Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Countdown #40 - heroes + lunatics

Broadcast October-27-2012 - 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.

Pere Ubu - thirty seconds over Tokyo
Pere Ubu were one of those bands you started hearing about in 1977-78 as punk finally reached the suburbs (the underside of them anyway).  Not that I really heard them, just of them.  But Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo would eventually find me.  Because it's so damned good.  I think it was the title first, reminding of the movie, a jingoistic World War 2 thing, American heroes bombing Tokyo, a suicide run, just like the record says.  Except the record's so much better, and recorded way before punk, it turns out.  In 1975, Cleveland, Ohio of all places.  No, let me rephrase that.  Cleveland, Ohio, of course.  Because it had to all start in Cleveland, whatever it is that got started, that's still going on, that mad suicide mission to drop bombs, make war on all NORMALS, figuratively, of course.

Fun Boy Three - the lunatics have taken over the asylum
It's 1982 and the Fun Boy Three (a terrible name) are laying it down in so many words.  The clinic full of cynics has had its way, the lunatics are in control, we're all gonna die.  No party was complete without it.

Tom Waits - clap hands
Motron's been bugging me again.  Why so little Tom Waits on the list?  Because it's an act.  All that blue and boozy, nicotine infused soul and cool – that's not really him.  If it was, he'd have been dead long ago.  But it's a damned strong act, I'll give it that, and it really had me with Rain Dogs, I admit.  Like it's 3am and you're miles from home, polluted drunk, getting rained on.  Except it's not real rain, is it?  It's Hollywood rain, and Hollywood lights, too.  Probably wasn't even real whiskey. 

David Bowie - heroes-helden
Yeah, yeah, you've heard it a million times already.  We can be heroes, we can be dolphins, yadda-yadda-yadda.  But have you heard the mixed German/English edit that showed up on the soundtrack for Christianne F, the most depressing movie ever?  That complicated language does something to Mr. Bowie's delivery, gets it to deeper, more wrenching depths of soul and enunciation, gets you right to the heart of Berlin, late 70s, still a divided city – two opposed universes of politics and animosity grinding up against each other.  Forever.  Or so it seemed at the time.

Wire - the 15th
Tight little pop song with the kind of sharp, icy edge that defines a sonic future for all mankind.  Which is exactly what Wire did in 1979 with the album 154 and songs like the 15th.  Hell, I didn't even hear until at least six or seven years later, called up the DJ and had to know what this new song was. 

Elton John - madman across the water
But what does it mean?  I remember my friend James' big sister's boyfriend saying it was about Richard Nixon and Watergate, the crazy mess he'd made of things.  He was the madman across the water.  Which kind of made sense in 1974.  Except it was a 1971 record, I eventually realized.  The Watergate break-ins didn't even happen until 1972, and even then didn't amount to much media coverage until at least 1973.  Not until after Mr. Nixon got himself massively re-elected with pretty much the biggest majority ever in American history.  Anyway, those were confusing times, lots of shadows forming, maybe throwing time itself out of joint.  Who knew the what of anything?

Primal Scream - higher than the sun
This will always be the Icarus trip for me, LSD on a mountaintop, the day we all went too far, got too close to the sun, and like Icarus, our wings melted but we didn't fall so much as untether, like astronauts overshooting our orbit, ricocheting off through oblivion.  Seriously, it felt like a million years before we found gravity again, got the earth beneath our feet.  But actually it all happened within the running time of this particular mix of Higher Than The Sun which we had with us on that mountaintop, on cassette, playing on the ghetto blaster that we'd dragged up with us, pissing off some German tourists.  So in retrospect, it wasn't the drugs at all.  Just Primal Scream at the peak of their powers, in total control the entire time.

Boo Radleys - Lazarus
Because everybody needs resurrecting every now and then.  I'm pretty sure that's what this is about, name-checking Lazarus, the guy Jesus raised from the dead.  I mean, we've all been there – so low we may as well be six feet under.  And yet miracles do happen – great crescendos of brass erupt from oceans of dub, like the Lord's own light, shining through, turning sorrow to joy, downpour to sunshine, undeath to everlasting life (there is a difference).  And in their greatest moment, the Boos got it on record.

Slayer - south of heaven
True story.  Los Angeles, 1993, a few weeks before Christmas.  I'm hanging with this band I sort of know who've got a day to kill between gigs, but precious little cash to kill it with.  Which means we're drinking cheap, shitty beer.  Lots of it.  At some point it's wisely decided that some drugs are required, marijuana to be specific.  Except Terry from Idaho who's supposed to be dropping off the weed only has heroin, but it's pretty much the same price.  And the thing is, none of us are that cool.  We've never done heroin, but here it is getting laid out in narrow brownish lines on the coffee table, and yeah, we're all just drunk enough to not give a fuck.  Even if you can die just snorting the stuff, particularly if you're not used to it, if your body hasn't built up a decent tolerance.  This is not good, I'm suddenly thinking as Greg the singer rolls up a dollar bill.  This is a scene from one of those movies just before everything goes horribly wrong.  And then Slayer comes crashing in.  Full blast on the stereo. It's Smith, the bass player, calling bullshit, enlisting no lesser ally than Lucifer himself from his haunt way south of heaven, commanding that we see things at least slightly straight.  Long story/short:  we just said No to the heroin, went out for burgers instead.  The next morning we woke up to the news that River Phoenix had died outside the Viper Room, maybe a mile away.  Some kind of overdose.

Magazine - permafrost
It's 1979 and man it's cold out there.  Back in the 50s, they called it wine, women and song.  Then by the 60s, it was drugs, sex and rock and roll.  Now, come almost the 80s, it's just, I will drug and fuck you on the permafrost.  And it's not even the Winter of Hate yet.  But you can definitely feel it coming.

Bee Gees - every Christian lionhearted man will show you
Bee Gees' first album, psychedelic and as good as they ever got, giving all as every Christian Lionhearted band must, complete with chanting monks and mellotron from days of future past.  They really are as good as the Beatles here.  For three and a half minutes anyway.

Procol Harum - in held twas in I [rando-EDIT]
Epic shit slung together from Side Two of Procol Harum's epic second album, released in 1968 when they were one of the hottest bands in the known universe.  Seriously, short of Dylan and the Beatles and perhaps Cream, they were maybe the most important act on the planet based on the monstrous success of their single Whiter Shade of Pale – the record that dared marry Johann Bach to rock and roll and utter far out poetry.  Of course, by 1973 when I finally got to hear Shine On Brightly, it was just a friend's big sister's record that she'd lost interest in.  I guess she just didn't care about the pilgrim or his glimpses of nirvana or the Dalai Lama and his incise clarification as to the meaning of life.  But I did.

In held twas in I
Joy Division - decades
The first I heard of Joy Division, they were a new band out of Britain who were doing a sort of new wave Doors thing.  The next I heard, their lead singer had killed himself.  But good luck getting to hear any of the actual music.  Radio wasn't playing any of it and the handful of their records that made it to town as imports were quickly scooped up by people far cooler than me or anyone I was connected with.  So it was all just mystery for a long while until finally, in some guy's car, I heard Decades (as suitable an epitaph as anyone ever wrote for themselves) on a mixtape.  And strangely, it was almost exactly what I expected.  Dark and deep just like Jimbo the Lizard King, except all the edges were hard, the lines sharp, the angles fierce.  Like nothing I'd ever heard before, but I could feel it coming anyway.

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