“I remember taping this song from the radio one night, early teens, maybe 1973. But I didn’t catch who it was, so for some reason I just assumed it was Donovan. Which threw things off for a good twenty years. I’d describe it to people as the one where he says, if I was a soldier, and they’d say, Universal Soldier, and I’d say, no, his other soldier song. Anyway, I finally got it figured about twenty-five years later. Special thanks to Rena, an ex-punk I used to know, who had a hate on for Jeff Buckley, because she thought he was an over-hyped shadow of his dad, the then long gone but not forgotten (by Rena anyway) Tim Buckley. Anyway, I asked her to make me a tape, and there it was, Once I Was, precious evidence of a time (1967) when a young man could just pick up a guitar, sing his deceptively simple song, put poetic truth to the brutality and chaos of the world, maybe change everything forever. At least, that’s what it must’ve felt like, I guess. I was just a little kid then, not allowed anywhere near the fun part of the party.” (Philip Random)
There’s a lot of autobiography in Neil Young’s discography, with Don’t Be Denied (found on 1973’s Time Fades Away, the deliberately raw follow up to the worldwide mega hit Harvest) particularly loaded in that regard. It concerns a weird kid from somewhere north of Toronto whose parents split up and he moves with his mom to a town called Winnipeg at the wrong age, pays the price in schoolyard beatings, etc. But to paraphrase an old German, that which does not destroy you only increases your will to pick up an electric guitar and not ever be denied again.
Zoom is about the future apparently (the 1973 album in question being called 1990), though men had already been walking the moon for four years by then, smacking golf balls around even. Either way, this is the Temptations (arguably the greatest all male vocal group ever) together with their producer Norman Whitfield boldly and beautifully going as far (and as long) as they ever would, indeed as far as man ever has, a thirteen trip, which if taken at the speed of light would actually get you to Mars. Not bad for a bunch of guys from the wrong side of the tracks, Detroit.
“The easy and wrong position to take on Roxy Music is that they were only good as long as Brian Eno was onboard (ie: the first two albums), ‘…a 1970s band playing 1950s music for the twenty-first century‘. It’s true that things changed with Eno’s rather abrupt departure. How could they not? But as their third album Stranded makes abundantly clear, Roxy still had more than enough rings for a proper circus. With Song For Europe an epic romance that offers verses in not just English and French, but Latin too, all toward … well, I don’t know what exactly, or where. It just sends me there, sweetly, strangely, and finally powerfully. Which I suppose is where Roxy did finally lose it for me – when they stopped delivering the power and the strangeness, opting for those misty water-coloured moods of Avalon which definitely shifted units, but just drove me resolutely elsewhere. Anywhere else really. Oh well.” (Philip Random)
“Liar‘s the first Queen song I ever heard. Grade Nine, a tinny little radio in my bedroom, I was probably doing homework. And suddenly there it was, knocking me spiraling out of orbit (in a damned good way) like something from Jesus Christ Superstar, except without any Jesus involved, thank God. Just the trials of tribulations of some guy who’d done too much lying and now there was hell to pay. But it was the band that had me floored – all the power and stomp of Black Sabbath mixed with the epic sweep of somebody like Yes, and a singer (or was there a whole choir?) who didn’t seem to know any limits at all. Of course, I had to tell everybody about it at school the next day, but most of them just laughed. A band called Queen? What were they? Fags? Jump ahead a couple of years and I’d be thoroughly vindicated. Queen would be mega by then, with even the football jocks trying to hit Bohemian Rhapsody’s high notes. Except I didn’t really care about Queen anymore by then, they’d peaked already with their first three albums. Or maybe they never really got past Liar, that part toward the end where the riff lands heavier than metal and then the bass goes rampaging off into a whole new dimension (take a bow, John Deacon, you never get enough credit) and then one more chorus of ‘liars’. It still gives me chills. Sometimes anyway.” (Philip Random)
“Speaking of Hawkwind, I realize it’s difficult for those who haven’t been there to grasp, but the difference between their sci-fi epics and everybody else’s, is that theirs are real (note the present tense). They aren’t fantasies. They’re honest tellings of events from the edge of time itself, where even now mystical warriors stand at the very brink of the vortex, the void, the abyss … and they hold true, they redeem us all. By which I mean Space Ritual may have been recorded live in 1972, decades from where I’m currently sitting, but I’m here to tell you that distance is all illusory, a side effect of the weirder than weird mechanics that make so-called reality at least begin to make sense to our puny mortal minds. Which I realize must be confusing as hell to try to comprehend. So don’t. Just listen to the album, and if you’ve only got time for one track, make that Master Of The Universe, because it’s solid sonic proof of everything I’ve just stated. It’s truth itself. And it rocks like a mother****er!” (Philip Random)
“Mott being the one Mott The Hoople album everyone should own (even if it doesn’t contain their biggest, greatest hit — that’s what 7-inches are for). Because on Mott, the Hoople are rocking their strongest, most shambolic, but also finding space for the kind of ballads that make grown men cry. Hymn for the Dudes for instance, which is one of those bottle of cheap red wine wonders. Close your eyes and remember all those lost friends that you used to party with, rage with, surf metaphorical tsunamis. Where are they now? Where the hell am I?” (Philip Random)
One more from The Who’s Quadrophenia because Philip Random insisted, “Because how the hell can you represent Quadrophenia with anything but four selections? Quad being an abbreviation of quadrilateral which goes all the way back to Euclid, for Christ’s sake. The whole point of Quadrophenia being that young Jimmy has become divided four ways, four personalities, four faces. And it’s The Rock, an instrumental found way deep on side four, where he recombines, alone in a small boat, storm tossed and completely confused … until these four melodies all find a way to work together toward setting up the climax of whole shebang – Love Reign O’er Me. Which is a hell of song but it doesn’t make the list because the entire planet has already heard it at least forty times in the last three months.”
“I first heard the groove from Stratus via the main sample from Massive Attack’s rather brilliant Safe From Harm. But Billy Cobham‘s original track roars off in a whole other direction, and blisteringly so. The lead guitar comes care of a guy named Tommy Bolin who was supposed to be the saviour of the instrument in the early-mid-70s, but he hooked up with Deep Purple instead, and then OD’ed on heroin. As for Mr. Cobham, I figure if he was a good enough for Miles Davis, he was good enough for all humanity.” (Philip Random)