The Teardrop Explodes being A.one of the best band names ever, B. the outfit that gave the world the one and only Julian Cope who, by all accounts, has equal parts madness and genius erupting from his psychedelic soul, which put him rather out of synch with much of what was going down in the early 80s. But being a mad genius he didn’t care. And thus, the eerie and timeless strangeness of 1981’s Ouch Monkeys! (a title we’re still trying to figure out).
The Turtles get serious and psychedelic with a little ditty about the grim reaper who murdered love. Found on the same album as Happy Together. Things were different then.
“I would’ve been eleven or twelve the first time I heard Steppenwolf’s Monster album. My friend Peter’s old brother had joined one of those record clubs that gave you ten albums for a dollar, but I guess he didn’t like this one, so he passed it down. The title track was an epic sort of suite that, in retrospect, went on longer than it needed to. But the story it had to tell of an America that was eating its children was rather essential to my still growing ears (and brain). Helped me to make sense of the Vietnam War (still ongoing) and all the riots and protests on TV, including what had just gone down in Kent State. Soundtrack for a monster movie – no question.” (Philip Random)
Dexys Midnight Runners are generally thought of as a band that had one big deal single (featuring a lot of fiddle) in 1982, then pretty much faded away. But that wasn’t even from their best album. 1980’s Searching for the Young Soul Rebels takes that honour, with Tell Me When My Light Turns Green a big, brassy, soul-drenched rave-up that manages to sound like nothing else that was going on at the time, and yet still be pretty darned cool in a hot, sweaty, party-all-night-and-then-some sort of way (the dexys part of the bands name referring to Dexedrine, one of the go-to club drugs of the time).
In which Manfred Mann and his Earth Band rip off Gustav Holst’s Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity in aid of a high flying, irresistibly affirming (also kind of rocking) pop nugget. Who says there was nothing to smile about in 1973?
The Boo Radleys are one of those bands whose relative lack of fame remains a profound mystery. Maybe they weren’t pretty enough, or maybe folks just get too weirded out by music that takes them to that strange and giddy realm where unbounded joy crashes into the reality of gravity, and profound dimensions of what can only be called beauty get unleashed – Barney (and Me) being a prime example of all that. Found on 1993’s Giant Steps, which remains (arguably) the greatest album you probably haven’t heard.
Jethro Tull main man Ian Anderson was nothing if not level-headed in 1978. While many of his fellow formerly cool rock star types were scrambling (often pathetically) in attempts to reinvent themselves as somehow edgy and relevant in the face of punk rock etc, he just told it like it was. He was more concerned about his farm up in Scotland than the state of the zeitgeist, the big horses in particular. The album in question may have seemed a throwback at the time, but over time, its mix of folk and rock elements has come to feel more timeless than anything.
John Mayall being the man whose band couldn’t seem to help launching mega careers back in the day. Sitting in the Rain being an obscure old track that eventually showed up on a 1969 compilation of non-singles. Does it classify as a proper Mississippi Delta blues? Probably not. But it sure works on a rainy day.
In which Keith Richard stumbles through a reggae classic that no white man has any business even touching and actually delivers something halfway worthy, maybe because of all the heroin related calamity he’d recently endured in Toronto. Found on the b-side of Run Rudolph Run, a 1978 Christmas single that went nowhere.