Monday, May 27, 2013

Countdown #61 - radioactivity

Broadcast May-25-2013 - 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). 

Kraftwerk - radio-activity
Because radio is maybe the best thing I've ever done with my time – the creative non-abuse and/or perversion of the airwaves I've had access to, the freedom taken and the activities pursued.  Not that Radioactivity's about that kind of radio.  It's about the other kind, discovered Madame Curie.  But the one, of course, informs the other, all those mysterious and invisible waves permeating our various spheres, beaming off into space, alerting who knows what alien entities of our existence ... maybe a million light years from now, when they finally get the message.  And the amusing thing, of course, would be if the first stuff they heard was Kraftwerk's 1975 masterpiece – the geniuses from Dusseldorf doing their damnedest to sound like machines, releasing great depths of humanity in the process.   

Roxy Music - Ladytron
Because the first Roxy Music album is still mostly ahead of its time even now decades later (and the next four or five are pretty sharp as well).  But it's the first one that lays it all out – the rock the glamour, the romance, the noise, the pop, The Future.  And the one track that delivers it all in less than four and a half minutes, the one single Roxy artifact I'd grab if the world was burning down (and it probably is), is Ladytron.  Which, it occurs to me as I jot this down, I don't even know what it's about.  A lady apparently, and beautiful at that, though she may be a robot.  But maybe my kiss can make her human.  Or more to the point, Bryan Ferry's kiss.

Mothers of Invention - brown shoes don't make it
Because it's late spring 1967, and all the pop world is getting its mind blown by The Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band – the album that would change everything forever.  Except Frank Zappa and The Mothers had already been there, done that twice, with Freak Out and then Absolutely Free, which is absolute truth in advertising.  Forty plus continuous minutes of full-on everything, by which I mean jazz, doo-wop, rock and roll, pop, avant-noise, fun.  And Brown Shoes Don't Make It is the seven-and-a-half minute mini-epic where it all gets thrown together – rude and crude and sharp as a diamond, yet smothered in chocolate syrup.

Captain Beefheart - I'm gonna booglarize you, baby
Because this is what white men should do with the blues.  Not just ape what they've heard from the old records, but take them somewhere deeper, weirder, more complex, and yeah, probably inappropriate.  Because seriously, I don't think booglarize just means to compel someone to get out on the dance floor.  Though I did have the exquisite experience of watching a couple dance to this, all wild hair and hippie beads, while I was still just a kid, maybe fourteen, hanging out at my friend Carl's place during one his older brother's parties.  One of those legendary wild and wasted mid-70s affairs, before disco hit and made a mess of all things groovy.  Indeed, it was the first time I'd ever heard the good Captain.  So I guess it's true what they say.  The first cut is the deepest.

The Who - my generation + young man blues
Because it really is the invention of punk -- teenage rage, power, angst, frustration, horniness, confusion, apocalypse all erupting as a sustained declaration of ... something that's impossible to really put into words.  So guitar, bass, drums, distortion, a few explosives are utilized and it all just thunders on from there to the edges of the nine known universes, such that maybe a decade later, an eternally frustrating late teenage night, nothing to do, nowhere to go, just me and my friend Doug, a 26er of Tequila and his dad's Camaro, and an 8-Track of The Who Live At Leeds.  It's snowed recently, so we take it down to the back of an empty mall parking lot and cut loose with power slides, fishtails, spinouts.  True heavy metal thunder.  Although it would've been truer if the Camaro didn't have an automatic transmission.  Which we fried eventually.  So we ditched the car, hiked home and let his dad report it stolen the next morning.  We never did get caught.  Although maybe fifteen years later Doug got busted for some kind of insider trading.  One of these days, I'll get the full story. 

Sonic Youth - the wonder + hyperstation + Eliminator Jr.
Because Daydream Nation is crucial.  Both for the culture as a whole, and for me in particular.  Because there it was, late 1988, when things had all fallen apart, and all other music had abandoned me (it's a long story ).  I'm flat on my back, bedroom floor, my parents place, grown man doing yet another season in hell.  Recovering from various injuries and afflictions, too spent for anything but the sprawl of this one album.  Which was perfect really.  If you're only going to have one album, it may as well be four sides of music and noise inseparable, reminding you that the biggest truths have no boundaries, the most important stories never quite add up, the best songs never quite hold together, always yearning for, grasping for, gunning for more ... and are thus defined as much by the chaos at their edges as the order at their centres (or is the other way around?)   The trilogy from Side Four gets nod here because it's the highpoint of the album (not that there's any real low points).   Guy wanders the sprawl, gets high by the sounds of things, likely something lysergic because he's truly seeing the wonder in things.  But then comes the long slow comedown.  He runs into some jocks at 3AM, gets his shit kicked.  But he makes it home, barely.  And there's his girl waiting, his angel, his saviour.  She fucks his brains, his soul, his bones to heaven and beyond, like a god damned top alcohol dragster tearing up the quarter mile, fumes so intense they cause a rare local breed of starling to go extinct.  The Lord works in mysterious ways.  The daydream never ends. 

Nancy Sinatra + Lee Hazelwood - some velvet morning
Because it's just so heavy, even if it is extremely easy to listen to, guy so wasted he can't even open his girl's gate, but some velvet morning he'll be up to it.  Maybe he'll even tell her about Phaedra.  Which I always just figured was heroin, yet suburban somehow.  Because nothing feels more desperate than a junkie in a bungalow with a fine trim lawn, the utilities paid, the appearances kept -- the split level dream going all rotten from within.  Feeling no pain, but burning up anyway.

Yes - close to the edge + wurm
Because it's true, the edge isn't the place, the edge doesn't exist.  You've either gone too far and you're falling the long fall into oblivion, or you've found that sweet spot just short of it where everything opens up.  All those BIG unifying ideas that have been floating around in you since before puberty even – the idea of indivisibility, of Jehovah and Allah and Jesus and Mohammed and Krishna ... all one big happy, and thunderous at that.  Bigger than any cathedral that's for sure.  Because (and here's the key point) every church gets it all wrong the instant it claims to have gotten it all right.  Because even if you have vast chunks of the truth, you can't have it all.  It's the nature of it, beyond human comprehension.  So the very claim of Truth divides us, sets loose corrosive elements, brings the fucking roof down.  Which is what's going on in the middle of Close To The Edge, when the church organ kicks in.  That's the capital T Truth failing, discrete-noun-thing.  That's the cathedrals all collapsing, and the mosques, the temples, the synagogues.  That's the outside gushing in, the inside gushing out.  Now that you're saved, now that you're whole.  It's all so clear once you stop trying to make sense of it.  

Like Yes themselves, who really were the best damned band in the world in 1972, even better than Led Zeppelin.  Because they had a secret weapon, they had Rick Wakeman and his mountainous stacks of keyboards, conjuring choirs and orchestras and all manner of big and mysterious colours and textures and … well, it's all there in Wurm (the live version found on Yessongs, the 1972 triple live extravaganza) which is to say, part three of Starship Trooper, and nothing against the first two parts, they're cool, but it's Wurm where it all truly transcends, gets heavenly even, definitely heavy.  

Johnny Cash - another song to sing
Because Johnny Cash is right.  There's always another song.  The world's always bigger than you thought it was.  There's always a reason to crawl out of whatever hole you're in, get up, try one more time.  It occurs to me that I don't really know Johnny Cash's story.  I know he had some hard times.  I know he got himself saved by the Lord Jesus.  I know he gobbled a lot of pills for a while, mixed them up with moonshine or whatever.  I know he managed to burn down a forest in California with a carelessly tossed cigarette.  A thick and complex volume, that man in black.  Thank the Lord he found so many songs to sing.  

Residents - Eskimo [the edit]
Because if you're not at some point listening to music that has turned into noise, or perhaps noticing that noise has turned into music, you're not trying hard enough.  And damn it all, I've tried.  I've listened to a pile of The Residents over the years, and loved it.  Most of it anyway.  Though they annoyed me when I finally saw them live.  Not that there was anything wrong with the show.  It was just too human somehow, all my secret notions that they were in fact not human beings, but aliens or spirit entities or maybe some kind of future post-humans come back to check up on us – all those notions were dashed.  And it hurt.  Because an album like Eskimo just doesn't feel something from this world.  It feels beyond us somehow, and sublimely, enticingly, alluringly, noisily so.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Countdown #60 - the night train

Broadcast May-18-2013 - 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). 

Lee "Scratch" Perry + the Dub Syndicate - music + science lovers [night train]
Because it's the high water mark of the album Time Boom X De Devil Dead, one the great three way musical collisions that ever happened.  Lee "Scratch" Perry (having burned his famous Black Ark studio to the ground and split Jamaica), the Dub Syndicate (absolute truth in advertising), and Adrian Sherwood (mix magician extraordinaire) all taking the Night Train together, feeling no pain, while the Cold War world kept burning hotter and hotter, the Doomsday Clock kept ticking closer and closer to midnight.  So the only conceivable response was to keep moving, keep grooving, keep spitting out the mad truth.

Talking Heads - psycho killer
Because no way is 1977 their best album, but Psycho Killer's probably their best song.  Which gets us to the argument I had recently with Lorena, my lawyer, she claiming to have heard Psycho Killer before.  It's in the movie, Stop Making Sense, the very first song, David Byrne stepping out solo on stage, just acoustic guitar and beatbox.  But Lorena, the essential recording remains the original, which clearly not enough folks have heard, because I've yet to see it show up as the theme song for some eighth rate cop show.  Which is a good thing.  But I was at a wedding recently where it brought the house down, which was weird and also beautiful, all these ex-punks hitting their forties, showing scar tissue, but still moving, liable to explode at any instant, taking everybody with them.   

The Fall - the man whose head expanded
Because in spite of all my scepticism toward the cult of Fall main man Mark E. Smith (which I found particularly annoying toward the middle end of the 1980s), there's no arguing that the guy had something genuine mixed in with all the bile he was spewing.  And to my ears, he never spewed it so well as The Man Whose Head Expanded (just like Hitler), a single that crossed my path in 1983 or thereabouts.  Did I actually buy it?  Or did Martin Q force it on me after one too many arguments, late night and accelerated, our heads no doubt well expanded.   

Undertones - teenage kicks
Because even though it hit the year I officially ceased to be teenaged (1979), I was still young enough to get the point.  Still am, I hope.  Which is, The Who were right all those years ago, the kids are alright, they always are, they always will be, such is the life force itself, all those eternal teenage hormones, hardons, heartbreaks, total havoc.  The kicks must continue or else seriously, why bother?

Spacemen Three - revolution
Because I couldn't really justify forcing the Beatles Revolution onto this list, and anyway this latter Revolution pays it beautiful and eviscerating homage, all flesh eating distortion and simple message.  Just five seconds -- that's all it would take for all the fucked up children of the world to rise up and tear everything down.  The weird thing is, I was actually in Britain when this was new.  I even saw the t-shirts (the ones concerning all those fucked up children of the world).  But I didn't get around to hearing any of it for at least a year, by which point grunge was breaking (or about to anyway), which is really what's going on here, I think.  Grunge before they had a name for it.  And I mean that in the best possible way.

Patti Smith - rock'n'roll nigger
Because she's not black, she's no lady, she's not even a punk really (more proto than anything in that regard), but if she says she's a nigger of the rock'n'roll variety, I'm not going to argue.  From a 1978 album called Easter that's actually kind of restrained otherwise, boring even, though it does have Because The Night, the big deal hit that Bruce Springsteen wrote for her.  Which is hilarious -- all those Boss fans buying it, getting spat on by Rock'n'Roll Nigger.  Such were the punk wars of the late seventies.  No prisoners taken, confusion everywhere ... and it was good.

Pogues - thousands are sailing
Because the Pogues really take you there here, the Irish Potato Famine of the 1830s – the kind of desperation that would drive a man to pile his family into a cramped sailing ship, heading in the general of the Americas with no prospect of anything save that it beat the certainty of death by starvation.  And then maybe half way across, assuming you'd survived that far, some shady guy in religious garb might pull you aside and suggest that a snap renunciation of the Pope and conversion to the Church of England might save you and yours from getting kicked off the ship onto one of the plague islands in the St. Lawrence, the ones that hardly anyone ever left, alive or dead.  So yeah, here's to that stout and pragmatic Irish blood that still pumps through at least three-eighths of me, and to the Pogues for singing its bitter, drunken, resilient truth.  

Can - oh yeah
Because of that moment at Lollapalooza, 1994, Cloverdale BC, long hot day, traffic jams, shitty food, not enough water, too much dope, way too many big deal bands not really delivering, failing to send me anywhere I hadn't been before.  Except suddenly at sunset, in the run-up to the Beastie Boys' set, the DJ drops a little old school Can into the mix and it's perfect.  It's Oh Yeah from Tago Mago, seven or so minutes of pulsing groove, eerie drones, backwards vocals and jagged rips of sideways guitar ... and it owns the day, almost makes it worth the trouble.  Yeah, I could have just listened to it on the patio at home with a beer and a joint, but that would be like taking a helicopter to the peak of some notable mountain.  Sometimes the trouble is the point.  Such is life.

Echo + the Bunnymen - the killing moon [all night long]
Because this 12-inch extended mix is the Bunnypeople's masterpiece.  And yeah, it may have hit in the mid-80s (and served well in many a DJ-set when something dark, beautiful and long was required), but it took the Gulf War, 1991, to really bring out the epic truth in it – the horrors that were going down a world away in the name of oil and bullshit, the rumours that the moon had turned blood red in accordance with some prophecy to be found in the Holy Bible (the Book of Revelations or wherever).  Props to Chris the Christer for setting me straight on that.  And then he no doubt rolled another joint.  All praise to Lord Jesus the party animal, for he did turn the water to wine.  

Jethro Tull - thick as a brick
Because it's 43 plus minutes long and it shouldn't be one second shorter, even if it's ultimately not really about anything, just an in-joke within an in-joke.  Which is to say, the alleged epic poetry of a pre-teen kid (one Gerald Bostock) taking on all the hypocrisy and absurdity of his world and society and God ... and never really coming to any conclusion short of the wiser you are, the less thick you are, and something to do with all the superheroes taking early retirement, writing their memoirs down in Cornwall.  Or something like that.  Barely teenage me ate it up, of course, which is a pretty useless justification, because I was also seriously digging April Wine at the time, and I'm not still raving about them, am I?  Maybe the answer's more in the music itself, the epic mix of folk and rock and classical and pop tangents, the ebb and flow that really is all one big whole, themes and counter-themes, coming, going, kicking up, burning down.  And the cover wasn't bad either – essentially an entire small town newspaper complete with scandals, missing experimental non-rabbits, art crimes, even a review of the album itself, which probably says it best.  "One doubts at times the validity of what appears to be an expanding theme throughout the two continuous sides of this record but the result is at worst entertaining and at least aesthetically palatable." 


Monday, May 13, 2013

Countdown #59 - the golden void

Broadcast May-11-2013 - 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).  Links couldn't found for every recording (but we tried).

Isaac Hayes - hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic
Because it's as cool as its title -- good, solid soul for three minutes or so, and then the groove takes over care of  the kind of musical genius that knows sometimes you can just let the piano go, give it all the available sonic space, don't worry, it won't disappoint you.  Isaac Hayes being the genius in question, the groove itself being so hot that Public Enemy would put it to stunning use a decade or so later in Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos (one of their greatest moments) ... almost as if Mr. Hayes had it planned all along.  He probably did.

Devo  - mongoloid
Because it's the first punk tune that ever truly grabbed me, even if some have argued (no doubt continue to argue) that Devo weren't punk, they were new wave, to which I just fire back a huge WHATEVER. It would've been 1978 because Tormato, the latest Yes magnum opus, was out, except it was neither magnum or opus.  But I loved it anyway.  Just smoke enough dope, drink enough booze, crank the stereo and voila!  I was nothing if not loyal in my stupid devotion to my favourite band.  But not my friend Carl.  He just shook his head and put on Devo's first album, which proceeded to make an impression.  Because it was fun, no question, particularly Mongoloid.  Just the whole nasty idea of it, a wound up anthem about some guy who was a mongoloid.  How perverse was that!  But fun was all it was.  It wasn't complex or anything.  It wasn't important.  Carl could see that, couldn't he?  He just smiled and played Mongoloid again.  By the third time through, I was air-guitaring.  But it still wasn't important. 

Bauhaus - third uncle
Because if the cover version is better than the kick ass Brian Eno original, and it is, well we're talking some kind of sublime greatness.  And it's worth remembering, so-called Goth didn't exist before Bauhaus.  True, people were already dressing in black and mourning for their own deaths ... but until Bauhaus, they were just notable fashion extremists lurking in the shadows of the cooler clubs, like something important was being born,  but it hadn't quite arrived yet.  And then along came Bauhaus, looking good in black themselves, setting free the mysterious bloodsucking hordesAnd it was good.

War - the world is a ghetto

Because it's true, what the title says, the world is a ghetto, and never more so than 1972-73, when I was finally getting serious about music, exploring the FM waves (which were still cool then, still DJ dominated, people who loved music playing the stuff they loved).  And that meant the feature length version of The World Is A Ghetto got some play, the one that really took you there, where the fires of the 1960s riots and uprisings were still smouldering, the smell still thick in the air, reaching even to the whitebread suburbs of the Pacific Northwest where we didn't even have so-called Black people.  But we had this music and it was making us think, and feel.

Led Zeppelin - in my time of dying
Because the highest Led Zeppelin record on this list would have to be from Physical Graffiti, which I never even heard in its entirety until summer 1989, fifteen years after the fact.  It was the fateful day I went to the record store to spend a hundred bucks on maybe seven CDs and instead walked out with better part of thirty used albums, plus a pile of 45s, because everybody was suddenly doing what I'd thought I was doing, switching to CDs.  Which meant they were dumping all their vinyl.  Which meant here was pretty much every album I'd always wanted but couldn't really afford, now being  pretty much given away.  And when I got home, Physical Graffiti was the first thing I played, with In My Time Of Dying everything that had ever made Led Zeppelin legendary -- the blues, the rock, the epic and dynamic darkness that said as much about the hard times of the Mississippi Delta circa 1932 as the imminent end of the world, due anytime soon.

Alice Cooper - halo of flies
Because it puts the lie to all those asshole grown-ups who tried to write the Alice Cooper Group off as a bunch of talentless freakshow types.  I distinctly remember the first time I heard Halo of Flies, 1972 sometime, at my friend Malcolm's, who'd immediately gone out and bought the Killer album when the news hit about the kid a few suburbs over who'd hung himself because of the inside cover.  The newspapers were all over it for a while.  Fourteen year old boy kills himself trying to imitate Alice Cooper.  Which, of course, is as deep as any adult went.  The cover.  Their loss, because there was nothing shallow about the music.  Creepy, dynamic, erupting with grotesque passion and cool … and Halo of Flies took it all furthest.

Neil Young - ambulance blues
Because it's proof that I was cool in summer 1974, barely fifteen years old.  Actually, cool had nothing to do with it.  It was just one of those difficult summers, stuck visiting relatives, no friends within five hundred miles, too old for little kids stuff, too young to be remotely interested in adult bullshit.  And yet for some reason, there was this new Neil Young album kicking around my uncle's place.  I think he won it in a raffle, probably listened to it once.  And to be honest, it was mostly way over my head, but it was all I had, so I kept at it.  And in the end it was Side Two that got me, the mellower, more somber stuff,.  Particularly Ambulance Blues, which really felt like the album cover, a California beach on a grey and disappointing day, a guy at the water's edge looking like he might be about to jump in, never come back. 

David Bowie - sweet thing [candidate - sweet thing reprise]
Because Diamond Dogs is the great under-regarded David Bowie album, and Sweet-Thing-Candidate-Sweet-Thing (the mini-epic that takes up most of side one) is its high water mark.  The alien Ziggy Stardust is no more.  This new Bowie creature seems to be half human, half dog, and rolling in the muck and mire of an apocalyptic hellscape that's equal parts Hieronymus Bosch and Salvador Dali.  And he's running for political office, with high ambition.  He wants to be Big Brother.  And yet there's a sweetness at the heart of it, a sorrow even, a sliver of soul and humanity that suggests maybe all isn't lost.  It's just the early-middle part of the 1970s, the outlook may be grim, but damn, if the music isn't strong.

Pixies - debaser
Because it rocks, of course, and coolly at that.  And it references the Andalusian dog, thus riffing on all manner of dada and surrealism, which is all good.  Because seriously, what did happen in Zurich in 1916?  What strange and vital energies were released from the bowels of the Cabaret Voltaire while all of Europe was tearing itself to pieces in the so-called Great War?  What conjured these energies?  What nurtured them?  How did they survive and thus, how have they allowed for the survival of all humanity?  Hint:  the dog has something to with it, the dog doesn't mean anything.  

This Mortal Coil - song to the siren
Because as any traveler of psychedelic realms will advise, make sure you've got a plan for coming down from LSD – those long and lonely hours where you're too spent to do anything short of lie flat, too wired to sleep.  Which in my particular case meant This Mortal Coil's first album got a lot of play in the middle 80s, evoking an apocalypse that was neither fire nor brimstone, but it was deep, mournful even, evoking a solitude at least as ancient as time.  And the cover of Tim Buckley's Song To The Siren was definitely the standout.

Butthole Surfers - sweat loaf
Because somebody had to do it, finally deliver so called rock and roll that was the manifestation of everything any decent, god-fearing parent or businessman or teacher or priest or shopkeeper or hockey coach had ever feared about it, and worse.  Like that family of three that went missing near the Butthole Surfers' compound in rural Texas, the young boy murdered by the band, butchered, barbequed and force-fed to the father who went mad and was later found wandering naked at the side of the road, babbling, claiming he knew the truth about who killed JFK and the Jonestown massacres and how the Trilateral Commission figured into it all.  Meanwhile, the mother just joined band, danced with them on stage, naked, and helped sell merchandise afterward.  Such was the loud, ugly-beautiful-evil glory of the Butthole Surfers circa 1987 … but only if you got the joke. 

Hawkwind - the golden void
Because it's true, what the guy's singing about, the stuff about the corridor of flame and the warriors found at the edge of time.  I've seen them.  I've been one, doing my infinitesimal bit to keep the universe expanding as it must, riding that big and glorious and infinite boom to its ever blooming edge.  Trust me.  I wouldn't lie about something like that, and neither would Hawkwind.  You can hear it in the passion of the performance, every means utilized to evoke what they'd found way out there.  And also, I gotta say it, a dedication to any-and-all I've ever tripped with (you know who you are).  The goal was never just easy pleasure and/or wasted oblivion – nah, these were noble journeys, heroic even, all the glorious challenge out there at the fractal edges of eternity, realm of angels, remembering the future, revealing the science in ever shading colours, as a germ in a seed grows, as a river joins the ocean.  I'll stop now as I seem to be quoting Genesis and Yes lyrics.

Bob Dylan - desolation row

Because of that night, it must've been early 1973 because I was still thirteen, working through the bullshit of Grade Eight, and everything else for that matter, including life itself, a big fat Why Bother at the heart of pretty much all my musings.  Because the Christian-God-based reality I'd had foisted on me from day one was too ridiculous to be taken remotely seriously.  But what did that leave then other than meaninglessness, which was proving to be no fun at all.  Meanwhile in the background, this insanely long Bob Dylan song was playing on CKLG-FM, about postcards sent from hangings, and Cain and Abel, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Insurance Men, the Titanic, TS Elliot ... like somebody was trying to get a message to me.  And I got it finally.  Something to do with not sweating the meaning stuff, just get on with it, live, learn, encounter crazy shit, go to the hangings, maybe drink cheap red wine, mix it up with marijuana, get serious about confusion not as end but an indication that some higher wisdom might be waiting a little further down the line.  Maybe send a few postcards ... 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Countdown #58 - burnin + lootin

Broadcast May-4-2013 - 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).

KLF - doctorin' the Tardis
Because it makes so much sense.  Take the Doctor Who theme, jam it up with Gary Glitter's Rock and Roll Part 2, add some big beats and voila! the whole world shall move.  And it did, sort of, the KLF (acronym for Kopywrite Liberation Front) being almost as committed to sabotaging themselves as they were to world domination.  Future shenanigans would include hooking up with Tammy Wynette for another almost monster hit and (operating under the banner of the K Foundation) burning a million pounds (almost three million dollars at the time) in the name of art, which confused a lot of people and forever earned them mythical status in my book.  But then what do you expect from beings allegedly connected with the lost civilization of Atlantis?

Undisputed Truth - ball of confusion
Because it's true, it's indeed a ball of confusion, the world that is -- everything pumping with paranoia, unease, threat.  It is now, it was in 1971-72, evidence as near as the six o'clock news, which I did occasionally watch, age twelve or thirteen. The Temptations had the big hit with Ball of Confusion but the Undisputed Truth (whoever they were) take it way further, funkier, bigger.  And then there's that band I vaguely recall seeing at a school dance, maybe Grade ten, doing their own long and sloppy rock take.  I remember thinking, I guess this is sort of the future, all endless struggles and bullshit.  Prophetic indeed.  At least you could dance to it.  

Beatles - it's all too much
Because it saved Pepperland, Beatle George,s full-on acid epiphany at the end of Yellow Submarine (the movie), which I saw when I was nine, my friend Patrick's birthday.  And  even then, It's All Too Much was my fave (and Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds).  What was it about psychedelia that so instantly grabbed me, even then?  And the thing is, we kids knew.  These were songs about drugs and hippies -- the kinds of things that hippies saw when they did drugs.  Which seemed to be rainbows and flowers and weird multi-coloured alligators and much too much too much too much.  What was so wrong about that?  

Neil Diamond - Hot August Night
"Because it's not ironic, man, this shit makes me live.  Let the seed be full with tomorrow, it doesn't get more hopeful than that, and also the part about the lame man not just walking but flying – that's what music can do, that’s what music must do." I didn't say it, my friend Steven did, but I agreed with him, even if I needed about five drinks in me to bring myself to it, the kind of gushing that was required, and dammit, it was required, because Mr. Neil Diamond had NOT received his due measure of respect, and still hasn't.  Go ahead, listen to a live take on Holly Holy with your mind open and try to argue otherwise.  

Orb - little fluffy clouds
Because it's Graceland, 1996 or thereabouts and The Orb have finally made it to town.  But it's a curious set, all texture and groove, precious little song.  But it gets the packed room moving.  And then, final song of the main set, they drop the old hit, Little Fluffy Clouds – the whole room suddenly kicking up three or four gears, achieving escape velocity.  At which point it occurs to me that Little Fluffy Clouds is an anthem.  Something to do with beauty being its own argument, its own justification, its own ideology even.  Which is to say, the ends can never justify the means, because the means are the end.  You don't get to paradise by doing ugly things.

Bob Marley + the Wailers - burnin' and lootin'
Because of the 1992 LA riots (all that post Rodney King verdict chaos).  I remember watching it go down on TV all day, then helping with a radio show that night, piping in the TV sound live, surfing the chaos, mixing it up with various relevant tunes, which meant lots of gangsta rap, of course.  Angry As Fuck.  But the song that cut the hardest that night, spoke most profoundly of the underlying history, the centuries of bullshit and terror that had fed the monster we were watching – that was Burnin' and Lootin', Bob Marley and the Wailers from almost twenty years before anyone had even heard Rodney King's name.

Jimi Hendrix - third stone from the sun + 1983 a merman I should be
Because if Jimi calls it surf music, it's surf music.  Except that's not actually what he's saying toward the end of Third Stone From The Sun, all mixed up with guitar manipulations and feedback.  He's saying surf music is dead, because he'd recently heard Dick Dale was dying (he wasn't, but he was fighting cancer at the time).  Except I wouldn't get this straight until just recently, care of neighbour Motron, which means I spent a good fifteen or twenty years thinking Third Stone was Jimi's version of surf rock, which is brilliant really.  Like that moment I had, fourteen years old, caught in some monster surf off Hawaii, turning and tumbling, no idea what  was up or down, where there might some air to breathe.  Not that I panicked.  It never occurred to me to panic.  It was just so strange.  Like this is it, this is how you die, even if you are a strong swimmer, you just can't find the surface.  And then I did, kind of by mistake.  Anyway, that's the kind of place Jimi Hendrix at his most abstract gets you.

And throw in the latter part of 1983 A Merman I Should Be to further the point.  Submerged all the way, the very best music being not unlike the ocean -- vast and unpredictable.  The secret is not to panic.

Crosby Stills Nash + Young - Ohio
Because even though the album says 1972, this live recording of Ohio dates to June 1970, barely a month after the events in question – the murder by National Guard marksmen of four students on the campus of Kent State University, Ohio.  So what you're hearing are people in the line of fire, singing for their lives.  Because Richard Nixon has given the executive order.  Fuck the long hairs and their protests, send in the tin soldiers and shoot them down.

Suicide - Frankie Teardrop
Because violence is in our nature and it's seldom been so viscerally expressed as it is here.  No surprise that it would be 1977, the year punk truly broke.  Not that Suicide were punk.  They were their own genre altogether.  And political as hell if only for the full on howl of rage found in Frankie Teardrop, young man with a family, just trying to survive, but he's not gonna make it, he can't make the payments.  And don't fool yourself, like the song says, we're all Frankies.  WARNING: the word nightmarish does apply here.

Klaus Shulze - floating
Because there had to be at least one endless eternal mid-70s analog synth epic on this list, so it it might as well be the one that just saved my life.  Sort of.  The weight of the whole damned world driving me down.  I'm finally flat on the floor, not even drunk or stoned, just spent with worry ... but fortunately I've got Floating playing.  I don't even remember putting it on.  But here I am giving myself to it, floating through the various details of the moment -- what a beautiful day it is, the birds singing just out the window, the summer sun warm and benign, an easy miracle from 93 million miles away.  What was I even worried about?  

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Countdown #57 - under a groove

Broadcast April-27-2013 - 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). 

Marianne Faithfull - why d'ya do it?
Because I don't care what all the hard rock hippie diehards were saying, by 1979 the Rolling Stones were nowhere, and they would never be somewhere ever again.  Certainly not on record.  Which gets us to Why D'ya Do It? the last truly great Rolling Stones record, even if they had nothing to do with it.  It was Marianne Faithfull all the way.  But she was Mick's ex and spitting exactly the kind of bile the Stones should have still had in them if they hadn't fucked up on heroin and indulgence.  Because this was raunchy and vindictive and unrepentant and dirty in all the right ways.  Seriously.  Imagine Mick Jagger singing it in1971, part of the Exile on Main St. sessions.  You know it would have kicked.  But Ms. Faithfull's version would still be better. 

The Jesus + Mary Chain - just like honey
Because it's what the mid point of the 1980s actually sounded like.  A Phil Spector sort of melody channeled through not a wall of sound, but a god damned hurricane.  And yet sweet, like the title suggests, and yet deadly serious like the band's name suggests.  So the unrighteous were destroyed by it, turned to pillars of salt where they stood, and many were in 1985.  Because the battle lines had been drawn in the still unnamed Winter of Hate, and noise was starting to win some key battles. 

Toots + the Maytals - Funky Kingston
Because I never got to see most of the soul greats.  No Ray Charles, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder ticket stubs in my nostalgia box.  But I did catch Toots and Maytals in their prime, one of the best damned bands ever in the history of anything tearing the roof off the Commodore Ballroom, making me fall in love with all humanity.  And Funky Kingston was the climax of the show, rude and raw and at least as hot as Jamaica in summertime.  

Nina Simone - to love somebody
Because hate on the Bee Gees' all you want, they could write a genius pop song.  Case in point, To Love Somebody, maybe the greatest three plus minutes of unrequited love ever written, and covered by everybody from the Flying Burrito Brothers to the Chambers Brothers to Roberta Flack to Eric Burdon and the Animals ... but nobody ever owned it like Ms. Nina Simone did in 1969.  The kind of performance that, if the term soul music hadn't already been coined, it would have been necessary to do so.  Immediately.  

Doors - break on through
Because as the wise ass said, "Why did Jim Morrison cross the road?  To break on through to the other side."  But seriously, as lead off tracks from first albums go, Break On Through's about as perfect as they come.  A dark eruption of summer of love psyche-rock that tells no lies, promises nothing, delivers maybe everything, even if it took twelve or thirteen years as it did in my case.  It would've been the fall of 1980, with Jim Morrison ten years dead (or maybe just missing) but going through a resurrection of sorts.  A key song in Apocalypse Now, the biography No One Here Gets Out Alive getting passed eagerly around, and oh yeah, my friend James had just killed himself, so shit was suddenly very serious.  Insert lurid scenes of fucked up early adult mourning, mixing shitty wine and magic mushrooms in cemeteries, raging all night long.  

Black Sabbath - Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Because even if it was for only two or three weeks roughly halfway through Grade Nine, Black Sabbath were the greatest, most essential band in all creation, all hail the dark Lord Satan to whom they'd sold their souls.  At least that's what I heard in Metal Shop from John Field, and you didn't argue with that asshole.  And seriously, what's to argue with about Sabbath Bloody Sabbath anyway?  Heavier than all the world's cathedrals, more essential riffs in its five and half minutes than all the 80s hair bands put together, and yes, as a matter fact, exactly what you need to air-guitar to when you're fourteen and getting properly drunk on whiskey for the first time.  

Allman Bros - whipping post    
Because this is what it is to be free.  I believe I read when I was maybe fourteen, a Rolling Stone magazine found in a pile at my friend Carl's place, care of his older brothers.  It was a review of Live At The Filmore East, which quickly got me looking for it, and I found it, also at Carl's place.  But I didn't really get it at first, whatever I supposed to get from the Allmans, certainly not what I was expecting to get, which was some kind of kickass southern-fried raunch.  Nah, these guys were far smoother than that, more expansive, cooler, which isn't to say they didn't ROCK, there was just so much more to it than that.  Like the side long take on Whipping Post which, maybe halfway through, you think is winding up for a big deal ending, but it takes another ten minutes to get there, like they're loving it too much, they don't ever want it to end.  They really were that free.  But, of course, it already had ended, certainly for main man Duane Allman, dead in a motorcycle accident a few months after the Fillmore gig, and then bassist Berry Oakley, barely a year later, a motorcycle again, same basic stretch of Florida back road.   The price of freedom, I guess.  

Funkadelic - one nation under a groove
Because it made John the drug dealer cry.  Tough guy, carried a gun, you did not fuck with him.  It was at 86 Street (the club), 1988, maybe three hours into the P-Funk All Stars extravaganza, George Clinton and his umpteen piece band riding a groove that had been building all evening, just wave after wave of funk ... but suddenly shifting slightly, evolving into this recognizable song, the one about there only being one nation and we're all united in it, by the groove.  That's when John nudged me, pointed to some tears on his cheek.  Maybe you had to be there.  Why weren't you?

Clash - armagideon time + if music could talk
Because it was the Clash, more than any other band or artist or guru or priest or teacher, that finally dragged me kicking and screaming into maturity (I hope I'll never confess to adulthood).  And I can even pinpoint the moment.  Late spring 1982, I'm high on LSD, alone at my parents place, way the hell out in suburbia, perilously close to the edge of a nasty dark star for all kinds of screwed up personal reasons, when suddenly I'm aware of some great emergency going down in the direction of the freeway, sirens and smoke.  So rather than just continuing to implode, I'm suddenly grabbing my Sony Walkman and going for a walk through all these vibrating acres of suburbia and soul, all these strangers' lives and dramas pulsing through and around me, the call of the sirens and the rising smoke reminding me that something pivotal is happening, perhaps quite tragic.  But unlike sitting alone back at my parents, it doesn't scare me, I'm up to it.  Because I've got the right soundtrack, and I made the call, I committed to it, I chose movement and possible adventure over inertia and certain suffocation.  And Armagideon Time's playing as I crack this epiphany, just as the location of the fire comes into view, somebody's house, a bungalow on Westborough Crescent, the whole block like a war zone, fire and police lights cutting through all the smoke and the fading light of dusk.  Armagideon indeed.  And all these poor normal people starving to death … inside.  

And then If Music Could Talk came on as if to clarify that that's precisely what it had been doing -- talking to me.  Welcome to the rest of your life, man, so much of it destined to be lived in twilight zones such as this, at pivotal moments of collapse.  And yet there's a beauty ...

Jane Birkin + Serge Gainsborough - Je T'aime
Because the French may get a lot wrong when it comes to rock and roll, but they sure know how to do dirty without it coming across as somehow unclean.  Or something like that.  I'm paraphrasing the Amazing Angela here, who even though her politics demanded otherwise, couldn't help but love this perverse little nugget.  Teenage girl and grown man.   Late 60s pop about as perfect as it gets. 

Deep Purple - child in time

Because it's one of the first times I ever really connected with a lyric, the one about the blind man shooting at the world ("watch for the ricochet").  I guess thirteen year old me had enough of a grasp on randomness and karma and the overall crumbling state of the post-1960s zeitgeist to have no problem buying in.  Ian Gillan's vocals helped in this regard, always one more octave to be nailed with all due terror and glory.  And then there's the band itself, jamming like the world was ending, which was required listening in every big brother's beater of a car, always on 8-Track tape, soundtrack for bombing around suburbia as if there was actually a reason for it.  And maybe there was.