Podcast: Dennis Dread – Obscure Tracks for Ballpoint Art

I originally planned on creating a playlist centered around some of my favorite album covers of all time. But once I got started I realized my list would mostly consist of metal classics that hopefully you already listen to every day (every day, headbangers!). So instead I decided to create a playlist of more obscure or at least unexpected songs that I like to blast when I’m drawing. I hope you enjoy expanding your horizons a bit…
~ Dennis Dread

  1. The Chambers Brothers
    ‘Time Has Come Today’

    The Chambers Brothers were primarily a gospel/R&B band (!) but this insane 11 minute descent into pop psychedelia is a perfect way to begin your evening (and this playlist). It’s inspiring to think that such a daring song actually met with mainstream success here in the States and I can only assume it helped pay the bills through the remainder of their rather forgettable careers. I love the powerful chorus which predates hardcore “gang vocals” by some 20 years and the metronome tick-tocking throughout the entire song gives it an almost subliminal urgency. There goes my metal credibility…
  2. Ultimate Spinach
    ‘Mind Flowers’

    Chris Reifert put this on a mix tape for me a while back and totally blew my mind. This is basically a heavy psychedelic epic by a band that clearly didn’t dabble much with actual psychedelics. The rest of their music is suspiciously clean and tidy and devoid of the imaginative anxiety that comes with prolonged drug abuse (like, say, The 13th Floor Elevators). I generally like my jams much filthier than Ultimate Spinach but this pseudo drug ritual washes over you like a dark tide and is perfect for late nights at the drawing table. Or whatever. Light a black candle and let it burn. “SACRIFICE!!!!!”
  3. Alice Cooper
    ‘Lay Down and Die, Goodbye’

    I agonized over which early Alice Cooper song to put on this playlist and ultimately decided to take the road less traveled. This is the freak-out finale from the band’s transitional second LP Easy Action and it oozes with bad vibes and misguided menace. Love It To Death is probably my favorite Alice Cooper record but you’ve already heard ‘The Ballad of Dwight Fry’ a million times, right? Speaking of great subversive moments in heavy metal history, Mr. Furnier infamously stuck his thumb through his pants on the band photo for Love It To Death and it slipped past the label executives until they began fielding complaints from hyperopic parents who thought they saw a gnarled little penis! Needless to say, that photo was censored in subsequent pressings.
  4. Judas Priest
    ‘Dreamer Deceiver/Deceiver’

    Despite my best intentions to leave out the obvious, I have no choice but to slip in these gems. For 10 solid years, between Rocka Rolla in 1974 and Defenders Of The Faith in 1984, Judas Priest recorded one perfect album after another. Their first four albums are particularly potent and, song for song, Sad Wings Of Destiny is among the Top 10 greatest heavy metal albums ever recorded. This record is, of course, an absolutely stunning listening experience from beginning to end and for a fifth of Bulleit Bourbon I’ll sing it in its entirety for you anytime anywhere. Patrick Woodroffe provided the brilliant cover art and, although the fallen angel is just a bit…well…gay, this is precisely what heavy metal art should look like. Those flames in the background are an unmistakable Woodroffe trademark as he had mastered a unique marbling technique that appeared often in his illustrations. Absolutely essential!
  5. The Saints
    Brisbane (Security City)

    Hailing from Brisbane, Australia, The Saints are often cited as one of the original punk innovators and this record proved just how innovative things could get. Prehistoric Sounds was their third LP and it perplexed the “scene” with its obnoxious jazzy horns and decidedly upbeat party tempos. Perhaps this one was just a bit ahead of its time. Seething just beneath the happy-go-lucky sarcasm is a sinister undercurrent that bleeds very well into our contemporary music-scape (and this playlist). This was punk before “punk” became a boring and rigidly defined downloadable genre. Commercial failure is often the price of artistic triumph, as is the case with this dark little sleeper.
  6. The Mob

    The Mob is one of my favorite UK peace punk bands to emerge in the prodigious wake (and horrible din) of Crass. Instead of attempting to bludgeon us with boring self-righteousness they actually wrote uncomfortable and uncool songs with heart-wrenching introspective lyrics that make their anarchist views meaningful. They also had a very stark aesthetic and a creepy vulture-man logo that was very effective and can still occasionally be spotted sewn onto the studded vests of frowning vegans. Hard to a pick a favorite among so many aces but this quirky b-side to their 1979 ‘Crying Again’ single is the song I’ve returned to most often over the years. In case you ever forget how alienating and awkward it was to come of age in a world occupied by very strange adults, The Mob have written this soundtrack to remind you.
  7. VKTMS
    ‘100% White Girl’

    VKTMS were an early San Francisco punk act that banged out infectious anthems like this one while singer Nyna Crawford assaulted the status quo with her hilariously barbed lyrics. They caught shit for this track from politically correct punks who cried racism but I love these lyrics for their unflinching honesty. Nyna lived in the Tenderloin neighborhood which was a genuinely dangerous area back in the early 80’s and she could scarcely leave her apartment without being accosted by derelicts who inevitably employed the “white girl” slur. More importantly, Nyna was dating underground comix artist Jim Osborne at the time and he drew the classy cover art for this 7″ based on a vintage 1953 comic book called Haunted Thrills. According to legend the local punk girls told Jim they were tired of seeing the cliched damsel in distress imagery so, in the spirit of fair play, Jim later created a VKTMS flyer that depicted the exact same scene with the roles reversed so the woman was torturing the man.
  8. The Gun Club
    ‘Fire Spirit’

    Jeffrey Lee Pierce was a latter-day Mr. Mojo Rising for the L.A. death punk tribe. A brilliant poet, consummate showman, self-destructive narcissist and, ultimately, a ghost on the American highway who led his band The Gun Club to infamy with wild shamanistic sex beats. For a few brief years in the early 80’s there was more raw pathos and more shimmering talent in a single drop of Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s alcoholic piss than most bards with heavy eye-liner can ever hope to muster. To quote Blade Runner, “The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long.” This is soul music for fire spirits.
  9. Amebix
    ‘Coming Home’

    Ok, another obvious choice slips into the mix but this band was a big influence on me when I was younger so I couldn’t resist. The final track on the final LP. Not necessarily one of their better known songs but this sparse anti-war ballad still raises the hair on my neck after all these years. Few bands could pull this off with as much integrity and sincerity. Throat-scraping death rattles and simple synths that build to an absolutely crushing climax. One of the finest moments from one of the finest bands to ever crawl forth from England’s crusty underbelly. THE POWER REMAINS!!!!
  10. Hawkwind
    ‘The Watcher’

    “The last thing you’ll feel is fear.” I love drawing to Hawkwind’s third LP Doremi Fasol Latido. Hell, I love washing dishes and cleaning the bathroom to this record and Lemmy’s sparse closing admonishment is a great way to end any night (or playlist). If Klaatu from The Day The Earth Stood Still had done lots of space drugs and grown his hair long he might have sounded like this. Powerful heraldic cover art by “Barney Bubbles” (aka, Colin Fulcher), the acclaimed English designer who also brought us the brilliant Space Ritual cover! We took the wrong step years ago…

Direct link to this Podcast.


4 thoughts on “Podcast: Dennis Dread – Obscure Tracks for Ballpoint Art

  1. Love it….totally love it. I’m exploring early psychedelic and have never heard of the `Chambers Brothers` before now….or indeed `Ulitimate Spinach`. Thank you!!!!!!!!

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