Slapp Happy : Review
HOME | SAQ | LINKS | MAIL
Slapp Happy: Sort Of (Released in 1972, Rating 4)
1.Just a Conversation
3.I Got Evil
4.Little Girls World
8.I'm All Alone
9.Who's Gonna Help Me Now
10.Small Hands of Stone
12.Heading for Kyoto
(Bonus Track)13.Jumping Jonah Produced by Uwe Nettelbeck
Slapp Happy is the most favorite band of mine. Finally, I start writing about them. I could not write about them until now because I was anxious if I can write well. (My love for them is so strong!) And there are already good sites about Slapp Happy and Dagmar Krause. I was not sure if I can write something new; I am still not sure about it. But it may be better writing something than not writing anything.
Slapp Happy is made of three persons. No one can substitute members. They are Dagmar Krause, Anthony Moore, and Peter Blegvad. Pre-history of Slapp Happy started with the episode of Anthony Moore. British born Moore contracted with German Polydor, and released two albums and recorded one more album, which was refused to be released. They are very avant-garde, experimental, Dadaistic, non-sense, fake minimalism music, produced by Uwe Nettlebeck, who also produced Faust. Naturally, these two albums didn't sell at all. So, Polydor demanded more pop and commercial album to Moore.
Then, Moore and his American friend Peter Blegvad started to play more pop music. German born Dagmar Krause, the girl friend of Moore, used to be the member of German soft rock band, the City Preachers. But she couldn't sing at that time because of the voice problem. According to Belgvad, which can be a joke, because Belgvad's singing was too bad, Krause started to sing suddenly and took a vocal part of the band. This is the story of how Slapp Happy was started.
This debut album was also produced by Uwe Nettlebeck and backed with Faust members. Dagmar Krause's singing is very pure and innocent, it kills me. The songs are simple and primitive pop. Naive rock, according to Peter Blegvad. Particularly, I love the songs Krause sang, Blue Flower, I'm All Alone, Who's Gonna Help Me Now, Small Hands of Stone, Heading for Kyoto. On the other hand, songs Peter Blegvad sang, Paradise Express, I Got Evil, Tutankhamun, Mono Plane, are not very good. His singing was not so good at that time. (His singing improved much in his post-Slapp Happy solo albums.) Title tune, Sort of, is the strange guitar instrumental like the Ventures.
When this album was re-issued by ReR in 1981, it was with one-sided bonus single Alcohol . It is a Belgvad's out-take song probably recorded in 1974. Sort Of was out of print for a long time, but it was re-released as a CD in 1999. This CD version includes the bonus track Jumping Jonah, the B-side of the single, Just a Conversation.
Slapp Happy: Acnalbasac Noom (Released in 1980, Rating 5+)
2.Me and Paravati
6.A Little Something
10.Charlie 'N Charlie
11.Slow Moon's Rose
(Bonus Tracks)12.Everybody's Slimmin'
13.Blue Eyed William
15.Messages Produced by Uwe Nettelbeck (Except 12-15)
Rating 5+! I am not satisfied just to rate this record 5 , because Casablanca Moon (1974) and Desperate Straights (1975) should be rated 5, and I like this record more than them.
This record was recorded in 1973 as a second album of Slapp Happy, produced by Uwe Nettlebeck and backed by Faust members again. German Polydor was expecting more pop and commercial record after the failure in sales of Sort Of (1972). So, Moore and Blegvad really wrote incredibly sweet pop music which has very beautiful melody and very poetic/labyrinth-difficult lyric. However, German Polydor refused to release this record! It is very strange because they have released many anti-commercial avant-garde works of Anthony Moore and Faust before this record. Compared to these records, this record is definitely pop and commercial. Maybe, the person in charge of Slapp Happy/Faust in German Polydor was treated very badly by the company because of the awful sales of their records...
So, Slapp Happy moved to UK, and contracted with Virgin records. They re-recorded the mostly same materials with different musicians. Suddenly in 1980 , this original session with Faust was released by ReR. (The left image is the cover art of CD version of this record.) It was a big surprise. (To tell you the truth, I heard this original version before the Virgin version.... Surprise for me was rather Casablanca Moon (1974), which was in very different arrangement and sentiment. )
Anyway, this is the best album in the rock history, I dare to say. This is the incredible mixture of Tango, Bossa Nova, French Chansons and Waltz etc. Slapp Happy used these materials very smoothly, making a very beautiful pop songs. Dagmar Krause's singing is very natural and charming, not very eccentric as her singing style in the later works. We can hear this record simply as a good pop music. The song writing of Belgvad/Moore incredibly improved since their debut album.
If there is anything strange in this album, it might be the lyrics. Sometimes it is very far from conventional popular music. For example, Casablanca Moon is the catchy fake tango tune, but it is about a bizarre murder. It goes like this:He used to wear fedoras but now he sports a fez / There's cabalistic innuendoes in everything he says / Sucking on a cigarette picking up the threads / Underneath the Casablanca Moon.He lurks behind a paper in the shadow of a mosque / He can't count all the continents he's crossed / Trailing party members leavin' footprints in the frost. underneath the Acnalbasac Noom.His cover was broken / Somewhere in Hoboken / The man said his case was lost / He was sent to the Orient / A double-agent double-crossed.There's a cocaine stain on his moustache / The pieces of his puzzle just don't join / People in high places want to stamp his many faces on a Trans-caucasian coin.He'd better watch is step / 'Cause sooner or later / They'll find his headless body in a ventilator.
And I'd like to also quote the romantic lyrics of my favorite "Slow Moon's Rose":Now that the slow moon's rose / On a silver trellis grows / Where Arctic rivers froze / Now that the ocean / Is frozen in motion / Snow morning comesAnd the birds on the wing / Have nothing left to sing / Blown in blue glass / Like a schooner hed fast / On the iceBeside that river / Where I picked the slow moon's rose / I watched the evening wither with a Jewel at the end of my noseTell-tale snails / Leave their trails / Running from hunter's black blunderbus / Under the sun
Charlie 'N Charlie is the vocal version of Sort Of. In Casablanca Moon (1974) , this song was changed with Haiku. CD version of Acnalbasac Noom includes 4 bonus tracks from 1982-1983 reunion session.
Slapp Happy: Casablanca Moon (Released in 1974, Rating 5)
2.Me and Paravati
3.Half Way There
8.A Little Something9.The Drum10.Haiku
11.Slow Moon's Rose Produced by Slapp Happy & Steve Morse
Which do you like Acnalbasac Noom (1980) or Casablanca Moon (1974) ? This is the most popular question for Slapp Happy fans. I found most people's answer is Acnalbasac Noom (1980). I am with the same opinion. The sound of this re-recorded version became much gorgeous, recorded with many studio musicians and sometimes with orchestra. The singing of Dagmar Krause became much eccentric, and the musical arrangement became much complex. I prefer the natural singing and simple arrangement of Acnalbasac Noom (1980).
Casablanca Moon starts with the title track tune. There is a weeping violin which reinforces the tango sentiment. And Krause's singing is in more tango accent. Next tune, Me and Paravati, is beautifully arranged with string orchestra. So is A little Something. In Slow Moon's Rose there is a beautiful saxophone solo. These are the great accomplishments in this new version. However, musical arrangement sometimes goes too far. For example, Half Way There became complex song, compared to the original version. Haiku, a new song in this version, is strangely arranged with Japanese taste. Its arrangement spoiled the essence of the music; Blegvad's later solo version of the song is very good, groovy blues song!
Recently, I heard the single version of Casablanca Moon (b/w Me and Paravatti). Krause's vocal is different from the album version! It is much closer to the original 1973 version; Krause sings in natural and lovely way. In album version, her singing is more eccentric and somehow paranoiac. Casablanca Moon was the hit single for the early Virgin Records. Casablanca Moon and Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells (1973) were the big cash flow to the venture company at that time. This financed non-commercial records of the early Virgin Records.
Peter Blegvad writes in the notes on the CD re-issue of this records. "It's an eccentric record. Our ambivalence towards pop music expresses itself in a kind of sinister whimmsky. Slapp Happy's trademark "charm" saves the songs from pastiche. I once heard a stranger whistling "The Secret" in a New York Health Club shower ten years after this record was deleted. It's a catchy tune." After reading this, I always remember this episode during taking shower in the sport club...
Slapp Happy/Henry Cow: Desperate Straights (Released in 1975, Rating 5)
1.Some Question About Hats
3.A Worm Is at Work
8.Apes in Capes
1.Extract from the Messiah
12.In the Sickbay
13.Caucasian Lullaby Produced by Slapp Happy, Henry Cow and Simon Heyworth
The early history of Virgin Records is really incredible. They released many avant-garde records in commercial base. Many great bands in UK/Europe, like Can, Faust and Gong, contracted with Virgin records. Among them there was Henry Cow. (To describe their works needs a lot of space. They just released 5 official albums, but the post-Henry Cow works of members are innumerous and there are many important works.)
As a label mate, Slapp Happy and Henry Cow were joined together. They were "like-minded" , sometimes described. I am not sure how they were like-minded, but this album is the magical success of the collaboration. The perfect mixture of avant-garde music and nostalgic pop.
Some songs in this album reminds me strongly of Kurt Weill. Particularly, Some Question About Hats , A Worm Is at Work, Bad Alchemy, Apes in Capes are very Weillian. Also, there is some influence of Carla Bley/Michael Mantler music. Very acrobatic, circus-like, Berlin Cabaret-like music with a taste of avant-garde jazz.
Among the avant-garde pop songs, there is 60s pop like Strayed, sung by Peter Blegvad. I don't like his singing in the early Slapp Happy Albums, but this track is my favorite. And there is also the song written by Dagmar Krause and Peter Blegvad, In the Sickbay. I think there are not many songs Krause wrote.
Most importantly, Krause's singing here is incredibly beautiful, expressive and charming. After this album, her high tone delicate voice gradually became clouded, and her singing tended to become much serious.
Actually, this is the first album I've ever heard Slapp Happy/Dagmar Krause. It was the early summer of 1980. (Casablanca Moon and Desperate Straights were re-issued in Japan in 1980.) As soon as I heard first track, I became a big fan of the group, and I repeatedly heard Slapp Happy/Art Bears records again and again all summer long, along with the post-punk avant-garde rock like This Heat, The Pop Group, Joy Division etc. Ahhh, it was more than 20 years ago. And I am still listening to this album with the same excitement and astonishment like the time when I first heard it.
Now, Casablanca Moon and Desperate Straights are available in one CD. This is really the "Best Buy" CD in the world. (The second "Best Buy" should be two in one CD of Winter Songs and The World As It Is Today of Art Bears...)
* Desperate Straights was beautifully re-mastered and re-issuded in one CD from ReR in 2004! In Japan, the CD was packaged in LP style gatefold cover. This may not be so surprising because other Henry Cow re-issues were in LP sleeves in Japan. The most joyous surprise was that it contains the booklet, which is very limited availability in the original issues. The miniture booklet is scaled down too small, compared to the reduction scaleof LP sleeve, and has some difficulty to see the small letters. But it is a small point. Of course, LP style sleeve is well reproducted. (I think the cover image of the conventional CD edition is somehow vague. )
Henry Cow/Slapp Happy: In Praise Of Learning (Released in 1975, Rating 4)
2.Living in the Heart of the Beast
3.Beginning: The Long March
4.Beautiful as the Moon-Terrible as the Army
5.Morning Start(Bonus Track)
6 Lovers of Gold
This is the second collaboration of Slapp Happy and Henry Cow. The album starts with War, composed by Moore/Blegvad. Even though this song is more aggressive and avant-garde than the songs in Desperate Straights, it still has a similar sentiment and is a continuation of the Desperate Straights. However, rest of the record is more like Henry Cow with Dagmar Krause. The sense of strangely nostalgic pop and the sense of humor disappeared; the music and lyrics became much more serious, aggressive and intensive.
There are two important songs other than War in this album, Living in the Heart of the Beast and Beautiful as the Moon-Terrible as the Army. Particularly, Beautiful... is really a beautiful and intensive track. The best track of Henry Cow related albums. Living in ... is very political song with complex musical structure. There are impressive lyrics like:Now is the time to begin to go forward - advance from despair, the darkness of solitary men - who are chained in a market they cannot control - in the name of a freedom that hangs like a pall on our cities. And their towers of silence we shall destroy.Now is the time to begin to determine directions, refuse t admit the existence of destiny's rule. we shall seize from all heroes and merchants our labor, our lives, and our practice of history: this, our choice, defines the truth of all that we do.Seize on the words that oppose us with alien force; they're enslaved by the power of capital's kings who reduce them to coinage and hollow exchange in the struggle to hold us, they're bitterly outlasting... Time to sweep them down from power - deeds renew words.Date to take sides in the fight for freedom that is common cause let us All be as strong and as resolute. We're in the midst of a universe turning in turmoil; o classes an armies of thought making war - their contradictions clash and echo through time.
I think this is the most straight neo-Marxist manifesto ever made in the rock history. According to Belgvad, Tim Hodgkinson first asked Blegvad to write the lyrics of Living in ... Blegvad wrote the lyrics about the girl throwing raisins to the rock again and again. Hodgkinson got angry with this, condemning that it is not political!!!
After this album, Moore and Blegvad were fired by Henry Cow because their political opinion was different and their instrumental technique was not professional. I think Moore and Blegvad were not too naive to believe in communism. Moore and Blegvad have a good sense of humor; the members of Henry Cow might be too serious.
So, this album not only ended the collaboration of two bands, but also ended Slapp Happy (for a while). So sad.... (The collaborations of Krause and members of Henry Cow continued in many bands like Art Bears, News from Babel etc.)
Slapp Happy featuring Anthony Moore: Jonny's Dead (Released in 1975, Rating 3)
A. Johnny's DeadB. Mr. Rainbow
After leaving Henry Cow, Moore and Blegvad released this single. This is actually a solo project of Moore. Side A is in his solo album, Out, again rejected to release and issued by voiceprint in 1997. It is a beautiful pop tune.
The side B is the re-recorded version of the song in Casablanca Moon (1974). Moore sang the famous song about Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891). But it is not so impressive...
Slapp Happy: Everybody's Slimmin' (Even Men and Women) (Released in 1982, Rating 3)
A. Everybody's Slimmin'(Even Men and Women)B. Blue-Eyed William
In 1982, Slapp Happy was shortly re-unioned. The result was this single, released by their private label Half-Cat Records. In A side of this single, Dagmar Krause sings in a rap fashion with the rhythm box sound. It reminds me of Tom Tom Club...
I rather prefer the B side. It is closer to Slapp Happy sound as it used to be. Blegvad version of Blue-Eyed William appears in his solo debut album, Naked Shakespeare(1983).
They also did a reunion concert at I.C.A in London 1983. Though this reunion did not last long, it proved that there was always the friendship among the members after the disband in 1975. If there is a will, there is always Slapp Happy.
Dagmar Krause/Anthony Moore/Peter Blegvad: Camera (Released in 2000, Rating 3)
1.Who, How, Where, When, Why?
3.Please Step Quickly In
4.Your Exemption Isn't Recognized
5.I Have Given up Trying to Decide
6.I've Come into a Country
7.It's Been Night in Here for Years
8.Camera Is Rising
10.To Commemorate Your Visit
11.It's Painful, Beautiful
12.Well I See You're Grateful
13.It Seems So Long Ago
15.I Heard Every Word
16.Exit Mr. Taft
17.The Light of the World
18.Now the Prison's on the Outside
19.What Was That?
20.Here in Camera
21.What Was Camera? A Chimera
22.Forecast Was Weak
23.My Exemption Is Withdrawn
24.I Said Freeze
25.Melusina Asked for Water (A Recipe a...
26.But Taft Is Still at Large
28.Your Sacrifice Is Meaningless
29.Now You Know as Much as I
In 1990, Peter Belgvad and Anthony Moore was asked to make an opera. So, three of Slapp Happy started to make it. The opera was made based on the original idea of Dagmar Krause; words by Peter Blegvad, music by Anthony Moore. It was broadcasted on Channel 4 in UK in 1993.
The story is about the struggle between bureaucratic system and mysterious lady. Mysterious lady, Melusina, is of course played by Dagmar Krause. In short, it is an opera with some contemporary taste. Somehow similar to the Irma by Tom Phillips and Gavin Bryars. Not bad. But not so very exciting music. What is important is their collaboration was still going on in many styles.
This CD was released in 2000. I hope there will be a DVD of this opera someday. Is there anyone who has the video of this opera?
* I had a chence to see Camera. Seeing video is more interesting than listening to music. This should be released officially on DVD.
Slapp Happy: Ça Va (Released in 1998, Rating 4+)
1.Scarred for Life
4.Is It You?
5.King of Straw
7.A Different Lie
9.Silent the Voice
10.Working at the Ministry
11.The Unborn Byron
12.Let's Travel Light
Produced by Laurie Latham
In 1998, suddenly Slapp Happy started over again. This is their first album as Slapp Happy since 1975!!! Unbelievable. It was a miracle! This record was released by V2 records, a new label of Richard Branson. This record might be "starting over" also for Branson, considering single hit of Casablanca Moon was main cash flow for the early Virgin Records.
More importantly, this is much more than expected. Each song is written very well, classic at the moment it was released. Particularly, the songs Blegvad wrote are really great. Scarred for Life. This is the very deep love song, describing the strong tie between lovers lasting for life. It goes like this;
Leave me something to remember you by, more than a lock of your hair. leave me scarred for life, show you really care. You can do it with kindness, keener than a knife. just by making yourself scarce you can leave me scarred for life. We walked arm in arm with madness & every little breeze whispered of the secret love we had for our disease.
Yes, music of Slapp Happy left me scarred for life. I also love The Unborn Byron ~ Let's Travel Light. This is kind of weightless and strangely nostalgic sound. It reminds me of Elvis Presley's I Can't Help Falling in Love. I don' know where this imagination came from. (Of course, King of Straw, another Blegvad's compositin, is wonderful, another highlight of the record.)
One complaint about this album is its digital sound. They made this record by themselves, so they used digital keyboards and drum machine and digital delay. Actually, I like more acoustic sound. It would have been much better album if this were recorded with bassist and drummer, using more acoustic instruments. But this is an impossible fantasy because the intimate feeling of this record came from the fact they made this by themselves.
So, I am waiting for the next Slapp Happy studio album.
Slapp Happy: Live in Japan - May, 2000 (Released in 2001, Rating 4+)
1. King of Straw2. Slow Moon's Rose3. Michealangelo4. Riding Tigers5.Small Hands o Stone6. Haiku7. Is It You?8. Casablanca Moon9. Moon Lovers10. Strayed11. A Little Something12. I'm All Alone13. The Unborn Byron14. Scarred for Life15. Who's Gonna Help Me Now?16. Let's Travel Light(limited bonus single)Coralie
In 2000 , another miracle happened, here in Japan. Slapp Happy toured Japan! Of course I went to see them. Here are the review of the stage, which I wrote in ML of Dagmar Krause:
Hi! I went to Slapp Happy gig! There was no additional musician, no drummer, no bassist, only three of Slapp Happy. Yes, Dagmar, Peter, Anthony existed as Slapp Happy. First, I thought they might use computer and drum machine or pre-recorded tapes. But most of the parts were played live. Dagmar sometimes played shaker, and bell. They played for two hours, and played most of my favorite tunes from "Sort Of", "Casablanca Moon", "Desperate Straights" and "Ca Va". Every song was beautiful, and delicate, and fresh as if it were composed three days ago, and played first time in public. The starting song was Heading for Kyoto, followed by Casablanca Moon, and Me and Paravati, just like traveling around Kyoto, Casablanca, and Paris. Ending song was Let's travel Light. There was a long call for more songs after the encore set. Then, they appeared on the stage and Peter said, "We really don't know more song!" It was the most wonderful night in my life.
Aaah, I was so excited.... But it was really a wonderful experience. Magical night! Complete set list is as below;
1. Heading for Kyoto
2. Casablanca Moon
3. Me and Pavarati
4. Moon Lovers
5. King of Straw
6. Slow Moon's Rose
8. Riding Tigers
9. The Secret
11. Child Then /Some Questions about Hats
12. In the Sickbay
13. Small Hands of Stone
15. Is It you?
17. A Little Something
18. I'm All Alone
19. The Unborn Byron
20. Scarred for Life
21. Blue Flower
22. Who's Gonna Help Me Now
23. Let's Travel Light
(Occasionally, Mr. Rainbow was played in the encore set.)
This CD is the live recording of the concerts. It is limited issue in Japan, but it really is a "must" item for Slapp Happy fans because it is an only official live record. Comparing the set list and the CD tracks, you can see that there is a big difference. The CD is more focused on new songs. This may be because Dagmar Krause's voice is not stable in high tone. But, as a whole, it captured the magical moment. It is a really intimate, very naked performance.
Slap Happy: BBC Live 1974 & Reunion Concert in London 1983 (Rating 2+ )
(BBC Live 1974)1. Europe2. A Little Something3. War4. Me & Paravati(Reunion Concert 1983)5. Everybody's Slimmin'6. Michelangelo7. Some Questions About Hat8. Excerpt from the Messiah9. Riding Tigers10. Casablanca Moon11. A Little Something12. Small Hands of Stone13. Unknown14. Me & Paravatti15. Karen16. The Naked Shakespeare17. Unknown18. Moritat19. Haiku20. Unknown
The sound quality is very bad. The name of the band is sadly mis-spelled. Poor cover design. So, the rating is 2+. But historical meaning of this recording is very important; Slapp Happy had played in front of public only once in 1983 before Japan tour 2000.
And the BBC radio appearance is really a great performance. Slapp Happy is backed with Henry Cow and Robert Wyatt! I am waiting for the official release of this performance. (There is a rumor that Voice Print is working on it.)
Slapp Happy: Ultra Rare Trax (Rating 3)
(Casablanca Moon EP)1. Casablanca Moon2. Me and Paravatti(City Preachers)3. Hey, la la la4. Who Are You5. Any Day in wonderland6. Sometimes the Sky is Filled with Tain7. Canada8. On a Train Ride9. Betty Dupree10. wenn Abendlichter Glanzen11. Penelope12. Golden Yesterdays13. Come Back14. Franky And Johnny15.Old Shanty Town(Commuters)16. The Ventriloquist17. the young Lieutenant18. The Architect19. The Poet20. The Man on the Island21. The Acrobat22. The Organist23. The Philosopher24. The Gentlemen on the Stairs25. The priest(Bonus single of "sort of")26. Alcohol(EP single of Anthony Moore)27. Judy28. Lucia(Ep single)29. Johnny's Dead30. Mr. Rainbow
Again, mis-spell of Krause... Poor cover design. So sad. It gathers the rare tracks of Slapp Happy and Dagmar Krause. (Commuters is available now.)
Slapp Happy: Moon Lovers Nights (Rating 3)
Disc 11. Introduction2. Heading for Kyoto
3. Casablanca Moon
4. Me and Pavarati
5. Moon Lovers
6. King of Straw
7. Slow Moon's Rose
9. Riding Tigers
10. Child Then /Some Questions about Hats
11. In the Sickbay
12. Small Hands of Stone
15. A Little Something
16. I'm All Alone
17. The Unborn Byron
18. Scarred for Life19. Blue flower
20.Moon Lovers Disc2
1. Introduction2. Heading for Kyoto
3. Casablanca Moon
4. Me and Pavarati
5. Moon Lovers
7. King of Straw
8. Slow Moon's Rose
10. Riding Tigers
11. The Secret
13. Child Then /Some Questions about Hats
14. Small Hands of Stone
16. Is It you?
18. Who's Gonna Help Me Now
19. Let's Travel Light20. Mr. Rainbow
Bootleg version of Slapp Happy Japan tour 2000. This should be the soundboard recording (though the noise of the audience is rather loud and the level of vocal is a little bit low); the sound quality is very good, considering this is the bootleg.
This bootleg includes all of the songs Slapp Happy played in Japan tour. So, now, we can hear Mr. Rainbow, which was only played once or twice in the second encore set. (But this is kinda joke. Dagmar Krause doesn't remember the French lyric, and cannot sing a high tone part of the song.) With compiling these two discs and the official live record, we can re-construct the two hour stage of Japanese tour.
I've been thinking that the song selection of the official "Live in Japan - May, 2000" was not the best of the concert. But it should be almost the best tracks of it. Krause's voice is unstable and sometimes uncomfortable to hear. I guess the live music of Slapp Happy was too delicate and naive to be captured in audio tape. When we hear this bootleg now, most of the magic of it is gone. But, believe me, magical music was surely there that night. Maybe, what I heard was not only the music, but it was also the collective memory, long-time-longing and sweet communication shared by the audiences and the band...
Slapp Happy: Interview
HOME | SAQ | LINKS | MAIL