Category Archives: Music

1001 Songs – 1966: Part Three

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

Good Vibrations – The Beach Boys

This is it, the homestretch of 1966. We start off with one of those keystone tracks in the evolution of rock and pop music.

When you listen to this in the context of what else was around in 1966 (including ‘God Only Knows’) the complexity of the production becomes all the more spellbinding. There is just so much going on in this song. It’s only 3.5 minutes long and people have analysed it to the point where there are 6 identified unique sections.

‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ eat your heart out. Seriously. Eat it. ‘Good Vibrations’ is so much better.

Dead End Street – The Kinks

After the musical melange of ‘Good Vibrations’, this song feels so simple in comparison.

It’s a bit of a maudlin pop-rock song about how life can be a bit crap (see: 2016 and how things never really change). It’s a song I can see The Beatles having come up with back in 1964. Apart from the salloon style piano in the background, which gives this song it’s own character.

The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore) – The Walker Brothers

Oooh and the production values are back up again. There is a nice use of reverb and echo in this song that feels like a slightly pared down version of the Phil Spector “Wall of Sound”.

What really seems to be happening in 1966 is the rise of the studio and the producer as instruments in their own right. The production work of George Martin, Brian Wilson, Phil Spector and the two producers on this song became far more integral in the making of songs.

The Kinks from the previous song are on the other side where you may polish and arrange, but you don’t completely intrude on what the raw sound it. It’s a split we have to this day (even moreso thanks to Autotune), but it’s interesting to see that it is around 1966 where this split began to feel distinct.

Season of the Witch – Donovan

Most people my age probably know about Donovan from that episode of Futurama where Fry falls in love with a mermaid from the lost city of Atlanta.

In actuality, Donovan was one of the earliest proponents of psychedelic rock. It feels that he did this to get away from the earlier pre-conceptions that he was the British Bob Dylan.

He sounds a bit like Dylan, but that’s about it. Honestly, this song thoroughly bored me. It runs for 5 minutes and would have been so much better if it had been edited down closer to 3 minutes as there are 3 minutes worth of ideas. Meh.

Friday on My Mind – The Easybeats

Oh thank God we have a song with a bit of life in it. Our first garage rock song of this section of 1966 and one of the first Australian acts to feature on this list.

It feels like a weird garage rock mash up of ‘Help’ by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones’ ‘Paint It Black’. Not an insult at all, it’s a fun rock song about a longing and excitement for the weekend during the drudgery of the week.

I think this is a song we can all relate to.

I’m a Believer – The Monkees

The Monkees are a weird one. A band created for a TV comedy series that were later able to become a successful band in their own right. Like S Club 7, but without the accusations of racism.

It’s another happy song, but this time one that has been manufactured based on the zeitgeist. It feels like the ultimate stereotype of what a late-1960’s pop rock song would sound like.

I am a bit sad that ‘Daydream Believer’ isn’t on this list though.

Dirty Water – The Standells

Another bit of garage rock/proto-punk here… just nowhere near as much fun as ‘Friday On My Mind’ by the Easybeats.

The dirty water in question is the polluted Charles River in Boston, a city that is namechecked many times during this song. We also have references made the women’s curfew in Boston at the time.

Weirdly, this song was written by the manager and not the LA-based band. So basically they are sneering about a harbour that they’ve never been to. Rock n Roll!

I Feel Free – Cream

Cream are one of the first examples of a supergroup (a term that is probably banded about a bit too much). The most famous member of this psychadelic rock band made up of blues musicians is Eric Clapton.

There is something otherworldly about the harmonies in this song. Like how a group of mind-control aliens might try to run a band (see: the Daft Punk animated film for more on that).

I love the idea that Cream was formed by blues musicians who wanted to rock. With this band it really worked with having their more relaxed blues sensibilites being sped up by the adrenaline of rock. Possibly why the vocals sound just that bit off (in a good way).

You Keep Me Hangin’ On – The Supremes

The only non-white, non-rock, non-male song in this section. I missed all of those things. Thank you The Supremes and Holland–Dozier–Holland for giving me this bit of respite.

Okay it has that rock guitar in the background, but this is very much it’s own animal. Rock was getting bigger and bigger so you can see how this was being incorporated into the Motown sound.

Not that this was the first time The Supremes had ventured into this territory – two years previously they had released a cover album titled ‘A Bit of Liverpool’ where they did a surprisingly good cover of ‘A Hard Days Night’.

Happenings Ten Years Time Ago – The Yardbirds

Okay so this kept making me think of the catatafish song from the Lemmiwinks episode of South Park. Hope that is not just me.

It did not suprise me to see that ‘The Yardbirds’ would eventually feed into Led Zeppelin. The guitar in this song sounded so much like what I would hear in their stuff.

Whilst this is psychedelic rock it feels like that leap forward into harder rock that would start to properly form in the next few years. Still… it sounds like the catatafish.

Tomorrow Never Knows – The Beatles

Okay so this feels like nothing else we have heard so far. The more I do this songs list the more and more respect I am having for the Beatles.

When I listened to Revolver song time ago I hadn’t even picked up on this song with the weird bird noises, dirge-like sitar and whatever some of those other loops are.

I am not sure if I have heard many songs quite like this. I think the Athens, Georgia band Of Montreal have attempted similar things (their song ‘The Past is a Grotesque Animal’ comes to mind), but at least they had this song as a context.

How would a person living in 1966 react to this? It’s astonishing that the Beatles were as recognised in their own time when you consider how unique their songs could be.

‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ is remarkable. I wouldn’t rank it as a favourite song by any means, but I can really appreciate the scale of it.

Progress: 218/1021

Right, that’s it for 1966. It’s been an interesting year for music and, by the look of it, 1967 will be similarly varied with 3 more posts coming.

Acclaimed Albums – Music From Big Pink by The Band

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 125/250Title: Music From Big Pink
Artist: The Band
Year: 1968
Position: #85

It may have taken me blogging for three years, but (as of writing this) I have finally reached the halfway point of the albums list. It’s not like I don’t listen to a lot of music (in 2016 I managed to listen to at least 40 albums from that year) but I guess I just put more recent albums first.

Still that’s the point of doing this and the songs list – to gain a better and more well rounded knowledge. Things like how this band’s name of ‘The Band’ comes from the fact that this group were always the backing band to some more famous frontman – such as Bob Dylan, who lent a helping hand to the making of this album. As much a helping hand as you can when a lot of this was improvised.

It must have been The Band’s experience with many different frontmen that helped to shape the sound for Music From Big Pink since this seems to straddle many genres. On the surface this is another offshoot of rock waiting to happen (we would later call part of this Americana), but it also has elements of blue-eyed soul, country and folk. I would say that this feels like one of those albums that fed into the making of Grievous Angel, but I think the balance of country and rock is different in both cases.

Since I am also doing the 1001 Songs list, I will partially coming back to this album. However, I do want to highlight some songs I enjoyed. The top of that list is ‘Chest Fever’ – I don’t normally like Hammond organ songs, but there was something about this song that really struck me.

A more familiar song that came out of this album was ‘This Wheel’s On Fire’, the theme song from Absolutely Fabulous. This may not be the first recording, but it is the first one that was actually released. It was slightly odd hearing this version having become so used to the one played in the TV show, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

So yes, this was a positive listen and actually the lower of the two The Band albums on the list. I wonder if I’ll enjoy their eponymous release significantly more…

🎻♫♪ – Different Trains by Steve Reich

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
 16/501steve_reich_different_trains_electric_counterpointTitle: Different Trains
Composer: Steve Reich
Nationality: American
Year:
 1988

Having spent so much time in the earlier parts of the classical music list I really wanted to balance things out by picking something from the most recent pieces. It’s one of those weird oxymorons that, somehow, make perfect sense – recent classical music.

Why did I pick this one in particular? One reason: Kronos Quartet – the performers of the Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain soundtracks as well as a cool Bjork remix on Telegram. They are one of THE classical groups and they were the original performers of these three movements by Steve Reich.

Having gone straight from 15th century Maters to this makes for a stark contrast in terms of technology. Different Trains is not just a piece for a string quartet, but also for cassette tape. The piece samples train whistles, sirens and speech with the latter actually providing an initial melody that is spun off and developed by some members of the quartet (whilst the others maintain a pace that mimics the changing speed of a train).

The use of sampled voices isn’t unusual in music, but this was one of the first major classical pieces to use it. However, the voices also have a thematic use related to the idea of the ‘different trains’. The people speaking relate to different journeys. The first movement are Americans talking about journeys across the US, the second and third are Holocaust survivors whose train journeys are to and from the concentration camps.

Once you get the background to this piece the second movement becomes incredibly emotional and, ultimately, upsetting. The idea of making a classical piece that is able to mimic the intensity of these train journeys is inspiring. Honestly. It makes me wish that Steve Reich had worked to provide music to some of the sequences in Shoah

The third movement is possibly the most jovial of the bunch since it symbolises freedom and those rescued from the camps riding the rails back home. Listening to all three movements a second and third time really helps to cement what the composer was intending to do.

Truly this is an evocative piece. Makes me so glad to be doing this list.

1001 Songs – 1966: Part Two

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone – Paul Revere & The Raiders

I think I had this song ruined by a rather awful cover by Ant and Dec. Honestly, I am starting to wonder when we are going to be getting away from rock songs with an organ
playing alongside the bass-line. It’s getting to the point where having it squawking in the background is rather distracting.

Whilst I know we are not going to be having new developments and evolutions with every song that we play – this just felt like one of the bunch instead of a standout. This is meant to be proto-punk – but if it’s a song easily covered by The Monkees and PJ and Duncan then it isn’t THAT punk.

Mas que nada – Sergio Mendes & Brasil’ 66

Speaking of developments. It has been a while since we were in the presence of bossanova (although I did listen to some Bebel Gilberto when holidaying in Lisbon) and the sound has already started to become a lot richer down in Brazil.

There won’t be many people that don’t know a version of this song, even if it is the more recent version with the Black Eyed Peas. It’s one of those moodsetters that sitcoms use to convince you that they’ve shot in Brazil instead of a parking lot outside of Tampa.

El muerto vivo – Peret

Might as well pop over to Spain for a bit of a rumba after a bit of a Brazilian bossanova.

This is on the list as ‘El Mureto Vivo’ (or ‘The Living Dead’ in English) is one of the most played and most famous example of a Catalan rumba song. Not a lot to say here to be honest other than the fact that I wish we had more songs like this. Songs that were different from the big movements in rock/punk/soul that we are seeing elsewhere on the list.

Still, good to be developing that breadth of knowledge.

Tomorrow Is a Long Time – Elvis Presley

A Bob Dylan song as recorded by Elvis Presley. Sure, why the hell not.

Despite the fact that both Dylan and Presley are both part of the US sphere of rock, I find it hard to imagine the two of them interacting that often.

Still, this is an interesting bit of world collision here and it could originally be found as a bonus track on a movie soundtrack. A cover that Bob Dylan views as his favourite.

Knowing that Presley actively sought these Bob Dylan songs out to cover (it’s just that we don’t know a lot of them) really changes my view on the emotional depth of Presley as an artist.

Eleanor Rigby – The Beatles

Baroque pop! One of of my favourite sub-genres and I am finally hearing it for the first time. You can identify that it’s baroque pop not just from the sting section but the mix of melodies and harmonies.

When I listened to ‘Eleanor Rigby’ as part of my listenthrough for Revolver I honestly don’t think I got it. I do now.

Just so much to unpack here when you listen to ‘Eleanor Rigby’ in isolation. The interesting topic of loneliness. The incredible leap that The Beatles took to reach this point from the last song of theirs we heard.

Actually, this is not like anything we’ve heard on the list so far. Actually rather astonishing.

River Deep–Mountain High – Ike & Tina Turner

Don’t let the artist name fool you. This is a Tina Turner and Phil Spector song. I know my image of this song will be clouded by the fictions present in the Tina Turner biopic ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’, but with Ike Turner being paid hansomly to not mess with this song… well get the idea.

Big and bodacious ‘River Deep-Mountain High’ is one of those songs that just shows the range and power in Tina Turner’s voice. There are moments where the Wall of Sound feels like it is about to overwhelm her, but she always finds a way to soar.

7 and 7 Is – Love

14? An awful beverage? Oh right, a proper proto-punk song unlike the one we started this year off with. How silly of me.

A while ago I listened to their album Forever Changes, which they released a year after ‘7 and 7 Is’. That is a great album and a very different direction to what I just heard here. From proto-punk to a softer folk style more inkeeping with their name of ‘Love’.

Interesting to read up what happened there…

96 Tears – ? & The Mysterians

Seriously, when will we stop with that organ. If you are not a rendition of ‘Green Onions’ I am not interested in how proficient you are with the organ. The sheer abundance of the organ on this track is enough to make my ears curl.

This is another one of those garage rock songs (can you spot the pattern with a bunch of these songs from 1966) and it is seen as one of the proper progenitors of punk. Honestly I think ‘7 And 7 Is’ is further along in terms of what punk is… but what do I know.

I do, however, have respect for a band that plays with the idea that their lead singer is an alien who is thousands of years old. LSD really must be marvellous.

Pushin’ Too Hard – The Seeds

Once again, we have some baby punk. Why couldn’t we have had more songs like ‘Eleanor Rigby’ (Arcade Fire really is too far away in the future at this point).

There are points where I think they are going to segue into a rendition of The Kink’s ‘You Really Got Me’. Just something about the backing that feels a bit borrowed. Then again, most modern punk sounds like the Ramones put through a filter so who am I to judge.

In a similar vein to Love, The Seeds went away from this punkier sound to something more psychedelic. I mean if you end up being the band that coins the phrase ‘Flower Power’ you need music you can groove along to.

Psychotic Reaction – The Count Five

It feels like AGES since I last heard a harmonica. After a few of these garage rock/proto-punk songs I thought I would be a bit more jaded, but this one is really good.

This garage rock song still feels like half a light year from what punk would become. Still with those musical breakdowns and a howling harmonica ‘Psychotic Reaction’ felt like a smarter way of approaching punk rock.

Never heard of the band? Well, they broke up to go to college. Who knows where they could have ended up if they had stuck with music.

Reach Out (I’ll Be There) – The Four Tops

A nice bit of Motown soul to finish off this run of songs. Alongside ‘Baby Love’ by the Supremes, ‘Reach Out (I’ll Be There)’ was one of the first big hits to come out of the Motown record label.

Interesting to hear the strain in the voice of the lead singer during this song. His range was a baritone and he was being asked to sing a song for a tenor, and you can really tell that the higher he is meant to sing the harder it becomes for him. This, however, gives the song a sense of urgency that only adds to it.

Progress: 207/1021

One more post left and that’s 1966 covered. I wonder what gems I will be listening to next time.

1001 Songs – 1966: Part One

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.

Progress: 196/1021

Acclaimed Albums: Master of Puppets by Metallica

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 124/250Title: Master of Puppets
Artist: Metallica
Year: 1986
Position: #162

I don’t know what is happening right now. Just going by some of the other albums I gave a spin today (which includes the likes of Jenny Hval, Bon Iver and Nick Cave), or albums I listen to in general, metal never features. It hasn’t featured really since a 6 month stint where I listened to a lot of  Within Temptation.

Honestly, I stuck this on whilst doing something else as I assumed that thrash metal would not be something that interested me. Usually things like this don’t and if you believe studies like this I should be beyond drastic musical taste acquisition.

Then it hit me. My musical taste has taken a number of disparate detours and actually enjoying the thrash metal of Master of Puppets. I mean something like this by Tanya Tagaq is a whole lot harder than anything on this Metallica album.

Like with the classical music list, I do not have the vocabulary in my arsenal to express what I like about this album. The title track is the clear highlight for me, and not just because of the epic intro.

I also really found myself going in for the instrumental track ‘Orion’ as a soundtrack for my video game playing. How awesome would it be to have this in the background during a game of Fallout: New Vegas or Skyrim. Might be worth giving a try.

So in conclusion – it appears I might like metal more than rap. Who knew!?

🎻♫♪ – Maters by Jean de Ockeghem and John Browne

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
 15/501

Title: Alma redemptoris mater
Composer: Jean de Ockeghem
Nationality: Belgium
Year:
 1400s

AND

Title: Stabat mater
Composer: John Browne
Nationality: English
Year:
 1490-1502

Look, I know that ‘mater’ is not a type of classical piece like a mass or a motet is. The thing is that, chronologically, these two come one after the other in the book and both have ‘mater’ in the title. So, surprise, the mater in question is Mary and we have more religious music.

Off the bat I am going to say that I preferred the second piece. It features far more variation in the singing and is, on the whole, far more complex than the motet by Jean de Ockeghem.

This is not downplaying the first piece. It’s a nice piece of five minute choral music. The thing is – it doesn’t swoop (not a technical term) as much as the piece by John Browne. It feels very uniform and would make a good piece of background music for a scene in Cadfael.

The John Browne is far more interesting sonically. For one thing you have a choir of a wider vocal range and the members all switch harmonies during the piece. It just swoops and swirls and I just have no idea how else to describe it.

Maybe the reason this sounds better is because of the Tallis Scholars singers. For a lot of these earlier sacred pieces it is this group that the book seems to recommend most above all others. Still, it was nice. Not the sort of classical music I would go for, but a nice diversion at work.

🎻♫♪ – Violin Sonata No. 9 by Ludwig Van Beethoven

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
 13/501Title: Violin Sonata in A major, op. 47, “Kreutzer”
Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
Nationality: German
Year:
 1803

So here we are again, a classical piece that has been played because of its inclusion in Your Lie In AprilIn the context of the show this is a rather important piece because it’s the first piece that we see Kaori and Kousei playing together. Well, we see the first movement being played. Still, it’s a good way to demonstrate the skill of both the pianist and violinist.

Speaking of skill, how can someone be playing this sonata for ~40 minutes. The skill required to master the complexity of this piece is astonishing. I think that with this being the first violin I listen to for this list I am setting the standard rather unfairly.

Not only is this piece complex, but it is also incredibly varied. The first movement is energetic, the second meditiative and the third quick-pace and appears to be almost gleeful. I don’t know if this is because of my exposure to Your Lie In April talking, but I do prefer the first movement. The quickness and the plucking as well as the (in my opinion) closer interplay between the violin and piano just sparkles.

So, there is a reason that this is named the Kreutzer sonata. Originally this was dedicated to a violinist called Bridgetower (which would make this the Bridgetower sonata). However, Beethoven and Bridgetower got into a fighter over alcohol and a woman so Beethoven re-dedicated it to another prominent violinist: Kreutzer. I love little stories like that. Helps to make this piece feel so alive.

I think I’m going to go back to an older piece now. Now that I’ve felt something like this sonata, it might help give more context to the origins of classical music.

1001 Songs – 1965: Part Two

And now the thrilling conclusion to 1965. If you think this is a lot of songs just wait until 1966 – that’s going to end up being split in 3.

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

Like a Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan

Our first track sung by Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan. This song would have had more effect on our listening if it hadn’t ended up being the first of the second half. This is so unbelievably different to whatever had come before (in terms of the 1001 songs list and music in general).

The big shock, at least for me, is just how successful this was. It isn’t like Bob Dylan was this artist that was appreciated by music-lovers only and not as much the mainstream. This song managed to get to the top reaches of the singles charts. That’s incredibly when you actually think about this cynical, biting poem set to music was able to reach the same notice as girl groups and the Beatles.

People Get Ready – The Impressions

I’m missing something with this one. I get that the imagery in this track is making reference to the Underground Railroad movement that helped to free slaves in the Southern states. I get that this was written at a time where the Civil Rights Movement was making tracks and that this was a good rallying cry that could be used in the churches. However, this is ranked so highly in so many best of lists… and I just hear a fairly generic gospel song from the 1960s.

Looks like this might just be me.

Who Do You Love – The Preachers

Well. That was different.

This is described as being a ‘high energy’ version of a Bo Diddley song. Not sure if that’s an adequate description. This is not on the list because it’s one of the best songs, but because of what it represents: proto-punk.

What we have here is a band trying to take the rock and roll sound and play it harder, faster, rawer and screamier (okay not a word). It’s not punk as we know it, but in the context of what was around at the time this is something very different.

Now to rescue my eardrums before moving on. Ouch.

The Carnival Is Over – The Seekers

This is more of what I expect from a 1960s song. A hugely successful pop-folk hybrid that sold over 1.4 million copies in the UK alone.

With this level of nostalgic melancholy it is unsurprising that this track originates from an old folk song – specifically a Russian folk song. It’s melody has been adapted by the brother of Dusty Springfield who also composed lyrics that were vastly different to the original Russian ones (which were about a peasant uprising… cheery).

This is just one of those nice inoffensive songs that just sounds good. Middle of the road, but good.

Psycho – The Sonics

This is another one of those songs where we are starting to see rock and roll morph into something harder and a bit punkier. It doesn’t hit the screamy heights of ‘Who Do You Love’, but this is most definitely part of the evolution.

The genre at this stage is garage rock (a bit of a Ronseal name there for a type of rock and roll kids would play in the garage) and we are not yet at the stage of punk.

It’s interesting to think that it would take 10-15 years before the definitive punk albums start to be made (Ramones, Never Mind the Bollocks etc) and yet we are starting that evolution in 1965. Makes you wonder what music is brewing right now only to explode in a decades time.

I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (to Stop Now) – Otis Redding

Otis Redding is another one of those talents from the 1960s where there is a great sense of a ‘what if’ about them. Dead at 26 in a plane crash.

This song is most definitely soul, but it just feels that tiny bit more nuanced. There’s something in the vocals here and the light arrangement that leave you wanting just that little bit more.

Stop! In The Name of Love – The Supremes

This is very much the other side of soul. More upbeat and intertwined with pop sensibilities.

As much as this song is incredibly famous you can not hear that chorus without seeing the simple (yet legendary) choreography of the girl group simultaneously raising their hand as they say ‘Stop’ with their hand squarely placed on their hips. Classic.

Subterranean Homesick Blues – Bob Dylan

Back again to the Nobel Laureate. Where you can’t think of ‘Stop! In The Name of Love’ without the dance move, you can’t hear ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ without the mental image of the music video where Dylan is dropping cards with the lyrics on them.

It’s annoying that this song is later on the list than ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ as this was the earlier song. You can tell this song is earlier as, for Dylan, this song feels just that bit more mainstream. It’s a protest song with a vein of blues rock running through.

Seriously, why wouldn’t you make this list completely chronological rather than chronological just by year. Honestly.

The Sound of Silence – Simon & Garfunkel

Damn it ‘Arrested Development’ I had to restart this song because I started laughing at the image of a depressed Will Arnett.

This is one of the great Simon & Garfunkel songs (although ‘The Boxer’ remains my favourite) and is one of those incredibly recognised pieces of folk rock. In part this is probably due to it’s use in ‘The Graduate’.

It’s a weird song as it is about isolation and yet it feels strangely uplifting. To think, Simon and Garfunkel had already disbanded before this had become successful!

My Generation – The Who

Easily one of the most famous rock songs from this era. Like the Rolling Stones from earlier in the year this is very much the pulling away of the harder rock from the rest of the genre.

It’s an interesting structure of the ‘call and response’ that we would have seen more in the RnB songs from earlier years. Also interesting to listen to is the implied swearing – which works remarkably well and helps to make this song radio friendly.

Between this, the Stones and the Kinks it is very clear that Britain was leading the way in this new sub-genre of music.

Unchained Melody – The Righteous Brothers

Now to end on something remarkably vanilla that simultaneously makes you think of Demi Moore having sex on a potter’s wheel.

Whenever you listen to this song, remember that this was a throwaway B-side. This was not the song that DJs were meant to be playing. This was not meant to be the hit. This timeless and powerful recording was just an afterthought.

I know I called this vanilla, but it is a spectacular song in its own right. Bobby Hatfield delivers the best vocals of any song in this batch and, aside from Nina Simone, possibly even this year.

Sure it is incredibly easy to dismiss this song as being easy listening… there’s nothing wrong with easy listening done this well.

Progress: 186/1021

Acclaimed Albums – John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band by John Lennon

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 123/250Title: John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
Artist: John Lennon
Year: 1970
Position: #68

Since, in real time, I am starting to think of how to rank the best albums of 2016 (happy almost Halloween everybody) the coverage of albums is going to continue to be patchy for a little while. All things being equal this list should be the easiest to finish as I could be incredibly passive and just listen to the remaining 130+ albums and tick them off as I go.

Still, this is not what Before I Kick is about. This blog is over 3 years old now (what the what!?) and I make sure to be as active as I can when it comes to engaging with the media on the many lists.

Hand up time. I do not like John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’. It’s one of those songs that has found itself repeated ad nauseam and, despite how well meaning and philosophical it is, I find it mildly irritating. I don’t think the “you who”s and “a-ha”s help.

With ‘Imagine’ in mind I have to say I was surprised by the music on John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. Probably shouldn’t have been considering his background with the Beatles and the fact that Yoko Ono was with him every step of the way.

Yoko Ono’s supportive presence is really important here as Plastic Ono Band is, in effect, the first solo record from John Lennon. This means that after listening to tracks about walruses, submarines and a girl named Jude, we get proper insight in Lennon himself that doesn’t have to be filtered through the lens of a band.

The result is something lyrically very interesting. You just have to look at both ‘Mother’ and ‘God’ to see where Lennon is psychologically. Before this album Lennon and Ono went through months of primal therapy together (a lot of screaming ensued) and this album really feels like a result of that.

You just have to listen to ‘Working Class Hero’ to hear how this is very different to what John Lennon had released before. I know it sounds quaint to say this, but I had never thought of John Lennon swearing until these lyrics.

A few tracks later you have ‘God’ where he systematically denounces a long list of people and organisations in just over 4 minutes. Again, this feels very much non-Beatles and very someone else.

I can imagine contemporary fans of the Beatles, and by extension John Lennon, being a tad put off by this. It would be like Harry Styles releasing an album outside of the mainstream (I’m thinking electro-babymetal). Sure, there would be some fans that stick but there would be others feeling betrayed. Or maybe not.

Still, it’s interesting to hear what the stage was between The Beatles and Imagine the album. I have I feeling I’ll end up preferring John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, but we’ll see when we get there.