Album: Gotta Let This Hen Out!
. . .
The 1980s were not a good time for live albums.
When the subject comes up, of course, people usually cite Stop Making Sense, but in my TED Talk, I will show that while Stop Making Sense remains an absolutely superlative concert film, the original issue of the album remains underwhelming. Not only did they repeat three titles from 1982’s superior The Name of This Band is Talking Heads, two of them — “Take Me To The River” & “Life During Wartime” — were inferior to the the ones they captured with the Adrian Belew version of the band.
Oh, and the original album had edited versions of several songs, including a full minute from “Once in a Lifetime.” A full minute! From “Once in a Lifetime,” arguably the greatest song ever written, AND the song that was on MTV all the time. That’s disqualifying right there! And while I will stan for The Name of This Band is Talking Heads for now until eternity, half of it was recorded in the 1970s.
Which is, of course, part of the problem with Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band’s Live 1975-1985, which I bought on my birthday in 1986, though I would argue that not enough of it was recorded in the 1970s — and they picked the wrong songs anyways — and it focused too much on the Born in the U.S.A. material.
And, of course, you have to disqualify all of the great 80s live albums that have been issued in the following decades: those R.E.M. reissues, and the titanic Replacements Live at Maxwells, which had it truly came out in 1986 might have been the last album I ever needed to buy, but it didn’t.
So what does that leave us? Under A Blood Red Sky, which still holds up, and Robyn Hitchcock’s Gotta Let This Hen Out!, which did everything one of those live albums from the 1970s did: showcase a great band utterly killing a bunch songs from various points in an artists career. So we had songs from each of Hitchcock’s solo albums, plus Soft Boys songs, and even a b-side or two. It was a perfect overview of his career up to that point.
“Acid Bird” was one of the highlights from Black Snake Diamond Röle, one of those songs that hit it’s psychedelic groove and just rode it and rode and rode, verses and choruses melting into a gorgeous stew.
Fun in the sun, everyone knows it
We could be as mellow as the hay
Fun in the sun, everyone blows it
They grow up and instantly decay
Black shadow of an acid bird that etched its way across a field
So long ago
The only time it breaks its spell is at the end, during which Robyn detangles his guitar from arpeggios he’d been playing, and goes off on a long exploratory solo just to remind you that, among everything else, he’s a helluva lead guitarist, as his solo circles around the melody line, and finally jumping back into it at the end.
After which, he says:
Thanks, that was about life in the West country, before most of you were born, and a long time after the rest of you were dead.
This is called “I Suddenly Found Myself Underneath A Bucket, But There Was Nobody Else There Except Some Cement, So I Went Home Wearing The Wrong Head”
Which, of course, had nothing to do with anything, but showed that his Dylan lessons went beyond the surrealistic lyrics.
“Acid Bird (London 04-27-1985)”
“Acid Bird” (Live in London, 1991)
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