Hard to believe but there was a time before YouTube – before cable television and home video for that matter. We ate the music we were served and we liked it, said the crusty old curmudgeon. Live albums were an opportunity to hear our favorite music in a new way, and they still are. Here are some choice live album cuts you’ve probably never heard:
1. “Chloe Dancer,” Pearl Jam, Live At the Gorge. The greatest song that you’ve never heard from the Grunge era. It might have died with Andy Wood, but fortunately the Mother Love Bone survivors didn’t let that happen.
2. “Sign of the Cross,” Skafish, Urgh! A Music War. It’s hard for me to pick a single track from this double album, but the nod has to go to Skafish. Irreverent, funny, disturbing, dramatic, intense. Runner up: Every other song on the album.
3. “Tattooed Love Boys,” The Pretenders, Concerts for the People of Kampuchea. Another live album virtually impossible to narrow down to a single track, but when Chrissie Hynde says “I shot my mouth off and he showed me what that hole was for” I still lose the ability to reason for fifteen minutes.
4. “Mother Popcorn,” Aerosmith, Live! Bootleg! Nobody can out-JB James Brown, but this cover comes close – skinny legs and all.
5. “Ain’t It Fun,” The Dead Boys, Night of the Living Dead Boys. The first album I purchased on the Bomp! label. If you’re familiar with the Guns ‘N’ Roses cover, go find this track and hear it done right.
6. “Maps and Legends,” REM, unknown. This was a b-side to a 12″ and I’m having trouble placing it right now. Recorded at McCabe’s guitar shop in LA, it captures REM during that brilliant moment when they could do no wrong.
7. “Pinball Wizard,” Pete Townshend, The Secret Policeman’s Ball. Nowadays it’s not hard to find Pete live and acoustic, but when this came out it was a revelation. The power isn’t in John’s thunder bass, Roger’s wail, or Keith’s chaotic drumming: The power is in the song. Pete’s unique strumming patterns don’t hurt, either.
8. “Had A Dad,” Jane’s Addiction, Live and Rare. Jane’s was one of those bands that had to be experienced live. There are thousands of words in my future regarding Jane’s Addiction, but for now suffice it to say that I found a new best friend I’d never meet when Perry howled: “I had a dad/big and strong/I turned around and / I found my daddy gone.”
9. “Whiter Shade of Pale,” HSAS, Through the Fire. A one-off band featuring Sammy Hagar, Neil Schon, Kenny Aaronson and Michael Shrieve. This is by no means the definitive version of Procol Harum’s classic, but it is good and overlooked. Also of odd note for a live track: On the album version the audience has been removed to make it sound more like a studio cut.
10. “An American Trilogy,” Elvis Presley, multiple. E is so anthologized you won’t have any trouble finding this one. It’s hardly a deep cut, but then again it is for some folks. There is no recording I’ve ever found that better reveals the latter-day Elvis as the toothless and broken caged lion that he had become. I dare you not to get a little misty when he sings:
So hush little baby
Don’t you cry
You know your daddy’s bound to die
But all my trials, Lord, will soon be over.
By the eyebrow pencil of sweet Lisa Marie I dare you not to choke up!