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1. The Shadows – The Shadows ( Columbia SX1374 – 1961)

The significance of this 1961 album is that it was the very first LP that reached my ears, when I was all but four or five years old.  It was the only record in my dad’s collection that might be described as a contemporary pop album and it was the only one to feature guitars on the cover.  Most of the records stored under the gramophone lid were Big Band or Swing records by the likes of Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman, but this was immediately different, with four musicians, Hank Marvin, Bruce Welch, Jet Harris and Tony Meehan posed in a relaxed fashion, each sporting their best Cashmere sweaters fresh from the catalogue and each trying their best to look fantastically cool, with varying degrees of success.  Recorded at Abbey Road Studios between autumn 1960 and summer 1961, the recordings were made on analogue equipment and in real time, with each track recorded on a one-track-per-day basis and with no apparent overdubs.  If the take was messed up, then it was straight on to take 2 and so on. That’s how it was in those days.  Although the LP now sounds a little dated, especially the vocal performances, some of the instrumentals still sound fresh, such as “Blue Star”, “Sleepwalk” and “Nivram”, which the observant among us will have already noticed is ‘Marvin’ spelled backwards.

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2. The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Smash Hits (Polydor ACB 00219 – 1968)

If The Shadows was the first LP I heard, then Smash Hits was the first LP I ever bought with my own pocket money (£1), second hand from an older boy down the street, who had allegedly ‘moved on’ from such things.  I’m in my sixties now and I still haven’t moved on from it.  Up to this point, my record collection had been made up of exclusively 45rpm singles, some of which resided in a plastic wallet which I referred to as an ‘album’, others were kept in what I described as ‘the little orange box’.  This was a most exciting progression, owning a real long playing gramophone record that crackled with static when removed from its inner sleeve.  I distinctly remember placing the cover on the shelf, then standing back to admire my LP collection (of one), eagerly anticipating the next addition, which would follow a week later, presumably after being paid for shoving newspapers in letterboxes around the village.  Favourite songs “The Wind Cries Mary”, “Foxy Lady” and “Purple Haze”.

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3. The Roches – The Roches (Warner Brothers K56683 – 1979)

As the New Jersey siblings point out in their autobiographical opener “We”, this trio was first of all a duo comprising elder sisters Maggie and Terre, who established themselves a good ten years before younger sister Suzzy joined to record this, their debut LP as a trio.  Recorded at the Hit Factory in New York City, with King Crimson’s Robert Fripp producing and also contributing some of his idiosyncratic trademark guitar licks, the LP features ten songs that showcase the group’s faultless sibling harmonies, a sound I first heard sometime in the early 1980s.  Slightly quirky, all ten original songs demonstrate the trio’s unique vocal sound, which has never dated.  I get the same rush today, midway through “Hammond Song” as I did back in 1981.  It’s difficult to choose a favourite track, though I would be happy for either “Hammond Song”, “Quitting Time” or “Runs in the Family” to be played at my funeral, if that’s not too morbid, or even “Mr Sellack”, depending upon my mood at the time.

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4. Kate and Anna McGarrigle – Kate and Anna McGarrigle (Warner Brothers K56218 – 1976)

When we first discover voices as good as these, we should really have taken note of where we were and what we were doing, but for the life of me I can’t remember at all.  It might have been on the Old Grey Whistle Test back in the mid 1970s or on John Peel show, but there again it could’ve been while lying semi-conscious in a dry bath after a late night party in an attic flat along Broxholme Lane in Doncaster, a usual pursuit after a night at The Blue Bell on Baxtergate.  It was most probably as a result of being obsessed with all things Loudon Wainwright III, who was at the time married to Kate, but I’m still not entirely sure.  Heady daze indeed.  What I do know, is that a fair old shiver went sailing up my spine when I first heard “(Talk to Me Of) Mendocino”, “Heart Like a Wheel” and the highly infectious “Complainte Pour Ste-Catherine”, delivered in French, all of which are featured on this superb LP.  The last time I saw Kate and Anna was at the Cambridge Folk Festival in the summer of 1995, shortly after the two sisters lost their mum.  It was an emotional affair to say the least as they held back the tears during their set.  We then lost Kate in 2010, the mother of both Rufus and Martha, both recording artists in their own right.  I doubt we’ll ever hear anything quite as special as these two voices again.

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5. Bert Jansch – Bert Jansch (Transatlantic TRA125 – 1965)

During my last couple of years at High School, I was taught by a young art teacher who could’ve been described at the time as ‘relatively hip’ and who would often bring records into class by such obscure guitar players as the Reverend Gary Davis and Stefan Grossman, all of which were, to my ears at any rate, a marked improvement on “Love Grows Where My Rosemary Grows” and “Wandrin’ Star”.  On one such occasion, this teacher brought in the debut LP by a then relatively obscure Scots guitar player, whose name I couldn’t pronounce, but whose guitar playing made me sit up and take note.  We were told to stop working, put our pencils down and gather around the Dansette, whereupon he lifted the arm and hovered the needle over the last track on side one, asking us to concentrate on the lyrics.  At first, I thought “Needle of Death” was a cautionary tale for Singer sewing machine users, but it then dawned on me that our teacher was delivering a warning about the growing use of heroin in the town.  Bert Jansch entered my world in the art class that afternoon and he has remained there for fifty years and counting.  Bert always remained a distant figure, despite his later records becoming ‘must have’ additions to my collection, and he was perhaps the only musician I was too much in awe of to go up to on the numerous occasions when I saw him play live.  I did say “hi” to him sometime in the 1980s as we passed on the steps of the Leeds Astoria, but he just kept on walking down as I walked up.  Memorable songs on Bert Jansch include “Strolling Down the Highway”, “Running for Home”, “Needle of Death” and “Angie”, a tune we all had to learn before we could call ourselves guitar players.  It’s all here, it’s all you need.  Bert is also the only musician whose grave I visited to pay my respects.  I talked to him on that occasion.  I’m not the only one who misses him.

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6. John Renbourn – John Renbourn (Transatlantic TRA135 – 1966)

The first thing that attracted me to John Renbourn’s debut solo LP was the cover shot, which shows the folk troubadour leaning against a disused site beneath an officious Greater London Council notice instructing visitors to report to the general foreman before entering.  Several decades later I would bump into John standing in a similar manner on a street in York, this time with his guitar in its case as he waited for his son to lock the car up.  On this occasion, he didn’t have a fag in his mouth.  I’m not sure when I first became aware of him, possibly when I first heard the Basket of Light record.  Recorded in 1965, the LP showcases many of the diverse styles the guitarist subsequently became noted for, including baroque folk, blues and spirituals.  My copy is now adorned with his familiar signature and obligatory ‘star’ motif, which I got him to do a good few decades after this album’s initial release.  Unlike his noted collaborator Bert Jansch, I never had any reservations about going up to him for a chat, something I did on one or two occasions, where I found him to be one of the most approachable and kind musicians I’ve ever had the privilege to meet.  When I listen to such songs and instrumentals as “Judy”, “Beth’s Blues” and “John Henry”, I always seem to return to a comfortable time, surrounded by pace posters, impractical coloured light bulbs in every socket and the aroma of several joss sticks burning simultaneously, with mum downstairs fixing dinner.

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7. Amazing Blondel – England (Island ILPS9205 – 1972)

I first became aware of the Amazing Blondel’s England LP when I saw it in the window of Ken’s Swap Shop on St Sepulchre Gate in Doncaster back in 1972 and I decided there and then that it would be mine.  Climbing over the junk shop debris, while simultaneously holding my breath (who says men can’t multitask?), I troubled Ken to negotiate the hazardous terrain of the window area in order to salvage this LP from the sun’s rays.  I held it close as I offered him a one pound note in exchange.  I then ran home, lifted the lid of my Fidelity twin speaker affair, placed the needle on the grooves, laid back on my bed and read every single word on the gate fold sleeve, another world.  As a kid, I always lamented never having had the opportunity to see the trio live back in the early 1970s, but was pleased as punch when the original trio reformed in the late 1990s to do a few gigs.  I recall sitting in a pub in Cottingham awaiting the arrival of John Gladwin, Eddie Baird and Terry Wincott, who I only knew through the photographs on their LP covers at home.  I wondered if I would still recognise them; the hair should have surely gone by now I reasoned.  When they walked through the door and took to their respective chairs, I not only recognised them, I felt I already knew them.  I saw the band three times during that period with my son, who had grown up with their music and had himself become a fan, possibly due to their albums being played most Sunday mornings since his birth.  The last time I saw the band was in October 1998 and I doubt I’ll ever see them again, which is a shame.  This album features such notables as “Dolor Dulcis (Sweet Sorrow)”, “A Spring Air” and the “The Paintings” suite.  They are my favourite band, despite having been lumbered with the reputation of being the worst band ever to play at Glastonbury, but there again, they do have a crumhorn in their musical arsenal, so it probably serves them right.

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8. Incredible String Band – The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter (Elektra EKS74021 – 1968)

Then there was the curious look that dad would often give me as we passed on the stairs, the sort of look that suggested I might actually not be the produce of his loins.  This was probably after hearing the vague leakage of Mike Heron singing “Mercy I Cry City” or “A Very Cellular Song”, or Robin Williamson wishing he was a “Witches Hat”, filtering out through the cracks between the door of my bedroom only to invade his space.  That same look would continue through tea time as he passed the salt over or as he peered from behind his evening newspaper, carefully scrutinising me as he checked the score draws, wondering if I might possibly have come from Venus.  Why wasn’t his Shadows LP good enough for me anymore?  The Incredible String Band’s mighty fine The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter still goes around on the turntable every now and again, only this time the strange looks come from my wife, as Robin Williamson sings “Earth water fire and air, met together in a garden fair, put in a basket bound with skin, if you answer this riddle, if you answer this riddle, you’ll never begin”.  I knew I should have married someone more like Licorice, had kids like that, had a dog like that and lived somewhere deep in a forest, like that!

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9. Various Artists – Woodstock Original Soundtrack (Atlantic K60001 – 1970)

The Woodstock Festival, or to give it its official title, ‘The Woodstock Music and Arts Fair presents An Aquarian Exposition in White Lake NY’, left a lasting impression on me, despite the fact that I wasn’t there.  Too young and too far away is my excuse, being just twelve and a half and White Lake being three and a half thousand miles away.  I experienced the festival as most of us did through the film, which was released a year after the event and which I saw sometime later in the 1970s, after queuing up at the now demolished Gaumont Theatre on the crossroads of Hallgate and Thorne Road in Doncaster.  I first heard the triple disc soundtrack album in 1973 after borrowing it from a fan of The Who who I worked with and immediately took to the music, the atmosphere and the legendary announcements.  In the subsequent weeks, months and years, I would seek out the music of just about every one of the bands and musicians featured on these six sides, including CSNY, Santana, Arlo Guthrie, Ten Years After, Jefferson Airplane and Country Joe and the Fish.  Hendrix, Cocker, Canned Heat and The Who, I was already acquainted with.  Despite Guthrie’s embarrassingly stoned announcements, that there would be “about a million and a half people here by tonight”, which actually turned out to be a third of that estimate, together with the fact that “New York State Thruway is closed man, can you dig it?”, there was an unprecedented gathering of people who turned out for the stormy weekend, which began on Friday 15 August, 1969 with Richie Havens and concluded on the morning of Monday 18 August, with Jimi Hendrix, the event running over by a good eleven hours.  The three-panel centre spread photo taken by Jim Marshall shows the extent of the crowd, which is still impressive today.  As a live LP, the sound is a little dodgy in places, due to various bits of buzzing and bleeping, probably caused by the damp weather, but as a historical record of probably the most famous pop festival ever, it’s an impressive statement.  Great moments include CSNY’s “Suite Judy Blue Eyes”, Joe Cocker’s “With a Little Help From My Friends” and Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner”.  Did I mention Sha Na Na?  Thought not.

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10.  Third Ear Band – Alchemy (Harvest SHVL 756 – 1969)

At a time when such bands as Pink Floyd, Deep Purple and The Edgar Broughton Band were furnishing EMI’s specially created Harvest label with music for the growing progressive rock market, the label was also unafraid to take one or two risks, introducing such outfits as The Battered Ornaments, Tea and Symphony, Quatermass and from the folk community, Shirley and Dolly Collins and Roy Harper, not to mention the highly uncertain output of a solo Syd Barrett.  Perhaps the most unusual of all the outfits on the Harvest roster was the Third Ear Band, whose trance-like acoustic medieavel music was immediately at odds with everything else that was going on at the time.  The instruments alone would bring on a nose bleed to those very much accustomed to the more electric sounds of Ummagumma, Deep Purple in Rock and Wasa Wasa for instance, with the oboe, recorder, cello, violin and hand drums being the order of a Third Ear Band day.  I picked up a second hand copy of this album shortly after its original release in 1969, which I found languishing in the window of Ken’s Swap Shop on St Sepulchre Gate West in Doncaster, which could have been an unwanted gift or a Michael Chapman fan’s error of judgement.  ‘But it’s on the Harvest label?’  During their tenure as a regular outfit on the underground scene, the band would garner some wider attention after appearing at a series of Hyde Park concerts, playing on the same bills as The Rolling Stones, Blind Faith and King Crimson.  The band would find further success, albeit limited, when they scored the soundtrack to Roman Polanski’s blood curdling Macbeth in 1971, who actually also appeared in the film as minstrels in the gallery.  Jethro Tull were probably busy.  It was the cover artwork that drew my initial attention, which seemed to fit in with my then obsession with Dennis Wheatley novels and morbid curiosity of all things Aleister Crowley, something I was pleased to grow out of by the time I reached seventeen.  “Stone Circle” is probably my favourite track from this completely unusual instrumental album. 

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11. David Crosby – If I Could Only Remember My Name (Atlantic K40320 – 1971)

I found my copy of David Crosby’s debut solo LP If Only I Could Remember My Name languishing in a cardboard box at a garage sale just outside Tampa on Groundhog Day 1996, an album first released in the wake of the hugely popular Déjà Vu by his then band, Crosby Stills Nash and Young.  In the early 1970s those four musicians released solo albums almost simultaneously, each inviting various prominent musicians along for the ride.  In Crosby’s case, Joni Mitchell is there, along with members of the Grateful Dead, Santana and Jefferson Airplane.  In places the album echoes some of the sonic styling of Déjà vu, with a strong acoustic feel, yet the LP received less than favourable reviews at the time of release in 1971, which was possibly due to Crosby’s overt hippy sensibilities.  I have time for David Crosby, warts and all.  I know he has his faults, that he is enormously opinionated and can be unreliable and he can even manage to upset Graham Nash, so much so, the chummy Blackpool-born Hollie has vowed never to speak to him ever again, the very man who once stood by Cros through thick and thin, which beggars the question, what on earth could he possibly have done to worry the likes of Graham Nash?  Crosby continues to make me smile for some reason and this album remains my favourite of the CSNY related solo albums and is still played regularly, almost fifty years on.  “Music is Love”, “Cowboy Movie” and “Laughing” are all great songs, in fact they all are.

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12. Gene Clark – No Other (Asylum 7E-1016 – 1974)

There’s a picture on the back of his fourth solo studio LP No Other, which looks like Gene Clark could have joined Abba or Bucks Fizz (or both), which doesn’t so much worry me, but makes me wonder if this could possibly be the same tall brooding dude who banged a tambourine on the Byrds debut hit nine years earlier.  Released in 1974 on David Geffen’s Asylum label, No Other was poorly received both critically and commercially and seemed to be doomed from the start, the label even refusing to promote it at the time, causing a major rift in relations between the former Byrds songwriter and the label, at one point leading to a skirmish involving fisticuffs in an LA restaurant, which Geffen denies ever having happened.  The fact that the recording went fantastically over budget costing upwards of $100,000 and contained nothing that could be considered ‘hit’ material, would certainly have impressed the studio boss little and after the album’s release, Clark was definitely off the label.  Nevertheless, Gene Clark himself always considered the album his masterpiece and maintained this belief until his death in 1991.  Conceived whilst looking out of the window of a friend’s Mendocino home, which overlooked the Pacific Ocean, the songs have an almost mystical edge, songs such as “Life’s Greatest Fool”, “From a Silver Phial” and “Strength of Strings” not to mention the title song, which is probably why the album has endured to this day and is currently undergoing scrutiny by an entirely new audience of musicians.

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13. Little Feat – Sailin’ Shoes (Warner Brothers BS2600 – 1972)

In the early 1970s, just after I’d jumped the high school ship and landed right on my backside in the real world, I was ready to join a hippy theatre group called ‘Arthur’, made up predominantly of students from a nearby teacher training college.  When we were not rehearsing Samuel Beckett scenes or Chekhov shorts, we would often find ourselves back at the director’s place, sharing illegal substances, spicy food and kindred musical spirits.  One of the group’s more enigmatic figures was the director’s lodger, a tall quiet man called Paul, who pretty much kept himself to himself and said very little.  He kept his records in a cardboard box next to the record player, which contained around fifty LPs and which I was always eager to dip into.  Made up almost entirely of LPs by American bands, that box contained albums by the Steve Miller Band, early Doobie Brothers, Todd Rundgren, The Flying Burritos, The Byrds and most importantly, two records by Little Feat (Dixie Chicken hadn’t yet arrived).  As Ian’s wife prepared food, I would dive into the box and out would come Sailin’ Shoes, a record that effectively kick started a lifetime love of Lowell George, although at the time I wasn’t to know just how short his lifetime would become, the singer cashing in his chips before the end of the decade. Strangely, I can’t watch a Samuel Beckett play, have a curry or be on the receiving end of a whiff of the herb, without thinking of “Cold Cold Cold”, “Trouble”, “Tripe Face Boogie”, “Sailin’ Shoes” or the timeless “Willin’”, not to mention Neon Park’s bizarre Fragonard Gainsborough inspired cover painting, depicting a cake on a swing!

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14. Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks – Striking It Rich (Blue Thumb Records ILPS9204 – 1972)

I was never sure if the members of the little theatre group I belonged to were more into the late night music sessions or the plays we were writing and performing at the time, but I suspect it was the former.  Another record hidden away in Paul’s box, which continued to provide a soundtrack to the late hours, once the rehearsals at a local disused church were over, came in a sleeve design resembling a book of matches.  Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks’ Striking It Rich LP was completely different from anything else in the box and showcased the San Francisco-based band’s penchant for mixing gypsy jazz with cowboy folk, country, swing, bluegrass and pop, resulting in a unique sound.  Jaime Leopold’s walking bass line that opens “You Got to Believe” owed more to jazz than anything else I was listening to at the time and therefore, opened up a new and exciting world of discovery, the fact that the old Hot Club of France swing style had now found its way into the repertoire of a band of fellow long hairs, despite one of the singers having the voice of Fozzy Bear (“O’Reilly’s at the Bar”). I still consider this LP a favourite to this day, in fact I play it so much, I scare myself.  

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15. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV (Atlantic 2401012 – 1971)

I’ve never waited for a record with quite as much anticipation than that of Led Zeppelin’s fourth album, the untitled one.  By the time this album was released just before Christmas 1971, the other three records were already showing signs of wear, so often were they played and therefore I made sure I was the first to arrive on the doorstep of Foxes Records on the first floor of the Arndale Centre in Doncaster on the day this LP was released and couldn’t wait to get it in my mit.  On the bus home, I took the record out of the bag and was immediately baffled by the sleeve design, a discarded framed picture of an old man with a bunch of sticks on his back, then on the back, a photo of a district that could easily have been one of the more derelict areas of my home town.  Words were also conspicuous by their absence.  I then pulled out the grey inner sleeve, which revealed the song titles, the lyrics to “Stairway to Heaven” and a few credits including the names Sandy Denny and Peter Grant – Beauty and the Beast perhaps?  Most curious of all were the four strange symbols, which no one really understood, apart from the four people they represented.  I was confused.  Once I got the record home I played it over and over until I fell asleep.  It was just over a year later when I got to see the band at Sheffield City Hall on 2 January, 1973, where they performed “Rock and Roll”, “Black Dog”, “Misty Mountain Hop” and “Stairway to Heaven” from this album and had already begun to include material from their follow up Houses of the Holy.  Robert Plant had the flu and couldn’t quite reach the high notes, in fact their tour was abruptly cancelled after this gig.

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16. Deep Purple – Machine Head (Purple TPSA7504 – 1972)

When Deep Purple’s Machine Head tour rolled into town on 28 September 1972, I had my chin on the edge of a vibrating Sheffield City Hall stage, while I waited, with eager anticipation, for the band to come on stage.  Those behind me grew steadily more impatient, with several calls for “Wally” and one or two sharp digs in the back from those who wanted to take my prime place.  The album had been released six months earlier, giving me plenty of time to acclimatise myself to such songs as “Highway Star”, “Space Truckin’” and the mighty “Smoke on the Water”, which not only has one of the best guitar riffs in rock music, but also name checks Frank Zappa and the Mothers, when nothing else in the Top 40 did.  When the band appeared, my chin left the stage and I became possessed for the next hour or so as the band, which at the time included Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Jon Lord and Ian Paice, chucked out the best of the Machine Head album, one or two from both Fireball and Deep Purple in Rock and a couple of notable singles.  The most memorable moment for me though, was when Jon Lord reached for the bottle of Guinness standing on top of his organ, took a swig then reached down to give me the bottle.  I was fifteen, fearless and flattered as Jon Lord gave alcohol to a minor.  When Jon died in 2012, part of my youth also died with him.

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17. Syd Barrett – The Madcap Laughs (Harvest SHVL765 – 1970)

Recorded between May 1968 and August 1969, just after he parted company with Pink Floyd, due in part to some increasingly bizarre and peculiar behaviour, The Madcap Laughs is Syd Barrett’s debut solo LP.  The cover itself, designed by the late Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell of Hipgnosis, shows some of these worrying signs; a sparse flat, actually Syd’s bedroom at his home at Wetherby Mansions, painted floorboards, no furniture, wilting flowers, a barefooted crouching Syd looking not quite right.  The gate fold sleeve also shows an acquaintance, known as Iggy the Eskimo, posing nude on a wooden stool, the two seemingly unaware of one another’s presence.  I became aware of the album in 1973, around the same time I discovered Kevin Coyne and like Coyne, I was initially puzzled by some of the songs, almost accusing the pair of them of not even trying.  The false start on “If It’s in You” should’ve perhaps been left on the cutting room floor.  Of course it later became apparent that Syd’s psychological state was pretty much worse than I first thought and in that context, the songs perhaps mirrored what was going on in Syd’s head.  I don’t know what Coyne’s excuse was though.  Side two of this album, from “Octopus” through to “Late Night”, is a journey into the unknown and was perhaps not the most suitable soundtrack for my mid-teens angst, in fact it was positively harmful.  Reciting “Terrapin” to ‘chicks’ was invariably unrewarding, even on a good day.

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18. Kevin Coyne – Marjory Razor Blade (Virgin VD251/2 – 1973)

I remember precisely when and where I bought Kevin Coyne’s double LP set Marjory Razor Blade.  It was Bradley’s Records in Doncaster, right next to the West Laith Gate entrance of the Arndale Centre, now the Frenchgate Centre and it was the day after John Peel featured the Derby-born singer songwriter live on his late night programme.  I’d never encountered such a voice before and part of me knew I would like the album he was promoting on the wireless that night and part of me was absolutely convinced this would also irritate both of my sisters to death (it did).  There was something primal in Coyne’s performances, almost as if he was making it up as he goes along.  His acoustic guitar was primitive and his voice was like the sound of a feral cheese grater with an additional sneer.  Though I bought the album on the strength of such eccentric songs as “Dog Latin”, “Karate King”, “Good Boy” and “This is Spain”, I soon discovered another side to this extraordinary talent, the heart breaking “House on the Hill”, which still sends a shiver whenever I hear it.  In a perfect world, this song should perhaps appear on many ‘top ten songs of all time’ lists.

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19. The Mothers of Invention – We’re Only in it for the Money (Verve 2317 034 – 1967)

When I first heard this LP, I didn’t quite know what to make of it; it sounded like Frank Zappa had taken miles of tape, cut it up into small pieces and randomly stuck it all back together again.  By 1972, I’d already bought the previous Mothers album Absolutely Free and therefore knew what I was getting myself into.  With a gate fold sleeve parodying Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, though inverted to avoid record company executives having an unnecessary nose bleed, I initially thought the whole thing might have been a spoof on the Beatles classic, but I soon discovered that it was an almost scathing attack on the hippie subculture and the summer of love in general and that it came from the alternative angle of the ‘freak’ culture through biting satire.  If I was slightly confused at the start of the first side, being repeatedly asked “are you hung up?” or who the Peace Corps might be, what the ugliest part of the body is or why a track called “Absolutely Free” was on this LP and not the previous one, by the end of “Flower Punk”, the penny had finally dropped.  A lifelong association with Frank Zappa’s music began, whose humour, satire, orchestral ambitions and musical dexterity was just the ticket.  Strangely, I never got to see him live, though I saw him on the big screen behind his son Dweezil, as the pair of them performed the entire Apostrophe album, going on to perform another hour’s worth of Zappa’s repertoire at the York Barbican, including “Rollo, Gumbo Variations”, “Dancing Fool” and even “What’s The Ugliest Part of Your Body?” of all things.  When Frank died in 1993 he was just 52.  He left easily twice as many years worth of music.

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20. Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band – Lick My Decals Off Baby (Straight STS 1063 – 1970)

This was the only occasion when I was relieved that I didn’t have to ask the young lady at the counter for the record.  Going into a record shop and asking for Lick My Decals Off Baby was a daunting prospect even in Doncaster, which conjured up every scenario from a simple slap to being marched off to the nearest constabulary in cuffs.  Fortunately the LP was right there in the browser and I was saved from further embarrassment.  I first heard Beefheart on the John Peel show, a track from his second album Strictly Personal, “Son of Mirror Man – Mere Man”, which had an enormous effect on me.  Decals came later, when I’d already managed to absorb most of the challenging Trout Mask Replica.  Standing in the record shop reading the credits whilst considering whether to buy this or save my hard earned bread for several pints of Carlsberg in the Yorkist later that night, I was immediately drawn to such song titles as “Woe-is-uh-Me-Bop”, “I Love You Big Dummy” and “I Wanna Find a Woman That’ll Hold My Big Toe Till I Have To Go”, which I couldn’t imagine the Everly Brothers ever singing.  I took the sleeve to the counter, thankful that the title was written in a fine almost unreadable script and took the thing home to delight my dad, who clearly thought I was bonkers.

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21. Nic Jones – Penguin Eggs (Topic 12TS411 – 1980)

The very first time I visited a UK folk club was in 1982, shortly after a near fatal accident involving a car, a lorry and the folk singer Nic Jones.  Nic had just finished a gig at the Glossop Folk Club and the accident that night became stuff of legend.  Once I’d visited the Rockingham Arms Folk Club in Wentworth and began to mix with, for want of a better term, ‘folkies’, I came to the understanding that no folk record collection would be complete without a copy of Penguin Eggs by this highly regarded singer/guitar/fiddle player and so I put that right immediately by going out and buying a copy.  I already had a vague knowledge of who Nic Jones was from a Jon Raven LP I had knocking about at the time called Songs in a Changing World, which featured Nic on guitar and fiddle, which I’d borrowed from a neighbour, whose dad apparently started the Traditional record label.  I devoured Penguin Eggs and soon discovered a guitar style that sounded relatively easy to play, but was in fact extraordinarily difficult.  After several attempts at playing those few chords, I asked a nurse friend to disentangle my frustrated digits and I never bothered trying again.  I was fortunate to meet Nic a few times, the first time in York, where he gave my son some good advice on playing folk music, “don’t take this music as seriously as we all did, just enjoy it”, a notion we were both happy to take on board. 

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22. Rickie Lee Jones – Rickie Lee Jones (Warner Bros K56628 – 1979)

In the 1980s I occupied myself with various tasks as a volunteer at a local hospital radio station, which involved presenting a weekly folk show, then a jazz show, then a pop album show, which led to a senior position (Programme Controller) and ultimately the fool who was coaxed into towing the outside broadcast caravan to various weekend events.  This is when I realised that if you’re cursed with an inability to say ‘no’, they get you doing everything.  I digress.  During those pop show years, I played Rickie Lee Jones almost every week.  “Chuck E.’s in Love” is just such a great radio song and I was convinced that playing it made the patients better, that was until I realised that nobody was actually listening at all.  “Just give us a ring and I’ll give you a thousand pounds” I declared on air, which was proof enough for me as I waited in vain for the phone to ring.  Despite this small inconvenience, I was happy in the knowledge that there was at least one person enjoying the shows and I continued to play several songs from this album (and others) throughout the 1980s.  With contributions from Dr John, Randy Newman and Michael McDonald, the album features such gems as “The Last Chance Texaco”, “Weasel and the White Boys Cool” and the sleazy “Easy Money”, which was covered by Lowell George and was the only single released from his solo album Thanks, I’ll Eat it Here, in the same year.

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23. Ry Cooder – Into the Purple Valley (Warner Bros K44142 – 1972)

When I first saw Ry Cooder on the Old Grey Whistle Test back in 1972, I became totally obsessed with his music and in particular his bottleneck guitar playing style, which led to seeking out other such players including Lowell George, Duane Allman and Bonnie Raitt.  At the time, I didn’t know “Vigilante Man” was a Woody Guthrie song, I didn’t even know who Woody Guthrie was.  Neither did I know who Ry Cooder was, although his name had been cropping up in the music press and I had one of his tracks on the Warner Bros Fruity sampler LP, the one with the round sleeve to match the record.  Here, I thought, is a guitar player appearing on the TV in an empty darkened studio, wearing a piece of cloth on his head and a shirt, which looked for all intents and purposes as if someone had vomited on it, while running the chopped off neck of a beer bottle up and down the neck of a very attractive guitar.  I couldn’t even decide whether he was singing in tune or not, all I knew for sure was that it was worlds away from Sweet’s “Little Willy”, a song that was at the same time seen on Britain’s only other rival music show.  After seeing this very ordinary looking dude, who looked like he had a glass eye (he did), sitting next to Bob Harris on my then favourite TV show, I went out and bought this album, mainly for “Vigilante Man”, but then to discover such gems as “Billy the Kid”, “Denomination Blues” and “Teardrops Will Fall”.  I only ever got to see Ry Cooder the once, on stage with David Lindley at the Manchester Apollo sometime in the 1990s.  Cooder remains one of greatest sources of musical eclecticism to this day.

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24. Steely Dan – Can’t Buy a Thrill (ABC ABCL 5024 – 1972)

Again, it was the Old Grey Whistle Test that brought this band to my attention way back in the early 1970s via a live clip of the band performing “Reeling in the Years”.  Aesthetically, this album had nothing going for it really, with its garish Pop Art lips, its sleazy row of 1950s hookers and foetus-like nymph straddling the shoulder of a shirtless Terry Wogan lookalike and let’s not forget the band is named after a sex aid (courtesy of William Burroughs), yet the music almost literally jumps out of the speakers upon first hearing “Do it Again”, “Reelin’ in the Years” and “Fire in the Hole”.  The album also offers a couple of songs that both my wife and I agree upon (finally), the soulful “Dirty Work” and the country-inflected “Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me)”, both of which include a fine vocal courtesy of the outgoing David Palmer.  These days, whenever I see OGWT anniversary shows, I always expect to see Donald Fagen and the late Walter Becker, reeling in those years.

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25. Dusty Springfield – Dusty in Memphis (Mercury 5707137 – 1969)

Dusty’s voice was one of the first female voices I ever heard coming from the old teak radiogram back in 1962, when I was just five-years old.  “Island of Dreams” was one of the most played singles around the house at the time and one that resonated with me, especially the optimistic chorus, “high in the sky is a bird on a wing, please carry me with you, far far away from the mad rushing crowd, please carry me with you”, which was pure escapism for a kid who had no inclination of washing his neck or eating onions.  I desperately wanted to be on that bird’s wings.  If the Springfields’ folky song filled my childhood dreams with hope, then hearing that same voice eventually mature into what we were to hear just six years later was nothing short of staggering.  Dusty in Memphis is one of those albums largely ignored at the time of its release, only to be picked up on much later, though “Son of a Preacher Man” had long been a favourite.  It’s little surprise that many still consider Dusty to be the greatest British female vocalist of all time and some of the proof of that is captured on this record.

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26. Aretha Franklin – Aretha Now (Atlantic SD8186 – 1968)

The first time I heard the voice of Aretha Franklin was probably “I Say a Little Prayer”, which reached number 4 in the UK charts back in 1968, though the first single I bought was “Spanish Harlem”, which came along a little later in 1971.  When Aretha died in 2018, it was obvious to me that we’d lost one of the greatest voices of our times in any genre.  Aretha Now was released exactly fifty years earlier and it still sounded great when I popped it on the turntable in respect after the singer lost her short battle with cancer.  I was just packing to go on a family holiday to Cornwall for a couple of weeks and stuck a few Aretha CDs in the car for the drive down.  I needn’t have bothered, as Radio 2 played many of her songs on that five and a half hour drive down, indicating that I was far from being the only one saddened by this singer’s untimely passing.  Released in 1968, Aretha Now was the first Aretha Franklin LP I bought and remains one of my favourites to this day, not least for the inclusion of “Think”, “Say a Little Prayer” and “You’re a Sweet Sweet Man”.

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27. Jonathan Kelly – Twice Around the Houses (RCA Victor SF8262 – 1972)

When I first saw Jonathan Kelly play live, he’d been around the houses a good few times already.  I was far too young to catch him the first time around and I always thought that I’d perhaps missed out on the opportunity, Jonathan having retired from the music business decades earlier.  It was really good to see him return to the stage, if only temporarily, when I heard dozens of familiar songs for the first time live, “Ballad of Cursed Anna”, “We’re All Right Til Then” and “Sligo Fair” among them.  The week before that particular concert in Doncaster, I played a short set at the same club and promoted the next gig by singing a fairly pedestrian version of “Sligo Fair”, a song from this LP, in which I changed the final chorus from ‘Sligo Fair is just a week away’, to ‘Jonathan Kelly is just a week away’ to one or two guffaws from the audience.  Too many syllables I know, but I got away with it nonetheless.  Apparently, the concert was taped and the performance was played (rather embarrassingly) to Jonathan, who when I met up with him a week later, wrote “thanks for doing my song” on the cover of this, his best known LP.  Sadly, we lost Jonathan in 2020.

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28. Claire Hamill – One House Left Standing (Island ILPS 9182 – 1971)

All my girl friends in 1971 (real or imagined) appeared to look like Claire Hamill.  Just seventeen years old on the cover of her debut LP, Claire was rightly or wrongly compared to Joni Mitchell, which was probably more of a hindrance than a help.  Nevertheless, Claire was a regular feature in all the music press at the time and as a consequence, was adored by one sweaty Herbert from Doncaster.  The cover shot of One House Left Standing, inexplicably sees out heroine perched upon some railway debris in an industrial part of Middlesbrough with the Tees Transporter Bridge looming large in the background.  It was a little like John Everett Millais painting Ophelia in a puddle at the face of a South Yorkshire colliery.  John Martyn plays on the record as does Terry Reid and David Lindley, good company for this young northern schoolgirl to say the least.  I was fortunate enough to meet up with Claire over three decades later and fell in love with her all over again as she signed my old crackly copy of this memorable LP, who then got up on stage with her guitar to perform “The Man Who Cannot See Tomorrow’s Sunshine”, “Where Are Your Smiles At” and the jaunty “Baseball Blues”, all from this LP.

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29. Nick Drake – Heaven in a Wild Flower (Island ILPS9826 – 1985)

Those whose musical taste began to develop just as the 1960s morphed almost seamlessly into the 1970s, might possibly remember the name Nick Drake from the series of Island sampler LPs such as Nice Enough To Eat (“Time Has Told Me), Bumpers (“Hazy Jane) and El Pea (“Northern Sky”).  In my case, Drake’s songs would be largely ignored as I dove straight into the tracks by Free, Mott the Hoople, Traffic or even Quintessence, heaven forbid.  My first real introduction to Nick’s songs came a few years later, when in around 1985, Island brought out the affordable Heaven in a Wild Flower compilation, released a good ten years after the singer’s untimely death.  The LP features fourteen of Drake’s most representative songs and probably served as a slice of nostalgia for the handful of fans who remembered him and who bought his three albums upon their initial release, but also a signpost for those new to his music.  It wasn’t until a few years after the release of this LP though, that young musicians would begin to take a real interest in Nick Drake through other compilations such as Way To Blue, or the Fruit Tree box set, or indeed a certain radio documentary presented by onetime collaborator Danny Thompson, all of which effectively rescued the singer-songwriter from on going obscurity.  Since then you can hardly turn on the TV without hearing snippets of Nick Drake’s guitar in commercials or as part of some movie soundtracks.  It’s also worth noting that when Joe Boyd sold his Witchseason production company to Island Records, it came with the condition that all three of Nick Drake’s official solo albums, Five Leaves Left, Bryter Layter and Pink Moon,  would always remain available, which they are to this day.

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30. The Steve Miller Band – Masters of Rock Vol 3 (Capitol C054-81 583 – 1973)

In the early to mid 1970s I discovered the Steve Miller Band, one  of San Francisco’s leading rock bands, through my fellow thesps in the college theatre group I was involved with at the time.  Between the members of this group, we made a concerted effort to collect the entire Steve Miller Band LP collection, including Children of the Future, Sailor, Your Saving Grace and Recall the Beginning.. A Journey From Eden, even sending off to the US for the Holy Grail of Steve Miller LPs at the time, Brave New World, which was only available through import.  In 1973, Capitol Records released an impressive introduction to the Steve Miller Band in their budget series Masters of Rock, which for me is still one of the best of Miller’s records, despite it being a retrospective collection.  The budget-priced LP features some of the band’s best know songs from the band’s first seven albums, including “Journey From Eden”, “Living in the USA” and “Rock Love”, together with the appearance of a new song “The Joker”, with its memorable ‘wolf whistle’ guitar riff, which had only just been released as a single, inevitably bringing the band to a wider audience.  To anyone new to the Steve Miller Band, this is a good place to start.

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31. The Who – Who’s Next (Track Record 2408 102 – 1971)

It was upon hearing “Won’t Get Fooled Again” for the first time that initially drew me to the Who’s Next album, a rock anthem if ever there was one, which was played often on the radio at the time, albeit in a rather shorter version than the epic album track.  The album’s notorious cover shot of a 2001: A Space Odyssey-styled monolith, which all four members of the band had recently relieved themselves against, brings a certain attitude to the record a good six years before the arrival of Punk.  Although the album appears to be a fully formed finished product, it was in fact cobbled together from remnants of Pete Townshend’s abandoned Lifehouse project, which included the use of synthesisers, particularly on “Baba O’Riley”, the iconic opening track.  All the songs on the album were written by Pete Townshend, with the exception of John Entwistle’s “My Wife”, which doesn’t feel at all out of place.  The album remains one of the milestones of British rock and was re-issued in 2003 as a three-disc LP set, which included live performances at the Young Vic as well as a New York Record Plant session.  Other notable tracks include “Bargain”, “The Song is Over” and “Behind Blue Eyes”.

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32. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Green River (Liberty LBS83273 – 1969)

I can’t remember where or when I first heard Creedence Clearwater Revival, probably on the radio back in 1969.  Neither can I remember which was the first of the small collection of CCR singles I bought, probably “Bad Moon Rising”, the band’s only chart topper in the UK, in the same year.  With a steady newspaper round together with a weekly wage of one pound sterling, I was able to expand upon my LP record collection, then currently standing at just the one and of the records I would buy around this time, most would be cheap sampler LPs.  One of my regular haunts was Foxes Records in the Arndale Centre, a place I would visit even if my pockets were empty, which was more often than not.  Flicking through the browsers became a regular pastime, carefully pulling each record sleeve out to read everything printed on it.  If ever I had sufficient coinage in my pocket, I would read more intently and spend a great deal more time deciding which record to buy.  Creedence Clearwater Revival’s third LP Green River, with its tangible mottled sleeve showing a seemingly carefree sun-drenched California quartet led by John Fogerty, was a bit of a no brainer at the time.  They were briefly my favourite band in the late Sixties and I’d had my eyes in the record for some time.  I remember taking the record out of the plastic carrier bag on the bus home and gazing at the picture on the cover, which was dominated by the figure of John Fogerty.  I had an insatiable desire to look just like that.  Sadly, later that same year, a similarly attired Charles Manson ordered his followers to take up murder as a pastime, which kind of spoiled all the fun.  Some great tunes here though, including “Bad Moon Rising”, “Lodi” and the title song of course.

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33. Traffic – John Barleycorn Must Die (Island ILPS9116 – 1970 )

In the late 1960s and early 1970s it was difficult to keep up with Little Stevie Winwood.  He’d already fronted the Spencer Davis Group as a fifteen-year old soul singer, then formed the rock band Traffic with Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood and Dave Mason, who churned out such psychedelic singles as “Paper Sun” and “Hole in My Shoe”, before settling into a critically acclaimed jazz rock outfit that went on to rub shoulders with the likes of Free, King Crimson and Jethro Tull on the burgeoning Island label.  After Mason left the band, Winwood enjoyed a very brief spell in the short-lived supergroup Blind Faith with Clapton, Baker and Rick Gretch, before regrouping with the two remaining members of Traffic, Capaldi and Wood, to record the band’s fourth album, which began as a Winwood solo project but soon became a full blown Traffic release.  Among the jazz fusion of “Glad” and “Empty Pages”, the soulful rock of “Every Mother’s Son” and the bluesy “Stranger to Himself”, the band surprised just about everyone with a veritable show stopper, a delicate reading of the traditional folk song “John Barleycorn”. 

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34. Robert Wyatt – Rock Bottom (Virgin V2017 – 1974)

Produced by Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason, Robert Wyatt’s second solo effort is notable not only for the brilliant compositions, but for being the moment when Wyatt’s riotous Keith Moon-like behaviour came to an abrupt end, the drunken ex-Soft Machine drummer falling from a fourth-floor window, an incident that would see to it that he remained in a wheelchair from then on.  Rock Bottom was in preparation during this period and some of the material is based on a mind coming to terms with a difficult life ahead.  I was having my own difficult period too, namely ‘17’, the worst age of all and I’d already entered a world of all things Soft, Tubular or Virginal, with particular interest in Fred Frith.  The avant-garde music of the time was certainly somewhat more interesting than anything on the mainstream front, despite Johnny Walker’s efforts to wean listeners off Donny Osmond and David Cassidy and onto The Eagles and The Doobie Brothers.  I think I took it a step further and chose Henry Cow and the Softs as the way to go.  Wyatt made a huge impression on me at the time and seemed to bridge the gap between my early teen life and my oncoming adulthood by recording an almost tongue-in-cheek version of “I’m a Believer”, a song I loved as a kid by The Monkees.  The rest is history, with some of Wyatt’s work having been re-visited by The Unthanks, in fact, the only time I ever met up with Wyatt was after an Unthanks gig in Lincoln back in 2009.

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35. 10cc – Deceptive Bends (Mercury 9102 502 – 1977)

I was always a little unsure about 10cc, the 1970s Beatles-influenced rock pop band, possibly due to the fact that the band came from the same stable of such forgettable outfits as The Bay City Rollers, The Piglets and Typically Tropical, headed by the man who recorded “Everyone’s Gone to the Moon”.  Despite Jonathan King’s input, 10cc soon developed as a major force on the British music scene, from their early hits, such as “Donna”, an almost straight copy of Paul McCartney’s “Oh Darling” from the Abbey Road period, “Rubber Bullets”, “Art for Art’s Sake” and “I’m Not In Love”.  The hits just kept coming throughout the 1970s, each entirely different from the last with no apparent formula to speak of.  The band fragmented in 1976 with the departure of Kevin Godley and Lol Creme, leaving Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman to function as a duo, who would continue to use the name and release a series of subsequent albums, starting with Deceptive Bends.  Surprisingly, even in 1977 the year of Punk, John Peel still had space between the noise to play the entire three-part “Feel the Benefit”, on his late night Top Gear show, which effectively coincided with Peel and I parting company for a while.

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36. Sam Chatmon – Sam Chatmon’s Advice (Rounder 2018 – 1979)

I remember exactly when I first became aware of the Mississippi Delta bluesman Sam Chatmon.  It was in the late 1970s, when Alexis Korner introduced The Devil’s Music, a TV series that investigated the story of the blues, with Sam Chatmon being one of the featured performers.  Well into his seventies at the time of broadcast, the bearded singer, who in his early career performed with his family band The Chatman Brothers as well as The Mississippi Sheiks, performed one or two songs from his home in the Mississippi Delta, revealing a new and exciting world of rural blues that I was up until that point completely unaware of.  Alexis Korner played more of Sam’s songs from the LP Sam Chatmon’s Advice on his Sunday evening radio show, including “Let the Good Times Roll”, “That’s Alright” and “Good Eating Meat”, which prompted me to go out and find this LP.  Blues LPs of this nature were still difficult to come by at the time but fortunately, there was a copy in my local library, which I borrowed and kept with me for a while, cranking up a few fines in the process.  Sam died shortly afterwards in 1983 and there’s a headstone memorial to Chatmon in Sanders Memorial Cemetery in Hollandale, Mississippi, which was paid for by Bonnie Raitt with the inscription, ‘Sitting on Top of the World’.

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37. Gram Parsons – GP (Reprise K4422 – 1973)

The first time I heard Gram Parsons was probably while he was still with The Byrds, way back in the days when I would pop by Doncaster market to browse the stall that sold singles in the late 1960s.  I distinctly recall sifting through piles of ex-jukebox 45s and coming across “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” by The Byrds on the CBS label.  As with many bands of the era, my understanding of them developed once I obtained my 1971 copy of Lillian Roxon’s Rock Encyclopaedia, which became my own personal music bible.  This led me to the further discovery of The Flying Burrito Brothers, though Gram Parsons as a solo artist hadn’t yet been listed.  Once I’d absorbed the Flying Burrito back catalogue, I became impressed with Parsons not only as a singer, but also as an artist responsible for making Country Music cool once again.  The Nudie suits worn by the likes of Porter Waggoner, were redesigned to include Marijuana leaves rather than Waggoner’s Wagon Trains and Cactus plants.  GP was Gram’s debut solo LP, recorded in Hollywood and released in 1973, for which he surrounded himself with some major players on the country music scene such as James Burton, Byron Berline, Al Perkins and of course, Emmylou Harris.  You only have to listen to “Streets of Baltimore”, “She” and “We’ll Sweep Out the Ashes in the Morning”, to become hopelessly hooked.

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38. Woodstock Mountains – More Music From Mud Acres (Rounder 3018 – 1977)

I didn’t get to the Cambridge Folk Festival the year that the Woodstock Mountain Revue appeared there, an informal affiliation of folk-based musicians from the Woodstock area of New York, who apparently stole the show.  This LP followed the collective’s debut album released a few years earlier under the title of Mud Acres: Music Among Friends, which was recorded back in 1972.  More Music From Mud Acres was introduced to me by an old friend who attended this particular festival in 1979, which was also the year that Ry Cooder famously played his acoustic solo set.  Credited to Woodstock Mountains rather than The Woodstock Mountain Revue, this second helping featured Happy and Artie Traum, John Herald, Jim Rooney, Bill Keith and Roly Salley, plus many more.  The highlights were many, but we can start with Artie Traum’s “Cold Front” and “Barbed Wire”, John Sebastian’s reading of the traditional “Morning Blues” and Roly Salley’s “Killing the Blues”, a song later covered by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss for their collaborative Raising Sand album.  That same old friend also brought back from the festival a copy of the official poster, one of those made in the days when posters were works of considerable artistic merit and it was a constant reminder of what a good year I missed every time I visited the house, not only having missed the Woodstock Mountain Revue and Ry Cooder, but also Doc Watson, Loudon Wainwright III and Rockin’ Dopsie and the Cajun Twisters and all for a mere £7.50.

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39. Loudon Wainwright III – Album II (Atlantic 2400 142 – 1971)

A chap called Stu Morton introduced me to the songs of Loudon Wainwright III at a late night party in the early 1970s and I immediately became a fan.  It was completely different to the rock music I was into at the time and the songs gave me something to think about.  I didn’t realise that you could put an album out with just a mug shot on the cover, no smiles, no glamour, just the guy next door.  It may have had something to do with the mixture of humour, irreverence and that inimitable sneer that I would become more familiar with over time that attracted me to this performer.  While “Me and My Friend the Cat” provided the sneer, “Motel Blues” provided the beauty, despite its dodgy subject matter.  In the early 1970s I used to make a note of the date of purchase on the inner sleeve, certainly for the first couple of dozen LPs that I bought and this one clearly states ‘73.  I know I heard the album earlier, but maybe I had to wait until I got a job before I could buy my own copy, which would have been two years after the album’s initial release.  The LP also led to the discovery of Kate and Anna McGarrigle, John Prine, Steve Forbert and a host of others.

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40. Lou Reed and John Cale – Songs For Drella (Sire 7599-26140-1 – 1990)

I came to Songs for Drella through the accompanying film, recorded in the intimate setting of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, with no audience in attendance.  Lou Reed and John Cale perform the songs face to face with infrequent glances to one another and hardly a smile.  Three years after the death of pop artist Andy Warhol, the former Velvet Underground band mates reunited for this song cycle project, both reflecting on the life of their friend and former mentor, producer and manager.  The abrasive pair hadn’t spoken to one another for years until meeting up once again at Warhol’s memorial service in 1987.  After a suggestion by the painter Julian Schnabel, the two began working on these highly personal songs, including “Open House”, “Style it Takes”, “It Wasn’t Me” and Cale’s moving poem “A Dream”.  The name Drella, a mixture of Dracula and Cinderella, was never completely adopted by Warhol himself, though many of his friends used it as an affectionate nickname.  After this collaboration Reed and Cale vowed never to work together again, then surprisingly reformed Velvet Underground shortly afterwards, after which, the two musicians retook their vows and didn’t work together again.   Looking back at this album and the film in particular, it’s remarkable how youthful they both looked at the beginning of the 1990s.

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41. Robin and Barry Dransfield – The Rout of the Blues (Trailer LER 2011 – 1970)

Presumably released in a time when people who produced LP records couldn’t really be bothered to type up the track list on the label, leaving instead a gaping space of nothingness, between the brand, the album title and the artist’s name(s), although the esteemed scribe Karl Dallas does a fine job with the sleeve notes.  The Rout of the Blues is the debut LP by the popular folk siblings from Harrogate, Robin and Barry Dransfield, who are pictured on the sleeve, apparently disorientated in a snowy forest, giving absolutely nothing away as to what to expect on the record itself.  Robin wears an Arthur Daley sheepskin coat while Barry sports the sort of sideburns popular at the time with the Thames Valley Police.  Although comprising a fine guitar player and fiddler respectively, the duo, who incidentally don’t Robin have a brother called Maurice to my knowledge, are noted for their sibling harmonies and inventive part singing, both explored throughout this album more so than their playing chops.   The duo had called it a day by the time I first came to their music, which was in the early 1980s, and so having missed them in their heyday, I had the brass nerve to seek out Robin’s contact details to plead with him to get back together with his brother for a show, but to no avail.  This was before I’d become acquainted with folk etiquette and was still in a state of brazen youthful forwardness.  He was lovely on the phone however, but I sensed the impossibility of the request.  Strangely, I’ve never been tempted to ring either Noel or Liam with a similar suggestion.  “The Trees They Do Grow High” is probably my favourite track.

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42. Various Artists – Easy Rider Original Soundtrack (Stateside SSL5018 – 1969)

In the late 1960s, a handful of films emerged that every self respecting rock fan would’ve been expected to see, even if some of those fans, including me, were far too young to actually get into the cinema to see them.  Monterey Pop was one, Woodstock another, then there was Alice’s Restaurant, Gimme Shelter, Blow Up and Performance, not to mention all of the Beatles films of course.  Another was Easy Rider, which was almost like a modern western, featuring hippie bikers on their Harleys, criss-crossing the country, effectively replacing cowboys on their horses.  Who could forget the opening sequence of this cult 1969 movie, with Steppenwolf performing Hoyt Axton’s atmospheric song “The Pusher”, as the camera gracefully navigates the contours of a bike’s gleaming polished chrome curves?  Without the film’s soundtrack though, there’s not really an awful lot of Easy Rider to write home about, unless you really do have a thing for motorbikes and long straight roads and the occasional iron bridge.  The Band’s classic song “The Weight” was used in the film, but due to licensing issues, their recording, which originally appeared on their debut LP Music From Big Pink couldn’t be used on this release, the song being replaced by a specially recorded version by an obscure band called Smith (it wasn’t Johnny Marr).  Other artists included were The Byrds, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Electric Prunes and The Fraternity of Man.  Bob Dylan was asked to contribute a couple of songs but refused; however he did write the opening line to “Ballad of Easy Rider” and then advised the filmmakers to give the song to Roger McGuinn, saying “he’ll know what to do with it”.  This British LP included all the songs from the American soundtrack but thankfully omitted the sprinkling of sound effects, including the rumbling of motorbikes.  After taking the future Mrs W to see the film sometime in 1977, I got down on one knee and did the deed, before Roger McGuinn had finished warbling “Ballad of Easy Rider” over the closing credits.  The outstanding songs include “The Pusher” and “Born to be Wild” courtesy of Steppenwolf, together with “If Six Was Nine” by Hendrix and “Wasn’t Born to Follow” by The Byrds. 

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43. Marianne Faithfull – Marianne Faithfull (Decca LK 4689 – 1965)

Recorded at Lansdowne Studios in London just as the city began to engage in its swinging period, the young Marianne Faithfull filled two sides of this platter with covers of songs from the pens of Jackie De Shannon, Bacharach and David, Lennon and McCartney and most notably Jagger, Richard and Oldham, Oldham being Andrew Loog Oldham, the Stones manager who claims to have discovered her.  “As Tears Go By”, the opening song on side two is actually the first song to be written by the Glimmer Twins, originally entitled “As Time Goes By”, but changed shortly afterwards to avoid a conflict with a song from a certain Bogart flick.  You must remember this?  The alluring cover shot was taken by the popular Sixties photographer David Bailey, which focuses on Marianne’s extraordinary youthful face.  The LP also features Marianne’s faithful reading of Tony Hatch’s “Down Town”, the Petula Clark hit, as well as the rather excellent “Plaisir D’Amour” performed in both French and English, together with The Beatles’ For Sale period “I’m a Loser”.  This is a record I play when I don’t want to be in the present day anymore, which is becoming increasingly often.

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44. Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel (Charisma CDS4006 – 1977)

I was among the many Genesis fans to find the news of Peter Gabriel’s departure in 1975 a little difficult to take.  I refused to give the new band a chance and spent the next few years deriding just about everything the band subsequently stood for.  Peter Gabriel was Genesis as far as I was concerned and I wasn’t prepared to take the thought of Phil Collins as the replacement frontman seriously.  After devouring The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and Selling England by the Pound before it, the news just left me, and presumably many others, completely bereft.  After a couple of years, Gabriel returned with his debut solo LP simply entitled Peter Gabriel, the first of four consecutive LPs to bear the same name, each ultimately labelled according to their cover image; Car, Scratch, Melt and Security.  The Car LP was the first one, released in 1977, which maintained some of the same feel in places as The Lamb, which provided us all with something of a consolation.  The album also featured the cathartic “Solsbury Hill”, which was an attempt to explain why the singer left the band in the first place.  The single went on to reach number 13 in the UK charts in the same year.  It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I got to see Gabriel live, headlining the last night of the 1979 Reading Festival, for which much of this album was aired.

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45. Tir Na Nog – A Tear and a Smile (Chrysalis CHR1006 – 1972)

I reacquainted myself with this LP after being separated for 40 years.  In the days of swapping records with friends or with the man at the local ‘swap shop’, this LP drifted off for a while and aside from a copy of the subsequent CD release, it’s pretty much evaded rediscovery, until a visit to Music in the Green in Bakewell, where I managed to pick up the LP and return it to its rightful home.  I’m undecided whether Leo O’Kelly and Sonny Condell look very much relaxed on the gatefold sleeve, or positively alarmed, Condell looking particularly at home surrounded by all manner of early 1970s paraphernalia on the centre spread.  A Tear and a Smile was produced by Tony Cox (Caravan, Françoise Hardy, Family), and features contributions by Larry Steele on bass and Barry de Souza on drums with some fine string arrangements by Nick Harrison.  It has to be said, these songs always sound much better on a long playing record.

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46. The Kinks – The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society (Pye NPL 18233 – 1968)

Over the years, ever since the Kinks dominated the British singles charts with one superb hit record after another, Ray Davies has taken on the role of the quintessential English pop poet laureate, producing a prolific repertoire of songs that capture the very spirit of Englishness, with songs that talk about leaky kitchen sinks, Sunday joints of bread and honey and rent collectors knocking at the door trying to get in.  The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society captures the essence of these perceived lifestyles with a series of vignettes that not only celebrate all things English, but also lament the passing of time and the destruction of traditions.  Nostalgic at its core, the album not only marks the passing of an era but also the end of the original band, the LP being the last album to feature all four original members of Ray Davies, Dave Davies, Pete Quaife and Mick Avory.  “Do You Remember Walter?”, “Picture Book”, “Last of the Steam Powered Trains” and the title song stand out.

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47. Mott the Hoople – Mad Shadows (Island Records ILPS 9119 – 1970)

Mott the Hoople’s ‘difficult’ second LP turned out to be possibly the band’s best album in retrospect.  Legend has it that its original title was Sticky Fingers but messers Jagger and Richards beat them to it with their own album release, which the Rolling Stones were working on in the studio next door.  Mad Shadows was their second choice of title, a term borrowed from a poem by Baudelaire, which was perfectly matched by the monochrome artwork.  Like most the albums that were discovered around this time, it was through the sampler format that I first became aware of both the album and the band, in this case the double Island compilation Bumpers.  When I saw the band at the Doncaster Top Rank in the early 1970s, the band were currently riding high on the success of “All the Young Dudes” and I distinctly recall Ian Hunter’s on-stage proclamation – ‘There’s only two rock and roll bands in the world, the Rolling Stones and us!’, which was probably not the case.  However, from the packed audience I was moved to shout out for “Thunderbuck Ram”, the opening song from this album, to which an older fan who was standing next to me leaned over and said “I don’t think they’ll be doing that one anymore”.  The band had already adopted all the traits of a Glam Rock band and the Mad Shadows era had sadly passed.

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48. Glencoe – Glencoe (Epic S EPC 65207 – 1972)

The Top Rank on Silver Street in Doncaster had two entirely different identities in the late 1960s and early 1970s, three if you count the teenybopper Saturday morning extravaganza known as the Saturday Morning Dance Club, where you could hear some of the most abysmal chart hits imaginable by Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick and Tich, The Marmalade and Pickettywitch.  The popular night club had the usual Tamla Motown and Northern Soul-drenched weekends that were often packed to the rafters and always ended up with a punch-up around the back between rival mods, rockers, suede heads, skinheads or whatever other heads were about at the time.  However, the Top Rank was also home to the Prog Rock night on Mondays and also provided a venue for a long list of visiting bands.  Pink Floyd played at the venue, recreating “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast” onstage.  David Bowie played there twice during the Hunky Dory period.  One night three bands played, whose collective names added up to only eight letters; Yes, If and Egg.  The Edgar Broughton Band spat from the stage in pre-punk days, Mott the Hoople played on the rotating stage the same week “All the Young Dudes” entered the charts and I lost count of how many times I saw the Welsh hard rock band Budgie there.  Curved Air, Fairport Convention and even the Electric Light Orchestra showcased their eponymous LP there.  One or two bands came and went leaving only memories and the odd LP I managed to collect along the way.  One such band was Glencoe, featuring notable bassist Norman Watt-Roy, fresh out of The Greatest Show on Earth and prior to his work with Ian Dury and the Blockheads, whose self-titled debut LP I would listen to frequently back in the day. “Airport”, “Telephonia” and “Sinking Down a Well” remain favourites.

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49. Genesis – Trespass (Charisma CAS 1020 – 1970)

After something of a false start under the supervision of fellow public school luminary Jonathan King, the band Genesis entered London’s Trident Studios in 1970 to record what effectively became the band’s first proper album.  The artwork itself pointed very much in the direction the band were to eventually go in the early 1970s as well as the music, which was written by the band as a whole.  Trespass was however to be the swansong for both guitarist Anthony Phillips and drummer John Mayhew, who would be replaced by Steve Hackett and Phil Collins respectively.  In truth, Genesis didn’t become an obsession until the arrival of Foxtrot a couple of years later, which lingered until The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway in 1974, before evaporating with the departure of charismatic frontman Peter Gabriel around the same time.  As in most cases though, I ventured backwards over the band’s catalogue to discover the Trespass and Nursery Crime albums a little after discovering Foxtrot, both of which occasionally re-visit the turntable even today.  Notable tracks “Stagnation”, “Visions of Angels” and “The Knife”.

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50. McDonald and Giles – McDonald and Giles (Island ILPS 9126 – 1970)

I think it was the sleeve on the McDonald and Giles LP that first caught my attention, being probably more impressed with the musician’s girlfriends than the two Herbert’s pictured on the gatefold sleeve, in much the same way as I was always more intrigued with Liccy and Rose on the Incredible String Band LP sleeves.  Once again, it was the Island label that also caught my attention, at a moment in time when everything on the label seemed to be crucial listening (well almost).  Today in record stores up and down the country, this LP can usually be found in the box marked ‘pink label’, which almost guarantees to contain other LPs by the likes of Fairport Convention, John Martyn, Amazing Blondel, Traffic, Free and King Crimson, the band that Ian McDonald and Michael Giles had left before recording this album, the duo’s only release.  McDonald and Giles also features contributions from Peter Giles, Steve Winwood and Michael Blakesley, who played trombone on “Tomorrow’s People”.

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51. Martin Simpson – Golden Vanity (Trailer LER 2099 – 1976)

When Martin Simpson wrote ‘Best Wishes, Martin Simpson, 32 years on’ across the reverse of this record sleeve, I realised that it had indeed taken the best part of three decades for me to get him to sign it.  I’d seen the guitarist on stage at least a dozen times before I shoved this particular record under his nose prior to a show in Rotherham, midway through changing the strings on his two guitars.  “I always change my strings before each show” he revealed, going on to say “Paul Simon apparently changes his strings before each set!”  Although I already had a good few Martin Simpson LPs by this time, each dutifully signed, it occurred to me that I should really complete the set and have him scribble on this one.  It was during the time when the old LP format had virtually disappeared in favour of the comparably dull CD, almost undeserving of a signature.  Bill Leader produced this particular LP, while Barbara Dickson wrote the sleeve notes, referring to the guitarist as a ‘strong and original new talent’.  Golden Vanity features both traditional and contemporary material, notably Martin’s original version of Randy Newman’s “Louisiana 1927”, which he would later re-record for the CD generation.

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52. Various Artists – Bumpers (Island IDP1 – 1970)

I don’t actually recall where I picked up the Bumpers double sampler LP from, quite possibly Ken’s Swap Shop along St Sepulchre Gate in Doncaster.  Unlike Foxes Records, where you could listen to new records in one of their little wooden sound booths before deciding to buy, you had to take your chances at Ken’s.  Sampler albums were by far the best way of hearing new bands and artists at the time and I always felt that the label was more of an attraction than the actual music within.  If the sampler was on the Harvest label or Chrysalis, Charisma, Vertigo or indeed Island, then the content would almost always be guaranteed to hit the mark.  This particular double sampler LP was my introduction to the likes of Nick Drake, Mott the Hoople, King Crimson, John and Beverley Martyn, If, Blodwyn Pig and many others, although I was already well aware of Cat Stevens, Free and Jethro Tull by the time this LP was released.  Most of the tracks were recorded in 1970 but I dare say I picked up this album a little later.  It’s still a record I like to pop on the turntable every now and then, which always takes me right back to the early Seventies.  I also had my own pair of ‘bumpers’, an almost obligatory item of footwear.

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53. The Jimmy Giuffre Trio – The Train and the River (Atlantic Special 590011 – 1958)

One of the most memorable moments in the film documentary of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival is the opening title sequence, where familiar names such as Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Stitt, Dinah Washington, Gerry Mulligan, Chuck Berry and Mahalia Jackson (to name but a few) are credited over several arty shots of the Newport Riviera, where abstract rippling waters can be observed, while the Jimmy Giuffre Trio play their iconic cool jazz hit “The Train and the River” at breakneck speed.  I can’t remember where I first picked up this LP, most probably a dusty old second hand record shop in Yorkshire, but I do recall being slightly disappointed at the relatively slow pace of the title track, being used to the Newport live version.  The trio in both the film and LP versions feature Giuffre on sax and Jim Hall on guitar, although the bottom end differs slightly with Bob Brookmeyer in the film playing trombone, while Ralph Pena plays the bass on this LP.  I’ve subsequently warmed to the slower, more deliberate version here and tend to feel the live version too rushed.  A little snippet from the tune also features on one of the tracks on the debut LP by Bert Jansch.

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54. Whippersnapper – Promises (WPS WPS001 – 1985)

By the mid-1980s, I was pretty much immersed in the local folk club scene in Doncaster and eager to assist in helping to book some of the great acoustic acts in the country at the time, artists such as Martin Simpson, Martin Carthy, Clive Gregson and Christine Collister, Jo Anne Kelly and such like.  When Dave Swarbrick’s new acoustic band Whippersnapper burst onto the scene with their debut album in the mid 1980s, they quickly rose to the top of my wish list and I, along with a bunch of friends, arranged for the band to come and play for us at the Corporation Brewery Taps on Cleveland Street close by the town centre.  They were probably one of the most exciting bands on the scene at the time and I made every effort to see them as often as I could during their existence, especially when they were a four piece, which also included Martin Jenkins, Kevin Dempsey and Chris Leslie.  The band provided many good memories and as a live band, they were in a league of their own, although I do confess to playing their albums rarely these days.

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55. Tim Buckley – Happy Sad (Elekra K42072 – 1969)

The first time I saw Tim Buckley was on the Old Grey Whistle Test, performing his version of Fred Neil’s “Dolphins”.  Being an almost fanatical devotee of The Monkees back in the late 1960s, I would have undoubtedly seen Tim perform “Song to the Siren” in episode 68 of their zany cult TV show, but it probably wouldn’t have registered at the time.  It would’ve meant nothing to a ten year-old fan of the pre-fab four, eagerly awaiting the next hilariously childish skit.  In the 1970s, Tim Buckley would pop up on sampler LPs here and there such as Elektra’s Begin Here, therefore I would’ve been aware of one or two songs by then.  I didn’t actually take notice until later, when I discovered the real genius of this performer on his second album Goodbye and Hello, released in 1967.  This led directly to the third and still my favourite, Happy Sad.  This album is probably Tim’s most atmospheric album, which shamelessly borrows from the cool jazz of Miles Davis in places and in my opinion never really ages.  A good starting place for newcomers.

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56. Ry Cooder – Chicken Skin Music (Reprise REP54083 – 1976)

Ry Cooder’s brief stint with the Captain was a long forgotten nightmare by the time Chicken Skin Music was released in the hot summer of 1976.  There had been four solo Cooder albums leading up to this in the early 1970s, each of which explored the roots of American music, including blues (Ry Cooder), folk, blues and calypso (Into the Purple Valley, Boomer’s Story, Paradise and Lunch) and then finally we arrived at this delightful collaboration with what could be considered the cream of Tex Mex musicians, including Flaco Jiménez, Gabby Pahinui and Atta Isaacs.  Chicken Skin Music (the UK equivalent probably being ‘Goosebump Music’) was a fine introduction to this kind of music, Flaco’s accordion playing a prominent role throughout the record.  After being somewhat transfixed by Cooder’s appearance on the Old Grey Whistle Test a couple of years earlier, where the musician could be seen playing both bottleneck guitar and mandolin on Woody Guthrie’s “Vigilante Man” and Sleepy John Estes’ “Goin’ to Brownsville” respectively, I was eager to see the new band perform some of these songs on the show towards the end of the show’s classic period, where Cooder doesn’t disappoint.  It wasn’t until much later, sometime in the 1990s, that I finally got to see the man in action in Manchester, sharing the stage at the Apollo with David Lindley.  To this day, I have no idea what’s going on in the cover picture.

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57. Arizona Smoke Revue – A Thundering on the Horizon (Rola R006 – 1981)

In 1987 I attended the Cropredy Festival, Fairport Convention’s annual celebratory bash, specifically to catch an acoustic set by John Martyn and Danny Thompson on the Friday night.  I was running slightly late and could hear the wailing fiddle of Le Rue over the meadows as dusk settled upon the Oxfordshire meadows.  Throughout the weekend, the sound tech appeared to have a very limited stash of records to play between acts, therefore the Arizona Smoke Revue’s “Border Song” was played almost on repeat, a song that features a fine guitar solo courtesy of Richard Thompson.  I grew to love the song and had it pretty much down by the end of the weekend.  The band consisted of Bill Zorn, Phil Beer, Paul Downes and a character by the name of Gene Vogel, a pseudonym I understand Steve Knightley went under at the time.  A Thundering on the Horizon also includes an exceptional acoustic version of the underrated Beatles song “Rain”, featuring some fine vocal harmonies and a banjo leading the way, together with an a capella Springsteen song.  They don’t make records like this any more.

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58. Doc and Merle Watson – Red Rocking Chair (Flying Fish FF252 – 1981)

I first heard Doc and Merle Watson’s Red Rocking Chair in the early 1980s on a vinyl LP which lived in Doncaster Central Music Library. I borrowed it and didn’t want to give it back. I thought I had struck gold or found the holy grail or something. It was one of those defining moments when I realised Country, Folk, Jazz, Old Time music etc was all one and the same thing.  I also realised that my pretensions of being a guitar player were way off the mark. It was one of those ‘back to the drawing board’ moments.  At the time I was just discovering folk clubs with my pal Malc and we ‘borrowed’ one or two of the songs from this LP to get us started, “Mole in the Ground” and the title track included.  A few years later both Doc and I lost our musical partners, Malc died of a heart attack in 1988 and Merle Watson, Doc’s son, was killed in a tragic farm accident.  I suppose these songs ended up meaning quite a lot to the both of us.

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59. Roger McGuinn – Roger McGuinn (CBS 65274 – 1973)

I had hair pretty much like Roger McGuinn as he appeared on the cover of his debut solo album, an album I bought upon its release in 1973.  This was an image that appeared no less than twenty-nine times on the front cover and a further twenty-eight times on the back.  It was Bob Dylan once again who attracted me to this album, who provided the harmonica on the heavily Dylan influenced opening song “I’m So Restless”.  It was difficult to escape the West Coast influence at the time, with several albums being almost simultaneously released by The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Steve Miller Band and Little Feat, while daytime radio in the UK concerned itself with The Osmonds, David Cassidy and Mud.  Roger McGuinn surrounded himself with a handful of key session players such as Hal Blaine, Spooner Oldham, Jim Gordon and Leyland Sklar, as well as reuniting with David Crosby and Gene Clark.  Writing in partnership with Jacques Levy, one or two of the songs are strong, but it’s probably David Weffen’s “Lost My Driving Wheel” that brings me back to the album every now and then.  A couple of years after this album’s release, Roger would be out on tour with his Bobness himself, helping to roll his thunder.

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60. Andy Irvine Paul Brady (Mulligan LUN 008 – 1976)

In the mid 1970s I was so consumed with the blues that just about everything else took a back seat. This went on for a number of years when at times I actually assumed that I might be black, blind and from the Mississippi Delta.  I’d done my prog rock stint and ventured into folk rock briefly and had already seen Led Zeppelin and Fairport Convention and everything in between.  I thought it all came to rest with Big Bill Broonzy.  Then I discovered the folk club scene, attending music nights with my pal at the Corporation Brewery Taps on Cleveland Street in Doncaster with guitar and banjo in our hands.  It was then I discovered acoustic folk music, discovering almost immediately that the music of Ireland had progressed from The Dubliners and The Clancey Brothers and that a musician by the name of Andy Irvine existed.  I borrowed the ‘purple’ album, which also featured Paul Brady and it changed the way I looked at folk music.  An offshoot of the Planxty records, with Donal Lunny producing, Irvine and Brady’s collaboration LP stayed on the turntable for months as I tried in vain to sing “Arthur McBride” like Brady or play the mandolin like Irvine, failing miserably on both counts.

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61. Bob Dylan – Bringing It All Back Home (CBS 62515 – 1965)

Bringing It All Back Home was the first Dylan album I ever heard, though Greatest Hits Vol II was the first one I actually bought a couple of years later.  If my dad’s small collection consisted predominantly of Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller records and mum’s was made up of records by the likes of Eddie Arnold and Hank Locklin, it was through my dad’s brother’s small collection that I was first introduced to the world of Bob Dylan.  Uncle Paddy had two LPs on the shelf that stood out among the jazz records, this one and an old Sonny Terry and Brownie Mcghee LP.  From the opening few bars of “Subterranean Homesick Blues” through to the last few notes of “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue”, I was immediately hooked.  I was just a kid at the time and to me, the sleeve notes made no sense at all and if I’m honest, they still don’t.  I was so young when I first heard the LP, that the stand out moment for me was initially “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream”, simply because of its false start, which was and remains a hoot.  This was the first LP that I attempted to memorise all of the lyrics to, which would lead to boring people to death at parties.  Some would say that Bob Dylan couldn’t sing, but those people were the same who found Frank Sinatra interesting.  I rest my case.

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62. Various Artists – The Age of Atlantic (Atlantic 2464 013 – 1970)

This was the year before decimalisation, which saw the appearance of an abundance of sampler albums with ‘99’ printed on the gatefold sleeve.  Carrying this iconic sleeve around the school quadrangle wouldn’t have necessarily gone down too well with an establishment populated by dozens of Northern Soul freaks, a handful of Skinheads, the odd Suedehead, the leftovers of what remained of the Mods, together with the one solitary leather-clad Rocker.  No one at school had ever heard of Led Zeppelin, let alone Iron Butterfly, Vanilla Fudge or indeed Buffalo Springfield.  The Age of Atlantic intrigued me.  I was thirteen at the time of this release and had taken to placing my head between two speakers less than a foot apart, turning the Fidelity Stereo system up as far as it would go.  Dad would be unimpressed with the guitar riff of “Black Hearted Woman” as it seeped through to his domain downstairs as he perused the sports pages.  This was the first sampler album I ever bought and was largely responsible for introducing me to the aforementioned bands as well as to Delaney and Bonnie, Dr John, the MC5 and Yes.

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63. Pentangle – Basket of Light (Transatlantic TRA 205 – 1969)

It wasn’t quite as early as 1969, more like a couple of years later, when a young and hip Methodist Youth Club leader and his equally young and infinitely more attractive wife introduced me to Pentangle.  Although I hesitate to refer to myself as the club DJ, I was the kid responsible for changing the records on the Dansette, an irritation to most of the female contingent as I spun records by Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Move, The Kinks, Humble Pie and The Beatles, instead “Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes”, “Sugar Sugar” and the dire “Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep”.  The club leader began to tire of “Voodoo Chile” and was looking for something slightly more ‘pastoral’, so the next week he brought in this strange LP for me to play.  “Light Flight” was probably the sweetest thing I’d heard up to that point and I was instantly hooked.  I think the group leader was so pleased that I enjoyed the record so much that he gave it to me there and then as a gift, as if he was presenting me with The Bible.  He’d achieved a conversion!  When I later studied the gatefold sleeve, I realised that the band included Bert Jansch, a musician my art teacher had already introduced me to a little earlier.  This LP opened up a Pandora’s Box of goodies that have stayed with me since.  Seeing the original line up of Pentangle at the Royal Festival Hall in 2011, left a lasting memory that will stay with me always.

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64. Woody Guthrie – Dust Bowl Ballads (Rounder 1040 – 1988)

I don’t really know where to start with Woody Guthrie.  I think it might be the legend that surrounds the Oklahoma-born folk singer that interests me more than the actual songs.  I first became aware of him after seeing Alice’s Restaurant as a teenager at the Civic Theatre (or the Arts Centre as it was then known) in Doncaster, in the early 1970s.  There’s a scene where some kindly-looking actor plays a distinctly serene Woody lying still in a New York hospital bed while his son Arlo, together with old mate Pete Seeger serenade him with a few of his songs.  This was nothing like the shaky old folk singer suffering the latter effects of Huntington’s in reality.  I was also aware of some of Woody’s songs through the records of Ry Cooder and Bob Dylan.  Dust Bowl Ballads chronicles the depression era and shows Guthrie at his best, every single word coming over with crystal clarity, despite the poor recording quality, each story told as convincingly as possible.  Hearing the “Ballad of Tom Joad” made me head straight for John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, both the novel and John Ford’s film classic, both of which I return to now and again.

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65. Richard and Linda Thompson – Hokey Pokey (Island ILPS9305 – 1975)

It’s strange to think in these terms now, in a time when just about every type of weird and wonderful voice known to humankind has been fully explored, from Tom Waits to Devendra Banhart, from Bjork to Joanna Newsome, not to mention Tiny Tim or Antony (of the Johnsons fame), but I have to confess, when I first heard Richard Thompson’s voice, I didn’t much care for it.  There was something decidedly odd about it; an acquired taste if ever there was such a thing.  It was therefore a relief when this gifted guitarist and songwriter handed over the tonsil aerobics to his missis. While Bright Lights was hailed as a masterpiece, this second helping from the soon to be converted to Islam hubby and wife team mixed music hall, brass bands and English hymns with some of the bleakest songs so far in the Thompson catalogue. The passage of time has been instrumental in changing my mind over Thompson’s credentials as a singer, in fact one need look no further than his own definitive versions of “Beeswing”, “From Galway to Graceland” or “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” for proof of that.  Still not the greatest voice in the world, but it has a certain familiarity and belonging now.  Of all the Thompson albums up on the shelf, this LP from 1974 is the one that often finds its way back onto the turntable.

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66. Dransfield – The Fiddler’s Dream | Transatlantic TRA 322 – 1976

I missed out on witnessing the folk siblings Robin and Barry Dransfield perform together live having arrived on the folk scene a little too late to the party.  After discovering one or two Dransfield brothers LPs in the early 1980s, I set about searching for them and I distinctly recall chatting to the elder brother Robin over the phone around that time, effectively begging him to consider a reunion with his younger brother, but alas it wasn’t to happen.  I subsequently heard that the siblings didn’t get along particularly well.  I did however get to see Barry in 1995 at the Cambridge Folk Festival, who although nice to see, was something of an anti-climax.  It was those two voices together that really made the difference.  In the mid-1970s, the brothers made this Folk Rock album under the moniker of The Dransfields, which was to become the final nail in the coffin for their professional relationship.  Pulling in different directions, together with the usual sibling rivalry and poor album sales, the partnership was just about over a good few years before my interest was sparked.  Such a waste.  Highlights on this LP are the opener “Up to Now”, “It’s Dark in Here” and the epic “Violin”.  Brian Harrison joins the brothers on keyboards and bass with Charlie Smith on drums.

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67. Free – Fire and Water | Island ILPS9120 – 1970

In 1970, you would probably have been either a hermit living in the remote Motuo County in China or a crown court judge, not to have heard of the British rock band Free.  “All Right Now” seemed to be on the radio constantly, which in those days would be located under the bed covers, tuned into Radio Luxembourg (or almost tuned in, as the case might be).  The same year saw the extremely young band play the Isle of Wight Festival alongside Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Doors, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell amongst others, and lest we forget, they almost stole the show.  Fire and Water, the band’s third album, was among the first few LPs I ever owned and I still consider it a firm favourite.  Having been used to the single version of “All Right Now”, it initially came as a surprise to find the extended version on this LP that featured a little more Kossoff, which is never a bad thing.  There’s no other singer in the world quite like Paul Rodgers, whose soulful voice permeates the seven songs, notably the title song, “Mr Big” and the aforementioned “All Right Now” in particular.  It was just a shame that Mr Kossoff had his finger on the self-destruct button, as did many of his contemporaries at the time.

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68. Stealers Wheel – Ferguslie Park | A&M 68209 – 1973

Ferguslie Park is one of only three LPs I can think of to feature a cow on the sleeve, the others being Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother and the other being Vashti Bunyan’s Just Another Diamond Day.  There could be more.  My name happens to be scribbled on the inner sleeve of this Stealers Wheel LP, along with ‘73’, the year I must have bought it.  Despite a slightly hazy memory from this period, I do actually recall picking this album up immediately after its release as if it were yesterday.  Bearing in mind I was a huge fan of the earlier single “Stuck in the Middle”, a song which appeared on the band’s debut album the year before and many years before Quentin Tarantino chose the song for the soundtrack to his infamous Van Gogh routine in Reservoir Dogs, it would be just a matter of course that this LP would find its way onto my shelf.  The celebrated American songwriting team of Leiber and Stoller produced the LP, which featured amongst other things “Star”, a wonderfully melodic song and possibly one of the most underrated pop songs in the history of underrated pop songs, that in a perfect world should really have taken the top spot in the charts instead of the awful “Tiger Feet” back in February 1974.  Ferguslie Park is named for a housing estate in Paisley, Scotland, where both Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan (effectively Stealers Wheel) grew up, together with the man who designed all three Stealers Wheel album covers, the artist John Byrne.

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69. Townes Van Zandt – Our Mother the Mountain | TomatoTOM 7015 – 1978

The second album by the legendary Texas singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt was first released in 1969 and re-issued in 1978 on Tomato.  It was probably the first indication for me that there was more to country music than rhinestones and big hairdos.  I didn’t get to see Townes until 1990, when he actually came to my home town, wandering in and out like tumbleweed, playing a couple of sets before what could only have barely been described as an audience at the now demolished Toby Jug in Doncaster.  During the break a couple of us went up to say hello and had a brief chat.  After the second set, as we headed for the door, he called over, “Thanks for saying hello”.  The last time I saw Townes Van Zandt was five months before he died at the Cambridge Folk Festival, where he tried to play a main stage set to an audience primarily made up of Saw Doctors fans, who had congregated for their headline set later that evening.  Seeing him drink vodka directly from the bottle, splashed down with coke from a bottle in his other hand, one mouthful after the other, as seen in the film Heartworn Highways,  will probably be my lasting memory of this great songwriting hero.  Our Mother the Mountain has one or two classic Townes songs, including “Be Here To Love Me”, “Kathleen” and “Tecumseh Valley”.

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70. Nanci Griffith – The Last of the True Believers | Rounder REU 1013 – 1986

It was around the mid-1980s when I first began to take notice of country music once again.  After so many years of rhinestone cowboys, frequent divorces (with full stops between each upper case letter) and islands in the streams, I thought I would never return.  Then along came Nanci Griffith and Lyle Lovett and a whole bunch of other songwriters who laboured under the ‘New Country’ banner and things began to look interesting once again.  In 1989, both Griffith and Lovett appeared on the bill of the twenty-fifth anniversary Cambridge Folk Festival, which prompted me to make an effort to attend for the first time.  I remember arriving at the Cherry Hinton site with the car windows down and being horrified after hearing the sound of Nanci coming from the main stage.  The speed at which I parked the car, organised a wife and two very young children and arrived in front of the main stage was unprecedented.  I think I managed to do it in two songs flat.  The Last of the True Believers was one of several LPs I already had in the collection, which not only features Nanci and Lyle waltzing on the cover, but also some great songs such as “Love at the Five and Dime” (or Woolies as we know it over here), “The Wing and the Wheel” and a rather fulfilling reading of Tom Russell’s “St Olav’s Gate”.

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71. Gay and Terry Woods – The Time Is Right | Polydor Super 2383 375 – 1976

When Ashley Hutchings first set out to form Steeleye Span back in the late 1960s, the first musicians he approached were Johnny Moynihan, Andy Irvine and Gay and Terry Woods.  Moynihan and Irvine declined the offer overnight, making way for the two musicians who would become synonymous with the band in the future, Maddy Prior and Tim Hart, who stepped in to form the original five-piece Folk Rock outfit.  It was all pretty much short lived as Gay and Terry left to join Dr Strangely Strange, a sort of Irish version of the Incredible String Band, shortly afterwards.  The Time Is Right is one of four LPs that would be released by the duo in the 1970s.  Terry Woods went on to join The Pogues and Gay (born Gabriel Corcoran) would later re-join Steeleye for a few years, before finally leaving the band in 2001 after contributing to four albums, including Time (1996) and Bedlam Boys (2000).  My pal Mick Swinson introduced me to this album in the mid 1980s and I soon obtained my own copy in an amicable exchange with another friend, for a Steve Forbert LP I had lying about, in the days when swapping vinyl was almost as essential as breathing.

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72. John Lennon – Walls and Bridges | Apple PCTC253 – 1974

By 1974 John Lennon had pretty much disappeared off the scene, only to pop up now and again in the tabloids, raising hell in LA with Harry Nilsson during his now legendary ‘Lost Weekend’ period, with May Pang by his side like a conjoined twin.  I was sort of hanging out with a pal’s sister at the time and our general meeting ground was the ongoing argument between who was more important musically, Lennon or McCartney.  I was of the mind that McCartney was the better composer but Lennon was the more interesting Beatle.  I recall many nights dissecting lyrics, mourning the end of the Beatles and reading poetry, until Christmas Eve 1974, when she said enough is enough and our musical exchanges became a thing of the past.  Notable songs “#9 Dream”, “Steel and Glass” and “Whatever Gets You Through the Night”, featuring Elton John and Bobby Keys on sax.  The album also features a young Julian Lennon on drums on Lee Dorsey’s  “YaYa”.  Walls and Bridges always bring those memories back vividly whenever I play it.  Just seventeen and just starting out, to the soundtrack of Lennon; it was all bound to end in tears.

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73. Lowell George – Thanks I’ll Eat It Here | Warner Brothers BSK 3194 – 1979

I have to confess from the start that I never actually got to see Little Feat live, despite considering them to be the tightest little combo in music at the time.  When the band appeared on the Old Grey Whistle Test in the early 1970s with Lowell George looking as cool as it gets (well, as cool as anyone can be wearing a sweater over their shoulders, as if they’d just posed for a Freemans’ catalogue photo shoot), singing about a rock and roll doctor and a fat bloke in the bathtub, I was immediately hooked.  Unfortunately George was dead before the decade was out but he just managed to squeeze out one solo album in time.  Interestingly, the cover painting was by Little Feat’s regular designer Neon Park and features a picnic scene based upon Manet’s Le déjeuner sur l’herbe, which sees an unusual gathering of Bob Dylan, Fidel Castro and Marlene Dietrich, with a copy of Ginsberg’s Howl over by the hamper.  Of the songs included, Allen Toussaint’s “What Do You Want the Girl To Do” is a standout, as is George’s reading of Rickie Lee Jones’ “Easy Money”, while his own “20 Million Things” is the album’s notable acoustic number.  I actually prefer George’s solo version of “Two Trains” on this album to the Dixie Chicken original.

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74. Pretty Things – Freeway Madness | Warner Brothers K46190 – 1972

I was always amused by the moniker this bunch chose for their band name; a less pretty bunch you could not possibly imagine.  They were still going strong when I met up with Phil May back in 2011, confirming that age had done nothing to enhance their aesthetic credentials.  Despite this small detail, I’ve always enjoyed the band’s music from their early blues days through their adventurous pop opera period and on through their early 1970s rock albums.  I was aware of the Pretty Things back in the late 1960s when they released SF Sorrow, boasting the release of the first rock opera, a few months before The Who’s Tommy.  The first song from this 1972 LP I heard was “Onion Soup”, which was played on the John Peel show around the time of its initial release.  Judging by the scribble on the dust sleeve, I picked up my copy in 1973 and it still comes out to play every now and then.

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75. Steve Tilston – An Acoustic Confusion | The Village Thing VTS 5 – 1971

Steve Tilston’s debut LP was first released on Ian A Anderson’s The Village Thing record label back in 1971, one of a handful of such early folk albums centred around the folk music scenes of both London and Bristol.  These days we see Steve Tilston as a sort of elder statesman of the British folk scene, his songs known through his own albums and performances but also through the interpretations of others, notably Fairport Convention, but also by Dolores Keane, The House Band, Peter Bellamy, Bob Fox and many others.  This Ian Anderson and Gef Lucena-produced album may have been the starting point for what has turned out to be a long and successful career, yet the songs on An Acoustic Confusion remain strong to this day, three of them being re-recorded for the recent retrospective album of his own ‘covers’ Distant Days, “I Really Wanted To”, “Time Has Shown Me Your Face” and “It’s Not My Place To Fail”.  Although essentially a solo album, the record does include a couple of guest musicians, labelmates from the Village Thing stable, including the late Dave Evans. Though the album may have been superseded by one or two subsequent mini-masterpieces, An Acoustic Confusion remains the Steve Tilson album I listen to most.

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76. The Flying Burrito Brothers – The Gilded Palace of Sin | A&M AMLS931 – 1969

I first discovered the Flying Burrito Brothers in the early 1970s after hearing their live album The Last of the Red Hot Burritos, which was quite a different band from the four-piece recorded here on the band’s debut album, with only one original member present.  Gone was the band’s charismatic leader Gram Parsons, who along with Chris Hillman, (that original member) had left The Byrds to form the band with pedal steel player ‘Sneaky’ Pete Kleinow and bassist Chris Ethridge.  Continuing in the vein of what The Byrds achieved with the seminal Sweetheart of the Rodeo album the year before, the Flying Burrito Brothers brought together the lyricism of Country Music with the energy of Rock Music to create a new form of music.  Having been brought up with the ever present sound of Hank Locklin, Eddie Arnold and Jim Reeves, it took me a while to adjust to listening to just about anything associated with Country Music.  The Byrds, Poco and The Flying Burrito Brothers, were my way in, which would lead to an enduring love of Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and Emmylou Harris.  Crucial cuts here include “Christine’s Tune”, “Sin City”, “Dark End of the Street” and the astonishingly accomplished “Hot Burrito #1”, which Gene Clark chose to rename “I’m Your Toy” for his 1987 album So Rebellious a Lover with Carla Olson and even later, Elvis Costello.

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77. Tom Waits – Closing Time | Asylum SYL9007 – 1973

Closing Time was the first Tom Waits album that I discovered, though not until a few years after its initial release, when I heard a local folk/blues singer called Roy Machin perform “Martha” at the Rockingham Arms in Wentworth sometime in the early 1980s.  This prompted me to immediately seek out one or two of the early Waits albums, the first being this, then The Heart of Saturday Night then resting for a while on the superb double live set, Nighthawks at the Diner.  Anyone coming to the music of Tom Waits post Swordfishtrombones (1983) would probably not recognise the early Waits material, which is more conventional than the experimental music that would later follow; coming to Waits at this transitional moment was somewhat challenging.  Already deeply in love with such songs as “I Hope That I Don’t Fall In Love With You”, “Grapefruit Moon”, “Closing Time” as well as the aforementioned “Martha”, which I always imagined could have been played on the upright piano featured on the cover, there was always the notion of falling behind with some of Waits’ more advanced musical experiments.  Witnessing him perform “16 Shells From a Thirty-Ought-Six” on The Tube one Friday night in October 1985 was both exciting and bewildering at the same time, especially to someone still romantically involved with the magnificent “Martha”.

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78. Frank Zappa – Hot Rats (Reprise 44078 – 1969)

The first time I heard Frank Zappa’s music was in the early 1970s when I bought the Mothers of Invention’s second LP Absolutely Free (the name of the album not the price tag) from Ken’s Swap Shop on St Sepulchre Gate in Doncaster.  I was one of Ken’s keenest swappers.  The concept was simple; you would take in a couple of discarded LPs and swap them for a new one, with the smallest exchange of cash.  My paper round only paid £1 a week, so the cash flow was limited, even in 1971.  This would lead to a world of Zappa for the next forty-odd years.  I particularly enjoyed Hot Rats because it was more about the music than the humour, one of the things that has frequently irritated me about Zappa over the years.  This LP is a fine example of jazz/rock fusion with some astonishing guitar solos courtesy of Zappa himself.  The only ‘Mother’ to appear on this LP was Ian Underwood.  “Willie the Pimp” also features a cameo by Captain Beefheart.  It’s one of the most re-visited of all Zappa’s albums in the collection and it continues to resonate today, ‘Hot Meat, Hot Rats, Hot Zitz, Hot Wrists, Hot Ritz, Hot Roots, Hot Soots…’  What’s not to like?

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79. Wishbone Ash – Wishbone Ash (MCA MKPS2014 – 1970)

The first track I ever heard from the debut album by Wisbone Ash was without question “Lady Whisky”, which John Peel played one night on Top Gear sometime in the early 1970s, in fact it was quite possibly 1970 itself.  It was one of those frustrating moments where I didn’t manage to catch the name of either the band nor the title of the track.  Bear in mind we didn’t have the luxury of the internet to scour back then, so I spent the subsequent weeks attempting to hum the iconic riff to friends, who in turn thought I was completely barking.  I then heard the song in a friend’s flat in the early hours of the morning after a good party and discovered the rest of the album, including the iconic Wishbone Ash staple “Phoenix”.  Wishbone Ash became one of my favourite bands of the 1970s and joined the list of great bands I got to see at the Sheffield City Hall, bands that included Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Stone the Crows and Curved Air.  I would later meet up with original member Martin Turner for a chat, who I found to be a perfectly bonkers interviewee.

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80. Various Artists – Picnic (Harvest SHSS1&2 – 1970)

Other than the radio, sampler LPs provided the only economical way of keeping abreast of the sort of music I was interested in back in the late 1960s early 1970s.  The volume of new tracks being played on John Peel’s radio programme would create for me a dilemma at the record shop the next day.  The only way to have a bit of everything on a teenage budget at this time was to browse the samplers and even then, the double LPs would cost slightly more.  After saving up for a couple of weeks, the choice of adding this double LP to my collection was made all the more easier due to it being on the Harvest label, EMI’s prog rock imprint.  Most of the artists on the label were already familiar to me, including Deep Purple, Pink Floyd and the Edgar Broughton Band.  This sort of sampler LP would introduce me to new acts such as Kevin Ayers, Michael Chapman and Roy Harper, all slightly familiar by name only, but also completely new acts such as Quatermass, Forest and The Battered Ornaments.  The memorable thing about parting with my hard earned 29s/11d, was that while everyone around me was listening to “Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep”, I was getting down on an eclectic mix of traditional folk, hard rock, psychedelia and completely obscure stuff that would make my dad’s face contort with pain; and all thanks to the Harvest label and Mr Peel.

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