Outside of Society!: Seeing Patti Smith Live

Just an introductory note: I never meant for this piece to be so long – I started it a few months ago, meaning for it to be a simple review of a show I’d recently attended. And then…it just sort of materialised into a reflection on what Patti Smith meant to me, what the show represented, all the feelings that “fandom” ignites in its participants…and then…I wrote a poem about the experience for my English class, so I had to include that too! I’m incredibly proud of what I’ve written – I hope you all enjoy it too! But there is also a 4,000+ word count, so read in increments if you like. I’d love to hear your feedback, though, or about any similar experiences you guys have had – be sure to leave ’em in the comments! 


PART 1: The essay.

I don’t think I’d ever really expected to be standing in the presence of one of my greatest heroes. This wasn’t exactly helped by the fact that virtually all of them lived in assorted locations on the other side of the world, and that the vast majority of them were either in their senior years – or dead. But yet, I found myself doing just that several months ago, on Easter Sunday, as I stood in the aisles of Melbourne’s Hamer Hall, dancing and screaming and revelling in the fact that, maybe 20 metres away me, was Patti Smith.

The story of how Patti became my absolute greatest living hero is like something out of a cliche coming-of-age movie. I was in a massive record store one morning a little over two years ago, in June or July 2015, when – while searching through the sales section – I randomly came across the cheapest CD I’d seen yet. It had a cover quite unlike anything else I’d seen – so stark and cool, and yet so inviting – and it carried a ‘Parental Advisory’ sticker, which seemed so very edgy and grownup at the time. I decided to buy this album – Horses – on a whim, as I slowly realised that I vaguely recognised Patti’s name from a bunch of Pitchfork articles and interviews with Courtney Barnett, an artist who I liked. I stuck it in my CD player when I got home, eager to see if she was as good as Courtney had made her out to be. It kind of confused me at first – I’d read that she played punk music, and the soft piano chords that began the album didn’t exactly align with what I thought ‘punk’ was, back then. But then, this voice sings a lyric so liberating and disembodying – “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine” – to my impressionable ears, that I physically had to stop everything I was doing for the entirety of the album’s length.

Patti’s – and David Bowie’s, whom I would discover only a couple of weeks later – arrival in my life signified a new era of my identity. If the Beatles started to teach a younger me about the importance of creativity, idealism and individuality, it was Smith and Bowie that slammed this philosophy into the essence of who I see myself as. These two artists existed on a plane where not only was it okay, but actually rather cool, to be what mainstream society deems “weird” – where liking obscure postpunk compilations and disaffected ’60s literature and perplexing art movies and a mishmash of Doc Martens and assorted op-shop clothes was encouraged; where being a girl didn’t mean that I had to wear my skirts below my knee, find a good man to stand by, have 2.5 kids, and be a perfect, God-fearing housewife, like my school at the time had taught me for the entirety of my preteen years; where I could dream about writing the greatest alternative album of the 21st Century and living in the East Village of Manhattan without being shunned. I fell madly in love with their world, and began to throw myself into it pretty quickly. In the case of Patti, by the end of that year, I’d consumed a large amount of her writings and other albums, devoured the records of her CBGB contemporaries, wrote lists of my favourite albums and books that always positioned her work somewhere in the top 3, Blu-Tac-ed a picture of her to my wall alongside one of my Beatles posters, cemented a skinny black tie as a mainstay of my wardrobe, and begun a fascination with New York City on the basis of Just Kids that’s only increased ever since. Unlike all my heroes before, Patti and David were also alive – although it was extraordinarily idealistic, collaborating with them on some multimedia avant-garde art project was a lot more possible than my previous daydreams of hanging out with John Lennon and Brian Jones could ever have been.

So let’s fastforward to a year later – November 2016. It’s now been close to eighteen months since I spontaneously fell in love with Horses. The combination of her influence on me across this time and my growing adoration of her mean that she seems kind of like a mythical goddess to me. I’ve also since become a lot more knowledgeable on the details of her career, and am aware that she’s mainly a writer, now – and that even if she had done several recent shows around the place to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Horses, I know that seeing her live is a highly unlikely event. This context should help you to understand the earsplitting scream I let out when my mum showed me an email on her phone one afternoon – an email containing a receipt for tickets to Patti Smith’s first Melbourne show in eight years. It wasn’t even particularly surprising, or anything. I knew that Patti was going to play a music festival up north around that time – and I’d read an hour or so earlier that she was playing shows elsewhere, and was already partway through planning my sermon to my parents as to why flying to Melbourne (the show closest to my hometown, Adelaide – yet still an hour’s flight away) to see her would be a sane idea. It was just this idea that something I’d fantasised about for so long was going to become a reality – that I would, indeed, be standing in the presence of probably my greatest living hero. Let’s not forget that my other greatest dream – meeting David Bowie, or at least seeing him live at the surprise Blackstar concert I (prior to January 10) was convinced would be randomly announced via an obscure social media platform one afternoon – had been crushed that January, and how this had only cemented the idea that seeing my heroes was a scenario reserved for my daydreams. It blew my mind.

I spent the six months or so that ensued in a state of excited shock. I was thrilled about what was happening, but it seemed too unreal for its inevitableness to be contended with. I listened to Horses countless times, and tried to imagine what it would sound like live. I planned what I’d wear – a t-shirt over the top of a striped polo-neck, with a black mini-skirt, fishnet tights, and Doc Martens – months beforehand. I spent one night a couple of days prior to the date printing a t-shirt reading ‘Patti Smith Is Cool’ with my mum. I reread my copies of Just Kids and M Train and Collected Lyrics: 1970-2015. I made playlists of all her songs and listened to them on repeat, and lipsynched my favourites in front of my mirror like some romcom trope. I packed my bag the night before, snuggling my copy of Collected Lyrics in between my toiletries and my tartan shift dress that I planned to wear the day after.  I couldn’t fathom, though, what the day would actually be like – constantly revisiting the material that had affected me so just made her seem even more mythical, and the idea that this person, who I’d never met and yet had changed my life, could be just as real as myself appeared to become even more unthinkable.

This even continued as the day began to arrive. I saw Blondie the week before. Although I was a good 500 metres away from the stage (at least), seeing Deborah Harry “in the flesh” was incredible – and yet, perhaps it was just that I was largely watching her on a massive TV screen, that she was too far away to really see, but I could barely get over my disbelief that the woman in front of me singing ‘Atomic’ was the same one whose records I’d memorised, whose likeness was stuck on my wall. It was almost unbearably surreal – this person, who it felt as if they only existed within the planes of music blogs and record shops and my mum’s record collection and my brain, as if they were almost a figment of my imagination, had suddenly become tangible. This lingered in my mind as the days ’til Patti crept closer- why can’t I see my heroes as real people? Are they – as I perceive them – even real? If I could only barely put this weird sensation to one side in order to dance and recite the rap part of ‘Rapture’ by heart in front of maybe my 10th-favourite band, how would I cope in front of my greatest hero in the entire world?

Me, upon arrival at Hamer Hall

Then it was suddenly Sunday, a day I’d awaited for so many months, that I’d dreamt about so much that it felt like a dream itself . I flew to Melbourne, listening to Horses and reading the entire “Early Work” section of Collected Lyrics over and over and over. We wandered around in the hours before, drinking tea in the cafes and buying takeaway rice paper rolls from the restaurants that we always visited, but it didn’t feel the same. My heart raced as I half-watched a bizarre quiz show on the hotel’s cable channels while blaring ‘Dancing Barefoot’ through my headphones, as I fixed my makeup, as I slipped my homemade t-shirt over my turtleneck, as I ran out the hotel room door, my legs shaky with excitement, and down the lift and across the city and to the concert hall. It all still seemed too surreal, like a dream sequence from my imaginary biopic film – I physically could not believe what was happening, my brain could not compute as I approached the hall, as I walked past the chalkboard out front that read “Patti Smith: Tonight!”, as I stood by the big glass doors of the foyer and watched so many people with clothes as kooky and copies of Collected Lyrics as worn as my own shuffle across to the theatre doors… I felt so heady and trembly – endlessly perplexed as to whether I was really just experiencing a super realistic lucid dream. I knew this day was so important, that no moment in my life before had received such an anticipated build-up, that it would be one that I would fixate on when retelling tales of the “good ol’ days” in middle age – my daydreams had told me as much – but I’d dreamt about it too often. I couldn’t work out whether my surrounds were real or not – I could barely replace the scenes my anticipation had conjured up in the previous months with what was becoming a reality around me. What if I’d removed myself from reality so much that the event itself would have little effect on my psyche – what if it became as insignificant, in the scheme of my life, as whatever day had preceded it?

I had to line up for half an hour to buy my merchandise. I shuffled through the foyer, my hands breaking out in cold sweat, the air humid with body heat, as piles of people crowded around me, doing just the same. I watched as the line snaked past the door, as it grew so long it could barely fit within the confines of the room – people grinning as excitedly as I was, with the same Dr Martens and mismatched vintage clothes and strange haircuts as those that Patti and her contemporaries had allowed me to wear, discussing the merits of ‘Piss Factory’ and ‘Land’ as fluently and passionately as my own thoughts. Music, and the culture that surrounded it, had always been such a solitary pursuit. It was something I read about quietly in the back corner of my classrooms, that I Blu-Tac-ed my passion for over my bedroom walls, that I bought from the privacy of a eBay username or from hard-to-find shops, that I write about on here in the comfort of my anonymity – heck, even the “rebellion” and liberation it inspired in me was merely the inward knowledge that I was cooler than most people around me had ever assumed I had the capability to be. And yet, here were these people, like me. It was the most disconcertingly beautiful thing.

A favourite photo of Patti. (credit: Judy Linn)

My mum and I chatted with the Melbourne couple behind us, in the half-hour merchandise line, who spoke of how they’d seen Patti in a small club in New Orleans, of how they’d been to literally every show and festival (they’d been to Dark MOFO!) I’d ever dreamt of attending. It wasn’t just Patti that felt magical – the idea of Melbourne felt mythical, that night, with its abounding arts culture and opportunities and “the world is your oyster” attitude so much greater than anything I’d ever known, too. I swiped the last remaining tour brochure, that someone had dropped on a nearby bench, even with the beer-glass stain that circled Patti’s face like a halo – not an activity that was even remotely dangerous, and yet, it felt so daring and adventurous. felt daring and adventurous, and all kinds of incredible like I’d never felt before.

Later, the doors opened, and I found my seat, stumbling in awe. Twenty minutes ’til Patti. Starting promptly at 8:30. Magda Szubanski sat three rows down from us; Courtney Barnett herself, perhaps the reason I even knew about Patti in the first place, was seemingly in the second row of the stalls. I sat in the dress circle, at a height almost as heady as my blood pressure. I could already feel the heat drifting up to my face, as I found my spot, the fold-down seat bouncing as I nervously shifted from side to side. I could see the roadies placing Lenny Kaye’s guitars on stage; the stage lights were switched on, too, their blue streaks bouncing off the house lights. A group of 20-something girls sat down next to my seat, one of them clutching a copy of Collected Lyrics as worn and well-loved as my own. I’d never seen another real life copy of Collected Lyrics before. My fishnets itched against my legs.

A photo my dad took.

The lights dimmed, the stage swathed in a layer of twilight-blue lighting; an image of Patti, black-and-white, steely gaze, jacket swung over shoulder – the very same image that compelled me to add Horses to my record collection two years earlier – illuminated in the background. Electric silence. I sat as far at end of my seat as I could, just short of falling off, peering intently over the dress circle balcony for the slightest billowing of a stage curtain, for an indication of her presence. And then, there she was. She stood at the stage’s centre, sporting a waistcoat, a white shirt, black straight-legged pants, brown boots, her long grey hair falling around her shoulders. She looked exactly the same as every recent picture of her I’d ever seen. I’d always assumed she’d (or that anyone, for the matter, who’d I stared at incessantly over the Internet) look different, in real life – but she didn’t. It was like in Mulholland Drive, when Diane attends a party and sees a cowboy leaving, a cowboy identical to a presence who recurs in her dreams. It was bizarre.

Soft piano chords. “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine.” I can’t move. So much like how I felt, that morning in 2015 – and yet, so different, so far. Patti is there. The voice floating from the speakers is from a stage a few metres below me. The woman that recorded an album that entirely changed the course of my life is standing right in front of me, performing said album. I don’t think I could tap my foot, or even smile, at that point – I sat totally rigid, at the edge of my seat, eyes frozen open. Everything was so weird and unbelievable and hazy and surreal. I feebly lipsynched along to ‘Gloria’, virtually involuntarily. Perhaps moving your lips becomes a subconscious action, when a song you’ve poured over hundreds of thousands of times is blaring out of a speaker in front of your ears…

About a third of the way through ‘Birdland’, the entirety of the stalls stood up and fled toward the stage, in a frenzied stampede. The crowed writhed to the beat, extending their hands toward the stage, closing their eyes in ecstasy, becoming more frantic as each song raced toward their climaxes. I stood up, too, in the aisle of my row. I danced and danced and danced, worse than when I dropped out of ballet school when I was seven, to the point that I had a side stitch, but I didn’t even care – I was so ridiculously, beautifully elated that I couldn’t even notice. I physically couldn’t force my face from the massive grin now spread across it, even when my jaw began to hurt. The lights bathed the crowd below in bluish stardust; they glowed behind Patti, like an archangel’s halo, an aura. She was like some kind of angel. I am the lord of the dance, said she.

Me dancing (!)

The bass pulsates through my soul. Water vapour, from everyone’s sweat, drifting around the ceiling, covers the room in a misty fog – the lights stream through, like when the moon shines through a flurry of clouds. Patti begins to perform ‘Break It Up’, and she asks us to sing along.  “Break it up!” “Break it up!” Hundreds of voices – they echo across the walls, gliding along the fog, as if they are floating toward the sky. Like when we sang Psalm 121 en masse, in Choir in Grade 4; like a chorus of angels. Patti’s halo glitters with mist. I sing along, hopelessly out of tune, my throat too dry with adrenaline to be able to determine pitch – but, again, I do not care, for I am so deliriously, joyously happy that nothing other than the fact that Patti is several metres away from me matters.

“The boy was in the hallway, drinking a glass of tea / from the other end of the hallway, a rhythm was generating.” The pounding drums of ‘Land’ build up in my chest, I can’t keep my feet still. “Do you know how to twist?” Yes I do, and it goes like this, and it goes like this… And they segue back into ‘Gloria’, and I scream the lyrics at the top of my lungs, and my mind is so numb with euphoria that I could almost cry, and I lift my hands above my head and reach for the heavens because maybe Jesus died for somebody’s sins but it’s Patti who I worship tonight, and my feet, they run up and down the aisle and I can barely feel my toes but I don’t even realise –  and Patti runs up and down the stage, dancing, yelling, her hair flying, her actual voice echoing from the loudspeaker in front of me… And then she flies across the side of the stage in front of me, and I am so close to her that I can see the wrinkles around her eyes.

And then there’s an encore, ‘My Generation’, and she ties a yellow gerbera  – from a bouquet of flowers a fan had placed onstage – around her arm and slings a silver guitar over her shoulder, and she attacks it so hard that I watch each petal of the gerbera fly to the stage floor, twinkling like gold underneath the lights. And she screams and swears and plays and dances with so much passion and fervour and noise and beauty, that we are but compelled to do the same. And then, suddenly, the noise – the most incredible, loud, fun dissonance – stops. Patti leaves. The house lights are turned on. Obscure folk music plays over the PA. I cannot move. I have never felt so beautifully dazed in my life.

We sat in our hotel bar, after Patti had left and we’d walked back to our hotel. I sat there, and Joy Division and Bowie were playing over the speakers, and my sweaty hair had stuck to my head, and my cheeks were still flushed, and it was just the strangest feeling. It was like when you awaken from a satisfying dream – when you can’t quite picture what happened, but the residue contentment still flutters in your chest. I physically couldn’t comprehend the idea that what I’d just experienced was real. In fact, I still can’t. What I’ve written here is such a small summary of what I have only begun to truly contend with – I still can barely begin to explain or define what I felt.

But it occurred to me that night. David Bowie always used to say that, in real life, to his family and friends, he was still just David Jones – it was only in the public eye, to us fans, that he became “Bowie”. So then, maybe, the Patti that I adored, indeed, wasn’t even real – maybe my love of Patti was not about her, per se. Sure, I admired her for the kind of person her music and writings portray her as – but maybe my love for her work was just as much about me, too. Perhaps I loved Horses, not just because of the music, the lyrics, but for what it represented to me – my rebellion, my liberation, my self-realisation. Maybe the show was not just about seeing Patti, but what it incited in me – how the sweat trickled down my arms as I screamed and danced, until I could barely move my legs, how I knew every word of every song, the delirious joy, the freedom I felt. That perhaps it was’t really Patti and David that “allowed” me to take pride in my differences – although, it was their music that inspired me to think about things a little more. That maybe, to paraphrase a poem I wrote:

“The person who told me that I was cool, that I was worthy,
It wasn’t Patti:

It was me.”

Another photo courtesy of my dad.


PART 2: The poem.

The Days I Saw Patti Smith

It was two years ago when 
Patti Smith’s steely gaze stared straight into my soul
from the comfort of a CD cover at JB Hifi.
I didn’t know anything about her.
But she looked so cool
and the “parental advisory” sticker on the front-right corner seemed so edgy,
and I suddenly became $9.99 poorer.
And when I got home,
and I inserted that $9.99 disc into my old CD player,
I heard a voice so disorientating and incredible that
I had to drop everything I’d been doing,
and listen to my life changing.

And then,
I realised
that everything I’d thought was right about the world
was wrong.
That perhaps I was as strange as the taunts of Year 7’s high society had told me to believe;
but perhaps that was more interesting and cool than they ever could dream to be-
“Outside of society… Outside of society…” That maybe she was right when she wrote of how that was the only place to be…
That perhaps it didn’t matter if my idols weren’t from the Bible, if I didn’t believe,
because maybe, “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine.”
That perhaps I wouldn’t have to settle for a life of eternal loneliness, with no man to stand by,
if I couldn’t balance a book upon my skull, if I couldn’t cook or clean or sew.
That if Patti was okay, then maybe I was, as well.

And then,
It was six months ago when
Patti Smith’s steely gaze stared straight into my soul
from a Melbourne concert hall stage.
By now, my CD played almost to an oblivion,
A copy of her Collected Lyrics with white creases of weariness across the spine.
She looked so cool, Blu-Tacked on my bedroom wall,
and the concert ticket bearing her name that lay in my suitcase en route to Melbourne Tullamarine, so full of anticipation and adoration, looked even cooler,
and when I got to use that ticket,
When I stood twenty metres from her flying white hair,
Dancing along row 3, dress circle, even worse than when I dropped out of ballet school when I was seven,
Heady with body heat and passion,
Patti was there.
And I don’t even know if she was real,
For there is nothing more surreal than seeing the wrinkles that line the face that lines your walls for yourself,
Than seeing your favourite record come to life, in its glittering, goddess-esque glory.
And the stage lights glowed around her, and the audience chanted her choruses just like we did when we sang ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ in Grade 4, and the band clanged and crashed and floated in the most beautiful, beautiful way,
And she was some kind of auratic archangel
-It was Easter Sunday after all;
A presence, a voice, so disorientating, so incredible, so unbelievably real,
That I couldn’t think about anything else for weeks.

And then,
I realised,
That I was still wrong.
It wasn’t Patti that made me so self-assured, so happy,
It wasn’t Patti that me so proud of the “outside of society,”
The Patti I adored, that I gazed at while she darted across the stage, indeed, wasn’t even real.
For fandom is not about them, the people they really are,
For it is about you,
And your feelings, your memories,
The way their world colours yours,
A testing of your love at its most passionate, its most unconditional,
The truths it ignites within yourself.
The person who told me that I was cool, that I was worthy,
It wasn’t a CD:

It was me.

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The Return – and a new mixtape!

So I’ve been a tad AWOL for the…entirety of this year. Apologies! As I’ve begun to enter my final years of high school and the work has become increasingly demanding, I’ve been forced to spend the time I would have previously spent on this blog revising for Maths tests and organising my Art folio. But good news! I’ve been tapping away at my laptop and planning some posts so that hopefully there will not be another six month hiatus in the near future of this website. It’s good to be back – hopefully some of you are still around!

Anyway, I’ve been working away at a massive thinkpiece about a very special concert I saw several weeks ago for a little while now, and hopefully that should go up in the next few weeks or so – and on top of this, I have plenty of other half-formed drafts to keep me going until the school holidays afford me some free time! But in the meanwhile, I thought I’d update you on what I’ve been listening to lately, and give you some teasers as to what the next few months over here might involve…

‘Birdland’ – Patti Smith

If you’ve been reading this blog for a couple of years, you’ll know that I really, really, really love Patti Smith – her work has affected me so much, and I consider her to be my greatest hero maybe only second to Bowie. So I can’t imagine you’ll be overly surprised to hear that, a few weeks ago, I flew to another city to stand twenty metres away from her while she performed Horses – and that I consider that night to be among the most beautiful and incredible experiences of my life to date. I’ll be exploring this event and its effect on my life in further detail in the aforementioned thinkpiece, but it was just so enthralling and moving and massive to be dancing down the aisles like I haven’t since I was six while my greatest living hero stood mere metres away from you and sang lyrics that have changed my life! There was this especially incredible moment when she was performing ‘Birdland’ that just cemented to me just how surreal and amazing what I was seeing was – Patti was just surrounded by this aura of stage lighting, and the song was reaching peak intensity, and everyone in the stalls just rushed enmasse, at once, to the stage, and Patti was yelling these incredible improvised lyrics into the microphone, and the entire audience were convulsing to the beat. It was beautiful. Read more about it in a few days or so when I finally finish and publish my post!

‘No Plan’ – David Bowie

This song is here for three reasons: a) I travelled to England a few months back, where I was beyond lucky enough to see Lazarus at the King’s Cross Theatre. Although I’d wanted to see it ever since its original New York run was announced, I never really thought that I actually would – not to mention the extra meaning the musical undoubtedly has carried since January 2016 – so to say that I found this to be an incredibly special and moving experience would be an understatement. The above was one of the three new songs that he wrote specifically for it, and I even hung off listening to the soundtrack when it was released several months before I saw the show so I could experience these new tunes just how Bowie wanted. All of these songs are amazing – Bowie’s original versions of them even more so – but ‘No Plan’ might be my favourite of them all… b) I preordered the No Plan EP (the release in which these original versions are housed) in its fanciest vinyl incarnation – the vinyl is white and it’s numbered and it comes with fancy lithographs – many, many months ago, and it’s supposed to arrive this week!!! And c) because it’s nearly a year and a half since Bowie passed away, so I plan on finishing and publishing the post on him that I meant to write in January but didn’t have mange to finish in time then. I also plan on showing you guys some of my pics from England, so watch this space!

‘Shadow’ – Chromatics

Has anybody else been watching Twin Peaks: The Return? I certainly have! One of my many, many favourite parts of the new series (Andy and Lucy’s son and “Helloooooo!” notwithstanding!) is the way that each episode ends with a different band performing a suitably Angelo Badalamenti-esque tune at The Roadhouse – it’s so removed from the insanity that is the rest of the show’s events, giving us a chance to debrief, and it’s just a really cool way to showcase some new tunes! The above is probably my favourite of the ones that have been showcased so far – the song is pure floaty, synthy dream pop (think Julee Cruise’s ‘The Nightingale’ from the original series), and singer Ruth Radalet looks so much like Nico I did a double-take when I first saw her onscreen, and Shelly’s (sarcastic?) remark that “James has always been cool” during its performance helped a bit too… I can’t wait to see where the series goes from here, though – and my excitement about it means that a post about it will probably be forthcoming in the somewhat near future!

‘Leaving LA’ – Father John Misty

When Father John Misty released I Love You, Honeybear back in 2015, I was kinda confused as to why the entirety of the music press was so obsessed with it – I mean, it sounded pretty enough and all, but at the time, fuzzed-up psychedelic rock (which, of course, is still my thing too!) interested me a lot more than existentialist piano ballads, and up until a few months ago I always thought that it was a little overrated. Anyway, we recently acquired a copy of the aforementioned Honeybear, and something just clicked – something about the lyrics and the melodies and the production and just the essence of each song welled up and burst into one of the most beautiful things I’d ever heard. ‘Leaving LA’, from this year’s Honeybear-followup Pure Comedy, somehow manages to supersede what I thought would be the near-impossible task of bettering its predecessor. My first listening of it easily became among the most magical and incredible 13 minutes of my life, and it – in all of its beautiful instrumentation, and oh, among the most literate and incredible lyrics of the past twenty years – undoubtedly deserves a place in pop music’s grandest songbooks alongside ‘Stairway To Heaven’ and the rest. It’s also restored my interest in new music – something which my aforementioned school-related busy-ness has prevented me from discovering as much as I’d like – and so there might just be a post on some of my current faves sometime soon, too!

‘I Don’t Wanna Be Too Cool’ – Kate Fagan & ‘Button Up’ – The Bloods

Although I haven’t been discovering as much music this year as I’d like, I have been researching and unearthing some obscure American postpunk gems over the past few months. Unlike its oft-poppier English counterpart (which I also love – don’t get me wrong!), this incarnation of the movement was edgier than punk itself, incorporating obscure and abrasive instrumentation, primal rhythms, droning vocals, objectively bad production techniques, weird intellectualist lyrics, even oddly-juxtaposed disco guitar licks – and it’s just the absolute coolest thing ever! It was no surprise to me to learn that many of these musicians were also underground visual artists and filmmakers as well – their music easily fits as an extension of the ideas and aesthetics explored within these. Another aspect of the movement that I also particularly love was its empowerment of women; every single one of the bands I’ve discovered had at least one female member, and it’s really quite something to see how these artists could be as overtly feminine as they wished and still be considered every bit as valid as their male colleagues – especially after realising that it seems like we’ve almost backpedalled on this a bit in comparison. The above songs are two that I feel best exhibit the movement in all of its noisy, feminine glory, and I haven’t been able to stop listening to them – ‘Button Up’ especially! – for ages… Maybe I’ll compile my finds into a post sometime soon as well, if you like!

‘Hospital’ – The Modern Lovers

The other band that I’ve really gotten into over the past few months is The Modern Lovers. Founded by a Lou Reed-obsessed Jonathan Richman in Boston in the early ’70s, they were no more by 1974 and their only album was released in 1976 – but they, like The Velvets (and Big Star), have gone on to be credited with inventing much of what we call “alternative music” today. The main reason, though, that I’ve come to love them so much is the way that they contrast nerdiness with edginess, and how relatable I find this – while I adore the music and lyrics of Reed/Alex Chilton/Iggy Pop/Patti Smith/et al, I’m the first to admit that I otherwise fit the stereotype of the socially awkward goody two shoes perfectly, this something that tends to be derided in the music that I like. It’s nice to find a similar band from this era that not only revels in this kind of nerdy awkwardness, but acknowledges that you can both be this way inclined AND love edgy underground music – they’re pretty much the most relatable band I’ve ever discovered! I especially love this particular song, and I haven’t really stopped listening to it for the past few weeks…

‘Let’s Go To Bed’ – The Cure

Not particularly related to anything other than the fact that I started working at my school’s canteen one day a week, and the woman who runs it very kindly gave me a copy of The Cure’s Greatest Hits – meaning that I now own this song and can jump around my living room to it any time I wish! This makes me very pleased indeed…

Here’s some “old” faves that I may or may not have mentioned before on here that have also been in high circulation on my record player/stereo/YouTube account, too:

Anyway, it’s nice to be back – hopefully I’ll be posting and chatting to you guys a lot more again soon! Feel free to let me know what you’ve been listening/watching/reading/whatever-ing, lately, too! 🙂

Making Mixtapes: Autumn Edition

I know, I know, it's a massively-cliché stock photo... But hey! At least it's pretty!

I know, it’s a cliché stock photo… But hey! At least it’s pretty!

Late Autumn and early Winter is my favourite time of year – the searing heat of Summer turns into breezy, hazy sunshine, that soon finds itself becoming a satisfying brand of icy, crisp cold. Everything just seems so dreamy, so magical, so perfect. So maybe the climate is to blame for the fact that almost all of my favourite musical memories occur somewhere within the cooler months of the year. And considering that, in Australia, we are entering the final weeks of Autumn, I thought it would be especially appropriate to make a ‘mixtape’ of a few of these today!

‘Penny Lane’ – The Beatles

I remember the day I bought my first Beatles album (1, for the curious): it was the 10th of July, 2013. I’d never heard anything so thrilling in my short life, and I listened to it on endless repeat for the remainder of the year. The day after The Purchase, however, I was hanging out with my best friend at the time, a more seasoned Beatles fan who actually introduced me to them in the first place. We spent much of that afternoon listening our favourite songs, dancing and chanting the words we knew. I remember picking ‘Hello Goodbye’ and ‘Help!’ – and I remember that she picked ‘Lady Madonna’ and ‘Yesterday’, among others. But she also picked ‘Penny Lane’, a song I was yet to hear, then. And as I listened, there was something just so magical about the song – whether it be its surrealism or inventive band arrangement or the beautiful melody of the lyrics – something that moved me like no song had before… I couldn’t have had any idea as to how monumentally that moment would change the course of my life. I wouldn’t be a rock’n’roll fan without it.

‘Sugar Man’ – Rodriguez

I first learnt of Rodriguez – a cult musician who created quirky, psychedelic folk in the early ’70s – in April 2014, via a documentary on his life that lead to a major resurrection of his work. His discography fascinated me from the first listen – partly because it reminded me of The White Album, but also because it was ‘weird’ in a way I didn’t yet know music could be. The best-know track off Cold Fact – his debut – is a freakishly beautiful folk song called ‘Sugar Man’ – whirring synths and woodwind arrangements accompany his echoey guitar and his voice, which is only describable is incredible… At a time when I felt that listening to artists other than The Beatles equated betraying them, his music became one of my favourite things in the world.

The following Spring, I saw Rodrgiuez play in my hometown. It was my first proper gig, and what a great one it was! He still sounded incredible, and to this day I consider it one of the greatest nights of my life…

‘Sunday Morning’ – The Velvet Underground

I first heard the phrase ‘Velvet Underground’ on the night that Lou Reed died – everyone was talking about him, and though I remain mildly annoyed that I only got into his work afterwards, it was through this that I learnt of his first band. I never felt compelled to listen to them, however – that was, until, I first heard a cover of ‘Sunday Morning’ one night, in May 2014. I felt like I knew it (I didn’t), like it and I were meant to be – and it happened to be one of my mum’s favourite songs. As we listened, she told me of how The Velvet Underground had played a part in the the soundtrack of her 20’s, and she told me to go and look the original version up. The next day, I did just that, and its immense beauty captivated me – it is hard to explain in words the affect it had. The Velvets have continued to captivate, inspire and influence me ever since…

‘Lust For Life’ – Iggy Pop

In the Winter of 2014, my mum and I decided we’d listen to CDs in her car instead of the radio. So we sifted through the glovebox, and found – among the stacks of children’s novelty albums and musical soundtracks – the soundtrack to Trainspotting. We inserted the CD into the player, and soon enough, this ferocious rhythm burst out of the speakers – and then this sneering, couldn’t-care-less voice joined it all, too. ‘Lust For Life’ was dangerous, tough, fiery, in a way that I didn’t realise music could be. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know the next thing about Iggy Pop, that my days of blasting ‘Search and Destroy’ and ‘1969’ at maximum volume were still years off, that I hated punk rock; I wanted to dance. I was hooked.

‘Isn’t It A Pity’ – George Harrison

By the middle of 2014, I’d officially listened to every Beatles song, so I’d begun to delve into their solo catalogues as well. One particularly cold and dark July day that year, I was sitting – or shivering, rather – in an apartment in Melbourne  when I finally decided to listen to All Things Must Pass. There was something so dreamy, so warm about the album – it was the definition of ‘ethereal’, and it seemed so bright, in contrast to the dark clouds that loomed outside my window. I was introduced to ‘Isn’t It A Pity’ that afternoon – a song that was perhaps the warmest, the most shimmery of them all, and one that I’ve loved ever since. It is the perfect song for dark, cold Winter nights…

‘Hallelujah’ – Jeff Buckley

Jeff Buckley’s version of ‘Hallelujah’ is perhaps the definitive late-Autumn song. The warm, twinkling beauty of the guitar and Buckley’s beyond-incredible voice seem to be the sonic equivalent of the hazy, dying heat of Australian Aprils. Like the weather, the song seems like something of magic, too. I first heard it in June or July 2014, after my guitar teacher told me about it. All I remember was how overwhelmed I was, of how I thought it sounded almost as beautiful as my favourite Beatles songs. There weren’t too many songs that made me cry, then – but this was one of them.

‘I’m Only Sleeping’ – The Beatles

It was August, 2014 when I decided, rather innocuously, that I was going to listen to Revolver one afternoon. This, of course, wasn’t an uncommon decision at the time – Revolver was my all-time favourite album, after all. So I placed it on the turntable, and I began to listen. Everything seemed perfectly normal to me – until I reached ‘I’m Only Sleeping’. I’d listened to it a thousand times before, but that afternoon I felt something I’d never felt before. I realised just how incredible, how beautiful the song – and the album – was; I became entirely overwhelmed by this immense love for the music. I’d been a music fan for a while, at that point – but it wasn’t until that day that I realised how powerful it was.

‘Waterloo Sunset’ – The Kinks

In the March of 2015, I borrowed a biography on The Kinks from a nearby library. I found their story fascinating – not always in a good way, yet endlessly interesting nonetheless. And, I mean, I’d heard ‘Waterloo Sunset’ countless times before reading the book, but I’d never appreciated it – I’d always liked their early garage ventures (‘You Really Got Me’; ‘All Day and All of the Night’) more. But as I read, I realised that Ray Davies is a certified songwriting genius, and I felt compelled to listen to it properly. And of course, I also realised how wrong I’d been to take it for granted, and by the time it was through, I’d concluded that it was among the greatest songs of our time. I do, after all, have ears…

‘The Real Me’ – The Who

I first heard Quadrophenia in the Autumn of last year. On May 19th – Pete Townshend’s birthday – to be exact… At this point in time, I was becoming a massive Who fan – I’d read Townshend’s autobiography, I’d played my CD of Tommy so many times that the fancy gatefold had started to ever-so-slightly fall apart… But Quadrophenia blew my mind like no other Who album ever had. It was ambitious, but it was also one of the greatest I’d ever heard – it was so passionate, so expertly crafted, so captivating, and oh, how I loved the brass arrangements! ‘The Real Me’ was what started it all – everything about it was so energetic, so flawlessly recorded and it made you want to dance, too. To this day, it’s my favourite Who song.

‘Miss Amanda Jones’ – The Stones

Some Kind of Wonderful – not The Breakfast Club, not Pretty in Pink – is my favourite ’80s movie. This is for a number of reasons; mainly because the protagonists are both quirky outsiders who, unlike PiP‘s Andie and TBC‘s Allison, never compromise who they are – but also for the fact that one of the characters is named after a Stones song. ‘Miss Amanda Jones’ (the song in question) is ridiculously underrated – it’s a seemingly conventional rock song on the surface, yet Keith Richards’ fuzzy guitar turns it into a darkly psychedelic freak-out. It also happens to be on my favourite Stones album, Between the Buttons. It’s the most perfect song for a movie about two people who never apologise for not ‘fitting in’ – it’s so freaky, yet it’s so great… I listened it on repeat all through the coldest, darkest Winter days last year!

‘Old Man’ – Neil Young

Like ‘Hallelujah’, Neil Young’s music is, to me, the sonic equivalent of the beauty of late Autumn. His voice, his guitar, his songwriting style all resonate with the most beautiful melancholy warmth that is so innately satisfying to the listener. Harvest is easily one of my all-time favourite albums because of this. And ‘Old Man’ happens to be one of my favourite songs, too. There’s just something about it – his achingly beautiful voice, the thoughtful lyrics, its catchiness, the exquisite guitar, backing vocals… It really is the perfect song to listen to as the final rays of sun shine on your back, as Summer draws to an end.

‘Another Girl, Another Planet’ – The Only Ones

Before the beginning of last year, I hated punk rock. But then I watched a documentary on Joy Division and decided it wasn’t so bad – and that Unknown Pleasures was amazing. But it wasn’t until I was introduced to the Only Ones that I grew to love it.

In the Winter of last year, my mum found her Only Ones album in her vinyl collection, and we decided to play it sometime. But first, we looked up ‘Another Girl, Another Planet’. I was instantly hooked. Listen to the song: the gritty power chords, the pretty melody. I decided it was one of the greatest I’d ever heard, and consequently, I finally felt compelled to listen to the punk bands that I’d read so much about. In hindsight, the Ones aren’t actually that punk (though this does nothing to diminish how much I like them). But they were an incredible gateway, and for that I owe them a lot!

‘Gloria’ – Patti Smith

I’d read a lot about Patti Smith, and of how Horses was supposedly one of the greatest albums of all time. So last July, I bought it. I wanted to see if it was really that amazing. I placed it in my CD player as soon as I had the chance – I turned it up loud, sat nearby and pressed ‘play’. The first track began innocuously enough, and it confused me; wasn’t Patti supposed to be punk? Why is it just piano chords? But then, she sang the first line: ‘Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine.’ There are few times in my life where I’ve felt as liberated, as incredible as I did in that moment. And of course, ‘Gloria’ turned into the most incredible rollercoaster ride of poetry, bohemianism and her unique brand of minimalist rock. By the time it faded out, my life would never be the same again.

‘Suffragette City’ and ‘Oh! You Pretty Things’ – David Bowie

Funnily enough, David Bowie was one of my first musical discoveries – I became a music fan in 2013, after all, a year in which his presence was unavoidable. But it wasn’t until 2014 that I actually began to listen to him, and before August 2015, I really was only a casual fan. But the first Bowie song I loved predates that August by a couple of months – ‘Suffragette City’. I first heard it in an episode of Gilmore Girls, yet I didn’t realise how amazing it was until I listened to it minus the context of my favourite TV show. It is hard to forget how it blew my mind – how edgy and thrilling it sounded, how I couldn’t keep my feet still, how I couldn’t stop grinning for the entire duration of the song, how I couldn’t help but scream ‘Wham! Bam! Thank you ma’am!’ with him. I promptly added it to my last ‘Making Mixtapes’ post (from last July), and in one draft, added that I soon hoped to become more than a casual fan of his work…

By the time I heard ‘Oh! You Pretty Things’ – only a few months later – I was well beyond casual fandom. I’d seen the ‘David Bowie Is’ exhibition a couple of weeks beforehand, and he’d stormed into my life and almost entirely changed how I saw the world. I’d spent those weeks in a daze, so overwhelmed by his art, and I listened to him whenever I had the chance. Hunky Dory was among the first of his albums that I discovered, and there are few I love as much as it. I fell in love with ‘Pretty Things’ on my first listen – I loved the chords, and the singalong chorus, and his juxtaposition of darkly philosophical lyrics and upbeat melodies. I remember listening to it at school all the time last year, feeling cool and comfortable in myself in a way I hadn’t really experienced before. He made me realise that I didn’t have to change myself, that I didn’t have to ‘fit in’ to be comfortable in my own skin.

‘Teen Age Riot’ – Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth was first recommended to me at the end of 2014. I tried listening to them then – and I decided I liked one of their songs (‘Sunday’) but that they were too ‘weird’ for me. But as 2014 turned into 2015, and as my music taste became progressively freakier, I tried again that Winter – but this time, I adored them. ‘Teen Age Riot’ is a song prone to obsessive fanaticism, and it isn’t hard to see why. It’s magical, hypnotic – as Kim Gordon chants about ‘sweet desire’ to clashing guitars, and as Thurston Moore frantically sings its lyrics to punky, noisy rhythms. It’s one of the songs that enters and changes your life so fast – one that you’ll listen to on endless repeat while chanting the lyrics by heart. It’s so unconventional, yet it’s so rewarding. I’ve proudly called myself a Youth fan ever since my first listen.

 

‘Kiss Off’ – Violent Femmes

When it was announced that the Violent Femmes were on the bill for this year’s WOMADelaide (a music festival I’ve attended every year since I was 8 or 9), my mum and I were so excited. I’ve been a Femmes fan ever since she played me their 1991 album, Why Do Birds Sing, in the Spring of 2014. But in the months that lead up to the festival, I dived deeper and deeper into their catalogue, and listened to their classic debut on constant repeat for at least a month or two… ‘Kiss Off’ was my favourite track off it, even if mainly for the frantic chant of ‘Everything! Everything! Everything!’ at the end of the bridge.

And of course, their set at the festival was every bit as amazing as I expected. I sang the lyrics to almost every song, dancing madly and raucously applauding at the end of each. I even managed to get my CDs signed by bassist Brian Ritchie afterwards!

‘Just Like Honey’ (The Jesus and Mary Chain)/’Boys Don’t Cry’ (The Cure)

For some reason, these songs are linked in my mind. I first (deliberately) heard them, back to back, while working on an assignment for my Music class a month or so ago. ‘Just Like Honey’ was first: it appeared as a ‘recommended video’ on YouTube, and I decided to listen – I’d been meaning to try the Jesus and Mary Chain for a while, after all. I had high expectations for the song, yet I couldn’t have predicted how amazing it would be: the booming drums, the guitar (so laden with gritty effects that it seemed to shimmer and twinkle), Jim Reid’s flowing voice, the melody. It was just so impossibly pretty – it sent shivers down my spine. I haven’t been able to get enough of it since!

Despite trying multiple times, I’ve never been able to ‘get’ The Smiths – so perhaps that’s why I only began listening to The Cure earlier this year. On the day that I discovered ‘Just Like Honey’, I’d only listened (yet also really liked) to a couple of their songs – so when YouTube recommended ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ after ‘Just Like Honey’, I thought I’d try it, too. I wasn’t surprised to discover I loved the song, as well – Robert Smith’s voice sounded so great, and I loved the hook that ran between the verses. I ended up singing it to myself for the rest of the day, and right now, it’s definitely among my favourite songs…

‘The Ballad of El Goodo’ – Big Star

Sometimes it takes only one song to entirely fall in love with a band’s discography. ‘The Ballad of El Goodo’ is one of those songs. I first listened to it a month or so ago, during my Art class, as the Autumnal sun poured through the window and onto my sketchbook. Its beauty entirely overwhelmed me. And it really is beautiful – the achingly exquisite guitar, Alex Chilton’s stunning voice, the dreamy backing vocals, the lyrics, the chiming, pretty melodies… It is one the most perfect songs in history. It’s just incredible.

‘God Only Knows’ – The Beach Boys

Last month, my mum and I went to see Brian Wilson perform Pet Sounds. We decided, quite literally, a few hours before, but it was certainly among the better decisions we’ve made… While we may have been sitting in the back row, and Brian’s voice mightn’t have been so great anymore, it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Just knowing that the man sitting in front of the white grand piano on stage wrote one of the greatest albums of all time was enough. As one would expect, the performance of ‘God Only Knows’ was one of the greatest moments of the night – the silence, the admiration that spread through the theatre was spine-chilling. At its end, we all gave him a standing ovation – and then he told us to sit down so he could start the next song!

‘Here Comes Your Man’ – Pixies

I feel like I came to the Pixies kind of late. I was so busy obsessing over Sonic Youth that I almost forgot about the other definitive 80s’ alternative band. Yet, not too long ago, I listened to Doolittle for the first time with slightly strange expectations – I wanted it to be amazing, but I never thought it could equal Daydream Nation. But as I played it, I became more and more hooked as the album progressed – their combination of arty noise and conventional melodies fascinated me. ‘Here Comes Your Man’ must be my most-played YouTube video of late – there is something so great about Black Francis’s voice on the track, the pretty, poppy melodies in the context of, well, the Pixies… So I’ve been listening to it on repeat ever since, and you know what? I reckon I like them just as much as SY!

‘I Can’t Give Everything Away’ – David Bowie

Despite the fact that I’d been beyond excited about it since rumours started spreading of its existence, I didn’t listen to Blackstar on the day it was released. I’d preordered it on vinyl as soon as the chance was available, and I knew it was going to be incredible – so I decided I would wait until my vinyl arrived, so I could truly appreciate its greatness on the first listen. Of course, between its release and its arrival on my doorstep, something happened: it was announced that David Bowie had passed away. That night, a lot of things flew through my head as I tried to contend with my grief – one of these things was an incredible regret, as I’d never have the chance to listen to the album without its now-apparent context…

My copy of Blackstar arrived a week later, almost to the minute. It sat on my record player for a couple of weeks, but eventually, I worked up the courage to play it. This was a strange experience; musically, I loved it, yet I found it incredibly difficult and emotional to listen to, as well. ‘I Can’t Give Everything Away’  was perhaps the pinnacle of this – it was such a great song, yet it also happened to the most melancholy on the album. Yet, I still love it. It sounds like the future, so heady and positively intergalactic – proof that Bowie will always be 20 years ahead of the rest of us. A few weeks ago, a music video was released for it. It was so beautiful – surprisingly uplifting, too – and I gained even more of an appreciation for the song. As I watched the video, it proved to me that my sadness at his passing would never lessen the incredible way his art makes me feel – it remains too powerful, too brilliant for that…

‘Perfect Day’ – Lou Reed

And so, I find myself at the beginning, again. I, too, first heard this on the Trainspotting soundtrack – yet unlike ‘Lust For Life’, it wasn’t love at first hearing. ‘It’s not as good as the Velvets,’ I remember telling my mum at the time. Yet, at some point – last year? this year? – something really changed. Because now it – a song recorded by one of my favourite artists and produced by another (Bowie!) – is among my all-time favourite. It’s so incredible, so beautiful, so moving. I’d be glad to spend any day with this song, perfect or not…

So, what are your go-to songs as the cold weather begins to set in? Be sure to tell me in the comments!

You can listen to the whole thing here!

And here’s an appropriately-themed song to finish off…

My 15 Favourite Albums on the 16th

Reading through the most recent posts of my blog post feed this morning, I found many people had participated in the #top15onthe15th tag, and listed their 15 favourite albums. And I decided I’d add my opinion to the mix, too! Of course, it is well and truly the 16th in Australia, now, but anyway… This list certainly isn’t comprehensive. My full list of all-time favourite albums would probably only fit on ten rolls of toilet paper, and narrowing it down to 15 was certainly hard! But anyway, in no particular order…

Revolver (1966) The Beatles (1968): The Beatles

Revolver the white album

Revolver is easily my favourite album of all-time. Featuring everything from dark, mysterious psychedelic rock, to a garage song with searing hot guitar, to spellbinding, well-crafted ballads, it possesses a special kind of magic. It was the album that made me realise just how special The Beatles – and music, in general – are. ‘Genius’ is oft overused, but it certainly applies here.

Compared with the perfectionism of Sgt Pepper, The White Album isn’t technically good at all. But technicality and perfectionism has never been an essential requirement in good rock music, and the album is perhaps one of the best embodiments of this. Sprawling from proto-metal to soft folk to avant-garde musique concrete to vaudevillian jazz to good-ol’ fashioned rock’n’roll, it transcends genres. Whilst it’s certainly self-indulgent in parts, this contributes to the unconventional vibe of the album. And that – its eccentricity –  is what makes it so great.

Hunky Dory (1971) & The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (1972): David Bowie

hunky dory ZiggyStardust

Hunky Dory is a work of musical art. Displaying Bowie’s eclectic gift for songwriting – ranging from the pop of ‘Changes’, to the flamenco-infused folk of ‘Andy Warhol’, to the music hall-inspired ‘Oh! You Pretty Things, to the glam-rock of ‘Queen Bitch’ – each song is perfection. Lyrically, the album contains some of Bowie’s best, his unique imagery and way-with-words particularly evident on tracks such as ‘Life on Mars?’ and the aforementioned ‘Queen Bitch’. Utter genius!

There isn’t a single song I don’t love on Ziggy Stardust. Bowie tells the story of a rock star who takes it all too far – subject matter rarely broached by a popular musician – with surrealist imagery, his voice (ranging from the screaming passion of ‘Rock’n’Roll Suicide’ to the almost-lazy tone of ‘Suffragette City’), thought-provoking lyrical matter and guitars, drums and saxes that absolutely rock. It’s easy to see why it affected teenagers so much at its original release, and why it continues to do so – myself included – today…

Tommy (1969) & Quadrophenia (1973): The Who

Tommyalbumcover quadrophenia

Tommy was my first Who album, and continues to be the one I listen to the most. Whilst its narrative is more disjointed and less plausible than that of Quadrophenia, this is definitely accounted for with the music. Containing everything from the falsetto beauty of ‘See Me, Feel Me’, to the hard rock of ‘Go To The Mirror!’, to the (successful!) ambitiousness of the album’s instrumentals, it is certainly one of the band’s best.

Quadrophenia is definitely my favourite Who album. With it, the band reached levels of emotion, passion and musical virtuosity that would be the highest they’d ever reach. The tracks are something of songwriting genius, again arguably the best of The Who’s career. And though the story is incredibly sad, it’s ability to move listeners only serves as a testament to its power and importance.

Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967): The Rolling Stones

their satanic majesties request

An unpopular opinion here: Satanic Majesties – The Stones’ psychedelic experiment – is almost universally hated, by both fans and the band themselves. And yeah – the lows are unarguably very low (‘On With The Show’, anybody?), but its highs are incredibly high, as well. From the driving hard rock of ‘Citadel’, to the baroque pop of ‘She’s A Rainbow’ and – my favourite – the hypnotic, hazy psychedelia of ‘2000 Light Years From Home’, it is moments like these that make it so good.

The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967): The Velvet Underground (featuring Nico)

the velvet underground and nico

The Velvet Underground and Nico was the first non-Beatles album to affect me, and it’s easy to see why. Incredibly edgy, yet with its share of exquisite beauty; the voices of Lou Reed and Nico delightfully nonconformist; the lyrical matter still controversial to our 21st-century ears, it was totally unlike anything I’d heard before. Ranging from out-of-tune protopunk to the prettiest ballads, it is truly a masterpiece.

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967): Pink Floyd

PinkFloyd-album-piperatthegatesofdawn_300

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is – unlike the lengthy prog. rock of Pink Floyd’s later work (which, of course, are ‘gems’ as well) – is a psychedelic gem. The album patents a brand of wild, cacophonous psychedelia – heady and deeply rooted in the underground. Syd Barrett’s lyrics, too, are wonderful. Whimsical and naïve, they add a level of childlike innocence to the music. As much as I love the band’s prog era, it is – hands down – my favourite Floyd album.

The Doors (1967): The Doors

TheDoorsTheDoorsalbumcover

The Doors’ self-titled debut is often regarded as their best, and my opinion is no exception. An intriguing mix of psychedelia and jazz, the music is mysterious and dangerous; Ray Manzarek’s organ, in particular, adds a layer of shimmery beauty to the tracks. And of course, Jim Morrison’s lyrics are as well-written and fascinating as usual, his voice a contrast to the trends of the time…

John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (1970): John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band

JLPOBCover

John’s first post-Beatles solo album is a stark contrast to Abbey Road, the last album the band would record together. Musically, it’s pared back to tough, basic hard rock (with a couple of exceptions); lyrically, it’s a mixture of realism, denouncement of authority and a recurring theme of his painful childhood. But it’s contrast to The Beatles is, again, what makes it such a great album. John had moved on, and he had begun to make great art on his own.

Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit (2015): Courtney Barnett

sometimes i sit

Though only released in the March of this year, Courtney Barnett’s debut studio album quickly has become among my all-time favourites. I don’t know what it is about it – whether it be Barnett’s wonderfully witty and intelligent lyrics, her Australian accent, the music itself (a brand of grungy rock’n’roll rarely heard these days) – but it is impressively good, and will likely be listened to by indie fans alike many years from now…

Horses (1975): Patti Smith

PattiSmithHorses

I picked up Horses at a nearby record shop on a whim, a few months ago, to see if I agreed with all the accolade. I inserted it into the CD player, and turned it up loud. ‘Gloria’ began, with its serene piano chords and Smith’s famous lyric of “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine”. The music soon turned into unique arty punk, something which intrigued me. I felt a sense of liberation – maybe it was Smith’s lyrics, or her singing (which reminded me a little of my own), or her successful merging of bohemianism and punk. But anyway, I knew it was my kind of music. And I’ve loved it ever since.

Attack and Release (2008): The Black Keys

attack + release

Though The Black Keys have forever been plagued by comparisons to The White Stripes, it is with Attack and Release that they prove these claims blatantly wrong. Helped by their then-new partnership with producer Brian Burton (AKA Danger Mouse), it is the perfect mix between psychedelia, blues rock and punk, perhaps my favourite genres ever. Easily my favourite Keys album!

Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus (recorded 1968, released 1996): various

Rolling_Stones_Circus

This one’s self-explanatory. There is so much to love: a John Lennon-fronted supergroup (featuring Keith Richards on bass and Eric Clapton on lead guitar) playing a searing version of ‘Yer Blues’, an electrifying Who performance of their mini rock-opera, ‘A Quick One While He’s A Way’, a set from The Stones themselves, featuring a spine-chilling slide performance from Brian Jones and a rendition of ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ seven months before its release… Virtually my musical dream!

So, what are your favourite albums of all time? Be sure to tell me in the comments!

Making Mixtapes…

The disappearance of mixtapes is sad, in my opinion. Making someone a YouTube playlist of their favourite tunes is a nice gesture, but it doesn’t seem to have as much thought and effort behind it. Plus, nothing beats listening to “physical” music.

So, in keeping with my mixtape-ish mood, I thought I’d make just that! Of course, for the sake of the Internet, a YouTube playlist will have to do, but anyway… And in keeping within the general theme of this blog, my mixtape will consist of all the songs from the ’60s and ’70s that are most important to me. So, here goes…

‘I’m Only Sleeping’, ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’, ‘Here There and Everywhere’, ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’, ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Anthology 3 Version)’ & ‘Long, Long, Long’: The Beatles

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‘I’m Only Sleeping’ is perhaps my most important Beatles song. I first heard it in late 2013, and was captivated by its psychedelic, lazy vibe, unlike anything I’d ever heard before. But in August 2014, I was listening to Revolver on vinyl, and the song came on. I felt a love for the music that I’d never felt before, and I realised just how special it was. I’d called The Beatles my favourite band for over a year prior, but it was only then that I knew what it meant…

‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’ is my current favourite Beatles song. I love how, in under three minutes, it covers the history of rock’n’roll. Stretching from psychedelic imagery to Zeppelin-esque hard rock to a doo-wop parody, plus one of John’s best vocal performances, it’s definitely one of The Beatles’ best!

‘Here, There & Everywhere’ was one of John’s and Paul’s favourite Beatles songs, and it’s my favourite Paul-penned song. It has such a delicate vibe to it. The vocals from all parties are hypnotically beautiful – not to even mention the drums, and bass… A wondrous song!

‘Long, Long, Long’ & the Anthology 3 version of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ are both folky, George-written tunes from the White Album era. The former has long been a favourite of mine. In contrast to the cacophony of ‘Helter Skelter’ before it, it’s a beautifully peaceful tune, with the wonderful guitar, organ and drums among its highlights. The latter song is my favourite version of the tune. Whilst I love the official version, with its Clapton-played lead guitar, there isn’t much better than the gentle acoustic guitar and the shimmery organ of the Anthology 3 version, for me…

‘My Generation’, ‘The Real Me’, ‘I’m Free’ & ‘See Me, Feel Me’: The Who

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Though I love the musical work from each Who member on ‘My Generation’ (John Entwistle’s bass, in particular!), my favourite part of the song is the lyrics. Where I live, among the mainstream media’s favourite pastimes is criticising anyone under the age of 30. ‘My Generation’, like the generations before who listened to the song, made for a good antidote to their criticism & generalisations.

‘The Real Me’ is my favourite Who song at the moment. Like most of their tunes, the guitars/bass/drums/vocals are amazing – one of my favourite things about the band is how each band member was really good at what they did. The perfect opener to one of my favourite Who albums, Quadrophenia!

‘I’m Free’ & ‘See Me, Feel Me‘ are both from Tommy, my other favourite Who album.The former is a rocker, with a standout rhythm guitar performance from Pete Townshend. It’s only recently that I began to listen to it more “in-depth”, but since I have, it has quickly become a favourite. The latter in contrast, was one of my original favourites. Roger Daltrey’s falsetto vocals and Keith Moon’s drums during the “listening to you” chorus, in particular, make the song a very deserved classic…

‘Stray Cat Blues’, ‘No Expectations’, ‘Under My Thumb’, ‘2000 Light Years From Home’ & ‘Midnight Rambler (Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out version)’: The Rolling Stones

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‘Stray Cat Blues’ & ‘No Expectations’ are from The Stones’ 7th album, Beggar’s Banquet. I’ve been listening to ‘Stray Cat Blues’ almost exclusively for the past few days. It’s edgy; it’s hard; it’s great! The instruments and vocals are all awesome, and I love it. ‘No Expectations’ is another favourite. Brian Jones’s slide guitar on the song is one of the last things he did with The Stones. It’s beautiful, and only proves Brian’s musical genius.

‘Under My Thumb’ & ‘2000 Light Years From Home’ are from my favourite Stones period, the mid-’60s. Despite the horribly misogynistic lyrics, I love ‘Under My Thumb’. The fuzzed bass and stabbing guitar are great, but the highlight of the song is definitely Brian’s marimba riff. And ‘2000’ is my favourite song on The Stones’ album that everyone loves to hate, and I love to love: Their Satanic Majesties Request. The mellotron, the keyboards, the guitar & the vocals bring a song by a primarily R&B band to sound more like Pink Floyd… Probably my favourite Stones song!

My dad introduced me to Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out, and ‘Midnight Rambler’ is perhaps my favourite song on the album. I love its rawness. But the most special bit about it, for me, is the cry of “Paint it black, you devil!” at the end. Dad and I joked about it for months, and continue to do so…

‘Venus In Furs’, ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’, ‘White Light/White Heat’, ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’ & ‘Sunday Morning’: The Velvet Underground

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‘Venus In Furs’ was my original favourite Velvets song. I remember being captivated by the cacophony of violas, guitars and drums the first time I listened to it. To this day, it’s one of my very favourites. I tried to cover it whilst busking earlier this year, with less-than-successful results…

It was only recently that I realised the beauty of ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’. I never really liked Nico’s songs on The Velvets’ debut, The Velvet Underground and Nico, and ‘Mirror’ is one that she sings. It was only after listening to Beck’s cover of the song for his Record Club project that I realised how beautiful the song is. I particularly like the guitar part!

‘I’m Waiting For The Man’ is one of the rockier songs on Nico, yet is just as great. After the beauty of ‘Sunday Morning’, it’s refreshingly hard and punk-esque. I’ve always loved the song, and continue to do so today!

‘Sunday Morning’ was the song that introduced me to The Velvets, and perhaps the first non-Beatles song to have an impact on me. After hearing a cover of it on one of our favourite shows, my mum played me the song. And so began my love of a wonderful band…

‘White Light/White Heat’ is the title track of The Velvets’ second album. The songs are less “beautiful” than The Velvet Underground and Nico, but are no less experimental. It’s a tough, distorted avant-garde rock tune, and its influence on punk rock is easy to hear…

‘The End’, ‘L.A. Woman’, ‘Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)’ & ‘People Are Strange’: The Doors

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‘The End’ & ‘Alabama Song’ are from The Doors’ self-titled debut. ‘The End’ is often regarded as one of The Doors’ masterpieces, and for good reason! Jim Morrison’s lyrics are some of his best, and the mysterious, psychedelic vibe that floats throughout the song is magical. The ending, with Jim’s infamous Oedipal spoken word section and rhythmic usage of the f-bomb, is also intriguing and helps create a magnificently climactic ending to the album. ‘Alabama Song’, in contrast, is a cover, but I love it all the same. Jim’s vocal performance on the song is one of my favourites, and I love Ray Manzarek’s pulsating, off-beat organ!

‘L.A. Woman‘ is the first song I can remember. One of my first memories is of my parents playing the song, and of being appalled once being informed that the song included the word ‘damn’! The album of the same name was in high rotation during my childhood, too. And now that I’m older, it has since become one of my favourite songs…

‘People Are Strange’ has always fascinated me, ever since I first heard it last year. The song was such a departure from any Doors stuff I’d heard before, at that point. Perhaps my favourite part of the song is the guitar, though the piano and, of course, the vocals give it quite a different vibe. It’s quite an understated song, and I like it a lot!

‘Welcome To The Machine’, ‘Interstellar Overdrive’, ‘The Gnome’ & ‘Wish You Were Here’: Pink Floyd

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‘Welcome To The Machine’‘Wish You Were Here’ are both from, well, Wish You Were Here. The former is the song that introduced me to Floyd, and what made me a fan. I remember listening to the song last year – its hypnotising synths, the swirling vocals. It completely blew my mind, and I remain in utter awe of it. And ‘Wish You Were Here’ speaks for itself, really… The acoustic guitar that runs throughout the song is beautiful, and I love David Gilmour’s vocals, too. It’s easy to see why it’s perhaps Floyd’s best-known song!

‘Interstellar Overdrive’‘The Gnome’ are both from Pink Floyd’s debut, and the only album with input from Syd Barrett, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ is an edgy, almost-overwhelming psychedelic cacophony. A favourite of mine since watching a video of Pink Floyd performing it live in 1967 with their notoriously-incredible stage show, I find the combination of experimental guitars, organs and drums captivating! ‘The Gnome’ is perhaps not a Floyd masterpiece. However, I’ve always loved the song, and it never fails to make me smile. My favourite part of the song is Barrett’s lyrics – they’re quite simple, and they almost read like some kind of whimsical fairytale, which I love!

‘Get It While You Can’: Janis Joplin + ‘Piece Of My Heart’ & ‘Turtle Blues’: Big Brother and the Holding Company

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Whilst Pearl is not my favourite Janis Joplin album, it was the one that introduced me to her work. And ‘Get It While You Can’ is my favourite song on Pearl. Much like the rest of the album, it features a prominent organ part, which adds an almost psychedelic element to the song. And of course, Janis’s vocals are amazing!

‘Piece Of My Heart’ & ‘Turtle Blues’ are both from my favourite Joplin-fronted album, Cheap Thrills, by Big Brother and the Holding Company. ‘Piece Of My Heart’ not only features yet another amazing Janis vocal performance – but the guitar is great, too! The guitarists in the band – Sam Andrew and James Gurley – were ridiculously good, and I have a huge appreciation of them, as a guitarist myself. ‘Turtle Blues’, too, is one of my favourites. Janis’s vocals again go without saying, and the piano is awesome! One can only imagine what Janis would have gone on to do…

‘Dazed and Confused’, ‘Misty Mountain Hop’ & ‘Tangerine’: Led Zeppelin

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For a while, I thought of Led Zeppelin as a bit overrated. Then I heard ‘Dazed and Confused’. I listened attentively to Jimmy Page’s “weeping” guitar; John Paul Jones’s almost-mysterious bass; John Bonham’s thrashing drums; Robert Plant’s vocals, which I consider to be some of his best. And I’ve loved Zeppelin ever since.

I don’t know what it is about ‘Misty Mountain Hop’, but I really like it. I love the keyboard riff that runs throughout the song, and the drums, and the lead guitar, and the vocals, but even then… Maybe it’s the memories – it’s on Led Zeppelin IV, my first Zeppelin album, and it’s also featured in Almost Famous, a film I love. Either way, though, it’s a great song!

And I took my ‘tangerinetrees99’ from ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’, but you can imagine my pleasure when I discovered that Zeppelin had a song named ‘Tangerine’, a few months ago! I was even more pleased after listening to the song itself (one of the band’s folkier tunes), which I enjoyed. It’s now one of my favourites…

‘All Day And All Of The Night’ & ‘Sunny Afternoon’: The Kinks

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‘All Day And All Of The Night’ was among my top-5 songs of all time for ages, and still remains one of my favourites. The fuzzed guitar riff, Ray Davies’ snarly vocals and Dave Davies’ flashy solo all make for a great rock’n’roll classic! It was perhaps this song that turned me onto the harder rock which I now also enjoy.

‘Sunny Afternoon’ is my current favourite Kinks song. I read someone comparing it to ‘I’m Only Sleeping’, the other day, and I can certainly see the similarities. The lazy vibe, paired with the bassline and another great Ray Davies vocal performances, make for a great song!

‘Suffragette City’: David Bowie

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‘Suffragette City’ is my favourite Bowie song right now, and the first one I consciously enjoyed. Throughout last year, the song would often appear on iTunes Radio, and I immediately liked it. The guitar, in particular, is great, and I can’t help but smile whenever I hear it!

‘Gloria’: Patti Smith

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‘Gloria’ begins with understated piano chords, but soon turns into an exciting, protopunk epic – the perfect opening to Smith’s highly acclaimed debut, Horses. Although I only listened to the song for the first time about a month ago, its impact on me is huge. ‘Gloria’ is what hooked me on Horses, and what inspired me to check out the rest of Patti Smith’s work. She has quickly turned into one of my favourite artists – for her unique brand of alternative rock, for her fascinating punk poetry. And as a female musician myself, she is one of my biggest influences, alongside Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth and Courtney Barnett.

‘God’: John Lennon

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‘God’ is my current favourite John Lennon song. I absolutely adore John’s vocals, and his piano – whilst not overly complicated and intricate – is perfect for the song. Ringo’s drums are great, too. And though I certainly believe in The Beatles, the lyrics are such typical John, and I love them all the same…

‘What Is Life’: George Harrison

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‘What Is Life’ was the first George solo song I ever heard. Way back when I got George and Ringo confused in pictures (!), I absolutely adored the song and would turn the radio up really loud whenever it came on. A couple of years on, I still find that guitar riff utterly irresistible!

‘Our House’ & ‘Helpless’: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

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‘Our House’ was my favourite song for the year before I discovered The Beatles. It was always played on the radio, and the melody, in combination with the piano, must have appealed to me. It was only recently that I began to realise how great the song is, and it has since become one of my favourites, again…

‘Helpless’, however, is my current favourite Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song. Written and sung by Neil Young (who has one of my favourite voices, ever), it’s a wondrously beautiful, yet somewhat sad, ballad. I particularly love the lead guitar and, of course, Neil Young’s vocals.

‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’: Bob Dylan

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‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’ is far from my favourite Dylan song. But it has an important place in my musical history, for it was the first song I learnt to play on guitar. Guitar has since become a huge part of my identity. There is little more I enjoy than playing my instruments, and playing has given me a greater understanding and love of the music I’d begun to like beforehand. So thanks, Bob!

And there. Here’s the entire playlist mixtape:

If you were making a mixtape of the songs most important to you, what would you put on it? Be sure to tell me in the comments!