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)
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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)

97. a saucerful of secrets

“Because sometimes it’s not about the notes or the words or the chords etc – sometimes what makes for great music is its architecture. Which is certainly true of Pink Floyd and how they made it and played it through the late 1960s, early 1970s, post the psychedelic implosion of their main man, Syd Barrett, pre all that Dark Side of the Moon seriousness and precision. The live Ummagumma version of the ‘song‘ that was originally known as The Massed Gadgets Of Hercules gets the nod here because it’s prime evidence of just how far (and deep and high) the Floyd’s free live adventures had taken them in a comparatively short stretch of time, the key word being stretch. Because it may have been only year in a temporal sense between the release of Saucerful of Secrets and the live show that made it to Ummagumma, but clearly aeons had passed in more psychedelic realms. Never played the same way twice, and even if it was, it was never heard the same way, or so it was explained to me once. Which is what the cover of Ummagumma is all about apparently. Eternity simultaneously repeating and collapsing within itself on nice summer day, somewhere in England. I’d say maybe you had to be there, but I think we all were in some strange and metaphysical way.” (Philip Random)

106. perfect

The The being (at the time anyway) the last of the The bands, and they weren’t really a band anyway, being mostly the vision, the passion, the soul of Matt Johnson. And man, did he get it right in and around and on 1983’s Soul Mining, one of those albums where every song works, every moment feels inevitable. And yet, there didn’t seem to be room for Perfect, not on the original vinyl anyway, certainly not the longer, cooler, better remix version. Which is the first The The track I ever heard. One of those psychedelically enhanced long day’s journey into night and then back again into day situations. And yeah, I’d be paying for it in the long run, but in that sublime dawn moment, my friend Simon’s freshest mixtape playing from yonder blaster, the first rays of sun touching my face, it was a grand thing, like feeling the gods invent the world anew … grasping all of my considerable problems as their work, essential to the great scheme, whatever it was. Because in the end, everything’s perfect somehow, thus justified, even as a wild wind kicks up, sends loose trash swirling … or is it shrapnel from some distant warzone? You probably had to be there. I still am apparently.” (Philip Random)

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)

127. Sister Ray

“Second of two in a row from the Velvet Underground, with Sister Ray likely to hit many as more weaponry than music, or as a DJ friend once put it, some songs you play for people, some you play at them. Either way, it’s a seventeen-plus-minute argument for A. how willfully out of step the Velvets were with pretty much everything else that was going down at the time (1968), and B. how brilliantly, thunderously, violently ahead of that time they were. By which I mean, the world needed Sister Ray. It just didn’t know it yet. At least, that’s how it worked for me. Discovered maybe fifteen years after the fact, mucking around through the bowels of a radio station‘s record library, educating myself. And I ain’t gonna lie. The extreme length was a particular selling point because not only did it force the limits of what we called The Reality Barrier, it also gave one time to cover a prolonged smoke or bathroom break – all the prog-rock epics of yore still being frowned upon in those contentious, battle weary days of the so-called Winter of Hate††.” (Philip Random)

(image source)

167. exquisite corpse

Bauhaus still had one more album after 1982’s The Sky’s Gone Out but in terms of invention and sheer sonic adventure, it’s pretty safe to say they peaked here. And nowhere are things creepier, more sonically inventive than the final track, Exquisite Corpse. Dub, oblique fragments of poetry, sheets of nightmarish noise. Needless to say, this got a lot of play through any number of psychedelic excursions in the lead up to the mid-80s. An abandoned house comes to mind, right at the seashore, a sort of lost cove off Vancouver’s north shore. The weird part is how everything was still furnished, the library still stocked with books. I grabbed one, heavy, bound in strangely moist leather. I opened it up to some calligraphy, a language I didn’t recognize and yet it spoke to me anyway, and then I realized that the ink was blood red and running in trickles to the hungry floorboards. Actually, I’m pretty sure it was all but a dream.” (Philip Random)

Bauhaus-1982-live+messianic

(photo: Fin Costello)

171. master of the universe

“Speaking of Hawkwind, I realize it’s difficult for those who haven’t been there to grasp, but the difference between their sci-fi epics and everybody else’s, is that theirs are real (note the present tense). They aren’t fantasies. They’re honest tellings of events from the edge of time itself, where even now mystical warriors stand at the very brink of the vortex, the void, the abyss … and they hold true, they redeem us all. By which I mean Space Ritual may have been recorded live in 1972, decades from where I’m currently sitting, but I’m here to tell you that distance is all illusory, a side effect of the weirder than weird mechanics that make so-called reality at least begin to make sense to our puny mortal minds. Which I realize must be confusing as hell to try to comprehend. So don’t. Just listen to the album, and if you’ve only got time for one track, make that Master Of The Universe, because it’s solid sonic proof of everything I’ve just stated. It’s truth itself. And it rocks like a mother****er!” (Philip Random)