Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about freedom. Everybody wants it but nobody really knows what to do with it. It’s perplexing and troubling and mysterious but, as someone once said, I like the trouble and I like the mystery.
There’s a sort of narrative here: an extraterrestrial lands; is initially welcomed; meets a woman; is pursued by sinister forces; and in the end decides to return whence he came. It bears some resemblance to the plot of the John Carpenter/Jeff Bridges movie Starman, which I haven’t seen for many, many years. Apparently the Starman comes in response to the Voyager Golden Record, but at no point is he heard to say “Send more Chuck Berry.”
What’s “happening” here is that the aliens are landing, or revealing themselves, or whatever. 26 years later, it hasn’t happened yet. I remain hopeful that I’ll live to see it, but I’m not holding my breath.
I didn’t really mean for this series to go on and on. It’s slipped a bit out of my control, but not necessarily in a bad way. The next one will be the last one; I’m 99% sure of that. Maybe 95%. Well, we’ll see.
This one was like 90% done for about a month, but those last little adjustments proved difficult for some reason. I think it’s right now. I wouldn’t say perfect, because that’s not a thing, but I find it quite satisfying.
A: In 1997 I was a reggae dilettante — owner of a few Bob Marley and Peter Tosh albums, and the The Harder They Come soundtrack — when I decided to take a flier on the Lee “Scratch” Perry Arkology box set after reading an article about it. I’ve never been quite the same since.
Something about the way my brain processes music was rewired, and while I still don’t like all reggae — because a lot of it is boring and repetitious, just like the haters say — I’ve come to appreciate much of it in a way my younger self wouldn’t have anticipated. The problem is that it can he hard to mix with other things. I’ve been toying with the idea of making a reggae mix for a while now but lacked an organizing principle.
When Scratch passed away recently,1At least they tell me he’s dead — I’m still having a hard time believing it. I prefer to think he merely abandoned his physical body to manifest himself in the form of music.I decided that it would be fun to salute him with a mix where every other track is one he produced, in order to salute his towering genius while still leaving room for a full spectrum of stylees.
So here it is. There will be at least one other installment, maybe two, we’ll see.
Q: I’m not into reggae.
A: That’s not really a question, but…. I’d like to think I’m going to change your mind with this magical collection of sounds, but over the years I’ve learned that the taste for reggae is the like the taste for cilantro — some people have it and some don’t, and you’re not going to talk anybody into it. As always, de gustibus non est disputandum. I won’t be offended if you want to sit this one out.
Q: Will it help if I’m high while listening?
A: I mean, it isn’t going to hurt. But I think that the music is strong enough to stand up on its own, with or without herbal assistance.
Q: Isn’t an hour too long?
A: Yeah, probably. But once you get into that groove it’s hard to stop.
OK – without further ado — let us now Blow Away the Wicked.
As always seems to happen, as soon as I wrapped up the last part of Gangsters & Pranksters, I either learned about or was reminded of several things that I might have liked to include. Foremost among them is this one, which is from a bizarre album called Songs of Couch and Consultation:
Jazz saxophonist Bud Freeman came up with the idea for Songs of Couch & Consultation, a cult classic comedy album that pokes fun at psychoanalysis and psychiatric jargon. Freeman wrote a dozen songs’ worth of lyrics, which Leon Pober set to music and Bob Thompson arranged. Katie Lee, an extraordinarily pretty folk singer who previously recorded an album for Specialty called Spicy Songs for Cool Knights, was brought in to sing and pose for the cheesecake album cover. The songs describe an assortment of neuroses and psychiatric conditions in a variety of musical styles, delivered with a heavy dose of hand-wringing self-scrutiny. There’s ragtime, big-band blues, and even cowboy music as Lee coos her way through topics such as schizophrenia, repressed hostility, and maladjustment.
I also forgot (to my great shame) about the Bonzo Dog Band’s “Ali Baba’s Camel,” which begins with this snappy verse:
You’ve heard of Ali Baba Forty thieves had he Out for what we all want Lots of LSD
Musically this song is pretty wackadoo, even by Bonzos standards, and so would have been hard to mix in with other stuff.
But I probably would have segued it into or out of John Holt’s “Ali Baba”:
And while we’re at it, let’s listen to King Tubby’s dub version, just because it’s awesome. That will be all for today. Class dismissed.