From The Cramps to Miles Davis, ten tracks that have inspired punk legend Kim Salmon

From The Cramps to Miles Davis, ten tracks that have inspired punk legend Kim Salmon

Image by Naomi Lee Beveridge

Kim Salmon & The Surrealists just dropped their new album, Rantings From The Book of Swamp.

Kim Salmon has enjoyed a storied music career. From the mid-’70s, where he founded Perth’s first-ever punk band, The Cheap Nasties, to the formation of The Exterminators, who would be renamed The Invaders before settling on The Scientists, the band’s most recognisable guise.

Salmon ignited a punk wave that consumed Perth for decades, inspiring bands such as The Victims, The Orphans and the two ensuing incarnations of The Cheap Nasties, The Veneers and The Manikins.

He has also been a member of revered supergroup, Beasts of Bourbon, also featuring Tex Perkins and Spencer P. Jones, but Salmon’s current project is his band The Surrealists. Salmon has just released his eighth studio album with the group, Rantings From The Book of Swamp – an improvised project that was intended to be recorded live before an audience.

Venues rapidly shut as the pandemic tightened its grip, yet for Salmon and his fellow Surrealists, Phil Collings and Stu Thomas, they couldn’t relinquish their inspired plan. So Rantings was born – the band recording the record from their recent livestream performance for Leaps & Bounds Music Festival in June.

To celebrate the release and to highlight its inner workings and inspirations, we asked Salmon for ten tracks that have inspired him across his career. Featuring everyone from Miles Davis to The Cramps and Brian Eno, this list is a doozy.

Melanie – ‘Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)’ (1970)

There’s something about Melanie’s voice – shaky but in tune, fragile and powerful at the same time. And with the huge, anthemic Edwin Hawkins Singers contrasting the lone singer. This was one of the very first pieces of pop music that affected me – I was 12 at the time. My mum and I were both really taken by Melanie. Mum and I diverged from then on I think.

Miles Davis – ‘One and One’ (1972)

From On The Corner. Anything off this album or Bitches Brew is pretty much at the crossroads of funk, rock, jazz; in fact at the crossroads of everything. I used to play these albums on my iPod when I worked in a warehouse with industrial sounds raging away all the time outside. These grooves would absorb that noise pollution and not just neutralise it but incorporate it. Miles has been huge with all three of The Surrealists.

Plastic Ono Band – ‘Open Your Box’ (1971)

Plastic Ono Band was the best John Lennon project by a long way. Imagine me as a 14-year-old hearing this, thinking, “This is something all parents would hate!” I love the art of Yoko Ono, and this early dalliance in music is true punk rock.

Brain Eno – ‘Baby’s on Fire’ (1973)

What’s not to like about ‘Baby’s on Fire’, with its mix of dissonance, doo-wop and wordplay. Plus there’s Robert Fripp’s fuzzy lead guitar solo taking its logic-defying turns.

Sandy Denny – ‘Who Knows Where the Time Goes’ (1969)

Probably my first real induction into British folk sounds was Led Zeppelin’s fourth album, Led Zeppelin IV, with its acoustic tracks. Its song, ‘The Battle of Evermore’, featuring vocals from Sandy Denny, was my fave. It featured another more haunting voice alongside Robert Plant’s. I actually saw her play in ’74 and I only recently revisited her music but this song and her singing of it are just beautiful.

Des Demonas – ‘The South Will Never Rise Again’ (2017)

Mark Cisneros from The Pink Monkey Birds stays with me and my girlfriend Maxine when he’s in Melbourne. He gave me a copy of a record from another band he’s in, Des Demonas, and told me that the singer Jacky Cougar Abok was a massive fan of The Scientists. The band sounds a bit like The Fall.

I love the record but when I heard this song it made me think – somehow until recently there’s been some kind of misplaced acceptability about the Confederacy. I never got it and it was good to hear someone sing ‘The South Will Never Rise Again’. Call me some middle-classed white guy who doesn’t know about it. I don’t care!

Scott Walker – ‘Big Louise’ (1969)

There’s that book What Would Keith Richards Do? For me, the question is “What Would Scott Walker Do?” I don’t have Scott’s awesome voice or his musical erudition but his iconoclasm is something I truly relate to.

The Silver Apples – ‘A Pox on You’ (1969)

This was electronic rock music before there were keyboards attached to synthesisers, just audio generators and modulators here playing two notes and a lyric line that goes “A pox on you”. How could I resist? The Surrealists covered this on our 1991 record, Essence.

The Cramps – ‘New Kind of Kick’ (1983)

When I first heard The Cramps I asked, “What the fuck is this?” It combined the unhinged raw power of The Stooges, suggestive lyrics, primitive guitar electronics and that primal beat. The Cramps are in my DNA.

The Undisputed Truth – ‘Smiling Faces Sometimes’ (1971)

It’s 1972, I’m 15 and listening to Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 every Sunday. I hear The Undisputed Truth’s ‘Smiling Faces Sometimes’ for I don’t know how many weeks, but this Philadelphia soul sound left its mark on me. So did these lyrics.

The new album from Kim Salmon & The Surrealists, Rantings From The Book of Swamp, is out now. For more on the band, check out their Facebook page.

Give Salmon’s above selections a spin here.  

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