“David Lee Roth may be a world class ass but he does have a way with a one-liner, such as, ‘The reason more rock critics like Elvis Costello than Van Halen is that more rock critics look like Elvis Costello than Van Halen.’ Which is my way of saying, I guess I’m just not a critic, because I’ve never been an overwhelming Elvis C fan (more of an appreciator really), and most of his tracks that I do really like, you’ve probably already heard them a bunch, and thus they exude allergy potential. But not Green Shirt from 1979’s Armed Forces. I never heard too much Green Shirt. Tight, sharp, and smart as pop.” (Philip Random)
“See Emily Play is one of those tracks that was a big hit in the UK, but missed pretty much completely in the Americas, the upside being, I never got overexposed. In fact, I never even heard it until at least 1980 when I stumbled across a cassette copy of Relics (a 1971 compilation). And fine it was. Because what better time and place than a bleak Canadian midwinter, almost thirteen years after the fact, to finally catch the peak of London’s psychedelic spring via Emily and the free games she dared playe? It still feels like sunshine, every time I hear it. Shine on, Mr. Barrett.” (Philip Random)
If nothing else, Brian Eno’s Another Green World has a perfect title. Put it on and you get transported to a very agreeable yet very different place. Alien even. Yet oh so green and achingly beautiful, like a dream, vaguely remembered via odd, mostly pleasant, always strange fragments, with St. Elmo’s Fire an actual pop song easing from the mists halfway through side one, deepening the mystery, because what the hell is St. Emo’s Fire but a mystery? And there’s a superlative Robert Fripp guitar solo.
“This one came our way in 1979 (c/o London Calling, arguably the greatest album of any and all time), but it never had more currency for me than the summer of 1984. We dropped a lot of LSD that summer, in our mid-twenties by then. Old enough to know better, of course, or maybe just go further, higher, deeper through the absurdities of the ever corroding western world whose edges and holes and voids we felt compelled to explore. This meant going public with acid in our veins, taking it to malls, video arcades, strip joints, crowded downtown streets, fair grounds, everywhere, every weird and ugly thing. Getting lost in the supermarket, we called it.” (Philip Random)
An early single provides strong evidence that Bauhaus were far more than just a goth outfit (the term didn’t even exist until after they’d split up). What they were was smart, innovative, never remotely boring, with Terror Couple Kill Colonel working all manner of studio exploration to get seductively under the skin, into the blood.
Wherein the Human League pound home the point (with big beat and propulsive groove) that the times are always hard. It just depends where you’re sitting, or in this case, dancing. A track that never got released on an album but all the club DJs found it anyway. Do You Want Me Baby? may have been the big deal hit at the time, but it took Hard Times to burn down the house (and perhaps the Empire).
“Back in 1999, I recall somebody somewhere putting forth the argument that Bob Dylan’s Visions of Johanna was the single greatest record of the twentieth century. Something to do with the line about the ghost of ‘lectricity howling in the bones of her face, or maybe it was the part about infinity going up on trial. Either way, he was talking about the studio version that showed up on Blonde on Blonde, which is weird, because that’s not even the best version, which is the 1966 live take that did the rounds on bootlegs for years, then finally showed up on the Biograph box set. Something about it being pared down to just Bob, guitar, harmonica, voice – nothing else getting in the way of his accelerated brain and the amphetamine precision of the impossible images it was putting forth. Which is entirely the point, I think. Young genius stepping up to his confusion, surfing its twists and convolutions, letting it take him places he could never have imagined existed … and then finding a way to channel it all to into breath and voice and words. Call it a song. A damned fine one. Yet not beyond parody.” (Philip Random)
“Because there had to be some Santana on this list. Might as well go with the biggest, wildest, livest thing I’ve got. Because the force of nature known as Carlos Santana always sounded best to me live, from stealing the show at Woodstock (for a while anyway) to conquering Japan in 1974 with maybe the hottest band on the planet. I only wish I’d actually known about Every Step of the Way at the time. Would’ve allowed me to destroy all comers in all those stupid yet essential who’s-the-fastest-guitarist arguments we seemed to need to have in Grade Ten.” (Philip Random)
George Harrison (always the most psychedelic Beatle) offers up a nifty slice of so-called world music (before we had the lame marketing term for it). Found on the soundtrack for a 1968 movie called Wonderwall that nobody ever saw, but then Oasis copped the title for a song name a couple of decades later and went mega-platinum with it. But On The Bed is far better (and cooler) than that derivative and over seasoned pop stew.