1. The Beatles

The Beatles are a rock group from Liverpool, England.

Like many British youths growing up in the fifties, the Beatles discovered rock and roll music from the merchant marines returning from America with the latest records, and from progressive commercial radio stations such as Radio Luxembourg. An indifferent student, John Lennon found purpose in life with rock and roll, not just the music of artists like Bill Haley and Chuck Berry, but also the flamboyant style of Elvis Presley. He pleaded with his mother Julia and aunt Mimi for a guitar; surprisingly it was Mimi who yielded and bought John a small Spanish model for £17. John played it constantly, and shortly thereafter started his own band, The Quarrymen.

On July 6th, 1957, Quarrymen played a church dance function. Band member Ivan Vaughan invited his schoolmate Paul McCartney, who impressed the band afterwards with his knowledge and facility with the guitar. In particular, Paul could tune a guitar, something the others had not mastered to that point. Shortly thereafter, Paul was asked to join the band.

“Paul and John formed a close camaraderie, unusual for boys that age. The two-year age difference, which at first seemed insurmountable to them, melted away in their mutual interests and similarities, although on the surface the two boys couldn’t have been more different. Baby-faced Paul was self-righteous, conscientious, and deferential to his elders. John defied authority, was hedonistic, amoral, and enjoyed his role as the outspoken iconoclast.”

— Excerpt from “The Love You Make”, by Peter Brown and Steven Gaines

In early 1958, McCartney brought along his school friend George Harrison to meet John and audition for the band; Harrison joined the band as lead guitarist. Tragedy struck in July, 1958, when John Lennon’s mother Julia was killed by an automobile. This cause a period of relative inactivity, though John and Paul still worked at writing songs together. George left the group to temporarily perform in other bands, though by late 1959 the three guitarists were performing once again as the Quarrymen. Stuart Sutcliffe, a fellow art student of Lennon’s, joined the band as a bass player, though he was a better artist than a musician.

The Reeperbahn and Brian Epstein

Two major events in the band’s history helped fulfill their destiny. Between August, 1960 and December, 1962, the band’s booking agent, Allan Williams, arranged a series of engagements in Hamburg, Germany. During this period, the band performed numerous residencies at clubs in the Reeperbahn, the city’s red-light district known for its nightclubs and sex trade. The band recruited Pete Best to be the band’s drummer during this grueling period. The band endured squalid living arrangements, and were required to perform several hours each night, seven days a week. When they returned to Liverpool, their musical ability and stage presence had improved dramatically. In July 1961, Stuart Sutcliffe left the band to pursue an art career, and Paul McCartney took over as the full-time bassist.

Brian Epstein was the son of wealthy merchants; his family owned the largest furniture business in Liverpool. A style-conscious, effeminate young man, Epstein struggled mightily to find his place in society, failing to find happiness in school, dress designing, acting, and even the national service, before returning to the family business. Brian was assigned to run the small record division for a new store in Liverpool’s city center, and within a year the North End Music Store (NEMS) grew to occupy two floors and become the largest record store in northern England. One day, a customer asked for a copy of “My Bonnie” by a group called The Beatles. While in Hamburg, the band had backed Tony Sheridan in a recording session. While researching the origin of the record, Epstein learned the Beatles performed lunchtime shows daily at the nearby Cavern Club. He visited the rowdy downstairs club, and though he felt out of place in his tailored suit and tie, he was smitten by the handsome and energetic young men. Epstein obsessively promoted “My Bonnie” in his store, and pursued a new goal in his life — managing The Beatles.

The group dismissed Allan Williams and hired Epstein to conduct the band’s affairs. Epstein booked the band at larger concert venues. He insisted the band wear matching suits to clean up their appearance, rather than the leather outfits they preferred. Most importantly, as the owner of a large record store, he had connections to British record companies. Still, success did not come easy. A first demo session with Decca Records was deemed a failure, and afterwards all but one recording company turned them down. That company was Parlophone Records, a subsidiary of EMI Records best known for producing comedy albums. Parlophone producer George Martin heard the Decca auditions and wanted to meet the band. The first EMI recording sessions, conducted in June, 1962, were once again a disappointment. Martin suggested that Pete Best’s loud, primitive drumming was unacceptable, and in August, 1962, before their next recording session, Brian Epstein was tasked with the unpopular job of firing Pete Best. Lennon and McCartney then offered the job to Ringo Starr, the top drummer in town, and the drummer for local favorites Rory Storm & The Hurricanes. He accepted when they offered him a £5 per week raise.

the-beatles-granger

Wikipedia Biography of The Beatles
The Official Beatles Website
The Beatles Rarity Website
The Beatles Bible – A Comprehensive Fan Website


John Lennon (1940-1980)
, rhythm guitar, vocals, primary songwriter
Paul McCartney (b. 1942), bass, vocals, primary songwriter
George Harrison (1943-2001), lead guitar, vocals, songwriter
Ringo Starr (aka Richard Starkey)(b. 1940), drums, vocals


Brian Epstein (1934-1967)
, manager
George Martin (b. 1926), producer, arranger, composer, engineer, musician
Billy Preston (1946-2006), keyboards

The Swift Rise to Stardom

By the spring of 1964, The Beatles were the most popular and influential music act in the English speaking world.  Over the course of 1963, their popularity spread through Great Britain and western Europe, beginning with their first #1 hit song (“Please Please Me”) and culminating with a November appearance at the Royal Command Performance.  In one of the great acts of defiance in rock history, John Lennon suggests the different ways the audience show their appreciation, before launching into their closing song, “Twist And Shout”.

Early Beatles records and concerts featured many “cover” songs, those written by other composers, but soon they compiled a fine collection of their own songs.    John and Paul developed a knack for writing love songs with clever, complex chord structures and melodies.   The band’s live performances generated a hysterical reaction from their female fans, who screamed their approval in loud unison.  The height of “Beatlemania” intensity is captured in this video of the brilliant “She Loves You”:

“The Beatles arrived full-fledged. You could argue that they are more sophisticated as the years went by, but not that they got a whole lot “better” because rock and roll doesn’t get better than this. “She Loves You” is the Beatles song with the “Yeah, yeah, yeah” chorus that nonbelievers made fun of when they first hit the States. Of course, any rock fan would understand that the exuberance of “yeah, yeah, yeah” is the whole essence of the form. As millions took it to heart, it was “She Loves You” more than any other record which established the Beatles as the soul of pop culture.”

— Dave Marsh, “The Heart of Rock and Soul”

Amazon.com Link to “The Heart of Rock ad Soul”, by Dave Marsh

They were, in a word, adorable.  In my lifetime, no other rock band elicits this reaction from the girls.  Handsome and clean cut, they played sweet, smart, rocking music, with a hint of menace bubbling under the surface.  Elvis Presley’s early career is the only comparison.  He achieved massive popularity seemingly overnight, and young women would scream their approval every time Elvis wiggled a little, but the Beatles endured constant, ear-splitting screams throughout their short concerts, a phenomenon they soon grew tired of. But in 1963, if you were lucky, it was still possible to see them perform without the screams.

The Beatles made their first trip to the United States in early 1964, a ten day tour that included two appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show, a popular Sunday night variety show. On February 9th, over seventy million people tuned into the first program, the highest percentage of American households ever tuned into one television program. Once home in Britain, the band was given seven weeks in their breakneck schedule to write music and star in a motion picture.

A Hard Day’s Night

A Hard Day’s Night was released in July of 1964, and was a surprise hit, achieving financial success and critical acclaim. It remains one of my favorite movies of all-time. Second only to my father, the Beatles are my idols. Ever since my mother started buying Beatles records in 1964, I’ve wanted to be like the Beatles as portrayed in A Hard Day’s Night. It left a powerful imprint about the way life should be.

“Many critics attended the movie and prepared to condescend, but the movie could not be dismissed: It was so joyous and original that even the early reviews acknowledged it as something special. After more than three decades, it has not aged and is not dated; it stands outside its time, its genre and even rock. It is one of the great life-affirming landmarks of the movies.

In 1964, what we think of as “The ’60s” had not yet really emerged from the embers of the 1950s. Perhaps this was the movie that sounded the first note of the new decade–the opening chord on George Harrison’s new 12-string guitar. The film was so influential in its androgynous imagery that untold thousands of young men walked into the theater with short haircuts, and their hair started growing during the movie and didn’t get cut again until the 1970s.

The most powerful quality evoked by “A Hard Day’s Night” is liberation. The long hair was just the superficial sign of that. An underlying theme is the difficulty establishment types have in getting the Beatles to follow orders. (For “establishment,” read uptight conventional middle-class 1950s values.) Although their manager (Norman Rossington) tries to control them and their TV director (Victor Spinetti) goes berserk because of their improvisations during a live TV broadcast, they act according to the way they feel.

When Ringo grows thoughtful, he wanders away from the studio, and a recording session has to wait until he returns. When the boys are freed from their “job,” they run like children in an open field, and it is possible that scene (during “Can’t Buy Me Love”) snowballed into all the love-ins, be-ins and happenings in the park of the later ’60s. The notion of doing your own thing lurks within every scene.

When a film is strikingly original, its influence shapes so many others that you sometimes can’t see the newness in the first one. Godard’s jump cuts in “Breathless” (1960) turned up in every TV ad. Truffaut’s freeze frame at the end of “The 400 Blows” (1959) became a cliche. Richard Lester’s innovations in “A Hard Day’s Night” have become familiar; because the style, the subject and the stars are so suited to one another, the movie hasn’t become dated. It’s filled with the exhilaration of four musicians who were having fun and creating at the top of their form and knew it.”

— Roger Ebert, “Great Movie: A Hard Day’s Night”

The Mersey Beat

The Beatles retired as public performers in 1966; the touring became counterproductive to the greater goal of making music. As great and popular as the band’s early music is, most critics believe it is the second half of their career which yielded the greatest music. I agree to an extent; a quick perusal of my song ratings indicates I consider Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band the two best albums, with A Hard Day’s Night a close third. But there’s something special about the early records. Happy, uplifting dance music, with ringing guitars and bright harmonies from deep in the heart of England — the Mersey Beat. Producer George Martin proved to be the perfect collaborator; his expertise at producing different types of audio recordings served them beautifully through their career. Early Beatles records sound unlike anything else; the sound jumps off the CD grooves. John Lennon is especially strong in the early days, both as a singer and a rhythm guitarist. Songs like “All My Loving”, “And I Love Her” and “I’m Happy Just To Dance With You” still rank among the best examples of rhythm guitar playing in pop music.

As important as the Beatles were to me, I don’t remember seeing them on the Ed Sullivan Show.  I’m not sure why; even though I was only five years old, it seems I would remember. I’m not sure we watched. As I age, fewer early childhood details remain in the memory banks. I do know that the school year of 1963-4 was an important year. I entered first grade well ahead of the other kids, having already learned to read, write and do simple mathematics. I was deemed a “gifted” child, and after a few weeks, I was skipped into the second grade, though I was already one of the youngest children in my grade.  I had just turned six. Later that year, I developed chronic, severe ear problems.  The decision was made to have my tonsils and adenoids taken out. After surgery, I started to hemorrhage, and for a short time the doctors had some difficulty stopping the bleeding. I was in the hospital for a week or so, and then home for another week.  During the week at home, I completed over a hundred pages, about one-third of our second grade math exercise book, in one day, and finished the book in April. Those were the glory days; maybe it’s been all downhill since.

Growing up, I never felt fitting in with the other students was a problem.  I always felt accepted, though being the youngest kid in class by more than a year robbed me of some opportunities I otherwise might have had. I went on a couple dates, and made out with girls a few times here and there, but I was a year and a half younger than most of the girls, and never had a steady girlfriend until after high school. I was a late bloomer in sports, too; I made huge strides from a tiny fourteen year old sophomore playing pee wee basketball, to a skinny sixteen year old star guard just beginning to develop his speed and strength. After high school, I took a year off from school before advancing to college.  I wanted to keep playing basketball, and when I arrived at school, I quickly fell in love for the first time.  Even the lovely Andrea was ten months older. Occasionally I question the wisdom of my parents, allowing me to skip first grade. I never got to be the big star in high school, the big man on campus, which was a real possibility had I stayed put. Did I lose confidence in the process? Or did the transition to competing with older students push me to greater levels of achievement? In both cases, the answer is probably yes.

The Stay At Home Beatles

The Beatles transitioned from their backbreaking schedule of touring and performing, fueled by alcohol, cigarettes and amphetamines, to a life of fame and privilege. A great deal of energy was still devoted to music and recording. They became seekers of greater truths and knowledge, and started to use mind-altering drugs. Beatles For Sale and Help! were created in a haze of marijuana smoke, and the use of LSD informs much of their subsequent work. In particular, John was enamored with LSD and became somewhat dependent on its mind-expanding properties. His overindulgence made him less energetic as their career progressed, and a gradual transition took place in which Paul became the more productive and impressive contributor. John was always my favorite Beatle growing up, through college and into adulthood, but today I slightly prefer Paul’s overall contribution. This does not suggest that John’s later work is substandard; songs like “Revolution” and “Don’t Bring Me Down” are among his best songs. Their camaraderie was largely based on a fierce and competitive rivalry. Paul was a hard worker, who developed into a virtuoso bassist, which is evident starting with the “Paperback Writer b/w Rain” single from 1966.  He was a competent drummer and guitarist as well, and his domineering desire to produce and excel was sometimes off-putting to his band mates.  Both John and George were a little more laid back, and a more focused on performing as a four piece band.

So far, little has been said about George and Ringo.  Both played key roles in helping the Beatles be the greatest band of their era.  George had a knack for inventive, short guitar solos, and his songwriting ability improved with age. By the time the band folded in 1970, he was a major contributor, and his song “Something” is considered by many the top song of Abbey Road. His subservient role within the band, given one or sometimes two songs per album, gnawed at him.  After the Beatles disbanded, he received critical acclaim for his album All Things Must Pass. Ringo was the quintessential support drummer, providing a syncopated beat without fanfare. He disliked the concept of soloing, and with the exception of passages in “Birthday” and “The End”, was never featured in the foreground. Though never considered a great drummer, Ringo gave the band exactly what they needed, musically and emotionally. In any great team, there is synergy among the players.  Each player must complement the others.  George and Ringo excelled at complementing the two dominant singer/songwriters.

The Love You Make

To prepare for this profile, I read “The Love You Make: An Insider’s Story Of The Beatles”, by Peter Brown and Steven Gaines. I inherited this book from my mother, who bought it in 1983 when it was released. Peter Brown was part of the Beatles’ inner circle.  He was an assistant and confidant to Brian Epstein, a friend to all four Beatles, and helped direct the band’s business affairs for several years. The book is still considered the best inside look at the personal lives of the band, but it has a tabloid quality that some surviving members considered a betrayal of trust, and Brown alienated himself by publishing it.

Amazon.com Link to “The Love You Make”, by Peter Brown and Steven Gaines

Brown and Gaines capture the happiness and excitement of the band as their popularity grows into massive stardom, but overall the story is quite depressing.  There are stories of greedy businessmen and the signing of bad contracts.  There are opportunistic charaltans, too; everybody wants a piece of the Beatles, and the naive young men, including Brian Epstein, allow much of it to happen. The Beatles engage in heavy drug and alcohol use, promiscuity, and ostentatious displays of wealth, spending beyond their means. Like many poor boys before them who got rich, they reaped the benefits and paid the heavy price for the trappings of success. Given the details shared in the book, it’s a wonder they maintained such a pleasant public image. But that was fifty years ago, when the papers tended to give major celebrities a bit more latitude. This is not to suggest that anyone in the band’s inner circle is guilty of bad intent.  As their wealth and power grew, jealousy, ambition and ultimately romantic love pulled the band apart only nine years after Ringo joined the band.

Brian Epstein’s demise is particularly painful. He is portrayed as a tortured young man, with the dual curse of being both Jewish and homosexual, well before homosexuality was even marginally acceptable. He seeks out companionship in anonymous and masochistic ways, and when introduced to amphetamines by the band, he becomes hooked, and starts to use barbiturates to sleep at night. That combination often proves to be deadly.  Epstein died peacefully in his bedroom on August 27th, 1967; he was thirty-three years old. Although the band never fully accepted Epstein, being a member of upper class society, his death caused their business affairs to spiral into chaos for some time.

The final chapter of the book describes John Lennon’s assassination in considerable detail. It gives some background of the assassin Mark David Chapman and how he planned the murder. There are descriptions of the two meetings between Chapman and the Lennons: at 5:00 PM, John signed his new Double Fantasy album for the deranged fan, and at 10:50 PM Chapman shot Lennon five times, witnessed by his wife Yoko Ono, in front of their apartment building in New York City. The day was December 8th, 1980. My girlfriend Andrea turned twenty-three that day, and I was playing a college basketball game against Cal State University – Bakersfield when it happened.

Three days later, I had one of my most triumphant moments as a basketball player.  We traveled to Palo Alto, my hometown, where we played against Stanford University. I was a starting guard, a senior in college, and one of the team captains.  The Stanford “Marching” Band played a sad, beautiful rendition of “Yesterday” during the warmup period. Our team played well, we took an early lead, but our smaller team of non-scholarship players finally succumbed to the big university in a close game.  The score was 68-62.

I worked hard to win the starting position on the team that year, and for the first time in my life, stayed completely free of drugs and alcohol during the fall quarter leading up to basketball season.  I was in great shape, and playing the best basketball of my life.  But during the successful first weekend of the season, I allowed myself to have a few beers with my teammates afterwards. Things were still going satisfactory the day we nearly beat Stanford, but on December 26th, during the lonely winter break, I stayed up all night with acquaintances, high on whiskey and cocaine, and the following night I was tired and sluggish for an important game.  I played terribly, and missed a key free throw late in the game. Five days later, two hours into 1981, at a teammate’s New Year’s party, I drunkenly snuggled up to the family’s guard dog, and the dog bit me in the face. I was taken to the hospital and required more than twenty stitches to close the wounds. After that, I was lost.  I fell out of shape recovering from the wounds, and never regained a significant period of sobriety until years later. My poor father stopped keeping the scrapbook he so lovingly put together for years. I didn’t get to play as much, and only had one good game afterwards; while playing in San Luis Obispo, I turned to my father watching in the stands, pointed to him and yelled, “This is for you.” It was my first major mistake in life, and perhaps the biggest one. I’m not sure my parents ever trusted me after that; the coaches most certainly did not. In hindsight I’ve come to believe that these mistakes in life begin to add up, and sap a person’s self-confidence. If ever given a chance to speak to a young student-athlete about drugs, this is the story I would tell. Don’t make the first big mistake.

Did John Lennon’s death had anything to do with my fall from grace that winter?  Why did I sabotage my own success? John Lennon was still my favorite musician at the time, and his senseless killing was so very sad. But I can’t argue that was a catalyst for my downfall. I was young and naive, and though I was just beginning to understand that cocaine and alcohol were horrible for me, I didn’t know that I wasn’t able to stop when I needed to prioritize my own goals and accomplishments.  Sometimes I chose that physical sensation of pleasure at the exact wrong time.

Gratitude

It seems the Beatles have become passé — I often steer conversations to popular music, and rare is the occasion when somebody else mentions the Beatles. People cite bands like the Rolling Stones, or Led Zeppelin, or Pink Floyd as a favorite far more often than the Beatles. Maybe the Mersey Beat is too sweet and earnest a sound to endorse.  Everybody likes what sounds rough and cool; never mind the Beatles came from tougher circumstances than most others. The world is a harder and less optimistic place than it was fifty years ago. The Beatles are still, and always will be, the greatest rock and roll band of all-time, by a considerable margin. The question is whether they are the greatest pop musicians of the 20th century. Based on my five years of study, I’d suggest that Louis Armstrong is the most influential musician, Duke Ellington the greatest bandleader, with Lennon/McCartney and Bob Dylan as the greatest songwriters. Dylan is a story teller from the folk tradition, brilliant stories with simple melodies and chord structures.  Beatles songs echo the traditions of pop standards, with less elaborate stories bolstered by clever melodies and chord changes. Dylan is hard to characterize; his contribution is far removed from the mainstream of popular music. Both Dylan and the Beatles benefited from living at the right time; the Western world experienced a renaissance of ideas in the sixties. Before the Beatles, there weren’t any songs on the radio about the Tibetan Book of the Dead (“Tomorrow Never Knows”) or singing about the neglected concerns and fates of the elderly (“Eleanor Rigby”).

I’m grateful to have lived when I did.  To have the Beatles come along when you’re five years old, singing clear and beautifully about love.  Producer George Martin’s now primitive recording equipment retains the human essence of the performances. That they were able to create the various sound effects featured on their recordings is a testament to hard work and ingenuity. I arrived before the business of music started to homogenize popular music in earnest. The human imperfection of great music can still be found today, but rarely will it be found on your corporate radio station. There was huge social upheaval in the world fifty years ago; the civil rights movement was in full swing, and the people of the United States would soon question the wisdom of fighting communism in southeast Asia. Looking back, it still seems the world was a far happier and more optimistic place than it is today. Maybe I was just a happy kid growing up in a nice town.

I’m grateful for having completed the first draft of my music project. I’m going to add a few more artists, and over the next year or so I’ll edit the earlier entries to reflect the improvements I’ve made.  It feels great to finish.

I’ve made lots of mistakes, though I always had the best intentions. My conscience is clear in that regard. I was fifty years old when I started the “big countdown”.  Now I’m fifty-five, and if I’m lucky, I’ll get to enjoy another twenty. More than anything, I want twenty more years to enjoy life and see what unfolds. I’m sure I’ll get many things right moving forward, and I’ll keep refining the iPod collection.

“All these places had their moments,
With lovers and friends,
I still can recall.
Some are dead and some are living,
In my life I’ve loved them all.”

—  John Lennon and Paul McCartney

Beatles Song Notes:

1. On April 4th, 1964, the Beatles held the top five positions on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart, by far the greatest dominance of the pop music business ever witnessed.

2. Two songs stand out as underrated. When asked about “I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party”, John Lennon was brief, saying that it was a very personal song.  I imagine it had something to do with his relationship with his first wife Cynthia. The song has a country and western sound, as did many of their songs in that era.  The other great underrated song is “She’s Leaving Home” from Sgt. Pepper’s.  Not strictly a Beatles performance, Paul provided most of the words and melody, and John helps out with the vocals and a few connecting phrases. The song was recorded with a string choir, and is among the greatest Beatles compositions. Composer Ned Rorem described “She’s Leaving Home” as “equal to any song that Schubert ever wrote.”

3. After the Beatles disbanded, John Lennon offered opinions on many of their songs.  The opinion I disagree with most is his dismissal of “And Your Bird Can Sing” as a “throwaway”.  While I appreciate the double entendre of “you don’t get me”, the highlight is the music, with Paul, George and Ringo making rather complex contributions to an otherwise simple song. One of the last examples of just the Fab Four playing an upbeat, two minute song.

4.  The sweetness of the Beatles’ early music belies the toughness of their upbringing.  All of them grew up in lower middle class neighborhoods, except for Ringo, whose family was very poor. John was the only one who typically had spending money.  They were really tough kids, and not averse to the occasional scuffle. Late at night, during a party to celebrate Paul’s twenty-first birthday, John flew into a drunken rage and attacked Bob Woller, a local disk jockey, breaking three of his ribs and sending him to the hospital, after Woller suggested Lennon and Brian Epstein were queer.¹

Beatles Songs:

Please Please Me

I Saw Her Standing There, The Beatles ★★★★
Misery, The Beatles ★★
Anna (Go To Him), The Beatles ★★★
Chains, The Beatles
Boys, The Beatles
Ask Me Why, The Beatles
Please Please Me, The Beatles ★★★
Love Me Do, The Beatles
P.S. I Love You, The Beatles
Baby It’s You, The Beatles ★★
Do You Want To Know A Secret, The Beatles ★★★
A Taste Of Honey, The Beatles ★★
There’s A Place, The Beatles ★★★
Twist And Shout, The Beatles ★★★

Note: Monaural versions of “I Saw Her Standing There”, Chains”, “Ask Me Why” and “Please Please Me” are also included in the collection.

With The Beatles

It Won’t Be Long, The Beatles
All I’ve Got To Do, The Beatles ★★
All My Loving, The Beatles ★★★★★
Don’t Bother Me, The Beatles ★★
Till There Was You, The Beatles ★★★
Roll Over Beethoven, The Beatles ★★★★
You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me, The Beatles ★★
I Wanna Be Your Man, The Beatles
Devil In Her Heart, The Beatles
Money (That’s What I Want), The Beatles

Note: Monaural versions of “All My Loving”, Till There Was You”, “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Money (That’s What I Want) are also included in the collection.

The Beatles’ Second Album

Devil In Her Heart (Mono), The Beatles
I Call Your Name (Mono), The Beatles ★★★

A Hard Day’s Night

A Hard Day’s Night, The Beatles ★★
I Should Have Known Better, The Beatles ★★
If I Fell, The Beatles ★★★★
I’m Happy Just To Dance With You, The Beatles ★★★★
And I Love Her, The Beatles ★★★★
Tell Me Why, The Beatles
Can’t Buy Me Love, The Beatles ★★★★
Any Time At All, The Beatles
I’ll Cry Instead, The Beatles ★★
Things We Said Today, The Beatles
You Can’t Do That, The Beatles ★★★
I’ll Be Back, The Beatles

Note: Monaural versions of “If I Fell”, “I’m Happy Just To Dance With You” and “Can’t Buy Me Love”” are also included in the collection.

A Hard Day’s Night – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

I’ll Cry Instead (Alt), The Beatles ★★

Beatles For Sale

No Reply, The Beatles
I’m A Loser, The Beatles ★★★
Baby’s In Black, The Beatles
Rock And Roll Music, The Beatles ★★
I’ll Follow The Sun, The Beatles ★★
Mr. Moonlight, The Beatles
Kansas City/Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!, The Beatles
Words Of Love, The Beatles
Honey Don’t, The Beatles ★★
Every Little Thing, The Beatles ★★
I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party, The Beatles ★★★★
What You’re Doing, The Beatles
Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby, The Beatles

Help!

Help!, The Beatles ★★★
The Night Before, The Beatles ★★★
You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away, The Beatles ★★★
I Need You, The Beatles
Another Girl, The Beatles ★★
You’re Going To Lose That Girl, The Beatles ★★★
Ticket To Ride, The Beatles ★★★★
Act Naturally, The Beatles ★★
You Like Me Too Much, The Beatles
I’ve Just Seen A Face, The Beatles ★★
Yesterday, The Beatles ★★★★

Rubber Soul

Drive My Car, The Beatles ★★
Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown), The Beatles ★★★
You Won’t See Me, The Beatles ★★★
Nowhere Man, The Beatles ★★★★★
Think For Yourself, The Beatles
The Word, The Beatles ★★
Michelle, The Beatles ★★★
Girl, The Beatles
I’m Looking Through You, The Beatles ★★
In My Life, The Beatles ★★★
If I Needed Someone, The Beatles ★★

Revolver

Taxman, The Beatles ★★★
Eleanor Rigby, The Beatles ★★
I’m Only Sleeping, The Beatles ★★★
Love You To, The Beatles ★★
Here, There And Everywhere, The Beatles ★★★★★
Yellow Submarine, The Beatles ★★
She Said She Said, The Beatles ★★★
Good Day Sunshine, The Beatles ★★
And Your Bird Can Sing, The Beatles ★★★★
For No One, The Beatles ★★
Doctor Robert, The Beatles
I Want To Tell You, The Beatles
Got To Get You Into My Life, The Beatles ★★★★★
Tomorrow Never Knows, The Beatles ★★★★

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles ★★
With A Little Help From My Friends, The Beatles ★★★★★
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, The Beatles ★★★★
Getting Better, The Beatles ★★★
Fixing A Hole, The Beatles ★★
She’s Leaving Home, The Beatles ★★★★
For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite, The Beatles
Within You Without You, The Beatles ★★★
When I’m Sixty-Four, The Beatles ★★
Lovely Rita, The Beatles
Good Morning Good Morning, The Beatles
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise), The Beatles
A Day In The Life, The Beatles ★★★★

Magical Mystery Tour

The Fool On The Hill, The Beatles ★★
Flying, The Beatles
Your Mother Should Know, The Beatles
I Am The Walrus, The Beatles ★★★
Hello, Goodbye, The Beatles
Strawberry Fields Forever, The Beatles ★★★
Penny Lane, The Beatles ★★★
Baby, You’re A Rich Man, The Beatles
All You Need Is Love, The Beatles ★★★

The Beatles (White Album)

Back In The U.S.S.R., The Beatles ★★
Dear Prudence, The Beatles ★★
Glass Onion, The Beatles
Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da, The Beatles ★★
The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill, The Beatles
While My Guitar Gently Weeps, The Beatles ★★★★
Happiness Is A Warm Gun, The Beatles ★★
Martha My Dear, The Beatles ★★★
I’m So Tired, The Beatles ★★★
Blackbird, The Beatles ★★★★
Piggies, The Beatles
Don’t Pass Me By, The Beatles
Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?, The Beatles
I Will, The Beatles ★★★
Julia, The Beatles ★★★★
Birthday, The Beatles ★★
Yer Blues, The Beatles ★★
Mother Nature’s Son, The Beatles ★★★
Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey, The Beatles ★★
Sexy Sadie, The Beatles
Helter Skelter, The Beatles ★★
Long, Long, Long, The Beatles
Revolution 1, The Beatles ★★★★
Honey Pie, The Beatles
Cry Baby Cry, The Beatles
Good Night, The Beatles ★★

Yellow Submarine

It’s All Too Much, The Beatles
All Together Now, The Beatles
Hey Bulldog, The Beatles ★★

Abbey Road

Come Together, The Beatles ★★★
Something, The Beatles ★★★
Oh! Darling, The Beatles
Octopus’s Garden, The Beatles
I Want You (She’s So Heavy), The Beatles
Here Comes The Sun, The Beatles ★★
Because, The Beatles ★★
You Never Give Me Your Money, The Beatles ★★★
Sun King, The Beatles ★★
Mean Mr. Mustard, The Beatles
Polythene Pam, The Beatles
She Came In Through The Bathroom Window, The Beatles ★★
Golden Slumbers, The Beatles ★★★
Carry That Weight, The Beatles ★★★
The End, The Beatles ★★★
Her Majesty, The Beatles

Let It Be

Two Of Us, The Beatles ★★★
I Me Mine, The Beatles
Dig It, The Beatles
Let It Be, The Beatles ★★★
I’ve Got A Feeling, The Beatles
One After 909, The Beatles
For You Blue, The Beatles
Get Back (Alt), The Beatles ★★

Let It Be… Naked

Across The Universe (Alt), The Beatles ★★

Past Masters, Volumes 1 & 2

From Me To You, The Beatles ★★
Thank You Girl, The Beatles
She Loves You, The Beatles ★★★★★
I’ll Get You, The Beatles
I Want To Hold Your Hand, The Beatles ★★
This Boy, The Beatles ★★★
Sie Liebt Dich, The Beatles
Long Tall Sally, The Beatles
I Call Your Name, The Beatles ★★★
Slow Down, The Beatles
Matchbox, The Beatles
I Feel Fine, The Beatles ★★★★
She’s A Woman, The Beatles
Yes It Is, The Beatles ★★
I’m Down, The Beatles ★★★
Day Tripper, The Beatles ★★★
We Can Work It Out, The Beatles ★★
Paperback Writer, The Beatles ★★★
Rain, The Beatles ★★★
Lady Madonna, The Beatles
The Inner Light, The Beatles ★★
Hey Jude, The Beatles ★★★
Revolution, The Beatles ★★★★
Get Back, The Beatles ★★
Don’t Let Me Down, The Beatles ★★★★
The Ballad Of John And Yoko, The Beatles ★★★
Old Brown Shoe, The Beatles
Across The Universe, The Beatles ★★★
Let It Be (Single), The Beatles ★★★
You Know My Name (Look Up The Number), The Beatles

Note: The monaural version of “From Me To You” from an older version of Past Masters, Volume 1 is included in the collection.

Unsurpassed Masters

Volume 1
There’s A Place (Take 5-6), The Beatles ★★★
I Saw Her Standing There (Take 6-9), The Beatles ★★★
A Taste Of Honey (Take 6, Track 2), The Beatles
From Me To You (Take 1-2), The Beatles

Volume 3
All You Need Is Love (Alt), The Beatles ★★
Flying (Alt), The Beatles

Volume 4
Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey (Alt), The Beatles ★★

Volume 5
You Never Give Me Your Money (Alt), The Beatles
Let It Be (Take 27), The Beatles ★★★

Volume 6
Thank You Girl (Take 1), The Beatles

Volume 7
Do You Want To Know A Secret (Take 7), The Beatles ★★
Misery (Take 1), The Beatles
One After 909 (Alt), The Beatles
Can’t Buy Me Love (Take 2-3), The Beatles ★★★★
Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da, The Beatles

Live At The BBC

I’ll Be On My Way (Live), The Beatles
Thank You Girl (Live), The Beatles
That’s All Right (Live), The Beatles ★★★
Carol (Live), The Beatles
Soldier Of Love (Live), The Beatles ★★★
Crying Waiting, Hoping (Live), The Beatles ★★
You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me (Live), The Beatles ★★
To Know Her Is To Love Her (Live), The Beatles
A Taste Of Honey (Live), The Beatles ★★
Memphis, Tennessee (Live), The Beatles ★★
Can’t Buy Me Love (Live), The Beatles ★★★
Till There Was You (Live), The Beatles ★★★
Roll Over Beethoven (Live), The Beatles ★★
All My Loving (Live), The Beatles ★★
Sweet Little Sixteen (Live), The Beatles
Lonesome Tears In My Eyes (Live), The Beatles
Nothin’ Shakin’ (But The Leaves On The Trees) (Live), The Beatles
I Just Don’t Understand (Live), The Beatles
I Feel Fine (Live), The Beatles ★★
I’m A Loser (Live), The Beatles ★★★★
Ticket To Ride (Live), The Beatles ★★
I Got To Find My Baby (Live), The Beatles

On Air: Live At The BBC, Volume 2

I Want To Hold Your Hand (Live), The Beatles
If I Fell (Live), The Beatles ★★
And I Love Her (Live), The Beatles ★★
This Boy (Live), The Beatles

The Anthology Series

Volume 1
Ain’t She Sweet, The Beatles
Cry For A Shadow, The Beatles
Three Cool Cats, The Beatles
Please Please Me (Alt), The Beatles
I’ll Get You (Live), The Beatles
I Saw Her Standing There (Live), The Beatles ★★
From Me To You (Live), The Beatles
Money (That’s What I Want) (Live), The Beatles
She Loves You (Live), The Beatles ★★★
Twist And Shout (Live), The Beatles ★★
All My Loving (Live), The Beatles ★★
You Can’t Do That (Alt), The Beatles ★★
I Wanna Be Your Man (Alt), The Beatles
Long Tall Sally (Alt), The Beatles
Kansas City/Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!, The Beatles

Volume 2
Yesterday (Alt), The Beatles ★★
Yesterday (Live), The Beatles
Help! (Live), The Beatles ★★
I’m Looking Through You (Alt), The Beatles ★★★

Volume 3
Honey Pie (Alt), The Beatles
Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da, The Beatles
Good Night (Alt), The Beatles ★★
Cry Baby Cry (Alt), The Beatles
Sexy Sadie (Alt), The Beatles
While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Alt), The Beatles ★★
Mother Nature’s Son (Alt), The Beatles ★★
I’m So Tired (Alt), The Beatles ★★
I Will (Alt), The Beatles
Two Of Us (Alt), The Beatles ★★★
The Long And Winding Road (Alt), The Beatles ★★
All Things Must Pass, The Beatles ★★
Come Together (Take 1), The Beatles ★★
Come And Get It, The Beatles
Oh! Darling (Alt), The Beatles
Octopus’s Garden (Alt), The Beatles

The Artifacts Series

The Early Years
Don’t Bother Me (Take 10), The Beatles

Beatlemania
I’m Down (Live), The Beatles

Inner Revolution
Across The Universe (Take 2), The Beatles ★★
While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Take 1), The Beatles ★★★
Goodbye (Demo), The Beatles

Get Back To Abbey Road
Her Majesty (Take 3), The Beatles

Youngblood
There’s A Place (Take 1), The Beatles ★★★
Dream Baby (Live), The Beatles

Ticket To Ride
1965: The Beatles Third Christmas Record, The Beatles

Alone Together
Blackbird (Take 32), The Beatles ★★★
Dear Prudence (Alt), The Beatles
Helter Skelter (Mono), The Beatles
Julia (Alt), The Beatles ★★

The Longest Road
Don’t Let Me Down (Alt), The Beatles ★★★★

Baby It’s You (CD Single)

Baby It’s You (Live), The Beatles ★★★
I’ll Follow The Sun (Live), The Beatles ★★★
Devil In Her Heart (Live), The Beatles

Free As A Bird (CD Single)

This Boy (Takes 12-13), The Beatles ★★★

The Beatles – Rare Masters

All My Loving (Alt), The Beatles ★★★★★
And I Love Her (Alt), The Beatles ★★★★
I Should Have Known Better (Alt), The Beatles ★★
I’m Only Sleeping (Alt), The Beatles ★★★
Penny Lane (Alt), The Beatles ★★

Related Songs:

Anna (Go To Him), Arthur Alexander ★★★

Chains, The Cookies ★★★

Boys, The Shirelles ★★

Baby It’s You, The Shirelles ★★★
Baby It’s You, Smith ★★

A Taste Of Honey, Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass ★★★

Twist And Shout, The Isley Brothers ★★★

Roll Over Beethoven, Chuck Berry ★★★★★
Roll Over Beethoven, Electric Light Orchestra
Roll Over Beethoven (Live), The Rolling Stones

You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me, The Miracles ★★★★

I Wanna Be Your Man, The Rolling Stones
I Wanna Be Your Man, The Smithereens ★★

Devil In Her Heart, The Donays

Money (That’s What I Want), Barrett Strong ★★★

And I Love Him, Esther Phillips ★★

Rock And Roll Music, Chuck Berry ★★★

Mr. Moonlight, Dr. Feelgood & The Interns ★★★

Kansas City/Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!, Little Richard ★★
Kansas City (Alt), Little Richard ★★
Kansas City (Live), James Brown ★★
Kansas City, Albert King ★★★
Kansas City, Wilbert Harrison ★★★★

Long Tall Sally, Little Richard ★★★
Long Tall Sally (Alt), Little Richard ★★

Words Of Love, Buddy Holly & The Crickets ★★

Honey Don’t, Carl Perkins ★★★★
Honey Don’t (Alt), Carl Perkins ★★

I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party, Rosanne Cash ★★

Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby, Carl Perkins ★★

Act Naturally, Buck Owens ★★★★

Slow Down, Larry Williams

Matchbox, Carl Perkins ★★★★
Matchbox (Alt), Carl Perkins ★★★★
Match Box Blues, Blind Lemon Jefferson ★★

We Can Work It Out, Stevie Wonder

Hey Jude, Wilson Pickett ★★★★

Got To Get You Into My Life, Earth, Wind & Fire ★★★

With A Little Help From My Friends, Joe Cocker ★★★★
With A Little Help From My Friends (Live), Joe Cocker ★★

Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, Elton John
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, William Shatner

A Day In The Life (Live), Jeff Beck ★★

I Will, Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★

Here Comes The Sun, Richie Havens

That’s All Right, Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup ★★★
That’s All Right, Elvis Presley ★★★★

Carol, Chuck Berry ★★
Carol (Live), The Rolling Stones

Soldier Of Love, Arthur Alexander ★★

Crying, Waiting, Hoping, Buddy Holly ★★★
Crying, Waiting, Hoping (Alt), Buddy Holly ★★

Memphis, Tennessee, Chuck Berry ★★★★
Memphis, Tennessee, Lonnie Mack ★★★★★
Memphis, Tennessee, Johnny Rivers ★★★★
Memphis, Tennessee, Elvis Presley
Memphis, Tennessee (Live), The Rolling Stones

Sweet Little Sixteen, Chuck Berry ★★★★
Sweet Little Sixteen (Alt), Chuck Berry ★★★

Lonesome Tears In My Eyes, Johnny Burnette & The Rock ‘n’ Roll Trio
Lonesome Tears In My Eyes, Los Lobos ★★

Nothin’ Shakin’ (But The Leaves On The Trees), Eddie Fontaine ★★★

I Just Don’t Understand, Ann-Margeret ★★

Three Cool Cats, The Coasters ★★★★
Three Cool Cats (Take 11-12), The Coasters ★★★★

Ain’t She Sweet, Gene Austin & Nat Shilkret & His Orchestra

¹ Excerpt from “The Love You Make”, by Peter Brown and Steven Gaines

4. Los Lobos

Los Lobos is just another band from East Los Angeles, California. The original quartet all attended the same high school; Louie Pérez and David Hidalgo were in the same graduating class at Garfield High School, and bonded over a mutual interest in lesser known musical artists such as Ry Cooder and Randy Newman. Conrad Lozano and Cesar Rosas were already a year or two out of school, and playing in local bands. Like most aspiring young American musicians, they listened to the diverse sounds of the late sixties and early seventies, perhaps the peak era for creativity and growth for guitar-based popular music. British greats The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, soul musicians James Brown and Sly & The Family Stone, and guitar virtuosos Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix were among the influential artists of the era. For young men growing up in the Chicano neighborhoods of East Los Angeles, local stars Ritchie Valens and Thee Midniters served as inspiration, in a town with a rich musical heritage. Though they played modern music in their own bands, the four young men who would become Los Lobos forged their long partnership by learning traditional Mexican folk music together.

los-lobos

Conrad Lozano (b. 1951), bass, guitarron, vocals
David K. Hidalgo (b. 1954), guitar, accordion, vocals, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist
Cesar Rosas (b. 1954), guitar, bajo sexto, vocals, songwriter
Steve Berlin (b. 1955), saxophone, keyboards
Louis Pérez (b. 1953), guitar, jarana, percussion, vocals, songwriter

Three drummers who have contributed to the band are:

Enrique “Bugs” Gonzalez, drums, percussion
Cougar Estrada, drums, percussion
Victor Bisetti, drums, percussion

Los Lobos on Wikipedia
Official Los Lobos Website
Los Lobos Tour Dates & Setlists 1983-Present (Unofficial)

The band spent many hours at Cesar’s house, listening to his mother’s record collection for study, and learning the intricacies of this complex music. The band began to perform at local social functions in 1973:

After lots of living room rehearsals they played at that Florence tardeada/tamalada. The response was amazing and overwhelming for both the audience and the guys. Here were five hippie-looking Chicanos playing for an audience that ranged from teenagers to gray-haired abuelitas. The grandmothers were amazed. Tears welled up in their eyes to hear the music of their heart being played by these youngsters. It was a sign that the musical legacy of Mexico would be perpetuated, albeit with a new, creative, universally appealing twist. Dave recalls, “At that point, we knew we had hit on something.”¹

In its early inception, the fifth band member was Francisco Gonzalez, a gifted harp and mandolin player. In this 1975 documentary video, Gonzalez has a dominant role as lead singer and band spokesperson. The highlights are the introduction, where Gonzalez explains the band’s motivation for learning the traditional songs, and the performance of “Sabor A Mí” at about 10:30 into the documentary.

Small “p” Politics

In 1976, Los Lobos del Este de Los Angeles was recruited to provide the music for Sí Se Puede, a charity album for the United Farm Workers of America. In 1978, they produced their eponymous first album, which sold a limited number of copies. By then, Francisco Gonzalez had left the group. In the future, he would serve as the musical director for El Teatro Campesino, a theatrical troupe that served as the cultural arm of the United Farm Workers, and a teacher of son jarocho, a musical style from the Mexican state of Veracruz.

Little has been written about Los Lobos; to date, no comprehensive biography exists. However, the band’s role in the growing Chicano movement of the sixties and seventies was analyzed in Stevan Cesar Azcona’s book Movements in Chicano Music: Performing Culture, Performing Politics, 1965-1979. Azcona concludes that Los Lobos, who spoke English as a first language, wore beards, and dressed in American working clothes for gigs, used musical excellence rather than overt protest as a political statement:

I submit that it was the particular musicality of the Lobos, within the traditional styles of son and huapango, which excited audiences. The technical musical proficiency of the group as instrumentalists, coupled with the improvisational aspect of the son jarocho, in the words of Loza, “affected not only the performance of the son jarocho, but also the manner in which it was heard and evaluated by Chicanos.”²

The Lobos Go West (Of The River)

Los Lobos spent several years performing folk music in East Los Angeles and surrounding cities. But they hadn’t lost interest in electric guitars and rocking music. Pop music had experienced a period of relative stagnation, but the late seventies brought a wave of new bands reverting to simpler forms of rock and roll music, with shorter songs and often rudimentary musicianship. Some bands displayed their societal disaffection with anger and violent behavior. The punk rock movement was growing, and Los Angeles was a hotbed for this new direction in pop music.

The band experimented with electrified instruments at gigs, and took note of the burgeoning punk scene in Hollywood and Los Angeles. They attended concerts and befriended members of the local bands The Plugz and The Blasters. The quartet reorganized for electric music, with Louie Pérez moving to drums and Dave Hidalgo learning accordion in addition to his guitar expertise. They developed a new repertoire of music, Tex-Mex polkas and straight ahead rock and roll songs, while maintaining their Mexican-American roots and sensibilities. In January, 1981, they received their “big break” opening for The Blasters at the Whisky-A-Go-Go in Hollywood. They became a fixture on the punk rock scene, and eventually signed a contract with Slash Records, a subsidiary of Warner Brothers. In 1983, they released …and a Time to Dance, their first major label record. The short, seven song EP sold modestly, but enabled the band to begin touring nationally to develop a larger audience.

Here is the band performing in 1984, the subject of its second short documentary in a decade. Steve Berlin, who previously played saxophone in the Blasters, has been added to complete the quintet which has remained intact for thirty years.

Who Is That?

For the first seven years after college, I lived in an old apartment in East Palo Alto, on Woodland Avenue just across San Francisquito Creek from Palo Alto proper. It was a third story apartment with a balcony, and you entered from a central hallway. My next door neighbor Keith and I worked for the same company, and we became loingtime friends after spending three years living across from one another. For a year or so, Keith had a roommate, Mike Murphy, who would come home periodically with a few record albums. One evening, with the doors open between the apartments, Mike played some music which got my attention immediately. It was either “Serenata Norteña” or “Evangeline”.

“Mike, what is that?”, I demanded.
“That’s Los Lobos. You’ve never heard Los Lobos before?”
“No.”

And that was that; I went in to their room, listened carefully for the next 10-15 minutes, and have been in love with the band ever since. I bought a copy of their new album, How Will The Wolf Survive?, plus their first EP as soon as I could find it. I went to my first Los Lobos concert with Mike Murphy later that year, at the old Keystone in south Palo Alto. Thanks to the Internet, the date must have been June 1st, 1985. We were in the middle of the small, packed dance floor bouncing around, just a few feet from the band. I remember the impassive look on Dave Hidalgo’s face as the audience reveled. I also remember Murphy being appalled when I spent something like twenty bucks for a six pack of Michelob beer, only to give four of the beers away when I returned to the fray.

Since then I’ve seen the band perhaps fifteen to twenty times. They always perform at a high level, but like every band some concerts are better than others. At a San Jose Cinco De Mayo celebration in 1990, salsa great Willie Colón opened for Los Lobos and played for three hours, in what appeared to be an act of sour grapes for not headlining. Later that year, we took Cheryl’s youngest daughter to her first rock concert, at the Paul Masson Winery in Saratoga. One of the great concerts was in May 2004, at the tiny Catalyst club in downtown Santa Cruz. It was right after they released their album The Ride to commemorate thirty years together as a band. I drove down from Portland, listening to The Ride a couple times to familiarize myself with the new songs. My old neighbor Keith joined me for dinner and the concert. By then the band had added a dedicated percussionist, with Louie Pérez moving back to the front of the stage as a third guitarist. It was loud in there, and we were blazed, and the songs from the new album came alive. Then there was a 2010 concert at an old theater in Ventura, California with an old college friend which didn’t go well. The acoustics were awful, and before the concert started I witnessed this great big guy lift a much smaller man up by his neck and hold him helplessly against the wall for a good thirty seconds before letting him go. It’s scary to see violence like that close up. Finally, in July of 2011 my wife and I saw Los Lobos at the Portland Zoo. There wasn’t any room to sit down when we got there, so we opted to stand right in front of the stage. The band was on and sounding great. In the middle of the concert, a very tall, athletic woman and her boyfriend moved up to the little dance area, right in front of Cheryl, not only obscuring her view, but also occasionally bumping into her while we all danced in place. She was really pissed. For a moment I thought they were going to go! That girl was big and strong; I don’t know if that would have been a good idea.

America’s Greatest Band

With about one hundred and sixty songs, Los Lobos retains their position as having the third most songs in my music collection. They remain in my top five with four titans of popular music. What an interesting subject to write about! Evaluating bands quantitatively, by the number and quality of songs, makes perfect sense to me. I don’t understand how some bands with just a few good songs receive the type of recognition that has eluded Los Lobos. So why do I love Los Lobos so much?

On the “Introduction” page of the blog I have a list of general criteria for evaluating music. I wrote a rough draft six years ago, and the review of Los Lobos prompted me to take a second look at this section. The Introduction page has been edited and updated.

A. Clear, Understandable Singing: Call me old fashioned, but I like the style of singing where the lyrics can be easily understood. I like plain, controlled singers, and don’t care for singers who sustain notes unnecessarily. Overly emotive singing has the opposite effect; songs lose their emotional impact. Frank Sinatra and Ray Charles are examples of good singers who don’t wail and sing effectively.

B. Musical Virtuosity: Perhaps more than anything I admire skillful musicianship. Though I lack a formal musical education, I’ve listened for a long time, and believe I can tell who can play. Skillful musicians often play with restraint; it’s not always about being the center of attention. Great musicians and great bands play fast or slow, in different keys and different rhythms, and use their instruments to convey a variety of emotions.

C. Swing It and Move Me: Even as simple as bobbing your head back and forth, music that moves the body is the greatest kind. Dance is the timeless mating ritual, where two people express themselves physically. Some songs are too fast or slow for dance; at any speed I’m looking for songs that move the mind.

D. Different Rhythms, Different Sounds: In recent years, popular music seems to have strayed from the use of complex, danceable rhythms, choosing to play it safe with a 4/4 tempo with the emphasis on the 2nd and 4th beat. This would limit both the creativity of the dance, and the musician’s ability to improvise. My music collection should offer good examples of both traditional and non-traditional music rhythms.

Variety is everything. There should be a grand variety of instruments and sounds, and the recognized masters of the common popular instruments shall be included.

E. The Lyrics and The Story: Defining great lyrics is hard, and may require repeat listenings before they make an impact. More than half of my collection features songs about love, sex, and the concepts of home and God. Since I like “moving” songs, I also have many songs that remind me of trains, or driving along in an automobile. I tend to like simple, direct lyrics, and often tire of deciphering dense, complex subjects. On the other hand, ambiguous lyrics that can be interpreted differently by two people are special. As are catchy songs with unique subjects. I recently added a song called “Plea From A Cat Name Virtute”, sung from the standpoint of the cat trying to cheer up its owner. There are infinite possibilities for a good song.

What constitutes good lyrics is personal, though there are consensus favorites. The lyrics should fit to the melody and the cadence. How the singer emphasizes the syllables is essential. Bob Dylan is a master of punctuating his lyrics. Dylan is also the rare author who tells a long story well. Overly abstract lyrics, and nonsensical lyrics chosen for their sound rather than their meaning, have limited value. As always, there are exceptions. “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” is rather abstract and nonsensical, but it evokes dreamy imagery well, of plasticine porters with looking glass ties.

F. Exceptions To The Rule: There are exceptions to the rule, good songs about nothing in particular, good songs where the singing is unclear, or the music is crude and amateurish. Once again, variety is the key.

G. Perfect Sounding Music is a No-No: I dislike overproduced music, where every human imperfection is filtered out of the final product. There are few exceptions, as it dehumanizes the music. I have a tough time enjoying modern popular music, though part of the problem is the well established repertoire developed over fifty plus years. In contrast, accomplished musicians can take a loosely rehearsed concept and create something spontaneous and beautiful with limited preparation. Many great jazz and pop songs were completed in just a couple of takes.

H. Variety Within an Artist’s Career Almost without exception, the greatest bands and musicians evolve, and have distinctive stages of their careers. The Beatles are still the gold standard in this regard, from their beginnings as a rock and roll quartet singing overt love songs, to a mature phase, writing songs on a variety of subjects, and incorporating the instruments and studio sound effects deemed best to achieve the desired result.

I. Originality: The first musicians to introduce a new style of music, and the best practitioners of that style, are considered valuable traits. I study traditional forms of popular music, including some that originated in foreign countries. Less attention is paid to recent musical trends, after the demarcations between musical styles started to blur. Even the roots of rap music, a genre I listen to infrequently, can be found in the dub poetry of men like Linton Kwesi Johnson, or the socio-political rants of Gil Scott-Heron.

A songwriter’s original version of a song tends to be the highest rated and most coveted interpretation.

J. Short Songs Are Best: When I first started listening to music, most popular songs were brief, often with a short instrumental break between the second and third verse. Beatles and other pop music songs were two to three minutes long. Before the development of long playing records, and the advanced recording techniques of the late forties and early fifties, musicians were limited to about three and a half minutes per song, the outside limit for recording on 78 rpm records. By the late fifties, jazz musicians were creating longer songs with well developed improvisations, and eventually all musicians followed suit. I tend to like short songs better; longer songs, and especially longer improvisational passages, must conform to a higher standard, as it more difficult to maintain the listener’s interest. Ten minute songs are a rarity, about one percent of the collection, and multiple improvisational pieces by a single artist are the exception rather than the rule.

Analysis of Los Lobos Music

Los Lobos is unique among American bands. They began their professional career playing Mexican music, even though they spoke English as a first language. The folk music they perform is complex; they became accomplished musicians at a young age. Los Lobos evolved from Veracruz folk songs to Tex-Mex polkas, on by the mid-eighties had incorporated elements of both rock & roll and country & western music.

A representative song from this era is “A Matter Of Time”. The story of a man searching for work while his family waits at home is revisited in future songs.

The band’s songwriters tend to not make sweeping statements. Even when composing the rare anthem, the small town reality of life’s struggle remains.

A young girl tosses a coin in the wishing well,
She hopes for a Heaven while for her there’s just this Hell.
She gave away her life, to become somebody’s wife,
Another wish unanswered in America.

People having so much faith,
Die too soon while all the rest come late,
We write a song that no one sings,
On a cold black stone where a lasting peace will finally bring.

A wise man was telling stories to me,
About the places he had been to,
And the things that he had seen.
A quiet voice is singing something to me,
An age old song ’bout the home of the brave,
And this land here of the free,
One time, one night in America.

— David Hidalgo/Louie Pérez

The La Bamba Conundrum

In the early days, Los Lobos featured three Ritchie Valens songs in their live repertoire. While performing in Santa Cruz, California, the Valens family approached the band, and asked them to provide the music for a proposed movie about the young star who died tragically in the same accident which claimed Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper. The band was honored to do so, and provided the music for La Bamba, which became a surprise summer hit in 1987. After toiling in relative anonymity for fifteen years, the remake of the song “La Bamba” became a #1 hit.

This created a dilemma for the band, who created three solid albums of original material to limited national exposure and success. The next few years were difficult, as they struggled to establish their own methods of operation. Rather than attempt to capitalize on “La Bamba”, the band reverted to its roots and released La Pistola y El Corazón, a second album of Mexican folk songs. The Neighborhood followed two years later, which was a good rock record, with well crafted songs and performances, but a frustrating experience for the band, who spent months poring over the tiny details. They went back to the drawing board to find a better way to do business.

“So all we could do at that point was basically entertain ourselves and make the kind of music we wanted to make, and use the instruments we wanted to use, and just completely ignore everything and everybody. And that’s more or less the vibe we went into Kiko with. It was like, ‘Nobody’s gonna tell us shit.'”³

— Steve Berlin

“The core of the song was there. The band would listen to it and the run to our instruments. We’d capture that first impression and a lot of times it would be the run-through of the track, but it had a feel to it — I don’t know, it was something we’d never had before…I realized why I loved Jimmy Reed so much, or Howlin’ Wolf, because that was the way they did records. Nobody knew the songs; they came and did them in one or two takes, ’cause they weren’t gonna waste their time thinking, and they had to move on to the next song. So that’s why they’re so fresh.”³

— David Hidalgo

In 1992, Los Lobos released Kiko, a quantum leap forward in songwriting and musical diversity. Solos are kept to a minimum on these song templates, with plenty of room for improvisational exploration in concert. While still grounded in day-to-day life, there’s an element of psychedelic mysticism from deep within the southwestern United States. Kiko is a great record.

As an eagle soars,
Our spirits fly,
To our gentle rest,
Under loving sky.
Oh sacred night,
On quetzal plumes,
Of dying suns,
And purple moons.
Oh sacred night.

— “Wake Up Dolores”, Hidalgo/Pérez

By the early nineties, the band was augmenting both their studio and live music with additional percussionists. This allowed Pérez to move forward as a third guitarist and occasional singer. In concert, Pérez still plays drums for short periods, especially when they perform the old songs. Here are three songs from Kiko:

“Angels With Dirty Faces”

“That Train Don’t Stop Here”

“Kiko And The Lavender Moon”

Having reached a mature phase of their career, Los Lobos continues to produce new music and tour the world. They have a devoted following, but they receive little national publicity. That they only command small to medium size venues is a bonus for true fans, who get to see the band up close and hear their music in a relatively quiet environment. Their new approach to studio recording resulted in greater productivity. They’ve made twelve albums since Kiko, including three live performances and two children’s records. Of these, my favorites are The Ride (2004) with a number of cameo appearances, and The Town And The City (2006), a loose concept album about Los Angeles, which conveys a tired sense of sadness and concern for their hometown.

Cesar Rosas has evolved as a songwriter. From writing bluesy, “greasier” songs in English, many of Cesar’s best songs are now written in Spanish, and incorporate traditional Caribbean rhythms. “Marciela” from Colossal Head is a crowd favorite.

The Beatles used a variety of studio tricks and tape loops to create their iconic songs from Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. A testament to Los Lobos musicianship is their ability to recreate the mood of “Tomorrow Never Knows”:

Dear Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame

Music is very personal, and each person can only hear a small subset of new music. When I was young, there were fewer performers and fewer bands, and the world focused its attention on a few talented artists. By the early seventies, artists like the Beatles, and Charlie Parke, and Sun Ra, had challenged the boundaries of popular music. Since then, the number of gifted musicians has grown, but the frontiers for innovation are more limited. Among post-seventies bands who played traditional dance music, Los Lobos is a rare innovator who incorporated a unique traditional style into their music. Los Lobos plays music of astonishing breadth; no other American band can lay claim to such a wide variety of styles and rhythms. Their songs are grounded in their reality; they do not attempt to make grand, vague statements outside their sphere. To the best of my knowledge, they have never cursed on record or in concert. They sing their songs plainly, and they enunciate well. Their music is often playful; they recorded an album of Disney songs, and a few of their songs have a child-like simplicity. They are very humble in their appearance and presentation. When they were presented with a chance to capitalize on the success of “La Bamba”, they retreated to their own music. They are all family men, with wives and children, though Cesar’s wife passed away unexpectedly in 1999. They have stayed together as a quartet for forty years, and now as a quintet for thirty. From this outsider’s view, they are a clean-cut, great American success story.

“Los Lobos Marks 40 Years of Distinctive, Eclectic Music”, by Chris Junior, Goldmine Magazine, June 2013

I grew up in Palo Alto, the home of the Grateful Dead, but my heart belongs to Los Lobos del Este Los Angeles, four hundred miles to the south. They are closer to my age, and lived close enough where I heard and enjoyed all the same musical influences. I’d like to believe life was not that different for children raised in Palo Alto and East Los Angeles. In conversation they sound like the Californians I know. From the first time I heard them, Los Lobos music resonated deeply with me, and their appearance and behavior is the essence of California cool.

This reminds me of a story. I played basketball in college, at UC Davis near Sacramento, California. For the first couple of years, I was an understudy for Audwin Thomas, the team’s starting point guard, who became one of the school’s all-time leading scorers. He was from Oakland, and in high school the two of us played against each other in a holiday basketball tournament. One day we were talking about that day we played against each other. Before the game, his coach came into the locker room and said, “You can’t let these guys beat you. These guys eat donuts and hot chocolate for breakfast!” Their coach was wrong, as I stopped eating donuts for brunch in junior high.

On the Not In Hall of Fame website, Los Lobos is currently ranked as the 133rd ranked band not in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. A few publications and websites give the band a little more love, but the chances appear slim. When I suggest to non-fans that Los Lobos belongs in the Hall Of Fame, I get either blank stares or comments that I’m crazy. I admit a tendency to latch onto a favorite band with a passion. But only three or maybe four of the top hundred bands in the countdown appear to be personal favorites that look wildly out of place. I’ve studied music reviews for many years, and the rest of my list looks very reasonable, with consensus great artists of rock, jazz, blues, folk, bluegrass and reggae. If Los Lobos has a weakness as an all-time rock band, it would be the inability or reluctance to make the grand statement, the catchy pop song with that memorable hook that everyone knows and loves. Had they done this, I still have doubts whether their songs would have gained widespread acceptance.

Perhaps the most compelling reason to induct Los Lobos is to recognize David Hidalgo, a most versatile and talented musician. Not only a fine singer and songwriter, he has the rare gift of swing, propelling songs forward with his guitar or his accordion. Here’s how Hidalgo and the band sent the Austin City Limits crowd home in 2001:

“There’s a big fat heart,
With an arrow through the middle,
Of this place that I call home.
And when I get lost,
And don’t even got a nickel,
There’s a piece of dirt I call my own.

I gotta say one, two, three,
More things before I go on.

You can’t run and try to hide away,
Here it comes, here comes another day.
You can’t run to try to hide away,
Here it comes, here comes another day.
Where you are, never really far away,
Good morning Aztlan.”

— Hidalgo/Pérez

Los Lobos Song Notes:

1. There are a couple of essential documents to obtain if possible. One is Chuy’s Tape Box, Volume 1, a 1984 soundboard recording from a small club in Santa Barbara. There are only a few thousand copies floating around. It captures the band in rare form with a very enthusiastic audience. The second is a KFOG radio recording of the December 16, 1993 Christmas benefit program in San Francisco, California. Not only was Kiko recently released; it features both acoustic and electric programs, with definitive versions of “A Matter Of Time” and “One Time, One Night”.

Los Lobos Songs:

Sí Se Puede

De Colores, Los Lobos

(Just Another Band From East L.A.)

El Canelo, Los Lobos ★★
Sabor A Mi, Los Lobos ★★★
Flor De Huevo, Los Lobos
La Iguana, Los Lobos
El Cuchipe, Los Lobos ★★★
Guantanamera, Los Lobos ★★★
La Feria De Las Flores, Los Lobos
El Bon Bon De Elena, Los Lobos

…And A Time To Dance

Let’s Say Goodnight, Los Lobos ★★★★
Walking Song, Los Lobos
Anselma, Los Lobos ★★★
Come On, Let’s Go, Los Lobos ★★
How Much Can I Do?, Los Lobos ★★★
Why Do You Do, Los Lobos
Ay Te Dejo En San Antonio, Los Lobos

How Will The Wolf Survive?

Don’t Worry Baby, Los Lobos ★★
A Matter Of Time, Los Lobos ★★★★
Our Last Night, Los Lobos
I Got Loaded, Los Lobos ★★★
Evangeline, Los Lobos ★★
I Got To Let You Know, Los Lobos
Lil’ King Of Everything, Los Lobos
Will The Wolf Survive?, Los Lobos ★★★

By The Light Of The Moon

One Time, One Night, Los Lobos ★★★★★
Shakin’ Shakin’ Shakes, Los Lobos
Is This All There Is?, Los Lobos
Set Me Free (Rosa Lee), Los Lobos
The Hardest Time, Los Lobos ★★
My Baby’s Gone, Los Lobos
Tears Of God, Los Lobos ★★

La Pistola Y El Corazón

La Guacamaya, Los Lobos ★★
Las Amarillas, Los Lobos
Estoy Sentado Aquí, Los Lobos ★★
El Canelo, Los Lobos ★★★★
La Pistola Y El Corazón, Los Lobos

The Neighborhood

Down On The Riverbed, Los Lobos
Emily, Los Lobos ★★
I Walk Alone, Los Lobos
Angel Dance, Los Lobos ★★
Little John Of God, Los Lobos
Deep Dark Hole, Los Lobos ★★
Georgia Slop, Los Lobos ★★
I Can’t Understand, Los Lobos
The Giving Tree, Los Lobos ★★★
Take My Hand, Los Lobos ★★
Jenny’s Got A Pony, Los Lobos
Be Still, Los Lobos ★★★
The Neighborhood, Los Lobos ★★

Kiko (20th Anniversary Edition)

Dream In Blue, Los Lobos
Wake Up Dolores, Los Lobos ★★
Angels With Dirty Faces, Los Lobos ★★★
That Train Don’t Stop Here, Los Lobos ★★
Kiko And The Lavender Moon, Los Lobos ★★★★
Saint Behind The Glass, Los Lobos ★★★★
Reva’s House, Los Lobos
When The Circus Comes, Los Lobos ★★★★
Arizona Skies, Los Lobos ★★
Short Side Of Nothing, Los Lobos
Two Janes, Los Lobos
Wicked Rain, Los Lobos ★★
Just A Man, Los Lobos ★★★
Peace, Los Lobos ★★★
Peace (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Arizona Skies/Borinquen Patria Mia (Live), Los Lobos ★★★
Kiko And The Lavender Moon (Live), Los Lobos ★★

Just Another Band From East L.A. – A Collection

Someday, Los Lobos
Bertha (Live), Los Lobos ★★
What’s Going On (Live), Los Lobos

Live At The Warfield (12/16/1993, KFOG Broadcast) (Unauthorized)

Los Ojos De Pancha (Live), Los Lobos
One Time, One Night (Live), Los Lobos ★★★★★
A Matter Of Time (Live), Los Lobos ★★★
Red Headed Woman (Live), Los Lobos
Don’t Worry Baby (Live), Los Lobos ★★★
Wicked Rain (Live), Los Lobos ★★★★

Papa’s Dream

Cielito Lindo, Los Lobos
La Bamba, Los Lobos

(I chose the second version of “La Bamba” from this disc. Both versions are moderately interesting.)

Colossal Head

Revolution, Los Lobos ★★
Mas Y Mas, Los Lobos ★★
Maricela, Los Lobos ★★
Manny’s Bones, Los Lobos ★★

This Time

This Time, Los Lobos ★★★
Cumbia Raza, Los Lobos ★★

El Cancionero: Mas Y Mas (4-CD Box Set)

La Bamba, Los Lobos ★★
Goodnight My Love, Los Lobos
I Wan’na Be Like You (The Monkey Song), Los Lobos ★★★
The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You), Los Lobos
Alone In A Crowd, Los Lobos
Tomorrow Never Knows (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Lonesome Tears In My Eyes, Los Lobos (with Paul Burlison) ★★

Good Morning Aztlan

Hearts Of Stone, Los Lobos ★★★
Luz De Mi Vida, Los Lobos ★★
Good Morning Aztlan, Los Lobos ★★★★
Tony y Maria, Los Lobos
What In The World, Los Lobos
Round & Round, Los Lobos

The Ride

La Venganza De Los Pelados, Los Lobos
Rita, Los Lobos ★★★
Somewhere In Time, Los Lobos ★★★
Wicked Rain/Across 110th Street, Los Lobos
Wreck Of The Carlos Rey, Los Lobos
Someday, Los Lobos
Chains Of Love, Los Lobos ★★★

Ride This – The Covers EP

It’ll Never Be Over For Me, Los Lobos ★★

Live At The Fillmore

The Neighborhood (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Maricela (Live), Los Lobos ★★★
Kiko And The Lavender Moon (Live), Los Lobos ★★★

Live In Carmel (3/3/2005) (Unauthorized)

La Llorona (Live), Los Lobos
Sabor A Mi, (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Gema (Live), Los Lobos ★★

Acoustic En Vivo

Canto A Veracruz (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Colas (Live), Los Lobos ★★
El Cuchipe (Live), Los Lobos
Two Janes (Live), Los Lobos
Saint Behind The Glass (Live), Los Lobos ★★★
Soy Mexico Americano (Live), Los Lobos
Volver, Volver (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Teresa (Live), Los Lobos
Guantanamera (Live), Los Lobos ★★

The Town And The City

The Valley, Los Lobos ★★
The Road To Gila Bend, Los Lobos ★★★
Chuco’s Cumbia, Los Lobos ★★
If You Were Only Here Tonight, Los Lobos ★★
Luna, Los Lobos
The City, Los Lobos
No Puedo Más, Los Lobos
The Town, Los Lobos ★★

Los Lobos Goes Disney

I Will Go Sailing No More, Los Lobos ★★

Tin Can Trust

Burn It Down, Los Lobos ★★
Tin Can Trust, Los Lobos
Jupiter Or The Moon, Los Lobos ★★
Do The Murray, Los Lobos
West L.A. Fadeaway, Los Lobos
27 Spanishes, Los Lobos

Kiko Live

Dream In Blue (Live), Los Lobos
Angels With Dirty Faces (Live), Los Lobos
That Train Don’t Stop Here (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Saint Behind The Glass (Live), Los Lobos
When The Circus Comes (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Arizona Skies (Live), Los Lobos

Disconnected In New York City (Live)

Chuco’s Cumbia (Live), Los Lobos ★★
La Venganza De Los Peladoes (Live), Los Lobos
Little Things (Live), Los Lobos

Chuy’s Tape Box Volume 1 (Live in Santa Barbara, 1/14/1984)

Let’s Say Goodnight (Live), Los Lobos ★★★
Our Last Night (Live), Los Lobos
Ay Te Dejo En San Antonio (Live), Los Lobos ★★
I Got To Let You Know (Live), Los Lobos
Buzz Buzz Buzz (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Los Ojos De Pancha (Live), Los Lobos
Volver, Volver (Live), Los Lobos
How Much Can I Do? (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Anselma (Live), Los Lobos ★★
I’m Sorry (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Come On, Let’s Go (Live), Los Lobos ★★★
La Bamba (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Sleep Walk (Live), Los Lobos
I’m Tore Down (Live), Los Lobos

One Time, One Night (Live Recordings Vol. 1)

Just A Man (Live), Los Lobos

One Time, One Night (Live Recordings Vol. 2)

Angel Dance (Live), Los Lobos ★★
I Can’t Understand (Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone Intro), Los Lobos
Estoy Sentado Aquí, Los Lobos
Hearts Of Stone (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Three Hundred Pounds Of Joy (Live), Los Lobos

Miscellaneous

Rolling, Los Lobos
Carabina 30-30, Los Lobos ★★

“Rolling” is a 56 second single, while “Carabina 30-30” can be found on KCRW Sounds Eclectico.

Related Songs:

Sabor A Mí, Eydie Gorme & Trio Los Panchos ★★
Sabor A Mí (Live), Bebo Valdés & Javier Colina

El Cuchipe, Brigitte Bardot

Guantanamera, Evaristo Quintanales ★★★
Guantanamera (Live), Pete Seeger

El Bombón De Elena, Cortijo y Su Combo ★★

Come On, Let’s Go, Richie Valens ★★

Ay Te Dejo En San Antonio, Flaco Jimenez ★★★

I Got Loaded, Lil’ Bob & The Lollipops ★★★

Georgia Slop, Big Al Downing ★★★
Georgia Slop, Jimmy McCracklin (added to Wish List)

Borinquen Patria Mia, Claudio Ferrer y Su Conjunto (added to Wish List)

Bertha (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★★

What’s Going On, Marvin Gaye ★★★★
What’s Going On (Alt), Marvin Gaye ★★★★
What’s Going On (Live), Chaka Khan

Los Ojos De Pancha, Los Alegres De Terán

Cielito Lindo, Trio Los Panchos

La Bamba, Ritchie Valens ★★★
La Bamba, Los Nacionales de Jacinto Gatica

Goodnight My Love, Jesse Belvin ★★

I Wan’na Be Like You, Louis Prima & Phil Harris ★★★★★

The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You), Nat King Cole ★★★★
The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You), Vince Guaraldi Trio ★★

Tomorrow Never Knows, The Beatles ★★★★
Tomorrow Never Knows (Alt), The Beatles

Midnight Shift, Buddy Holly ★★

Lonesome Tears In My Eyes, Johnny Burnette & The Rock ‘n’ Roll Trio ★★
Lonesome Tears In My Eyes (Live), The Beatles

La Llorona, Chavela Vargas ★★
La Llorona, Alberto Vasquez ★★

Canto A Veracruz, Andres Huesca & Trio Huracán

Soy Mexico Americano, Los Cenzontles
Soy Mexico Americano, Los Pinguinos Del Norte

I Will Go Sailing No More, Randy Newman ★★

Buzz Buzz Buzz, Hollywood Flames ★★★
Buzz Buzz Buzz (Live), Jonathan Richman ★★

I’m Sorry, Bo Diddley

Sleep Walk, Santo & Johnny ★★★

I’m Tore Down, Freddie King ★★

Angel Dance, Robert Plant

Three Hundred Pounds Of Joy, Howlin’ Wolf ★★★

¹ Excerpts from “Siendo la Verdadera Historia de Los Lobos del Este de Los Angeles”, by Luis Torres (found in liner notes of the El Cancionero: Mas y Mas box set)
² Movements in Chicano Music: Performing Culture, Performing Politics, 1965-1979, by Stevan Cesar Azcona, p. 234
³ Excerpts from “The Hollywood Years and Beyond” by Chris Morris (found in liner notes of the El Cancionero: Mas y Mas box set)

3. The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones are a rock band from London, England. In the late fifties and early sixties, American blues and rhythm and blues music was virtually unknown in England. The Rolling Stones started as a musical collaboration between like-minded devotees of African-American popular music. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were schoolboy friends who reconnected by chance at a local railway station. Richards was toting a guitar, while Jagger was carrying a few of his prized Chicago blues albums. They began to practice together, and shortly thereafter formed a band.

Brian Jones was a rebellious young man who also fell in love with American blues and jazz music. Though he showed great promise as a student, Jones had little interest in comformity, and dropped out of school. After drifting aimlessly for a couple of years, Jones moved to London to be near the nascent blues and jazz community. In April 1962, Jagger and Richards met Jones at the Ealing Jazz Club, and were impressed by his slide guitar playing. A month later Jones posted an advertisement in the local jazz newsletter to audition for a new rhythm and blues band. Pianist Ian Stewart was the first to respond, with Jagger and Richards quickly following suit. They made their first public appearance in July 1962 with Dick Taylor on bass and Tony Chapman on drums. Within a few months Taylor and Chapman were replaced by the somewhat older Bill Wyman, a relative rock and roll veteran, and the coveted drummer Charlie Watts, coaxed away from Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, the top British R&B band at the time, thus forming the original Rolling Stones sextet. Andrew Loog Oldham, who was hired as the band’s business manager, made a number of strategic decisions, including the demotion of Stewart to studio musician and road manager, a role he accepted with grace.

ian-stewart_1866315b

The Original Rolling Stones

Mick Jagger (b. 1943), vocals, harmonica, guitar, piano, primary songwriter
Keith Richards (b. 1943), guitar, vocals, primary songwriter
Brian Jones (1942-1969), guitar, harmonica, many instruments, vocals
Bill Wyman (b. 1936), bass, vocals
Charlie Watts (b. 1941), drums, percussion
Ian Stewart (1938-1985), piano, organ

Other Full Band Members

Mick Taylor (b. 1949), guitar
Ronnie Wood (b. 1947), guitar, vocals

Major Contributors

Darryl Jones (b. 1961), bass
Nicky Hopkins (1944-1994), piano
Jack Nitzsche (1937-2000), keyboards, producer
Jimmy Miller (1942-1994), drums, producer
Billy Preston (1946-2006), piano, organ
Lisa Fischer (b. 1958), background vocals
Chuck Leavell (b. 1952), keyboards
Bobby Keys (b. 1943), saxophone

Websites, Books and Articles

The Official Rolling Stones Website
The Complete Works Website – An Extensive Rolling Stones Database
Time Is On Our Side – Another Unauthorized Fan Resource

Amazon.com Link to “Life” by Keith Richards
Amazon.com Link to “Rocks Off” by Bill Janovitz

Blog Post About Early, Unreleased Rolling Stones Recordings
“Sixth Stone Gets His Place in History, by Maureen Paton, The Telegraph, April 6, 2011
“The Bittersweet Symphony”, by Rob Chapman, Mojo Magazine, July 1999

The Greatest White R&B Band Ever

“As everybody past infancy should know, the Rolling Stones in their initial incarnation were the greatest white blues and R&B band that ever was. This is not legend; it is fact.”

— Dave Marsh, “The New Rolling Stone Record Guide”

Fond memories from my early days of reading music reviews. Thirty years ago, I took that comment to heart, and went out and bought recently remastered versions of England’s Newest Hitmakers, The Rolling Stones, Now!, 12 X 5 and both of the Hot Rocks compilations on vinyl. At the time it was a grand discovery; memorable cover versions of songs like “Route 66”, “The Red Rooster”, and “Around And Around” explode off the grooves with energy. At this early stage of his career, Keith Richards has rudimentary skills, despite the fact he had committed many of Chuck Berry’s solos to memory. However, he knows how to drive the beat, and is the rare rhythm guitarist who sets the rhythm, while Watts and Wyman take cues from him. Brian Jones is the closest thing to a virtuoso, proficient at both guitar and harmonica. As we all know, Mick Jagger has unusual presence as the band’s lead singer.

Virtually every song the Stones played was written by, or made famous by a black American artist. Therefore, it’s odd that their second and third singles are by white songwriters, Lennon & McCartney’s “I Wanna Be Your Man” and their first #1 (UK) single, Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away”. Perhaps it was the only way to gain widespread recognition. Here they are, performing “Not Fade Away”, from “The Mike Douglas Show” in 1964:

Guitar Weaving

“Keith and Brian used to sit and all day long practice. When they weren’t in bed, they would sit and practice note for note. Every Jimmy Reed song they could hear, every Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James, Chuck Berry, note for note. And they would do these amazing intricate patterns between the two guitars, one going down the scale and one going up and they would work on it for hours and hours. I mean, they really perfected that.”

– Bill Wyman (taken from the “Time Is On Our Side” website)

Keith Richards referred to this style of guitar interplay as “guitar weaving”, where the roles of lead and rhythm guitarist are not distinct. This is a recurring feature of Rolling Stones songs. There are few guitar solos, usually brief, with the twin guitars seamlessly presenting riffs and fills behind Mick.

A couple of reasonable, early examples are shown below. Bobby Womack’s “It’s All Over Now” is given the Stones treatment at the famous T.A.M.I. show in 1964, followed by the original composition “The Last Time”, Jagger/Richards first good “beat” number, in 1965. On these and other vintage clips from the mid-sixties, the audience can barely contain their enthusiasm, especially the girls, who jump, wave and scream their approval. Very few rock and roll acts elicited this sort of reaction; perhaps the Beatles and Rolling Stones were the only ones who genuinely produced this hysteria. Like the Beatles, many of their live performances could not be heard above the din.

The Decline of Brian Jones

Band manager Andrew Loog Oldham, noting John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s success as songwriters, suggested to Jagger and Richards that they learn how to write songs together. It was a practical request; singing one’s own compositions earns a greater share of royalties. Through hard work they became proficient songwriters, enabling the band to evolve from its rhythm and blues roots and forge its own identity. This frustrated Brian Jones, the band’s founder and best musician in its early years. Though he tried, Jones was unable to write songs, and he grew jealous of the growing importance of Jagger and Richards. As the Rolling Stones’ success grew, Jones began to use drugs heavily and alienate himself from the band.

Oldham marketed the Rolling Stones as a darker, more dangerous alternative to the Beatles’ clean cut image. Fathers, lock up your daughters, the Rolling Stones are coming to town! Whether this affected the songs Jagger and Richards wrote is unclear, but many of the most effective Rolling Stones songs have dark themes. The pill popping housewife in “Mother’s Little Helper”, the submissive girl in “Under My Thumb”, and the mass murderer in “Midnight Rambler” are just three examples that challenged the boundaries of propriety. These disturbing songs increased the band’s notoriety. Until then, pop music had consisted largely of sweet songs of idealistic love. Folk songs with darker themes existed, but typically weren’t selected by the record companies for mass consumption. The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan are perhaps most responsible for liberalizing popular music by introducing darker subject matter.

Though undependable and somewhat estranged from the band’s day-to-day activities, Brian Jones continued to make important contributions to studio recordings. Sometimes the band recorded basic tracks without Jones, but encouraged him to add sounds afterwards. Having lost interest in the guitar and harmonica, Jones tinkered with a wide variety of instruments, and made memorable contributions to songs such as “Paint It Black” (sitar), “Backstreet Girl” (accordion) and “Ruby Tuesday” (recorder), among many others. At this stage of their career, the songs were difficult to recreate in live performance, partly because Jones was unreliable, so video clips like this are common, where Jagger sings over a pre-recorded instrumental track.

With full access to a smorgasbord of drugs available to rock musicians, Brian Jones deteriorated dramatically, and within just a few years was useless in both the studio and in concert, and was fired by the band in June, 1969. Three weeks later Jones was found dead in his swimming pool; the official reported states “death by misadventure”, and notes a severely enlarged heart and liver from drug and alcohol abuse. Brian Jones is a fascinating subject in rock history, the first major rock star to die from excess, followed in rapid succession by Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison, among others. In retrospect, Jones is noteworthy for his near complete lack of empathy, even for himself. He was brilliant, but didn’t care for school. He was proficient at four instruments by age eighteen, but never developed a virtuoso’s ability for any. He fathered three children out of wedlock before he was twenty. Bill Wyman and Ian Stewart disliked him intensely, and though Brian Jones could be charming and fun, every band members thought he was hypersensitive and generally difficult. But he also had profound success with his desire in leading a band, and assembling the Rolling Stones.

Open G Tuning

Mick Taylor joined the band as a second guitarist, recommended by John Mayall after an apprenticeship in the Bluesbreakers. Along with Beggars Banquet, the four album collection of music created between 1968 and 1972 is widely considered the band’s greatest accomplishment:

Beggars Banquet
Let It Bleed
Sticky Fingers
Exile On Main Street

Although additional musicians and instruments are used, the sound is once again grounded in the dual guitar ethic, though the music bears little resemblance to the rhythm and blues they once played. A few blues numbers remain, but they reach deeper into the history of blues for inspiration. The band has an identifiable guitar sound, based on Richards’s use of a five string open G tuning (xGDGBD) he learned from the influential studio guitarist Ry Cooder. These four albums form the core of any Rolling Stones collection, but I consider the three phases of development, from rhythm and blues greats, to the mid-sixties pop singles, evolving into “The Rolling Stones sound”, to be equal in importance and enjoyment. Though musically simple by comparison, the early R&B really rocks, and the accomplishment of driving young women mad with desire can’t be dismissed.

Mick Taylor was accustomed to the role of lead guitar, and during his tenure with the band he and Richards assumed more distinct roles. He provided memorable solos to at least three Stones songs: “Sway”, “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” and “Time Waits For No One”. Taylor abruptly left in December, 1974, bitter over the lack of songwriting credit for “Time Waits For No One” and other songs. After auditions were held for a replacement, longtime friend Ronnie Wood, originally from The Jeff Beck Group and The Faces, was added as second guitarist, thus completing a “permanent” quintet that recorded and performed together for nearly forty years. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1989. Bill Wyman retired permanently from the demands of Rolling Stones life, but the band continues to make the periodic world tour; the current “14 On Fire” features all remaining band members, plus many of their friends and most important collaborators.

“It’s the right chemistry with Woody. More right than Brian. Mick Taylor is basically the type of guitar player that should be in a band with only one guitar player. Woody’s made for two guitars but hasn’t had the chance till now. Woody’s strength as is mine is to play with another guitar player not the virtuoso clap trap.”

— Keith Richards, “The Rolling Stones: The Gospel According To The Glimmer Twins”, by Barbara Charone

The 1978 World Cup

I finished my second year of college in June, 1978. It was a great time in my life; I was nineteen years old, in love for the first time with my sweetheart from Mill Valley, California. I enjoyed my general studies, before having to pick a major diminished my interest. I was a fixture on the varsity basketball team, spending my second year as a practice player for a very good team, before earning my spot on the playing squad the following three years. I was healthy and leggy and carefree, and about to experience a memorable evening in my life.

My father worked for the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC), a high energy physics lab affiliated with Stanford University, and as one the lab’s top administrators and technical writers, Dad was invited in 1978 to visit four European physics labs involved in particle physics research. Dad saw an opportunity to expand his children’s boundaries, and fashioned a two week trip that started in Abingdon, England, and concluded in Hamburg, Germany. It was our first time outside the country for my sister and me — we went to the photo shop, and then the post office to have passports made for the big vacation.

The opening two day stay in England was uneventful, except for the fact I became the designated driver, as Dad did not adjust well to driving on the left side of the road. After hitting the curb three times in fifteen minutes, the change was made. While Dad worked there was little to do, so it was a welcome change when our next destination was Amsterdam, Holland. It was June 25th, and what a glorious place it was. Beautiful old roads and buildings, with little bridges over canals used for transport, a place where most people walked to get around. As a “flatlander” from the Bay Area, it was hard to believe people traveled by canal. We checked into the hotel, and walked around town to see the sights. We visited the Van Gogh Museum. I visaited a record store and purchased a two album Louis Armstrong compilation, too.

We Are The Champions

In one of my life’s greatest coincidences, we arrived in Amsterdam on the night of the 1978 World Cup Final, and the Netherlands was in the championship match. Considered soccer’s greatest championship, the World Cup is held every four years in a different country, similar to the Olympics. In 1978, the host was Argentina, and as fate would have it, the host team was the other team in the final match. The hotel informed us of the upcoming event, and after a walk around town, we settled in with a dozen or more guests in the lounge to watch the game on the hotel’s black and white television. The game was close, tied at one apiece after regulation time. Argentina scored two goals in the overtime period to win the World Cup by a score of 3-1.

The game ended at dusk, and I headed back into town, perhaps to find a bar to have a beer. The age limit for drinking was fifteen or sixteen, and this was be my first chance ever to have a drink in a public establishment. My sister was fifteen; I didn’t ask her to join me. We were never very close, and she was too young. Besides, I wanted to go by myself. On my way back into town, I was stopped once by a young brown-skinned man, who approached and asked me in broken English if I wanted to get high. “You want trips? You want to get high? Come with me, just around the corner.” And though I was smoking on a regular basis at home, I was smart enough to recognize the danger, say no and move on. Just a few hundred yards from the hotel was a centrally located bar. I went in and ordered a Heineken. Heinekens were brewed right there in Amsterdam, and cost seventy cents apiece. The bar started to fill up with people.

Dutch people can speak a bit of English; of course I knew nothing about the Dutch language. I managed an awkward conversation with a young lady about my age. She showed no interest or affection for me, but was kind and patient, and was surrounded her own friends for substantial conversation. The bar turned up the music. More people showed up. It was getting loud.

Within a couple hours, we were packed in so tight that it took ten or fifteen minutes to get from the front to the back of the bar. If the room was fifty feet deep and twenty feet wide, there were at least 300-400 people in there. I kept drinking Heinekens and smoking a few cigarettes due to the kindness of strangers. The locals were celebrating their country’s performance in the World Cup with gusto. On my way back to the john, I attempted a conversation with two young Germans on holiday. That was more enthusiastic but even less successful than my kind Dutch girl. I remember two songs being played over and over that evening. Naturally we heard Queen’s “We Are The Champions” every hour or so, and each time the song played, the patrons swayed and erupted in joyous and boisterous singing. We also heard a song I hadn’t heard before, recognizable as the Rolling Stones, with a slinky, catchy beat. Months later, hearing “Miss You” on American radio, I recognized it immediately, and remembered my blessed night in Amsterdam.

Later that night, I settled in for a final chat with the lovely Dutch woman who befriended me. For the first time that evening, feeling no pain, I looked down at the front of her body, and noticed that her shirt and brassiere were sheer enough to see the brown outlines of her nipples. I glanced a second time to verify what I was seeing. She reacted coolly. It was past midnight. Fourteen Heinekens and numerous cigarettes later, I said my goodbyes and walked back to the hotel.

After our short stay in Holland, we continued to Geneva, Switzerland for a few days of sightseeing, and then to Hamburg, Germany, for three dreary days stuck in a remote housing tract while Dad took care of business. Some friends of his took us on a city tour, including a drive through the Reeperbahn, the notorious red light district where the Beatles spent two extended internships honing their musical chops, perhaps the key to their future success. Geneva, Switzerland was much more interesting, clean and beautiful. We saw ex-pat trumpeter Benny Bailey perform in the public park. We visited the town of Zermatt, at the base of the Matterhorn. Geneva’s shopping district was an endless succession of watchmakers.

Conclusion

As often happens, I began my review of Rolling Stones music with muted optimism, and finish with great appreciation. After recent study of Bob Dylan, no artist’s lyricism would seem satisfactory, but many Stones songs paint clear images of the subject at hand. Mick Jagger delivers each message with nuance and sway. Arguably the greatest frontman in rock music history, he is the band’s center of gravity, holding things together when Keith Richards’s life threatened to spiral out of control. The Rolling Stones sound is largely based on the open G tuning adopted at the end of the sixties. Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts are the ultimate rhythm section, powerful without flamboyance. Overall, the music is simple and straightforward, and magnificently executed.

Rolling Stones Song Notes:

1. There’s essential Rolling Stones music not commercially available. Their first five studio recordings were rejected, and have never been released.

“Diddley Daddy”
“Roadrunner”
“Bright Lights, Big City”
“I Want To Be Loved”
“Baby What’s Wrong”

2. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) recorded several fine versions of Rolling Stones songs in 1964 and 1965. In a few cases, I’ve selected the BBC version over the officially released version. See if you can track down the 2-CD compilation Rolling Stones At The Beeb.

3. Many of the Rolling Stones hit songs in the sixties were released in monaural format, to maximize their impact on AM radio. The stereo versions of is often superior, and in many cases hard to find. This webpage is a good summary.

4. I danced my first slow dance to “As Tears Go By”. I was in seventh grade. My parents got divorced, and we moved across town a few miles away that year. My old elementary school was holding a dance, and I returned there one afternoon to check it out. My friend Beep was disk jockey. He was too shy to dance. I can’t remember who I danced with, but it was awkward, as it should be.

Rolling Stones Songs:

During the sixties, most Rolling Stones’ hit songs were released as singles. Most of these songs can be found on The Rolling Stones Singles Collection: The London Years. I’ve chosen to present the list of songs as the two “No Stone Unturned” collections from The Rolling Stones (1963-1971). Reel Time Trip is an unauthorized collection with several rare stereo versions of hit songs.

No Stone Unturned, Vol. 1

Fortune Teller, The Rolling Stones ★★★
I Wanna Be Your Man, The Rolling Stones
Not Fade Away, The Rolling Stones ★★★★
It’s All Over Now, The Rolling Stones ★★★★
Time Is On My Side (Alt), The Rolling Stones
The Red Rooster, The Rolling Stones ★★★★★
The Last Time, The Rolling Stones ★★★
Play With Fire, The Rolling Stones
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, The Rolling Stones ★★★★★
The Spider And The Fly, The Rolling Stones

No Stone Unturned, Vol. 2

As Tears Go By, The Rolling Stones
19th Nervous Breakdown, The Rolling Stones ★★
Sittin’ On A Fence, The Rolling Stones ★★
Paint It Black, The Rolling Stones ★★★★★
Let’s Spend The Night Together, The Rolling Stones ★★★
Ruby Tuesday, The Rolling Stones ★★★
Dandelion, The Rolling Stones
Jumpin’ Jack Flash, The Rolling Stones ★★★★
Honky Tonk Women, The Rolling Stones ★★★

The Rolling Stones Singles Collection: The London Years

Heart Of Stone (Mono), The Rolling Stones
Memo From Turner, The Rolling Stones

More Hot Rocks (Big Hits & Fazed Cookies)

Fortune Teller (Alt), The Rolling Stones ★★★

Reel Time Trip

Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow? (Stereo), The Rolling Stones
19th Nervous Breakdown (Alt) (Stereo), The Rolling Stones ★★
Get Off Of My Cloud (Stereo), The Rolling Stones ★★
Gimme Shelter (Alt), The Rolling Stones
The Last Time (Stereo), The Rolling Stones ★★★
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (Stereo), The Rolling Stones ★★★
Paint It Black (Stereo), The Rolling Stones ★★★
Brown Sugar (Raw), The Rolling Stones

The remaining songs are presented in approximate chronological order.

Bright Lights, Big City

Diddley Daddy, The Rolling Stones ★★
Road Runner, The Rolling Stones ★★
Bright Lights, Big City, The Rolling Stones ★★
I Want To Be Loved, The Rolling Stones
Baby What’s Wrong, The Rolling Stones ★★
Stewed And Keefed, The Rolling Stones
High Heel Sneakers, The Rolling Stones
Down In The Bottom, The Rolling Stones
Looking Tired, The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones (UK)

(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66, The Rolling Stones ★★
I Just Want To Make Love To You, The Rolling Stones
I’m A King Bee, The Rolling Stones
Tell Me, The Rolling Stones

Five By Five – EP

Around And Around, The Rolling Stones ★★★★
Confessin’ The Blues, The Rolling Stones ★★★

12 X 5 (US)

2120 South Michigan Avenue (Complete), The Rolling Stones ★★

The Rolling Stones No. 2

Off The Hook, The Rolling Stones
I Can’t Be Satisfied, The Rolling Stones ★★
Everybody Needs Somebody To Love, The Rolling Stones ★★
You Can’t Catch Me, The Rolling Stones ★★
Time Is On My Side, The Rolling Stones ★★★

Out Of Our Heads (UK)

Heart Of Stone (Stereo), The Rolling Stones ★★
I’m Free, The Rolling Stones

Beat, Beat, Beat At The Beeb

Come On (Live), The Rolling Stones
Memphis, Tennessee (Live), The Rolling Stones
Roll Over Beethoven (Live), The Rolling Stones
(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66 (Live), The Rolling Stones ★★
You Better Move On (Live), The Rolling Stones ★★
Mona (Live), The Rolling Stones ★★★
Not Fade Away (Live), The Rolling Stones

**At The Beeb – Radio Sessions

Confessin’ The Blues (Live), The Rolling Stones
Around And Around (Live), The Rolling Stones
Down The Road A Piece (Live), The Rolling Stones
The Last Time (Live), The Rolling Stones ★★★★
Mercy, Mercy (Live), The Rolling Stones
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (Live), The Rolling Stones ★★★★★

Aftermath (UK)

Mother’s Little Helper (Stereo), The Rolling Stones ★★★
Stupid Girl, The Rolling Stones
Lady Jane, The Rolling Stones
Under My Thumb, The Rolling Stones ★★★★
Out Of Time, The Rolling Stones ★★
I Am Waiting, The Rolling Stones

Time Trip, Volume 5

Key To The Highway, The Rolling Stones ★★

Between The Buttons (UK)

Back Street Girl, The Rolling Stones ★★
Connection, The Rolling Stones

Flowers (US)

Out Of Time (Alt), The Rolling Stones ★★

Their Satanic Majesty’s Request

She’s A Rainbow, The Rolling Stones
2000 Light Years From Home, The Rolling Stones

Beggar’s Banquet

Sympathy For The Devil, The Rolling Stones ★★★★★
No Expectations, The Rolling Stones ★★
Street Fighting Man, The Rolling Stones ★★★★
Prodigal Son, The Rolling Stones ★★
Stray Cat Blues, The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones Rock And Roll Circus

You Can’t Always Get What You Want (Live), The Rolling Stones ★★
Sympathy For The Devil (Live), The Rolling Stones ★★★

Let It Bleed

Gimme Shelter, The Rolling Stones ★★★★
Love In Vain, The Rolling Stones ★★
Live With Me, The Rolling Stones
Let It Bleed, The Rolling Stones ★★
Midnight Rambler, The Rolling Stones ★★★
You Got The Silver, The Rolling Stones ★★★
Monkey Man, The Rolling Stones ★★
You Can’t Always Get What You Want, The Rolling Stones ★★★★

A Shot Of Salvation

Brown Sugar (Alt), The Rolling Stones ★★★

Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out (Live)

Carol (Live), The Rolling Stones
Love In Vain (Live), The Rolling Stones
Midnight Rambler (Live), The Rolling Stones ★★★
Sympathy For The Devil (Live), The Rolling Stones ★★★★
Street Fighting Man (Live), The Rolling Stones
Little Queenie (Live), The Rolling Stones

Sticky Fingers

Brown Sugar, The Rolling Stones ★★★★
Sway, The Rolling Stones ★★★
Wild Horses, The Rolling Stones ★★★
Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, The Rolling Stones ★★★★
Bitch, The Rolling Stones ★★
I Got The Blues, The Rolling Stones ★★
Sister Morphine, The Rolling Stones
Dead Flowers, The Rolling Stones
Moonlight Mile, The Rolling Stones ★★

Exile On Main Street (Deluxe Edition)

Rocks Off, The Rolling Stones ★★
Rip This Joint, The Rolling Stones ★★
Shake Your Hips, The Rolling Stones ★★★
Casino Boogie, The Rolling Stones
Tumbling Dice, The Rolling Stones ★★★
Torn & Frayed, The Rolling Stones
Sweet Black Angel, The Rolling Stones
Loving Cup, The Rolling Stones
Happy, The Rolling Stones ★★★
Turd On The Run, The Rolling Stones
Ventilator Blues, The Rolling Stones
I Just Want To See His Face, The Rolling Stones ★★
All Down The Line, The Rolling Stones ★★
Shine A Light, The Rolling Stones ★★
Plundered My Soul, The Rolling Stones

The Lost Brussels

Tumbling Dice (Live), The Rolling Stones ★★★
Dancing With Mr. D (Live), The Rolling Stones
Angie (Live), The Rolling Stones ★★
Gimme Shelter (Live), The Rolling Stones ★★

Ft. Worth Express

Bitch (Live), The Rolling Stones ★★

Goats Head Soup

Angie, The Rolling Stones ★★

It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll

It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll, The Rolling Stones
Time Waits For No One, The Rolling Stones ★★★
Fingerprint File, The Rolling Stones

Metamorphosis

Heart Of Stone (Alt), The Rolling Stones ★★

Black And Blue

Fool To Cry, The Rolling Stones
Hand Of Fate, The Rolling Stones

Some Girls

Miss You, The Rolling Stones ★★★★
When The Whip Comes Down, The Rolling Stones
Beast Of Burden, The Rolling Stones ★★
Some Girls, The Rolling Stones
Faraway Eyes, The Rolling Stones
Shattered, The Rolling Stones

Emotional Rescue

She’s So Cold, The Rolling Stones

Tattoo You

Start Me Up, The Rolling Stones ★★
Slave, The Rolling Stones
Worried About You, The Rolling Stones
Waiting On A Friend, The Rolling Stones ★★★

Stripped (Live)

Wild Horses (Live), The Rolling Stones

Bridges To Babylon

Saint Of Me, The Rolling Stones
How Can I Stop, The Rolling Stones ★★

A Bigger Bang

Rough Justice, The Rolling Stones
Sweet Neo Con, The Rolling Stones

Related Songs:

Diddley Daddy, Bo Diddley ★★
Diddley Daddy, Chris Isaak

Road Runner, The Pretty Things

Bright Lights, Big City, Jimmy Reed ★★

I Want To Be Loved, Muddy Waters ★★

Baby What’s Wrong, Jimmy Reed

High Heel Sneakers, Tommy Tucker ★★
High Heel Sneakers, Elvis Presley

Down In The Bottom, Howlin’ Wolf

(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66, Nat King Cole Trio ★★★★
(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66 (Alt), Nat King Cole Trio ★★
(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66 (Alt), Nat King Cole ★★
(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66 (Swing), Chuck Berry ★★

I Just Want To Make Love To You, Muddy Waters ★★★★

I’m A King Bee, Slim Harpo ★★

I Can’t Be Satisfied, Muddy Waters ★★★

Everybody Needs Somebody To Love, Solomon Burke ★★★

You Can’t Catch Me, Chuck Berry ★★★

Come On, Chuck Berry ★★

Memphis, Tennessee, Chuck Berry ★★★★
Memphis, Tennessee, Lonnie Mack ★★★★★
Memphis, Tennessee, Johnny Rivers ★★★★
Memphis, Tennessee, Elvis Presley
Memphis, Tennessee (Live), The Beatles ★★

You Better Move On, Arthur Alexander ★★

Mona, Bo Diddley ★★

Not Fade Away, Buddy Holly & The Crickets ★★★
Not Fade Away/Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad, Grateful Dead ★★★★

Confessin’ The Blues, Walter Brown With Jay McShann ★★★
Confessin’ The Blues, Chuck Berry ★★

Around And Around, Chuck Berry ★★★★
Around And Around (Take 2), Chuck Berry ★★

Down The Road A Piece, Amos Milburn ★★
Down The Road A Piece, Chuck Berry ★★
Down The Road A Piece (Alt), Chuck Berry ★★

Mercy, Mercy, Don Covay ★★

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, Devo ★★★★
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, Otis Redding ★★★

That’s No Way To Get Along, Robert Wilkins ★★

Love In Vain, Robert Johnson ★★

Shake Your Hips, Slim Harpo ★★★★

Little Queenie, Chuck Berry ★★

Fortune Teller, Benny Spellman ★★★

The Red Rooster, Howlin’ Wolf ★★★★
The Red Rooster (False Start), Howlin’ Wolf ★★
The Red Rooster, Sam Cooke ★★

“I went down to the station, with some toothpaste in my hand.”
— Tad Williams, about 1970

6. Paul Simon

Paul Simon is a singer, songwriter and guitarist from Queens, a borough of New York City, New York. Simon’s father Louis was a professor at the City College of New York, and a part time bandleader, who gradually gave up his musical aspirations to support his family. Like many New York boys growing up in the forties and fifties, Simon’s first love was baseball, but he took a greater interest in music during elementary school. Simon met longtime collaborator Art Garfunkel in sixth grade; by eighth grade Simon was writing songs that the two would sing together. Success came early for the duo; as teenagers the two had a hit song. Billed as Tom & Jerry, “Hey, Schoolgirl” was a top 50 national hit in 1957.

After high school, Simon and Garfunkel each attended college, and only performed occasionally. Simon graduated from Queens College with a degree in English, while Garfunkel received a degree in mathematics from Columbia University. Simon continued to write songs, performing them solo, or with Garfunkel and other musicians. In 1964, the duo had a successful audition with Columbia Records, and recorded an album of folk songs titled Wednesday Morning, 3 AM. Sluggish sales prompted Simon to leave and pursue a solo career in England, but he returned a year later when an electrified version of “The Sounds Of Silence” became a surprise #1 hit. Simon & Garfunkel reunited and became one of America’s most beloved folk rock groups, with four acclaimed albums, culminating with the Grammy Award winning Bridge Over Troubled Water in 1970.

Here Paul and brother Ed Simon play the finger picking standard “Anji”, originally by British guitarist Davy Graham:

Paul Simon (b. 1941), guitar, songwriter, singer, bandleader
Art Garfunkel (b. 1941), singer

Solo Career

Bridge Over Troubled Water is Simon & Garfunkel’s most diverse album, with Simon beginning to experiment with different rhythms and instrumentation. At the height of their career, Simon & Garfunkel disbanded, and both men pursued solo careers. Though Art Garfunkel had success as both a singer and actor, it was Paul Simon who embarked on a long, influential career that includes dozens of literary and music awards, plus the grand distinction of being a member of Saturday Night Live Five-Timers club.

Paul-Simon

As an independent songwriter, with no affiliation to a specific group of musicians, Paul Simon traveled far and wide to create different musical backgrounds. He traveled to Jamaica to record “Mother And Child Reunion” and Muscle Shoals, Alabama to record “Loves Me Like A Rock”. He traveled to South Africa and Brazil to record compelling native rhythms, and returned to New York to complete the tracks with lyrics and studio musicians, the songs for the albums Graceland and Rhythm Of The Saints. The talents of New York’s finest studio musicians are featured throughout his career.

An artist of uncommon stamina and longevity, Simon created what is considered his greatest work (Graceland) in his mid-forties. His most recent album, the highly acclaimed So Beautiful or So What from 2011, includes “The Afterlife”, my favorite song in the last few years. Simon also “reunites” every now and then with Art Garfunkel to play Simon & Garfunkel songs. Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1990, and Simon was inducted as a solo artist in 2001.

An incomplete list of New York City’s best studio musicians, a small subset of those who contributed to Paul Simon’s music:

Steve Gadd (b. 1945), drums
Richard Tee (1943-1993), keyboards
Bill Lee (b. 1928), bass
Eric Gale (1938-1994), guitar
Joe South (1940-2012), guitar
The Brecker Brothers (Michael (1949-2007) and Randy (b. 1945)), core horn section
David Sanborn (b. 1945), saxophone

Emory University: Paul Simon Brings a New Verse to the Ellman Lectures, Sept. 25, 2013

Songwriting

“No, the early songs, I can’t say I really like them. But there’s something naive and sweet-natured, and I must say I like that about it.

They’re not angry. And that means that I wasn’t angry or unhappy. That’s my memory of that time; it was just about idyllic. It was just the best time of my life, I think, up until recently, these last five years or so, six years…This has been the best time of my life. But before that, I would say that that was.”

— Paul Simon

Simon is somewhat dismissive of his early work; I like the Simon & Garfunkel songs better than he does. Songs like “I Am A Rock”, “Homeward Bound” and even the playful “At The Zoo” are among my favorite Paul Simon songs. Taken together, Simon & Garfunkel’s earliest music paint my imagined portrait of life growing up as a schoolboy in New England; I feel the chill of their winter, and the warmth and happiness of life there. An older person still appreciates, and often longs for younger days. Songs about winning or losing love, and wanting to be home, ring true forever. Like emptiness and harmony, I need someone to comfort me. It’s hard not to reminisce fondly, even if life didn’t go according to plan.

For the first time in ten or so artists, I passed on reading a full biography of Paul Simon. I’m very familiar with his music, and sensed I would not learn much. Besides, Bob Dylan is up next and I have to study and prepare. That’s not a knock on Simon; Dylan is a complex character with a vast library of music. This is as good a place to point out that Simon may prefer his post-Garfunkel music because he, like virtually all young folk songwriters, was so influenced by Bob Dylan, that he was not satisfied until he broke free and found a more authentic voice.

I reviewed Simon’s long interview in Paul Zollo’s “Songwriters on Songwriting”, and used a few quotes to facilitate a discussion.

Amazon.com Link to “Songwriters On Songwriting”, by Paul Zollo

“As soon as your mind knows that it’s on and it’s supposed to produce some lines, either it doesn’t or it produces things that are very predictable. And that’s why I say I’m not interested in writing something I’ve thought about. I’m interested in discovering where my mind wants to go, or what object it wants to pick up.

It always picks up on something true. You’ll find out much more about what you’re thinking that way than you will if you’re determined to say something. What you’re determined to say is filled with all your rationalizations and your defenses and all of that. What you want to say to the world as opposed to what you’re thinking. And as a lyricist, my job is to find out what it is that I’m thinking. Even if it’s something that I don’t want to be thinking.

I think when I get blocked, when I have writer’s block (though I never think of it as writer’s block anymore), what it is is that you have something to say but you don’t want to say it. So your mind says, “I have nothing to say. I’ve just nothing more to say. I can’t write anything. I have no thoughts.” Closer to the truth is that you have a thought that you really would prefer not to have. And you’re not going to say that thought. Your mind is protected. Once you discover what that thought is, if you can find another way of approaching it that isn’t negative to you, then you can deal with that subject matter.”

— Paul Simon

I’ve used this philosophy for the blog, especially the last couple of years. After reading and listening to music for a few weeks, I write whatever emerges. No thought is given to organization until the profile is in progress; at some point I find the logical path to a satisfactory conclusion. For the second time in the last six months (Neil Young post), I’ve had writer’s block, not knowing how to start. I’m out of my league; I can’t possibly offer insight or reasonable analysis of Paul Simon’s fifty-plus year career, impossibly long and diverse to capture in a couple thousand words, even if I had the formal musical training. I can write down a list of songs I like, and the ones I like best, but even then I’m having yet an inner crisis over the concept of attaching a rating to songs. Recently, I’ve had like-minded critics and analysts question assigning a value to artistic expression. Another friend said recently that ranking songs was against her principles. The closer I get to finishing this project, which began over four years ago, the more I feel the rating exercise is misguided at best, and at times I feel sheepish and stupid evaluating my favorite musicians and songs in numerical terms. But I am nearly done, compelled to finish what I started, and show how my calculating mind thinks. Though the ratings connote some hierarchy of music, my words nearly always champion the artists and their brilliance.

Simon On Beginning And Ending Songs

“Because how you begin a song is one of the hardest things. The first line of a song is very hard. I always have this image in my mind of a road that goes like this (motions with hands to signify a road that gets wider as it opens out) so that the implication is that the directions are pointing outward. It’s like a baseball diamond; there’s more and more space out here. As opposed to like this (motions an inverted road getting thinner.) Because if it’s like this, at this point in the song, you’re out of options.

So you want to have that first line that has a lot of options, to get you going. And the other thing that I try to remember, especially if a song is long, you have plenty of time. You don’t have to kill them, you don’t have to grab them by the throat by the first line.

In fact, you have to wait for the audience — they’re going to sit down, get settled in their seat…their concentration is not even there. You have to be a good host to people’s attention span. They’re not going to come in there and work real hard right away. Too many things are coming: the music is coming, the rhythm is coming, all kinds of information that the brain is sorting out.

So “You Can Call Me Al”, which was an example of that kind of writing, starts off very easily with sort of a joke: “Why am I soft in the middle when the rest of my life is so hard?” It’s a joke, with very easy words. Then it has a chorus you can’t understand. What is he talking about, you can call me Betty, and Betty, you can call me Al? You don’t know what I’m talking about. But I don’t think it’s bothersome. You don’t know what I’m talking about, but neither do I, at that point.

The second verse is really a recapitulation of the first: A man walks down the street, he says…another thing. And by the time you get to the third verse, and people have been into the song for long enough, now you can start to throw abstract images. Because there’s been a structure, and those abstract images, they will just come down and fall into one of the slots that the mind has already made up about the structure of the song.

So now you have this guy who’s no longer thinking about the mundane thoughts, about whether he’s getting too fat, whether he needs a photo opportunity, or whether he’s afraid of the dogs in the moonlight and the graveyard, and he’s off in, listen to the sound, look what’s going on, there’s cattle and…”

— Paul Simon

Describing what makes a song enjoyable is a complicated proposition. I have my favorite subjects — love, God, work, nature, beauty: the small handful of life’s most precious things. Good songs can have simple words, or be complex and literate. There are good songs using only one or two chords, with monotonous melodies that compel the listener into a trance-like groove. There are good songs with elaborate chord structures and unusual melodies, that must be listened to several times to even begin understanding. How the singer “phrases”, accenting and punctuating the words within the melody to tell the story, is essential, a reason why I generally prefer an author’s original version. It’s also why I gravitate to “plain” singers over the wailers and belters of the world. By singing at a medium volume, and not yelling every word, allows the plain singer to emote more effectively, to enunciate each word, and accent the song with higher or lower volume where appropriate. Many of my favorite artists are great songwriters who don’t have particularly strong voices, but they sing with finesse. John Lennon, Paul Simon, and Jerry Garcia are among those who interpret a song well.

Ambiguity

I like songs whose words can be interpreted in more than one way. The classic example I often use to illustrate this is Van Morrison’s “Have I Told You Lately”:

“Have I told you lately that I love you,
Have I told you there’s no one above you,
Fill my heart with gladness,
Take away my sadness,
Ease my troubles, that’s what you do.

There’s a love that’s divine,
And it’s yours and it’s mine,
And it shines like the sun.
At the end of the day, we will give thanks
And pray, to the One.”

— Van Morrison

The song can be viewed as either romantic love or religious devotion. This type of ambiguity is a rare and wonderful trait. Paul Simon’s practice of letting his subconscious participate lends itself well to lyrics open for interpretation.

Mini-Concert

Let’s look at a couple of Paul Simon performances. My favorite song on Graceland has always been “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes”, featuring the South African singing group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Performed in concert, the song displays the singing group’s grace and agility:

In the fall of 2003, Simon & Garfunkel embarked on the elaborate “Old Friends” tour, in which they assembled a fine orchestra, and invited their heroes, The Everly Brothers, to participate for a few songs each evening. First, here is Simon & Garfunkel performing “The Boxer” as a duet on the David Letterman show. Note the inclusion of the song’s “missing verse”.

And here, with the full orchestra, Simon & Garfunkel perform “I Am A Rock” in 2003:

In 2007, Paul Simon became the first recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. The concert to commemorate this occasion included a performance of Simon’s “Loves Me Like A Rock”, featuring the Dixie Hummingbirds on vocals and Stevie Wonder on piano and vocals. Complete with false start, “Loves Me Like A Rock” begins around the eight minute mark of this fifteen minute video:

Ever since I saw this video, “Loves Me Like A Rock” is the song that makes me think about Mom. What a great, unselfish person she was. And boy, did she ever love me love me love me.

The Afterlife

“After I died, and the makeup had dried, I went back to my place.
No moon that night, but a heavenly light shone on my face.
Still I thought it was odd, there was no sign of God just to usher me in.
Then a voice from above, sugar coated with Love, said,

Let us begin.
You got to fill out a form first, and then you wait in the line.
You got to fill out a form first, and then you wait in the line.”

In the first verse, Simon introduces the topic — he died, so what happens next? One good thing is he gets to go back to his place. I like the rhyme of “usher me in” with “let us begin”. We now know that heaven requires a bit of paperwork before entry is granted.

“OK, a new kid in school, got to follow the rule, you got to learn the routine.
Whoa, there’s a girl over there, with the sunshiny hair, like a homecomin’ queen.
I said, “Hey, what you say? It’s a glorious day, by the way how long you been dead?”
Maybe you, maybe me, maybe baby makes three, but she just shook her head…

You got to fill out a form first, and then you wait in the line.
You got to fill out a form first, and then you wait in the line.

Buddah and Moses and all the noses from narrow to flat,
Had to stand in the line, just to glimpse the divine, what you think about that?
Well it seems like our fate to suffer and wait for the knowledge we seek,
It’s all his design, no one cuts in the line, no one here likes a sneak.

You got to fill out a form first, and then you wait in the line.
You got to fill out a form first, and then you wait in the line.”

In the self-explanatory second and third verses, Simon addresses the two great mysteries in life. There’s always the magnetic appeal of a beautiful woman. And while you’re waiting in line, notice that no one is exempt from final judgement. After a short, shimmering instrumental passage, Simon returns with the final verse.

“After you climb up the ladder of time, the Lord God is near.
Face to face, in the vastness of space, your words disappear.
And you feel like swimming in that ocean of love, and the current is strong.
But all that remains when you try to explain is a fragment of song…

Lord, is it ‘Be Bop A Lu La’ or ‘Ooh Poo Pah Doo’?
Lord, ‘Be Bop A Lu La’ or ‘Ooh Poo Pah Doo’?
‘Be Bop A Lu La’.”

Assuming I have time to think about life before I die, I’m sure to swim in that ocean of love and reminisce about the great times I’ve had. Words to describe my gratitude will not suffice. Life’s a struggle, but when my time gets near, I’ll give up battling and just swim.

It seems like a throwaway, but “Lord, is it ‘Be Bop A Lu La’ or ‘Ooh Poo Pah Doo’?” is the key statement. After four beautifully constructed verses of rhythmic, literate prose, he finally distills what he wants to say. Finally, he decides on ‘Be Bop A Lu La’.

Paul Simon Song Notes:

Most of these songs are easy to find. The exceptions are:

1. “Hearts And Bones/Mystery Train/Wheels (Live)” can be found on iTunes Festival: London 2011 — EP.

2. “Paranoia Blues (Alt)” can be found on Paul Simon.

3. “Something So Right (Live)” can be found on Paul Simon In Concert: Live Rhymin’.

4. “The Afterlife (Live)” is the official YouTube performance as presented in the blog.

5. “The Sound Of Silence (Alt)” can be found on The Columbia Studio Recordings — 1964-1970.

6. “Scarborough Fair/Canticle (Live)” and “I Am A Rock (Live) can be found on Live 1969.

7. “The Sound Of Silence (Live)” can be found on Live from New York City, 1967.

8. “A Hazy Shade Of Winter (Live)”
“I Am A Rock (Live)”
“At The Zoo (Live)”
“Baby Driver (Live)”
“Homeward Bound (Live)”
“The Sound Of Silence (Live)”

can be found on Old Friends: Live On Stage.

9. “Homeward Bound (Live)”
“The Boxer (Live)”
“Fakin’ It (Live)”
“The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) (Live)”
“Anji (Live)”
“America (Live)”

can be found on the unauthorized live recording 59th Street Bridge Songs: France 1970.

Simon & Garfunkel Songs

Homeward Bound, Simon & Garfunkel ★★★★★

The Sound Of Silence (Alt), Simon & Garfunkel ★★★★
The Boxer, Simon & Garfunkel ★★★★
America, Simon & Garfunkel ★★★★
I Am A Rock (Live), Simon & Garfunkel ★★★★

At The Zoo, Simon & Garfunkel ★★★
The Sound Of Silence, Simon & Garfunkel ★★★
Mrs. Robinson, Simon & Garfunkel ★★★
Scarborough Fair/Canticle, Simon & Garfunkel ★★★
I Am A Rock, Simon & Garfunkel ★★★

Bridge Over Troubled Water, Simon & Garfunkel ★★
Baby Driver, Simon & Garfunkel ★★
Peggy-O, Simon & Garfunkel ★★
Wednesday Morning, 3 AM, Simon & Garfunkel ★★
Anji, Simon & Garfunkel ★★
The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy), Simon & Garfunkel ★★
The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy), Simon & Garfunkel ★★
Fakin’ It, Simon & Garfunkel ★★
A Hazy Shade Of Winter, Simon & Garfunkel ★★
Scarborough Fair/Canticle (Live), Simon & Garfunkel ★★
I Am A Rock (live), Simon & Garfunkel ★★
The Sound Of Silence (Live), Simon & Garfunkel ★★
Homeward Bound (Live), Simon & Garfunkel ★★
The Boxer (Live), Simon & Garfunkel ★★
Anji (Live), Simon & Garfunkel ★★

El Condor Pasa (If I Could), Simon & Garfunkel
The Only Living Boy In New York, Simon & Garfunkel
Kathy’s Song, Simon & Garfunkel
Richard Cory, Simon & Garfunkel
Cloudy, Simon & Garfunkel
The Dangling Conversation, Simon & Garfunkel
Flowers Never Bend With The Rainfall, Simon & Garfunkel
A Simple Desultory Phillipic (Or How I Was Robert McNamara’d), Simon & Garfunkel
Old Friends, Simon & Garfunkel
Bookends Theme, Simon & Garfunkel
Sparrow, Simon & Garfunkel
Somewhere They can’t Find Me, Simon & Garfunkel
Bleecker Street, Simon & Garfunkel
Patterns, Simon & Garfunkel
The Sound Of Silence (Live), Simon & Garfunkel
A Hazy Shade Of Winter (live), Simon & Garfunkel
At The Zoo (Live), Simon & Garfunkel
Baby Driver (live), Simon & Garfunkel
Homeward Bound (live), Simon & Garfunkel
Fakin’ It (Live), Simon & Garfunkel
America (live), Simon & Garfunkel

Paul Simon Songs:

The Afterlife (Live), Paul Simon ★★★★★

Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes, Paul Simon ★★★★
Late In the Evening, Paul Simon ★★★★
The Afterlife, Paul Simon ★★★★

Mother And Child Reunion, Paul Simon ★★★
Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard, Paul Simon ★★★
Under African Skies, Paul Simon ★★★
Graceland, Paul Simon ★★★
Something So Right, Paul Simon ★★★
Born At The Right Time, Paul Simon ★★★
Loves Me Like A Rock, Paul Simon ★★★
Dazzling Blue (Video), Paul Simon ★★★

Take Me To The Mardi Gras, Paul Simon ★★
Slip Slidin’ Away, Paul Simon ★★
She Moves On, Paul Simon ★★
50 Ways To Leave Your Lover, Paul Simon ★★
That Was Your Mother, Paul Simon ★★
Dazzling Blue, Paul Simon ★★
Hobo’s Blues, Paul Simon ★★
Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes (Alt), Paul Simon ★★
Something So Right (Live), Paul Simon ★★
Homeless, Paul Simon ★★
Hearts And Bones, Paul Simon ★★

Father And Daughter, Paul Simon
The Boy In The Bubble, Paul Simon
Gumboots, Paul Simon
You Can Call Me Al, Paul Simon
Crazy Love, Vol. II, Paul Simon
Still Crazy After All These Years, Paul Simon
Kodachrome, Paul Simon
Train In the Distance, Paul Simon
Duncan, Paul Simon
Paranoia Blues (Alt), Paul Simon
Proof, Paul Simon
Can’t Run But, Paul Simon
The Coast, Paul Simon
Born At the Right Time (Demo), Paul Simon
Getting Ready For Christmas Day, Paul Simon
Rewrite, Paul Simon
One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor, Paul Simon
St. Judy’s Comet, Paul Simon

Related Songs:

Angi, Davy Graham ★★

Bridge Over Troubled Water, Aretha Franklin ★★

13. Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead are a rock band from Palo Alto, California. The band formed around Jerry Garcia, who grew up in the Balboa neighborhood of San Francisco, but moved to Palo Alto in early 1961. Garcia became the guitar and banjo teacher at Dana Morgan’s Music Store in downtown Palo Alto, and over the course of the next four years, he recruited Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan and Bill Kreutzman into the band. They evolved from a jug band into a rock and roll band, with roots in many styles of music, from Garcia’s love of bluegrass to Lesh’s training as a classical composer. During these formative years Garcia also played music with Robert Hunter, who became a primary lyricist for the group.

images

As a young man, Jerry Garcia embraced the poetry and literature of the Beat Generation.

From Wikipedia:

“The Beat Generation was a group of American post-World War II writers who came to prominence in the 1950s, as well as the cultural phenomena that they both documented and inspired. Central elements of “Beat” culture included rejection of perceived standards, innovations in style, experimentation with drugs, alternative sexualities, an interest in Eastern religion, a rejection of materialism, and explicit portrayals of the human condition.”

Garcia spent much of his free time at Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, where he found like-minded souls who shared his desire for free expression. He became friends with authors Allan Ginsberg and Ken Kesey, as well as the noteworthy free spirit Neal Cassady, the subject of Jack Kerouac’s novel “On The Road”.

The Long Golden Road

The Grateful Dead’s journey to worldwide success and notoriety was long. If one might identify when the band caught its “big break”, it happened when Ken Kesey asked them to perform at his Acid Test house parties in the remote, coastal mountains west of Palo Alto. At the time the band was known as The Warlocks; they soon changed their name to the Grateful Dead. They were young, raw and experimental in their approach.

“One day we were over at Phil’s house…He had a big dictionary. I opened it and there was ‘Grateful Dead’, those words juxtaposed. It was one of those moments, you know, like everything else went blank, diffuse, just sort of oozed away, and there was GRATEFUL DEAD in big, black letters edged all around in gold, man, blasting out at me, such a stunning combination. So I said, ‘How about Grateful Dead?’ And that was it.”

— Jerry Garcia

gratefuldead4

Wikipedia Biography of the Grateful Dead

Jerry Garcia (1942-1995), guitar, vocals, primary songwriter
Bob Weir (b. 1947), guitar, vocals, primary songwriter
Bill Kreutzmann (b. 1946), drums
Phil Lesh (b. 1940), bass guitar, vocals, songwriter
Ron “Pigpen” McKernan (1945-1973), keyboards, harmonica, vocals
Robert Hunter (b. 1941), lyricist

Mickey Hart (b. 1943), drums, percussion
Tom Constanten (b. 1944), keyboards
Keith Godchaux (1948-1980), keyboards
Donna Jean Godchaux (b. 1947), vocals
Brent Mydland (1952-1990), keyboards, vocals, songwriter

The association with the hippie subculture in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, combined with the notoriety of the experimental LSD-25 acid tests, raised their profile to a national level. Growing up in the late sixties in the San Francisco Bay Area, it was unclear the Grateful Dead would become the preeminent San Francisco band. The Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow was the most successful album among local bands, though Jerry Garcia played guitar on several of their songs.

But the Grateful Dead, a quintet of societal misfits, were busy playing and performing all the time, writing their own songs, and utilizing their disparate influences to expand their musical boundaries. They toured nationally, and gradually built a devoted audience. Bob Weir, the kid, became a strong singer and fine second guitar who loved to sing swinging country songs. Pigpen McKernan, whose Dad was a soul and blues disk jockey, was the band’s soul and blues man. Bill Kreutzmann, the famous football coach’s grandson, hit the drums instead. They became a sextet when Mickey Hart was added as a second drummer and percussionist in 1967. Phil Lesh, the budding classical composer who never played the bass until Garcia asked him to do so, learned how to use the bass as counterpoint behind the soloists to great effect. Jerry Garcia, the reluctant leader, refined his quiet and mournful singing, and became a versatile, inventive guitarist of great renown, with long improvisational solos that thrilled his fans.

To prepare for this profile, I re-read “A Long Strange Trip”, Dennis McNally’s fine Grateful Dead biography.

Amazon.com Link to “A Long Strange Trip: The Inside Story of The Grateful Dead, by Dennis McNally”

“Flashback: Jerry Garcia, October 1978”, Guitar Player Magazine, by Jon Sievert
“Deadhead, The Vast Recorded Legacy of the Grateful Dead”, by Nick Paumgarten, New Yorker Magazine, November 26, 2012″
Grateful Dead Lyric/Song Finder
The Grateful Dead Clubhouse Projects

Also, here are two fine blogs about The Grateful Dead and the San Francisco music scene, by Corry Arnold, a high school classmate:

Hooterollin’ Blog
Lost Live Dead Blog

By the mid-seventies the Dead had become a cultural phenomenon, a traveling party attracting huge audiences, with a devoted fan base who enjoyed the atmosphere of dance, drugs and free expression, not to mention the band’s constantly evolving set list. No two shows were the same, and over their career they performed hundreds of different songs. Sometimes the band’s performance was tired and sloppy; at other times, their improvisations clicked, inciting audiences into a state of bliss. They continued to tour and perform throughout the eighties, despite the deteriorating health of Garcia. In 1986, Jerry fell into a diabetic coma, after which he temporarily improved his consumption habits. The band experienced a final prime in their career in the last eighties and early nineties, but were derailed by the premature death of keyboard player Brent Mydland in 1990. Garcia, who tired of the rigors of travel and performance, resumed some of his habits and eventually passed away in 1995. The Grateful Dead disbanded, though the four remaining original members (Lesh, Weir, Kreutzmann and Hart) continue to perform together periodically.

The Grateful Dead’s large traveling family of musicians, technicians and roadies experienced more than their fair share of tragedies, losing three keyboard players to consumption problems along the way. The band often dealt with these losses in a seemingly cavalier fashion, as if the train was moving too fast to worry about lost passengers.

The Grateful Dead were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1994.

Either You Love Them Or…

The Dead are perhaps the most polarizing band of all time. With the exception of the Beatles, the Grateful Dead is the favorite band of more people I know than any other. Perhaps five to ten percent of my best music friends built their music listening lives around Grateful Dead concerts. The band did not discourage amateur recording enthusiasts from taping concerts, which spawned a whole subculture of sharing tapes, which allowed their audience to collect far more music than other bands.

“The Grateful Dead epitomize hippie rock & roll, and if you’re a hippie yourself, you might want to invert the ratings above. But unless you are, this is one assertedly major oeuvre that’s virtually worthless except for documentary purposes. The Dead’s long modal jams may be the stuff of mesmerism in concert (though even there, it’s questionable), but they’re simply self-indulgent and boring on disc. The band’s attempts at pop, rock and country are rendered effortlessly irritating and stodgy by the band’s lack of a crisp rhythm section and/or a single competent vocalist.

The Dead are worshipped for their image as hip patriarchs, which meant that as long as Jerry Garcia has that acid twinkle in his eye, he’ll never have to worry about his pedestrian set of chops. Truthfully, there simply isn’t very much about this group that’s impressive, except the devotion of its fans to a mythology created in Haight-Ashbury and now sustained in junior high schools across America. At its peak, the Dead has essayed competence: Workingman’s Dead is third-rate next to (The Byrds’ album) Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, much less anything Gram Parsons ever recorded on his own, but it has a sweet ingenuousness that renders it bearable. Similarly, Live Dead isn’t much less interminable that any other Dead concert piece, but it has a freshness that feints towards vitality. But when the Dead attempt to rework rock and blues standards — as they did on their horrible debut album, and have sporadically since — they are a pox on the face of pop. And the group’s patchouli-oil philosophy, which does nothing more than reinforce solipsism and self-indulgence in its listeners, except when it’s nurturing its Hells Angels fan club, is exactly the sort of stuff that gave peace ‘n’ love a bad name.”

Dave Marsh, “The New Rolling Stone Record Guide”, 2nd Edition, 1983

I took LSD about eight or ten times in my teenage years, always in a controlled environment. These were great experiences that I cherish. Though there have been serious LSD casualties in the history of rock music, like Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd and Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac, the Grateful Dead managed to use LSD regularly early in their career, and emerge relatively unscathed, while benefiting from the magnificently sensory experiences the drug provides. This is not an endorsement. You have to be with friends, and if you get frightened, it will swallow you in fear, and send you tumbling fast.

Here’s a great video, when the Grateful Dead were invited to perform on Hugh Hefner’s “Playboy After Dark” program in 1969. The merry pranksters dosed the coffee on the set, and shared their psychedelic experience with the more conventional Playboy crowd, prompting Hefner to remark, “Thanks for the gift.”

“It’s a language, that’s all, without words — just the images themselves.”, wrote Art Kleps, an early associate of LSD researcher Timothy Leary, and one of the few to consider LSD in Western philosophical terms. LSD, he argued, lays waste to supernaturalism, since, ironically, much of the LSD experience lies in the realm of the absurd, and there is “no room for the absurd in the cosmologies of the occultists and supernaturalists.” The simple materialism of the lower reaches of scientific thought also had to go: “It is materialism that is destroyed by these overwhelming demonstrations of the limitless power of the imagination, not, necessarily, as those who liked to disparage nihilism and solipsism assume, empricism, logic or honor. It is not one’s experience or character that is intimidated, but only certain abstract concepts about the organization of experience.

Most people come out of LSD trips believing in the oneness of all life, the interconnectedness of things, and from that, the philosophically disposed frequently hit on Jungian synchronicity, the notion that things can be on a non-cause-and-effect basis, as in dreams. “If one’s thesis is that ordinary life is a dream,” wrote Art Kleps, “then anything that can happen in a dream in sleep can happen in waking life also, without disproving the thesis. If you can see that, you can see everything.”

— Excerpt from “A Long Strange Trip”, Dennis McNally

Although not commercially released, the Barton Hall concert at Cornell University (May 8, 1977) was added to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry. Here Bob Weir sings “Estimated Prophet” (audio only) with its uncharacteristic 7/4 time signature.

The Grateful Dead flew in the face of convention; most Americans have dismissed them without investigation. Throughout their career they were odds with the corporate mentality, music executives looking for a hit song and a certain image. The Dead focused on the music, and let their sound engineers perfect a stadium-size sound system, no matter the cost. They built their business around the concerts, allowed the tapers to record the shows, and learned to market themselves independently. And please don’t tell me they can’t play. It would be foolish to suggest they possessed the chops of Miles Davis or John Coltrane, but they are early rock practitioners of modal jazz improvisation, not to mention their facility with folk, country and rock and roll. They are one of rock music’s most versatile bands.

“Early in 1981 the Dead went to Europe to play a few shows in London and then appear with the Who on the German TV show “Rockpalast”, and while in London Garcia gave one of his most extraordinary interviews. Few patently hostile interviewers get within yards of a star, and rarer still is the star who will tolerate hostility. Garcia found it stimulating. The interviewer, Paul Morley, was a cutting-edge young punk from New Musical Express, and Garcia revolted him. “You’re just a part of a perpetuation of bland, blanketing myths,” said the punk. “Does that disappoint you?” Garcia chuckled. “Naah! I didn’t have any expectations…If you start out expecting to fail and expecting the worst then anything that happens is an improvement over that…we’re just starting.” Does it upset you that I don’t dig you? “No! I don’t give a damn. I would be afraid if if everybody in the world liked us…I don’t want to be responsible for leading the march to wherever. Fuck that. It’s already been done and the world hates it…a combination of music and the psychedelic experience taught me to fear power. I mean fear it and hate it…First of all, I don’t think of myself as an adult. An adult is someone who’s made up their mind. When I go through airports the people who have their thing together, who are clean, well-groomed, who have tailored clothes, who have their whole material thing together, these people are adults. They’ve made a decision to follow those routines…I would say that I was part of a prolonged adolescence. I think our whole scene is that…I feel like someone who is constantly on the verge of losing it, or blowing it. I feel tremendously insecure.” “My heated irrationality bumps into Garcia’s sheer reasonableness,” wrote Morley, and it was true. Garcia’s egoless interest in authentic communication, even when it involved mocking him, made for one of the more fascinating encounters in rock journalism.

— Dennis McNally, “A Long Strange Trip”

Growing Up In Palo Alto

While researching the Grateful Dead, I came across these two interviews conducted by the Silicon Valley Historical Association. The first is Jerry Garcia’a final interview; the second is a semiconductor executive who discusses the open sharing of technology among scientists over drinks after work:

The Bay Area zeitgeist. Since World War II, artists and engineers alike shared knowledge and wisdom and pushed society forward. Even in the integrated circuit industry growing south from Stanford University, there was a willingness to share and try things differently.

My Dad worked at the university physics lab, and though their Department of Energy directive was to study the nature of matter in its elemental form, their enduring legacy will be to help establish the ARPANET, the world’s first TCP/IP packet switching network. The ARPANET allowed the world’s high energy physics laboratories to share research in a timely fashion. Embraced by other government and educational institutions to share information, the ARPANET grew into the modern Internet, the most disruptive and important technology of the last fifty years. Its economic importance cannot be overestimated.

Not all change has been good for Palo Alto, from the perspective of a kid who grew up there when things were quieter. The county grew crowded and fabulously wealthy. Housing is unaffordable. The egalitarian nature of my hometown slowly slipped away. I moved away twenty years ago, and I probably won’t move back. If I’m lucky enough to live another twenty years, old Palo Alto still has delightful, quiet neighborhoods, places where you could have breakfast downtown, and then walk around town like my granddad did the last thirty years of his long life. Palo Alto has nice sidewalks.

Can you separate the beat generation movement from the the burgeoning scientific community? The Bay Area saw an influx of young, science-minded talent after World War II; my parents followed that dream in 1956. It wasn’t crowded and the weather is so gentle. There were strong bohemian influences, with lots of people ready to stretch boundaries, at a time when society was ripe for it. In my parents’ case, they were first generation college grads who wanted out of an Ivy League society they didn’t feel comfortable being in.

I’m proud of being from Palo Alto. I’m grateful for my parents to have moved there. It’s such a great town, the flatlands below the coastal scrapes near the Bay. As a young high school student I rode my ten-speed Peugeot bike everywhere. I remember riding no-handed down the middle of Hamilton Avenue at ten o’clock on a Saturday night. Many of us were allowed out late at night, and some of us boys used our bikes when we needed to get somewhere. Here’s a weird memory which fits. Of the few times I took LSD, one time we took a light dose early in the day. It was mid-afternoon, and we have no particular place to go, just sticking around our neighborhood in south Palo Alto. So we get on our bikes and jam down to the 7-11 on Middlefield Rd. and Colorado Ave. Not a long ride; about a mile or so. I’m riding no-handed on and off, no problem, but at some point I lose the bike beneath me, and the bike starts to fall. I sense the crash coming, and jump off the bike on purpose, and land standing as the bike fell on the ground. I laughed, looked at my friends, got back on my bike, and finished the short ride to for Slurpees.

1972

Dead Heads talk about concerts the way baseball geeks discuss statistics. It’s a wonder I didn’t geek out on the Dead; many folks got “collection oriented” when the Dead came around with their repertoire. They were never my favorite band; starting around age five or six, the Beatles were my favorite, followed by Creedence Clearwater Revival for a couple years. Curiously, my next favorite was David Grisman, Jerry Garcia’s long time friend. For a few years I never saw a Dead concert, but saw Grisman play a bunch of times, playing that string swing, once with the great Grappelli, with Dad. It was great when Garcia & Grisman started hanging out together and recording music at Grisman’s house in Stinson Beach.

I went to two Dead concerts, the first one (with parents in about 1967) I don’t remember, and during the second one (Laguna Seca, July 30, 1988), we left a few songs after Los Lobos finished. I heard it was a good show. I did give two angel tickets away that day to fans who showed their appreciation by bouncing away with energy, which was nice.

I’ve got a few stories about the Dead that I could share. Not much. A few connections here and there. Mama used to teach exercise class at the local high school with Janice Kreutzmann, Bill’s mom. The McKernans lived in the same Palo Alto neighborhood, and I met Pigpen’s brother Kevin, though not under the best of circumstances. Mom embraced both the music and implied freedom of the San Francisco scene, but it was Dad who liked the Grateful Dead music best. He recorded a cassette tape of the Dead’s first album for regular play. Here lies a difference between me and the typical Dead fan. Daddy liked the amped-up fast songs on their first album, like “Cold Rain And Snow”, “Beat It On Down The Line” and “Sittin’ On Top Of The World”. This kind of hot music runs in my blood. I rate the first Grateful Dead album as among their best.

The Grateful Dead are one of many bands influenced by the beat generation. But they were perhaps the one band closest to the movement, in terms of both physical location and philosophical intent.

How do the Grateful Dead rank seventh among my favorites? For one thing, they have such a large recorded library of music. I can’t possibly take the time to carefully listen to every song to create my personal list of favorites. I’ve collected Dead songs one, two, or a few at a time, over the years. I gravitate towards the fast swinging music more, and the long slow ones less than the typical fan. I’m certain to add more songs to the list.

I like the earliest years of the Dead’s music, from their earliest recordings in 1965 and lasting about a decade. The Golden Road (1965-1973) represents this era beautifully. It’s awkward to say that my favorite year is 1972. It’s a lean year; Mickey Hart was taking temporary leave from the group. Pianist Keith & singer Donna Godchaux joined the band, and Pigpen had become very sick. As a result, Bob Weir is a more prominent part of the soundscape. I also like hearing Bill Kreutzmann drumming by himself. To me, the one drummer sound is more austere and focused. These 1972 recordings show the integral guitar trio and Kreutzmann at their peak. I should probably buy that big box set of 1972 European live recordings. Every Dead Head should own the tremendous new 3CD + DVD box set Sunshine Daydream, a newly issued document that is essential.

My analysis does not give enough credit to singer and keyboardist Brent Mydland. I’ve included a few songs that feature Mydland, when he was an integral part of the band’s sound, but it is not an era I paid much attention to. By all accounts, he was well liked and admired, and in the case of one Dead Head friend, his contributions to Dozin’ At The Knick are among the finest of the band’s career.

Here is a vintage 1972 performance of the band’s seventy-five minute first (of three) set, which conclude with “El Paso”, “Big Railroad Blues”, and a first class version of “Truckin'”. Listen to them go get gone!

Grateful Dead Songs:

More than any other band so far, whittling down the list of songs into a focused overview of their music seems both fruitless and cold. This is a band where there is so much music, over a long period of time, that each person’s list of songs is personal, and will vary dramatically. I’ll offer my favorite ninety or so songs, and hopefully someone will take the time to offer their opinion.

Because the band’s recorded legacy is so complex, I am presenting the list by album, because it is more coherent and efficient. By album, in alphabetical order:

American Beauty (Remastered)

Box Of Rain, Grateful Dead ★★
Friend Of The Devil, Grateful Dead ★★★★
Sugar Magnolia, Grateful Dead ★★★
Operator, Grateful Dead
Candyman, Grateful Dead ★★
Ripple, Grateful Dead ★★★
Brokedown Palace, Grateful Dead
Attics In My Life, Grateful Dead
Truckin’, Grateful Dead ★★
Friend Of The Devil (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★

Anthem Of the Sun

That’s It For The Other One (Suite), Grateful Dead

Aoxomoxoa

China Cat Sunflower, Grateful Dead

Birth Of The Dead – The Studio Sides

I Know You Rider, Grateful Dead ★★
Don’t Ease Me In, Grateful Dead
Cold Rain And Snow (Alt), Grateful Dead ★★★

Blues For Allah

Help On The Way/Slipknot!, Grateful Dead
Franklin’s Tower, Grateful Dead ★★★

Complete Live Rarities Collection

Viola Lee Blues (Live), Grateful Dead
Pain In My Heart (Live), Grateful Dead
Scarlet Begonias (Live), Grateful Dead
Cassidy (Live), Grateful Dead

Dick’s Picks, Volume 4

Dire Wolf (Live), Grateful Dead ★★
Dark Star (Live), Grateful Dead ★★

Dick’s Picks, Volume 6

Althea (Live), Grateful Dead

Dick’s Picks, Volume 8

I Know Your Rider (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★★
Beat It On Down The Line (Live), Grateful Dead ★★
Candyman (Live), Grateful Dead
Cumberland Blues (Live), Grateful Dead
The Other One (Live), Grateful Dead

Dick’s Picks, Volume 35

Next Time You See Me (Live), Grateful Dead

Dozin’ At The Knick

Just A Little Light (Live), Grateful Dead
Row Jimmy (Live), Grateful Dead

Europe ’72

One More Saturday Night (Live), Grateful Dead
Jack Straw (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★
Tennessee Jed, Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead (Remastered, Expanded Edition)

Beat It On Down The Line, Grateful Dead ★★
Good Morning Little School Girl, Grateful Dead ★★
Cold Rain And Snow, Grateful Dead ★★★
Sittin’ On Top Of The World (Alt — Full Length), Grateful Dead ★★★
Morning Dew, Grateful Dead ★★

Grateful Dead From The Mars Hotel

U.S. Blues, Grateful Dead ★★★
Scarlet Begonias, Grateful Dead ★★
Ship Of Fools, Grateful Dead ★★

Live At The Fillmore East, 2/11/69

The Eleven (Live), Grateful Dead

Hundred Year Hall

I Know You Rider (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★★

In The Dark

Touch Of Grey, Grateful Dead
West L.A. Fadeaway, Grateful Dead

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Grateful Dead (Fillmore East, April 1971)

Bird Song (Live), Grateful Dead

Live/Dead (Remastered, Expanded Edition)

St. Stephen (Live), Grateful Dead
Death Don’t Have No Mercy (Live), Grateful Dead
Dark Star (Single), Grateful Dead
Turn On Your Love Light (Live), Grateful Dead

One From The Vault

Big River (Live), Grateful Dead
Franklin’s Tower (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★★
Eyes Of The World/Drums (Live), Grateful Dead ★★

Reckoning (Remastered, Expanded Edition)

Deep Elem Blues (Live), Grateful Dead

Shakedown Street

Shakedown Street, Grateful Dead
Fire On The Mountain, Grateful Dead ★★★

Skull & Roses

Bertha (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★★
Mama Tried (Live), Grateful Dead ★★
Big Railroad Blues (Live), Grateful Dead
Playing In the Band (Live), Grateful Dead
Big Boss Man (Live), Grateful Dead
Wharf Rat (Live), Grateful Dead ★★
Not Fade Away/Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★★

Sunshine Daydream

Me And My Uncle (Live), Grateful Dead ★★
Deal (Live), Grateful Dead
China Cat Sunflower (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★
I Know You Rider (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★
El Paso (Live), Grateful Dead
Sing Me Back Home (Live), Grateful Dead ★★

Terrapin Station

Estimated Prophet, Grateful Dead ★★★

Wake Of The Flood

Stella Blue, Grateful Dead

Workingman’s Dead (Remastered, Expanded Edition)

Uncle John’s Band, Grateful Dead
Dire Wolf, Grateful Dead
Cumberland Blues, Grateful Dead
Casey Jones, Grateful Dead
New Speedway Boogie (Alt), Grateful Dead

Related Songs:

Songs by David Grisman & Jerry Garcia, which are listed here.

Deal, Jerry Garcia ★★
Sugaree, Jerry Garcia ★★★
To Lay Me Down, Jerry Garcia
The Wheel, Jerry Garcia

Friend Of The Devil (Live), David Grisman & Jerry Garcia ★★★
Friend Of The Devil, Lyle Lovett ★★★

I Know You Rider, Seldom Scene ★★★★

Bertha, Los Lobos ★★
Bertha (Live), Los Lobos ★★

Not Fade Away, Buddy Holly & The Crickets ★★★
Not Fade Away, The Rolling Stones ★★★★
Not Fade Away (Live), The Rolling Stones ★★★

Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad, Big Bill Broonzy ★★

Rain And Snow, Obray Ramsey ★★★
Cold Rain And Snow (Live), Peter Rowan & Tony Rice ★★★

Sittin’ On Top Of The World, Mississippi Sheiks ★★★
Sittin’ On Top Of The World, Doc Watson ★★★
Sittin’ On Top Of The World, Howlin’ Wolf ★★★★

Wharf Rat, Midnight Oil ★★

Good Morning Little School Girl, Sonny Boy Williamson I ★★
Good Morning Little School Girl, The Yardbirds ★★

Morning Dew, Lulu ★★★
Morning Dew, Jeff Beck ★★
Morning Dew, The 31st of February

Ship Of Fools, Elvis Costello ★★

Ripple, Jane’s Addiction

Mama Tried, Merle Haggard ★★

Sing Me Back Home, Merle Haggard

Me And My Uncle, Judy Collins ★★

Pain In My Heart, Otis Redding ★★

Cassidy, Bob Weir
Cassidy, Suzanne Vega

Next Time You See Me, James Cotton ★★★

Death Don’t Have No Mercy, Reverend Gary Davis ★★

Turn On Your Love Light, Bobby “Blue” Bland ★★★★

Big River, Johnny Cash ★★

Deep Elem Blues, Les Paul

Big Boss Man, Jimmy Reed ★★★
Big Boss Man (Take 2), Elvis Presley ★★

El Paso, Marty Robbins ★★★★

11. Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac is a blues and rock band from England. They are unique in this countdown, a rhythm section with the brand name, Fleetwood the drummer and McVie the bassist, that attracted singing and songwriting talent for a long time. They are difficult to justify as a top ten band; as hard as I tried to trim the songs and ratings down, they remain so. They have a long history, first as a blues band and then as a popular mainstream rock band, and the early work with Peter Green, the band’s founder, is an underrated chapter.

Let’s look at Fleetwood Mac’s songwriting collaborators one at a time.

Wikipedia Biography of Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac Personnel:

Since 1967, Fleetwood Mac has always been:

Mick Fleetwood (b. 1947)
, drums
John McVie (b. 1945), bass

Fleetwood and McVie established the beat for these well known collaborators:

Peter Green (b. 1946), guitar, singer, songwriter
Jeremy Spencer (b. 1948), guitar, singer, songwriter
Danny Kirwan (b. 1950), guitar, singer, songwriter
Christine McVie (b. 1943), keyboards, singer, songwriter
Bob Welch (1945-2012), guitar, singer, songwriter
Stevie Nicks (b. 1948), singer, songwriter
Lindsey Buckingham (b. 1949), guitar, singer, songwriter

Pater Green

Peter Green is a guitarist from East London, England. He met Mick Fleetwood and John McVie through their membership in John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers; Mayall selected Green to follow Eric Clapton in the popular blues combo. Green quickly established himself as a worthy successor and soon wanted to form his own band, convincing Fleetwood and McVie to follow him.

Over the years, Green has achieved a cult status during his three years as the leader of Fleetwood Mac. He was a wonderful blues guitarist, perhaps the second greatest bluesman of the British Invasion period, behind Eric Clapton. He was considered to be less technically gifted than his predecessor in the Bluesbreakers, but blessed with outstanding tone. He was notably unselfish, naming the band after his rhythm section and incorporating the talents of guitarists Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan. His early songs are obsessed with loving women, but as he struggled to handle fame and the drug-fueled culture that accompanied the lifestyle, he started to withdraw, and his songs became darker and more foreboding. A bad acid trip in Munich, Germany, is cited by Fleetwood and McVie as the final blow to Peter Green’s psyche; shortly afterwards, he left the band and descended into schizophrenia, which hospitalized him for many years. He eventually recovered, and returned to composing and performing music on a much smaller scale.

Here Green riffs on Danny Kirwan in “Like It This Way”:

In the lead, Peter Green:

A technical discussion of Peter Green’s guitar playing:

Guitar Player Magazine: 10 Things To Play Like Peter Green (1966-1970), by Jesse Grees, May 16, 2012

Recollections of the Munich LSD incident:

The beautiful “Man Of The World”:

I guess I’ve got everything I need,
I wouldn’t ask for more.
And there’s no one I’d rather be,
But I just wish that I’d never been born.

I could tell you about my life,
And keep you amused I’m sure.
About all the times I’ve cried,
And how I don’t want to be sad anymore,
And how I wish I was in love.

— Peter Green

Green became obsessed with the idea of giving the band’s wealth away. “The Green Manalishi (With The Two Pronged Crown)” is his ode to money:

Can’t believe that you need my love so bad,
Come sneakin’ around tryin’ to drive me mad.
Bustin’ in on my dreams,
Making me see things I don’t wanna see.

‘Cause you’re the green manalishi with the two prong crown,
All my tryin’ is up, all your bringin’ is down.
Just taking my love then slippin’ away,
Leavin’ me here just tryin’ to keep from following you.

— Peter Green

Jeremy Spencer

Jeremy Spencer is a slide guitarist and songwriter from south London, England. Part of the original Fleetwood Mac quartet, Spencer was a devotee of Elmore James, as well as a notable mimic of other musicians, and a very popular performer. After Peter Green left the band in 1970, Spencer soldiered on for one more album, and then unexpectedly left the band in 1971 to pursue religion.

You can hear Spencer’s mimickry on display on a couple of songs from the Fleetwood Mac Live At The BBC compilation, represented here by “Linda (Live)” and “How Can We Hang On To A Dream? (Live)”.

Danny Kirwan

Danny Kirwan is a guitarist and songwriter from south London, England. Kirwan was only eighteen years old when he joined Fleetwood Mac; Peter Green wanted to add another guitarist willing to work on guitar duets. Jeremy Spencer was less interested in that role.

The tempermental Kirwan grew as a musician, and persevered through the departure of Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer. Battling alcoholism and his inability to get along with his band mates, Kirwan was fired by the band in the fall of 1972. He contributed many fine songs, including “Without You”, “Sands Of Time” and “Coming Your Way”, as well as adding lead guitar to songs like “Future Games” and “Show Me A Smile”.

Bob Welch

Bob Welch is a guitarist and songwriter from Beverly Hills, California. The son of a screenwriter and movie producer, Welch had dropped out of college and was living in Paris, France when he was suggested as a replacement for Jeremy Spencer. Welch changed the sound of the band in the early seventies, adding a jazz-inflected, spacey sound to the music.

I can only find one YouTube video of the Bob Welch era, this Midnight Special performance of “Miles Away” from 1973. The lead guitarist in this clip is Bob Weston (1947-2012), who played with the band for a couple of years:

One of my favorites by Bob Welch is “Hypnotized”, featured on the album Mystery To Me. Back in high school, I had a high school friend who landed a job as a late night disk jockey on KZSU, the Stanford University radio station. One night I decided to join him at the station during his 2-6 AM program. I remember hearing “Hypnotized” for the first time that night. It was 4:44 in the morning, and the song, plus the fatigue of being up all night, put me into a trance.

Welch left Fleetwood Mac at the end of 1974, once again with some controversy. He went on to a modestly successful career as a solo artist, propelled by a remake of the fine “Sentimental Lady”, and also created two albums with his band Paris. In 1998, when Fleetwood Mac was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, Welch was the only primary contributor left out of the celebration.

Christine McVie

Christine McVie is a pianist and songwriter from a small village in Cumbria, in northern England. The daughter of a concert violinst, she began her education as a concert pianist, but became enamored with Fats Domino and rock and roll. She was playing in a blues band called Chicken Shack when she met and eventually married bassist John McVie. She joined Fleetwood Mac in 1970.

Although she made a few important contributions to the band (“Spare Me A Little Of Your Love”, “Show Me A Smile”, among others) in the early seventies, she emerged as a rock star when the band moved to Los Angeles, to rekindle the band’s flagging career. When Bob Welch left the band and was replaced by guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and singer Stevie Nicks, the quintet found enormous worldwide success with their first two albums, Fleetwood Mac and Rumours.

Lindsey Buckingham

Lindsey Buckingham is a guitarist and songwriter from Palo Alto, California. He and his girlfriend Stevie Nicks met in high school, and joined the band in 1975 to complete the most famous lineup. This core unit stayed together on and off until Christine McVie left the band in 1997, although Nicks, Buckingham and Christy McVie all took extended breaks to pursue solo careers. Despite the relative permanence of the band, the three young men and two young women quickly experienced problems of infidelity and mistrust, which became public knowledge after the release of Rumours. Buckingham was always the band’s conductor, producing and overseeing the creation of their studio music. Songs like “I’m So Afraid”, “Go Your Own Way” and “Big Love” are laced with palpable emotion; his voice cracks under the weight of the underlying tensions. While not a great guitar soloist, Buckingham is a fine fingerstyle picker whose mostly focuses on augmenting the song, rather than rising to the foreground to make the guitar sing on its own. There are exceptions; the fade guitar solo on “Go Your Own Way” is short and powerful, and a precursor of a similar solo by Mike Campbell on Tom Petty’s “Runnin’ Down A Dream”.

Of all the contributors, Buckingham is my second favorite, behind Peter Green.

Stevie Nicks

Stevie Nicks is a singer from Phoenix, Arizona, though her family moved often during her childhood. She settled into the San Francisco Bay Area to finish high school in Atherton, California, where she met her lifetime musical collaborator Lindsey Buckingham. Joining Fleetwood Mac with Buckingham in 1975, Nicks made immediate strong contributions, adding songs, style, and a deep, sexy voice to the band. She is by far the most popular member of the band; between Fleetwood Mac albums plus her solo efforts, Nicks has sold over 140 million records worldwide.

Stevie and Lindsey revisit “Landslide” in later life:

Stevie Nicks has always been my least favorite of the Fleetwood Mac songwriters, which says more about me than it does her. I perceive her to be the most ambitious and the biggest “sellout” to pop stardom, and perhaps that’s true. Interview footage with Nicks show her to be serious, and exasperated with the band when progress is not positive and consistent. It’s been great to review her best songs with the Mac; the quality of her songs on Fleetwood Mac and Rumours is obvious. An unknown favorite is “Crystal”, which Buckingham sings, on the first “White” album. I have no doubt her drive helped them succeed.

fleetwood-mac

Fast forward to late 2013. Fleetwood Mac just cancelled their world tour; lifetime smoker John McVie has cancer and needs treatment. Bob Welch committed suicide a couple years ago; he was in great pain and did not want to be a burden on his wife. All other important members of the band are alive.

Back in 2009, before I had the grand idea of counting down the common artists in my collection, I wrote a pair of blog posts about Fleetwood Mac. You are welcome to analyze these to see how I chopped the list from almost a hundred songs down to about seventy. I still see the first album of the Buckingham/Nicks era as the superior effort; it’s typical for me to see things that way.

One last story. In the spring of 1975, my senior year in high school, I went to a Day On The Green concert at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. For this one, we showed up at 11 PM the night before and waited to get a ticket the next morning. By 9 AM the next morning we were in the stadium; the concert began sometime between 10-11 AM. The lineup was: Gary Wright, Fleetwood Mac, Dave Mason, Peter Frampton, and Robin Trower. We left during Robin Trower; everything before them was so good. Gary Wright sang the new “Dreamweaver” and “Love Is Alive”, Fleetwood Mac debuted their new lineup with Buckingham and Nicks, and Peter Frampton performed the music set that would become his famous Frampton Comes Alive double album. Dave Mason was good, too. Me and my friends took some chances in early life, and this one was memorable.

Rock Critic Robert Christgau’s Short Takes on Fleetwood Mac Albums
The Elaborate AllMusic Guide to Fleetwood Mac Albums

Fleetwood Mac Song Notes:

1. Many of the selected songs are not available on either iTunes or Amazon. Several albums released during the early seventies are not represented. They can all be found, but it will take a bit of work.

“Sentimental Lady” and “Spare Me A Little Of Your Love” can be found on Bare Trees.

“Future Games”, “Sands Of Time” and “Show Me A Smile” can be found on Future Games.

“Oh, Well, Part 2”, “Coming Your Way” and “Fighting For Madge” can be found on Then Play On.

“Miles Away” and “Hypnotized” can be found on Mystery To Me.

“The Green Manalishi (With The Two Pronged Crown) (Alt)” can be found on The Vaudeville Years Of Fleetwood Mac.

2. “Madison Blues (Live)”, “Trying So Hard To Forget (Live)” and “I Loved Another Woman (Live)” can be found on Helsinki Carousel, an unauthorized compilation of two early concerts. “I Loved Another Woman (Live)” features Paul Butterfield on harmonica.

3. “Black Magic Woman (Live)” and “Jumping At Shadows (Live)” can be found on Live In Boston, Vol. 1. “Got To Move (Live)” can be found on Live In Boston, Vol. 2.

4. “Over My Head (Single)”, “Say You Love Me (Alt)” and “Rhiannon (Will You Ever Win) (Single)” can be found on the deluxe version of Fleetwood Mac, and are also not current available on iTunes. All three of these single versions are superior to the album mixes.

5. “Never Going Back Again (Live)”, “Dreams (Take 2)” and “Rhiannon (Live)” can be found on Rumours (Deluxe Edition).

Fleetwood Mac Songs:

Black Magic Woman, Fleetwood Mac ★★★★
Black Magic Woman (Live), Fleetwood Mac ★★★★
Rhiannon (Will You Ever Win) (Single), Fleetwood Mac ★★★★
Hypnotized, Fleetwood Mac ★★★★

Sentimental Lady, Fleetwood Mac ★★★
Rhiannon (Will You Ever Win), Fleetwood Mac ★★★
Over My Head (Single), Fleetwood Mac ★★★
Over My Head, Fleetwood Mac ★★★
Crystal, Fleetwood Mac ★★★
Landslide, Fleetwood Mac ★★★
Without You, Fleetwood Mac ★★★
A Fool No More (Live), Fleetwood Mac ★★★
I Loved Another Woman, Fleetwood Mac ★★★
Need Your Love So Bad, Fleetwood Mac ★★★
Need Your Love So Bad (Version 2)(Remake), Fleetwood Mac ★★★
Go Your Own Way, Fleetwood Mac ★★★
Dreams, Fleetwood Mac ★★★
Albatross, Fleetwood Mac ★★★

Spare Me A Little Of Your Love, Fleetwood Mac ★★
How Can We Hold On To A Dream (Live), Fleetwood Mac ★★
Oh Well, Part 1 (Live), Fleetwood Mac ★★
Albatross (Live), Fleetwood Mac ★★
Say You Love Me (Alt), Fleetwood Mac ★★
Say You Love Me, Fleetwood Mac ★★
I’m So Afraid, Fleetwood Mac ★★
Future Games, Fleetwood Mac ★★
Trying So Hard To Forget (Live), Fleetwood Mac ★★
I Loved Another Woman (Live), Fleetwood Mac ★★
Long Grey Mare, Fleetwood Mac ★★
Shake Your Moneymaker, Fleetwood Mac ★★
Got To Move, Fleetwood Mac ★★
Don’t Stop, Fleetwood Mac ★★
The Chain, Fleetwood Mac ★★
Dreams (Take 2), Fleetwood Mac ★★
Oh Well, Part 1, Fleetwood Mac ★★
The Green Manalishi (With The Two Pronged Crown), Fleetwood Mac ★★
Tusk, Fleetwood Mac ★★

Only You (Live), Fleetwood Mac
Linda (Live), Fleetwood Mac
Like Crying, Fleetwood Mac
Like Crying (Live), Fleetwood Mac
World Turning, Fleetwood Mac
Show Me A Smile, Fleetwood Mac
Madison Blues (Live), Fleetwood Mac
Bermuda Triangle, Fleetwood Mac
Miles Away, Fleetwood Mac
My Heart Beats Like A Hammer (Take 2), Fleetwood Mac
The World Keep On Turning, Fleetwood Mac
Second Hand News, Fleetwood Mac
Never Going Back Again, Fleetwood Mac
Never Going Back Again (Live), Fleetwood Mac
You Make Loving Fun, Fleetwood Mac
Gold Dust Woman, Fleetwood Mac
Rhiannon (Live), Fleetwood Mac
Coming Your Way, Fleetwood Mac
Oh Well, Part 2, Fleetwood Mac
The Green Manalishi (With The Two Pronged Crown) (Alt), Fleetwood Mac
Big Love, Fleetwood Mac
Everywhere, Fleetwood Mac
Little Lies, Fleetwood Mac
Rattlesnake Shake, Fleetwood Mac
Man Of The World, Fleetwood Mac
Fighting For Madge, Fleetwood Mac

Related Songs:

Gold, John Stewart

Magnet And Steel, Walter Egan ★★★

Need Your Love So Bad, Little Willie John ★★★★

Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen, Santana ★★★★

Sun King, The Beatles ★★

Black Dog, Led Zeppelin ★★★★

How Can We Hang On To A Dream, Tim Hardin ★★★

Shake Your Moneymaker, Elmore James ★★★
Dust My Broom, Elmore James ★★
Got To Move, Elmore James ★★
Madison Blues, Elmore James ★★

A Fool No More, Peter Green ★★

Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around, Stevie Nicks & Tom Petty ★★
Edge Of Seventeen, Stevie Nicks

Time Precious Time (KBCO Studio C Sessions), Lindsey Buckingham
Trouble, Lindsey Buckingham ★★
Big Love (Live), Lindsey Buckingham ★★
Holiday Road (Live), Lindsey Buckingham ★★

17. Jimi Hendrix

James Allan “Jimi” Hendrix was a guitarist, singer and songwriter from Seattle, Washington. His childhood was defined by hardship and uncertainty. His parents married when his mother Lucille was only sixteen years old, and his father Al left a few days later to serve in the Army during World War II. Hendrix was often neglected as an infant, but family members helped raise him until Al returned home in 1945. The young family reunited, but Al struggled to find steady work. Both parents drank to excess. The couple had four more children, but gave the three youngest up for adoption, and eventually divorced in 1951.

When Dad bought James his first guitar in 1958, the young man promptly began devoting most of his free time to playing and learning the guitar. With few prospects after school, he enlisted in the Army in 1961, but was honorably discharged for “unsuitability” within eighteen months. While in the Army, he made friends with Billy Cox through their mutual interest in music, and after Cox left the Army, the two headed to Nashville, Tennessee. Over the next three years, Hendrix toured and recorded as a support musician for such acts as Little Richard and the Isley Brothers, and moved to New York City, to improve his chances of success as a solo artist. By the summer of 1966, now a top notch, soulful rhythm and lead guitarist, James (or Jimmy) caught his big break. Former Animals bassist Chas Chandler was trying to break into the record business as a manager, watched Hendrix perform, and convinced to move to London, England. To add a distinctive ring, Hendrix changed his stage name to Jimi, and paired himself with two young British musicians, drummer Mitch Mitchell and guitarist Noel Redding, who switched to bass, and formed the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

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Their first single was a version of the recent folk song “Hey Joe”, which reached #6 on the British pop charts.

Buoyed by the success of “Hey Joe”, the band recorded an album of original material. The resulting effort, called Are You Experienced?, is one of the greatest debut albums in popular music history, featuring a broad exploration of the electric guitar’s capabilities, with strange but evocative lyrics that helped define the psychedelic era of rock music. Within months, Hendrix had become the toast of the town, winning the envy and admiration of the biggest rock stars in London’s orbit.

America’s introduction to the Jimi Hendrix Experience came a few months later, at the Monterey International Pop Festival in June, 1967. Their wild performance, featuring Hendrix’s mastery of feedback techniques and ending with a ceremonial guitar burning, gained him instant notoriety. Combined with the instrumental virtuosity and the hip, humorous stories of Are You Experienced?, Jimi Hendrix became a worldwide sensation.

In His Prime and Decline

The next three years were a whirlwind of activity, and a period of rapid decline. From 1967 to 1970, Hendrix performed and recorded incessantly, issued three more albums of material, fought to gain control of his finances and music, and opened the Electric Lady studios in New York City, while trying to manage his entourage of friends and managers, especially the women who demanded his attention. Hendrix indulged heavily in a wide variety of drugs, which took their toll on his health and well being. Similar to his mother Lucille, who passed away at only thirty three due to alcoholism and cirrhosis of the liver, Jimi Hendrix passed away on September 18th, 1970, only twenty seven years old, due to an overdose of barbiturates and alcohol. With the possible exception of Duane Allman, the premature loss of Jimi Hendrix is the greatest tragedy in rock music history. Hendrix was evolving rapidly, moving away from pop music and into the broader world of jazz music expression.

There’s your obligatory boilerplate opening passage, my dismal effort to summarize a great musician’s life into as few paragraphs as possible. There is a wealth of information of the beloved Hendrix for those so inclined. While studying Jimi Hendrix I read “Excuse Me While I Kiss The Sky” by David Henderson, a rambling yet ultimately rewarding book which, in particular, well describes the chaos and tragedy during the final couple years of the great guitarist’s life. In the book, a conspiracy theory of Hendrix’s demise is offered, the suggestion that he was murdered by either a greedy businessman or a jealous lover. None of these allegations were proved. Hendrix’s financial affairs were in disarray at the time of his death; it took his father Al more than twenty years to regain full control of his son’s estate.

www.jimihendrix.com — Official Website

The Jimi Hendrix Experience:

Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970), guitar, bass, vocals, songwriter
Noel Redding (1945-2003), bass
Mitch Mitchell (1947-2008), drums

The Band Of Gypsys:

Jimi Hendrix with:

Billy Cox (b. 1941), bass
Buddy Miles (1947-2008), drums

Amazon.com Link to “Excuse Me While I Kiss The Sky”, by David Henderson

Do Chicks Dig Hendrix?

I listen to music a couple hours a day; lately, I’ve been reviewing music over breakfast. Inevitably, my wife hears a cross section of each artist in the big countdown. Jimi Hendrix is her least favorite musician to date, a distinction that will stand, given the ten remaining artists to profile. She doesn’t hate his music, but there are few if any songs she actively enjoys, and the shrill sound of Hendrix’s stinging lead guitar grates on her nerves.

A while back I played “Little Wing” for a friend, who didn’t think much of it, and she couldn’t comprehend why I considered it a top song. About ten years ago, I sent my sister a Hendrix compilation for Christmas, along with other music I consider essential, only to have the CD returned with the comment, “We (her family) don’t listen to that kind of music anymore.”

I don’t recall ever meeting a woman who said she enjoyed Jimi Hendrix, or made an effort to listen to his music. I’m a bit surprised by this, as some of his gentle songs have a cosmic warmth to them. He was considered by those closest to him a shy, nice person, except those rare occasions when he had too much to drink.

By contrast, Jimi Hendrix was a veritable sex symbol in London, constantly surrounded by female friends and admirers. Though he had steady girlfriends throughout his career, he also maintained a policy of open sexuality and promiscuity.

“Pete Townshend of the Who had found Hendrix’s early London performances very sexual, not in an “appealing way”, but rather, more “threatening.” When he asked his girlfriend Karen Astley (who he married in 1968) if she thought Hendrix’s act was sexual, and she replied, “Are you fucking kidding?,” Townshend had been unaware of how “aroused” his girlfriend had become seeing those shows.”

— David Henderson, “Excuse Me While I Kiss The Sky”

“I saw Paul (McCartney) again at the Bag ‘O Nails in Soho, where Jimi Hendrix was making a celebratory return. Mick Jagger came for a while and then left, unwisely leaving Marianne Faithfull, his girlfriend at the time, behind. Jimi sidled up to her after his mind-bending performance, and it became clear as the two of them danced together that Marianne had the shaman’s stars in her eyes. When Mick returned to take Marianne out to a car he’d arranged, he must have wondered what the sniggering was about. In the end, Jimi himself broke the tension by taking Marianne’s hand, kissing it, and excusing himself to walk over to Paul and me. Mal Evans, the Beatles’ lovable roadie-cum-aide-de-camp, turned to me and breathed a big, ironic Liverpudlian sigh. “That’s called exchanging business cards, Pete.”

— Peter Townshend, “Who I Am”

Here’s a very amusing clip, the first known video featuring Jimi Hendrix. He’s on the left in the back row, and you can hear him quite clearly making some fancy fills in the background:

Why So Many Jimi Hendrix Songs?

In a new feature to be repeated for Lucinda Williams, Grateful Dead and especially Los Lobos, it’s time to defend the high ranking of the profiled artist. Why is Jimi Hendrix rated so highly, given his career was only four years long, and typical American baby boomerettes find his music unappealing? How can I possibly recommend sixty four songs?

My iPod collection, and my list of best artists, attempts to highlight the major innovators of 20th century pop music, and among them is Jimi Hendrix. Jimi Hendrix was the first to fully explore the spectrum of sounds possible with an electric guitar. Pete Townshend and John Lennon experimented with feedback, but not to the extent Hendrix did. His command of his instrument sent other musicians home to practice, thinking they’d better try harder; sometimes they thought they should just quit trying. He’s also the rare guitarists able to play complex riffs while singing.

Especially in his first year recording with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Hendrix showed a flair for writing concise, unique and fun pop songs. He had a way of telling a story, of talking to his audience that drew in the listener. His narrative story telling is equal parts Howlin’ Wolf and Bob Dylan. After the initial success of his first two albums, his music became more ambitious, with mixed results. Years on the Chitlin’ Circuit made him a great R&B rhythm guitarist; at the time of his death, his ability to play engaging solos was improving. When compared to the all-time great soloists, men like Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt or Eric Clapton, Hendrix was a neophyte, still learning how to construct dynamic, coherent passages that resolved in a pleasing fashion. His solos showed a great command of the sounds a guitar could make, but he hadn’t yet become a master of improvisation. Included are several examples of his posthumous work to show his progress as a musician, and the musical direction he was headed. As a soloist, “All Along The Watchtower” is perhaps his greatest achievement, and also notable as the greatest, most inventive cover version in rock music history.

Beyond his psychedelic pop sensibilities, Hendrix was a first class blues musician, and it would be fair to suggest that his most similar musical ancestor is Robert Johnson. Take away the electrification of his instrument, and the connection appears more obvious. Hendrix owned an extensive knowledge of old blues music, and recorded dozens of blues songs in his career.

Stone Free

“Everyday in the week I’m in a different city,
If I stay too long people try to pull me down.
They talk about me like a dog,
Talk about the clothes I wear,
But they don’t realize they’re the ones who’s square.”

— Jimi Hendrix

You might think that Jimi Hendrix would appear menacingly swinging from treetops, brandishing a spear, and yelling blood-curdling cries of “Aargh!”

For Jimi, who makes Mick Jagger look as respectable as Edawrd Heath and as genial as David Frost, could pass for a hottentot on the rampage; looks as if his foot-long hair has been petrified by a thousand shock waves, and is given to playing his guitar with his teeth.

When the Jimi Hendrix Experience made its first appearance in Britain a few months ago, he was immediately dubbed “The Wild Man of Borneo,” and the group was referred to as “an unfortunate experience.”

“Yet Jimi Hendrix is no snarling jungle primitive.

Though the gold-braided military jacket over the black satin shirt could be taken as incongruous, Jimi off-stage behaves with a quiet polite charm that’s almost olde worlde.

He stands up when you enter a room, lights all your cigarettes, and says: “Do go on,” if he thinks he might be interrupting you.

That “ugly” image, however, doesn’t worry him in the slightest. And he says: “Some of the fans think I’m cuddly, and as long as people buy my records I’ll be happy.”

He could be laughing all the way to the bank.

— Anne Nightingale, Sunday Mirror, May 9, 1967

“Listen to this baby…
A woman here, a woman there, try to keep me in a plastic cage,
But they don’t realize it’s so easy to break.
Oh, but sometimes I get a ha,
I can feel my heart kind a runnin’ hot.
That’s when I got to move before I get caught.
And that’s why, listen to me baby, you can’t hold me down,
I don’t want to be tied down,
I gotta be free!”

— Jimi Hendrix, “Stone Free”, 2nd verse

Sadly, Jimi Hendrix was anything but free in his final years. He was surrounded by people who wanted something, and he was trapped. Women fought for his time and affection; (Monika Dannemann), who was with Jimi during his last evening, had declared to all who would listen that she and Jimi were engaged, and protested when he wanted to spend time with other people. Manager Chas Chandler resigned when Jimi’s music became less pop oriented, and his new manager, Michael Jeffery, was unscrupulous. Offshore Bermuda banking accounts were established, and Hendrix’s personal balance always seemed short of funds. Jeffery surrounded himself with large, thuggish associates, who always had high quality drugs available for Jimi and his entourage. David Henderson’s book chronicles his descent in detail. Just four years before his death, the fresh young guitarist from Washington state proclaimed his freedom. In the last year of his life, he tried to reclaim it, and failed.

Jimi Hendrix plays an unusual role in pop music history —— he was a dark-skinned performer (mixed descent including African and Native American blood) popular with white audiences while receiving little attention from the African American community. Chas Chandler actually discouraged him from performing with Billy Cox and Buddy Miles, both black musicians, because they might lose their appeal with white audiences. But Jimi was black, and comfortable in the company of black men, and as he evolved, he wanted to perform more music with black artists.

In terms of introducing a generation of white music fans to hip African American lingo and culture, Jimi Hendrix was perhaps the most influential. James Brown was influential within the black community, but not outside it. Sly & The Family Stone were also popular with white audiences, but Jimi Hendrix’s hip use of language and emotive on-stage persona was most admirable and impressive. Hendrix was impossibly cool. In unheralded fashion, Jimi Hendrix was a key figure in liberalizing racial views during the civil rights era.

Conversely, Hendrix went largely unrecognized by his own community during his lifetime. Soul and R&B music stations rarely if ever played his music. The African American community may have resented Hendrix for crossing over and playing hard rock music; more likely, the community was just as shocked as conservative white audiences by his radical departure from traditional sounds. Historically, African-Americans embrace this artistic creativity, but in this rare case they failed to fully endorse one of their most creative contributors.

Jimi Hendrix Song Notes:

The first three albums are all highly recommended:

Are You Experienced?
Axis: Bold As Love
Electric Ladyland

The other recommended songs can be found on the following CDs:

Band Of Gypsys

Who Knows (Live)
Machine Gun (Live)
Them Changes (Live)
Message Of Love (Live)
Power To Love (Live)

First Rays Of The New Rising Sun

Angel
Dolly Dagger
My Friend
Belly Button Window

The Jimi Hendrix Experience Box Set

Little Wing (Live) (★★★ version)
Little Wing (Alt)
Hey Joe (Live)
Purple Haze (Alt)
If 6 Was 9 (Alt)
Message To Love

Live At Monterey

Rock Me Baby (Live)
Like A Rolling Stone (Live)
Wild Thing (Live)

BBC Sessions

Catfish Blues (Live)
Stone Free (Live)
Driving South (Live)
Day Tripper (Live)

West Coast Seattle Boy

In particular, the alternate mix of “Fire” is better than the original.

Love Or Confusion (Alt)
Fire (Alt)
May This Be Love (Alt)
The Wind Cries Mary (Live)
Castles Made Of Sand (Alt)
Red House (Live)

Miscellaneous Albums

“Johnny B. Goode (Live)” and “Little Wing (Live)” (★★ version) can be found on Hendrix In The West.—

“Hey Baby (New Rising Sun) (Live)” can be found on Live At Berkeley.

“All Along The Watchtower (Alt)” can be found on Voodoo Child — The Jimi Hendrix Collection.

“Pali Gap” can be found on South Saturn Delta.

“Hear My Train A-Comin’ (Live)” can be found on Live At The Fillmore East.

“Star Spangled Banner (Live)” can be found on Woodstock: Three Days of Peace & Music.

Jimi Hendrix Songs:

All Along The Watchtower, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★★★

Voodoo Child (Slight Return), The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★★
Manic Depression, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★★
Hey Joe, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★★
The Wind Cries Mary, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★★
Little Wing, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★★
Fire (Alt), The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★★

Stone Free, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★
Purple Haze, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★
Foxy Lady, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★
If 6 Was 9, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★
Castles Made Of Sand, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★
Crosstown Traffic, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★
Rainy Day, Dream Away, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★
Little Wing (Live), The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★
Like A Rolling Stone (Live), The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★
Little Wing (Alt), The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★

Machine Gun (Live), Jimi Hendrix ★★
Them Changes (Live), Jimi Hendrix ★★
Message Of Love (Live), Jimi Hendrix ★★
Message To Love, Jimi Hendrix ★★
Red House (Live), Jimi Hendrix ★★
Third Stone From The Sun, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★
Spanish Castle Magic, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★
Wait Until Tomorrow, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★
Bold As Love, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★
Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland), The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★
Little Wing (Live), The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★
Purple Haze (Alt), The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★
If 6 Was 9 (Alt), The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★
Red House, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★
All Along The Watchtower (Alt), The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★
Love Or Confusion (Alt), The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★
The Wind Cries Mary (Live), The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★

Who Knows (Live), Jimi Hendrix
Power To Love (Live), Jimi Hendrix
Angel, Jimi Hendrix
Dolly Dagger, Jimi Hendrix
My Friend, Jimi Hendrix
Belly Button Window, Jimi Hendrix
Johnny B. Goode (Live), Jimi Hendrix
Hey Baby (New Rising Sun) (Live), Jimi Hendrix
Hear My Train A-Comin’ (Live), Jimi Hendrix
Pali Gap, Jimi Hendrix
Star Spangled Banner (Live), Jimi Hendrix
Castles Made Of Sand (Alt), The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Are You Experienced?, The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Remember, The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Up From The Skies, The Jimi Hendrix Experience
You Got Me Floatin’, The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Catfish Blues (Live), The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Stone Free (Live), The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Driving South (Live), The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Day Tripper (Live), The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Voodoo Chile, The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Burning Of The Midnight Lamp, The Jimi Hendrix Experience
1983…(A Merman I Should Turn To Be), The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Still Raining, Still Dreaming, The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Hey Joe (Live), The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Killing Floor (Live), The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Rock Me Baby (Live), The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Wild Thing (Live), The Jimi Hendrix Experience
May This Be Love (Alt), The Jimi Hendrix Experience

And The Gods Made Love, The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Related Songs:

Mercy, Mercy, Don Covay ★★

Old Times, Good Times, Stephen Stills ★★

Testify (Parts 1 & 2), Isley Brothers

All Along The Watchtower, Bob Dylan ★★★★
All Along the Watchtower, Dave Mason ★★

Hey Joe, The Leaves ★★
Hey Joe, Tim Rose
Hey Joe, Patti Smith

Little Wing, Derek & The Dominos ★★
Little Wing (Live), Derek & the Dominos
Little Wing, Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble ★★

Like A Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan ★★★★★
Like A Rolling Stone (Mono), Bob Dylan ★★★★★
Like A Rolling Stone (Live), Bob Dylan ★★★

Them Changes, Buddy Miles ★★

Johnny B. Goode, Chuck Berry ★★★★★
Johnny B. Goode (Live), Grateful Dead

Catfish Blues, Robert Petway ★★
Rolling Stone (Alt), Muddy Waters ★★

Travelin’ To California, Albert King

Day Tripper, The Beatles ★★★
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles ★★

Killing Floor, Howlin’ Wolf ★★

Rock Me, Muddy Waters ★★★★
Rock Me (Alt), Muddy Waters ★★
Rock Me Baby, B.B. King ★★
Rock Me Mama, Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup ★★