Saturday, March 7, 2009

It Was a Very Good Year

Friend of OPC Rob sends over the dirt on a blog from Scott Miller, formerly of the Eighties band Game Theory (which I don't recall, but Rob says they were good, and I believe him), wherein he takes alook at the best songs from a certain year. The first thing to note is that having a real musician do this kind of thing is extraordinarily valuable, with his assessments of the kind of technical details that would easily pass me by but that I'm oh so glad to have: "The extent of the twist is the big deal here: 'All the young dudes carry the...' is the set-up, then the minor on 'news' is cool enough, but then 'boogaloo dudes' seems to take up a new descent, then 'carry the news' is a radical, unexpected resolution—he has to cheat back up to the fundamental key in the turnaround." I can't do that kind of thing.

By sorting these songs according to year, Miller achieves a few important things, like bringing a context to them that you might otherwise miss. The year 1978, for instance, encompasses "Shattered" and This Year's Model and "Comes a Time" and "Candy's Room" (far from the best song on Darkness, says I, but whatever). The fact that they all seem to be beginnings and ends of different things makes you less likely to put them all together temporally.

You can also see that the 1960s and 1970s are filled with memorable pop songs, whereas the 1980s and beyond tend to be filled with stuff by Guadalcanal Diary and Let's Active and Thin White Rope. Hey, I like Guadalcanal Diary as much as the next guy, once you factor in the fact that the next guy has never even heard Guadalcanal Diary. This has more to do with Miller moving from getting songs off AM radio to getting songs off college radio and in clubs than it has to do with snobbery. As far as I know, Miller is the only person besides me who likes the Sandpipers' "Come Saturday Morning," or at least is willing to admit it.

And you can also see what a thundering earthquake 1965 was as far as pop music goes. It marked the debut of "Help!" and "Tracks of My Tears" and "My Generation" and "My Girl" and "King of the Road" and "In the Midnight Hour" (and me). And that's before you get to "Satisfaction" and "Yesterday" and "Like a Rolling Stone," each of which has, at some point, been declared the greatest record ever. It's nice to be reminded of that.

5 comments:

MJN said...

Geez, there is so much that I don't know about music. One lifetime isn't going to be enough.

Kinky Paprika said...

Please tell me he's going to analyze "Surfin' Bird."

Kinky Paprika said...

Aw, smack, he *did*!
http://www.125records.com/loudfamily/mwh/1963.html

Not sure what he's really saying about it, but I'll just take that business about "one of the most maniacally entertaining pieces of recorded music ever" and stick with that.

(A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.)

T. Nawrocki said...

Yeah, like I said, Miller's no snob. If you read only the 1990s pieces, though, you could get that impression.

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