I’ve been meaning to write this for a while. I read A.PromptReply’s post on Ten Things I Love and Ten Things I Hate and I thought to myself, why restrict it? Why not 10 songs I like, 10 books I hate, 10 body parts, 10 cars, 10 destinations and so on and so on and so on and so on?
But then, laziness struck me as it does about 18 gazillion times a day and it didn’t actually get written. Then I read SpunkyBongs post about pretty ordinary songs that became great because they contain a piece of magical phrase, a riff or something that makes them more than ordinary.
I had already written a post about songs that annoy. You can read this here. This was not received well. One “reader” went so far as to rate it 1-star out of a possible 5. Quite why s/he bothered I don’t know. Please read it at your risk because some of those songs will drive you batty for the rest of the day. So here is my list of songs that contain something that makes them stand out, a defining phrase, riff, drum solo or something even intangible, indescribable. A hard-to-define sense that changes it from an ordinary to extraordinary, at least in my personal opinion, which is the only one that really counts. 🙂
First up is JJ Cale with Crazy Mama. A fairly simple blues rhythm coupled with Cale’s laconic singing style and deceptively lazy guitar and simple words. Then suddenly between verses comes a simple 3 chord change. A very simple change but in my head the lights change. Every time.
The Weight by The Band. This is not an ordinary song to start with but it has two things that make it even better. First, the guitar intro followed by the drum kicking in to start things off. Then of course is the multi-part, delayed chorus. “And, And, And, you put the load right on me” and the walk down. Brilliant!
Given my preference for 1960’s psychedelic music and the blues the next one will come as a surprise perhaps, but that driving bass line is irresistible. The Bangles’ Walk Like an Egyptian will make my head bop. Music from the 1980s, or as I call it, My Lost Decade, generally does not vibe with me, but this one does.
Mack Rebennac, better known as Dr John on Such a Night. That piano mates beautifully with his flat metallic drawl and the down changing chords. A delicious combination of sounds, but it’s that trippy piano that gets it a mention here.
Operator by The Grateful Dead comes next. A blues song, a great song, acoustic guitars done right, Jerry’s trademark noodles, Phil’s bass lines run through it and it sounds like a regular Dead song. Until Pig Pen puts that harmonica to his lips and blows. Then it makes me want to learn how to play harmonica.
From Jerry, Phil, Bob, Pig Pen, Mickey and Bill we run right along into the husky voice of Scarlett Johansson. It’s a duet with Pete Yorn called Relator. But forget about Pete’s contribution for a second, forget the guitars, and close your eyes. Imagine Scarlett. Singing. That voice. We just lost Spunky Bong, I think.
Moby Grape with It’s a Beautiful Day is a typical hippie song, flutes, love and peace everywhere. But there’s a intertwining of voices, guitars and flutes that make you WANT to shower love and peace everywhere. It somehow makes the sun shine brighter and the girl next to you look cuter.
Supertramp appear on the list courtesy of GoodBye Stranger. Its starts off with the usual keyboards intro then bumps and grinds it way into a full blown screaming guitar solo at the end. The damn radio stations usually cut off the solo, the fools! It’s that solo with the wah-wah pedal that makes that good song a great one!
Now we have a forgotten band, a 1-Hit Wonder. The song is You by Ten Sharp, a Dutch band from the 1990s. Yep. I do listen to music from the 1990s…. Have a listen and tell me that piano, rippling, sliding and driving its way through the voices doesn’t get you.
For goose pimples there’s nothing quite like the piano that opens Love, Reign O’er Me from The Who. You can feel the rain, plinking down, the first few drops, then a few more, Mr Moon calls in the thunder and just as you feel the storm was nothing more than a passing rain shower, the rain settles into a steady pouring out of emotions.
I leave you with this long forgotten song. Another 1-Hit Wonder called Where do you go to, My Lovely from Peter Starstedt. A schmaltzy waltz with a piano accordion leading the way and playing sidekick to some inscrutable lyrics. Loads of 1960’s jetset imagery here, maybe Audrey Hepburn in pointed, white framed dark glasses, in a tight A-Line dress, a head scarf getting into a convertible in the sun of St Moritz. Loads of name-dropping, though and the wonder of a “cleverly designed topless swimsuit”.
There are others I could chat about.
Scarlet Begonias from The Grateful Dead – with the little up/down chord at the end of the line and lyrics to die for.
Glad from Traffic – that thumping piano from Steve Winwood.
White Rabbit from The Jefferson Airplane – that F# / G chord combo at the start building up until we get to Grace letting it out; “keep your head” she goes and it’s hard to do that!
The End by The Doors – Krieger’s guitar never sounded better or more eastern as it evokes images of the smoky, dark recesses of your mind; images and memories you don’t want to admit exist. A difficult song to listen to, but sometimes we have to confront the horror, the horror.
That’s it for now, folks, I could go on and on boring you with this. But I do have to get my 8-hour beauty sleep. It’s hard to maintain my boyish good looks otherwise.
Let me know what you think. Feel free to add on songs that made you sit up and take notice, songs that make your head bop, your feet tap. Songs that furrow your brow, songs that make you smile, laugh, dance, feel, heal.