Ten years ago a small book attempted to codify rock snobbery. The Rock Snob’s Dictionary: An Essential Lexicon of Rockological Knowledge laid bare the confusing rules of obsessive music fans. The knowledge so many music nerds had built quietly and kept secret for decades was now made available to the masses. The horror! Of course, only the rock snobs bought the book, but the secret was out.
Somehow Spotify is on to me and knows I am a card carrying music snob. It took seven very close attempts, but Week 8 pretty much could have come straight from the pages of the Rock Snob’s Dictionary. While not every single track qualifies as prime rock snob material, it comes pretty darn close. This list is centered on the 1970s and is spot on in its mix of snob-approved tracks, fun surprises, new music and a couple of big hits to keep it moving along briskly.
Sticking with the rock snob theme I have given each track a tongue in cheek snob rating. Ratings are highly subject to change depending on current critical trends and will vary from snob to snob.
Three Snobs – A track like this gets three raised thumbs of approval. This is either undiscovered gold or perennially cool and unimpeachably great music for snobs of all stripes.
Two Snobs – Some serious snob appeal. Likely obscure, rare, difficult, rediscovered, but too popular to get behind 100%.
One Snob – Definite rock snob cred, but probably overplayed or fallen out of favor with cutting edge snobs.
Zero Snobs – This doesn’t mean bad song in any way at all. It just means it wouldn’t get the snort of approval from the self-respecting music snob who has spent far too much time huddled over dusty crates of vinyl.
Now let’s dig into the music.
“Burning Airlines Give You So Much More” opens Brian Eno’s Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) from 1974, his second solo album. The dark lyrics in this oddly bouncy track were inspired by a Turkish Airlines crash near Paris. One Snob
Iggy Pop inspired the next song. While tripping a little too hard at David Bowie’s place, Mr. Osterberg imagined the TV was trying to eat his girlfriend. Bowie turned this vision into a holographic television for “TVC-15,” the second single and first song on side two of 1976’s Station to Station. One Snob
Hailing from New Zealand, Connan Mockasin plays a slinky brand of dreamy psychedelic pop. “I’m the Man that WIll Find You” is a great song from 2013’s Caramel, his second album. Zero Snobs
Emitt Rhodes did time in sixties pop act The Merry Go Round before going solo in 1970. “Somebody Made for Me” embodies his gorgeous Beatlesque pop songs that were almost forgotten and rediscovered more than thirty years later. He released three albums of great music before a decades-long hiatus. Three Snobs
Eric Clapton’s solo career is one of diminishing returns, but he still had a few tricks left when he recorded Slowhand in 1977. “The Core,” a fiery duet with Marcy Levy that opens side two is one of them. And that’s not even counting the epic guitar solo that makes up almost half of the sing. Zero Snobs
Plenty has been written about Syd Barrett, one time leader of Pink Floyd, and his tragic descent into mental illness. However, he did make some compelling music before he faded away. “No Good Trying” comes from his 1970 solo debut, The Madcap Laughs. Backed by David Gilmour and several members of The Soft Machine, Barrett’s rambling song reveals its subtle charms with repeat listening. Two Snobs
Between solo albums and Mothers of Invention releases, Frank Zappa was already on album number 17 when he put out Over-Nite Sensation in 1973. “Camarillo Brillo” opens the album and features Zappa’s signature vulgar humor, incisive lyrics and killer playing. One Snob.
In a perfect segue, we immediately get Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band next. From his 1967 debut, Safe As Milk, “I’m Glad” draws upon fifties doo-wop and sixties soul, but adds the extra twisted something that always comes with Captain Beefheart. Two Snobs
“Vitamin C” comes from Can’s 1972 LP, Ege Bamyasi. While many Can songs evolve into epic lengths, this one is short and sweet, but still manages to capture Can’s uncanny ability to grab a groove and drive it into the stratosphere. Two Snobs
Roy Wood departed ELO after two albums and with 1973’s On the Third Day it became the Jeff Lynne show. Closing out side one. “Showdown” is a straight ahead rocker that got some significant FM radio play and paved the way to their huge success just a few years later. One Snob
Tanx was the eighth studio album from T Rex, issued in 1973. It was panned by critics back then, but time has been kind. “Life is Strange” is a slow burner filled with nature sound effects and a wild, whimsical lead vocal from Marc Bolan. One Snob
Who doesn’t love “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” by The First Edition? It was a big hit for Kenny Rogers (yeah, that Kenny Rogers) and company in 1967 and soundtracks one of the funniest scenes in The Big Lebowski. I always want to hear this one again. Fortunately, the algorithm agreed and it comes back later in this playlist credited to Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. Two Snobs
Few would disagree that Entertainment! by Gang Of Four is one of the most powerful post-punk records from 1979 and let’s take a vote that “Damaged Goods,” their first single, is one of the finest moments off that album. Everybody say aye! One Snob
The Troggs are back again this week with their third single, 1966’s “With A Girl Like You.” It was a big hit in the UK and hit the charts in the US. It’s no “Wild Thing.” but it’s a damn fine pop song. How have I never heard this before? One Snob
Panda Bear is one fourth of Animal Collective. but arguably the defining creative voice behind the band. “Comfy in Nautica” which leads off his 2007 album Person Pitch could easily be confused as a track from his primary band. The lurching, repetitive (in a good way) track drenches Panda Bear’s vocal in reverb and winds up sounding like he took the Beach Boys and ran them through a heavy cut and paste job. One Snob
“Fresh Air” was San Francisco band Quicksilver Messenger Service’s biggest hit back in 1970. It came from their third album, Just For Love, and features a more straightforward take on their psychedelic rock sound. Zero snobs
Don’t fuck with the formula! The Ramones rarely deviated from the formula that got them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg” is a mid career burst of brilliance from their 1986 album, Animal Boy. Written in protest of Reagan’s visit to a German WW2 Cemetery, the song gave them some much needed critical success in their long slog through the 80s. One Snob
1973’s Stranded was Roxy Music’s third album and first without Brian Eno. Bryan Ferry took the reins and steered the band to a guitar heavy, more direct sound. “Mother of Pearl” is driven by an impassioned Ferry vocal and a vicious guitar attack from Phil Manzanera. One snob
Public Image Ltd reached their commercial (not creative) peak with 1986’s Album. featuring a much bigger sound with heavy handed production. The record’s big single, “Rise,” was written in protest of apartheid and features a who’s who of musicians including Steve Vai, Tony Williams, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Jonas Hellborg, plus production by Bill Laswell. This is definitely one of Mr. Lydon’s finer moments. One Snob
Hey, guess what? I loved “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” and wanted to hear it again. Well, here it is. This time it is credited to Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. Still a great song worth hearing twice, but we see the limitations of machine curated music. Two Snobs
“Walking on the Moon” was the second single from The Police’s second album, “Reggatta de Blanc.” This track typifies the light reggae funk of their earlier work that made them stars. This song hit number one in the UK. Zero Snobs
Link Wray, the man who brought the world the power chord checks in with “La De Da” from his self-titled 1970 album. The instrumentation is bare bones and the production is primitive, but this is mighty fine rock’n’roll at its rawest. That snare drum at the top is someone shaking a can of nails. Go daddy go! Two snobs
“Play with Fire” started out as the B-side to “The Last TIme” in 1965 and wound up on the US edition of Out of Our Heads. Jagger and Richards were the only Rolling Stones who played on this. Phil Spector added bass while Jack Nitzsche played harpsichord. It’s such a pretty song with a dark, menacing vocal and lyric. One of their best early songs. Zero snobs
Once again, we’ve got a repeat song from a few weeks back. Pink Floyd’s “Fearless” from 1971’s Meddle is a delicate acoustic song that fades out with a field recording of the Liverpool FC choir singing Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” It’s a great song, but seems a little early for Spotify to repeat songs. Give me new stuff! I promise you won’t run out of songs. One snob
After three albums with the Nazz, Todd Rundgren went solo and took the song “Hello It’s Me” and rerecorded it for his third album, Something/Anything, in 1972 and wound up with a hit. Rundgren has gone on to plenty of experimental music in his solo career and with Utopia, but this ballad of a man pining away for his ex is still a defining song in his career. One Snob
Cream said farewell in 1969 with the half live/half studio Goodbye. One of the standouts was the Eric Clapton/George Harrison composition “Badge,” a classic rock staple. The song features Harrison on rhythm guitar billed as L’Angelo Misterioso. Zero Snobs
The Zombies were all but forgotten beyond a couple of AM hits until their final album Odessey and Oracle underwent critical rediscovery and reappraisal somewhere in the late 90s. The gold rush was on and fans dug through all their material. “The Way I Feel Inside” is a Rod Argent ballad with only Colin Blunstone’s delicate vocal and a barely-there organ track. The song comes from their 1965 debut album, Begin Here. You may have heard it in Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic. Two Snobs
“White Light/White Heat” is The Velvet Underground’s loudest and rawest album. The title track is all about taking speed and features an aggressive musical attack and a tough lead vocal from Lou Reed. Two snobs
Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother bailed on Kraftwerk and formed Neu! in 1972. They kicked it off with a bang. “Hallogallo” is an epic intsrumental that opens their debut album and is one of Krautrock’s signature songs. The epic 4/4 motorik groove of this song had a huge influence in 70s German rock and beyond. My only reservation is Discover Weekly already served this up for me a few weeks back. Three Snobs
Closing out week 8 is Nico, model, actress and icy Velvet Underground singer,with the title track to her 1966 solo debut Chelsea Girls. Written by Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison of the VU, it is a quiet brooding dirge of chamber pop majesty. Two Snobs
And there it is, the definitive rock snob playlist. Wow! This was the best so far, even topping week 6. There were no new artists and only two songs I hadn’t heard before, Link Wray and The Troggs. We had machine failure with “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” coming up twice. Plus, we had repeats from Pink Floyd and Neu! That being said, this was a stellar playlist. I still want more diversity, but Spotify knows what I like and they deliver. Until next week.