Perhaps in response to my recent elaborations about bluegrass, this poured forth this morning. Another reason is the very delayed delivery of URGH! A Music War. I’ll add the many links for bands and songs someday. The photographs are from the last two days and are used as paragraph seperators and were not taken to reference the writing.
I was so lucky. My parents are both musicians. My older brother was a hip music fan, as was sister. The stew of my musical exposure is rich and varied. Some things were happening in the music in the late 1970’s. There were visual artists frustrated trying to communicate through their medium and turned to new wave music. These were the Talking Heads and DEVO. There were many other bands I was exceedingly lucky to encounter. A few chance friendships, music store finds, and a showtime airing of URGH! A Music War set my course. URGH! was released on April 30, 1982, and found it’s way to Showtime in the summer of 1983. Thanks to the traveling mandated by my brother’s successful BMX career, it was captured to VHS. My brother is still known as ‘The Legend’ on a bike.
He and I diverged musically right away. Even as very young children, perhaps 5 or 6, I preferred “Hello, Goodbye” to his for “Helter Skelter.” It was music, it was the Beatles, and it was arguably the best part of our lives. I remember visiting dad’s one weekend. Brother had heard a song earlier that week. We waited by the radio all weekend to hear it again and tape it. The song was “My Sharona” from the Knack. It had probably been out for a very short time before the rise to the top of the charts. I was 6.
I ended up far from my brother when I was 9. I moved to a tiny place. To my California eyes, it was decidedly behind the times. My brother and I thought we were hip; we raced BMX bikes; we absorbed stuff from southern Califorina through the music (Black Flag) and the magazines (BMX Action). With our Vans shoes and our understanding that Vuarnet sunglasses would make our life better somehow, what did we know about anything? I settled into rural living.
Bands like Gang Of Four and Dead Kennedys had entirely different ways of dealing with the way the world is or was becoming. Jello Biafra was a sharp-tongued critic of many global problems. I was 7 years old inspecting the trippy inner workings of an angry young man as displayed on a poster included with Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables. Two years later, I watched in stunned awe at the performance of Bleed For Me on URGH. New wave and punk bands were angry and they were talented.
I got into the ‘dorky’ bands. I liked XTC, Devo, the Talking Heads. He liked Black Flag, The Plasmatics, Dead Kennedys. Some albums we agreed completely, such as Fresh Fruit and the uncategorizable Duty Now For The Future. After he and I were far from each other, I found new musical mentors, particularly my neighbor Ms. Stone. She was like a bolt of lightning. A native New Yorker, her music collection was amazing and though she wasn’t into Devo as much, we agreed that the Talking Heads were great. She had returned from fishing in Alaska with the hot off the presses Speaking In Tongues. This album blew my mind. It took many years for the Remain in Light to sink in as the masterpiece it is, but that happened eventually. The next year, she returned with the cassette to Stop Making Sense from a movie. It was a lot to process these odd live performances.
I knew they were from a film. There were hints of films in the DEVO records, too. Because we were poor, sending off for VHS tapes was unthinkable. Eventually, the experimental films by DEVO made their way into my life, at first from VHS dubs from out of print laserdiscs. The Talking Heads cinema time was very sophisticated. Stop Making Sense is an incredible tour de force of musical performance, audio engineering, choreography and film making. The later True Stories is totally different and also very good.
My other musical and artistic mentor, Ms. O’Connor had two very far traveled albums: Gang of Four’s Solid Gold and the Au Pairs Playing With a Different Sex. These cassette dups from vinyl were shared from some worldly friend elsewhere. I really liked Gang of Four and rmeain blown away by the drummer Hugo Burnham, the boldness of the lyrical messages, and the innovative guitar work of Andy Gill.
URGH! A Music War, and the message of these powerful bands are cultural statements. They knew and saw what was coming while the people react to what is now in the world. It’s important to pay attention to what the artists have to say. It may become more important than all else. Then again, maybe not.
“You like music? I know. Everyone says they do." ’
David Byrne, True Stories
Friday, February 18, 2011
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