“Two in a row from Parliament’s 1975 Mothership Connection, because sometimes more is more. I vaguely remember skimming through a book a friend foisted on me a while back that had something to do with all the sci-fi imagery and metaphors inherent in certain cool African-American musics (specifically the likes of Sun Ra, Lee Scratch Perry, George Clinton and the whole Parliament-Funkadelic crew). It was way too academic, probably some guy’s thesis, and thus it lost me. Or I lost it. I can barely remember any of it, except maybe the notion that a spaceship could be seen as the opposite of a slave ship (the vehicle that might finally take them home to a new Africa of the future, not the lost one of the past … or something like that). What I do remember very well is seeing Parliament (or was it Funkadelic?) on TV back in 1976 on one of those Friday night concert shows they used to have. It was one of the tours where they had an actual spaceship land on stage, great clouds of smoke and lights, and, of course, the music itself care of a band umpteen strong and powerful. Like an alien invasion straight to the marrow of my narrow, white bread suburban soul. And thus my universe was changed. But good luck actually finding any of the records down at the local mall. Cool funk just didn’t travel that far north and west in the mid-70s. In fact, it would take me decades to finally track down a vinyl copy of Mothership Connection, some things being well worth waiting (and searching) for.” (Philip Random)
“The gods must have had me in mind with America is Waiting, side one track one of My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, Brian Eno and David Byrne messing with African beats and rhythms, disembodied voices, all manner of weird noises, everything coming together to call down the venal soullessness of Ronald Reagan’s America, like the atmosphere itself was speaking to my concerns. How could all this not go well with the copious quantities of LSD that were bubbling around at the time? But the drugs wore off eventually. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts didn’t, never has. Others may have used samples before, merged noise and rhythm and all manner of exotic tangents and textures. But once Misters Eno and Byrne had done their bit, this sort of stuff was emphatically here to stay, part of the firmament.” (Philip Random)
The entirety of Talking Heads’ third album Fear of Music is essential, but I Zimbra stands out for broad hint it offers of what would happen if Talking Heads (at the vigorous encouragement of their producer Brian Eno) were to maybe leave the whole punk/new wave thing behind, take a wild dive into the whole world, Africa in particular. Shrug it all off as cultural appropriation as some have over the years, but things were different then, the world was bigger, our maps magnitudes less complete. And anyway, things seem to be correcting of late.
Track one, side one of the first Guadalcanal Diary album is pumped up, countrified fun. Philip Random is pretty sure it’s about a movie he saw as a little kid. “Something to do with American cowboys going to the Congo (or wherever), killing natives, other fun stuff. By which I mean, horrific. Which unfortunately was pretty standard in my early days of TV watching (the 1960s). White men killing non-white men, served up as rousing adventure. Anyway. Great song from a highly overlooked jangle-pop outfit.” (Philip Random)
Take a speech from recently deceased Haile Selassie (Emperor of Ethiopia, living incarnation of God if you happened to be Rastafarian) and turn it into a song. It doesn’t sound like it should work. But in Bob Marley’s hands, it goes way beyond mere tribute, gets close to the stuff of actual transcendence, obliterating all borders, all boundaries, all negation. Everywhere is War.