Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Countdown #37 - what is hip?

Broadcast October-6-2012 - 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.  

Shriekback - nemesis
Air strikes, poison kisses, centaurs, monkeys, Greeks, Romans, big fat nemesis, parthenogenesis -- there's a lot going here including a little bit of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness HORROR by way of  Apocalypse Now and Marlon Brando, his head shaved, broken from himself in the primordial jungles of Cambodia.  So what's it all mean other than we're all gonna die, and asexual reproduction, which is what parthenogenesis means?  Cool rhyme for nemesis.  You gotta give it that.  And otherwise, well, it's from 1985.  That's how things were in those days.  Full of horror and unlikely rhymes. 

Prince Charles - more money

Prince (the purple guy) wasn't the only Prince doing cool things with non-mainstream funk in the mid-80s as More Money aptly points out.  A solid anthem for any time, any place.  Because we always need more, even the mansion-on-the-hill guy.  And seriously, where's the hip, up to date cover version of this?  The song's just screaming for it.  

Waterboys - we will not be lovers
Fisherman's Blues was the album where main Waterboy Mike Scott went to Ireland for a few days, ended up going native, getting beautifully lost on the west coast somewhere.  We Will Not Be Lovers feels like the result of a powerhouse of jam session, rock and folk attitudes and instrumentation piling into each other in a sustained and brilliant collision.  And the words are pretty sharp as well.  All about the opposite of a love.  You know the feeling.  You look that other in the eye and all you can see is carnage.  And yet something compels you closer.

Strawbs - where is this dream of your youth?
The song's a nice enough bit of melancholy folk pop, but it's Rick Wakeman's sustained freakout on the Hammond organ that hooked me, and keeps on hooking me, just keeps going, going, going through the decades -- peaks and valleys and all manner of long haired freaky looking people grooving along in smoke filled rooms, smelling of incense and wacky tabacky.  Because yeah, man, groovy still meant something in 1970, the new decade dawning, the revolution at hand.  Or so it must have seemed.

Emerson Lake + Palmer - Tocatta

I cannot tell a lie.  I was coerced into this selection by my good friend and neighbour, Motron.  "What do you mean there's nothing from Brain Salad Surgery on your list?  What are you, a critic or something?"  Like there was no worse title he could hang on me.  And he was right, about Brain Salad Surgery, worthy of inclusion for its title alone, and its cover, an HR Giger original.  And the music's not so bad either, particularly Tocatta, as fast, as fierce, as nightmarish an assault as any chart-topping band was capable of delivering in 1973.  Or as Motron put it, perfect soundtrack for the attack of those meat eating robots.  It is going to happen.

King Crimson - thela hun gingeet
It's 1981 and King Crimson main man Robert Fripp has reformed the band after more than five years in the wilderness with a whole new sound and DISCIPLINE.  The result is thundering (to put it mildly).  I believe it actually caused stereo systems to catch fire back in the day.  Thela Hun Gingeet translates as Heat In The Jungle and it concerns an experience Adrian Belew (the new guy) had while out for a walk in the means streets of NYC and nothing to protect himself but a tape recorder.  

David Bowie - big brother + chant of the ever circling skeletal family
As the story goes, the Diamond Dogs album was supposed to be a musical adaptation of George Orwell's 1984, but Mr. Bowie couldn't secure the rights, so it sort of morphed into its own weird, extreme thing with a few songs still very much inspired by 1984, including Big Brother, which manages to be all kinds of epic and perverse.  Not so sure about the end bit though, the chant of that ever circling skeletal family.  Actually, I'm quite sure of it.  I've heard it, while deep inside the wrong kind of acid trip, the death kind, the kind you just want to end, but it goes on and on for millions of years, with all these skeletal forms howling at you forever.  I just don't know what it's got to do with George Orwell, unless that's what it feels like to get stomped on the face with a boot.  Forever.

Tower of Power - what is hip?
I actually saw these guys in a local club.  Was it Oil Can Harry's?  It would've been about 1978.  They probably played this song.  And yeah, they blew me away.  The power of it, towering, and the tightness.  What a band!  Except I didn't really get funk in those days.  It kept trying to make me dance.  Which reminded of disco, and I had all kinds of issues with disco.  What can I say?  I was young and definitely not hip.

Fad Gadget - ad nauseum
Ad Nauseum is 1984 in a nutshell.  Bitter gagging bile finally coalescing as full-on meltdown into noise.  And yet it's both fun and artful, musical even.  It will forever remind me of old friend Carl who never failed to be in ownership of a piece-of-shit boat of a car (always GM product), which he'd recklessly plough through traffic, the music cranked loud, his hatred of all other drivers voiced even louder.  Yet he never hit anything ... until that one time he side-swiped a Fire Truck, and he was drunk.  That didn't go over well.  In fact, I'm guessing it all sounded like the end of Ad Nauseum. 

John Martyn - outside in
Pick through the history books and you generally find John Martyn defined as a sort of eccentric folkie, but something must've got slipped into his tea here (and a few other places), and the universe has expanded because of it.  Seriously, Outside In is the kind of thing I could listen to forever.  Endlessly spaced out, yet soulful as well, like nature itself, always in flux, forever mutable.

Throbbing Gristle - what a day
It was 1980 when I first heard the name Throbbing Gristle, and it shocked me, got an instant, visceral response, like a strong (not necessarily bad) smell suddenly filling the room.  Much like their music.  The one thing you cannot not do is ignore it.  I like to think of What A Day as a top 40 single from an alternate reality where lying was illegal, punishable by death.  So if someone was stupid enough to ask you how your day was, and it had sucked, you'd be obliged to puke all over them. 

George Harrison - on the bed
From a 1968 soundtrack album for a movie called Wonderwall that nobody ever saw, but then Oasis copped the title for a song name a couple of decades later and went mega-platinum with it.  But On The Bed is far better than that over seasoned pop stew.  On The Bed is world music before we had a lame name for it, yet beautifully POP, and thus utterly timeless.  George always was the most psychedelic of the Beatles. 

Santana -  every step of the way
There had to be some Santana on this list.  Might as well be the biggest, wildest, livest thing I've got.  From 1974 when Mr. Santana was conquering Japan with maybe the hottest band on the planet.  I only wish I'd actually heard this at the time.  Would've allowed me to destroy all comers in all those stupid yet essential who's-the-fastest-guitar arguments we seemed to need to have in Grade nine and ten.

Bob Dylan - visions of Johanna
Who is Johanna and what exactly is she seeing?  Who the hell knows?  This is the Dylan genius at its most lyrical, most amphetamine precise and yet obtuse, and yet entirely connected via those bones of 'lectricity put on trial (among other impossible images).  Which is entirely the point, I think.  A young man stepping up to his confusion, working with it, surfing its convolutions, letting them take him places he could never have imagined existed ... and then finding a way to channel it all to into human breath and voice and words.  Call it a song.  A damned fine one.

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