MY ALL-TIME TOP 10
MAYBE THE LAST THING I EVER WROTE FOR PERFECT SOUND FOREVER
by RICHARD MASON
"I love music
Any kind of music
I love music
Just as long as it's groovin'"
"I Love Music"
"I hate music
Sometimes I don't"
"I Hate Music"
Um, er, yes. Each of these lyric quotations has an undeniable resonance for me. Either can apply with spine-chilling accuracy, depending on the mood I'm in. Sorry to come over all Quentin Crisp on you, but there are those times when no music is good music; ditto Julie Andrews, but on occasions anything sounds good. And all this, I hear you gasp, from an individual whose very act of methodical dissection and studied analysis immortalized via typeface surely defines him as a suitably learned and detached person of no little taste and discernment; in short, a ROCK CRITIC. Bollocks. Fact of the matter is, my dears, I have little or no taste. I've been caught in the act of humming along to the works of the Vengaboys, positively crave the delicate cadences of the early works of Freddie and the Dreamers and have even been known, admittedly after a sustained intake of Ruddles County ale, to render forth in the most strident and emotive tones imaginable, a version of the classic Bryan Adams ballad "Everything I do, I do for you", albeit invariably with some extremely witty and barbed lyric alterations to accommodate references to various bodily functions controlled largely by the large intestine. Noel Coward I'm not, just in case you hadn't already noticed. I digress, as bleeding usual. How you lot can ever have had any faith in my, er, critical judgment over the past few years is beyond me. Not that I wasn't flattered by all the messages of, well, adulation and worship are the words that spring most readily to mind, in response to the articles what I wrote about all those bands and artistes I professed to consider important, worthy and all the other words one uses. Lord have mercy, I almost feel ashamed of the fact that I never really listen to them that much and almost certainly couldn't name you more than a couple of either their nice tunes or their windswept and interesting founder members without some type of critical dialectic crib sheet that the likes of Bangs, Meltzer, Christgau or some other equally fashionably damaged individual who couldn't get a proper job banged out all those years ago. But not quite, you understand.
Sometimes music makes me feel so elated that words are no good. Yeah, right, you noticed. And as I said before, at times like this my tolerance level goes right down and all kinds of dross gets through quality control. I'm not talking about some kind of kitsch ethic either; I have the ability to obtain pleasure from the most unacceptable racket imaginable. Equally sometimes, no matter what it is, I won't have music in the house. The very concept of music stinks and I reject it utterly without exception. Something that sounded great the previous day becomes unbearable in a matter of seconds. And I don't mean if I 've got a headache or am preoccupied in some other way. Sometimes music just doesn't work for me. Even if it's in the list that follows shortly, namely my all-time top ten, yes, he finally got around to mentioning it. Sometimes everything is shit, even the best stuff ever done by anyone. Take my word for it. All of the music I go on to mention later in this diatribe has been switched off abruptly at some point in my life with an anguished howl to indicate I just can't take any more of that shit. The only thing that will do is a darkened unoccupied room and a sheet to put over my head. That's real angst for you. It doesn't matter whether it's on vinyl, CD, 8-track cartridge, cassette or even if I get lucky and have John Lee Hooker right there on my porch (who am I kidding? A porch? In England?) doing it live - sometimes music gets right up my nose. What kind of a music critic are you anyway, I hear you ask. Why don't you just pack it all in and leave it to someone who actually enjoys music, I hear you add. OK, I will. But not for that reason. Boring domestic circumstances I wouldn't dream of burdening you with dictate this will almost certainly be my last ever piece of doggerel for PSF. I'll finish this paragraph here to obtain the optimum dramatic effect if it's all the same to you.
But of course I couldn't possibly leave without boring the arse off you all by naming my all-time top 10 pieces of music. It seems an apt topic on which to conclude my career; I've always been one of those folk who delights in the compilation of such lists and it was a rare treat and a big surprise to find that my esteemed editor Mr. Billy Bob himself was in this respect a like mind. Thus you get those silly lists I sent him once when at a loose end plus the fact that my top 10 changes every 37.5 seconds. But this isn't a list of LPs, CDs or what have you, rather it's 10 individual tracks or pieces of music that I think are the best 10 things I ever heard. Of course I'll almost certainly have changed my mind about it all at least twice before I get to the end and it's quite conceivable that I may never actually finish this piece to my satisfaction. Like you care. Roll the 10, in no
particular order, but of fucking course.
This Heat: 'Health & Efficiency'. From the EP of the same name, now available again courtesy of those fine, fine folk at These Records. "Here's a song about the sunshine/Dedicated to the sunshine…" Probably the greatest song ever. The singing and drumming beggar belief. I was still in my teens when I first heard this and the memory of its initial impact stays with me to this day. I played it yesterday and it still sounds sublime. Even if you think all the other music I love stinks, buy this. Buy it anyway. I don't care if you hate it, you can give it away and some discerning individual will snap it up from a junk shop or, if you will, thrift store and love it to death. You know how that sort of thing works. I can't describe the music; suffice to say Charles Hayward is one of the great figures of music and I'm really fucking sorry that I never wrote the article on him that I should have ages ago. Buy anything he's on. Make that everything.
The Outsiders: 'Misfit'. From the 'CQ' LP/CD. I've already banged on in my Outsiders piece in PSF (http://www.furious.com/perfect/outsiders.html) about this so I won't bore you with the details. But this wrote the book on heavy rock and/or punk rock. Not even AC/DC ever sounded this good. Wally Tax remains one of the greatest rock singers ever and the lyrics are astonishing considering it's not his first language. Plus the bass sound is one of the best ever. That sort of thing really matters, oh yes it does, I know about these things. Next.
The Homosexuals: 'Walk before Imitate'. From the Recommended Records sampler LP. Again, as with This Heat, this stuff kicked in in my late teens and the effect has remained ever since. If you want to know some more about The Homosexuals then Johan Kugelberg's fetching diatribe/interview in UGLY THINGS #16 should suffice; with any luck, one of my charming PSF colleagues, maybe the great Alfred Boland, will pen some stuff on them one day. Unsurpassed late 70s UK demented pop/punk/psych/what have you, with absurdly high standards of musicianship and songwriting ability, all filtered through the most perverse and twisted imaginations imaginable. If you don't know their work, go remedy: "If no-one loves you/Invent somebody…"
Vivian Stanshall: 'Strange Tongues'. From the absurd(ly rare) 'Men Opening Umbrellas Ahead' LP. I'm forever indebted to Simone for sending me a tape of this a while back. For all those who would have Vivian Stanshall down as a wacky, terribly English sort whose work never actually really amounted much if you didn't care for that sort of humour, this proves you wrong. Quite wrong. A quite singularly odd and disarmingly moving piece of music. Some belting tenor recorder playing in there too if I'm not mistaken. And I'm not.
King Tubby & Soul Syndicate: 'Great Stone'. From the Blood & Fire CD 'Freedom Sounds In Dub'. A shattering listening experience. The compression/suppresion of the bass guitar and the speeded up drums stand this apart from virtually all other dubs of its era. Of course, if Osbourne Ruddock was still with us we'd all be hunting high and low for this and others of similar ilk with conspicuous lack of success. As it is, you need to hear this side if you care to appreciate the full cadence of a phrase such as 'anticipated prevailing trends in contemporary dance music by a good two decades'. Or something.
Swell Maps: 'Full Moon In My Pocket'/'BLAM!'/'Full Moon' (reprise). I refuse to insult your intelligence by informing you which LP this is from, you all know. What can I say that hasn't already been said about this medley? Not a lot. If you must, go henceforth to http://www.furious.com/perfect/swellmaps.html and there you shall have it. All that needs to be added/reiterated is that Nikki Sudden's lyric line "yer slavish little conscience gone underground" beats seven shades of shit out of the complete works of Charles Bukowski, J.K.Rowling and Dante Aligheri put together. I can prove it.
Marvin Gaye: 'What's Going On'. From the album of the same name, yippee, I finally got to use that phrase! It could just as easily have been 'Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)' or 'Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler)' but on balance I just couldn't be arsed with all those brackets. For as you all know, this album may well be a landmark of some kind (not that that's any great commendation - for every geodesic dome there's a World Trade Centre, or should it be the other way round) and one that indeed changed the very nature of soul music AS WE KNOW IT - it may not. All I know is that I get all welled up inside listening to one of the very few truly great male singers singing his best stuff ever. Someone really should have got Marvin alone on a (rare) good day and talked him into recording an album of nursery rhymes just to see if the old adage really is true. The sax intro and party atmosphere contrast so beautifully and ironically with the overwhelming sense of melancholy and hopelessness. Only Marvin Gaye could get away with this.
Terry Riley: 'The Gift'. From the recent Cortical Foundation CD ' Music for the Gift',
available from all discerning retailers now, so invest, no excuses. I never cared for Chet Baker much, the Tom Cruise of the jazz trumpet (whatever the fuck that may mean) to my mind, but when that scoundrel Riley gets hold of him and loops his loops then it sounds like pure bliss to these ears. There is, but of course, the historical factor to consider; as a long time Soft Machine aficionado (the Soft Machine never had 'fans', I'll have you know) I've dreamt about hearing this music for decades after reading Hugh Hopper & Daevid Allen talk about it. Of course it's a pioneering piece of composition, methodology and, dare I say it, minimalism, but equally importantly it's a mesmerisingly beautiful piece of music. Compare and contrast with Jon Oswald's 'Grayfolded', an almost equally successful work in its way to these ears and perhaps the historical successor to this piece. As with so many of the aforementioned selections I've made, the whole disc it's contained on is merely superb; this is essential.
Lee Perry & Charlie Ace: 'Cow Thief Skank'.
"I only had four tracks but I was picking up an extra 16 from the extra-terrestrial squad".
Despite the fact that that Hugh Rainford Perry may have 'invented' 'reggae' 'as we know it', despite the fact that he may have had more than a hand in the 'invention' of hip-hop and despite the fact that he remains one of the most prolifically inventive and original producers AND songwriters to be found in any 'genre' of music, the main reason I picked this track that bears his mark out from so many other great, great tracks is, on reflection, the singular fact that nowhere else to my knowledge in the vast unbridled musical canon of contemporary popular music is there to be found a single piece of music that features human beings pretending to be cows. (No doubt if Waters, Wright, Mason and Gilmour had been even more sadistic and misanthropic than even they were at the time then their fetching concept recording 'Animals' would have scuppered that for good; happily not.) As it is, you get Lee & Charlie Ace mooing away to their heart's content, apparently as a dig at rival producer Niney The Observer who it would seem was convicted of a bovine-related felony in his misspent yout'. Plus the rhythm is absurd and elasticated in a most, shall we say, upsetting fashion. A veritable classic, methinks, no jestering.
Annette Peacock: 'I'm The One'. From the long playing recording of the same name. Not that it really matters any, but Annette Peacock is almost certainly the greatest singer-songwriter of all time. You'll just have to take my word for it, I'm afraid, that lumping an artist of the quality of Annette Peacock in with the likes of J.D. Souther and Carly Simon constitutes the most delicious and unparalleled irony there ever was or will be as far as I'm concerned. The use of electronically treated vocals still sounds shocking two decades plus on; of course, the utterly startling nature and quality of the singing compliments the synthesizer treatment in a way no other vocal thus treated I've heard is able to do. The concluding slow section of this song, for example, features some of the most wonderful singing imaginable. David Bowie's backing group's loss was certainly our gain. The magnitude of the crime constituted by the fact that this LP and in fact most of her other recordings are currently unavailable is impossible to measure. The plain truth of the matter is that the music of Annette Peacock is so far above (a spurious phrase, I know, but curiously apt somehow in this context) that of all the other so-called 'cult figures' in rock music - Lee, Barrett, Buckley (take your pick), Wilson, Drake, you know who I mean, I believe - as to render the whole scenario totally absurd. She really should have the sense and foresight to be dead or a vegetable and then, as with King Tubby, we could all enjoy her music. Some people are so fucking selfish.
The 012: 'The Age of Aquarius'. From the 'The White Patterns On her Dress' cassette, released by Funky Weird tapes. The greatest cover version ever. I shite you not. As we all know top tens are like Nigel Tufnel's amp in that they go up to 11. Hence the excuse to include this. Not that one is needed. The treatment meted out to the 'Hair' 'classic' is so utterly deserving and merited it transcends the whole concept of 'better than the original'. Of course, given the penchant of the 012 for delivering sublime cover versions, it only really required their making the choice in this case and its fate was sealed. Keith Dobson projects his usual level of withering paranoiac vitriol in the listener's direction over a bludgeoning barrage of fiendish backward tapes and absurd drumming to the ultimate detriment of all concerned, thank fuck. Indescribable. Beyond words. Et cetera.
Next week, all change. You know what it's like. At least I hope so, as I'd find it hard to place my trust in anyone who still thought the best 10 bits of music s/he'd ever heard in their life were the same as they were this time last year, say. That's the kind of suspicious character I am. Also a statement like the one preceding gives the impression that I'm a modern kind of guy who has his finger on he pulse of contemporary music or something. Laugh? You'll be telling me next Marilyn Manson is going to be in the next Jodorowsky film.
So here we are, near the end of my last ever piece for PSF. But fret not. There are surely literally shiteloads of folk out there who will readily step into the metaphorical breach and flood these hallowed pages with stuff the like of which has not been seen since my pioneering Desperate Bicycles piece all those years ago. After all, as those wacky Bikes would have it, it was easy, it was cheap, go and do it. You may even be one of those individuals yourself. Need convincing? Right then, to paraphrase the by now legendary clarion call of all those years ago:
THIS IS A WORD postmodernist
THIS IS ANOTHER ONE seminal
AND THIS IS A THIRD innovative
NOW BECOME A ROCK CRITIC
I'd like to conclude by thanking all of those good people (advisors, encouragers, tapers of all the essential music I don't & didn't have and pure unsullied idols) without whom I never would have written a word and saved you all this bother. In no order at all, thanks be to Peter Momtchiloff, Nicholas Godley, Simone, Jamie Copeland, Alan Carter, Filippo Dulio, Martin Gordon, Jonathan Kandell, Jeff Curtis, Dan Selzer, Shaun Belcher (& Shaun's mate from Nottingham), Jerome Blanes, Mike Stax, Johan Kugelberg, Alfred Boland, Alan & Steve Freeman, Izumi Kuremoto, Hugh Dellar, Thomas Ziegler, Graham Johnston, Steve Froy, Rhodri Viney, Stephen Gillitt, Jean Leneutre, Manny Maris, Mick Sleeper, Jon Allan, Matt Platts, Paul Turner, Dunyar Godres (sorry if I spelled it wrong, Dunyar), Ian Nixon, Andrew Bland, Angus Stevenson, Brendan Foreman, Chris Scott, Keith Dobson, Charlie Pritchard, Bret Marion, and especially to Richard Ramage. There, that makes it look as if I have lots of friends. And of course I'm not forgetting all my fellow scribes at Perfect Sound Forever; I especially want to thank my good mate Dave Lang, a man of very nice judgment with regard to musics and a great rock writer if ever there was one. But more than anyone I want to thank Jason Gross, my tyrannical editor and the nicest guy I never met in my life. Thanks, Jason. Over and out.
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