“You don’t own Blonde on Blonde?”

Obviously, that’s not my real name, but Peter set me up with an account here at the First Pitch Forums. For well, reasons, I prefer to post anonymously now and then. I used to be on the email thread we had before the website came into being. Most of you can figure it out. If not, ask Peter.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed following the work posted here so far, and feel I have a couple of things I could add here and there. My time period runs a tad later than the rest of you, but hopefully I have something to add, and perhaps make you acquainted with something you’ll like that you hadn’t heard before.

I grew up with a father who loved the Beach Boys and the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. Thankfully for my music tastes, my stepfather came into my life at age 9 with a copious Blues collection, while also introducing me to the Stones, the Kinks, and the Allman Brothers, as well as AC/DC when I got older. Musical taste crisis averted.

My musical tastes run the gamut. I listen to everything. Except country. Insert the worst insult Lester Bangs ever wrote about any piece of music here to tell you how I feel about country music. These days my XM Radio will mostly be found on the blues and vintage soul stations. I find myself listening to more stuff from the Stax, Volt, Chess, and Motown labels than anything else these days. One of the good things about my affection for mid-80s to mis-90s hip-hop are the great vintage songs I would not otherwise have been exposed to as a result of sampling.

In the movie High Fidelity, Jack Black’s character is surprised and semi-berates a record store customer for not owning Blonde on Blonde, saying something to the effect of “Shh, don’t tell anybody you don’t own it!” He then presents him with a copy and an affectionate hug, saying, “don’t worry, it’s going to be OK.”

I’m not going to do a list of my ten best or ten favorite albums, but in the vein of that column, I am going to do a list of what I see are ten “must-listens” at least once. They are an essential part of my library, the albums in my possession that give my music collection a certain panache. And as Steve says, listen to them as full albums in the way they were intended. Not cherry-picking a single on YouTube. Don’t be that guy.

One other note: I’m not going to be obvious here. “Hey, you should listen to London Calling by the Clash!” I have way too much respect for you guys to do that. A little bit of an eclectic mix, but then again, that’s kind of the point isn’t it? Admittedly, a little more modern feel than a site with the word “remnants” in the title should probably have, but I think overall it works.

In no particular order:

1)    Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes: Gordon Gano is the Joe Charboneau of songwriting. One great album of songs, and then poof. Sure, there was further output after that, but let’s be honest. Come for “Blister in the Sun” and “Gone Baby Gone” and stay for “Add It Up,” one of the greatest songs ever about teenage sexual longing.

2)    Johnny Cash – The Essential Johnny Cash: Three points to make here. 1) Am I cheating by putting a hits album on here? Yes. Don’t Care. 2) “But wait a minute, you said you hated country music?” Don’t kid yourself. Johnny Cash is as rock-n-roll as they come. It’s not country when Johnny plays it. 3) In my day job, I put a “plus” makeup grade on a prospect once for the singular reason that he used Johnny Cash as his at-bat walkup music. That’s a guy I want on my team.

3)    Soul Coughing – Irresistible Bliss: Key songs are “Super Bon Bon” and “Soundtrack to Mary.” This is a band that never reached its heights due to drugs and personal differences. They never really put it all together for one album. This is as close as they came, and it’s still pretty good.

4)    Van Halen – Fair Warning: This is not going to turn into a rant about Sammy Hagar. If you own one Van Halen album this should be it. It illustrates the brilliance of Eddie’s guitar playing in a short, tight album, and a band operating at its peak musically if not commercially.

5)    J Geils Band – Blow Your Face Out (Live) – A fantastic live album from a sorely underrated band. If you cheat and go with a best of album of studio tracks, their “Flashback” album from 1985 is better than any other compilations that came after it. A better live band than studio band. But both were pretty darn good.

6)    The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses – Make sure you get the US release with “Fools Gold” on it, not the original UK release.

7)    Stiff Little Fingers – Inflammable Material: I will put “Suspect Device” up against almost any 7” punk record ever made. (Note: That statement was purely baiting Steve and Gene to post in the comments.) “Alternative Ulster” is a classic in its own right. That said, this is a band that should have stopped making records a long time ago. Still, we’ll always have this.

8)    Muddy Waters – Hard Again: Real Chicago blues with more modern rock production/sensibility/feel. Johnny Winter produced this and it’s on fire from start to finish. One of the best blues albums of all time.

9)    Weezer – Weezer: This debut album was released in 1994. I had heard a little bit of this band’s output over the years, but really only gave them a big listen-to about 5-6 years ago. The best part of coming to band a really late is that you have a whole back catalog to go through and appreciate. It’s a really strong catalog, especially the first 5-6 albums. Might be a touch too-poppy for some tastes and I get there, but their catalog continues to grow on me and be very re-listenable. And I say this as someone who doesn’t buy much current rock music anymore (Black Keys was the most recent I think.)

10) Insert best-of soul album here. I can cheat on my own list if I so choose. There are four acceptable choices. Sam and Dave, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding or at worst, Stevie Wonder (provided there are no songs on the album after 1980, which is about when his legacy started getting tarnished with each piece of claptrap he released). If you don’t own something by one of those four artists, I feel very sorry for you. (Of note: recordings of Redding’s sets on the Sunset Strip at the Whisky over three nights in April 1966 were released on CD in 2010. They are entire sets as opposed to individual songs that had previously been released in bits and pieces. They give you a flavor of what we missed when he was killed a year later. Fun trivia: Bob Dylan was in the audience for the first set on this recording. Now that I’ve looped the post back around to Dylan again, I’ll end it.)

8 thoughts on ““You don’t own Blonde on Blonde?”

  1. Well, Horatio, I don’t know who you are but thank you. I will not argue with any of your picks though I had never heard Soul Coughing before. I don’t even hate Country, I only hate MOST country. To me, hating a genre is like hating black-and-white movies or hating happy endings. But after Stand By Your Man and Flowers on the Wall and I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry I start to run dry. And I won’t take the Suspect Device bait, it’s a great song as is Alternative Ulster. If I had to pick one greatest punk single I wouldn’t, but I’d like to fight it out with all of you someday. I might start with Complete Control.

  2. Oh, I thought you said you didn’t own Blondie!

    I got turned onto Soul Coughing some years ago, by friends who were working with them on a movie soundtrack, and I liked their sound. And I gleaned the idea that Mr. Soul Coughing is a great guy.

    One other note: J Geils Band live (at the Academy of Music in NYC, with BB King opening (have they no shame) was a monster show that I happend to see. But the first two albums are simply great, too. Live? Great. Studio? Excellent until they went for the gold.

    But really, who can blame them? They earned it.

    • I was at that show too, Peter, first time I saw BB. I saw them many times. I had their first album about the day it came out. My whole town were J Geils fanatics – greasers, jocks and freaks were as one.

      • I agree that early J Geils (on Atlantic) were great. they wrote terrific originals and had impeccable taste in R&B covers. They’re energy and showmanship was beautiful to hear and see.

  3. Hooray for Stiff Little Fingers. I think that was in my top 50 as well. I liked the Femmes album at the time, but I don’t find myself going back to it. As a matter of fact, I don’t even own it anymore, as I sold all my records a year ago and never got it on CD (don’t tell anyone). I actually like lots of country. Johnny Cash is pretty bandwagon-y these days, but there’re a billion things you could like that would be worse. Kudos for having the balls to put a Van Halen album on your list. I don’t even like VH much, but it takes balls to put them on a best-of list on a mostly snotty Joni Mitchell music website. And thank goodness you chose David Lee Roth (Roth is to Bon Scott as Sammy Hagar is to Brian Johnson). Finally, my favorite song of all-time also doubles as the best punk song of all-time. But of course, “Search And Destroy.”

  4. I go back to Violent Femmes time and again. It’s like angry folk music from a twisted nursery school.

    Listening to the Soul Coughing now, which sounds like a cross between early Beck and Macklemore and Ryan, which is a pretty funny idea. I’m enjoying it, but he really does sound like Macklemore when he isn’t sounding like Beck. Or I guess Macklemore sounds like the Soul Coughing vocalist.

  5. I think the Soul Coughing has revealed your Bruce Wayne, at least to me Nathaniel.

    Cannot argue with much of what your presented.

    Although, i do distinguish between Johnny Cash country (ok, he is rock and roll, but so is Joni Mitchell, and Steve, it seems the snot is yours for looking down your nose at her) and that of George Jones and Patsy Cline with crap like Toby Keith (Red Solo Cup I swear, I saw that was a song and thought the ad for his album was an SNL fake commercial) and shit like that.

    It is basically shitkicker rock, which neither kicks shit, nor is rock. It is just loud and good for stupid drunks. Who need a red solo cup, I suppose.

    Commerical as it is, I am still a 1984 fan of the Halen, and also LOVE Dance the Night Away (was gonna do a Night Music on it, even) and their treatment of Pretty Woman totally destroys me. More than Orbison’s voice, which says a lot.

    As for Blonde on Blonde: it made my Top 50 albums.

    I listened to it every night when i went to sleep (the Memphis Blues Again side) for a couple of years.

    I do think you have to give Wonder some slack for Songs in the Key of Life, though clearly Talking Book, Fullfillingness, and Innervisions are the core. Although, as with Dylan and Mitchell and the Stones and Beatles, not sure if anyone ever did three in a row as good.

    BTW, Stone Roses made my Top 50 too, and I have a Night Music in store for them along with Jellyfish.

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