Sunday, March 17, 2013

Countdown #51 - but a dream

Broadcast March-9-2013 - 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.

Parliament - 

P-funk wants to get funked up + night of the thumpasorus people + give up the funk
I vaguely remember skimming through a book a friend foisted on me a few years ago that had something to do with the all sci-fi imagery and metaphors inherent in certain BLACK musics (people like Sun Ra, Lee Scratch Perry, George Clinton).  It was way too academic, probably some guy's thesis.  And thus it lost me.  Or certainly I lost it.  I can barely remember a single idea now, except maybe the spaceships being the opposite of the slaveships (maybe the things that would finally take them home).  What I do remember very well is seeing Parliament (or was it Funkdadelic?) back in around 1975-76 on one of those Friday night concert shows they used to have on TV.  In Concert, or Don Kirschner's Rock Concert, or Friday Night Special.  It was one of the tours when they had an actual spaceship, great clouds of smoke, lights, and then the music itself.  Talk about alien intervention, straight into my narrow, whitebread suburban heart and soul.  And thus was my universe changed.  But good luck actually finding any of the records down at the local mall.  Cool funk just didn't travel that far north and west.  Nah, it would take decades to track down some Parliament – the Mothership Connection, from 1975 – so much its own unique universe of funk and strange that it requires three consecutive selections to do it justice.

Husker Du - celebrated summer
I always loved Celebrated Summer, exactly what the Universe needed in the mid-80s.  But it never truly transcended for me until the night I saw an all-girl band do a cover -- Arts Club on Seymour, 1986 I'm pretty sure.  They were all blonde, from California, and it was summer, which meant Expo was squatting in the near distance if indeed it was 86.  And I'm pretty sure it was, because it would've been the same night that I saw Skinny Puppy up at UBC, which was a terrorizing experience, because man, the acid was particularly strong that night.  So yeah, it all came around to not so much saving my soul (my soul was pretty intact in those days) as reigniting it with hope, fervour, blinding white light, which is to say, celebrated and wild, erupting with summer.

Neutral Milk Hotel - the king of carrot flowers
I'm pretty sure this is one of those it's-not-about-what-you-think-it's-about songs, even if you think all the "I Love You Jesus Christ" stuff is just being ironic.  Because there's a level of sublime madness at work here in the Neutral Milk Hotel --  call it surrealism -- where Jesus is real and miraculous, and so are the carrot flowers, but the higher real isn't in the words anyway, it's where they allow the music to go, the great storm unleashed, except its not all wind and rain, but multi-colours, psychedelic and pure ... And yeah, looking down from on high, the Lord God in Heaven smiles and knows that it is good.

Negativland - Christianity is stupid
This was so much fun to play on the radio Christmas Eve, 1987, peak of the Winter of Hate observances, which gets me thinking I should clarify two points here.  1. Yes, there was actually a late night radio show on CiTR called Winter Of Hate that ran for a few months (late 1987 through spring 1988).  It wasn't my show but I did contribute occasionally.  2. The term of Winter of Hate didn't originate with the radio show.  It was just something somebody heard about while traveling through San Francisco earlier in the year.  Apparently they were making a big deal of it being the 20th anniversary of the Summer Of Love, but given the temper of the times, it was anything but a celebration.  Hence Winter of Hate.  Which proved a damned nourishing bone to chew on.

Ray Charles - living for the city
I'm pretty sure Mr. Charles was supposed to be past his sell-by at this point in his career (the mid-70s).  And indeed the rest of this album, Renaissance, tends toward ballads of an over-produced nature.  But damn he doesn't take Stevie Wonder's Living For The City to church.  Which isn't to say it's superior to the original, just so beautifully its own weird thing that angels can still be heard wailing whenever it is played.  But is it laughter or tears?

Clash - Broadway + one more time
Two from the Clash's last truly great album, but I wish I could play twenty (there being thirty-six tracks spread across Sandinista's six sides).  Because sometimes more really is more when it comes to art, beauty, meaning, everything.  You really do need to just throw yourself into the deep end, immerse yourself, drown if necessary.  And with Sandinista, it is necessary.  Because it's the greatest band in the world (at the time) firing all of their guns at once and hitting way more often than they missed.  In the case of One More Time (and it's dub), that means the perfect soundtrack for walking an upscale suburban enclave on a warm spring evening:  must I get a witness for all this misery?  Particularly if there's a housefire in the distance, sirens a-howling, black smoke rising, and you're a little high on LSD.  

With Broadway, things are more urban, genuine, there being no irony in the misery, which when you really think about it, is a bullshit statement anyway.  Misery is never ironic.  It just is. 

Talking Heads - crosseyed + painless
1980 was the kind of year that delivered big time in terms of albums that laid it all out in no uncertain terms.  The future was here and it was going to be different, cool and strange in all manner of ways.  In the Talking Heads case, that meant Remain In Light, an album nobody really saw coming.  Rhythms and polyrhythms and drones and eruptions taking songs in all kinds of unprecedented directions, like they'd somehow heard what the whole world sounds like and figured a way to get it into 40 album minutes of so-called pop music.  Brian Eno helped, of course.

Hawkwind - master of the universe (live)
I realize it's difficult for those who haven't been there to grasp, but the difference between Hawkwind's space epics and everybody else's, is theirs are real (note the present tense).  They aren't fantasies.  They're honest reports from the very edge of time, where mystical warriors stand forever at the very brink of the vortex, the void, the abyss … and hold true.  By which I mean this live version of Master of the Universe may have been recorded in 1972, but all that temporal distance is illusory, side effect of the weird mechanics that make so-called reality at least begin to make sense to our puny mortal minds.  Which I realize must be confusing as hell to even try to comprehend.  So don't.  Just trust that the Universe has a master and she does get it.  And one of his favourite bands is Hawkwind and they're playing for her/him even now just slightly past the edge of meaning.

Rare Earth - I know I'm losing you (live)
By the time I was thirteen or fourteen and paying proper attention, there were three versions of I Know I'm Losing You percolating around the radio airwaves.  Rod Stewart's stomping rocker, the Temptations original, and Rare Earth's stretched out magnum opus.  Actually, there were four versions, because Rare Earth also had a live version which was the best of bunch – rock hard, funky, a powerhouse that just went on, on, on, because sometimes, what's going on is just too good to stop, so you don't.  So much early 70s music had this.  Like everybody knew the 60s were over, but so what, just keep pushing, this beautiful shit must never stop.  And yeah, thanks to recording technology, it hasn't. 

Marianne Faithfull - sister morphine
Maybe the best Rolling Stones record ever, that you probably haven't heard, even if it's not Mick singing.  Though he is apparently playing some guitar along with Ry Cooder, and that's Charlie on drums.  Who knows where Keith is?  Probably on the nod.  Which drives home the point.  Marianne Faithfull gets the credit and she deserves it all the way, but this is very much a 1969 Stone-truth being imparted.  It's not the Summer of Love anymore.  The drugs have gotten heavy and souls are getting crushed.

Violent Femmes -  never tell
The Femmes gave us more than their share of horny and cool party anthems in the early/mid 80s, but their high water mark for me is of a much more serious nature – an epic and fierce eruption of rage, angst, pain, betrayal called Never Tell, which I seem to recall hearing is about child abuse.  But I can't remember where I heard it, so all I'm really left with is the impression, and fuck if it's not indelible – an vicious scar across something that was once flawless.  I believe Jesus put it best.  Don't mess with the little ones.

Bauhaus - exquisite corpse
They still had one more album to come but in terms of sheer sonic edge, it's pretty safe to say Bauhaus peaked with The Sky's Gone Out, and nowhere is it creepier, more inventive than Exquisite Corpse, the final track.  Needless to say, this got a lot of play through any number of psychedelic excursions in the lead up to the mid-80s.  An abandoned house comes to mind, right at the seashore, a sort of lost cove off the edge of the city.  The weird part is how everything was still furnished, the library still stocked with books.  I pulled one down, heavy, bound in leather.  I opened it up to some strange calligraphy, a language I didn't recognize and yet it spoke to me, and then it occurred to me that the ink was brownish red, the colour of dried blood, but it wasn't dry anymore, it was running in trickles to the hungry floorboards.  Actually, I'm pretty sure that was all but a dream. 

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