Roadmaster – Sweet Music (1978)
I bought this for one song alone – album opener ‘It Doesn’t Mean A Thing’. With overtones of ELO and Styx, this song is 3 minutes and 23 seconds of absolute pomp rock mastery. So much cool shit going on in it; harmony guitars, string section, sweet harmony vocals and 14 seconds of what could possibly be one of the greatest guitar solos laid to tape. Actually, the 7 second lead up to the solo is fantastic, too, the way everything drops out except for piano so that when the solo kicks in it’s a real air-drum/guitar moment. Guitarist Rick Benick has a Buck Dharma from Blue Oyster Cult vibe, at least on this solo, with a real fluid, almost bouncy feel. I won’t bore you with the rest of the album because I don’t think it’s amazing – couple of OK numbers, but ultimately pretty forgettable. Not ‘It Doesn’t Mean a Thing’, though – every time I chuck that song on I end up playing it at least 5 times in a row. I know you want some trivial type shit, so here ya go; bass player Toby Myers went on to play with John Mellencamp from ’83 til ’98 and Steve Riley from W.A.S.P. and L.A. Guns was Roadmaster’s drummer on the album previous to this – I bloody love that guy! And now I’ve listened to the song another 4 times. Fuck! Might as well make it an even 10 for the day, I guess.
AC/DC – Dirty Deeds Done Dirty Cheap (1976)
Produced by Vanda & Young
Can you believe their American record company wouldn’t release this version of the album back in ’76? That’s a dirty deed if ever there was one! This album rules and the Australian release is THE definitive version. It’s no Highway to Hell or Powerage, but fuck me – what is?! As far as I’m concerned, this is AC/DC’s most Australian sounding album – rough around the edges but with killer material. Bon Scott’s charisma and personality shine through in every song. His delivery is so idiosyncratic and all the little ad-libs and screams make his vocals absolutely unique. A lot of people hate the cover art to this, but it’s my favourite of all the AC/DC covers. I used to stare at it for ages as a kid. For some reason I always got the feeling that the pub featured in the art was in Bendigo. I don’t know why – I love all those old pubs in Bendigo and this just looks like one of those old Gold Rush pubs – no frills and no renovations, just rough and stripped back – like this album. One more point about the US version of this that came out in ’81 – it didn’t include ‘Jailbreak’! What friggen genius made that decision? Bloody record companies.
Siouxsie and the Banshees – The Scream (1978)
Produced by Steve Lillywhite
Outstandingly unique sounding debut album. A little less bleak sounding than the follow-up, Join Hands, however both albums have a dense and oppressive sound thanks to guitarist John McKay and drummer Kenny Morris, who both left after the second album. The Banshees would never sound as claustrophobic after they left. I mean claustrophobic in a good way – it makes for a pretty harrowing listen. There are some moments that hint at pop and traditional song structures, such as the classic ‘Hong Kong Garden’, but there’s a menacing undertone even under the lightest moments on this and the slashing guitar is just relentless. Then there’s Siouxsie herself – another total original with her breathtaking appearance and unmistakable vocal style. Actually, the whole band looked friggen cool as at the time of this album. Influential stuff.
Survivor – Eye of the Tiger (1982)
37 years later and Eye of the Tiger still remains my favourite song of all time. You know some songs that you love so you play the shit out of them and then after awhile you’re just sick of it? Not this thing – I just never tire of it. I’ve already played it 5 times today and I’ll probably do it another 3 at least. Even without a guitar solo, this is the perfect song. Love that rit-picketing pulsating guitar shit that starts the song off, and then when the main staccato riff comes in with the cymbal grabs – fucken gold and it’s not even the best part of the song. When the drums come in – get outta the way! That’s some serious head-boppin’ shit goin’ on there. The guitar tone mixed with the piano is par excellence – in fact, it sounds so good, it makes me wanna get a piano player in MY fucken band. And the tambourine hit on every second snare hit? WHAT THE FUCK! I’m so friggen excited writing this and listening to it at the same time that my eyes have gone all watery like I’m gunna bloody cry! Soaring harmony guitars in the second verse and then the third verse where the pulsating guitar stops for the first half…and then comes back in for the second half – friggen genius! I love every single second of this song. Fucken Dave Bickler’s vocals! Not as technically proficient as his replacement Jimi Jamison, but he has a soulfulness that makes him my favourite out of the two. The lyrics themselves? An 80s cheese masterpiece. I’m running out of space and I haven’t even gotten past the first song, so I’ll wrap it up quick…the rest of the album is bloody good too! I don’t like the ballad, but Children of the Night, Hestitation Dance, I’m Not That Man Anymore – fuck this album rules. In fact all the Bickler-era albums rule. Sorry Jimi.
The Jam – All Mod Cons (1978)
Produced by Vic Coppersmith-Heaven
Part of the one-two punch of classic albums – this and the follow-up, ‘Setting Sons’, are superb. Every song is memorable and there’s so much variation in moods. There’s a couple of acoustic ballads and, would you believe, I actually like them – I guess that’s testament to the calibre of Paul Weller’s song writing talent. He was a great storyteller and nowhere more so than on ‘Down in the Tubestation At Midnight’ – everytime I listen to that song I feel sick in the stomach about the bloke and his wife’s plight at the hands of violent turdburgers. Weller was just 19 when he wrote this album – that is also sickening – 19 and you write songs as good as these? Get outta here, wouldya! I remember sitting in my bedroom in the house I was renting in Clayton in 1992 and working out the riff to ‘It’s Too Bad’ – I always had plans to cover it in a band but it just never happened. It was always a case of ‘What Jam song should we do?’ but there were always too many good ones to choose from, so we did none, ha ha.
Written by Karl Mautner.
Read more of Karl’s entertaining and insightful thoughts on classic albums at the Rise of the Rat Facebook page, and Karl’s own Instagram page.