Dec 152010

I’m fascinated by weirdo albums by major artists, records that may not necessarily be great but are in their own weird way more interesting that a lot of the artists’ “better” work because they strive for something unique, show an extreme version of the artist and/or show them in a good-spirited I-don’t-give-a-crap mode. These records were generally hated by both critics and the public but look a whole lot better in retrospect than they did upon release.


  • Leonard Cohen‘s Death of a Ladies Man (a collaboration between two geniuses, Cohen and Phil Spector, in which the sparsest of the sparse meets wall of sound and tries to rock out while fantasizing about naked bodies. He never sounded happier. I think it’s a masterpiece, but I can also sympathize with people who think it sucks).
  • Randy Newman‘s Born Again (in which the artist tries to offend absolutely everyone, including those who previously liked him for the right reasons, both lyrically and with bizzare snyth-heavy arrangements that do not sound like an ’80s sell-out, but rather like nothing else from the ’70s or ’80s).
  • John EntwistlesWhistle Rymes (a deeply personal, uniquely quirky album that I find a zillion times more evocative than Tommy or Quadrophenia).
  • Prince‘s Black Album (though that one tended to get favorable critical commentary).
  • All those crazy Neil Young albums from the ’80s.

Anyone wish to nominate a few more and comment on them?

Mar 202009

Cleveland’s Classic Rock station polled its listeners to choose the 10 top rock vocalists, and I was shocked by the results. It’s not like I was expecting a list I would like from fans of this type of radio station, but nonetheless, I was amazed that Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, and Janis Joplin didn’t make the list at all, and I never in a million years would have guessed #1. (When they got to #2 yesterday, and the above-mentioned four were not on the list, I assumed that Jagger would easily be #1. A coworker and I were discussing who had not shown up yet, and Freddie Mercury never once crossed either of our minds.)

Anyway, here’s the list.

Would anyone else have guessed #1? Or #3 or #5, for that matter?

1. Freddie Mercury (Queen)
2. Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin & Solo)
3. Paul Rodgers (Bad Company, Free & Solo)
4. Roger Daltrey (Who)
5. Ann Wilson (Heart)
6. Bob Seger
7. Stevie Nicks (Fleetwood Mac & Solo)
8. Jim Morrison (Doors)
9. Steve Perry (Journey)
10. Steven Tyler (Aerosmith)

Dec 112008

Songs from this album are not eligible for nomination.

Sometimes you learn more about people’s taste from what they don’t like than from what they do like.

Keeping that in mind, I’m asking people to post their choices for worst song by each of five key ’60s/’70s artists. The only caveat is that the songs should be from the prime parts of their career (ie, nothing from Empire Burlesque from Dylan, no ’90s Stones songs, no solo McCartney, and no live or otherwise alternate versions of songs.) I’m more interested in the “why” than I am which song people choose, so please back up your choices!

The artists are

  • The Beatles
  • The Rolling Stones
  • The Who
  • Led Zeppelin
  • Bob Dylan.

My choices follow the jump.
Continue reading »

Nov 212008

I’ll be polite with my quotes here, but in my never-ending research into the history of rock and roll, I’m trying to make sense of the history of profanity in lyrics (as opposed to spoken profanity on rock records—stuff like The MC5‘s “Kick Out The Jams,” the Suzy Creamcheese obscenities on Uncle Meat, offhand stuff in the background like Lennon shouting “f*****g hell” in “Hey Jude,” The Last Poets, etc).

For the moment, leaving out rather obscure or underground acts like The Fugs, Pearls Before Swine, Joy Unlimited (whose 1970 song “Rankness” is probably the most extreme song anyone would do until Marianne Faithfull’s “Why’d Ya Do It”), and so on, I think the earliest use I can find would be The Jefferson Airplane with “bulls**t” on Crown of Creation and two uses of the f-word on Volunteers (the lyric sheets censored all of them, making “fred” one of my favorite euphemisms). Al Stewart made a lot of waves in 1969 with the f-word on Love Chronicles, and I just wish I was old enough to have seen the world’s response to Lennon’s profanities on Plastic Ono Band (or did the earlier Two Virgins cover create a jaded public whom Lennon could no longer shock?).

Anyway, I have a couple of tacks I’d love to see people comment on.

1) Very major acts. All of the very most significant ’60s-into-’70s artists let loose with some at some point. The Stones first, on “Rocks Off” (1972), The Who on “Young Man Blues” on Live at Leeds (1970), Dylan on “Hurricane,” Lennon as mentioned above, Pink Floyd on Animals, etc… Oddly enough, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath are, as far as I can tell, wholly obscenity-free, lyrically. Most relatively major artists I can think of have at least something during their ’70s output. Can anyone think of any who were 100% clean throughout?

2) Early usage—anything from, say, 1972 or before in rock or soul/R&B? I’m sure there are plenty I don’t know.

3) Radio edits and non-edits. Starting in the ’90s, obscene lyrics were in tons of popular songs, blipped or wiped completely. But there were a few key ones in the ’70s: Lou Reed’s “Walk On The Wild Side” and Jefferson Starship’s “Miracles” come to mind, where the radio verion was blipped. More interestingly, there are some where to this day classic rock still plays the uncut versions: Pink Floyd’s “Money,” The Who’s “Who Are You,” etc… I remember as a kid being shocked to note that not only did Dylan’s “Hurricane” have swears in it, but that the 45 left them in on both the A- and B-side of the split single. Anyone want to add to either of these lists?

Would you believe that my interest in this topic was recently rekindled by my first listen to Gordon Lightfoot‘s 1974 Sundown album, on which he says s**t on two different songs?


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