I am having a hard time wheedling this down to 10 tracks, so I’ll just keep going and you can stop the tracks at 10. I will also include a brief description of each song and why or how it saved/saves my life. Some of the choices are affected by the technology change of cds, since, for instance, the best Kate Bush cuts are on vinyl, a medium I have only lowfi access to, and this changes my relationship to them.
01. PROKOFIEV piano concerto #3
This was, along with The Rite of Spring, my favorite classical piece as a kid, and the ecstatic nature of the piano climaxes are a sometimes lifesaving element that edges out Rite in personal terms, even though it is less important in historical terms.
02. UTE LEMPER lullaby
This whole list could be all Scott Walker compositions, and this choice could just as easily be Scope J, also written and produced by him for Lemper. The combination of his late structural approach, layering of orchestral and electronic elements, great melodic moments and Lemper’s strong emotive delivery make this the unfortunately only choice of his great ouvre that I can fit into a list of 10 tracks.
03. JOHN FAHEY america
Again a whole list could be made from Fahey tracks, I chose this one due to the delirious hotdogging guitar work he allows himself. Usually his guitar stays on the spare side, and any other song off his first 4 Takoma albums could take it’s place. (not the long version that’s on the album called America, but a shorter version, can’t remember the album title).
04. THE VELVET UNDERGROUND i heard her call my name
Simply the greatest guitar solo in all of rock’n’roll, along with representing all the great other stuff the Velvets and members (Nico, John Cale) produced over the years.
05. KARL DENVER TRIO whimoweh
Possibly the most insane vocal ever featured on a hit record, it made me want to do everything I could with my voice. Oddly, though it was his first, and I believe biggest hit in England, the rest of the recordings are much tamer, rarely going into the stratospheric realms he achieves on this cut.
06. THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND koeeaddi there
These guys became my favorite psychedelic band among many in high school, and this album (The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter), unmarred by any of their bad comedy songs, is a jewel that I think was as precisely timed for leaving childhood as the Beatles were 3 years earlier for entering adolescence.
07. ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN my kingdom
Not as great an album as Heaven Up Here, this song as a single slice of post-punk melodic pop is actually uplifting. The Bunnymen are here standing in for all the music of that era (Wire, Magazine, Fall, Kate Bush etc.) that I think of as the end of my adolescent angst (I was entering my 30s, after all).
08. YES siberian khatru
I can’t leave the 70s without including at least one Prog tune, so it rests upon the shoulders of this composition that combines delirious guitar riffs with pseudo classical bridges in a form that straddles pop song and pretension in a near perfect form. It beats out Gates of Delerium, or Karneval 9 or any Steve Hackett climactic guitar as the prog rep on this short list.
09. KING PLEASURE diaper
All of jazz is hereby represented by this obscure cut by Pleasure- The lyrics are so inventive and the delivery perfect, the Freudian elements strewn throughout, I listen a lot more to Sun Ra or On the Corner by Miles Davis, but this is for sure a song! ( on the cd I have there are 2 versions, one with sappy strings, and the original with less orchestration that is the superior version).
10. HOMER QUINCY SMITH i want jesus to talk with me
This ancient 78 has the most intensity of feeling melody and delivery of any of the myriad stellar 20’s gospel and blues recordings we have been blessed with in the years since the rerelease of the Harry Smith compilation, and it stands in for what amounts to the bulk of my listening recent years, compilations of American Primitive and World ethnographic recordings like the Secret Museum series.
Here are some more that should not be left out but had to be :
The Weaver and the Factory Maid by Steeleye Span, The Famous Flower of Serving Men by Martin Carthy, 2 great English folk recordings that always bring me to tears, I Must Be Born by Bobby Brown, a socal street performer who lived in his van, made his own instruments, had his own psychedelic theology and a killer voice, A Rainbow In Curved Air by Terry Riley, I lost my virginity to this cut, though I prefer the flip side, From The Bottom of My Heart by the Moody Blues, the follow up to Go Now, with a doomy feel and a maniacally great ending vocal, Have I the Right/ by the Honeycombs, my favorite song in 7th grade, Time Was by Canned Heat, I was more affected by Alan Wilson’s death than by the surrounding deaths of Hendrix, Morrison and Joplin, he was like me an ubernerd whose brief recorded output should be re-examined, Wonderful by the Beach Boys, though they recorded as lot of wonderful sad music during Brian’s great madness (Cabinessence, Friends, sail on sailor, etc.0 I chose this as I sing it every night to my daughter, Out In The Streets by the Stooges, just heir greatest cut ever, and the one band I can remember at every pop festival or Michigan concert I attended, Interval by SRC, the third leg of the Michigan triad with the Stooges and MC5, a great winding circle of a song with great guitar, Section 43 by Country Joe and the Fish, the climax of a great album that attempted to put the psychedelic experience on record, using minimal means, great moments of silence said a lot in those days, Lumpy Gravy side one, by Frank Zappa, veteran’s Da Poppy by Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, my friends were obeisant to Zappa in all things, and I guaranteed one that if he didn’t like this interesting album on Zappa’s label, I’d buy it from him. Something changed in me, Evenings of Light by Nico, another game changer, PumPum on a String by Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, an early reggay (as it was spelled on the cover) album my dad brought home from a convention in Toronto where they were playing in the hotel-I didn’t know what to make of the primitive sounds and out of date cover art, but this song with it’s melody taken from The Little Drummer Boy, lyrics about pussy and strings that don’t fit the song in any way was something entirely strange, Needles In The Camels Eye by Eno, the breaks in this song that consist of silences gave me the idea that I could also make some kind of music,Some cut by Hans Reichel or Fred Frith, these, along with the purchase of an early guitar synthesizer and a used echoplex informed my guitar work, for what that’s worth, Song forRejoicing After a Hunt by the Ba-Benzele pygmies, simply the greatest musical society on earth, The Morning Bell by Radiohead, just to show my musical Synapses didn’t completely dry up in 1983, though I think that most of our emotive ties to music are made in adolescence, Brunceling’s Song by the Fatima Mansions, every time I tell someone they are one of my favorite bands, if they’ve heard of them, they look at me like I’m crazy, and to prove I’m still an ubernerd, Space Dog by Tori Amos, what can I say, I’m a sucker for melody and a strong voice. Oh yes, the Beatles and the Byrds had a lot of resonant songs.
Jim Shaw, 2012