Left of the Dial: “Eddie Ate Dynamite, Good-Bye Eddie”
Written by Chris-R on April 5, 2019
The break is over and now it’s time for more great music! Deep cuts from the classic age of vinyl and beyond is on the menu today for Left of the Dial, and I encourage you to be my guest!
Stream the entire list of songs on Spotify below
And follow the LotD playlist featuring every song ever played on the program.
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The full title of this episode is “Eddie Ate Dynamite, Good-Bye Eddie Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Tuning My Guitar!”
“The Thrill Of It All”
Country Life (1974)
For listeners traversing through the stellar discography of Roxy Music, a newly Brian Eno-less lineup for the band may scare off potential suitors for the group. Beating the odds, the band’s musical scope proves to only grow stronger in his absence. Singer Brian Ferry has now FULLY taken over the reigns of the band and is arguably in his prime here, delivering the scrumptiously unique grooves and melodies of 1974’s Country Life.
On opening track “The Thrill Of It All”, Roxy Music fully displays the hardened Glam Rock fixtures that made them stand out from the crowd to begin with. For a particularly dancey group, the beat to this song takes form as a trudgey boom-bap; not a very far cry from a “four on the floor” beat even. It is from this opening zenith where the song opportunity to just build and build, adding all these new instrumental tidbits while the dynamics choose to stay relatively unaffected by the process to slightly humorous results, and nonetheless giving an illusion of grandeur through the process.
Bryan Ferry is of course a ham behind the microphone, no getting around it, really. You just cannot take your ears away from the man’s vocals. Not that you could really disengage if you wanted to, as his singing sits right atop of the mix in true diva tradition. Ferry sounds sleeker than ever, his warbled charm can’t help but erupt from the speakers.
There is reason why the great music history lexicon never included a great Ferry V. Eno rivalry, they were simply two inventive minds who came from different sides of the same coin. The fact that they were ever in musical cahoots at all is a small miracle within itself. Ferry pushed to his furthest in the quest of defining the line between pure pop and daring artistry, often finding that the two have more equivalency than many may assume. Bryan Ferry’s efforts very well may have ushered in a new wave of Poptimism as well, presumably ushering in a path for the likes of Kate Bush or Prefab Sprout, and it’s been pretty much confirmed at this point that The Smiths would have been vastly different if not for their music as Smiths frontperson Morrissey cites Roxy Music’s sophomore album “For Your Pleasure” to be the solitary GREAT British album ever made. Talk about high praise, right?
The music of “The Thrill Of It All” and the rest of its’ parent album Country Life is bashful in spades, a real rosey-cheeked take on Art-Pop’s stylings. The music keeps itself strong and invigorated, all culminating with a glowing guitar line to top it all off. It’s said that you can’t buy a thrill, but this song stands as proof to the contrary.
Odessey and Oracle (1968)
A true blue classic in the Psychedelic Rock category (or is it Psych-Pop at this point?), The Zombies provide a timeless collage of Pop trickery on 1968’s Odessey and Oracle, pushing the boundaries of Psychedelia with the technicolor walls of sound they’ve created.
The shimmering tremolo of “Beechwood Park” is a gorgeous affair; a delightful sound that could only be the brainchild of keyboardist Rod Argent. The story of The Zombies isn’t a particularly showy one, but their immediate dissolution following this smash album is well enough embedded into most music fan’s DNA that a further exploration under the surface doesn’t find itself necessary or warranted, honestly. The music itself is the standalone story for The Zombies, and any further deep diving just seems to revolve right back around to these songs.
Yes, the magic of Odessey is squarely in the music itself. There’s a fair smattering of tracks on here that are flashy in their own right, sure, but others such as “Beechwood Park” are self-confident and assured of its’ own qualities in a more tangible singer/songwriter form which proves to be endlessly endearing in approach and execution.
As it’s written by a greatly talented keyboardist, it’s no surprise Argent would design his songs to be driven primarily by melody, and his vocals deliver the key quality to the song’s serene nature. The Zombies are no dummies when they play with dynamics, the chorus on this thing just blossoms into the stuff of which dreams are made of.
Alas, there has been life after death for The Zombies, and Odessey and Oracle stands as their great musical touchstone.
“How Many More Years”
Moanin’ In The Moonlight (1959)
Oft-imitated yet never quite duplicate, it is hard to overstate the footprint (or should I say ‘pawprint’) left behind by Chester Burnett, otherwise known as Howlin’ Wolf.
I’d say that the 1951 compilation Moanin’ In The Moonlight is a more than adequate entry point into his work, it covers the bases of his early successes (strictly in a songwriting sense) and the songs for the most part complement each other pretty darn well; due in large part to the uniform sound of the production. And man is that an iconic production sound, one that you just had to be there to obtain. Can’t really replicate that sound in 2019, even if many are bound to still try. The instruments are definitely grimy enough to give an unease to its’ sound but everything is generally mixed pretty well and the instruments can mostly be heard through the noisy muck.
A huge favorite of mine from Howlin’ Wolf is “How Many More Years”, a song that seems to elevate itself above its contemporary trappings of the Blues and puts Howlin’ Wolf and his band on their own little stage. Straight from the opening four piano bars, the song is set up to bounce with a unique weight to it. The guitar work is just as expressive as well and stand out as a real highlight. It’s even been argued by American writer Arnold Palmer (not to be confused with the musician Robert Palmer, the de facto leader of animatronic jelly-faced women pantomimed music videos https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcATvu5f9vE ) that this exact recording of “How Many More Years” featured the first recorded instance of a distorted power chord. I like the school of thought he’s coming from, but I feel the need to rebuke it with Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats releasing “Rocket 88” “Rocket ’88” only four months earlier in April 1951.
Of course the man of the hour is the Howlin’ Wolf himself, and his broken glassed throat howls are intoxicating as they’ll ever be. You can tell by listening, this is a man that obviously KNOWS the blues. It’s as second nature to him as breathing. The man is just pure blues, all blues.
It’s hard to say how many more years this woman is going to dog him around, but I can attest that we will be still listening to “How Many More Years” for decades to come.
“First Girl I Loved”
Billed as a “groundbreaking Bluegrass album”, it’s been made clear that John Hartford has little interest in simply regurgitating the genre’s norm without adding some new twist to it, or lest it be known that a standard reinterpretation of Bluegrass lore fares as it’s own twist in itself.
There is a tangible thread that goes throughout the entirety of the album, one that travels through the music of what is traditional, what is the subversion of tradition, and some genuine branching out: all of which culminates inside the Aereo-Plain album. “First Girl I Ever Loved” lands smack dab in the middle of this progression, with a standard instrumental setup playing through a tenderly heartfelt chord progression.
John details a love he felt far removed from himself in present day, more a recollection of thoughts and events than an affair where the singer attaches an emotional response to. The music sways with an inherent nostalgia to it, the acoustic guitar echoes that of James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” “Fire and Rain” to a degree, and some genre-staple fiddle playing makes a welcomed addition to key parts of the song. This story is one from years ago, and John manipulates the song to help bring you to that spot and give you the warm fuzzies only felt from whenever yesteryear was.
Lyrically, it cycles between the warmly mundane parts of teenaged romance and that of what could be described as a Bob Dylan fever dream. In one stanza, you could hear the creatively detailed words of
“Now you used to play the guitar
We worked in a country band
We hung out down on the river bank, on Sunday
Your brother was my closest friend,
he drove a pickup truck
he used to bring me home sometimes, from high school”
And have it switch up to something along the speed of . . .
“I dreamt that you were Joan-of Arc
And I was Don Quixote
And everywhere we went the world was tin-foil
But I gave up dreaming, and became a priest
It put it right out of my system
I worried about it a little bit, but that’s all”
Personality shines through on this release, leaving me to personally place this John Hartford on a similar shelf as you’d find John Prine or even a Jeannie C. Riley of “Harper Valley PTA” “Harper Valley PTA” fame. Most of the “groundbreaking” aspects about this music as it’s so often called, is through the masterful grasp of songwriting he possesses that you surely wouldn’t want to miss out on.
b-sides and rarities (2007)
Off-kilter cover songs are a mainstay for Left of the Dial, but simply being an off-the-wall take on a song isn’t simply enough to warrant it’s inclusion in this show. No, these cover songs need to work well enough to justify its own existance, and believe it or not; Cake of all bands pull off a fantastic rendition of the Black Sabbath classic.
Yeah, I wouldn’t have guessed it either but here we are. But the sparse and minimal structure of the original Sabbath cut provides a lot of material for the Cake boys to play around with. A heavily digitized sound carries the track along, compressed and brickwalled in a way that in effect makes the music sound more colossal than it probably really is. Relocated to a cool C# minor, the track plays to its strengths very well and gives off a mood that is respectful to the original classic while still giving itself a feel entirely of its own.
Also: it was this cover that made me recognize how unique Cake’s production really is. Whenever a song by this band comes on, there is rarely any doubt who is playing the song, done in due part by the personality of its recording/mixing. So hats off to the production crew for this one here. Every nuance added feels justified and worthwhile. By the time the trumpet duo blares through the ending guitar solo line, you’d be surprised you had any doubts to begin with.
Nine Inch Nails
The Downward Spiral (1994)
Pigs (Two Different Ones).
On “Piggy”, the usual bombast as spectacle of Nine Inch Nails is now whittled down to a hushed tension, almost that of an eerie omen. Released the same year as Cobain’s suicide heard round the world, the entirety of The Downward Spiral sounds like a terrible premonition. Trent Reznor spends the majority of the album tearing himself into shreds, revealing the painful yet stunning art of self-destruction; a music custom-made for bringing oneself to the brink and staring directly into that void; taunting it with your very existence.
That being said, the track “Piggy” can either be eschewed entirely from context of the album or be seen as the track to setup the bottomline basis for the album that follows after it. “Piggy” hosts a fine balance of authentic instrumentation and what can be classified as the creepily artificial. In both performance and production, Trent demands the listener to lean their ears inwards and try to make out what it is exactly that he’s doing.
The melody carried by bass guitar is convincing and acts as a central motif for the song as other instruments enter the picture in a sparingly arranged manner as well. A much appreciated acoustic guitar line enters, providing a sublime rhythmic contrast to the main melody and fills the pocket beautifully. The tambourine is noticeably quantized and sterile, providing another inhuman element to the track. And of course, the manic drum breakdown at the end is skin-crawling and tense. Trent played these drums himself and it’s clear that he’s out of his element in this regard, it’s inclusion in the song provides a ticking clock element to the track with his overtly forceful tom hits which are compressed to hell and back and very clearly off-tempo at parts.
Sometimes it’s easy for history to be misshapen and overlooked when the subject of his art can eventually separate from their misery. Many idolize the ilk of Ian Curtis for instance but work to jeopardize the art like The Downward Spiral just because he was able to crawl out of the dark hole that provided his artistic muse and should be celebrated instead.
Manfred Mann’s Earth Band
“Spirits In The Night”
Nightingales & Bombers (1975)
It turns out that Manfred Mann’s Earth Band just has a real knack for covering classic Springsteen songs. Their beloved “Blinded By The Light” cover is the band’s signature song of course, and it’s a rendition that still stands as one of the more complex Pop recordings to score a mainstay on commercial radio waves. I think it’s become common enough knowledge at this point that the song was a radical reinterpretation of the Bruce Springsteen song of the same name, specifically the very first song on his very first album: Greetings From Asbury Park N.J.. Either in a twist of fate or as result of record exec meddling, it turns out that the band had another one in ’em as they recorded a cover of Springsteen’s other single from that first album, “Spirit In The Night”.
As a fan of The Boss, I’ve been of the belief that his “Spirit In The Night” should have been a big hit if it was done right, but the Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. recording just doesn’t quite cut it for me. The fuller rendition fuller rendition he’d do years later on the 5 vinyl live album boxset Live 1975-85 best epitomizes the potential the song has. Funnily enough, Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. was originally envisioned as a solo-ish Folk album as most record companies were looking for who would be next in line to be dubbed the “next Dylan“, and Columbia Records was no exception as they picked Bruce up on their label under this pretense. Amidst the final stretch of recording his debut, the higher-ups were unsure about what hit potential these songs would have, and sequestered Bruce away to write a couple radio-ready smashes. He came back with just two more songs, “Blinded By The Light” and “Spirit In The Night”.
Fate has a funny way of working out, as both these singles flopped when they were first released. In Bruce Springsteen’s new autobiography “Born To Run” (a highly enjoyable read, by the way), he recollects travelling from radio station to station begging them to play his song, and without fail, every jockey would play it up til the opening line “Madmen drummers, bummers, ind-” and abruptly cut it off by that point; the radio host version of giving Bruce the gong (“We got more gongs than the breakdancing robot that caught on fire “We got more gongs than the breakdancing robot that caught on fire”). By the time Manfred Mann’s Earth Band released it, it shot all the way to number 1: technically the only time Bruce Springsteen would receive the #1 Billboard spot in his songwriting career.
The song by Manfred Mann works on its own level and it really is a phenomenal song in its own right without just needing to ride on the original’s coattails in this discussion. The sound to the instrumental is forward-looking and very inspired. The guitar work is marvelous as well, working to bring out the best in the keyboards of the song as well. There is also much patience in the way the song was arranged structure-wise, it all ebbs and flows in a very natural manner. Maybe one of these days I’ll give a closer look to what else these guys have done, as they’ve been nothing short of impressive for all I’d heard from them.
“Drag The Waters”
The Great Southern Trendkill (1996)
How’s about a little Pantera to go along with your morning tea, miss? The band’s fourth album in their (accepted accepted) canon is The Great Southern Trendkill, an album which epitomizes the sound of a band with utmost confidence in playing as a group all the while falling apart at the seams. This is how we can get from “Medicine Man” “Medicine Man” to the dismal acoustics on “Floods” “Floods” or the surprisingly effective keyboard textures on “Suicide Note Pt. 1” “Suicide Note Pt. 1”.
Pantera still knows how to knock it out of the park on this release though, and none may be more compellingly B.A. than “Drag The Waters”. Featuring what may be the most heavy metal cowbell that I know of, the sleek rhythm played on this song just absolutely crushes anything in its path
The jury is still out on genre classification for Pantera, but a common placement for them is within the “Groove Metal” genre which is exemplified by “Drag The Waters” in spades. I’d point to their album prior as the best representation of this “Groove Metal” sound. And hey, Dimebag Darrell’s tone is a little more palpable this time around! His dead notes thru the verses cut with razor sharp precision and his riffs are slinky as they’ll ever be. And c’mon, that’s one of the most ominous cowbell parts in Metal music history.
The music of this one is at a reasonable tempo unlike most of its parent album, making for something that is digestible while still completely invigorating. It is very easy to understand why the raw nerve of Pantera connects with so many people across the globe.
Bad Brains (1982)
The entirety of Hardcore Punk’s landmark album Bad Brains must have seemed like a weird and cruel joke to anybody listening to it at the time. Its blisteringly fast played songs are all bursting with inhuman energy, each song seemingly played faster and shorter than the last.
But who would’ve guessed that Bad Brains would level out their anarchic Punk chaos with, uh . . . Dub Reggae? Yeah, no twists or turns from the formula, the band just loves playing some straight Reggae too. Nobody, I repeat, NOBODY expected this from the group when first listening to them and it still can catch me off guard if I’m not thinking much about it.
Not only does the band dabble in Reggae, but they’re really really good at it. “Leaving Babylon” has one of the best Dub basslines around, completely anchoring the song into a hypnotic groove. Singer of the group H.R. uses his usual yelpy singing to great use here, his voice on these songs make much more sense than you’d want to believe. Guitar chords waver in and out in stereophonic bliss, and the reggaeton snare punches through.
“Leaving Babylon” is intoxicating in effect and it belongs on any good Reggae playlist. Funny enough, 311 would do a pretty faithful cover pretty faithful cover of this song years later; although it’s tough to tell if their cleaner recording techniques improve the song much.
The New Look (1966)
Nothing connects the heart to the dance-shoes like a great Soul song, and “Rescue Me” does that signature Chess Records sound just as good as the rest of them. The instrumental of “Rescue Me” is groovy and provides a great platform for Miss Fontella Bass to let her vocals soar. The rhythm is performed to a very catchy 1-2 beat, and the production has that grainy crispness that’s so desirable in these older Soul records. Fontella Bass delivers a gusto vocal that has a dripping honey-like quality to it, a voice that’s very full and warm.
Word is, that chipper-voiced & doey-eyed talent Minnie Riperton was providing backing vocals behind the scenes, although her signature whistle-tones are nowhere to be heard on this particular song (performed by John Stamos’ brother Richard or otherwise performed by John Stamos’ brother Richard or otherwise). Still, the talent behind “Rescue Me” is readily apparent to the listener, providing a catchy and memorable song.
“What You Got”
Walls and Bridges (1974)
A real shocker in the John Lennon canon, a song nestled deep in his discography is an honest to God, no holds barred Funk Rock track. Seriously, play this for somebody with no context and they are most likely not going to guess that it was a Beatle behind the clunked wah-guitars and absurd cowbell loops.
He’d of course dabbled in the style before, but nothing ever materialized in anything this direct. And frankly, I welcome it wholeheartedly; not least because I absolutely LOVE anything to do with Funk. But I appreciate it more as another step forward in artistry for John. His solo works eventually get bogged down into a lethargic mess of lossless ambition and general malaise at times, notably his album run from Some Time In New York City to Rock N’ Roll. I doubt your average listener could sing you a melody from the entirety of an album like Head Games, for instance.
So if Lennon is working with sounds that are not only contemporary for him but is also demanding in energy, then it comes across as a breath of fresh air for the battle worn rocker. His primal scream practices translate excellently on top of this forceful song, he really gives 110% to the choruses on this one: always just barely reaching atop the note he’s straining for in a wowing display.
The instrumentation is on point as well, the band plays mean and loose and it should be no surprise to readers of this show that the horn section on this song just slays me. You can just tell how much fun the ensemble was having with this song, and Lennon sounds more alive than ever.
“Ole Man Trouble”
Otis Blue (1965)
“Ole Man Trouble” by masterclass Soul singer Otis Redding is the sound of Soul’s great gospel played down n’ dirty, all centered around the once in a lifetime singing of Otis. Despite years of attempted copying, nobody comes even close to Otis Redding. His manner of singing is as familiar is it is deceptive, there is a beguiling character in how he sings words that is imitable but never replicated. A blessedly familiar well-worn singer, the creaks and warm exertion found in his throat give an “at home” feeling, a comfort akin to the creaking of wooden floors in childhood home.
“Ole Man Trouble” is the opening cut from Otis Blue, the album far and wide considered to be his first fully realized recordings. “Ole Man Trouble” is most definitely a leap in the right direction, possessing an oomph in it’s swaggering power that towers over all.
Curiously enough, this exact recording found its way on what would tragically be his final release The Dock Of The Bay, appearing as the very last track of the album. A surprising move for sure, and a respectful decision for artist continuity for the time, but a fitting move nonetheless as the effortless energy of the song is all as powerful then as it would be five albums later, as it would be fifty years to where we are now.
Blue Öyster Cult”
“Then Came the Last Days Of May”
Blue Öyster Cult (1972)
In this year of 2019, I’m still waiting for the music community at large to reassess the works of Blue Öyster Cult. In all honesty, BöC comes across as one of Classic Rock’s most criminally underrated acts, churning out great song after great song with exquisite songwriting and musicianship. They almost feel like a parallel act to what Deep Purple had been doing in their career.
“Then Came The Last Days Of May” has a softly unique sound and comes across as poetic in areas. The band gives an enthusiastic performance of this song and it is just a joy to listen to. Usually, the band sounds heavier or more catered toward a commercial audience at times, so “Then Came The Last Days Of May” occupies a very welcomed spot in their catalog.
Very catchy and very compelling, Blue Öyster Cult puts their money where their mouth is.
Blind Willie Johnson
“Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground”
I want the best of Blues songs to truly haunt, give off a nervous energy that glows in the dark. These ambiguities can be found to those with an ear to give for Blind Willie Johnson in his bone-chilling “Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground”.
Blues as a vocal driven genre is taken to a logical end here, vague vocables are all that is offered through the song. But yea, it is telling that his hushed moans are more telling than any other set of words would be, this emotion in performance is all necessary and proves an important indication of why Blues would emerge as the new alternate for music of the time.
It’s just one man and a slide guitar, the pain and emotion is what drives the song despite its bare instrumentation. When the atmosphere is just right, the song is truly bone-chilling and a very moving experience in music.
One more time, here’s the playlist that has every song ever featured on the program.