With lead guitarist and singer of Guster, Ryan Miller, on his favorite albums that shook up the scene through the ‘60s & ‘70s
By Ryan Miller
It’s pavlovian at this point—a call from my pals at Whalebone inevitably leads to some kind of weirdo adventure and thus an instantaneous “Yes, and…?”
How it goes—
Me: “Yes, and…?”
The “and…” turned out to be the hippie issue calling— a request for eight albums that “conveyed the devaluation of the rat race, how those albums were disruptive for their time and what they personally imparted on to you. Does that work?” Hell yeah, that works. Couldn’t pick just eight though, sorry not sorry.
Complete Bang Sessions | 1967 (1994)
“You want a danish?
No, I just ate
I’ve just eaten.
Like, I want some bread up front.
Oh, bread up front. You want a sandwich? Have a danish”
The greatest all-time fuck-you-of-a-record, hands down. Contractually obligated to one last record for his old label, Bang Records, Van the Man spent exactly the album running time “writing” and recording these 30 songs. Nothing says “down with the man” more than Van extemporaneously demolishing capitalism one song after another. My favorite part is hearing his guitar slowly go out of tune over the course of these jams. Worth one full listen to bathe in the true spirit of what it means to tell polite society to kiss your ass. Ruthless stuff.
Os Mutantes | 1968
“But the people in the dining hall
These people in the dining hall
Are busy being born and dying”
If evil villains hung me upside-down over a pit of snappy crocodiles and asked, “What is the greatest guitar riff of all time?!” I would probably scream “THE OPENING LICK OF OS MUTANTES’ ‘A MINHA MENINA’ EVIL VILLAINS!” Bursting from the Brazilian Tropicalismo scene in the late ’60s, these dudes swung for the wackadoodle fences and landed beyond in the psychedelic, romantic, irreverent, and hilarious realm of The Other. Marry me, Mutantes and teach me Portuguese—I’ll tear up my passport, learn how to fish, adopt a street dog named “Rodrigo” and join your circus, it would be a fever dream.
In My Own Time | 1971
“Do you feel like something’s not real?
Let the Spirit move you again
Are you leaving for the country?
You say the city brings you down
Leave the iron cloud behind
And feel the circus moving on”
I was listening to this very record when the call came so this one was a no-brainer. Dalton was born in the backwoods of Oklahoma, had two kids by 21 and made her way to Greenwich Village where she palled around with Bob Dylan and had all the ingredients of a folk superstar. She manifested two ageless albums but then fell into a life of depression and regret, leaving us only with these sonic maps of a lovely, crooked road less traveled.
Crying, Laughing, Loving, Lying | 1972
“I am a free man, and my father, he was a slave I have been broken, but my children will be saved”
What could be more “counterculture” than an atheist, gay and Black troubadour on the ʼ70s folk scene? A criminally underrated artist, Siffre got a much-deserved second look when some hip-hop monsters (Eminem, Jay-Z, Kanye) excavated samples from his gorgeous catalog decades after release. Personally, I stumbled on Crying, Laughing, Loving, Lying through the Great Algorithm In The Sky and have never been happier for the efficacy of Black Mirror. All my private data for albums like this? Easy choice.
Mother Earth’s Plantasia | 1976
In 1972, if you bought a plant from Mother Earth Plant Boutique on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles (who hasn’t, really) you also received a vinyl copy of Mother Earth’s Plantasia. Created with the intention to help said houseplants grow and flourish—“Warm earth music for plants and the people who love them”—it remains a crate digger classic as well as a treasured spot in the regular rotation of yours truly. Moog synthesizer patches, pistils and stamens is a Venn diagram I never knew I needed.
High Priestess of Soul | 1967
“I say come ye ye who would have love
It’s time to take a stand
Don’t mind abuse it must be paid
For the love of your fellow man”
Tough to write three sentences on Nina. I won’t do it. Three words though? Cosmic. Fearless. Anointed. The high priestess of soul, indeed.
NANCY SINATRA & LEE HAZLEWOOD
Nancy & Lee | 1968
“Some velvet morninʼ when Iʼm straight
Iʼm gonna open up your gate
And maybe tell you ʼbout Phaedra
And how she gave me life
And how she made it end
Some velvet morninʼ when Iʼm straight”
Dudes start this album with a half-time, reverb-drenched, octave-down version of “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” that feels straight out of a hazy pillowed opium den. As the duo plays on, we get the polyrhythmic “Some Velvet Morning” (A+++ stoner jam) and “Summer Wine” (all-time top 50). Tuned in, turned on, dropped way out.
Histoire de Melody Nelson | 1971
“Nʼayant plus rien à perdre
Ni Dieu en qui croire
Afin quʼils me rendent mes amours dérisoires
Moi, comme eux
Jʼai prié les cargos de la nuit”
Not totally sure what Monsieur Gainsbourg is on about (I failed French II in eighth grade and never looked back) but this whole dealio feels very sexy. Beck owes most of his masterpiece Sea Change to this stunner, but I wasn’t mad when he put Gainsbourgʼs Francophonic soggy grooves, twisty orchestral arrangements, plucky baselines and Humbert Humbertian whispers through a Topanga Canyon filter. Timeless late-night listening for provocateurs and raconteurs, viva Serge…
Electric Warrior | 1971
“I could have built a house on the ocean
I could have placed our love in the sky
But it really doesnʼt matter at all
No it really doesnʼt matter at all
Lifeʼs a gas”
“Life’s a gas.” Could there be any better three words that encapsulate the hippie ethos? Fuzzed out, Bowie-adjacent, fearless showman Marc Bolan’s Electric Warrior is accurately credited with the birth of glam rock. Three of my buddies and I covered this album at the Mercury Lounge in the early 2000s and I still remember it as one of the most intoxicating nights of my professional life. Fifty years on, the tunes still crush—the seminal statement from a unicorn of a human.