Rock ‘n Roll music has always been a voice of self-consciousness and defiance. In the past it has called out abuse and questioned tyranny especially in the late 1960s and early 70s. It has rallied youth and provided a platform for generations to speak out against injustice, corruption and intolerance. Now especially is the time for underground American rock to reawaken. Who will be the new voice in these troubled times?
R.E.M’s Fables of the Reconstruction was one of the rural soundscapes of my youth in the 1980’s.
Set the wayback machine to December 26, 1986. The place? “A place called space”, Chicago Illinois. Nope, there are no tweets, no Snapchat or Facebook, no Internet (Al Gore hasn’t invented it yet), not even email, hey there’s not even Grunge. You want to know what’s going on? What bands are playing where and when? You pick up a Reader or an IE (Illinois Entertainer) and/or on Thursday night at 10 o’clock you tune into WXRT’s the Big Beat hosted by a young (or somewhat younger) Johnny Mars, the man who at the time, for a time, had a finger on the pulse of alternative music scene in Chicago.
This year I thought I would dust off and serve up this treat, from the ghost of Christmas past. Pulled from old cassette tapes of the show, I would pop one of these into my Sony Walkman (make sure it’s rewound) strap it to the belt, and head out the door to catch the (L) red line into town. Yes, what’s old is indeed new again. See how many you can name, but don’t worry if you can’t guess them all. Mars will fill you in with names, titles and some enjoyable banter along the way. I always loved the show’s opening theme, with the commercials and the club listings, it’s like an audio time capsule from 30 years ago. Enjoy the tape and Happy Holidays from your friends at soundtrax.mobi
The least known and my most favorite Del Amitri album was their first. Released in 1985 with its crisp fast almost classical guitar work, and sharp witted lyrics hard coded into 10 three to four minute bites, it’s perfect for a quick 3 or 4 mile sprint. Listen for yourself.
Heard Through A Wall
Sticks And Stones, Girl
Deceive Yourself (In Ignorant Heaven)
I Was Here
Crows In The Wheatfield
Zenyatta Mondatta, a Zen/Kenyan word mash-up, and title of the third Police album was a transition record for the band. Written while touring the far and middle east in 1980 it bridges the early incarnation, the post punk power trio that gave us Outlandos d’Amour and Reggatta de Blanc, to the slick MTV mega machine that the group became during their second act. Songs like Man in a Suitcase and Canary In A Coalmine shed light on how the Police were coping with the trials and rigorous schedule traveling from Japan through China, to India and into Egypt. The cover art, a pyramid, portrays them as a tight cohesive touring band, but by the tour’s end, the three would be clearly positioned into separate camps. Voices Inside My Head, echo things that you said.
The trip was filmed to create a documentary titled The Police Around The World. It can be seen in parts on YouTube. Shot on film, it’s a rough cut, very gritty and punk, much like their early performances. It also shows a transition from a tight club playing unit to individual personalities performing for the camera in an intimate ‘Beatles meet the Monkees’ style. A year later these types of shenanigans would be parlayed into their earliest MTV music videos on the singles Don’t Stand So Close To Me and De Do Do Do De Da Da Da.
The Group scored two Grammys from Zenyatta Mondatta with Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group, and Best Rock Instrumental Performance for the Andy Summers composition (which Sting refused to play on) Behind My Camel. The members have often expressed disappointment over the record, and it would become the last reggae/punk influenced effort put out by the group as they transitioned into mega super star status.
“Beneath the crowing voice of triumph there is a shadow of power plays, hierarchy and machismo; as we march forward, the operation balloons into a swollen monster-a queen bee surrounded by workers guarding the source of the eggs-and in a dreamlike moment, with a few songs giving the power to destroy, create, get you anything and with our faces staring out from lurid posters above teenage beds, we grow to an entourage of seventy-five.”
Andy Summers-One Train Later
Zenyatta Mondatta is maybe the worst Police album. It is also pretty damn good! Throw on some headphones and enjoy these voices inside your head…