Been feeding other beasts lately but I’ll touch base here with some thoughts at random.
The eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980 is one of the first events for which I remember news coverage, and I’ve had an intermittent interest in it for years.
(I am disappointed to report that at a recent Science Olympiad competition, my son and some teammates were asked when Mount St. Helens erupted, and they chose 1987. I ain’t been learnin’ him much.)
At any rate, I enjoyed finding this film on archive.org. Lots of great archival footage with that old analog-film patina:
Inspired by Spinal Tap’s “Saucy Jack,” I’ve decided my next Bandcamp project will be a song cycle based on the last morning of Harry R. Truman’s life. Working titles for the project include It Was Fun Up ‘Til Just About Now, Ominous Rumble, Bad Decision, and Sh-tf-ck.
(No, not really.)
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Staying in 1980 for a moment, I turn to an observation that Google tells me is not especially original … but I’ll make it anyway ’cause it’s in my head and my ears.
I’ve been listening to a recent pickup, Cheap Trick’s All Shook Up, essentially trying to make myself like it.
More than any other album I can think of, All Shook Up (released in the waning days of the John Anderson campaign) is divided into an OK-to-pretty-good side (Side A) and a side of completely unsatisfying, misguided, muddled crap (Side B).
Don’t get me wrong: Side A is far from perfect. The whole record suffers from overproduction and overcooking, and the hooks and the guitars don’t sing the way they do on other Cheap Trick albums.
But the material on Side A largely overcomes the production, while the stuff on Side B just fails on every front — bad songs forgettably performed and gratingly produced. It’s almost as if they planned it that way, front-loading all the good songs and hoping something would come along and distract the listener before they could flip over the record.
(The CD reissue tacks 1980’s four-song Found All The Parts EP onto the end of Side B, and the stuff from the EP isn’t worth a belch in a high wind either.)
I have been challenging myself to think of another album that so neatly cleaves into good and bad halves, and I can’t come up with any.
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Finally, this week in 1976 marked the second and final appearance of Chris Squire’s album Fish Out of Water on the invaluable ARSA database of local radio airplay charts.
Squire, of course, was Yes’s bass guitarist; Fish Out of Water was his contribution to the 1975-76 fallow period when Yes took a couple of years off and all the members cut solo records. According to Wiki, the album hit No. 25 in the U.K. and No. 69 in the U.S., though its relative absence from the ARSA database makes even that modest placement seem surprising.
The March 1, 1976, survey from San Diego State University’s KCR 98.9 has an interesting gimmick I haven’t seen on other surveys: It’s divided into “Daytime” and “Nighttime” halves.
(Those freaky Seventies kids. Probably high on peyote. Peyote and clam dip, like Zonker Harris.)
The day side seems marginally more mainstream: Queen, Bad Company, Bob Dylan and Peter Frampton appear on the day side but not at night. Fish Out of Water is one of the nightside-only LPs, along with records by the Mahavishnu Orchestra and something or somebody called Maxophone.
This happens to be on my mind because I recognized an odd quirk of mine today.
When I am busy at work, making two or three things happen at once, and my mind is churning, the music that invariably comes into my mind (and sometimes out of my mouth) is the odd-metered groove of Fish Out of Water‘s lead track, “Hold Out Your Hand.”
It seems like my mind — looking for the musical equivalent of keeping multiple balls in the air — has settled on the singular bounce and tension between Squire’s bass, Bill Bruford’s drums and Andrew Pryce Jackman’s keyboards.
For unconscious reasons, this music represents things moving into gear, driving forward by their own logic. Progress. Intelligence. Control.
I dunno what my workmates think of me humming it or tapping my pencil to it — as I’m sure I do unconsciously — but they haven’t throttled me yet.
Better that than something from Tormato, anyway.