“Pay your dues long before you pay the rent, finally catch a few breaks, rise to mega-supernova status, then crash and burn into an oblivion of ego, drugs, madness. Hardly an original scenario. But it takes a special talent indeed to pull off the crash and burn part without messing up creatively. Which is what David Bowie managed in 1976 with Station to Station, his Thin White Duke album, the one he’d later claim he had no memory of making. So yeah, here’s to madness and oblivion, particularly if it includes a cover as epic as Wild is the Wind, which I was certain was a Nina Simone original, but then my lawyer pointed out, it’s from a 1950s Anthony Quinn movie. Either way, it gets to feeling like life itself once that wind really starts a-blowing.” (Philip Random)
It’s 1967 and The Pink Floyd have followed their increasingly deranged leader Syd Barrett to the very Gates of Dawn where some genuinely weird shit is going down. But don’t ask him exactly what. He’s too deep into the psychedelics to communicate on a rational verbal level, and he just keeps going deeper and deeper. Yet this particular message speaks volumes anyway. It calls itself Pow R Toc H and, in spite of the genuinely tragic madness that informs it, it’s really quite fun in a harrowing sort of way.
The Fleetwood Mac story is long and confusing if nothing else. We all know the stuff that made them mega-rich and cocaine famous, but there’s an entire decade that precedes all that, and deep it goes, often with completely different singers and players working entirely different worlds and angles. Except the rhythm section, Mr. Fleetwood and Mr. Mac. You might even say the original line-up isn’t just the best Mac, they’re one of the best damned bands EVER, with guitarist Peter Green spearheading things, taking the old school blues, amplifying and psychedelicizing them, giving us stuff that barreled along neck and neck with what guys like Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page were doing at the time. 1969’s Then Play On is the key album, capturing not just the breadth Mr. Green’s genius, but also hints of the psychosis that would soon tear him apart. Beautiful and gone, lost to ozone whilst Searching for Madge.
Second of two in a row from Gentle Giant’s prolific and dense and rather brilliant early 1970s phase. Inmate’s Lullaby being one of those songs that absolutely succeeds insofar as, even if you don’t pay attention to the lyrics, you know what it’s about. It’s about madness, insanity, but in a nice way, like a nice day at the asylum. The inmate looks out his window and smells the flowers and hears the birds and comes to believe he’s in paradise, heaven even. Does heaven have inmates? If it does, you know they have a band, and it likely sounds a lot like Gentle Giant do here, working all manner of archaic and weird (for any kind of rock outfit) instrumentation to evocative effect.