“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)
“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)
“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 ever 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)
“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)
“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)
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.
“There ought to be a law that when a band changes its sound as thoroughly as the Doobie Brothers did in the mid-1970s, it should also be required to change its name, if only, so future generations don’t get forever stuck confusing the cool, rocking stuff with the soft, latter day sponge ball stuff. Anyway, for the record, the Doobies peaked in about 1973 with an album called The Captain and Me that didn’t just boast mega-hit rockers like China Grove and Long Train Runnin’, it also had a stretched out mini-epic called Clear As The Driven Snow. Apparently it’s about cocaine abuse, but it’s always been more of a marijuana fave of mine.” (Philip Random)