An artistic muse is a hard thing to come by and a terrible thing to lose. My muse is of course my woman, nah it isn’t really; my inspiration for putting pen to paper (or more often fingers to keyboard) is the continuing spiral of obscene banality which is constantly plumbing hitherto unknown depths of total artless tedium. That’s what normally gets my juices flowing (the juice in question being bile). Randy Holden had a muse; no better or worse than any other; his muse was his guitar. He wrote it languid beautiful love songs and co-performed them with the guitar in question. His theory presumably being if his object of love and affection and spirit-vessel were an object rather than a person with all of their flaws and independence, he’d never have to worry about losing his muse or his music. Of course, the music industry couldn’t let a razor-sharp guitar visionary scaling rarely-climbed heights of electric wizardry nirvana continue to do so lest he liberate all the squares with one magnificent sonic sweep; in a single breath making realisations occur that money is paper, most jobs are pointless, we do too much complaining and not enough loving; sunshine, friends, fermented fruit sugar drinks and Sunn amplified sound waves are cheap; whereas fibreglass-and-chrome shopping centres, missiles and cathedrals are expensive – not in a bread sense, in a spiritual sense. This would be bad for the kind of uptight three-dimensional eight-corner squares who profit off the backbreaking labour of building a cathedral, the blood spilled by the missile and the paper handed over in exchange for tiny useless objects in shopping centres. The powers at be contrived to pull on Randy Holden one of the most despicably conceived and remorselessly executed fuck-overs in the history of recorded sound: they took away his guitar.
It is a crime really unforgivable, to take away from a man the two things that keep his artistic spirit afloat in a churning sea. His muse and his method, and for Randy Holden both were one. Reading around for this article really set me to thinking that if Randy Holder hadn’t been robbed of all that mattered, he truly could have become a sonic Shaman akin to Hendrix or Jimmy Page. What he achieved was titanic, a stint in Blue Cheer (after they were great but before they were terrible – on New! Improved) as well as this magnificent guitar love-ballad; but what he wished to do puts all his actual work as the tip of a very massive iceberg with the underwater segments existing only in Holder’s mind and the very lovliest acid flashbacks. A far wiser critic and commentator than I (wouldn’t be hard) once said – review the work you’re given, not your own imaginings, so that I shall dutifully do. As it stands, Population 2 is one of the most immediately stunning and lastingly replayable records of that beautiful transatlantic rock’n’roll free-for-all that lasted until the late ‘70s; a time when adventurous was a word so overused it was almost discarded, where bands were characterised by being thrown out of clubs and snubbed by radio. It was the time that gave us Pentagram and Budgie to name but two and even in the realms of those underground bands, Population 2 will take a few weeks’ digging to find. Much more than the group synchronised workouts of Blue Cheer or Sabbath, this is a solo affair; from the first second, the backing bass and drums are really just there to keep time and in the mix somewhere lies that solo guitar track, waiting to be dredged up like some impossible eight-engine Lancaster forgotten at the bottom of a grimy lake but taken by a buncha unassuming heads with minds filled with righteousness to drag itself unbelievably into the sky alone. I sure hope that does exist somewhere, the solo guitar track for this record like Young’s Dead Man I so loved last week. Instrumentation is this man’s joy, and he has said as much. The vocals, the drumming and the backing are all just window dressing to make this slightly more palatable for people with eyes only partially open to the decibel assault.
Recorded live in an opera hall, and played on 20 Sunn amps; the only place that could take the tone! Musta bled right into the walls of that now-hallowed place and still be there somewhere, bouncing around between the walls like rats crawling in the night... maybe on the right day, the quietest time of the year and with the right kind of ears, you can hear that sick guitar still rolling round in those walls. Like an electric time capsule... I hope I’m there the day a wrecking ball puts a hole in the wall and releases that pent-up sonic fury that’s been rattling for nigh on fifty years, it’ll be like putting your finger over a hose except it ain’t water comin’ sprayin’ out child it’s pure guitar mastery. It would be strangely appropriate too if Randy Holden himself were in attendance on that auspicious day; because until reasonably recently he wasn’t even aware of his masterpiece’s release. A Hobbit Records executive accused him of spending all his time and most of his advance fucking around (as if this kind of genius just comes... more ammunition for the claim that creative enterprises ought to be run by creative people and not insects in suits). Later the same day (the eve of Population 2’s release) he discovered that Hobbit Records had pawned his 20 Sunn amps and his Gibson SG Deluxe baby to a Hollywood store. And that was the end of Randy Holder. His mind snapped after that and he retreated from music for good. Imagine if upstanding drone squire Dylan Carlson hadn’t been hipped onto Young’s Dead Man and had never got over Kobain’s death, or if Bobby Liebling had just stopped with Pentagram and those original songs had never got the release they deserved? Can you fucking imagine? Just think what kinda mastery might still be lurking in Randy Holder if we cracked open his head when we crack open the wall of that opera house and the majesty comes pouring out of it like ghosts. With the atrocity of the 2012 Brits and Grammy’s now consigned to the same back catalogue as the Vietnam war and the Chicago riots (the past, asshole), this is the kind of motherfucking superbity that the world doesn’t just want, it fucking needs right about now. Tedium is spreading like a virus children... we mighta prevented it if Randy Holden coulda just kept a’holda that guitar... But the genius of his frets lives on.
Written under extreme (BRIT related) duress by Steven.