Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Countdown #19 - dry your eyes

Broadcast April-28-2012 - podcast available here.  All comments are from Philip Random's notes (with some editorial diligence).  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.
Abba - the visitors
Overheard at a movie theatre when I was maybe sixteen.  "Listening to Abba is like having a bath, then going to bed with freshly cleaned sheets." But that was the 70s.  By the time the 80s hit, the culture no longer required such luxuriant cleanliness.  So Abba tried to change, got darker, deeper, even a bit paranoid.  Which worked for me, but I can't say I've ever heard The Visitors popping up at a wedding.

Roland Shaw + his Orchestra - On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Not the version that was actually heard in the movie, but a cool take nonetheless.  If you were a kid in the 60s and early 70s, your life was full of this kind of stuff.  Various orchestras taking on the hits of the day, mostly sucking all the life out of them.  But every now and then, someone got it just right, like Roland Shaw and his crowd.  Soundtrack for bombing around on your bike, rooting out all those evil geniuses who were laying low, plotting world destruction from their suburban lairs.  Mr. Sonsteen, for instance.

U2 - celebration
In which that band from Ireland (not yet a household name), make it very clear what it is they believe in:  the atomic bomb, the powers that be and the halls of Christ's Church.  All worth celebrating apparently. 

Sex Pistols - holidays in the sun
Lead off track from arguably the most important album ever released.  Actually, I'd argue it's a bit less important than Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited … but you get the picture.  Damned important.  And what's so damned important about a song about a cheap holiday in other people's misery?  The truth of it.  The world ain't equal. Your fun and good times is almost always a piece of some other guy's misery.  True in 1977.  True in summer 2000.   

Clash - brand new Cadillac + the card cheat
Two from the greatest rock and roll album ever released at the very end of the 1970s, which made London Calling the first indisputably great rock and roll album of the 1980s.  Commercial radio only played two songs but all four sides were nigh on perfect – the power and rage of full-on punk tempered only enough to allow EVERYTHING ELSE to burst on through.  With Brand New Cadillac, that meant old school rock and roll delivered with the kind of bite you could only wish Bruce Springsteen had in him.  

With The Card Cheat, that meant epic folk-inflected widescreen Technicolor rock all brassed up and gunning for the promised land, again miles beyond Mr. Springsteen, who I'm only mentioning here because his 1980 double album The River had no problem getting played all over the radio.  And it was mostly boring.   

Strange Parcels - to be free
The first Gulf War was over, the horrorshow that was the 80s had finally blown its wad and suddenly there was all this cool music getting released out of Britain.  Big beats, soulful melodies, lots of cool dub tricks.  And the very best of it was coming from Adrian Sherwood's On-U sound, the Strange Parcels being just one of many outfits that found its way through his mixing board, and onto one of his superb Pay It All Back compilations. 

Au Pairs - it's obvious
A solid reminder of a damned interesting time (early 80s) when white punks were discovering funk, messing around with it, not being remotely pure, and it was all the better for it.  Gave it the bulletproof edge you needed in those dangerous days.

Undertones - love parade
One more selection from that lost alternate reality wherein the 1980s were everything they should have been and a song like Love Parade hit the toppermost of the poppermost – epic, soulful, full of light, and so damned popular we all got sick of it.  But it wasn't so we didn't.  And man, that Feargal Sharkey can sing.  

Ian + Sylvia - more often than not
I mentioned my friend Andrew's mom already, who even if she didn't much like me, I liked her, because she was the only parent I knew who had decent records, and seemed to generally care about music.  Nothing heavy or anything – just good solid pop like Neil Diamond, Simon and Garfunkel, and more obscure stuff, particularly in her 45s, which Andrew and I spent many hours exploring – both of us still young and fresh enough to dig something even if it wasn't loud, scary, driven by heavy guitars and appeals to Satan. 

Sir Douglas Quintet - she's about a mover
If this was Texas, this song wouldn't be on this list.  Because we'd all know it for the classic it is, maybe even be sick of it.  But here on the fringes of the crumbling west, She's About A Mover is a rarity at best, the kind of thing you find at a yard sale, in the back of a box of 45s, not even in a sleeve.  Cost me twenty-five cents.  

Peter Tosh - stepping razor
Peter Tosh covers an obscure Jamaican ditty about being dangerous, sharp as a razor, makes it very much his own.  Released in 1977 but I never connected with it until the late 80s when Gangsta rap was starting to hit hard, turning the uttering of threats into a functional musical vocabulary.  Ah, the good ole days. 

Can - Mother Upduff
It's 1969 with the European hippie underground is in a state of serious flux and eruption, what with all uprisings and insurrections of 1968 still playing out.  Nevertheless, Can (four German weirdoes and their American singer, poet, madman) find a few moments to throw down a strange little ditty about the Upduff family and their troubled holiday in Italy.  WARNING: if your grandma dies while traveling in a foreign country, don't wrap her up in a tarp and tie her to the top of the car.  

Neil Diamond + The Band - dry your eyes
Even at the time, the experts were calling it one of the great moments in rock and roll history.  The Band's last concert ever (which it wasn't, it turned out, just Robbie Robertson's last concert with them), with all their cooler than fuck all-star friends dropping into lend a hand, share in the backstage messing around.  But what the hell was Neil Diamond doing there?  He was barely cooler than Barbara Streisand.  What he was doing was delivering the goods, in leisure suit, shades, freshly-styled hair – looking all those hippies hard in the eye and destroying them with a song that told the hard, sad truth about what time does to us all.  It removes us, but maybe if we did them justice, our songs might remain. 

Green on Red - brave generation
This song really hit a nerve with me when I first heard it.  Because I'd never really thought much about MY generation – the ones who were still just little kids when the hippies were running wild, storming heaven, doing more than just talk about revolution.  Of course, by the time we hit puberty, that was pretty much all over.  The Beatles had broken up, Richard Nixon was getting re-elected, Vietnam was still dragging on.  But life carried on, with no particular purpose.  Not unlike one of those gritty 70s movies, everything vaguely overexposed, raw, existential.  Which, I guess, made us brave more or less by default.  

Jethro Tull - For Michael Collins, Jeffrey + Me
July 20, 1969.  The argument's been made (and not just by Americans) that humanity's never had a better day.  Because even if there were brutal wars going on in various places, children starving, good people being tortured – a man was walking on the fucking moon (two of them actually), and we were watching it on TV.  Including Michael Collins who was the guy stuck back in the command module circling around the moon while his two buddies got all the glory.  Which is what this song's about.  To be that close, yet so unfathomably far away.

No comments:

Post a Comment