100 Records That Set the World on Fire (While No One Was Listening)

Every week, we’ll be looking at 1 or two records from The Wire’s “100 Records That Set the World On Fire (While No One Was Listening)” list, originally published in the The Wire 175 (September 1998). You can find the list we’re working from in several places: A Discogs List, and a Rate Your Music List. Both the Discogs List and the Rate Your Music list also have an additional 30 Records that the Wire published later. You’ll also notice that the original lists are in alphabetical order. The Rate Your Music list is in chronological. I think it’s far more interesting to do it chronologically, so that’s how we’re going to do it. The text below the pieces are from the Wire writers. Please listen and comment on reactions.


Today we’re looking at Steve Reich’s Early Works, but I can understand how some people thought we were covering that last week. This is for two reasons, I think:

  • At the beginning of this I started putting a ‘Look Ahead’ thing at the bottom. I included not only the name of the album, but a link to a YouTube video of it, as well as the text from The Wire. My intention was to give people an opportunity to listen to it before the next discussion post came up. But that was never entirely clear. Making things more confusing last week, I realized that I didn’t write ‘Look Ahead’ in front of the Steve Reich entry. So a lot of people were freely discussing it last week. To prevent this from happening in the future, I’m just going to give an ‘Up Next, with the name of the artist and album at the bottom.’
  • I also understand that the header for these posts is always the same, and it’s endlessly frustrating to me. I copy these to draft from the previous post, and when I do I can’t edit the headline. I have no idea why. It really annoys me.

So today we’re just going to do Steve Reich, and I’ll give the next one at the bottom. There’s always more to say about Reich. I hope?

Steve Reich, Early Works. “Come Out” ; “It’s Gonna Rain” ; etc (Elektra Nonesuch 1965)

In 1965 in San Francisco, partly inspired by the phase experiments of Terry Riley’s In C, Steve Reich was playing around with two identical tape loops he had recorded of a black Pentecostal preacher. Letting the loops go slightly out of phase, he became mesmerized by the complex sub-rhythms set up by the interference, the voice morphing into a pulsing Minimalist music. It’s Gonna Rain lifts those three words out of the sermon, turning them into a rhythm -a flickering repeat that shears into depersonalized cyber tones. In a longer sequence, about people beseeching Noah to let them into the ark, the tape subdivides into eight loops of garbled counterpoint. In 1966 he pushed the voice of Daniel Hamm, arrested in the Harlem riots of 1964, even further towards a morass of hypnotic vibrations around the phrase “Come out to show them”. A Techno prophecy. MF

Up Next: Albert Ayler In Greenwich Village (Impulse! 1967)