Scott Miller, of Game Theory and the Loud Family, has a new book with a short blurb on each of his favorite 20-or-so songs from each year from 1957 to 2010. I highly recommend the book, which I bought at bn.com, where I'm able to take advantage of the internet while still paying state taxes that support my schools and road and firefighters and so many other things that Amazon apparently thinks are unimportant.
The 1967 countdown is:
The Marmalade - I See The Rain
The Beatles - Penny Lane
Lulu - To Sir With Love
Cream - Sunshine of Your Love
The Kaleidoscope - If The Night
Procol Harum - A Whiter Shade of Pale
Scott McKenzie - San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)
The Beach Boys - Wonderful
The Hollies - Carrie Anne
The Rolling Stones - Citadel
The Association - Windy
Love - Alone Again Or
The Doors - The Crystal Ship
Aretha Franklin - I Never Loved a Man the Way I Loved You
Nico - Fairest of the Seasons
The Kinks - Waterloo Sunset
Jefferson Airplane - Somebody to Love
The Monkees - Daydream Believer
The Velvet Underground - Venus in Furs
Pink Floyd - Lucifer Sam
Jimi Hendrix Experience - Manic Depression
The Beatles - A Day in the Life
There's just a whole lot to love about this book. Obviously, there's the selection of the best songs of each year, which is why I'm writing about it here, but, as Aimee Mann sarcastically writes on the back cover in reference to the web site that preceded the book, "you're thinking: it's not everyday that someone writes about music on the internet" She goes on... "especially to pick favorite pop music; we can all thank Scott for troweling that wide cultural gap. But really - this is a new and lively style of music writing that you just keep wanting to read more of."
The blurb describing each song has more of an essay feel than a review feel, but they're all just one paragraph long, so they never drag the way I find actual essays on music drag. They never drift into talking-about-music-is-like-dancing-about architecture irrelevance. For instance, as much as I like Nick Hornby's fiction, his book "31 songs" was a complete snore for me.
Scott Miller (no relation, by the way) mostly, and very intentionally, follows my own rules about limiting repetition of artists. The Beatles show up twice in 1967, but it's hard to make too much of a fuss about that. There's a very nice mix of stuff you've almost definitely heard and stuff you almost definitely haven't, and the descriptions are good enough for you to make an informed decision about whether or not to search out the stuff you haven't heard.
His 2010 list unexpectedly included the Taio Cruz hit "Dynamite" and I was pleased to learn he has a kid about the same age as mine who apparently loves that current pop hit as much as my kids do. That song is almost completely uncharacteristic of the rest of the songs on the lists, but what is not uncharacteristic is the way he explains how the song fits into his life and what's happening in popular culture in that year. That's part of what makes the book actually readable as a whole, but it's also fun to leaf through in no particular order. And forget Aimee Mann's snide comments - lists for lists' sake are great too.