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50 YEARS. 50 SONGS. (WELL, ACTUALLY 51 BUT LET’S NOT QUIBBLE.) ONE SLICE OF A LIFE – PART 1

February 20, 2015

As I said in an earlier post, I had to pick 50 songs from 50 years to mark a landmark that we don’t need to go over again here thank you very much (cos I still feel like the 13-year-old and I sure act like him often enough). Only one song per year, one song per artist, each with some significance for me.

 

There was a CD, so along with the songs these are excerpts from the liner notes.  (Of course there were liner notes.) The first tranche takes us from 1965 to 1989.

 

1965:  The Beatles – Ticket To Ride

 

Well of course they’d be here and start it. My longest musical love affair, the first songs we taught our daughter, my best friend from the age of 12 and I talked about them incessantly and the first serious present I bought my wife – before we were a couple – was the complete Beatles box set. Found out this year that when I was born the doctors and nurses called me their Little Beatle: because I had long black hair. It was meant to be! Not a bad song either is it?

 

1966: Bob Dylan – Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again

 

I’m not allowed to play him at home unless I’m alone. I go see him alone too most of the time. Like I care though. And yes, I like his voice, so shaddup already, Bob’s speaking. (sorry that not only couldn’t I put a whole version of this great song up here but there’s no embed available)

 

1967: The Masters’ Apprentices – Undecided

 

My favourite Australian group of the ‘60s, not least for the way they went from killer garage punk (a favourite genre) to pop to psychedelia and then prog in four years. This is as good as anything on the Nuggets comps – dig that first grunt at 11secs.

 

1968: Francoise Hardy – Comment Te Dire Adieu

 

As anyone who’s had a mixtape from me knows, I love my French pop of the 1960s, especially the girls with their mix of naivety and insouciance. Despite assumptions given my French-speaking background, I didn’t grow up with Francoise (and only guess at the lyrics now), though I did get Piaf and …. well, George Liberace!

 

 

1969: Dusty Springfield – Just A Little Lovin’

 

Love her tone, phrasing and ability to give Bacharach and David songs their best moments but most of all I love her ability to be so emotionally there in everything. A fall back for good days, bad days and in between days.

 

1970: Led Zeppelin – Immigrant Song

 

Had no time for them through school, bought their records only because I figured I needed to know about them. Then one day at a friend’s party, I heard a 10-minute stonker (Achilles’ Last Stand) and discovered oh yes, I could rock. And what’s more I liked it. Years on that late conversion actually helped me win over a taciturn/indifferent Jimmy Page in an interview.

 

1971: Beach Boys – Surf’s Up

 

Got over my resistance to early Beach Boys (basically Mike Love) when I realised Brian Wilson did high harmonies and deep emotions and half my favourite bands cited them, the Beatles and Big Star as influences. And really, as a music critic you’re contractually obligated to love them.

 

1972: Big Star – When My Baby’s Beside Me

 

Speaking of Big Star … Melodies, tenderness, guitars, power pop, southern rock, frailties. Yep, that’s me sorted.

 

1973: The Drifters –Like Sister & Brother

 

People not a million miles from my wife and most of my friends ridicule me for this being one of my desert island songs, saying it is soppy schlock. I say, like so much of the Philly sound, feel the heart and soul … and shoosh while I loosen my bow tie and emote in a powder blue suit.

 

1974: George McCrae – Rock Your Baby

 

I didn’t really have to hide my love of disco even when I discovered “cooler” music, but I was happy when a decade later I could bring this out at a party and see every foot tap and head nod along. And the first word is “sexy” – ooh, said pre-teenage me, I’ll have some of that.

1975: Pilot – January

 

My favourite song for a good long time (no doubt the birthday month helped alongside its shiny pop qualities) and the first track on side two of the first record I bought, the mighty Explosive Hits ‘75. The music madness started here.

 

1976: David Bowie – Golden Years

 

Could have picked a score of songs across a dozen years, this album a discovery on audio tape from the Chester Hill library when I was already hooked on Hunky Dory. He led me to German electronica, soul, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan and more.

 

1977: Brian Eno – Kurt’s Rejoinder

 

And with Bowie comes this man. Not only did a couple of his records carry me through insomniac HSC years but he’s made or been party to a lot of my favourite albums, is funky, smart, and soothes me still.

 

1978: Elvis Costello – (I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea

 

Second Costello song I heard, first I fell for. Instant tragic fan. As my sisters will confirm, he filled my teenage years, then my 20s, 30s, 40s and likely 50s. Saved me on a wild Greek ferry ride (ask me how!) and has told me he’s worried I think I know more about him than he does. He’s probably right.

 

1979: Godley & Creme – Sandwiches Of You

 

Too many words, too smart-arse, digging the old and the new, bit weird and dweebish, strangely romantic, feeling an outsider. No, not just me; these blokes too.

 

1980: Talking Heads – Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)

 

Seeing them at Narara a few years later with two mates was one of my greatest concert experiences – they came on at midnight, when I was knackered after two full days and nights of music, but for two hours I felt nothing but euphoria – but by the time of this album they’d already put me on the path to African music, the joy of uptight nerds and dancing like it mattered.

 

1981: Rick Springfield – Jessie’s Girl

 

Excellent pop on its own – and a bit too relevant later as I pined for someone else’s girlfriend – that got the word “moot” into a top 40 hit. Respect. (Plus I have this way cool t-shirt.)

 

1982: Bruce Springsteen – Atlantic City

 

The song that began my journey from sceptic to devotee – some eight years after its release and long after some good friends knew the truth. Tough and tender like I wished I was. Some 25 years on I finally converted my wife (via the Hunter Valley show). We’re a happy family.

 

1983: The Go-Betweens – A Bad Debt Follows You

 

Along with the Church, my most important Australian band of the decade. I began as a Grant boy before turning into a Robert disciple by the time they played the Stardust in Cabramatta mid-decade. Still love talking to Robert.

 

1984: The Smiths – Girl Afraid

 

 

Musically and lyrically the only challengers to Costello for formative and defining. My lyric and journalistic writing would always swing between Morrissey and EC; my peaks and troughs were summed up by Morrissey and Marr. “And she doesn’t even like me, and I know because she said so.”

 

1985: Madonna – Into The Groove

 

Hated Holiday, loved Burning Up; disliked Angel, loved this: setting up my on-again/off-again relationship with Madge. But really, “and you can dance/for inspiration” always got me up. Why fight it?

 

1986: The Flies – Jessica Lange

 

 

Writing songs, for the Flies and Smelly Tongues with my oldest and best friend (and chief music guide/inspiration) had been just about the most exciting thing to do without girls. Especially as I didn’t have girls. Hence the songs. Obviously.

(sorry, this is hardly a perfect  “video” but it’s my first very rough attempt and it’s the song you want to hear. Anyway, I can play you the CD if you come around. Or take you to see them when they have their reunion tour.)

 

1987: Bon Jovi – Livin’ On A Prayer

 

 

As big and dumb as pop rock gets outside Kiss and worth a place in any home with a sense of humour. My full-bodied singing of this would/does scare women and cats. My daughter sings it with me now. Sad? Nope, Happy!

 

1988: The Church – Reptile

 

Many nights standing twixt Steve Kilbey and Marty Wilson-Piper thinking I was getting smarter with every note I sang. I wasn’t. Learnt to live with that. They soundtracked my first overseas flight in this year (along with the many carefully compiled mix tapes to play on trains, planes and ferries for 9 months backpacking …  nerd.)

 

1989: Pixies – Debaser

 

Nothing seemed as exciting and visceral to me in 1989 as this album. Meat and brains and wedding preparations with this alternating with Frank Sinatra. “Slicing up eyeballs, I want you to know.”

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