One of the comments I received on Part One elsewhere stated categorically: “I found almost nothing on this list to agree with.”
You know, I’m glad. It shows yet again that there’s no accounting for taste. We’re all products of our time as well as our place. It says something that once upon a time at the tender age of 15, I thought the Bee Gees were the epitome of sophistication. It was 1978 and the world was in the grip pf Saturday Night Fever. In my defence, I lived on a rural island that emphatically was not the center of the universe, or even an interesting place on the perifery.
It all changed some two years later. There was, of course, a a guy to blame, my first boyfriend. He had the brilliant idea to take me to the Roskilde Festival, and on a late Saturday afternoon, standing on a stacked beer crate, my disco days died a painless death, never to return. It was summer, the sun was shining, he was my first -if thankfully not my last – love, and that live band phenomenon known as Santana were about to take the Canopy Stage.
Back in the day, being a product of her times, my mother was an AM radio fan, a sometime hippie (at least so long it was fashionable), and a former attendee of Woodstock. So I knew Santana. What I did not know was that I was about to experience a 20th century version of the mass religious epiphany – over 50000 people in one location and with one goal in mind – to throw themselves into that great mindless cauldron called musical surrender, no questions asked. There was no past, no future and no thought except one – to give yourself over to the beat and to the moment and let yourself be taken as well as being taken over.
Santana delivered. A fine thing to say for someone who later evolved into a black-wearing Goth, but there you have it – to this day, I will gladly fork over money to hear them live, because I know I’ll not only get my money’s worth, I’ll leave in a state of pure joy that will persist for weeks.
Santana led to other things, like jazz, like fusion, like punk, like metal, like grunge, like the whole rest of my musical journey that sadly, these days, hasn’t found a helluva lot of “new” music to get excited about, except certain outer reaches of metal that really do push boundaries, if not always the boundaries I want to push.
Rap leaves me – ice cold. The whole emo thing has it all backwards. Coldplay – puleeeeeeze. That’s not rock’n’roll, that’s the voice of some poor emasculated bastard who had his balls surgically removed at birth and has been searching for them ever since.
That’s OK. I no longer have any obligation whatsoever to be screamingly up-to-the-minute hip to anyone besides myself.
And if that’s not the ultimate exercise in maladjusted middle-finger-extended rock’n’roll attitude, what is? It doesn’t matter. I know what I like. Gene Simmons once said that rock’n’roll was about getting down to that part of you that’s hairy and stinks. I couldn’t agree more. Here’s more of the same, and none of it stinks!
Best 80’s Musicology Lesson In A Song:
Joy Division, “Disorder” (Unknown Pleasures, 1979)
You wonder, if you were around in 1979, if you ever would have heard the sound of clanking jawbones dropping in awe to the floor when this was put on record players. Joy Division’s first album – and “Closer”, the one that followed, was a harbinger of an entire decade, and even, by extension, a harbinger of some elements of grunge a decade later. Everything in the Eighties that made you go “wow” back then, you will hear here for the first time, but boiled down and distilled to the bare-bones bleak and bleached essentials. I still listen to Joy Division, and I still think they were towering geniuses miles and lightyears ahead of their time.
Best Two Reasons For Perpetual Indecision Albums:
Pink Floyd, “Dark Side of the Moon” and Pink Floyd, “Wish You Were Here” (1973/1975)
I can’t choose between these two. I can’t. I can’t. I’ve spent far too many hours on the floor in front of my dark-blue 1982 Technics stereo contemplating the anguish of the human condition to the sound of these two albums. They’ve paved the road for so many bands since. They are, both of them, stupendous. It is entirely possible that Pink Floyd is one of the top five rock bands ever to grace this miserable rock in space we call Earth, but don’t take my word for it. You might think it’s so much hippie-dippie tie-dyed British ballyhoo. You would be, I am delighted to say, dead wrong. Both of these albums have made me realize what a privilege it has been to live in a time when I got to listen to this – as often as I wanted. Shine on!
Best Series of Rock Albums That Could Have Been A Novel:
Frank Zappa, “Joe’s Garage” (1979)
There are legions of people who simply can’t get their heads around Frank Zappa. He applied classical and avant-garde musical techniques to the standard rock framework, and came up with a long laundry list of music that quite simply is some of the most technically advanced and challenging rock music ever written. And the entire 3-LP/2 CD set of “Joe’s Garage” is, in my anything but humble opinion, his finest hour. In Europe, Zappa was a rock god, far more so than in the US, and worshipped as one. In “Joe’s Garage”, we follow the rise and fall of an average Joe thoughout his rise and fall in the music business, with all that entails – groupies, STD, cults, prison and all-out musical mayhem. His lyrics are anything but politically correct and often hysterically funny, but the music, man – is astonishing. This is – a great story, a collection of amazing songs with some likewise amazing musicians, and if you happen to think Zappa never could play a straight guitar without going all Varese, then I dare you to listen to “Watermelon in Easter Hay”. Back in the day, when I got stewed enough, I would often give a stand-up performance of “Wet T-shirt Contest”. “So, whaddaya say, fellas? Nice set of jugs?” It got me banned from several Copenhagen bars at the time. To this day, I know the entire lyrics of all three albums by heart, to be recalled at the drop of a hat, a wet t-shirt or halfway through the tequila bottle, whichever comes first.
Best Singalong Song To Entirely Take Over a Party With:
Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody” (A Night At The Opera, 1975)
Here comes another ground-breaker and head exploder. I grew up in a household where opera was not at all a dirty word, not even “The Ring of the Nibelungen”. So when this came along to blow up my brain a long time after it actually debuted, the territory was as familiar as my mother’s opera collection. We’ve all been to parties that tried ever so hard to be pretentious, grown-up affairs, wannabe salon soirees in a living room full of drunk, post-punk anarchists. You can see on their faces that the guests are thinking about that other party down the street, where the music is better and the guests at least know how to party. I snuck this one on the record player, and instantly, 12 people got to their feet in various stages of intoxication to give it their all, me among them. It became, we all agreed later, A Night To Remember. “Mamma Mia, let me go!” This is a song that never will.
Best Reason To Remain A Perpetual Teenager Song:
KISS, “Rock’n’Roll All Nite” (Dressed To Kill, 1975)
Some things, you never outgrow. Never, ever. KISS is another band I shouldn’t like, but I do. They were never the greatest, the most ground-breaking, boundary-pushing band on the planet. Innovation was not part of their musical vocabulary. But getting down to the hairy, stinking, id essentials of rock and roll was, and millions of fans agree. This is stupid, loud, obnoxious, teenaged and – fun. Thousands of forty-something teens agree. May we never grow up! Ever!
Best Housecleaning Album Of All Time:
Sex Pistols, “Never Mind The Bullocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols” (1977)
A world without punk music is a world I have a hard time imagining, since both the music and the mindset to a large extent defined my entire “No Future” generation. Never mind that we all later devolved, just like our despised hippie parents, to become quite well-behaved pillars of our communities, much to our own dismay. Never mind that punk gave us: thrash metal, doom, goth rock, grunge and a whole slew of other genres, some of which are better left unnamed. The Sex Pistols defined the quintessence of punk. Period. The whole album is fabulously not bad, but as motivational mood music for housecleaning, this has no peers. My toilet bowls have never recovered. So long as I own this, they never will. So long as I own this, my neighbors never will, either. They’ve been eyeing me askance ever since.
Best What It Feels Like For A Guy Song:
Nine Inch Nails, “Closer” (The Downward Spiral, 1994)
Trent Reznor, to all intents and purposes, is a modern Marvel Man – and a marvel. I dare you to find anyone who not only singlehandedly has turned himself into a genre, all by himself, but also a one-man industry. Arguably one of the most influential musicians of the last two decades, and arguably, one of the few who have totally keyed into where music will be going not in a year, but ten years from now. As a dedicated and devoutly questioning heterosexual female, I’ve always wondered, you know, what it feels like for a guy. Nine Inch Nails spilled the beans. Now I know. Since I first heard this, my world has never quite been the same. On that note-
Best What It Feels Like For A Girl Song:
Kate Bush, “The Sensual World” (The Sensual World, 1989)
Forget Madonna’s lame, tame, radio-friendly song, and get thee to Kate Bush, another musical envelope pusher with one of the best voices in modern music. She does only what she pleases, and still manages to please. Very, very few females make my personal list, not because I’m a male-centric slut, but because I’m demanding. I want some bang for my musical buck, and so few ladies deliver. Kate Bush does, and still does. I dare you to find a better or a classier definition of a woman caught in that first delicious flush of lust and sensual anticipation. Mmmm, yes!
Best Revealing Insight Into The Ultimate Male Fantasy Song:
Type O Negative, “My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend” (October Rust, 1996)
This is so cheesy, so tacky, so unapologetically infectious and catchy, you might as well give in. The ultimate male fantasy scenario, obviously written – and sung – by someone who got lucky, and wasn’t afraid to brag about it. Thousands of guys have been envious ever since. Then, they saw the video, and were even more envious. Unless, of course, they’d been there too, in which case, they’d try to smirk as well as Peter Steele. They wish. You can find that video here.
Best Timewarp I’m Fifteen With No Cellulite Again Song:
Boston, “More Than A Feeling”(Boston, 1978)
Oh, boy, I can feel the howls of derision coming my way. As Johnny Rotten would say, “Sod off!” Boston deteriorated badly after their third album was released, and I’ll be the first to admit it. In 1978, when I first heard it, their eponymous first album blew everyone away, at least in my overlooked corner of the world. But man, oh, man. I listen to this and suddenly, I’m fifteen and only just managed to be rid of my virginity, and the entire world is an open road that goes ever on and on, and where it goes, I can’t even begin to guess. If only I knew then what else I would lose. My illusions, for starters.
Best Reason To Become a Metalhead For Life:
Black Sabbath, “Paranoid”(Paranoid, 1970)
It’s kind of hard to realize that this album came out in 1970, about the time the post-Sixties hangover was settling in, and music was desperately trying to find some kind of foothold, since even the Beatles were about to go their separate ways. It’s even harder to imagine what sort of shock to the musical status quo Black Sabbath was. Nothing, and I do mean, nothing was even remotely close to sounding like this. That’s it. Enter dystopia. Descend into darkness. Clue in catharsis. A tremendous work of edifying and stupefying splendor not one metal band ever since has not been indebted to. And speaking of debt-
Best “We’re Not Worthy! We’re Not!” Album:
Alice Cooper, “Welcome To My Nightmare” (1975)
It was sometime around 1973 or so when prepubescent kids everywhere suddenly discovered the joys of really pissing off their parents. This was when Alice Cooper (who did everything in shock rock before anyone else had even thought about it) was ubiquitous with “School’s Out”, and suddenly, the idea of striking terror into the hearts of hippie-liberal parents became a reality. At some point around that time, Alice Cooper toured the US and I pitched such a stinking fit that finally, after days of endless pestering my otherwise pretty laid-back Dad, I got to go. With my Dad. Five years later, that would have been the epitome of embarrassment, but then, it was – OK. It was more than OK when he liked it even more than I did, and promptly bought the albums. Chicken blood fazed him not at all. The sheer theatricality and sensory overload blew him away just like everyone else. If I were to name every performer who owes Alice Cooper at least something to his career in rock’n’roll, we’d be here till doomsday. But really – there’s a reason everyone who’s anyone loves Alice Cooper, even the Waynes of this world. Alice, dear, we really aren’t worthy. But we thank you anyway!
Best Ever Reason To Boogie Song:
ZZ Top, “Sharp Dressed Man'” (Eliminator, 1983)
In my time in New Mexico, there was an ancient joke trotted out whenever a wetlander newbie came across a native. “Why is New Mexico so dry?” “Because Texas sucks!”. There was, in fact, an entire genre of of lame jokes along the concept that Texas – sucks. Well, people, I*ve been there, and I hate to say it, but it’s true. Texas does – suck. The one place in Texas that everyone who is not a religious nutcase can agree upon does NOT suck – Austin – also furthered another reason why Texas boogie, among other things, also most emphatically does not suck. This is another party kickstarter, no question. ZZ Top is deceptively simple, unapologetically fun, and unabashedly down and dirty. Loved the car. Love the beards. Love this song. Boogie down! ‘Cuz every girl’s crazy ’bout a sharp dressed man!
Best How To Get Stoned Without Actually Smoking Anything Illegal Song:
Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra, “Some Velvet Morning When I’m Straight”(1967)
I have been listening to this since the early Nineties, right before some hipsters decided to make Lee Hazlewood happening again. Well, the fact is, Lee Hazlewood was happening waaaaay before the rest of us were even born. That he could persuade a good Catholic girl like Nancy Sinatra to sing his songs, knowing full well she did not get it at all, only makes them better. I still haven’t figured out this song. But the title gets me, man, “Some velvet morning, when I’m straight” – how genius a title is that? You think it would have stood a chance if the title had been “Some burlap evening when I’m baked?” Fat chance.
Best Ultimate Showoff One Hit Wonder Worm:
Iron Butterfly, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”(1968)
I distinctly remember the first time I heard this. I had just completed a creative marathon – 19 hours in a stretch, lost into the rabbit hole of creativity. I suspect I had been abducted by aliens that looked a lot like my cat. When I came to, it was 3 AM, and my radio – which had been playing unnoticed for 19 hours, suddenly began to play something that clanked my disbelieving jaw to the floor with a thud. I could not, for the life of me, stop listening. I could not, ever, forget I had heard this. I still can’t. This is pure, distilled, listen and die with envy embryonic heavy metal. Iron Butterfly never had another hit. They couldn’t top this. I dare someone else to try.
Best Zeppelin Of The Nineties Album, Part One:
Jane’s Addiction, Ritual De Lo Habitual(1990)
Perry Farrell annoys the shit out of me. He’s got just the kind of whiny, nasal, high-pitched voice and obnoxious opinions that set my teeth on edge. Unless you lived in Ulan Baator back in 1990, you would have heard “Been Caught Stealing”. Or seen the video. And you would likely have left it at that. You would have missed out on an album that pointed north – toward Seattle and grunge, bubbling beneath the radar in those days, backward in time – toward some of the seamier elements of psychedelic rock, and firmly towards the LA scene that gave us grateful music sluts bands such as Red Hot Chili Peppers. Jane’s Addiction never quite repeated the promise they showed here. Success – and rehab – got in the way.
Best Zeppelin Of The Nineties Album, Part Two:
Soundgarden, “Superunknown” (1994)
Some albums, we unworthies really don’t deserve. Likewise, some frontmen, we don’t deserve. Chris Cornell, we definitely don’t deserve. This is arguably some of the most intelligent music ever to come out of the Nineties, and it still sounds as fresh today. Either that, or else, I’ve got calluses on my auricles. Can’t live without it. Wouldn’t want to try.
Well, folks, I could go on. I could continue this into a Part Three, and even a Part Thirty-Three, but what’s the fun of that? You go with what resonates, what strikes chords in your own life, what makes you stop in your tracks and think that maybe, baby, magic happens and you transcend the petty limitations of your pathetic, miserable existence into a plane of existence where it’s all good, all the time. or all bad, depending on your mood.
When it comes to music, we’re all of us looking for that moment when magic happens. When we have lost ourselves, and our selves, our egos even, and all that remains is a pulse – pelvic or otherwise, that proves one thing only.
We’re never too old for rock and roll, but we’re certainly too young to die! We’re alive. And we like it!