Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Countdown #10 - big electric vegetables

(Broadcast Feb-18-2012 - podcast available here).   All comments are from Philip Random's notes.  The full countdown list (so far) can be found here.  Links are not necessarily to the exact same recordings that got played on-air, but we tried.  We also tried to link to things that don't have commercials attached to them, but that changes sometimes with YouTube. 
Prince - computer blue + Darling Nikki
Before Purple Rain hit, I'd already made my mind up about Prince.  He was amazing … for a black guy making a kind of music I usually didn't pay that much attention to (funk, r+b, soul – whatever you were supposed to call it).  After Purple Rain, he was simply amazing, pop music artist of the decade.  I'd crossed over, drank the paisley purple koolaid, seen God (or something similar).  Every song on Purple Rain deserves to be hailed.  But you've probably already heard most of them.  Not so Computer Blue and Darling Nikki (the raunchy duo that brought Side One to a dramatic conclusion).  Needless to say, it really got decent folk hot and bothered all over.  

Ultravox - western promise
By 1980, so-called New Wave was working through about its ninth mutation.  In the case of Ultravox, this meant parting ways with original front man John Foxx, hooking up with new guy Midge Ure and going distinctly pompously Modern with a monster album called Vienna.  There really isn't a weak track on it.  Some dumb lyrics, for sure, but the feel of the thing, the sharp, pristine elegance of it took you to some fresh and beautiful places.  

Yes - astral traveller
Yes were still just wannabe contenders in 1970 (a guitar genius and a keyboard wizard short of achieving true escape velocity), like future teenagers drunk on stolen psychedelics, joyriding in dad's spaceship, failing to get the damned thing off the ground, but somehow beautiful anyway.

KC + the Sunshine Band - I get lifted
Disco didn't really SUCK until Saturday Night Fever came along.  Until then, it was just this sort of funk music that was easy to dance to, and girls seemed to like it.   But it was nothing to base a culture on, or even a night on the town.  Not that there weren't a few genuinely cool tracks, like this one from KC and the Sunshine Band's first album. 

Midnight Oil - sometimes
London, 1989.  I'm a long way from home, out of money, lonely as hell, but it's a nice day so I'm out walking the Strand, my Sony Walkman booming in my ears (a mixtape c/o DJ Rockin' Patrick) and what should pop up but Midnight Oil's "Sometimes", not even a favourite really, but holy shit, it's the right thing right now, a rousing anthem to resistance.  Let the powers-that-be unleash their violence, push us to the wall, beat us to pulp, we WON'T give in.  And then I'm looking up at all these centuries old monuments, statues of respected gentlemen who no doubt did their bit to crush the poor, the meek, the hungry, the foreign, all for the greater greed of EMPIRE, and then I'm laughing because I realize they're all covered in pigeon shit.  

Midnight Oil - best of both worlds
Midnight Oil didn't just wear their progressive politics on their sleeve in the mid-80s.  Their front man Peter Garrett actually ran for the Australian Senate, almost won.  Red Sails At Sunset was their album of the moment (telling big scary, ugly truths about racism, nuclear apocalypse, environmental catastrophe), with Best Of Both World slotting in as alternative national anthem for the great south land.  I'd stand for it.

Donovan - hey gyp (dig the slowness)
The image is of a back country Scottish dude trying to do an early-Dylan-beat-vagabond thing in mid-60s Britain, then stumbling into swinging London just in time to catch things going all hip and psychedelic.  He tries to make sense of it, ends up digging the slowness.  

John Kongos - he's gonna step on you again
Another trip to Britain, mid-90s this time.  I end up in the town of Nottingham like a chunk of some lost century that got swallowed by the industrial revolution and never fully digested, everything dim with smoke and grime and wreaking despair.  Or maybe it was just shitty weather.  Eventually, I'm getting drunk at a pub that feels at least five hundred years old, hooking up with some cool young strangers, and suddenly I'm in love with life all over again, particularly once the DJ drops this beauty on.  From 1971, a guy from South Africa apparently. 

Sonic Youth - kissability
If you've been paying attention to these notes, you've probably got it figured out that the late 80s were a low point for me.  Health, finances, love, everything crashing and burning in prolonged slow motion.  Call it the Winter of Hate.  The lowest point would've been around Christmas, 1988.  I'm sick, back at my parents, flat on my back in my room for at least a week, with barely enough energy to get up once every twenty minutes to play another side of Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation, THE GREATEST ALBUM EVER.  It certainly was at the time.  

Mothers of Invention - trouble comin' every day
Los Angeles, August, 1965.  The Watts Neighbourhood.  A riot breaks out that lasts for five days, kills thirty-four people.  A year later, young Frank Zappa files his report in straight up garage blues form on 1966's Freak Out!  Still shockingly ahead of its time.

Sir Douglas Quintet + 2 - can you dig my vibrations?
Take a 60s Texas bad boy who really just wanted to be a Beatle, dump him into Summer of Love Haight-Ashbury while on the run from a marijuana bust and you've got a recipe for some pretty serious vibrations.  Man.  Serious enough to percolate through the decades and finally find me in fall 1999, stoned, on some un-named isolated island.  Seriously wondering if the world was going to end at midnight, New Years Eve.  Half-seriously anyway.  It settled me.  The song that is.

Arthur Louis - knockin' on heaven's door
Bob Dylan's all-time greatest dying cowboy song goes to Jamaica and makes perfect sense (with Eric Clapton filling in a few gaps).  Does anything more need to be said?

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