It's Friday, and once again it is time to be reminded that we are merely puny mortals before the all-powerful might of the Earworm.
This week's Guest Editor is long overdue an appearance here, so I won't let a long introduction delay him from leading our devotions for a second longer.
Ladies and Gentleworms, without further ado, it is my great pleasure to introduce for your earworming pleasure.....
Earworms of the Week - Guest Editor #32 - Graham from Lonely-Town
What is an earworm? An earworm is something that gets into your head and doesn't leave. It’s a stuck record on the internal jukebox. Now, not having an iPod (preferring a rather more flexible substitute – which is considerably cheaper - called a 'walkman', an analogue device with a potentially infinite and removable storage capacity, and if it breaks down, you don't lose everything in it because the playback device and storage medium are separated), the main stuff that gets into my head is whatever I have to hand. And I've waited the whole week to see what's been bugging my internal jukebox the most, and here they are (sequenced as if to make a fairly strange compilation album in its own right).
10. The Who - "Baba O'Riley" (From maximum R’n’B box set, 1995)
I never liked The Who. Never understood them. The problem was this - I never could place them in the right context. A lot of music is like that. Music that whilst the song is great, you've never been able to connect with it, emotionally, at the place where you just can’t describe. Sometimes you aren't in the right state of mind, or right place in life, to understand what the hell they're going on about it. And then one day it clicks. It just clicks, and everything, EVERYTHING, all makes perfect sense.
And so it was for this particular song and me, right up to 2003.
Whilst watching the Spike Lee film 'Summer of Sum' - one of my favourite films of his (in only because his films previous to this were so ingrained in the issue of race I felt alienated by them, whereas this film is about people growing up, not about being a specific skin colour). It’s a huge epic drama about New York in the 70's set amongst the backdrop of the notorious 'Son of Sam' serial killings. There's a scene where everything is crystallised. Disco is suddenly dead, there's a blackout on the streets, and Adrien Brody one day turns up as a punk. And then a shimmering, almost minimalist keyboard line twinkles in and out, like an excerpt from an early Phil Glass record: Undeniably70's, but simultaneously fragile and yet vital. The guitars crash in. The drums begin. And then the voice begins - 'out here in the streets...'
I never understood the Who until then. And then it all fitted together perfectly. It’s only a teenage wasteland....
09.Tangerine Dream - 'Doctor Destructo' (from 'Thief' Soundtrack, 1981)
In the early and mid 80's, Tangerine Dream swamped the market with film soundtracks - mostly commissioned to pay for the vast amounts of hugely expensive synth equipment that they were buying in a vain attempt to remain up to date technologically. But it wasn't this that did them in; you can only burn the candle at both ends for only so long before you start to burn out. By about 1984, when they were doing about 5 or 6 albums a year, they finally did – just when had been making what I think is some of their most interesting work. I reckon that the best work they ever did can be found on the Risky Business soundtrack in 1983, though the purists will disagree. It was the middle of the New Romantic scene, and an instrumental German group most had been writing off as has-beens (and had been ever since 1977 when punk killed prog), were suddenly showing just how far ahead they had always been.
Maybe that’s why I haven't been able to dislodge this from my IJ recently. Sadly, since 1984, they've been musically irrelevant jumping the shark and trend simultaneously, but for a couple of brief years, they were bloody good.
08.Modest Mouse - Float On (From Mojo: 'U2 Jukebox', 2005)
The best music is music that takes you to that other place. It transcends the room you are in, takes you outside those four walls, and just lifts you up. And the best guitar solos are the ones you can sing, as Torr says.
I know nothing about Modest Mouse. All I know is that on the Mojo 'U2 jukebox' CD, this song is track 2, and I just find myself singing it as all sorts of moments, no matter where I am.
Choppy guitars. Meaningless nonsense lyrics that somehow make perfect logical sense. Music that takes you to the other place, and it lifts you up. And for a couple of brief moments, all those other things going on in life just drift away, and all we have are the chords, the moment, and suddenly, the words sing out "And if it gets a little heavy, It's alright, Don't Worry ".
07.INXS - "This time" (From 'Listen Like Thieves, 1986)
I love INXS. It’s embarrassing, but INXS truly were, at their best, the finest stadium funk-rock machine imaginable; at least before Hutchence decided to jump the shark and go grunge in a vague attempt to remain with it. Perfectly fusing rock, dance, new romantic, funk, and stadium pop-rock, a lot of their best work actually comes from before their commercial peak. "Don’t Change", for example, is as much a new romantic classic as anything else from 1983. "Burn for You" is almost the prototype for U2's "Unforgettable Fire". But from 'Listen like Thieves' comes 'This Time' a simplistic, little, ballad. It’s certainly a long way from being one of their most interesting songs, either songwriting-wise or in terms of production, but damn, is it catchy? It sure is. That’s why, once again, I've not been able to escape from it in my head'.
In fact INXS once cost me dear: The review of 'Definitive INXS' I wrote pretty much got me chucked off drownedinsound.com. Because it was a non-ironic admission of a love of 80's stadium rock, far at odds to their indier-than-thou no SELL OUT ethic which wasn’t so much cutting edge, as adhered rigidly to the ethic 'the more obscure, the better'. Never mind. I love INXS. I don't care who knows it, and I'd far rather have music I love than that anyway. Some sacrifices have to be made.
06.Rush - "YYZ" (From 'Moving Pictures, 1981)
Ding da ding ding ding da ding ding ding da ding ding! etc.
A 3-minute long jazz-rock-metal instrumental. Dizzying with the sheer technical ability required to play 6000 notes a second, full of layered guitars, synths and production. YYZ is an instrumental tour de force, comprised, if you like, of one single three-minute guitar solo that you can sing along to. With choruses, verses, middle 8's, and the whole lot. It even has a jazz bass solo in the middle too. And drums. Woah.
And to see 15,000 people go nuts to it is another thing, especially when you really just know that many of them are playing air drums (which is a greatly therapeutic hobby, but don’t tell anyone ok?). However, to watch a stadium full of people singing along to it is just insane. Well, that’s exactly what happens on the "Rush in Rio" DVD. Sure, Rush have far better songs (Force Ten, Prime Mover, anything from 'Grace under Pressure', 'Power Windows' or 'Hold Your Fire'), but none of those have been driving my brain nuts over the past week. Thing is, normally I get to a phase where I listen to a band constantly for a few days, and well, this is one of them the past week.
05.U2 - 'Kite' (From 'All that you can't leave behind', 2000)
I can't escape U2. They've always been a part of my musical life, ever since I heard 'Desire' in the middle of my metal years and it knocked my socks off at how different it was (as in, it was rock n roll, but not the rock n roll that I knew: i.e. Poison & Guns N Roses). So when they came out with ‘Achtung Baby’, for a long time I just wasn’t interested. Now I realise that it's their finest, most cohesive album. One that I can listen to so often, and still only just about get tired with on the thousandth listen. It’s the same with ‘Zooropa’, which I actually prefer because it sounds like nothing else before or since. The problem is, just which U2 song will it be? It’s a difficult choice, but it's Kite: a song about so little, but also about so much. About how we grow older, and how we change, and how we need to let go. It just gets me:
“And I want you to know, you don’t need me anymore
Who’s to say where wind will take you,
Who’s to say what it is will break you
I don't know, which way the will will blow,
But i know that this is not goodbye…”
04. The The - I've Been Waiting For Tomorrow For All Of My Life (From Soul Mining, 1983)
Last night, waiting for Mark, The The's classic ‘Soul Mining’ record was the sole reason why I stayed in Music Zone as long as I did. Introspective, acid-drenched in paranoia and claustrophobia; other-worldly and sounding like nothing else before or since. This is track one, side one of the best album of 1983 (Yes, even better than AC/DC's 'Flick of the Switch'). Insistent, driving, and urgent, this is everything the best music can do for you. Sometimes music doesn't have to take you to the other place - sometimes it has to show pieces of you you've never admitted to. As Yukio Mishima said, 'Give a man a mask and he will show you his true self' (though I paraphrase), this is for anybody who's ever felt that their life is just waiting to begin, when the clock is already ticking but they just feel like they are waiting to start. Waiting for something. They just don't always know what. They've just been Waiting for Tomorrow for all of their life.
03.Marc Almond - Brilliant Creatures (From 'Fantastic Star', 1996)
A double A side charting outside the top 40 in 1996, this was never ever going to be remembered. Except by me. It sparkles and shines. It’s a beautiful, exuberant, disco pop beast the likes of which should never be forgotten. And yes, whilst we might dance with tears in our eyes, this is exactly how we should do that. A paean to 'a love lost in the great big city, you gave me your number but fate blew it away....' This says to hell with the tears. All we have is now, all we have is this moment, and we can cry tomorrow baby, but tonight we're gonna dance like brilliant creatures. Every cloud may have its silver lining, but here it doesn't – it’s a lining of bright neon glitterballs, of a life worth living. This is Marc Almond's long lost classic, a shining example of sleaze and beauty and vibrancy, and like nothing he's ever done before or since will ever come close to this. Because, tonight, Matthew, we're gonna dance...
02.Johnny Cash - The Man Comes Around (from 'American Recording IV', 2002)
I gotta admit, I have an ingrained loathing of Johnny Cash. Like I have a loathing of rugby (the sport, not the town). I don't hate it so much because of what it is, but because of the emotional connections and connotations I have with it. Have you ever split up from someone so badly you couldn't disassociate yourself from the songs you used to sing together, the music they used to play endlessly? Well, given that my ex loved Johnny Cash so much, quite frankly, I can't listen to Johnny Cash much. It makes me think of her.
But I love this song. It's a form of language the like of which is dying out. A use of phraseology and words that is going to die out forever once people like Dylan and Cohen join Cash and are gone forever. In a world of identikit cookie cutter meaningless pop music, here's a man with a command of language and phraseology, myth and meaning, the likes of which Britney or the Pussycat Dolls could never even approach. The re-telling of the final days of revelation and judgement, in vivid imagery, with a voice cracked and broken by years of sorrow...and even used in a William Friedkin film (The Hunted).
We live in a world where so much of this cultural heritage and command of language will be dumbed down out of existence. This is utterly magnificent in its construction and richness of imagery; not to mention utterly terrifying:
'The terror in each sip and each sup, will you partake of that last offered cup? / Or disappear into the potter's ground? When the man comes around'
It’s about the choices that all of us make: the good, the bad and the indifferent. We all end up in the same place, and we all have to pay the price for what we have done. And pay that price we will, when the man comes around.
01.Arcade Fire - Wake Up. (From 'Mojo: U2 Jukebox', 2005)
I don't know much about Arcade Fire. I've never heard the album. I've only ever heard this song, as on the Mojo's cover-mounted U2 Jukebox CD.
And it’s brilliant.
The best music takes us to the other place; it transcends the mood and the moment and the mere four walls we are in, and it changes the way you feel. It makes you feel like you can reach out and touch the stars, if only for a brief moment. It makes you feel like anything is possible. It’s as though something is about to happen, and someone told me not to cry. It’s exuberant, celebratory, and heartbreakingly beautiful.
'Wake Up' by Arcade fire has been lodged in my IJ since the minute I first heard it; since I heard those choirs come in. Even with it's final third turning into a bizarre cover version of Iggy Pop's Lust for Life, it’s a revelation.
Music, at its best, it takes you away to that other place, and this is the record to do it.
'Our Bodies get bigger, and our hearts grow colder', but with music like this song, none of that matters. It touches me, it gets inside me, and it stays there, reminding me of everything I could ever be and everything I ever was. And that is why it’s the earworm that just doesn't go away.
It’s been there for months now.
And finally, keeping up that tradition of hidden secret tracks at the end of any good record.... comes the bonus track:
00.Dead Can Dance - the Host Of Seraphim. (from 'Serpents Egg' 4AD, 1988)
First time I ever heard this, it was late at night, on MTV.
There was a single image - of a boy in the third world pulling a cart, in a sweltering desert heat surrounded by sand, (as in the film BARAKA) and a low mournful, static sound. And then a voice. A single, mournful voice. One of pain and suffering. Not a single word, not a single lyric. Just emotion, an emotion that transcended words that said so much without saying a single syllable. The static notes of the organ grew, layering on each other, and then, suddenly, it changed. From one of pain and suffering and mournful loss, to a voice of recognition, and a voice of redemption. To me, it transcended the pain and began to remember the joy you could have... There is a time for sorrow and mourning. But also for remembrance, and jubilation. Remember what is good of our lives, despite the cloud of mourning. Remember what it is that we loved about this people, and remember, even though there is pain and suffering in this world, and in our hearts, without that, we could never be what we are to oh so many people; people who love us; people who miss us when we are gone. And miss us even when we are here.
Bury me to this.
Thanks Graham. Delivered with passion, and who can ask for more than that?
Next week, I'm hoping that Lithaborn will be Guest Editing.... and we can get some insight into what goes around the head of a Hedgewitch.
Oh, and I had a dream last night too.
[Previous Guest Editors: Flash, The Urban Fox, Lord Bargain, Retro-Boy, Statue John, Ben, OLS, Ka, Jenni, Aravis, Yoko, Bee, Charlie, Tom, Di, Spin, The Ultimate Olympian, Damo, Mike, RedOne, The NumNum, Leah, Le Moine Perdu, clm, Michael, Hyde, Adem, Alecya, bytheseashore, adamant, Earworms of the Year 2005, Delrico Bandito]