Rock history, from Southwest Sound

by Cooper Stapleton

This week there are really no notable new releases. In lieu of pretending to care about the new Dishwalla album, I’m going to talk about four majorly influential records released 50 years ago, during the Summer of Love in 1967.

The Beatles, “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”Arguably one of the most important rock records of all time, “Sgt. Pepper’s” changed the game when it came out. A masterful blending of legitimate art and virtuosic pop songwriting, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who (a) has never heard any of these songs and (b) dislikes them. The sheer wonder and color pervading the entirety of the recording is probably the best representation of the artistic ideals of the time, with psychedelia becoming commonplace and a comforting shoulder to lean on. The best albums are both timeless and rooted in a setting, and I wholeheartedly think that “Sgt. Pepper’s” is the quintessential example of that, transporting the listener to somewhere impossibly strange and still familiar. And with the recent 50th anniversary reissue, now is the perfect time to re-experience this masterpiece, or share it with someone for the first time.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience, “Are You Experienced?”One of the greatest debuts in music history, “Are You Experienced” changed how popular music sounded forever, and is still highly influential. This three-piece band forced previously unheard sounds from their instruments and showed the down-and-dirty side of psychedelia, in contrast with records like “Sgt. Pepper’s.” One thing that has always stuck with me was Hendrix’s ability to make his amps work for him, messing with feedback and squeals that would’ve caused many musicians to do another take, and making that character add to the performance as a whole. Throw some astounding performances by Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell, and that’s how you get a classic record.

Pink Floyd, “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn”Another debut record, “The Piper At The Gates of Dawn” features some of the first-recorded experimental improvisations by a rock band and some interesting glimpses into what would end up being one of the greatest rock ’n’ roll bands of all time. There are some strange moments (“Bike”), there are some groovy moments (“See Emily Play” and “Matilda Mother”) and then there are the two best songs on the record, “Astronomy Domine” and “Interstellar Overdrive.” I did not like Pink Floyd until I heard “Intersteller Overdrive;” it makes the listener feel so strange, like an astronaut trying to figure out how to eat in zero gravity. It’s a wild and meandering ride that I have loved since I first heard it. Pick up some of the herbal supplements recommended later on in this magazine and dive in.

Captain Beefheart, “Safe As Milk”Easily the strangest blues album ever recorded, Captain Beefheart and His Magic band put out something unlike anything else at the time, even in an era with massive amounts of creativity and progression. Featuring a 20-year-old Ry Cooder playing guitar, strange time signatures and tempo changes, and a warbly vocal delivery from the titular captain himself, “Safe as Milk” is still as strange and dangerous as it has always been. The track “Abba Zaba” in particular is so goddamn strange that people still talk about just what exactly they were rambling about with the babbette baboon coming over soon to shatter the noon. I think it’s about evolution, but who knows.

Cooper Stapleton


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