239-8-7. tenement funster – flick of the wrist – lily of the valley

“Three tracks from Sheer Heart Attack, Queen’s third album, that all flow seamlessly together, so it’s tempting to think of them as all just one epic piece. But  take a look at the lyrics (and the overall shifts in tone) and it’s clear there are three distinctly different things going on here. Tenement Funster‘s a raw piece of ‘kitchen sink’ glam. Call it drama. Flick of the Wrist is like a flick of a TV channel to something suddenly quite bitchy with operatic moments and not just a little malevolence. Call it melodrama. And Lily of the Valley‘s just a lovely bit of epic love. Call it romance. Thus we are reminded of how Queen always had more ideas and angles going than any nine other bands, and the chops to do everything full justice. When this stuff landed in the various teenage rec-rooms of suburbia circa 1974/75, let’s just say a great hunger was sated – one we weren’t even fully aware we had. Something to do with a need for passion and fun delivered with a fierce raunch that was only slightly under control.” (Philip Random)

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265. barstool blues

“Second of two in a row from Neil Young’s endlessly rich early mid-70s phase, though the album in question, Zuma, is not considered part of the Ditch series. Hard to say why really as, to my ears, it seems rather in line with the previous three albums’ grief and brooding and overall shambolic beauty. In the case of Barstool Blues that means an anthem for all the times you’ve just got to sit at the bar all night and drink, reconciling all the stupid shit you’ve perpetrated, and how its fallout got you there, sitting, drinking, reconciling, moaning those barstool blues … maybe somewhere near Zuma Beach, a thick haze of L.A. smog hanging over everything reminding you that every breath you take is a tiny piece of your inevitable death, but in a good way.” (Philip Random)

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266. tired eyes

Tonight’s the Night is oft thought of as Neil Young‘s death album, and the deepest, darkest depths of the so-called Ditch Trilogy. Stark cover, mostly black. Stark songs pulling no punches about various dead friends, and in the case of Tired Eyes, a friend who left death in his wake, got caught up in an ugly drug deal, ended up in prison for a long time. The damage done.

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280. don’t leave me this way

“Call it bad timing. Disco erupted as I was finishing high school, jammed up all the available radio stations, transformed all the nightclubs (just as I finally had good, foolproof fake ID). Sure it probably served some greater service to the culture as a whole, gave all the former hippie freaks and rebels something to do in the wake of their failed revolutions and insurrections – just snort coke, shake their booties, lay the groundwork for yuppiedom, Reaganomics, Tom Cruise. Yeah, I blame disco for all of that. But I always liked Don’t Leave Me This Way. Thelma Houston had the big hit but nothing touches what Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes did with it, particularly the long version. Though that was actually Teddy Pendergrass singing lead. Things were a little confused in that outfit.” (Philip Random)

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301. Hey Joe

Jimi Hendrix didn’t write Hey Joe but he definitely owned it, a song that many tried their hand at back in the day, but nobody else came close until 1975 when the band known as Spirit dropped a loose, meandering impression that didn’t bother trying to measure up, just wandered beautifully off in its own cool direction. Philip Random remembers stumbling onto it in the late 1980s sometime. “The album Spirit of 76. I think I paid two bucks for it, two records, four sides of mostly easy (yet weird) reflections on the theme of America, two hundred years young and rather confused as nation states go. Because come 1976, The Vietnam War had just been lost, Richard Nixon had finally been jettisoned, the whole hippie thing was fading fast with nothing palpable (yet) to fill the void. So yeah, Spirit’s casually wasted take on the murder ballad in question made perfect sense.”

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323. trampled under foot

“Funky Zeppelin. Sort of. Trampled Underfoot‘s not exactly easy to dance to, yet it is relentless. Found on Physical Graffiti, the last truly great Led Zeppelin album, which strangely enough went a long way toward saving my life in the late 1980s, a decade after all the great punk and post punk and new wave eruptions that had to happen, had to shove the likes of Led Zeppelin off their various thrones and pedestals, because all things must pass as the former Beatle said (and various mystics before him). But that was then. This was later. Led Zeppelin were always going to return, culturally speaking. Oblivion just couldn’t contain them.” (Philip Random)

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364. 30 seconds over Tokyo

Pere Ubu were one of those bands I started hearing about in 1977-78 as punk and whatever finally started reaching the suburbs (the underside of them anyway). And then I actually heard them and yup, they were intense, noisy, hard to ignore but also hard to love. Though 30 Seconds Over Tokyo would eventually turn me. Because it’s just so damned good. It was the title first, reminding me of the movie, a World War 2 thing, American heroes bombing Tokyo, a suicide run, just like the record says. Except the record’s way better, and recorded way before punk actually, in 1975. Cleveland, Ohio of all places.  No, let me rephrase that. Cleveland, Ohio obviously. Because something had to start there, whatever it is that got started, that’s still going on, that mad suicide run to take the war to all the normals, figuratively, of course.” (Philip Random)

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380. in the light

“I remember first hearing In The Light on the radio when Physical Graffiti was brand new and I was maybe sixteen, and immediately thinking, okay, this is serious stuff. This is about something. Because by 1975, the music you found on the radio was less and less about anything. It was just predictable gruel, programmed to fill sloppy gaps between advertising. Not that I was sophisticated enough to voice it as such. I just knew something good was fast slipping away – all that cool significance that had been so prevalent way back when in 1972 and 3. Because when you’re that young, you just don’t know that’s how the world works – that it’s precisely the best, most beautiful, cool, dramatic stuff that THEY consciously destroy, because that’s just the kind of gangsters they are. But you are at least beginning to suspect something. And more to the point, you’re not just waiting for it to come to you anymore, you’re starting to go after it. The Light, that is. Everybody needs some light.” (Philip Random)

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382. the man in the jar

“I saw the Sensation Alex Harvey Band in 1975, warming up Jethro Tull, and yeah, it was sensational. They had props and costume changes, and there seemed to be a story being told. Maybe concerning a Man In a Jar, a track which I only got around to hearing (on record) maybe ten years later, bored, picking through a pile of old albums a friend was getting rid of. It was an instant keeper, and not just for the one song, the whole album being a sort of sleazy back alley opera about sleazy back alley stuff, and yet redeemed by an impossible dream, which are always the best ones. There were even bagpipes before it was all done.” (Philip Random)

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