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Hogarth judge

February 2018



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Peter Frampton is still undead: the distortion of musical chronology

Trolling for MP3s on Google a while back, I came across a site of old 70s stuff. There was a 12 meg version of "Do You Feel Like I Do" from _Frampton Comes Alive_ there. Figuring it was the full version, on a lark I downloaded it.

Now, had you asked me in, say, 1983, it is unlikely I would have even admitted that I ever owned this particular piece of vinyl. I did, once. In 1976 Peter Frampton was probably one of the closest things to "hard rock" you would hear played often on the radio, and as a high school student with a limited budget what the radio played was what I listened to.

Of course, a twelve minute song featuring Frampton's "trippy" talking through a Vocoder is the sort of thing I once had learned to mock. With distance, though, it brings back memories: memories of senior year in high school, memories of Mary Jane's first kiss. Twelve minutes of psychedelia lite, a song about being stoned all the time, was just what I wanted to hear in 1976. Can it have been as bad as I remember?


One other thing occurred to me when I was listening to Frampton. It struck me that "Do You Feel. . ." might be "my generation's" version of "In A Gadda Da Vida." This got me thinking about how seriously distorted my sense of time is with regard to pop music history.

"In A Gadda Da Vida" has ever struck me as a product of a remote, bygone age, like the living rock of Stonehenge or something. It theoretically was a record made within my lifetime, but for all its importance in memory it seems technically crude and to sound its age. "Frampton Comes Alive" is equally the product of the past, but technically it seems little different from any other much more recent live album. The instrumentation is different, but that's only because 70s synths and keyboards were rather primitive and unreliable affairs. (One of my most vivid music memories is seeing Peter Gabriel in maybe 1981. For some reason, a bunch of his electronic gadgets were not working, so he could not continue with the set he planned. He went to the grand piano and did an absolutely gorgeous solo version of "Here Comes the Flood.")

At any rate, music I have continued to listen to semi-regularly seems "modern." Bowie's "Heroes" is a "modern" album, even though only two years separate it from Peter Frampton. More recent music I also listen to continues its idiom in a recognisable way, so it is projected forward in time, even though now "Heroes" is a lot closer to "In a Gadda" than to any current releases. But for younger folks, it too might seem a product of a distant age, like "In a Gadda da Vida" seems to me. I have to remind myself that these things might seem as old to whippersnappers as "In a Gadda. . ."

And all the changes in pop music that have taken place since I could afford a record collection of my own --- and could therefore tune out if I didn't like 'em --- are more or less off the screen. I remember when Nirvana appeared. I remember when Jane's Addiction appeared. But rap, to me, is Sugarhill Gang (they seemed :"clever" in 1980) and something Blondie played at on the album that has "The Tide is High" on it. Hip hop is just a collection of annoying commercial jingles. The reinvention of processed cheese-wiz dancepop, most of the career of Michael Jackson after Willard and Ben --- all of these things washed over me like the rain.


Mostly, we didn't watch the Grammy awards either... too much Beyonce and not nearly enough Sting, and they had to mess up his appearance with that annoying reggae rapper (there is a name for that kind of "music" in Jamaica, which I cannot now recall). As Romy (node_noise) said to us, "I don't know what it's about now, but it is no longer about the music."

Regarding older vs. modern music; we draw the demarcation line sharply at December 8, 1980 and anything after that is modern. That's why it was a bit startling at first to hear Nirvana returning to an older sound, which they drew partly from the likes of Iron Butterfly, partly from Hendrix and Young. What, a band that knew what was good, actually getting airplay on a station you could hear on your car radio? We were fortunate to have worked at an alternative station for close to 20 years, so we were exposed to all kinds of interesting paraphernalia we might never have heard otherwise. They Might Be Giants, anyway.

We still have the Comes Alive album. I think one of the main problems with the younger set is that they might by this time say "Peter who?" At any rate, this is not the first time in our lives that we've had to turn off the radio because what was available was almost complete crap; I am reminded of 1973 and the constant barrage of Helen Reddy, Tony Orlando, the Osmonds and Cher. Very little was listenable, in fact, for several years.

I'm just sitting here waiting for it to blow over.

For HIN2, I'm Ekristheh Akanora.
What I remember mostly is when I got my first radio. It had tubes, and it could DX. And at night I used to turn it on, and look for something like the Doors, or Airplane, with Grace Slick's voice sounding like it came out of the end of a long, dark tunnel.

What impressed me then was how dark and impressive it all was. I remember listening to something that in retrospect I believe was a live set by Steppenwolf. It was all blues boogie, with growled, low vocals and wailing guitar solos in minor keys. It seemed seriously spooky to me at the time. It freaked me out when I was nine years old. It sounded like the end of the world.

Then Donovan came on, singing about how Atlantis would rise again when California fell into the sea. Not sure where I heard that one, schoolyard legends no doubt. That was one of my favourite songs. Then there was the Crazy World of Arthur Brown. . . .

I wonder, though, where in the current morass of Disney Channel pop-tarts, hip-hop drilling, and Justin Timberlakes (has there -ever- been a pop star with less charisma?) --- where are kids today going to plug into this sweet apocalyptic vibe? Will they find something that impressed me like I was impressed by the music of 1967 back then?

The continent of Atlantis was an island.....

Dark and impressive... There was a show on a local FM station in '69 called simply Underground. It was on from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Sundays and Mondays only, and the weird schedule just added to the sense of initiation. Psychedelic music, of a sort, was on daytime radio quite often in those days -- you won't hear most of it on so-called oldies stations today, because many of the lyrics were drug-related, even some that were also love songs. But that was soda pop compared to what we were hearing on that show.

Probably based on the progressive sound of stations like KMPX, and spurred on by Woodstock, Jody Anderson's Underground played whole album sides, and sometimes whole albums -- she premiered Abbey Road the day it was released. It's where we first heard selections from Tommy, and Spirit, and the Buffalo Springfield (it is very likely we were first treated to the sound of a squeaky guy from Winnipeg during those hours). There were songs by familiar groups -- but not at all the familiar songs from daytime radio. There were the Youngbloods and Cream and Jefferson Airplane and Canned Heat, Hendrix, and yes, Donovan and Steppenwolf.

We may even have heard the live set you mentioned; she played things like that a lot. Song after song discussed heroin, its pleasures and dangers; a black actor recited a poem, accompanied by music and special effects, about getting high; Steppenwolf's "The Pusher," which we'd heard described as a pro-drug song, turned out to be one of the strongest anti-drug lyrics we'd ever heard. And to lighten things up, Jody was pleased to present John Mayall's "Room To Move," without drums or heavy lead guitar.

We never knew the name of the Underground theme song. It was instrumental, it sounded like Hendrix, that was all we ever knew. When we did contact Miss Anderson about fifteen years later, she could not remember the song. It's a lost treasure in our memory.

There's nothing like that now. The corporate-dominated mass media have ensured that there will never be another such scene. FM radio has been taken over by Clear Channel and other prepackaged monstrosities out of factories in California, phonied up to sound local; you can stay up to DX but all you'll get is endless sportswhine and screaming eagle right wing talk shows.

Kids who are wealthy enough to have computers will discover the old music on streams, and when all streaming becomes illegal, there'll still be pirates. They might find some things on download, if they know what to download, until that's gone too. But it'll never be free for the taking on the radio again.

some thoughts...

Kids who are wealthy enough to have computers will discover the old music on streams, and when all streaming becomes illegal, there'll still be pirates. They might find some things on download, if they know what to download, until that's gone too. But it'll never be free for the taking on the radio again

I don't think that'll happen. I think human nature will rebel in the long run and retake the distribution of creativity. We just happened to be born into an unfortunate era as far as -trying- to control people's thoughts goes. But no matter how interesting dystopia is from a writer's standpoint, I can't see human nature ever agreeing to truly go along with allowing everyone's freedom and creativity to be destroyed. It can only be suppressed. It rises like a phoenix again in the end, with glory.

Shiu (with Nia)

Re: The continent of Atlantis was an island.....

Total agreement. Even top 40 no longer exists in any meaningful sense. The stations seem all afeared that they will play something somebody doesn't like and tune away, so they have to keep things as homogenized as possible.
it's nodenoise, actually...

and even my obsession with matchbox twenty wasn't enough to keep me watching the whole of the Grammys. (and yes, I realize I'm coming in to the discussion three months late here ;p )

The Junos, on the other hand, tend to be more interesting -- less glitz and showbiz, although the performances aren't necessarily a better quality. Also shorter, and that counts for a lot these days.