29. O Superman

O Superman is one of those rare records that truly stopped time. Because pretty much everybody I knew at the time (1981-82) – the first time they heard it, they literally stopped. A what is this? moment. Quickly followed by Who is this? To which the answer was simple enough — just some girl named Laurie from New York, spiky hair, artist/poet type playing her electrified fiddle, messing with tape loops and stuff, speaking (almost singing) strange and angular truths. Nothing that many haven’t attempted since but unlike anything anyone had heard before. And she nailed it — whatever it was. And that part near the beginning, the bit about ‘Hello, I’m not home right now’ —  pretty much everyone had that as their answering machine message for at least a few days as O Superman swept coolly, smoothly, strangely through the world, like a virus from outer space. Yet I doubt it ever got a single play on local commercial radio. Neither the song nor the album, Big Science, which took everything further, weirder, bigger. It’s almost as if the people running things didn’t have a f***ing clue of what was going on.” (Philip Random)

328. Map Ref 41°N 93°W

“In which the band known as Wire deliver the future circa 1979 from one of the great albums. Call it power pop, I guess, all angles and perhaps cold light. As for the map reference, I looked it up. It’s a placed called Centerville, Iowa, for no reason I can grasp … other than being the absolute center of Absolute Middle America (speaking of psychic topography here), which is about the last place you’d expect something like Map Ref 41°N 93°W to ever be a hit. Certainly not in 1979.” (Philip Random)

WIRE-1979-promo-2

504. gut feeling

Devo were impossible to ignore when I first started hearing them in about 1978. Because there had NEVER been anything remotely like them. Even a diehard prog-rocker like me got that. But being the genius I was in my late teens, I found them easy to dismiss as gimmicky fun, a one or three hit wonder at best. I mean, they weren’t actually important or anything. Then one day I was hitchhiking, caught a ride with a punk sort of guy who had the first album on, playing loud. Gut Feeling came on as we were crossing the Second Narrows Bridge, everything steely industrial grey, giving way to the great North Shore mountains, and let’s just say, I realized I was wrong, wrong, wrong … yet again.” (Philip Random)

devo-1978-TV

609. Rudy can’t fail

“It took me a while to properly discover Rudy Can’t Fail – probably because I wasn’t playing side one of London Calling that much. Because I’d already heard the lead off title track a pile by the time I actually owned it. And it’s not as if there was anything lacking on the other four sides, The Clash being at the absolute peak of their attainments. Anyway, a summer day, 1984 I think, a mostly empty beach on one of the local islands, me and a few friends and a ghetto blaster. All of us rich kids (sort of), none of us remotely rich, all of us at that point in our lives where we were having to start think seriously about our futures, our careers. Go to law school. Go to business school. Get into real estate. Get a job at a bank. Do whatever our dads did. We were smoking a little dope, drinking a few beers, and suddenly Rudy came on care of the current mixtape, and it was exactly what my universe needed. Something to do with freedom and art having a way better groove than f***ing economics. It’s been on the personal playlist ever since. And I never did find a career.” (Philip Random)

clash-1979-2

937. disruption in world communication

Synergy was one man, a guy named Larry Fast who, when he wasn’t working with the likes of Rick Wakeman, Peter Gabriel, Nektar, FM, was inventing the future via his devotion to synthesizer technologies. 1978’s Cords is one of those albums that still manages to sound rather ahead of things. Peter Gabriel gets credit for helping with some of the titles, and none better than Disruption in World Communication. Because yes, this is exactly what it ends up sounding like when we humans cease communicating with each other. Genuinely scary stuff.

synergy-cords

1061. ceremony

“Spring 1980. I first hear of a band called Joy Divison. Apparently, they’re like a new wave Doors. Which is all I need to hear. I head down to Quintessence Records prepared to pay big bucks for an import. Except, ‘Sorry,’ says the guy at the counter, ‘we’re sold out since the main guy killed himself.’ Ouch. Less than a year later, we start to hear New Order, the band that rose from those ashes – cool and eerie and sounding exactly like the future.” (Philip Random)