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PERFORMANCE SOUNDTRACK – “ACID TRIP”
September 19, 1970
It was forty-two years ago today that the PERFORMANCE soundtrack was released and instantly became one of my all-time favorite albums.
Filmed in 1968 and fraught with seemingly endless delays; it wasn’t released by Warner Brothers until 1970. The film’s owners thought they were getting the Stones’ version of the Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night” – you can imagine their dismay after viewing a Rock ‘n’ Roll gangster movie with purportedly actual sex scenes, drug use and a whole lot of gender-bending – a very dark, twisted, beautiful, entertaining trip – and that’s what makes the soundtrack excellent!
Listening to this LP, and I mean really listening, from beginning to end may give those who’ve never experienced psychedelics a peek at what all the fun is about – this album is a mind-bending acid trip!
This isn’t easy access acid, this psychedelic music is sophisticated and closer to the real feelings and sounds one may encounter. There have been very few albums and movies that truly reflect aspects of a psychedelic trip, Johnny Depp and Hunter S,. Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” is one of the all-around best.
And just like with LSD; this album lets you experience different levels of reality that can take you to different places (visionary, hallucinogenic) but are part of the whole trip. And the album’s blend of styles and overall quality of the music only heightens the visceral and highly appropriate drug-induced surreality of the whole film’s trip.
Most of the music was written by Jack Nitzsche, a visionary in Rock History from waaaay back with his cool, cool hit “The Lonely Surfer”, and he then worked with Phil Spector, Neil Young’s Crazy Horse, the Stones and many other top bands. He eventually amassed a world-class list of film scores since his cool sound, perfect for any decade whether solo or with others, was in demand.
So with this super rare collaboration of the finest musicians, composers and singers of the day; it all came together as one continuous flow of exquisite examples of ‘70’s musical genres with Rock as the base and drenched in psychedelia wafting up from the sunrise at your elbow.
I really can’t say enough about this LP and since these are meant to be lean reviews I’ll hit the high points.
“Gone Dead Train” explodes as the first track and has Randy Newman in full-tilt Rock mode – he really showed what he was capable of as a Rocker and everyone was impressed – plus the song is aces.
Cuts 2 through 6 are pure sophisticated psychedelia – even Ry Cooder’s slide sounds stoned!
Jack Nitzsche and Newman’s “Harry Flowers’ ends side one with a dreamy number that sounds like the “Twin Peaks” theme on acid which allows the listener some respite before side two’s hard core opener.
“Memo from Turner” is classic Beggar’s Banquet/Let It Bleed-era Stones with Mick fully realizing his Turner character’s past and present and offering up his best solo Performance!
“Hashishin” gets you high just listening to it.
The Last Poets totally classic (birth of Hip-Hop?) “Wake Up Niggers” nails a part of society with a “get your shit together” message that can’t be ignored (I can recite every word of this righteous song).
The absolute top in-demand female session singer, Merry Clayton (“Gimme Shelter”) is featured on three cuts: “Performance”; another cool acid trip unto itself, “Poor White Hound Dog”; very techno-psychedelic rockin’ soul and “Turner’s Murder”; where she soars in a mini-“2001: A Space Odyssey” excursion.
And just like an LSD Trip, we return right where we started with a surprise short reprise of “Gone Dead Train” as the Album/Trip ender.
The LP was a Who’s Who of extreme talent beside all of the above stated luminaries, there was Bernard Krause – moog (Beaver and Krause “Ghandarva” LP – seriously classic synth ‘n’ soul), Milt Holland – drums/percussion (one of the famous Wrecking Crew of studio musicians), Lowell George – guitar (Little Feat) and other top notch musicians.
The “Performance” soundtrack LP, while surely representing the early ’70s, has the nebulous quality to transcend genres and decades – and sounds deadly cool any day of any year.
00individual endorses both the film and the soundtrack as essential 1970s cultural experiences.
Will add more titles as they become available; or better yet – get the soundtrack!
“Gone Dead Train” 2:56 (Randy Newman)
“Performance” 1:49 (Merry Clayton)
“Get Away” 2:09 (Ry Cooder)
“Powis Square 2:25 (Ry Cooder)
“Rolls Royce and Acid” 1:50 (Jack Nitzsche)
“Dyed, Dead, Red” 2:35 (Buffy Sainte-Marie)
“Harry Flowers” 4:03 (Jack Nitzsche, Randy Newman)
“Memo from Turner” 4:08 (Mick Jagger)
“Hashishin” 3:39 (Buffy Sainte-Marie, Ry Cooder)
“Wake Up, Niggers” 2:47 (The Last Poets)
“Poor White Hound Dog” 2:50 (Merry Clayton)
“Natural Magic” 1:40 (Jack Nitzsche)
“Turner’s Murder” 4:15 (Merry Clayton Singers)
Because the Performance soundtrack is in a lysergic state, the music becomes timeless.
Take the slide guitar, usually associated with country and country rock, but here Ry makes the slide an acidic part of the trip, it becomes something more and that’s the psychotropic aura of this whole LP; normal associations disintegrate into something else, something strangely seductive, something that you can feel emanating from within your body then suddenly the world around you is different, like you’ve never really seen it before and the grass beneath your boots are trying to communicate as the voices of millions of tiny blades of grass are whirling in the air around you, when suddenly a jet plane goes by, or what you think you hear is a plane, but it’s not, the tunneling reverberations of cosmic sounds are coming from inside your head and that sound begins to connect to every living thing around you as celestial voices that were always there are now audible; plants, trees and vegetation can be heard singing in swooshes of sound tumbling and rolling over in the ethers but always at a level of the environment, never overbearing, but far away and right at your ear at the same time and one look at the sky and you’re astounded at how utterly blue it is, it’s surrealistic blue, like it was lit-up from behind, and you begin to notice and feel the curvature of the earth as the sky bends in the horizon as if solid and while contemplating this strangeness your legs begin to walk and at first it seems as though your feet are way too big and way too far out in front of your body and for a moment you fear you will fall backward, but then realize that you’re perfectly balanced – you’re just “truckin'”!
Everything’s cool, but you realize day has slipped into twilight and everything is now mysterious. A car’s headlights coming from behind you illuminate a couple of shiny trash cans by the curb but as the light moves across them they become animated and you realize that those aren’t trash cans, those are robots! But before you can investigate further you see a cop car curiously parked with its lights off down the street you are on, if you turn around or alter your direction that may draw attention, so you continue on – as you get closer you hope that you appear to be walking normally as you sure don’t feel like you are – then just as you’re the closest you’ll have to be to pass him – you hear his car door click open and the cop gets out of the car and says “Hey, you fryin”? (What? Did he say that – or are you hallucinating?) You slow and wave (a friendly gesture) and as if you didn’t hear him you say, “What?” As he waves back his face becomes darkly evil and terror strikes you as he says, “I didn’t say anything” and turns and hurries up the street. You avoided but almost brought on a dangerous situation – being in a psychedelic state does initially come with some pangs of paranoia which can escalate quickly into a hallucinogenic bad trip if control is not mastered and the way to do that is keep one part of your conscious mind secure with these words inside: “It’s only the drug!” And seriously, that simple truth is usually all that’s needed to junp back into the fun!
Such as when you approach a bluff that looks out over the expanse of the city, thousands of sparkling diamonds on rich black velvet, wait that’s not psychedelic, that’s a normal everyday image – ahh, yes, but you can reach out and pluck anyone of those gems and examine it’s insane molecular structure up close, and as you sit down on the soft spongy grass you notice a space bug on a piece of chain link, it’s all iridescent and very spacey, like a miniature spaceship actually, it seems to know you’re looking at it, so you sit and watch it breathe, so you know it’s alive, yet you were watching the walls of the corner store breathe a while back also, so maybe it’s time to part company as you’re feeling in control so you head back home.
On the way you become aware of your physicality, of your flesh and muscles and start feeling exceptionally aroused and primal, like Tarzan, and you know that soon you and your girlfriend will be having psychedelic animal sex before the trip is over. Groovy! Far Out!
For those of you who endured this little trip, here’s a quote from the film (Mick as Turner) that we used a lot when we’d get seriously psychedelic – “The only performance that makes it, that makes it all the way, is the one that achieves madness. Am I right? Eh?”
We Wuz Crazy Mad Psychedelic Kidz.
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