“Maybe you had to be there like I was, fifteen years old, opening song of Yes’s 1975 Relayer tour. Stravinksy’s Firebird suite crescendos, the curtains part, and holy f***ing WOW!!! Call Sound Chaser an intervention. The gods themselves imposing on my affairs. Ecstatically so. Like the Apocalypse itself, but in a good way. Like these musicians, these sorcerers, weren’t really playing this music, they were conjuring it, shaping and turning and chasing this superlative noise that just kept bubbling over, ricocheting all around, setting even the atmosphere on fire. Or as my old muso friend Robert once put it, Sound Chaser‘s the one where Yes finally got to that edge they’d been aiming for, flirting with, singing about – not close, not over, but right the f*** on it. Maybe not their greatest achievement, but definitely their sharpest, fiercest, most dazzlingly precarious. Like a gauntlet thrown down. This is where music must go. Here are untold galaxies for us to explore. Except I guess most of us were looking the other way, or maybe just afraid. Because disco came along, and punk, and whatever else, and somehow we stopped with the progress, and that was that, mission abandoned, lost in the vastness of space.” (Philip Random)
The lead-off track from maybe the greatest album ever in the history of anything, Teenage Riot is where Sonic Youth get political, make their demands explicit as to what it’s going to take to get them the f*** out of bed and deliver the goods. A full-on teenage riot and nothing less. Which may be inappropriate, wrong even, but f*** is it fun to tear up Main Street, smash all the windows, not get caught! Which by the end of Teenage Riot is exactly what’s going on – Misters Moore and Renaldo annihilating frequencies with their magic guitars, smashing every window and door, setting all humanity free for a while. Even the adults. The rhythm section’s not half bad either.
It’s all there in the opening line: I am angry, I am ill, and I’m as ugly as sin. Welcome to Magazine, a band that is definitely not working the same boring teenage fantasies as your Van Halens, Bostons, Foreigners or any of the other popular outfits of the day. Nah, this was a Dostoyevskian truth, bitter and perversely beautiful. And what a hot band! All the bile and eviscerating energy of punk, but not afraid to be a little sophisticated. Hell, you could even dance to it, annoy the people downstairs, under the floorboards.
“Wherein the Pointed Sticks (straight outa late 70s suburban Vancouver) hit the eternal pop gold standard with a three minute nugget the whole world should have heard, but it didn’t for some stupid reason (and it still hasn’t). Which puts a big loud BULLSHIT to the argument I’ve heard over the years from some I know that, despite all the music biz’s ugliness, waste, criminality and stupidity, the truly good stuff always rises, gets its due, gets heard. Yeah right.” (Philip Random)
“Right sound, wrong timing. That was me and The Replacements, who were exactly what you needed in around 1987 if you were desperate for something/anything genuine in the realm of booze-soaked-truth-telling-poetry-infused rock and roll. Which I guess I wasn’t. I was more into noise and beats and psychedelics and other higher, more quantum concerns at the time. But five years later I was drinking again and finding it very easy to fall in love with Alex Chilton (the song not the man) – me and children by the millions. But seriously, all love to the man to for inspiring a song that could inspire such love, Alex Chilton being one of the guys from Big Star, still maybe the greatest band that hardly anybody’s heard (there’s none on this list because I’ve never found any affordable vinyl). And before Big Star (when Alex was still a teenager) there was a group called the Box Tops, who had a monster hit called The Letter. Love that song.” (Philip Random)
“Labelling Yello synth-pop is missing the point. True they had synths and even a few hot pop songs, but listen to their first album, the aptly named Solid Pleasure, and a different picture quickly gets painted. Sambas, ambience, outright strangeness, and yeah, in the case of the lead-off track, Bimbo, a nifty bit of synth pop, albeit with Swiss tongues deeply in cheek. Dedicated to a guy I used to know (friend of a friend, I forget his name now) who told me his idea of perfection was to stay at home, get drunk, put Solid Pleasure on and bash away to it on his drum kit. Over and over again. Last I saw him, he wasn’t drumming anymore, just passed out on a couch.” (Philip Random)
“1978 sometime. I’m home alone watching Saturday Night Live, and BAM! Devo hits the stage with their take on the Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction and … well, call it a Ballad of a Thin Man moments (ie: that Bob Dylan song where he sneers at straight old normal Mr. Jones and says, ‘Something is happening, but you don’t know what it is, do you?’) Except I wasn’t even twenty years old yet, how the hell could I be as uncool as Mr. Jones? And anyway, I had heard Devo already and didn’t hate them, but I didn’t exactly get them either. What I was, of course, was confused, which I’d eventually realize was the whole point. Devo existed to confuse. The trick was to trust this confusion, maybe even love it, embrace it as the true and weird future for all of mankind. Or something like that. I guess I’m still confused, but man, I do love that first Devo album.” (Philip Random)
Wherein the Eagles (yes, those Eagles) ditch the regular LA cocaine bullshit for a while, take off to the desert, drop a few peyote buttons and journey long and far and deep and high unto the nether regions of the great American soul, or perhaps some other universe entirely. Here they encounter the legendary Don Juan, who we now know wasn’t even real, but The Eagles don’t care about reality anymore anyway, they’ve got a magic banjo with them that somehow coaxes great sweeps of orchestral beauty down from the heavens and thus all is right, all is good, all sounds quite extraordinary, and unique – to the Eagles discography, to music in general. Journey of the Sorcererreally is one of a kind. Eventually, The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy will cop it for its title theme, and no one will even complain.
“Poco were one of those bands I used to hear a lot on the radio and didn’t like, their country infused soft rock being so inoffensive it became the opposite. But not Rose of Cimarron, which rose profoundly from the soft, sticky muck and set the god damned sky on fire the first time I gave it a proper listen. By which I mean, it’s BIG like a great western sunset, with a breeze throwing up dust at least as old as time, catching the rays of that setting sun and reminding me of why I’m glad I’m alive. Because every now and then life, the universe, God, or maybe just a soft rock band operating out of LA touches something epic and eternal and unleashes music so god damned beautiful even the hills get to weeping. And it’s even a true story. Sort of.” (Philip Random)