Thursday, May 31, 2012

Countdown #22 - pleasure + sand

Broadcast May-26-2012 - 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.

Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Welcome to the Pleasuredome [randoEDIT]
1984 was Frankie's year.  The root of it, I figure, was a line from Two Tribes (which won't be on this list because I'm assuming you've heard it).  "Are we living in a land where sex and horror are the new gods?"  The land they were from was England, but given the degree of international success they had, it's safe to say they were speaking of the whole mad Cold War world.  Which would have put the Pleasuredome everywhere apparently, with the bombs about to fall, the shit about to hit -- decreed by no less than Kubla Khan if you know your Coleridge (but no, knowing your Rush lyrics doesn't count).

Trouble Funk - drop the bomb
Recorded Live in London but their hometown was Washington, DC, where a friend of mine found himself on business more than once in the late 80s.  I remember him trying to describe a Trouble Funk show to me.  Like rap, except not at all really because they weren't rapping, and there was a full-on band.  But man did people go wild to it. 

Led Zeppelin - nobody's fault but mine
This one comes from Presence, the good heroin album (as my friend Mark used to put it), the shitty one being In Through The Out Door (Jimmy Page so fucked up he just left most of it to John Paul Jones).  Either way, the Zep's days of full-on Satanic world dominance and glory were slipping past them by 1976, which didn't stop them from laying down some of the evilest blues mankind has ever known.  Even if, in this case, it was a song about taking responsibility for the mess you're in, which, when you think about it, is very un-Satanic behaviour. 

Pogues - Turkish Song of the Damned
If I Should Fall from Grace with God is the album where the Pogues made it clear.  They were way more than just a rowdy gang of ex-punks who figured their parents folk music went well with too much alcohol and drugs.  They were worldbeaters now, with a raw handle on their roots-based instrumentation that let them go pretty much anywhere they cared musically, slay any dragon.  Only the aforementioned alcohol and drugs (and more alcohol) could stop them, which it did.  

Slow - Bad Man
Let's be clear about it.  Slow invented so-called Grunge a good half decade before most of the world ever heard of Nirvana.  Four dysfunctional boys from the mean streets of Vancouver's plush west side making it clear you could love punk rock and the classic rawk likes of Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, ACDC, The Rolling Stones (a truly radical concept at the time), and better yet, the two went beautifully, raucously, dangerously well together.  I remember seeing Slow one night at the Arts Club on Seymour (long gone now) at their atom smashing peak.  They opened with a Temptations cover, but the crowd quickly got over that shock once the singer guy hopped up onto all the front row tables and kicked everybody's beers into their laps.  A very bad man indeed, even if he was just a teenager at the time.  

Sally Oldfield - water bearer
Smooth, ethereal, fresh as the waters of Rivendell itself, Water Bearer (the album and the song) isn't just redolent of the Elven music you were likely to hear at Elrond's joint, it purports to be the real thing.  Which would be laughable if it wasn't just so NICE (and I mean that in the nicest possible way).  Or like I previously noted about Abba being the musical equivalent of taking a hot bath, then going to bed with clean sheets, except here the sheets are woven from some mystical silk that's not just lighter than any feather, it actually transports you to a dream realm where all the secrets of eternity are revealed, and everything is proven to be gold, with touches of mithril around the edges.  

Brothers Johnson - strawberry letter #23
From one of those mystery albums that just seemed to end up in my pile sometime in the mid-90s (I probably grabbed it at a yard sale).  And it's all very nice, groovy and smooth, but then Strawberry Letter #23 comes along and takes things to a whole other level of invention.  Music you can taste as well as feel. 

T-Rex - the slider
It seems that Motron and I are still arguing.  Electric Warrior versus The Slider.  And he's still winning, here with the title track from The Slider which, as with pretty much all T-Rexian gems, makes no particular sense until you decide it's like those warnings you used to get on porn-films:  "completely concerned with sex".  In other words, way over my head when it was new, even as my head was completely concerned with sex – I just couldn't see past it.  Glam was definitely a strange thing to have erupting all around you in the pubertal suburbs of the early 70s.  Thank all gods for that.  

Queen - march of the black queen
Say what you want about Queen and their crimes of pomp, excess, absurdity; when their second album hit in 1974, it was unlike anything the world had ever heard, unless you'd heard the first one, but this one was even more so.  The full metal raunch of Led Zeppelin, the camp 19th Century operatics of Gilbert and Sullivan, the heartfelt harmonic longing of the Beach Boys, the brash pop adventuring of the Beatles, Phil Spector's Wall of Sound.  And glam.  And it worked.  And if you were fourteen, fifteen years old getting by on five bucks allowance a week, what better album was there to buy with your meagre funds, but one that had EVERYTHING on it.  In the case of March Of The Black Queen, it was all in the same song.

Nancy Sinatra + Lee Hazelwood - sand
It's 1968 and even Frank Sinatra's little girl is getting into the weird stuff, with a lot of help from Lee Hazelwood, who (as the story goes) earned himself a talking-to from a couple of Frank's hefty friends from the old neighbourhood for songs such as Sand.  Which, it's worth noting, I didn't hear until after I'd encountered Einsturzende Neubauten's rather bleak mid-80s cover version.  Strangely, the original feels even darker.  

Black Oak Arkansas - Uncle Lijah
I remember seeing these guys on late night TV when I was maybe fourteen, and being impressed by A. the singer's snarling vocals, and B. the band smashing all their gear at the climax of the set.  Imagine my surprise maybe twenty-five years later when I discovered they were actually a great, kick ass southern-fried rock and roll band – where the redneck howl of Lynyrd Skynyrd met the deep, evil swamp blues of Captain Beefheart (or perhaps Howling Wolf).  And, it's worth noting, David Lee Roth pretty much stole his entire look from front man Jim Dandy.  

Tall Dwarfs - crush
My friend Carl brought Slugbucket Hairybreath Monster (the EP) back from New Zealand in the mid-80s.  He dragged a whole pile of vinyl back actually, but this is the only slab that mattered enough to me to eventually own.  Garage-psychedelia by way of lo-fi bedroom recording that was as sharp, as grimy, as fresh, as messy as anything anyone else in the world was offering.  Crush gets chosen for the list for the sheer urgency of its groove, the cardboard box sounding drum sound, and the lyric.  What do you do when you find out that everyone loathes you?

Pink Floyd - careful with that axe, Eugene
It would've been summer 1972.  I'm almost thirteen and trying to convince some other kid how cool Alice Cooper is, simply because the songs are so evil.  He turns up his nose and says, "But he could never be as cool as Careful With That Axe, Eugene.  That crazy scream when he just murders everybody."  Of course, being in the middle of nowhere, he couldn't actually play it for me.  No, I'd have to wait a good ten years before I finally stumbled onto the right version, the one where he screams so loud and eldritch it can't help but shake you up – the live one from the late 60s that ended up on Umma-Gumma.

Can - future days
It's 1973 and Can (probably the greatest band that most people have never heard) are touching both the peak and the end of their glory days.  Not that they don't still have some great music in them – it just won't ever get back to this soft, strange almost subliminal power.  Because vocalist, front man Damo Suzuki is slowly fading away, not to return.  Which, in a way, makes for their best (certainly their most consistent) album.  Like a sweet dream of a future that actually came true, because there I was, a good ten or twelve years after the fact, hearing it for the first time and it was perfect, it was exactly what the mid-80s felt like when the drugs were just right and the nuclear winter rains stopped falling.  

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