I’m Hungry…

•January 31, 2009 • 10 Comments

I am hungry, actually, which got me thinking about this old song by Paul Revere & the Raiders.  The lead singer was actually Mark Lindsay, who I think live in Portland, OR now; at least he hosts a weekly radio show from there.  While normally you think of more pop-ish stuff when you think of Paul Revere & the Raiders, Hungry is a pretty edgy song.  While I was never a huge PR fan, I do really like Hungry:

Get a load of those costumes and tricky dance moves.  I’d like to see Korn or Tool do that; they just don’t do rock & roll like this anymore. Okay, now I have to go find something to eat.  I can almost taste it …

NOTE: As the original video I had posted here was apparently pulled for “terms of use violations” I have replaced it with this boring version.  Oh well, you can hear the song, anyway.

CSN&Y: Classic Rock at its best

•January 8, 2009 • 3 Comments

Of the many, many great bands of the classic rock era, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young stand out.  Even though Graham Nash was British, and Neil Young was Canadian, they are still perhaps one of the most original American contributions to classic rock.  Their style is still unique: a blend of folk, country, blues and rock, plus an almost tribal approach to their arrangements and jams.

While only appearing on Neil Young’s solo album, here is the original band performing Down By the River on the Dick Cavett show in 1969:

Even though this was never a favorite song of mine, in my opinion this performance shows CSN&Y at their best.

I don’t know why, but I just love this song…

•December 1, 2008 • 1 Comment

Another song that they’ve been playing on the local stations a lot lately is Norman Greenbaum’s Spirit In The Sky. I don’t know why, but I just love that song.  I don’t even feel guilty for liking it; it’s just so cool.

It first came out, of course, when the Jesus movement was taking off, about the time songs like Oh Happy Day and Put Your Hand in the Hand were making airplay, as well as George Harrison’s M Sweet Lord and The Byrds Jesus is Just Alright (the Doobie Brothers recorded it 3 years later).  Theology was not necessarily important at that time; it was just cool to sing about some kind of God.

Spirit in the Sky was not a religious song; Norman Greenbaum wrote and sung novelty songs, his prior hit being The Eggplant That Ate Chicago. Even though he sings “I’ve got a friend in Jesus,” I don’t think he meant it. He was, and is, Jewish.  According to Wikepedia, the authoritative source for all useless bits of information, the song was inspired by Norman watching Porter Waggoner sing some country gospel song on TV.

Whatever the inspiration, it’s a great, catchy tune, with clever, humorous lyrics. Personally, I don’t think it makes fun of either Jesus or Christianity, but does poke fun at some ignorant, fundamentalist types, which I’m not beyond doing myself. So, when it comes on the radio – almost daily – I turn it up, and I always smile.  Sometimes I sing along.

Wouldn’t It Be Nice

•November 22, 2008 • 3 Comments

Among the radio stations I have programmed in my car are two stations that specialize in “oldies;” not classic rock, per se, but more of the pop hits of the 60’s and 70’s. For whatever reason, I’ve been hearing The Beach Boys Wouldn’t It Be Nice played quite often on one or both of these stations. While I wouldn’t have said so in the past, today I’d have to say that Wouldn’t It Be Nice is perhaps my favorite BB tune.

Besides having a catchy, upbeat tune, WIBN is incredibly innocent and naive, as is much of the Beach Boys’ music. I think, perhaps, that this is why I like it so much, even though I know now that it was a façade. The Beach Boys were anything but innocent, especially by 1966 when Pet Sounds was released (WIBN was the 1st cut on the album).  We know now about Brian Wilson’s drug use and mental instability, and of course Dennis’ issues, which led him to his involvement with Charles Manson. Not the kind of lifestyle their music portrayed. Take a look at this early music video of WIBN, also presenting their clean-cut, boy next door image:

What strikes me about the innocence of their lyrics is not what it says about the incongruity between the lyrics and the Beach Boys’ themselves (they didn’t surf, either…), but what their music says about the times; during the mid-60’s, there still was a prevailing sense of innocence in the country.  Even though there were issues – drug use was on the increase, the Vietnam War was getting more intense, etc. – people at least saw innocence as an ideal.  Brian Wilson and company recognized that.  Today, there is no sense of innocence anywhere to be found. We don’t pretend that there is any innocence, and what saddens me is that we no longer even consider it an ideal.

I had a chance to see the Beach Boys in concert a little over 20 years ago, before Dennis died. Brian, of course, was not there, but the rest of the band was. It was perhaps one of the worst concerts I have ever attended. The sound was so loud that even their speaking voices were distorted. They were rude, arrogant, and clearly were not happy about having to play at the North Dakota state fair. It left such a sour taste in my mouth that I couldn’t listen to them for several years after.

However, in spite of the reality of who the BB’s really were – a group of messed up, spoiled brats with a touch of talent and genius – I still enjoy their music for what it is: a memorial of sorts of a time where innocence was still an ideal, even if it couldn’t be grasped. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could find a little bit of that again?

A-ha!

•October 10, 2008 • 1 Comment

Okay, so this isn’t classic rock. But this video by A-ha is one the classic rock videos from the 80’s.  (Hey, it’s my blog and I can break the rules if I want to.)  It really is one of the coolest videos I’ve ever seen, and I also really like the song (but, mainly because I really liked the video).

Now, some clever guy with too much time and a really high voice decided to rewrite the song to actually narrate the video.  It’s highly amusing:

Tommy James at the Bitter End

•August 30, 2008 • 6 Comments

This morning I was indulging in my recent flashback to 60’s pop by surfing YouTube for clips of old bands, and stumbled across this recent clip of Tommy James and the Shondells doing Crystal Blue Persuasion, one of my all time favorites from the 60’s:

For a live clip, the sound is pretty impressive.  And, compared to many oldies who are still out there doing their hits, he still has the voice.

Now, I can’t say that I was a big fan of TJ in the early years- in fact, I can barely tolerate Hanky Panky, but that really wasn’t his fault; some record company had them record it as their first single, which didn’t get any notice for 2 years. I do kind of like Mony Mony (the name was inspired by the initials on the Mutual of New York) building), but actually prefer Billy Idol’s version.

Tommy James & Co were one of the first pop groups to incorporate a psychedelic sound into their music, with the release of the album Crimson and Clover in 1969, which also included Crystal Blue Persuasion.  Tommy James had spent 1968 working on Hubert Humphry’s presidential campaign, and – as odd as this seems – Humphry wrote the liner notes for the album.

Crystal Blue Persuasion was also unusual in that it was a quasi-psychedelic reference to Tommy James’ conversion to Christianity. Tommy, however, had on and off again issues with drug use, which I understand nearly ended his career.  However, he overcame those issues and remains a committed Christian (whether or not he’s still a political liberal, I don’t know😉 ).

TJ’s last hit with the Shondells that I recall was Draggin’ the Line, which I still don’t understand. After that, he had a few singles on his own; the only one I can recall was Three Times in Love, which I wasn’t that crazy about, either.

Even though I’m obviously not a huge TJ fan, Crystal Blue Persuasion, Crimson and Clover, and Sweet Cherry Wine are enough to remember Tommy James & the Shondells as one of the high points of classic pop.

Classic pop

•July 29, 2008 • 2 Comments

Lately I’ve really been into classic pop, that feelin’ groovy kind of music that often had nothing really to say, but just makes you feel, well, kinda grooy.  One of my favorite radio stations plays a lot of this stuff, which is why it’s one of my favorite radio stations. This past weekend I tortured my kids with a road trip tuned in to this station. It’s good for them.

One of the songs they played was Five O’Clock World by the Vogues.  It’s gotten kind of stuck in my brain, as some songs do.  So, for your listening (and viewing) enjoyment, ladies and gentlemen, The Vogues:

My wife commented that this was used as a sitcom theme; I couldn’t place it at the time, but this morning it came to me, it was used on the Drew Carey show, with that great choreography.