“As the story goes … well nobody seems to know for sure with this one. Who did write Wild Horses? The official story is that Jagger and Richard did it with a little help from Richard’s soul brother/fellow substance extremist Gram Parsons, then of the Flying Burrito Brothers. The darker version is that it was mainly Parsons’ tune (certainly his lyrics) and the Stones more or less stole it from him while he was too wasted to notice, with the final evidence in this regard being that they felt guilty enough to let him release his version first. I personally don’t care. Just as long as we got his version, the Flying Burrito Brothers take.
If only for the middle verse where Parsons gives voice to that dull aching pain, making for the deepest kind of soul music, immensely powerful, but also fragile, way too easily wounded. It’s a place Mick Jagger could never have hoped to touch, could never really own. He just didn’t live that dangerously. Which I suppose makes it another argument for the thievery in question. But like I said, I don’t care. And neither does Parsons, long dead now via heroin induced misadventure out near Joshua Tree – a story that’s perhaps gotten way too much notice over the years. The music being the thing. The music is always the thing.” (Philip Random)
“In which Frank’s little girl Nancy (Sinatra, that is) and a shady older gent named Lee (Hazelwood) deliver the heaviest, most beautiful easy listening track I know — guy so wasted he can’t even open his girl’s gate, but some velvet morning all dragonflies and daffodils, he’ll be up to it. Maybe he’ll even tell her about Phaedra. Which I always figured was heroin, yet suburban somehow. Because nothing feels more desperate than a junkie in a bungalow with a fine trim lawn, the utilities paid, the appearances kept, the muzak on the radio morphing into something luxuriously caustic — the split level dream corroding into a void the size of a solar system, feeling no pain, but burning up regardless. Or something like that. Anyway, great song. Great album. Great sense of time and zeitgeist, a whole world gone static yet doomed to implode. What was it about America, 1968?” (Philip Random)
“I don’t care what all the charts were saying at the time, by 1979 the Rolling Stones were nowhere, and accelerating hard to oblivion. Certainly on record. Which makes Why D’ya Do It? the last truly great Rolling Stones record, even if they had nothing to do with it beyond Marianne Faithfull being Mick’s ex from way back. Which is the connection, I think. Because this does sound like proper Stones rocker, the way she spits the kind of bile the Stones would have still had in them if they hadn’t f***ed up on heroin and indulgence. In other words, YEAH! Why D’Ya Do It? is raunchy and vindictive and unrepentant and f***ing dirty in all the right ways. Seriously. Imagine Mick Jagger singing it in say 1972, part of the Exile on Main St. sessions. You know it would have kicked serious shit. But Ms. Faithfull’s take would still be better. And the whole Broken English album is essential, one of the very best of 1979, or any other year for that matter.” (Philip Random)
“I remember taping this song from the radio one night, early teens, maybe 1973. But I didn’t catch who it was, so for some reason I just assumed it was Donovan. Which threw things off for a good twenty years. I’d describe it to people as the one where he says, if I was a soldier, and they’d say, Universal Soldier, and I’d say, no, his other soldier song. Anyway, I finally got it figured about twenty-five years later. Special thanks to Rena, an ex-punk I used to know, who had a hate on for Jeff Buckley, because she thought he was an over-hyped shadow of his dad, the then long gone but not forgotten (by Rena anyway) Tim Buckley. Anyway, I asked her to make me a tape, and there it was, Once I Was, precious evidence of a time (1967) when a young man could just pick up a guitar, sing his deceptively simple song, put poetic truth to the brutality and chaos of the world, maybe change everything forever. At least, that’s what it must’ve felt like, I guess. I was just a little kid then, not allowed anywhere near the fun part of the party.” (Philip Random)
“Late 1980s sometime, date a bit vague because I was convalescing at the time, coming off a prolonged ailment that, in retrospect, had at least something to do with a disease in my soul. Which made it the perfect time to finally discover the music of Gram Parsons. Yeah, I’d heard of him, how he pretty much invented country rock, hooked up with Keith Richard, turned heroin blue way before his time. But now via random discovery of his only two solo albums at a yard sale, I was actually hearing his soul, because that’s what it was (still is), his take on so-called Country. Soul music, grievous and angelic. And precisely what I hadn’t been hearing pretty much my entire life, which was a white man digging deep into the roots of his own music, finding some beauty therein. If you don’t like Country, you don’t really like me.” (Philip Random)
Marianne Faithfull’s take on Sister Morphine is probably the best Rolling Stones record ever that most people haven’t heard, even if it’s not Mick singing and it’s not technically the Stones. Because Mick is apparently playing some guitar (along with Ry Cooder) and that’s Charlie on drums. Who knows where Keith is? Probably on the nod. Which drives home the point. Marianne Faithfull gets the credit and she deserves it all the way, but Sister Morphine is very much a 1969 Stone-truth being imparted. It’s not the Summer of Love anymore. The drugs have gotten too heavy. Souls are being crushed. None of this is going to end well.
“I first heard the groove from Stratus via the main sample from Massive Attack’s rather brilliant Safe From Harm. But Billy Cobham‘s original track roars off in a whole other direction, and blisteringly so. The lead guitar comes care of a guy named Tommy Bolin who was supposed to be the saviour of the instrument in the early-mid-70s … until he hooked up with Deep Purple and eventually OD’ed on heroin. As for Mr. Cobham, I figure if he was a good enough for Miles Davis, he was good enough for all humanity.” (Philip Random)
“Where the f*** is all the Nick Cave on your list? This from my neighbour, Motron. The easy answer is, well, I only have one album on vinyl, and that’s rule one of this thing. Because all my Nick Cave and/or Birthday Party vinyl was stolen back in 1988, and ever since it’s been CDs or cassettes or just mp3s. The more difficult answer had to do with issues I had concerned Mr. Cave’s tendency toward assholism and romanticizing cooler than death junkiedom. The key word there being ‘had’, because I was wrong on that. And even if I was right, I was still wrong, because a man’s music is often as not the best thing we’ll ever get from him, and thus it should never be shrugged off or denied because of alleged sins. I mean, f*** that kind of judgment. We’re all sinners in our way and doomed to perdition, yadda-yadda-yadda. So here’s to taking the opposite tack. Here’s to embracing the kickass genius of Mr. Cave’s take on the Velvet Underground’s All Tomorrow’s Parties which is still known to cause earthquakes whenever it is heard.” (Philip Random)
There’s nothing nice about The Stranglers, particularly through their earlier, better years before the heroin started slowing things down. With a song like Nice and Sleazy hitting like a crude, ugly throwback to at least the Dark Ages … except it’s just so damned good. Groovy, heavy and really just reminding us where rock and roll came from anyway. As sleazy as it needs to be.