Mar 10

STARSHIP – “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”

FT + Popular115 comments • 7,207 views

#590, 9th May 1987, video

Listening to this song you realise that at some point the idea that a rock record should sound like a bunch of people in the same place playing the same music at the same time was completely abandoned by record producers. Not in the name of experimentation, or expanding a record’s sound, but I guess just because that kind of verisimilitude didn’t seem relevant any more. In its way this even seems a more radical shift than genres like dub reggae or techno which were clearly studio constructs from the off.

This is a long way of saying that there’s something quite off about a song like “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”: built for a movie, it has the same oddly flat, perspective-warping quality as a studio set, like it only really exists in the context of the action, when it’s soundtracking something. That eerie dead space is created pretty much entirely by the echo on the percussion: I guess it could also be filled by crowds of people singing along, which is why arena rockers took to this kind of song.

Listened to alone there’s a discrepancy between the size and effort of the sound (colossal) and the emotional take-out from it (pea-sized) that tips me into laughter when Starship try and go up a gear leading into the guitar solo. Maybe if I’d put more hours in with Grace Slick’s earlier work I’d find it in me to despise Starship but for all its vacuous, leaden bigitude, deep in its tiny heart this is affable enough to be harmless.



  1. 1
    Alan on 8 Mar 2010 #

    Don’t you need somebody to love? ow, harsh. i’d understand if this was a crazy year and you needed a sacrificial donkey to the god of stats. I like the ridiculous shift after the middle 8 into the solo. it’s the 80s man.

    Never seen the film. It looks like a Police Academy film from the video.

  2. 2
    MBI on 8 Mar 2010 #

    A major major guilty pleasure for me — this is exactly the level of bombastic ’80s cheese that hits me right in the pleasure center of the brain.

    “We Built This City,” meanwhile, hits me right in the gag reflex. I don’t know how my brain makes these distinctions.

  3. 3
    poohugh on 8 Mar 2010 #

    The most comical moment is the urgent ‘What DO they know?’, with the emphasis on the ‘do’ as opposed to the ‘they’.

  4. 4
    Tom on 8 Mar 2010 #

    #2 heh, I almost said something about how I kind of like “We Built This City” – it’s smug boomer self-congratulation but so flagrant about it it’s rather appealing.

    Records not far away from this will get higher marks from me, I’m sure – this one is cheese that’s been left out on the kitchen table a bit too long and has gone all rindy.

  5. 5
    Tracer Hand on 8 Mar 2010 #

    In the right context this song is a 10. At a birthday party, for instance, or a wedding. Or possibly in a fun-looking 80s movie that my parents didn’t let me go see because it literally imagined its heroine as a portable doll.

  6. 6
    Alan on 8 Mar 2010 #

    add to the “hasn’t grace slick aged well” file: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKxd0SAJmRE

  7. 7
    MikeMCSG on 8 Mar 2010 #

    Blimey are we up to this already ? I’d have placed this later into the summer. Shows how work speeds up your life !

    I’ve always had opposing reactions to this. On one hand I’m pleased we have an opportunity to talk about Grace Slick. As well as being a great singer she was the first independent woman in rock but never really gets the kudos for that from critics who prefer to extol junkie Janis. Similarly Jefferson Airplane always seem to be reluctantly acknowledged behind Doors, ‘Dead, Love and the Velvets when discussing that late 60s flowering of US rock.

    On the other hand this is an utter travesty of everything she originally stood for. By this time the twice-mutated band were pretty much finished and she is little more than a guest star on the record. That horrible video with her cavorting with a poodle-headed toy boy with her big hair and shoulder pads sums up everything that was bad about 1987.

    This was a long-delayed second number one (since “When I need You”) for writer Albert Hammond and the first of many for his partner Diane Warren. Both have done better than this- a vacuous song for an even more vacuous film.

  8. 8
    Tom on 8 Mar 2010 #

    Is this really the first Diane Warren #1? Blimes.

  9. 9
    TomLane on 8 Mar 2010 #

    The U.S. matched this at #1. Their 3rd #1 single in America in a 16 month period. Lead singer Mickey Thomas often gets ridiculed for his bomobastic vocals that dominated latter day Starship albums, but I often find myself defending him. Not for forgettable stuff like this, but because he was the lead singer on Elvin Bishop’s 1976 #2 (U.S.) blue-eyed soul classic, “Fooled Around and Fell In Love”. As for his Starship tenure, try 1979’s “Jane” for pure over-the-top lung power that would make Steve Perry blush.

  10. 10
    Billy Smart on 8 Mar 2010 #

    This is more enjoyable now than it was at the time. It has a really appealing join-the-dots quality, in confirming your expectations as to what rhyme or bit of arrangement is coming next… The two voices leaven the stodge with a bit of diversity, too.

    The video even makes Mannequin look quite fun, though I imagine that enjoyment might pall over two hours… I’d really like to see the 1968 Journey Into The Unknown episode where a teenage Dennis Waterman falls in love with a mannequin, though. I occasionally hear old people with long memories remember that – Doesn’t he get killed and it end with a shot of the weeping dummy?

  11. 11
    Billy Smart on 8 Mar 2010 #

    Number 2 Watch: A week of Tom Jones’ ‘A Boy From Nowhere’ – the usual slush which, barring details of production and arrangement, could have come from 1967.

  12. 12
    Billy Smart on 8 Mar 2010 #

    Light Entertainment Watch: Just the one UK promotional appearance;

    WOGAN: with Rob Andrew, Brian Blessed, John & Alan Boon, Gareth Edwards, Starship, Shirley Williams (1986)

  13. 13
    rosie on 8 Mar 2010 #

    It’s a million miles (or parsecs even) from White Rabbit isn’t it!

    Grace Slick was no spring chicken in 1967 of course, so by the time we get here she’s nearly as old as I am now. Neither I nor those I hung out with underestimated Jefferson Airplane. It’s when they went silly and became Jefferson Starship that we left them behind.

    Had White Rabbit hit the top in 1967 it would have been a sure 10 from me. As for this one, I think 4 is perhaps a tad generous.

  14. 14
    jel on 8 Mar 2010 #

    This is one of the best song’s ever written.

    Up there with Kiss’s “Crazy Nights”.

  15. 15
    thefatgit on 8 Mar 2010 #

    Kim Cattrall’s star vehicle was a bit of a turkey, and Starship’s MOR/soft rock workout from Mannequin has Bernard Matthews stamped all over it. Much preferred “We Built This City” for it’s singalong chorus.

  16. 16
    AndyPandy on 8 Mar 2010 #

    As so Grace Slick has so unflinchingly written since (and she is perhaps the only artist I’ve ever heard come out and say this)she finds the whole idea of herself or anyone else over a certain age still doing rock music complately ridiculous but as she hints if someone wants to pay her to do it – the money’s always useful- so what the hell…

  17. 17
    Conrad on 8 Mar 2010 #

    I really dug Jefferson Airplane. Best band name ever?

    In fact I got so into them that I couldn’t stop playing their After Bathing at Baxters album, which remains a real favourite, years after I more or less stopped listening to that genre.

    I gave my copy of Baxters to Exeter Uni’s american music library in my first year in return for a day of sitting taping their records.

    Anyway, this. Well its not good is it? But good on Grace Slick having a number 1.

  18. 18
    MagicFly on 8 Mar 2010 #

    Booming fromage, of course, but for me it’s inextricably linked with a gorgeous, sunkissed day in 1987, as Spring melted into Summer, and Gary Davies introduced it on Top Of The Pops with the words “A perfect song for a day like this…” And every time I hear it I can almost taste that day again, and all those years ahead of me.

  19. 19
    lonepilgrim on 8 Mar 2010 #

    This somehow simultaneously makes me cringe and yet feel strangely nostalgic. I wouldn’t choose to listen to it however so 4 seems about right. I hate ‘We built this city’ mind you.
    I hope Marcello can give us some of the context of Grace Slick’s trajectory from Airplane credibility to Starship schlock. Her persona on a JA spinoff was the Chrome Nun which suggests a glossy and impenetrable facade at odds with the fuzzier, hippie nation vibe of bands like the Grateful Dead and which is apparent in earlier songs such as ‘White Rabbit and ‘Somebody to Love’. While it is beguiling in those performances by the stage of it is not appealing

  20. 20
    johnny on 8 Mar 2010 #

    speaking of grace slick, i saw a tv programme years ago that chronicled an onstage pseduo-breakdown which involved her heckling a german audience with repeated cries of “WHO WON THE WAR?”. searched for on youTube lo these many years, as this seems to be the sort of thing youTube is made for but, alas, no luck. am i just imagining this or does anyone else remember it happening?

  21. 21
    swanstep on 8 Mar 2010 #

    God this song is annoying. I think Tom’s on to something about its airless/suffocating production being the alchemical feature that turns it utterly toxic (at least for many people). Maybe in some objective sense this record deserves a 3, say, but subjectively it’s into ‘minus figures’ (I like the whole of popular music a little less after hearing it).

  22. 22
    taDOW on 9 Mar 2010 #

    love “jane” and “rock band” as much if not more than “white rabbit” and “somebody to love” and “fooled around and fell in love” over all of them. this is pretty awful however, worse than the movie even, worse than the other iran-contra era starship hits. 2 for me.

  23. 23
    nick p on 9 Mar 2010 #

    Didn’t realise this was a Dianne Warren co-write. Bernie Taupin’s lyrics for We Built This City are much better. This song is the reason I’ve never seen Mannequin. I always thought this was earlier than ’87…

  24. 24
    lonepilgrim on 9 Mar 2010 #

    is that Fischerspooner in the video?

  25. 25
    Elsa on 9 Mar 2010 #

    #23: Oh really.. then can you tell us what “Marconi plays the mamba” means?

  26. 26

    “Marconi plays the mamba” = it is possible thru the technology of wireless telegraphy to hear HOT LATIN MUSIC in your NON HOT LATIN HOME

  27. 27
    Mark G on 9 Mar 2010 #

    I never ‘investigated’ the Jeffs, as they never hit the UK in any great way, but I can imagine this sort of thing actually putting off people from going back to hear pillow/baxters/etc.

    Other bands from the sixties may have split up before they went ‘corporate’, or still managed to produce vital stuff for themselves.

    .. and we thought the Stones were past it in 1977!

  28. 28
    Tracer Hand on 9 Mar 2010 #

    @26 that was basically the entire underpinning of my undergraduate thesis paper

  29. 29
    Rory on 9 Mar 2010 #

    This feels like the last gasp at the top of that distinctively hollow and huge mid-’80s sound. There’s something to be thankful for. 4 at best.

    Number three in Australia – our Starship number 1 was “We, Jefferson Starship and/or Airplane, Built This City All By Ourselves, So There”.

  30. 30
    wichita lineman on 9 Mar 2010 #

    J Airplane went off the boil quite dramatically after S Pillow. Baxters has no tunes whatsoever. I think it may be the single worst album released by a major act. Worse than Be Here Now even.

    Another thumbs up for Jane, twinned in manic top-end piano riffery with Toto’s Hold The Line

  31. 31
    punctum on 9 Mar 2010 #

    Taken from the abysmal 1987 rom-com Mannequin, in which Andrew McCarthy builds a dummy which turns into Kim Cattrall (and a young, wary James Spader keeping his countenance in the background), “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” – not to be confused with Samantha Fox’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Me Now,” which was in the top ten at the same time – is the archetypal slushy, bombastic AoR song suitable for such glossy sub-entertainment, composed by time-serving pros Diane Warren and Albert Hammond, and there would be little point in going any deeper into its shallow pond of artistry were it not for the immense sorrow of the knowledge of whom Starship once were.

    Perhaps the saddest moment of the whole song (and its video) is the point where Grace Slick enters with her Morticia Addams cackle of “Let ’em say we’re cra-ZAY!” and does that regrettable leer and finger-twirl at the camera. There are two ways of interpreting this; either Grace is signalling to us: “Hey, we know this is shit, but we need a hit, and y’know, underneath the gloss it’s still us!” or (the worse and likelier option) they are trying to shanghai us into thinking that nothing has changed, that this is the way Jefferson Airplane would eventually have flown in any case.

    Not surprisingly, you will search the archives of the British singles chart for “White Rabbit” and “Somebody To Love” in vain, and in truth the Airplane’s records – Surrealistic Pillow, After Bathing At Baxter’s and all the rest of them – never lived up to their reputedly titanic live reputation. The strangeness and stridency of the 1967 Grace Slick helped lay the path for the Siouxsie Siouxs and Kristin Hershes of subsequent decades; and I suppose it’s a comfort of sorts that twenty-one years after “Delicate Colours,” Hersh has not approached Warren for a singalong moneyspinner. But to see Slick, Kantner and Balin prostitute themselves so gladly on the Reaganite catwalk – “We Built This City” may have been a terrible record, but at least bore the ghost of rebellion with its “corporation games” – is like viewing reformed Communists being paraded at bayonet point before the cameras, forced to recant their past ideological “sins.” Thankfully, this is about as bad as 1987 number ones get.

    Or is it?

    (Postscript to the above: it would appear that Grace Slick had similar views and quit Starship not long after this record. Jefferson Airplane evolved gradually into stadium rock Jefferson Starship as the seventies wore on but so did Slick’s alcoholism; she eventually cleaned up for the eighties which may explain her subsequent, as it were, slickness.)

    (PPS: Mannequin may or may not be based on Jonathan King’s novel Bible 2.)

  32. 32
    thefatgit on 9 Mar 2010 #

    I thought Mannequin was some sort of dumbed down pre-feminist take on Pygmalion.

  33. 33
    LondonLee on 9 Mar 2010 #

    Not quite as offensive as I remember it but that’s probably the distance of time and me getting more mellow in my opinions in my dotage. The tune is actually OK but it’s sunk by the Mr. Sheen production and bombastic cigarette-lighter waving quality of the chorus.

    I haven’t looked ahead to see what’s coming up in the charts (I like the surprise) but is this the end of the 80s? It does sound like the nadir of that sound to me.

  34. 34
    Erithian on 9 Mar 2010 #

    The outstanding feature of this song is Grace Slick’s vocal. On the likes of “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit”, she elevates a couple of fine rock songs into some of the most compelling music of the era; here, she elevates something pretty mediocre into something rather more passable, but as the consensus on here goes, it does sound like she’s wasted on it. But it’s one of the songs and the movies that the late 80s are remembered for, albeit by people mainly younger than me!! – and if these survivors of a golden era of US rock became corporate, I guess it’s a fate very few have escaped.

    Funnily enough I don’t remember Mannequin being such a big hit as a film as to warrant the spinoff single being at number one for a month, but there you go. I’ve seen it a couple of times and will always spend an undemanding hour or two watching it if it turns up on TV – though not for the plot, the writing or the borderline-offensive gay stereotype. Let’s just say that what Agnetha Faltskog was to the 70s, Kim Cattrall was to the 80s. And judging by her recent “Who Do You Think You Are?”, what a charming and warm personality to go with it. (drifts off into reverie…)

  35. 35
    pink champale on 9 Mar 2010 #

    what an awful record, though at least it’s not quite as bad as the ear bashing, vom inducing ‘we built this city’. starship has got to be pop’s worst ever comeback hasn’t it? presumably what they had in mind was something like the tasteful eighties-isation fleetwood mac were doing at about the same time, or even leonard cohen’s extraordinary ‘i’m your man’ reinvention, but it really, really, doesn’t come across like that – even to someone who doesn’t like JAs sixties stuff all *that* much this is the sound of dignity going for a low price.

    they showed that extraordinarily tense and depressing film of altamont on bbc4 recently (“gimme shelter”, I think), featuring the early JA bravely trying to stand up against hells angels invading their stage and getting smacked in the face for their troubles. i won’t make the obvious gag, but it barely seems credible that they were the same bunch of people as this crowd of poodled imbeciles.

  36. 36
    wichita lineman on 9 Mar 2010 #

    Punctum – I suggest that ‘Let ’em say we’re crayzeh’ is the ONLY worthwhile moment of NGSUN, ie memorable, silly,, and worth using as a punchline every so often.

  37. 37
    MikeMCSG on 9 Mar 2010 #

    #31 To answer your rhetorical question Punctum there is one worse coming up and British to boot. Think Grace Slick’s daughter.

  38. 38
    will on 9 Mar 2010 #

    Yet another mid 80s monstrosity to go in the ‘I can laugh about it now but at the time it was terrible’ file.

    But yes, the ‘Lettum say we’re crayzeh!’ bit is fantastic though, isn’t it?

    By the way, was this Starship’s last hit? I don’t recall them troubling the Top 40 again.

  39. 39
    Matthew H on 9 Mar 2010 #

    Back then, with taste filters way out of whack (or more honest? Nah, way out of whack), I sort of liked We Built This City. The shrillness, the almost robotic voices and the synthy sheen appealed. Can’t have liked it enormously, otherwise I’d have bought it along with most of the other records in any given Top 40, but I’d give it a listen.

    This, however, was always a trudgy lump.

  40. 40
    swanstep on 9 Mar 2010 #

    but is this the end of the 80s?

    There’s a bunnyable Belinda Carlisle track coming up in Jan 1988 that’s essentially just this record again. And, at least if you were in the US there was all manner of stuff from ‘Waiting for a star to fall’ to all of Def Leppard’s hysteria hits coming right up over the next year or two. So, no. No end in sight!

    Thought about small differences (perhaps unfairly) making a big difference: Heart’s hair-pop 80’s hits such as Alone, These dreams, and even What about love? (w/ members of starship doing back vox I believe) are pretty acceptable guilty pleasures by comparison to NGSU and WBTC. I’m not sure I can really defend my different responses: slightly better arrangements? Ann Wilson’s voice just slightly more human (while retaining paint-stripping power)? But I suspect that my basic reactions are typical.

  41. 41
    Elsa on 10 Mar 2010 #

    Sorry to harp on this, but “mambo” is hot latin music, whereas a “mamba” is a poisonous snake. It’s hard to believe a professional songwriter of many years experience made that mistake or that a professional singer with similar experience plus a stylish perm could’ve stumbled like that.

  42. 42
    anto on 10 Mar 2010 #

    Agree with Punctum about both film and song.
    Mannequin is indeed desperate in spite of having a guest appearance from the wonderful Estelle Getty.
    The song is boring. We seem to be in a phase where the production of number one hits is either glistening and appealingly superficial or just utter schlock such as this.

  43. 43
    Elsa on 10 Mar 2010 #

    As for the Airplane’s career, it’s amazing to me how errant their commercial instincts were. After scoring two huge hits featuring the soaring & distinctive vocals of Grace Slick how do they follow it up? With the shouty group vocal of “The Ballad of You & Me & Pooneil.” And then? With the single “Watch Her Ride” featuring PAUL KANTNER on lead vocal. Oh, and they had another great singer in the group called Marty Balin – where was he at this time? I wonder if this has anything to do with the hippie ethos the group were supposed to represent… it’s almost like they were making some kind of anti-capitalist statement.

  44. 44
    logged out Tracer Hand on 10 Mar 2010 #

    “If the world runs out of lovers, we’ll still have each other” is a pretty grim sentiment in a certain light.

  45. 45
    Patrick on 10 Mar 2010 #

    Grace Slick was the only Surrealistic Pillow-era member left by the time they did NGSUN (Paul Kantner lasted until 1984).

    Their last hit was the ghastly “It’s Not Enough” (US #12 in 1989). The follow-up to NGSUN was the # 9 “It’s Not Over (til it’s Over)”, which was voted worst single of the year in Rolling Stone.

  46. 46
    MikeMCSG on 10 Mar 2010 #

    #44 The back story behind the song actually makes it a little (just)more appealing. Albert Hammond’s ex-wife had been obstructing their divorce for a number of years and he and Warren wrote it to celebrate finally being able to marry.

  47. 47
    Billy Smart on 10 Mar 2010 #

    “Not surprisingly, you will search the archives of the British singles chart for “White Rabbit” and “Somebody To Love” in vain” – Not quite! Such was the extent to which Starshipmania was sweeping the UK in 1987, that a rerelease of White Rabbit managed one week at number 94 that summer.

  48. 48
    MikeMCSG on 10 Mar 2010 #

    #47 As you probably already know Billy the “Bubbling Under” or “Next 25” sections have never officially counted as hits because from 75 downwards the chart was tweaked to exclude records going down and favour new entries. Almost certainly WR was not the 94th best seller that week. And it wasn’t Starshipmania that put it there but its featuring in the film “Platoon”.

  49. 49
    Jimmy the Swede on 10 Mar 2010 #

    This was grim cheese coming courtesy of an old gal who should have stayed home with her bunny, white, spoiler or whatever else. It’s rather akin to Tina Charles coming back and trying to groove today. Just wrong.

  50. 50
    Rory on 10 Mar 2010 #

    @49: Kate Bush was 47 when she released Aerial to great acclaim. I know the comparison with NGSUN doesn’t do Starship and Slick any favours, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with making music at that age.

  51. 51
    punctum on 10 Mar 2010 #

    #49: Please avoid casual misogyny, Jimmy.

  52. 52
    thefatgit on 10 Mar 2010 #

    Purely for the puropses of statistics, we have a bunnyable candidate for the oldest female to reach the top spot. Think post-punk wank fantasy.

  53. 53
    Billy Smart on 10 Mar 2010 #

    B-b-but we’ve already done Lieutenant Pigeon!

  54. 54
    thefatgit on 10 Mar 2010 #

    *Shakes fist* Curse you Hilda Woodward!

    Of course I meant female vocalist, Billy.

  55. 55
    Alan Connor on 10 Mar 2010 #

    Here’s something to cheer you up while you try and listen to NGSUN. My friend’s mum bought two copies: one to send to her partner (a liberation theology preacher in South America) and another one to get put onto tape (she had no record player). I take it everyone has listened to the superior cover We Built This Starbucks?

  56. 56
    Billy Smart on 10 Mar 2010 #

    There’s also Half Man Half Biscuit’s superior ‘We Built This City On A Trad. Arr. Tune’, of course.

  57. 57
    LondonLee on 10 Mar 2010 #

    Think post-punk wank fantasy

    Pauline Murray had a #1 hit I didn’t know about???

  58. 58
    Tom on 10 Mar 2010 #

    Enough of this grubbiness! To get back to the music, can anyone confirm/deny that After Bathing At Baxter’s is rubbish? I’m sure I’ve read “neglected classic” takes on it – though you can find neglected classic takes on anything if you look hard enough…

  59. 59
    Pete on 10 Mar 2010 #

    All I have to say is it comes from Knee Deep In The Hoopla and album which I believe manages worst album title / worst cover with ease:


  60. 60
    Conrad on 10 Mar 2010 #

    Tom, After Bathing At Baxters is categorically not rubbish.

    In fact, it is the only album I have heard that truly crystallizes what I see as the ultimate haight-ashbury sound of west coast musicians jamming together and creating a psychedelic other worldliness. It is not as cliched ‘out there’ or as boring as a Grateful Dead record. It is far more inventive than the basic blues with a twist of Moby Grape.

    It is not keen but amateurish, like Big Brother and the Holding Company. And it is not a beautiful and luxuriant listening experience like Forever Changes.

    It is the sound of great musicians really trying to get to somewhere new and different. Do they make it? Sometimes. It’s hit and miss. It’s edgy, ambitious (one song attempts to precis Ulysses) sometimes – when everything comes together – quite brilliant. Don’t go looking for another White Rabbit or STL (neither were really airplane tunes anyway – Slick brought them with her from Great Society).

  61. 61
    rosie on 10 Mar 2010 #

    I wouldn’t say Baxter is rubbish, Tom. Not as startlingly and groundbreakingly good as Surrealistic Pillow, and it took a bit of working at. But I don’t think I could be bothered with it now and it has never made the transfer to CD for me.

  62. 62
    lonepilgrim on 10 Mar 2010 #

    there are some recordings of Jefferson Airplane from the sessions for the Volunteers album here for those who want to get an idea of what they sounded like:


  63. 63
    Snif on 10 Mar 2010 #

    Speaking of “We Built This City”, did anyone else experience this?

    There’s that bit during the instrumental where they drop in this faux DJ doing a spiel about San Francisco, like they just taped it off the radio and dropped it into the mix. One of the local radio stations here thought it would be a great idea to do their own bogus DJ doing the same thing about my hometown, and drop that into the mix instead (don’t know how they managed to get rid of the original). It was cringe inducing to the max, dude.

    As for Grace berating the German audience, one of the earliest issues of “Creem” that I bought in late ’77 had an account of an outdoor Starship gig gone wrong in Germany – for various reasons (including Grace wigging out) they didn’t appear, and the audience showed their displeasure by destroying the stage, PA and equipment. This might have ticked her off enough to give them some stick back next time they played in-country.

  64. 64
    Alfred Soto on 11 Mar 2010 #

    nd, at least if you were in the US there was all manner of stuff from ‘Waiting for a star to fall’ to all of Def Leppard’s hysteria hits coming right up over the next year or two. So, no. No end in sight!

    except the Def Leppard hits were mostly excellent.

  65. 65
    lord darlington on 11 Mar 2010 #

    Heart’s hits – esp. Alone – are also several leagues above this in execution, production, and have weird sensual powers to boot.

  66. 66
    wichita lineman on 11 Mar 2010 #

    After Bathing At Baxters – ok, maybe I should try harder, maybe it’s the psychedelic Dazzle Ships. I don’t think it’s “rubbish” but still think it must have felt like a dreadful letdown after Takes Off and the genuinely gorgeous, giddy, and psychedelic Surrealistic Pillow. The world, post Monterrey, was pretty much theirs for the taking after all, and they blew it.

    Wiki comes up with the splendid explanation that Baxters is “classified as psychedelic rock because it eschews the more commercial type pop songs, such as Somebody to Love”. I don’t think it does – Watch Her Ride has the structure and feel of a single, just not a good one, while Rejoyce (geddit?) is White Rabbit redux, only with Ulysses replacing Alice.

    I’m really not sold on it being more experimental than its predecessors, either; some of the songs sound like they should improve on repeated plays but – like the classic coke albums to come – Baxters does little more than loudly gesture significance (via shoutier vocals and squealier gtr) to suggest it was a worthy successor to S Pillow.

    No ‘neglected classic’, then. Love’s Four Sail on the other hand – the follow-up to Forever Changes – is almost always slated but, although the musical setting (hard rock with the odd Bacharach move) isn’t what Love fans probably wanted in 1969, it is consistently enjoyable and often (I’m With You, August, Nothing, Good Times) great.

  67. 67
    vinylscot on 11 Mar 2010 #

    Is “Forever Changes” (along with most of Nick Drake) not one of the most over-rated and retrospectively over-hyped albums of all time?

  68. 68
    thefatgit on 11 Mar 2010 #

    @67 That’ll be “Trout Mask Replica”

  69. 69
    lonepilgrim on 11 Mar 2010 #

    re 67/68 I struggle with the idea of ‘all-time classic’ albums. The designation makes me feel that listening to them is going to be like some kind of test. I’ve never listened to ‘Forever Changes’ or ‘Pet Sounds’ and although I’ve heard bits of Nick Drake and ‘Trout Mask Replica’ I’ve never felt compelled to listen to them. I engage with music as a fan not because it is ‘essential listening’

  70. 70
    thefatgit on 11 Mar 2010 #

    That’s precisely my point. I too have a problem with tastemakers who retroactively invent the past as a series of milestones that we ought to acknowledge. Personally, I find TMR incredibly hard to listen to, yet it still crops up on those 100 Greatest Albums lists. I honestly can’t think why.

    Having said that, I can understand why some might have a particular fondness for Nick Drake, for the same reasons people like Kurt Cobain or Jim Morrison.

  71. 71
    Billy Smart on 11 Mar 2010 #

    To these ears, the least deserving five-star all-time “classic” album can only be the first Clash LP…

  72. 72
    Tom on 11 Mar 2010 #

    They’re just good records, there’s nothing scary about them, and nothing that says you have to like ’em either. (I love Pet Sounds, enjoy Nick Drake, can take or leave Forever Changes. TMR is a thornier issue as people use it to dismiss ‘experimental’ music, but you also get the feeling it’s standing in for all other vaguely difficult music on these lists – like, if people love Trout Mask so much why isn’t the list also full of other far-out stuff. And then there’s people sharpening their pens to say “DIFFICULT? Only if you have no ears”… basically it’s a record there’s a lot of rhetoric around, which is surely not what Beefheart intended. I certainly find other stuff by him easier going.)

  73. 73
    admin on 11 Mar 2010 #

    oddly i was thinking recently it might be interesting to host ‘which of these if any are actually any good’ polls pitching a list of ‘stone cold classic’ (ie critic-canonised 5star) against a list of ‘government issued’ (ie popular ‘everyone’ bought a copy) albums.

    problematic though the categories are (deliberately), i suspect drawing up those lists wouldn’t actually be hard, until the final few % which might become contested

  74. 74
    admin on 11 Mar 2010 #

    @63 “One of the local radio stations here thought it would be a great idea to do their own bogus DJ…”

    “The song was also released without the traffic report and D.J. interaction during the song’s bridge (the B-side of the promotional 45-rpm record). Local stations were encouraged to make local versions”

  75. 75
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 11 Mar 2010 #

    Two of my favourite claims about the first Clash LP:

    i (greil marcus): if you listen closely you can hear that they’ve been listening obsessively to trout mask replica
    ii (mark perry): if you listen closely you can hear that they’ve been listening obsessively to EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER

  76. 76
    Conrad on 11 Mar 2010 #

    You’re obsessed with ELP!

  77. 77
    punctum on 11 Mar 2010 #

    Response round-ups:

    #67 and #68: no, and no.

    Just because canons are canons and by their nature can seem oppressive and annoying doesn’t necessarily make their contents automatically wrong.

    #69: The best way is to forget the school classroom shoving-down-throat approach that critics sometimes apply. As with most great literature, these records’ real pleasures are to be derived if you come across them by yourself, spontaneously, make up your own mind about them and try to forget the weeds of forlorn authority that have grown around them. Or, as I try to do on my albums blog, try to grow new flowers in the same place.

    I first heard TMR when I was five (my dad bought it and played it to me) and thought it was great – colourful, wacky, crazy, noisy, totally in keeping with the cartoons I was watching on TV. Ditto Ornette, Stockhausen etc. In all cases I started early without knowing about their “legacy” or “importance” and that’s always healthy – encourages a fresher perspective.

    #66: Four Sail love seconded.

    #75: iii (my dad in 1977): if you listen closely you can hear that they’ve been listening obsessively to CORNELIUS CARDEW PEOPLE’S MUSIC

  78. 78
    thefatgit on 11 Mar 2010 #

    Ok, so let me get this straight…I might have a better handle on TMR if I watch some Bugs Bunny and Sylvester & Tweety?

  79. 79
    Rory on 11 Mar 2010 #

    @77 Same for me with Nick Drake. I didn’t know there was all this critical argy-bargy going on, or that his UK revival in the 2000s was driven by adverts, or that his premature death meant that liking his music somehow made one a bandwagon jumper; I just read a passing positive mention online, borrowed Five Leaves Left from the library, and fell hard for “River Man”.

  80. 80
    lonepilgrim on 11 Mar 2010 #

    #77 Good points – I continue to be in awe of Then Play Long. You almost persuaded me to listen to a Val Doonican album! I was pleasantly surprised to see the man was still with us when he appeared at the memorial for Johnnie Dankworth recently

  81. 81
    punctum on 11 Mar 2010 #

    #78: Definitely – I’ve got a CD somewhere of the incidental music Carl Stalling did for the Warners cartoons and if you find it and give it a listen you’d be surprised at the stylistic overlap, even though Stalling was using the studio orchestra rather than the furiously-schooled Magic Band.

  82. 82
    punctum on 11 Mar 2010 #

    #80: Thanks LP!

    Another really good Val Doonican album is his 1972 Morning In The Country; we heard the single “Morning” on Pick Of The Pops while travelling back down to London after the New Year and were struck by how downright unusual a record it was, in both structure and subject matter. Not long after that we stumbled across the album in the charity shop for a quid and it was a wise buy, including as it does Val’s quite mesmerising reading of Kermit’s “Bein’ Green.”

  83. 83
    thefatgit on 11 Mar 2010 #

    #81…the story about how DVV and Zappa created this oppressive creative climate, was what drew me to listen to the album in the first place. Then upon hearing TMR, I suppose through the fog of critical opinion, somewhere in my late teens, I found no way in. I guess to a 5 year old, it would sound just as anarchic as Stalling’s and Franklyn’s Looney Tunes scores. You might just persuade me yet, Marcello!

  84. 84
    Tom on 11 Mar 2010 #

    As for my own canonical album I am, shall we say, ‘yet to appreciate’: Astral Weeks.

  85. 85
    wichita lineman on 11 Mar 2010 #

    Re 83 – Frank Zappa pioneered self-hating pop, a breakthrough of sorts.

    Re 84 – this may be the only case of my trying to ‘get into’ an album on a twice yearly basis and, eventually, it worked! It’s all about the mossy romantic atmosphere, in production and lyrics, for me – “between the viaducts of your dreams” being one of the more elliptically wonderful lines, the strings arriving at the end of Madame George, and the baby-baby-baby coda to Cypress Avenue being two other magical moments. I’m still waiting for my entry point to Steely Dan/Talking Heads/Incredible String Band/Radiohead/Joanna Newsom.

    Punctum – I was hoping to draw out your thoughts on After Bathing At Baxters – or post Surrealistic Pillow Airplane in general – but I’m glad you love Four Sail. I’ve always been intrigued by the overlooked albums of canonic artists, a hobby which has led me to buy Yes Please by Happy Mondays (thumbs down) and Wings’ Red Rose Speedway (thumbs aloft)?

    Those ‘essential’ lists are guaranteed downers if they parrot the same line. The Swedish magazine Pop did their 100 best lps in the late 90s and the top 3 included Plastic Ono Band (above any Beatles album) with There’s A Riot Goin’ On at no.1. Shame I couldn’t read their attempts to justify this but I admired their gall.

    I remember when Forever Changes and Pet Sounds were marginals on these lists (turn of the eighties) rather than boring perennials. I loved the Beach Boys, so getting into Pet Sounds was a no brainer, but Forever Changes drew me in with the beauty of its song titles – Alone Again Or, Andmoreagain, Between Clark And Hilldale, The Red Telephone – alone, and I bought it at Bonaparte’s in Croydon in 1981 without having heard a note by Love or Arthur Lee.

  86. 86
    Tom on 11 Mar 2010 #

    What’s fascinating to me is the historiography of the canon – as Wichita says there was a time back in the late 70s, early 80s, when Forever Changes wasn’t a given and had to be fought for, but once on it, it stuck. Once you’re in the canon the question becomes “can we justify leaving it off” not “should we put it in”. And back during the formation period there were simply far fewer records everyone had heard.

    So you get records like Odessey and Oracle (say) which everyone now seems to like but which obviously missed a few crucial votes.

  87. 87
    wichita lineman on 11 Mar 2010 #

    Sergeant Pepper is a weird exception – it suffers for having been the undisputed best album for so many years. Now almost no one seems to claim it’s even the best Beatles album.

    Tom Hibbert’s The Perfect Collection from 1983, from memory, ended up with a standard set of results but the breakdowns of individual writers’ lists was fascinating. One writer included Big Star’s Sister Lovers (all of 5 years after it was released!), Five Leaves Left, Starsailor, Soft Machine 2, Astral Weeks, Odessey & Oracle, with his 1 & 2 being Pet Sounds and Forever Changes. American bloke, never heard of him before or since, but he was way ahead of the nineties consensus on most of them. Hibbert himself was always going to buck the trend, voting for Paul Revere & The Raiders’ Midnite Ride and claiming PJ Proby’s I Can’t Make It Alone as the best single ever made. I can dig that!

  88. 88
    Tom on 11 Mar 2010 #

    It hasn’t dropped out of the canon though has it?

    I think Sgt Pepper’s suffered because the people who lived through its impact became more and more diluted in the voting pool. It’s much harder now – even though far more has been written about it – to grasp the event-ness of SP’s release, you just have to accept it, and it becomes something that people resent slightly.

  89. 89
    rosie on 11 Mar 2010 #

    wichita @ 87: I’d dispute that Sergeant Pepper has been undisputed ‘best album’ – I know I’m far from alone in regarding Revolver as superior and it’s certainly topped ‘best-of’ lists in the past. I may be alone perhaps in regarding Rubber Soul as better than Pepper too.

    I’ve never had any problems getting Steely Dan. My arm needed twisting a little (but only a little) to get into Talking Heads. Radiohead goes Whoosh! right past my head and Joanna Newsom gives me toothache.

    I suppose if I give enthusiastic support for the canonical statuses of Tapestry and Ziggy Stardust I’m showing my age.

  90. 90
    Tom on 11 Mar 2010 #

    Sgt Pepper last topped a list in the late 80s, so I think that’s what WL is talking about by “suffered” since.

    Is Newsom canon? Blimey :)

  91. 91

    The first big massive public canonwork I recall looking at in bookshops was a late 70s book called the HUNDRED [something something] ROCK ALBUMS: Gambaccini was involved, and it was scorned by the kind of writer I was then impressed by because Nick Kent and John Peel declined to take part. (Will hunt around and see if I can find it…)

  92. 92

    I assume this is the list in question, from 1978…

  93. 93

    I think the book in question was called “Rock Critics’ Choice: the Top 100 Albums” — later editions expanding this to 200? Be interesting to see who was on the list of critics. Xgau features his own 1978 list for the project on his own website, and discusses his choices.

  94. 94

    And here’s a blogpost (by Steven Rubio) which discusses the book, names some of its contributors (inc.Forever Changes fan Mark P, cited by me above!), and makes me wonder if Astral Weeks’s appearance at No.4 in this list wasn’t a bit of a surprise result at the time — not that it wasn’t liked, just that stoners er i mean voters didn’t expect their pref.would coalesce to put AW so high…

  95. 95
    thefatgit on 11 Mar 2010 #

    #89 Rosie, far be it from me to sway you regarding Radiohead, but they are a fascinating band for me. My way in to them came around the time “Fake Plastic Trees” was released as a single. I then went about buying up their albums each time a new one came along. I’m not surprised they are regarded as canonical now, and if I was asked what their appeal was, I guess it’s watching how they have progressed as a band from humble grungey rock beginnings (Creep) to sonic experimentalists today (These Are My Twisted Words), underpinned by a social conscience that is more restrained than that of Bono or Springsteen.

  96. 96
    swanstep on 11 Mar 2010 #

    Wow, this thread has blasted off (!) hasn’t it?

    Canon formation is interesting and tricky. Consdier the recent fortunes of country/alt-country/bluegrass. Soome of my favorite records of the last ten years have been from this area, esp. Loretta Lynn’s Van lear Rose and Jenny Lewis’s Rabbit Fur Coat. I fricking loved and still love those records…. and I *thought* everyone else did too (they got *record of the year*-type reviews when they were first released), and I thought they were well on the way to being canon. I was very surprised then when end-of-decade lists came out late last year to see them hardly mentioned.

    What’s happened? I conjecture that over the same period, as part of the same increased general interest in country/bluegrass, the Carter family and Johnny Cash are now much more canonical for general/rock/pop music fans than they used to be. Everyone listens to and likes and really *gets* that stuff now whereas even in the ’90s only a much narrower group really listened to or knew about any of it. This new deep enthusiasm and canonization may have, somewhat perversely, drained away much of the original enthusiasm that attended Jenny Lewis, et al..

    I *think* something similar may have happened with Prince in the ’80s etc.: stuff that seemed evidently canonical at the time ended up undermining its own status over the next ten years or so because it inspired lots of people to dig deeper into james brown and p-funk etc., and then,for a lot of people ‘who needs prince?’ became a very good question. My strong sense is that Pet Sounds, Forever Changes, and Odyssey and Oracle has similar trajectories: for a decade or two after their initial semi-successes they were relatively obscure records that musicians freely strip-mined, then they got great cd releases in the 90s at which point they became truly canonical and all the strip-miners (everyone from lloyd cole to kravitz to weezer) suffered a serious downgrade. Or something.

    @89 Rosie. (i) I think a *lot* of people prefer Rubber Soul to Sgt Pepper (I do). I fact, I think it’s pretty hard not to end up rating Rubber Soul over revolver. RS is pure joy, and if one rejects SP for its pretension etc. then almost inevitably R starts to get tarred with the same brush. RS, however, is complete paydirt and is at the bottom of the slippery slope away from SP’s alleged pompousness and calculation. (ii) I played the first 5 songs or so from Tapestry at a party recently and it almost drove people completely mad! Everyone knew the songs, but had no idea who it was, and indeed couldn’t remember why the songs sounded so familiar…. So, I gather Tapestry isn’t at all on the radar of anyone born after, say, the mid ’70s. The Bacharach and Carpenters waves of appreciation of the last decade or so haven’t helped that record at all apparently. Maybe Glee will resurrect it.

  97. 97
    LondonLee on 11 Mar 2010 #

    a hobby which has led me to buy Yes Please by Happy Mondays (thumbs down) and Wings’ Red Rose Speedway (thumbs aloft)?

    I do this with writers, I read all of Orwell’s other novels before I got to 1984. I think this goes with the music fans dread of wanting to seem obvious – like picking Sgt. Pepper for greatest album ever made (Rosie, for years it pretty much topped every single list I ever saw – it was the Citizen Kane of albums. It was the aftermath of punk that knocked it off it’s perched as people’s perspective on intricate concept albums changed and they switched to the more pure-pop pleasures of ‘Revolver’)

    Double thumbs up for ‘Rabbit Fur Coat’ from me too. I bought it on red vinyl the other week (already had the CD too)

  98. 98
    Tom on 11 Mar 2010 #

    I’d say Rubber Soul’s “pretensions” (soul musicians! comedians! French people!) are as glaring as Pepper’s, probably carried off less well, but I like both records a great deal. Revolver’s my favourite I’d guess.

    Prince’s canonicity mostly not helped by, er, Prince. But he’s still very much in there I’d say.

    I have that 200 albums book, it’s in France though.

  99. 99
    lonepilgrim on 11 Mar 2010 #

    I’d recommend Marcello’s reappraisal of ‘Sergeant Pepper’ over at his blog; it made me warm to an album I thought I’d never want to hear again.
    I haven’t listened to ‘Rubber Soul’ for a while but ‘What goes on’ and ‘Run for your life’ are a bit weak in comparison to the rest of the tracks (against stiff competition).
    It may reflect the effect of iTunes shuffle that the Beatles albums I enjoy most these days are the more varied ones such as the White Album, ‘Past Masters 2’ and ‘Magical Mystery Tour’.
    I used to be totally obsessed with Van Morrison and ‘Astral Weeks’ back in the 80s but now don’t have a single track by him on iTunes. That may be because I’d rather listen to a complete album by him (as I would choose to listen to Dark Side of the Moon or, er, Space Ritual) rather than isolated tracks mixed in with other stuff.
    I’ve never understood why Ziggy Stardust gets SO much love for the music (although I appreciate its significance for other reasons). ‘Blonde on Blonde’ and ‘Sign of the Times’ aren’t my favourite albums by those artists – although I rate them highly.
    Is one of the problems with a canon of popular music is that each album is a unique artefact whereas connoisseurs of orchestral music and jazz can split hairs over different interpretations of the same work?
    Having said that the appetite for alternate takes and remastered versions may appeal to a similar impulse.

    I think another reason for my aversion to ‘classic albums’ is that if I buy ‘Kind of Blue’ and say I like it, the response will be ‘Well, Duh!’ I want to think my tastes are more discerning and individual than they really are.

    Oh, and I loved ‘Rabbit Fur Coat’ as well

  100. 100
    Tom on 11 Mar 2010 #

    Ziggy S is great but it’s something like my (counts fingers) 7th? 8th? favourite Bowie album.

  101. 101
    LondonLee on 11 Mar 2010 #

    I’ve always thought that Hunky Dory>>>Ziggy Stardust and Highway 61>>> Blonde on Blonde.

    Sign O’The Times is still tops though.

  102. 102
    Tom on 12 Mar 2010 #

    A post to allow further comment posse canon talk:


  103. 103
    Rory on 12 Mar 2010 #

    @85 It wasn’t my way in (that was “Creep”, way back when it came out), but probably my favourite Radiohead moment was hearing “The Pyramid Song” over the radio for the first time, just as I got home; I sat in my parked car to hear it all the way through, and thought it sounded impossibly beautiful. Maybe it would to a newcomer, too. My other favourite moment was listening to Kid A while driving into Melbourne after dark, watching the rear headlights of the car in front nudging left and right in time to it as the city lights gradually built around us.

    @97 I remembered the Sgt Peppers turning point being 1987, coincidentally enough, when all the 20th anniversary CD release hype (with accompanying TV documentaries) sent a whole new generation scurrying to hear it and left many thinking sure, it’s good, but it’s not BEST ALBUM EVER good. It had “A Day in the Life”, but even Magical Mystery Tour had an “I am the Walrus”. That was around the time Revolver became my firm favourite, after initial infatuations with Abbey Road and the White Album – possibly because it felt like the fulcrum on which early Beatles and late Beatles turned, bringing together the best of both.

    Hunky Dory>>>Ziggy Stardust, for sure.

  104. 104
    Jimmy the Swede on 12 Mar 2010 #

    “#49: Please avoid casual misogyny, Jimmy.”

    Sorry, MC, I can’t let this one go. “Misogyny” indicates a “hatred or contempt of women or girls”. My comments at 49 (“old gal”) comes nowhere near this. Ageist, perhaps. But Grace’s gender, I assure you, was not my target. I am equally as scathing at “old lags” doing likewise.

  105. 105
    punctum on 12 Mar 2010 #

    Ageism is also not on, young Jim.

  106. 106
    Jimmy the Swede on 12 Mar 2010 #

    The Swede on the cusp of 50 can accept this.

  107. 107
    punctum on 12 Mar 2010 #

    #85 – After Bathing At Baxter’s reminds me of Spandau Ballet.

    What am I on about? The notion that the group are trying so damn hard to go out there; they don’t quite achieve what I assume they were aiming for but somehow arrive at something or somewhere else. More endearing than envelope-pushing a record, I think – “How Suite It Is,” indeed – but “rejoyce” is better than John Huston’s The Dead and it’s a very entertaining mess of a listen. Having just done Dylan’s Self Portrait for TPL I’m quite warmly inclined towards ambitious albums that don’t quite hold together or reach their target.

    #89 – Joanna Newsom induces a moderate, dull ache in my left shoulder.

  108. 108
    wichita lineman on 12 Mar 2010 #

    Good Spandau call. Likewise, Happy Mondays were apparently trying to sound like the Rolling Stones, which is almost impossible for me to hear; only the slide guitar on songs like The Egg hints that they were aiming at a Beggars Banquet/Let It Bleed sound and gloriously missing the mark.

    Number one in the canon of bad albums*, Self Portrait was one of the first albums I listened to on Spotify – always intrigued but never enough to splash out a tenner or more – and I was shocked by its forays into what is unashamedly sweet, straight pop: strings, femme backing vocals, Dylan’s vocals lost entirely for the opening titles beauty All The Tired Horses. Again, not a lost classic, but an intriguing left turn, and 3 or 4 songs are strong enough to suggest Dylan’s later suggestion that he only released it to piss off all the Clinton Heylins is (for once) him bowing to (blinkered) critical opinion. Now, I’ll see what Punctum made of it…

    *surely it should be The Beat Goes On by Vanilla Fudge. Or Neither Fish Nor Flesh.

  109. 109
    hectorthebat on 2 Feb 2015 #

    Critic watch:

    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    NME (UK) – The 100 Best Songs of the 1980s (2012) 94
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  110. 110
    Jane Lesley Wall on 15 Mar 2020 #

    Nothing Gonna Stop Us Now and What A Wonderful World Released On 9th May Thursday 2014 on Jane Lesley Wall Birthday also Cilla Presented an Bafta Award also on my Sonya Sara Parr Birthday on 13th May Thursday Jane was thrilled to bits

  111. 111
    Jane Lesley Wall on 5 Jan 2021 #

    9th May 1968 Songs are what a wonderful world by Louis Armstrong

  112. 112
    Jane Lesley Wall on 5 Jan 2021 #

    9th May 1968 Songs are what a wonderful world by Louis Armstrong Lone Stone nothing gonna stop us now those were the days

  113. 113
    Jane Lesley Wall on 5 Jan 2021 #

    9th May 1968 Songs are what a wonderful world by Louis Armstrong Lone Stone nothing gonna stop us now those were the days on Jane Lesley Wall

  114. 114
    Jane Lesley Wall on 5 Jan 2021 #

    9th May 1968 Songs are what a wonderful world by Louis Armstrong Lone Stone nothing gonna stop us now those were the days on Jane Lesley Wall on Jane’s birthday

  115. 115
    Jane Lesley Wall on 4 Feb 2021 #

    On Jane’s Birthday on the 9th May 1968 Thursday

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