It’s hard to convince anyone how great the Bee Gees really were because of three words: Saturday, night, and fever. But the reality is that there are two vastly different eras of the band, the Beatle-inspired early years and the band’s more famous disco period. The former made them occasional chart visitors while the latter made them superstars. For half a decade in the ’70s, there was barely a moment where you wouldn’t hear a song by or featuring the talents of the Brothers Gibb. And when it wasn’t them, their younger brother had a few chart toppers to consider.
I grew up in a time where it was socially encouraged among rock circles to despise disco, and for a while, I dutifully voiced my disdain for the genre. I’ve since come to terms with that premature dismissal, but I remember how hard it was during that time contending with my love of early Bee Gees albums. Prior to Saturday Night Fever, I had amassed a few of those original albums and enjoyed them immensely. But when the band became fixtures for the gold medallion crowd and when the “Gibb Sound” seemed to be on every other song on the radio, I purged those initial records and for years forgot how wonderful they were. I recently began to pull some of those early Bee Gees albums back out and there’s one that stands out as the best of the lot and is prime for (re)discovery.
Spread apart two vinyl sides and packaged in soft red felt, Odessa was intended to stand alongside other definitive statements like Sgt. Pepper’s, Tommy, Disraeli Gears, etc., but nearly forty years later, it gets barely a mention when experts compile their lists of essential albums of that period. What’s more, Odessa can easily best many of those albums in terms of scope, execution and sheer timelessness.
After three albums, similarly themed on the glories of women, partying, and the joys of being dudes in a rock band, the underbelly of Van Halen’s debauchery began to show itself on their fourth, the impeccable and often overlooked Fair Warning.
There were signs of trouble on the third, Women & Children First, but they were hidden in teenage character studies (“Have you seen junior’s grades?”) and in the women they had no trouble bedding (“Yeah, that’s it. A little more to the right.”). But after enjoying the fruits of their labors, Van Halen suddenly began to notice that when you’re provided with the keys to the kingdom, you also get a better understanding of why the doors were locked in the first place.
The story goes that Mott The Hoople, who by 1971 had released a pair of albums that were overlooked and underwhelming, were about to be dropped by their record company if the label didn’t see some sales results. Most bands would approach their third album with an increased awareness of having to make that leap towards financial independence.
From the sounds of it, Brain Capers doesn’t put too much consideration into giving their record company—or their own bank accounts—a much-needed lift. Instead, it is a middle finger to anyone projecting higher expectations, and they do it with fuck-all rock arrangements and Ian Hunter‘s burgeoning growth as a songwriter.
It should come as no surprise that the record ultimately did nothing to fatten their wallets, but it sure sounds like those that were listening—specifically one David Bowie—used Brain Capers as their own model of excellence. The album remains such an incredible document that once you’ve stumbled on to it, you’ll wonder how you could have overlooked it for so long.
Any decent rock and roll fanatic knows the story about Roky Erickson. They’ve heard the stories of his struggles with mental illness. They know the tale of his unjust incarceration(s). They understand that his legacy has been assured an honorable nod, thanks in large part by one of the only decent tribute compilations ever released (Where The Pyramid Meets The Eye) and the caliber of contributors on it.
Yet there is a good possibility that you only know Roky from only one song, “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” from his band 13th Floor Elevators. And there is a good possibility that you only know that one song from the scene in High Fidelity when Laura leaves Rob and he cranks up the stereo, blaring that classic Elevators’ tune as she retrieves the last personal belongings from their apartment.
As good as that song is—and as wonderful as its source album is (1966’s The Psychedelic Sounds Of)—it isn’t the band’s defining moment. That moment would come with the second long-player, Easter Everywhere, an album that not only continues the 13th Floor Elevators road trip to mind expansion, it manages to send us the obligatory “Wish you were here!” postcard while the rest of us were still on the road trying to catch up.
I’ve told the story of how I stumbled upon Talk Talk‘s Spirit Of Eden before, but that story doesn’t illustrate much into how jaw-dropping brilliant the album is and how because of that it can inspire other bands to make like-minded epic statements.
To start with, we need to go back twenty years ago…the year that Spirit Of Eden was made…and try to convey how completely unexpected it was. Leader Mark Hollis had made a few Talk Talk albums up to that point that were literal definitions of New Wave music. In fact, he made good New Wave albums, the kind you weren’t necessarily ashamed of, but nothing that demonstrated that they were capable of much beyond the genre they were originally attached to.