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What Went Wrong?

Barefoot Justine

SimonGarfunkelI’ve had this problem, one that started early into adulthood. The problem is that there is music I love that I cannot bear. Be it in the background at a supermarket, on the radio, with friends, on my own, this music always brings me to tears. Not tears due to the content, it’s something else, something that is so deep in me I never could quite pinpoint it. It’s not a feeling I have about anything else, no matter how much I love, have loved, or how terribly important it has been in my life. It’s Simon and Garfunkel. I have not even owned any of their albums on CD, as the music they made began stirring me to tears way back in the days of vinyl. Why?

I missed the sixties, they were before my time, but I did not miss the aftermath, the music was still in the…

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Reelin’ in the Years – 1969

Moon Landing Nasa Apollo 11 1969 Buzz Aldrin

It’s 1969 and I’m seven years old. Old enough to understand the hippie movement and even emulate the walk. (I remember walking down the street with a certain “cool” gait and my 20-something neighbor saying to his friends, “He’s already got the walk!”

Canada is coming of age, musically speaking. Groups like The Guess Who and those with Canadian members like Blood, Sweat and Tears, The Band, and CSNY are charting. Not surprisingly, the US and Canadian pop charts diverge even more this year.



The Beatles seem to be doing better in Canada (our links to Her Majesty, perhaps?), and the whole order of hits differs between the two countries which, back then, were more isolated. I know full well that Canada still doesn’t really hit the US radar, but we’ve always been watching them—as much as the media would permit, that is.

At this point, I’m glad we’ve got CanCon rules because several Canadian pop tunes are firmly rooted in memory. Can’t imagine a childhood without those.

So without further ado, my fav pop song for ’69 has got to be the memorable “Spinning Wheel” by Blood, Sweat and Years.

The lead vocalist is David Clayton-Thomas, a Canadian singer, born in Surrey, England. One night I checked him out on Wikipedia. He’s had a tough, interesting life.

After the war, the family settled in Willowdale, Toronto. From the beginning, Clayton-Thomas and his father had a troubled relationship. By the time Clayton-Thomas was fourteen, he had left home, was sleeping in parked cars and abandoned buildings, stealing food and clothing to survive. He was arrested several times for vagrancy, petty theft, and street brawls and spent his teen years bouncing in and out of various jails and reformatories, including the Burwash Industrial Farm.[1]

He inherited a love for music from his mother and when an old guitar came into his possession, left behind by an outgoing inmate, he began to teach himself to play. Upon his release from detention in 1962, he gravitated to the Yonge Street “strip” in Toronto. Rhythm & Blues, migrating up from Detroit and Chicago was the music of choice on the strip and Arkansas rockabilly pioneer Ronnie Hawkins recognized the formidable talent of the young ‘Sonny’ Thomas and took him under his wing. It wasn’t long before he was fronting his own bands. » Wikipedia

Heck, I was still in junior school and can remember another kid singing this song in class. A big hit up here. Not as big in the US, maybe. But hey, Americans were walking on the Moon in ’69, so what did they care for spinning wheels?

Reelin’ in ALL the Years

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Reelin’ in the Years – 1968

Of note – Wendy (formerly Walter) Carlos released Switched-on Bach in 1968, groundbreaking in more ways than one. Pianist Glenn Gould said “Carlos’s realization of the Fourth Brandenburg Concerto is . . . the finest performance of any of the Brandenburgs – live, canned, or intuited – I’ve ever heard.” portlandpianolab.com – Image via Joe Haupt Flickr

It’s 1968 and I’m 6 years old.

This time around I checked the American and Canadian charts to decide on my fav pop radio song for ’68.

I don’t even know if it really is my fav song. But I thought I would highlight The Beatles’ “Hello Goodbye” as a fantastic example of a finely crafted pop tune. Also, time to stop ignoring The Beatles, arguably the best pop-rock band to appear in musical history.

There are several great songs this year. “Hello Goodbye” was listed on the Canadian but not the US Billboard charts for ’68. I’m not sure if that’s a release date or national preference discrepancy.

I remember hearing it as a kid in my brother’s room. He had a pretty good stereo for those days. And it really jumped out of the old speakers. If was fresh. Different. And the lyrics caught my young mind.


Someone liking someone who dislikes them? And the main character in the song is confused about it?

Magical Mystery Tour

Magical Mystery Tour (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All pretty new for a six-year-old. So that one really stuck.

As an adult, of course, I totally get it. But back then… intriguing.

I think the video (below) is a bit weak. The Sgt. Pepper’s imagery was already stale when Magical Mystery Tour came out. But the song itself sparkles.

Paul McCartney was widely recognized as a great bassist from the late ’60s to the mid-’70s, and rightly so. Just listen to that bassline. So innovative, yet it always finds its way back to the root. And Ringo’s drumming. Well, I think Ringo is a fabulously creative drummer. Some say he was terrible and couldn’t drum his way out of a wet paper bag. Others feel like I do. Ringo = Brilliant.

Ringo grew up not being able to afford a real drum kit so practiced on anything he could get his hands on. It shows. In a great way. His rolls are so Ringo. Nobody else could come up with the stuff he produced. A standard rock drummer wouldn’t have cut it with the Beatles. Everything had to be different, unconventional. Including the drums.

And just when you think “Hello Goodbye” is over, we find a false ending. What starts up after isn’t just more of the same but a whole new singalong jingle.

I don’t think that was too common for 1968.

So for its sheer originality and expert craftsmanship, this is the tune for ’68.

Magical Mystery Tour actually has several outstanding songs. Songs I probably like better as an adult. But in ’68 they were more for FM than AM. And as a six-year-old, I just wasn’t there yet.

Reelin’ in ALL the Years

 Budget Beats (ask.metafilter.com)

 North Korean Figure Skaters Make Olympic Debut, To Cheers (gpbnews.org)

 Music icon Quincy Jones says Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen can play guitar ‘just like’ Jimi Hendrix (businessinsider.com)

 Upcycling Your Musical Instruments (builddirect.com)

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Reelin’ in the Years – 1967

Front cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Clu...

Front cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, “probably the most famous album cover in popular musical history”Ashplant Smyth 2001, p. 185. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s 1967 and I’m five years old.

I definitely remember hearing Sgt. Pepper’s on vinyl. The song that first caught my imagination was “Lucy in the Sky.” That guitar riff at the beginning has been copied and morphed by so many other bands.

They probably changed it just enough to avoid a lawsuit. I learned how to play that riff as a boy. Not so hard. But getting something simple that unique, well, that’s the challenge of pop, isn’t it?

I don’t mean to pass over The Beatles. It’s the Summer of Love in ’67 and their groundbreaking Sgt. Pepper’s blew away most other bands. Actually all other bands. And most everyone admitted it (maybe not Quincy Jones).

A rose is a rose is a rose. And genius is genius is genius. And at that moment, The Beatles with George Martin were genius. No doubt about it.

English: Quincy Jones attending an after-party...

Quincy Jones attending an after-party of a tribute to his work at Life Restaurant, Los Angeles, CA on October 1, 2008 – Photo by Glenn Francis of http://www.PacificProDigital.com (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To think they did all that on a four-track recorder! Anyone who knows studio tech will understand how amazing that is.

I really should list “A Day in the Life” as my favorite song. But that was me in the basement, looking over and trying to play some sheet music on our old piano. Right now I want to focus more on stuff that really made AM radio what it was.

From 1966 you can see that AM radios were all rage back then. Most cars, except for the odd luxury vehicle, were standard equipped with a thin, overly compressed sounding AM radio. Basically music in a tin can.

That was it. So pop songs had to sound good on AM radios. And they had to go a full cycle (verse, chorus, bridge, etc.) in about 2 and a half minutes to fit the AM radio format.

If they went much over two minutes, the DJ would just start talking and fade into the next song or go to a commercial. So really, no long sagas like “A Day in the Life” would work on AM. That was for FM, which would find its full voice in the 70s. (get out the tape deck!)

Image – Wikipedia

One tune that did sound good on AM was the Rolling Stone’s “Ruby Tuesday.” I remember hearing this on vinyl – we had lots of vinyl kicking around – and sensing it was somehow different.

“Ruby Tuesday” proved that the Stones could do mature work. I think it’s a great song with fabulous instrumentation. That recorder, or whatever it is, adds an almost medieval, courtly flair that only the Brits could pull off.

Fantastic lyrics. Fantastic song. Enjoy.

Reelin’ in ALL the Years

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Reelin’ in the Years – 1966

The Monkees, 1966 via Wikipedia

Boy oh boy. There are so many good tunes for the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1966 that I really had to scratch my head over choosing just one. I am now four years old and remembering more songs as I grow older.

We had the Monkees 33.3 record with “Last Train to Clarksville.” My last name is Clark so as a kid that got my attention.

Even as a child, though, I sensed that the Monkees weren’t really the best of bands. A made-for-TV copy of the Beatles. We had oodles of Beatles 33s and 45s kicking around. So I had a good basis for comparison.

The Monkees were catchy. But they weren’t the Beatles.

Most cars in the mid-60s only had an AM radio. 8-track, FM, and cassette were soon to follow. In Canada, the speedometer still used MPH. We took a turn to KM (and Celcius) in the 70s. I remember reading in the paper that metric was more “international.” – Image via Wikipedia

Later in life, I came to appreciate and really adore Frank Sinatra. But in ’66 he was more of a middle-aged act than a young person’s thing. Frank was going out of style. “Strangers in the Night” did chart and won a Grammy for Record of the Year. But it didn’t fly with the teeny-bop crowd. Rock and Roll was “here to stay” as Neil Young would sing.

Mind you, that swanky era wasn’t totally gone. My parents’ generation still bought records like that. Funnily enough, I don’t remember seeing any Sinatra records in my parents’ collection. My love for Frank just came naturally later in life as I enjoy most types of music, especially the greats.

Sinatra, pictured here with Eleanor Roosevelt ...

Sinatra, pictured here with Eleanor Roosevelt in 1960, was an ardent supporter of the Democratic Party until 1968. – Image via Wikipedia

For the 1966 best song, however, I chose The Mamas & The Papas’ “Monday Monday” because, like “Downtown” (1965), it was one of those songs that stayed with you, even when you weren’t near the radio.

Notice the pre-hippy fashion in this video. Elvish colors and collars. Pinstripe pants. Hair getting a bit longer and shaggier. The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s, The Moody Blues’ Days of Future Passed, Traffic’s Mr. Fantasy and Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow were just around the corner. And that, my friends, was a whole new ballgame.

To me, the opening vocals in this tune are like a tulip coming out in April. Something so new, so fresh, so positive. Even though the song is about a sad Monday, it’s still upbeat, uplifting.

That’s flower power, man!

You can just see Sinatra and his fellow crooners burying their heads in their hands, heading for Vegas where they can still squeeze out a few bucks for booze, cigarettes and who knows what else.

Reelin’ in ALL the Years

 Rita Ora, Grace Jones, and English National Opera to headline Henley Festival 2018 (telegraph.co.uk)

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 Jay-Z opens up about why he boycotted the Grammys in 1999 (bostonherald.com)

 Music icon Quincy Jones says Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen can play guitar ‘just like’ Jimi Hendrix (businessinsider.com)

 Why the UK Just Appointed a Minister of Loneliness (livescience.com)

 Prince Honored By Justin Timberlake In NFL Super Bowl Halftime Show [Social Media Reactions] (business2community.com)

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Reelin’ in the Years – 1965

English: Trade ad for 1965 Rolling Stones' Nor...

Trade ad for 1965 Rolling Stones’ North American tour – Wikipedia

It’s 1965 and I’m three years old.

The British Invasion was in full swing by ’65. The Stones hit the charts with “Satisfaction” at #3. That is a great song with insightful lyrics and an easy riff that every child guitarist, including myself, played endlessly.

“Downtown,” on the other hand, was a tune so popular that it just existed in the collective imagination. You didn’t even have to hear it playing to get it. It captured, in my Toronto at least, the whole feeling of the year.

Pop music was getting a schmaltzy, sweet element. And I liked it, along with the nitty gritty stuff.

So here’s Petula Clark with “Downtown!”

Reelin’ in ALL the Years

 The Rolling Stones just won their 3rd Grammy – and it was for an album that’s one of their best (businessinsider.com)

 Shaggy and Sting are releasing an album together (thefader.com)

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Reelin’ in the Years – 1963

Continuing on with my “most representative” tune of the year since I was born, 1963 sees a change in pop music. Production is becoming a bit more complex and calculated. This #1 top single is a good example of carefully crafted production.

There are many good tunes in the top 100 for this year. It wasn’t easy settling on this one. I chose Sugar Shack not because it was #1 but because I dig its clever parsimony. We hear a lot of that today in pop music.

Reelin’ in ALL the Years