Monday, January 9, 2012

Countdown #5 - hots on for nowhere

(podcast available here – originally broadcast Jan-7-2012)  All comments are from Philip Random's notes.  The full countdown list (so far) can be found here.

Clash - Radio Clash [randoEDIT]
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  The worst because it was 1980-fucking-One and THEY (the gangsters in charge) had EVERYTHING in music tied down.  RADIO SUCKED ABSOLUTELY and MTV and the like were barely getting started, so short of live shows and word of mouth, there was no way to find cool new stuff.  It was the best of times because we had the Clash at their most prolific.  Between London Calling and Sandinista, they'd just released ten sides of superlative vinyl in barely more than a year.  So when Radio Clash (the single) appeared in four different versions, all dubbed up and dance floor ready, there was no reason to doubt what it was promising.  Hell yeah!  Just launch a pirate satellite and leave the gangsters light years behind.  All cool radio All The Time, direct from outer space.  If you'd dropped enough of the ole lysergic, it felt very possible, maybe even inevitable.

U2 - another time another place
Who cares if they were hope fiends who worshipped Jesus Christ?  In late 1980, in the wake of John Lennon's murder and Ronald Reagan's ascendancy, the world needed hope fiends – any kind would do.  Particularly if there was nothing tired about the sounds they were conjuring – rhythm like a herd of runaway horses, guitar like great sheets of illuminating light, BIG VOICE, climaxes by the minute.  

Simple Minds - the American
To quote one of those geniuses you can't help but meet as you stumble through life, "Simple Minds are best understood as perhaps the most aptly named band of all time."  They meant well.  Hell, they even delivered for a while (up until say, 1982).  But in the end, they were just a little too simple between the ears.  Like in 1981, when they released two solid albums in Britain but jammed them into one for North American consumers, then took one of the hottest live shows on earth to the road – except why was the lead singer dude jackbooting around in too much make-up, looking eerily like those evil little Hitler clones from The Boys From Brazil? 

Devo - it's a beautiful world
The beauty of 1981's It's A Beautiful World is how succinctly it lays down the Devo worldview.  Yes, it's a beautiful world.  Too bad it sucks.  Because if you were young, smart, raised on the free market ideals of the ever expanding western world only to see them turn viciously on themselves as they did in the wake of the hippie 60s and the Vietnam War – well, it was the only sane way to see things. 

Bob Dylan - I wanna be your lover
Bootleg straight up rocker with surrealism applied like a seven year old with free reign on the ketchup -- a throwaway single that never found a spot on album until the 1985 Biograph boxset.  And yet entire sub-cultures have found fecundity in its Rasputin dignity. 

The Undead - somebody super like you
Take the Faust legend, mix it up with the Phantom of the Opera (before Broadway got its hands on it), throw in a healthy dollop of glam rock sleaze and you've got the best rock and roll movie ever released in 1974.  Somebody Super Like You comes from the big deal concert moment wherein
Swann, the satanic producer, unleashes BEEF, his perfect rockstar, upon the world.

Butthole Surfers - moving to Florida
The special beauty of the Butthole Surfers comes from the fact that they were the manifestation of everything any decent, god-fearing parent ever feared about rock and roll.  They were impossibly loud, and ugly, and committed unspeakable crimes onstage and off.  The story out of Vancouver in around 1987 was that main man Gibby Haynes was actually killed onstage amid a firestorm of raging feedback and strobelights.  Later, it was revealed he'd just fallen over and cut up his arm while very high on some of the local mushrooms.  The next time they came to town, the posters said, "See Them Before They Die."
Minutemen - maybe partying will help
1984 was supposed to be the year that we all finally found ourselves in George Orwell's living hell, betrayers of love, subjects of Big Brother.  Instead, if you were paying attention, digging deep, steering clear of the godawful bilge that was flooding the mainstream, you had punk rock (hardcore – whatever you wanted to call it) spreading its wings, getting ambitious, swinging hard for the fences in all kinds of cool ways.  The Minutemen did it way better than most with Double Nickels on the Dime, a double album featuring 43 mostly hard, mostly fast, mostly abrupt nuggets that managed to be smart, angry, political, and really, really good.

Sex Pistols - problems
Limey Len was an English ex-pat asshole on the fringes of the local Terminal City punk scene back in the 80s who is remembered by me for chiefly two things.  1. the dope he sold was always underweight.  2. he'd never shut up about how the only band that ever really mattered was the Sex Pistols and how they only had one real album, Never Mind The Bollocks, and unless you'd stolen your copy, you didn't really own it.  So one night, at the dog end of some shitty New Years party when he was passed out on his kitchen floor, I stole his copy.  Sorry, Len. 

Roxy Music - all I want is you
I wish I was cool enough to have been up on the early Roxy Music stuff while it was current.  But I wasn't.  Hell, in 1974, I was only beginning to realize that Deep Purple was mostly dumb.  But as they say, it doesn't matter when the good stuff finds you, as long as it does.  For Roxy's cool and far superior early stuff (everything up until say, 1975), that would be around 1982, via the memorable Margaret, who, when she got really drunk would reveal to you her secret of secrets.  She and Bryan Ferry were destined to be together for eternity.  All she had to do was wait and be true.  Later, I realized that was basically the plot of Sleeping Beauty.  

King Crimson - easy money
By the time, 1973's Larks Tongue In Aspic came along, King Crimson (under Robert Fripp's fierce tutelage) were the kind of force that could overthrow a small country.  My personal memory is of buying this album in around 1978 and still finding it way over my head.  Easy Money, being organized like an actual song (at the beginning at least), was sort of my way in.  But it was still a few years (and lots of the right kind of drugs) before I really got it.

David Bowie - memory of a free festival
Nobody actually heard the album Space Oddity in 1969.  The single didn't even hit the Americas until 1972.  As for the album and the riches therein – well I didn't finally stumble onto the whole thing until at least 1985, by which point Memory of a Free Festival (a fond and epic remembrance of a blissful 60s hippie moment) was pure nostalgia … but the good kind.  Because if you were a kid in 60s (not a raging youth, a little kid), you probably had stumbled across some kind of hippie festival, freaky people with flowers in hair, peace signs in the air, and the sun machine comin' down.


1 comment:

  1. Great Blog Philip. Or is it Phillip?
    I just wasted way too much time and particularly liked the Roxy Music video. I sang along and knew ALMOST every word. Just one thing I want to know: Who is this Margaret who thinks she will be together with Bryan Ferry for eternity?!?
    She is so wrong. I will be with Bryan for eternity. I just want you to know that.