[I first ran this one back in 2009, but after I posted the Ohio Express version of Graham Gouldman's "Sausalito" on Tuesday, it occurred to me that it was newly relevant and might be worthy of revival. As is my wont, I've done some rewriting here and there and added an entry. Just so you don't think I'm a complete slacker asshole. -- S.S.]
Post-Elvis Performer or Performers or Song You've Taken the Most Snark For Liking From Folks Over the Years!!!
Self-explanatory, obviously, and no arbitrary rules whatsoever, you're welcome very much. Basically, if anybody's ever looked at you with an alarmed raised eyebrow when you noted that, oh, the Swans' Filth was the record you'd most like to have played at a memorial service, then this category is for you.
And my totally top of my head Top Four is:
4. The Beach Boys
Not so much these days, of course, given that it's now generally conceded by all who walk upright that Brian Wilson is a genius, the Gershwin of his generation, but the Beach Boys have gone in and out of fashion so many times over the last 50 years that it's hard to keep track. Back in the hippie days, however -- particularly after the whole debacle of Smile -- the attitude in the counter-culture was that you had to be a hopelessly bourgeois square to take them seriously (in this country, at least; the Brits knew better). In any case, at that point being a Beach Boys fan was essentially the Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name, and I don't mean Mike.
3. The Guess Who
Seriously, back in the 70s, I can't tell you how often I would mention my fondness for these guys, only to notice that the people I was talking to were moving away, ever so slowly but firmly, from where I sat.
The clip above -- a medley called "Hi, Rockers!" -- is my favorite of several true gems from the band's masterpiece album. The transition from the hilarious beer-soaked barroom meeting of the minds that opens it into the seraphically lovely clavinet-driven "Heaven Only Moved Once" and finally the witty mutant rockabilly revenge number "Don't You Want Me" -- complete with faux Jordanaires harmony vocals -- is, frankly, a marvel to behold, and from where I sit one of the very greatest moments in 70s rock. I'm not kidding about this!!!
2. Procol Harum
These guys, although there's still a perception out there that they were one-hit wonders (hah!), actually get a fair amount of respect -- it's amazing how often I run into people who turn out to be closet fans. So I'm mostly including them here because the luminous NYMary, annotating a piece I'd written about the band in the early 70s for reprint in these precincts, couldn't resist taking a shot at "A Whiter Shade of Pale" (bless her heart). I think the phrase she used was "Dodgiest lyrics ever..."
Naturally enough, then, the clip above is "Repent Walpurgis," an instrumental that remains one of my all-time fave Procol numbers. It's a live version, featuring the classic five piece original lineup with Robin Trower and Matthew Fischer (the latter four decades away from settling his authorship suit over AWSOP) at the Fillmore West on April 11, 1969.
And the numero uno band or song for whom my enthusiasm has gotten me shunned from time to time is obviously --
1. The Four Seasons -- Marlena
The Four Seasons, despite (or perhaps because of) their recent metamorphosis into the inspiration for a world-wide hit musical, remain somewhat less than hep in certain rock critic circles. I, of course, have said on numerous occasions (including here, if memory serves) that their great run of hits -- spanning the period between "Sherry" in 1962 through, say, "I've Got You Under My Skin" five years later -- comprise the purest pop confections in the history of the genre (the grittier class conscious romanticism of "Dawn" and "Rag Doll," and those songs' influence on Bruce Springsteen, is, of course, a subject for another day).
In any case, my advocacy of "Marlena" (which I think is their most profoundly silly accomplishment, and that's meant as a compliment) has gotten me into trouble on a couple of occasions, most notably sometime in the late 70s, when I -- along with twenty or thirty other folks, mostly writers and musicians -- was asked to make a list of our Five All-Time Favorite Songs by New York City rock colossus WNEW-FM (the station then played everybody's lists over the course of an entire day). I don't remember all five songs I picked -- one was The Who's "Glow Girl" -- but I did nominate "Marlena," and I recall that after the deejay ID'd it as one of my choices, I got at least three frantic phone calls from erstwhile friends questioning my sanity. Okay, I exaggerate just a tad, but you get the idea.
In any case, I think history has vindicated my assessment.
Incidentally, the audio clip of "Marlena" above is the original mono single mix, which I was able to find only after great personal effort and considerable financial expense. This is important because most currently available Four Seasons comps have the song in stereo, and as Pete Townshend famously said about The Who's "I Can See For Miles," the mono mix of "Marlena" makes the stereo sound like The Carpenters.
Alrighty then -- what would your choices be?