“Speaking of David Bowie albums I’d probably die trying to save from a house fire, Station to Station‘s the one where he refers to himself as the Thin White Duke, title track, first song, first words. Not that it meant much to me at the time, 1976, half-way through Grade Eleven. It was just another disappointment on the level that it wasn’t somehow a return to Ziggy Stardust and/or the year of the Diamond Dogs – a perspective I’d soon outgrow, because I couldn’t help but get sucked in by Station to Station. Particularly the song, its long slow build from noise to creepy mutant groove, to sudden switch at half-distance into full-on cocaine party rocker. Later that year, I’d read the infamous Playboy interview where Mr. Bowie spoke not unfavourably of Adolph Hitler, how what the Britain of 1976 needed was a solid fascist government. What an asshole! Years later, the story would come out that Station to Station was an album he had no memory of recording due to a confusion of cocaine, black magic, milk, full-on paranoid psychosis and appearances on the Dinah Shore Show. Which is just one more reason why I wouldn’t a trade a teenage in the 1970s for any other decade. Exactly as strange and provocative as this growing boy needed.” (Philip Random)
“If the house was on fire and I could only grab one David Bowie album, I’d die for sure because I wouldn’t be able to choose between at least four or five. One of which would definitely be 1971’s Hunk Dory, because good luck finding a weak track, a weak anything. His last album written and recorded before big deal fame and glory would start to find him, I have to wonder if he any idea of how absolutely he was about to blow the cultural fuses. Particularly a densely poetic nugget like Quicksand and its unflinching examination of his personal motives, with darkly surreal excursions from there … whispering about Heinrich Himmler, hints of occult knowledge, even the Beast Himself, Aleister Crowley . But in the end, it’s all just the quicksand of one’s mind. Why can’t we have pop stars like this any more?” (Philip Random)
“Idiot Wind has to go out to Angela, and me. We officially broke up in 1988. It just took me three years to finally get it one long, strange, lonely summer day that began with an urge to drop a little solo LSD, climb a small mountain, check out the sublime scenery. And it was good. But then came the long descent, all that time for deeper, darker reflection in the solitude of the forest, and meanwhile, on the walkman I had a Bob Dylan‘s Blood on the Tracks playing, because I’d exhausted all the more cosmic stuff on the way up. And damned if all that earthbound grit and spite didn’t just start talking to me, particularly Idiot Wind‘s angst driven symbols and reflections, like nine hundred different stories all kaleidoscoping into one by the end, the part where the idiocy doesn’t just blow when you open your mouth, but also when I open mine. Because like some smartass said just the other day, there’s no I in team, but there’s two of them in idiot. Welcome to love, I guess, the part they don’t mention in all the fairy tales, the not happily ever after part. Which is why we need the music of Mr. Bob Dylan from pretty much any phase of his career. Post-fairy tale all the way.” (Philip Random)
“My relationship with King Crimson started fairly early on with the eponymous title track of the first album, which got a fair bit of radio play back in the day. But beyond that, I don’t know if I heard anything until a friend made a point of playing Red for me when I was maybe fifteen. Just the song, not the whole album. It actually frightened me, the intensity of it. No respite anywhere in its six plus minutes, even the quiet parts were wound tight, setting up another roar of visceral instrumental fierceness in the shade of red, that sort of mist you see when your rage gets the worst of you and all you can do really is howl. Though maybe here, it’s the best, because man, what a f***ing band! In retrospect, it’s no great surprise that Robert Fripp shut the operation down almost immediately afterward. There was really nowhere else for King Crimson to go – not for six or seven years anyway. And meanwhile, I had plenty of time to catch up, get educated.” (Philip Random)
“I can’t remember who said it, but it’s stuck. Jimi Hendrix (all gods bless him to the nine known edges of the universe) gets maybe too much credit for defining what one could do, psychedelically, with an electric guitar, in 1967. Because it’s not as if The Pink Floyd‘s Syd Barrett wasn’t also unleashing gobsmackingly apocalyptic electrical storms. Maybe he didn’t have the licks, the elemental voodoo blues bubbling from his soul straight through his fingers … but he did have the angles, the great sheets of discord and noise that it was going to take to get this souped up, superlative noise clear of the earth’s orbit, off into the vastness of beyond, even if it was ultimately within (which in Syd’s case, would sadly prove a bottomless void). The rest of the band weren’t half bad either.” (Philip Random)
“The first version of Can’s Mother Sky to cross my path was an edit, and even that was better part of eight minutes. The album in question was a double vinyl compilation called Cannibalism and to this day it remains my go-to when somebody asks me what’s the best Can album to start with? Because it covers the most ground while tactfully avoiding their later just-not-as-great stuff. Because Can, in their prolonged moment, were f***ing great. Not just the best of the so-called Krautrock crowd, but maybe (on some days anyway) the best damned band ever, from anywhere, any time. And for me, that moment starts with 1970’s Soundtracks (an album’s worth of tracks written for various mostly forgotten movies) because it’s the first Can offering to feature Damo Suzuki‘s singular vocals. Which definitely rise to occasion in the fourteen-plus minute original version of Mother Sky. It’s 1970 and the five piece Communist-Anarchist-Nihilist squad known as Can are getting down to it somewhere in Koln, West Germany, releasing the gods’ own thunder, inventing the future. Nothing will ever be the same.” (Philip Random)
Neu! being German for New! Hero being the closest Neu! ever came to a proper song with lyrics and singing and everything. Meanwhile, at pretty much the same moment in time, somewhere across town, their former band mates Kraftwerk were perfecting what would come to be known as techno-music. So maybe call Hero a proto-form of punk. Beat simple and four-to-the-floor, everything else snarling melodically along until screaming to noise at the end. And the world would hear it one way or another, the times would change. And seriously, who better than some malcontent German hippies to call bullshit on the whole notion of heroism? Or whatever it’s about.
“I believe I’ve already rhapsodized about David Byrne and Brian Eno’s My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, how it changed everything forever, put sampling into the cool music toolbox, set more than just the white man free. But it was also a hell of a fun album in a creepy way, and nowhere more so than Jezebel Spirit, the track that used audio from an actual exorcism to serve its groove, which yeah, is pretty dime a dozen in certain goth and industrial circles these days, but man, what a groove! And this was early 1981. Ronald Reagan had barely been sworn in as President, John Lennon had only recently been murdered. Mix in the strong LSD that was suddenly so plentiful in my little corner of Americaland … and let’s just say some deeply weird realms were explored, entities encountered, the Winter of Hate enthusiastically engaged, not that we had the term figured out yet. But the soundtrack was already strong.” (Philip Random)
If you’re Peter Fonda and you want to impress John Lennon while tripping on LSD in a hot tub, tell him how you died once when you were a little kid. Guaranteed, you’re going to going to send the coolest Beatle someplace dark and scary, the only way out of which will be to write a stunner of a song in which A. he tells you, you’re making him feel like he’s never been born, and B. he and his band will go a long way toward perfecting the psyche-infused power pop record almost before it’s even been invented. Oh, those lovable mop-tops.