“I remember hearing Gates of Delirium get played on commercial radio when it was new, all twenty-two minutes of it. I remember my fifteen year old jaw dropping. It would’ve been late 1974, maybe 1975. Little did I realize that an era was fast ending – that very soon the culture would have little use for bands like Yes spreading their vast and cosmic wings, unleashing dense and intense and impossibly beautiful side long epics about mystical warriors in mythical lands busting through great gates of delirium. Or whatever it was actually about. It was definitely about war, burning children’s laughter on to hell. I remember a few years later, a musician friend saying, ‘But it’s really about everything. That’s the problem with Yes. Their songs aren’t really about anything. Just everything. But f***, those guys can play.'” (Philip Random)
“Gram Parsons’ Grievous Angel being perhaps the one album more than any other that made me realize just how wrong I could be about what constitutes great f***ing music. Because I was that kind of fool when I was younger – happy to tell you just how much I hated ALL country music. And I’m sure I was loud about it. Sorry. I know better now. I know that hating all of any kind of music is like hating a part of your soul. Because in what other form could you take a simple song about a simple wedding gone wrong and turn it into something epic, apocalyptic even. Because such are human souls – we’ve all got entire universes exploding inside of us. And why would you want to deny any of that?” (Philip Random)
“I try not to regret things. Life offers way too many options. But I do deeply wish I’d somehow managed to be cool enough as a teen to actually ‘get’ the mid-70s Roxy Music, when they really were about the coolest item on the planet (even without Brian Eno). And not just in terms of look. They also had the chops, the vision, the SOUND. But then I guess, I wouldn’t have had the thrill of discovering it all after the fact, even as they mellowed into the pastel infused murk of Avalon, which the yuppies couldn’t seem to get enough of, but it didn’t even leave me cold, just lukewarm.” (Philip Random)
“Al Stewart was a respected albeit minor British folkie on his way to becoming a rather bland MOR contender when he wrote this pocket symphony about a young Russian soldier in World War Two, and his ultimate betrayal at the hands of the Great Stalin. And it’s so beautiful, so epic, so sad it pretty much stops time. Seriously. They should teach Roads To Moscow in high school. I’m sure I learned more from its eight minutes than I did in pretty much all History 10.” (Philip Random)
Are the Rolling Stones the greatest rock and roll band ever? Maybe. But for a solid ten or twelve years, no matter how messed up things got in their camp, no matter who was dying, getting arrested, nodding off, almost choking on their own puke, there was always a new album, every year, and they were always at least good. But it probably should have all ended in 1974 with It’s Only Rock And Roll. Not that they didn’t still have a few choice moments left in them, but in terms of proper swan songs, nothing was going to say it as succinctly – we’ve done our time, we’ve played our various hands, it’s all just rock and roll anyway. Though Fingerprint File is hinting at something more — funky, groovy, tense, whispering of surveillance and paranoia, all secrecy, no privacy. Like a long tense night, no sleep, no end in sight.
As the story goes, Neil Young had at least a peripheral connection to Charles Manson. They weren’t exactly buddies, yet there was a sort of passing amity that perhaps could only have existed in the old hippie days of 1960s Los Angeles, the weird scenes up Laurel Canyon in particular. That was before all the slaughter, of course. After which Mr. Young found a way to get it into at least one song, in particular the part about getting armed to the teeth, hopping into dune buggies, then swarming down the canyon, exterminating everyone they saw, particularly all the hippie rock star types who hadn’t let Chuck join their club. Which was apparently a scheme that he never got around to executing. There were a bunch of those.
“It’s true. I wouldn’t be compiling this list if it wasn’t for Bob Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone. Push comes to shove, it’s probably the single record I’d grab if the house was burning down (which it is, by the way). Because it marks the moment at which the Apocalypse got interesting to me, when the big story I care about kicked into gear. It’s the snare shot to be specific, the one at the very beginning. That’s what did it – kicked the proverbial door wide open, and it’s all been wild urgency ever since. But you’ve already heard that record at least a thousand times, so it doesn’t qualify for this list. But I bet you haven’t heard the live version, from 1974’s Before the Flood, Dylan and the Band raving it up like the anthem it is, saving the world one night at a time. Because everything just keeps on exploding. Same as it ever was.” (Philip Random)
To clarify. King Crimson first performed as a unit in early 1969, quickly knocked the world onto its head by more or less inventing so-called progressive rock, then proceeded to do just that for the next five years. They progressed. The line-up was ever mutating, as were the sounds. Only one thing remained unchanged. Robert Fripp remained seated as he played his mellotron and planet fracturing guitar. Asbury Park is a live improv from a show at the Asbury Park Casino on June 28, 1974, one of the last shows from the last King Crimson tour of the 1970s after which Mr. Fripp would shut the whole outfit down because he’d come to despise the industry he was in, and what it was doing to him. Not that he and King Crimson brand wouldn’t return half a decade later. But that is a whole other discipline.
When Queen’s second album arrived in 1974, it was unlike anything the world had ever heard, unless you’d heard the first one, which very few had. And Queen II was even more of all that — the full metal raunch of Led Zeppelin, the camp 19th Century operatics of Gilbert and Sullivan, the heartfelt harmonic longing of the Beach Boys, the brash pop adventuring of the Beatles, and Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, and glam, and prog. And it worked. And if you were fourteen, fifteen years old, still getting by on five or ten bucks allowance a week – what better album to to buy than the one that had EVERYTHING! In the case of March Of The Black Queen, it was all in the one song.