If there are no serious objections…I have found the second Wonder of rock music….Everyone knows that classic shot of the Beatles crossing the street here. Now I have to build a nice looking page for them.
I’m not a fan of graffiti, no matter how it’s done, but seeing quotes of songs from my all-time favourite band outside Abbey Road studios I was instantly taken. It was a beautiful reminder of just how influential the Beatles were and still are, but it also made me wish I’d been round to witness the Beatlemania 40 years ago.
I went for substance over glitter for these classics. The gender lines get blurred and the yin yang smudges together for some of the best music produced in the rock era. The glitter and high heels kicking you in the face is the proverbial tip of the iceberg when having a bit of free swim time in this part of the pool. The first couple I added were such strong works that I challenged myself to keep them all of the same quality. This date night went in a different direction than it started, kind of like my number 1 pick for this category.
“What are you doing Mr. Cave guy, this is just a sweet innocent love song by Elton John?” And you are right. Elton John and Bernie Taupin were just sweet innocent kids when they wrote this. The striking part – it is so innocent that it has no male and female parts at all. Like a toy doll with no bits that are going to make the kids ask questions. It has all the sexuality completely sanitized. A man could be singing about a woman- a woman could be singing about a man- it works with a man singing about a man and woman about a woman. It works with any combo deal on the menu.
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is one of the great records of rock music and David Bowie became an androgynous alien alter ego for the ages. Maybe some obscure bands were dressing like chicks before he did…but he smashed the doors wide open to let all the cows and horses out of the barn to go play in the fields and roll in the mud. He took it from
a “strange” thing and turned it into an “edgy” thing. The song itself really does not reference any gender blurring but it is impossible to separate the song from the act. You get the package deal with David Bowie.
Kris Kristofferson wrote this song originally about a woman and in the Janis Joplin version it changed to a man. Even the name Bobby can fit both sexes so it was not a big deal to make a switch. That makes something written from the male perspective get transformed into something from a female perspective. It gives it a weird toughness that Janis Joplin was made to sing.
To write this song John Prine imagined himself as a middle aged woman doing dishes and gazing upon the ashes of a burnt-out life. Like an artist that freezes a scene in a painting; he gets all the colors and lines in correct coordination and perfection. I don’t care if you are a woman or a man- this song is powerful. As a man you feel bad about this woman and you should hate the man that drove her down this highway and hope you ain’t him…you should be affected by the emotion if you have anything at all in your soul that feels emotion. This song has a way of making people cry like Ray Lewis in a post game speech after a football game.
“Well, I’m not dumb but I can’t understand Why she walked like a woman but talked like a man”
How in good conscious as a fan of Rock Music do you not make this the Number one song in this category? And just like the naïve soul in this piece of music-How long did it take you to listen to the words and have that “Sixth sense” movie moment…Oh…man…he is a ghost!…I mean..Oh man, he is a transvestite! And how as a regular guy trying to write a music blog do I take so long to get to a song by Ray Davies…the quintessential everyman and icon of popular music…plus he seems like just one hell of a nice guy.
Even though I hate to give any award on the Cave to Bill Haley and his Comets– The Cave has gone through the history -before Rock around the Clock there were a few rock songs out there but you would have to call them regional, novelty or maybe even underground.
After Bill Haley and his Comets smashed the surface of Pop music with this Number 1…the resulting explosion opened up the flood gates and all types of craft could roll on down this river. With my love of Blues music and the Sun record sound I wanted to give the award somewhere else but Bill Haley changed the culture and I can’t take that away from him. This hurts me and reminds me that Cave awards have to go by merit not just talent, originality and execution.
This brings me to what I consider the first refined vintage of a rock song – This song is what the kids today would call “Legit”-something that is an actual real version of itself, not faked at all. In other words=true, unmistakable quality.
“That’ll be the Day” by the Crickets – They dropped Buddy Holly from the title because of his record contract somewhere else-which made this technically a band release instead of a front man and band format which was standard for the time. It was also the song that The Quarrymen would pick to cover for their first demo –and we know what influence these guys would have on music as they evolved into The Beatles. And more importantly for this blog…I can feature a quality song in this post and add a true relic to the Cave.
Coldplay is like a quality lager….bright and satisfying. I don’t care if they have taken over the world; they are still producing a quality product that is very drinkable. This is a great song that music fans all over the world will crank up loud when it hits the radio or Pandora or iPod (whether they admit to it or not)
My personal favorite is from “Live Rust” and this is a masterpiece. We know the story of Cortez and Montezuma. We know it as history but this track converts that historical angst to emotion. So many rock songs are about “women does man wrong” or “man does women wrong” – but this- Conquistador does a civilization wrong by removing it from the face of the earth is an elegant twist.
Lindsey Buckingham is kind of underrated as a song writer and guitar player. Most songs about unrequited love are kind of depressing and bring you down. This one has a kick to it. Like soaking those cooked chicken wings of despair in a hot tangy buffalo sauce and taking a big bite.
The timing on this makes it perfect. In 1991 hip hop was taking over in a big way…Rock was stale- the charts were full of reheated leftovers and half-hearted efforts by big stars. Rock had lost its edge. This song was a kick to the balls that Rock Music needed in a big way. When you heard it…it knocked you over.
Just for fun kids-Let’s look at a couple reheats and stale artists from 1991 –
“Live and Let Die” Guns and Roses- really Axel and Slash? You had to cover this? You guys couldn’t find other ways to pay for all the hotel rooms you trashed…how about working at the hotel instead of this reheat?
Kiss- God gave Rock and Roll to you– Yes, he gave it to us to help us make sense of this world…he did not mean for us to add water and boil a novelty song by Argent for a movie soundtrack so Gene Simmons could buy more jewelry for his girlfriends.
As far as the half hearted attempts go…Bryan Adams and Genesis (The “hey, let’s try to sound like Motown, only with weaker songs- Phil Collins version of Genesis…instead of the “hey, let’s be like Pink Floyd, only more theatrical and pretentious- Genesis with Peter Gabriel*”) both had multiple hits that year.
My apologies to Metallica as Enter Sandman was released this same year…I won’t call it perfect but I would not argue against it.
Is this about heaven or hell or drugs or being seduced by desert women? I don’t know- but book me a room here. It’s full of references to some kind of unavoidable trap that we all fall for even though we should know better. This took the Eagles from country rock to cool as a fresh breaker from the Pacific Ocean. Joe Walsh added just enough to put this over the top. This is what a title track and an album cover should be. Rock songs should take you somewhere- give your brain a bit of a work over and let you find your own way back. Perfect.
*Disclaimer- I love Peter Gabriel…The New Blood show of 2011 is the single best concert I ever attended!
The end of the year means we will see lists to make sense of it all. What was good or bad –who did we lose and why.
The good news for rock music – We have plenty of candidates for the good and bad lists. Whatever genre you like – we can make a list.
And on the other side- rock music has now been around long enough that some of the players are starting to expire from the same things as the general population. Those terrible things that will happen to us all…the frailties of old age are taking them away. The days of “he choked on his own vomit” are being replaced by “yeah, there were some health issues, but he was old ”
I knew these days would come…Pete Townshend once said “Never trust anyone over 30” and he also said “Hope I die before I get old”…I don’t think he says that anymore. The Who may be the poster boys for the Geriatric road warriors of rock music in this century…”Quick get a ticket while we are still breathing” tours are raking in the bucks.
I am just going to take three of the many we lost this year.
Jim Marshall 1923 – 2012
This is the end of a good long run for the inventor of the Marshall Amplifier. The electric guitar became the star of the show even if you were sitting outside the arena. Les Paul or Stratocasteralike could be plugged into this bad boy to scream and cry for the masses.
“In-a-Gadda-da-Vida, baby”- Bassist Lee Dorman expired in his car at 70 years old, he was on the transplant list with some heart problems. Iron Butterfly did break-up and reform over the years-still burning the left over jet fuel from the smash hit record of 1968…it is amazing to think that one great hit can keep something viable for such a long period of time.
Great guitar player. Battling cancer and self inflicted gunshot wound. This happens too often all around us…it does not make the news and only those with intimate knowledge of each situation know the real details. Cancer and death and devastation of lives and families are all intertwined in a complex web of difficult decisions.
5. Patience-Guns and Roses-Axel starts with a whistle and a nice melodic whistle at that…”see I am not really a bad guy after all” type of whistle. How many PBR’s do you think have been downed to this song! (PBR=Pabst Blue Ribbon-a quintessential American beer favored by the working man)
4. Jealous Guy-John Lennon- The best time to hear this is on a car radio at 3am driving down a lonely highway in the pouring rain. Lennon at his best had a way of letting you feel his pain as your pain because we all have the same experiences and all do stupid stuff.
3. Pumped up Kicks- Foster the People– Catchy tune about shooting bullets at your mates for play time fun. Only California can produce a band to make this sound so cool.
2.That Smell –Lynyrd Skynyrd – Ronnie Van Zant throws in this great “calling in the dogs” whistle to usher in guitar solos and hounds that will be right on your ass if you keep messing around with illicit substances and take that slow boat out into dark oblivion. It is short but it makes the point that he is used to calling in all the dogs. Lynyrd Skynyrd- great rock band!
1. Dock of the Bay -Otis Redding –You can call this soul if you want and say I’m stretching a bit but..Man!…what a song. He sung his heart out and died young in a plane crash…nothing more Rock n Roll than that. I officially proclaim this an honorary rock song if it wasn’t already.
1.Kiss – Rock n roll all night- it’s warm with an instant flavor packet of melodic stadiumness. It is the Ramen noodles of a rock song….no substance, but it will take the hunger away and fool you into temporarily thinking you had something, you had nothing.
2. Bob Seger -Old time rock and Roll -“just take them old records off the shelf, I’ll sit and listen to them by myself’…why don’t you do that Bob- Horrible song which may have faded away had it not been for Tom Cruise dancing in his underwear in “Risky Business” .
3. Billy Joel -Still Rock n Roll to me– This song actually made it to number 1 for two weeks in 1980- What dark days these were…Bette Midler released “The Rose” which is better than this(Don’t get me wrong, I am not a fan of Bette, but if I happen to end up in a Mexican prison and they give me a choice of these two songs to listen to, not knowing what implications making this choice will lead to, I will take “The Rose” and hope for some “wind beneath my wings” to get the hell outa there!) Also in 1980 Michael Jackson was the still untarnished “king of pop/good angel” with “Rock with You” at the top of the charts (he had yet to hang babies out the window, marry Lisa Marie Presley for a couple weeks and sleep with 10 year olds) I am not judging here…I am just saying… he had some quirky habits.
4.Jefferson Starship– We built this city (on Rock and Roll) -Bernie Taupin was in on writing this??? Is this the same Bernie that wrote the great songs with Elton John? How do you go from “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” to this?- And Grace Slick was part of this mess? “one pill makes you change the name from airplane to starship and sing on one of the most insipid tracks of all time”. (that is a reference to Jefferson Starships’ “White Rabbit” for those that may not know-a great rock song)…What happened here? San Francisco must be some kind of city for people to produce this crap in an effort to keep paying the rent so they can stay there…that is the only reason that makes any sense.