Scott Walker

Scott Walker in glasses at the microphone, circa 1967
The man with the golden voice

I was still reeling from Mark Hollis's untimely passing a month earlier when news of Scott Walker's death began to filter through in March. The sense of loss is always compounded in such cases, and with Dick Dale, Ranking Roger and Keith Flint gone too — and in such close temporal proximity to one another — it was hard to know where to begin. In their own way, all five figures had a significant influence on pop music's development over the years, and accordingly each of them had a profound impact on my own musical life. Three of them are responsible for records lodged right up there among my absolute favorites of all time, while the other two figures aren't far behind.


Scott Walker's career stretches back the longest, starting in the mid-1950s when he was still a child star known as Scotty Engel. However, it wasn't until the mid-1960s, when he hooked up with Gary Leeds and John Maus in L.A. to form The Walker Brothers, that he really began to make waves. At this point, each member of the trio took the last name Walker, much like the Ramones and Hardkiss later would with their respective group names. The trio wound up crossing the Atlantic in search of an audience (once again, much like artists like Hendrix and the Sparks later would), which they ultimately found with hit singles like Make It Easy On Yourself and The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore. The group, it seemed, were on top of the world. Then, in 1967, Scott Walker went solo.

Scott Walker Scott Philips

For me, this is where things get really good. As predictable as it might be, my favorite stretch of the man's discography remains the four self-titled albums he recorded in the late sixties. Each of these records are defined by a lushly-orchestrated, arty baroque pop of the absolute highest caliber, with Walker's rich, golden croon intimating enigmatic and often existential sentiments. With a cast of characters including sailors, soldiers, dictators, prostitutes, knights and even death himself, these tales certainly pushed the boundaries of pop music's typical subject matter of the era. Run-of-the-mill crooner outings these were most definitely not.

His solo debut Scott is a stone cold classic, announcing itself with the brass fanfare of a vigorous forward march called Mathilde. It's a truly bracing blast and the first of his many covers of the legendary Belgian songwriter Jacques Brel, whose literate, worldly songwriting would certainly prove a key influence on Walker's own compositions. The stately ballad Montague Terrace In Blue is one such song, its vivid descriptions exploding into a monumental chorus, while the exquisite organ-hued sketch Such A Small Love unveils the almost Medieval overtones that he'd continue to explore in earnest. Similarly, The Lady Came From Baltimore betrays a burgeoning fascination with country music, foreshadowing what would become a growing influence in the years to come.

He even takes a stab at the crooner standard When Joanna Loved Me (also done by both Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett), in which he more than holds his own with the giants, while Angelica and The Big Hurt give his vocals a chance to really soar. However, it's a pair of Jacques Brel numbers that point the way forward, with the Gothic melancholy of My Death and Amsterdam's swirling carousel of madness showcasing Walker's considerably unique vision. At the end of the day, Scott is a simple case where every track's a winner, and one can certainly see why Bowie was such an ardent fan (he even covered Amsterdam in 1973 for the b-side of Sorrow).

Scott Walker Scott 2 Philips

Scott 2 seems to pick up directly where Amsterdam leaves off, with the same rude-edged, seamy undertones in yet another in a long line of Brel covers. Jackie is a driving stampede of chanson, firmly in the tradition of Mathilde, while the Spanish-style bolero Next tells the winding tale of a young army recruit with the same unflinching detail as Amsterdam. Notably, a snatch of Walker's soaring vocal  — the naked and the dead — would later be sampled in Orbital's track of the same title (the b-side to Halcyon + On + On).

The soaring Best Of Both Worlds finds Walker at his romantic peak, while The Amorous Humphrey Plugg (later sampled by Wu-Tang general Masta Killa!) walks the tightrope between carefree fancy and creeping dread. The Girls And The Dogs (another Brel cover) even offers a bit of lighthearted fun, with its description of the inner workings of the relationship between girls, men and their dogs (the latter of which always seem to get the raw end of the deal!). That one always cracks me up. It's also worth noting the b-side to the Jackie, the massive, cinematic epic The Plague, which boasts inspired use of treated vocals and twisted instrumentation in a continuation of Next's darker corners.

However, if one reads between the lines, the overriding trend here — despite all the aforementioned highlights — is an increasingly subdued, dreamy atmosphere hanging over the proceedings. Outlined in scattered, ethereal moments like Windows Of The World, Wait Until Dark and the closing Come Next Spring, these breezy chansons nevertheless seem to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. This is where Walker's literate, existential vision begins to imbue everything with an added sense of depth and gravity, pointing the way forward to the spectral majesty of Scott 3.

Scott Walker Scott 3 Philips

From the opening strains of It's Raining Today — with its at times almost atonal string section in counterpoint with a sparkling chord progression — it's clear that you're dealing with something extraordinary. In a certain sense, Scott 3 is almost works as a bridge between Walker's sixties work and what he'd be up to decades later. This is also Walker's big songwriting breakthrough, in that all but the last three songs were written by Scott himself (the final trilogy are all Brel compositions).

The sound has also shifted dramatically, with an even greater emphasis on the sort of ethereal songcraft that had begun to build up steam in the softer corners of Scott 2. The tone poem Copenhagen is a great drifting, shimmering mist, and sets the tone for a record that seems to capture the first days of spring, when the snow is just beginning to melt and the sun's warmth gradually starting to return. Rising from a thunderous cascade of timpani, Big Louise is a heavenly portrait of a sad, lonely woman (the world's passed her by) imbued with a deep sense of pathos and melancholy.

The almost ambient Two Ragged Soldiers, with its circular, shimmering progression, is emblematic of the whole affair. There's but a handful of tunes to break into a canter, such as We Came Through — connecting as it does to earlier driving marches like Jackie — and the black humor of Brel's Funeral Tango, while the folky concision of 30 Century Man (the album's shortest track) betrays an understated funkiness in its implied rhythm. In many ways, it's the latter song — paired with the medieval undertones of If You Go Away and Winter Night — that most clearly foreshadows where he'd venture next.

Scott Walker Scott 4 Philips

Next being Scott 4, which is quite simply phenomenal. We're talking about one of the absolute greatest albums ever recorded, hands down. Every home should have a copy. In truth, its perfect fusion of lush orchestration, arty lyricism and hip rhythm is almost too good to be true. The Seventh Seal opens the record with a Morricone-esque cascade of orchestra charts and Gregorian chanting over a locked, oneiric drum beat, its subject inspired by Ingmar Berman's film of the same name — the story of a lone knight's ongoing chess game with death. Simply exquisite.

Similarly, The Old Man's Back Again is almost comically perfect in execution, with Scott's peerless croon dancing across the surface of a rolling, funky downbeat rhythm (30 Century Man made explicit) and another duel between baritone chant and lush orchestration. Walker's off-the-cuff scat-singing in the denouement comes as an added bonus. If you've never heard Scott Walker before — and your interest is piqued — this song just might be the place to start.

Elsewhere, here's still some remaining strands of the ethereal Scott 3 lingering in the midst, most clearly in the gorgeous Boy Child, which sounds like the first rays of the rising sun shone through the treetops in a grove of ancient redwoods. Sheer majesty and wonder. The languid Angels Of Ashes finds Walker at his smooth-crooning best, recalling earlier ballads like When Joanna Loved Me and Come Next Spring, finding him at his most disarmingly unadorned and classicist.

Special mention must be made of Walker's latent country inflections, which return here with a vengeance. The strummed guitars and ethereal strings of On Your Own Again linger midway between Gothic cathedral and home on the range, while Duchess is a gorgeous western ballad that would make Charlie Rich proud. The great galleon of rousing orchestral country pop Get Behind Me often reminds me of Tumbleweed Connection before-the-fact, while the bittersweet Rhymes Of Goodbye is a cowboy song in widescreen... as wide as the great blue horizon stretching out beyond a country plain as far as the eye can see.

It’s the ideal conclusion to a record with a sound unlike any other, and a stirring grand finale to the man's first golden era, painted in rich gatefold glory and glorious downbeat perfection. Hearing Scott 4 for the first time is like stumbling into a secret world, colored in summer haze and autumn chill, full of mystery and longing. This is just the sort of music destined to be rediscovered time and time again.

Scott Walker We Had It All CBS

Walker rang in the 1970s with 'Til The Band Comes In, which kicks off a string of lesser albums running through the decade. In fact, none other than Scott Walker himself admitted to taking a good deal less care with his albums during this period. Which isn't to say that there aren't a number of gems tucked away in the grooves of records like Stretch and We Had It All, records that find Walker delving into the world of country pop with understated abandon. We Had It All is a particularly great song, and quite moving in this context (especially when his voice soars to sing I know that we could never live those times again in the chorus).

The Walker Brothers Nite Flights GTO

It was a 1978 reunion record with The Walker Brothers — of all things — that reinvigorated Scott Walker and brought everything back into focus. Nite Flights was split evenly between the three brothers, with Scott's contributions betraying a dark, moody vision that seemed to run parallel with the contemporary records acolyte David Bowie's had been working up in Berlin. Shutout and the title track have the same sort of European, new wave-inflected vision as records like "Heroes" and Lodger, while The Electrician seemed to lay the blueprint for everything else Scott Walker would do from here on out.

Scott Walker Climate Of Hunter Virgin

Climate Of Hunter fulfills all the promise of The Electrician — particularly in the opening one-two punch of Rawhide and Dealer — while songs like Three and Seven updated the sleek new wave pop of Shutout and Nite Flights. Conversely, the beatless ambient pop of Sleepwalkers Woman seemed to hark back to the ethereal qualities of Scott 3, even if they were recomposed in a completely alien environment. Climate Of Hunter was a welcome return to form, an LP of a piece with the contemporary records of Kate Bush, Talk Talk and David Sylvian, particularly albums like The Dreaming, Spirit Of Eden and Secrets Of The Beehive. Without a doubt, Scott Walker was back.

Scott Walker Tilt Fontana

Still, it was over ten years before he delivered a follow up, setting his latter-day precedent for protracted years of radio silence punctuated by the occasional brilliant record. Tilt found Walker spinning his inscrutable avant pop even further into abstraction. The opening Farmer In The City almost sounds like an operetta swathed in modern classical, with Walker's voice sounding as incredible as ever. His piercing croon defines the record, drifting lonesome among haunting strings and atmosphere, as in the eight minute excursion Patriot A Single. Interestingly enough, its the title track that connects back most literally to the fretless bass odysseys of Climate Of Hunter.

Scott Walker The Drift 4AD

After another eleven years (punctuated by soundtrack work for the French film Pola X and production for Pulp's brilliant swan song We Love Life), The Drift arrived to great fanfare. A true event, it seemed to be the most overwhelming salutations ever bestowed upon a new Walker release. To be fair, it's the first time I knew to be paying attention (in 1995, I didn't know to be checking for Scott Walker records yet!). By this point an avowed fan of the man's music, I picked it up the day it came out. As foreshadowed by the opening Cossacks Are, the record was an even more primal, organic dive into the subconscious. This was a vision of avant pop that felt right at home in not only the world of modern classical but also the burgeoning sub-genre of dark ambient.

Scott Walker + Sunn O))) Soused 4AD

Appropriately enough, The Drift commenced Walker's longstanding relationship with the 4AD imprint, which turned out to be his longest since the classic era with Philips (a relationship that lasted until his death). Just as records like The Drift and Bish Bosch found him edging ever deeper into abstraction, his collaboration with Sunn O))) was a meeting of the minds with the reigning auteurs of doom. In 2017, The Childhood Of A Leader — which would turn out to be his final album — rounded out a decade of comparatively feverish activity, his highest frequency of output since the halcyon days of the sixties.


Ending on a high note, it's a testament to the man's restlessly creative spirit, always moving forward and never succumbing to nostalgia, resisting the urge to make that classicist album or tour the hits as so many of his contemporaries wound up doing. It was this quality that marked Scott out as singular among sixties figures, ever delving deeper into the avant garde. And yet however far he'd venture into abstraction — records sometimes informed by their darkest corners — that golden voice would always be there, rising from the depths and calling you home.

Johnny Rotten Meets Tommy Vance Uptown On Capital Radio

Johnny Rotten grips the microphone and Tommy Vance hovers over the sound boards Capital Radio
The Johnny Rotten Show: The Punk and His Music

In light of Public Image Ltd.'s Metal Box status as record of the month, it's worth noting the fortuitous historical twist of fate that found Johnny Rotten guesting on Tommy Vance's Capital Radio show back in July 16th 1977 at the height of his notoriety in The Sex Pistols. I'd perennially heard whispers about this interview — along with the idiosyncratic selection of records that Rotten played throughout — but it wasn't until reading Jon Savage's storied punk tome England's Dreaming that I came into contact with actual coverage of the event. In fact, it might be my favorite part of that book.1

Some time later, Simon Reynolds' timely survey of post punk, Rip It Up And Start Again, delved into further detail.2 The idea is that the Capital Radio appearance found Johnny Rotten the punk throwing the world for a loop as he played a deep selection of reggae, dub, arty rock, glam and krautrock — rather than the punk rock onslaught that was no doubt expected of him — letting down his guard and introducing the world to John Lydon, the man, and ultimately sowing the seeds for Public Image Ltd.'s heady forays a year later. The birth of post punk, in other words, sourced in all manner of strange pre-punk sounds. After that, I simply had to know more about what went down when Johnny Rotten met Tommy Vance on Capital Radio.

Well, the good folks at the Fodderstompf website (hub for all things PIL-related) hooked it all up a few years back, providing the interview in its entirety here.3 With a breakdown of the records Lydon played, a full transcript of the interview and even full audio of the whole affair, it's a real resource. I can't stress the importance that you drop everything right now and listen to it! When I first stumbled upon it, years ago, it was a real eye opener. Lydon's selections lay out a roadmap to all manner of cool music, shooting off into nearly every possible direction. I'd always wanted to riff on these records a little bit, and I can think of no better time than now...

Tim Buckley Greetings From L.A. Warner Bros.

Perhaps the biggest surprise to be found is the handful of records from the canyon that play a crucial role in the transmission. I mentioned this in passing during the extended Two Weeks In The Canyon foray last year, but it bears repeating. This is one of my absolute favorite bits of musical happenstance of all time (see also Depeche Mode chilling with Derrick May at The Music Institute), with Lydon opening his set with Tim Buckley's awesome Sweet Surrender, the sun-baked cinematic strings rising from Lydon's request to Just play the records...4

You really need to hear the audio to appreciate the sheer magic in evidence, the juxtaposition of punk's first wave vanguard riding high in '77 (after conquering the U.K. the prior year), the amiable Lydon/Vance back-and-forth, and a whole raft of utterly absorbing music. Sweet Surrender of course taken from Buckley's Greetings From L.A., his unexpected swerve into gutsy, soul-inflected territory, marked by the man's otherworldly croon ensconced in slowly melting, sun-glazed surroundings, and picking up where the proto-kraut mirage of Gypsy Woman (sex on vinyl doncha know?) left off.

Neil Young On The Beach Reprise

The other big canyon moment here is Neil Young's awesome Revolution Blues, a burning downbeat groove that just rolls on in portentous slow-motion. With its oblique references to the Manson Family's movements leading up to that bloody night on Cielo Drive, it has clear parallels to punk's savage imagery that had so startled the press of the day. Throughout the interview, Lydon has a lot to say about the papers (which had continually plagued the band with sensationalist, fear-mongering coverage), none of it good, noting their exploitative nature and ultimately dismissing it all as rubbish.

The entirety of Neil's On The Beach LP actually happens to be my favorite of all his records, with the baleful Revolution Blues an undeniable highlight. Quite kraut-leaning in its particular way, with a searing widescreen solo from Young himself, it's firmly in the tradition of other Young monster jams like Cortez The Killer and Cowgirl In The Sand. One only wishes that it had a chance to stretch out a bit to about two or three times longer (although the brevity in this context certainly plays to the punk ear).

Kevin Coyne Marjory Razorblade Virgin

Despite not originating from the canyon proper (rather Derbyshire, England), Kevin Coyne's Marjory Razorblade is quite canyon-adjacent in spirit — even if there's a proggy British-ness to it that marks it out as very much its own beast — for my money managing to beat even Bob Dylan's Blonde On Blonde at his own game. If there's one record in particular that Lydon made famous on this show, it's got to be this one, which was introduced to a generation of young punks when he played Eastbourne Ladies — after talking about getting beat up by gangs in the summer strolling the streets.5 'Nuff dread!

Third Ear Band Music From Macbeth Harvest

Lydon actually played a fair few folk tunes from the British Isles, including a killer version of the Irish folk tune Jig-A-Jig that apparently no-one has been able to identify to this day, along with Coyne's Eastbourne Ladies and Fleance by the Third Ear Band. Existing at the cusp of freak folk and British prog, the Third Ear Band turned out a handful of strange, otherworldly albums like Alchemy and Elements before being drafted in to provide the soundtrack for Roman Polanski's especially bloody, doom-laden version of Shakespeare's Macbeth (but then, is there any other way to do that play?).

That's a haunting movie right there... pure dread, through and through, like a slow-building nightmare it just washes over you. I remember seeing this hard-R-rated movie in English class in the 10th grade (how did that happen??), and it stayed with me ever since. This score is a large part of what gives the movie its haunting, otherworldly atmosphere (that and the fog creeping into every frame), with the Third Ear Band's droning medieval instrumentation in full force throughout. The show-stopping Fleance is an undeniable highlight, with Chaucer's Merciless Beauty sung by the young Keith Chegwin (as Fleance himself) during the film's memorable banquet scene for King Duncan.

Nico Desertshore Reprise

Even if he claimed to not be a fan of The Velvet Underground, Lydon played a lot of arty music from ex-Velvets like Lou Reed's cabaret-inflected Men Of Good Fortune (from Berlin — be sure to also check out the spectacular Lady Day), Legs Larry At Television Center from John Cale's avant garde The Academy In Peril and Nico's nightmarish harmonium mirage Janitor Of Lunacy. Crucially, all three figures wound up having an outsized influence on not only David Bowie's Berlin records, but also Brian Eno's contemporaneous avant pop excursions and even more directly PIL (along with large swathes post punk itself).

Peter Hammill Nadir's Big Chance Charisma

Speaking of Bowie, Lydon plays his glam rock staple Rebel Rebel, along with further jukebox glam from Gary Glitter's Doing All Right With The Boys (later covered by none other thank punk superstar/ex-Runaway Joan Jett herself, on her blistering debut album). At the weirder end of glam, Peter Hammill (of prog iconoclasts Van Der Graaf Generator) even gets singled out for praise by Lydon for the proto-punk outing Nadir's Big Chance — an utterly unique LP, existing at the intersection of glam and prog — going so far as to (inadvertently) play two tracks from it, emphasizing I'm damn sure Bowie copied a lot out of that geezer. The credit he deserves just has not been given to him. I love all his stuff.6

The Creation Life Is Just Beginning Polydor

With almost all of the selections emerging squarely within the span of the 1970s — Lydon even going so far as to state I've never liked any of those 60s bands. Terrible scratching sound. — nevertheless a couple sixties records do slip through. The first is The Creation's Life Is Just Beginning, a string-quartet-led bit of psychedelic garage punk (and the flipside to the oft-compiled Through My Eyes). Coming as it does on the heels of Tim Buckley's Sweet Surrender, it imbues the proceedings with a similarly cinematic flourish.

Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band Trout Mask Replica Straight

Sixties renegade Captain Beefheart appears later in the mix with The Blimp Mousetrapreplica, from his notoriously off-the-wall Trout Mask Replica double-LP, which like Bitches Brew and Monster Movie hit like 70s records just barely snuck in at the tail-end of the decade. The good Captain's utterly original abstract blues, straining as it does at the very confines of rock itself, works up a wild racket from the sands of the Mojave that seems to predict all the best prog and avant rock. As Lydon himself says, What he does with music, he takes it away from the, it has to be this position or that position, he just uses sounds to make the whole thing better, but he's mad, he's great.7

Culture Two Sevens Clash Joe Gibbs

Note: The dub version of I'm Not Ashamed is played — the original can be found here.

Along similar lines, one of the best parts of the show is when Lydon and Vance bond over a mutual love of reggae, with Vance commenting:

I like reggae mainly because, for a long time, I thought it was about the only stream of music in which people were trying to do different things like overdubs, using echoes...

to which Lydon interjects:

They just love sound. They like using any sound, I mean right down to that Culture single: car horns, babies crying. And why not? I mean it's only sound music, isn't it.

Fred Locks Black Star Liners Vulcan

One could write a whole book on Lydon's reggae and dub selections alone. As this handwritten note8 to a PIL fan attests, he clearly had a strong grasp of the form, far beyond any sort of passing, casual affinity... a true connoisseur. His strong, opinionated nature shines through here, as it does in the interview, when he singles out Fred Locks' Walls for praise — highlighting its brilliant sense of paranoia (a Parallax reggae record if there ever was one!) — even if he dismisses the remainder of what I've always held to be a very strong roots record as lame. What gives Johnny?!

Makka Bees Nation Fiddler Congo

Further deep cuts (this time 7" exclusives) — ranging from Vivian Jackson (aka Yabby You) & The Prophets' Fire In A Kingston and Makka Bees' Nation Fiddler — are the order of the day, both of which offer up superb dread-inflected reggae informed by a swirling, almost overwhelmingly atmospheric production that more than vindicates everything Tommy Vance was just saying a couple paragraphs back. Choice material, in other words. Roots reggae doesn't get much better than this...

Ken Boothe Let's Get It On Trojan

On a similar tip, island soul man Ken Boothe gets a look in as well, with his cover version of Syl Johnson's Is It Because I'm Black. Taken from his Let's Get It On LP, which exists in the shadow of his classic Everything I Own set (released the same year). To this day it's never been reissued, in spite of the fact that it originally emerged on reggae powerhouse label Trojan Records. What's up with that? In fact, most of Lydon's selections couldn't get much deeper, and even after four decades of reissues, compilations and anthologies, many of them are still pretty hard to come by.

Peter Tosh Legalize It Columbia

Fortunately, there are a handful of selections that are a bit more straightforwardly available to the uninitiated (although I suspect everything here is available on Youtube/Soulseek nowadays!). Roots radical Peter Tosh — having been one of the Wailers — has what must have been the highest profile of the bunch. Indeed, this record is nearly as easy to find as any given Bob Marley record! They even used to play it on 91x during regular rotation9 (maybe they still do, for all I know). You can't go wrong...

Augustus Pablo King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown Clocktower

On the flipside of the coin is Augustus Pablo's King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown, one of the most perfectly atmospheric dub records ever conceived. Another great cinematic moment in the context of the show, with King Tubby's trademark splashing percussion rolling across the mix as the interview rattles on. Dub techniques themselves among the most important musical developments of the last fifty years, filtering through post punk and disco into just about any sound and scene you could mention.

Dr. Alimantado Sons Of Thunder Greensleeves

Similarly, there's no getting around the deejay's eerie prediction of rap, toasting over re-purposed backing tracks the same way hip hop MCs would later rhyme over extended funk jams, rolling samplescapes and hard-hitting drum machine rhythms. Reggae, reggae, reggae! It's essential. Like I was just saying the other day:

My father wrote about this in his book. Chapter 1... Page 1... Paragraph 1: What is the answer to 99 out of 100 questions?... Reggae.10

Deejay iconoclast Dr. Alimantado's Born For A Purpose later turns up on the Sons Of Thunder LP, done up in a discomix style with its dubbed-out b-side Reason For Living tacked onto the end. Dr. Alimantado became a favorite with the punks, in large part thanks to Lydon's endorsement, especially his phenomenal debut album Best Dressed Chicken In Town. Which, in truth, everyone should own... and while you're at it, grab Sons Of Thunder too. This utterly original, and deeply strange music is on par with other absolute essentials like Captain Beefheart, Metal Box and Can.

Can Tago Mago United Artists

That's right, Can! One could guess the krautrock legends would make an appearance here, and the rolling eighteen-minute monster jam Halleluwah stands as the penultimate track of the show (coming in just before Peter Tosh closes out the evening). Interestingly, Fodderstompf notes that it was Sid Vicious who actually tuned Lydon into Can in the first place. The band's wild kraut-funk workouts would later play a crucial role as part of the inspiration behind PIL's storied Metal Box sessions (alongside disco's extended rhythms and the monster basslines of dub).

Bobby Byrd Back From The Dead International Brothers

Speaking of funk, we get to the very last of Lydon's records: Bobby Byrd's nimble funk masterpiece Back From The Dead. The tune actually gets played smack dab in the middle of the show, but I've saved it for last since it's one of the most memorable moments of the evening, when it drops in just after Lydon states:

Just to get these was a real strain, I ain't got a record player at the moment, so I have to pass them around, because music's for listening to, not to store away in a bloody cupboard. Yeah, I love my music.

That's pretty cool... the man speaks the truth! When all is said and done, it's what this site is all about, really. In the same way all this music fed into PIL and post punk — be it the funk, the dub, the rock, or the avant garde — it lives and breathes on even to this very moment, its echoes and repercussions flowing through the years from node to node to node and all the tributaries between.


Perhaps that's why, even after all this time, this interview itself remains so fascinating? It gets to the the heart of how profound music's effect can be, the way you can play something from fifty years ago and it could still manage to sound hotter than the latest thing. Like Lydon said, Just play the records. They'll speak for themselves. That's my idea of fun...

Tim Buckley - Greetings From L.A. The Creation - Life Is Just Beginning David Bowie - Diamond Dogs Augustus Pablo - King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown Gary Glitter - Doing All Right With The Boys
Fred Locks - Black Star Liner Vivian Jackson & The Prophets - Fire In A Kingston Culture - I'm Not Ashamed Dr. Alimantado - Born For A Purpose Bobby Byrd - Back From The Dead Neil Young - On The Beach
Lou Reed - Berlin Kevin Coyne - Marjory Razorblade Peter Hammill - Nadir's Big Chance Peter Hammill - Nadir's Big Chance Makka Bees - Nation Fiddler Captain Beefheart - Trout Mask Replica
Nico - Desertshore Ken Boothe - Let's Get It On John Cale - The Academy In Peril Third Ear Band - Music From Macbeth Can - Tago Mago Peter Tosh - Legalize It
The Johnny Rotten Show: The Records

    The Punk And His Music: The Tracklist

  1. Tim Buckley Sweet Surrender Warner Bros.
  2. The Creation Life Is Just Beginning Polydor
  3. David Bowie Rebel Rebel RCA Victor
  4. Unknown Artist Jig-A-Jig Unknown Label
  5. Augustus Pablo King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown Clocktower
  6. Gary Glitter Doing All Right With The Boys Bell
  7. Fred Locks Walls Vulcan
  8. Vivian Jackson & The Prophets Fire In A Babylon Prophet
  9. Culture I'm Not Ashamed Joe Gibbs
  10. Dr. Alimantado Born For A Purpose Greensleeves
  11. Bobby Byrd Back From The Dead International Brothers
  12. Neil Young Revolution Blues Reprise
  13. Lou Reed Men Of Good Fortune RCA Victor
  14. Kevin Coyne Eastbourne Ladies Virgin
  15. Peter Hammill The Institute Of Mental Health, Burning Charisma
  16. Peter Hammill Nobody's Business Charisma
  17. Makka Bees Nation Fiddler Congo
  18. Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band The Blimp Mousetrapreplica Straight
  19. Nico Janitor Of Lunacy Reprise
  20. Ken Boothe Is It Because I'm Black Trojan
  21. John Cale Legs Larry At Television Centre Reprise
  22. Third Ear Band Fleance Harvest
  23. Can Halleluwah United Artists
  24. Peter Tosh Legalize It Columbia

Footnotes

1.

Savage, John. England's Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock, And Beyond. New York: St. Martin's, 1991. 381. Print.

2.

Reynolds, Simon. Rip It Up And Start Again. Great Britain: Penguin, 2005. 15-17. Print.

3,

4,

5,

6,

7.

Fodderstompf. John Lydon: Capital Radio, Tommy Vance Show, July 16th 1977. Fodderstompf. F&F Publishing, 30 Sep. 2017. http://www.fodderstompf.com/ARCHIVES/REVIEWS%202/capital77.html. Accessed 2 May. 2019.

8.

Fodderstompf. "It ain't the names that matter, you got to be able to hear them first...". Fodderstompf. F&F Publishing, 30 Aug. 2017. http://www.fodderstompf.com/ARCHIVES/ARTS/reggae.html. Accessed 2 May. 2010.

9.

As opposed to during the Sunday night Reggae Makossa show.

10.

Actually, Tom Cruise said this as David Ames in the movie Vanilla Sky! Well, if you substitute Money for Reggae, that is...

Public Image Ltd. – Metal Box

Can Ege Bamyasi United Artists

When discussing the basis for the whole Terminal Vibration vision, in laying out its roots at the axis of rhythm and atmosphere, there are any number of notable precursors that immediately spring to mind. If you root around in the shadowy pre-history of the 1970s, you come across obvious rhythmic precursors like the motorik grooves of Neu!, Can's kosmische funk, the atmospheric avant pop of Roxy Music/Brian Eno, and their timely fusion in Bowie's Station To Station and all the Berlin records to come in its wake (see also Iggy Pop).

Miles Davis Dark Magus Columbia

There's also no getting around the blazing atmospheric tension of Miles Davis' monolithic jazz fission side-long monster jams and Don Cherry's proto-fourth world excursions throughout the decade, not to mention the sun-glazed, dusted grooves of War's The World Is A Ghetto and The Isley Brothers' wild, multi-jointed rhythms. Then there's the ghostly studio magic of King Tubby and his skipping, aquatic dubs, or Lee "Scratch" Perry's voodoo-tinged freakouts, both similarly forward-reaching in scope, predicting as they do the dislocated riddimology of post punk, trip hop and beyond.

Public Image Ltd. Metal Box

Virgin 1979

However, if there's one record that (symbolically at least) stands at the portal to the world of Terminal Vibration like the Colossus at Rhodes, setting the tone and the template for everything to follow, it is without a doubt Public Image Ltd.'s mighty Metal Box. This album delivered the most thorough collision of funk, dub and punk up to that point in time, a rough and rugged blueprint for all manner of rude mechanical sound to spring up in the decades to come. Poised at a sort of street-level anti-glamour, it paralleled most of the new forms that would arise from the margins to storm the mainstream in its wake.

Public Image Ltd. pose on a rooftop
Public Image Ltd.

Jah Wobble, Keith Levene, Jim Walker and John Lydon

PIL were formed by John Lydon in the fallout of his untimely exit from The Sex Pistols, with splintered guitar prodigy Keith Levene (once of The Clash) and soon-to-be bassist extraordinaire Jah Wobble (who at the point of the band's formation, he hadn't yet played a note!). Notably, the position of drummer was never a permanent one, although Jim Walker seemed to have the largest impact during the band's key early years. Despite Lydon's punk fame as Johnny Rotten, he was determined to reinvent himself as a member among equals (even going so far as to describe PIL as a multimedia corporation): with punk's star frontman, the as-yet unsung guitar prodigy and the brilliant non-musician all on equal footing within the group.

Public Image Ltd. Public Image Virgin

The idea was to match the social rebellion of The Sex Pistols with an equally extreme sonic attack, this time tearing up rock's rulebook in the process. Their first, eponymous record washed away the ragged sound of punk with one great wave of sleek and minimalist futurism, its cascades of ringing guitar serving up one of new wave's great warning shots (The Edge was certainly paying attention) even as it was informed by a dubby bottom end (post punk's m.o. in chrysalis). And despite its place as one of punk's definitive voices, Lydon's wail possibly sounded even more at home in this cold new environment.

Public Image Ltd. First Issue Virgin

The landmark Public Image culminated in the band's debut album First Issue, which found them done up like fashion models in a tongue-in-cheek manner, with all but Walker decked out in suits in a curious parallel to Kraftwerk's tailored, machine-like perfection. The sounds within more than lived up to the image, with the sleek post punk attack of Public Image and Low Life offset by the doom-laden stomp of Theme and the icy dubbed-out, discomix tundras of the closing Fodderstompf. The latter two tracks in particular offered up twin portraits of the sound that would become post punk, pointing the way forward for the group's landmark second album.

Inset from PIL's debut, First Issue, featuring a glammed-up Jah Wobble on the cover of PIME magazine!
That Jah Wobble's a handsome chap...

Inspired by their twin obsessions with krautrock and Jamaican dub, the band descended further into the shadowy realm of the studio with the stated goal of working up a sound unlike anything else around. Needless to say, magic was wrought from the whole affair, and the resulting tapes from these sessions more than lived up to such a lofty target. Such unique music demanded a singular presentation, and the album was slated (in its original form) to be released as a trio of 12" singles housed in a metal film canister emblazoned with the PIL logo. This concept served as both the source of its title as well as a thorough deconstruction of the album-as-statement, encouraging the listener to play the sides in whichever order they chose.

Public Image Ltd. Second Edition Virgin

After its initial run, the album was reissued as Second Edition in the standard double-LP format, which is actually how I (and I suspect many of us in the States) first heard it. Its sleeve featured a black-and-white photo of the band's faces warped and melting into one another, nearly as appropriate a visual representation of the sounds contained within as the original metal slab had been. It prefigures the look of whole swathes of records to come out of the industrial scene (for instance) in the decade to come. Indeed, in 1989 it would have fit right in. But in 1980, the whole thing just looks like trouble...

An albatross looms in the sky
Getting rid of the albatross...

In the Second Edition version of the record, Albatross opens the album (after all, Metal Box opens wherever it wants to), its ten-ton bassline coming on like a dark sequel to Fodderstompf in 3D. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner might be the first thing that springs to mind, and indeed the tune matches the pervasive sense of dread running through Coleridge's epic poem, but writers have interpreted the track as an echo of Lydon's wish to distance himself from punk and The Pistols. With lyrics like getting rid of the albatross and sowing the seeds of discontent, it's pretty hard to argue. His warped muezzin wail makes perfect sense in this context, with Levene raining shards of splintered guitar noise across the top of Wobble's immortal bassline and the drums stomping beneath in doomed slow-motion for a solid ten-minutes.

Basic Channel Quadrant Dub Basic Channel

Careering burns at a similarly glacial pace, the subterranean strains of its slow-motion groove and haunting bassline adding a spectral caste to the proceedings. Rising and falling in pitch like dread-laden steam in some cold-blooded thriller, the unspooling synths create an incredible compression of atmosphere around this nightmare discomix showcase. It's as close to the idea of a flesh-and-blood band attempting to predict the sound of Basic Channel's dubbed-out, skeletal techno (well over a decade before the fact) as one could get (and of course BC had a metal box of their own. The nagging vocal refrain from Lydon (is this really living?) is just the icing on the cake. All things considered, it's probably my favorite tune on the record.

Jah Wobble

It's tempting to have Metal Box down as a Wobble showcase, with his massive bass sound triumphantly anchoring the whole record as it does. Sure enough, he's a household icon around these parts), and obviously the band were never the same after he left. Still, that does nothing to diminish the crucial role that the rest of the band play. Subtract Lydon and it just wouldn't be the same at all — his piercing wail imbues everything with a haunting, ear-shredding immediacy — while Levene's great sheets of sound (in both guitar and synth form) provide the all-pervasive sense of dread atmosphere that defines the record. When the trio's inimitable contributions all interlock over the rugged drumming (which is rarely mentioned in discussions of this record, but is crucial), the results truly do sound unlike anything else around.

The Gun Club Miami Animal

Announcing itself with a fragment of kosmische synth sound, Graveyard pulls into focus on a rolling baleful groove, appropriately enough registering the album at its most strikingly spectral. With Levene's jagged guitar shapes obliquely recalling Link Wray, this instrumental is a down-tuned Desperado mirage. Squint and you can just barely hear the faintest hint of The Gun Club's haunted, atmospheric rockabilly circa Miami. It's an almost undisclosed secret for such a notoriously anti-rock record, but there it is, hiding in the spaces between the spaces, and further pointing toward the album's inscrutably contrarian nature.

Public Image Ltd. The Flowers Of Romance Virgin

A similarly rock moment turns up in Poptones, which clocks in at nearly eight minutes (aside from Albatross, it's the longest track here). Levene's speaker-shredding guitar showers down over a start-stop beat driven by Wobble's dub-tastic basslines wandering up and down the fretboard. More than anything else here it points the way forward to the hollowed-out sonic pile-ups on PIL's third album, The Flowers Of Romance. You hear a song like Poptones and Kurt Cobain's love of the band makes perfect sense (in fact, The Flowers Of Romance cropped up in a list of his favorite albums). Indeed, when viewed through a lens of abstraction, its not hard to sense to roots of alternative and grunge in there somewhere.

The Sex Pistols Submission Virgin

Chant, in contrast, calls back to punk rock in a rather abstract way, featuring Lydon railing over the top of a scrawling blast of atonal noise just as he might have during the Sex Pistols days. But then there's the maddening repetition of someone chanting love war fear hate in the background throughout, raising the spectre of process music and post punk's lingering abstraction. It's just another measure of this record's striking variance, which in its own way seems to cover as much ground as The White Album, even if most of its forms hadn't even existed back when The Beatles were doing their thing.

Funkadelic The Electric Spanking Of War Babies Warner Bros.

As much as Metal Box is a deconstruction of the album-as-statement, certain corners of this record seem to deconstruct the band's very sound. The Suit is one such track, with Lydon intoning in relative monotone over a simple time-keeping backbeat and another one of Wobble's great throbbing chunks of bottom-end. It's this aspect of the record that often makes me think of it in the same breath as Funkadelic's The Electric Spanking Of War Babies. Where the War Babies found Funkadelic stripping their band's sound down to its constituent parts and rebuilding it like a composite street racer, Metal Box finds PIL melting their sound down to its base molten form and throwing magnetic shapes around the room.

Suburban Knight The Art Of Stalking Transmat

Bad Baby is another such track, with its bass/drum locked groove rolling away as Levene opts to contribute desolate synth lines rather than his usual sheets of guitar noise, leaving Wobble's bottom end to carry the melody. Lydon's offhand vocals — which split the difference between carefree and dejected — are some of the record's most memorable. The instrumental Socialist plays like a dub version of a punk tune, guitars shunted to the side and Wobble's bass taking up the lead. Its striking compression captures a sense of pure claustrophobia and dread, as Levene unfurls squelching synths like strangled mechanical voices over the subdued madness. In both cases, my mind flashes immediately to the angular menace of Suburban Knight's The Art Of Stalking.

U2 War Island

At first, No Birds takes a similar tack, with Lydon's offhand vocals and another adamant bassline from Wobble rolling out beneath. However, it quickly becomes the closest thing here to First Issue, with Levene's guitars sound like the blueprint for The Edge's sound circa U2's Boy/October/War trilogy. I'm especially reminded of tunes like I Threw A Brick Through A Window and The Refugee, both of which happened to take a particularly minimalist, rhythmic angle on the band's usually widescreen sound. This all in keeping with the PIL influence, which brought such stark, uncompromising rhythms to the post punk party in the first place.

Public Image Ltd. Death Disco Virgin

Nowhere is this more evident than Swan Lake, which in its original version was released as the Death Disco. Death Disco was the founder of the feast, so to speak, laying the groundwork for the mutant disco rhythms of Metal Box even as it wired it all up to a spluttering, punky spirit. Levene's spidery guitar lines quote liberally from Tchaikovsky's ballet of the same name (hence the track's retitling to Swan Lake here), while Lydon wails into the cold, bleak night (see it in your eyes) and Wobble's throbbing dub basslines stalk beneath, occasionally rolling up into a mini-disco bridge. As such, Swan Lake/Death Disco is the record's most realized fusion of disco, dub and punk, and remains its undeniable centerpiece.

Public Image Ltd. Memories Virgin

However, for my money the preceding Memories rivals it. With an even faster attack (this time approaching techno velocity), it features Levene running through another one of his Desperado-esque guitar figure over a ramshackle disco pulse. The spectre of Link Wray hangs over the proceedings once again, as does James Pennington. The use of compression here just line any number of Suburban Knight 12"s, especially at 1.5 minutes in when the center of gravity shifts to a bass-heavy throb and Lydon wails over the top like a madman. This punk-tinged mutant disco vision just might have had PIL's most far-reaching impact on the music to come in its wake.

Jah Wobble Invaders Of The Heart Lago

The figure who chased down this aspect of the group's sound most thoroughly was without a doubt Wobble, who unfurled similar death disco-tinged rhythmic madness over the course of records like Betrayal, Full Circle, Snake Charmer and Invaders Of The Heart. These records may not have had the same sense of profound danger as Metal Box, but they maintained the overwhelming sense of atmosphere and even added a distinctly fourth world flair to the proceedings.

Jah Wobble The Legend Lives On... Jah Wobble In "Betrayal" Virgin

However, it was Wobble's debut album he Legend Lives On... Jah Wobble In "Betrayal" that wound up getting him kicked out of the band (the rest of the band objected to his use of some PIL backing tracks on the record). And yet it was Lydon and Levene who had positioned the band as a multimedia corporation that would put out everything from records to soundtracks, films and even musical equipment. One certainly imagines that spooling out killer tangent records from session cutouts would fit the bill, with the promise of side-projects echoing those of George Clinton's P-Funk organization and Lee "Scratch" Perry's Black Ark empire in the 1970s. Ironically, in the end it was Wobble (who was always the most skeptical of the band pitching itself as a corporation in the first place) who offered the most follow-through on the initial premise!

The Clash Sandinista! CBS

It's a shame that Lydon and Levene kicked him out for using those backing tapes, especially considering their case of writer's block that would come just months later (the sessions for The Flowers Of Romance were fraught with complications). All of this in stark contrast to Wobble's restless flurry of creativity, working with everyone from Can's Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit to The Edge (of U2) and disco master-producer François Kevorkian. One could imagine the group powering through the 1980s with Wobble still in tow, generating loads of source material and spooling it all out into worlds in their own right just Can had the 1970s. At any rate, one wonders what a PIL Sandinista! might have been like...

The Prodigy The Prodigy Experience XL

Radio 4 ends the whole trip on a gentle breeze of Satie-esque ambience, shades of some celestial carousel and Lynch's lady in the radiator. The synth melody is just dislocated enough, in the surreal sense of disorientation one feels in a dream, that the melodic wandering of Wobble's bassline beneath it all carries an entire counterpoint melody and takes center stage. There's an interesting glimpse here (in spirit, at least) of Wobble's later collaboration with Brian Eno (Spinner), and I'm often reminded of the sickly-sweet synths in The Prodigy's Weather Experience.

Post punk icons

It's the perfect signing off moment for an album that fuses kosmische funk with dub and punk in such a way that sounds utterly unlike any of its inspirations. Metal Box represents the sound of a whole new music, dreamt up alongside similarly trailblazing figures like The Pop Group, The Slits and Gang Of Four. Still, nobody did it with PIL's sense of gravity and ambience. In retrospect, they were the beating heart at the center of it all.

This heavy atmospheric music (more often than not wired-up for the dancefloor) is true out come the freaks music, and as such it's close to the Parallax heart. In turn, it's also the cornerstone to everything discussed in the Terminal Vibration trip, not only as a prime influence but also something of a decoder ring to the whole affair. Get Second Edition and absorb it... really get it, and you'll be ready for anything the Terminal Vibration 100 will throw at you 40-some days from now.

Slow Burn

Flammable Material

Summer 1987. The splash of the swimming pool echoes on the edge of earshot in my cousin's room out in Carolina, gear stacked against the wall and freestyle riddims in full force in the twilight. The TR-808 kicks into gear, beats roll and bass bumping and an errant keyboard sequence dazzles across the top in slow-motion. Strange shades of Smith & Mighty Walk On.../Any Love just moments before the fact, rugged beats cut through the palms dancing in the evening breeze over Caribbean waters and way out east into the Atlantic waves against the shore.

The Orb Remix Project Auntie Aubrey's Excursions Beyond The Call Of Duty Ultra

The slow-burning grooves of Barely Breaking Even creep down across the Parallax Pier, over crystal clear waters and hazy visions cooked up in the kitchen (swimming in flavors succulent salty-sweet). A wood-paneled TV sits in the corner, beaming in black-and-white imagery from the past and then fast-forward to the future, networks all in place and linked up in sync with the rhythm. Deconstructed breakbeats and the Space Centre Medical Unit Hum of rustic air-conditioned ventilation, Not For Threes on 747 flight home and There’s More To Life Than This (Björk's Debut as a trip hop record) and Auntie Aubrey's Excursions Beyond The Call Of Duty swinging in from 1980s jewel of the Caribbean vibes against the dawning 21st century blues... once they tore a kid to pieces and then he awoke one day a broken man.

Bobby Konders A Lost Era In NYC 1987-1992 International Deejay Gigolo

We Who Are Not As Others up among the tall buildings and then out into the suburban sprawl where everyone knows your name but no one knows you, small solace comes within the confines of the machine and pyramids and palms and technicolor 2600 dreams (these dreams are my color scheme). Big Rooms filled with big rigs and big speakers bump big music in the glistening mist, the pump of pure bass out the bins and the crisp crack of the snare, hi-hats sizzling and shakers tickling the eardrums, congas tapping away on the inside of your head. A Rub A Dub Stylee in a kidney-shaped pool, Bobby Konders' Rydims/Cutting Records/Todd Terry/WordSound/Massive Sounds/Clocktower, it's a New York-style ting.

Photek Solaris Science

Out in the northern rooms, ASCII characters rush up and down the screen and across these city streets, rebuild your world on wheels, cycles and skates and boards and cars in the moonlight, Alleys Of Your Mind and Grantville corridors. The Baby Namboos and slowed-down Apache breaks, the cool blue of Solaris all half-lit in moody neon. Strange venues hidden in the shadows, electronic shops and trip hop bars all linked up on a grid in walking animation colors with a grimy mix of tropical and dusty, downbeat island boogie let's melt together in the night...

Excerpt from The Coqui Papers

Terminal Vibration: The Concept

The message likely lost in translation (it's a 21st century overload thang).
11010100101001FUTURE SHOCK IN FULL EFFECT10010100101011

At this point, it’s about time to wrap up the whole Terminal Vibration saga into a neat little package with a bow on top. In answering the initial question, where does post punk intersect with machine funk, the obvious response drifted quite naturally toward a region that's always fascinated me: the proto-Earthbeat global overload rhythmic mash-up of new wave, hip hop, dance and My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts-style fourth world madness that would ultimately give us modern music as-we-know-it, exploding in the 1990s and cascading right up to the present (we’re still riding that wave).

Brian Eno/David Byrne My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts Sire

When you really break it down, the whole shebang was catalyzed as post-disco/dub reggae innovations washed up against the shores of pop culture and then filtered back out into the hyper-localized scenius of the global underground (usually hate that term, but so apt in this case). Paired with the rush-of-the-new inherent in the sudden availability of cheap technology and burgeoning cyberpunk/future shock aesthetics, the inevitability of fast-paced innovation at the margins seeping into the media glare of the mainstream became inescapable. It was but a short leap from Spoonie Gee to Tupac Shakur, from Model 500 to The Prodigy.

Spoonie Gee Spoonie Rap Harlem Place

With the rapid ascent of these at-first hyper-localized sounds into the pop consciousness, there was an unshakable frisson in such tactile music storming the charts from deep in the depths of the cutting edge. Suddenly, it was possible to dream up the future in some makeshift studio, be it Lee Perry at the Black Ark, Cabaret Voltaire’s Attic Tapes or even Moodymann’s bedroom symphonies. There’s a reason why the rugged sounds of a Cabaret Voltaire always seemed a much better fit with the gutter tech of Neuromancer than the shiny, pristine surfaces of long-fade EDM.

Cabaret Voltaire Red Mecca Rough Trade

There's an undeniably physical sense of space that tethers it all to the imagery of Zion and Chiba City, even as its reality is augmented by the more cerebral, dislocated sounds within The Matrix itself (this is where The Black Dog or Aphex Twin — who was at one time actually attached to the project — would excel). In this great mash-up of styles existing at the interface of rugged atmosphere and rhythm — rap/electro/post punk/boogie/trip hop/techno/house — all new forms would get warped and twisted into shape accordingly, oftentimes cross-pollinating with each other in the process.

The Black Dog Virtual Black Dog Productions

I’m still ironing out the contours of the grand finale Terminal Vibration 100, but suffice it to say that it looks an awful lot like the blueprint for the future... 21st century music dreamed up years before the fact. As such, it mirrors the way the preceding 1970s took the raw materials of the 1960s flame out and hammered them into the forms that would come to define the era's new music: disco, hard rock/metal, reggae/dub, funk/progressive soul, kosmische/electronica and punk/new wave. The eighties just came along and boiled it all down to its essence, yoking it all to a post-disco beat, and then waited for the inevitable explosion.

Miles Davis Dark Magus Columbia

So at its core, the Terminal Vibration concept embodies heavy rhythmic music with a strong sense of atmosphere — often evocative of a particular place in time, and moody to a fault — with a definite sense of rugged futurism spliced into its DNA. In a strange sense, it seems seems to render the whole sonic terrain future proof (against all odds) in retrospect, no matter how things continue to develop and individual aspects might date. Think Nuggets, roots reggae and jazz fission, all undeniably tied to distinctly period signifiers, and yet by now all timeless in equal measure.

Can Tago Mago United Artists

PIL's Metal Box, Can's Tago Mago, Marvin Gaye's Here, My Dear: records such as these have not been bettered on their own terms, even as they set blueprints in place for thousands of artists to follow, imitate and elaborate in the intervening years. In the same way you can watch 2001 in 2019, nearly 30 years after its depicted future (let alone fifty years after its real-world premiere) and only say damn... in amazement, it's a rush to take it all in. And then maybe try your hand at topping it, or swooping in from another angle that the innovators would never have dreamed of. After all, that's what they did. That's the future...