Thursday, April 4, 2013

Countdown #54 - only bleeding

Broadcast March-30-2013 - 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.

B-52s - dance this mess around
Yeah, Rock Lobster gets the frat-boys going and Planet Claire's kind of indispensable at Halloween parties and Sci-Fi conventions, but only Dance This Mess Around has all sixteen dances, including the infamous Dirty Dog.  Which is to say, I've gone on a lot about all the bile and intensity of punk and so-called New Wave all the insurrection it unleashed upon the culture through the late 70s … but in the hands of a mad outfit like the B-52s, it was also huge fun.  

Gun Club - sexbeat
This is rock and roll they're talking about here and its dirty, filthy sexbeat.  This is why all the preachers wanted it banned back in the day, which is, of course, the best thing that could ever have happened to rock and roll.  And it continued to happen over the years, which only forced it underground, which is the dirtiest place of all.  And thus it ran into the likes of Gun Club in the late 70s, early 80s, drinking and drugging their way around LA, dysfunctional as fuck and thus one of the greatest damned rock and roll bands most decent folk have never heard of.  

Gram Parson - return of the grievous angel
Late 1980s sometime.  The date's a bit vague because I was convalescing at the time, coming down from an ailment that had at least something to do with a disease in my soul.  Which made it a perfect moment to finally discover the wonder of the world that was the music of Gram Parsons.  Yeah, I'd heard about how he invented country rock, hooked up with Keith Richard, turned heroin blue way before his time.  But now, via a random discovery of his only two solo albums at a yard sale, I was actually hearing his soul, because that's what it was (still is):  soul music, grievous and angelic, and precisely what I hadn't been listening to pretty much my entire life, which was a white man singing his own music, digging deep and finding something utterly beautiful therein.  If you don't like at least some country, you don't like me.

Bob Dylan - it's alright ma, I'm only bleeding
This one's from Bringing It All Back Home, Bob Dylan's other 1965 album, the one that preceded the apocalyptic Like A Rolling Stone snare shot which gave this entire project impetus.  But as I've already clarified, such is the nature of apocalypse – it tends to make a mess of the space-time continuum.  Which makes, It's Alright Ma, I'm Only Bleeding an appropriately apocalyptic version of the Six O'clock News circa 1965.  Young man wired on speed and Beaujolais and a truckload of symbolist poetry, grabs a roll of paper and gets to typing, beat-style.  The words seem to be about all manner of stuff.  You might say everything.  Hell, I remember an old cab driver friend insisting it was about a surreal Jesus Christ, up on the cross, surveying all the desolation of modern man, looking down, seeing his mom, the Virgin Mary, telling her it was all alright, he was only bleeding.

Jesus Christ Superstar Original Cast - heaven on their minds
Wherein Judas makes his desperate pitch to his best friend, Jesus H.  Don't be falling for that Son of God bullshit, you may be a little purer than most, but you're still just as human as I am.  What's amazing is how heartfelt and unsilly it manages to sound.  Actually, that line about sticking to carving wood tables, chairs and oaken chests – that's rather silly.  But overall, the damned thing's a passionate chunk of early 70s pop rock with a groovy edge, and it's thought provoking, particularly the degree to which it got me realizing just how complex a tale those Gospels really tell.  Or as Lorena my lawyer recently put it.  The most singular thing about it all is how Jesus, in order to do his bit, had to be as human as the rest of us, and that included way more than just a grain of doubt about his alleged divinity right up to the brutal end.  

Clash - straight to hell
Combat Rock is far from the Clash's best album.  Yet it does have Straight To Hell, arguably their best song.  Indeed, I've argued as much more than once.  British Colonialism, American interventionism, junkiedom – Straight To Hell covers it all, but it's the part about how this unstable no man's land could be "... anywhere, any frontier, any hemisphere ..." that drives everything home, the universality of it.  And also the line, "There ain't no need for ya!"  Want to get to the heart of 99-percent of what's wrong with the planet today, the desperation that fuels the fanaticism that turns a young man or woman into a give-a-fuck gangsta or a suicidal terrorist?  It's all right there in six words.  We need to be needed.  All of us.  Or else, it's straight to hell.  Every damned one of us.

Marvin Gaye - inner city blues (make me wanna holler)
For all the whiteness of the Terminal City in the days of my early teens, at least the DJs at CKLG-FM were cool (until the corporate types took over in around 1974-75).  So you can bet they were digging deep into Marvin Gaye's What's Goin' On, which truly is one of the great albums, every note, every soulful texture all flowing together like a single song.  So I'm sure I heard Inner City Blues when it was still pretty fresh, even if I wasn't aware of it.  Just part of the ongoing background flow that was filling me in on what was really goin' on, out there in the world that wasn't cut into easy bite-size suburban pieces.

Peggy Lee - is that all there is?
This goes out to my Aunt Clare (Great Aunt actually, my grandfather's little sister).  I never really got to know her as an adult, just noticed stuff when I was younger, before she slid off into dementia – the tough life she'd had, the husband who dumped her for a bimbo half his age, then ended up killing himself anyway.  But Clare always kept it together, a fierce sort of beauty that only time was going to tame, and even that took time.  And I remember her loving Peggy Lee, whose Is That All There Is? sums so much up.  The fact that nobody's more punk than a little girl who's seen it all, which is no reason not to break out the booze, have a party, death being the greatest disappointment of all.  Might as well do some living first.

Robert Fripp (with Peter Gabriel) - here comes the flood
It was the night after John Lennon was killed.  My friend Simon dropped by with the unexpected news that he'd just picked up a hundred lot of LSD by way of cocaine deal that had gone rather sideways.  Unexpected because Simon was not a dealer, of anything.  But here he was with the stuff, and given the extremes of the moment, we took some as it felt somehow fated.  This was our duty.  To trip the lysergic, to play a pile of Beatles records and see where the vibrations might take us.  It took us to dawn, sitting in my van high up the mountainside, taking in the first grey light of a grimy wet day.  We had Simon's little brother asleep in the backseat, curled up with his brand new dog Alice (it's a long story), but the Beatles weren't on the tape deck.  Nah, we'd had to give up on them as things started to peak.  Now it was a mixtape of more recent stuff, moody and cool.  Now, it was Peter Gabriel singing Here Comes The Flood, the sparer, sharper, far better version found on Robert Fripp's Exposure album (another long story).  A song of Apocalypse no question, of saying goodbye to flesh and blood, and yet not forecasting doom in the end, but survival, if only we give our islands.  And then it really started to rain.

Genesis - supper's ready
If I'd compiled this list as late as 1979, Supper's Ready would likely have sat right on top, certainly in the top three.  But then I grew sick of it, an allergy for which I only have myself to blame.  I loved it too much, wanted too much from it.  A song about everything.  A song about the Apocalypse, Pythagoras with a looking glass, the beast 666, the guaranteed eternal sanctuary man, Winston Churchill dressed in drag, and ultimately the new Jerusalem, good conquering evil, souls rising in ever changing colours, as a germ in a seed grows … and so on.  Big epic stuff ripped straight from the Bible itself, the Book of Revelations, but not without a serious dollop of absurdist fun.  The crazy part is, I didn't even hear it until 1977 which was well after Peter Gabriel had split from Genesis by which point there was a punk wind blowing nasty and vindictive.  But there you go.  That's who I was, seventeen or eighteen, uncool as I'll ever be, yet life has seldom been so rich, the smorgasbord so alluring.  Which gets us to the title.  Apparently the supper in question is a reference to the very end of the Bible, the final scene of the book of revelations (and here I'm sort of quoting my late friend James who actually used to study this kind of stuff before he decided life just wasn't worth the trouble anymore).  Apparently when all is said and done, Satan vanquished, Christ triumphant, God's kingdom established here on earth, there will be a huge feast to which all the worthy, the sainted, the blessed, the good are invited.  Apparently, it will be one heaven of supper.  But will they serve meat?

Velvet Underground - rock and roll
The image I've generally had of Lou Reed is of this too cool misanthrope who lived to ruin parties, bring everybody down to his level of overall discontent.  But then you get a song like Rock And Roll where he rhapsodizes on the sublime freedom possible in the right kind of three minute pop song, and all is forgiven.  The man doesn't just have a heart – he's like the Grinch at the end of the story, it's at least two-sizes two big.

Velvet Underground - Sister Ray
Music as emulation of war, which is everything you need to know about A. how wilfully out of step the Velvet Underground were with pretty much everything else that was going down at the time (1968), and B. how brilliantly, thunderously, violently ahead of their time they were.  By which I mean, the world needed Sister Ray.  It just didn't know it yet.  It's a need that wouldn't get conscious for me until 1983, my very early days of mucking around with radio, digging through the bowels of the station's record library, educating myself.  The extreme length was a particular selling point as it allowed you to cover a prolonged smoke or bathroom break – all the prog-rock epics being frowned upon in those contentious days.

Tim Buckley - once I was
I remember taping this from the radio one night, early teens.  But I didn't catch the intro, so, for some reason, I just assumed it was Donovan.  Which threw things off for a good twenty years.  I got it figured eventually thanks to Rena an ex-punk I used to know, who had a hate on for Jeff Buckley (felt he was a smarmy shadow of his dad).  I asked her to make me a tape, and there it was, a precious little piece of forgotten 1967, a time when a young man could pick up a guitar, sing his song, put poetic truth to the chaos of the war torn world, and maybe change everything.  At least, that's what it must've felt like.  I think.  I was just a little kid in 1967, not allowed into the good part of the party.

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