently telling local record promoter Brian Spears of Groovesville (who'd once worked with the legend that is George Clinton) that 'Clive Davis can go to hell', the recorded music went away in storage and was never to be heard of again. Thankfully in 2009, indie label Drag City (home to Pavement, Joanna Newsom, Will Oldham & Royal Trux amongst many other greats) deemed fit to release the 7 surviving songs as this long awaited LP, '...For The Whole World To See'. And history can now breath a huge sigh of relief.
The record is a blistering slice of proto-punk that brings memories of great luminaries such as The Stooges, MC5 and the whole CBGB's movement. Opener 'Keep On Knocking' almost sounds like a lost Beatles standard played for kicks, the lenghly 'Let The World Turn' predates Television by a generation and barn-storming closer 'Politicians In My Eyes' is surely the great 'lost' song of the Vietnam war (just to think, as america was belattedly pulling it's troops from the jungle nightmare this animilistic vendetta was pouring from this incredibly anit-corparate act. The more things change...). Fans of acts as diverse as the MC5, Love, Television, The Ramones, Chic and Sly & The Faimly Stone will all find something to adore in this music and it is only sad that the world remains as blind now as it was in 1974.
Also, thanks to Robert Manis of Chicago who's great music taste and unrelenting drive ultimately led to this release. Thank you sir, we are eternally grateful.