“O Superman is one of those rare records that truly stopped time. Because pretty much everybody I knew at the time (1981-82) – the first time they heard it, they literally stopped. A what is this? moment. Quickly followed by Who is this? To which the answer was simple enough — just some girl named Laurie from New York, spiky hair, artist/poet type playing her electrified fiddle, messing with tape loops and stuff, speaking (almost singing) strange and angular truths. Nothing that many haven’t attempted since but unlike anything anyone had heard before. And she nailed it — whatever it was. And that part near the beginning, the bit about ‘Hello, I’m not home right now’ — pretty much everyone had that as their answering machine message for at least a few days as O Superman swept coolly, smoothly, strangely through the world, like a virus from outer space. Yet I doubt it ever got a single play on local commercial radio. Neither the song nor the album, Big Science, which took everything further, weirder, bigger. It’s almost as if the people running things didn’t have a f***ing clue of what was going on.” (Philip Random)
“In case you haven’t figured it out already, I’m a sucker for an epic, and Marquee Moon (the song) is definitely that. Title track of Television’s first and best album, and doubly lovable for how it righteously pulled the rug out from certain Stalinist tendencies of the punk scene at the time — way too many hard and fast rules getting laid down as to what drugs could be taken, the colour of your leather jacket, the length and style of your hair, how long a song could be. Which is all dumb, all opposite to the anarchic fervour that ignited punk in the first place. No rules, no boundaries, no nothing – just don’t be f***ing boring. And Marquee Moon (song and album) nail that. So yeah, maybe Television weren’t punk, but they certainly came from punk. So if a riff said, ride me to f***ing eternity, they were going to ride it, taking their orders from the music, not some tiresome Machiavellian assholes who, in another era, would be deciding what words could be used in a poem, what symbols … and who should be disappeared come the revolution.” (Philip Random)
“Can’t You Hear My Knocking marks that precise moment at which I realized Punk Rock was dead (which is bullshit, of course, it was just going into remission for a while). It would’ve been summer 1988, a party at the joint we called the Palace of Failure. I remember I was sitting on the stairs, swigging from my ever trusty bottle of cheap red wine, no doubt stoned as well. Suddenly somebody yanked off the hardcore record that was playing, mid-song, which was fine by me, I wasn’t exactly paying attention. A few seconds of party noise and then … pure riff magic, the Rolling Stones at their most elegantly gritty, tearing everything up, the whole party immediately starting to groove. Even Mick Jagger didn’t sound that annoying. How was that possible? And then, the last two-thirds of the track, he wasn’t around anyway, just a full-on Latin groove and some hot soloing. Pure bliss and proof positive that whatever had been so horribly wrong with old school rock back in the early punk days had now passed, a dysfunction of the zeitgeist or whatever. And how the hell had I not heard this song before? Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, from Sticky Fingers, the one with the zipper on the cover. Which means I had heard it. Because my friend Gary had that album way back when, end of Grade Seven. I distinctly remember playing with the zipper. Which is kind of weird, now that I think of it.” (Philip Random)
“More Clash because one track never really suffices with this outfit, as this overall list makes clear. More Clash tracks than from any other artist. With Police and Thieves their highest placing because it cuts to the truth of it: you’re not looking at the world with clear eyes as long as you think it’s cops versus robbers, police versus thieves. It’s the two of them together, fascists and mobsters, working flip sides of the same venal coin. The trick is to stay the hell out their crossfire. I would’ve been at least twenty-two before I finally had this even remotely figured out. With the Clash and their overall worldview a huge part of my education, Police and Thieves being a cover of an old Junior Murvin reggae tune, which is cool itself. But The Clash’s take, found on their first album, kicks things into full-on anthem status, all the while keeping both the reggae and the punk. Which reminds me of young Ryan and his oft-heard claim that the Clash were the world’s best white reggae band. Amen to that. And to the Clash in general. Maybe not ever the only band that mattered, but it sure felt like it at times.” (Philip Random)
“Final Solution equates unrequited lust and thermonuclear holocaust, then binds them with a title that can’t help but force reflection on the worst damned thing human beings have ever done. How punk is that? And all this from Cleveland, Ohio before punk rock had even officially arrived in the Americas. The Pere Ubu crowd in full mad annihilation mode, simultaneously demolishing and inventing the future we all had coming, ready or not. Also, it’s basically a cover of Summertime Blues, one of rock and roll’s seminal protest songs, except these weirdos have exploded it into something far bigger and hungrier, ravenous even. In my idea of a perfect world, it would replace Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl at all weddings. And hell, play it at funerals too. Because who ever dies with all their problems solved?” (Philip Random)
“Clampdown‘s the second song I heard from London Calling, the album that ignited the possibility that yeah, maybe the Clash were the only band that mattered. I heard the title track first, and I immediately loved it – all that rage and insurrection down by the river. But for whatever reason (probably because I was pretty broke at the time), I didn’t dive in and buy the album until fellow cab driver Dennis pulled me aside and forced Clampdown on me. It was simply that important, that urgent.
Because as Dennis put it, ‘You’re a young man and a young man’s gotta watch himself when it comes to simple explanations as to how the world really works — fascist bullshit being so easy to fall into, so easy to end up with the bully boys wearing blue and brown. Say goodbye to your living soul.’ Dennis (who was about five years older and recently arrived from England) being the kind of guy who always had a spliff rolled, ready to go. We’d book off for a few minutes, crank the tunes in his cab, always something British, punk or new wave, which past a certain point in summer 1980 meant pretty much non-stop London Calling — the Sgt. Pepper’s of the 1980s, he called it, ‘But better than that hippie shit.’ Punks moving beyond punk, trying to embrace everything goddamned thing, succeeding for the most part. Thanks, Dennis, wherever you are.” (Philip Random)
“Because there had to be at least one goddamned Smiths song on this list. Because as much as I’ve generally found whatz-iz-name‘s histrionics annoying as only a perpetual seventeen year old’s whining can be annoying (and f***ing wrong), I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think he was one of the all-time heavyweights on those occasions when he did get it right … even with all that criminally vulgar shyness.
And the band’s not half-bad either as How Soon Is Now aptly proves from initial gush of flanged Johnny Marr guitar onward. Trust that it sounded like nothing else in 1984, like a lost acid fragment from 1967 had finally completed its tour of the universe and somehow returned to ground in the grim and baleful north of Maggie Thatcher’s Britain, like a gem of ancient beauty and power. And for those who may already have heard How Soon Is Now, cool, I say. There’s still not enough of us.” (Philip Random)
“This live Sly + the Family Stone double shot comes from the awkwardly titled monster The First Great Rock Festivals of the Seventies: Isle of Wight / Atlanta Pop Festival which is one of those albums I inherited because nobody else wanted it – from my friend Carl who’d previously grabbed it from his older brother’s discard pile. Six sides of this and that including Johnny Winter, Poco, The Allman Brothers, Jimi Hendrix, Leonard Cohen, even some Miles Davis. I guess the whole was less than sum of its parts. I say ‘guess’ because I lost track of everything but the middle two sides a long time ago – the Procol Harum, Ten Years After, David Bromberg, Cactus and Sly and The Family Stone sides, all from the 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival (Britain’s Woodstock if you believe the hype, but history seems to argue it was a little more contentious than that).
Anyway, the one thing that is clear is just how f***ing brilliant Sly and his crowd were at that point. The best band on the planet? Maybe. Because to my mind (and soul) it’s powerful evidence of what Hunter S Thompson was talking about, 1971 sometime, that psychedelic morning in Las Vegas when he looked to the west toward San Francisco and saw just how far the great waves of love and evolution had reached before, sadly, tragically, inevitably, they achieved their high water point, and thus began their great retreat. Because the 1960s were nothing if not a wild and unprecedented ocean storm — not just one lone rogue wave taking out a some unsuspecting picnickers, but a sustained, relentless, committed storm, one wave after another, ebbing and flowing, always creeping further inland, going for the heart of the beast that was America (etc). Because we do need to remember this stuff, how free things can get, and it’s seldom ever been as free as a Sly And The Family Stone rave-up, live or in the studio, women and men of all races, creeds, making their stand, not fighting the power so much as grooving right on through it, confident as f*** they’d make it they just never stopped trying. At least until the drugs wore off.” (Philip Random)
“Because if you’re not at some point listening to music that has turned into noise, or perhaps noticing that noise has turned into music – you’re not trying hard enough. And I’ve definitely tried in my time. I’ve listened to The Residents a lot over the years. There’s certainly a lot to listen to. None of it remotely ordinary, some of it outright sublime. Though they disappointed me when I finally saw them live. Not that there was anything wrong with the show. It was just too human somehow, all my notions dashed that they were aliens of some sort, or spirit entities or maybe some kind of future post-humans come back to check up on us. Nope, they were just people wearing eyeball masks, cranking out weirdly weird music. Yet an album like Eskimo (various parts of which constitute this edit) still gets me wondering. Because it just doesn’t feel like it’s from this world. It feels beyond us somehow, and sublimely, enticingly, alluringly so. Of course, maybe that’s what living in the Arctic is really like, or was anyway, for the millennia before electricity finally showed up. Maybe that’s the whole point. We have met the aliens. The aliens are us.” (Philip Random)