I am going to miss being able to complete a year in one go. We are nearing the age of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and a whole mess of other artists.
Truly it is about to explode up in here. Something to look forward to.
List Item: Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die
Cry Baby – Garnet Mimms & The Enchanters
Directly before starting this particular post I was enjoying ‘Dreams’ by Beck. I always have to make a weird mental adjustment as I fall backwards in time by 50-55 years.
This song was one of those important crossover hits of the 1960s reaching the Top 5 of the Billboard charts over in the USA. We are still very much in soul country, but there is something different about this song and the only way I can describe it is that this feels more ‘mainstream’. Other soul songs were in the mainstream (ego why they are on this list), but this feels more mainstream and modern in comparison to what has gone before.
It’s something about the layers in the production and how clean it all sounds. No more of this music being rough around the edges. It sounds polished and like something that Aretha Franklin would be able to get her hands on.
La javanaise – Juliette Greco
The star of Serge Gainsbourg was really beginning to rise in the early 1960s. This dreamy dose of chanson just makes it clear how different genres of music were developing at the same time.
We are very much a world apart from the rock, soul and folk of the English speaking world. It’s a nice way to break the flow and the perfect song for a summer afternoon waiting for Tesco to bring up your weekly supply of diet cola.
The husky voice of this song is very much in the cabaret style that I have come to expect from the likes of these kinds of chanteuse. It’s good background music, but probably would sit through a whole album of Juliette Greco (and yet you have something like Ute Lemper’s Punishing Kiss, which is fantastic).
Harlem Shuffle – Bob & Earl
Where are the cars with weird suspension? Wait, this isn’t House of Pain with ‘Jump Around’, but the 1963 song ‘Harlem Shuffle’. That opening horn section has become so incredibly famous for anyone born before 1995 that it’s incredibly jarring to hear the original source material.
It’s yet another of those songs that tries to catch onto dance crazes… but it feels remarkably slow to dance to. How are you expected to shake a tail feather when the song feels like it’s limping across the finish line.
On Broadway – The Drifters
That’s one hell of a piece of triangle work after the 50 second mark. Seriously listen to that triangle. Once you’ve noticed it you will actually find it hard to focus on the rest of the song. It’s just that distracting.
The balance was off with this song, and that’s not just because of the crazy triangle work. Not sure what else there is to say.
Louie Louie – The Kingsmen
I don’t think there is a person alive in the West who does not know ‘Louie Louie’. It’s one of those songs that films, TV shows and adverts like to trot out as a way to highlight the fact that we are in the early 1960s.
Weirdly enough, most of this song feels like it could have been made in the late 1950s. There is something about that rockabilly steel guitar which makes this feel more of a throwback. I guess that this is still rock and roll finding its feet and has yet to find that defined direction that will be start to take shape in the next year or so.
The vocal delivery is what makes this sound more modern, however. We have had similar shouty deliveries for a while, but there is a drawl and a bit of snark in it that makes him sound fresh.
One Fine Day – The Chiffons
Oh my God. I love this song. Like with ‘Louie Louie’ it is one of those songs I have only heard in other media.
Listening to it now with my musical appreciation hat on I can see the Carol King/Gerry Goffin watermark on it. Just listen to that great piano work in the background.
Of course the thing that makes this song is the tight harmony by the Chiffons themselves. Their vocals meld together to make a song that just makes you smile with it’s infectious and bouncy optimism.
In Dreams – Roy Orbison
So um… I can’t make a balanced judgement of this song thanks to David Lynch and the way he just made it so incredibly vile in Blue Velvet. It’s weird to think how Lynch got to that murderous place with a song that is just so unassuming… so now it is just unsettling. Maybe that’s just the falsetto though.
But hey, at least it isn’t ‘Pretty Woman’.
Actually let’s be fair. This song is unusual, not in terms of style but in terms of structure. There is no real clear chorus and it is actually quite experimental. If unsettling. Thanks David.
Sally Go’ Round the Roses – The Jaynetts
There really a lot of these girl groups during this time period. We even have one more coming up after this.
Now if there was a song that David Lynch could have picked for Blue Velvet I would have expected something more like this. Same with Quentin Tarantino. This song screams Tarantino soundtrack.
Why? This song actually feels quite spooky, mainly because of the subdued nature of the vocals. It called to mind Joe Meek’s work ‘Johnny Remember Me’. It’s an unusual song to have as the debut song of your new girl group, which might go a long way to explain why they were a one-hit wonder, but it’s such an interesting song.
The lyrics are up for interpretation, but the overridingly popular one is that it is a veiled reference to lesbianism. It’s about someone keeping a secret and being warned off of that behaviour. It could be cheating, drug use or lesbianism. I know I’m not alone in hoping it’s the third one… just because it would make this song stand out even more.
Be My Baby – The Ronettes
How different is this to the previous song? Very different. We are back in the warm(ish?) embrace of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound.
Every now and then we have one of those songs that is incredibly important – and this is important because of how it shaped Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys. It’s hard to think that these layers of sound in a song were once brand new, so it makes sense that people (like Wilson) would be taken aback by it and try to make sense of it.
It’s possibly that ‘God Only Knows’ may not exist as we know it if not for this song. Something to be thankful for.
Surfin’ Bird – The Trashmen
Oh god Family Guy. This is an interesting entry on the list as it’s an example of an extremely successful mash-up song (think Jive Bunny, but more obnoxious).
‘Surfin’ Bird’ is actually a mash-up of two very similar sounding songs by the Rivingtons, and this mash-up by the Trashmen was done based on the similarity of these songs. Obviously a legal battle was involved and the Rivingtons won rights to ‘Surfin’ Bird’… but if you release two songs as singles that are THIS similar… well you’re just asking for a mash-up.
Sapore di sale – Gino Paoli
After the… whatever that is of ‘Surfin’ Bird’ it’s a song that is fairly non-descript. It is just another slow male-led pop song, in this case it’s in Italian. Bit of a meh song to end the year on to be honest…