Friday, January 02, 2015

Weekend Listomania's Greatest hits: (Special Solipsism is Great, Everybody Should Try It! Edition)

[I originally posted this one in early 2009, which is so long ago that nobody outside of Jamaica (Queens) had even SUSPECTED the existence of Nicki Minaj, let alone had to endure the fascist imagery in that stupid "Only" video of hers (and let's just say that my comments about that one will hopefully earn me a check for fifteen dollars when the Village Voice critics poll results are released at the end of January). In any case, I've done some rewriting as is my wont, and I've added a new entry, mostly to keep my hand in, but also to some extent because I don't want a certain putz I call Sparky to have an excuse to accuse me of artistic laziness. In any case, enjoy if possible. -- S.S.]


Self-explanatory, I think, so no arbitrary rules this time. Except that we're specifically talking here about singles or album cuts, NOT whole albums (a topic for another time). Also, I'm disqualifying anything by The Beatles on the grounds that there are just too damned many tunes by the Fabs to choose from and that they're a little too obvious choices in any case.

Okay, and my totally top of my head Top Nine, in chronological order, would be:

9. The Rolling Stones -- It's All Over Now

The Valentinos original of this (featuring Bobby Womack) is superficially similar -- two guitars, bass and drums, and a singer up front -- but if you've ever heard it, you know that it's actually kind of jolly. The Stones rethink keeps the basic arrangement model intact, but the guitars are stripped down to ominous Travis-picking meets scrubbed metal Chuck Berry, and the whole thing is invested with a palpable sense of menace completely unprecedented in pop music at the time. Plus: the concluding fade-out, with those circular guitar riffs altered just slightly each time as the echo creeps in, marks (no doubt about it) the birth of the style and esthetic we'd later call Minimalism. Alas, in the 70s, that moron Phillip Glass went on to adopt it for four-hour operas, thus totally missing the point, but this is what it's supposed to sound like.

Bottom line: Hearing this under a pillow via transistor radio over WMCA-AM is when I decided that Andrew Oldham's liner note claim -- that the Stones weren't just a band, they were a way of life -- wasn't as asinine as it seemed at first.

8. The Byrds -- The Bells of Rhymney

If there's a more beautiful sound in all of nature than that of a Rickenbacker 12-string guitar well played, I have yet to hear it. In any case, this song -- even more than "Mr. Tambourine Man" -- is where the Church of the Rickenbacker opened. Four decades later, I'm still dropping by for services, if you'll pardon the perhaps inelegant metaphor.

7. The Beach Boys -- When I Grow Up

Obviously, it's melodically gorgeous and the harmonies exquisite. But it's also the first rock song (for me anyway) that combines adolescent angst and something like mature wisdom; when people say that Brian Wilson invented the whole confessional California songwriting school that people usually associate with Joni Mitchell or Jackson Browne, this is the song they have in mind, I think. Although "In My Room" or "Don't Worry Baby" are contenders as well.

6. The Miracles -- The Tracks of My Tears

This wasn't the first r&b record I loved, but it's the first one I bought and played as obsessively as I did any Beatles 45. Everything about it just killed me; the oddly sinister yet lovely sound of the guitars at the beginning, the way the rhythm section falls effortlessly into place, the sensual longing in Smokey's voice contrasted with the almost churchy background vocals...I still can't listen to it without thinking there's some detail I've missed, one that if I could only hear at last then some tremendous secret would be revealed. I suspect I'm not the only person who feels that way, BTW.

5. Jimmy Cliff -- The Harder They Come

A great song and a great voice, to be sure, and recognizably rock-and-roll, but at the same time it was indisputably...well, something else. If Sly Stone hadn't already titled an album A Whole New Thing, the movie soundtrack this astounding song derives from could easily have copped it.

4. Bruce Springsteen -- Spirit in the Night

The first time I heard this, the snare drum and near-mythic sax wail that open it hit me so hard that I thought I'd been wacked upside the head with a 2X4. Then I noticed the lyrics and had the absolutely eerie sensation that Springsteen had been reading my mail. Want to know what it felt like to be a a 20-something with no direction home in the early 70s? All you have to do is listen....

3. R.E.M. -- Radio Free Europe

Some records just have a vibe about them. Here's one (and the same can be said of Murmur as a whole) that has it in spades, a certain indefinable something that simply grabs you (or at least me) and won't let go. First time I heard it, I remember thinking it sounded simultaneously space age modern and as old as the hills. Still an apt description, actually.

2. The La's -- There She Goes

Like "Tracks of My Tears" years before, when this first came out I played it over and over and over again in the hope of finally being able to hear into the sheer sonic density of it. I still do, from time to time, and to this day I haven't quite figured out what that twelve-string riff means. Or why Lee Mavers' voice sounds so simultaneously familiar and eerie. Or, finally, who she is and where the hell she's going.

And the number one life-changer here at Casa Simels, and if you've been following this here blog for any length of time you may already have guessed, has simply got to be...

1. Terry Reid -- Waterloo Sunset (live at The Joint)

Okay, okay, I know I'm cheating with this one -- hey, it's my freaking blog and I can do whatever I want, amirite -- and I have written about this particular performance and how utterly transplendent it is at some length on a previous occasion. Let's just say that I stand by every word; seven years after I accidentally chanced across it on YouTube it still seems like one of the most brave and emotionally devastating things I've ever heard and witnessed. Do yourself a favor and play it loud -- otherwise the bass will kind of disappear.

Awrighty then -- what would your choices be?


MJConroy said...

That bass you speak of on Waterloo Sunset is played by the great Rick Rosas. We lost him in 2014 - not long after he filled in on a Crazy Horse tour. Yeah - this death stuff is pissing me off too.

Libby said...

A lot of songs changed my life. One of them Joe Cocker - The Letter. Long story already told on FB but it indirectly cemented my life long anti-war stance.

Also, Herman's Hermits - Something Good. The only song I successfully peformed at some Karaoke. Got an standing ovation because I finally sang on key. My previous two tries were rather dismal.

steve simels said...

MJConroy-- I hadn't made the connection between Rick Rosas and the Terry Reid clip.

That's very sad....

Anonymous said...

English Beat - Save it for Later (stole all of its dance moves)

Prince - Little Red Corvette (discovered nightclubbing)

Jimi Hendrix - Burning of the Midnight Lamp (my first record purchase)

pete said...

So many. You've read my thing about Visions Of Johanna so I won't repeat myself here. But I'll make a minor distinction between records that changed my life and records that changed the way I think about music. Bells Of Rhymney (also Chimes Of Freedom) were very much about how music could be. The Stones with Gimme Shelter, Stevie Wonder with I Believe When I Fall In Love, Hendrix with the 15-minute Voodoo Chile, all gave me the courage to face life, which believe me I needed. I could have used a little wisdom, too, but courage was enough to keep this cowardly lion alive.

danny1959 said...

"Last Train to Clarksville" by The Monkees put me on the road to being the rock star I never became.

Shriner said...

As weird as it may sound: "Little Willy" by the Sweet. First song I remember blasting out of the tiny crystal radio I built. 3 chord glam rock/power pop at it's finest. Then came KISS, the Monkees, 70's a.m. radio and it never ended...

cthulhu said...

The Who, Love Reign O'er Me: Hearing this on early AOR FM as a shy, socially awkward teen in the '70s...well, Townshend simply nailed the songwriting, Daltrey gave it one of his finest vocal performances, and it spoke to me in a way nothing else at the time did. Still sends chills up my spine. Bookend this one with Pictures of Lily and you have covered the spectrum of shy awkward teen male romance :-)

Billy Joel (I'm serious here), Until the Night: the best song the Righteous Brothers never wrote; just listen to it and imagine living it.

Pete Townshend and John Williams, Won't Get Fooled Again, live acoustic: never realized music could be that delicate and passionate and fierce all at the same time.

Alzo said...

In 1977, I walked into a Chicago leather bar-turned-rock discotheque called La Mere Vipere. There were bleached-blonde people hopping up and down under a strobe light to loud, fast piledriver music. The song was 'Pogo Dancing' by Chris Spedding + the Vibrators. There was no turning back.

MJConroy said...

1. Look Through Any Window - The Hollies. First record I ever bought. Still love it.
2. The Monkees - Last Train to Clarksville - I was a 12 year old (target audience!)in the hospital for 3 weeks and this song cheered me up immensely.
3. Born to be Wild - Steppenwolf. Before Easy Rider fame,it got me into alternative FM music.
4. Welcome to the Working Week - side 1, cut 1 of Elvis Costello's debut - blew my mind at the college radio station.
5."Give Me Back My Wig" - Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers. Played by the great dj Dave Booth from Canada and beamed across Lake Erie - got me excited about the blues and started me on the path of my college dj days of spinning everything from old 78s of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee to Downchild Blues Band.
6. Heart Like a Wheel - Linda Ronstadt - personal significance with the Mrs.
7. "Blood and Roses" - the Smithereens. Kinda drifted away from new music in the 80s - busy with little ones at home, etc. and a bunch of crap on the airwaves - but the Smithereens were obviously in touch with my musical pulse. Gotten to know them since - great bunch of guys.
8. My Back Pages - Mr. Dylan -
"I'm younger than that now" is inscribed on my ipod.

Brooklyn Girl in Queens said...

At the risk of repeating myself for the umpteenth time, the Yardbirds' "Train Kept a-Rollin'" was a life-changer. I didn't know bands could improvise like that, let lone with such intensity. And TWO crazy guitar solos in one song, lasting all of 3:26, and in 1965 no less? Still kills me.

Others: Spencer Davis Group's "Gimme Some Lovin'" with Stevie Winwood's blue-eyed soul --- I ran to the local record store and begged the clerk to sell me the demo; Elvis Costello's tender-and-bitter "Alison"; the Airplane's "White Rabbit" --- Youth Culture was all grown up and charting new territory; and Bruce's performance of "Rosalita" in "No Nukes" --- not only couldn't I take my eyes off him (or stop bouncing in my seat), I kept on thinking "I've heard this all before and yet it's entirely new. American Rock 'n' Roll is BACK."

Stu said...

Talking Heads "Life During Wartime"
I was 14 years old in '79 when I heard this on WXRT in Chicago.
I stared at the stereo until the DJ told me who it was. I remembered reading their name in Stereo Review.
That led me S.S. I reread all his reviews and columns and bought all he recommended.
I have been rewarded many times over throughout the decades by S.S.
Someday, I will figure out who that person is and give them a big thanks.

Popster said...

For a "Power Pop" blogger, you don't seem to really like much power pop. You seem to be more of a Bruce Springsteen kind of guy.

steve simels said...

Two words.



Mark said...

This is really hard, but here goes, and I’m just running through the FIRST ten that changed my life.

1965 The Yardbirds I’M NOT TALKING
First track on the American release, FOR YOUR LOVE. Fortunately, I wasn’t old enough to have my mind blown at the time.

Flip side on IT’S MY LIFE. Simple declarative (and boastful) assertion. Oh yeah, just do it.

Flip side of ALL I REALLY WANT TO DO. In retrospect, I learned what a template is from this song.

1966 The Blues Project NO TIME LIKE THE RIGHT TIME
The first song that made me realize that not all great songs, even when released as singles and get airplay in NYC, can be hits.

1967 Chad Stuart and Jeremy Clyde REST IN PEACE
Still brilliant lo these many years. Put yourself in a story, bring the story up to date.

1967 The Chambers Brothers TIME HAS COME TODAY
Still give me tingles, and one of the best live bands ever.

1968 The Rolling Stones SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL
Rock bands can do literary works? Who knew? See Al Stewart (1974) Nostradamus.

1968 Eric Burdon and The Animals COLOURED RAIN
The Traffic song on a great great album by Burdon, LOVE IS, that enabled me to understand arrangement in rock music.

Made me realize that others could write like Bob Dylan, though not all the time.

The greatest guitar solo ever, by Gary Rowles, son of jazz pianist Jimmy Rowles.

1969 Terry Reid RICH KID BLUES
After this song, I understood what it was to be sincere in rock music.

1970 Velvet Underground ROCK N’ ROLL
This song made me figure out what I later came to understand as the term "self-referential."

Each of these changed my impressionable teenage life, and at the same time, created a framework I've been using ever since.

Brooklyn Girl in Queens said...

1965 The Yardbirds I’M NOT TALKING
First track on the American release, FOR YOUR LOVE. Fortunately, I wasn’t old enough to have my mind blown at the time.

Actually, not the first track --- the second (I was old enough).

But if you want to hear the fundamental difference between Beck and Clapton, compare this track (Beck) with "I Ain't Got You" (Clapton).

Mark said...

BGiQ - Pulled out my copy of FOR YOUR LOVE, and yes, you're right. I'M NOT TALKING is track 2. I haven't played the album itself for so long because I no longer have a typewriter ... no, percolator ... no, turntable. YES! That's it! Turntable!

Anonymous said...

Lesley Gore - You Don't Own Me - On the cusp of Beatlemania Lesley released her best single. I could definitely relate.

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Susie Q. - Lost my virginity to this one at the Colorado River in the Summer of 1968-The primal Dale Hawkins tune took up all of Program 1 on the 8 track. I kept hitting the repeat button on the player with my toes, as we worshiped in that enchanted waterfront river house. The swampy psychedelic sounds and Michoacan ensured that our love-making was both revelatory and telepathic. Life changing to the max! The guy I was with just sent me a Christmas card from his asparagus farm in Washington. It's a River trip we'll never forget.

Beach Boys - Surfer Girl - Something I aspired to be.

Rolling Stones - I Just Want To Make Love To You - Hollywood Palace June 1964 - Had heard the records on the radio and owned the LP, but seeing them rip it up on stage made me realize these guys meant business. Mick and Bill Wyman appealed to me.

Them - Gloria / Baby Please Don't Go 45 - You cannot imagine how big this single was in Los Angeles. A double-sided Number One for months. Gloria was deliciously arousing. I was only ten, but I already knew that I could just as easily be Gloria as I could enjoy her coming in my room round about midnight.

Pink Floyd - Astronomy Domine - When Pink Floyd canceled a gig at the Pacesetter in Pomona I ended up at a Guy's house where he and his girlfriend were breaking up a kilo of grass into ounces. They were listening to Piper at the Gates of Dawn which the guy had recently purchased at Lewins Record Paradise. The guy, Steve, was related to a somewhat well-known baseball player. He had some Liberty Caps and it was my first time tripping. I ended up making out with the guy's girlfriend, Kathy, who would not let him join in. I thank her for that. Instead he played side one of the Floyd LP over and over. They were the freakiest people I knew at the time. I will forever associate them with the Floyd debut, of which Astronomy Domine is indelible.

The Yardbirds via Graham Gouldman - Evil Hearted You - another aspirational tune for future spellbinding. Guys love girls who hurt them. Wicked temptresses learn their lessons early. It's the lifeblood of the enchantress. A perfect song both lyrically and
melodically. Jeff really stands out as a genius player.

Left Banke - Pretty Ballerina - Just close your eyes and she'll be there. Two girls in a steamy shower kiss and caress passionately for the first time as this song bounces off the tiles.

Colin Blunstone - Quartet: Exclusively For Me-A Sign From Me To You-Every Sound I Heard-How Wrong Can One Man Be - JUST SOOO GORGEOUS. Takes me back to a period of love, doubt, separation and eventual reunion.

Cream - Dance the Night Away - The most under rated Cream song IMHO. Clapton jangles in a most psychedelic way on that Fender XII. This song took me way outside my mind and body as I turned myself to shadow and vanished from this place.

Neil Young - It's a Dream - Oh man! This one floored me from the first time I heard it. Tears flowed from its simple beauty. I shared the experience with my mother and we bonded even stronger than before.

Vickie Rock - Europe was fantabulous