Thursday, May 10, 2012

Countdown #20 - I must not think bad thoughts

Broadcast May-5-2012 - podcast available here.  All comments are from Philip Random's notes (with some editorial diligence).  The full countdown list (so far) can be found here.  Links are not necessarily to the exact same recordings we played on-air, but we tried.
Propaganda - dream within a dream
They say you finally know what a decade sounds like by its middle year.  So for the 1980s, I'm choosing Propaganda, mostly forgotten now, but trust me, this is what 1985 sounded like.  Big, majestic, mysterious, definitely with a dark side – a dream within a dream indeed.  All credit to the band themselves who I know nothing about except I think the woman doing the singing was German (maybe they all were).  But don't overlook the guy in the control room, twiddling the dials, pulling it all together – one Trevor Horn whose previous credits included the likes of Frankie Goes To Hollywood, ABC, Grace Jones, Malcolm McLaren's Duck Rock, not to forget Yes and The Buggles (he was in both of them).  Pop sonic artist of the decade?  It's an interesting argument. 

Eric Burdon + War - paint it black
The album title (the Black-Man's Burdon) says it all.  Eric Burdon takes his whiteman-slumming-in-the-blackman's-world thing all the way to the edge (and beyond) and, among other things, delivers an epic take on one of the great Rolling Stones songs.  Released in 1971, but I didn't hear until 1994.  A moment I remember all too well.  Kurt Cobain had just offed himself, everybody was fumbling around in shock at Steven's place.  Some guy whose name I forget said something like, "Fuck you, Cobain.  There's always something to live for.  I bet you never even heard this."  And then he put this on.    

Malcolm McLaren - double dutch
Young Tim (my little brother's friend) turned me onto this.  Or more to the point, he forced it on me, because I wasn't biting at first.  Sex Pistols ex-manager trying to sing, high school girls skipping rope, sampling before we even had a name for it – I could not see it adding up.  Until one night, a little wasted, dancing to it, I got it.  It was fun.   Cultural boundaries were eroding, great Jericho like walls were crumbling, and I was smiling.

Jello Biafra + DOA - we gotta get out of this place
In which Jello Biafra hooks up with Vancouver's own DOA and utterly nails a cover of one of the essential rock anthems.   Maybe the essential rock anthem.  I think I heard Bruce Springsteen say that once.  This situation's killing me.  Might be school, might be a job, might be prison, a bad relationship, your family.  Doesn't matter where you are, there's only one direction to go, and that's OUT.  With a vengeance.

Nina Simone - revolution
It's 1969 and Nina Simone, one of the great voices (and souls) to ever descend upon music, delivers an album of mostly brilliant pop covers, including this rousing riff on the Beatles Revolution.  Music to change the world by.  Or as a friend once put it, if this is what Church sounded like, I'd go every night.

Lee Perry + The Dub Syndicate - kiss the champion
No argument. Time Boom X De Devil Dead is one of the greatest (mostly) forgotten albums of them all.  Wherein reggae-dub ORIGINATOR Lee Scratch Perry finds his way to the confines of Adrian Sherwood's On-U Sound, hooks up with one of the hottest bands on the planet (The Dub Syndicate) and unleashes an apocalypse of mad rants, boasts, insights that only make sense once you stop trying … to make sense that is.  Needless to say, we listened to this a lot whilst tripping the old lysergic, not trying at all.  Who says reggae isn't psychedelic?

Godfathers - when am I coming down?
My friend Gary likened it to losing control of your car.  You're bombing along at speed and everything's perfect, superlative even.  Until you're halfway around a bend, going maybe eighty mph and you lose traction, with various trees, a ditch, a fence, all coming up fast.  You ARE going to crash.  The question is, how will you crash?  And what will you crash into?  Losing it on psychedelics is much the same.  It’s just a much longer crash, in much slower motion.  

Marianne Faithfull - guilt
This song made no sense to me at first.  I thought she was saying she felt GOOD.  So why so gloomy then?  Was this some twisted junkie thing I needed heroin in my veins to figure out?  But then maybe five years later, I finally bought the album and read the title, and there it was:  Guilt.  Which suddenly made all kinds of sense.  And reminds me of sage wisdom c/o the Amazing Jillian.  Guilt's so easy to avoid.  Just don't do that thing that you'll end up feeling guilty about.  Words to live by.  

Gram Parsons - in my hour of darkness
Who says there aren't ghosts?  Gram Parsons was dead of a heroin overdose before the world ever heard this album.  Which made the final song In My Hour Of Darkness way too creepy, particularly the part where he delivers his own eulogy:  Another young man safely strummed his silver string guitar - and he played to people everywhere - some say he was a star - but he was just a country boy his simple songs confess - and the music he had in him so very few possess.  

George Harrison - beware of darkness
I would've been eleven when the Beatles broke up, and then George Harrison's All Things Must Pass hit the world (and hit it did).  The big singles were My Sweet Lord and What Is Life, but I got to hear the whole thing because my cousin had it, all six sides.   Not that I understood a song like Beware of Darkness, but I got it anyway.  I mean, who cares what the worlds were saying?  The title and mournful tone were speaking volumes about the nature of the world, all the dark spirits floating around, wanting a piece of me.

David Bowie - Panic in Detroit
As I remember it, David Bowie HIT as follows.  First came Space Oddity (radio hit in late 1972), then Ziggy Stardust (various album tracks heard on FM radio which I was just starting to discover).  Then I actually saw pictures of the guy (beyond weird), and heard the rumours (that he actually was an alien, that he and Elton John were secretly married).  But by 1973, things were settling a bit.  Yeah, the guy remained supremely weird, but it was the music I was really noticing.  How fucking good it all was! 

Bobby Blue Bland - somewhere over the rainbow
I first heard this wafting over backyard barbeque sometime in the early 90s.  And it was good.  I believe I was actually playing croquet at the time, taking it very seriously, understanding that it was far more than just a game, that it was in fact an analogue for the great and imponderable complexity of the universe, and man's place in it – the "games" we all must play.  I'm sure the LSD and Tequila helped.

Severed Heads - Alaskan polar bear heater
There's joy in repetition, or maybe just madness.  And truth in the notion that way too many of the so-called Industrial Musicians of the 80s only got worse as they got better at figuring out how to play their instruments and related technology.  In Severed Heads case, that means they'd peaked long before I ever heard them.  But fortunately, that truth eventually found me via Clifford Darling, Please Don't Live In The Past, a double album full of delightfully strange excursions into what can only be called NOISE.

Steve Hackett - Icarus Ascending
As the story goes, Peter Gabriel split Genesis in 1975 and everything went to shit.  But actually listen to some of their immediately post-Gabriel stuff and a different truth emerges.  It was guitarist Steve Hackett's departure that really triggered the ugly slide into POP-oblivion.  And look no further than Please Don't Touch (Hackett's 1978 solo outing) to see how things might have been.  Icarus Ascending is the BIG ending, and yes, that is Richie Havens (the hippie black folk guy that brought down the house at Woodstock) laying down the heavy vocal gravity.

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