KIM FOWLEY Impossible But True: The Kim Fowley Story (Ace)
If the name Kim Fowley means nothing more to you than a passing reference or footnote in rock's great pantheon - as it did to me, I must admit - this astonishing 32 track single CD compilation is where to start correcting that oversight. Concentrating on the 1960s career of the trash aesthetic scenester, the music it contains and the expertly researched and densely plotted (albeit set in near-illegibly tiny type) booklet notes are surely the stuff of some future Hollywood biopic. Both showcase Fowley's almost superhuman gift for exploitative myth-making, hustling and being in exactly the right place at near enough the right time.
That music, then: Fowley's own "Animal Man" compresses the fourth side of The Mothers Of Invention's "Freak Out" (on which the man himself actually cameos) into three glorious, if near-pornographic, self-referential minutes. ("Oh animal man, youre so rough, and so big", gasps an unidentified female co-star. "It's too dirty, it'll be banned. Oh God!", counters the titular gentleman. Surely uncharted territory for a 1968 pop single.) You might recognise The Hollywood Argyles' "Alley-Oop" from The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band's cover, and you'll almost certainly remember B Bumble & The Stingers "Nut Rocker", a Tchaikovsky-based British number one from the age of steam. Other cheeky classical appropriations here number The Lancasters' "Satan's Holiday" (a rock version of "In The Hall Of The Mountain King" recorded nearly a decade before the Electric Light Orchestra had the same idea and featuring a young Ritchie Blackmore) and the hero of the hour and twenty minutes' "Space Odyssey", Strauss' "On The Beautiful Blue Danube" by any other name, here blessed with jazzy horns and organ breaks.
What else? Well, how much have Saint Etienne based their entire career on The Murmaids' "Popsicles & Icicles"? Having failed to corrupt surf music with his own particular brand of gutter chic, Fowley attempted to kick-start the skiing sound, documented on The Alpines' "Shush-Boomer" and "Ski Storm (Part 1)" (although sadly not Part 2!) by The Snowmen. Dabbling with light psychedelia we have Fowley's "The Trip", Spider's (P J Proby's hairdresser, no less!) collectible, mysterious "The Comedown Song" and Cat Stevens b-side "Portobello Road", startlingly effective despite their production line origins. Traffic progenitors The Hellions offer "Daydreaming Of You", whilst nascent Slade the 'N Betweens tear through a cover of Otis Redding's "Security". The Renegades' "Charge" is an insane beat group instrumental overlaid with cavalry effects, as great as it is shoddy, and hear Eeyore go doo-wop as The Hollywood Argyles return with "You Been Torturing Me". "This sounds uncannily like Them", I thought to myself whilst listening to one track, only for the mystery to deepen on discovering the offending item to be The Belfast Gypsies' "Gloria's Dream". Those booklet notes reliably inform that the band were drawn from one of two post-Van Them factions, and the similarity is astonishing. ("People! Let's Freak Out" by Freaks Of Nature was cut by the same people at the same session.) Connoisseurs of the bizarre will be delighted by Cathy Rich's "Wild Thing", the sound of drummer Buddy's 13 year old daughter encountering the Troggs/Hendrix classic. Gene Pitney, on the country-rock comeback trail, offers the very passable indeed "Rainbow At Midnight" from a 1969 album recorded for John Peel's Dandelion album, and The Soft Machine arrive with the Fowley-produced b-side from their debut single, "Feelin', Reelin', Squeelin'".
Here's the caveats: "Impossible But True" only surveys the first of Fowley's four (and counting) decades of musical activity, it's presented non-chronologically (although some patient programming will of course fix that) and Ace Records themselves admit that some of their preferred choices didn't make the final cut due to clearance issues. Apart from that, this CD is an absolute delight, a one-stop jewel box jukebox, a con but an extremely entertaining one. Kim Fowley, Frank Zappa of the seven inch single, we salute you.