With the recent passing of Doug Sax, one of the best mastering mavens of all time, and Robert Reina, one of those minority hi-fi journalists who wasn’t one-part asshole, this scribe (believed to be three-parts asshole by many) is in full-on nostalgia mode. And I realised that regardless of age and pending senility, I am particularly blessed, having achieved record-buying age in 1964: the year the Beatles reached the USA.
I’m aware that everyone is partial to the music that they were exposed to between the ages of, say, 12-18, and that the music of that period will forever be their “best”. I feel sorry for anyone who came of age after 1980, at least where music is concerned. But I no longer argue with the benighted souls who argue the superiority of, say, Metallica over Led Zeppelin, or Jay Z over Sly Stone. It’s all personal, subjective, yadayadayada … or is it?
When I brought home Beatles LPs, my old man ranted about what crap it was, which is what my son would say I’m now doing. My father would have maintained, to his dying breath, that the music of Glenn Miller, the Dorseys and Stan Kenton was vastly superior to anything issued after 1956, and certainly anything dubbed “rock”. The difference is, nearly every single one of my father’s musical heroes who was still alive in the 1960s recorded Beatles songs: Sinatra, Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Keely Smith – they recognised absolute genius, screw the haircuts, the youth. Hell, even Peggy Lee recorded a song by Ray Davies!
Can the same be said of One Direction? Justin Bieber? The Spice Girls??!?? Will their pre-fabricated, corporate dross ever be regarded as of the class of Aretha or the Beatles or Dylan or anything from the golden age of Motown? How can I ask this? Because we’ve lived long enough to know that Elvis, the Beatles and Dylan have joined the ranks of all the popular singers who preceded them in terms of prestige, worth or whatever measure defines greatness. And only a schmuck would deny that the team of Lennon-McCartney has earned a place alongside the masters of the Great American Songbook. No less a giant than the great Irving Berlin gave Elvis Presley and the Beatles his approval.
When today’s 35-40-50-year-olds reach 60 or 70 and wish to reminisce about their graduation, or losing their virginity or even their first innocent kiss (does innocence still exist?), and say to their partner, “They’re playing our song,” they will revel to a soundtrack of Coldplay or Joy Division or Radiohead or Madonna or Talking Heads.
Imagine the scene, two of today’s 35-year-olds, in 50 years. They will sink back into their beds, try to untangle their intravenous drips and creak to “Smack My Bitch Up” or “Shake It Off.” Lucky them.
When I was a teenager, and later as a college student, comprising just the first decade of my record-buying life, the charts and the radio hosted the Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, The Searchers, the Who, the Supremes, Otis Redding, the Kinks, the Yardbirds, Crosby Stills & Nash, Joe Cocker, Little Feat, The Hollies, 10cc, David Bowie, Taj Mahal, the Grateful Dead, Steppenwolf, Jefferson Airplane, Buffalo Springfield, the Byrds, Sam & Dave, Aretha Franklin, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, The Eagles, Jethro Tull, The Faces, the Beau Brummels, The Left Banke, the Youngbloods, Dusty Springfield, Cream, The Allman Brothers, Simon & Garfunkel, the Bee Gees, Bonnie Raitt, Carly Simon, Fleetwood Mac, Bad Company, Led Zeppelin, Free … need I go on?
Now look at the artists who appeared in the past 35 years. For every Ron Sexsmith or Kings of Leon or Aimee Mann, there are 50 lumps of crud that satisfy only the tastes of a Simon Cowell, who has an ear, true, but for money, not music.
But I am digressing terribly. While bemoaning the loss of friends, of my youth, etc, coupled to the most depressing political campaigning in my lifetime – the current mess in the UK and the likelihood that five million Scots will control the destiny of 55,000,000 English, Welsh and Northern Irish citizens – I happened to catch a fave Beach Boys tune.
I marvelled at the perfect simplicity of the lyric, the way it said more in six words about post-pubescent testosterone, macho, rock’n’roll spirit, freedom and a few thousand other impulses than anything else I could imagine. Before I knew it, I was rifling through my mental catacombs for other pungent lines that make me glad I lived through the 1960s. But note, please, what’s at No. 3, the best rock single of the last quarter century.
12 of the Greatest Lines In Rock and Soul History (and I don’t mean Colombian):
- “I get rubber in all four gears” – The Beach Boys, “Little Deuce Coupe”
- “She’s too cute to be a minute over seventeen” – Chuck Berry, “Little Queenie”
- “Oh, how she rocks, in Keds and tube socks” – Wheatus, “Teenage Dirtbag”
- “Ridin’ that train, high on cocaine” – The Grateful Dead, “Casey Jones”
- “Rock and roll, hoochie koo, lawdy mama, light my fuse” – Rick Derringer and Johnny Winter, “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo”
- “I thought I left enough love with you, baby, to last ‘til nineteen-seventy-three” – Sam & Dave, “Hold It Baby”
- “It’s like thunder, lightnin’, the way you love me is frightenin’” – Eddie Floyd, “Knock On Wood”
- “Who’s makin’ love to your ol’ lady while you been out makin’ love?” – Johnnie Taylor, “Who’s Making Love”
- “Now she’s with one of my good time buddies, drinking in some crosstown bar” – The Allman Brothers Band, “Whipping Post”
- “I gave you seven children and now you want to give each one of ‘em back” – Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers, BB King, Howard Tate, Louis Jordan and others, “How Blue Can You Get”
- “I ain’t no mathematician, baby, but I’d sure like to count on you” – The J. Geils Band, “Cruisin’ for A Love”
12. The entire “Werewolves of London” – Warren Zevon