New feature! Ranting about radio

Posted: November 14, 2010 in music, Record reviews
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

“Eight Miles High”
Hüsker Dü
1983
The Byrds demonstrate how two of the most popular U.S. radio formats work. You can hear “Eight Miles High” on any Classic Rock station, but not on any Golden Oldies station, because it’s an electrified folk-music drug trip. This is why, for example, Classic Rock plays “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” while Golden Oldies sticks with “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.” The unspoken motto of Classic Rock is “You’re still kickin’ it.” (Especially if you get to bed by 10.) The unspoken motto of Golden Oldies is “Lower your salt intake.”

Golden Oldies regularly spins The Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man,” which is about a musical device a 4-year-old can play and anyway omits 21% of Dylan’s lyrics, and “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” which is from the Bible so it’s been cleared by God. Classic Rock might play The Byrds’ 16-minute live version of “Eight Miles High” (during the highly competitive 3am slot), but otherwise is done with this band.

Were The Byrds better than The Beau Brummels?
Maybe not, but they deserve more attention than this. It was a happy moment in 1983 when Midwest punk-pop miscreants Hüsker Dü reinterpreted “Eight Miles High.” You might think that Hüsker Dü accepted this project as a joke, like The Dickies’ 1980 cover of The Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin” (which contains every note from the original, including the gong at the end, but all of them played three times as fast).

Not so! Hüsker Dü isn’t kidding about this song. Maybe they have fond memories of hearing it while they were in day care. Maybe they have fond memories of hearing it while they were burning down the day care. They love this song so much, they released their version on its own 45 (backed with the lyrical, sensitive “Masochism World”).

Hüsker Dü’s approach to “Eight Miles High” begins in the same neighborhood as the original. They give that about 10 seconds. Trios have repeatedly proven that they can generate plenty of noise. See Nirvana for one example, or, if you must, Grand Funk Railroad. Bob Mould, Grant Hart, and Greg Norton keep on rockin’ you, baby. About halfway through their barrage, after running out of words (easy to do; there are only 78 in the entire song), Mould substitutes screaming. He also gives us two memorable guitar breaks that could easily segue into almost anything by their early rivals, REM, particularly the anti-war “Orange Crush.”

Run-DMSteve, happy at last
Hell yes. This is one of the most thrilling covers I know, ranking right up there with Ministry’s marrow-munching “Lay, Lady, Lay.” But you won’t hear it on Classic Rock, which has an uneasy relationship with punk, beyond a few tracks from The Sex Pistols and The Clash.

You’ll never hear Hüsker Dü on Golden Oldies no matter how long the Boomers or Gen Xers live. Golden Oldies won’t even play music from the 1950s now. If it pre-dates The Beach Boys, it doesn’t exist. (As I’ve always wished The Beach Boys didn’t exist, Golden Oldies might someday give me my wish.)

BTW: Get to bed by 10!

Comments
  1. extraspeciald says:

    I’m SpecialD, and I approve both “Eight Miles High” and lowering your salt intake.

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