We’re All Skating on the Same Thin Ice (Christmas Music Mix, 2017)

December 19, 2017 at 1:21 pm (Uncategorized)

ice-skating-santa-download-videohive-18839308-free-hunterae-com-8Whew, just enough time to get this year’s Christmas music mix down the chimney and into the ears of every (mostly) good little boy and girl on Santa’s list. 2017 has had its share of ups and downs, but for the season I’ll set the bad bits aside and focus on the merry stuff. 2017 has been quite good to me personally, so I hope some of my good fortune rubs off.

This year’s Christmas music mix feels a little bit more “indie” than previous years. As I kept wading through the folder of prospective holiday tunes I keep, I kept noticing that there were so many major, obviously talented artists who utterly mail it in when they try to do a Christmas song. There’s a songwriter’s trick for creating a song within a certain theme that involves the writer simply listing some things associated with the subject, and then using that to get some inspiration to write a song with.

Far too many holiday pop songs sound like that’s as far as the songwriter got. There’s an absolute glut of songs that open with either cheap winter wind sound effects or sleigh bells ringing (always a sign that you’ve got more of a bad Christmas cash-in than real song). That eventually moves to a singer spending a couple of verses singing a grocery list of Christmas-ish non sequiturs with as much fake emotion as can be mustered.

And so I found a lot of stuff like that. But then I also found a lot of stuff like The Spook School’s winsome post-breakup gloriousness,”Someone To Spend Christmas With”. I found a spot for Belle & Sebastian’s “Are You Coming Over For Christmas”, which starts off sounding like a a flirty-but-without-the-rapey-stuff take on the “Baby It’s Cold Outside” formula, but then turns into something utterly beautiful and transcendent. At least for this year, it’s the lesser-known artists who are bringing the feels.

That isn’t to say I didn’t find some old favorites bringing the heat. Whomever in Cheap Trick suggested they cover The Move’s Wizzard’s (we’re all Roy Wood anyway) “I Wish it Could Be Christmas Every Day”, that person is a genius, because this is inspired. And hey, it’s time the Ventures returned to this annual mix, but this time marrying The Zombies to Greensleeves with a surfy twang.

It was also fun to go diving back into my 1990s alt-rock roots a little bit. I can’t believe I’ve never used the Pixies before in a Christmas mix, but I just love Frank and Kim’s call-and-response on the coda of this Neil Young cover. I found a great spot for a Cocteau Twins take on an old familiar kid’s song from back in the day. And then there’s the Throwing Muses track. If Tonya Donnelly’s guitar riff on this doesn’t get you going, you may need to get your ears checked.

It is also both great to find a spot for a terrific new Minus 5 track, “A New Christmas Hymn” while at the same time hearing that Minus 5 main man Scott McCaughey has recovered well enough from his stroke two months ago to be able to play guitar and bass again. That’s the song that provides the title for this year’s mix, too. For all the shouty-ness of 2017, this feels like a good summing up of things:

I’m offering this Christmas hymn
Not for any ghost or Tiny Tim
For both the naughty and the nice
We’re all skating on the same thin ice.

Wherever and however the holiday season finds you in 2017, I hope it’s a happy one for you and your loved ones. I hope you enjoy this mix of rock, soul, funk and a little country, all mixed together as one long MP3, and that it helps provide a little more good cheer. Let’s cue this sucker up and hit play!

We’re All Skating On The Same Thin Ice (Popnarcotic Christmas Music Mix, 2017)  (Right click to download and save.)

  1. Elf practice is not to be trifled with
  2. “Christmas All Over Again”, Tom Petty
  3. “Wake Up Christmas”, Lisa Mychols
  4. “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day”, Cheap Trick
  5. “Santa’s Got a Bag of Soul”, Saints Orchestra
  6. “Purple Snowflakes”, Marvin Gaye
  7. “Blizzard of ’77”, Nada Surf
  8. “Snowflakes”, The Ventures
  9. “Frosty the Snowman”, The Cocteau Twins
  10. “Someone To Spend Christmas With”, The Spook School
  11. “It’s a Marshmallow World”, Dean Martin
  12. “Santa Claus”, The Throwing Muses
  13. “New Christmas Hymn”, The Minus 5
  14. “The Reindeer Boogie”, Hank Snow
  15. “Christmas Time is Here Again”, The Flirtations
  16. “Are You Coming Over for Christmas?”, Belle & Sebastian
  17. “Winterlong”, The Pixies
  18. “White Christmas” Otis Redding
  19. “Cold, Cold Christmas”, Army/Navy
  20. “Remember (Christmas)”, Harry Nilsson
  21. “Song For A Future Love”, The Frank & Walters
  22. “Happy When it Snows”, Seafang
  23. “Winter Beats”, I Break Horses
  24. Sing us out, Shane and Kirsty.

 

 

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What Happened, 1972-1974

September 25, 2017 at 9:24 am (Uncategorized)

5-HYATT

It’s easy to adopt a worldview on the history of popular music that goes something like this: The Beatles break up, for six or seven years music sucks, and then punk rock and rap and new wave come along to save everyone. If, like me, you grew  up in the postpunk era, you were trained to believe implicitly that the early 1970s were the famine years, the bleakest of eras in rock and soul music. As the yearly mixes from Scott Miller’s Music — What Happened show, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The barren years are indeed coming, but 1972 through 1974 are are a rich and vibrant musical landscape.

Think about it: after a year of post-Beatle breakup shock, you have a number of heady artists leaping into the fray to fill the void…some of whom are even represented here. During the early 1970s, Bowie, Zeppelin and The Stooges put out great records. Roxy Music exploded onto the scene. Badfinger  was ever present. The gas tank is about to hit empty…but Miller makes a great case here that 1972 through 1974 was a wonderful time to just stomp on the accelerator and enjoy things while they last.

And so here it is, three years of an end-of-the-world-and-I-feel-fine bacchanal for rock and pop music. This is where rock earns the whole “sex, drugs, and …” sobriquets, where the excesses truly manifest. The next three are going to be slim pickings, even accepting the premise that disco and prog rock were pretty good. Set the controls for the heart of the sun, and let’s jump into some notes on the year-by-year mixes.

1972: The biggest culture shift noted here is part of Scott’s writeup of “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone”. This was the peak — and also the end — of musical racial integration. As the 1970s proceeded, FM radio caused a huge split and segregation of radio audiences and pop music fans in general. Miller notes that “By 1977, the tribe that had become disco people did not talk to the tribe that had become heavy metal people, and radio that wasn’t market-specific had become commercially unviable.” This final Temptations hit was the kind of song that would suffer the most in this break.

Also ushered in for 1972 is glam. We’re at peak Bowie with “Hang on to Yourself”, and Roxy Music comes zooming in with “Virginia Plain.” If you’ve ever wondered why the nerdiest of guitar nerds champion Richard Thompson above all others, the track here should answer that for you. Jethro Tull brings us another song in a 5/4 time signature, and also an anachronism alert. “Living In The Past” had been released in the UK as a single years earlier, but didn’t show up stateside (and become an FM radio hit) until the early years Tull compilation of the same name arrived in ’72. There’s a generation who won’t understand how perfectly Jethro Tull segues into Pure Prairie League, but that generation didn’t grow up on 1970s FM radio; that Miller takes it right into Curtis effing Mayfield is some kind of awesome genius. The year concludes with my favorite two songs from this year, one from Yes (don’t hate me) and one from Todd Rundgren.

1973: Buckle up kids, this is the longest single yearly mix to date. This particular year contains a number of radio edits that you’re unlikely to notice unless you’re a wonk, but I didn’t try to duplicate Scott’s homebrew edits of “All The Way to Memphis” or “Jet Boy,” and both are just fine as is. Miller also cleverly insists on the 45 rpm single version of “Everyone’s Agreed That Everything Will Turn Out Fine” by Stealer’s Wheel. I agree with him that the album version is far inferior, so the single version is the one I used.

This year’s mix is full of crowd-pleasers. We get our first and only Eagles cut, and it’s the only Eagles song I don’t actively dislike. I also love the way Miller describes beeing a 13-year-old kid in a record store and hearing Roxy’s “Do The Strand”, and how that probably transformed his life and career. Also, “Sweet Lady Genevieve” never gets mention with the greatest Kinks songs ever, and it should. Finally, although Scott Miller passed away in 2013, his eerie prescience on interesting music stuff written about in 2017 begins here with his inclusion of “So Very Hard To Go”, which is an incredibly amazing song, and whose inclusion at the opening credits of the game “Watch Dogs 2” this past year was one of the most noted uses of licensed music in a video game in recent memory.

1974: Look, buster. You got through 2 minutes of the Legendary Stardust Cowboy in 1968, you can get through 2 minutes of The Residents to kick off 1974…especially as the “song” intriguingly finds a melody of sorts after all that noisy craziness in the beginning.

Scott specifically notes that he segues out of that with the radio edit of “Radar Love”, and I’m happy for that. The song loses nothing with the loss of 3 minutes of single-note bass riffs. And then comes out of that with Barry Manilow. Take that, radio programmers. Elsewhere, Miller captures the quintessential Roxy Music track, “All I Want Is You”. Dave Marsh I think described the peak Roxy years as basically sounding like a DC-10 revving its engines, and that perfectly encapsulates the wall of beautiful rock noise here.

I didn’t try to copy Miller’s homebrew edit of John Cale’s “Gun”, and I think it stands as is just fine; if your only exposure to solo-era Cale was his hyperserious 1990s and onward work, finding out that he could rock like hell back in the day absent his Velvets compatriots is a revelation. Finally, ’74 concludes with the monumentally influential “Back of a Car” by Big Star. Miller requires this to be a vinyl rip, and so it is.

The other thing worth pointing out though is that with the Residents’ weird experimentation alongside Big Star, Roxy Music, Bowie, and yes, Barry Manilow in the same mix, we’ve essentially got the building blocks of inspiration on which Miller would build his own entire music career on.

What Happened, 1972

1972 mp3 to download and track list

  1. “Joy” Apollo 100
  2. “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” The Temptations
  3. “Virginia Plain” Roxy Music
  4. “Lean on Me” Bill Withers
  5. “C Moon” Paul McCartney and Wings
  6. “Living in the Past” Jethro Tull
  7. “Amie” Pure Prairie League
  8. “Superfly” Curtis Mayfield
  9. “Dirty Work” Steely Dan
  10. “Rocks Off” The Rolling Stones
  11. “Give Me Another Chance” Big Star
  12. “Roll Over Vaughan Williams” Richard Thompson
  13. “Big Brother” Stevie Wonder
  14. “Hang On to Yourself” David Bowie
  15. “Rock and Roll, Pt. 2” Gary Glitter
  16. “All the Young Dudes” Mott the Hoople
  17. “And You and I” Yes
  18. “Couldn’t I Just Tell You” Todd Rundgren

 

What Happened, 1973

1973 mp3 to download and track list

  1. “Can You Hear The Music” The Rolling Stones
  2. “Needle in the Camel’s Eye” Brian Eno
  3. “Speak to Me/Breathe/On the Run” Pink Floyd
  4. “So Very Hard to Go” Tower of Power
  5. “Everyone’s Agreed That Everything Will Turn Out Fine” Stealer’s Wheel
  6. “Jet Boy” New York Dolls
  7. “Just Don’t Want to Be Lonely” The Main Ingredient
  8. “Gimme Danger” Iggy and the Stooges
  9. “All the Way from Memphis” Mott the Hoople
  10. “Sweet Lady Genevieve” The Kinks
  11. “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” Bob Dylan
  12. “International Feel” Todd Rundgren
  13. “Certain Kind of Fool” The Eagles
  14. “Drive-In Saturday” David Bowie
  15. “The Song Remains the Same” Led Zeppelin
  16. “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” Elton John
  17. “My Old School” Steely Dan
  18. “Do The Strand” Roxy Music
  19. “Living for the City” Stevie Wonder

 

What Happened, 1974

1974 mp3 to download and track list

  1. “Boots/Numb Erone” The Residents
  2. “Radar Love” Golden Earring
  3. “Mandy” Barry Manilow
  4. “Home” Roy Harper
  5. “All I Want Is You” Roxy Music
  6. “Jungle Boogie” Kool and the Gang
  7. “Boy Blue” Electric Light Orchestra
  8. “Just a Chance” Badfinger
  9. “Sweet Home Alabama” Lynyrd Skynyrd
  10. “#9 Dream” John Lennon
  11. “Gun” John Cale
  12. “Free Man In Paris” Joni Mitchell
  13. “Tell Me Something Good” Rufus
  14. “Amateur Hour” Sparks
  15. “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” Steely Dan
  16. “Killer Queen” Queen
  17. “Tangled Up in Blue” Bob Dylan
  18. “Sweet Thing/Candidate” David Bowie
  19. “Back of a Car” Big Star

 

What Happened,  1972-1974

What Happened 1972-1974 three-year mix to download or stream.

 

What’s all this then? It’s what happened, musically, during these particular years. No really! Hit that link for more info.

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What Happened, 1969-1971

September 15, 2017 at 11:49 am (Music What Happened Mixes)

jann

On April 10, 1970 in a tersely worded press release, Paul McCartney officially “broke up” the Beatles. (The reality: George and Ringo had checked out a year or two earlier, and John told Paul he’d had enough in September of ’69.) Although the breakup of the band shouldn’t have surprised anyone (and didn’t surprise most tuned-in observers), it still created a seismic shift in the music world. The Beatles and their sound became nostalgia overnight. Artists who espoused a similar creative worldview found themselves dismissed for being old-fashioned. Welcome to the 1970s and 10-minute songs about elf maidens.

This three year span coincides with of one of the great reigns of error in modern cultural history. In the UK, the two major weekly music magazines — NME and Melody Maker — had found new audiences and thrived as serious critics and commenters on modern rock and soul music. In the States, an entrepreneur named Jann Wenner sought to do the same thing and launched Rolling Stone magazine.

Say what you will of early Rolling Stone issues being too beholden to their time, but by 1970 Wenner was eager to “professionalize” everything about the magazine, and began to assert a strong editorial authority over the music reviews. That’s a poor practice in general, exacerbated here by the the sad fact that Jann Wenner had terrible taste in music. If your record had slick production, a flat, mushy compressed sound, and a few million dollars backing it, Jann Wenner probably loved and would insist it be championed in the pages of his highly influential magazine.

Wenner’s influence and tastes are the reason why, inexplicably, venerated bands such as Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath were brutally ripped by the critical cognoscenti of the times. Only a handful of critics at upstart magazines like Creem dared challenge the notion that heavy loud rock was, you know, good. With that said, there was still some fine rock and soul and now funk being made if you just knew enough to follow your own ears.

Let’s get to the actual yearly mixes!

1969 This ends up being a really terrific yearly mix. Miller describes ’69 as the cresting of a wave, and I think the strength of this material clearly shows it. The big hits are here, but so are some more obscure threats. Todd Rundgren’s songwriting chops and production skills (check the sound of that snare) on “Forget All About It” are mind-blowing. And if “Goodbye” has a familiar lilt to it, it’s because it was a song gifted to Mary Hopkin by Sir Paul himself. Also, send the kids outta the room for the Serge Gainsbourg/Jane Birkin cut, which is hilariously over-the-top and single handedly establishes the Gainsbourg legend.

Also, the Marianne Faithfull track is a Goffin/King song with Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, and Bill Wyman backing her. It’s a new song to me, and man….I sure wish there was a lot more of this combination where it came from, but alas.

Miller mentions that he edited the Sly and the Family Stone cut and also the Neil Young track. I’ve left them intact here. Also: I knew I’d chosen the right music critic to follow when Miller displays as much affection for the Shocking Blue version of “Venus” as I have. I think that song is just tremendous, and it makes me absurdly happy that it’s here.

1970 arrives and we get some Chicago (with Scott Miller noting that they were once a really good band with horn arrangements second to none) and a smart notice that “Come Saturday Morning” has way more in common with The Velvet Underground than it does the easy listening schmaltz with which it’s sometimes associated. We also get the first appearance of many by David Bowie in these mixes.

Of all the 1970 tracks here, I think the most revelatory to me is the pre-Buckingham/Nicks, Fleetwood Mac song “Jewel Eyed Judy”. I don’t have any firsthand knowledge of this, but listening to the song it sure sounds like it had an incalculable influence on Chris Bell and Alex Chilton. It feels like a song that would’ve felt right at home on the first Big Star album a few years later, directly impacting the way songs like “Don’t Lie To Me” and “When My Baby’s Beside Me” were written, played and arranged. So: Danny Kirwan, proto-godfather of 90s alternative rock…you heard it here first.

One other cool thing: I really, really hate the influence of Rolling Stone’s awful record reviews that kicks in around this year in history mostly because I think they helped contribute to the segregation of popular music that came later in the decade. And to hear that in practice, dig how great the segue from “Fire and Rain” into “Paranoid” sounds here. James Taylor and Black Sabbath fit like hand in glove in the right context.

1971 hasn’t really got any technical issues to note, but it is the year of the big hits, and also some songs that I personally cringe at. If the inclusion of overplayed chestnuts like “Maggie May”, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, “Imagine” and “Wild World” seem like a bit much, we also get some pre-ELO Move with “Ella James” and a truly underrated Stones cut with “Sway”.

One interesting thing I’d never consider that Scott Miller notes here: Eric Clapton — who I think most of us normally associate with being an excellent blues stylist and guitar player — wrote some of the most beautiful, soaring pop melodies of anyone in the immediate post-Beatle era. “Easy Now” (best to not give those lyrics too hard a think, eesh) fits that to a tee.

Finally, the bane of my existence, the pop standard of all pop standards I truly despise, is here: “American Pie”. And it’s hard for me to fault Miller’s logic in including it, that it may be the catchiest chorus in history. From personal experience, I can tell you that the insistent, instantly memorable chorus was the first piece of any rock song I learned to sing, running around the house at age four annoying anyone and everyone with my off- key toddler warbling of “Bye bye Miss American Pie…” At any rate, it fits the mood, and deserves to be here, and so it is.

What Happened, 1969

1969 mp3 to download and track list.

  1. “Long Time Gone” Crosby, Still and Nash
  2. “The Dust Blows Forward ‘n the Dust Blows Back” Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band
  3. “Something” The Beatles
  4. “I Want to Take You Higher” Sly and the Family Stone
  5. “Cymbaline” Pink Floyd
  6. “Forget All About It” The Nazz
  7. “Goodbye” Mary Hopkin
  8. “Candy Says” The Velvet Underground
  9. Christmas” The Who
  10. “Frank Mills” Shelley Plimpton, Hair Original Cast Recording
  11. “Whole Lotta Love” Led Zeppelin
  12. “Je T’Aime…Moi Non Plus” Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin
  13. “Come and Get It” Badfinger
  14. “Gimme Shelter” The Rolling Stones
  15. “Venus” Shocking Blue
  16. “Fortunate Son” Creedence Clearwater Revival
  17. “Victoria” The Kinks
  18. “Something Better” Marianne Faithfull
  19. “Down By The River” Neil Young
  20. “Come Together” The Beatles

 

What Happened, 1970

1970 mp3 to download and track list.

  1. “Two of Us” The Beatles
  2. “25 or 6 to 4” Chicago
  3. “Come Saturday Morning” The Sandpipers
  4. “I Think I See The Light” Cat Stevens
  5. “Fat Old Sun” Pink Floyd
  6. “Fire and Rain” James Taylor
  7. “Who’ll Stop the Rain” Creedence Clearwater Revival
  8. “Sweet Jane” The Velvet Underground
  9. “Tangerine” Led Zeppelin
  10. “Maybe I’m Amazed” Paul McCartney
  11. “Tell me Why” Neil Young
  12. “The Love You Save” The Jackson Five
  13. “Nature’s Way” Sprit
  14. “Holy Holy” David Bowie
  15. “Octopus” Syd Barrett
  16. “Jewel Eyed Judy” Fleetwood Mac
  17. “No Matter What” Badfinger
  18. “Bell Bottom Blues” Derek and the Dominos
  19. “Lola” The Kinks

 

What Happened, 1971

1971 mp3 to download and track list.

  1. “Maggie May” Rod Stewart
  2. “Sway” The Rolling Stones
  3. “Day After Day” Badfinger
  4. “Aqualung” Jethro Tull
  5. “Hope I’m Around” Todd Rundgren
  6. “Ella James” The Move
  7. “Easy Now” Eric Clapton
  8. “When the Levee Breaks” Led Zeppelin
  9. “Fearless” Pink Floyd
  10. “Wild World” Cat Stevens
  11. “The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)” The Doors
  12. “Life On Mars?” David Bowie
  13. “Too Many People” Paul and Linda McCartney
  14. “Imagine” John Lennon
  15. “American Pie” Don McLean
  16. “Won’t Get Fooled Again” The Who

 

What Happened 1969-1971

What Happened 1969-1971 mp3 3-year mix to download or stream.

 

What’s all this then? It’s what happened, musically, during these particular years. No really! Hit that link for more info.

 

 

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What Happened, 1966-1968

September 11, 2017 at 7:15 pm (Music What Happened Mixes)

haight

If you were in a band and could sing and play at all — and most importantly, if you had at least one really good song — in the years 1966 through 1970 you stood the best chance of any year in pop music history of your work being heard outside of your own circle of friends and family. No guarantees, obviously, but I think this was the era where — more than any other before or since — interesting, creative music artists stood a puncher’s chance to at least achieve some regional “sort-of” fame.

To get to the root of that, I think we need to look back at 1965 for just a second. In Music What Happened, when Scott Miller writes about “Yesterday”, he makes an excellent point — and one I’d not heard made before. He points out that before that landmark Beatles/McCartney single, it was still (tenuously) possible to dismiss rock and pop music as some sort of bobby-soxer teen fad. But then here comes “Yesterday”, and that’s it. Game over, rock and roll dismissers. Suddenly rock and pop and soul are perfectly acceptable not only for people over 30 to listen to, the music also has serious artistic cachet. In other words, as much as any song in the 10 year history of rock and roll to that point, “Yesterday” kind of really did mean rock and roll was here to stay.

And so, in comes an era in which small record labels are thriving, and  which in turn coincides with this crazy period in which there were thousands (perhaps tens of thousands) of independent AM radio stations. These twin forces created a fertile soil for a flowering of rock and soul and pop creativity. The little record labels realized rock was king, and they could sell a lot of records (by their standards) if they could record some of those groups. Radio stations realized that they everyone — not just the kids — was listening, and could boost ratings and ad dollars by playing that devil’s music. They needed as much rock and roll and pop and soul as they could get their hands on, too.

And so here we are in this richest of music eras. I have more I want to say about some specific tracks and choices, so lets get right to the year-by-year notes.

1966: Nothing too major to note, technically. I went with the mono version of “Paperback Writer”, because the separation on the stereo version I think presents the Beatles as closer, but not quite ready for that presentation. It should also be noted that in his book, Scott Miller notes cheekily that he’s breaking his own rule about one song per band (other than the Beatles) in 1966 in the case of the Beach Boys. As he sagely notes, “I’m not going to be the one making a 1966 list and leaving out the original teenage symphony to God.”

I also completely agree with this sentiment from our tour guide Scott Miller, expressed in his bit on “Emily”: “…What any given Simon and Garfunkel album needed was always less Simon, more Garfunkel.” His vocals on that track are exceptional.

Finally, I love that Miller’s track listing puts The Monkees right behind Jimi Hendrix. That these two were once paired up on a tour was always one of the favorite old skool rock critic funny illustrations of how 1960s promoters just didn’t get it, the implication being that putting pikers like the prefab four in front of a heavyweight like Hendrix was somehow insulting to Jimi’s memory.  As Miller notes though, “When your track can follow Hendrix and sound bigger, I’d say you get to be in the real band club.”

1967: The main technical notes here are that I used the mono mix on “Lucifer Sam”. Pink Floyd recorded it that way, and I’m unsold on the later stereo version. Also, for fun I left in the backward masking weirdness at the very tail end of “Day In The Life”. So….heads up if you’re listening in the dark late at night and don’t want a case of Beatle-inspired willies.

As far as songs go, I love Miller’s hot take on (again) the Monkees: “It’s almost as hard to pick only one Monkees tune in 1967 as it is to pick only two Beatles tunes.” I’m not totally sold on that, but it’s an interesting statement which he defends well.

The other song to call out here is “Waterloo Sunset” by the Kinks. With this song in the 1967 year mix, “God Only Knows” in the 1966 mix, and “Yesterday” in 1965, we’ve got this tremendous run of rock songs that are perhaps the three finalists for “Most beautiful rock and roll song ever recorded.” I think I go with “Waterloo Sunset”, by the way. The ethereal gorgeousness of the high vocal harmonies (sung, uncredited, by Ray’s then-wife, Rasa Davies in one of the greatest backing vocal performances ever) end up carrying the day.

1968: For this year, we’ve finally fully graduated the Beatles to stereo mixes. We also have a bit of another anachronism here. “Good Times, Bad Times” didn’t appear until the winter of 1969…but it was indeed recorded in November/December of 1968, so here it is. Miller notes that this track definitely must be ripped from vinyl, and I’ve done so for this mix.

1968 also has the single noisiest track of perhaps the entire book and all these mixes, with “Paralyzed” by The Legendary Stardust Cowboy. The best way I can come up with to explain this song is this: what Charles “Victory” Faust was to baseball, Mr. Stardust Cowboy is to rock. Miller’s write-up on this song is hysterically funny, noting how polarizing this track is. “It will lose you some friends,” he says. And then notes:

“But friends who don’t appreciate a cowboy at the outer limits of insane screaming accompanied by a banjo and drums that turn insane during the song are friends who will always come and go. And if I ask you how you bring such music to a climax, and you answer ‘bugle solo,’ come get a hug.”

Amen to that.

What Happened, 1966

1966 mp3 to download and track list

  1. “Batman Theme” Neal Hefti
  2. “Paperback Writer” The Beatles
  3. “Big Spender” Sweet Charity Original Cast Recording
  4. “Solitary Man” Neil Diamond
  5. “Wild Thing” The Troggs
  6. “Big Fat Silver Aeroplane” Roy Harper
  7. “Shapes of Things” The Yardbirds
  8. “For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her” Simon and Garfunkel
  9. “Summer in the City” The Lovin’ Spoonful
  10. “Remember You” The Zombies
  11. “Georgy Girl” The New Seekers
  12. “Walk Away Renee” The Left Banke
  13. “Making Time” The Creation
  14. “Good Vibrations” The Beach Boys
  15. “Season of the Witch” Donovan
  16. “Hey Joe” Jimi Hendrix
  17. “(I’m Not Your” Stepping Stone” The Monkees
  18. “Visions of Johanna” Bob Dylan
  19. “God Only Knows” The Beach Boys
  20. “Eight Miles High” The Byrds
  21. “Ruby Tuesday” The Rolling Stones
  22. “And Your Bird Can Sing” The Beatles

 

What Happened, 1967

1967 mp3 to download and track list

  1. “I See the Rain” The Marmalade
  2. “Penny Lane” The Beatles
  3. “To Sir with Love” Lulu
  4. “Sunshine of Your Love” Cream
  5. “If the Night” The Kaleidoscope
  6. “A Whiter Shade of Pale” Procol Harum
  7. “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” Scott McKenzie
  8. “Wonderful” The Beach Boys
  9. “Carrie Anne” The Hollies
  10. “Citadel” The Rolling Stones
  11. “Windy” The Association
  12. “Alone Again Or” Love
  13. “The Crystal Ship” The Doors
  14. “I Never Loved A Man the Way I Love You” Aretha Franklin
  15. “Fairest of the Seasons” Nico
  16. “Waterloo Sunset” The Kinks
  17. “Somebody to Love” The Jefferson Airplane
  18. “Daydream Believer” The Monkees
  19. “Venus in Furs” The Velvet Underground
  20. “Lucifer Sam” The Pink Floyd
  21. “Manic Depression” The Jimi Hendrix Experience
  22. “A Day in the Life” The Beatles

 

What Happened, 1968

1968 mp3 to download and track list

  1. “Revolution” The Beatles
  2. “Paralyzed” The Legendary Stardust Cowboy
  3. “Israelites” Desmond Dekker and the Aces
  4. “Good Times, Bad Times” Led Zeppelin
  5. “The Garden of Earthly Delights” United States of America
  6. “Astral Weeks” Van Morrison
  7. “Dance to the Music” Sly and the Family Stone
  8. “Hurdy Gurdy Man” Donovan
  9. “Piece of My Heart” Big Brother and the Holding Company
  10. “Wasn’t Born to Follow” The Byrds
  11. “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” Marvin Gaye
  12. “Beechwood Park” The Zombies
  13. “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” Otis Redding
  14. “Sympathy for the Devil” The Rolling Stones
  15. “Lather” The Jefferson Airplane
  16. “Chest Fever” The Band
  17. “White Room” Cream
  18. “America” Simon and Garfunkel
  19. “Hey Jude” The Beatles

 

What Happened 1966-1968

What Happened 1966-1968 three-year mp3 to download.

What’s all this then? It’s what happened, musically, during these particular years. No really! Hit that link for more info.

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What Happened, 1963-1965

September 8, 2017 at 7:05 am (Music What Happened Mixes)

02BEATLES5-master675

Everyone knows that on the evening of February 9th, 1964 The Beatles made their first appearance on national TV in America, simultaneously kicking off the British Invasion and the modern era of rock and roll. What’s a little less known is that by the time the Beatles showed up on the Ed Sullivan Show, they were already a big deal in the States, having begun a decade-long assault on the US singles charts weeks earlier, in 1963.

Thus the start of the Beatle era–usually tabbed at 1964–is properly placed sometime in 1963, when followup singles to “Love Me Do” began to move units, as they say. This era is also the high and low tide of surf music, as well as the last time — other than some oddities, novelties, and some individual performers (Dylan, etc.)– that socially conscious, intellectual folk music would be massively popular across a wide swath of the pop music listening audience.

For me, the happiest discovery in Scott Miller’s excellently chosen selections from this era is just how good some of that early 60s folk was. My perception, filled in by snide caricatures in movies like Animal House and TV shows like the Beverly Hillbillies, was that folk music during this huge era was over-earnest and hyper-serious, and that’s what eventually doomed it commercially. Perhaps that’s so, but the five or six folk selections Miller’s chosen for 1963 are absolutely lovely and gob-smackingly good. To illustrate, I’ve always found Sinatra’s “It Was A Very Good Year” version to be pretty off-puttingly shallow. (You’re Frank Sinatra in the 1960s. Every year is a very good year, dude.) The hard-to-find (trust me) Brown & Dana folk version that Miller uses here is aces though, and restores all the longing that song deserves.

We need to cover some mix notes, too. For starters, with 1963 and on through 1970, Miller breaks one of his self-imposed rules: only one song per year by any one artist. As he states in justifying the need to bend that rule, how the hell are you gonna pick just one Beatles’ song in any given year in the 1960s? I mean….right? So, for the 1960s, multiple Beatle tracks are allowed in a year, as long as they’re by different primary writers. So…possibility of a John song, a Paul song, and a George song in each year.

Some year specific notes also:

In 1963 there’s nothing too noteworthy to discuss. The vinyl pops on that Brown & Dana track are authentic though. Also, the version of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” is the mono mix. I accidentally put a stereo mix on an earlier version of this and boy howdy is that terrible to listen to. Also, that John Fahey track is just goose-bump inducingly awesome. The live versions of “Mrs McGrath” by The Womenfolk and “Gantanamera” by The Weavers are intentional. Miller deliberately chooses these two versions (and describes the live stage patter well enough to make them easy to track down) and so that’s duplicated here.

For 1964, we have our first accidental anachronism from the book with the song “Secret Agent Man,” although it isn’t as egregious as I first feared. “Secret Agent Man” didn’t get released as a single by Johnny Rivers until 1966…but it existed before that. It was the theme song for the American series called “Secret Agent”, which was actually a re-run of a UK series called “Danger Man”. And, Wikipedia tells me that for Season two of “Secret Agent”, the theme song was indeed changed to “Secret Agent Man.” Unfortunately, season two of the show didn’t air in the States until May of ’65, meaning the song was likely recorded in January or February of that year. Still. Close enough. Just wanted to provide a heads-up.

Also, I need to talk about “House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals. In the book, Miller opens his passage on this song by saying that this song should be ripped from a worn 45, preferably. As you’ll hear, the version in this mix has that provenance. Also in 1964, don’t sleep on that Skeeter Davis track. It’s absolutely aces.

1965 is pretty straightforward, although it is largely our last fling with jazz, at least in this context. Also the choice of “Think for Yourself” as one of three Beatles cuts is inspired. As Miller notes, it’s one of the most obvious early showcases of their adventurousness with melody, and happens to be a personal favorite of mine.

What Happened, 1963

1963 mp3 to download and track list:

  1. “Surfin’ Bird” The Trashmen
  2. “All My Loving” The Beatles
  3. “Pipeline” The Chantays
  4. “Be My Baby” The Ronettes
  5. “Anji” Davey Graham
  6. “Duet Solo Dancers” Charles Mingus
  7. “Louie Louie” The Kingsmen
  8. “When Springtime Comes Again” John Fahey
  9. “Ring Of Fire” Johnny Cash
  10. “It Was A Very Good Year” Brown and Dana
  11. “I Wanna Be Your Man” The Rolling Stones
  12. “Da Doo Ron Ron” The Crystals
  13. “In My Room” The Beach Boys
  14. “Mrs McGrath” The Womenfolk
  15. “Guantanamera” The Weavers
  16. “Cast Your Fate To the Wind” Vince Guaraldi
  17. “Blowin’ in the Wind” Bob Dylan
  18. “On Broadway” The Drifters
  19. “Afro Blue” John Coltrane
  20. “I Want To Hold Your Hand” The Beatles

 

What Happened, 1964

1964 mp3 to download and track list:

  1. “I’m Into Something Good” Herman’s Hermits
  2. “Secret Agent Man” Johnny Rivers
  3. “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” The Righteous Brothers
  4. “The Crying Game” Dave Berry
  5. “Goin’ Out of My Head” Little Anthony and the Imperials
  6. “House of the Rising Sun” The Animals
  7. “Let Me Get Close To You” Skeeter Davis
  8. “Where Did Our Love Go?” The Supremes
  9. “Time is on My Side” The Rolling Stones
  10. “Gloria” Them
  11. “Baby I Need Your Loving” The Four Tops
  12. “Oh, Pretty Woman” Roy Orbison
  13. “A Summer Song” Chad and Jeremy
  14. “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss)” Betty Everett
  15. “The Times They Are A-Changin'” Bob Dylan
  16. “My Girl” The Temptations
  17. “The Pink Panther Theme” Henry Mancini
  18. “Don’t Worry Baby” The Beach Boys
  19. “Downtown” Petula Clark
  20. “She’s Not There” The Zombies
  21. “You Really Got Me” The Kinks
  22. “If I Fell” The Beatles

 

What Happened, 1965

1965 mp3 to download and track list:

  1. “I Ain’t Marching Anymore” Phil Ochs
  2. “Yesterday” The Beatles
  3. “Eve Of Destruction” Barry McGuire
  4. “It Ain’t Me Babe” The Turtles
  5. “Never to Be Forgotten” The Bobby Fuller Four
  6. “Tired of Waiting for You” The Kinks
  7. “A Love Supreme Pt. II–Resolution” John Coltrane
  8. “My Generation” The Who
  9. “Death Letter” Son House
  10. “What Do You Want of Me” Man Of La Mancha Original Cast Recording
  11. “Girl Don’t Tell Me” The Beach Boys
  12. “Think For Yourself” The Beatles
  13. “In The Midnight Hour” Wilson Pickett
  14. “King of the Road” Roger Miller
  15. “Tracks of My Tears” Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
  16. “Mr. Tambourine Man” The Byrds
  17. “Linus and Lucy” Vince Guaraldi
  18. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” The Rolling Stones
  19. “Like A Rolling Stone” Bob Dylan
  20. “Help!” The Beatles

 

What Happened 1963-1965

What happened 1963-1965 three-year mp3 mix to download

 

What’s all this then? It’s what happened, musically, during these particular years. No really! Hit that link for more info.

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What Happened, 1960-1962

September 4, 2017 at 9:00 am (Music What Happened Mixes)

Joan_Baez_Bob_Dylan

My music knowledge of these first years of the 1960s comes almost completely from biographies of British Invasion bands such as The Beatles, The Stones, and The Who. These biographies assure me with great confidence that popular music became a desolate wasteland the moment Buddy Holly’s plane smacked into the ground, not to be redeemed until the Fab Four shook their hair on the Ed Sullivan Show in February, 1964.

So imagine my surprise on discovering a whole lot to like in this time period. Soul music starts to come to the forefront. Traditional American blues has its final moment in the charts, though its influence would last forever. Jazz and showtunes and even the quintessential easy listening track get to take their final bows on the pop music stage before a rock and roll revolution ushers them off.

Some notes:

For 1960, everything’s as-is from the book. This set of years was one of the few that didn’t require tons of outside research. I will say this though: artists and record labels who re-record original hits years and years later are the bane of my existence for this. The other thing that happens in 1960 is that we get our first tastes of American folk music, a genre that looms large in this collection, pre-1964. Perhaps it’s the fake-documentary, A Mighty Wind, (from Christopher Guest and his group of comedic actors) from years ago that has colored my view of folk music, but I’d sort of thought of these years in folk as being strident, polemic, and kind of unlistenably way-too-serious. “Ten Thousand Miles” by Penny and Jean are one of many well-chosen folk tracks to come that challenged my assumptions. It’s warm and full of life. And then there’s Joan Baez and “All My Trials”, which Scott Miller puts in the running for best vocal performance of the rock era. I can’t argue.

1961 was another research year for me, mostly for the ultimate song on this mix: “Moon River” by Henry Mancini. The challenge: there are at least three versions of the song on the soundtrack of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, so already I need some clues from the book for which version he means. I’ve always been partial to Audrey Hepburn’s lovely acoustic solo version, where she’s sitting in a window in the movie, playing the song on guitar and singing into the night. But while Miller mentions Hepburn in his review, he’s clearly referring to a different version of the song. He mentions the interrupted rhythm caused by Mancini’s interesting and unique double-tap percussion arrangement, and also mentions the lyrics in the song. There’s only one version from the original soundtrack recording with percussion and vocals, and it’s this one.

1962 has Bob Dylan entering the picture for the first (but by no means last) time. We also get the first Beatles single, and a reprise of West Side Story (Miller freely admits to cheesing this up so he can include two songs from the musical, by this time listing Marni Nixon’s turn on the original movie soundtrack on “Tonight”.) I also love the way he writes about 1962’s capper, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.” Remember how I described my impression of folk music of this period? Yeah, Miller’s having none of it. After mentioning that yes, it does require him to go halfway to not get caught up in this as a parody of “bleeding-heart folkies”, he drops this on you:

“I am in fact a bleeding-heart, I like folk music quite a bit, and the music and words are beautiful, touching, and clever in a way for which I will ultimately cast my lot with the laughed-at if it comes to it. When there’s no longer an overarching sadness that too many soldiers are ‘gone to graveyards,’ maybe I’ll skip back with a light heart and a smirk to reassess.”

What Happened, 1960

1960 mp3 to download and track list:

  1. “Apache” The Shadows
  2. “Exodus” Ferrante and Teicher
  3. “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” The Shirelles
  4. “Four on Six” Wes Montgomery
  5. “Ten Thousand Miles” Penny and Jean
  6. “Money (That’s What I Want)” Barrett Strong
  7. “Shakin’ All Over” Johnny Kidd and the Pirates
  8. “Dig Dis” Hank Mobley
  9. “Cathy’s Clown” The Everly Brothers
  10. “Concierto de Aranjuez” Miles Davis
  11. “Walk Don’t Run” The Ventures
  12. “Theme from A Summer Place” Percy Faith and His Orchestra
  13. “Shop Around” The Miracles
  14. “Spoonful” Howlin’ Wolf
  15. “All My Trials” Joan Baez
  16. “Syeeda’s Song Flute” John Coltrane
  17. “Try to Remember” Jerry Orbach, Fantasticks Original Cast Recording

 

What Happened, 1961

1961 mp3 to download and track list:

  1. “I Pity the Fool” Bobby “Blue Bland
  2. “Doozy” Benny Carter & Quincy Jones and His Orchestra
  3. “Town Without Pity” Gene Pitney
  4. “You Don’t Miss Your Water” William Bell
  5. “The Red Rooster” Howlin’ Wolf
  6. “Stand By Me” Ben E. King
  7. “Gloria’s Step” Bill Evans
  8. “A Shot of Rhythm and Blues” Arthur Alexander
  9. “Hide Away” Freddie King
  10. “Finnegan’s Wake” The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem
  11. “The Wanderer” Dion
  12. “Little Sister” Elvis Presley
  13. “At Last” Etta James
  14. “Hoe Down” Oliver Nelson
  15. “Hit the Road Jack” Ray Charles
  16. “I Fall To Pieces” Patsy Cline
  17. “Aisha” John Coltrane
  18. “Runaway” Del Shannon
  19. “Moon River” Henry Mancini

 

What Happened, 1962

1962 mp3 to download and track list:

  1. “Man of Constant Sorrow” Bob Dylan
  2. “Monster Mash” Bobby “Boris” Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers
  3. “Cry to Me” Solomon Burke
  4. “Up on the Roof” The Drifters
  5. “The James Bond Theme” John Barry
  6. “God Bless the Child” Sonny Rollins
  7. “Chains” The Cookies
  8. “Some Other Guy” Richie Barrett
  9. “Watermelon Man” Herbie Hancock
  10. “Boom Boom” John Lee Hooker
  11. “Twist and Shout” The Isley Brothers
  12. “Fleurette Africaine” Duke Ellington
  13. “The Loco-Motion” Little Eva
  14. “Love Me Do” The Beatles
  15. “Anna (Go to Him)” Arthur Alexander
  16. “Night Train” James Brown and the Famous Flames
  17. “Telstar” The Tornadoes
  18. “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
  19. “Tonight” Jim Bryant and Marni Nixon, West Side Story Original Movie Soundtrack
  20. “Mr. Syms” John Coltrane
  21. “Green Onions” Booker T. and the M. G.s
  22. “Where Have All The Flowers Gone” The Kingston Trio

 

What Happened, 1960-1962

What Happened 1960-1962 3-year mp3 mix to download.

 

What’s all this then? It’s what happened, musically, during these particular years. No really! Hit that link for more info.

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What happened, 1957-1959

September 3, 2017 at 10:53 pm (Music What Happened Mixes)

west-side-story-tony-maria

If you were to ask me what I know about music from the late 1950s, I’m afraid my answer would be hopelessly colored by watching American Graffiti and Diner and that’s about it. Something something Elvis, Buddy Holly, and Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry. Which I guess isn’t bad, but it’s the same frame of reference that I imagine most folks have.

I love this opening section of Music: What Happened for giving me a wider span of context for this era in music. It also sent me down my first rabbit hole of exploration. The 1957 mix is supposed to end with “Somewhere” from the original Broadway cast recording of West Side Story, as sung by Carol Lawrence. I was easily able to buy a digital version of this recording, but when I started up “Somewhere”, it opens with this big orchestral musical overture.

That’s a problem, because in the book, Scott Miller describes this song as starting with some electrical pops and what sounds like “unprofessional mic distance”…not an orchestral fanfare. I spent a few hours, literally, listening to versions of “Somewhere”, and not hearing one that opens in the low-key fashion Scott Miller describes. So I started doing some discography research…and discovered that there was briefly available a single version of this song that was edited from the original cast recording. Interesting.

But only sort of helpful. I still couldn’t find this version. I think I’d despairingly just let the first mp3 I originally bought, the one that opens with the music fanfare play once. I’d really only  listened to the first 20 seconds and decided it was the wrong cut. And something magical happened.

After that musical fanfare, everything goes quiet, completely still. And then damned if there aren’t some electric pops…and then Carol Lawrence’s voice comes in, sounding as if the vocal mic is in another room. BINGO! I’d had the right version all along. It was an easy edit to remove the fanfare from the beginning, and 1957 now properly ends with the amazing “Somewhere” (described in the book as “the most magnificent passage in popular music”) in the version described. Whew

There’s not too much commentary needed for 1958 or ’59. 1958 does have our first endurance test of sort, the 20 minutes of Jimmy Smith’s “The Sermon”…but it’s so good that I find myself buying in completely. 1958 and ’59 are definitely the most jazz-heavy years of any of the mixes. That’s what happens when Elvis gets drafted.

For 1959, Miller only lists Part 1 for Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say”. It sounds weird without Part 2 on it, though. I assume Miller dropped the part 2 for time constraints. I’ve put it back in.

Links to each year’s individual mix are below. They’re single files, although I didn’t cross fade any tracks so they should be very easy to separate if that’s your thing (ick.) I used Nero to normalize the volume on all the tracks as well.

You can also get the full 3-year monty here too.

What Happened, 1957

1957 mp3 to download and track list:

  1. “Whole Lot Of Shakin’ Going On” -Jerry Lee Lewis
  2. “Hey! Bo-Diddley” Bo Diddley
  3. “You Send Me” Sam Cooke
  4. “Embraceable You” Chet Baker
  5. “I Put A Spell On You” Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
  6. “Young Man Blues” Mose Allison
  7. “Blues for Pablo” Miles Davis
  8. “Just Because” Lloyd Price
  9. “Shenandoah” Harry Belafonte
  10. “Keep A-Knockin'” Little Richard
  11. “Tammy” Debbie Reynolds
  12. “Bony Maronie” Larry Williams
  13. “Susie Q” Dale Hawkins
  14. “Bye Bye Love” The Everly Brothers
  15. “Blue Train” John Coltrane
  16. “Chances Are” Johnny Mathis
  17. “Bemsha Swing” Thelonius Monk
  18. “That’ll Be The Day” The Crickets
  19. “Jailhouse Rock” Elvis Presley
  20. “Somewhere” West Side Story Original Cast Recording

 

What Happened, 1958

1958 mp3 to download and track list

  1. “Good Golly Miss Molly” Little Richard
  2. “I’m Gonna Love You Too” Buddy Holly
  3. “Mambo Gozon” Tito Puente and his Orchestra
  4. “The Sermon” Jimmy Smith
  5. “Stager Lee” Lloyd Price
  6. “Dancing in the Dark” Cannonball Adderley
  7. “One for My Baby” Frank Sinatra
  8. “Rumble” Link Wray and his Wray Men
  9. “Tequila” The Champs
  10. “La Bamba” Ritchie Valens
  11. “Milestones” Miles Davis
  12. “Summertime Blues” Eddie Cochran
  13. “Blues March” Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers
  14. “Peter Gunn” Henry Mancini
  15. “All I have to Do Is Dream” The Everly Brothers
  16. “Johnny B. Goode” Chuck Berry

 

What Happened, 1959

1959 mp3 to download and track list

  1. “Saturday Night (Is the Loneliest Night of the Week)” Frank Sinatra
  2. “Sea Cruise” Frankie Ford with Huey “Piano” Smith and Orchestra
  3. “Chronology” Ornette Coleman
  4. “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” The Sound of Music Original Cast Recording
  5. “Come Go Home With Me” Lightnin’ Hopkins
  6. “Sleep Walk” Santo and Johnny
  7. “Twisted” Lambert, Hendricks & Ross
  8. “El Paso”, Marty Robbins
  9. “Desperate Man Blues” John Fahey (Blind Joe Death)
  10. “I Only Have Eyes For You” The Flamingos
  11. “What’d I Say, Pts 1 & 2” Ray Charles
  12. “All Blues” Miles Davis
  13. “Take Five” Dave Brubeck
  14. “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” Charles Mingus

 

What Happened, 1957-1959

What Happened, 1957-1959 3-year MP3 to download.

 

What’s all this then? It’s what happened, musically, during these particular years. No really!

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