“I did hear Telegram Sam at least once way back when, and my immediate teeny bop take was, ‘this sounds exactly like that other T-Rex song‘. And I was right. But ultimately, wrong. Because what I was really referring to was T-Rex‘s groovy, funky, rockin’ one in a trillion sound. Which I didn’t really get for at least another decade, which is when Bauhaus’s rather raucous take on Telegram Sam nudged me into paying attention again. Pop for the ages, glamorous and forever cool.” (Philip Random)
“I’m twelve years old. It’s 1972 and there’s this band I keep hearing on the radio who can’t be the Beatles, because the Beatles broke up two years ago, but they sure sound like the Beatles. Bad-something. And then my friend Chris buys their latest single. It’s called Baby Blue, and it’s official. This band is called Badfinger. Maybe three years later, I’m finally buying albums on a regular basis, and one that I’m always looking for is Badfinger’s Straight Up (the one with Baby Blue on it). “Good luck finding that,” says a record store guy one day. “It’s impossible to find ever since Apple went under.” Which was not entirely accurate. I found Straight Up a few times over the years, used and stupidly expensive. Then finally, early-90s sometime, there it was at a flea market, cover a bit hacked but the vinyl itself looked okay. The weird thing is, the song that immediately grabbed then thirty-something me wasn’t Baby Blue, but Perfection. Solid sort of mid-tempo rock, with lyrics you actually heard: There’s no good revolution – just power changing hands – There is no straight solution – Except to understand. True enough and yet all too sad given the tragedies that tore Badfinger to pieces. All the more reason to keep playing the records, I guess.” (Philip Random)
They were the Jazz Crusaders until 1971 at which point they became merely the Crusaders, and less of a straight up jazz outfit, more of a funk driven item. But one thing that didn’t change (and never would) was the rich and prodigious power of the music. That’s How I Feel showed up on their second album as the Crusaders, the perhaps confusingly titled double shot called 1. Nothing confusing at all about how it made things move.
In which the good captain (Beefheart, that is) kicks out more of those blues so authentic it can only feel surreal to hear them coming from a white man. But then you actually listen to what’s going on and you realize, this isn’t authentic at all. It’s positively mutant, working curves and angles that feel positively alien. Of course, he did go to high school with Frank Zappa. Which raises the question, who the hell else went to Antelope Valley High back in the day? And what was in the water?
“It seems insane to think about it now, but in 1972 Jethro Tull conquered the world with a 43-minute-44-second song called Thick as a Brick, which comprised the entire album of the same name. Adventurous, dense, continuous, it even half made sense, both musically and lyrically. So what did Ian Anderson (Tull main man) and his talented crew do for a follow-up? Another album long song, of course, this one called A Passion Play, which proved even more dense and adventurous than Thick As A Brick. And I’m still trying to figure it out. Actually, that’s a lie. I gave up a long time ago, because as a friend concluded, ‘Man, you’ve gotta be Ian Anderson’s f***ing brain to know what any of that’s supposed to mean.’ Which doesn’t mean I ever stopped listening to it, just thinking about it. I guess I just pretend I’m the guy’s brain for a while.” (Philip Random)
“As the story goes, Strawbs main man David Cousins was rather choked at losing keyboard whiz kid Rick Wakeman to Yes. So, as was popular at the time, he consulted the Classic of Changes (aka the mystical I-Ching), which gave him a few lyrics if nothing else. ‘Humble must he constant be, where the paths of wisdom lead, distant is the shadow of the setting sun‘. Good enough for the lead-off track from 1972’s Grave New World, which I’d say was their best album, but the Strawbs just aren’t that easy to pin down. As if losing Wakeman lit a fire under them. They’d prove all the bastards wrong. They’d expand the known universe without him. And they did, even if hardly anyone noticed. One of the best damned bands most people have never heard of, let alone heard.” (Philip Random)
“When the Who did it, they called it Let’s See Action, but a title like Nothing is Everything was far more profound to my thirteen year old mind. I remember taping Pete Towsend’s version direct from FM radio (microphone jammed up against the tinny speaker, my little brother and sister being told to ‘Shut Up’ in the background). It got a lot of play for a while, like all my handmade cassettes. Then a couple of decades intervened and I pretty much forgot all about it. What eventually hooked me again (late 1990s now) was the lyrics and how eloquently they riffed on all the revolution everyone was amping for back in those barely post-60s days, and how doomed it all was. Rumour has it / minds are open / then you must fill them up with lies …” (Philip Random)
It’s hard to put in context just how hot the band known as Yes were come 1972’s Close to the Edge, except just to say that a song as wired, as wild, as complex, as challenging, as virtuous as Siberian Khatru was pretty much required listening for anyone who was even half-serious about staying in touch with the zeitgeist. “I know where Siberia is. I have no idea what a Khatru is. Except to say it must have something to do with reaching for but not quite grasping the essence of all our striving, our yearning, our dreams – the Grail itself, holy and unfathomable. But careful way out there, you don’t want to fall off. The edge, that is.” (Philip Random)
As post-Beatles John Lennon albums go, Some Time in New York City has to rate as mostly disastrous, there being bluntly far too much Yoko Ono in the mix, and the sort of one-note politicking that feels like a repeated kick to the head. And yet there are a few moments that are worth submitting your ears to, such as the live take on Well (Baby Please Don’t Go) which happens to include Frank Zappa (and at least some of the Mothers) tearing things up with all due savagery and respect. Even Yoko’s bleating mostly works, at least for a while.