Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Countdown #14 - I lost my head

Broadcast March-17-2012 - podcast available here.  All comments are lifted from Philip Random's notes.  The full countdown list (so far) can be found here.  Links are not necessarily to the exact same recordings we played on-air, but we tried.

Neil Diamond - crunch granola suite
It's the end of grade seven and my friend Andrew's mom hates me, probably because I recently got him drunk.  But I don't hate her.  She's kind of hot in a friend's mom sort of way.  And unlike my mom, she actually cares about music, buys albums.  And her latest purchase is still to this day (maybe) the greatest LIVE album ever captured, then released.  It's Neil Diamond's Hot August Night, about which I can only quote the album sleeve.  "Then softly, the music begins, the lights dim.  The music rises, the stage is a smoky, opalescent jewel in the darkness.  But one light shines brighter than the others, a white pool in the brilliance, and for an instant, sound hangs suspended, only the air breathing.  Then he's there, the crowd exploding, Neil Diamond, casual, as if it's the most natural thing in the world, those 5000 people demanding his soul.  And for the next 107 minutes, he gives it to them."

FM - one o'clock tomorrow
It wasn't the first time I did psychedelics.  It wasn't even the first time I got really HIGH on psychedelics.  But it was the first time I really "got it" – the psychedelic truth about  EVERYTHING.  It was maybe half way through FM's 1980 concert at the Queen Elizabeth Playhouse, the lead electric mandolin player (he also played electric violin, no guitars in this outfit) was extending the solo on One O'Clock Tomorrow to genuinely superlative ends.  But it was when the singer came back in.  That was the moment.  "Centuries have passed in moments, the futures we have seen".  It all clicked, made perfect sense.  Time was an abstract.  Time was an illusion.  It was so simple.  It was so (shit) ... lost my train of thought.    

Utopia - Hiroshima
It's a key question, posed not so long ago by my good friend Motron.  How did you first find out about Hiroshima?  The thing is, I realized I didn't know.  I still don't.  It must've been quite early childhood, some other kid filling me in on just how BIG one bomb could be.  We were probably arguing about Superman vs Batman, who would win?  Superman obviously, unless Batman had an atom bomb … and so on.  What I do remember is maybe ten years later, my late teens, when the real impact of it started to register – what it really meant that an entire city could be destroyed in a vicious wink of an eye.  I remember hearing the chorus of Utopia's Hiroshima – the "Don't You Ever Fucking Forget" part – and getting it full-on.  Because every now and then History throws down an exclamation mark, and Hiroshima was definitely one of them (Nagasaki, too).  You can be ignorant about all kinds of shit, but not this.  This you must have a handle on.  We all must.  Or we're fucking doomed.  Also, the tripped out keyboards and guitars were pretty cool.  

Killing Joke - the war dance
It's a 1980 song but I didn't hear it until '82, with the Falklands war in weird effect far, far away – Britain, an apparently civilized nation, getting enthusiastically VIOLENT over a random chunk of rock in the remote South Pacific.  It was a joke definitely, but it was the kind that killed, a thousand people before it was done.   

NoMeansNo - the tower
It was 1989 and NoMeansNo had finally put it all together with WRONG, their third album – the ferocity, musicality and full-on thunder of their LIVE show captured on vinyl.  The whole album tends to flow together as one prolonged convulsion of WRONGness, but the Tower stands out because, well, it towers.

Tony Banks + Toyah - Lion of Symmetry
It's 1986 and Tony Banks, keyboard guy and principal sonic genius from Genesis, has finally released the soundtrack album we old fans had been dreaming of.  Free of Phil Collins' inane emoting, free of any jabbering of any kind – just the music, thank you.  But it wasn't really that good.  Too '80s.  Synthesizers too synthetic, and full  of those big STUPID '80s drums.  Except there was this one song called Lion of Symmetry that was okay (from a movie, I guess, but I have no idea which one).  And it was definitely a song, with that big fat 80s Genesis sound, except it was a woman singing (named Toyah), not some dork named Phil.  Anyway, I stuck it on a mixed cassette and didn't think much of it until one night, late, alone, high and mighty on some heroic psychedelics, headphones on -- man if it didn't suddenly reach into me.  Because I was that lion, proud and symmetrical (whatever the hell that meant), and here's the most important point:  free and savage forever.  Which doesn't mean I don't pay my taxes.      

Mothers of Invention - directly from my heart to you
Where do I find my essential (deep) soul music?  Generally where I'm not looking for it.  Because I generally don't go looking for it.  Blame it on the suburbs.  Blame it on my parents.  Blame it on Miss Turner (my Grade 6 teacher – she deserves as much blame as she can get).  Yet some great stuff finds me anyway, in this case via a Mothers of Invention album which I only ever noticed because of the name (Weasels Ripped My Flesh) and the cover (a weasel ripping a man's face because he's mistaken it for his razor).  But it's good (and deep), with Sugarcane Harris taking it to the delirious nines on fiddle and vocals.  

Beatles - I dig a pony
It's insane to think that there could even be unheard Beatles songs, and yet they keep popping up on this list, usually featuring John, often on the loose, incomplete, shambolic side.  Like this one.  Which maybe you have heard (it's one of the ones they played on the roof at the end of Let It Be – the movie).  But have you heard it enough?  Do you wonder as I do what the big deal is with the pony, and why exactly John digs it so much?  Is it heroin maybe, a pony being a horse, and horse being hip street slang for the last drug a man ever gets into?

Elvis Costello - waiting for the end of the world
It started when I was maybe seven, flipping through one of those Time-Life picture books about the Solar System.  It told me the world was going to end in about four billion years when the sun ran down, burned itself out.  An inconceivably long time for sure, and yet in a small, inconceivably significant way, everything had suddenly changed for me, such that a few years later, when I started getting clear on things like the arms race, global thermo-nuclear war, the Apocalypse, it wasn't such a big deal.  I was already waiting for it.  Elvis Costello, too, apparently.

Gentle Giant - I lost my head
Gentle Giant were weird even compared to all the other post-hippie weirdos that were inhabiting the pre-punk mid-1970s.  In this case, they're heard applying their baroque stylings to the problem of losing one's head.  Recorders are tooted, harpsichords plunked, harmonies tutted, but then the drums kick in and we're reminded of the ROCK part of (so-called) progressive rock.  

David Bowie - Andy Warhol
I'm pretty sure I'd heard of Andy Warhol before I heard this, but it took Mr. Bowie's prodding to get my young brain taking the guy seriously.  Even if it is kind of a dumb song, in retrospect.  Trying a bit too hard as Tim, my musician buddy pointed out a few years back.  "But man, that guitar riff's a killer," he hastened to add.

UB40 - present arms (dub)
The Clash's Sandinista was already messing with me, the same basic songs showing up more than once on the same album – the official version and then the VERSION version, (the dub).  Some were crying "rip off", of course.  But not me.  Because the versions were often better than the originals, almost always worth the trouble, particularly if you were high, and I was always high in the early 80s.  And then came this album by a band called UB40 that was nothing but versions.  Hell, I still don't think I've ever listened to the original all the way through.  Because like Sun Ra said (and Hawkwind too), "space is the place".


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