“I’m thirteen, lying in bed and unable to sleep for reasons of existential magnitude, so I’ve got the radio on to keep me company, tuned to FM, of course, because I’m at least that cool. Anyway, this song comes on, heavy and wild, the singer howling about how he wants to reach out and touch the sky. But I didn’t catch who it was. Next day at school, I I’m quizzing everybody, but nobody knows what I’m talking about, and anyway, they’re mostly into Elton John or Three Dog Night. Long story short. It took fifteen years to get my answer, care of Jared, a marijuana dealer I knew at the time who played bass in various hard rock outfits, knew his heavy history. I mentioned the ‘I want to reach out’ part and he instantly said, ‘Black Sabbath Supernaut,’ like I’d just become magnitudes less cool in his eyes. How the hell could I not know Supernaut!? But I was just glad to have the answer, life suddenly feeling a little more purposeful, complete. Supernaut, found on side one of Vol. 4, which Jared had, so on it went, heavy and cool as I remembered. Life before the interwebs. You just had to keep digging.” (Philip Random)
Performance, the movie, needs to be seen. It’s the one where Mick Jagger plays a sort of Satanic rock star who’s messing with the mind of gangster who’s on the lamb, mainly out of boredom, it seems. But that sells it way short. Look no further than the soundtrack and the inclusion of a song like Wake Up N*****s by the Last Poets. It has no particular reason to be in the movie. Other than to be that cool, that on the mark of what was really going down in 1970, with the pulse of revolution very much in the air.
“I suppose I was born just early enough to remember a time when Elton John was not a big deal pop supernova, but rather a cool underground item, more for the older kids. Like Russ (boyfriend of a friend’s big sister) who insisted that Madman Across the Water was about Richard Nixon and Watergate, the crazy mess he’d made of things. He was the madman destroying everything he touched. Which kind of made sense in 1973. Except I later realized it was a 1971 record, and the Watergate break-ins didn’t even happen until 1972, and didn’t get much media coverage until after Mr. Nixon got himself massively re-elected with pretty much the biggest majority in American political history. Mad and confusing times, no question. Lots of scary shadows forming across the water, maybe throwing time itself out of joint. Who knew the what of anything? Except the music. The music was amazing.” (Philip Random)
“The memory is of Grade Seven, a kid named Malcolm Cale that I wasn’t supposed to hang with, because he was known to be bad. Except we both walked home from school the same way. So I inevitably ended up at his place, which was almost always empty after school, no parents or brothers and sisters around to stop us digging through his dad’s Playboys, having a smoke, sharing a beer, cranking the stereo loud. Which usually meant Malcolm’s fave, Steppenwolf‘s first album, the one with Born to be Wild, and The Pusher (God damn him – we loved that, actual swearing on record). But the track that stands up best for me now is Sookie Sookie, funky and hard, and at least as cool as John Kay‘s shades.” (Philip Random)
“Was I cool enough to be hip to Pop Will Eat Itself in 1987? I think so. Or maybe it took until 1988. Those were weird days, and seriously, I wasn’t the cool one, it was the people I was hanging with. By 1987-88, I was deep in a negative hole of my own making (though the Reagan Administration had helped), which was manifesting musically as NOISE, and also looking backward, digging through old records, because I couldn’t afford cool new ones. Which by 1987-88 meant Hip-Hop if you were even half paying attention. And I was, I guess, I just wasn’t buying much, because I was so broke. Which reflects now in how woefully misrepresented that form is on this list. Because it’s all there (Guideline #1). Except I did buy Box Frenzy. Or maybe somebody just gave it to me, no doubt because they’d decided Pop Will Eat Itself weren’t properly cool anyway, being white guys, and long-haired geeks at that (Grebo was the name of the scene). But I’d pretty much given up on cool by the end of high school anyway. Lucky me.” (Philip Random)
“It’s true. In 1973, Genesis were the definition of sophisticated, underground cool. Certainly too cool for local Vancouver radio which barely played them. But you heard about them anyway from various cool older brothers and sisters, or saw an occasional photo in something like Creem magazine. It was always about the live show, like Alice Cooper but completely different, not for teeny bops. And then I finally heard them and it wasn’t what I was expecting at all. How could it be? It was unlike anything I’d ever heard before. So delicate and then not. So powerful and strange. The album was Selling England by the Pound. The first song was Dancing with the Moonlit Knight. Like dropping the needle into a dense and beautiful dream that you probably weren’t ready for, but here it was anyway. Something to do with England being in big trouble. The Pound was falling, the empire was fading, it was the worst of times, it was the very best of music.” (Philip Random)
It’s Britain, 1977, and if you’re not punk, you’re not worth knowing. Unless you’re the Stranglers, who were like punk’s mean older brother, more sophisticated, and tougher in a street fighting sort of way. Also, they had a sort of existential edge as a song like Get A Grip On Yourself makes clear. Yeah, society’s f***ed, the world’s going up in apocalyptic flames. No reason to lose your cool, man.
The cool kids were confused. What the hell was NeilDiamond doing at The Last Waltz, The Band’s farewell concert (still considered by many to be one of the greatest concerts in rock and roll history)? What he was doing was delivering the goods (in leisure suit, shades, freshly coiffed hair), destroying all notions of cool and uncool with a song that told the fierce and sad truth about what time does to us all. It removes us completely, but maybe if we cut the bullsh** at least some of the time, our songs remain.
“JJ Cale speaks the truth. JJ Cale who’s cooler than I’ll ever be, or Eric Clapton for that matter. In fact, I’m cooler than Eric Clapton, because no one ever confused with me God, except myself, of course, but that didn’t survive my twenty-seventh birthday. But enough about me. How cool was JJ Cale? He was mucking around with drum machines as early as 1971, yet so deep into his dirt poor sort of lazy rolling boogie, blues, country stylings that nobody bothered to take note. But Money Talks came twelve years later, sounding like it may have been thirty years earlier. Nothing cooler than fooling time.” (Philip Random)