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?
Mad Men is without question one of the great television dramas of all time, and maybe one of the last purely character dramas that will gain a wide foothold of cultural significance. With seemingly every show on television obsessed with one upping itself with plot twists, Mad Men was stubbornly resistant to the trend. The show was intimately intertwined in history, but its characters remained outside observers, watching events like the Kennedy assassinations, the Chicago riots, and the moon landing on television just like everybody else. One can imagine the machinations and back flips one of the current generation of show runners might go through to insert Don, or Roger, or Peggy directly into these events, but Matthew Weiner was content to let them unfold around a cast of characters and focus instead on their reactions, everyday lives, hopes and dreams, and disappointments.
Many have speculated for years that Mad Men had only one possible ending, one that flashed before us every episode during the opening credits: Don Draper plunging to his death in imitation of the falling man silhouette. I never thought that Weiner would choose to end the show with anything so dramatic, though he certainly hinted and toyed with that result for much of the final episode. I was frankly surprised at the episode that Weiner delivered, as it bordered on an old-fashioned, upbeat ending, with each of the major characters getting a send off and the man in the middle seemingly finding redemption (until THAT commercial ran before the close). It’s probably best to mirror Weiner’s approach and take the round robin tour through the characters as we left them.
Pete & Trudy: On a show defined by shallow consumerism, it’s appropriate that the show’s two shallowest characters (well, maybe they aren’t as shallow as Harry Crane, but its a near run thing. Do NOT get in Harry’s way when he’s hungry) found each other again. Pete did show one of his occasional glimpses of humanity saying goodbye to Peggy, but she has a way of uncovering the best in everyone, even Pete. Dear Trudy, you know Pete will disappoint you eventually, but at least you get unlimited use of a private jet out of the deal, so it’s probably worth it to you. They say success is fleeting, but that has to be doubly true of any success that stems from the efforts of Duck Phillips, right? Caveat emptor, Peter.
Betty, Sally, and Bobby #what? 5?: Ah poor Betty. You gained wisdom, clarity, and a sense of self-worth finally, and all it took to cement it was a terminal cancer diagnosis. She showed admirable strength and determination during her final phone call with Don (it was fitting that Don’s final three phone calls were with Sally, Betty, and Peggy, the three women left that he truly cared about, but more on that in a minute), firmly but lovingly rejecting Don’s proposal to return and take the children. Betty, you may have been a crap mom for most of the show, but you ended well. Sally’s eventual nervous breakdown and rebirth as a self help guru in the 80s will likely be delayed for a few years thanks to you and your efforts. Well done, Birdie.
Roger Sterling: Speaking of someone who needs his own talk show, tell me you wouldn’t watch a one-hour, Dick Cavett-style talk show/variety show called Sterling’s Gold (based on the best-selling book)? Enjoy Montreal, Roger. Don summed Marie up best: You know she’s crazy, right? (Best: Joan’s reaction to Roger’s reveal of the identity of his latest, and possibly final, flame.)
Joan Harris: Let me just say this: I LOVED Joan’s final storyline. For so long she’s been defined by what she looks like and what men want to do for her/to her, good and bad, so it was really thrilling to see her cast off a seemingly dream relationship to pursue her new career. Even Peggy, seemingly her ally but someone who she has always had something of frosty relationship with, has consistently underestimated Joan and dismissed her potential based on her looks. Rock on, Joan Harris. You deserve it, and don’t let the fellas define who you are anymore, and stay away from the cocaine, m’kay? (I’m totally willing to overlook the fact that your move to independence was definitely underwritten by the generous bequest to your son from Roger, ensuring his future regardless of what happens to Harris Productions.)
Peggy (and Stan): So, the one thing I didn’t really expect from Mr. Weiner was straight up fan service. Mad Men has always been as much Peggy’s story as Don’s, but did anybody see the Nora Ephron movie ending coming for Peggy and Stan? I can see why she rejected Joan’s offer and the chance to be her own boss; she’s always wanted to succeed in advertising, and Joan’s offer, while enticing on the surface, would have been ultimately unfulfilling. (Also, see above about her refusal to take Joan seriously on a professional level.) Regardless, everybody’s thrilled to see that Peggy is seemingly happy, but little does know that by staying at McCann she’s likely steering into the path of Hurricane Draper again in he near future.
Don: First off, let say that I’m thoroughly unnerved by the sight of Don Draper in a denim jacket. It’s fitting that we get see his three phone calls with the there women left who he truly cares about, and each of them reject him in their own way. Even Peggy, who seemingly shows the most concern for him, doesn’t seem to spare him a second thought once Stan the Man comes into the picture. It slowly dawns on Don that none of these women need him, that they are truly better off and have made their own way without him. So surely here’s where Don is going to fulfill the reoccurring prophecy of the credits and hurl himself off the cliffs into the sea below, right? Well no, but at least Don’s transformation back into Dick Whitman is going to be made whole by some group therapy, self-reflection, and early morning meditation. But then we see the smile, and one of the most iconic television ads in history rolls and the meaning is clear: here is the ultimate triumph of consumerism over everything. Neither personal redemption, nor cultural ideals can stand in the way of a great Don Draper pitch, and in retrospect it should have been obvious (and it was obvious to one TV critic and his colleague). The Coke account was the bait that McCann used to try and lure Don into the fold from season 1, and presumably it finally succeeded. Mad Men has never shied away from cynicism, so it seems fitting that Don’s final moments should be a smirking, jingle-filled monument to the triumph of that cynicism to over all.
Whatever you make of the ending, Mad Men ended on Mathew Weiner’s terms, and I’ll miss it. It’s not too late, though, for Trudy to come to her senses. RUN FOR THE HILLS. TRUDY! Wait, there are no hills in Kansas.
1966 wasn’t quite the juggernaut that 1965 was, but only just. It did, however, likely boast the best single day in music history, as both Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde and The Beach Boys’ revelatory Pet Sounds were released on May 16 of that year. What are the odds of two top 15 albums in history getting turned loose on the same day? It’s the equivalent of Point Break and Roadhouse being released into theaters on the same day. Just unfathomable.
I also just spent more time than anybody in their right mind should spend debating whether to include I Am A Rock or Homeward Bound as the Simon & Garfunkel entry for the year. In the end I went with the latter since it is 30 seconds shorter and fit the mix slightly better. It’s not quite flipping a coin, but I probably would have ended up there eventually.
As always, I’m pouring a 40 on the curb in honor of the missing Beatles song that would have made this list. This one hurts a lot since it would have come from Revolver. Then again, that just means that I don’t have to choose just one song from it, so maybe it’s for the best (though it totally would have been She Said She Said).
Secret Agent Man – Johnny Rivers
Kicking things off with a killer guitar riff. A great tune, even if it appeared on both the Bowfinger soundtrack AND Bruce Willis’ The Return of Bruno.
Under My Thumb – The Rolling Stones
One of truly iconic Stones’ tunes.
God Only Knows – The Beach Boys
The story goes that Brian Wilson heard The Beatles’ Rubber Soul, and was so blown away by it that he was inspired to make Pet Sounds, which in turn inspired Lennon and McCartney to make Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. I’m not convinced that Pet Sounds isn’t the best of the three.
Visions of Johanna – Bob Dylan
Who knows who or what inspired Dylan to write this 1000 pound bolder of awesome, but frankly I don’t care, because I still get to listen to it anytime that I want, and that’s all that matters.
Hold On! I’m Comin’ – Sam & Dave
A straight up R&B classic.
I Fought the Law – The Bobby Fuller Four
The definitive version of one rock’s great songs, though it’s a cover of a post-Buddy Holly Crickets’ recording. Personally I’ll take The Clash version though.
Uptight (Everything’s Alright) – Stevie Wonder
What were you doing when you were 15? Stevie was recording songs like this. Makes you feel good about your life, no?
Homeward Bound – Simon & Garfunkel
Congratulation for being 30 seconds shorter, Homeward Bound! You take the prize.
Ain’t Too Proud to Beg – The Temptations
This tune is all about those horns. It’s kind of ridiculous how many great songs the Temps had. This could just as easily have been Get Ready.
Last Train to Clarksville – The Monkees
Yes, I know all about how The Monkees came to be, and I don’t care. This song is great, plain and simple.
When A Man Loves a Woman – Percy Sledge
Just a massive, massive song from a huge talent.
Eight Miles High – The Byrds
Psychedelic, daddy-o! Something like that, though I think I may be mixing my 50s/60s lingo.
You Can’t Hurry Love – The Supremes
Another monster Motown hit.
I Can’t Control Myself – The Troggs
It’s kind of mind boggling to me that the same guy who wrote this and Love is All Around also wrote “Wild thing, you make my heart sing.”
Try A Little Tenderness – Otis Redding
I’ve long since gotten over hearing my favorite songs used to shill products in TV commercials, but McDonalds using this one to hawk chicken strips recently was especially harsh.
These Boots Are Made For Walking – Nancy Sinatra
Both Frank and Nancy had records out in 1966, and Nancy wins going away.
Reach Out (I’ll Be There) – The Four Tops
Another Motown hit factory with just a crazy number of great songs.
Tell It Like It Is – Aaron Neville
Hands down one of my favorite songs ever. Few have possessed a sweeter voice than this man.
The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore – The Walker Brothers
An early taste of greatness from Scott Walker and his “brothers.”
There it is, 1966 in all of its glory. Only three more playlists to go! Here’s the Spotify playlist for for listening/subscribing pleasure.
Which one of your favorites did I miss (I Am A Rock, I know, I know)?
It probably goes without saying that 1965 was a great year for music. How great was it? Try this on for size: Three of the most famous songs in rock history were released in 1965 (Satisfaction, My Generation, and Like A Rolling Stone), and NONE of them made the cut for this list. Don’t get me wrong, I love all three, but the Stones’ version of Satisfaction wasn’t even the best version released in 1965 (I think even Mick and Keith would agree that Otis Redding’s is just better), The Kids Are Alright is just a smidgen better than My Generation, and it’s basically a crap shoot amongst Bob Dylan songs given the fact that he put out TWO classic albums in this twelve month span (Bringing It All Back Home and Highway ’61 Revisited). I’m just partial to Subterranean Homesick Blues, but really you could pick one of a half dozen tracks there and I wouldn’t be able to argue with you.
There’s such an embarrassment of riches here, and that’s not even taking into account The Beatles’ Rubber Soul (not available on Spotify and one of the all-time stone classics, John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, a truly great and transcendent work, but one that I just couldn’t justify including here due to the length of most of the tracks and the lack of flow with the rest of the mix tape. Also, Motown was at it’s absolute peak, so just sit back and enjoy all of the fried gold that I was able to add to this mix.
Subterranean Homesick Blues – Bob Dylan
A fantastic tune and a pretty amazing bit of lyrical dexterity, which oddly is a prelude to hip-hop in its own way.
Respect – Otis Redding
Don’t get me wrong here, Aretha Franklin took this song and made it her own, and the feminist themes certainly play better to modern ears than the paternal, borderline masochist vibe of Redding’s original. This version absolutely SLAYS though, just dripping with soul and raw magnetism.
You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me – Dusty Springfield
For all of you that shower love on Janis Joplin, what you really should be doing instead is making yourself prostrate at the shrine of Dusty.
Help Me, Rhonda – The Beach Boys
As good and fun as the Boys early records were, it was all prelude to the masterpiece they are about to drop in 1966. Still love this tune a lot though.
People Get Ready – The Impressions
A great song on its own, it took on even greater significance as an anthem for the Civil Rights movement.
Tired of Waiting for You – The Kinks
A cool little combo of pop, blues, and early psychedelia.
Ain’t That Peculiar – Marvin Gaye
This is the beginning of a pretty amazing run by Marvin Gaye, whose output through his death in 1984 stands up with anyone. Give credit to Robin Thicke, Pharrell, et al for one thing: if you’re going to steal from somebody, at least you picked a really good source.
For Your Love – The Yardbirds
See the write up above for the Kinks.
In the Midnight Hour – Wilson Pickett
Note for note, this just might be the best song of the bunch. Just a powerhouse of R&B.
Nowhere to Run – Martha & The Vandellas
See what I mean about Motown absolutely killing it? It only get better from here.
California Dreamin’ – The Mamas & The Papas
Pretty much a given for this list. Amusing side story though: In my crazed college record collecting days, one of the holy grails for R.E.M. fans was a bootleg called “Return of the Rickenbacker,” which featured a live cover of this song. The catch was that you needed a variable speed turntable to get it to play correctly, as the correct speed was this nebulous setting somewhere between 33 and 45 rpm. This was how I spent my time and treasure when I was younger instead of studying or saving money. And it was totally worth it.
The Tracks of My Tears – Smokey Robinson & the Miracles
The next time you feel good about your career, stop and take a look at all of the songs that Smokey Robinson wrote in the 60s, not only for himself but for virtually every artist in the Motown stable. It’s remarkably humbling.
Mr. Tambourine Man – The Byrds
The Byrds were one of those bands that were really good, but gained even more importance historically based on the bands (Big Star, R.E.M., etc) that they directly influenced. Love that jingling, jangly Rickenbacker sound, especially when they bust out the 12-string.
It’s the Same Old Song – Four Tops
Rarely does a song that sounds so upbeat and happy musically sucker punch you with lyrics quite so sad and melancholy. One of the truly great songs of its time.
The Kids Are Alright – The Who
I know every likes My Generation better. Maybe it’s the stuttering, who knows. For my money thought this is the better tune.
My Girl – The Temptations
This song is basically the yardstick against which all other pop songs are measured. A slice of pop perfection.
King of the Road – Roger Miller
Such a great song, and one that I absolutely kill at karaoke, for what it is worth.
Unchained Melody – The Righteous Brothers
Wait, maybe this is the pop song against which all others should be measured. This is starting to make my brain hurt.
Hang on Sloopy – The McCoys
Maybe this song deserves a spot on here, and maybe it doesn’t. I’ve always loved it though, and I defy you to listen to it and not feel instantly 16% better.
I Got You (I Feel Good) – James Brown
Come on, this just feels like piling on at this point.
The Spider and the Fly – The Rolling Stones
Ok, I know it’s a stretch to pick this one over Satisfaction and Get Off My Cloud, but hear me out. The Stones are at their best when they do their country/blues thing (see just about all of Exile on Main Street), and, as I’ve written before, anytime Mick busts out his exaggerated, fake country accent I’m totally on board. The Spider and the Fly ticks all of those boxes, and it doesn’t suffer when compared to an Otis Redding version, so that’s enough for me. Plus, the lyrics are frankly amazing. Check out the great live in studio version that appears on 1995’s Stripped.
Wow. I’m exhausted just putting that list together. It’s quite the juggernaut, Beatles or no. Here’s the Spotify playlist for your listening/subscribing pleasure. (FYI, like the forgetful old man that I am rapidly becoming, I totally forgot to add the Spotify playlist to my 1964 post. I’ve corrected that through the magic of editing. Doh!)
Which of your favorites did I miss?