“A road weary gem from a time when Van Morrison really could do no wrong (ie: the early 1970s). I definitely heard it on the radio when it was fresh (while FM was still cool) because I caught the Canada reference. But for some reason, I got it in my head that the name of the song was Seen Some Hard Times, which made finding it rather difficult, search as I might. So I finally stopped searching and found it anyway at a yard sale, early 90s sometime, hiding in plain sight as it were as the title track of an album that had been looking at me for decades.” (Philip Random)
“As I remember it, David Bowie hit the suburbs of the Americas in comparatively slow motion. First came Space Oddity (a big deal AM radio hit in early 1973, some three years after it had hit big in the UK), then Ziggy Stardust (various album tracks popping up in the fringes of FM radio), by which point you were starting to see pictures of the guy. Beyond freakish. Which were backed up by the inevitable rumours (that he actually was an alien, that he and Elton John were secretly married). But by the end of the year, all that stuff was settling, and it was the music you couldn’t ignore. So Much Great And Strange Music. Entire albums overflowing with it. So much so that a track like Panic in Detroit didn’t get near the attention it deserved. If only for the riff. You could base a whole genre on that riff. Which, it’s arguable, the Rolling Stones already had. But where the hell were they in 1973?” (Philip Random)
Gram Parsons was dead before the world ever heard his final album, Grievous Angel. Which made In My Hour Of Darkness, its final song (completely concerned with people who had died before their time) all too relevant, particularly the part where he sings his own eulogy: he was just a country boy his simple songs confess – and the music he had in him so very few possess. Who says there’s no such thing as ghosts? And angels, because that’s Emmylou Harris singing backup.
Two in a row from Joe Walsh‘s The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get. Everybody knows the big deal hit, the one about getting high, the Rocky Mountain way, and it’s a classic. But that goes for the whole album, a set of songs that are thankfully not all trying to be the same thing. In the case of Midnight Moodies, that means a cool instrumental groover, ideal for late night driving in warm climes. And then, it’s seamlessly into the reggae stylings (years before such became a soft rock cliché) of Happy Ways, which is truth in advertising. “One of the most genuinely happy songs I know. Dig into it a bit, and you discover it’s really bassist Kenny Passarelli‘s tune, who took the lead vocal, and he co-wrote it (as he did Rocky Mountain Way). All hail Barnstorm, the band. And Joe Walsh for letting everyone shine.” (Philip Random)
It’s 1973 and the times may be grim but the Temptations (and producer Norman Whitfield) are in full, expansive, beautiful bloom (riding as they are on the mega-success of 1972’s Papa was a Rolling Stone). But the focus now is not the past, but seventeen years into the future, the dawning of the 1990s, not that not much has changed. There still ain’t no justice.
The only Beach Boys track on the countdown list is as good a time as any to reference the guidelines, the key ones in this case being A. if Philip Random didn’t have it on vinyl as of August 2000, it doesn’t matter how good it is, the song doesn’t qualify, and B. it has to be something the average person probably hadn’t heard (also as of August 2000 – a few of these tracks have since gained some much deserved notoriety), which means no chart-toppers, no inescapable big deal pop items already played lots on commercial radio and/or heard in commercials themselves, or in big deal movies or TV shows, or video games, or in any other way already exposed out there in the culture. So, in the case of the Beach Boys, we only get one selection, “… the easy, breezy, really quite cool Leaving this Town (found on 1973’s Holland), because everything else I’d care to share has either A. proven impossible to find on vinyl at non-ridiculous collectors prices, or B. popular enough already.” (Philip Random)
“In which Queen unleash one minute fifty seconds of punk rock a good three years before they had a label for such stuff, Modern Times Rock ‘n’ Roll being found on their first album, the one titled simply Queen. And exhibit A when it came to proving that they could do anything any other so-called rock band could do, and better. At least, that was the argument in the Grade Nine ghetto down by the metal work room.” (Philip Random)
Proof that Led Zeppelin weren’t afraid to get a little funky, or take the piss, The Crunge being a song of search – a song in search of its bridge, which it never finds, it just keeps crunging crunchily along.
“It was 1974 sometime, so I would’ve been fourteen or fifteen, a weekday night. I’m in my room doing homework or whatever, and suddenly there’s this song on the radio I can’t ignore. Sort of Bob Dylan, sort of Van Morrison, sort of the Band. But it’s its own thing. The singer feels younger, more hopeful, even if he is telling a sort of tragic tale, and he’s definitely telling a tale – love and violence, despair and romance. And then the DJ says the guy’s name but it’s kind of weird, and I promptly forget it. Which is no big deal, it’s a great song, I’ll hear it again soon enough. Except I didn’t. Because FM radio was turning to shit in those days, getting taken over not by music loving DJs, but coldhearted consultants who knew neither love nor grace. So it took maybe three years (and the breakthrough of Born to Run) before I finally discovered I’d been listening to a song called Incident on 57th Street, from Bruce Springsteen’s second album, The Wild the Innocent + the E Street Shuffle. Things just moved slower in those days.” (Philip Random)