Blastitude 9
issue 12   february/march/april 2002
page 2



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

Installment TWO of FOUR

75. Greetings From LA—Tim Buckley (Warner Bros., 1972): The Buckler was always crazier than a loon and this may be his most demented opus.  It’s MUCH different than his Elektra-Reprise stuff (although “Get on Top” does kinda sway to that same almost gypsy raga thing as “Gypsy Woman” on Happy Sad).  One thing’s for sure: whereas the older stuff was merely “somber,” this shit is downright depressing—and INSANE. By this point the Buckler must’ve wiped right the fuck out—convinced he was NEVER gonna be a hit (and hey, in the sixties, in light o’ the British Invasion and Dylan they all thought they were gonna be a hit) he retreats into a kind of soulful self-loathing.  Listen to him stutter like an absolute insaniac on “Get on Top”—I can’t tell if he’s singing in Italian or doing Van Morrison one better w/ a melismatic sweep o’ mouth-utterings. The musicians here are a whole new cast as opposed to the usual gang of idiots (i.e., Ian Underwood etc.) and we can hear Buckley already drifting towards the more soulful bent o’ Look at the Fool (his swangsong before he croaked).  But what this album represents most of all, like a good deal of the albums on this list, is an artist coming to terms with his ever-lovin’ id as far as the whole psychic chain o’ command from thought to emotion to motion.  There was never a dishonest word on any Buckley album, the guy always strove for his own universe and placement of said universe within the context of, I dunno…all of our universes.  So in the Buckler’s eyes, this was his attempt at making a typical-for-the-time LA studio LP.  “Nighthawkin’” for instance sounds kinda like Randy Newman by way of the Doobie Brothers. The songs are short, no “Making Love From Room 139 of the San Pedro Hotel” or whatever it was called—this is the closest Tim ever got to an ordinary “rock and roll” LP. But you have to understand it’s through the filter of lyrics like “I’ve gotta shoot me a gook before dawn” and two—possibly three—whole songs about S&M. On the inner sleeve he’s wearin’ a gasmask which some folks might’ve thought wuz some hippie-ecological commentary on the smog plague of LA but I suspect, given the evidence o’ the aforementioned songs, that it was more of a bondage get-up but Icould of course be wrong). Once again, the guy was a self-loather on an almost Manson level. And where his kinda hippie-dippie sixties albs placed him in the sensitive minstrel category, what this album makes clear is what a wiseass he was. More of a wise-ass than Kari Maples.  I remember talking to my friend Josh one day and telling him my reaction of a preview o’ Greetings: “Well, the guy was some kinda S&M freak…” What else can one make of songs like “Make it Right,” where he literally cries out “beat me, whip me, make it right again”?  And in “Move with Me” he volunteers to be a female’s “houseboy.” Just the title “Get on Top” alone makes it clear that he’s never been opposed to assumin’ a more supine posture.  Every song on this album is about fuckfuck fuck—but it doesn’t sound happy and joyous like, say, Lisa Suckdog.  It sounds painful and agonizing by a man who was courting death already (altho’ he wouldn’t officially kick off for 4 more yrs).  There usta be this guy around Portland named Opus Glen—he was one of the first real freaks in town, the kinda guy who liked the Stooges in the seventies (prior to that we never knew ANY actual geezers who listened to the shit other than the ones we read about in Creem—all the old farts in Portland in those days were hippies but, if you noticed, I made the distinction that good ol’ Glendora, frog-faced bastard that he was, was a freak as opposed to smelly hippie).  The whole time I was growin’ up he worked in a record store (of course the ultimate el slacko job for the burgeoning hipster—as opposed to hippie—even now) but later on, he drifted into the cocaine.  Last time I ever saw Opus Glen it was in a Portland barroom circa early ’90s.  The guy did NOT look good…and he knew it.  Infact, I distinctly remember him saying something chilling that night, something to the effect of  “the way I’m going I’m probably going to be dead soon” (see Black Flag circa ’81: “If I keep on doing this I’m going to end up dead”).  Anyway, the other thing I remember distinctly about that night is him telling me that Greetings From LA was “the greatest album ever” (a title he’d previously reserved for Trout Mask Replica).  Six months later he was dead, gone to join the Buckler in the great beyond, another miserable turd on a bumride. 

74. Disconnected—Stiv Bators (Bomp, 1980): Another dead guy, but this guy did not check out in a self-strangulating fit of misery ala the Buckler or Ian Curtis—to the contrary, he wanted the party to continue even as he lay hemorrhaging in a French hotel room (or was it Italy? Goddamn we all know his own cunt-tree expatriated him etc.).  An eternal outcast, in the good sense o’ the word (as opposed to “little weirdo” like today’s diaper-wearing pierced-and-branded ninnies) Stiv-oid believed in the eternal power of rock n’ roll in the same way Johnny Thunders did, and this album, recorded just post-Dead Boys, is everything a rock n’ roll album should be. It showed Stiv for the retro-affected smoothie that he’d later dive-bomb into in the Lords of the New Church with spiffy covers o’ sixties punk classics “It’s Cold Outside” n’ “I Had Too Much to Dream, but more importantly, it showed the guy was NOT just all teeth—what we’re talking here is “power pop” rendered the way only a handpick few have ever been able to render it.  Sure Poppa Greg Shaw’s participation—and the nascent “indie” trappings—enabled Sid to finally explore his more “subtle” and “tender” side (for want of a better adjective). But the snarl is still in place, it’s just that, on this alb Sid sounds like the type o’ guy who could be slumberin’ with Bebe Buell on the coast o’ Maine (bein’ introduced to her parents and all) one week and laying in the gutter behind CBGB’s the next. Listen to the kind of stun-stroke o’ “Ready Any Time” and think John Felice o’ the Real Kids (who also did their stint on Bomp). Also contemplate the Black Halos in light o’ this alb (both them and you will look better for it). But most of all be prepared to have yr fuggin’ clothes stunned right off like wax offa the wick by the totally fuckin’ great “I Wanna Forget You (Just the Way You Are)” which is worthy o’ Scotty Miller (and that AIN’T FUCKIN’ HAY and “Circumstantial Evidence” ain’t far behind).  I mean we’re talkin’ Big Shot Chronicles / Lolita Nation Scott Miller. Bators almost curves it the same way, but Miller would really put the slope on it. And the ages fuckin’ burned baby (don’t ever let the cynics, squares and non-sexoids tell you otherwise).  Special credit once again for pre-cognitive fatalism (in the form o’ the self-explanatory  “The Last Year on Earth” as well as “Ready Anytime” in which he sez: “I ain’t afraid to die/Because I know there’s life after death”—he might’ve been in for a rude awakening).

73. Drums of Passion—Olatunji (Columbia, 1959): Gotta be in here, it more or less birthed “world muzak” and while I’d hafta basically agree w/ yer first piqued-up reservations about that, Jack, at the same time, y’ can’t blame Olatunji (who usta hold residencies in the early Kennedy era hipster world o’ New York City at venues like the Village Gate and Five Spot in between stints by all the ace jazzers o’ the day) for Nusrat. A transplant from Kenya, he came over here at the behest of one or another numbnuts I can’t quite recall the name of—but the resulting album must’ve blown a lot of doors (if not windowpanes) with its COMPLETE non-kitschy TRIBAL vibrations. Moe Tucker usta practice to this album when she’d gotten sick of Bo Diddley. You can kinda hear it. You can also trace the evolution of the “mamacia mumaa ci die monkazar” (and that’s a VERY loose translation from admittedly a yank who’s paler than pink even upon full blush) chant from Drums of Passion to “Soul Makossa” to Michael fucking Jackson.  Which I guess makes this pretty much near the top o’ the heap as far as introducing the whole afro-vibe into blues/soul/jazz what-have-you.  Can you believe there was even a volume two!? Columbia/Legacy claims to be reissuing this one soon (thank God Randy Haecker’s such a swell guy).

72. This Year’s Model—Elvis Costello (Columbia, 1978): Some albs‘re actual events and this was one of ‘em.  If you’d been following this little tweaze-eye for the scant few months he’d even been extant you’d know how goddam riveting it was to witness this incarnation of his Elvis-ness, as opposed to the first album, which was made w/a bunch o’ Berkeley area hack-o’-Joes.  It was a good effort no doubt, but with This Year’s Model, and the formation of the Attractions, Elvis found his acidic groove. This wasn’t acidic as in Randy Newman acidic or Zappa acidic or even Johnny Rotten acidic…it was more overtly sexual than any of them. In fact, on this alb anyway, Elvoid’s angst weren’t that far removed from the perverse realm o’ the Buckler circa Greetings From LA (see above) and no less emotionally compelling, although Elvis is actually better because he doesn’t wallow in his misery as much as the Buckler did, but turns it into venom-dipped darts that he projects at just about everybody—women, managers, other musical contemporaries, and music biz smoothies of every description—
with all the acumen of zen archers flinging buckets of chicken wings directly into Eric Youngling’s eagerly-awaiting gullet. Sure, there does seem to be a hint o’ misogyny running thru the whole goddam elpee, but it’s of the non-smarmy variety—or maybe I should put it this way: Elvoid, even in his flinching, seething almost Valerie Solanis-level of hate, at least presents an interesting view o’ the whole Battle o’ the Sexes in a way putzes like Paul Simon and Jackson Browne—whom he actually ended up having more in common with in the long run than any genuine “punk” elements—could never grasp w/ their endlessly apologetic simpering tone. But the real key to the success of this alb and what made it such a stark contrast betwixt it n’ its predecessor can be summed up in two words: Steve Nieve. His use of organ here was the most non-cheezy utilization of that (admittedly often cheezy) instrument since Manzarek’s psych embroideries in the Doors and wouldn’t be equalled ‘til venerable granddads Yo La Tengo decided to re-introduce the instrument to the mass (hipster) populace in ’92 (which is just another thing we have to thank them for, albeit grudgingly).

71. Wild Gift—X (Slash, 1980): Speakin’ o’ the Doors/Manzarek
…the Noel Ventresco prototype actually produced this alb by these LA banditos and it kinda makes sense considering “The Unheard Music,” from the group’s first, also Manzarek-produced album, was in its own way a pumping Doors homage. Which of course made it kind of unique amongst the more textbook “LA punk” speedbursts that surrounded it. But it was on Wild Gift that X really got their groove into a formidable pile o’ splinters. For one thing, “I’m Comin’ Over” was the indisputable prototype of Rebecca Odes and Love Child…I mean, like…exactly.  And anyone who doesn’t know the value of that…well, all I can say is, your nineties world must’ve been a lot different than my nineties world (mine involved people with names like Joan Musician and Nancy Swinger). Meanwhile, on songs like “In This House That I Call Home,” John Doe n’ Exene make like an even more dilapidated Chris n’ Debbie for an even hipper universe that wouldn’t tolerate Studio 54.  It’s pretty safe to say that no group perhaps the Angry Samoans really conjured the absolute horror of the city—as well as the state o’ mind—called Los Angeles.  Billy Zoom of course is a fucker, perhaps the last one to do anything remotely original with the whole Chuck Berry formula (before Alan Licht would come along n’ shatter it to oblivion—an idea which, admittedly, he stole from Quine, Van Halen, Greg Ginn etc.). And for co-ed intermingling X were the single most important prototype of that whole syndrome as well (of which the aforementioned Love Child were only the titanium tip o’ the whole radiometric isotope).  Should I mention also that “Universal Corner” is one o’ the greatest fuckin’ male-female vocal exchanges in history (if not the best)?  Holy shit, good albs, the best albs…what does it cum down to if not songs? And on this album, I shit you not, we’re lookin’ straight into a whole galaxy of ‘em: “Adult Books,” “We’re Desperate,” “Universal Corner,” “White Girl,” “Beyond and Back,” “Back 2 the Base,” “When Our Love Passed Out” etc. Each song a killer and each as “relevant” as the day it came out.  Just say yes—please.

70. The Modern Lovers (Beserkley, 1975): Came out in ’75 but actually was recorded way before that but no self-respecting record company would release it at the time. Cale once again waxes mercenary, much as he did with the Stooges n’ Patti Smith, but when Big John went to work on this record, he was somewhat startled by what he found—which was, in the form o’ Jon Richkid, a gimp to beat all gimps who didn’t drink, go out with women etc.  In other words, in ‘72-’73, when these tracks were actually laid down, that whole element o’ nerdiness was simply not known about.  But you had the Shaggs and you had these guys—both from New England, not coincidentally: the colonialism of the region adds up to an environment where folks feel uptight about any act o’ overt non-id related physicality, from dancing to sex. Jonathan Richkid was a perfect example of this, the kind of guy who was bashful around girls and didn’t even get laid in the seventies, the most sexually liberated time ever!  But, like a lot of repressed weirdoes, altho’ Richman didn’t get any, he thought about it constantly (perhaps as a result) and, as this great album attests, could articulate his lust and angst in a way that was positively barren as far as soul-exposition goes…that is, once the man got in front of the microphone, or wrote a song, or performed, he lost the inhibitions that made him unable to actually get any legitimate scuzz on the end o’ his paintbrush.  Coming along at a time when Velvets-derived skizzle was actually uncommon (as ‘posed to the formalized sub-genre it is now), the Mod Lovers in a way actually improved on the Velvets essential slumming-around-Coney-Island-on-a-Sunday-afternoon texture (think the final three albs: Loaded, VU and Another View) except they took it to Nantasket Beach or wherever. The fact the band also housed David Robinson—who’d go on to drum for the Cars—and Jerry Harrison—who’d be the organ grinder in the Talking Heads—pretty much seals the Lovers’ distinction as being the official founders o’ “new wave” (I mean, what two bands are more important to the origins o’ that declasse non-genre than the Heads and the Cars? Hey, don’t blame them, on this alb they sound positively tough and there ain’t a skinny tie in evidence anywhere.)  As for Richman, I’ve seen the dude a couple of times and found his act hard to take, and I care absolutely not a whit about his post-therapy output (i.e., anything and everything after this album).  But you gotta pretty much hand it to the kid, he did kind of invent something of his own, and Jad Fair and Will Baum and Jon Reisbaum can all be glad.  And admit it, so can you.

69. Forever Changes—Love (Elektra, 1967): Due to its infamy it may seem like a token entry, but I’ve always liked it, and y’ gotta pretty much admit, in the annals o’ album-making-as-album-making (i.e., conceptual entities), this was one of the first, best and most enduring.  Reason? Arthur Lee was a genuine psychedelic cosmonaut, and he truly believed all the trappings of the sixties dream—and, like Brian Wilson, when he fashioned his opus, he dared to get as kozmically grandiose as he pleased.  In other words, some might’ve worried that the more effete tendencies that their psychedelicized brains were innately pullin’ ‘em towards were a might say pretentious—and in some cases it was (cf. Van Dyke Parks).  But Lee somehow struck the right balance between non-rock poesy and genuine craziness on a Wilson/Syd Barrett level. Basically, Forever Changes is an alb that could never be reproduced, onstage or otherwise.  It was Bryan McLean’s last with the group, and the last Love album to even remotely sell—after that good ol’ Arthur just got crazier and crazier and the perfection that is Forever Changes is undoubtedly one of the reasons why.  Can you imagine having to live up to this?  For one thing, the world in which it was created is so totally obliterated—which is just another way of saying that it perfectly “summed up” its time. This was pre-Manson sixties LA at its finest, and you can bet Arthur Lee wishes it had never ended.  As he told Dave DiMartino of Creem so pithily in 1981: “Mmmnn! Who would’ve thought there wouldn’t be anymore hippies?”  Forever Changes is the eternal sixties time capsule LP. In a word: unrepeatable. 

68. Interstellar Space—John Coltrane (Impulse, 1974): A posthumous album actually, the actual date o’ its waxing being February 22, 1967, just a few months before Coltrane died. Everyone knows that Coltrane in those days was moving in cosmic leaps and bounds, and it was his idea to do a duo LP with the powerful drummer, Rashied Ali, who’d already played on Meditations in concert with Elvin Jones (which pissed off Jones so much that he quit a month later). By this point, Trane had moved so far beyond most of his peers that they probably thought he was genuinely going insane, even as they stood back in awe and let the man commit his frenzied testimonial. This was just the reason that Coltrane was finding harmony with younger cats like Ali and Pharoah Sanders, who weren’t as afraid of his bold new advancements as perhaps the more seasoned vets were. But despite Trane’s penchant for way, way “out there” sounds during his last months of mortal existence, Interstellar Space is genuinely melodic throughout—melody was always part of Coltrane’s gift, and if anything, Ali propels him to new heights of soulful lyricism (as on the classic “Saturn”).  Listening to this album, the really amazing thing about it is the fact that there are just two people on it, because it certainly sounds like a lot more—at least two horn players and two drummers (if not an enlivened field of bull moose).  On “Leo,” one of the longer pieces on the LP, these two barons prove once and for all the difference between having chaos with clarity intact and all that Knit-Picking Factory crap, which mostly comes off as aimless blat—it’s “free,” it’s “out,” but it still sounds like music (albeit very violent music).  There is an air of almost Japanese kabuki-style dialogue going on, and of course the same blues that infected earlier Coltrane opuses like “Spiritual” and “Alabama” (albeit taken to the 800th degree).  Best duo album ever (runner up: Duo Exchange with Ali and Frank Lowe, the latter being the true heir to Coltrane anyway, at least until David S. Ware came along).

67. Kimono My House—Sparks (Island, 1974): Other clowns with lace cuff-wearing pseudo-operatic inclinations were a-pounce in ’74, including Roxy and Queen.  It’s hard to say who influenced whom, but it’s clear now they were all onto something mighty fetching (and it was something that anal pedestrians like Bowie and Todd couldn’t keep up with). These guys saw the future—and they beheld it in all its suckitude in that thoroughly detached, post-modern way that would predate everyone from ultra-ironic Brit cake-paint wearers like Depeche Mode, Gary Numan, Spandau Ballet etc. to heavy metal queens like Dave Lee Roth to the weird trilling o’ punk gramps Jello Biafra.  This stuff is so cynical that—speakin’ of folks who should be called “gramps”—CHRISTGAU literally gasped when it came out: “Mmmmmmmnnnn! They’re downright mean!” I’m sure the reigning rock crits o’ the time thought this was PRETENTIOUS shit—remember, prog was looked down upon then and in a song like “Thank God It’s Not Christmas” (in which they predate the “shadamoosh shadamoosh when you dance the fandango” part o’ Queen’s “Homosexual Rhapsody”) they go for all the overboard trappings o’ well-orchestrated seventies rock: the arch-dramatic highs and lows, the squealing guitars (courtesy o’ Brit session heavy Adrian Fisher, who along with bassist Martin Gordon and drummer Dinky Diamond fulfilled the same role for the Mael Bros. as Denny Dias and the boys did with Steely Dan) and of course those goddamn ginchy vocals o’ Russ Mael, which sound like an eel covered in butter slipped down the front of your two-sizes-too-tight leather pants by Cindy Crawford while she french kisses you with dogshit in her mouth. When it comes to “weirdoes” in rock these former male underwear models are behind only Beefheart and Kim Fowley in the annals o’ the whole thing (“weirdo” being something distinctly different from “freak”). Kimono My House was the fullblown fruition o’ Sparkdom and every song is thoroughly brilliant—and laced with contempt.  I’m convinced that “Amateur Hour” contains some of the most brilliant lyrics in Rock—these guys saw through the whole sex thing long before Costello had ever wriggled out of his three-piece suit. Like everyone on this list, these guys firmly didn’t care that their peers thought they were “weird,” and that’s usually the root of sheer genius.  Everybody on the fucking planet should listen to this LP at least once, just like they should listen to Marianne Nowottny’s Manmade Girl and thousands of other albums. I mean how much can I swoon over this LP before you’ll believe me that it’s one o’ the greatest EVER!? “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Two of Us,” for one thing, is so grandiose that it’s simultaneously sickening and beautiful at the same time.  And speakin’ o’ beautiful—check out the cover photo of the Maels in kimono drag.  Unlike Lou Reed, at least these guys had the balls to don the dresses themselves instead o’ sending some lackey to do it like Lou did w/ Ernest Thormalin or whatever his name was (he’s probably dead of AIDS now…did I say “probably”?  I meant certainly…)

66. Get Your Wings—Aerosmith (Columbia, 1974): As I compile this list, it sometimes scares me how many CBS-sponsored slabs o’ vinyl have made the honor roll so far…but Clive knew what he was doin’.  First Raw Power and then this—and I hate to tell you kids, but this was better and in a way even more beyond.  Because, while Iggy was willing to dance in a g-string in Clive’s office just to show how much he didn’t give a shit, the milltown raunch-hands in Aerosmith, in a posture DIRECTLY preceding AC/DC (the NEXT great group of these whole stakes), really DIDN’T give a shit and their appearance in the whole heavy metal pantheon was the classic turning point when regular-guy denim-rock became not “hippie” but BURNOUT…and this album, WAY more than something like Zep, was the certifier to a whole NEW seventies reality…not sayin’ it was BETTER than hippie or glam or anything else…but w/ Get Your Wings, the tenets o’ BURNOUT NATION became apparent once and for all in the aisles o’ K-Marts all over America (where, at that time, you could actually buy albs like this for $3.99). By far Aeroshit’s magnum opus (and everything after Rocks of course totally sucks), Wings is chock full o’ the kinda slow-but-still-punched-up riffs that literally simmer with bad intent.  Listen to Tyler sing “oh lord oh my God what have we got here” and realize that it was never EVER gonna be about “Gimme Shelter” or the Beatles or Dylan EVER again…it was gonna be about the Donnas and everything else to do w/ instant gratification and no remorse.  After a certain point in the counter-culture, you either GOT it or you didn’t …Get Your Wings IS that point and things would never be the same again. (Anyone doubting the cataclysmic significance o’ this LP please consult the interview w/ Glenn Branca in Forced Exposure #15 in which he basically posits the same thing I’m saying here…which is that, upon its release, this album was the BIGGEST THING EVER.  If you’d lived in New England at the time, you’d know what we mean…)   

65. Machine Head—Deep Purple (Warner Bros., 1972): Speakin’ o’ classic heavy metal opuses…Purp weren’t quite as prescient as Aerosmith, but then again, they came first…and when it cums to a Spinal Tap-like evolution, Purple are one o’ the prototypes.  Anyone who’s heard their great third LP, The Book of Taliesyn, knows that even when they were sending up the Beatles n’ Neil Diamond they were a bombastic force t’ be reckoned with and their more kozmik outings like “The Shield” were at least as good as a lot o’ concurrent psych-prog-plod. Their first two years on Warners, which also happened to be the first couple years o’ the great decade of the seventies, were schizy—albs like In Rock and Fireball had their moments o’ brilliance (particularly “Fools” on the latter) but actually, at that time, they were being easily outstripped by contemporaries like Zeppelin, Sabbath and even yanks like Alice Cooper…but with Machine Head they created one of the ultimate fuel-pumped bludgeons: from the simmering opening notes o’ the classic “Highway Star” to the final strains o’ “Space Truckin’” these walrus-mustache-wearing tomfools articulated a kind of Neanderthal bluster that would put the capital “H” and “M” onto the heretofore strictly lower-case denomination o’ heavy metal.  I can guarantee you Dave Lee Roth did a few backflips to this LP.  And every bozo I ever knew who played guitar in the seventies plucked away on dope-addled versions of “Smoke on the Water” and “Lazy.” Just essential.  If there ever was such a thing as “rock” as a Be-All-and-End-All unto and of itself, this was it…and these guys truly didn’t know the difference.  In a word: oblivious.

64. Moby Grape (Columbia, 1967): Has to be on here for Skip Spence’s classics “Omaha” and “Someday” as well as Peter Lewis’s incredible “Sittin’ by the Window.” Some of it may seem too hippie-dippie at this late (post-Get Your Wings) date, but even then, these guys were ultimately always more Monkees than they were It’s a Beautiful Day.  Hence the fact that they tried to release five singles from the first album at once (admittedly a Columbia blunder that basically shot the band in the foot for the next umpteen years—a wound they never recovered from but, umm, drugs may have had something to do with that too) or that eventually ever member would put out a solo album (not the least of which was Spence’s own Oar which is even more legendary than this LP, but not as good). They were a band of songwriters in a day and age where such peers as the Grateful Dead and Big Brother and the Holding Company were lucky to have even one able-bodied melodicist in their respective outfits. One of the true sixties classics, Moby Grape features elements o’ all the most popular motifs of the day: blues, country, soul, psychedelic and ragas. Think o’ this alb as the flipside o’ the Byrds’ Younger Than Yesterday—the same kind of dusty-trail hippie Americana. They’d have a few more fine moments too: “Seeing” on the Moby Grape ’69 LP—actually Skip Spence’s final contribution to the group—was one of the last great psychedelic gasps o’ the sixties before acid would become just another adolescent rite o’ passage instead of the eye-opener it once was. Cat Power fans please note also: she covered “Naked If I Want To” on her Covers alb (a testament to something I’m sure). 

63. The Ramones (Sire, 1976): Well, there’ve only been three, haven’t there? Elvis, the Beatles and these guys, who paraded around like a rock n’ roll version o’ the Dead End Kids when they came out, but they were obviously no dummies.  I remember Noel Ventresco telling me back in the seventies how he thought these guys were ultimately an “art rock” band and, as the years have passed, one can kinda see where he was comin’ from…if not “art” than at least “conceptual.”  Altho’ they always claimed to wanna compete w/ Kiss and the Nuge, they must’ve known that what they were doing at the time was bound to split the WHOLE HISTORY OF ROCK IN FUGGIN’ HALF.  I remember another geezer from that time sayin’ somethin’ to the effect that, when it came to the Ramones, it was a sound that one could almost swear he’d heard before, but yet it was different.  Sure, the kind of adrenaline bubblegum bounce was reminiscent of everything from the Beach Boys to Ohio Express, and sure the over-amped guitars recalled Sabbath and other metalsters—and even the New York city-scum persona had its antecedents in the Dolls and whatnot.  But the Ramones somehow articulated it in a way that was new—and that’s a rare feat.  Perhaps everyone in this list accomplished that to some extent—but the difference is, Sparks or even Olatunji weren’t gonna set the whole world on its ear.  What they were doing was “singular.”  What the Ramones were doing, believe it or not, was “universal.”  There’s a lesson in there somewhere, and it’s one the Ramones were deadly aware of—in the annals of GETTING THE JOB DONE these guys…got the job done.  And I’d have to say we’re all a lot better off for it.

62. Funhouse—the Stooges (Elektra, 1970): It’s hard to pick one alb to certify Stoogedom in all its glory—but both the first alb and Raw Power have their deficiencies and Funhouse really doesn’t, unless y’ count “LA Blues” and, y’ know, considering the circumstances under which this alb was created (LA, MASSIVE drug use, Don Gallucci as producer etc.), y’ gotta cut ‘em some slack. Sure, compared to the jettisoned version o’ the band that made Raw Power, this incarnation is plodding at points—Scott Asheton seems particularly rudimentary looking back, but of course he and his brother Ron were the heart and soul o’ the group…the thing that KEPT ‘EM from being just an artsy-fartsy exercise for a jerk-who-desperately-wanted-to-be-noticed named Iggy.  Ron in particular is magnificent on this LP, and on songs like “Loose” and “TV Eye” you can really hear a whole STYLE of rock guitar playing being born (his use of the wah-wah is particularly awesome).  Of course Iggy’s fantastic too—he yelps, mewls, screams, imitates James Brown…every fuckin’ variation of voice-as-instrument possible, all to the tune of the band’s primal-grinding guttural howl, which is like the Titanic being driven headlong into a busload o’ Mormons.  The addition o’ Ann Arbor/Dark Carnival sax player Steve MacKaye was like an open invitation for punks everywhere to get hipped to the “energy” potential of jazz as well. Anyway, you slice it—aesthetics or otherwise—Funhouse is, was and always will be absolutely essential.  

61. The Magic of Juju—Archie Shepp (Impulse, 1968): For all-out free-sax blowing the only other alb that even comes close is Frank Lowe’s Black Beings (1973). Shepp’s work since Four for Trane (’64) had been uneven, but that was mostly coz he was experimenting with different idioms (like the funk jounce on Mama Too Tight). Three for a Quarter, One for a Dime, the LP just prior to this one, sure had its moments over the course of one track that took up both sides (take heed, Jethro Tull).  But Juju is…something else, man.  The opening track, “You’re What This Day is All About” is a rhythmic tour-de-force featuring a heavy polyrhythmic base, provided by no less than three percussionists (Beaver Harris, Ed Blackwell and I do believe the first appearance o’ Norman Conner) and Archie’s most soul-searching horn-blowing.  I played it for a friend once and even tho’ he wasn’t regularly a jazz-fancier, he had to admit: “This man has something to live for.”  And that’s just what it sounds like here—if ever there was an alb that summed up the concept o’ “playing as if your life depended on it,” it’s this one. Like Coltrane at the same time, who obviously influenced Shepp (as well as Lowe and everyone else), Archie is exploring the whole music-as-elevation principle, but perhaps because of the racial struggle that was going on at the same time, his chosen weapon o’ transport is SHEER FORCE and yes it’s still pretty awesome.  And like Coltrane—and unlike so many other latter-day practitioners (for better or worse)—he never lost the essential blues that had inhabited the music ever since Satcho first picked up his horn back in the Grumpus days. What’s that in “Sorry ‘Bout That”?  A hint of Hard Bop? Don’t forget, that’s where most o’ these cats came  from and they hadn’t forgotten.  Also has one of the greatest album covers ever.  Why doesn’t Impulse reissue it already?

60. How Could Hell Be Any Worse?—Bad Religion (Epitaph, 1981): One of the great hardcore albums—when these guys stormed outta Redondo Beach in the late seventies the scene was runamok with jock-offs and other suburban muttonheads. Like the Angry Samoans and Circle Jerks (the latter w/ whom these guys also shared members in the form o’ Gig Rig Hetson etc.), these guys loathed the whole Cameron Crowe culture that surrounded them—and this alb was a mighty forceful affront ‘gainst all that…but also like the Dead Kennedys up in Frisco, these guys were politicos as well and this is also one o’ the greatest punk-protest albs, taking aim at the Right Wing fervor that was then sweeping the country (and seems to be making a three-legged reappearance right now). True to their name, the biggest target o’ their ire is the Religious Right and on songs like “The Voice of God is Government,” they tackle the subject more acutely than anyone since BOB DYLAN ‘round the time o’ “With God on Our Side”/ “Only a Pawn In Their Game.” But of course whereas Dylan was basically a fring-fringer, these guys’ re total RK-DK-DK-DK! Oh, they do a lot of that—in fact, this is one o’ the albs that INVENTED the whole genre of Super Rock.  And whereas a lot o’ their peers were just basic thrash that made a pt o’ it’s high velocity n’ not much else, these guys actually wrote SONGS with RIFFS, y’ know, kinda like all the real greats: Black Sabbath, the Ramones, the MC5 etc.  And they had a pretty good run too (especially considering they’re still at it altho’ I don’t care a hill o’ beans about anything they’ve done since No Control in ‘89—all styles get old after a while, y’ know? And these guys are definitely a STYLE band…altho’ it must be said, the “style” they invented became very easily-applicable for a whole generation o’ California mofos like Green Day etc.). 

59. Back in the USA—the MC5 (Atlantic, 1970): Speakin’ o’ “super rock” prototypes…this alb has been much-maligned by revisionists, but that’s unfair: it’s not their fault that Jon Landau turned out t’ be so much of a putz, and y’ can’t blame ‘em for wanting to formalize their songs a little more than the (admittedly cathartic) chaos-carnage o’ Kick Out the Jams. Furthermore, it’s NOT a complete botched-job as far as the production goes—he definitely didn’t emasculate them like latter-day pundits ‘ve claimed—the treble’s too high, but, considering 3-minutes bursts o’ tit-grabbage like “High School,” “Tonight” and “Teenage Lust,” it almost makes sense. And as far as teen-angst anthems go, songs like that were DEFINITELY a direct premonition o’ the Dictators—which is reason alone for their total enshrinement.  Seriously, in the realm of “high energy,” this alb is like a fart from the Gods.  In terms o’ evoking sheer male-hormone-driven malice, the way the “I really need release” part of the bridge cues Wayne Kramer’s guitar solo is almost as perversely self-confident, cocksman-wise, as “the oh lord oh my god” part o’ Aerosmith’s “Lord of Her Thighs.” By this time, these guys were shooting for more than the “revolution”—they were shooting for oblivion (not surprisingly 3/5ths o’ the members have already found it). Need I say it? In the annals of R-o-c-k: vital.

58. The Trance—Booker Ervin (Prestige, 1967): Another hot-sax ace that died young…underrated, possibly because he expatriated to Europe in the mid-sixties. This album was recorded in Munich in ’65 but not released until two years later, with a band consisting of Reggie Workman (bass), Jaki Byard (piano) and Alan Dawson (drums) and it’s an understated classic. The title cut is a lyrical work of sweeping suite-like grandeur…”haunting” might be the way to describe it.  Whereas most of the tenor-men of that era were copping Coltrane, Ervin seemed intent upon following in the footsteps o’ Dexter Gordon (and in a classic Coltrane/Pharoah Sanders-type pairing of teacher/student, the two even made an album together). There’s a swinging romanticism to this album that puts it in the same league as Miles Davis albums like Milestones and ‘Round About Midnight (both of which featured Coltrane) for Class A swank. It’s deeply spiritual, and also bluesy. As for the gospel thing, 3/5ths of the way into the revelatory “Groovin’ at the Jamboree,” he shows what he learned from Mingus as the whole song reaches a fervor point in the form of a classic piano vamp, courtesy of Byard, that takes on the sanctified tone of a revival meeting before Booker blows some gutbucket blues strains from his axe-ola. Ervin, who hailed from the crazy state o’ Texas, was like the last clump of true southern soil to get spread around the world (before it would get doused with fertilizer). And like all good dirt, you gotta dig it.  

57. Hot Buttered Soul—Isaac Hayes (Enterprise, 1969): This album would be important if only for “Hyberbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic,” definitely a Hip Hop forebear, not only for its ebonics-like title, but also the fact that the riff has been ripped off by countless Rap shit-talkers, from Ice Cube to Public Enemy to the Geto Boys. Hayes was one of the first true badasses, from the bald head on the cover to the chains around his neck—let’s face it, it was probably the first time in American history that a black man had worn chains voluntarily (and been proud of it). But that was just the kinda in-your-face non-capitulation that dudes like Sly, JB and this mofo were coppin’ to at the tail end o’ the sixties. Hayes had been thru soulsville in and out, but w/ Hot Buttered Soul he was definitely stretching out a bit—part of this was an attempt to reach the burgeoning elpee market, which no soul artist really had yet. Within a few years you’d have such fullblown masterpieces as Sly’s There’s a Riot Goin’ On, Marvin Gaye’s What’s Goin’ On and Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book, but Hot Buttered preceded all of ‘em and you’d better believe the black record-making business would never be the same again. In its syrupy string sections and laidback laconic haze, Hot Buttered Soul was the true birth o’ the seventies just as much as Alice Cooper was (just ask Barry White). But the real reason this alb ranks so highly is because it contains the ALL-TIME BEST transformation of a total piece of pop crap into a certified work of art…mainly, Isaac’s rethink o’ the Jim Webb/Glen Campbell classic “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” which he turns into a grandiose paean to human endurance…SEVENTEEN MINUTES—count ‘em—of what starts as an almost sanctified kind of meeting-house testimonial and gradually evolves into a majestic overture with the power and momentum to sweep away the ages (which it did). The only other non-jazz examp o’ self-conscious longevity that even compares is “Sister Ray.”

56. Get Up with It—Miles Davis (Columbia, 1974): The goddam problem w/ M. Davis is that he takes too fuckin’ long to warm up.  Whether it’s Kind of Blue or whether it’s In a Silent Way, the guy’s albs just don’t get percolatin’ ‘til about the midway point.  So, y’ know, give the guy a double album and that’s a LOT of time for the preliminary blat.  Contrary to Eazy-E’s edict of “I’m putting a ban on foreplay,” Miles can’t get enuff o’ the stuff…he strokes and strokes and strokes (as in the preamble to “He Loved Him Madly”on Disc One o’ this opus).  But in his case, it’s less loverboy and more just long-winded fuckaround. Give the guy a DOUBLE ALBUM and he’s off to the heavy-petting races (or zoo).  And if y’ recall, Miles was puttin’ out a LOT o’ double albs ‘round this time (mid-seventies, before the “retirement”)—of which, I do believe, Get Up with It is de boss.  For fusion shit, this is probably his most severe set, even moreso than Bitches Brew and definitely tops over Agharta, which came out a year later.  Some o’ this double alb was/is refuse from the Bitches era anyway (“Honky Tonk” for instance).  All of it pretty much smokes.  I’ll admit, I don’t like the too-long-to-get-into lone-wolf-call stuff of the aforementioned Ellington homage, “He Loved Him Madly”—it’s seventies “mood” muzak more than it is actual jazz or even fusion—but almost every other track has something redeemable about it. “Maiysha,” f’ rinstance, is heavily flanged-out soul-murk not all that different from Hot Buttered Soul when y’ really get down to it.  It’s got Sonny Fortune on flute, who beats hell on Hubert Laws, and the whole piece kinda nods n’ slowly gesticulates like a worm in the bottom of a bottle o’ Mezcal if it was still alive. Eventually it builds up to a more rubbery groove, but Miles’ whole thing is repetition—he’ll repeat the same phrase ad infinitum which is the essence o’ the blues after all, and Miles has never lost it.  So what if he adorns his blues with the garbage guitar o’ Pete Cosey and Reggie Lucas (who pretty much emit wildly fluctuating layers of demon-squawk on this track that have little to do with the song’s original samba/soul intent I get the feeling). Speakin’ of the blues, the aptly-named “Honky Tonk” (NOT the Bill Doggett song) is the most obvious blues ref Miles ever made—it’s almost comical in fact when the band (in this case consisting o’ Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, John McLaughlin etc. etc.—you know, that whole Bitches Brew gang and this track indeed dates from that era) ease into the most stereotypical kind of blues shuffle…just the kind of thing you’d think Miles ‘d say was “Uncle Tom” so that must be the reason he’s doing it, right? It’s “ironic” and Miles was one o’ the few jazz-os to get that whole thing (Mingus was another).  But a track that ain’t ironic is “Rated X,” which dates from around the time of On the Corner and features a topographic maze o’ weirdly enveloping “atmospheric” burble via guitar, electric sitar, Fender Rhodes and tabla. It’s a haunting track t’ be sure, and it ends the first disc.  The second one opens with “Calypso Frelimo,” along w/ “He Loved Him…” the other “long” track on the LP (which is a relative term with Miles…I mean “long” as in over thirty fuckin’ minutes—several of the other tracks clock in at 12, 15 etc.)…it’s a sign of things to come, as this disc seems to be a bit funkier overall.  “Calypso” features Miles on keyboards, which he plays just like he plays the trumpet, which he also plays here (must be overdubs, that was the era of ‘em—cf. Stevie Wonder playing all the instruments on Talking Book etc.).  In other words, he finds a motif and he STICKS WITH IT…for thirty fuckin’ minutes.  But there’s more stuff here too, including more flute (courtesy o’ Dave Liebman this time) and Cosey and Lucas once again conducting their fluctuating madness.  Long spirals o’ sound evoke a near religious psychedelic experience…bet this alb woulda sounded great on acid in ’74 (too bad all the acid heads in those days wasted it on Deep Purple n’ New Riders o’ the Purple Sage).  “Red China Blues” is probably the most ordinary-sounding song on the album (it sounds in fact like it should’ve come off of Zappa’s Hot Rats). “Mtume,” meanwhile, is a spattering cluster o’ wild harmonic flux where Miles once again employs atonal flourishes and straight boogaloo jive. Speakin’ of which…that leaves “Billy Preston”—Miles had this thing in those days about namin’ tracks after actual persons, like “John McLaughlin,” “Willie Nelson” (Willie Nelson?) etc.  Only in this case, y’ can kinda see why he named it after the Stones’ favorite afro’d organ-player because it has that same kinda Sanford and Son-type funk rhythm. Wonder if Miles donned a fake afro to get the right vibes like the Beach Boys, for similar reasons, donned firehats during the recording o’ Smile? Once again, this track shows how Miles, at least during the first half of the seventies, was going for some kozmik funk-fusion merger, and while I prefer Disc Two to Disc One, admittedly Get Up with It is one of the more ambitious musical projects ever undertaken by anyone and that includes Miles himself, never one to shrink from ambition (even if he’s always been more of an “up and down” type performer than a “straight ahead” one).

55. Radio City—Big Star (Ardent, 1974): Although I never listened to much Game Theory in the eighties, in the last five years I’ve been listening to anything by Scott Miller (the Gamers, the Loud Family) obsessively.  There’s something about the way that man sings—I guess it’s the way other generations felt about Sinatra.  There’s simply no comparison to the way that man curls his way around a pop tune—Brian Wilson, the Beatles, Cheap Trick, anybody.  Because Miller’s essential ginchiness also has to do with a fully-realized post-everything hipness…it’s as if the goddamn guy snorts up the entire HISTORY o’ the shabazz for breakfast, and then coughs it back up as a hot tar-infused loogie aimed right for the spot marked “x” (for hickey) on your craning neck.  Like the Ramones, what Miller does sounds e-z, until you really get into the meat of it.  It’s like the other day, in the car, I was listenin’ to HARRISON’S “Only a Northern Song”—a relatively minor song, even in the minds o’ Beatlemaniacs—and I realized that the thing that made the Beatles, even George, what they were was this incredible harmonic lilt that they infused into literally EVERY step of the way…call it goddamn “hooks” if y’ want (even tho’ Lester hated the term)…and that’s something almost NO-ONE has bettered…EXCEPT Scott Miller.  I mean, we’re talkin’ a stream o’ conscious that runs from the Beatles early works like “I’ll Be Back” and “Every Little Thing” straight thru the Hollies’ “It’s Alive,” the Byrds’ “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better” and “The World Turns Around Her,” the Beau Brummels’ “I Want You” and then it dies about there w/ the birth o’ “heavy” and all that—and not to say, like sum wimps, that that’s an entirely bad thing, but y’ know, this tunefulness was in a way its own incredible GIFT and it was also as easily a transport to the stars as the sex/drugs that no-one denies ‘re at the essential cusp o’ post-mod living. That is, UNTIL these guys (and admittedly Rundgren on the first two solo albs). So I guess what I’m sayin’ is, these Memphis mofos copped that ethereal harmonically-twisted Beatles curvature to the nth degree along w/ some post-modern hippity hop (“I wish I had/a joint so bad” etc.). I’ve always dug Big Star—dug Cheap Trick’s In Color, Badfinger, you name it.  If it’s ginchy—but so selfconsciously ginchy that it’s actual unselfconscious in a way—then I want to hear it, because I’ll tell you Jack, my heart flutters to the same schoolboyisms…the girls make me swoon, what can I say? And to me, the way Miller literally fuckin’ THROWS HIMSELF INTO IT w/ such completely heart-dipped aplomb…I mean, that takes more balls than to rant and rave anyday, and besides, his whole delivery is so goddamn “eeeh” that he succeeds on another level altogether (as well) which is the cherished “making fun of everything” stuff (i.e., the Dictators, Meltzer, Mad magazine etc.). He is, in fact, rock’s greatest artist (which means, on average, most good songs consistently per alb of anyone), and the quicker people realize this the better.  Scott Miller is so fuckin’ great that just the fact he lives in the Bay Area has somehow magically anointed the whole dang region to the pt o’ a goddamn renaissance (not that those doggies in the Jonesclown Massacre, the Vue, Donnas, etc. would admit it…probably the only ones who would are Imperial Teen). Dunno what this really sez about Chilton, other than to say that the great God Miller has acknowledged time n’ again that Clinton was his biggest influence, and listening to Radio City the other day I think I’m beginning to understand it—Miller basically did as much of an ape-job on Chilton as Steve Wynn did on Lou Reed, but Miller of course took it much further (umpteen albs, whether under the Loud Fam or Game Theory moniker, all great).  If y’ listen to this alb, I mean, not just the harmonic twists n’ turns that keep the music stimulating throughout, but also the voice—the Sinatra analogy in the beginning wasn’t/isn’t entirely unfounded: these guys croon because they’re so crazy about the la-la ladies. If you do anything to the nth degree it’ll eventually overpower everything and, I dunno, these two guys, Chilton n’ Scott Miller, have created a universe where the sub-atomic thrust o’ meat-in-motion has trumped all and sex truly is everything.  That’s what I get out of it anyway—to me it’s kind of a cousin o’ Lisa Suckdog’s whole I’d-prefer-to-do-the-raping stance…and Miller and men like him (and me) are saying “take me baby, I’m yours.”  Big Star GOT that, way back in Memphis in 1974—and that’s what ultimately makes ‘em BETTER than the Beatles.  Meanwhile for evidence o’ the sunglazed Scott Miller content of which I speak, check out “Way Out West,” “She’s a Mover,” “I’m In Love with a Girl,” “Back of My Car”…oh alright, every goddamn song on the LP.  Don’t you get it? The ginch level in these tracks FREED UP Miller to get real gone on his own, kind of in the same way that Coltrane freed up Shepp, Frank Lowe, Pharoah Sanders etc.  Big Star—Chilton in particular—were the CATALYSTS for a whole wave o’, I dunno, glistening sex-music that I’d been waiting to hear my whole life.  Also, the whole pt of rock n’ roll, the fuckin’ DEFINITION of it, is to, thru music, tell us each time something new and fresh about SEX that we never even pondered before…on this alb, Chilton did just that w/ “September Gurls,” perhaps the most beautiful song in the English language.  And “Mod Lang” is like going to bed with Sue Fisher and waking up to find she’s turned into Laci Roberts. For all such wish-granting mutations, let Scott Miller be your genie (or Santa Claus ‘cept he ain’t fat enuff and never WILL he be fat for all the aforementioned reasons).

54. Way Out West—Sonny Rollins (Riverside, 1958): The greatest trio record ever. Of course concepts like “cohesion” and “interplay” govern such intimate settings, and what we’re talkin’ here is a three-way musical dialogue where each participant understands the notion of space and time. Rollins of course is bountiful on this alb—I’ve always considered the mid-fifties pre-“retirement” era, which this hails from, his finest period (think Saxophone Colossus, another excellent alb, or stuff like “Manhattan” from the ill-fated Brass alb on Verve) and Sonny’s at his best when he’s swinging freely, which the medium tempos and small-group setting of this affair enables him to do perfectly. Check out the mellifluous solo in “Come, Gone” for the absolute peak o’ post-Bop fifties cosmology.  He knows his way around a ballad too, as “There Is No Greater Love” proves. What it’s all about is creating a voice, a language that’s distinctly one’s own…and it was around this time that Rollins was starting to do just that.  The choice o’ Roy Brown and the underrated Shelly Manne on bass n’ drums, respectively, was more happenstance than any great calculation on the part o’ Sonny—what this alb actually comes down to is Rollins’ attempt to ape the West Coast persuasion that was sweeping jazz during those years.  Since that was a mostly whitey-led phenom, Rollins’ take on the whole thing is somewhat satirical, right down to the cover photo of him in a ten-gallon hat (GREAT fuggin’ cover too, this was the era when album cover art was just that—mainly, an artform, particularly in the realm o’ jazz). The choice o’ Manne as drummer is obviously a result of Rollins’ assimilation o’ “cool” but one must remember, during these years, Manne also sat in with ORNETTE, who was also out in LA at the time, so y’ know, he at least had the foresight to see beyond the tepid stylings of most of his peers. And Roy Brown literally happened to be playing across the street so they nabbed him for the record. One of the highlights of this alb is Brown’s very patient solo on “Wagon Wheel.” Elsewhere his playing is superb.  Give these guys the golden donut for this one—and if y’ haven’t heard it, purchase immediately since it’s inconceivable there could a killjoy in the world who would not delight to its sweetened strains.  That means even you, Jason.

53. Lately I Keep Scissors—Barbara Manning (Heyday, 1988): It’s almost inconceivable that the original, on the little San Francisco label of Heyday, came out in 1988 coz, at that time, femme-folkie strum still meant major label crap the likes o’ Tracy Chapman or Suzanne Vega. The whole “revolution” o’ girl-power hadn’t quite occurred yet, which makes the honorable Ms. Manning—THE greatest female solo artist of this generation or ANY generation—even more omnipotent. I mean, not to even mention the fact that it’s just a great fuckin’ record, by singer/songwriter standards or any standards (check out the versatile Ms. Manning’s use o’ cello on “Breathe Lies” to give the whole song its ominous undertow)—BUT the fact that nowadays, sometimes when y’ play it for people, they act like “oh, just another chick-with-a-guitar album” only proves how totally far ahead of her time she was and how what she was doing THEN has been absorbed into the ether o’ the here and NOW. 1988! Listen to “Somewhere Soon” (w/ it’s great refrain “even the trees are upside down”…that’s the acid, and it must be remembered that Manning was a champion o’ the neo-psych as well, right up there w/ Bevis Frond, Spacemen 3 and the shoegazers): total ’91 or ’92 by the sounds of it…but nope, out there in Frisco Barbara and her little friends like Greg Freeman and Cole Marquis were up to such antics a full five years prior. The use of Velvets-like falling-spikes textures mixed w/ ethereal female vocals, not to mention the whole male/female gender interaction o’ this as well as Barb’s other various concurrent line-ups (World of Pooh, SF Seals) obviously predated a good deal of subsequent indie-spew—in fact, other than Beat Happening, I’d be hard-pressed to think of anyone else who was doing it at the time. Barbara’s voice—where she utilizes an aloof register that in many ways echoes the “little girl voice” first employed by Grace Slick on “Lather” but also Moe Tucker—was definitely an ironic tool that later, in the hands o’ Rebecca Odes, Mary Helium, the Breeders, Veruca Salt etc. would open many doors. And as for the chick-with-a-guitar thing, at least Barb was rendering such visionary material as “Mark E. Smith & Brix” instead of trying to pass off cockteasing and potty-mouthed antics as “feminism” (hi Liz).

52. Easter Everywhere—13th Floor Elevators (International Artists, 1967): Once again, has to be in here. You think these teens knew when they created it that it’d live in infamy? Doubtful, but that doesn’t mean that this alb from the very start wasn’t infused with a vision to at least rival Arthur Lee or Brian Wilson or the Beatles.  It’s just that, well, let’s say…if you thought those guys were weird.  I mean, the Elevators were on the forefront of the drug revolution…everything about them, from their name to their album covers to the label they recorded for to their communal living arrangements, preached a kind of acid-will-triumph-over-all gestalt.  It’s obvious they believed it, especially considering Roky’s later mind-bending excursions (both literally and figuratively).  The only other group I can think of who made acid as much their raison d’etre is the Dead, and sure enough, certain songs on this great album, like “Nobody to Love,” “Slip Inside This House,” “She Lives in a Time (of Her Own)” and others, rival the completely loopy euphoria of the first Grateful Dead album. But whereas the Dead was laidback, the Elevators were intense—listen to the heaviness of the chords of “Slip Inside…” there’s an almost ANGRY SAMOANS type resonance…and listen to the slippery wail of Roky, as passionate about the insane revelations he’s setting forth as Eric Weisbard is about his Bob Mould press kits. Not to harp on one song too much, but if you listen to “Slip Inside…” what you hear is a complete mantra-like juggernaut…these guys were wrapped up in this, they were proselytizing and the music—and drugs—were pulling them along on their mission.  And I dunno, that kinda totality when it comes to a musical unit (not to mention album) doesn’t come along all that often. Like other later bands like the Sex Pistols and Kilslug, the Elevators weren’t just a band, they were a way of life and Easter Everywhere was the peak of their whole Godless crusade.

51. Elvis Presley (RCA, 1956): This clown wasn’t good for much, album-wise.  The Sun Sessions, generally considered his “best,” wasn’t even officially released until 20 years later. And almost everyone universally agrees that the stuff he did for Sun—and p’rhaps the first one-and-a-half years at RCA/Victor—was the only good stuff he ever did really. But what good stuff it was, and we don’t have to reassess the repercussions of its holy caterwaul for the 8 billionth time. Needless to say, the King really did rock the world and he had help from several ample buddy-boys, all of whom are present here: DJ Fontana, Scotty Moore and Bill Black. Elvis did NOT fucketh his friends when he ascended to the golden throne…infact, he brought them along for the ride. Lucky for us, because, as this album, his first, proves, without them he really would have been only slightly more lethal than Harry Belafonte. The Sun sessions created the universe, true, but Sam Phillips didn’t deal in albums at that point, and RCA scooped up the King so fast that they hardly had an ample supply o’ tunes in the can…so when it came time to release that essential first alb they were partially reliant on stuff from the Sun canon, and that’s half of what’s here: “Trying to Get to You,” “Blue Moon,” “I Love You Because,” “Just Because” and others date from the pre-RCA period.  Most of the other stuff would eventually be compiled on such patchwork albs as Elvis, A Date with Elvis and For LP Fans Only.  All of them are great, authentic rockabilly for the most part, and the fact that they imploded on the album market in the middle of Montavani and Nat King Cole in the fifties was testament to a groundswell o’ mass-cultural perversion that outdistanced even the impending Russkis or martians in the minds o’ most god-fearin’ folks. Like the early Beatles and Stones albs in America, this album wasn’t made as an album—it’s a compilation, more or less, but even the post-Sun stuff, when Elvis was first feeling his oats as perhaps the first TRUE “superstar” the world had ever known, is all swaggering goodness. Check out Scotty Moore’s solo on “Heartbreak Hotel” for one thing.  Also check out Elvis’s knock-offs of such “popular” material as “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Money Honey” and “I Got a Woman,” versions so goddam “authentic” that he eventually came to own them.  No doubt about it, this is one of the great firsts in rock history, and it blows away the argument that they didn’t make good albs in the fifties—and that goes for the artwork as well because we all know how influential the cover of this album, with its pink n’ black presentation o’ the King-in-motion, was. Need I only point you towards London Calling twenty-five years later? Anyway you slice it this album was the catalyst for much mayhem. When he died, they shoulda embalmed him in bacon fat. 

MORE o' that ol' Joe S. Harrington blastitude:
Why Does Everyone Hate The Strokes? (Issue 11)
Top 100 Albums of All Time #'s 100-76. (Issue 11)
About Joe S. Harrington's book


next page: The Chicago Improvisers Group