“Though I was aware of the fabulous strangeness of George Clinton and Funkadelic and/or Parliament as far back as 1976 (having caught him/them on TV one late and lonely teenage night), I never really dove in until You Shouldn’t Nuf Bit Fish crossed my path in 1984. It was just so utterly what I needed — completely concerned with the apocalyptic mess that we, the species, were very much IN as the 1980s stumbled toward their midpoint, all our nuclear fishin’ fuelling the cold war arms race, the Doomsday Clock ticking every closer to midnight … with the old man in Washington DC whose finger was on the trigger slipping into dementia. No better time for a funk that was spaced way out, and resolutely strange.” (Philip Random)
“The secret for me with the Reverend Al Green is generally to catch him when he’s in a less reverend phase. Which is definitely the case with Love Ritual, a track I originally discovered via a mid-90s remix. Which got me looking for the original vinyl, which was easy enough to find. And it was better. More emphasis on the vocals, and thus the soul, set in motion by the groove, but not bound by it.” (Philip Random)
Apparently, Torture Never Stops was Frank Zappa’s response to Donna Summer’s monster disco hit Love To Love You Baby. “You want an orgasm on record? Here’s a proper orgasm.” Which doesn’t exactly explain the sado-masochism of the lyrics. But what does explain a Frank Zappa lyric past about 1969? The music on the other hand is its own justification – a prolonged exploration of a strange, dimly lit zone where the pleasure and pain seem indivisible, and we’re all consenting adults, right?
Take a speech from recently deceased Haile Selassie (Emperor of Ethiopia, living incarnation of God if you happened to be Rastafarian) and turn it into a song. It doesn’t sound like it should work. But in Bob Marley’s hands, it goes way beyond mere tribute, gets close to the stuff of actual transcendence, obliterating all borders, all boundaries, all negation. Everywhere is War.
“Isis is one of the songs that forever ensnared me in the mystique of the guy known as Bob Dylan, starting with late night radio in my teen years, floating strangely past as I slipped into my dreams, doing its bit to inform them. And like those dreams, I still couldn’t tell you what it’s about. A journey, I guess, but to who knows where? Maybe that’s the point. It’s about infinity, eternity, the stories found within stories found within stories, snakes eating their tales, a goddess called Isis … and the falling out of love. The live version from the Rolling Thunder era is pretty damned strong, but I prefer the more restrained original, found on Desire. It just seems to go further.” (Philip Random)
Second of two in a row from the same King Crimson 7-inch single, though Philip Random first heard both Groon and Cat Food via the 1976 compilation Young Persons Guide to King Crimson. “I still get a chuckle at the thought of a track like Groon being allowed anywhere near a record with pop ambitions. Not that it actually charted or anything. Just the idea of it. And the execution. King Crimson being not just one of the brainiest outfits ever (care of main man Robert Fripp), but also one of the best in terms of pure chops and articulation, regardless of who was in the line-up at the time. Subsequent live versions of Groon would prove to be longer, deeper excursions, but I’ve always preferred the original’s tighter, sharper, more compact assault.”
“I discovered Barclay James Harvest during my mostly lame teenage years when I was doing everything I could to avoid punk rock (for mostly lame, late teenage reasons). This tendency led me down a lot of dubiousroads, but as is always the case with music – there was gold to be found. In the case of Suicide? (found on 1976’s Octoberon), that would be not just the song itself (epic and sorrowful), but also the extended coda wherein binaural recording techniques are employed to give a visceral feel for what it’s like to hurl yourself off the edge of a building, achieve terminal velocity then SMACK … unto whatever happens (or doesn’t) next.” (Philip Random)
“Presence is the good Led Zeppelin heroin album (as my friend Mark once put it), the mostly sh** one being In Through The Out Door (Jimmy Page being too f***ed up to care). Either way, the Zeppelin’s days of full-on world dominance and glory were slipping past them by 1976, which didn’t exactly stop them from laying down some of the evilest blues mankind has ever known. Even if, in this case, it was a song about taking personal responsibility for the mess you’re in, which, when you think about it, is very mature behavior.” (Philip Random)
The cool kids were confused. What the hell was NeilDiamond doing at The Last Waltz, The Band’s farewell concert (still considered by many to be one of the greatest concerts in rock and roll history)? What he was doing was delivering the goods (in leisure suit, shades, freshly coiffed hair), destroying all notions of cool and uncool with a song that told the fierce and sad truth about what time does to us all. It removes us completely, but maybe if we cut the bullsh** at least some of the time, our songs remain.