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CHOU PAHROT

RIO/Avant-Prog • United Kingdom


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Chou Pahrot biography
CHOU PAHROT formed in Scotland in the early 1970s, playing their debut concert as early as 1974, but despite their reputation as an exciting local live act, did not release an album until 1979, an EP titled Buzgo Tram Chorus. This was followed that year by a full-length live album demonstrating their exciting onstage presence. Their music is an eclectic mix of avant-rock, with a heavy emphasis on violin, flavoring the music with both a gypsy/folk and jazz/fusion vibe; one can also hear occasional falsetto yodeling adding to the crazed and energetic ensemble sound.

The four band members adopted the pseudonyms of Eggy Beard (Martin McKenna) on violin, Monica Zarb (Robert Donaldson) on bass, Mama Voot (Tony O'Neill) on guitar and sax, and either Fish Feathers McTeeth (Dave Lewis) or The Amphibian (John O'Neill) on drums. Though they never secured a permanent recording deal, they were well known within certain circles in the Paisley/Glasgow area, and were a frequent sight at European music festivals in the late 1970s.

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CHOU PAHROT discography


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CHOU PAHROT top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

CHOU PAHROT Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.95 | 2 ratings
Live
1979

CHOU PAHROT Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

CHOU PAHROT Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

CHOU PAHROT Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 1 ratings
Buzgo Tram Chorus
1978

CHOU PAHROT Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Buzgo Tram Chorus by CHOU PAHROT album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1978
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Buzgo Tram Chorus
Chou Pahrot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by ExittheLemming
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
3 stars A want tae really be a scunner and dae things that are awfy, like pick ma nose and dip it in ma coffee (Ah Want Tae Be a Punk Rocker) by Andy Cameron/Peter Nardini

Summer 1978. Scotland's footballer's had just qualified for the World Cup finals in Argentina. Even better than that, the English hadn't thus crowning the Tartan Army's vociferous campaign to alert the authorities to TV pundit Jimmy Hill's undetected crimes of poofery aforethought. It can't be slander if it's true:

We hate Jimmy Hill, he's a poof, he's a poof

Please be advised that where we grew up, a poof is not a homosexual. It just means someone who is a bit of a mummy's boy, a bit wet, has mittens tied to their duffel coat and a lot like erm...Jimmy Hill. The beard was circumstantial.

When the jungle goes on Safari: another overseas jaunt: another atrocious World Cup song. Ally's Tartan Army c/w Ah Want Tae Be a Punk Rocker by comedian Andy Cameron is certainly a shoo-in as the theme music for any envisioned reality TV show called 'Hostage to Fortune' (he even sang they would win the trophy but the Scots were eliminated in the first round as usual) However, this sonic fatwa against mental health reached number 6 in the charts and sold close to 400,000 copies.The lucky people raking in this wonky wonga were Klub Records, an imprint who normally put out country dance music albums by Moira Anderson, Jimmy Shand and other kilted enemies of the state. So with money burning a hole in their sporrans they took a punt on a group who were creating something of a stir on the local Pub/Student Union circuit, Chou Pahrot.

I've never seen an original of this highly sought after EP and my review is sourced from a cassette copy kindly provided for me by a friendly Glasgow record store owner.

Right from the outset, it seems abundantly clear that whoever engineered these sessions had never encountered a rock band utilising sax and violin before. Eggy Beard's violin in particular suffers from a brittle scratchy texture that is slightly jarring in the higher registers while Mama Voot's saxophone is divorced from the ensemble performance in a 'too hard basket' of the sound window entirely. Similarly, the wonderfully named Fish Feathers McTeeth, an avowed improv/free jazz fanatic, has his kit timbres reduced to a squished rawk compress. That said, these three tracks are enjoyable enough and do at least represent a tiny peek into the huge and unfulfilled testament to a genuinely original band. Given the broad range of stylistic flavours Chou Pahrot contained, this recording cannot be considered as anything more than a menu teaser for what became an abandoned banquet. Rest assured however, that the disorienting, startling and miraculous jazz/punk meets classical/folk/rock in a head-on collision where everyone survives intact is preserved for posterity.

Greg Lake's description of the role of any studio recording is pretty apt here: it's like a cheque, it's not money, it's a promise to pay like a demo of what is only finally delivered in the live realm (I'm paraphrasing, but you get the gist)

I'm always struck by how vinyl record companies used the EP format as a short leash for puppies not yet house-trained i.e. they couldn't be trusted to leave an entire 40 minute long player unsoiled by 'impromptu evacuations'.

Don't pay the exorbitant prices being asked for this. If Klub Records had a vestige of nous within their entire organisation, they would remaster the original and release same on CD as bonus tracks bundled with the entire Glasgow Film Theatre performance which must have been truncated down for the subsequent Live album. Don't hold your breath, Scotland lost to Peru but beat Holland (go figure).

Key to the house-trained doggerel:

scunner - source of irritation

awfy - awful

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 Live by CHOU PAHROT album cover Live, 1979
4.95 | 2 ratings

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Live
Chou Pahrot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by ExittheLemming
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Now That's What I Call a Live Pahrot

Segregated education, bigotry, an English as the collective noun for 'poof', racism, Slik, sectarian violence, Andy Cameron allowed inside a recording studio, Alcohol abuse, Ally's Demobbed Tartan Army, Heart Disease as a hobby, a river so polluted that atheists can walk on water, Lena Martell, draconian licensing laws, Midge Ure, deep fried craic, the Krankies, an accent that makes females sound like lobotomized bingo callers, 'pure mince' as a pejorative and where even the dogs smoke. How do you know it's summer here? The rain feels warmer. When dinosaurs ruled the earth, we kept Pterodactyls as racing pigeons. Welcome to Glasgow (twin town: Sodom, motto: absente reo - and a roof would be nice thanks)

For the sake of clarity, I have no delusions about the milieu of my past: the so-called 'Scottish Cringe' is a fallacy engineered by those with vested interests in shielding us from the reality that culture is but a pacifier provided for those who are unable or unwilling to articulate their own ideas. Culture R'Us or Culture R'Yous? If you want a litmus test of a healthy spirit, then a strong dose of self depreciating caustic humour has to be a must. How much skill is there in being born within any particular nation's borders? Like most of my contemporaries in 1978 I thought popular music and mores sucked everywhere

I grew up in a northern suburb of Glasgow which was considered quite posh e.g. our graffiti had punctuation and such provocatively soft boys as myself were given many a hearty kicking by the respective tribes from this divided city (Celtic and Rangers fans) who wanted to bring a whole new interpretation to R.D Laing's The Divided Self. As an adolescent craving stimulus I frequented a live pub music circuit that included the Halt Bar, Curlers, the Maggie, Windy's, Blackfriars and perhaps significantly for this review, the legendary Burns Howff in West Regent Street. This revered watering hole, sadly gone now, provided a starting place for subsequent stars Stone the Crows, the Sensational Alex Harvey Band (via Tear Gas) and Beggars Opera. Stories of Chou Pahrot's performances there are legion and my favorite is the one where guitarist Mama Voot visited the gents toilet during a solo without missing a note or the band having to stop in mid song (it was an incredibly small venue) Most of the bands I saw were more memorable for their names and attitude than the music they created e.g. 12 Massive Explosions, Harry Reptile, the Egyptian Sex People, Exit the Lemming, The Outpatients and there was not a trace of any Prog lineage in said combos' rudimentary laldy Clydeside bluster. However, there was one notable exception to this unwritten Law of Keech: complicated clever s.h.i.t. = a right good doing (a.k.a. the Malky) in the unkempt, uncontrived and eccentric form of Chou Pahrot. Messrs Beard, Zarb, Voot and erm...Amphibian/ McTeeth somehow conspired to cut across all preconceived boundaries of musical brand loyalty and very often good taste to boot. I think they were from Paisley, a town that considers itself entirely separate from Glasgow's environs and whose inhabitants are termed 'Buddies' which might go some way towards the contrariness and 'outsider' appeal of this fascinating group. Here was an unlikely amalgam of sophisticated avant sourced rock, celtic punky primitivism and irreverent hippy slapstick couched in 'Sunday Post' dialogue that made perfect sense to the locals but must have struck the uninitiated as the Broons performing an exorcism during Hogmanay. Sadly, I never saw them live as they disappeared to Germany for a tour just as I reached drinking age. Veterans of the live music scene in Glasgow often take the view that Live does scant justice to the breadth and scope Chou Pahrot were capable and there are even some dark whispers that the album ain't really 'live' at all, but a studio recording with audience ambiance added thereafter. I can't find corroborating proof of this or any telling consensus but either way, we can only appraise what is, and not what becomes an increasingly futile and apocryphal take on what should be. The Glasgow Film Theatre was certainly the venue used but being robbed of the visuals (somewhat ironically) means we don't get to see the only credible JazzPunkClassical band tearing the place up behind rubber masks and wedding dresses alas.

Pantomime Shrub - a neurotic and nagging take on something the Crims circa '73 only hinted at, with an obsessive ostinato and Bartok 'machine rhythm' that after finally grinding to a halt just picks itself up, dusts itself off and goes again with gusto redoubled. By virtue of the many twists and turns to be enjoyed before the end you're glad of such obduracy.

Sylphonic Diplivits - Mama Voot's thick fuzz lead guitar and Eggy Beard's rapier violin spar on a memorable opening riff before trading dialogue thereafter in a bartered exchange where neither is subservient to the other. Like so much of this music, if you were to remove a single constituent, the entire construction might very well disintegrate into thin air. It's also clear that the laddies have a fondness for the Mahavishnu Orchestra and the gradual accelerando they embark on at the midway point is incredible to behold. Listen to how Zarb's clattering Rickenbacker bass and O'Neil's fusillade snare even lay back into a jesting rubato at what is a terrifyingly high tempo without letting the underlying shared pulse waver for a nanosecond. This is an ensemble with a battle hardened empathy that was clearly road-tested into effect by constant gigging.

The Wee Thing - Our first glimpse of that wistful and rather melancholic strain of celtic folk that lurks at the heart of we Scots. There is not a trace of any mawkish sentimentally throughout this beautiful creation however, and perhaps Crimson are the only other band I can name capable of encroaching on such territory without lapsing into maudlin teuchter p.i.s.h.

The Random Shoggy - Those of you familiar with the anti intellectualism of Ivor Cutler will recognise that spirit in the sung portions but what remains, by way of stark contrast, is split into several discrete sections that encompass horror movie creepy, skipping rhymes with a noose?, african 'jangle' and a weird rock assimilation of some very astringent chamber music.

I met a lady, she had a doggy, she said his name was the random shoggy

Almost impossible to describe but beguiling and unremittingly brilliant throughout. This is indicative of what the band's longer and more challenging pieces, that many Pahrot lovers deem are largely absent from this album, may have resembled e.g that 'Loch Ness Monster' of an instrumental and anecdotal favorite remembered simply as 'Mince' where the only lyric is sung at the very end of its 'Magnus McOpus' duration (being the word 'Mince' bellowed in stacked harmonies)

Itchy Face - Nobody is 'telling' me anything here but I just love it to bits. Imagine the Knack's My Sharona deconstructed by a glue sniffing Rab C Nesbitt accompanied by John Wetton, Tony Williams, Jerry Goodman and Joe Strummer. Make of the following what you will but it's certainly NOT designed to harbour or cloak any arcane mystery and if you are at all receptive to the work of the aforementioned Ivor Cutler no more needs to be said:

Ah know a man wi' an itchy face, it's a pure disgrace I know a man with a skelly eye, looks like he can see the sky Aye Eye Aye, Eye Yi Yi..?.

The lyrics take a sinister 'Sawney Bean' turn towards the conclusion where I could swear I hear the protagonist's actions described thus:

and he eats his maw and he eats his hoose and he has his tea and he has a pee?

I'd pay good money to hear Jon Anderson cover this.

Lemons - Something of a live staple and drummer 'the Amphibian' lends this a rockier feel than that represented by the Buzgo Tram Chorus EP version. By some obscure reflex I'm always prompted by what a Madness song would have sounded like if tackled by Prime Time or the Magic Band. Take note that although the unfettered and unbridled fury of free jazz is referenced in places, it's principally as a textural device only (i.e you don't meet any feedback noise improvs that involve the sound of strangled balloon animals) Why can't more avant garde inspired rock display the economy, brevity and discipline that Chou Pahrot do so masterfully here? It's often on the edge of chaos, but this is tourniquet tight chaos. Yes I know, I'm a slave to structure, so kill me. You wont find anything similar to the following in any Pete Sinfield or Greg Lake collaboration:

Lemons for your face, Sitting on the sideboard

Circa 4 minutes in you are witness to one of the most gloriously sinister passages in music full stop. Over Monica Barb's unyielding pedal point Mama Voot embarks on a diabolic ascending sax trill that never fails to summon forth images in this listener's head of terrified commuters trampling over each other to escape that mental patient in the carriage who was flossing his teeth with a machete. (but that might just be me?)

Mary Submarine - An outline rock sketch filled with softer fleshy tones sourced from the white underbelly of folk but the trumping palette betrays a plaintive darker sorrow that leaves simple pentatonics and fisher folk light years behind. Like The Wee Thing this is distinctly at odds with Chou Pahrot's habitual absurdist surface guise. Pay mind to the exquisite, and all too rare, sax solo from Voot that always summons the neck hair sentries to attention.

Day o' the Mug - Some of Stravinsky's chamber/dance pieces come to mind and maybe even a daydream of Zappa transcribing Bartok into the blues. Those wishing to catch a glimpse of this quartet's technical chop quotient are invited to drool in awe at the playing hereabouts. Even better than that, you don't actually notice the prodigious technique (it's always disguised by the music)

The Yaw Yaw Song - Eggy Beard's lonely restive violin conjures up a considerably less effete David Cross until the bass, drums and guitar rumble, clatter and chime underneath in robust syncopated support. The alluring and teasing main theme finally disrobes into a shocking chanted chorus that makes the Ramones sound long winded. If only more bands were as imaginative as this with just four instrumental parts.

Some of the reference points in Chou Pahrot's music are not hard to identify but this cannot really provide any idea as to what they actually sound like i.e. a list of ingredients is neither a flavour or even close to the pharmaceutical berserker porridge served up here. So for what it's worth we might itemise this sonic food fight as redolent of: Krautrock, Beefheart, Bartok, Wild Man Fischer, Stravinsky's chamber music, Celtic Folk, Zappa, Free Jazz, Crimson, Ivor Cutler and an elusive ingredient 'X' which I can only liken to 'aggressively keeping shtum'. If they have anything in common with their Prog counterparts it's that reluctance to say anything that defers to the brinkmanship of mundane reality. Someone like Yes never had anything to say while Chou Pahrot had plenty but chose not to: both are culpable. Chou Pahrot's failure to surmount the localised fame they garnered was probably down to several factors of which their cartoon graffiti lyrics delivered in a thick Glaswegian brogue was just a part. They fell between a 'Rock' that was too aggressively 'punky' for the mainstream and a hard place considered too 'out there' for formulaic Punk and Metal's jealously guarded conservatism. Record company reticence to gamble on this ambivalence resulted in no deal, disillusion and eventual breakup. Chou Pahrot were latterly reduced to the odd European festival appearance and being trotted out at various outdoor equivalents in their hometown as an increasingly antiquated curio for metalheads to gawp at and shower with appreciative beer cans. It's a real shame we never got to hear this unique group develop, grow and reap the fruits afforded to those artists who get to mature over a series of studio albums and tours.

Despite the misgivings of those who rue the lack of a souvenir consistent with their fading memory, let's just enjoy instead a document that at least attests to that once in a blue/green moon when 4 dwarf stars threatened to illuminate the darkest recesses of the old firmament.

*Apologies for a lot of Scottish slang:

laldy - very loud the Malky - getting beaten up maw - mum hoose - house keech - fecal matter

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