246. warm leatherette

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)

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253. Allez Ali Baba Blacksheep have you any bullsh**?

“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)

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269. nice + sleazy

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 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.

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295. man enough to be a woman

“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.”

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406. What is Hip?

“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)

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427. lawyers guns + money

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.

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450. Pioneers over C

“I probably use the word harrowing too much. But if Pioneers over C isn’t harrowing, and epically so, then what the hell is?  It’s about space travel apparently, the horrors inherent in messing with the space time continuum, astronauts who go too far, too fast, achieve absolute relativity, become creatures of limitless imagination but total non-physicality, ghosts in a word. This being the darker, harder, fiercer live take from 1978’s Vital, Van der Graaf Generator having truncated their name to merely Van der Graaf to mark the departure of founding member Hugh Banton. But the big voice remains, Peter Hammill (aka The Jesus of Angst) rending the very fabric of reality as he’s oft been known to do.” (Philip Random)

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472. Horsell Common + the heat ray

Just because punk rock hit in 1976-77 and changed EVERYTHING in its nasty, ugly-beautiful, inarticulate way, doesn’t mean it all happened overnight. Which meant that even as we were all cutting our hair, shredding our t-shirts, learning to dance pogo, there was still time to light up an occasional doob, put on the headphones and trip out to various big deal concepts. Jeff Wayne‘s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds would have been one of the last of these worth paying attention to, a rock opera interpretation of H.G. Welles’ sci-fi epic, featuring the incongruous talents of David Essex, Phil Lynott, Justin Hayward, Chris Spedding, and oh yeah, Richard Burton. The mostly instrumental Horsell Common + The Heat Ray shows up about half-way through side one and deliciously marks that point that the Martians officially turn nasty.

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504. gut feeling

Devo were impossible to ignore when I first started hearing them in about 1978. Because there had NEVER been anything remotely like them. Even a diehard prog-rocker like me got that. But being the genius I was in my late teens, I found them easy to dismiss as gimmicky fun, a one or three hit wonder at best. I mean, they weren’t actually important or anything. Then one day I was hitchhiking, caught a ride with a punk sort of guy who had the first album on, playing loud. Gut Feeling came on as we were crossing the Second Narrows Bridge, everything steely industrial grey, giving way to the great North Shore mountains, and let’s just say, I realized I was wrong, wrong, wrong … yet again.” (Philip Random)

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