“I don’t hear a single, we can’t sell this”.
Can’t sell it. Nope, you sure as hell can’t. I’ve not sold a Pentagram record as long as I’ve been aware of them. I’ve never given one away either, I’ve loaned a few, sure, but such is the life of the record-collecting fans of the rock and roll world, you gotta organise, associate and socialise motherfuckers, keep the line strong! Nope, I imagine selling Pentagram records would be a challenge, especially selling them to squares. Anyone trying to sell mind-expansion to those who want mind-shrinkage knows it’s always a tricky sell. It seems that all of their various promoters and labels throughout the seventies had the same problem, releasing Pentagram records under different names and in tiny quantities. In fact what is now established in the eyes of the aware heads as one of the most visionary bands of that sweet seventies surge of hard rock proto-metal bands, up there with Zep and Sabbath, was once not known about at all and only became a (cool) household name when Bobby Leibling’s changed latter-day Pentagram inspired re-releases of all of the material from those sublime early days. No other band is so genuinely exciting to listen to minute-to-minute as Pentagram in their first incarnation. Rest assured, this experience occurred with that soundtrack, because while I do like the ‘Bobby Leibling’s Pentagram’, and after all without them Pentagram’s first life may have slipped into obscurity, the new stuff can’t possibly compare to the kind of mesmeric and genuine old-time affection one instantly feels for the early stuff. Without getting swamped in ferociously loathsome homespun witticisms and nostalgia: Pentagram is the kind of music I wanted to hear as long as I’ve wanted to hear music. It stands on a tightrope of listenability while balancing heaviness, experimentation and rock-solid rock aesthetic. And my article here this week all began when I loaned a friend First Daze Here. It was like the one unlucky drink that throws the wavering alcoholic off the wagon and zzzzzZZZZZZZZzap. Another rock and roll convert.
It all started simply enough for me, Pentagram came into my sphere of awareness the way these things do, slowly. The Great Magnet is a full-on osmosis freak y’know. I can’t really remember buying the record clearly or specifically, but I just came into contact with it. I’d been a rock freak for some time and only fairly recently picked up on Bobby Leibling’s vibes. Instantly I was pretty stoked by it, the songs seemed so fresh for what were essentially demo reissues and the songwriting was brave and recklessly imaginative in an utterly compelling way. We’ve already explored that my rock and roll awakening occurred to the sounds of the Electric Light Orchestra, but for once this article won’t be my drunken ramblings, well, I’m sure a few will slip on in past the assiduous editing team (ha), this is the story of a rock and roll coming-of-age of another until-now innocent, unsullied by the bad morality that comes from society’s most distrusted purveyance, rock music. The subject of this rock and roll awakening, the vessel around which we all gather to say “you’re so lucky you get to hear all this music”, like all those people who got to see the proper version of Blade Runner the first time they saw it, is a young girl from Scotland’s balmy north coast. A terrible and vicious thing was enacted by her parents upon her, and what’s worst is that they probably thought they were doing her a favour. She was allowed rock and roll, and heavy metal and all the great musics. It is a well-documented belief of mine that it is important for things to be forbidden to the young so that they may enjoy them illicitly. Drinking was a lot more fun when I wasn’t supposed to be doing it, rock and roll and big bikes and staying up all night are only major pastimes of our generation because we were told we couldn’t have them. That’s the only reason I hung out in my room with all my heavy records and black posters with swears on them was because my parents didn’t like it. All children should be afforded the ability to be obscene and absurd. Innocently enough our subject (who will go unnamed) inquired about new music, wanting some new music to listen to. She was one of these people who ‘likes’ music. The kind of people who ‘like’ movies too, in the same way most of us ‘like’ breathing and converting protein into muscle, music and movies are facts of modern life, chances are most people will have some that they prefer but won’t know much. I want it recorded at this point that I didn’t set out to turn this girl into a riff freak, it just happened that way. I don’t go out of my way to corrupt the youth of this awful nation, I just kinda do.
Usually I craft bespoke mix-tapes tailored to individuals, because I really enjoy creating mix-tapes and there’s rarely been a case where an album in its entirety is good enough to present as evidence as rock’s sustaining ability to transport us and suitable for virgin ears. But it was late, and I was tired and couldn’t be bothered with the days of notes and thinking that usually goes into a mix-tape (mix-disk technically but fuck you I’m calling it a mix-tape) so I just dropped Pentagram’s First Daze Here into the conversation, and loaned her my CD the next day. Several days went past and I begin to get tetchy... what if she didn’t like it? What implications did that have for her soul? After about three days I broke and called, asking if she’d listened to the CD yet, “No, not yet, I might tonight, I dunno”. All-new worries... What if she didn’t like it. That might indicate that she ain’t cut out for rock and roll. One of the many who need to be in control. Who like the idea of letting go but can never actually bring themselves to more than loosen that grip on the handlebars when the wind really starts howling across their bike. The world is full of them, they are the majority, they are the living. The others, the freaks, are maligned, mocked and ignored by the living but are far too spaced to care. About three am I was woken with a phone call, “I just listened to Pentagram! Wow! Is there any more”. The first step on the road to rock and roll addiction, three am phonecalls, was a superb sign.
The next few days were the maturation of rock and roll love into rock and roll obsession. I loaned her First Daze Here Too, the follow up, made of the rougher, faster, tougher cuts Frankensteined into one two excellent CDs, disc one is the more generic stuff, proving that Pentagram could cover the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds as well as crank out more of the same utterly mesmeric and genuinely feel-good proto-metal they had long since honed to a fine edge. I hesitate to call it ‘driving’, because that’s the kind of word used by braying little tits to describe shitty albums by bands nobody will ever hear of as if they’re the next Van Halen, music ought not to drive, it ought to be on the radio, with your mind behind the wheel. Disc two of First Daze Here Too burns with quick, rough cuts from Pentagram’s even earlier days. Two and three minute songs fight for attention in a genuine mob and melee of an album, fisticuffs sure to break out between these young songs, self-consciously flexing their muscles and daring with their eyes any of the other virgin songs to try something. Together, Pentagram’s early catalogue is summed up in these three discs of spinning glory. Striking a balance between Sir Lord Baltimore and Sabbath in a way nobody ever really did again, we have Bobby Leibling to thank for resurrecting these old recordings and keeping his band together. There are more early recordings but they become increasingly hard to get hold of and don’t even dream about originals, I have no idea if the limited runs of vinyl can even be found anymore.
And we have these recordings to thank for creating a bona fide rock and roll devotee. Thanks to these two excellent Pentagram albums, a nice little girl from the north coast was turned from lukewarm to music to fully turned on to all things guitar. I don’t know how many links I’ve had to give her to quality material, or how many of my CDs have been swallowed into the insatiable maw of her blasted handbag, but it’s all worth it because now I’ve got another friend and can smile safe in the knowledge that I’ve drastically improved somebody’s life with the power of Pentagram. I might be short a few discs I’ll never see again, but for all of the long lysergic conversations about the latest in quality music, and why it’s all great, I would pay any price. I seriously recommend these trips to anybody else, either for self consumption, or if you have intent to supply.
Written under duress by Steven.