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)

170. I know I’m losing you

“By the time I was thirteen or fourteen and paying proper attention, there were three versions of I Know I’m Losing You percolating around the radio airwaves: The Temptations’ original, Rod Stewart’s stomping rocker, and Rare Earth‘s stretched out epic. Actually, make that four, because Rare Earth also had a live version which was the best of bunch – rock hard, funky, a powerhouse that just went on, on, on, because sometimes, what’s going down is just too good to stop, so you don’t. A lot of great early 1970s music had this, particularly on live albums. Like the message hadn’t been received yet that the revolution was over and the good guys lost, so just keep pushing, pushing, pushing, this superlative noise must never stop. And as long as I manage to hang onto albums like Rare Earth In Concert, I guess it won’t.” (Philip Random)

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189. gimme some truth

 

“So I’m twelve almost thirteen, smart enough to not believe in the God I’ve had foisted on me my entire life, and thus scared to death of death – the fact that sometime somehow I will die, maybe in ten minutes, maybe in a hundred years of old age, but either way, everything will end, my heart will cease pumping, my mind will cease minding. Then nothing. Just blank. Like a light getting clicked off. Sorry, but twelve almost thirteen year old me can’t accept this. There has to be something, which is why I just can’t buy John Lennon’s Imagine, all that no heaven stuff – above us only sky. There bloody well better be more than just sky. And Imagine’s kind of lame anyway, too hippie la-la-la. Gimme Some Truth on the other hand, from the same album. That I can chew on. Way more than just sky.” (Philip Random)

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215. funky music sho nuff turns me on

Edwin Starr is mostly known nowadays for the song known simply as War. He didn’t write it but he did own it. Absolutely. And the same can be said of Funky Music Sho Nuff Turns Me On. It didn’t rise as high in the charts as War, didn’t cross over so emphatically. But I still managed to hear it back when it was new, one of many soul-funk rave-ups you encountered on commercial radio back in the early 1970s before the corporate types got organized and ruined everything. But the real discovery came twenty odd years later, a flea market find, and proof in advertising all the way, the funk being fiercely evident from the first squall of guitar. What a turn on!” (Philip Random)

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