Those of us who favor the weird Rolling Stones albums over their more poptimistic fare are busy getting our hopes up, now that rumors are flying that the band is planning to perform the newly reissued Exile on Main Street in full on tour. And the news made us realize that, just as albums from the ’00s may be too young to join the canon, too few records from the ’70s are turning up on the Don’t Look Back circuit.
Since that’s easily our favorite decade in music, we’ve picked out 10 Exile contemporaries we’d like to see performed live, in full. But we made ourselves a few rules: We could only choose albums by artists who are still alive (or, at least, by bands whose essential members haven’t kicked off). So that took care of Bitches Brew and London Calling and Third/Sister Lovers. And for obvious reasons, records that have already fulfilled our live-performance dreams (Suicide’s debut, Gang of Four’s Entertainment!) were out of the question. Still, we could have made a list 200 albums long… so if you don’t see your favorite here, don’t take it personally; just leave a suggestion in the comments.
1. David Bowie – (1973)
Is it realistic to imagine that Bowie, who has largely abandoned his bisexual ’70s hijinks and hasn’t performed in public in several years, would revisit his 40-year-old alter ego? Probably not. But there’s just about nothing we’d rather see than this space-alien-rock-star-messiah song cycle performed in vintage-Bowie high drama.
2. Stevie Wonder – (1976)
Every Stevie Wonder album is a gift, but none is more perfect than this transcendent double album. And is there any release out there that’s been sampled as often or as lovingly?
3. Patti Smith – (1975)
There is only one Patti Smith in the world, and that is why there is no other album like her debut, Horses. It encompasses poetry and Romanticism and autobiography and presages punk rock. And listening to it out of order is sin.
4. Led Zeppelin – (1971)
Hippies, Tolkien, “Stairway to Heaven,” big-legged women who ain’t got no souls… Is there a single snippet of this album that hasn’t made its way into the cultural canon? A full-length performance would be the best thing to happen to stoner youth all year. And considering how disappointing the recent(ish) Led Zep reunion was, it would be a chance for the band to go out a strong note.
5. Iggy Pop — (1977)
Iggy and his Stooges have performed (or are in the process of touring) their classic albums. We love wildman Iggy, too, but we’re equally fond of his literate, semi-sober Berlin period. A Lust for Life performance would be a dark dance party, ignited by the title track and kept aflame by “The Passenger.”
6. Sex Pistols – (1977)
Love it, hate it, or think it’s overrated, Never Mind the Bollocks brought British punk to the masses. A relentless, quasi-political stab at ’70s British life, from vacations in Belsen to the poorly aging monarchy to their own record label woes, its yowl of youthful rebellion reverberated around the world. “Anarchy in the UK” played in isolation can’t possibly convey the intensity of the entire album.
7. The Modern Lovers — (1976)
The funny thing about this album, a record whose influence on contemporary indie rock can’t be overestimated, is that it was never meant to be an album. But though it was cobbled together from various recording sessions, it has a strange topical unity, from “Old World” to “New World” to “Pablo Picasso” and the ultimate rock track, “Roadrunner.” Taken together and played in order, they’re a hilarious glimpse into freak-teen Massachusetts trash culture.
8. The Runaways – (1976)
We’re not going to argue that this is among the very best albums of the decade. But it is sleazy and raw, a vital link between glam rock and punk. “Cherry Bomb” presaged riot grrrl by 15 years. And after seeing Floria Sigismondi’s recent film about the band, few shows seem more appealing to us than a Runaways reunion that flashes back to their debut. Too bad Joan Jett and Lita Ford are mortal enemies…
9. Elvis Costello – (1977)
My Aim Is True isn’t just a great album &mdash it’s the kind of record you play on repeat. And sing in the shower. “Alison” will never stop being relevant. Neither will “Less Than Zero.” Like the Pixies’ Doolittle, which we enjoyed seeing live a few months ago, it is one of those albums so full of hits that the opening strains of any of its 12 tracks will elicit wild applause.
10. Parliament – (1975)
In a decade packed with concept albums (Hi, The Wall; we love you, too), Mothership Connection is undoubtedly among the most compelling. Like Ziggy Stardust’s funky twin, it’s a sci-fi, outer-space fantasy that creates its own contact high. Plus, we’ll take all the George Clinton we can get.