Well, next week is my birthday and while thinking of music 40 something years ago, I got stuck on the mistaken thought of how emotionally divorced I am from the music of my birth year. Why would I think such a thing? According to Daniel Levitan, a guy I interviewed years ago for a radio show, the music that often frames the soundtrack of one’s life solidifies in your late teens/early 20s. And while I am partial to music from the ’80s and ’90s, I do have a good amount of love for music from the ’60s. I’m not sure why that is. Maybe it’s because I have boomer brothers and sisters, maybe it’s because Top 40 AM radio was almost continuously playing when I was growing up, or maybe because music from the ’60s has had a very long shelf life. Whatever the case, here’s a sampling of some of the more popular songs from when I started my adventures on earth. Oh, and a bonus for you: if you guess the year these songs came out, I’ll work with you to put together a Mix Six that’ll be featured right here on Popdose. So leave your guess in the comments section and I’ll pick a winner at random.
“I Can’t Explain,” the Who (Download)
Well, who doesn’t love the Who! Okay, I can think of a number of people who think they are an overblown dinosaur band that should just hang it up. Fine. It’s music and it’s subjective, so people are entitled to their opinions. Me? I love the Who – Pete Townshend’s gut and all! But rewinding back to 196?, “I Can’t Explain” only hinted at the power pop (and hard rock) that would come from the group in the ‘70s. And I also have to say that lyrically this tune is much more elegant than “Substitute” – which to me is too wordy with lines like, “The north side of my town faced east, and the east was facing south.”
“Ticket to Ride,” the Beatles (Download)
I really couldn’t put together a mix from this era without the Beatles, now could I? As far as what this songs means, it’s anyone’s guess. From the Wiki entry, the authors suggest that if you believe Lennon, the song is about having sex (i.e., “riding”) with German prostitutes who have a clean bill of health (i.e., a document from a doctor known as a “ticket”). If you believe McCartney, the song is about a train trip to the town of “Ryde.” Whatever the case, it’s undeniable that “Ticket to Ride” marked one of many turning points in the Beatles’ musical evolution.
“Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag, Part I,” James Brown (Download)
A song with so much funk, that it needed two parts to complete its journey. Years ago, I bought Star Time – the four CD collection of Brown’s music. It was one of the CDs that I used to practice my funk beats when learning how to drum. One of the great things about that CD is that you could put on disc two and get a good workout on the drums for over an hour, and you were drumming with some of the funk greats — including the maestro of the band who shares the same birthday as yours truly.
“I’m Telling You Now,” Freddie and the Dreamers (Download)
While this is a straight ahead pop song right out of the mid ’60s, it’s the video from the Ed Sullivan Show that I have to watch every now and then. Honestly, I had no idea this song existed until Jeff Giles included it on a round table discussion we used to have on Popdose called Chartburn. Freddie Garrity is brilliant as a singing clown, and while the recorded version can’t capture all the on stage antics Freddie was known for, I have to include the video just so you can see how wonderfully dorky Garrity is.
“Downtown,” Petula Clark (Download)
One of those feel good songs that hasn’t stood the test of time. Sure this number one song from (Oops, I almost gave away the year) edged out the Beatles from the top slot when it came out, but I don’t really hear it played on oldies radio, nor doesn’t it show up in nostalgia shows on VH1 Classic when spotlighting the ’60s. Nevertheless, it will always be a family favorite simply because my middle brother used to sing it all the time when he was but a toddler.
“What’s New Pussycat?” Tom Jones (Download)
Woody Allen’s debut film as a writer and performer on a film that, for 196?, seems rather risqué: Peter O’Toole is a womanizer who is trying to be faithful to his fiancée, but women keep falling for him. Tom Jones provides vocals to this Burt Bacharach penned song. One would like to think that Bacharach was just trying to weave in the word “pussycat” in a less-than-sly way, but according to the notes on the film, Warren Beatty (who was to star in the film) used to answer his phone by saying “What’s new pussycat?”