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‘Saturn Drive’: When Alan Vega met Ministry, 1983
10.20.2014
11:03 am

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Music

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Alan Vega
Ministry
Al Jourgensen


 
Saturn Strip, Suicide frontman Alan Vega’s third solo album and his first for a major label (Elektra), kicks off with the single “Saturn Drive,” a six-minute hybrid of early Ministry synth and sequencer sounds and Vega’s futuristic rockabilly. Co-written by Vega and Alain Jourgensen, the single was recorded with the whole With Sympathy team: Jourgensen plays keyboards, his original Ministry partner Stephen George drums, and Ian Taylor and (former Psychedelic Fur) Vince Ely are credited with producing the song’s basic tracks. Vega’s staunch supporter Ric Ocasek, who produced Saturn Strip (as well as the second, third and fourth Suicide albums), also appears on the song playing guitar and keyboards.
 

 
Vega’s lyrics to this time-traveling sci-fi epic aren’t easy to find online, so I’ve transcribed them for you from my tear-stained copy of Cripple Nation:

Wild stormy Monday
A gray rain came
Touchin’ Infinity’s prison
The creature made a war
Take the plane to Saturn
Celebrate their comin’
Lord knows Mr. Cheyenne
It’s a crucified photo
Of the wrong century

High price soldiers
Knockin’ down Eternity
Soda city delusions
Snake knows for sure
Winning by confusion
It’s a losin’ game
Saturn’s rings of reason
So’s a lonely street
Profits by the billions
Got the mornin’ line

Momma’s future children
Buy a bad machine
The computer knows nothin’
It’s feelin’ sympathy
What price glory
It’s too much infinity
Take the plane to Saturn
Follow the Indian
Lookin’ for that comet
Feel that fantasy
Huh oh yea fantasy
Yea

The creature’s nothin’
Just a stain on a wall
Death Row gets a window
Here comes Eternity
A million candelabras
Ya gotta have a scheme
Dr. Doom got a lash
It’s a time machine
That comet got religion
Yesterday
Snake eyes
Layin’ on the shore
It’s a losin’ game
It’s lonely streets
I got that mornin’ line
Yea what price glory
There’s too much infinity
Take the plane to Saturn
Lord knows Mr. Cheyenne
It’s a crucified photo
Of the wrong century
Yea, it’s the wrong one
The wrong one

I had really hoped Jourgensen’s memoir would shed some light on how this collaboration came to be, but I found no mention of Vega. Maybe Al will reveal all in one of the upcoming sequels?

I realize the fruits of this collaboration might not be to everyone’s tastes. But look at it this way: if Vega and Jourgensen hadn’t worked together on “Saturn Drive,” Vega never would have delivered this completely insane performance of the song on Spanish TV, which must be seen to be believed.
 

 
Click here for Vega and Marc Hurtado’s 2010 remake of the song, “Saturn Drive Duplex.”

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Ministry’s first video was for a song that has never been released. Until today. Sort of.
09.16.2014
06:17 am

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Music

Tags:
Ministry


 
In 1982, an up-and-coming dark dance-pop band from Chicago called Ministry made its first video. The band would later go on to great fame and influence for pioneering a hybrid of industrial dance and thrashy heavy metal, but at the time of that first video shoot, they were straightforward synth-pop Anglophiles, in a career phase the band’s leader Alain (later just Al) Jourgensen would soon disown. Ministry’s evolving sounds and broken fan base were discussed at some length in this Dangerous Minds post last year, so we’ll rehash none of that here, except to say that if you’re among the many who consider the band’s early years to be artistically fallow, there’s some music at that link that may change your mind.
 

The early years certainly weren’t cosmetically fallow.

But back to that first video: the song was called “Same Old Madness.” It’s typical for a band’s first (or second, or ANY) video to accompany a single, but “Same Old Madness” was never released in any form. In fact, it’s seeing its first-ever appearance on physical media TODAY. Thirty-two years after the video was shot, “Same Old Madness” is finally seeing daylight as part of Cleopatra Records’ expanded reissue of Ministry’s Twelve Inch Singles 1981-1984 collection, which contains more than double the material of the original 1987 version on Wax Trax.

But there’s a wrinkle—one could justifiably argue that the song in the video has STILL never been released, as the song appearing on the expanded comp has significant variations from the one in the video. I searched for a version I could embed in this post to no avail, but the collection appeared on iTunes in advance of the physical release, and the preview of the song there has all the differences on display. It’s also on Spotify in its entirety, unsurprisingly. If you compare it to the video below, you’ll note that it has some jangly guitar added to the background of the chorus, and that the vocals are just insanely tarted up. In an effort to sort out why there were multiple recorded versions in circulation for a song the band never even saw fit to put out, I asked the band’s original keyboardist, Rob Roberts, for some history.

The session details involve working with Iain Burgess at, I think, Chicago Recording Company. And that version is the one featured in the video. The version with guitar and big vox FX added was kind of a rarity. I’m surprised to see it surface on this new release, to be honest. It’s the same basic tracks as the video version, but the guitar and FX and editing were added in Boston. It sure sounds like the same kind of editing that’s in “A Walk In the Park” and even the “Work for Love” dub/dance edits. The overdubs, arrangement and editing that appears on the Cleopatra release had zero input from Al or anyone else in the band. Al didn’t even play the guitar overdub. It was worked up by the crew back at SynchroSound in Boston with Ian Taylor behind the board. Neither my source nor I can remember exactly who played guitar, but it was either Walter Turbitt [Groove Brothers] or Elliot Easton [The Cars].

Those of you who take an interest in Ministry’s early years might enjoy Roberts’ extensive, thoughtful and informative Q&A on prongs.org. And that being said, I’ll not keep you from that early video any longer.
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Early Ministry KICKED ASS
10.06.2013
09:31 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Ministry
Al Jourgenson

early ministry
 
Before he settled in to his current incarnation as a neck-tatted steampunk junkie purveyor of industrialized speed-metal for dimwitted bros, Al Jourgensen was a genuine innovator in post-punk synthpop and industrial music. The consensus narrative of his main band Ministry’s career trajectory holds that after an early anglophile period that’s as big of a let’s-pretend-it-didn’t-happen embarrassment to most their fans as Pablo Honey is to Radiohead snobs, the band really got started with the industrial dance masterpiece Twitch. From there, three breathtaking and influential albums of increasingly unparalleled aggression appeared, Land of Rape & Honey, Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste, and Psalm 69, which brought Ministry to an acutely mid-‘90s alterna-fame, whereupon they proceeded to dive more or less headfirst into metal, and, depending on your particular bent, either totally, fist-pumpingly FUCKIN’ RAWKED BRAH or descended into a spiral of cartoonish self-parody and never released another listenable recording ever again ever.

The consensus narrative has a point about Twitch. It WAS a huge leap over their debut, With Sympathy (listen to the full LP on YouTube here), to the point where it sounds like a totally different band (Ministry was by that point basically Jourgensen’s solo project), and compares extraordinarily well against the touchstones of its genre. Compare its single “Over the Shoulder” with the benchmark dance hit “Sensoria” by industrial founding fathers Cabaret Voltaire.
 

 
But largely because of that leap, With Sympathy remains Ministry’s early shame in the eyes of a lot of fans, and its creator, as well. Jourgensen has repeatedly disavowed the album, saying he wanted a harder sound, but that his vision was compromised by label interference and pop production. And every time he says that, eyes roll back in their sockets, and you wish he’d quit pretending he was born a cowboy-hat-and-facial-piercings hardass and just own his early work.

However, listening to live tracks from the band’s first incarnation - Jourgensen, drummer Steven “Stevo” George, and keyboardists Robert Roberts and John Davis - you really have to allow that the man has a point. The live band is sharp where the album is tepid, anxious where the album languishes. Sympathy has always had its defenders, and however fey it may seem in comparison to the work of Jourgensen’s enduring fame, it’s an important document in American post-punk. But good God, it could have been so, SO much better.
 
the scam lies down on fraudway
 
Much of the best live material that can be readily found from that era of the band has been uploaded by YouTube user TheRobSquaredShow, who, unsurprisingly, turns out to be early band member Robert Roberts. Roberts has also let slip an eye-opening CDR rarity called The Scam Lies Down On Fraudway, a recording of a 1982 Chicago concert that features KILLER versions of Sympathy tracks “Effigy” and “Revenge,” plus the very early single “I’m Falling” and its 12”  flipside “Primental.” Sadly, that recording is nowhere to be found online as of this writing - hell, evidence of its existence doesn’t seem to have found its way to the Internet yet - but what is there on Roberts’ channel is the band’s earliest known live recording. The early band comes off as caustic, headstrong and confident, and far more in line with the thorniness of the post-punk synth a-list than attempted radio singles like “Work For Love” would suggest. Credit drummer Steven George with a lot of that - few enough synth bands harnessed the energy of a live drummer, and it’s to Jourgensen’s credit that Ministry did. (It remains a major demerit that Jourgensen sang in an affected British accent so preposterous that Billie Joe Armstrong can almost be forgiven.)
 

 

 

 

 
For a treasure trove of information on Ministry’s earliest years, check out Roberts’ detailed interview on prongs.org. And while you’re devouring that info, enjoy “Same Old Madness,” the video for a terrific early track that, astonishingly, seems to have never had an official release.
 

 
Fans of Ministry’s late incarnation may be interested to know - if you already didn’t - that their new album, From Beer To Eternity, was released last month, and due to the death of longtime guitarist Mike Scaccia, it will evidently be the band’s last.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment