Teenage 20/20

Generic Ratings: 1: Crap. 2: Okay. 3: Good. 4: Great

I’ve always had a soft spot for this one, as it was one I didn’t track down until fairly late in my rarities search. Just when I thought I’d heard them all, I finally got my hands on this, expecting it to be just another low-quality, fuzz-filled early effort. I’m not sure why it took so long to hear, given that it got an official release on the New Art Riot EP, but there you go. Thankfully I was more than pleasantly surprised when I first heard it, as it’s a very good B Side. It’s another blues based punk rock song with a huge, catchy chorus, the odd good angsty lyric, a stomping rhythm, and plenty of nice guitar moments. This is one which has catchy melodies from start to finish, the way Bradfield pulls off the pauses in the verses is great, but it’s that chorus which you’ll remember later. Good luck working out the lyrics without reading them.

Teenage 20 20: 3/Good

Misheard Lyrics: 1. We’re dead dogs, and damn we’re stupid.

2. I wanna wake to separated wealth.

3. Take a straight jack (?) to my useless boat (??)

4. I don’t like your silly reggae hair. Dying in a fascist evil door/barn/fog

5. Speeding, so lonely, a swell atom bomb

6. Desmile twiggy, eat the egg bomb.

7. Sit, don’t stammer, our vintage smell, automatic, corporational.

Actual Lyrics: 1: We’re dead end dolls and nothing’s moving.

2: I wanna wake to a shot parade of wealth.

3: And take a spraycan to my useless vote.

4: I don’t like your city Dresden dance. I’m drowning in a manufactured ego-fuck.

5. Speeding so lonely into wall after wall

6: Teenage 20/20 beat the in-call.

7 Stick to the stomach of our fingertip call, all your rebellion corporation owned.

Nightman Listens To – Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr!

Beatles-Help-competition-770

Greetings, Glancers! I know they don’t get nearly as many views as my movie or TV posts, but I’m trying to keep up to date with my musical posts too, bringing you the worst the net has to offer in terms of my opinions on Bowie, Madonna, Jovi, The Stones, The Top 1000 Albums ever, yearly chart music et cetera etc. Many years ago I posted my Amazon Beatles album reviews and recently I’ve been posting updated versions of those along with my Nightman Scoring System (c) comments. In doing all of that I realized that I was missing out on the vast array of non-Beatles work that each of the four members created. Therefore, I’m going to start listening and reacting to all of those too. It’s a massive undertaking but I always planned on listening to them at some point so I may as well write about my experiences too.

It’s obvious that Paul McCartney has done the most out of each member – he has been extremely prolific since 1970, releasing with Wings, other bands, and on his own. Lennon died in 1980 and only managed a handful of albums, while Harrison released here and there up until his death. Ringo, I’ve honestly no idea. What I can say is that I haven’t listened to any of their non-Beatles albums all the way through. Actually, I have listened to Lennon’s experimental records with Yoko, and will not be doing so again for the purposes of this blog or otherwise, thank you very much. I know I’ve heard many of the individual songs by each artist post-The Beatles, but no albums. So I’m going to go through them in some sort of chronological order, I hope I get to listen to some great music for the first time, and I hope you’ll join me on the journey. Coming soon (probably not)!

Feel free to let me know in advance which solo/non-Beatles albums by John, Paul, Ringo, and George I should look forward to in the comments.

Nightman Listens To – Roxette – Have A Nice Day!

*Note. This, and at least three subsequent Roxette album posts were written before this week and the news that Marie had passed away after her long cancer battle. I typically write these posts many months before I actually post them (I have already listened to and written about Charm School by September this year – who knows when I’ll post it). It’s strange to think we won’t get another Roxette album now, but we still have a collection of songs to look back on and enjoy.

220px-Roxette_Have_a_nice_day

Greetings, Glancers! Between 1994’s Crash! Boom! Bang!  and 1999’s Have A Nice Day the music world had moved on. While the band had released a Greatest Hits, a Rarities compilation, and an album of Spanish covers of their own ballads, five years is a long time to go without new material. Did anyone still care about Roxette on the eve of the old millennium and were they still capable of making instant pop classics? With regards to the first question, the album charted well and still sold a couple of million copies, though it wasn’t as large a success as their previous albums. Looking at the 14 songs on the track list, I don’t recognise any of them although given that ‘Wish I Could Fly’ was apparently the most played song of 1999 I assume I have heard it and somehow blanked it from my memory. I assume the album will be all new to me, but possibly bring some surprise nostalgia.

Crush On You‘ opens with a different sound for the band. Not jarring, as we know Roxette like to play around with their sound a little. It’s a heavy percussive opening before descending into a cheesy dated rave sound before stabilizing a little in the verse. Per sing talks the vocals with Marie filling in for the chorus. That chorus is pretty simple, a nice counterpoint to the plain melody of the verse. It is designed to feel hectic, a rap quality to the verses and a lot of synth and drums bouncing around. Nice enough production – a lot of switching around and different sounds, each couple of lines has a slightly different accompaniment to keep things varied. Stripped down it would be quite simple and straight, but all together it’s an okay opener, should get the blood pumping.

Wish I Could Fly‘ doesn’t ring a bell for me at the moment. I was listening to the radio in 99 so if this was such a big hit I should remember it. The verse feels marginally familiar, but I think I’m searching for a memory where there isn’t one. The chorus sounds like a couple of other Roxette songs and is strong enough that I should remember it, so I’m confident that I haven’t heard this. I’m not sure why it was such a hit as it feels like a pastiche of other Roxette songs… maybe it’s exactly what fans wanted after five years, but it’s definitely a lesser version of what they’d already achieved.

You Can’t Put Your Arms Around What’s Already Gone‘ starts with DJ scrapes and crappy digitized beats. Per delivers the lead verse melody – it’s fine, lots of effects on his voice. It’s the backing stuff which is more interesting – the band clearly having fun messing in the studio but the unfortunate result is it sounds very dated. I have a feeling a lot of this is intentional, as if they were going for an already dated sound in 1999, but that sound isn’t one I’m keen on so it sounds very juvenile.

Waiting For The Rain‘ has a McCartney feel. The piano rhythm and the vocals feel very much like mid-career Beatles. The overall tone is very 60s to me, there’s a little bit of brass and flute stuff going on, and again the vocals have some effects over the top. It’s catchy enough, and each repetition builds a little something extra on, but it never gets better than okay.

Anyone‘ opens with a nice piece of piano, then a big string section gives me hope for an unknown ballad. This is much more what I prefer from Roxette – heart tugging melodies and vocals. Yes, it’s easily my favourite so far but you should know by now I love a good ballad. The verses stretch out, making me wonder if there is a chorus. The chorus, extended as it is, or split up as it is, doesn’t work as well as the verse and I’m happier once we get back to the verse. That return is short lived as we’re quickly back to the chorus. That’s a bit of a letdown as we were heading for one I’d quickly listen to again. As it is, it’s one I wouldn’t mind hearing again but not one I’d look for.

It Will Take A Long Long Time‘ is a rest from the over produced nature of everything we’ve had so far. A simple acoustic guitar intro and Marie’s vocals. Then some keys. Then the production comes with the chorus, but it’s not overbearing. Simple hopeful lyric. That’s a better chorus too – this one feels more even musically. The bridge and instrumental are as by the numbers as you can get and simply lead to another chorus before the end. Usually I say these ones are lazy and thrown together in a matter of hours, but it’s one of the better ones due to its simplicity. Nothing bad so far, just a range of middling songs.

7Twenty7‘ brings the production back with a digitized howl of noise, I guess signifying the 727 airplane. The song is another lackluster one built up by the wall of sound. I always say – can a song be stripped down to just a voice and a single instrument, and still be as powerful as the original, and this case I don’t see it. Very mundane melodies and aside from the odd Marie moment the vocals are plain. Of course, many songs are supposed to be that wall of sound and the stripped down theory shouldn’t apply, but this isn’t one of those. The song isn’t four minutes long but I’m bored long before that.

I Was So Lucky‘ seems a little more stripped down, maybe another ballad. Better melodies, better music. It’s still not reaching those top levels, but it’s better. The main feeling I get from the album is just that it’s plain, white music. I’m not sure the songs could be transformed to something better than what they are – what you hear is what you get and none of it is terrible or amazing. I still like this, but I can’t see it reverberating in my head after it’s done. Better than meh and in cases like this, quite good is the most positive I can be, but still waiting for one I’d really want to hear again.

Stars‘ opens like a terrible cheesy Europop rave up, one of those one-hit wonders from the late 90s which had the braindead bopping in droves. It ends up being better – the verse melodies and the kid choir stuff is good, but the backing beats and sounds are generic and weak and I dismiss them entirely within milliseconds of hearing them. It’s a bit annoying then when they finally get a better selection of hooks that they surround them with garbage.

Salvation‘ keeps the improved melodies running, with a wispy organ sound accompanying Marie. It’s all going well until that dreadful 90s drum sound comes in. That sound alone is almost bad enough to ruin the whole song for me. There’s a religious bent to the lyrics which the instrumental choices mirror, with angelic voices filling in, and we get another good chorus. This is easily one of the best songs – I don’t think the bridge does anything – but the verse and chorus do nothing wrong aside from the drum sound. Take that away and I’d gladly listen to this again.

Pay The Price‘ seems to go for a more traditional rock sound. It still has a lot of studio shenanigans going on instead of going for a pure live sound, but this is Roxette we’re talking about. It’s jumpy and fun, feels like a nice Summer song – something you’d have in the background of a 90s movie beach scene. Harmless fun and I don’t have any complaints – just not the most memorable. That’s maybe the best two songs in a row – can we keep the trend going?

Cooper‘ is the name of my cat. He’s named after Alice and Dale, not this song. His middle name is Michael Jackson, according to my kids. I don’t know who this Cooper is they are referring to, seems to be a lady. Per’s vocals are good here, maybe because of the good melodies, interesting lyrics, and tone suggesting something sinister. It’s a ballad, but has something akin to Little Susie. Cooper was sleeping as I started to play this song, but he’s now sitting up and staring at me so I have to console him and let him know it’s not about him.

Staring At The Ground‘ opens with more interesting drum sounds then some more summery guitar. It’s another light and fun song, inconsequential, but one which really tries to slap a smile on your chin. It even has harmonica. It’s almost like a 3 minute chorus.

Beautiful Things‘ opens with strings – always good. Good breathy vocals, sad tone. I’m good with the melodies, drum sound isn’t great but not too distracting, and the chorus works nicely as a counterpoint. Good transitions between the two tones and parts, blends well. The bridge isn’t the best, but that’s par for the course on this album. Yeah, good song, good ending to the album.

It’s a shame the start of the album isn’t as fun as the end. There are four or five good songs worth mentioning in that run in which are better than everything else. I wouldn’t say there are any bad songs but there is too much that is middling and either never hits top gear or is brought down by over-produced fluff. Albums which sound over-produced to me usually suggest a void of ideas or lack of creativity, or alternatively show an artist excited about a new box of toys but with not a clue how to use it to make a good time. Many albums throw a lot of these tricks into the mix and it pays off, because it either compliments the song’s purest form or elevates that song to something even more special. When it doesn’t work, it’s either vapid noise or highlights how uninteresting the music actually is. There isn’t a true standout song for me here, but those few towards the end warrant another listen – I’m not sure whether I’d include them on a personal Roxette compilation, but maybe after another few listens.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Have A Nice Day!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Beautiful Things. Salvation. Pay The Price.

Nightman Listens To: The Beach Boys – Surfin’ USA!

Surfin'USACover.jpg

Greetings, Glancers! It’s time to grab a board and hit some gnarly waves, bruh! Cowabunga! Other words! Surfin’ USA was released in 1963, the first of a ridiculous three albums released by the band that year. That’s one thing you notice about the early 60s – these bands had a ridiculous schedule of writing, recording, touring, and most of the biggest bands released each year, sometimes multiple times. Compare that to now, where the biggest to the smaller acts tend to release one album every three years. The good thing about Surfin’ USA is that I recognise the title track – it’s a classic – and I’m looking forwards to more sunny pop. The bad news is that no fewer than five of the twelve tracks are instrumental. In my limited knowledge of the band, it’s their vocal harmonies and melodies which set them apart – none of the instrumentals on the debut sparked me. Maybe they’re good. Time to find out.

Surfin’ USA: Is there any more iconic opening selection of notes in 60s pop than that? Before you even hear the vocals there’s something summery about that guitar tone. Then the vocals, with those harmonies and melodies join in and it’s game over. The lyrics are silly yet perfectly evocative of those idyllic ideas of beaches, sun, freedom, and fun. There’s a great organ solo, a decent guitar solo, and some handy drum moments too. As perfect a slice of pop rock as you’ll ever hear.

Farmer’s Daughter: I don’t believe I know this one. It’s immediately one I’ll want to hear again. I don’t know if the vocals on this one will annoy me over time, but at the moment its newness is a blessing to my ears. It gets straight to the point and doesn’t even reach the two minute mark – back when pop didn’t outstay it’s welcome. There are a few gulps and missed marks in the vocals. Melodies and harmonies good again, not as strong as the first track, but much better than today’s chart muck.

Miserlou: This is of course ‘The Pulp Fiction’ instrumental. This is a less ominous version than the one you know, but retains its Eastern roots more clearly. Honestly I’ve never been a fan of this piece of music – mostly the yells which come in the second half, and now I can’t hear any version of it without hearing that utterly horrific Black Eyed Peas massacre.

Stoked: A Beach Boys original instrumental piece now, as if to say ‘look, we can do it just as good as those guys’ coming right after an existing popular instrumental. It even has it’s own annoying yells. The problem with these types of instrumentals is that I’m always waiting for vocals to come and so they feel like they’re missing something. It’s okay, a decent main riff but basically a twist on one you’ve heard countless times.

Lonely Sea: Wait, is this Radiohead? Well, those long held notes are wonderful. I keep expecting the note to change, but he holds it in a hypnotic way. The doleful harmonies give a sweet and sullen undercurrent. Just when a pseudo-speaking part threatens to ruin things, we return to falsetto and fade out. That was nice.

Shut Down: This sounds like another car song. It’s also sounds like Johnny B Goode. Seems like a middle of the road album track rather than a highlight, but it’s still catchy. Again, at under two minutes it’s not going to annoy anyone.

Noble Surfer: This opens the second half of the album and isn’t much of a departure from the previous track. Funny deeper harmonies here. Interesting keyboard sound in the middle. The chorus is a bit silly – still, under two minutes.

Honky Tonk: It is what is says. I feel like I could be listening to The Stones with this. The guitar tone is changed just enough to bridge the gap between Blues and Beach Boys. Absolutely identical to any Blues song you could write yourself.

Lana: Begins with honky tonk piano, again the band showing how they can do their own versions of things, without actually covering. Very high falsetto now, bordering on off-putting or ridicule. Not much else goes on here.

Surf Jam: Now it’s their own instrumental. This one feels like a definite surfer rock instrumental – if you told someone to write a surfer rock instrumental, this is what would come out the other end 9 times out of 10. Some great guitar on show, not sure about the shouting. As far as short instrumentals go, it’s very good.

Lets Go Trippin‘: I assume this isn’t about drugs. No, it’s another instrumental and not all that different from the previous track – feels more pop oriented while the previous song was more furious.

Finders Keepers: Finally, more vocals. It’s not quite as Summery as I was hoping for, the lyrics are funny enough. The most interesting thing is the timing shift – we get a fast paced verse and chorus section, then it slows down for a brief bridge, before charging up again to the chorus. The song sways smoothly between these different sections giving something different than the norm.

After a fantastic start, the song quickly falls away. The reliance on instrumentals hurts it for me, as I’ve stated again and again, instrumentals almost never excite me unless they’re exceptional. A couple of songs I didn’t know about before which I’ll definitely listen to again, and the rest are middling. No bad songs, but too many fall into the meh category for me, a shame after starting so well.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Surfin’ USA!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Surfin’ USA. Farmer’s Daughter. Lonely Sea.

 

Chart Music Through The Years – 1957

sdg.jpg
The Olden Days

As you should no doubt now be aware, my current form did not exist in 1957. That should not suggest that I am ignorant of what was going on in music then, or of the wider world in general. Most of what I know is surface and via the largely fictional works of others and it’s not a period I’m overly invested or interested in. Looking at the 10 offerings below, I’ll be upfront and say I recognise most of the performers more than the actual songs. There are a few songs that I know by name, and of course one which everybody knows. I imagine I’ll recognise a few more once I listen.

What else was befalling man in 1957? Well, close to home the IRA was up to their usual shenanigans and Harold Macmillan became Prime Minister. Elsewhere, Eisenhower began his second reign as US President, The Cat In The Hat was published, The Treaty Of Rome was signed, The Sky At Night was first broadcast, heavy rain causes the death of almost 1000 people in Japan, The Civil Rights Movement continued to gain movement and opposing suppression, and Laika went to space. In Music, Elvis bought Graceland, Doris Day’ Que Sera Sera won an Oscar, The Cavern Club opened in Liverpool, and a couple of lads named John Lennon and Paul McCartney met for the first time. Rock and Roll continued to gain traction, with the likes of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Chuck Berry all having major hits. By all accounts, a good time to be a kid just getting into music it would seem.

  1. Paul Anka: Diana

A very traditional rock ballad intro is bolstered by some languid horn work before Anka’s distinctive vocals drop. Lyrically it seems to be a self-written defense of Paul’s MILF relationship. Anka does these little excited gasps throughout the verses and I like how the notes increase in pitch and urgency as the chorus approaches – I think we all know what that means, especially when you throw in lyrics like ‘hold me close and squeeze me tight’. Spoiler Alert – he’s not talking about hugs. There’s an unexpected little breakdown in the middle where the pace picks up in intensity, giving a sprinkle of depth. I don’t believe I’ve heard this before, in terms of comparison it’s not the most adventurous by today’s standards but it’s light years ahead in terms of melody, emotion, and integrity.

2. Elvis Presley: All Shook Up

This is the one we all know, right? I’ve no idea when or how I heard my first Elvis song given that he was dead before I was born, but his biggest hits (like this) seem to have a knack for finding you and staying with you. It begins innocently enough with gentle guitars but when the vocals start you know you’re in trouble – it’s easy to see how so many young ladies fell for him. It’s very simple – that piano riff from the blues was already thoroughly recycled by this point but is one of the foundations of early rock. It’s shorter than I remember, likely more to do with squeezing as many hits onto a record or the radio as possible, but that helps it to become one of those songs you want to hit play on as soon as it ends.

3. Tab Hunter: Young Love

A quiet piece of guitar eases us in before an overly pleasant voice takes things to a heady saccharine level. It’s very sweet – too sweet for me and ironically as he sings of ‘deep emotion’ I fail to find any trace of such in the vocals. It’s too plain and stale and smooth. It’s harmless and innocent on the surface, but it sounds far too childlike and insipid given the eras which have past since.

4. Pat Boone: Loveletters In The Stand

Most songs which begin with whistling don’t go down well with me. It reeks of country, even with the staccato piano and additional of horns. The vocals are again far too smooth and sleepy for me – you may as well be rapping. Badly. I don’t get any sense of feeling from vocals like this. I’m sure there is emotion, but it is so filtered and watered down that it doesn’t reach me. I understand why it was a hit at the time, but it’s not for me.

5. Guy Mitchell: Singing The Blues

More whistling and this time with added ‘bum de dum’ vocal nonsense. It has a sense of fun at least and the vocals are more interesting. The vocal mix however reminds me of Gary Glitter, which is never a good thing. A fun and bouncy mid-range quality song.

6. Lonnie Donnegan: Gamblin’ Man

Boy howdy, it’s always amazing to me when I actually hear people in reality speak and sing with this accent. It doesn’t seem real. Props for going solo in the intro. It seems funny to me rather than anything else, but then it picks up pace and turns into something else. It’s better but it’s also funnier. Then by the end both the drummer and vocalist are going buck nuts – the fury and fun of the performance are enough to carry it through and we even get a very muddy, lost in the mix guitar solo. Good stuff, even if it does have both feet dipped in Country (even if it’s more jazz and skiffle based) – see this is the sort of Country style music I can enjoy – pissed off their faces and absolutely wrecking everything in sight.

7. Harry Belafonte: Island In The Sun

A lesser known (for me) Belafonte song. See, Belafonte has a similar smooth quality to his vocals as others on the list, but his emotion does come through more. It’s not 100 percent clear, but at least I can feel it. Maybe it’s the inflections, maybe it’s because lyrically it’s not some bullshit simplistic love sentiment. The imagery is potent and genuine too, only someone who cares and understands could write like that.

8. Johnnie Ray: Yes Tonight Josephine

There seems to have been a lot of these vocal tick songs in the 50s – this one opening with ‘yip yip bapiddy boo’ or some balls. Main vocals are fine, backing vocals outside of the ‘yip yip’ stuff are not great. The arrangement is too repetitive and simple and the melodies don’t go out of their way to say anything interesting – the main melody repeats without much variance and it’s not overly strong in the first place. Not bad, just forgettable beyond the ‘yip yip’.

9. Pat Boone: Don’t Forbid Me

Senor Boone returns once more, and this time it’s personal. It’s more smooth, easy listening junk. Like most of the other songs here, it’s straight down the middle, takes a basic an idea and runs with it – that’s not necessarily a criticism but I lose interest quickly if the melody or vocals are plain. This is preferable to his last one. It does have a slight middle section where it looks like the song might shift gears, but it’s momentary.

10. Frankie Vaughn: The Garden Of Eden

A mixture of ballad and soft rock blues rhythms. There’s a horn bombast to close the chorus. Vaughn seems playful on some notes and words, holding the note for longer than he needs to or adding a little waver. I assume this would have caused some controversy at the time due to the lyrics, at least in the US. The drummer has some fun towards the end. This would be mostly boring if not for the little excesses by the drummer, singer, and trumpet guys.

We learn once again that regardless of the year or era, we have some good songs and plenty of crap ones too. We also learn that, no matter what the song, someone on Youtube is going to comment that it’s their favourite, or was their parent’s favourite, or bemoan how the music after ‘their decade’ ended has been crap. Without exception. There are three songs here I’d choose to listen to again, with maybe another couple I wouldn’t be annoyed by – the rest I would dismiss. As we’re still in the 1950s and my knowledge is limited, my alternative list of songs isn’t the most exciting. Not all were strictly written in ’57 either.

  1. Elvis – Jailhouse Rock

2. Jerry Lee Lewis – Great Balls Of Fire

3. Danny And The Juniors – At The Hop

4. That’ll Be The Day – The Crickets

5. Peggy Sue – Buddy Holly

6. When I Fall In Love – Nat King Cole

7. Wake Up Little Susie – The Everly Brothers

8. Tutti Frutti – Little Richard

9. Rock N Roll Music – Chuck Berry

10. Come Fly With Me – Van Heusen/Cahn

Let us know in the comments if you have any favourites above or elsewhere from 1957!

Nightman Reacts To The Greatest Artists Of All Time (According To Rolling Stone)! Top 20

Beatles-Help-competition-770

Part Four of my reaction to Rolling Stone’s Greatest 100 Musical Acts Of All Time. Click here for part one, part two, and part third. Otherwise….

20. Bo Diddly

Aside from having a hilarious name, Diddly remains one of the great Blues voices and guitarists. Another man whose influence on others outshone his own work, his own work is still out there to discover – and it’s great.

19. Velvet Underground

I’m middling on The Velvet Underground. Influential, all sorts of fucked up, poetic and mischievous, their name has too long been synonymous with a certain culture rather than the music. That’s when you knew you’ve succeeded as an artist but failed as a musician. That’s what society has forced upon the group, not something the group necessarily did themselves, though they certainly set the groundwork. Their music isn’t the sort of thing I listen to often, and in truth I find their songs more enjoyable when covered by others.  Still, they did their thing and did it better than most.

18. Marvin Gaye

Great voice, could write a tune, could deliver a message which was more than simply promoting dancing or fucking. Yet those same songs invariably made you want to dance, fuck, and maybe change the world. I’m not the biggest fan as I do find much of his stuff quite samey, but when he’s good, he’s good.

17. Muddy Waters

Muddy, BB, Bo, all these guys played the same sort of music with their own unique spin, and each one would influence the entirety of Sixties and Seventies rock. Muddy was maybe the first, and the things he did with his voice, guitar, and presence, and the songs he wrote or played would be torn apart, abused, and reconfigured by the likes of Led Zep, The Stones, Hendrix, and anybody else who picked up a guitar in those decades.

16. Sam Cooke

You see a lot of crossover with R’n’B, soul, Gospel, in these rock lists. Sometimes it’s not entirely accurate, sometimes it’s like the publication is trying to lump these other genres in with rock to make them more appealing to people who don’t listen to rock. Listening to Sam Cooke, the musical comparisons to rock aren’t obvious. He was always more of a pop vocalist, too smooth and calming and not raw enough. to truly fall into the rock category. But then, many rock singers don’t have a growl or yell or roughness, but the attitude or the writing. Cooke had sex appeal and some decent tunes, but rock?

15. Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder I’ll give you – a voice of unyielding soul, the energy of his most funk-driven numbers is enough to carry him into rock spheres. Of course he has worked with some of Rock’s finest and has written plenty a rockin’ song himself. He’s going to pop up more on my other series as most of the songs I know by him are the big hitting singles.

14. Led Zeppelin

Maybe the prime example of what a rock band could or should be. Maybe the prime example of taking what had come before and transforming into something else, or taking it to the next level. The Stones, for me, always kept things simple – they took an old school Blues song and played it straight, maybe with a little more venom. Zep would take an old school Blues song, turn it inside out, chew it, swallow it, and vomit it back up along with whatever else they had been absorbing at the time. They were the perfect four piece – one of the great vocalists of all time, maybe the greatest guitarist, probably the best drummer, and easily one of the most talented multi-musicians ever. They good write some of the sexiest, heaviest music on the planet, they could be as soft as a fawning hippy, and they had all of the best stories and legends swirling around them. You’re not a music fan if you don’t get the Led out.

13. Buddy Holly

One of the first white boys of rock, merging his Country and Gospel upbringing with  R’n’B sounds, he cemented rock’s beginnings. With a sizable number of songs and hits before he died at the ridiculously young age of 22, it’s not clear what he could have gone on to achieve or create. It’s true that he was only getting started before he was stopped.

12. The Beach Boys

Well of course. From glossy Beach pop/rock to the more experimental stuff I haven’t heard yet, they have enough hits to make any such list.

11. Bob Marley

I’m not a huge fan of Reggae. I always assumed I would be, and Marley was one of those icons that younger me looked forward to being able to hear when I was young. I find his music, and the whole genre’s very samey. Some stand-out songs. When your the only guy famous for the genre, of course you get a spot on the list.

10. Ray Charles

The other blind dude with a piano.

9. Aretha Franklin

Beast mode vocals activated. You’d be hard pressed to find a more powerful voice anywhere, one capable of stopping you in your tracks thanks to its authority and sensuality. She wrote the odd songs too, and her biggest hits are timeless.

8. Little Richard

I always say ‘Fuck Elvis’ when I hear people saying he did everything first. Little Richard did it better, faster, and sexier than Elvis before there was an Elvis. I don’t know much about the guy but his songs are just ballistic. Reading this self-penned piece is pretty depressing, how he never made any money from his music. The guy did it all, and while I’m sure he has plenty to show for it, it’s true that everyone who came after him took his work and his spotlight, even if they did take his groundwork and build upon it.

7. James Brown

The sweaty sex machine himself. Brown is that rare example of taking Gospel music and heritage and making something good out of it, of making R’n’B music which genuinely rocks. A sublime and tireless performer with vocals to match. I know his biggest and best and each one of those makes you want to jump around just as much as any metal song you can name.

6. Jimi Hendrix

Everyone’s favourite guitarist, he did things no-one else had or could. A showman and a player and a writer, the Hendrix songs sometimes work for me, other times they don’t. Maybe it’s the vocals which keep me from being a full blown fan or maybe it’s that many of the songs have a similar melodic style. The songs aren’t samey, but they can feel that way. I take the handle of songs I love and ignore the rest.

5. Chuck Berry

There’s a line zig-zagging through the 1950s which touches upon a number of artists who had a small number of hits and then circles around the big names – that line probably circles around Chuck Berry several times before shooting off in a thousand directions. There isn’t a single recording person in rock today that the line doesn’t connect to from Chuck. Tracing that line back, those early hits – and quite a few later ones -still rock, that youthful expression crossing every generational gap.

4. The Rolling Stones

As you’ll have seen if you read my other posts – I listened to a bunch of Stones Albums many years ago and dismissed them. I’m listening to them all again now to see if i feel any differently. It’s up in the air, but it looks like they’re more of a ‘I like 1-2 songs from each album band’ for me, though obviously millions of people have adored them and been influenced by them through time.

3. Elvis Presley

I have difficulty really loving someone if they don’t write their own material. They need something special if they don’t – a unique voice or talent elsewhere. Elvis had a unique voice and presence and stardom and aura around him. He could play, he could sing, but out of the massive number of songs he recorded, I only enjoy a relatively small number. Still, it’s Elvis.

2. Bob Dylan

Although I’ve probably heard more, I only feel like I’ve heard less than 10 Bob Dylan originals – his original versions of his own songs. He’s another artist I’ve known my whole life, but more due to other bands and singers covering his stuff. At some point I’m going to have to go through his albums one by one, but I already know I don’t like his vocals – what I’ve heard of them. The nasal quality and the delivery. I do love lyrics though, and almost everyone would rate Dylan as one of the best lyricists in the game. I’m not surprised he’s here – it’s the same with every list, but I don’t know enough to give my personal judgement.

  1. The Beatles

The obvious number one. They did it all, they reinvented themselves and reshaped the musical world numerous times, and left behind maybe the largest body of great songs than any other band has. Never trust anyone who doesn’t like The Beatles or at the very least acknowledge their importance.

Let me know what you think of this Top Twenty, of Rolling Stone’s list as a whole, and of the bands and artists, involved!

 

Nightman’s Favourite Songs Of All Time – Achilles’ Last Stand – Led Zeppelin

Greetings, Glancers! To fans of Led Zeppelin, the band have any number of opuses (opusi?) to point to and enjoy and for detractors and uberpunk fans and idiots, the band have any number of pretentious, overbearing, never-ending twaddle to suffer through. Everybody knows Stairway To Heaven, most people know Kashmir, but very few people outside of the hardcore Zep fans know Achilles Last Stand. It’s their most epic song – a mammoth tome of riffs and rock excess – and it’s a song I had no idea existed until I stumbled upon it as I worked my way through buying the Zep albums in my late teens.

I’ve always been a fan of ‘long songs’. Of course I appreciate the finer points of a skillful, three minute pop song, but I’ve always been driven to pushing the boundaries, to adding just one more instrument or lyric or melody or solo. My mind has always been fond of the epic – I’ve loved long movies for as long as I can remember, I loved when my favourite bands in my childhood pushed a song over the five or six minute mark, and I loved long novel series or stories with plots which spanned thousands of pages and multiple years or generations. I don’t know why this is – maybe it has always inspired me or given me hope in the human race’s capacity for invention and imagination, this need to create something without giving the slightest fuck to its length. If it needs to be a 24 minute song, then that’s what it’s going to be. Achilles Last Stand doesn’t quite hit that mark, but it does go over ten minutes, and it’s ten minutes of pure glory.

Where do you even start with this? The beginning seems like a good place, but then I’d be forced to go through it piece by piece and we’d be here forever. I could cut it up into its different sections – Bonzo’s earth shattering drums, Page’s urgent overlapping riffs and apocalyptic soloing, the rambling long form poetic lyrics, Plant’s return to his finest vocals, and Jonesy never letting up with the thunderous galloping bass. It’s a song that just keeps going on and on and on, yet it constantly engages. It’s just so relentlessly dense that you always find something new to draw on and constantly find yourself falling in love once more with a slight inflection or string bend or slip of the wrist by Bonham. If you’re of the sadist persuasion, it’s like jumping into a huge thistle bush and trying to climb through to the other end, hundreds of prickers jabbing your skin, causing tiny cuts, ripping your clothes, and pulling you back – dense, painful, but you love it.

Most bands might write long or complex songs or a combination of both, but few bands have the balls to actually play them live. Led Zeppelin may have had the biggest balls in the history of rock, and regularly featured this in their concerts – it’s just a shame they wrote it at the end of their career. The balls it takes as a four-piece to play something like this, especially when completely coked off their tits, is a testament to just how in sync the band was. They just don’t have bands like this anymore, and they don’t write songs like this anymore. It is an utterly ridiculous piece of music and we should all feel blessed that it was born. If you haven’t heard it, click one of my links and let your head explode.

Unsurprisingly, there haven’t been many covers of this song. Only those mad bastards Dream Theater had a crack at it as part of a medley, while the Jason Bonham band paid homage – also during a medley. I’m sure some rap dudes have probably sampled pieces of it here and there – it seems like exactly the sort of song that would be ripe for such pillaging. Until one of the young pretenders goes all out and crafts something as epic and powerful as this, they’re never going to be accepted as anywhere near the same level as Led Zep.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Achilles’ Last Stand!

The Nightman Scoring System © Reviews – Help

Remember the Nightman Scoring System ©? My system for reviewing music as fairly as possible, an attempt to remove as much inherent bias as possible? That system where I break up an album into twenty evenly weighted categories so that when you score each one out of five, trying to base the score as much on fact as on opinion, you get a fair total out of 100? It’s the best scoring system in the world and you should use it. So should I in fact, hence this post. Anyway, if you want to read the rules about the system click this link and it will reveal all. There’s one for movies too, at this link. Check them both out – I say with absolutely no hyperbole that it will unquestionably change your life, make you an astonishingly brilliant human being, and also get you the ladies (regardless of your gender or orientation).

Beatles-Help-competition-770

We’ve reached my favourite Beatles album now – click here to check out my original review or read on for the scores.

Sales: 5 (Another smash hit)

Chart: 5 (Another smash hit)

Critical: 5 (Another smash hit)

Originality: 4 (The band experiment on certain songs with string arrangements, newer styles of writing, recording, and genre setting them up nicely for what would come next)

Influence: 5 (Most of the songs here have been covered by several artists, and the style of merging rock and pop so fluidly was latched onto by record companies and artists around the world)

Musical Ability: 4 (The band again sound like they are having fun, Harrison is becoming a terrific lead guitarist and being allowed to roam free, and their growth as a cohesive unit is noticeable)

Lyrics: 4 (Once again the band take standard lyrics and ideas and add new twists to old cliches showing a great amount of intelligence. There are some moments which foreshadow the poetic turns which later songs would take, but which the band were not quite ready to release)

Melody: 5 (Some of the greatest, most famous pop songs in history, thanks largely to the melodies. Memorable choruses, verses, riffs, harmonies all come together for perfection)

Emotion: 4 (The overall tone is a light, happy one, but there are the more downbeat moments such as Yesterday which are some of the first moments where the group truly convey emotion in a meaningful way)

Resilience: 5 ( 50 years on, and an eternity ahead of it)

Vocals: 4 (Some of the strongest vocal displays, great harmonies, even Ringo doesn’t sound half-bad)

Coherence: 4 (The album holds together well, sounding like a whole, possibly because of the relation to the film, but mostly this is tied together by some clear themes and styles)

Mood: 4 (Again the mood switches quickly, but never abruptly, from sugary pop to bitter introspection, and all are crystal clear)

Production: 5 (Sterling work to create a sound which still sounds fresh today)

Effort: 5 (Again, touring, writing, filming were all going on at the same time, so to create such a timeless album is highly impressive)

Relationship: 5 (This time the album feels timeless down to the sheer joy of the songs. It’s difficult not to relate to such infectious melodies)

Genre Relation: 5 (This is effectively the archetypal pop album which pretty much everything since has sprung from)

Authenticity: 5 (When they sound happy it’s genuine, when they sound low you believe them, when they play you know that they enjoy doing it, both for the love of the craft and for pleasing the fans)

Personal: 5 (Possibly my favourite Beatles album, though as with most things there are times when this is changeable)

Miscellaneous: 5 (Once again, touring recording, writing, and making a movie all at the same time in a breathtaking feat of artistic achievement)

Total: 93/100

Take The Nightman Scoring System© Challenge and let me know how you score the album!