Monday, May 13, 2013

Countdown #59 - the golden void

Broadcast May-11-2013 - 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).  Links couldn't found for every recording (but we tried).

Isaac Hayes - hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic
Because it's as cool as its title -- good, solid soul for three minutes or so, and then the groove takes over care of  the kind of musical genius that knows sometimes you can just let the piano go, give it all the available sonic space, don't worry, it won't disappoint you.  Isaac Hayes being the genius in question, the groove itself being so hot that Public Enemy would put it to stunning use a decade or so later in Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos (one of their greatest moments) ... almost as if Mr. Hayes had it planned all along.  He probably did.

Devo  - mongoloid
Because it's the first punk tune that ever truly grabbed me, even if some have argued (no doubt continue to argue) that Devo weren't punk, they were new wave, to which I just fire back a huge WHATEVER. It would've been 1978 because Tormato, the latest Yes magnum opus, was out, except it was neither magnum or opus.  But I loved it anyway.  Just smoke enough dope, drink enough booze, crank the stereo and voila!  I was nothing if not loyal in my stupid devotion to my favourite band.  But not my friend Carl.  He just shook his head and put on Devo's first album, which proceeded to make an impression.  Because it was fun, no question, particularly Mongoloid.  Just the whole nasty idea of it, a wound up anthem about some guy who was a mongoloid.  How perverse was that!  But fun was all it was.  It wasn't complex or anything.  It wasn't important.  Carl could see that, couldn't he?  He just smiled and played Mongoloid again.  By the third time through, I was air-guitaring.  But it still wasn't important. 

Bauhaus - third uncle
Because if the cover version is better than the kick ass Brian Eno original, and it is, well we're talking some kind of sublime greatness.  And it's worth remembering, so-called Goth didn't exist before Bauhaus.  True, people were already dressing in black and mourning for their own deaths ... but until Bauhaus, they were just notable fashion extremists lurking in the shadows of the cooler clubs, like something important was being born,  but it hadn't quite arrived yet.  And then along came Bauhaus, looking good in black themselves, setting free the mysterious bloodsucking hordesAnd it was good.

War - the world is a ghetto

Because it's true, what the title says, the world is a ghetto, and never more so than 1972-73, when I was finally getting serious about music, exploring the FM waves (which were still cool then, still DJ dominated, people who loved music playing the stuff they loved).  And that meant the feature length version of The World Is A Ghetto got some play, the one that really took you there, where the fires of the 1960s riots and uprisings were still smouldering, the smell still thick in the air, reaching even to the whitebread suburbs of the Pacific Northwest where we didn't even have so-called Black people.  But we had this music and it was making us think, and feel.

Led Zeppelin - in my time of dying
Because the highest Led Zeppelin record on this list would have to be from Physical Graffiti, which I never even heard in its entirety until summer 1989, fifteen years after the fact.  It was the fateful day I went to the record store to spend a hundred bucks on maybe seven CDs and instead walked out with better part of thirty used albums, plus a pile of 45s, because everybody was suddenly doing what I'd thought I was doing, switching to CDs.  Which meant they were dumping all their vinyl.  Which meant here was pretty much every album I'd always wanted but couldn't really afford, now being  pretty much given away.  And when I got home, Physical Graffiti was the first thing I played, with In My Time Of Dying everything that had ever made Led Zeppelin legendary -- the blues, the rock, the epic and dynamic darkness that said as much about the hard times of the Mississippi Delta circa 1932 as the imminent end of the world, due anytime soon.

Alice Cooper - halo of flies
Because it puts the lie to all those asshole grown-ups who tried to write the Alice Cooper Group off as a bunch of talentless freakshow types.  I distinctly remember the first time I heard Halo of Flies, 1972 sometime, at my friend Malcolm's, who'd immediately gone out and bought the Killer album when the news hit about the kid a few suburbs over who'd hung himself because of the inside cover.  The newspapers were all over it for a while.  Fourteen year old boy kills himself trying to imitate Alice Cooper.  Which, of course, is as deep as any adult went.  The cover.  Their loss, because there was nothing shallow about the music.  Creepy, dynamic, erupting with grotesque passion and cool … and Halo of Flies took it all furthest.

Neil Young - ambulance blues
Because it's proof that I was cool in summer 1974, barely fifteen years old.  Actually, cool had nothing to do with it.  It was just one of those difficult summers, stuck visiting relatives, no friends within five hundred miles, too old for little kids stuff, too young to be remotely interested in adult bullshit.  And yet for some reason, there was this new Neil Young album kicking around my uncle's place.  I think he won it in a raffle, probably listened to it once.  And to be honest, it was mostly way over my head, but it was all I had, so I kept at it.  And in the end it was Side Two that got me, the mellower, more somber stuff,.  Particularly Ambulance Blues, which really felt like the album cover, a California beach on a grey and disappointing day, a guy at the water's edge looking like he might be about to jump in, never come back. 

David Bowie - sweet thing [candidate - sweet thing reprise]
Because Diamond Dogs is the great under-regarded David Bowie album, and Sweet-Thing-Candidate-Sweet-Thing (the mini-epic that takes up most of side one) is its high water mark.  The alien Ziggy Stardust is no more.  This new Bowie creature seems to be half human, half dog, and rolling in the muck and mire of an apocalyptic hellscape that's equal parts Hieronymus Bosch and Salvador Dali.  And he's running for political office, with high ambition.  He wants to be Big Brother.  And yet there's a sweetness at the heart of it, a sorrow even, a sliver of soul and humanity that suggests maybe all isn't lost.  It's just the early-middle part of the 1970s, the outlook may be grim, but damn, if the music isn't strong.

Pixies - debaser
Because it rocks, of course, and coolly at that.  And it references the Andalusian dog, thus riffing on all manner of dada and surrealism, which is all good.  Because seriously, what did happen in Zurich in 1916?  What strange and vital energies were released from the bowels of the Cabaret Voltaire while all of Europe was tearing itself to pieces in the so-called Great War?  What conjured these energies?  What nurtured them?  How did they survive and thus, how have they allowed for the survival of all humanity?  Hint:  the dog has something to with it, the dog doesn't mean anything.  

This Mortal Coil - song to the siren
Because as any traveler of psychedelic realms will advise, make sure you've got a plan for coming down from LSD – those long and lonely hours where you're too spent to do anything short of lie flat, too wired to sleep.  Which in my particular case meant This Mortal Coil's first album got a lot of play in the middle 80s, evoking an apocalypse that was neither fire nor brimstone, but it was deep, mournful even, evoking a solitude at least as ancient as time.  And the cover of Tim Buckley's Song To The Siren was definitely the standout.

Butthole Surfers - sweat loaf
Because somebody had to do it, finally deliver so called rock and roll that was the manifestation of everything any decent, god-fearing parent or businessman or teacher or priest or shopkeeper or hockey coach had ever feared about it, and worse.  Like that family of three that went missing near the Butthole Surfers' compound in rural Texas, the young boy murdered by the band, butchered, barbequed and force-fed to the father who went mad and was later found wandering naked at the side of the road, babbling, claiming he knew the truth about who killed JFK and the Jonestown massacres and how the Trilateral Commission figured into it all.  Meanwhile, the mother just joined band, danced with them on stage, naked, and helped sell merchandise afterward.  Such was the loud, ugly-beautiful-evil glory of the Butthole Surfers circa 1987 … but only if you got the joke. 

Hawkwind - the golden void
Because it's true, what the guy's singing about, the stuff about the corridor of flame and the warriors found at the edge of time.  I've seen them.  I've been one, doing my infinitesimal bit to keep the universe expanding as it must, riding that big and glorious and infinite boom to its ever blooming edge.  Trust me.  I wouldn't lie about something like that, and neither would Hawkwind.  You can hear it in the passion of the performance, every means utilized to evoke what they'd found way out there.  And also, I gotta say it, a dedication to any-and-all I've ever tripped with (you know who you are).  The goal was never just easy pleasure and/or wasted oblivion – nah, these were noble journeys, heroic even, all the glorious challenge out there at the fractal edges of eternity, realm of angels, remembering the future, revealing the science in ever shading colours, as a germ in a seed grows, as a river joins the ocean.  I'll stop now as I seem to be quoting Genesis and Yes lyrics.

Bob Dylan - desolation row

Because of that night, it must've been early 1973 because I was still thirteen, working through the bullshit of Grade Eight, and everything else for that matter, including life itself, a big fat Why Bother at the heart of pretty much all my musings.  Because the Christian-God-based reality I'd had foisted on me from day one was too ridiculous to be taken remotely seriously.  But what did that leave then other than meaninglessness, which was proving to be no fun at all.  Meanwhile in the background, this insanely long Bob Dylan song was playing on CKLG-FM, about postcards sent from hangings, and Cain and Abel, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Insurance Men, the Titanic, TS Elliot ... like somebody was trying to get a message to me.  And I got it finally.  Something to do with not sweating the meaning stuff, just get on with it, live, learn, encounter crazy shit, go to the hangings, maybe drink cheap red wine, mix it up with marijuana, get serious about confusion not as end but an indication that some higher wisdom might be waiting a little further down the line.  Maybe send a few postcards ... 

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