Sunday, June 24, 2012

Countdown #24 - nothing is everything

Broadcast June-16-2012 - 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.
3 Teens Kill 4 - tell me something good
Sign of the times, early 1980s.  Some maniac shoots the President.  A year or two later, some crazy artist type takes the audio from the TV coverage, plants it over some beats, turns it into a cover of a funky Rufus song.  "Tell me something good."  And nobody complains really.  Homeland Security are not called.  Welcome to the early 80s when the underground was still actually underground.  It wasn't just a marketing term.  It was a dark, mysterious place where secrets were kept and decent folks simply didn't go.

Zombies - indication
The story on the Zombies is that they'd broken up before their stuff ever made it to the Americas.  Which is a pity, because as Indication indicates, these guys could rock it, with some killer keyboards at the heart of it all.  And all this in 1966, before the Beatles got to Pepperland.

Pete Townsend - nothing is everything
When the Who did it, they titled it Let's See Action, but Nothing is Everything was far cooler, more profound to my thirteen year old mind, which is when I first heard it.  I had it on one of my first cassettes, recorded direct from FM radio (microphone jammed up against the tinny speaker, my little brother and sister being told to shut up in the background).  It got a lot of play for a while, then a couple of decades intervened and I pretty much forgot all about it.  What eventually hooked me again was the lyrics and how eloquently they riffed on all the revolution everyone was amping for back in those barely post-60s days, how doomed it all was.  Rumour has it / minds are open / then you must fill them up with lies.

Tyrannosaurus Rex - King of the rumbling spires
Apparently this is the first time Marc Bolan really rocked out.  T-Rex was still called Tyrannosaurus Rex at the time, and despite the ferocious name, a pretty lightweight outfit – too much hippie, not enough thunder and rumbling.  But that was obviously changing.  The 70s were looming, the acid was wearing off, heaven on earth was much further away than it had seemed.  Maybe it wasn't there at all.  Just another storybook fantasy, like that king of the rumbling spires.

Strawbs - Benedictus
Who says a pop song can't be a prayer?  Nobody in the early 1970s, it seems.  Some guy quoted the Desiderata and hit #1.  Some woman did the same with a sing-along version of the Lord's prayer.  Benedictus, on the other hand, never even charted here in the Americas, but it was good.  Still is.  Cosmic and true without being lame.  And it's the lead off track from Grave New World, one of those lost albums that truly deserves to be found.  Strange and powerful from beginning to end, even if the main guy's voice is a little weird.

Loudon Wainwright III - swimming song
The song's about swimming, but it's really about freedom – leaping bravely into the river, the lake, the ocean that is all life, the universe, everything … and not sinking.  Or maybe it is just about tossing yourself into a chlorinated pool and working on your strokes.  I mean, this is the guy whose monster hit of the previous year was about a dead skunk in the middle of the road, and how bad it smelled.     

Joe Walsh - meadows
This is fourteen year old me running wild and free through fields and meadows, leaping old stone walls.  Dreaming about it anyway.  Nice melody, killer guitar riff, great shout at the beginning, but it's the drums that really sent me, the way they came crashing in like a waterfall.  One of those records that urged me to grow up, get on with my life, get as far from the suburbs as I possibly could.  It seems to have worked.  

U2  - the ocean + eleven o'clock tick tock
I grew tired of U2 just as they finally made it with Joshua Tree.  They just weren't as good anymore in those huge stadiums, fifty thousand screaming believers.  Nah, it was way better at the Commodore in 1981, three dollar tickets, a thousand curious punks, new wavers, artist types.  I'm pretty sure they did Eleven O'Clock Tick Tock as the encore, and the whole show actually began with the Ocean.  But either way, the place went mad.  As a friend said at the time, it's like they weren't playing songs, they were playing us, the audience.  The songs were just what we sounded like.  He'd dropped some acid before the show.

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans)
It had its big deal singles (in Britain anyway) but OMD's Architecture + Morality clicked best as a complete album.  Recurring themes, both lyrical and musical.  Lots of cool textures and noises, drones and buzzes, klings and klangs.  So good it almost lived up to the pretentiousness of its title.  In fact, with Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans) it does. 

Mott the Hoople - the golden age of rock and roll
I hated the so-called golden age of rock and roll when I was a young teen.  Not the song, the era.  The Buddy Hollys, Chubby Checkers, Bill Haleys, Big Boppers, Elvis – the whole big deal 50s-early-60s nostalgia thing that was going down in the wake of American Graffiti (the movie) and Happy Days (the TV show).  I was fifteen.  I didn't need a fucking  revival.  I had Bowie, T-Rex, Jethro Tull, Deep Purple, Yes, the Stones, Black Sabbath.  But I didn't mind this song.  In fact, this song had everything I could’ve wanted from the old days – all that sock-hop fun and glitter.  And most important, the critical lyric that the golden age of rock and roll wasn't then, it was now.  And it still is.  Always now.  Believe otherwise and you might as well be dead. 

Jethro Tull - Passion Play [randoEDIT-1]
It seems insane now, but Jethro Tull conquered the world in 1972 with a 45 minute song called Thick as a Brick, a dense continuous album long piece that actually sort of made sense, both musically and lyrically.  So what did Ian Anderson (main Tull man) and his crew do for a follow-up?  Another forty-five minute song, this one called Passion Play, which was magnitudes more dense as it examined such heady stuff as God, the afterlife, hares who'd lost their spectacles.  Hell, I'm still trying to figure it all out.  Actually, that's a lie.  I gave up a long time ago, because as a friend counseled, "Man, you've gotta be Ian Anderson's fucking brain to know what any of it's about."  Which doesn't mean I ever stopped listening to it –  just thinking about it.  

Passion - edit-1

Captain Beefheart - click clack
More of them blues so authentic, hearing them come from a white man can only be surreal.  Of course, he did go to high school with Frank Zappa.  Which raises the question, who the hell else went to Antelope Valley High?  And what was in the water?

Flying  Burrito Brothers - hot burrito #1 + hot burrito #2
It's been said many times before but it bears repeating.  The Flying Burrito Brothers' debut album Gilded Palace of Sin set drugged out hippie rock stars free to wear nifty cowboy duds, and mix whiskey with their heroin and broken hearts.  But more important, they could now stop ripping off black soul music, start focusing on the white kind (ie: the country and the western).  And the key thing is, it worked.  It changed everything.  As for the burritos (one and two), I'm thinking they were girls, and they both broke poor Gram Parsons' heart, one right after the other.  Maybe even stole his clothes.

Guadalcanal Diary - Kumbayah
Take a campfire spiritual, apply rock and roll thunder and voila!  A glimpse of what might just be heaven.  From 1984's Walking in the Shadow of the Big Man, which is the first thing I ever heard from Guadalcanal Diary, and the last thing I ever needed to.  The whole thing's a gem.  Even the cover.  

Yazoo - in my room
One of the cooler things about the early days of synth-pop was that the albums invariably had an experimental track or two, neat little side-trips where the artists got to just mess around with the studio and their various sonic devices.  But in the case of Yazoo's In My Room, it ended up being more than just an experiment.  It was smart, soulful examination of angst, loneliness, confusion – all the things that go on when you're alone in your room.

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