Sunday, April 15, 2007

It's what's in the GROOVES that count...
This old slogan of Gordy Records, a Motown label, really applies here...

Remember when AM radio used to be the main outlet for pop music? FM was mainly for classical music or the ever-oh-so-dry-and-clinical National Public radio. These days, FM is the main music vendor, and it seems that radio stations have to be "all-this" or "all-that". So, you can tune in one station and get your ears bombed by heavy, thrashing punk metal that has all the musicality of your average McCulloch chainsaw, then you can go to another station for nothing but '80s and 90's electric-techno-dance-subpop, and you can go to still another station for all the yee-haw-high-falootin-country-that-sounds-like-watered-down-rock and roll you can stand; the only thing that makes it country is that the singer has a 'twang' and they throw a steel guitar in there for good measure. Trouble is, I get bored with "one thing all the time", which is why, after a while, I find too much blues just repetitively boring; variety is the spice of life, after all, and to me, it's the spice in music as well.

I suppose that if you're looking for a wide variety of music on any one station, your best bet is to find a station that is "all-oldies". But even then, you're not going to hear Englebert Humperdinck and Steppenwolf on the station at the same time. Englebert's "Release Me" came out in 1967; it was a #4 hit here in the states, and in England, it actually prevented the Beatles' "Penny Lane"/"Strawberry Fields Forever" (allegedly the greatest single ever made) from reaching the #1 spot. Yep, "Release Me" was a #1 hit in England. Not bad for an out-of-fashion romantic crooner. But remember, that when the Beatles hit big over here, Bobby Vinton, another romantic crooner, kept on hitting the charts, and as much as I like good solid rock and roll, I like Bobby Vinton, too. A great song is a great song, no matter who performs it. And you couldn't lose with songs like "Blue Velvet", "Roses Are Red" or "Mr. Lonely".

As a matter of fact, in 1967, Bobby Vinton scored again with a remake of the old '50s song, "I Love How You Love Me". (Originally done by the Paris Sisters, I think.) 1967? "What, you say, wasn't that the year of flower power?" Well, yes it was...the first great rock festival was held that summer. (Monterey) I was only 13 at the time, but I remember how great all the music from '67 was. And, look at the names that appeared at the Monterey festival: The Mamas & Papas (pop/rock/folk), Jimi Hendrix (really heavy), The Who (heavy again), Hugh Masekela (jazz) and Otis Redding with a hard-charging set of funky soul. . On the radio in '67 were such diverse acts as Spanky and Our Gang (sort of a more-poppy Mamas & Papas), The Grass Roots (their "Let's Live For Today" was a huge hit, in a pop-rock vein), Aretha Franklin, soul sister #1, hit big with her treatment of "Respect", and that was right around the time the Beatles hit big with "All You Need Is Love". Eric Burdon and the Animals, who crafted a darkly mysterious blend of rock and blues, actually came out with a song about the Monterey Pop Festival; that, too, was a big hit.

Moving on into 1968, there was "bubblegum", which was a silly, bouncy, ultra-poppy kind of music, but hey, it was fun...songs like "Simon Says" by the 1910 Fruitgum Co., "Yummy Yummy Yummy" by the Ohio Express...The Rolling Stones had a huge heavy hit with "Jumping Jack Flash", and one of my favorite all-time songs came out that year, the 7-minute-plus symphonic opus, "MacArthur Park" by the actor, Richard Harris. Later that year, Jimi Hendrix came out with his stellar version of "All Along the Watchtower"; when you hear Bob Dylan's original version, it's amazing, the amount of imagination Hendrix had, to do "Watchtower" that way. And, how about 1968's "Born To Be Wild" by Steppenwolf, one of my favorite-ever bands...heavy, scorching, brooding rock and roll. I loved it all. The pop, the silly songs, the ballads, the rockers, and all of these types of music could be heard on any given rock station back then. Segregating popular music by breaking it down into "types" of music wasn't really done back then. Even country artists like Eddy Arnold, Jim Reeves, Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette and Buck Owens made the pop charts in the 60's.

1969 was also a great year for music. Back in '68, and up through 1969 (and into 1970), Creedence Clearwater Revival recorded some absolutely immortal, heavy, yet back-to-the-roots stuff; "Green River" is my idea of the perfect rock single; driving heavy beat, great guitars over the top, combined with John Fogerty's screams...and chances are, after the radio station played "Green River", you might have heard "In The Year 2525" by Zager and Evans; then, you might have heard "Smile A Little Smile For Me", a beautiful pop ballad by the Flying Machine, then perhaps you'd hear "Get Back" by the Beatles, after which your ears might encounter, say, Elvis Presley's "Suspicious Minds" or perhaps Jay and the Americans' remake of an old Drifters' song, "This Magic Moment". To this day, my favorite record albums have a wide variety of music on them, not just "all loud" or "all fast" or "all heavy". I think this is how the Beatles remained ever-so-popular; in my mind, they could do it all. You would never know that "All You Need Is Love" was recorded by the same band, who, only 3 years earlier, recorded "I Want To Hold Your Hand".

I haven't even begun to enumerate all of the wildly diverse musical flavorings I've heard that I've taken to heart; I could write so much more; here, I've barely touched the tip of the iceberg. There is an oldies station down here in Oregon that airs tapes of Wolfman Jack; now I know why everyone thought he was so great. He had fun with the music, he had fun with those who called into his program, and his radio show was just fun. What's wrong with being goofy and silly? Unfortunately, these days, nothing is much fun anymore, especially today's alternative rock which just drones on and on morosely, or today's loud rock, that emphasizes impact over any semblance of melody; it's just ugly stuff. What's the point of this post? I suppose it would be, that there are lots of types of music out there, spread out over a whole lot of radio stations; but way back when, you could hear most all of it on your typical top-40 radio station. Those were the days my friend, we thot they'd never end, we used to dance forever and a day...

Special thanks to Mr. Raymond Pert for inspiring this post. You know who you are. And, I 'spose if I hit a bit of blogger burnout, I can always re-visit the little turntable in my head.


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