59. psycho killer

1977 is not the best Talking Heads album, not even close, but in Psycho Killer, it probably has their best song. Which gets us to the argument I had recently with my lawyer, she claiming to have heard it before, and thus a dubious selection for this list. Hell, it’s in the movie, the very first song, David Byrne stepping out solo on stage, just acoustic guitar and beatbox, and his uniquely wound intensity. But these are records I’m listing here, not songs, and the essential recording of Psycho Killer is the original 1977 album version — funky, tough and psychotic, which clearly not enough folks have heard yet, or it would’ve shown up as the theme song for some eighth rate cop show. Which is a good thing. I’m not complaining. But I was at a friend’s big deal fortieth birthday recently where it brought the house down, which was weird and also kind of beautiful, all these former punks and new-wavers and whatever else hitting the middle of their lives, showing scar tissue, but still moving, liable to explode at any instant, taking everything with them. But in a good way.” (Philip Random)

72. mongoloid

Mongoloid rates high indeed because it’s the first punk tune that ever truly grabbed me, even if some have argued (and no doubt continue to) that Devo weren’t Punk, they were New Wave, to which I just fire back a big WHATEVER. It would’ve been 1978 because Tormato, the latest Yes magnum opus, had been released, except it was neither magnum or opus. But I loved it anyway being a fan. But not my friend Carl, who made a point of removing Tormato from the turntable mid-song (the one about a UFO as I recall) and slapping down Devo’s first album in its place … which proceeded to make an impression. Particularly Mongoloid. Just the whole nasty punk idea of it – a wound up anthem about some guy who was a mongoloid. How perverse was that! And yet fun. Because it was. Unlike the Yes. But Yes weren’t aiming for fun, I tried to argue, they were fixed on something more complex, important. Carl just smiled and played Mongoloid again. By the third time through, I was air-guitaring.” (Philip Random)

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138. dance this mess around

“Because there must be at least one B-52’s track on this list, and it must be from the first side of their first album, and Dance This Mess Around seems to be not only comparatively underheard, but also the best damned thing on it. Yeah, Rock Lobster gets the frat-boys going and Planet Claire‘s kind of indispensable at Halloween parties and Sci-Fi conventions, but only Dance This Mess Around has the sort of relentless and hypnotic groove that locks you into ALL sixteen dances, including the infamous Dirty Dog. In other words, I’ve gone on a lot about all the necessary bile and intensity of punk and so-called New Wave and all the profound and necessary insurrection it unleashed upon the culture through the late 1970s … but none that would have happened if it wasn’t a mad lot of fun.” (Philip Random) 

(photo: Stephanie Chernikowski)

182. Pandora

“The Cocteau Twins are like the new wave Kate Bush. I can still see the idiot who said this to me, one of those music biz types who was still doing the feathered hair thing well into the 1980s. Not that there was anything at all wrong with Kate Bush. It was the timing of it, 1984. So-called New Wave had peaked at least five years earlier, and it was never a proper genre anyway, just a way of marketing fresh sounding stuff that was easier to listen to than punk and whatever. Which gets us back to the Cocteau Twins who were exquisitely easy to listen to, a million miles from punk, a welcome shade of beauty and mystery at a time when everything just seemed to be getting more and more obvious, strident, aggressive. Even the good stuff. Pandora and the album it came from (the aptly named Treasure) gave us something to listen to when we got home from various gigs and warehouse situations. Smoke a little dope, sip a little wine, get luxuriantly lost. Part of me still is. Lost, that is, like Pandora.” (Philip Random)

CocteauTwins-1984-live

 

(photo found here)

195. the real thing

“Wherein the Pointed Sticks (straight outa late 70s suburban Vancouver) hit the eternal pop gold standard with a three minute nugget the whole world should have heard, but it didn’t for some stupid reason (and it still hasn’t). Which puts a big loud BULLSHIT to the argument I’ve heard over the years from some I know that, despite all the music biz’s ugliness, waste, criminality and stupidity, the truly good stuff always rises, gets its due, gets heard. Yeah right.” (Philip Random) 

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198. Satisfaction

“1978 sometime. I’m home alone watching Saturday Night Live, and BAM! Devo hits the stage with their take on the Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction and … well, call it a Ballad of a Thin Man moments (ie: that Bob Dylan song where he sneers at straight old normal Mr. Jones and says, ‘Something is happening, but you don’t know what it is, do you?’) Except I wasn’t even twenty years old yet, how the hell could I be as uncool as Mr. Jones? And anyway, I had heard Devo already and didn’t hate them, but I didn’t exactly get them either. What I was, of course, was confused, which I’d eventually realize was the whole point. Devo existed to confuse. The trick was to trust this confusion, maybe even love it, embrace it as the true and weird future for all of mankind. Or something like that. I guess I’m still confused, but man, I do love that first Devo album.” (Philip Random)

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224. don’t worry about the government

“It continues to amaze me that this hit in 1977, the year Punk truly erupted, tore the firmament asunder, tossed multi-dimensional hand grenades up and down the corridors of power and complacency. And Talking Heads were very much part of all that, playing all the relevant clubs, going to all the relevant parties. Except Don’t Worry About the Government isn’t really raucous at all, just a spry ditty about clouds and pine trees and peaches and civil servants and friends, and loved ones. Nothing at all to worry about.” (Philip Random)

TalkingHeads-1977-live

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230. back in flesh

Wall of Voodoo being one of the first uniquely post-1970s outfits I ever threw in with — tight, unafraid of new technology, a little nasty, full of film noir shadows and surprises, even some laughs. And they could deliver live. Which is what happened in Vancouver’s Luv Affair, early 1982, one of the great shows of that or any year. They opened strong with a cover of Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire, and it all peaked maybe an hour later with Back In Flesh – a song about what happens when your arm gets smashed and your salary gets cut and the corporation’s boiling over … and everything else. Yeah, it sounds a bit like the B52s, I suppose, but what the hell’s wrong with that?” (Philip Random)

WallofVoodoo-1981-promo

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360. The 15th

“A tight modern pop song with the kind of sharp, icy edge that defines a sonic future for all mankind. Which is pretty much what Wire did in 1979 with 154 (one of the greatest albums of any time) and songs like the 15th. Hell, I didn’t even hear it until at least five years later, called up the DJ because I had to know what this cool new song was.” (Philip Random)

Wire-1979-promo