“It was the night John Lennon was murdered. My friend Simon dropped by with a couple of hits of LSD and, given the extremes of the moment, our fates were sealed. It was our profound duty to now trip the vast lysergic, play a pile of Beatles records and see where the mystical magical vibrations might take us. They took us to dawn, sitting in my van now, high up a hilltop, taking in the first grey light of a cold and misty day. We had Simon’s little brother asleep in the backseat with a dog named Alice (it’s a long story) … but the Beatles weren’t on the playlist anymore. We’d sort of lost track of them as things started to peak, the gods having other plans for us apparently. Now it was a mixtape Simon had made of more recent stuff, moody and cool and mostly instrumental. Except here was Peter Gabriel suddenly, singing Here Comes The Flood, but not the version from his debut album, this was sparer, sharper, far better. I later discovered it was from Robert Fripp’s Exposure album — everything peeled back to just voice, piano and some ghostly Frippertronics. A song of apocalypse, no question, of saying goodbye to flesh and blood. Yet not forecasting doom in the end, but rather a sort of dreamlike survival. And then the rain really started to deluge on that hilltop. And it still hasn’t stopped, not really, the 1970s being known as the last decade that the sun ever really shone.” (Philip Random)
“Because there must be at least one B-52’s track on this list, and it must be from the first side of their first album, and Dance This Mess Around seems to be not only comparatively underheard, but also the best damned thing on it. Yeah, Rock Lobster gets the frat-boys going and Planet Claire‘s kind of indispensable at Halloween parties and Sci-Fi conventions, but only Dance This Mess Around has the sort of relentless and hypnotic groove that locks you into ALL sixteen dances, including the infamous Dirty Dog. In other words, I’ve gone on a lot about all the necessary bile and intensity of punk and so-called New Wave and all the profound and necessary insurrection it unleashed upon the culture through the late 1970s … but none that would have happened if it wasn’t a mad lot of fun.” (Philip Random)
Wire’s 154, released in 1979, has been hard to ignore with this list, being one of those albums that helped invent the future, gave birth to all manner of sounds and textures that would come to define the decade known as the 1980s, which is now ancient history, of course. But 154 continues to stand up, songs usually as sharp and short as they are lyrically obtuse. Though A Touching Display goes the other way with a vengeance – an epic and passionate display of song as weapon, particularly as things erupt past the midpoint, like a bomber the size of a football stadium off to deliver a payload that would destroy the known world. And it did.
“The second of two in a row from John Cage’s rather intense Sabotage/Live is a sailor’s tale of sorts. It starts as an instrumental meander perhaps evoking unsettled seas, then gets deadly serious as the singing creeps in. No, I don’t think Peter Pan’s involved, unless he’s the one that slipped the laudanum into the Captain’s rum. For a fever dream it is, apparently driven by the evils British Colonial India. The journey is long, with treasures along the way, madness at the end.” (Philip Random)
John Cale being the tall, brooding, avant-Welsh part of the Velvet Underground sound that changed everything forever – the man who brought the white light to the white heat, did dangerous things with his viola among other noise crimes. But he was gone from the Velvets by 1970, pursuing a solo (and) producing career that seemed to get him wherever he felt like going. In 1979, this meant a live album that was as hard as punk, but tougher, more seasoned. Like the greedy, full-on call to war of Mercenaries, monstrous and strong, and yes, the very definition of nihilistic. But in a good way.
“Wherein the Pointed Sticks (straight outa late 70s suburban Vancouver) hit the eternal pop gold standard with a three minute nugget the whole world should have heard, but it didn’t for some stupid reason (and it still hasn’t). Which puts a big loud BULLSHIT to the argument I’ve heard over the years from some I know that, despite all the music biz’s ugliness, waste, criminality and stupidity, the truly good stuff always rises, gets its due, gets heard. Yeah right.” (Philip Random)
(image: Bev Davies)
“The only reason why Holger Czukay’s Persian Love isn’t way higher on this list is because many people have already heard it, even if they couldn’t really tell you when or where, or who for that matter. It first came to me via Music + Rhythm (Peter Gabriel’s Womad compilation album that came our way in 1982). Exotic, sweetly melodic, modern — it instantly hooked me, and thus I had to know more, and there was a lot to know. Because, it turns out Holger Czukay came from an obscure German band called Can … and so on. One of those journeys that started small, but damned if didn’t lead me to a vast mansion of musical (and thus human) possibility: doors within doors within doors, and they all kept inviting me deeper, higher. And somewhere along the way, I got the back story on Persian Love itself – how Mr. Czukay constructed it around a fragment of song he’d recorded from shortwave radio. Like a ghost … out of ancient Persia.” (Philip Random)
“I first discovered Bankrobber via Black Market Clash, a compilation of various singles, b-sides, versions etc that came our way toward the end of 1980, perhaps driving home the point that no other outfit in the world mattered more. I mean, consider the evidence. In 1979 and 1980, The Clash release London Calling (two record set), Sandinista (three record set) and Black Market Clash which, as a subsequent CD reissue would prove, was itself just a tip of the iceberg in terms of unreleased stuff. And these non-album ‘rejects’ were often straight up brilliant as Bankrobber’s pumped up dub grooving rather forcibly argues. Hell, I know one guy who seriously considered going into a life of crime based on its simple logic of stealing form the filthy rich but not hurting anybody in the process. Then he sobered up.” (Philip Random)
“I had heard of Joy Division before the big deal suicide – I just hadn’t heard any of the music (sound traveling much slower before the internet). And meanwhile, I was dealing with a close personal suicide of my own, ex-friend James. So I was abundantly clear on one thing: suicide wasn’t cool, wasn’t romantic, wasn’t meaningful, wasn’t anything but a dire, miserable fact. So when word came down that the lead singer of this cool new band had offed himself, I just wasn’t interested, particularly as a sort of cult grew around him. ‘Badfinger had two suicides, so they’re twice as cool,’ I was guilty of saying. And guilt’s the word, because I was wrong. Not about the romanticizing of suicide, but about shrugging off the fierce grace of Joy Division‘s music. Nothing could negate that. Ever.” (Philip Random)