212. the night they drove old Dixie down

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)

Band-1977-LastWaltz

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213. dirty old town

“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)

Pogues-1985-promo

(photo source)

214. supernaut

“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)

BlackSabbath-1972-live(photo source)

215. funky music sho nuff turns me on

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)

EdwinStarr-1971-cu

215. one summer dream

“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)

ELO-1975-blue

216. never enough [big mix]

“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)

Cure-1990-live

217. do it clean [live]

 

Wherein Echo + the Bunnymen make it clear that they really are the greatest band in the world (for a few minutes anyway, live at the Royal Albert Hall in 1983), surfing all the powerful and angular waves of the confusing and psychedelic moment, taking them to places where gravity holds no sway. Which in the case of Do It Clean means, what the hell, why not throw in some Beatles, some James Brown, some Nat King Cole and Boney Maroni! Because once you’ve achieved a certain critical velocity, there are no borders anymore, no barricades, no lines between – it’s all just one superlative song.

Echo+Bunnymen-Live-1983

218. like a rolling stone

“The album Jimi Plays Monterey wasn’t released until 1986 but for me it’s 1967 all the way. Because even if I was only seven at the time and about four thousand miles away, I heard it anyway, such was the superlative noise that Mr. Hendrix set loose unto the universe that evening – it cracked the speed of light, broke the bounds of time. And, of course, a loose, wandering cover of Bob Dylan’s still fresh Like A Rolling Stone had to be part of that performance, because that’s how zeitgeists work. A few songs later, he’d be setting his guitar on fire, a heat you can still feel … but that’s another story.” (Philip Random)

JimiHendrix-1967-Monterey

219. Senor (tales of Yankee power)

“I tend to think of Senor (Tales of Yankee Power) as Mr. Dylan‘s last great pre-Christian moment, though, on deeper analysis, it’s entirely arguable he’d already opened the good book at this point – he just wasn’t advertising it yet. Either way, he seems to be alone at a crossroads in the midst of some vast waste, with smoke rising off in the distance. But is that Lincoln County or Armageddon? And what’s the difference anyway?” (Philip Random)

BobDylan-1978-live(photo source)