20. helpless

“Because we’ve all been there – that small town in Ontario of the heart and soul, all solitude and yearning. And learning. Which hurts at the time, but in the fullness of time, we come to realize it’s about as good as life gets. And nobody’s ever put it better than Mr. Neil Young in the song known as Helpless, and he never sang it better than he did one evening toward the end of 1976, the concert known as The Last Waltz, the band known as The Band bidding a proud and fond (though not exactly permanent) farewell. Even Joni Mitchell showed up in the background making for perhaps the most righteously Canadian thing that ever happened in a San Francisco ballroom (of course, it was called Winterland). It was even snowing (backstage anyway). Way better than hockey.” (Philip Random)

(Photo: Rick Diamond/Getty Images)

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)

199. journey of the sorcerer

Wherein the Eagles (yes, those Eagles) ditch the regular LA cocaine bullshit for a while, take off to the desert, drop a few peyote buttons and journey long and far and deep and high unto the nether regions of the great American soul, or perhaps some other universe entirely. Here they encounter the legendary Don Juan, who we now know wasn’t even real, but The Eagles don’t care about reality anymore anyway, they’ve got a magic banjo with them that somehow coaxes great sweeps of orchestral beauty down from the heavens and thus all is right, all is good, all sounds quite extraordinary, and unique – to the Eagles discography, to music in general. Journey of the Sorcerer really is one of a kind. Eventually, The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy will cop it for its title theme, and no one will even complain.

Eagles-1975-stadium

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)

davidbowie-1976-thinwhiteduke

314. everywhere that I’m not

Translator are one of those bands that time seems to have mostly forgotten. Which is a pity because their first album in particular is well worth forty minutes of anyone’s life. And Everywhere That I’m Not is pretty much perfect, the kind of pop nugget that shoulda-woulda-coulda been huge if the music biz of 1982 actually cared about quality, which it didn’t. I guess the cocaine was just too pure in those days.” (Philip Random)

Translator-1982-promo

390. hypnotized

“There is no Steely Dan on this list, mainly because I figure you’ve already heard everything of theirs that I genuinely love (which to be honest, is almost all on their first album). Not that I’d deny they were an immensely talented crowd – they just weren’t for me. Too smooth and easy to listen to (albeit hard to play), too mid-70s soft rock and sophisticated and all tangled up with cocaine culture. Which Hypnotized captured perfectly, even if I didn’t particularly like what was getting captured, it was rendered beautiful anyway, and mysterious. Except I could never find the album it was from. Because it wasn’t Steely Dan as I finally figured out one day well into the 1990s. It was Fleetwood Mac, wandering through their vague middle period, lost somewhere between their late 60s psychedelic blues and their mid-70s supernova status. When Bob Welch was doing much of the steering.” (Philip Random)

449. it’s no game [part 1]

David Bowie hits the 1980s in powerful form with Scary Monsters, blows minds and fuses across all known dimensions. But then that’s pretty much it. He’ll sell piles of records through the decade, make the cover of TIME magazine, and everything else for that matter… but he’ll never be truly monstrous or scary again. Which is either A. damned sad, or B. whatever.  I mean, it’s not as if he hadn’t already given us way more than enough through the 1970s, from collapsing the hippie dream to unleashing his own personal alien glam supernova, onward unto cocaine bullshit, decadence, everything. But he always kept his cool even as he lost his mind. Did any other single artist come even close? Definitely no game.” (Philip Random)

DavidBowie-1980-filmFRAME

505. across the universe

“The Thin White Duke (aka David Bowie, aka David Jones) at the point of pitching into thinnest, whitest, most cocaine psychotic point in his career, takes a seemingly careless swipe at John Lennon‘s psychedelic hymn to transcendence, eternity, higher meaning. And at first, it really is a sloppy mess, a blasphemy even, but then something very cool starts happening. The memory is of being drunk, maybe twenty-one, singing my head off to it while very alone, and feeling somehow saved. I think I was driving at the time, but apparently I made it home, or wherever the hell I was going.” (Philip Random)

DavidBowie+JohnLennon-1975

558. walk a thin line

Tusk was the big deal double Fleetwood Mac album that came after the mega-platinum hugeness of Rumours (you may have heard of it) and thus was bound to fail. Gloriously. We do love it when the Music Biz fails thus, throws huge piles of cash and cocaine and marketing buzz at something that dares to be art. Particularly when it contains genuine treasures like Walk A Thin Line, Lindsey Buckingham not just close to the edge, right on it, and walking it just fine.

FleetwoodMAC-1979-promo