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)
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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 sublime scenery. And it was good. But then came the long descent, all that time for deeper, darker reflection in the solitude of the forest, and meanwhile, on the walkman I had a Bob Dylan‘s Blood on the Tracks playing, because I’d exhausted all the more cosmic stuff on the way up. And damned 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 neighbour 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 bound for hell itself, but there’s always time for one more cup of coffee.” (Philip Random)

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(image source)

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)

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181-80. P-funk wants to get funked up + night of the thumpasorus people

“Two in a row from Parliament’s 1975 Mothership Connection, because sometimes more is more. I vaguely remember skimming through a book a friend foisted on me a while back that had something to do with all the sci-fi imagery and metaphors inherent in certain cool African-American musics (specifically the likes of Sun Ra, Lee Scratch Perry, George Clinton and the whole Parliament-Funkadelic crew). It was way too academic, probably some guy’s thesis, and thus it lost me. Or I lost it. I can barely remember any of it, except maybe the notion that a spaceship could be seen as the opposite of a slave ship (the vehicle that might finally take them home to a new Africa of the future, not the lost one of the past … or something like that). What I do remember very well is seeing Parliament (or was it Funkadelic?) on TV back in 1976 on one of those Friday night concert shows they used to have. It was one of the tours where they had an actual spaceship land on stage, great clouds of smoke and lights, and, of course, the music itself care of a band umpteen strong and powerful. Like an alien invasion straight to the marrow of my narrow, white bread suburban soul. And thus my universe was changed. But good luck actually finding any of the records down at the local mall. Cool funk just didn’t travel that far north and west in the mid-70s. In fact, it would take me decades to finally track down a vinyl copy of Mothership Connection, some things being well worth waiting (and searching) for.” (Philip Random)

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200. Rose of Cimarron

Poco were one of those bands I used to hear a lot on the radio and didn’t like, their country infused soft rock being so inoffensive it became the opposite. But not Rose of Cimarron, which rose profoundly from the soft, sticky muck and set the god damned sky on fire the first time I gave it a proper listen. By which I mean, it’s BIG like a great western sunset, with a breeze throwing up dust at least as old as time, catching the rays of that setting sun and reminding me of why I’m glad I’m alive. Because every now and then life, the universe, God, or maybe just a soft rock band operating out of LA touches something epic and eternal and unleashes music so god damned beautiful even the hills get to weeping. And it’s even a true story. Sort of.” (Philip Random)

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209. kicks

In which Lou Reed delivers the amphetamine kicks all night long (and probably the next day too, and then maybe another night and day, and at least one more night). Speed doesn’t kill, or so I’ve been told, it just makes you so crazy somebody kills you for being such an asshole. Either way, I’ve been happy to mostly avoid it over the years. But some of the postcards have been fascinating, particularly when it’s somebody like Mr. Reed doing the sending … or Bob Dylan for that matter.

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(PHOTO: Getty Images)

256. wild is the wind

“Pay your dues long before you pay the rent, finally catch a few breaks, rise to mega-supernova status, then crash and burn into an oblivion of ego, drugs, madness. Hardly an original scenario. But it takes a special talent indeed to pull off the crash and burn part without messing up creatively. Which is what David Bowie managed in 1976 with Station to Station, his Thin White Duke album, the one he’d later claim he had no memory of making. So yeah, here’s to madness and oblivion, particularly if it includes a cover as epic as Wild is the Wind, which I was certain was a Nina Simone original, but then my lawyer pointed out, it’s from a 1950s Anthony Quinn movie. Either way, it gets to feeling like life itself once that wind really starts a-blowing.” (Philip Random)

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257. step right up

“I’ve already laid out my concerns about Tom Waits. His stuff often feels more like he’s acting, playing a part, than presenting genuine boosey, bluesy decadence and decay. But it is a hell of fine act, and Step Right Up, from 1976’s Small Change, is standalone genius anyway, a full-on Beat-skewering of everything that was ever phony, skin deep and ultimately ugly about consumer culture past, present and future. Always some asshole trying to sell you something you don’t need, trailing an oil slick wherever he goes.” (Philip Random)

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