Hear the 10 Best Albums of the 1960s as Selected by Hunter S. Thompson

Image  via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

Hunter S. Thomp­son, the writer who gave vivid, inim­itable form to “gonzo jour­nal­ism,” honed his lit­er­ary chops the hard way, using rig­or­ous tech­niques includ­ing but not lim­it­ed to retyp­ing the entire texts of The Great Gats­by and A Farewell to Arms him­self. But he would let no one claim that his artis­tic appre­ci­a­tion extend­ed only to the print­ed word: “I resent your assump­tion that Music is Not My Bag,” he wrote in late 1970 to Rolling Stone edi­tor John Lom­bar­do, “because I’ve been argu­ing for the past few years that music is the New Lit­er­a­ture, that Dylan is the 1960s’ answer to Hem­ing­way, and that the main voice of the ’70s will be on records & video­tape instead of books.”

In this same let­ter, col­lect­ed in his sec­ond vol­ume of cor­re­spon­dence Fear and Loathing in Amer­i­ca, Thomp­son includ­ed a list of the best albums of the “rock age” of the 1960s, “because the ’60s are going to go down like a repeat, some­how, of the 1920s; the par­al­lels are too gross for even his­to­ri­ans to ignore.”

The list did­n’t come from Thomp­son, strict­ly speak­ing, but “from Raoul Duke,” the hard-liv­ing alter-ego who would star in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, pub­lished the fol­low­ing year. You can find a slight­ly cleaned-up ver­sion of the list in this Beat­dom post by David S. Willis:

  1. Her­bie Mann’s 1969 Mem­phis Under­ground (“which may be the best album ever cut by any­body”)
  2. Bob Dylan’s 1965 Bring­ing It All Back Home
  3. Dylan’s 1965 High­way 61 Revis­it­ed
  4. The Grate­ful Dead’s 1970 Workingman’s Dead (“the heav­i­est thing since High­way 61 and ‘Mr. Tam­bourine Man‘”)
  5. The Rolling Stones’ 1969 Let it Bleed
  6. Buf­fa­lo Springfield’s 1967 Buf­fa­lo Spring­field
  7. Jef­fer­son Airplane’s 1967 Sur­re­al­is­tic Pil­low
  8. Roland Kirk’s “var­i­ous albums”
  9. Miles Davis’s 1959 Sketch­es of Spain
  10. Sandy Bull’s 1965 Inven­tions

You can also hear most of Thompson/Duke’s Best Albums of the 1960s selec­tions gath­ered in the Spo­ti­fy playlist embed­ded above. (If you don’t have Spo­ti­fy’s free soft­ware, you can down­load it here.) Unfor­tu­nate­ly, Spo­ti­fy has­n’t yet incor­po­rat­ed into its col­lec­tion the work of exper­i­men­tal solo folk gui­tarist Sandy Bull, whose 1965 Inven­tions takes tenth place. (You can hear it on YouTube, how­ev­er.) Bull, whose life was as abun­dant with cre­ativ­i­ty as it was with sub­stances, cut some­thing of a Thomp­son­ian — or Dukean? — fig­ure him­self. His long-form com­po­si­tions “Blend” and “Blend II,” the lat­ter of which opens Inven­tions, will give you a sense of how far he pushed the bound­aries of his tra­di­tion.

“Jesus, what a has­sle to even think quick­ly about a list like that,” wrote Thomp­son, bring­ing the char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly expan­sive let­ter to a close, still try­ing to con­vince Lom­bar­di that such a then-untest­ed con­cept as a 1960s top-ten-albums list could work. “Even now I can think of 10 more I might have added… but what the fuck, it’s only a rude idea. But a good one, I think.”

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hunter S. Thomp­son Inter­views Kei­th Richards, and Very Lit­tle Makes Sense

Hunter S. Thompson’s Har­row­ing, Chem­i­cal-Filled Dai­ly Rou­tine

Hunter S. Thompson’s Ball­sy & Hilar­i­ous Job Appli­ca­tion Let­ter (1958)

Hunter S. Thomp­son, Exis­ten­tial­ist Life Coach, Gives Tips for Find­ing Mean­ing in Life

Read 10 Free Arti­cles by Hunter S. Thomp­son That Span His Gonzo Jour­nal­ist Career (1965–2005)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Comments (9)
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  • Ken F says:

    Since when was 1959 in the 60s? Or 1970?

  • JF says:

    I have to go with After Bathing at Bax­ter’s rather than Sur­re­al­is­tic Pil­low, and you can­not omit every­thing by the Bea­t­les. So, I think that Let It Bleed, and one of the oth­ers must go. If a Stones album is includ­ed, Beg­gar’s Ban­quet is more of an achieve­ment IMHO.

  • Michael says:

    Sandy Bull albums are in fact avail­able on Spo­ti­fy. E Pluribus Unum is amaz­ing.

  • Daniel says:

    While it’s VERY dif­fi­cult to name the best album from The Stone’s, I com­plete­ly agree that,“BEGGAR’S BANQUET,” has to be THE best album from the 60s! That album hit all the bases for the times. I was a huge fan of the Air­plane, espe­cial­ly the ear­ly 70’s albums, but I loved the song, “LATHER”, writ­ten by Slick on Crown of Cre­ation released in 1968.

  • Whippy says:

    NOT a Bea­t­le fan. I thought Sgt. Pep­pers would be in there for sure! 😮

  • Clear Light says:

    Actu­al­ly, I think you will find that 1970 was the last year of the Six­ties decade — when we count we start at 1, not zero. There­fore 1961 was the first year of the decade and 1970 end­ed it, which is why the cur­rent mil­len­ni­um began on Jan 1st 2001.

  • Andrew says:

    The great Son­ny Shar­rock worked as a Gui­tarist on Mem­phis Under­ground. Look him up if you’re into gui­tar; you won’t be dis­ap­point­ed. It’s a shame he isn’t more well known.

  • bryan mcneill says:

    u would need at least a top 100 to get all your albums in from the 1960,s …

  • walstib77 says:

    Appar­ent­ly, you’ve nev­er tried the time-hon­ored HST break­fast of bour­bon, cocaine, and LSD.

    Then it would be very obvi­ous.

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