ISSUE 14   WINTER 2002/2003
page 4 of 27


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


25. The Velvet Underground & Nico (Verve, 1967): This is the one that did it as far as the whole “art” preoccupation which has become SO much a part of so-called “rock” these days. Rock just means songs that are played w/ bass, guitar, drums and vocals w/ maybe a few exotic embellishments, so it ties in easily with the loft scene where artists tend to dwell. Then again, nowadays so does some hokey dude w/ a turntable playing those wretched beats ad infinitum. But it wasn’t always so—“rock” (or pop) music had to move into the galleries, and it was on the wings of this group. Not everyone liked ‘em at the time, but isn’t that kind of the point? And the Velvets were the first to realize this, which is why they are still being mimicked so much today (e.g., Strokes). Warhol was the reason why—if he’d never discovered them they would’ve continued to starve on the Lower East Side and ended up recording for ESP. If that had happened, this record would’ve come out very different—but we all know that didn’t happen. The banana got pealed, and Warhol willingly licked his lips, but the American public didn’t. So what? It wasn’t made for them anyway—it was “art.” The Warhol sealed proved it. Plus he bought them bigger amps. Their punk tendencies dictated the way the music sounded—so raw and fresh that it is still sounds resoundingly beautiful today. Listen to the scraping chords of “I’m Waiting for the Man” for the absolute most malicious sounding warp of the whole Jimmy Reed guitar style, a chopping rhythmic hammer that predated Stooge-thrash and still sounded strangely jug-band ish in that whole sixties early-days-of-drugs approach. They just took all those folk and blues influences downtown and mixed it with their fag art friends…but then you also have Reed’s literary pretensions and Cale’s classical training. And the Olatunji-influenced drummer. They were a weird bunch, there’s no doubt about it. It was positively a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence that cannot be repeated. But it HAS been repeated 5 billion times, and keeps getting repeated…which is of course the greatest testament to its lasting brilliance. The clothes and the hair don’t mean that much, not to mention the skinniness. The mean-spiritedness, now that’s another thing entirely, and they had that in spades, but not necessarily more than Sky or Roky or the Chocolates…it’s just that they were INTELLIGENT! The college rock thing also came into play w/ the Velvets because, except for Moe, they were all academy-bred and, y’ know, the Beatles or the Byrds or the Grateful Dead couldn’t necessarily say that. But of course the Talking Heads or Love Child could. And so it went, and it’s all because of these War Baby brats. That was the punk thing about them, and the birth of Siouxsee Sioux and all that…the elitism and the contempt. The Stones had already verged it, and there’s no doubting the Stones influence on the Velvets (“There She Goes Again” taken from the Out of Our Heads arrangement of “Hitch Hike”), or the Dylan influence on at least Lou either…but the Velvets were their own thing entirely, and they were also musical geniuses, particularly Cale, which is what made them so much graver than Siouxsee Sioux. Songs about S&M in ’65 were truly bizarre. When you really think about, there ain’t even many songs about it today. What were they thinking? It was perverse the way they deliberately tried to tweak the forces of authority w/ a blatant display of decadence. But they took it a little too far—they were FEARED and that kept even most members of the press away until it was too late. Lester’s first feature on ‘em was entitled “Dead Lies the Velvet Underground” (May ’71) so that tells you something. To their credit, bitterness never overtook their general message, and in fact w/ the third and fourth albs, actual transcendence was achieved. This album bristled with a kind of satanic glee, mixed with the droning ballads that typify an early morning drug haze mixed with post-cabaret desultoriness. It’s a mixture that art-fags in any major city to this day can relate to. But the great thing about the Velvets—THE great thing—is that musically every member of the group, at least until Doug Yule—and that includes MacLise, Conrad, etc.—were total punks who hated everything. Therefore as the sixties utopia was brimming were these New Yorkers with malicious intent thrown into the brew…this makes the Velvets cultural heroes in my opinion. “Heroin” as an I-hate-you statement is still unsurpassed. And musically it’s titanic, unrepeatable, as is “The Black Angel’s Death Song.” The only song in the American musical idiom as distinctly of-its-own as that one is Jennie Mae’s “Camel Toe,” which also sounds like no song in the English language (including “Black Angel’s Death Song”). Yup, they were great, possibly the greatest, and if there’s any album that’s the definition of “classic” it’s this one. You’re NEVER gonna see a list—“straight” or no—that doesn’t include this.

24. Something Else -- Ornette Coleman (Contemporary, 1958): In truth, this hardly-ever-written-about alb is the one where Ornette really came into his own. Being his first as leader, there was naturally a little bit of disheveledness as far as direction…altho’ he’s still trying to play like Bird (“Jayne” for instance) he’s already all over the map as an alto stylist, and one can tell a whole new style is being born. Cherry and Higgins were already with him at this point, and a lot of the later standards are presented here for the first time: “The Blessing,” “The Invisible” etc. There’s piano, not always a winning formula for Ornette, played by the Bop stalwart Walter Norris. Oddly enough, while the piano is never disharmonious, it never sounds like Norris is riding the same merry-go-round horse as these guys either—after all, they’d all come up together and were genuinely on a mission, just like the later Coltrane quartet or, for that matter, the Velvets or Elevators. It was a gestalt, measured by space-age leaps as opposed to giant steps…Norris couldn’t be blamed for his dumbfoundedness and never do we hear an outright gaffe. Mostly his playing is benign, complimentary…even as Coleman and Cherry attempt weird chord changes that almost sound like they’re trying to trip him up. There’s a swinging west coast feel to this album that absolutely epitomizes the era right before the agents of Free-Jazz broke off entirely with “tradition” (Ornette chief among ‘em). Cherry’s still playing a conventional trumpet at this point, heavily Miles-influenced, but he’s already adding a few melodic variations that sound uniquely unfamiliar at this point in jazz’s history. What I really like about this album is you get to hear Ornette playing sax as an expressive tool instead of as a weapon, like he would sometimes later approach it. It’s not necessarily better than the later Atlantic stuff (altho’ it’s recorded slightly better) but Ornette’s playing would never again be so spry and full of pure musical outreach. Not that it was all down hill by any means, but on this album he proves why, as a melodic sax player, he was in many ways even better than Coltrane (a context people don’t usually put him in, relegating him exclusively to the “noise” sector, but nope, folks, he was, in many ways, the last of the true Be Boppers…)

23. Impressions—John Coltrane (Impulse, 1964): Everyone agrees that Trane’s stint at the Village Vanguard in late ’61, with Eric Dolphy in tow, was one of the all-time great and most historic stands in jazz history. They even knew it back then, which is why Impressions reprises the material that didn’t make the cut on the original Live at the Village Vanguard, released in ’61 and now, in retrospect, considered perhaps his greatest album (see #11). Impressions falls in slightly behind it, but that’s a minor distinction—how the hell ‘re y’ ever gonna match “Chasin’ the Train” unless yr, say, Charlie Parker? The leftover stuff is actually the best material on Impressions—this constitutes the loose-reed excursion “India,” later a Psychedelic Furs namesake, which completely numbfucked this bulldyke that I worked with once in a cold storage freezer in South Boston: “What the HELL are you listening to?” She said. But as Tesco says, don’t growl at me you diesel dyke! For all pre-Pharoah Sanders loosening-of-the-valves textures listen to Dolphy’s slow-and-methodical unfurling about 9 mins. into it, which, a minute later, cues Coltrane on soprano doing harmonic backflips that, to this day, Sonic Youth only dreams of. I’m convinced also that the guy in Can did a lot of listening to Elvin Jones’ drums on this one. This is the best Coltrane in my eyes—the same loopy and melodic texture he brought to the Don Cherry collaboration The Avant-Garde, also released around this time (and also no slouch). “Up ‘Gainst the Wall,” which undoubtedly described the black struggle in America, is a slow blues recorded sans Tyner, and it’s quite perfunctory by Coltrane standards but then again it hails from a whole different session than the live tracks—mainly, the one for Coltrane (the “blue” album) in ’62. But the title cut, also from the Vanguard sessions and another variation on “Chasin’ the Trane,” is one of the band’s strongest workouts, with Dolphy and Coltrane once again swapping complex algebraic patterns, as they did all throughout the legendary stand, and the rhythm section creating magnificent countermelodies for the soloists to ride on top of. And ride they do, blazing a hot burning poker thru the heart of Camelot. It’s a uniquely cosmic moment…the fact they captured it not once, not twice, but multiple times is testament we should all be grateful for, even if the precedent it set has been so utterly unmatchable that whole fuckin’ genre has pretty much gone in the toilet ever since.

22. Ace of Spades—Motorhead (Bronze, 1980): This was their magnum opus, but their fate was already assured by this time—after three absolutely sledgehammer albums, the greatest “power trio” since Hendrix waxed an LP that defined speed-metal aggression and punk fury at a time when those boundaries were first being crossed. At first, the hordes of metal were opposed to punk, and vice-versa, probably due to the difference in hairstyles more than anything. But Lemmy, a true journeyman who’d toiled through the whole British scene and had always been on the wrong side of everything—kicked out of HAWKWIND, how bad can it get?—was NOT aghast at the breakneck fury o’ punk…to him it seemed like an inevitable conclusion. Here was a guy who actually saw the Beatles at the Cavern Club…he was THAT old, so he knew punk of a gutter variety, going back to the rock’s goddam first decade…like Frank Zappa circa “Bobby Brown,” he was NOT in fear of a bunch of 20-yr old shaveheads w/ objects stuck thru their earlobes and nostrils. Taking a swig of Carlsberg, he took one look at them and said: “Oy, you think THAT’S bad, listen to THIS…” And then he gave them albs like Motorhead, Overkill, Bomber and Ace of Spades. In three short years, Motorhead had established a legacy to rival their spiritual stateside brethren, the Ramones, but no-one in America was listening…until this album. Lumped in w/ the “new wave” of metal coming out of England at the time (Saxon, Iron Maiden, etc.), Motorhead was far less reliant on spittly neck-wank, concentrating instead on an absolute juggernaut of whipping guitars, freight train rhythms and of course Lemmy’s trademark gruff vocals. Not quite punk, not quite metal…it was, dare we say, a WHOLE NEW FORM OF MUSIC, and it helped rock finally cross the barrier into SHEER AGGRESSION and RAGE, making possible everything from Henry Rollins to Metallica to Big Black to Nine Inch Nails. Making sheer FORCE-as-idiom a reality was what it was all about, even tho’ the great thing about Motorhead, unlike those later losers, was that they didn’t lose the ROCK N’ ROLL quotient either…Lemmy made sure of that, because rock n’ roll in its orig. form was his frickin’ BIRTHRIGHT (as epitomized by the “Born to Lose/Live to Win” credo that he adhered to). So guitarist Fast Eddie Clark always had that CHUCK BERRY as well. And Lemmy as a lyricist was no slouch of course…has any song ever put it better than “The Chase Is Better Than the Catch”? That’s really what it’s all about, and the “you know I’m born to lose/And gambling’s for fools” part of “Ace of Spades” is pretty sage as well. Not a joke band by any definition, they are probably, as far as consistency goes, one of the greatest groups to ever rock the gospel. Vindicate ‘em, venerate ‘em…only the Ramones and AC/DC can claim an equal arsenal. Taken together, they were the three post-atomic Super Powers of the Super Rock era (w/ apologies to the Dictators, of course, who fell just short of nuclear due to their limited lifespan…six more months and they woulda got it). One other thing about Lemmy you gotta admire…he fucked around with every drug, and form of liquor known to man, with relentless abandon (which is how he did everything) but he never touched the horse, which was probably his saving grace. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

21. Back From Samoa—the Angry Samoans (Bad Trip, 1982): These beanbrains got no respect. True, every shavehead worth his or her salt knew about this alb and revered it (which wasn’t entirely a given considering that the Samoans themselves were NOT shaveheads)—but other than, surprisingly, Chuck Eddy, NO reputable rock critic has ever put it near the top o’ any list. They were left out of both Steve Bloom’s American Hardcore as well as Mark Spitz’s We Got the Neutron Bomb—they were also left out of The End of Western Civilization (volume one obviously, I don’t even count the metal one save for Steve Tyler’s comment about Johansen, which was relevant). Fact is, the Samoans weren’t part of any scene—even less than the Minutemen, they came from outside of the milieu, and never played to that whole “econo”/indie thing, which in my eyes always made them MORE punk but punk in an ultimately American Hollywood way, like the Standells or Zappa (to just explore two sides of the pole that their hybrid ultimately encompassed). The brat sensibility in rock ultimately went back to Cooper, and these guys were firm believers in that kind of suburban callousness (as opposed to downtown decadence). Older than Black Flag, they’d already formed their chops before punk had even happened and it was all the usual spuzzle: mainly, the garage-band-into-psych-into-metal evolution which encompassed everything from the 13th Floor Elevators to Sir Lord Baltimore to, yes, Cooper. The fact Saunders and Turner were rock critics reinforced their essentially brattiness—and people forget, but in those days, being a rock critic was actually something COOL! These guys got free records, and that’s why they knew about all the weird variations that rock had been wrought through in the seventies…which ultimately made them better musicians, even if it meant their music was just a “version” of rock, a complete cultist’s eyeview. But since MOST contemporary “rock” is just a cut-out version of a pre-existing form now, they were actually trendsetters. They could’ve easily retreated into a culty kind of perfunctory existence, like the Plimsouls or someone, but they were made of MUCH tougher stuff…Turner’s stuff in Creem was classic slay-thy-father rock writing in the Meltzer tradition. He was a tall kid too smart for his own good and he took advantage of it. Once again, here’s where the whole “version” of rock syndrome comes in…Turner was so cocksure that he heard the hammering riffs o’ the Kinks, Who, Sabbath, the Stooges and the Coop, and Kiss and the Dolls and Dictators and everything else, and more or less concluded that it could be even heavier, NASTIER…and rely even MORE on the eternal power chord. And then there was Saunders, who came from Arkensas-by-way-of-Texas…he’d slept in dorms where crawdaddys had crawled over his feet in the night, as hippie jerks protested Vietnam outside of his window when all he wanted was some poon. Another wisecracking brain who knew his ultimate $800-a-week future was assured, he too saw the creaky corpse of rock as an odorous pile of decaying lard…therefore why not have fun sending it up? But the thing that separated the Samoans from their other joke-rock peers is that, even while their lyrics were supposed to be funny (and in the realms of the Hardy Har Hardcore their only REAL peers were Tesco and the Meatman), they were NEVER less-than-serious about their music. Did I say never? “Tuna Taco”? “I’m a Pig”? OK, so there were a few obvious throwaways, but once they evolved beyond Vom and got rid of Meltzer their music was always well-formed, conceptually and otherwise. Getting back to the hardcore challenge…when Punk came along, Turner and Saunders felt at home, but then HARDCORE came along and they could’ve easily retreated in fear. They were not, after all, kids with nothing to lose who were living in the Masque…but they responded to the CHALLENGE of hardcore, as in daring to embark on tours w/ bands like Seven Seconds and DOA, even as their math degrees festered. They weren’t all talk in other words. They took punk the right way, which was to always piss EVERYBODY off…I won’t go into the whole Rodney thing, except to say that they were the ONLY ones in the LA scene who dared go against that aging glam-hag at a time when he and that other shitrag Foley practically ran the club scene in that town. It costs them, but then again, they had the math degrees to fall back on…who cares? They defied everything. By the time this album came out, they were notorious, and Back From Samoa became one of the pre-eminent early-hardcore documents, along with Damaged, Group Sex, Walk Among Us, Fresh Fruit and We Are the Meatmen. The thing that’s funny about it is, it isn’t really hardcore…it’s beyond. EVERY song is about something miserable, but these guys are like a swarm of locusts—Todd Homer added another dimension of prickery, so much so that, in his “Consumer Guide” review Christgau shit his pants over him. But those of us in the ‘burbs got the joke…Hitler, Sharon Tate, kill you stab you, FUCK YOU…it was all funny now, far from worrying about the malevolence of the age like the hippies or even the punks, the Samoans were merely LAUGHING about it all. And when three guitars at once produced a resounding RK DK DK, with those amazing gnat-like vocals by Mike and Todd, it was the most exciting rock ever, so goddamn exaggerated in its snarl that it was funny and incendiary at the same time. Did I mention it’s also one of the fastest albums ever recorded? Breakneck speed, which once again proved the shaveheads had nothing over them. The whole album only runs about 15 mins. which puts it on a par with that other all-time classic of LA punk-hardcore, the Circle Jerk’s Group Sex. The riff structure meanwhile is actually more Sabbathian than Stoogean (I would make the same argument for the Ramones, actually). Think of it this way—if the Ramones are Sabbath on 45 than the Samoans are Sabbath on 78. The evolution of late 20th century riffery in a nutshell.

20. Are You Experienced?—Jimi Hendrix Experience (Reprise, 1967): Has there ever been a more auspicious debut record? I mean, for totally expanding on the boundaries of what already existed. Like the early albs o’ the Beatles, you really need to get the Brit version of this album—and like the Beatles, Mr. Hendrix was an artist who had everything and I mean EVERYTHING as far as talent: great singing, great songs, and of course a great band, a prototype that, like the Velvet Underground, is still being die-cut and applied to this very day…listen to the proto-funk of “Stone Free,” the way the rhythms actually fluctuate in a manner that’s a lot closer to sexual or oceanic than the clomping plod of Cream, and then consider not only P-Funk but Living Colour. Once again, this music is still relevant and it’s too bad all the cutesy-girlie-ironic crap has dulled some neophytes’ appreciation of the more (or less?) rock-istic elements o’ Jimi and his mates…the big Negroid daddy has never translated to the indie kids, whether it’s Jimi or whether it’s the Bad Brains…and, y’ know, the truth is, they’re not that dissimilar. As for psychedelic tomfoolery, Hendroid was obviously THE catalyst for the space burble of Sly Stone, John McLaughlin, and of course Eddie Hazel in Funkadelic. But what’s really miraculous about Are You Experienced? is the way it combines psychedelia with blues and soul. The seldom known “51st Anniversary,” for instance (once again, get the Brit album) is a kind of rubbery blues that swings with rhythm the same way a good Mingus or Charlie Parker tune does. Hendrix was in this category, there’s no doubt about it…the hippie bullshit ultimately sunk him, but even his most gullible psychedelic excesses (“The Wind Cries Mary,” “May This Be Love”) never sound forced…in fact it sounds naïve and wonderful, a spark of sex and endless hedonism that epitomizes the eye-opening vividness of the era (released in the Summer of Love, this alb, along w/ Pepper, is the penultimate sixties soundtrack). You can’t forget about the band either…Redding is a melodic master, who plays in a kind of rhythmic counter-step to Hendrix, a throbbing mass that hits the chest and nervous system with a ferocious fury. And Mitchell is a rhythmic genius, a sacred combo of Keith Moon (for arms-flailing fills) and Elvin Jones (for syncopated up-and-down motion). Every member of the band totally attacks their instrument, with the same kind of precision and rough abandon a later trio, Motorhead, would. Need I mention Lemmy was their roadie? Once again proving that the history of rock n’ roll is a straight line.

19. I’m Stranded—the Saints (Sire, 1977): In the wake o’ the Ramones, first the singles started coming (“Solitary Confinement” by the Weirdos etc.). But I’m Stranded was one of the first complete elpees to adopt the nonstop buzzsaw formula…in fact, like the Ramones, the Saints even included a coupla fifties covers (“Wild About You,” “Kissin’ Cousins”). But the Saints had actually been around as long as the Ramones in their native Aussie environs and had been slowly honing their Stooges formula. It didn’t take the Ramones to teach them how to play, but admittedly the fast bracing stuff, and the simplicity, was reinforced by the appearance o’ the first two Ramones albs. The Sire seal gives it away—released around the same time as such other Seymour Stein-sponsored classics like Blank Generation and Talking Heads ’77, this alb was amongst the front-line of definitive punk texts. It’s one of the things that made us realize, long before there was ever a Sex Pistols alb, that this phenomenon was not a single-band crusade (thanx Ramones). Guitarist Ed Keupper was among the most able-bodied of the post-Williamson guitar slingers (a school that also included Cheetah Chrome, the guy in the Weirdos, Ross the Boss etc. etc.) and the searing leads were a touch that the still-leadless Ramones could’ve used…of course the fretboards would flay with even more fierce abandon on the subsequent alb, Eternally Yours (see #30, Issue 13…obviously I think these guys are amongst the greatest ever). But then they’d add horns. They were never straight Ramones…they were also Australians, and the Continent’s most worthy exports that weren’t prefabricated by Vanda and Young. Goddamn, all the real grit of punk, what made it really fuckin’ EXPLODE in the minds and hearts of millions, can be summed up by the bridge in “One Way Street” when Bailey, a GREAT fuckin’ singer, sneers “if you don’t like it honey that’s too bad.” It’s as good as the Ig-ster at his best, and these guys were doin’ it strictly straight out of the shoot. “Story of Love,” with its metallic riff and declaration-of-independence lyrics, is downright hypnotic in its simplistic forcefulness. “Messin’ with the Kid,” a clanky-but-brilliant “ballad” based partially on the Stones’ “Sway,” would evidence that they were already looking ahead to the slow stuff on the second alb (along w/ the Ramones and Motorhead they were the ONLY group from punk’s first wave who dared still sport long hair). It’s just a great fuckin’ album all around…in fact, along w/ Bollocks and Ramones Leave Home it is the DEFINITIVE sound-of-’77 LP. And that ain’t fuckin’ hay as we all know. Just say OY!

18. Killer—Alice Cooper (Warner Bros., 1971): Like Sony, the Bugs Bunny Company has generated a lot of good noise—perhaps unwittingly—over the years. Y’ already saw Master of Reality by Sabbath make the cut, not to mention Purp’s Machine Head. One thing they were ahead on was the early days of METAL, and no opus epitomized that coming-of-age better than Killer. The kids just don’t know how controversial and incendiary the Coop was back in those days…I mean, when we were literally children, the Coop was FEARED by parents…my folks let me go to the Portland Civic Center to see ZZ Top or Jethro Tull but not Alice. And of course that just made me love the man more, as did EVERYBODY who was on the cutting edge of rock then, an edge that didn’t encapsulate punk yet, since it simply didn’t exist, but shunned the more genteel stirrings that were becoming predominant on the radio at the time: America, Seals & Crofts, James Taylor, disco. You know the culprits. The Coop was BY FAR the closest thing to actual “punk” that has EVER been a “hit” in America, at least until Nirvana. And I’m sure the members of Mudhoney or whatever would tell you that. Need evidence of the Coop’s eternal import? Just think of it this way…when Rotten auditioned for the Pistols it was to the tune of “I’m Eighteen”…and has ANY record that snotty, before or since, ever ascended to Number Four on the hit parade (once again, save “Teen Spirit”)? The Coop was the eternal bridge between sixties 2-minute fuzz-splat (“Talk Talk,” the Seeds, etc.) and heavy metal. By the time “Eighteen” took off (197-fucking-1!) the Coop had already made three albs—the first two, created when the band lived in California and was under the impetus of ZAPPA, were actually kind of spooky-creepy-HIPPIE-folkie (not altogether a bad thing in those days, as I always try to convince SMITTY). But the third alb, the one “Eighteen” was culled from, entitled Love it to Death, begat the band’s partnership w/ Canadian producer Bob Ezrin, not to mention their stint in Detroit, a hard-partying town that also encompassed—need I say?—Iggy, the Five, the Nuge, Seger, Funkadelic etc. etc. Cooper picked up some bad habits, mainly his habit of drinking a case of Bud a day, which prompted outright MEGALOMANIA! Consciously the Coop set out to create a psychodrama that would shock, offend (and out-rock) everyone. Even more than something like Who’s Next, Killer was the first document to announce outright that the seventies had arrived…the kids grasped it, and Cooper ascended to his God-like status as the Exhibitionist Grand Master, fake blood oozing down his 120-pound frame as he chopped his own fuckin’ head off for all to see. Killer was the alb that Cooper moved into the “spook” realm more than the glam/drag one…leave it for David Bowie, he musta thought, and thank heavens for that, because it would only be a few more years before we had not only Kiss but the Misfits…and Coop is really the essential root of all subsequent spook-rock. Music-wise Ezrin had brought out the best in the band itself and there are “rock classics” aplenty on Killer, most of them—“Under My Wheels,” “You Drive Me Nervous,” the “Sweet Jane” ripoff “Be My Lover”—at least partially the product of the underrated Michael Bruce (guitar). One thing that should be reaffirmed again and again about the Coop is that, once he lost this band, just like Iggy with the Stooges or Lou with the Velvets, he lost it all. The fact that Killer was as well-orchestrated in its own way as Abbey Road or Sgt. Pepper made it endlessly listenable throughout. But what really solidified its value was the decidedly post-everything mentality of a song like the title cut, where the Coop sang in that brat voice—the missing link between sixties sneerers like Sky Saxon and the razor sharp roll of Rotten—lyrics like: “I came into this life/Looked all around/I saw just what I liked/And took what I found.” That’s on the same level as something like the Stooges’ “Dirt” or BOC’s “Stairway to the Stars” in the no-longer-playing-nice category. The synthesizer also came into play on the immortal 8-minute creep-rock opus, “Halo of Flies” (where Coop sneered “I’ve got the answers to all of your questions/If you’ve got the money to pay me in gold”), which is what I meant about this being an ornate, orchestrated opus on the Beatles/Who level. Listen to the soupy instrumental part of “Killer” for a perfect Doors/Beatles/Byrds-meets-Blue Oyster Cult fanfare. Cooper was no garage-rock fool. He’d DONE his time in that capacity, way back in Arizona in ’65, and like the MC5 these boyhood buds were joined at the hip for almost a decade. That’s the kind of solidarity that breeds an innate understanding of each other’s musical gifts, and that came through in the masterful playing on Killer, indisputably their magnum opus. Informed equally by the Stones, Mad magazine and Boris Karloff, Cooper was the harsh seventies reality before most people were ready for it. But those who WERE ready—in the form of the Pistols, Ramones, Dictators etc.—would soon spring to action. We have Alice to thank, so salute him please…the Coop rules! (His golf forays, as well as every album he ever made after ’73, excepted…)

17. Horses—Patti Smith (Arista, 1975): Just as tempting to include album number two, Radio Ethiopia, a more lung-heavy stream o’ human spit, but this is the one that first sent shock waves through the short-hairs of the international crotchfesters with ball-squeezing relish. Coming straight out of the rock literari, Patti had street-cred to spare and since, when Horses was released, we were still about six months prior to PUNK actually happening (unless y’ count the first Dictators alb) she was able to masquerade as an incredibly urban “singer/songwriter” and the LP actually ascended to the top fourth of the charts in the fall of ’75, just about the same time another Jersey-ite, Bruce Springsteen, was gettin his mug plastered on the cover of both Time and Newsweek. Patti dug Bruce, Bruce dug Patti (as evidenced a couple years later by the duet, “Because the Night”). At that time they both came under the category of “new urban realists,” but anyone who heard Horses knew that a more subterranean element was at work here. Cale’s production was the first tip-off…this was the spawn o’ the VU comin’ home to roost, and “Land,” on the second side, was the best long song since “Sister Ray.” The skizzling guit-boxes o’ lanky rock crit Lenny Kaye, the somber pianistics o’ Sohl (already used to expert effect on the groundbreaking “Piss Factory” single) as well as Patti’s own phantasmagoric free-flights was proof of two things: 1. They weren’t mere “rockers” and…2. They weren’t just “punk” dummies (ala the Ramones). Because of this, she got branded as “art rock” in the first edition of the Rolling Stone History of Rock but she was art rock in the same way as the Velvets…the side of “art” that openly embraced the more rough-hewn aspects of rock n’ roll (and of course it’s been that way ever since and yeah, SHE helped make it happen). Faddishness was in evidence on the reggae knock-off, “Redondo Beach,” and her wrangling of “Gloria” was perhaps the ALL-TIME re-invention of an already-done-to-death motif, as epic a transformation of a sixties war-horse as Hendrix’s “Hey Joe” (or, for that matter, her “Hey Joe”…in her eyes nothing was sacred obviously). Her crusading efforts re: the Rock itself shone like the sun, which is why, in the Mapplethorpe cover shot where Patti was snappin’ her suspenders before Siouxsee Sioux was out of her flares, she looks like a warrioress getting ready to ride into town on a rented horse to do gun battle with the flabby hide of sheriff-elect Gilbert Doughty. Ride Sally, ride.

16. The Who Sings My Generation (Decca, 1966): The importance o’ this alb—indeed this band—can be summed up in two words: “high energy.” That miser Noel Ventresco always balks about my certification o’ this as their “best” alb, but that’s only coz he can’t get past the two James Brown covers (which are admittedly hokey-pokey). Many would argue a more thought-out Townshend opus like The Who Sell Out or Who’s Next (or even Tommy) would be a more qualified choice, but I’ve always said, in the case of any alb, it all comes down to the quality of the cuts and for my money Townshend never wrote a better batch than the ones on this alb (“The Good’s Gone,” “Circles,” “A Legal Matter,” “It’s Not True,” “The Kids Are Alright” etc. etc.) and the aplomb w/ which the whole band handles the material is outright kinetic (as has often been said)—listen to the jumping-off-the-bridge point of “The Good’s Gone” for instance, right before the riff goes back into its mechanical pre-psychedelic pattern. Or listen to the slashing power chords in “It’s Not True,” prior to the monstrous bridge. It was all about dynamics, and this band had ‘em in spades over just about everyone else other than the Beatles (Kinks and Stones sound positively plodding compared to this material). Like the early work of the Kinks, Yardbirds and Pretty Things, in the sounds on this alb one can honestly hear REAL ROCK being born…sure it’s still Eddie Cochran and the Beach Boys, but there’s also a bearing-down-on-the-instruments that more or less predated EVERYBODY of any significance in the next, oh, I dunno…eight billion years? Townshend’s use of feedback was perhaps the most masterful of all, at least prior to Hendrix. He used it as a voice, not merely as an intonation. The feedback at the end of “My Generation” was the most raucous example of the technique in rock prior to “European Son.” Speakin’ o’ “My Generation,” Townshend was a great fuckin’ songwriter as well—listen to a song like “Much Too Much” which set the pace for all his future choir-boy antics (“Our Love Was/Is,” “I Can’t Reach You” etc.) but also contained rollicking honky-tonk piano, gargantuan guitars and lyrically, a batch of metaphors to rival Lennon or Davies. Townshend in his prime was the complete rock star, and he helped define the prototype. The other boys were no slouches: Daltrey is often maligned, mostly due to his height and the buckskin more than anything else, but he was a passionate singer and convincing front-man; Entwistle was by far the rock-solid center of the action and his bass playing was a rhythmic sheet-of-sound; and then there was the man called Moon, who we can all pretty much agree was the best fuckin’ drummer in the history of rock n’ roll. And there it is, right there. What more could you ask? Given their subsequent history, I’d say they had a better run than most. File under: “The founding fathers.”

15. Beggar’s Banquet—the Rolling Stones (Decca, 1968): I know I said I was gonna ix-nay these febes but when all is said and done, gotta admit, as Brit rock scholar Roy Carr once said: “Albs don’t come better than this.” What we’re talking about here is a band totally at the height of their powers (or some would say just coming into them) with a rustic alb that reeks of a haphazard nature and yet complete mastery…which is the Stones paradox, at least for ’68 on, in a nutshell. This alb was the turning point, not coincidentally because it was the last one in which Brian Jones would have any involvement. This is the alb where Mick and Keith finally delivered the fatal blow, and they do little to mask the references to mayhem, whether it’s the pseudo-devilboy tomfoolery of “Sympathy for the Devil” or the outright lechery of “Stray Cat Blues.” The Stones are also master thieves (which befits the gatefold of the boys engaging in bacchanalian self-indulgence as if they really were a band of roguish highwaymen)—still ripping off the blues on stuff like “Prodigal Son” (which they mysteriously un-credited to Big John McDuff and applied the all-purpose “public domain” stamp onto, enabling them to arrangers’ royalties…they’d perform a similar rape-job on the estate o’ Robert Johnson a year later) they’d also found some new post-modern resources like the Satans’ “Makin’ Deals” (“Sympathy”) and the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin” (“Stray Cat…”). Because, by then, they’d become such consummate pros, second only to the Beatles, they made these rip-offs distinctly their own. “Sympathy for the Devil,” although it’s been done to death, is an absolutely BRILLIANT construction combining many different voices and instrumental motifs—piano, congas, guitars—to compound the same eternal rhythm, which goes on for 6 minutes, intensifying with each minute, which is just what truly GREAT music is supposed to do, and there’s little denying that by the time the Stones got to Beggar’s Banquet, they were pretty great. It’s probably the only perfect alb they ever made, as in no true-blue stinkers. Sure, you could probably do without the six-minute “Jig Saw Puzzle” which, unlike the embryonic “Sympathy,” stays kinda static…but with Nicky Hopkins’ piano and Keith’s slide guitar and Mick’s always-great vocals (when he still sang instead of bellowed) it’s a pretty good kinda static. Tunes like “Dear Doctor,” “Parachute Woman,” “Prodigal Son” and “Factory Girl” are so basic that they tend to come off as throwaways, especially when surrounded by tracks like “Street Fightin’ Man,” “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Stray Cat Blues.” But see if you don’t come back to ‘em…and the whole alb for that matter, because, for all its decadence and disheveledness, Beggar’s Banquet holds together.

14. White Light/White Heat—the Velvet Underground (Verve, 1967): For albums being judged sheerly on the basis of intent this is probably the all-time heavyweight punk champ, esp. when y’ consider when it was recorded, right in the midst of the Summer of Love…did someone say “incongruous”? These were the days when the standards of “rock” were an un-ironic version of Britney in the form of the Cowsills etc. (who just happened to record for the same label, by the way). Needless to say, whereas now anyone reasonably intelligent and relatively urbane EXPECTS skeleton-cracking sounds and the “eeeh, fuck you etc.” attitude, when the Velvets did it, it was truly NEW…but then wasn’t everything in the sixties? The accompanying alb was no mere monkey-sounds either…if any alb can be described as a “screeching cabal” (as many albs by now undoubtedly have) this one is it…from start to finish, a searing ball of hate, masked in black leather and heroin dust. These guys really were the velvet underground, and they don’t try to hide it, which is why the alb came emblazoned with a SKULL on it, and on the back they REALLY look like the typical sixties “creeps”…and the great thing is, the sounds on the grooves back it up from start to finish: the title cut is incredibly heavy punk rock for its time, but nothing’s ever sounded quite like this since…Cale as always is a big factor in the vibrating THROB of the whole thing. In fact, this may be the Velvets alb w/ the most Cale input, and that’s always a good thing. “The Gift” is of course a monster riff, and I’ve always preferred to phase out the vocal channel and just enjoy the hammering guitars, which ripple with sleaziness and all the cold winter mornings in unheated apartments with instant coffee, made with tap water, cigarettes, and talking to friends on the phone. Moe’s fantastic on this one…all that Olatunji influence obviously paid off. And there’s a section about 5 mins. in when Lou is doing his equivalent on guitar of what jazzboys like Archie Shepp were doing on sax. “Lady Godiva’s…” is once again a Moe Tucker showpiece…the drum sounds like a heartbeat, and the heart is dark and full of malice. “Here She Comes Now” is complete drug-rock…their most covered song—why shouldn’t it be? “I Heard Her Call My Name” is unprecedented and sounds spontaneous and unrepeatable (only Half Japanese would try to fill those shoes and, surprisingly, did so quite effectively with their version in 1995). Gotta wonder what Lou was flying on the day they recorded the original. “Sister Ray” is the steamroller riff of rock that just seems to flatten everything else and goes on for seventeen sadistic minutes. You get the idea…these guys were NOT trying to be “cute,” “hip” or anything else. They were, most of all, champions of FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION in the name of rock n’ roll and we should all be grateful that they opened those doors. As for their whole New York/punk/underground allure—which was obviously the seed for Sonic Youth, et al.—White Light/White Heat was the album where they really nailed it down. It has lived in infamy ever since.

13. Charmed Life—Half Japanese (50 Skadillion Watts, 1988): Along with Game Theory, the best band o’ the eighties (w/ the Samoans a close third). Funny coz I was just having an argument with Chuck Eddy, who was reading Sonic Cool on the toilet, and he was positing the opinion that Britney Spears was better than the Misfits by dint o’ a superior rhythm section…and there in a nutshell we can see where the whole history of rock has gone wrong, especially with people like him writing it! Which is the reason a band like Half Japanese, who, in Charmed Life came up with one of the purest distillations of homespun American churn in decades, have basically been excluded from the general consensus as if they DON’T FUCKIN’ COUNT! But to me music has always been a bunch of peckerwoods with instruments banging away…all the other stuff needs to be de-contextualized to judge it aptly, so what y’ hafta see this alb as is in the tradition o’ Robert Johnson, Bob Wills, Hank Williams, Howlin’ Wolf, Ray Alvey & the Green Fuzz, the Kegs, the Velvets, the Stooges, the Shaggs, Kim Fowley and the Modern Lovers…in other words, a purely American experience that spans a whole century. True, on earlier outings, like the 3-record Half Gentleman, Not Beasts, the band’s rank amateurism sometimes sabotaged their highly-enlightened philosophical/musical intent. While occasional excursions like “Acupuncture” showed that they could be the honest heirs to the Velvets if they really tried, they never quite got it down until Don Fleming joined the band for this one LP and everything apparently jelled. This is the all-time rustic-meets-punk-meets-comedy-meets-monster-movies-meets-wrestling record…the only alb that sums up the cultural debris of growing-up-in-the-seventies better is The Dictators Go Girl Crazy and that’s practically the Bible (w/ apologies to Lifeless). But while the ‘Tators played tough guys, Half Jap were vulnerable sons-of-bitches…and this is DEFINITELY the alb where Jad’s romantic inclinations came to the fore, in songs like “Red Dress” as well as “Madonna Nude.” This trend would blossom more fully on the excellent follow-up LP, Music to Strip By (which is also one of the best albs ever made) on shimmering opuses like “Silver and Katherine.” Of course that alb actually came out before this one, because like the Velvets’ VU and Big Star’s Third and other “lost” classics, there were extraneous circumstances that prevented this alb from EVER seein’ the light o’ during the period when it was actually recorded (which would be 1985). For the complete lowdown, rent the Half Jap documentary, The Band That Would Be King. All twists of fate aside, there’s little doubt this alb was theoretically phrased with the same kind of sweeping implications as Sgt. Pepper or Something/Anything? or Who’s Next or Pet Sounds. In other wds, the minute it left the box, the band KNEW it was their magnum opus, a fact that’s hard to argue with, given material like “Snakeline,” “Said & Done,” “Poetic License,” “Trouble in the Water,” “Day and Night,” “Roman Candles” and all the other great songs that combine a romantic sense of innocence with this weird swirling living-room barrage of no-wave raggery…this alb helps confirm my eternal theory that if the Beatles had never happened there would’ve still been “rock,” and GOOD rock, perhaps BETTER rock, at that. That includes the Velvets, and Half Japanese are their ONLY logical heirs (a fact more or less confirmed by Moe Tucker actually JOINING the band for a brief spell in the late eighties). A certified winner.

12. Two Steps From the Middle Ages—Game Theory (Enigma, 1988): Scott Miller is the greatest lyrical genius in rock (w/ Shernoff as a close second). Check out the opening verse of “What the Whole World Wants,” which really nails it: “We think that it can work/But it doesn’t often/We think we look like jerks/Nailing our own coffins/We think that we can talk/But we miss it by a mile/We think that we can joke/But no-one cracks a smile…” Perhaps you had to be there, so you could witness the sneer with which the mighty man delivers these morsels of wisdom…or the grand swirling harmoniousness of the music…or the glorious bridge that, Beatles-style, rips the song right in half, as Miller stands with his hair eight feet atop his head sneering once again: “Eeeeh, it must’ve been yer little sister I saw…” There’s also the fact the quizzling opening riff is pure Sonic Youth…this WAS ’88 after all, and “college music” encompassed a broad range. Don’t forget there was Lolita Nation BEFORE there was Brylcreme Nation…and that’s really the essence o’ Miller (that is, how many GOOD parts there are in a typical Scott Miller song): he’s the WHOLE artist ala the Stones, Dylan, Beatles, Brian Wilson, Townshend, Hendrix, and occasionally Neil Young, Lou Reed or Thunders or Chilton or Rundgren…a song constructionist who can sometimes complete the picture from A-to-Z in one sitting. Take for instance the lilting “Amelia,” which is the ultimate Miller…a crooning lament w/ just the most hypnotically lilting chords and counter-melodies. Sweet female vocals adorn a quantum o’ these tracks coz, y’ know, Miller likes to have the girls around. All his songs are about girls, but this was the eighties so he also has some cryptic poking-fun-at-the-culture observations which all add up to heaping dose of “eeeeh.” He’s not afraid to utilize self-deprecating humor, like the great point in “You Drive” where he unwittingly walks into a sports bar only to face scorn from the locals: “Waaaaah, what’s that bah wearing? A flowered shirt? WAAAAAAH!” It sums up an awkward moment in the whole cultural clash that wouldn’t be matched until the fatties in Abunai unsuspectingly walked into Benny’s Pool Hall in Pawtucket, MA to use the phone in the summer of 1998. Needless to say, the locals weren’t impressed by Joe Turner’s ponytail etc. Miller understood things like this WAY before anyone else, including Stipe and Company (who he was friends with thanx to the Mitch Easter connection). But the crucial difference was, whereas all of Miller’s songs were about women, all of REM’s songs were about…MEN! So, y’ know, take that for what it’s worth. Really there’s no way to over-inflate Miller’s greatness…song after song of suite-like grandeur adding up to confectionary completeness. This alb’ll make you fat. Funny also how, on his eighties albs, Miller actually employed the snap-drum. Like the Ramones, he wasn’t some snooty anti-populist ala Sonic Youth…he totally wanted to get this stuff on the radio, but UNLIKE REM, on HIS terms…so while, thanks to the snappage, this alb was “state-of-the-art” as far as being eighties “radio-friendly,” the radio of course never touched it. It was too “eeeh” and Miller walked and looked around as if he just didn’t care. But the 6-ft. redhead in the audience knew the words to every song. And so it goes. “Throwing the Election,” which employs Deep Purple organ for its apocalyptic intro, is one of the utmost Miller creations, musically and lyrically. He speaks in cryptic terms that would put Dylan to shame, but unlike Dylan doesn’t come off as curmudgeonly but as scintillatingly grandiose and omnisciently God-like. Musically it’s a throbbing muscle of rhythmic perfection, complete with dancing fandangos of lead guitars to accompany the solid 1-2 punch of the completely in-synch stomp…all signaling a love affair, the terms of which, to Miller, epitomize the complete ascent and declension of man, of time, of eternity itself. And all in three minutes. That’s rock n’ roll Phil Spector-style and Miller’s ABOUT the only one who’s EVER grasped it so completely. This alb has everything from mid-sixties Who type guitar wrangling (“Wish I Could Stand or Have”) to table-setting sparkle-craft (“Leilani”) to gossamer Big Star glaze (“Initiation Week”). Any Miller alb would do, and if I wasn’t striving for some objectivity here, a few more Game Theory albs woulda made the cut…but Two Steps is about as perfect an LP as yr ever gonna discover. Since it followed the even MORE epic, 2-record Lolita Nation, the band was obviously bestowed with divine powers. And that power was the power of Scott Miller.

11. Live at the Village Vanguard—John Coltrane (Impulse, 1961): In the fall of ’61, John Coltrane began a legendary stint at the Village Vanguard. Part of the hoopla was that Coltrane was previewing his “new” music with the addition of the acclaimed precocious young talent, Eric Dolphy, on alto. By “new” music that meant a more experimental direction than his Atlantic albums had evidenced and Coltrane, who’d broken off from Miles for good approximately a year and a half before these dates, had just signed with Impulse, a label that was to become known for its experimentalism. Dolphy had been a big influence on Trane, and vice-versa, and Live at the Village Vanguard represents the full blossoming of their spiritual unity. The opener, “Spiritual,” for example, is one of the most stirring duets in recorded history, a performance of such stately power that one can hear the ages literally cinder as it scales along its somber course. Dolphy’s alto solo about 15 minutes into it is an epochal moment, when the jazz world was loosening its cufflinks and putting its elbows in piss. The moment hovered briefly, before the walls fell down. Live at the Village Vanguard captured that moment—it was the early days of Kennedy when hope seemed alive, and that included jazz as well…nobody was trying to fight this stuff yet. They’d get scared away with Free Jazz and the ensuing Impulse/ESP onslaught…and black power in general. But when this alb came out, guys like Coltrane and his band were able to twist a few knobs subtly without wreaking full-blown havoc. Therefore the message was spread far and wide. The recording of this album predated the forming of the classic Quartet. Tyner was already on board w/ Roy Haynes and Reginald Workman handling the rhythm section. Both of them perform excellently, particularly on the marathon “Chasin’ the Trane,” which is where Coltrane really perfected his whole “sheets of sound” approach and proved himself the master blaster on the planet, which is a pinnacle he stayed at until his demise in 1967. By the time he passed, it was deservedly to a martyr’s requiem (as opuses like Ayler’s “For John Coltrane” and Frank Lowe’s “In Trane’s Name” attest). For all intents and purposes, the legend started with this stint—and album—and that goes for Dolphy as well, who’s own tragic snuff-out early in life was almost as deafening as Coltrane’s.

10. Oh Yeah—Charles Mingus (Atlantic, 1962): From start to finish, his best album. A barnyard full of raucous notes blend with orchestral embellishments to create the ultimate transitional album, not only for Mingus but for jazz in general…because while this isn’t an outright free excursion, the presence of Roland Kirk, with all his honking apparatus, and the fact that Mingus, perhaps the pre-eminent bass player in jazz, steps aside to concentrate on piano on this album, leaving the stand-up duties to Doug Watkins, shows that he was consciously testing his audience’s expectations. And while Oh Yeah is certifiably “experimental,” it’s never any less (or more) than informal…which is of course the great gift of any true musical genius (of which Mingus is undoubtedly one of the 5-10-20 biggest we’ve ever known)—that is, making the idiosyncratic sound effortless and the divinely inspired seem like it happened by accident. This was the era when Mingus surrounded himself with an exotic array of handpicked talents like Kirk, Jimmy Knepper and Booker Ervin to create his multi-layered ensemble sound where it sometimes sounds like two soloists are playing two uniquely different solos at once (see “Hog Calling Blues”). Chaotic, in other words, but the gospel undercurrents always keep the music moving in a straight-ahead direction, so much so that old Charlie has to outright whoop mid-song on several occasions and “Ecclusiastics” even contains a rip-roarin’ hand-clappin’ call-and-response testimonial straight outta the Baptist church on a Sunday morning when half the congregation are hungover (particularly Mingus). On other instances, he sings, such as “Eat that Chicken,” an homage to Jelly Roll, or “Devil Woman,” which is full-blown animal bark on an almost Beefheart level. Don’t laugh—“Passions of a Man” might really be the first example of true sixties psychedelia. And “Oh Lord, Don’t Let Them Drop the Atomic Bomb on Me” is an intense jam featuring Mingus pleading for his life to his maker, who obviously isn’t going to look sideways at all the pimpin’ entailed in Mingus’s mostly-bullshit auto-bio Beneath the Underdog. It’s that kind of album…questions of life and death, and good and evil, arise in every groove of its bopping persistence. Which is why it makes the Top Ten.

9. Ramones Leave Home (Sire, 1977): These idiots. At this point, who cares about ‘em? History would reveal ‘em to be NOT quite as prescient as the Pistols, or almost anyone else. Look, when the Ramones did it, they didn’t know they were doing it. But they did it, and they did it first. And while the first album was an auspicious slab of black tar worthy of paving roads with, the second album, with its complete whizomatic sleekness and ultra-bracing jet-engine overdrive, was the epitome of the so-called “buzzsaw” technique from whence all else sprang. The ultimate seventies sound they wrestled with Nugent and Kiss and Skyhooks and Starz and the Babys and the Dictators and the Dead Boys and Kaptain fucking Kool and the Kongs…it really was the age before all the grimness would set in, and that’s the spirit they evoked, even as they pointed towards the grimness. 14 songs, 20 minutes, it was like the Beatles again—they were that good—but with a cynical twist, epitomized by the opening verse on “Glad to See You Go”—“gonna get the glory like Charles Manson”—which went by so fast, and was delivered in such a mumble via Joey, and was such an elemental part of an overall caterwaul (via Johnny/Dee Dee…as history has proven didn’t matter so much who the drummer was), that it hardly mattered that here was a post-sixties generation making a folk hero out of MANSON! And so it went…I’ll never forget the sniffling review from the hippie hack at my hometown paper, who fumed: “Mmmmnnn! Three of the songs here are about murder, mmmnnnn, two of them in the first person!” But despite the righteous indignation of the hippies—which, trust me, kidz, the Crumones faced a LOT of—they could not forestall the coming don’t-care culture, which Cooper had begun and these guys, and the Dictators, helped propel to the next level making possible, oh, I dunno…the Dickies, Weirdos, AntiSeen, Dangerhouse, Slash, LA punk in general, Fear, the Queers, Sub Pop, Mudhoney, Forced Exposure, Gerard Cosloy, etc. etc. Mind you, we’re talking in a PHILOSOPHICAL sense now…I won’t even mention musical except to ask the question…ever heard of GBH? (Did I hear someone say Motorhead? Oh yeah…they said it! Once again…those idiots.)

8. A Different Kind of Tension—the Buzzcocks (IRS, 1980): When I first bought (stole actually) this alb in the summer o’ 1980 from DeOrsey’s Record Store in Falmouth, Maine I didn’t realize the quantum import of it, let alone this band. But the subsequent mewlings of rock crits who had their heart broken to the sound of “Why Can’t I Touch It” eventually convinced me that these guys, in their own way, were just as fundamental as the Ramones, Pistols, J-Division and Wire in the annals o’ punk prototypes. Well, lately, in the aftermath of almost continuous romantic disillusionment, not to mention the total destruction of my mind, I’ve been listenin’ to this speed-stoked turkey and y’ know something, it’s obvious now that these guys were a great deal more intelligent than almost all their peers (esp. the Ramones). They had a way w/ a tune too, just like Hoagy fuckin’ Carmichael. In fact, in their own way they’re almost as adept at it as Scotty Miller, altho’ in a whole different vein of course. Coz what I really like about these dingdongs is that, while they’re utterly “punk,” they don’t succumb to anomie-for-its-own-sake, still harboring romantic hopes on songs like “You Say You Don’t Love Me,” a song that any greenhorn can at some pt in his stupid lady-lusting life relate to, not to mention the opener “Paradise” which jettisons its message so briskly that y’ hardly even fuckin’ notice it. This is also the alb where Steve Diggle came into his own as a songwriter/singer (altho’ he never did much after this but then again, did anyone, and that includes Mr. “I’m a Homosexual Too” Shelley?). But you gotta love a song like “Sittin’ Round the Home,” which is the story of my life, articulated with absolutely AWESOME cross-movement which shows these guys were kings of DYNAMICS in a manner that makes the Pistols/Ramones sound absolutely STATIC and yes once again foreshadows the great one Miller. Can’t say enuff about “Say You Don’t Love Me” either…good ol’ Shelley, as I noted in my book, dared get ginchier than anyone else at the time making possible that other Manchesterian Morrisey (whom I don’t totally hate by the way, not being anti-ginch just like I ain’t anti-butch). In this song, the whole thing seems to be “I didn’t want it anyway” and that of course is a lament that ANY lustful fella has gone thru…and how can you not luv a tune that so totally articulates REAL LIFE!? That’s what makes music meaningful, as opposed to just an abstraction…and this song is REAL. Almost as if to reinforce this fact, the next song is Diggle’s amazing “You Know You Can’t Help It,” which may be the greatest song of ALL TIME…the equivalent of seeing Erin Hosier naked underneath ermine furs or hearin’ Dagen McDowell say in that sorghum sweet southern voice “ya laaahk maah leather boots, Joe?” and realizing that, yeah, you just can’t fuckin’ help it! Great fuckin’ bash-‘em up intro, a full-on steam train into the future that jet-propelled everything into the post-everything realm in two seconds…and such UTTER frankness about sex! Let’s just say it really hits home. I can take months off from the dope, but nope, can’t stop thinkin’ about those creamy honeypots, and the Buzzcocks were the FIRST group, at least since the Stones, to come RIGHT OUT and say that yeah, the sweet lick of luscious femme flesh is the be-all-and-end-all…think of a world w/ out puss n’ pud and aim for the nearest cliff w/ yr John Deere tractor. This is what life means and the ‘Cocks, true to their name cum right the fuck out n’ proclaim “you know you can’t help it!!!” Then again, how could a Little Richard paraphrase ever fall short? (Kind of like when the Lazy Cowgirls did a song called “I can’t Be Satisfied” ala Muddy…) And as Iggy, another one who understood the eternal pride o’ pud, said “and that ain’t all”…songs like “Raison d’ etre” and “Mad Mad Judy” are more-than-adequate punkstomps perfect for their time or any other and I must admit, “I Don’t Know What to Do with My Life,” w/ its message of suburban aimlessness, and of course the epic 7-minute alb closer, “I Believe,” one of the first self-conscious punk attempts at longevity, w/ its bleak-but-at-the-same reaffirming credo: “There is no love in this world anymore,” were anthems to me as a youth. Of course, Shelley was right…considering this alb came right at the precipice before Reagan marched in, and MTV went on the air, as well as the prevailing callousness of the post-everything culture, “love” was a strangulated misnomer. But sex, happily or unhappily, goes on forever.

7. Highway to Hell—AC/DC (Atlantic, 1979): Y’ know, there IS such a thing as rock n’ roll (altho’ probably unbeknownst to 50% of the readership of this or any other mag, webpage whatever) and rock n’ roll, at its core, is much closer to Beavis and Butt-head than it is, say, Japanese anime. Not to slight the fine readers o’ this mag…it’s just that almost ANYONE who seems to have an intellectual preoccupation w/ this shit—that is, enuff to read about it anyway—has a certain shyness nee reservation concerning the more thud-oriented manifestations o’ the art…but what they’re missing is, rock n’ roll in its early days was specifically almost ALL thud…’n stud or even faux stud, which is definitely what THESE bozos were/are, but they didn’t care, and you shouldn’t either…fact is, from the openin’ notes o’ the epic title cut, the ALL-TIME best Satan rock opus EVER, precisely coz it’s so goddamn funny (“my friends are gonna be there too”…GREAT line!), to the last skeezin’ skidmark o’ “Night Prowler” (a BLUES for chrissakes) this alb is testament to a thoroughly TOGETHER modus operandi. Better than Zeppelin, even better than Sabbath…dare I say Motorhead? And it took a bunch o’ Aussies to pull it off. With two Saints albs in the Top 40 and this ‘un in the Top Ten y’ gotta scratch yr peanut n’ wonder what is it ‘bout those Aussies that makes ‘em such swifties in these pure-rock stakes? Maybe it’s all that Foster’s! And speakin’ o’ brew, of course lead larynx-scraper Bon Scott DIED from an OD o’ the booze just as this alb was getting ready to move these clowns outta the B-leagues amongst the ranks of America’s hard-rock hordes…who WERE muttonheads after all, which is partially the reason punk fans have never forgiven this kind o’ music…it’s the fuggin’ FANS who’ re to blame, and I can relate to that, coz back in the day, I didn’t wanna know anything ‘bout this kind o’ muzak (i.e., heavy mental) either and even to this day my football buddies like Smitboy and Points guitarist Andrew Colston don’t wanna know yadda about the more baroque forms o’ guitar gunner-dom…but at a certain pt, I guess, I dropped such parochial biases and threw up my fuckin’ hands n’ said “you know I just love rock n’ roll so much that I’m just gonna SUCCUMB to its almighty idiocy”…and honestly, listenin’ to this immortal piece o’ wax now, I can only say “how the fuck can you resist?” AC/DC also deserve credit for being the absolute MASTERS of the intro…check out “Walk All Over You” for sustained drama (and the title cut is no slouch). No way around it, these guys knew how to breed EXCITEMENT and isn’t that what it’s all about? Sure they’re dumb, but it’s like when I watch Beavis I can admit half the time that these guys ‘re REAL stoopid but then there’s that side o’ me that sez “yeah, these idiots are RIGHT, that truly does suck.” Getting down to the basest crassest but most celebratory (and gloriously oblivious) level is what it’s all about, and few bands ever did so as unabashedly as these guys…and comin’ from Aussie-land I honestly think they were just isolated enuff to have it NOT be a pose like even the fuckin’ RAMONES partially were. That is, I really think these guys WERE that stoopid, but like w/ Beavis, in a certain sense, in their obliviousness was their eternal WISDOM…and they really meant it. How else could Scott die in an upright position in an automobile sleepin’ off a good night’s drunk (and we mean REAL good, like John Bonham good…). If you can just put aside yer prejudices for a minute, y’ gotta admit, song after song on this alb are true CLASSICS of, yeah, what else can you call it? ROCK N’ ROLL (WAY more than those foppish feebs Led Zep ever rendered): “Girls Got Rhythm,” “Touch Too Much,” “Shot Down in Flames” and the immortal “If You Want Blood.” Lyrics ain’t bad either and these guys knew a thing or two about dynamics, which, if you’ve read this far, y’ know is my prime criterion…anyone can JAM and holler over it, which is what Zep did half the time…but it takes some basic understanding of, y’ know, LIFE, to be able to render things that have both forward and backward flux…like, y’ know, good cooking or good sex (‘n these dynamics still live…I recently heard a great new Lp by a band called the Pattern and the dynamics, whether they know it or not, come directly from THIS alb, it’s THAT ingrained into rock’s overall sonic membrane). Which is just what these bozos meant when they said “if you want blood, you got it” and y’ can’t say they didn’t give it up, and somewhat righteously at that. Did someone say “anthemic”? Isn’t that kind of what they invented? These guys are WAY more important than the Ramones overall. And this was the last LP before Scott croaked and that clown Johnston took over. But even he wasn’t bad on Back in Black and the underrated For Those About to Rock, but this was AC/DC’s magnum opus. Don’t deny yourself one more minute. You know you like it raw so guzzle the gravy and get yer fuckin’ knees dirty you slutty bitch.

6. Mothership Connection—Parliament (Casablanca, 1975): The greatest R&B album ever made, and the most ingenious conceptually, even beating out stuff like Marvin Gaye’s What’s Goin’ On…coz while Marvin expressed urban blight, Clinton just made fun of everything on the level of whitey but even BETTER coz he made FUN of whitey…explicitly and relentless as he conceived a black planet that the average honkmeister would be in FEAR of (which is what future hip hop mongers like Chuck D n’ Ice Cube sussed so intuitively). It all started with this alb’s predecessor Chocolate City, itself no slouch, but on Mothership the formula gelled to the nth degree and the results are the ultimate cross-pollination of earthy downhome fulfillingness and galaxy-bound cosmic slop. Clinton was always a mother, starting w/ his Temptations-style vocal-group stuff in the sixties (Ventresco owns a swell bootleg of all that stuff that y’ used to see around a lot but hardly ever see anymore) but a lot o’ the early Funkadelic albs were marred by aimless jams. By the time he re-evoked Parliament in the mid-seventies, combining horns and more dance-friendly rhythms in a definite JB-influenced direction, he had perfected one of the truly original seventies sounds…and never did it come together so well as on Mothership Connection. Perhaps the most rock-influenced of all the important R&B men, Clinton did the grandiose palefaces of the art-rock era one better by creating perhaps the ULTIMATE “concept” album. Only Zappa ever masterminded a more acute blend o’ social commentary and satire with such seamless results and, let’s face it, he was never even close to being “funky.” George is the unconstipated Zappa and Mothership Connection is the ultimate post-Watergate plunge. As for JB, let’s face it, like the Ramones, he had no clue what he was doing anyway, and he never made good albs, unless y’ count compilations (and if we were countin’ comps Funky People Vol. 1 would be in the top five albs ever made). So turn this mother out…and be glad you don’t live in Atlanta.

5. Minor Threat (Dischord, 1980): OK, everyone knows they were chumps for that whole “no sex no drugs no booze” edict…one of the WORST doctrines to ever befall rock, and inherently anti-rock by its very nature…and me suspects it had to do more w/ the fact that they were too young to drink, too lame to score dope, and too goddamn fuggin’ UGLY to get laid than any moral principle at work here (it was adolescent-derived SOUR GRAPES in other words). But the fact is, whatever it was that made ‘em pull off perhaps the ULTIMATE to-the-brink, intense, streamlined distillation of rock in theory/practice EVER (sez so right on pg. 372 o’ Sonic Cool) it was WORTH IT! What do I care if they want to fucking make themselves miserable? Hell, the miserableness HELPED, obviously. Wouldn’t YOU be pissed if you couldn’t fuck or drink or smoke a joint once and a while? And these guys were PISSED, but, once again, they cultivated it into a raging juggernaut that wasn’t just a blur of noise but perhaps the FINAL straw of Chuck Berry rock n’ roll EVER…everything after this alb is post- …umm, everything. In the annals of anger-as-an-effective-form-of-COMMUNICATION these guys articulated their message like pros. And they never stuck around long enough to muddle up the waters although all subsequent offshoots—from Dag Nasty to Fugazi—of course have had their pluses and minuses. Didn’t matter…punk was a revolution because it was decidedly UNLIKE anything that had ever come before, and this alb was evidence of that complete detonation-of-all-previous mindsets (if not idioms, because, as noted, it WAS still rock). Aw well, fuck ‘em…I never even smoked a joint myself til I was seventeen (nor wet the noodle til two years after that, blush).

4. Lolita Nation—Game Theory (Enigma, 1987): Before there was Bryllcream Nation there was Lolita Nation. A double-album as durable as dust, what can I say? Given Mr. Miller’s unstoppable output over the past twenty years there were many other worthy candidates from his canon that were suitable for enshrinement: The Big Shot Chronicles, Real Nighttime, Two Steps From the Middle Ages (see #12). But since Lolita Nation is a double album, and a concept album at that, and it’s a concept album about CHICKS (what else?), which means just more more more more MORE of what Miller does best, which is gettin’ ginchy, then how can you resist? Thing is, with most artists you don’t WANT a double album, it’s just too much…but since Miller is rock’s greatest artist ever, and its ONLY true living “genius,” one can never get enough. And arguably Lolita Nation was the opus where he really hit his stride. There are so many gems on this LP that if it were a jewelry store it would be target for punx wearin’ ski masks. In the midst of it all there are also samples from previous albs like Real Nighttime, which, besides exemplifying Miller’s eternal self-referential nature (doesn’t want you to FORGET he’s the world’s greatest songwriter after all), also shows how far in front he was in THAT regard as well (SPEAKIN’ of punx wearin’ ski masks). In fact, Miller always likes to pack his albs chockfull o’ dissonance, but only betwixt cuts, which is better than putting it in the MIDDLE of the songs (like the idiots who made Bryllcream Nation). Because one thing Miller knows more than just about anyone of his musical generation is that a SONG has to hold up and be, umm, y’ know, memorable. The ways to achieve this are many, and only the true greats—Spector, the Beatles, Stones, Brian Wilson, even twerps like Chilton or Rundgren at their best (but definitely NOT the Ramones)—can master the multi-fold art of songcraft that makes every curvature of every song the kind of thing you want to slide yr hands all over. Cultural references abound—such as the heavy Star Trek bend of “One More for Saint Michael”—but unlike peers such as the Dead Milk-kids and Camper Van Wanktoven, in Miller’s hands such things are never the Be All and End All, just another clever embellishment that makes this NOT the Beatles, Beach Boys etc. (i.e., he has to constantly remind you that he knows that it’s the eighties and he’s not just trying to reiterate the sixties with all the lilting melodies). Like check out the opening cadence o’ “Chardonnay,” a great song if ever there was one, where Miller croons ala Thunders on Hurt Me—more interesting melodic variations happen in FIVE SECONDS of this song than in most bands’/artist’s whole careers. In fact, it’s fuckin’ brilliant how the alb winds down, with the triple whammy presented on the fourth side, “Chardonnay” leading into the organ-heavy “Last Day We’re Young” (Miller, during his eighties phase was never opposed to evoking the mighty whap o’ the snap drums), containing the great line (which once again contains at least three or four brilliantly seductive melodic “hooks” within this one verse alone) “I think too much/I always do.” That coulda been his motto. And in case y’ missed the point, check out the lilting dirge o’ “Together Now, Very Minor,” which ends with Miller crooning “take it away/All away” to a folk-strummed ode that once again contains eight billion melodic variations (check out the way he phrases the line “please don’t pay attention to/The things I do or say”…the voice, the melodies, the guitars…this guy is a fuckin’ GENIUS, there is NO DOUBT! A modern Beethoven…but better of course coz rock beats the fuck outta classical HANDS DOWN, jerky boy). And with Miller, you get the feeling that most of this stuff is autobiographical…which means he’s the last o’ the true romantics, and I mean REALLY romantic w/ out being schlocky. And THAT, my friends, is truly a lost art as well as something I can identify with totally. Keeping that in mind, lemme reiterate my fave incident involvin’ this alb. Well, let’s just say that I have had a cassette of Lolita Nation for about a year now (have the alb, but can’t stand the format of havin’ to always flip the fucker when I get on a writing jag so I taped it…a CD of this opus, which has long been outta print, will run you the price of a small mortgage on e-gay) and last March, when Tammy went to Florida, I was house-sitting her log cabin in Wells, which I thought was gonna be like this cool writer’s getaway where I could go on owl watches in the woods behind her house during the time I wasn’t writin’ the Great American Novel etc. etc. But takin’ care of that fuckin’ husky of hers consumed most of my time, not to mention the fact we had a raging blizzard in the middle of the whole thing, which cut the power out, and also helped cut the power on the fuckin’ relationship, coz y’ know how when you have to be in someone else’s shoes for several days, and assume their lifestyle that you, in essence, BECOME them? And in this case, after doing so, I was fully convinced that her lifestyle SUCKED…but before any of that happened—the storm, or the full realization of how much I hated that dog—I was drivin’ home after droppin’ her off at the Manchester airport on the first day of the “vacation” (using HER car, mind you, I don’t own one) and listenin’ to my tape of Lolita Nation again and again, and as I was rolling through the Lisa Carverian terrain of Dover, New Hampshire, which reminded me of ERIN HOSIER, since that’s where I met her, “Nothing New” came on, and I dunno, it was just one of those moments, which admittedly I have a LOT of, where, y’ know, the void just fuckin’ opens up and life’s essential meaning flashes before your eyes—and to me these moments always have to do with music. So I’m driving and I’m thinking of the diamond-eyed Princess and there’s Miller singing: “And girl we know it's nothing new/To find someone in love with you/And if you are so inclined/To change you mind/A thousand times then do/And I will wait for you/Nothing new.” But that wasn’t all—two weeks later, after months of letters, I met Lauri and Allison for the first time. And the ages burned. Somehow I think Miller would understand.

3. The Dictators Go Girl Crazy! (Epic, 1975): Here ‘tis kiddies, the alb that REALLY broke it all open for this here bloke. If it weren’t for “I Got You, Babe” and “California Sun” (I’ve always had a problem w/ covers, I think it’s a lazy man’s way out, starting w/ the two JB covers on the first Who album, unless of course it constitutes a COMPLETE transformation ala the Fleshtones doin’ JL Hooker’s “Burnin’ Hell” or if it’s just so goddamn COOL in a philosophical sense that it DEMANDS to be done, like Scott Miller coverin’ Chilton’s “You Can’t Have Me” almost note-for-note…utterly apropos of course) it’d be number one. And in the case of “California Sun,” they at least beat the Ramones to the punch. There’s no comparison of course between the two bands…the only thing the Ramones added was a few cranks o’ meth…but Adny Shernoff was obviously a true musical “genius” w/ melodic and lyrical gifts that far surpassed the Rama boys…or ANYONE for that matter, at least until the arrival of Scott O’Miller. Meanwhile, for great billowing chunks o’ metallic upsurge, Ross the Boss was—or shoulda been—EVERYONE’S idea of a guitar hero. For post-Townshend, post-Williamson ROCK ACTION, these guys were absolutely the heavy weight champs, the ultimate transitional band between metal (BOC, Stooges) and punk (Ramones, Dead Boys). They’re also the most underrated band EVER (save perhaps, who else? Game Theory…) A classic case of too much, too soon, what can you say? When they arrived smack dab in the middle of the mid-seventies malaise, it’s a simple fact, NO-ONE was ready for, as Dave Marsh fumed at the time: “Mmmnnnn! Rock songs about WRESTLING and contempt!” At least until Sonic Cool (see pg. 331), NO history-of-rock book has EVER validated ‘em. True their prankerish approach was partly Meltzer-spawned…these boys had no fear of putting the scallop in the coffee machine at work and seeing the bitter look on the old fart’s face, not to mention freezing pigeons stillborn in jello or mailing people garbage. But don’t forget the Velvets ran around w/ SHIT in their barehands…this is the stuff I’m always trying to explain to Lauri, but it may be too late…ONLY Lisa Carver in the post-modern era has EVER really grasped the outright IDIOCY of this kind of just-letting-go not-being-afraid-to-look-stupid abandon…but the thing is, and this is the fact I’ve tried to stress ALL THROUGH THIS SURVEY, is that, there was a time when this IDIOCY was the whole essence du rock—remember Daltrey drowning himself in baked beans? There was a time when it wasn’t all about being “cool,” it was about FREEDOM, and I dunno, kids, that era to me more and more seems to have occurred in the seventies and seventies only…and, as I said, the ‘Tators arrived right in the midst of it all, straddling the line between super-rock “acceptance” (they hoped…they were signed to CBS after all, one of Clive’s last signings before he split for the more genteel waters of Arista and Patti Smith/Lou Reed…as VENTRESCO has suggested, the song about SUPERMAN might’ve been the last straw…I can hear Clive, who quite fancied IGGY dancing around in a g-string, now: “JLEEEEEEEEEEEEESTHLUSSSS!”) and punk notoriety. Girl Crazy has all the makings o’ the next-step in hard-rock after Cooper, BOC etc. which is no doubt the way Adny and the boys intended it…but they got clamped down upon by an increasingly old-lady-like industry. Damn hippies. But the ‘Tators were surely prescient, weren’t they? The whole wrestling-rock thing has belatedly been aped by everyone from Half Japanese to Cyndi Lauper to AntiSeen to NRBQ. The gloriously overblown “super rock” stylings lived on in the form of everything from the Meatmen to the Angry Samoans to the Upper Crust. And the sentiment was dead-on then, dead-on now, right from the very first blow: “I used to shiver in the wings/But then I was young/I used to shiver in the wings/Until I found my own tongue.” And it just gets better from there, like in the case of Miller—who’s the ONLY one to EVER match Shernoff in the verbal stakes—EVERY lyric a fuckin’ trueblue keeper. An oft-misunderstood factoid ‘bout this alb at the time was that the mighty MANITOBA wasn’t even officially “in” the group yet…even tho’ his ugly mug—and bloated frame—appears on the cover he was merely the group’s “mascot” (and personal cook). But he’s there in “spirit” alright, as well as a few well-placed bellows and wrestling-style expositions (chiefly the immortal intro to “Two Tub Man”: “I just got back from Minneapolis” etc.). Oh yeah, I guess he also SINGS “Two Tub Man,” and it’s a performance so akin to a squirtgun full of piss that they immediately had to make him a full-fledged member shortly thereafter (it was either that or the stomping he gave Bangs). Another thing the ‘Tators brought to rock was a purely joyous American experience that celebrated things like FOOD, which would’ve once again been totally uncool to the withered frames o’ the Eagles etc. These guys awoke at noon for a whole day of completely enthralling teenage hijinx… “cruisin’ in my daddy’s car,” stoppin’ at the burger stand, pullin’ pranks, playin’ baseball, smokin’ dope, droppin’ ‘ludes, makin’ out, beatin’ off, goin’ to the beach, goin’ to the mall, and the movies…and OF COURSE listening to rock n’ roll, reading—and WRITING FOR—rock magazines, and watchin’ WRESTLING! Not one iota of a concern for the geo-political framework blah blah blah, nor economic fears…I swear to you, kids, all that stuff came on AFTER Reagan…was only one-kid-in-a-million pre-1980 who EVER gave a fuckin’ WHIT about people’s FEELINGS—that means CRIPPLES, ethnics, old ladies—nor thought remotely about their “futures”…as the Dictators said, so mightily, to riffs that would rock the world forever: “We’ve reached the higher spiritual plane/That is so high I can’t explain.” As they also said, even in the height of the mideast oil embargo: “Gasoline shortage won’t stop me now.” What, me worry? It was TRUE rock, a wild kind of abandon that I, like a lot of people, thought would go on FOREVER…fuckin’ shit was I wrong! And that’s been the cause of my eternal sorrow, and anomie, ever since. Can you imagine what it was like to hear this stuff when you actually WERE a teenager?! Thank God for that trip to the mall, in the fall of ’79, courtesy of Gilbert Doughty’s mom, where I bought the one and ONLY copy of this alb to EVER appear in Maine. She also chaperoned us to a RAMONES gig at a redneck bar in Portland in the summer o’ ’78—one of Marky’s first gigs I would imagine. Georgia, we hardly knew ye!

2. Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols (Warner Bros., 1977): What’s your favorite Sex Pistols song? “Hot Cars”? No, that was Roky’s. Lately when I think Sex Pistols, for some reason, I think their version o’ “Steppin’ Stone” (on which they totally outstripped either Thunders or the Monkees) w/ Steve Jones, who was always a motherfucker, REALLY bearing down on the RK-DK-DK chords while Johnny R. spits out venom, esp. in the verse “you’re tryin’ to make yer mark in so-ci-et-AY-ya!” In his mouthings, the wds finally MEANT something, which once again, was head-splitting HATE (“tenfold” as Tesco would say). So howcum it wasn’t on the first (and only) alb? Answer: coz the boys knew this had to be the BIG STATEMENT, hence no covers allowed. Coz what rested on this LP? No fucking less than the subsequent later half of rock history (the goddamn “New Testament,” writ large). Y’ know when I was a kid I usta get perturbed at that old scarf-wearing shit-sucker Greil Marcus (whose scarves were admittedly the best since Return to Forever) for proclaimin’ the Pistols essentially better than the Ramones…after all, the ‘mones were YANKS n’ their whole Mowgli boy-of-the-jungle routine appealed to my own mung-headed adolescent slobbiness (as opposed to the Pistols’ clotheshorse virtues). But now I realize years later I was wrong wrong wrong…the Pistols are/were MUCH more important, and better too. And despite the greatness of all the singles and B-sides that led up to this alb, which of course raised the stakes month-by-month so that when the alb finally materialized it was w/ BAITED BREATH that everyone approached it (that McLaren, clotheswhore or no, was no dummy), not to mention all the posthumous stuff, this alb is really all you need. Which, in a nutshell, is what makes the Sex Pistols probably the coolest group ever…they only made ONE ALBUM, but EVERY SONG is a keeper, an absolute MASTERPIECE. No covers, once again, always a copout. Above all, they totally ANSWERED the call, lived up to the hype and all that. Trust me, even the crits who grinned through their moustaches sayin’ how much they dug “God Save the Queen” coz it reminded ‘em of that good ol’ Berkeley tribunal spirit, were secretly hopin’ they’d fail. Let’s face it, they were arrogant little shits and anyone over the age o’ 20—which was older than anyone in the GROUP at the time—held certain reservations about their innate nastiness (a nastiness that the nice-guy Ramones didn’t have…Dictators meanwhile were on such a profound level they didn’t even COUNT). But to a kid who was thirteen, which is the age I was when this album came out, it was the absolute turning point of my life…just hearing this kind of vitriol expressed for the first time…well, let’s just say, while I dug the Nuge and Kiss, like Hendrix’s theoretical dismissal of surf muzak in lite o’ psych, they would NEVER sound the same again. Who the fuck knows who played the instruments? Obviously that dipshit Sid didn’t pluck a note. As legend has it, they brought Matlock back, and, if so, he performed admirably. Jones and Cook, an interlocked tandem of grudge-fucking rhythm who were essentially locked at the hip ala the Asheton brothers (the obvious prototype), were of course the Godhead. And need I mention Mr. R? Let’s just say, all the subsequent insanity like Keith Morris’s ad-libbed upchuck in the midst o’ stuff like Black Flag’s “I’ve Had It” and “Nervous Breakdown” was a DIRECT result of Rotten’s uninhibited snarl. The razor rolls of the tongue—“RRRRRRRRRRIGHT now”—were like little paraffin wafers mailed to yr Sunday school teacher. Once again, Ramones concocted the made-e-z-for-dummies formula but PUNK as a statement-of-purpose—and this extends to everyone from Stiff Little Fingers to the Dead Kennedys—BEGINS with these guys. Will admit, though, Thunders DID give ‘em their come-uppance for the slander of “New York” on “London,” the greatest rebuttal record ever, which just proves that punks is as punx does. Which brings us to the eternal question…if the Pistols are the greatest group ever, who’s second? Answer: Minor Threat of course. Reason? They only made two albums.

1. Katy Lied—Steely Dan (ABC, 1975): When considering such an arbitrary process as this one, the prime consideration must always be perfection…that is, an album made as a seamless entity where virtually ALL the cuts stack up. And going through the 8 billion albums in my archives, it’s apparent to me that this one is perhaps the ALL TIME solid winner…sound-, performance-, composition-wise, and of course conceptually. The Dan’s best album, it caught them right in the midst of their transition from a quirky post-hippie band into a slick ersatz-jazz outfit. The subsequent Royal Scam, distinctly harder-rocking, was no slouch either, but Katy Lied is so impeccable there’s really little reason to even OWN another album. This is the great joke of Steely Dan—the first song, “Black Friday,” is perhaps the worst cut. And how many groups have ever done it that way? But these guys were CANNY! Not that “Black Friday”’s bad coz nary a cut on ANY Steely alb, from Can’t Buy a Thrill to even the somewhat remedial Gaucho, is bad (is Citizen the greatest boxed-set ever?). But it’s STATIC in a way that suggests that here, they were still trying to appeal to the moustache-ride mentality (altho’ El Skunko’s guit-solo, while wank, is GOOD wank). But from that point on they perfected a kind of polished-but-cynical “laidback” groove that’s never been matched. “Bad Sneakers” is unabashed rich-guy’s rock, of the Tom Fourcade/Hunter Thompson variety—the dead giveaway is the line “transistor and a large sum of money to spend” (altho’ these guys had already hinted at it on “Show Biz Kids” on the great second album, Countdown to Ecstasy, another candidate for enshrinement). It was the day and age of the capitalist hippie, the kind of thing that led up to such phenomena as Saturday Night Live and, admittedly, prompted the ire o’ the punks. It wouldn’t work nowadays, because once again, after the eighties, bein’ a freewheelin’ money grubber meant bein’ a corporate raider-trader who towed the line and followed the rules…whereas in the days of Katy Lied it was purely a case of cultural spillover (i.e., being in the RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME)…these guys got DAMN lucky to be hippies in the day and age when it was LUCRATIVE to be a hippie and when being a capitalist meant you spent the money on COKE instead of on education for your kids, or SUVs or memberships to health clubs etc. The Dan didn’t give a fuck about anything—other than the quality of their music. They were REAL punks, in the true sense. And the ire they inspired in the punx was partly sour grapes…coz these guys were getting away SCOTFREE w/ out havin’ to “pay their dues.” And to me, in the empirical sense, that makes ‘em even superior to the Dictators. Punk is a case of who gets away with more, and these guys obviously got away with a LOT…like gettin slick hotshots like Phil Woods n’ Tom Scott to guest here, givin’ ‘em the preemptory jazz-rock vibe epitomized by “Doctor Wu”: seldom has there ever been such a flawless piece of music, summing up timeless yesterdays as keyboards, horns and guitars all unfurl in cascading waves that beat hell on any other such “fusion” attempts from the same era. Similarly, check out the embryonic musical tapestries that begin “Your Gold Teeth II”—time signatures that totally put other ersatz-jazzers like Zappa to shame. The Dan were pros, but they never used it for jerk-off purposes. They were slick, but so is Hosier’s vinyl catsuit. Slick isn’t always a bad thing. Slick doesn’t always mean emotionless. The punks fostered that theory…and missed the point once again. The bridge of “Everyone’s Gone to the Movies” is downright exuberant in a way that negates the theory that these guys were solemn killjoys. And “Every World That I’m Welcome To,” the alb’s best song and one of the ten most moving musical performances of the 20th century, is the all-time most compassionate nihilistic song EVER. Trust me, that’s a LOT harder to muster than even the most well-intentioned emotionally-compelling case of the rants. The middle-eight—“I’ve got this thing inside me/That’s gotta find a place to hide me” etc.—is absolute proof of the compassion that lurks within the—albeit cynical—heart of the beast.

1. Katy Lied -- Steely Dan
2. Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols
3. The Dictators Go Girl Crazy!
4. Lolita Nation -- Game Theory
5. Minor Threat
6. Mothership Connection -- Parliament
7. Highway to Hell -- AC/DC
8. A Different Kind of Tension -- The Buzzcocks
9. Ramones Leave Home
10. Oh Yeah -- Charles Mingus
11. Live From the Village Vanguard -- John Coltrane
12. Two Steps From the Middle Ages -- Game Theory
13. Charmed Life -- Half Japanese
14. White Light/White Heat -- the Velvet Underground
15. Beggar's Banquet -- Rolling Stones
16. The Who Sings My Generation
17. Horses -- Patti Smith
18. Killer -- Alice Cooper
19. I'm Stranded -- the Saints
20. Are You Experienced? -- the Jimi Hendrix Experience
21. Back From Samoa -- the Angry Samoans
22. Ace of Spades -- Motorhead
23. Impressions -- John Coltrane
24. Something Else -- Ornette Coleman
25. The Velvet Underground & Nico
26. Black Beings -- Frank Lowe
27. It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back -- Public Enemy
28. The Clash
29. Inflammable Material -- Stiff Little Fingers
30. Eternally Yours -- the Saints
31. Master of Reality -- Black Sabbath
32. Blank Generation -- Richard Hell & the Voidoids
33. Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane
34. Free Jazz -- Ornette Coleman
35. Live at the Five Spot Vol. 1 -- Eric Dolphy
36. The Geto Boys
37. Young, Loud & Snotty -- Dead Boys
38. Black Unity -- Pharoah Sanders
39. Collector's Items -- Miles Davis
40. South Park Psycho -- Gangsta NIP
41. Group Sex -- Circle Jerks
42. Blues & Roots -- Charles Mingus
43. Damaged -- Black Flag
44. The Parable of Arable Land -- Red Krayola
45. Trout Mask Replica -- Captain Beefheart
46. The Germs (G.I.)
47. Closer -- Joy Division
48. Point of Departure -- Andrew Hill
49. Spiritual Unity -- Albert Ayler
50. Milestones -- Miles Davis
51. Elvis Presley
52. Easter Everywhere -- 13th Floor Elevators
53. Lately I Keep Scissors -- Barbara Manning
54. Way Out West -- Sonny Rollins
55. Radio City -- Big Star
56. Get Up With It -- Miles Davis
57. Hot Buttered Soul -- Isaac Hayes
58. The Trance -- Booker Irvin
59. Back in the USA -- the MC5
60. How Could Hell Be Any Worse? -- Bad Religion
61. The Magic of Juju -- Archie Shepp
62. Funhouse -- the Stooges
63. The Ramones
64. Moby Grape
65. Machine Head -- Deep Purple
66. Get Your Wings -- Aerosmith
67. Kimono My House -- Sparks
68. Interstellar Space -- John Coltrane
69. Forever Changes -- Love
70. The Modern Lovers
71. Wild Gift -- X
72. This Year's Model -- Elvis Costello
73. Drums of Passion -- Olatunji
74. Disconnected -- Stiv Bators
75. Greeting From L.A. -- Tim Buckley
76. Workingman's Dead -- Grateful Dead
77. The Great Electric Show and Dance -- Lightnin' Hopkins
78. Pink Flag -- Wire
79. Desolation Boulevard -- the Sweet
80. Diary of a Madman -- Ozzy Osbourne
81. Zuma -- Neil Young
82. The Notorious Byrd Brothers -- the Byrds
83. Marquee Moon -- Television
84. Pet Sounds -- the Beach Boys
85. Ege Bamyasi -- Can
86. Double Nickels on the Dime -- the Minutemen
87. Primordial Lovers -- Essra Mohawk
88. The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter -- Incredible String Band
89. Teenage Head -- the Flamin' Groovies
90. The New York Dolls
91. Quark, Strangeness & Charm -- Hawkwind
92. Atlantis -- Sun Ra
93. Daydream Nation -- Sonic Youth
94. Tyranny & Mutation -- Blue Oyster Cult
95. Scary Monsters -- David Bowie
96. Roxy Music
97. Bleach -- Nirvana
98. Brain Capers -- Mott the Hoople
99. One Size Fits All -- the Mothers of Invention
100. LAMF -- the Heartbreakers


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)
Top 100 Albums of All Time #'s 75-51. (Issue 12)
Top 100 Albums of All Time #'s 50-26. (Issue 13)
Marianne Nowottny: Weirder -- and Better -- than Cat Power. (issue 13)
New Rock Review (issue 14)



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