Those who are aware of the late, great novelist and writer-extraordinaire Hunter S. Thompson will know the importance of musicians and music to him as a writer and human. He considered musicians to be in the same sphere as writers and painters and treated them with heavy and deep respect, something Hunter found quite hard to do in his everyday life. So when we found, in a letter to Rolling Stone editor John Lombardi, his top ten albums of what he called “the rock age” (aka the 60s) we just had to share it.
The epic writer has gained infamy for his eccentric way of life and combative writing and persona. His complete compulsion for uncontrollable situation left Thompson as the frontrunner of freedom during the last few decades and he remains a pillar of anarchic beauty. It’s a notion that transcends his work and bleeds into every notion of his being.
In 1970, with the sixties falling behind them in a hue of kaleidoscopic peace and love, Thompson wrote to Lombardi:
“I resent your assumption that Music is Not My Bag 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.
‘But by music I don’t mean the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. If the Grateful Dead came to town, I’d beat my way in with a fucking tyre iron, if necessary, I think Working Men’s Dead is the heaviest thing since Highway 61 and Mr Tambourine Man (with the possible exception of The Stones’ least two albums… and the definite exception of Herbie Mann’s Memphis Underground, which may be the best album cut by anybody.) And that might make a good feature: some kind of poll of the best albums of the ’60s… or “Where it Was in the Rock Age”. 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 following list is full to the brim of completely wonderful and intoxicating albums from our favourite artists. Gladly we could listen to all of these albums on repeat, happy in the sound and even happier in the knowledge that the great man loved them too.
Although the list is entirely incredible it isn’t all Hunter’s work, in fact, he actively describes the list as Raoul Duke’s list. Duke is his fictional character (a drug-addled sports editor) with which Thompson found not only some best-selling books, a worthy counterpart but peace of mind and respite in a constantly fluctuating world.
So without further ado, here’s Hunter S. Thompson’s Top 10: “So for whatever it’s worth–to either one of us, for that matter – here’s the list from Raoul Duke”:
- Herbie Mann’s 1969 Memphis Underground (“which may be the best album ever cut by anybody”)
- Bob Dylan’s 1965 Bringing It All Back Home
- Dylan’s 1965 Highway 61 Revisited
- The Grateful Dead’s 1970 Workingman’s Dead (“the heaviest thing since Highway 61 and ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’”)
- The Rolling Stones’ 1969 Let it Bleed
- Buffalo Springfield’s 1967 Buffalo Springfield
- Jefferson Airplane’s 1967 Surrealistic Pillow
- Roland Kirk’s “various albums”
- Miles Davis’s 1959 Sketches of Spain
- Sandy Bull’s 1965 Inventions
Featuring twice in the list is the voice of the 60s, Bob Dylan. Thompson’s adoration for Dylan knew no bounds. Before Hunter, sadly committed suicide, he instructed his wife, Anita, to send his red IBM Selectric II portable typewriter to Dylan. She thought it a little churlish: It was too precious to send away.. But after Hunter died, she reconsidered.
“He still has the harmonica you gave him that day in his drawer, in return, he wanted you to have his red IBM Selectric II typewriter. He started a letter to accompany it on a few occasions, but got distracted by various deadlines, and didn’t want to send you a distracted letter. So anyway, here it is, and I am sorry the letter has to be from me, but it is important to him that you have the typewriter and use it for Chronicles. (I guess it would be Chronicles II now, right?)”