19. starless

Starless is just a lament basically, though for what I’m not sure. Maybe a lost love. Or perhaps every apocalyptic thing, because by the time it’s done, it’s pretty much fractured the universe, having done that thing that I’m pretty sure only so-called progressive rock can do (or certainly King Crimson, who it’s pretty easy to argue, invented the genre). Which is to say, Starless doesn’t waste a second of its twelve and half minutes, but neither is it ever in a rush, the first four minutes or so serving as set up (the aforementioned lament), the final eight evoking first the darkest night there’s ever been, and then … well, words fail. But the music doesn’t. The music carves a hole straight through all that darkness, ultimately unleashing vast Niagras of tumultuous and redemptive light. It’s unearthly, it’s uncanny, it’s terrifying, it’s finally so f***ing beautiful you want the whole of creation to just … well, I said it already, words fail when you go that far beyond the perimeter …

The weird part is that the guy singing is John Wetton who would go on to front Asia (the band), which, I’m sorry, is the kind of transgression that can only lead to eternal hellfire. Except based on Starless, maybe he’d already been there. To hell, that is. Which gets us to my old friend Geoffrey (aka the philosopher), and his three essentials of any epic. 1. There must be a hero. 2. There must be a list. 3. There must be a descent into hell. I’m still trying to figure out the list part, unless that’s what I’m doing here. But I’m no hero and I’ve only ever been half-way to hell. Anyway, I guess we’re supposed to be left with a mystery, certainly in the case of King Crimson as main man Robert Fripp had dissolved the band before Starless (and Red, the album that contains it) had even been released. Because as he later put it, ‘The old world, characterized by large, unwieldy and vampiric organizations, was dead, and with it King Crimson.’ Though as deaths go, it would be akin to what happened with Gandalf after he fell into that pit with the Balrog, because King Crimson would return in time, different, but still infused with a magic both terrifying and beautiful.” (Philip Random)

139. all the seats were occupied

Second of two in a row from possibly the most evil album of all time, Aphrodite’s Child’s 666, a four sided monster of a concept completely concerned with … well, what is it all about? According to principal composer and keyboard wizard Vangelis Papathanassiou said, “the answer to the question 666 is today.” Lyricist Costas Ferris (taking a break from his main job of film directing) has been less elusive, citing the central concept as a counter-cultural interpretation of the Book of Revelation, in which a circus show based on the apocalypse performs for an audience at the same time that the real apocalypse is happening outside the circus tent … with All the Seats are Occupied the prolonged and climactic point where these two apocalypses finally collide and all hell breaks loose. Literally. But is it really hell? Aphrodite’s Child being a rarity for all time, a psyche-prog-pop-rock outfit straight outa Greece, apocalypse being a Greek word not for the the catastrophic End of All Things, but for the drawing back a sheet, an unveiling of a new and mysterious thing. So why all the panic humanity?

272. burn the flames

“The mid 1980s were actually one of the coolest times ever on planet earth. It just didn’t make the papers much. You had to do some digging, listen to the right radio stations, go to the right movies. And few movies have ever got it more right than Return of the Living Dead – the one that doesn’t take anything remotely seriously and ends up being fiercer, wilder, better than than pretty much every other zombie movie ever made before or since. And the soundtrack album’s a definite keeper. Look no further than Roky Erickson‘s Burn The Flames, work of a certifiable madman, completely concerned with luxuriating in the very flames of hell. All for the love of brains.” (Philip Random)

RokyErickson-1986

278. for the love of Ivey

In which The Gun Club kick out the sort of murky, raw LOUD-quiet-LOUD that would have shifted bucketloads of units to the grunge crowd … if they’d only released Fire of Love (the album) ten years later than they did. Because in 1981, the world just wasn’t ready for the likes of For the Love of Ivey or any number of other dangerous gems. Not the mobbed up geniuses who programmed radio anyway, ran the major record labels, shifted the units. Which in the end has got to be a good thing – The Gun Club still sounding fresh, still beautiful in their ugliness, like Elvis from hell.

GunClub-1981-backstage