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Monster Magnet’s Dave Wyndorf: 10 albums that changed my life

Dave Wyndorf of Monster Magnet
(Image credit: Napalm Records)

However much you think you know about rock’n’roll, Dave Wyndorf knows more. His love of obscure late 60s and early 70s garage rock and proto metal bands with names like Poobah and Sir Lord Baltimore is unsurpassed, to the point where his band Monster Magnet have recorded an album full of covers of songs from that era, the upcoming A Better Dystopia. “You couldn’t read about these things anywhere, so you’d go to the record store and pick the albums with the coolest covers and song titles,” he says.

When we asked him to give us a list of the 10 albums that changed his life, we expected him to go deep. But he kept it fairly mainstream – well, as mainstream as crazy-eyed space rock, twisted British prog and bands with singing drummers go. Over to you, Dave…

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Hawkwind – In Search Of Space (1971)

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I bought In Search of Space when I was 12 or 13. I remember looking at that cover, thinking, “This has to be the greatest album ever.” I’ve never heard a record fit the cover as well as that did.

It sounded like nothing I’d ever heard before. It had this strange tone – this weird science-fiction thing that only a British person could have done at that time. It’s a cool sounding record to this day.

I got to see them a couple of years later, in 1973, and I swear that’s what started me down this path. I'm standing there literally a couple of feet from [dancer] Stacia, this beautiful, giant-boobed, naked woman painted with blacklight paint and [saxophonist] Nick Turner, with a microphone in his sax, playing through a wah-wah pedal. Do you know what that sounds like to a 15-year-old? It sounds like bloody hell. It just completely fucked everyone’s mind. It was more punk rock than punk rock.

Black Sabbath – Paranoid (1970)

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That’s another one I heard when I was a kid, and I still haven’t heard it done any better. Black Sabbath were ground-level successful here in the States at this point – that is, they were signed to a major label, but you’d see maybe one ad for them. Instead you found them by looking through the record bins and going to concerts.

Soft rock was big at the time – James Taylor, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. And then you’ve got this: [singing] “I am Iron Man!” I was, “Wow!” This album was like a neo-classical painting come to life - like some Hieronymus Bosch thing, with all these scenes of destruction. Pull up a big Bosch painting on your computer, look really close and listen to Paranoid, and you’ll see what I mean.

The Stooges – The Stooges (1969)

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They made three albums all within, like, six months of each other, and it’s hard to separate them. But I’ll pick the first one, cos it‘s the first one of theirs I heard.

The Stooges were the first American band who were scary to me. It had the same melancholy tone as the records I’d been buying by early period Jethro Tull, or the first King Crimson record. The Stooges was vibey in that way, but it wasn’t progressive rock. It sounded like it could have been made by the kids from my neighbourhood. They didn’t sound like they were kidding around.

King Crimson - In The Court Of The Crimson King (1969)

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I just mentioned the first King Crimson record. Holy shit, to this day you still can’t touch it. I bought it for the cover, which is one of the greatest covers of all time. How can you even consider not buying an album that had an illustration of the full red-face of a man screaming?

The first song is 21st Century Schizoid Man. That was the first time I ever heard fuzz vocals and distorted singing: 'Cat’s foot, iron claw, neuro-surgeons scream for more'. That just killed me. And it was so heavy – talk about heavy metal.

But the interesting thing is that they didn’t follow that style up on the rest of the album. It was all super mellow, but trippy – almost like a watercolour painting of pastoral England. That was one of the records that taught me you could go from really, really heavy, to really, really soft. It changed me forever.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced (1967)

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The first Jimi Hendrix album was the first record I heard that sounded like it was made by a singular person. I know he had a band, but it seemed like he authored the whole thing – it was his vision.

Hendrix was like some space gypsy guy, especially in terms of his lyrics. Lyrics are really important to me – it's not they have to be smart, or stupidly dumb, but something has to happen with the lyrics to get me interested. Even now, I think, “What would Hendrix do? What would he do with this chorus?” And he’d probably go, “Well, fuck the chorus, I won't do one.”

Sir Lord Baltimore - Kingdom Come (1970)

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They were a band from one of the New York City boroughs – maybe the Bronx or Queens – and they were one of America’s first answers to Led Zeppelin.

It’s super-heavy, it’s super-wild, and they’ve got songs like Master Heartache. It’s one of those records where the guy laboriously over-sings – and he’s the drummer! Like, “Fuck this, we don’t need a lead singer!” If you've never heard Sir Lord Baltimore, you’ve gotta play this.

Ramones - Ramones (1976)

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The first Ramones album totally blew me away. This was the band where I said, “I think I could do this.” It was a triumph of wit over talent – meaning wit as talent.

It’s a kind of conceptual art that rivals any conceptual art I've ever seen: “We are these cartoon characters, even more than Alice Cooper.” It’s like they walked out of some bizarre pod in Queens and just cut through all the fat of the 70s. And as much as I like the 70s, there was a lot of fat.

The first time I saw them was in Asbury Park, New Jersey, where I live. The Jersey Shore was this awful place full of people with feathered fucking earrings, and they literally made a roomful of people hate their guts. I was, like, “This is the band for me”.

The Dictators - Go Girl Crazy! (1975)

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The Dictators pre-dated the Ramones, and they have never been given enough credit for it. They had the whole sneaker-rock, American-TV-watching thing going on, and their lyrics were really, really funny. They were Jewish kids from Brooklyn or the Bronx, writing songs like Master Race Rock. And because they were dumb kids, they didn’t realise how much controversy they were gonna cause.

The production was really heavy and really raw. They were fans of World Federation Wrestling, and they had that kind of attitude. The cool punk bands at CBGBs just thought they were bumpkins. But the main songwriter, Andy Shernoff, was a musical genius. It was like he’d listened to a lot of Who records and, in his mind, tried to reflect his own lifestyle like The Who reflected theirs. I mean, The Dictators weren’t nearly as talented as The Who, but they were still great.

Sam Phillips - Martinis & Bikinis (1994)/Enya - Watermark (1988)

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That was a record that really changed my way of thinking about production. I was out of my mind making [Monster Magnet’s second album] Superjudge, and this really saved my ass, spiritually. I wanted to listen to something really delicate, and this was it. Same with Watermark by Enya, which came out in the late 80s. It's kind of cheesy and New Agey, but it sounds so great.

The Cult - Electric (1986)

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I love [1988’s] Sonic Temple, but I’d have to go with Electric. That’s the record they made with Rick Rubin. They actually made it twice – the first one they made with another producer but it didn’t work, so they scrapped it all and re-recorded it completely with Rubin. Which just shows you that the Devil’s in the detail – they're the same songs approached with a different mindset.

But what a singer Ian Astbury is – that voice, oh my god. And what a guitar player Billy Duffy is too. Hair metal was just getting big at the time, and I couldn’t relate to any of it. It was, like, “Things aren’t looking too good for rock.” And this came along, and a few years later the Seattle scene started happening, and I was, like, “OK, things are starting to look cool again.”

Monster Magnet’s A Better Dystopia is released on May 21