9:31 a.m. - March 14, 2007
Well, I’m here to give them some love and affection and tenderness.
So, here are 25 groovy tunes that haven’t been on many mixes, but may, just may, be springing forth sometime soon.
1. Your Own Love – The Association. Really, the Association has gotten a bad rap amongst some of the elitist 60’s fans. Sure, they were a bit more lightweight than they ‘heavy’ bands of the late 60’s, but really, examine the output of Steppenwolf compared to the Association. The Association had more good songs, really, than Steppenwolf, even though nothing the Association did compares right with the best of Steppenwolf. And before you go, “Wait, different things!” remember that back then, rock music was rock music and everything was played on the same radio stations. Besides, while I think that “Monster / Suicide / America” by Steppenwolf is relevant now (and perhaps freshhell may want to take a second hear of it), “Requiem For The Masses” by the Association is a better song. Oh, THIS song – this is from their fine debut record, with great harmonies and some interesting percussion. I don’t care if the instruments were mostly played by studio hands, the boys could sing!
2. Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun – Pink Floyd. Early Pink Floyd is so much more enjoyable to listen to than the later, Roger Waters dominated stuff, hands down. This song has to really be heard in headphones in order for one to savor, totally, otherwise it may just be lost in the background. The vocals are buried, the organ is a drone of sounds, the bass is playing an insistent mantra, and Nick Mason is hitting all kinds of things with mallets. Live, it was just as captivating and stunning, if not louder. But here, on the studio cut, you can hear some horrible, horrible edits at about 2:29 and 2:34 into the song. Bad splicing, dude, or was it bad acid?
3. Always Saturday – Guadalcanal Diary. Yeah, I’ll admit, it’s kind of a stupid name. It’s taken me 20 years to admit it. But you can’t not say that they’re not a talented Athens-area band that came off as a more pop oriented cousin of R. E. M. This was a cut on their swan song, Flip-Flop, where the production got a bit bigger in the quest for THAT HIT and in doing so, lost some of the great subtleties that this band possessed. Ah, well, see what happens when you tinker with the formula? You break up.
4. Change – Tears For Fears. Yes, before they were popular, they weren’t as bombastic and in your face. They didn’t want to sow any seeds of love, or shout, or rule the world, or even romance that librarian in that video. They made some moody techno-pop that got on MTV but didn’t sell. I like it because it has marimbas. Or something imitating marimbas. And I can’t resist me some marimbas.
5. The World We Know – The Smithereens. Moose and I went to the Patio in Broad Ripple back when we were roomies, just to escape BFE land, and the cover band there did THIS song, which we then proclaimed that they were amongst the coolest cover bands ever. This is an outstanding song, made even cooler by the fact that Del Shannon sings the high parts in the bridge. Oh, and the Jim Babjak guitar solo rocks, but he always rocks.
6. Since I’ve Been Loving You – Led Zeppelin. From the BBC Sessions compilation, this is a great live cut from one of the best stabs that Zep made at a more traditional blues instead of the hybrid of blues and rock they spun out like “The Lemon Song”. Robert Plant is in fine form, and Jimmy Page doesn’t overplay. John Bonham does, though, because he’s as subtle as a flying piano, and sometimes the blues needs subtlety. I need to check the liners, because someone is on bass AND keyboards, and I don’t think John Paul Jones cloned himself.
7. Race For The Prize- The Flaming Lips. The Lips are probably one of the oddest “successful” bands out there. (Radiohead wins that category, hands down.) However, they really only have one essential album, to my ears. That’s The Soft Bulletin, which is a song cycle and is chock full of great melodies and arrangements, if the subject matter is a bit obtuse (as is their wont).
8. Fallin’ In Love – Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds. Well, I guess if you have a successful name for an act, you don’t change it, even if one of the dudes leaves. Reynolds left in 1973, but they plugged in Joe Carerro, and kept the name. Three years after “Don’t Pull Your Love”, they become two-hit wonders with this bit of treacle that’s not as bombastic, yet at times just as annoying, mainly because it STAYS IN YOUR HEAD. It’s a very tasteful string arrangement, though. As a kid, I thought they were a quartet, because I wanted to put a comma between Joe and Frank. No, the dude’s name is Joe Frank, silly boy.
9. 39-21-46 – The Showmen. I blogged about this on MyBacon, because this is a song about a woman’s measurements. Actually, it’s a mistake, as General Johnson, who wrote the song, meant it as 39-21-40 SHAPE, but someone couldn’t read some writing or something and the label came out with 39-21-46. But still, that’s a teeny waist, and baby’s got back. Mix-a-lot approves.
10. It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World – James Brown. Ladies, before you all hoot and holler, the message from Mr. Brown is that it is a man’s world (and really, for the most part, in politics and business, it’s mostly a man’s world – sad but true) and men did invent a lot of stuff, but it wouldn’t be NOTHING, NOTHING without a woman or a girl. The best thing about this song is the string arrangement, as it augments James’ wailing perfectly.
11. Big Time – Peter Gabriel. The first time I heard the So album in entirety, I pegged this as a hit. Now, you may think that’s pretty darn clairvoyant, as this tune did hit #8 on the charts. However, “Sledgehammer” had already been released before the album and was on it’s way to topping the chart, so it wasn’t much of a stretch that this would be the follow-up single, I guess. The big shocker? “In Your Eyes” only hit #26, John Cusack’s forearms notwithstanding.
12. Donald And Lydia – John Prine. Prine is one of those artists that really should be icons, but are pretty much cult artists, well respected, sure, but not commercially popular. And respect doesn’t pay all of the bills. He never had a charting single, and before his 2005 album hit #55 on the chart, he only had one album crack the top 100. Perhaps his observational style was too smart and sardonic at times, perhaps he was too country sounding for rock audiences, or maybe it was something else. Anyway, his catalog is chock full of fantastic songs that have been well covered.
13. My Back Pages – The Byrds. The studio version of this may be the best Dylan cover the Byrds ever did. This version that is in my ears right this very second (well, it was when I was writing that sentence) is a bonus live cut from 1969, appearing on the (Unissued) bonus disc that came with the re-release of (Untitled). It’s worth it to hear Clarence White play the hell out of his guitar, and while Roger McGuinn’s vocals are a bit rough, he sings the song with zeal and his 12-string meshes well with White.
14. Fernando – ABBA. Well, there’s cheese, and then there’s Swedish cheese. And one can always hear the drums. Trivia – this was NOT on any album, and was originally released on a solo album by Frida in the 70’s. So there.
15. Even It Up – Heart. Some bands make great albums and the album cuts are just as vital as the songs that made the radio. And then there are bands best served by compilations. Heart falls into the latter category. Try as they might, through every incarnation, they never really sustained high quality throughout an entire album, but they had obvious flashes of brilliance. (i.e. on occasion, they KICKED ASS – and you know what songs they were – like this one!)
16. Let It Rock – Chuck Berry. Casual listeners may not recognize the title, because it doesn’t appear in the song. But the sentiment and mood are there, as Berry rhapsodizes about working on the railroad and shooting dice in a tent built on the tracks, and then an unexpected train comes by and well, you gotta let that train roll on.
17. The Ballad Of Irving – Frank Gallop. The first time I ever heard the Dr. Demento show, this was the #1 song on the “Funny Five”. The Jewish humor flew RIGHT over my 12-year old head. I thought it was hilarious that he was the 142nd fastest gun (CRACK!) in the west. But I had no idea what was so funny about Irving having two sets of dishes on the range. I get it now, and yeah, it’s a stitch.
18. Someone Told My Story – Merle Haggard. Merle, in a bar (of course), hears a new song on the jukebox, and lo and behold, the song is just like his life. Of course, since it’s a country music song, it’s not a stretch to think that the sad tale would resemble many of the patrons of bars that have country music on the jukebox. No, I’m not painting with a broad brush – remember where I live.
19. Abba Zabba – Captain Beefheart. Whilst most of his debut Safe As Make were fairly reasonable (note, I said fairly reasonable) takes on blues and derivatives thereof, some of the cuts really foreshadowed the weirdness that would ensue. This is one of them. This has a definite middle-eastern feel, and the guitar sounds and chords are veering toward the inanity that took place two years hence on Trout Mask Replica.
20. Berry Rides Again – Steppenwolf. Well, isn’t that special. Thanks, random iPod. I talk about Steppenwolf on song #1, and here’s an album cut off of their debut. John Kay basically recaps almost every notable Chuck Berry song and steals a few of Berry’s guitar and piano licks to boot. I liked it when I was a kid, and you know, it’s still a decent tribute to Berry.
21. Are You Ready – Grand Funk Railroad. Oh, my, is this heavy. Homer Simpson was right, Mel Schachter’s bass DOES rattle bongs on this song. This is a live cut off of Live Album (how clever, eh?). Schachter’s bass is down right low and nasty, Don Brewer’s drumming IS competent, and Mark Farner’s guitar is also low and dirty sounding (cool) and his hollering is well, hollering. Not on a studio album, it’s a fitting way to open a concert, and is nice and concise, thankfully. (Four, count ‘em, FOUR tracks on this double LP were over 10 minutes – and there were just nine actual songs on the four sides. Wow.)
22. Lewis & Clark – The Embarrassment. They were knocking around Wichita about the same time my lovely wife was in junior high and high school (and college for her first year), but she never heard of them. Actually, I think perhaps only about 250 or so people in Kansas had heard of them at the time. They’re just a bit…off…yet cool in a quirky way. This is wry, funny tune about, well, the Lewis & Clark expedition, which has had a few rock songs written about it, for some odd reason. The singer really, really likes Sacagawea.
23. Subliminal Fascism – Fishbone. Fishbone were an odd amalgamation of styles, and this one definitely fits more into the punk rock side of their sound. Using keyboards instead of a horn section, this isn’t quite the precursor to the Mighty Mighty Bosstones that you may suspect, but it’s a pretty rockin’ tune that gets its message out and into your head in less that 1:30, like any good punk rock song.
24. Back In The U. S. A. – Chuck Berry. I’ve been concentrating on a few Chuck Berry tunes on my mixes, and haven’t really touched some of them. Why, I don’t know. This is definitely one that belongs on there, as not only it’s the inspiration for “Back In The U. S. S. R.”, it shows Berry at his lyrical best. Everyone seems to concentrate on his guitar riffs and his duck walk, but his hidden strength is as a lyricist. He’s just the consummate rock-and-roller, weird proclivities and all.
25. Beautiful Morning – The Rascals. Oh, heck. You know I’m a softy for a well-crafted pop tune. And this is about as well-crafted as you get. It’ll make even the darkest Goth girl whistle a happy tune for 25 seconds or so.
Well, there ya go. 25 more ‘shy’ tunes deep from the soul of my iPod. Enjoy!