Hey Hey! I Love The Monkees!

The_Monkees_AlbumMention The Monkees to a group of people and watch the varied responses – it should be a sport unto itself. Even now – 47 years after the debut of The Monkees television show along with the start of a string of hits (top-selling act of 1967) – some of the reactions will be a scoff along with a dismissive “I guess somebody still likes them”. I discovered The Monkees during their mid 80’s revival, watching reruns of the television show on MTV. My Dad seemed to revel in the revival and could seemingly recite all the verses to the band’s bizarre (and funny) “Zilch” sketch / song. My name is Jason, and I LOVE The Monkees.

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The Beatles – Rubber Soul

beatles

Part 45 of a series that will run throughout 2013 as I discuss records that have affected me throughout the years – Flashback Fridays

I debated whether I should really tackle an album by The Beatles – probably the most popular and biggest band of all time (sorry Rolling Stones fans). I 1st became obsessed with all things Lennon while still barely into my teens and the sickness has only progressed from there (I even developed an appreciation for Mr. Lennon’s 3 Amigos over the years). When I was 1st getting interested in buying albums by The Beatles a family friend advised me that the cut off for acceptable records was Rubber Soul (the thought was that this was the end of the soft “tea” era / prior to the lads moving on to harder, mind altering “tea”). Of course, I ignored all such conservative rationale and spent all of my paper route money on every CD by the band (that’s about 13 LP’s and 2 odds ‘n’ sods collections for a span of 7 years). I love every record, but I have to admit – Rubber Soul still remains my favorite.

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The Monkees – Randy Scouse Git

monkeesAttack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

When knowledgeable people discuss groundbreaking music from the 60’s you get your usual suspects – The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Love, The Who, Buffalo Springfield….and maybe someone will mention Skip Spence or Moby Grape. The Monkees? Almost never. Manufactured pop group that slowly faded away by the early 70’s that had some great singles. I think that might be the common view (though it seems like it is slowly changing). My opinion? The Monkees were one of THE greatest groups of the 60’s. 4 distinctive voices with a variety of styles on each record – these guys were incredible. My favorite song by The Monkees (and one of my favorites of all time) is “Randy Scouse Git”. A ridiculously catchy drum beat followed by what I’d describe as a pop-waltz introduction with sweet vocals by Micky Dolenz (who also wrote the song). A loose word association game in the lyrics before exploding in the shouted chorus – a preview of the punk rock era that would make its mark on the world less than a decade later. A bid to be taken seriously and inspired by an encounter with The Beatles, this track still makes my jaw drop every time I listen to it. The track was taken from the Headquarters record and was a #5 hit in the UK (and was retitled “Alternate Title” as the song’s title means…well…horny bastard from Liverpool). I had the honor of seeing this track played live by Mickey Dolenz twice – the 1st in 1996 with The Monkees, and the 2nd just last year on his solo tour (in tribute to the fallen Monkee, Davy Jones). Each time he introduced the song with a charming story about the 1st time he met John Lennon and how it tied into everything that was happening with The Monkees in the late 60’s. An incredible performer, those two shows rank highly on my mental “favorite shows of all time”. The chorus puts you back in the turmoil of the late 60’s, with lyrics resonating from an unlikely source:

Why don’t you cut your hair?
Why don’t you live up there?
Why don’t you do what I do,
See what I feel when I care?
Why don’t you be like me?
Why don’t you stop and see?
Why don’t you hate who I hate,
Kill who I kill to be free.

Sly and the Family Stone – Underdog

sly

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

Sly and the Family Stone wouldn’t really hit it big until the 1969 release of their 4th album, Stand!, which hinted at a darkness that would come into clearer focus in the early 70’s. I love all of those records, but the quintessential Sly song for me is the debut single (by way of a double A side), “Underdog”. It is taken from the debut album, A Whole New Thing and is possibly the most infectious piece of music I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. Horns that echo a children’s song before gritty vocals by Sly enter the mix. The horns seem to answer his shout outs as the whole thing seems to be heading towards uncharted territory. Once that chorus hits – MY GOD – it is not just one of the most glorious sounds of the 60’s – it is one of the most rewarding choruses ever laid down. The horns that answer the chorus provide an emotional complexity that is unnerving (and inspiring). The horns in this song seemed to be the inspiration for The Go Team‘s “Junior Kickstart” which was a popular indie / dance single in the US and UK in 2003showing just how wide-ranging the influence of Sly and the Family Stone is. Summon your inner underdog and sing along with Sly as he sings these lyrics:

I know how it feels to have to go along
With people you don’t even know
Simply because there happens to be
A whole lot more of them, yeah
(Yeah, yeah)

Say, I’m the underdog
I’m the underdog
I don’t mind, ’cause I can handle it
Underdog, it’s gonna be alright
I’m the underdog

Genesis – That’s Me

genesis-thats-me-parrot

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores lesser known tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks. 

These days most people remember Genesis for the radio friendly songs of the 80’s and very early 90’s (and probably think a few Phil Collins solo tracks are Genesis). Those in the know might proclaim their love of the early 70’s era of Genesis – boldly stating that Peter Gabriel is the only singer for Genesis that they admire. I tend to appreciate both eras for what they were but definitely have more love for the Peter Gabriel era. An interesting fact is that prior to becoming prog superstars, Genesis was basically a Bee Gees influenced pop rock band. This lasted for all of one album and a few non album songs. My favorite track from this era is “That’s Me”, released in early 1968 as the flip side of the single “The Silent Sun”. The track features an impassioned vocal delivery by an 18-year-old Englishman named Peter Gabriel. Rounding out the band is Anthony Philips on guitar, Tony Banks on keyboards, Michael Rutherford on bass & guitar, and John Silver on drums (Phil Collins didn’t appear on a Genesis record until 1971 with the release of their 3rd record, Nursery Cryme). Gabriel’s vocals have a weight far beyond his years and the music provides a mysterious Rock ‘n’ Roll backdrop. Go ahead and play the track embedded at the bottom of this short piece and find yourself amazed as an 18-year-old Peter Gabriel belts out these key lyrics: 

They told me things about me that I didn’t know
But I could tell they’ve told me lies
And it really goes to show
That everyone was wrong
And they don’t understand my ways
But it’s not me that’s going wrong, it’s them

Love – Forever Changes

Part 26 of a series that will run every Friday throughout 2012 as I discuss records that have affected me throughout the years – Flashback Fridays

The summer of 2002 was my first summer in the Seattle, WA area. Coming from the Philadelphia, PA region you could call this culture shock (to put things lightly). No unbearable humidity, heat that barely hit 90 for less than a week in August, and salt water that was about 20 degrees cooler than I was used to (both in Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean). It was also the 35th anniversary of what is known as “the summer of love” – 1967. That glorious year where every great album in the history of music came out (may be exaggerating a bit there). The Beatles, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, and Love all released critically acclaimed albums (just to name a few household names – there are literally hundreds of great records from this time period). Articles proclaiming the brilliance of these bands / records seemed to be popping up in publications and though I was familiar with most, I hadn’t yet picked up Forever Changes by Love (though I had an old compilation which had some of the songs).

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