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Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson
New York's Library For The Performing Arts Opens Lou Reed Archive
The creative force's massive archive provides researchers and the public with a rich collection of rock and roll documents and artifacts
On March 15, the New York Public Library opened its Lou Reed Archive at Lincoln Center's Library for the Performing Arts. The archive is the gift of Lou Reed's widow, Laurie Anderson, and includes a public exhibition dedicated to the creation of the singer/songwriter's 1989 GRAMMY nominated album New York. Library patrons also have the opportunity to replace their existing library cards, for $1, with a special edition NYPL Lou Reed library card.
"To my knowledge, this is the most complete and largest archive collection available to the public that documents the daily business of a major figure in rock and roll," said the library's curator of music and recorded sound, Jonathan Haim.
The announcement provides an overview but the library's "finding aid" goes into much more depth on what it describes as, "90 linear feet (211 boxes, 27 tubes, 4 oversized folders); 2.5 terabytes (40,920 computer files)."
At the 41st GRAMMY Awards, Reed won Best Long Form Music Video for "American Masters - Lou Reed: Rock And Roll Heart." The 1967 album The Velvet Underground & Nico was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame in 2008, followed by Reed's 1972 single "Walk On The Wild Side" in 2015. Following these inductions, the Velvet Underground received the Recording Academy's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017. Even highlights such as these merely scratch the surface of the artistic range of Reed's life in music, but now researchers and members of the public can dig deep in the icon's personal poems, notes, photographs, itineraries and more, from his days in high school through his final performances in 2013.
"My dream has always been to make Lou's work completely accessible to the public," said his widow Anderson. She is a creative force in her own right, who won her first GRAMMY at the 61st GRAMMY Awards in Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance for the recording of her composition Landfall with the Kronos Quartet.
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016
Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.
Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.
A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.
This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system.
"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."
He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.
"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.
To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood."
Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes.
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Lou Reed's 'Berlin' Is One Of Rock's Darkest Albums. So Why Does It Sound Like So Much Fun?
Lou Reed's third album is a harrowing examination of addiction, abuse and suicide. Yet the bleakness lands because it's so beautifully counterweighted.
Lou Reed's Berlin begins with a nightmarishly tape-destroyed German count-in — eins, zwei, drei, zugabe — followed by the "Happy Birthday" song. It ends with a bloody suicide in a bed.
Wait, that's the second-to-last track; Berlin actually ends as the narrator callously brushes off said suicide — which happened to be of the mother of his children. The lynchpin track, "The Kids," features a harrowing soundbite of children screaming for their mother.
In between, Reed relates the tale of a relationship that spins out into addiction, prostitution and domestic abuse against the backdrop of the titular city — which, at the time, Reed had never been to.
Berlin profoundly alienated some critics. Rolling Stone castigated it as one of "certain records so patently offensive that one wishes to take some kind of physical vengeance on the artists that perpetrate them...a distorted and degenerate demimonde of paranoia, schizophrenia, degradation, pill-induced violence and suicide."
Likewise, Robert Christgau called the notion of Berlin's artistic accomplishment "horses—" and added that the story of the couple "lousy," with the ambitious, operatic music "only competent." By all accounts, the incomprehension hurt Reed; he pulled a 180 with 1974's glammy Sally Can't Dance.
But despite the content, and the chaos in Reed's personal life at the time — fathoms of drugs, a failing marriage — Berlin is no druggie disaster. In reality, it's one of the crown jewels of the GRAMMY winner's voluminous discography, and a masterclass in finding beauty in the sordid depths of the human condition.
And it's difficult to imagine Berlin's story landing without utterly gonzo music — and a fair amount of ink-black humor.
The key to the former is the GRAMMY-nominated producer Bob Ezrin, who's helped craft any number of epic, ridiculous, fall-on-your-face rock classics. Case in point: a year prior to Berlin, he'd produced Alice Cooper's School's Out; just after, he'd helm Aerosmith's Get Your Wings.
Berlin followed 1972's Transformer — his second album and breakthrough, by way of the epochal "Walk on the Wild Side." Both the album and single's successes were helped along by a very high-profile producer — an ascendant David Bowie.
But as Anthony DeCurtis lays out in his 2017 biography Lou Reed: A Life, Bowie had been attracting credit for Transformer, and Reed started to look like his imitator.
"From the industry perspective, the aesthetic differences between Bowie, Reed and Cooper were meaningless," DeCurtis explains in the book. "Broadly speaking, they were all working the same side of the street — bending gender categories and stunning conventional sensibilities."
Given this perception — and a brawl they'd undergone in a London club over Reed's habits — it was time for Reed to untether from Bowie, just as the latter launched into the stratosphere.
"Lou is out of the glitter thing. He really denounces it," crowed Reed's manager at the time, Dennis Katz. "He's not interested in glam rock or glitter rock. Lou Reed is a rock and roller." Reed and Katz went with the 23-year-old Ezrin, who was riding high on Alice Cooper's success — and seemed like the obvious choice.
With the success of Transformer in the rearview, Ezrin and Reed felt emboldened to devise a work of boundless aspiration. It would be a rock opera — a double concept album with an elaborate booklet, with photographs that depict the downfall of the central couple, Caroline and Jim.
Ezrin booked a wild backing ensemble — including keyboardist Steve Winwood of the Spencer Davis Group, Blind Faith and Traffic; bassist Jack Bruce of Cream; drummer B.J. Wilson of Procol Harum; and Michael and Randy Brecker, respectively on tenor sax and trumpet. As the sessions rolled on, hype broiled around the project.
"It's not an overstatement to say that Berlin will be the Sgt. Pepper of the seventies," blustered Larry "Ratso" Sloman in Rolling Stone. Which is laughable today — but it helps frame Berlin in its time and context.
"When people thought of a concept album, they thought Sgt. Pepper," singer/songwriter Elliott Murphy, who befriended Reed around this period, tells GRAMMY.com. "And Berlin is kind of the Antichrist of Sgt. Pepper."
Just as Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band used childhood and nostalgia as a launching pad rather than a set of rigid parameters, Berlin — which ended up being a single-disc release — doesn't simply bludgeon you with misery for 49 minutes.
Berlin takes flower from its title track, a barely-there sketch of a romantic scene in the titular city, originally released on Reed's self-titled 1972 debut. As DeCurtis opines in Lou Reed: A Life, "Perhaps it was the song's unfinished quality that appealed to them, leaving space for them to fill with their fantasies of what it might become."
Whatever the case, Reed had a natural facility for expansive narratives. As author Will Hermes explains, Reed's early "mentor and model" was Delmore Schwartz, his English professor at Syracuse University.
"There's humor and there's pathos in equal parts," says Hermes, whose sprawling, fascinating biography, Lou Reed: The King of New York, was released Oct. 3. He's referring to Schwartz and his work, but this extends to his mentee: "Reed was a hilarious guy, from everybody I spoke to, and certainly reading his interviews. So that darkness and humor came together. I don't think a lot of people got that about Berlin when it was first produced."
Reed had taken a theater class at Syracuse, loved Federico Fellini in college, and remained a cinephile for life. By its very nature, the episodic, operatic format of Berlin precludes monotony; each song examines this doomed coupling from a different angle.
Sure, every facet of the Berlin tale is cursed. But Reed explains why it's cursed — including from Jim and Caroline's warring perspectives, as on "Jim Says," "Caroline I" and "II" and beyond. Which gives it innate narrative variety, as the listener ping-pongs through the sordid tale.
"'The Bed' and 'The Kids' are very powerful experiences, but not really a hoot," Stickles says of Berlin's B-side. "But the A-side is a pretty big hoot. Like, 'Caroline Says I' rocks. 'How Do You Think It Feels' — these are fun, big rockers, and it's got the funny flutes and clarinets as well."
And while Reed is unflinching in his depictions of violence and suffering, that quality doesn't render him a bore on Berlin — Reed being Reed, it makes him a live wire.
"Berlin is not that one-dimensional; it's not a single-note record," singer/songwriter and Reed head Jerry David DeCicca, who's just released his latest album New Shadows, tells GRAMMY.com. "It might be shades of some of those things, but that's what makes it interesting."
This eclecticism extends to the music, which never rolls over and cries in its milk, but frequently detonates with goofy, stadium-sized, Meat Loaf-esque jubilance. But despite its pedigree and context within a specific chapter of hard rock, Berlin sounds oddly singular.
Patrick Stickles, the lead singer of the rock band Titus Andronicus and a Reed acolyte, calls Berlin "far more proggy than your typical Lou Reed material."
"It's very ornate, but it doesn't really sound like Yes or King Crimson or whatever was going on at that time," Stickles tells GRAMMY.com," because he's still writing with his favorite two or three chords."
"It just doesn't sound like a lot of records from that time period," DeCicca says. "So I don't think he was trying to fit in."
DeCicca then considers the wider scope of Reed's catalog: "He made another record after that, the next year, that was just incredibly different [Sally Can’t Dance]. Which I'm sure was in some part a reaction to it. But how conscious or unconscious is probably a little bit debatable. I mean, he was not somebody who wanted to repeat himself."
In the end, Berlin resonates due to Reed's boundless audacity — and the sheer oddness that permeates its grooves, from start to finish.
"That's probably his No. 1 virtue as a writer — that he always goes there," GRAMMY nominee Will Sheff, who's struck out solo after two decades fronting Okkervil River, tells GRAMMY.com. "I think his main innovation is that he took the guardrails off of subject matter." (Tonalities, too: whether this was intentional or not, Sheff calls 1967's The Velvet Underground & Nico "one of the most f—ed up, cheap, amateurish things that you've ever heard.")
Sheff and his Okkervil River bandmates clung to Berlin during desperate, ragged tours of yore: today, he marvels at the contradictions of its studio dynamic.
"Based on a lot of the accounts, it sounds a little bit like Bob Ezrin was kind of dragging him through the process of making it," Sheff says. "It kind of sounds like a f—ed up, surly, stuck in molasses guy, who's being sort of dragged out of bed and forced into the studio, where there's a string section waiting for him."
(Was Reed on fire in the studio, or being "dragged" by Ezrin? "I think it was a bit of both," Hermes says. "There were a lot of drugs and alcohol involved, but they were working really hard, being really ambitious.")
However checked out Reed was or wasn't, Ezrin brought his consummate showmanship to the party. "And that's part of what makes Berlin fun — he really honors Lou Reed's ambitions, maybe more than Lou was honoring them at the time. I wouldn't call it joyous, but there is a lot very butch [energy], like, 'I'm just a guy strutting down the street in Berlin, and I'm a tough man.' I find that stuff very charming."
Sure, Berlin may be exactly how Sheff describes it: "excessively dark…sick, diseased, kind of broken heart of a masculine anger and sorrow." Against that pitch-black backdrop, every overenthusiastic drumfill, expensive string flourish and brutal joke truly sparkle. (As per the latter: ("This is a bum trip," Caroline complains about domestic battery.)
Despite the sting of critical rejection, Reed continued pursuing long-form, narrative works throughout his career. These included what Hermes calls "three experimental quote-unquote musical theater pieces.") These were with the visionary Robert Wilson — one based on H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, another based on Edgar Allen Poe, and another in Lulu, which germinated into a polarizing 2011 album of the same name with Metallica.
And Reed always felt strongly about Berlin. In 2006, he revived it for a stage show, which would be released two years later as Berlin: Live at St. Ann's Warehouse. As Hermes put it, "The performance was frequently gorgeous and a bitter pill: magnificent, overwrought, pretentious, full of thematic misogyny." In other words, it's a lot — and it deals in far more than you-know-what quality.
"Lots of content in life is depressing," DeCicca says, "but that doesn't mean you write off people's experiences as not being worth engaging with."
Half a century on, Berlin isn't merely worth engaging with — it remains brazen and captivating, a looking glass into the heart of darkness.
Photo: Edward Wong/South China Morning Post via Getty Images
Remembering Seymour Stein: Without The Record Business Giant, Music Would Be Unrecognizable
The music man who signed everyone from the Ramones to Madonna will be profoundly missed throughout the global music community. He passed away on Apr. 8 at 80.
There’s a Belle and Sebastian song titled “Seymour Stein” that evokes a real-life, lavish feast between the soft-spoken Scottish indie band and the record company executive.
In the 1998 ballad, singer Stuart Murdoch details the tension between their working class identities and the dizzying prospects that Stein held in the palm of his hand. “Promises of fame, promises of fortune/ L.A. to New York/ San Francisco, back to Boston,” Murdoch dreamily sings. But he demurs, thinking of a girl back home in the country: “My thoughts are far away.”
There was a very good reason Murdoch and company associated Stein with an almost blindingly paradisiacal vision of music success. For an entire generation of alternative weirdos, Stein — the co-founder of Sire Records and vice president of Warner Bros. Records — was the guy who made it happen.
Sadly, Stein passed away on April 2 at his home in Los Angeles of cancer at the age of 80. This seismic loss to the global music community has rightfully earned tributes from far-flung corners of the music industry. Many, like his signee Madonna, openly pondered where their lives would be without his razor-sharp perception and adoration of all things music.
Think of the three-or-four-chord powderkeg of the Ramones’ 1977 self-titled debut, and the CBGB-adjacent army that answered to its detonation: Talking Heads, the Pretenders, Richard Hell and the Voldoids — on and on. Stein signed them all to Sire, either initiating their careers, as per the Ramones, or heralding their second acts, as he did the Replacements.
That paradigm arguably amounted to the biggest shift in guitar-based music since the Beatles — the ratcheting-down of opulent ‘70s rock into something leaner, meaner, and arguably more honest. But even that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Stein's influence on music and culture at large.
Stein was the man who signed Madge, a profoundly pivotal figure in the following decade. And the rest of his resume was staggering: the Smiths, the Cure, Seal, k.d. lang, Brian Wilson, Lou Reed, Body Count… the list goes on.
He helped to establish the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, by way of the foundation of the same name, initiated by Ahmet Ertegun in 1983 — and was himself inducted in 2005. In 2018, the Recording Academy bestowed him with a coveted Trustees Award, which acknowledged his decades of service to the music community.
Indeed, the music man’s loss reverberates throughout the world’s leading society of music people.
“Seymour Stein was one of the greatest A&R executives of all time,” Ruby Marchand, the Chief Awards & Industry Officer at the Recording Academy, tells GRAMMY.com. “His passion, magnetic energy and natural curiosity underscored a lifelong dedication to unique artistry.
“He especially prized the art of songwriting and had an encyclopedic knowledge of songs, often bursting out in song to regale and delight friends and colleagues,” recalls Marchand, who worked with Stein for decades. “Seymour traveled the globe for decades and basked in the glow of discovering emerging artists singing to small audiences, from Edmonton to Seoul.
“He was a doting mentor, advisor, cheerleader and advocate for hundreds of us in the industry worldwide,” she concludes. “We cherish him and miss him terribly, and know how fortunate we were to have had him in our lives.”
The Recording Academy hails the late, great Stein for his monumental achievements in the music industry — ones that have fundamentally altered humanity’s universal language forever.
20 Albums Turning 50 In 2023: 'Innervisions,' 'Dark Side Of The Moon' 'Catch A Fire' & More
1973 saw a slew of influential records released across genres — many of which broke barriers and set standards for music to come. GRAMMY.com reflects on 20 albums that, despite being released 50 years ago, continue to resonate with listeners today.
Fifty years ago, a record-breaking 600,000 people gathered to see the Grateful Dead, the Allman Brothers Band and the Band play Summer Jam at Watkins Glen. This is just one of many significant historical events that happened in 1973 — a year that changed the way music was seen, heard and experienced.
Ongoing advancements in music-making tech expanded the sound of popular and underground music. New multi-track technology was now standard in recording studios from Los Angeles to London. Artists from a variety of genres experimented with new synthesizers, gadgets like the Mu-Tron III pedal and the Heil Talk Box, and techniques like the use of found sounds.
1973 was also a year of new notables, where now-household names made their debuts. Among these auspicious entries: a blue-collar songwriter from the Jersey Shore, hard-working southern rockers from Jacksonville, Fla. and a sister group from California oozing soul.
Along a well-established format, '73 saw the release of several revolutionary concept records. The Eagles’ Desperado, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Lou Reed’s Berlin and the Who’s Quadrophenia are just a few examples that illustrate how artists used narrative techniques to explore broader themes and make bigger statements on social, political and economic issues — of which there were many.
On the domestic front, 1973 began with the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Roe v. Wade. Internationally, the Paris Peace Accords were signed — starting the long process to end the Vietnam War. An Oil crisis caused fuel prices to skyrocket in North America. Richard Nixon started his short-lived second term as president, which was marked by the Watergate scandal.
Politics aside, the third year of the '70s had it all: from classic- and southern-rock to reggae; punk to jazz; soul and R&B to country. Read on for 20 masterful albums with something to say that celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2023.
Band On The Run - Paul McCartney & Wings
Laid down at EMI’s studio in Lagos, Nigeria and released in December 1973, the third studio record by Paul Mcartney & Wings is McCartney’s most successful post-Beatles album. Its hit singles "Jet" and the title cut "Band on the Run" helped make the record the biggest-selling in 1974 in both Australia and Canada.
Band on the Run won a pair of GRAMMYS the following year: Best Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus and Best Engineered Recording, Non-Classical. McCartney added a third golden gramophone for this record at the 54th awards celebration when it won Best Historical Album for the 2010 reissue. In 2013, Band on the Run was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame.
Head Hunters - Herbie Hancock
Released Oct. 13, Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters was recorded in just one week; its
four songs clock in at just over 40 minutes. That the album was not nominated in the jazz category, but instead Best Pop Instrumental Performance, demonstrates how Hancock was shifting gears.
Head Hunters showed Hancock moving away from traditional instrumentation and playing around with new synthesizer technology — especially the clavinet — and putting together a new band: the Headhunters. Improvisation marks this as a jazz record, but the phrasing, rhythms and dynamics of Hancock’s new quintet makes it equal parts soul and R&B with sprinkles of rock 'n' roll.
The album represented a commercial and artistic breakthrough for Hancock, going gold within months of its release. "Watermelon Man" and "Chameleon," which was nominated for a Best Instrumental GRAMMY Award in 1974, were later both frequently sampled by hip-hop artists in the 1990s.
Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. - Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen, 22, was the new kid in town in 1973. This debut was met with tepid reviews. Still, Greetings introduced Springsteen’s talent to craft stories in song and includes many characters The Boss would return to repeatedly in his career. The album kicks off with the singalong "Blinded by the Light," which reached No. 1 on the Billboard 100 four years later via a cover done by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. This was the first of two records Springsteen released in 1973; The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle arrived before the end of the year — officially introducing the E Street Band.
Innervisions - Stevie Wonder
This Stevie Wonder masterpiece shows an artist, in his early 20s, experimenting with new instrumentation such as TONTO (The Original New Timbral Orchestra) — the world’s largest synth — and playing all instruments on the now-anthemic "Higher Ground."
The song reached No.1 on the U.S. Hot R&B Singles Chart, and Innervisions peaked at No. 4. The album won three GRAMMYS the following year, including Album Of The Year. Wonder was the first Black artist to win this coveted golden gramophone. In 1989, Red Hot Chili Peppers kept the original funk, but injected the song with a lot of rock on their cover — the lead single from Mother’s Milk.
The Dark Side Of The Moon - Pink Floyd
Critics perennially place this Pink Floyd album, the band's eighth studio record, as one of the greatest of all-time. The Dark Side of the Moon hit No.1 and stayed on the Billboard charts for 63 weeks.
A sonic masterpiece marked by loops, synths, found sounds, and David Gilmour’s guitar bends, Dark Side of the Moon is also a concept record that explores themes of excessive greed on tracks like "Money." Ironically, an album lambasting consumerism was the top-selling record of the year and has eclipsed 45 million sales worldwide since its release. The album’s cover has also become one of the most recognized in the history of popular music.
Pronounced 'lĕh-'nérd 'skin-'nérd - Lynyrd Skynyrd
This debut release features several of the northern Florida rockers' most beloved songs: "Gimme Three Steps," "Tuesday’s Gone" and "Simple Man." The record, which has since reached two-times platinum status with sales of more than two million, also includes the anthemic "Free Bird," which catapulted them to stardom. The song with its slow-build and definitive guitar solo and jam in the middle became Lynyrd Skynyrd's signature song that ended all their shows; it also became a piece of pop culture with people screaming for this song during concerts by other artists.
Houses Of The Holy - Led Zeppelin
The first Led Zeppelin record of all originals — and the first without a Roman numeral for a title — Houses of the Holy shows a new side of these British hardrockers. Straying from the blues and hard rock of previous records, Houses of the Holy features funk (“The Ocean” and “The Crunge”) and even hints of reggae (“D’Yer Mak’er”). This fifth studio offering from Page, Plant, Jones and Bonham also includes one of this writer’s personal Zeppelin favorites — "Over the Hills and Far Away.” The song was released as the album’s first U.S. single and reached No. 51 on the Billboard charts. Despite mixed reviews from critics, Houses of the Holy eventually achieved Diamond status for sales of more than 10 million. Interesting fact: the song “Houses of the Holy” actually appears on the band’s next record (Physical Graffiti).
Quadrophenia - The Who
The double-album rock opera followed the critical success of Tommy and Who’s Next. Pete Townshend composed all songs on this opus, which was later adapted into a movie. And, in 2015, classically-scored by Townshend’s partner Rachel Fuller for a new generation via a symphonic version (“Classic Quadrophenia”). The story chronicles the life of a young mod named Jimmy who lives in the seaside town of Brighton, England. Jimmy searches for meaning in a life devoid of significance — taking uppers, downers and guzzling gin only to discover nothing fixes his malaise. With sharp-witted songs, Townshend also tackles classicism. His band of musical brothers: Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle and Keith Moon provide some of their finest recorded performances. The album reached second spot on the U.S. Billboard chart.
Berlin - Lou Reed
Produced by Bob Ezrin, Berlin is a metaphor. The divided walled city represents the divisive relationships and the two sides of Reed — on stage and off. The 10 track concept record chronicles a couple’s struggles with drug addiction, meditating on themes of domestic abuse and neglect. As a parent, try to listen to "The Kids" without shedding a tear. While the couple on the record are named Caroline and Jim, those who knew Reed’s volatile nature and drug dependency saw the parallels between this fictionalized narrative and the songwriter’s life.
Catch A Fire - Bob Marley & the Wailers
The original cover was enclosed in a sleeve resembling a Zippo lighter. Only 20,000 of this version were pressed. Even though it was creative and cool, cost-effective it was not — each individual cover had to be hand-riveted. The replacement, which most people know today, introduces reggae poet and prophet Robert Nesta Marley to the world. With a pensive stare and a large spliff in hand, Marley tells you to mellow out and listen to the tough sounds of his island home.
While Bob and his Wailers had been making music for nearly a decade and released several records in Jamaica, Catch a Fire was their coming out party outside the Caribbean. Released in April on Island Records, the feel-good reggae rhythms and Marley’s messages of emancipation resonated with a global audience. A mix of songs of protest ("Slave Driver," "400 years") and love ("Kinky Reggae"), Catch A Fire is also notable for "Stir it Up," a song American singer-songwriter Johnny Nash had made a Top 15 hit the previous year.
The New York Dolls - The New York Dolls
The New York Dolls burst on the club scene in the Big Apple, building a cult following with their frenetic and unpredictable live shows. The Dolls' hard rock sound and f-you attitude waved the punk banner before the genre was coined, and influenced the sound of punk rock for generations. (Bands like the Sex Pistols, the Ramones and KISS, cite the New York Dolls as mentors.) Singer-songwriter Todd Rundgren — who found time to release A Wizard, A True Star this same year — produced this tour de force. From the opening "Personality Crisis," this five-piece beckons you to join this out-of-control train.
Aladdin Sane - David Bowie
This David Bowie record followed the commercial success of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders from Mars. Many critics unfairly compare the two. A career chameleon, with Aladdin Sane, Bowie shed the Ziggy persona and adopted another alter-ego. The title is a pun that means: "A Lad Insane." For the songwriter, this record represented an attempt to break free from the crazed fandom Ziggy Stardust had created.
A majority of the songs were written the previous year while Bowie toured the United States in support of Ziggy. Journal in hand, the artist traveled from city to city in America and the songs materialized. Most paid homage to what this “insane lad” observed and heard: from debauchery and societal decay ("Cracked Actor") to politics ("Panic in Detroit") to punk music ("Watch That Man"). Top singles on Aladdin Sane were: "The Jean Genie" and "Drive-In Saturday." Both topped the U.K. charts.
Faust IV -Faust
This fourth studio album — and the final release in this incarnation by this experimental avant-garde German ambient band — remains a cult classic. Recorded at the Manor House in Oxfordshire, England (Richard Branson’s new Virgin Records studio and the locale where Mike Oldfield crafted his famous debut Tubular Bells, also released in 1973), Faust IV opens with the epic 11-minute instrumental "Krautrock" — a song that features drones, clusters of tones and sustained notes to create a trance-like vibe. Drums do not appear in the song until after the seven minute mark.
The song is a tongue-in-cheek nod to the genre British journalists coined to describe bands like Faust, which musicians largely did not embrace. The rest of Faust IV is a sonic exploration worthy of repeated listens and a great place to start if you’ve ever wondered what the heck Krautrock is.
Brothers & Sisters - the Allman Brothers Band
Great art is often born from grief, and Brothers & Sisters is exemplary in this way. Founding member Duanne Allman died in 1971 and bassist Berry Oakley followed his bandmate to the grave a year later; he was killed in a motorcycle accident in November 1972. Following this pair of tragedies, the band carried on the only way they knew how: by making music.
With new members hired, Brothers & Sisters was recorded with guitarist Dicky Betts as the new de facto band leader. The Allman Brothers Band’s most commercially successful record leans into country territory from the southern rock of previous releases and features two of the band’s most popular songs: "Ramblin’ Man" and "Jessica." The album went gold within 48 hours of shipping and since has sold more than seven million copies worldwide.
Call Me - Al Green
Call Me is considered one of the greatest soul records of the 20th century and Green’s pièce de résistance. The fact this Al Green album features three Top 10 Billboard singles — "You Ought to Be With Me," "Here I Am" and the title track — helps explain why it remains a masterpiece. Beyond the trio of hits, the soul king shows his versatility by reworking a pair of country songs: Hank Williams’ "I’m so Lonesome I Could Cry," and Willie Nelson’s "Funny How Time Slips Away."
Killing Me Softly - Roberta Flack
This Roberta Flack album was nominated for three GRAMMY Awards and won two: Record Of The Year and Best Female Vocal Pop Performance at the 1974 GRAMMYs (it lost in the Album of the Year category to Innervisions). With equal parts soul and passion, Flack interprets beloved ballads that showcase her talent of taking others’ songs and reinventing them. Producer Joel Dorn assembled the right mix of players to back up Flack — adding to the album’s polished sound. Killing Me Softly has sold more than two million copies and, in 2020, Roberta Flack received the GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award.
The album's title cut became a No.1 hit in three countries and, in 1996, the Fugees prominently featured Lauryn Hill on a version that surpassed the original: landing the No.1 spot in 21 countries. The album also includes a pair of well-loved covers: Leonard Cohen’s "Suzanne" and Janis Ian’s wistful "Jesse," which reached No. 30.
Bette Midler - Bette Middler
Co-produced by Arif Mardin and Barry Manilow, the self-titled second studio album by Bette Midler was an easy- listening experience featuring interpretations of both standards and popular songs. Whispers of gospel are mixed with R&B and some boogie-woogie piano, though Midler’s voice is always the star. The record opens with a nod to the Great American Songbook with a reworking of Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael’s "Skylark." The 10-song collection also features a take on Glenn Miller’s "In the Mood," and a divine cover of Bob Dylan’s "I Shall be Released." The record peaked at No. 6 on the U.S. charts.
Imagination - Gladys Knight & the Pips
Released in October, Imagination was Gladys Knight & the Pips' first album with Buddha Records after leaving Motown, and features the group’s only No. 1 Billboard hit: "Midnight Train to Georgia." The oft-covered tune, which won a GRAMMY the following year, and became the band’s signature, helped the record eclipse a million in sales, but it was not the only single to resonate. Other timeless, chart-topping songs from Imagination include "Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me," and "I’ve Got to Use My Imagination."
The Pointer Sisters - The Pointer Sisters
The three-time GRAMMY-winning Pointer Sisters arrived on the scene in 1973 with this critically-acclaimed self-titled debut. Then a quartet, the group of sisters from Oakland, California made listeners want to shake a tail feather with 10 songs that ranged from boogie-woogie to bebop. Their sisterly harmonies are backed up by the San Francisco blues-funk band the Hoodoo Rhythm Devils. The record opens with "Yes We Can," a hypnotic groove of a song written by Allen Toussaint which was a Top 15 hit alongside another cover, Willie Dixon’s "Wang Dang Doodle."
Behind Closed Doors - Charlie Rich
This pop-leaning country record of orchestral ballads, produced by Billy Sherrill, made Rich rich. The album has surpassed four million in sales and remains one of the genre’s best-loved classics. The album won Charlie Rich a GRAMMY the following year for Best Country Vocal Performance Male and added four Country Music Awards. Behind Closed Doors had several hits, but the title track made the most impact. The song written by Kenny O’Dell, and whose title was inspired by the Watergate scandal, was the first No.1 hit for Rich. It topped the country charts where it spent 20 weeks in 1973. It was also a Billboard crossover hit — reaching No. 15 on the Top 100 and No. 8 on the Adult Contemporary charts.