12. rock’n’roll suicide

“Rock music is weaponry, no question. Final ammo of the disconnected, the lonely, the desperate. And who better to grasp this, put it into words and song but the Alien himself – David Jones, aka Bowie, aka Ziggy Stardust? Because even aliens are human, deep down inside. Or better put – we’re all aliens at some point, from some angle or other, alone at the edge of the night, and never more so than at some pivotal moment in our f***ed up youth, hanging onto the edge of some unfathomable abyss. To be or not to be.

The palpable memory for me here is my friend James, long gone now, because he let go of the edge, became a rock and roll suicide. Was he even aware of this song? Probably. He knew his music way better than I did. But mostly, he knew his bullshit dreams, got swallowed by them. That need to be adored, far outweighing his desire to give. That’ll kill you every time one way or another. Anyway, David Bowie’s Rock’n’roll Suicide contains all that, and more, the sublime climax to one of the very few albums that I still listen to in its entirety. I wouldn’t say it’s perfect because nothing is, but holy sh**, Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars gets damned close to that particular impossibility.” (Philip Random)

28. baby’s on fire

Baby’s On Fire doesn’t play by any of the rules, yet it absolutely slays as pop song, rock song, whatever you want to call it — the Brian Eno genius in full wild eruption, that beautiful baby getting tossed out with the bathwater, or whatever the hell’s going on. What’s going on is Mr. Eno’s delightfully skewed approach to wordplay. Throw a bunch of loose phrases into a box, pull them out in random order. Proceed from there. And then there’s Robert Fripp‘s incendiary guitar solo erupting through the middle of things like a demon from future antiquity (or was it Paul Rudolph?). By which I mean, holy sh**, Baby’s On Fire was at least five years old when I first heard it, and still too hot to touch. And it still hasn’t cooled off. Yet it is still cool.” (Philip Random)

49. ladytron

The First Roxy Music Album is still mostly ahead of its time even now decades after the fact (and the next four or five are pretty amazing as well). But it’s the first one that lays it all out – the glamour, the romance, the noise, the pop, the rock, The Future. And the single track that delivers it all in less than four and a half minutes, the one Roxy artifact I’d grab if the world was burning down (and it probably is), is Ladytron. Which (it occurs to me as I jot this down), I don’t even know what it’s about. It’s about a lady, of course, and beautiful at that, though I guess she may be a robot. But maybe Bryan Ferry‘s kiss can make her human. Or something like that. Equal parts fairy tale and science fiction and pure fun modernity, circa 1972.” (Philip Random)

105. ballrooms of Mars

“It’s easy to file T-Rex away as a glammed up (and out) pop monster whose singles absolutely nailed the zeitgeist for a year or three in the early 1970s, and they certainly did all that (in Britain anyway). But main man Marc Bolan could also just lay down a brilliant song – poetic, psychedelic, vaguely surreal, rather like the times, but also timeless, with Ballroom Of Mars (found on 1972’s Slider) exhibit A in this regard. Because that’s how I found it, at least a decade after the fact, wasting a day, drinking red wine so cheap the only way to make it palatable was to pour it over ice, maybe add a touch of something sweet. But the sun was shining and the company was good and … holy shit, who is this? It’s T-Rex, of course, gripped in the arms of the changeless madman. It means something.” (Philip Random)

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117. quicksand

“If the house was on fire and I could only grab one David Bowie album, I’d die for sure  because I wouldn’t be able to choose between at least four or five. One of which would definitely be 1971’s Hunk Dory, because good luck finding a weak track, a weak anything. His last album written and recorded before big deal fame and glory would start to find him, I have to wonder if he any idea of how absolutely he was about to blow the cultural fuses. Particularly a densely poetic nugget like Quicksand and its unflinching examination of his personal motives, with darkly surreal excursions from there … whispering about Heinrich Himmler, hints of occult knowledge, even the Beast Himself, Aleister Crowley . But in the end, it’s all just the quicksand of one’s mind. Why can’t we have pop stars like this any more?” (Philip Random)

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186. hymn for the dudes

Mott being the one Mott The Hoople album everyone should own (even if it doesn’t contain their biggest, greatest hit — that’s what 7-inches are for). Because on Mott, the Hoople are rocking their strongest, most shambolic, but also finding space for the kind of ballads that make grown men cry. Hymn for the Dudes for instance, which is one of those bottle of cheap red wine wonders. Close your eyes and remember all those lost friends that you used to party with, rage with, surf metaphorical tsunamis. Where are they now?  Where the hell am I?” (Philip Random)

Mott-1973-live

225. cosmic dancer

“Unlike many T-Rex songs, Cosmic Dancer seems to actually be about something, which is that certain something we’ve all been doing since the moment we exited the womb. Not just breathing, crying, shitting, eating … but moving in some sort of graceful accord with the cosmos. Trying to anyway. Noted as yet another T-Rex gem that I missed when it was fresh (easy to do over here in the Americas), but rather stumbled upon at least ten years after the fact, but therein lies the real magic of their sound, I think, particularly the stuff from 1971-73: it defines timelessness.” (Philip Random)

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236. five years

“At first I wasn’t even going to include anything from Ziggy Stardust on this list. It just seemed inconceivable that there was anybody who hadn’t already heard it all perhaps way too many times. But then Five Years popped up on an old mix tape and young Tracy (who isn’t even that young) said, is this John Lennon? Five Years being the 1972 song in which David Bowie accurately predicted the end of the world in 1977. Which I realize is a confusing fact to lay down, particularly to those born since 1977. Just trust me, it’s true. This is not the same world as before. Something very odd happened in 1977 and we’ve all been spinning in weird gravity ever since.” (Philip Random)

DavidBowie-1972-ZiggyStage

239-8-7. tenement funster – flick of the wrist – lily of the valley

“Three tracks from Sheer Heart Attack, Queen’s third album, that all flow seamlessly together, so it’s tempting to think of them as all just one epic piece. But  take a look at the lyrics (and the overall shifts in tone) and it’s clear there are three distinctly different things going on here. Tenement Funster‘s a raw piece of ‘kitchen sink’ glam. Call it drama. Flick of the Wrist is like a flick of a TV channel to something suddenly quite bitchy with operatic moments and not just a little malevolence. Call it melodrama. And Lily of the Valley‘s just a lovely bit of epic love. Call it romance. Thus we are reminded of how Queen always had more ideas and angles going than any nine other bands, and the chops to do everything justice. When this stuff landed in the various teenage rec-rooms of suburbia circa 1974/75, let’s just say a great hunger was sated – one we weren’t even fully aware we had. Something to do with a need for passion and fun delivered with a fierce electric raunch that was always at least slightly under control.” (Philip Random)