Tag Archives: the rolling stones

Acclaimed Albums – The Rolling Stones by The Rolling Stones

Like I mentioned with the switch over to the Top 1000 list, there are a number of older albums that I listened to as part of a previous blog. This was back in 2009 … and I think my views on music have changed somewhat. Or maybe not, but hey it’s good to keep crossing these off so for these three weeks will be playing a game of catch-up.

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 307/1000
Title: The Rolling Stones
Artist: The Rolling Stones
Year: 1964

On this list as a whole it is interesting to note the sheer volume of debut albums. So what is really that special about the debut albums? In some cases, such as PJ Harvey’s Dry, it is an album that is composed of tried and tested material that have been shown to gain the rapture of the crowd and so have earned their place. In other cases, such as Britney Spears’ …Baby One More Time, the album marks the start of an icon and as such it is included for the sake of posterity and as a means to gaze back at the origins of an artist. In the case of the debut album of the Rolling Stones, with the ever creative eponymous name, I do believe that a little bit of both may be in operation.

Coming from such a modern perspective and with very little knowledge of The Rolling Stones the type of album that this turned out to be was a great surprise. While I am obviously aware that you can not immediately go from the music of The Everly Brothers to ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ in one fell swoop the different genre that was present on The Rolling Stones was astounding. While it is true that there are many remnants of sixties style rock n’ roll here the dominant feature here are blues covers.

The reason for all these blues covers? Well this was material that had worked for them on the road and it does make some modicum of sense for the album to be as such. Also there were some apparent insecurities when it came to when it came to the quality of the Stones’ self-penned songs, although three of them managed to make their ways onto the album. In my head one of the major reasons that The Rolling Stones made it onto the list is the icon-factor. When I judge this in relation to other albums that I have encountered thus far, especially the blues ones, there is definitely a progression in sound. The blues covers on here are louder, rawer and far more aggressive than any of the rock ‘n roll songs thus far. In such a way this album has already earned the kudos that should be required to be put on this list. But in the wake of such experimentation how does the album sound? The old cliché hit and miss appears to be the best way to describe this album.

There are occasions where this different approach works, with the opener ‘Route 66′ and ‘Little By Little’ being examples of this. However these are almost in complete balance with songs such as ‘I Just Want To Make Love To You’ where the attempt to sound revolutionary just sounds clumsy and a bit of a mess. When rating this album I can not take into account how influential their later material is. As such this is, according to my scale, deserving of a middling rating. Also to take into account are that there are many sparks of what is to come on here, in the end they will just home their craft and I am sure that the next album of theirs that I have to review, Aftermath, will be a far better one which will garner a higher rating.

XL Popcorn – Gimme Shelter

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 840/1007Title: Gimme Shelter
Director: Albert Maysles, David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin
Year: 1970
Country: USA

Well, this film wasn’t on my radar at all until I read an interesting article by The AV Club about documentary films that had to change course during filming. I’d seen a bunch of them before (including The Queen of Versailles, My Kid Could Paint That and Sherman’s March) and it spurred me on to finally check out Gimme Shelter.

Before reading that, I assumed it was another one of those star vehicles to try and make Mick Jagger an actor (like Performance). Instead, Gimme Shelter is a film that documents the moment when the counterculture movement came crashing down. Originally meant to be a documentary about the end of the Rolling Stones’ incredibly successful 1969 US concert tour culminating in a major Woodstock style free concert, instead it’s a 90 minute build up to the moment when a gun-wielding stage invader was stabbed to death by a Hells Angel.

The tension is palpable for most of the film as you watch live performances by the Stones in Madison Square Garden and the lead up to an incredibly poorly organised free outdoor concert where 300,000 are said to be in attendance. Even in a ticketed environment there are still stage invasions, but at least those could be dealt normally. At the free concert, however, everything was just adding up to catastrophe. I mean how many concerts have people giving birth and someone drowning in an irrigation canal thanks to them taking LSD.

Given that this was a film commissioned as a concert film for The Rolling Stones, there is a question about how impartial the coverage of the incident was. But, no matter how you slice it, this is one of those great time capsules depicting the actual moment a major cultural movement started to crash time. It is also an opportunity to see some of the big acts of the time dealing with adversity – the speech of Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick after her bandmate was punched in the head by a Hells Angel being a highlight.

Acclaimed Albums – Exile On Main St. by The Rolling Stones

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 187/250Title: Exile On Main St.
Artist: The Rolling Stones
Year: 1972
Position: #9

A bit of a special post for the acclaimed albums list. Not only am I waving goodbye to another year, but also crossing off the last remaining album from the Top 10. It’s taken me four years to get around to finally listening to this album and check off this mini milestone. It only took me this long because I had other Rolling Stones albums to mop up… and, at 66 minutes, this is on the longer side.

Last time I listened to a Rolling Stones album for the list, it was the unfortunately named Sticky Fingers. For my personal taste, this was a move in the right direction that has lead to Exile On Main St. – their magnum opus. It feels a bit redundant to refer to an album in the Top 10 most acclaimed of all time as someone’s “best work”, but if you’ve been following this blog for a while you’ll remember the many times I’ve tended to prefer lower ranked albums. Not so here.

Exile On Main St. is an 18-track long epic that shows just how far rock and roll music has come since Elvis released his self-titled debut in 1956. We’re only talking 12 years of progress here in real terms, but the difference is stark. Rock has become harder, more infused with blues influences and (remembering this is at the time of the miners’ strikes in the UK and Vietnam in the US) starting to get a bit more cynical with the world at large.

It is so impressive that a double album that clocks in at over an hour can impress so much on a first listen. I was already thinking about how good it would be to start this album over again as I started on the final quarter, which was bang on as the repeated listens have been so rewarding.

Honestly, how can an album with this many tracks not have any duds or skippables on it? It’s actually remarkable, but I should have gotten that hint when I listened to ‘Tumbling Dice’ nearly a year ago. Looking back on their previous albums, it’s not even that they’ve changed too much musically, but there is a change of mood and possibly in their maturity level that helped to make this album so good.

I mean, this is an album that makes me want to go back to their albums I pretty much wrote off 5 years ago. Is this that much better than Beggar’s Banquet and Let It Bleed or has my music taste evolved so much that I’ve started to see what the critics are seeing. I guess that’ll make for a nice little side-projet down the line.

1001 Songs – 1972: Part Two

Silver Machine – Hawkwind

Starting off today’s batch of songs with a bit of space rock that helped to introduce the world to Lemmy (who, obviously, later goes on to found and front Motörhead). It’s the meshing of harder rock guitars and sci-fi bleeps and bloops that make this space rock and, therefore, an interesting addition to the list. I guess this is what happens when a prog rock and psychedelic rock are given access to electronic instruments – which means we are one step closer to the world of shoegaze… which I am looking forward to see being born.

I like a long intro in a song, but it was a bit long for something that never opened up an album. By the time Lemmy properly got into it, the song was over and it was a few bleeps and bloops left before the end. Still, it’s another one of those signposts for what was beginning to happen in 1972.

Tumbling Dice – The Rolling Stones

Listening to this reminds me just how much I need to listen to and cross off Exile from Main St. from my albums list. This is an album that is ranked within the top 10 of all albums ever released and ‘Tumbling Dice’ is the track chosen to represent this album on the songs list.

With ‘Tumbling Dice’ the Rolling Stones are still doing their blues rock thing, as they had been doing for nearly a decade by this point, but it’s such an interesting labyrinth of a song whose runtime is under 4 minutes. On the surface it feels it would be a bit piecemeal – there are so many changes along the way that it keeps your ear out for what is coming next. I can’t even begin to imagine how you would put a song like this together. Maybe I should listen to this album soon…

Thirteen – Big Star

I thought this song sounded familiar – Elliot Smith did a cover of this which was later released on his posthumous New Moon collection.

‘Thirteen’ is a sweet folk song about adolescence, but the earlier part of adolescence where things are still a bit more innocent. It’s interesting to hear him name check ‘Paint it Black’ by the Rolling Stones because that feels so honest to what a teenager at that time would have started to get into. On the whole it’s simple, effective and emotionally honest.

Big Eyed Beans from Venus – Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band

God, how long has it been since I listened to Trout Mask Replica. A long time, and I had forgotten how surreal Captain Beefheart could be. However, unlike anything I’ve heard of his before, ‘Big Eyed Beans from Venus’ was part of a body of work created as an attempt to create a more commercial album. This, in effect, was a leftover track from another album which then got included in their second of two albums of 1972.

It’s sticking very much with his idea of a surreal avant garde blues rock with lyrics that I can’t exactly make heads nor tails of. However, this does feel more in line with other songs I’ve heard so far in the 1972 section of the 1001 songs list. It still has the chaotic threads of a Captain Beefheart song, but it’s tempered down to the point where this feels like a mainstream compromise on his own terms.

Rocket Man – Elton John

Hands up – I cannot hear this song without thinking of the William Shatner spoken word version. Try as I might, I just close my eyes and I see Shatner delivering this as a weird trio performance.

Expelling the image of Shatner from my brain – ‘Rocket Man’ feels like a song that could have been produced if The Beatles hadn’t split up and were then finding influence from David Bowie. It’s a cool idea to write a song about the future of space travel to the point where being an astronaut is an everyday job, kind of en par with being a space trucker.

Speaking of space, this is another song from this year where space age sounds are being used to supplement rock compositions – and this is 10 years after ‘Telstar’ did a lot of the intial leg work.

Mama Weer All Crazee Now – Slade

Looking at the album cover of Slayed? I swear that Noddy Holder has always looked like he was at least in his 40s. Also, like people, the main thing I know Slade from is ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’, so any other songs of theirs can feel a bit jarring.

With ‘Mama Weer All Crazee Now’ it’s clear that metal and glam rock is about to explode from it’s confines within the wider genre of hard rock, but the time isn’t uite yet. It’ll only be a year before this songs list sees that spillover and temporarily take over the air waves before punk and disco become firmly established. It’s a full body adrenaline rush of a song that must have killed when played live. I guess we’ll see how this develops further when ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’ arrives in 1973.

Rocky Mountain High – John Denver

Well at least I won’t be having to sit through ‘Annie’s Song’ as part of the songs list. I know it’s famous and well loved, but it’s really been overdone (as the choir episode of The Vicar of Dibley would tell you).

Like how ‘City of New Orleans’ was a love letter to the railways of America that were under threat, ‘Rocky Mountain High’ is John Denver singing about his love of the Colorado mountains. It’s full of beautiful images of the mountains and watching the sunset whilst enjoying the countryside. Towards the end of the song, he turns on the tourists who are ruining his beloved Rockies which does wack you in the face… in a good way.

The Night – Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons

This shows my ignorance, but I didn’t realise that Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons lasted past the end of the 1960s. Let alone move towards the Motown family of record labels and craft something quite like ‘The Night’.

Not mincing words, but I thought that ‘The Night’ was extraordinary. This is a piece of blue-eyed soul with Phil Spector style of production. I mean, this hits so many things that would make me love a song. A dark song with beautiful harmonies and a massive production that just gives off hints of menace. This is such an about turn from ‘Working My Way Back To You’ that to call it a maturation in their sound is underselling it. Just such a pity that it never really took off in the US.

Reelin’ in the Years – Steely Dan

I guess it was the name that gave me this idea, but I always figured Steely Dan would be a metal act. So here I am girding my loins for something more in the realm of Slade, but instead I’m getting what would have happened if The Beach Boys had decided to make their music move towards the hard rock sub genre.

This is described as jazz rock in the book (which means yet another sub-genre of rock that I need to keep track of) and I am keen to see how this genre develops as I really liked the softer rock, the harmonies and the more upbeat blues structure. They have a few albums in the Acclaimed Albums Top 1000… which further illustrates the need with me to speed the hell up.

Always on My Mind – Elvis Presley

The timing of this song feels like something from a Hollywood biopic. Elvis separates from his wife Priscilla and within weeks is recording a song about how he should have been a better husband. The problem that I have is that despite the situation, Elvis’s version feels somewhat detached. Other artists would have been able to use this as an opportunity to unburden their feelings – but Elvis is a singer, not an artist, and there is a fundamental difference there.

I can see why, for the narrative, this version of the song is on the list – but better versions have since been done by Willie Nelson, the Pet Shop Boys and Loretta Lynn.

Progress: 363/1021

Acclaimed Albums – Sticky Fingers by The Rolling Stones

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 160/250Title: Sticky Fingers
Artist: The Rolling Stones
Year: 1971
Position: #48

I tried again with the whole ‘listen to a list album whilst playing Horizion: Zero Dawn‘ shtick and, unlike my experience with Fun House this did not lead to me becoming stupidly stressed and needing some time to calm down. I think this speaks to both the calmer blues rock and the fact that I didn’t try and battle any major bosses (other than a pod of some nasty looking robot crocs).

Anyway, I should stop talking about Horizion: Zero Dawn. 

There are times when I listen to an album where all I can hear are ghosts of songs yet to come. With ‘Brown Sugar’ I could hear elements of what would become Foreigner’s ‘Hot Blooded’ and then the blues guitar twangs on ‘Sister Morphine’ let me towards Sheryl Crow’s ‘There Goes The Neighbourhood’. It’s one of the negatives of listening to these albums in a semi-random order –  unlike with the 1001 Songs I am not getting a good through line of how music is changing.

Still, by doing it this way I am able to appreciate it (or not) on a more personal level and, with Sticky Fingers, there are a number of songs on this album that stand out. The two I have mentioned already would probably be my main highlights, but there’s also the album closer ‘Moonlight Mile’. It’s not a song that I had heard of before and yet it’s the one I have been weirdly drawn to. It’s a bit of a mysterious one to end on and, unlike the epic ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking’, it feels like the first time I’ve properly heard a vulnerable side from the band.

In the past I haven’t exactly been exploding with compliments for albums by The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers is a real way forward. It got hold of me straight away and makes me feel all the more interested to listen to Exile on Main St. which is their highest ranked album by some way.

With (at the time of writing) 90 albums left before I see out the top 250, I cannot help but wonder how long it is going to take me before crossing this off.

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

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

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 – Beggars Banquet & Let It Bleed by The Rolling Stones

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 80/250

Title: Beggars Banquet
Artist: The Rolling Stones
Title: Let It Bleed
Artist: The Rolling Stones
Year: 1969
Position: #36

At this point I think I might as well concede that my understanding of rock music is paltry at best. To be honest, as I was listening to Beggars Banquet my main thoughts were “wow this sounds like The Rolling Stones are trying to be Bob Dylan” and “I want to listen to that new Florence + The Machine track with all the horns”.

It really is the old chestnut that music appreciation, as well as these rankings, is subjective. Yes, the Acclaimed Albums list is a meta-list that makes a consensus out of subjectivity, but in the end that is all this is. I think that between this and the ups-and-downs of Bob Dylan I need to go into albums with low expectations so I can be surprised. Hey, it worked for Jimmy Hendrix after all!

One thing of note is that whilst Beggars Banquet left me completely cold (even ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ which is a track whose title I instantly recognised) I warmed to Let It Bleed from the word go.

When it comes to the music that I actually listen to leans more towards Let It Bleed than Beggars Banquet. When I was listening to the title track ‘Let It Bleed’ I could hear Beck. With other tracks there were shades of Ryan Adams and The White Stripes. Of course, I could still hear the influence of Bob Dylan (actually impressive how much this man was able to exert an influence over his contemporaries).

I listened to both of these albums in succession and talk about leaving the best track for last. ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ is an absolute classic. I know there are other tracks on these albums with higher esteem (‘Street Fighting Man’ and ‘Honky Tonk Woman’ to name only two) but this just felt like the complete stand-out track.

And so continues the listening experiment. The fact that I am writing this in June and I am having to play guesswork at what the new updated list is going to keep in is really ruling out a lot of albums for the minute…

Acclaimed Albums – Aftermath by The Rolling Stones

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 68/250Title: Aftermath
Artist: The Rolling Stones
Year: 1966
Position: #152

With this I have finally made a start on the final group that have a whole lot of entries on the albums list. I don’t know why it took this long to do this, especially since there are four more in my future, but here we are now.

Before Aftermath my only exposure to The Rolling Stones was their debut album (which I listened to as part of an attempt to get through the 1001 albums book some years ago) and whatever songs had been licensed for use in TV or films. In fact, upon listening to this album all the way through the only song that actually rang any sort of bells was the sitar line of ‘Paint it Black’.

To be honest, for the first time in a long time, this album left me completely cold. So far I have had albums that I loved, been confused by, taken naps to and even had a panic attack to, but one that left me with little to no impression is rare.

I mean I actually quite liked their first album. Aftermath just felt a bit blah. Guess that makes me a musical philistine.