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Love Letter To A Record: Grinspoon On The Cult’s ‘Electric’

Written by Pat Davern on August 6, 2019

Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.

In this series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.

Pat Davern, Grinspoon – Electric by The Cult (1987)

Dear Electric,

I remember the moment we first met. Sitting in my friend Rory’s living room, he had a copy of you that he’d bought from Red Eye in the city.

Up to that point I’d only really loved one other before you. She was beautiful, with a blue cover and a single name, Sunnyboys. I thought she was the one until the day we met. It was hard to pick between you, but you became my new passion. I knew of your siblings, Love being the one I’d hear wafting from one of my older sisters’ bedrooms, but you were different. You were big and dumb and loud. I studied you hard, from your opening lines to the closing refrains.

The story is a well known one. The Cult entered Oxford Englands’ famous Manor Studios and recorded an album titled Peace. Unhappy with the overall sound and production, and with a keen interest in breaking the American market, they hired a youngish producer named Rick Rubin (famous for his work with Slayer and The Beastie Boys) to rework the songs. Rubin convinced the band they needed a harder edge. He armed them with AC/DC’s back catalogue, and sent them on their way.

Upon return to the New York studio the band worked collaboratively with Rubin, creating an album that was all guitars and kick drum. Listening to Andy Wallace’s mixes now, it’s hard to believe Ian Astbury was happy with where his vocals were sitting, somewhere between quiet and inaudible. It mattered little. The crunching guitar riffs and sonic thunder of the drums were what made my early teenage hairs stand up on the back of my neck.

Sure there were some obvious nods to riffs of the past, ‘Love Removal Machine’ is basically The Stones’ ‘Start Me Up’, and the album’s opener ‘Wildflower’ has more than a passing resemblance to AC/DC’s ‘Rock’n’Roll Singer’. But that all mattered little to my ears, I was head over heels and only wanted more.

The band came to my hometown to support the record. The gig was at Selinas at the Coogee Bay Hotel. For weeks it was all I could think about! There was no way I was going to pass for 18 to get through security, even if I did manage to get hold of a ticket. A bunch of my friends went to the venue and waited out the back to listen, there were stories that a couple of them even made it inside.

I started a band with some mates and we took our name from some Ian Astbury lyrics. We played 4 songs from ‘Electric’, and they were the most fun songs to play. I probably still whip out some Billy Duffy guitar licks without even knowing it.

You know what Electric? If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t be writing this now!

Hopefully we can meet in person soon.
Pat

Grinspoon are hitting the road to illuminate their beloved discography on stages right around the country this October and November. Dates and details here.

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