Contact High With The Godz
Coming from the same Lower East Side scene that had already delivered the Fugs to ESP-Disk’, when the Godz went into the studio in 1966, there was no precedent for what they did. The first albums of the Velvet Underground and the Stooges lay in the future. The title Contact High with the Godz might suggest psychedelia, but even that freewheeling style, still yet to blossom, would come nowhere near the freedom and sheer avant-gardeness of the Godz' first LP. They were not afraid to sound incompetent. Hell, they flaunted it. There probably wasn’t another record label on the planet besides ESP-Disk’ that would have issued the Godz’ abrasive nine-song, 25-minute debut. The indifference that met The Godz at the time would have left most bands in utter obscurity, but gradually an audience caught up with their creativity. Their cause was greatly helped when the late great Lester Bangs spewed his enthusiasm for them in a 1971 Creemarticle, “Do the Godz Speak Esperanto?” He was the only music critic ready for their blast of innovation, but interest sparked by his championing has blossomed over more than four decades to the point where now the Godz are revered by a host of outsider musicians for having anticipated not only the wildest extremes of psych-rock, but also the then far-in-the-future DIY intensity of punk. As ESP owner Bernard Stollman put it, they were the Sex Pistols of their time.
"White Cat Heat," the opening track, sets the stage by impersonating sex-crazed felines. This is clearly the work of musicians who ignore boundaries of public propriety and, for that matter, potential ridicule as they embody their subject. Their music is not the sweet incompetence of the Shaggs, trying to emulate their pop idols but failing so spastically that it’s charming; the Godz were following nothing but nature and their wildest impulses. What makes it musically compelling is that within sufficiently unbridled and unbounded simplicity, there is a hidden complexity. What bewildered listeners first heard as bad drumming turns out, when listened to with an open mind, to contain primal polyrhythms. Later albums would find them moving closer to norms of technical adeptness, but the Godz spontaneously created their first album in a state of musical virginity, and the first time is always special and unreplicable.
Jay Dillon (autoharp)
Jim McCarthy (g, plastic fl, hca, vo)
Larry Kessler (bag, vln, vo)
Paul Thornton (d, g, maracas, vo)
1.Turn On2.White Cat Heat3.Na Na Naa 4.Eleven 5.1+1=? 6.Lay in the Sun 7.Squeak 8.Godz 9.May You Never Be Alone Like Me
NYC, September 28, 1966
Photos by Sandra Stollman
"Clocking in at a hair over 25 minutes, Contact High is an unholy mess of a record. Opening with the track "White Cat Heat," which consists of clumsily strummed acoustic guitars, arhythmic percussion, and Jim McCarthy and Larry Kessler screeching like a couple of, uh, cats in heat, it gets weirder. Best tracks are "1+1 Equals ?" and the hilarious "Lay in the Sun" (total lyrics: "All I want to do is lay in the sun"). For those who like their pop on the cutting edge, begin here and don't turn back." - John Dougan, All Music Guide
"I thought to myself, 'If this is so bad, why can't I stop listening to it?' I've listened to the album at least one hundred times since and I still can't answer that question." - Matt Golden, Stylus
CD - ZYXLpLp, 156 Fifth Avenue addressLp, Marked as "Stereo" on cover.Lp, Marked as "Mono" on cover. Photos provided by www.totalshutdown.com
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