The Doors – People Are Strange

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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.

The Doors can be a controversial topic among hip music lovers. Was Jim Morrison a drunken buffoon as some claimed?  (I’m thinking of Lester Bangs as played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, may he RIP) Or was he a beat poet visionary? I’ve always leaned towards the latter, even if some of the drunken ramblings bring a smile to my face with their incomprehensible meanings.  Unfortunately, the music can sometimes get overlooked; such is the shadow that Jim Morrison casts. This is another band whose catalog is almost beyond criticism for me – the 6 albums recorded with Morrison on vocals are strange, passionate, and timeless. “People Are Strange” was released as a single in September of 1967, hitting #12 on the US Hot 100 charts. The music is a nod towards European cabaret, lending the tune an otherworldly vibe. At just over 2 minutes, the band (that’s Ray Manzarek on keyboards, John Densmore on drums, and Robby Krieger on guitar) locks into a groove that is essential for the song to make its impact felt. Jim Morrison seems to be relaying the feeling of what it is like not to fit in, to exist neither here nor there. One of my favorite songs by The Doors, everything connects perfectly. Some of my favorite lines…“When you’re strange / Faces come out of the rain / When you’re strange / No one remembers your name / When you’re strange”….”People are strange / When you’re a stranger / Faces look ugly when you’re alone”

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Led Zeppelin – All My Love

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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.

The late 70’s saw Led Zeppelin changing up their sound, stretching out from the blues inspired Rock ‘n” Roll that had made them stars at the tail end of the 60’s and into the early 70’s. Their swan song – 1979’s In Through the Out Door – is an album that touches on a few musical styles. The die-hard Zep fans might be slowly warming up to it after 35 years, but I’ve always loved its mix of hard rock, groove inspired jams, and the greatest ballad the band ever composed, All My Love. I might have just lost half of the hardcore Led Zeppelin fans with that statement, but what can I say? Singer Robert Plant had the experience that every parent fears – losing his 5-year-old son Karac to an infection. Plant turned inward and thought about quitting the band, but was persuaded by drummer John Bonham to continue (Bonham would pass away just a few years later). All My Love tries to put Plant’s thoughts about losing his son into verse and succeeds on every level. It is one of the only Led Zeppelin tracks to not have any input from guitarist Jimmy Page. The keyboard solo from John Paul Jones exists on a plane outside of what was happening in the 70’s – not prog, not new wave – it is a beautiful piece of melancholy that enhances the emotions of the tune. Bonham holds a steady beat whilst Plant poetically conjures up visions of life, the afterlife, love, and loss.

For many hours and days that pass ever soon
the tides have caused the flame to dim
At last the arm is straight, the hand to the loom
Is this to end or just begin?

All of my love, all of my love,
All of my love to you.

Genesis – That’s Me

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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

Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Psychedelic Pill

In the 60’s and 70’s it seemed like artists released records more quickly. They’d put out a great record, tour for a bit, then get right back into the studio. It seemed like this model began to shift in the late 80’s. I’m not sure if it was waiting 4 years for Guns ‘n’ Roses to put out the Use Your Illusion albums or if it was the 3 years between Disintegration and Wish by The Cure. Either way, major acts began to make the fans wait an inordinate amount of time between records. Neil Young has thankfully been (mostly) an exception to this rule.

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Green Day – ¡Uno!

It is almost impossible to objectively review a Green Day record in the year 2012. There are segments of the fan base that have never really forgiven Billie Joe, Mike and Tre for moving on from pop-punk to overblown rock operas (with 2004’s American Idiot and 2009’s 21st Century Breakdown). There’s also a segment of fans that felt like Green Day really hit its stride when they moved on from silly songs about masturbation / drugs and love the political posturing of recent years. The release of not 1, not 2, but 3 records over the next 4 months will prove to be one of the most ambitious projects ever taken on by a mainstream artist (certain indie artists still release 3 or 4 records a year. Really – they do).  Despite any mainstream vs. punk, silly hipster / true punk arguments – I love Green Day.  There, I said it. I’m a huge Green Day fan.

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