“Magazine were first pitched to me by a guy from Quintessence Records (before it turned into Zulu). Late 1979, maybe early 1980, he kept making it his business to convince me that Prog Rock was dead, that punk had killed it, that whatever cool, innovative, progressive music the future might hold — it would come from punk and the wreckage it had made of all that had come before. Anyway, he more or less forced Second Hand Daylight on me and, which started strong with Feed the Enemy and never really let up. A plane crash over the border, unconvincing border guards, hunger. No room for doubt. That was a future I could grab onto. And holy sh** — what a bass line!” (Philip Random)
“We’re listening to Who Knows from Band of Gypsys, the Jimi Hendrix 1970 New Years live album. Two guys are arguing about the relative quality of his backing magicians. The Experience versus the Band of Gypsys lineup of Buddy Myles and Billy Cox. A third guy finally pipes in, ‘Hey, if they were good enough for Jimi, they’re good enough for me. Now shut the f*** up and listen.’ Which, in the case of the Band of Gypsys, should drive home the point that barely eight months before his death, whatever may have been going down in the man’s personal life, Jimi Hendrix was anything but in a creative rut.” (Philip Random)
“If Daydream Nation (Sonic Youth’s best album) is one prolonged exercise in applied escape velocity, ‘Cross the Breeze is one of those prolonged moments where it gets furthest from the ground. I’m pretty sure I saw them do it live in late 1987 sometime, long before the album came out. It was a Sunday night show, and those are almost always duds, the audience too spent from the weekend’s extremes to actually move. But Sonic Youth launched us all anyway, ripped holes through our souls and scattered them ‘cross the breeze. It’s true.” (Philip Random)
“Sometimes I need to see a song used in a movie to truly get it. In the case of Needles in the Camel’s Eye (the first song on the first side of Brian Eno’s first solo album), that movie was Velvet Goldmine, the title sequence in which glam-rock fervour erupts through drab Britain circa 1971-72. As the story goes, David Bowie refused to let director Todd Haynes use any of his music in a movie that was a essentially about him. So Haynes scrambled, signed up everybody else that was relevant at the time, and the result was perhaps more confusing than originally intended, but probably better.” (Philip Random)
“In which some showroom dummies animate, hit the town, have some fun messing with the humans. It’s the strange urgency of it that I love, almost punk rock, yet restrained. Which is contradictory, I know. Like considering Kraftwerk‘s cyber explorations soul music, which they are. Which reminds me of something I read a long, long time ago. What do you call a contradiction that works? A paradox. God I love paradox.” (Philip Random)
The Catherine Wheel was David Byrne‘s first solo album, recorded while the Talking Heads were officially on hiatus. The soundtrack for a Twyla Tharp ballet, it stands as exhibit three of Byrne’s 1980-81 hat trick of zeitgeist defining genius (something he still hasn’t topped). The first two were collaborations with Brian Eno (the Talking Heads album Remain In Light, and then My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts) but Catherine Wheel was Mr. Byrne going it alone in the production/writing department. Eggs In A Briar Patch (and really the whole sweep of Dinosaur, The Red House, Weezing, Eggs in a Briar Patch and Poison) gets the nod here because of how effectively the convoluted path between song and atmosphere gets traversed, and all the cool mysteries thus uncovered.
Kate Bush‘s fourth album, The Dreaming, is one of those artefacts that continues to force jaws to drop from beginning to end, every strange and delicious second. But if you’ve only got time for one song, go with the title track wherein a groove is stolen from a Rolf Harris song, then merged rather hilariously with the sound a kangaroo makes when it gets hammered by a van. And then it all just keeps deranging from there, as dreams will do.
First there was Aphrodite’s Child and its mad fusions of extreme psychedelia and extreme pop. Eventually, there was Academy Award winning soundtrack stuff so definitive it’s since become kind of a cliché. In the middle somewhere is Earth, Vangelis Papathanasiou‘s first solo album, where the two extremes fuse and find all kinds of room to move. Aeons of it as We Were All Uprooted attests, both ethereal and grounded, like history itself shrouded in mist, the clues buried in the earth.
“Speaking of reggae, I’d be lying if I said the Clash weren’t one of my key entry points, still to this day maybe the only white reggae band that ever truly mattered. Because somehow or other, they got the depth of it, not just the easy, stoned sunshine grooves. Like Sean Flynn (concerning Errol Flynn’s son, a photojournalist who was killed in the Cambodian spillover of the Vietnam war) a song which maybe isn’t reggae at all, but it’s definitely dub, Apocalypse Now derived hallucinatory helicopter blades, intense heat, but you’re somehow floating above it all, finding just enough altitude to see some beauty without denying any of the tragedy.” (Philip Random)