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Posts Tagged ‘1970s’

The Bob Dylan song about which I am going to blog about today is his 1973 song “Forever Young”, another one of his songs included on his Vevo channel. It appears on his 1974 album Planet Waves in two different versions, a slow and a fast version. It is the slow version which is in the video included here. As an aside, Planet Waves is the only studio album which Dylan released through Asylum Records. Apart from the live album Before The Flood which is his next album after Planet Waves, all his other albums have been with Columbia Records.

“Forever Young” was recorded by Dylan in November 1973. The slow version runs for 4m57s and is the 6th track on Planet Waves, the last track on the first side of the record. The fast version (which is a shorter track at 2m49s) is the 7th track on the album, the first track on the second side of the record. Dylan first performed “Forever Young” live in January 1974 and his most recent live performance of it was in November 2011. He has performed it live a remarkable 493 times as of my writing this.

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“Forever Young” was recorded by Bob Dylan in November 1973 and appears on his 1974 album Planet Waves. There are two version of the song on the album, a slow version and a fast version.

You may be familiar with a 1988 Rod Stewart song by the same name. Confusingly, it is not a cover version in the traditional sense, but bears such a remarkable similarity to Dylan’s song in both melody and some of the lyrics that Stewart agreed to share his royalties with Dylan (presumably to avoid a lawsuit).

 

The inspiration for the song was Dylan’s eldest son Jesse who was born in 1966. Dylan wrote “Forever Young” as a lullaby to his young son, and over the years it has been covered by many artists.

May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
May your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young

Here is the official Vevo video of this great song. Enjoy!

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At number 8 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is “Let it Be”. This Paul McCartney ballad is possibly one of the band’s best known songs, and is also the title of the last album which they released (although the songs were recorded before Abbey Road). The song’s lyrics were inspired by McCartney’s mother Mary, who died of cancer when he was 14 years old. The lines “When I find myself in times of trouble / mother Mary comes to me” speak of his longing for her, and of her coming to him in his dreams.

The Beatles released two versions of “Let it Be”, the single version was released in March of 1970, just before Paul McCartney announced that he had left the band. The album version, released in May of the same year, is slightly different. The album version has an additional guitar solo (played by George Harrison), some differences in the lyrics, and some additional orchestrations added by Phil Spector. The album version runs about 10 seconds longer than the single version. Surprisingly, the single only reached number 2 in the Disunited Kingdom, but in the USA and many other countries it reached number 1. “Let it Be” entered the US charts at number 6, which at the time was the highest chart-entry position for any song.

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At number 8 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is “Let It Be”

McCartney chose “Let it Be” as his contribution to the 1985 Live Aid concert for famine relief in Ethiopia. He was the closing act of the London concert (the USA one, in Philadelphia, started and finished later because of the time difference). I was lucky enough to be at the London concert, but unfortunately his microphone did not work for about the first half of the song. A few years later I saw McCartney perform in Birmingham, but I do not recall that he performed “Let it Be” on that occasion.

The B-side of the “Let it Be” single release was “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)” which, if you haven’t heard it, is well worth a listen. It is possibly the strangest and most humorous song recorded by The Beatles, and pretty much unlike anything else you are likely to have heard by them.

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

And when the broken-hearted people
Living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though they may be parted
There is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Yeah, there will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Ah, let it be, yeah, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

And when the night is cloudy
There is still a light that shines on me
Shine on until tomorrow, let it be
I wake up to the sound of music,
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, yeah, let it be
Oh, there will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, yeah, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

Here is a YouTube video of “Let it Be”, although I suspect that it will be removed fairly soon as Apple seems to be exercising an aggressive policy in getting Beatles songs removed from YouTube.

If/when this video is taken down, you can listen to “Let it Be” via one of the streaming services, for example here is a link to Let it Be  on Spotify. Or, you can listen to Paul McCartney singing it live in concert in New York city.

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At number 8 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest songwriters is Paul Simon.  Simon is one of my favourite songwriters; I would place him in my personal top 5 and I consider him one of the greatest lyricists in popular music, along with Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. However, in addition to his incredible lyrics, Simon has an ability to consistently write memorable melodies.

Simon was very much at the vanguard of introducing other musical elements into western popular music. His seminal 1986 album Graceland is possibly the best known example of this, where he went to South Africa to record with some of the country’s black musicians. But, in fact, Simon was including foreign influenced rhythms and music into his songs long before this. “El Cóndor Pasa (If I Could)”, released in 1970 on the final Simon and Garfunkel album, was based on a traditional Peruvian melody. “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” (released in 1972) and “Late in the Evening” (released in 1980) are other examples, both with strong Latin rhythms.

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At number 8 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest songwriters of all time is Paul Simon.

There are so many Paul Simon songs which I like, and I have blogged about several of them before. Here I blogged about his album Graceland, and in that blogpost I included two versions of his song “Under African Skies”. Here I blogged about his haunting song “American Tune”, and here I blogged about his song “Leaves That Are Green”, which he performed with Art Garfunkel during their days together. Finally, here I blogged about “The Boxer”, which appears on the final Simon and Garfunkel album before they split.

Today I thought I would include two Paul Simon songs, one from during his time with Art Garfunkel, the other from his solo career. “America” is a wonderful example of Simon’s ability to paint vivid pictures with his lyrics. Released in April 1968, when I first heard it as a teenager I had no idea where “Saginaw”, “Michigan”, “Pittsburgh” or “the New Jersey Turnpike” were. Ironically, when I moved to the United States in 1992 and bought a road map of the country, one of the first places I spotted on the map of Michigan was Saginaw. Several years later, when I was working at Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin, we had a visit from some high school students from Saginaw. I asked them whether they knew the song in which their town had been immortalised, but they did not (I guess they were too young!).

The opening lines of “America”, “Let us be lovers, / We’ll marry our fortunes together. / I’ve got some real estate / Here in my bag.” just draw you straight into the song. This song is just perfect, it completely enchants me each time I listen to it.

Let us be lovers,
We’ll marry our fortunes together.
I’ve got some real estate
Here in my bag.

So we bought a pack of cigarettes,
And Mrs. Wagner’s pies,
And walked off
To look for America.
“Kathy”, I said,
As we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh,
Michigan seems like a dream to me now.

It took me four days
To hitch-hike from Saginaw.
“I’ve come to look for America.”

Laughing on the bus,
Playing games with the faces,
She said the man in the gabardine suit
Was a spy.

I said, “Be careful,
His bow tie is really a camera.”
“Toss me a cigarette,
I think there’s one in my raincoat.”
We smoked the last one
An hour ago.

So I looked at the scenery,
She read her magazine;
And the moon rose over an open field.
“Kathy, I’m lost”, I said,
Though I knew she was sleeping.
“I’m empty and aching and
I don’t know why.”

Counting the cars
On the New Jersey Turnpike
They’ve all come
To look for America,
All come to look for America,
All come to look for America.

The other song I have decided to share is one that I mentioned above, “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard”. This song shows the other side of Simon’s songwriting skills. There is nothing particularly profound about the lyrics; but I challenge you to listen to this song and not start at least tapping your hands or feet, if not wanting to start dancing. It just has a completely infectious rhythm. This song features on Simon’s first solo album after the breakup of Simon and Garfunkel, simply entitled Paul Simon and realeased in January 1972.

The mama pajama rolled out of bed
And she ran to the police station
When the papa found out he began to shout
And he started the investigation
It’s against the law
It was against the law
What the mama saw
It was against the law

The mama looked down and spit on the ground
Everytime my name gets mentioned
The papa said oy if I get that boy
I’m gonna stick him in the house of detention
Well I’m on my way
I don’t know where I’m going
I’m on my way

I’m taking my time
But I don’t know where
Goodbye to Rosie the queen of Corona
See you, me and Julio
Down by the schoolyard
See you, me and Julio
Down by the schoolyard
Me and Julio down by the schoolyard

In a couple of days they come and take me away
But the press let the story leak
And when the radical priest
Come to get me released
We was all on the cover of Newsweek
And I’m on my way
I don’t know where I’m going
I’m on my way

I’m taking my time
But I don’t know where
Goodbye to Rosie the queen of Corona
See you, me and Julio
Down by the schoolyard
See you, me and Julio
Down by the schoolyard
Me and Julio down by the schoolyard

Here is a video of this great song. Enjoy!

 

Which is your favourite Paul Simon song? Either from his time with Art Garfunkel, or from his solo career.

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At number 11 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest songwriters is Bob Marley. Although Marley didn’t invent reggae music, he essentially took it from its Jamaican roots to become known worldwide. With songs about redemption, alienation, civil and human rights, as well as love songs, Marley’s work spanned a broad range of topics, and has touched the lives of millions on every continent.

Born Robert Nesta Marley in rural Jamaica to a black mother and a white father, his upbringing was one of poverty. He rarely saw his father, and when he was ten years old his father died. When he was twelve Marley and his mother moved from her parents’ farm to  Trenchtown, a poor suburb of Kingston, Jamaica’s capital city. With barely any money to eat, Marley and his mother struggled to survive. As a teenager, Marley become increasingly interested in music and in 1962, when he was only 17, he recorded his first songs. He rose to fame in the early 1970s; but in 1979 he was diagnosed with cancer of his toe. He died in 1981 at the tragically young age of only 36.

At number 11 in Rolling Stone Magazine's list of the 100 greatest songwriters of all time is Bob Marley.

At number 11 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest songwriters of all time is Bob Marley.

The song which I have decided to share today is ‘Redemption Song’, written by Marley in about 1979 and  on his ninth studio album Uprising. It was also released as a single, and is rated by Rolling Stone Magazine as the 66th greatest song ever. Unlike most of his music, this is just Marley with his acoustic guitar, no band behind him, no reggae.

Old pirates, yes, they rob I,
Sold I to the merchant ships,
Minutes after they took I
From the bottomless pit.

But my hand was made strong
By the hand of the Almighty.
We forward in this generation
Triumphantly.

Won’t you help to sing
These songs of freedom?
‘Cause all I ever have,
Redemption songs,
Redemption songs.

Emancipate yourself from mental slavery,
None but ourselves can free our minds.
Have no fear for atomic energy,
‘Cause none of them can stop the time.
How long shall they kill our prophets,
While we stand aside and look?
Some say it’s just a part of it,
We’ve got to fulfill the book.

Won’t you help to sing
These songs of freedom?
‘Cause all I ever have,
Redemption songs,
Redemption songs,
Redemption songs.

Emancipate yourself from mental slavery,
None but ourselves can free our mind.
Have no fear for atomic energy,
‘Cause none of them can stop the time.
How long shall they kill our prophets,
While we stand aside and look?
Some say it’s just a part of it,
We’ve got to fulfill the book.

Won’t you help to sing,
These songs of freedom?
‘Cause all I ever had,
Redemption songs.
All I ever had,
Redemption songs
These songs of freedom
Songs of freedom

These are profound lyrics. Sad, plaintive, powerful, empowering – “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery”. Wow! U2’s Bono said of this song

I carried Bob Marley’s Redemption Song to every meeting I had with a politician, prime minister, or president. It was for me a prophetic utterance or as Bob would say ‘the small axe that could fell the big tree.’ The song reminded me that freedom always comes with a cost, but for those who would prepare to pay it, maybe “emancipation from mental slavery” would be our reward.

Here is a video of this amazing song. Enjoy!

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At number 14 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest songwriters is Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen is one of my favourite songwriters, I would rank him in my personal top 10. I first came across Springsteen in the late 1970s, when I became aware of his 1975 song “Born to Run”, and bought the album Born to Run on the strength of liking this song.

Springsteen was born in 1949 and grew up in a working class home in New Jersey. His father was mainly unemployed, and this poor upbringing coloured much of his music throughout his career; many of his songs deal with despair and desperation. Springsteen’s first album was the 1973 Greetings From Asbury Park N.J. (Asbury Park is a city in New Jersey and located on the Jersey shore. It is part of the New York City metropolitan area).

The first track on this debut album, “Blinded by the Light”, was released as a single, but failed to make any impact on the charts. It was later covered by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, who had a number 1 hit with  it in 1977. I remember this song in 1977, but at the time I had no idea that it was written by Bruce Springsteen; I had no idea who Springsteen was until about 1979.

 

At number 14 in Rolling Stone Magazine's list of the 100 greatest songwriters of all time is Bruce Springsteen.

At number 14 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest songwriters of all time is Bruce Springsteen.

Springsteen’s breakthrough album was his third, Born to Run, which was released in 1975. This album opens with the incredibly energetic song “Born to Run”, one of the great rock anthems of all-time. This song was released as a single in August 1975 and was Springsteen’s first single to be released worldwide. Its chart success was modest, but it has since gone on to be considered one of the greatest songs of all time, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked it at 21 in their list of the 500 greatest songs of all time, I blogged about it here.

After Born to Run, Springsteen went on to have a string of hit albums and singles, including “Hungry Heart”, “The River” (which I blogged about here), “Dancing in the Dark” (one of his biggest hits), “Born in the U.S.A” (one of his best known songs) and “Streets of Philadelphia”.

The song which I have decided to share today is his 1994 hit “Streets of Philadelphia”. This poignant song was written for the movie Philadelphia, a movie starring Tom Hanks, who won an Oscar for his performance of a lawyer who contracts HIV and is fired from his job. It illustrates beautifully Springsteen’s songwriting skills, both with its wonderful lyrics but also its haunting melody.

I was bruised and battered, I couldn’t tell what I felt.
I was unrecognizable to myself.
Saw my reflection in a window and didn’t know my own face.
Oh brother are you gonna leave me wastin’ away
On the streets of Philadelphia.

I walked the avenue, ’til my legs felt like stone,
I heard the voices of friends, vanished and gone,
At night I could hear the blood in my veins,
It was just as black and whispering as the rain,
On the streets of Philadelphia.

Ain’t no angel gonna greet me.
It’s just you and I my friend.
And my clothes don’t fit me no more,
I walked a thousand miles
Just to slip this skin.

Night has fallen, I’m lyin’ awake,
I can feel myself fading away,
So receive me brother with your faithless kiss,
Or will we leave each other alone like this
On the streets of Philadelphia.

Here is the official vide of this wonderful song. Enjoy!

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On Monday I blogged about the death of David Bowie, who died on Sunday (10th of January) of liver cancer at the age of 69. I wanted to put something up quickly, so that blog I wrote on Monday was written within 15-20 minutes of hearing the news of his death. I actually heard it breaking at 7am Greenwich Mean Time, I had been listening to the radio since about 6am.

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Now I have had a few days to collect my thoughts, I have decided I will do a more detailed and complete blogpost about his death. In fact, this will be a two-part blog, on the 26th I will do a part 2, as I need to get back home to Cardiff to access something about Bowie which I want to share in the second part.

When the news broke of his death I was overcome with a profound sadness, the most sad I have felt about the death of a singer or celebrity since the tragic killing of John Lennon in 1980. This reaction surprised me, but as they were playing Bowie’s songs on the radio throughout the morning I realised that Bowie’s music had been the soundtrack to my teenage years. I always preferred 60s music when I was growing up in the 1970s but, of all the music being produced in the 1970s,  it was Bowie and Queen’s music that I liked the most. As they played song after song of Bowie’s on Monday morning, I wept for the memory of my teenage years.

I also got emotional thinking about the strong connection that Bowie had with John Lennon, who was (and still remains) my music hero. When I read Yoko Ono’s tribute to Bowie I could not contain my tears. This is what she said (you can read it on her webpage here).

John and David respected each other. They were well matched in intellect and talent. As John and I had very few friends we felt David was as close as family.

After John died, David was always there for Sean and me. When Sean was at boarding school in Switzerland, David would pick him up and take him on trips to museums and let Sean hang out at his recording studio in Geneva.

For Sean this is losing another father figure. It will be hard for him, I  know. But we have some sweet memories which will stay with us forever.

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Another very moving tribute was tweeted by Iggy Pop

David’s friendship was the light of my life. I never met such a brilliant person. He was the best there is.

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Bowie was probably the artist of anyone I can think of who changed most frequently throughout his career. The chameleon of pop. He was, by his own admission, a very restless person (in fact he put it down to Attention Deficit Disorder). He would quickly get bored with one incarnation and changed to something different. I didn’t like all of his incarnations, particularly his heavy metal ‘Tin Men’ phase; but I liked many of his ever-changing styles.

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Here is a small gallery of some of his incarnations. From hippy to Major Tom, to Ziggy Stardust to Aladdin Sane to the Thin White Duke and his  ‘Let’s Dance’ period, he was the consummate restless artist. And, he will be sorely missed.

It would be wonderful to think that Bowie has reunited with his dear friend John Lennon and that they have been catching up, since last seeing each other the week before Lennon was murdered in December 1980.

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Today I am going to start my countdown of the top 30 songwriters according to Rolling Stone Magazine – I blogged a summary of the top 100 in this blog here. At number 30 in their list is Pete Townshend, who was/is The Who’s songwriter and lead guitarist. I have already blogged about my favourite Who song “Won’t Get Fooled Again” here, and also their best known song “My Generation” here. So, today I thought I would blog about their song “Pinball Wizard”.



At number 30 in Rolling Stone Magazine's list of the 100 greatest songwriters of all time is Pete Townshend of The Who.

At number 30 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest songwriters of all time is Pete Townshend of The Who.



“Pinball Wizard” was the hit song from The Who’s rock-opera Tommy, and the reason I have chosen to blog about this song is that it shows Pete Towshend’s ambition; writing a rock-opera is not something many other songwriters who had sung in the 1960s had done. But, Towsend often saw things on a bigger canvas than many of his contemporaries, and writing a rock-opera illustrates this nicely.

The first version of “Pinball Wizard” which I remember hearing was the 1975 version sung by Elton John, who sung it in the movie version of the rock opera. I only later became familiar with The Who’s version, which was released in 1969 on their album Tommy. It was also released as a single and got to number 4 in the Disunited Kingdom and to number 19 in the US Singles charts. Elton John’s 1975 version reached number 7 in the DUK.


Ever since I was a young boy,
I’ve played the silver ball.
From Soho down to Brighton
I must have played them all.
But I ain’t seen nothing like him
In any amusement hall…

That deaf, dumb and blind kid
Sure plays a mean pinball!

He stands like a statue,
Becomes part of the machine.
Feeling all the bumpers
Always playing clean.
He plays by intuition,
The digit counters fall.

That deaf, dumb and blind kid
Sure plays a mean pinball!

He’s a pinball wizard
There has to be a twist.
A pinball wizard’s got such a supple wrist.

‘How do you think he does it?
I don’t know!
What makes him so good?’

Ain’t got no distractions
Can’t hear no buzzers and bells,
Don’t see no lights a-flashin’
Plays by sense of smell.
Always gets a replay,
Never seen him fall.

That deaf, dumb and blind kid
Sure plays a mean pinball.

I thought I was The Bally table king
But I just handed my pinball crown to him.

Even on my favorite table
He can beat my best.
His disciples lead him in
And he just does the rest.
He’s got crazy flipper fingers
Never seen him fall…

That deaf, dumb and blind kid
Sure plays a mean pinball.


Here is a video of Elton John’s version of “Pinball Wizard” as he sung it in the movie Tommy.





And here is Tho Who’s original version, with Roger Daltrey singing it.






Which version do you prefer?

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