Radio Helsinki Listener! Before anything else, thank you for checking out the shows I have put together for Radio Helsinki.
I make radio shows twelve months a year for KCRW FM in California, so I am used to coming up with lists of tracks for all times of the year. Putting together radio shows is one of the best tasks I have ever taken on. It never gets boring, never feels like a “job” or drudgery laden obligation. That being said, without a doubt, warm weather is my favorite time of the year to make a radio show. Elevated temperature, while sometimes makes sleep difficult, I think, inspires the imagination and allows sound to bloom in the mind. While I have no information to support this idea, while it is only an opinion, I think that air in the warmer months of the year transports music better. To be succinct, I think music sounds better in warm weather.
Radio Helsinki Lister, what you have here with this particular show, is my current favorite of our shows so far. As I usually do, I am writing these notes to you as I listen to the show, and I must say, I am really enjoying it. I am willing to bet that I felt the same way about last week’s show when I was listening to it, and will feel about next week’s show. It’s not the worst contradiction to be caught in.
Our show starts with a track by the Bad Brains. At this point, I don’t think this band needs any introduction. Not only did the they have a major impact on me and others in the small Punk scene in Washington DC, where I come from, but in time, would permanently impact the world of Independent music.
The first time I saw the Bad Brains play was on June 24, 1979 at a venue called the Bayou when they opened for the Damned. If you have ever had the experience of a show truly changing the way you thought about things, you know hard to forget that can be. 1979 was a year, perhaps the year where I realized I that music, one way or another, was going to be the major element in my life that would influence anything else I would do going forward. Even if I just ended working in the same office building for the rest of my life, it was going to be a life understood through the filter of music. WARNING. GETTING TOO FAR AFIELD ALERT: Not to get too far afield, but 1979 was the year I graduated from school and was fully turned loose into the wilds of the adult world with all its risk and consequence. The only thing that had prepared me was hundreds of hours spent working minimum wage jobs that taught me well how tough things were going to be for me. Music was a primary asset in pushing back against the hard knocks I knew were coming my way. Incidentally, I was right about the knocks and right about music being the right thing to have at the ready. Anyway, this show was the first time I ever saw the Bad Brains. I knew of their existence but didn’t know what to expect when they hit stage. Absolutely nothing in my life musically prepared me for their set. I remember that they being the opening band, played in front of a crowd a fraction of the size that would greet the Damned a little over an hour later. The dance floor was basically, empty. Those who were there, for the most part, hung back. Myself, Ian MacKaye, and a few others went right up to the front and checked them out. Song after song, they seemed to reinvent music and redefine what it could be. Later, when I staggered out of the venue, two songs from their set were lodged in my mind. I didn’t know their titles at the time, but they were Why’d You Have To Go and Pay To Cum. It was the latter that was the source of our conversation as we made our way back to our cars. We simply couldn’t comprehend what had happened in the approximately two minutes that it took for the band to perform it. We didn’t understand what the singer was saying but more importantly, how he was saying it. Later that year, the band released a two song 7” with Pay To Cum and Stay Close To Me. It is this version with which we start the show. It is ninety three seconds of unbelievability.
I thought it would be perfect to go into Transmission by Joy Division right after the Bad Brains, thinking that I had to put in a song that was so good on every possible level, that it could stand up to the track that came before. There is no better band than Joy Division. There are bands absolutely as good and bands you might like better, of course but when you really consider what’s has been brought to bear over the decades of released music, Joy Division is on the same level of brilliance of any band or artist you can think of. I absolutely understand that you might disagree and that’s perfectly fine with me but we both know who’s right. This BBC version of Transmission is interesting, without the production touches of Martin Hannett or the frenzied delivery that Joy Division was unable to avoid in live performances. If you have never checked out live recordings of Joy Division, you have not heard a fraction of what this band could do. The studio albums are great. Live, from what I have been able to hear, never having actually witnessed one of their shows, the band was one of the most intense groups to have ever been on any stage anywhere. I am no expert but have heard every live Joy Division recording, authorized or otherwise, that I have been able to locate and none of them are anything less than mind-blowing.
Not to drag you through a song-by-song analysis, (which would be fun to do but I don’t seek to capitalize on your time too much) but our third track, I Am Seeing UFOs, features one of the more obscure Joey Ramone vocal performances. Joey rarely shows up on other band’s records. This was Dee Dee, an ex-bandmate but it’s a rare occurrence nonetheless. Like many of Dee Dee’s songs and Joey’s vocals, it’s a great one. The album that holds this track, Zonked, also has a song called Bad Horoscope that features a great performance by an absolute genius, one Lux Interior, another person who didn’t often stray from his own camp.
The Birthday Party, a band with no bad songs, had obvious respect for the Stooges. At different times, covered Loose and Fun House with some frequency, but from my collection of live tapes, included a live version of Little Doll from the Stooges’ first album far less times. I have been able to find one time the band performed this song and wow is it a great version. I thought we should check it out.
I don’t know if you noticed, but there are a lot of bands from Australia in this batch of tunes. No specific reason besides that it would seem that every third person in Australia happens to be in a band and is really good. The last time I was there, in September of last year, I found so many records, Road Manager Ward had to get an extra suitcase to get them back to Los Angeles. Not old records, although I found a few, but new music by bands that are happening right now. Ever since I started making trips to Australia in 1989, I have been continually knocked out by the sheet tonnage of great music that consistently comes out of there. If you at all like any of the Australian tunes you’re hearing on this show, please explore further. I promise you a break from so much Australian songs next week but will warn you that we will be once again dipping into the canon of Dee Dee Ramone.
As I write this to you, I am on location, working on a television show. It’s a night off, which is useful, considering the last two days were fight scenes that took hours to complete. I have been in a lot of them while working on shows over the years and have learned a few things so I don’t get too dented up but nonetheless, getting knocked around is part of it and I am feeling it today. I am using music as pain relief. Works every time.
I don’t know about you but listening to music never gets boring and rarely a day goes by where I don’t get something listened to. Few things in life work as well. I hope you dig these tunes. Next week’s show is all done and delivered. Please tune in if you can.
01. Bad Brains - Pay To Cum / single
02. Joy Division – Transmission / BBC Recordings
03. Dee Dee Ramone - I Am Seeing UFOs
04. Egg Hunt - Me And You / Egg Hunt
05. Unrest - Cath Carroll / Perfect Teeth
06. Ty Segall - The Crawler / Manipulator
07. Birthday Party - Little Doll / November 06 1981 Eindhoven Holland
08. Russell Street Bombings - Give Us Away / Russell Street Bombings
09. X Ray Spex - I Can’t Do Anything / Germ Free Adolescents
10. Eddie Gale - Black Rhythm Happening / Black Rhythm Happening
11. Frank Zappa & The Mothers Of Invention – WPLJ / Burnt Weeny Sandwich
12. The Julie Ruin - I Decide / Hit Reset
13. Teen Idles - Trans Am / Dischord 100
14. Antelope - Wandering Ghost / Reflector
15. Minced Meat - The World’s Got Everything In It / Leather Donut
16. The Mark of Cain - Walk Away / Ill at Ease
17. King Tubby & Soul Syndicate - King Tubby’s Key / Freedom Sounds In Dub
18. Straight Arrows – Breakdown / Rising
19. Dinosaur Jr.- Tiny / Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not
20. Buzzcocks - Whatever Happened To / Singles Going Steady
21. Ex-Cult - Hollywood Heatseeker / Negative Growth
22. Arndales - Holiday Inns / Dog Hobbies USA
23. Terry - Tippy Toppy / single
24. Ausmuteants - Freedom of Information / Order of Operation
25. Supersystem - White Light / White Light / A Million Microphones
26. Wand - M.E. / Golem
27. Scott Walker - Next / Scott 2
28. The Panik - Modern Politics / Short Sharp Shock
29. Butch Willis & the Rocks - The TV’s From Outer Space / Repeats
30. Kraftwerk – Dentaku / Computer World
31. Puce Mary - Everything Stays the Same / Success