“1978 sometime. I’m home alone watching Saturday Night Live, and BAM! Devo hits the stage. I had heard them already, the whole first album, and didn’t hate it, but I didn’t exactly get it either. I certainly wasn’t thinking, this is it, the true and weird future for all of mankind, because that is what it was. I think. Anyway, back to SNL. Devo did their version of the Stones’ Satisfaction and … well, let’s just say it was a Ballad of a Thin Man moment for me (that Bob Dylan song where he sneers at straight old normal Mr. Jones and says, “Something is happening, but you don’t know what it is, do you?”) And yeah, I wasn’t even twenty years old, but I was already Mr. Jones, getting swept aside by some brand new thing I just didn’t get. Except I wasn’t, because I did like Devo and what they were doing with reality. I just didn’t know what to do with it all. Eventually, I’d realize that this was the whole point. This was my confusion asserting itself, beautiful and raw and uniquely mine. The trick was to trust it, maybe even love it, definitely not fight it, but that would take a season or two in hell to finally figure out.” (Philip Random)
“Joan Baez had a big AM radio hit with this back in around 1972. Meanwhile, the cool FM DJs were playing the Band’s original version, which my teenybop ears didn’t really get. Too gritty, too raw. But jump ahead a few years to The Last Waltz (the movie of the Band’s big deal farewell concert) and yeah, I got it! The vast tragedy of the American South, what it is to lose a war and thus your culture, see it all burned before your eyes by the forces of Northern Aggression. Yeah, they owned slaves or certainly fought for those who did, but … I can’t think of a but for this. Slavery’s about as f***ed up as humanity gets. But there you go – where there’s humanity, there’s also soul, and thus complexity. Which is why we need songs like The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” (Philip Random)
“I tend to think of Senor (Tales of Yankee Power) as Mr. Dylan‘s last great pre-Christian moment, though, on deeper analysis, it’s entirely arguable he’d already opened the good book at this point – he just wasn’t advertising it yet. Either way, he seems to be alone at a crossroads in the midst of some vast waste, with smoke rising off in the distance. But is that Lincoln County or Armageddon? And what’s the difference anyway?” (Philip Random)
“The Normal must have released more music than just 1978’s Warm Leatherette (and its b-side) but I’ve never heard any of it. Which makes them pretty much the perfect bit player in this ongoing pop apocalypse, working a one hundred percent batting average, because Warm Leatherette (a catchy hit of machine driven coolness about the car crash set, sado-masochism, the work of JG Ballard, other hip transgressions) remains entirely on the money and way ahead of its time.” (Philip Random)
“In which the outfit known as Gong put their psychedelic meandering to punk power, their aerie-faerie bullsh** to pure raw rebellion and somehow keep the f***ing world on its axis, doing its revolutionary thing around the sun, which is itself swerving in weird cycles through the unknown (un)limits of infinity. By which I mean, what value anarchy if it does not float? … or should you ever find yourself tripping on weapons grade psychedelics and feel the need for a soundtrack that’s both youthfully raw yet somehow cosmically smooth, seek no further than the Allez Ali Baba blacksheep have you any bullshit mama maya mantram found here. It makes perfect sense. All fifteen minutes of it.” (Philip Random)
There’s nothing nice about The Stranglers, particularly through their earlier, better years before the heroin started slowing things down. With a song like Nice and Sleazy hitting like a crude, ugly throwback to at least the Dark Ages … except it’s just so damned good. Groovy, heavy and really just reminding us where rock and roll came from anyway. As sleazy as it needs to be.
“The first time I heard Wayne (eventually Jayne) County’s Man Enough to be a Woman was at a punk bash, 1979 sometime. It showed up on a mixtape* somewhere in and around the Buzzcocks, the Ramones, Devo, maybe some Kinks. It was that kind of scene. I didn’t even like punk rock (yet), but the parties were always good. So here’s a hint, kids. If the party’s good, the music is too, in spite of what you’re so called ‘taste’, is telling you, because if you’re anything like me, your taste is shit until you’re at least twenty-one. But anyway, Wayne County and the Electric Chairs weren’t even punk really, just loud and proud and defiantly brave rock and roll tearing glamorous scars into the fabric of reality. *There was also some Abba on that mixtape.”
“I actually turned down a free ticket to see Tower of Power at a small club. It would’ve been about 1978. They probably would’ve played this song. And yeah, it would’ve blown me the f*** away. The towering power of it, and the tightness. What a band! But I was an idiot. I said no. Because I didn’t get funk in those days, or jazz, and how the two could brilliantly fuse. I had it all confused with disco. And I had all kinds of issues with disco. What can I say? I was young and foolish, not remotely hip.” (Philip Random)
Warren Zevon’s Excitable Boy got a fair bit of notice at the time, but we only ever heard a few tracks on the radio, and none of them was Lawyers Guns + Money, which is just a good old-fashioned smart, sly, cynical as f*** rocker about a rich kid off in some foreign locale, into something way over his head. Not unlike America itself at that particular moment in time, what with a recently lost war and all manner of other horrific sh** unfurling.