Monday, July 30, 2012

Countdown #29 - the thrill of it all

Broadcast July-28-2012 - podcast available here.  All comments are from Philip Random's notes (with some editorial diligence).  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.

Devo - Wiggly World
Cool and wigged out masterpiece from from Devo's second album, Duty Now For The Future, which the experts tell me is their best. And certainly nobler words have never been spoken. Than "duty now for the future", that is. Because the past is done, the present merely "is", and a sadly devolved "is" at that – but the future, that's where the wiggle is. Not black and white, not straight up and down – it's stranger than that, impossible to hold down. 

Dead Kennedys - too drunk to fuck
Nasty bit of genius from 1981, Ronald Reagan's America at full boil, assholism not just on the rise -- boiling over. Fortunately, we had the DKs to help us focus our rage, antipathy, spite. Not at anyBODY in particular – just the general, clean-cut preppy crowd. The so-called "good kids", all dressing the same, looking the same, drinking the same shitty beer, getting too drunk to fuck, puking their repressed, conservative, neo-fascist guts. 

Rolling Stones - starfucker
Often known as Star-Star in realms where you're not allowed to speak the truth. I remember hearing this at a friend's place when I was maybe fourteen. He'd bought Goats Head Soup (now there's a title for a pop album) because he liked Angie, the big deal single. But Starfucker quickly became the essential track, cranked as loud as possible, even when his uptight, churchgoing parents were around. Which still sort of puzzles me. Did they just not hear it? Or maybe that's just what all rock and roll sounded like to them in 1973, just one long invocation to fuck like ragged. For some decent folks, the world has always been ending. 

Beatles - and your bird can sing
Beatles at their absolute pop peak, cranking out perfection at a faster rate than the culture could even begin to handle. And Your Bird Can Sing didn't even make it onto the North American version of Revolver. got stuck on Yesterday and Today instead, the one with butchered meat and torn apart baby dolls on the cover. It quickly got pulled, of course, the forces of decency in full combat mode. Oh those loveable moptops.

Dukes of Stratosphear - my love explodes
In which parody transcends itself, becomes sublime, the Dukes being XTC in disguise, 1985 being about as far from the spirit of everything that was cool, essential, classic about the psychedelic 60s as the culture ever got. By which I mean, you really couldn't do something like this with a straight face – it had to be taking the piss. Which was wrong. And all of us were to blame. Yeah, the 60s bath needed emptying at some point in the late 70s, early 80s,, but we went and dumped the baby as well. Fortunately it survived the sewers. Tough baby. 

Jean-Michel Jarre - ethnicolor
Early mid-80s techno-smorgasbord of now possibilities. And it was epic. I had no time for Monsieur Jarre at the time, his previous stuff being way to Euro-Easy-Listening (cosmic lite). But with hip names like Laurie Anderson and Adrian Belew on board, this one was hard to ignore, and a darned good thing, because it really goes places. Samples before we called them that, great crescendos and unearthly howls. The future definitely sounded cool. 

Supertramp - the meaning
The classic God-I-hate-that-band-Oh-wait-a-minute-that's-a-great-song syndrome. So let me correct myself. I hate what Supertramp became, the huge record sales for the wrong records (which I won't mention here). I loved what they were in the middle, the mid-70s, still not that well known, delivering smart, innovative, ambitious pop … and beyond. Crisis, What Crisis? stands out now because it seems to be their most forgotten album, thus the least likely to induce allergies. The Meaning gets the nod, because it's damned important. Assuming there is one. A meaning, that is.

Bauhaus - all we ever wanted was everything
A generational anthem if there ever was one. Not that I ever really paid attention past the title. It's 1982 and everything's pretty much gone to shit. Slimy and/or demented conservative types in power pretty much everywhere, the rich getting richer, the poor getting eaten. What is it that you unsatisfied young people want? Oh, not much. Just EVERYTHING. 

National Health - squarer for Maud
I mostly hated so-called jazz-rock fusion at the time – so many of my fave progressive heroes indulging themselves, getting caught up in technique, forgetting to actually make interesting, astonishing music. But not National Health. They kept it smart, innovative, fun. And with Squarer For Maud, even a bit epic. And then there's that rap about Numinosity (a word I'd never heard before). Of or relating to a numen; supernatural. Filled with or characterized by a sense of a supernatural presence. Hell yeah. That's exactly what music is, the good stuff anyway.

Viv Akauldren - censored
They were from Detroit, I think. I seem to remember smoking a joint with the guitar player, then wandering the sidewalks of downtown Vancouver, mid-80s sometime. He was overwhelmed by how peaceful it all was – how safe. They were gigging in town that night. The booking agent was a friend. So I guess I was being hospitable. Anyway, it all speaks to how lost so much of that era is. So many indie outfits coming and going, cranking out powerful stuff, leaving little or no trace. Of course, I did manage to hang onto a copy of one of Viv Akauldren's albums – Old Bags + Party Rags – nice and dark, paranoid, political, psychedelic. Except I don't remember them actually sounding like that live. They were more forgettable, for lack of a better world.

Sly + the Family Stone - Africa talks to you [the asphalt jungle]
No doubt about it, Sly Stone's There's A Riot Goin' On is one of the best albums period. A seamless flow of barely post-1960s truth-telling, most of it kind of grim. And Africa Talks To You is the strange dark heart of it – not a song so much as an excursion, a side trip to a multi-dimensional galaxy, dub before we had a name for it, but more than that anyway. And yes, that is a drum machine keeping things in line, a good decade before it was the hip thing to do.

Neil Young - tonight's the night
It says 1975 on the cover, and most of the album was actually recorded a couple of years earlier. But I didn't find Tonight's the Night until at least the mid-80s. And grimly perfect timing at that, given all the darkness, shadows and murk. The title track's about heroin and the damage done, souls swallowed, faces turned blue. There was way too much of the shit going down in the Terminal City in the 80s. Still is probably.

Chicago - I'm a man + liberation part 2
Maybe you had to be there. Chicago 1969. Only a year earlier, the hippie revolution had crashed and burned in those very streets during the riots at the Democratic National Convention (at least, that's what the historians say). But the energy was still percolating in 1969, such that a big fat band could erupt from it all, even earn the name CHICAGO. True, they'd be awful before long, lost down that deep sewer where all the schmaltz goes. But not in 1969. In 1969, they still had the noise. 

Roxy Music - the thrill of it all
I try not to regret things. Life's way too long, offers up too many options. But I do deeply wish I'd somehow managed to be cool enough as a teen to actually see Roxy in around 1974, when they really were about the coolest band in the world. And not just in terms of look. They also had the chops, the songs, the SOUND. But then I guess, I wouldn't have had the latter day pleasure of rediscovering it all a decade and a half later. By which point, I was fully adult, owner of a broken heart or five, able to fully grasp what was going on, thrill and all. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Countdown #28 - I walk a thin line

Broadcast July-14-2012 - podcast available here.  All comments are from Philip Random's notes (with some editorial diligence).  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.
Rolling Stones - fingerprint file
For a solid ten or twelve years, no matter how messed up things got in their camp, no matter who was dying, getting arrested, nodding off, almost choking on their own puke, there was always at least one album, every year, and it was at least good.  But it should have all ended in 1974 with It's Only Rock And Roll.  Not that they didn't still have a few choice moments left in them, but what a send-off, what a swan song, with Fingerprint File notable for how it caught the temper of the times, not just in terms of subject matter (surveillance, paranoia, all secrecy, no privacy) but also feel.  Like a long tense night, maybe a little pleasure, but no sleep, no end in sight.     

Talking Heads - with our love
My introduction to Talking Heads went something like this.  Maybe 1978, artist guy I sort of know walks up to me at a party (obviously high on quality drugs) and says, "Where does everybody live?  In some kind of building.  What does everybody eat?  Food.  More Songs About Buildings and Food is about everybody."   And you could dance to it.

Pavement - silent kit
I actually saw Pavement at their mid-90s peak, but I guess I wasn't paying attention (stumbling through personal shit) because they made no particular impression.  But jump ahead maybe five years (time well out of joint by now) and I finally did catch their genius via a copy of Crooked Rain Crooked Rain somebody left lying around – everything crystallizing in the lead-off track Silent Kit (Kid?), a minute of sloppy, stoned mucking around before the song finally finds itself (and in fact, the melody's a direct rip-off of an old Buddy Holly tune).  But man, it all clicked anyway.  Crooked and enchanted.

Sons of Freedom - dead dog on the highway
My friend Charles had ambitions of being a big deal rock video maker back in the 80s, but the closest he ever got to anything of substance was knowing somebody who knew somebody that maybe had some pull with Sons of Freedom. I remember him getting all excited, telling me his killer concept for Dead Dog On The Highway.  To be shot out in the desert somewhere – the band playing at the side of the highway with every shot taken from passing vehicles, moving fast, so all you ever caught were quick glimpses, lots of dust.  Meanwhile, a bunch of corporate types were crucifying Jesus in the distance.  It never got made.

Funkadelic - groovallegiance
There's not enough Funkadelic on this list.  I'm sorry.  It's not my fault.  Seriously, try to find any Funkadelic used on vinyl in metro Vancouver that isn't either hacked to shit or filed as COLLECTIBLE (ie: out of my price range).  It doesn't exist.  But I did finally steal a copy of One Nation Under A Groove from someone whose name I can't divulge (for obvious reasons), but trust me, he's an asshole.  Jesus himself guided my hand here (red wine was involved).   By which I mean, if I do end up going to hell, it won't be for this.  

Al Stewart - Roads to Moscow
Minor British folkie on his way to becoming a bland soft rock contender writes a song about a young Russian soldier in World War 2 and his ultimate betrayal at the hands of the Great Stalin, and it's so beautiful, so epic, so sad it pretty much stops time.  They should teach Roads To Moscow in high school.  I'm sure I learned more from its eight minutes than I did in all Grade 10 History.

Doors - soul kitchen
Yeah, Jim Morrison was a cosmic asshole who died for his own sins, nobody else's.  But damn, the Doors were a strong band, and they were nothing without him.  And that first album in particular – well, somebody had to do it, in 1967,  Summer of Love, at least hint that there was a darker side to things.  Soul Kitchen makes the list because it's remained well hidden over the years, hanging out in the back, cool and raw.  

King Crimson - industry
As the story goes, Robert Fripp shut King Crimson down in the mid-70s, claiming an overall disgust with the music industry.  Then he suddenly kicked things back into a gear in 1980-81 with a fresh new line-up (though he retained Bill Bruford on drums), a new look and sound, a new DISCIPLINE.  Which was maybe starting to wear a bit by 1984's Three of a Perfect Pair.  But not Industry.  That's what the world actually sounded like in 1984.  Everything grinding, droning, erupting with savage, maybe malevolent urgency, then settling again.  Droning, hissing, giving off toxic vapours.  Lurking, ready to erupt again at any second.

David Bowie - Aladdin Sane
As I've heard it argued, Aladdin Sane (the album) is song-for-song the best thing Ziggy-era Bowie ever did.  Yet as a whole, it somehow doesn't add up the way the previous two albums did, and thus didn't get heard as much.  Which is great for our purposes as it gives us a bunch of cool underheard gems, like the genuinely insane title track.  Of course, it was stratospheres over my barely teenage head at the time, but I listened anyway.  It was David fucking Bowie.  

Sonic Youth - expressway to yr skull
EVOL is LOVE spelled backward, which is pretty much what was going on in 1991, Pacific Coliseum, as Sonic Youth warmed up Neil Young + Crazy Horse, choosing not to pander even slightly to all the aging hippies in the house, but rather deliver a profound and beautiful and heartfelt tidal wave of noise and provocation.  The climax would've been maybe two-thirds of the way through the set when they'd just played Kool Thing (the closest thing they had to a hit at the time) and the crowd was maybe starting to warm to them slightly.  Expressway to Yr Skull killed all that.  Beautifully. 

Fleetwood Mac - I walk a thin line
Tusk was the big deal double album that came after the mega-platinum hugeness of Rumors and thus it was bound to fail.  Which is cool.  We love it when the Music Biz fails, throws huge piles of cash and cocaine at something that ends up being art, particularly when it includes little treasures like I Walk A Thin Line – Lindsey Buckingham not just close to the edge, right on it, and walking it just fine.   

Grateful Dead - box of rain
It's 1970 and the drugs aren't so much wearing off in Grateful Dead land as imposing a desire for something a little more grounded, relevant to the reality of things like gravity, the ground itself, the stuff we stand on (unless there's concrete in the way).  Anyway, Box Of Rain's just a beautiful song.  Even my mom likes it.  I don't know what it's about and I don't really care.  The sun is shining and the dark star has crashed.  What more do we need?

Isaac Hayes - by the time I get to Phoenix
This is the middle distance selection on this list.  555 down, 555 to go.  So I figure it has to be something that arguably (and I love to argue) could also be Number One on a different day, different weather, different levels of love and chaos reigning over man and his world.  So yeah, there's depth here, and distance.  And SOUL. By which I mean, soul is infinite, soul is eternal, once soul gets a hold of you, all the normal rules don't apply anymore.  Space and time become meaningless.  A three minute easy listening pop song can become a twenty minute journey into the truth of man, god, love, everything.   Of this, I have no doubt.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Countdown #27 - feed the enemy

Broadcast July-7-2012 - podcast available here.  All comments are from Philip Random's notes (with some editorial diligence).  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.
Magazine - feed the enemy
This one goes out to a guy whose name I don't remember.  He used to work at Quintessence Records before it turned into Zulu (late 70s, maybe 1980) and he made it his business to convince me that prog-rock was dead, that punk had killed it, that whatever cool, innovative music the future might hold – it would come from punk and the ashes it had made of all that had come before.  So he more or less forced Second Hand Daylight on me and, of course, I didn't get it. Starting with the lead off track Feed The Enemy – all threat and paranoia, a plane crash, unconvincing border guards, hunger.  Where were the angels, the wise old men, the mystical topographic sages of prog?  Killed in the plane crash apparently.

Can - mushroom
Tago Mago is the greatest album in the history of humankind. At least it was, for a good chunk of 1986-87. Shit so far ahead of its time even then (a decade and a half after its release) that normal folks are still trying to figure it out.  Hint: it's magick, the Axis powers of WW2 reunited (four Germans cranking out avant-grooves, Japanese singer cruising cosmically in and out of it all as only 1971 could allow).  But this time they were all taking the right drugs, unconcerned with world domination. 

The Jesus + Mary Chain - you trip me up
It's the mid-80s and something's gotta give, somebody's gotta take noise to its extreme edge, give you a smug, punk sneer, and call it music. Crazy thing is, it's not a lie. There really is a nice little love song buried deep in the abrasive acid heart of You Trip Me Up. Late night radio, 1985, we used to play it at the same time as Pink Floyd's Interstellar Overdrive -- like mixing nuclear mushroom clouds, in a good way.

Forgotten Rebels - surfin' on heroin
Yes, on one level, it's about getting fucked up on the heaviest drug there is, not falling flat on your face (or maybe just turning blue, dying). But, as was put to me once (by the lovely Lucille, I'm pretty sure) while I was gliding through about hour 38 of non-stop awakeness fuelled by all manner of drugs (none of them heroin or opiate related), saying you were surfin' on heroin was just an overall acknowledgement of how far gone you were, but still somehow able to function. Maybe two hours after that, past hour 40 by now, I thought it was a good idea to drive home -- 45 minutes through heavy weekend traffic. At some point there was a massive accident on the freeway (going the other way).  But I just surfed on past. Later, when I finally got home, PBS had Woodstock on, the whole movie.  Who says drugs destroy your memory?

Hunters + Collectors - run run run
The memory is vague indeed, and strange.  It's 1984 maybe and we've trekked out to suburban Richmond to catch this band from Australia in one of the local rawk clubs. And yeah, minds were blown, souls were lifted, believed in. Particularly as Run Run Run roared through its epic second half. "For the ages," muttered somebody afterward. 

Rod Stewart - it's all over now
Bobby Womack wrote the song. The Rolling Stones had a big early hit with it, but Rod the Mod owns it here to absurdly relentless effect, making it the greatest, truest break-up record ever, best grasped via too much alcohol, self-pity etc.  Because it's true, endlessly true. I used to love her, but it's all over now.  Just keep repeating it.  

Daevid Allen - [then] smile [randoEDIT]
It's 1980 and the 60s are definitely over, even for the hippest of hippies.  And Daevid Allen was definitely one of those:  founding member of Gong, and before that Soft Machine, and before that, beat collaborator with the likes of William Burroughs. And oh yeah, he was in Paris in May 1968, threw his hand in with that insurrection that almost brought the whole of Western Europe to the ground.  But by 1980 it wasn't about big movements anymore, it was just you and me, eye to eye, and, "When we have killed each other, then we can the subject.  But first, let's talk about your life policy." 

[then] smile
Sparks - the number 1 song in heaven
Some people just can't get enough Sparks, hence the umpteen albums going back to the early 70s. But I've always been happy enough with the occasional gem of pure weird pop beauty, wonder, invention. Like The Number 1 Song In Heaven, their big deal disco hit from 1979, which is weird given the sudden switches in time signature and all. Apparently, they didn't clear the dance floor.  At least that's what I was told.  Because I didn't go to discos at the time.  I despised the whole culture categorically. With occasional exceptions, because there are always exceptions.

Velvet Underground - Venus in furs
It still shocks me that this happened in 1967.  Music so driven, angular, intense while the rest of the planet was going so gloriously, colourfully, OFF. Jump forward maybe twenty-five years and I'm playing it as pre-gig background music, a couple of local bands playing.  A nervous sort of guy pulls me aside and tells me I'm doing a very bad thing. I can't play this song, not to this crowd, with so many junkies in the room.  Must've been the early 90s – Vancouver, of course.  Always junkies in the room.

Spacemen 3 - when tomorrow hits
I still haven't really figured out the Spacemen 3 (or any of their latter day off-shoots). Such a solid grasp of all things musically psychedelic, yet all the clues point to their drug of choice being heroin. Not that I'm complaining. I appreciate the confusion, particularly when it erupts like the end of When Tomorrow Hits.  Stuff like that doesn't require explanation.  Just surrender to it, get lost, never to be found.

Mothers of Invention - who are the brain police?
It's 1966 and it seems only Frank Zappa realizes how freaky and weird things are about to get, and he never even did drugs (beyond cigarettes and coffee). Nevertheless he could see them -- the Brain Police. Or more to the point, he felt them, because you can't see the brain police, can you? They're within you, hiding behind your devices of oracular perception.  Taking notes.  It's true.

Laurie Anderson - let x = x [it tango]
Because sometimes you've just gotta go with your intuition. If you see a guy and he looks like hat check clerk, he is a hat check clerk, and everything that suggests. To which I must add, I have no idea what that is. And I doubt Laurie Anderson did either, early 1980s, just rolling with the Zeitgeist, setting up her tape loops, playing her strange fiddle, telling stranger stories, aeons ahead of her time (and ours).

Marianne Faithfull - the ballad of Lucy Jordan
There's an 80s movie called Montenegro that I tend to assume everyone's seen but no one actually has. It's the one where Susan Anspach (wealthy housewife, bored to the point of insanity) just bails one day, splits suburbia and her husband and kids, and somehow ends up hanging with some savage eastern European types still playing out blood feuds older than recorded history.  It's a strange movie, disorienting, intense, and (spoiler alert) the fruit was poisoned.  The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan features prominently. 

The The - red cinders/song without an ending
If this was a list of albums, The The's Burning Blue Soul would be very high up. Because it really is all of a piece, a continuous beautiful flow, in spite of the poisonous fumes, the raw chunks of jagged steel just left lying around -- an essential piece of that ongoing soundtrack for the movie called Winter of Hate that no one's gotten around to making yet. But they will. Someday.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Countdown #26 - revolution blues

Broadcast June-30-2012 - podcast available here.  All comments are from Philip Random's notes (with some editorial diligence).  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.

Clash - Rudy can't fail
It took me a while to discover Rudy Can't Fail – probably because I wasn't playing Side One of London Calling that much, because I'd already heard the lead off title track a pile by the time I actually bought the album. And it's not like there was anything lacking on the other four sides. Anyway, there was this summer day, 1984 I think, a mostly empty beach on one of the local islands, me and a few friends and a ghetto blaster. All of us rich kids (sort of), none of us remotely rich -- all us at that point in our lives where we were having to start think seriously about the future. Go to law school? Go to business school? Get into real estate? Get a job at a bank? Sell drugs? Eat human flesh? We were smoking a little dope, drinking a few beers, and suddenly Rudy came on care of the current mixtape, and it was exactly what the universe needed. Something to do with freedom and art having a way better groove than fucking economics. It's been on the personal playlist ever since.

Television - friction
The title track from Marquee Moon is such a monster that it's easy to forget the rest of the album, none of which is remotely average. Friction makes the list for the title alone, being such an apt description of the Television sound -- that shrill gleaming thing that happens when you rub two things together that maybe you shouldn't, and then you rub them a little harder and it gets even better, tearing a hole in the reality barrier that can never be fully mended, and a good thing too.

T-Rex - Telegram Sam
I probably heard this first back in the day, but it was Bauhaus's cover that really made me pay attention. Then I stumbled onto the original again in the early 90s sometime, and it got me in all the right ways – 70s pop joy trumping 80s sturm and drang pretty much every time.

Neil Young - revolution blues
It had to be the mid-80s sometime because the memory is so vague, and that was a vague time for me. I read a book called The Family, about Charles Manson and his crowd – a dark volume indeed. With all kinds of twisted nuggets such as Mr. Manson's plan to arm everybody to the teeth, hop into dune buggies, then come swarming down out of the mountains into Laurel Canyon and exterminate everyone they saw, particularly all the hippie rock star types who hadn't let him join their club. Manson never got around to it, of course, but that didn't stop Neil Young song writing a song about it. 

Bob Dylan - just like Tom Thumb's blues
This one's eternal for the first two lines alone. When you’re lost in the rain in Juarez and it’s Easter time too - And your gravity fails and negativity don’t pull you through.  I mean, you can go anywhere from there. Or nowhere at all. Which is the whole point, of course. Maybe. What I mean is, I first heard this when I was maybe thirteen, almost three decades ago now, and I'm sure I've heard it hundreds of times since, but I still couldn't tell you what any of it's about. Not a single line. And I don't care. It takes me somewhere anyway, maybe nowhere at all. And if you don't get the appeal in all that, then there's someone you need to meet.  His name is Mr. Jones.

Harry Nilsson - pretty soon there'll be nothing left for everybody
It's 1975 and we're all gonna die, and it's going to happen real soon. Which was wrong, of course. At least it was in 1975. Now, (November 2000 as I write this), maybe it's not so wrong, but it still makes me smile. A song from that latter part of Harry Nilsson's career when folks had pretty much written him off, all that boozing and drugging and hanging with John Lennon, blowing his voice to smithereens, but it works here.

Joni Mitchell - blue
First time I ever heard this song, it was sung acapella by Janine, a former housemate.  We were talking about something in the kitchen (probably how much she hated being a secretary) and suddenly she just started singing. I knew she had a voice, but this was perfect. Shockingly so. "What was that?" I had to ask when she was done. "Blue. It's a Joni Mitchell song." "But I don't like Joni Mitchell," I said. "You do now," she said.  Last I heard, she's still a secretary, works for one of the biggest legal firms in town. 

Peter Hammill - losing faith in words
Peter Hammill (aka the Jesus of Angst) is probably not a good choice for listening to while high on LSD. But we did it anyway. I remember this song popping up once at exactly the right moment, because words were failing and I was trying to force the issue, which was only making things worse, the reality barrier being revealed to be onion-like – peeling away in layers. Stop it, counseled the song.  You can't win at this. Then I put on different record. Brian Eno as I recall. Another Green World … but that's another strange story.

Gang of Four - damaged goods
I guess I just wasn't cool enough in 1979, because here's another one I missed completely, only to stumble onto it maybe fifteen years later. But it all still held up, the funk being explored in service of the punk, no prisoners being taken, much DAMAGE being incurred. 

Captain Beefheart - I love you, you big dummy
A love song, nasty and dumb, c/o the Captain who it's clear had no tolerance for fools, or straights, or normals, or anybody anywhere that couldn't grasp THE STRANGE. But he clearly had a heart. A friend of mine used to say, if he ever got married, he'd insist that I Love You, You Big Dummy be the first dance. He did get married but no, it didn't get played. They went with something from Fleetwood Mac instead and were filing for divorce within the year. 

Bob Marley - concrete jungle
The release date says 1973 but I didn't have the right ears for Mr. Marley (and reggae in general) until at least 1980. And Concrete Jungle was pivotal in that evolution, and marijuana. By which I mean, Old Ted (one of my more dependable dealers at the time) insisted that I get high on some particularly effective herb, and listen to Catch A Fire with him. "Because marijuana will never be free until Jamaica is free." Which sounds a bit vague now but trust me, it made profound sense then. And it all started with Concrete Jungle, first track on the album, one of the best bands ever in all creation, slowly slipping things into gear for a revelatory journey through the shadows of Babylon and beyond. 

Clash - Sean Flynn
Make no mistake. The Clash were the only WHITE reggae band that ever mattered. Because they got the full depth of it, not just the easy sunshine grooves. Like Sean Flynn (about Errol Flynn's son, a photojournalist who was killed in the Cambodian spillover of the Vietnam war) – hallucinatory distortions of helicopter blades, intense heat, drugs. And you're floating above it all, finding just enough altitude to see some beauty without denying the tragedy. 

Vangelis - we were all uprooted
First there was Aphrodite's Child and its mad collision of extreme psychedelia and extreme pop. Eventually, there was Academy Award winning soundtrack stuff so definitive it's since become kind of a cliché. In the middle somewhere is Earth, Vangelis's first solo album, where the two extremes fuse and find all kinds of room to move, as We Were All Uprooted attests, both ethereal and grounded.  Like history itself, shrouded in mist.

Kate Bush - the dreaming
Kate Bush started out so nice and innocent, though there was always mystery. Which by her fourth album, The Dreaming, had pretty much swallowed the innocence, and stunningly so. The title track works off a groove stolen from a Rolf Harris song (then merged rather hilariously with the sound a kangaroo makes when it gets hammered by a van). And then later on, it all deranges off into British Isles folk music. Needless to say, we were all rather slack-jawed about it at the time, wanting similar dreams.

Kraftwerk - showroom dummies
In which a few showroom dummies animate, hit the town, have some fun messing with the humans. It's the urgency of it that I love, almost punk rock, yet restrained. Which is contradictory, I know. Like considering Kraftwerk's monotonous machine grooves soul music. Which is not inaccurate. Which reminds me of something I read a long, long time ago. What do you call a contradiction that works? A paradox. God I love paradox.

Brian Eno - needles in the camel's eye
Sometimes you've got to see the movie to really get it. In this case it was Velvet Goldmine (the glam movie that wasn't about David Bowie, except it was, of course) and how it used Brian Eno's Needles in the Camel's Eye to capture glam-rock fervour as it erupted across Britain, circa 1972. Pure joy and rapture. Like that Sonic Youth line. It's gonna take a teenage riot to get me out of bed. It got me out of bed. 

Sonic Youth - 'cross the breeze
If Daydream Nation is one prolonged exercise in applied escape velocity, 'Cross the Breeze is one of the moments where it gets furthest from the ground. I'm pretty sure I saw them do it live in early 1988 sometime, well before the album came out. It was a Sunday night show, and those are almost always duds, the audience too full of dinner at mom and dads to actually move. But Sonic Youth pinned us all anyway, ripped holes through our souls with their speed of light magic. It's absolutely true.