Thursday, May 2, 2013

Countdown #57 - under a groove

Broadcast April-27-2013 - 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). 

Marianne Faithfull - why d'ya do it?
Because I don't care what all the hard rock hippie diehards were saying, by 1979 the Rolling Stones were nowhere, and they would never be somewhere ever again.  Certainly not on record.  Which gets us to Why D'ya Do It? the last truly great Rolling Stones record, even if they had nothing to do with it.  It was Marianne Faithfull all the way.  But she was Mick's ex and spitting exactly the kind of bile the Stones should have still had in them if they hadn't fucked up on heroin and indulgence.  Because this was raunchy and vindictive and unrepentant and dirty in all the right ways.  Seriously.  Imagine Mick Jagger singing it in1971, part of the Exile on Main St. sessions.  You know it would have kicked.  But Ms. Faithfull's version would still be better. 

The Jesus + Mary Chain - just like honey
Because it's what the mid point of the 1980s actually sounded like.  A Phil Spector sort of melody channeled through not a wall of sound, but a god damned hurricane.  And yet sweet, like the title suggests, and yet deadly serious like the band's name suggests.  So the unrighteous were destroyed by it, turned to pillars of salt where they stood, and many were in 1985.  Because the battle lines had been drawn in the still unnamed Winter of Hate, and noise was starting to win some key battles. 

Toots + the Maytals - Funky Kingston
Because I never got to see most of the soul greats.  No Ray Charles, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder ticket stubs in my nostalgia box.  But I did catch Toots and Maytals in their prime, one of the best damned bands ever in the history of anything tearing the roof off the Commodore Ballroom, making me fall in love with all humanity.  And Funky Kingston was the climax of the show, rude and raw and at least as hot as Jamaica in summertime.  

Nina Simone - to love somebody
Because hate on the Bee Gees' all you want, they could write a genius pop song.  Case in point, To Love Somebody, maybe the greatest three plus minutes of unrequited love ever written, and covered by everybody from the Flying Burrito Brothers to the Chambers Brothers to Roberta Flack to Eric Burdon and the Animals ... but nobody ever owned it like Ms. Nina Simone did in 1969.  The kind of performance that, if the term soul music hadn't already been coined, it would have been necessary to do so.  Immediately.  

Doors - break on through
Because as the wise ass said, "Why did Jim Morrison cross the road?  To break on through to the other side."  But seriously, as lead off tracks from first albums go, Break On Through's about as perfect as they come.  A dark eruption of summer of love psyche-rock that tells no lies, promises nothing, delivers maybe everything, even if it took twelve or thirteen years as it did in my case.  It would've been the fall of 1980, with Jim Morrison ten years dead (or maybe just missing) but going through a resurrection of sorts.  A key song in Apocalypse Now, the biography No One Here Gets Out Alive getting passed eagerly around, and oh yeah, my friend James had just killed himself, so shit was suddenly very serious.  Insert lurid scenes of fucked up early adult mourning, mixing shitty wine and magic mushrooms in cemeteries, raging all night long.  

Black Sabbath - Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Because even if it was for only two or three weeks roughly halfway through Grade Nine, Black Sabbath were the greatest, most essential band in all creation, all hail the dark Lord Satan to whom they'd sold their souls.  At least that's what I heard in Metal Shop from John Field, and you didn't argue with that asshole.  And seriously, what's to argue with about Sabbath Bloody Sabbath anyway?  Heavier than all the world's cathedrals, more essential riffs in its five and half minutes than all the 80s hair bands put together, and yes, as a matter fact, exactly what you need to air-guitar to when you're fourteen and getting properly drunk on whiskey for the first time.  

Allman Bros - whipping post    
Because this is what it is to be free.  I believe I read when I was maybe fourteen, a Rolling Stone magazine found in a pile at my friend Carl's place, care of his older brothers.  It was a review of Live At The Filmore East, which quickly got me looking for it, and I found it, also at Carl's place.  But I didn't really get it at first, whatever I supposed to get from the Allmans, certainly not what I was expecting to get, which was some kind of kickass southern-fried raunch.  Nah, these guys were far smoother than that, more expansive, cooler, which isn't to say they didn't ROCK, there was just so much more to it than that.  Like the side long take on Whipping Post which, maybe halfway through, you think is winding up for a big deal ending, but it takes another ten minutes to get there, like they're loving it too much, they don't ever want it to end.  They really were that free.  But, of course, it already had ended, certainly for main man Duane Allman, dead in a motorcycle accident a few months after the Fillmore gig, and then bassist Berry Oakley, barely a year later, a motorcycle again, same basic stretch of Florida back road.   The price of freedom, I guess.  

Funkadelic - one nation under a groove
Because it made John the drug dealer cry.  Tough guy, carried a gun, you did not fuck with him.  It was at 86 Street (the club), 1988, maybe three hours into the P-Funk All Stars extravaganza, George Clinton and his umpteen piece band riding a groove that had been building all evening, just wave after wave of funk ... but suddenly shifting slightly, evolving into this recognizable song, the one about there only being one nation and we're all united in it, by the groove.  That's when John nudged me, pointed to some tears on his cheek.  Maybe you had to be there.  Why weren't you?

Clash - armagideon time + if music could talk
Because it was the Clash, more than any other band or artist or guru or priest or teacher, that finally dragged me kicking and screaming into maturity (I hope I'll never confess to adulthood).  And I can even pinpoint the moment.  Late spring 1982, I'm high on LSD, alone at my parents place, way the hell out in suburbia, perilously close to the edge of a nasty dark star for all kinds of screwed up personal reasons, when suddenly I'm aware of some great emergency going down in the direction of the freeway, sirens and smoke.  So rather than just continuing to implode, I'm suddenly grabbing my Sony Walkman and going for a walk through all these vibrating acres of suburbia and soul, all these strangers' lives and dramas pulsing through and around me, the call of the sirens and the rising smoke reminding me that something pivotal is happening, perhaps quite tragic.  But unlike sitting alone back at my parents, it doesn't scare me, I'm up to it.  Because I've got the right soundtrack, and I made the call, I committed to it, I chose movement and possible adventure over inertia and certain suffocation.  And Armagideon Time's playing as I crack this epiphany, just as the location of the fire comes into view, somebody's house, a bungalow on Westborough Crescent, the whole block like a war zone, fire and police lights cutting through all the smoke and the fading light of dusk.  Armagideon indeed.  And all these poor normal people starving to death … inside.  

And then If Music Could Talk came on as if to clarify that that's precisely what it had been doing -- talking to me.  Welcome to the rest of your life, man, so much of it destined to be lived in twilight zones such as this, at pivotal moments of collapse.  And yet there's a beauty ...

Jane Birkin + Serge Gainsborough - Je T'aime
Because the French may get a lot wrong when it comes to rock and roll, but they sure know how to do dirty without it coming across as somehow unclean.  Or something like that.  I'm paraphrasing the Amazing Angela here, who even though her politics demanded otherwise, couldn't help but love this perverse little nugget.  Teenage girl and grown man.   Late 60s pop about as perfect as it gets. 

Deep Purple - child in time

Because it's one of the first times I ever really connected with a lyric, the one about the blind man shooting at the world ("watch for the ricochet").  I guess thirteen year old me had enough of a grasp on randomness and karma and the overall crumbling state of the post-1960s zeitgeist to have no problem buying in.  Ian Gillan's vocals helped in this regard, always one more octave to be nailed with all due terror and glory.  And then there's the band itself, jamming like the world was ending, which was required listening in every big brother's beater of a car, always on 8-Track tape, soundtrack for bombing around suburbia as if there was actually a reason for it.  And maybe there was. 

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