Wednesday, 14 March 2012

MERRELL FANKHAUSER: Don't judge a book by its cover said my dear old Ma

...well actually she didn't. She made more ridiculous generalisations, and then based her actions upon them than any other human being that I have ever met. Maybe I am being unfair to her memory (she died ten years ago this week) but I remember her refusing to watch Brideshead Revisited on the grounds that there were no such things as homosexuals in the British aristocracy, and condemning various people over the years because of their footwear. She even took an instant dislike to Princess Diana because - apparently - her nostrils were too close together.


Basically, although I loved my parents dearly I have done my best not to turn out like them, and one of the great tragedies of growing older is that every time I pass a mirror I see my father (albeit fatter and with long hair) staring balefully back at me. However, one thing I have always tried not to do is to judge the aforementioned book by its cover.

But today I did just that. I received a press release from those jolly nice people at Glass Onyon PR, dealing with a Gonzo Multimedia Artiste called Merrell Fankhauser. I always thought that I knew a lot about rock and pop music over the years, but once again my knowledge was and is lamentable. So I did what I always do. I looked him up on spotify, and pressed `play`.

I had immediately jumped to the conclusion that Mr F (or Herr F as I had imagined him) was going to be experimental and slightly spiky krautrock, something like a cross between Can and Throbbing Gristle (both bands I like by the way). I could not have been more wrong.

It turns out that he was the bloke who wrote 'Wipe Out' and is a venerable doyen of the surf-rock scene. But then he got all mystic. The best analogy I can give is Eric Burdon. You will recall that he was a rough tough bluesman from Geordieland until he discovered peace and love and made some extraordinarily eccentric records that I love to this very day. But one could always here his bluesy roots even in his most outrageously hippy songs.

It is the same with Mr Fankhauser. You can tell that he comes from the surf music community; he still has those sparkling Dick Dale chord shapes, but this sounds more like.....


I don't really know what it sounds more like. There are hints of Neil Young, hints of Spirit (he has played with Ed Cassidy apparently) and the songs are delivered in an outrageously cool MOR voice. But to be quite honest he doesn't really sound like anyone else. He once played in the same band as Drumbo from Captain Beefheart's ensemble, and he obviously believes in the concept of the Lost Continent of Mu, made famous by Francis Churchward. The songs are melodic, nuttily new age, and really impossible to categorise.

Check them out. I already have.
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Merrell Fankhauser was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and moved to California when he was 13 years old this move was to have a life changing effect on the teenager. Merrell went on to become one of the innovators of surf music enjoying success with his band The Impacts and also a hit album entitled Wipe Out. Merrell went on later in the sixties to branch out into psychedelic folk rock.

His travels from Hollywood to his 15 year jungle experience on the island of Maui have been documented in numerous music books and magazines in the United States and Europe. Merrell has gained legendary international status throughout the field of rock music; his credits include over 250 songs published and released.

Return To Mu is a seven years in the making album featuring a cast of famous guest artists including with Jay Ferguson and Ed Cassidy of Spirit, Dean Torrence of Jan and Dean, John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Nicky Hopkins, John Cipolinna both of whom played for Quicksilver Messenger Service and many others. The album is considered a masterpiece amongst friend's critics and fans and was produced by award winning movie and record producer, William E. McEuen.

Originally released in 2003 to many good reviews this album has had limited availability until now when it is reissued.

Tracks: 1.Mystical Land , 2.Waterfall , 3.On Our Way To Hana , 4.Pictures of the Past , 5.The Unknown Writer , 6.Queen Mu , 7.Mother Sea , 8.Beckoning Maiden , 9.Polynesian Dream , 10.Time Travellers , 11.Prospectors Moon , 12.Goin' Down To Atlantis , 13.The Land of Mu , 14.Under A Maui Moon , 15.Matthew's Dream , 16.Lodru's Mu Chant , 17.The Mothership , 18.Mu Rainforest.

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What happens when you mix what is - arguably - the world's most interesting record company, with an anarchist manic-depressive rock music historian polymath, and a method of dissemination which means that a daily rock-music magazine can be almost instantaneous?

Most of this blog is related in some way to the music, books and films produced by Gonzo Multimedia, but the editor has a grasshopper mind and so also writes about all sorts of cultural issues which interest him, and which he hopes will interest you as well.