Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Countdown #36 - lawyers guns + yashar

Broadcast September-29-2012 - 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.  

Cabaret Voltaire - Yashar
Wild rips of exotic noise, strange spoken mutterings about the planet perhaps being far more populated than the experts have been telling us.  Pretty standard stuff now maybe, but in 1982, this was like a previously unknown galaxy, revealing itself. And you could dance to it.   

X - the new world
It's the line about the bars being closed, which can only mean one thing if you're living a certain sort of life ("they must be voting for the President or something.")  This is X, former punk band, well on their way to becoming something else, and rocking rather brilliantly, with power, passion, wit.  They'd never be better.  But that didn't stop all the old punks gobbing them off stage at UBC, SUB ballroom, 1983 or 84.  You know those morons have all got to be Conservatives now.

Sparks - this town ain't big enough for the both of us
Maybe you have heard this.  Motron claims this must be so, but my ears don't share that history.  As far as I knew in 1974, the only humans on earth that knew this song were me and a few friends, trading it and other Sparks miracles back and forth on various cassettes.  It certainly never made it near the Top Ten here in the Americas, let alone #1, which is precisely where it shoulda-oughta landed.  But instead, we had crap like Helen Reddy and Donny Osmond.  Man, pop radio was sucking by the mid-70s.

Warren Zevon - lawyers guns + money
Excitable boy (the album) got a fair bit of notice at the time, but we only ever really heard a few tracks on the radio, and none of them was Lawyers Guns + Money, which is just a good old-fashioned smart, sly, cynical rock and roll song about a rich kid in some foreign locale, in way over his head.  Not unlike America itself at that particular moment in time, what with lost wars, hostage crises, all manner of cocaine bullshit.  

Penguin Café Orchestra - telephone + rubber band
It's true.  We dropped a lot of LSD in the early 1980s, often as not up on mountaintops, miles from any electrical outlets.  So we'd drag a ghetto blaster with us, because you had to have a soundtrack for the the tree elves, the flutterbys and their easy multiplicities, all that elevated beauty and weirdness.  But what happened when we ran into normal folks?  That's where the Penguin Café Orchestra came in.  Right at the point where their faces were forming in twisted scowls of judgment and disgust, we'd let drop their easy acoustic textures incorporating fiddles, banjos, harmoniums, all manner of wooden gear.  Although the Telephone + Rubber Band song did seem to confuse them.  

Alice Cooper - Desperado
One of those early Alice Cooper cuts that puts the lie to it all being just kid's stuff, particularly the bit about being a killer, a clown, a priest who's gone to town.  That's Dylan level poetry (or certainly Jim Morrison).  And all the more exquisite given the song that's built around it -- dark and moody, and more than just a little evil.

 Thin Lizzy - whiskey in the jar
I saw Thin Lizzy at least twice at their mid-70s peak.  But maybe it was the drugs, because they never really hit.  Competent hard rock for sure, but nothing transcendent, nothing that made you want to go back to Church, figure out how you got it all wrong.  Nothing like what they captured on one of their very first singles, Whiskey in the Jar, an old Irish folk song given full soul and throttle.  Ends up feeling as ancient, as rich, as tragic as time itself.  Because it's never the whiskey that does you in.  It's the woman that drove you to it.  Or the man.  

Rolling Stones - sweet Virginia
On one level, this is just a smart, nasty ballad, gritty as the shit on your shoes.  But given the album it's from (1972's Exile on Main St), there's a lot more to read it into it.  Just the heroin weariness of it all, I guess, and what it says about the 60s, what they'd promised and given, but also what they'd taken from those dared partake.  Like something out Greek mythology, a special curse brewed up by the gods.  And in some way or other, the whole culture was in on the partaking, even little kids like me, just hanging around the edges, desperately wanting in.

Jimi Hendrix - rainy day … still dreaming
I'm pretty sure this one's about smoking dope on a rainy day, getting lost in all the dreamy beauty.  Of course, if you're Jimi Hendrix at the absolute peak of your powers, you plug in your guitar, noodle along, eventually erupt into the kind of celebration that makes the gods cry, which leads to more and harder rain, deeper dreaming.

George Clinton - you shouldn't nuf bit fish
There was something utterly perfect about this when it was new, 1984 or thereabouts, so twisted, spaced out, funky and strange, and all about the colossal and apocalyptic mess that we the species were very much IN, all that nuclear fission fuelling a cold war arms race that had the Doomsday Clock edging harrowingly close to midnight.  And the old man in Washington with his finger on the trigger -- he was mainlining Grecian Formula, slipping into dementia.  

Lou Reed - busload of faith
This would've been the dead end of the 1980s, old man Lou as misanthropic as ever, and yet still bothering to write and sing songs.  Because it's true.  It was then.  It still is now.  The facts don't add up in any kind of hopeful way.  Never have, probably never will.  We're fucked.  We're all gonna die.  And yet life seems to keep on keeping on.  Hell if Lou Reed can get behind it, maybe there is something in the faith thing.  

Neil Diamond - Soolaimon + Brother Love's travelling salvation show
It's probably bullshit but I'll relate it anyway, the story I heard at a bar in Molokai from a guy who claimed to know Neil Diamond, and how his chance meeting with Jim Morrison eventually gave us the greatest live album every recorded.  It happened in 1967.  Neil's doing okay with his career, writing catchy pop tunes, watching them sail to the top of the charts with the likes of the Monkees, but unfortunately, this is the antithesis of cool in 1967.  And Neil desperately wants to be cool.  Then one night, Jim Morrison shows up backstage after a show at the Troubadour, says he's a fan.  The two hit it off, smoke some Mary Jane, swig tequila, end up driving all over the Hollywood Hills.  Jim tells Neil he's a huge fan, that I'm A Believer was better than anything the Beatles ever wrote.  Neil says the same for Light My Fire, which Jim didn't write (Robby Krieger did), so he spikes the tequila with enough STP to launch an Apollo moon shot and the rest is, shall we say, destiny. 

David Bowie - cracked actor
The alien has cracked.  The time I saw him do this, he was singing it to a skull.  And it was good.  Of course, what hooks you to Cracked Actor is the power of the music itself, as solid, as strong, as raw a rocker as you were likely to hear in 1973.  Unless you were cool enough to be hip to Iggy Pop, which nobody was, except a few junkies who lacked the energy and/or the ambition to actually move their vocal cords and tell anyone.  

Crosby Stills Nash + Young - carry on [live]
The album version of Carry On's okay.  It makes its point.  The revolution seems to have peaked, man, but we're still on the edge something truly beautiful, man, so nothing to do but carry on, man.  LIVE however, on 1971's 4 Way Street, you actually believe it.  Love is coming for us all.  War shall be forever banned.  Richard Nixon won't be re-elected in a year's time by the single biggest landslide in history.  It's the jamming, of course, that really sells it.  Neil Young and Steve Stills facing off, riding the revolution to heaven itself, leaving the original song light years behind.

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