I don’t know about you, but for me, I wanted to be in a band from the time that I was an eight year old kid, listening to my favorite bands on the radio. Hearing those bands, my thought was always “how cool must it be to be them and be on the road, playing shows, experiencing new life everyday in another city?” Actually, I’m not sure that my eight year old thoughts were that developed, but that’s where they quickly evolved to.
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The story of Los Angeles band Divine Weeks is far from unique, but during the summer of 1987, they did what every young band strives to achieve. They hit the road in support of an album they had released on Steve Wynn’s label. For 33 days, they brought their music to a multitude of cities and music fans. They dealt with the calamities and mishaps that a young band must face, so many of these situations previously unknown and rarely anticipated.
Ultimately, while it might have been a financial struggle to get there, they did complete the mission to have their music heard outside of Los Angeles and Divine Weeks lead singer Bill See paints a fascinating picture of the band’s travels in 33 Days, which is a must read for all music geeks, band guys, and quite simply, anybody who has ever dreamed of living the dream.
We invited Bill to share his Desert Island Discs with us and he happily obliged with the following choices. Let’s turn things over to Bill…
I would argue a desert island list is the most personal and subjective of musical lists rather than a ”best of” list. For me, these are records that continue to reveal nuances and mysteries on repeated listenings; records that hold up over time. For instance, U2’s Joshua Tree is a brilliant record, but it’s long revealed everything it can to me. Whereas, the Unforgettable Fire is still a strange, murky album from a band on the cusp who decides to step into the gray twilight instead of reach for the light just yet.
Loveless – My Bloody Valentine. It’s been 20 years since this record dropped, and people are still trying to catch up to it. My guess is that’ll still be the case in another 20 years. From the opening triple snare crack of ”Only Shallow” to the dance groove meets whammy bar nirvana masterpiece that is ”Soon,” Loveless is the both the shoegazer era’s apex and death knell blow. For with this record, the bar was raised so insanely high, MBV’s visionary Kevin Shields was thrown into a state of analysis paralysis that he’s still trying to recover from. This is arguably the last record that represented a catapulting advancement in guitar rock. ”To Here Knows When” is the emotional centerpiece. Drum loops bob and weave in and out of the mix, guitar symphonies sound like cellos run through a Marshall, breathy, craning, yearning vocals careen across the mix, and lilting joyous mellotron soundscapes magically appear like open blue skies a jet finds through stormy clouds.
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Tonight’s The Night — Neil Young. Basically I divide the world into two. Those that say Tonight’s The Night is crap and those who worship it. Legend has it this album sat unreleased for a couple years when Neil played a tape of his new record On The Beach for some friends. Someone flipped the tape and Tonight’s The Night was on the other side. After it was over, someone said to Neil, ”Well, this is the record you’ve got to release.” Recorded as a tribute to Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whiten and roadie Bruce Berry who had both recently OD’d, this is uncomfortably intimate music made by friends in very deep pain. No one is more a wreck than Neil himself who is clearly heavily juiced through the recording. But there’s something so pure and moving about how these friends have gotten together, not to record something that moves units, but to document the process of grieving and mourning. Just listen to the way Neil’s voice breaks as he reaches for notes he’ll never reach on the chorus of ”Mellow My Mind.” This is brave and unselfconscious music making at its rawest. Like eavesdropping on a wake.
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Let It Be — the Replacements. This is the record where Paul Westerberg’s random bursts of genius finally crystallized in one glorious union. Let’s start with ”Unsatisfied.” This is not just the Replacements finest hour, but one of the top 5 songs in rock and roll history. In a genre where music critics stumble over themselves and their thesaurus’ to anoint the unproven as spokesmen of a generation, this is the real deal. On Let It Be, Westerberg unwittingly gave voice to the sullen, slumping slackers that stand at the back of the club, to the indie chicks in their faded denim jackets, to the disaffected and disenfranchised struggling to lay claim to something, anything, in Reagan’s Morning Again in America. Let It Be is literally running over with so many great lines it’s hard to fathom. ”Answering Machine”: ”How do you say I miss you to an answering machine?” ”Sixteen Blue”: ”Brag about things you don’t understand/A girl and a woman, a boy and a man/Everything is sexually vague/Now you’re wondering to yourself, if you might be gay.” In ”Androgynous”: ”Mirror image, see no damage, see no evil at all/Kewpie dolls and urine stalls/Will be laughed at The way you’re laughed at now.”
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Murmur — R.E.M. I’ve probably listened to this record more than any other record. This was the musical template for my own band when we were starting out. I’d heard their EP Chronic Town which hinted at brilliance, but nothing prepares you for Murmur. Sounding both familiar, yet completely otherworldly, Murmur was the first record that made me listen to vocals as an instrument. Of course Michael Stipe didn’t give us much choice back then, mumbling, moaning, howling, and bending indecipherable words until they seamlessly blend into the fabric of the music. Listening to early REM was like a game of guess the lyrics. It was kind of disappointing when you learned what the words really were and most of us just went back to singing what we thought it was. In fact, for me, REM started sucking when Michael Stipe started enunciating, but that’s another story. Murmur was and still is a record that just keeps giving. Every time I listen to it something more is revealed I’d completely missed.
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Pink Moon – Nick Drake. For years my folk music aficionados championed this record, and I even borrowed it about four times, but it never struck me. With some records, it’s all about time and place, but when it’s finally right, the ears of your ears open and it’s something so new you hardly believe it came from this planet. Pink Moon is like a paean to melancholy itself. This record could be the soundtrack to Fitzgerald’s The Crack Up. The haunting sorrow of ”Road,” the plaintive ”Which Will,” the sage musing on mortality in the title track: ”And none of you stand so tall, pink moon gonna get you all.” Drake’s soft fragile voice is like a brittle old tree branch after a brutal winter. One more gust of wind and you get the feeling he’ll snap right in two. Pink Moon clocks in at a brisk 29 minutes, and yet it’s so raw and pure and sadly beautiful, the thought of it going on any longer is just too much to bear.
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