Monday, January 16, 2012

Countdown #6 - some brimstone morning

The Randophonic All Vinyl Countdown + Apocalypse (the 1,111 Greatest Records You Probably Haven't Already Heard) cracked the 1,000 mark this week, so it's as good a time as any to point out a few of the so-called rules and clarify who this Philip Random guy was (still is?).  As always, the latest podcast can be found here (originally broadcast Jan-14-2012), and all the old ones as well (special thanks to CiTR.FM.101.9).

The following are highlights from our latest show.  All comments are excerpted from Philip Random's rather copious notes.  Youtube links are not necessarily to the same exact recordings that got played on-air, but we tried.

Singing Fools - Apocalypso
It was the mid 1980s and the doomsday clock kept ticking closer and closer to midnight.  The ice caps were melting.  Chemical plants were breaking down, wiping out entire towns.  Nuclear reactors were melting down, shutting down entire regions.  The President was a born again Christian with a firm belief in end times theology.  It was the mid 1980s and everybody was dancing the Apocalypto.

Sly + the Family Stone - spaced cowboy
You didn't get to hear much of Sly Stone's There's A Riot Goin' On when it was new, certainly not if you were stuck out in suburbia.  But what little did you hear was enough to make it clear:  the 60s were over, with only crushed and dying flowers left in their wake.  A darker, meaner time was on us, even if we were all still getting HIGH and SPACED.

Sweeny Todd - if wishes were horses
Truth is, I wasn't cool in 1977.  Because if I was, I would've been helping invent punk rock, not lining up for Supertramp tickets.  But you know who else wasn't cool?  Bryan Adams, who I'm pretty sure went to my high school, for a while anyway.  He was the rock and roll looking guy, with the feathered hair and the sort of duds that might have had a place on stage but walking down the hall to Chemistry with Mr. Faulkner –  they just looked dumb.  But you did notice him.  Later we found out he was already in a big deal band, with an album out and everything.  They were called Sweeny Todd and he was their replacement lead singer, the original guy Nick Gilder having split in search of bigger deal solo status, which he never really got.  But Mr. Adams would, of course, but only once he'd dropped the glam for a second rate Bruce Springsteen look and sound that only really fooled people who didn't like music anyway.  Which is a pity, because If Wishes Were Horses really had something – a bubblegum glam epic erupting with magical pixie dust. 

David Bowie - time
The actor is starting to crack here:  Ziggy Stardust, David Bowie, David Jones – whoever he was.  We all were in retrospect.  Even if you were some thickheaded suburban kid barely into puberty – the whole 60s thing just wasn't playing out as anticipated.  Revolution in our time?  Maybe.  But by 1973, it was clear it wouldn't be a political revolution.  No, it was going to be much weirder than that.  Or as my old friend Anna used to say, "If you want to be really cool, you better learn how to kiss boys."

Stone Roses – made of stone
The 1980s ended very well, in Britain anyway, not that we heard much of it in the Americas until at least 1990.  Case in point, The Stone Roses and their first album.  Here was a sound that was utterly different from all the tired tricks of the 80s, and fresh.  Here was powerful pop that was also ethereal, expansive, exploding with astonishing colours.  The future looked good.

Vanilla Fudge - some velvet morning
The Pixies didn't invent loud/QUIET/loud.  Vanilla Fudge beat them to it by a good twenty years.  And they invented the HEAVY part of heavy metal.  Sort of.  They certainly helped.  Not that we called it that at the time.  Nah, it was just the heavy long stuff that only got played on radio way after our bedtimes.  Which is where we heard it – in the middle of the night.  You'd wake up from a weird dream and there it was, on the radio you kept by your bed, always on, deep into the FM dial.  Little did we realize it was a cover of a Lee Hazelwood tune.

Badfinger - name of the game
They were supposed to be the next Beatles.  Hell, most people thought they were the Beatles.  Name of the Game would have been one of Paul's songs – sad, beautiful, pretending to be meaningful.   Later, after two of the guys had killed themselves including Pete Ham (the guy who wrote and sang it), we realized there was no pretending going on.

Cat Stevens - miles from nowhere
Miles From Nowhere, a song about being profoundly somewhere, is a genuine rarity:  a great Cat Stevens song that I never grew allergic to.  It never made it to Top 40 radio.  It wasn't on the Greatest Hits album.  So to hear it, you had to actually play the Tea For The Tillerman album, or find a movie theatre that was cool enough to be showing Harold + Maude.  

John Miles - you have it all
John Miles is another one of those guys whose timing sucked.  Because he really did have it all on his 1976 debut album Rebel.  Great songs, kickass band and arrangements, world class production c/o Alan Parsons (so damned big he had his own Project going).  Meanwhile across town, punk was breaking out, eating small children, destroying entire civilizations.  Even cutting your hair redneck short and trim and posing with a rifle on your album cover wasn't going to slow that shit down.

Danielle Dax - brimstone in a barren land
Child opera star turned pop experimentalist, Ms. Dax's textured approach to all things rhythmic, melodic, strange sounded very right as the 1980s progressed.  Yeah, yeah, yeah – we know, it's the apocalypse already, stop shouting about it.  Just give us a soundtrack – equal parts impending doom and strange, possibly hopeful light as the brimstone settles on this barren land.

Copernicus - atomic nevermore
Copernicus (avant poet weirdo who I'm still kind of afraid to listen to) genuinely creeped me out with this free rant from the end of his Nothing Exists album.  And everybody else who heard it, I'm guessing.  Like Catholic Church on acid, like Satan's confused younger brother who hasn't quite made his mind up yet.  Or more to the point, he's on that knife's edge of impenetrable science (or is it philosophy?) that seems to argue that nothing exists anyway, so go ahead, humanity, blow yourself the fuck away.  Nothing gets lost if it never was in the first place.  

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