1999: State Songs

State SongsThere is nothing more patriotic than a green record in the shape of the continental United States. John Linnell, of They Might Be Giants fame, showcases his solo abilities on this two-track appetizer from his full-length album by the same name. Actually, side two’s Louisiana is an unreleased track from the album and is only offered on this “Go America!” record, so if you needed any incentive to seek out this record, there you go.

Montana

Told from the perspective of a hospital bed-ridden patient, Montana is a catchy little song about said patient’s electric realization that the shape of Montana resembles that of a leg. I love the esteemed talents of the two Johns and their innate ability to write catchy, whimsical songs about seemingly banal subjects. I mean, we all have these little thoughts throughout our day, like, how I wonder if the birds in the tree outside my porch are secretly planning an all-encompassing war against the squirrel that knocked over their bird bell, but I don’t ever think to write a song about it! Kudos to John Linnell for taking the mundane and making it extraordinary.

USLouisiana

Leave it to my clever girlfriend to figure out that Louisiana is a song about the annoying humidity engulfing the stale air within the imaginary walls that make up the state of Louisiana.  Referring to (the life-sucking demon that is) humidity as a blanket, John Linnell pleads for a break in the weather and asks that Louisiana, the state, to remove its hands from around his neck so he can breathe more clearly. A song about humidity… again, who looks to uncomfortable weather as a subject for a song?

LabelIf I’ve learned something from this green-tinted record in the shape of the contiguous United States, it’s that ANYTHING can be the subject of a song and also, I have no Earthly desire to step foot into the hellish wave of demon-heat known as Louisiana.

1998: Into the Sun

CoverOnce upon a time…

There was a fella named John. John was a talented chap, one who was capable of writing beautiful songs about love, aggression, politics and imagination. One day, John went to an art exhibit and met a like-minded and, I hesitate to say, equally talented woman, named Yoko. Yoko made John smile, and shortly thereafter, they fell in love.

Like lovers do, John and Yoko expressed their love through celebration, which brought to them, and the World, a baby boy. They named him Sean, and the love that was once two, became three. Sean would grow up to write beautiful songs just like his father, John. Unfortunately, John would never hear Sean’s wonderful music, because a very bad man shot lead into John’s body. Sean, his mother Yoko, and the World were deeply saddened by the loss of John, but nobody has ever, nor will they ever forget him.

The End

Into the Sun LabelSean Lennon’s professional career launched with the release of his 1998 debut album, Into the Sun. With its 13 tracks of despondent fluidity, the beautifully imagined Into the Sun shows that the apple (records) doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

Into the Sun was released while Sean was touring with his then girlfriend, Yuka Honda and her band, the eclectic Cibo Matto. Yuka makes appearances throughout Into the Sun, and Sean is quoted as claiming Yuka to be his inspiration for the album.

Into the Sun BackNow a classic staple in the Grand Royal catalogue, Into the Sun makes for the perfect soundtrack to a seemingly endless array of activities.  When listening to this album, it’s difficult to ignore the weighted guilt that attaches itself to the privilege of listening to something Sean’s father never had the opportunity to enjoy. My guess… John would be glowing with pride from the emotionally talented works of his bright, shining son.

(I probably don’t need nine copies of this album, but really, you never know. I acquired them for very cheap off the temporary site created by the guys who purchased the short-lived Grand Royal Records after it went bankrupt. Like Grand Royal itself, that site is gravely missed.)9 Times

1997: BS 2000

BS CoverNot many people enjoy BS 2000, which is interesting considering this album has only ever been release on vinyl. To say the music is unconventional would be an understatement. To say the music is unlistenable, distasteful, or simply, not music, would be like judging a book by its opening sentence. BS 2000 is most certainly an acquired taste, and once the walls of ignorance are torn down, the appetite for more becomes primal.

BS RecordWith its 23 tracks, this debut side project from Beastie Boy, Adam Horovitz, and teammate, AWOL Amery Smith, is a brilliant collection of looping Electronic Breakbeats, pitch and time-altered samples, and various other momentary flashes of abstract genius. In Brian Newman’s well written, but point-missing review of this album on allmusic.com (he gave it only 2 out of 5 stars), he explains, “Listening to BS 2000’s self-titled debut album is almost the equivalent of watching a Federico Fellini film or reading a William S. Burrows passage.” This is a fairly accurate assessment of the music, and certainly a proficient crew to roll with.

BS Back

Absolutely unsuitable for the masses, BS 2000’s music cuts and runs at the same moment you’ve finished tuning your ears in order to ingest the wall of head bobbing, groovy noise. The album is only 33 minutes long, so when you take into account the number of songs, you get a pretty good idea of how short these all-but-throwaway beats are.

This is a must listen for any fan of the Beastie Boys, and anyone who enjoys experimental, abstract sounds. There is definitely a clear rhythmic beat to each and every track on this album, so don’t misunderstand me and think this is a boiling pot of erupting noise. Listening to it as I type, and having not given it a spin in a while, I’d almost forgotten how damn good these hodge-podge beats are. If you’re in the market for this album, but can’t find it, email me and I’ll hook you up.

Nobody beats BS 2000.

1996: Spinal Scratch

Spinal ScratchMade famous by the labors of his day job, as exactly ½ of Daft Punk, Thomas Bangalter’s solo work finds the artist taking a minimalist approach to the Funk-rich Electronic (House music) sound. In no way does that mean Spinal Scratch, and its B-Side, Spinal Beats, are “less than.” These two tracks hit hard, and when combined, offer over 11 minutes of sweaty dance-friendly beats.

Released a year before Daft Punk’s eponymous debut, Homework, Spinal Scratch finds Mr. Bangalter cutting his teeth on a pair of monster beats that almost scream the letters, S-E-X in a rhythmic and soothing loop, but you know, in that classy French way. It’s almost as though because this is French music, there is a certain amount of leniency attached to it. Not that this, or anything Bangalter or Daft Punk do require any sort of leniency, but French House music, with its repetitive yet weighted bass can become something of a nuisance if done improperly. Good thing for all involved that Mr. Bangalter’s work is pure gold. The fact that he is French is just the icing on the delicious French pastry.

LabelSpinal Scratch, or Roulé 302, is the second solo offering by Bangalter, following 1995’s Trax on Da Rocks. (I purchased Trax on Da Rocks from eBay a few years back, but it was lost in transit. I was refunded my money, but have been looking for a copy ever since.) Both DJ 12” records were released on Bangalter’s own Roulé Records. Roulé is French for, “rolled,” so you get the target demographic he was going for with this label.

You can find Spinal Scratch on the Irréversible soundtrack, which is mainly comprised of the back catalogue of Bangalter’s solo work. It’s nice to have everything together, but there is a certain amount of intimacy owning these tracks individually. If you haven’t already, seek out Bangalter’s solo work. Your sex-crazed dance partner will thank you.

1995: The State of Art is On Fire

ArtRock ‘N’ Roll gets kicked in the teeth with this fire-themed gauntlet of raging energy. Led by Speedo’s spitting vocals and Petey X’s stabbing bass work, the glorious Rocket from the Crypt, over just six songs, show everyone within shouting distance why they’re helmed as the best Rock ‘N’ Roll group ever to walk the Earth. The State of Art is On Fire, and Rocket from the Crypt lit the match.

The State of Art is on Fire was the first in a trilogy from RFTC (Rocket from the Crypt) in 1995, followed by August’s Hot Charity and October’s Scream, Dracula, Scream!. This particular release is, well, a bit peculiar since side A plays at 33rpms and side B plays at 45rpms. It should also be noted that this EP was the first to feature JC 2000, the band’s trumpeter, and also included a lyrics sheet, which was rarely included in releases by this band.

InsertThe hair-raising back-to-back shots from Rid or Ride and Human Torch are arguably the best one-two punch by any band on any album ever. I know this statement is subjective, but you’re wrong if you think otherwise.  Like a violent flame, this album starts to burn your ears, your neighbor’s dog’s ears, your feet, the pear on your kitchen table, your memories of Senior Prom, and the blood flowing through your veins, and it doesn’t let up until the needle breaks on the final groove.  The State of Art is on Fire is an experience. One that is not quickly, or let’s face it, EVER forgotten.

RecordOnly 300 copies exist of this blue marbled staple of Rock ‘N’ Roll awesomeness. Currently none are for sale of either this or the pink marbled version, but the black version can be had for only $8 at Discogs.

Art has been burning now for 18 years. Sit back and enjoy the flames.

1994: Fourteenth Century Sky E.P. (The Dust Brothers aka The Chemical Brothers)

Dust Bros CoverSo, here’s a fun little nugget of Electronic music history (fans of either band have known this for years)… The Chemical Brothers used to be called the Dust Brothers, and the Dust Brothers used to be called, wait for it… well, they were always just the Dust Brothers, so yeah, gotcha there.

Dust Brothers 101:

First came the Dust Brothers. The ACTUAL Dust Brothers. The LA-based cut-and-paste moguls famous for their early work with Delicious Vinyl. The same guys who happened to produce the groundbreaking, never-before-has-there-been-music-like-this Beastie Boys album, Paul’s Boutique. Then, over in Manchester, a couple of Dust Brothers fans starting making some badass music of their own, (out of homage or straight, blatant, rip-off) and also starting calling themselves the Dust Brothers. So, there was a time when the world saw two sets of dusted siblings. That was, until the ACTUAL Dust Brothers threatened the Manchester Dust Brothers with legal action. Having released two EPs and one single as the Dust Brothers, the Manchester boys decided on a new name. Based off the critically acclaimed track, Chemical Beats (found on this EP), the Manchester duo adopted the moniker, Chemical Brothers, and the rest is Electronic music history.

Dust Bros Label BThere was no bad blood between the two insanely talented groups. The original Dust Brothers supplied a remix to the 1997 hit single Elektrobank, No harm no foul, I suppose.

Fourteenth Century Sky is the Chemical Brothers’ second release (when they were still calling themselves the Dust Brothers. We JUST went over this!). They would release one more EP (My Mercury Mouth) before pulling the Big-Beat-trigger and forever changing their name to the Chemical Brothers.  This concludes the Prudent Groove inspired Cliffs Notes for Dust Brothers 101. Now, get outside. It’s a beautiful day.

1993: Porno For Pyros

PforP CoverBy the time Porno for Pyros hit the streets in 1993, the world was still mourning the loss of Jane’s Addiction. Frontman, Perry Ferrell, assured the masses that his brash-brand of sleazy-slut-rock would continue on unabated, but would henceforth inherit a new title, Porno for Pyros.

Trying to figure out the meaning behind the title, Porno for Pyros, is like trying to tie your shoes with oven mitts on your hands. You can see the end result in your head, but damned if it’s not impossible to get to. People attribute too much meaning to things anyway, so I’m going to skip the meaningless meaning behind PfP, and continue on with my daily ramblings.

The music, not unlike a cloud of sadness, is loud, funky, rhythmically driven, and unmistakably awesome! There is a certain amount of solace that can be found in sadness, and it’s evident that Perry and crew tapped into that power for Porno for Pyros, because quiet frankly, it’s a pretty bleak album. Like a warm pair of socks on a cold, dreary day, or a calming breeze during those hot August nights, Porno for Pyros can abate your less-than-optimal mood, whenever it rears its ugly, yet familiar noggin.

NewA beautiful tie-dyed vinyl version was released just this past Saturday for Record Store Day. Limited to 1000 copies, this gorgeous record is going for up to $100 over at Discogs, so I hope you were able to brave the goofballs in line for a copy, because, it really is quite something.

1992: In Search of Manny

MannyLuscious Jackson’s debut EP, In Search of Manny, launched the semi-mainstream career of this quirk-tastic, all-ladies, don’t-dare-call-them-cutesy band. It also saw the first official release from Grand Royal Records, the short-lived record label helmed by the infamous Beastie Boys, so, yeah, it’s a historical music marker.

In Search of Manny, or GR001, its catalog title, sees a mellow mixture of light-hearted groovy-beats bouncing under a quasi-Hip-Hop, MC-style vocal delivery. It’s lazy-day, relax-music perfect for soaking in the warm rays from the summer sun, or turning your living room into post-apocalyptic turmoil because you can’t find your car keys. Calm, or frenzied, In Search of Manny tickles your groove button regardless of your disposition.

LabelI hate that Luscious Jackson is known as “the band with the original drummer from the Beastie Boys.” Yes, this is true. Yes, the Beastie Boys originally had a Beastie Girl (Kate Schellenbach), but labeling LJ as “just that band” downplays their ability to jam! And these luscious ladies jam your pants off!

The first three tracks, Let Yourself Get Down, Life of Leisure and Daughters of the Kaos were all written and recorded in 1991, while the four tracks on side 2 were completed in 1992. This isn’t significant but for the question is raises: why weren’t these first three tracks released as a single prior to In Search of Manny? They certainly could have been. I mean, Daughters of the Kaos sounds like Beck’s Loser, with its slight western-driving catchiness, but you know, written 2 years earlier. Lucky for everyone involved, fate would intervene and marry this collection of feel-good tunes square on Grand Royal’s eponymous debut.

BackIt all had to start somewhere, but unfortunately, it ended way too early. Both Luscious Jackson and Grand Royal are now defunct, but there exists an underground group of groove-hoods that seek out these stunning releases, and in doing so, keep this sensational music alive.

I don’t know who the hell Jackson is, but these ladies are luscious. Check ‘em out.

1991: Cypress Hill

Cypress CoverCypress Hill was my single-handed introduction into the vast, unremitting world of Hip Hop music. I was a fair, Junior High student at a tiny school when introduced to this abstract genre (my graduating class was 63 kids… it sucked). Hip Hop as a whole is certainly not abstract, but when you grow up in a tiny town with tiny ideals and little room for any sort of outside thinking, it really didn’t get more abstract than Hip Hop (that was until I discovered AC, but that’s a post for another time).

Cypress RedCypress Hill boasts of bongs, fat-jammy-blasts and brotherhood (a nice way of saying “gang”), while set to a Funk backbeat and fanatical lyrics. LA’s finest scored a fat sack with these 16 tracks, so much so that it was remastered and released on blood-shot-eye-red vinyl (this version) in 2011 for its 20th anniversary.

You see, cassettes were big in my day, and I’m now spending the bulk of my “adult” life acquiring my trophy albums on vinyl. It was while listening to this album in the school library, via Walkman (and split ear buds hidden inside the sleeve of my shirt), that a buddy and I got busted for listening to music in school. Not busted so much as yelled at, but it scared us from ever doing it again. It was at that moment when I realized that Cypress Hill were a troublemakers, and at the age of 12, that was a welcoming ally.

The music is straightforward, early 90’s, social-class-bending Hip Hop. There emerged a slew of outstanding Hip Hop albums during the few years spanning 1989-1993, and the tongue-in-cheek approach mastered by Cypress Hill on this debut set the high-bong-water mark.

Cypress BackCypress Hill isn’t considered Old School Hip Hop, but for me, and my friends who dove headfirst into this genre, there is no school older than the music produced during the early 90s. Cypress Hill would hit another homerun with their 1993 release, Black Sunday. After that they’d release six more albums, but they never matched the perfect blend of ENORMOUS beats, witty lyrics, and catchy one-liners.

Lala la la lala la laaa!

1990: To the Extreme

Ice CoverThe term “Vanilla Ice” implies that at one point, there existed “Chocolate Ice,” because otherwise, it would just be called “Ice.” My parents taught me that an individual’s ice flavor was nothing to be judged, and that personality weighed more than any ice flavor imaginable. So instinctively, I was immediately drawn to the Chocolate-inspired Ice of the Vanilla persuasion. Yes, I was a fan of Vanilla Ice, and yes, I own and listen to this record.

Remember Snow?  A licky Boom Boom yeah, I don’t either. Do you know why the Snow and his half-hit wonder, Informer, fell hard (snow… falling…)? It’s because the Ice man here left such a monumental impact upon the release of this album, that the debris had yet to settle by the time Snow’s “single” hit the streets in the fall of 1993. Ice had this covered, man! The Vanilla doesn’t melt so easily it seems.

Ice BackI remember sitting in Mrs. Bleach’s 6th grade class frantically transcribing Ice Ice Baby, in pencil, as if it were a newly discovered missing chapter of the Bible. I believe I spent an entire recess start-stopping this track (on cassette) to assure a precise transcript. What the hell I did with those lyrics upon completion, I’ll never remember, but I did, inadvertently, burn a Vanilla Ice-sized hole in my cranium that, to this day, has yet to fully heal.

IcemanListening to Vanilla Ice now, with his assertive, borderline belligerent delivery, is nothing short of absolutely hysterical. Yo, VIP! I’ve just decided to work that into my daily vocabulary. I’m thinking something like, “Yo, VIP! Pass the milk!” Or, “Yo, VIP! Do you want in on this conference call?!” Something to that effect. I encourage all of you to experiment with this timeless phrase at least once today, if only to gauge the reaction of the ill-prepared VIP.

It’s painful to acknowledge that 1990 is now 23 year ago, but thankfully, the immortal gift that is Vanilla Ice will forever be present to remind us of how groundbreaking this music wasn’t.  “Yo! VIP! Post is done!”

1989: Saturn Outhouse

Pitchfork Cover, LoverBefore breaking Lou Brock’s coveted career Major League stolen base record of 938, a very young Rickey Henderson had to steal his first base. Before The Beatles could release the immeasurable Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, they had to play backup to Tony Sheridan. All legacies have a beginning, and before the Hot Snakes, the Obits, Drive Like Jehu, the Sultans, The Night Marchers and the crème de la crème, Rocket from the Crypt, before modern day rock ‘n’ roll emerged from the heavens and established itself as “the majestic sound from the Gods,” there was Pitchfork.

Rick Froberg, meet John Reis. Get through your handshakes and your pleasant introductions quickly, because over the next 25 years you’ve got four singles, one EP and seven albums to write, record, produce and release under the heading of three different bands: Pitchfork, Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes. Get busy boys… the world is waiting.

Insert-siesThe first recorded ANYTHING by both Froberg and Reis (their musical rookie card), Saturn Outhouse contains the same melodic, in your face, sky-high level of energy found in Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes, and like those bands, sees Froberg on vocals and Reis on lead guitar. It’s evident, as seen from Reis’ more recent work, how much he is influenced by mid-60’s obscure garage rock, but Saturn Outhouse sounds more like an Ian MacKaye-headed Fugazi than anything released by the Seeds.

To the causal listener, Pitchfork can easily, and understandably, be confused for Drive Like Jehu, and vise versa. The two bands have striking similarities (scratching vocals by Froberg, piercing guitar by Reis, melodic, drawn-out landscapes), but the difference lies in the level of maturity exuded by both Froberg and Reis between Pitchfork’s demise (1990) and the birth of Drive Like Jehu (later in 1990).  I haven’t matured that much in 33 years, and these guys crossed that mark in their early twenties! Quiet simply put, Froberg and Reis were adolescents, yes, but they were also music legends in the making.

Pitchfork Back, JackContaining the tracks, Thin Ice, Goat and Sinking, this little necessity of music history can be had for a surprisingly cheap amount. Starting at only $6.54 over at Discogs, this gem can, and should, be sought after by any, and every fan of the majestic, modern day rock ‘n’ roll sound.

1988: Stand

StandToday’s post was inspired by a fascinating chap with whom I had the pleasure of meeting yesterday, while standing in line for Record Store Day. Not unlike said gentleman in line, Stand, by R.E.M., sticks to the inner lining of your skull like Velcro. It’s easily removable (simply pull the Velcro apart… how can you not know how Velcro works?), but seldom ever forgotten. (Once you master the intricate workings of Velcro, you kind of don’t forget the process. I’m sure I’m sorry that Velcro is such a foreign concept to you.)

R.E.M. was huge in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Not so much Elvis Presley or say, a cat on the moon huge, but EVERYBODY knew R.E.M., and EVERYBODY knew this song. Stand isn’t so much of an order as it is a self-reflective suggestion. Stand in the place where you live. Ok, I’m doing that. Now what? Now face north. All right, and… done. Think about direction, wonder why you haven’t before. Direction, huh? Well let’s see… is forward a direction? I can’t seem to find it on my compass, here. I think I may need a new compass. Perhaps I’d better sit back down.

Stand CenterR.E.M.’s tenure spanned (“ed” because they no longer exist) from 1980 to 2011. During that time they’ve gone through oodles of changes, the biggest being the loss of Michael Stipe’s hair. R.E.M. saw an abundance of time on the radio and bounced back and forth between the Top 10 hits walls. Stand would be their second to break through the coveted barrier of paint and drywall, and as a result, would permanently set up shop as “one of those songs that everybody has heard.”

I really, really dig R.E.M., but they’re mood music. I can’t just, say, throw on an R.E.M. album and go about my day. I need to be in that subtle, R.E.M. mood. You know the mood, somewhere between hopelessness and melancholia? You know that, but you don’t know Velcro… I give up. Listen to this song. It’ll help you take stock in your decisions in life.

Stand Back!As an aside, Wikipedia claims that Stand was released in January of 1989, and therefore would NOT be eligible for a post on 1988. The back sleeve indicates, twice, the year to be 1988. So, either there are some disgruntled people over at Wikipedia, or my R.E.M. Stand sleeve is a conniving liar. Why don’t YOU stand, Stand? My legs are getting tired and this line is long. Anybody out there know where I can find some VHS tapes?

1987: Don’t Let’s Start

SnowmanBar/None, one of the best singles to emerge from 1987, They Might Be Giants’ Don’t Let’s Start is a mindnumbingly-catchy little diddy that, when coupled with its amazing video that frequented the vid-screens of MTV, saw TMBG shooting harmonized-lighting into the ear-holes of everyone outside the confined NYC arena.

The Don’t Let’s Start single/EP/whatever-you-call-it contains the genre-bending favorite, The Famous Polka. If ever there was a fast-paced, accordion heavy, punk-polka anthem, it would be The Famous Polka (a personal favorite of The Prudent Groove).

BackBefore the Band of Dans, before the TMBG-ified big-band-sound, there were two Johns, Linnell & Flansburgh. Stripped down compared to their more recent work (anything past 1994), Don’t Let’s Start showcases the clever wit of these two mad-genius John boys. The following lyric captures the whimsically-savvy, yet devotedly-bleak outlook of TMBG, and is arguably the best line the band has ever written:

No one in the world ever gets what they want and that is beautiful
Everybody dies frustrated and sad and that is beautiful

I’m contemplating having the above phrase inscribed onto my epitaph. It’s a phrase that needs to be chanted from the mouths of babes for a solid 15 minutes at least once a day. That’ll learn ’em to see beauty!

If you’re new to the whole They Might Be Giants thing, start with their early work. Their fresh jams are like, totally proficient, man, don’t get me wrong, but nothing beats classic TMBG.Label

1986: Slippery When Wet

SlipperyIt’s interesting that mega-glam-rock band, Bon Jovi, would title a major label album after a janitor’s caution sign. Perhaps Jon Bon, ahem,  “lapped a few dirty halls” prior to becoming arguably the biggest rock star in the continental United States.

Jon Bon Jovi has come a long way since his first documented recording, singing lead vocals on R2-D2 We Wish You A Merry Christmas on the 1980 Star Wars Christmas album, Christmas in the StarsI’m not joking. Who knew that only six short years later he’d be slipping and sliding his way to the “hearts” of women across the world.

BackSlipper When Wet shows the band’s rapid maturity in the three short years since their 1984 debut.  Producing three Top 10 hits with this album alone, Livin’ on a Prayer, You Give Love a Bad Name and Wanted Dead or Alive, Jon Bon Jovi ( John Bongiovi) and crew single handedly became the soundtrack to late ’86 and early ’87. The band would see similar success with their follow up album, New Jersey, but 1986 marked Bon Jovi’s breakthrough into mainstream success.

Somewhere, right now, John Bongiovi is sipping an Old Fashioned and looking back at 1986, quite fondly I might add, and saying to himself (or to one of the several women in his room), “You know, it was all right. You know?” It was all right, Mr. Bongiovi. It was all right indeed.Slippery Cars

1985: Johnny B. Goode

Marty CoverChuck Berry has nothing on Marty McFly, I don’t care what year it is. As seen from the historically accurate documentary, Back to the Future, Marty McFly’s accidental encounter with The Starlighters proved to be something of fate; fate that would usher into the world a brash new sound pioneered by the smash single, Johnny B. Goode.

Marty McFly and The Starlighters conduct an orchestra of loud and fast rock n’ roll not seen or heard at the time of this song’s inaugural performance at the now famous, Enchantment Under the Sea Dance at Hill Valley High (this dance is often misnamed as the Fish Under the Sea Dance). At times, it’s as though The Starlighters are struggling to keep up with the fury from Mr. McFly’s guitar, but any loose playing by the dapper gents gives credence to the uncontrolled, live sound from this electrifying song.

Rumor has it that this song is originally a tale about Marty McFly himself, and that it was originally titled, Marty B. Goode. Some rare demo recordings of Marty B. Goode are reported to exist but I’ve yet to find anything online.

Every stale musical trend has an album, or a song that shuts the door on the style of modern day music, and launches the world into the inevitable next chapter. Marty McFly and The Starlighters turn that page of music history with the song, Johnny B. Goode, and they do it in jaw-dropping style.

1984: This is Spinal Tap

Smell the GloveForget for a moment that This is Spinal Tap set the groundwork for the Mocumentary genre. Forget that the painfully hilarious string of films, Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, and A Mighty Wind were helmed by the great guitarist, Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest). What needs to be remembered, or rather, never forgotten, is that Nigel (Guest), David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean) and Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer) wrote, composed, and produced this dark, eminent, Hard Rocker. Given this remarkable wisdom, a profound question arises: It’s like, how much more black could this be? The answer: None. None more black.

Talk about bum cakes, my girl’s got ’em!

Other Tap AlbumsThis is Spinal Tap acts as a sort of “Greatest Hits” album, spanning from the band’s early British Rock days, Gimme Some Money, drudging through their brief psychedelic phase (Listen to the) Flower People, and leaning heavily on their more recent, epic-Hard Rock phase Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight, Rock and Roll Creation, Heavy Duty, and of course, the alluring Stonehenge. This genre-bending, zucchini-in-tin-foil-wrapping, cold-sore-getting, drummer-losing, airplane-hanger-playing, kickass-rock-and-roll band bet the (sex) farm on this album, and it paid off. Regardless of the genre, Spinal Tap give a perfect 11 on each and every song they record.

For those times when you’re in the mood to get rocked, Stonehenge-rocked like Stonehenge, Spinal Tap are your rock-and-roll saviors.

BTW, If anybody finds a decently priced LP of Intravenus de Milo, shoot me a line.

1983: Return of the Jedi Read-Along

VaderThis is the story, of Return of the Jedi. You can read along with me in your book. You will know it is time to turn the page when you hear Artoo-Detoo beep like this, “Boop, beep-beep, boop. BOO-BEW!”

Let’s begin now:

Throughout the early 80s, Star Wars, with its vast world filled with luscious characters, could be found fighting for galactic power in your cereal bowl, your pencil kit, on the laces your shoes, on your back helping to carry your books, on your waist to help keep your pants up, packaged with bubble gum as little cardboard trading cards, and as a beaming Prudent Groove would like to acknowledge, a 24 page read-along with 33 1/3rpm record containing the story, music and photos from the original motion picture, Return of the Jedi. Me as a 4-year-old, “You mean, I can LISTEN to the story and FOLLOW ALONG with my very own book?!” Mind = blown.

Boop, beep-beep, boop. BOO-BEW!

Read-Along ColoredStar Wars was such a massive part of my generation’s childhood that, for me, it’s difficult to see the printed year 1983 and NOT think Return of the Jedi. And thanks to this little read-along-reminder-guy, I can relive the great tale of (spoiler alert!) the Rebel Alliance defeating the Galactic Empire in grand, book-turning fashion.

Boop, beep-beep, boop. BOO-BEW!

The narrator does a good job of keeping the story going with his smooth, yet demonstrative voice. Sound effects are lifted directly from the film, as is the classic John Williams’ score. The movie stills were great to analyze as a kid (this was back when it was difficult to pause a VHS tape at the exact moment you wanted), but the REAL fun of this little 7” lies in the voice actors hired to portray the story’s main characters: Luke, Han & Leia. It became apparent early on in this read-along that the Luke Skywalker standing up to Jabba the Hut (original voice), was NOT the Luke you knew and loved. This was immediately jarring, but, like a child’s mind works, was quickly forgotten when Artoo-Detoo prompted:

Boop, beep-beep, boop. BOO-BEW!

Read-Along BackI’m ecstatic that I kept this little gem from my wonder years, but then again I keep EVERYTHING (much to the dismay of my GF and my parents). This book and record set is worth seeking out if only to chuckle at the stand-in voice acting cast.

Leia hugged him. “Come join us, my brave Jedi.” She led him back to their circle of friends – heroes together to the end.

1982: Nebraska

NebraskaThis is the Bruce Springsteen you WISH your father had listened to… except, then your father probably would have been too damned depressed and self-indulged to gather enough strength to nurture you as a child so, maybe Born in the U.S.A. WAS better “father” material.

Man turns his back on his family

Well he just ain’t no good

Some urban legends are created to help sell a less than interesting story. I don’t feel this is the case with Bruce Springsteen and his approach to Nebraska. Furthermore, I’ll refuse to feed any notion to this legend’s contrary. Legend has it that Mr. ‘Steen locked himself inside a hotel room and recorded this album to 4-track tape. The story continues with “The Boss” presenting the results to his mates, the E Street Band, which resulting in them all recording the songs, all studio-like. The legend concludes that the versions recorded with the band were too polished, and too produced, so Bruce mixed his demo hotel session and, well, that’s what we’re hearing. Nebraska is, without esteemed hesitation, the best work Bruce Springsteen ever produced… and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise (only to buy them a drink after the inevitable scuffle while listening to, well, this album).

BloodWhen shifted 45 degrees clockwise, the lyric sheet, with its red text cascading down a black canvas, somewhat resembles trickling blood catered by the destitute victims offered by the deviant characters residing throughout Nebraska (Nebraska, Johnny 99, Highway Patrolman). Everything, eventually, returns to the Earth. Blood, epithelial tissue, and sorrow are no exception.

My friend, who introduced me to this album, presented it with a caveat: Don’t listen to this album while drinking alone. Sound advice; that which I would repeat to new listeners as well as to the frequent Springsteen flyer.

Maybe you got a kid

Maybe you got a pretty wife

The only that I got’s

Been botherin’ me my whole life

Nebraska BackNebraska is the answer to the question you’ve yet to realize the need to ask. It exists so that you may see the light of tomorrow, it offers a chance for you to accept your weathered self, and it strengthens the muscles in your neck that help to lift your head from your pillow each morning. It exists, so that you can too. Thanks, Boss.

1981: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables

DK Cover OrangeThe Reagan Era produced arguably the best collection of anti-American, pro-working class Hardcore Punk this country has ever seen. Leading the pack of such inspiring bands as, Black Flag, Descendents, Minutemen, Bad Brains, Youth Brigade, Minor Threat, and Misfits, the uncompromising Dead Kennedys allowed for their front man, the eccentrically morbid-genius Jello Biafra, to satirically rave and rant about his dismal outlook on society… but you know, with wizard-like fervor.

Not unlike Frank Zappa’s sarcastic approach to lyric writing, Jello Biafra taunted the press, California Governor Jerry Brown, and the military draft (to name only a few), often to hilarious effect. Biafra could have easily been a strikingly successful stand-up comedian. He’s like that idiosyncratic great uncle that won’t shut up about ANYTHING that’s on his mind (“let’s lynch the landlord,” “drug me with your crossword puzzles,” “the economy is looking bad, let’s start another war,” stuff like that), but who isn’t at all incorrect in his genial ramblings. The music is fast and sometimes ventures into such conflicting genres as Rockabilly, Spaghetti Western and Surf.

BackFresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables was originally released on September 2, 1980 in the UK with the familiar black cover. I.R.S. (the label, not the hording institution) issued an unauthorized orange cover for the album’s US debut. The band was animate in protest over this decision, and the now rare orange cover was withdrawn and re-released with the original black cover. I forgot that this version of the album drops in Police Truck on the first side between Let’s Lynch the Landlord and Drug Me. Police Truck isn’t released on the original UK version, but was instead offered as a b-side to the Holiday in Cambodia single.

Dead Kennedys landed a knockout blow with their debut, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables. They would go on to produce only three more albums, but their immortal impact has proved to be timeless and infinitely unforgettable. If you can stomach fast, morbid Hardcore, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables comes deeply recommended.

1980: London Calling

London CoverFive days after the conclusion of a decade filled with orange, brown, swagger and abundance (the 1970s), the United States saw a paramount release that that would transcend every other album released throughout the rest of the decade. On January 5th, 1980, Americans received a message from across the pond. It was a message of conflict, disdain and unforgettable beauty. This message… the uncompromising London Calling.

Five days into the 80s, and the decade saw its best work… crazy. Released a few weeks earlier in its native land (December 14, 1979 in the UK), London Calling became the owner of the #8 spot on Rolling Stone’s list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. #8… all time. 8… out of 500! This isn’t news to the majority of you as you probably already own this treasured album, and if you don’t, I’ll pretend not to know you in public next time I see you… seriously… GET this album!

Calling BackBridging the weathered gap between Hard Rock, Punk, Reggae, Lounge Jazz, Rockabilly and Ska (to name a few of the many genres defining this “epic” album… it was actually released on Epic Records in the states, so HA!), The Clash were able to showcase their angst towards authority, their cry for better paying jobs, their thoughts on civil war, love, and the church, and they were able to do it by staying within the confines of the social attention span. The Clash found that the message of insolence, distrust, hope and liberation could reach more ears if the music was more accessible to a broader audience.

Everyone who has ever learned to type has written about this album, so anything I say here won’t be groundbreaking. I will however express my personal affection towards this gem, and try to offer its beauty onto others. I’m a London Calling pusher, essentially… and I’ve got a quota to meet, so shoot up!

Rudie LyricsReally quickly, I’ll get into this then I’ll leave you the hell alone. It was July 1997 and I’d just turned 18. I was sharing a room with my best friend and we were both in our infant stage of record collecting. He with his Jimmy Durante, Glenn Miller and Dean Martin, and I with my Beastie Boys, NOFX and Doobie Brothers. There is a little store in Madison, Wisconsin called Half Price Books. If you’re from the Midwest you’ve undoubtedly been there. It was at the East Side location where I found my calling of the London variety. I’d already owned 1982’s Combat Rock, and was eager for more from the almighty Clash. Anyway, to make a long, drawn-out story short, the first side to the first record (London Calling is a double LP, btw) instantly became the soundtrack to our summer, with Rudie Can’t Fail becoming our favorite, miss-quotable song (substituting “chicken-boo for breakfast” instead of the proper “drinking brew…” something I still do to this day).

Maybe it was because that summer saw us living on our own for the first time, but for us, London Calling equaled liberation. Few albums attach themselves to such monumentally important moments in an individual’s life. The acute notice these moments, and they never forget them. London Calling, for all its global importance, still manages to satisfy my local, nostalgic needs.Offensive Boyo