Pretzel Selections and Presque Isle Logic

Newfound cash soon begs to smash a state of mind
Close inspection fast revealed his favorite kind
Poor kid, he overdid, embraced the spreading haze
And while he sighed his body died in fifteen ways
      From “Charlie Freak” on the LP, Pretzel Logic, by Steely Dan
      Music and lyrics by Walter Becker & Donald Fagen

There are many Presque Isles. First there is the State Park in Erie, Pennsylvania, right on Lake Erie. That is the first one I became aware of as a small child in training for my Popeswami representation. There is Presque Isle, Maine, which is a land locked city – I’m very curious as to how it got its name. Then there is the Presque Isle at the Northern tip of Wisconsin, on Lake Superior. Yet another is a park in Marquette, Michigan in the Upper Peninsula, again, on Lake Superior and close to the site of the original broadcasts of shortwave pirate radio station Radio Morania. The name, Presque Isle, is French for “almost an island.” And of course, “no man is an island,” to quote John Donne from “Meditation XVII.” Or am I referring to “No Man Is an Island,” the song by The Van Dykes from 1964? Or is it the phrase, “No man is an island. He is a peninsula,” shouted out in the song “A Small Package of Value Will Come to You Shortly” on the After Bathing at Baxter’s LP by Jefferson Airplane? This is enough to make any Popeswami’s head spin. This is huge. Besides being huge, this is relevant (or is it relative?) to the topic at hand. No…the other hand.

When you surf the Web you will find many postings of “top ten deserted island albums” or similar listings. While I find these listings interesting, there is something rather myopic about it all. Who would be satisfied with just 10, or even 20 for that matter, albums they would find essential if there were no other means to hear music for the rest of their lives? Personally I would go freakin’ nuts (just like Charlie) if I was stuck with just 10 or so albums. I could never create such a list. On the other hand, no – this hand! – not only do I have different fingers but I also would discover that I had access to other music. If I had a radio I could hear plenty of music unless the only stations I could hear on the island were reactionary talkers or religious hucksters. But having a radio would not satisfy me since most of the music I like is not heard on the radio. Of course you could make your own music. But that is a non-starter, since there would be no need for any list if you were satisfied with your own music – the imagination is limitless. To be a total realist, the albums would be useless on a deserted island, since there would be no electricity. A radio would also be useless, even if on battery since batteries do not last. But then, a total realist would never provide such a list, simply by principle.

So, in keeping with my “almost an island” imagery, I intend to pose a revolving list (just as an LP or CD needs to revolve to hear the music) of albums, songs, or postage stamps (if one wants to order more music from off the island). The list consists of selections I have considered essential to my own human being. Maybe most would think that is too “off the island”; sort of like Ken Kesey’s “off/on the bus” imagery. Personally, I am “on the bus” but what difference does that make? What matters is that I determine my list with sound judgment. Keep in mynde that this list will change and fluctuate as I post it from tyme to time keeping everyone’s mynde in mind. So on that blue note hear goes….(hear here!!!) in no particular h’orderve:

7.1   Blue Cheer – Outsideinside, released 1968 (especially the first song, “Feathers from Your Tree” and the second song, “Sun Cycle.” The second song is where Leigh Stephens really shows his chops and is a far cry from the glossolalia guitar stlylings on their first album, “Vincebus Eruptum”. Also dig the far out album cover!)

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88.3   Ornette Coleman – “Lonely Woman” from The Shape of Jazz to Come, released 1959. (First time I heard this was on the Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz box set, in 1975, which resulted in my purchase of the album, which is also a great listen.)

1.   The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour, released 1967 (The entire album is great and trippy, but the highlight for me is the song, “I Am the Walrus” – thus sayeth The Crooked Man.)

1.   The Residents – Not Available, recorded 1974 and released 1978 (This album hooked me as a Residents fan. 60+ albums later they are still going strong, but I still consider this to be their greatest album.)

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01.   Ultimate Spinach – s/t, recorded 1967, released 1968. (The work of composer, arranger, lead singer and multi-instrumentalist Ian Bruce-Douglas with supporting band he named Ultimate Spinach, was short-lived but highly influential in the psychedelic music scene of the late 60s, despite attacks on “The Bosstown Sound” which hyped the Boston bands as competition for the San Francisco music scene, and was a concept invented by their producer, Alan Lorber. Lorber’s efforts backfired and effectively ruined the careers of the original bands who unfortunately signed on with him.)

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003.   Ultimate Spinach – Behold and See, released 1968. (The second Ultimate Spinach album, and the last with Ian Bruce-Douglas at the helm. The almost over-the-edge insanity lyrics by Ian scared me at first and I almost expected this would be Ian’s last with the band. “Mind Flowers” and “Fragmentary March of Green” are the high points.)

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.5   The Mothers of Invention – Uncle Meat, recorded 1967-68, released 1969. This recording I found to be totally mind-blowing at the time it came out. The brilliance of Frank Zappa is something to behold here.

3.   Various Artists – Instrumental Music of the Southern Appalachians, recorded 1956, released 1976. (This LP helped me regain my appreciation of folk music. Contains essential performances by Hobart Smith (fiddle & 5-string fretless banjo), Etta Baker (guitar), Richard Chase (harmonica), Edd Presnell (dulcimer), Lacey Phillips & Boone Reid (5-string banjo)).

15.   Phil Keaggy – What A Day, released 1973. (I needed this album at the time it came out. It spoke to me immensely.)

7.2    Ram Dass – Love Serve Remember, released 1973. (I discovered this 6-LP set in 1976 and still consider it essential. Besides Ram Dass taking listener’s calls on various radio stations, it has music by Krishna Das, Bhagavan Das, Amazing Grace (their version of Paramuhansa Yogananda’s “Listen Listen” is fantastic), The Brothers of Mount Savior Monastery, Guru Blanket, The Sufi Choir, Sarada and Rabindranath, Mirabai, Berkeley Community Theatre, and a chant from an unknown source, but probably Buddhist monks, of “gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bhodi swaha” that was exceptionally moving.)

11.   Anonymous – Inside the Shadow, released 1977. (Only discovered this a decade ago, but it is fantastic. This group from Indiana is a mix of Byrds folk rock sound and San Francisco bands like Quicksilver Messenger Service and Tripsichord Music Box but just a decade too late.)

.13   Entheogenic – s/t, released 2002 (a modern psybient group with a fantastic debut album)

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97. Spirit – The Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, released 1970 (an amazing album)

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103.  The Beatles – Abbey Road, released 1969 (need I say more?)

18.   The Zombies – Odessey and Oracle, released 1968 (essential in any 60s collection)

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47.7   Blood Sweat and Tears – s/t, released 1968 (tugged at my heart with big band sounds)

1.111   The Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat, released 1968 (proto-punk, musical deconstruction, raw and primitive – it appealed to my anti-social side)

2/   The Fugs – Tenderness Junction, released 1968 (the best they ever did)

5.2   Big Brother & The Holding Company – Cheap Thrills, released 1968 (what is not to love about Janice?)

3.  The Doors – Perception, released 2006 (this box set has all their albums with Jim Morrison. I can’t decide which album moved me the most, so here they all are. But as I ponder this, the first three LPs always seem to come out on top.)

19.  Deep Purple – The Book of Taliesyn, released 1968 (Tremendous album, and this is before they became heavy metal kings in the 70s! This was their second LP. Their first, “Shades of Deep Purple,” ain’t too shabby either.)

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23:27  Jandek – Telegraph Melts, released 1986. (Outsider artist, Jandek – his 12th album. Highlight is the song “You Painted Your Teeth.” This album takes patience and several listens to finally appreciate. All his albums are like that.)

Other Listings

I think I will list some songs here that were standouts in my pre-adult years:

1. The Hollies – Bus Stop
2. Dave Clark Five – Because
3. Percy Faith – A Summer Place
4. Tom Jones – Delilah
5. Frank D’Rone – Make Me Rainbows
6. Henry Mancini – The Great Imposter
7. Al Caiola – Experiment in Terror (written by Mancini)
8. The Fontaine Sisters – Daddy-O
9. The Orlons – Don’t Hang Up
10. Marty Robbins – A White Sport Coat, And a Pink Carnation
11. Marty Robbins – El Paso
12. Nat King Cole – Ramblin’ Rose
13. Ray Charles – I Can’t Stop Loving You
14. Ray Charles – You Don’t Know Me
15. Dusty Springfield – You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me
16. Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass – A Taste of Honey
17. Dodie Stevens – Pink Shoe Laces

I am just scratching the surface! I didn’t want to stop with either list. I should have made it my top 500. Or maybe top 5000. Just on the past 17 songs I could write a book. There will be more lists later on down the road.  My next post will be soon – and will discuss my recent attendance at another amazing collaboration involving Jamie Shadowlight. And perhaps some additional lists or a featured slice of music. And I might use that concert as a springboard for a discussion of experimental music in general. Stay tuned.

One thought on “Pretzel Selections and Presque Isle Logic

  1. jimjams

    Well if I were all on my ownsome self stuckeyed on a dessert island, after eating my cake I would want to listen to some old 78 rpm blues records on my old hand cranked Edison Victrola hand cranked phonograph. Maybe some Lightnin’ Hopkins, Blind Willie McTell, Leadbelly, Robert Johnson, Sonny Boy Williamson etc. Ah don’ need no steenkin’ ‘lectrics on my fantasy islands hombre. 😆

    Like

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