As you surely know by now, lyricist Gerry Goffin, half of the legendary Brill Building songwriting team with ex-wife Carole King, died yesterday at 75 years old. I’ve got nothing profound to say other than the obvious things: he wrote many excellent songs, 75 is too young to die, he was a great…man. I especially love “Up on the Roof,” which captures the sound of the city the way rock ‘n roll songs rarely do these days.
Okay, so for whatever reason, the only thing I can listen to lately is my entire oeuvre of Sonic Youth. Wait a minute, wait a minute, I know, most of you lot don’t like them. That’s not the point.
The point is: I was thinking about how Smashing Pumpkins‘ 1979 is the best thing Sonic Youth “never wrote.” Similarly, I feel that The Verve‘s Bittersweet Symphony is the best thing Jagger & Richards never wrote. [Or did they? – Mod.]
So that got me to thinking: What are other songs that one-up the influence? Which tunes distill the shape and inspiration to manifest and encapsulate the essence of their model? Fill in the blank: ________is the best thing______never wrote.
Driving home from dinner with my wife and oldest son the other night our local Oldies station played a fantastic run of (albeitly cheesy) mid-’70s songs that my wife and I probably too enthusiastically pointed out to our son captured the time when we were the age of his younger brother, who was not with us on this drive. I can’t remember the killer run of hits, but it kicked off with “Young Americans” and included “We’re an American Band” and “Whatever Gets You Through the Night.”
“What a titan John Lennon was,” I marveled in my head, privately, “to be able to inject such a suspect disco-boogie romp with so much energy and cool!” I felt a tear building in my left eye as that song faded while memories of that era continued to blare, as I anticipated what the
DJ computer would spin next…
I love Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love.” I love the song, I should say, as performed by Lou Reed. There’s something inherent in its structure that draws me in whenever I hear him perform it. However, to my ears, there’s not a definitive version of the song. My love for the song is due to an accumulation of the song’s structure, or DNA, if you will, and multiple recorded versions I have heard. I don’t know if there’s a song like this for you.
The original, commercially released studio version from Transformer is pretty damn good, but like the rest of that album (beside the exquisite “Walk on the Wild Side”) I feel it suffers ever-so-slightly from David Bowie‘s razor-thin production and Lou’s campy performance. The twinkly piano style is not exactly my cup of tea either. To me, these factors bring an A song down to a B+ level.
Following up on a story about the passing of the guy who wrote “Along Comes Mary,” Tandyn Almer, has unexpectedly turned me on to a bunch of great songs I’d never heard before — and one or two I’ve always loved that it turns out Tandyn wrote, in whole or in part. (“Shadows & Reflections”? “Sail On Sailor”? Almer co-wrote both of those.)
Too many online remembrances and feature stories have focused on the more curious and “newsworthy” (in a VH1 Behind the Music kind of way) aspects of Tandyn’s life, and that’s a shame. By all accounts, he was happy and well liked, and that’s what really matters. A good, and seemingly well informed, accounting of Almer’s accomplishments can be found in this excellent career retrospective/obituary, found somewhat strangely on a Catholic faith-related blog.
Anyhow, I guess I just wanted to pass along my respects for a great artist I basically knew nothing about until today. Being able to hear the original Eddie Hodges version of “Shadows & Reflections” alone — that was totally wonderful; what an awesome arrangement! (Also, check out “Butterfly High,” a psychedelic masterwork performed by Hodges and Almer under the most excellent band name “Paper Fortress.”)
I’m a 2per. So is George Harrison, and so is John Entwistle, and so is Dave Davies. That’s the term I’m slapping on a person in a band with a dominant songwriter who typically gets two of his songs included on each album among the principal songwriter’s songs. When I brought up the concept to E. Pluribus Gergley of RTH discussing who the best 2per is, he responded in his typically open-minded way that there’s nothing to discuss. It’s George Harrison. So I sat on the topic until I thought of a different angle on it.