70. the world is a ghetto

“Because it’s true, what the title says, the world is a ghetto, and never more so, it seems, than 1972-73, when I was finally getting serious about music, exploring the FM radio waves (which were still infinitely cool then, still dominated by DJs who loved music playing the stuff they loved). And that meant the extra long album version of The World Is A Ghetto got a lot of play, the version that really took you therewalkin down the street, smoggy-eyed, looking at the sky, starry-eyed, searchin’ for the place, weary-eyed, the fires of the 1960s riots and insurrections still smouldering, the smoke reaching even the whitebread suburbs of the Pacific Northwest where we didn’t really have so-called Black people. Yet we had their music and thus some small piece of their truth, I guess. Which, in the case of the band known as War meant all manner of genres, influences, ethnicities, impressions. They even had a white guy from Denmark playing some very haunted harmonica. Because this music wasn’t of or about any one place. It really was the whole world.” (Philip Random)

92. break on through

“Because as the wise ass said, ‘Why did Jim Morrison cross the road?  To break on through to the other side.’ But seriously, as lead off tracks from debut albums go, The Doors’ Break On Through is about as perfect as they come. A dark eruption of summer of love psyche-rock that tells no lies, promises maybe everything and pretty much delivers. But the version I’ve ended up listening to most comes from barely three years later, the double album Absolutely Live, wherein the band (via some psychedelic time trick) have clearly been on the road for centuries, howling the gods’ eternal truth to the hungry children of man, all those dead cats, aristocrats, sucking on young men’s blood and soldiers’ skulls up and down the ages, so all the more reason to chase pleasures, dig treasures, break on through the veils and filters and doors that deceive us, because though now may always be the time, it was never so evident as it was way back when, the so-called 60s rising to their peak, storming for heaven, or perhaps oblivion … whatever’s waiting beyond the great within.” (Philip Random)

109. walk on by

“Because it’s The Stranglers taking on Burt Bacharch’s Walk On By and proving my old buddy Carl right. He used to say there were no bad songs, only bad performances. Not that I really considered Walk On By a bad song, just sort of guilty by association, buried as it was in the EZ-listening-muzak background of my growing up (whatever that godawful Toronto radio station was that my parents had on all the time, 1,001 strings in full asphyxiating flower). But jump ahead a decade and things are different. The song may still be saying the same thing, but the music isn’t. The music snarls, this heartbreak is dangerous, and come the instrumental jam of the full length version, the Stranglers are soaring. Even the punks are running scared.” (Philip Random)

234. Mr. Tambourine Man

“I guess Melanie was always at least a little suspect, too maudlin, skin deep – even for the 1960s. But man, if she didn’t find something in Dylan’s Tambourine Man that nobody else has. Particularly when she gets to dancing beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free – silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands – with all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves. Yeah, it’s chewing some sonic scenery, but it’s also freedom itself, captured in sorrow, like an old snapshot, taken at sunset somewhere, all is calm and everybody’s beautiful, but there’s a great storm brewing in the distance.” (Philip Random)

Melanie-1968

267. halleluwah

“It’s true. Can saved us all at least a decade before most of humanity even knew of their existence (my corner of it anyway). Because while everybody else was reeling from the meltdown of the Beatles, the deaths of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, the end of 1960s in general, backtracking deeper and deeper into so-called authentic blues, or going all progressive, singing of castles, strange kingdoms, lost dimensions (not that there was anything particularly wrong with it) … the Communist-Anarchist-Nihilist combo known as Can (operating out of their own schloss in Koln, West Germany) were still fiercely working the now, deep into the pretty much infinite groove of Halleuwah, the Lord be praised indeed! Howls and riffs and passing rips of melody and noise and the best f***ing drummer ever — the whole mad stew still sounding fresh and dangerous and profoundly ahead of its time even now, decades later. Why is it not way higher on this list then? Good question. I guess I must’ve been just post a phase of listening to it too much when I was compiling things.” (Philip Random)

365. gypsy man

“The band known as War at absolute peak power. In the case of Gypsy Man, it’s how the song creeps in, as if carried by a distant storm, catching the moment for me, 1973, maybe fourteen years old, the Watergate thing, the Vietnam thing, the whole prolonged end of the 1960s thing, all the bright colours fading, distinct stench of garbage caught in the breeze. But at least  radio was still good in 1973. You could actually hear Gypsy Man on a commercial FM station, the long album version. Because the big corporate screwing hadn’t happened yet, but it was about to, because the consultants had filed their reports. There was stupid money to be made with the FM airwaves, and all of this visionary art and truth-telling crap — it was in the way, babe.” (Philip Random)

War-LIVE-1976

423. Sweet Virginia

“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)

RollingStones-1972-kid

446. Watusi rodeo

Track one, side one of the first Guadalcanal Diary album is pumped up, countrified fun. Philip Random is pretty sure it’s about a movie he saw as a little kid. “Something to do with American cowboys going to the Congo (or wherever), killing natives, other fun stuff. By which I mean, horrific. Which unfortunately was pretty standard in my early days of TV watching (the 1960s). White men killing non-white men, served up as rousing adventure. Anyway, it’s a great song from a highly overlooked so-called jangle-pop outfit.” (Philip Random)

GuadalcanalDiary-1984-live

458. long dark road

The Hollies were supposed to be finished by the time the 1970s hit having lost Graham Nash to Crosby and Stills (and sometimes Young) and their almost Beatles levels of international success. But it turns out, the pop outfit from Manchester still had a few rather brilliant tricks left, including Long Dark Road‘s rather grim gaze into the shadows. Released as a single, it didn’t go anywhere, though room was found on The Hollies Greatest Hits, which is where Philip Random found it. “One of those hits compilations that absolutely delivers. Not a wasted second.”.

(photo: Brian Pieper)