1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die…Or Not: 1979 – 1980

31 Mar
1979-1980 is the first period of 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die…Or Not in which I had heard every record prior to writing the associated essay. In some cases, I was listening to the record for only the second time, but there were no surprises, only disappointments and hasty generalizations.

On the other hand, this period also has the fewest strikethroughs and the highest omission rate of probable Must Hear albums since way back in 1956-66. Spoiler alert: The following blockbuster albums did NOT make the original list, nor will they be discussed as Suggested Alternatives.

1001_Queen_The-GameBlondie – Eat to the Beat
Supertramp – Breakfast in America
Bob Dylan – Slow Train Coming
Molly Hatchet – Flirtin’ With Disaster
The Eagles – The Long Run
Queen – The Game
The Clash – Sandinista!
R.E.O. Speedwagon – Hi Infidelity
1001_Clash_SandinistaStyx – Cornerstone
Billy Joel – Glass Houses
Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band – Against the Wind
Ted Nugent – Scream Dream
Van Halen – II
Van Halen – Women and Children First
Black Sabbath – Heaven and Hell

Now, if you have any knowledge of late 70s – early 80s popular music, a couple of those have to jump out and punch you in the spleen. However, to be honest, I agree with each and every omission. Unfortunately, this is just a shortened list of the albums that weren’t selected. Read on.


Key:
Strikethrough indicates what you probably think it does
Green indicates highly recommended listening
Underlined indicates questionable but ultimately acceptable record
Blue bold italic indicates ABSOLUTELY MUST HEAR BEFORE YOU DIE
Note: Suggested alternatives are from the same year as the contested entry unless otherwise indicated. Also, anything in Red generally indicates hazardous material

  1. AC/DC – Highway To Hell (1979)

Ten years ago, my main drug dealer in San Francisco was a woman named Judy who swore on her mother’s grave that she saw AC/DC open for Cheap Trick at the Civic Auditorium in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1979. And it was the “best rock show” she’d ever seen and AC/DC played “every song from Highway to Hell.”

1001_AC-DC_highwaytohellAnd I said, “Pictures or it didn’t happen.”

“Pictures?!?” Judy cried. “Nobody was taking pictures in 1979.”

“No? What were they doing to capture the moment in those days, daguerreotype? I’m pretty sure people had Polaroid cameras by then.”

“Fuck you, I was there.”

“Let’s see a ticket stub.”

“Ticket stub?!? The fuck? I’m going to cut off your courtesy drops if you keep busting my balls like this. Ticket stub,” she snorted, “fuckin’ dick.”

Judy probably wasn’t lying about her attendance at the show, which happened July 10, 1979, but it was the other way around: Cheap Trick opened for AC/DC. And neither band played anything from Highway to Hell, but I think that would have been cool as hell if the bands had switched set lists for a night.

According to the official AC/DC website, setlist.fm, and several other sources, this is the set list from the July 10 show in Omaha.

Live Wire
Problem Child
Sin City
Bad Boy Boogie
The Jack
Whole Lotta Rosie
Let There Be Rock
Rocker
Dog Eat Dog

1001_ACDC_If_You_Want_Blood_You've_Got_ItThe interesting bit about the AC/DC set list is they played 9 jams – essentially everything from If You Want Blood, You Got It, which also happened to be the album they were touring to support. The band toured constantly, and their set lists tended to be dominated by whatever record was out at the time. After checking several sources, their sets during this tour tended to be 45-50 minutes. Other songs they played on this particular tour, which is somewhat important, included “High Voltage”, “If You Want Blood”, and occasionally “Highway to Hell”.

Anyway, perhaps the greatest gift of an internet search engine is its ability to settle an argument, or in this case, put some closure on a dispute.

  1. 1001_Fleetwood_tusk-album-coverChic – Risque (1979)
  2. Crusaders – Street Life (1979)
  3. Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Armed Forces (1979)
  4. Fleetwood Mac – Tusk (1979)

OK, I was so excited that the Eagles – The Long Run was not included on the list, that I started crossing albums off willy-nilly. Therefore, I would entertain arguments in favor of Armed Forces and Tusk. Both have their merits.

1001_Fleetwood_TuskTusk is a perfect example of the Special Double LP Failure Formula: Follow-up your breakthrough record with the most indulgent, overblown double LP anyone has seen or heard since; the kind that makes record company executives say “career suicide.” Think: Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995). Except Mellon Collie didn’t feature the USC Marching Band; not that the Pumpkins couldn’t have spared the expense. And both records were massive hits, which is subjective.

1001_USCTusk failed to replicate the 15-million copy success of Rumours, and thus, considered a “failure.” In the case of Mellon Collie, the shark is considered to be sufficiently jumped.

The collective works of Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks are nice additions to the adult contemporary catalog, and if you want to sell shitloads of records, you’d want them in your band. While Fleetwood Mac is hardly the first or only group to release a sprawling, ambitious record just because they could; just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Tusk covers more musical ground than just about any other record in 1979 – a lot of it soft rock territory – but ultimately goes nowhere. Tusk is what happens when the record company writes the band a blank check and says “Don’t fuck it up” while handing the check to the biggest cokehead in the band, i.e. all of them, but mainly Lindsey Buckingham.

1001_Mellon-Collie-and-the-Infinite-Sadness-by-the-Smashing-PumpkingsLike Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, the highlights are flooded by the bullshit; other than the title song and Stevie Nicks’ rainy-day, maudlin “Sara”, Tusk is bereft of hits. But in the end, I don’t think anyone involved in the making of Tusk is feeling sorry for the revenue generated by 9 million copies sold to date.

Here’s the caveat. In 2002, Camper Van Beethoven recorded and released a song-for-song remake of Tusk (on Pitch A Tent Records), which is ten times more interesting than the original. I’m not saying it’s a Must Hear, either. Just sayin’. What I’d like to hear is Fleetwood Mac doing Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.

1001_The-Knack_Get_The_KnackSuggested Alternatives:
Squeeze – Cool For Cats
The Knack – Get the Knack
Devo – Duty Now For the Future
The Who – Quadrophenia

All four of these suggestions could be Must Hear selections. If you were in the mood for a double LP, Quadrophenia is a far better listening experience than Tusk. At least there was a movie explaining why they needed to make a double LP out of it.

  1. Gang Of Four – Entertainment! (1979)
  2. Gary Numan – The Pleasure Principle (1979)

1001_GaryTwo artists make variably different types of new wave music. Both awesome, both Must Hear.

  1. Holger Czukay – Movies (1979)

Had to pinch myself at this entry. Really? The bassist from Can merits a solo album You Must Hear? I think not, even if it is basically another Can album.

There’s something cute when non-native English speakers sing in English. It’s especially adorable when it’s a 40-year-old German dude scatting and doot-doot-dooing his way though a bouncy, quasi-disco joint (“Cool in the Pool”). However, Czukay is not nearly so cute when noodling his way through a two-note exercise in relatively ambient but decidedly monotonous semi-jazz music (“Oh Lord, Give Us Money”) and another example of anti-climax in music; something that threatens to happen, but never does. I guess that’s why there’s a cinematic reference in the title?

1001_Czukay_MovieslThis Holger Czukay record came to my attention in the mid 00s, on the recommendation of a record store clerk who encouraged my post-art rock explorations. While I balked at the $30 price tag for an obscure, used LP, I shrugged and didn’t want to be put on the spot, so I bought it. Upon the first listen, at the 3-minute mark of the opening track, I said out loud, “Something better happen with this jam or I’m going to be pissed.” Fortunately, the cute German dude started singing again. At the 10-minute mark, shaking my head. By the time the album was over, I was fucking furious. So mad, I wanted to jet down to Amoeba and throttle that kid who recommended it. That was the last time I ever asked a record store clerk for his or her opinion of anything.

Suggested Alternative:
https://blacksunshinemedia.comRush – Permanent Waves

No other band epitomized the genre of progressive rock in 1979 as well as Rush. The whole concept of progressive music is that you start off in one place, and end up in another. Progress. Permanent Waves doesn’t sound exactly like the same band that made 2112 (1976), but it’s clearly a step in a more modern direction. Rush was one of the few 70s hard rock bands who didn’t implode upon the emergence of punk and new wave – they adapted. Apparently, that wasn’t an easy trick to perform. Just ask Yes, Marillion, Hawkwind, ELO, Jethro Tull, Foreigner, Genesis or Boston. The general public still wasn’t interested in one-minute guitar solos unless they were really, really good, and served the song, not unlike the solos on “The Spirit of Radio”, “Freewill” and “Jacob’s Ladder”.

  1. Japan – Quiet Life (1979)
  2. Joy Division – Unknown Pleasure (1979)
  3. Marianne Faithfull – Broken English (1979)

1001_Japan_QuietQuiet Life is the best Duran Duran album I’ve ever heard. It’s also the weakest of the post-Eno Roxy Music albums. I dunno. Don’t try to tell me that David Sylvian is doing his best Bryan Ferry and I won’t tell you that Simon LeBon is doing his best David Sylvian.

Joy Division is a post-punk Michael Jordan taking-off-from-the-top-of-the-key slam dunk.

I honestly believe that yours truly and the record industry could finally agree on one thing in 1979. It takes a very special woman to make it in rock music. It’s not a feminine sport, even though it’s loaded with queers who took more dick than Pamela Des Barres. Marianne Faithful couldn’t, wouldn’t, shouldn’t ever be a Must Hear; and if you don’t believe me, ask Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Look at her closely; she looks like she was in the Stones, not the other way around. And she made terrible fucking music, too.

1001_Tom-Petty_DamnSuggested Alternatives:
Siouxie and the Banshees – Join Hands
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Damn the Torpedoes

Come on Dimery and Co.! You guys really dropped the ball in the late 70s.

  1. Michael Jackson – Off The Wall (1979)
  2. Neil Young With Crazy Horse – Rust Never Sleeps (1979)
  3. Pink Floyd – The Wall (1979)
  4. Pretenders – Pretenders (1979)
  5. Public Image Ltd – Metal Box (1979)

1001_PiL_MetalOff the Wall is the only quasi-disco record I feel vaguely comfortable saying You Must Hear. First of all, M.J. was a dancing fool since who knows when? The Jackson 5 predate disco by at least two years. Anyway, Off the Wall is never going to be duplicated. Enjoy!

Neil Young & Crazy Horse don’t get any better than Rust Never Sleeps.

The Wall was a massive, systemic, and fundamental influence on contemporary American bong culture. The movie is pretty cool, too.

Chrissie Hynde was by no means the first rock front woman, but considering her competition (Pat Benatar, Heart) she was certainly the most vital straight-up rock singer in 1979. The Pretenders is fantastic.

1001_PiL_SecondPublic Image Ltd. is probably the most anti-jazz band on the entire list. These cats were hardly what you call “proficient” at their instruments, yet they were able to communicate, inspire and confound, nonetheless. And that’s the point. Perhaps this record has grown on me over time, but Metal Box is definitely one of the few double LPs I would be happy to sit though on any given day. To the average listener, it’s going to sound like nonsense; but I implore you to see beyond the poor production and lack of songwriting. There’s truth in here. Find it.

[Note: Metal Box’s original packaging consisted of a metal 16mm film canister embossed with the band’s logo and containing three 12″ 45rpm records; in 1980, the album was reissued as a more traditional double LP gatefold, Second Edition.]

  1. Sister Sledge – We Are Family (1979)
  2. Talking Heads – Fear Of Music (1979)

As I was saying about Fela Kuti. “Cities” may be my favorite Talking Heads jam, but Fear of Music is the weakest of their early work.

Suggested Alternatives:
1001_The-Cure_ThreeXTC – Drums and Wires
The Cure – Three Imaginary Boys
Joe Jackson – Look Sharp!

If 1975 was an odd time to be alive, 1979 was an intriguing and slightly anxious time to be alive. Another three albums that should be Must Hear; but for whatever reason, didn’t rate over Sister Sledge, and a mediocre Talking Heads LP.

[Note: The Cure – Three Imaginary Boys was released in the U.S. as Boys Don’t Cry (with a slightly different song sequence).]

  1. 1001_Damned_MachineThe B-52s – The B-52s (1979)
  2. The Clash – London Calling (1979)
  3. The Damned – Machine Gun Etiquette (1979)
  4. The Fall – Live At The Witch Trails (1979)
  5. The Germs – GI (1979)
  6. The Police – Regatta De Blanc (1979)

Wow. OK, so the Germs are arguably one of THE seminal Southern California punk bands. Their regional influence is undeniable. GI is a really tough listen, though.

  1. The Slits – Cut (1979)
  2. The Specials – Specials (1979)
  3. The Undertones – The Undertones (1979)

https:blacksunshinemedia.comCut joins an elite group of potentially life-changing albums You Must Hear Before You Die, but probably wouldn’t unless someone pointed it out and said, “Hey, listen to this fucking Slits record.” First of all, The Slits were an all-female British punk band. How many of those can you name off the top of your head? And how many of them were as good as the Slits? I’m guessing the answers are zero and none.

The Specials represent ska. At some point, you’re going to wonder how we wound up with Barenaked Ladies. Here’s the fertilization of the egg.

The Undertones will forever be associated with the 1978 single “Teenage Kicks”, which isn’t on this album…unless you get the version that was reissued in 1980, or one of several best of compilations. If you want to go with the best of what the band has to offer, The Undertones isn’t it.

  1. AC/DC – Back In Black (1980)
  2. Adam & The Ants – Kings Of The Wild Frontier (1980)

1001_AC-DC_backinblackIn case you hadn’t heard, punk is dead. But it truly lived up to its hype. Live fast and leave a good-looking corpse. Have you heard of this New Romantic thing?

  1. Dexys Midnight Runners – Searching For The Young Soul Rebels (1980)

The influence of Van Morrison in popular music seems to have been relegated to a group of insufferable Irish egomaniacs who heard Astral Weeks and said, “I can do better than that.” Just because you wear the costume, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a clown. Likewise, owning a few Motown and Stax records doesn’t make you a soul group.

  1. Echo & The Bunnymen – Crocodiles (1980)

1001_Echo_CrocoTough call here. You should probably hear E&TB, but I’m not convinced this is the record. I’m learning toward a greatest hits collection with these kids. However, the U.S. album version contains a couple of extra jams including “Do It Clean”.

  1. Iron Maiden – Iron Maiden (1980)
  2. Joy Division – Closer (1980)
  3. Judas Priest – British Steel (1980)
  4. Killing Joke – Killing Joke (1980)
  5. Motorhead – Ace Of Spades (1980)
  6. Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel (III) (1980)

1001_Ace_of_Spades_Motorhead_album_coverCan’t really muster an argument against any of these albums, especially Motorhead, but I will say this: Don’t feel obligated to sit through both Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, since their differences are negligible when considering the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM). Most of it boils down to cover art and the sexual orientation of the lead singer. Most importantly, the above albums are 100% choogle-free.

  1. Steve Winwood – Arc Of A Diver (1980)

1001_Steve-Winwood_ArcThis guy is one of the most talented musicians on the planet. His previous work in Blind Faith, Traffic, and the Spencer Davis Group is undeniable. Arc of a Diver marked Winwood’s re-self-re-invention as the white Stevie Wonder; a musician capable of (and compelled to) playing every instrument himself; and signals the beginning of a prolific and profitable solo career in the adult contemporary format. There were times in Winwood’s career where he rocked; just not after 1977. That said, the album is as well-crafted and produced as any other record made in 1980, i.e. it’s soft rock. Shitty soft rock.

  1. Talking Heads – Remain In Light (1980)
  2. The Circle Jerks – Group Sex (1980)
  3. The Cramps – Songs The Lord Taught Us (1980)
  4. The Cure – Seventeen Seconds (1980)

1001_Circle_Jerks_-_Group_SexI care about you, people. Just wanted to make that clear. For whatever reason, I am deeply invested in your listening choices. Additionally, I see myself as a sort of no-nonsense but compassionate hall monitor in the school of popular music; or perhaps a very strict but wise student advisor, who goads you into making the right kind of music listening choices that will have bearing and consequence in your future. Above all, and again, I can’t say why, it has always bothered me to distraction when people listen to shitty music.

I didn’t have such firm yet benevolent guidance growing up. I learned a lot of stuff the hard way, and I’m here to tell you, it’s not always the best way. Sometimes, it is. Take fire, for instance.

1001_CrampsFrom the time we are born, we are constantly told that fire is hot, and if you fuck around with it, bad things will happen. But nearly every single one of us had to learn the hard way and put our hands over the gas burner, or set little paper fires in a trash can with a lighter you found in the glove compartment of your father’s car, in order to learn first-hand the dangers and results of playing with fire. Once that lesson is learned, it’s hardly ever repeated. Unless you’re a pyro. And then you have real problems.

Granted, it was good to know in advance that flammable activities generally resulted in unfavorable circumstances, but we never quite appreciated the warnings – until we’ve been burned or have burned something to the ground. Capital E-T-C.

Smoke FireOn the other hand, there are far more things I didn’t need to learn the hard way, some of which may be genuinely tragic, or at least sad, and of the regrets I have, many could have been avoided if I’d just listened to what someone, usually my parents, had told me.

As a freshman in high school, I joined the radio station, and it was there I met a girl named Annette, a sophomore. She was one of the few “punk-ish” girls in school yet also a star track athlete. Annette was unique in many ways, but what I remember most was her blunt and sometimes brutal honesty, especially when it came to music. She was the first person in life to question my musical tastes, c.g. the first to say, “You’re listening to R.E.O. Speedwagon? What the fuck is wrong with you?”

1001_The-Cure_Seventeen_SecondsAnnette also had an amazing ability to predict what new bands and records you would like, and whether or not you should waste your time listening to them. R.E.M. – Murmur was released in the second semester of 1983, and Annette brought in a copy to the radio station. A kid named Dave had first dibs on the R.E.M. record, and the next day he was ebullient. “This is the best record I’ve ever heard,” he claimed, while handing it off to me. Annette said, “You’re not going to like it. What you should be listening to is this” and handed me a copy of The Cure – Seventeen Seconds.

1001_R.E.M._-_Chronic_TownShe was right. Upon first listen in the radio station, I didn’t really dig the R.E.M. record. They sounded like old men; the music was kind of dull. The Cure, on the other hand, were dark, edgy, and kind of creepy, which was starting to be more to my liking. I took Seventeen Seconds home, played it, loved it, played it for my friends, and within a week owned every record the Cure had put out to date. It wasn’t until a year later that another friend turned me on to the Chronic Town EP and I began to appreciate R.E.M. The point is, Annette saved me from learning the hard way.

Music criticism has never been attractive to me, yet I’ve clearly read and written a lot of music criticism over the years. At the same time, I don’t always consider what I do straight-up criticism. It’s more of a critical “appreciationism.” I don’t know that I’ve written an album review in the style of Robert Christigau, Lester Bangs, or Stephen Thomas Erlewine. I’m not even in the Neil Strauss or Jim DeRogatis hemisphere. But on the other hand, I’m not a cattle appraiser who walks into the corral, takes a quick look at the livestock and says, “Some good cows here. And some not so good ones, too.” I’ve milked or branded every cow, steer and bull on the ranch.

juke 5 Van Halen 1978Here’s something you probably didn’t know about me. If it came down to one of those gun-to-the-head situations, I would say that David Lee Roth era Van Halen (1978-85) is my favorite rock band of all-time. There are several reasons why I would choose them over Cheap Trick, the Beatles, or even the Cure. Most of it has to do with timing. Van Halen hit me at a very specific period; the onset of puberty. Many bands were on the turntable during this time, but none played along to my circumstances. In some ways, Van Halen is the musical equivalent of reaching puberty.

1001_Van_Halen_-_Women_and_Children_FirstEven though Van Halen is my favorite band, I’m not going to sit here and say that you Must Hear either of the two records they released in 1979-80, Van Halen II (1979) and Women and Children First (1980). You don’t. Those albums could also be called More of the Same and Even More of the Same But Not Quite As Good. Even though I personally love those records, and wish they made a thousand more just like ‘em, that doesn’t make it your best interest to seek these records out, unless, like me, you love DLR era Van Halen. And then I’m preaching to the choir.

So the next time I piss on your favorite band, remember: I piss on mine, too.

  1. The Dead Kennedys – Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables (1980)

1001_Dead-Kennedys_FreshIt’s impossible to say how much you know about punk rock. It’s also impossible to estimate how punk rock – specifically Never Mind the Bollocks – changed the landscape of popular music. The Dead Kennedys were by far the most overtly political band since the MC5, and these kids took themselves seriously. Fortunately, their cross-pollination of psycho-surf rock and topical soapboxing made for enjoyable toe-tapping, skateboarding and whatnot. Haha. Just kidding. This shit is better than Led Zeppelin.

  1. The Jam – Sound Affects (1980)

1001_The_Jam_-_Sound_EffectsAw, man. No. It isn’t necessary. I mean…yes, it is. Dammit! So few decent bands were influenced by the Jam precisely because they had a monopoly on the Kinks/Who cover band market. The Jam traveled from town to town via Vespa scooter, not that there’s anything wrong with that. But behind closed doors, they listened to the Steve Miller Band and Cliff Richard. Do you like Oasis? If yes, this is a Must Hear. If no, good for you and have a nice day.

Ah, fuck me. “That’s Entertainment” is one of the best songs in which you’ll never know what the fuck the dude is talking about without consulting Cliff’s Notes.

  1. 1001_Soft-Boys_undewatermoonlightcoverThe Soft Boys – Underwater Moonlight (1980)
  2. The Specials – More Specials (1980)

Holy Christ, is Underwater Moonlight one of the most under-appreciated, under-rated, under-everything record of the era? Yes. It is. And it’s also one of the first neo-psychedelic records, if not the most influential. R.E.M., the Replacements, Minutemen, and the Pixies were all over the Soft Boys, a band who also believed the best part of Pink Floyd was Syd Barrett. Meanwhile, L.A.’s Paisley Underground was raised on a steady diet of this album (and their debut, A Can of Bees). Drop the needle on “I Wanna Destroy You”. Thank me later.

Of course, the band broke up after making Underwater. Main songwriter Robyn Hitchcock went on to greater solo success, and we may hear one of his records, while bassist Kimberly Rew formed Katrina and the Waves (“Walking On Sunshine”), which we won’t be listening now or anytime in the foreseeable future.

Suggested Alternative:
1001_U2_BoyU2 – Boy

It’s unbelievable that the official 1001 Albums list leaves this one off. Inconceivable. Boy is clearly one of the most important records of the era, if not the decade.

 

  1. The Teardrop Explodes – Kilimanjaro (1980)

1001_Teardrop-Explodes-KilimanjaroMore post-punk, new wave. Not essential, but not bad. There are some extremely catchy jams on this record, and some queasy-cheesy moments, too; but I can’t think of a time when I’ve said, “I’m in the mood for the Teardrop Explodes”. However, Kilimanjaro does explain Simple Minds, the Fixx, and Jane’s Addiction, believe it or not. This is just one more branch on the tree. Oh, and Julian Cope. Some people think he’s something special.

Suggested Alternative:
Ozzy Osbourne – Blizzard of Ozz

BlizzardUndeniable proof that punk may be “dead”, but hard rock is alive and well. This is one of those records I’d want if I was stranded on a desert isle.

 

  1. The Undertones – Hypnotized (1980)

1001_Purple-GatoradeYou know how Gatorade has several different colors, and the colors imply a particular flavor? Red = fruit punch. Purple = grape. Yellow = lemon-lime. But there’s really nothing fruity or punchy about Red Gatorade. It’s a confounding, salty-sweet beverage that leaves a pinkish ring around your mouth. Purple Gatorade has the slightest, wispiest hint of grape juice. Yellow has as much lemon-lime as I do patience for bad manners.

Of course, Gatorade has official flavor names for these beverages, but when someone makes a run to 7-11, you never say, “Hey, grab me a grape Gatorade.” You say, “Grab me a Purple Gatorade.”

Can't Stop BeatSuggested Alternative:
The English Beat – I Just Can’t Stop It

By far, light years, the best record of 1980. Sexy, sharp, accessible; undiminished by time.

  1. Tom Waits – Heartattack And Vine (1980)
  2. UB40 – Signing Off (1980)

1001_UB40_Signing-offLook, if you’re at an event and some guy or girl starts talking about reggae music, mention Signing Off and wait for the response. If they say, “Phenomenal record”, then you can be friends. If they say, “‘Red, Red Wine’ is one of my favorite songs ever!” You know they can’t be trusted. UB40 obviously didn’t invent punk reggae, but they did it better than anyone in 1980.


Net Reduction of Albums From the Period: 13
Suggested Alternatives: 11
Running AYMHBYD Total: 883

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die…Or Not: 1977 – 1978

24 Mar
Rock music is about to get interesting. I’m excited. Good stuff is about to happen.

Key:
Strikethrough indicates what you probably think it does
Green indicates highly recommended listening
Underlined indicates questionable but ultimately acceptable record
Blue bold italic indicates ABSOLUTELY MUST HEAR BEFORE YOU DIE
Note: Suggested alternatives are from the same year as the contested entry unless otherwise indicated. Also, anything in Red generally indicates hazardous material

  1. Billy Joel – The Stranger (1977)

1001_Billy-Joel_StrangerYeah, hang on to the above thought. Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame singer-songwriter Billy Joel is yet another artist best experienced through a greatest hits collection. He has some undeniably good jams, two of which are on The Stranger – “Anthony’s Song (Movin’ Out)” and “Only the Good Die Young” – also considered by many fans and critics to be his best work. Ultimately, you Must Hear something/anything by this dude, just not The Stranger. Ever wondered who Ben Folds wanted to be when he was a kid? Wonder no more.

On the other hand, B.J. has some seriously unforgivable jams, including the two royal soft rock stink bombs on the record, “Just the Way You Are” and “She’s Always a Woman”. This being a zero sum game, we’re back at square one.

1001_andy-griffith-show-season-1-title-screenTrack two “The Stranger” features a whistling bit in place of what probably should have been a David Sanborn sax riff, I dunno, but the rest of the song is B.J. trying to out-faux-funk Steely Dan, and he fails. Whistling was dead and buried in rock music by this point. John Lennon and Lynyrd Skynyrd made short work of it, hadn’t they? And I’m haunted by The Andy Griffith Show theme song. If Billy Joel wanted to impress me, he should have tried Tuvan throat singing, or Gregorian chanting. I dunno. Whistling = jackass.

Meanwhile, “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant” is trite, bloated and mundane. And then, the album ends up with a six-minute reprise of the title cut. Or whatever is happening on the back end of this album, I dunno. I suppose that’s the point. There’s nothing really happening with this guy, other than the fact that, aaayyhhheee, even his piano has a New York accent. And he’s wearing a suit because fuggetabbottit.

  1. Bob Marley & The Wailers – Exodus (1977)

The second half of this album is phenomenal.

  1. Brian Eno – Before And After Science (1977)

1001_Eno_ScienceIf Eno’s solo career was a sinking ship, this is where all the rats like me would be diving overboard. It strikes me as a poor analogy, since Eno’s career has been remarkably buoyant; however, ambient music is helpful in film and theater, but in almost every other context, it’s Muzak for your life. I don’t want life to sound like it’s taking place in a hotel lobby or an elevator.

There’s an imaginary line between popular and avant-garde, not unlike the Tropic of Cancer, which you may cross without even knowing it. It’s safe to assume that Eno knew what he was doing.

  1. Chic – C’est Chic (1977)

This is the one record you would ever need to hear in order to understand disco. Not that you need to understand disco. Nevertheless, this is what people were dancing to in…wait a minute. C’est Chic wasn’t released until August 1978, so I don’t know what the fuck it’s doing here. Their first album, the one with “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)” was released in 1977, and there’s no way you Must Hear that one.

Suggested Alternative:
1001_TheBeeGeesSaturdayNightFeveSaturday Night Fever – The Original Movie Sound Track
File this under: Shit I Can’t Believe I’m About to Write.
At this point in the whole deal, I’m getting picky about albums that were overlooked by Dimery and the 1001 Albums crew. The fact that Saturday Night Fever – The Original Sound Track (1977) is NOT included on the list was a welcome discovery, but puzzling as well. Surely, if the idea is to give people an idea of what was cookin’ in 1977, Chic is a fine example of disco; however, Fever, partially due to its movie tie-in, goes above and beyond a simple representation of a genre. Its cultural impact cannot be understated as the best-selling soundtrack album of all-time until surpassed by Whitney Houston’s soundtrack to The Bodyguard (1993).
While it’s erroneously considered a Bee Gees album – they wrote and produced 8 of 17 tracks – I refuse to absolve them of the blame. All the big hits are Bee Gees’ cuts. To be clear, I despise the movie and the soundtrack as much as possible, and there is one thing on here that’s worse than disco—it’s called “How Deep Is Your Love” performed by the Bee Gees; it may be the softest soft rock song ever, and that’s saying a lot. That means it has to be worse than “Muskrat Love”. And it is. Nevertheless, Fever is one of a handful of albums I think You Must Hear even though I really don’t think You Must Hear.
  1. David Bowie – Heroes (1977)
  2. David Bowie – Low (1977)

HeroesBased on precedent (Exile on Main Street, from 1969-1971), I’m going to make one awesome album out of two occasionally brilliant but ultimately lackluster records. We’ll call it Herlows.

From ‘Heroes’:
  1. ‘Heroes’
  2. Sons of the Silent Age
  3. Sense of Doubt
  4. The Secret Life of Arabia
1001_Bowie_LowFrom Low:
  1. Speed of Light
  2. Sound + Vision
  3. Always Crashing the Same Car
  4. Warszawa

Listen, David Bowie fanatics. Many of you consider these two albums part of the ‘Berlin trilogy’; hence, some of Bowie’s best work. There is absolutely some great stuff happening here. But the rest of it sounds like Disco Dave is taunting someone from the other side of town. The bottom line is the average listener does not need to hear these records. They could and they should, but it isn’t necessary.

  1. Electric Light Orchestra – Out Of The Blue (1977)

1001_ELO-Out_of_the_Blue_LpThis one has it all: pop, rock, psych, soul, and disco, and it sounds great, too. Sadly, production values are all too often window-dressing for mediocre songwriting. Generally speaking, Out of the Blue is laboring, tiresome, and often insufferable music, best heard during a Couple’s Skate at a roller rink. And if you’re old enough to get that reference, you’re old enough to skip this record entirely.

“Turn to Stone” and “Mr. Blue Sky” are the highlights, but Double LP Syndrome claims another victim. In fact, if you were going to sit through any mid-to-late 70s ELO album, A New World Record (1976) is the one to hear. And I’m telling you, it doesn’t take very long before those fucking cellos are cheese-grating in effect, and my brain is a block of Parmesan.

Suggested Alternative:
1001_Queen_News_Of_The_WorldQueen – News of the World (1977)
I wasn’t surprised that the disappointing A Day at the Races (1976) wasn’t included on the unofficial 1001 Albums list, and I didn’t suggest it as an alternative, either. However, the cultural impact of “We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions” was on par with Saturday Night Fever, and the rest of the album is pretty solid, too.
  1. Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True (1977)
  2. Fela Kuti & The Afrika 70 – Zombie (1977)
  3. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours (1977)

She don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie. Cocaine.

1001_Elvis-Costello_AimBecause the 1001 Albums list is arranged alphabetically by year, not that it would be a fantastic pain in the ass to arrange these albums in chronological order, although don’t think for a second that I didn’t consider it, Elvis Costello appears before the Sex Pistols.

There were two major developments in rock music in 1977: punk rock and new wave.

Elvis Costello represents new wave. I’m not a fan of his work, but every time I hear a track from this or his second (and superior, IMHO) album, This Year’s Model, it’s a positive reaction: skinny ties, amphetamines, Raymond Chandler and pale blue Fender Jaguars. What could go wrong?

1001_Fela_ZombieNow that I’m intimately familiar with Fela Kuti’s main body of work, it’s safe to say that I almost wish I weren’t. There is a time and a place, within a specific context, that Kuti’s music is appropriate listening. I’m not really sure I can tell you exactly when that time is. I don’t know your life. As far as his influence on Western pop music, there are a handful of people in the world music genre who have probably ripped this guy off from here to Lagos, Nigeria. Ahem, Talking Heads? Otherwise, very few people who made records showed any influence whatsoever. Go ahead and point out some examples. I don’t care.

Fleetwood Mac, sigh. You should probably hear Rumours.

  1. Ian Dury – New Boots And Panties! (1977)
  2. Iggy Pop – Lust For Life (1977)
  3. Iggy Pop – The Idiot (1977)

Above all, I suppose I have as much respect for Ian Dury as any other Great One. People loved Ian Dury. Is he a Hall-of-Famer? Probably not. Anyway, he must have been something special over in the U.K., but we didn’t get him in the States. I get him now, but, eh. You don’t need to hear this right now…because you’re going to be making a very important decision right here.

Which Iggy Pop album are you going to listen to? You can only choose one.

Well, which one did you choose?

You’re wrong.

  1. Jean Michel Jarre – Oxygene (1977)

Oh, fuck me. Another frog with a synthesizer.

Suggested Alternative:
1001_Cheap-TrickCheap Trick – Cheap Trick
The first album from the most under-appreciated rock n’ roll band ever, according to me, is also one of the most fun, energetic and rambunctious rock performances not from a punk or new wave group in 1977. Cheap Trick continues to be left out of mature conversations about Best American Rock Band Ever. Sure, they sold some records. They hit the top of the charts. They’re still touring around the world, with three of four original members, and the drummer is the guitar player’s kid. They will be inducted into the Rn’R Hall of Fame, fingers crossed. But if people went all-in for Cheap Trick as hard as they sucked on lesser bands like Foreigner, Journey and Styx, the world may have been a better place.
  1. John Martyn – One World (1977)

No. Just. Stop. Talking about this guy.

  1. Kraftwerk – Trans-Europe Express (1977)

1001_KraftwerkSee, this is why we had synth-pop in the 80s, techno in the 90s, and glitch in the 00s. And Nintendocore today. There’s no fucking way I’m going to say you don’t need to hear this album. Otherwise, at some point in 1995, you’re going to say, “What the fuck is this Depeche Mode shit?” and someone is going to school. Save yourself the hassle and get in early.

  1. Pere Ubu – The Modern Dance (1977)

This record is not only important because it reminds me of Husker Du at half-speed. I couldn’t tell you why it’s important. I’m just guessing that there’s something more to what I’m hearing, which is some sketchy post-art rock thing.

  1. Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel I (1977)

What?!?!

At some point in the conversation, the question is going to come up. Exactly when and where do we start with Peter Gabriel’s solo career? Because there’s definitely a stopping point. While this debut album (aka Car) contains a timeless classic track “Solsbury Hill”; and a couple of hot jams (“Moribund the Burgermeister” and “Modern Love”), as a whole, it fails to transcend Gabriel’s work with his former band Genesis, i.e. maybe he shouldn’t have bailed on the band; and isn’t something you need to hear start to finish.

In fact, Car might be one of those records I think you Shouldn’t Hear, because it contains several tracks which make me question my affinity for Gabriel’s work, c.g. the unbelievably overblown, awful, torchy blues track “Waiting for the Big One”; or the bulky, disco-funk Meatloaf choogle fest, “Down the Dolce Vita”.

Furthermore, the record was produced by Bob Ezrin, who also produced Kiss – Destroyer (1976), and several other hard rock superstars (Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, The Babys). A fantastic producer, he didn’t produce another PG solo album, and I think that’s important. The main reason being, Gabriel’s got at least two, if not, three Peter Gabriel albums coming down the pipe that You Must Hear.

Suggested Alternative:
1001_Cheap-Trick_In-ColorCheap Trick – In Color
This has never been my favorite Cheap Trick record, but it has grown on me more than any other. I know I liked In Color when it first came out; my friend Ron Murphy was a huge fan of this record, but I was like, “Nah, man, I’m digging this new Ted Nugent joint.” This one couldn’t really compete; it was old news. You wanna talk about Kiss? I was All About Kiss from 1976 to 1978.
But back to In Color, aside from the light-hearted version of what would later turn out to be their first smash hit “I Want You (To Want Me)”, this album rocks power pop as hard as anything in their catalog.
  1. Sex Pistols – Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols (1977)

1001_Never_Mind_the_Sex_PistolsIf this isn’t the most important album since Sgt. Pepper, then I don’t know shit about rock music. You could argue both points, but not while this record is on the turntable.

  1. Steely Dan – Aja (1977)

Man. Man, man, man, man. I’ve gone back and forth on this one for a couple of days. Aja is clearly geared toward the more adult, sophisticated listener, but still contains the odd catchy melody and toe-tapping tempo. These guys somehow manage to make jazz rock palatable for the wider pop audience, which is no easy task. It’s a formidable recording; however, we’ve already been through two Steely Dan albums.

  1. 1001_Suicide1977Suicide – Suicide (1977)
  2. Talking Heads – Talking Heads ‘77 (1977)
  3. The Clash – The Clash (1977)

If you haven’t heard the Suicide album, you really should. The other two are slam dunks.

  1. The Modern Lovers – The Modern Lovers (1977)

Eh, I’m feeling stingy. Fuck the Modern Lovers. They have one jam, “Road Runner”, and that’s it.

  1. The Penguin Cafe Orchestra – Music From The Penguin Cafe (1977)

1001_Penguin_MusicHave you ever been waiting in line somewhere and somebody is about to cut in line, and you’re thinking, “Motherfucker, don’t you dare try to cut in on me, or I’ll knock you the fuck out right now” and then at the last minute, they change their mind, and you never wind up making eye contact with someone who just three seconds ago you would have ripped the trachea from their throat? That’s how I felt the first time I put this record on, which in fact, was less than 24 hours ago. The PCO is Moondog without the moon or the dog.

  1. The Stranglers – Rattus Norvegicus (1977)

Why not? Because they’re not important, that’s why not. Stingy mode still in effect. Another one of those records I’ve sat through so you don’t have to. No need to thank me. The Stranglers are OK, man. They have a “sound” which reminds me of the Smiths (aesthetically) from time to time, except the Smiths didn’t have that cheesy organ player, thank Jehovah. It’s just… You know who probably loved the Stranglers? Those kids in the Strokes.

Suggested Alternative:
The Damned – Damned Damned Damned
  1. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers (1977)

1001_Tom-PettyGoddamn it! I just got done rapping about the first Tom Petty record and it’s misplaced (see the last entry of 1975-76). This fucking record was released on November 9, 1976. The first single “Breakdown” was also released in ’76; however, it didn’t chart on the Billboard Hot 100 until 1978. Not that it matters. I already said this is a fine album and worthy of a complete spin.

Meanwhile, Tom Petty did release an album in 1978, You’re Gonna Get It, so close to being a Must Hear that it’s going to bother me tonight when I’m trying to sleep, for not giving it the proper respect.

  1. Weather Report – Heavy Weather (1977)

Jazz guys like to show off, even when they aren’t showing off. The big hit here is “Birdland”; a money shot for every half-wit junior high school band director in 1977. And you can’t deny the jam. It’s a real toe-tapper. Unfortunately, the rest of Heavy Weather is remarkably pedestrian, somber, almost morose, in a bad porn sort of way. The John Holmes Quintet on Swedish Erotica Records. I don’t care that it’s Joe Zawinul, Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter, and Co. This is crap no matter who plays on it. Nothing happens. Things threaten to happen, but nothing ever does. There’s only so long you can be impressed by technical prowess until you start needing a melody or something to keep your interest.

1001_MahavishnuSuggested Alternative:
Mahavishnu Orchestra – Inner Mounting Flame (1971)
Gotta throw a wrench into the works every so often to keep you interested. I’d rather hear John McLaughlin practice scales than a fretless bass solo. Birds of Fire (1973) is another superior listening experience.
  1. Wire – Pink Flag (1977)

1001_Wire_PinkIf you haven’t heard this, consider yourself having missed out on something truly worthwhile.

  1. Big Star – Third/Sister Lovers (1978)

Sometimes I’m afraid to hear this album. It’s one scary, unfortunate piece of work. Sometimes I’m not in the right frame of mind to deal with it. Please note, the record was originally recorded in 1974, and this unfinished version wasn’t released until ’78. “Kangaroo” contains one of the Greatest Moments in Cowbell History.

  1. Blondie – Parallel Lines (1978)

One-and-done for this band.

  1. Brian Eno – Ambient 1: Music For Airports (1978)
  2. Bruce Springsteen – Darkness On The Edge Of Town (1978)

It’s possible that you enjoy ambient music. Good for you. Music For Airports is the seminal record of the genre, and should be Your Cup of Tea. Everybody else can fuck off to somewhere else.

1001_Springsteen_DarknessSpringsteen had legal troubles that kept him out of the studio for three years after the release of Born To Run (1975). And he does occasionally sound pissed off on this album (“Adam Raised a Cain”). There are some gorgeous moments (“Candy’s Room” – for the record, my favorite Bruce jam) and several cuts with intros way better than the jam itself (“Something in the Night”); and then, there’s talking about cars, Chevy engines with specifications. Either way, I’m sorry. It’s not a Must Hear. Check back with me when he releases The River (1980).

  1. Buzzcocks – Another Music In A Different Kitchen (1978)

Eh, stingy, stingy, stingy. The Buzzcocks are a greatest hits band who never had any hits. I like the idea of them, but when it comes down to it, I’m not sitting through “Orgasm Addict” ever again. You do what you want, but keep in mind that Singles Going Steady (1979) may or may not be on our horizon.

  1. Cheap Trick – At Budokan (1978)

cheaptrickFourteen Thousand Screaming Japanese Girls Can’t Be Wrong

  1. Devo – Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! (1978)

I’m listening to this right now.

  1. Dire Straits – Dire Straits (1978)
[Hiding out down in the basement on a weeknight, approximately 30 minutes after my bedtime, listening to FM radio on my new Pioneer turnable/8-track/cassette stereo, paid for with a combination of birthday and paper route money. The final notes of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” clamp down as Roger Daltrey whelps, “Yeah!” Followed by one second of silence.]
Double-U…Dee….Eye….Kay…kay…kay. All right, all right…all right! Fisher Bond with you, and I’m cooking up a tasty batch of tunes, just for you, folks. [Sniffs] Ummm, smell that? OK, all right! Another commercial-free, 30-minute WDIK music marathon comin’ at ya. Whaddya say to that, huh? We’re gonna hear from Sabbath, Queen, Zeppelin, and a WDIK-FM exclusive world premiere of the hot new Van Halen jam that’s set to be released next month, and I’m told tickets for all three Van Halen shows at the Auditorium sold out in less that an hour, but don’t worry if you got left out, cuz WDIK-FM 99.9 has you covered. We’re giving away 25 pairs of tickets to lucky callers, and my compadre, the monster of the midnight, Vic “The Animal” Froth will be your Van Halen ticket sugar daddy tonight, boys and girls. All right? I’m Fisher Bond and it’s my job to make sure you keep it tuned to W…D…I…K-FM 99.9…music marathon…Let’s kick it off with Dire Straits, “Sultan’s of Swing”!!!

1001_Dire-StraitsListen, this is not a swipe at the musicianship of the band. In fact, I’ve recently watched some Mark Knopfler live shit that made me say, damn, that cat can really play. If you like this type of music, then by all means; knock yourself out. But understand that even if this was the best of what Dire Straits have to offer, they’re still going to make Brothers In Arms (1985), which is one of the worst albums I have ever heard in my life, and at this point, I could invoke the BS&T Clause. And I should. But I won’t. If you must hear one of their albums in its entirety, this is it. Their next four albums are variations of themes heard herein. Shit all sounds the same. I hate this band as much you can hate something that has almost zero influence in your life.

“Sultans of Swing” in particular is one of my least favorite songs of all-time, and I’ve always thought if some day the Onion’s AV Club calls me up to do a Hatesong, “Sultans” is my hatesong, for reasons insinuated by the above dramatization.

1001_Dire-Straits_Brothers_in_ArmsImagine you’re listening to the radio, the DJ comes on and says he’s going to play all these great jams, teasing you with Sabbath and Van Halen, but wait; first, we’re going to sit through six minutes of the best Bob Dylan song he didn’t write in the 1970s, which is a cheeky way of saying, six minutes of boring sing-talk and partially digested guitar licks. Six minutes is a long fucking time if you’re waiting to hear the opening riff to “Paranoid” and you were supposed to be in bed half an hour ago.

Check out Guitar George / He knows all the chords / He’s strictly rhythm, doesn’t want to make it cry or sing
And Harry doesn’t mind if he doesn’t make the scene/ Got a daytime job / He’s doing all right

According to Rick Moore of American Songwriter in 2013:

With “Sultans of Swing” a breath of fresh air was exhaled into the airwaves in the late ’70s. Sure, Donald Fagen and Tom Waits were writing great lyrics about characters you’d love to meet and Jeff Beck and Eddie Van Halen were great guitar players. But Knopfler, he could do both things as well or better than anybody out there in his own way, and didn’t seem to have any obvious rock influences unless you try to include Dylan.
Like his contemporary and future duet partner Sting, Knopfler’s ideas were intellectually and musically stimulating, but were also accessible to the average listener. It was almost like jazz for the layman. “Sultans of Swing” was a lesson in prosody and tasty guitar playing that has seldom been equaled since. If you aren’t familiar with “Sultans of Swing” or haven’t listened to it in a while, you should definitely check it out.

Honestly, I’m wrong on this one. Dire Straits is actually a decent group, “Sultans of Swing” is a great 70s jam, Knopfler is a genius, and a million flies can’t be wrong, so eat shit. I hesitate to say they “rock.” But this song kills me, and I cursed it every time I tuned in to WDIK-FM 99.9.

1001_Peter-Gabriel2Highly Suggested Alternative:
Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel II (1978)

Generally known in fan circles as Scratch, the album was produced by Robert Fripp, whose influence served to tone down some of the grandiosity of Gabriel’s first album.

  1. Elis Regina – Vento De Maio (1978)

Oh God…bossa nova. Make it stop. But bring another pitcher of sangria, if you don’t mind.

Suggested Alternative:
1001_Prince_ForYouPrince – For You (1978)
Little Feat – Waiting For Columbus (1978)
  1. Elvis Costello – This Year’s Model (1978)
  2. Funkadelic – One Nation Under A Groove (1978)

Seriously, how could anyone listen to current popular music and not think, “How did we get from Elvis Costello to One Direction.” It just boggles the mind.

  1. Joe Ely – Honky Tonk Masquerade (1978)

Garth Brooks mounted this Joe Ely guy like a donkey, and rode him out of town.

Suggested Alternative:
AC/DC – If You Want Blood, You Got It
  1. Kraftwerk – The Man Machine (1978)
  2. Magazine – Real Life (1978)

1001_Magazine_-_Real_LifeThere is a particular stratum of musicians who think Kraftwerk is the Led Zeppelin of electronic music, and I’m not about to slap the dicks out of their mouths while they’re working. While Krautrock has its charm, it’s like running on a treadmill. You might be burning calories, but you aren’t going anywhere. You’re staring straight ahead at CNN on the flat-screen TV, probably wearing headphones and listening to Soundgarden, I dunno.

Meanwhile, I’ve given Real Life about five chances to make an impression. That’s four more tries than Joe Ely. There’s no doubt in my mind that if I’d heard this 37 years ago, it would have been just as beloved as At Budokan, though probably not as earth-shattering as Van Halen. Magazine would have been one of my favorite bands, for sure.

Today’s thought: R.E.M. stole all their cool intro ideas from and about half of their songwriting from Real Life. It’s jaunty rock. Seriously, R.E.M. ransacked this record for most of their shtick.

  1. Marvin Gaye – Here, My Dear (1978)
  2. Meat Loaf – Bat Out Of Hell (1978)

Thanks for the effort, Marvin, but we’re kind of…past all that now? Thanks for understanding?

Why on Earth would anyone need to hear Bat Out of Hell? That’s fucking nonsense. You’re going to hear half of it at some point. Do you think you need to be punched in the face just because you’ve never been punched in the face before?

Suggested Alternative:
1001_Heaven TonightCheap Trick – Heaven Tonight (1978)
  1. Muddy Waters – Hard Again (1978)

Produced by Johnny Winters (and mentioned here), this is not a true Must Hear, but it’s far better than any one of the following albums released in 1978.

Village People – Macho Man
Village People – Cruisin’
1001_Village-People-macho_manBachman-Turner Overdrive – Street Action
Jimmy Buffett – Son of a Son of a Sailor
Ringo Starr – Bad Boy
Jefferson Starship – Earth
Journey – Infinity
The Alan Parsons Project – Pyramid
Shaun Cassidy – Under Wraps
Toto – Toto
Kiss soloElton John – A Single Man
Melissa Manchester – Don’t Cry Out Loud
Gordon Lightfoot – Endless Wire
Atlanta Rhythm Section – Champagne Jam
Rainbow – Long Live Rock n’ Roll
Genesis – And Then There Were Three
Yes – Tormato
Santana – Inner Secrets
….and all four Kiss solo albums
  1. Pere Ubu – Dub Housing (1978)

Maintain the boogie element. Or Not.

Suggested Alternatives:
The Police – Outlandos D’Amour
1001_Police_OutlandosAnother “How Could They Skip This?” Album. Seriously? The Police weren’t so much danceable as they were energizing. Their music didn’t inspire dancing; it inspired bouncing up and down in one place for up to 90 minutes at a time.
  1. Public Image Ltd – Public Image (1978)
  2. Siouxsie & The Banshees – The Scream (1978)
  3. Talking Heads – More Songs About Buildings And Food (1978)
  4. Television – Marquee Moon (1978)

1001_Pil_FirstHere’s a perfect rainy Sunday afternoon in November. Homework has been done since Friday afternoon. Nothing on TV except football.

  1. The Adverts – Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts (1978)

No. One song, yes.

  1. The Cars – The Cars (1978)
  2. The Jam – All Mod Cons (1978)
  3. The Only Ones – The Only Ones (1978)

The Cars probably made the most perfect pop rock album of the year, thanks in no small part to producer-genius Roy Thomas Baker, who I forgot to mention back there in 1975.

1001_The-CarsThe Jam are champions and there’s no good reason not to hear All Mod Cons. However, as an album, it starts to wear thin—if we were actually listening to an LP, call it side two. It’s not their best record by a long shot.

The Only Ones are a well-kept secret, and I’m sure there are reasons they didn’t stick around long enough for anyone to notice. However, this album gets better every time I hear it.

  1. The Residents – Duck Stab/Buster And Glen (1978)

Humor has a very specious (i.e. deceptively appealing) place in rock music. It should make you smirk, at most. This album makes me feel like I’m tickling myself. It’s like Zappa without so many guitar solos.

  1. The Saints – Eternally Yours (1978)
  2. Thin Lizzy – Live And Dangerous (1978)

1001_Thin_Lizzy_-_Live_and_DangerousThe Saints are a minor figure in the sub-punk genre, i.e. Australia’s version. Not a Must Hear. Saxophones.

Live & Dangerous would be fucking A-M-A-Z-I-N-G if it were anywhere near a live recording. According to producer Tony Visconti, about 25% of this album is live. According to surviving band members, it’s 75% live. Who are you going to believe? The producer, that’s who.

What does Tony Visconti have to gain or lose by saying that more than half of this record was manufactured the way 95% of other records are made? On one hand, it makes him look like a terrible live audio engineer. On the other hand, it makes the band look bad because they were so high on booze and coke that the original tapes were complete shit, and they had to go back in the studio and fix it. There is no question on anybody’s behalf that Thin Lizzy was trying to cash in on the Kiss double live LP phenomenon.

Since we’ve already heard all the tight cuts from Thin Lizzy, a live album is negligible unless it features previously unheard material. L&D does not. On the other hand, it could almost count as a greatest hits collection, and thus, worth the effort, but it doesn’t contain “Fightin’ My Way Back”, so I’m telling you it’s not.

  1. Throbbing Gristle – DOA: Third And Final Report (1978)

This is partially where industrial music comes from. Do you need to hear all of it? Probably not.

  1. Van Halen – Van Halen (1978)

1001_Van_Halen_albumHave you noticed an absence of Big Names in Hard Rock during the period? No Zeppelin, Sabbath, Alice Cooper, Deep Purple, the Who, the Stones, or Bad Company, etc.? That’s because: (A) Those bands were done; (B) Van Halen is the new reigning champion of hard rock. Nobody put out a record to rival the explosiveness of this album. Originally, I’d planned on telling you another personal anecdote specifically related to the album, i.e. where I was and what I was doing the first time I heard it. And then I thought, “Who fucking cares?”

  1. Willie Colon & Ruben Blades – Siembra (1978)
  2. Willie Nelson – Stardust (1978)

1001_Willie-Nelson_StardustI don’t know how he did it, but Willie Nelson made the most innocuous album ever. It’s almost impossible to find a flaw with Stardust. So you were wondering whatever happened to country rock and all that nonsense? This is where it wound up: In soft rock hell. And if I’m going to hell, I guess I’ll see you there.

  1. X-Ray Spex – Germ Free Adolescents (1978)

“Oh Bondage, Up Yours” and all that. This record is pretty cool. Not a Must Hear.

Suggested Alternatives:
1001_Gen-x-album-coverThe Clash – Give ‘Em Enough Rope
XTC – Go 2
Black Flag – Nervous Breakdown EP
Generation X – Generation X
Ultravox – Systems of Romance
Seriously, there are probably 50 albums you should hear before X-Ray Spex. Even Rush – Hemispheres is more valuable as a listening experience.

Net Reduction of Albums From the Period: 27
Suggested Alternatives: Too many to count
Running AYMHBYD Total: 897

(Not) Only In Taiwan – Episode 5

22 Mar
Suggestion is an interesting and elusive power. Sometimes a suggestion may persist long after its freshness has expired.

DSC06294Aside from an unshakeable and abusive relationship with nicotine, I have few compulsive behaviors on an everyday scale. The main odd, compulsive behavior is most likely how I carry money, and to a certain extent, ID and other cards. First of all, I don’t carry a wallet. Wait, I own a wallet that contains my collection of necessary ID, credit and whatnot cards; but I haven’t kept one on my person in 20 years. The only time that wallet leaves my desk drawer is when I travel out of the country, and then it’s safely stowed in my backpack.

Anyway, the majority of cards are never carried unless they are needed in a situation. For instance, I don’t carry my National Health Insurance ID card unless I’m in need of medical care. ATM cards are carried when I need cash, and immediately returned to the wallet. I don’t carry credit cards unless I’m planning on making a large purchase of some sort, but 25% of daily transactions, regardless of size, are cash-in-hand, and the remaining 75% are conducted via the magic of online commerce. It’s pretty rare for me to bust out the Citibank in public.

DSC06296In Taipei, there are only two cards that are generally on my person at all times, unless I’m in the shower: my ARC (Alien Resident Certificate), and my Metro Easy Card. In Manila, I generally carry my California DL and one Visa bank card, but it’s not uncommon to also have Starbuck’s and Time Zone (popular video and arcade game entertainment center) cards.

In overview, cash and cards always go in my left front pocket, and even board shorts have front pockets. Coins, if I have any, which I usually don’t, because I detest handling coins and hate they way they smell on my hands, would be in the right pocket. Meanwhile, the cash is arranged in a particular manner. All bills must be main face-up and facing the same direction; arranged by denomination – highest to lowest, highest on top; in case of multiple notes of same amount, they are ordered by condition of the bill. (See Figure 1)

https://blacksunshinemedia.com

Figure 1

Once the bills have been organized, the pack is folded once around the cards (usually no more than three cards at once, almost forgot), with the largest bills now on the bottom of the stack and fold, closest to the cards. Think of it this way, the 20s are on the inside, and the singles are on the outside. The only thing missing is a money clip. But I’ll get to that. (See Figure 2)

Figure 2

Figure 2

To be honest, lately I’ve been changing up from left to right pocket, but that’s the least important part of the whole thing. Believe it or not, there is a certain amount of convenient ingenuity here. Many transactions like taxis and beers require small bills. With practice, you can peel off the necessary amount without your paw leaving your pocket. Also, by indulging this compulsion every day, at least twice per day, I’m aware of how much cash I have on me at any one time, which is generally never less than $100 USD; the average is usually around $250. (The amount shown in the picture is roughly $125.)

This knowledge is crucial because I’ve an exceedingly vague idea of how much money I have at any given time, particularly regarding amounts in transit, in both directions. Unfortunately, often times I will arrange the bills without counting at the end. Just having an eye-ball figure is good enough for me.

This is what my parents used to call “pocket money” (I’ve also heard it termed “walking-around money”), and my father, who also never carried a wallet, inspired my adoption of the concept; instead, he used a money clip. For many years, I carried the money clip he gave me, until I lost it during a particularly eventful trip to an exotic location. These things happen.

OIT_checkpresenterLife went on and I never replaced the money clip, but I did buy a new, smaller wallet to replace a clumsy, enormous, ten-year-old billfold portfolio. Fucking thing looked like one of those check presenters you get in a fancy restaurant. Who could carry that around? If I were CEO of a major corporation, I would hire some guy just to carry the check presenter for me. Jesus. Anyway, the money clip itself proved to be more of an inconvenience; an extra and unnecessary step in the process.

As I said, it was my old man who got me hooked on this money thing, and I pay close attention to how people handle their business in public. Risk of pickpocketing in Taiwan is infinitesimally small, so people aren’t worried about getting jacked; but you have to be vigilant in almost every other city, particularly Manila. Above all, no matter where you are, your back pockets are a bad place to put anything of value, especially a wallet. Never mind what sitting on a wallet supposedly does to your back.

Women almost always have some kind of wallet-slash-handbag contraption, i.e. purse; their wallet rate is sky-high, like 90%, but it’s not in their back pocket, ever, as far as I know. Every now and then, I’ll spy a woman pulling money from the front pocket of her pek-pek shorts, but it seems to me, it probably wasn’t her money in the first place. It’s just a guess.

OIT_suitOutside of a few butch lesbian chain wallets, I’ve never seen a woman with a billfold. Conversely, it seems like the majority of men have a wallet, although many of them are wearing suits, and the wallet is kept in the inside breast pocket of their sportcoat. Sportcoat is one of my all-time favorite words and I’d like to see it used as a verb. But all in all, on topic, I have seen a few roughnecks rocking my front pocket gig. My rough estimate is 51% of men carry a wallet in the traditional, vulnerable style. The other 48% are sportcoating.

Backpack users should keep in mind that the outer pockets, pouches, and compartments are even more vulnerable to a snatching than the back pocket of your $200 Diesel jeans. In other words: Put your passport and your wallet in the hardest to reach place in the pack. Make it so someone would have to cut off the entire pack to get at your wallet. This is really important in crowded areas like airports and shopping malls, where pickpockets prey.

https://blacksunshinemedia.comMeanwhile, a good two-thirds of transactions in Taiwan result in a printed receipt, which is generally foisted on you whether you want it or not. There’s also a receipt lottery, which you may or may not be interested participating in. Either way, you can’t just crumple up and chuck the receipt on the ground. Again, I suppose you could, but why would you? What, are we savages now? Those pesky receipts go in the back pocket of either side, depending upon which hand received the money.

Of course, there are situations where change is given – supermarket, convenience store – where it’s not feasible to organize the bills right there on the spot. Given the general level of courtesy in S.E. Asia, I suppose I could, but I’m not so narcissistic, inconsiderate or compulsive about it that I would. So, I’ll stuff the change in my pocket, gather my items, and deal with the fold later.

***

DSC01298February, 2009 – My first night in Hong Kong, I stayed in Central, went to a few bars, and it was nothing special. I did a slow convenience store beer crawl up and halfway back down the Mid-Levels Escalator and called it a night. The next morning, I booked a seat on the high-speed train to Guangzhou for mid-afternoon. After checking out of the hotel at 11:00 a.m., I had three hours to kill before heading to the train station, which was perfect for kicking around Kowloon. See the sights, get some exercise.

Disembarking the MTR at Tsim Sha Tsui, I made a modest loop of lower Kowloon. At some point, I wound up on the Avenue of Stars at Victoria Harbor, which is probably the number one tourist destination in H.K., I dunno. The most iconic figure on the Avenue, the one that every tourist stops to snap a photo with, is the statue of Bruce Lee. So I rolled down there and took a couple of shots of Asian families having their pictures taken with the bronze Master.

https://blacksunshinemedia.comIt was all very ho-hum and whatever. Mostly, I was tripping and marveling on the architecture and civil engineering, which is one of the few things I find interesting about H.K. How they managed to build the joint is more important than why. Thus, I wasn’t really paying attention to what was cooking on the Avenue; I was staring out across the channel at the Central and Mid-Level skylines. In hindsight, I should have been slightly more interested in the history of the region.

I reckon I didn’t see this Indian guy until he was right up on me, but I’m guessing that he had spotted me from somewhat of a distance. All of a sudden, he was just there in front of me, talking.

OIT_hong-kong-avenue-of-stars“Sir, you have an honest face. I can trust you. Do you need to exchange U.S. dollars for Hong Kong dollars? Listen, there is something I must tell you.”

“No, thanks, man. I’m good.” I stepped around him, kept walking, and he fell back at my side, and continued talking.

He gave me a name, Jindhi or something; he spit it out and spelled it so fast I forgot what the name was. He claimed to be a fortune-teller from Marrakesh or some other equally Indian place, and for a small sum, he would reveal the important bits of information he possessed. Despite my repeated refusals, he pestered me for at least a minute, matching my stride and occasionally trying to block my path, but I never stopped walking.

Then his story changed to one of being stranded in H.K. and needing money to get home, wherever that was. He repeatedly asked how much money I had in my front pocket. I asked how he knew I had money in my front pocket.

He said, “You’re not carrying a wallet in your back pocket.”

At this point, I realized that he was up on me and wasn’t going to back off anytime soon, so I said, “How much for you to leave me alone?”

“Sir, I am an honest man. For 100 Hong Kong dollars ($12 USD), I will reveal your fortune.”

“No, how about you get 50 and turn around and walk the other direction.”

As I was pulling the fold of money from my left pocket, the guy reached toward my wrist, and I reached across with my right to swat him away. “Hey! Fucker!” While returning the fold to my pocket, I peeled off a 50-note, which was on the outside—it was the smallest bill I had. Holding it up to him, I said, “Take it. And beat it.”

He took the money, thanked me, and then said, “Listen, sir, I must tell you something. You are a very honest and kind man. I must warn you. Never cut your hair or shave on a Saturday. Never. Not one hair, on Saturdays.”

“Good to know.”

“Not one hair.” He was surprisingly convinced. “Very bad luck for you.”

“I got it, Jindhi.”

OIT_Hong_Kong_Museum_of_ArtWe had just reached the entrance to Salisbury Garden when a large group of tourists materialized in our path, which I used to my advantage; quickly doubling back, almost knocking over some poor woman, but leaving Jindhi crowded in the pack. Looking over my shoulder, I saw the exact moment he realized I’d given him the slip, as I cut back around the Museum of Art, hung a left at the Space Museum, and zig-zagged my way up to Salisbury Road.

For at least the next three years, I didn’t shave or gave myself a haircut on a Saturday.

As you can see from my photo, I’m bald. Not completely bald, but let’s call it how everybody else calls it. Like many men who’ve inherited this curse, I keep my shit pretty tight, and I do it myself. Fifteen years ago, I plunked down $40 for a professional Wahl electric razor (clippers), and it was probably the most economical decision I’ve ever made. Listen, I blow money on stupid shit all the time, so I’ve got to take the little victories as they come.

OIT_WahlGenerally speaking, I’m on a weekly basis; if I’m exceptionally lazy, two weeks. Only on rare occasions will I do one (shave) and not the other (haircut). It’s a package deal. Whatever. I used to have an old school barber in S.F. Let’s assume that I averaged 40 haircuts per year. At a minimum of $20 a pop (including tip), $800 x 15 years = a savings of $12,000. Fortunately, I’m not terribly precious about my appearance, so there’s no way I’d ever see a regular stylist and pay upwards of $50 for a cut and a trim. Fuck that.

Even though it’s been a couple of years since I broke the No Saturday Embargo, and these days I don’t care what day it is. But every single time I see or use the clippers, I hear Jindhi saying “not one hair on Saturdays. Very bad luck.” Tonight happens to be a Saturday night, and there’s not much cookin’. It’s been almost two weeks since my last shave and trim, so I’m looking a little ragged. Ever since I can remember, and completely unrelated to Jindhi’s tale, Sundays generally feature and more or less revolve around the haircut routine, since the whole process can take up to an hour or more. It’s a commitment, seriously. Anyway, as I was moving some stuff around my room, I saw the clippers and thought, “Well, I’m not doing anything and it might be nice not to deal with it tomorrow…so…”

The question is: Did I cut one hair tonight, or not?

23 More Short Stories of 23 Words or Less, Vol. 2 | Black Sunshine Media

19 Mar

23 More Short Stories of 23 Words or Less, Vol. 2 | Black Sunshine Media.

Fans of Vol. 1, check out Vol.2, won’t you?

“There was a time when nothing short of Tiffany’s death would satisfy Lauren’s lust for vengeance.”

 

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die…Or Not: 1975 – 1976

17 Mar
Comparatively speaking, 1975-76 is a dead zone for Albums You Must Hear Before You Die; in fact, there are almost as many Suggested Alternatives as legitimate selections. Overall, ’75 has more good stuff happening than ’76 – not by a wide margin – but it’s a shady part of town, and we’re going to roll through most of the stop signs in the neighborhood.

https://blacksunshinemedia.comGrandpa says if you weren’t alive in 1975-76, more specifically, if you don’t remember being alive, a lot of this introduction is going to be lost on you. It may be impossible to know exactly what I mean by 1975-76 was an odd time to be alive, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the Partridge Family, or the Bay City Rollers, or John Denver.

2015 is a spectacular and terrifying time to be alive. Our impossibly weird, isolated and quirky modern life is anything but odd. People are odd, sure. We’ve turned this joint into a non-stop funhouse of uncertainty and chaos. And so, in some ways, I miss the primitive social atmosphere of the 70s, when you met people, and you talked to them before making an assumption about their character(s).

https://blacksunshinemedia.comWhile riding the subway this morning, I saw people tapping away at their mobile devices, furiously, apparently happy to experience the world through selfies, hashtags, emoticons and spellcheck, as opposed to looking at other people and observing how they behave, and it seemed so egregiously banal to have memories in the first place. To paraphrase Louis C.K., we’ve forgotten how to be bored.

Meanwhile, the record industry in the mid 70s was throwing crates of LPs from the back of a moving truck. Bands like Kansas, R.E.O. and Styx were making shitty records every six months. Thus, significant clusters of stink bombs have been dropped during this period.

https://blacksunshinemedia.comIn terms of straight-up rock music, let me ask, do the names Robin Trower, Camel, Black Oak Arkansas, Armageddon, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Rick Derringer, Elf, Trooper, Skyhooks, Man, Angel, Dr. Hook, Tavares, Pablo Cruise or the Strawbs mean anything to you? No? Excellent. Let’s keep it that way. You’re much, much better off.

Moreover, 1975 itself was shit in so many ways, but the emergence and ultimate triumph of Adult Contemporary, i.e. soft rock, was by far the worst thing to happen in music since Frank Sinatra picked up a microphone. All kidding aside. The most toxic, insidious element of soft rock is its purest strength: a melody so catchy it can’t be avoided, and shows up at the most inopportune time. Today, we call them “earworms.” I don’t remember what they were called in 1975 except “Top 10 hits.”

1001_Captain_y_Tennille-Love_Will_Keep_Us_Together-FrontalBillboard Hot 100 Top 10 Singles of 1975
  1. “Love Will Keep Us Together” – The Captain and Tennille
  2. “Rhinestone Cowboy” – Glen Campbell
  3. “Philadelphia Freedom” – Elton John
  4. “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” – Freddy Fender
  5. “My Eyes Adored You” – Frankie Valli
  6. “Shining Star” – Earth, Wind & Fire
  7. “Fame” – David Bowie
  8. “Laughter In The Rain” – Neil Sedaka
  9. “One Of These Nights” – Eagles
  10. “Thank God I’m A Country Boy”- John Denver

The top 5 songs are bonafide soft rock, no question, with “Cowboy” and “Teardrop” being on the mellow country tip. “Shining Star” is straight up disco. “Fame” is trippy, but still pretty spreadable and creamy. Neil Sedaka and John Denver meant well, I reckon; but “One of These Nights” is country disco. At any rate, all of the above tracks are soft rock champions.

Billboard used to only cover U.S. record sales and radio airplay. I dunno what those people are doing over there now. Anyway, here’s what was insanely popular in the rest of the Western world, which really does matter, by the way.

1001_Glen-Campbell_CowboyTop 5 International Singles of 1975 (includes U.K. and European charts)
  1. “I Can Help” – Billy Swan
  2. “I’m Not In Love” – 10cc
  3. “Fox on the Run” – Sweet
  4. “Rhinestone Cowboy”
  5. “Paloma Blanca” – George Baker Selection

First of all, George Baker?!? The Dutch guy with that “Little Green Bag” jam in Reservoir Dogs? Have you heard “Paloma Blanca”? Holy Christ, it’s fucking insanity.

I’m afraid that so far you don’t understand why soft rock upsets me so much.

For the bulk of rock’s history up to this date, there was a very clear generational divide between the kids and the adults. In the very beginning, the kids listened to rock n’ roll, and the adults fucking hated it. Everybody was happy, more or less. People inherently want to know which side they’re on; they thrive on Us vs. Them. And if rebellion and teenagers don’t go together, then I have been hoodwinked by this “life” game.

1001_Nugent_FreeIf my parents had said to me, “Hey, what’s that groovy new Ted Nugent jam you’re listening to?” I would have chucked Free-For-All (1976) before sunrise. What I wanted to hear was “Turn that shit down!” It’s what all kids want to hear. That’s the way rock n’ roll was supposed to work. Now, I dunno. Shit’s fucked up. Let’s move on.

1001_WaltonsBeginning in the 1960s, many major American radio formats split mainstream rock music into soft and hard rock. Deriving mainly from folk rock, soft rock puts more emphasis on melody and harmonies, with lyrical themes focused on stupidity, love, everyday life, cowardice, psoriasis, bestiality, camouflage, and relationships gone south, and/or this guy or girl is going to do whatever it takes to keep working that thankless job of trying to get you off, baby. Soft rock was based on the same phony wholesome bullshit that fooled people into watching the The Waltons. Again, another reference you might miss if you weren’t watching American TV in the 70s. Sorry.

Major early soft artists included Carole King, Cat Stevens, The Hollies, James Taylor and Bread.

And these clowns, though hardly considered major artists:

Silver – Wham Bam

Most of all, soft rock is the sum of all the shitty parts of soft and rock. Pillows are nice when they are somewhat soft—call it firm. Skin is nice when it’s soft. Rock, by definition, is hard. The dichotomy of the phrase used to drive me crazy. Anyway, the general consensus is that the soft genre was “born” in the summer of 1970 when the Carpenters’ conquered the airwaves with “(They Long to Be) Close to You” – not coincidentally from an album You Must Hear Before You Die (see 1969-71) – which was followed by Bread’s “Make It with You”. Bread. Worst, yet most descriptive band name ever.

1001_Bread_-_Make_It_With_YouThese are only two examples of this softer sound doomed to dominate the charts. It got way worse.

Soft rock eventually reached its commercial peak in the mid-to-late 1970s with acts such as: Billy Joel, Elton John, Chicago, Toto, Barry Manilow, Anne Murray, America, the Bellamy Brothers, Eric Carmen, Christopher Cross, Michael McDonald, England Dan & John Ford Coley, Air Supply, Seals and Crofts, and Fleetwood Mac. And for a while there, everybody dug Olivia Newton-John.

1001_Olivia-Newton-hynbmBy 1977, some radio stations had switched to an all-soft rock format, and listeners were paying attention. In the early 1980s, the Power Ballad reversed the Earth’s axis and radio formats reflected this change, evolving into “adult contemporary” or “adult album alternative”, including artists such as Journey, Asia, and Genesis, but steering away from any kind of less upsetting rock bias in either direction.

Anyway, that’s how it happened. Here’s why. Eventually, the First Wave of rock n’ roll kids could have been anywhere from 12-21 yrs. old when Elvis Presley hit the scene (1956). They eventually had no choice but to become the adult demographic with the most disposable income, i.e. hit their mid 30s – early 40s. Adults, basically. First Wavers they still enjoyed a good old-fashioned boogie, but their tastes had been refined. They had spouses, kids, mortgages, careers, e. coli

1001_JawsThe Second and Third Waves would rock far too hard for the original Wavers who needed something softer, but still technically classified as a type of rock. They weren’t dead; they were just middle-aged. Now I know how they feel. Thus, the preference of the adults became the government cheese. Like Jaws and Rocky, Billy Joel was coming to a theater near you, soon.

Simultaneously, two positive developments were bubbling under the surface. First, people were starting to dance again, primarily the Second Wave kids, who were approximately 13-17 yrs. old during the height of Beatlemania (1966). By 1976, the pedestrian hippies had consolidated to a pack of wolves that followed the Grateful Dead from town to town. Stoners and no-good-niks gathered to see Uriah Heep open for Montrose at the Aragon Ballroom.

1001_Aragon1976The second and most important development is of course, punk rock. But in 1975-76, scenes were unclear and sloppy. Rock had yet to be re-polarized by the emergence of punk and ultimately new wave. Popular music wasn’t necessarily aimless; it was just idling, waiting to go somewhere, tapping its foot and chain smoking. Cocaine was everywhere. First and Second Wavers were like, “I can’t shake my ass to Black Sabbath” and they were right. Disco appeared on the horizon and the next thing you knew, it was a thing, right there in your living room.

Do you remember the first time you first saw your parents “Do the Hustle”?

1001_ConvoyI’m going to be straight up with you, people. In 1976, I was seven going on eight years old, and I absolutely loved with all my heart about half of what I heard, whether it was Paul Simon’s “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover” or C.W. McCall’s “Convoy.” Everywhere I went, I heard shit music, and that’s what people seemed to like, and being an agreeable and impressionable youngster, I liked shit music, too.

Therefore, it’s true. I have participated in the activity known as disco dancing. And I listened to shitloads of soft rock. If you were alive in 1976, how could you not?

Billboard’s Hot 100 Top 10 Singles of 1976
  1. “Silly Love Songs” – Paul McCartney and Wings
  2. “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” – Elton John and Kiki Dee
  3. “Disco Lady” – Johnnie Taylor
  4. “December 1963 (Oh What a Night)” – The Four Seasons
  5. “Play That Funky Music” – Wild Cherry
  6. “Kiss And Say Goodbye” – Manhattans
  7. “Love Machine (Part 1)” – The Miracles
  8. “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” – Paul Simon
  9. “Love Is Alive” – Gary Wright
  10. “A Fifth of Beethoven” – Walter Murphy and The Big Apple Band

1001_Walter-MurphyUgh, that’s a lot of bullshit on the airwaves, people. But it was even worse in Europe.

Top 5 International Singles of 1976
  1. “Dancing Queen” – ABBA
  2. “Bohemian Rhapsody” – Queen
  3. “If You Leave Me Now” – Chicago
  4. “Fernando” – ABBA
  5. “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”

It’s bad enough to look and recognize these songs for what most of them are, pure garbage. It’s worse when you lived through the time when they permeated the airwaves. Nowadays, I’m sure there are covens of hipsters whose ironic worship of ABBA and Paul McCartney & Wings is somehow lost on me. I hear that shit and I’m like, “Cut it. Cut it. Cut it!”

1001_Kansas_LeftovertureAs I was saying at the beginning about the music industry and crates of LPs being tossed from trucks, out of those three Kansas studio LPs released in an eighteen-month period, only Leftoverture (1976) contains the one jam we all want to hear, “Carry On My Wayward Son.” And really, do we need to hear it again? To be fair, Rush released three studio records plus a double live LP during the two-year period, but the only one we need to hear is 2112 (1976).

Chicago was on record number ten, or X, as they liked to call it. Rod Stewart was Cat Stevens. CSN&Y was now down to Crosby & Nash, which is like Happy Days without Richie and the Fonz. Oh wait, that was called Joanie & Chachie. Even Lynryrd Skynyrd put out a half-assed record (Gimme Back My Bullets, (1976)).

Robert Plant Didn't Ruin It For AnyoneEven though Presence (1976) didn’t make the original 1001 Albums list, it happens to be my personal favorite Led Zeppelin record. It’s also not a Must Hear unless you really dig the band. Trust me, if you didn’t care for Zeppelin before hearing this album, you really aren’t going to care for them about a minute into “Achilles Last Stand”.

Krautrock suffered as well. Can had a hit in the U.K. with “I Want More” in 1976. It’s not very good, either.

The only good thing I can say about the period is that punk is right our doorstep.


Key:

Strikethrough indicates what you probably think it does
Green indicates highly recommended listening
Underlined indicates questionable but ultimately acceptable record
Blue bold italic indicates ABSOLUTELY MUST HEAR BEFORE YOU DIE
Note: Suggested alternatives are from the same year as the contested entry unless otherwise indicated.

Albums You Must Hear From 1975-1976…Or Not

  1. Aerosmith – Toys In The Attic (1975)

https://blacksunshinemedia.comAs good as it gets as far as this band is concerned. Sure, it’s missing some earlier and later hits, but this is all the Aerosmith you’ll ever need in album form that isn’t a greatest hits collection.

  1. Bob Marley & The Wailers – Natty Dread (1975)

Another misplaced album – it was released in October 1974 – but probably the most essential Bob Marley record you could own if you had to only have one.

  1. Brian Eno – Another Green World (1975)
  2. Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run (1975)

https://blacksunshinemedia.comAnother Green World is the creeper weed of Eno albums. You’re like, “Nah, I’m not feeling it” and all of a sudden, you’re like, “Damn! Was that shit laced with PCP?”

Born To Run is basically the Sgt. Pepper of the singer-songwriter genre. Nobody will ever make this record again. Whether you like it or not, from start to finish, this album sounds like it matters. It reminds me of a classic novel on par with Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. You pick it up and you can’t put it down. And like reading most Mark Twain novels, you heard Born to Run in high school. If today I heard this for the first time ever, I’d be like, “When did Fonzie form a fuckin’ rock band?”

  1. Curtis Mayfield – There’s No Place Like America Today (1975)
  2. David Bowie – Young Americans (1975)

1001_David-Bowie_Young-americans-600x-Curtis Mayfield is awesome but Superfly is all you need, unless of course you’re an aficionado. Let the blasphemy continue.

I’m sure a lot of deep Bowie fans are going to spit and want to slap me, but Young Americans is not a complete must hear. “Fame” is the only gem, and the title track is embarrassing. The Whitest Dude on Earth has no business messing with plastic soul and paper-thin funk. Period. Can Sir Bowie do cocaine? Sure. He’s good like that. Young Americans is second only to Black Sabbath – Vol. 4 in terms of how well you can hear the cocaine.

Suggested Alternatives:
Leslie West – The Great Fatsby (1975)
1001_Leslie-West_FatsbyHonestly, I’ve never made it all the way through this album but it never fails to make me smile. Fatsby is one of five contenders for Greatest Album Title and Cover of All-Time. Leslie West, formerly of Mountain, may have been a marginalized guitar player. To this day, “Mississippi Queen” stands as one of the most bad-ass songs in the pantheon. Unfortunately, Mountain – Climbing! (1970) didn’t quite make the cut. But give Fatsby a chance! Or 15 minutes.
10cc – The Original Soundtrack (1975)
Please refer to 1974 for my thoughts, outlook, regard of 10cc. “I’m Not in Love” is on here.
  1. Dion – Born To Be With You (1975)

1001_DionProduced by Phil Spector, and this time he was involved. Involved to the point where he was waving guns around and taking hostages. No, I’m just kidding. Or am I?

For the record, Dion DiMucci has repeatedly disowned, disavowed, and discredited this album; he’s called everything from “unfinished” to “unlistenable.” For once, me and an artist who worked with Phil Spector can agree on something. At the same time, this record has only ever seen the light of day because Pete Townshend and a couple of other cats raved about it. Those dudes can be wrong, too. I’m not onboard with all things related to the SS Townshend. At any rate, I’m wondering if you should sit through this record, as I just did, and it occurred to me how fucking stupid that sounds.

Suggested Alternatives:
Thin Lizzy – Fighting (1975)
Keith Moon – Two Sides of the Moon (1975)
https://blacksunshinemedia.comThe album features contributions from Ringo Starr, Harry Nilsson, David Bowie, Joe Walsh of The Eagles, Jim Keltner, Bobby Keys, Klaus Voorman, John Sebastian, Flo & Eddie (Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan of The Turtles), Spencer Davis, Dick Dale, Suzi Quatro’s sister Patti Quatro and future actor Miguel Ferrer. It should be on your turntable. You should hear it just for the lone original song credited to Moon, Harry Nilsson, and Richard Starkey, “Together”. And if there is one other dude who can get away with a chuckling version of “In My Life”, it’s Keith Moon.
  1. Earth, Wind & Fire – That’s The Way Of The World (1975)
  2. Emmylou Harris – Pieces Of The Sky (1975)
  3. Joni Mitchell – The Hissing Of Summer Lawns (1975)
  4. Keith Jarrett – The Koln Concert (1975)

1001_Emmylou-Harris-Pieces-Of-The-Sky-422911Holy Christ! You should hear parts of all four of these albums.

EW&F = “Shining Star” and that’s it.

Emmylou H. = All of side one. She sings real purty.

Joni = Maybe the first song?

Jarrett = As much as you can stomach. It is the best-selling piano album of all-time. If I’m being honest, and it’s clear that I have absolutely nothing to gain by being disingenuous, then the truth is the only reason I bothered to listen to this record is because of a David Foster Wallace story, “Girl With Curious Hair“, which takes place almost entirely at a Keith Jarrett concert, and all of the main characters except the protagonist are on LSD.

Suggested Alternative:
Art Garfunkel – Breakaway (1975)
1001_Art-Garfunkel-BreakawayMan, I was only two years old, but nobody took the break-up of Simon & Garfunkel harder than this cat. Let’s cut the shit. Artie is my favorite vocalist of the folk-rock genre, hands-down. Paul wrote some great songs, but left to his own devices, he started to believe his own bullshit. Paul could sing OK, but Artie elevated “Bridge Over Troubled Water” from a folky-gospel dirge into a choir of angels descending from heaven unto earth. Granted, Breakaway is about as soft as soft rock gets. But it’s Artie. I love him unconditionally. He is the voice of my childhood, and he’ll always get a free pass.
  1. 1001_Neu-75-vinylLed Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti (1975)
  2. Neil Young – Tonight’s The Night (1975)
  3. Neu! – Neu! 75 (1975)
  4. Patti Smith – Horses (1975)

Slam dunks. No comment.

  1. Peter Frampton – Frampton Comes Alive (1975)

1001_Frampton_ComesThis album represents the precursor to a torrent of double live LPs heading our way. It would be absolutely ridiculous to call this a Must Hear because it sold a shit load of copies, and hence, made an indelible impression on the music industry. Are there any jams on it? Maybe. Kind of. That depends primarily on your definition of jams.

Aside from two classic rock radio cuts, this album is 90 minutes of embarrassing choogle, from “Something’s Happening” to “Doobie Wah” and a cover of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.”

Suggested Alternative:
Kiss – Alive! (1975)
For as long as I can remember, which means since 1975, there has been an on-going discussion as to how much of this record is actually “live.” In his autobiography Kiss and Make-Up, Gene Simmons stated that very little corrective work was done in the studio. Gene Simmons is full of shit.
https://blacksunshinemedia.comSomewhere along the way, producer Eddie Kramer stated that the only original live recording on the album is Peter Criss’ drum tracks. Criss has also claimed, in his 2012 autobiography Makeup to Breakup, that the only original live recordings on the album were his drum tracks.
During the program Classic Albums, the band admitted that changes had been made; vocals overdubbed; guitar solos re-recorded, etc. Even the crowd sounds were manipulated.  Of course, they considered the changes minor, and presented various excuses for their production decisions. In particular, they had difficulties capturing vocals due to the natural jumps, dancing, and other stage activities.
In other words, Alive! is a live album in name only. Same with Frampton Comes Alive.
  1. Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)

If you were ever going to hear me say anything good about Pink Floyd (post-Syd Barrett), it would probably have something to do with this album.

  1. 1001_Queen_-_A_Night_at_the_OperaQueen – A Night At The Opera (1975)
  1. Rahul Dev Burman – Shalimar/College Girl (Soundtrack) (1975)

R.D. Burman is an Indian film score composer, considered one of the seminal music directors of the Indian film industry, i.e. Bollywood. You might as well listen to Amit Kumar. Or Kumar Sanu and Anauradah Paduwal or Kishmore Kumar.

Suggested Alternatives:
1001_TubesAC/DC – High Voltage (1975)
AC/DC – T.N.T. (1975)
The Tubes – The Tubes (1975)
“White Punks on Dope” has to be the best song of 1975, hands down.
  1. Shuggie Otis – Inspiration Information (1975)
  2. The Dictators – Go Girl Crazy! (1975)

https://blacksunshinemedia.com

Both of these records are Must Hear because neither artist came anywhere near this particular genius, before or since.

First of all, Shuggie? Otis? Best two names in combination ever.

Second, Handsome Dick Manitoba? I’d book myself on a three-week cruise if he was the director. The Dictators are only reason I ever cared about professional wrestling. Their cover of Sonny & Cher’s “I Got You Babe” is atrocious, but “Back to Africa” is fucking hilarious.

1001_DictatorsI mean, seriously, you don’t need to hear this album all the way through. It’s amateur shit. But you should hear it because it’s a precursor what we call punk. Kind of. The Sex Pistols are the same band with Johnny Rotten on vox and an inferior guitar player (Steve Jones).

  1. Tim Buckley – Greetings From L.A. (1975)

Look, I hate to belabor the issue, but when I’m scratching these records, I’m not saying you don’t need to hear Tim Buckley. You do need to hear some of anybody’s work in order to make your own judgment. All I’m saying is that 45 minutes spent sitting through Greetings From L.A. could be better spent listening to or doing something else, i.e. it is not a Must Hear.

Suggested Alternatives:
juke8-Lynyrd-Skynyrd-Nuthin-Fancy-137866Lynyrd Skynyrd – Nuthin’ Fancy (1975)
  1. Tom Waits – Nighthawks At The Diner (1975)
  2. Willie Nelson – Red Headed Stranger (1975)
  3. ABBA – Arrival (1976)

Tom Waits…sigh. You let him start hanging around and next thing you know… He shows up with a band and plays your living room. Nighthawks At The Diner is probably the best live album of the period.

Red Headed Stranger is the Willie album to hear before he went Stardust, which also might be a Must Hear. We’ll see.

You should hear about 30 seconds of Arrival and then slap yourself in the face as hard as possible.

  1. Aerosmith – Rocks (1976)

Look, I know that many, many cats think this is the best Aerosmith record, and maybe the best hard rock album of the year. I think you’ll be OK if you never hear “Nobody’s Fault”, which might be the heaviest thing the band ever did, because hair metal will start to make sense.

  1. Boston – Boston (1976)

juke8-bostonfirstThe only reason you shouldn’t listen to this album all the way through is if you were born prior to 1970, or you’re under the impression that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is an original song. That said, it contains virtually all of Boston’s best cuts and in some way could be considered a greatest hits collection.

If You’re Feeling Fruity Suggested Alternative:
Steve Miller Band – Fly Like an Eagle (1976)
Kinda surprised that Fry Rike Regal isn’t a Must Hear. But then, after sitting through it again, I’m not surprised.
  1. David Bowie – Station To Station (1976)

1001_Bowie_StationThis album doesn’t completely suck, proving that Young Americans was only an aberration in Bowie’s discography. But it’s also another cocaine record. The eight-ball is yours to take, or not.

  1. Joan Armatrading – Joan Armatrading (1976)

Upon losing my entire record collection in 1987 to exceedingly flawed decision-making, there was an entire decade where I didn’t own a turntable or any vinyl LPs. For a couple of those years, my roommates were Bob and Ron of Bob and Ron’s Record Club, cats who took record collecting as seriously as you might imagine. I didn’t really need to buy any records with those two cranking out jams 24/7.

It wasn’t until my uncle Jim called me one day out of the blue in late 1997 and asked if I would be interested in his old turntable and receiver. As an added bonus, he offered his vinyl collection. And so, that’s how I wound up getting back into the vinyl game.

1001_Joan_Armatrading_-_Joan_ArmatradingDuring an early record-buying excursion in the vicinity of Wicker Park, I wound up in Reckless Records, where I scoured the cut-out bins for hidden gems. So I went up to the counter with this Joan Armatrading record and approached the clerk (or the owner, I dunno), who was this tall, long-haired hefty cat who I’d seen working sound tech at Cabaret Metro, I can’t remember his name. I want to say Gus, but…anyway. Me and this cat had a vague acquaintance, and I had asked his opinion before.

“What do you know about this?” I asked, setting the LP on the counter.

Gus picked up the record, raised it to chin height, and let it fall flat back on to the counter. “What do I know about it? I know that you’re not buying it.”

“OK. But what? I was under the impression she was like the black Joni Mitchell.”

“Well, you were wrong. Are you familiar with Tracy Chapman?”

“Yes. ‘Fast Car’.”

“Hootie and the Blowfish?”

“…”

“I’m not selling you this record.”

“O…K…”

Back to the cut-out bins.

  1. Joni Mitchell – Hejira (1976)

While almost everyone else was running headlong from anything remotely related to jazz or jazz fusion, Joni Mitchell slowly but surely found her inner sophisticated lounge singer. I don’t think it’s tragic or anything. Mitchell has one Must Hear Album.

Suggested Alternative:
https://blacksunshinemedia.comFleetwood Mac – Fleetwood Mac (1975)
Everybody talks about Rumours being the great touchstone of the 1970s, but if I’m forced to listen to this band, I’m going with this one.
  1. Jorge Ben – Africa Brasil (1976)
  2. Kiss – Destroyer (1976)

I’ve never heard of Jorge Ben, and I’ve never knowingly heard a note of his music. And as easy as it would have been to Google the fucker and sample a jam or two, I’m not going to do it.

1001_Kiss-DestoyerDestroyer contained a massive hit single named after a woman who happened to share the name of my adopted sister. If it had only contained “Rock n’ Roll All Nite”, Destroyer could have completely explained the Kiss phenomenon. It’s not their worst record by a time zone. Anyway, in 1976 they also put out Rock and Roll Over, which contains my favorite Kiss song, “Calling Dr. Love” – by far the Greatest Moment in Cowbell History – and would be my one Must Sit Through Kiss Studio Album.

Compulsory Alternatives:
Black Sabbath – Sabotage (1976)
ThinLizzy-Jailbreak-FrontThin Lizzy – Jailbreak (1976)
Ted Nugent – Free for All (1976)
AC/DC – Dirty Deeds Done Dirty Cheap (1976)
  1. Parliament – Mothership Connection (1976)
  2. Peter Tosh – Legalize It (1976)

Look, I’m about as pro-ganja as you can get, but I’m telling you the title song is the only jam on Legalize It. The rest is forgettable at best.

Suggested Alternative:
1001_The-Residents_3rdreichThe Residents – Third Reich and Roll (1976)
  1. Ramones – Ramones (1976)

The other night, I watched a Ramones show from 1977 at Hammersmith Odeon and was shocked at how good they were.

  1. 1001_Rush_2112_AdRush – 2112 (1976)
  1. Stevie Wonder – Songs In The Key Of Life (1976)

The first handful of Rush records are pretty sketchy, but fun. 2112 is when they put all the pieces of the puzzle together. Side one is composed of the seven-part title track suite; while side two contains some of the Rush’s best material to date, including “Twilight Zone” and “A Passage to Bangkok”, which was pretty smart on their behalf, because a continuation of the 2112 theme might have worn a little thin by the 50th minute or so.

Deep breath. OK. I love Stevie Wonder. At several times in my life, the only thing I listened to was Stevie Wonder. I have listened to all four sides plus the EP of Songs In the Key of Life more times than anyone can count. You need to hear about half of this Double Album Syndrome and the rest can he perused at another time.

Suggested Alternative:
1001_TomPettyDebutCoverTom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (1976)
I said all that bad shit about the Byrds and look-ee here. The Byrds on Viagra. Although we’re going to get a couple of great Tom Petty records in the near future, I love love love this record. It’s one of those LPs that just seems pure and uncomplicated. Kudos to TP & the H-breakers.

Net Reduction of Albums From the Period: 15
Suggested Alternatives: 14
Running Total AYMHBYD: 922

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die…Or Not: 1972 – 1974

7 Mar
1001_The_Meters_-_Look-Ka_Py_PyIn hindsight, it seems that I’ve been a little too generous with certain artists, letting some slide with multiple albums when one would suffice. At the same time, I’ve made some egregious oversights. For instance, either one of the first three albums from the Meters is definitely Must Hear, but both me and Robert Dimery missed them the first time around; an extra embarrassment because we’re about to realize the emergence of funk rock, which doesn’t really happen without a Neville Brother or two in the mix.

Anyway, the Meters. I’m going with Look Ka Py Py (1970), but the eponymous debut (1969) has “Cissy Strut”; Struttin’ (1970) contains a fantastic cover of Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Lineman” (and the retarded “Chicken Strut”). I’m not kidding. You could drop a dime on pretty much any Meters record, and it’s probably going to find a groove. Hopefully, the dime won’t land on side two of Garbage Alley (1972), cuz there’s a lot of jazzy bullshit on there.


Key:
Strikethrough indicates what you probably think it does
Green indicates highly recommended listening
Underlined indicates questionable but ultimately acceptable record
Blue bold italic indicates ABSOLUTELY MUST HEAR BEFORE YOU DIE
Note: Suggested alternatives are from the same year as the contested entry unless otherwise indicated.

  1. Al Green – Let’s Stay Together (1972)

1001_Al_GreenAside from Stevie Wonder, Prince, and an occasional bug-out on Sly and the Family Stone, I don’t listen to a whole bunch of funk/soul/R&B music on a regular basis. It’s not my go-to background music. To each his own. But every now and then, I get an urge to hear the first half of Let’s Stay Together. It’s kind of like going to church. The few times that I’ve made it to the cover of the Bee Gees “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” (track 7 of 11), I’m itching to get out of there. I’m at the “Let us now offer each other a sign of peace” moment in a Catholic mass, right before communion, when you know it’s all down hill. It takes about 10 minutes to dish out the wafers, and then the Old Pervert is going to wrap it up with, “Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord,” and you’re out of there like Shazam!

  1. Alice Cooper – School’s Out (1972)

1001_Alice_SchoolSchool’s Out is not a five-star accomplishment; don’t let the title song fool you. The reason you didn’t hear anything else from this record on the radio is because there’s not much else on it—in terms of catchy material that leaves an impression. If only Alice had written ten versions of the title track, this wouldn’t be a contested effort. In fact, next year’s Billion Dollar Babies is much more fun. Anyway, there are some nifty moments here and there (“Blue Turk”, “Alma Mater” and parts of “The Gutter Cat vs. the Jets”), and some stinky-choogle (“Public Animal No. 9”), but I’ve already suggested Easy Action (1970), so we’ve probably had enough.

Let me clarify. If this afternoon, I heard School’s Out for the first time in my life, it woulda blown my head clean off my shoulders.

  1. Big Star – No. 1 Record (1972)
  2. Volume 4Black Sabbath – Vol. 4 (1972)

Yes, and hell yes! Both of these are on permanent heavy rotation.

  1. Burning Spear – Marcus Garvey (1972)

You don’t need to hear this unless you absolutely adore reggae, in which case, you’ve already heard this. It’s not a bad introduction to early reggae, but it’s not the first record you should hear. Bob Marley and the Wailers are coming up very soon.

  1. Curtis Mayfield – Superfly (1972)

Curtis Mayfield Superfly HIGH RESOLUTION COVER ARTI’m so tempted to say forget this record, ‘specially since you’re getting funk from the Meters, right? Before you spit coffee or beer or Skittles at your screen, Superfly is a fantastic soundtrack to yet another Blaxploitation film I haven’t seen in its entirety. I don’t believe I need to see the film to appreciate the soundtrack. I’ve never seen Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, but I love the soundtrack. However funky and groovy Superfly may be, there’s not a lot of excitement—it’s a soundtrack. But trust me, this is not a record you want to frame a cocaine binge, especially when the paranoia kicks in. Nothing’s funny about “Freddie’s Dead”.

As happens with many of these albums, I have to revisit them to refresh my memory; it’s not necessary to sit through the whole thing again. Most of the time it’s like yeah, this is what I remembered it to be. Superfly hasn’t been played on my personal radio station in at least 10 years, and I remember that night it wound up on the turntable. Anyway, tonight I was thinking about the second side of this album, and how the title track, one of the main reasons to hear this record in the first place, is the very last jam. And I’m not sure if that was a good decision. There’s not a whole lot of anything but wah-wah guitar and dramatic string sections between here and there, you know?

In the end, the late Curtis Mayfield is the reason you should listen to this album. He’s such a fine singer. Goodness.

  1. David Ackles – American Gothic (1972)

1001_Ackles_GothicA poor man’s Neil Diamond, not that Neil Diamond was exclusive purchase of the upper class. Neil Diamond, without the sequins and the hits; a cross between the theatrical camp of Liberace, and the everyman denim of Billy Joel. Not surprisingly (to me), Ackles never gained wide commercial success—it’s the first I’m hearing of the dude—but he was a huge influence on certain British singer-songwriters (by their own admission) such as Elvis Costello, Elton John and Phil Collins. I can think of a couple more cats who mighta borrowed a riff or two from Ackles’ shtick, particularly Meatloaf.

  1. David Bowie – Hunky Dory (1972)
  2. David Bowie – The Rise & Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (1972)

Hunky Dory was technically released in the U.K. in December 1971, but didn’t really find an audience until mid-1972. The album’s sweeping cinematic pop stands in contrast to the brash and sleazy rock n’ roll swagger of Ziggy Stardust.

  1. Deep Purple – Machine Head (1972)
  2. Gene Clark – White Light (1972)
Suggested Alternative:
Captain Beefheart – The Spotlight Kid (1972)
1001_Beefheart_SpotlightFrequent readers will recognize my personal distaste for anything “boogie-related.” Generally speaking, boogie makes me uncomfortable. And then one day I discovered Captain Beefheart, and I realized that I wasn’t wrong to hate boogie. Every other band had been doing boogie wrong. They’d been choogling. And there is only one guy who I willingly want to hear choogle: The Captain. There’s something about The Spotlight Kid that won’t let me turn it off. “Click Clack” may be my favorite blues rock song of all-time.
  1. Hugh Masekela – Home Is Where The Music Is (1972)

Let’s say you’re on the 1001 Albums version of the game show Jeopardy. At some point, your knowledge of world music will be tested, and you should be familiar with this cat. You know this song, and now you know it’s Hugh Masekela’s biggest hit.

Sadly, “Grazing in the Grass” was released in 1968; hence, not on Home Is; nor is anything even remotely as catchy. But it’s probably not the least “Afrobeat” of Masekela’s albums, and it’s still far more jazz than Afrobeat.

  1. John Prine – John Prine (1972)

Another album released in 1971, but winds up in ’72. Shrug.

On the whole, stand-alone singer-songwriters are terribly over-rated. There’s not a whole lot you can do with an acoustic guitar and a microphone, except sing a dozen different variations of the same song. In the biz, that’s called a “set list.” Nudge, wink, sniff. At this point in the game, everybody should have followed Bob Dylan’s lead and recognized the importance of a band, and the magical results of interaction between three or more musicians.

1001_John_PrineOf course, many Singular Joe singer-songwriters had back-up bands (at some point in their careers), which is quite different than being the lead guy in a band. For instance, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was a real band with TP as the grand poobah. Wilco is Jeff Tweedy and some other dudes who care a whole bunch. On the other hand, John Cougar Mellencamp had a band, but they never got co-billing on the marquee. You bought John Cougar records, not John Cougar and the Mellencamps records. So, the S-Joes are mainly dealing with hired guns as opposed to comrades-in-arms. Does that matter? I think so. Where is Evan Dando today?

David Bowie, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars

Take David Bowie, for another example. He didn’t really start selling records until he formed the Spiders From Mars. His earlier records were fantastic, but the three Ziggy-Spiders era albums are better. [Pin Ups (1973) is not essential listening, but it is really fun hearing Bowie’s choice of cover songs.] Were the Spiders ever an actual band? Probably not. And granted, he went back to being a singular David Bowie, but every single record he made from there on out was heavily influenced by his collaborators. What would David Bowie be without Mick Ronson? Who knows? Maybe he’d have been a mime with fucked-up teeth and one dilated pupil.

Scene from The Man Who Fell To Earth

John Prine was a songwriter’s songwriter, championed by a busload of folky-dokey artists including Bob Dylan and Kris Kristofferson. I honestly don’t know what that says about him. There’s one truly amazing song on this record, “Angel From Montgomery”, and several other cuts in the meantime that have been covered by other artists. By far the best part of this album is the cover, which, as you can see, features Prine posed, uncomfortably bewildered, on bales of hay. Apparently, the P.R. department of Atlantic was run by blind squirrels, because they certainly found the nut on this record. Thus, my review of John Prine is complete.

  1. Lou Reed – Transformer (1972)

1001_Lou_Reed_TransThis album sits precariously on the edge of essential listening, and it’s been sitting there since I dunno when.

On one hand, Transformer is the quintessential or penultimate Lou Reed solo album. He really doesn’t ever get any better than this. On the other hand, Lou Reed solo albums are questionably important. As an artist, he hardly progressed from this point forward; he only changed costumes. And some critics suggest that he was merely a follower; that this record is simply Reed’s attempt to mount the glam rock bandwagon. The next decade of his career was one long question of “What the Fuck Is This Guy Doing?”

Having said all that, this was one of the first records I ever bought with my lawn mowing money, based solely on the strength of hearing “Walk on the Wild Side” on FM radio. I was probably eight or nine years old, and boy, was I disappointed by the rest of the album. And so, Lou Reed went on the Pay No Mind list, until some time in my early teens, when I heard the Velvet Underground, which brought me to the conclusion that all the Lou Reed you’ll ever need to hear is contained on one of VU’s first four or five albums, from the debut album to Loaded, approximately. Don’t even try and tell me that New York (1989) is a Must Hear. You would be insulting your intelligence.

  1. Milton Nascimento & Lo Borges – Clube Da Esquina (1972)

1001_Milton_Nascimento_L_Borges_Clube_Da_EsquinaThey say there’s a time and a place for everything. The first thing that comes to mind is fisting etiquette. It wouldn’t be appropriate during a business meeting, but it might come in handy during sexy time with your significant other. I dunno. What I can tell you is that this is by far the most depressing album cover I’ve seen today.

Suggested Alternative:
1001_Jose_feliciano-sings(rca)Jose Feliciano – Sings (1972)
Hey, I know it’s not Feliz Navidad, or the album with “Light My Fire”, but if you really must hear folk songs played on a nylon string guitar and sung in Spanish, this is the cat you call, not Milton Massey Mentos or whoever.
  1. Neil Young – Harvest (1972)
  2. Nick Drake – Pink Moon (1972)
  3. Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – Will The Circle Be Unbroken (1972)

Nope. The circle will remain intact.

Listen, country-folk-rock is a legitimate genre, and at various points along the way, you’ll pick up bits and pieces. We’re in banjo, harmonica and mandolin territory now, i.e. the Nashville sound. This album’s biggest selling point is the appearance of traditional country artists such as Mother Maybelle Carter, Earl Scruggs, Roy Acuff, Doc Watson, Merle Travis, and Jimmy Martin. And if you were to acquire and listen to this record, you would almost certainly find yourself skipping forward every so often, not because it’s boring or overbearing, but because it’s a triple-fucking LP. You remember what I said about George Harrison – All Things Must Pass?

  1. Paul Simon – Paul Simon (1972)

1001_Paul+Simon_1972I think you’ll find that I’m going to be exceedingly harsh on Paul Simon’s solo career, not only because I have always been an Artie vs. Paul guy. In my mind, for a big chunk of Simon’s post-Garfunkel career, up to One Trick Pony or so, he wasn’t doing anything he couldn’t have done with Simon & Garfunkel. When they spilt, Simon took the songs and Garfunkel left with the heavenly voice and redeeming qualities. This record is a Must Hear only because it absolutely justifies that last statement.

Critics thought highly of Paul Simon and his solo work, so I’ll have more time to cover this subject later.

  1. Randy Newman – Sail Away (1972)

No. See #80.

Little Feat, Sailin' Shoes

Suggested Alternatives:
Little Feat – Sailing Shoes (1972)
Badfinger – Straight Up (1972)
  1. Roxy Music – Roxy Music (1972)
  2. Slade – Slayed? (1972)

1001_Slade-Slayed-330521Slade is somewhat under-rated. These cats literally sold their souls for rock n’ roll, back when rock n’ roll meant something. You’re certainly not going to find a band with such focused aim on the lowest common denominator. These guys spelled stupid, s-t-o-o-p-i-d. They also had a bunch of good-time party jams, many of which all too often sound a lot like choogle. But I like ‘em. They appeal to my inner child. This record is the Saturday morning cartoon of rock music.

I just left the room to have a smoke on the balcony while Slayed? was lingering on the sound system. We were in the vicinity of Track 3. I came back to the room five minutes later to hear “I Won’t Let It Happen Again”, and the first thing that popped into my head was, “Oh, this bullshit is still on? Christ.”

And then the jam faded out. Can you guess what happened next?

Move Over”. Whoa! I forgot about this jam. This is the best Janis Joplin song I’ve ever heard! Except it’s not Janis Joplin. What a relief!

Please note that the above video clip is from their Live at the BBC Sessions, and as good if not better than the album version, but I’m listening to the rest of Slayed? You’re welcome to join me.

  1. Steely Dan – Can’t Buy A Thrill (1972)

Not yet. Steely Dan is an acquired taste. Can’t Buy a Thrill is just OK. Things get cooking next year on Countdown to Ecstasy. Of course, “Reelin’ in the Years” and “Dirty Work” are this record; so are “Do It Again” and “Turn That Heartbeat Over Again.” This is Steely Dan Jr.

Relax, you’re going to hear capital P-plenty of Steely Dan.

  1. Talking BookStevie Wonder – Talking Book (1972)
  2. T. Rex – The Slider (1972)
  3. The Eagles – Eagles (1972)

The Eagles’ debut album featured three Top 40 singles with “Take it Easy”, “Witchy Woman” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling”, which are now inescapable from pop culture. The album played a major role in popularizing the southern California country rock sound. Cunts.

I know it’s been cool to hate the Eagles since The Big Lebowski achieved cult status, but I’ll have you know that I have always hated the Eagles, from the opening guitar riff of “Take It Easy” through Hotel California and on to wherever these clowns wound up.

1001_EaglesIf, in 1976, you had asked my eight-year-old smart ass to name the worst band in rock, I wouldn’t have hesitated to say the Eagles. Of course, I hadn’t heard Dire Straits or U2, and at the time I thought “Smoke on the Water” and “Woman From Tokyo” were hot jams, so I was onboard with Deep Purple. Nowadays, there are certain aspects of the Eagles which I admire. None of which I’m going to reveal at this time.

If there’s anything worse than “Peaceful Easy Feeling” on this record, there are two things for certain. (1) It was written (and sung) by Glenn Frey. (2) It’s called “Chug All Night” and repulsively, it’s not about drinkin’ beer and shootin’ at possums in the woods out back; it’s about Glenn Frey’s sweaty, fermenting paunch, repeatedly slamming against the tramp stamp of some unfortunate, camel-backed woman he met at a Weight Watchers seminar.

Suggested Alternatives:
Anything. Any fucking record you can find.
  1. The Rolling Stones – Exile On Main Street (1972)

Everybody says this is THE Must Hear Stones album, and I say it’s just another victim of the Double LP Syndrome. There is one album of good jams on this record. They are:

1001_Stones_ExileSide 1
“Rocks Off”
“Rip This Joint”
“Tumbling Dice”
“Sweet Virginia”
“Torn and Frayed”
“Loving Cup”
Side 2
“Happy”
“Ventilator Blues”
“All Down the Line”
“Shine A Light”
“Pass the Wine (Sophia Loren)”
“Dancing in the Light”

That said, Exile is still kind of a Must Hear whether I like it or not.

  1. The Temptations – All Directions (1972)

I’m not fucking stoopid. Even though the Temps were at the forefront of so-called psychedelic soul, there’s no way in hell this is essential listening. You know what is Must Hear shit? About five minutes of “Papa Was a Rolling Stone”, which clocks in at 11:45 total running time.

I feel bad for these cats. They got jammed into the psychedelic soul trope by Motown. They were better than that.

https://blacksunshinemedia.comStevie Wonder – Music of My Mind (1972)

This is not even a suggested alternative. This is a dead-center Must Hear if there is one.

  1. Todd Rundgren – Something/Anything? (1972)
  2. War – The World Is A Ghetto (1972)

Yes, but…no. But yes. Let’s stick with yes.

  1. Yes – Close To The Edge (1972)

This is the last Must Hear album in the Yes catalog. Enjoy all five thousand and twenty-three minutes of it.

  1. 1001_Alice_Cooper_-_Billion_Dollar_BabiesAlice Cooper – Billion Dollar Babies (1973)
  2. Bob Marley & The Wailers – Catch A Fire (1973)
  3. Can – Future Days (1973)
  4. David Bowie – Aladdin Sane (1973)

Man, I’ll tell you what. These four records make the perfect Saturday night. Maybe throw in one more album from further down the list, and you can keep that starting five in rotation until the wee hours of the morning.

  1. Deep Purple – Made In Japan (1973)

1001_Deep_Purple_Made_in_JapanWe haven’t listed a double live rock album so far, and Made In Japan, in terms of its audiophile, actually sounds really damn good. For a live album, it sounds like Deep Purple is right there your living room. They had their own private jet, for shitsakes. They ruled the world in 1973. So even though I absolutely hate this band, it wouldn’t kill you to hear what all the hype was about. And be disappointed they aren’t Led Zeppelin.

  1. Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)

1001_Elton_John_-_Goodbye_Yellow_Brick_RoadThis is the only Must Hear album from Elton John, and I apologize for its length, but it’s about as good as any other double LP released in 1973. And it’s impossible to overstate the importance of Elton John in 1970s. He had seven consecutive #1 albums (including a greatest hits collection that has since sold 16 million copies), and charted 20 Billboard Top 40 singles (six songs hit #1) in the period from 1971-1976. For that five-year period, Elton was one of the kings of the world.

Mostly, I would think that the average, reasonable music appreciationist has a love/hate relationship with Sir Elton.

  1. Faust – Faust IV (1973)
  2. Genesis – Selling England By The Pound (1973)

Krautrock 303 and British Prog 454, respectively. You’ll need both courses to graduate.

  1. Gram Parsons – Grievous Angel (1973)

1001_Gram_Parsons_Grievous AngelHoly shit, this is complete nonsense if that’s not Emmylou Harris. You should listen to (some) of this LP. That way you can formulate your own opinion of Gram Parsons and his talent (or lack thereof).

Suggested alternative:
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band – Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. (1973)
  1. Hawkwind – Space Ritual (1973)

1001_Hawkwind_SpaceWow, methamphetamine and hallucinogens actually get along quite well.

  1. Iggy & The Stooges – Raw Power (1973)

Granted, this is caveman-type shit. I believe at one point, I called it “knuckle-dragging.” Over time, Raw Power has grown on me.

Iggy Pop on Raw Power:
To the best of my recollection it was done in a day. I don’t think it was two days. On a very, very old board, I mean this board was old! An Elvis type of board, old-tech, low-tech, in a poorly lit, cheap old studio with very little time. To David’s credit, he listened with his ear to each thing and talked it out with me, I gave him what I thought it should have, he put that in its perspective, added some touches. He’s always liked the most recent technology, so there was something called a Time Cube you could feed a signal into—it looked like a bong, a big plastic tube with a couple of bends in it—and when the sound came out the other end, it sort of shot at you like an echo effect. He used that on the guitar in “Gimme Danger”, a beautiful guitar echo overload that’s absolutely beautiful; and on the drums in “Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell”. His concept was, “You’re so primitive, your drummer should sound like he’s beating a log!” It’s not a bad job that he did…I’m very proud of the eccentric, odd little record that came out.[15]
Bowie later recalled:
1001_Stooges_RawThe most absurd situation I encountered was the first time I worked with Iggy Pop. He wanted me to mix Raw Power, so he brought the 24-track tape in, and he put it up. He had the band on one track, lead guitar on another and him on a third. Out of 24 tracks there were just three tracks that were used. He said ‘see what you can do with this’. I said, ‘Jim, there’s nothing to mix’. So we just pushed the vocal up and down a lot. On at least four or five songs that was the situation, including “Search and Destroy.” That’s got such a peculiar sound because all we did was occasionally bring the lead guitar up and take it out. [17]
  1. John Cale – Paris 1919 (1973)
  2. John Martyn – Solid Air (1973)

Here’s what you should know about John Martyn: He was a British singer-songwriter and guitarist. Over a 40-year career, he released 21 studio albums, working with artists such as Eric Clapton, David Gilmour and Phil Collins. He was described by The Times as “an electrifying guitarist and singer whose music blurred the boundaries between folk, jazz, rock and blues.” Zzzz. Zzzz. The title track of Solid Air is supposedly dedicated his friend Nick Drake, who died 18 months later in 1974. Martyn passed away in 2009 following a battle with double pneumonia.

He’s the reason people tolerate Dave Matthews and his band. Cunts.

Suggested Alternative:
Little Feat – Dixie Chicken (1973)
  1. King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues In Aspic (1973)
  2. Lou Reed – Berlin (1973)
Suggested Alternative:
Tom Waits – Closing Time (1973)
  1. 1001_Lynyrd-skynyrdLynyrd Skynyrd – Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd (1973)
  2. Marvin Gaye – Let’s Get It On (1973)

Hey! Didn’t Marvin Gaye already make this record in 1971? Yeah, he kinda did. That was What’s Going On, which is essentially the (musical) blueprint for Let’s Get It On. Where the former had socially conscious lyrics and a vaguely political agenda, the latter addresses (in a way) a different type of movement, the sexual revolution, for lack of a better term. So what’s going on is that we’re going to get it on.

Suggested Alternative:
Barry White – I’ve Got So Much to Give (1973)

  1. Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells (1973)

This fucking record appears on every Best Albums list, and I just want to scream at somebody. The use of the opening theme in the film The Exorcist gained the record considerable publicity and introduced the work to a broader audience. It is by far the most maddening, hateful, irredeemable piece of music released in 1973, including the stuff I haven’t had to sit through.

1001_Eno+Fripp_PussySuggested Alternative:
Brian Eno and Robert Fripp – No Pussyfooting (1973)
  1. Mott The Hoople – Mott (1973)

Exceedingly debatable album. If your membership in Bob and Ron’s Record Club is up for renewal, then by all means, get this fucker on the turntable, now. If not, we’ve already heard sparkling examples of glam rock, and the N.Y. Dolls are up next.

  1. New York Dolls – New York Dolls (1973)

1001_NY-DollsLance Bass and the Folsom Street Band. “Vietnamese Baby” is probably the most unsavory song in existence. This is one of those records that makes me say, “Wow. Just wow. These fucking guys are out of their minds.”

  1. Paul McCartney & Wings – Band On The Run (1973)

This is it, the end of the Beatles. Band On The Run is a eulogy. Lennon’s solo career is essentially over. Harrison would continue to make unremarkable records. Ringo Starr was more of a sideshow than a solo artist, and now, McCartney is officially out of good ideas, and a member of Wings. RIP.

  1. Pink Floyd – The Dark Side Of The Moon (1973)

Yeah, you gotta.

  1. 1001_Roxy-Muaic_PleasureRoxy Music – For Your Pleasure (1973)
  2. Steely Dan – Countdown To Ecstasy (1973)
  3. Stephen Stills – Manassas (1973)

Goddamn, I’m sorry. But Stephen Stills did not have such an influence on popular music that we have to keep getting jammed with his solo albums. It’s getting really irritating. The guy was a great guitarist and wrote some good jams. And that’s it. His work with Manassas is lackluster at best. I’m not even going to make a joke out of their name, either.

Anyway, this entry is super-confusing because (A) the record in question was released in 1972; (B) the title is also the name of the band; and (C) the record that was released in 1973 (Down the Road), is in no way, shape or form, a Must Hear record.

Suggested Alternative:
1001_Zeppelin_Houses-of-the-Holy-Album-coverLed Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy (1973)
Critics panned it, but I love this record. “The Ocean” single-handedly taught me how to count 7/8 vs. 4/4 time. Second favorite Zeppelin album after Presence. So good. “Over the Hills and Far Away”, ‘The Song Remains the Same”. The opening riff of “Dancing Days”. The fuckin’ drums on “D’yer Mak’er”. You get it now.
  1. Stevie Wonder – Innervisions (1973)
  2. The Incredible Bongo Band – Bongo Rock (1973)

1001_Bongo_1419649cThere can never be a Must Hear album from a band with bongo in its name, unless it’s former President of Gabon, Omar Bongo, and even then, he’d have to essentially remake Led Zeppelin IV in his own likeness for it to be essential listening. That’s a whole bunch of contingencies piled up in one spot, kids. Omar died in 2009.

Suggested Alternatives:
1001_10cc_first-LP10cc – 10cc (1973)
Sweet – The Sweet (1973)
  1. The Isley Brothers – 3+3 (1973)

Oh man, do I hate this fucking album. It was on the jukebox at my steady local for five long years. Every single night, someone would play “That Lady” or “Listen to the Music”. Maybe a year into my residence at the bar, we discovered the cover of “Summer Breeze” (Track 8), and all of a sudden, 3+3 was my favorite record in the jukebox.

  1. The Sensational Alex Harvey Band – Next … (1973)

1001_Alex-Harvey_NextMan, I can’t get over how much fun this Slade record is. There is a very serious party atmosphere at BSM HQ. After all, glam rock is one of the more light-hearted types of fare available. I suppose nobody wants to be thinking about existential angst when shaking their ass. If “Cum On Feel The Noize” was on this record, I might call it one of the best of all-time.

  1. 1001_Todd_WizardTodd Rundgren – A Wizard, A True Star (1973)
  2. Waylon Jennings – Honky Tonk Heroes (1973)
  3. ZZ Top – Tres Hombres (1973)

This is your second and last Todd Rundgren album, and A Wizard is definitely my choice of the two records.

Honky Tonk Heroes is considered a seminal touchstone in the development of the outlaw subgenre in country music, as it helped resuscitate the Nashville honky tonk sound by injecting a rock and roll attitude. In other words, fuck the Byrds and Gram Parsons. Jennings was making true country rock. He wasn’t playing dress up. And so we must listen.

1001_ZZ_Top_-_Tres_HombresAnyway, Tres Hombres is your only Must Hear ZZ Top album, so don’t keep your eyes peeled for anything else down the line.

Bonus Year: 1974*

*Revised From 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die…Or Not – The Introduction

  1. 10cc – Sheet Music (1974)

10cc 210cc is terribly under-rated and sadly pigeonholed by the soft-rock stylings of their biggest hit “I’m Not in Love”, which is not on Sheet Music, a delightfully adventurous work of pop genius, and one of the records that makes 1974 such a unique year in music.

  1. Bad Company – Bad Company (1974)

Bad Company had a couple of solid jams, didn’t they? Remind me. They were a good-to-very good band that stayed within the narrow confines of underachieving hard rock. Some people say Paul Rodgers is one of the all-time great rock vocalists.

1001_BadCompanyHaving made several long-distance road trips with exactly three cassettes in the car and a tape deck that didn’t have auto-reverse, I can think of a bunch of circumstances where Bad Company might be one of the only albums you have on hand, and thus, you’d almost be forced to listen to it all the way through. Otherwise, just tune into the local classic rock radio station and wait for “Can’t Get Enough” to come on, and keep stuffing that Carl’s Jr. double cheeseburger into your face.

Suggested alternative(s):
Rush – Rush (1974)
Lynyrd Skynyrd – Second Helping (1974)
1001_SweetSweet – Desolation Boulevard (1974)
[EXTRA-CURRICULAR EDIT: Thinking in terms of economy, I promised myself that I wouldn’t comment on suggested alternatives, but I can’t help myself in this case. Desolation Boulevard is a fantastic and delightful slice of hard-ass rock and power pop layer cake, which I would recommend on the basis of the drums alone – both in terms of performance and production. Now, you have to be careful on this one: there are two separate releases (U.K. and U.S. – the latter didn’t hit the shelves until 1975), and four different reissue packages, the latest coming in 2005. That’s the one you want, since it contains bonus tracks including one of the greatest songs nobody ever heard for some unknown reason, “Teenage Rampage”. Seriously, every time I listen to it, I think, “How was this not bigger than ‘Ballroom Blitz’?”]

  1. Bob Dylan – Blood On The Tracks (1974)

There are four Must Hear Bob Dylan albums on the list preceding Blood on the Tracks, so you’ve already heard the best this of what this cat has to offer. To my ears, BOTT is one tedious, 51-minute song. Enjoy the first two or three choruses of “Tangled Up in Blue” and get this fucker off the turntable.

[Note: It’s been brought to my attention that BOTT wasn’t released until January 1975. Editor replies: … .]

  1. Brian Eno – Here Come the Warm Jets (1974)

Here Come the Warm Jets (1974)

I’m not one of those cats who think Brian Eno is King Midas. He has produced both U2 and Coldplay. Obviously, he has flaws and questionable judgment. But Eno’s first three solo records are albums you must hear before you die if there’s ever been such a thing. Run, don’t walk to iTunes and download Here Come the Warm Jets, now.

Wait a minute, you know what else was released in 1974 but didn’t make the list? Eno’s second solo LP, Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), regarded by some critics and enthusiasts as the superior effort.

  1. Dennis Wilson – Pacific Ocean Blue (1974)

1001_DennisThe only reason this record might be heard in its entirety is to make sure you didn’t miss out on any type of musical genius. You didn’t. Though it has garnered a certain cult appreciation among Beach Boy fans and neo-hipster vinyl nerds, Pacific Ocean Blue has few highlights, despite contributions from James Jamerson on bass, Hal Blaine on drums, and Robert Lamm (Chicago) on backing vocals. You can take a turd to the beach, but you can’t make it surf.

  1. Eric Clapton – 461 Ocean Blvd (1974)

Did you know that Clapton’s cover of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ “I Shot the Sheriff” is his only #1 hit on Billboard’s Hot 100? Nearly a decade later, “Tears in Heaven” went to #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart, but stalled at #2 on the Hot 100. Anyway, “Sheriff” and “Motherless Children” are the only two jams on 461 worth repeated spins. Clapton never should have quit heroin, not that he was anything special as junkie.

  1. Gene Clark – No Other (1974)

1001_Gene_ClarkMeanwhile, Gene Clark was probably the best songwriter in the Byrds (“I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better” and “Eight Miles High”), but his solo stuff is tiresome, especially this cardboard pastiche of country, gospel, and half-hearted boogie. Therefore, I’ve listened to No Other so you don’t have to. According to Pitchfork, in 2013 the album was performed live, note-for-note by a “supergroup” featuring: Beach House, plus members of Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear, and the Walkmen. Enough said.

  1. Genesis – Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (1974)

The main reason we don’t have time for the likes of Clapton and Clark is that we’re going to be lost in this double-disc concept album for the next six months.

  1. George Jones – The Grand Tour (1974)
  2. Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson – Winter In America (1974)
  3. Herbie Hancock – Head Hunters (1974)

1001_Fat_Albert_Cosby_Kids_PAS6053Come on, seriously? Who has time for George Jones or Gil-Scott Heron in 1974? Honky-tonk bartenders and finger-snapping poets in red berets, that’s who. Herbie Hancock is a phenomenal musician, but the only Herbie anybody needs in their life is the 1969 soundtrack for the Bill Cosby animated children’s television show Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. And “Rockit” wouldn’t come out for another decade or so. Hancock’s Head Hunters marks the spot where jazz-funk fusion bands started recognizing themselves in the mirror, and didn’t like what they saw.

  1. Joni Mitchell – Court And Spark (1974)
  2. Kraftwerk – Autobahn (1974)
  3. Neil Young – On the Beach (1974)
  4. Queen – Queen II (1974)
  5. Queen – Sheer Heart Attack (1974)

1001_Queen_SheerThe preceding are all albums you should hear more than once, and I don’t even like Joni Mitchell, or Neil Young’s On the Beach, which has three songs with “Blues” in the title, a massive boner-kill as far as I’m concerned.

Here’s something mildly interesting about 1974; a bunch of major artists released two studio albums during the calendar year: Brian Eno, Queen, King Crimson, Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton, Sweet, Miles Davis, and Harry Nilsson all doubled-up, and several others (Elton John, David Bowie, etc.) released one studio album and one live and/or best of collection.

  1. Randy Newman – Good Old Boys (1974)
  2. Richard & Linda Thompson – I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight (1974)
  3. Robert Wyatt – Rock Bottom (1974)

If not for consideration of the reader, all three records should be cut. You could essentially pick any Randy Newman album and give it a spin. This cat has one gear: Randy. Everything he does, from “Rednecks” to “Short People” to “I Love L.A.” is Randy. I don’t need that much Randy in my life.

Critics adore Richard & Linda Thompson records. I think their music sucks, hard. The only reason I want you to listen to Bright Lights Tonight is so you can see just how fucking obtuse music critics can be. They love this album. Let’s see if you can figure out why. I sure can’t.

1001_RwrockbottomWyatt’s Rock Bottom has a fairly interesting back-story. While in preparation for recording the album, an inebriated Wyatt fell from a third-floor window and was paralyzed from the waist down, a condition persisting to this day. Nevertheless, within six months, Wyatt was back in the recording studio, making Rock Bottom one of the first known rock records to have been primarily recorded by an artist in a wheelchair.

  1. 1001_SparksRoxy Music – Country Life (1974)
  2. Sparks – Kimono My House (1974)
  3. Steely Dan – Pretzel Logic (1974)
  4. Stevie Wonder – Fulfillingness’ First Finale (1974)
  5. Supertramp – Crime of the Century (1974)

These are all standard slam-dunks, with Kimono My House being the ultra-sleeper of the lot. Plus, get Crime of the Century under your belt and you’re done with Supertramp.

  1. Tangerine Dream – Phaedra (1974)

Tangerine Dream is the musical equivalent of watching ice cubes melt in a glass of cold water.

Suggested alternative(s):
KC RedKing Crimson – Starless and Bible Black
King Crimson – Red
  1. Van Morrison – It’s Too Late to Stop Now (1974)

Albums are like vocabulary words. Once you’ve learned ‘em by heart, you can use ‘em in ways to express yourself in myriad situations. Right, so: Aging sucks, man. Whenever I find myself in a spot where Older Me is struggling with something Younger Me could do on two hours of sleep and three hits of acid, for instance, running 5K at a leisurely pace, I think to myself, “Jesus, I’ve got less in the tank than Van Morrison in ‘74.”

It’s Too Late to Stop Now is frequently named one of the “best live albums ever recorded,” and I’m here to tell you that’s complete nonsense. If, in fact, Morrison was at the so-called height of his powers as a live performer, I’d have hated to seen him on an “off” night. In reality, what you’re hearing is the sound of a guy who was done.

And so we’re done. Rock on, 1974, thanks for playing the game. We’ve managed to pare nine albums from our total, added one Must Hear, and suggested four alternatives. But there’s something missing. There is at least one album that absolutely must be on this list. No, it’s not Frank Zappa’s Apostrophe – a great record for sure, but not essential. What could it be?

Big Star – Radio City (1974)

1001_Radio CityConceived by the U.S. Administration during the Cold War, the domino theory speculated that if one state in a region came under the influence of communism, then the surrounding countries would follow in a domino effect. Wikipedia couldn’t make it any simpler for us.

The domino theory is frequently applied to music when people argue about who’s the best so-n-so. At some point in the conversation, somebody will kick over the first domino. “You know, if there was no Little Richard, there would be no Beatles.” Etcetera.

One thing is for certain. There are fewer than a dozen bands like the Velvet Underground who “spawned more bands than they sold records,” and Big Star is at least partially responsible for any band that falls within a mile-radius of power pop. Cheap Trick, R.E.M., Wilco, The Replacements and Afghan Whigs collectively owe a massive debt of gratitude to Big Star. Radio City, like their other two records, is chock full of moments where I say to myself, “Oh, so that’s where _________ got that riff. He swiped it from Alex Chilton.”


Net Reduction of Albums From the Period: 21
Suggested Alternatives: 9
Running Total AYMHBYD: 937

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die…Or Not: 1969 – 1971

3 Mar
1001_BSTIt’s a fact: What goes up doesn’t always come down.

All hell broke loose in the late 60s – early 70s, and in spite of (or maybe because of) the chaos, some remarkable music was made. Equally important, we’re now seeing a phalanx of splinter genres reaching maturity: psychedelic, folk rock, country rock, heavy metal, hard rock, acid rock, jazz fusion, jazz rock, progressive and art rock. And it’s starting to become clear that good old fashion dance rock, i.e. rock n’ roll, is temporarily out of fashion. People weren’t dancing very much in 1969. Rock bands played ballrooms and audiences were amply stoned to stand there and watch. At most, a mild boogie might break out.

Nevertheless, I reckon there’s something in this era for everybody.


Key:
Strikethrough indicates what you probably think it does
Green indicates highly recommended listening
Underlined indicates questionable but ultimately acceptable record
Blue bold italic indicates ABSOLUTELY MUST HEAR BEFORE YOU DIE
Note: Suggested alternatives are from the same year as the contested entry unless otherwise indicated.

  1. Blood, Sweat & Tears – Blood, Sweat And Tears (1969)

Here’s an outfit that sounded really, truly great on their debut album, Child is the Father to the Man (1968); but then Al Kooper left and BS&T became the house band in my version of Hell featuring David Clayton-Thomas on lead vocals and perspiration.

1001_D_Clayton_ThomasBS&T won the 1969 Grammy for Album of the Year, and this is one of several proverbial lines in the sand: Accolades mean nothing. The same cat who produced this unacceptable bullshit (James William Guerico) was also working with Chicago (see #3) and Moondog, but he dropped the ball on BS&T. Even though Child is probably a Must Hear album, BS&T disqualifies the band from inclusion on any list yours truly might be involved with.

Thus, we shall henceforth call this the BS&T Clause, which renders a band non-essential no matter what they did before or after (in this case) David Clayton-Thomas joined the band. The clause will be invoked when we get to the Bee Gees, for sure.

Meanwhile, there are few songs in the pantheon of popular music that strike a murderous rage in my heart like “Spinning Wheel.” The only other song I can think of is “You Made Me So Very Happy”, which is also on this album.

  1. Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band – Trout Mask Replica (1969)

1001_Beefheart_Trout-MaskA different kind of psychedelic music. The kind that takes you on a trip from which you may never return.

  1. Chicago Transit Authority – Chicago Transit Authority (1969)

You should probably hear this record, if only for reference. James William Guerico is all over 1969, man. He owns it. But should you decide to accept the Chicago challenge, there’s a lot of trombone in your future; however, this is mercifully off-set by some great songwriting and killer guitar wrangling from Terry Kath, who might have been the dumbest kick-ass guitar player to ever own a firearm, Ted Nugent notwithstanding.

On a positive note, now we’re done with this high school jazz band nonsense.

Suggested Alternative:
1001_Doc_SeverinsenDoc Severinsen – Doc Severinsen’s Closet (1969)
Have a load of this record if for no other reason than to hear his versions of “In the Court of the Crimson King” and “Footprint of the Giant.”
  1. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Bayou Country (1969)
  2. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Green River (1969)

Fact #1: I have never sat through an entire CCR album, but I have played in at least one band that played at least one CCR cover. I’m fairly certain that my very first band did a hack-sawed version of “Have You Ever Seen the Rain”; and I vaguely remember banging through “Fortunate Son” during a practice or two.

1001_Creedence_Clearwater_Revival_-_Green_RiverFact #2: Most CCR records have one or two hits, plus maybe a sleeper track. The rest is choogle. What, exactly, is choogle? Glad you asked. Believe it or not, there’s a 2007 article in the Austin Chronicle (“To Choogle or Not to Choogle: Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Choogle”; by Christopher Gray, April 18, 2007) that puts way more thought into it than I’m willing to expend at this point in time. Anyway, the TL;DR* definition is simple. Choogle is white-boy boogie. And we’ve already heard capital P-plenty of it.

*Too Long; Didn’t Read

Fact #3: CCR released a total of 7 studio albums, which means they have approximately 20 good-to-great jams, all of which fit quite nicely on a single compact disc, Chronicle, Vol. 1(1976), also known as Chronicle: The 20 Greatest Hits.

  1. Crosby, Stills & Nash – Crosby, Stills And Nash (1969)
  2. John, The Night Tripper – Gris Gris (1969)

When I was a kid, I didn’t like the Beach Boys, mainly because all their early hits like “Surfin’ U.S.A.” had barbershop quartet harmonies and one dude singing in falsetto. That Frankie Valli, “Big Girls Don’t Cry” bullshit used to drive me nuts.

Plus, I grew up in the Midwest, where surfing was not an option. Had there been a band to sing about the chilly joy of riding snowmobiles in Northern Wisconsin, or the bone-crushing heartbreaks of Little League baseball, they might have been allowed to get away with the shitty falsetto of Mike Love, perhaps the worst singer in the history of Rock this side of yours truly or David Clayton-Thomas – take your pick. Anyway, once I learned the basics of music theory, the BBs vocal harmonizing became intriguing and eventually appreciated. Of course, now I adore the BBs, but falsetto never quite got over the hump of prejudice. To this day, I silently grimace when I hear it in use.

Off the top of my head, there is only one artist who can get away with falsetto: Prince.

100_the-hollies-2The Hollies were certainly one of the more under-rated bands of the British Invasion, and in terms of success, mainly a U.K. phenomenon. Aside from a couple of hits in the 1970s (“Long Cool Woman” and “The Air That I Breathe”), the Hollies never found great success in the U.S., partially, I suspect, due to going overboard on the barbershop harmonies. And the falsetto.

Much to my dismay, the first CS&N album is essential listening for one terrible reason. It signifies the birth of soft rock. Up until now, we haven’t been faced with folk singers, acoustic guitars, and three-part harmonies in the same sitting. The Hollies came close, but they didn’t have any big hits until Graham Nash left the band to join…CS&N.

  1. Dusty Springfield – Dusty In Memphis (1969)
  2. Elvis Presley – From Elvis in Memphis (1969)

We’re getting near the end of “listenable” Elvis records, so dig in on this one. Or not.

  1. Fairport Convention – Liege And Lief (1969)
  2. Fairport Convention – Unhalfbricking (1969)

Ah, Christ. They say FC introduced a distinctively English identity to rock music and helped awaken much wider interest in traditional music in general. Either one of these albums could have been a Must Hear, but not both. Liege and Lief has more Bang! for my listening buck.

  1. Flying Burrito Brothers – The Gilded Palace Of Sin (1969)

1001_Flying_BurritoHere, I face a major dilemma. If I say go ahead and listen to this, I’m not being honest. If I say don’t bother listening to this, I’m not being fair. Whether I like it or not, country rock is a thing, and these guys were the Pangaea of the genre.

So it comes down to a very conscious decision on your behalf. Ask yourself these two questions: Do I like Wilco? Do I own a copy of The Eagles – Greatest Hits 1971-1975? If you answered yes to either, you should probably give this record a spin, not because you might like it, but because this is where all that middle of the road, cut along the grain, country rock sawdust comes from. Actually, the story of the band is far more interesting than any of their jams. The legend of Gram Parsons is a fascinatingly morbid tale.

  1. Frank Zappa – Hot Rats (1969)

1001_Zappa-RatsHot Rats consists of instrumental jazz-influenced compositions with exhaustive soloing; hence, the music doesn’t resemble earlier Zappa albums (with the original Mothers of Invention). Five of the six songs are instrumental (“Willie the Pimp” features a short vocal by Captain Beefheart). Zappa described the album as “a movie for your ears.”

Multi-instrumentalist Ian Underwood is the only member of the Mothers to appear on the album and was the primary musical collaborator. Other featured musicians were Max Bennett and Shuggie Otis on bass, drummers John Guerin, Paul Humphrey and Ron Selico, and electric violinists Don “Sugarcane” Harris and Jean-Luc Ponty. This was the first Frank Zappa album recorded on 16-track equipment and one of the first albums to use this technology (as professional 4- and 8-track reel-to-reel tape recorders were standard in 1969).

The record is also notable for the song “Peaches en Regalia”, which became a late-night staple of Album Oriented Rock (AOR) radio. Make of this what you will. And ahem, thank you, Wikipedia.

  1. Isaac Hayes – Hot Buttered Soul (1969)

1001_Isaac-SoulI bought my first copy of this album at a garage sale on the north side of Chicago in 1995-ish, and haven’t stopped loving it yet.

  1. Johnny Cash – Johnny Cash At San Quentin (1969)

Another prison album? Nuh-uh.

  1. King Crimson – In The Court Of The Crimson King (1969)
  2. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin (1969)
  3. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin II (1969)
  1. Leonard Cohen – Songs From A Room (1969)

No dice. Already heard this cat. Nothing new here. Not impressed.

  1. MC5 – Kick Out The Jams (1969)

1001_MC5-1969-Kick-Out-The-JamsYou will listen to this album all the way through and you will understand why modern punk rock is nothing more than a fashion statement.

  1. Miles Davis – In A Silent Way (1969)

If you’re a jazz enthusiast, this list and my opinion are completely useless to you. Repeat: “This list and your opinion are worthless.”

Now replace list with “zippidee-bop” and opinion with “de-de-de-de-de-de-duh-de,” and we can stand on a patch of common ground. But I never understood guys who had something against melody, and I’m writing in the past tense for a reason.

Anyway, Miles Davis leads us into the splinter genre of jazz fusion, which is just below samba and bossa nova on the Pay-No-Mind list.

The problem with jazz fusion is that it’s not for listening; it’s for playing.

Jazz fusion developed from funk and R&B rhythms, the amplification and electronic effects of rock music. It features complex time signatures derived from non-Western music, extended instrumental improvisational compositions with a jazz approach, often using wind and brass, and always displaying a high level of instrumental technique.

1001_Miles_SilentOK, uh-huh. So?

Created around the late 1960s to describe records by Zappa and Davis, the term “jazz-rock” is often used as a synonym for “jazz fusion” as well as for music performed by late 1960s and 1970s-era rock bands that added jazz elements to their music. The genre is distinct from Canterbury Scene progressive rock and other forms of prog-jazz fusion, in which extended prog instrumentals use improvisation and take on a jazz influenced feel.

TL;DR: Due to years of formal training, jazz cats are armed with technical skills they don’t get to show off in a predictable setting.

Esotericism signifies the holding of ideas preserved or understood by a small group of those specially initiated, or of rare or unusual interest, which is a convoluted way of saying that jazz fusion is designed to appeal to the smallest fraction of music appreciationists. You’re not supposed to think it’s good; you’re supposed to think it’s cool, man.

  1. Neil Young With Crazy Horse – Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969)
  2. Nick Drake – Five Leaves Left (1969)

1001_Nick_Drake_Five_Leaves_LeftNeither of these two albums is the best of what these two cats have to offer, but it’s easy to see why some people say these are their favorites.

  1. Pentangle – Basket Of Light (1969)

I’m only saying yes to this record because Bert Jansch was in the band. That’s it. We’ve already had a belly full of the Canterbury Scene (prog-folk) with Fairport Convention.

  1. Quicksilver Messenger Service – Happy Trails (1969)
  2. Scott Walker – Scott 4 (1969)

Hell no, and for the love of God, no!

  1. Sly & The Family Stone – Stand! (1969)
  2. The Band – The Band (1969)
  3. The Beatles – Abbey Road (1969)

The Beatles, Let It Be

The question of whether or not we need to hear every Beatle album was rattling around my head for a month, and the final answer is no, we don’t. Ditto: The Band. Anyway, Let It Be (1970) isn’t even on the original list, which as most Beatlemaniacs know, was recorded before Abbey Road, and absolutely the first album you should leave at the curb if you ever need to evacuate the premises in a hurry.

  1. The Bee Gees – Odessa (1969)

Fuck these disco jokers. I hereby invoke the BS&T Clause. I don’t care how mediocre they were before they made Saturday Night Fever, they still made Saturday Night Fever, and for that, they will never be forgiven. Ever. If that weren’t bad enough, Odessa is yet another domino in the conga line of soft rock (adult contemporary).

Suggested Alternative:
1001_Moondog-1Moondog – Moondog (1969)
Please refer to my ebullient piece on Louis Hardin aka Moondog.
  1. The Kinks – Arthur: Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire (1969)
  2. The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed (1969)
  3. The Stooges – The Stooges (1969)
  4. The Temptations – Cloud Nine (1969)

Now you got me. So far we haven’t heard squeak from Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Stevie Wonder, the Four Tops, etc. Cloud Nine is a fine album, but you could skip it and not miss anything you aren’t getting from the radio.

Suggested Alternative:

Where I'm Coming From (1971)

Stevie Wonder – Where I’m Coming From (1971)
  1. The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground (1969)
  2. The Youngbloods – Elephant Mountain (1969)

How the Youngbloods figure to be essential listening is beyond me. You should be familiar with their lone hit, “Get Together” and its hyper-hippie bullshit:

Come on, people now/ Smile on your brother/ Everybody get together right now

I just threw up in the back of my mouth. Yeech. “Get Together” is not on Elephant Mountain, which is loaded with jazzy acoustic ballads (“Sunlight” and “Ride the Wind”), country/folk pop (“Smug” and “Beautiful”) and bluesy hard rock (“Sham”). Somebody has done a cover of “Darkness, Darkness” which is much better than the version found here.

  1. Van Morrison – Astral Weeks (1969)

VM WeeksVan Morrison is one of the untouchable darlings of contemporary criticism. I never liked the guy, even though one of the first songs I learned to fingerpick on guitar was “Brown-Eyed Girl” and I remember it like it was 30-some-odd years ago, sitting in the living room of my parents’ house, reading the chord changes from a fakebook and figuring out the main picking pattern to a song I’d only ever heard on the radio. The living room was by far my favorite room of the house, with a vaulted ceiling, plush blue carpet, stylish white couch, and U-shaped coffee table. It was the summer break between my sophomore and junior year in high school, and by this time I was smoking pot every day, or at least as often as possible, since there tended to be long “dry” stretches in the supply chain. For the last several years I’d been teaching myself to play on a Brazilian nylon-string classical guitar; I didn’t own a proper electric guitar until I was 18. So there I was, plunking away on “Brown-Eyed Girl” and “The Spirit of Radio”. Anyway, Astral Weeks might be an enlightening record, I dunno.

  1. Ananda Shankar – Ananda Shankar (1970)

Ordinarily, we wouldn’t concern ourselves with Indian contemporary fusion, but this Shankar record is fucking hilarious. I will never again be able to hear “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” without sitar and tablas.

  1. Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath (1970)
  2. Black Sabbath – Paranoid (1970)
  3. Cat Stevens – Tea For The Tillerman (1970)

1001_K-tel_01You don’t need a whole album of Cat Stevens. I’m sorry. I can’t let you do it. I’ll give you a box full of K-Tel and Ronco Records from the 70s. Just stay off this cat, literally. He’s got two timeless jams (“Wild World” and “Peace Train”) and three warehouses full of venomous dreck like “Morning Has Broken” and “Father and Son.” If you’re old enough to be familiar with K-Tel Records, you know exactly why I’m telling you to skip this album and everything else from Cat Stevens’ catalog.

  1. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Déjà Vu (1970)

Nope. Not essential. Even with Neil Young.

Bowie 2More than an Alternative; a Must Hear:

David Bowie – The Man Who Sold the World (1970)

I can’t imagine how this gets left off the original 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die list.

  1. Deep Purple – In Rock (1970)

They suck. End of story.

  1. Derek & The Dominos – Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs (1970)

1001_Derek-DominoYou’ve heard “Layla” more times than you can count. You’re familiar with the slide guitar stylings of Duane Allman. You’ve probably been erroneously told that Eric Clapton is a special guitar player.

Personally, this is one of the few rock records I find offensive, as in, what kind of a fool do you think I am sort of way.

  1. George Harrison – All Things Must Pass (1970)

Nearly every double album in the history of rock music could probably be pared down to a very long single LP. Even the Beatles’ White Album contains some questionable filler (“Why Don’t We Do It In the Road?”, “Honey Pie” and “Revolution 9”).

George AllAll Things Must Pass is essentially Harrison’s triple-disc collection of songs John and Paul didn’t find up to snuff and would quite literally make a good EP. That is, one side of an album, or roughly 15-20 minutes. Six sides is fucking terrorism, I mean it.

Note: Phil Spector co-produced some of this record. If you’re interested, you can read about his involvement (and lack thereof) here.

  1. James Taylor – Sweet Baby James (1970)

You don’t absolutely need to listen to this all the way through, but you should. Otherwise, you’ll miss the genius of “Suite for 20 G.” It’s too bad that JT never again made such an amazingly simple and elegant record.

  1. John Lennon – Plastic Ono Band (1970)

Surf Ono BandAs mentioned in earlier, Phil Spector sucks. I wanted to scratch every record he may have been involved with on principle alone. However, that’s not possible, since he is credited as producer on this album, though his participation was reportedly minimal. Who knows? Plastic Ono Band is not about Phil Spector anyhow; it’s about John Lennon.

Superlatives abound when discussing this album and it remains one of those records that ends too soon. But you have to respect the fact that Lennon didn’t have an endless fountain of killer ideas. He’s gonna run out of gas, too.

  1. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin III (1970)

This is definitely one of my three favorite Zeppelin albums, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to hear it. I like it for personal and sentimental reasons. Your mileage may vary.

  1. Paul McCartney – McCartney (1970)

If you weren’t square with the idea that Paul was probably the most musically talented cat in the Beatles, this record will set you straight. On the other hand, it contains a couple of super-stinkbombs (“Valentine’s Day” “Oo You” and “Momma Miss America”).

  1. Miles Davis – Bitches Brew (1970)

juke-1-Bitches_brewBitches Brew would be essential listening if… Never mind. It’s your call.

  1. Neil Young – After The Gold Rush (1970)
  2. Nick Drake – Bryter Layter (1970)
  3. Rod Stewart – Gasoline Alley (1970)

Ten years ago I would have told you that Nick Drake is only important because he managed to influence a surprising number of songwriters, without selling many records. Today, I think he has a lovely voice and Bryter Layter is my favorite of his unfortunately small catalog.

  1. Santana – Abraxas (1970)

Santana is the Frank Sinatra of guitar players. You have to hear one of his albums in its entirety. You don’t have to like it, and you may hate every minute of it.

1001_Santana_AbraxasLet’s get something straight. I can play guitar. Obviously, I never made a living at it, but after nearly 30+ years of wrangling, I know what I’m doing on the instrument. Therefore, when you have an internal monologue that starts with: “Yeah, fuck this guy. What does he know?” I want you to remind yourself that I do know. Period.

So you could ring me up on Skype right now, this very instant, and ask me to play a Carlos Santana riff, and I would reach over, grab the guitar, strike a note on the G string at the 12th fret, bend it up a whole step, add a slow vibrato, and hold that note for the next 30 seconds while an imaginary Latin percussion section juggled a sloppy groove on congas, maracas and timbales, maybe make a few orgasm faces, and that would be the best Santana impression you would ever hear in your life. Until I busted out a three-note arpeggio on the E and B strings (again, above the twelfth fret). Mind = blown.

Having seen and heard so many talented guitar players over the years, guys like Santana and Jerry Garcia make me angry, not because they lack talent—both can play pretty well—but that they became Guitar Gods while a million other dudes wallowed in the bleak shadows of obscurity. Clapton? I get it. He could play a bunch of blues licks that most other white kids couldn’t fathom. Garcia? Well, they didn’t call him Captain Trips for nothing, but it wasn’t his guitar prowess, I assure you.

1001_Santana_-_SupernaturalAfter repeated listens to the bulk of Santana’s catalog, I can’t recall a single moment where he “wowed” me. I’m getting way ahead of myself but have you heard his “comeback” album Supernatural (1999)? Yes, of course you have. “Smooth” is one of those dive bar jukebox songs that comes on and I’m like, “Jesus God holy fucking shit balls mothercock of a bitch! Make it stop!!!”

Mostly, Santana bores me with such focus and dedication that I’m certain he’s doing it on purpose.

You should listen to this particular record all the way through only if you’re looking for a literal definition of “overblown nonsense that goes on far too long.”

  1. Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970)
  2. Soft Machine – Third (1970)
  3. Spirit 2Spirit – Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus (1970)
  4. Stephen Stills – Stephen Stills (1970)

Soft Machine…sigh. If you were going to make an effort to sit through one of their albums, Third is probably the easiest listen, though that’s not saying much; it’s a double LP. Their previous record, Volume Two, launched a transition towards a purely instrumental sound vaguely resembling jazz fusion. In May 1969, this lineup acted as the uncredited backup band on two tracks of Syd Barrett’s solo debut album, The Madcap Laughs.

1001_Soft-Machine_ThirdTheir inclination for crafting extended suites from sensibly-sized compositions, both live and in the studio, reached its apogee on Third, unusual for its time in each of the four sides featured one suite. It’s the best-selling Soft Machine recording and marks the most major of several shifts in musical genre over their career, completing their transition from psychedelic music to jazz, and is a significant milestone of the Canterbury Scene.

There are two kinds of experimental rock. The first, legitimate type involves an artist actually trying something new and unusual. The second and fraudulent type involves an artist who has run out of songs and/or ideas. I suppose there’s always a fine line between integrity and fraud in all aspects of life. Jazz fusion takes that line and chops it up into 5.3 cm segments, just because it can.

Meanwhile, Stephen Stills is a fine musician, but an entire album is too much.

Suggested Alternative:
AliceAlice Cooper – Easy Action (1970)
  1. Syd Barrett – The Madcap Laughs (1970)

The tragedy of losing Syd Barrett is slightly more traumatic than losing Jimi Hendrix, John Bonham, and Keith Moon, if only because we had the privileged horror of watching and hearing Barrett slowly disappear from this world. It’s disheartening because he was so talented and just think what he might have done had he not gone mad.

1001_Syd_Barrett-madcaplaughsTo the best of my knowledge, The Madcap Laughs is the most comprehensive documentary of schizophrenia in music to date (1970). I personally can’t sit through the whole album; it only takes two or three songs before the creeping madness is under my skin, like I’ve been dosed with a tainted batch. If you have experience with hallucinogens, you know how a bad trip starts, and this album takes me directly to that spot.

  1. The Carpenters – Close To You (1970)

I would imagine that almost everybody at some point in life has pondered the Great Mystery of Existence: Is there a God, and if so, where the fuck is He or She?

It’s a tremendous waste of time, ultimately leading to the worst rabbit hole of all: Why are we here?

Now, I suggest that instead of wondering why; simply accept the fact that we are here and try to maximize our time. Since life doesn’t come with a user’s manual, we can assume that we are inherently free to make our own rules and set our own parameters. I’m pretty certain that one of the reasons for existence—if there are any at all—isn’t to be eaten by a pack of wild animals; thus, we should be fairly preoccupied with mere survival. In the meantime, try to enjoy yourself as much as possible.

Religion is a man-made construct, which I believe was simply designed to keep people in line. A lot of bad shit happens when people don’t acknowledge boundaries and whatnot. However, worship of an unknown and unknowable “higher power” doesn’t seem a terribly productive endeavor, the worshiping part, that is. Belief and/or suspicion fall into a different category of thought. To be frank, not one creature, living or dead, has ever definitively solved the Great Mystery. We’ll never know. Therefore, we must concentrate on what we do know.

1001_Milky_Way_Arms_ssc2008-10.svgLet’s think about space for a moment. We know that the Earth orbits the Sun, which orbits the Milky Way galaxy, which is moving at light-speed through the Virgo Supercluster, which is part of an even larger galactic system known as Laniakea Supercluster, at the center of which is the Great Attractor; a gravity anomaly in intergalactic space within the vicinity of the Hydra-Centaurus Supercluster, a region hundreds of millions of light-years across.

And yet we haven’t even come close to describing the observable universe.

Now consider the physical forces at work here, particularly the motion of the Earth relative to the Sun, the Sun to the Milky Way, and the Milky Way to whatever. The Earth currently rotating on its axis at approximately 500 meters per second, while hurtling across the elliptical (orbital) plane at approximately 30 km per second.

1001_Universe-clusters-of-galaxies-3Our solar system itself is moving through the Milky Way at 220 kilometers per second, with a complete rotational period of 240 million years. The Milky Way as a whole is moving at a velocity of approximately 600 km per second with respect to extragalactic frames of reference, yet since the evolution of mankind, has only managed to make 1/1,250th of a rotation around the Virgo Supercluster.

Furthermore, the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy are a binary system of giant spiral galaxies belonging to a group of 50 closely bound galaxies known as the Local Group [in the Virgo Supercluster]. Two smaller galaxies and a number of dwarf galaxies in the Local Group orbit the Milky Way.

Current measurements suggest the Andromeda Galaxy is approaching us at 100 to 140 kilometers per second. In 3 to 4 billion years, there may be an Andromeda–Milky Way collision, depending on the importance of unknown lateral components to the galaxies’ relative motion.

1001_Universe-heliosphereNow here’s my question: What is actually between here and the next galaxy? The answer is simple. The interstellar medium is a vacuum, which is, nothingness. There is absolutely nothing but light years of nothing between us and nothingness.

What is the one force keeping all this together and simultaneously pulling it in every direction? Gravity.

Let’s now set an imaginary clock back to a blazing hot summer day in your eighth year of existence. You are riding in the back seat of an olive green Pontiac station wagon with matching interior, except for the dashboard, which is mostly black. Your father is driving, your mother riding shotgun, and a sibling is sharing the backseat. The car is headed in the direction of a grandmother’s house 500 miles away.

1001_PontiacThe windows are rolled up to reduce drag and noise, since running the air conditioning is disastrous for gas mileage, so you’ve been sweltering since the station wagon pulled out of your driveway, about two hours ago. There’s too much stuff to be contained in the cargo bed, and there’s a picnic-sized Coleman cooler contending for most of the space in your footwell. Your thighs are plastered to the vinyl upholstery and you’re too overheated to be thirsty. Your only pastime possession is a book you’ve already read three times. You do not have any type of digital device, but your sibling has a deck of cards that’s missing both Jokers and the Four of Clubs. Plus, the sibling is a notorious cheater and/or bad loser, and you know better than to suggest a game of Hearts or Go Fish.

Fortunately, the Pontiac has a functioning stereo system – 8-track cartridge – which is generally controlled by your parents, who have alarming and tortuous tastes in music, respectively. Aside from quarterly bathroom breaks at rest stops along the highway, you have another 6-10 hours of constant driving ahead of you, depending upon traffic and your old man’s approach to cruise control. At any rate, the stereo system is your one source of entertainment that doesn’t end and begin with staring out the window at passing corn fields.

At eight years old, you don’t have any concept of physics beyond what you’ve been taught in school, which probably included a cursory mention of the Milky Way. But you don’t have any idea how precious, precarious, and downright improbable your life is. You don’t have the mental capacity to appreciate the subtlety of nothingness. All you know is that you’re going to be really fucking bored until you arrive at Grandma’s joint. You are incapable of realizing that there is something much worse than boredom.

1001_CarpentersYou’re not inclined to get involved in family politics, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s say your father is the figurehead and your mother is genuinely Running the Show. So that means that everybody in the car is going to listen to what she wants to listen to, which at this precise moment is The Carpenters – Close to You, which you will be hearing three more times in its entirety today, and it’s actually kind of a breath of slightly fresher air after sitting through Barbra Streisand’s soundtrack for A Star Is Born. You’re always thinking it can’t get any worse, until it does.

Anyway, there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. You’ve already been through this with your folks. You’ve had the knock-down, drag-out arguments. They don’t want to hear any of your teeny-bopper music and that’s the end of it. Suck an Air Supply dick.

At this point in the reading, you may have formulated an idea of where I’m going with this. Perhaps you’re thinking that I’m using the relative yet unfathomable size and scope of the universe to throw light or shade on the utter inconsequential nature of existence, and if there were a God, He or She would not tolerate insignificance, as a metaphor for the Carpenters’ music. Or maybe you suspect that I’m drawing a parallel between the nothingness of the interstellar medium and the Carpenters absence of artistic substance. Both of these trains of thought are fairly obvious; the latter even less sophisticated than the description allows. And both are wrong.

It all goes back to what we “know.” As articulated many times by many a great man, we are all at the center of our own universe. Existence itself is the sum of our personal experience and consciousness. Ultimately, we are a time-lapse collage of our spent emotions; our knowledge is a first-hand accumulation of feelings that eventually age to memories.

I don’t know that you know what I’m talking about, but I want you to know what I’m talking about. That’s why I want you to listen to this album from start to finish (if you already haven’t) and I want you to know, deeply, what I know about the state of nothingness, and from the impressions I’m about to leave you with, I want you to know why there can never be an answer to the Great Mystery. It’s right here on this record, in every vinyl groove or digital bit.

  1. The Doors – Morrison Hotel (1970)
  2. The Grateful Dead – American Beauty (1970)
  3. The Grateful Dead – Live/Dead (1970)

The Doors’ first album is essential listening. Everything else is not.

Over the years, I’ve wasted far too much time talking about how and why the Grateful Dead suck.

Suggested Alternative:
1001_Small_FacesSmall Faces – First Step (1970)
  1. The Stooges – Fun House (1970)
  2. The Who – Live At Leeds (1970)
  3. Traffic – John Barleycorn Must Die (1970)
  4. Van Morrison – Moondance (1970)

Once again, Moondance is an album I’m not going to listen to ever again, but you’re free to make your own decisions.

  1. Can – Tago Mago (1971)

1001_Can_-_Tago_MagoWelcome to Art Rock 101.

  1. Carole King – Tapestry (1971)
  2. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Cosmo’s Factory (1971)
  3. David Crosby – If Only I Could Remember My Name (1971)

Carole King is a major domino in adult contemporary rock, and there’s nothing Rock about adult contemporary music. If you’re going to listen to Tapestry, you might as well listen to the Carpenters and Barry Manilow.

Cosmo’s Factory is yet another CCR record following the CCR Format. If you absolutely must sit through an entire CCR record, make it that greatest hits collection I mentioned earlier.

David Crosby was neither a particularly good songwriter nor an outstanding musician. For whatever reason, people seemed to like him and his uncomfortably bushy mustache. He was probably a fun guy to have in the band. I dunno and I don’t care. Whatever it was he was doing in the Byrds doesn’t fly out here in the open skies of solo albums.

Suggested Alternative:
Moondog – 2 (1971)
  1. Dolly Parton – Coat Of Many Colors (1971)
  2. Don McLean – American Pie (1971)

1001_Dolly-CoatofManyColorsI’d like for you to hear as much early Dolly Parton as possible, but it’s not necessary. The woman sings like a bird, for sure. But all anybody ever wanted to talk about was her tits.

The title track of American Pie is almost as bad as “Classical Gas” and the rest of the album is much, much worse. This is a laughable selection.

Suggested Alternative:
1001_Move_MeesageThe Move – Message From the Country (1971)
  1. Elton John – Madman Across The Water (1971)
  2. Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Pictures At An Exhibition (1971)
  3. Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Tarkus (1971)

You’re eventually going to get albums from Elton John and EL&P, so these entries are negligible at best.

  1. Faces – A Nod Is As Good As A Wink … To A Blind Horse (1971)
  2. Fela Kuti & The Afrika 70 – With Ginger Baker Live! (1971)

FacesThese records have caution flags for different reasons. The Faces’ record has some triumphant moments, and a few slow spots. You could skip this one and hit Ooh La La (1972). It’s just an idea. Meanwhile, With Ginger Baker Live! is the least appealing of the three, count ‘em three albums Fela Kuti released in 1971.

Suggested Alternative(s):
Fela Kuti – Fela’s London Scene and Why Black Man Dey Suffer (1971)
  1. Flamin’ Groovies – Teenage Head (1971)
  2. Funkadelic – Maggot Brain (1971)

Containing one of the all-time best spoken-word album intros, and once you get through the 10-minute title track, Maggot Brain is one of the most delightful records you’ll ever hear.

  1. Harry Nilsson – Nilsson Schmilsson (1971)

1001_Nilsson-schmilssonNilsson is one of my conversational barometers. If I’m not sure whether somebody knows what they’re talking about, I’ll drop Harry’s name and watch for a response.

  1. Isaac Hayes – Shaft (1971)
  2. Janis Joplin – Pearl (1971)
Suggested Alternative:
The Electric Light Orchestra – No Answer (1971)
  1. Jethro Tull – Aqualung (1971)

Jethro Tull albums generally follow the CCR Format. The title song is a timeless classic and there might be one other really catchy jam on here. The rest of it is a drag. With flutes. Never mind the image of Ian Anderson prancing around in a pair of Spanx like he’s the wooly minstrel of King Arthur’s Faire. Pul-leeze. Enough with the Cosplay.

Suggested Alternative:
juke8-Jimi_Hendrix_-The_Cry_Of_LoveJimi Hendrix – The Cry of Love (1971)
  1. John Lennon – Imagine (1971)

I have personally listened to this record at least 100 times in its entirety. It’s also the next-to-last Must Hear solo album by any former Beatle.

  1. Joni Mitchell – Blue (1971)

Way back at the beginning, I resolved that an album couldn’t be scratched from the list merely out of spite, i.e. because I don’t like it. Joni Mitchell and T. Rex are two artists that I never cared for, but have to acknowledge.

  1. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV (1971)
  2. Leonard Cohen – Songs Of Love And Hate (1971)
  1. Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On (1971)
  2. Rod Stewart – Every Picture Tells A Story (1971)
  3. Serge Gainsbourg – Histoire De Melody Nelson (1971)

1001_SergeI honestly have no idea if you should listen to Serge Gainsbourg or not. All I can tell you is that I made it through the first minute of “Melody” before bailing out. Historie is purportedly a pseudo-autobiographical concept album involving the middle-aged Gainsbourg unintentionally crashing his Rolls Royce into teenage girl Melody Nelson’s bicycle, and the subsequent seduction and romance that ensues. It is considered by many critics and pedophiles to be Gainsbourg’s most influential and accomplished album.

  1. Sly & The Family Stone – There’s A Riot Goin’ On (1971)
  2. TrexT. Rex – Electric Warrior (1971)
  3. The Allman Brothers Band – At Fillmore East (1971)
  4. The Beach Boys – Surf’s Up (1971)
  5. The Bee Gees – Trafalgar (1971)

The Allman Brothers brand of bluesy-swamp rock was essentially unrivaled in 1971. I’m a little too exhausted to argue in favor or against this album.

  1. 1001_Yes_albumThe Doors – L A Woman (1971)
  2. The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers (1971)
  3. The Who – Who’s Next (1971)
  4. Yes – Fragile (1971)
  5. Yes – The Yes Album (1971)

Ordinarily, I would have axed one of the Yes records, but both of these albums are phenomenal.


Net Reduction of Albums from the Period: 32
Suggested Alternatives: 12
Running AMYMHBYD Total: 958

The Delightful Sounds and Incomparable Life of Moondog, The Viking of Sixth Avenue

1 Mar
1001_Moondog-1Out in the fringes you’ll find the most resourceful of humankind. It happens so rarely that I don’t remember the last time I stumbled upon an artist-in-obscurity like Moondog, who absolutely, completely blows me away. Serious audiophiles are free to scoff and say, “I’ve been on the Moondog tip for years, man.” Nevertheless, I’ve been freshly annihilated. And it feels good.

At the same time, I feel rightfully ignorant and suitably humbled for not having heard of Moondog until yesterday. All in all, the last 36 hours have been a Christmas Day of listening experience; there’s a growing sense of excitement with every “present” that gets opened. But the world only revolves around me if I choose to frame it that way.

While doing the homework for 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die…Or Not, unscheduled detours into semi-tangential space are not uncommon. For instance, I may start digging for background information on the founding members of experimental prog-jazz fusion juggernaut, Soft Machine, only to wind up at the original theme song for Super Mario Bros. (composer Koji Kondo), which is my favorite jam of the entire Nintendo Music Library.

I love this Super Mario jam so much, I’ve counted for at least 100 views of this kid:

So now you have a vague idea of how these detours happen. Moondog’s arrival on my scene came at a most banal and unsuspecting moment; it so happened that I was forced to revisit Janis Joplin – Big Brother and the Holding Company (1967), which, concurrent with my estimation in the 1001 Albums series, is not an album you Must Hear Before You Die, but that’s not the point. As I skimmed through the record, I stopped at a song called “All Is Loneliness”, which, for the first minute or so is by far the most interesting and spooky thing Joplin & Co. ever did; in fact, you might mistake it for an Jefferson Airplane out-take, until Janis starts in on her blues woman routine, which I never bought. Anyway, looking at the songwriting credits (for the first time in my life), I saw that “All Is Loneliness” is credited to Moondog. Who the hell is Moondog?

moodog-over-manhattan1Moondog, born Louis Thomas Hardin (May 26, 1916 – September 8, 1999), was an American composer, musician, poet and inventor of several musical instruments. He was blind from the age of 16. In New York from the late 1940s until he left in 1972, he could often be found on 6th Avenue between 52nd and 55th Street wearing a cloak and Viking-style helmet, sometimes busking or selling music, but often just standing silent and still. He was widely recognized as “The Viking of 6th Avenue” by thousands of passersby and residents who had no idea that this seemingly homeless eccentric standing on “Moondog’s corner” was a respected and recorded composer and musician.[1]

Forgive me, but I got so excited by the delightful sounds of Moondog that most of the following biography sections were cribbed word-for-word from Wikipedia (with citations, of course), and the rest was cobbled together here and there. Meanwhile, it turns out that anyone who has seen The Big Lebowski (1998) is at least subconsciously familiar with Moondog. His “Theme” and “Stamping Ground” (from Moondog (1969)) were used in two scenes, most notably where the Dude solves the case while riding in the car with Walter (scroll down to Discography for YouTube clip).

Moondog – Moondog (1969)

Quite possibly the most enchanting record I have heard in at least a decade.

Moondog hadn’t released a record for twelve years since his 1957 album The Story of Moondog. Finally, in 1969, producer James William Guercio (Chicago, Blood, Sweat & Tears) invited him to record an album for Columbia Records.[2] The resulting album compiled various music that Hardin had been working on since the 1950s. This included two “minisyms” (Moondog’s term for short symphonic-styled works performed by small orchestras); two canons; a chaconne in memory of Charlie Parker; ballet music originally written for Martha Graham (“Witch of Endor”); and three symphonic (or “symphonique”) works, one of which was dedicated to Benny Goodman and featured elements of swing. A version of one composition, “Theme”, had previously been recorded for Epic Records in 1952.[3]

The album has been re-released twice as a 2-for-1 CD combining Moondog and Moondog 2: once by CBS in 1989, and once by Beat Goes On Records in 2001.

Moondog – Moondog 2 (1971)

Subtitled “Madrigals: Rounds and Canons,” there’s very little extant information about Moondog 2, which consists of 26 canons performed by a small group led by Hardin and included his daughter June Hardin, and a small band of period instrument musicians. Critical evaluation overwhelmingly favors the first Columbia LP over Moondog 2, yet the second LP has a certain charm that displays Moondog’s genius-level reckoning with limited resources. Some of the jams on Moondog 2 are similar to tracks by eccentric art pop groups like Matching Mole and Gentle Giant in both sound and lack of recognition by critics and public alike.

The following are excerpts from Moondog 2‘s original liner notes:

I began writing rounds in the late winter or early spring of 1951. I vaguely remember writing my first one, “All is Loneliness,” in a doorway on 51st Street between 7th Avenue and Broadway. For the next year or two I wrote about six dozen rounds, in fives and sevens…. In 1968, when I heard that Big Brother and The Holding Company had recorded “All is Loneliness,” I took to writing them again, this time concentrating on rounds in more conventional meters of 4/4, 2/4, 3/4. The rounds of the earlier fifties were all four-part, each having a compass of an octave. In the new rounds I did not limit myself to four-part nor to the compass of an octave.
moondog-2The four-part rounds of Book I, all of the early fifties, are 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 22 and 23. The rest of Book I was written in June of 1968. Of these, the five-part rounds are 1, 10, 19, 21, 24 and 25. The six-part are 7 and 12. The seven-part is 3.
By July 1968 I had Book I printed up and was selling it on the street. One September evening a young man fell by the Warwick and started rapping. It was Jim Guercio. I laid a copy of Book I on him, never expecting anything would come of it. A year later he came by again with a man from Columbia Records. So three years after laying Book I on him, he recorded it and brought it out. Book I is the first of a series of nine finished books, each book having twenty-five rounds in it.
The round, the strictest of all canonic forms, has a tradition that goes back hundreds of years in European musical history. Rounds are eternal, they stop only when you stop repeating them. Perhaps the first rounds I ever heard in my childhood were “Three Blind Mice” and “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”
Moondog_bAll the instruments used on this record are acoustical, some old and some new. Of the old we used primitive pipe organ, virginal, harpsichord, recorder and viola da gamba. The modern instruments used were piano, celeste and guitar. The voices are my daughter June and myself, made to sound like a chorus by overdubbing. We both sing with straight tone, without vibrato, a sort of classical folk, almost ecclesiastical, or right out of Monteverdi.
The following are the musicians who participated in making this record: June Hardin: vocals, percussion; Louis Hardin: vocals, percussion; Kay Jaffee: virginal, recorders, piano, harpsichord, ancient organ; Michael Jaffee: recorders, guitar; Stephen Silverstein: schom; Judith Davidoff: viola da gamba. Another instrument used on the record is the troubadour harp, a harp without foot pedals, played by Gillian Stephens. She plays the chaconne entitled “Pastorale” that I wrote for her in the fall of 1970. In certain of the percussion tracks Jim sat in, doing a solo ad lib part against my drums for 22, also sitting in with June, me and others when percussion was recorded for 11, 14, and 18.
Though the pieces are all rounds, I call them “madrigals” which range far afield in subject matter, compared to the early madrigals which deal mainly with love.

There’s currently a Moondog documentary in the works (funded by Kickstarter campaign) and let me tell you, Janis Joplin and her motley crew of slackers absolutely murdered “All Is Loneliness.” It’s the criminal equivalent to Amy Winehouse doing “Strawberry Fields Forever.” On the other hand, I’m sure Moondog appreciated the royalty checks. Read on.

Moondog – “New Amsterdam” (from Sax Pax for a Sax, 1997)

Biography

Early life

Moon-Dog_The-Story-Of-MoondogBorn to an Episcopalian family in Marysville, Kansas, Hardin started playing a set of drums that he made from a cardboard box at the age of five. His family relocated to Wyoming and his father opened a trading post at Fort Bridger.

Hardin played drums for the high school band in Hurley, Missouri before losing his sight in a farm accident involving a dynamite cap at the age of 16.[4] After learning the principles of music in several schools for blind young men across middle America, he taught himself the skills of ear training and composition. He studied with Burnet Tuthill and at the Iowa School for the Blind.

Hardin moved to Batesville, Arkansas where he lived until 1942, when he got a scholarship to study in Memphis, Tennessee. Although the majority of his musical training was self-taught by ear, he learned some music theory from books in braille there.

Hardin moved to New York in 1943, where he met noted classical music luminaries such as Leonard Bernstein and Arturo Toscanini, as well as legendary jazz performer-composers such as Charlie Parker and Benny Goodman, whose upbeat tempos and often humorous compositions would influence Hardin’s later work. One of his early street posts was near the famed 52nd Street nightclub strip, and he was well-known to many jazz musicians and fans.

New York

Moondog_510From the late 1940s until 1972, Moondog lived as a street musician and poet in New York City, busking in midtown Manhattan, eventually settling on the corner of 53rd or 54th Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan. He was not homeless however, or at least not often; he maintained an apartment in upper Manhattan and had a country retreat in Candor, NY, to which he moved in 1972.[5] He partially supported himself by selling copies of his poetry and his musical philosophy. In addition to his music and poetry, he was also known for the distinctive fanciful “Viking” cloak that he wore. Already bearded and long-haired, he added a Viking-style horned helmet to avoid the occasional comparisons of his appearance with that of Christ or a monk,[6] as he had rejected Christianity in his late teens. He developed a lifelong interest in Nordic mythology, and maintained an altar to Thor in his country home in Candor.[7]

moondog2_drumIn 1947, Hardin had adopted the pen name “Moondog” in honor of a dog “who used to howl at the moon more than any dog I knew of.” In 1949 he traveled to a Blackfoot Sun Dance in Idaho where he performed on percussion and flute, returning to the Native American music he first came in contact with as a child. It was this Native music, along with contemporary jazz and classical, mixed with the ambient sounds from his environment (city traffic, ocean waves, babies crying, etc.) that created the foundation of Moondog’s music.

Moondog_Alan-Freed-Moondog-Coronation-ball-Friday-March-21-1952.3In 1954, he won a case in the New York State Supreme Court against disc jockey Alan Freed, who had branded his radio show, “The Moondog Rock and Roll Matinee”, around the name “Moondog”, using “Moondog’s Symphony” (the first record that Moondog ever cut) as his “calling card”. Moondog believed he would not have won the case had it not been for the help of Benny Goodman and Arturo Toscanini, who testified that he was a serious composer. Freed had to apologize and stop using the nickname “Moondog” on air, on the basis that Hardin was known by the name long before Freed began using it.[8][9]

Germany

Along with his passion for Nordic culture, Moondog had an idealized view of Germany (“The Holy Land with the Holy River”—the Rhine), where he settled in 1974.

Moondog – “Elf Dance” (Last Concert, 1999)

Eventually, a young German student[10] named Ilona Sommer (birth name: Goebel) helped Moondog set up the primary holding company for his artistic endeavors[11] and hosted him, first in Oer-Erkenschwick, and later on in Münster in Westphalia, Germany. Moondog lived with the family of Ilona Sommer and they spent time together in Münster. During that period Moondog created hundreds of compositions which were transferred from Braille to sheet music by Ilona Sommer. Moondog spent the remainder of his life in Germany where he died in 1999.

Moondog in Stockholm 1986Moondog revisited America briefly in 1989, for a tribute in which Philip Glass asked him to conduct the Brooklyn Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, at the New Music America Festival in Brooklyn, stimulating a renewed interest in his music. He recorded many albums, and toured both in the U.S. and in Europe—France, Germany and Sweden.

Moondog’s music

Moondog+at+Herald+Square.+1953Moondog’s music took inspiration from street sounds, such as the subway or a foghorn. It was characterized by what he called “snaketime” and described as “a slithery rhythm, in times that are not ordinary […] I’m not gonna die in 4/4 time”.[12] Many of his works were highly contrapuntal, and he worked hard on perfecting his counterpoint, criticizing Bach for his many “mistakes”.[13]

Moondog’s work was early championed by Artur Rodziński, the conductor of New York Philharmonic in the 1940s. He released a number of 78″s, 45″s and EPs of his music in the 1950s, as well as several LPs on a number of notable jazz labels, including an unusual record of stories and songs for children with Julie Andrews and Martyn Green, in 1957, called Songs of Sense and Nonsense – Tell it Again. For ten years no new recordings were heard from Moondog until producer James William Guercio took him into the studio to record an album for Columbia Records in 1969.

A second album produced with Guercio featured one of Moondog’s daughters as a vocalist and contained song compositions in canons and rounds. The album did not make as large an impression in popular music as the first had. The two CBS albums were re-released as a single CD in 1989.

Moondog – “To a Sea Horse” (1956)

Most of Moondog’s works are published by Managarm Musikverlag in Germany. By his last will the heritage of Moondog was administered and owned by Ilona Sommer, who died in September 2011. In her will she appointed the German lawyer Alexander Duve (Berlin, Germany) as the executor of her estate including the copyrights in Moondog’s works, so he now administers Moondog’s heritage.

Inventions

Moondog_trimba_01Moondog also invented several musical instruments, including a small triangular-shaped harp known as the “oo”, another which he named the “ooo-ya-tsu”, and a triangular stringed instrument played with a bow that he called the “hüs” (after the Norwegian, “hus”, meaning “house”). Perhaps his best known creation is the “trimba”, a triangular percussion instrument that the composer invented in the late 40s.

Influence

Moondog_louishardin_moondog-e1291746349452The music of Moondog of the 1940s and 50s is said to have been a strong influence on many early minimalist composers. Philip Glass has written that he and Steve Reich took Moondog’s work “very seriously and understood and appreciated it much more than what we were exposed to at Juilliard.”‘ [14]

In July 1956 the British jazz composer and musician Kenny Graham recorded the album ‘Moondog and Suncat Suites’ with a thirteen-piece band featuring such notable performers as Stan Tracey and Phil Seaman. ‘Moondog’ featured Graham’s arrangements of ten Moondog compositions, whereas ‘Suncat Suite’ consisted of a sequence of six of Graham’s own compositions inspired by Moondog. HMV issed the original vinyl album in 1957, and Trunk Records reissued it on CD in 2010.

Moondog – “Symphonique #6 – Good For Goodie” (1969)

Moondog inspired other musicians with several songs dedicated to him. These include “Moondog” on Pentangle‘s 1968 album Sweet Child and “Spear for Moondog” (parts I and II) by jazz organist Jimmy McGriff on his 1968 Electric Funk album. Glam rock icon Marc Bolan and T.Rex made reference to him in the song “Rabbit Fighter” with the line, “Moondog’s just a prophet to the end…..”. The English pop group Prefab Sprout included the song “Moondog” on their album Jordan: The Comeback released in 1990.  The song was also covered by Antony and the Johnsons during their 2005 tour. Mr. Scruff‘s single “Get a Move On,” from his album Keep It Unreal, is structured around samples from “Bird’s Lament.” New York band The Insect Trust play a cover of Moondog’s song “Be a Hobo” on their album Hoboken Saturday Night. The track “Stamping Ground”, with its odd preamble of Moondog reciting one of his epigrams,[15] was featured on the sampler double album Fill Your Head with Rock (CBS, 1970). Canadian composer and producer Daniel Lanois included a track called “Moondog” on his album/video-documentary Here Is What Is.

Discography

Singles

  • “Snaketime Rhythms (5 Beat) / Snaketime Rhythms (7 Beat)” (1949), SMC
  • “Moondog’s Symphony” (1949–1950), SMC
  • “Organ Rounds” (1949–1950), SMC
  • “Oboe Rounds” (1949–1950), SMC
  • “Surf Session” (c. 1953), SMC
  • “Caribea Sextet”/”Oo Debut” (1956), Moondog Records
Moondog – “Caribea”

  • “Stamping Ground Theme” (from the Holland Pop Festival) (1970), CBS.

Saxophonist, Moondog and Ilona in Stockholm 1986EPs

Albums

As Moondog

Moondog – “Enough About Human Rights”

With Julie Andrews and Martyn Green

  • 1957 Songs of Sense and Nonsense – Tell it Again, Angel/Capitol

Moondog_album278Compilations

  • 1991 More Moondog/The Story of Moondog, Original Jazz Classics
  • 2001 Moondog/Moondog 2, Beat Goes On
  • 2005 The German Years 1977–1999, ROOF Music
  • 2005 Un hommage à Moondog tribute album, trAce label
  • 2005 The Viking Of 6th Avenue (disc inside biographical book), Honest Jons (ISBN 0-976082-284)
  • 2006 Rare Material, ROOF Music

Various artist compilations

“Will you come off it, Walter? You’re not even fucking Jewish, man!”

Jeff Bridges was quite familiar with Moondog.

“I remember seeing him when I was a little kid, probably about 11 or 12. He’d be across from the Hilton Hotel, passing out little leaflets, like, ‘Come to my concert.’ Through the years, whenever I’d come to New York, he was there, rain or shine – so now I’m talking when I was between the ages of 12 and 25.
“One day I went into a record store, and I saw his picture on an album cover. I picked it up and looked at the liner notes, and who do you think wrote them? Leonard Bernstein! I bought the album and listened to it. It’s very avant-garde, moderne music – pretty fascinating. He’d built all of his own instruments and did his own thing. I dig so much of his stuff. T-Bone [Burnett] put some of his music in The Big Lebowski.”
[Sourced from Musicradar.com,“Jeff Bridges: the 10 records that changed my life” slideshow, Joe Bosso; August 13, 2014]

Moondog_playsDiscography continued

Performed by other musicians

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die…Or Not – 1967 – 1968

18 Feb
There’s no question about it. This is when popular music started getting really high.

Now, the super-cool kids had been using for a while. In fact, the real junkies of the crew had been down in the basement for years, shooting up and playing jazz. Anyway, right here and now is when the marriage of drugs and music became culture. Thus, we enter the true dawn, the aurora of psychedelic rock.

It’s impossible to estimate how much or how little you know about drugs, but it seems safe to assume that the term “psychedelic” is neither clouded nor confusing. We’re talking about kids taking LSD, smoking weed, snorting coke, and ingesting a litany of other substances, and then making records. A sizable portion of the records you are about to hear were either recorded under the influence, or, categorically influenced by experiences that the artist endeavored to express; music designed to “expand the consciousness.”

http://blacksunshinemedia.comWe can argue about it all day, but the best album of the modern era—the untouchable creative achievement—is The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967). It may not be your favorite, or even something you’re familiar with, but across the board, very few critics or music appreciationists* will denounce this record; nor will they offer an alternative champion. I’ve met dudes who claim to hate/loathe/detest/despise this record, and yet they refused to say it sucks. They just don’t like the Beatles. That’s fine. But square Sgt. Pepper up against almost any other album in rock history, the exception being The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds, and there’s no discussion. Either your contender falls short, or it doesn’t show up for the gig.

* I finally made up a word that fits.

https://blacksunshinemedia.com

Not coincidentally, Sgt. Pepper happens to be one of the prototypical psychedelic records. It certainly defined the genre. While Rubber Soul and Revolver contained stoned-pop, tasty bong-hit revelations, Pepper dropped five hits of Owsley’s Finest, and took everyone on the trip. Now, lest you think I’m talking out my ass about all these records being made under the influence of some recreational chemical, point your attention to the following quote from Paul McCartney:

“When [producer George Martin] was doing his TV programme on Pepper … he asked me, ‘Do you know what caused Pepper?’ I said, ‘In one word, George, drugs. Pot.’ And George said, ‘No, no. But you weren’t on it all the time.’ ‘Yes, we were.’ Sgt. Pepper was a drug album.”

Key:
Strikethrough indicates what you probably think it does
Green indicates highly recommended listening
Underlined indicates questionable but ultimately acceptable record
Blue bold italic indicates ABSOLUTELY MUST HEAR BEFORE YOU DIE
Note: Suggested alternatives are from the same year as the contested entry unless otherwise indicated.

1967-1968

  1. Aretha Franklin – I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You (1967)
  2. Buffalo Springfield – Buffalo Springfield Again (1967)

Two things: Aretha Franklin is awesome, especially in the 60s. Twenty-five minutes of Aretha is plenty.

Buffalo Springfield is notable for who was in the band, as opposed to the quality, appeal, and endurance of their jams. The whole did not equal the sum of their parts. Yes, Again has a couple of smokin’ Neil Young joints (“Mr. Soul” and “Broken Arrow”), but not enough to fill one side of an album. Regardless, several dudes in the band went on to make music featured prominently on the list, so don’t think I’m being stingy.

  1. Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band – Safe As Milk (1967)
  2. Country Joe & The Fish – Electric Music For The Mind And Body (1967)

1001_Safe_As_MilkIf you consider reverb and Farfisa organ to be the two key characteristics of psychedelic music, then Country Joe and the Fish are gonna be the trippy-est thing you’ve ever heard. Until we get to Jefferson Airplane, who kinda-sorta knew what they were doing. Granted, Electric Music was pretty far-out for 1967. Wait a minute. The fuck am I talking about? This Country Joe crap doesn’t come anywhere near Beefheart’s Safe As Milk.

  1. Cream – Disraeli Gears (1967)
  2. Frank Sinatra – Frank Albert Sinatra And Antonio Carlos Jobim (1967)

This is your one chance to get some Eric Clapton under your belt. Forget about Derek and the Dominoes. Disraeli Gears is by far the best thing with Clapton’s name on it.

Likewise, you already got a Frank Sinatra record. I don’t care if you offer Sinatra with Alfredo Sauce—it isn’t necessary. Dude was a dinosaur at this point in the game. And get your A.C. Jobim on your own time.

  1. Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow (1967)
  2. Jimi Hendrix – Are You Experienced? (1967)
  3. Jimi Hendrix – Axis: Bold As Love (1967)

Welcome to acid rock, a sub-genre of hard psychedelic rock, ladies and gentlemen. Jefferson Airplane only has one good album, so don’t snooze on Surrealistic Pillow.

Pretty much every Hendrix record is listening ambrosia, but Axis: Bold as Love is a Must Hear.

  1. Loretta Lynn – Don’t Come Home A Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind) (1967)
  2. Love – Da Capo (1967)
  3. Love – Forever Changes (1967)
  4. Merle Haggard – I’m A Lonesome Fugitive (1967)
  5. Moby Grape – Moby Grape (1967)
  6. Nico – Chelsea Girl (1967)

Love 10Love is the reigning champion of unfortunately short-lived but otherwise pioneering bands that will never get the props they deserve. Both of these records are worth repeated listens.

Loretta Lynn and Merle Haggard are great, but…it’s your call. Don’t Come Home A Drinkin’ is an awesome album title and a great song (her first #1 on the U.S. Country charts), but I just can’t see anybody at BSM HQ ever listening to Hendrix and Loretta Lynn back-to-back.

1001_NicoNico appears on the Velvet Underground’s first record (#25), making Chelsea Girl beyond expendable. Actually, it’s one of those records I would go out of my way to warn somebody about. “This record really really stinks. Avoid it at all costs.” Here’s what Nico herself had to say about it:

“I still cannot listen to [Chelsea Girl], because everything I wanted for that record, they took it away. I asked for drums, they said no. I asked for more guitars, they said no. And I asked for simplicity, and they covered it in flutes! […] They added strings and – I didn’t like them, but I could live with them. But the flute! The first time I heard the album, I cried and it was all because of the flute!”

And Moby Grape is just an extension of Jefferson Airplane, so you could cut them and wouldn’t be missing anything, except I kind of like Moby Grape. Great band name, for sure.

  1. Pink Floyd – The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn (1967)
  2. The Beatles – Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
  3. The Beau Brummels – Triangle (1967)

1001_PiperThe editor is trying to slip one past us here. Just look at the records we’re already listening to: Beefheart, Hendrix, the Beatles…Piper At The Goddamn Gates of Dawn. The level of creativity and musicianship of this era are staggering. Oh, but we need to hear Beau Brummels, yet another irrelevant, insufferable, white-bread, San Francisco quasi-psychedelic band? Nuh-uh. Time to put the big foot down, squarely on the throat of this concept album and say, “I ain’t having it, son.”**

**OK. There is one vaguely cool jam on this Triangle record. It’s called “Magic Hollow.”
  1. The Byrds – Younger Than Yesterday (1967)
  2. The Doors – The Doors (1967)
  3. The Electric Prunes – I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night) (1967)
  4. The Kinks – Something Else By The Kinks (1967)
  5. 1001_the_monkees_-_headquartersThe Monkees – Headquarters (1967)
  6. The Mothers Of Invention – We’re Only In It For The Money (1967)
  7. The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground And Nico (1967)
  8. The Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat (1967)

As I was saying about the Beau Brummels? Of these first 26 entries for the period, there are at least 8 albums you must hear before you die. The Byrds’ Younger Than Yesterday is not one of them. Meanwhile, the first Doors record is all you need to hear from those cats, too.

Every so often, a record like I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night pops up, and just as I’m getting ready to scratch it off, I think, “Wait, no. Give it another spin. You haven’t heard this in at least a decade.” And that’s exactly what happened with the Electric Prunes.

  1. The Who – The Who Sell Out (1967)
  2. The Young Rascals – Groovin’ (1967)

juke8-who-meatyI love the Who, and Sell Out is no doubt a fun record, but the novelty wears off, leaving two jams (“Armenia City in the Sky” and “I Can See For Miles”) and a pocketful of clever bits. It’s also their most psychedelic effort. On one hand, you should hear this album, because few bands were making records like Sell Out in 1967. Or you can wait until 1968’s Tommy to suck down a tall drink of the Who. These cats are among the rarified batch of artists to approach from a Greatest Hits angle, mainly because a bunch of their early great tracks are non-album singles. Ahem. For instance, these four jams released between 1965-1967:

“Substitute”
“I’m a Boy”
“Happy Jack”
“Pictures of Lily”
Suggested Alternative: Breaking the same-year rule and including an album that wasn’t released in 1967, Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy (1971), a compilation of the Who’s early singles.

1001_Turtles_battleofthebandsThe Young Rascals are fine but you really should be listening to the Turtles – Happy Together (1967) and especially Battle of the Bands (1968).

  1. Alexander “Skip” Spence – Oar (1968)

This cat was a special case. For my listening dollar, his cult of personality outweighed his musical talent and/or genius. Time and time again, I go back to Oar, and I feel like I’m missing something. The opening cut “Little Hands” is messy good, lo-fi fun. And then it’s downhill from there. But if you really want to hear some poor kid spiral into madness, you should hold off until Syd Barrett releases The Madcap Laughs (1970).

http://blacksunshinemedia.com

  1. Aretha Franklin – Aretha: Lady Soul (1968)

The Queen of Soul. Do we need another album? You might.

  1. Astrud Gilberto – Beach Samba (1968)

[Clears throat. Sits up in chair.] Samba. The only sound I dislike more than samba is bossa nova, which, surprise! Is a form of samba. This is the shit that gets piped into trendy restaurants for “atmosphere,” when they really mean “sonic wallpaper.” I would rather listen to Jimmy Buffet, Dire Straits, Madonna, and Randy Travis, all at the same time—locked in a room chilled to a temperature of 55ºF, all four in quadraphonic sound at fighter jet decibel levels, naked, starving, and surreptitiously dosed with lab-grade LSD—than hear anything even resembling boss nova. Or samba. This is by far the most tepid, inoffensive, disingenuous form of music in existence. Theme songs to children’s television shows have more substance.1001_Beach_Samba

  1. Big Brother & The Holding Company – Cheap Thrills (1968)

Another contentious decision here, but I hold that you don’t need an album’s worth of Janis Joplin and her half-assed backup blues band. Let me put it to you this way. If you have heard one Janis Joplin track, you have heard them all. I promise that will be the last time I say this for the duration of the essay.

  1. Blue Cheer – Vincebus Eruptum (1968)

1001_Blue_CheerHeavy metal starts right here.

  1. Caetano Veloso – Caetano Veloso (1968)

Jesus Christ! Another fucking bossa nova record from 1968. Well. I guess we now know that Robert Dimery has a hard-on for Brazilian music. How about if I just sashay over to the turntable and throw it out the window? I’d rather listen to the sound of my own heart breaking than this…nonsense.

  1. Iron Butterfly – In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (1968)
  2. Jeff Beck – Truth (1968)

1001_Beck_TruthYou just heard Blue Cheer. Iron Butterfly is as bad as the title song suggests. They have one idea and they pound. It. Into. The. Ground.

On the other hand, this is your one chance to hear Rod Stewart with Jeff Beck, and I promise, it’s tasty.

  1. Jimi Hendrix – Electric Ladyland (1968)
  2. Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison (1968)
  3. Laura Nyro – Eli And The Thirteenth Confession (1968)
  4. Leonard Cohen – The Songs Of Leonard Cohen (1968)

1001_Johnny_Cash_At_Folsom_PrisonHendrix and Cash are slam dunks at this stage of the game, but Cash gets a gold star for recording a live album in a prison. That’s bold. Meanwhile, Laura Nyro, again, like so many other artists on this list, has one fairly decent hit, and the rest of her work is lackluster. Leonard Cohen, well, I’m not going to listen to the whole thing again, but you probably should if you don’t have any idea who the guy is, or why he matters (to some people).

  1. Os Mutantes – Os Mutantes (1968)

Enough with the fucking Brazilian jazz. For shit’s sake, it’s congas and timbales and fuckin’ tribal chants in Creole. Enough!

  1. Ravi Shankar – The Sounds Of India (1968)

1001_ShankarYou’re not going to make it through this record unless you forget it’s on the turntable, and fuck off to take a bath or something. I love Shankar, sitar, and ragas as much as the next guy, but even George Harrison put the instrument down every now and then. Imagine an entire album of didgeridoo. This is a slightly more interesting and engaging listening experience.

  1. Scott Walker – Scott 2 (1968)
  2. Shivkumar Sharma – Call Of The Valley (1968)

1001_ShivkumarHave you ever seen a terrible lounge singer, or worse, a comedian pretending to be a washed-up lounge singer? OK, then you’ve heard and seen what Scott Walker has to offer. Move on. Next. Who? What? More Indian music? You didn’t even make it though the Shankar album and now you want to hear Sharma banging away at a santoor for an hour? Do you even know what a santoor is?

  1. Simon & Garfunkel – Bookends (1968)
  2. The Band – Music From Big Pink (1968)
  3. The Beatles – White Album (1968)
  1. The Byrds – Sweetheart Of The Rodeo (1968)
  2. The Byrds – The Notorious Byrd Brothers (1968)

The Byrds are the Byrds in name only at this point. Gene Clark and David Crosby are gone, and so are the hits. Yet the Byrds continue to vie for relevance by pestering us with records, and I guess if you’re really interested, you can listen to what they’re up to on Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Or I can tell you. Country rock and Gram Parsons. And The Notorious Byrd Brothers is a notoriously over-rated album.

  1. The Incredible String Band – The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter (1968)

1001_Incredible_StringTwo things throw me off about this band. First, they aren’t particularly incredible other than having a ridiculous number of members. Second, they have more than one song that features kazoo. Does the name Licorice McKechnie mean anything to you? If not, a full dose of psychedelic folk is probably not in your best interests, and I’m not saying it should be. This is quintessential hippie music: Peace, love, communal living, esoteric mysticism, sitar, gimbri, shenai, oud, harpsichord, panpipes, penny whistles, and 13-minute suites about molecular biology.

  1. The Kinks – The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society (1968)
  2. The Pretty Things – S.F. Sorrow (1968)
  3. The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet (1968)
  4. The Small Faces – Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake (1968)
  5. The United States Of America – The United States Of America (1968)

1001_USAThe Presidents of the U.S.A. is one of the all-time great obscure albums, and there’s a reason for that. It was too far ahead of its time. The band survived long enough to make this one album, which from start to finish, is the most vivid collage of avant-garde, psychedelic, and art rock to date. And they didn’t have a guitar player. On the other hand, it stands as one of the most topically dated records ever made, with lyrical themes rooted in 1960s contemporary society. If you don’t quite get the cultural significance of old-time music halls, then most of this record is going to sail over your head.

  1. The Who – Tommy (1968)
  2. ZombiesThe Zombies – Odessey And Oracle (1968)
  3. Tim Buckley – Happy Sad (1968)
  4. Tim Buckley – Goodbye And Hello (1968)

I desperately wanted to dig Tim Buckley, I really did. Having been suitably impressed by his son’s debut album, Jeff Buckley – Grace (1994), I reckoned I ought to hear the old man. At the time, I didn’t know that I had already heard plenty of Tim Buckley.

Fifteen years ago, I did 90% of my record buying at Ameoba Records on Haight Street in San Francisco. Aside from being the best record store I’d ever seen, it also had the most surly, judgmental employees this side of a sauna house in Macau. But I’m the type who likes to mix it up with people, you know? Fuckin’ 12-gauge with the neck tattoo gives me the stink-eye over a triptych of Skynyrd records, we’re going to have a conversation. Guaranteed.

So one day, I slumped into the joint and found a used copy of Happy Sad. Put it in the shopping cart. After an hour or so, I moseyed up to the register. Suicide Girl with a harpoon skewered between her cheeks starts ringing me up. This is the part of every vinyl transaction where the clerk inspects the gatefolds to make sure you haven’t jammed another disc in there, as well as to make sure you’re getting the right album.

“Pablo Cruise?” she scowled. “For real?”

“I’m having a party. You’re invited, too.”

1001_Buckley“I’ll bet.” She stops at the Tim Buckley record, inspects the vinyl, slips it back into the jacket and says, “You know this is not Jeff Buckley, right?”

“I am quite aware, yes. Thank you.”

“Have you even heard Tim Buckley before?”

“No, that’s why I’m buying the album.”

Her face expressed what only can be described as uncertain defensive anxiety; for example, when someone says they’re going to do something stupid and possibly dangerous, and your shoulders pull back, a look of puzzled concern on your face, and you say, “Uhh…good luck with that?” Or when a friend calls and asks if you want to go throw bricks from the highway overpass at oncoming traffic, and you say, “Nah, you go on without out me.” It’s safe to say that half of the record store clerks I’ve dealt with over the years have experienced this while processing my transaction.

  1. Traffic – Traffic (1968)

John Barleycorn Must Die (1970) is a better representative of the band, and the superior musical effort, as any album that doesn’t feature Dave Mason.

Net Reduction of Albums from the Period: 21
Suggested Alternatives: 2
Running AMYMHBYD Total: 990

Up Next: 1001 Albums You Must Hear From 1969-1971…Or Not

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die…Or Not – 1956 – 1966

17 Feb
1001_Gauguin1The whole thing is preposterous, I know. Music appreciation, like 90% of all things material or otherwise related to humanity, is highly personal and exclusively subjective. Some person just paid $300 million for a Gauguin painting. The world gasps at his extravagance. Perhaps in the buyer’s mind, it’s the greatest thing that’s ever happened in his life. Maybe acquiring Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?) is the sum, pinnacle, and apogee of his existence.

If you haven’t read the introduction to this essay, you might be wondering exactly what’s going on here. In another previous post, 100 Greatest Rock Songs of All-Time, I declared that Best Of lists are inherently worthless. It is, after all, the opening line of the post.

While I recommend having a look-see at this particular introduction, the gist of it can be framed thusly.

1001_cover_There’s an attractive coffee table book entitled 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die—basically an illustrated list—which has spawned an entire niche of Shit You Must Hear/See/Do Before You Die. Anyway, 1001 Albums is primarily focused on pop and rock albums from 1955 to the present, which happens to be right up my alley, or at least, circling my cul-de-sac.*

* This is neither an endorsement nor condemnation of the book. It exists, that’s all I’m saying. Also note that I’ve never actually owned the book, either, but I have accumulated several hours of concentrated browsing while camped out in Reference aisles of bookstores. Therefore, the book has been in my hands.

Following a period of review and self-evaluation, I came to the conclusion that a certain proportion of albums on the list were not exactly essential listening—in my mind—and if someone were to endeavor to hear all 1001 albums before they die, they might come to the same conclusion: At least one-third of said albums were not something they needed to hear before they died. Please note that the introduction explicitly recognizes the inherent solipsism of the above statement.

Nevertheless, this essay will attempt to delineate the Must Hear albums from those that may or may not be necessary, while maintaining the spirit of the book, which is genuinely (and admirably) geared toward increasing one’s knowledge and appreciation of music. My goal is to revise the list to 666 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. That’s it.

Of course, I’m going to give reasons and examples along the way. There is very little in my life, aside from writing, that’s done (or said) without motivation. For example, [also in the introduction], I boldly claimed that your life would still be complete if you hadn’t heard Metallica’s And Justice For All (1988). And if I were the reader, I’d want to know why. Consequently, I’m more than prepared to explain; you’ll just have to wait until we get to that part of the list.

About three days into this project, I started having conversations with myself about how and why someone would be bothered to spend weeks writing such an admittedly negligible essay. Invariably, the topic would reverse directions, and soon I was asking myself why anyone would be bothered to read it.

1001_NewportAfter sitting through yet another previously unknown early-1960s live album recorded at the Newport Jazz Festival, it occurred to me that while I was certainly listening to these albums in their entirety, I wasn’t really getting that old “album” experience, and the reasons for this absence of experience are fairly obvious, but I’m going to point them out, just in case.

First of all, the delivery method has changed dramatically. I’m listening to music on a computer, versus a turntable (or even a CD player); hence, there are half a dozen logistical contingencies related to place and setting. Second, the album itself is virtual; it doesn’t really exist, i.e. I don’t own most of the records I listen to.**

** Technically, I own a shitload of vinyl records, and I used to own a fucking boatload of records, but due to circumstances both beyond and within the limits of my control, those records have now been “set free.” Therefore, this is by no means an endorsement of my current method for listening: streaming on YouTube. Additionally, when there is something I really must have in my collection, I’ll buy it from iTunes or—gasp!—a record store. Illegal downloading is, well, illegal and unethical for two things. And despite Metallica not always living up to my “standards of metal,” they were completely right about Internet piracy. At this point, you can’t even give away your own music.

Finally, my attention span is about half of what it was 20 years ago, when I would come home from work and make a conscious decision about what album to put on while making dinner. Selecting a record was just as important, in some cases much more important, than what television show I might watch later, or what book I might read before going to bed, and equally meaningful as what I would be having for dinner. In my life, I would listen to albums the way people today download entire seasons of Breaking Bad from Netflix and watch each episode in a three-day marathon, pausing only for trips to the bathroom and paying the pizza delivery guy.

That last difference in experience is the crux of the 1001 gambit.

1001_PiperIf the ultimate goal is to increase your knowledge, perspective and appreciation of popular music, the easiest way to deal with this Must Hear deal is so simple it’s almost dumb. Almost every major artist has a Greatest Hits collection, and in many cases, it’s what you wind up listening to. But it’s a total cop-out and precisely why a book like 1001 Albums has to exist. I don’t want to sound like an Old Man, but the art of listening to an album has been hijacked by time. It’s one thing to say, “Yes, I’m familiar with Pink Floyd’s work.” But it’s quite another thing to say, “Piper at the Gates of Dawn is by far [Pink Floyd’s] best album.”

We now begin parsing the list in chronological order.

Key:
Strikethrough indicates what you probably think it does
Green indicates highly recommended listening
Underlined indicates questionable but ultimately acceptable record
Blue bold italic indicates MUST HEAR BEFORE YOU DIE

Albums You Must Hear From the 1950s…Or Not

  1. Frank Sinatra – In The Wee Small Hours (1955)
  2. Duke Ellington – Ellington At Newport (1956)
  3. Elvis Presley – Elvis Presley (1956)
  4. Frank Sinatra – Songs For Swingin’ Lovers! (1956)
  5. Louvin Brothers – Tragic Songs Of Life (1956)
  6. Miles Davis – Birth Of the Cool (1956)

1001_Elvis_1956Ooh, this not a good sign, or is it? Two out of the first six albums get cut, supporting my contention that a third of these albums are not Must Hear stuff. Relax. It’s a long fucking list. The problem here is Sinatra and Davis with two albums apiece, which is unnecessary. I’m not kidding.

First of all, Frank Sinatra hated rock n’ roll, which he said was, quote, “sung, played, and written for the most part by cretinous [sic] goons. It manages to be the martial music of every side-burned delinquent on the face of the earth.” End quote.

Sigh. What a dick. But you still need to hear at least one Sinatra album all the way through. I don’t know why, you just do. But In the Wee Small Hours is not it. Songs for Swingin’ Lovers! isn’t a better listen, but I’m partial to album titles with stupid punctuation, especially an exclamation point.

As for Davis, Birth of the Cool isn’t quite as good as Kind of Blue (1959, #22), and doesn’t feature John Coltrane on sax. I dunno. Maybe it’s impossible to compare them. It’s fucking trumpet music, man; a bunch of tappity-tap-tap-SQUAWK-SCREECH-more-tappity-tap. Plus, Birth of the Cool a smug title. I’m giving it the axe. Try and stop me.

Suggested alternatives: One of the following artists of the era that unbelievably DO NOT have a record on the list:
Chuck Berry, Chet Atkins, Les Paul, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Jackie Wilson, Art Blakely, John Fahey, Ornette Coleman, Bill Haley and His Comets, or Nat King Cole

1001_LouvinMeanwhile, there’s a better than average chance that you haven’t heard of the Louvin Brothers, and there’s an even better chance that you’ve never heard their second album, Tragic Songs of Life, which covers so much musical ground – folk, gospel, hillbilly, and bluegrass—it might be the only country record you would need to hear for almost another decade, which also explains why you can skip that Marty Robbins nonsense, too (see #21). In fact, and I write this without a trace of hipster irony, if you get a genuine kick out of Tragic, I highly recommend Satan Is Real (1959).

  1. Count Basie – The Atomic Mr. Basie (1957)
  2. Fats Domino – This Is Fats (1957)
  3. Little Richard – Here’s Little Richard (1957)
  4. Louis Prima – The Wildest (1957)
  5. Machito – Kenya (1957)
  6. Sabu Martinez – Palo Congo (1957)

1001_MachitoThe Machito record is a perfect example of the editor (Robert Dimery) trying to be inclusive. While Kenya is perfectly good Latin jazz music, I don’t know that you absolutely have to hear entire albums from Louis Prima, Sabu Martinez, Tito Puente and Machito. It’s fucking overkill. Too many deserving artists have been sacrificed to make room for these cats. Where’s Django Reinhardt, for chrissakes? He may have died in 1953, but his record company was still pumping out albums, for instance, Django’s Guitar (1956). Anyway, in this case, I would pick one jazzbo platter (Louis Prima, New Orleans jazz) and skip the other three, unless you have ulterior motives.

  1. Buddy Holly and the Crickets – The Chirping Crickets (1957)
  2. Thelonious Monk – Brilliant Corners (1957)
  3. Billie Holiday – Lady In Satin (1958)
  4. Ramblin’ Jack Elliott – Jack Takes The Floor (1958)

1001_BuddyBuddy Holly doesn’t get near enough credit for setting the rock n’ roll template of two guitars, bass, and drums, in addition to making rock music palatable for white audiences, who breathed a collective sigh of relief when they learned that the dude singing “Not Fade Away” was a gangly, four-eyed white boy from Texas.

Jack Takes the Floor is a tough one because I hadn’t listened to the whole thing until very recently, and can’t say I’m in a hurry to do it again. However, if we employ the domino theory: American folk music as we know it probably doesn’t exist if not for Ramblin’ Jack. The previous domino to fall was Woody Guthrie. Fortunately, Jack picked up where Woody left off. If you like folk, you’re going to be all over this like bad breath. If you don’t like folk, cross it off. If you aren’t sure you even know what “folk” is, by all means, give it a spin.

  1. Sarah Vaughan – Sarah Vaughan At Mister Kelly’s (1958)
  2. Tito Puente & His Orchestra – Dance Mania Vol. 1 (1958)
  3. Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Out (1959)

Sarah Vaughn was arguably the most gifted jazz vocalist of the era, if not for Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. Fortunately for us, unfortunately for Sarah Vaughn fans, we’ve just heard Lady in Satin, and Ella’s up next, so I’d personally be jazzed out at this point. As good as Vaughn is, I’d pass on At Mister Kelly’s.

We’ve already discussed (briefly) Tito Puente, but Dance Mania is something you might put on as background music if you were hosting a dinner party with a Spanish tapas theme. Thanks for inviting me. Food is great! Listen, would you mind explaining to me how the fuck this list does not contain any Chuck Berry? How is that possible?

They say Brubeck’s Time Out is the first jazz record to sell a million copies, and I say it’s got two sweet jams and the rest is filler. I dunno. It’s not the worst record you could put on while doing the dishes. If you dig Vince Guaraldi’s soundtrack for Peanuts, this record will blow your mind. The first two-minutes of “Blue Rondo a la Turk” are great fun, until it dissolves into rote sax and piano solos over a lumbering bass line. “Take Five” was the big hit and should be part of your vocabulary already.

  1. Ella Fitzgerald – Sings The Gershwin Song Book (1959)
  2. Marty Robbins – Gunfighter Ballads And Trail Songs (1959)
  3. Miles Davis – Kind Of Blue (1959)
  4. Ray Charles – The Genius Of Ray Charles (1959)
Net Reduction of Albums for the Period: 6
Suggested alternatives: 0
Running AYMHBYD Total: 1,006

1960-1964

  1. Elvis Presley – Elvis Is Back! (1960)
  2. Everly Brothers – A Date With the Everly Brothers (1960)
  3. Joan Baez – Joan Baez (1960)

1001_EverlyYou need exactly two minutes and thirty-two seconds of “Silver Dagger” to absorb everything you need to know about Joan Baez. I don’t care if she paid Bob Dylan’s rent for two years; she bores me to tears, like staring at a blank wall. At the same time, no Joan Baez: no Jewel, no Ani DiFranco, no Lisa Loeb, etc. This is one of those records I would search for in cut-out and 99-cent bins, just so I could buy and physically destroy the disc, lest any other poor kid stumbled upon it and said, “Hey, she looks like Devendra Banhart, kind of,” and the kid takes it home and next thing you know, he’s taking guitar lessons, too. The only good Joan Baez record is a non-existent Joan Baez record.

  1. Miriam Makeba – Miriam Makeba (1960)

1001_MiriamSo-called “world music” is very hit-or-miss. I don’t know about you, but if a cut has vocals in a foreign language, I’m much more inclined to tune out. The music better be something really interesting, or I’m on to the next sound. So it’s kind of nice when you stumble upon a Miriam Makeba, who was much more than simply a singer. You should check her out. I was impressed. [As mentioned in the introduction, I had never heard of Makeba until very recently.] Anyway, she’s known for an infectious little number called “Pata Pata”, which isn’t on this record, but her best work was done with Henry Belafonte, who is not on this list, either as a member of Kingston Trio or as a solo performer, and that ain’t right. So what I’m suggesting here is compromise. Skip this one and have a listen to An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba (1965).

  1. Muddy Waters – Muddy Waters At Newport (1960)

For the majority of his career, like most postwar bluesman, Muddy released double-sided singles. All this changed in 1960 when Chess released Sings Big Bill Broonzy, followed by At Newport, which is a fantastic record, but… The single versions of his greatest hits (“Mannish Boy”, “Hootchie Cootchie Man”, “I’m Ready”, “Got My Mojo Working”, etc.) are far superior to what you’re going to hear on this record. [Note: “Mannish Boy aka Manish Boy” was not performed at Newport, hence, not on the record.] For casual listeners, a singles compilation with the original version of “Mannish Boy” recorded in Chicago on May 24, 1955, is the way to go. But it absolutely has to be that original version of the song; otherwise, you’ll never hear Muddy Waters.

1001_Mannish_BoyWaters recorded several versions of “Mannish Boy” during his career. In 1968, he recorded and decidedly “rock n’ roll” version for Electric Mud. After he left Chess, it was recorded on Hard Again (1977), produced by Johnny Winter, and the version featured in Goodfellas scene: Last time Henry mixes the coke at Sandy’s place; dinner at the Hill’s with children, Lois, and brother Michael (“Don’t let the sauce stick”).

  1. Bill Evans – Sunday At The Village Vanguard (1961)

I love jazz. Don’t get the wrong impression. But we’re in a major period of transition. Rock n’ roll is here to stay, baby. The Beatles were already starting to create a buzz, Elvis was making movies, American blues artists were touring Europe to sell-out crowds, and you’re not going to hear shit about jazz after 1964. It’s not like it ceased to exist. It ceased to matter. Pretty soon the genre of jazz would splinter like a disposable chopstick. Anyway, that’s an issue for a later entry, and what we may or may not be listening to is probably the greatest traditional jazz pianist of the era. But I don’t know how much piano music you can stomach before you feel like you’re in the atrium of a shopping mall. At the Village Vanguard is, again, one of those records constantly referred to as the “best ever,” and when it comes to jazz trios, you’re skating a very thin margin. Plus, that’s Evans on Kind of Blue.

  1. Jimmy Smith – Back At The Chicken Shack (1961)
  2. Booker T & The MGs – Green Onions (1962)
  3. Ray Charles – Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music (1962)

1001_Jimmy_ChickenshackAdmission: I had never heard of Jimmy Smith until the Beastie Boys sampled his jam “I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little More, Babe” on Check Your Head (“Professor Booty”, 1992). Chicken Shack is comprised of four long but unbelievably cool jams (the CD has an extra track), and coincidentally, would be the perfect musical segue into one of my personal favorite instrumental records ever made, Green Onions.

Shocking, perhaps, to cut Sweet Baby Ray out of the mix, but we’ve already got The Genius Of… (#23), and that’s plenty. Modern Sounds is actually an exceedingly fantastic record, but we could live without it. Neither of these two records contain any of Charles’ biggest hits, by the way, so if you’re itching for some “Hit the Road, Jack” or “Let’s Go Get Stoned”, you’d be better off owning a Greatest Hits collection.

  1. Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd – Jazz Samba (1962)
  2. Charles Mingus – The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady (1963)

One of these two records had to go, and it was literally a coin-toss, since I’ve listened to each record exactly one time, and neither changed my life or my outlook on improvisational jazz. Though it’s debatably a more palatable record, Mingus winds up the keeper, mainly because of a personal distaste for anything samba-related, music and/or otherwise. Plus, Getz shows up later in the collaboration that produced “Girl From Ipanema.”

  1. James Brown – Live At The Apollo (1963)

Does anything else need to be said about this album? No.

  1. Phil Spector – A Christmas Gift For You (1963)

1001_Philspector_XmasFuck Phil Spector and Christmas music. Both suck. I am going to scratch every record Spector had anything to do with, except for one. Pay attention to 1970.

  1. Ray Price – Night Life (1963)
  2. Sam Cooke – Live At The Harlem Square (1963)

If you spend and-slash-or have spent any amount of time in a real-deal, old school dive bar, you know Ray Price like the Colonel knows chicken. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve berated other drunks for playing Sinatra on the jukebox when Price’s Night Life is right next to the Sinatra best-of in the CD carousel. You want to hear something classy? You’re not down with this rock n’ roll shit, Pops? Fine. Start with Ray Price.

Sam Cooke Recording at RCA StudiosCooke’s Harlem Square was a slam-dunk until I realized that we’re not going to be hearing from a busload of great soul singers, starting with Jackie Wilson. At the same time, Cooke was one of the dominoes that made guys like Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye possible. Harlem Square is a fine album, and should stand as a reminder to modern musicians that guys like Sam Cooke just used to get up on stage, some dude would plant a microphone in the middle of the hall, and they’d rip through the set. This is what a live album used to be and is supposed to be. On the other hand, 1001 AYMHBYD tried to pull a fast one on us. While Harlem Square was recorded in 1963, it wasn’t released until 1985. So if you were sitting around in late 1964 thinking, “Damn, Sam Cooke just got shot. I wish he had put out a live album before he died,” well, you were shit out of luck.

  1. The Beatles – With The Beatles (1963)
  2. Bert Jansch – Bert Jansch (1964)

1001_Bert-JanschI’ve said it before but it bears repetition. Jimmy Page, guitar maestro of Led Zeppelin, flat-out stole acoustic guitar riffs from Bert Jansch. Do you recall that sweet picking on “Going to California”? It comes from Jansch’s “Needle of Death”. Are you familiar with the gentle melodies of “That’s the Way”? It’s almost a direct lift of Jansch’s “The Time Has Come.” At some point, Page is going to die, and everybody is going to eulogize him as one of the greatest guitar players of all-time. And nobody is going to mention Bert Jansch. Here’s what Jimmy Page said about Jansch’s first record:

“At one point, I was absolutely obsessed with Bert Jansch. When I first heard that LP, I couldn’t believe it. It was so far ahead of what everyone else was doing. No one in America could touch that.”

Have a quick listen and see if it sounds familiar. It should:

  1. Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1964)
  2. Dusty Springfield – A Girl Called Dusty (1964)

All right, all right. Take it easy. Chill out. There will be plenty of Dylan headed your way in a couple of years. Actually, the Dylan album you really should hear, Another Side of Bob Dylan (1964) didn’t even make the list.

Dusty Springfield? Haha.

  1. Jacques Brel – Olympia 64 (1964)

You don’t need to hear an actual Brel record because literally every decent cut in his catalog has been covered (and done better) by artists from David Bowie to Belinda Carlisle. Yes, that’s right. The lead singer of the Go-Go’s did an entire album in French, Voila, which includes Brel’s “Ne Me Quitte Pas (Don’t Leave Me).” You don’t need to hear that, either, but it is a good song, and a fine example of Brel’s writing prowess. As a performer, his morose chansonnier (singer-songwriter) style of crooning is exactly the type of shit I wish didn’t exist in the first place. Next domino in line: Leonard Cohen.

  1. John Coltrane – A Love Supreme (1964)
  1. Solomon Burke – Rock ‘N’ Soul (1964)

1001_ColtraneThe Solomon Burke album is sort of a “cool, obscure” selection, and something the serious audiophile would have in his collection, but for the everyman, forget it. Sure, it’s a fun record and you might even wind up liking it.

  1. Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto – Getz/Gilberto (1964)
  2. The Beatles – A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

We’re in for a Fukushima-scale meltdown with all these fucking Latin jazz/samba bullshit entries, I’m just warning you. With Getz/Gilberto, we have officially reached my capacity for “Girl From Ipanema” bossa nova music, and I’m washing my hands of this Stan Getz character. Furthermore, Coltrane just destroyed what was left of saxophone music. Put it this way, no Stan Getz: no Kenny G.

  1. The Rolling Stones – The Rolling Stones (1964)

This is bound to rankle some feathers, but you don’t need to start listening to the Stones’ albums until they started writing their own jams, which didn’t happen until 1966’s Aftermath.

In order to validate this decision, I’m going to take the unusual step (for this essay) of providing the entire track listing for the U.S. version of the album (re-titled England’s Newest Hit Makers).

1001_rolling-stonesSide One
  1. “Not Fade Away” (Charles Hardin/Norman Petty)
  2. “Route 66″ (Bobby Troup)
  3. “I Just Want to Make Love to You” (Willie Dixon)
  4. “Honest I Do” (Jimmy Reed)
  5. “Now I’ve Got a Witness” (Nanker Phelge)
  6. “Little by Little” (Phelge/Phil Spector)
Side Two
  1. “I’m a King Bee” (Slim Harpo)
  2. “Carol” (Chuck Berry)
  3. “Tell Me” (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards)
  4. “Can I Get a Witness” (Brian Holland/Lamont Dozier/Eddie Holland)
  5. “You Can Make It If You Try” (Ted Jarrett)
  6. “Walking the Dog” (Rufus Thomas)

If you can honestly say, “Hell yes, I need to hear this!” then you’re either a die-hard Stones fan, or Bob Ryan of Bob and Ron’s Record Club. By far the most overwhelming characteristic of this record is the fact that they aren’t the Beatles. They have the same ideas and the same basic instrumentation, but the jams aren’t there. This bratty, sneering version of Willie Dixon’s “I Just Want to Make Love to You” is the worst I’ve ever heard.

1001_Chuck_Berry_St_Louis_To_LiverpoolAnd another thing. Every single Chuck Berry song on the list was performed by white artists. If the Beatles thought enough of him to put “Roll Over Beethoven” on their first record, and the Stones’ very first single (“Come On”) was a Chuck tune, why isn’t Chuck on the list? Because he was a convicted felon? Can’t be. He’s got some company in that department. Because he was allegedly a dirty pervert? Half the fuckers on this list were needle-fiend degenerates. Chuck Berry was rock n’ roll before it existed. I’m not going to listen to this half-assed, second-hand Stones bullshit.

Net Reduction of Albums for the Period: 10
Suggested Alternatives: 1
Running AYMHBYD Total: 997

1965-1966

  1. B.B. KingLive At The Regal (1965)

You read the Muddy Waters entry, right? Same deal here, except B.B. never really had Muddy’s raw magnetism. B.B. was more of a gentleman, I suppose. At any rate, this is as good as any record in his catalog. Shrug.

  1. Bob Dylan – Bringing It All Back Home (1965)
  2. Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited (1965)

OK, here you go, kids. Right here and now is where Bob Dylan starts to earn his keep. Both of these albums should be learned by heart.

  1. Buck Owens & His Buckeroos – I’ve Got A Tiger By The Tail (1965)

1001_BuckIf I could recommend a country album to spend an afternoon getting to know, this is it. Aside from the Louvin Brothers, at this stage, country and western music is still Hee Haw, the Grand Ole Opry, and Hank Williams’ rotting corpse in the back of a Buick. And besides, Buck Owens is singularly responsible for the “Bakersfield Sound” that you’re going to be real sick of by the time Merle Haggard puts out his third LP.

  1. Jerry Lee Lewis – Live At The Star Club Hamburg (1965)
  2. Otis Redding - Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul (1965)
  3. The Beach Boys – The Beach Boys Today! (1965)
  4. The Beatles – Rubber Soul (1965)
  5. The Byrds – Mr. Tambourine Man (1965)

Jerry Lee Lewis should have had some kind of recognition about 30 albums back, but we’ll take this one in consolation. The guy might have been a miserable human being, but he brought the Rock. You’d be at a party and someone would say, “Who’s got the Rock?” And Jerry would say, “I do. Want some?” Other cats had a bit more Roll with them, but Jerry Lee brought the Rock, like I’d bring the guacamole dip to your next Super Bowl party. There’d be enough for the whole fucking subdivision, boss. Honestly, I’ve already made my way through Jerry Lee’s catalog several times over, so I won’t be listening to At the Star Club anytime soon, but it’s always with me, way back there in the closet of my musical memories, right next to Glenn Miller, Buddy Rich, and all the artists who won’t make this list for one reason or another.

Otis Redding is “my” soul singer. As far as I know, Otis Blue was the only “soul” record my parents owned, and thus, very close to my heart.

  1. The Sonics – Here Are The Sonics (1965)

1001_The SonicsYou may not have heard the Sonics, but you have heard at least two dozen American punk and grunge bands that based their entire shtick on this album, including but not limited to the Dead Boys, the Cramps, Mudhoney, Nirvana, White Stripes, Eagles of Death Metal, the list could go on and on—even the Stooges owe almost everything*** they are to the Sonics. Think of this record as killing 36 birds with one stone.

*** See #74

  1. The WhoMy Generation (1965)
  2. 13th Floor Elevators – The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators (1966)

Hailing from Austin, Texas, 13th Floor Elevators were the first band to advertise themselves as “psychedelic.” A groovy band, for sure. Roky Erickson is a legend. The Elevators were at the forefront of psychedelic rock, obviously, which is great in theory, but problematic in practice. There’s no doubt in my mind that if they had Sgt. Pepper’s recording budget (and access to Abbey Road), Psychedelic Sounds would have been one trippy experience. As it stands, it’s much more garage rock than anything else. And that’s OK. Just don’t put this on and expect an early blueprint of Dark Side of the Moon, you know?

  1. Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde (1966)
  2. Donovan – Sunshine Superman (1966)

1001_Donovan-Sunshine_SupermanNot a whole bunch of love for this Donovan cat, either. “Mellow Yellow”? OK. Nifty little tune. When people of the age referenced “hippie music,” this is what they were talking about. And it’s funny to me, but whenever I force myself to re-hear this album, which I do from time to time, I can totally imagine a bunch of British dudes sitting around a flat in Chelsea, listening exclusively to Bob Dylan while learning how to roll joints. At the same time, I picture the Manson Family during their idyllic period, all dressed in white Jesus robes, rolling around in a field of daisies, braiding each others hair and listening to Charlie preach. So Donovan gives me mixed messages, and I’m no longer taking his calls.

  1. Fred Neil – Fred Neil (1966)
  2. John Mayall’s Blues Breakers – Blues Breakers With Eric Clapton (1966)
  3. Nina Simone – Wild Is The Wind (1966)
  4. Paul Revere & The Raiders – Midnight Ride (1966)

Fred Neil is a fine songwriter with a nifty baritone voice, best known for “Everybody’s Talkin’” (made famous by Harry Nilsson, featured in the film Midnight Cowboy), and “Dolphins” (covered by Tim Buckley), but he doesn’t deserve an entire album.

John Mayall and Eric Clapton are everything that’s wrong with the Anglo blues movement. These cats didn’t have an original bone in their bodies.

Nina Simone is an intriguing artist, but her shelf life on the turntable is 20 minutes, or exactly one side of Wild is the Wind. Pick one.

Paul Revere & the Raiders would be interesting if they were the only band to release a record in 1966. Obviously, they were not.

  1. Simon & Garfunkel – Parsley, Sage, Rosemary And Thyme (1966)
  2. The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds (1966)
  3. The Beatles – Revolver (1966)
  4. The Byrds – Fifth Dimension (1966)
  5. The Kinks – Face To Face (1966)

1001_ByrdsWe’re going to get a third Byrds record next year, so I’m suggesting caution at this point. To be brutally honest, I think the Byrds – especially on songs like “Mr. Spaceman” – are dangerously close to being over-rated. Fifth Dimension is definitely an experimental leap in a psychedelic direction, but they didn’t stick the landing.

  1. The Mamas & The Papas – If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears (1966)
  2. The Mamas & The Papas – The Mamas And The Papas (1966)

1001_MamasWhen I first saw these two entries, I did a Scooby-Doo double-take. First of all, one M&Ps record is way way way over the threshold of necessity. They have three vaguely different jams (“California Dreamin’, “Monday, Monday”, “I Saw Her Again”) and everything else is a lesser version thereof. You might as well sit through the entire soundtrack to Hair.

Suggested Alternatives: None, really. Take up a hobby. Solve an intricate puzzle. Go for a walk without your iPod. Bake a batch of cookies. Spend the two hours doing something constructive.
  1. The Monks – Black Monk Time (1966)

Remember what I just said about the Sonics? I’m telling you, this record will cut your head off. I don’t even want to talk about it. You must listen to this album. And when you’re done listening, put your head back on your shoulders and read the Monks’ biography. Bad. Ass. Dudes.

  1. Frank Zappa and the Mothers Of Invention – Freak Out! (1966)
  2. The Rolling Stones – Aftermath (1966)
  3. The Yardbirds – The Yardbirds aka Roger the Engineer (1966)

Holy Christ! Did I already go on a rant about these British Invasion “blues” bands? Not yet? OK. It’s coming, for sure. Anyway, this Yardbirds record is pretty cool and that’s Jeff Beck on guitar. But I don’t think anybody needs a history lesson here.

Net Reduction of Albums for the Period: 6
Suggested Alternatives: 0
Running AYMHBYD Total: 991

Up Next: 1001 Albums You Must Hear From 1967-1968…Or Not

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 165 other followers