John and Yoko with short hair

Playlist: The Best of John Lennon

John Lennon released four solo albums before the Beatles officially broke up, but three of these were experimental recordings made with Yoko Ono and the fourth was a live album recorded in Toronto with an under-rehearsed band featuring Eric Clapton. These four albums are generally dismissed as non-canonical, and they were not included in Spotify’s recent addition.

His first “proper” solo album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, came out in December 1970 and remains the best album released by any former Beatle. It’s raw, honest, and brutal. 1971′s Imagine is very good as well, but unfortunately for John it was all downhill from there. Most of his recorded output between 1972 and 1975 is…spotty, to put it gently. Lennon was uncomfortable with the natural sound of his own voice and buried it in echo and reverb and schlocky production. He took a break from the music business until 1980 when he was inspired to go back in the studio to record Double Fantasy and enough outtakes for the posthumously released Milk and Honey.

Here are the 17 best songs from what’s available now on Spotify.

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George

All the Videos From CONAN’s George Harrison Week

If you’ve seen A Hard Day’s Night then you know George was definitely the coolest Beatle. If you’ve seen any clip of him you know it. And so it’s fitting that we celebrate George Harrison Week with Conan O’Brien and a cast of friends, family and admirers.

Beck Kicks it off with “Wah Wah” and the influence of All Things Must Pass on Beck’s sound become so obvious now.

Next is George’s old pal, Paul Simon with a tasty cover of “Here Comes the Sun.”

Contrast that with this version of the George Harrison and Paul Simon playing it together in 1976 and you can FEEL the years wash over you.

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Pet Sun

Pet Sun – Feel Like I’m Going Away

Guess what other flavor of rock isn’t dead, Gene Simmons? Garage Rock! Yes, there are lots of bands out there banging away on rough guitar riffs and smashface drum parts. I like Toronto’s Pet Sun, made up of a gang of high school pals who just can’t let go of the rock.

The band’s first official release is out on September 27 and includes this gloriously bizarre video for the single, “Feel Like I’m Going Away.”

Follow these goons on Facebook, I guess.

HANDSOMEJACK_Band1

Handsome Jack – Right On

While we all loved KISS as kids we also now know Gene Simmons is an unbearable blowhard and apparently a dipshit too. How else do we explain his claim that rock and roll is dead? Maybe if you never go to clubs or talk to people who pay attention to independent music or have no access to the Internet or record stores or…

Not only is rock and roll still very much alive but classic rock (Simmons’ own genre) is chuggling along just fine too. Exhibit A: Handsome Jack

Heavy, fuzzy, muddy guitar tones sloppily bump up against a wheezy Hammond organ and leave you with the distinct feeling of dudes in jean vests slowly lumbering around the floor while their cougars prowl the perimeter. No pretense, no skinny pants, no Swatches to be seen. This is your dad’s rock and roll. And your dad was cooler than you.

Stream the full album here

Follow Handsome Jack on Facebook

(photo credit: Natalie Solotes)

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Stream the new Asteroid No. 4 album

You can now stream the entire new album from Asteroid No. 4. What I love about this band is their inclusion of sounds beyond “drone” in their exploration of psychedelic music–but rest assured, there’s some drone in there too. It’s just that there were as many weirdos on the farms back in the day as there were in warehouses and these guys know it.

Dig this 45 minute tour of Cosmic American Music while summer fades to fall and the nights take over the days. There’s a golden chill in the air, so warm up with a nip of whiskey and a tug on your pipe.

Read our interview with the band:
12 YEAR ITCH: GLORIOUS NOISE INTERVIEW WITH THE ASTEROID NO. 4

Chuck D and Mavis Staples

Chuck D and Mavis Staples bring the pride in new video

Video: Chuck D – “Give We The Pride” ft. Mavis Staples

Chuck D continues to rule. The Public Enemy leader comes to Chicago to hang out with Mavis Staples and to showcase 2120 South Michigan Avenue, the former home of Chess Records. Also featured prominently in the video is Tribune/Sound Opinions critic Greg Kot’s Mavis biography, I’ll Take You There. Chuck’s new album, The Black In Man, is available now via Rap Central Station.

Rock and roll can change your life.