Tuneage To Die For

Music is my Number One. Nothing is more important to me.

As you'd expect, I'm a dissenter and non-conformist in this area of my life, just as I am in politics and religion.

But it wasn't always that way. I was once as mainstream as anyone. I was the world's biggest Elton John worshiper for years, and I listened to mainstream radio thousands of times.

The band Tool is what led me on the path to the underground. Although mainstream, Tool was a different kind of band, with a sound all its own. I dug that different sound, and soon started seeking out other sounds I was not accustomed to. Apparently I was growing tired of all the radio rock I'd been pounded with for years.

In '97, a tennis partner told me about a sub-genre called ska, and that he'd bought some ska CDs at a store called Music Dimensions. He played some ska for me a couple of times, and I liked what I heard. I also liked the sound of the punk rock he had me listen to.

A couple of weeks later I checked out the store he'd told me about. I was mesmerized by the bold, daring, in-your-face titles of some of the CDs, and my non-conformist genes were tweaked. The first punk CD I bought was "Plastic Surgery Disasters" by the Dead Kennedys.

"Plastic Surgery Disasters" blew me away, with its lyrics and its sounds. It wowed me because it was fast, it was snotty and sarcastic, it was anti-Reagan, it was anti-Establishment, it sounded cool, and it was way different than anything which had ever passed through my auditory canals. I began to seek out as much Dead Kennedys stuff as I could find and afford. Of course, this led me to explore other punk bands as well, to read books about punk rock, and to read punk zines. I was at the point of no return.

One thing I quickly learned is that punk rock has a philosophy associated with it. It may be the only musical genre or sub-genre which can make that claim. Non-conformitarianism and dissent are two of its cardinal doctrines. Naturally I loved that ethic.

Punk rock galvanized me even more into becoming an active non-conformist who opposed the system.

Since Music Dimensions sold other varieties of "underground" music besides punk, I inevitably became familiar with those as well. From talking to one of the co-owners of the store, I learned all about psychedelic rock. I'd hardly heard any psychedelia in my whole life at the time, so I was in for a whole new world of listening pleasure. Mind-melting, altered states music is now what I listen to 90 percent of my listening time.

I still love punk (old punk, not the lame modern shit), but psychedelic rock is definitely my favourite kind of music, has been since the guy at Music Dimensions turned me onto some bands in '98. One of those bands is Porcupine Tree, which is easily my favourite band and will probably never be surpassed.

Porcupine Tree is similar to Pink Floyd in ways, but a hundred times better. People usually think I'm insane when I tell them that, but it's easy to check out my claim for yourself by buying some of the albums listed in the following Recommended Listening roster. Of course Pink Floyd is a hell of a band, but Porc. Tree is even better - way better, way more psychedelic and trippy, and way more diverse and talented, with superior vocals, bass, drumming and keyboards. You'll never know what I mean 'til you listen to 'em.

My second fave band is Throbbing Gristle. Throbbing Gristle was the world's first industrial rock band, and is still the best. No other industrial band has been able to approach the innovativeness and quality of TG. This is the band that invented industrial rock, in 1975.

Probably no band has a stranger sound. Sometimes it's downright scary, as in the "song" "Hamburger Lady," which is about a burn victim. The phased, shimmering vocals of a technoid banshee accompany the narration of the victim's medical report. Possibly the eeriest song in history. "Last Exit" would likewise be a contender for that spot, though. This immeasurably bizarre song relates in first person a tale of somehow getting off the highway then being beaten up by some hooligans and repeatedly seeing a poster of the Queen getting fucked in the ass by Prince Philip. Nice and anti-gov. Cool shit. Really cool shit. Really disturbing, so not for everyone, only strong minds like mine. "Very Friendly" is a very long track about the adventures of Myra Hendley and Ian Grady, real-life serial killers in Great Britain decades ago. It's very atmospheric and trippier than shit, somewhat comical at moments but in an eerie way.

The Gristle's main man Genesis P. Orridge called the band's stuff "hyperdelic," which is a perfect description for it, because it is beyond psychedelic. Genesis, who is a hell of a creative musician, went on to start another great counter-culture band called Psychic TV, which itself produced plenty of ultra-hyper-psychedelic (!) tracks and some really good twisted techno.

Nurse With Wound is a very prolific band, similar to Throbbing Gristle, and highly recommended. Its material is sometimes a little too repetitive, but it's ingenious and has great sound effects and is often spooky. And it's really weird shit! Did I say REALLY weird?

"Aphrodite's Child: 666", which you will see in Recommended Listening, features the great Vangelis. After listening to this quintessential psychedelic album, which has to be one of the best two or three psych albums ever, you'll be stunned that this is the same Vangelis who went on to write the "Chariots Of Fire" theme and become one of the premier soundtrack composers in the industry (and a great one at that). But this was 1971, in his psychedelic hippy days. This album is nothing like "Chariots Of Fire"!

"666" is an incomparable classic. Amazing, lightning-fast, electric guitar - some of the best acid rock guitar artistry ever, trippy Mediterranean sounds, haunting background vocals, and a touch of irreverence, particularly in "Infinity," which has actress Irene Papas moaning orgasmically and chanting over and over the biblical "I Am, I Was, I Am About To Come, I Am, I Was, I Am About To Come." Come she does, or so she fools us into thinking with her sensuous grunting and sighing. The album producers simply used the mathematical symbol for infinity on the album cover, adding to the mysteriousness of this album.

Not satanic at all, no matter what the title may suggest, this incredible album covers several themes of the Book of Revelation musically. Beautiful, mystical to the max, this was world music before world music was ever called by that name.

"All the Seats Were Occupied" is one of the Top 10 psych songs, then or now. It boasts some of the coolest, most unusual percussion too.

An amazing album. By the best band ever to come from Greece. Good beyond belief. . .

As an ardent psychedelian who loves trippy shit, I have to recommend a few other psychedelic classics, some old, some new, and they're included in the list as well. It's no coincidence that my top two bands are British, since I'm an inveterate Anglophile.

If you're into mystical like I am, be sure to do your best to find Broselmaschine's eponymous album. It was their only release, and it's vintage early 70s German psychedelia. Some of the best sounds of enchantment to conjure a fairy tale atmosphere and aura of mystery I've ever heard. Brilliant acoustic and electric guitar, and a perfect equilibrium of male and female vocals by this brother-and-sister combo which sadly didn't do any albums besides this one.

Fit & Limo also show mastery in evoking an earthy pagan vibe. They play about a dozen instruments each, and are virtuosos on every one of 'em. Very very nice European sounds which have a fantastic fairy tale aura, even some nursery-rhymish stuff, but in a sophisticated way. This husband-and-wife duo's music instantly makes me think of castles in the woods, deep dark forests, and elves and gnomes.

While I'm on mystical, I gotta mention Dead Can Dance. An Australian-Irish band, DCD has a following all over the world, and is popular with the gothic crowd. Brendan Perry's bass and Lisa Gerrard's alto and low-range soprano merge beautifully with the eclectic, other-worldly instrumentation which will make you forget what planet you're on, especially with headphones. Often the lyrics are in foreign languages and chants. The band is dedicated to the spirit of the aborigines of the Australia, New Zealand and New Guinea areas who were nearly exterminated down to the last man by European imperialists.

If you like techno like a lot of people do nowadays, go for the Mandragora CDs. Both are an uncanny mix of techno - without the usual annoying extra-heavy pounding beat - and Indian/Eastern sounds.

The "band" Negativland is a group of intellectual anarchists famous for its ingenious mockery of advertising, corporatism, capitalism, religion, and things-as-they-are. They use sound bites, remixes, spoken word, and a tapestry of sound effects to satirize the status quo. What they do is as different and original as anything on this page.

My recommended comedy listing has my two favorite comedians. "Arizona Bay," by the late great Bill Hicks, has been rightly called "the greatest comedy album of all time." Hicks' imitations of Elvis, Jay Leno and Willie Nelson will have you literally rolling in the floor and laughing out-of-control. His thoroughly original cynical coverage of current events and the Establishment are brilliant and at the same time hilarious. The man was an intellectual comic, and a genius.

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Recommended Listening

Mind-Blowing, Mindset-Changing Music And More

Aphrodite's Child: 666
Porcupine Tree: Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape
Porcupine Tree: Voyage 34: The Complete Trip
Porcupine Tree: Lightbulb Sun
Porcupine Tree: Signify
Porcupine Tree: The Sky Moves Sideways
Porcupine Tree: On The Sunday Of Life
Porcupine Tree: Coma Divine
Ozric Tentacles: Most of their releases, especially the CDs "Jurassic Shift" and "Erpland"
Praise Space Electric: Mushroom Jazz
Praise Space Electric: 2 Leaving Demons
Ghost: Any release
Broselmaschine
Kingston Wall: All three albums
Amon Duul II: Any release
Ash Ra Tempel: Any 70s release, especially "Seven Up" with Timothy Leary!
Cosmic Jokers: Any release
Gong: Any release
White Willow: Any release
The Pentangle: Any release
Psychic TV: Any release, particularly "The Origin Of the Species I" and "The Origin of the Species II"
Mandragora: Pollen
Mandragora: Temple Ball
Korai Orom: Any release
The Brian Jonestown Massacre: Their Satanic Majesties' Second Request
The Brian Jonestown Massacre: Methodrone
Fit & Limo: The Serpent Unrolled
Fit & Limo: As Above So Below
Dead Can Dance: Any release
Throbbing Gristle: Second Annual Report
Nurse With Wound: any release
Dead Kennedys: Plastic Surgery Disasters
Dead Kennedys: In God We Trust, Inc.
Dead Kennedys: Give Me Convenience Or Give Me Death
Nomeansno: Wrong
Nomeansno: 0 + 2 = 1
Nomeansno: Live and Cuddly
Throwing Muses: The Real Ramona
Negativland: Any release

(Please note: All of the above is underground music. You won't hear it on the radio, except some Internet radio from time to time. You won't find it in stores either, except on rare occasions in larger cities, so the best way to order any of the above releases is via the Internet. Greg Walker's Syn-phonic Music is one of the best sources for rare releases, including a few of my recommended).

Irreverent, Inspirational Comedy

Bill Hicks: Arizona Bay
Bill Hicks: Rant In E-Minor
George Carlin: There Is No God (routine from the CD "Jammin' In New York")

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The Beatles were musical Samsons. They were much better when their hair was long. Their long hair gave them musical, inspirational strength. Somehow their hair helped them write better tunes. I really don't think the hair is the only thing that inspired them though...