Welcome to the first week of My Top Ten Records! To kick it all off for us in a big way, we have You Am I guitarist, my former bandmate and Boronia boy done good, the wonderful Davey Lane. I’m not going to give you his life story but what I will give you is a few of my favourite Davey moments. Check the fuzzed out guitar layering at 2:23 on The Pictures track “Can You Hear It” (Kicking Indifference, 2009), the guitar solo at 2:12 on the You Am I track “Gone, Gone, Gone” (Dress Me Slowly, 2001), a Pink Floyd/Beatlesque moment in “Downhill From Here” from the The Pictures’ debut album (Pieces Of Eight, 2005), and most recently from his debut solo record of last year (Atonally Young, 2015) the sublime pop of “Not An Option Now”. Without further ado…here’s Davey’s top ten!
TODD RUNDGREN A Wizard, A True Star (1973)
A complete fuckin’ bonkers record, written, engineered and produced by one of my all-time heroes, Todd Rundgren. It’s not an easy listen, but that’s what makes it so amazing. The first side is basically a bunch of vignettes rarely more than a minute long, each one a different perspective on Rundgren’s psych/prog/pop majesty. If there exists a template for everything I strive for as a solo artist, it’s the song “International Feel”.
ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA The Essential Electric Light Orchestra (2003)
I know, I know, its not an actual album but I don’t think ELO actually ever had a great album, per se. Plus Noel Gallagher once told me that he only likes compilations, if it’s okay for him then it sure is okay for me. He also told me never to drop names. Ahem. Anyway, this is complete genius from top to tail. Whether you like him or think he sucks, Jeff Lynne just had an amazing knack for writing (performing, recording and producing, mind you) infectious, joyous, euphoric rock ‘n roll songs. If Mr Blue Sky doesn’t make you feel instantly happy, then you’re made of, or have recently turned to, stone (ELO fans will get that one)
THE BAND The Band (1969)
Here’s an album that looks exactly like it sounds. 5 guys in civil war-era/southern gent attire, standing in the rain, in the woods. The whole thing rendered in earthy, sepia tones. This is one of the most effortlessly brilliant records of all time. It’s joy and heartbreak all wrapped up. Dixie Down is an argument for Levon Helm being one of the all time great vocalists. The same goes for Richard Manuel on Whispering Pines, my number one all time heartbreaker. I rarely hear it without getting a little misty eyed.
SUPERGRASS In It For The Money (1997)
This is everything I love about the album format. Songs that flit around in style from track to track, sometimes turning on a dime with the song itself. Bold splashes of wildly different colours. The song In It For The Money I heard for the first time in the pit at Melbourne BDO in 1997, dodging receptacles that may or may not have been filled with piss thrown by sportmetalfolk waiting for Fear Factory by the neighbouring stage. I thought it was the best song I’d ever heard. Rarely does the first time airing of a brand new song leave such a strong impression. The experience may make me especially sentimental about this record but it’s still one of my all time favourites.
THE WHO Tommy (1969)
An obvious choice of band for me, yeah, but possibly not an obvious choice of record (despite it being one of their biggest). If anything this is in the list because it taught me not only how to play guitar but how to really use the guitar to write songs. Learning how to play D, G and C for the first time was huge for me, don’t get me wrong, but the way Townshend uses inversions of chords, suspensions, etc on this record (possibly gleaned from classical composers) REALLY opened up a whole new world for me. One that I’m still trying to make sense of today. The fact that most of the cunts who made the records on this list weren’t more than 25 or 26 just staggers me. Bastards.
QUEEN Sheer Heart Attack (1974)
An album that opens with a 3 minute guitar solo? On paper, I would have told you to get fucked, but this is different. This is Brian fuckin’ May! Anyone who knows me knows I’m a Brian May tragic – made 2 replicas of his famous homemade “Red Special” guitar, and blagged my way into meeting him to get him to sign one in Melbourne last year. Anyways, this album is perfect Queen for me – just before the hi-fi Roy Thomas Baker drum sounds, just after they’d shed the Tolkien goblins and fairies shit of the first album, with just the right mix of glam and prog with nods to the Beatles (complete with one of Freddie’s flights of vaudeville fancy). Glorious, camp and pompous. Brilliant.
DR. FEELGOOD Down By The Jetty (1975)
Here’s a record for dancing if ever there was one. Gritty, raw, dry ’70’s R&B that pulls no punches. You can almost smell the Canvey Island sea air too. Wilko Johnson’s another all time guitar player for me. So unique, That half rhythm/half lead style is something I’ve been trying to do for years. If I had to pick one party song it’d be She Does It Right. Party music by a bunch of Essex thugs gets a big tick from me.
PAUL WESTERBERG Stereo/Mono (2002)
This record got me through a particularly traumatic breakup a bunch of years ago. If you listen to it you’ll realise pretty quickly why. It’s pretty bleak stuff. As a result I couldn’t bring myself to listen to it for a long time, but nowadays I can love it again free of all the breakup bullshit. Thank you, passage of time. Westerberg’s one of the great songwriters, and this one I love because it was the first time he’d let go of the idea of making “produced” records with session musicians. It’s all Westerberg’s own sloppy drumming recorded in his basement, and all the better for it. The Stereo side is the breakup-friendly half. Conducive to trying to write oneself off, mind-numbingly bleak nights alone with a bottle of cheap Scotch ‘n all. The Mono side is a relative fiesta. Let The Bad Times Roll, indeed, and sometimes, that’s fine by me.
PAUL & LINDA McCARTNEY RAM (1971)
Of course I had to put something Beatle-related in here, anyone who knows me knows I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t. Think Macca’s a square who made (what Lennon famously called) “granny shit music”? This record is fruitier than a Mildura summer and moments recall Beach Boys at their most beautiful (“Dear Boy”). Check out “Monkberry Moon Delight”. It makes no fuckin’ sense at all but McCartney’s vocal is one of the most exciting things I’ve ever heard. I guess I’ll never be remembered for my lyrical nous but when you can make complete nonsense like “so I sat in the attic a piano up my nose and the wind blew a dreadful cantata, sore was I from the crack of an enemy’s hose and the horrible sound of tomato” send a shiver up yr spine then I’m sold. And “The Back Seat Of My Car” always brings a tear to my eye – the outro of that song sounds as close to an aural representation of ascension (to heaven or to the clouds – wherever the hell it is you go when you shuffle mortal coils) as I’ve ever heard. I know that sounds like a complete wank but I don’t know how else to describe it.
COMETS ON FIRE Avatar (2006)
I first heard this on a day off from tour in Birmingham, one of those wonderful “WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS I NEED THIS RECORD IN MY LIFE” moments. What blew my head off were not only the sounds but the sheer chaos of it all. I always maintain that music’s gotta have a sense of surprise to keep me on my toes. And this record’s got that in spades. It’s completely unhinged, psych-y, proggy Blue Cheer-ish nuts-ness. So bloody good.