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

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

Now, the super-cool kids had been using recreational substances 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
Red indicates generally hazardous material
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

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