In which Lou Reed delivers the amphetamine kicks all night long (and probably the next day too, and then maybe another night and day, and at least one more night). Speed doesn’t kill, or so I’ve been told, it just makes you so crazy somebody kills you for being such an asshole. Either way, I’ve been happy to mostly avoid it over the years. But some of the postcards have been fascinating, particularly when it’s somebody like Mr. Reed doing the sending … or Bob Dylan for that matter.
Wherein young Neil Young, still just a member of Buffalo Springfield, hears the Beatles Sergeant Pepper’s and responds with an epic piece of something or other. It starts with a live snatch of one of the other songs from the album, slips sideways into various surreal reflections on this-that-other things, finishes up with some honky-tonk piano that just sort of fades away into a heartbeat. It’s all definitely about something, which in 1967 was all you really needed.
“The only reason why Holger Czukay’s Persian Love isn’t way higher on this list is because many people have already heard it, even if they couldn’t really tell you when or where, or who for that matter. It first came to me via Music + Rhythm (Peter Gabriel’s Womad compilation album that came our way in 1982). Exotic, sweetly melodic, modern — it instantly hooked me, and thus I had to know more, and there was a lot to know. Because, it turns out Holger Czukay came from an obscure German band called Can … and so on. One of those journeys that started small, but damned if didn’t lead me to a vast mansion of musical (and thus human) possibility: doors within doors within doors, and they all kept inviting me deeper, higher. And somewhere along the way, I got the back story on Persian Love itself – how Mr. Czukay constructed it around a fragment of song he’d recorded from shortwave radio. Like a ghost … out of ancient Persia.” (Philip Random)
“Joan Baez had a big AM radio hit with this back in around 1972. Meanwhile, the cool FM DJs were playing the Band’s original version, which my teenybop ears didn’t really get. Too gritty, too raw. But jump ahead a few years to The Last Waltz (the movie of the Band’s big deal farewell concert) and yeah, I got it! The vast tragedy of the American South, what it is to lose a war and thus your culture, see it all burned before your eyes by the forces of Northern Aggression. Yeah, they owned slaves or certainly fought for those who did, but … I can’t think of a but for this. Slavery’s about as f***ed up as humanity gets. But there you go – where there’s humanity, there’s also soul, and thus complexity. Which is why we need songs like The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” (Philip Random)
“A Pogues song about London that isn’t actually a Pogues song or about London, but it might as well be. Because they certainly make it their own here and London’s a dump, encrusted in grime that’s centuries old. I recall a jetlagged morning, first light and I can’t sleep so I’m wandering Camden Lock and rather bemused by all the filth floating in the still water. It gets worse when I realize there’s a dead swan in the middle of one particularly disgusting looking clump. Later, I’m back at my friend’s flat having breakfast and I mention what I saw. He shrugs, pulls out the Pogues Rum Sodomy + the Lash and slaps it on.” (Philip Random)
“I’m thirteen, lying in bed and unable to sleep for reasons of existential magnitude, so I’ve got the radio on to keep me company, tuned to FM, of course, because I’m at least that cool. Anyway, this song comes on, heavy and wild, the singer howling about how he wants to reach out and touch the sky. But I didn’t catch who it was. Next day at school, I I’m quizzing everybody, but nobody knows what I’m talking about, and anyway, they’re mostly into Elton John or Three Dog Night. Long story short. It took fifteen years to get my answer, care of Jared, a marijuana dealer I knew at the time who played bass in various hard rock outfits, knew his heavy history. I mentioned the ‘I want to reach out’ part and he instantly said, ‘Black Sabbath Supernaut,’ like I’d just become magnitudes less cool in his eyes. How the hell could I not know Supernaut!? But I was just glad to have the answer, life suddenly feeling a little more purposeful, complete. Supernaut, found on side one of Vol. 4, which Jared had, so on it went, heavy and cool as I remembered. Life before the interwebs. You just had to keep digging.” (Philip Random)
“Edwin Starr is mostly known nowadays for the song known simply as War. He didn’t write it but he did own it. Absolutely. And the same can be said of Funky Music Sho Nuff Turns Me On. It didn’t rise as high in the charts as War, didn’t cross over so emphatically. But I still managed to hear it back when it was new, one of many soul-funk rave-ups you encountered on commercial radio back in the early 1970s before the corporate types got organized and ruined everything. But the real discovery came twenty odd years later, a flea market find, and proof in advertising all the way, the funk being fiercely evident from the first squall of guitar. What a turn on!” (Philip Random)
“The Electric Light Orchestra were an early fave of mine – big melodies, bigger production, like the Beatles by way of some overblown Hollywood fantasy from the 1930s … except unlike many of those fantasies, ELO was always in vivid colour. Over the years, of course, a lot of this pomp and electricity started to feel a little uncool, silly even, particularly as 1980s imposed, the Winter of Hate and its doomsday realities. Not much room for sunny fantasy anymore. But then a strange thing happened in the early 1990s, right around the time that the last Republican got turfed from the White House (for a while anyway) and the grunge thing got over-hyped (being serious getting taken way too seriously). ELO started sounding fun again, relevant even in some retro-cool ironic sort of way. Not that a song like 1975’s One Summer Dream had ever entirely lost its lustre. It was just too beautiful, like a summer afternoon in the middle of nowhere, looking out over an unknown lake with great birds soaring past and mountains in the distance. You’re sixteen years old and you know this is one of those moments that’s going to last forever.” (Philip Random)
“If there’s a typical Cure track, the extended (BIG) mix of Never Enough is not it. What it is, is truth in advertising. In other words, big. So much so that I’m going to suggest that its keen sense of pumped up sonics pretty much defined the near future of rock infused pop (yes, champions of U2’s Achtung Baby which came out a good year later – I’m talking to you). As for the song itself (which never showed up on a proper Cure album), it’s just more evidence that when it comes to a certain kind of delirious desire put to pop, Robert Smith has few equals. And you can dance to it.” (Philip Random)