In the first of an ongoing Ripped & Torn series, we present Punk Rock Desert Island Discs as chosen by the great and the good. We start with Jeremy Gluck, the writer / artist / musician and Ripped & Torn contributor who along with solo projects still sings with The Barracudas.
Jeremy Gluck’s new project with LA electronica composer Don Tyler, SoftWorld, can be found here: http://www.softworldmusic.com/machinekaraoke.php
Which eight gramophone records would you choose to have with you, assuming of course, that you had a gramophone and an inexhaustible supply of needles?
1. The Beach Boys – Til I Die The Beach Boys have been a part of my life since I was about 13. I saw them twice in the early 70s and they were magnificent. Interviewing Brian Wilson has been the highlight of my journalistic work. Words fail in the face of the task of doing justice to the Boys’ music and Wilson’s genuine genius and moving journey back from isolation to his rightful place, again acknowledged as the foremost American pop songwriter of his generation.
2. Flamin’ Groovies – Good Laugh Mun I had to bump The Smiths to pay homage to the Groovies for, long before Morrissey was on my radar these San Franciscan supremos of pop, power pop, R’n’B and rock’n’roll were a huge part of my life. From the day a friend played me their early BOMP singles I was in love and have remained so every day since. Now having recorded where the Groovies have, and with one of their number, Chris Wilson, for many years in my own band, I can die happy. This song is one of dozens by this band that I adore, as ever played beautifully, performed perfectly and…you get the idea. Put it this way: when the solo comes in would be a good time to go out; you ain’t gonna feel any better!
3. AAA – Paul Westerberg Former frontman of Minneapolis power punk magi The Replacements, Westerberg to my taste is the Dylan of his day, sharing humble Midwestern roots, coming up hard and then reinventing himself in phases from hardcore to currently the man writing the last songs Glen Campbell will sing for public consumption. AAA, from his amazing 2000 comeback album “Mono” is my ultimate Desert Island Disc, with a melody forged of gold and a lyric as sidelong, warm and vulnerable as any Westerberg writes, a song hard to read, easy to hear, impossible to forget. If you haven’t already fallen under the spell of this often overlooked king of song, do so now.
4. Dweller on the Threshold – Van Morrison Van began his epic career of curmudegonly greatness in a punky band, Them, and then over little time became a mighty songwriter and singer on a par with only the true greats such as Dylan, Neil Young and Co. Van’s mystical bent marries paradoxically and sometimes comically well with his “The music business is terrible and I know because it made me a multi-millionaire!” moans in song. This is from his purple period of illuminated philosophy that includes about six consecutive masterclass albums climaxing in “No Guru, No Method, No Teacher”, now much my favourite album.
5. Baba O’Riley – The Who When I was barely a teen my older brother gifted me “Meaty, Beaty, Big & Bouncy” launching my lifetime devotion to The Who. “Who’s Next” is my other favourite album, as trite and dull a choice as you could wish, I know, but I adore it. Its opening track, rejoicing in Townshend’s ARP synth adventures, is stunning, with Daltrey showing off what had become by then not just the voice of Tommy but of a singer risen from some mediocrity to effortless power and finesse. The whole thing is insanely perfect, from Moon’s manic pounding, to the overplayed bass wonders of The Ox, and of course including Townshend’s power chords fit to stamp metal, and that agitated violin outro. “Teenage wasteland”, indeed, and a more beautiful homage to lost youth and innocence is hard to imagine.
6. Complete Control – The Clash A lot of their alumni with passing time sound dated and even dorky but the Westway gang just get better and better. The sound of the debut Clash album remains a wonder of the musical world, at once weedy and implacable, trebly and piercing. By the time The Clash cut this they had mastered their craft enough to put into about three minutes enough energy to launch a probe into space. Strummer’s heartfelt, gutteral outpourings later in the song are phenomenal and with their disarming sincerity dispel all scepticism: this is the voice of a new generation, inheritors of The Beatles, Who and Stones. And indeed this has all the melody, character and intensity of, say, “I Can’t Explain”, “A Day in the Life” and/or “Gimme Shelter”, a frontline telegram to the head and heart. It feels mythical now more than anything else, recalling a time when anything didn’t just seem but was possible. Mind you, for a new generation that time is right now. Let’s see what they do with it. My bet is on perform miracles.
7. Dream Baby Dream – Suicide New York’s Suicide are the prophets of their time, who foresaw, as their once-mananger Marty Thau put it to me, the power of rock music without guitars. This song of all their incredible canon is my pick for the island, its secular spirituality, purity and simplicity signs of Suicide, with the punk Elvis Alan Vega intoning a reverence and rebelliousness along with consumate humanity. A work of real genius, this, from Martin Rev’s churchy melody, to the typically acerbic Vega lyric, and far beyond still to a kind of pop eternity. Suicide: a way of life.
8. Not Dark Yet – Bob Dylan Ah, the Moses of Rock. LOL. No kidding, when I heard “Modern Times”, Dylan’s tour de force 2006 comeback he sounded to me like nothing less than some Biblical titan descending from a mountaintop clasping tablets inscribed with the distillation of fifty years of American music.
It’s so hard to choose a top track by Dylan; it’s like asking for your favourite Psalm. I love this latterday song for its barbed melancholy, explicit surrender to mortality and cold clarity: “It’s not dark yet, but it’s gettin’ there.” Yes, it is and, as Burroughs said, “Let it come down.” But, please, not quite yet.
(9. Sneaky and unethical ninth choice: Anything from the first four Blue Oyster Cult albums but in particular “O.d.’d on Life Itself” or “Flaming Telepaths“. I’ll write some kind of insane homage to this band here sometime. Might as well throw the Thesaurus at that and for now spare you!)
You can also choose a book and a luxury item. None of these have to be punk related unless you so wish. Plus, as this a punk rock themed site, we’d like to ask a supplementary question, which you can either answer separately or as part of your song choices: what was punk rock to you, what marks has it left on your life and what are you up to these days?
Punk rock? You know it when you hear – and see – it; months before I ever heard the debut Ramones album I had cut out and put pictures of them from Rock Scene on my wall. I knew. And I was right, too, the Ramones possessed life-changing powers. They sure as hell changed my life. My Desert discs don’t feature punk much, they’re what I would take today; thirty-five years back it’d have been the Ramones, MC5, Stooges…you know the drill. Punk is still the music anybody can play, like a dream you can have when you’re awake: everybody dreams but it ends when you awaken, whereas for me and many others punk was in its prime a dream we shared while awake. Its energy and ethos has its roots in things as unlikely as the Beats and Warhol, mass production and mass media, which it both rebelled against and benefited from. Now I see a new generation out to “occupy” and transform the punk experience once again and I really wish them luck. Punk represents freedom of identity and creativity, a will to take chances, make things for the sake of it and wreck things for the fun of it. As manifestoes go, that still works for me. What I am doing these days is pretty much what I have always done: written and made music, some of the latter which is very punk in motivation and inspiration; witness SoftWorld’s “Machine Karaoke” cutups linked hence. I do listen to punk rock today – lately I had “Complete Control” on a loop for hours – and love turning people onto obscure punk geniuses like The Screamers and Warum Joe. Punk will never die, it’s the original zomboid art form. It will, I pray, outlive us all.
The book I would choose would be “Crime and Punishment” by Dostoevsky, within which I would skilfully conceal “The Western Lands” by William S. Burroughs, the former because it is the closest thing I have read to the Bible that isn’t, and the latter because its final paragraphs are my favourite piece of writing anywhere.
My luxury item would be a lifetime supply of perfectly formed popcorn.