10 ALBUMS, 10 DAYS: GORILLA

Bonzogorilla

And so we come to the final entry in the 10 Albums, 10 Days series. And I’m going to cap it with the beginning of a lifelong love.

I have two musical loves that prompt scratches of the head and bemused horror from the majority of those I encounter: I could have gone with Tom Lehrer’s magnificent An Evening Wasted With… here, but he only recorded three albums, and while I love him (much to Luscious’ chagrin, I can now perform an a capella version of Poisoning Pigoens in the Park with no less than three sons), my love for him is an ordinary one, without the element of weird that comes with loving the Bonzo the Dog Doo-Dah Band.

The Bonzos are something special… and something special.

Continue reading “10 ALBUMS, 10 DAYS: GORILLA”

10 ALBUMS, 10 DAYS: TUBULAR BELLS

Tubular Bells

When I was young, music happened in three-minute bursts. It involved someone complaining about their love life, or lack of it, or death of it, or all three, over a frenetic bashing of drums. Guitars, and possibly keyboards, accompanied, unless Big Pig were on the radio, in which case MOAR DRUMS! And it all happened in between the false chockablockofstockcockrock bletherings of the smug twats who somehow got jobs at the local FM radio station.

Then I watched The Exorcist.

As well as being the single scariest goddamn thing I have ever seen, it featured some, frankly, creepy-as-fuck music that I needed to hear again. And lo, I was told that it came from an album by a would-you-believe-he-was-only-nineteen-when-he-did-it genius, and lo, my local music shop had a copy.

And that’s when I began to understand that music could be about immersion. That lyrics were an addition, not a given. That you could close your eyes, plant your headphones onto your ears, and sink into a journey. I have never quite engaged with ‘classical’ music. But here was music made within my zeitgeist, with instruments and arrangements that were recognisably of my time, that took the tenets of older musical forms and translated them into a form that was at once familiar and challenging to my barely-formed musical sensibility.

Tubular Bells is still the album I play when I want to lie back in the bath, eyes closed, and simply float away. It’s still the tether I tie my consciousness to when I need to rise above everything and see which way the winds of my unconscious are blowing. It’s my first journey, and my most meaningful. I have developed a deep and abiding love of the concept album over the years: Alice Cooper, David Bowie, Jeff Wayne, and countless others loom large in my musical karass. But this is the album around which they all circle, the one that most fully encapsulates that sense of narrative that I love, because it supplies the tools and I write the narrative, and that is still, thirty-five years later, the purest and most exhilarating of drugs.

 

10 ALBUMS, 10 DAYS: PRINCE CHARMING

Prince Charming

Honestly, everything you need to know about the impact this album had on me as a kid is summed up by that cover image.

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know what a bogan reservation Rockingham was in the 1980s. Imagine being trapped in that environment. Imagine having the shit kicked out of you on a very regular basis by the knuckle-dragging bogan ditch-digger-to-be that surround you. Imagine not having the tools–physical or verbal– to mount any form of sustained defence, or escape. Imagine knowing, somewhere in your bones, that you simply don’t belong. Imagine not being able to pin down why you feel that way, not being able to define the artistic and creative stirrings that have yet to find voice but which will slowly and surely come to forge the path that you’ll take to claw your way out of that environment.

Then imagine this album dropping into your Christmas stocking. Imagine the first flickering of light in the back of your mind, the first moment of ‘ahhhhh!’.

Nothing sounded like Adam and the Ants. Nothing. And nothing looked like them, either. Oh, there were other new romantic bands, don’t get me wrong. But nobody with the commitment. Nobody with the elan. And just when everybody had grown used to the banderos/rancheros look and sound Adam had perfected over the preceding years, he disappeared. And returned 12 months later, looking like this.

My. Head. Exploded. So many things I could not verbalise, could barely define, sprung into focus. Later, I would encounter Bowie, and T-Rex. Madonna would rise through popular culture. I would come to love, and study, and understand film, and the way an actor can shed and inhabit skin after skin after skin. But this album– and, it should be pointed out that much of the music on it is not particularly good– was my first chameleonic moment. I caught a glimpse of something that has underpinned so much of my psychology, and certainly my art, ever since– you don’t have to be anywhere forever. You don’t have to be anyone forever.

The music has receded, but the lesson has remained, and for that– and the sense of eventual release it presaged– I will remain grateful.

10 ALBUMS, 10 DAYS: FLOOD

Flood

Picked up on a whim in a Subiaco market CD shop in the early 90s, after hearing only one They Might Be Giants song, this is the album that spawned a nearly-thirty year love affair. I’d never heard anything so quirky, so individual, and so delightfully obtuse before. Here was a large slice of my humour, and my thought processes, set to music. After my first wife died, I went on a comfort spending spree: along with enough KFC to seriously damage my health, and an obsession for Terry Pratchett books that lasted the better part of three years and led to a fast, sharp, deepening of my nascent relationship with Luscious (a story for another time), I took my credit card and internet connection to the music store, filling out my collection from their first album right through to Mink Car in a matter of months.

Continue reading “10 ALBUMS, 10 DAYS: FLOOD”

10 ALBUMS, 10 DAYS: THE BEATLES

White Album

Let’s be honest: it’s not the best Beatles album. It’s not even got many of their best songs on it. It doesn’t have my favourite Beatles song (I could give you ten guesses, and you still wouldn’t guess what that is). But it is, by some margin, the oddest album the Beatles ever released, and it is the first Beatles album I ever listened to in its entirety.

Continue reading “10 ALBUMS, 10 DAYS: THE BEATLES”

10 ALBUMS, 10 DAYS: THE HISTORIES OF PLINY THE ELDER

Goon Show

This is the album that started it all. The writing career, the comedy work, the cartooning. The desire to perform, to amuse, to cast off the mantle of ordinariness and stand outside.

Eight years old, I received my first science fiction book. And deep in the back of my parents’ record collection, I discovered an oddity given to them as an emigration present by friends I don’t recall ever having met. This album. Not even music. Strange voices, spouting nonsense at a million miles an hour. By the time the Britons challenged the invading Romans to a game of football (“And another thing. You’re only allowed 11 men. I’ve counted 693 on my own so far!” “All right, I’ll send one off.”) I was intrigued. By the time Caesar ruled Briton with an iron fist, then with a wooden leg, and finally, with a piece of string, I was hooked. By the time the escaped slaves made their way to the hidden sewers beneath the Via Appia, known in the army as the famous Appia Pipe, I was addicted.

I turned the record over, and listened to the hunt for the terrible batter pudding hurler that terrified Britain (“We’ve tracked him to North Africa.” “We’ve got him cornered!”). Turned it back again. And again. Got told to play something else. Played it again, and again, and again over the years.

When my parents’ marriage imploded, and they separated, I hid the album. It was mine, now. The hell with them. I was the one who loved it. I collected more, studiously scouring through second-hand LP shops until I found each increasingly-rare prize. It kicked off a long-term hobby– collecting comedy albums on LP (never cassette, or CD, only LP)– that continued right up until the point I no longer had a player to play them on. I bought books on the Goons; copied scripts; followed their individual careers obsessively; hurried home on Saturday mornings to lie in bed at noon with my boom box turned to Radio National to catch the re-broadcasts that had been going since the 1950s, fingers hovering over the play and record buttons on the tape deck; practiced the voices; stole the jokes; performed scripts to a tape recorder with like-minded friends….. in short, the Goon Show became a cornerstone of my life. It still is.

At my very first Swancon, at my very first Swancon dinner, I made a pair of lifetime pals, sitting at the end of the table, telling each other that he fallen in de water and it must be hell in dere (Waves: Hi, Jay! Hi, Todd!). A couple of years later, I co-wrote a fan production, The Goon, Goon Hills of Earth, with the multi-talented Dave Luckett and performed it with a cast at another Swancon. 40 years later, I still listen, still laugh until tears come, still think they are the greatest comedy ensemble to ever walk the Earth. Because of this album, when I was eight.

 

Love at first sight. It exists.