23. relax [the long version]

“I first heard this astoundingly epic remix of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Relax at Vancouver’s best dance club ever, the Luv Affair. It would’ve been 1984, I guess, at a time that many were saying it was already past its true glory. Because the club had become too populated with so-called breeders, was no longer a strictly gay and/or bi and/or trans situation. But I’d argue this made 1984 its true peak, because of those breeders (myself included), because this was the moment when the various compulsions all balanced each other, when no particular tribe held sway, sexually, politically, spiritually, philosophically (am I missing anything here?), yet all were being heard.  Felt anyway. In the music. And holy f*** this was good music.

Not that Relax wasn’t profoundly, exquisitely, educationally gay (particularly the extended version). It actually coached us all on the exquisite pleasure of delaying orgasm, of NOT firing all the guns at once … which instantly made it political, because this was a moment in history when the overall consensus (among those who actually thought about things) was that some level of global nuclear cataclysm was no longer an ‘if’ but a ‘when’. Mere minutes to midnight on the doomsday clock. Yet Frankie seemed to be saying, we all just needed to Relax, that yes, we have this climax in us, wanting out, but the more we just lie back, relax, focus on our breathing, the better it all starts to feel. Like maybe the point isn’t to climax, but to find that spot just short of the edge, and ride it to eternity, sheer gushing pleasure to the ends of universe, the right kind of apocalypse. I distinctly remember thinking all this one night at the Luv Affair, dancing, LSD in my veins. And no, it wasn’t lost on me that there already was a gay apocalypse playing out, a horrific one, the one known as AIDS. Everybody knew somebody who was dying or already dead. Hell, we’d soon find the guy who was singing Relax was infected. But all this just catalyzed things, I think, amped the volume, everything to play (and dance) for. Hallelujah!” (Philip Random)

52. the killing moon

“Some songs just want to be longer, I guess. Case in point, the All Night mix of Echo and the Bunnymen’s Killing Moon. Nothing particularly wrong (or short) about the original almost six minute long album version – this one just goes further, deeper, richer. And seriously, what’s the rush given what’s on the line? Which is everything: life, death, eternity, oblivion, fate up against your will, looking the truth of it in the eye, daring to stare it down. There’s a f*** of a lot going on here, needless to say, and not just in and around Ian McCulloch‘s preposterously overwrought ego. Because I doubt the world’s ever had as many possible endings as it did in the mid-80s. If AIDS wasn’t going to get you, then trust that old man Reagan and the malevolent bureaucrats in Soviet Russia would. Or maybe it would be that hole in the ozone we kept hearing about – bigger than Antarctica, or was it Australia? And the ice caps were all melting. Yeah, we knew that even then. So why the hell not take a few more minutes to work the mood, ponder the imponderables, explore the best f***ing song ever recorded. Arguably.” (Philip Random)

153. the power of love

“It’s obvious now, but for some reason (maybe the Christmas themed video confused me), it didn’t really strike me at the time that The Power of Love was about AIDS, the holocaust that was currently tearing through the world’s male homosexual population (and beyond). Indeed, Frankie Goes To Hollywood‘s Holly Johnson, who sang and co-wrote it, would soon be infected and, in the belief of the time, fated to a slow horrible death from the vampire that had got in the door. Of course, last I looked, Mr. Johnson is still alive as are many who were once doomed (all hail, medical science), which doesn’t in any way detract from the power of Power Of Love – one of those rare songs about that most complex of four letter words, that doesn’t diminish it, doesn’t whore it for cheap emotions, maybe sell some flowers and chocolates on Valentines Day. And I think it’s very much because of that vampire line at the beginning, the truth it nails, figurative and otherwise.” (Philip Random)

(image source)

1048. never give up

The so-called sound art project known as Nocturnal Emissions take a few bland self-help samples, lay down a simple groove and deliver an anthem of sorts on the theme of healing. Because by the time 1985 hit, everyone who had even half a brain knew we were all in serious shit as regards the long term survival of the species. And then there was that  big disease with a little name (as Prince put it). We all knew someone who had it, even if we didn’t actually know they had it yet. Such was the AIDS crisis of the mid-80s — a death sentence all the way. And yet we’re human, so we never give up. Some of us anyway.

nocturnalEMissions