The cool kids were confused. What the hell was Neil Diamond doing at The Last Waltz, The Band’s farewell concert (still considered by many to be one of the greatest concerts in rock and roll history)? What he was doing was delivering the goods (in leisure suit, shades, freshly coiffed hair), destroying all notions of cool and uncool with a song that told the fierce and sad truth about what time does to us all. It removes us completely, but maybe if we cut the bullsh** at least part of the time, our songs remain.
It’s 1969 with the Euro hippie underground is in a state of serious flux and eruption in the wake of all the uprisings and insurrections of 1968. Nevertheless, Can (four German weirdoes and their American singer, poet, frontman who will soon go at least slightly mad) find a few moments to throw down a strange little ditty about the Upduff family and their troubled trip to Italy. WARNING: if your grandma dies while traveling in a region populated by well organized car theft rings, don’t wrap her up in a tarp and tie her to the top of the car.
Two in a row from Joe Walsh‘s The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get. Everybody knows the big deal hit, the one about getting high, the Rocky Mountain way, and it’s a classic. But that goes for the whole album, a set of songs that are thankfully not all trying to be the same thing. In the case of Midnight Moodies, that means a cool instrumental groover, ideal for late night driving in warm climes. And then, it’s seamlessly into the reggae stylings (years before such became a soft rock cliché) of Happy Ways, which is truth in advertising. “One of the most genuinely happy songs I know. Dig into it a bit, and you discover it’s really bassist Kenny Passarelli‘s tune, who took the lead vocal, and he co-wrote it (as he did Rocky Mountain Way). All hail Barnstorm, the band. And Joe Walsh for letting everyone shine.” (Philip Random)
“In which Peter Tosh (ex of the Wailers) takes a Joe Higgs original about being dangerous indeed, and very much makes it very much his own. “It was released in 1977 but I didn’t really connect with it until the late 80s when so-called Gangsta rap was starting to hit hard, turning the uttering of threats into a functional musical vocabulary. Ah, the good ole days.” (Philip Random)
“If this was Texas, this song wouldn’t be on this list. Because we’d all know the Sir Douglas Quintet for the geniuses they were, Doug Sahm in particular. Hell we’d all probably be well sick of She’s About a Mover by now. But here (ie: everywhere else but Texas really) it’s a neglected rarity at best – the kind of thing you find at a yard sale, in the back of a box of 7-inch 45s, not even in a sleeve. Cost me twenty-five cents.” (Philip Random)
In which Sly + the Family Stone remind us that there was once a time in which all of life’s travails could be reconciled by the singing of a simple song. That’s what the mid-late 1960s were like apparently, particularly if you were in San Francisco, hanging with all the beautiful people, doing all the beautiful drugs, and you had the funk.
Die young and rest assured, some record industry hack will make damned sure no recording that bears your name will remain lost on any shelf. Which, in the case of Gram Parsons, is a good thing, as it got us this straight up, true as nature take on Merle Haggard’s ballad about a guy who’s due to hang tomorrow, and he’s as ready as he’s ever gonna be. All credit to the rest of the Flying Burrito Bros, too, of course.
Ian and Sylvia being the Tysons (husband and wife) and that rarity among Canadian artists of their era – they made it before government-imposed radio play quotas became a thing. “Special thanks to my friend Andrew’s mom, because she was the only parent I knew who seemed to generally care about music, and thus had a few decent records. Nothing heavy mind you – just good solid easy-to-listen-to options like Simon and Garfunkel, Neil Diamond, Moody Blues, and more obscure stuff, which Andrew and I spent many hours exploring – both of us still young and fresh enough to dig something even if it wasn’t driven by heavy guitars and appeals to Satan.” (Philip Random)
“One more from that lost and forgotten alt-reality wherein the 1980s were everything they should have been and a record like the Undertones‘ Love Parade hit the toppermost of the poppermost – melodic, soulful, full of light, and so damned popular we all got sick of it. But it wasn’t so we didn’t, so thank all gods for that. And man, that Feargal Sharkey could sing.” (Philip Random)