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.
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.