Thursday, November 29, 2012
1. The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Regarded by most rock and roll enthusiasts as one of the finest rock albums ever produced, Sgt. Pepper was a milestone in cultural history ushering in a wave of psychedelic rock that still influences scores of musicians today. It brought rock and roll up to a higher artistic standing, comparable to the greatest book, the finest sculpture. The 1967 album was originally conceived to be a concept album regarding The Beatles' individual childhoods, but when McCartney wrote this song, he suggested it could serve as the theme to the entire album. The band agreed and magic ensued. This opening track's circus Big Top atmosphere is made horrid and macabre by the sound of an audience reacting to the music, as if coming from the very hollows of Hell.
2. Lambchop, 2B2
"Took the Christmas lights off the front porch", begins this sad lament from Kurt Wagner (Lambchop) that is about as quietly devastating as kicking through the rubble of the aftermath of a major flood. Wagner discovers bemused gloom in everything, and here in this gentle assessment of life, longs for an escape from the drudgery all existence possesses. The sound of soft spoken wooden knocks deep in the languid music finds me wondering if the sound is outside the headphones, or indeed, outside my sphere of being. From the 2012 album, Mr. M.
3. The Beatles, Yer Blues
Credited as a Lennon/McCartney composition, but written by John Lennon while in India, this raw blues song from The Beatles (The White Album), 1968, was recorded in the "annexe" of EMI Studio 2, a large closet in the control room, and sounds as if coming from an echoed chamber. A crude production that allowed Lennon an opportunity to exorcise his demons in an hard-edged guitar blues rant. The Beatles can be heard shouting drunkenly to one another as Lennon belts out primitive psyche statements like, "I want to die!".
4. The Bee Gees, Stayin' Alive
Ain't too proud to dig disco. This record is one of the finest hit singles ever produced. From the soundtrack to the enormously successful 1977 film, Saturday Night Fever starring John Travolta, this Bee Gees composition transverses being a fashion conscious dance fad to becoming a teen angst classic rock recording. The unchanging rhythm of the drums is credited to drummer Bernard Lupe, but the name is an alias made up by The Bee Gees when they "looped" the drums from another song on the album - "Night Fever". That didn't stop the unreal Bernard Lupe from becoming an in-demand session drummer, much to The Bee Gees amusement. Dig the awful clothes in The Bee Gees video of the song at the link below.
From the soundtrack to A Hard Days Night, this McCartney composition, credited to Lennon/McCartney, is the pre-psychedelic Beatles at their most romantic. A Spanish guitar gives the song an exotic drunken appeal like the soft oceanic morning light after a night of cocktails. Both Lennon and McCartney vowed credit for the middle verse break in the song - a love like ours, will never die - which the first recording of the song did not include, as heard on The Beatles' Anthology album.
6. The Beatles, Don't Pass Me By
From The Beatles (The White Album), this is drummer Ringo Starr's first recorded composition. It's a simple three chord blues song with a country "fiddle" by violinist Jack Fallon and a rinky-dink piano that gives the song a cosmic moonshine-y feel.
7. Pink Floyd, Young Lust
A gem from Pink Floyd's 1979 classic The Wall, this hard rock song sounds like a seismograph shaking crack coming up through the floorboards. A hammering of monolithic audio technique gives this rocker an antiquated sound like a far-out '60s experimental jam. The spoken word phone conversation that closes the song, a Floyd signature moment, is in reality an unsuspecting AT&T operator the band recorded while trying to make an impossible call to London from America. I've always wondered if she received any royalty for her contribution.
8. The Handsome Family, So Much Wine
The second song on this list which mentions the Christmas holidays. The cosmos must be aligned! It's a soft and tragic bluegrass folk ballad from the band's 2000 In The Air album with a haunting refrain that is as warm as a jug of spirit - Listen to me Butterfly, there's only so much wine, you can drink in one life, but it will never be enough, to save you from the bottom of your glass.
9. The Beatles, Revolution 1
The Beatles (The White Album) version of "Revolution" is very different from the hit single on the flip side of "Hey Jude" the band released in 1968. This album version is the one John Lennon preferred be released as a single. While the original song is a fired up rocker, this album cut is a bluesy, no-holds-barred affair that ends with the unmistakable grunts and groans of lovemaking. The radical left felt betrayed by Lennon's lyric in the original single - But when you talk about destruction, don't you know that you can count me out -. By the time the album's version was released months later, the lyric was more ambiguous - ...talk about destruction, don't you know that you can count me out (in).
10. Badfinger, Baby Blue
Love this record by The Beatles' Apple Records prodigy band, Badfinger. A big hit in America in 1972, it was never released by Apple as a single in its UK homeland, due to the upheaval and corporate changes at Apple Records in the early '70s. It was written by Badfinger front man, Peter Ham, who also wrote Harry Nilsson's smash hit, "Without You". Ham ended Badfinger uncerimoniosly with his suicide by hanging in 1975. It's just a rocker with a shiny fuzz-tone guitar, cutting riffs, and Beatlesque harmony that cut a knife in me at a very young age leaving a wound that has been lovingly festering ever since. From the 1971 album, Straight Up.