Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Countdown #34 - real life

Broadcast September-15-2012 - podcast available here.  All comments are from Philip Random's notes (with some editorial diligence).  Links are not necessarily to the exact same recordings we played on-air (but we tried).  Nor is every record represented here.  To hear them all, you've got to actually listen to the podcast.  

Echo + the Bunnymen - the back of love
As the story goes, ECHO was a drum machine and the Bunnymen were a few guys from Liverpool that hung around with it, making weird, angular, dark, psychedelic music.  Eventually they got a real drummer, but they stuck with the weird, angular, dark, psychedelic stuff, even as they edged into pop realm.  Not unlike early U2, except there was no Jesus in sight. As for The Back of Love, well it just rocks in a particularly sharp sort of way.  No idea what it's about, but something tells me it's more rage, confusion and tearing apart than sweetness.  

Julian Cope - world shut your mouth
It says 1984 on the cover, but I remember this being more like 87 or 88, which diminishes it somehow.  Or maybe it's just my brain that's diminished.  Either way, we already knew by 1987-88.  Anger, bile, spite were all necessary virtues if you wanted to survive the Winter of Hate.  So everybody who was thinking was already shouting down the world, demanding it shut the fuck up.  Not that the world was listening.  But that just meant we could shout louder.  No limit, no boundary.  Made for all kinds of great music.

Yes [+ Buggles] - into the lens (I am a camera) – [randoEDIT]
I was wrong about this one, but I shouldn't have been.  The forced 1980 marriage of prog-rock dinosaurs Yes and earworm popsters The Buggles should not have worked.  And it didn't really.  But there was one song, Into The Lens (the most Bugglish melody on the album), that was kind of hard to dismiss.  And then the Buggles did it straight their way a year later on their second album, Adventures In Modern Recording, and that was hard to dismiss, too.  But neither was really superior to the other.  Hence one of my very first edits which now, getting on twenty years later, seems to speak to a 1980s that never happened – a musical decade that managed to both embrace the cool new synthetic future and the powerhouse progressive past, like a cool sci-fi movie that only I saw, late, late one night, coming down off some strong chemical mixture.  It was on one of those scrambled channels.  Remember Pay TV?  I think Tuesday Weld was in it.

Stranglers - no more heroes
This one goes out to all those earnest and ponderous hard left politicos who tried to convert me back in my formative days.  I was right all along, assholes.  The Revolution died with Stalin, the supreme asshole.  He killed all the real heroes, had icepicks rammed into their brains.  All hail the Stranglers for setting us straight on that.  

Brian Eno - seven deadly Finns
Holy, light years ahead of its time, Batman.  Punk rock in 1974, at least two years before it would even begin to stick.  And there's yodelling.

Van Morrison - St. Dominic's Preview
My aunt gave me this album for Christmas when I was thirteen.  I can only guess she walked into a random record store, asked the long-haired guy behind the counter for something suitable for a teenager, and he gave her his favourite album of the moment.  Which is to say, mature, exquisite Celtic soul -- not remotely suitable for a thirteen year old who was mostly into Alice Cooper with a touch of Jethro Tull and Cat Stevens around the edges.  So I listened to it a few times, didn't get it at all, filed it at the uncool end of my collection and forgot about it for at least a decade.  But then there it was one night when punk just wasn't cutting it, and I wasn't stoned enough for dub, and all my old prog rock faves were in serious retrograde.  What I needed was MUSIC pure and true, and big as my immortal soul.

Ultravox - the wild the beautiful + the damned
This was smart, prophetic stuff for 1977.  And thus it missed me by a few light years.  Guess I was too busy living its truth, being wild, beautiful, damned ... when I wasn't getting sucked the other way, being tame, ugly, saved.  Hell, I think I even had a chance to see Ultravox in 1977 or 78, and went to see Harry Chapin instead because that's what my girlfriend wanted.  Never trust anyone under twenty-one.

Stevie Wonder - we can work it out
I have no idea when I first heard this, maybe when it was brand new, percolating away in some clean-as-fresh-laundry 1970 AM-radio background.  But it would be the 1990s before it slotted into my  regular pop, summertime playlist – all buoyancy, light, HOPE, with children playing, burgers on the barbecue, peace on earth.

Jimi Hendrix - pali gap
On a bad night, with the wrong kind of ears, this just sounds like more Hendrix noodling.  The band locks into a groove.  The great man proceeds to wank.  But on a good night, with the right kind of lightning, maybe a little smoke, it's a side trip to one of the Lord's own mansions.  Or as old friend Chris once put it, "With Hendrix sometimes, it's not the notes he's playing, it's what they're suggesting, except he plays so many fucking notes, it's impossible to grasp even a remote fraction of what he's suggesting."

Frank Zappa - the torture never stops
Apparently, this was Frank Zappa's response to Donna Summer's monster disco hit Love To Love You Baby.  "You want an orgasm on record?  Here's a proper orgasm."  Which doesn't really explain the sado-masochism of the lyrics.  But what does explain a Frank Zappa lyric past about 1969?  The music on the other hand is its own justification -- a trip down some foul-smelling, ill-lit zone where the pleasure and pain seem indivisible, and we're all consenting adults, right?  Except for the teenage boys who are getting off on the lyrics.

Tones on Tail - real life
Bauhaus have broken up, but Daniel Ash (guitar guy) still has some shadows to explore.      And it's very much worth the trouble on Real Life, a song that goes all kinds of cool places that mid-80s music generally didn't.  Acoustic, expansive, dynamic -- the right kind of psychedelic.  Bauhaus drummer Kevin Haskins was also along for the ride.  Eventually, bass player David J would be back in the picture, too, but they'd call that outfit Love + Rockets.

Gentle Giant - knots
I first stumbled onto Gentle Giant via late night TV, maybe 1974.  My first thought was, "strange".  Like something out of medieval times, with occasional rock-like eruptions.  Kind of like Jethro Tull, but with way more emphasis on the strange.  Knots (from 1972's Octopus) is based on the writings of famed psychiatrist RD Laing and is completely concerned with conjuring a musical and lyrical experience of madness.  It succeeds. 

Bob Dylan - the man in the long black coat
Atypical Dylan, given its lack of words, the great man holding back, letting the atmosphere take you places. saving the words for just a few dark, delicious hints.  In the end, it's like a grim dream that never resolves, just leaves you with a couple of questions.  Who is he anyway, the man in the long black coat?  And why does the mere thought of him fill me with dread?

Van Der Graaf Generator - pioneers over C
I probably use the word harrowing too much. But if Pioneers over C isn't harrowing, and epically so, then what the hell is?  It's about space travel apparently.  Left the earth in 1983, fingers groping for the galaxies.  Which was the initial hook for me, because that's the year I first heard this version: 1983.  It's the live take from 1978's Vital and it's darker, harder, fiercer than the 1970 original, which was written in the safterglow of the first moon landing.  But here we now were getting closer to lift-off, space and its oblivions looming larger, deeper, beyond any conceivable measure.  Which, for me, is really what the song's really about.  Not the cosmos but existence itself.  Doomed to vanish in a living death, living anti-matter, anti-breath.  No wonder the guy's howling.

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