5. yoo doo right

“Call Can the best band that most people probably still haven’t heard. Can being an acronym for Communism-Anarchism-Nihilism, if you believe everything you read. I tend to reject that because it feels too political. These guys were beyond politics. Or maybe I should say, they inspired revolution, not the other way around. Though they did form in 1968 out of the virulent insurrections that were tearing through Europe at the time. Four Germans (all children of the ruins of World War Two) working with two vocalists in particular. The second one, Damo Suzuki (straight outa the Japanese ruins) tends to get the most notice. But it’s Malcolm Mooney (on the run from the Vietnam draft) fronting things on Yoo Doo Right, the monster that filled all of side two of their debut album, Monster Movie. Though the original take was apparently magnitudes longer, a six hour improv that only really stopped because they ran out of audio tape. Can being the sort of outfit that absolutely gave itself over to the music. Call them shamans, I guess, holy weirdos in tune with the gods. Which in the case of Yoo Doo Right meant the groove, and the noise from which it grew.

A letter from my friend JR comes to mind. He was traveling in Thailand at the time. I’d made him a few mixtapes before he took off, one of which contained Yoo Doo Right. Anyway, he dropped some acid one night at a particularly beautiful beachfront spot, and eventually got to wandering and wondering, just him and the moon, the waves, the sand, working through all manner of stuff, including his own desperate loneliness, about as far away from home and family and friends as a young man could get without leaving the planet altogether. And the thought occurred to him right around midnight that he could just lie down, let the tide take him, solve all his problems and confusions … but the music got to him first, the quiet part in the middle, the singer muttering about whoever Yoo was and how they better-better doo it right, over and over, an incantation, everything starting to rise in groove and passion until at some point, JR realized he was dancing, just him and the moon and the ocean, the entirety of the universe somehow graspable, very much in tune and in time. And yeah, I can’t put it any better than that. The power of Can, hippie-freak weirdos beating the living drum of revolution-evolution-whatever it is that finally sets us all free. Gotta-gotta get it right.” (Philip Random)

13. wild horses

“As the story goes … well nobody seems to know for sure with this one. Who did write Wild Horses? The official story is that Jagger and Richard did it with a little help from Richard’s soul brother/fellow substance extremist Gram Parsons, then of the Flying Burrito Brothers. The darker version is that it was mainly Parsons’ tune (certainly his lyrics) and the Stones more or less stole it from him while he was too wasted to notice, with the final evidence in this regard being that they felt guilty enough to let him release his version first. I personally don’t care. Just as long as we got his version, the Flying Burrito Brothers take.

If only for the middle verse where Parsons gives voice to that dull aching pain, making for the deepest kind of soul music, immensely powerful, but also fragile, way too easily wounded. It’s a place Mick Jagger could never have hoped to touch, could never really own. He just didn’t live that dangerously. Which I suppose makes it another argument for the thievery in question. But like I said, I don’t care. And neither does Parsons, long dead now via heroin induced misadventure out near Joshua Tree – a story that’s perhaps gotten way too much notice over the years. The music being the thing. The music is always the thing.” (Philip Random)

73. hyperbolicsyllabic – sesquedalymistic

“I’m guessing the title is sort of a nod to the Mary Poppins tune, though the song itself takes off in a more resolutely soulful direction. And cool it is until the groove takes over and things genuinely elevate care of  the kind of musical genius that isn’t afraid to just let the piano speak, give it all the space it needs, don’t worry, it won’t disappoint you. Isaac Hayes (yeah, you may know him better as Chef) being the genius in question, the groove itself being so hot that Public Enemy would put it to stunning use a couple decades later in Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos (one of their greatest moments) … almost as if Mr. Hayes had it planned all along. And maybe he did.” (Philip Random)

(photo: Chuck Dees)

82. it’s all too much

It’s All Too Much rates high indeed among comparatively underexposed Beatles psychedelic eruptions (and everything else for that matter) because it’s the song that saved Pepperland, George’s full-on acid epiphany at the end of Yellow Submarine (the movie), which I first saw when I was nine (my friend Patrick’s birthday) and even then I knew. What I couldn’t tell you, but I knew it anyway. Same feeling I got from Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, the one that every nine year old knew was completely concerned with LSD, and hippies, and the kinds of things that hippies saw when they did LSD, which seemed to be rainbows and flowers and weird multi-coloured alligators and marshmallow skies and … it was a strange business being a child in the craziest part of the psychedelic 60s, mostly outside looking in, except every now and then, the in got out and on and on across the universe. Stuff like that changes you. Not that I’m complaining.” (Philip Random)

86. Je t’aime … moi non plus

“Apparently Je T’aime … moi non plus (the Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg version) was a big deal international hit way back when. Just not here in the Americas. Because the first time I was even aware of it was at least twenty years after the fact, and that would’ve been in the background somewhere, cool radio, maybe somebody’s mixtape at a backyard barbecue, people playing croquet in the foreground. But it did eventually hit me. It did stick. The kind of easy cool melody and pop fresh production that destroys time, transcends decades, and then there’s the subject matter and its rather unabashed eroticism. Or as my friend Angela once put it, ‘The French may have gotten a lot wrong when it came to rock and roll, but they sure knew how to do dirty without it coming across as unclean.’ What it was (and still is) is pretty much pop perfect to my ears and (special thanks to North America’s rampant Puritanism) still not overexposed hereabouts, thus allergy free. And for the record, Ms. Birkin would’ve been twenty-one when she recorded her vocal, so it’s all entirely legal.” (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)

93. to love somebody

“In which Nina Simone proves the experts wrong. The Bee Gees peaked long before all that disco foo-furrah of the later mid-70s, probably in 1967 with To Love Somebody which may just be the greatest song of unrequited love ever written, the proof being in the covers, everybody from the Flying Burrito Brothers to Michael Bolton to the Chambers Brothers to Billy Corgan, Roberta Flack, Michael Buble, Janis Joplin, Eric Burdon taking a swing at it … but nobody ever owned it like Ms. Simone, whose pumped up 1969 take removes all adornments, just tells it like it is-was-will-always-be. I lost somebody. I’m broken. I don’t think I’ll ever be fixed. At least I still believe in my soul.” (Philip Random)

97. a saucerful of secrets

“Because sometimes it’s not about the notes or the words or the chords etc – sometimes what makes for great music is its architecture. Which is certainly true of Pink Floyd and how they made it and played it through the late 1960s, early 1970s, post the psychedelic implosion of their main man, Syd Barrett, pre all that Dark Side of the Moon seriousness and precision. The live Ummagumma version of the ‘song‘ that was originally known as The Massed Gadgets Of Hercules gets the nod here because it’s prime evidence of just how far (and deep and high) the Floyd’s free live adventures had taken them in a comparatively short stretch of time, the key word being stretch. Because it may have been only year in a temporal sense between the release of Saucerful of Secrets and the live show that made it to Ummagumma, but clearly aeons had passed in more psychedelic realms. Never played the same way twice, and even if it was, it was never heard the same way, or so it was explained to me once. Which is what the cover of Ummagumma is all about apparently. Eternity simultaneously repeating and collapsing within itself on a nice day somewhere in England. I’d say maybe you had to be there, but I think we all were in some strange way.” (Philip Random)

101. the impossible dream

“A friend of mine wrote a movie around this one that never got made (like all the best movies). Sort of Goin Down The Road, the mid-80s post-punk version, two smartass losers stumbling around big and small town Canada, having shambolic adventures. Toward the end, they find themselves drinking their sorrows in a low rent piano bar, some guy doing half-assed lounge takes on various standards in the background. Until one of our heroes decides f*** it, he slips the guy his last twenty bucks, requests his favourite song, The Impossible Dream. And it turns out the piano guy is no less than Scott Walker himself, in all of his strange and obtuse mid-80s glory, so of course, he nails the song with all due power and nuance, the big dream never being more impossible than it was in say, 1985, and thus all the more reason to dream itto right the unrightable wrong, to reach the unreachable star, no matter how hopeless, how far … because we’re humans with souls, it’s our duty. I think. Anyway, it would’ve been a great scene in a great movie.” (Philip Random)

(image source)