[This started a week or so ago as a sort of parlor game over at Facebook, but at some point it occurred to me it would be appropriate to post the equivalent over here. In any case, enjoy. -- S.S.]
Okay, kids here we go.
The Post-Elvis Songs or Albums -- In Any Genre Whatsoever -- That Totally Changed Your Life!!!
Excluding the Canonical BeatlesByrdsStonesWhoDylanKinksBeachBoysSpringfieldZombiesBigStar Etc. That Everybody Likes, or Should!!!
And my not at all top of my head Top Ten exemplars of same are...
10. John Cale -- Paris 1919
Or as we call it at Casa Simels, "Procol Harum meets Little Feat and the Velvet Underground, and then they all go out for dinner at Maxims."
9. Richard X. Heyman -- Actual Sighs
Why, you ask? Well, here's my review of the album that masterpiece song derives from.
8. The Loud Family -- Plants and Birds and Rocks and Things
The closest thing to the side two medley of Abbey Road as has ever been achieved by anybody.
7. Lothar and the Hand People -- Presenting...
The first synth pop record and by far still the best (and the band were really snazzy dressers, too). These guys were the coolest underground act in NYC back in their day, and I was lucky enough to see them open for The Byrds at the Village Gate in 1966. So there.
6. George Gershwin/Michael Tilson Thomas -- Rhapsody in Blue
The ghost of the composer (via piano roll) with live accompaniment by a simpatico conductor using Gershwin's original small jazz band orchestration (rather than the familiar traditional full orchestra version by Ferde Grofe). And Gershwin plays it like a jazz guy.
5. The Firesign Theatre -- Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers
True stories of working people as told by rich Hollywood stars!
From my liner notes to the FT box set:
Remarkable as How Can You Be was, however, it hardly prepared the group's now sizeable audience for the next Firesign Theatre release, 1970's Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers. Here, everything came together - the parodies of TV commercials and televangelists ("We had our knives sharpened for television on Dwarf," Austin says), the post-modern self-referential touches (you hear the other side of a phone conversation previously heard on Nick Danger, the mastery of sound effects and music (The B-movie takeoff, High School Madness, sounds astonishingly like the real soundtrack to some half-remembered Monogram youth film of the '40s). But what hit hardest for many listeners was Dwarf's unprecedented ending, in which the protagonist, old actor George Leroy Tirebiter (named after a locally famous dog who used to chase cars at USC) wakes up in front of his TV all alone on the top of the hill in sector R, then dashes out to chase a stray ice cream truck, his voice trailing off into childhood as he fades into the distance. By this point, of course, people expected funny from the Firesign Theatre; inexplicably moving was something else completely.
4. Howlin' Wolf -- The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions
Yes -- skinny, pasty-faced white boys can play the blues authoritatively, without embarrassing themselves in the company of the titans of the genre.
Also: Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, and Ian Stewart -- no better rhythm section ever existed for this music.
3. Bruce Springsteen -- Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.
I'll take a wild stab here and suggest that anybody who's been reading my poor scribblings over the years is totally shocked -- SHOCKED!!! -- at this particular entry.
2. Moby Grape -- Moby Grape
The greatest American debut album of all time. A fantastically exciting three guitar attack, they all sang (brilliantly) and they all wrote (even more brilliantly). Plus, they had a punk rock attitude -- as Greil Marcus famously said, their best recordings sounded less like songs and more like gang fights.
And my number one choice, there was never a moment's doubt in my mind about its inclusion, is obviously --
1. The Replacements -- Let it Be
I had never heard of or listened to these guys until my brilliant colleague Glenn Kenny (now a film critic over at the New York Times) did a 1984 piece on the album for the Village Voice. They sounded like my cup of tea, so I borrowed somebody's copy of the LP and gave it a spin. And nothing was the same afterwards. This was to me, and still is, what rock-and-roll is supposed to sound like -- passionate, funny, heartbreaking, melodic, snotty, and really fucking loud.
Alrighty, then -- what would YOUR choices be?
And have a great weekend, everybody!!!