Not to be a pain in the ass – meaning I have every intention of being a pain in the ass – but I think “albums that lasted with you” is bullshit. Just another invitation to pat ourselves on the back. I’m more interested in the albums we actually listened to. I’ll tell you what I listened to most, to the best of my recollection, from ages 13-19. The years were 1968-1975.
I didn’t have many albums until 1969. No money. But I started working that summer and from 1969-1974 I probably bought 500 albums. That’s a lot of listening that must be left behind in choosing one or two records per year. But I’m going to try to pick the 10 albums I listened to the most. Most I still love and the rest I still at least like.
1968 – Their Satanic Majesties Request, because I had it. I only had about 10 albums and that was the newest and I really liked it, except I would often lift the needle and skip the jam parts. Closest rival would be Revolver, which I got for Christmas the year before.
1969 – Led Zep II. Very close call, could just as easily be Let It Bleed. I’ve blown hot and cold on Zep over the years, the cold mainly because FM radio for years insisted on playing many of their lesser songs over and over. Even now I think II is by far their best album, though all their albums have good songs. For all the criticism of them ripping off blues songs, they certainly aimed high with Sonny Boy’s Bring it on Home and with Killing Floor (The Lemon Song). And they did put their stamp on those songs. Furthermore, their best blues song, When The Levee Breaks, is as good as any old blues masterpiece, and I say that as a true lover of old blues masterpieces.
1970 – Mountain/Climbing in a very close call over Ten Years After’s Cricklewood Green. Teen hard rock. Damn right I had Funhouse, which most if not all my friends mocked, but I listened to Mountain more. The best of this record, not the raga guitar solo, has stood up well. You don’t hear this one much but damn I smile when I hear Leslie West whale.
1971 – I have to do two albums this year: Layla and The J Geils Band first album. I still remember the first time I ever heard the opening riff to Layla, and rushed out to buy it the next day. Like a lot of my favorite records it’s really dense with guitar tracks, and to this day I catch new little subleties of interplay between Clapton and Duane Allman. Speaking of Duane Allman, Live at the Fillmore got a lot of play in my ears this year, so did Who’s Next and Live at Leeds, not to mention Alice Cooper Love it to Death, but not as much as the eponymous J Geils Band. This is the shit:
1972 – A transistion year. Many great soul singles this year, but for the most part soul artists did not make great albums. Backstabbers, Cleanup Woman, Freddie’s Dead and Superfly, Sly’s If You Want Me To Stay, I’ll Take You There, Slippin Into Darkness, Get on the Good Foot – super funky shit but no great album attached. At this time we started hearing Glam from England, I loved Bang a Gong but didn’t get the album until later, but we did get way into Slade around this time. So this year’s album is Slayed? The real winner is Exile on Main St but that is forbidden me – an album that I didn’t much like when I first heard it although I loved the first single Tumbling Dice. I kept listening to it because of course I liked some of the songs, and one night listening to Let It Loose it hit me: not only is this good, it’s the best thing the Stones have ever done. Another dense mix that couldn’t be any other way. There are a lot of instruments and they should all be heard.
1973 – No contest, New York Dolls. I had been waiting all my life for the New York Dolls. I don’t know how many copies of this album I’ve owned over the years, certainly ten. I lost half my friends over the New York Dolls and good riddance. This is one album that sounds every bit as good today, or better. Every song is great, and it might boast the best rocknroll lyrics in one place ever. Todd Rundgren caught a lot of shit for his production, but history vindicates him in spades. Not their most known song but one of their best:
1974 – I’m not allowed to pick the Dolls’ Too Much Too Soon even though it’s the hands-down winner, but 1974 was a big Roxy Music year for me too. Sometimes my tastes swing from primitive to sophisticated, and Roxy could always do both. Their first five albums are up there with anybody’s as a body of work. In many ways Country Life is my favorite, and again the sound is dense but so worth penetrating:
1975 – I was on the road for most of the first half of this year, hitching across the country, and when I got back to New York in May I didn’t have any albums or a stereo. I moved to a 4th floor walkup on 11th St between 1st and A and played a lot of guitar. The bands I was listening to at this time hadn’t made any records yet. At the end of the year Patti Smith made her debut but I was not a fan. So there’s not a lot to choose from. Roxy’s Siren and Stones’ out-take album Metamorphosis aren’t allowed, so the album I listened to the most was probably Earth, Wind and Fire’s That’s the Way of the World. I spent a week in upstate New York and there were I think three albums to choose from.