It’s funny how the human mind works. I hadn’t really listened to Kiss for almost twenty years—not since I owned Crazy Nights and Smashes, Thrashes & Hits … on cassette! But near the end of 2009, out of the blue, I found myself reenlisting in the Kiss Army. I began to buy Kiss music, including their most obscure studio album and the source of this three-post series—1981’s Music from “The Elder.”
Music from “The Elder” came about at a time when Kiss found themselves at an ironic crossroads. The softer approach of Dynasty and Unmasked, as well as extensive world tours, had increased their global appeal. But at the same time, their newfound pop sensibilities alienated many American fans, who missed the four-headed rock behemoth of old. A concept album wasn’t an advisable way to win the fans back, but that was what they got. The hope must have been that old ally Bob Ezrin, who had recently worked with Pink Floyd on The Wall, would bring some of the old Destroyer magic on board. The result was a flop that hasn’t even reached gold status after nearly three decades, but I’ll take Music from “The Elder” over The Wall any day of the week.
Why am I blogging about a Kiss album here at OP-dEaD? And not only a Kiss album, but one widely considered to be mediocre at best? Well, Music from “The Elder” was supposed to herald not only the group’s comeback, but also a movie that was ultimately never filmed—or developed to any significant degree, for that matter. When sales were so dismal, there was no reason to pursue the project further. Which leaves fans like yours truly to enjoy the music and wonder what the resultant movie would have been like.
Curious? Check back tomorrow! (I’m trying out a new strategy to keep my posts short and free up some time.)
Here’s a jazzy dose of proto-Goblin, courtesy of the band Seconda Generazione. The virtuoso trio featured two future founders of Goblin, namely keyboard player Claudio Simonetti and drummer Walter Martino. Bassist Stefano Cerri, who passed away in 2000, was apparently an experienced session musician. (He also bore a certain resemblance to former Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman!) As you can hear for yourself, some Goblin hallmarks, like complex time signatures and a tight sound, are present and correct. But the vibe is undoubtedly much lighter and a bit more “muso wank.” This clip also features what I would consider a rarity: a drummer who actually uses his gong!
Unfortunately, since I don’t speak Italian, I’m unable to glean much information about Seconda Generazione from the Internet. Cursory detective work leads me to conclude that the fleeting outfit lasted from late 1971 until the following year. In 1972, Simonetti and Martino begat new band Oliver with guitarist Massimo Morante and bassist Fabio Pignatelli—that’s the classic Goblin lineup, btw. Oliver would mutate into Cherry Five, and then, in 1974 or early 1975, the band became Goblin. By that point, band members had come and gone, only for the original Cherry Five lineup to reconvene. While Goblin lasted until 1978, they recorded music for Perché Si Uccidono – La Merde in 1976 as Il Reale Impero Britannico. I haven’t seen the movie, but the soundtrack is very good.
Oh, and before Seconda Generazione, Simonetti and Martino were members of Il Ritratto di Dorian Gray—an indication of the gothic direction to come?
Punk snobs would have you believe that The Ramones recorded nothing of value after their first four albums—that is to say, after 1978. Well, I disagree. Why put a band down simply because they grew to be more competent musicians and were willing to experiment? The lyrics still had a wacky streak, their work ethic remained rock solid and “da brudders” never complained about the mainstream success that eluded them. They just did their job, and they did it well.
The postal service is taking its sweet time delivering my Pet Sematary DVDs, so in the meantime I’ll get down to this memorable ditty from 1989:
The Ramones must have liked the song, too—they kept playing it live until they disbanded in 1996. They even played it at their very last show.
“1, 2, 3, 4!”
John Williams and Steven Spielberg. Jerry Goldsmith and Joe Dante. Bernard Herrmann and Alfred Hitchcock. Some composers become almost synonymous with their directors. And the ones mentioned above are/were some pretty imposing twosomes! But only one director is synonymous with a band. As Forrest Gump might have said, Dario Argento and Goblin went together like carrots and peas during the 1970s. Not coincidentally, the decade was a purple patch for both band and horror maestro. Here’s a short montage I found of Goblin in their prime. (Check out Massimo Morante’s guitar on “Roller”—it looks like a doubleneck Gibson, just like Jimmy Page used to play.)
Three things conspired against Goblin ever getting the recognition they deserved—they were Italian, their output was almost entirely instrumental, and they were associated with horror movies. Meritless reservations, obviously, but three strikes against popular opinion and you’re out. Add to that the slight onus of being associated with prog rock, and they really didn’t stand a chance.
Personally, I’ve never viewed Goblin as prog. It’s just a convenient label, owing to a jazzy, propulsive sound that often defied categorization. And their tunes were always sharp and fairly short. Not for them the meandering rock symphonies about fairy kingdoms, lunar colonies, and tanks shaped like armadillos. Crucially, they weren’t show-offs either, which left room for every instrument to breathe. Churchy organ, tight drum fills, spiky guitar licks, and a groovy bass guaranteed a distinctive, symbiotic sound. Be lazy and compare them all you want to their contemporaries, like Yes and Genesis. By 1975, when Goblin came into their own, they sounded like no other band.
Addendum: The classic Goblin line-up has worked together only once since 1978—for Argento’s Sleepless (2001), in case you were wondering. But various constellations of the band continue to collaborate. Will the “Founding Fathers” ever reconcile their differences and team up for more insidiously inventive music? Or at least one last hurrah? Im tenere le dita incrociate!