Monday, November 5, 2012

Countdown #41 - buzz the savage

Broadcast November-3-2012 - 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.

Pretty Things - buzz the jerk
Right back to the beginning of the pop apocalypse.  It's 1965 and whatever's going down in London, whatever mix of drugs, fashion, overall youth discontent is erupting -- it's good, it's working, it's immortal ... for slightly less than two minutes anyway in the case of Buzz The Jerk.

Small Faces - whatcha gonna do about it?
It's the noise that hooked me on this one.  Only 1966 and it was already way out of control, yet the Small Faces grasped it long enough to deliver a shard of sheer fun and spite. 

Eurythmics - savage
The Eurythmics were actually quite cool at first, a real breath of fresh and soulful air in amongst all the synth-pop of the early-mid 80s.  But by 1987, I'd lost interest … except for Savage, the song.  It was just so strong, bitter, yet vulnerable, too, like some 1950s hard-as-nails movie beauty losing her looks, maybe resorting to murder, but you couldn't stop feeling for her.  Joan Crawford would have played her.  And you would have cried at the end. 

Bill Laswell - upright man
Lay down a hot, funky groove, set some of the top musicians in the world loose over it, but tell them not to get too busy.  Then drop in a few mysterious samples from the old testament, and 1982 suddenly sounds eternal. 

Paul McCartney - too many people
I believe I've been over this ground already.  Paul McCartney has only ever really mattered as a solo artist when he's, to some degree, doing a John Lennon.  In the case of Too Many People, that means lobbing a vaguely pissed off open letter at his former band mate and song writing partner, in which he takes him to task for his dubious Power-to-the-People sympathies of the moment.  Because, ummm, well there's too many of them –  people that is.  But what matters most is that it rocks, Paul the nice Beatle having not yet forgotten how to do that.  But he would soon.

NoMeansNo - self pity
The memory is of getting pinned to the wall by this one at the Arts Club on Seymour, 1986 sometime, taking respite from the Expo 86 atrocities that were currently underway  maybe half a K away in False Creek, the whole world having come to town to show off its ugliness.  But none of it was cutting through as effectively as these three guys from Victoria who could rock their punk as hard and bloodthirsty as any band on the planet, but they also had this whole other universe of depth and invention going on.  Call it epic and I wouldn't argue.

Van Morrison - summertime in England
Of course, I discovered this in springtime in Ireland, on cassette to begin with (though I'd later buy the vinyl, of course), one of a small handful of them that I had with me as I wandered around the so-called Emerald Isle, drank Guinness, wondered what the hell I was actually doing there.  Hint:  it had something to do with a trip to London gone wrong, turned into a soap opera that I'll not get into here, except to say I had to escape and a friend-of-a-friend tipped me that Ireland was the place, pretty much in a depression at the time and thus dead cheap.  Anyway, my rent-a-car eventually got me to a place at the northwest of Donegal known as the Bloody Foreland, so called because every now and then, at sunset, everything turned a fiery, almost unearthly red.  And I saw one of them.  With Summertime In England playing, of course, the last half particularly memorable, where ole Van really goes to Church.  One of those moments that makes you shut up and know.  God does exist and he's Van Morrison fan.

Daevid Allen - poet for sale
It doesn't get much hippier or dippier than Daevid Allen plucking away on an acoustic guitar, waxing loose and cosmic on various things relevant to the plight of the poet in modern times.  Except he suddenly starts to bite at the end.  Like he's been doing a Rip-Van-Winkle for the past decade, but he's suddenly snapped awake, and holy shit, it's 1977, punk rock's erupting off in the distance, and this anger stuff, it feels good, it feels like life itself.

Richie Havens - no opportunity necessary, no experience required
Yes covered this on one of their first albums, had some pompous fun with it.  But Mr. Havens' original is much rawer, tougher, cooler.  And it sounded more or less perfectly in sync with the times when I finally found it, 1998, a freebie at the dog end of a yard sale.  Decades may pass us but there's still no opportunity necessary, no experience required.  Whatever that even means.

Bob Marley - Mr. Brown
Definitely the most garage I've ever heard Bob Marley sound, which probably means Lee Scratch Perry was behind the mixing board, conjuring his special magic.  Not that the liner notes help much in this regard.  Just Rasta Revolution, a compilation of various pre-fame Marley and the Wailers odds and ends.  But they're good ones, raw and full of grit.

Fleetwood Mac - albatross
The melody's nice but it's more the overall mournful mood that sets Albatross free.  But, of course, the early Mac being a blues band, it's not really that kind of albatross, is it?  It's the kind that you carry as a curse, hung around your neck, weighing you down, reminding you and all the world that you blew it, you killed a beautiful thing.  Which is sort of what happened to Peter Green, the man who wrote it, his career pretty much over within the year, psychedelic drugs and mental illness finding each other in yet another tortured genius as the 1960s ran down.

Laurie Anderson - big science
It's 1982 and Laurie Anderson (who no one I know has ever heard of) has suddenly painted a picture of the future.  Equal parts beautiful, yet strangely, already haunted.  The whole album's a gem but the title track deserves special mention for the way it delivers this future – all shopping malls, drive-in banks, every man for himself, and yodeling.  And then there's the big science itself, those cooling towers off the edge of town, higher than any church steeple ever reached, hissing and droning, liable to melt down and explode at any moment.  Hallelujah to that.

Manfred Mann's Earth Band - father of night, father of day
In which a sub two minute Bob Dylan acoustic ditty about the glory of God etc gets amplified, extended, expanded, glorified.  I remember hearing it on late night radio when it was new, maybe 1973, getting all excited, then discovering the serious Dylan-heads hated it.  They thought it was a horrible thing to do with a Bob Dylan song.  And anyway, this Bob Dylan song was dumb.  It was like he believed in God or something.  How uncool was that?  Little did anyone realize ...

Grateful Dead - Blues for Allah
What did one Deadhead say to the other when the drugs wore off?  "These guys suck."  Funny but wrong.  Because I really tried to dismiss these guys, and even pulled it off for a while as long as I focused on their more normal stuff.  But then something like Blues For Allah sneaks in at the end of the album of the same name, and you don't even need acid or peyote or shrooms (though they do help), it takes you to a high, deep place. You have no clear compass on where you are, but there's Allah himself sitting next to you, his feet dangling over the edge ... of all eternity.

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