Sunday, January 13, 2013

Countdown #44 - only everything

Broadcast January-5-2013 - 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.

Them - I can only give you everything
I honestly can't hear much difference between Them and the early Rolling Stones -- both putting electricity to the blues, kicking great and necessary holes into the everyday peace and quiet.  The weird part is that it's Van Morrison doing the howling here, offering nothing short of everything, yet everything is clearly not enough.  You just can't please some people. 

David Bowie - Queen Bitch
A song called Queen Bitch in 1971?  It wasn't done.  And from my end, it wasn't heard ... until at least 1973.  Just one more element of that tidal wave of brilliant and seductive threat that kept coming our way with Mr. David Bowie's name attached.  Who was this stranger, this alien, this queen, this bitch?  I was still fumbling around with puberty.  I believe it was exactly what I needed to hear.

Sons of Freedom - Alice Henderson
As I heard it (and I knew somebody who knew somebody close to the band), Alice Henderson was actually a guy, and his name wasn't actually Alice or Henderson.  But he did die well before his time – yet another talented young life ended by heroin.  Should it be some solace that a great song came from it, powerful in its sorrow and its undercurrents of rage?  No.  Art is never more important than a life.  But it's still a great song.

Wayne County + the Electric Chairs - man enough to be a woman
This would've hit in 1978, first heard by me at a Halloween party that I didn't want to go to, because it was a punk thing and I wasn't into punk.  The music just wasn't sophisticated enough for nineteen year old me.  But the party was kickass anyway.  The punk parties were always kickass.  So here's a hint, kids.  If the parties are good, the music is too, in spite of what you're so called "taste" is telling you.  Because if you're anything like me, your taste is shit until at least your twenty-second year.  But all that said, I did immediately like Man Enough To Be A Woman, because of course, it wasn't really punk rock.  Except in terms of attitude.  Wayne County had bigger balls than any dozen shitkicking football players.  Which is how that Halloween party ended – a bunch of football gronks showing up with an old high school score to settle, pounding a bunch of the wrong people.  One more reason to get the hell out of the suburbs.

John Zorn - The Big Gundown
Wherein John Zorn, avant jazz genius type, takes on a few of Ennio Morricone's Spaghetti Western epics and succeeds in rearranging the molecules in my mid-80s psychedelicized brain, to entirely positive effect.  Because the world of the mid-80s definitely needed fracturing, eviscerating, disassembling, reinventing.  The Big Gundown indeed.  

Clash - Spanish guns
I liked Spanish Guns from first listen, which would've been summer, 1980.  But it took a campfire party ten years later for me to really fall in love with it.  Actually, it was Margite I fell for, the way she grabbed her acoustic guitar and nailed it.  It was love at first sight, sort of.  Because not much came of it really, except it did send a glow through me that I still reconnect with whenever I hear the song, all love and revolution.   

T-Bone Burnett - Hefner + Disney
It's probably an old surrealist trick for telling the truth about a cultureTake two of its primary architects, definers of its fantasies, switch their names around and voila!  From a 1983 album that really should have been heard by the whole world.  But it wasn't.  Almost as if some corrupt old man in a magical mansion was pulling evil strings.   

Young Marble Giants - searching for Mr. Right   
Cal Friar was a friend of a friend, and ultimately an exception that proved a rule.  Because drugs really did fuck him up just like all those scare stories they fed us back in elementary school said they would.  From straight normal guy on a fast track through business school to dilated scenester in mere months.  And dangerously so.  I remember him stepping into a busy Seymour Street one night outside the Luv Affair, throwing his arms wide, declaring "I Am A Young Marble Giant".  Horns honked.  Tires squealed.  But nothing hit him.  His parents eventually got concerned and he disappeared from the scene even quicker than he arrived.  Maybe fifteen years later, I discovered he'd become an investment banker, moved to New York and gotten stupidly rich.  Meanwhile, I'd gotten around to picking up the Young Marble Giants only album.  Monolithic in its subtlety, but not worth dying for. 

Human League - dreams of leaving
Before they had their mostly annoying pop successes, Human League were a damned cool outfit working the edges of the electro-underground, mucking around with synthesizers, drum machines, exploring all manner of cool sounds, with Dreams of Leaving a prime example.   

Van Morrison - Cypress Avenue
I saw Van Morrison once.  I think it was 1986.  Underwhelmed would describe my response.  Not that I was that surprised.  The man had a rep for not being capable of faking it.  If he wasn't feeling the gods own light in his soul, he wasn't even going to try.  But on a good night, well, words don't suffice.  You've got to just shut up and listen.  Like what happened with Cypress Avenue in Europe somewhere, 1973.

Jethro Tull - Dharma for One [live]
From Living in the Past, a 1972 double album of various unreleased Tull gems, which really underlines just how strong they were at that point in time, overflowing with quality stuff.  Dharma For One is a live take of a track from Tull's first album.  Longer, harder, wilder, yet insanely tight and precise when it needs to be.  The term gobsmacking comes to mind.  

Dinosaur Jr. - freak scene
Dinosaur Jr were one of those bands I kept hearing about in the late 1980s but never consciously heard.  Apparently, they were a bit of a throwback to the pre-punk days of big wild guitar solos, epic intentions, but in a good way.  Then I finally did hear some and hell yeah, truth in advertising.  Except this stuff was anything but a throwback – electric guitar so sheer and beaming with fractal light, it was carving weird tunnels into the future ... or at least that's what it felt like in the Commodore, the top of my head lysergically removed from the rest of my body.  But in a good way. 

Bob Dylan - final theme
There are bests, and there are favourites.  Pat Garrett + Billy The Kid is not one of the best movies of all time.  But it is one of my favourites.  Because of all the whiskey, I guess, and the cigars, and all the dying, the whole movie like an epic tone poem of doom and inevitability -- hard men looking oblivion in the eye, taking another drag, another swig, killing or being killed.  And a big part of what holds it all together is Bob Dylan's soundtrack.  Yeah, there's a few proper songs, but it's the mood of the instrumental stuff that sells it.  As for the Final Theme – go ahead, play it at my funeral.  

Prince - the cross
It's easy now to smirk at Prince, make fun of his extremes, the artist formerly known as quite amazingly good.  And the thing is, he was – even his whacked out God stuff.   Case in point, the Lovesexy concert that hit the Terminal City in 1988.  The stage was round.  The sound was astonishing.  The action was non stop.  It was everything a rock and roll show was ever supposed to be, and more.  And the musical highlight of the evening, the song that pinned all fifteen thousand of us to the wall, was a power anthem about a certain cross and the guy that had to carry it, and how we've all gotta do the same, one way or another, up that lonely hill to eternity.

Live in 88

Stone Roses - I am the resurrection
Must've pretty good drugs this guy was taking, offering up enough mystical insight and balls out punk bravura to declare himself the resurrection and the son. And the thing is, with his band behind him, he wasn't lying.  They were perfect, had all the answers, were showing us all The Way – the entire debut album.  But then the drugs wore off, I guess. 

Gram Parsons + Emmylou Harris - love hurts
No, Nazareth didn't write this.  It was a guy named Boudleaux Bryant, who most definitely knew a thing or two about love and how it carves raw chunks out of your soul.  But the essential version has to be this one – Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris being quiet about it, heartfelt, grievous and true.  He'd be dead before the world ever heard it.  

Harold Melvin + the Bluenotes - don't leave me this way
Fuck I hated Disco.  How dare it erupt as I was finishing high school?  How dare it pollute all the available radio stations, transform all the nightclubs, now that I finally had good, foolproof fake ID?  Sure it probably served some greater service to the culture as a whole, let all those strung out former hippie freaks and rebels come back in from the cold of their failed revolutions, evolutions, insurrections, and just fuck it, snort coke, shake their booties, get laid, lay the groundwork for their execrable 1980s yuppiedom, Reaganomics, Tom Cruise – yup, I blame disco for all of that.  But I always liked Don't Leave Me This Way.  Thelma Houston had the big hit, but nothing touches what Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes did with it, particularly the long version.  

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