Blastitude 9
issue 10   october/november 2001
page 14



A LOADED PROPOSITION: Joe S. Harrington Picks the All-Time Top 100 Or...Who Pulled The Trigger?


The origin of this exercise—and it’s certainly not anything more—comes from a former list that Dilly posted on the Cold Coffee website, which I concocted late one night as a kind of tribute to the last era when any kind of consensus about rock existed…that is the late seventies, pre-MTV. Whether you listened to punk, heavy metal or prog rock, chances are you’d heard all the same albums—in those days, when rock was only a couple decades old, a whole generation’s perception about what constituted "rock n’ roll" centered around about 100 albums, from the first Bad Company LP to Nazareth’s Hair of the Dog. So that meant even if you hated stuff like Heart’s Little Queen or Queen’s Sheer Heart Attack (which I did) chances are you were still familiar with them. So, in regards to that particular honor roll—which was semi-facetious anyway—I was trying to make kind of an ironic statement and most people seemed to get it. The esteemed editor of this fine webzine asked if he could reprint it, but then it dawned on me, it wasn’t the kind of thing I wanted to get tagged with for life because it was a bit cheeky to begin with. So I said why not play it straight and really come up with the actual Top 100?

Once again, it’s a loaded proposition to begin with—what kind of arbitrary rating system can one establish to determine digit-by-digit which alb is theoretically "better" than another one? Especially when music is such a mood-oriented thing? OF COURSE it’s just a matter of opinion, but like any learned discipline, listening to records is a sort of art form and, I suppose, being a critic is its own reward because one gets to know about so much great music as a result of it. That said, the most fatuous thing about any such "Top 100" is the simple fact of omission—there’s no way even the most devout record-listener could’ve possibly heard every album ever (for instance, I have no clear recollection of Nick Drake’s Pink Moon nor do I have a copy in the house). I’m particularly ignorant of the commercial music of the nineties (Radiohead etc.); hence, I’ve imposed a ten-year rule—nothing on the list was recorded after 1992, which I think is a pretty good cut-off point since a decade seems to be a pretty fair statute for immortality (which I realize is kind of a Cooperstown approach to the whole thing).

Unfortunately, unlike in the baseball Hall of Fame, there’s no cogent rating system that exists, unless you want to use sales (as opposed to artistic merit). Considering that the majority of albums on this list never even made the Billboard Top 100, that would be pointless. What I have tried to do then is select the All Time Top 100 with provisos—one of them being, the list is restricted to albs I’ve actually actively listened to, which means heard more than once, and, in most cases, still possess a copy of. They also have to be LPs created as singular works—no various-artist compilations qualified, which I thought was only fair, since they’re actually a programmer’s concept more than anything. It meant Nuggets, This is Boston Not LA and several volumes of Lee "Scratch" Perry’s classic sixties work had to be omitted, which in a way was heartbreaking—after all, an album’s an album, right? Or is it? Because I also refused to allow greatest hits—so say goodbye to Chuck Berry’s Golden Decade, Marvin Gaye’s Super Hits and even James Brown’s Funky People. These have to be albs intended as albs—because half of what always made the LP record an art form was this kind of singularity. It used to be that not every Tom, Dick or Harry (or even Harry Dick) got to make an alb—nowadays an indie band can press their own disc, and while that indie spirit was enthralling for a while, I almost think in the long run it ruined everything because now the market is so saturated with shit that nobody’s ever gonna hear the few precious gems lost in the toilet tide. Music-making wasn’t supposed to be a democracy—it was a privilege one earned by being good (all of the artists on this list in fact are exceedingly good).

And what better judge of who’s "good" or not than an artist’s recorded legacy? That comes down to LPs, and what follows is a list of some of the best of ‘em—these are LPs where we’re talking about AT LEAST 8-9 truly great cuts as well as a general cohesiveness that suggests theoretical totality. Theoretical totality, is that too much to ask?

I’ll live with it—because, as I’m sure all you music lovers will agree, there’s nothing more gratifying than that perfect-LP fix. But it can be deceptive, because sometimes, even those albs that rocked your world three years ago ultimately get filed away and forgotten about (stuff like Nashville Pussy comes to mind). Which is why, once again, the ten-year rule makes more sense than ever…even if it means omitting genuine masterpieces issued in the past few years by artists likeof Love Child, the Hellacopters, Veruca Salt, Yo La Tengo, Beat Happening, the Brian Jonestown Massacre, Helium, the Donnas, Buttercup, the Nightblooms, Stereolab and others.

But if it’s all about singularity, at the same time, some works were just too singular to qualify—these are works that are so personal in their vision that they have to ultimately stand on their own: Johnny Thunders’ Hurt Me, Syd Barrett’s The Barrett, A Lot of People Would Like to See Armand Schaubroeck Dead, Yoko’s Fly, Lisa Suckdog’s Drugs Are Nice etc. Some stuff was just too obscure—like the insane Strata-East free-jazz LP from ’72 Alkebulan: Land of the Blacks, or even Don Cherry’s import-only Organic Music from around the same time. What’s the sense of recommending it if no-one will ever be able to hear it? I’ve also tried to avoid sentimental picks that seem like obligations at this point—it’s not post-modern smugness: as important as either the Beatles or Dylan were, I really believe that they’ve been surpassed at their own respective crafts by their imitators (Big Star in the Beatles’ case, and Reed, Richard Hell, Verlaine, Costello, Patti Smith etc. etc. in Dylan’s). You will find no works by either in my Top 100.

That’s another thing—if you think something crucial is missing, most likely it’s not a deliberate snub. The whole impracticality of such a list becomes more apparent when one ponders just how many great albums there really are—in that case, the whole notion of applying such a finite structure to such a vast ouvre seems like more of a gaffe than ever. But for now it’s gonna have to stand.

I guess the plan now is to run the Top 100 in installments of 25 over the next several months here on Blastitude. As opposed to thinking of it as some kind of definitive list, think of it more like a long slow descent into one man’s personal wine cellar.

Just be glad I didn’t do singles. I still might…

100. LAMF, the Heartbreakers (Track, 1977): This past weekend I was sitting on the couch with Nickerson during football action, and I asked him, "Who are the three biggest walking advertisements for junk in rock n’ roll history?" When he didn’t answer, I preceded to announce them: 1. Burrroughs; 2. Keith and 3…and I held up the sleeve of LAMF, which we were listening to at the time. "Those guys were into the horse?" He asked, in his own inimitable way. Yes, these guys were into the horse. They were into the horse so much they moved to England because they had easier access to the junk—in the form of legal methadone. They brought Nancy Spungen with them and, in this way, indirectly murdered Sid Vicious. They were an exemplary raunch-rock outfit, but they didn’t have many songs…they were too busy procuring the junk, DOING the junk, TALKING about doing the junk etc. Indeed, LAMF comes off like a rock n’ roll ransom note—they made this album because they had to, if you know what I mean. But they play with a fury that captures that punk-rock summer of ’77—this is a STAMPEDE of high-rollin’ hijinx that has Thunders and sidekick Walter Lure springing forth absolutely ARROGANT sounding shards o’ Chuck Berry while Thunders, in that whiney voice of his, strikes a somewhat lackadaisical pose, and the rhythm section—which contained fellow Dolls outcast drummer Jerry Nolan and the venerable Billy Rath—plunged headlong into the tunnel of darkness. It’s one of the LEAST self-pitying drug albums ever. In fact, it’s more or less the essence of a great rock n’ roll album with 12 cuts that run together cohesively enough to give the impression that, for just once, these eternal villains gave it a real go, a no-bullshit effort. The fact they were doing it just to earn their heroin really doesn’t diminish it. Some people prefer the later Live at Max’s but LAMF to me shows a band really trying to battle the British punks for punk rock supremacy on their own turf. That takes balls—a lot of bands can talk the talk, but you know what they say. These guys did NOT run in fear from the foul-mouthed yobs. The Heartbreakers were the real Ocean’s Eleven.

99. One Size Fits All, the Mothers of Invention (DiscReet, 1975): Not many folks’ d put this on the list, opting instead for We’re Only in it For the Money or Hot Rats or Apostrophe, but I think this is actually better. The only other alb by Uncle Frankie Baby that even had a chance to place was Shiek Yerbouti, an underrated, mostly-live and typically bloated (it’s a double alb) undertaking from ’79 that’s actually quite similar, but Overnight Sensation is slightly preferable, not just because it’s shorter—the band is a bit greasier, and this is definitely Zappa’s most "soulful" alb if y’ can call it that. Maybe it’s the presence of George Duke and Johnny "Guitar" Watson, but the kind of rolling fusion-funk of One Size Fits All is closely akin to similarly rubbery experiments at the time like Tim Buckley’s I Pity the Fool and Parliament’s Mothership Connection. By this point, Zappa was at his most acerbic and he literally makes fun of everybody on One Size Fits All, from biker scum ("San Ber’dino") to the Krauts ("Sofa No. 2") the little pajama-wearers (the classic "Po-jama People"). The musical interplay of "Andy" is perhaps the ultimate bridge between Zappa’s sixties noodling and his seventies rock-funk-jazz boogaloo. His guitar is wank, as always, but here it’s used tastefully; meanwhile, the extravagant textures of the music itself are only matched by Steely Dan. The way snippets of recorded wordage break up "Inca Roads," the opening track, is almost a weird predecessor to rap. The fact Eazy-E sampled this album seems to back this up. The beauty of Zappa was that he was equally obnoxious as a lot of those latter-day bad-asses, but with intelligence and discipline. Sometimes his knee-jerk belligerence belied his musical strengths, but this album is the perfect mix of beauty and contempt.

98. Brain Capers, Mott the Hoople (Atlantic, 1972): This ‘un more or less has to be in here. Because when you think of where Mott was at when they recorded this album…they’d yet to break in America (which they never really did) and they were generally on the rocks. They’d yet to meet Bowie, and were basically a band of sods at odds with everything the record-making establishment had to offer—therefore they were one precious album away from being dropped by their label, which happened to be Atlantic, and this happened to be the album that got ‘em finally dropped when it didn’t even chart in the US. There’s a genuine surliness to this album, particularly on cuts like the punk classics "Death May Be Your Santa Claus" and "Moon Upstairs" that wasn’t apparent on their more taciturn earlier albums, no doubt a result of creeping seventies cynicism (which was also being echoed at the time by Alice, BOC etc. etc.) But there’s also a lot of the churning workingman rock that was such a mainstay of this era, from the Zeppelin/Jethro Tull-ish fade-out of their version of the Youngbloods’ "Darkness, Darkness" to the epic Stones-like (think "You Can’t Always Get What You Want") grandeur of "The Journey" (which ain’t that far off from Elton). There’s also Stones/Faces lad-rock ("Sweet Angeline") which amounts to just a healthy bunch o’ yobs singin’ ‘bout girls and stuff to the usual boogie-woogie. This is definitely Mott pre-"hey you there, you with the glasses," and as such, in all its bohunk glory, it’s kinda like the English vesion of the Flamin’ Groovies’ Teenage Head, which came out at approximately the same time. For early seventies English juicing-and-jamming antics it beats Rod’s Mercury stuff—and the fact the Dictators covered "Moon Upstairs" gives further credence to the whole godfather-of-punk claim that Mott, amongst many others, has oft copped. And speakin’ o’ covers, that’s another thing to their credit—they do great ones, and coverin’ Dion’s anti-junk "My Own Back Yard" on this album was as brilliant a move as their earlier remake of Sonny. Some people prefer the later Mott, a probably more well-thought-out opus, but Brain Capers shows a band right on the edge, and as such it has a sense of desperation and wailing ragged glory that most albums simply can’t match.

97. Bleach, Nirvana (Sub Pop, 1989): When these ZoidOids made this album they really had no idea that they were one day gonna be hailed amongst the almighty…the great irony of Kurt Cobain was that he was probably the first rock star to try and pull off that whole unselfconscious act who really was unselfconscious enough to get away with it. And when he found out how utterly self-conscious those surrounding him were—his bandmates, his girlfriend, his record label, the fans, the press—he couldn’t cope. A lot of folks said "that loser asshole, if you’d given me the fame I could’ve handled it" but it wasn’t them who became the Voice of a Generation, it was the mewling puppydog we hear on this album who, in his primal stomp, was willing to literally crawl through the thickets (if not wear them as a thorny crown on his head). Kurt got elected, he couldn’t help it, and this album is why—while Dave Geffen was JUST STARTING to get the whole process rolling by signing Sonic Youth and then Teenage Fanclub to his label, trying to slowly broach these alt-rock waters, Nirvana were obliviously whacking out a highly-stoked brand o’ freedom-rock that could dirty a pair of dungarees at fifty paces. There’s a lot of fuckery on this LP, and the influence of the Melvins is prevalent, but what the fuck was grunge if not an inversion of punk’s whole hard-fast-loud equation and the whole Melvins/Flipper slowdown process is apparent on Bleach just as it was on the work of proto-grunge gods Green River and their spin-off, Mudhoney. Together these long-haired young men brought this raging tribunal to the world and Charlie Peterson was there to snap the footage of these feisty lumber-jerks shakin’ their leonine manes. Out on the east coast, as bifocal’ d schoolboy types stood around trying to look and act blasé, their girlfriends were raising their lashes (and lowering their drawers) to these Neanderthals (as always). When y’ heard Bleach in ’89, it definitely sounded like the wave o’ the future. Listening to it now it sounds like a slopbucket of shit—recorded when the band was actually a quartet, featuring the addition of guitarist Jason Everman, and before Dave Grohl joined (Dale Crover and Chad Channing split drum duties)—it’s an exercise in excessive splat and ugly noise, purposely dark and grim-sounding and monotonous, but the melodies lurk in there somewhere and Cobain was already perfecting his primal-scream technique in songs like "Paper Cuts." This album really comes on strong about half-way thru it with such searing slabs o’ sheer hatred as "Negative Creep" and "Scoff." Why Geffen thought, after hearing this, that they could make a hit out of these guys is dubious. The fact that they were able to of course says scores about a lot of things, but it doesn’t explain why Bleach, recorded when they were still on little old Sub Pop, is actually the best thing Nirvana—any incarnation of Nirvana—ever did.

96. Roxy Music (Reprise, 1972): When it comes to these cuckoos I was originally gonna nominate Stranded for the honor roll—either that or Eno’s second solo album, but on second thought they’d already done it all by the time of this, their first—and what a first it was, one of the first albs to truly accept the seventies as an inevitability. From the opening blare of the classic "Remake/Remodel" (which basically BIRTHED David Byrne via Ferry’s foghorn vocal during the verse "we could talk talk talk talk TALK ourselves to death") to the grandiose stylings that end the album with the pseudo-swank of "Bitter End," these clowns wax contemptuous of just about everything—everything that makes them have to leave the cocktail lounge where they sit til the wee hours o’ the English morn w/ their painted ladies and extravagant backdrops (Warhol anyone?). That’s where these guys were coming from at a time when there was still a lot of exuberant good hippie vibes—and that’s why, a few years later, the Sex Pistols didn’t find these guys unthinkable whereas they did find Mick unthinkable (read: square). Musically, Roxy weren’t ruffians like the Stooges, in fact they had pomp airs, but in the synthesizzle of stuff like "2.H.B." not only were the seventies being invented, but the eighties too (in the form of Depeche Mode or whatever). They also made perfect bedfellows with Bowie—and what can you say about that other than….eeeh, better them than me!

95. Scary Monsters, David Bowie (RCA, 1980): Speaking of the Thin White Puke…he’s pretty much gotta be in here somewhere and let’s face it, any number o’ David’s albs ‘re winners, from the raucous aplomb of the late-period-heavy-psych Man Who Sold the World to the fey-folk whimsy of the Lou-Reed-in-a-dress Hunky Dory to the Burroughsian drug-homosexual orgy of Diamond Dogs—some people even like the trilogy of albs made with Eno. But Scary Monsters, the one he made after the trilogy, can in many ways be seen as his most enduring work—it was also his last good one, and that was over twenty years ago so, as Strausbaugh decrees, it’s about time for this old hag to hang up his rock n’ roll shoes. I’ve seen little evidence of him lately, and that’s definitely a plus. But when Scary Monsters came out, Bowie was the one surviving member of the rock aristocracy who’d effectively escaped the wrath o’ the punks and what Scary Monsters represents is a cross between all those kooky multi-layered devices that Eno’ d taught him in Berlin, and the guttersnipe snarl of what was happening in England at the time: Joy Division, PiL and all that. Then again, he gets Springsteen’s keyboard guy to play on a few songs so how "punk" is it? Bowie doesn’t care—he’s always been a mass of contradictions, but all things considered, this is one of his least contradictory albums because it’s one of his most seamless—no "Ain’t it Hard" or "Lady Grinning Soul" to disrupt the flow…and the flow is a clank and, in this case, the rose is a thorn. Bowie’s at his most prickly in the title cut, which contains the best solo Fripp played since "Baby’s on Fire." Although it was under-recognized in its time, Scary Monsters has actually turned out to be one of Bowie’s most influential LPs, arriving as it did, right at the crossroads between punk/new wave and seventies/eighties. Trent Reznor of all people claimed it was the first alb that really tugged at his naps, and Richard Butler of the Psychedelic Furs cited Scary Monsters as a major influence on that band’s second LP, Talk Talk Talk. It’s the only Bowie album that still sounds fresh nowadays, partly because Bowie was never entirely negligent when it came to those dance rhythms either—he understood that moveable (and mindless) impulse of disco and he also realized that it wasn’t that far from new wave. He also threw some ugly noise and Springsteen in there (goddamn guy was ALWAYS a Stinksteen booster). And he kissed other men on the lips. Goddamn guy’s a screwball no matter how you look at it.

94. Tyranny & Mutation, Blue Oyster Cult (Columbia, 1973): This brain-buster from ’73 was one of the all-time heavy-mental opuses when it came out, although almost nobody knew about it at the time. The first album was also a classic, with its sinister sounding ambiance that sounded like it was recorded in a dungeon, and mindfucking endless-trapdoor-to-hell cover, but this one took their whole creepy Nazi-punk approach to a whole new and relentless level. On the inset, they were all wearing black leather and even thanked the Leather Man, a bondage shop on Christopher Street, on the sleeve. The songs were some of the most metallic of the era, particularly the first side, which was like a screaming cabal of molten mania peaking with the anthem "Hot Rails to Hell," later covered by Tesco Vee, which tells you something right there. The second side was weird—a more hypnotically pastoral but still intense and wicked sound that in a strange way predated stuff like the Cars’ "All Mixed Up." Part-time song-hawkers Patti Smith and Richard Meltzer also make an appearance.

93. Daydream Nation, Sonic Youth (Blast First, 1988): A pretty big breakthrough for the fledgling "underground" as it existed in the abyss of the late eighties, before it would become farm-teamed and eventually franchised and these guys would help break down that door as well—infact, Bryllcream Nation was their last outing in indie-land but it was an almost Magellan-like voyage in its infinite scope n’ scape. This is the one where they really got it down and they were able to spread it over two whole discs, spanning over an hour in length, and toying with all their gadgets while at the same time still existing somewhat within the framework o’ actual "songs" which they’d already been edging closer towards for a while, and some actually prefer the sex-death-suicide-surrender of the more macabre-erotique Sister, Evol and even the barely-competent Bad Moon Rising. All are supreme opuses by what was arguably the most important band of the era (although not necessarily the "best"). But Bryllcream had the moment—and that moment was the moment before the big indie secret became exposed to an actual daydream nation of mopey kids named Jason with their hair falling in their faces. You gotta give J. Mascis a lotta credit in this area as well, but then again, Sonic Youth jumped on his bandwagon and they both recorded for SST for a while so it was all coming out of the same place (and as stuff like Azzerad’s book proves, that whole era of SST recordings basically set the table for all of this shit). One thing’s for sure, on songs like "Total Trash," "Teen Age Riot," "Hey Joni" and others, Sonic Youth were hammering away for posterity—this is one of those albums where one can really feel the momentum of history itself turning a page and as such it’s one of those albs that one cannot possibly hear without thinking of the time it was created in. And only now, in light of what’s come since, do we realize what a great time it was, those early days of indie. One thing’s for sure—from Sebadoh to Love Child to Eric’s Trip (who named themselves after a song on this album), any group who mixed dirge-like minor chords with grizzly sonic outbursts in those days was paying homage—inadvertently or no—to these sneaker-geezers.

92. Atlantis, Sun Ra (Saturn, 1967): Everyone knows Sun Ra was crazy as a cat and that his recorded output could be spotty—which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a guy with 100-plus albums under his (very wide) belt. Some of his albs were thoroughly unlistenable while others were OK ‘cept for some random meandering blat that ruined the flow of an otherwise alreet LP (Nothing Is comes readily to mind). The guy wasn’t consistent in other words, but Atlantis is probably one of his most uncharacteristically unswerving works and probably his best. The ramifications of this album were heard louder in the field of funk than jazz—P-Funk for instance copies "Yucatan" EXACTLY on one of their earlier albs. Ra’s use of keyboards and electronics predates everything from Miles to Stevie Wonder to George Duke’s work on Zappa’s One Size Fits All (see #99). In the aforementioned "Yucatan," a phone rings, and the song abruptly ends, which tells you something about his "natural" approach to recording—i.e., somewhat Jandek-like (don’t forget, Sun Ra released all this stuff on his own label so he was pioneering "indie" as well). The combo of kozmik keyboard slop and tribal fury ("Bimini" is like the meeting ground between Olatunji and the Last Poets) on Atlantis is what makes it such a work of unqualified genius. It’s on this list for the most basic reason that an album could be considered one of the "100 best ever made"—mainly, it sounds like nothing else.

91. Quark, Strangeness and Charm, Hawkwind (Sire, 1977): From perhaps the greatest year of record-album making ever, 1977 (Ramones Leave Home and Rocket to Russia, Never Mind the Bollocks, Blank Generation, Marquee Moon, My Aim is True, Dancing in Your Head, I’m Stranded, Young, Loud & Snotty etc. etc.) SPEAKING of "space is the place"…actually, a lotta folks prefer the early double-doomsday Space Ritual, which is one of the most oppressive opuses ever conceived—two sides of live space wallow from the early seventies when good ol’ Dave Brock was shining his strobes into the eyes of his victims and Lemmy was an ass-shaking participant in such deviousness. By the time of Quark, Lemmy had long left to form Motorhead and by now Brock ruled the roost—the songs are shorter, with a more pulsating rock n’ roll beat, and a lot of keyboard twizzle, and a completely mocking attitude that out-devos Devo and out-androids those two Dusseldorks in Kraftwerk. The first track, "Spirit of the Age," is a paean to cloning that predates both Entwistle’s "905" and Alice Cooper’s "Clones"—the best part is, there’s none of the hippie moralizing that damaged those outings by decrying this weird, wild future we were, back then, just getting into (remember this was also the era of Close Encounters, Star Wars, the Six Million Dollar Man etc.). Brock and Co. sound totally HAPPY with the complete degradation of all mankind and you will too as you listen to the Chuck Berry send-up "Damnation Alley" in which Brock quips "Oklahoma City what a pity it’s gone" with a gleeful sense of abandon that, for sheer menace alone, even surpasses Blue Oyster Cult’s "there goes Tokyo" exaltation in "Godzilla" (also ’77 believe it or not). Then there’s the title cut, which makes fun of the great minds of science—oh, you know, guys like Einstein and Galileo—because they can’t score like English rock stars. Umm, it’s a concept album I do believe.

90. The New York Dolls (Mercury, 1973): Rundgren was right—not just anyone would’ve been able to get a "decent effort" out of these bozos. As Todd said: "Eeeh, considering what I had to work with, it’s a miracle I got anything out of them at all." As the earlier bike-shop jams that make up ROIR’s Lipstick Killers proves, the songs, the sound, the stance was already there. But, as with the Stooges, TAMING it for the recording studio was the question and, to his credit, Todd-o was able to do that somewhat. He understood their essential Velvets/Stooges NOISE/trash factor, as opposed to their more showman-like Stones tendencies, and as such this album captures the snarl of the New York City streets a lot better than their second (although that alb’s no slouch either). Many critics at the time likened it to a subway train—indeed the screeching-and-suitably-well-greased wail of such instant-classics as "Vietnamese Baby," "Frankenstein," "Private World" and the immortal "Jet Boy" was way WAY more punkified than the glitter edifices that surrounded them at the time in the form of Bowie, Roxy Music, Alice Cooper etc. The Dolls were, um, somewhat looser, per se, and they played a hell of a lot faster. It fell apart sometimes, but even when it fell apart it merely sounded like falling down and scraping one’s knees as opposed to calling mom and asking her to come take you home from summer camp because little Timmy Beasley had dosed you on acid. I can tell you SEVERAL bands they influenced: Aerosmith, Kiss, the Dead Boys, the Ramones and the Sex Pistols right off the bat. What more evidence does one need?

89. Teenage Head, the Flamin’ Groovies (Kama Sutra, 1971): Mike Saunders always said this was the great American early seventies rock LP, along with CCR’s Cosmo’s Factory and they are both of a piece for this kind of boiled-down-hippie-Americana-roots-rock meld (ironically, they both hailed from the Berkeley/San Fran area). There’s a pulsating rock n’ roll SNAP to this album that would influence future upstarts like the Real Kids in a profound way; on Teenage Head the groove—prescribed by their own mythical "Dr. Boogie"—is seemingly eternal. Coming to New York to record this in the summer o’ ’71, surrounded by a coterie of hipster onlookers, this has the feel of a major hoedown from start-to-finish. What this alb mostly has to do with is copping that whole vibe o’ Beggar’s Banquet / Let it Bleed that the Stones were riding high on the time—"City Lights," for instance, has the lackadaisical feel of the honky-tonk wrangle proffered by those fops, "Have You Seen My Baby" is a Randy Newman send-up (remember, he appeared on the Performance soundtrack) and the great "Yesterday’s Numbers" is perhaps the ALL-TIME son-of-Stones opus with swaggering guitars worthy o’ Taylor n’ Richards flailing around like drunken shadow-boxers. Only the Brian Jonestown Massacre ever copped the vibe this gloriously. And the title cut is a punk-rock opus that literally snarls, musically and lyrically: "I’ll mess you up for fun" sings Roy A. Loney like a true American kid and he even evokes Vietnam without any seeming sense of remorse, thus predating Iggy ("Search and Destroy") and the Dolls ("Vietnamese Baby"). In the redneck vein (which also happened to be prof’d by Fogerty and company) is "32-20" where, once again, these yanks don’t flinch at the thought of using some good ol’ American steel to solve a love-problem ala "Hey Joe" or, years later, Rap music. On "Evil Hearted Ada," Loney does his Elvis impersonation with the same hiccupping sense of sexual anticipation that earmarked the Sun sessions. The only bad track—and it ain’t even that bad—is "Whiskey Woman," which sounds like it belongs on Mott the Hoople’s second album instead of this otherwise perfect opus. Ten stars.

88. The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter, the Incredible String Band (Elektra, 1967): Y’ know, initially, punks were aghast when Coley endorsed sixties wimpoids like these—but Coley wasn’t young and he remembered his prep-school days listening to these ginchos while blasted on eight-way windowpane. And sure enough, they were pretty scintillating sounds. You have to remember, in order to will "indie" into a concrete IDEA it was necessary to re-evaluate the whole history o’ rock as told to us by the primarily Top 40-fixated gasbags who’d more or less written the book. But when alluva sudden there was this whole vast UNDERGROUND it became apparent to everyone that maybe there’d always BEEN an underground lurking beneath the surface o’ the Beatles and the Mary Poppins soundtrack. What our thru excavation ultimately revealed was that the Stones were actually a lot closer to Mary Poppins than we ever thunketh. We also found that the whole notion—"underground music"—was nothing new…now maybe in those days they had a LITTLE more lee-way as far as major labels were concerned—then again, if it hadn’t been for the Doors, Elektra wouldn’t’ve even BEEN a major label when this album came out. You gotta wonder who actually listened to it at the time, other than Coley, but there’s no doubting the totally wigged-out "validity" of the whole thing in light of the Beatles and Mary Poppins. But what makes it so ironic—which, let’s face it, is the essential qualifier to the indie generation—is that, at its core, the Incredible String Band was a combo of the Beatles and Mary Poppins. On the cover you see them frolicking with the children, a very harmless idea in the sixties as opposed to the perverse realm such activities would hint at nowadays. Which is the whole point—in the sixties, everything was innocent, which is why these fey folkies thought it a perfectly natural thing to go way way out with the little "Minotaur’s Song" etc. They claim they never even took acid (the psych embroidery is probably due to producer Joe Boyd). They were innocents, and their eclectic mélange here of everything from pan-flute to oud to mandolin to dobro in the name of King Arthur dance-around-the-maypole antics was a prime case of folkies getting caught up in the communal buzz o’ the sixties. In England, they weren’t alone, and this same coed university-derived female-inclusive experience also produced Fairport Convention, Pentangle, Trees, Hedgehog Pie etc. Speaking of universities, it’s no surprise that when indie reared its sniggering head in the late eighties, the ISB were vindicated as underground heroes on the same plane as Beefheart and better than the, by now, semi-respectable VU. What was the "college rock" crowd at the Middle East in Cambridge if not the modern folkies? From Barbara Manning’s ethereal glaze to Wayne and Kate’s raga-esque string-bending antics, the Incredible String Band would finally have their say.

87. Primordial Lovers, Essra Mohawk (Reprise, 1970): The essence du swinger is what it’s really all about. In the early sixties, women like Carole King fabricated the human lollipops that were the girl-groups, but it took Grace Slick w/ stuff like "Two Heads" and "Somebody to Love" to wax truly woman-like. Then came Sandy…or Essra Mohawk as she became known after she married Frazier Mohawk, who was some hippie prince at Reprise, a label that more or less manifested a LOONY BIN in the late sixties/early seventies (the Fugs, Mothers, Beefheart, Buckley, Wildman Fischer, Randy Newman, Neil Young, the Kinks, Nico etc.) and this album fits right in. Her first Zappa-sponsored and heavily Laura Nyro-influenced one was also excellent (typified by the quip in the liner notes: "It wasn’t hard to find an orgy in the sixties if you were a pretty girl"), but Primordial Lovers was more unfathomable—it’s jazzy and lush but fractured in that folkie way of Skip Spence’s Oar or some of Neil’s stuff (not surprisingly, she enlists Dallas Taylor, fresh from his stint on Déjà Vu). It’s incandescent music, and hard to describe, but let’s just say it was the point between Laura Nyro and Patti Smith, Joni Mitchell and Liz Phair, Erika Pomeranz and Marianne Nowottny.

86. Double Nickels on a Dime, the Minutemen (SST, 1984): Pretty big dose o’ these buffoons, released by the Greatest Record Label of Its Time the SAME DAY they released Zen Arcade by Husker Du, which was a pretty leapin’ lumpin’ o’ those fellow unholy cheeseburger-eaters. You gotta admire the goddamn AIM (high)…but a lesser band than the mighty Minutemen wouldn’t ‘ve been able to fill the plate. These guys had EMPTIED enough plates, so they knew. Their motto was "econo" so what follows is a series of tunes based on a distinct brand of simplicity—most of these songs start with Watt’s pivotal bass riff and quickly descend into a ceiling fan-full of prime and righteous malarkey that lives and breathes in the way it does because of the efficient but still complex soldiering of its three distinct musical personalities. The greatest trio since Cream? The Minute-boys were earnest to a degree that was rare and treasured amongst their "hardcore" compatriots. They coulda been the new Diggers. When they visited Tesco in Dearborn, they were in fear of the way he would walk into a Pizza Hut, order the Priazzo, and then walk out without paying for it, prompting Boon to wail: "Jleeeesthluss! Tesco, you’re not going to actually steal the Priazzo? JLEEEESTHLUSSS!" But when it came to servin’ UP the pizza, Watt and crew looked like your friendly neighborhood Shakey’s crew. Double Nickel was a double-crusted pie that only got better with age. D. Boon RIP.

85. Ege Bamyasi, Can (United Artists, 1972): Probably the best opus by these Krauts. A lot o’ folks go for the earlier double LP Tago Mago but Ege Bamyasi was a further extrapolation of that album’s most severe rhythmic orientations, with a newfound funkiness. Singer Damon Suzuki at this point was totally crazed, doing word sculptures with his mouth as opposed to actually "singing," kinda like the Igster on certain parts o’ Funhouse. It definitely foreshadowed the work of Isobel in Bardo Pond as well as MANY others. The first track "Pinch" was one of the funkiest psychedelic tracks ever recorded, and the moonbeam atmospherics were, along with Hawkwind, the kind of twisted space-sizzle that would ignite such American anarchists as Pere Ubu and Mission of Burma later in the decade. The second Public Image album owes a great deal of its existence to this album, as does Sonic Youth. But some stuff is so fucking unique that no-one’s ever touched it—dig the baroque boogie of "One More Night" which is like the Watts 103rd Street Band mixed with Robert Moog mixed with Exile on Main Street. Never even charted in the US, but eventually spawned a cult as resonant as Beefheart or the Velvet Underground, two bands they’re not entirely dissimilar from. Their first seven LPs are all great, but this one’s the best.

84. Pet Sounds, the Beach Boys (Capitol, 1966): Accidental genius or divine inspiration? One thing’s for sure: Pet Sounds is the first album truly conceived as something greater than the average pop slop. Brian had grown sick of the make-believe playworld of fun and sun, perhaps as a result of the eye-opening experience of taking acid for the first time. He didn’t just grow tired of it, he got freaked out about it. So freaked out that re-fashioned the whole band so that the Boys were Boys in name only, and replaced them with Russ Kunkel and all those guys. This is the ultimate Hollywood studio LP of the sixties—"Let’s Go Away for A While" could easily be on a Martin Denny LP (xylophones wail). Pet Sounds was all about staking out a more personal vision—but Brian was so scared of his self-revelation that he had to hire a trained lyricist in the person of Tony Asher in order to express it coherently. So now you’ve got studio boys playing the music, and Asher writing some of the lyrics—so what’s left for Brian but his ultimate Phil Spector fantasy. The only track that sounds like a Beach Boys song is "Sloop John B" and that was actually recorded before the album. The rest of it is a more worldly kind of pop—"God Only Knows" did the celestial-pop bit before even the Beatles. In fact, the Beatles claimed to be influenced by this LP, and so did a lot of other people (Todd Rundgren comes readily to mind). As far as the whole notion of music-as-an-intricate web, Pet Sounds pretty much led the way, and the manner in which Brian overlaid a multitude of different harmonic elements and textural embellishments foreshadowed the labyrinthian sound-layering of hip hop and remix dipshits by decades. Many of the songs—"I Wasn’t Made For These Times," "Here Today," "Caroline No," "I Know There’s An Answer"—revealed deep insecurities within Brian’s psyche. Pet Sounds was in a way Brian’s first attempt to confront his demons—but when Beach Boys fans waxed indifferent, it shattered him and he never fully recovered (which is of course another thing that makes Pet Sounds so legendary). Other than that, there’s a clear explanation for what happened to this man’s mind. In a word: drugs.

83. Marquee Moon, Television (Elektra, 1977): The first, or second, outright art-rock attempt in the realm o’ "punk" (Patti’s two albs—counts as one—would be first). There’s no doubt about it, Verlaine wasn’t just another muttonhead and when he convinced Hilly to let he and his boys take the stage it was like a more jettisoned version of the Velvets or New York Dolls, suitable for New York tape recorders only. Verlaine was that rare combo of street-poet ala Dylan or Reed, and certified guitar genius—and the addition of the second guitarist, Richard Lloyd, meant that they could trade off long and winding solos like all the great mythic duos, from Lou and Sterling during the 1969 era to Danny Whitten and Neil Young and other duos who formed a singular voice (the Everly Bros.?) Verlaine played in the spine-tingling high register of Garcia or Cippolina, a realm also inhabited fairly frequently by Lenny Kaye of the Patti Smith Group (Verlaine also played w/ Smith occasionally so it all makes sense). On Marquee Moon Television delivered a mighty salvo in the name of "punk"—the kind of thing that convinced New York papers to take it "seriously." Because Television were in almost every sense an exemplary rock n’ roll band—the sound was raw and uncompromising yet melodious and in some ways sweet. It was clear this album was a major event from the minute it was released. From the raw rip of "See No Evil" to the dueling-guitar zen archery of the title cut, it was the foundation for a whole school of high-flying bands, from the Only Ones in England to Sleepyhead years later. And don’t forget your friends the Strokes. Marquee Moon was released during that strange timewarp right before punk broke, where Elektra were trying to sell them along the same ranks as Steve Hillage (as opposed to the Strokes). But it was the tail end of that, baby—the "punk" tag hurt ‘em eventually, but they weren’t able to squirm out of it like Patti or the Talking Heads did—but then again, that was mostly due to ego and drug problems. They were a burnout band without question, but they burned brightly. The second alb, Adventure, ain’t bad either but Marquee Moon is the cat’s meow.

82. The Notorious Byrd Brothers, the Byrds (Columbia, 1968): McGuinn’s attempt to do his Brian Wilson act. By now the other band members have become mere components. But I think he outstrips Brian and the fagboy Beatles with this one. The vortex is tight as a fuckin’ ship on this crinkling masterpiece. Bud Scoppa once described the production of this alb as "airtight" and that’s pretty much the best description I can come up with—if McGuinn was going for the "space" effect (which he obviously was considering this LP’s closer "Space Odyssey") then he succeeded. But there’s also this weird country root (partly due to bassist Chris Hillman who’d split after one more album of even more countrified lickin’s). Influenced by Sgt. Pepper, there’re even HORNS on "Artificial Energy," but they’re used for much more cynical and menacing effect. McGuinn was not a happy camper at this point—internal band squabbles ruled the roost, so to speak. Crosby got dumped right before the recording of this alb, which was a GOOD thing considering that his embarrassing hippie soliloquy "Mind Garbage" marred what was otherwise a fine LP in the form of Younger Than Yesterday. There’s no such baggage here—in the annals of LP perfection, Notorious rates high. No bad tracks actually, and most of ‘em show the band at their absolute psychedelic peak—songs like "Dolphin Smile" and "Natural Harmony" are completely blissed-out blasts of sixties euphoria and the transition between the latter and the "protest" classic "Draft Morning," and the way that song unrolls and explodes, is one of the ALL-TIME highpoints o’ the psych sixties experience, right up there with when Garcia’s guitar busts out of the lard-fat lull in the middle o’ "Dark Star." Some of it’s dated, but as a primer of album-making, it still resounds in the same way as, say, The Who Sell Out. They goof around with classical stuff, mix it with country guitar, and barbershop harmonies and Carnaby Street and El Lay sensibilities, and, in "Gathering of Tribes," even some Coltrane. You better believe this sort of "eclectic" approach informed many latter-day makers of swirladelic LPs from Rundgren to Scott Miller to Anton in the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Of all the post-Pepper / Pet Sounds psychedelic "concept" albums—from After Bathing at Baxter’s to Their Satanic Majesties to Brian’s own SmileNotorious is the best (well, excepting Forever Changes). The whole use of the word "eclectic" as a rock critic adjective came about because of albums like Notorious.

81. Zuma, Neil Young (Reprise, 1975): This is Neil’s best album. A lot of people prefer the one just prior to this, Tonight’s the Night because of its theme of junkie desolation, but Zuma is more or less a continuation of that, with an even heavier dose of guitar raunch. Perhaps his most bone-twisting guitar playing and singing is on here, and songwriting too, that is if you prefer his rock tendencies ala "When You Dance" to the more maudlin tendencies that veered dangerously closer to typical singer/songwriter territory. There’s very little that’s laidback about Zuma with its song-after-song about bummer-after-bummer (culminating in the super-bummer of "Cortez the Killer") and the slow bluesy stomp that makes up its apocalo-cryptic texture. The folkie material like "Pardon My Heart" is truly transcendent and not a bit dull. "Stupid Girl" is Neil at his meanest, at least since "Ambulance Blues." And in "Barstool Blues," a track that may well be his best, his voice cracks in the same frequency as his guitar.

80. Diary of a Madman, Ozzy Osbourne (Jet, 1981): Larry Lifeless of Kilslug once said this album was like "the Bible" and who am I to disagree? It’s like when I was talking to Tammy last night about how every time she comes up from the backwater o’ Wells to the big bad city of Portland for a Saturday night on the town, she doesn’t get home ‘til 3 AM and by the time she takes the husky out, it’s 4 and that makes it hard to get up the next morning and go to church…so I was saying, "I wouldn’t want to compete with the good lord," and she finished my thought for me: "…because that’s one battle you can never win." Exactly. Which is the way I feel about His Satanic Majesty Himself, Lord Lifeless…I mean, umm, Osbourne. Long the clown prince of metal, the Oz bottomed out in the late seventies and found himself being outdistanced not only by his one-time bandmates in Black Sabbath, who were issuing stuff like the Black Flag-approved Heaven and Hell, but also less-worthy wimps like Judas Priest who’d no doubt appropriated a great deal of his devilish antics. It was disgraceful that the fright-king of rock lay utterly dormant for so long, but thru the urgings of his newlywed wife-manager Sharon, the Oz put together a new band in the early eighties—they happened to be lucky enough to acquire the fastest-fingered young fretboard flier since Van Hefflin in the person of Randy Rhodes; and they were unlucky enough to have him die tragically after only two albs, of which this was the last one. While the earlier Blizzard of Oz came ready to bludgeon with such cranked-up wheel-turners as "Crazy Train," "I Don’t Know" and the epic "Suicide Solution," it was on this LP, released only a miraculous SIX MONTHS after Blizzard, that the Oz really laid the gauntlet down to future metallers. The riveting metallic crunch of tunes like "Over the Mountain" and the vehemently pro-drug (some people never learn!) anthem, "Flying High Again," was enough to convince a whole new generation to give this man a bib. By recording these two albums, Osbourne placed himself at the forefront of the NEW eighties metal and was able to perform an actual resurrection (UNLIKE Zep or almost anyone else from his metal generation). Some objects are sacred and Diary of a Madman is one of them.

79. Desolation Boulevard, the Sweet (Capitol, 1975): An alb so cool you need gloves to pick it up as well as an icepick to get into its totally out-of-the-frame membrane. When this came out in ’75 these guys were no better than a bubblegum act in America—famous for "Little Willy." When I was a little kid I once saw my teenage neighbor Vicky Balzanno swing her love beads to that song in a state of wild sexual abandon and something clicked in my head…the girls hear the guitars and they go MAD! Well, on Desolation Blvd. Sweet apply this girls/guitars theory to the nth degree—and as such effectively invent eighties metal (well, Kiss would hafta be in there as well but the only alb o’ theirs that had a chance o’ makin’ it was Dressed to Kill). Pure and simple, there’s no way around the fact that songs like "A.C.D.C" (not t’ be confused w/ the band of the same name) and "Set Me Free" are Motley Crue already in 1975. Which to me is pretty goddamn amazing (although you may scratch your head and say "eeeh, he thinks this is a good thing?") If you look at the cover, you see once again….Motley Crue! The concept of absolutely singeing decadence-run-amok that runs thru this alb is a foreshadowing of something like Guns n Roses at least ten yrs BEFORE THE FACT. And don’t doubt the influence on punks—ask Mike Saunders or Tesco Vee sometime about these guys. "Fox on the Run" was the ultimate power-heavy AM oasis back then in the birth of disco and when singer Brian Connolly goes into the falsetto on "Solid Gold Brass" it’s a cause for a kind of ginchiness that’s indescribable. Dilly’s right about "I Wanna Be Committed," however—it’s the worst song on the album. Why is this list beginning to look like a vindication of heavy metal?

78. Pink Flag, Wire (Harvest, 1978): When this alb came out at the tail end of ’77, the big deal about it was the brevity of its songs. Of course, in a few years with the rise of hardcore, and albums like the Circle Jerks’ Group Sex and the Minutemen’s What Makes a Man Start Fires?, where songs were literally a few seconds long, the songs on Pink Flag would actually seem standard. The whole idea of little tunes as quirky vignettes had gone back to Eno but in the late seventies arty punk bands like Wire were applying such minimalist applications to what was basically punk rock (i.e., Ramones). There were still some traditional songwriting elements as well, as in "Fragile" and the totally-wound-up manner with which songs like "Mr. Suit" and "12XU" were delivered was a catalyst for much mayhem in the years to follow (Minor Threat covered the latter). This was one of the better-received punk albs when it came out too, and the fact it was originally released on what amounted to an art-rock label tells you something about the way these guys were perceived as opposed to the actual Ramones etc. These guys belonged to the whole arty wave of Gang of Four, PiL, etc. more than they did the working-stiff punk o’, say, Sham 69. The fact they packed twenty loony tunes on here that still pack a wallop nowadays is testament to this album’s greatness—no "best of" list would be complete with out. An absolute classic.

77. The Great Electric Show and Dance, Lightnin’ Hopkins (Jewel, 1965): Then you have albs like this that conceptually are shit, or at least oblivious, but in all their ragged glory reveal perhaps something more essential than the most well-honed masterpiece—thru their own stumblebum sense of exploration, mostly of their own ids or emotional cores, the truth is revealed. This is the spirit of the blues and there are probably hundreds of such albums in jazz where it’s more or less a piss take, nothing ever meant to last forever, but it’s become classic despite its own self-imposed obsolescence. The Great Electric Show and Dance is one such album—good luck ever finding it. I found it a yard sale, late on a Sunday afternoon, which means it had been sitting there all weekend and no-one bought it. I bought it for a dime, and was amazed at what I heard: this is Lightnin’ piss-fuckin’-drunk at some Tex-ass barbecue in the mid-sixties…the audience is yelling things like "get a job," and Lightnin’s tauntin’ ‘em w/ TWO versions of "Little Red Rooster," one SIXTEEN MINUTES long! The string-pickin’ is the genius at his most intense—once again, ATTITUDE has a lot to do w/ it, and on this alb, Lightnin’s attitude is purely: "SHEEEE-IT!" The kind o’ tale-spinnin’ he does in "The Old Man and the Dog" is almost RAP! Don’t forget, on the cover o’ this alb he was wearing a light-up psychedelic suit…I don’t think he had to plug it in, like the guys in Blues Magoos, so it must’ve been battery-operated? Anyhow, his next alb after this one was on International Artists, the same label as the totally insane Elevators and Red Crayola, so that tells you something about Lightnin’: "Shee-it, you hippies might have something here." This is an album about living in Texas and it’s hot. And I have no doubt the version of "Let Me Play with Your Poodle" on this album is the one that inspired Troccoli’s Dog. In a word: punk.

76. Workingman’s Dead, the Grateful Dead (Warner Bros., 1970): The best country-rock alb of all-time. A lot of people put down the Dead, but they were one of the few groups w/ the balls to NEVER go in the Beatles direction—no poppy hits for them, infact they were even less-pop than the Velvet Underground (Lou Reed was always a pop boy, as was Dylan). The Dead’s music either consisted of aimless-but-still-pleasant space, or of these kinda plaintive, slightly-warped country-folk type tunes…ain’t no flies on these guys, the Dead is just the Dead. On album, it took ‘em a while to get it. Live/Dead, the one before this, was pretty much their magnum opus of the free-jamming style, but on this album, they concentrated on writing a more concise series of songs and the results are their best ever. Perhaps they did it for commercial reasons, who knows? After all, other than to acidheads, Anthem of the Sun wasn’t exactly "accessible." But I think it also had to do with drugs—by the time of Workingman, their drug o’ choice had become cocaine as opposed to acid. As such, there’s a rollicking western outlaw spirit to this album that actually lives up to the album cover, which shows ‘em hangin’ out in a railyard like hippie hobos. These guys were beyond…they really were living the hippie dream, and the high life, as supported by songs like "High Time" and the inevitable "Casey Jones." There isn’t really a bullshit note of music on this album, so consider it their Beggar’s Banquet. It has the same rustic quality, and speakin’ o’ the Stones, this alb also has "New Speedway Boogie," which is the Dead’s ode to Altamont, and it’s one of their best rockers. This album BY FAR contains Garcia’s best singing EVER in that song, as well as "Casey Jones" and the amazing "Dire Wolf," which, as a purely American expression, is as good as Hank Williams or the Everly Brothers. Even Pigpen ain’t bad on this album. A perfect album, what album-making is all about (the next one, American Beauty, weren’t no slouch either). Surprisingly clear-headed for a bunch of druggies. Just disproves what they say—the drug power can be harnessed and used effectively and the Dead are long-term champions of the mind-shredding psychic frontier.

TO BE CONTINUED..............


finally! the last page! featuring No Doctors
and more in the Chicago Live Report