Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Countdown #28 - I walk a thin line

Broadcast July-14-2012 - 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.
Rolling Stones - fingerprint file
For a solid ten or twelve years, no matter how messed up things got in their camp, no matter who was dying, getting arrested, nodding off, almost choking on their own puke, there was always at least one album, every year, and it was at least good.  But it should have all ended in 1974 with It's Only Rock And Roll.  Not that they didn't still have a few choice moments left in them, but what a send-off, what a swan song, with Fingerprint File notable for how it caught the temper of the times, not just in terms of subject matter (surveillance, paranoia, all secrecy, no privacy) but also feel.  Like a long tense night, maybe a little pleasure, but no sleep, no end in sight.     

Talking Heads - with our love
My introduction to Talking Heads went something like this.  Maybe 1978, artist guy I sort of know walks up to me at a party (obviously high on quality drugs) and says, "Where does everybody live?  In some kind of building.  What does everybody eat?  Food.  More Songs About Buildings and Food is about everybody."   And you could dance to it.

Pavement - silent kit
I actually saw Pavement at their mid-90s peak, but I guess I wasn't paying attention (stumbling through personal shit) because they made no particular impression.  But jump ahead maybe five years (time well out of joint by now) and I finally did catch their genius via a copy of Crooked Rain Crooked Rain somebody left lying around – everything crystallizing in the lead-off track Silent Kit (Kid?), a minute of sloppy, stoned mucking around before the song finally finds itself (and in fact, the melody's a direct rip-off of an old Buddy Holly tune).  But man, it all clicked anyway.  Crooked and enchanted.

Sons of Freedom - dead dog on the highway
My friend Charles had ambitions of being a big deal rock video maker back in the 80s, but the closest he ever got to anything of substance was knowing somebody who knew somebody that maybe had some pull with Sons of Freedom. I remember him getting all excited, telling me his killer concept for Dead Dog On The Highway.  To be shot out in the desert somewhere – the band playing at the side of the highway with every shot taken from passing vehicles, moving fast, so all you ever caught were quick glimpses, lots of dust.  Meanwhile, a bunch of corporate types were crucifying Jesus in the distance.  It never got made.

Funkadelic - groovallegiance
There's not enough Funkadelic on this list.  I'm sorry.  It's not my fault.  Seriously, try to find any Funkadelic used on vinyl in metro Vancouver that isn't either hacked to shit or filed as COLLECTIBLE (ie: out of my price range).  It doesn't exist.  But I did finally steal a copy of One Nation Under A Groove from someone whose name I can't divulge (for obvious reasons), but trust me, he's an asshole.  Jesus himself guided my hand here (red wine was involved).   By which I mean, if I do end up going to hell, it won't be for this.  

Al Stewart - Roads to Moscow
Minor British folkie on his way to becoming a bland soft rock contender writes a song about a young Russian soldier in World War 2 and his ultimate betrayal at the hands of the Great Stalin, and it's so beautiful, so epic, so sad it pretty much stops time.  They should teach Roads To Moscow in high school.  I'm sure I learned more from its eight minutes than I did in all Grade 10 History.

Doors - soul kitchen
Yeah, Jim Morrison was a cosmic asshole who died for his own sins, nobody else's.  But damn, the Doors were a strong band, and they were nothing without him.  And that first album in particular – well, somebody had to do it, in 1967,  Summer of Love, at least hint that there was a darker side to things.  Soul Kitchen makes the list because it's remained well hidden over the years, hanging out in the back, cool and raw.  

King Crimson - industry
As the story goes, Robert Fripp shut King Crimson down in the mid-70s, claiming an overall disgust with the music industry.  Then he suddenly kicked things back into a gear in 1980-81 with a fresh new line-up (though he retained Bill Bruford on drums), a new look and sound, a new DISCIPLINE.  Which was maybe starting to wear a bit by 1984's Three of a Perfect Pair.  But not Industry.  That's what the world actually sounded like in 1984.  Everything grinding, droning, erupting with savage, maybe malevolent urgency, then settling again.  Droning, hissing, giving off toxic vapours.  Lurking, ready to erupt again at any second.

David Bowie - Aladdin Sane
As I've heard it argued, Aladdin Sane (the album) is song-for-song the best thing Ziggy-era Bowie ever did.  Yet as a whole, it somehow doesn't add up the way the previous two albums did, and thus didn't get heard as much.  Which is great for our purposes as it gives us a bunch of cool underheard gems, like the genuinely insane title track.  Of course, it was stratospheres over my barely teenage head at the time, but I listened anyway.  It was David fucking Bowie.  

Sonic Youth - expressway to yr skull
EVOL is LOVE spelled backward, which is pretty much what was going on in 1991, Pacific Coliseum, as Sonic Youth warmed up Neil Young + Crazy Horse, choosing not to pander even slightly to all the aging hippies in the house, but rather deliver a profound and beautiful and heartfelt tidal wave of noise and provocation.  The climax would've been maybe two-thirds of the way through the set when they'd just played Kool Thing (the closest thing they had to a hit at the time) and the crowd was maybe starting to warm to them slightly.  Expressway to Yr Skull killed all that.  Beautifully. 

Fleetwood Mac - I walk a thin line
Tusk was the big deal double album that came after the mega-platinum hugeness of Rumors and thus it was bound to fail.  Which is cool.  We love it when the Music Biz fails, throws huge piles of cash and cocaine at something that ends up being art, particularly when it includes little treasures like I Walk A Thin Line – Lindsey Buckingham not just close to the edge, right on it, and walking it just fine.   

Grateful Dead - box of rain
It's 1970 and the drugs aren't so much wearing off in Grateful Dead land as imposing a desire for something a little more grounded, relevant to the reality of things like gravity, the ground itself, the stuff we stand on (unless there's concrete in the way).  Anyway, Box Of Rain's just a beautiful song.  Even my mom likes it.  I don't know what it's about and I don't really care.  The sun is shining and the dark star has crashed.  What more do we need?

Isaac Hayes - by the time I get to Phoenix
This is the middle distance selection on this list.  555 down, 555 to go.  So I figure it has to be something that arguably (and I love to argue) could also be Number One on a different day, different weather, different levels of love and chaos reigning over man and his world.  So yeah, there's depth here, and distance.  And SOUL. By which I mean, soul is infinite, soul is eternal, once soul gets a hold of you, all the normal rules don't apply anymore.  Space and time become meaningless.  A three minute easy listening pop song can become a twenty minute journey into the truth of man, god, love, everything.   Of this, I have no doubt.

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