Sunday, May 20, 2012

Pitchfork's top 60's songs

One of the likable aspects of most Pitchfork lists is that their writers and reviewers tend not to be of the Rolling Stone Magazine reviewer vintage.  This makes their 60's list particular interesting.  What do the music snobs that are not of the 60s themselves think about the 60s?  The top 20 can be found here with Pitchfork's  commentary on each choice.

The list, without their commentary is:

20. The Shangri-Las: "Out in the Streets" (1965)
19. The Beatles: "Tomorrow Never Knows" (1966)
18. The Crystals: "Then He Kissed Me" (1963)
17. Creedence Clearwater Revival: "Fortunate Son" (1969)
16. The Stooges: "I Wanna Be Your Dog" (1969)
15. Aretha Franklin: "Think" (1968)
14. The Beach Boys: "Don't Worry Baby" (1964)
13. The Band: "The Weight" (1968)
12. The Rolling Stones: "Gimme Shelter" (1969)
11. Led Zeppelin: "Dazed and Confused" (1969)
10. Desmond Dekker & The Aces: "Israelites" (1969)
9. The Who: "I Can't Explain" (1965)
8. Johnny Cash: "Folsom Prison Blues (Live at Folsom Prison)" (1968)
7. The Beach Boys: "Wouldn't It Be Nice" (1966)
6. The Ronettes: "Be My Baby" (1963)
5. The Beatles: "A Day in the Life" (1967)
4. Bob Dylan: "Like a Rolling Stone" (1965)
3. Sam Cooke: "A Change Is Gonna Come" (1964)
2. The Jackson 5: "I Want You Back" (1969)
1. The Beach Boys: "God Only Knows" (1966)

For those keeping score, that's 3 Beach Boys songs compared to 2 for the Beatles, 1 for the Stones, 1 for the Who, and none for The Kinks.  The influences of the Beach Boys on indie pop (as opposed to indie rock) are great, and I love indie pop, but I think the Beach Boys have become hugely overrated.  I really don't know what I'm going to do about them when I make my own 60s list.  I'm sure I'll be setting myself up for ridicule including Surfin' USA and California Girls instead of the critics favorites, but I don't like the critics favorites very much.  It's not that I don't respect them.  I just don't want to listen to them when I turn on my stereo, and that's a very important criterion for me.

Perhaps this speaks to the youthful reviewers at Pitchfork, but the list has 6 songs from 1969.  That means that one year at the end of the decade accounts for nearly one third of the list, while 1960, 1961, and 1962 are totally unrepresented.  Pitchfork isn't alone in leaving out 1962, but I have to say I'm surprised to see only one song from 1967.  I'm not sure how I feel about including Folsom Prison Blues.  While the live track from 1968 was, in fact, the one that charted, the Sun single is from 1955.

The list has three girl groups, including two Phil Spector songs.  I'm sure Brian Wilson would approve.  The one Stones song is not the choice I would make, but I've been criticized for that myself.  I also have a lot of trouble with "Tomorrow Never Knows" as the second best Beatles song.  The recording was groundbreaking, and I suppose that's also the appeal of the Spector and Beach Boys choices.  It's just that the songs themselves aren't ones I want to hear over and over again.  Maybe the Pitchfork reviewers have more of a historical influence appreciation of the 60s as opposed to a real listener's perspective.

Parts of the overall list defy explanation.  "I Want to Hold Your Hand" is way down at #58 behind Tommy James and the Shondells' "Crimson and Clover" and The Monkees "Daydream Believer".  I like the Monkees, but they don't get to go ahead of early Beatles.  Don't try to tell me they even would have been formulated if there was no Meet the Beatles.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

1962 lost its mojo (if it ever had it)

The third edition of the Mojo Collection, which I've mentioned previously, presents more than 700 records that the editors believe comprise the ultimate collection of LPs.  Between 1955 and 2003, the year of publication, only one year is missing.  The year 1962 has no mojo.  In fairness, 1962 mostly has no LP mojo.  The editors were rigid (their word, not mine) about the included records all being LPs.

Do You Love Me, by The Contours, is the first record from 1962 in Dave Marsh's book/list of the 1001 greatest singles, coming in at #19.  The Loco-motion by Little Eva at #55 is next, followed by Claudine Clark's Party Lights at #73, Booker T. and the MGs' Green Onions at #110, and The Drifters' Up On the Roof at #116.

I would say the Mojo Collection underrates 1962 and Dave Marsh overrates 1962.  Digitaldreamdoor, which is a rather gaudy but nonetheless interesting site for list lovers, has song lists for each year.  It's much like VinylSurrender, but without the voting.  Some of the best songs of 1962 were instrumentals (The Surfari's "Wipe Out", #11 at digitaldreamdoor, and The Tornadoes' Telstar, #63).  Dick Dale's Miserlou (#120 at digitaldreamdoor) was one of several good Dick Dale songs from 1962.  There was some good jazz that year as well, the best of which was Ellington, Mingus, and Roach's Money Jungle.  That's the record the Mojo Collection really should have included.

Having said all that, I think when we talk about the greatness of 60's music, we're mostly talking about 1964 to 1969, which makes it all the more remarkable what a lasting impact the 60s have had on music.  I had really thought Gene Pitney's Town Without Pity was from 1962, but it's from 1961.  Rockabilly and R&B made the late 50s good and jazz carried 1960 and 1961 pretty well, but 1962 really was the lull before the burst of innovation that followed.  I wrote before about how 1976 was also such a year.  I think maybe 1990 was too.  I need to investigate that.  It could be a trend.