“My introduction to Talking Heads went something like this. Maybe 1978, artist guy (obviously high on quality drugs) walks up to me at a party and says, ‘Where does everybody live? In some kind of building. What does everybody eat? Food. More Songs About Buildings and Food is about everybody.’ And it was good at parties.” (Philip Random)
“No, this is not The Cure advocating hate crime. It’s an examination of existentialism, as spare and unflinching as the French novel that inspired it. That said, we did play Killing an Arab a lot on radio during that first Gulf War. Late winter, early spring 1991, tens of thousands of Arabs being killed for no particular reason, except maybe keeping prices down at the gas pumps. Doesn’t get much more existential than that. I haven’t owned a car since.” (Philip Random)
“Sally Oldfield being Mike’s big sister, Water Bearer (the song and album that contains it) being smooth, ethereal, fresh as the waters of Rivendell itself. Indeed, it’s right there in the lyrics for Songs of Quendi (found deeper into side one) – these sounds aren’t just redolent of what you’d expect to hear on a Saturday night at Elrond’s joint, they’re purporting to be the real thing. Which would be laughable if they weren’t just so darned nice. Or as I once heard someone say about Abba – it’s the musical equivalent of taking a hot bath, then going to bed with clean sheets, except these particular sheets are woven from some mystical silk that transports you to dreams of the undying lands found beyond the great ocean of Belegaer.” (Philip Random)
Exposure is a song (for lack of a better word) that Peter Gabriel and Robert Fripp conceived for Gabriel’s rather unsettled second album. Bleak, abrasive, creepy, prophetic – it was determined (it seems) to drive a wedge between what each had been up to in the past with their previous outfits, and the brave new future on the verge of boiling over as the 1980s dawned. Then, to drive the point home, Fripp made it the title track of his 1979 debut solo album, although now a different singer (a woman named Terre Roche) was tearing up the atmosphere, taking things to the point of genuine pain. Because, to quote Mr. Fripp, ” … the old world, characterized by large, unwieldy and vampiric organizations, was dead.” And what did the new one sound like? Small, independent, mobile, intelligent. And up for a fight, no question.
In which we are reminded that it wasn’t Peter Gabriel’s split from Genesis that condemned them (and us) to the various attainments and atrocities that would come to define them through the 1980s – it was Steve Hackett‘s. Look no further than Please Don’t Touch, Hackett’s first post-Genesis solo excursion (he was still in the band for 1975’s Voyage of the Acolyte), its epic conclusion in particular. And yes, that is Richie Havens (the hippie folk guy that saved the day at Woodstock) laying down the heavy vocal gravity.
“I was a too mature for AC/DC when they first started getting properly noticed over here in the Americas, my late teenage tastes leading me toward more sophisticated stuff like Styx and Kansas. Never trust anyone under twenty. Fact is, it took me ten years before I was mature enough for AC/DC’s no bullshit powerage. But it had to be the old stuff with Bon Scott, long dead but immortal, howling up from hell or wherever. Sheer Riff Raff all the way.” (Philip Random)
Speaking of bass culture, (and contrary to popular belief) it needs to be said that White Man in Hammersmith Palais was neither The Clash‘s first reggae song, nor its best — that was Police + Thieves (or maybe something from Sandinista). But it was the first one they actually wrote, Joe Strummer to be specific, slipping out of his punk mindset long enough to wax poetic on politics and music, Robin Hood and Hitler, black and white, everything really.
In which the Buzzcocks unleash a short, sharp fever of pure and beautiful pop with punk in its soul. Or is it the other way around? One thing is clear. They were one of (if not the first) bands to have it both ways, and we’ll forever love them for that. Just because you’re mad as hell doesn’t mean you can’t be pretty, too.
Note the question mark in the title. This is XTC telling it like it was in early 1978 – everybody confused about the new wild sound that was tumbling out of the punk eruptions and eviscerations of the previous year. But what was it? New Wave, claimed the marketing types, but that didn’t mean anything. That was just a way of selling stuff that wasn’t disco or metal or prog or just boring old rock. What it was, was pop, bullshit free, for the moment and all time.