This Is A Dangerous Album
20/06/2011 § Leave a comment
Alan Douglas licensed Rykodisc the rights to re-release Leary’s You Can Be Anyone This Time Around album in 1992. Originally, it was recorded at the heyday of Leary’s popularity in the late 1960s, but the full truth about the album sessions had to wait thirty years in the future, when we were allowed to put the full artist listing on the album. Jimi Hendrix played bass on one track! Okay, not earth shattering, but pretty wild to me, at least. Since Hendrix had long since passed and his record company—Warner Bros.—was not going to sue the ass off of Douglas for recording Hendrix outside of his contract and releasing an album with an illegal performance, we added this rock history factoid to our release. “Finally,” Jon Sebastian thanked me after sending him a slew of copies. “Everyone thinks I’m lying when I say I jammed with Jimi.”
As the A&R dude and label manager for Rykodisc’s Voices imprint, I was handed the album to release. Jas Morgan, of Mondo 2000, had an original of Joe Roberts Jr “Leary for Governor” poster and had it shipped to us to use for the inside of the booklet. It was pretty cool to see, a few years later, our booklet poster hanging over Fatboy Slims’ record player on the inside of his You’ve Come A Long Way Baby album. I did try and get a scan of that album to remind you all, but I can’t find my CD. And you can even write to Norman Cook (FbS) on his site and I did. And my post was moderated right off the site. At least I could have had an answer, like sorry bub. Nope, obliterated right back into the ether of the internet. But I did snag a shot off the background of Fatboyslimdotcom; a blurry bit of a view, but until I can get a good scan there it is below.
For these liners I got into the mood one night after everyone was asleep and I put my headphones on. Listening to the pre-mastered disc, I wrote, and wrote and wrote until my eyes hurt. Since the Sixties were when I was just a sprout with the requisite bell-bottoms and longish hair, I had little idea of the wide-world out there outside of the six-o-clock news, whose crew-cutted announcers sure were not relaying any more than slim notion of the events related to by this album, I had to research a bit of the history behind the album and of the era.
Alan was impressed. Little did he know, or was told, I was also a writer. With his enthusiasm at such a positive level I was more than hoping he’d tap me for some future liner note writing project, the likes of which never materialized.
You Can Be Anyone This Time Around by Timothy Leary
Liner notes by David Greenberg
THIS IS A DANGEROUS ALBUM. There is something insidious about the easy-going, flip manner of tone, there is something subversive in the philosophy, there is an even basic falsehood to the construction of the whole production. Dangerous to a fault, dangerous to what you hold tenuously near and dear. Reality.
Even the man himself, Timothy Leary, was considered a danger to the democratic process, to the very future of America. It is rumored that the soon-to-be Great Persuader hisself, ladies and gentleman, the Governor of California, Ronald Reagan, had his minions find a way to remove the potential for a Leary candidacy for the Governorship of California. Leary arrested on a drug charge, whisked away to prison, and therefore nullified to enter in the race. Democracy was served, damn tooting for the red, white, and blue. America wrapped itself in the flag too tightly in those days, and couldn’t see the bad moon rising, the bad blood a boiling, the revolution of not only the generations, but of sex, of gender, of the mind. Instead, the lawmakers and the lawtakers of the Organizational Man sought to constrict the already weakened and subdued freedoms like some dull-witted/maddened anaconda wrapped around its own tail. The shit hit the fan anyway, despoiling the suburban golden slumbers spin during the ’50s.
Leary takes the philosophy of the revolution one step further; inward to go outward with mind-altering drugs that no one knew how or why or where it affected the neurotransmitters of the brain. No one knew the correct dosages, or even if there were correct dosages. Or knowing who was susceptible to bad trips, throwing the neuro-chemicals into a log-jamming mode, blocking essential personality traits from ever surfacing again. Blow your mind, dam straight. But, as Leary postulates, nicotine causes cancer, liquor destroys livers, guns can be bought with a permit; their dangers are known, posted for all to see, yet they are legal. Why not LSD? It’s one more freedom to fight for, the freedom to change your mind. The freedom to make up your mind (starting from scratch), the feedom to blw it if you want to. Ultimate freedom, ultimate frivolity, a never-ending commute Leary was taking to the cosmos, that those Merry Pranksters were taking “further” to nowhere in particular.
LSD was Leary’s religion, his family’s religon, he states on “Live and Let Live.” It was a little dot on a sugar cube, a piece of blotter paper soaked in Owsley’s purple acid bath, as the way to get to the deity, whoever that was for whomever was the focus of the littering moment; Leary even poses that YOU yourself could be God in “You Can Be Anyone This Time Around.” Now consider yourself a well-mannered Housewife, ironing one of your husband’s white shirts (they look just stunning with his grey suits–any one of the five of them) and you have a perfect home and a perfect house and the perfect future your your 2.5 kids (.5’s still a glimmer in hubby’s eye, but he won’t be getting IT until two weeks from now when it’s the right time and mood) and Huntley/Brinkley/Cronkite report that for Timothy Leary, LSD is a religion, the main function of government is to have a big party and the pursuit of happiness to to be high all the time, you can be God, your kids can be Shiva. What gets under your skin most of all is this: The drug-swilling fanatic is running for Governor of California and will change the laws to suit his frivolous notions and needs and is recoding an album and it will be listened to by at least two of your kids. Does that make you paranoid and scared of this one human being? Of course it does. Consider that Housewife times a million into the dangerous factor. Or course this album was not even thought of as riding the fast track to the top of the Billboard Charts, and a good portion of America never even knew of its existence. But still burbling in the mindset captured by the microphone and simmering in the mix is Leary holding forth on his new religion, the one of ultimate freedom.
Leary could gibe with the best of them. His stand-up comedy jiving with the press in “Live And Let Live” shows this through, making him more human, less of an evil. His way with words circumlocutes the message, but still it gets through, between the titters of the newsmen and women. The music works the same magic, but instead of only comedy pulling you in toward this dude, it’s the funky late night New York City jam happening just off the great White Way of Broadway, a little into the seamy side of Times Square, in one of the studios of The Record Plant. The strut of sleepwalking babes slides through Jimi Hendrix’s bass riff. Who ever thought that John Sebastian could chickachunka this strings that slippery, that knowing of the funky side of live? Buddy Miles lay down the bumptious beat, as usual, with the easyness of having spent his formative years in R&B. This jam pulls us into the feeling of a good time, relaxing our defenses, while layered over it are the proclamations of The Candidate. You feel good, the words sink into the psyche all the easier, the beat is groovy and the thoughts zip forward to a conclusion.
This is the basic lie. While the jam is of one piece, Leary’s whole performance is full of edits and mixes and remixes—pulling this take, splicing it over there, ripping this one out, chopping and sorting with razor blades and tape. The whole music track of “You Can…” and “What Do You Turn On…” were composed and architected by editing bits of tape together. A new reality was manufactured out of disparate and diverse effluvia. This was not original nor was it unique. The models for this experiment stood as tall and as close as the movie screens one block downtown on 42nd Street. This way with sound was, and is, the modus operandi in the world of the movies since they were talkies. Whole environments of sound are recreated by teams of foley artists (on foley stages equipped with sound making props and false surfaces to recreate footsteps, bodyfalls, kives piercing flesh, even wet kisses) and sound editors cutting together sound effects (efx. sirens, engines, car door slams) for scenes needing enhancement, or even scenes shot MOS (Mit Out Sound) and the audience is not the wiser. Drama, humor, poignancy, whatever the scne needs is helped with a false sound environment made up way after the fact in little sound editing roomes, long months after the scene was shot.
Hell, the whole process of film-making is a lie.At 24 frames-per-second, images are butted together with splices, forming a thought, then a scene, all to form an experience of sound and vision in the fourth dimension. Rearrange the scenes and a whole new experience is created. Which is more true? What can be unsettling, especially in fact-filled documentaries, is both versions are true.
Perhaps it was Alan Douglas’ and Intermedia Systems’ multi-media immersement that stimulated the production process, perhaps it was the frenetic ultracreative tenor of the times, perhaps it was just the drugs causing them to become the snickering Igors of the soundbites. And while the avant-garde had already toiled away with creating music out of tape edits, the world of pop music looked the other way—toward capturing the integrity of the performance. Edits were anathema to this integrity.
No integrity here with this Monster, especially the rapping Ginsbergian orbital poetry of “What Do You Turn On When You Turn On?” where the words and thoughts repeat and layer meaning over themselves, a precursor to the highly engineered and edited rap and house and acid house and technobeat tracks snorkeling through the boomboxes of today. This is probably the prototypical house album, the one which they are all built upon, with the repeats and flips of the music, with the dense mix of pop iconography slipping in an out of focus, punctuating the beat, becoming the beat, a daisy-chain of stuff making music. Even closer related is Mick Jones and film-maker Don Letts’s first B.A.D. album. They appropriated and blenderized bits of pop iconography; movie dialogue, sound efx, music samples; twisting the term Music TeleVision back on itself by presenting musical versions of TV.
You Can Be Anyone This Time Around, the album is the musical construct of an acid trip where Experience is cut and pasted with other bits from who knows where and reassembled in a whole new sequence onto an ever-flowing collage called Reality. The trip is a different Reality, a distorted reality, a clearere and more-than-real reality, maybe not even your reality as you could have possibly schismed into someone else where your mind used to be.
This album was designed and constructed, not played and produced. This walbum was cut and spliced, it was recorded and rerecorded and mixed and remixed. This album, released in 1970, was basically far ahead of its time what with most of this years models prissified through the wonders of electronic and computer technology. Bryan Ferry does not have to do one take, he can do twenty. Engineers mix and match them seamlessly into one complete song. J. Geils’ “Freeze Frame” is an amazing construct. The first time that song was “performed” was when the tape was rolling at about 100 spices a minute during the mixing session.
The construction of You Can was meant for one purpose: The launching of Timothy Leary where it mattered; directly at you. The whole launching of the Learyship through the orbital confines of your skull, massaging the extended fingers of your neurotransmitters, will be complete once you strap on the headsets and turn on the stereo, tune in on his voice, and droup out of sight for half an hour.
This is an dangerous album, but then again, this is a dangerous world in which we live. Probably a lot more dangerous than this album. Definitely a lot more foolish and a lot less funky.
1. Live and Let Live (13:56) (Timothy Leary: rap; Stephen Stills: guitar; John Sebastian: guitar; Jimi Hendrix: bass; Buddy Miles: drums)
2. You Can Be Anyone This Time Around (9:03)
3. What Do You Turn On When You Turn On (6:03)
All material by Timothy Leary and published by Douglas Music Corporation (BMI) administration for the world by Don Williams Music Group. Produced by Intermedia Systems Corp., Cambridge, Massachusetts. Recording mix by Usco-Dacey. Artwork by Kelly/Mouse Studios. Archival material and assistance by Jas Morgan, Mondo 2000. Leary campaign poster by Joe Roberts, Jr. Album cover retrieval by Mondo 2000 & William L. Shurk and the Music Library and Sound Recording Archives of Bowling Green State University. Package design by Cindy Nelson.