“I think of remixes as mostly a 1980s thing. Certainly, that’s when I first started noticing them. And the Meteorological Remix of Kate Bush‘s Big Sky has to rate as one of the very best, from any decade. A perfectly fine track from a perfectly excellent album, expanded, explored, ultimately rendered into a true force of nature by the time the big drums come thundering in toward the end. I don’t know if I ever heard this in a club, but I sure as hell drove my car to it a lot – real open highway stuff, early morning, no traffic, just the speed of life, with big clouds in the distance, threatening.” (Philip Random)
“I don’t do regrets. But that said, damn, it would’ve been cool to be born maybe fifteen years later, so that I would have still been young and fabulously confused when the Stone Roses hit with I Wanna Be Adored. Yeah, it’s narcissistic, absurd even, but it’s also true, painting a picture of what it feels like to be riding a certain wave, high and immortal, seeing all the world in such a way that you know it also sees you, beautiful and true, caught by the sun, throwing rainbows as you go … with unicorns glimpsed grazing in the distance. And oh yeah, what a band! What an album ! Maybe the best debut ever.” (Philip Random)
There’s a lot of autobiography in Neil Young’s discography, with Don’t Be Denied (found on 1973’s Time Fades Away, the deliberately raw follow up to the worldwide mega hit Harvest) particularly loaded in that regard. It concerns a weird kid from somewhere north of Toronto whose parents split up and he moves with his mom to a town called Winnipeg at the wrong age, pays the price in schoolyard beatings, etc. But to paraphrase an old German, that which does not destroy you only increases your will to pick up an electric guitar and not ever be denied again.
Wire’s 154, released in 1979, has been hard to ignore with this list, being one of those albums that helped invent the future, gave birth to all manner of sounds and textures that would come to define the decade known as the 1980s, which is now ancient history, of course. But 154 continues to stand up, songs usually as sharp and short as they are lyrically obtuse. Though A Touching Display goes the other way with a vengeance – an epic and passionate display of song as weapon, particularly as things erupt past the midpoint, like a bomber the size of a football stadium off to deliver a payload that would destroy the known world. And it did.
“Being a little kid in the 1960s definitely had its pluses, Tiny Tim among them. What other decade would allow such a sublime and beautiful weirdo into their TV rooms en masse with appearances on Ed Sullivan, Rowan + Martin, the Smothers Brothers, even Hockey Night In Canada? Tiptoe Through The Tulips was the insanely catchy hit, of course, but that whole 1968 album God Bless Tiny Tim was erupting with weird wonder, and my best friend Patrick had it. We quickly nailed The Other Side as the high water mark mainly because of the insane laughter at the beginning. How could we not laugh along? Meanwhile the icebergs were all melting, the oceans were rising (yup, even back then in ’68), yet all the world was singing, having a swimming time, becoming fish, the map having changed and with it we. The man was onto something. Seriously.” (Philip Random)
“I do remember hearing Overnight Sensation (aka Hit Record) on the radio when it was new, maybe two or three times. But it definitely didn’t hit in my corner of North America, where the Raspberries were good for two sharp power pop anthems and then weren’t much heard from anymore (overnight sensations indeed). Which is great in a way, because that means I never got allergic to Overnight Sensation which likely would have happened had it received its due. Which, I guess, is my vaguely Buddhist way of admitting that despite my numerous complaints as the to corrupt and absurd nature of the music biz, I’m often as not delighted at how time-the-universe-everything has spun things out – that there are still some absurdly overlooked treasures just lying around. And thus there’s a reason to keep digging through that hissing, shifting, living landfill that’s all that’s left of the 20th century. Mostly just trash, some of it genuinely toxic, but every now and then ….” (Philip Random)
“I’m not black, I’m not even the lightest shade of brown. But I guess if the soul of a song is true – you get it anyway. Part of it, at least. Because there’s a lot to get from Syl Johnson‘s Is It Because I’m Black? (both song and album) – the sheer frustration, rage, pain, resentment of it, sadly still as relevant now as it was decades ago.” (Philip Random)
“When AC/DC first hit my particular suburb, I was in my late teens and fully committed to the sinking ship that was known as Prog Rock, after which I grabbed some wreckage that washed me ashore on the island known as punk, new wave etc. Because hard rock, heavy metal, riff rock – that was for little kids as far as I was concerned. I was wrong, of course. Because jump ahead a decade, I’m almost thirty now, into a so-called adult life that was in no way measuring up to any of the expectations that anybody ever had for me (my parents, my teachers, myself even) and among many other unexpected diversions, I was finally ready for the genius that was AC/DC. Honest, direct, maybe a little evil, always piledrivingly on the nose whether deliberately hellbound or, in the case of Downpayment Blues (from Powerage, the second last studio album of the Bon Scott era, and maybe their best ever), just slacking off, drinking cheap swill, doing nothing with a vengeance. Or as somebody put it in Slacker (the movie) which showed up around the same time. ‘Withdrawing in disgust should never be confused with apathy.’ Words to live by.” (Philip Random)
“As albums go, few from any era can top Creedence Clearwater Revival‘s 1970 monster Cosmo’s Factory, if only for the six charting singles. Let me say that again: six charting singles. That’s more than many successful bands get in a career. And then there’s Ramble Tamble (the best track on the album, maybe from their entire career) which wasn’t released as a single, because it was too long, too weird, a tough swampy rock song bookending an absolutely epic jam. In other words, this is me, twelve or thirteen, in my cousin’s bedroom, headphones on, getting sent, getting educated as to where music could go — that a song could be way more than just sticky sweet candy to get played on the radio between ads for soda pop and jeans. Welcome to my future.” (Philip Random)