Sunday, January 27, 2013

Countdown #46 - step right up

Broadcast January-19-2013 - 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.

Pop Will Eat Itself- can u dig it?
In 1989, when Can U Dig It was fresh and utterly cool, it felt inconceivable that this particular Pop wouldn't just eat itself, it would eat the whole world.  Because they had it all.  Beatbox, samples, world eating smarts and guitars.  But it wasn't to be.  I guess they weren't cute enough.  And ultimately, who cares really?  It's the world's loss, not mine.  I've still got my Furry Freak Brothers, my Twilight Zone, my pumping disco beats.  And yeah, Alan Moore still knows the score.

Eddie Kendricks - keep on truckin'
I guess it's always weird being a kid of that certain age, just kicking into your teens, not that cute anymore, suddenly expected to have some kind of grasp on all the wild culture that's playing out around you, like getting tossed into the deep end of the pool, expected to swim.  For me, that would've been 1973.  And one thing that had me seriously confused was truckin'.  What the hell was all this truckin'?  The Grateful Dead had a song by that name that seemed to be a serious hippie anthem.  And then there were all those posters in the various head shops and incense joints (as my friend Carl called them), a JR Crumb thing, though that wouldn't have meant anything to me at the time – weird sort of bald guy in a tattered suit with oversized feet, leading him forward, like they knew where they were going way better than he did.  Keep on Truckin! said the posters, like it was the coolest thing imaginable.  And meanwhile, there was this song on the radio by a guy named Eddie Kendricks, ex of the Temptations, short version on AM, trippy long version on FM. In retrospect, I'd come to realize it was one of those rare and epic high water marks where artistic ambition and the zeitgeist fuse beautifully.  But at the time, I just sort of scratched my head and nodded along, wondering why I couldn't stop my feet from moving.

Robert Fripp (w/David Byrne) - under heavy manners
Lay down a hard, funky groove, set your world-splitting guitar on stun, step back and let the geeky singer enunciate, spit out complicated words.  It really does seem to mean something.  It's all credited to Robert Fripp and comes from his album God Save the Queen/Under Heavy Manners, but it's as much a David Byrne song, the main Talking Head in truly fierce form, pretty much at the peak of his powers.

Mothers of Invention - Money fragments [rando-EDIT] 
It's only 1968 and Frank Zappa's already had it with the hippies and their bullshit, but he hates the straights even more.  And we get it all in full-on genius form with We're Only In It For The Money.  As for this edit, it's just something I felt compelled to pull together one day back in the early 90s from various side one highlights, incorporating fragments of Are You Hung Up, Concentration Moon, What's the Ugliest Part of Your Body?  Which gets us to the lingering highlight of maybe Mr. Zappa's entire career – the answer to that last question.  The ugliest part of your body is your mind.  Genius, sharp as a razor, but way funnier.

My Bloody Valentine - soon [rando-EDIT]
The first thing I ever consciously heard of My Bloody Valentine was Andy Weatherall's 12-inch remix of Soon.  And it was good, immediately figuring in all the mixtapes I was making at the time, 1990 being a serious watershed year for me.  I'd taken the rage and angst of the 80s further than most, and loved it often as not.  But now it was time for a change, and here it was, often as not lyrically vague, musically expansive, like 60s psychedelia all over again, only bigger, richer, pumping cool light and amazing colours.  And then the album Loveless came out at the end of the year, and I finally heard the actual original version of Soon, and holy shit, it was everything I could've imagined, only more so.  So ultimately, you get this edit, because it had to be done.  The best of both worlds, only more so.

Lee Scratch Perry - bucky skank
It's hard to get a date on this, except sometime between 1969 and 1973.  Which feels apt.  Mr. Lee Scratch Perry and his Upsetters, wandering somewhere both in(and out)side of time.  The beat is odd, almost broken.  The song is mostly nonsensical, yet offered with all due passion.  And it's fun.

Tom Waits - step right up
I've already laid out my concerns about Tom Waits.  His stuff (particularly the early albums) has always felt more like he's acting, playing a part, than genuine boosey, bluesy decadence and decay.  But it's a hell of fine act, and Step Right Up, from 1976's Small Change, steps aside from all that and works perfectly well as a sort of Beat-skewering of everything that was phoney, skin deep and ultimately ugly about the consumer culture of the moment, and the past, and the future.  Always some asshole trying to sell you something you don't need, trailing an oil slick wherever he goes.  

David Bowie - wild is the wind
Pay your dues before you pay the rent, finally catch a few breaks, rise to mega-supernova status, then crash hard into an oblivion of ego, drugs, madness.  Hardly an original scenario.  But it takes a special talent indeed to pull off the crash part without messing up creatively.  Which is what David Bowie managed in 1976 with Station to Station, his thin white duke phase, the album he'd later claim he had no memory of making.  To which I say, here's to madness and oblivion, particularly if it includes a cover as epic as Wild is the Wind, which I'm pretty sure was originally done by Nina Simone, but Lorena, my lawyer, insists it's from a 1950s Anthony Quinn movie.  Either way, it gets to feeling like life itself once it starts soaring.

Hollies - King Midas in Reverse
King Midas is the guy who, everything he touched turned to gold, except you can't eat gold, so it was his doom.  The reverse of that would be touching gold and turning it to something you can actually use, I guess.  Except I don't think that's the point here, from sunny 1967, a dark and edgy bit of pop-psychedelia that suggests all is not necessarily glittering.  One of those songs I'm guilty of having had for decades (via the Hollies Greatest Hits comp) before I actually realized how good it was.  And that was only because of the movie, the Limey -- Peter Fonda being the slimy King Midas type, but Terrence Stamp was onto him.  He'd get his.

Guess Who - no time [original version]
Yeah, you've heard it a million times before on oldies radio, Canada's own Beatles getting it all just right, rocking nice and hard, melody as big as a prairie sky.  But not this version.  This is the original, from 1969's Canned Wheat, rawer, longer, more psychedelicized.  Like the band just didn't realize what they had, how truly world class they were.  And thus, they were at their peak. 

Gong - allez Ali Baba blacksheep have you any bullshit?
Because what value anarchy if it doesn't float?  Seriously.  Psychedelic meandering meets punk power.  Aerie-faerie bullshit meets No Future and somehow serves to keep the world on its axis, doing its revolutionary thing around the sun, which is itself swerving its own cycles through the known limits of infinity.  And so on.  By which I mean, if you ever find yourself tripping on strong LSD and feel you need something both intense and smooth, seek no further than the anarchy that floats, the allez Ali Baba blacksheep have you any bullshit mama maya mantram of Gong.  Trust me.  It makes perfect sense once you're there.  All fifteen minutes of it.

Love + Rockets - haunted when the minutes drag
This was so fresh in 1985, big music that dared to be colourful, epic, BIG.  Yet it knew it's time.  It was stuck in the Winter of Hate, and haunted at that, so it also kept its cool.

Mick Jagger - memo from Turner
Memo From Turner is still the best solo thing Mick Jagger's ever done, by far. From a 1970 Nicholas Roeg movie called Performance, which if you haven't seen it, why not?  It's almost as good as its soundtrack, or maybe it's the other way around.  A dark gem either way – something to do with the only true performance ending in madness, and gangsters, an illusive rock star who's bored with it all, edging into nihilism, drugs, psychedelic and otherwise. Not to mention sex and violence.  It's as if the Summer of Love was over, never even happened.  

Big Audio Dynamite - E=MC2
The only thing wrong with Big Audio Dynamite was they didn't have a Joe Strummer involved to give things more sandpaper, edge, keep Mick Jones honest.  As is, their first album's as good as they ever got with E=MC2 the only truly essential track, riffing on various Nicholas Roeg movies, having fun with a sampler.  It goes without saying, the melody's a killer, because that was always Mr. Jones's special genius.  If Strummer was the Clash's Lennon, he was most definitely McCartney, but at least he never laid a Yesterday on us.  Some crimes are beyond remorse and/or reconciliation.

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