Saturday, June 20, 2015

Do you remember rock 'n' roll radio?

The Internet, as you already know, has turned much of what would, in previous times, have been lost to history into a kind of permanent now. If you wanted to find newspaper articles about whatever, you used to have to spin through miles and miles of microfiche, trusting to luck that you would land on what you were looking for (if it even existed), until your head spun so fast you fell off your stool. (I have done this.) Now you can type a few words into Google and, hola!, your work is done.

I sometimes wonder if this is a good thing.

However ...

It does have its advantages. Radio, for example. Radio has always been, even more than newspapers, an inherently ephemeral medium. Voices from the past, now gone. Mac Cocker and George Wayne on 2JJ. The Sunday evening reggae show on same. Helen Thomas in the mornings on 3RRR. Steve Cross, regularly surprising you on a Friday afternoon. John Peel, obviously. (There are a few recordings of Peelie floating around the ether, like voices from beyond a well-tended grave.)

Imagine if you could click a button and go back in time to listen, again, or if you missed it the first time around, to someone in a studio talking into the air and playing a few records. I can't think of anything more exciting, but at the same time I also can't think of anything more frightening. Where would I start? Holy cow, I would probably have to live forever in order to get through all I would want to listen to.

And then what happens to now?

My head hurts.

Rather than freeze up pondering the imponderable, let me draw your attention to something out there that is worth your while, and, as long as you promise only to listen to each session once, won't leave you a wizened old pensioner by the time you are done.

Earlier this year, a Pitchfork review, by Philip Sherburne, of a record by Lena Willikens, whom I had never heard of, caught my eye, for reasons I cannot now recall. I finally got around to reading it, and was intrigued by his reference to a series of radio programmes she had done. There was a link. (There is always a link.) I followed it. And I am so glad I did. (Thank you, Philip. Oh, and thank you, Lena.)

This is radio as it used to be. A few songs you know. Many songs you wished you knew. It's better, in its own way, than putting your entire collection on shuffle, because your entire collection is you, and Willikens is not you. But you may well end up wishing you were her.

Complete playlists are available for each show, if you must, but I suggest her oeuvre is best absorbed by pressing play, going on with whatever you are doing, and letting it wash over you. Just like the radio. Remember the radio?

This link should get you to a Mixcloud page from which all shows are available.

To put you in the mood, here are a couple of songs that she has played; one I own on seven-inch but had (embarrassing admission) forgotten about; one I had never heard of.

The one I own: "The Man In The Dark Sedan", by Snakefinger. The single is resplendent in a Mark Beyer cover (like the Zornette (heh) record I wrote about a couple of posts ago).

Snakefinger has worked with The Residents. He has also covered Kraftwerk's "The Model".

Mullet warning:

The one I had never heard of: "Sunset Scenery", by The Dragons. Pink Floydish psychedelic noodling from 1967. The Dragons may be unknown to you, but if you are the wrong side of fifty you probably remember The Captain & Tennille. Believe it or not, The Captain, aka Daryl Dragon, is one of these Dragons. Strange but, evidently, true.

Set the controls for the heart of the sun: