My friend Riverrun, the author of the unkindness of ravens which I cannot get out of my mind, was speaking the other day of Godhead music. I'd never really considered that term, but it fits quite nicely. I know you kids hate to hear the old geezers go on about the music "back then," but indulge me here.
I listen to the radio today. I hear what my daughter and her friends listen to and enjoy. I switch on the TV music channels, or at least what's left of them. It seems as if BET is the only one playing wall-to-wall music, and that stuff really just looks like evolutionary suicide to me; not music. Some of my friends on this web site have turned me onto music I did not know about, and I've enjoyed some of that. But not nearly all of it, even though I fully realize that much of this music has been a direct attempt to say, "No, we will NOT try to recreate the past. We will do something totally new."
Sure, there have been folks who've beaten the system, like Tom Waits, Better Than Ezra, Radiohead, and several others, but they're the exceptions, not the rule.
And that's the problem. So many of these things sound just the same to me. All the boy bands and girl bands and modern country music and modern pop music sounds exactly the same to me. It's as if it's coming out of a factory somewhere, and I guess (truth be known) it is. It's the same with most of the rock music. I realize that Counting Crows and Creed are two totally different bands, but the difference seems negligible to me.
I guess the point is this: It's all been done and done to death. It's now been 36 years since 1965. That's longer than most of you have been alive, and yet these folks are still trying to make those same songs again. They may be harsher, louder, trancier, dancier, more machine-driven, darker, Gother, etc. But they are all trying to summon that magic from back then when Pop Music was fresh. Can you imagine listening to the radio all damn day and enjoying each and every song played? That's the way it was for us in 1965, which I think is the best year for pop music in my lifetime. Here's just a sample of the hits that year. This list could have been a whole lot longer. Much longer. If you haven't ever heard any of these, you might want to listen to them when you don't have anything better to do. Or, maybe you'd have had to have been there.
I'll try to start with the most Godly of the artists, IMHO, and work my way down.
The Rolling Stones
- The Last Time
- Get Off Of My Cloud
- Big Lips and the Gang were not about to be left out of the goings on this year. Too bad that the most oft-mentioned and played hit by them is that "Satisfaction" song. Either of the other two are much better efforts.
Gerry and the Pacemakers
- Catch the Wind
Many may make fun of this fellow, but you can still hear strains of Donovan Leitch in many of the softer songs you hear on something like an Unplugged session today. And they're not doing it nearly as well.
- Ferry 'Cross the Mersey
- This one wanted to unseat the Beatles with their own medicine, and this song brought him close. I'll never forget that childish look on the grown man's face as he had his guitar up around his chin, singing this anthem to his home.
The Moody Blues
- I'm Alive
- Look Through Any Window
- Graham Nash's voice drives this music like very few voices can, in any band, anywhere, anytime.
- Go Now
- Their first hit. Who could have imagined what this band would turn into? This song's not too mystical, but it's damn wonderful.
- Don't let Me Be Misunderstood
- Bring It On Home To Me
- We Gotta Get Out Of This Place
- It's My Life
- Eric Burdon was not about to be left out of this renaissance. Most of this stuff stands the test of time, and has that edge of teen angst that would probably get it played on the radio if it came out today.
- Tired of Waiting
- Set me Free
- Probably the most unlikely of pop geniuses, Ray Davies. God bless the reform school that fixed him up just enough to give us these songs, but not kill his spirit.
- It's Not Unusual
- Tell me you don't like this song, and I'll have to come over there and kick your ass. And I'll bring Tom with me. He's still pretty damn wicked.
- Crying In The Chapel
- Can't you just see the King, sitting there watching all this happen around him, thinking, "Man, it's dang near over for me." Is this when the drugs took over? Did he think they'd make him smart like those other folks doing them? Sorry, Elvis. You never were the Mensa Rocker. But you sure could sang purty.
The Beach Boys
- For Your Love
- Heart full Of Soul
- These guys played at my high school in some little town in Alabama when these songs were popular. Can you imagine the ignorance of that manager? He wasn't really thinking Big Picture, eh?
- Papa's Got a Brand New Bag
- Here was something new and different. No one had heard anything like this before, and not many have heard anything like it since. It was the rhythm section and a brand new beat, baby.
- Mr. Tambourine Man
- All I Really Want To Do
- Both songs by Bob Dylan. And I really don't think he needed Roger McGuinn and the gang to bring him to the forefront. But these are not bad treatments. A 12-string guitar hadn't been heard much prior to this. Come to think of it, you don't hear much of it since. Hmmm.
- I Can't Explain
- My Generation
- I know I'll get killed for putting Pete and the boys down so far on this list, but I just really never cared for his mad guitar skillz. He's a great rhythm player, but he just doesn't carry to music for me. And that Daltrey guy? Watch Tommy, the movie, and cry.
Some other tunes that were on the radio that year:
I hope that that when you reach my age, if you haven't already, there will be one year in your life from which you can remember so many songs which changed you in so many (hopefully) good ways.