Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Countdown #26 - revolution blues

Broadcast June-30-2012 - 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.

Clash - Rudy can't fail
It took me a while to discover Rudy Can't Fail – probably because I wasn't playing Side One of London Calling that much, because I'd already heard the lead off title track a pile by the time I actually bought the album. And it's not like there was anything lacking on the other four sides. Anyway, there was this summer day, 1984 I think, a mostly empty beach on one of the local islands, me and a few friends and a ghetto blaster. All of us rich kids (sort of), none of us remotely rich -- all us at that point in our lives where we were having to start think seriously about the future. Go to law school? Go to business school? Get into real estate? Get a job at a bank? Sell drugs? Eat human flesh? We were smoking a little dope, drinking a few beers, and suddenly Rudy came on care of the current mixtape, and it was exactly what the universe needed. Something to do with freedom and art having a way better groove than fucking economics. It's been on the personal playlist ever since.

Television - friction
The title track from Marquee Moon is such a monster that it's easy to forget the rest of the album, none of which is remotely average. Friction makes the list for the title alone, being such an apt description of the Television sound -- that shrill gleaming thing that happens when you rub two things together that maybe you shouldn't, and then you rub them a little harder and it gets even better, tearing a hole in the reality barrier that can never be fully mended, and a good thing too.

T-Rex - Telegram Sam
I probably heard this first back in the day, but it was Bauhaus's cover that really made me pay attention. Then I stumbled onto the original again in the early 90s sometime, and it got me in all the right ways – 70s pop joy trumping 80s sturm and drang pretty much every time.

Neil Young - revolution blues
It had to be the mid-80s sometime because the memory is so vague, and that was a vague time for me. I read a book called The Family, about Charles Manson and his crowd – a dark volume indeed. With all kinds of twisted nuggets such as Mr. Manson's plan to arm everybody to the teeth, hop into dune buggies, then come swarming down out of the mountains into Laurel Canyon and exterminate everyone they saw, particularly all the hippie rock star types who hadn't let him join their club. Manson never got around to it, of course, but that didn't stop Neil Young song writing a song about it. 

Bob Dylan - just like Tom Thumb's blues
This one's eternal for the first two lines alone. When you’re lost in the rain in Juarez and it’s Easter time too - And your gravity fails and negativity don’t pull you through.  I mean, you can go anywhere from there. Or nowhere at all. Which is the whole point, of course. Maybe. What I mean is, I first heard this when I was maybe thirteen, almost three decades ago now, and I'm sure I've heard it hundreds of times since, but I still couldn't tell you what any of it's about. Not a single line. And I don't care. It takes me somewhere anyway, maybe nowhere at all. And if you don't get the appeal in all that, then there's someone you need to meet.  His name is Mr. Jones.

Harry Nilsson - pretty soon there'll be nothing left for everybody
It's 1975 and we're all gonna die, and it's going to happen real soon. Which was wrong, of course. At least it was in 1975. Now, (November 2000 as I write this), maybe it's not so wrong, but it still makes me smile. A song from that latter part of Harry Nilsson's career when folks had pretty much written him off, all that boozing and drugging and hanging with John Lennon, blowing his voice to smithereens, but it works here.

Joni Mitchell - blue
First time I ever heard this song, it was sung acapella by Janine, a former housemate.  We were talking about something in the kitchen (probably how much she hated being a secretary) and suddenly she just started singing. I knew she had a voice, but this was perfect. Shockingly so. "What was that?" I had to ask when she was done. "Blue. It's a Joni Mitchell song." "But I don't like Joni Mitchell," I said. "You do now," she said.  Last I heard, she's still a secretary, works for one of the biggest legal firms in town. 

Peter Hammill - losing faith in words
Peter Hammill (aka the Jesus of Angst) is probably not a good choice for listening to while high on LSD. But we did it anyway. I remember this song popping up once at exactly the right moment, because words were failing and I was trying to force the issue, which was only making things worse, the reality barrier being revealed to be onion-like – peeling away in layers. Stop it, counseled the song.  You can't win at this. Then I put on different record. Brian Eno as I recall. Another Green World … but that's another strange story.

Gang of Four - damaged goods
I guess I just wasn't cool enough in 1979, because here's another one I missed completely, only to stumble onto it maybe fifteen years later. But it all still held up, the funk being explored in service of the punk, no prisoners being taken, much DAMAGE being incurred. 

Captain Beefheart - I love you, you big dummy
A love song, nasty and dumb, c/o the Captain who it's clear had no tolerance for fools, or straights, or normals, or anybody anywhere that couldn't grasp THE STRANGE. But he clearly had a heart. A friend of mine used to say, if he ever got married, he'd insist that I Love You, You Big Dummy be the first dance. He did get married but no, it didn't get played. They went with something from Fleetwood Mac instead and were filing for divorce within the year. 

Bob Marley - concrete jungle
The release date says 1973 but I didn't have the right ears for Mr. Marley (and reggae in general) until at least 1980. And Concrete Jungle was pivotal in that evolution, and marijuana. By which I mean, Old Ted (one of my more dependable dealers at the time) insisted that I get high on some particularly effective herb, and listen to Catch A Fire with him. "Because marijuana will never be free until Jamaica is free." Which sounds a bit vague now but trust me, it made profound sense then. And it all started with Concrete Jungle, first track on the album, one of the best bands ever in all creation, slowly slipping things into gear for a revelatory journey through the shadows of Babylon and beyond. 

Clash - Sean Flynn
Make no mistake. The Clash were the only WHITE reggae band that ever mattered. Because they got the full depth of it, not just the easy sunshine grooves. Like Sean Flynn (about Errol Flynn's son, a photojournalist who was killed in the Cambodian spillover of the Vietnam war) – hallucinatory distortions of helicopter blades, intense heat, drugs. And you're floating above it all, finding just enough altitude to see some beauty without denying the tragedy. 

Vangelis - we were all uprooted
First there was Aphrodite's Child and its mad collision of extreme psychedelia and extreme pop. Eventually, there was Academy Award winning soundtrack stuff so definitive it's since become kind of a cliché. In the middle somewhere is Earth, Vangelis's first solo album, where the two extremes fuse and find all kinds of room to move, as We Were All Uprooted attests, both ethereal and grounded.  Like history itself, shrouded in mist.

Kate Bush - the dreaming
Kate Bush started out so nice and innocent, though there was always mystery. Which by her fourth album, The Dreaming, had pretty much swallowed the innocence, and stunningly so. The title track works off a groove stolen from a Rolf Harris song (then merged rather hilariously with the sound a kangaroo makes when it gets hammered by a van). And then later on, it all deranges off into British Isles folk music. Needless to say, we were all rather slack-jawed about it at the time, wanting similar dreams.

Kraftwerk - showroom dummies
In which a few showroom dummies animate, hit the town, have some fun messing with the humans. It's the urgency of it that I love, almost punk rock, yet restrained. Which is contradictory, I know. Like considering Kraftwerk's monotonous machine grooves soul music. Which is not inaccurate. Which reminds me of something I read a long, long time ago. What do you call a contradiction that works? A paradox. God I love paradox.

Brian Eno - needles in the camel's eye
Sometimes you've got to see the movie to really get it. In this case it was Velvet Goldmine (the glam movie that wasn't about David Bowie, except it was, of course) and how it used Brian Eno's Needles in the Camel's Eye to capture glam-rock fervour as it erupted across Britain, circa 1972. Pure joy and rapture. Like that Sonic Youth line. It's gonna take a teenage riot to get me out of bed. It got me out of bed. 

Sonic Youth - 'cross the breeze
If Daydream Nation is one prolonged exercise in applied escape velocity, 'Cross the Breeze is one of the moments where it gets furthest from the ground. I'm pretty sure I saw them do it live in early 1988 sometime, well before the album came out. It was a Sunday night show, and those are almost always duds, the audience too full of dinner at mom and dads to actually move. But Sonic Youth pinned us all anyway, ripped holes through our souls with their speed of light magic. It's absolutely true. 

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