51. thick as a brick

“Speaking of songs that aren’t afraid to be long, Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick is by far the longest on this list (clocking in at 43 plus minutes) and it shouldn’t be one second shorter, even if it’s ultimately not really about anything — an in-joke within an in-joke, which is to say, the alleged epic poetry of a pre-teen genius (one Gerald Bostock) taking on everything he sees as hypocritical, absurd, foolish about the world, society, God, his small town … and never really coming to any conclusion short of the wiser you are, the less thick you are, which is a problem when it comes to empathy, because how does a wise man begin to grasp what it is to be … well, about as dumb as a brick? Or something like that. According to Tull main man, Ian Anderson, it was intended as a lark, a piss take on the whole concept album craze of the time. Except once he started writing, things rather took on a life of their own … and the result ended up conquering the world (for a few weeks anyway in late spring, 1972). #1 in Australia, Canada, Denmark, USA. Top five in the UK, Norway, Netherlands, Italy, Germany. Apparently, it was even all the rage in Vietnam.

Barely teenage me ate it up, of course, the whole mad and epic stew of folk and rock and classical and pop tangents, the ebb and flow of themes and counter-themes, coming, going, kicking up, burning down. And yes, it really is all one big song, because try as have over the years (and trust me, I’ve tried hard), I’ve never found any piece of it that works better on its own than it does as part of the epic whole. And that includes the cover which is essentially an entire small town newspaper, twelve full-size pages of scandals, non-rabbits, art crimes, comics, even an advance review of the album itself, which probably says it best. One doubts at times the validity of what appears to be an expanding theme throughout the two continuous sides of this record but the result is at worst entertaining and at least aesthetically palatable.” (Philip Random)

63. sweat loaf

“I’ve said it before. I’m sure I’ll say it again. If the Butthole Surfers hadn’t existed, it would’ve been necessary to invent them. Because somebody had to do it, finally deliver a noise that was the manifestation of everything any decent, god-fearing parent or businessman or teacher or priest or shopkeeper or hockey coach had ever feared about so-called rock and roll, and worse.

Like that family of three that went missing in the vicinity of the Butthole Surfers’ compound in rural Texas, the young son butchered by the band, barbecued and force-fed to the dad who went mad and was later found naked at the side of the road, babbling, claiming he knew the truth about who killed JFK and the Jonestown massacres and how the Trilateral Commission figured into it all. Meanwhile, the mom just joined band, danced with them on stage, naked, and helped sell merchandise afterward. Such was the ugly and evil infamy of the Butthole Surfers circa 1987 … but only if you didn’t get the joke. Like their ‘cover’ of Black Sabbath’s Sweet Leaf, the title adjusted, everything else turned up and on its head. Better than the original by orders of magnitude, and Satan.” (Philip Random)

107. O Lucky Man!

Alan Price being an original Animal and British Invasion contender, O Lucky Man! being exactly the movie you need if you’re fourteen and suburban and every bit as existential as you are horny. Because you do need something to turn your world on its head, expose and eviscerate your every delusion as to how things really work, until all you can do really is laugh at the fact that nothing’s funny anymore, it’s god damned horrific. And yet, like the song says, there remains a big IF at the heart of it all, IF you can just see through all the bullshit, and figure out a reason to smile anyway. IF being the middle part of Life anyway. Did I mention I was stoned when I saw O Lucky Man! for the first of at least nine times, just getting started really on the path of self de-programming, art and drug induced? ” (Philip Random)

260. We’re Only in it for the Money [part one]

“It’s only 1968 and Frank Zappa and his Mothers have already had it with the hippies and their bullshit, but he hates the straights even more. And we get it all in the full-on technicolor onslaught of satirical genius that is We’re Only In It For The Money, all thirty-nine plus minutes of it. Technically, it’s nineteen separate tracks but they all flow together (sometimes smoothly, sometimes deliberately not), so I’ve always thought of it as one epic piece, or two in the case of the original vinyl. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t prefer side one, if only for its inclusion of perhaps the single greatest minute of Mr. Zappa’s entire discography, What’s the Ugliest Part of Your Body? The answer being your mind. It’s funny because it’s true.” (Philip Random)

(photo: Robert Davidson)

974. poor people

Alan Price (original Animal) delivers a smoothly evil little ditty about how poor people really only have themselves to blame. Found on the soundtrack to O Lucky Man, which is one those movies that everyone must see and hardly anyone has, because it illustrates in epic detail how the world actually works. And it’s funny.

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