Ace Records - Get On The Right Track January 1996 CDWIKD 158
Get On The Right Track January 1996 Cauldron plus
FIFTY FOOT HOSE Cauldron plus Big Beat - CDWIKD 158
AND AFTER IF NOT THIS TIME OPUS 777 THE THINGS THAT CONCERN YOU OPUS 11 RED THE SIGN POST FOR PAULA ROSE FANTASY GOD BLESS THE CHILD CAULDRON IF NOT THIS TIME RED THE SIGN POST FLY FREE DESIRE BAD TRIP SKINS BAD TRIP
"I don't know if they are immature or premature" said noted critic Ralph J Gleason of the Fifty Foot Hose back in 1968 when their just-released Cauldron album had many in the rock world scratching their heads. Coming from San Francisco with a female vocalist and original material in a blues-rock format, the Hose were certainly in the vanguard of the day, yet their pioneering use of pre-synthesizer electronics was just a little too weird, for even the Bay Area of the time. Record Collector magazine recently suggested the album sounds "as if Joe Meek had twiddled the knobs on an early Dead or Airplane LP".
It's been increasingly hip of late amongst indie rock circles to drop such late 60s avant-rock names as Silver Apples and the United States Of America; indeed the former have even had a whole tribute album recently released in their honour. But those groups tended to use electronics as a sonic means to an end. The Fifty Foot Hose wove the bizarre, other-worldly textures of leader Cork Marcheschi's primitive electronic box of tricks into the very fabric of their music, in a conscious attempt to weld avant-garde theory and ideas to a contemporary rock beat. A few years later in the UK, Brian Eno would be 'treating' Roxy Music in a similar fashion; hopefully with this Big Beat reissue of Cauldron the Hose's pioneering work in this area will finally be acknowledged.
(Not that the group escaped the attentions of the cognoscenti: in fact, Cauldron has become a much sought-after record by London club dee-jays, smitten by its early proto-synth textures and jazzy phrasing of singer Nancy Blossom; witness the Hose's very groovy interpretation of God Bless The Child.)
The group came about as the brainchild of Marcheschi, formerly bass player in a James Brown-styled clubhouse R&B act the Ethix. As much as he loved R&B, Cork was equally into avant-garde ideas and avant-garde music, specifically the groundbreaking synthesiser material being developed by Don Buchla, Terry Riley and others at the San Francisco Tape Centre. Inspired by these experiments, when the Ethix split Cork constructed an 'instrument' out of some oscillators, a theremin and a speaker from a WW2 aircraft carrier.
He formed the Hose in 1967 with guitarist David Blossom, whose quirkly melodic songs fit the 'electronics into rock' concept perfectly. The group stuck around long enough to record the album - produced by future Dead soundman Dan Healy - but live performances tended only to confuse audiences at local venues like the Fillmore. When the local production of "Hair" offered members a reliable wage, the group quietly disbanded. Marcheschi has since become a world-renowned sculptor, but still regards Hose with immense pride, and is flattered by echoes of their work in contemporary alternative rock.
Conversations with Cork are always entertaining, particularly when he tells of the time his two musical interests first collided. The occasion was "pure Dada", in that Marcheschi gathered his perplexed cohorts in the Ethix together one night in 1966 at his mother's house, put each member in a different room, and at the count of four taped them playing whatever came into their heads for exactly two and a half minutes.
Cork actually wangled it whereby the cacophonic results were released as a single (with the appropriate title Bad Trip). There conveniently wasn't a playing speed on the records label, so for your enhanced listening pleasure we've included Bad Trip on this reissue at both 33 and 45 rpm, along with its flipside Skins, and four songs from Fifty Foot Hose's 1967 demo tape.
Alec Palao _________________________________________________________________
Trivia note : There's a strong buzz around at the moment about 1960s recordings that employ the early analogue electronic synthesizers. Fifty Foot Hose should be checked out by all those interested in just how this instrumentation and sound developed. Oh...yes! And anybody else interested in 60s sounds and the more left-field avenues of rock culture should check it out too (Fifty Foot Hose have been cited as an influence on the likes of Pere Ubu and Throbbing Gristle).