29
Jul
08

what are my favourite Songs Pre-Punk?

I like making song lists. I spend a lot of time thinking about them. It is hard hard to tell the truth and not be a poser, but I try. Here are some rare gems from before the punk era that I picked from my favourites list. Why am I posting these? Because I do this weekly poll that asks dumb questions and I thought I’d make up my own questions so that I answer something I want to.

 

So Happy Together – The Turtles

I first heard this on a Frank Zappa live album, “Live at the Fillmore East”, but the original is better. The singers of The Turtles had joined Zappa’s band and named themselves Eddie and the Fluorescent Leech and this was their “number one hit with a bullet” as they kept repeating in some sexual joke that was either too lowbrow or too highbrow for me. I never understood why people loved Zappa so much. The album that bored me so I played it through only once, but this song stood out because it was a cover of something good. The Mothers of Invention were clearly a good cover band.

This song is bright and twee and so easy to sing along to. My friend Steve Bandow calls out “now just for the lambs” as the final chorus hits (“Baa Baa Baa Baa ba ba ba Baa…”).

 

Gimme Shelter – Rolling Stones

There are so many good early Rolling Stones song but this one just gets better each year. With its murderous feel and simple-but-driven beat it is showing up on lots of movie soundtracks – The Departed, Casino, Goodfellas – hold on, they’re all Scorcese.

When I used to go to good ole aussie country B & S Balls back in 1985 the Stones were a staple. I can remember dancing to Jumping Jack Flash, Brown Sugar, Satisfaction but never Gimme Shelter. It grew on me over the years (as I watched all those Scorcese movies, no doubt) to the point where it became my favourite Stones song ahead of Sympathy for the Devil and Tumbling Dice. All one needs to hear is the opening steady guitar riff and all the sinister feeling of Scorcese is there: Someone’s gonna get it in the head with a baseball bat. You talkin to me?

 

You Keep Me Hangin’ On – Diana Ross and the The Supremes

I used to work in the Manly Hotel in Sydney for nine months over 1985/6 between stints at university. I was a “bar useful” which meant I picked up glasses, cleaned tables and was general support for the bar staff and management. As a teenager it paid well – I got adult wages instead of the usual Australian teenage “award wage” which was way less.

They used to play videos on big screens there and a lot of songs have stuck in my head from that time. I remember being mesmerised by the porno version of “Girls on Film”, for example. But the hotel also had live performances of B-List aussie bands. I saw The Party Girls there while I was working and they played You Keep Me Hangin’ On. The difference with their version is the band had a fat horn section and I was blown away: This song sounds amazing with horns! The recorded version doesn’t have the horns but it does have Diana Ross about as close to spitting out lyrics as she gets. “And there ain’t nothin’ I can do about it.”

 

I’m Mandy, Fly Me – 10cc

I’m guessing 10cc did a lot of drugs in the 70s and this is what they came up with. In their freewheeling style they pack three songs worth of music into one five minute opus. So smooth and dreamy in the verses with big multi-track harmonies (a 10cc specialty), a big acoustic guitar break, a fat seventies Les Paul solo and Eric Stewart’s beautiful but slightly whiny voice. Pure headphone heaven!

Kevin Godley and Lol Creme left 10cc to form the appropriately named Godley and Creme and have fun making “groundbreaking” videos like “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” where the video was way cuter than the song (and there’s a video about that too).

The song reminds me of going over to my Dad’s house in Isleworth where he used to share with a bunch of Floyd-loving Oxford grads. Music was so produced before punk set it straight and this song is a perfect example. This sort of music should be put up against a wall and shot. But since I’m being honest here I will admit that I do like this song a lot. “I saw her walking on the water as the sharks were coming for me. I felt Mandy pull me up, give me the kiss of life just like the girl in Dr. No No No No.”  I want Mandy to give me the kiss of life too.

 

Maggie May – Rod Stewart and The Faces

Rod Stewart may have a ridiculous ego but he earns the right to a fair portion of it with this performance. I hate the bass line and yet I still love the song. That’s a rare thing for me to say. It was written by Martin Quittendon, the acoustic guitarist, and his playing is the reason the song rolls along so well. It must be great to hammer this out on an acoustic while drunk and yelling the lyrics. I should give it a go one day.

This song reminds me of my early years in Hounslow, London, living on the Bath Road, going to Alexandra Junior School and watching the planes descend overhead on their way to Heathrow.

One of the comments on the YouTube video for this says, “im not a fan of rod stwert, but this song kicks ass.” Good on ya, DiCkRiChArDz.

Of course another dude says, “This song has one of the alltime great bass lines” so you just can’t trust YouTube comments.

And you can see Ronnie Wood in the Faces before he chose to spend his entire life living in a hotel as a Rolling Stone.

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