Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Countdown #53 - don't be denied

Broadcast March-23-2013 - 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.

Temptations - Zoom
It's about the future apparently (being from a 1973 album called 1990), though men had already been walking the moon for four years by 1973, smacking golf balls around even.  Either way, this is the Temptations and their producer Norman Whitfield, boldly and beautifully taking things as far as they ever would, indeed as far as man ever has ... to the moon, damn it.  A thirteen minute journey on vinyl, which if taken at the speed of light would actually get you past Mars.  But still not bad for a bunch of guys from the wrong side of the tracks Detroit. 

Creedence Clearwater Revival - ramble tamble
As albums go, few of any era can top Creedence's 1970 monster Cosmo's Factory, if only for the seven charting singles.  Let me say that again.  Seven Charting Singles.  That's more than most successful bands get in a career.  And then there's Ramble Tamble, not released as a single, because it was too weird, too long.  A nice swampy paranoia-infused rock song bookending an epic jam.  Which is to say, this is me, eleven or twelve, hearing one of my first proper album cuts, getting sent, getting educated as to what a song could be.  So much more than just a little bit of candy to get played on the radio between ads for soda pop and jeans.

ACDC - downpayment blues
When ACDC first hit, I was in my late teens and fully committed to the sinking ship that was prog-rock, after which I grabbed some wreckage that washed me ashore on the island known as punk, new wave etc – anything but hard and heavy riff rock.  But jump ahead a decade and a bit, past my thirtieth birthday, well into an adult life that was in no way measuring up to expectations that anybody had ever had for me (my parents, my teachers, myself even) and I was finally ready for the genius that was ACDC.  Honest, direct, HARD, and always on the nose whether hellbound or, in the case of Downpayment Blues, just slacking off, drinking cheap booze, doing nothing, but with a vengeance.  Like my favourite line from Slacker (the movie).  "Withdrawing in disgust should never be confused with apathy."

Syl Johnson - is it because I'm black?
Some songs I should just shut up about, because I'm not black, I'm not even the lightest shade of brown.  And yet …

Raspberries - overnight sensation (hit record)
I do remember hearing this on the radio when it was new, maybe two or three times.  But it definitely didn't hit in my corner of North America, didn't stick.  Which is brilliant in a way, because that means I never got allergic to Overnight Sensation, which would surely have happened had it received its due.  Which, I guess, is my vaguely Buddhist way of admitting that despite my numerous complaints as the to corrupt and absurd nature of the music biz, I'm often as not delighted at how time-the-universe-everything has spun things out – that there are these delicious treasures just lying around.  And thus there is a reason to keep digging. 

Tiny Tim - the other side
Being a little kid in the 60s definitely had its pluses.  For instance, Tiny Tim.  In what other decade would normal folks allow such a sublime and beautiful weirdo into their TV rooms en masse with appearances on Ed Sullivan, the Smothers Brothers and even Hockey Night In Canada (I think, or maybe that was just a dream).  Tiptoe Through The Tulips was the insanely catchy hit, of course, but that whole 1968 album God Bless Tin Tim was erupting with weird wonder, and my neighbour Patrick had it.  We quickly nailed The Other Side as the high water mark mainly because of the laughter at the beginning.  How could you NOT laugh along?  Meanwhile the icebergs were all melting (yup, even back then in '68), the oceans were rising … and all the world was singing, having a swimming time, becoming fish, the map having changed and with it … we.  Seriously, the man was onto something.

Wire - a touching display
Wire's 154, released in 1979, has received a lot of mention on this list.  One of those albums that helped invent the future, gave birth to all manner of sounds and textures that would come to define the decade known as the 1980s, which of course, is now ancient history.  Yet 154 continues to stand up, songs generally sharp and short and poetically obtuse.  But A Touching Display goes the other way – big and broad, an epic and passionate display of song as weapon, particularly once the guitar just takes off toward the end, like a bomber the size of a football stadium off to deliver a payload that would destroy the world as it was known.  

Neil Young - don't be denied
This one's about as autobiographical as Mr. Young ever got.  Weird kid's parents split up and he gets moved to a new town at the wrong age, pays the price in schoolyard beatings, etc.  But to paraphrase an old German (who eventually went mad), that which does not destroy us only increases our will to pick up an electric guitar and NOT ever be denied.

Stone Roses - I wanna be adored
I remember reading a quote in my late teens – something to do with regret being pointless, why dwell on something you cannot change?  So yeah, I don't do regrets.  But damn, it would've been cool to be born maybe fifteen years later than I was, to still be young and adorable when I Wanna Be Adored hit.  Sure it's narcissistic, absurd even, but it's also true, painting a picture of what it feels like to be on a certain wave, riding high, seeing all the world in such a way that you know it also sees you, beautiful, caught by the sun, throwing rainbows as you go … and there are also unicorns.

Kate Bush - big sky [meteorological mix]
The state of the art of the 12-inch remix circa 1985.  Take a perfectly fine album cut, expand it, explore it, turn it into a force of nature by the time the drums come thundering in toward the end.  I don’t know if I ever heard this in a club, but I sure as hell drove to it a pile – real open highway stuff, no traffic, just the speed of life, with big clouds in the distance, threatening.  The big clouds were always threatening in the 80s.

Lee Scratch Perry - soul fire
In which the maddest mix-doctor of them all nails us with a little pop soul fire that doesn't sacrifice one ounce of the weirdness, because there's nothing weirder than the human soul.  Doesn't matter if you're in feverishly hot Trenchtown Jamaica, or some lost suburb at the north-western edge of the crumbling civilization that is Babylon.

Aphrodite's Child - the four horsemen + all the seats were occupied
Chris Wilson was more Simon Lamb's friend than mine, introduced to me as Chris The Christer, which was a bit harsh.  True he believed in Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour, but short of a tendency toward putting too much U2 on his mixtapes, he kept the evangelizing pretty quiet.  And he turned me onto some very cool records including Aphrodite's Child's 666, the Anti-Christ's own double album.  One of those records that, even if was just weird, it would still be worth talking about:  a feature length concept dedicated to the notion that the Anti-Christ was down here on earth, pulling strings, sabotaging rock festivals, manipulating Apocalypse any sinister way he could.  Of course, Chris viewed all this as righteous warning, not satanic bragging.  And he was probably right, with an anthemic track like the Four Horsemen doing its best to raise the dead. 

Meanwhile, the climactic phantasmagoria of All The Seats Were Occupied came on like a once in a lifetime acid trip.  You're at a remote festival somewhere.  A band of Greek psychedelic hippie freaks takes the stage and proceeds to conjure both Christ and Satan, who proceed to war it out in the lysergic breeze for the next 666 years … or maybe just fifteen minutes.  Sometimes time just slips out of joint.

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