[Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here on West Coast Sound every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the awesomely annotated playlist for his Saturday KCRW broadcast.]
Now that we have been released from the grips of August and go deeper into September, I am changing my listening selections, putting some bands back on the shelf and taking others to the turntable. At this point, these changes are probably nothing more than mere ritual, but I definitely feel affected by cooler weather and the shorter days, which send me toward different records than I listen to in the summer months.
Sure, I am always trying to listen to different music — be it new releases, reissues or suggestions. But there are several go-to records that I come back to year after year. I find a real power in that. As the years go on, I change, but this music stays exactly the same. That truth has always tripped me out a great deal. There is nothing like a song to send the mind to a certain time and place. The way my brain sometimes starts firing when particular songs are played is probably a good part Pavlovian but undeniably powerful.
I get the same effect, to a certain degree, from passages of books. There are many that I revisit at certain times of the year and some that I reread in their entirety and am still moved.
To each their own, of course, but for me, F. Scott Fitzgerald is one of the writers I go back to every year around this time. The Great Gatsby is a book I have read a few times, and it seems to get heavier every time I come to visit. Parts of his book Tender Is the Night and his short story “Winter Dreams” get revisited as well. He was undeniably a great architect of the English language. Also, the fact that Fitzgerald died not far from where I live strikes a chord with me. At one point, I was able to go into the apartment where — in December 1940, in front of his girlfriend, Sheilah Graham — he got up from a chair, grabbed the mantelpiece over the fireplace and fell over, dead from a heart attack.
Have I been digressing? Pardon me.
I am looking forward to getting in some quality listening time with some records that have been sitting silently at my place for months now. But I'm also anticipating my autumn regulars, a few of which I've listed below.
David Bowie: He is one of my all-weather favorites, certainly, but it is the three records known as the “Berlin Trilogy” that I reserve for listening at this time of the year. Not all three were recorded in that city, but the music on them was in part inspired by it, as well as by the music being made in Germany at the time. These three albums are perhaps familiar to you; they are Low, Heroes and Lodger. All three are different, all three are great. I will admit to a little cheating this year, as I had Lodger going a few weeks ago. I couldn't help it.
Lou Reed: Many years ago, the great music writer Byron Coley would stop by SST Records, where I was living, to do some work with the label. I was curious about a lot of albums that I didn't have access to. I would ask Byron and, now and then, he would find used copies and give them to me. I was fascinated by Lou Reed, and thanks to Byron I played Street Hassle, Berlin and the Take No Prisoners live album countless times, on cassette from copies I made on Chuck Dukowski's turntable. The year 1982 would have been hard to get through without those albums.
Miles Davis and John Coltrane: There are a lot of Miles and Coltrane records, and that's a good thing. When the weather starts to cool, I head toward their recordings together, namely Workin', Cookin', Steamin', Relaxin' and Kind of Blue. Coltrane's Atlantic period is also great listening at this time of the year. These are very spare and beautiful recordings, and they have almost all they need. What brings them to perfection is their contents going into your ears.
I know that lists drive people nuts, but I beg your patience for a few more.
Other cooling-off-period listens include Joni Mitchell, whose genius is so overwhelming that sometimes I feel I should salute the speakers as her music plays. She's as good as it gets. John Cale's Island Records period is like reading Dostoyevsky, worthwhile if you are willing to work. The Damned's masterpiece The Black Album is perhaps my ultimate Saturday night listen in the last third of the year. Then there's the Cramps' second album, Psychedelic Jungle, featuring Kid Congo on guitar. His new solo album, Gorilla Rose, also is great. Before long it's definitely Hawkwind time. Warrior on the Edge of Time or Doremi Fasol Latido; one of those is probably going to be shaking the walls at my place tonight.
None of my picks are of any importance, of course. However, what is mandatory is that you get your music on, whatever it is that moves you. You are the selector, you call the tune. If you like it, then it must be good. Congratulations, you're a genius with great taste.
Until next week.