80. little fluffy clouds

“The Orb‘s Little Fluffy Clouds was a hit, sort of, just not in the Americas … except for certain subterranean situations. Like that time in 1995, The Orb have finally made it to town, the club known as Graceland, surprisingly full. They play a long set, mostly texture and groove, precious little in the way of what you might call ‘song’. But it’s The Orb – so not unexpected. And then, final number, they drop the old hit, Little Fluffy Clouds, except I have no idea it’s such a hit – the whole packed room suddenly kicking up three or four gears, moving in complex unity, achieving escape velocity. At which point it occurs to me that Little Fluffy Clouds is a god damned anthem for a nation I didn’t know existed. Something to do with beauty being its own argument, its own justification, its own ideology even. Which is to say, the ends can never justify ugly means, because the means are the end. You don’t get to paradise by doing ugly things. Just a fleeting thought perhaps, as substantial as little fluffy clouds passing by. Except here I am remembering it, years later. Enough gravity for that.” (Philip Random)

112. the creator has a masterplan

“It was only a few years ago that I first stumbled into the thrall of Pharaoh SandersThe Creator Has A Masterplan. It just seems like a different age. I guess I was high. A Saturday afternoon at the flea market, packed as usual, a cacophony of vision and sound, anything and everything vying for my attention. Until rising from the far right corner, a more marvelous cacophony, saxophones and drums and keyboards and voices, yodeling even. Something about peace and happiness through all the land. It drew me to old Ike’s vinyl stand and all the wonders therein. Ike’s dead now. Cancer got him in the throat. Yet he still lives in so much of my collection, particularly the weirder, wilder, more expansive stuff, like Karma, the album in question. Apparently, it’s jazz, the free kind, a logical next step from what Mr. Sanders had been doing with John Coltrane in the last few years before his death. I just call it music, everlasting.” (Philip Random)

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)

178. celebrated summer

“The sorta punk thrash psychedelic power pop blast of Husker Du’s Celebrated Summer was exactly what my Universe needed in the mid-80s. One night in particular comes to mind. And it wasn’t even Husker Du playing, but an all all-girl band from California (wish I remembered their name) at the Arts Club on Seymour (best live venue this town ever had). 1986 I’m pretty sure, and summertime, which meant Expo was squatting in the near distance sucking all the light and love from things. And I’d just seen Skinny Puppy up at UBC, which was a terrorizing experience, because man, the acid was particularly FUN that night. So yeah, it all came around to the song not so much saving my soul (my soul was fairly intact in those days) as reigniting it with hope, fervour, blinding white light, which is to say, celebrated and wild, erupting with summer. And as soon as we got back to the car, New Day Rising got jammed into the cassette player. Once more unto eternity.” (Philip Random)

HuskerDu-1985-posing

195. the real thing

“Wherein the Pointed Sticks (straight outa late 70s suburban Vancouver) hit the eternal pop gold standard with a three minute nugget the whole world should have heard, but it didn’t for some stupid reason (and it still hasn’t). Which puts a big loud BULLSHIT to the argument I’ve heard over the years from some I know that, despite all the music biz’s ugliness, waste, criminality and stupidity, the truly good stuff always rises, gets its due, gets heard. Yeah right.” (Philip Random) 

(image source)

230. back in flesh

Wall of Voodoo being one of the first uniquely post-1970s outfits I ever threw in with — tight, unafraid of new technology, a little nasty, full of film noir shadows and surprises, even some laughs. And they could deliver live. Which is what happened in Vancouver’s Luv Affair, early 1982, one of the great shows of that or any year. They opened strong with a cover of Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire, and it all peaked maybe an hour later with Back In Flesh – a song about what happens when your arm gets smashed and your salary gets cut and the corporation’s boiling over … and everything else. Yeah, it sounds a bit like the B52s, I suppose, but what the hell’s wrong with that?” (Philip Random)

WallofVoodoo-1981-promo

(photo source)

283. the cross

“They say there are no atheists in foxholes. Also Prince concerts back in the day. The memory is of seeing the Purple One live in 1988, the Lovesexy tour. The stage was round. The sound was exquisite. The action was non stop. It was everything a rock and roll show was ever supposed to be, and more. And the musical highlight of the evening, the song that pinned all fifteen thousand of us to the wall was a power anthem about a certain cross and the guy that had to carry it, and how we’ve all got to do the same, one way or another, up that hill to eternity. Yeah, I believed.” (Philip Random)

Prince-1988-live-gtr

296. Alice Henderson

“A hell of a song from a hell of a band that, for whatever reason, didn’t rise up and become insanely huge. Their first album in particular managed to be heavy and cool and entirely necessary without really sounding like anything anybody else was doing at the time. Which was perhaps the problem. Sons of Freedom were unique … in 1988 anyway. The biz just didn’t know what to do with them. Jump ahead three or five years and I suspect things would have played out differently. But then I would’ve been denied Alice Henderson when I needed it. Winter of 1988 into 89. Did it ever stop raining bullshit? Only when the music played.” (Philip Random)

SonsOFfreedom-blur+guitar

320. gravity’s pull

“Vancouver, 1984. REM finally made it to Vancouver and a sold out Commodore Ballroom was waiting for them, including at least one member from every at least half-cool band in town. They opened with Radio Free Europe as I recall, which killed, but equally notable was Michael Stipe’s hair. It was long, hippie long. Which just wasn’t done in cool culture those days. Punk had accomplished that much, hadn’t it? Guys with long hair and cool no longer belonged in the same sentence, or the same nightclub. Jump ahead a year to 1985 and REM were back, playing to yet another sold out Commodore, and now there were all manner of long haired guys in the audience. Except now Michael Stipe had his cut almost military short, and dyed blonde. People were confused, feeling out of sync. Until the band kicked into their first song, Gravity’s Pull from the new album Reconstruction Of The Fables – strong and dark, and heavy without being obvious about it. Everybody quickly forgot about the hair.” (Philip Random)

REM-1985-live