It’s a shame that the story of 20th century music always seems to be written exclusively by white, male, rock music fans (like myself). This means that anything other than rock music produced by white males rarely gets the credit it deserves. You just have to look at those ‘Top 100 Albums’ lists that Q Magazine produces. You’ll probably find one Stevie Wonder record in the top 20, but the rest will be REM, Radiohead, Joy Division etc.
Nowhere is this problem more evident than when considering music from the 1960s. There was a compilation album released a few years ago called “Alternative 60s”, which purported to show the other side of music from the decade. But of course, it didn’t stray from British and American rock music; it just featured slightly less well known artists.
To counter this blinkered view of the 1960s, I have here compiled a brief introduction/reminder of all the different types of music that were around at the time. See after the jump, for the real alternative 60s… Read the rest of this entry
I was listening to Desert Island Discs today and naturally it got me thinking about what eight songs I would choose. The thing is, I’m not stranded on a desert island; I’m stuck on a soggy island off mainland Europe. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of eight pastoral, autumnal tracks suitable for a cold November in Great Britain. Here they are, in no particular order, with links so you can have a listen…
Bob Dylan – Shelter from the Storm Dylan is one of those artists with so many good songs, that picking just one proved to be difficult. This is one of my favourite non-political songs of Bob’s and has lyrics fitting for the time of year.
The Beatles – Rain Another ‘weather’ song. But this is actually an upbeat track about ignoring the rain and getting on with your life. If you haven’t heard it, I wouldn’t be surprised. It was the B-side to Paperback Writer and didn’t appear on any of their studio albums. It was recorded during the sessions for Revolver, which explains the brilliant psychedelic feel.
Nick Drake – Place To Be Nick Drake released three albums in his short life, and they’re all worth a listen. My favourite is his final, most sombre offering: Pink Moon. Like most of the album, this song just Drake singing and playing acoustic guitar; but it’s hugely affecting.
Brian Eno – An Ending (Ascent) This is from the classic ambient album ‘Apollo – Atmospheres and Soundtracks’, and is meant to evoke the NASA moon missions. But the feeling of tranquillity and open space, gives it a wider appeal.
Aram Khachaturian – Gayane Ballet Suite – Adagio This is another ‘spacey’ one, as it was featured in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. It plays as the astronauts go about their daily routines on the long trip into the unknown.
Jim White – Static on the Radio This guy is one of the great alternative country/Americana artists around. His documentary about the Deep South, ‘Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus’ is also great. This song is a duet with the brilliant singer-songwriter, Aimee Mann.
Brahms 3rd Symphony – 3rd movement – Poco allegretto Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony would make a good choice, but somehow this piece by Brahms (a huge fan of Beethoven) speaks to me more. It’s so contemplative and mournful. The “F, A-flat, F” motif is said to represent the German phrase “Frei aber froh”, meaning “Free but happy”.
Richard and Linda Thompson – Night Comes In Richard Thompson is one of the most underappreciated artists around today. He’s always been a critics’ darling, but that’s never translated to record sales. This track is from the brilliantly reflective ‘Pour Down Like Silver’ album, recorded after his and Linda’s conversion to the Sufi faith.
Okay, so I caved. After ranting about the modern choices in magazines’ ‘Most Influential Albums’ lists, I made a list of my own. It contains the most influential albums from the AB (Anno Beatlesi) era, so doesn’t contain any of those on my previous list. Here they are in alphabetical order of artist name (for some reason):
- AC/DC – Highway to Hell
- Beach Boys – Pet Sounds
- Beatles – Please Please Me
- Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
- Black Sabbath – Paranoid
- Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
- Brian Eno – Another Green World
- Buffalo Springfield – Again
- Byrds – Mr. Tambourine Man
- Clash – The Clash
- Damned – Damned Damned Damned
- David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust…
- Donna Summer – Four Seasons of Love
- Dr. Feelgood – Down by the Jetty
- Gang of Four – Entertainment
- Gary Numan and Tubeway Army – Replicas
- Jeff Beck – Truth
- Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow
- Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced?
- Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures
- King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King
- Kraftwerk – The Man Machine
- Led Zeppelin – IV
- Metallica – Kill ‘Em All
- Moody Blues – Days of Future Passed
- Mothers of Invention – Freak Out!
- New York Dolls – New York Dolls
- Nick Drake – Pink Moon
- Nirvana – Nevermind
- Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon
- Pixies – Surfer Rosa
- Rage Against The Machine – Rage Against The Machine
- REM – Murmur
- Replacements – Let It Be
- Rolling Stones – The Rolling Stones
- Roxy Music – For Your Pleasure
- Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks…
- Simon & Garfunkel – Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme
- Siouxsie and the Banshees – The Scream
- Sly and the Family Stone – There’s a Riot Goin’ On
- Smiths – The Smiths
- Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation
- Specials – The Specials
- Stooges – The Stooges
- T. Rex – Electric Warrior
- Talking Heads – More Songs About Buildings and Food
- Velvet Underground – and Nico
- Walter Carlos – Switched On Bach
- Who – Tommy
- X-Ray Spex – Germ Free Adolescents
It was originally just going to be a list of ten, but then I found I just couldn’t stop! I limited myself to one album per artist but I ended up with two by The Beatles, as they’re a special case. Brian Eno pops up here and there as a solo artist, band member and producer. It’s amazing how many albums were from 1967. When I have more time, I might analyse the list a little further…
[Edit: Wait, I forgot The Stone Roses, Screamadelica, The Normal, Laura Nyro…]
As a music fan, I get irritated by those “best albums of all time” lists that magazines produce. I think that they’re actually trying to be provocative to try and sell more magazines. But “best” is a subjective term, so I suppose I can’t get too upset. More annoying however, are lists of “most influential albums of all time”. This is a topic that I think you can approach somewhat more logically and get an informed set of choices. However, the lists produced by magazines are generally weak, because the records chosen are far too modern. The Ramones were influenced by The Stooges, who were influenced by The Rolling Stones, who were influenced by Howlin’ Wolf. So why include The Ramones? I made my own list by trying to find “oldest common denominator” albums. I came up with the following Top Ten, in order of release:
- Lead Belly – Rock Island Line (1951)
- Bill Haley & his Comets – Rock Around the Clock (1955)
- Elvis Presley – Elvis Presley (1956)
- Jerry Lee Lewis – Jerry Lee Lewis (1957)
- The Crickets – The “Chirping” Crickets (1957)
- Little Richard – Here’s Little Richard (1957)
- Muddy Waters – The Best of Muddy Waters (1957)
- Chuck Berry – Is on Top (1959)
- Robert Johnson – King of the Delta Blues Singers (1961)
- Howlin’ Wolf – Howlin’ Wolf (AKA The Rockin’ Chair Album) (1962)
I’d tell you the detailed scientific process I used to come up with these, but unfortunately I don’t have room to show you my working out. If you look at the track listings on Allmusic, or even better Wikipedia (!), you should see where I’m coming from.
Most of these aren’t “rock”, at least not in the sense that we think of it today, but I think they are the albums that have had the most influence on today’s rock music. It is a bit of a cheat though. The Robert Johnson and Lead Belly records are made up of songs that predated the 12” LP, but were repackaged onto that format. But it’s important to remember that the vinyl album was introduced in 1948: long after the era of the classic Delta Blues singers, who were incredibly influential. Perhaps someone should make a list of the most influential 78 rpms of all time. However, that someone would have to be more knowledgeable than myself.
Below are the fifteen simple steps that Morrissey follows to ensure the highest level of remuneration, with the least effort:
- Record 4 songs about your feelings of ennui
- Record 4 pop-y songs
- Record 4 songs with controversial content/titles
- Release above songs as an album
- Start first leg of major tour
- Say something controversial in an interview to promote tour
- Wear some of your own merchandise on stage; thereby encouraging fans to buy it
- Repackage and release the above album with extra tracks and video
- Record concerts for live album and live DVD
- Start second leg of tour
- Release above live album and DVD – sell at concerts
- End tour
- Release ‘rarities’ compilation
- Release ‘Greatest Hits’ compilation
- Go back to Step 1
I hereby present to you a list of the most commonly use words in songs by Muse:
(Seriously though; I don’t hate Muse so much.)
I think there’s too much ‘taxonomy’ in music. Musicologists are too keen to categorise music into increasingly silly genres. With the modern, creatively bankrupt dance music; any time some artist “writes” a song which sounds even slightly different than the thousands of others, they are rewarded with their own sub-genre. The same is true of Rock. Is there really a difference between Death Metal and Doom Metal? With this in mind, I have decided to predict what musical genres will come next:
Deriving its name from an obscene drug/sex act, this strain of dance music consists of “songs” with tempos of over 5000 beats per minute. It is said to be best enjoyed whilst suffering an ecstasy overdose. Popularised by MC Prick.
This form of white-boy gangsta rap was created by Mockneys, who grew up with the films of Guy Ritchie. It consists of samples from the Get Carter soundtrack, with 18 year olds rapping about the Kray Twins over the top. Key artists include ‘Grandma Queenie’ and ‘The Terrence Stamp Collection’.
This genre was actually created by a renegade team of neuro scientists. Their music was unleashed on an unsuspecting public in 2010. It is actually impossible to get the songs out of one’s head without the use of prescription drugs. It is said to be more contagious than swine flu.
Finally admitting to themselves that jazz had become creatively worthless, band leaders just stopped trying. Realising that musicians were expensive, they began to hire people with no musical ability instead. This lead to a sub-genre of dissonant, phlegmy jazz, which still somehow managed to garner good critical reviews.
The Biddeford Sound
Once the town’s most famous sons, ‘Copyright Theft’ topped the charts, record companies rushed to sign other acts from the Biddeford area. The style of the music is varied, but can be recognised by the singers’ broad Devonshire accents.
This mix of hip-hop and sludge metal was the unexpected side effect of a government sponsored scheme to help combat racial tensions in central Birmingham. The aim was to get young white and black youths to play music together. However, the results were described as ‘a musical abomination’. The fallout lead to the resignation of the Minister for Culture, Media and Sport.
Shubert ‘N’ Ernie
Named after a song by ‘The Poison Ivy League’, this genre is a mix of classical music and novelty songs. For several years, no top-tier university in the USA was without an SNE group. These usually consisted of a pianist, violinists and a barbershop quartet. Objectively dreadful; these groups achieved success, not because of talent, but because they were well connected.
This genre was a part of the Nu-Luddite revival of 2011. Low carbon entertainment was all the rage, meaning that acoustic and home-made instruments were back in vogue. Unlike some dour acts at the time, Acid Skifflers would perform jaunty songs, albeit ones about the depletion of natural resources.