Pink Floyd, Welcome To The Machine . . This song, and much of the Wish You Were Here album, particularly Have A Cigar, is about record company BS but it could also be taken in a dystopian sense which, by titles at least, my first few selections tonight represent although as always there are stories, inspirations and motivations behind playing them.
Yes, Machine Messiah . . . This came up by word association while searching Welcome To The Machine. So, while I’ve played it fairly recently but not too recently, I thought what the heck, it fits the early theme of the show in both a prog rock, lyrical and song title sense. It’s from the sort of outlier Drama album by Yes, 1980, when singer Jon Anderson and keyboardist Rick Wakeman had left the band and in came singer Trevor Horn and keyboardist Geoff Downes from The Buggles and Video Killed The Radio Star fame. It seemed a bizarre addition but then out came Drama, leading off with this epic and it was like relax, Yes fans, we’re still prog rock and . . . perhaps even a bit metallic. Cool cut from one of my favorite Yes albums.
Genesis, The Colony of Slippermen . . . Any time I listen to or hear anything from The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway album I inevitably think of an old and still, from afar, buddy of mine, Gerry. He loved and still (I think) loves Genesis and would always wax rapturously about the album, starting by saying simply, “The Lamb…” and then getting into whatever point he was making. He follows the show, much appreciated. This one’s for you, friend. I like it, too.
Soft Machine, Chloe and The Pirates . . . Chloe is stuck with pirates on the colony of slippermen. No, I don’t know that, just felt like connecting the two and who knows what Chloe is or was thinking and doing? Nobody is talking because by this point, Soft Machine was an instrumental jazz progressive rock band.
Rush, Cygnus X-1 . . . From likely my favorite Rush album, A Farewell To Kings, all things considered. It’s the one I grew up with, know best and play most often although as with any great band, the catalog is deep and worthwhile listening throughout, even some of the mid- to late 80s synthesizer-dominated stuff, to a point. Playing this song tonight resulted from an auto correct typo. I was texting with one of my boys on Saturday evening and one word in whatever it was I said became Cygnus and I didn’t notice it before sending. So, I quickly recouped, blamed auto correct (not my poor editing skills), mentioned it was a Rush song, or at least part of one, and so here we are. Cygnus X-1 is, as many know, a black hole in the constellation Cygnus. Many bands write about sex, drugs and rock and roll. Rush writes about black holes which I suppose could be taken sexually. In fact, I remember although never saw the 1979 movie The Black Hole, which one of my buddies at the time in college referenced with respect to another friend’s girlfriend and, well, I better shut up now especially given the often ‘cancel culture’ nature of society these days. It’s a joke, people! As for Rush, Cygnus X-1 is part one of a two-parter. Full title Cygnus X-1 Book I: The Voyage, it was the last song on A Farewell To Kings. On the next album, Hemispheres, they completed the epic by opening with Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres. Yeah, I know, perhaps I should have paired them today but I did that long ago and, well, just didn’t feel like it but perhaps a revisit is in order on some future full-blown prog rock show. Wonder what might have happened if, after Book I, the band broke up after promising a Book II? Well, it didn’t happen but it’s like when (Van Halen Best of Volume I comes to mind) a band releases a ‘volume I” compilation album but, due to breakup, whatever, there’s never a Volume II. I wouldn’t risk the possible bad karma, but that’s me. Anyway, Rush of course survived until retirement.
FM, Black Noise . . . From the Canadian band from which Nash The Slash came. Great track. Love the instrumental transition then heavy into the bass around the seven-minute mark of the 10-minute epic. But that’s prog rock for you, and a great thing.
King Crimson, Moonchild . . . From the ridiculously brilliant debut album, 1969, In The Court Of The Crimson King. Still and forever, although I like all their stuff, my favorite King Crimson album.
Joe Walsh, Decades . . . We depart from the prog theme of the first seven songs, although this is still prog-ish, in length at least, at 12 minutes. I wanted to play something from the sometimes almost deliberate but not necessarily true goofball persona that is Joe Walsh and here he, the apparent forever joker, comes with serious shit. It’s Walsh’s overview observations, sometimes autobiographical, decade by decade, of humanity’s various exercises in nonsense, mostly war, over the century of the 1900s. Worthwhile reading of the lyrics, even if you’re not into the music. From his 1992 album Songs For A Dying Planet. It bombed commercially, interestingly enough, since he mentions the A-bomb in this song’s lyrics.
The Rolling Stones, 2000 Man . . . Walsh’s album came out before the 20th century was out, so I’m having the Stones fill in the blanks up to 2000, so to speak, by title, in this somewhat prescient tale from 1967 and the Satanic Majesties album. “Well my name is a number a piece of plastic film . . . ” “I’m having an affair with the random computer.” Etc. Kiss covered 2000 Man on their Dynasty album, released in 1979 and containing their disco-ish hit I Was Made For Lovin’ You which, and I’m not a Kiss fan, to me is a brilliant track although it naturally confused and split their fan base.
Deep Purple, Flight Of The Rat . . . Propulsive rocker from In Rock, the brilliant first album (and fourth overall under the Deep Purple moniker) released in 1970 by the Mk. II and most famous and successful version of the band: Ian Gillan (vocals); Ritchie Blackmore (guitar); Roger Glover (bass); Ian Paice (drums); Jon Lord (keyboards).
Led Zeppelin, Four Sticks . . . From Zep IV, the one with the overplayed (albeit great) Stairway To Heaven on it. Hypnotic stuff.
Saga, The Security Of Illusion . . . From the Canadian prog rockers, and they’re from my hometown of Oakville, Ontario, too. Nice lyrics. Sort of fit, or could be applied to, my concluding two tracks from Jethro Tull and Ian Anderson’s diatribes against organized religion. As a recovering Catholic long distanced from the church or any organzied religion, I approve of such diatribes. There is faith, especially in oneself, there is spirituality. Religion and especially religious dogma are irrelevant societal/business constructs.
Jethro Tull, My God . . . I blew my then age 9 or 10 elder son’s mind playing this track from Aqualung for him one night. To that point, he had only heard or been into Tull’s best-known songs/hits. So, we laid on the floor, between two speakers, and just let it wash over us. He popped up and said “dad, holy shit.” About the lyrics. And the music. Later on, as he was learning/becoming expert on guitar, we did the same between the headphones thing one night listening to the live version of the Stones’ Sympathy For The Devil, from Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out as my son so wonderfully explained the separation in a great guitar tandem (Keith Richards and Mick Taylor then) between rhythm and lead playing as so well exemplified on that Stones track where first Richards, with a brilliant solo, then Taylor to finish up, are out of this world.
Jethro Tull, Wind Up . . . Another perfect title to end a show and, while I usually, unless I’m doing a themed show, don’t play two in a row from a band, I’ve always seen My God and Wind Up, also from Aqualung, as lyrically connected although they are separated by other songs on the album.