Usually I do a “15 Songs of the Month” post, where I talk about songs I’m currently loving – either new discoveries or old favorites. I’ve been slacking on these for quite a while, so I’ll cover March, April, May, and June. 60 songs altogether!
… and of course, if you like what you’re hearing, go and buy it! I don’t want to endorse using YouTube or whatever to get this stuff, buy it up like I did! The YouTube links are provided for demonstration purposes.
‘Trans Europe Express’ – Kraftwerk, Trans Europe Express (1977) – How have I not heard anything from Kraftwerk until now? I’ve heard of them years ago, foolishly never bothered to tap into their stuff, and now that I have… Holy crap, so much stuff owes an awful lot to these German guys. Trans Europe Express is perhaps one of the quintessential Kraftwerk albums and compositions, what with its driving synths, sound effects, futuristic tone, and epic length. It doesn’t waste a second and is a fantastic exercise in repetition, and how you can indeed make it work for six minutes…
‘Goodnight My Love’ – The 4 Seasons, Big Girls Don’t Cry and Twelve Others (1963) – Soothing mix of the usual Frankie Valli falsetto trickery and the usual pop sound that complements it all.
‘In My Dreams’ – Dokken, Under Lock and Key (1985) – Hard-driving 80s power rock/metal with booming vocals to boot. Doesn’t get monotonous despite its length.
‘Cat Food’ – King Crimson, In The Wake of Poseidon (1970) – From the minds behind the likes of ’21st Century Schizoid Man’ and other sprawling, often nightmarish epics… Comes this ditty about cat food. It’s infectious, weird, a bit jazzy, a bit unpredictable, a neat ball of 5-minute wax… Or yarn. On YouTube, the full album track has never been uploaded, so here’s the inferior single version for now.
‘Just Like Me’ – Paul Revere & The Raiders, Just Like Us! (1965) – Some of the real rockin’ badasses of the 60s before the advent of much harder sounds, Paul Revere and his crew just knew how to rock it and have a good time. This single of theirs? Just the right feel…
‘Set Me Free’ – The Kinks, 1965 single, The Kinks’ Greatest Hits (1966) – A weary-sounding Kinks number that has a ‘Tired of Waiting for You’ vibe.
‘Anus of Uranus’ – Klaatu, 3:47 EST (1976) – A neat kind of spacey rock from a band that was confused by some as a possible Beatles comeback, Klaatu came on the scene with a sound that sometimes felt like The Beatles and the glam-like trickery of Queen rolled into one. ‘Anus or Uranus’ is more of a straight rocker with cosmic undertones (definitely veering more towards Freddie Mercury and company here!), a nonetheless fun set of lyrics and admittedly catchy title. Sometimes I might be mentally 15, but I see the title and I’m… “I gotta hear this.” Glad I did.
‘You’d Be So Easy to Love’ – Frank Sinatra, Ring-a-Ding-Ding! (1961) – From Sinatra’s first album on his own Reprise Records, ‘You’d Be So Easy to Love’ is the right mix of Sinatra swing, and a slower and smoother jazz sound.
‘I’m So Green’ – Can, Ege Bamyasi (1972) – Forgive my ignorance, but I’m also a noob when it comes to the “krautrock” genre… Anyways, I’m aware of how legendary Can is in this field and such. Not necessarily a complex song from them, but it is more unique and breezy than your usual early 1970s rocker. The psychedelic vibe can definitely be felt throughout as well, it’s pretty low-key yet so prominent in a way, if that makes any sense.
‘Goody Two-Shoes’ – Adam Ant, Friend or Foe (1982) – Loud and pounding, ‘Goody Two-Shoes’ literally stomps its way through roughly two minutes, without ever letting up… And every second is toe-tapping for sure.
‘Geno’ – Dexys Midnight Runners, Searching for the Young Soul Rebels (1980) – The first hit for the short-lived British act, ‘Geno’ is Dexys Midnight Runners’ tribute to the soul singer Geno Washington, a man whose work I’ve honestly never heard of until discovering this song. I guess it’s mildly soulful, certainly more of a pop song, but amusing and catchy nonetheless with a hooky, rotating chorus.
‘Stuck On You’ – Elvis Presley, 1960 single, Elvis’ Golden Records, Vol. 3 (1963) – Classic bona-fide Elvis Presley number, need I say more?
‘She Drives Me Crazy’ – Fine Young Cannibals, The Raw & The Cooked (1988) – What more can be said about the mid tempo energy and coolness of this 80s classic? Drives me… Well… Certainly not crazy, but it always puts me in a good mood.
‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ – The Animals, 1966 single, US version of Animalisms (1966) – Some light psych side on the side of this straightforward Animals rocker, with the usual edge.
‘I Know a Place’ – Petula Clark, I Know a Place (1965) – Groovin’, energetic party music of some sort, yet so catchy and irresistible in its second half once the brass comes in.
‘Fool for the City’ – Foghat, Fool for the City (1975) – A more common one here, I always liked this song’s driving-rock approach and its slower sections that temper them a bit. Perhaps overshadowed by the monster hit that came off the same album, ‘Slow Ride.’
‘Talk Talk’ – The Music Machine, (Turn On) The Music Machine (1966) – Rough-n-tumble, fits right in with the hard-edged badass rockers of the mid-60s like Paul Revere and all of them. Arguably called proto-punk, this one’s about as against-the-norm as you can get, and it sounds pretty frustrated!
‘The Blue Energy Programme’ – The Advisory Circle, From Out Here (2014) – The one-man project of musician Jon Brooks, The Advisory Circle appears to be a loving mesh of electronic sounds, the atmosphere of 1970s/1980s British PSAs, and the likes of maybe… Eric Siday? A piece like ‘Blue Energy Programme’ takes those influences and makes something unique, fresh, and rather ethereal out of it all.
‘Danse Kalinda Ba Doom’ – Dr. John, Gris-Gris (1968) – I’m relatively new to the work of the Night Tripper, which combined psychedelia and a New Orleans sound, but ‘Danse Kalinda Ba Doom’ captures quite the atmosphere and is absolutely mesmerizing in parts.
‘Dog’s Life’ – Kottonmouth Kings, Royal Highness (1998) – A more rocking kind of rap that I probably wouldn’t have discovered, if it wasn’t for a racing game I owned as a kid (Test Drive 6), I always dug this one’s beat, and its alternating between rapping and straightforward singing.
‘Personality Crisis’ – New York Dolls, New York Dolls (1973) – The Big Apple’s equivalent of Aerosmith, apparently, except they’ve got the big city attitude and more of a punk-like edge than that of Aerosmith’s sound. There’s a fun playfulness to ‘Personality Crisis,’ which also has a gritty undercurrent.
‘Rock Creek Park’ – The Blackbyrds, City Life (1975) – Repetitive as all hell, but sexy and groovy, and that’s not even the extended 12″ mix. Like some of the other songs on this list, I first heard this through a video game soundtrack – the game in question being Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which had an in-game radio station with music of this ilk.
‘Love in Tokyo’ – The Honeycombs, All Systems Go! (1965) – A Joe Meek production, and you can tell, the song vibrates, wobbles, and echoes nonstop, and mostly feels like it’s in orbit. Not surprising coming from the man who produced ‘Telstar’ by The Tornados.
‘Holiday in My Head’ – Smash Mouth, Smash Mouth (2001) – Forget “somebody once told me,” I’m more of a fan of this, which you don’t hear often. Like another Smash Mouth hit from a few years prior, it’s a tad neo-psychedelia with a groovy late 90s/early 00s feel. Dated, yes, but fun to listen to.
‘Little Mary Sunshine’ – The Magic Ring, 1967 B-side – A lost flip-side. A bit early Beach Boys, a bit sunshine pop, a bit boogie, a bit trippy, a bit rock n’ roll, a bit… Baroque? What a mutt of a song!
‘By-Tor and the Snow Dog’ – Rush, Fly By Night (1975) – One of the early Rush epics, a monster powerhouse of epic riffs, amazing bass, and wicked drum work. Despite the song title’s stoned-party origins, it works well as a big fantasy story.
‘Exit’ – Tangerine Dream, Exit (1981) – Sounding like something out of a lost 80s sci-fi movie, Exit apparently was more mainstream from the groundbreaking Tangerine Dream. Doesn’t matter, it’s a great, lush piece with a cold, metallic atmosphere. Doesn’t sound out of place next to, say, Blade Runner or The Terminator.
‘Can’t Seem to Make You Mine’ – The Seeds, The Seeds (1966) – This one has a real rawness to it that I really dig. Just from that opening second, you know what you’re in for.
‘Blue Moanin” – Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Not Fragile (1974) – While Not Fragile spawned huge, HUGE hits in ‘Roll on Down the Highway’ and ‘You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet,’ this Turner-penned BTO track is their usual brand on sharp, veering-on-hard rock sound with a slight hint of the blues, hence the title.
‘We’ll Sing in the Sunshine’ – The Lancastrians, 1966 single – A low-key cover with a British Invasion flavor, it’s pretty pleasant for what it is.
‘Harper Valley P.T.A.’ – Jeannie C. Riley, Harper Valley P.T.A. (1968) – Apparently a pivotal song during the women’s liberation movement, ‘Harper Valley P.T.A.’ is a rather standard country song that’s done more in a narrative style than anything, yet it managed to climb its way to #1. There’s a certain charm to it, though.
‘Do What?’ – Squirrel Nut Zippers, Bedlam Ballroom (2000) – From what I understand, the Squirrel Nut Zippers were a 1940s swing revival for the late 90s. With this track, they combine that energy with a modern beat, and it meshes quite well… Flows very, very well. (Fun fact: The album cover was designed by the fellow who designed the Wreck-It Ralph logo for Disney.)
‘Cryin’ Inside’ – Mouse and the Traps, 1967 single – From a Texas-based garage group comes a rather British Invasion-sounding piece with a very prominent keyboard piercing throughout, giving the song something of a unique flavor.
‘Free and Easy’ – Duncan Lamont, KPM 1000 Series: Light and Easy (1977) – Another stock music composition, one that oddly sounds a little modern and ahead of 1977, just a very light and airy piece that conjures up an inner-city setting. (no link to this at the moment)
‘Moi je joue’ – Brigitte Bardot, B.B. (1964) – I’m also new to Brigitte Bardot, a huge icon in France during the 60s. ‘Moi je joue’ sounds like your typical late night slice of swinging pop energy with a tinge of the sexy. A little too short, though…
‘Right on the Tip of My Tongue’ – Brenda and the Tabulations, 1970 single – Groovy and soulful, sounds just about right… On the tip of my tongue.
‘There She Goes Again’ – The Velvet Underground & Nico, The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967) – From an undisputed classic album, ‘There She Goes Again’ has the rocking edge and the retro flair, with lots of jangle.
‘Baby Hold On’ – Eddie Money, Eddie Money (1977) – Maybe a bit of a mainstream choice, maybe it’s middle-of-the-road late 70s pop rock that verges on adult contemporary, but I love it. It’s just one of those songs that hits you with its catchiness, regardless of how fresh it may be.
‘Time’s a Wastin” – Carl Smith and June Carter (Cash), 1954 B-side – A cute, homey, finger-pickin’ duet between Smith and who would later be Johnny Cash’s wife.
‘Massachusetts’ – Bee Gees, Horizontal (1968) – I really dig the early, more baroque pop-esque era of Bee Gees. ‘Massachusetts’ is yet another pretty sounding work from the band during that era.
‘The Night Chicago Died’ – Paper Lace, US version of … and Other Bits of Material (1974) – One heck of a one-hit wonder, a mix of a steady pop-rock sound and energetic funk.
‘Prairie Rose’ – Roxy Music, Country Life (1974) – Glam showiness meets a slight country twinge, but with Roxy Music’s unique stamp. The last minute or so, repetitive it may be, works so well. Prairie rooooooooose…
‘There’s Reasons Why’ – The Scandal, 1967 single – A little bit of a mix of psychedelic influences, all coagulating in something that’s pretty unassuming but nonetheless fun.
‘She’s So Fine’ – Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids, 41 Original Hits from the American Graffiti Soundtrack (1973) – The 50s revival band Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids did some covers and some original material for George Lucas’ American Graffiti, this song being the latter. Now what makes this dreamy, retro tune sound so cool is that it pays tribute to a Beach Boys album cut off of their game-changing Today! LP, ‘Don’t Hurt My Little Sister.’
‘Baby, Now That I’ve Found You’ – Alison Krauss, Now That I’ve Found You: A Collection (1995) – Soothing, pretty, almost ethereal bluegrass-pop.
‘Jeremiah Dreams’ – Jawbone, Jawbone (1970) – The third iteration of the British pop-rock group The Mirage, Jawbone had something of a psychedelic bend, a pinch of the harder rock sound, and a little something else. ‘Jeremiah Dreams’ is a bit of a slow burner, but it gets going when once the chorus kicks, transitioning seamlessly from a light-psych drone to a rocker. I particularly like the bits where the vocals get slower and slower before the more punched-up sections come in.
‘Made in Italy’ – Ligabue, Made in Italy (2016) – I happened to hear this one for my Italian class this past semester, a rare modern choice, but a sweet-sounding singer-songwriter pop song from an Italian. The accompanying music video also uses stop-motion, which is cool!
‘Manhattan Woman’ – Tin Tin, Tin Tin (1970) – A Maurice Gibb-produced group that sounds an awful lot like early Bee Gees… Can ya guess why I like it?
‘When Tomorrow Hits’ – Spacemen 3, Recurring (1991) – Hypnotizing and droning, yet very beautiful, and apparently a cover… I’m also new to Spacemen 3. Definitely a real 60s callback, but pulled to the extreme. The seamless transition to a harder sound in the second half is particularly jaw-dropping.
‘Cafe Creme’ – Christine Pilzer, from an untitled 1967 four-song EP – I have a soft spot for the swinging French pop of the 1960s, and I think this rather marching band-like pop piece fits the bill quite nicely.
‘Genius’ – Pitchshifter, http://www.pitchshifter.com (1998) – Admittedly one from childhood, this song appeared on a soundtrack to a video game called Test Drive 5, and it has quite a sound to it. I guess this kind of rock (industrial?) was a big deal in some parts of the world in the late 1990s, a combination of big rock sounds but also a lot of noise influences… but it didn’t seem to be an American thing. Nonetheless, it’s got a real driving energy to it, an aggressive undercurrent, and some oddball choices throughout.
‘Book of Love’ – The Monotones, 1957 single – Catchy as all hell perfectly defines this one. I wonder-wonder-who…
‘Where is Someone to Love Me’ – Cheryl Ladd, Dance Forever (1979) – Apparently Ladd was one of Charlie’s Angels at one point, and then pursued a short pop music career. This one’s a fun, if generic disco-flavored dance-the-night-away popster. Something about this one, all its cheesiness right in place, works.
‘Fear’ – The Ventures, Ventures in Space (1963) – Groovy yet creepy spacey surf rock, like a mix of the West Coast and… ‘Telstar’? Definitely has that factor, but is irresistible because of that.
‘Heading for a Fall’ – The Hollies, Evolution (1967) – Hazy and very Beatlesque, with a barrage of different sounds and ideas going on.
‘In The Light’ – Tetsuya Shibata, Auto Modellista: Original Soundtrack (2002) – Yet another piece from a racing game, Auto Modellista was Capcom’s answer to all the Gran Turismos and Need for Speeds out there, and it was a pretty unique-looking game that cel-shaded all of its graphics and had a light anime vibe to it. While often a frustrating game to play because of its controls (I had the Xbox version), its soundtrack – with its blend of cool jazz and a techno pulse – rules. This lengthy piece from the game, I think, is a real workout!
‘You’re Cheating on Me’ – The Shaprels, 1968 single – Country folksy-tinged garage rock from a rather obscure group, the heartache gushes through this one’s roughness.
‘With Illicit Help from Your Friends’ – Palette-Swap Ninja, Princess Leia’s Stolen Death Star Plans (2017) – An epic tribute meshing Star Wars and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band? Absolute genius. The new album by parody/mash-up act Palette-Swap Ninja (appropriate name) is a joy for Beatles and Star Wars fans alike, I think this is one of the tracks that takes the cake. “I want those plans in my glove.”
‘Stay’ – Maurice Williams and The Zodiacs, Stay (1961) – After enjoying the 4 Seasons version, I heard the original one day, and immediately tracked it down…
‘Food’ – The Turtles, The Turtles Present the Battle of the Bands (1968) – This album again? Well, it was The Turtles trying on different genres for one cool concept album, and here, they go psychedelic… Basically a recipe in song-form that just happens to name tons of different foods. Extra points for the use of the synth to signify the oven went on!