Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Countdown #35 - it's no game

Broadcast September-22-2012 - 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 to actually listen to the podcast.  

David Bowie - it's no game
David Bowie hits the 1980s in powerful form, blows fuses across all know dimensions ... and then that's pretty much it.  He'll sell piles of records through the decade, make the cover of TIME magazine, become a household name ... but he'll never be truly monstrous or scary again.  Which is either A. damned sad, or B. whatever.  I mean, it's not as if he hadn't already given us way more than enough through the 70s, from collapsing hippie dream to glam, cocaine bullshit, decadence, insanity.  And he kept his cool (if not his soul).  Did any other single artist come even close?  Definitely NO game. 

Pop Will Eat Itself - hit the hi-tech groove
Was I cool enough to be hip to this in 1987?  I'm pretty sure I was.  Or maybe it took until 1988.  Those were weird days, and really, I wasn't the cool one, it was the people I was hanging with.  By 1987-88, I was deep in a negative hole of my own making (though Ronald Reagan contributed), which was manifesting musically as NOISE and looking back, digging through cool old records, because I couldn't afford cool new ones.  Which by that point generally meant hip-hop if you were even half-way paying attention.  And I was, I guess, I just wasn't buying much, because I was so broke.  Which reflects now in how woefully misrepresented it is on this list – that and the robbery of early spring 1989.  Fuckers took all my most recent stuff, most of my punk as well.  And good luck ever finding either original hip-hop or punk used and cheap (and I'm definitely used and cheap).  Except I did find Box Frenzy, no doubt because Pop Will Eat Itself were white guys, and long-haired geeks at that.  Grebo was the name of their scene.  Just grab a beatbox and make a garage-racket, go BOX frenzy – says so on the record.

Guadalcanal Diary - Watusi rodeo
I definitely saw this movie.  The one about American cowboys going to the Congo (or wherever) killing natives, other fun stuff.  That was pretty standard in my days of early TV watching (the 1960s).  Shitty old Hollywood adventure movies where white men killed various non-white men, usually coming at them with spears and such, whooping and hollering -- served up as fun.  And I guess it was, at the time, from the ignorant perspective of my whitebread suburb.  But this Guadalcanal Diary track is way more fun, laughing at the evil absurdity of it, kicking shit on the dance floor.

Kinks -  this time tomorrow
I still get into this argument.  The Kinks are great, no question, but they're not really an album band.  And yet, the 1970 album Lola vs the Powerman + the Money-go-round Part 1 (now there's a mouthful) is the only place you're going to find This Time Tomorrow.  Which, if you're exactly the same as me, will save your life for a week or two in late winter 1996, give glue to a world that is otherwise not holding together.  I blame love.  Tearing me apart. 

The The -  this is the day
It's all in the first couple of lines:  Well you didn't wake up this morning 'cause you didn't go to bed - You were watching the whites of your eyes turn red.  Summer 1983, maybe 5AM, staring myself in the mirror after some mixed up hours of mixed up drugging.  It spoke directly to me, Matt Johnson and his burning blue soul joining me in my mixed up pain and ecstasy, telling me I wasn't alone, wherever the hell I was.  Melody was pretty much perfect, too.   

Roxy Music - Virginia Plain
More or less perfect pop from a more or less perfect moment in pop-time.  Which is to say 1972, glam eruption.  Except it's wrong to classify Virginia Plain as glam.  Virginia Plain defies genre.  It just is.  Maybe three minutes of pure, strange, deranged, driving fun. And thus a reason to live. 

441. Sonic Youth - total trash
The song's cool enough but Total Trash is mostly about escape velocity – what happens when the various rules of music break down and the NOISE takes over.  I remember seeing them do this live, having one of those profound and prolonged WOW moments that I can't help calling religious.  I remember thinking, they aren't really playing this music, they're just deflecting it, aiming it, wrestling with it.  It's like they punched a hole in a dike and now it's all just about containment.  But not even that.  Because this flood can't be contained.  All you can really do is ride with it, keep moving, keep playing, because if you don't, you'll get dragged under, and where's the fun in that?

Fleetwood Mac - searching for Madge
The Fleetwood Mac story is confusing if nothing else.  We all know the stuff that made them rich and cocaine famous (and it's mostly good), but there's an entire decade that precedes all that, and deep it goes, often with completely different players, except the rhythm section (always  Mr. Fleetwood and Mr. Mac).  You might even argue that the original line-up wasn't just the best Mac, it was one of the best damned bands EVER, with guitarist Peter Green the main man, taking the blues, amplifying and psychedelicizing them, and leaving us with stuff that barrels along nicely, neck and neck with what a guy called Jimi Hendrix was doing at the same time.  1969's Then Play On is the key album, capturing not just the breadth Mr. Green's genius, but also the psychosis that was tearing him apart.  Beautiful and gone.

Herb Alpert + the Tijuana Brass - it was a very good year
Shameless fragment of personal nostalgia, except it is damned good.  And it helps reinforce a point, which is the why of the Apocalypse part of this thing.  Because when I was six or seven years old and Herb Alpert's What Now My Love was the only half-way current pop album in my parents' collection, I had no interest in any future that didn't see me flourishing in just such lush and golden environs as this music suggested, particularly that part toward the end of It Was A Very Good Year where the strings came gushing in.  I mean, who needed the hippies down in the ravine and their weirdo long haired bullshit rock and roll?  I'd have short hair forever, and wear a suit.  But then something happened apparently.  Must've been the Apocalypse.  I believe it started down in that ravine.

Alice Cooper - second coming + ballad of Dwight Fry + sun arise
Alice and puberty found me at roughly the same moment, which means 1971's Love it to Death was at least a year old before I even knew about Alice not being a she, and all the other spectacular atrocities.  But the real shock, I guess, was just how good the music was. Yeah, it was sick and loud and freaky, no question, but it was also dramatic, melodic, and come the conclusion of side two, epic.  Three songs all tumbling into each other.  First a little ditty about Jesus apparently, stuck in hell, then family man Dwight Fry's descent into widescreen madness, and finally, incongruously, a heartfelt and hopeful cover of Rolf Harris's Sun Arise. 

Pink Floyd - astronomy domine (randoEDIT)
The early Floyd, which is to say, The Best Floyd, leaving footprints on Saturn and beyond years before NASA even made it to the bright side of the moon.  The secret ingredient, of course, was Syd Barrett, already tumbling irretrievably past the edge of the reality barrier as the original of Astronomy Domine was recorded.  And then the band just kept taking it further on stage.  

King Crimson - sailor's tale
Sailor's Tale is everything that's superlative about early-middle-period King Crimson – music that's just utterly strange and committed and assured from cool beginning to long and sustained conclusion.  It's an acid track, no question.  Wait till you're peaking, then crank the sound system and wait for that sucker punch explosion at around the 4-and-a- half minute point.  Not a sudden eruption from silence.  No this is far trickier than that.  Because the song's already revving along at that point.  And then it just goes WAY FURTHER.  The earth shakes.  The heavens open.  A gaping hole gets blown from the jigsaw of time. 

David Crosby - what are their names?
It just sort of creeps along at first but by the time it's done, it's delivered a defiantly, insurrectionary punch.  Like being a hippie in 1971, hanging out with your friends, getting high, enjoying the day, yet bemoaning the deep inequity of the world, how the rich keep on getting richer and the poor eaten.  And guess what?  The gentlemen and ladies behind it all – they live just over yonder hill.  Perhaps we should go pay them a visit, maybe pack a few Molotov cocktails.  Ah, the good ole days.

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