The album was called Trans. It came out in 1982, and Young’s fans hated it because it was festooned with all these keyboards and vocal effects that made Neil sound like funky Darth Vader. “Where’s the guitar?” so many anguished Harvest holdovers cried. Little did they know that Trans was an artistic representation of Young’s ongoing attempts to directly communicate with his cerebral palsy-afflicted son. Bet you feel like a real shithead now, 1982 Neil Young fan, complaining about keyboards mucking up your precious folk rocker.
Trans is still out of print in America, but the great blog Lost Turntable posted it a couple weeks ago. Grab it while you can—they don’t leave stuff up very long over there, and I feel like the window on this one’s about to close. Sorry I didn’t alert you to this sooner, my fine feathered finks. Awesome things like this occasionally slip through the cracks.
Last week the person who runs the Lost Turntable music blog posted a real treat: the entire flippin’ soundtrack to cult new wave concert film Urgh! A Music War (complete with bonus tracks ripped from a recently acquired VHS copy of the film). Released in 1981, Urgh! offers lively performances from such classic acts as the Police, Devo, Joan Jett, Oingo Boingo, XTC, and operatic space clown Klaus Nomi.
Unfortunately, due to some weird contract law outlined on this website, Urgh! A Music War is “unreleasable” on DVD, Blu-Ray, or any other post-1980 format (that site also sells alleged high quality bootlegs of the film created by someone in the “industry,” but I can’t vouch for/seriously endorse that). The soundtrack to Urgh! can often be just as hard to locate as the movie, so hit up Lost Turntable already and snatch those tunes.
Sometimes they show Urgh! in a truncated form on VH-1 Classic, which is how I first saw it. Three things in this movie immediately spring to mind whenever its name comes up: the recycled crowd footage they use for each band (featuring that really happy-looking mustache guy), the cute synchronized hopping of Devo during “Uncontrollable Urge,” and the epic maneuver performed by Chelsea’s guitarist/resident acrobat during “I’m On Fire.” Check that last one out at 1:51 in the following clip:
Yes, that guy just did an accidental back flip over a monitor and managed to land somewhat on his feet without dropping his guitar or fucking up the song. He deserves a gold medal in rocking out for that one.
UPDATE: Did you notice the main reason Guitar Guy had to execute that epic maneuver is because Chelsea’s singer Gene October, in what I guess was an attempt to register his displeasure with the onstage sound, pushed his monitors back to practically the center of the stage? Man, what a dick! This is the same Gene October who repeatedly kicked Henry Rollins in the ribs one time back in the early eighties while the Black Flag attempted to catch a few Zs before a gig. The whole time, Gene was shouting crap like, “Hey, Los Angeles! Your band sucks, doesn’t it?”
Hey, Gene October. YOU suck, you silly prick.
Here are few other seriously great performances from Urgh!; first up, the Alley Cats:
The aforementioned Devo segment:
How about a little of Danny Elfman’s Oingo Boingo? Bass player looks like Mark Harmon!
And finally, the late, great Lux Interior and the Cramps:
Kinda sad the whole shebang will probably never see a legit 21st Century release, but I guess that’s why God invented things like YouTube. Amen.