Thursday, July 31, 2014
July 1, 2014
"The Wake Up Bomb" performed by R.E.M.
"Antiphon" performed by Midlake
"American Dream Plan B" performed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers-WSPC PREMIERE
"Down The Wrong Way" performed by Chrissie Hynde-WSPC PREMIERE
"Gimmie Something Good" performed by Ryan Adams-WSPC PREMIERE
"Lay Your Hands On Me" performed by The Thompson Twins
"Shut Your Mouth" performed by Garbage
"Jimmy James" performed by Beastie Boys
"Weight Of Air" performed by Northside
"Accidents Never Happen" performed by Blondie
July 2, 2014
"Bright As Yellow" performed by the innocence mission
"Summertime" performed by The Sundays
"Fade Into You" performed by Mazzy Star
"Underground" performed by Sneaker Pimps
"In The Waiting Line" performed by Zero 7
"It Comes And It Goes" performed by Dido
"Slow Motion" performed by Phox-WSPC PREMIERE
"33rd Of July" performed by Paul Westerberg
"That's The Way" performed by Led Zeppelin
"Inside Job" performed by Pearl Jam
"She Goes To Bed" performed by Jason Falkner
"A Notice To Everyone" performed by The Model Rockets
July 3, 2014
"Ram On" performed by Paul McCartney
"Love Is A Sign" performed by The Go-Betweens
"Raise My Rent" performed by David Gilmour
"Gaby Says" performed by The Dream Academy
"Angel" performed by Kirsty MacColl
"When Love Breaks Down" performed by Prefab Sprout
"Thin Line" performed by In Pursuit
"Heaven's Falling" performed by Cheap Trick
"Summer Nights" performed by Van Halen
July 4, 2014
"The Star Spangled Banner" performed by Jimi Hendrix
July 7, 2014
"Come Together" performed by Pomplamoose-WSPC PREMIERE
"Can't Let Go" performed by Bryan Ferry
"Loud Pipes" performed by Ratatat
"Sing Me Away" performed by Night Ranger
"Heartbeat" performed by Riggs
"The Harder They Come" performed by Jimmy Cliff
"Sweet Thang" performed by Shuggie Otis
"The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell" performed by Utopia
"Cousin Kevin" performed by The Who
"When I Look In Your Eyes" performed by The Romantics
"Walking Down Your Street" performed by The Bangles
"Atlantis" performed by Donovan
"Crimson And Clover" performed by Tommy James and the Shondells
"Never My Love" performed by The Association
"Building Steam With A Grain of Salt" performed by DJ Shadow
"Cousin Kevin" performed by Paul Nicholls and The Who from the film "Tommy"
July 8, 2014
"Sweet Season" performed by Carole King
"Summer Noon" performed by Tweedy-WSPC PREMIERE
"My Favorite Mistake" performed by Sheryl Crow
"I Can't Stand It" performed by Eric Clapton
"Consider Me Gone" performed by Sting
"The Doo Bop Song" performed by Miles Davis
"Loki Cat" performed by Jimmy Chamberlin Complex
HAPPY 44TH BIRTHDAY TO BECK
"Que Onda Guero"
"Milk And Honey"
"End Of The Day"
July 9, 2014
"Wrapped Around Your Finger" performed by The Police
"Why Can't I Have You?" performed by The Cars
"Stranger" performed by Electric Light Orchestra
"Hysteria" performed by Def Leppard
"Woman On A Train" performed by The Fixx
July 10, 2014
"Vital Signs" performed by Tame Impala
"Nothing Means Nothing" performed by Peter Buck
"Every Day Is Yours To Win" (live in the studio) performed by R.E.M.
"Somebody Saved My Life Tonight" performed by Elton John
"The Angel And The One" performed by Weezer
July 13, 2014
"Radio People" performed by Zapp
"Raised On Te Radio" performed by Ravyns
"On The Radio" performed by Cheap Trick
July 14, 2014
"Many Shades Of Black" performed by The Raconteurs
"A Quick One While He's Away" performed by Green Day
"Man Of Our Times" performed by Genesis
"Lockdown" performed by Johnny Marr
"Led Zeppelin" performed by Tame Impala
"Numb" performed by Gary Clark Jr.
"Corporal Clegg" performed by Pink Floyd
"Big Electric Cat" performed by Adrian Belew
"Ruin My Day" performed by Jon Brion
July 15, 2014
"You Get What You Give" performed by New Radicals
"Way Down Now" performed by World Party
"Quiet Heart" performed by The Go-Betweens
"We Let The Stars Go" performed by Prefab Sprout
"One Of Our Submarines" performed by Thomas Dolby
"Lost Stars" performed by Keira Knightley-WSPC PREMIERE
"Word Crimes" performed by "Weird" Al Yankovic-WSPC PREMIERE
July 16, 2014
"Make It Through The Summer" performed by The Chamber Strings
"Sonnet" performed by The Verve
"Lucky Man" performed by Emerson, Lake & Palmer
"You Wish" performed by Nightmares On Wax
"Doll" performed by The Cold And Lovely
"Just One Of The Guys" performed by Jenny Lewis-WSPC PREMIERE
"I Need You" performed by Billy Squier
"Don't Let Me Down" performed by The Beatles
July 17, 2014
"Fault Lines" performed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers-WSPC PREMIERE
"Diamond Light Part 1"-performed by Tweedy-WSPC PREMIERE
"The Lie In Me" performed by Jason Falkner
"Boy Or A Girl" performed by Imperial Drag
"Chocolate" performed by Snow Patrol
"Spark" performed by Tori Amos
July 18, 2014
IN MEMORIUM TO MR. ELIHU RYAN, FEBRUARY 12, 1920-JULY 18, 2014
"It's Summertime" performed by The Flaming Lips
"Lost Horizon" performed by Todd Rundgren
"Find The River" performed by R.E.M.
"Sacrificial Bonfire" performed by XTC
"OK" performed by Jon Brion
"All Things Must Pass" (demo version) performed by The Beatles
July 19, 2014
"Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away" performed by Stevie Wonder
"E-Bow The Letter" performed by R.E.M.
"New York Minute" performed by Eagles
"Julia" performed by The Beatles
"Here Today" performed by Paul McCartney
"These Are The Days Of Our Lives" performed by Queen
"The Golden Rose" performed by Tom Petty
"Wish You Were Here" performed by Wyclef Jean
"Saudade" performed by Love And Rockets
"Elegia" performed by New Order
"Near The End" performed by David Gilmour
"You Came Back" performed by Pete Townshend
July 21, 2014
"Back To The Shack"performed by Weezer-WSPC PREMIERE
"Armor And Sword" performed by Rush
"If God Will Send His Angels" performed by U2
"Misery In Utero" performed by P.M. Dawn
"Over Our Heads" performed by Jon Brion
"Top Of The City" performed by Kate Bush
July 22, 2014
"White And Nerdy" performed by "Weird" Al Yankovic-WSPC PREMIERE
"Pinwheels" performed by The Smashing Pumpkins
"Life Goes On" performed by The Kinks
"All Shook Down" performed by The Replacements
"Always On My Mind" performed by World Party
July 25, 2014
"Fading Lights" performed by Genesis
"Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End/Her Majesty" performed by The Beatles
July 27, 2014
"Last Goodbye" performed by Jeff Buckley
"Soma" performed by The Smashing Pumpkins
"We All Go Back To Where We Belong" performed by R.E.M.
"Max's Tune" performed by Jeff Beck
July 28, 2014
"Humpty Dumpty" performed by Aimee Mann
"The Bend" performed by Real Estate
"Monday" performed by The Sea And Cake
"High Class Slim Came Floating In" performed by Tortoise
"The Name Of The Game" performed by Badfinger
July 29, 2014
"Tell Me What You See" performed by The Beatles
"I Don't Want To Spoil The Party" performed by The Beatles
"For No One" performed by The Beatles
"No Reply" performed by The Beatles
"I Need You" performed by The Beatles
"Words Of Love" performed by The Beatles
"Sex" performed by Lenny Kravitz-WSPC PREMIERE
"Secret Touch" performed by Rush
"Who's Gonna Save My Soul?" performed by Gnarls Barkley
"When A Kid Goes Bad" performed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
"Departure" performed by R.E.M.
"My Eyes Have Seen You" performed by The Doors
"...Said Sadly" performed by The Smashing Pumpkins
July 30, 2014
"Welcome To My revolution" performed by Utopia
"Call Of The West" performed by Wall Of Voodoo
"Kick It In" performed by Simple Minds
"Punky's Whips" performed by Frank Zappa
"Big Stripey Lie" performed by Kate Bush
July 31, 2014
"One Dream" performed by The Dream Academy
"The World Awake" performed by Prefab Sprout
"Jason And The Argonauts" performed by XTC
"She's Not Me" performed by Jenny Lewis-WSPC PREMIERE
"Year In Review" performed by The Black Keys-WSPC PREMIERE
"Heaven" performed by Jesse Johnson
'Machine Messiah" performed by Yes
"Maggot Brain" performed by Funkadelic
"Safesurfer" performed by Julian Cope
"Even Deeper" performed by Nine Inch Nails
"Hong Kong Garden" performed by Siouxsie and the Banshees
"Yin And Yang And The Flowerpot Men" performed by Love And Rockets
"Low Desert" performed by R.E.M.
At this time, there is to be a slight change to this particular monthly series.
Just like the "Liner Notes" series which began when this site originated, I was almost beginning to feel as if writing the "Now Playing..." feature was an assignment. And frankly, if it begins to feel like an assignment, then something has to be adjusted. While illustrating what I have been listening to throughout each month, as a sideline to the monthly WSPC playlist, feels absolutely right, then maybe this feature should just be...an illustration.
So, instead of writing lengthy pieces for each and every album featured, I will just present the cover, the artist and release date and if I feel so inspired, then and only then will I write something to accompany the album in question. I have to be able to enjoy what I am doing as well as not make it to cumbersome for you too, especially as I have been so prolific with this and my other two blogsites.
Released October 5, 2012
-After R.E.M. disbanded in 2011, Peter Buck very quietly went ahead and began releasing his first solo albums, yet they are vinyl only releases. Since I am unable to listen to my vinyl albums thanks to a very mischievous black cat that resides with me in my home, I heard this album in full on You Tube and it is precisely the kids of left of center/oddball album that I tend to like from time to time. Now... wonder if there are any MP3s floating around out there...
Released September 16, 2008
Released April 7, 1978
THE COLD AND LOVELY
Released September 24, 2013
Released October 5, 2012
-My favorite album of 2012 hands down!!
Released February 9, 1993
Released August 1988
-My return to WLHA courtesy of WSUM brought me back to this band and these particular albums.
THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
This album, from one of my most favorite bands, remains one of the best debut album I have ever heard. Just one killer song after another.
THE CHAMBER STRINGS
Released March 27, 2001
-I cannot urge you enough to try and seek out the two albums from this band as the Brian Wilson-esque/early Todd Rundgren, symphonic power pop is just beguiling to listen to.
Saturday, July 19, 2014
One year ago, I was blessed, truly blessed, to have been able to take part in the 1st WLHA Resurrection/Reunion Weekend, an event organized and operated by Casey Peckham and his band of merry DJs in full collaboration with the staff and DJs of WSUM-FM, the college radio station on the University Of Wisconsin-Madison campus, and as far as I am concerned the very best radio station in the entire city.
As I chronicled in my July 2013 posting on this site, WSUM rose brilliantly and gloriously from the ashes of WLHA, just like the mythical Phoenix, and this event was indeed as advertised, a chance to resurrect 'LHA on 'SUM with the very same DJs that populated the collegiate driven airwaves between the years of 1952-1993. Yet most importantly, the event was designed to be a celebration of the history of the radio station in all of its incarnations and the DJs that brought it to vibrant life...even when we could barely be heard due to comically low wattage and radio wave frequencies. For me, last year's event, on which I had the opportunity to perform a two hour radio show, lifted my radio driven spirit higher than I could have even imagined and it fueled me with extreme hopes that such an event could possibly be repeated. On the weekend of July 11th-July 13th of this year, it was.
And the event only got bigger...
With regards to choosing music for this year's event, I certainly did not need to bring as many CDs as I brought before. I still filled a crate--as I just wanted to have a series of options--but this time, I filled it only halfway. As the weekend approached, Casey sent out mass e-mails, providing everyone with pertinent updates and information and by the time the event was a mere few days away, Casey elicited sage-like radio advice and wisdom, which indeed gave me considerable food for thought. "But please personalize your shows with the audience saying something about yourself and your days at WLHA," Casey instructed. "Have some fun and they will likely have fun too listening. The audience owns iPods and they do not need us for hour long non-stop music sets."
I did take Casey's words to heart but I was also a tad confused at how I would accomplish what he was requesting of all of us. You see, when I performed my DJ show last year, I may have possibly been the only representative from my particular DJ era that weekend. Additionally, during my early Sunday morning time slot, I was one of only two people in the entire WSUM studios. I played 24 songs within my two hour time frame and I did try to include relevant stories of my late 1980's/early 1990's DJ days. Still, it was ultimately a solo affair. I initially assumed that this year would basically be the same as last year albeit with 30 minutes less on-air time. However I was soon to discover once again, and even in these very unusual circumstances, that less is more. And how voluminously more of an experience it was.
In her message to me, Lisa asked me if I would be interested in having her join and assist me in the studio for this year's show, mainly as a means to see WSUM and be involved with the WLHA themes and memorabilia without having the responsibility of putting together an entire show. I was thrilled to have Lisa join me, as she truly represented the tail end of the WLHA era. If the story of WLHA had been captured in a Dickensian styled novel, any chapters that featured me would exist near the end, setting the stage for the final chapters which would undoubtedly include her. Her presence would help me greatly in feeling less solitary as well as gathering a certain solidarity for our specific time in WLHA history.
And soon, there were even more...
For my third year at WLHA, I became the Music Director after responding to a handwritten advertisement posted in the station at the conclusion of the previous semester in the Spring. In addition to speaking with record labels, having our playlist information and call letters placed within the College Music Journal (CMJ), and of course experience then endless Christmas morning feeling of receiving ALL of the new music to hit the station, being the Music Director afforded me the opportunity to meet all of the prospective DJs as well as have the chance to get to know the returning DJs. It was here where I first met Kelly Adamson (now Kelly Klaschus) and Sue Whittaker.
Kelly and Sue were, and remain, life long friends and at the time I met them, they would soon host their own weekly three hour radio show on which they would heavily feature artists and bands local to Wisconsin. Through knowing them at WLHA, and mostly through a series of shared classes, they would eventually become two people with whom I would have a pivotal friendship throughout my final two years of college. Through Kelly, I met her boyfriend and (then) future WLHA DJ Brian Klaschus, as well as her (then) future husband and parent to their 14 year old son Alex, whom I met during the Resurrection/Reunion weekend. Through my adventures as a Badger Buddy, Kelly and Sue met Sandor Gallo, my Freshman charge and one with whom I also developed a deep friendship during the same time period, as we eventually became roommates during my Senior year. Sandor also became a highly involved participant in my Music Director duties in regards to helping me listen to the growing mountain of new music that would arrive to the station (an amount I could not have possibly listened to entirely on my own) as well as gracing the album jackets with his specialized brand of hand written colloquialisms to discourage any DJ album theft.
Last year, Kelly and Sue were unable to participate due to previously scheduled commitments. This year, they were determined not to miss out and once the schedule was released, I saw that they would have their show directly after my own show, making our era even more represented plus making the "Reunion" aspect more powerfully meaningful. As the weekend grew closer, there were a few minor scheduling changes to accommodate the various 'LHA DJs prior commitments outside of the event and soon, my show was re-scheduled to occur immediately after Kelly and Sue's show. To that, Casey asked if I wouldn't mind dropping by for Kelly and Sue's show just in case they needed any assistance as I was a tad more familiar with the sound board than they, since they hadn't even seen it yet. As if I needed any more incentive to see my friends and get back to that beautiful studio.
Casey and his trusty cohorts remained on hand in the studio to assist them with their nearly all vinyl program so I had the pleasure to just watch alongside Kelly's family. And then, very organically, Kelly and Sue mentioned me on-air and then invited me to join in the banter between songs. Never was it my intention to join their show, because it was their show and I just wished for them to gather the full experience of being in that studio just as I had one year ago. But this is how Kelly and Sue are as people. So gracious. So inviting. So welcoming and warm and believe me, these are two women whose smiles and laughter would disarm even the most entrenched cynic and you immediately find yourself fully swayed by their openness.
Kelly and Sue's show flowed seamlessly into my own show at 1:00 p.m., as re-scheduled, and by this time, Lisa Grueneberg had also arrived to the studios, making the reunion especially complete. Inspired by Kelly and Sue's graciousness, Lisa joined me on the air throughout the program, as we continued the stories and frivolity around the actual music.
I really think that if one is open to it, a DJ is always in the process of learning and figuring out how to make a really good show.This year, as you may have already witnessed from my published playlist, I played 14 songs within my 90 minutes, and I have to say that many of the songs I had mentally prepared myself to play were tossed out of the window as I wanted to allow myself to be inspired by the mood of the day. Back in the WLHA days, when DJs had a weekly three show program to fill, you could easily stretch out as you wished and provide quite an ocean of material. And of course, if you didn't get to something you had wished to play, there was always next week. So of course with this specialized event, it was a one time only experience, and I had to re-think and make the show something that just had to connect. A show that was fast, energetic, and filled with movement. There really wasn't the space for those musical peaks and valleys that I loved, and frankly it really wasn't appropriate and would have bordered on being self-indulgent. In fact, this new radio show taught me how to edit myself and again devise how to make an enjoyable program that still represented me while thinking of the audience as well. This show had to be personal and public.
With that, I was pleasantly surprised to have received a complimentary phone call during my show's second song, as well as one more later in the program. Both callers were kind and excited enough to share music suggestions they liked with me and that is what this station is all about. At its very best, WLHA and WSUM provide the framework for building a community where the shared love is music and everyone from DJs to listeners are all participants. It is a celebration of collaboration, conversation and communication and in the spirit of that, I did turn to Lisa for her expert advice concerning a song I had been thinking of playing but was having second thoughts. Now, Lisa has scoffed at me with my praise for her as the following is what she wrote to me afterwards:
Oh yes, my EXPERT advice
Scott: should I play a slow one or a fast one next?
Lisa: well, this one is slow so I think a fast one.
Yup, that is why I've made my millions in radio
Yes! It was expert advice!! Lisa showed me that the dialogue between a DJ and other DJs, the audience and the music itself is a continuous process. I had to think about what mood I was trying to establish. With a weekly three hour program, I had the time and space to make it whatever it needed to be. With a one time only 90 minute program during a celebratory weekend, I quickly realized that perhaps this is not the place for a series of stunning ballads and 12 minute prog rock epics. This weekend was a party and it needed to sound as such, especially with all of the transparency you are bound to hear on student radio, from dead air, to on air and technical mistakes, flubs and everything in between!
But most of all, having this year to share with Kelly, Sue, Lisa, Brian and Sandor filled me rapturously and I have been floating through the afterglow ever since I left the studios. Kelly wrote to me afterwards and expressed the following sentiments: "It was the high point of my year!!! I can't even tell you how high I still feel. Just walking on air with a big old smile on my face and no one knows why? :)"
Which leads me to perhaps the most seismic aspect of the whole weekend, the true gathering of a sense of being a part of something that is just bigger than one radio show. That I, and all of the other DJs from the past and the present, are all contributing to an on-going legacy.
What really rang loudly to me throughout the weekend, as I listened and participated, was not only how this event has only grown but understanding what WLHA has meant to generations of former UW Madison students. On the very first night, I listened to a woman named Ginger Alberts Goral, who just might be an age to be someone's Grandmother based upon a photo I saw. And yet, her bubbly voice sounded like she was no more than 19 yeas old. I heard another DJ from the 1970's era who mentioned that he once lived in Botkin House inside of the Tripp Hall dormitories and I instantly felt a wave of solidarity as that was the exact dorm I lived in for my four years. Before I left the station, I had a conversation with a man who went by the on-air handle of "Charlie Brown" in...1967, two years before I was born. If that didn't give me a true sense of history and legacy, then nothing else would have. And every instance that I felt a new connection to something that remains so beloved to me, my sense of connection only grew more powerful as well as humbling.
I truly hope the DJs of WSUM weren't irritated by this weekend and I hope that at least some of them were even listening in because unlike so many of us DJs from the past, we never had the sense that we were being heard at all...at least I didn't have that sense. Back then, I just crafted my weekly shows for myself and hopefully for whomever was out in the world and just happened upon my show, even if it was just one soul. But now, with WSUM, these DJs are more than aware that they are not only being heard but they indeed are being listened to. And that includes being listened to by other DJs, even ones from WLHA.
For instance, I count myself as a fan of the highly popular Saturday night program "The Heavy Petting Zoo," a completely un-ironic trip to the make out music of the 1930's-1950's, and a show which just recently celebrated its 9th year on the air and is hosted by the surprisingly youthful and honey voiced sounding Grandma Cyd. I am also a big fan of the brilliantly titled Monday night program "The Study Lounge" hosted by Petey, a DJ who strikes to the heart of my musical wheelhouse and has also inspired me (often) to head straight to either I-tunes or B-Side Records on State Street to capture some new music. And in fact, the full programming diversity of WSUM has far exceeded what I ever thought a student radio station could encompass, and that is precisely why WSUM is the best station in all of Madison, as far as I am concerned.
Soon, I will draft a letter to WSUM General Manager Dave Black and Station Manager Chali Pittman requesting that the station strongly consider making the Resurrection/Reunion weekends an annual event as it does provide a powerful linkage between the present and the past, all the while working in tandem to ensure the future of this wonderful radio station. And indeed that is what this entity is. Despite the changes in call letters, locations, technology and so on, it is all one station. And I believe that it will forever be a part of me and I hope that I am able to keep doing my small part in always being a part of it. When I walk around those studios, sit in that chair behind that amazing soundboard with the vistas of Lake Mendota in the distance, I am telling you, this was the vision in my head when I sat in those funky underground WLHA studios. What exists in reality is the radio station of my dreams.
Resurrection/Reunion weekend year three? I hope it happens and if it does, count me in and let's make it even bigger than ever!!!!
Monday, July 14, 2014
THE 2ND ANNUAL WLHA RESURRECTION/REUNION WEEKEND ON WSUM-FM: DJ SAVAGE SCOTT'S PLAYLIST JULY 13, 2014
"...Let's go out and paint the town/And we could turn the world around..."
1. "Say Hello" performed by April Wine
2. "I Should've Known" performed by Aimee Mann
3. "Sweet Marie" performed by The Anniversary
4. "Animal" performed by R.E.M.
5. "The Loving" performed by XTC
6. "Last Lovers" performed by The Chamber Strings
7. "I Believe She's Lying" performed by Jon Brion
8. "Repetition" performed by The Cold And Lovely
9. "Joining A Fan Club" performed by Jellyfish
10."What Goes Boom" performed by Pixies
11. "Bread" performed by Todd Rundgren
12."Lemon Meringue" performed by Fishbone
13. "This Is Radio Clash" performed by The Clash
14. "Gimmie Something Good" performed by Ryan Adams
Saturday, July 12, 2014
Produced by Hugh Padgham and The Police
Sting: Lead and backing vocals, bass guitar, acoustic guitars, keyboards, horns
Andy Summers: Acoustic and electric guitars, piano, keyboards, vocals
Stewart Copeland: Drums, percussion, keyboards, vocals
All music and lyrics by Sting except...
"Mother" music and lyrics by Andy Summers
"Miss Grandenko" music and lyrics by Stewart Copeland
Released June 1, 1983
The Summer of 1983 was a time of transformation and milestones for me. I was 14 years old and had just completed a miserable year of 8th grade and was awaiting what would hopefully be better days to come at the dawn of high school. It was the Summer when I obtained my very first job (as a Summer school classroom assistant), as well as my Social Security card and number. It was the Summer when I experienced the epiphany of a potential collegiate future when I visited my beloved Madison, WI for the very first time. It was the Summer when Luke Skywalker brought balance to the Force, the Griswold's took their first vacation (thus quietly introducing my soul to the wit and witticisms of John Hughes), and the triumvirate of Tom Cruise, Rebecca DeMornay and Tangerine Dream completely rechristened the significance and majesty of Chicago's booming "L" trains. But, when I think back to the Summer of 1983, there is one artifact that stands so supremely tall for me, for then, as well as for now. 1983 was the Summer of "Synchronicity."
The Police's "Synchronicity," their fifth and what would ultimately become their swan song, is one of the greatest albums I have ever had the pleasure to experience within my lifetime. It is a deeply propulsive, gloriously eclectic, unapologetically experimental, instantly accessible, musically dexterous, supremely melodic, richly sophisticated and sublimely textured release that served as the culmination of the band's musical journey as well as provided a towering new peak in Sting's songwriting and produced the most luxurious fruits born from the band's legendary inter-political tensions and creative friction. The more that I have thought about that album over the years, I am amazed that it was such a high flying chart topper in the first place but such was the music scene in the early 1980's, when artistry could stand shoulder to shoulder with music industry commerce, an industry I certainly supported as I bought that album TWICE that Summer. Believe me, dear readers and listeners, I wore that album OUT!
As with many of you, I was introduced to The Police through the radio airwaves with all of the songs that are now most familiar and even iconic. Songs (and music videos) like "Roxanne," "Message In A Bottle," "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic," "Can't Stand Losing You," 'De Doo Doo Doo, De Da Da Da" and others all proved that the band could craft selections that were simultaneously idiosyncratic and instantly infectious. But, it was when I first heard a full album that I realized that The Police had opened me up to an entirely adventurous new musical world.
The first album by The Police I purchased was a copy of the band's fourth release, "Ghost In The Machine" (released October 2, 1981), mainly on a whim as I spent an afternoon browsing around the long defunct JR's Music Shop. Never will I forget the look on the record store clerk's face when I brought the cassette to the counter. He just looked at the album with the deepest of knowing gazes and then, he looked directly at me, smiled and stated with cool emphasis, "This is a reaaaaallly good record, man." While I didn't fully "get it" on first listen, the clerk's words and opinions deeply became my own very quickly as that album's storm cloud atmospherics, relentless rhythms and grooves, post punk attack and superior musicianship throughout just captured me, giving me a new musical experience and education that only made me salivate over what the band could possibly offer up next. In late May of 1983, near the end of my year in 8th grade, I would find out...
Growing up, I often found myself at the mercy of being held captive by my parents' penchant for driving around various neighborhoods as they looked at all manner of houses. While we never had any plans to move from our house (or at least, no intentions that they ever decided to share with me), there I was, trapped in the backseat, forced for seemingly endless car trips from one neighborhood to another, looking at what felt to be every single house that had ever been constructed, and then, being further forced to listen to conversations between my parents, conversations that, to my fourteen year old heart, were hopelessly banal. On one such car trip, my parents' graciously answered my prayers to at least change the radio station from the news to Chicago's WXRT-FM. Even with the distressingly low volume and radio static, I was more than thankful.
Now, as I have often written on this site, music chooses you, and I firmly believe that despite that distressingly low volume and radio static, what I soon heard came into my ears as loud and as clear as if I had the radio tuned in and turned up to my personal satisfaction. The DJ made the announcement that on that particular day, the station had just received the new single by The Police and now, they were set to premiere the selection. From the very first drumbeat to the final strains fading into the night, "Every Breath You Take" was a song that connected! It sounded so familiar yet there was nothing else that I had ever heard that sounded quite like it. I was transfixed by its melancholic beauty, its romantic urgency, and the slow burn of its intensity. To me, it felt like the perfect song. To me, "Every Breath You Take" instantly felt like a standard.
I went to school the very next day and asked if anyone else had heard it. No one I asked had experienced what I did the night before but no matter, because soon it felt as if the entire world knew what I already knew and we shared in the glory of that song together. Even so, "Every Breath You Take," as extraordinary as it was, did not fully prepare me for the experience that would be the entire musical statement of "Synchronicity, and from the very first sounds on the album, I was swept away.
Side One of "Synchronicity" begins with "Synchronicity I," which features a rapid synthetic pattern that sounds like a cross between The Who's "Baba O'Reilly" and something that would not sound out of place on a Tangerine Dream album, Stewart Copeland begins to tap the ride cymbal in perfectly accented rhythms and soon the track explodes in a propulsive yet tight as a straight-jacket frenzy. Sting enters the fray with a collection of lyrics that feels as the wide ranging opening statements for all we are about to hear. "With one breath/ With one flow/ Yo will know/Synchronicity/A sleep trance/A dream dance/ A shared romance/Synchronicity," he sings. Soon, we arrive at the breathlessly sung, multi-tracked vocal harmonies that swirl in sound, as well as with its cavalcade of lyrics and $10 dollar rhymes, like a hurricane through your speakers.
"A connecting principle
Linked to the invisible
Logic so inflexible
Nothing is invincible"
I mean, really!! Just compare those lyrics, words that express the existential states of randomness and inter-connectivity, to what you just might hear on the radio in 2014 and tell me that the top of the charts were not just better in 1983!
The album continues with the percolating "Walking In Your Footsteps," a track that continues the through the wormhole pacing of the first track albeit in a more subdued and atmospheric fashion with Andy Summers' guitars echoing Sting's lament to the long extinct dinosaurs as well as humanity's inevitable ride to oblivion. Inter-connectivity returns in "O My God," a more relaxed funk groove in which Sting instructs us to "Please take the space between us/Fill it up some way" as a means to alleviate feelings of spiritual alienation, isolation and disconnection.
Yet before any potential naysayers may feel The Police to be nothing more than a trio of arrogant high minded eggheads, we arrive with Andy Summers' contribution to this musical stew, the hysterical art-rock madness that is "Mother." This is a song that sets its blues structured lyrics, which could serve as a new theme song for the character of Buster from television's' "Arrested Development," and almost indescribable musical backdrop which features horns, a variety of percussion, and a wall of synthetics, a to Summers' maniacally unhinged vocal delivery. It just sounds like its own soundtrack to an unfilmed motion picture, a film that could be either superbly comedic or downright terrifying.
Stewart Copeland next offers his selection, "Miss Gradenko," a track of delicate precision that magically manages to contains what feels to be a mountain of music in just under two minutes combined with a sly lyrical commentary that merges lustful thoughts ("Your uniform don't seem to fit/You're much too alive in it") with more synthetic themes ("You've been letting your feelings show").
Side One concludes with "Synchronicity II," easily the album's most aggressive track, one that juxtaposes anxiety inducing suburban family tensions with sequences of life beginning and ending in the primordial ooze that rests within "a dark Scottish loch." Once again, Sting takes themes of existential randomness and inter-connectivity yet instead of the transcendence we found in "Synchronicity I," what we hear this time sounds more like the oncoming apocalypse.
From the intellectualism and even dark humor of the lyrics to the complete inventiveness and attack of the music, The Police were out to show the world that their music was equal parts brains and balls, so to speak, as it was music to serve the thrashing soul as well as the philosophical one. The whirlwind of the first side of "Synchronicity" truly feels as if the band took absolutely everything we knew about them from their four previous albums and re contextualized those elements into a combination that truly served as an evolution. Their musical influences of punk rock, reggae, jazz, pop and funk were less overt and more representative of the musical language they were building for themselves. What is truly amazing about "Synchronicity" to me is that as rambunctious as that first side is, the album increases its maturity on the second side as the experience actually grows quieter, moodier and more atmospheric as it goes.
The four songs that make up Side Two of "Synchronicity" is nothing less than a Master Class in exquisiteness and elegance. Yet, at the risk of becoming to pristine of an experience, Sting's lyrics showcase a deep turbulence as well as emotional, psychological and existential trauma and tension that gives the listener something to claw onto, lest the music itself should float away.
"Every Breath You Take" has remained as resplendent as it was when I first heard it over 30 years ago. It is truly the definition of "timeless." And certainly, that aforementioned turbulence and trauma of the track lies within the lyrical content which takes what sounds to be a love song for the ages but is actually a song of surveillance, obsession and control. It is a track of less defiantly being more. Sting's lyrics are astonishingly simple, clean, direct and profoundly economical as he finds precisely the exact words and rhymes that need to be said and absolutely nothing more. Every single word is just...RIGHT. The same goes for the musical performance in which these three supremely skilled musicians discover, and instruct the listener, that by not making the track so musically busy they actually create more emotional tension and romantic urgency. Simply stated, this track is The Police's masterpiece.
Not terribly far behind in any conceivable way is "King Of Pain," a song that perfectly captures the inner angst of any teenager listening yet also utilizes that same economy of lyrics and musical performance to essentially create a series of vignettes that speak to existential misery through a series of grotesque ("There's a King on a throne with his eyes torn out") and poetic imagery ("There's a skeleton choking on a crust of bread"). "King Of Pain" is a musical painting, which every line producing a perfect still image.
"Wrapped Around Your Finger" and "Tea In The Sahara" close the album in gloriously sophisticated style as The Police keep raising their own bar within their own album, giving themselves and the listener new heights to climb. I distinctly remember running to the dictionary to learn definitions to the language Sting was introducing me to while also being astounded that he could figure out how to get a name like "Mephistopheles" to fit so beautifully in the framework of a pop song. And as fr the musical performances, what transpires in "Tea In The Sahara" is nothing less than transportive.
Over these 31 years, The Police's "Synchronicity" is an album that continues to mesmerize, just as much as it did when I was fourteen years old. It is a testament to a time when songs were birthed with such craftsmanship, inventiveness, and strength that what was produced could stand not only the test f time but also thousands upon thousands of repeated listenings...and believe me, I have heard these songs that many times.
What was it about these three men, who could not find it within themselves to record any more albums, that they somehow found their way to making this collection of songs work so brilliantly? It is almost as if they just knew that "Synchronicity" would be the end to their collective musical story and if so, they had to give it their all. And give it their all they truly did. Sting's musical and songwriting genius cannot be overstated as he proved himself to be one of the finest of his generation. But please, we cannot understate massive influence Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland had over the musical direction of the band's music. Summers and Copeland were never mere sidemen and I would highly recommend that you dive into the respective solo careers of both musicians and then, you will easily hear how their talents not only shaped the songs that Sting wrote but how every song was representative of the trip as a whole, as a complete entity of three equal players.
"Synchronicity" is the sound of a Summer long past but also the sound that lies within the possibles of the future. This is music designed for every season and for all seasons.
I also highly recommend that you seek out the B-side selections from "Synchronicity" as any one of them could have found a spot on the album...or better yet, just merge them with what already exists and make an even longer album!
The first song, the witty, sinister and controversial "Murder By Numbers," is well known to those who originally purchased the album on cassette and the then new format of Compact Digital Discs. But if you go to You Tube, you just may find two more tracks that are even more compelling.
Andy Summers' contributes "Someone To Talk To," a pulsating tune (with Sting on saxophone) that details the dissolution of Summers' marriage. Summers sings lead vocals and unlike "Mother," it is a straightforward performance in which his less polished vocals could not have served the heartbreak any better.
Best, and darkest, of all is "Once Upon A Daydream," a hypnotic and wholly disturbing tale of love gone horribly wrong with unplanned pregnancy, murder, jail and insanity. As Sting himself sings, "This is no place for tenderness," and it is guaranteed to send chills up and down your spine.
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
"Music needs air..."
-Claire Colburn ("Elizabethtown")
When else but in the season of Summer are we able to allow the magic of music to sing upon the breezes taking those notes from us to wherever making its impact upon whomever in the unbeknownst distance? Whether you have your car windows open or the top is completely down, or whether you place speakers into your windows, Summer is a time to take whatever listening devices you have and send them out into the world for all to share and experience.
But beyond that, are there songs, artists or musicians that make you feel the season of Summer more than others? What do you listen to? What does Summer sound like to you?
While the season of Summer always tends to steer me towards music that is decidedly more guitar driven and songs that tend to run longer, I always allow the music to guide me to wherever it feels that it needs for me to be.
So far this Summer I am surprised once again as I have fund myself gravitating towards the music of R.E.M., a band that I have listened to in some capacity since the very beginning but one that I have continually increased my appreciation and love for, especially as they have officially disbanded.
What does this mean for Synesthesia this month? I am truly not sure and happily so. Like the R.E.M. albums that are currently calling to me, as if from the ether, whatever occurs on this blogsite will reach me and will hopefully reach you, inspiring you to please reach back and embrace as you all bask within these languid weeks before the leaves begin to fall again.
Let the music soar on the air and find its way to you and to me...and as always, remember to...