Running Dry

I’d forgotten about this one. It takes me back to the bygone summer of 2014, when I was trying to listen to all of the Neil Young. I found out that listening to all of the Neil Young is practically impossible, because Neil Young has dozens of albums. Dozens upon dozens. Some are classics, some are just weird and bad. If you start at the beginning, with Buffalo Springfield, or even if you skip Buffalo Springfield, exhaustion starts to set in by about 1972. So you admit defeat and settle back into only listening to After the Gold Rush and Decade over and over again.

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Runnin’ Blue

This is definitely one of the weirdest songs from The Doors. Of course, The Doors were a  weird band in a lot of ways anyway. But they were usually pretty consistent in their sound. They stayed on-theme, mostly. This is like two throwaway songs mashed together, neither one being regular Doors fare. It’s one half jazz-fusion, one half quasi-bluegrass (and one half tribute to Otis Redding.) The jazz inflection isn’t too far out; it’s something the band had played around with throughout their career, although it wasn’t until The Soft Parade that they went all the way with hiring a real horn section. The hillbilly breakdown is just random. Bluegrass was absolutely not a direction that the Doors ever wanted to go towards. I think it’s either an attempt to infuse a little humor, or Morrison’s way of showing disdain towards all the fancy new arrangements. Or both.

Roses in the Snow

Just in case you were feeling good about something. Let Nico bring you down. Who knows what kind of internal purgatory that woman lived in, but it’s clear from the soundscapes she composed that she wasn’t a merry spirit. She made it a point to reject anything others might consider beautiful or life-affirming. Of course, she always insisted that what she created was, to her, beautiful and comforting. She also liked to say that she would be quite happy imprisoned alone in a dark cell. She didn’t reap much reward for those sentiments while she was alive, but she’s gathered a following of people who share her aesthetic. Lots of us like solitude, cold and dark.

Romany Soup

Marc Bolan never did write a book about the adventures of Kingsley Mole and Lionel Lark. He became a famous rock star and lost interest in fairy tales and whimsical creatures. Or rather, fairy tales and whimsical creatures went out of fashion along with peace, love and idealism at the end of the 1960’s and Bolan was at the cutting edge of fashion. He was. This doesn’t sound like the composition of a man who was at the cutting edge of anything, but let  me assure you that in 1969 all of the coolest people were reading The Wind in the Willows and trying to incorporate its rustic charms into their own writings. It wasn’t a more innocent time by any means, but there was a belief that the world could become more pure and loving, somehow, and reverting to childlike whimsy was part of that mindset. Then, of course, everyone gave up on that pipe-dream and starting doing a lot of cocaine and heroin instead. But it was a wonderful, charmed time while it lasted.

Ramble On

Raise a pint to the stupidly nerdly. Led Zeppelin are demigods of cock rock and all that, but their nerdiness is just so endearing, it’s adorable and squee. Their Tolkien references are so self-conscious and off-base; they’re not even good nerds. I understand that if you happen to be Robert Plant, then yes, you could reasonably expect to be picking up chicks in the darkest depths of Mordor, but it’s not canon, Robert, not canon. You just have to trowel those references in where they don’t fit at all, because why, to show that you know how to read? Honestly, though, I’ll take “Middle Earth the Led Zeppelin edition” quite happily; it’s a sexier place than the original.

‘Pon a Hill

“His prophecies were you”

One minute and twenty four seconds of Tyrannosaurus Rex. That’s almost not even a full song. No, but trust me, it is an experience. I think that perhaps with the early Tyrannosaurus Rex albums, the songs don’t work so well out of context. The famous T.Rex albums that followed were a parade of hit singles, but this was a very different animal. The early albums need to be taken in as a whole. The songs flow together, and not one of them is anywhere near being a hit single. They may strike you as strange, especially alone like this, but they grow on you. You can’t help being charmed by Marc Bolan’s world, with its light mysticism and fantasy.

Pinball Wizard

If you’ve only ever heard this on the radio, you may be missing out on the bizarre freakout that is Tommy. The Who’s hit single still pops up a lot on those radio stations that claim they play anything, but it’s barely a trace of the weirdness from whence it came. The mother album was weird enough – a rock opera about a deaf, dumb and blind pinball prodigy loosely inspired by the teachings of Meher Baba. It was a mountain of terrible ideas pulled off through sheer conviction, birthing the concept of concept albums on the way. But was that enough for The Who and their vision? No, they had to have their vision visualized, so they made a movie, with schlock auteur Ken Russell. That’s when things got really weird. You can enjoy it a lot more if you think of it less as a feature film and more as a very long music video. Also if you’re drugged to the gills. It’s certainly a feast of surreal images, and unexpected guest performances of various quality (Tina Turner, thumbs up; Jack Nicholson, not so much.) Ann-Margaret earned herself an Oscar nomination, presumably for the scene where she’s doused in baked beans. Roger Daltrey was not nominated for any awards, despite being very limber and blue of eye. Elton John’s guest appearance is another highlight. Sir Elton is no actor, but that’s not what the role requires. It’s the perfect Elton John cameo; it suits him both musically and aesthetically. It’s exactly the perfect collision of talent that could only happen in the musical wild west of the mid seventies, when movies of concept albums could get made and earn awards.