Tag Archives: the beatles

1001 Songs – 1968: Part Two

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

Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud) – James Brown

Compared to the previous James Brown I listened to – where I was unable to get SNL’s Kenan Thompson out of my head – this song actually had a bit more meat to it. I mean we are talking about a time where racism was more prevalent (it’s still pretty prevalent, but you know what I mean) and the Black Power movement was still gaining traction. So a song like this about black Americans being abused by the police became a powerful song to use.

My main problem is still this: this song is incredibly repetitive. It works a bit more here as a protest song, but he does this in other songs so I am not sure how much of a point there was to that as it feels generally improvised.

Hard to Handle – Otis Redding

Here is a song that something more to it. I know this is more soul and James Brown is funk, but this actually has a changing structure and recognisable parts. It’s actually been a while since I last listened to an Otis Redding album and I was reminded of why I enjoyed it.

I think it goes to show that, at this point in time, I like soul a lot more than funk.

A minha menina – Os Mutantes

Okay now for something unlike anything I have heard on this songs list. I enjoy it when random acts of fusion begin to happen as the next round of musicians start to take on the work of other cultures. Here we have the more traditional Brazilian bossa nova music combined with the psychedelic rock that was coming out of the US and the UK.

What you have when these are mixed is something completely new and would form significant part of Brazilian cultural identity in the late 1960s and beyond: Tropicália. It’s fresh, it’s different and it’s something that could only come out of a country of such contrasting cultures as those found in Brazil. I hope a few more of these songs turn up along the way.

Sympathy for the Devil – The Rolling Stones

Okay so we have two songs in a row that have fused rock music with Latin American influences – in this instance the samba. I mentioned two years ago about how much Beggar’s Banquet (the album where this song acts as an opener) left me cold. I even signalled out ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ as a song that did nothing for me.

Here we are two years later and I am able to enjoy this song more. I love how the upbeat samba forms a strange contrast with the satanic lyrics. The thing that gets me is just how highly this is rated on best song lists. It’s fine, it’s fun and it’s very repetitive. Listening to it makes me wonder just how many times they are going ‘woo woo’ in the background. I feel like I am in the minority when it comes to rock music, but that’s okay.

Pressure Drop – Toots & The Maytals

You know that scene in Spongebob where Patrick dreams of riding a coin-operated horse and he is moving up and down in the same repeated fashion? That’s reggae music to me.

I have to admit that ‘Pressure Drop’ is better than most of the reggae music I have heard. The upped tempo instantly makes this better than ‘Israelites‘ and any of the Bob Marley that I’ve listened to so far. The song itself is about weather pressure as a metaphor for karma, which I did not get but can appreciate the poetic choice of.

Cyprus Avenue – Van Morrison

Wow it has been years since I listened to Astral Weeks for my album list. It’s one of those albums where it’s difficult to choose a specific cut because it’s all meant to be listened to together as a song cycle. Still, if a song had to be picked it makes sense that it’s ‘Cyprus Avenue’.

There is an awful lot going on in this song. You have Van Morrison singing about his younger years in Belfast (where Cyprus Avenue is a street) with strings, a guitar and a harpsichord playing over and underneath him. It is whistful, sentimental and dreamy all at the same time – but should not be listened to by itself. This song belongs in the heard of Astral Weeks and just gets cut off at the end as it starts to pick up the pace.

Hey Jude – The Beatles

So here we are at the end of an era – the final Beatles song on the 1001 list and it’s arguably one of their biggest ones. The genesis of this song is a actually quite weird (but sweet). Paul McCartney writing this to comfort John Lennon’s son in the wake of John Lennon’s divorce from his first wive as caused by his affair with Yoko Ono.

Pretty much everyone in the UK will know this song and have quite possibly sung to the fade out. I have talked about repetition a lot in this section of 1968 (or at least it feels like I have) and here we have an example that works. For the final 4 minutes the lyrics and the basic instrumentation are the same, but they play with it every now and then. Also, the reason behind it as a song to cheer up Julian Lennon just brings a smile to your face. I have to hand it to Paul McCartney here – he done good.

Voodoo Child (Slight Return) – The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Okay so I was expecting to find out that the Rogue Traders song had taken a sample from this or something. Not the case sadly as that would have been this little except written up for me right away.

‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’ acts as the closing song of Electric Ladyland – the final album that Jimi Hendrix released when he was alive. It revisits and expands on some of the musical themes that came up in ‘Voodoo Chile’, which was a track on the same album.

For me this track continues to support the image of how amazing a guitarist Jimi Hendrix was. He is lauded for a reason and this song just shows why. The waste. The sheer unadulterated waste.

The Pusher – Steppenwolf

The single that Steppenwolf released before this was biker themed anthem ‘Born to be Wild’, so it’s interesting that the list instead went for this one about a drug dealer. Taking the subject matter onboard I cannot say I disagree with that decision. I mean, sure, this isn’t the more famous song, but the way that this song chooses to tackle the war on drugs is interesting.

It takes the stance that a lot have people still take nowadays – that there is a difference between hard drugs like heroin (sold by the pusher) and softer drugs like grass (sold by the dealer). Of course we’re only now getting into the position where this separation is being reflected in politics, but it’s interesting to see that 50+ years ago we were already having this conversation.

The Weight – The Band

Okay so this is where the folk-country part of my music taste wants to come out and make itself known. I really enjoyed this song goes honky-tonk as it hits the chorus line with it’s chunky piani line and singalong lyrics.

Speaking of honky-tonk, I can see this as being one of those great drinking songs that can get a rise out of many a drunk as they start to slip into unconciousness. It feels like one of those comfortable songs that we all know even if we’ve never heard it before.

Days – The Kinks

How do I know this song? Seriously, can someone please tell me as this song was immediately recognisable to me and I have no idea from where. I don’t think it’s like ‘The Weight’ where I feel like I have gotten to know this as part of the collective subconscious, I know I have heard this somewhere and it is really bugging me. Yes, this is a bit of a weird note to end on. It’s a really nice song, but I wish we’d ended with The Band.

Progress: 268/1021

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1001 Songs – 1967: Part Three

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

And so we finish out another year with this third and final look at the songs from 1967 that feature in the 1001 book.

Montague Terrace (In Blue) – Scott Walker

Right, so a minute in and this song just explodes. This song is a bit heavy on the tingly chimes (in a weird way) and thick on the strings (in a good way), which just builds up to the big overblown chorus.

He doesn’t quite have the voice that would work for this. Now Jacques Brel, an influence of both this song and Scott Walker in general, probably would have.

So essentially we have a song that is seeing the chanson tradition through the lens of blues and pop. Interesting.

A Day in the Life – The Beatles

Okay so this is my mum’s favourite Beatles song. It’s yet another one of those songs that shows just how far ahead of their time The Beatles actually were.

There is a reason that I listen to these songs again even if I have done the album before – listening to a song in isolation is a different experience than as part of an album. I mean, I completely missed ‘Eleanor Rigby’ as it just got swallowed up by the rest of the album. Same goes for ‘A Day In The Life’.

It’s the closer for Sgt Pepper and so is the closing track on what is widely seen as one of the best albums of all time.

Is it a good song? In isolation it is and it means I am going to have to listen to the album properly again. It’s a prime example of Lennon-McCartney working well together and actually just how they were beginning to properly diverge.

Alone Again Or – Love

I still maintain that I know this song from somewhere else and I can not put my finger on it.

Listening to this properly outside of the rest of the album that follows it I really do appreciate that weird mariachi sound that they incorperated into this song.

It’s one of those songs that is the coming together of the 1960s musical trends of folk rock and baroque pop. My husband thinks it pales in comparison to the previous song… but I prefer this.

Tin Solder – The Small Faces

Interesting vocals on this song. Not only are they overpowered by the rock, but the mix of the voices sound like they had been poorly filtered.

I guess it makes sense in the way since this is a song that is experimenting with, what would become, heavy rock. Still though, sounded like there was somg gurling going on.

It’s a sweet song from the idea that it was written to impress a girl (who the writer would later marry), but on the whole it was a bit off.

See Emily Play – Pink Floyd

Beatles? Is that you? Seriously though, this sounds a lot like a song that the Beatles would have made.

This was released in the UK as a single, but in the US they got this on a re-issue of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.

It’s an okay song, but right now it doesn’t feel like anything we haven’t heard before. It’s a well done example of a Beatle’s influenced song, but I think this is on here to signal the beginnings of, what would become, one of the big UK acts.

A Whiter Shade of Pale – Procol Harum

Yet another one of the extremely famous songs from 1967. Maybe, not anymore, as widely known as ‘Respect’, but still a most famous song from this year.

I mean how many songs can have a title that has entered common parlence than this one? It’s one of those nice phrases (like Watergate) that journalists cannot resist taking for a subheader.

When this is not the best and most recognised song in a year, you know it’s a good one.

The Tears of a Clown – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles

Okay so the opening of this song is one that should be recognised by anyone who has listened to Heart FM. It’s like circus music and I think that’s the point.

It’s a great example of where pop and soul could meet in the world of Motown, even if it did take too long for me to cotton on that, yes, this was a man singing.

Sunshine of Your Love – Cream

There are many times where my album and song lists cross paths. This is, however, one of the first times that I have listened to the song without first crossing off the album. The other being Jefferson Airplane’s album Surrealistic Pillow.

When compared to ‘Tin Soldier’ this is a better executed example of an early hard rock song.

That guitar riff is so recognisable and very much like the sort you would have heard from Jimi Hendrix at the time.

Makes me wonder what the rest of the album is like.

Cold Sweat – James Brown & The Famous Flames

Thanks to many years of watching Saturday Night Live I cannot start listening to a funk song without Kenan Thompson strolling into my brain and doing his ‘What’s Up With That’ sketch.

This is one of the first example of funk songs and it’s profoundly dull. Just listening to it whilst sat on a sofa there isn’t that much to it. There is only one change and we just have James Brown grunting as he signals each member of his band to do a solo.

Seriously, Kenan and the rest of Saturday Night Live got this spot on.

The First Cut Is the Deepest – P.P. Arnold

There are many cover versions of this song. The first version I heard of this was by Sheryl Crow. I have also heard versions by both Cat Stevens and Rod Stewart.

This is my least favourite version. With the harp and the higher register occupied by P.P. Arnold it just feels a little bit twee.

I get that she had been through things with her husband that would make this song resonate with her, but at 21 (in 1967) she feels a bit young to be singing a song like this. Or maybe that’s just me?

Progress: 248/1021

1001 Songs – 1967: Part One

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

1967. For many appreciators of rock music this was a banner year. It saw the release of Sgt. Pepper, The Velvet Underground & Nico, two Jimi Hendrix albums and Forever Changes to name but a few.

Psychadelic rock was reaching the top of its game and I think this will end up being shown in the three song posts where I go through the 30 songs on the 1001 list that came out in 1967.

The End – The Doors

We start the year with one of the longer songs on the entire list, as well as being a song from I covered not too long ago.

When I looked at The Doors’ eponymous album the 12 minute closing track ‘The End’ didn’t exactly feature on my radar. Instead I preferred tracks like ‘End of the Night’ and ‘Break On Through’.

As a piece of work it’s impressive that this is meant to be one continuous take. However, I know the edited version used in Apocalypse Now and the context that cast it in probably stopped this song from connecting with me. It feels just so pleased with itself and that just turned me off.

Electricity – Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band

I maintain that this is one of the best names ever for a band. They are epitome of what happens when you take the conceit of psychedelic rock that bit too far and then add a hit of peyote.

It’s definitely more entertaining than the 12 minutes of The Doors I just listened too. Even more so when you read the story of when Captain Beefheart himself stopped a performance of the song because he saw a girl in the crowd turn into a goldfish.

Also, I need to talk about the use of a theremin. It’s hilarious and I don’t think it was meant to be.

Corcovado – Frank Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim

Meanwhile down the Brazilian way and in the smoke-filled nightclubs we still had the bossa nova music playing. In 1967 Frank Sinatra released a Grammy Award-nominated album with Antônio Carlos Jobim, one of those at the forefront of bossa nova, and this is one of the songs that came from such a partnership.

Sinatra’s smooth voice works perfectly with the smooth beats of bossa nova. We are so used to him delivering songs with a big band, but honestly this is one of the best recordings I have heard from him. It’s a nice palate-cleanser between all this psychedelic rock.

Heroin – The Velvet Underground

This is the first of two songs from The Velvet Underground & Nico. Whilst this is not one of my favourite two songs, it certainly one of the most notable.

Firstly, we have the title of the song: heroin. No album had featured a song with such a blatant title. You have the lyrical content of the song which neither condemns nor condones the use of heroin. It just talks about the use of heroin and the dependency.

The big thing of interest is the structure. The song is intended to mimic the initial rush (the increased tempo) which is then broken by the comedown (the screeching viola). It’s just a really clever song that’s also very interesting to listen to.

Chelsea Girls – Nico

Oh the flute. That infernal flute. Poor Nico was right about the flute and the strings. She wanted more guitar and some drums, which would have totally helped this song.

Okay so Nico doesn’t have a voice that you can get into straight away. It works with the instruments you hear on ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’, just not with this wistfully awful production.

Poor poor Nico.

For What It’s Worth – Buffalo Springfield

The moment that the chorus started with “Stop, hey, what’s that sound?” I knew that I knew this song. I don’t know where from, probably from The Muppet Show if I know my own frames of reference.

A song like this gives an interesting insight into what the world was like in 1967. Just as you listen to it off the cuff you quickly realise this is a protest song.

What was it protesting? A curfew that was put in place on the Sunset Strip that young people felt was specifically targeting them. This lead to rioting by the young people of Hollywood and so this song was born.

The Look of Love – Dusty Springfield

The second of three Dusty Springfield songs on this list, and one of the select few that were nominated for an Academy Award.

This song started out as an instrumental piece for the James Bond film Casino Royale (the spoof 1967 version, not the serious 2006 version) with lyrics being added in later.

Whilst the smooth bossa nova beats would have worked as intended in the film, the addition of lyrics sung by the wonderful Dusty Springfield just elevates this song and, as is the tradition of James Bond, makes it sexy.

I’d Rather Go Blind – Etta James

It feels like it has been a long time since we last had a soul song and we get two in a row. I know that with it being a song about a woman who would rather go blind than see her lover leave her.

It’s a sad premise, don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t find this delivery as effecting as I could have. Oh well.

(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher & Higher – Jackie Wilson

This is one of those songs everyone probably knows from an advert on the TV or because it’s regularly used as a piece of background music in tv programmes and films set in the late 1960s.

It’s a song that was originally intended to be a ballad, but the producer thought it would better as a more upbeat song. He wasn’t wrong. It just worked this way because it is a happy song and that would have been lost if it had been crooned.

Strawberry Fields Forever – The Beatles

This will have to rank as one of the more unusual singles ever released by the Beatles. It’s a song of nostalgia about the fields John Lennon used to play in as a child and it is weird.

It’s hard to put a finger on this song. At all. It’s just this weird melange of tempo, instrumentation and John Lennon murmuring ‘cranberry sauce’ in the background.

I can see why reviewers at the time might have been slightly perplexed by this song. I cannot, however, see how this song was able to contribute towards the downward spiral of Brian Wilson.

I still prefer ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and I don’t think I am alone there.

Progress: 228/1021

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.

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 – 1965: Part One

Now we have reached 1965 I think this list is at the point where nearly every year is going to be split up. In total there are 22 songs listed for 1965 and I will be doing an even split between the two.

Just scanning the names of some of the songs released in 1965 makes your jaw drop. We are getting to the point where there are some real heavy hitters; so it is nice to start on a lesser known one.

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

La paloma – Caterina Valente

‘La paloma’ is one of the most recorded songs in history. At 140 years old this Spanish song been sung all around the world. It’s English version (entitled ‘No More’ was recorded by Elvis Presley and versions of this song have featured in films such as Das Boot and The Godfather Part II.

I guess that it would make sense for some form of this song will feature on this list. It means that Caterina Valente’s version (sung in the original Spanish) must be one of the best representations of this song. It’s nice, although it could do with fewer flourishes. However, this just pales in comparison to what is going to follow.

Sinnerman – Nina Simone

Nina Simone is worthy of more than just one song on this list. However, if you were to pick only one song it would have to be ‘Sinnerman’. She wasn’t just the amazing singer and trailblazer, but also she was an incredible arranger. You see it on other recordings in the Nina Simone discography, but ‘Sinnerman’ exemplifies this.

At just over 10 minutes long ‘Sinnerman’ feels absolutely jam packed. No time feels wasted in this powerful jazz piano-driven gospel number. To see this performed live must have been absolutely enrapturing. Makes complete sense that it would be how she ends her concerts.

The Irish Rover – The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem

From something traditionally gospel we are going to something traditionally Irish. New York truly is a melting pot. Both ‘Sinnerman’ and ‘The Irish Rover’ represent very different sides of the same beautiful city.

Think of this Irish folk song as a tall tale about a ship that gets taller and taller before it hits a rock and sinks. A good fun romp and a lot less serious than the soul grabbing song we had just before.

Needle of Death – Bert Jansch

Okay and we are back in serious town. The flip side of folk here are Scottish folk singer Bert Jansch sings a song about a friend of his who died because of drugs.

There is no ambiguity in this song. The lyrics are brutal, the atmosphere sombre and the delivery is heartbreaking. It’s enough to make you tear up (I did, but I’m an easy audience) as he repeats the chorus of “Your troubled young life/Had made you turn/To a needle of death”.

Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag – James Brown

What is this list doing to me!? Taking me from one emotion to another in the blink of an eye. Whoever arranged this book is a sadist.

Anyway. What we have here is a very important song in music classification history. Behind this light-hearted song about an older man still having the guts to get on the dancefloor and do dances like the Twist and the Mashed Potato is a new genre. That’s right: funk has well and truly entered the building.

La boheme – Charles Aznavour

Just reading though this man’s Wikipedia page is enough to make anyone humble (and not just because he was the French voice of Up’s Mr Fredericksen). To many he is THE name of chanson recordings and ‘La boheme’ is his signature song’.

It tells the story of a young painter looking back on his life in a typical chanson meter. Emotive, yet measured. Sweeping, yet subdued. It’s like the French version of ‘It Was A Very Good Year’ in that it looks back on the past fondly, but without the regret of lost youth.

California Dreamin’ – The Mamas & The Papas

How unfair is this. Such a great song written by your brain as you dream. Some people juse have the talent I guess.

The only word you need to describe this is ‘sunny’. Written by John and Michelle Phillip about the California weather they were missing whilst living in New York City during winter. The layering of the harmonies in this song and that flute solo are the perfect accompaniment to a sunny afternoon (or can transport you to a sunny afternoon when it’s a cold day). Lovely.

Ticket to Ride – The Beatles

First Beatles song on this list. With this being their 7th number one single I am impressed at the restraint of the editors of this book. Usually people just back in the Beatles because it’s an easy way to make lists like this.

Why is this their first song on the list? Because this is when the Beatles really became the Beatles. Beforehand they were taking what other groups were doing at the time and making good versions of that; now they are moving on from that. You can start to hear psychedelia creeping into their work.

5 Beatles songs left to go. Again, I admire the restraint of this book’s editors.

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – The Rolling Stone

I have heard this song so many times (including Joanna Lumley’s karaoke version in ‘Absolutely Fabulous’), but I think this is the first time that I have listened to the lyrics of this.

Much like The Kink’s ‘You Really Got Me’ we have an early example of rock and roll moving on from the dancefloors of Elvis into something a bit more powerful (or forceful) and into something harder. With these last three songs we see the spectrum that rock was splitting itself into. The softer side that is more pop and folk, the psychedelic side and the harder side.

The Tracks of My Tears – The Miracles

A bit of a breather from the rock world now and a little bit of soul. It’s unusual to hear a song from a man’s side of a break-up that is this emotionally honest. The lyric ‘my smile is my make-up I wear since my break up with you’.

Here we have someone essentially saying: I miss you, I’ve been crying, I’m on the rebound and I’m still thinking of you. It’s so heartfelt and the sad lyrics, like the song itself, are hidden beneath a more joyful backing. Layers and layers this song has.

Mr. Tambourine Man – The Byrds

I have seen the case made that 1965 is one of the three important years in modern music. The other two? 1975 and 1991.

This year has already been able to demonstrate a seminal funk song, the splitting of rock into the three sub-genres and now we have the song that invented the term punk rock. Holy cow.

Getting back on the road of songs – it is interesting to note that the band weren’t initially too keen on recording this. Probably because this is originally a slower folk Bob Dylan song and they wanted something that was more on the Beatles side of things.

Still, you can’t say that they didn’t make this song their own. I wouldn’t go as far as Bob Dylan and say that it was danceable, but it’s still a good piece of folk rock. I looked at their album AGES ago. Come take a look!

Progress: 175/1021

Acclaimed Albums – Abbey Road by The Beatles

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 96/250Beatles_-_Abbey_RoadTitle: Abbey Road
Artist: The Beatles
Year: 1969
Position:
#19

The final album by The Beatles. It’s a bit of a landmark for this album list. Granted, I gave them a bit of a fast pass. Still, here we are with Abbey Road.

As regular readers will have gleaned I am not the biggest fan of The Beatles. There are some albums, like Sgt Pepper, where I can honestly say that I both get and enjoy their music. The problem that I have is that for every song I enjoy on most albums there are those which just feel that bit too twee.

I have exactly the same issue with Abbey Road and is epitomised in the first tracks. ‘Come Together’ and ‘Something’ are good tracks, the latter being fantastic. The you get ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’. I know that there is something dark at the core of that song (like the musical equivalent of the Dexter opening sequence), but the arrangement is just too cutesy for my taste.

Then we get to ‘Oh! Darling’ which is a bit of a throwback to the 1950s in a good way which is followed by whatever ‘Octopus’s Garden’ is.

Until the medley (again, what is ‘Mean Mr. Mustard’) in the second half of Abbey Road this is pretty much the pattern across the album. Some of the tweer songs work better than others, for example ‘Here Comes The Sun’ verges on the twee, but I can hear Nina Simone’s version as it plays which is of benefit. Also, it’s a sweet song without going into crazy or saccharin.

Weird to think, that unless I decide to extend this 250 to 500, this will be the last time I listen to a Beatles album for the bucket list. Maybe I should have spaced them out a bit more as it feels a little early to be done with them. Then again, since seven albums I looked at have been tossed out of the top 250 (with a few more likely to go this year) I am conscious to try and clear through the top 100 before I get into riskier territory.

Note on the TV challenge: Since I am sharing it with my husband, and I am vastly ahead of him, we are going to start with a bit of catch-up as I finally have a chance to make him watch Gilmore Girls. So I might have prematurely put that list up on here…

Acclaimed Albums – The White Album by The Beatles

In late August the Acclaimed Albums site had its 2015 update. As a result of this there are two albums that I have covered that were demoted. As such, this is now the 75th album to be covered according to the list.

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 75/250Title: The Beatles ‘White Album’
Artist: The Beatles
Year: 1968
Position: #13

As of writing this I am now 60% into Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. I am about a month  and a half into reading it – and, it is definitely a very long book. It would make more sense if I mentioned this whilst listing to 69 Love Songs by The Magnetic Fields, since it is the longest album, but I haven’t had 3 hours to devote to that. Instead, I DID have half of that time so figured that I could further my plough my way through The Beatles back catalogue.

First thing that strikes me. If a band came out nowadays with a song like ‘Piggies’ on their debut album I am not too sure how they would be looked upon by critics. It’s cute, it makes you laugh and it is an incredibly Beatles track. Bizarre in an ‘Old McDonald’ kind of way.

By now I am on the 5th Beatles album from this list, and my gut reaction is to place this as the second best of the three after Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and above Rubber SoulThe only thing that hinders this is, and I know this could be seen as a stupid reason, is the length of the album. It’s not that I have a short attention span… it’s just that Assassin’s Creed III was calling me over and I still had half of a disc to go.

What kept me going (apart from the memory of tracks like ‘Back In The U.S.S.R.’, ‘Glass Onion’ and ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’) was the promise of ‘Revolution 9’ – the avant-garde track where Yoko Ono made her influence known. It was slightly odd, but when you are talking about The Beatles it takes a lot to weird you out. It was different, and I can imagine how it was ground-breaking at the time, but compared to things I have heard (mostly on Trout Mask Replica) it’s fairly tame. Worth a listen though.

Acclaimed Albums: More of The Beatles

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 64/250

Title: Revolver
Artist: The Beatles
Year: 1966
Position: #1
Title: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Artist: The Beatles
Year: 1967
Position: #5

We are posting in June and that means one thing when it comes to this bucket list item: the time for a new list is imminent and I will probably be losing a few checks on the list. Five were kicked off last time and I have a feeling a few more will fall off. For example, Joanna Newsom’s Ys is really precariously perched there at #250 so that really has a chance of exiting.

As such, due to my writing this a few months in advance, it’s worth going for really safe albums for a the time being until the new list comes out. What can be safer than looking at two albums within the Top 5? Especially when one of them occupies the top spot of the entire list.

Now here’s the thing. I have really given The Beatles a fair whack and I really see a lot of the good in their music. However, maybe it’s the fact that I am a dick when it comes to recommendations but I just don’t get what is so great about Revolver. I mean, out of all the Beatles albums I have listened to (I think I am now up to six) this would probably occupy the fifth or even bottom position.

It feels like the awkward teenage album that saw the transition between ‘classic Beatles’ (as my partner refers to it) and the greater experimental influences that really started in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I mean seriously, how can an album with ‘Yellow Submarine’ as its most well known track be the best ever? ‘Eleanor Rigby’ is a brilliant song I will give it that but the rest… not really no. The fact that this beat Pet Sounds to the number one slot is ludicrous to me.

Then again, I do feel like The Beatles has become so enshrined in the culture of music journalism that anyone who disagrees about them being the best thing ever gets quickly shouted down. Or maybe it’s just be shouting in the dark because I see so many people writing superlatives about Revolver and it left me completely cold. Or maybe its the extreme expectation that being #1 has attached to it. I doubt the last one since somehow The Velvet Underground & Nico shocked me with how much I enjoyed it.

I have two more Beatles albums left to go for this list as well as some John Lennon work (nothing from Paul McCartney which shows every cloud). I might be worth doing another double despite the fact I didn’t talk much about Sgt. Pepper in this.

Music Monday: Early Beatlemania

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 7/250

The Beatles are one of a very select group of acts on the acclaimed albums list that have more than five items on the list. Not only that but the majority of their entries are in the Top 30 or above which is, let’s be honest, incredibly impressive. I say this as someone who would never really describe myself as a fan of their music (based on hearing four of their albums so far… which is more than I can say for David Bowie, something to be rectified).

HardDayUKTitle: A Hard Day’s Night
Artist: The Beatles
Year: 1964
Position: #223 (Previously: #210)

It is an interesting fact to note that this is the first of the very few soundtracks to be featured. Off the top of my head I can only think of three more (Shaft, Saturday Night Fever and Purple Rain) that I am likely to encounter, but there could be one that I missed.

So prior to this I listened to the first album and I ask the question, what has changed since the last album? The answer to this, and it pleases me to say, is that there are absolutely no covers on A Hard Day’s Night as compared to the 50/50 split on their debut album With The Beatles. This is a boon for The Beatles for this album truly marks their first steps towards true creative emancipation with them now beginning to be able to show off their song-writing skills. The only downside for me is the lack of a George Harrison track, bah (which was my favourite on their debut). Oh well. He at least gets a solo Grammy Award for Best Album while Paul McCartney gets bupkis, so look who gets the solo laugh. Sorry, I just deeply dislike Paul McCartney and now have a candle for George Harrison so this was a comparison that was likely to crop up.

With this purging of cover versions there is a definite move on in style from With The Beatles when they could sometimes sound either sounded dangerously close to The Everly Brothers or very wooden, the latter a reference to Roll Over Beethoven. As an album it definitely serves as a stepping-stone to what they are yet to achieve for thus far it is still not a revolution in music that has been associated with them but they are definitely taking a step in the right direction, which is not in the direction of the lyric “I will love her until the cows come home” from ‘When I Get Home. Speaking of which this track, aside from being by far the weakest on the whole album, is a prime example of how bad Ringo’s drumming is.

Complaints aside I really did enjoy this album, it is an overall improvement on the previous one with only one song acting as filler. This is also the first time where I recognised some of the classic Beatles songs with ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ and the sublime ‘I Should Have Known Better’ all appearing with full force. While ‘Don’t Bother Me’ may still have the place, at the moment, of being my favourite Beatles song it is something that may be liable to change as I progress. Also, something that needs to be said, is that ‘I Should Have Known Better’ came very close to taking this mantle. I have loved this version since hearing a cover version by Zooey Deschanel as part of her duo She & Him but hearing it in it’s original incarnation makes it all the more better.

Rubber_SoulTitle: Rubber Soul
Artist: The Beatles
Year: 1965
Position: #29 (Previously: #30)

An interesting thing about reviewing an artist multiple times is that you begin to take on the same role as an auntie. Every now and then you get a glimpse of this artist at irregular intervals, of about a year or so, and every time that you see them you begin to notice the changes that they have gone through.  While I did enjoy With The Beatles there was a sense of playing it safe and a lot of the material was derivative. This changed in A Hard Day’s Night where there really was a profound shift in the music that they were making. I guess that what I am trying to say here is that in developmental terms it appears that The Beatles are similar to a border collie where Rubber Soul is their puberty.

Rubber Soul is the first time that over the course of a whole album you can identify it as purely a Beatles album. This was not made to gain a foothold like With The Beatles as they had gained the world by storm with their previous releases. This wasn’t a purely commercial venture like A Hard Day’s Night as there was no film to accompany. What we have here ladies and gentlemen is the true creative emancipation (I like this phrase) of the Beatles. This is, as I previously coined, puberty for The Beatles as finally they resemble the act that we all know they will turn into but there is still something missing.

Also as I go along the ratio of songs I know to total songs on the album keep increasing. This is always a good thing as in the end for a song to be still doing the founds over forty years later they must have been doing something right. So when this album began with ‘Drive My Carwhich is such an irritable scrap of pop that you really do find yourself drawn into the world of distorted images and ground-breaking music when compared to their contemporaries .

On the whole this is a very good album and it is very well put together. Little treats like the sitars in ‘Norwegian Wood’ and the dark stalker-like song ‘Run For Your Life’ are dotted so liberally that you almost brush over the two lesser tracks of the bundle, ‘Michelle’ and ‘Wait’.

While there are a multitude of people at my age, and younger, who still look down their noses at The Beatles and albums such as Rubber Soul as being old and therefore being of no relevance to their life. You know who I mean, the people that sit in their bedrooms pawing over posters of One Direction or Justin Beiber declaring that they know better. Well, after listening to Rubber Soul the final remnants of my Beatles-related demons have been washed away and I can actually recognise them for what they were. A pioneering act who themselves had to evolve, and take a few wrong turns in songs like ‘Wait’, before they made their magnum opus.

While it is true that in many ways The Beatles had it easier, as nowadays there is such a melee of artists that you do need to make something new, this act never became complacent in their towering popularity and strived so that they never really wore the same guise twice. As such I await their next album, Revolver, with baited breath.