Jon Spencer – Melody Maker: Rebellious Jukebox [1400 Words] (PRESS, UK)

4 March 1995 Melody Maker
Rebellious Jukebox article from UK music weekly Melody Maker in which Jon Spencer discusses some of his favourite records.Jon Spencer Photo: Stephen Sweet
Einsturzende Neubaten Photo: Jon Blackmore
Steven Albini Photo: Alan Reevell
“Jon Spencer, minus his Blues Explosion, tries to find some anecdotes about the records that make him want to shake his ass.

1. Various Artists: “Back From The Grave Volume One” “This is just a bunch of records in no strict numerical order otherwise it’s way too much pressure, but this record is the one that probably made me want to play rock ‘n’ roll guitar. It’s a compilation of US sixties-garage punk. I’d never heard music like this before, it was incredibly primitive, almost inept. I was in college – or I guess you people say University – at the time. Prior to that in High School, I was listening to stuff like Kraftwerk, The Residents and Devo. ‘Are We Not Men?’ and ‘We Are Devo’ were my favourites. No, I didn’t walk around with a giant eyeball stuck on my head.”

2. The Stooges: “Metallic KO”/”Funhouse” “When I started getting into garage, I was hanging out with some guys and we got a band together. The friend who introduced me to the ‘Back From The Grave’ compilations was also really into ‘Metallic KO’ and we’d always be quoting from that and doing all the in-between-song routines. If I had to pick a Stooges record it would probably be ‘Metallic KO’ or ‘Funhouse’. ‘Funhouse’ is probably the perfect record. It’s an incredible blues record.”

3. Nick Cave: “From Her To Eternity” “There was a period when I really liked The Birthday Party but it was after they split up. ‘From Her To Eternity’ was just a really messed-up version of rock music. I saw Nick Cave do a gig in New York City around the same time when I was living here for one summer. I met Nick Cave years later but I don’t really like to meet anybody. It is nice to meet people but I’ve learned that you can’t really expect anything and it’s really best not to seek anybody out or try and strike up a friendship. I’d much rather have a relationship with the person’s work.”

4. Einsturzende Neubaten: “Halber Mensch” “Neubauten did actually have songs. There was an EP called ‘Yu Gung’ which went with this record and ‘Yu Gung’ was just a f***ing incredible song with an Adrian Sherwood mix. Also on this record was a version of the Lee Hazlewood songs, ‘Sand’. The only night that I ever spend in jail was because a friend of mine and I were stealing metal. We were into banging on metal, like any good industrial fan did back then. We were in a scrap yard trying to get some good pieces and we got picked up by the cops. The owner didn’t press any charges but we spent July Fourth in jail.”

5. Sonic Youth/Swans/Lydia Lunch “This is all New York stuff, post new-wave. This was the kind of stuff that really made me want to move to the East village; it made it seem like a really cool place. If I had to pick one record, it would probably be ‘Cop’ by Swans. I mean, I really like Sonic Youth’s records and they were more of an influence but The Swans were such an extreme, pure thing. I don’t know Lydia Lunch at all, but she wrote a scathing piece about Pussy Galore for ‘Force Exposure’, say how we were just crap and ripping off anything she’d ever done. She really hated us.”

6. Public Enemy: “It Takes A Nation of Millions” “NUMBER five? You’ve got to give me a break, I’m talking about lots of records. I think ‘Nation of Millions’ is probably the greatest record ever made, but didn’t I say that about ‘Funhouse’? ‘Funhouse’ is the greatest blues record but then again maybe ‘Nation of Millions’ is, I don’t know. There’s one song on the album with a tea kettle whistle and you just heard it everywhere in New York City for an entire summer. On the streets, coming out of cars, we listened to it all the time in the van. I’m sorry, I can’t think of a good anecdote.”

7. James Brown “I first listened to James Brown back at University and the after a few years I went back to it. When the ‘Startime’ boxed set came out, I listened to it on acid and I want people to know that. No, I don’t dance to James Brown. I don’t really dance anyway. The thing that I like to do most to music is drive. I don’t have some kind of big booming system in my van. My old van had this really cheap stereo with no bass at all, so that was coming at from a different angle.”

8. Jesse Mae Hempill: “Feelin’ Good” “She’s a woman from northern Mississippi. Her father made some records with his fife and drum band, his name was Sid Hemphill. She’s from a musical family and she plays slide guitar. She’s still alive and she still plays and I’ve seen her like three times. Most of this record is just her playing guitar and sometimes she’ll tap her foot on a tambourine and it’s very raw.”

9. Sun Records “At the start if The Blues Explosion, I went through a very heavy period with Sun Records; Jerry Lee, Elvis, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison. With Elvis, I really prefer some of the later stuff when he still had Scotty Moore in the band. When Scotty Moore played guitar, it was just some of the craziest, most stupid stuff. It sounded like it was from outer space. It was really Cristina, my wife, who was a huge Elvis fan and still is. She can remember the day he died, she was really, really upset and cried and cried. But I didn’t know him and I didn’t care. My little sister is really into Elvis now and my parents are a little puzzled because, by the time Elvis became famous, they weren’t teenagers anymore.”

10. Big Black: “Atomizer” “In the Eighties, there was a real sense of community for me with the whole indie rock scene in America. Not only was this a great record but Big Black were one of those bands who really held onto the ideals of independence. It was all about community and doing it yourself. I got to know Steve Albini and worked with him and it all tied together, but I can remember when Cristina got this record because I’d never liked Big Black but I really grew to love them.”

11. The Residents: “Satisfaction” “The reason that I liked The Residents is because they were just playing around with stuff. They did do some good songs but their whole thing was based on f***ing around with pop culture and pop music. They never took off anywhere, maybe that was the point of it. I’ve always liked music that was never going to work. Their cover of ‘Satisfaction’ was just totally f***ed up. It’s ridiculous.”

12. The Electric Eels: “A Physical Investigation With…” The Monks: “Black Monk Time” “What’s always appealed to me are records made by bands which are just too messed up and weird. It’s like you’re finding something secret. It’s music that came from nowhere. The Monks were a bunch of American GIs in Germany in the Sixties who formed a band out of boredom. They were a garage band by default. The Electric Eels were so f***ing weird. They were around in the early Seventies but this record didn’t come out until 1989. They could never get anyone to put them on and they used to band sheets of metal. three members of the band were always walking out because the frontman, Morton, used to attack them.”

13. Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel: “Hole” “This was another huge album that went along with the Nick Cave stuff. It’s crazy cartoon music. It’s wacky, but it is pop music. Everytime I see Jim lately, he’s always f***ed up. I think he always has been but it’s only now that I’m aware that he’s usually doing something. He’s been in New York City for more than 10 years now’ he just goes to tons of shows – you can’t not know him. He’s always out so I got to know him – but after Lydia left!”

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion are currently touring the UK with the Beastie Boys”