Sunday, August 12, 2012

Countdown #30 - the way of the world

Broadcast August-11-2012 - 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).  Nor is every record represented here.  To hear them all, you've got actually listen to the show.  The full countdown list (so far)

Max Q - the way of the world
Yes, that is Michael Hutchence laying out the bleak hard truth care of his "other" band, the very short-lived Max Q, which co-existed with INXS but only briefly.  One album, no tours.  But it found me anyway.  Must've been the lyrics:  You are born into this world - Looking down the barrel of a gun - And those who hold the gun - Want you to work fast and die young - And if you don't work - If you don't obey - They'll make you live in fear till your dying day.  And that's just the first half of the first verse.

Maggie Bell - wishing well
Wishing Well is one of those songs I was aware of for a while without actually being conscious of it (if that makes any sense) percolating around in the background, never too loud, never overplayed.  But that was Free's version, the original.  It took Maggie Bell's cover to make me pay attention, ask the essential question.  Why the hell haven't I heard more Maggie Bell?  I'm still wondering.

Chris + Cosey (CTI) - the need
Mysterious live performance from somewhere in Europe, 1983.  Chris + Cosey (late of Throbbing Gristle) exploring strange sonic regions via the nebulously labelled CTI - European Rendezvous album.  This was the kind of thing you'd record off the CITR late at night, the DJ never telling you what it was, or who was doing it.  Then maybe a decade later, a friend would put it on, and, "Holy shit!  Who is this?"  

Doors - [love hides] five to one
I had a copy of the Doors Absolutely Live kicking around for years before I actually listened to it, inherited from somebody or other.  I guess I was just going through a long  phase of not being into Jim Morrison and his bullshit, poetic and otherwise.  But finally, early 90s maybe, I put it on and got blown away.  What a hot band!  Singer had something too – not remotely afraid to howl the truth, however ugly it seemed.  In the case of Five To One, it seemed to have something to do with death and war.

Assembly - never never
Feargal Sharkey (ex of power pop heroes the Undertones) teams up with the guy from Yaz and slays the pop universe with a lovely little lack-of-love song.  They called themselves the Assembly, like they were a band, and maybe they were, but I never heard another song from them.  Which makes Never Never pop perfect.  Talk about not overstaying your welcome.  

XTC - Jason + the Argonauts
Five albums into their career and XTC were ready for something big.  And big was definitely the word for 1982's double album English Settlement.  Yeah, there were a few singles, but the songs worked best together, all in a flow.  Probably because of the sound, the way so much of it had an acoustic edge at a time when everyone else in the biz seemed to be going electronic, usually badly.  And no, there's nothing remotely bad here.

Wall of Voodoo - tse tse fly
The album's called Dark Continent and the song's called Tse Tse Fly (both references to Africa) but it's all really about America.  It's always about America.  The jangly guitars, the cheap drum machines and scrapyard percussion bits.  And all that shadow around the edges.  What could be more American?  

Gram Parsons - 1000 dollar wedding
Guilty as charged.  I was that kind of asshole when I was younger – happy to tell you how much I hated ALL country music.  I was wrong, of course.  Hating all of any kind of music is like hating a part of your soul.  Because in what other form but Country could you take a simple song about a simple wedding gone wrong and turn it into something epic – not remotely maudlin, sentimental, greasy.

REM - Cuyahoga
I gave up trying to figure out what Michael Stipe was singing about very early on.  The first few albums, he was mumbling anyway, which made it easy.  But then, starting with Life's Rich Pageant, he was suddenly enunciating.  So you could hear the words – they just weren't adding up.  Except maybe Cuyahoga.  Because I'd read about the Cuyahoga in a National Geographic as a little kid.  It was the issue all about pollution, and how man was poisoning the world in a million different ways.  And the Cuyahoga was the river that actually caught fire, Cleveland, Ohio, 1969.  Who needs meaning in the face of something like that? 

Violent Femmes - kiss off
If you were halfway cool in 1983, you were hip to the Violent Femmes first album.  No, none of the commercial radio stations were playing it, but you'd long ago given up on them anyway.  They didn't tell the truth about anything, except maybe how much they hated you.  Unlike the Femmes, who couldn't not be blunt, horny, mad, honest – sometimes annoyingly so.  But not with Kiss Off.  Kiss Off hit it all just right, particularly the part where Gordon Gano counts them all down:  his ten points of rage, frustration, spite, EVERYTHING.  

Jethro Tull - wind up
Christmastime 1972, a party at family friends.  I'm thirteen and barely old enough to be hanging with the big kids.  Just shut up and sit in the corner.  And then they all go outside to smoke a joint.  They even invite me along, but no way, not with my parents barely fifty feet away.  Which leaves me alone with the record that's playing – Aqualung by Jethro Tull, getting to the end of Side Two, a song about religion and adult bullshit, which I had no problem agreeing with, particularly the part about God not being a simple toy.  You didn't just wind Him up once a week, say few prayers and then get on with your weekly evil – lying, cheating, stealing, business as usual.  Nah, if there was a God worth giving a shit about, He or She or It had to be way bigger, more complicated and powerful than that.  The same still holds.    

Blurt - gravespit
Maybe you had to be there.  Mid-80s, the Winter Of Hate in full ugly bloom – the kind of cultural moment where a nasty, spiteful little ditty about spitting on somebody's grave wasn't just vaguely acceptable, it was exactly what the world required.  Because twenty years previous, the Summer Of Love was just chugging into gear with all its bullshit.  Thus was the cosmic balance finally restored.  

Yes - the gates of delirium
I remember being fourteen or fifteen and hearing this get played on one of the commercial radio stations, all 20-plus minutes of it.  I remember my jaw dropping.  It would've been late 1974, maybe 1975.  Little did I realize that an era was fast ending – that very soon the men in black who who decided such things would have no use for crazy, cosmic, dense, intense side long epics about mystical warriors in mythical lands busting through great gates of delirium.  Or whatever Gates of Delirium was about.  It was definitely about war, burning children's laughter to hell.  Although I remember a few years later, a friend saying, "But it's really about everything.  That's the problem with Yes.  Their songs aren't really about anything.  It's always everything.  Which is always another way of saying nothing.  But fuck, they can play."  

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