As you can see, it’s in my family’s genes!
THE GREATEST SONGS OF THE 1960’S THAT NO ONE HAS EVER HEARD!
Please . . .
allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of wealth and taste. Well, if not of wealth, I hope you will find that I possess a modicum of taste.
It is coming up on the 20th anniversary of the start of my still ongoing quest to listen to every pop/rock/soul song released or recorded in the “Sixties” (roughly 1963 through 1970 (as there was no year 0!)). Why the 60’s? While I was a toddler/kid then, it was an era I just missed truly experiencing, one in which the United States and the UK were widely perceived to have transmogrified from black & white to color. And it was more densely saturated with great popular music than any other era. Either the Sixties truly represented a new Renaissance or they were merely the 20th century’s Hawaii Five-O — a mediocre cop show made transcendent by one of the greatest TV theme songs ever. In either case, I wish I was “there”.
If you go by Beatles years, I was born during the decade’s big bang — between the issuance in the UK of “Love Me Do” and “Please Please Me,” their first two singles. I was a little more than a year old when the Beatles arrived in America and first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, about two and a half when the Beatles first played Shea Stadium, about four and a half when Sgt. Pepper’s was released and about seven and a half when the Beatles broke up and tears were shed across the universe. Was I aware of any of these events at the time? Doubtfully.
My quest started out shortly after 9/11. At the time, I worked for the U.S. Congress in Washington D.C. I remember watching the TV dumbfounded and heartbroken, first in my office, then in a neighborhood bar following evacuation, as the day’s events unfolded. Possibly as a form of therapy, I soon thereafter decided to listen to every song that charted in the U.S. — made Billboard’s Hot 100 — in the 1960’s. But where was I going to dig up hundreds of weekly charts? And how was I ever going to locate and listen to all these songs? Well, I came across a wonderful book, Joel Whitburn’s The Billboard Hot 100 Charts: The Sixties, which reprinted Billboard’s Top 100 charts for each and every week from 1960 to 1969. And these relatively new things called the Internet and Amazon (which was in the midst of making its first-ever quarterly profit — 1 cent a share!) let you listen to 30 second samples of the songs on many of the albums Amazon sold. I posted a review of The Billboard Hot 100 Charts on Amazon on December 26, 2001, saying that:
It was fascinating to go through this book chart by chart and almost relive the 60s by following the rise and fall of singles. With this book, and the music samples available on Amazon for most of the CD’s it sells, I have been able to go on a magical journey of discovery. I have been able to listen to the vast majority of the singles that hit the top 40 in the 60s after the British Invasion. The book is well worth the rather exorbitant price.
I don’t exactly remember how long it took me to finish this labor of love, but when I neared completion, I moved the goal posts — deciding that I would listen to every pop album, every song, released in the Sixties, throughout the world, no matter how long it took. How close am I to completion of this even more ridiculous endeavor? Well, I’m not really sure. I used to fret that I simply would not be able to find many of the songs I needed to listen to, even in sample form, on the Internet. The well was beginning to run dry. Then, in a magical moment, it dawned on me that many (now, most) of the songs/albums I was looking for were available on YouTube! And not as samples, but the whole song — the whole megillah, the whole enchilada. I felt like Moonwatcher in 2001: A Space Odyssey when the monolith imparted the knowledge of how to kill his fellow hominids.
More recently, my worry has been less being able to find the songs and albums I want to listen to, but of exhausting the stock of Sixties songs in its entirety. Thankfully, every time I fret that I have nothing new to listen to, I discover a rich new vein, a whole new subgenre, to explore.
How many albums, how many songs, have I listened to? I keep a journal, now filling 249 pages, with the date/s I listened to each album, the rating I assigned, and an indication of whether I have yet purchased the CD (or the LP decades ago). Yes, I guess you could say I am putting the CD back in OCD. Anyway, my journal tells me that I’ve listened to about 7,000 albums. As some of these are compilations or double albums, this translates into some 100,000 songs.
Since the beginning, I have endeavored to purchase (eventually) every album that I really like, which I do to this day despite CDs being so last decade. How many do I have? Many hundreds, maybe a thousand. In part, I do this out of a sense of duty to the bands and the songwriters (and, at times, their heirs) and the intrepid explorers and compilers who have made publicly available never released or long-forgotten must-hear albums such as Nick Garrie’s The Nightmare of J.B. Stanislas and Billy Nicholls’s Would You Believe and revelatory compilations such as Nuggets and Rubble and Pebbles and Fading Yellow and Piccadilly Sunshine and Soft Sounds for Gentle People. In part, I need some sort of physical token or relic. Some CDs I purchase new, some used (as so many albums with, to put it charitably, a limited audience go out of print in nanoseconds), from Amazon and eBay and wonderful sites such as Discogs. It got to the point where I was getting so many CDs in the mail from all around the world that I joked to my wife it was all just a cover for drug shipments.
When deciding what new album to play at any particular time, I gauge the level of concentration I need to devote to whatever else I am doing. If it’s relatively mindless, then I can focus on the intricacies of the songs. If it’s something more involved, I purposely choose music that I don’t have to actively listen to — background music where I only notice a song that is unexpectedly bad or unexpectedly good. What qualifies? Albums I know I have no interest in, but want to listen to so I can “check the box” or albums that I want to listen to even though I am pretty sure they’ll be pedestrian and derivative, such as yet another compilation of garage rock from the boondocks.
So, what exactly is the purpose of this blog? It is to present the fruits of my labor to anyone who might be interested — the most magical songs I have discovered in my quest that most people, even if they regularly listen to 60’s pop, are unlikely to have heard — songs that weren’t hits, aren’t played on classic rock radio and are rarely if ever played even on Little Steven’s Underground Garage. The idea came to me when I listened to Jan Panter’s single “Stella in Lights” a few months ago. I couldn’t believe that I had never heard this kickass song before, and equally incredulous that it hadn’t been a huge hit when it released in the UK. I mean, it just sounded like a hit. People have to hear this song (and not just because my daughter is named Stella!).
When I hear a song that is not widely known but damn well should be, I NEED to let people know about it. If they choose not to listen, well, that is a reflection on them! I don’t plan to designate the 10 best of this or the 100 best of that. I plan to keep posting songs until there aren’t any more worthy of inclusion. Should that require me to be reincarnated, so be it. George Harrison would be proud.
To the extent I am creating any value here, it is not a result of great musical talent or education, neither of which I possess. It is simply because I have listened to pretty much EVERYTHING and have persuaded myself that I have good taste.
I hope to post at least one song every day, starting today. When available, I’ll include a YouTube link. I’d love to hear people’s reactions to this endeavor and my song choices. It would be among my fondest dreams if listening to one of these songs simply puts a smile on someone’s face. Music can do that. It would also be one of my fondest dreams if LSUG started playing some of them simply because I gave a shout-out. That would give these artists some well-deserved recognition and, well, make me an influencer!
So, without further ado, get ready to brace for the obscure (60s rock)!
THE GREATEST SONGS OF THE 1960’s THAT NO ONE HAS EVER HEARD*
*OK, a little hyperbole, but you know what I mean
Please mind the gap and jump onto Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! [daily blog]. For your convenience, the daily blogs are broken up by month and can be accessed directly by clicking on the desired month below