My Top 10 Live Albums (Part 1)

QUO LIVE (Vertigo 1977)
Status Quo are one of the greatest… underrated… live heavy metal bands of all time, and “Quo Live” recorded over three nights in 1976 at the Glasgow Apollo, is a testament to this. Me: “Quo Live, If You Want Blood and Live And Dangerous are the holy scriptures of hard rock and heavy metal.” Rick Parfitt: “Holy Scriptures. I like that! Hugh, you’re a creative type. I want to call my new shampoo range Wash & Quo, but they won’t let me. What should I call it?” Quick brain, think of something witty. Me: “Erm… Barnet Fair!” Rick Parfitt: “Brilliant! Barnet Fair! That’s it! Write that down.” And as if 4 sides of classic, authentic, live hard rock, with the definitive version of The Doors’ ‘Roadhouse Blues’ isn’t enough, it also features one of the earliest sightings with the Mighty Quo™ of one of the nicest men in rock, Sir Andrew Bown. Check out his latest solo album, “Unfinished Business”. I’m in the video too:

The copy I bought in Aldershot in 1982 of AC/DC’s first [commercially released] live album contained a pale blue merchandise insert to buy t-shirts, posters and badges from their 1978 tour. If only it contained a time machine too, so we could all go back in time and see and hear firsthand the legendary talents of Bon Scott and the boys, just prior to the major breakthrough of 1979’s “Highway To Hell” opus. “IYWBYGI” [ah, how that rolls off the tongue] breaks one of the first rules of classic 70s live albums in that it; 1. is not a double LP and 2. doesn’t have a lavish gatefold sleeve with lots of cool live photos. You see, one of jobs that the double live EL-PEE was meant to do was transport 12 year old boys to the front row of sweat soaked, beer stained venues such as the Hammersmith Odeon or Marquee Club. Although a live album (and this is very much a LIVE album), the versions of the songs on “IYWBYGI” actually sound better produced than their (consistently great) studio counterparts. I mean, ‘Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be’ [some of Bon's finest poetry], is actually IN TUNE. Despite this, “IYWBYGI” still manages to crank out a satisfying noisy racket that will make you want to go to the back of the cupboard to find that tennis racquet in order to jam along to the likes of ‘Riff Raff’, ‘Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be’, and a particularly rude version of ‘The Jack’ that I still don’t fully understand. I’m not sure my ears would have withstood a whole 2 vinyl records of this, though the addition of 1977’s promo only “Live At The Atlantic Studios” would have made a nice inclusion. [I did see a copy of the latter for sale in a market in Norwich around 1987, but couldn’t afford the fiver they were charging for it]. To see footage of what  a powerful live act AC/DC were in 1978, unfettered by any special effects, check out the BBC’s “Rock Goes To College” filmed at the University of Essex, Colchester. Magic stuff.

“This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” Tony Visconti claims everything but the audience and the drums were re-recorded in the studio. Some band members dispute this. Neither matters, as Thin Lizzy’s “Live And Dangerous” should stand proudly in the pantheon of classic live rock albums. I have to admit, having been to an awful lot of live gigs in the last 29 years, and having heard a few “unofficial” live albums in that time too, the rock concert experience is rarely a perfect one once recorded. Bum notes can be played. Amps can break down. Audiences may heckle. Guitars may need to be swapped over. Lead guitarists may refuse to perform encores. If you’re actually THERE MAN, then that’s all part of the experience. Sitting in the audience at televised events such as the Brits can be an interesting experience if you’re there, where you are able to see firsthand how things happen “behind the scenes” so to speak, but I really wouldn’t want to watch all the goings on in their dull minutiae on television, in real time. “Live And Dangerous” also features the near definitive versions of Lizzy’s pre-1979 catalogue, with killer outings for tracks such as ‘Suicide’, ‘Emerald’, ‘The Rocker’ and ‘Are You Ready’. It doesn’t even matter that the cover photo is out of focus.

Bands like The Clash were really sniffy about playing on “pop” programmes like Top Of The Pops, which I never understoof at the time, or now particulalry. Wasn’t cool, maaaaan. But hey, why don’t you move to America, hang around Studio 54, and get Blue Oyster Cult’s manager to produce you (which I don’t think is that bad a move, actually). Motorhead were on TOTP every week it seemed during my early adolescence. The Clash were not. Guess who I never got into and guess who I still don’t ever listen to. As a little kid, TOTP was my only vista on this rarified world or rock ‘n’ roll, and Motorhead were the first heavy metal band I decided I would like. I bought Motorhead’s “No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith” when it was the UK number 1 in June 1981, and probably the first heavy metal / hard rock album I ever bought, as up until then I’d only stretch to scratchy 45s from Woolworths and Martins in Camberley. I would have been too scared to actually go to a Motorhead gig in 1981 – as much as I might have loved to – and in many respects “No Sleep…” goes a long way to confirming this fear. The first time I entered the hallowed, sacred halls of the Hammersmith Odeon in 1983, the air rich with the fug of beer, cigarettes and most proustianly, patchouli oil, I was convinced that I’d be eaten by Hells Angels, but as soon as I walked inside, I knew I was home. Like many of these live album, and despite (or possibly because of) the attendant noise factor, “No Sleep…” features many definitive versions of Motorhead classics, from ‘Metropolis’, ‘Iron Horse/Born To Lose’ to the evergreen ‘Motorhead’, which even made an appearance on the aforementioned Top Of The Pops when released as a very fetching seven inch picture disc. This LP seems to be so ingrained into my DNA that I can fall asleep to it [and have]. I find it that comforting.

A bit of a weird one, this. Recorded in 1973 in Manchester and London on the 1973 UK Vol 4 tour, and evidently recorded at the time for commercial release, before being shelved, it did not gain an “official” release until 1980, by which time Ozzy had left, about to embark on a hugely successful solo career, and Sabbath had just released the brilliant “Heaven And Hell” featuring the talents of the late, great Ronnie James Dio. Although its top 5 placing (weirdly 4 places higher than “Heaven And Hell”) was testament to the demand for a live Sabbath album, a first listen to the odd, hollow, “whomping” production illustrates why  this was shelved in the first place. It wasn’t that the band weren’t on form, or an impressive live act, as I’ve heard plenty of live recordings made before and after this 1973 tour that would make far more suitable live offerings. As this was culled from two shows, we can only presume that enough material was at least committed to tape to fill a double LP, and instead of some classic, period live photos of the band in action, we get some odd photos, possibly supplied by NASA, with typography that may have looked futuristic if used on a 1973 episode of Tomorrow’s World, but by 1980 looked positively dated. Despite this, the LP contains plenty of period charm, including the rarely played ‘Cornucopia’, an early version of ‘Killing Yourself To Live’ with different lyrics, and a lengthy jam through early b-side ‘Wicked World’. Saw them back in May in Birmingham, and it was brilliant to hear them play stuff from this era and before.

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