Thursday, May 19, 2005

Top 5 records

Yeah, yeah, I know that this is a silly exercise, but at the same time it gives people a sense of your musical tastes and where you are coming from when you rant about music! These records/bands have been absolutely influential to me since they came out and, to those who have heard them, will explain a lot about me and the things that I have done with my life!

1) The MC5 – Kick Out The Jams
To me, this record epitomizes what real rock’n’roll (as opposed to garage, punk, rockabilly, etc) is all about! When I first heard this record, in the early-to-mid 70’s, I kinda freaked out! THIS is what I had been looking for all of my life! Loud, wild guitars making crazed sounds, out-of-control high energy abandon literally barely keeping it together, great singing, solid, heavy rhythm section and songs about sex, drugs, and, yes, rock’n’roll! They looked and dressed great, they had super influences and even had a social conscience! This was the entire package that so many bands have tried to achieve (myself included) and so few bands have (myself included!). They tightened up their songwriting on the 2 subsequent records, but this insane live record is so utterly over the top that it has influenced everyone who believes in the “on the edge” nature of r’n’r!

2) The Stooges – Funhouse
To me, this is the best of their 3 records – great playing and singing and by far the best production! All the more amazing since they essentially played live, including Iggy singing through a PA system with mics in front of the speakers! Taking the electricity of the MC5, they combine that with a tight, controlled sound that still conveyed the mania of their live shows. This is truly dangerous music! I have seen multiple bands cover literally every single one of these songs (including LA Blues!) and no one can touch the originals for sound, intensity and psychoticness!

3) Alice Cooper – Love It To Death
Before Alice started playing golf with Bing Crosby and becoming a parody of a rock singer, the Alice Cooper band was one of the most demented congregations out there! They had the longest hair imaginable, wore the most outrageous outfits and had the most insane live show ever seen! I first saw them on the debut episode of TV’s “Rock Concert” and with just a handful of props (a garbage can, a switchblade, a couple of hats, some makeup and, of course, a gallows!) the group changed the face of rock music! Of course, the songs were great too! This record has the eternal anthem “Eighteen”, along with classics like “Caught In A Dream”, “Is It My Body”, “Ballad of Dwight Frye”. Superb production by Bob Ezrin, too, who at this point really knew how to make a rockin’ record!

4) Jimi Hendrix – Axis Bold As Love
Sure, everyone in the world knows that Hendrix was, quite simply, the best, most innovative electric guitarist ever to live. He changed the way the guitar was played and everyone who has come after him owes him a debt of gratitude! I loved the fact that he could create some of the most obnoxious noises that you had ever heard in your life and then could switch to incredible beauty and finesse with a blink of an eye! Doing all this while also being one of the flashiest, wildest and best-dressed guitarists ever was always amazing to behold! This record combined his exceptional playing, his penchant for noise and his wonderful songwriting into one mind-boggling package!

5) The Ramones – RAMONES
Anyone who wasn’t alive and listening to music before this record came out in 1976 really cannot appreciate how truly bizarre this band was! People even just a few years younger than me will say that they heard bands like the Dead Kennedys or the Circle Jerks before the Ramones, so they really can’t comprehend how weird this album was at the time. I understood exactly where they were coming from – I loved stripped down r’n’r and had MC5, Stooges, Velvets, etc records, and grew up with 60’s garage and pop - but this was something altogether different. It took me a little while to warm up to it, quite frankly. They couldn’t sing, they couldn’t play, their songs were simplistic to the point of childishness – this was a huge slap in the face to people who were used to bands like Led Zep and Yes! But then you’d realize that this is what r’n’r is SUPPOSED to sound like and they were taking all the right influences mentioned above and tossing them into a blender and shouting it out in 2 minutes or less! It was an astoundingly genius move, totally uncalculated, yet it has changed the look and sound of all music forever!

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