3. wild thing

“Because somebody had to do it, set the atmosphere itself on fire, and 1967 was the time for it. Even though it was the 1965 snare shot at the beginning of Bob Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone that really started things, immanetized the particular eschaton we’re concerned with here – punched a hole in the reality barrier, set all the strangeness loose. But it took Jimi Hendrix‘s live set at the Monterrey Pop Festival almost two years later to bring it all back to ground, soak it in lighter fluid, put a match to it, and launch it back out to the edges of all nine universes. And an incendiary cover of Wild Thing (the Troggs’ hit from the previous year) was the climax of that set, the one with all the fire and apocalypse at the end, which even though it would be many years before it ever got a proper release, the roar would be heard regardless, like a thunder from over the horizon, like a rumour from some unnamed war, a secret whispered by your most dangerous friend …

Speaking of which, I suppose I should quote my good friend Simon Lamb here, words so eloquent I had to jot them down (or a reasonable facsimile anyway). We need a secret weapon – something beyond reason and rationality – that cuts through all the wilful blindness of the insane and ignorant – some vast and astonishing noise that simultaneously pile drives and seduces them into seeing. I don’t think he was talking about Hendrix per say. More noise itself. But without him and his Experience (and let’s be honest, a few gallons of LSD) that noise would never have been made, never sent kerrranging out of a billion garages out of a million neighbourhoods in every town every country every planet, because you have to believe this stuff went extraterrestrial long ago and far away, probably that very night in Monterey. I can still hear it ringing in my ears. And I wasn’t even there.” (Philip Random)

5. yoo doo right

“Call Can the best band that most people probably still haven’t heard. Can being an acronym for Communism-Anarchism-Nihilism, if you believe everything you read. I tend to reject that because it feels too political. These guys were beyond politics. Or maybe I should say, they inspired revolution, not the other way around. Though they did form in 1968 out of the virulent insurrections that were tearing through Europe at the time. Four Germans (all children of the ruins of World War Two) working with two vocalists in particular. The second one, Damo Suzuki (straight outa the Japanese ruins) tends to get the most notice. But it’s Malcolm Mooney (on the run from the Vietnam draft) fronting things on Yoo Doo Right, the monster that filled all of side two of their debut album, Monster Movie. Though the original take was apparently magnitudes longer, a six hour improv that only really stopped because they ran out of audio tape. Can being the sort of outfit that absolutely gave itself over to the music. Call them shamans, I guess, holy weirdos in tune with the gods. Which in the case of Yoo Doo Right meant the groove, and the noise from which it grew.

A letter from my friend JR comes to mind. He was traveling in Thailand at the time. I’d made him a few mixtapes before he took off, one of which contained Yoo Doo Right. Anyway, he dropped some acid one night at a particularly beautiful beachfront spot, and eventually got to wandering and wondering, just him and the moon, the waves, the sand, working through all manner of stuff, including his own desperate loneliness, about as far away from home and family and friends as a young man could get without leaving the planet altogether. And the thought occurred to him right around midnight that he could just lie down, let the tide take him, solve all his problems and confusions … but the music got to him first, the quiet part in the middle, the singer muttering about whoever Yoo was and how they better-better doo it right, over and over, an incantation, everything starting to rise in groove and passion until at some point, JR realized he was dancing, just him and the moon and the ocean, the entirety of the universe somehow graspable, very much in tune and in time. And yeah, I can’t put it any better than that. The power of Can, hippie-freak weirdos beating the living drum of revolution-evolution-whatever it is that finally sets us all free. Gotta-gotta get it right.” (Philip Random)

16. tomorrow never knows

“It’s springtime 1966, the first sessions for the album that will come be known as Revolver, and it’s entirely arguable that those loveable moptops from Liverpool, the outfit known as the Beatles, have already perfected so-called psychedelic rock. Seriously. Short of that snare shot at the beginning of Bob Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone, I’m arguing that it all really starts here – the opening of the floodgates on the vast and psychedelic ocean that all humanity had to navigate in order to not blow ourselves to smithereens, because don’t kid yourself, that’s where the so-called status quo had us headed come the mid-1960s. And we’re still in that ocean, still navigating its mysteries and monsters. And maybe we always will be.

Not that everybody has to do heroic doses of LSD, get lost in the chasms and altitudes of their beyond within, but we do all need to share in the discussion of the impossible stuff that’s been found there (and we keep on finding more). And this discussion has always sounded best, made the most sense, when delivered via music. Bass, drums, guitars, maybe a few keyboards, tape loops, backwards masking, whatever — full-on raging and rhyming from the very highest and deepest part of anything and everything. It is shining, It is being, It is Knowing, It is Believing, Existence to the End, of the beginning. Even if it makes no sense at all, it really does matter.” (Philip Random)

(photo: David McEnery)

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)

77. 1983 … (a merman I should turn to be)

Second of two in a row from the Jimi Hendrix Experience, this one coming from Electric Ladyland, their third and last proper outing, and even that’s somewhat confused. With 1983… (A Merman I Should Turn to Be) about as far and deep and abstract as any Hendrix recording would ever go – the unit here being Mr. Hendrix (doubling up on bass as well as guitar) and Mitch Mitchell (drums), with Traffic’s Chris Wood throwing in on flute (and the studio techs, of course — Eddie Kramer and Gary Kellgren, take a bow). All in aid of an epic investigation of oceans at least as deep as the human mind and soul, touching on themes of crisis, apocalypse, transcendence, the earth’s dry land abandoned, a return to the sea embraced, mermaids, Atlantis even. And superb it all is, the very best music being not unlike an ocean with depths beyond imagining. It’s possible that psychedelic drugs were involved.

(photo: David Montgomery)

78. third stone from the sun

“The first Jimi Hendrix album Are You Experienced? is, of course, overflowing with miracles, particularly when viewed from the moment it hit, and hit it did. Words still fail, so just call it all superlative noise, I guess, and move on and up and in and out and every imaginable way (and more). Except first I must single out Third Stone From The Sun for being the one miracle that has endured the best, the furthest – for me anyway. Because holy f***ing something or other, it does grasp fabulous realms. Just three guys working a groove all mixed up with feedback and manipulations which isn’t anything that hasn’t been attempted a billion times since, except well, maybe I should give this to my neighbour Motron. ‘It’s surf music, is what it is. At least, that’s how I misinterpreted Jimi’s mumbling way back when. Now I know he was saying we’d never hear surf music again, because he’d heard that Dick Dale was dying (he wasn’t, but he was fighting cancer at the time). But that took years to get straight and in the meantime, that’s where I was going with Third Stone – hearing it as Jimi’s take on the cosmic imagining that allows for things like big bangs, universes, galaxies, solar systems, suns, various stones revolving accordingly, and on the third of these, waves, impossible manifestations of all this order that, if your skills are up, your timing is right, you can ride them. Which is what he was doing with his guitar, abstract, fierce, grounded in the blues, gunning for eternity. Or something like that.'”. (Philip Random)

82. it’s all too much

It’s All Too Much rates high indeed among comparatively underexposed Beatles psychedelic eruptions (and everything else for that matter) because it’s the song that saved Pepperland, George’s full-on acid epiphany at the end of Yellow Submarine (the movie), which I first saw when I was nine (my friend Patrick’s birthday) and even then I knew. What I couldn’t tell you, but I knew it anyway. Same feeling I got from Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, the one that every nine year old knew was completely concerned with LSD, and hippies, and the kinds of things that hippies saw when they did LSD, which seemed to be rainbows and flowers and weird multi-coloured alligators and marshmallow skies and … it was a strange business being a child in the craziest part of the psychedelic 60s, mostly outside looking in, except every now and then, the in got out and on and on across the universe. Stuff like that changes you. Not that I’m complaining.” (Philip Random)

118. idiot wind

Idiot Wind has to go out to Angela, and me. We officially broke up in 1988. It just took me three years to finally get it one long, strange, lonely summer day that began with an urge to drop a little solo LSD, climb a small mountain, check out the scenery. And it was good. But then came the long descent, lots of time for deeper, darker reflection in the solitude of the forest, and meanwhile, on the walkman I had Bob Dylan‘s Blood on the Tracks playing, because I’d exhausted all the more cosmic stuff on the way up. And damn if all that earthbound grit and spite didn’t just start talking to me, particularly Idiot Wind‘s angst driven symbols and reflections, like nine hundred different stories all kaleidoscoping into one by the end, the part where the idiocy doesn’t just blow when you open your mouth, but also when I open mine. Because like some smartass said just the other day, there’s no I in team, but there’s two of them in idiot. Welcome to love, I guess, the part they don’t mention in all the fairy tales, the not happily ever after part. Which is why we need the music of Mr. Bob Dylan from pretty much any phase of his career. Post-fairy tale all the way.” (Philip Random)

(image source)

120. interstellar overdrive

“I can’t remember who said it, but it’s stuck. Jimi Hendrix (all gods bless him to the nine known edges of the universe) gets maybe too much credit for defining what one could do, psychedelically, with an electric guitar, in 1967. Because it’s not as if The Pink Floyd‘s Syd Barrett wasn’t also unleashing gobsmackingly apocalyptic electrical storms. Maybe he didn’t have the licks, the elemental voodoo blues bubbling from his soul straight through his fingers … but he did have the angles, the great sheets of discord and noise that it was going to take to get this souped up, superlative noise clear of the earth’s orbit, off into the vastness of beyond, even if it was ultimately within (which in Syd’s case, would sadly prove a bottomless void). The rest of the band† weren’t half bad either.” (Philip Random)