Unreality Check #12: The Second Playlist

As I continue querying (is anybody out there?) I spend time between letters putting together a ‘soundtrack’ for ‘Unreality.’ I’m happy at this point to unveil the second of four I plan to complete. This list was inspired by the second quarter of the book, in which the stage has already been set and the madness ahead begins to reveal itself.

Some of the selections are based on the narrative, so playing it in order makes sense. But ALL are based on the tone and themes and I’ve found that shuffle also creates an enjoyable ride.

This list starts with Humble Pie (also featured on the first…can you really have too much ’Pie!?) and ends with early-2000s Sacramento metalcore heroes Catherine. Artists tickling your ears in between range from DNCE to Slayer, with Anderson .Paak, Biggie (x2), DJ Shadow w/Run The Jewels, Ministry, and many more pouring out of your speakers before the ride is over.

At 50 songs (~3.5 hrs) long it’s perfect for your next house cleaning, poker game, pool party, barbecue, or smoke sesh. Listen today. Listen again tomorrow!

Unreality Check #7: Led Zeppelin 4.1 (via ‘Badmotorfinger’)

Have there ever been four better songs to start an album than ‘Rusty Cage’, ‘Outshined’, ‘Slaves & Bulldozers’, and ‘Jesus Christ Pose,’ the opening quartet from Soundgarden’s ‘Badmotorfinger’?

My suspicion when I first asked the question was that there were likely a multitude of alternatives that were as good, but none that were better. That feeling is still generally intact.

‘Takin’ a Ride,” ‘Careless,’ ‘Customer,’ and ‘Hangin’ Downtown’ from the Replacements’ ‘Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash’ was the first alternative candidate offered. Undeniably great, and at least as visceral, but missing a certain depth.

From the complete opposite end of the rock spectrum came Rush with ‘Moving Pictures’ and ‘Tom Sawyer,’ ‘Red Barchetta,’ ‘YYZ,’ and ‘Limelight.’ Definitely deep and retaining great human feeling and songcraft despite the technical prowess on display, it fell solidly into the “as good” column.

The Stones got a nod with ‘Brown Sugar,’ ‘Sway,’ ‘Wild Horses,’ and ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,’ from ‘Sticky Fingers’ (probably my favorite album of theirs). I guess this works. But only if you like ‘Wild Horses.’ It’s always driven me to distraction. I find the melody unimaginative and the bulk of the lyrics cliched; neither in a way that qualifies it for ‘simple beauty.’ But to each their own.

‘Welcome to the Jungle,’ ‘It’s So Easy,’ ‘Nightrain,’ and ‘Out Ta Get Me,’ from Guns n’ Roses genre-resurrecting debut ‘Appetite for Destruction’ was another completely legit contender and also likely rises to the level of as good.

It was when someone proposed the first four from Led Zeppelin’s fourth, however, that the dialogue took its first real twist. To my estimation Side 1’s ‘Black Dog’ and ‘Rock n’ Roll’ were held back by ‘Battle of Evermore’ and ‘Stairway to Heaven.’ On this basis I suggested ‘IV’ would make a better Last Four Songs candidate (‘Misty Mountain Hop,’ ‘Four Sticks,’ ‘Going to California,’ ‘When The Levee Breaks’) than First.

After some back and forth, my interlocutor and I came up with an alternative track listing and created a stronger version of the album. I present ‘Led Zeppelin 4.1’: ‘Black Dog,’ ‘Rock n’ Roll,’ ‘Misty Mountain Hop,’ ‘Levee’ // ‘Four Sticks,’ ‘Battle of Evermore,’ ‘California,’ ‘Stairway.’ It’s majesty and might are inescapable.

The last word on the Best First Four topic occurred when ‘Abbey Road’ was thrown into the ring. First of all, I consider it the greatest rock album ever, and holding that accolade should disqualify it from the lesser category discussed here. Then there’s the fact that it’s essentially one piece of music, none of which can be disentangled from the rest.

But this is the stuff music conversations are made of, and I’m happier than ever that I asked!

Unreality Check (#3)

‘To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth,’ released in 1997, is Swedish metal band Entombed’s fourth album. It was a step away from the band’s death metal roots, providing the cornerstone for the then-nascent metal subgenre, death n’ roll (yes, a blend of rock n’ roll and death metal).

Most fans would choose one of the three albums that preceded it as their favorite Entombed record, but ‘Too Ride…’ has a special hold on me. It was the soundtrack of my first trip to Rio de Janeiro. Rio in 1997 was better than Rio even three years earlier, but it was still a place where it was never clear who the bad guys were and in which nightclub madness could turn into actual chaos in the blink of an eye. Gunfire rang from the favellas well into the night and police sweeps of Copacabana were non-stop once the sun went down.

‘Too Ride…’s’ overdriven everything, nearly continuous swing, and lyrics focused on the perpetual struggle for sanity (or at least peace) made the perfect musical accompaniment for a new visitor to a society on the edge. Vocalist LG Petrov didn’t write the words he sang, but he delivered them with such unfettered disgust, amazement, and ferocity that they were inescapable.

LG died today, taken at age 49 by bile duct cancer. He was a unique and striking personality in a genre full of them. But I have ‘Too Ride…’ forever. And the journey’s just getting started.

—–

So it looks like everyone’s cool with Marilyn Mansion getting cancelled. Let’s use that common ground to build something. You know where to reach me. #bipartisanship

—–

When Trump backed COVID relief legislation it was urgently needed aid that got broad support from both sides of the aisle, but now that it’s Democrats it doesn’t even merit consideration. How can anyone take the GOP seriously? That’s a real question.

‘Strum Sum Up’ turns 13

dUg Pinnick’s ‘Strum Sum Up’ solo album turned 13 over the weekend. It’s one of those albums that everyone who participated in its creation looks back on fondly, a true testament to musical community. To mark the event, please enjoy this excerpt from ‘What You Make it: The Authorized Biography of Doug Pinnick.’

Rex Brown [Pantera] was excited to play bass on the record but had to pull out at the last minute. He felt terrible about it, having long wanted to work with Doug. With Brown unavailable, Doug’s former tech, Kolby McKinney suggested he check out Big Wreck’s Dave Henning. Doug had never seen Henning play, but had heard people raving about his 12-string prowess for a while. McKinney kept pushing and Doug finally picked up the phone and called Henning, who agreed to come to Blacksound Studio.

When Henning showed up, however, there was one thing missing…his bass!

“Hey man, did you bring your bass?” Doug asked, thinking maybe he’d just left it in the hallway. 

“No,” said Henning, “I just thought I’d come over and we could talk.”

“No man, we’re tracking!” laughed Doug incredulously.

Wally, Parnin, dUg, and Henning

Michael Parnin produced ‘Strum Sum Up’ and worked at a pace that made even the efficient processes established with Michael Wagener seem slow in comparison, aided by his ProTools mastery.

When Henning showed up without his bass Parnin pointed and said “there’s a bass right over there against the wall. It’s a piece of shit, but play it.”

Henning plugged into an old SVT amp and cranked it up as the rest of the guys, with Kellii Scott [Failure] on drums, broke into ‘Coming Over,’ including the jam. By the time they reached the end, there was no doubt: this was the band.

Protest 100: Business Machines – ‘Biggest Little Whore House in Texas’

https://businessmachines.bandcamp.com/track/biggest-little-whore-house-in-texas

Artist:          Business Machines 

Song:           Biggest Little Whore House in Texas

Album:        Almost Automatic

Engineered/Mixed: Steve Albini

Label:          (self-released)

Year:           2003

Notes:
Here’s what frontman Lucas Juarez has to say about the current state of affairs:

Excerpt from ‘Unreality’
People with more specialized platforms—law enforcement officials, garbage men, bus drivers, etc.—were compensated more for whatever role they felt comfortable playing.

Drunken business men
On a drinking binge
On the company dime
Mama I ain’t lying

Energy companies
On their knees
Bankruptcy
But you know them CEOs will be OK
Man, fuck Ken Lay

If you wanna strap money from poor people
Texas is the place to be

I saw this rich motherfucker on the tv
Saying that he needed a little more money
Well that shit ain’t funny
I hope someone comes and takes all your shit
And then they turn around and then they fuck you over

I saw this one motherfucker on the TV
Saying that he needed a little more money
Well that shit ain’t funny
When you spend your whole life working for the man
Then he turns around and fucks you up the ass!

 —

‘Protest 100’s mission is two-fold: dispelling the myth that heavy metal is a brainless, socially unaware music genre, and raising awareness of the issues facing our country in the Nov. 3, 2020 election. The path won’t be exclusively metal—some punk and rap and other stuff will be in here too, including the classics—and is not a ranking. All songs are songs I’ve heard while putting this list together, ordered in a manner designed to entertain and educate.

Protest 100: Creedence Clearwater Revival – ‘Fortunate Son’

Artist:          Creedence Clearwater Revival 

Song:           Fortunate Son

Album:        Willie and the Poor Boys

Producer:    John Fogerty

Label:          Fantasy

Year:           1969

Notes:
Pres. Trump has been blasting CCR’s ‘Fortunate Son’ as walk on music during his campaign. Its use works like a charm, highlighting the limited comprehension, scofflaw tendencies, and general trollishness that have been highlights of his time in office. Its use has continued despite John Fogerty’s requests that it stop.

Fogerty’s initial response came in a September video.”I wrote the song back in 1969 at the height of the Vietnam War,” Fogerty said in the video, as reported by Insider.com “By the time I wrote the song, I had already been drafted and had served in the military. And I’ve been a lifelong supporter of our guys and gals in the military, probably because of that experience, of course.”

Fogerty continued in his video, saying: “Back in those days, we still had a draft, and something I was very upset about was the fact that people of privilege, in other words, rich people, or people that had position, could use that to avoid the draft and not be taken into the military. I found that very upsetting that such a thing could occur, and that’s why I wrote ‘Fortunate Son.'”

He then noted the song’s opening verses: “Some folks are born, made to wave the flag / Ooh, their red, white, and blue / And when the band plays ‘Hail to the Chief’ / Ooh, they point the cannon at you.”

In his video, Fogerty compared the beginning lines of “Fortunate Son” to Trump using federal agents to remove protesters from a June demonstration at Lafayette Square in Washington, DC, so he could stand in front of St. John’s Church and hold up a Bible for a photo opportunity.

“It’s a song I could’ve written now, so I find it confusing, I would say, that the president has chosen to use my song for his political rallies, when in fact, it seems like he is probably the fortunate son,” Fogerty said, ending the video.

Trump received multiple deferments that helped allow him to avoid service in the Vietnam War.

The song hasn’t lost an ounce of its edge. I’ve included a couple of my favorite covers at the end of the post (though nothing matches the intensity of the original).

Excerpt from ‘Unreality’
People with more specialized platforms—law enforcement officials, garbage men, bus drivers, etc.—were compensated more for whatever role they felt comfortable playing.

Lyrics:
Some folks are born made to wave the flag
Ooh, they’re red, white and blue
And when the band plays “Hail To The Chief”
Ooh, they point the cannon at you, Lord

It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no senator’s son, son
It ain’t me, it ain’t me; I ain’t no fortunate one, no
Some folks are born silver spoon in hand
Lord, don’t they help themselves, oh

But when the taxman comes to the door
Lord, the house looks like a rummage sale, yes
It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no millionaire’s son, no, no
It ain’t me, it ain’t me; I ain’t no fortunate one, no
Yeah!

Some folks inherit star spangled eyes
Ooh, they send you down to war, Lord
And when you ask them, “How much should we give?”
Ooh, they only answer, “More! More! More!” Yo

It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no military son, son
It ain’t me, it ain’t me; I ain’t no fortunate one, one
It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no fortunate one, no no no
It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no fortunate son, no no no

 —

‘Protest 100’s mission is two-fold: dispelling the myth that heavy metal is a brainless, socially unaware music genre, and raising awareness of the issues facing our country in the Nov. 3, 2020 election. The path won’t be exclusively metal—some punk and rap and other stuff will be in here too, including the classics—and is not a ranking. All songs are songs I’ve heard while putting this list together, ordered in a manner designed to entertain and educate.

‘Faith Hope Love’ turns 30!

‘Faith Hope Love,’ the album that arguably came closest to breaking King’s X to a mainstream audience, was released 30 years ago today. By early 1991 ‘It’s Love’ was in regular rotation on MTV and the band was booked to tour both the US and Europe as support for AC/DC. Megaforce’s work at radio also finally was starting to pay off, Atlantic taking the foundation they’d built and getting full rock airplay for the band.

Take time to listen to this now-classic record today and read about its creation in ‘What You Make It: The Authorized Biography of Doug Pinnick.’

You can also watch a full set of the band’s performance on the road with AC/DC at the end the post.

Excerpt from ‘What You Make It’
King’s X returned to Rampart Studios for ‘Faith Hope Love.’ ‘Moanjam’ was one of the first songs recorded. It was 10 years old and had no words to it. Doug would simply hum the melody. The bass line prompted Doug to refer to it as the band’s “Motorhead song,” while the drum beat lent a gospel tone. Doug’s vocal approach came from the church as well: moaning the melody to a crescendo the way he remembered the singers on Sunday doing when they really wanted to punch things up, then bringing it back down to hook the audience.

When the band decided it should go on the record, Doug felt compelled to add lyrics. Not sure what to write he started with “I want to sing this song for you.” He knew it could be about a person or people but, with the subsequent references to glory, just as easily about God, and ended up penning an unintentional praise chorus.

Protest 100: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – ‘Ohio’

Artist:          Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Song:           Ohio

Album:        So Far (1974, greatest hits)

Producer:    Bill Halverson

Label:          Atlantic

Year:           1970

Notes:
The Ohio National Guard opened fire on a crowd of students protesting the Vietnam War on the campus of Kent State University, May 4, 1970. The more than 60 rounds discharged killed four, paralyzed one, and left eight others wounded. Neil Young wrote ‘Ohio’ after seeing images of the scene in the next issue of Life magazine. It was recorded live on May 21, 1970, and released in June, despite the Graham Nash-penned ‘Teach Your Children’ (itself only released that May) still climbing the charts.

Pop-culture historian and journalist David Bianculli told The Cleveland (Ohio) Plain Dealer in 2010: “It was the quickest and best reaction to Kent State, with Neil Young acting as 50% songwriter and 50% journalist. And nobody stopped to think, ‘What will this do to our other hit? What will this do to our image? What will the advertisers think?’ They just thought, ‘This is important and needs to be on the air.’”

Bianculli continued: “After the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, you felt kind of helpless as a young person. It seemed that when someone had your voice, that voice was silenced, usually by violence. Then you have Kent State, and college kids are actually fired upon. And when you just might start to be thinking, you don’t dare have a voice or there is no voice, from the radio comes this voice of solidarity and outrage. It wasn’t just a pop song.”

A live version of ‘Ohio’ was released on 1971’s ‘4 Way Street.’ You can hear it at the end of the post.

Excerpt from ‘Unreality’  —
Oklahoma statute no longer prohibited such an establishment. But Johnson had been around the block enough times to realize that one of two things would seal the place’s fate: the busybodies would rise from their couches to close any legal loopholes, or some fool would shoot himself or somebody else.

Lyrics:
Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming
We’re finally on our own
This summer I hear the drumming
Four dead in Ohio

Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are cutting us down
Should have been done long ago
What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground?
How can you run when you know?

Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are cutting us down
Should have been done long ago
What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?

Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming
We’re finally on our own
This summer I hear the drumming
Four dead in Ohio
Four dead in Ohio (four dead)
Four dead in Ohio (four)
Four dead in Ohio
Four dead in Ohio (how many more?)
Four dead in Ohio (why?)
Four dead in Ohio (oh)
Four dead in Ohio (oh)
Four dead in Ohio (why?)
Four dead in Ohio (why?)
Four dead in Ohio (why?)
Four dead in Ohio

 —

‘Protest 100’s mission is two-fold: dispelling the myth that heavy metal is a brainless, socially unaware music genre, and raising awareness of the issues facing our country in the Nov. 3, 2020 election. The path won’t be exclusively metal—some punk and rap and other stuff will be in here too, including the classics—and is not a ranking. All songs are songs I’ve heard while putting this list together, ordered in a manner designed to entertain and educate.

Protest 100: The Beatles – ‘Revolution’

Artist:          The Beatles

Song:           Revolution 1

Album:        The Beatles (White Album)

Producer:    George Martin

Label:          Apple

Year:           1968

Notes:
John Lennon wrote the lyrics to ‘Revolution 1’ as both a call for social change and a cautionary screed regarding how it should be achieved. He got predictable blowback from both the right and left as a result; the right didn’t appreciate the call to revolution, the left accused him of selling them out.

The song was initially released Aug. 26, 1968, as the b-side of the ‘Hey Jude’ single. This version of the song was a remake of the version already recorded for the self-titled White Album (released Nov. 22, 1968), which you can hear at the bottom of the post.

Excerpt from ‘Unreality’  —
A nickel Colt Diamondback .38-Special revolver rested in his lap as he addressed Cookie.

Lyrics:
You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world

But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out

Don’t you know it’s gonna be
All right, all right, all right

You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We’d all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We’re doing what we can

But if you want money for people with minds that hate
All I can tell is brother you have to wait

Don’t you know it’s gonna be
All right, all right, all right

You say you’ll change the constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it’s the institution
Well, you know
You better free you mind instead

But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao
You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow

Don’t you know it’s gonna be
All right, all right, all right
All right, all right, all right
All right, all right, all right
All right, all right

 —

‘Protest 100’s mission is two-fold: dispelling the myth that heavy metal is a brainless, socially unaware music genre, and raising awareness of the issues facing our country in the Nov. 3, 2020 election. The path won’t be exclusively metal—some punk and rap and other stuff will be in here too, including the classics—and is not a ranking. All songs are songs I’ve heard while putting this list together, ordered in a manner designed to entertain and educate.

Protest 100: Buffalo Springfield – ‘For What It’s Worth’

Artist:          Buffalo Springfield

Song:           For What It’s Worth

Album:        Buffalo Springfield (1967)

Producer:    Charles Greene, Brian Stone

Label:          Atco

Year:           1966

Notes:
It’s time for some classics. Though adopted as an anti-Vietnam War anthem and general protest song, ‘For What It’s Worth’ was inspired by police reaction to demonstrations against a curfew imposed on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip in November 1966. Residents didn’t like young people gathering outside the strip’s clubs and venues. Young people liked doing so. Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda were among the demonstrators.

Stephen Still wrote this song that November. The band recorded it Dec. 5. Atco released it as a single (b/w ‘Do I Have to Come Right Out and Say It?’) on Dec. 23. It was subsequently added to the second pressing of Buffalo Springfield’s self-titled debut, issued Mar. 6, 1967. Despite the narrow context of its creation, ‘For What It’s Worth’s lyrics sound like they could have been written for the current day.

Check the bottom of the post for a couple of high-quality live versions: one from back in the day, one a cover by some devoted fans.

Excerpt from ‘Unreality’  —
It seemed like impossibly hard work, and for what?

Lyrics:
There’s somethin’ happenin’ here
But what it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
A-tellin’ me I got to beware

I think it’s time we stop
Children, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down

There’s battle lines being drawn
And nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speakin’ their minds
A-gettin’ so much resistance from behind

I think it’s time we stop
Hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down

What a field day for the heat (ooh-ooh-ooh)
A thousand people in the street (ooh-ooh-ooh)
Singin’ songs and a-carryin’ signs (ooh-ooh-ooh)
Mostly say “Hooray for our side” (ooh-ooh-ooh)

It’s time we stop
Hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
You step out of line
The man come and take you away

We better stop, hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down

Stop, hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down (we better)

Stop, now, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down (we better)

Stop, children, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down

 —

‘Protest 100’s mission is two-fold: dispelling the myth that heavy metal is a brainless, socially unaware music genre, and raising awareness of the issues facing our country in the Nov. 3, 2020 election. The path won’t be exclusively metal—some punk and rap and other stuff will be in here too, including the classics—and is not a ranking. All songs are songs I’ve heard while putting this list together, ordered in a manner designed to entertain and educate.