Living where I do (the San Francisco Bay Area), the Napa Valley is quite close to my abode.Â If youâ€™ve ever been to a winery (or participated in a wine tasting), sometimes they do vertical tastings of wines from various years to highlight how different one vintage is from another.Â Since itâ€™s a new year, and I wanted to stay away from a â€œBest of 2008â€ mix, I thought I would do a vertical tasting/listening of songs that were released in years ending in the number nine.
As I surveyed the musical landscape from 1959 to the present, I was struck by the way in which a musical style essentially peaks around this time of a decade and then lingers a bit into the new decade only to be eclipsed by another style.Â And even though the songs in this mix arenâ€™t necessarily the most popular or most representative of what was going on in popular music, they were popular enough that they reflect the zeitgeist of that particular year.
â€œI Need Your Love Tonight,â€ Elvis Presley (download)
Before Elvis became a mythological figure (or an object of comedic ridicule), his songs of loving and longing were wonderfully solid and, as they used to say on American Bandstand, â€œHad a great beat and you can dance to it.â€Â I have to admit, however, that because Iâ€™m not a big fan of The King, I hadnâ€™t heard this tune before.Â But after repeated listens, I do love the lyric: â€œI got the Hi-Fi high, and lights down low.â€Â Clearly, Elvis was not shy when it came to â€œbusiness time.â€
â€œAquarius/Let the Sunshine In,â€ The 5th Dimension (download)
In The 40 Year-Old Virgin, this song was used to end the movie and it was clear that, yes, itâ€™s very easy to make fun of a song like this.Â However, I was reading Born Standing Up by Steve Martin over the holidays, and he wrote that â€œThe Age of Aquariusâ€ was something that he and those around him took very seriously. 1969 was certainly a tumultuous year, with amazing things like the moon landing and the Woodstock music festival.Â But there was also the inauguration of Richard Nixon, large-scale protests against the Vietnam war, horrific murders committed by the Manson family, and, of course, the incorporation of Wal-Mart.Â Martin was living in Laurel Canyon at the time, so maybe, for brief moment, love could steer the stars.
â€œDim All the Lights,â€ Donna Summer (download)
Disco, disco … good, good!Â This was the year when disco music started its downhill slide into a period of large-scale public ridicule and derision.Â But there were a number of disco songs that came out in 1979 that you still hear at parties and wedding receptions to this day.Â â€œDim All the Lightsâ€ may not be in high rotation as a disco classic, but thereâ€™s no doubting the long shadow Donna Summer was able to cast from the mid â€˜70s to the decadeâ€™s end.
â€œBust A Move,â€ Young MC (download)
When you consider the street cred of Public Enemy in the history of rap, I donâ€™t blame you for being insulted that â€œBust A Moveâ€ is representative of 1989.Â But hear me out on this one, okay? In 1989, I was doing a lot of mobile DJ work where I played my fair share of middle and high school dances. And I gotta say, even though Kool Moe Dee, Big Daddy Kane, and Public Enemy were hits with â€œthe kids,â€ Young MCâ€™s â€œBust A Moveâ€ was the song that really packed the dance floor.
â€œCandy,â€ Mandy Moore (download)
While Mandyâ€™s career eventually veered into the acting realm, her debut as a singer in 1999 was seen as another entry in the parade of â€œBarbie Dollâ€ singers of the Britney/Christina/Jessica variety.Â â€œCandyâ€ certainly screams late â€˜90s pop, but also demonstrates a certain soulless excess thatâ€™s surprisingly delicious.Â Another reason this song is included is because our editor-in-chief, Jeff Giles, has a total boner for Mandy Moore. (I hardly think I’m alone in this. –Ed.)
â€œHeart and Soul,â€ Gary Go (download)
Now that Coldplay is getting ready to call it a career, if Gary Go plays his cards right, he might be able to grab some of their fan base when the curtain comes down on Chris Martin, et al.Â â€œHeart and Soulâ€ comes from Gary Goâ€™s forthcoming release (due in February), and itâ€™s tough to say if this tune signals a style thatâ€™s going to be popular for the next few years, or one, like many of the songs featured in this mix, its decline.