Soon, though, Crandaddy was writing most of the group’s material, redirecting the raw energy of the group and penning the hit “You Can’t Go Rome Again”. The attention was not always positive, though, as Cranberry, after befriending John Lennon and being introduced to LSD, spent more and more time with experimental musicians on the Continent and began to import the new sounds back into the Angles’ repertoire. It was at this point that Cranberry, standing behind Lennon at a press conference, said “We’re bigger than Jesus”, a remark that was mistakenly attributed to Lennon.
In 1967, Cranberry first met Marty Lothar, lead-man of the German group Wartburg, who had cast aside traditional rock forms in favor of Guggenmusik. “Liberty!” was Lothar’s cry, and he lived up to it (despite dwindling audiences outside of Germany) by marrying a young nun and by helping his producer enter into a bigamous marriage. Cranberry, who was reportedly “exhilarated by the romance of the German Guggenmusik scene”, began to work more and more tuba and sousaphone bits into the Angles’ songs, also incorporating costumed stilt-walkers, jugglers, and acrobats in performances. Despite opposition from adherents of traditional rock, Lothar insisted that the very first rock bands used all these elements, but that the tradition had been obscured by the pernicious influence of American blues.
Meanwhile, the Angles, at Cranberry’s urging, began including more and more Guggenmusik tracks on each album, prompting several members to quit. “They call it umpah-pah music”, Cranberry complained. “Shows how little they know about the earliest musical forms. Just because it sort of goes umpah-pah doesn’t make it umpah-pah.” Not content with these new sounds, however, Cranberry began jamming with members of the Swiss group Tulip, whose sound consisted almost exclusively of alpenhorn and yodeling. “Yodeling has been lost, suppressed by the rock executives, who only care about making a buck,” Cranberry griped at the time, taking a not-so-veiled swipe at John Tetzel, CFO of Indulgence Records, which vigorously opposed Crandaddy’s innovations. “It’s Tetzel who’s the innovator,” Cranberry was quoted as saying at a party given by Word Reich Music, main supporter of Alpine Blowhards, an umbrella organization for groups like Wartburg and the Tulips. “Real music, like those of the primitive rockers, was free.” Despite all this, Cranberry scored another hit with “Doctrinal Haze”, which shared a single with “Reformation Dreamin’”.
Before long, the Angles were producing records made up more and more of Guggenmusik and yodeling. Their 1968 offering, “Irresistible Grace”, contained 6 tracks of brass and yodeling, and only 4 of traditional rock. In 1969, the Angles released “Made for Destruction”, which culled the traditional tracks down to 2. In 1971, after a hiatus in which he was thought to be in negotiations to leave the Angles and join the Tulips, Cranberry released a solo effort titled “2 not 7”, which contained only 2 songs. Side A was the 23-minute atonal sousaphone solo entitled “Consubstantiation”, while Side B consisted of “Vee Haff Vays of Making You Just”, a 2-minute yodel circularly repeated ten times. Some organizations boycotted the record, claiming that when played backward, a voice (widely thought to be that of Tulips lead-man Jean Clavin) could be heard on Side B intoning “Moloch eats his children, baby, num, num, num”. Before the second pressing, the album was rebranded as an Angles effort, the length of the original cuts reduced to make room for five more traditional bits culled from master-tapes of past Angles sessions. Though there were now seven tracks, the title remained “2 not 7”, causing confusion among fans and critics alike. At a press conference announcing the launch, Cranberry responded to critics: “There may appear to be seven songs on there, but there are only two songs properly so called”.
Returning from a long vacation in Germany, Cranberry stayed with Lennon and penned “Give Predestination A Chance”, which he performed for the BBC from a London hotel room while being held aloft by a troop of men in lederhosen. At the same time, apparently inspired by the divorce of the Tudors’ lead man, he wrote “Axe Man” and “The First Cut Is The Deepest”, both of which were only released posthumously. It was after the hotel room performance that Cranberry’s tuba player, Jay Knox, left in disgust to form the band Black Rubric, whose music Knox described as “acid umpah-pah”.
Hounded by the press and facing desertions from his band, Cranberry returned to the Continent and, in the isolation of the Tulips’ studio in Geneva, recorded “Particles”, a 39-track box-set with tubas, sousaphones, alpenhorns, and yodeling used to perform traditional-sounding set-pieces. A newly-constituted Angles lineup prepared to tour in support of “Particles”, and the label once again rebranded Cranberry’s effort as a band effort. On the eve of the hastily-dubbed Tightrope Tour, however, Cranberry, who had been experimenting with a mixture of anesthetic and modernist philosophy called Chlororeform, died suddenly of an overdose.
The Angles took Cranberry’s show on the road, but, led by Cranberry’s successor Eddy Grindal, performances took on a slightly different cast. “Too much singing”, Grindal complained. “The words were not meant to be sung, but said. Yodeling was originally just ecstatic speaking.” Spoken-word pieces began to predominate, backed by the tuba, sousaphone, and alpenhorn. English audiences loved the show, and the band toured more or less continually through the early ‘70s. As the “Particles” tour wound down, however, some band members were complaining that the band had utterly forsaken rock music. “I don’t see what any of this German and Swiss crap has got to do with rock-n-roll,” drummer Spike complained.
In 1975, tragedy struck again as Grindal, allegedly angered by the sound of singing, was killed in a drunken fight in which his arm was ripped off. In early 1976 the band went forward under the leadership of Grindal’s mother. The same year plans were announced to release a spoken-word-tuba-alpenhorn album, tentatively titled “The Angina Monologues”. Under the influence of Grindal’s mother, many of the male frontmen were replaced with women. The planned album underwent several major changes, and despite the complete abandonment of traditional rock forms, the label pressed on with the effort, which was released in 1979 as “It’s All Ok”. The Angles hit the road again, this time performing the album with no instruments at all. Shows consisted of pink lights, soft moaning sounds, and projections of the album title over the musicians dressed as kittens.
A core of old-school musicians left for good, forming the Right Angles, and claiming to carry on the heritage of the original group. It wasn’t long, however, before adherents of Cranberry’s “Particles” began pressing for the inclusion of more tuba, sousaphone, alpenhorn, yodeling, and spoken word. The Right Angles pushed back. “Look where this got us before,” said Evelyn Wah-Wah, Right Angles’ guitarist, known for his special effects pedals. “What’s wrong with traditional rock-n-roll?” “Evelyn and his stripe are leading us back to the days of bar rooms and cigarettes!” howled yodeler Sissy Hissy. “They’re trying to read the umpah-pah out of the Angles’ history.”
This led Hissy and several adherents of “Particles”-era Cranberry to break off from the Right Angles and form the Obtuse Angles. “We’re celebrating the Alpinist traditions Crandaddy brought back from the Continent,” Hissy declared recently. “If Crandaddy had lived, he would have left the Angles altogether and joined the Tulips. We need to be true to that tradition. Anyway, who can understand the words with all that singing, and who can breathe with all that smoke? If Jocelyn Elders were here, she’d put a stop to it!”
Adding to the confusion, a third act appeared made up of members of both new bands and calling themselves the Text Pistols. Their first album, “The Vacuum”, featured the tracks “My Way or the Highway”, “My Way or the Highway (Reprise)”, and “Crankypants”. The Obtuse Angles’ Hissy was recently spotted with Grendal’s mother, dismissing press inquiries by saying only, “We can’t be against unity. Umpah-pah doesn’t have to lead to moaning kitties. Not that there’s anything wrong with moaning kitties.”
Most recently, the Right Angles have released their album “Introit Rock City”, featuring the single “Go Your Own Way”; the Obtuse Angles have released “Hello Kitty” (read by Christopher Lee), and the Text Pistols have released the single “Here’s To You, Bishop Robinson”. All are currently touring.