“How f***ed up was the war on drugs? In Los Angeles, 1993, a few weeks before Christmas, a few weeks after River Phoenix had died on the sidewalk outside the Viper Room, a gram or two of heroin cost less than a gram or two of proper skunk weed due mainly to who and what had been getting busted of late. Which wouldn’t have been a problem if we weren’t day drinking, and feeling that something else was needed in the mix, and Gus from Idaho, being cheap, showed up with some heroin instead of the expected bud. And the thing is, none of us are that cool. We’ve never done heroin, but suddenly there it is getting laid out in narrow brownish lines on the coffee table, and yeah, we’re all just drunk enough to be stupid enough to not give a f***, even if you can die just snorting the stuff, particularly if you’re not used to it, if your body hasn’t built up a decent tolerance, this being common knowledge to anyone who’s seen Pulp Fiction. But then just as Greg from Osoyoos is rolling up a dollar bill, Slayer comes crashing in, full roar on the stereo. It’s Smith from Nelson, calling bullshit, enlisting no lesser ally than Lucifer himself, the Morning Star from his haunt way down south of heaven, demanding we see things at least slightly straight. Long story/short, we Just Said No to the heroin, went out for cheap tacos instead, ended up watching I Love Lucy reruns on some lost cable channel. And Slayer will forever have a place in my heart and soul, somewhere in the paradox file.” (Philip Random)
Los Angeles, 1969, murder, mayhem, earthquakes, rumors of Armageddon, the whole city of angels falling into the Pacific, such that even on the 33rd Floor, beyond the gold plated door, the Lord’s almighty flame would find the wicked, and soon. Meanwhile, country rock was getting invented by a curious crowd of drugged out hippies in cowboy suits calling themselves the Flying Burrito Brothers. Good times.
“File Neil Diamond’s double live Hot August Night in the Everything You Know Is Wrong category, certainly if you considered yourself even halfway cool in 1972. Because here was a guy that moms liked unleashing one of the greatest live albums the world had ever heard, particularly the climactic side four, the climax of which was a medley of Soolaimon (originally found on Taproot Manuscript) and Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show (originally found on the album of the same name) but neither of those originals came remotely close to the drama-power-glory of what happened that hot august night, August 1972, LA’s Greek Theatre. I’d go deeper into it all but I know my words would quickly fail. The temptation is to say, you had to be there, except I wasn’t. I was in some suburban rec-room a year later, bored with Cat Stevens and Three Dog Night, fourteen years old and ready to be saved. For a few minutes anyway.” (Philip Random)
“If you think you ‘get’ the music of the mid-1980s but you don’t know Tupelo Chain Sex, you’re wrong. The cover of 1984’s Spot the Difference may suggest a hardcore outfit, but it’s not remotely as simple as that. Because what hardcore band includes fiddle (c/o Don Sugarcane Harris) and saxophone in its weaponry, not to mention reggae, jazz and other unbound tendencies? And man, did they kill it live! True, some of the lyrics were rather dumb (the stuff about the Jews roaming around murdering blacks – seriously?). Welcome to 1984, I guess. Passion and rage as big as the world, and about as rational.” (Philip Random)
“Yeah, Jim Morrison was an asshole, who died for his own sins, nobody else’s. But damn, the Doors were a strong band, and yet they were pretty much nothing without him. And that first album in particular – well, somebody had to do it. 1967. Summer of Love – offer at least a hint that there was a darker side to things even as it was rocketing to the top of the charts. Soul Kitchen makes the list because it’s remained mostly well hidden over the years, and thus, no allergies.” (Philip Random)
Apparently, Buffalo Springfield are the greatest band nobody’s ever properly heard, unless you were lucky enough to catch them live way back when, with the psychedelic 60s ripping a hole through time. Neil Young and Stephen Stills (and the other guys), brash and wild and still mostly unknown, desperate to be heard, to wake people the f*** up. The records just don’t capture that. They’re too restrained, too produced, which isn’t to say they don’t have some moments, just lacking that overall carnivorous bite.
In which first wave American punk band X (straight out of LA) rein in the intensity of their attack a touch and rather brilliantly nail down the zeitgeist circa 1983. Which was that, come year three of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, humanoid reptiles were in full ascendancy. Look no further than the radio dial. Where was any band that mattered? Nothing left to do but tell the truth.
In which young Frank Zappa (with help from his Mothers) files his report on the Watts Rebellion (aka riots) of August 1965, pulling no punches lyrically or musically. In fact, it’s the song that got the band signed to MGM Records in the first place, producer Tom Wilson having heard it and decided, yeah, a white blues band from LA, why the hell not? The rest is, shall we say, history.
You had to love the cover of Tupelo Chain Sex’s first album, 1984’s Spot the Difference. Little punk kid sporting a Ronald Reagan Adolph Hitler t-shirt, getting pulled two ways at once. But the real treasure was the music. Not just another hardcore band from LA, these guys were brilliantly all over the place. Reggae, dub, ska, jazz, rockabilly, hardcore – everything, with lead off track The Dream (an extrapolation on an old Cab Calloway hit) serving as a whip smart intro to what remains one of the great (mostly) forgotten albums of any era.