Saturday, March 23, 2013

Countdown #52 - the power of

Broadcast March-16-2013 - 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.

New Order - perfect kiss
Proof, I guess, that sometimes a new form is best before it's fully formed – the form in question here being techno dance when it was still cool to even have human factors in the mix, pushing the machines in directions they might otherwise have chosen not to go, and visa versa.  In Perfect Kiss, it all really kicks in, in the second half.  Things get sparse for a bit, and then the build to that bass guitar, that glorious, beautiful bass guitar.  No wonder the car crashes at the end.

Bob Marley - soul rebel
There's something about the early Bob Marley stuff, long before he was getting heard by we, the multitudes of greater Babylon, when he was still just some struggling Jamaican local working with the singularly mad producer Lee Scratch Perry, exploring darker, edgier realms of soul and rebellion than what would eventually come to hog all the space on the Greatest Hits albums.  Yeah.  There's definitely something.

Krafwerk - home computer
I guess it all started in 1981, this strange age we now find ourselves in.  Normal people actually owning computers, keeping them in their homes next to the TV maybe, playing games on them, writing with them, making music.  Not that I was paying any of this much attention in 1981.  I was mostly just confused in 1981.  Or more to the point I was fighting my confusion, because I'm still confused.  I just gave up the fight a long, long time ago.  Which gets us back to Kraftwerk's Computer World, techno before we had a name for it, and it was right there bleeping and popping along on the personal soundtrack toward the end of 1981, helping me to calm down, relax, get my shit half-together about this, that, other important things. 

Dr. John - walk on gilded splinters
I seem to recall this album getting played on cool FM radio when I was an early teen.  Late at night, of course.  And then there was that time Dr. John The Night Tripper popped up on TV, late night again, some concert show, in full headdress and weird voodooo regalia … or whatever the hell was going on.  What it was, was dead cool.  Even fourteen-fifteen year old me could figure that out.  Forty year old me would term it a gumbo, a dense and delicious stew concocted from whatever rare herbs, old bones, strange elixirs happened to be at hand, which, musically speaking meant soul, blues, gospel, even a few voodoo chants, I'm sure.  Whatever it takes to get you walking on splinters, and gilded at that.

Queen - liar
Memories of that awkward Grade Nine moment when I heard this new band on the radio called Queen and got knocked spiralling out of my orbit.  The song was Liar, from their first album, like something from Jesus Christ Superstar, except without any Jesus involved, thank God.  Just the trials of tribulations of some guy who'd done too much lying and now there was hell to pay.  But it was the guy doing the singing that had me floored.  And the band, kickass tight, all the power of Led Zeppelin, all the epic sweep of Yes.  Of course, I had to tell everybody about it.  But I just got laughed at.  A band called Queen?  What was I, a fag?  Jump ahead a year or three and I'd be vindicated.  Queen would be huge with even the football jocks into Bohemian Rhapsody.  Except, of course, I'd be mostly past them by then, onto the next big and glorious thing.  Because Queen never really topped what they had on that first album.  Controlled raunch, Suicide James called it.  He was right about that at least.

Ministry - stigmata
It's true.  The mind is a terrible thing to taste.  All those lysergic juices, leaking from your brain to the back of your mouth when all the acid you put in your veins gets to bubbling over.  Actually, I was in total control the whole time, Lollapalooza, 1992, the biggest moshpit I've ever encountered, the dark gods of Ministry reigning supremely over us all in their ridiculous over-sized cowboy hats.  Which is a key point.  Despite all the menace, there was also something genuinely funny about Ministry live.  Although there was that moment toward the end of their set, when they were playing Stigmata.  I turned for a moment, looked away from the stage, back through the multitude – thousands of spent and wasted young faces illustrating the key lyric all too well:  The only truth I know Is the look in your eyes.  Not a pretty at all.  And the hard rain just kept a-falling.

Stooges - 1969
1969's the highest Stooges track on this list because I only have the one album and I've got to assume you've heard I Wanna Be Your Dog.  Which isn’t to diminish 1969, it's solid and raw all the way.  It was the year of Woodstock, the year we all got back to the garden apparently, but Iggy wasn't seeing it that way.  He just saw war across the USA, and another year with nothing to do.

Bob Dylan - one more cup of coffee
This is the Dylan record I dig out when somebody's stupid enough to say he can't sing.  Oh yeah, I'd like hear you or anybody you know do what he does in this one, the way he waivers just so, like something out of lost centuries.  The instrumentation helps, of course, that wandering fiddle, the whip sharpness of the drums.  And what's it about other than a trip to the local Starbucks?  The mystical stuff of all those lost centuries, I suppose, by way of his current marital woes and reflections of himself seen in a distorted mirror ... and hearts like oceans, mysterious and dark.

Rolling Stones - stray cat blues
1968.  If you were concerned at the time with the cutting edge of things, you knew that the love and flowers part of the 60s was maybe not dead, but certainly suffering some major hits to the body.  Which was good news for the Stones, who generally couldn't quite nail the flower power stuff.  They were more into dirty blues, like the one about the fifteen year old girl who liked to drag her finger nails down the backs of her fave rock stars who, no, hadn't asked to see her ID.

Beatles - yer blues
True fact.  In the 1980s, the Rolling Stones always won those Beatles vs Stones arguments.  John Lennon had been murdered, George and Ringo were mostly MIA, Paul was dumping stupid love songs on the world and foolishly letting the back catalogue get sold to Michael Jackson.  And anyway, the Stones' had the sort of teeth the times required (their old stuff, that is).  And yet, Yer Blues from the so-called White album, was always good to toss into the mix.  Here was a Beatles song as voracious as anything the Stones had ever released.  Although, of course, it wasn't really the Beatles.  It was just John, so lonely he was gonna die, with Paul locked in a cupboard somewhere, certainly gagged, because that is a pretty hot bass line. 

Roxy Music - song for Europe
I suppose that the truly cool position to take, is to write off Roxy Music after For Your Pleasure (their second album), because that's when Brian Eno quit.  But who ever said I'm cool?  I'm way too romantic for that, wandering the streets and canals of some imaginary Paris where hearts get sweetly, devastatingly torn asunder as slow water flows, and great songs get written about it, their rich melodies rising high, being heard across all Europe.

Jah Wobble's Invaders of the Heart - Invaders of the Heart
This one's a mystery all the way.  A 12-inch single which features four different mixes of a track called Invaders of the Heart, which is also the name of the band.  But that's all I know.  No word on who the other players are, when it was released, if it ever charted as a single.  Although I do remember hearing it on local cool radio in around 1983.  And then there was the concert.  Jah Wobble's Invaders of the Heart rolling into town to play the Commodore, also in 1983.  Hell, I bought a ticket.  But it never happened.  Apparently the whole tour got cancelled.   Which just leaves us with the record – bass as big as a continent, everything else vibrating exquisitely from there.

Jimi Hendrix - voodoo chile
There are two Voodoo Chiles on Electric Ladyland.  The second one (the Slight Return) is the one everyone's heard, some of us maybe a thousand times too many.  But the first – that's still as fresh as the fifteen minutes or so in which it came to be, Electric Ladyland being the name of the studio where it happened, Stevie Winwood being the guy that dropped in to pound away on the Hammond organ, extend the journey.

Frankie Goes To Hollywood - the power of love
It so obvious now, but it didn't really strike me at the time (1984) that this song was about AIDS, the holocaust that was currently tearing through the world's homosexual population.  Indeed, Holly Johnson, the guy singing it, was himself infected and (in the belief of the time) fated to a horrible death from the vampire that had got in the door.  Of course, last I looked, Mr. Johnson is still alive as are many who were once doomed (all hail, medical science), which doesn't in any way detract from the power of Power Of Love – one of those rare songs about that four letter word that starts with L, that doesn't diminish it, doesn't whore it for cheap emotions, maybe sell some flowers and chocolates on Valentines Day.  And I think it's very much because of that vampire line, the truth it nails (all hail, the power of love, a force from above, no question).

Van Morrison - listen to the lion
Exactly what you want on in the background when you're finally emerging from Chapel Perilous, a prolonged season in hell, a dark night of the soul (choose your analogy).  It won't miraculously pull you out, make you whole again, but once you've done the heavy lifting (you and whichever gods and/or demons may have stooped to redeem you), it's there to welcome you, take your hand, tell you you're not alone ... and remind you.  It's all about the lion inside you.  It needs to roar.  It needs to rage, tear free.  Else you will be torn from within and the love shall never come tumbling.  Which is all another way of saying, me finally getting what Van Morrison was doing in a song like Listen To The Lion was the part of me that cherished complexity in music finally growing up, realizing that nothing was as complex as the human soul. 

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