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 properly mad genius he didn’t care. And thus, we get the eerie and timeless strangeness of 1981’s Ouch Monkeys! (a title we’re still trying to figure out).
“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).
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 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.