Monday, October 22, 2012

countdown #39 - be my powerstation

Broadcast October-20-2012 - 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.

St. Che - be my power station
I've always connected this with the Bhopal disaster.  1984, Bhopal, India -- gas leak at the Union Carbide pesticide plant sends an invisible cloud of poison into the surrounding shanty towns, kills thousands, injures half a million.  It's the BBC sounding voice on the sample.  "Bodies lay stretched out on the streets."  Hell, maybe it was just a war zone, or a terror blast, or one of those nightclub fires (everybody trapped inside because the fire marshal was on the take).  Pure horror regardless with corruption at the heart of it.  Yet you could dance to it.   No surprise that there's a connection to Adrian Sherwood, On-U-Sound, the Tackhead crew.  

Midnight Oil - power and the passion
I remember seeing them in a big hall show, 1990 probably, when they were as big as they'd ever get, saving the world from ecological ruin one concert at a time (and I even half-believed it possible).  They introduced Power And The Passion as a surfing song.  Which makes perfect sense, because there's nothing more powerful or passionate than a big wave, all that planetary evolution and movement coalescing 'cross four thousand years of ebb and flow and yin and yang to make for this thing which can be ridden.  And then the horns come roaring in at the end and seal the deal. 

Clash - magnificent seven
For me, this always felt like a riff on Bob Dylan, subterranean and homesick, definitely New York City in all its turn of the decade corrosion and despair ... and yet crazy fertile  anyway, not unlike the world as a whole, even my own useless suburb a continent away.  The acid helped in this regard.  I feel I should I apologize for this, all the acid references that seem to pop up whenever some kind of broader view is required as to what really went down in the 1980s (my angle on it).  But should one apologize for telling the truth?  Fuck that.  The Clash never did.

The Band - when I paint my masterpiece
I prefer this to the Dylan version, feels more road weary, earned, a rainy night in Rome by way of deepest darkest Arkansas or perhaps rural Ontario, somewhere vast and pointless, and all those million miles in between playing rock and roll, because it had to be done.

DOA - war in the east
DOA saved my life any number of times through the 80s, mainly through their live shows.  There was never anything pretty about it but it was always beautiful anyway, from the back of auto body shops to abandoned boys clubs to my old high school to the Arts Club on Seymour (the best damned club the Terminal City ever had, certainly in the 80s) to at least two sold out Commodores, to some impromptu acoustic messing around off the edge of a movie set.  And I'm pretty sure they did War In The East, their only reggae tune, every time, because it slowed things a bit, clarified a few key points.  Fighting one another - killing for big brother.  Same as it ever was.

Grand Funk Railroad - inside looking out
It's like the classic Spinal Tap line.  There's a very fine line between genius and stupidity, Grand Funk being an outfit that spent most of its time wallowing on the stupid side.  But they do nail it here.  Notice the use of the present tense.  That's what genius does.  It transcends time, surfs impermanence, negates all previous and subsequent stupidity.  Particularly when it's delivered as loud and proud as it is here.

Velvet Underground - the murder mystery
The raw pure simplicity of the Velvets is one of the foundation blocks of everything that has mattered since 1965, and I'm not just talking music.  But their story is not remotely complete without a chapter or nine devoted to their avant edge, their thirst for derangement and NOISE in the service of ... truth, I guess.

Guess Who - guns guns guns
Lorena, now officially my lawyer, says this is way too high on the list, but then she's got no time for guys with mustaches.  Motron, on the other hand, says it's not near high enough, but he was born in Winnepeg.  What it is, is Canada's own Beatles past their chart topping glory ... but still rockin profoundly, proving they are both a world class band, and godamned poets as they chase it up and down the north side -- that giddy sense of freedom that a superlative groove offers.  And then you've got Burton Cummings, just drunk enough (or perhaps drugged) to not be an embarrassment, laying down some of the finest vocals this planet will ever hear, sad and true. Godspeed mother nature, Godspeed.

Neutral Milk Hotel - two-headed boy
What can I say?  It's early 2001 as I write this, still winter, and Neutral Milk Hotel's The Aeroplane Over The Sea is the best album ever in the history of anything.  I have no perspective on this, of course.  I just heard it for the first time maybe a month ago, but holy shit, I'm hooked -- young man (Jeff Mangum by name) with a whole new way of turning breath to voice.  Soul music for sure. 

Electric Light Orchestra - boy blue
When I was fifteen and ELO's Eldorado was new, it was all about the story, the big concept -- perfect for my still growing brain and imagination.  The Dreamer, The Unwoken Fool.  He starts out high on a hill in El Dorado, heads down into the world, gets caught up in a war, a tornado in the desert, Sherwood Forest, a lost kingdom, the south seas, some painted ladies, and so on ... finally ends up on top of another hill, this one in Avalon, still a dreamer, still unwoken, a fool.  I'd listen to Eldorado beginning to end at least five days out of seven.  I remember me and Gord Stewart who lived down the block (he was also so hooked on it), deciding we needed to put a stop to it, take a break at least.  One month.  No Eldorado.  Like kicking a drug habit.  And then I'm not sure what happened.  I guess I got into Yes, or maybe ski season finally started.  Or just girls and alcohol.  Whatever it was, Eldorado got put aside for more than a decade.  Until one night, 1987, high no doubt, probably a sliver of LSD in the mixture, I'm picking through the dregs of my vinyl (the un-essential stuff not filed on a shelf, just piled in various boxes) and the cover catches my eye.  A still from an actual film frame from The Wizard of Oz -- Dorothy's contentious red slippers, the wicked witch of wherever trying to zap them off.  I put the album on and man, I can't help but smile.  It's just so big and fun.  Not serious anymore, I couldn't care less about the Dreamer/The Unwoken fool.  But the melodrama of it, all those strings and choral overloads, and horns -- that's eternal.  Like in Boy Blue where everything's revving up to an obvious sort of b-movie climax, but it doesn't go there.  Not yet.  Just waltzes into this beautiful string bit, plucked cellos, I think.  And then it goes for the obvious climax. 

Neil Young - will to love
For years, I just thought I had a shitty copy of this, all hacked and crackled.  Actually, it was a shitty copy, victim of way too many nights left out of its sleeve, bits of ash and hash-resin and spilled wine gumming up the grooves.  But Will To Love was supposed to sound like that anyway, like your lying next to a fireplace, letting the warmth of it sooth you, while your thoughts go long and  deep with the crackles and hisses.  It's 1977 and punk rock may be erupting, but Neil Young's gone ambient here, for one song anyway. 

War - gypsy man
It's the way it creeps up like a distant storm howling in that catches the moment for me, 1973, I'm maybe fourteen -- the Watergate thing, the Vietnam thing, the ongoing end of the 60s thing, all the bright colours fading, stench of garbage on the breeze.  But at least  radio was still good in 1973.  You could actually hear Gypsy Man on CKLG-FM, the whole thing.  Because the great corporate screwing hadn't happened yet.  But it was about to.  The consultants had filed their reports.  There was stupid money to be made on the FM waves, and all of this visionary art and truth-telling crap -- it was in the way, babe.

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