Monday, September 01, 2014

20 Important Songs in Rock (Part 1)

(Capitol Records)
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I wanted to create a short blog post in four small parts that everyone could celebrate in. Here are some fun musical selections that are among my favorites in rock. Of course, as a disclaimer, the opinions expressed here are my own. But perhaps they'll lead to a few of your own.  
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The Beatles: "All My Loving": When faced with the task of selecting a single identifying song that captures the energy, songwriting, sound, and phenomenon that is uniquely The Beatles, this is the song I hear in my mind over screaming fans. Despite the claims on the album cover, this was actually the second album by the band to be released in the United States on January 20, 1964. The following month, Beatlemania hit our shores with the band's arrival on a Pan Am flight from London to New York for an initial appearance on CBS television's "The Ed Sullivan Show". That epic night was February 9, 1964. The band toured the U.S. in the weeks that followed, and music was never the same again. This LP ranks at No. 59 on Billboard's Top "500 Greatest Albums of All Time".  Performance HERE.   
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(Elektra Records)
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The Doors: "L.A. Woman": An entire book could be written on this album alone. The title track is iconic with the sound of a V-8 automobile engine accelerating (many have presumed this was Jim Morrison's 1967 Shelby Mustang GT 500, a gift from his record label. To date, it has never been found), amid a cacophony of discordant strings that blends into an aggressive bass guitar line, and the full band setting up the rapid tempo for lead singer, Jim Morrison. The strain of Morrison's descent into alcoholism made the recording of this album very difficult for band members. Recorded live inside a Los Angles house on Santa Monica Boulevard, dubbed "The Doors Workshop", the band enlisted bass player Jerry Scheff (on a hiatus from Elvis Presley's road band) and rhythm guitarist Marc Benno, thus allowing Robbie Krieger to focus on his lead guitar solos. Following on the heels of the well-received "Morrison Hotel" LP's blues-rock orientation, the singles: "L.A. Woman", "Rider's On the Storm" and "Love Her Madly" emerged. "The Changeling" is said to have been an homage to singer James Brown. Released in April 1971, Jim Morrison died three months later in Paris, France at the age of 27. The Doors drummer, John Densmore stated in the documentary, "The Story of L.A. Woman": "The metaphor for the city as a woman is brilliant: cops in cars, never saw a woman so alone - great stuff. It's metaphoric, the physicality of the town and thinking of her and how we need to take care of her, it's my hometown." Performance HERE.
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(Scott Brothers Records)
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James Brown: "Living in America": Released in 1985, this song composed by Dan Hartman and Charlie Midnight is included on Brown's LP "Gravity". It was Brown's first Top 40 hit in 10 years, and stands up today as a tightly arranged, hard-hitting performance with the perfectionism for which the singer is well regarded over the length of his career. This high energy/high impact dance number is performed by Brown in actor/screenwriter/director Sylvester Stallone's movie, "Rocky IV", and reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, where it enjoyed an 11-week stay. The song was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song in 1986, and won Brown a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. It would also mark his last chart topping single.
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James Brown died on Christmas Day, 2006 and is alternately known as "The Godfather of Soul", and "The hardest working man in show business". Curiously, the song was not included in the recent bio-pic on Brown's life, "Get On Up", but remains one of my favorites of all time. I never tire of it. With it's patriotic theme, sledge hammer dance beat and Brown's trademark horn section, this song is infectious enough to kick-start any party. "I feel good!" Performance HERE.

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(Capitol Records)
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The Beach Boys: "Good Vibrations": It's opening notes are among the most recognizable in the history of Rock and Roll. Released in October 1966, Brian Wilson's composition, with lyrics by Mike Love is legendary. Recorded during the sessions for the album, "Pet Sounds", "Good Vibrations" was curiously released as a stand-alone single that eventually made it's way from the aborted "SMILE" LP (later completed in 2004 by Wilson) to the LP "Smiley Smile". The single took Wilson 8 months of studio work to complete, and miles of recording tape to layer. It features an electronic theramin, along with multiple instruments played by members of the famous "Wrecking Crew" stable of musicians,  including bassist Carol Kaye and drummer Hal Blaine, under Wilson's demanding, if not strenuous effort at achieving perfection. It marked his genius status as a writer, singer and recording engineer. YouTube video's of Wilson at work during the recording sessions is fascinating. Described as "a pocket symphony" by band publicist Derek Taylor, I was fortunate to attend a concert by the original surviving band members in 2011 (and was one of the youngest members of the audience). The song ranks No. 6 on Billboard's "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".  Performance: HERE.   
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(MCA)
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Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers: "Kings Highway": Released in 1991 on the LP, "Into the Great Wide Open", this song actually came to my attention while driving back to Ohio from a rock concert in West Virginia. I was unable to get FM Radio reception along much of the mountainous highway trek. But just as I approached the top  of a hill, this song came playing over the radio. While never a single, it is well known in the Petty repertoire. The album also yielded "Learning to Fly" as a second hit single. There are multiple namesake highways named throughout the world, including one, ironically, in Virginia State. It is my favorite song from this band. The guitars are bright, electric and the sound is optimistic. When the chorus kicks in, the song reveals a groove that is powerful. Performance HERE.
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To Be Continued...
 
 



 

8 comments:

Stephen Hayes said...

I went with my brother to White Front when he bought his copy of Meet the Beatles. Our folks were horrified that he spent so much money ($3.95) on one album.

P M Prescott said...

Good vibrations was a great song to listen to, but did you ever try to dance to it?
50's and 60's were such a revolution in music. Too bad it disintegrated into rival genres in the 70's.

Michael Manning said...

Hey, Stephen: I'll bet that was quite a lot of money back then! A neighbor's older brother had that album, and today so do I. Never tried playing it backwards, as so many did during the "Paul is dead" rumors! :)

Michael Manning said...

PM: A good point. But I have danced to James Brown. He was the ultimate dancer. While I'm no Usher, I still get a kick out of "Reverend Cleophus James" in "The Blues Brothers" movie! :D)

Hilary said...

I have to agree with Good Vibrations.. one of the best ever! A friend of mine went to their concert in Montreal back around '76. She was a few months pregnant with her first at the time and felt the baby move for the first time when they sang Good Vibrations. Fun moment and so memorable for them.

Michael Manning said...

That's quite a memorable moment, Hilary. I was fortunate to see the original lineup, augmented by supporting band members in 2011--a large carry all. But the concert was taped for rebroadcast on PBS. Quite good.

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

These are excellent! Good music.

Michael Manning said...

Lisa: I just looked these over. You can run to each of them playing through your headphones. Parts 3 and 4 will be more challenging! ;)