Kill Me Tomorrow/Tender Buttons
The Who “A Quick One/Happy Jack”: This was seriously the first “music” record I ever listened to (i.e. not a children’s “book and record”). My mother owned a copy and I would play “Boris the Spider” ad nauseam. This whole album is folded into the oldest creases of my brain. I re-discovered this one at a pawnshop style used CD store about 6 years ago in Portland, Oregon. It was a really early CD. Not the one available now with the extra tracks and all that. I took it home, got drunk, put it in the stereo and once “So Sad About Us” came on I blubbered like a small child. This is an album I can’t bear to listen to in the presence of other people (an honor shared by Nico’s “Chelsea Girls”, which I unfortunately hear with great frequency in public these days since some dick put it on the soundtrack to a movie everyone seems to like). “Moon the Loon’s” drumming became very, very important once I took up the sticks.
Skinny Puppy “Cleanse Fold and Manipulate”: I bought this on cassette at a skateboard shop that also sold music in Portland, Oregon when I was maybe . . . 14? I still own the cassette and, remarkably, it still works. I had never heard anything like it before. It was the most amazing thing I had ever listened to. It was like classical music produced by electronic demons. It was the soundtrack of our world going to hell. It was beautiful. I still listen to Skinny Puppy several times a week when I’m at home. Nobody will let me play them in the van. That’s fine. Skinny Puppy were one of the most amazing bands ever, hands down. I’m happy to listen to them alone.
Public Enemy “Fear of a Black Planet”: I didn’t like “rap music” growing up (we didn’t call it hip-hop back then). I thought Run DMC were silly and annoying and the Beastie Boys were dumb jocks who were even worse than Run DMC. I’ve since changed my opinion, but at the time . . . When I first heard this Public Enemy album I thought, “Shit, these guys must be into Skinny Puppy.” I kind of doubt that now, but there are a lot of similarities in the music and I’m sure they share a lot of influences. It’s another soundtrack of our world going to hell that is beautiful, but sadder because you can understand what these guys are saying most of the time and sadder still because they can be funny about it. One of the most brilliant records ever written or recorded. Everything about it is perfect.
Art of Noise “In Visible Silence”: I can’t even remember how I got into the Art of Noise. I think I had the cassette ep they did with Max Headroom and decided to check out their other stuff because of it. This was before I heard Skinny Puppy. They were the first band to make me feel like I was listening to music from the future. They were the first band to make me think, “rock music is dead”. I actually made up stories about the Art of Noise to my one or two friends I had at the time. What the Art of Noise looked like, how they made their music, the strange ways they lived and went about things on a day-to-day basis . . . I really had no fucking idea. Their records honestly seemed like they came back to where I was through a hole in time from some distant point in the future. I had no way to find out anything about them, but I was obsessed with them and wanted to talk about them to people, so I just made it all up. This album sounds rather “quaint” now, but I still fucking love it and think it’s amazing. DJ Shadow’s first one never could have existed without this record. Hard to imagine Aphex Twin without the Art of Noise coming first either.
Falco “3”: I love Falco. I have piles of his cassettes. Every time I see a copy of this particular one at a thrift store, I buy it just for another back-up. I’ve got quite a few, really. I want more. I’d like to have a wall of them. It was also the first album I ever heard on a CD. A friend of mine’s parents were the first ones on our block to get one of those new-fangled CD player thangs and he went right out and bought Falco “3” so he could blast it after school until they got home from work. I re-discovered this album at a thrift store in Corvallis, Oregon in 1998, and decided to make a four-track cover of “Rock Me Amadeus”. Two days later Falco was killed in a car accident. I decided after that maybe I shouldn’t finish the cover and have since tried to stick to covering songs by people who are already dead (although KMT and TB have been pretty bad about following that little rule). He was the first guy I ever dug who sang in another language. People think he’s silly now, if they think of him at all, but just listen to how badass the music and the production on this album is. It’s fucking amazing. This was way before Pro Tools was even so much as a glimmer in some hacker geek’s optic nerve. And his vocals . . . shit, he sounds just like Lou Reed or Mark E. Smith half the time and everyone thinks they’re cool. I love Falco. He is honestly the #1 primary influence on my own singing. His delivery was so great the fact I can’t understand him most of the time doesn’t matter. I don’t speak German, but have always wanted to produce that “foreign effect” because of Falco, so I try to make English sound like a language you can’t understand. I’m a monotone mumbler, generally, so it hasn’t been too hard.
Slim Gaillard “Opera en Vout”: My father had this on a 10”. Very, very, very old record. My father has some amazing old jazz records. I listened to it all the time when I was little. I wanted it on cassette, but obviously it didn’t exist on cassette, so I went to my father’s work with him after hours and made a layout from the record on a Xerox machine for my own “cassette bootleg” cover. I went through a ton of my old tapes, recording the record onto each of them until I found one where it fit perfectly with the complete album on each side and the least amount of blank space at the ends. I took the winning cassette and scratched all the printing off of it with steel wool so it was just that nice off-white, grayish color, made a sticker from the record art with the same Xerox machine and some glue and stuck it on there. I still have that tape I made of this record. My father found a Slim Gaillard CD compilation with the same cover art (that also includes “Opera en Vout”) and sent it to me a few birthdays ago. I guess this is all about me . . . Sorry. What does Slim Gaillard sound like? Slim Gaillard is the sound of mad radiant joy, ecstatically channeled through music. He made up his own languages to sing (long before “Sigor Ros”). He played the piano with the backs of his hands and guitar at the same time. He sang about getting wasted on Scotch and made it sound like an activity so innocent and pure you’d consider mixing it with breast milk in a bottle and feeding it to a baby. He was a complete lunatic. His music is Holy.
Kate Bush “Hounds of Love”: “Running Up that Hill” is probably the most amazing song in the world. Kate produced it all by herself in her own studio. She didn’t really perform anymore at that point, I don’t think. She just made fucked up records. Music like this makes me want to do nothing but make music for the rest of my life and quit trying to ever make music again at the same time. Kate Bush is a genius. She has one of the most wildly violent, haunting and beautiful voices ever wielded by anyone . . . ever. It must be what the sirens who led Greek seafarers to their deaths sounded like. She is one of the few true originals. Nobody can touch Kate. This is one of the few records I own on cassette, vinyl and CD. Only other releases I own like that are Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Welcome to the Pleasuredome” and another album I’m getting to next . . .
Roxy Music “For Your Pleasure”: This is the third album I own in all three of those formats. It’s actually better than their first self-titled one. This is another “perfect” album, in my opinion. Down to the last detail of the artwork and packaging. It is a masterpiece. It is, indeed, for your pleasure. Maybe mine more than yours, but whatever . . . One of the first bands I ever got into on my own, around fourth grade or so, was Duran Duran. I worshipped them. When I first heard Roxy Music I thought, “Damn, Duran Duran are a bunch of fucking Roxy Music hacks!” (now I know they were also Japan and Chic hacks, but that’s another story and I still think Duran Duran are a pretty fucking good time, despite their shortcomings). Roxy Music is the real deal. It’s a shame the Brian’s couldn’t get along. It would have gotten even better instead of worse.
The Residents “The Big Bubble”: I guess I must have a thing for singers that make up words and singers I can’t understand. This album is the epitome of the whole “I can’t understand it” deal that’s always appealed to me so much. I was given a dub of this by a philosophy professor who worked at the college where my mother also worked. He was pals with my mom and loved music. She told him her son was quite a music fan, so he proposed swapping recordings. I made him tapes of a bunch of Skinny Puppy, the Dead Milkmen, the Accused and a ton of other shit. He recorded me Lords of the New Church, Dead Kennedys, Blancmange, King Crimson and this Residents album. I liked it all, but if the Art of Noise were like music from the future, this was music from another dimension. I had simply never heard anything so strange, frightening, funny and beautiful. I had trouble listening to it in the dark when I was alone. At points it seriously scared me enough to run and turn all the lights back on. I have this on both cassette and CD now. If somebody wants to send me the vinyl, I’d be much obliged.
Sex Pistols “Never Mind the Bollocks”: This one is a no-brainer. Now keep bearing in mind that I grew up in a small town in Oregon during the 80’s (how that couldn’t be in the forefront of your mind, if you’ve gotten this far, I can’t imagine). I had heard of “punk”, but I didn’t know what it was. I had never seen one. I had never seen a picture of one. I knew nothing about punk, but I liked it. I had my Art of Noise cassettes at this point. I imagined punk must be something like Depeche Mode, but much more violent and cruel. I just didn’t know. Nobody knew. The hardest, scariest things the older kids in my town who were “rebels” listened to were Ozzy, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. I didn’t really care for that stuff, but figured maybe punk was a bit more like that than Depeche Mode. I really wasn’t that far off, but definitely wasn’t ready for what I got. I finally received, through some out of town friend or another, what was probably a fifth or sixth generation dub of “Never Mind the Bollocks”. “Finally!” I thought to myself. “Punk rock!” I put it on and played it. It was much quieter than a real cassette and the music was buried in hiss, but that just added to the mystery. “This is good!” I thought. It was catchier and less threatening than I imagined it was going to be. A lot of it sounded like the Who, really. But the vocals . . . they were so ridiculous. I loved them. The words were sheer poetry. I loved them. The songs were so bouncy and simple and fun. I loved them. It made pubescent rebellion into some kind of Monty Pythonesque cartoon (my father was also big on British humor programs). I loved them. I loved the Sex Pistols and I figured at that point I was probably a punk, whatever that was. Later on I heard Crass and Black Flag . . .
Velvet Underground “Velvet Underground and Nico”: This one is another sort of no-brainer and it’s almost sad to put it last, but here it is. By the time I heard this I was well into adolescent “punkhood” and pretty much devoured every shitty hardcore band nearby Portland had to offer. I had learned how to ride the bus the city (a two-hour trip, one way) and how to find out about the shows, so I was pretty much there all the time, “being punk”. I had to have all the new local stuff. Poison Idea, Cryptic Slaughter, Oily Bloodmen, Last Pariahs, Wermacht, Dead Conspiracy, Resist etc. etc. Collected a lot of shitty demo tapes and 7”s they sold at better “punk-friendly” record stores and all that. I had never really given much thought to “what came before punk?” I didn’t really care. Then a friend in another small town played me this album and I said, “Hey, this is pretty good. Who’s this?” “Velvet Underground,” he said. “I like this,” I said. “When did it come out?” “Long time ago,” he said, and let me look at the cover. Shit! 1967! I couldn’t believe it. That’s older than I am! That’s as old as the fucking Beatles! How the hell did they do this all the way back then? How the hell did they even come up with this music in the first place? How the hell did they do this before PUNK? It was the first time I decided maybe I should start looking backwards a little more thoroughly. I suppose I’m doing that again right now . . .
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