“File Neil Diamond’s double live Hot August Night in the Everything You Know Is Wrong category, certainly if you considered yourself even halfway cool in 1972. Because here was a guy that moms liked unleashing one of the greatest live albums the world had ever heard, particularly the climactic side four, the climax of which was a medley of Soolaimon (originally found on Taproot Manuscript) and Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show (originally found on the album of the same name) but neither of those originals came remotely close to the drama-power-glory of what happened that hot august night, August 1972, LA’s Greek Theatre. I’d go deeper into it all but I know my words would quickly fail. The temptation is to say, you had to be there, except I wasn’t. I was in some suburban rec-room a year later, bored with Cat Stevens and Three Dog Night, fourteen years old and ready to be saved. For a few minutes anyway.” (Philip Random)
It’s 1967 and The Pink Floyd have followed their increasingly deranged leader Syd Barrett to the very Gates of Dawn where some genuinely weird shit is going down. But don’t ask him exactly what. He’s too deep into the psychedelics to communicate on a rational verbal level, and he just keeps going deeper and deeper. Yet this particular message speaks volumes anyway. It calls itself Pow R Toc H and, in spite of the genuinely tragic madness that informs it, it’s really quite fun in a harrowing sort of way.
“Some late 1980s truth telling from ole Lou Reed, as bitter and misanthropic as ever, and yet still bothering to deliver great songs, the album known as New York being full of them. With Busload of Faith perhaps the closest he ever got to seeing a light that wasn’t drug fueled. Because it’s true, I think. It was then. It still is now. The facts don’t add up in any kind of hopeful way. Never have, probably never will. We’re all f***ed. We’re all gonna die. And yet life seems to keep on keeping on. Hell if Mr. Reed can get behind it, maybe there is something to this faith thing.” (Philip Random)
“Though I was aware of the fabulous strangeness of George Clinton and Funkadelic and/or Parliament as far back as 1976 (having caught him/them on TV one late and lonely teenage night), I never really dove in until You Shouldn’t Nuf Bit Fish crossed my path in 1984. It was just so utterly what I needed — completely concerned with the apocalyptic mess that we, the species, were very much IN as the 1980s stumbled toward their midpoint, all our nuclear fishin’ fuelling the cold war arms race, the Doomsday Clock ticking every closer to midnight … with the old man in Washington DC whose finger was on the trigger slipping into dementia. No better time for a funk that was spaced way out, and resolutely strange.” (Philip Random)
“Jimi Hendrix’s superlative 1968 double shot Electric Ladyland features two versions of his anthem toward getting high and dreamy on a rainy day (the first more laid back one being Rainy Day Dream Away, the second more explosive one being Still Raining Still Dreaming). I long ago linked them via an edit that I can’t even find now, but trust that it all flows nicely, powerfully together, with Hendrix rhapsodics to make even the gods cry, which leads to more rain, of course, more dreaming.” (Philip Random)
Second of two in a row from Side Two of the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main St. “The best side, I think. Or certainly the one I’ve listened to most over the ages. Some call it the country side, but I think roots is better, because it’s not all twang. In the case of Loving Cup, that means a piano driven sort of gospel groove that can’t help but celebrate all manner of wasted pleasures, like one of those parties that’s still going strong come noon the following day. So why stop now? I’d say it captures the decadent spirit of what went down at the mansion in the south of France through 1971, the Stones year in exile, but it was actually recorded in L.A. after all that. So let’s just say the spirit of it was still with them, finding its way out into the world.” (Philip Random)
“On one level, Sweet Virginia is just another smart and nasty Stones ballad, gritty as the shit on your shoes. But given the album it’s from (Exile on Main St. maybe the best damned rock record of all time), it’s hard not to read more into it. Just the heroin weariness of it all, I guess, and what it says about the 1960s, what they’d promised and given, but also what they’d taken from those who dared partake. Like something out of Greek mythology, a special curse brewed up by the gods, and in some way or other, the whole culture was in on the partaking, even little kids just hanging around the edges, wanting in. That was me by the way. One of the kids. I wanted shit on my shoes, too.” (Philip Random)
“I saw Thin Lizzy more than once back in the day, theoretically at their peak. But maybe it was the drugs, because they never really hit. Solid hard rock for sure, but nothing transcendent, nothing that made you want to go back to Church or whatever. Nothing like what they delivered on Whiskey in the Jar, one of their very first singles (which I’d only hear many years later), the old Irish folk song given full soul and throttle, so it ends up feeling as rich, as tragic as time itself. Because it’s not the whiskey that does you in. It’s the woman that drove you to it. Or the man.” (Philip Random)
One of those comparatively early Alice Cooper cuts that puts the lie to it all being just kids’ comic book horror stuff, particularly the bit about being a killer, a clown, a priest who’s gone to town. That’s poetry. And all the more exquisite given the song that’s built around it, dark and moody, and more than just a little evil. From 1971’s Killer, the one that (back in the day) all the older kids said was Alice’s best album, way better than School’s Out. They were right.