7. Anarchy in the UK

“It’s been how long now since 1976, and some perfectly decent people still haven’t heard Anarchy in the UK, the greatest eruption of pop rage and negation ever pressed to whatever the hell it is vinyl records are actually made  of!?! Plastics, like the man said at the beginning of The Graduate, like that’s all a young man needed to know about the game called life and how to play it. And he was right by which I mean, he was so wrong all he could be was right, like Jo Stalin and Adolph Hitler chasing their ideological extremes so far and hard they were bound to meet in Stalingrad. Which is to say Hell. On earth. Yadda-yadda-yadda. By which I mean, where do you go with such evil in the air? Evil that came from humans, not even driven by organized religion anymore by the time WW2 hit its malevolent peak. What the f*** am I even talking about? Which is the wrong question, because I’m not talking, I’m ranting, and rule #1 of rants is you don’t have to explain. The noise is enough, its own justification.

By which I mean, Anarchy in the UK is sheer zeitgeist – 1976 alive and bleeding, more than three decades after WW2 (still the worst f***ing thing we humans have ever done collectively) finally wrapped up. Meanwhile, it’s 2001 where I’m currently sitting, a further twenty-five years down the line from the Sex Pistols first and best and most glorious eruption – so fierce, it’s like I said already, way too many people still haven’t been allowed to hear it. Which is true. The Man remains terrified of Anarchy in the UK and what it suggests — that the answer to that earlier question (Where Do You Go?) is simple. The answer is nowhere. You make your stand now, you make your stand here – wherever you happen to be on planet earth. Main Street, back alley, bank lobby, some faraway beach – it’s as much yours as anybody else’s, f*** all kings and generals and presidents and bosses. But you do have to make that stand, state your grievance, make your noise, save your soul, save the universe, save the world, save yourself, anihilate the passerby (figuratively, of course) Because if we don’t, THEY will, and it won’t be figurative.” (Philip Random)

(UNITED ARCHIVES GMBH / ALAMY)

18. as

As (found deep within Stevie Wonder’s 1976 monster Songs In The Key Of Life) is the best god damned love song I know (by which I guess I mean God graced … but who talks like that anymore?). Starts out as a nice and soulful ‘me and you together forever babe’ thing, but then about halfway through, something amazing happens. The Wonder genius pulls some sleight of hand, punches up the groove which somehow sets the melody soaring, and meanwhile the lyric (and the voice that’s carrying it) have also mutated. Now it’s tearing up the atmosphere, singing of that greater love, the one beyond just me and you, babe, the one that truly comes from on high.

Notice I didn’t say God. What do I know about God? Or gods. What I do know is I’m right here, right now, not anywhere else. Some of it’s on me, I guess, and some of it’s in me, but most of it – well who f***ing knows how I got here, or why, or what I’m supposed to do about it? And sometimes, this is all too f***ing much, for anyone. We need something to lift us, allow us to see past the barriers of our suffering and frustration and grasp that the only real wisdom starts with an acceptance of these barriers, the stuff of them, because maybe just maybe these trials and travails and humiliations and tribulations are precisely what our souls require. Because as somebody else’s grandpa used to say, if life was supposed to be all roses and perfume and puppy dogs, they would have called it something else. And anyway, roses have thorns, puppy dogs sh** all over the place and perfume can be toxic. Play this one at my funeral. No question. I’ll be there if I can.” (Philip Random

20. helpless

“Because we’ve all been there – that small town in Ontario of the heart and soul, all solitude and yearning. And learning. Which hurts at the time, but in the fullness of time, we come to realize it’s about as good as life gets. And nobody’s ever put it better than Mr. Neil Young in the song known as Helpless, and he never sang it better than he did one evening toward the end of 1976, the concert known as The Last Waltz, the band known as The Band bidding a proud and fond (though not exactly permanent) farewell. Even Joni Mitchell showed up in the background making for perhaps the most righteously Canadian thing that ever happened in a San Francisco ballroom (of course, it was called Winterland). It was even snowing (backstage anyway). Way better than hockey.” (Philip Random)

(Photo: Rick Diamond/Getty Images)

27. final solution

Final Solution equates unrequited lust and thermonuclear holocaust, then binds them with a title that can’t help but force reflection on the worst damned thing human beings have ever done. How punk is that? And all this from Cleveland, Ohio, 1976 before punk rock had even officially arrived in the Americas. The Pere Ubu crowd in full mad annihilation mode, simultaneously demolishing and inventing the future we all had coming, ready or not. Also, it’s basically a cover of Summertime Blues, one of rock and roll’s seminal protest songs, except these weirdos have exploded it into something far bigger and hungrier, ravenous even. In my idea of a perfect world, it would replace Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl at all weddings. And hell, play it at funerals too. Because who ever dies with all their problems solved?” (Philip Random)

74. floating

“Because there had to be at least one endless and eternal Berlin School mid-70s analog-synth epic on this list, and nobody ever did those better than Klaus Schulze. He started with Tangerine Dream, co-founded Ash Ra Tempel, but it took going solo (and various evolutions in synth and sequencing technology) to truly set things into infinite motion. Such that I might be saved (sort of) twenty years later – the weight of the whole damned universe driving me down for as many reasons as there are stars in the sky. I finally end up on the floor, flattened with worry and doom … except somehow or other Floating was playing. Did I put it on, or did it just happen? Either way, it did as advertised, got me floating, rising outside my miserable self, noticing miracles like the world outside my window, a beautiful day with birds singing, a breeze blowing, the sun a warm and benign 93 million mile wonder, with all the vastness and precision of eternity beyond. What was I even worried about?” (Philip Random)

116. station to station

“Speaking of David Bowie albums I’d probably die trying to save from a house fire, Station to Station‘s the one where he refers to himself as the Thin White Duke, title track, first song, first words. Not that it meant much to me at the time, 1976, half-way through Grade Eleven. It was just another disappointment on the level that it wasn’t somehow a return to Ziggy Stardust and/or the year of the Diamond Dogs – a perspective I’d soon outgrow, because I couldn’t help but get sucked in by Station to Station. Particularly the song, its long slow build from noise to creepy mutant groove, to sudden switch at half-distance into full-on cocaine party rocker. Later that year, I’d read the infamous Playboy interview where Mr. Bowie spoke not unfavourably of Adolph Hitler, how what the Britain of 1976 needed was a solid fascist government. What an asshole! Years later, the story would come out that Station to Station was an album he had no memory of recording due to a confusion of cocaine, black magic, milk, full-on paranoid psychosis and appearances on the Dinah Shore Show. Which is just one more reason why I wouldn’t a trade a teenage in the 1970s for any other decade. Exactly as strange and provocative as this growing boy needed.” (Philip Random)

(photos: Andrew Kent)

118. idiot wind

Idiot Wind has to go out to Angela, and me. We officially broke up in 1988. It just took me three years to finally get it one long, strange, lonely summer day that began with an urge to drop a little solo LSD, climb a small mountain, check out the scenery. And it was good. But then came the long descent, lots of time for deeper, darker reflection in the solitude of the forest, and meanwhile, on the walkman I had Bob Dylan‘s Blood on the Tracks playing, because I’d exhausted all the more cosmic stuff on the way up. And damn if all that earthbound grit and spite didn’t just start talking to me, particularly Idiot Wind‘s angst driven symbols and reflections, like nine hundred different stories all kaleidoscoping into one by the end, the part where the idiocy doesn’t just blow when you open your mouth, but also when I open mine. Because like some smartass said just the other day, there’s no I in team, but there’s two of them in idiot. Welcome to love, I guess, the part they don’t mention in all the fairy tales, the not happily ever after part. Which is why we need the music of Mr. Bob Dylan from pretty much any phase of his career. Post-fairy tale all the way.” (Philip Random)

(image source)

159. one more cup of coffee

One More Cup of Coffee is the Dylan track I tend to dig out when somebody feels compelled to tell me he can’t sing. Really? I’d like hear you or anybody you know do what he does in this one, the way he waivers just so, like something out of lost centuries, forgotten languages. The arrangement helps, of course, that wandering fiddle, the whip sharpness of the drums. And what’s the song about beyond a visit to the local Starbucks? The stuff of those lost centuries, I suppose, by way of his then current marital woes, reflections of self seen in distorted mirrors … and hearts like oceans, mysterious and dark. And then there’s my Motron’s theory that it concerns the Jason Robards character from Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time In The West. Because you may be gut shot, dying, bound for hell, but there’s always time for one more cup of coffee.” (Philip Random)

BobDylan-1976-liveHardRAIN

179. give up the funk [tear the roof off]

“And because it really is that great an album, another selection from Parliament’s 1975 gem, Mothership Connection, George Clinton and his crowd tearing the roof off reality itself … live anyway. Which is how I first really encountered Give Up The Funk. First via that aforementioned TV broadcast, then thirteen years later, in the flesh. The outfit was called the P-Funk All Stars now, which simplified things somewhat, but not the music. The music remained a complex and fabulous beast, multi-headed but working only one heartbeat, everything in service of the groove. They played for the better part of four hours and I don’t think anyone anywhere ever stopped moving. Phenomenal.” (Philip Random)

(photo: Lynn Goldsmith)