101. Screaming Jay Hawkins – Cow fingers & mosquito pie
There’ll never be another Screaming Jay either! This is the man who back in the early 1950s started Shock-Rock. He developed an act that was so shocking that it must have scared the life out of that staid old world of ice-cream and apple-pie. He started off on stage springing out of a coffin complete with long cape, voodoo amulets, shrunken skulls, snakes, wide eyes and grimaces. Alan Freed put him on his Rock ‘n’ Roll shows as ‘the Wildman of Rock’ and I can’t imagine what effect having a huge Blackman leaping out of a coffin and gurning at the audience had on all those young teenage white girls.
The songs were in the same vein and his classic ‘I put a spell on you’ which came out in the mid fifties was considered so primitive with its grunting and groaning that it was banned from radio play. That song was covered by everyone on the Beat scene back in the sixties. He put his operatic voice to good use creating some outrageous songs and strange parodies of classics like ‘I love Paris’ which were so weird they were wonderful.
This album collects together most of those classic tracks with ‘I put a spell on you’, ‘Alligator wine’, ‘Frenzy’, ‘There’s something wrong with you’ and ‘Orange coloured sky’ though it does miss off the wonderful ‘Constipation Blues’ (for that you have to go to ‘Feast of the Mau-Mau’) and his much later cover of Tom Wait’s ‘Heart attack and Vine’ that was used in a commercial on TV.
His act has been copied and built on by lots of others including Screaming Lord Sutch and Alice Cooper.
102. Tommy Tucker – Hi Heeled Sneakers
Tommy produced two absolutely classic singles that were done in that Jimmy Reed/Slim Harpo style with the infectious beat – ‘Long tall Shorty’ and ‘Hi-heeled sneakers’. Those songs have been done to death by Beat groups and I can see why. They have that easy-going, laid-back jauntiness with a hypnotic bass-line.
Tommy unfortunately died early and never built on the success of his two brilliant singles. The manner of his death was really bizarre. He was touring England in the sixties and died of food poisoning from a hamburger. Surprisingly McDonalds did not feature him or his songs in any advertising (It wasn’t a McDonalds – we didn’t have them here back then!)
This album contains all his early stuff.
103. Bo Carter – Banana in your fruit basket
A lot of the Blues we have recorded was sanitised for general output. The Blues came from rural areas in Mississippi and Louisiana and was the music of the hard-working sharecropping families who worked there. It served many functions – as work-songs – to speed up the repetitive labour in the fields – as dance songs at the country barbeques – as busking songs in the streets – as songs for entertainment in the bars and brothels – and as protest and cathartic anger. I think a lot of these never saw the light of day. They were considered too dangerous to risk putting on vinyl. Life was
Bo Carter was performing back in the early 1930s and specialised in risqué acoustic Blues songs with double entendres. His guitar playing is very highly developed rag-time style. This album, as the name suggests, is full of these type of songs. Some of them are very amusing and some highly inventive. It includes such gems as ‘My pencil won’t write no more’, ‘Pussy cat blues’, ‘Don’t mash my digger so deep’, ‘Pin in your cushion’ and ‘What kind of scent is this?’
104 – Band – Music from Big Pink
The Band started as Rocker Ronnie Hawkin’s backing band before ending up as Bob Dylan’s backing band. Big Pink was the name of the big house in Woodstock where Dylan & the Band used to hang out and rehearse after his motorbike accident in the late sixties.
They went back to playing around with a lot of musical styles that would now be termed Americana. This was at odds with the prevailing psychedelia of the day as well as the styles that Dylan had been developing shortly before. It was as if Dylan needed to shut the door on that and open a new chapter.
The impromptu sessions were recorded in that basement and have since been released by Dylan, mainly due to all the bootleg versions I suspect, as ‘The Basement tapes’.
‘Music from Big Pink’ came out of those sessions as well. It was a studio album featuring a couple of Dylan originals and a new style of music.
This is the album that blew Eric Clapton away so that he moved right away from Progressive Rock. So in that sense it was a bad influence.
It is a great album stuffed full of memorable tracks such as ‘The weight’, ‘Tears of rage’, ‘Long black veil’ and ‘To kingdom come’ as well as the two Dylan tracks ‘This wheel’s on fire’ and ‘I shall be released’.
It’s a great album but I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest it should usurp the whole of Progressive, Acid and Psychedelic Rock.
105. George Harrison – All things must pass
When the Beatles split I don’t think anyone thought that George would emerge with an album of this quality. He came out with all arms flailing and legs pounding. He’d been saving up all his songs and blasted them out on this triple album. One of the tensions in the band was that George did not feel his contributions were valued; it was hard getting them past the Lennon/McCartney machine. Perhaps he wanted to prove to everyone that he was just as good a song-writer.
I’d always valued his efforts and this album continued with those gems. There was ‘Wah-Wah’. ‘Isn’t it a pity’, ‘My sweet Lord’, ‘What is life?’, ‘If not for you’, ‘the art of dying’, ‘Apple scruffs’ and ‘Beware of darkness’.
It was great to see that we were still going to get some decent stuff coming through even if the Beatles were no longer a band.
106. Donovan – Sunshine Superman
Donovan doesn’t get enough recognition for some of his achievements. That is probably because a lot of his stuff was seen as hippie-dippy and Pop trivia. But that isn’t completely fair. Don did some great acoustic stuff on his first couple of albums. His ‘Ballad of a Crystal Man’ and cover of Buffy St Marie’s ‘Universal Soldier’ were brilliant and by no means alone.
Sunshine Superman comes from the mid sixties and was quite a departure and also a real innovation. Donovan captured a real new sound and was probably the first with Psychedelic Folk. I really adore this sound. ‘Sunshine Superman’ with its acid guitar and trippy lyrics set the tone for what was to come. This came out in 1966 in the States – before all the psychedelic stuff took off in 1967.
The Acid scene was set with ‘Season of the Witch’, ‘The Trip’, ‘The fat Angel’, ‘The three Kingfishers’ and the sitar/tabla influence of ‘Ferris wheel’. Bert’s Blues was about Bert Jansch.
It was way ahead of its time, not at all poppy and with some great songs and great vibe.
107. Bert Jansch – Bert Jansch
Bert Jansch came down from Scotland to join the London Folk Blues scene in the mid sixties. He was the wild young Scot with the rough and ready attitude and his playing reflected that. He was immediately up there with the likes of fellow acoustic guitarists John Renbourn and Davey Graham. Davey had recently come back from Morocco with the instrumental ‘Anji’. The three of them set a formidable pace for acoustic folk-blues guitar playing and soon got recording contracts.
I see the first two albums as being very similar – ‘Bert Jansch’ was the first and ‘It don’t bother me’ was his second album and both were released in 1965.
I selected ‘Bert Jansch’ because of the iconic songs that it featured although both albums had a similar sound, style and feel. I remember when I was 16 years old sitting on the bed in my tiny bedroom playing this album over and over again. It was totally different to all the Rock, Blues, Pop, Folk and Beat music I was listening to. I think it was Neil Furby, a friend from school, who introduced me to both Bert and John Renbourn. Shortly after that I started going up to Les Cousins in Greek Street and to the Barge at Kingston to catch them all. It was at one of those Les Cousins concerts that I first caught the young mercurial Roy Harper.
The songs that really grabbed me were ‘Needle of death’, ‘Do you hear me now’, ‘Your love is strong’, ‘Running from home’ and the instrumental copied from Davey Graham and re-titled ‘Angie’.
This album is very evocative to me of the mid-sixties with all its social changes.
108. Grateful Dead – American Beauty
The Grateful Dead started out as the Warlocks as an R&B outfit. They rapidly transformed into an Acid Rock band and provided the feedback for Ken Kesey’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Tests.
They were a leading light at all the San Franciscan Free events and one of the original and first Acid Rock bands to get signed. They were a great live band with Jerry Garcia’s guitar style creating wafting patterns as the band free-formed through their elongated trippy soundscapes.
Their fans were rabid and became known as Deadheads.
I personally never really got into their early albums and did not think that they ever truly captured their sound on vinyl.
In the mid-seventies they underwent a change of style into a more country influenced sound. This album ‘American Beauty’ comes from that period. It features great tracks like ‘Box of rain’, ‘Sweet Magnolia’ and the infamous ‘Truckin’’.
109. Chuck Berry – On stage
This was the first Chuck Berry album I bought and I reckon it captures the excitement of Chuck’s early act though there is some conjecture as to the recording. It was actually studio recorded tracks with audience sound dubbed in. I still find it absolutely electric.
Chuck was the most exciting act around with all his stage moves with that guitar – the machine gun, duck-walk and splayed leg antics – as well as the distinctive guitar blues based riffs. He was right up there with Bo and Little Richard.
This album starts with the stormin’ ‘Go Go Go’ and went on with ‘Memphis Tennessee’, ‘Maybelline’, ‘Rockin’ on the railroad’, ‘Jaguar and the thunderbird’, ‘Sweet little sixteen’ and ‘All aboard’.
Whether it was authentically live or not it worked for me.
110. Bo Diddley – Bo’s big 20
Where would the British Beat groups be without Bo Diddley. Bo was short for Bad Boy and Bo certainly lived up to his name. He started as a boxer and street busker in McComb Mississippi before becoming discovered, moving to Chicago, encountering Muddy Waters and becoming a Blues Rocker. No one ever has quite that swagger that Bo Diddley had. He was one for the garish clothes and outrageous home-made guitars with weird tuning, weird effects, weird fur, weird shapes and incredible rhythms.
All these top 20 Bo Diddley compositions, plus a lot more, were the staple diet of British Beat Bands back in the 1960s. Along with his maraca man Jerome Green and the Beautiful Duchess in slinky dresses on bass he took the place over like a hurricane coming through. There was never a more boastful set of songs with ‘Bo Diddley’, ‘Hey Bo Diddle’, ‘Bo’s a lumberjack’, ‘Run run Diddley daddy’ and ‘I’m the greatest lover in the world’. Yet nobody deserved to be shouting out loud about their talents. This was the man who had written and performed all those great Rock songs that will go down in history – ‘I’m a man’, ‘500% more man’, ‘Cops and Robbers’, ‘Pretty Thing’, ‘Say man’, ‘Pills’, ‘Roadrunner’, ‘You can’t judge a book by the cover, ‘I can tell’, ‘Who do you love?’ and a load more.
A lot of them are on here and they sound as good as ever!