51. thick as a brick

“Speaking of songs that aren’t afraid to be long, Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick is by far the longest on this list (clocking in at 43 plus minutes) and it shouldn’t be one second shorter, even if it’s ultimately not really about anything — an in-joke within an in-joke, which is to say, the alleged epic poetry of a pre-teen genius (one Gerald Bostock) taking on everything he sees as hypocritical, absurd, foolish about the world, society, God, his small town … and never really coming to any conclusion short of the wiser you are, the less thick you are, which is a problem when it comes to empathy, because how does a wise man begin to grasp what it is to be … well, about as dumb as a brick? Or something like that. According to Tull main man, Ian Anderson, it was intended as a lark, a piss take on the whole concept album craze of the time. Except once he started writing, things rather took on a life of their own … and the result ended up conquering the world (for a few weeks anyway in late spring, 1972). #1 in Australia, Canada, Denmark, USA. Top five in the UK, Norway, Netherlands, Italy, Germany. Apparently, it was even all the rage in Vietnam.

Barely teenage me ate it up, of course, the whole mad and epic stew of folk and rock and classical and pop tangents, the ebb and flow of themes and counter-themes, coming, going, kicking up, burning down. And yes, it really is all one big song, because try as have over the years (and trust me, I’ve tried hard), I’ve never found any piece of it that works better on its own than it does as part of the epic whole. And that includes the cover which is essentially an entire small town newspaper, twelve full-size pages of scandals, non-rabbits, art crimes, comics, even an advance review of the album itself, which probably says it best. One doubts at times the validity of what appears to be an expanding theme throughout the two continuous sides of this record but the result is at worst entertaining and at least aesthetically palatable.” (Philip Random)

97. a saucerful of secrets

“Because sometimes it’s not about the notes or the words or the chords etc – sometimes what makes for great music is its architecture. Which is certainly true of Pink Floyd and how they made it and played it through the late 1960s, early 1970s, post the psychedelic implosion of their main man, Syd Barrett, pre all that Dark Side of the Moon seriousness and precision. The live Ummagumma version of the ‘song‘ that was originally known as The Massed Gadgets Of Hercules gets the nod here because it’s prime evidence of just how far (and deep and high) the Floyd’s free live adventures had taken them in a comparatively short stretch of time, the key word being stretch. Because it may have been only year in a temporal sense between the release of Saucerful of Secrets and the live show that made it to Ummagumma, but clearly aeons had passed in more psychedelic realms. Never played the same way twice, and even if it was, it was never heard the same way, or so it was explained to me once. Which is what the cover of Ummagumma is all about apparently. Eternity simultaneously repeating and collapsing within itself on nice summer day, somewhere in England. I’d say maybe you had to be there, but I think we all were in some strange and metaphysical way.” (Philip Random)

104. pretty vacant

Because it’s the f***ing Sex Pistols, arguably the greatest rock and roll band of all time, at their most pop, such as it is. Pretty Vacant being the one you could find on a mixtape with the likes of Elvis Costello, The Who, The Doors, The Cars even, without offending anyone.  Certainly no one you didn’t want to be offending. Based on an Abba song apparently.

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276. that’s entertainment

“Call me agnostic on The Jam. Don’t hate them, just never really joined the fan club. Which is not to say they didn’t nail it every now and then. Like with That’s Entertainment, hitting like a scene from a movie that never got made, the one where the mod punk sort of new wave guy puts down his electric guitar, grabs his acoustic and gets to hard strumming, spitting out his disgust at all the ugliness getting passed off as beauty, all the villains getting sold as heroes, all the nightmares with laugh tracks. Just smile, folks, call it entertainment, and don’t mind the rotating knives.” (Philip Random)

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533. Jason + the Argonauts

Five albums into their career and XTC were simultaneously sick to death (literally) of the obligatory punk-pop-new-wave bullshit and ready for something big. And big was definitely the word for English Settlement, a double album at a time when bands just didn’t do that anymore. And an album it was. Yes, a few singles were released, but the songs worked best together, all in a rich, sumptuous flow, with Jason and the Argonauts stretching things out almost progressively – whatever that word even meant anymore come 1982.

805. m[emorie]

Dynamite pop nugget from Cowboys International, one of those so-called post-punk outfits out of England that came and went long before we even knew they existed over here in the Americas. M[emorie] stands out because of the old school analogue synth work, and guitars that truly ring like bells.

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900. stereotype/stereotypes

The Specials were one of many so-called Two-Tone outfits to come out of England at the end of the 1970s. But come their second album, it was pretty clear they wanted to do more than just party hard, with Stereotypes (particularly the dubbed out second part) a solid example of people having wigged out fun in a recording studio. Marijuana may have been involved.

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