Following up on last week’s post, here’s another mix-disc I made long ago. No idea what the date is … there are no recent songs to help in that regard. Clearly I was going for the late-60s FM underground radio vibe. One thing I notice in retrospect: all of the 17 artists are white, 16 are men, and the one woman was known at the time primarily as Paul McCartney’s protégé.
While going through the remnants of my CD collection (I haven’t copied them all to the hard drive yet), I can across a mix-disc I called “American Rock”. Seems like a perfect day to recall that playlist. I don’t know the date this was made. Music seems like mid-80s, but I have a hard time believing I have a 30-year-old homemade CD. Makes me wonder if it was originally on cassette and I copied it to disc for some reason.
Bonus quiz: I’ve seen three of the above artists in concert. Name them.
I’ve barely listened to any music the past ten days, so this is pretty haphazard. These are music videos recommended to me by YouTube.
Wild Flag, “Romance”:
The Beatles, “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”:
Sly and the Family Stone, “Hot Fun in the Summertime”:
Faces, “Stay With Me”:
Miranda Lambert, “Somethin’ Bad”:
Muddy Waters, “I’m a King Bee”:
I’ve often said that it’s a sign of how great the Rolling Stones were in their first decade or so that a song which could have easily slipped over into silliness (“Sympathy for the Devil”) was in fact appropriate and timely.
“Gimme Shelter” has the advantage of never coming close to silliness.
I don’t know what their greatest song was, but “Gimme Shelter” is in the running, at least in the version that kicked off Let It Bleed. The opening guitar riff, the background vocals, the moment when Charlie leads the band out of the intro … the lyrics, which are appropriate and timeless … Charlie, Charlie, Charlie … Mick trying to and mostly succeeding at keeping up with Merry Clayton.
Clayton got some extra attention a couple of years ago when the movie 20 Feet from Stardom was released. But I’m old enough to have been there in 1969, and I can tell you, we knew who Merry Clayton was then, too, precisely because of her performance on this song. We bought her (first?) album, also called Gimme Shelter, because we knew what she meant to the Stones’ recording.
Here’s the original:
Here’s Clayton in 20 Feet from Stardom, listening to herself:
Lisa Fischer has been singing with the band for 25 years or so. There is no denying her skills. But the iconic moment remains when Merry Clayton’s voice breaks on the original.
How great is the Rolling Stones version? Clayton, who added so much to that one, couldn’t come close when she did it herself:
It’s risky when I offer up a random selection from recent times … I was 58 years old in 2011, I’d be pretending if I said I know a lot about the music of that year. So this is as much a learning experience for me as it is for you, and I present these tracks without comment.
Adele, “Someone Like You”.
Django Django, “Default”.
Fleet Foxes, “Helplessness Blues”.
Alabama Shakes, “Hold On”.
St. Vincent, “Cruel”.
Azealia Banks, “212”.
Pistol Annies, “Hell on Heels”.
Wild Flag, “Romance”. Janet (sigh):
Jody Rosen has a piece on Vulture that is getting a lot of attention, titled “In Defense of Schlock Music: Why Journey, Billy Joel, and Lionel Richie Are Better Than You Think.” I had an instant knee-jerk reaction, especially when Rosen spent the first four paragraphs talking about my bête noire, Journey. (Side note: I’m listening to a Spotify radio station of 1980s music while I write this, and “Don’t Stop Believin’” just came on. Do I give it a thumbs down?) But … it’s a great article, and as much as I’d like to, I can’t really argue with Rosen’s opinion that “there is no more flaming schlock purveyor than … Bruce Springsteen”.
Rosen adds a list of the 150 greatest schlock songs ever. Which leads to this week’s Music Friday: some of my favorites from Rosen’s list.
2. Prince and the Revolution, “Purple Rain”. Rosen reminds us of the importance of hot-shit geetar in power ballads.
11. Elvis Presley, “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”. There are so many to choose from out of the King’s massive catalog.
18. Gloria Gaynor, “I Will Survive”. I never really thought of many of these songs as being “schlock”, but it’s possible I’m defining “schlock” as “I don’t like it”.
23. The Four Tops, “Reach Out I’ll Be There”. For me, this really helps make Rosen’s case. It’s one of my all-time favorite songs, but Levi Stubbs’ singing and the track’s production are schlock. I get that, now. Just look over your shoulder.
27. Bruce Springsteen, “Thunder Road”. “Jungleland” would be the more obvious choice. “Thunder Road” is the first song we saw Bruce perform in concert, back in 1975.
50. The Shangri-Las, “Leader of the Pack”. Again, I might have gone for a different choice (“I Can Never Go Home Anymore”), but Rosen’s chosen a good one.
51. Tammy Wynette, “Stand By Your Man”. “There’s no mistaking a singer as forceful as Wynette for a doormat.”
65. Johnny Cash, “Hurt”. Not sure how this fits here, even with Rosen’s comments.
74. Katy Perry, “Roar”. I know why this is here.
78. Foreigner, “I Want to Know What Love Is”. Started with a power ballad, ended with a power ballad.
And, ah, what the heck … when I finally gave in:
I posted a video link on Facebook earlier this week, of the Iron Butterfly lip syncing to “In-a-Gadda-da-Vida”. All 17 minutes and 2 seconds of it. That’s a long time to pretend to play things like drum solos. Most people remarked on how it was the “long version” that mattered, not the short single that was a hit on its own. That got me thinking about these versions.
First, the one that got the discussion started:
There were two songs that never had “short versions”, that may have been connected. It’s appropriate that when the Rolling Stones did their first long song, it consisted mostly of Mick Jagger improvising about the sex he was going to have:
It should be noted that extended minutes of Mick was a better idea than something like the live version of “Toad” that appeared on Cream’s Wheels of Fire. A song which was just on the edge of too long in its studio version (Ginger Baker was a great drummer, so 5 minutes was probably just about right) ended up more than 16 minutes long in the live version.
Arthur Lee of Love said he thought the Stones got the idea for “Goin’ Home” when they heard Love play a long track on stage. Who knows which came first, but “Revelation” was so long, it took up the entire side two of Da Capo:
It was a big deal when FM stations played the album version of “Light My Fire” instead of the single version so popular on AM:
The Allman Brothers were known to stretch out a jam or two, perhaps most notably with “Mountain Jam”. They took a Donovan song that rolled in at 2 1/2 minutes, and stretched it out to 33:41 for Eat a Peach. This was especially poignant since Duane Allman had died between the recording and the release, so this was one of the last chances fans had to hear Duane. (If you don’t feel up to all 33:41, tune in at 23:10 for Essence of Duane.
Finally, the Chambers Brothers. The Brothers were a soul group straight out of gospel who had recorded “Time Has Come Today” in 1966. It ran 2:37, and was rejected by the record label. Two years later, it was the centerpiece of the group’s third album, The Time Has Some. Now it was more than eleven minutes long, with an extended psychedelic montage in the center. This was the hit version, once it was truncated to three minutes. (A longer shorter version was cut … it lasted almost five minutes.) This was another early marker of the distinction between the FM and AM radio of the day … “underground” FM radio only played the album version, AM radio played the shorter hits: