Monday, 8 December 2008
♫ Welcome to the latest issue of the AAA, a special wow-we’ve-had-50-views-even-though-at-least-30-of-them-were-me-checking-on-the-site edition. As a result, we’ve been getting philosophical about life and so – as a special treat (for those of you with insomnia) - we will be discussing where the human species is going and where it came from later on in this issue (ha, bet the spice girls have never even given the matter any thought!) We’re still waiting for our site to turn up in some search engines too – maybe after Christmas our site will be famous (or infamous!) and people might actually know what you are talking about when you log on. Like most people/events/new releases just before Christmas, there isn’t much to tell you about this week in terms of AAA groups – perhaps they’re all gearing up for their Christmas parties and haven’t got time to appear in the news. Anyway, here’s a quick (if short) round-up of what there is…
♫ Beatle news: …Err, one item only this week I’m afraid. Despite an announcement last Christmas that the complete Beatles 1960s catalogue would be available for download from I-tunes sometime in 2008, it doesn’t look like its going to happen between now and the new year, thanks to a dispute between I-tunes and the two Beatles’ record labels, Apple and EMI. Apple, of course, is the label started up by the band in 1968 (who released all Beatles goodies and solo records from 1968-74), but even these albums were distributed by EMI who can lay some claim to ‘owning’ the copyright too. The Beatles remain pretty much the only ‘important’ ie major-selling group not to be legally available for downloading somewhere on the net – but I think I’m right in saying that the proposed Beatle I-tunes deal (where all of the Beatles’ works are available for download sale from the site) would be a first, although its not clear whether the ‘Anthology’ , ‘Love’ and ‘Beatles at the BBC’ projects would be included in the downloads. Roll on 2009, that’s what we say – although true Beatlenuts might want to hang on to their Christmas money to buy the Beatles CD re-issues due in batches of four next year (with ‘Please Please Me’ through to ‘Beatles For Sale’ available as soon as Easter, possibly).
♫ Moving swiftly on, here are this week’s anniversaries of all things bright and beautiful from yesteryear. Happy birthdays this week go to Bobby Elliott (drummer with the Hollies from 1964 right up to the present day), who turns 66 on December 8 and Frank Allen, bass player with The Searchers (also from 1964 to the present interestingly enough) who turns 65 on December 14th. Anniversaries of events this week: the sad and untimely deaths of two quite different AAA giants – John Lennon on December 8th 1980 and Otis Redding on December 10th 1967, tragedies both. On a happier note, this week also saw the first ever release of a Beach Boys single, Surfin’, on December 8th 1961 (it did well locally in California but never made the American charts as a whole); Pink Floyd play what is generally regarded as their first ‘proper’ concert – an Oxfam charity gig at the Royal Albert Hall on December 12th 1966; the infamous and unscreened (for 33 years at least) Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus is filmed during one huge 20-hour marathon at Wembley TV studios, a show also featuring The Who, Jethro Tull and John Lennon taking part in a one-off all-star performance (mainly recorded on December 12th 1968); exactly a year later Lennon’s hastily convened Plastic Ono Band play their first gig at the Toronto Peace Festival and finally The Who become the first rock and pop act ever to perform at an opera house, suitably performing their ‘rock opera’ Tommy during a well-received gig at the London Colosseum Opera House on December 13th 1969.
News, Views and Music Issue 15 (Top Five): Why Are We Here? Where Are We Going? And How Come We Never Get There At All?
♫ And just in case you thought that review was long-winded, it doesn’t have anything on this next section….yes, we’ve gone all out in our latest ‘top five’ this issue, planning to put to rights nothing less than the questions that have been perplexing mankind for centuries, with the aid of just a typewriter and a CD player. No, the question isn’t ‘when could anybody possibly think that the spice girls were a good idea?’, we mean the the other big question. So here it is – our guide to understanding the ideas ‘Why are we here?’, ‘Where are we going?’ and ‘Why do we never seem to get there at all?’ In short, here are five arguments put forward on AAA albums for the origins of our species….maybe. If nothing else, music is here to raise discussion points so even if you don’t agree with any of the five arguments raised here (and to be honest there’s no reason why you should as they all could be right…and they all could be wrong), take them with a large dash of salt and (Sgt) pepper. After all, we will never know the answers, but thinking about the question is arguably about the most important thing we could be doing – depending, of course, on what the answer actually is.
5) We have all been here before. At least, that’s the view of David Crosby on the seminal Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young album ‘De Ja Vu’ (see review no 34) which is – among other things - a study of how mankind repeats his mistakes in cycles (just check out that cover, where the quartet are dressed in garb from the American Civil War era, even though one of them is Canadian and another comes from Blackpool). Mankind isn’t ‘evolving’, if you like, just chasing its own tail through crisis after crisis. The title track goes even further, being a
Crosby epic about
re-incarnation and the idea that our souls are returned to different bodies
time and time again down the generations until we get it right. According to
Cros’ autobiography, David dallied with the idea of past lives very early in
his life when, still a toddler, he found he instinctively knew how to sing
harmony notes along with his parents and brothers’ singing and when – at the
tender age of 11 – he appeared to know the uses of every sail and mast when
taken out sailing one day, despite having never been on a boat before. This
‘déjà vu’ theory would also explain the feelings of many of us that we have
been to certain places and done certain things already even though, in our
current lives at least, we’ve never been anywhere near. I can’t remember the
exact figure, but an overwhelming number of us feel this at some point in our
lives, so there. We reckon the Spice Girls have been here at least a hundred
times before and they still haven’t got it right.
4) We have all been here before – and we messed it up big time. At least, that’s the view of Paul Kantner during all of his songs for the Jefferson Starship’s 1984 album ‘Nuclear Furniture’ (see review no 87) – we’re not sure if he ever told the rest of the band what he was doing, but their songs seem to fit the overall concept somehow too. The idea is this – picture a George Bush figure ruling over some past highpoint of civilisation, his finger poised on the nuclear device ready to send us to oblivion. Only, in our past life, this figure actually presses the button (no democratic victories for Bracak Obama in this timeline) and suddenly thousands of centuries of human civilisation are knocked out in a stroke. There are huge hints out there that our ancient past was as great technologically if not greater than our own (the true dating of the Sphinx and the earliest pyramids for starters – ie they are still here 4000 years, possibly 7000 years on when most of our buildings from only a century back are in severe disrepair). There are huge hints too at some cataclysmic accident, whether natural or manmade or caused by Bush’s ancestors, that wiped out our species to its very dregs and caused us to start again. Could our mythology be telling us a garbled version of our true past, like some generations-long version of ‘chinese whispers’, dating from a time when mankind had to start all over again and lost the ability to write things down? It’s no surprise that the ‘Nuclear Furniture’ album is also full of (then) topical songs about 1980s culture when it seemed mankind was showing its violent side again (Cold War, violence on television, money-loving yuppies, etc), juxtaposed against protest songs telling us that one day we might be back to the very beginning, ‘huddled in their caves like animals, not human’. This was the period when, just like the aftermath of 9/11, we genuinely feared we might wake up one day to find half the world missing, maybe even the side we were living on. There is a happy ending on the ending, though, thanks to Rose, the charismatic leader, who puts mankind back on their feet again in a much more peaceful, positive manner than the society they left behind so that – in another 7000 years – mankind is still at peace.
3) We haven’t been here before and our past has been leading us up to this point in time. Ah yes,
theory of human evolution and the origin of the species which, by it’s author’s
own admission, was as full of holes as a Swiss cheese – although still more
accurate than any theory up to that time. Let’s look at this theory in greater
depth – if survival of the species continues to this day, then where on earth
did George Bush and the Spice Girls come from? Anyway, whatever the side
effects, it seems to make sense that mankind would learn something from his
past, although strangely there were less musical candidates for this
commonly-held theory of the origins of humans adapting and learning how to cope
with life than you might think. After toying with various Monkees-growing-into-men
concepts we’ve plumped for the Moody Blues album ‘To Our Children’s Children’s
Children’ LP, one which dates back to the tail-end of the 1960s (the last point
in time when you could argue that the human race was moving forward at any
speed). As the album puts it, ‘we go higher and higher now we’ve learned to
play with fire’, with mankind a species determined to master everything in his
power even if it leaves him isolated and confused (is a bigger brain really
better in evolutionary terms? Are we the only species that has suicides, needs
psychiatrists or cries buckets of tears on a regular basis? And no lemmings
don’t count – all that cliff-jumping is a myth I’m afraid). And yet there’s
also something deeply uplifting about a good half of this album, with mankind
ever looking forward to the next big project. That next big leap for mankind
that might – just might – unite us all in delight at our bravery and daring and
truly bring the human race up to an evolutionary peak. Now that would be nice
wouldn’t it, but somehow this theory seems the least believable of all the five
put forward here! Darwin
2) It’s not what we were before but what we grow into during our life on this planet that matters and our soul will live on after our death, depending what we did with it on Earth. The ‘death’ issue of this argument was dealt with by Hari Krishna convert George Harrison on his seminal album ‘
(see review no 42). Often overlooked is his follow-up album ‘Living In The
Material World’ (1971) which carries on this story, telling us what happens
after we die and what we should have done during our life. This album has taken
plenty of stick in the past (mainly from me) over its desire to lecture and
convert us all to Hari Krishna far less subtlety or movingly than its
predecessor did, but this album is also full of glorious songs about how our
spiritual side should be nurtured and cared for at the expense of the ‘material
world’, which is surely something that many an AAA reader wishes (anyone with
an over-riding interest in music seems to share these views to some extent,
however lightly or strongly, so it seems). The title track for one contrasts
the messy business dealings of the end of the Beatle days with the ‘spiritual
sky’ Harrison felt at the beginning of his solo career and is probably the best
AAA evidence out there to becoming small and humble against the sheer magnitude
of the world and how determined we should be to follow ‘the right path’ for
others as well as for ourselves. All Things
1) We weren’t here before and we’re only here thanks to some helpful aliens carrying out genetic experiments. When younger Kinks brother Dave Davies released his album ‘Chosen People’ in 1983 fans gasped. Well the couple of hundred who bought the album did anyway, because record label Warner Brothers seemed determined to bury the thing (to date, less than half the tracks have appeared on CD and then only the less controversial ones). You see, according to Dave’s brave and revealing autobiog ‘Kink’, he was visited by aliens telepathically during the early 1980s – a time when he was fed up and quite badly depressed over all sorts of things in his personal and musical life. The aliens, who mentioned that they had been looking after us for some time and even stored a data bank full of the actions of all of us during our lives, said that they had tried to talk to our world leaders to steer us a path for the greater good but had failed (seeing as Reagan and Thatcher were both in power at the time, that’s probably no surprise). Instead, they were communicating with certain artists, ones whose message could be heard by anyone should they choose to listen to their music, read their books or study their paintings. Most usefully, the aliens also told Dave that humans had failed to awaken their spiritual side and showed what that 70% of the brain we don’t use is for – telepathic abilities that allowed Dave and his partner of the time to dispel clouds of negative energy from those around them, making them feel happier about life (nearly all the concerts where Dave used this trick have gone down in history as the Kinks’ best shows – well those since 1982 anyway). Unfortunately, the aliens could do nothing about Warner Brothers record executives who buried the thing stone dead (the ‘Dave Davies Anthology: Unfinished Business’ is your best bet for listening to most of these tracks – although sadly you won’t find the album’s lynchpin ‘True Story’, a song where Dave recounts his strange tale before shaking his head and asking why the aliens should talk to him because ‘I’m just a poor boy’). Read the book and hear the album and the whole thing seems unnervingly plausible. Err, don’t look now but does that moon look red to you?
Don’t have nightmares though, stick on a soothing AAA record instead and, until next week, keep rocking! See you for issue 16 – on which we’ll be celebrating the best releases of the past year.