Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Song of the Week: "Can You Tell Me", The Milkshakes

Flip-Side's Rocky Mountain HQ is still rocking to the sounds of the 60's beat revival that arose in the 1980's. One of the earliest in this movement was a group out of Medway, England who called themselves The Milkshakes.

The Milkshakes formed when the punk band, the Pop Rivets flitted away into the atmosphere. Pop Rivets frontman, Billy Childish hooked up with his roadie, Mickey Hampshire, and the punks dived deep into their mutual love for primitive 60's garage rock and 50's rockabilly. The Milkshakes were around for but a brief blip of time, but in that three year blip the band put out a staggering nine albums and a stack of killer singles. "Wait a minute Mr. Flip," you may ask, "how can a band put out nine albums in three years?". Good question. The answer is that they didn't spend a whole lot of time monkeying around in the studio. The albums are studies in low-fi brilliance. I think the recordings went something like this:
  • Mickey: "Okay, I've got my Burns nu-sonic guitar plugged into my Vox AC30."
  • Billy: "Yeah, I'm getting a little buzz out of my Hofner Club-20 guitar through my Tru-Voice 15 amp, but I don't think it matters much."
  • Producer: "Microphones are on? Check. Going into the red, but we'll power through. Russ, I hear your Framus Star Bass fine. Bruce, just a couple of taps on your snare...great. Okay, we're ready.
  • Mickey: "1 and a 2 and a 1-2-3-4!"
  • (Milkshakes play a song for 2:41 seconds)
  • Producer: "And...perfect. Okay, next song is called what?"
On a personal note, this group had a huge influence on this writer. At a time that I was running into the wall on California Hardcore and punk, I sought out something that had that aggressive edge, but, gasp, had a melody. The Milkshakes, Naz Nomad and the Nightmares, The Chesterfield Kings and a handful of other bands pointed me in a new direction. Back in 1982, I played The Milkshakes' originals-filled 14 Rhythm & Blues Greats album so much that my momma warned me that I would break it if I wasn't more gentle. Prudence be damned, I spun that record 1,000 more times before the night was out. Mickey writing and singing the more melodic and constructed numbers. Billy screaming through absolute minimalist compositions. A perfect match. There wasn't a groove left on that record before I was done.

Today's SoTW is from that flawless album. It's called Can You Tell Me? and features both Mickey and Billy wailing away and singing with what sounds like a couple of terrible head colds.

1 comment:

  1. Not to be too much of a dork, but i think that LP is called 14 Rhythm and BEAT Greats.

    The only Milkshakes i have is a compilation called 19th Nervous Shakedown. it doesn't have this song on it, but it should. "It's You" is a good tune as well.

    Billy Childish is a fascinating character. Don't know if he ever tours over here, but it would be fun to see him.