The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Friday, September 05, 2008

RK 50: Supersister (Robert Jan Stips)



9-5-08 RK 50: Supersister (Robert-Jan Stips)

I can’t believe I haven’t written about one of my favorite Dutch artists very much!

The good news is that Esoteric Records in England have re-issued 4 of the 5 Supersister albums on CD this year, so everything (except “Spiral Staircase”) is now readily available again!

7" SHE WAS NAKED / SPIRAL STAIRCASE BLOSSOM NL 2103 002

1969? 2 TRKS with pic sleeve

7" FANCY NANCY / GONNA TAKE EASY POLYDOR NL 2050 048

1970 2 TRKS with pic sleeve; the sides of this single are always ‘flipped’!

7" GIRL NAMED YOU, A / MISSING LINK POLYDOR NL 2050 090

1970 2 TRKS with pic sleeve

LP PRESENT FROM NANCY POLYDOR NL 2441 016

1970 5 TRKS 1st

7" NO TREE WILL GROW / GROUPIES OF THE BAND POLYDOR NL 2050 141

1971 2 TRKS with pic sleeve

LP TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER POLYDOR NL 2925 002

1971 4 TRKS 2nd

7" RADIO / DEAD DOG POLYDOR NL 2050 182

1972 2 TRKS with pic sleeve

LP PUDDING EN GISTEREN POLYDOR UK 2480 153

1972 5 TRKS 3rd, British pressing, with cover that you have to slit open to see the illustrations

LP SUPERSTARSHINE Vol. 3 (Collection) POLYDOR NL 2419 030

1973 10 TRK Collection; with some unique material

7" WOW / DRS. D POLYDOR NL 2050 244

1973 2 TRKS with pic sleeve

LP STARTRACK Vol. 1 (Collection) POLYDOR NL 2491 002

1973 8 TRK Collection; no unique material this time, unfortunately

LP ISKANDER POLYDOR NL 2925 021

1973 9 TRKS 4th

7" BAGOAS / MEMORIES ARE NEW POLYDOR NL 2050 272

1973 2 TRKS with pic sleeve

LP SPIRAL STAIRCASE POLYDOR NL 2441 048

1974 9 TRKS insert, 5th

7" COCONUT WOMAN / HERE COMES THE DOCTOR POLYDOR NL 2050 369

1975 2 TRKS with pic sleeve, with LOS ALEGRES

When panning out into European music in the 70’s, it was always great to get a break when we found a good group that was singing in English – this was long before I got snobby about actually wanting records sung in French, Italian etc.! I believe Supersister were recommended to me by Charlie Miller, a contemporary of mine, circa mid-to-late ‘70’s. Charlie was who hipped me to mail-ordering records, and his recommendation of Supersister came with high praise: “Sounds like Soft Machine!”. And some of their first few records do (actually) sound a bit like S.M.! (It’s that over-driven keyboard sound).

The keyboard architect of Supersister is Robert-Jan Stips, from The Hague. He plays keyboard admirably, has a great sense of humor and is a great vocalist, too. I started going to Holland in 1979, and I’ve been friends with Robert-Jan’s manager, Aad Link, ever since (that’s nearly 30 years!). Aad was always very patient with my ‘million questions’, giving me photos, 45’s and LP’s. I was lucky enough to get to see the re-formed Supersister play live at a Prog-Fest in L.A. a few years ago. Shortly after that, Supersister flute player and vocalist Sascha van Geest passed away.

Which brings me to album #5, “Spiral Staircase” – a record that Aad and Robert-Jan always called (to me) “the record of Sascha”. The song “Spiral Staircase” was the B-side of their debut indie 45, and it is rightfully to be considered the conclusion of the contiguous Supersister message of the 1970’s. It’s also my favorite album by Supersister. I wonder why Esoteric didn’t do it with the other 4?

Well…it is a special record. Nothing else sounds like “Spiral Staircase”. Absolutely. It’s a very watery record – you hold open the cover, look at the booklet – and you expect drops of water to trickle out of the cover. Fortunately, they do not. It’s a little difficult to ‘get’ the story of the “Spiral Staircase” (even though it’s in English)…and dear old Sascha isn’t here to tell us anymore. “Shock, hoot, stamp, groan – there goes furry-foot! Up and down the moonbeams…moonbeams…oh what a nice dream”

It even recall Kevin Ayers’ “nice dream” – “Decadence” on Ayers’ “Banamour” LP – but there are few other touchstones to be found on “Spiral Staircase”. You’ve entered the world of Sascha van Geest. I, for one, never particularly wanted to leave! But the experience of “Spiral Staircase” was fraught with obstacles, in the U.S. anyway – it wasn’t readily available, and when it was – it was expensive. Even a bit more expensive than all of the other expensive albums of the day. And the copies that made it to the U.S. didn’t even have the booklet included. The LP vanished almost as soon as it appeared (’75 – ’76). Shortly thereafter, Robert-Jan turned with an incredible new group, Stars & Stips’ “Nevergreens” – Aad, where’s the CD of this wonderful album?

Fortunately, “Spiral Staircase” was issued on CD when Polydor Holland did 2-fer CD’s for Supersister in the early 90’s. Thus far, that’s it’s sole re-release, and I recommend you find yourself a copy of it (either a CD or LP, but those are quite difficult to find these days). We steel so frange…

After Stars & Stips, Robert-Jan founded Transister, then he produced The Nits and then he joined The Nits. He was also involved with Sweet D’Buster for a time – “No More Cricket”! Many more people are now aware of Robert-Jan, after his many years in The Nits. So, Nits-fans! Check out the new ’08 Supersister CD re-issues. They’re HOT! And the bonus tracks are different than what’s found on the original CD issue of “Superstarshine”.

And as long as I am slobbering about one of my favorite countries (The Netherlands), please buy at least the last 20 years worth of Golden Earring albums – especially “Bloody Buccaneers”, but please do not forget “Keeper Of The Flame”!

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1 Comments:

Anonymous robert said...

Robert Jan will play his music live in our former church on November 21, feel welcome if you should happen to be anywhere near:
http://www.degroenezwaan.nl/

Robert

12:26 PM  

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