Tuesday Tunes 30: Sixties USA

 

For the past couple of weeks I’ve promised to do a set of songs from the US, and that time has come. American pop and rock music has undoubtedly had a massive influence on music here, and I thought it only right that I should focus this week on artists and bands who were important to many here, not just to me. Whilst making my choices I was struck by how much my musical tastes were ‘growing up’ in the sixties, from simple pop music to what I know as rock music, which is my staple diet for listening. It is no coincidence that from about 1969 onwards I rarely bought singles, preferring to go for the longer listening experience offered by albums, and my seventies choices will reflect that. For now, though, I thought I’d begin with a couple which I think show how my tastes were subtly changing, starting with this one:

I did find a live version of that from the Ed Sullivan Show but the owner has banned it from being shared: spoilsport! This was the opening – and title – track on the Byrds’ debut album, which was released in 1965, a month or so after the single. The album reached #6 in the US and #7 in the UK, and the single was #1 in both countries. To us, they were a little bit different, exotic almost, and I instantly fell in love with that jangly guitar sound. That has been a big feature of music I’ve enjoyed over the years: I’ve written here before about how big a Tom Petty fan I am, and he is one among many who have carried on that tradition.

My next choice this week is from a band who had a couple of years’ head start on the Byrds, having released their first album in 1962. They were very prolific: a month after Mr Tambourine Man was issued, they released their ninth album in a little over three years. Their early days had a number of classic surf music singles, and I’ve had real difficulty in making a choice of just one of their songs. For no other reason other than that I loved it at the time and bought the single, I’m going with this one:

I’ll happily accept that this isn’t the most obvious choice, but hey – I’m making the decisions here! The song was written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love, and was a conscious revisiting of their original surf sound, which they hadn’t used since 1964. By 1968 the band were beginning to decline in popularity in the US but still sold loads of records here: this one only reached #20 in the US but was a massive hit here in the UK, where it spent a week at #1 before being replaced by a bit of schmaltzy tat by the Bee Gees – you’ve never been able to trust the British public, have you!

Next up is a choice from a man who has sold over 100m records, so he clearly has something that people like! He has written many songs that have been recorded by other artists, of which this is one:

I always think it a mark of a songwriter to see who has covered their songs. In this case, the most notable cover for me is Johnny Cash’s, which was the title track of his album American Recordings III: Solitary Man. Whilst I’ve always loved Neil’s version I have to say that Johnny’s gravelly voice adds a whole new dimension to it: check it out if you haven’t heard it, I can highly recommend it. Which is more than I can say for Cliff Richard’s version but, to be fair, it doesn’t appear to have ever been released as a single or on one of his albums, so at least we’ve been spared that! The song was from Neil’s early career days, before things really took off for him, and it only reached #55 in the US. It was re-released in 1970, when it did better, peaking at #21. It didn’t make the UK charts on either occasion (see earlier comment about the British public!).

Neil Diamond wrote some songs that were hits for The Monkees. The most famous is probably I’m A Believer, but I prefer this one:

That was released as a non-album single in March 1967, and reached #2 in the US and #3 in the UK, driven by the success of their TV show. The show ran for just two series, from September 1966 to March 1968, but they managed to pack in 58 episodes in that time. It was shown here at Saturday tea time, and was enjoyed by the whole family: it made my parents laugh a lot and they even accepted that the music wasn’t bad! I think my mum had a crush on Davy Jones, if I’m honest. Incidentally, that was the first Monkees single on which Davy took lead vocal: I think they missed a trick by waiting so long, but their sales were still pretty good anyway!

I mentioned earlier that it was around the end of the Sixties that I converted to buying mostly albums, and this next choice, although released as a single, is very much an album track:

That was the second track on CS&N’s eponymous debut album, which I bought and just about wore out! To this day I still think they are one of the best ever folk-rock bands, and their music has been a big part of my listening down the years. I would have thought the song ideally suited to be a single, but it only reached #28 in the US and didn’t chart here. Graham Nash wrote it while he was still a member of The Hollies, who rejected it as not being sufficiently commercial. Given that it is a live show favourite, which they have played over 450 times, I think he may have had the last laugh there despite its lack of success as a single!

I really struggled to get the selection down to manageable numbers this week, and then realised that I hadn’t made room for my all time favourite song. I couldn’t possibly leave it out, so you’re getting six tunes this week. This is still, to me, a musical masterpiece:

The song was written by Bryan MacLean, who took lead vocal – until Arthur Lee persuaded their record company that his was the stronger voice, so they added him into the mix. I bought it as a single, but didn’t get around to the album for a few years. The song peaked at #123 in the US but didn’t chart here, though the album – Forever Changes – fared rather better here, reaching #24, compared with #154 in the US. Maybe the British record-buying public weren’t so bad after all: we were  into our psychedelic rock in those days! The album has since become a seminal work, and is often cited in those ‘best ever albums’ polls that newspapers and magazines are so keen on making up. I think it deserves all the kudos it has received.

Thats it for this week. I hope there is at least one here that you enjoyed: preferably six, but that may be a touch optimistic. We’re in the process of being put back into lockdown, in a tacit admission by the government that things aren’t any better than they were in March. All part of life’s rich tapestry, I guess. Stay safe and well, take care of yourself and those you love.

See you next time.

37 thoughts on “Tuesday Tunes 30: Sixties USA

  1. robertawrites235681907 October 19, 2020 / 12:52 pm

    Very nice choices this week, Clive. I love all of the first three and know them well. The second three seem familar but I can’t place where I have heard them before.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive October 19, 2020 / 5:09 pm

      Thanks, Robbie, glad you like them. All except Alone Again Or will have been on radio or tv at some point, which is probably where you’ll have heard them. That last one is a bit of an unknown gem though 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Prior... October 18, 2020 / 7:11 am

    Hi Clive – you really are so knowledgeable with music and I like learning – the bonus song had a lot of nice ups and downs and enjoyed it – also – it seems like that album is very special 💿🎶
    I also knew a few of the songs but had never seen the videos – and that was fun – seeing the Beach Boys in those white suits and the cool stage was a treat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive October 18, 2020 / 10:29 am

      Hi Yvette. Thank you – I find Wikipedia is good at filling in the gaps in my knowledge 😉

      I’m glad you liked Alone Again Or: it has been my favourite song for more than fifty years and I think it is such a beautifully complete piece of music. It’s good that I found some you knew – I’d hoped so, given that I was focusing on music from your country! The Beach Boys clip is very much a piece of its time, I think!
      😊

      Liked by 1 person

      • Prior... October 18, 2020 / 3:39 pm

        😊and in a way – this post reminds me that some things change while somethings stay the same – or pretty close to the same even over many decades

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Clare Pooley October 18, 2020 / 2:20 am

    Another great selection of songs, Clive. Alone Again Or has long been a favourite of mine and it was good to listen to Marrakesh Express again.
    Thanks a lot, Clare

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive October 18, 2020 / 10:21 am

      Many thanks, Clare. I’m glad you enjoyed them and it’s good to find someone else who loves Alone Again Or too 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Jean | Delightful Repast October 17, 2020 / 2:10 pm

    Clive, do tell me what record that was “a bit of schmaltzy tat by the Bee Gees” knocked the Beach Boys tune from #1! I thought I knew 60’s music, but I don’t remember ever hearing of a band called Love! #SeniSal

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive October 17, 2020 / 2:26 pm

      Hi Jean. Firstly, I loved some of the Bee Gees early stuff but the one that earned that description from me was Gotta Get A Message To You, which I hated then and still do! My Mum liked it and bought it, so I suffered it a lot!

      Love went under a lot of people’s radar at the time but have since become a cult band. I had to order that one from our local record shop and when I went in to pick it up the assistant, who I knew well, said she didn’t know it and could she play it in the shop. When it finished, she looked at me and just said ‘Wow!’ 😊

      Like

  5. Stevie Turner October 16, 2020 / 1:56 pm

    Ah, I love all these songs, Clive. I’m a big fan of CS&N, and I remember that the Beach Boys ‘Do it Again’ was the first 45rpm record I ever bought from the secondhand stall in Chrisp Street Market when I was about 11. Happy days.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive October 16, 2020 / 2:05 pm

      Glad you enjoyed them, Stevie. Music is good at bringing back memories, isn’t it!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Stevie Turner October 16, 2020 / 2:17 pm

        Yes it is. Sorry I missed this one on Tuesday. I’m up to my ears with Covid clinic letters…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Clive October 16, 2020 / 2:20 pm

        No worries, there’s no compulsion to read these! Hope work isn’t too awful.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Clive October 16, 2020 / 3:50 pm

        I imagine it is! I’m so glad to be out of that, but I’m pleased it’s going well for you.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Stevie Turner October 16, 2020 / 3:54 pm

        Yes it’s going well, because I only work when I want to. I have what’s known as a ‘bank’ contract, and so I go to any department where the permanent secretaries are overwhelmed with outstanding letters. I work around holiday time at the van, It’s the best of both worlds for me!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Clive October 16, 2020 / 4:06 pm

        That sounds ideal for you. We had a bank system for nurses but just used temp agencies for admin staff, and locum agencies for doctors. I always wondered why we did it that way – maybe they’ve changed it since I retired. Pleased you have that choice over your working hours, it takes off the pressure.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Stevie Turner October 16, 2020 / 4:36 pm

        Yes, there’s no pressure for me. Our hospital does not use agencies for admin staff, but they have bank secretaries like myself that they can call on. When I was a ward clerk they used agency nurses, but they try not to I think because of the cost. They bring many nurses in from abroad to work, but when I was a ward clerk all the foreign nurses on our ward ended up pregnant and on a year’s maternity leave!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Clive October 16, 2020 / 4:45 pm

        I guess bank is cheaper than paying agency fees, and it suits you too: win-win. I think the most fun I ever had in my job was the day I helped out at a nurse recruitment fair – so many lovely young ladies! I hope they found the guy who caused all that trouble on your ward 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • Clive October 16, 2020 / 5:04 pm

        Not sure that’s how it works…

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Miriam October 16, 2020 / 11:54 am

    Some real classics here. I still love listening to Neil Diamond.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive October 16, 2020 / 12:21 pm

      Likewise! I prefer his earlier stuff, and I think Tap Root Manuscript is an under-appreciated masterpiece. Glad you enjoyed the piece, Miriam 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Darlene October 14, 2020 / 6:50 pm

    These are all great. I was a big Neil Diamond fan and saw him perform live once. I love Solitary Man! I also saw the Beach Boys perform, although by then they were more the Beach Grandpas but they still sounded good. Great choices!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Clive October 14, 2020 / 7:01 pm

      Thanks, Darlene, I’m glad you enjoyed them. You were lucky to see Neil play live, and I’m sure the Grandpas were still good 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  8. petespringerauthor October 14, 2020 / 3:50 am

    I listened to all six all the way through, Clive. Such good memories. I’ve heard the Monkees and Beach Boys songs before, though I don’t remember where/when. I’m going to cast my best song of the week for Alone Again. I love the guitar work and the horns.

    I was curious if The Monkees was a television show over in the UK, too. I remember thinking it was pretty corny as a kid, but some real creativity was involved there. Someone was a marketing genius.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Clive October 14, 2020 / 10:13 am

      Thank you, Pete, I’m glad you enjoyed the memories. I agree on the best one: but having said it was my all-time favourite song I would, wouldn’t I!

      Yes, the Monkees tv show was corny but I was 13 when it started and it was a breath of fresh air. All we’d had until then were the Beatles movies and the nausea-inducing Cliff Richard ones! It found a market and really played to it.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. browney237 October 13, 2020 / 10:10 pm

    What a fabulous group of songs! I love them all. You could have picked a number of songs from all of these artists except for Alone Again – what an absolute classic.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Clive October 13, 2020 / 10:32 pm

      Thanks, Michael, glad you enjoyed them. As you say, so many to choose from for all of them except Love, and I couldn’t have left that one out!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Jim Borden October 13, 2020 / 3:21 pm

    so many great artists and songs here – but you really went deep into the artists’ catalogs for some of these, at least from my perspective. I’ve never heard that Beach Boys song or the one from the Monkees (my all-time favorite Monkees song is I’m a Believer), but both the songs you shared were quite good, as I would have expected. And I am embarrassed to admit that I have never heard of the last song, or even the band. I just read a little bit about the group – they seemed to have been quite influential. Not sure how I missed them completely. Thanks once again for the music lesson!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Clive October 13, 2020 / 3:34 pm

      As I said in the piece that Beach Boys song wasn’t their biggest hit over there, by a distance, but we liked it here! At least your favourite Monkees song is another Neil Diamond one: I’ve no idea how many sales other artists have had with his songs, but I’m betting it’s loads. Love were indeed influential, but it was a bit of a slow burn, I think. Sometimes retrospective opinions are kinder than sales were at the time. Calexico also do a good cover of it, but steer clear of the version by The Damned – they thrash it to bits!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jim Borden October 13, 2020 / 4:54 pm

        Neil Diamond is one of the best… and I’ll be sure to stay away from The Damned! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Clive October 13, 2020 / 4:56 pm

        He is – and that would be a good move 😉

        Like

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