Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Countdown #15 - rambling on

Broadcast March-24-2012 - podcast available here.  All comments are lifted from Philip Random's notes.  The full countdown list (so far) can be found here.  Links are not necessarily to the exact same recordings we played on-air, but we tried.
Wire - ambitious
I missed Wire's first act completely, three albums culminating with 1979's 154 that (in retrospect) went a long way toward dragging British indie music out of the punk war zones and kicking it into the stratosphere.  So it's a damned good thing all four original members came back again in 1987 to remind us how good they were.  Ideal Copy was the album with Ambitious the closest thing to a title track, a tough number that did a smart job of touching on all manner of essential topics of the day, from paranoia to Cold War politics to competing competing intelligence agencies to, of course, the end of the world.
Negativland - the perfect cut [piece of meat]
Wherein the tape pirates from the California suburbs get busy with pretty much every shitty MOR pop song from the 1970s, and the secret tapes that prove the conspiracy that was at hand.  That is, the deliberate reduction of the insurrectionary promise that was 1960s POP music to various pieces of meat.  Stuff your faces, folks.  And shut up!  Stop complaining.

Buzzcocks - ever fallen in love
Pure pop with punk in its soul.  Or is it the other way around?  One thing is clear.  The Buzzcocks were pretty much the first band to have it both ways, and I'll forever love them for that.  Just because you're pissed off doesn't mean you can't be pretty, too.

Doors - not to touch the earth [randoEDIT]
I didn't really twig to this one until I saw the Doors movie, which I know, I'm not supposed to like, the whole thing just being so absurdly over the top, Val Kilmer chewing not just the scenery but also vast chunks of the Mojave desert.  Except it's true.  The psychedelic 60s were that weird, eruptive, explosive, WILD, kicking into overdrive in 1967, blowing through ozone by the end of 1968, which is where Not To Touch Earth comes in.  Wherein Mr. Morrison is so high and wasted, he's not sure if he's a worm or a god, or maybe just some dead Indian shaman who snuck into a little white boy's fragile eggshell mind a couple of decades earlier.

Procol Harum - rambling on
I came across Procol Harum's second album sometime in the blur of the early mid-70s.  My friend James had it, grabbed from his older sister who'd lost interest.  We'd play it a lot (not having many albums to chose from), getting off on the "out there" lyrics and the not too shabby songs that gave them room to move.  The aptly named Rambling On seems to be about a guy who sees a Batman movie and decides he can fly, which doesn't make much sense because Batman can't fly.  Or maybe that's the whole point.  

Julie Driscoll + Brian Auger + The Trinity - this wheel's on fire
It's an oft-told tale.  Bob Dylan, having survived a nasty motorcycle accident retires for a while to upstate New York where he ends up hanging out in a basement with his buddies The Band, cranking out all manner loose, sloppy, sometimes brilliant songs that nobody had any clear plan for.  Nevertheless, bootleg LPs started to proliferate, and inevitably cover versions.  Julie Driscoll + Brian Auger + The Trinity were one of the first to release something, and they nailed it.  So good, the TV show Absolutely Famous put it to work again thirty odd years later. 

Bonzo Dog Band - we are normal
The Bonzos showed up in the Beatles TV special Magical Mystery Tour and otherwise served as sort of court jesters for the British pop scene through the psychedelic 60s and beyond.  But sometimes the songs were so damned good you forget they were supposed to be funny.  We Are Normal solved this problem by being mostly just weird.  And it rocked.

Rainbow - a light in the black
I'd be lying if I said it wasn't the cover that hooked me – God's own arm thrusting from the waves of a boiling storm, grabbing a rainbow straight out of the sky. The cool part is, the music's up to it pretty much all the way through, assuming you don't mind a little full throttle metallic wailing.  Richie Blackmore, recently ex of Deep Purple, leads the charge on guitar but Ronny James Dio's howling is never far behind, or Cozy Powell's drumming.

Jimi Hendrix - hey baby (the new rising sun)
The rumour I heard when I was maybe fifteen is that Rainbow Bridge (album and movie) was the reason Jimi Hendrix was killed.  Because it revealed that a benevolent alien intelligence was connecting with us, steering us in the direction of the New Rising Sun.  So Richard Nixon got his orders from the evil aliens that ran things.  Stop this man.  Use your best agents.  Make it look like a typical overdose.  And while you're at it, get Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison as well.  1970 sucked in that regard. 

Linton Kwesi Johnson - bass culture
Skull rattling dub poetry that makes a very significant point.  Reggae music is all about the bass, the way it makes a body and thus a whole culture MOVE.  The drums just keep things rock steady.  The guitars, keyboards, horns etc are just along for the ride.  It's the bass that's going places.  And sometimes the poetry -- like a frightful form, like a righteous harm, giving off wild like madness.

Clash - white man in Hammersmith Palais
Speaking of bass culture, White Man in Hammersmith Palais was The Clash's first reggae song, not to be confused with its best, though many have made that claim.  Of course, they're the ones that never even heard all of Sandinista, having written off the-only-band-that-mattered for high crimes of artistry, experimentation, ambition before they'd even made it to side two.  Punk was cool, punk was necessary, punk probably saved the world, but it also turned reactionary awfully fucking quick.  Which might even be what Joe Strummer's singing about here.

Queen - seven seas of Rhye
In which Queen (their hair still long) unleash an astonishing mix of heavy licks and wild mood swings all in service of some high fantasy concerning a mythical Queendom called Rhye, which, if you were maybe fifteen, confused about pretty much everything, stuck in the mid-70s, was exactly the thing the Universe needed you to hear.  


Melodic Energy Commission - song of the deletron revises the scene [randoEDIT]
Local Terminal City hippie-psychedelicists hook up with an-ex Hawkwind refugee, ignore all the punk rock that's raging around them, and instead go deep and high, and deliver an essential travelogue for those keen on exploring the beyond within via the local mushrooms that are so prevalent every autumn once the big rains start a-falling.  

Donovan - roots of oak
I didn't even hear this record until a good twenty-five years after its release, but man did it work in a solid, mystical sort of way.  Yes, the drugs may have worn off by 1970, and the incense, and all the pretty flowers may have mostly wilted and died, but ever hip Donovan Leitch (who never got the credit or respect he deserved) was still definitely onto something both passing and eternal.  

Renaissance - ashes are burning
There's a lot of so-called progressive rock from the so-called golden era (1970-74) that is quite stunningly awful – pretentious, over wrought, dense to the point of ridiculous, the antithesis of everything the likes of Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones, Jim Morrison died for.  And thus, over the years, it's earned a lot of well deserved HATE.  But not here.  Renaissance's Ashes Are Burning fully earns its eleven minutes plus running time as it explores mystery and beauty, highly, deeply, ultimately epically.  And Annie Haslam has an amazing voice. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Countdown #14 - I lost my head

Broadcast March-17-2012 - podcast available here.  All comments are lifted from Philip Random's notes.  The full countdown list (so far) can be found here.  Links are not necessarily to the exact same recordings we played on-air, but we tried.

Neil Diamond - crunch granola suite
It's the end of grade seven and my friend Andrew's mom hates me, probably because I recently got him drunk.  But I don't hate her.  She's kind of hot in a friend's mom sort of way.  And unlike my mom, she actually cares about music, buys albums.  And her latest purchase is still to this day (maybe) the greatest LIVE album ever captured, then released.  It's Neil Diamond's Hot August Night, about which I can only quote the album sleeve.  "Then softly, the music begins, the lights dim.  The music rises, the stage is a smoky, opalescent jewel in the darkness.  But one light shines brighter than the others, a white pool in the brilliance, and for an instant, sound hangs suspended, only the air breathing.  Then he's there, the crowd exploding, Neil Diamond, casual, as if it's the most natural thing in the world, those 5000 people demanding his soul.  And for the next 107 minutes, he gives it to them."

FM - one o'clock tomorrow
It wasn't the first time I did psychedelics.  It wasn't even the first time I got really HIGH on psychedelics.  But it was the first time I really "got it" – the psychedelic truth about  EVERYTHING.  It was maybe half way through FM's 1980 concert at the Queen Elizabeth Playhouse, the lead electric mandolin player (he also played electric violin, no guitars in this outfit) was extending the solo on One O'Clock Tomorrow to genuinely superlative ends.  But it was when the singer came back in.  That was the moment.  "Centuries have passed in moments, the futures we have seen".  It all clicked, made perfect sense.  Time was an abstract.  Time was an illusion.  It was so simple.  It was so (shit) ... lost my train of thought.    

Utopia - Hiroshima
It's a key question, posed not so long ago by my good friend Motron.  How did you first find out about Hiroshima?  The thing is, I realized I didn't know.  I still don't.  It must've been quite early childhood, some other kid filling me in on just how BIG one bomb could be.  We were probably arguing about Superman vs Batman, who would win?  Superman obviously, unless Batman had an atom bomb … and so on.  What I do remember is maybe ten years later, my late teens, when the real impact of it started to register – what it really meant that an entire city could be destroyed in a vicious wink of an eye.  I remember hearing the chorus of Utopia's Hiroshima – the "Don't You Ever Fucking Forget" part – and getting it full-on.  Because every now and then History throws down an exclamation mark, and Hiroshima was definitely one of them (Nagasaki, too).  You can be ignorant about all kinds of shit, but not this.  This you must have a handle on.  We all must.  Or we're fucking doomed.  Also, the tripped out keyboards and guitars were pretty cool.  

Killing Joke - the war dance
It's a 1980 song but I didn't hear it until '82, with the Falklands war in weird effect far, far away – Britain, an apparently civilized nation, getting enthusiastically VIOLENT over a random chunk of rock in the remote South Pacific.  It was a joke definitely, but it was the kind that killed, a thousand people before it was done.   

NoMeansNo - the tower
It was 1989 and NoMeansNo had finally put it all together with WRONG, their third album – the ferocity, musicality and full-on thunder of their LIVE show captured on vinyl.  The whole album tends to flow together as one prolonged convulsion of WRONGness, but the Tower stands out because, well, it towers.

Tony Banks + Toyah - Lion of Symmetry
It's 1986 and Tony Banks, keyboard guy and principal sonic genius from Genesis, has finally released the soundtrack album we old fans had been dreaming of.  Free of Phil Collins' inane emoting, free of any jabbering of any kind – just the music, thank you.  But it wasn't really that good.  Too '80s.  Synthesizers too synthetic, and full  of those big STUPID '80s drums.  Except there was this one song called Lion of Symmetry that was okay (from a movie, I guess, but I have no idea which one).  And it was definitely a song, with that big fat 80s Genesis sound, except it was a woman singing (named Toyah), not some dork named Phil.  Anyway, I stuck it on a mixed cassette and didn't think much of it until one night, late, alone, high and mighty on some heroic psychedelics, headphones on -- man if it didn't suddenly reach into me.  Because I was that lion, proud and symmetrical (whatever the hell that meant), and here's the most important point:  free and savage forever.  Which doesn't mean I don't pay my taxes.      

Mothers of Invention - directly from my heart to you
Where do I find my essential (deep) soul music?  Generally where I'm not looking for it.  Because I generally don't go looking for it.  Blame it on the suburbs.  Blame it on my parents.  Blame it on Miss Turner (my Grade 6 teacher – she deserves as much blame as she can get).  Yet some great stuff finds me anyway, in this case via a Mothers of Invention album which I only ever noticed because of the name (Weasels Ripped My Flesh) and the cover (a weasel ripping a man's face because he's mistaken it for his razor).  But it's good (and deep), with Sugarcane Harris taking it to the delirious nines on fiddle and vocals.  

Beatles - I dig a pony
It's insane to think that there could even be unheard Beatles songs, and yet they keep popping up on this list, usually featuring John, often on the loose, incomplete, shambolic side.  Like this one.  Which maybe you have heard (it's one of the ones they played on the roof at the end of Let It Be – the movie).  But have you heard it enough?  Do you wonder as I do what the big deal is with the pony, and why exactly John digs it so much?  Is it heroin maybe, a pony being a horse, and horse being hip street slang for the last drug a man ever gets into?

Elvis Costello - waiting for the end of the world
It started when I was maybe seven, flipping through one of those Time-Life picture books about the Solar System.  It told me the world was going to end in about four billion years when the sun ran down, burned itself out.  An inconceivably long time for sure, and yet in a small, inconceivably significant way, everything had suddenly changed for me, such that a few years later, when I started getting clear on things like the arms race, global thermo-nuclear war, the Apocalypse, it wasn't such a big deal.  I was already waiting for it.  Elvis Costello, too, apparently.

Gentle Giant - I lost my head
Gentle Giant were weird even compared to all the other post-hippie weirdos that were inhabiting the pre-punk mid-1970s.  In this case, they're heard applying their baroque stylings to the problem of losing one's head.  Recorders are tooted, harpsichords plunked, harmonies tutted, but then the drums kick in and we're reminded of the ROCK part of (so-called) progressive rock.  

David Bowie - Andy Warhol
I'm pretty sure I'd heard of Andy Warhol before I heard this, but it took Mr. Bowie's prodding to get my young brain taking the guy seriously.  Even if it is kind of a dumb song, in retrospect.  Trying a bit too hard as Tim, my musician buddy pointed out a few years back.  "But man, that guitar riff's a killer," he hastened to add.

UB40 - present arms (dub)
The Clash's Sandinista was already messing with me, the same basic songs showing up more than once on the same album – the official version and then the VERSION version, (the dub).  Some were crying "rip off", of course.  But not me.  Because the versions were often better than the originals, almost always worth the trouble, particularly if you were high, and I was always high in the early 80s.  And then came this album by a band called UB40 that was nothing but versions.  Hell, I still don't think I've ever listened to the original all the way through.  Because like Sun Ra said (and Hawkwind too), "space is the place".


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Countdown #13 - kill for peace

Broadcast March-10-2012 - podcast available here.  All comments are lifted from Philip Random's notes.  The full countdown list (so far) can be found here.  Links are not necessarily to the exact same recordings we played on-air, but we tried.

Led Zeppelin - custard pie
Important-Thing-I-didn't-realize-about-my-life-until-I-started-compiling-this-list #7.  1988 was a pivotal year for me.  At the time, it was just something to be endured – one of those years where it seemed the sleet never stopped falling even in the middle of summer.  The Winter of Hate we ended up calling it.  Aliens with a taste for human flesh had taken over all the world's governments and the only thing worth laughing about was that nothing was funny anymore.  Musically, this manifested in a lot of pure and superlative NOISE as even punk wasn't hard enough anymore.  Or maybe I was just jonesing for some honest, raw, nasty blues – the kind of stuff Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti had in ample supply.  It may have been thirteen years old at the time, but man did it suddenly sound exactly right!

Mott the Hoople - all the way to Memphis
A life-on-the-road's-a-drag raveup that makes it sound so damned fun you want to quit everything and join the first half-assed rock and roll band that crosses your path, and never return, just go-go-go – all the way to Memphis.  

Fugs - kill for peace
It would've been maybe 1998 and I was wrong.  I was arguing hard for the Mothers of Invention being the first genuinely underground American band.  But no, it turns out the Fugs beat them to it.  They weren't as good as the Mothers, but that's a different argument.  Kill For Peace certainly set things straight about Vietnam:  if you don't like foreigners and their strange habits and customs, then invade their country and kill them, for peace, because if we don't, the Chinese will.  It stands to reason.

April Wine - we can be more than we are
A nifty little jam from one of those quintessential Canadian middle ground rockers who got so much radio airplay through my uptight teenage 70s.  But they never played We Can Be More Than We Are.  No, you had to actually put the album on, side one, toward the end.  Cool groove, hot licks and then a phone call – some stoned guy on the line looking for an easy break in the biz, but all he gets is advice, the kind every young man needs:  "You can be more than you are."

Strawbs - the life auction
They started as a folk band in the 60s but somewhere along the line, things got all progressive, and nowhere so seriously, intensely, psychedelically as 1975's The Life Auction.  It's a grey afternoon, the middle of England somewhere (or maybe just some vague Canadian suburb) and the acid you dropped a couple of hours back is finally kicking in, and hard – the grim truth about everything revealed in the polluted haze of another diluted acid day.  

Gun Club - she's like heroin to me
Punk killed the blues, and a good thing too.  I remember someone shouting that in my ear in the late 70s sometime – a house party, everybody tearing shit apart (in a good way).  Knowing me, I probably agreed. Except good things never die, do they?  They just mutate, reinvent, re-engage.  So yeah, call the Gun Club the badasses who did the dirty work for the blues with 1981's Fire Of Love – fused the full-on rush of punk with the grunge of the bayou, the crossroads, the suburbs where the real shit never dies.  Then they put it all at the service of some poetry about a girl so heavy, she's like heroin – never misses the vein. 

Trio - ja ja ja
Not to be confused with da da da which you've definitely heard, maybe on the radio way back when in 1981 when it was a surprise international hit, maybe on some Volkswagen commercial in the meantime.  But the rest of that 1981 album was fun, too.  Simple straight up little riffs on just how simple shit could be and yet not be shit.  Ja Ja Ja was the punk number.

Tackhead - mind at the end of the tether
Before we ever heard Public Enemy, Tackhead was already delivering it.  The NOISE that is.  This is not the best version of Mind at the end of the Tether (that was on 12" as I recall, and rare as a thoughtful Republican), but it's good enough, it still brings its noise.  

Mind at the end of the Tether [randoEDIT]  

Mike Oldfield - five miles out
On one level, it's about flying your airplane in bad weather, trying to get to the other side of a monster storm, five long miles to go.  On another, it's about being lost in the maelstrom chaos of your fucked up life, with only one way out.  You've got to commit, be a man, fix a course and hold true, either get to the other side of the mess you're in or disintegrate trying.  At least that's how Charles put it to me, late 80s sometime, having emerged from a very low point in his young adult life.  But he's doing okay now.

Rolling Stones - love in vain
Skinny English suburban white boys all messed up on heroin, cocaine, super stardom, take an easy swing at one of Robert Johnson's original blues classics and knock it out of the solar system.  It's possible that Satan was involved.  

Stevie Wonder - big brother
1972 was rich with this kind of stuff – easy, soulful riffs on just how corrupt and fucked up everything was, particularly if you were stuck in the ghetto, and the whole world was a ghetto in 1972, even that quaint, dull as death suburb you called home.  And yet there was hope, there had to be, because the music was just so beautiful.

Vic Coppersmith-Heaven - pengosekan           
Mr. Coppersmith-Heaven (now there's a name) was a sound guy, producer, engineer, big in the early days of punk.  But somewhere along the line, he got his own thing going, tripping out some very earthbound grooves and sounds, including a certain monkey chant, indigenous to the Indonesian backwoods.  Needless to say, this track quickly became part of the essential acid mixtape, stick it in a ghetto blaster and drag it out into wilderness for a trip to both beyond and before time.

Spacemen 3 - walkin' with Jesus
An honest song about heroin, sticking a needle in your arm, finding heaven on earth, basking in the warm glow of eternity like Jesus' own son.  But don't be fooled, kids.  Heroin's a liar.  Ain't no heaven on earth.  

Leonard Cohen - please don't pass me by
Sometimes the grim signs are all there, lining up in front of us like letters in a word:  where we are is suddenly a far worse place than we imagined, worse than we ever could have imagined.  It's hell, and it's as simple as a man with his hand out on a dark winter street, cold, barely hanging on, and all he asks is that you not ignore his pain, that you not pass him by this one time.   

Monday, March 5, 2012

Countdown #12 - dead finks don't pop

(Broadcast March-3-2012 - podcast available here).   All comments are from Philip Random's notes.  The full countdown list (so far) can be found here.  Links are not necessarily to the exact same recordings that got played on-air, but we tried.  We also tried to link to things that don't have commercials attached to them, but that changes sometimes with YouTube. 
XTC - this is pop?
Note the question mark.  It was inconceivable at the time that something so dissonant could be considered pop.  But if it wasn't pop, what was it?  It wasn't PUNK.  Maybe it was this new thing that people were trying to call New Wave, but what the hell did that mean?  New Wave wasn't a sound.  It was a way of marketing stuff that may have had PUNK in its blood, but was a little more ambitious than just three chords and a pile of rage.  It was pop!

Sonic Youth - Hey Joni
Hey Joni's about Joni Mitchell apparently.  But I always imagined something more cosmic than that, expansive.  Like the rest of Daydream Nation, it was really about everything.  It may have been 1988, the Winter of Hate, raining all the time, the nights long and desperate. But here was the future kicking through, full of cool white light, and like the guitar tunings Sonic Youth used, infinitely complex, and ultimately quite hopeful.

Undertones - you've got my number
A great single by one of the great singles bands ever.  But I'll be honest.  I never really liked them much at the time.  Blame Eric.  One of those obsessive assholes who can't let a good thing speak for itself – he has to evangelize it, until you come to HATE it, even if you don't, anything to get under the guy's skin.

Cure - caterpillar
Early 90s.  I remember these two drunk guys arguing about Goth and its relative merits.  One of them hated it outright.  All of it.  Oh yeah, said the other, what about the Cure?  You like them.  The Cure are a pop band, said the first, and a fucking good one.  Which is certainly true of Caterpillar, from the mid-80s sometime, a nifty and successful piece of pop experimentation indeed.  Nothing does what you expect it to, but it always works, keeps the foot tapping, the head nodding, the earworm slithering. 

Aphrodite's Child - you always stand in my way
Aphrodite's Child are a weird one, coming out of Greece in the late 60s, a sort of pop-psychedelic outfit that managed to be both sonically extreme and sentimentally cloying, sometimes in the same song.  But You Always Stand In My Way goes mostly for the extreme edge, singer Demis Rousos giving his WAILING all while keyboardist Vangelis tears things up on lead melotron.  I actually found this one in a yard sale sometime in the early 90s, paid a buck for it.  I remember the guy who sold it to me sort of scratching his head and mumbling, "Oh yeah.  This record." 
Waterboys - a girl called Johnny
From before they'd really committed to the BIG MUSIC, a catchy pop gem about a girl with a boy's name.  Why didn't we get to hear this on commercial radio again?  Oh yeah.  Satan had everything tied down in 1983.

Cosmic Jokers - kinder des alls galactic [randoEDIT]
It's Germany 1973.  A guy named Dieter Dierks is throwing acid parties in his studio, all musicians welcome.  Just show up, gobble some acid, lay down tracks. And he gets some top players throwing in, Members of Ash Ra Tempel, Wallenstein.  Later, Dierks would do more drugs, muck around with the tapes, get his girlfriend to throw some vocals down, and call the whole thing Cosmic Jokers.  Then he'd release it without telling anybody, or cutting them in on any royalties. Which got lawyers involved, and Cosmic Jokers relegated to the extremely rare category.   But good.

Beatles - hey bulldog
Even at their least essential, the Beatles couldn't help being a great fucking rock and roll band, particularly if John Lennon was unleashed, and allowed to snarl.

Doors - L'America
Jimbo the Lizard King was already dead when this one came out (or successful in his disappearance).  Either way, LA Woman is exactly the kind of album every dead (or disappeared) poet, sexgod, asshole rockstar should leave in his wake.  Full of grit, mystery, and kickass songs like L'America.

Link Wray - Batman theme
As far as I'm concerned, there's still only one Batman worth talking about, and that's the 1960s TV Batman, the Adam West Batman, the laugh-along silly Batman, the mod-pop technicolour Batman.  Everybody was doing versions of the main theme at the time.  Link Wray's wins because it's just so dirty (the guitar that is), and straight up FUN.  

Cocteau Twins - Ivo
I didn't pay that much attention to the Cocteau Twins back in the 80s when they were first doing their thing.  Not that I didn't at least like pretty much everything I heard, it just never found me that often.  But Treasure was an exception.  An album full of it.  Treasure, that is – dense, ethereal, yet surprisingly tough.  

Love + Rockets - all in my mind [electric]
Love and Rockets never got the respect they deserved in the mid-80s.  Fans of Bauhaus (the band they'd split from) were huddled together in dark rooms awaiting the resurrection of their main man, Peter Murphy (which never really came).  Edgy psyche-types were busy getting their ears abused by the likes of The Jesus + Mary Chain.  Meanwhile David Jay, Kevin Haskins and Daniel Ash were slipping on the shades and cranking out some of the smoothest, most artful, BEST psychedelic sounds since the 60s – always delivered with a cool hint of 80s snarl.

Guess Who - key [randoEDIT]
Not the key.  Simply (significantly) Key.  In which Canada's biggest band ever, at the verge of conquering the world (they'd outsell the Beatles in 1970), smell the wheat and get cosmic, reference the Bible and otherwise lay down the elusive psychedelic TRUTH for all god's children.  With prolonged drum solo toward the end which the Randophonic edit-team has seen fit to remedy somewhat.