Aphrodite’s Child: Rain and Tears (France, 1968)

Rain and tears are the same
But in the sun you’ve got to play the game

The Greek electronic composer Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou, better known as Vangelis, is one of the defining sounds of the early 1980s, after his scores for 1981’s Chariots of Fire and – that nexus year again – 1982’s science fiction masterpiece Blade Runner. He of course continued to have a strong career through the 1990s and 2000s and is still (as far as I know) active today.

But let’s set the time circuits fourteen years earlier and look at a song from 1968. Aphrodite’s Child was Vangelis’s first band (as keyboard player, with three other Greek musiciabns) and Rain and Tears was the band’s first hit single. Based on Pachelbel’s Canon, it was covered by bands in many countries including New Zealand. I have memories of hearing a version of it in the 1970s-80s, but I don’t recall whether it was the Vangelis original. But it sticks in the mind.

Was that famous Blade Runner line a deliberate injoke, a reference to the soundtrack composer? I would love to know for sure, but it seems more than a coincidence to me.

There’s nothing special about the lyrics, but I love the formal beauty of the canon structure and the pure, wavering tones of the keyboard. What IS it that Vangelis is playing? Something electronic, I think, but I can’t trace what it might have been. The 60s were the dawn of synthesis; even Pink Floyd from 1968 can sound surprisingly like the late 70s or early 80s.

Rain and tears are the same
But in the sun you’ve got to play the game
When you cry in winter time
You can pretend it’s nothing but the rain

How many times I’ve seen
Tears running from your blue eyes
Rain and tears are the same
But in the sun you’ve got to play the game

Give me an answer love
I need an answer love

Rain and tears in the sun
But in your heart you feel the rainbow waves

Rain or tears both are shown
For in my heart there’ll never be a sun
Rain and tears are the same
But in the sun you’ve got to play the game

Moments Lost in Time: A Synthpop Retrohistory

It’s 2015! And I’m writing this from my flying car pocket cyberspace deck. And 80s retro is as much a thing as 50s retro was in 1985. So let’s do some.

I was a teen in the 1980s, but my memories of the music of the era are fringe and fleeting; songs heard in passing the radio, cassette tapes found without context, cryptic references in magazines. But in the last few years, thanks to Youtube, I’ve been digging back thirty years into the music that still resonates with me, that seemed then (and still seems now) to carry a sense of the strange, science-fictional future we felt crashing into us. A future that has now at least partly arrived.

The centre of gravity for me is 1982. Reagan and Thatcher had reignited the Cold War. FM synthesis and 8-bit microcomputers were on the rise. The Space Shuttle had launched and Star Wars was politics as well as art. Keyboards were the new guitars. Between the embers of Disco, the rage of Punk and the art-school alienation of New Wave, a tiny, futuristic sound appeared. By the mid 80s it had faded and stadium rock and rap replaced it. But briefly, in that window of a few years, something magical, alien and crystalline, burned in the neon night.

And because Youtube isn’t the most stable archival platform in the world, and beautiful songs vanish daily, I want to blog some of my rediscoveries, before they’re lost in time forever.

Review: Hugh Howey’s Wool and Shift

There are some books that immediately haunt you, ripping through the shell of fiction, slamming you emotionally against a wall and burning vivid images into your dreams. Then there are some books that you pick up and from the first page it’s hard work; you feel you ought to finish but just can’t summon the willpower.

What’s especially interesting is when the same author writes two books in the same sequence which peg the scale at opposite ends. In this case it’s the new e-book self-publishing sensation: Hugh Howey’s Silo Saga, comprising Wool and Shift. (The third book in the trilogy, Dust, has been released this month, and I’m probably going to read it, if only to find out how the story ends. However, I’m not expecting it to thrill me as much as the five-star Amazon rave reviews suggest.)

This is a spoiler-heavy review, and it will be long and meandering. If you haven’t read these books, I would suggest you click away now.

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