Have you ever listened to a song that you’ve heard a million times before, only to be struck suddenly by how odd/strange/disturbing the lyrics to the song actually are? This happened to me over the weekend when I was l enjoying the song “Save the Last Dance for Me” by the Drifters (which, coincidently you can find on the Best of 1960 and the overall Best of the 60s mix tapes). On the surface, it’s quite a compelling love song, but if you listen a little deeper, there’s a whole other point of view to the song that should be considered.
Since I’m not going to run afoul of the copyright law, take a couple of minutes now, and give it a listen.
Ok, got it? Here’s what I hear now when I listen to that song:
(A couple is riding the bus, the gentleman is talking to a rather lovely but pissed off looking girl. He’s using lingo that I can only assume that young people used in 1960.)
“Listen, girl, daddy is a little short of cash this week, so when we get to the party go ahead and hit up whoever you want for dinner and free drinks, okay? I’m going to meet a guy in the alleyway about a really solid business opportunity, but I’ll meet you at the back door in an hour and you can let me in so we don’t have to pay two cover charges. Try to pick me up some of those little hot dogs in a bun. In fact, see if you can dump a tray of them in your purse for later. Then we’ll leave at 10:30 so we have plenty of time to make the seven block walk back to the #3 bus. I sure hope it doesn’t rain”
Girl just shakes her head and stares blankly through the window.
While we’re at it, here’s a few more songs that change meaning if you just shift your point of view slightly…
Margaritaville – Jimmy Buffett
An isolated, alcoholic, manic depressive is slowly drinking himself to death thanks to a string of failed relationships, if he doesn’t strangle himself getting out of his hammock in a drunken stupor or die from the tetanus he picked up stepping on rusted pop tops and getting back alley tattoos. He also has a habit eating dessert and shrimp for breakfast and of misplacing common household items, the latest being his salt shaker.
Baby It’s Cold Outside – Various
Alternate title: The Rohypnol Song
This song must have originally been written as a date-rape PSA, but it inexplicably gained favor as a Christmas song (and the video with the little kids only makes it that much more disturbing. Creepy.) I’m just guessing here, but I’m betting this is one of Bill Cosby’s favorites.
Maxwell’s Silver Hammer – The Beatles
On second thought, this song is pretty straight forward disturbing. Boy takes girl on a date, boy kills girl with a big bloody silver hammer. Boy goes back to school, boy gets in trouble, boys stays after school and murders the teacher in cold blood with the same silver hammer. Boys actually looks to be a serial killer. Da-do-da-do-do…
Charming little ditty, no?
There’s tons of songs like this, really, but these four jumped into my head as being especially good examples. Which ones did I miss?
The Rolling Stones are playing in Orlando tomorrow (Friday, June 12). I love the Stones, they were the first rock band that I really got into, but I never had any inclination to go see them live again. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it will be a really great spectacle (I hesitate to use the word “concert,” because Rolling Stones shows have been more spectacle than concerts for years now), but I have seen them once, I don’t need to see them again. For one thing, I’m just not into paying top dollar to see 70 something year olds play music, but for another, I have no real desire to deal with that many people in one place unless it’s really something special. The one time I did get to see them, it was indeed something special.
I saw the Stones on the Steel Wheels Tour in 1989, playing the football stadium in Clemson, SC, and it was absolutely packed (So that means 70, 80K). My friend and later college roommate Tommy and I camped out overnight outside of the venerable (and by venerable I mean “absolute dump”) Greenville Memorial Auditorium to score tickets, paying what was then a kings ransom of $45 (45!) to sit a few rooms from the top of the stadium.
Even though we camped out, I remember that we were still pretty far back in line, and we were worried that we weren’t going to actually get tickets. Then, for reasons I still haven’t quite figured out, the line in front of us started to move, slowly at first, but soon it was a full gallop sprint. We were kind of slow getting up and moving, which was good for us, because all these people ended up doing was running in a circle around the building and losing their place in line. Some how, some way, the rumor had started that the tickets were going to be sold at a different window, and literally hundreds and hundreds of people ran themselves into a place at the back of the line. And I’ll always thank them, because I’m pretty sure more than a few of them walked away empty-handed the next day.
Fast forward then to November 29, 1989, as we begin the climb to our seats. If you’ve been to a football game at Clemson’s stadium and have sat in the upper deck, you’ll know that it is a steep climb. The deck angles basically straight up, so making that climb is more than a little daunting when your ticket is row “Double Letter.” The first thing we noticed on our climb is that our section was stage left, and by “stage left” I mean so far to the left of the stage that the only time we saw drummer Charlie Watts was at the end when he walked to the front of the stage to wave goodbye to the crowd. The other thing was how big the stage was. Where we were eventually sitting was pretty much eye level with the top of the stage setup, which (I may be misremembering this but it sticks in my mind) had warning lights on the top to warn low-lying aircraft.
Living Color opened the show, and I’m sure they were good but we didn’t make it into the stadium in time to see much of their set, but I do remember how good they sounded on our trek into the stadium. You know how at a lot of outdoor shows the sound is pretty terrible and actually gets worse the closer you get to the stage? Not at a Stones show, my friends. The sound setup was like nothing I’ve ever heard since, and it sounded like the band were playing in your living room no matter where you were within about a 1/2 mile radius of the stage.
The Stones kicked things off with classic track/eventual Windows 95 theme song Start Me Up, which was memorable from out vantage points because Keith Richards boot appeared out of the smoke and haze of the front stage fireworks about the same time as the riff from his guitar reached us. I remember it being a pretty great set, if a tad but heavy on the album they were ostensibly touring behind. A quick search of the Google tells me that 6 of 25 songs in the main set were from Steel Wheels, which in retrospect isn’t that bad at all (the ratio of songs, not the album Steel Wheels – that was a dud).
I remember the highlight being toward the end of the set with Happy (Keith on vocals!), Paint it Black, the underrated 2000 Light Years From Home (one of the few bright spots of the Stones short-lived psychedelic phase), and Sympathy of the Devil. Towards the end of 2000 Light Years most of the house lights went down and the stage was basically dark as the band faded out of the song, before the spotlight revealed Mick Jagger on a platform at the top of the stage, more or less parallel from us, as the opening percussion of Sympathy sounded. The entire audience went apesh*t and drowned out the band completely. It was AWESOME. Easily one of the best concert moments of my life, and I’m sure in a lot of people’s lives. This video from the Cotton Bowl in Dallas doesn’t do it justice, as you don’t get the perspective on where Mick was to start the song, but it basically took him the entire guitar solo to make his way back down to the stage mid-song.
Moments like that are why you pay the money, brave the crowds, and go see what even then was a band threatening to reach self-caricature status – not to go see a band play only their hits for the millionth time. The Stones back catalog is unfathomably deep, so that for every Satisfaction and Jumpin’ Jack Flash, you’ll get to hear songs like Midnight Rambler and Dead Flowers as well. I doubt they let Mick journey to the top of the stages any more (probably for a litany of insurance reasons), but you’re guaranteed to see something amazing, no doubt. I just never need to see it again. I do hope everyone going enjoys the show, regardless.
Editor’s Note: I fully stipulate that I am old and there was enough marijuana smoke gathered in a haze in the upper stratosphere of the stadium where we were sitting to give everyone in the upstate of South Carolina a contact high that night, so I may have misremembered and/or hallucinated some or all of the details described here. The important thing though is that this is how I remember it, so that’s just as good as it actually happening. Caveat emptor though, just in case.
So here we are. 1004 songs, 67 mixes, 57 blog posts, and 9 months later, it’s the final entry in the “best of…mix tape” project. Quite frankly, I’m exhausted just counting up those totals. Finishing on 1969 was no picnic either, as I had to cut fantastic songs from Townes Van Zant, Marvin Gaye, David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, Scott Walker and a bunch of others to whittle this mix down the required hour. For once I’m at a loss for words, so enjoy one last time.
Love Man – Otis Redding
One of the my favorite Otis Redding songs, which didn’t appear until two years after his death.
Good Times Bad Times – Led Zeppelin
Without a doubt a pretty killer tune.
Hot Burrito #2 – The Flying Burrito Brothers
You might question including this at the expense of say, Space Oddity by David Bowie, but I’ll stand by its inclusion. Outside of The Velvet Underground the FBBs may be one of the most influential artists on this mix. The entire genre of “country-rock” basically exists due to Gram Parsons.
Fortunate Son – Creedence Clearwater Revival
One of the all-time classic tunes. It was either this or Proud Mary, and that’s not really much of a decision.
Pale Blue Eyes – The Velvet Underground
So many classic tunes from The VU, in so little time.
Let It Bleed – The Rolling Stones
Awesome, blues-y tune? Check. Mick Jagger singing in an affected country accent? Check. That’s the recipe for a top shelf Stones tune, alright.
It’s Your Thing – The Isley Brothers
Love this tune a LOT.
Girl From the North Country – Bob Dylan (and Johnny Cash)
The Dylan-Cash recording sessions are a thing of almost mythical proportions, but sadly this is the only official release that came out of that collaboration. There are multiple bootleg recordings floating around the interwebs though, should you be so inclined to look for them. (Here’s a good place to start.)
I Wanna Be Your Dog – The Stooges
If it’s possible to be lightyears ahead of your time while sounding absolutely OF your time, then this song is it.
Suzanne – Leonard Cohen
A stone classic from one of the true giants of song craft.
Cinnamon Girl – Neil Young
Does this song make any sense? No, not particularly. But it’s awesome nonetheless.
The Boxer – Simon and Garfunkel
Hands down my favorite Simon and Garfunkel song (today).
I Can’t Get Next To You – The Temptations
Another monster track from one of the most underrated acts of the decade.
Pinball Wizard – The Who
Timeless stuff. When you think about it though, a rock opera about a deaf, dumb, and blind kid who plays pinball is a pretty bizarre stuff.
Everyday People – Sly & the Family Stone
So many great songs from Sly. And so many great messages in most of them.
Suspicious Minds – Elvis Presley
A straight up classic. You know it’s good because it made the cut over In the Ghetto, which is AWESOME, as well as being a song that I SLAY at karaoke. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, look out.
The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down – The Band
Seems like a perfect way to close out the decade, and the mix tapes project.
Here’s the Spotify playlist for your listening/subscribing pleasure.
Which one of your favorites did I miss? (I know, Sweet Caroline.)
And to top it al off, here’s the cumulative best of the 1960s playlist to close everything out.
I think that’s the last mix I’ll make for a while. 67 is enough to be getting on with for now.
This is the next to the last entry in the “best of…mix tape” project (at least until 2015 is over). I’m not going to lie to you – my enthusiasm for finishing this lagged a bit there towards the end. I love making mix tapes about as much as I love anything in the world outside of my family, friends, and Susanna Hoffs, but after making 60 or so my natural “I don’t want to do anything that I feel like I’m forced to do” gene kicked in, and it got a little tough. So huzzah for overcoming this lifelong instinct and seeing this project through to completion. Now, if only I had found that kind of strength and mental fortitude when taking chemistry or math. “Way to waste a moment of personal growth on something completely worthless” (my mom, just now, probably).
Before I get to the list, a quick word about Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. I’ve had about 15 Zappa tracks on various incarnations of these mixes, but don’t think any have actually made the final cut. Several of them probably should, but Zappa’s music was SO unique and out of the ordinary that quite frankly they sounded too jarring to include. So, consider this restitution for all of the tracks that should have been included, Frank. It’s not like you would have cared one bit, but it makes me feel better at least.
On to the list, which is once again a Doors-free safe haven.
Dance to the Music – Sly & The Family Stone
It’s kind of sad really that one of The Family’s most inconsequential songs from a content standpoint is one of their best musically. Seriously, how can you sit still when this one is playing?
White Light/White Heat – The Velvet Underground
Hey, it’s my favorite heroin-related song, from a band that wrote more than one of them (allegedly).
Song of a Preacher Man – Dusty Springfield
All hail Dusty, first of her name, Mother of Dragons and queen of the Andals and the Seven Kingdoms. Wait, what? No? Well, she should be.
Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) – Jimi Hendrix
When people talk about what an amazing guitar player Hendrix was, this in my mind is the song they are talking about. It wasn’t so much recorded as created, chiseled on stone tablets and sent down from the heavens as gift to all mankind.
Mrs. Robinson – Simon & Garfunkel
Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you still, only these days all they see are A-Rod and Brett Gardner.
Chain of Fools – Aretha Franklin
Of all the amazing Aretha Franklin songs out there, this is head and shoulders my favorite of the lot.
The Weight – The Band
I don’t really know what it means, but this song just sounds important, doesn’t it?
Pictures of Matchstick Men – Status Quo
Thanks to the popularity of the Camper Van Beethoven cover amongst many people my age, I still meet a lot of folks who do not realize that it was originally a Quo song. Hopefully this clears things up.
Cocaine Blues – Johnny Cash
I’m violating the no live song rule for this one, because, well, it’s Johnny Freaking Cash, and The Man in Black don’t play by your rules, man.
Hurdy Gurdy Man – Donovan
I debated this one for a while. It’s not a song I particularly enjoy to be honest, but it does seem to scream 1968 to such an extent that I couldn’t justify leaving it off the mix. Plus it sounds like the template for about 15 great David Bowie songs.
Mama Tried – Merle Haggard
This one is basically the template for every good country song every written. Trains, Mama, church, sorrow, and prison (I think we can assume there was a large amount of whiskey consumed as well somewhere between hopping the freight train and the life term in prison).
The Village Green Preservation Society – The Kinks
Just my favorite Kinks song ever. Used to excellent effect in the movie Hot Fuzz.
Piece of My Heart – Big Brother & The Holding Company
First off, this isn’t a Janis Joplin solo recording, though most people assume that it is. Second, if it wasn’t for Son of a Preacher man, I would have put the Dusty Springfield version of this song on here. Janis was great and all, but subtly and nuance wasn’t her strong point, and that’s being charitable.
The Way Young Lovers Do – Van Morrison
You can make a very strong case that Astral Weeks is the best album of all time. You’d be wrong, but I wouldn’t try and argue with you all that much.
Jumpin’ Jack Flash – The Rolling Stones
Ok, how’s this for a musical Sophie’s Choice? How do you choose between Sympathy for the Devil and this song? You can’t really. JJF wins by virtue of being shorter, which usually ends up being the tie breaker for these mixes. Can’t go wrong either way, really, though a part of me isn’t sure the best Stones choice here isn’t Prodigal Son. Or maybe Salt of the Earth. Curse you Beggars Banquet and your endless supply of awesomeness!
Ole Man Trouble – Otis Redding
Of all the musicians lost too soon, Otis is probably the one that I miss the most. Nothing but fried gold here.
The Pusher – Steppenwolf
This song is just flat out amazing, and a great way to close things out.
There she is. The penultimate entry in the “Best of…mix tape” project. Here’s the Spotify playlist for your listening/subscribing pleasure.
Admit it, you’re going to miss these when I’m done.
I’ve been looking forward to 1967 for a long, long time, if for no other reason than to have an excuse to intentionally leave Doors songs off this mix. Yeah, I think To Sir With Love is approximately 100000x superior to Break on Through (To The Other Side). This dude does not abide by Jim Morrison (except for LA Woman. That one might have a chance). Also, apologies to Pink Floyd and Miles Davis for not finding room for songs from your two great albums on here. I may be the only person alive that thinks The Piper At the Gates of Dawn is the best Floyd album, but I do love me some Syd Barrett.
Give Me Some Lovin’ – The Spencer Davis Group
There was a brief period of time when I was 13, about a month really, where this was my favorite song of all time. I still totally dig it.
So You Want to Be a Rock ‘N Roll Star – The Byrds
Hmm, on second thought, no I don’t, because one day the internet will exist and jerks with no musical talent will write pretentious blog posts about how my music sucks. Plus, I look like a moron in tight pants. Good call, JLo.
I Never Loved a Man (The Way That I Loved You) – Aretha Franklin
How great is this song? It made it to the list instead of Respect, which also came out in 1967, so there.
The Wind Cries Mary – Jimi Hendrix
Picking a song from Are You Experienced? is well nigh impossible. This one is a personal favorite, but I could have gone three or four other ways and been just as happy.
I Heard It Through the Grapevine – Gladys Knight & The Pips
Want to really find out if somebody has excellent taste in music? Ask them which version of this song they like best. If they reply the Gladys Knight version, then you’ve got a winner. (If they mention anything about the California Raisins, you are legally allowed to bludgeon them with a shovel in 39 states. Wait, what? I’m being told that is not true. It should be though.)
There She Goes – The Velvet Underground
Yet another album where it’s basically impossible to pick just one song, but this one is just smudge better than the rest in my humble opinion. I almost wrote IMHO, but then I would have risked a shovel bludgeoning as well, so I thought better of it. The same should be true for use of selfie sticks. Or taking selfies in general. Basically, shovel bludgeoning is a vastly underused penalty and we should seriously reconsider its use. How in the world did I get to shovel bludgeoning from The VU? Oh well, let’s move on, shall we?
Ruby Tuesday – The Rolling Stones
What a tune. Too bad they named a crappy chain restaurant after it. Eat at Ruby Tuesday’s voluntarily? That’s a bludgeoning.
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
Thanks to Guardians of the Galaxy, this is one of my kids favorite songs. What would happen if you could go back in time and tell Marvin Gaye that his music would reach a whole new audience thanks to a movie that featured a kick ass, talking raccoon and a dancing, humanoid tree? He’d probably bludgeon you with a shovel, wouldn’t he? See, it really is the one size fits all punishment.
I’m A Lonesome Fugitive – Merle Haggard
I fear that Merle has been criminally underrepresented in these mixes. Hopefully this makes up for it a bit.
Somebody to Love – Jefferson Airplane
This songs practically screams 1967.
The Tears of a Clown – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
You could make a really good case that, outside of the Beatles, nobody had a bigger impact on the music of the 1960s than Smokey Robinson. Seriously, the man wrote basically EVERYTHING.
Pleasant Valley Sunday – The Monkees
There’s real depth in this song, a rather blistering indictment of the blandness of suburban life hidden behind a pleasant, jaunty tune.
Jackson – Johnny & June Carter Cash
If you ever doubted bond between Johnny and June Carter, just listen to the playful banter between the two in this gem.
Once I Was – Tim Buckley
As unique and powerful a voice as you’ll find on any of these mixes.
Waterloo Sunset – The Kinks
In many ways this is kind of a bizarro companion piece to Pleasant Valley Sunday, only it celebrates the bustling urban life.
Happy Together – The Turtles
Possibly the prototype late 60s pop rock song.
Soul Man – Sam & Dave
As much as I loved the Blues Brothers, the original crushes their version like a grape and then grounds it into a fine cabernet, or possibly a merlot.
When Joanna Loved Me – Scott Walker
Along with Tim Buckley and Leonard Cohen, Walker was and remains king of the melancholy crooners.
Tales of Brave Ulysses – Cream
2:46 in length, which gives it the upper hand over Sunshine of Your Love.
To Sir, With Love – Lulu
Hey Doors, To Sir, With Love has a classic Sidney Poitier movie on its side. You don’t have a Sidney Poitier movie, do you? Didn’t think so.
All Along The Watchtower – Bob Dylan
Hendrix took this song and made it his own (as well as a completely different animal), but I’m always partial to the original.
I’m not going to lie to you, making fun of the Doors never gets old. Here’s the Spotify playlist for your listening/subscribing pleasure.
Only two more mix tapes to go! How did I do? Does my dislike of the Doors come through clear enough?