“We’ve all gotta start somewhere. Before I got seriously hooked by the superlative noise of rock-roll-psyche-whatever-you-want-to-call-it (sometime safely before my tenth birthday in the form of The Beatles Revolution the shorter, sharper, nastier version), I only really cared for one so-called pop album: What Now My Love, a 1966 chart topper from Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass (who weren’t from Tijuana, they weren’t even Mexican). Because it was the only halfway modern slab of vinyl in my parents’ collection. And now it’s in mine, the same original record (proudly slotted between the Allman Bros and Amon Duul), because it’s actually pretty darned fine in a sangria-soaked suburban backyard barbecue sort of way. Smooth Latin rhythms and sunny day melodies and occasional gushes of rapture like the part at the end of It Was A Very Good Year when the strings come swooping in like the gods themselves. What sentimental eight year old (of any age) ever needed anything more?” (Philip Random)
“Patrick Gallagher was my life’s first full-on Beatles fan. Every Christmas, he’d get a new Beatles album. In 1968, that meant the White Album, two records exploring all kinds of extremes, most of them miles over our tiny heads (his ten years old, mine nine). But we liked the monkey song. What kid wouldn’t like a monkey song? Even if it turned out to have nothing to do with monkeys at all, but was John Lennon’s take on the great and faultless Maharishi being a bit of a horndog, trying to get his hands on Mia Farrow’s ass, and how this didn’t seem to fit the man’s intimations of higher wisdom and humanity. Also, maybe heroin.” (Philip Random)
“23 Skidoo being one of those outfits who define the notion of hard to pin down. F*** You G.I. being a heavy slab of polyrhythmic funk driven by a key sample from the legendary Do-Long Bridge sequence from Apocalypse Now. 1984 being nine years on from the Vietnam War’s official conclusion, but you could still feel the darkness, heat, horror, even if you were just out walking the family dog through the suburban shadows, Sony Walkman on, of course.” (Philip Random)
“Joe Walsh tends to get conveniently filed away as the fun loving stoner guy who eventually got scooped up by the Eagles and then whatever. But that misses the point that The Smoker You Drink The Player You Get is one of the genuinely best American albums of its time, and thus of all time, because albums are where it was at in 1973. The big hit was Rocky Mountain Way (speaking of fun loving stoner rock), but my fave will always be Meadows, one of those songs that sent this very young man wild and free, running through fields, leaping old stone walls. Dreaming about it anyway, as I was mostly stuck in suburbia at the time. Nice melody, killer guitar riff, but it’s the drums that still send me, the way they come crashing in like a flash flood, the kind that saves your life rather than ends it. Hallelujah.” (Philip Random)
If you were a little kid in the 1960s and early 1970s, your life was full of this kind of stuff. Various pop orchestras taking on the hits of the day, delivering mostly average versions. But every now and then, someone got it just right, like Roland Shaw, whose take on the On Her Majesty’s Secret Service theme is punchier, more revved up, better than the original in pretty much every way. The perfect soundtrack for bombing around on your banana bike, rooting out all the evil geniuses who were plotting world destruction from their suburban lairs two blocks over.
No Motown act embraced the psychedelic stuff quite so thoroughly as the Temptations, with 1970’s Psychedelic Shack (song and album) their most obvious offering in that regard. “Fact is, there were psychedelic shacks in all three of the suburbs where I served my pre and early teen years (late 60s, tipping into the early 70s). Absolute no-go zones where long-haired freaky people set snares for small children, to be sacrificed unto Satan in acid drenched rituals come the next full moon. Later, I realized they were mostly just teenagers hanging out, and my parents were full of sh**.” (Philip Random)
“A story song about the day young David Jones (aka Bowie) played at a hippie free festival and got his mind blown by all the beautiful people, and probably some weapons grade 1960s LSD, because the sun machine came down toward the end, like a vision of heaven itself. And it was good, very good, the entirety of the vast rapture that was 1969 captured in song, because man had just walked on the f***ing moon, man, so now any f***ing thing was possible. At least that’s how it felt at the time. I think. I was only ten, and many thousands of miles away, stuck in suburbia.” (Philip Random)