There's no denying she's 'the one'.
It's been 38 years in coming, but Annette Peacock's "I'm The One" is finally back on CD where everybody has a chance to experience its brilliance.
Back in my late teens, there were a handful of truly artful eccentrics on the music scene. Artists I idolized because of their patent strangeness and absolute refusal to succumb to the formulas of pop music purveyors, preferring instead to explore their own oddball brand of experimentation. Yoko Ono, Nico, Syd Barrett, Moondog, Brian Eno, Captain Beefheart....and Annette Peacock.
My first exposure to her was the cover art and a review of her 1972 album "I'm The One". She looked like an electrified edgier Cher with stunning gaunt face, high sharp cheekbones and long stark straight hair, a windblown explosion in every direction. A beauty in polarized chrome, she had sensual appeal that compelled me to spend countless hours pointillizing her visage with a sharpie on a homemade fan t-shirt. And reviews referencing her as being the first artist ever to synthesize her voice intrigued me no end.
There wasn't much around back then in the way of synthesizer music. A couple of quirky novelty tracks by Perrey & Kingsley and that was about it. But synthesizers seemed like the next technology and I became obsessed to find out more. I bought the album and took it home, and must admit that at first listen, I was disappointed in the way her voice was synthesized. I'm not sure what I expected but what was delivered was not a mechanized robot of a vocal, but more a tonal coloring, a texturizing element that rubbed her vocal chords raw in electric sandpaper. But, that wasn't what grabbed my attention about Annette Peacock. The synthesizer may have been a prop, a toy, a flawed experiment. But what was real and intense was her vocal delivery and her mode of composition that was unlike anything I had heard before or since. A melding of jazz, blues, rock ballad, electronics; her emotions burst forth shrieking in pain, joy, frustration, and ecstacy. She stretched notes to the stratosphere and held them, she cooed and wooed and whispered. Her whole aura was one of the kind of female sensuality that both attracts and frightens men.
The new reissue packaging includes a lyric booklet with a number of color photos of her catwalking the side streets in red leather jumpsuit; a look that challenged femininity the same way early eye-shadowed and feather boa images of Brian Eno challenged manhood. The music was an intriguing mystery from track to track experimenting with slow blues and jazz in a personal way that utilized silence and space as well as volume and density. Like an early Weather Report album with personally engaging voice, the connection was binding. Her hommage to Elvis on "Love Me Tender" is a vulnerable open wound. "Blood" is a vampiric fantasy. The whole album exudes an edgy sexuality, particularly on "Pony" and "I'm The One". It became number one in rotation on my turntable back in the 70s and lead to loss of my virginity to a street hustler I picked up one tormented night of walking on the wild side. He had delusions of Godhead grandeur and my mind wrestled with a yearning sexuality and the strange and exciting art of this new music that someone so in tune with my psyche shared with me. I cherished the knowledge that not many knew of Annette Peacock. She was my private treasure to share only with the worthy few. I roamed the midnight streets of my small summer sublet singing endless cycles of "Gesture Without Plot" to comfort my lonely soul.
And this album still holds water. It still comforts my soul. Though I'm less tormented and more mellow 38 years on, that primal screamer is still buried in there deep down and it appreciates a visitor from the past.
I'm not sure how Annette based the hefty selling price of the new reissue, but even at $3 per track, a fee of $27.00 is worth its weight in repeated listens to this must-have golden masterpiece of gender-and-genre-fuck exploration.