Happy Birthday John Lennon!

John by Warhol, 1971

John by Warhol, 1971

Today would have been John Lennon’s 76th birthday, so I thought I’d finally end my algebra-revision-induced hiatus (fun times in high school, haha!) and talk a little bit about him. So happy birthday, John!

I’ve talked an awful lot about John on here before, so I’ll try to stay succinct here. John is easily one of my greatest heroes, for he has influenced so much of what my life consists of today. He was my introduction to what I would have precociously termed “contemporary music” before I discovered him – he taught me of what it was in the first place, of how it worked, of what it sounded like at its very best. His work encouraged me both to persevere with and work as hard as I did my schoolwork at my creative pursuits – music, art, writing – and to, as I grew into the age where you are supposed to begin to seriously consider what you will do when you”grow up”, think about continuing them not just as hobbies but as actual jobs; and in fact, it was him who inspired me to pick up a guitar, to take my voice beyond musical theatre and the like, to try and attempt to write songs, to actually use the criticism my English teachers gave me so that my pieces on here would begin to live up to the ones I read and admired in the music press in the first place; he made me consider the workings of the world, and encouraged me to also consider and create my own views on political issues; he taught me what it meant to be a fan. I admire him so much – for his writing, his guitar skills, his humour, his art, his activism… While he is now one among the myriad of creators that I admire – in the company of those like Bowie, Patti Smith, Lou Reed, Poison Ivy Rorschach, Alex Chilton, Kim Gordon, David Lynch, Joan Didion, and many, many, many more from all manner of music genres, eras and artistic fields – he will always be one of the very few who has affected me enough to change the course of almost my entire life. Perhaps only Bowie and Patti have come close to influencing me in the way that he has. My life would be so unrecognisably different if I hadn’t come across his work – I am so grateful for his affect on who I am today.

So now, I’m going to stop talking and instead leave you with some of his music. Happy birthday, John! Thinking of you…

(Please excuse this in demo form, it is still impossible to find actual Beatles songs on YouTube after the mass exodus of them that occurred around the rerelease of 1 last year…)

(Let us not forget John’s input into Young Americans, one of my very very all-time favourite albums!!)

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Making Mixtapes: Autumn Edition

I know, I know, it's a massively-cliché stock photo... But hey! At least it's pretty!

I know, it’s a cliché stock photo… But hey! At least it’s pretty!

Late Autumn and early Winter is my favourite time of year – the searing heat of Summer turns into breezy, hazy sunshine, that soon finds itself becoming a satisfying brand of icy, crisp cold. Everything just seems so dreamy, so magical, so perfect. So maybe the climate is to blame for the fact that almost all of my favourite musical memories occur somewhere within the cooler months of the year. And considering that, in Australia, we are entering the final weeks of Autumn, I thought it would be especially appropriate to make a ‘mixtape’ of a few of these today!

‘Penny Lane’ – The Beatles

I remember the day I bought my first Beatles album (1, for the curious): it was the 10th of July, 2013. I’d never heard anything so thrilling in my short life, and I listened to it on endless repeat for the remainder of the year. The day after The Purchase, however, I was hanging out with my best friend at the time, a more seasoned Beatles fan who actually introduced me to them in the first place. We spent much of that afternoon listening our favourite songs, dancing and chanting the words we knew. I remember picking ‘Hello Goodbye’ and ‘Help!’ – and I remember that she picked ‘Lady Madonna’ and ‘Yesterday’, among others. But she also picked ‘Penny Lane’, a song I was yet to hear, then. And as I listened, there was something just so magical about the song – whether it be its surrealism or inventive band arrangement or the beautiful melody of the lyrics – something that moved me like no song had before… I couldn’t have had any idea as to how monumentally that moment would change the course of my life. I wouldn’t be a rock’n’roll fan without it.

‘Sugar Man’ – Rodriguez

I first learnt of Rodriguez – a cult musician who created quirky, psychedelic folk in the early ’70s – in April 2014, via a documentary on his life that lead to a major resurrection of his work. His discography fascinated me from the first listen – partly because it reminded me of The White Album, but also because it was ‘weird’ in a way I didn’t yet know music could be. The best-know track off Cold Fact – his debut – is a freakishly beautiful folk song called ‘Sugar Man’ – whirring synths and woodwind arrangements accompany his echoey guitar and his voice, which is only describable is incredible… At a time when I felt that listening to artists other than The Beatles equated betraying them, his music became one of my favourite things in the world.

The following Spring, I saw Rodrgiuez play in my hometown. It was my first proper gig, and what a great one it was! He still sounded incredible, and to this day I consider it one of the greatest nights of my life…

‘Sunday Morning’ – The Velvet Underground

I first heard the phrase ‘Velvet Underground’ on the night that Lou Reed died – everyone was talking about him, and though I remain mildly annoyed that I only got into his work afterwards, it was through this that I learnt of his first band. I never felt compelled to listen to them, however – that was, until, I first heard a cover of ‘Sunday Morning’ one night, in May 2014. I felt like I knew it (I didn’t), like it and I were meant to be – and it happened to be one of my mum’s favourite songs. As we listened, she told me of how The Velvet Underground had played a part in the the soundtrack of her 20’s, and she told me to go and look the original version up. The next day, I did just that, and its immense beauty captivated me – it is hard to explain in words the affect it had. The Velvets have continued to captivate, inspire and influence me ever since…

‘Lust For Life’ – Iggy Pop

In the Winter of 2014, my mum and I decided we’d listen to CDs in her car instead of the radio. So we sifted through the glovebox, and found – among the stacks of children’s novelty albums and musical soundtracks – the soundtrack to Trainspotting. We inserted the CD into the player, and soon enough, this ferocious rhythm burst out of the speakers – and then this sneering, couldn’t-care-less voice joined it all, too. ‘Lust For Life’ was dangerous, tough, fiery, in a way that I didn’t realise music could be. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know the next thing about Iggy Pop, that my days of blasting ‘Search and Destroy’ and ‘1969’ at maximum volume were still years off, that I hated punk rock; I wanted to dance. I was hooked.

‘Isn’t It A Pity’ – George Harrison

By the middle of 2014, I’d officially listened to every Beatles song, so I’d begun to delve into their solo catalogues as well. One particularly cold and dark July day that year, I was sitting – or shivering, rather – in an apartment in Melbourne  when I finally decided to listen to All Things Must Pass. There was something so dreamy, so warm about the album – it was the definition of ‘ethereal’, and it seemed so bright, in contrast to the dark clouds that loomed outside my window. I was introduced to ‘Isn’t It A Pity’ that afternoon – a song that was perhaps the warmest, the most shimmery of them all, and one that I’ve loved ever since. It is the perfect song for dark, cold Winter nights…

‘Hallelujah’ – Jeff Buckley

Jeff Buckley’s version of ‘Hallelujah’ is perhaps the definitive late-Autumn song. The warm, twinkling beauty of the guitar and Buckley’s beyond-incredible voice seem to be the sonic equivalent of the hazy, dying heat of Australian Aprils. Like the weather, the song seems like something of magic, too. I first heard it in June or July 2014, after my guitar teacher told me about it. All I remember was how overwhelmed I was, of how I thought it sounded almost as beautiful as my favourite Beatles songs. There weren’t too many songs that made me cry, then – but this was one of them.

‘I’m Only Sleeping’ – The Beatles

It was August, 2014 when I decided, rather innocuously, that I was going to listen to Revolver one afternoon. This, of course, wasn’t an uncommon decision at the time – Revolver was my all-time favourite album, after all. So I placed it on the turntable, and I began to listen. Everything seemed perfectly normal to me – until I reached ‘I’m Only Sleeping’. I’d listened to it a thousand times before, but that afternoon I felt something I’d never felt before. I realised just how incredible, how beautiful the song – and the album – was; I became entirely overwhelmed by this immense love for the music. I’d been a music fan for a while, at that point – but it wasn’t until that day that I realised how powerful it was.

‘Waterloo Sunset’ – The Kinks

In the March of 2015, I borrowed a biography on The Kinks from a nearby library. I found their story fascinating – not always in a good way, yet endlessly interesting nonetheless. And, I mean, I’d heard ‘Waterloo Sunset’ countless times before reading the book, but I’d never appreciated it – I’d always liked their early garage ventures (‘You Really Got Me’; ‘All Day and All of the Night’) more. But as I read, I realised that Ray Davies is a certified songwriting genius, and I felt compelled to listen to it properly. And of course, I also realised how wrong I’d been to take it for granted, and by the time it was through, I’d concluded that it was among the greatest songs of our time. I do, after all, have ears…

‘The Real Me’ – The Who

I first heard Quadrophenia in the Autumn of last year. On May 19th – Pete Townshend’s birthday – to be exact… At this point in time, I was becoming a massive Who fan – I’d read Townshend’s autobiography, I’d played my CD of Tommy so many times that the fancy gatefold had started to ever-so-slightly fall apart… But Quadrophenia blew my mind like no other Who album ever had. It was ambitious, but it was also one of the greatest I’d ever heard – it was so passionate, so expertly crafted, so captivating, and oh, how I loved the brass arrangements! ‘The Real Me’ was what started it all – everything about it was so energetic, so flawlessly recorded and it made you want to dance, too. To this day, it’s my favourite Who song.

‘Miss Amanda Jones’ – The Stones

Some Kind of Wonderful – not The Breakfast Club, not Pretty in Pink – is my favourite ’80s movie. This is for a number of reasons; mainly because the protagonists are both quirky outsiders who, unlike PiP‘s Andie and TBC‘s Allison, never compromise who they are – but also for the fact that one of the characters is named after a Stones song. ‘Miss Amanda Jones’ (the song in question) is ridiculously underrated – it’s a seemingly conventional rock song on the surface, yet Keith Richards’ fuzzy guitar turns it into a darkly psychedelic freak-out. It also happens to be on my favourite Stones album, Between the Buttons. It’s the most perfect song for a movie about two people who never apologise for not ‘fitting in’ – it’s so freaky, yet it’s so great… I listened it on repeat all through the coldest, darkest Winter days last year!

‘Old Man’ – Neil Young

Like ‘Hallelujah’, Neil Young’s music is, to me, the sonic equivalent of the beauty of late Autumn. His voice, his guitar, his songwriting style all resonate with the most beautiful melancholy warmth that is so innately satisfying to the listener. Harvest is easily one of my all-time favourite albums because of this. And ‘Old Man’ happens to be one of my favourite songs, too. There’s just something about it – his achingly beautiful voice, the thoughtful lyrics, its catchiness, the exquisite guitar, backing vocals… It really is the perfect song to listen to as the final rays of sun shine on your back, as Summer draws to an end.

‘Another Girl, Another Planet’ – The Only Ones

Before the beginning of last year, I hated punk rock. But then I watched a documentary on Joy Division and decided it wasn’t so bad – and that Unknown Pleasures was amazing. But it wasn’t until I was introduced to the Only Ones that I grew to love it.

In the Winter of last year, my mum found her Only Ones album in her vinyl collection, and we decided to play it sometime. But first, we looked up ‘Another Girl, Another Planet’. I was instantly hooked. Listen to the song: the gritty power chords, the pretty melody. I decided it was one of the greatest I’d ever heard, and consequently, I finally felt compelled to listen to the punk bands that I’d read so much about. In hindsight, the Ones aren’t actually that punk (though this does nothing to diminish how much I like them). But they were an incredible gateway, and for that I owe them a lot!

‘Gloria’ – Patti Smith

I’d read a lot about Patti Smith, and of how Horses was supposedly one of the greatest albums of all time. So last July, I bought it. I wanted to see if it was really that amazing. I placed it in my CD player as soon as I had the chance – I turned it up loud, sat nearby and pressed ‘play’. The first track began innocuously enough, and it confused me; wasn’t Patti supposed to be punk? Why is it just piano chords? But then, she sang the first line: ‘Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine.’ There are few times in my life where I’ve felt as liberated, as incredible as I did in that moment. And of course, ‘Gloria’ turned into the most incredible rollercoaster ride of poetry, bohemianism and her unique brand of minimalist rock. By the time it faded out, my life would never be the same again.

‘Suffragette City’ and ‘Oh! You Pretty Things’ – David Bowie

Funnily enough, David Bowie was one of my first musical discoveries – I became a music fan in 2013, after all, a year in which his presence was unavoidable. But it wasn’t until 2014 that I actually began to listen to him, and before August 2015, I really was only a casual fan. But the first Bowie song I loved predates that August by a couple of months – ‘Suffragette City’. I first heard it in an episode of Gilmore Girls, yet I didn’t realise how amazing it was until I listened to it minus the context of my favourite TV show. It is hard to forget how it blew my mind – how edgy and thrilling it sounded, how I couldn’t keep my feet still, how I couldn’t stop grinning for the entire duration of the song, how I couldn’t help but scream ‘Wham! Bam! Thank you ma’am!’ with him. I promptly added it to my last ‘Making Mixtapes’ post (from last July), and in one draft, added that I soon hoped to become more than a casual fan of his work…

By the time I heard ‘Oh! You Pretty Things’ – only a few months later – I was well beyond casual fandom. I’d seen the ‘David Bowie Is’ exhibition a couple of weeks beforehand, and he’d stormed into my life and almost entirely changed how I saw the world. I’d spent those weeks in a daze, so overwhelmed by his art, and I listened to him whenever I had the chance. Hunky Dory was among the first of his albums that I discovered, and there are few I love as much as it. I fell in love with ‘Pretty Things’ on my first listen – I loved the chords, and the singalong chorus, and his juxtaposition of darkly philosophical lyrics and upbeat melodies. I remember listening to it at school all the time last year, feeling cool and comfortable in myself in a way I hadn’t really experienced before. He made me realise that I didn’t have to change myself, that I didn’t have to ‘fit in’ to be comfortable in my own skin.

‘Teen Age Riot’ – Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth was first recommended to me at the end of 2014. I tried listening to them then – and I decided I liked one of their songs (‘Sunday’) but that they were too ‘weird’ for me. But as 2014 turned into 2015, and as my music taste became progressively freakier, I tried again that Winter – but this time, I adored them. ‘Teen Age Riot’ is a song prone to obsessive fanaticism, and it isn’t hard to see why. It’s magical, hypnotic – as Kim Gordon chants about ‘sweet desire’ to clashing guitars, and as Thurston Moore frantically sings its lyrics to punky, noisy rhythms. It’s one of the songs that enters and changes your life so fast – one that you’ll listen to on endless repeat while chanting the lyrics by heart. It’s so unconventional, yet it’s so rewarding. I’ve proudly called myself a Youth fan ever since my first listen.

 

‘Kiss Off’ – Violent Femmes

When it was announced that the Violent Femmes were on the bill for this year’s WOMADelaide (a music festival I’ve attended every year since I was 8 or 9), my mum and I were so excited. I’ve been a Femmes fan ever since she played me their 1991 album, Why Do Birds Sing, in the Spring of 2014. But in the months that lead up to the festival, I dived deeper and deeper into their catalogue, and listened to their classic debut on constant repeat for at least a month or two… ‘Kiss Off’ was my favourite track off it, even if mainly for the frantic chant of ‘Everything! Everything! Everything!’ at the end of the bridge.

And of course, their set at the festival was every bit as amazing as I expected. I sang the lyrics to almost every song, dancing madly and raucously applauding at the end of each. I even managed to get my CDs signed by bassist Brian Ritchie afterwards!

‘Just Like Honey’ (The Jesus and Mary Chain)/’Boys Don’t Cry’ (The Cure)

For some reason, these songs are linked in my mind. I first (deliberately) heard them, back to back, while working on an assignment for my Music class a month or so ago. ‘Just Like Honey’ was first: it appeared as a ‘recommended video’ on YouTube, and I decided to listen – I’d been meaning to try the Jesus and Mary Chain for a while, after all. I had high expectations for the song, yet I couldn’t have predicted how amazing it would be: the booming drums, the guitar (so laden with gritty effects that it seemed to shimmer and twinkle), Jim Reid’s flowing voice, the melody. It was just so impossibly pretty – it sent shivers down my spine. I haven’t been able to get enough of it since!

Despite trying multiple times, I’ve never been able to ‘get’ The Smiths – so perhaps that’s why I only began listening to The Cure earlier this year. On the day that I discovered ‘Just Like Honey’, I’d only listened (yet also really liked) to a couple of their songs – so when YouTube recommended ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ after ‘Just Like Honey’, I thought I’d try it, too. I wasn’t surprised to discover I loved the song, as well – Robert Smith’s voice sounded so great, and I loved the hook that ran between the verses. I ended up singing it to myself for the rest of the day, and right now, it’s definitely among my favourite songs…

‘The Ballad of El Goodo’ – Big Star

Sometimes it takes only one song to entirely fall in love with a band’s discography. ‘The Ballad of El Goodo’ is one of those songs. I first listened to it a month or so ago, during my Art class, as the Autumnal sun poured through the window and onto my sketchbook. Its beauty entirely overwhelmed me. And it really is beautiful – the achingly exquisite guitar, Alex Chilton’s stunning voice, the dreamy backing vocals, the lyrics, the chiming, pretty melodies… It is one the most perfect songs in history. It’s just incredible.

‘God Only Knows’ – The Beach Boys

Last month, my mum and I went to see Brian Wilson perform Pet Sounds. We decided, quite literally, a few hours before, but it was certainly among the better decisions we’ve made… While we may have been sitting in the back row, and Brian’s voice mightn’t have been so great anymore, it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Just knowing that the man sitting in front of the white grand piano on stage wrote one of the greatest albums of all time was enough. As one would expect, the performance of ‘God Only Knows’ was one of the greatest moments of the night – the silence, the admiration that spread through the theatre was spine-chilling. At its end, we all gave him a standing ovation – and then he told us to sit down so he could start the next song!

‘Here Comes Your Man’ – Pixies

I feel like I came to the Pixies kind of late. I was so busy obsessing over Sonic Youth that I almost forgot about the other definitive 80s’ alternative band. Yet, not too long ago, I listened to Doolittle for the first time with slightly strange expectations – I wanted it to be amazing, but I never thought it could equal Daydream Nation. But as I played it, I became more and more hooked as the album progressed – their combination of arty noise and conventional melodies fascinated me. ‘Here Comes Your Man’ must be my most-played YouTube video of late – there is something so great about Black Francis’s voice on the track, the pretty, poppy melodies in the context of, well, the Pixies… So I’ve been listening to it on repeat ever since, and you know what? I reckon I like them just as much as SY!

‘I Can’t Give Everything Away’ – David Bowie

Despite the fact that I’d been beyond excited about it since rumours started spreading of its existence, I didn’t listen to Blackstar on the day it was released. I’d preordered it on vinyl as soon as the chance was available, and I knew it was going to be incredible – so I decided I would wait until my vinyl arrived, so I could truly appreciate its greatness on the first listen. Of course, between its release and its arrival on my doorstep, something happened: it was announced that David Bowie had passed away. That night, a lot of things flew through my head as I tried to contend with my grief – one of these things was an incredible regret, as I’d never have the chance to listen to the album without its now-apparent context…

My copy of Blackstar arrived a week later, almost to the minute. It sat on my record player for a couple of weeks, but eventually, I worked up the courage to play it. This was a strange experience; musically, I loved it, yet I found it incredibly difficult and emotional to listen to, as well. ‘I Can’t Give Everything Away’  was perhaps the pinnacle of this – it was such a great song, yet it also happened to the most melancholy on the album. Yet, I still love it. It sounds like the future, so heady and positively intergalactic – proof that Bowie will always be 20 years ahead of the rest of us. A few weeks ago, a music video was released for it. It was so beautiful – surprisingly uplifting, too – and I gained even more of an appreciation for the song. As I watched the video, it proved to me that my sadness at his passing would never lessen the incredible way his art makes me feel – it remains too powerful, too brilliant for that…

‘Perfect Day’ – Lou Reed

And so, I find myself at the beginning, again. I, too, first heard this on the Trainspotting soundtrack – yet unlike ‘Lust For Life’, it wasn’t love at first hearing. ‘It’s not as good as the Velvets,’ I remember telling my mum at the time. Yet, at some point – last year? this year? – something really changed. Because now it – a song recorded by one of my favourite artists and produced by another (Bowie!) – is among my all-time favourite. It’s so incredible, so beautiful, so moving. I’d be glad to spend any day with this song, perfect or not…

So, what are your go-to songs as the cold weather begins to set in? Be sure to tell me in the comments!

You can listen to the whole thing here!

And here’s an appropriately-themed song to finish off…

Vale George Martin

 

Rest in peace.

 
So saddened to hear that the great Sir George Martin has passed away. He was such a huge part of what made The Beatles so great – his production on each of their tracks is incredible to listen to, and everything he added to their music enhanced so much of their work, often lifting it from ‘great’ to bonafide masterpiece status. I’ll never forget the first time I heard his mono mix of Revolver; ‘A Day In The Life’s apocalyptic orchestra; ‘In My Life’s beautiful (sped-up) piano; ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’; ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’; ‘Eleanor Rigby’ – all greatly affected by his work. He always seemed a true gentleman, too. 

May he rest in peace.

Happy birthday George Harrison!

image

I’ve posted this picture a few times before, but anyway…

As I’m sure most people reading this blog are aware, yesterday* would’ve been George Harrison’s 73rd birthday!

I’m not going to write much, today (I’ve written plenty before) – but here are a few words, nonetheless.

George’s musicality was, hands down, among the greatest in rock: the subtle yet great suggestions he made to various Beatles songs (see the bridge of ‘We Can Work It Out’, for example), often transforming them; his guitar skills, perhaps the greatest example of the ‘keep it simple’ rule – so understated, yet often among the highlights of whatever song happened to be gifted with them, so expressive and practically ethereal; and, of course, his songwriting – musically, beautiful, strong & emotive, and lyrically, poetic and criminally underrated. He seemed like such a incredible person, too – selfless, kind, intelligent, funny. I feel like our world needs more people like him, today. It’s frustrating that he remains, by far, the most underrated Beatle, that the public are generally unaware of his amazing contributions to the band and music in general – but as I wrote in a previous post, those that know of his greatness are aware that this is such wonderful knowledge to have!

But now, I’m going to let his music speak. So happy birthday, George! Hope you had a great day, wherever you may be…

(Please excuse the lack of Beatles – annoyingly, they’ve been taken off YouTube, and seemingly off Vimeo and other sites, too…)

*You probably also know that there’s a bit of confusion surrounding George’s actual birthdate – a few sources have claimed that he was, in fact, born in the late hours of the 24th, but a bit of Googling seems to suggest that the true date is the 25th.

And so this is Christmas…

Merry Christmas! (via pinterest.com)

Merry Christmas!
(via pinterest.com)

I have an admission to make: I haven’t been in the Christmassy mood this year. Blame this on the fact that I’m Australian. Aussie Christmasses basically consist of hot weather  (this year in Adelaide, it’s set to be just below 40 degrees Celsius) and following traditions started in England and America that are probably more suited to weather around the 40 degree-Fahrenheit mark. Blame this also on the world’s mad rush that begins with the festive season, and the stress of leaving one’s house that ensues. Oh, how I’d love a cold, calm Christmas…

But considering today is Christmas Eve, my Christmassy apathy is something I am going to change. And I’m going to go about this one of the few ways a music blogger knows how: with some Christmas tunes! So here are some of my favourite festive-themed tracks… Enjoy!

‘Christmas Time Is Here Again’: The Beatles

‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’: John Lennon, Yoko Ono, The Plastic Ono Band and the Harlem Community Choir

‘Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy’: David Bowie & Bing Crosby

‘Father Christmas’: The Kinks

‘Christmas’: The Who

‘Merry Xmas Everybody’: Slade

‘Jesus Christ’: Big Star

‘Ghost of Christmas’: The Manic Street Preachers

‘Winter Wonderland’: Cocteau Twins

‘Christmas Wrapping’: The Waitresses

‘Santa Claus’: Throwing Muses

‘Got Something For You’: Best Coast and Wavves

If you’d like to listen to the playlist in its entirety, here it is!

So, what are your favourite Christmas songs? Be sure to tell me in the comments!

Hope you all have a very merry Christmas, and a great final week of 2015! 🙂

For George, John and Jim

The ten-or-so days from November 29th to December 8th is an odd time to be a music fan – or for me, anyway. Between these two dates are anniversaries of the deaths of two icons of rock, and what would have been the birthday of another. Each of these people have played important roles in my musical adventures, so today I will pay tribute to them.

November 29th marked the 14th anniversary of George Harrison’s death.

image

Recently, I acquired a copy of All Things Must Pass on vinyl. I had not listened to to the album in a while, as it had been pulled from YouTube and I had been previously unable to find a physical copy. I soon got around to playing it, and as the opening slide guitar hooks of ‘I’d Have You Anytime’ began, I remembered just how amazing it is. The album is perhaps the greatest showcase of George’s incredible musicality; his songwriting (catchy, yet not poppy ), his lyrics (perhaps the most underrated aspect of his already-undervalued work – often poetic, yet not too wordy), his guitar skills (expressive, ethereal in its adeptness). The album is a body of incredibly well-written and well-played work; passionate & beautiful, and ‘technically’ good, too. This greatness is translated to much of his other work, as well, both solo and with The Beatles: listen to ‘Something’ or ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ (or any of his Beatles tracks from Rubber Soul onwards), or solo hits like ‘Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)’. (Many of these songs also display George’s extremely underrated lead guitar skills – his work was always simple, but sounded incredible. It is a pity he is not given more recognition for this.) Still, his work is still very underrated by the public, limited to knowledge of perhaps ‘Here Comes The Sun’ (and the assumption that his cuts were written by Lennon/McCartney) – but those that know of his songs know of their greatness, too. And what knowledge that is!

It should also be mentioned that Monty Python’s Life Of Brian wouldn’t exist without George. Ever since I first watched it as a kid, Brian has been an endless supply of laughs and bad puns, so thank you, George!

SEE ALSO: ‘All Things Must Pass’; ‘Happy Birthday George Harrison!’

December 8th marked the 35th anniversary of John Lennon’s death.

john

Regular readers of this blog will know that I consider John to be both my favourite Beatle and one of my heroes in general. I have said a lot about him before, but I will say it again: John is someone I admire for his incredible body of work, his humour and intelligence, his outspokenness and fearlessness and for the way he changed the world. His lyrics and music were the first thing that piqued my interest in rock, which has since become my greatest passion. He inspired me to begin playing guitar, and he was the first musician that made me want to be one, as well. His eagerness to speak up about inequality, war and other political problems – the fact that he and Yoko were not pleased to sit idly and watch world issues breed – is also something that I hugely respect to this day, and whilst I was politically aware long before I became a Beatles fan, it was his activism that made me think more deeply about my beliefs, too. He has greatly affected my life.

The tragic way that John died does not warrant mentioning. It is both especially saddening and ironic, considering that his mainstream reputation is that of a peace activist. However, John has left an amazing body of work and an incredible influence and legacy, and I feel that this is what is worth remembering. So thank you, John!

SEE ALSO: ‘Happy Birthday John!’ (2014)‘I Think I’m Gonna Be Sad – I Think It’s Today’‘Happy Birthday John Lennon’ (2015)

December 8th would have also been Jim Morrison’s birthday. He would have been 71.

(via wikipedia.org)

(via wikipedia.org)

I can barely remember a time when I didn’t know about The Doors. I listened to their music as a young kid – especially LA Woman – and when I acquired my first iPod, I can also remember being shocked that the title track of said album’s lyrics involved the word ‘damn’, and was adamant that a “song with swearing” wouldn’t enter my music library! As I grew a little older, though, The Doors’ dark psychedelia fascinated me, and they’ve been one of my favourite bands ever since.

Perhaps the greatest case for why I like The Doors is Morrison’s lyrics and poetry. He wrote beautifully eloquent words of thought-provoking subjects, which often still resonate today. It is his way with words that gives a song like ‘The End’ its broodingly dramatic mood, making it arguably among the greatest of all time. His lyrics are part of why The Doors’ music is so different to their contemporaries, and of what makes them so interesting. He was clearly an incredibly intelligent and creative guy, and though troubled around the time of his death, who knows what things he would have done had he lived? I also feel that he is underrated as a vocalist. His voice was incredible and was so different from those around him – it suited the musical atmospheres created by Manzarek, Krieger and Densmore perfectly. It is amazing that a band who released their classic discography within four years – and whose frontman didn’t make it to 30 – managed to change the world as much as they did…

Also, apologies for my sporadic posting of late – I’ll definitely post more over the coming weeks! 🙂

HAPPY (belated) BIRTHDAY JOHN LENNON!

john david bailey

(Image by David Bailey)

Author’s Note: I began this post a little over three weeks ago, on John’s actual birthday, but due to schoolwork, interstate trips and mild writers’ block, have taken the better part of a month to finish it. Oh well – at least I published it before November!

Quite a number of musicians I admire had their birthday, on October 9th – John Entwistle; PJ Harvey; Sean Ono Lennon. But most importantly, it would have been the 75th birthday of my favourite Beatle, John Lennon. Wishing John a very, very happy birthday, wherever he may be! I’ve written about John a lot on my blog, and I shall add to what I have already said, today.

For as long as I’ve been a Beatles fan, John has been my favourite Beatle. I cannot remember why I chose him, at first. During this time, I could barely tell each band member apart in the few images I had seen of them – let alone know much about John. Perhaps it was something to do with him being referenced in a novel I was reading at the time, and the fact that I liked ‘Imagine’.

However, it was him I chose, and it quickly became clear – as my knowledge of John and The Beatles quickly expanded – that he would have become my favourite Beatle, regardless of who I had picked first. As I sifted through interviews, read numerous biographies and watched just as many documentaries, John was the Beatle who interested me the most. Of course, I liked the other Beatles, too – George, in particular, has always interested me as well – but it was John who stood out.

At that point in time (the first half of 2013), my knowledge of rock music was limited to its successor in the popularity race: the current incarnation of pop. Rockstars were no longer figureheads of pop culture, instead replaced by boybands and other assorted popstars. So as I gradually became more knowledgeable about both John and The Beatles, perhaps one of the reasons he fascinated me so was that he was so different to the celebrities I had become accustomed to. Instead of singing formulaic songs written by a team of songwriters, John (like Paul and George) mainly wrote his own – accompanied by interesting, meaningful lyrics, and some of the most unconventionally inventive and memorable chord progressions and melodies to ever come out of rock. (At this point in time, I was yet to learn that writing your own songs was commonplace in rock music, so I was especially surprised. However, at the time of ‘Love Me Do’ and Please Please Me, a band penning their own hits would have been somewhat rare, as well – only a handful of rock and pop artists before The Beatles wrote their own songs.) Through reading interview transcripts, and watching both documentaries and Beatles films, I saw that he was both funny and intelligent, qualities that seemingly lacked the personalities of the pop stars that my world was saturated with. His political awareness, too, captivated me – I don’t think I’d ever heard of a politically-aware celebrity before John.

The music, unsurprisingly, was what drew me in first. I had been having music lessons – on both violin and flute – for a number of years beforehand, but my technical knowledge was exclusively limited to the classical concepts I had been taught; and despite being raised on my parents’ wonderful music taste – ranging from Mick Taylor-era Stones and The Doors’ LA Woman, to Petula Clark and Dusty Springfield (both of whom I loved as a small child) – I never showed much interest in rock. The Beatles’ and John’s music was the first that caught my attention, and the first music that I was passionate about. To my classically-trained ears, it all sounded incredibly different to what I knew – even now, with considerably more knowledge of rock and jazz theory, it still sounds “different”. They used chord progressions and fingerings that deviate almost completely from the accepted standards. Sometimes, on John’s songs, there would barely be a melody at all – John’s tunes were traditionally more rhythmic than melodic – but they still managed to be incredibly catchy, and among the best-written songs of all time. Inside their catalogue, which I had only just begun to devour, I discovered everything from tender ballads to psychedelic freak-outs, perfect pop tunes to ear-splitting hard rock, beautiful folk songs to searing garage cuts – sometimes incorporating the values of a number of genres into one. Their musical accomplishments on their respective instruments, whilst not of the classical technicality I knew, were undeniably great – John’s guitar inspired me so much that I began to learn guitar a few months later, something which has now become one of my favourite things in the world. They incorporated elements from classical, jazz and, of course, traditional Indian music into their songs, a concept that I thought genius; and I found their love of experimentalism in the studio – i.e. backmasking, tape loops, etc. – endlessly fascinating. It is this that shows their incredible creativity and inventiveness as a band; it is this that makes them so great. And even then, when I barely knew what a chord was – let alone anything concerning the technicalities of rock music – it was this that I first liked about the music of John and The Beatles. It was this inventiveness that has ensured that they have stayed the kings of rock music for over 50 years, and likely will for many to come.

And through John and The Beatles, I began to receive my education in rock music. As I skimmed through Wikipedia pages for each Beatles song, I discovered the differences between ‘solos’ and ‘instrumentals’; why you don’t have to be technically good to play quality rock’n’roll – just passionate; that lyrics shouldn’t have to rhyme to be among the best ever written (see ‘Across The Universe’). I soon learnt what a chord actually was, and the rules for piecing them together – which, with enough knowledge, are prime for being broken. I learnt how melodies lock together with the rhythm guitar, and drums, and bass; in fact, I learnt about what functions basses and drums serve, full stop. I learnt that there is more than one kind of guitar, and what purpose each kind – rhythm & lead, acoustic & electric – carries out. I soon discovered that John played rhythm guitar incredibly well (see here), so I wanted to pick it up as well – I began learning guitar in the January of 2014, among the best things I ever did, again widening my understanding my understanding (and knowledge) of “contemporary” music. I haven’t prepared for a classical violin exam for over a year, and don’t plan on doing so again, instead replacing the traditional methods with blues fiddle. I began to widen my music tastes and listen to artists other than The Beatles and their solo careers: beginning with The Velvet Underground, The Violent Femmes and the early Stones, and ending up today with tastes in everything from punk to noise rock to psychedelia to blues to folk, and just about everything in between. I dropped my somewhat snobbish opinion that no good music was created after 1980, and discovered a number of favourite artists from each decade, from the ’50s to this year. I began writing songs; I became an aspiring musician; I became a rock music fanatic. And whilst John and The Beatles no longer remain my sole influence – rather a part of an influential melting pot, consisting of everyone from Kim Gordon to the Violent Femmes to David Bowie to Tame Impala – they will always be my first. Rock music has influenced and inspired most of my life for nearly three years, and I can’t even imagine how different it would be if I hadn’t (somewhat accidentally) been introduced to The Beatles, one morning in early 2013.

John’s lyrics, too, had a similar impact. I had never listened to a song’s lyrics seriously before – because, I thought, what was to be taken seriously about them? During a time when the famously eloquent tune ‘Blurred Lines’ (sarcasm intended) was topping the charts, and we had all been subjected to the equally-articulate ‘Gangnam Style’ and ‘Call Me Maybe’ for the previous year, quality lyrics weren’t exactly a requirement for pop hits. They never had been, I guess, but I liked lyrics – I wrote poetry as a hobby, and I wanted to hear words that actually made sense, and were written about something other than a bad dance that would go viral on YouTube. Again, as I ploughed my way through The Beatles’ back catalogue, I discovered another of John’s talents – his writing. He wrote about love, but it wasn’t his sole subject; he wrote about everything from his politics to friendship, loneliness to happiness. He wrote about his life and experiences, and this added an emotion and passion that couldn’t be there otherwise. He managed to use as few words as possible, and yet convey the point of his song more beautifully than more could have. The fact that same man wrote ‘Across The Universe’, its beautiful lyrics a strong factor of the song’s dreamy atmosphere; ‘Revolution’, somewhat cynical yet still wonderfully idealistic at its core; the melancholia of ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’; the joyousness of ‘All You Need Is Love’ – this amazed me.  His writing revealed an eloquence, an intelligence and the right balance between seriousness and humour that represented what I had been looking for, lyrically.

Of course, John’s writing skills also shine through on his books, In His Own Write and A Spaniard In The Works. (Despite having been a hardcore fan for nearly three years, I have not gotten around to reading Skywriting By Word Of Mouth – yet…) I read the two of them a little over a year afterwards, and adored them instantly. They are absolutely hilarious, consisting of clever wordplay and punnery, satirising everything from politics and religion to life in general – and, of course, accompanied by cute illustrations to match each short story or poem! They showcase John’s incredibly unique (and funny) sense of humour, and I don’t think I have read anything like them before – or since.

(By John himself!)

(By John himself!)

Another thing about John that I liked was his political activism. I grew up in a house where we frequently discussed political issues, so I had always been surrounded by a political awareness, and just as I was getting into The Beatles, I had simultaneously begun to develop beliefs of my own. As I listened to more of John’s music, and discovered more about him, I discovered more about his political efforts as well: ‘Imagine’; the catchy and effective ‘Give Peace A Chance’, recorded at his and Yoko’s famous Bed In; the ever-controversial ‘Woman Is The Nigger Of The World’, which – when paired with the definition of the ‘n-word’ that John used whilst defending the song on the Dick Cavett Show – deserves more respect than it gets; the word-ninja criticism of politicians in ‘Gimme Some Truth’; John’s appearance at the John Sinclair Freedom Rally, soon after which Sinclair was released; the fact that the Nixon government felt so threatened by John as to attempt to deport him. His outspokenness and passion for political issues appealed to me – not only the fact that, like a lot of young people during his time, he was not afraid to rebel against the mainstream beliefs of the system, but that he spoke up about what he believed in, too. Instead of seeing John’s politics as naive, as many have done in recent years, I see them as incredibly interesting and thought-provoking, regardless of whether I agree. If anything, they encouraged a number of people to think about their views, which is always a good thing. And it was John’s fearless outspokenness on issues he cared about that aided this – the fact that he and Yoko weren’t afraid to publicly disapprove of everything from war to the patriarchy on prime-time chat shows is inspiring. I sometimes wonder what he would think of the world today: where terrorism threats frighten our governments into fighting back with yet more war, where Australia hasn’t seen a prime minister hold a full term since before the invention of the iPhone, where numerous civil wars rage across the world, where 1 in 5 Australian women don’t have anywhere near enough superannuation due to the gender pay gap. It is sad that we don’t have more celebrities like him today, who are willing to put aside their carefully-cultivated images to be loud about issues that affect our world.

(popmatters.com)

(popmatters.com)

Today, a small but vocal number of people have taken it upon themselves to attempt to destroy John’s legacy by creating serious and inexcusable allegations about him, using various ill-informed online sources. This saddens me, and not only because many of these claims can easily be debunked with a little research. I disagree with referring to John (or anyone, for the record), as a saint – John certainly was not one. (He was an incredibly complex man, by many accounts, and to reduce him to a caricature of a perfect “angel” who served solely to protest for peace is erasing all the other interesting things about him.) Seeing one’s role-model as a divine figure and worshipping them blindly is not particularly healthy. But barely anyone is a saint. No-one is perfect, and this is something humanity knows well – so why should we expect the impossible from our heroes and leaders? Whilst some of John’s behaviour shouldn’t be condoned, people need to remember the myriad of good things he did, as well – these outweigh the (truthful) bad. He made beautiful music; he wrote great lyrics, and hilarious books; he was a wonderfully positive political influence, even if just for getting young people to think about the subject; he’s been described as intelligent, witty and a genuinely nice guy by many people who knew him; he was in the greatest band that ever was, and probably ever will be. Our world would be a lesser place if it wasn’t for his contributions.

And so, a very happy – and very, very belated! – birthday to my favourite Beatle, John Lennon. Thank you for inspiring me, and for your wonderful influence on our world. 🙂

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image

10 Of The Beatles’ Best Vocal Performances

(via paulontheruntour.blogspot.com)

(via paulontheruntour.blogspot.com)

One of my favourite things about The Beatles is how they never had a lead singer. Each member had opportunities to sing, and with this, they brought their four contrasting perspectives to the band’s music. And of course, they had two of the greatest rock singers of all time: Paul, his voice one of the few with technical merits in rock music, and John, traditionally rougher, yet arguably more passionate and raw. So with all this, it is hardly surprising that there are plenty of stunning moments in The Beatles’ discography when it comes to vocals. So today, I’m naming a few of my favourites! So, in no particular order:

‘This Boy’ (B-side to ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’, 1963)

SUNG BY: John, Paul & George

‘This Boy’ was the public’s introduction to the three-part harmonies that John, Paul and George would practise together, and what an introduction it is! The three sing absolutely beautifully together, their contrasting voices fitting perfectly. John’s lead, too, during the bridge is wonderfully passionate and raw. Although ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’s cultural impact was obviously considerably larger, it is these vocals that make the B-side musically superior, in my opinion.

‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’ (The White Album, 1968)

SUNG BY: John

‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’ is perhaps the best example of John’s vocal abilities. Each section of the song – spanning from surreal psychedelia, to hard rock, to (somewhat satirical) doo-wop – demands a different kind of singing, and John handles this task with ease. Changing swiftly from low to high, and switching styles – from heavier, rockier vocals in the middle, to a lighter falsetto tone in the end – to suit each section’s respective genre, his vocals are especially wide-ranging and impressive here.

‘Helter Skelter’ (The White Album, 1968)

SUNG BY: Paul

‘Helter Skelter’ is among The Beatles’ heaviest songs – of which there are many, of course, but few as influential as this. Often regarded as one of the first metal songs, it is easy to see why. Alongside the relentless instrumentation is Paul’s vocal. Much like his Little Richard impersonation from earlier in the band’s career, but with more bite, Paul screams the lyrics like a true metal singer. Dirty, menacing and raw, they are arguably the best part of a song that foreshadowed Zeppelin’s debut album by several months…

‘Because’ (Abbey Road, 1969)

SUNG BY: John, Paul & George

‘Because’ is the last Beatles song to feature John, Paul & George’s famously magnificent three-part harmonies. Each Beatle’s voices were overdubbed twice, creating a chorus of nine voices in total, adding to the overwhelming beauty of arguably the prettiest ballad on Abbey Road. The kind of vocals that send tingles down the listener’s spine, the song shows that even when the band was rife with infighting, they still possessed a musical chemistry that most bands can only dream of.

‘Girl’ (Rubber Soul, 1965)

SUNG BY: John

John’s vocals on ‘Girl’ are almost hypnotic. Like with ‘Oh! Darling’ for Paul (see below), the song contains one of John’s most passionate performances. He doesn’t just sing the lyrics; he conveys them – acts them, almost – with such an emotion, a sadness and yearning for the girl that the narrator will never have. They highlight the complexity and beauty of the song, adding to the magnificence of one of John’s best ballads.

‘Here, There and Everywhere’ (Revolver, 1966)

SUNG BY: Paul

One of my Beatles songs – and probably my favourite Paul-penned one – ‘Here, There and Everywhere’s vocals are delicately beautiful in style, much like the song itself. Paul’s dreamy lead highlights the song’s exquisiteness; however, his vocals are not the only stand-out, in my opinion. John and George’s Beach Boys-inspired backing vocals are stunning, too, and aid in bringing a beautiful song, regardless of its arrangement, to a truly ethereal level.

‘Long, Long, Long’ (The White Album, 1968)

SUNG BY: George

‘Long, Long, Long’, in my opinion, has George’s best Beatles vocals. A soft, “floating” folk song, George’s singing is understated and gentle, suiting the track excellently. However, during the middle eight, the vocals become more intense and stirring, in a way that his singing had never been before. The vocals are perhaps the best part of a song that has long (no pun intended!) been among my Beatley favourites…

‘Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey’ (The White Album, 1968)

SUNG BY: John

‘Everybody’s…’ is another of my favourite Beatles hard rock songs – it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it’s incredibly fun to listen to. John’s vocals are essential to this quality. Whilst not as rousing as, say, ‘Girl’, they are perfect for the song; quite high, and slightly rough (in a good way), they are just as fun as the music itself. Together with the great guitars, they help make one of my favourite songs on the White Album!

‘Oh! Darling’ (Abbey Road, 1969)

SUNG BY: Paul

Each day for a week before recording ‘Oh! Darling’, Paul would go to Abbey Road each morning and practise the song to roughen his voice, as he felt it was too clear beforehand. And boy, was it worth it! Paul’s vocals on ‘Darling’, to me, are his most passionate and are perhaps his best. Like with ‘Helter Skelter’, he screams the words, but with an emotion that was missing a little from the former. They give the song a feeling that makes it among the best on Abbey Road.

‘I’m Only Sleeping’ (Revolver, 1966)

SUNG BY: John

John’s vocals sound fittingly lazy on ‘I’m Only Sleeping’. Of course, ‘lazy’ in the best possible sense – he sighs the lyrics tiredly, yet passionately, like someone who has recently been woken, and is pleading to be left alone. However, he adds the right amount of effort to his performance, making it particularly good. As with ‘Here, There and Everywhere’, the backing vocals are also a highlight – delightfully whimsical, they, too, suit the lazily psychedelic vibe of the song.

 

What are your favourite Beatles vocal performances? Be sure to tell me in the comments!

My 15 Favourite Albums on the 16th

Reading through the most recent posts of my blog post feed this morning, I found many people had participated in the #top15onthe15th tag, and listed their 15 favourite albums. And I decided I’d add my opinion to the mix, too! Of course, it is well and truly the 16th in Australia, now, but anyway… This list certainly isn’t comprehensive. My full list of all-time favourite albums would probably only fit on ten rolls of toilet paper, and narrowing it down to 15 was certainly hard! But anyway, in no particular order…

Revolver (1966) The Beatles (1968): The Beatles

Revolver the white album

Revolver is easily my favourite album of all-time. Featuring everything from dark, mysterious psychedelic rock, to a garage song with searing hot guitar, to spellbinding, well-crafted ballads, it possesses a special kind of magic. It was the album that made me realise just how special The Beatles – and music, in general – are. ‘Genius’ is oft overused, but it certainly applies here.

Compared with the perfectionism of Sgt Pepper, The White Album isn’t technically good at all. But technicality and perfectionism has never been an essential requirement in good rock music, and the album is perhaps one of the best embodiments of this. Sprawling from proto-metal to soft folk to avant-garde musique concrete to vaudevillian jazz to good-ol’ fashioned rock’n’roll, it transcends genres. Whilst it’s certainly self-indulgent in parts, this contributes to the unconventional vibe of the album. And that – its eccentricity –  is what makes it so great.

Hunky Dory (1971) & The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (1972): David Bowie

hunky dory ZiggyStardust

Hunky Dory is a work of musical art. Displaying Bowie’s eclectic gift for songwriting – ranging from the pop of ‘Changes’, to the flamenco-infused folk of ‘Andy Warhol’, to the music hall-inspired ‘Oh! You Pretty Things, to the glam-rock of ‘Queen Bitch’ – each song is perfection. Lyrically, the album contains some of Bowie’s best, his unique imagery and way-with-words particularly evident on tracks such as ‘Life on Mars?’ and the aforementioned ‘Queen Bitch’. Utter genius!

There isn’t a single song I don’t love on Ziggy Stardust. Bowie tells the story of a rock star who takes it all too far – subject matter rarely broached by a popular musician – with surrealist imagery, his voice (ranging from the screaming passion of ‘Rock’n’Roll Suicide’ to the almost-lazy tone of ‘Suffragette City’), thought-provoking lyrical matter and guitars, drums and saxes that absolutely rock. It’s easy to see why it affected teenagers so much at its original release, and why it continues to do so – myself included – today…

Tommy (1969) & Quadrophenia (1973): The Who

Tommyalbumcover quadrophenia

Tommy was my first Who album, and continues to be the one I listen to the most. Whilst its narrative is more disjointed and less plausible than that of Quadrophenia, this is definitely accounted for with the music. Containing everything from the falsetto beauty of ‘See Me, Feel Me’, to the hard rock of ‘Go To The Mirror!’, to the (successful!) ambitiousness of the album’s instrumentals, it is certainly one of the band’s best.

Quadrophenia is definitely my favourite Who album. With it, the band reached levels of emotion, passion and musical virtuosity that would be the highest they’d ever reach. The tracks are something of songwriting genius, again arguably the best of The Who’s career. And though the story is incredibly sad, it’s ability to move listeners only serves as a testament to its power and importance.

Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967): The Rolling Stones

their satanic majesties request

An unpopular opinion here: Satanic Majesties – The Stones’ psychedelic experiment – is almost universally hated, by both fans and the band themselves. And yeah – the lows are unarguably very low (‘On With The Show’, anybody?), but its highs are incredibly high, as well. From the driving hard rock of ‘Citadel’, to the baroque pop of ‘She’s A Rainbow’ and – my favourite – the hypnotic, hazy psychedelia of ‘2000 Light Years From Home’, it is moments like these that make it so good.

The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967): The Velvet Underground (featuring Nico)

the velvet underground and nico

The Velvet Underground and Nico was the first non-Beatles album to affect me, and it’s easy to see why. Incredibly edgy, yet with its share of exquisite beauty; the voices of Lou Reed and Nico delightfully nonconformist; the lyrical matter still controversial to our 21st-century ears, it was totally unlike anything I’d heard before. Ranging from out-of-tune protopunk to the prettiest ballads, it is truly a masterpiece.

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967): Pink Floyd

PinkFloyd-album-piperatthegatesofdawn_300

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is – unlike the lengthy prog. rock of Pink Floyd’s later work (which, of course, are ‘gems’ as well) – is a psychedelic gem. The album patents a brand of wild, cacophonous psychedelia – heady and deeply rooted in the underground. Syd Barrett’s lyrics, too, are wonderful. Whimsical and naïve, they add a level of childlike innocence to the music. As much as I love the band’s prog era, it is – hands down – my favourite Floyd album.

The Doors (1967): The Doors

TheDoorsTheDoorsalbumcover

The Doors’ self-titled debut is often regarded as their best, and my opinion is no exception. An intriguing mix of psychedelia and jazz, the music is mysterious and dangerous; Ray Manzarek’s organ, in particular, adds a layer of shimmery beauty to the tracks. And of course, Jim Morrison’s lyrics are as well-written and fascinating as usual, his voice a contrast to the trends of the time…

John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (1970): John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band

JLPOBCover

John’s first post-Beatles solo album is a stark contrast to Abbey Road, the last album the band would record together. Musically, it’s pared back to tough, basic hard rock (with a couple of exceptions); lyrically, it’s a mixture of realism, denouncement of authority and a recurring theme of his painful childhood. But it’s contrast to The Beatles is, again, what makes it such a great album. John had moved on, and he had begun to make great art on his own.

Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit (2015): Courtney Barnett

sometimes i sit

Though only released in the March of this year, Courtney Barnett’s debut studio album quickly has become among my all-time favourites. I don’t know what it is about it – whether it be Barnett’s wonderfully witty and intelligent lyrics, her Australian accent, the music itself (a brand of grungy rock’n’roll rarely heard these days) – but it is impressively good, and will likely be listened to by indie fans alike many years from now…

Horses (1975): Patti Smith

PattiSmithHorses

I picked up Horses at a nearby record shop on a whim, a few months ago, to see if I agreed with all the accolade. I inserted it into the CD player, and turned it up loud. ‘Gloria’ began, with its serene piano chords and Smith’s famous lyric of “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine”. The music soon turned into unique arty punk, something which intrigued me. I felt a sense of liberation – maybe it was Smith’s lyrics, or her singing (which reminded me a little of my own), or her successful merging of bohemianism and punk. But anyway, I knew it was my kind of music. And I’ve loved it ever since.

Attack and Release (2008): The Black Keys

attack + release

Though The Black Keys have forever been plagued by comparisons to The White Stripes, it is with Attack and Release that they prove these claims blatantly wrong. Helped by their then-new partnership with producer Brian Burton (AKA Danger Mouse), it is the perfect mix between psychedelia, blues rock and punk, perhaps my favourite genres ever. Easily my favourite Keys album!

Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus (recorded 1968, released 1996): various

Rolling_Stones_Circus

This one’s self-explanatory. There is so much to love: a John Lennon-fronted supergroup (featuring Keith Richards on bass and Eric Clapton on lead guitar) playing a searing version of ‘Yer Blues’, an electrifying Who performance of their mini rock-opera, ‘A Quick One While He’s A Way’, a set from The Stones themselves, featuring a spine-chilling slide performance from Brian Jones and a rendition of ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ seven months before its release… Virtually my musical dream!

So, what are your favourite albums of all time? Be sure to tell me in the comments!

6 Of My Favourite Covers By The Beatles

(Via billboard.com)

(via billboard.com)

Over the course of their career, The Beatles recorded a total of 25 covers. Not that many, when put into the context of the band’s 219-song-strong catalogue. And mostly consisting of rock’n’roll songs from the ’50s and Motown tunes from the early ’60s, all of their non-originals (sans ‘Maggie Mae’ from Let It Be) stem from the early period of the group. But although some – such as ‘Twist and Shout’ and ‘Please Mr Postman’ – are deservedly well-known, many remain overshadowed by the sheer quality of John, Paul and George’s original work. However, in my opinion, among The Beatles’ covers are some of the band’s best moments! And so, here are six of my favourites…

6. ‘Baby It’s You’

Although Rubber Soul and Revolver are generally regarded as the band’s “turning point”, ‘Baby It’s You’ (a cover of The Shirlees’ 1961 song, found on Please Please Me) is perhaps The Beatles’ earliest experimental moment. Foreshadowing Soul by nearly three years, the song features a solo from a half-piano-half-xylophone instrument named a celesta played by George Martin. Relatively unknown even now, the instrument’s usage in a pop song would have been practically unheard of in early 1963! Asides from the celesta, the song also plays host to a beautifully raw and passionate vocal performance from John. One of the best cuts from Please Please Me.

5. ‘Kansas City/Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey’

Originally a medley that Little Richard would play live (featuring both his own song, ‘Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey’, and KC Lovin’s 1952 track ‘Kansas City’), The Beatles’ version of ‘Kansas City/Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey’ features one of Paul’s best vocal performances. One of several Beatles tunes which he sings in his high, screaming ‘Little Richard voice’, Paul nails the style perfectly! The guitar, sharp and exciting, also serves the song very well, and there’s something about those backing vocals…

4. ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’

Beginning with a killer piano riff, The Beatles’ cover of Barrett Strong’s 1959 song only goes upwards from there! Sometimes referred to as the second coming of ‘Twist and Shout’, Ringo’s relentless drumming and George’s dark guitar add a gritty drive to the song that The Beatles had never created on record before. Paul’s enthusiastic backing vocals, too, add to the energetic power of the song. But the highlight of the tune is John’s stunning vocals – like ‘Twist and Shout’, he screams the lyrics with such persistent stamina. And that is what makes the song for me.

3. ‘Long Tall Sally’

Also originally by Little Richard, The Beatles’ cover of ‘Long Tall Sally’ is one of the band’s rawest rock’n’roll moments! Like with number 5, Paul’s impressive vocal performance is the high point of the song – amazingly high-pitched and rock’n’roll, they completely contradict the melodic ballads that Paul is stereotypically known for. The two guitar solos (played by John and George, respectively), too, are wonderfully gritty, and John’s rhythm guitar at the end is awesome…

2. ‘You Really Got A Hold On Me’

A Smokey Robinson cover from With The Beatles, the slow soul of ‘You Really Got A Hold On Me’ is in contrast to most of the songs on this list. But it is, yet again, the vocals that make the song. John’s vocal performance is exquisitely soulful and impassioned, conveying the emotion of the song perfectly. Fitting flawlessly alongside George and Paul’s parts, the band’s chemistry is on full show here.

1. ‘Twist And Shout’

‘Twist and Shout’ is unarguably one of The Beatles most powerfully raw songs. John infamously lost his voice after recording the iconic vocals, and you can hear the band’s adrenaline throughout the song! Recorded in merely one take, John’s rough, intense vocals practically epitomise rock’n’roll. And the guitar, bass and drums are such impressively energetic, especially when the fact that it was recorded at the end of a 12-hour session is taken into account. In a way, the song – the final track on Please Please Me – foreshadows the chaos, the cultural changes and (more) great music that The Beatles were still yet to bring to the world…

What are your favourite covers by The Beatles? Be sure to tell me in the comments!