Making Mixtapes…

The disappearance of mixtapes is sad, in my opinion. Making someone a YouTube playlist of their favourite tunes is a nice gesture, but it doesn’t seem to have as much thought and effort behind it. Plus, nothing beats listening to “physical” music.

So, in keeping with my mixtape-ish mood, I thought I’d make just that! Of course, for the sake of the Internet, a YouTube playlist will have to do, but anyway… And in keeping within the general theme of this blog, my mixtape will consist of all the songs from the ’60s and ’70s that are most important to me. So, here goes…

‘I’m Only Sleeping’, ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’, ‘Here There and Everywhere’, ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’, ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Anthology 3 Version)’ & ‘Long, Long, Long’: The Beatles

Revolver

‘I’m Only Sleeping’ is perhaps my most important Beatles song. I first heard it in late 2013, and was captivated by its psychedelic, lazy vibe, unlike anything I’d ever heard before. But in August 2014, I was listening to Revolver on vinyl, and the song came on. I felt a love for the music that I’d never felt before, and I realised just how special it was. I’d called The Beatles my favourite band for over a year prior, but it was only then that I knew what it meant…

‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’ is my current favourite Beatles song. I love how, in under three minutes, it covers the history of rock’n’roll. Stretching from psychedelic imagery to Zeppelin-esque hard rock to a doo-wop parody, plus one of John’s best vocal performances, it’s definitely one of The Beatles’ best!

‘Here, There & Everywhere’ was one of John’s and Paul’s favourite Beatles songs, and it’s my favourite Paul-penned song. It has such a delicate vibe to it. The vocals from all parties are hypnotically beautiful – not to even mention the drums, and bass… A wondrous song!

‘Long, Long, Long’ & the Anthology 3 version of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ are both folky, George-written tunes from the White Album era. The former has long been a favourite of mine. In contrast to the cacophony of ‘Helter Skelter’ before it, it’s a beautifully peaceful tune, with the wonderful guitar, organ and drums among its highlights. The latter song is my favourite version of the tune. Whilst I love the official version, with its Clapton-played lead guitar, there isn’t much better than the gentle acoustic guitar and the shimmery organ of the Anthology 3 version, for me…

‘My Generation’, ‘The Real Me’, ‘I’m Free’ & ‘See Me, Feel Me’: The Who

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Though I love the musical work from each Who member on ‘My Generation’ (John Entwistle’s bass, in particular!), my favourite part of the song is the lyrics. Where I live, among the mainstream media’s favourite pastimes is criticising anyone under the age of 30. ‘My Generation’, like the generations before who listened to the song, made for a good antidote to their criticism & generalisations.

‘The Real Me’ is my favourite Who song at the moment. Like most of their tunes, the guitars/bass/drums/vocals are amazing – one of my favourite things about the band is how each band member was really good at what they did. The perfect opener to one of my favourite Who albums, Quadrophenia!

‘I’m Free’ & ‘See Me, Feel Me‘ are both from Tommy, my other favourite Who album.The former is a rocker, with a standout rhythm guitar performance from Pete Townshend. It’s only recently that I began to listen to it more “in-depth”, but since I have, it has quickly become a favourite. The latter in contrast, was one of my original favourites. Roger Daltrey’s falsetto vocals and Keith Moon’s drums during the “listening to you” chorus, in particular, make the song a very deserved classic…

‘Stray Cat Blues’, ‘No Expectations’, ‘Under My Thumb’, ‘2000 Light Years From Home’ & ‘Midnight Rambler (Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out version)’: The Rolling Stones

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‘Stray Cat Blues’ & ‘No Expectations’ are from The Stones’ 7th album, Beggar’s Banquet. I’ve been listening to ‘Stray Cat Blues’ almost exclusively for the past few days. It’s edgy; it’s hard; it’s great! The instruments and vocals are all awesome, and I love it. ‘No Expectations’ is another favourite. Brian Jones’s slide guitar on the song is one of the last things he did with The Stones. It’s beautiful, and only proves Brian’s musical genius.

‘Under My Thumb’ & ‘2000 Light Years From Home’ are from my favourite Stones period, the mid-’60s. Despite the horribly misogynistic lyrics, I love ‘Under My Thumb’. The fuzzed bass and stabbing guitar are great, but the highlight of the song is definitely Brian’s marimba riff. And ‘2000’ is my favourite song on The Stones’ album that everyone loves to hate, and I love to love: Their Satanic Majesties Request. The mellotron, the keyboards, the guitar & the vocals bring a song by a primarily R&B band to sound more like Pink Floyd… Probably my favourite Stones song!

My dad introduced me to Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out, and ‘Midnight Rambler’ is perhaps my favourite song on the album. I love its rawness. But the most special bit about it, for me, is the cry of “Paint it black, you devil!” at the end. Dad and I joked about it for months, and continue to do so…

‘Venus In Furs’, ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’, ‘White Light/White Heat’, ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’ & ‘Sunday Morning’: The Velvet Underground

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‘Venus In Furs’ was my original favourite Velvets song. I remember being captivated by the cacophony of violas, guitars and drums the first time I listened to it. To this day, it’s one of my very favourites. I tried to cover it whilst busking earlier this year, with less-than-successful results…

It was only recently that I realised the beauty of ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’. I never really liked Nico’s songs on The Velvets’ debut, The Velvet Underground and Nico, and ‘Mirror’ is one that she sings. It was only after listening to Beck’s cover of the song for his Record Club project that I realised how beautiful the song is. I particularly like the guitar part!

‘I’m Waiting For The Man’ is one of the rockier songs on Nico, yet is just as great. After the beauty of ‘Sunday Morning’, it’s refreshingly hard and punk-esque. I’ve always loved the song, and continue to do so today!

‘Sunday Morning’ was the song that introduced me to The Velvets, and perhaps the first non-Beatles song to have an impact on me. After hearing a cover of it on one of our favourite shows, my mum played me the song. And so began my love of a wonderful band…

‘White Light/White Heat’ is the title track of The Velvets’ second album. The songs are less “beautiful” than The Velvet Underground and Nico, but are no less experimental. It’s a tough, distorted avant-garde rock tune, and its influence on punk rock is easy to hear…

‘The End’, ‘L.A. Woman’, ‘Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)’ & ‘People Are Strange’: The Doors

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‘The End’ & ‘Alabama Song’ are from The Doors’ self-titled debut. ‘The End’ is often regarded as one of The Doors’ masterpieces, and for good reason! Jim Morrison’s lyrics are some of his best, and the mysterious, psychedelic vibe that floats throughout the song is magical. The ending, with Jim’s infamous Oedipal spoken word section and rhythmic usage of the f-bomb, is also intriguing and helps create a magnificently climactic ending to the album. ‘Alabama Song’, in contrast, is a cover, but I love it all the same. Jim’s vocal performance on the song is one of my favourites, and I love Ray Manzarek’s pulsating, off-beat organ!

‘L.A. Woman‘ is the first song I can remember. One of my first memories is of my parents playing the song, and of being appalled once being informed that the song included the word ‘damn’! The album of the same name was in high rotation during my childhood, too. And now that I’m older, it has since become one of my favourite songs…

‘People Are Strange’ has always fascinated me, ever since I first heard it last year. The song was such a departure from any Doors stuff I’d heard before, at that point. Perhaps my favourite part of the song is the guitar, though the piano and, of course, the vocals give it quite a different vibe. It’s quite an understated song, and I like it a lot!

‘Welcome To The Machine’, ‘Interstellar Overdrive’, ‘The Gnome’ & ‘Wish You Were Here’: Pink Floyd

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‘Welcome To The Machine’‘Wish You Were Here’ are both from, well, Wish You Were Here. The former is the song that introduced me to Floyd, and what made me a fan. I remember listening to the song last year – its hypnotising synths, the swirling vocals. It completely blew my mind, and I remain in utter awe of it. And ‘Wish You Were Here’ speaks for itself, really… The acoustic guitar that runs throughout the song is beautiful, and I love David Gilmour’s vocals, too. It’s easy to see why it’s perhaps Floyd’s best-known song!

‘Interstellar Overdrive’‘The Gnome’ are both from Pink Floyd’s debut, and the only album with input from Syd Barrett, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ is an edgy, almost-overwhelming psychedelic cacophony. A favourite of mine since watching a video of Pink Floyd performing it live in 1967 with their notoriously-incredible stage show, I find the combination of experimental guitars, organs and drums captivating! ‘The Gnome’ is perhaps not a Floyd masterpiece. However, I’ve always loved the song, and it never fails to make me smile. My favourite part of the song is Barrett’s lyrics – they’re quite simple, and they almost read like some kind of whimsical fairytale, which I love!

‘Get It While You Can’: Janis Joplin + ‘Piece Of My Heart’ & ‘Turtle Blues’: Big Brother and the Holding Company

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Whilst Pearl is not my favourite Janis Joplin album, it was the one that introduced me to her work. And ‘Get It While You Can’ is my favourite song on Pearl. Much like the rest of the album, it features a prominent organ part, which adds an almost psychedelic element to the song. And of course, Janis’s vocals are amazing!

‘Piece Of My Heart’ & ‘Turtle Blues’ are both from my favourite Joplin-fronted album, Cheap Thrills, by Big Brother and the Holding Company. ‘Piece Of My Heart’ not only features yet another amazing Janis vocal performance – but the guitar is great, too! The guitarists in the band – Sam Andrew and James Gurley – were ridiculously good, and I have a huge appreciation of them, as a guitarist myself. ‘Turtle Blues’, too, is one of my favourites. Janis’s vocals again go without saying, and the piano is awesome! One can only imagine what Janis would have gone on to do…

‘Dazed and Confused’, ‘Misty Mountain Hop’ & ‘Tangerine’: Led Zeppelin

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For a while, I thought of Led Zeppelin as a bit overrated. Then I heard ‘Dazed and Confused’. I listened attentively to Jimmy Page’s “weeping” guitar; John Paul Jones’s almost-mysterious bass; John Bonham’s thrashing drums; Robert Plant’s vocals, which I consider to be some of his best. And I’ve loved Zeppelin ever since.

I don’t know what it is about ‘Misty Mountain Hop’, but I really like it. I love the keyboard riff that runs throughout the song, and the drums, and the lead guitar, and the vocals, but even then… Maybe it’s the memories – it’s on Led Zeppelin IV, my first Zeppelin album, and it’s also featured in Almost Famous, a film I love. Either way, though, it’s a great song!

And I took my ‘tangerinetrees99’ from ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’, but you can imagine my pleasure when I discovered that Zeppelin had a song named ‘Tangerine’, a few months ago! I was even more pleased after listening to the song itself (one of the band’s folkier tunes), which I enjoyed. It’s now one of my favourites…

‘All Day And All Of The Night’ & ‘Sunny Afternoon’: The Kinks

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‘All Day And All Of The Night’ was among my top-5 songs of all time for ages, and still remains one of my favourites. The fuzzed guitar riff, Ray Davies’ snarly vocals and Dave Davies’ flashy solo all make for a great rock’n’roll classic! It was perhaps this song that turned me onto the harder rock which I now also enjoy.

‘Sunny Afternoon’ is my current favourite Kinks song. I read someone comparing it to ‘I’m Only Sleeping’, the other day, and I can certainly see the similarities. The lazy vibe, paired with the bassline and another great Ray Davies vocal performances, make for a great song!

‘Suffragette City’: David Bowie

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‘Suffragette City’ is my favourite Bowie song right now, and the first one I consciously enjoyed. Throughout last year, the song would often appear on iTunes Radio, and I immediately liked it. The guitar, in particular, is great, and I can’t help but smile whenever I hear it!

‘Gloria’: Patti Smith

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‘Gloria’ begins with understated piano chords, but soon turns into an exciting, protopunk epic – the perfect opening to Smith’s highly acclaimed debut, Horses. Although I only listened to the song for the first time about a month ago, its impact on me is huge. ‘Gloria’ is what hooked me on Horses, and what inspired me to check out the rest of Patti Smith’s work. She has quickly turned into one of my favourite artists – for her unique brand of alternative rock, for her fascinating punk poetry. And as a female musician myself, she is one of my biggest influences, alongside Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth and Courtney Barnett.

‘God’: John Lennon

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‘God’ is my current favourite John Lennon song. I absolutely adore John’s vocals, and his piano – whilst not overly complicated and intricate – is perfect for the song. Ringo’s drums are great, too. And though I certainly believe in The Beatles, the lyrics are such typical John, and I love them all the same…

‘What Is Life’: George Harrison

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‘What Is Life’ was the first George solo song I ever heard. Way back when I got George and Ringo confused in pictures (!), I absolutely adored the song and would turn the radio up really loud whenever it came on. A couple of years on, I still find that guitar riff utterly irresistible!

‘Our House’ & ‘Helpless’: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

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‘Our House’ was my favourite song for the year before I discovered The Beatles. It was always played on the radio, and the melody, in combination with the piano, must have appealed to me. It was only recently that I began to realise how great the song is, and it has since become one of my favourites, again…

‘Helpless’, however, is my current favourite Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song. Written and sung by Neil Young (who has one of my favourite voices, ever), it’s a wondrously beautiful, yet somewhat sad, ballad. I particularly love the lead guitar and, of course, Neil Young’s vocals.

‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’: Bob Dylan

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‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’ is far from my favourite Dylan song. But it has an important place in my musical history, for it was the first song I learnt to play on guitar. Guitar has since become a huge part of my identity. There is little more I enjoy than playing my instruments, and playing has given me a greater understanding and love of the music I’d begun to like beforehand. So thanks, Bob!

And there. Here’s the entire playlist mixtape:

If you were making a mixtape of the songs most important to you, what would you put on it? Be sure to tell me in the comments!

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His Majesty Prince Jones…

Rest in peace.

Rest in peace.

Today is July 3nd. On this day in 1969, around midnight, Rolling Stones founder, namer and multi-instrumentalist Brian Jones was found dead in his swimming pool. He was 27.

Brian’s story is one of rock’s saddest tragedies. He was the founding Stone; he named them; he was their original “bad boy”. It was his persistence that helped them in the early days. He introduced them to the blues. But soon enough, Brian became ostracised from his band. His mental and physical health began to decline, leading to his untimely death.

Brian as a child

Brian as a child

Brian Jones was born on the 28th of February, 1942, in Cheltenham, England. He had two sisters, Pamela and Barbara. Pamela died when Brian was 3, of leukaemia.

Brian was a very intelligent kid. He had an IQ of 135. He excelled in school. Brian’s parents were both interested in music, and sent him to music lessons from an early age, translating their interest to their son.

When he was 15, Brian discovered jazz, changing him forever. He picked up saxophone and would soon begin guitar, foreshadowing his multi-instrumental genius with The Stones. He began to hang out in coffee clubs in Cheltenham, and played shows in many of them, too. His parents, however, did not approve of this.

Brian’s attitude also changed around this period. Although he had enjoyed school as a child, he grew tired of its sense of authority and conformity. He rebelled, leading to suspension on a couple of occasions. Brian’s attitude and musical passion made him somewhat of a loner. An ex from that period commented that “a lot of people didn’t understand him”. However, he still managed to get good grades, earning 9 O-levels and 2 A-levels.

Brian moved out of home at 17. He had fathered a string of illegitimate children, and — after quitting school  — spent the Summer travelling through Europe. Living on money from busking with his guitar, his cash eventually ran out and he returned to Cheltenham.

The Stones in 1962.

The Stones in 1962.

In 1962, Brian moved to London. He became entranced with the blues, and befriended musician Alexis Korner, who would stay a friend for the rest of his life. But perhaps the most defining moment of this period was when he placed an ad in the Jazz News, looking for members for an R&B band, which he named after Muddy Waters’ ‘Rollin’ Stone’. This caught the attention of two teenagers named Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. They went to see Brian play at Korner’s club, and were blown away by his magnificent slide guitar work on Elmore James’s ‘Dust My Broom’. Brian brought Mick and Keith into his band, and begun sharing a flat with them at 102 Edith Grove. After a succession of bassists and drummers — including future Pretty Thing Dick Taylor and, allegedly, future Kink Mick Avory — Brian settled on Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts. The Stones were ready to become one of the biggest bands of the ’60s.

102 Edith Grove.

102 Edith Grove.

Around this time, Andrew Loog Oldham began managing The Stones with soon-to-be-ousted Eric Easton. Brian had been fulfilling this position until that point, and had been paying himself 5 pounds more for the job. The other Stones were not too pleased about this, to say the least, beginning the alienation between Brian and The Stones.

It didn’t take long for The Stones to become big. They released a few singles; adding his famous slide guitar to the Lennon/McCartney-written ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’, adding some awesome harmonica to ‘Not Fade Away’. They released their self-titled debut (still a very Brian-lead affair) in 1964. However, Oldham decided that Mick would make a better “leader” of The Stones (a position also fulfilled by Brian ’till this point), and set out to make this so. And, in an attempt to equal the success of The Beatles, Oldham made Mick and Keith begin writing songs together, reducing Brian’s role in the band. (Though Brian wrote a film soundtrack, the melodies for ‘The Last Time’, ‘Paint It Black’ and ‘Under My Thumb’ and allegedly wrote ‘Ruby Tuesday’ with Keith, The Stones never recorded a song he wrote by himself.) The Oldham-Jagger-Richards troika took over from Brian as The Stones’ leader. They treated him horribly, and Brian soon became an outsider in the band he’d started. One scenario of such treatment is recounted in Paul Trynka’s excellent Brian biography: Brian was told to come into the studio to record ‘Little Red Rooster’, one day. However, he got to the studio only to discover that the other Stones had recorded their parts without him, and he was left to add overdubs. Though it was in part his fault, I feel that their treatment of him was particularly cruel and unnecessary.

Brian playing slide.

Brian playing slide.

Despite this, Brian added some simply stellar touches to The Stones’ catalogue, earning him the place as (arguably) the band’s greatest musician. He has been described by many as a bit of a musical genius. Some of his contributions include the marimba on ‘Under My Thumb’ and ‘Out Of Time’; the sitar on ‘Paint It Black’ and ‘Street Fighting Man’; the Appalachian dulcimer on ‘Lady Jane’ and ‘I Am Waiting’; the Mellotron on ‘2000 Light Years From Home’, ‘We Love You’ and ‘Stray Cat Blues’; recorder on ‘Ruby Tuesday’; saxophone on ‘Dandelion’… Not even mentioning his harmonica and slide guitar. Brian certainly had the ability to turn a good song into a classic!

Brian’s multi-instrumental-ism was not limited to The Stones, either. You know the saxophone on The Beatles’ ‘You Know My Name’? That’s Brian. It’s been argued that the oboe in ‘Baby You’re A Rich Man’ is him, too. He also sang backing vocals on ‘All You Need Is Love’ and ‘Yellow Submarine’, on which he also clinked glasses. Brian was a good friend of The Beatles: he was particularly close to George, though was friendly with John and Paul, too.

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George and Brian.

However, as The Stones grew bigger, Brian’s demise began. The alienation he suffered from The Stones sent him into depression. To deal with his mental health issues, Brian started using drugs, and soon became addicted. Andrew continued to shine the spotlight on Mick + Keith and ignored Brian, which can’t have helped his already-underlying insecurity.

Around this period, Brian met Italian actress and model Anita Pallenberg. Together, they formed one of the most famous rock couples at the time, and were an icon of the blossoming counterculture. However, it was not to last. During Mick, Keith and Brian’s infamous trip to Morocco in 1967, Brian had been admitted to a hospital in France. Whilst he was gone, Keith and Anita had already begun a relationship. And when Brian rejoined the party in Morocco, Anita broke up with him and went to Keith after one too many fights. Brian was left stranded in the foreign country when Mick and Keith left unexpectedly. Already damaged, Brian’s mental health took a severe turn for the worse after the trip. And though Mick, Keith and Brian hadn’t been overly close since the 5 pound incident, they were never really friends, after Morocco.

Brian and Anita.

Brian and Anita.

By that time, Swinging London was a place of psychedelia. The Stones recorded AftermathBetween The Buttons and Their Satanic Majesties Request. Brian’s musicality is particularly evident on that trio (my favourite of the band’s work), and his skills added a certain psychedelic element to a number of tunes. Though many fans dislike Satanic Majesties, I’ve always enjoyed it for the magnificent instrumentation. Brian’s dress-sense also became quite psychedelic in this period. Always valuing style, he became a regular at the London boutiques and quickly turned into a style icon. Brian also went to Monterey Pop Festival, and introduced the Jimi Hendrix Experience, cementing his place in psychedelic history. (The title from this post is taken from The Animals’ song ‘Monterey’.)

Brian at Monterey.

Brian at Monterey.

Brian also wrote and recorded the soundtrack to A Degree of Murder, a film that Anita was in. Brian would also soon return to Morocco and record an album of the Master Musicians of Joujouka. The album would be released in 1971.

But Brian’s personal life was not getting any better. He was busted for drugs on the same night as Mick and Keith’s infamous ‘Redlands’ incident. However, though ‘Redlands’ made Mick and Keith into even stronger figures, Brian crumpled. Not long after, he was treated for a nervous breakdown. He spent a night in jail for possession and allowing weed to be smoked on his property, but was discharged with a fine and an order to seek professional help for his drug problem. Brian would be busted again, in 1968, which would be one of the final straws for his declining health.

Brian was becoming increasingly unreliable. He would turn up to the studio stoned, or in too bad a place to play — if he turned up at all. However, his mark can still be found on The Stones’ next album, Beggar’s Banquet. Arguably the best of these is his beautifully emotive slide guitar on ‘No Expectations’. In a way, the lyrics could be seen to be referring to Brian’s fall. But his guitar performance is simply amazing. It’s been referred to as his swan song.

Still, The Stones had almost completely marginalised Brian. And he’d become too depressed and addicted to add much. However, unlike the similar scenario that went on with Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett, The Stones didn’t really care. Which I find to be a horrible shame. Brian couldn’t tour legally, either, ‘cos of his possession record. On the 8th of June, 1969, Mick, Keith and Charlie went to Brian’s recently purchased Cotchford Farm (the former home of A. A. Milne), and informed him that he’d been replaced by guitarist Mick Taylor.

And just under a month later, just before midnight, Brian drowned in his swimming pool. Some say it was murder or manslaughter. Some say it was suicide. Some say it was “death by misadventure”, as his death certificate reads. Brian’s funeral was on the 10th of July. The only Stones to attend were Bill and Charlie. The band paid tribute to him at their famous Hyde Park Concert, where Mick read out ‘Adonais’ by Percy Shelley and thousands of butterflies were released in his memory.

The last pictures taken of Brian.

The last pictures taken of Brian.

In the aftermath of Brian’s death, many of his contemporaries paid tribute to him, too. Jimi Hendrix dedicated a song to him at one of his performances. Pete Townshend wrote a short poem to his old friend called ‘A Normal Day For Brian, A Man Who Died Every Day’. Jim Morrison also wrote a poem titled ‘Ode To LA While Thinking of Brian Jones, Deceased’, and wrote a song for him called ‘Tightrope Ride’. (Ray Manzarek changed the lyrics after Jim died, so they would refer to both Brian and Jim. Ironically, he died precisely two years after Brian, also at 27.)

Brian was one of the first members of the ’27 Club’, a group of people who died at 27. (Other “club members” include Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and more recently, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse.) The penultimate track on The Stones’ 1972 double album Exile on Main Street, Shine A Light, was written by Mick about his demise. Brian’s referenced in the name of indie band The Brian Jonestown Massacre. And many underground musicians have referenced him in their songs, including Robyn Hitchcock, The Drovers, Psychic TV and Tigers Jaw. In a way, Brian has become an underground figure, despite his associations with one of the biggest bands on Earth.

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Brian was a very complex guy. By many accounts, he could be sweet + shy one minute, and arrogant + manipulative the next. But still, he was a wonderful musician. He also had wonderful fashion taste, and helped create a more feminine look acceptable for men. And though The Stones have rarely talked positively of him recently, many others have talked of his influence. There must be a reason why others have said nice things about him. His death is incredibly heartbreaking, and not just because a life was lost. He could have gone on to do so many great things. He could have begun a new chapter of his life. But sadly, he never got the chance. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know who Brian was (my dad’s a Stones fan), and he’s fascinated me since I was a child.

So rest in peace, Brian. We’ll never forget you.

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My Favourite Bands from the ’60s (and 70s)

As one might guess, I grew up to a soundtrack of  ’60s and ’70s tunes. And the love of mid-20th-century tunes held by 5-year-old me has well and truly stuck! So today, I’m going to write about my favourite bands from the ’60s and ’70s, and why I like them — so in no particular order…

The Doors

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The Doors are an extremely interesting band. For one, their sound was a little jazzier than their contemporaries. And Ray Manzarek, John Densmore and Robby Krieger were all impeccable musicians. (Especially Ray Manzarek! That man was a genius on the organ!) And of course, Jim Morrison. His voice was incredible, and you really don’t hear anything like it from any other band from the era. And not to even mention his lyricism! His poetry is a huge thing that makes The Doors unique. He touched on themes like love, death, individuality, life and the human race in general, and I really enjoy listening to his writing. The Doors were certainly very unique, in the best possible way!

The Doors are one of two bands on this list that I’ve known for as long as I can remember. One of  my earliest memories involves a very young me being appalled at Jim’s inclusion of the word ‘damn’ in the song ‘LA Woman’, and the album of the same name was in frequent rotation during my early childhood. These days, The Doors are one of my favourite bands!

FAVOURITE ALBUMS: The Doors (1967), Waiting For The Sun (1968) + LA Woman (1971)

Pink Floyd

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Pink Floyd’s ’60s-era work is not their better-known stuff, but it’s really cool. Their first album, The Piper At The Gates of Dawn (1967), was their only album with major input from founding member Syd Barrett, who left in ’68. The album is very psychedelic, as one would expect, and there are some awesome guitars and keyboards and effects! (I especially dig ‘Astronomy Domine’! And ‘The Gnome’.) I also really like Syd Barrett’s lyrics — his writing’s quite direct and the vocab is quite simple, but it really works! A few of them read like fairytales, too, which gives them a certain air of magic.  So the ’60s Pink Floyd are probably my favourite by a smidgeon — but that’s not to say that I don’t like the ’70s Floyd, too! Wish You Were Here, for example, is one of my favourite albums of all time. ‘Welcome To The Machine’ is one of my favourite Floyd songs, and the many parts of ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ are plain awesome, and I think ‘Wish You Were Here’ speaks for itself…

I started to get into Pink Floyd after listening to Wish You Were Here on vinyl last November, and my mind was blown! I’ve been listening to Floyd quite a bit, lately. Really groovy!

FAVOURITE ALBUMS: The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967) + Wish You Were Here (1975)

The Velvet Underground

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Laden with biting guitars, avant-garde instrumentation, controversial lyrics and everything else ‘art rock’, The Velvet Underground are a band I love! Though not many people paid attention to their work in the ’60s, their music now receives the recognition it deserves. The early Velvet Underground were very avant garde in their sound — founding member John Cale was a classically-trained violist, and often played it on tracks. Their innovative guitar-ing and drumming (and Lou Reed’s singing) also helped to influence countless punk and indie bands! In my opinion, The Velvet Underground are one of the quintessential ’60s alternative bands.

My mum introduced me to The Velvet Underground. One day mid last year, she played me ‘Sunday Morning’, and I was hooked! Soon after, we got a copy of The Velvet Underground and Nico, and The Velvet Underground quickly became one of my very favourite bands…

FAVOURITE ALBUMS: The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967) + White Light/White Heat (1968)

The Who

the who

At the moment, the band I’ve been listening to the most is probably The Who. One thing I really love about them is how each member was/is extremely good at their role in the band; Roger Daltrey is an amazing singer, Pete Townshend is an amazing guitarist, John Entwistle was an amazing bassist and Keith Moon was an amazing drummer! I also think that Pete is one of the greatest songwriters ever — it’s only after I attempted to play a few songs from Tommy that I realised how complex his stuff is.  And along with The Kinks, The Who created the rock opera. Listening to Tommy and Quadrophenia and following their stories is a wonderful experience! And that’s not even mentioning the fact that their innovative usage of guitar amps, or their live shows…

I first listened to The Who after getting a best-of CD back in December. It was only in March when I really got into them, and since then, I’ve become a huge fan!

FAVOURITE ALBUMS: My Generation (1965), The Who Sell Out (1967), Tommy (1969) + Quadrophenia (1973)

The Rolling Stones

the stones

Though The Stones were probably the first band I was ever aware of, it was really only 6 or so months ago that I really started to get into them. But it’s the Stones from the ’60s that I love. Their very early stuff is biting and fresh and has the blues written all over it. And by the mid ’60s, Brian Jones’s multi-instrumental genius made a number of their songs from good to absolutely wonderful! (Take a listen to the marimba on ‘Under My Thumb’, the sitar on ‘Paint It Black’, the recorder on ‘Ruby Tuesday’, the Mellotron on ‘2000 Light Years From Home’; that’s all Brian!) That stuff is my favourite — hence why I’m one of the few that likes Satanic Majesties! I also really like the stuff from Beggar’s Banquet, and Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out is my favourite live album of all time.

Like The Doors, I’ve known The Stones for as long as I can remember. My dad is a fan, so they’ve always been around the place. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know the names of Brian Jones, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. And excepting a brief period in 2013 when I thought that all Beatles fans had to hate The Stones, I’ve had a favourite Stones song since I was 8 or 9. (I think it was ‘Get Off My Cloud’.)

FAVOURITE ALBUMS: The Rolling Stones (1963), Aftermath (1966), Between The Buttons (1967) + Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967)

The Beatles

rubber-soul-uncropped

As much as I adore the other bands on this list, The Beatles will always remain my favourite. There is something very special about them. Very. How they went from ‘Love Me Do’ to ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ to ‘Revolution’ to ‘The Long and Winding Road’ (and everything in between)  in EIGHT years is mindblowing. And of course, each Beatle played their instrument really uniquely and it sounded fab! And The Beatles had four lead singers, too, and three songwriters; they each brought a different perspective to their eager listeners, and that set them apart. I also consider The Beatles some of the greatest lyric-writers, especially in the later days. And that’s not even mentioning how they not only influenced music, but how they turned the world on its head; pretty much every rock band since 1964 has been influenced by The Beatles someway or another. Their immense cultural impact changed everything, too. And the fact that nearly everyone knows who they are 53 years later says quite a lot!

The Beatles changed everything for me. I’ve been a fan since February, 2013, when I decided that they were more than just a band that’s on the radio all the time. And ever since that fateful day, my life has never been the same!

FAVOURITE ALBUMS: Everything Rubber Soul onwards!

Special mentions go to Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, The 13th Floor Elevators and The Kinks, the songs of whom I’m currently exploring and enjoying but don’t know well enough to write about…

What are your favourite bands from the ’60s and ’70s? Be sure to send me a postcard, drop me a line…

Hope you all have a great day, and good day sunshine ’till next post! 🙂

My Favourite Beatles Covers

The Beatles filming the promotional videos for 'Rain' and 'Paperback Writer' -- also hiding behind cellophane... The back cover of 'Revolver' is from the same group of shots.

The Beatles filming the promotional videos for ‘Rain’ and ‘Paperback Writer’ — also hiding behind cellophane… The back cover of ‘Revolver’ is from the same group of shots.

When I first became a Beatles fan, I hated Beatles covers more than I hated One Direction. I vehemently detested them. But as I slowly realised that I was being rather hypocritical as I was making really bad (Really. Bad.) covers myself using the Smart Instruments on GarageBand (this was before I started playing guitar), I began to appreciate good Beatles covers more and more^. And over the past few months, I’ve discovered that plenty of my other favourite artists have done Beatles covers. And now I really love listening to reinterpretations of some of my favourite songs! I decided today that I would compile a list of my favourites, an idea I’ve had for a while, and so here it is. I’ll start off with my favourite Beatles cover of all time…

‘She Said, She Said’ — The Black Keys

This gem came off The Black Keys’ — made up of Dan Auerbach (guitar and vocals) and Patrick Carney (drums) — very first album, The Big Come Up, which was released in 2002. (The album was recorded in the basement of the house that Carney rented, by the way.) ‘She Said, She Said’ is my favourite Beatles song, and I love how the Keys turn the psychedelic masterpiece into a wonderful bluesy rocker. The guitar is amazing, and Auerbach’s distorted vocals match the style very well. This was also the song that introduced me to The Black Keys in the first place, so I have two things to thank it for! This is not the first time the Black Keys have been mentioned on this blog, and it certainly won’t be the last…

‘Run For Your Life’ — Arcade Fire

This is a live cover, but it’s still damn good, in my opinion. It highlights the heaviness of the original (something which isn’t really shown all that much) and they really rock it. Well done, Arcade Fire. (Arcade Fire are an indie pop/rock band from Canada, by the way. They rose to notoriety with their first album, Funeral, though I think the 2010 The Suburbs is their best.)

‘I Saw Her Standing There’ — Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeroes

Sort of a bluegrass reinterpretation of the first song off The Beatles’ first album, I really like this cover. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes (an indie folk band from Los Angeles) covered this song as a part of an album titled Beatles Reimagined. As with The Black Keys’ cover of ‘She Said She Said’, Edward Sharpe’s (a.k.a. Alex Ebert) voice really lends itself to the style of the cover. A job well done, I must say.

‘Oh! Darling’ — Florence and the Machine

I found this cover whilst bumbling around YouTube one day, and it’s really good! Florence and the Machine stay quite faithful to the original, but Florence Welch’s amazing voice gives the song an entire different feel. The lead guitar runs with that awesome reverb are also really enjoyable… 🙂

‘Hey Bulldog’ — Dave Grohl

This cover came out of a certain Grammys tribute from about a year ago (was it really that long ago?!), and this is definitely my favourite cover to originate from the night. Dave and the backing band really rock one of my favourite Beatles songs out really hard. Those drums, the guitar, the keyboard… It almost could be a Foo Fighters song!

‘Happiness is a Warm Gun’ — The Breeders

The only Breeders song I’ve heard is this particular cover, but it certainly makes me want to go and check out more of their stuff! This cover gives the song a more grungy feel, though — as with Florence and the Machine — still stays quite close to the original. And a female singer! Yay!

‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ — The Stones

Is this really a cover, or is it not? Of course, John and Paul wrote it, but The Stones released the song first. For the purpose of this list, I’ll call it a cover. But anyway, The Stones’ version of this song has the distinction of being the only Beatles cover I prefer to the original, though The Black Keys’ cover is my favourite cover. (Sorry, Ringo.) That really awesome slide guitar shows how good a lead guitarist Brian Jones was. (I wish I could play like that!) And Mick Jagger’s vocals are completely wild. Really groovy version. (This was also the song that gave The Stones their first hit. George recommended them to Decca after good ol’ Dick Rowe of the same record company told Brian Epstein a couple of years earlier, ‘Guitar groups are on the way out, Mr Epstein…’ Hmm… No comment.)

And finally, the last cover…

‘Dear Prudence’ — Siouxsie and the Banshees

I have many music-related things to thank my mum for. (Introducing me to The Velvet Underground and The Violent Femmes would be two examples.) This cover is another example. Almost a year ago, I was listening/playing ‘Dear Prudence’, and Mum remembered that Siouxsie and the Banshees had covered it. We played the cover on YouTube. I believe it was the first Beatles cover I ever liked. So thank you, Mum!

And so here we go! Got any other Beatles covers you like? Feel free to use the comments section below! And ’till my next post, good day sunshine! 🙂

^ Of course, there are still some really bad ones — not mentioning any names, *cough*OneDirectionJustinBieberMileyCyrusblahblah*cough*…