129. Supper’s Ready

“Speaking of Peter Gabriel, if I’d compiled this list in say 1979, Genesis would’ve been all over it (particularly their Gabriel era stuff), with Supper’s Ready likely right on top, certainly in the top three. But such is the nature of this culture stuff. It won’t stop twisting, turning, swallowing its own tail, vomiting it all back up, eating it again. In other words, I grew kind of allergic to Supper’s Ready for a while, an affliction for which I only have myself to blame. I loved it too much, wanted too much from it. A song about everything. A song very much about the Apocalypse — Pythagoras with a looking glass, the beast 666, the guaranteed eternal sanctuary man, Winston Churchill dressed in drag, and ultimately the new Jerusalem, good conquering evil, an angel shouting with a loud voice, souls rising in ever changing colours, as a germ in a seed grows, like a river to the ocean, and so on …

Epic stuff ripped straight from the Bible itself, but not without a serious dollop of absurdist fun. The weird part is, I didn’t even hear it until 1977 (five years after it first showed up on the album known as Foxtrot, two years after Gabriel had split the band) by which point there was a punk storm blowing nasty and vindictive. But that was me in my late teens, as uncool as I’ll ever be, and yet life has seldom seemed so rich, the smorgasbord so alluring. Except then I had to go and eat way too much. Which gets us to the title finally. Supper’s Ready. Apparently it’s a reference to the very end of the Bible†, the final scene of the book of revelations (and here I’m sort of quoting my late friend James who used to study this kind of stuff before he decided life just wasn’t worth the trouble anymore). Apparently when all is said is done, Satan vanquished, Christ triumphant, God’s kingdom established here on earth, there will be a huge feast to which all the worthy, the sainted, the blessed, the good are invited. Apparently, it will be one heaven of a feed. But in the meantime, we’re all doomed to just keep on keeping on.” (Philip Random) 

(image: Armando Gallo)
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130. here comes the flood

“It was the night John Lennon was murdered. My friend Simon dropped by with some LSD and, given the extremes of the moment, our fates were sealed. It was our profound duty to now trip the vast lysergic, play a pile of Beatles records and see where the mystical magical vibrations might take us. They took us to dawn, sitting in my car now, high up a hilltop, taking in the first grey light of a cold and misty day. We had Simon’s little brother asleep in the backseat with a dog named Alice (it’s a long story) … but the Beatles weren’t on the playlist anymore. We’d sort of lost track of them as things started to peak, the gods having other plans for us apparently. Now it was a mixtape Simon had made of more recent stuff, moody and cool and mostly instrumental. Except here was Peter Gabriel suddenly, singing Here Comes The Flood, but not the version from his debut album, this was sparer, sharper, far better. I later discovered it was from Robert Fripp’s Exposure album — everything peeled back to just voice, piano and some ghostly Frippertronics. A song of apocalypse, no question, of saying goodbye to flesh and blood. Yet not forecasting doom in the end, but rather a sort of dreamlike survival. And then the rain really started to deluge on that hilltop. And it still hasn’t stopped, not really, the 1970s being known as the last decade that the sun ever really shone.” (Philip Random)

136. return of the grievous angel

“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)

149. downpayment blues

“When AC/DC first hit my particular suburb, I was in my late teens and fully committed to the sinking ship that was known as Prog Rock, after which I grabbed some wreckage that washed me ashore on the island known as punk, new wave etc. Because hard rock, heavy metal, riff rock – that was for little kids as far as I was concerned. I was wrong, of course. Because jump ahead a decade, I’m almost thirty now and in no way measuring up to any of the adult expectations that anybody ever had for me (my parents, my teachers, myself even) and among many other unexpected diversions, I’m finally ready for the genius that is-was-will-always-be AC/DC. Honest, direct, maybe a little evil, always piledrivingly on the nose whether deliberately hellbound or, in the case of Downpayment Blues (from Powerage, the second last studio album of the Bon Scott era), just slacking off, drinking cheap swill, doing nothing with a vengeance. Or as somebody put it in Slacker† (the movie) a few years later, ‘… withdrawing in disgust should never be confused with apathy.’ Words to live by.” (Philip Random)

196. Alex Chilton

“Right sound, wrong timing. That was me and The Replacements, who were exactly what you needed in around 1987 if you were desperate for something/anything genuine in the realm of booze-soaked-truth-telling-poetry-infused rock and roll. Which I guess I wasn’t. I was more into noise and beats and psychedelics and other higher, more quantum concerns at the time. But five years later I was drinking again and finding it very easy to fall in love with Alex Chilton (the song not the man) – me and children by the millions. But seriously, all love to the man to for inspiring a song that could inspire such love, Alex Chilton being one of the guys from Big Star, still maybe the greatest band that hardly anybody’s heard (there’s none on this list because I’ve never found any affordable vinyl). And before Big Star (when Alex was still a teenager) there was a group called the Box Tops, who had a monster hit called The Letter. Love that song.” (Philip Random)

(photo: Daniel Corrigan)

201. The Rock

One more from The Who’s Quadrophenia because Philip Random insisted, “Because how the hell can you represent Quadrophenia with anything but four selections? Quad being an abbreviation of quadrilateral which goes all the way back to Euclid, for Christ’s sake. The whole point of Quadrophenia being that young Jimmy has become divided four ways, four personalities, four faces. And it’s The Rock, an instrumental found way deep on side four, where he recombines, alone in a small boat, storm tossed and completely confused … until these four melodies all find a way to work together toward setting up the climax of whole shebang – Love Reign O’er Me. Which is a hell of song but it doesn’t make the list because the entire planet has already heard it at least forty times in the last three months.”

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213. dirty old town

“A Pogues song about London that isn’t actually a Pogues song or about London, but it might as well be. Because they certainly make it their own here and London’s a dump,  encrusted in grime that’s centuries old. I recall a jetlagged morning, first light and I can’t sleep so I’m wandering Camden Lock and rather bemused by all the filth floating in the still water. It gets worse when I realize there’s a dead swan in the middle of one particularly disgusting looking clump. Later, I’m back at my friend’s flat having breakfast and I mention what I saw. He shrugs, pulls out  the Pogues Rum Sodomy + the Lash and slaps it on.” (Philip Random)

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(photo source)

233. The Rainbow – Eden – Desire

“Springtime, 1989, the year I ended up in London somehow. It’s a long story, which only matters here because that’s where I found Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden. Lonely, very low on cash, wandering through the big HMV near Piccadilly and there it was on cassette, remaindered, dead cheap. What I knew of Talk Talk was that they were a better than average synth-pop outfit. What I was completely unprepared for was the deep and spacious and ultimately epic first side of Spirit of Eden – three titles (The Rainbow, Eden + Desire) but really all one seamless song, and exactly what I needed to set my soul free long enough to get my thinking straight toward sorting out the problem of the rest of my life. I left town the next day.” (Philip Random)

240. It’s all over now, Baby Blue

Technically, It’s All Over Now Baby Blue shouldn’t be on this list as its recording precedes the Like A Rolling Stone snare shot that allegedly gave impetus to the apocalypse in question. But such is the nature of a rupture in the space-time continuum, there’s often an implosion-like suck that throws key details of the recent past forward, mixes them up with the various smithereens currently floating around. Thus, we find yonder orphan with his gun crying like a fire in the sun. It makes perfect sense if you’ve got the right kind of eyes, and ears. Also worth noting: It’s All Over Now Baby Blue is the solo acoustic piece that young Bob Dylan chose to calm the crowd after his legendary electric set at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival went so horribly wrong/right. No serious apology intended.

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