Friday, June 20, 2014

Weekend Listomania's Greatest Hits: Special Great Thoughts of Western Man! Edition

[I originally posted the following Listomania back in September of 2009, but let's not bring the whole burning of Atlanta thing up after all these years. In any event, I think it's still a kind of interesting topic to ponder; as is my wont with these vault plunderings, I've done some rewriting and changed an entry or two. I should add that I find it curious that back in the day I did not even attempt to slip in a Smashing Pumpkins album. -- S.S.]

Best or Worst Post-Elvis Rock or Pop Concept Album!!!

Self-explanatory, I think, but for purposes of clarity, when I use the term "concept album" I simply mean a record in which some overarching theme, however tenuous, is discernible. As a result no arbitrary rules this time, although I should think you'd be ashamed to nominate a generic greatest hits package.

And my totally top of my head Top Six is:

6. Marty Robbins -- Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs

From 1959, a genuine crossover classic; "El Paso" is the best known cut, but the whole album works. That's Robbins on the cover, BTW, and in case you didn't notice he's doing Richard Boone as Palladin from Have Gun, Will Travel.

5. The Turtles -- Present the Battle of the Bands

The concept here is that the Turtles play each cut in a different style, from surf to country to hard rock, in post Sgt. Pepper guise as other bands. It's not really pursued all that rigorously, but since it features "Elenore" and the above gorgeous take on the early Byrds outtake "You Showed Me," I've always cut them a little slack.

4. Fucked Up -- David Comes to Life

A sort of post-modern rock opera set in England in the '70s and '80s.

You know, I rather like the idea (rather than the reality) of this band, and I once saw Damian Abraham, the lead singer of this bunch interviewed on my orthicon tube a few years ago, and found him surprisingly funny and politically very astute

That said, I'd rather have my eyes gouged out with a melon-baller than watch the guy shirtless in a live gig.

3. Garth Brooks -- the Life of Chris Gaines

Brooks in his bizarre incarnation as a supposedly legendary 90s alt-rocker. I don't care if the damn thing sold two million copies -- it's a prime contender for biggest What the Fuck Was He Thinking? album in music history.

2. The Beatles -- Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Yeah, yeah, yeah -- I know it's over-exposed (so is Bach's B-Minor Mass) and some people think it's a period piece (those people are just being difficult.)

Sorry, it's the tits. Deal with it.

And the most memorable for whatever reason High Concept rock or pop album obviously is --

1. The Paragons and The Jesters -- The Paragons Meet the Jesters

The very first (after the fact) thematic rock compilation (1959), and thanks to the brilliantly art-directed leather bar juvenile delinquent cover photo -- let's face it, Lou Reed based an entire esthetic on it -- still one of the most iconic.

Alrighty then -- and who would your choices be?

[h/t Joy Brodsky Thurston]


Billy B said...

What? No "Tommy"? "Quadrophenia"?

Anonymous said...

My Top Lucky Seven (The obvious ones)

The Who Sell Out

Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon (etc.)

David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust

Zappa - We're Only In It For the Money (I suppose Freak Out and Absolutely Free as well)

The Kinks Muswell Hillbillies

Willie Nelson - The Red Headed Stranger

Beach Boys Smile


Honorable mentions

Pretty Things S.F. Sorrow

Serge Gainsbourg - Historie de Melody Nelson

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - Will the Circle Be Unbroken

Metallica - And Justice For All

Husker Du - Zen Arcade

Small Faces - Ogden's Nut

Lou Reed - Berlin

Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral

Worst concept:

Yes - Tales from Topographic Oceans (even though I enjoy Ritual once every blue moon [if the studio version is edited into the live version at the percussive section]

Oh wait, there's one that is far worse:

Vanilla Fudge - The Beat Goes On (what shit!!!)

Vickie Rock

P.S. Steve, if you did a concept album, what would you title it?

Anonymous said...


I forgot to mention that if I did a concept album, it would be a double.

It would be titled:

Dripping Desperate Romantic Longing

Vickie Rock

Shriner said...

Jesus Christ Superstar -- for the win!

steve simels said...

"Let Em All Go Hell Except Cave 76!"

Anonymous said...


Damn, you're old

Vickie Rock

cthulhu said...

Well, on the "good to great" side of things, there's the Who's quartet, ordered in my cut at, well, good to great: Tommy, Quadrophenia and The Who Sell Out (a tie), and Who's Next (the remains of the stillborn Lifehouse project, one of the most fascinating failures in rock history).

Warren Zevon's Transverse City is pretty good; "Splendid Isolation" has some nice zingers, and David Lindley's slide guitar in "Down in the Mall" is transplendent.

In high school, several of us were transfixed by Pink Floyd's The Wall, but 35 years later, I find it unlistenable except for David Gilmour's soaring guitar in "Comfortably Numb".

And of course, Big Daddy's debut album remains a touchstone of imagination, and their cover of Sgt. Pepper...brilliant!

Anonymous said...

Hello, please remain seated,

I will un-ashamedly nominate Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell to the mix.


Jai Guru Dave said...

I think it's got to be the Weasels, performing under the guise of "The Sad Old Padres" (currently being recorded).
Especially notable for Glenn, as the goofy padre who sings the novelty songs in a fake southern accent.

Anonymous said...

Arthur--The Kinks.

Brian Leonard

Noam Sane said...


If you think the Bonzos were all haha jokey, think again. There are some great straight-up pop songs in their arsenal. Reach up and grab them! But wear a glove.

Anonymous said...

Someone please say The Village Green Preservation Society.

Doing something wrong to prove that I am right,

Vickie Rock

Hannes A. Jónsson said...

The Kinks - "The Village Green Preservation Society".
Alice Cooper - "From the Inside".

Worst: Pink Floyd - "The Wall".

Anonymous said...

More worst:

Roger Waters - Radio KAOS [and pretty much all of his boring self-important solo stuff)

Styx - Mr. Roboto

Jethro Tull - A Passion Play which is bad enough without the wretched Hare Who Lost His Spectacles.

Domo Arigato

Vickie Rock

buzzbabyjesus said...

Where the Hell is Roy Wood and Wizzard's "Introducing Eddy And The Falcons"?

Thanks for leaving me one not already mentioned.

Here are some based around a concept without being a Rock Opera:
Kraftwerk's "Man Machine"
Brian Eno's "Music For Airports"
The Kronos Quartet "Monk Suite"

Anonymous said...


Husker Du - Zen Arcade (the punk Quadrophenia)
Jefferson Starship - Blows Against the Empire
Genesis - Lamb Lies Down
Magnetic Fields - 69 Love Songs

Not sure:

Rush - 2112
Nillson - The Point


Godley & Creme - Consequences

honorable mention - 2nd side of Pretzel Logic

John Fowler said...

First, I'll echo cthulhu's Who noms, esp. Quadrophenia

My own nominees:
Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway - probably the antithesis to everything this blog was founded upon; someone may list it as a worst. However, I loved this when I was a teen/college age guy - and find that I still come back to it as an adult, when the mood is right. Still have no clue about what the story means, but, it seems (musically and thematically) to work together across the entire album; and parts of it rock (eg title cut), are great tunes (e.g., Carpet Crawlers), or are just entertainingly weird (e.g., Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging). Here's "poor quality concert footage of The Carpet Crawlers"

Liz Phair - Exile in Guyville - apparently, the 'response to Exile on Main Street' concept was tacked on after-the-fact. But, the concept was interesting enough, and the album is just wonderful. Still my favorite album of the 90's. Here's "Never Said"

Tom Waits - Frank's Wild Years - you could make that case that many of Waits' albums are concept albums, but this one is the most overt/story-like. Perhaps not quite up to Swordfishtrombones or Rain Dogs musically, but pretty close. Live "Cold Cold Ground"

Sufjan Stevens - Illinoise - gets long at the end, and I can't listen to the John Wayne Gacy track anymore, but otherwise, still think this is a great listen. Live "Chicago".

Sloan -Never Hear the End of It - great great medley/song bits/power pop, expanding the feel of Abbey Road side 2 to an entire album. I owe this blog for bringing me to this one, double plus thanks! Great live performance: "Ill Placed Trust"

for worst, I will echo Vickie's nom of Styx's album with Mr. Roboto (song); the name of the album was Kilroy Was Here though - I confess to owning it at the time (covers head and hides).

Anonymous said...

I actually knew the name of the Styx LP but didn't want to in any way besmirch the fine acting abilities of Warren Berlinger.

Vickie Rock

John Fowler said...

HI Vickie -
sorry, who is Warren Berlinger and what's the connection?

steve simels said...

John F:

You are so right about Sloan. I'm sorry I didn't think of it myself....

Anonymous said...

John F

Berlinger was a character actor and star of "Kilroy" which was on Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color back in the mid-Sixties. Not wanting to besmirch his acting abilities is rather insulting to the album. I suppose it's a bit of an obscure reference.

I know what Lamb's about. You gotta get in to get out.

Giggling wisely with my body glowing bright,

Vickie Rock

John Fowler said...

Steve - yep, Listomania inspired another listen, even as I type. iTunes tells me that I've played the album 54 times now...

Gummo said...

Did I miss Thick As A Brick somewhere there? Really?

I was sick in bed for a month during my senior year in high school. I think I listened to Thick As A Brick every day -- I even read the entire damned newspaper that made up the concept cover sleeve.

It was a looooong month. For better or worse, that album got me through it.

And then came Passion Play, one of the worst albums of all time.

Is "Nashville Skyline" a concept album? How about "Self Portrait"?

Tommy blew my 12-year-old mind in 1968. Quadrophrenia took longer to sink in, but a lot of the individual songs are richer.

And I'm not a Zappa fan, but what about Ruben and the Jets?

And it's rare that a live album is also a concept album, but I would suggest that that description fits Phil Ochs's Gunfighter at Carnegie Hall. An album I loved as a youngster, esp. since for the longest time it was only available in the States as a Canadian import!

Loved the Kinks, but most of their concept work left me cold.

The original album of Jesus Christ Superstar -- before Hollywood, before Broadway -- was pretty great, too.

Oh dear. I could go on and on....

Gummo said...

Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music. Where the concept is, "Fuck you."

cthulhu said...

Gummo, I think the concept of MMM is better expressed as "Fuck You, RCA"...

Anonymous said...

From 2002:

"I've always loved 'Metal Machine Music,'" Reed told a news conference in Berlin on Friday. "I think, after 27 years, it's time to let some other people into it." Reed insisted that "this, to me, is what contemporary classical [music] should sound like." But, he recalled, "it had a very, very bad reception. It was taken off the market in three weeks."

Man do I love/hate that guy

Vickie Rock

P.S. Worst Concept LP: Lou Reed and Metallica - Lulu

Does Jackson Browne's Running On Empty qualify as concept?

What about Radiohead and Muse? No love here? Van Dyke Parks?

John Fowler said...

Vickie -
which Radiohead album(s) would you consider concept albums? I have a bit of a hard time distinguishing between a concept album and one that holds together really well musically and thematically, perhaps due to the time period/focused interest of the artist during recording. For example, Revolver (to me) holds together amazingly well as a piece, without having a specific concept behind it. I thought of several others along this line - Kiko by Los Lobos; New Adventures in Hi-Fi by R.E.M.; Doolittle by the Pixies. To me, both OK Computer and Kid A are great and hold together well, but I'm unsure of the concept.

Course, I could be over-niggling over the fine points here, it's happened before...

Hannes A. Jónsson said...

Genesis, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd. I'm appalled. What's next - ELP?!

On a more positive note then...

Sham 69 - "That's Life"
Alice Cooper - "Welcome to My Nightmare"
David Axelrod - "Song of Innocence" (Although bits of it scare me)
David Axelrod - "Songs of Experience"
Joe Meek - "I Hear a New World - An Outer Space Music Fantasy" (Yeah, just as bonkers as that sounds)

dSmith said...

I never liked "Thick as a Brick" but I always loved that on the cover the child who supposedly wrote the poem is referred to as "Little Milton", a shout out to the poet and a bluesman.

edward said...

When you consider the working titles of "Emotional Fascism" and "More Songs About Fucking and Fighting", Elvis Costello and the Attractions "Armed Forces" makes perfect sense for this category.

The Clash "Sandanista"

Springsteen "Nebraska"

Anonymous said...

John F:

You make great points about concept compared to cohesion. I think Radiohead would deny any concept to their works, nevertheless, stuff like Kid A and Amnesiac have that quality to them.

Hell, I think Beggars Banquet is a concept LP, even if accidental. The Stones really tied the room together with that one.

Drive-by Truckers - The Dirty South is also wonderful.

Mingus Tijuana Moods and Miles Sketches of Spain seem to fit too. Lots of jazz does.

Julie London About the Blues, man.

Rickie Lee - The Sermon On Exposition Boulevard.

Vickie Rock taping Hitchcock and Crowell tonight. Two rigs, two places. It's great being at both and neither one jump behind time.

P.S. Billy Joe Dookie - American Simpleton

Dave said...

What's Going On -- Marvin Gaye

Pet Sounds --Even though Brian never talks about it in this context, it's clearly a song cycle about the birth and death of a romantic relationship, starting pre-sex with the innocence of "Wouldn't It Be Nice" and ending with the world-weariness of "Caroline No." "Sloop John B" was not originally going to be on the album, and shouldn't be. I've always felt that the title of the instrumental that precedes it, "Let's Go Away for a While," was an ironic nod to the unsuitability of placing "Sloop" on the album.

Village Green Preservation Society -- Kinks

Illinois -- Sufjian Stevens

Anonymous said...

I'll nominate the Eagles' "DESPERADO" album, because I still really enjoy listening to it and no one else has picked it.

J. Lag

Anonymous said...

J. Lag: re: Eagles Desperado

"Saturday Night" is one of the best waltzes ever written. The mandolin is soooo tasty. Gorgeous song.

The Eagles get put down a lot, but those guys knew how to write songs.

You can't be a true native California Girl unless you enjoy the Warmth of the Sun, coconut oil, drag racing, muscle cars, surfing, dune buggies, tacos, bikini dirt-biking, The Beach Boys, water skiing, Mammoth, Glamis, tequila, guitars and the guys who play them, driving yourself to madness with a silver spoon, The River, Creedence, cut off's, crop tops, flip flops, the warm smell of colitas, sky diving, sleeping in the Devil's bed, weenie roasts and, our adopted sons, the Eagles. And, doing as many of these at the same time as you can handle.

Hotel California belongs on the list as well. Overplayed? Yes. But you have to respect the song craft and iconic riffs. Like it or not, it's a fuckin' masterpiece on lots of levels.

You can stab it with your Steely knives, but you just can't kill the beast.

In the sun and salty air,

Vickie Rock

Anonymous said...

On the basis of your last post, I may have to worship you from afar.

J. Lag

Anonymous said...

J. Lag:

As you wish, but only my toes:)

Vickie Rock

Anonymous said...



J. Lag

Anonymous said...

Because I saw Johnny Rivers and Jimmy Webb last night in Hollywood [a breathtaking show btw], I'm going to nominate a pop concept album with which they were both involved:

The 5th Dimension - The Magic Garden.

I also think Laura Nyro's New York Tendaberry fits the bill.


J. Lag: Since you're being such a good sport, as inspiraion, I'm sending you this foot selfie.
One toe at a time, slave.

I just got a pedicure in Palm Springs this week. Hope you like it.

Vickie Rock

Anonymous said...

Shit, I forgot to post the link to the Magic Garden LP. This is an amazing pop concept LP! Well produced, written and performed. And a flop on the charts.

Don't be afraid, you will not turn into pillars of salt for listening. Let it happen. I'm not crazy. This is great.

Vickie Rock tradin' my Midnight Cowboy for a Wichita Lineman

Anonymous said...

forgot Marty Stuart's "The Pilgrim"

Anonymous said...


You jarred loose Johnny Cash's Bitter Tears from my memory banks. He had many others as well.

And on a much less successful level, Kenny Rogers & the First Edition's The Ballad of Calico penned by Michael Murphey. A two record affair, no less.

I've been to Calico Ghost Town once, when it was closed. This was in 1972. With a few friends of mine, we broke in and actually stole the wooden Indian from the park. We loaded it into the back of my, then, boyfriend's Ford 250 four-wheel drive. We four by foured through the desert till we got to an outrageous all-day party that my cousin was having at his farm in nearby Hinckley.

Yes, the Erin Brokovich Hinckley. My cousin's son and wife were impacted by the pollutants with differing problems. The son eventually died.

To give you an idea of the scale of this party, my cousin cooked two entire cows underground and ran out of food. The kegs of beer and hard booze flowed. I spent most of the day on my Yamaha 175 Enduro dirt biking in the surrounding desert with other like-minded party goers. Good times.

Vickie Rock heading for the ditch

Anonymous said...

Er, excuse me, Hinkley.


Anonymous said...

and then there's Willie Nelson's "Phases and Stages," by a man who's known a few parties.

Anonymous said...


I've been to a few of Willie's parties. And Jerry Jeff Walker's as well. In the sinful Seventies. In various states of consciousness and undress.

I suppose as long as we're talking about Willie, "Yesterday's Wine" also fits the bill. "Me and Paul" is one of his best songs, imho. Btw, Paul English, Willie's drummer and subject of the song, is one tough dude and has a very interesting history for a pimp.

Then there's also the Paul Kennerly penned concept LP, "The Legend of Jesse James," which features Levon Helm, Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Albert Lee, Rodney Crowell, Roseanne Cash and Charlie Daniels.

And also Kennerly's Civil War concept "White Mansions" with Waylon & Jessi and Eric Clapton. Poco did a civil war concept too, which also bombed, "Blue and Grey".

Heading down the coast for a little bit of surf and Jackie Greene tonight.

Vickie Rock

Dave said...


I knew there was a concept album I was missing, and it was "Magic Garden," which is better to my ears than almost all of the albums mentioned above.

I've seen Jimmy Webb perform many times -- he's one of my favorite live artists, and the more he stretches to hit the high notes, the more I like it. I've wrote about the Fifth Dimension in the comments at Sal N's posto about the Mamas and Papas. Growing up in that era in Los Angeles, I had plenty of opportunities to see both groups, and 5D could blow away any harmony group in L.A. except possibly the Beach Boys.

Anonymous said...


Glad to hear from a fellow fan.

I know what you mean about forgetting "Magic Garden." I was sitting at the Johnny Rivers / Jimmy Webb show and the damn light bulb went off in my head!

I re-listened to the album after mentioning it. Still great, full of hooks, with trademark Webb idiosyncrasies, key changes, tempo changes and layer upon layer of wonderment. This album's got all kinds of tongue rape suffocation going on. And it doesn't lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight.

Isn't it amazing how the Bacharesque "The Girl's Song" anticipates the sound of the Carpenters as if it were their template. I could go on and on about each song but ... I have a barbecue party mess to clean up.

Lots of people put down the 5th Dimension as plastic sell-outs. But obviously they haven't listened to this album. It's vocally masterful and very challenging. Nevertheless, it's been ignored by most critics because they just don't want to know.

Webb wrote some terrific songs for this one. The 5th Dimension own "The Worst That Could Happen." I don't care if Johnny Maestro and the Brooklyn Bridge had the bigger hit, the 5D blow them away. And, besides, they did it first.

I'm glad the Association turned down this project because it wouldn't have had a chance of being this good. Bones Howe and the Wrecking Crew outdid themselves on this one. This is a fine production for the time. And all time thereafter.

Magic Garden into Summer's Daughter into Dreams/Pax/Nepenthe into Carpet Man. Holy Moley, is that one hell of a way to knock the listener's socks off right off the bat. The whole album is one big giant tongue overwhelming the listener with lick after tasty lick of sensory inundation and aural ecstasy. It leaves me in breathless ecstasy. It truly sends me into the aether and the orgone.

Susie Horton must have been something to inspire the bulk of Webb's early songs. And a dancer too, not unlike myself. I'd like to meet her some day. Maybe in MacArthur Park. She can bring the cake.

To think that Webb wrote Requiem: 820 Latham about her. Wow. I love that song.

I grew up in San Bernardino and Jimmy was a local boy, albeit transplanted. He actually wrote "Up Up and Away" about balloon rides which were sponsored by local station KMEN. I actually took one of those rides as a kid.

Jimmy took music courses at San Bernardino Valley College with Otto Mielenz. The choir cut a Christmas single in 1966 dubbed as Otto's Organization. The single, "The Wassail Song" made it to Number Four on San Bernardino's KMEN during the holidays.

Local radio really pushed his later efforts as well because of regional pride and the quality of the songs.

But I digress. And I really have to clean up this mess. So...

Like the shadow of a butterfly,

Vickie Rock soft and warm behind those hedges. No hard edges.

Dave said...

The unnecessary musical embellishments in between songs date "Magic Garden" a bit -- I didn't like them 40+ years ago, either. My pet Jimmy Webb song, which Johnny Rivers covered, is "Rosecrans Boulevard," which is on the 5D's first album -- great Billy Davis lead vocal and the plotline of the song the biggest mystery outside of "Sally Goes Round the Roses."

Dave F.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, the sometimes awkward "link tracks." I rather think they're charming and innocuous with lots of references, eyebrows and clues.

"Rosecrans Boulevard" is about a stewardess to whom Jimmy Webb lost his virginity. A wild piece of tail it seems. It's a one-sided relationship, but from both perspectives. She lived near the Rosecrans Avenue [not boulevard] off-ramp. So there's poetic license, I guess.

"Sally Go 'Round the Roses" is about lesbian love. Delicious forbidden lesbian love as only could be had during that era. Yum. Maybe some drug connotations as well.

Roses they can't hurt you,

Vickie Rock

Anonymous said...

More Rosecrans Boulevard Mental Masturbation

Webb has claimed that Rosecrans Boulevard is about a stewardess who “stole his virginity”. It’s a wonderfully conflicted song. The relationship obviously haunts him with regret, guilt, uncertainty and emptiness. No doubt exacerbated by the fact that his dad was a Baptist minister and raised him in a strict environment. Only giving us a taste of the details makes the song and the storytelling much more compelling, mysterious and memorable.

Still, if I ever get the unlikely chance to talk to Jimmy one on one, it would be one of many questions I would ask him about his life and work. That, plus what his unrequited [?] relationship with Susan Horton was/is all about, and, whether or not he was already dating Patsy Sullivan when she was twelve?

I assume Webb is referring to the off-ramp on the 405 which dumps you off in southern Hawthorne in what is known as the Holly Glen area [where the nicer homes in the town were]. Going west a couple of miles down Rosecrans brings you to Manhattan Beach/El Porto area near the Chevron refinery in El Segundo [aka El Stinko].

The South Bay, at this time, was full of trendy singles-only apartment buildings. These type of apartments required you to be single between the ages of 21 and 35 and also to be attractive. The demand far outweighed the supply and many were turned away. This went on till through the early Seventies when a bunch of laws were passed against them.

Stewardesses gravitated to the area because of its proximity to LAX. And they certainly had the desire, the age and beauty qualifications for Swingers dwellings. So the South Bay seems a plausible setting.

However, there is also a Rosecrans Street off-ramp on the 405 in San Diego. This area is also close to the San Diego Airport. Plus it was where Pacific Southwest Airlines [PSA] was headquartered and trained their stewardesses. So….enough with the mental masturbation.

Only Jimmy knows. And he probably isn’t telling, or, will give you a shifty answer.

Vickie Rock fixing a hole