10. sweet Jane

“The Velvet Underground being another of those changed-everything-forever outfits, but then that’s pretty much the rule now that we’re in the top ten of this thing. Sweet Jane gets the nod here because A. for some inexplicable reason, it hasn’t been overexposed in the culture (the ‘evil mothers’ line probably has something to do with it), and B. it’s main man Lou Reed opening wide his not entirely dark heart, and stopping gravity before he’s done. Particularly that part about the lies inherent in women never really fainting, villains always blinking, children being the only ones who blush, and the purpose of life being just to die. And, of course, it is the Velvets, so no time is wasted, no artificial sweeteners are used. It just goes straight for the heart and soul and brain. 

Apparently the story is, the record company pleaded with Lou for a hit single, something that wasn’t inherently transgressive, that could actually get played on the radio. And he delivered. Almost. Because whatever happened, we missed it. The culture, that is. I certainly have no memory of hearing Sweet Jane on the radio back in the day. In fact, it didn’t even get a single release until years after the fact. There were, of course, many covers along the way with the Cowboy Junkies finally kicking the song out of the park. But that’s a whole other angle. The Velvet original remains fresh to my ears, 100 percent non-allergenic. So yeah, I get to include it on this list. The tenth best song most people have still probably never heard.” (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)

36. stand + you can make it if you try

“This live Sly + the Family Stone double shot comes from the awkwardly titled monster The First Great Rock Festivals of the Seventies: Isle of Wight / Atlanta Pop Festival which is one of those albums I inherited because nobody else wanted it – from my friend Carl who’d previously grabbed it from his older brother’s discard pile. Six sides of this and that including Johnny Winter, Poco, The Allman Brothers, Jimi Hendrix, Leonard Cohen, even some Miles Davis. I guess the whole was less than sum of its parts. I say ‘guess’ because I lost track of everything but the middle two sides a long time ago – the Procol Harum, Ten Years After, David Bromberg, Cactus and Sly and The Family Stone sides, all from the 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival (Britain’s Woodstock if you believe the hype, but history seems to argue it was a little more contentious than that).

Anyway, the one thing that is clear is just how f***ing brilliant Sly and his crowd were at that point. The best band on the planet? Maybe. Because to my mind (and soul) it’s powerful evidence of what Hunter S Thompson was talking about, 1971 sometime, that psychedelic morning in Las Vegas when he looked to the west toward San Francisco and saw just how far the great waves of love and evolution had reached before, sadly, tragically, inevitably, they achieved their high water point, and thus began their great retreat. Because the 1960s were nothing if not a wild and unprecedented ocean storm — not just one lone rogue wave taking out a some unsuspecting picnickers, but a sustained, relentless, committed storm, one wave after another, ebbing and flowing, always creeping further inland, going for the heart of the beast that was America (etc). Because we do need to remember this stuff, how free things can get, and it’s seldom ever been as free as a Sly And The Family Stone rave-up, live or in the studio, women and men of all races, creeds, making their stand, not fighting the power so much as grooving right on through it, confident as f*** they’d make it they just never stopped trying. At least until the drugs wore off.” (Philip Random)

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45. young man blues

“Second of two in a row from the Who’s 1970 eruption Live At Leeds, because in case there’s any doubt, props must go to possibly/probably the greatest single slab of live ROCK vinyl ever unleashed. With the take on Mose Allison’s Young Man Blues manifesting as a powerhouse of such magnitude that it’s hard to imagine they didn’t just invent it on the spot, torn from the gods’ own hearts. For here is a genuinely classic band captured at absolute peak relevance, no excuses offered, none required (though captured is probably the wrong word for something as wild as this). And unlike that previous selection, My Generation, which ricochets and rambles its young man’s confusion for better of a quarter-hour, Young Man Blues focuses the superlative noise to just five-minutes-fifty-two seconds of glory that’s as relevant now as it’s ever been, probably even more so. Because nowadays, the young men, they got sweeeeet f*** all.” (Philip Random)

46. my generation

“You can do a lot worse than calling The Who’s My Generation the first proper punk rock song. Because it really does have it all — teenage rage, power, angst, frustration, horniness, confusion, all erupting as a sustained declaration of … something that’s impossible to really put into words without f***ing stuttering off into guitar, bass, drums, distortion, explosions and sustained thunder from there out to the edges of the nine known universes, which is what happens in the best version, the 1970 Live At Leeds version that just keeps mutating and erupting for almost fifteen minutes, the band having grown over the years into a monstrous garage apocalypse of noise and negation that was nevertheless playing the biggest festivals, topping the highest charts, like the answer to the question: what happens if you cross a Mod with a supernova?

Such that maybe eight years later, an eternally frustrating late teenage night, nothing to do, nowhere to go, just me and my friend Doug, a 26er of Tequila, his dad’s Camaro and an 8-Track of Live At Leeds. It’s snowed recently, so we take it down to an empty mall parking lot and cut loose with power slides, fishtails, spinouts. True heavy metal thunder. Although it would’ve been truer if the Camaro didn’t have an automatic transmission. Which we fried. So we ditched the car, hiked home and let his dad report it stolen the next morning. We never did get caught.  Although maybe fifteen years later Doug got busted for some kind of insider trading, then split the country while out on bail. One of these days, I guess I’ll get the full story, but I doubt I’ll be any less confused.” (Philip Random)

76. Ohio

“The album was released in 1972 under Neil Young’s moniker (soundtrack to a movie almost nobody saw, and probably for good reason), but this Crosby Stills Nash + Young live recording of Ohio dates to June 1970, barely a month after the events in question – the murder by National Guard marksmen of four students on the campus of Kent State University, Ohio. So what you’re hearing is a band that’s very much in the line of fire, the smoke hasn’t even cleared, they’re playing for their lives, ferociously. Because Richard Nixon has given the executive order. F*** the long hairs and their protests, send in the tin soldiers and shoot ’em all down.” (Philip Random)

114. mother sky

“It’s 1970 and the five piece Communist-Anarchist-Nihilist combo known as Can are getting down to it somewhere in Koln, West Germany, releasing the thunder, inventing the future in the form of the fourteen minute monster called Mother Sky. The first version I’d hear would be an edit, and even that was better part of eight minutes. The album in question was a double vinyl compilation called Cannibalism and to this day it remains my go-to when somebody asks me what’s the best starter Can album. Because it covers the most ground while tactfully avoiding their later just-not-as-great stuff. Because Can, in their prolonged moment, were f***ing great. Not just the best of the so-called Krautrock crowd, but maybe (on some days anyway) the best damned band ever, from anywhere, any time. And for me, that moment starts with 1970’s Soundtracks (an album’s worth of music made for various movies) because it’s the first Can offering to feature Damo Suzuki‘s vocals, which definitely rise to the occasion of Mother Sky.” (Philip Random)

128. rock and roll

“The image I’ve generally had of Lou Reed is of this too cool misanthrope who lived to hate the Beatles, ruin parties, bring everybody down to his level of overall discontent. But then you hear a song like Rock And Roll (from the Velvet Underground’s Loaded) in which he rhapsodizes the redemptive freedom inherent in hearing the right three minute song at the right time, and well, all is forgiven. The man is even more like the Grinch than he lets on – with a heart at least two-sizes two big.” (Philip Random)

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134. heaven on their minds

“To be clear, the Jesus Christ Superstar album to have is the first one, the Original London Cast recording featuring the likes of Ian Gillan (JC), Murray Head (Judas) and Yvonne Elliman (Mary M) in the vocal department and as hot a band as ever jammed themselves into an orchestra pit. Because it wasn’t just a gimmick. It was 1970 and, in the wake of The Who’s Tommy, it was official, the big deal Rock Opera was in. And what bigger deal could there be than Jesus Christ, the Man, maybe even the Son of God, to which Judas, his best friend, is calling serious bullshit in Heaven on Their Minds, the best single track on the album. ‘You may be purer than most, JC, but come on, man, you know and I know you’re just as human as the rest of us, so relax, drink some more wine and stop winding up the fanatics.’ What’s amazing is how heartfelt it manages to sound, and epic, and man, what a riff — an epic and concise chunk of thoughtful progressive rock, which really did get younger me realizing just how complex a tale those Gospels purport to tell.” (Philip Random)

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