Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Life Songs: ’70s

An awesome friend of mine once made a disc for me of ‘life songs’ – that is, a favourite song from every year of his life. I attempted to make one for him in return, but I couldn’t limit it to one song per year. I present for you here a revised version of that list.

Note that these aren’t the songs that were my favourite at the time (because that’s just embarrassing) – these are my current faves from those years. Also, this only includes songs I actually have on my system, so there’s more out there that could be added...

I was born in 1970, so let’s start with that first decade – 1970 to 1979!

  • Genesis – The Knife – ‘Stand up and fight for you know we are right, we must strike at the lies that have spread like disease through our minds’ – Peter Gabriel demands your full attention. You can safely skip From Genesis To Revelation – if you want to know old Genesis, just start right with Trespass.
  • Van Morrison – Moondance – This is a pretty hip song, the high-hat makes me think of lounge lizards but his buttery voice pulls it into the region of cool. Will always remind me of the shower scene in American Werewolf In London. I kinda like the Michael Bublé version. But not as much as this one.
  • Middle Of The Road – Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep – This is a new one for me in the past few years, it’s more than a little ridiculous but it totally sticks with me. The singer kinda reminds me of my friend Bethalona *grin*
  • Yes – Roundabout; Long Distance Runaround/The Fish – Let’s be honest here, Yes were a very talented group, with very cool melodies and, frankly, shit lyrics. Okay, maybe that’s not fair, I mean I went through that phase when I was twelve of writing things that sounded super deep to me but were really meaningless and pretentious… still, don’t try to make sense of the lyrics and it’s all fab.
  • Frank Zappa – My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama – That’s right. His guitar wants to kill your mama, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Weasels Ripped My Flesh had the coolest album cover.

  • Harry Nilsson – Think About Your Troubles – From The Point, which I can’t recommend highly enough. Simple, sweet song about the interconnectedness of all things, that’s also a good time-filler. I always felt very familial towards Harry Nilsson, like he was an uncle I hadn’t met yet.
  • David Bowie – Life On Mars?; The Bewlay Brothers – I can’t decide between these two, it depends on the mood I’m in. BBC’s Life On Mars totally stuck that one back in my head, but The Bewlay Brothers is a great rainy-day song, so melancholy.
  • Genesis – The Musical Box – There are a lot of good ones off Nursery Cryme, but this is the one that always grabs me. The quiet harmony with Phil in the background, and the twisted story (if you bother to listen). I love this particular video too, Peter’s in full hippy mode, flute and long hair and gold medallion and all.
  • Cat Stevens – The Wind; Changes IV – Also hard to choose a fave from Teaser and The Firecat. Just listen to the whole album. Comfort food for the ears. I like these two live versions too.
  • Yes – I’ve Seen All Good People – I stand by my previous assessment. By the way, have you heard Robert Downey Jr’s version of this? It’s pretty good, in a completely different way.
  • Gary Glitter – Rock and Roll pt 2 – Gary Glitter is gross. He seriously is icky. Even in his heyday, he looked like a child molester. But there’s no denying the power of this one. There’s a reason this is the go-to anthem for all sporting events.
  • The Hollies – Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress – Days spent with my Dad trying to figure out what the hell they were saying (trying to lip-read the video won’t help, just look up the lyrics). This is an awesome song, possibly the single coolest song ever written. The kind of thing you might find on a Stanard Ridgway album, kinda Dashiell Hammett in ray-bans.
  • Steely Dan – Do it Again – They had a sound that was so original, so different, and it’s brilliant. It envelopes you in a smoky glow.
  • Adriano Celentano – Prisencolinensinainciusol – This is another recent discovery for me – within the past few weeks in fact. The story goes that, at the time, most of the songs on the Italian charts were actually by American artists singing in English, and no one knew what they were saying, so Celentano recorded this gem to prove that it doesn’t matter what you say if the song is good. Which it is – totally sounds like an American (actually, quite like Bob Dylan in places) and it went straight up the charts. Also, it totally sounds like it could have been written last year. And the video is awesome.
  • David Essex – Rock On – No amount of shit covers can detract from the glory that is Rock On. Did he even have another song? I have no idea. Does it matter?
  • Genesis – Dancing With The Moonlit Knight – I think this is my favourite Genesis song. The first two lines, with no accompaniment, are so powerful I almost weep every time. Selling England By The Pound is also an excellent album, my favourite Gabriel-era Genesis album for sure.
  • Led Zeppelin – Over The Hills And Far Away – I’m a sucker for an acoustic guitar. Robert Plant has a voice of warm syrup, it drips and oozes into your bones. My Dad loves this one.
  • John Prine – A Good Time – A recent favourite – I’d always been more for Christmas In Prison or Dear Abby, but I was listening to the lyrics to this one day and I suddenly realized how beautiful it is. Leave it to a postman to be such a poet, eh? That link is a cover version, since I can’t find his version.
  • David Bowie – Fame; Fascination – This Bowie era has a hint of funk and a touch of edginess that I love to wallow in. We had a ’45 of Fame when I was little, I remember my brothers playing their cardboard guitars with Hot Wheels track necks to this. I was always jealous.
  • Bob Dylan – Buckets Of RainBlood On The Tracks is the most perfect Bob Dylan album that you’ll ever find. Seriously. I could have put any track from it on this list. But give this one a listen – the words are so simple, but they pluck a string in your heart you didn’t know was there.
  • Tom Waits – Warm Beer And Cold Women – Aw, poor Tom, surrounded by double-knit strangers. You can feel the smoke around you when you hear this, feel yourself sinking into the naugahyde couch.
  • Max Webster – Toronto Tontos – Why? ’cos it’s a LUNATIC song, and so different from the other Q107-type stuff at the time. Max Webster was just fun.
  • Leon Redbone – Ain’t Misbehavin’ – I grew up on this. I’ve seen him a few times now, and he was awesome every time. The least animated performer I’ve ever seen, and it didn’t matter one bit. Groucho with a mint julep.
  • Queen – You’re My Best Friend – Had a discussion with The Boy once about ‘friend’ songs and how they all suck. But we both agreed this was the exception to that – this is a great friends song. Not too sappy. Possibly my favourite Queen song, not sure. Short and sweet.
  • David Bowie – Golden Years – wop wop wop. The atmosphere in this track is so cool. I can see Bowie slinking around in a well-cut suit when I hear this one, with a heavy yellow spotlight. How do you see it?
  • Bob Dylan – Hurricane – When I was little, I loved this song because it was a story. I made a little comic strip of the scenes he painted. It wasn’t until I was much older that I discovered it was all true.
  • Thin Lizzy – The Boys Are Back In Town – there’s something a little grimy and dirty and roughed up about this song. I’m sad it’s not the TFC song anymore.
  • Genesis – Mad Man Moon – Peter Gabriel’s gone, Steve Hackett’s still hanging on and Phil Collins has taken over – but he’s still Anakin, isn’t Darth yet – and Trick Of The Tail is an excellent album. This track was really pretty while still having some punch in it. Fairly wore out the grooves on my album of this.
  • Gordon Lightfoot – Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald – of course. How could I not? Excellent song – Summertime Dream’s a pretty good album too, but this is definitely the highlight. So sad to think of the poor men, and their families.
  • Peter Gabriel – Solsbury Hill – any movie trailer becomes happy if you put this one in. I think I heard that this is supposed to be about him leaving Genesis, could easily be a load of crap but I like it.
  • Fleetwood Mac – Never Going Back Again – Everyone forgets about this song – Rumours was a monster of an album, and everything on it was spun gold, but this was overshadowed but the other tracks. Remember what I said about acoustic guitars? Dad loves this one too.
  • Rush – Cinderella Man – seriously, I only just realized a few years ago that this is a retelling of Mr Deeds Goes To Town. How did I miss that? Modest man from Mandrake? Ah well.
  • Steely Dan – Peg – Another one that’s an automatic classic. Very soulful, with Michael McDonald in the back.
  • Max Webster – Gravity – I can’t explain why I like it so much. Maybe it’s the whiney tone of the protagonist. He needed someone to tell him to grow a pair and deal, I think. Or is that mean? *grin*
  • Ace Frehley – Back in The New York Groove – Okay, I hated it then, but I totally love it now. The funk factor is definitely there, and it’s pretty insistent. Though the lyrics are, frankly, stupid.
  • Japan – Adolescent Sex – This is an AWESOME song to dance to. If you’ve got the energy for it. David Sylvian could make anything sound dirty. And this is my favourite version of it (there are two, I believe).
  • Kraftwerk – The Model – So ahead of their time, what can be said? Early pioneers of electronica, good combination of humanistic sound with mechanical overtones. Or is that mechanical sound with humanistic overtones?
  • Rush – La Villa Strangiato – so complicated and nuanced, they can’t play it beginning to end without messing it up somewhere. Seriously, not even when they first wrote it. It’s pretty awesome.
  • Rutles – Get Up And Go – Yes, it’s a parody of the Beatles. But Neil Innes is an utter genius. I constantly forget the words to Get Back because of this one.
  • Kate Bush – Them Heavy People – She was like nothing anyone had ever heard before when she showed up on the radio, she of the eight-octave range and the insane eyes. And she’s still pretty awesome, give her a listen sometime.
  • Klark Kent – Don’t Care – Stewart Copeland on a break from The Police, basically being an immature teenager and having way too much fun.
  • Gary Numan – Cars – Do I really need to explain why this is awesome?
  • The Police – Can’t Stand Losing You – So this was banned from airplay in England when it was released, as it’s about a guy who plans to commit suicide because he can’t live without his girlfriend. No one seemed to realize it wasn’t condoning it – I mean come on, do you think Every Breath You Take is a romantic song too? Also, the slightly punk-tinted reggae is infectious.
  • Frankie Valli – Grease – I was in denial about this song for a long time. But I saw Jersey Boys a couple of times last year and I’m over that now – this song is just epic. Grease is, indeed, the word.
  • Police – Bring On The Night; The Bed’s Too Big Without You – One’s about Gary Gilmore, wishing for his own death while strangers try to halt his execution. The other’s about the consequences of a love gone wrong. Both have that same reggae influence. Little confession: The Police were my entire life for almost a decade. Sexy music, and intelligent too (don’t say ‘but what about de do do do de da da da?’ – listen to the lyrics and think about it).
  • Frank Zappa – Broken Hearts Are For Assholes; Baby Snakes; Flakes; Bobby Brown Goes Down; City Of Tiny Lites; Dancin’ Fool – Okay, clearly it’s just gotta be the entire Sheik Yerbouti album. The first Zappa album I ever bought (instead of just listening to my brothers’ albums), from Poptones in Niagara Falls. Great band, awesome songs, that’s all.
  • David Bowie – Look Back In Anger – He sounds so anguished. You know who I am, he said.
  • Steve Hackett – The Virgin & The GypsySpectral Mornings is my favourite Steve Hackett album, it should be heard all together. Saw him live last year and it was more amazing than I could have hoped.
  • Queen – Crazy Little Thing Called Love – everyone assumes this is a cover, like maybe they couldn’t have come up with it on their own. Well guess what, story goes that Freddie wrote it in the bath in ten minutes. Ignore all covers, insist on the original. Accept no substitutes.
  • Tim Curry – I Do The Rock; Paradise Garage – go on, you know you want to. He has an awesome, theatrical voice, and these two songs just prove it. Of course, I still picture him in a merry widow, but I can’t be blamed for that, can I? Also, I can hear the strut in these. Oh, and I just noticed, in that photo he REALLY looks like my brother.
  • Nick Lowe – Cruel To Be Kind – Super catchy. Super fun. No other reason.

I’ll continue with the 80s when I get the urge.

Ever been to Grooveshark? I’ve made a ’70s playlist combining all the years if you want to go over and give it a listen. There’s also individual ones for each year, you can access all of my playlists over there…

So, what would you have included? Or are you afraid to give away your age? *grin* By the way, if you go to my page (see that music list in the bar there, with the x-ray behind it? Follow it!) you can see what I’ve been listening to lately. You know, if you’re curious.


  1. Thanks Tony! I missed out a bunch so I had to do a second post... :)