32. can’t you hear me knocking?

Can’t You Hear My Knocking marks that precise moment at which I realized Punk Rock was dead (which is bullshit, of course, it was just going into remission for a while). It would’ve been summer 1988, a party at the joint we called the Palace of Failure. I remember I was sitting on the stairs, swigging from my ever trusty bottle of cheap red wine, no doubt stoned as well. Suddenly somebody yanked off the hardcore record that was playing, mid-song, which was fine by me, I wasn’t exactly paying attention. A few seconds of party noise and then … pure riff magic, the Rolling Stones at their most elegantly gritty, tearing everything up, the whole party immediately starting to groove. Even Mick Jagger didn’t sound that annoying. How was that possible? And then, the last two-thirds of the track, he wasn’t around anyway, just a full-on Latin groove and some hot soloing. Pure bliss and proof positive that whatever had been so horribly wrong with old school rock back in the early punk days had now passed, a dysfunction of the zeitgeist or whatever. And how the hell had I not heard this song before?  Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, from Sticky Fingers, the one with the zipper on the cover. Which means I had heard it. Because my friend Gary had that album way back when, end of Grade Seven. I distinctly remember playing with the zipper. Which is kind of weird, now that I think of it.” (Philip Random)

(Morrison Hotel Gallery)

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)

(image source)

39. Würm

“Second of two in a row from Yes’s early 1970s glory years, though Würm is technically only part three of 1971’s Starship Trooper, which I figure most people probably have heard in one way or another. But probably not the longer, bigger, vaster 1972 live version, which truly takes off at its standalone climax – the Würm in question here. The album in question is the six sided monster known as Yessongs which was my proper introduction to Yes, the first album of theirs I actually owned. Talk about starting big. And even to this day, I have no problem arguing that at least four of those sides are a waste of nobody’s time, proving beyond any doubt that even as this crowd sometimes chased their high and mighty conceptual concerns perhaps a little (or a lot) too far, they always did it from a foundation of solid ROCK. With Würm’s deceptively simple, ever expanding power exhibit A in that regard.” (Philip Random)

53. oh yeah

“I doubt I’ll ever find the words for how wonderfully, ecstatically, profoundly the so-called Krautrock combo known as Can have affected me since I first crossed paths with them sometime around my twenty-fourth birthday. I guess I could write a book, but somebody already has. And anyway who’s got the time? But assuming I did, I suspect I’d give at least a chapter to that lamest of all Lollapaloozas. 1994, I think, Cloverdale BC, traffic jams, shitty food, too much sun, not enough water, too much dope, too many big deal bands not really delivering, failing to send me anywhere I hadn’t been before … except for maybe Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds until some loogan tossed a shoe at the stage. And that was that, early exit. F*** you, somebody.

And then, a few long hours later, it’s getting on sunset and I just want to cut my losses, go home, except I’ve lost touch with my ride, so whatever, I’m just sitting there alone in the middle of a very crowded field, waiting for the Beastie Boys who are up next, but I just saw them last year in a smaller, cooler, better situation, so no, I’m not feeling much in the way of excitement or anticipation. But then their pre-show DJ does a genius thing, drops the needle on Can’s Oh Yeah, from Tago Mago, certainly their biggest album … and it’s perfect, seven or so minutes of pulsing groove and eerie drones and backwards vocals and jagged rips of sideways guitar that somehow merges with the crowd noise and dust and fading light and redeems the f***ing the day, pulls all of its fragmented pieces together, makes it whole, worth all the trouble. Yeah, I could have just listened to the same record at home, sitting on the patio with a beer and a joint, but that would be like taking a helicopter to the peak of some notable mountain. Sometimes the trouble is the point, as I try to remind myself whenever shit keeps going sideways, going anywhere but where and how I want it. Such is life, I guess. If it was supposed to easy, they would have called it something else. And a song like Oh Yeah – it just wouldn’t matter as much.” (Philip Random)

68. halo of flies

“The fourth Alice Cooper album, the one known as Killer, is as fine a slice of epic rock spectacle as the early 1970s delivered, and they delivered a lot. I distinctly remember the first time I heard it, at my friend Malcolm’s, who immediately went out and bought it when the news hit about a kid a few suburbs over who’d hung himself trying to imitate the ‘hanging trick’ pictured on the calendar found inside. The newspapers were all over it for a while. Fourteen year old boy kills himself because of Alice Cooper. Which, of course, is as deep as any adult ever went when it came to Alice. The pictures. Their loss, because there was nothing shallow about the music. Creepy, dynamic, erupting with grotesque passion and cool … particularly Halo of Flies. Apparently, it’s about espionage. Halo of Flies being an evil outfit working deep networks of counter-intelligence-terrorism-revenge-extortion-perversion, and thus they must be smashed. And our man Alice and his crowd of weirdoes are up to the task, whatever it takes, even a little Rogers + Hammerstein if needs be. Would’ve made a helluva movie.” (Philip Random)

83. ball of confusion

“The Temptations had the big hit with Ball of Confusion but the Undisputed Truth (also signed to Motown, and working with the song’s co-writer Norman Whitfield in the producer’s chair) took it way further, bigger, louder. Seriously, did any Motown record before or since rock harder than this? So yeah, take a bow, Mr. Whitfield, and Undisputed Truth for being up to that groove. And then there’s that band I saw at a school dance, maybe Grade ten, doing their own long and sloppy rock take, all jammed out and obviously memorable, because here I am remembering it. I had no idea it was a Motown cover at the time, just caught some of the lyrics and couldn’t help relating. Because that’s what the world was (even fifteen year old me had that much figured out) – a ball of confusion indeed. Just turn on the six o’clock news – everything pumping with paranoia, unease, threat. And the band played on.” (Philip Random)

90. whipping post

“Because this is what it sounds like to be free. I read that once, maybe fifteen, some old Rolling Stone mag found in a pile at my friend Carl’s place. Which got me looking for the Allman Brothers’ Live At The Filmore East, and I found it, also at Carl’s place, one our regular Friday nights getting stoned, trying to figure out how to become rock stars. And the thing is, I didn’t really get it at first, whatever I supposed to get from the Allmans, certainly not what I was expecting to get, which was some kind of kickass southern-fried raunch. Nah, these guys were cooler than that, way more expansive, which isn’t to say they didn’t ROCK, there was just way more to it than that. Like the side long take on Whipping Post, which maybe halfway through you think is winding up for a big deal ending, but it takes another ten minutes to get there, like they’re loving it too much, they don’t EVER want it to end. They really were free, and so was anybody that was there at that concert, or even listening to it months or years later. Except it already had ended for the Allmans by the time the album hit, certainly for main man Duane Allman, dead in a motorcycle accident a few months after that Fillmore gig, and then barely a year later, it was bassist Berry Oakley, another motorcycle, same basic neighbourhood. The cost of freedom, I guess.” (Philip Random)

117. quicksand

“If the house was on fire and I could only grab one David Bowie album, I’d die for sure  because I wouldn’t be able to choose between at least four or five. One of which would definitely be 1971’s Hunk Dory, because good luck finding a weak track, a weak anything. His last album written and recorded before big deal fame and glory would start to find him, I have to wonder if he any idea of how absolutely he was about to blow the cultural fuses. Particularly a densely poetic nugget like Quicksand and its unflinching examination of his personal motives, with darkly surreal excursions from there … whispering about Heinrich Himmler, hints of occult knowledge, even the Beast Himself, Aleister Crowley . But in the end, it’s all just the quicksand of one’s mind. Why can’t we have pop stars like this any more?” (Philip Random)

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132. inner city blues (make me wanna holler)

“For all the suburban whiteness of my so-called tweens, at least the DJs at the local FM rock station were still allowed to be halfway cool. So you can bet they were digging deep into Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, which truly is one of the great †albums, every note, every texture all flowing† together like one vastly complex song. So I’m sure I heard Inner City Blues†† when it was still pretty new, even if I wasn’t aware of it. Just part of the ongoing flow that was filling me in and filling me up with what was really going on† out there in that part of the world that wasn’t organized into easy suburban shapes.” (Philip Random)