“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)
“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)
“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)
“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)
“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)
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)
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.”.
As the story goes, Neil Young had a peripheral connection to Charles Manson. They weren’t exactly buddies, yet there was a sort of passing amity that perhaps could only have existed in the old hippie days of 1960s Los Angeles, the weird scenes up Laurel Canyon in particular. That was before all the slaughter, of course. After which Mr. Young found a way to get his impressions into at least one song, in particular the part about getting armed to the teeth, hopping into dune buggies, then swarming down the canyon, exterminating everyone they saw, particularly all the hippie rock star types who hadn’t let Chuck join their club. Which was a scheme that he never got around to executing. There were a bunch of those.
If you were a little kid in the late 1960s early 1970s, your life was full of this kind of stuff. Various pop orchestras taking on the hits of the day, delivering mostly average versions. But every now and then, someone got it just right, like Roland Shaw, whose take on the On Her Majesty’s Secret Service theme is punchier, more revved up, better than the original in pretty much every way. The perfect soundtrack for bombing around on your banana bike, rooting out all the evil geniuses who were plotting world destruction from their suburban lairs two blocks over.