Press Clippings and testimonials

Strangers in a Strange Land

(Giovanni Dadomo, Sounds 'Route 77' tour special, February 1977)

TRUE: You have to climb something like ten flights of stairs to get to the dressing room and the people in it. This done, a slow pan of the tall, triangular locale reveals a familiar congregation, ie a handful of press, four or five record company representatives and, at the hub, the group and some close friends.

No mistaking the group: first, the drummer, the one with the short fair hair and the dampest stage gear; the bass player, he's the hannaed gypsy boy with the golden earing; the one in khaki and the blue-black crop, he packs away the violin with such care it must be his.

Stage centre, his back to a mirror, a glass of red wine in one enormous hand is Kid Strange, unmistakeable even at rest, his huge frame dwarfing the chair it's perched on into some misplaced item of kindergarten furniture.

The chatter of two and a half tongues: English, French, and broken versions of both as the English journalists meet their Parisian counterparts, the local record company execs and promoter congratulate the management and group on what has so far been a very good tour indeed.

Serious stuff eh? Not quite - me and Kid Strange, we've met before, across page and table both. It's in commemoration of our first confrontation (the one on paper), that he drops the coathangers on my head. Bonk, bonk, bonk.

Does he mean it? Do I bleed? Neither - it's just an old feud become a jest.

See, I tell Kid, I enjoyed your show tonight. Oh, good. The audience too (but he knows that already) were ecstatic at the end of it all, prompting one to conclude that maybe France is a more appropriate country for the Doctors of Madness than their homeland.

'It's not better... different,' says Kid. 'Like playing somewhere else.' the bluebird in his ear moves in time with his jaw. I note that his roots look like they could do with retouching - a tit for tat for those clotheshangers.

FALSE: One morning in 3066 Brady Koobs, a computer maintenance supervisor in the giant Euromond conglomerate wakes up in horror. Nothing is quite as he remembers it; the automatic lighting has failed and the hum of the Alphacomforter by his air bed is strangely silent. He gets up and runs to the window to find himself looking at another world. Or almost - what he sees looks like a scene from a history book - the old city of London as it was before the Great Fire.

His apartment too is altered beyond all recognition: Where once were smooth plasticglass walls, there's now cheap, peeling wallpaper; the self-adjusting colours of the Moodceiling are replaced by cracked plaster and an ancient light fixture suspended from a worn length of flex. He looks for his clothes in vain- the wardrobe is full of course, uncomfortable garments as worn in costume dramas.

As the day progresses he discovers that he is indeed, to all intents and purposes stranded almost a millenium in his planet's past. Or is he dreaming? Passing time and the indifference and scorn he meets from his fellow humans put paid to such fanciful notions.

Always a strong willed individual, Brady Koobs keeps insanity at bay and begins to take stock of the situation. Until such a time as a return to his own environment is possible - and he's realistic enough to realise this might be never - Koobs decides to make the best of this sordid little present.

Or what little there is left of it. It's late 1974 and Koobs is the only person on the planet who knows that two, maybe three years from now, the entire globe will be plunged into the first Great Fire, a self-induced holocaust which the human race will only just survive.

After much thought, Koobs decides the best way to stave off the imminent armagetddon is by means of rock'n'roll - he'll go straight to the young people of this doomed world and meet them on their own terms. Gradually this idea takes the form of a rock band: Doctors of Madness, with Koobs taking on the persona of Kid Strange, lead singer/guitarist.

The message is a simple one: as ever the world is devided inot a ruling elite and an enslaved mass, with all the refinements of modern technology taking the place of the slavemasters and centurions who had been used to enforce the status quo by previous civilisations.

The message is a simple one: 'Decondition/Hang Loose/Stay Close/You're Beautiful'.

Unfortunately not many people listen and the future remains balanced on a razorblade.

TRUE: Sometimes they do listen. Read any French review of the Doctors of Madness, be it live or on vinyl, and it's a very different story from what you get on the English- speaking side of the channel. For whereas in Britain it's rare to find one reviewer in twenty who hasn't discovered at least one good reason for hating the Docs (and, oddly enough, everyone seems to hate the group for reasons of their own), French 'rock critics' fall over themselves to sing their praises. And no, this isn't because the French are starved of rock'n'roll which they aren't, or because they don't understand English too well.

Appropriate therefore that the Doc's show at the Bataclan, a Paris hall with the capacity of the Marquee Club in London, should begin with a tape of Kid Strange reading a DOM review clipped from 'Best', one of France's two principal rock organs.

If you've seen the Docs in Britain, you'll probably be aware of the fact that the show would normally kick off with a taped extract from William Burroughs' 'The Naked Lunch'. Here Strange retains the Burroughs effect by having the review gradually turn into a cut up of itself - an easy thing to get across as the language of the original is appropriately Burrovian.

The meat of the spectacle is the Doctors themselves though, Kid appearing from the shadows in the long frock coat from the British 'End of the World' tour, looking like a grave roober from some neo-Victorian futureworld where everyone has blue hair and eyes that glow in the dark.

The others seem quite normal by comparison, even though Urban Blitz is still kitted out like an air raid warden from world war three, and Stoner has on his already mentioned gypsy outfit. Peter DiLemma's harder to make out, hidden away behind his kit except for occasional flashes of yellow hair, making his presence felt principally through his rumbustuous percussion.

As for the music, this is only the second time I've seen the group live but they sound at least ten times stronger and more purposeful than they did at the end of the last British tour. Part of this is no doubt due to the fact that the audience is so much more positive than what they've had (or not) so far at home. But there's also a greater sense of emergency in the playing, with the sets being based around the faster numbers in their repertoire, resulting in an ultimately more dynamic whole.

They rock out more than they did last time, in other words, so that the tension created by the hell's breath 'Doctors of Madness' is retained through the quieter 'Marie and Joe', ready to be picked back up again for 'B-Movie Bedtime', another stomper, this one with its near throwaway 'high as a kite' coda given all the impact it needs by being zapped from speaker to speaker. Next they do 'Billy Watch Out', complete with a preface from Strange about the political and religious maniacs who run the world.

There's slides too: a Salvador Dali Christ looming down over Peter DiLemma during 'Billy' repalced by a black and white shot of a photographer (Henri-Cartier Bresson to them that knows) for the subsequent 'In Camera'.

As I've made plain in print before now, my initial response to the Docs was totally negative, culminating in a venomous review of their second album. Much to my surprise the meeting with Kid Strange that grew out of that diatribe left me liking the man a lot and therefore deciding to give his music a second chance. However much I listened to the records though, I retained very large reservations - too much of the first album seemed to wallow in its own sense of large-writ tragedy for example - and even seeing the group live that first time, an uneven affair, no doubt affected by the size (small) and warmth - about half a Victory V lozenge - of the audience - hadn't done a lot to change my mind onto the kind of super-positive track I reserve for my, ahem, faves.

So I was as surprised as could be when, around the time 'Brothers' wheeled into 'Suicide City', I suddenly realised I was actually enjoying what was going down almost as much as the French loony leaping up and down beside me. And enjoying it not as some kind of grotesque joke, but for what it was - a very creditable rock'n'roll fire engine powered by a violin with as much to say for itself as most of the guitars I'd been the target for in the last month or two.

And yes, even the encore of 'I'm Waiting For My Man', (once described as the worst version ever, or some such by a nameless reporter in an equally forgettable local rag) was as full and fine and privy of punch-pulling as the most devout Velvets afficionado could possibly require. How does it feel to have your head go the full 360 degrees? Fine.

FALSE: That night, in a secret hideout deep beneath the Paris sidewalks, there's a meeting of The Giants, a secret order dedicated to saving the world from itself. Bob Dylan and John Lennon sit side by side with the French poets Paul Eluard and Jean Cocteau, the singer Jacques Brel, Cartier-Besson with a camera at the ready in his right hand. William Burroughs hidden behind huge dark glasses, the Swedish film maker Ingar Bergman - other faces, some familiar, some not so, some missing presumed dead, all seated at this vast table returning reports. A tentative knock at the door. A tall man with blue hair walks in. 'Ki Kid, how's it going out there?' says Burroughs. Kid Strange smiles and takes his place at the table.

TRUE: Next morning a sleep-shocked Kid Strange takes coffee in the foyer of his hotel. He has a Joni Mitchell badge pinned to his chest bearing the legend 'Free Man In Paris.' And he doesn't like being hated.

'It's so much down to the first thing that ever appears,' says Kid, recalling the first piece ever published about the band in Britain was accompanied by a headline calling the Docs 'the most tasteless band in the world'.

'But the point was, no-one had ever called us the most tasteless band in the world before then. And ever since then we've been 'tacky' and 'crass' and 'gross' and all that other stuff - and I think it's down to the initial response from people to that first article.

'And I find that very interesting becuase that's just another aspect of the whole thing that we're about, which is how easily people's responses are conditioned by their stimulation.'

FALSE: Late 1974. The renowned explorer Beauregard Chancer is unearthing the remains of a Mayan burial ground. At the deepest part of his excavations, he discovers a vast coffin-like object which seems to glow from within. Analysis fails to detect the presence of any known metal. Late one night, as the curator dreams about the 'bunny' spread-eagled across his lap, the mysterious container opens, freeling the only survivor of the atomic holocaust that destroyed the civilisation of Atlantis. Improbably tall, gleaming in the darkness, a five thousand year-old man steps into the present...

TRUE: It's been said of the Doctors of Madness that their use of William Burroughs as a starting point amounts to little more than elegant name-dropping; same with the other 'literary' techniques - the slides of Cartier-Besson and Ingmar Bergman's 'The Seventh Seal' too. But then if it's cool for Patti Smith (like Kid, a Francophile) to sing about Rimbaud...

Kid Strange: 'I find it very satisfying to have someone from Darlington come up and say 'I've just managed to get hold of a copy of 'Naked Lunch'... I don't know whether it's important or not that someone from Darlington should read some Burroughs, but I do find it satisfying that someone who might never have turned on to that train of thought is there partly because of something I may have said or done. The reason I find it satisfying is because I think Burroughs is working for the liberators rather than the jailers...'

FALSE: Henry and Alice Hibbert, a retired Milwaukee couple, were driving home from a friend's house one night in 1974 when Alice spotted a long cigar-shaped object in the sky.

'It was moving at a fantastic rate' Alice said later. 'Suddenly, the car stopped dead and we couldn't open the doors or anything'.

Henry and Alice went on to realate how the vast 'airship' had stopped above their automobile and seemingly drawn it up into itself by magnetism.

'We felt no fear', says Henry going on to relate how he and his mate travelled to a planet 'Beyond the Stars', where they were examined in the minutest detail by a race of telepathic beings of obviously superhuman intelligence.

Finally they were returned to the same stretch of road at precisely five minutes after starting time, even though they'd experienced what seemed like several weeks of subjective time.

Needless to say the Hibbert's story was considered nothing more than an elaborate, attention-grabbing fantasy. Especially the bit about the gigantic 'aliens' with the blue hair.

TRUE: Doctors of Madness, fortified and strengthened by the good vibes, food and wine of France (Kid: 'It's always back to Paris'), are about to set foot on native soil once more. There will be no more blue hair says Kid - 'For you: an exclusive'. There will be stimulation and conflict aplenty.

FALSE: The above is entirely fictitious: there is no such group as Doctors of Madness, no such individual as 'Kid Strange'.

TRUE: All paragraphs prefaced by the word 'TRUE' are totally imaginary.

'Decondition/Hang Loose/Come Close/You're Beautiful Slob Condition/Flat Clot/Hag/You/Decode/Cod/Utiful...'

EQUIPMENT

Electric violins
Lute Electric guitar
White custom electric guitar
Fender Precision bass
Guild Starfire electric guitar
Chopin Custom electric guitar
Slingerland snare drum
Slingerland bass drum
Slingerland tom toms
Custom brass tom tom
Zildjan cymbals
Peavey bass amplifier
Peavey bass cabinets
HH Combo amplifer
HH monitor unit
HH 100 watt slave amplifier
Dan Armstrong 4x12 speaker cabinet
Marshall solid state lead combo amplifier
HH multi echo machine
Barcus Berry preamplifier
Echoplex echo machine 7500
Watkins Copycat echo
Electro Harmonix Smallstone phaser
Electro Harmonix Queen wah wah pedal
Electro Harmonix Badstone phase pedal
Electro Harmonix Big Muff fuzz units
Morley wah wah pedal
MXR phaser
Maestro bass brassmaster
Grampian reverb unit
HH Multi Echo machine
Revox HS77 tape recorder
Shure, AKG and Beyer microphones
Grampian DP4/L microphones
RSR 20 channel mixer
JBL bass bins, mid lenses and top horns
Gauss wedge monitors
Altec extended range horns
Canary custom six channel monitor desk
JBL speaker diaphragm

 

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