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Monday, 12 July 2010

It Might As Well Rain Until September

I've just been on line to Amazon and ordered some cd's.  King Crimson, The Kinks, Small Faces, Dusty Springfield and The Grateful Dead. In the car today I've been mostly playing Wilco's "A Ghost is Born". So what's happening here?

I can understand the retro cd purchases from Amazon: Friday's programme about Lennon and Suzanne Vaga's choice of inheritance track on BBC's Radio 4 Saturday morning programme: Dylan's "Masters of War" set off the trip wire and I'm back in the USSR. But why Wilco?

It's a great album ( Fuck, I get so confused: When it was vinyl we knew what we were taking about. A "45", an "Album", a concept Album, a "Yes" album which lasted 45 minutes but seemed to stretch to infinity and beyond. Now what do you call that thing you buy with music imprinted in it? A cd? That sounds like a sexually transmitted disease. Don't think about it. So I'm sticking with album). But why now?

It's hot, we're having a scorcher. Temperatures high enough to get you to undo a few hooks of your corset. Usually I'd be playing something playful - hot weather always brings me out in a nostalgia rash. For me hot weather induces Karen Carpenter fits and I find I have an irresistible urge to play "Yesterday Once More" or a valve driven radio rush of "Help Me Ronda". 

I'd been maxing out on "Forever Changes". After 20 plays even the most ardent fan needs a change. So as the traffic lights turned red I reached for my album collection of ..cds. Noah and the Whale; sunny and hippyish; Bob Marley; on message and trippyish; Shearwater: deep cool and not a summer song. I even thought  of The Doves but they were nicked a while back when I forgot to lock the car. And as I was sitting there, I thought of Low and "The Great Destroyer" which I'd played on my phone on the way back from squash last week. The thought filled me with such joy - really. The tunes were there dancing on the dash board - but the album was in the house not the car. And there was Wilco. I hadn't played that for a couple of years and it was with some trepidation that I watched the car's cd player ingest it and  engage.

I don't know about  you but choosing a piece of music is, for me, one serious activity. After an age you've decided on an album. In doing so, many life long friends have been pushed aside and they resent it. When next would Gill Scott Heron allow himself to be pushed into my cd player? Or have I blown it completely with Bobbie Gentry 'cause Emmylou Harris got one extra play last time. (Her "Stumbled Into Grace" is still one of my favourites. Except seeing her live at the Hammersmith Apollo in 2008, seriously dented our relationship. She was crap).

Anyway, it's that anticipation of the first notes of the first track. You're salivating at the sheer pleasure you're about to experience. One track that does that for me is Calexico's  "Sunken Waltz" from their "Feast of Wire" LP ( there I've said it). The opening chords just drop away. You know by that that something special is about to happen:

"Washed my face in the rivers of empire
Made my bed from a cardboard crate
Down in the city of quartz
No news, no new regrets"
I have no idea what it's about. It just sounds so awesome.

I don't want you to go away with the idea that incomprehensibility is what rings my bell. No,  far from it. "On a dark desert  highway. Cool wind in my hair" is pretty understandable - even if the rest of the lyrics aren't. "I've got sunshine on a cloudy day", gets me all a tremble.

" Hotel California" leads up to that fabulous guitar "middle eight", except it's at the end. "Reelin' In the Years " has the middle eight at the beginning  which I suppose is ok. "Sultan's of Swing" only gets going with its "middle eight- at the end. But for sheer gob smacking, pubescent balls breaking, synapse splintering nirvana - it has to be the middle eight in  Cream's "The Badge". Frankly, Ging, Eric and Jack should have shut up shop after that. Oh they did?

So why Wilco?   It's simple; it's "Spiders (Kidsmoke)". It is so what rock is all about. Adult yet juvenile, simple yet complicated and it has a stunning beat.

It could be Kylie, Lady Gaga or Backstreet Boys. But no - when I'm in the mood to party I need some sobriety to see me through. And a decent middle eight

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