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)

6. only shallow

“Unlike pretty much everything else found on the My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless (which don’t get me wrong, I truly love), Only Shallow actually begins to hint at what this outfit conjured live, in a big room, with a big PA. By which I mean, maybe My Bloody Valentine in Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom, July-7, 1992 wasn’t the greatest f***ing show ever (that’s still probably Yes, 1975, the Relayer tour, because whatever blows your mind when you’re fifteen is always going to be the The Best). But My Bloody Valentine in the Commodore, 1992 was definitely the last show I’ll ever need to see. And hear.

Because that Commodore situation was proof of concept — that so-called rock music (or whatever you want to call it) really can rearrange molecules or atoms or neutrons or whatever the stuff of so-called reality actually is. Because handled correctly, these vibrations, this organized sound, this music really is the stuff of the gods. And those who deny it (for instance, the 500 or so folks who didn’t stick around for the whole gig that night), well, they can have the so-called real world, the real estate, the mortgage payments, the lawyers and accountants …. It occurs to me, I have no conclusion for this thought. I’m still confused, I guess. Years after the fact and I’m still looking for words to describe what happened that night, and I wasn’t even that high. Just a few tokes before the band came on, and then I guess I forgot. I got teleported, I got rearranged. In the meantime, there’s the album known as Loveless, the lead-off track known as Only Shallow which, on the right sound system, at the right volume, you maybe just begin to understand.” (Philip Random)

7. Anarchy in the UK

“It’s been how long now since 1976, and some perfectly decent people still haven’t heard Anarchy in the UK, the greatest eruption of pop rage and negation ever pressed to whatever the hell it is vinyl records are actually made  of!?! Plastics, like the man said at the beginning of The Graduate, like that’s all a young man needed to know about the game called life and how to play it. And he was right by which I mean, he was so wrong all he could be was right, like Jo Stalin and Adolph Hitler chasing their ideological extremes so far and hard they were bound to meet in Stalingrad. Which is to say Hell. On earth. Yadda-yadda-yadda. By which I mean, where do you go with such evil in the air? Evil that came from humans, not even driven by organized religion anymore by the time WW2 hit its malevolent peak. What the f*** am I even talking about? Which is the wrong question, because I’m not talking, I’m ranting, and rule #1 of rants is you don’t have to explain. The noise is enough, its own justification.

By which I mean, Anarchy in the UK is sheer zeitgeist – 1976 alive and bleeding, more than three decades after WW2 (still the worst f***ing thing we humans have ever done collectively) finally wrapped up. Meanwhile, it’s 2001 where I’m currently sitting, a further twenty-five years down the line from the Sex Pistols first and best and most glorious eruption – so fierce, it’s like I said already, way too many people still haven’t been allowed to hear it. Which is true. The Man remains terrified of Anarchy in the UK and what it suggests — that the answer to that earlier question (Where Do You Go?) is simple. The answer is nowhere. You make your stand now, you make your stand here – wherever you happen to be on planet earth. Main Street, back alley, bank lobby, some faraway beach – it’s as much yours as anybody else’s, f*** all kings and generals and presidents and bosses. But you do have to make that stand, state your grievance, make your noise, save your soul, save the universe, save the world, save yourself, anihilate the passerby (figuratively, of course) Because if we don’t, THEY will, and it won’t be figurative.” (Philip Random)

(UNITED ARCHIVES GMBH / ALAMY)

8. blowing in the wind [live]

“I remember hating Bob Dylan’s take on Blowing in the Wind the first time I heard it. It was Grade Two, 1967 or thereabouts, Miss Horton’s class. We all loved the Peter Paul and Mary version which was sweet and wistful and fun to sing along to. But then one day Miss Horton (who was obviously at least a part-time hippie) played us the original and … well, what do you expect from a bunch of seven year olds? Over time, of course, I’d grow to like, even love, the man’s voice, like sand and glue as David Bowie put it. But Blowing In The Wind, I found it easy to remain ambivalent about. He just had so much better, more interesting stuff. Why even have an opinion about some dated hippie campfire sing-along? But then I heard the live version from 1974’s Before The Flood. The last track on the album, so the encore, I guess, of what at the time was a big deal tour indeed, Mr. Dylan reunited with The Band, re-conquering a world he’d more or less shrugged off for almost a decade in the wake of his still mysterious motorcycle accident.

The man who’d become a myth having chosen the way of invisibility for a while, then slowly, over a series of consistently inconsistent albums, reasserting himself as just a man again, a singer, a songwriter, a wanderer. Which I guess is what I love about this Blowing In The Wind, electrified now, growling shambolically along, speaking of way too many miles over too many roads, with many more still to come. Because that’s life – it ain’t over until it’s over, and thus the searching and the confusion and the reaching, never quite grasping continue. Because the answers are out there, pieces of them anyway, caught up in the weather, metaphysical and otherwise. In fact, I caught a glimpse of one just last night, but it was moving too fast for me. I finally just drank more wine, took a few notes — and so on until the stars fall from the sky. Which I imagine they did in some small way those other nights way back when, winter sometime, early 1974, the tour that came to be known simply as Tour 74. And then, in the darkness, a lot of people lit a lot of matches and candles.” (Philip Random)

10. sweet Jane

“The Velvet Underground being another of those changed-everything-forever outfits, but then that’s pretty much the rule now that we’re in the top ten of this thing. Sweet Jane gets the nod here because A. for some inexplicable reason, it hasn’t been overexposed in the culture (the ‘evil mothers’ line probably has something to do with it), and B. it’s main man Lou Reed opening wide his not entirely dark heart, and stopping gravity before he’s done. Particularly that part about the lies inherent in women never really fainting, villains always blinking, children being the only ones who blush, and the purpose of life being just to die. And, of course, it is the Velvets, so no time is wasted, no artificial sweeteners are used. It just goes straight for the heart and soul and brain. 

Apparently the story is, the record company pleaded with Lou for a hit single, something that wasn’t inherently transgressive, that could actually get played on the radio. And he delivered. Almost. Because whatever happened, we missed it. The culture, that is. I certainly have no memory of hearing Sweet Jane on the radio back in the day. In fact, it didn’t even get a single release until years after the fact. There were, of course, many covers along the way with the Cowboy Junkies finally kicking the song out of the park. But that’s a whole other angle. The Velvet original remains fresh to my ears, 100 percent non-allergenic. So yeah, I get to include it on this list. The tenth best song most people have still probably never heard.” (Philip Random) 

11. transmission

“Call Transmission the song that finally got me around to loving Joy Division. Because at first, they mostly annoyed me. Not because of the music. Nah, it was the death cult, the ‘Ian died for our sins’ crowd. Which is overstating it, I don’t recall anyone actually saying that. But it sure felt like it at times. ‘You must take this song very, very seriously because the man who wrote and sang it killed himself – how serious is that?’ To which I’d counter, so what you’re saying is Joy Division are half a serious as Badfinger because two of those guys killed themselves. Which I’ll now apologize for. That’s asshole logic. Which isn’t to diminish Badfinger at all. Badfinger were a great f***ing band. But they were no Joy Division. They didn’t change everything forever.

(photo: Martin O’Neill/Redferns)

Joy Division being one of those ground zero outfits, I think, there being a universe that existed before them with its own unique rules and peculiarities, and then they showed up and those rules and peculiarities changed. Forever. And no, it wasn’t the suicide. It got a lot of folks’ attention, for sure, but if there hadn’t been something uniquely sharp and fresh and yeah, deadly serious, in the actual music, well, we’d be talking about some other band. And anyway, despite appearances, I like to think there is at least a little actual joy to be found in the Joy Division discography. Maybe in Transmission, a love song that doesn’t tear anyone apart, because the focus isn’t on some other — just the right song at the right moment on the right radio station, and what it can do for a lonely human soul. It can set that soul to dancing. And when you’re dancing, you are not alone … even if you’re the only one in the room. Of course, I’ve heard the exact opposite argued – that Transmission is a condemnation of radio, of all the crap that people will listen to in order get their minds off all the troubles of the world. Guess we’ll just have to keep arguing, because the guy who wrote it checked out long ago.” (Philip Random)

15. revolution 9

“Second of two in a row from the outfit known as The Beatles, because one record could never do justice to everything they accomplished, particularly through their so-called studio years, which never went further, wider, weirder, more provocatively abstract than the track known as Revolution 9 (I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone call it a song). My first encounter came toward the end of Grade Seven, springtime 1972. Twelve years old and because I’m sort of responsible, I guess, I’ve been assigned to help slightly bad kid Malcolm Mills make a mix tape for the end of year dance — entrusted with the key to the school’s downstairs music room. Anyway, among other options, Malcolm’s grabbed his big brother’s copy of the Beatles White Album, intending to extract some of the obvious pop stuff. But we end up digging through all four sides, at some point wondering why there are two Revolutions listed. The first is just a slowed down version of the radio hit, and thus not near as cool. The second one’s called Revolution 9 and it’s …?

Well, it’s not really music, is it? It’s just all this baffling noise that keeps going on and on. But then Malcolm gets it. This is the one where it says Paul is dead, the secret track where all the Beatles mysteries are revealed. It has to be. So we listen again, louder, making sure we haven’t missed anything. Then a third time, VERY LOUD, which is when Mr. Walton, the Gym teacher, barges in, and asks us what the hell we’re doing. We never did finish that party tape. But I did get my tiny head turned around in a profound way – a question mark imposed upon all manner assumptions I had as to what music actually was. Or more to the point, at what point does noise become music? Or what happens when the two are indistinguishable? And who’s making the call? The secret, of course, is not to decide, just enjoy. Surf the chaos. See where it takes you. Thank you, Beatles. And Yoko, of course. No Yoko, no Revolution 9. No Beatles getting elevated to that level where they really were (still are) definitively, superlatively fab.” (Philip Random)

32. can’t you hear me knocking?

Can’t You Hear My Knocking marks that precise moment at which I realized Punk Rock was dead (which is bullshit, of course, it was just going into remission for a while). It would’ve been summer 1988, a party at the joint we called the Palace of Failure. I remember I was sitting on the stairs, swigging from my ever trusty bottle of cheap red wine, no doubt stoned as well. Suddenly somebody yanked off the hardcore record that was playing, mid-song, which was fine by me, I wasn’t exactly paying attention. A few seconds of party noise and then … pure riff magic, the Rolling Stones at their most elegantly gritty, tearing everything up, the whole party immediately starting to groove. Even Mick Jagger didn’t sound that annoying. How was that possible? And then, the last two-thirds of the track, he wasn’t around anyway, just a full-on Latin groove and some hot soloing. Pure bliss and proof positive that whatever had been so horribly wrong with old school rock back in the early punk days had now passed, a dysfunction of the zeitgeist or whatever. And how the hell had I not heard this song before?  Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, from Sticky Fingers, the one with the zipper on the cover. Which means I had heard it. Because my friend Gary had that album way back when, end of Grade Seven. I distinctly remember playing with the zipper. Which is kind of weird, now that I think of it.” (Philip Random)

(Morrison Hotel Gallery)

41. some velvet morning

“In which Frank’s little girl Nancy (Sinatra, that is) and a shady older gent named Lee (Hazelwood) deliver the heaviest, most beautiful easy listening track I know — guy so wasted he can’t even open his girl’s gate, but some velvet morning all dragonflies and daffodils, he’ll be up to it. Maybe he’ll even tell her about Phaedra. Which I always figured was heroin, yet suburban somehow. Because nothing feels more desperate than a junkie in a bungalow with a fine trim lawn, the utilities paid, the appearances kept, the muzak on the radio morphing into something luxuriously caustic — the split level dream corroding into a void the size of a solar system, feeling no pain, but burning up regardless. Or something like that. Anyway, great song. Great album. Great sense of time and zeitgeist, a whole world gone static yet doomed to implode. What was it about America, 1968?” (Philip Random)