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.
Camel being a so-called second tier Prog Rock outfit (in other words, not King Crimson, Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd or ELP), Nimrodel (found on their second album Mirage) being epic in all the right ways. It starts with a parade, it works all manner of moods and changes, it’s actually inspired by Lord of the Rings, but at less than ten minutes (even including the parade) it doesn’t overstay its welcome. But rather it takes you to a green-tinged planet way off at the edge of time. Smooth and beautiful and even strong when it needs to be. It must’ve been 1974.
It’s 1969 with the Euro hippie underground is in a state of serious flux and eruption in the wake of all the uprisings and insurrections of 1968. Nevertheless, Can (four German weirdoes and their American singer, poet, frontman who will soon go at least slightly mad) find a few moments to throw down a strange little ditty about the Upduff family and their troubled trip to Italy. WARNING: if your grandma dies while traveling in a region populated by well organized car theft rings, don’t wrap her up in a tarp and tie her to the top of the car.
Die young and rest assured, some record industry hack will make damned sure no recording that bears your name will remain lost on any shelf. Which, in the case of Gram Parsons, is a good thing, as it got us this straight up, true as nature take on Merle Haggard’s ballad about a guy who’s due to hang tomorrow, and he’s as ready as he’s ever gonna be. All credit to the rest of the Flying Burrito Bros, too, of course.
“It says 1974 on the cover but Brian Eno‘s second solo album Taking Tiger Mountain (by strategy) will always be pure 1981 for me. Weird and oft times jagged pop was pretty much perfectly in synch with the times and thus not at all afraid to just dissolve into abstraction if necessary. Which was fine by me given all the acid I was taking. I needed those dissolutions, like at the end of The Great Pretender when the crickets (or whatever they are) just take over, suck us into the insect realm, alien and strange.” (Philip Random)
“In which Queen, from before most of the world had a clue who they were, unleash an astonishing mix of heavy licks, mad harmonies and wild mood swings all in service of some high fantasy concerning a mythical Queendom called Rhye. Which, if you were maybe fifteen, confused about pretty much everything, stuck in the mid-1970s, was exactly what the Universe needed you to hear.” (Philip Random)