“True fact. For most of the 1980s, the Beatles pretty much always lost those Beatles vs Stones arguments (unless you were hanging out with idiots). Not that the ’80s Stones were up to anything new that was particularly necessary, just that their older stuff had the sort of teeth the times required. Though Yer Blues from the so-called White Album, also excelled in that regard — a blues as voracious as anything the Stones ever put to vinyl, or any other pale skinned band for that matter. As much a send-up of the whole idea of white guys churning out authentic black music as it was a genuine howl from the soul of a guy who really was so lonely he wanted to die, it still conjures chills and wins arguments. Because it’s true, the Stones may have been a better blues outfit but Beatles had the best actual song.” (Philip Random)
If you were concerned with the cutting edges of things, you knew that by summer 1968, the peace and love part of the ’60s was most definitely on the wane. Which was good news for the Rolling Stones who generally couldn’t see the point in all the flower power stuff. They were more comfortable with grittier, grimier, dirtier options, like Stray Cat Blues, the one about the fifteen year old groupie who liked to drag her fingernails down the backs of her fave rock stars, who no, as a matter of fact, hadn’t asked to see her ID. Shock for shock’s sake? Probably. But it’s a hell of a groove from a hell of an album from a hell of a time.
“I seem to recall Dr. John getting some late night FM radio play way back when, and not just the obvious hit. And then there was that time he showed up on TV in full Night Tripper guise — headdress, voodoo regalia and deeply strange music to match. But it would be decades before I’d finally hear a full album. 1968’s Gris Gris to be specific, bought cheap at a yard sale, and a delicious gumbo it was – the musical equivalent of rare herbs, old bones, strange elixirs, a little bit of everything. In other words, soul, blues, gospel, honky tonk, even a few voodoo chants. But that’s what it takes, I guess, if you mean to go walking on splinters, gilded or otherwise.”
“Soft Machine released a pile of albums in their time, but for whatever reason, I never really got past the early ones, the first in particular. 1968 was the year and if you like your psychedelia wild, weird, noisy and more or less free of recognized form, well, let’s just say the revolution starts here (and possibly dissolves as well). Though in the case of We Did It Again, you get a nifty sort of drone driven garage pop that sounds as relevant (in a noisy sort of way) as pretty much anything new I’m currently hearing . All hail the eternal underground.” (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 dancingbeneath 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 only 1968 and Frank Zappa and his Mothers have already had it with the hippies and their bullshit, but he hates the straights even more. And we get it all in the full-on technicolor onslaught of satirical genius that is We’re Only In It For The Money, all thirty-nine plus minutes of it. Technically, it’s nineteen separate tracks but they all flow together (sometimes smoothly, sometimes deliberately not), so I’ve always thought of it as one epic piece, or two in the case of the original vinyl. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t prefer side one – if only for its inclusion of perhaps the single greatest minute of Mr. Zappa’s entire discography, What’s the Ugliest Part of Your Body? The answer, of course, is your mind. It’s funny because it’s true.” (Philip Random)
“I saw Van Morrison once. 1986, I think. Underwhelmed would describe my response. Not that I was horribly surprised. I had been warned. Van was notorious for less than stellar shows. If he wasn’t feeling the gods own light in his soul, he wasn’t going to fake it. But on a good night, well, words don’t suffice. You’ve got to just shut up and listen to the likes of what happens here in Cyprus Avenue, recorded in 1973 sometime, final song of the evening apparently. Too late to stop now.” (Philip Random)
As the story goes, the Byrds invented country rock in 1968 with the arrival of new guy Gram Parsons, the album known as Sweetheart of the Rodeo. It didn’t sell that well. There were no big deal hit singles. Mr. Parsons himself would be gone before the next album, chasing his own particular dreams and oblivions. But it seemed to stick anyway – the notion of putting country’s yearning and twang in service of the rock. It certainly worked for You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere, a Bob Dylan nugget from perhaps the world’s most famous basement, wherein winter’s a-howling and Genghis Khan is running low on sheep for his kings, but the times are good regardless.
“When Elvis (aka The King) died in 1977, John Lennon was smugly heard to observe that he’d already been been dead for almost twenty years — ever since he joined the army back in 1958. But I give him another ten years, to 1968 and the big deal comeback TV special on NBC. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy had just been shot, the Vietnam war had officially gone to hell, the Beatles hadn’t played live for years. But Elvis wasn’t worried. He had a secret weapon for the show’s finale, a brand new song written by a guy named Earl Brown called If I Can Dream. ‘I’m never going to sing another song I don’t believe in,’ said Elvis when he first heard it, ‘I’m never going to make another movie I don’t believe in.’ And yeah, Elvis did deliver on NBC, a performance that reached deep through the strange vacuum of the cathode ray tube and touched the hopeful soul of all humanity, maybe even saved the world. But then he proceeded to eat doughnuts, sing awful songs, make worse movies, and finally died nine years later, alone, sitting on a toilet. Poor guy. The King of Need, the Residents called him.” (Philip Random)