Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Countdown #11 - things are getting worse

(Broadcast Feb-25-2012 - 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.
Billy Preston - struttin'
Compared to much of the world, we Vancouver types never got to hear that much (so-called) Afro-American music back in 60s, 70s, early 80s – certainly not much cool stuff.  But something was always leaking through.  In the 70s, this often happened via TV – the various late night concert shows on the American stations out of Seattle like Don Kershner's Rock Concert and The Midnight Special, or even Soul Train on Saturday afternoons.  That's where I first caught the force of good nature that was Billy Preston.  Later, I'd discover he was key to the sound of the late period Beatles (earning the moniker of Fifth Beatle), but what hooked me was just the full-on spaced out FUNK of stuff like Struttin'.

Magazine - the light pours out of me
My first impression upon seeing a photo of Magazine main man Howard DeVoto was that he looked pretty much like I'd expected.  Not a handsome man.  More ratlike, or perhaps reptilian, which made sense given the manner in which he snarled out his venomous tales of torn up romance and confusion.  And yet, he was telling the truth.  The light just poured out of him.

Electric Light Orchestra - king of the universe
1973 was a weird year.  The 60s were finally definitely over, but what the hell was this new this new paradigm, this zeitgeist, this pre-disco, pre-punk phase?  And who was to define it?  Lots of (so-called) experts at the time were pointing at Electric Light Orchestra who were nothing if not truth in advertising.  They were electric, they had a cool light show, they had violins and cellos.  Hell, even John Lennon loved them, calling them Son-Of-Beatles.  Their third album, On The Third Day, covered all kinds of ground.  From full-on RAWK to the ethereal, to the deliriously, progressively out there.  

Laurie Anderson - from the air
In 1982, Laurie Anderson was very much a stunning new thing, leaving dropped jaws in her wake wherever she went with her one-woman-one-violin-various-tape-loops show.  I remember reading an interview where she mentioned a gig she'd recently played in Texas.  It was at a cowboy bar, one of those classic booking agent screw-ups.  Except she didn't do too badly, didn't get pelted with bottles or torn apart.  Afterward, one of the regulars just shrugged when she mentioned her concerns.  "What's not to like about a nice young lady playing her fiddle and telling stories?"   

Fairport Convention - si tu dois partir
Summer 1980.  I was living in a sort of hippie house -- low rent, full of holes, so it leaked a lot when it rained, and it rained a lot that summer.  But we had acreage, no immediate neighbours, so it ended up being party central for a certain crowd, one of whom was the amazing Andrea, who never failed to show up with the same party tape.  And it was a good one.  Some punk, some ska, some reggae, some good ole rock and roll, and this one crazy folk thing sung in French that I never remembered the name of, or who did it.  And then maybe fifteen years later, there it was on a compilation album put out by Island Records.  A Bob Dylan cover of all things, by Fairport Convention.  As raw and warm and heartfelt as I remembered it.     

Black Flag - TV Party
We've all done it, wasted precious hours of our lives smoking cheap dope, drinking shitty beer, watching STUPID shit on TV.  Somebody had to write a STUPID punk song about it.  Thank God it was Black Flag.   

Lindisfarne - fog on the Tyne
I know nothing about Lindisfarne other than the fact that they were on Charisma, the same label that Genesis got started on.  Which is why my friend Gord's big brother bought Lindisfarne Live.  He figured anything on Charisma couldn't be bad.  He listened to it once, and gave it to Gord, who didn't think much of it himself, so it ended up with me, buried in deep end of my collection, barely listened to for at least a decade before I dragged it out one sloppy, stoned 80s evening, and holy shit, it was FUN, it had edge, it had drunken British hippie folkies taking wets on the wall.  Radical shit.

George Dekker - time hard
Appropriately, I can't find a date for this (but I'm guessing early/mid 70s).  Because time is always hard, things are always getting worse.  I remember a work friend whose younger brother was dying of Leukemia.  She loved this song.  It became kind of a joke.  I'd ask her how things were.  She'd raise a triumphant fist and declare, "Things are getting worse."

Gordon Lightfoot - Don Quixote
My mom, who didn't have a clue about pop music, gave me this album for my thirteenth birthday.  Maybe she thought it had some literary merit being called Don Quixote.  It definitely had something, still does.  Canada's greatest ever upright (but never uptight) baritone folkie standing tall amid the wasteland of stoned hippies that defined the times, tilting at windmills as nobility demanded. 

Neil Young - the thrasher
A song about leaving home apparently, and finding yourself "… on an asphalt highway bending through libraries and museums, galaxies and stars."  From the dreamy acoustic side of the album where Mr. Young embraced the punk hurricane, found it relevant, and thus ensured that he would neither burn out nor fade away, but live forever.  So far, so good.

Leon Russell - a hard rain's a-gonna fall
As a still little kid in the early 70s, I kept bumping into this Leon Russell guy and not liking him at all.  Too funky, too soulful, too loose for my whitebread, suburban ears (and soul).  Twenty-five years later though, the same stuff suddenly he made all kinds of sense.  In the case of Bob Dylan's hymn to the Cuban Missile Apocalypse of 1962, that meant taking things to funky (almost fun) regions so distinctive that Dylan himself would be following soon enough … but first he'd have to find himself some Jesus.

Van Der Graaf Generator - killer
Dense is an understatement, and there's nothing understated about Van Der Graaf Generator EVER, the title of H to He Who Am The Only One (which gave us Killer) apparently having to do with the equation that represents the fusion of hydrogen atoms to make helium.  But Killer's far heavier than that high-grade dirigible fuel.  It seems to be about a white shark, friendless, feared, forever prowling the oceans of the world, hungry, never sated.  Keep moving, keep EATING … or oblivion.  

Kate Bush - breathing
A song about nuclear war apparently.  It even includes a profound eruption of heat and exterminating light toward the end.  Close your eyes so you won't go blind, then brace for the shock wave that removes you from time and space altogether.  That seemed to be the intent.  What happens on a metaphysical level when an entire planet's worth of souls are suddenly cut loose from the mortal coil?  What kind of turmoil is there in heaven, hell, all the other way stations?  At least that's how Latetia explained it to me one long night of tea and apocalyptic discussion.  She had these dreams you see, eerie and prophetic.  They were wrong.  So far.

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