Flashback: Rough trading at the Fillmore

Music over 25 years and from 31 years ago

The four-CD set, __Rough Trade Shops — 25 Years (Mute import) is not a box of bondage videos, you naughty git, but it's damn near as kinky. Compiled to celebrate the anniversary of the definitive English independent record store (not the defunct label of the same name), Rough Trade Shops — 25 Years combines more than 50 tracks that filled the store with music and the shopkeepers with inspiration, even if they failed to fill the coffers.

Housed in a reinforced cardboard box smaller than an old school double-CD case, 25 Years still manages to capture highlights — some famous, some forgotten — from three decades. The cover is adorned with Polaroid-type shots. From one corner, a wall of records (the Clash's London Calling displayed front and center) peers down at another photo of a window plastered with stickers for '90s experimental electronic and drum 'n' bass labels such as Rephlex and Moving Shadow. That accurately sums up how eclectic the set's selection is.

The 25 Years box serves much the same purpose as Rhino's 1999 three-volume Postpunk Chronicles: to chart the artists who took punk's DIY anything-goes attitude but extended the scope to include everything from art, agro and anarcho punk to avant pop, dub reggae and white-label dance music. Both sets contain some of the same songs and many of the same artists, such as Pere Ubu, the Smiths, Joy Division, the Chills, Sonic Youth and the Cocteau Twins. But 25 Years extends past those first few years of the '80s, even including some 2000 releases that only recently made our shores. Lee "Scratch" Perry sits next to the Sugarcubes, Stereolab next to Huggy Bear and Peaches next to Ryan Adams. Soon you hear that the difference between the Buzzcocks' "Boredom," the Pixies "Bone Machine" and Mudhoney's "Touch Me I'm Sick" isn't all that pronounced.

Sure, you'll get caught up in Rough Trade Shops — 25 Years, but go buy your bondage movies somewhere else, you nasty bugger.


"The discussion," wrote Eugene Ionesco in Rhinoceros, "was about to take a disagreeable turn, when we heard a mighty trumpeting ... ." One can only speculate on the mood of the Fillmore audience the Saturday when Miles Davis' Live at the Fillmore East — March 7, 1970: It's About That Time (Columbia Legacy) was recorded, but it's fair to suggest that many were not terribly enamored with the possibility of wading through Davis' sextet on their way to the benign psych-blues modalities of the Steve Miller Band (struggling to complete album No. 5 between road dates) and the white-hot Neil Young (fronting Crazy Horse in its original, incomparable formation, and just four days away from the release of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's epochal Deja Vu).

It was a lousy night out — mid-30s, rain lacerating under the Second Avenue marquee and worse on the street. It's the second night of a weekend stand, featuring the typical Bill Graham mélange. Tickets were steep ($3.50 a pop) and there was excitement and a certain muted anxiety in the queue. Miles was the wild card of the bill, wholly unpredictable, increasingly complex and creating music infinitely less mollifying than that produced by either of the men with whom he soon would share the Fillmore stage.

The woefully under-recorded combo accompanying Davis featured Wayne Shorter on soprano and tenor saxes, Chick Corea on the Fender Rhodes electric piano, Dave Holland on acoustic and electric bass, the cataclysmic Jack DeJohnette on drums and a hyperventilating Airto Moreira on percussion. The group rips into Joe Zawinul's "Directions," and the 1960s come to an abrupt close (with the '80s, '90s, 2020s and 2150s tumbling into their vortex soon after). It's clear the rhythm section here prefigures everything that would happen in the next 30-odd years (save perhaps gabber and O-Town's cell-phone clatter during breaks in their choreography classes).

"Spanish Key," from the as-yet-unissued Bitches Brew, is attacked with swaggering verve, reminiscent of the exhilaration (although not the claustrophobic sonorities) engendered by Public Image Limited's "Annalisa." The audience seems to catch on around disc one's "Masqualero," but after the bracing, percolating abstractions of "The Theme," their praise is muted, no encore requested. The second disc is just as revelatory: During "Miles Runs the Voodoo Down" one can imagine Davis reaching up from purgatory, defeating death's moldering clutch just long enough to drive Teflon-coated railway ties through the crania of the members of Tortoise.

This is a remarkable set of recordings — assembled with selfless, transparent élan by longtime Davis collaborator Teo Macero — a goddamned gold-dipped sonic Rosetta stone with 100 percent pure Bolivian flake spilling over the basalt (Miles, ever-prescient, was known to party with the Elektra-era Stooges). Of course, Miles would just laugh that airless laugh of his, down another gulp of Malaysian asp venom and head back down to perdition, where It's About That Time is doubtless on constant rotation.