“September,” Earth, Wind, and Fire


Will writes from Washington, D.C. (well, Arlington, Virginia). You can reach him at willblogcorrespondence at gmail dot com.

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57 Responses

  1. Sam MacDonald says:

    The obvious route to take here is hip-hop. Take your pick. Dre, just to go with royalty? Or maybe Run DMC? I am not sure my own head isn’t still a little shattered.

    But I also wonder: Which songs would the record executive hear and say, “Wow… that’s pretty good. I could see that being on the radio right now.” That is, we often think of “timelessness” in terms of, “people will get it 50 years from now.” But does it go in the opposite direction? And would acceptance in 1959 be seen as a compliment by the artist? Should it be?Report

    • Will in reply to Sam MacDonald says:

      I’m thinking of songs that would fall under the latter category – that’s what I took Jaybird’s “musically accessible” condition to mean. And yeah, I think there’s something to be said for music that transcends a particular cultural moment.Report

  2. Jason Kuznicki says:

    I’m not getting the first criterion. “Musically accessible” disqualifies Slayer but not hip hop? What does “musically accessible” even mean?

    Anyway, it seems like “Eleanor Rigby” would be plenty. Or any random song from Yes. Then tell them these guys would be filling up Wembley Stadium in twenty years.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      It’s definitely a loosey-goosey term. I was more going for the “it has to have a discernable melody”. Not necessarily one easy enough to hum… but “I know it when I see it” and John Cage and Slayer are both way the heck over there.

      (Ironically, John Cage performed Water Walk on national television a year after the year in which this thought experiment is performed.)Report

  3. mark boggs says:


  4. Mike Schilling says:

    “My Generation”? ’65, but compared to the pre-Beatles era, it makes me think of the epigraph to the film version of MASH(1970):

    Korea, 1950
    A hundred years agoReport

  5. BlaiseP says:

    The Year the Music Died, 1959, featured a whole lotta brain breaking. It was also the year Jimi Hendrix bought his first electric guitar. Keith Richards was buying Big Bill Broonzy records and Alexis Korner was introducing London to American blues musicians at his London Blues and Barrelhouse Club. I don’t think any producer of the era would be much-surprised by what rock and roll would become over time, for rock and roll was all about scandalizing the squares. Jazz, too, would have its impact on the white-hot emotion of the 1960s, Ornette Coleman was tearing up jack in those days, to the delight of some.

    Payola, not talent, put songs on the Hit Parade and Dick Clark’s program. That much hasn’t changed.Report

  6. Boegiboe says:

    “Head Like a Hole,” Nine Inch Nails

    Industrial rock was not just a revolution in popular music but also in sound production itself. All of the sounds in that song are discernable in a way you can say “Yeah, I know how to get that sound on a recording.” But combined into the Industrial texture, the chanting, animal sounds, clanking machinery–all toned, producing harmonic structure–make a sound that wouldn’t have been surpassed in sensual excess except by actual war.

    What’s more, that song is completely singable. It’s as easy to pick out the melody as that of “Hey, Jude.” Yeah, NIN would blow your 1959 producer’s mind.Report

  7. rj says:

    “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

    It may seem cheesy, but a six-minute-long mini rock opera would have split a lot of brains into a million little pieces back in when the 45 was king. It uses instruments available at the time, the lyrics make sense and are sung to be understoood and yet it’s so completely different in style and structure from anything that existed then.Report

  8. greginak says:

    Any of the jazz rock fusion stuff would work. Spin some Bitches Brew from Miles David or Weather Report would cause a hemorrhage. Hell that stuff does that to some jazz fans to this day.Report

    • mark boggs in reply to greginak says:

      I can see some Mahavishnu Orchestra stuff doing that. The record guy is sitting there trying to tap his foot, ’cause their stuff is funky enough for tapping, but he’s trying to do it to some sort of whacked out 5/4 time signature and always finding himself ending up on the upbeat when he thinks he should be on the downbeat.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to greginak says:

      Well, back in the day when Gil Evans was working with Miles Davis on Sketches of Spain in 1960, jazz was experimenting with the orchestra, as Debussy and Ravel had done, back in their day.

      Rock had always admired jazz, and when jazz went highbrow, rock wanted a piece of that, too. Alas for Pomp Rock like Emerson Lake and Palmer, that it went over the top, recycling old chestnuts, never looking back to the days when classical music had been truly experimental. Only Frank Zappa made the leap from rock to jazz and classical, and that only because he didn’t give a rat’s ass about public opinion. His heroes had been the experimentalists.

      I spent a lot of time playing keyboards, working with the then-new Moog synths, sequencers and software. Prog relied too much on bombast and became as irrelevant as its bombastic idols. I loved Joe Zawinul, still consider him a minor deity among keyboard players. But fusion… well, it would in time become Smoove Jazz, the baby shit genre, its chords never varying far from the tonic, a gelded ox, ponderously puffin’ on its schweet saxophone. The squares of 1959 would just eat up Smoove Jazz like banana pudding.Report

  9. mark boggs says:

    “Hot for Teacher”, Van HalenReport

  10. Aaron says:

    What are we looking to do — blow people’s minds with the production skills, or trying to blow their minds with the content? If you’re looking to freak them out with production, I might nominate “Ladies and Gentlemen, We’re Floating in Space” (and that’s the original Elvis, “Fools Rush In” version) by Spiritualized. If we’re going with content, I nominate “The King of Carrot Flowers, Parts 1-3” by Neutral Milk Hotel.

    The Spiritualized track won’t present anything that a record producer circa 1959 wouldn’t understand, but put together in a way that I think they’d find completely alien.

    The Neutral Milk Hotel presents a level of imagery and emotional directness that I think would be equally alien to our bespeckled knob-twiddler.Report

  11. Rufus F. says:

    The flipside of this question would be what songs recorded in or around that era blew your mind when you first heard them.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

      That’s where this eventually leads, yeah.

      You eventually just end up with a bunch of mind-blowing songs with the older ones remembered by the older folks in the audience.

      “Minnie the Moocher”
      “Aw, that’s nothing! Battle Hymn of the Republic!”
      “Aw that’s nothing! Ave Maria!”
      “Aw that’s nothing! Psalm 98!”
      “Aw that’s nothing!”Report

  12. Robert Cheeks says:

    The last verse of Bob Dylan’s Dream, 1963.

    “I wish, I wish, I wish in vain
    That we could sit simply in that room again
    Ten thousand dollars at the drop of a hat
    I’d give it all gladly if our lives could be like that”

    There were times when old Bob had the magic and could reveal it all in just one line.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

      Yeah… sigh. Every Bob Dylan cover is better than the original. Bob Dylan sings like a donkey brays.Report

      • Robert Cheeks in reply to BlaiseP says:

        As always, you miss the point.Report

        • BlaiseP in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

          Listen to the Judy Collins cover and tell me I’ve missed the point.Report

          • Robert Cheeks in reply to BlaiseP says:

            F*ck the cover…as I said you miss the point.
            Cisco Huston, Ramblin’ Jack Eliot, Lead Belly, Woody; these guys lived it, wrote it, sang it. Bob caught the spirit and he examined the times and found them wanting and he showed your generation how and why you were missing the point.
            Judy’s a beautiful singer and that’s the problem. The only ‘beautiful’ singer that gets anywhere near these men is Joanie and she was a f*cked up progressive.

            dude the song’s written and sung from the experience of life, not some church choir alto who’s screwing around and smokin’ doobies because its what’s done.aReport

            • dexter in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

              Bob old pal, I wish you would play nice. Wasn’t Woody a serious union man? Also, since rumor has it that it was Dylan who turned the Beatles on and it would not suprise me one iota if all the people you mentioned periodically had an illegal smile, what is your point?Report

              • Robert Cheeks in reply to dexter says:

                Dex, whoa, I don’t castigate people who relax in the evening with a doobie, hell, that’s their decision, though I’m told its illegal (“…if you see me tonight with an illegal smile, it didn’t cost very much, but it lasts a long while”).
                Woody was a commie with the words, “Jesus, Jesus” on his lips at the time of his death, and a non-public union man, and aint’ a damn thing wrong with private unions.
                Life is miasmatic at best, though sometimes, if you love God you can work through or be given a view of the light, and be among those who’ve achieved/benn blessed with a certain noetic understanding. Dexter, we’re a fallen specie and if that ain’t enough there’s the ever popular libido dominandi…no one said it was easy.Report

              • It’s not necessary that Bob (or anyone else) agree with an artist’s politics, friendships, or personal life choices to appreciate the quality of the art produced.Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

              Old musician’s joke. Some people can write the tune. But they’re not always the best people to unload the tune.

              Bob Dylan’s cryptic wisdom has confounded, amused and inspired lots of folks, but it doesn’t make him a better singer. He’s not alone with this problem, either. Richard Thompson destroyed his best instrument when he divorced Mary.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Eh. Sometimes the Byrds blew Dylan away. His “Chimes of Freedom” is a monotonous rant, while theirs kicks ass, But their Mister Tambourine Man is a pretty good pop song, while his is pure beauty.Report

  13. dexter says:

    Nobody I have ever met confused Dylan with a great tenor, but the man could write very good songs, and set the mood. “Sail on Sara” comes to mind.Report

    • Robert Cheeks in reply to dexter says:

      No one in modern times wrote better. And, if the song had to come from the heart, to sing of man, and and who he was and his journey toward God, no one was better than he and Woody.Report

      • Dylan is a lousy singer and a great vocalist. When he sets his mind to it, you can hear every word, every syllable. He has presence; he communicates.

        To illustrate my little distinction here, Robin Zander of Cheap Trick is a great singer and a lousy vocalist. No character, no presence. Dylan has character out the wazoo. [Mick Jagger fits this, too.]Report

        • Mike Schilling in reply to tom van dyke says:

          When Mr. van Dyke is right, he’s very right.Report

        • Heidegger in reply to tom van dyke says:

          Tom, I don’t know, but I’d put Leonard Cohen in the same category–lousy singer, great vocalist. Actually though, I’d scratch the last comment–I’ve never heard Suzanne (one of the greatest songs ever written) ever sung more beautifully–it’s an absolute masterpiece and the words do indeed “float down like golden honey”. He has a very distinctive voice-takes a little while to appreciate–but it’s a precious and expressive instrument–am a big fan of Mr. Cohen’s and incredibly, he’s still a happy minstrel delighting fans all ove the world. Of course, his voice now is about an octave lower than his Suzanne days.Report

          • Heidegger in reply to Heidegger says:

            Heidegger March 12, 2011 at 5:12 pm
            Savant Robert, am I nuts? I hold very deeply my Ph. D. earned at the Rush Limbaugh Institute od Conservative Studies. I already solved the deficit problem by sending the U.S. budget of 1804 to Geitner to be implemented immediately. And I even had time to solve the “global warming” hoax by proving we need MORE CO2 in our atmosphere not less. We might even bring back the dinosaurs and woolly mammoths. I was having this discussion with Jason earlier.
            I’ll be happy to share the Nobel winnings with all the people on this sight!

            Come on Jason, what do you think his lawyer is going to say?? That he’s a model of sound mental and physical health? I DO believe that after careful consideration, they have resumed the policy of putting mints on top of the poor lads pillow, so I hope makes you just a little bit happy.

            You’re entire political universe seems to revolve around, Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, Gitmo……Abu Ghraib looked like more like a sequel to Animal House than Papillon and it appears to me that Andrew Sullivan is so endlessly upset and forlorn over this issue, for the simple reason he was not able to participate in these events.
            Why don’t you read Tammy Bruce and then ask her about Sullivan’s sexually repulsive, B&D classified ads. What he was looking and searching for, would make the Marquis de Sade blush. Please note that ALL participants in the Abu Ghraib incident have been prosecuted to the very fullest extant of the law.

            Now if you want to see what real torture looks like, I suggest you look at the video of Mengele-like “medical” procedures of cutting off of fingers, toes, breaking wrists with a sledge hammer, pushing people off high rooftops, ripping off tongues, throwing prisoners off of a wall into a pack of attack dogs. It’s all there. Feeding men into a shredder feet first. Endless be-headings with swords, even kitchen knives. How about having children raped in front of their parents? I can’t seem to recall any mention of these atrocities coming from you or your acolytes. No, it’s been an endless, monomaniacal obsession with “Weekend At Bernies”, er, I mean Abu Ghraib. No, it’s your cowardly, spineless representatives, Liberal and Lefties who had a super majority in the Senate, a very large majority in the House and the White House–but hey, the just ran like scattering little rats in heat rather try and make their case. Bush and Cheney pretty much said, “well get it on”. They knew what a bunch of chicken shit liberals there are in the House and Senate. They run like lemmings rather face any kind of heat or conflict. And Jason, do you really want to get into comparisons between how the Soviets treated their POWs and how we treat ours? I didn’t think so. Can you at least own up to the fact that Liberals ran like scared little rats abadoning ship. You had it all. You had all the men and women in their places to investigate Bush and Cheney and anyone else whom you thought was complicit in these “war crimes” and “torture” .What happened? Zilch. Zero. You guys did NOTHING.

            So here, please watch this. I warn you, ONLY watch this on an empty stomach.


            Jason: “What you’re seeing here is punitive medical health, much like in the Soviet Union, used for political reasons and not for protecting anyone at all.” MUCH LIKE IN THE SOVIET UNION?????? Jason is NOT referring to the Saddam torture videos. He’s talking about Manning not being allowed to wear his Mickey Mouse pajamas to sleep in at night. Private Manning is a traitor and should be shot at dawn. Do you really want to get into a comparison of the Soviet Union’s treatment of prisoners accused of aiding the enemy and how Private Manning is being treated in the Marine Brig. I didn’t think so. I doubt the Soviets ever even had a living prisoner accused of such charges.

            Article 81 -Conspiracy
            Article 92 -Failure to obey order or regulation
            Article 94, UCMJ Sedition
            Article 104, UCMJ Aiding the Enemy
            Article 108 UCMJ Military property of the United States–sale, loss, damage, destruction, or wrongful disposition
            Article 121 UCMJ Larceny and wrongful appropriationReport

          • Heidegger in reply to Heidegger says:

            Okay, site was what I meant.

            And this is immortal beauty.


  14. mark boggs says:

    “Hocus Pocus” by Focus.Report