I love microwaveable serving pouch. I love box of mac and cheese. But most of all I love Can. Formed in Cologne in 1968, Can—which was one of the first Krautrock bands and in my opinion the best—integrated psychedelic, experimental, and avant-garde influences into its great and hypnotically raucous music. Can’s methods were radical—you’ve got to love a band that spent 6 hours without a break spontaneously improvising “Yoo Doo Right” in the studio, only to pare it down to 20 minutes for release on vinyl. Hell, I don’t think even the Grateful ever played for six hours straight. Can dubbed such spontaneous jams “instant compositions,” and I beg to differ. Six hours is not instant. Soup is instant. Six hours is almost a goddamn workday. Hell, if it took six hours to heat soup, I’d starve to death.
Most people consider Can’s golden years to be those when the great Damo Suzuki—whom the band discovered busking outside a Munich café and was playing with them live that same night—was the vocalist. It was during these years that Can released such legendary LPs as 1971’s Tago Mago, 1972’s Ege Bamyasi, and 1973’s Future Days. I love that trio dearly, but have always had a soft spot in my heart for Delay 1968, which was supposed to be the band’s debut album and would have been the band’s debut album had they been able to find a single record label willing to so much as touch it, even while wearing biohazard gloves. (It wasn’t released until 1981, by Spoon Records.) Often labeled a compilation album, or an album of outtakes, Can bassist and recording engineer Holger Czukay has gone on record as saying Delay 1968 was intended to be Can’s first LP and bore the title Prepared to Meet Thy PNOOM.
My reasons for loving Delay 1968 have much to do with the band’s first vocalist, the American sculptor Malcolm Mooney. Mooney’s hoarse vocals, mad rants, and odd utterances added an element of derangement to Can’s often repetitious and strange songs, which are less propulsive and Autobahn-friendly, and often bring to mind German Captain Beefheart. And Mooney wasn’t just faking those lunatic vocals—following the release of Can’s proper debut, 1969’s Monster Movie, he returned to the United States, after receiving a strong recommendation to do so by his psychiatrist. Evidently he wouldn’t stop shouting, “Upstairs, downstairs,” which I imagine must have gotten on his fellow band mates’ nerves. In any event he left, and didn’t rejoin Can until 1989, when he returned to assume vocal duties for the band’s Rite Time LP.