Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Nardwuar vs Randophonic

Randophonic's All Vinyl Countdown + Apocalypse was the recent focus of a Nardwuar The Human Serviette Interview.  Bill Mullan (the show's host) fielded questions, played selections from the Countdown and otherwise filled in blanks as to the real story of Philip Random and his "sacred scrolls" (those 1,111 greatest records you probably haven't heard).  Download link available here

Monday, April 22, 2013

Countdown #56 - everybody knows

Broadcast April-20-2013 - podcast available here. All comments are from Philip Random's notes (with some editorial diligence). Links are not necessarily to the exact same recordings we played on-air (but we tried). 

Primal Scream - come together [Weatherall mix]
Because like The Reverend Jesse Jackson says in the sample (from long before he became ridiculous,) Rhythm and Blues and Jazz are just labels, to which I'd add Disco and Funk and Punk and Hip and Hop and Country And Western And Techno And Dub and Heavy and Metal and Glam and Goth and Rock and Roll and This and That and so on.  There really are only two kinds of music.  Good and Bad.  I like to think I've invested the best part of my life in digging for the good stuff, which in this case, gets us to Britain, 1991.  Ecstasy is rampant, all the toughest thugs are falling in love with all humanity, everybody cumming together in simultaneity.  A little messy perhaps (and chemically dependent) but brilliant nonetheless, transcendent even. 

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - Enola Gay
Because it's dance floor ready earworm my-girlfriend-left-me pop of the highest attainment, except the Enola Gay in question is not just some wayward girl, she's the US air force bomber that dumped the BOMB on Hiroshima. Which is to say, history's exclamation point – all of mankind's progress and/or regress manifesting in a pivotal instant that, combined with what happened a few days later in Nagasaki, forced TOTAL change, triggered the apocalypse, immenatized the eschaton (and so on).  It's 8:15 in the AM, Japan time, August 6, 1945, always has been, always will be.  This is where we are. 

Stranglers - walk on by
Because it's true what my buddy Carl used to say back in his punk phase.  There are no bad songs, only bad performances.  Not that Walk On By was ever a bad song, just sort of buried in the EZ-muzak background of my growing up (whatever that godawful Toronto radio station was that my dad had on every morning, 1960s in full 1,001 string syrup overload).  But jump ahead a decade and things are different.  The song may still be saying the same thing, but the music isn't.  The music snarls, the heartbreak is dangerous, the Stranglers are soaring.  Even the punks are running scared.

Motorhead - eat the rich
Because it must be done.  It's the only way we're ever going to set all the children free.  The rich must be eaten.  And Eat The Rich (the movie) in all its punk, sloppy, inconsistent atonal elegance is god damned masterpiece.  How could it not be, with Lemmy as the communist insurgent's right hand man?  But he's no communist himself.  Nor anarchist, leftist, activist of any kind.  He's a bassist, which is its own justification, it seems.  Which is pretty much everything I could ever say about the monster that is/was/shall always be Motorhead.  Not the kind of music I've listened to a lot in my day to day life ... but every so often, fucking essential. 

Alan Price - O Lucky Man!
Because when you're fourteen and every bit as horny as you are existential, you need a movie like O Lucky Man to turn your world on its head, expose and eviscerate your every delusion as to how society really works, until the only thing left to laugh at is the fact that nothing's funny anymore.  It's god damned tragic.  And yet, like the song, O Lucky Man keeps saying, there is a big IF at the heart of it all, a level of attainment that can offer something akin to meaning IF you can just see through all the bullshit, and smile anyway.  IF being the middle part of Life anyway.  Did I mention I was stoned when I saw O Lucky Man for the first of at least nine times, just getting started really on that particular path:  self de-programming, art and drug induced. 

The The - perfect (extended)
Because there was a five year period (1983-through-88) where it seemed to be a given that I'd see the sun rise from the dog end of a long, often as not wasted day.  Except every now and then, if the previous days tripping had been sufficiently nutritious, it was a grand thing, like watching the gods invent the world anew ... seeing all the problems as THEY created them, fumbling their big plan.  Except of course, these fumbles were essential to their plan.  Because in the end, it's all somehow beautiful, thus perfect, thus justified, as the sun rises even as a wild wind kicks up from some distant war zone, sends bits of loose trash swirling ...

T-Rex - ballrooms of Mars
Because sometimes you've just got a waste a day, drink red wine so cheap the only way to make it palatable is to pour it over ice, maybe add a touch of something sweet.  And if you're timing's right, T-Rex is going to pop up on the mixtape you've got playing.  She sighs, says "I love this song," and all is good, fated even, even if it all falls apart maybe three months later with tears and property violence.  Love remains love, good for the sweetest scars.  Always worth the trouble, even if it kills you.

Sex Pistols - pretty vacant
Because it's arguably the greatest rock and roll band of all time at their most POP.  Pretty Vacant being the one you could put on a mixtape with the likes of Elvis Costello, The Who, The Doors, The Cars even, without offending anyone.  Certainly no one you didn't want to be offend.  

Flipper - sex bomb baby
Because sometimes the party really does have to go on all night long, even if there aren't chemicals in your blood or boomf boomf boomf dance tracks.  It's just alcohol and marijuana and sloppy stupid eruptions of fun, dis-focus, glory even ... as we throw in, do our part to keep the mad old world in some at least loose connection with its axis.  I do recall thinking this, some punk party, mid-80s, in the basement of the place we called the Sewer View.  A few bands had played, maybe even the Engimas, but now it was just some guy's party tape, saving the Universe.

The Cure - cold
Because sometimes passion isn't hot at all, it's cold, freezing even, and no one's ever caught this as epically as The Cure did on 1982's Pornography (now there's a name for a pop album).  Which popped up just in time to find me stepping back from the edge of a prolonged season of alienation.  I guess these days, they'd just say I was depressed.  But nah, it was leagues deeper than that, colder, all that time peering into the abyss, knowing I could just step off any old time, yet ultimately choosing not to.   Like that Robert Frost poem about the winter's night.  Miles to go before I'd sleep.  And there on the soundtrack of the movie I was only beginning to realize I was in, was Cold, assuring me that I was on the gods' straight and narrow path (which only appeared crooked because my filters were so fucked up).

Scott Walker - the impossible dream
Because the movie never got made, not properly anyway.  Sort of Goin Down The Road, the punk version, two losers stumbling around, roadying for various loser bands, having shambolic adventures.  At some point, they end up in an old school piano bar, a guy doing half-assed solo takes on various standards.  Until one of our heroes slips him a fifty (it's been a good night), requests The Impossible Dream.  And it turns out the singer is no less than Scott Walker himself, so it's perfect – the theme song for the whole initiative, the big dream never being more impossible than it was in say, 1985, and thus all the more reason to dream it, because we are humans with souls, it's our duty.  

Waterboys - this is the sea
Because we do need the Big Music sometimes, particularly those moments when it speaks to us directly, word by word, detail by detail, keeps us on course.  From the same movie as Impossible Dream, I figure, except this would be way at the end, after rock bottom has been hit, redemption somehow achieved, not so much happily ever after as beaten but unbowed.  And so like what's her name at the end of Gone With The Wind, who cares about all the wreckage, it's going to be a beautiful day, because that was the river, babe, this is the sea.  Which in 1985, felt so NOW (the psychedelics always helping in this regard).  But now, a further decade or so down the line, I see it all as far more out of reach, the 1960s being the real river.  And the sea?  Well, there's no grasping that, is there?

Pavement - range life
Because it's true, if you want to accomplish anything of value in this thing called life, you really do have to pay your dues before you pay the rent, even if you're deep into your thirties before you realize what that really means.  There Are Higher Obligations Than Mere Survival.  And if you don't grasp this, don't go calling yourself an artist.  Which the Pavement crowd mostly definitely were – artists that is, seeing the middle 90s for the colossal screwup they were, the murder of Kurt Cobain, the co-option of pretty much everything else that had felt so fresh and necessary barely three years previous.  The crooked rain falling in deluge, smelling of sewage and other assorted poisons … and yet, as always, beauty to be found in strangest, least likely of places.  Maybe out on tour somewhere with the Smashing Pumpkins and the Stone Temple Pilots.  

Leonard Cohen - everybody knows
Because it's a perfect summation of Winter of Hate resignation (and resilience), from Rabbi Cohen, some old guy the world had mostly forgotten about at the time, 1988.  At least mine had.  And here I'll drop one of my all time favourite quotes, also from Rabbi Cohen.  "We do live in several worlds.  We live in a world that's mundane, a world that's apocalyptic, a world of order and a world that knows no order.  We're continually juggling these worlds, entering and leaving them.  I've always had the sense that this apocalyptic reality is with us.  It's not something that's coming."  But everybody knows that, right?

Pink Floyd - set the saucers [randoEDIT]
Because sometimes it's not about the notes or the words, the chords, the keys etc; sometimes what makes music great is its architecture, the way the artists and engineers responsible put all the weird pieces together.  Which is certainly true of The Pink Floyd, and how they played it through the late 60s/early 70s, post the psychedelic implosion of their main man, Syd Barrett, pre all that tedious Dark Side of the Moon seriousness.  This particular item Set The Saucers being an EDIT comprised (mostly) of live fragments of Saucerful of Secrets and Set The Controls For the Heart of the Sun as found on Ummagumma, the Floyd's most resolutely underground release, and their most mysterious, and thus their best, even if you do have to be wary of several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Countdown #55 - heroes + idiots

Broadcast April-6-2013 - podcast available here. All comments are from Philip Random's notes (with some editorial diligence). Links are not necessarily to the exact same recordings we played on-air (but we tried).

Malcolm McLaren - buffalo girls 

I'm pretty sure the first time I heard what I'd call rap, it was Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five in around 1982.  To my ears, it was just another pop-gimmick, albeit a pretty cool one.  Jump ahead a few months though and no less than Malcolm McLaren (the man who helped invent the Sex Pistols) seemed to be singing (for lack of a better word) this new form's praises.  But it wasn't just about the rapping, it was also the sampling (not that we had that word yet), grabbing beats and pieces from wherever you could find them (an old funk 45, a square dance album, the backstreets of Soweto), and just sort of jamming everything together, smacking it all around, squeezing a song out.  The insane thing is, it worked.  In fact, I'll always remember the party where I first heard it, a friend's living room, everyone trying to get excited about Elvis Costello or whoever and suddenly this other tape got put on.  So immediately something, all you could do was dance to it.

Dinosaur Jr. - just like heaven
I've never been one to buy many singles -- something to do with coming of record-buying-age in the early 70s when albums were the thing.  But every now and then, you've got to adjust your strategies.  Like hearing Dinosaur Jr's planet killing version of the Cure's Just Like Heaven on the radio one sublime summer day, and immediately needing the record.  But all they had down at Zulu was the 7-inch.  So 7-inch it was, which if I'd been truly cool would've triggered a whole new phase for me, 7-inches being dead cool as the 80s turned over into the 90s, particularly if you were into that raw indie-rock sound.  But I always seemed to find myself going past the 7-inch racks to those huge bins of used LPs accumulating in the back, as everybody was dumping their vinyl for CDs.

Beatles - she said she said
If you want to impress John Lennon while you're tripping with him on LSD in a hot tub up in the Hollywood Hills somewhere, go ahead, start talking about how you died once when you were a little kid.  Guaranteed, you're going to going to send the coolest Beatle to some place dark and scary, the only way out of which will be to write a stunner of a song in which A. he tells you, you're making him feel like he's never been born, and B. he and his band go a long way toward perfecting the psychedelic power pop song almost before it's even been invented.

Brian Eno + David Byrne - Jezebel spirit
I believed I've already rhapsodized at length about My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, how it changed everything forever, put sampling into the cool  toolbox, set more than just the white man free.  But it was also a hell of a fun album in a creepy way, and nowhere more so than Jezebel Spirit, the track that had audio from an actual exorcism, which yeah, is pretty dime a dozen in certain goth and industrial circles these days, but this was 1981.   Ronald Reagan had barely been sworn in as President, John Lennon had only recently been murdered by a guy who was no doubt hearing voices.  Mix in the strong acid that was suddenly so plentiful in my little corner of Americaland and let's just say some deeply weird realms were explored, entities encountered.  And you could dance to it. 

Neu! - hero
Neu being German for New.  Hero being the closest thing Neu! ever came to a proper song with lyrics and singing and everything.  Meanwhile, at pretty much the exact same moment in time, somewhere down the Autobahn, Kraftwerk were inventing what would come to be known as techno-music.  So call this a proto form of punk, beat simple and four-to-the-floor, everything else snarling melodically along, then screaming toward the end.  And seriously, who better than some malcontent Germans to call bullshit on the whole notion of heroism?

Pink Floyd - interstellar overdrive
I can't remember who said it, but it's stuck.  Jimi Hendrix (God bless him all the way to the edges of the nine known universes) gets maybe a little too much credit for defining what one could do, psychedelically, with an electric guitar, in 1967.  Because it's not as if Syd Barrett wasn't also brewing up his own weird and infinite stews.  Maybe he didn't have the licks, the dexterity, the voodoo blues bubbling from his soul straight through his fingers … but he did have the angles, the great sheets of discord and noise that it was going to take to get this new souped up music out of the earth's orbit, off into the beyond, even if it was ultimately within, which in Syd's case, would prove a bottomless void.  The rest of the band weren't half bad either. 

King Crimson - red
I remember hearing Red for the first time when I was maybe sixteen, and it actually frightened me.  There was no respite, no calm anywhere, just full-on fierceness in the shade of red, that sort of mist we see when our rage gets the worst of us (or perhaps the best) and all we can do really is let it howl.  In retrospect, it's no great surprise that Robert Fripp shut the band down almost immediately afterward.  There was really nowhere else to go … not for six or seven years anyway. 

Bob Dylan - idiot wind
This one goes out to Angela.  We officially broke up in 1988.  It just took me three years to finally "get it", one long, strange, lonely summer day, that began with an urge to drop a little LSD, climb a small mountain, check out the sublime scenery.  And it was good.  But then came the descent, all that time for reflection in the solitude of the forest, and meanwhile, on the walkman I had Dylan's Blood on the Tracks playing, because I'd exhausted all the more cosmic stuff on the way up.  And damned if all that grit and spite didn't just start talking to me, particularly the bit at the end of Idiot Wind, how it doesn't just blow when you open your mouth, but also when I open mine.  Because like some smartass said just the other day down at the pub, there's no "I" in team, but there's two of them in idiot.  Welcome to love, I guess, the part they don't mention in all those fairy tales, which is why we need the music of Mr. Bob Dylan from pretty much any phase of his career.  Post-fairy tale all the way.

David Bowie - quicksand
Did Mr. Jones have any idea of how absolutely he was about to blow the cultural fuses when he wrote and recorded this dark little examination of his personal motives for stardom and glory, and surreal excursions from there (whispering about Heinrich Himmler, hints of occult knowledge, the beast himself, Aleister Crowley).  But in the end, it's all just the quicksand of one's mind.  Why can't we have pop stars like this any more? 

David Bowie - station to station
This is the one where he refers to himself as the Thin White Duke, which didn't mean much to me at the time, 1976, half-way through Grade Eleven.  It was just the title track from the latest Bowie album, which was disappointing to me on the level that it wasn't somehow a return to Ziggy Stardust and/or Diamond Dogs.  But I still couldn't help but get sucked in by the song Station to Station, the long slow build from noise to creepy groove, the switch at half-distance into full-on cocaine party rocker.  Later that year, I'd read the infamous interview where he spoke favourably of Adolph Hitler, how the Britain of 1976 needed a good, solid fascist government.  What an asshole, I remember thinking.  Years later, the story would come out that Station to Station was the album he had no memory of recording due, if you believe everything you read, to a fusion of cocaine, black magic, full-on psychosis and appearances on the Dinah Shore Show.  Which is just one more reason why I wouldn't a trade a teenage in the 70s for any other decade.  Exactly as strange as this young boy needed.

Public Image Ltd. - public image
Public Image was the first single from Public Image Ltd, the band that Johnny Rotten threw together amid the wreckage of the recently crashed and burned Sex Pistols.  And it was damned good, hell even I liked it on first listen from my mostly anti-punk perspective.  A serious call to … seriousness, I guess, Mr. Rotten making the point that he was more than just a cartoon character, a gimmick, that he knew a thing or two about music, how to sing a song, make a record, take steady aim with it, hit them all where it hurts.  And damn, what a hot bass line!

Can - mother sky
Because some stuff really does exists outside of time.  A fierce jam recorded live off the floor in 1969 sometime, Koln, Germany.  But I wouldn't hear it until at least fifteen years later, the mid-80s when such extremes were suddenly required.  Wild and unchained like punk and hardcore, but up to something deeper, longer, more sustained.  Call it a punk you could groove to.  Jump ahead another decade and there I am, Germany, May 1995, almost exactly fifty years since World War Two had finally come to an end, a day in which I'm milkrunning by train from Heidelberg through the former east, finally into the suburbs of Berlin at dusk with Mother Sky on the walkman:  final rays of setting sun slanting across a farmer's field, a line of abandoned cars rusting along one edge, a family of wild pigs crossing from the other ... with a slag heap in the distance, no doubt toxic.  By which I mean, beautiful.  One of those moments I'd never anticipated, but once experienced, knew had always had to be.  So much so that I found myself looking over shoulder, wondering which of my fellow passengers was the god that ordained it, or maybe it was just the sky.

Van Morrison - Madame George
All hail Lester Bangs on this one, his lucid raving about Astral Weeks in general, Madame George in particular, directing me to these nine plus minutes of mystical, magical longing, all childlike visions and the smell of sweet perfume.  It seems to be about a cross-dresser, Ms. Madame George, but it's really about all of us, how we'll never really grasp that thing we desire the most, and yet the reaching for it, the yearning, well that defines us, doesn't it?  Redeems us.

Pharoah Sanders - the creator has a masterplan [excerpt]
It was only a few years ago actually.  It just seems like a different age.  I guess I was high.  That afternoon at the flea market, packed as usual, a cacophony of vision and sound, anything and everything vying for my attention.  And then rising from the back of it all, a more marvellous cacophony, saxophones and drums and keyboards and voices, yodeling even.  Something about peace and happiness through all the land.   It draws me to the far corner, old Ike's vinyl stand and all the wonders therein.  And so I bought it, the album named Karma.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Countdown #54 - only bleeding

Broadcast March-30-2013 - podcast available here. All comments are from Philip Random's notes (with some editorial diligence). Links are not necessarily to the exact same recordings we played on-air (but we tried). Nor is every record represented here. To hear them all, you've got to actually listen to the podcast.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Countdown #53 - don't be denied

Broadcast March-23-2013 - podcast available here. All comments are from Philip Random's notes (with some editorial diligence). Links are not necessarily to the exact same recordings we played on-air (but we tried). Nor is every record represented here. To hear them all, you've got to actually listen to the podcast.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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