TWINK: Think Pink Twink working with Mick Farren and members of the Pretty Things and Pink Fairies to produce one of the great English psychedelic albums. Full on from beginning to end, laced with anarchic humour and rawness.
STEELEYE SPAN: Hark! The Village Wait The debut album from Steeleye Span is a classic of the electric folk scene. The majority of the tracks here are traditional pieces arranged by the band. They cover a range of emotions from all the fun of Copshawholme Fair, the love and loss of The Lowlands Of Holland to the bitingly angry Blackleg Miner, full of community solidarity. Men and women of the community are united in absolute contempt for the “dirty blackleg miner”.
JETHRO TULL: Benefit You might see a wild-eyed man, standing on one leg playing a flute, backed by a band of vagabond hippies but this album, often overlooked in favour of later offerings, is my personal favourite. A lilting flutes echoes through imagined mists of time to collide into crashing crescendos of amplified sound. Vocals are sometimes wistful, sometimes happy, sometimes bitter and angry. Ian Anderson looks at the present and finds it wanting. He is looking for some lost idyll. Will he find it? Well, with you there to help him…
MICK FARREN: Mona – The Carnivorous Circus Dark and deranged – and almost indescribable.The use of familiar rhythms and periods of repetition, interspersed with interviews with Hells Angels, this album is both experimental and disturbing. At times collapsing under its own shambolic structure, it could never be described as polished – but it is alive with a creative energy – and that is what music should be!
THIRD WORLD WAR: Third World War If ever a band warranted the title proto-punk it was Third World War. Described by Melody Maker’s Roy Hollingworth as, “The worst band I have ever heard perform, ever,” they were “tired of hippy, psychedelic shit” and wanted to “document what was really happening.” What was really happening for them was that they were working class truck drivers and factory workers who took inspiration in the Paris riots of ’68. What they produced was an album of class conscious agit-prop.
DAVID BOWIE: The Man Who Sold The World Described as the album that marked the birth of Glam Rock, this was the first of Bowie’s rock albums and saw the debut of his partnership with Mick Ronson. It offers the combination of stomping rockers, more measured introspection and dark futures, dripping with psychosis and deviance. Often overlooked in favour of what came later, The Man Who Sold The World is nonetheless as good as anything that followed.
GONG: Camembert Electrique Often eclipsed by the Radio Gnome Trilogy, Camembert Electrique explores many of the same ideas such as transcendentalism and Gaian feminism and hints at what is to come, introducing Radio Gnome Invisible. Although recorded before the arrival of Steve Hillage, it also features some of the best space rock workouts ever committed to vinyl – and possibly one of the most evocative group photos in the gatefold sleeve!
ROXY MUSIC: Roxy Music Although their first few albums have plenty to recommend them, it is to this and For Your Pleasure that I most often turn. Boldly imaginative and experimental (perhaps because it was recorded prior to them having a record contract), creating collages of sound, littered with references to pop culture, the influence of Richard Hamilton is evident. Looking both towards the past and the future it is an album that still sounds fresh today – much more so than the albums both Roxy and Ferry made afterwards.
THE SEX PISTOLS: Never Mind The Bollocks Only one album. Some people say the Pistols were over-rated and that this was just another rock album but that is to judge it retrospectively now it has been absorbed by the culture industry. It IS a rock album but it is a raw rock album which provides the perfect backing to John Lydon’s snarling invective. The music is good, very good – but it’s Lydon’s lyrics and delivery that make it stand out from other punk albums released that year – either side of the Atlantic.
CRASS: Stations Of The Crass One of the most powerful albums I ever heard. More developed than Feeding Of The 5,000, this double album was a scream of anger, covering themes such as Myra Hindley to Rock Against Racism and the death of Blair Peach, with power, passion and more than a touch of dark humour. Not powerless anger but a call to recognise the power of saying “no”. Although many accused it of being a tuneless racket, the discordant wall of sound fitted the subject matter perfectly and, while none of them would have claimed to be musicians, the interplay of twin guitars, bass, drums and a revolving group of vocalists was unlike anything else. A truly essential album.
POISON GIRLS: Hex Witch, sorceress, mother, whore. Notions of the female defined by patriarchy. Well, this one’s for all the punk mothers out there! A fierce brutally honest and sometimes fragile statement of anarcho-feminist politics. The power of the state to define what is normal or abnormal. The power of the experts to medicate away your reactions. The state as controlling, abusive partner. The personal is political. It always was. “Do you suck the dicky of a friend of the state?”
THE GOOD MISSIONARIES: Fire From Heaven Recorded live on tour with The Pop Group (and featuring Mark Stewart and Simon Underwood), this records Alternative TV’s attempt to break free of the shackles of audience expectations. Fusion of punk, dub and art-house experimentation produce a memorable experience. Side 2 here.
VARIOUS: Bullshit Detector This album is a cultural artifact! It is the DIY ethic of punk showcased in the raw. The Crass collective pulled it together from various demo tapes they had been sent from punk bands all around the country. That Crass included an early demo version of Do They Owe Us A Living? Both meant that the album would sell well and that the other bands demos would be positioned alongside a demo from Crass at a similar stage in their development. Both the quality of the recordings and the skills of the performers are varied but the result is an album that says more than any other, “there are no spectators, we are a collective movement.”