Monday, July 11, 2011

I KNOW, I SUCK.

I AM A HORRIBLE PERSON.

I'm also terrible at blogging, it appears. This is the third attempt I've had at making a blog, as I've mentioned before, and it seems I am just as bad at trying to keep this one up to date as I have been with the other ones. In my defense, it's been a busy summer.

SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO...............................

Let's get back in to blogging. What should I blog about? I know!

The Greatest Songs Ever Written: A Series (Part 1)

During my commute (20 mins, it's not convenient...) to the wonderful Taco Bell at which I was employed up until last week, I listened to music. It's the only thing that got me through my shift, being able to sing the last song I played in my car to myself all day as I work. On my Twitter account, I had been Tweeting a Song of the Day each time I worked. It was usually the one that I'd been singing all that day. Some past Songs of the Day included:

"Shout Me Out" by TV on the Radio
"Crisis" by Freddie Hubbard
"My Love" by Justin Timberlake
"Baby" by Justin Bieber feat. Ludacris (gr8 muzic video!!)
"Rise and Shine" by Big K.R.I.T.
"Hell" by MellowHype feat. Frank Ocean

I'm tired of looking through my Tweets, but I know that at one point I was on a pretty heavy classic music kick, and I was listening to a lot of the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, the Rolling Stones, Jackson 5, Eric Clapton etc., and some of the Songs of the Day included "Take It Easy," "Wonderful Tonight," "You Can't Always Get What You Want," and others. While I was on that kick, I did a lot of thinking about songs that ought to be considered the best ever.

On one hand, you've got songs that everyone thinks are fantastic. "Stairway to Heaven," "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," "A Day In The Life," and "Bohemian Rhapsody" all fit this category, I think. A rule of thumb is if you don't like those songs, you don't like music. But as I compile this list I'm going to try and stay clear of songs like that. I want to focus more on songs that are great, but don't usually show up on great songs lists. I'm also going to do the list semi-chronologically, so we'll start back in 1962.

"Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" by Bob Dylan (1962)



(I linked the Peter, Paul and Mary version because I couldn't find Bob's version on YouTube. However, this one is just as good.)

We're starting out with a bang, people.

Just about every Bob Dylan song could probably be considered the best ever. If you ask me, he is unquestionably the greatest songwriter of all time, and is one of the greatest artists ever, as well. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Jackson Browne, and others are all fantastic songwriters, but nothing compares 2 u, Robert Allen Zimmerman.

Now, having said that, "Like a Rolling Stone," "Blowing in the Wind," "Forever Young," "Tangled Up In Blue," and all the really well-know ones are great songs, but nothing else within the Bob Dylan songbook compares to the beautiful, heart-wrenching masterpiece that is "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right." Nowhere else in rock music is such beautiful poetry. It's all brilliant, but I especially love the end of the second verse (in the version I linked, they sing this verse last, but in the original, Bob sings it second):

"I’m a-thinkin’ and a-wond’rin’ all the way down the road
I once loved a woman, a child I’m told
I gave her my heart but she wanted my soul
But don’t think twice, it’s all right"

There was a model of saxophone called the Mark VI, manufactured by Selmer from 1954 to 1974. These saxophones are generally considered to be the best ones ever made, and nearly every high-profile sax player uses one. The problem is, no one, not even Selmer, the original manufacturer, can duplicate them. So there are several thousand Mark VI saxophones floating around that people try to get their hands on, through eBay or whatever. The Mark VIs were the best saxophones ever made, and no other model will ever be as good. I think that "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" is the Mark VI of rock and roll. It's the best song ever written, and nothing will ever be as good as it again.

"Venus In Furs" by the Velvet Underground (1967)



Okay, so perhaps this is a more obvious choice, but I don't care. The Velvet Underground and Nico is an album that appears on most everyone's best albums ever list, but as for songs from that album, most point to "Sunday Morning" or "Femme Fatale" as their favorite.

This song, however, is incredible. For one thing, the sound and vibe of this song is unmatched by any other. John Cale's eerie viola sound, the slow, plodding drums, and the production that sounds as if the track was recorded in a giant cathedral, all enhance the meaning of this song. Lou Reed's ethereal vocal style brings out the creepiness in his lyrics, as well. "Kiss the boot / of shiny, shiny leather" -- subtle hints of sadomasochism abound in this song (the tambourine makes me think of a chain... yikes! sexual deviancy gives me chills!).

The song is longer than average, about five minutes and fourteen seconds, but when it is over I am surprised, and it feels too short. I could listen to it over and over and not get bored. The sound is almost hypnotic, mesmerizing, bewildering. This is a great song.

"Fortunate Son" by Creedence Clearwater Revival (1969)



I think CCR are a band that the kids of today have forgotten about. But I suppose when a band hasn't been together for nearly forty years, that is bound to happen. The sound CCR produced was incredible. Fogerty's vocal style, gruff and grizzled at times, but clean and almost poppy at others, kept the band feeling rustic, but his stellar production (listen to the creepy vocal effects on "Run Through The Jungle") created a sound that still sounds different, original, and cool to me today. The piercing guitar riff in "Up Around the Bend," released in early 1970, is sure to have had a part in the storm of guitar riffs that was to plague rock music in the 70s. Clarence Clemons (RIP) and the rest of the E Street Band emulated the style of "Long As I Can See the Light" (also 1970) for years. Fogerty is a genius, it's a shame he's such an asshole... Had he allowed CCR to last longer than five years, I daresay they'd have been as big as the Stones. Even with their short span, they are undeniably one of the greatest acts ever in rock music.

So, with all the praise I just threw out, which song could I possibly choose to represent CCR's incredible body of work? I could have picked any of the songs I mentioned above, among just about every other one of their hits. But I chose probably their most famous cut, "Fortunate Son," which is absolutely fantastic. It kicks of with drums and another simple yet brilliant guitar riff. The melody in the chorus is catchy and fun, and Fogerty's aggressive but tasteful style helps bring it to life. The production is vibrant; when I listen to this song, I picture myself in a huge stadium or at a music festival in San Francisco dancing to the beat with 100,000 others. But the real, defining piece of this song is Fogerty's brilliant songwriting, especially the immortal last verse:

"Some folks inherit star-spangled eyes,
Ooh, they send you down to war,
And when you ask them 'how much should we give?'
Ooh, they only answer 'more, more, more!'"

No matter how long I go in between listens to this song, I can always sing those lines along with it. It's a verse so inherently memorable that I will never forget it. Some people might describe "Fortunate Son" as a protest song, but I think it's different than that. Fogerty is merely angry here, I'm not sure he wants anything to be changed. And that's okay, there's a different and more enticing aesthetic created from pure angst than there is from a desire to change something.

Every part of this song is fantastic. It's one of those songs that may not exactly be striking at first, but in time one comes to realize that it is really great.

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Thank you, Mssrs. Dylan, Reed, Cale, and Fogerty, for making three of the best songs ever. There will be more installments of this list to come, my faithful reader, I promise. I've already started writing another. I don't know why I just get after it and blog, I really enjoy creating lists that don't really matter.

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