Thursday, 12 May 2011

News, Views and Music Issue 99 (Top Ten): 'Live Earth' Concert Performances On Mars

Another report from Live Earth 1974: Peace brothers, sisters, belobrats and clandusprods! So what else could possibly follow the Grateful Dead playing the whole of their ‘Mars Hotel’ album at the Mars Hotel? Well, this lot actually: While struggling to get into my intergalactic hotel room on Mars, I came across the following AAA bands and musicians all checking in to play their own alien-themed sets (once the Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra, made up of various members of CSNY, the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane had finished playing their jam session there anyway!) All our AAA friends looked a bit lost and curious at first but all soon became clear when the proprietor of the Mars Hotel came along to tell us about the world’s first intergalactic benefit concert for the inhabitants of the Earth and had ‘beamed up’ some of our leading musicians to take part with some space-themed songs. And this is what they played...:

10) Neil Young “Lost in Space” (a track from the 1980 album ‘Hawks and Doves’): ‘Live with me’ starts this innocent-sounding ballad, one of the obscurer Neil Young tracks of the period. The song soon moves to some weird and wonderful places though with the arrival of the ‘Underwater Munchkins’ as they’re dubbed on the record, a group of high-pitched sped up Neil Youngs singing about their new home. Neil’s narrator, meanwhile, is ‘out of control, singing with too much soul’, alienated in his own little world ‘working for the Queen’. Along the way we get some ecology messages: ‘Don’t take out that magic pen, don’t draw on the infinity board’ that sounded to the audience on Mars like a message to mankind dabbling with things where nature knows best, before adding how we’d all do better to ‘start again on the ocean floor’. An uncomfortable, rambling, confusing song more like Dylan than Young, but nevertheless impressive enough to get the multi-limbed’ audiences 15 toes a tapping.

 9) The Beach Boys “Solar System” (a track from the 1977 album ‘The Beach Boys Love You’): Next came the Beach Boys who – after quick band bust-up – took off for Venus, leaving just Brain Wilson to sing a solo version of his pretty much soplo recording ‘Solar System’. A charming childlike track, dating from Brian’s in-bed period, it’s a tale of Brian looking through the telescope at all the planets in turn and wondering what it all means. You know what to expect really: ‘Neptune is God of the sea, Pluto is too far to see’, although there is a quick laugh from the inhabitants of the planet with the line ‘If Mars had life on it, I might find my wife on it’. Brian got a few marriage proposals that night I can tell you! There was a tense moment from the ambassador from planet Uranus, however, whose home planet was the only one in Earth’s solar system not actually mentioned by Brian in song.

8) Nils Lofgren “Trip To Mars” (a track from the 1995 album ‘Damaged Goods’): Next comes a home favourite , much loved by the citizens of Mars (who due to a biological quirk all wear bandanas like Nils’ and spend their days bouncing on trampolines) singing his best-known (on Mars) song ‘Trip To Mars’. It’s actually a schizophrenic song about the grown narrator feeling ‘violence’ inside and thinking ‘there must be more to living than this’ before remembering a happier childhood time when he didn’t have to keep face or stick to the rules and could dream of taking his friends ‘on a trip to mars’. There was even a multi-species choir, made up of beings from all over the galaxy joining in on the chorus: ‘Gotta get some dreams into my life, gotta get some life into my dreams’.

7) Oasis “D’yer Wanna Be A Spaceman?” ( B-side to the single ‘Shakermaker’ 1994): ‘Ere’ what’s going on?’ Noel Gallagher’s meant to have said when he was beamed up by the citizens of Mercury and found himself looking into some very familiar faces with shaggy eyebrows and deep thick hair. A stiff drink with a pangalactic gargleblaster later and Noel was ready to run, giving the crowd a brief sojourn of one of his earliest pre-Oasis songs, taking up Nils Lofgren’s themes about childhood dreams of trips into space.  Alas, though, the narrator in the song soon wakes up and finds himself an adult again, ruing all his missed opportunities along the way. Sniff, it brings a tear to your three eyes doesn’t it?

6) Paul McCartney and Wings “Venus and Mars” (title track of 1975 album ‘Venus and Mars’): At long last – the reunion of one of the Gamma Quadrant’s favourite bands! Yes, the middle line-up of Wings were back together again, if only briefly, with Jimmy McCulloch beamed back into life using the aliens’ ghost technology. Paul chose to do the two parts of his ‘Venus and Mars’ song as a medley, with a first verse about ‘sitting in the stands of the sports arena, waiting for the show to begin’ applauded by the crowd, before a friend searching the stars for the truth turns out to be on Venus and Mars looking back at the Earth on part two, in the hall of a ‘great cathedral’ waiting for the spaceship to take him home. Magical. The hosts even managed to provide proper 3D billiard balls representing the planets to re-create the album front cover for the backdrop – with Earth a kind of muddy gray. Paul was also delighted to introduce the next act, again rehabilitated by alien technology...

5) Yes it was his old sparring partner John Lennon, who had been invited to interrupt the music with a tale about what he had been doing in the afterlife and the first time he’d been visited by aliens. Unable to tell his fans and unwilling to put the thoughts into his music during a period when everyone thought he was mad, Lennon instead wrote the intriguing message ‘I saw a UFO October 1974’ on the inner sleeve of his ‘Walls and Bridges’ album. Lennon did too – it was his hosts from Mars trying to book him in for the gig early because they knew he’d be booked up for many decades to come!

4) Dave Davies “True Story” (a track from the 1983 album ‘Chosen People’): Next up is the only musician to have been visited by aliens and not kept quiet about them, the Kinks guitarist who revealed much about the aliens and their messages to him and to the planet in his illuminating autobiography ‘Kink’. His song ‘True Story’ from his overlooked third solo album ‘Chosen People’ is his most revealing song of many on the theme, with the aliens chanting in suitably alien voices: ‘We have a message for you...Your leaders will not listen...You can make them understand’, while Dave wails over the top ‘But what can I do? I’m just a poor boy and they won’t understand’. Why even the Earth ambassador Michael Jackson (you didn’t think he was human did you?!) cried during that performance!

3) The Byrds Medley: “Hungry Planet” into “Mr Spaceman” into “Space Odyssey” (tracks from the 1970 album ‘Untitled’, the 1966 album ‘5D (Fifth Dimension) and the 1968 album ‘Notorious Byrd Brothers’ respectively): ...And of course the great message given to Dave Davies was an ecological one about how humans were ruining their planet, so imagine their delight when Earthman Roger McGuinn revealed that he had had exactly the same concerns more than 40 years ago. ‘Hungry Planet’ is a driving rocker about how humans always want more from their planet’s natural resources and the narrator wants to get off, sick of all that greed, with the peculiar synthesiser effects of the original replaced by the Neptune Squirlygig machine, an update of the Earth mellotron. The song then moved onto the Byrds’ relative flop single ‘Mr Spaceman’, with the similar demands that passing aliens take the narrator up ‘for a ride’ because he’s the one who feels alien on Earth. It took a long time explaining to the varied audience what ‘toothpaste’ was but apart from that the lyrics went down a treat! The medley then ended with McGuinn’s ‘sea shanty in space’ with the human race venturing outside their boundaries in all senses of the word, seeing pyramids on other planets and yo-ho-hoing their way across the eternal wastes of space. The dates were a bit wrong (in ’93 and ’96 we ventured to the moon’ – strange because as all good solar system inhabitants apparently know, the moon is really a hollow spaceship left by a clumsy astronaut from Venus) but apart from that this early song about human pioneers went down well!

2) Pink Floyd Medley: “Astronomy Domine” into “Interstellar Overdrive” into “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” (tracks from the 1967 album ‘Piper At The Gates Of Dawn” (tracks 1 and 2) and the 1968 album ‘Saucerful Of Secrets’ respectively): The concert was drawing to a close now and the three moons of Jupiter, just visible on Mars, were coming out into the night’s sky. But that didn’t seem to bother Pink Floyd , who were enjoying playing with their old line-up again (Syd and Rick back with Dave, Roger and Nick once again). The band’s opening track from their debut LP kicked things off, with its tale of ‘Neptune, Titan, Stars Can Frighten’ and a pulsating bass riff and powerful drums that the Iceman visitors from Pluto said reminded them of the great war of 44 Quabrahad BC. The medley then took a left turn into the driving madness of instrumental ‘Interstellar Overdrive’, a quite exhilarating ride, before finally ending with the moody eerie ‘Set The Controls...’, as Roger Waters’ made spaceman decides to commit suicide. The whole track ended in inspired madness as ‘little by little the night comes around’ and a nice touch was added when the Mars Hotel placed an oil-lamp against a back-drop of stars, really giving the audience the feel that they were back out in space. Alas all too soon the show came to a close leaving us with...

1) Jefferson Airplane and Starship Medley: “I Wanna See Another World” into “Alien” into “Have You Seen The Saucers?” and highlights from the “Blows Against The Empire” album (tracks from 1975’s ‘Red Octopus’, 1981’s ‘Modern Times’ and a 1969 single respectively, as well as the 1971 magnum opus by Grace Slick and Paul Kantner): At last, after several hybriddat hours of playing, the great benefit night was coming to an end with only one act left to play. But oh what a set they gave us, with the multi Airplane/Starship band all onstage for the first time giving us some of their career highlights. Kantner’s storming song of protest came first, with its lines about anger and confusion over Earth policies coming to a head now the narrator has children to take care of, with the whole audience joining in on the lines about ‘looking up to the sky’ for direction. The song then segues into the eerie, other-worldly and delightfully noisy ‘Alien’, in reality of course a song about alienation and paranoia, with Mickey Thomas and Grace Slick duetting on this Pete Sears song about not fitting in and a panicked Earth official asking for ‘details of birth’ while the whole multi-species crowd chanting ‘alien!’ The medley then hooks back to the familiar Jorma Kaukanen and Jack Casady criss-crossing lines as the band played ‘Have You Seen The Saucers?’, the first real rock song about how Governments are lying to us about the existence of aliens and how most humans would be too blind to see them anyway, on a planet with ‘no room left for brotherhood’. There was then an exhilarating final half-hour with selections from the Starship spin-off project ‘Blows Against The Empire’, dedicated by Marty Balin to ‘star children everywhere’ with ‘Let’s Go Together’ ‘A Child Is Coming’ ‘Sunrise’ (‘Surprise! Innocent man!’ cackles Grace through the song) ‘Hijack’ ‘Have You Seen The Stars Tonight?’ and ‘Starship’ itself bringing the concert to a close. And all together with the chorus now: ’30,000 light years from the planet of my birth, 3000 years to the future, poets of the Earth re-classify my birth to fit it with the planetary sculpture!’, a line that had every being in the audience in an uproar of delight. Those who had feet were on them, those who had limbs clapped them and those who could do nothing else simply flew around above their seats. Breathtaking – let’s hope the next Live Solar System benefit is every bit as good!

That’s all for another issue! We hope to be back with you next week – although I’ve just noticed that they’ve just dropped me off on the wrong planet! I don’t live on Theta Minor! Help! Nasa spend a spaceship! Mind you, what with the Coalition, I’ll think I’ll stay up here for a bit – it seems less alien to me somehow...

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