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Can was a famous experimental rock band from West Germany active in The Sixties and The Seventies, known for its Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly sound and considerable influence on avant-garde, experimental, ambient, Punk Rock, New Wave and electronic music.
Its core members were as follows:
- Holger Czukay - bass guitar, sound engineer, electronics, tape manipulation
- Michael Karoli - guitar, vocals, violin
- Jaki Liebezeit - drums, percussion
- Irmin Schmidt - keyboards, vocals
The band's lineup was completed by two separate vocalists, Malcolm Mooney and Damo Suzuki.
Notably, none of the bandmembers had much experience with rock music when Can was formed in 1968 - Czukay was a classical music teacher (and former student of Karlheinz Stockhausen) who only became interested in rock after hearing "I Am the Walrus" by The Beatles, Karoli and Liebezeit had played in jazz bands and Schmidt was an avant-garde classical musician. Similarly, Karoli, born in 1948, was the youngest core member at the time, with Czukay, Liebezeit and Schmidt being all born in 1938, 1939 and 1937, respectively.
Recruiting African-American vocalist Malcolm Mooney, Can recorded their debut album, Monster Movie in 1969. Movie showcased Can's Signature Style, a deeply experimental fusion of Krautrock, Funk and Psychedelic Rock based largely around improvisation (their 20-minute "Yoo Doo Right" was originally a 6-hour improvisation), repetition and Mooney's unhinged stream-of-consciousness ranting. Liebezeit's tribal, funky drumming served as the framework for extended solos by Schmidt, Karoli and Czukay, which would then be edited and spliced together in the studio to form actual songs.
Mooney quit Can soon after Movie, suffering from mental health problems. He was replaced by Damo Suzuki, a Japanese singer the band found busking in Munich. His wildly varied vocal style (easily switching between cryptic mumbling and outright screaming) and Word Salad Lyrics sung in a variety of languages meshed well with the band's already existent sound. The resulting string of critically acclaimed albums, Tago Mago, Ege Bamyasi and Future Days saw the band abandon any semblance of traditional song structures in favour of free improvisation, embracing constructing songs from tape editing, electronics and worldbeat influences even further. Days is even regarded as an early example of ambient music.
Suzuki left after Days, with vocal duties taken over by Karoli and Schmidt. While their first post-Suzuki album, the ambient Soon Over Babaluma, was well received, the band's critical fortunes decreased as they evolved into an even more conventional style with later albums, even if they managed to obtain a hit single in the UK with 1976's "I Want More". Czukay left in 1977 after being slowly pushed out of the band, replaced by Traffic bassist Rosko Gee and with additional percussionist Rebop Kwaku Baah recruited from the same band. After two more poorly performing albums, Can disbanded in 1979, with a temporary reunion featuring Mooney taking place between 1986-1991. This resulted in a new album, Rite Time, and a contribution to Until the End of the World's soundtrack.
Can's members frequently cited bands such as The Beatles, The Velvet Underground, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, James Brown, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Michael von Biel and their interest in world music as significant influences on their psychedelic-progressive-funk-rock sound. In turn, they have been cited as an influence by numerous Alternative Rock, post-rock and Post Punk bands and artists like The Fall, Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Public Image Ltd, Talking Heads, The Stone Roses, Talk Talk, Primal Scream, Brian Eno, Radiohead, Sonic Youth, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Pavement and The Mars Volta.
Also, Kanye West sampled their song "Sing Swan Song" for his "Drunk and Hot Girls", so you may have heard them from there.
- Monster Movie (1969)
- Soundtracks (1970)
- Tago Mago (1971)
- Ege Bamyasi (1972)
- Future Days (1973)
- Soon Over Babaluma (1974)
- Landed (1975)
- Unlimited Edition (1976) - compilation of unreleased material
- Flow Motion (1976)
- Saw Delight (1977)
- Out of Reach (1978)
- Can (1979)
- Delay 1968 (recorded 1968-1969, released 1981)
- Rite Time (1989)
- Black Sheep Hit: The band's 1976 hit "I Want More", which sounds more like a late Roxy Music song than Can.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Damo Suzuki. And Mooney, who suffered a nervous breakdown and left the band at his psychiatrist's request lest he lose more of his marbles.
- Creator Couple: Irmin Schmidt's wife Hildegard has been the band's manager and the head of their label Spoon Records since The Seventies.
- Demoted to Extra: Holger Czukay after Rosko Gee joined the band. He was reduced to doing various audio effects before finally leaving the band.
- Epic Rocking: The band's trademark. Examples include: "Father Cannot Yell", "Mary, Mary So Contrary", "Yoo Doo Right", "Cutaway", "Mother Sky", "Paperhouse", "Oh Yeah", "Halleluhwah", "Aumgn", "Peking O", "Bring Me Coffee or Tea", "Pinch", "Soup", "Future Days", "Spray", "Bel Air", "Cutaway", "Ibis", "Splash", "Chain Reaction", "Quantum Physics", "Vernal Equinox", "Unfinished", "Flow Motion", "Animal Waves", "November", "All Gates Open", "Safe", "Butterfly", "Little Star of Bethlehem", "On the Beautiful Side of a Romance" and "Like a New Child".
- "Yoo Doo Right" is definitely this, as is attested to above. Also, their live improvisations as a rule were absurdly epic.
- A Good Name for a Rock Band: The bands Spoon and Hunters and Collectors both took their names from Can songs.
- Improv: Really? I'd never have guessed.
- In the Style Of: The "Ethnological Forgery Series" (abbreviated "E.F.S."), where the band attempts (successfully) to imitate various forms of ethnic music.
- "Turtles Have Short Legs" is essentially "Can plays goofy '60s piano pop."
- "Mother Upduff" is their own version of "The Gift" by The Velvet Underground, but based around an old Urban Legend and not including anybody trying to mail themselves with fatally disastrous results.
- Let's not forget their (in this troper's opinion) delightful cover of Offenbach's "Infernal Galop" from ORPHEUS IN THE UNDERWORLD -- a/k/a the well-known "Cancan Song." Yeah, it rocks.
- Leave the Camera Running: "Cutaway" has a long bit in the middle with Studio Chatter with somebody asking Holger to use his frequency modulator in tune with Michael's guitar.
- Looped Lyrics: Of the Madness Mantra ("Yoo Doo Right", "Mushroom") and the just-plain Broken Record type ("Halleluhwah").
- Madness Mantra: Everything they ever made with Mooney, especially "Yoo Doo Right".
- About half of their Suzuki-era output, too. Just listen to "Paperhouse" and tell me that the "you just can't get that no more" bit isn't the very sound of someone losing their marbles. Even more so "Mushroom". Especially "Mushroom".
- Meaningful Name: "Liebezeit" means "loves time" in German.
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly
- Non-Appearing Title: So many.
- Sampling: They were one of the pioneers, way back before samplers were invented - Czukay would painstakingly splice together tapes culled from various sources.
- Sampled Up: Kanye West's "Drunk and Hot Girls" uses a sample and Mondegreen from "Sing Swan Song".
- Troubled Production: The band struggled to get Ege Bamyasi completed because Irmin Schmidt and Damo Suzuki couldn't stop playing chess.
- Visual Pun: The cover of Ege Bamyasi which featured a can.
- Word Salad Lyrics: Once Damo joined it became outright Word Puree Lyrics, frequently bordering on Indecipherable Lyrics.
- Writing Around Trademarks: The cover of Monster Movie shows a faceless Galactus.