Thursday, 23 July 2009
Top 100 favourite songs of all time [Part 2: The 60s]
Let's begin the list with my favourite songs of the 1960s.
The Band - Whispering Pines
Heavenly vocals courtesy of the late Richard Manuel, this is the melodic high point of their excellent eponymous album. Makes me feel nostalgic for a time I was never part of.
The Beach Boys - God Only Knows
Commonly regarded by critics and musicians to be one of the finest compositions of all time, and who am I to argue? The combination of Brian Wilson's gorgeous melody and Tony Asher's romantic lyrics is a match made in heaven, but it's Carl Wilson's angelic vocals which are the icing on the already delicious cake.
The Beatles - While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Picking a favourite Beatles song is a difficult task, but this has always been a personal favourite of mine. Credit needs to be given to Eric Clapton for the amazing lead guitar (and solo), but what I love about this song is that it's a George Harrison composition (and vocal performance). This song showed that he had what it took to compete with his older and more experienced bandmates Lennon and McCartney.
David Bowie - Space Oddity
A timely entry in the list, as Monday was the 40th anniversary of the moon landing. This song was rush-released on July 11 1969 to coincide with this amazing moment in history. 40 years later, it still sounds out of this world.
James Brown - It's A Man's Man's Man's World
James Brown (a.k.a. The Godfather of Soul) was more well-known for his upbeat funk numbers, but this beautiful ballad from 1966 is his masterpiece. While the title and lyrics can be considered a bit chauvinist, I like to interpret it as a positive song towards women. Yes males have invented a lot of things in history, but without the women there to support them, their lives would have accounted for nothing. Probably not what JB meant, but it's a wonderful song all the same.
Johnny Cash - Folsom Prison Blues [Live]
Hello, I'm Johnny Cash. Is there a better opening line? Kicking off the classic At Folsom Prison live album is this rollicking number about life on the wrong side of the tracks. This song is such a classic piece of rock 'n' roll history that even Krusty the Clown parodied it in the Simpsons. Despite the fact that the prisoner cheers after the "I shot a man in Reno" line were apparently overdubbed, it's still a goosebump raising moment.
Bob Dylan - Ballad of a Thin Man
Picking the best Bob Dylan song was an incredibly tough decision, up there with the Beatles. But this song sums up the surreal poetry of his mid-60s work perfectly. The melody is interesting enough, but the lyrics! How many songs can you name that include the following themes: Geeks, lumberjacks, lepers, crooks, F. Scott Fitzgerald, sword swallowers, one eyed midgets? Okay, maybe a few Tom Waits songs. I think this song is G-E-N-I-U-S. Do you, Mr Jones?
Fairport Convention - Who Knows Where The Time Goes?
Rockers may know Sandy Denny from her guest vocal appearance on The battle of Evermore by Led Zeppelin. But she was also a part of folk-rock combo Fairport Convention, and this song from their Unhalfbricking album contains one of the finest vocal performances I have ever heard. The lyrics are wistful and nostalgic. A fine effort all around.
The George Baker Selection - Little Green Bag
Reservoir dogs is probably my favourite movie of all time. This song is played at the start of the movie, as the jewel thieves are strutting down the street in slow motion after discussing Madonna over breakfast. I remember falling in love with that amazing opening bassline the first time I heard the song. This song will always remind me of the opening of that movie, and that makes me happy.
The Jackson 5 - I Want You Back
The Jackson 5 recorded this song when little Michael was only 11 years old. Not only is it probably the finest Motown song, but it's the definitive "single". With a length of 3 minutes and not a wasted note, this is everything that a catchy pop song should be and more. I'll always be amazing by the breadth of talent that is demonstrated in this song.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Little Wing
Jimi Hendrix is arguably the finest guitarist who has ever lived. With the Experience, he recorded a lot of classic rockers (Purple haze), blues numbers (Red house) and ballads, of which this is his finest example. This song only runs at a little over 2 minutes, but it manages to combine everything that defined the Experience - psychedelic lyrics, understated rhythm and Jimi's amazing guitar work in the finale. Perfect.
The Kinks - Dead End Street
Definitely a "hidden gem" in their catalogue. I could have quite easily chosen Waterloo sunset, also one of the finest songs ever written. But this song has always been special to me. I love the lyrical content (pretty much a description of living in a "shit hole"), the catchy chorus and the general vibe of the song.
Simon & Garfunkel - The Boxer
Along with Bridge over troubled water, this is probably the finest production on any Simon & Garfunkel song. It's definitely got the Phil Spector "wall of sound" thing happening. The wistful, biographical lyrics of the verses are juxtaposed perfectly with the "Li la li" lyrics and tribal drumming of the chorus. A perfectly constructed song.
Sly & The Family Stone - Stand!
The greatest interracial soul band of all time? I believe so. I could have put almost any Sly & The Family Stone song from their greatest hits here, but this song just makes me happy. The lyrics are life-affirming, positive and with an excellent message. And the music and vocal performances are simply exhilirating.
Dusty Springfield - Son Of A Preacher Man
Another song I got into through a Quentin Tarantino film, this time the classic Pulp fiction. I have subsequently purchased the Dusty in Memphis album that contains this song, and it is a masterpiece which I would recommend to anyone. Dusty is probably the best white female soul singer of all time, and this song is one of her crowning achievements.