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.
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.
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.
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.)
Everyone is offering up their Best-Of lists for the end of the year, so I'll try something similar for this week's Music Friday. I'm looking at the last 365 days rather than just 2017. According to Last.fm, four tracks are tied for the most played by me over the past year. Three of them make sense.
There's Van Morrison with "Brown Eyed Girl". Here he performs it in 1973:
And here's Bruce in 2014:
Next up is Dr. John the Night Tripper with "Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya". When Dr. John's first album came out, it sounded like nothing I'd ever heard. It makes a lot more sense now.
Here comes Judy Collins with "Suzanne". I saw her for my first-ever concert back in 1967. In this video from 1976, she duets with the song's writer, Leonard Cohen:
Here's Randy Newman's "Suzanne" for comparison:
I said three of these songs made sense ... all of them from the 60s. Here's the one that surprised me, even though I apparently listened to it a lot over the past year: Ry Cooder's "Trouble, You Can't Fool Me", from his 1979 album Bop till You Drop. It was written by Frederick Knight and Aaron Varnell (Knight later wrote Anita Ward's "Ring My Bell").
In his review of Physical Graffiti for Rolling Stone back in 1975, Jim Miller spent a lot of time on Jimmy Page, both his guitar playing and his producing/arranging:
The album's — and the band's — mainspring is Jimmy Page, guitarist extraordinaire....
His primary concern, both as producer and guitarist, is sound. His playing lacks the lyricism of Eric Clapton, the funk of Jimi Hendrix, the rhythmic flair of Peter Townshend; but of all the virtuoso guitarists of the Sixties, Page, along with Hendrix, has most expanded the instrument's sonic vocabulary.
He has always exhibited a studio musician's knack for functionalism. Unlike many of his peers, he rarely overplays, especially on record ...
A facile soloist, Page excels at fills, obbligatos and tags. Playing off stock riffs, he modulates sonorities, developing momentum by modifying instrumental colors. To this end, he uses a wide array of effects ... But his signature remains distortion. Avoiding "clean" timbres, Page usually pits fuzzed out overtones against a hugely recorded bottom, weaving his guitar in and out of the total mix, sometimes echoing Robert Plant's contorted screams, sometimes tunneling behind a dryly thudding drum....
Thanks to Page's production, Led Zeppelin quickly outdistanced such predecessors as Cream and the Yardbirds.... Taking his cues from old Sun and Chess records, he used reverb and echo to mold the band into a unit, always accenting the bottom (bass and drums), always aiming at the biggest possible sound.....
Physical Graffiti testifies to Page's taste and Led Zeppelin's versatility. Taken as a whole, it offers an astonishing variety of music, produced impeccably by Page.
Hey, I'm not here to argue ... all of the members of Led Zeppelin made important contributions, but as a listener who wasn't in the studio to see exactly how their records were made, I've always given extra credit to Page, for the reasons Miller mentions and more.
Miller didn't think "In the Light" quite worked.
"In the Light," one of the album's most ambitious efforts, similarly fizzles down the home stretch, although the problem here is not tedium but a fragmentary composition that never quite jells: When Page on the final release plays an ascending run intended to sound majestic, the effect is more stilted than stately.
Even here, the only band member he mentions is Page, although John Paul Jones was the person most responsible for the sound ... his synthesizer dominates. Led Zeppelin never played "In the Light" in concert, supposedly because Jones didn't feel he could properly match the synth playing on stage. (Both Page and Plant performed the song in concerts outside of Led Zeppelin.)
Let's say Miller is right that "In the Light" is fragmentary. In that case, it might be perfect as accompaniment for a movie or TV scene. And in fact, that's what made me think of it for this post, because it plays during the final scene of Season One of David Fincher's Mindhunter, the interesting Netflix series with Jonathan Groff, the great Holt McCallany, and Anna Torv. Here is part of that scene (spoilers, for those who care). The song had begun at the beginning, with Jones' synth a perfect background for the action. It picked up again at the end of the scene, as you see here. Most of the time, I get frustrated when a song is hacked up to fit what is happening on the screen. But the missing middle of "In the Light" here disposes of Miller's complaint that the song is fragmentary. The editing makes it more fragmentary, of course, but it makes sense, because it's not just a track on an album, it's the soundtrack for what we're watching.
Here is the complete "In the Light":
A sampling of the comments on YouTube:
Devon Palmer: The editing and use of this song made mindhunters ending so disturbing it was amazing.
Brian Merriman: I don't generally applaud when watching tv, but couldn't help myself on this one. Ten minutes of brilliance the equal of anything on a small or large screen in recent memory.
TwisTr71: Best execution of music fitting a scene I have ever experienced
It's the anniversary of Arthur Conley's death. He died 14 years ago today. He seems destined to always be remembered as a One-Hit Wonder, that hit being "Sweet Soul Music". Conley was taken under the wing of Otis Redding, who helped put together "Sweet Soul Music". He seemed to be an ideal mentor for Conley, but he died in a plane crash later that year. Conley career floundered. Ed Ward tells the story:
In the mid-'70s, Conley abruptly moved to London. That proved expensive, so the next stop was Brussels, which he found too hectic. He then headed to Amsterdam and changed his name to Lee Roberts. Nobody knew Lee Roberts, and at last Conley was able to live in peace with a secret he'd hidden - or thought he had - for his entire career - he was gay. But nobody in Holland cared.
"Sweet Soul Music" was "based" on a Sam Cooke tune, "Yeah Man" ... "based" as in a lawsuit resulted in Cooke's name being listed a co-composer.
The horn introduction borrows from the theme for The Magnificent Seven:
Here is Arthur singing his hit in 1967:
Finally, here's Bruce Springsteen, who has performed "Sweet Soul Music" many times. The video quality is poor, but the audio is fine, and this one is dear to my heart, because it's the only time I saw him play the song in concert. 1988:
Three years ago I devoted a Music Friday to Creedence Clearwater Revival, highlighting their jam, "Keep on Chooglin'". I spent most of that post looking at the ways Creedence were different from other Bay Area bands more identified with the FM underground radio explosion of the late-60s. I described in passing just how prolific (and great) the band was in those days:
In 1969, Creedence released three albums. On those albums were tracks like “Born on the Bayou,” “Proud Mary,” “Bad Moon Rising,” “Lodi,” “Down on the Corner,” and “Fortunate Son”. All in one year. This wasn’t the Grateful Dead … this was a hit-making machine, cranking out one hit after another from the pen of John Fogerty. And they weren’t done. In 1970, there was Cosmo’s Factory (“Travelin’ Band,” “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” “Run Through the Jungle,” “Up Around the Bend,” “Lookin’ Out My Back Door,” and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”).
"Grapevine", of course, was a cover, and CCR did some great ones. Besides "Grapevine," there was "I Put a Spell on You", "Suzie Q", and "Ninety Nine and a Half (Won't Do)" on their debut album, and then later, "The Night Time Is the Right Time", "The Midnight Special", and others. It's a sign of their greatness as a band, and of Fogerty as a songwriter, that their covers are terrific, but the originals fit right in and match the quality of the classic songs they covered.
I guess I'm trying to say that I've underrated John Fogerty too often over the years. He is in the rock and roll pantheon. And many of his songs are frighteningly relevant to this day. The one that gets me every time is "Fortunate Son". Here he performs it with Brad Paisley, just last week:
He and Paisley also took on "Bad Moon Rising", which still carries a wallop.
I hope you got your things together I hope you are quite prepared to die Look's like we're in for nasty weather One eye is taken for an eye
Oh don't go 'round tonight It's bound to take your life There's a bad moon on the rise
On a lighter note, the two attacked Paisley's "Alcohol", helping white people dance:
I'll finish with the band and one of their cheery numbers:
Just got home from Illinois lock the front door oh boy! Got to sit down take a rest on the porch. Imagination sets in pretty soon I'm singin'
Doo doo doo lookin' out my back door.
There's a giant doing cartwheels, a statue wearin' high heels. Look at all the happy creatures dancing on the lawn. A dinosaur Victrola list'ning to Buck Owens.
Doo doo doo lookin' out my back door.
Tambourines and elephants are playing in the band. Won't you take a ride on the flyin' spoon? Doo doo doo. Wond'rous apparition provided by magician.
Doo doo doo lookin' out my back door.
Tambourines and elephants are playing in the band. Won't you take a ride on the flyin' spoon? Doo doo doo. Bother me tomorrow, today, I'll buy no sorrows.
Doo doo doo lookin' out my back door.
Forward troubles Illinois, lock the front door oh boy! Look at all the happy creatures dancing on the lawn. Bother me tomorrow, today, I'll buy no sorrows.