The Hippie Rock Paradigm
I’ve been a paying member of Spotify for about four months now. While I mostly use it to furnish some unobtrusive yet stimulating instrumental backing while writing, it also serves as a great vehicle for music I’d enjoy but not actually buy/download (whether it’s current mainstream pop or something ephemeral/fascinating like Barry Gray’s Stand By For Adverts). Sure, Spotify makes it easy for people to upload what’s already on their hard drives so they can hear their old faves on their smart phones/tablets/whatever, but you know I’m not interested in that. Weird crap stuck off in the corners fascinates me the most, and in that respect Spotify’s playlist assembling aspect serves as a fabulous way to explore the unknown.
Just for fun, I did some playlists drawn from rock critic Robert Christgau’s year-by-year listings of his favorite albums, as listed in the back of his book Rock Albums of the ’70s: A Critical Guide. Although a few of the albums he mentions in the lists are out of print, I was able to locate most of them and include from each a sample track (a song Christgau mentioned in his original review, a hit single, or even a quirky title that jumped out at me). Taste-wise, Christgau is definitely one of those typical rock-crit types who think music is somehow more meaningful if it’s played a) on real instruments, b) live, or c) by a grizzled old black man. Even so, he recommended some refreshingly off-beat, eclectic choices within these years, especially once the heavy-handed Jimi/Janis/Doors ’60s rock he favors gives way to more organic, worthwhile musical styles. Miles Davis’ meandering jazz-rock of this era is well-represented (dissonant and not too easy on the ears, but interesting at least), along with lots of homey hippie-rock by overlooked artists like Delaney & Bonnie, Joy Of Cooking, Grin and Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. I found myself grooving along with the Soul/Funk, Country and Blues he selected as well – especially in 1973, a year that one wouldn’t normally think of as a musically outstanding one.
If you have Spotify installed, clicking the links below will take you on a one-way trip to hippie-rock nirvana:
- Christgau’s Picks – 1970 (48 tracks)
- Christgau’s Picks – 1971 (39 tracks)
- Christgau’s Picks – 1972 (41 tracks)
- Christgau’s Picks – 1973 (36 tracks)
While listening to these, try to resist the urge to roll a joint and say “heavy, man” – and enjoy a sampling of the imagery from these years’ album covers (a very orange and brown era in LP design, I might add).