Wednesday, June 23, 2010

June 23: The Scientists, "Shake (Together Tonight)"

Artist: The Scientists
Song: "Shake (Together Tonight)"
Album: Frantic Romantic (single)
Year: 1979

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Looking back and the overall history of recorded music, there are a handful of cases where it simply does not make sense that a certain artist has to date not received the amount of accolades and credit that they deserve for their contributions to the progression of music.  While many of these artists never found massive commercial success, from a critical standpoint, music would not exist in its current form without them, and many of these "lost" records stand as the most innovative and exciting in history.  Among this list, one cannot deny the significance of one of the most original and truly ingenious performers to ever record, Australia's Kim Salmon.  For more than three decades, Salmon has been creating some of the most exciting and powerful punk and hard rock on the planet, and from Beasts Of Bourbon to The Surrealists, few performers can claim as large and high quality a catalog.  Yet even with these two amazing projects, one cannot deny that some of his finest work came in his early years, when he was the core of one of the most important bands of the punk and post-punk era, The Scientists.  Taking the formula that had been set by the likes of The Ramones and The Stooges and putting their own unique spin on the sound, the early singles from The Scientists stand today as some of their finest work.  In truth, one can easily make the case that they never quite matched the power and simple brilliance that can be found on the b-side of their debut single, 1979's "Shake (Together Tonight)."

The moment the song begins, it has a feel like few other songs of the era, and certainly a far cry from a majority of the punk being made at the time.  The core guitar riff, played by Kim Salmon and Roddy Radalj, has a unique swing to it, and this was an early sign of the pop sensibility that Salmon brought to all of his musical projects.  However, at the same time, one cannot deny the fact that the riff has a very close similarity to that which supports Blondie's "One Way Or Another," and due to the proximity of release dates of the two songs, it is almost impossible to claim that one was "stolen" from the other.  In the case of "Shake (Together Tonight)," the riff is a bit more staggered and sparse, and it is also a bit more aggressive in tone, which is fitting of the overall musical personality of The Scientists.  The song continues its almost dizzying musical assault, as the rhythm section of bassist Dennis Byrne and drummer James Baker (formerly of The Victims) present some of the most original and creative work of the entire "golden age" of punk.  Throughout "Shake (Together Tonight)," it is clear that The Scientists are far more than your average punk band, as not only do they display a far greater understanding of musical composition than a majority of their peers, but their ability to move as a single musical unit takes the song to an entirely new level.

Along with writing all of the music of "Shake (Together Tonight)," Kim Salmon also handles vocals for the song, and even at this early stage, the swagger and grit that he has perfected over the years can already be heard.  From the opening line where he can be heard simply saying, "Shake it, Roddy," it is clear that Salmon has a personality which cannot be held back by the music, and it is this personal touch to the lyrics that makes his performance so fantastic.  With a bit more "singing" than a majority of his peers, Kim Salmon's voice clearly served as the blueprint for nearly every Aussie punk vocalist that followed, and even more than thirty years after it was first released, his performance on "Shake (Together Tonight)" can still ignite a joyous fury of listening pleasure.  It is within the words that Salmon sings that one can hear the influence from The Ramones, as on this song, the lyrics are far more "friendly," and more about having a good time than they are about rebellion.  Written by Baker, the song does not leave much to subtlety, as it is about heading out to a dance and having a damn good time.  From speaking of dressing right to lines like, "...we're gonna rock, and lose control...," the song perfectly captures the urgency and mood of youth looking to have fun, and this same mood is portrayed just as well within the music, making the longevity of the song a bit less surprising.

Though he is often lost in the shuffle of so many other performers, one cannot deny the massive impact that Kim Salmon has had over the decades.  Truth be told, one can easily make the case that Salmon was almost completely responsible for their being any sort of "punk scene" in Australia, and it is why he remains one of the most highly respected artists in his native country.  From his more "bar rock" projects like Beasts Of Bourbon to his brilliant experimentation within the work of The Surrealists, few performers have proven such wide-ranging and long lasting talent as Salmon.  However, some of his finest work came in his early recordings with The Scientists, and the high energy, high fun sound of the band remains a joy to experience to this day.  Though the A-side is an impressive recording, there is simply nothing else in the catalog of The Scientists that quite compares to the overall sound and mood found on "Shake (Together Tonight)," and this energy still resonates, far surpassing nearly everything that is being recorded in modern times.  From the hurried guitar work to the pummeling drums, there is not an off or down moment anywhere on the track, and the attitude that the band brings to the song serves as proof as to why this early grouping remains the finest in all of the bands' various lineups.  Somewhat a "hidden treasure," there are few songs of any genre that can compare to the perfection found on all fronts of The Scientists' groundbreaking 1979 single, "Shake (Together Tonight)."

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