Monday, January 23, 2017

This Creeping Malaise

On January 23, 1977 Pink Floyd released Animals. The concept album, loosely based on George Orwell's Animal Farm,  would sell four million copies in the United States alone. Not every reviewer was turned on by its relentlessly depressing message. NME called Animals "one of the most extreme, relentless, harrowing and downright iconoclastic hunks of music to have been made available this side of the sun", and Melody Maker's Karl Dallas described it as "[an] uncomfortable taste of reality in a medium that has become in recent years, increasingly soporific". Rolling Stone's Frank Rose was unimpressed:

For Pink Floyd, space has always been the ultimate escape. It still is, but now definitions have shifted. The romance of outer space has been replaced by the horror of spacing out. 

 This shift has been coming for a while. There was Dark Side of the Moon and "Brain Damage," Wish You Were Here and the story of founding member Syd Barrett, the "Crazy Diamond." And now there's Animals, a visit to a cacophonous farm where what you have to watch for is pigs on the wing. Animals is a song suite that deals with subjects like loneliness, death and lies. "Have a good drown," they shout dolefully as you drop into the pit that is this album: "Have a good drown as you go down all alone/Dragged down by the stone...stone...stone...stone...stone..." Thanks, pals, I'll try.

 It's no use. Like all Floyd records, this one aborbs like a sponge, but you can still hear the gooey screams of listeners who put up a fight. What's the problem? For starters, the sax that warmed Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here has been replaced by a succession of David Gilmour guitar solos -- thin, brittle and a sorry substitute indeed. The singing is more wooden than ever. The sound is more complex, but it lacks real depth; there's nothing to match the incredible intro to Dark Side of the Moon, for example, with its hypnotic chorus of cash registers recalling the mechanical doom that was Fritz Lang's vision in Metropolis. Somehow you get the impression that this band is being metamorphosed into a noodle factory. 

Maybe that shouldn't be surprising. Floyd was never really welcomed into the Sixties avant-garde: space rock was a little too close to science fiction for that. But the extraordinary success of Dark Side of the Moon (released nearly four years ago, it's still on the charts) culminated almost a decade of ever-expanding cult appeal and gave the band an audience that must have seemed as boundless as space itself. The temptation to follow through with prefab notions of what that audience would like -- warmed over, spaced out heavy-metal, in this case -- was apparently too strong to resist.

 Even worse, however, is the bleak defeatism that's set in. In 1968 Floyd was chanting lines like: "Why can't we reach the sun?/ Why can't we throw the years away?" This kind of stuff may seem silly, but at least it wasn't self-pitying. The 1977 Floyd has turned bitter and morose. They complain about the duplicity of human behavior (and then title their songs after animals -- get it?). They sound like they've just discovered this -- their message has become pointless and tedious. 

 Floyd has always been best at communicating the cramped psychology that comes from living in a place like England, where the 20th century has been visibly superimposed on the others that preceded it. The tension that powers their music is not simply fright at man's helplessness before technology; it's the conflict between the modern and the ancient, between technology and tradition. Space is Floyd's way of resolving the conflict.

Of course, space doesn't offer any kind of real escape; Pink Floyd knows that. But spacing out is supposed to. (Spacing out has always been the idea behind space rock anyway.) Animals is Floyd's attempt to deal with the realization that spacing out isn't the answer either. There's no exit; you get high, you come down again. That's what Pink Floyd has done, with a thud. 

From the dean, Robert Christgau :

This has its share of obvious moments. But I can only assume that those who accuse this band of repetitious cynicism are stuck in such a cynical rut themselves that a piece of well-constructed political program music -- how did we used to say it? -- puts them uptight. Lyrical, ugly, and rousing, all in the right places. B+

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Donald Trump White House Playlist

Not be outdone by Obama, President Donald Trump has released his White House playlist. 

1. Ringo Starr : I'm the Greatest

  Everybody says I'm the greatest. I win elections easily. I create a great movement. And the #fakenews mainstream media refuses to call me "the greatest". Sad.

2. David Byrne : My Big Hands

My hands are huge. Ask Melania. There are no concerns in that department. 

3. James Taylor : Shower the People

The liberal media lies about my pee pee showers. #FakeNews. My voters know "things are gonna work out fine if you only will do as I say". Love.

4. Blue Oyster Cult  : Career of Evil

I used to crank this song in the limo. I'd say "Bobby play some Cult!" "I will not apologize/ You're mine for the taking." How many times have I uttered that line? Carnage.

5. Sparks : Everybody's Stupid

I love the uneducated and the undereducated. I can help them because I am the smartest man I know. I know more than the generals and the "intelligence" agencies. And that's a fact.

6. Betty Everett : Getting Mighty Crowded

More people witnessed my inauguration than any inauguration in history. Period. The streets and parks were packed as far as the eye could see. I'm very popular.

7. Albertos Y Lost Paranoias :  Fuck You

Want to see my taxes? Fuck you. 

More to come....

700 Little Records

"There are two kinds of men in this world. Those in love with Emmylou Harris and those who have not met Emmylou Harris..."
-Willie Nelson

In January of 1977, Emmylou Harris released her fourth album, Luxury Liner. It would become her best selling album of all time and top the country charts, thanks to her rollicking Chuck Berry cover "C'est La Vie ( You Never Can Tell), "Making Believe"( originally a hit for Kitty Wells) and the first known cover of Townes Van Zandt's 1972 song "Pancho and Lefty".  Listening to the album, ytou'll find yourself in awe of the great musicianship (including rhythm guitarist and backing vocalist Rodney Crowell) and the purity of Emmylou's voice. Later in the year she would marry her producer, Brian Ahern. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Crazy Like a Fool

   Germany, 1977 : David Bowie releases two out of the three classic albums from his Berlin trilogy. Giorgio Moroder and Donna Summer team up on their greatest single, "I Feel Love". And impresario Frank Farian turns a Caribbean quartet into a disco band that would rival ABBA in popularity. "Daddy Cool" was the first Boney M. single most of us heard. It's ridiculous. It's brainless.  And it's one of the most infectious singles of the entire decade. 

    There's a good chance we'd never have heard it if Bobby Farrell hadn't taken off his shirt halfway through the group's performance on Musikladen. The song shot up to #1 in almost every European country and kicking off a string of hits. Boney M. are the only artists to appear twice in the top 10 best selling singles of all time in the UK, with "Rivers of Babylon" in 7th place and "Mary's Boy Child/Oh My Lord" at number 10 

Friday, January 20, 2017

A Competent and Compassionate Government

On January 20, 1977 Jimmy Carter took the oath of office, becoming the 39th President of the United States. In his brief inaugural address, Carter called upon the nation to unify:

You have given me a great responsibility--to stay close to you, to be worthy of you, and to exemplify what you are. Let us create together a new national spirit of unity and trust. Your strength can compensate for my weakness, and your wisdom can help to minimize my mistakes.


Let us learn together and laugh together and work together and pray together, confident that in the end we will triumph together in the right. 

 The American dream endures. We must once again have full faith in our country--and in one another. I believe America can be better. We can be even stronger than before. 

 Let our recent mistakes bring a resurgent commitment to the basic principles of our Nation, for we know that if we despise our own government, we have no future. We recall in special times when we have stood briefly, but magnificently, united. In those times no prize was beyond our grasp. 

 But we cannot dwell upon remembered glory. We cannot afford to drift. We reject the prospect of failure or mediocrity or an inferior quality of life for any person. Our Government must at the same time be both competent and compassionate.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Take Off Your Halo

Debut Single and Eno Production of the Week. Dangerous Rhythm (Island).
They might be rather like a younger early days Roxy Music but, oh my, what a good model to copy. And their very youth bestows upon them a direct brashness missing in the recent Roxy. Rich emetic bass, precise Ringo drums, synthesiser cascades and Eno’s hand in the production make this the best and most confident debut single since ‘Anarchy’.
Sounds Review
Here is the Record Mirror March 12, 1977 singles review...
Dangerous Rhythm (Island WIP 6375) Cosmic reggae, if that’s possible. Heavier than lead bass and ice-cold vocals. Very weird and wonderful. **** (four stars)
Record Mirror March 12, 1977 singles review
By far their most memorable number, a reggae abstraction, mesmeric, simple, and subliminal, with Ferried vocals. - The New Musical Express

On January 19, 1977, Ultravox released its debut single, "Dangerous Rhythms". Island Records credits the production to Brian Eno who worked with the band, but not in the way they hoped. Drummer Warren Cann says Ultravox hoped Eno would be a technical wizard who could help the band find a unique sound.

   Cann told interview Jonas Warstad :

Eno was far more of a conceptualist—an ideas man. He was quite bold about not giving a damn about what the final result sounded like. He was only interested in the process (which is great for learning, and fine if your musical future doesn’t hinge on public, rather than private, reaction to the “final result”). While we immediately acknowledged the importance of “the journey” as opposed to “the destination,” in our case we were more pragmatic—the “final result,” which would be released for people’s listening pleasure, mattered very much to us! We agreed that it was very cool to do all sorts of unusual things via the recording process, but it still had to end up sounding good. There wouldn’t be a second album for us to make if the first one was less than we were capable of, and all we might say was, “But it was a gas to make!”

 After all was said and done, Eno only worked on three or four songs on the Ultravox debut, and none of his mixes made the final release.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Dance With The Boogie

On January 17, 1977 one of the year's great singles, Heatwave's "Boogie Nights",  entered the UK charts. It was written by US Army vet Rod Temperton who also composed three songs on both Michael Jackson's Off the Wall album ("Rock With You", "Off the Wall" and "Burn This Disco Out") and Thriller ("Baby Be Mine","Thriller" and "The Lady in My Life"). He died last year a wealthy man, with houses in the South of France, Switzerland  and Fiji.