Tuesday Tunes 31: Sixties Albums

I remarked last week that my record purchasing began to take a shift from singles to albums towards the late Sixties, and it therefore seems a good idea to reflect that with a post devoted to some of the albums that attracted me, as my musical tastes matured. Two of today’s choices are from bands who have featured in this little mini-series of Sixties posts – one of them as recently as last week – but the others are new to the series. They do, I think, reflect that change though.

As always, I’m starting with something that moves a bit:

An unlikely place to start, perhaps, for a band which is probably more known either for their 1965 hit single Go Now or the many slower album tracks of their prog rock days. That is actually the first piece of music – after a spoken word intro – on their third album, In Search Of The Lost Chord. This was their second concept album, after Days Of Future Passed, the one which includes Nights In White Satin – which you may have heard! The album was released in July 1968 and reached #5 in the UK, #23 in the US. This track was actually released as a single – the second from the album – but didn’t really do all that much, peaking at #42 in the UK and #61 in the US. I bought the album that year, and still love it and play it now, albeit the vinyl original is long since lost from my possession. An old school friend came to visit me a few years back, and told me that he had been listening to Moody Blues albums on the drive up here – good to know that my influence still exists!

This week’s second choice is also a quick mover, and is also probably not the most obvious track I could have chosen from its album:

The song is a track on Bob Dylan’s seventh album, Blonde On Blonde, which was released in June 1966. This was one of the first double albums in rock music, and is often given as an example of one of the best albums ever. Not bad, for the guy my Mum used to call ‘the man who can’t sing.’ The album reached #3 in the UK and #9 in the US, and spawned five hit singles, of which this was one of two which charted on both sides of the Atlantic – it peaked at #20 in the US but got slightly higher here, where it reached #16. After all this time it is still one of my favourite Dylan tracks, but much though I like Bob I have to admit that I think Leonard Cohen would have been a more deserving Nobel winner for his poetry than Mr Zimmerman. Discuss…

I mentioned the phrase ‘concept album’ in relation to the Moody Blues. They released several of that genre, but were far from alone in doing so. Many rock bands – especially those who were labelled ‘prog rock’ – did so, but one of my favourites was from an out and out rock band. The Who released The Who Sell Out in December 1967 in the UK and in January 1968 in the US: it comprised a number of unrelated songs linked by radio station jingles, of the sort the band had themselves recorded for others. This is my favourite track from the album:

You can hear a couple of the concept jingle links at the beginning and end of that clip, to give you a little context. In a rather twee comment Wikipedia remarks that the song has been ‘subject to a variety of interpretations.’ I have only ever thought there could be one, but maybe that’s just my mind – then again, the band’s discographer (Chris Charlesworth) described it as their ‘second great song about masturbation,’ so maybe I’m on the right track.  In case you’re wondering, the first song in that dubious category was Pictures Of Lily. The album reached #13 here and #48 in the US. As concept albums go it was a bit of an oddity, and perhaps unsurprisingly it was the subject of several lawsuits claiming infringement of copyright, including one from the pirate radio station Radio London, some of whose jingles featured on it. Proof, if it were needed, that big business lacks a sense of humour – whilst always being able to sniff out the making of a quick buck or two!

My next song this week is from an album I’ve loved ever since it was released, and still play to this day:

The album was Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, which was released in August 1968 and was the only Byrds album to feature Gram Parsons. The album is credited with creating the genre known as ‘country-rock,’ though it wasn’t a commercial success, only reaching #77 in the US and failing to chart here. It has subsequently been recognised as one of the most influential albums ever, though. Two singles were released from it, of which this was one: it reached #74 in the US and #45 here. It wasn’t long before Parsons left the band, along with Chris Hillman, and they formed the Flying Burrito Brothers, who I recommend highly. Gram Parsons’ influence has spread far beyond his tragically short lifetime: for example, he was friends with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and is cited as an influence for some of the Stones’ country-based songs, such as Country Honk and Faraway Eyes. To round off this section, perhaps I should point out that this is actually a Bob Dylan song (yes, him again), written by him in 1967, though he didn’t release his own version until 1971.

It would be remiss of me not to include the biggest band on the planet in a selection of Sixties albums. Fortunately, I’m spoilt for choice, as all apart from The Beatles’ final album, Let It Be, were released in this decade. But that does make it hard to narrow the selection! So I decided to cheat a little:

Abbey Road was released on 26 September 1969, and this video was released to mark the 50th anniversary reissue of the album, on 26 September 2019. I think it’s rather lovely, and it just had to be my choice. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you about the Beatles or this song and album: suffice it to say that it is a George Harrison song, written by him while in his friend Eric Clapton’s garden, and that John Lennon didn’t feature on the original recording as he was recuperating from injury at the time. The album was, of course, #1 in the UK and the US, and in just about every other country you care to think of. The 50th anniversary reissue? Also a UK #1. In the main US chart it was #3, though it made #1 in the Rock chart. It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that this video has over 35m views in little more than a year!

I’m giving you six songs again this week, as I couldn’t possibly leave out the band that became the biggest rock band in the world during the Seventies. Their first two albums were Sixties releases, though, which means I can legitimately include them here. In case you’re wondering, I’m talking about Led Zeppelin, who were probably the major influence in my taste moving towards rock music. Given that they were renowned for their hard rock, you might not be expecting this choice, though:

To my mind, that is one of the most beautiful love songs ever recorded, and I think the imagery of the lyrics is wonderful. It is the closing track to side one of Led Zeppelin II, back in the days when everything came on vinyl. The album was released in October 1969 and, unsurprisingly, was #1 both here and in the US. No tracks from the album were released as singles here (as was the case throughout their career) but in the US and the Netherlands, where I guess the band had less of a say in what happened, the opening track – Whole Lotta Love – was a #4 hit as a single. It was eventually released as a single here – in 1997! In the meantime, a cover version by CCS (a UK #13) was for some years the title music for our tv charts show Top Of The Pops. I’ve always found that slightly ironic! The album has sold upwards of 20m copies and it probably doesn’t need to be said that my Mum didn’t like it! She just couldn’t understand my excitement when a friend managed to get us tickets to see the band live: they played a series of warm up gigs at smaller UK venues early in 1971, as preparation for a forthcoming world tour, and I was among 1,300 who saw them at the University of Kent, Canterbury, one cold March evening. Stairway To Heaven was announced by Robert Plant in throwaway fashion as ‘here’s a song off our new LP.’ Happy days!

That’s all for this week, and for the Sixties – for now. One of the things which has struck me over the past four weeks is that, even by stretching these posts to six songs, I have had to leave out so much of the music I grew up with, so I may return to this era at some point. For those who follow my Facebook page (link is to the right) yesterday’s #SongOfTheDay was an absolute beauty that missed out on this series: a little bonus offering. Next week I’ll begin my stumble into the Seventies. There will be singles. There will be album tracks. And there will be a lot of music from North America. Stay tuned…

Tuesday Tunes 4

As you can see from my handy free counter (in the title) we in the UK are now going into week 4 of lockdown. I think I’ve escaped most of the problems so far, the only real change to my lifestyle was having to stay up until midnight to try and book a Tesco delivery slot as soon as they made another day available. It was 10th time lucky, so until the goodies arrive I’ll just have to make do with a full freezer and more tinned and packet meals than I’ve ever seen in my life before. Then, I’ll have to do it all over again to get another delivery slot to replenish the fresh foods, unless a miracle happens and shopping becomes easy again. Who knew it would come to this? But of course I can reassure you that I haven’t been panic buying: I’m just taking sensible precautions in case my home should ever come under siege. It’s at times like this that I could almost yield to the blandishments of all those helpful people on Farcebook, Twitter and in blogs who are encouraging us to use the time we have on our hands creatively, by taking up something new. At my most honest, I would admit that I and ‘creative’ rarely, if ever, appear in the same sentence but I guess I could always think about changing the habits of a lifetime?

Maybe tomorrow…

But this did get me thinking about a possible theme for this week’s two Tuesday Tunes. So, instead of trying something new myself, I’ve chosen a couple of songs that tell the stories of those who aspire to creative greatness. Either that, or the untold riches that success would bring. The first is from 1966, from a little band you might have heard of before:

A ‘dirty story’ of a ‘dirty man,’ whose ‘clinging wife doesn’t understand’ – I think there have been a few of those over the years! But rest assured, dear reader, I won’t be joining those ranks any time soon. It’s all I can do to string a thousand words together, let alone a thousand pages!

My second song for this week is another story of aspiration, which is even further from my abilities than the first. As one who struggles to produce the most simple landscape picture my artistic talents could be deemed to be ‘limited.’ Little wonder, then, that I studied the History of Art for my degree, rather than actually doing it myself! But in my youth I had my dreams, rather like this:

As it says on the video, that is a Bob Dylan song. He and The Band have had a long association and this was far from being the first of his songs that they recorded. It appears on Cahoots, their fourth studio album, and was released in 1971. I prefer their version: I think the late Levon Helm’s plaintive vocals really suit it. If you aren’t familiar with them, The Band made several great albums in what would today be termed Americana-style, and Levon himself also had a successful acting career, in addition to being a solo musician and leading his own band (small ‘b’). And a little piece of additional trivia for you: he was the inspiration for the song Listening To Levon, which is on Marc Cohn’s Join The Parade album. I recommend you check that out: it’s a lovely song of love and reminiscence, on a great album (like everything Marc Cohn does!).

So, that’s a wrap for this week. I hope that, however you are spending the time – maybe working from home or, like me, lounging around doing nothing, as usual – you are taking sensible precautions to avoid the horror that is Covid-19. I see from today’s paper that our esteemed government is suggesting that they will be continuing the lockdown for at least another three weeks and will be announcing their decision on Thursday. We all know that’s coming, so why the suspense? JFDI! But it does mean that there will be at least another three weeks of Tuesday Tunes posts, after which I will, like the government, review whether I can release you from lockdown. I just hope I make a better job of managing that than the clowns in charge here – at least, unlike Dominic Raab, I do know my derrière from my elbow.

Take care, be safe, stay well.

#ChristmasSongOfTheDay 2019 – Part Three

Welcome back to my series of catch up posts for the #ChristmasSongOfTheDay that I am posting on Twitter and on the Facebook page for this blog. Today I’m taking you through days 14 to 19, which will leave one more collection to come.

Last Saturday – day 14 – I returned to a song that I have included before, as I think it is one of the most beautiful modern day Christmas songs. It is by Jackson Browne, who is one of my favourite artists and, I think, ranks at the very top of the list of singer-songwriters. I was fortunate enough to see him play live in 2010, at the Royal Albert Hall in London. It was a wonderful show but, as it was in June, i.e.  the wrong time of year, this one wasn’t on the set list. Nevertheless, as its time has now come I’m happy to share it:

I hadn’t realised it at the time but Jackson is a regular visitor to the RAH, since his debut in 1994: he is scheduled to play there again next year, which will be his 16th appearance. I think they like him too!

That was Jackson’s own version of his song which, as far as I know, has only ever been issued on the 1997 compilation The Next Voice You Hear. He did, however, do a version with the Chieftains for their 1991 album The Bells Of Dublin. In my best DJ fashion, I’m now making a segue into another track from that album, which I shared on the 15th. Smooth link, huh? I always try to post a version of a Christmas Carol on Advent Sundays, and this was always one of my favourites when I was growing up, and was a more regular churchgoer than I am nowadays. I think Marianne Faithfull and the Chieftains do a lovely job with it:

My selection for Monday 16th was one that I have included for all five years that I have been doing this. As before, I make no apology for the repetition: there is a reason for it, and that is because I like it! This is by far the best version I have ever heard of a Christmas standard which is probably most associated with the crooners in their cheesy jumpers. This version really brings out the song’s beauty, and the accompanying video is a perfect fit in creating the mood. You may not have heard of the singer – Brynn Andre – before, and you could be forgiven for this. She made an album in 2009, then another one and a couple of EPs in 2012 – this is the title track of one of those EPs. Since then she has largely been absent from the recording scene, having become a personal life coach instead. But she returned with a couple of collaborations last year, and a new single of her own this past summer. I’m hoping that she will give us more: her lovely voice deserves to be heard more widely.

Tuesday’s song was another that was returning, although only for its second appearance. I think I’m pretty safe in saying that it is the only one of these songs to be performed by a Nobel Laureate! Bob Dylan released a Christmas album in 2009 – Christmas In The Heart – and this is his version of a song that has been around since the 1940s. It was also covered recently by Bryan Adams on his Christmas EP but I much prefer Dylan’s version, with this utterly bonkers video:

Yesterday’s song was one which I have featured most years that I’ve done this. You may know the Killers from their many hit albums and singles, but were you aware that they issued a series of Christmas singles for eight years or so? These were all done to raise money for The Killers’ Christmas Charity, and no doubt they have done a huge amount of good. This one, from 2011, is my favourite, because nothing says Christmas quite like cowboys and robot spacemen, does it:

For today I chose a song I’ve never featured before, though it isn’t exactly new! Those of us of a certain age are probably familiar with Phil Spector’s Christmas album, but of a similar vintage (1964) is the lesser known Beach Boys’ Christmas Album. This sad tale of a little boy’s experience with a department store’s ‘Santa’ will probably echo with many – and it is a piece of classic Beach Boys, so is well worth including, I think:

I’ve rounded off my two previous posts in this series by sharing the wonderful Christmas adverts made by Hafod Hardware, a local shop in Rhayader, in Wales. They have produced three of these now (although I did find an earlier, more prosaic one). I began with this year’s, then went back to 2017. This is the middle one in the sandwich, from 2018, and shares all the charm of the other two, including a ‘vocal’ role for little Arthur at the end:

Isn’t that lovely? As before, the Jones family have shown excellent taste in choosing music from Andrea Von Kampen to accompany their advert: this song is on her Christmas Project EP from 2016. As I said last time, I recommend her highly: she has a beautiful voice and writes good songs of her own, too.

I’ll be posting again on Saturday, with an updated version of last year’s piece for the Winter Solstice, and then again with the concluding part of this series on Christmas Day. Hopefully I’ll see you again for both of those. And, if you haven’t already done it, a timely reminder that you should be putting the sprouts on if you don’t want to be too late…..