The band known as Jethro Tull blew things wide open in 1972 with a single 43 minute song/concept album that hit #1 everywhere from Denmark to Australia to the Americas, even Vietnam. Which suddenly meant that Ian Anderson and the band could do pretty much anything they wanted career wise, including the release of a double album of (mostly) unreleased stuff from the previous four years and four albums of their career (so far). Living in the Past it was called and full of odd gems it was including a live version of Dharma For One which initially showed up as an instrumental on their first album but come the concert trails of 1970 had picked up some lyrics and otherwise expanded and evolved into a longer, wilder, more progressive beast indeed. The word gobsmacking comes to mind, though the drum solo does go on a bit.
“I saw Van Morrison once. 1986, I think. Underwhelmed would describe my response. Not that I was horribly surprised. I had been warned. Van was notorious for less than stellar shows. If he wasn’t feeling the gods own light in his soul, he wasn’t going to fake it. But on a good night, well, words don’t suffice. You’ve got to just shut up and listen to the likes of what happens here in Cyprus Avenue, recorded in 1973 sometime, final song of the evening apparently. Too late to stop now.” (Philip Random)
Before their absurdly huge pop success, Human League had two albums of just being a cool outfit mucking around with synthesizers, drum machines, other weird gear, exploring all the mysterious regions that the new technology was opening up. Dreams of Leaving, found on their second album Travelogue, gets downright epic before it’s done, something to do with closed borders, grudges, maybe just paranoia. It was 1980. There was a lot to worry about.
“I’m pretty sure the first time I heard the term Young Marble Giant was that night friend-of-a-friend Carl Johnson, wasted on alcohol and who knows what else, stepped onto a busy Seymour Street, threw his arms wide, and declared ‘I Am A Young Marble Giant’. Horns honked, tires squealed, people called him asshole, but nothing hit him. Jump ahead maybe twenty years and Carl had become an investment banker, gotten stupidly rich. Meanwhile, I’d gotten around to picking up Colossal Youth, the only album by the group known as Young Marble Giants. Call it monolithic in its subtlety, restraint, and ultimate timelessness. But worth dying for?” (Philip Random)
In which T-Bone Burnett tells the lucid truth about the so-called American Dream by taking two of its two of its primary architects, definers of its fantasies, and switching their stories around. So suddenly Walt Disney‘s the pornographer and Hugh Hefner‘s the guy we trust with our children’s imaginations, and everything makes a little more sense in a horrible sort of way. Found on a 1983 album that really should have been heard by the whole world. But it wasn’t. It’s almost as if some powerful villain in a magical mansion pulled some strings.
“I liked Spanish Bombs from first listen, which would’ve been summer, 1980, bombing around suburbia in co-worker Gregory’s hot rod, London Calling being the only album I ever remember him playing. It was that kind of album. Still is, I guess. But Spanish Bombs wouldn’t truly land with me until about ten years later, a beach, a bonfire. Some girl I’d never met before grabbed an acoustic guitar and nailed it, nailed me. It was love at first sight, first chorus. Sort of. Because I’ve never seen her since. Except sometimes when Spanish Bombs comes on, like a ghost, I guess, lost in some mythical Andalusia.” (Philip Random)
“Wherein John Zorn, avant jazz classical jack mastereverything genius type, takes on a few of Ennio Morricone‘s soundtrack epics, succeeds in rearranging the molecules in my then psychedelicized brain, to entirely positive effect. Because it was 1985 and the world needed fracturing, eviscerating, disassembling, rearranging. And it got me seeing the movies again. The Big Gundown indeed.” (Philip Random)
“The first time I heard Wayne (eventually Jayne) County’s Man Enough to be a Woman was at a punk bash, 1979 sometime. It showed up on a mixtape* somewhere in and around the Buzzcocks, the Ramones, Devo, maybe some Kinks. It was that kind of scene. I didn’t even like punk rock (yet), but the parties were always good. So here’s a hint, kids. If the party’s good, the music is too, in spite of what you’re so called ‘taste’, is telling you, because if you’re anything like me, your taste is shit until you’re at least twenty-one. But anyway, Wayne County and the Electric Chairs weren’t even punk really, just loud and proud and defiantly brave rock and roll tearing glamorous scars into the fabric of reality. *There was also some Abba on that mixtape.”
“A hell of a song from a hell of a band that, for whatever reason, didn’t rise up and become insanely huge. Their first album in particular managed to be heavy and cool and entirely necessary without really sounding like anything anybody else was doing at the time. Which was perhaps the problem. Sons of Freedom were unique … in 1988 anyway. The biz just didn’t know what to do with them. Jump ahead three or five years and I suspect things would have played out differently. But then I would’ve been denied Alice Henderson when I needed it. Winter of 1988 into 89. Did it ever stop raining bullshit? Only when the music played.” (Philip Random)