Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Countdown #40 - heroes + lunatics

Broadcast October-27-2012 - 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.

Pere Ubu - thirty seconds over Tokyo
Pere Ubu were one of those bands you started hearing about in 1977-78 as punk finally reached the suburbs (the underside of them anyway).  Not that I really heard them, just of them.  But Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo would eventually find me.  Because it's so damned good.  I think it was the title first, reminding of the movie, a jingoistic World War 2 thing, American heroes bombing Tokyo, a suicide run, just like the record says.  Except the record's so much better, and recorded way before punk, it turns out.  In 1975, Cleveland, Ohio of all places.  No, let me rephrase that.  Cleveland, Ohio, of course.  Because it had to all start in Cleveland, whatever it is that got started, that's still going on, that mad suicide mission to drop bombs, make war on all NORMALS, figuratively, of course.

Fun Boy Three - the lunatics have taken over the asylum
It's 1982 and the Fun Boy Three (a terrible name) are laying it down in so many words.  The clinic full of cynics has had its way, the lunatics are in control, we're all gonna die.  No party was complete without it.

Tom Waits - clap hands
Motron's been bugging me again.  Why so little Tom Waits on the list?  Because it's an act.  All that blue and boozy, nicotine infused soul and cool – that's not really him.  If it was, he'd have been dead long ago.  But it's a damned strong act, I'll give it that, and it really had me with Rain Dogs, I admit.  Like it's 3am and you're miles from home, polluted drunk, getting rained on.  Except it's not real rain, is it?  It's Hollywood rain, and Hollywood lights, too.  Probably wasn't even real whiskey. 

David Bowie - heroes-helden
Yeah, yeah, you've heard it a million times already.  We can be heroes, we can be dolphins, yadda-yadda-yadda.  But have you heard the mixed German/English edit that showed up on the soundtrack for Christianne F, the most depressing movie ever?  That complicated language does something to Mr. Bowie's delivery, gets it to deeper, more wrenching depths of soul and enunciation, gets you right to the heart of Berlin, late 70s, still a divided city – two opposed universes of politics and animosity grinding up against each other.  Forever.  Or so it seemed at the time.

Wire - the 15th
Tight little pop song with the kind of sharp, icy edge that defines a sonic future for all mankind.  Which is exactly what Wire did in 1979 with the album 154 and songs like the 15th.  Hell, I didn't even hear until at least six or seven years later, called up the DJ and had to know what this new song was. 

Elton John - madman across the water
But what does it mean?  I remember my friend James' big sister's boyfriend saying it was about Richard Nixon and Watergate, the crazy mess he'd made of things.  He was the madman across the water.  Which kind of made sense in 1974.  Except it was a 1971 record, I eventually realized.  The Watergate break-ins didn't even happen until 1972, and even then didn't amount to much media coverage until at least 1973.  Not until after Mr. Nixon got himself massively re-elected with pretty much the biggest majority ever in American history.  Anyway, those were confusing times, lots of shadows forming, maybe throwing time itself out of joint.  Who knew the what of anything?

Primal Scream - higher than the sun
This will always be the Icarus trip for me, LSD on a mountaintop, the day we all went too far, got too close to the sun, and like Icarus, our wings melted but we didn't fall so much as untether, like astronauts overshooting our orbit, ricocheting off through oblivion.  Seriously, it felt like a million years before we found gravity again, got the earth beneath our feet.  But actually it all happened within the running time of this particular mix of Higher Than The Sun which we had with us on that mountaintop, on cassette, playing on the ghetto blaster that we'd dragged up with us, pissing off some German tourists.  So in retrospect, it wasn't the drugs at all.  Just Primal Scream at the peak of their powers, in total control the entire time.

Boo Radleys - Lazarus
Because everybody needs resurrecting every now and then.  I'm pretty sure that's what this is about, name-checking Lazarus, the guy Jesus raised from the dead.  I mean, we've all been there – so low we may as well be six feet under.  And yet miracles do happen – great crescendos of brass erupt from oceans of dub, like the Lord's own light, shining through, turning sorrow to joy, downpour to sunshine, undeath to everlasting life (there is a difference).  And in their greatest moment, the Boos got it on record.

Slayer - south of heaven
True story.  Los Angeles, 1993, a few weeks before Christmas.  I'm hanging with this band I sort of know who've got a day to kill between gigs, but precious little cash to kill it with.  Which means we're drinking cheap, shitty beer.  Lots of it.  At some point it's wisely decided that some drugs are required, marijuana to be specific.  Except Terry from Idaho who's supposed to be dropping off the weed only has heroin, but it's pretty much the same price.  And the thing is, none of us are that cool.  We've never done heroin, but here it is getting laid out in narrow brownish lines on the coffee table, and yeah, we're all just drunk enough to not give a fuck.  Even if you can die just snorting the stuff, particularly if you're not used to it, if your body hasn't built up a decent tolerance.  This is not good, I'm suddenly thinking as Greg the singer rolls up a dollar bill.  This is a scene from one of those movies just before everything goes horribly wrong.  And then Slayer comes crashing in.  Full blast on the stereo. It's Smith, the bass player, calling bullshit, enlisting no lesser ally than Lucifer himself from his haunt way south of heaven, commanding that we see things at least slightly straight.  Long story/short:  we just said No to the heroin, went out for burgers instead.  The next morning we woke up to the news that River Phoenix had died outside the Viper Room, maybe a mile away.  Some kind of overdose.

Magazine - permafrost
It's 1979 and man it's cold out there.  Back in the 50s, they called it wine, women and song.  Then by the 60s, it was drugs, sex and rock and roll.  Now, come almost the 80s, it's just, I will drug and fuck you on the permafrost.  And it's not even the Winter of Hate yet.  But you can definitely feel it coming.

Bee Gees - every Christian lionhearted man will show you
Bee Gees' first album, psychedelic and as good as they ever got, giving all as every Christian Lionhearted band must, complete with chanting monks and mellotron from days of future past.  They really are as good as the Beatles here.  For three and a half minutes anyway.

Procol Harum - in held twas in I [rando-EDIT]
Epic shit slung together from Side Two of Procol Harum's epic second album, released in 1968 when they were one of the hottest bands in the known universe.  Seriously, short of Dylan and the Beatles and perhaps Cream, they were maybe the most important act on the planet based on the monstrous success of their single Whiter Shade of Pale – the record that dared marry Johann Bach to rock and roll and utter far out poetry.  Of course, by 1973 when I finally got to hear Shine On Brightly, it was just a friend's big sister's record that she'd lost interest in.  I guess she just didn't care about the pilgrim or his glimpses of nirvana or the Dalai Lama and his incise clarification as to the meaning of life.  But I did.

In held twas in I
Joy Division - decades
The first I heard of Joy Division, they were a new band out of Britain who were doing a sort of new wave Doors thing.  The next I heard, their lead singer had killed himself.  But good luck getting to hear any of the actual music.  Radio wasn't playing any of it and the handful of their records that made it to town as imports were quickly scooped up by people far cooler than me or anyone I was connected with.  So it was all just mystery for a long while until finally, in some guy's car, I heard Decades (as suitable an epitaph as anyone ever wrote for themselves) on a mixtape.  And strangely, it was almost exactly what I expected.  Dark and deep just like Jimbo the Lizard King, except all the edges were hard, the lines sharp, the angles fierce.  Like nothing I'd ever heard before, but I could feel it coming anyway.

Monday, October 22, 2012

countdown #39 - be my powerstation

Broadcast October-20-2012 - 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.

St. Che - be my power station
I've always connected this with the Bhopal disaster.  1984, Bhopal, India -- gas leak at the Union Carbide pesticide plant sends an invisible cloud of poison into the surrounding shanty towns, kills thousands, injures half a million.  It's the BBC sounding voice on the sample.  "Bodies lay stretched out on the streets."  Hell, maybe it was just a war zone, or a terror blast, or one of those nightclub fires (everybody trapped inside because the fire marshal was on the take).  Pure horror regardless with corruption at the heart of it.  Yet you could dance to it.   No surprise that there's a connection to Adrian Sherwood, On-U-Sound, the Tackhead crew.  

Midnight Oil - power and the passion
I remember seeing them in a big hall show, 1990 probably, when they were as big as they'd ever get, saving the world from ecological ruin one concert at a time (and I even half-believed it possible).  They introduced Power And The Passion as a surfing song.  Which makes perfect sense, because there's nothing more powerful or passionate than a big wave, all that planetary evolution and movement coalescing 'cross four thousand years of ebb and flow and yin and yang to make for this thing which can be ridden.  And then the horns come roaring in at the end and seal the deal. 

Clash - magnificent seven
For me, this always felt like a riff on Bob Dylan, subterranean and homesick, definitely New York City in all its turn of the decade corrosion and despair ... and yet crazy fertile  anyway, not unlike the world as a whole, even my own useless suburb a continent away.  The acid helped in this regard.  I feel I should I apologize for this, all the acid references that seem to pop up whenever some kind of broader view is required as to what really went down in the 1980s (my angle on it).  But should one apologize for telling the truth?  Fuck that.  The Clash never did.

The Band - when I paint my masterpiece
I prefer this to the Dylan version, feels more road weary, earned, a rainy night in Rome by way of deepest darkest Arkansas or perhaps rural Ontario, somewhere vast and pointless, and all those million miles in between playing rock and roll, because it had to be done.

DOA - war in the east
DOA saved my life any number of times through the 80s, mainly through their live shows.  There was never anything pretty about it but it was always beautiful anyway, from the back of auto body shops to abandoned boys clubs to my old high school to the Arts Club on Seymour (the best damned club the Terminal City ever had, certainly in the 80s) to at least two sold out Commodores, to some impromptu acoustic messing around off the edge of a movie set.  And I'm pretty sure they did War In The East, their only reggae tune, every time, because it slowed things a bit, clarified a few key points.  Fighting one another - killing for big brother.  Same as it ever was.

Grand Funk Railroad - inside looking out
It's like the classic Spinal Tap line.  There's a very fine line between genius and stupidity, Grand Funk being an outfit that spent most of its time wallowing on the stupid side.  But they do nail it here.  Notice the use of the present tense.  That's what genius does.  It transcends time, surfs impermanence, negates all previous and subsequent stupidity.  Particularly when it's delivered as loud and proud as it is here.

Velvet Underground - the murder mystery
The raw pure simplicity of the Velvets is one of the foundation blocks of everything that has mattered since 1965, and I'm not just talking music.  But their story is not remotely complete without a chapter or nine devoted to their avant edge, their thirst for derangement and NOISE in the service of ... truth, I guess.

Guess Who - guns guns guns
Lorena, now officially my lawyer, says this is way too high on the list, but then she's got no time for guys with mustaches.  Motron, on the other hand, says it's not near high enough, but he was born in Winnepeg.  What it is, is Canada's own Beatles past their chart topping glory ... but still rockin profoundly, proving they are both a world class band, and godamned poets as they chase it up and down the north side -- that giddy sense of freedom that a superlative groove offers.  And then you've got Burton Cummings, just drunk enough (or perhaps drugged) to not be an embarrassment, laying down some of the finest vocals this planet will ever hear, sad and true. Godspeed mother nature, Godspeed.

Neutral Milk Hotel - two-headed boy
What can I say?  It's early 2001 as I write this, still winter, and Neutral Milk Hotel's The Aeroplane Over The Sea is the best album ever in the history of anything.  I have no perspective on this, of course.  I just heard it for the first time maybe a month ago, but holy shit, I'm hooked -- young man (Jeff Mangum by name) with a whole new way of turning breath to voice.  Soul music for sure. 

Electric Light Orchestra - boy blue
When I was fifteen and ELO's Eldorado was new, it was all about the story, the big concept -- perfect for my still growing brain and imagination.  The Dreamer, The Unwoken Fool.  He starts out high on a hill in El Dorado, heads down into the world, gets caught up in a war, a tornado in the desert, Sherwood Forest, a lost kingdom, the south seas, some painted ladies, and so on ... finally ends up on top of another hill, this one in Avalon, still a dreamer, still unwoken, a fool.  I'd listen to Eldorado beginning to end at least five days out of seven.  I remember me and Gord Stewart who lived down the block (he was also so hooked on it), deciding we needed to put a stop to it, take a break at least.  One month.  No Eldorado.  Like kicking a drug habit.  And then I'm not sure what happened.  I guess I got into Yes, or maybe ski season finally started.  Or just girls and alcohol.  Whatever it was, Eldorado got put aside for more than a decade.  Until one night, 1987, high no doubt, probably a sliver of LSD in the mixture, I'm picking through the dregs of my vinyl (the un-essential stuff not filed on a shelf, just piled in various boxes) and the cover catches my eye.  A still from an actual film frame from The Wizard of Oz -- Dorothy's contentious red slippers, the wicked witch of wherever trying to zap them off.  I put the album on and man, I can't help but smile.  It's just so big and fun.  Not serious anymore, I couldn't care less about the Dreamer/The Unwoken fool.  But the melodrama of it, all those strings and choral overloads, and horns -- that's eternal.  Like in Boy Blue where everything's revving up to an obvious sort of b-movie climax, but it doesn't go there.  Not yet.  Just waltzes into this beautiful string bit, plucked cellos, I think.  And then it goes for the obvious climax. 

Neil Young - will to love
For years, I just thought I had a shitty copy of this, all hacked and crackled.  Actually, it was a shitty copy, victim of way too many nights left out of its sleeve, bits of ash and hash-resin and spilled wine gumming up the grooves.  But Will To Love was supposed to sound like that anyway, like your lying next to a fireplace, letting the warmth of it sooth you, while your thoughts go long and  deep with the crackles and hisses.  It's 1977 and punk rock may be erupting, but Neil Young's gone ambient here, for one song anyway. 

War - gypsy man
It's the way it creeps up like a distant storm howling in that catches the moment for me, 1973, I'm maybe fourteen -- the Watergate thing, the Vietnam thing, the ongoing end of the 60s thing, all the bright colours fading, stench of garbage on the breeze.  But at least  radio was still good in 1973.  You could actually hear Gypsy Man on CKLG-FM, the whole thing.  Because the great corporate screwing hadn't happened yet.  But it was about to.  The consultants had filed their reports.  There was stupid money to be made on the FM waves, and all of this visionary art and truth-telling crap -- it was in the way, babe.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Countdown #38 - lost in the supermarket

Broadcast October-13-2012 - 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.  

Human League - hard times
Times are always hard.  It just depends where you're sitting, or in this case, dancing.  Because that's the point.  You can always dance.  Even if you have no legs.  I've seen it done.  At a David Bowie concert, 1983, way at the back of the stadium, a section reserved for folks in wheel chairs etc.  Let's Dance was pounding away (not my fave so I'd taken a bathroom break) ... but holy shit, suddenly it was my fave, evidence that music can't so much cure any affliction as transcend it, because all those folks were finding a way to move.  Human League, of course, isn't David Bowie ... but I'm sure he did inspire them and more to the point, Hard Times does transcend, beautifully.

Clash - lost in the supermarket
This one never had more currency than the summer of 1984.  We dropped a lot of acid that summer, in our mid-twenties by then, old enough to know better, of course, or maybe just go further, through the high and deep complexities of the ever corroding western world whose edges and holes and voids we were compelled to explore.  This meant imbibing strong (yet controlled) doses of the ole lysergic, then going public with it, malls, video arcades, downtown streets, fair grounds, fireworks nights in English Bay -- getting lost in the Supermarket we called it.  Shit yeah.  We could handle any weird thing, even if we were still living with our parents.  

Brian Eno - St. Elmo's Fire
Another Green World is a perfect album title (pretty much perfect album too).  Put it on and you get transported to a very liveable, very agreeable, very different place.  Alien even, but oh so green and achingly beautiful, like a dream, vaguely remembered, with St. Elmo's Fire an actual song easing from the mists halfway through side one, deepening the mystery.  And there's a superlative Robert Fripp guitar solo.

Pink Floyd - see Emily play
Quoting something I wrote back in early 1981 (my own personal psychedelic spring, except it was January, but I was getting there finally, understanding the early Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett still at the helm) "... at the peak of London's psychedelic spring, 1967, touching the edge of the pop envelope with a nice little number about a girl named Emily and the free games for May she played.  And it's perfect, even if moments later Syd Barrett would fall off the edge, get lost forever in shadows.  Because the previous moments were eternal, like something out of Greek myths.  They could never die, just continue, beautiful forever, beautiful now, all these years later."

Elvis Costello - green shirt
David Lee Roth's an ass but he has given us a few good lines.  Money won't buy happiness but it will buy you a yacht that will let you cruise up next to it.  That's one of his.  Also, rock critics like Elvis Costello so much because rock critics look like Elvis Costello.  Which is my way of saying, I don't feel compelled to load this list with Elvis C stuff.  He's had his due already from the critics.  But Green Shirt from 1979's Armed Forces.  That deserves special mention.  Because it's just so tight, so sharp, so pop smart, and mostly overlooked, unheard, un-allergenic. 

Flying Burrito Brothers - sin city
It's Los Angeles, 1968, rumours of earthquakes, impending armageddon, the whole city of angels falling into the Pacific, such that even on the 33rd Floor, beyond the gold plated door, the Lord's almighty flame will find the wicked.  Meanwhile, country rock is getting invented by a curious crowd of drugged out hippies in cowboy suits. 

Steppenwolf - sookie sookie
Malcolm Cale was in my class in Grade Seven.  I guess you could call him a bad kid, because he smoked and, rumour had it, he'd even gotten drunk a few times.  But he was small, quiet, didn't pose much threat, and anyway, we both walked home from school the same way, so we ended up hanging out a fair bit in his big house, which was almost always empty after school.  No parents or brothers and sisters around to stop us digging through his dad's Playboys, sneaking a beer, cranking the stereo loud.  But like pretty much every other kid I knew at the time, he lacked cool records.  Maybe a few Beatles albums, some Rolling Stones, CCR.  And definitely Steppenwolf, their first album, and best, the one with Born to be Wild on it and The Pusher, God Damn him -- we loved that, actual swearing on record.  But the track that stands up best now is Sookie Sookie, funky and strong and cool as John Kay's shades.

Fleetwood Mac - hypnotized
There is no Steely Dan on this list, mainly because you've heard all the good stuff already.  And also, past their first album, I never found much to love anyway.  Too smooth, too easy to listen to (even if it was hard to play), too mid-70s soft rock and sophisticated.  But I always loved Hypnotized, one of those songs that seemed to capture it all, even if I didn't necessarily like what was getting captured, because it was rendered beautiful anyway.  Except I could never find the album.  Because it wasn't a Steely Dan song.  It was Fleetwood Mac, wandering through their vague middle period, somewhere between the 60s psychedelic blues and mid-late 70s cocaine Hollywood.  Hypnotic. 

Steve Miller Band - the beauty of time is that it's snowing [psychedelic B.B.]
Because that's just how things went in those delirious latter 60s days.  Songs broke down, evaporated into seagulls and drones, found some bluesy riff, evolved into profound and visionary choruses, ended up getting titles that had nothing to do with anything you'd actually heard.  Maybe you had to be there, but, of course, we all were, in our way, still are, we the children of that dazzlingly hopeful past's glowing future. 

the beauty of time

Nektar- the dream nebula + it's all in the mind
Two in a row from a 1972 album called Journey to the Centre of the Eye, but damned if I've ever been able to find it.  So these actually come from Nektar's 1978 double compilation called Thru the Ears which is okay, but The Dream Nebula and It's All in the Mind are by far the best cuts.  Full on epic space rock that manages to be progressive and strong and not stupid in any way, mainly because it's not really about outer space, it's about the inner kind, so you feel these guys have actually been there, to the dream nebula, right through the centre of the eye, all in the mind anyway. 

nebula + mind

Isley Brothers - summer breeze
The version of this song I grew up with was the Seals + Crofts original, which was cool at the time, better than average radio fodder.  But the Isley Brothers take things way further, a much hotter breeze, feverish even, yet eminently cool in a latter day psychedelic-funk sort of way. 

Screaming Blue Messiahs - wild blue yonder
Lest there be any doubt, the mainstream 80s sucked.  All those Power Stations, Duran Durans, Huey Lewises -- proof that sadists sat at the controls of the music and radio industries.  Because they did have other options in 1986.  They had Screaming Blue Messiahs who were everything their name promised, loud, proud, mad and fucking good.  But nah, Van Halen was somehow more important, with their new lead singer, Sammy Hagar. 

Nick Drake - northern sky
I had a good friend kill himself when I was nineteen.  It sucked.  There was nothing romantic about it, no great mystery at the heart of it.  He just wasn't up to life and the shit it was throwing at him.  So he bailed, left a pretty nasty note.  Long story short:  I didn't really get over it until I got angry at him, dissolved the friendship as it were.  How Dare You Fucking Bail!  Which goes a long to way to explaining my general suspicion of the culture's various death cults -- the Ian Curtises, the Kurt Cobains, the Jim Morrisons.  I just think it's life we should care about, rolling with it, dealing with, not ending it, intentionally or otherwise.  Which gets us to Nick Drake.  Yeah, I've got a few of his records, original vinyl, likely worth a pretty penny, and nice songs and all, rich with a sort of melancholic folkish soul.  But is any of it really that different than Donovan in his more reflective moments?  And he's still kicking, last I heard, weird and true.  Anyway, there is one Nick Drake song on the list.  A cut called Northern Sky, selected because it predates the death cult.  True he was long dead by the time I heard it in around 1985, but I didn't know that.  It was just there on an obscure compilation called the Great Antilles Sampler, an integral part of the very cool flow.  Folk, experimental, avant-garde, pop, free form jazz.  An album well worth looking for.  And living for. 

Sensational Alex Harvey Band - the man in the jar
I saw these guys in 1975, warming up Jethro Tull.  They had all kinds of props and costume changes, and there seemed to be a story being told.  Maybe concerning the Man In The Jar, which I only got around to hearing (on record) maybe ten years later, bored, picking through a pile of old albums a friend was getting rid of.  The Impossible Dream was an instant keeper, and not just for the one song, the whole album, a sort of sleazy back alley opera about who knows what?  Some kind of impossible dream, obviously.  Which are always the best ones.

Fred Frith - gravity excerpts [rando-EDIT]
This dates back to 1980 but it was deep into the 90s before I ever gave it a proper listen.  Music that was standing the test, no doubt about that.  Or more to the point, music that had confidently showed the way to the cool future we were having.  Rock and jazz and folk and all manner of exotic elements all humming along very nicely together, not world music but the world actually sounded like.

gravity excerpts

Led Zeppelin - in the light
I remember being fifteen or sixteen, hearing this on the radio and thinking, okay, this is serious shit.  This is about something.  Because by 1975, the music you found on the radio was less and less about anything.  It was just predictable gruel, programmed to fill sloppy gaps between advertising.  Not that I was sophisticated enough to voice it as such. I just knew something was fast slipping away, all that cool, significance that had been so prevalent way back when in 1972 and 3.  Because you just don't know when you're that young, twelve-thirteen-fourteen, that that's how the world works -- that it's precisely the best, most beautiful, cool, dramatic stuff that THEY consciously seek to destroy, eviscerate, EAT (and that includes you, you're sweet young flesh).  But you are at least beginning to suspect something.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Countdown #37 - what is hip?

Broadcast October-6-2012 - 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.  

Shriekback - nemesis
Air strikes, poison kisses, centaurs, monkeys, Greeks, Romans, big fat nemesis, parthenogenesis -- there's a lot going here including a little bit of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness HORROR by way of  Apocalypse Now and Marlon Brando, his head shaved, broken from himself in the primordial jungles of Cambodia.  So what's it all mean other than we're all gonna die, and asexual reproduction, which is what parthenogenesis means?  Cool rhyme for nemesis.  You gotta give it that.  And otherwise, well, it's from 1985.  That's how things were in those days.  Full of horror and unlikely rhymes. 

Prince Charles - more money

Prince (the purple guy) wasn't the only Prince doing cool things with non-mainstream funk in the mid-80s as More Money aptly points out.  A solid anthem for any time, any place.  Because we always need more, even the mansion-on-the-hill guy.  And seriously, where's the hip, up to date cover version of this?  The song's just screaming for it.  

Waterboys - we will not be lovers
Fisherman's Blues was the album where main Waterboy Mike Scott went to Ireland for a few days, ended up going native, getting beautifully lost on the west coast somewhere.  We Will Not Be Lovers feels like the result of a powerhouse of jam session, rock and folk attitudes and instrumentation piling into each other in a sustained and brilliant collision.  And the words are pretty sharp as well.  All about the opposite of a love.  You know the feeling.  You look that other in the eye and all you can see is carnage.  And yet something compels you closer.

Strawbs - where is this dream of your youth?
The song's a nice enough bit of melancholy folk pop, but it's Rick Wakeman's sustained freakout on the Hammond organ that hooked me, and keeps on hooking me, just keeps going, going, going through the decades -- peaks and valleys and all manner of long haired freaky looking people grooving along in smoke filled rooms, smelling of incense and wacky tabacky.  Because yeah, man, groovy still meant something in 1970, the new decade dawning, the revolution at hand.  Or so it must have seemed.

Emerson Lake + Palmer - Tocatta

I cannot tell a lie.  I was coerced into this selection by my good friend and neighbour, Motron.  "What do you mean there's nothing from Brain Salad Surgery on your list?  What are you, a critic or something?"  Like there was no worse title he could hang on me.  And he was right, about Brain Salad Surgery, worthy of inclusion for its title alone, and its cover, an HR Giger original.  And the music's not so bad either, particularly Tocatta, as fast, as fierce, as nightmarish an assault as any chart-topping band was capable of delivering in 1973.  Or as Motron put it, perfect soundtrack for the attack of those meat eating robots.  It is going to happen.

King Crimson - thela hun gingeet
It's 1981 and King Crimson main man Robert Fripp has reformed the band after more than five years in the wilderness with a whole new sound and DISCIPLINE.  The result is thundering (to put it mildly).  I believe it actually caused stereo systems to catch fire back in the day.  Thela Hun Gingeet translates as Heat In The Jungle and it concerns an experience Adrian Belew (the new guy) had while out for a walk in the means streets of NYC and nothing to protect himself but a tape recorder.  

David Bowie - big brother + chant of the ever circling skeletal family
As the story goes, the Diamond Dogs album was supposed to be a musical adaptation of George Orwell's 1984, but Mr. Bowie couldn't secure the rights, so it sort of morphed into its own weird, extreme thing with a few songs still very much inspired by 1984, including Big Brother, which manages to be all kinds of epic and perverse.  Not so sure about the end bit though, the chant of that ever circling skeletal family.  Actually, I'm quite sure of it.  I've heard it, while deep inside the wrong kind of acid trip, the death kind, the kind you just want to end, but it goes on and on for millions of years, with all these skeletal forms howling at you forever.  I just don't know what it's got to do with George Orwell, unless that's what it feels like to get stomped on the face with a boot.  Forever.

Tower of Power - what is hip?
I actually saw these guys in a local club.  Was it Oil Can Harry's?  It would've been about 1978.  They probably played this song.  And yeah, they blew me away.  The power of it, towering, and the tightness.  What a band!  Except I didn't really get funk in those days.  It kept trying to make me dance.  Which reminded of disco, and I had all kinds of issues with disco.  What can I say?  I was young and definitely not hip.

Fad Gadget - ad nauseum
Ad Nauseum is 1984 in a nutshell.  Bitter gagging bile finally coalescing as full-on meltdown into noise.  And yet it's both fun and artful, musical even.  It will forever remind me of old friend Carl who never failed to be in ownership of a piece-of-shit boat of a car (always GM product), which he'd recklessly plough through traffic, the music cranked loud, his hatred of all other drivers voiced even louder.  Yet he never hit anything ... until that one time he side-swiped a Fire Truck, and he was drunk.  That didn't go over well.  In fact, I'm guessing it all sounded like the end of Ad Nauseum. 

John Martyn - outside in
Pick through the history books and you generally find John Martyn defined as a sort of eccentric folkie, but something must've got slipped into his tea here (and a few other places), and the universe has expanded because of it.  Seriously, Outside In is the kind of thing I could listen to forever.  Endlessly spaced out, yet soulful as well, like nature itself, always in flux, forever mutable.

Throbbing Gristle - what a day
It was 1980 when I first heard the name Throbbing Gristle, and it shocked me, got an instant, visceral response, like a strong (not necessarily bad) smell suddenly filling the room.  Much like their music.  The one thing you cannot not do is ignore it.  I like to think of What A Day as a top 40 single from an alternate reality where lying was illegal, punishable by death.  So if someone was stupid enough to ask you how your day was, and it had sucked, you'd be obliged to puke all over them. 

George Harrison - on the bed
From a 1968 soundtrack album for a movie called Wonderwall that nobody ever saw, but then Oasis copped the title for a song name a couple of decades later and went mega-platinum with it.  But On The Bed is far better than that over seasoned pop stew.  On The Bed is world music before we had a lame name for it, yet beautifully POP, and thus utterly timeless.  George always was the most psychedelic of the Beatles. 

Santana -  every step of the way
There had to be some Santana on this list.  Might as well be the biggest, wildest, livest thing I've got.  From 1974 when Mr. Santana was conquering Japan with maybe the hottest band on the planet.  I only wish I'd actually heard this at the time.  Would've allowed me to destroy all comers in all those stupid yet essential who's-the-fastest-guitar arguments we seemed to need to have in Grade nine and ten.

Bob Dylan - visions of Johanna
Who is Johanna and what exactly is she seeing?  Who the hell knows?  This is the Dylan genius at its most lyrical, most amphetamine precise and yet obtuse, and yet entirely connected via those bones of 'lectricity put on trial (among other impossible images).  Which is entirely the point, I think.  A young man stepping up to his confusion, working with it, surfing its convolutions, letting them take him places he could never have imagined existed ... and then finding a way to channel it all to into human breath and voice and words.  Call it a song.  A damned fine one.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Countdown #36 - lawyers guns + yashar

Broadcast September-29-2012 - 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.  

Cabaret Voltaire - Yashar
Wild rips of exotic noise, strange spoken mutterings about the planet perhaps being far more populated than the experts have been telling us.  Pretty standard stuff now maybe, but in 1982, this was like a previously unknown galaxy, revealing itself. And you could dance to it.   

X - the new world
It's the line about the bars being closed, which can only mean one thing if you're living a certain sort of life ("they must be voting for the President or something.")  This is X, former punk band, well on their way to becoming something else, and rocking rather brilliantly, with power, passion, wit.  They'd never be better.  But that didn't stop all the old punks gobbing them off stage at UBC, SUB ballroom, 1983 or 84.  You know those morons have all got to be Conservatives now.

Sparks - this town ain't big enough for the both of us
Maybe you have heard this.  Motron claims this must be so, but my ears don't share that history.  As far as I knew in 1974, the only humans on earth that knew this song were me and a few friends, trading it and other Sparks miracles back and forth on various cassettes.  It certainly never made it near the Top Ten here in the Americas, let alone #1, which is precisely where it shoulda-oughta landed.  But instead, we had crap like Helen Reddy and Donny Osmond.  Man, pop radio was sucking by the mid-70s.

Warren Zevon - lawyers guns + money
Excitable boy (the album) got a fair bit of notice at the time, but we only ever really heard a few tracks on the radio, and none of them was Lawyers Guns + Money, which is just a good old-fashioned smart, sly, cynical rock and roll song about a rich kid in some foreign locale, in way over his head.  Not unlike America itself at that particular moment in time, what with lost wars, hostage crises, all manner of cocaine bullshit.  

Penguin Café Orchestra - telephone + rubber band
It's true.  We dropped a lot of LSD in the early 1980s, often as not up on mountaintops, miles from any electrical outlets.  So we'd drag a ghetto blaster with us, because you had to have a soundtrack for the the tree elves, the flutterbys and their easy multiplicities, all that elevated beauty and weirdness.  But what happened when we ran into normal folks?  That's where the Penguin Café Orchestra came in.  Right at the point where their faces were forming in twisted scowls of judgment and disgust, we'd let drop their easy acoustic textures incorporating fiddles, banjos, harmoniums, all manner of wooden gear.  Although the Telephone + Rubber Band song did seem to confuse them.  

Alice Cooper - Desperado
One of those early Alice Cooper cuts that puts the lie to it all being just kid's stuff, particularly the bit about being a killer, a clown, a priest who's gone to town.  That's Dylan level poetry (or certainly Jim Morrison).  And all the more exquisite given the song that's built around it -- dark and moody, and more than just a little evil.

 Thin Lizzy - whiskey in the jar
I saw Thin Lizzy at least twice at their mid-70s peak.  But maybe it was the drugs, because they never really hit.  Competent hard rock for sure, but nothing transcendent, nothing that made you want to go back to Church, figure out how you got it all wrong.  Nothing like what they captured on one of their very first singles, Whiskey in the Jar, an old Irish folk song given full soul and throttle.  Ends up feeling as ancient, as rich, as tragic as time itself.  Because it's never the whiskey that does you in.  It's the woman that drove you to it.  Or the man.  

Rolling Stones - sweet Virginia
On one level, this is just a smart, nasty ballad, gritty as the shit on your shoes.  But given the album it's from (1972's Exile on Main St), there's a lot more to read it into it.  Just the heroin weariness of it all, I guess, and what it says about the 60s, what they'd promised and given, but also what they'd taken from those dared partake.  Like something out Greek mythology, a special curse brewed up by the gods.  And in some way or other, the whole culture was in on the partaking, even little kids like me, just hanging around the edges, desperately wanting in.

Jimi Hendrix - rainy day … still dreaming
I'm pretty sure this one's about smoking dope on a rainy day, getting lost in all the dreamy beauty.  Of course, if you're Jimi Hendrix at the absolute peak of your powers, you plug in your guitar, noodle along, eventually erupt into the kind of celebration that makes the gods cry, which leads to more and harder rain, deeper dreaming.

George Clinton - you shouldn't nuf bit fish
There was something utterly perfect about this when it was new, 1984 or thereabouts, so twisted, spaced out, funky and strange, and all about the colossal and apocalyptic mess that we the species were very much IN, all that nuclear fission fuelling a cold war arms race that had the Doomsday Clock edging harrowingly close to midnight.  And the old man in Washington with his finger on the trigger -- he was mainlining Grecian Formula, slipping into dementia.  

Lou Reed - busload of faith
This would've been the dead end of the 1980s, old man Lou as misanthropic as ever, and yet still bothering to write and sing songs.  Because it's true.  It was then.  It still is now.  The facts don't add up in any kind of hopeful way.  Never have, probably never will.  We're fucked.  We're all gonna die.  And yet life seems to keep on keeping on.  Hell if Lou Reed can get behind it, maybe there is something in the faith thing.  

Neil Diamond - Soolaimon + Brother Love's travelling salvation show
It's probably bullshit but I'll relate it anyway, the story I heard at a bar in Molokai from a guy who claimed to know Neil Diamond, and how his chance meeting with Jim Morrison eventually gave us the greatest live album every recorded.  It happened in 1967.  Neil's doing okay with his career, writing catchy pop tunes, watching them sail to the top of the charts with the likes of the Monkees, but unfortunately, this is the antithesis of cool in 1967.  And Neil desperately wants to be cool.  Then one night, Jim Morrison shows up backstage after a show at the Troubadour, says he's a fan.  The two hit it off, smoke some Mary Jane, swig tequila, end up driving all over the Hollywood Hills.  Jim tells Neil he's a huge fan, that I'm A Believer was better than anything the Beatles ever wrote.  Neil says the same for Light My Fire, which Jim didn't write (Robby Krieger did), so he spikes the tequila with enough STP to launch an Apollo moon shot and the rest is, shall we say, destiny. 

David Bowie - cracked actor
The alien has cracked.  The time I saw him do this, he was singing it to a skull.  And it was good.  Of course, what hooks you to Cracked Actor is the power of the music itself, as solid, as strong, as raw a rocker as you were likely to hear in 1973.  Unless you were cool enough to be hip to Iggy Pop, which nobody was, except a few junkies who lacked the energy and/or the ambition to actually move their vocal cords and tell anyone.  

Crosby Stills Nash + Young - carry on [live]
The album version of Carry On's okay.  It makes its point.  The revolution seems to have peaked, man, but we're still on the edge something truly beautiful, man, so nothing to do but carry on, man.  LIVE however, on 1971's 4 Way Street, you actually believe it.  Love is coming for us all.  War shall be forever banned.  Richard Nixon won't be re-elected in a year's time by the single biggest landslide in history.  It's the jamming, of course, that really sells it.  Neil Young and Steve Stills facing off, riding the revolution to heaven itself, leaving the original song light years behind.