Performance, the movie, needs to be seen. It’s the one where Mick Jagger plays a sort of Satanic rock star who’s messing with the mind of gangster who’s on the lamb, mainly out of boredom, it seems. But that sells it way short. Look no further than the soundtrack and the inclusion of a song like Wake Up N*****s by the Last Poets. It has no particular reason to be in the movie. Other than to be that cool, that on the mark of what was really going down in 1970, with the pulse of revolution very much in the air.
“The original version of Crosby Stills Nash + Young‘s Carry On is entirely okay. It makes its point. The revolution may have peaked but, man, we’re still on the edge something beautiful, man, so nothing else to do but carry on, man, to peace love and understanding, man. Live however, captured on 1971’s 4 Way Street, you actually believe it. Love is coming for us all. War shall be forever banned. Richard Nixon will not be re-elected in a year’s time by the single biggest landslide in history, America will not keep mucking around in Vietnam for four more bloody years. It’s the jamming, of course. Neil Young and Steve Stills facing off (with rhythm section Fuzzy Samuels and Johnny Barbata in strong support) riding the wave to heaven’s gate itself, leaving the original song far behind for at least ten minutes. Meanwhile in a hotel in Las Vegas, Hunter Thompson is glimpsing through ancient eyes what he’d come to call the high water mark. These things are not unconnected.” (Philip Random)
“In which the Stranglers at the peak of their not-exactly-punk form dish one out in the name of a million dead heroes. Dedicated in particular to all of those ponderous hard left politicos who tried to convert me back in my formative days. I was right all along, assholes. The Revolution died with Stalin, the supreme asshole. He killed all the real heroes, had icepicks rammed into their brains. So yeah, all hail the Stranglers for setting things straight in less than three and a half minutes.” (Philip Random)
“I’m twelve years old. It’s 1972 and there’s this band I keep hearing on the radio who can’t be the Beatles, because the Beatles broke up two years ago, but they sure sound like the Beatles. Bad-something. And then my friend Chris buys their latest single. It’s called Baby Blue, and it’s official. This band is called Badfinger. Maybe three years later, I’m finally buying albums on a regular basis, and one that I’m always looking for is Badfinger’s Straight Up (the one with Baby Blue on it). “Good luck finding that,” says a record store guy one day. “It’s impossible to find ever since Apple went under.” Which was not entirely accurate. I found Straight Up a few times over the years, used and stupidly expensive. Then finally, early-90s sometime, there it was at a flea market, cover a bit hacked but the vinyl itself looked okay. The weird thing is, the song that immediately grabbed then thirty-something me wasn’t Baby Blue, but Perfection. Solid sort of mid-tempo rock, with lyrics you actually heard: There’s no good revolution – just power changing hands – There is no straight solution – Except to understand. True enough and yet all too sad given the tragedies that tore Badfinger to pieces. All the more reason to keep playing the records, I guess.” (Philip Random)
Call Volunteers (the song) Jefferson Airplane‘s punk rock moment, a short, sharp revved up call for genuine revolution at a time when such actually seemed possible. That is, if your hair was long and your soul experienced, and you were one of maybe four hundred thousand standing out in a muddy field one August morning in 1969 between downpours. Volunteers (the album) isn’t half band either.
“When the Who did it, they called it Let’s See Action, but a title like Nothing is Everything was far more profound to my thirteen year old mind. I remember taping Pete Towsend’s version direct from FM radio (microphone jammed up against the tinny speaker, my little brother and sister being told to ‘Shut Up’ in the background). It got a lot of play for a while, like all my handmade cassettes. Then a couple of decades intervened and I pretty much forgot all about it. What eventually hooked me again (late 1990s now) was the lyrics and how eloquently they riffed on all the revolution everyone was amping for back in those barely post-60s days, and how doomed it all was. Rumour has it / minds are open / then you must fill them up with lies …” (Philip Random)
“It’s 1969 and Nina Simone, one of the great voices (and souls) to ever descend upon music, delivers the closest thing she’ll ever have to a pop album. Artists covered include Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, the Bee Gees, even the Beatles (sort of) with Revolution less of a cover, more of a rousing riff on John Lennon’s call to consciousness (if not arms). Music to change the world by either way. Or as a friend once put it, if this is what church sounded like, I’d go every night.” (Philip Random)
“DOA, original Vancouver punks, deliver the theme song to the great general strike of the mid 1980s, wherein the people finally just got so disgusted, they all rose up simultaneously and shut the whole stupid system down. The asylums were emptied, the schools burned, the banks blown to smithereens, the various politicians, bureaucrats and business leaders strangled with each others intestines. Or maybe it was just a dream.” (Philip Random)
The actor (aka David Bowie, David Jones, Ziggy Stardust) is starting to crack here. We all were in retrospect. Even if you were a thickheaded suburban kid barely into puberty – the whole 60s thing just wasn’t playing out as anticipated. Revolution in our time? Maybe. But by 1973, it was clear it wouldn’t be an old-fashioned political revolution. No, it was all going to be much weirder than that.