3. wild thing

“Because somebody had to do it, set the atmosphere itself on fire, and 1967 was the time for it. Even though it was the 1965 snare shot at the beginning of Bob Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone that really started things, immanetized the particular eschaton we’re concerned with here – punched a hole in the reality barrier, set all the strangeness loose. But it took Jimi Hendrix‘s live set at the Monterrey Pop Festival almost two years later to bring it all back to ground, soak it in lighter fluid, put a match to it, and launch it back out to the edges of all nine universes. And an incendiary cover of Wild Thing (the Troggs’ hit from the previous year) was the climax of that set, the one with all the fire and apocalypse at the end, which even though it would be many years before it ever got a proper release, the roar would be heard regardless, like a thunder from over the horizon, like a rumour from some unnamed war, a secret whispered by your most dangerous friend …

Speaking of which, I suppose I should quote my good friend Simon Lamb here, words so eloquent I had to jot them down (or a reasonable facsimile anyway). We need a secret weapon – something beyond reason and rationality – that cuts through all the wilful blindness of the insane and ignorant – some vast and astonishing noise that simultaneously pile drives and seduces them into seeing. I don’t think he was talking about Hendrix per say. More noise itself. But without him and his Experience (and let’s be honest, a few gallons of LSD) that noise would never have been made, never sent kerrranging out of a billion garages out of a million neighbourhoods in every town every country every planet, because you have to believe this stuff went extraterrestrial long ago and far away, probably that very night in Monterey. I can still hear it ringing in my ears. And I wasn’t even there.” (Philip Random)

16. tomorrow never knows

“It’s springtime 1966, the first sessions for the album that will come be known as Revolver, and it’s entirely arguable that those loveable moptops from Liverpool, the outfit known as the Beatles, have already perfected so-called psychedelic rock. Seriously. Short of that snare shot at the beginning of Bob Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone, I’m arguing that it all really starts here – the opening of the floodgates on the vast and psychedelic ocean that all humanity had to navigate in order to not blow ourselves to smithereens, because don’t kid yourself, that’s where the so-called status quo had us headed come the mid-1960s. And we’re still in that ocean, still navigating its mysteries and monsters. And maybe we always will be.

Not that everybody has to do heroic doses of LSD, get lost in the chasms and altitudes of their beyond within, but we do all need to share in the discussion of the impossible stuff that’s been found there (and we keep on finding more). And this discussion has always sounded best, made the most sense, when delivered via music. Bass, drums, guitars, maybe a few keyboards, tape loops, backwards masking, whatever — full-on raging and rhyming from the very highest and deepest part of anything and everything. It is shining, It is being, It is Knowing, It is Believing, Existence to the End, of the beginning. Even if it makes no sense at all, it really does matter.” (Philip Random)

(photo: David McEnery)

25. eight miles high

“Because what else could ever follow Turn On The News on a playlist but perhaps the greatest cover tune of all time? Husker Du‘s annihilating take on the Byrds‘ seminal 1966 psyche out capturing that pivotal mid-80s moment when the hardcore monster caught a glimpse of itself in the psychedelic mirror, and it paused, saw both tragedy and beauty, and amplified at that. Which is to say, truth. But a truth that’s beyond words, and even music eventually, a truth that can only be conveyed via amplified sonic weaponry and an all too human howling that must leave the words behind lest they be swallowed by whatever hell hounds have been unearthed by all the compounded, concentrated evils of the world. There were a lot of those as the 80s hit their midpoint. But we weren’t too concerned. We had a killer soundtrack.” (Philip Random)

26. turn on the news

Turn On The News arrived in my life as one of those ‘you must hear this’ items. 1984 sometime, the dark middle point of Ronald Reagan’s reign. It’s a radio night, Bostock shouting everyone else down, elbowing his way to the turntable, demanding we pay attention to the first track on Side Four of Husker Du’s Zen Arcade, punk rock’s first truly epic album. Which, of course, meant Zen Arcade wasn’t really punk rock. It was too big, too beyond, and no question, Turn On The News was its most essential four and a half minutes.  A song of pain, a song of despair, and yet hope as well, because it’s a song of consciousness, of not turning away from the noise and pain of the world. And it forced a turn of phrase, in my life anyway. Some friend’s boring you to death with his girlfriend issues, or the details of the mortgage on his new condo. You finally just shake your head and say, ‘Turn on the news, man. There’s people out there with real f***ing problems’.” (Philip Random)  

35. how soon is now?

“Because there had to be at least one goddamned Smiths song on this list. Because as much as I’ve generally found whatz-iz-name‘s histrionics annoying as only a perpetual seventeen year old’s whining can be annoying (and f***ing wrong), I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think he was one of the all-time heavyweights on those occasions when he did get it right … even with all that criminally vulgar shyness.

And the band’s not half-bad either as How Soon Is Now aptly proves from initial gush of flanged Johnny Marr guitar onward. Trust that it sounded like nothing else in 1984, like a lost acid fragment from 1967 had finally completed its tour of the universe and somehow returned to ground in the grim and baleful north of Maggie Thatcher’s Britain, like a gem of ancient beauty and power. And for those who may already have heard How Soon Is Now, cool, I say. There’s still not enough of us.” (Philip Random)

62. the golden void

“The first time I ever heard mention of Hawkwind, it was some punk rock loudmouth dismissing them as metal heads who’d fried their brains on too much brown acid. Which instantly sounded like something worth investigating. What they are, or certainly were (because it’s the deep weird 1970s, I’m thinking about here), was proper anarcho-hippie-revolutionaires who made the very best of their fabulously fried brains. Because it’s f***ing true, what the guy’s singing about in The Golden Void — the corridor of flame and the psychedelic warriors who commit to it, find themselves way the f*** out at the edge of time. Because I’ve seen them in my psychedelic journeys. Hell, I’ve been one, doing my infinitesimal bit to keep the universe expanding as it must, riding that big and glorious and infinite boom to its ever blooming edge. It’s all true. Trust me. I wouldn’t lie about something like that, and neither would Hawkwind. You can hear it in the passion of the performance, every means utilized to evoke what they’ve encountered: ever spiraling, never ending, indescribable, and the thing is, they’re still there, down the golden void, and so am I, surfing fractal edges of … eternity, I guess. Time and space are like that if you’re moving fast enough. I think. I wish I could somehow prove any of this. Which I suppose I can. But not if you won’t listen to stuff like The Golden Void at proper atom splitting volume … with the right kind of ears.” (Philip Random)

64. song to the siren

This Mortal Coil were a project, not a band, brainchild of 4AD Records’ Ivo Watts-Russell. The idea being to dissolve the boundaries between the various groups and artists on the label, get everybody mixing it up together, with an accent on the ethereal, the mysterious yet easy to listen to. Which certainly worked for me, the first album in particular, It’ll End In Tears, which got a pile of play in the middle 80s, evoking as it did an apocalypse that was neither fire nor brimstone, but rather deep and spacious, mournful even. Ideal for the coming down phase of any number of psychedelic ventures – the part where you’re still too wired to sleep, too spent to do anything else but lie flat. The forty plus minutes of It’ll End In Tears being all somber relaxation and release, a whole definitely more than the sum of its parts, except maybe the cover of Tim Buckley’s Song To The Siren, the Cocteau Twins Elizabeth Fraser taking it places where gravity remains unknown, and you with it. Or did I dream that part?” (Philip Random)

77. 1983 … (a merman I should turn to be)

Second of two in a row from the Jimi Hendrix Experience, this one coming from Electric Ladyland, their third and last proper outing, and even that’s somewhat confused. With 1983… (A Merman I Should Turn to Be) about as far and deep and abstract as any Hendrix recording would ever go – the unit here being Mr. Hendrix (doubling up on bass as well as guitar) and Mitch Mitchell (drums), with Traffic’s Chris Wood throwing in on flute (and the studio techs, of course — Eddie Kramer and Gary Kellgren, take a bow). All in aid of an epic investigation of oceans at least as deep as the human mind and soul, touching on themes of crisis, apocalypse, transcendence, the earth’s dry land abandoned, a return to the sea embraced, mermaids, Atlantis even. And superb it all is, the very best music being not unlike an ocean with depths beyond imagining. It’s possible that psychedelic drugs were involved.

(photo: David Montgomery)

78. third stone from the sun

“The first Jimi Hendrix album Are You Experienced? is, of course, overflowing with miracles, particularly when viewed from the moment it hit, and hit it did. Words still fail, so just call it all superlative noise, I guess, and move on and up and in and out and every imaginable way (and more). Except first I must single out Third Stone From The Sun for being the one miracle that has endured the best, the furthest – for me anyway. Because holy f***ing something or other, it does grasp fabulous realms. Just three guys working a groove all mixed up with feedback and manipulations which isn’t anything that hasn’t been attempted a billion times since, except well, maybe I should give this to my neighbour Motron. ‘It’s surf music, is what it is. At least, that’s how I misinterpreted Jimi’s mumbling way back when. Now I know he was saying we’d never hear surf music again, because he’d heard that Dick Dale was dying (he wasn’t, but he was fighting cancer at the time). But that took years to get straight and in the meantime, that’s where I was going with Third Stone – hearing it as Jimi’s take on the cosmic imagining that allows for things like big bangs, universes, galaxies, solar systems, suns, various stones revolving accordingly, and on the third of these, waves, impossible manifestations of all this order that, if your skills are up, your timing is right, you can ride them. Which is what he was doing with his guitar, abstract, fierce, grounded in the blues, gunning for eternity. Or something like that.'”. (Philip Random)