music friday: 1973

Stevie Wonder, "Living for the City". The single version was dark enough; the album version takes the hero to New York ("New York, just like I pictured it, skyscrapers and everything!"), where he almost instantly gets thrown in prison.

Iggy and The Stooges, "Search and Destroy". Originally mixed by Bowie ... Iggy did a remix that purposely sounded even more distorted. The YouTube link is to the Iggy version.

Ann Peebles, "I Can't Stand the Rain". Peebles working the Hi Records sound.

Pink Floyd, "Us and Them". Antonioni said it was too sad.

Bob Marley and The Wailers, "Get Up, Stand Up". Marley and Peter Tosh wrote it. The Wailers recorded it ... Marley and the Wailers recorded it ... Tosh recorded it ... Bunny Wailer recorded it.

Gladys Knight and The Pips, "Midnight Train to Georgia". Songwriter Jim Weatherly says this song was inspired by Farrah Fawcett.

Aerosmith, "Dream On". Rolling Stone writer in 1976, regarding Steven Tyler: "He's the mutant bastard offspring of Jagger and Iggy Stooge." Aerosmith manager's reply: "Only he's better than both of them."

Roberta Flack, "Killing Me Softly with His Song". Since I'm quoting old rock critics, here's Christgau's complete review of Flack's Killing Me Softly album: "Q: Why is Roberta Flack like Jesse Colin Young? A: Because she always makes you wonder whether she's going to fall asleep before you do. C"

Paul McCartney and Wings, "Band on the Run". Paul remains the only Beatle I've seen live. The video is from the same tour we saw him on.

The Rolling Stones, "Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)". Goats Head Soup was the end of the great Stones run, but this song stands with those great ones. From Billy Preston's clavinet to the horns to the "Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo" chorus, everything about the song embodies the catchiest pop music. The lyrics tell a different story, taking us back to Stevie Wonder's New York City:

The po-lice in New York City
They chased a boy right through the park
And in a case of mistaken identity
They put a bullet through his heart
 
Heartbreakers with your forty four
I want to tear your world apart
You heartbreaker with your forty four
I want to tear your world apart
 
A ten year old girl on a street corner
Sticking needles in her arm
She died in the dirt of an alleyway
Her mother said she had no chance, no chance!
 
Heartbreaker, heartbreaker
She stuck the pins right in her heart
Heartbreaker, pain maker
Stole the love right out of your heart
Oh yeah, oh yeah
Want to tear your world apart
Oh yeah, oh yeah
Want to tear your world apart
 

music friday: 1972

Stevie Wonder, "Superstition". The early-70s were a great time for conscious R&B/soul. Stevie's playing pretty much everything you hear except the horns.

Lou Reed, "Walk on the Wild Side". Lou makes the pop charts, singing about transgender actresses, drugs, blow jobs, and Warhol's Factory.

Carly Simon, "You're So Vain". The big mystery was who Simon was referring to. Meanwhile, Mick Jagger proves to be a very hard-to-conceal backup singer.

The Rolling Stones, "Rip This Joint". A classic in the tradition of "She Said Yeah". It was at least 30 years before I had an idea what the lyrics were to this song.

Curtis Mayfield, "Freddie's Dead". Just how good were the early-70s for soul? This track missed the Best R&B Single Grammy because "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" was the same yea'.

Joni Mitchell, "You Turn Me On, I'm a Radio". According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, she wrote this after her label asked her for a hit record.

Wings, "Hi, Hi, Hi". Sadly, I can understand the lyrics on this.

Al Green, "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart". The best thing anyone ever did for The Bee Gees.

Gladys Knight and the Pips, "Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)". This one did win a Grammy.

The Carpenters, "Goodbye to Love". Me, a long time ago, on Tony Peluso's guitar solos: "It's as if John the Baptist suddenly showed up in Target and grabbed shoppers by the throat, saying 'there's something going on here!'"


music friday: 1971

Marvin Gaye, "What's Goin' On". Great video with Marvin on piano and the incomparable James Jamerson on bass, from the movie Save the Children.

Led Zeppelin, "Stairway to Heaven". Overplayed, to be sure, and not even their best, but you couldn't avoid it in 1971, or 2018 for that matter. Video is from a live 1975 performance. As usual, I have no idea what Robert Plant is going on about, but this band was never about lyrics, and Plant's vocals were the perfect sonic match for whatever Jimmy Page was doing.

Janis Joplin, "Me and Bobby McGee". Great song, great performance, but I still think Big Brother was the best fit for her.

The Who, "Won't Get Fooled Again". Like "Stairway", another song that is past its sell-by date, and the lyrics don't hold up. But what a band they were, and it's always fun to watch Keith Moon "lip"-syncing on drums. Another great bass player, although John Entwhistle and James Jamerson couldn't be more different. Entwhistle plays bass like a lead instrument ... Moonie does the same with drums, for that matter, which may explain why Pete Townshend was so good at rhythm guitar ... he needed to be the rhythm section.

Joni Mitchell, "A Case of You". Not as overplayed as the other songs here, but just as good.

Sly and the Family Stone, "Family Affair". #1 hit from one of the greatest albums ever, by one of the greatest bands ever. The album title, There's a Riot Goin' On, was said to be a reply to the question Marvin Gaye asked on the first song from this list.

David Bowie, "Changes". His most famous song?

Isaac Hayes, "Theme from Shaft". "You see this cat Shaft is a bad mother (Shut your mouth) / But I'm talkin' about Shaft (Then we can dig it)."

Carole King, "It's Too Late". Speaking of inescapable, this Grammy winner for Record of the Year comes from Tapestry, which sold 25 million copies.

John Lennon, "How Do You Sleep?". An answer record. To "Imagine".

 


music friday: 1970

Derek and the Dominos, "Layla". Not the unplugged version, fer chrissake.

James Brown, "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine". JB always had a knack for complicated song titles with a parenthetical inclusion, although this one is especially good in that it sticks the parenthesis in the middle.

Freda Payne, "Band of Gold". Supposedly, Payne balked at singing the song, feeling the lyrics were meant to be sung by a young teenager or woman. She was 27 at the time. It became the biggest hit of her career.

Neil Young, "After the Gold Rush". According to the ever-trustworthy Wikipedia, the Trio of Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris, who were recording the song, asked Young what the lyrics meant. "We asked him, flat out, what it meant, and he said, 'Hell, I don't know. I just wrote it.'"

Hugh Masekela, "I Can't Dance". He died on Tuesday.

Joan Baez, "Joe Hill". Recorded at Woodstock in 1969, but the album wasn't released until 1970, so here it is.

Black Sabbath, "Paranoid". Their first charting single.

Curtis Mayfield, "Move on Up". From Mayfield's first solo album.

Joni Mitchell, "Big Yellow Taxi". My favorite Joni Mitchell song. So shoot me.

John Lennon, "Working Class Hero". From the best-ever album by a solo Beatle.



 


music friday: 1969

The Rolling Stones, "Gimme Shelter". A perfect record, right down to Charlie's drums and Keith's solo and Merry Clayton's imperfect cracking voice. Not for the only time, I find myself wondering about a Stones' track, "Where did this come from?" It's too good. And it's a perfect picture of 1969, and it still sounds perfect today.

The Jackson 5, "I Want You Back". What was in the water in 1969? This is also a perfect record, and Motown's finest moment. Ironic: the Merry Clayton of this one is the bass player, yet no one knows for sure who it was. I've always assumed it was the great James Jamerson, but most folks now believe it was Wilton Felder.

Serge Gainsbourg & Jane Birkin, "Je t'aime moi non plus". As "glivingston73" says on YouTube, "I think for a song like this, a description becomes somewhat meaningless". Vocals by Charlotte Gainsbourg's parents.

The Beatles, "Come Together". I generally prefer the less-perfect early Beatles to the more-perfect later version, but I can't complain about Ringo's drumming on this one.

Dusty Springfield, "Breakfast in Bed". Written by Eddie Hinton and Donnie Fritts, it makes an interesting pairing with "J'taime moi non plus".

Sly & the Family Stone, "Stand!". Definition of a great three-album run: Stand!, Greatest Hits, and There's a Riot Goin' On.

King Crimson, "21st Century Schizoid Man". It is very hard to find the original studio version of this monster cut, so I'm going with this: "Power".

B.B. King, "The Thrill Is Gone". Muhammad Ali was in the audience for this 1974 concert.

Fairport Convention, "Who Knows Where the Time Goes". The singer is Sandy Denny, who wrote this oft-covered classic.

Tim Buckley, "Gypsy Woman". Because of his experimental approach, you could never assume you'd like one of his albums just because you'd like others. Goodbye and Hello remains my favorite, Happy Sad has some great stuff, and after that, he lost me.


music friday: 1968

B.B. King, "Lucille". B.B. never sings and plays at the same time, because he doesn't want to interrupt Lucille.

Manfred Mann, "Mighty Quinn". Dylan wrote and recorded it during the Basement Tapes era ... it ended up on the Great White Wonder. The flute part at the beginning is played by the guy who won a Grammy for drawing the cover of Revolver. The singer is the cousin of a Bond Girl. Thus ends my Casey Kasem imitations.

Aretha Franklin, "The House That Jack Built". A two-sided hit with "I Say a Little Prayer".

Dusty Springfield, "Son of a Preacher Man". Dusty and Aretha used to be labelmates.

The Dells, "Stay in My Corner". Released in 1965, they re-recorded it in 1968 and hit #1 on the R&B charts.

The Beatles, "Revolution 9". It is easier to find this song on YouTube with the track played backwards, than it is to find the original.

Marvin Gaye, "I Heard It Through the Grapevine". From 1967-1970, there were three great, popular versions of this song (Gladys Knight, Creedence).

Status Quo, "Pictures of Matchstick Men". More than 20 years later, Camper Van Beethoven took their remake to #1 on the Modern Rock charts.

Mary Hopkin, "Those Were the Days". The music is a Russian romance song. This was Apple's second single release, after "Hey Jude".

Lee "Scratch" Perry, "People Funny Boy". Perry's first big single.



 


music friday: 1967

The Beatles, "A Day in the Life." Greil Marcus once wrote, "[A]t the time it was obvious that Revolver, released in 1966, was better than Rubber Soul, just as it was obvious Sgt. Pepper was better than both put together. The times carried the imperative of such a choice—though it was not really a choice at all, but rather a sort of faceless necessity. The only road, after all, was onward." And "A Day in the Life" was the exemplar of Onward. He added, "Such a choice does not seem so obvious now, and of course the necessity has faded."

Aretha Franklin, "Respect." The Acclaimed Music site lists this as the #11 track of all time. That seems off ... of the top ten, only "Like a Rolling Stone" and "Johnny B. Goode" strike me as the equal of Aretha's greatest hit.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience, "Purple Haze." Perhaps lost in the greatness of Hendrix's guitar work is the fact that he was also a great vocalist and songwriter.

The Kinks, "Waterloo Sunset." Christgau called this "the most beautiful song in the English language". I admit I preferred the raunchy Kinks of songs like "Who'll Be the Next in Line".

The Doors, "Light My Fire." I remember once, in the early FM years of Tom Donahue, he said he didn't want to play this song because they played it all the time on the AM dial. Listeners pointed out to him that they didn't listen to AM any more, so they never heard it. The version in the video is the short one, with a different Morrison vocal.

Jefferson Airplane, "White Rabbit." I wouldn't have said it at the time, but this is just about a perfect record. One reason is Grace Slick (see below).

The Velvet Underground, "I'm Waiting for the Man." Many of these songs elicit memories of the 60s. This is the only one that personifies those times as standing around waiting for your dealer to bring you heroin.

Nico, "These Days." That's Jackson Browne on guitar. He also wrote the song. He was 17 when this was recorded. He loved Nico. She was older than 17.

Love, "Alone Again Or." Arguably the most famous song by Love, the band led by Arthur Lee. But Lee didn't write it ... that was Bryan MacLean. (As with The Kinks, I preferred the raunchier Love of their first two albums.)

McCoy Tyner, "Four by Five." Tyner, Joe Henderson, Ron Carter, and Elvin Jones.

 


music friday: pink, "beautiful trauma"

Asked to name my favorite song of 2017, I came up with "Beautiful Trauma". It's an unoriginal choice ... I am hopelessly behind on current music, but I always know what Pink is up to. The album Beautiful Trauma is fairly standard for Pink, top heavy with a few dynamite cuts and a lot of stuff that sounds good now but will likely be forgotten down the road. I prefer its predecessor, The Truth About Love, but that may be because I saw her twice on that tour ... she is such a fine performer, I tend to associate her songs as much with the live performances as the studio tracks.

"Beautiful Trauma" has a melody that sticks in my head ... I'm sure I've heard it before, although after a few months, I still don't know where it comes from. I like that Pink is saying "fuck" a lot in this song. She hasn't cussed as much since she started having kids. And one lyric stands out for me:

You punched a hole in
The wall and I framed it
I wish I could feel things like you

The official video is fascinating. It also gets bonus points for using the original, explicit lyrics.

Of course, Pink is famous for her acrobatic live performances, and she didn't disappoint when she sang the song at the American Music Awards, even if she didn't say "fuck":

We will be seeing her live in May, my sixth time. I can't wait.


music friday: bruce springsteen at winterland, 12/15/78

Hard to believe it's been 39 years since Bruce played the first of two nights at Winterland. I wrote about it back in 2002:

The first show, December 15, 1978, is widely bootlegged and is considered by fans to be one of the handful of greatest Bruce concerts of all time ... the Brucelegs website calls it "Probably the most famous show Bruce will ever do." The show was broadcast on local radio. I stood on the floor with the teeming masses; Robin sat with my brother David, his then-wife Bonnie, and perhaps other folks, in seats just off the floor. There was no aisle to walk up this time, so for "Spirit in the Night," Bruce just laid down on top of the fans, who passed him around, being thoughtful enough to roll him back towards the stage and the mic just in time for him to get the next verse. (OK, in 2002, the audience roll is a cliche, but in 1978, not a lot of artists were doing it.) He played "Prove It All Night" for more than ten minutes. He played "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." He played "The Fever," which at the time was known as a Southside Johnny song; he played "Fire," which was a Robert Gordon song before it was a Pointer Sisters song. He played "Because the Night," which at the time was a Patti Smith song. He played "Point Blank," which at that time wasn't KNOWN as a song. And among the encores were the Mitch Ryder Detroit Medley AND "Raise Your Hand" AND "Quarter to Three." It was a magnificent show, and since we were in different places in Winterland, it was the only Bruce show where Robin and I didn't sit together.

Some things have changed since 1978/2002. I've been to a few Bruce shows that Robin didn't attend. And while bootlegs were a big deal back in the day, and the first night at Winterland was highly regarded partly because the radio broadcast made for easy bootlegging, the most acclaimed shows from that period were all broadcast (there was a Cleveland show, and a Passaic show that are great and remembered).

Nowadays, every concert is almost instantly available ... I've been to shows where excerpts have hit YouTube before I get home. Bruce himself now has a site, http://live.brucespringsteen.net/, where you can buy properly mixed versions of various concerts. So, except for those of us who were there, Winterland '78 isn't a total standout ... the 1978 tour is often considered his greatest, but that's a lot of shows. (The second night of Winterland was great, too, but it wasn't on the radio.)

Here are a few samples of Bruce in 1978.