Tonight’s the Night is oft thought of as Neil Young‘s death album, and the deepest, darkest depths of the so-called Ditch Trilogy. Stark cover, mostly black. Stark songs pulling no punches about various dead friends, and in the case of Tired Eyes, a friend who left death in his wake, got caught up in an ugly drug deal, ended up in prison for a long time. The damage done.
“Speaking of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, call this one punk rock, Ecstatically inspired. In other words, blame it on the drugs. Or whatever it was that got the Stone Roses mixing up mystical insight and balls out provocation in such a way as to declare themselves both the resurrection and the son (singer Ian Brown anyway). I Am The Resurrection being the epic final track of their 1989 debut album that really did blow the roof off of things. The whole album, that is, every song essential. Call it a masterpiece, messianic even. These Roses really were perfect, they had all the answers, they were showing the way. But then, I guess, they started doing different drugs.” (Philip Random)
“Derek and the Dominoes‘ only studio album was a 1970 release, but it didn’t cross my teeny bop consciousness until summer 1972 when they finally got around to releasing Layla as a radio single. Which led to my friend Malcolm getting the album, which mostly went way over our heads – all that loose jamming (and the drugging behind it) being more for the older kids. But I’d eventually come back around to it maybe twenty-five years later, particularly stuff like Key To The Highway where misters Eric Clapton (already well into a heroin addiction), Greg Allman (due for a fatal motorcycle accident), Jim Gordon (fated to go mad and murder his mother) and essential others sort of lay back and go long, delivering the news of what is to be genuinely free (you’ve got the key, you’ve got a vehicle, you’ve got an open road – what more could want?) for almost ten minutes anyway.” (Philip Random)
The melody’s nice here but it’s more the overall smooth, mournful mood that sets Albatross free. But, of course, the early Fleetwood Mac being a blues band, it’s not really that kind of Albatross, is it? It’s the kind that you carry as a curse, hung around your neck, weighing you down, reminding you and all the world that you blew it, you killed a beautiful thing for no damned reason. Which is sort of what happened to Peter Green, the man who wrote it, his career pretty much over within the year, psychedelic drugs and mental illness finding each other in yet another implosion of tortured genius.
“This first showed up in my life on a homemade cassette somebody gave me subtitled International Never Never Zen, because to write down all the twelve tracks jammed into side one of Todd Rundgren‘s A Wizard, A True Star would be to induce writer’s cramp, I guess. And it all flows together as one anyway, or certainly tries to. Because this stuff is nothing if not mad (as opposed to insane), overblown and over-reaching in the best possible way, jamming tape experiments up against instrumental freakouts, recurring themes, a cover of a Peter Pan song (from the Broadway play) and at least one proper standalone epic (concerning a Zen Archer) … and overall, just wow. Not perfect at all, but what do you expect from a guy who had recently given up on his straight edge lifestyle to more or less embrace everything from cannabis to DMT, magic mushrooms, peyote, even Ritalin … all toward abstracting his creative process in such a way that the music ultimately flowed out of him like a painting, spilling directly from his brain and/or soul onto the metaphorical canvas of our ears. Or something like that.” (PR)
“I missed Hawkwind completely in the 1970s which is when they were truly happening. In fact, I never even heard of them until well into the 1980s, and then it was mostly dismissive stuff from various critics: spaced out slop for morons who were too stoned for Rush, or words to that effect. The critics were wrong, of course. What Hawkwind had going, at least in those early days, was a nigh on transcendent application of science-fiction concepts to psychedelic methods. Seriously. Put on the headphones and crank this stuff up. It will take you places beyond the known universe and you won’t even need drugs. Because the musicians have done them for you. Lots of them. With 1972 a sort of ground zero in that regard. Doremi Fasol Latido was the fresh album of the moment, but the real magic was happening live via the Space Ritual and points well beyond within.” (Philip Random)
In which Primal Scream discover drugs, forget who they used to be, set their controls for the heart of the sun and somehow go further. Or as Philip Random noted at the time, “There were two suns that day, everything split, refracted. There was acid in the mix, and serious altitude, and an ocean. And some sort of abyss that at least one of our retinue seemed to be at the point of falling into forever and in fact they did for at least a while, yet such is the nature of genuinely amplified psychedelic confusion, this wasn’t really discussed at the time, we were more concerned with oceans and shores and solid ground, how the higher goal seems to be both being out there committed to the waves and the currents of eternity but also firmly rooted in some sort of metaphysical ground. It didn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense. Unless there are in fact two suns, two worlds, two solar systems, maybe billions. And so on. This went on forever but it was all over by the end of the song in question, which was Primal Scream’s Higher than the Sun, a sort of extended version of the extended version pumping away on the ghetto blaster that we’d dragged with us to this edge, this ledge, this forehead of the world. And then we all went home, ate solid food and drank red wine, yet nothing would ever be the same. Maybe this all happened. Maybe it didn’t. But I do remember it.” Found on 1991’s Screamadelica which needs to be heard by everyone eventually.
“I saw Thin Lizzy more than once back in the day, theoretically at their peak. But maybe it was the drugs, because they never really hit. Solid hard rock for sure, but nothing transcendent, nothing that made you want to go back to Church or whatever. Nothing like what they delivered on Whiskey in the Jar, one of their very first singles (which I’d only hear many years later), the old Irish folk song given full soul and throttle, so it ends up feeling as rich, as tragic as time itself. Because it’s not the whiskey that does you in. It’s the woman that drove you to it. Or the man.” (Philip Random)
“The 12-inch single version of Big City is the one for me, Spacemen 3 locking things into extended and ethereal trance mode for many long and hypnotic minutes. A driving song, I figure, ideal for being alone in a great big city. Nothing to do but cruise your solitude, bright lights, lots of shadow.” (Philip Random)