Saturday, February 28, 2009

10 Great Songs from One Great Year


Ah, the Summer of Love. This was the year that music really became more of an expression of the times and in some ways, it was the year that that generation grew wise. The Vietnam War was raging in Southeast Asia and more and more kids were being drafted and not coming home alive.

The NFL and the AFL put aside their feud and agreed to merge into one mega-league. The result was the first “World Championship” game that featured the winners from the two leagues. Two years later, this game would be known as the Super Bowl.

Israel, after having it's shipping lanes closed by Egypt, as well as being bombarded by constant sniper fire in the northern valley, launched a surprise attack against their enemies, destroying the Egyptian and Syrian armies (as well as the Jordanian and Iraqi armies) in just six days. While this also did not lead to peace in the region, it created a buffer zone to protect the Jewish state.

This was the year that Cassius Clay became Mohammed Ali, Elvis and Priscilla got married, Thurgood Marshall becomes the first African-American Supreme Court justice, race riots occur in Buffalo, Newark, Detroit and Los Angeles (as well as many other American cities) and The Beatles rule music with the release of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

People Are Strange – The Doors

Jim Morrison was depressed. He went to Robbie Krieger's house, they went to a canyon to watch a sunset, at which time Jim realized he was depressed because "if you're strange, people are strange." He then wrote the rest of the lyrics, which are about feeling alienated. Krieger, The Doors' guitarist, wrote the music. He did his guitar solo in one take. The Doors played this on their only Ed Sullivan Show appearance. They also played "Light My Fire," and Sullivan never asked them to come back because Morrison sang the lines, "Girl we couldn't get much higher." In 1988 the Liverpool band Echo & The Bunnymen covered this song reaching #29 in the UK charts. Their version, which was featured in the film The Lost Boys, was produced by Ray Manzarek who also plays on the track. In a scene from the movie, the vampires' cave contains a huge poster of Jim Morrison in his Jesus pose.

Ruby Tuesday – The Rolling Stones

This is about a groupie. It may have been inspired by Linda Keith, who was Keith Richard's girlfriend. Richards said in According to the Rolling Stones : "It was probably written about Linda Keith not being there (laughs). I don't know, she had pissed off somewhere. It was very mournful, very, VERY Ruby Tuesday and it was a Tuesday." Richards: "That's one of those things - some chick you've broken up with. And all you've got left is the piano and the guitar and a pair of panties. And its goodbye you know. And so it just comes out of that. And after that you just build on it. It's one of those songs that are easiest to write because you're really right there and you really sort of mean it. And for a songwriter, hey break his heart and he'll come up with a good song." Keith Richards and Brian Jones wrote most of this, but in keeping with Stones tradition, it was credited to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Jagger: "Ruby Tuesday is good. I think that's a wonderful song. It's just a nice melody, really. And a lovely lyric. Neither of which I wrote, but I always enjoy singing it."

Sunday Will Never Be The Same – Spanky and Our Gang

The group's first album, simply titled Spanky and Our Gang, was released by Mercury Records on August 1, 1967, and included three popular songs that were released as singles. These were "Sunday Will Never Be The Same" (their biggest hit, which reached number #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the summer of 1967) followed by "Making Every Minute Count" and "Lazy Day" (both of which made the Top 30 that fall). Both "Sunday Will Never Be The Same" and "Lazy Day" sold over one million copies. Their second album, Like To Get To Know You, was released in April 1968. Two singles were released: "Sunday Mornin'" in the spring, which reached #30, and "Like To Get To Know You", which reached #17 in the summer of 1968. The album version of "Like To Get To Know You" begins with a humorous conversation. The single's B-side, " Three Ways From Tomorrow", also received considerable airplay. The album also included their rendition of the classic "Stardust" and a version of "Everybody's Talkin'", best known as a hit single for Harry Nilsson and the theme song for the movie Midnight Cowboy. Because of their continued popularity, Mercury has released album collections of their greatest hits in 1970 (Spanky's Greatest Hit(s)), 1994 (Give A Damn), and 2005 (Spanky and Our Gang). In addition, Hip-O-Select has issued a limited edition anthology of their complete Mercury recordings including never released recordings and extensive liner notes.

Pleasant Valley Sunday – The Monkees

Gerry Goffin and Carole King wrote this about Pleasant Valley Way in West Orange, New Jersey, where they lived at the time. While studio musicians were brought in to play in many songs for The Monkees, Mike Nesmith played the famous opening guitar riff on this. Chip Douglas, a former member of The Turtles, played bass on most of this album. He came up with the guitar part, which was based on The Beatles "I Want to Tell You." He taught it to Nesmith, who overdubbed it twice. You can see him play the line during a close-up for the "video." This was used in a 2008 episode of the TV show Family Guy in a scene that was a homage to The Monkees, complete with a comic chase scene.

To Love Somebody – The Bee Gees

Most people who were born after 1980 think of the Bee Gees as the most successful disco band of the 70's. But prior to their falsetto-singing ways, they scored a number of major hits and sold-out concerts throughout the world. This song, which rose into the top 20 (their second of 25 top 20 hits, including 10 number one hits), was covered by a number of bands - The Animals, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Nina Simone (who had a big hit with it in the UK), Janis Joplin, Michael Bolton and Tom Jones. Billy Corgan (with Robert Smith singing backup) included his take on this song on his debut album, marking the first time Corgan let an old song be placed on one of his albums. Corgan sings this very different from The Bee Gees' original. His version is much sadder, and he even changes the words in the second verse, adding "Yeah" on most lines.

Up Up and Away – the 5th Dimension

Jimmy Webb wrote this. He was a prolific songwriter who wrote " MacArthur Park," as well as many of Glen Campbell's hits. Webb was inspired by a balloon that his friend William F. Williams flew on promotions for radio station KMEN. Both men thought the song could be used in a planned documentary, which never panned out. This song, more than any other, is associated with hot air ballooning. This was the second Top 40 hit by The 5th Dimension, after the #16 "Go Where You Wanna Go." This won 4 Grammy awards: Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group with Vocal, Other Pop/Rock & Roll/ Contemporary Awards or Instrumental, Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year.

Don't You Care – The Buckinghams

The Buckinghams saw enormous radio popularity from 1965 to 1968, becoming one of the top-selling rock groups of 1967. In 1965, two high school musicians in Chicago, guitarist Carl Giammarese and bassist Nick Fortuna joined drummer John Poulos, singers George LeGros and Dennis Tufano and keyboardist Dennis Miccolis in a band called The Pulsations. They soon won a Chicago battle of the bands competition and secured a job as the house band on local (WGN-TV's) variety show called All-Time Hits. The show's producers suggested they adopt a more "contemporary" (i.e., British) name, and thanks to the suggestion of a security guard at the television station, The Buckinghams were born (the name is also that of a notable Chicago landmark, Buckingham Fountain). In early 1966, the band signed their first record contract with local USA Records and recorded twelve songs that year. Several were released, including "I'll Go Crazy,” originally recorded by James Brown & The Famous Flames, "I Call Your Name," and "I've Been Wrong", which received extensive airplay in Chicago . The Buckinghams gained national exposure with their final single, " Kind of a Drag ," written by locally-based songwriter, Jim Holvay, who had been performing with a group called The Mob. "Kind of a Drag" raced up the local charts then caught fire nationally, eventually spending two weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in February, 1967. That single's success also led to USA Records' hasty release of an album, Kind of a Drag with the band's early recordings. Today, the band enjoys renewed success as a nostalgia band, touring extensively throughout the world.

Georgie Girl – The Seekers

The Seekers were formed by Athol Guy, double bass, and guitarists Keith Potger and Bruce Woodley, who all attended Melbourne (Australia) High School. Their lead singer was Ken Ray, who later left the group to get married. His place was taken by Judith Durham who was an established trade jazz singer, having recorded an EP with the Melbourne group Frank Traynor's Jazz Preachers. The Seekers soon gathered a strong following in Melbourne and Durham 's connections with W&G Records led to the group being offered a contract. Over the next couple of years, the band had a number of hits worldwide. In January 1968, in recognition of their many achievements, the group was named Australians of the Year for 1967 and accepted their award during a triumphant Australian tour. During their 1968 visit, the group also filmed another television spectacular, The World of The Seekers, which was screened in cinemas, before being screened nationally on the Nine Network to phenomenal ratings. Later in 1968, Judith Durham made the shock announcement that she was leaving The Seekers to pursue a solo career, and the group disbanded. Their final performance in July 1968 was screened live by the BBC as a special called Farewell The Seekers, with an audience of more than 10 million viewers. The Seekers re-united late in 1992, with the classic lineup of Durham , Guy, Potger and Woodley. A 25 Year Silver Jubilee Reunion Celebration tour in 1993 was so successful that The Seekers remained together for a further 11 years. They staged several sell-out tours of Australia, New Zealand, and the UK, releasing several albums, including new studio albums Future Road and Morningtown Ride to Christmas.

Baby Now That I've Found You – The Foundations

When this was first released there appeared to be little enthusiasm for the single until BBC's newly founded Radio 1 began to play it. The song got onto the station's playlist mainly because they wanted to avoid any records being played by the pirate radio broadcasters, so they looked back at recent releases that the pirates had missed. The song's co-writer Tony Macaulay recalls in 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh: "I woke up that morning with a stinking headache and when I got to the studio and heard The Foundations, I thought they were pretty terrible. I decided my hangover was to blame, and so I gave them the benefit of the doubt. The only song I could think of was something John McLeod and I had had for some time, 'Baby Now That I've Found You.' I didn't have a lot of faith in the song but they recorded it with a lot of energy and I learned a lot from making that record." It went on to become an international hit. Clem Curtis, the lead vocalist of The Foundations recalls in the same book "Tony Macaulay gave us 2 songs. One was 'Let The Heartaches Begin' and the other was 'Baby Now That I've Found You' and we chose 'Baby Now That I've Found You.' Long John Baldry recorded the other one and that knocked us off the top." This was used in the 2001 film Shallow Hal.

Nights in White Satin – The Moody Blues

The Moody Blues recorded this with The London Festival Orchestra (Which never actually existed. It is the name given to the musicians put together to make this album.) The original idea was for the group and orchestra to record a Rock version of Dvorak's " New World Symphony," which their record company would use to demonstrate enhanced stereo sound technology. This was written by Justin Hayward, who joined the band the previous year. He got the idea for the song after someone gave him a set of white satin sheets, and wrote it in his bed-sit at Bayswater. Haywood told the Daily Express Saturday magazine May 3, 2008: "I wrote our most famous song, 'Nights in White Satin' when I was 19. It was a series of random thoughts and was quite autobiographical. It was a very emotional time as I was at the end of one big love affair and the start of another. A lot of that came out in the song." This was the beginning of a new sound for the band. When they formed, they were more of a Blues band, and had a hit in 1965 with a cover of Bessie Banks' "Go Now." With this album, they became more of a psychedelic/orchestral band and did very well.


She's Leaving Home – The Beatles

This was based on a newspaper story Paul McCartney read about a runaway girl. On February 27, 1967 the London Daily Mail 's headline read: "A-level girl dumps car and vanishes." That girl was 17-year-old Melanie Coe, who had run away from home leaving everything behind. Her father was quoted as saying, "I cannot imagine why she should run away, she has everything here." McCartney said in 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh, "We'd seen that story and it was my inspiration. There was a lot of these at the time and that was enough to give us the storyline. So I started to get the lyrics: she slips out and leaves a note and the parents wake up, it was rather poignant. I like it as a song and when I showed it to John; he added the Greek chorus and long sustained notes. One of the nice things about the structure of the song is that it stays on those chords endlessly."


Allison Guerriero said...

BABY! Now that I found you I can't let you go....I love that song! I love when you do these.

Anonymous said...

Yea!!! The Monkees finally make your list! And just in time.

Hey maybe you can do the ten worst songs of a year. I have a slew of condidates for you. Or maybe some great Euro-released songs. Aha just never gets enough airplay. And yes, they are more than sunshiny tv's a hunting high and low. Scoundrel Days is the best album they did.
Oops... my bias is showing.

readingjunkie said...

I am a Doors fan so People Are Stange gets my vote this week.