Right so this year is so large that I’m splitting it into three parts of 10-11 songs apiece. Looking at the names that are going to be covered this year it is little wonder. It’s like all these titans of music just woke up and started going on a hit-making rampage.
List Item: Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die
Et moi, et moi, et moi – Jacques Dutronc
French Bob Dylan? Is that you? Seriously though, how much does this sound like if Bob Dylan suddenly took it upon himself to sing in French. Not a criticism in anyway, but it’s just so interesting to see how quickly an artist can influence another. Similarly there are other acts you can hear here such as the Kinks.
This song itself is rather self centred (ergo the title), but that’s pretty much the point. It’s not like anything we’ve yet heard come out of France (or the European mainland), which makes this song particularly stand out.
Stay with Me – Lorraine Ellison
One of those songs that was the case of serendipity. A last-minute cancellation by Frank Sinatra meant there was an already paid for slot available at a recording studio (as well as an already hired orchestra) – and here is the song that came out of this.
The richness and bombast of the orchestral background to this song with the powerful voice of Lorraine Ellison make for a wonderful pairing – and might not have been something we’d have heard if not for the cancellation.
Al-atlal – Umm Kulthum
At over 10 minutes long ‘Al-atlal’ is one of the longest songs on this list. This is also considered to be one of the best Arab songs of the 20th century with the singer, Umm Kulthum, being the most celebrated Arab singer (possibly) ever.
It’s fairly hard to talk about a song like this because of our lack of exposure to this sort of music. Also, it is hard to talk about this song because it is heavily improvised. The version we found was 10 minutes 30 seconds, and that was only because it cuts out. Some performances of this song could stretch well over half an hour.
You’re Gonna Miss Me – The Thirteenth Floor Elevators
After that rather long Arabian musical interlude I need to get my head back into the world of what was going on in Western music.
Here we are with a furthering of the ‘garage rock’ that started to creep in during our last listen. It’s taking that garage rock and giving it just that bit of a psychedelic polish that was so popular at the time.
Apparently you can hear an electric jug being played in this. I think I missed it.
Substitute – The Who
You never really hear the tambourine in songs anymore. It’s one of those things that really makes this song scream 1960s.
It feels like The Who have really softened up since ‘My Generation’ and they have some ways to go until they reach the power pop of Tommy. This feels like a song that the Beatles could have written if their music had more of an edge to it (just listen to some of the lyrics, which betray that it started out as a riff on a Rolling Stones song).
Eight Miles High – The Byrds
Pure psychedelia here. As with songs by the Mamas and the Papas and The Beach Boys we have those California cool harmonies.
It’s also highly experimental (leading the term raga rock) with its guitar playing. We see similar things when the Beatles release St. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
I never think of The Byrds when I think of musical breakthroughs of the 1960s. Probably time to re-evaluate.
Sunny Afternoon – The Kinks
“Oh look how wealthy I am, pity about all the taxes I have to pay now.” That’s pretty much the takeaway I got from the first verse of this song. I get that it’s written to be mocking of the richer classes and the ennui they can feel.
I also get that, at the time, you would have to pay 95% tax for earnings over a certain amount. Still, rich people problems eh?
Paint It, Black – The Rolling Stones
One of only two songs on this list of ten where I have that immediate recognition from the title. It probably helps that I listened to it on Aftermath as part of my other musical blog project.
As with ‘Eight Miles High’ we have another example of raga rock. They don’t go into it as experimentally as the Byrds, but this is a fantastic song.
I know I didn’t like Aftermath as an album, but the more this song really grows on me. Even though, as a song, I don’t know if it actually has an end.
Summer in the City – The Lovin’ Spoonful
Oh my God it’s this song. You know that moment you know a song really well and you have no idea how? That’s how I feel with this song. Although, I don’t think I had previously heard the bits with the car horns and the pneumatic drill.
With the exception of the final song on this list, ‘Summer in the City’ is the most pop of anything in this blog entry. It’s something that I swear I have heard in various films and TV shows where they are trying to give that summery feel.
Also, here is another song that doesn’t end. Is this something I have only just noticed?
God Only Knows – The Beach Boys
‘God Only Knows’ ranked among my favourite songs of all time. It’s a song that I kept thinking about with my wedding (although apparently, since it was a civil ceremony and this song mentions God it was a bit sketchy… pathetic, right?) even though the first line is “I may not always love you”.
It’s one of the most beautifully and brutally honest songs about love that has ever been put on recorded. Doing the 1001 songs list helps me appreciate all of the musical threads that have come together to make this and the other songs on Pet Sounds.
The big and layered production. The rise of psychedelic rock through folk music. The close harmonies. Even that tambourine. The key changes. It’s all come together to make this wonderful song that, thanks to the beginning sequence of Big Love, makes me think of ice skating with someone I love.