There is no doubt that we are currently in the midst of a Presidential race that our children will ask us about and that will be written into history books. It’s an interesting time in our country to say the least. I’m not one to put my two cents in about political matters online, but many musical artists use their music as a platform to do so. This week’s mini playlist is what I like to call Politically Driven Radio. Here are a few songs driven by politics or some sort of political issue that may just get you thinking
1.God Save The Queen- The Sex Pistols
According to Stephen Thomas Erlewine of allmusic.com, the BBC banned this song because of its anti-royalty language. Although the Queen doesn’t actually run England (I’m laughing at you if you thought she did.), she is still a notable and respected figure. This song was released in 1977, when rock and roll was still relatively new, making the added political element extra scandalous. With a name like The Sex Pistols, there’s bound to be controversy, even if they only lasted a couple of years.
2. Two Weeks From Twenty- Yellowcard
This song touches on more recent issues concerning the United States involvement in foreign war. Perhaps the most provocative line of the song is, “There’s still no shame from the man to blame”. Released in 2006, during the George W. Bush presidency, we are only left to assume who the man to blame is intended to be.
3. Hero of War- Rise Against
Another account of the United States involvement in foreign wars, “Hero of War” tells the story of a young military member, presumably fighting in foreign conflict around the time of the 2008 album release. The graphic detail of this song can make it tough to listen to, but it may get you thinking about some issues that have never crossed through your brain before.
4. Buffalo Soldier- Bob Marley & The Wailers
One unfortunate part of our country’s history that many don’t like to talk about or remember, slavery, is touched on in many forms of art. Although slavery has been abolished, racism is still an ever present political and social issue in America. Bob Marley tells this tale of the slave trade through music, singing “Stolen from Africa, brought to America” “Fighting on arrival, fighting for survival”
5. April 29, 1992 (Miami)- Sublime
The image above is of the Watts towers in Los Angeles, an important area in the 1992 riots. You may or may not have been alive in 1992. Even so, you’ve probably heard about the Los Angeles riots that occurred after the police brutality instilled upon Rodney King (If this doesn’t ring a bell, google it). This song gives an account of riots that occurred all over the United States as an outcry against racially motivated police brutality. Has much changed surrounding this issue in the last 24 years? I’ll let you be the judge.
Need a beginning lesson in classic rock and roll? Look no further.
Just as classic books such as Great Expectations and Pride and Prejudice are important to the history of literature and therefore shoved down innocent fifteen year olds throats, there are several artists that are essential to the history of rock and roll and should be shoved down your throat. Before we get to the playlist, here are a few *trigger warnings* for those who may consider themselves enthusiasts of rock:
I am anti- Beatles. I don’t really care how much you like Yellow Submarine, I’d prefer to be above ground. There is no denying that the Beatles definitely made an impact on music history, but in my blunt opinion, they suck.
The fact that you sang all the words to “Don’t Stop Believing” at a frat party does not make Journey a good rock band.
There are several other artists that could be included in a more extensive playlist (If your curious check out The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, Blue Oyster Cult etc.). This playlist was made assuming that the listener has little to no knowledge of classic rock and does not have hours and hours at their disposal for listening.
Back In Black- AC/DC
I’m 99.99999% sure that you have heard this song in some way, shape, or form over the course of your lifetime. AC/DC is the definition of sex, drugs, and good ‘ol rock ‘n roll. They are definitely a great artist to dive right into when beginning to listen to classic rock.
Tom Sawyer- Rush
Rush is that nerdy guy from your high school that has no friends, but eventually becomes your boss. Their innovative sounds were considered weird at first, but then they skyrocketed into rock stardom.
Surrender- Cheap Trick
Surrender is another song that you’ve probably heard before, but may not have known the artist. Remember that early 2000’s Eddie Murphey movie, Daddy Day Care? Surrender was actually played “live” in the movie by Cheap Trick. Cheap Trick has several other rock classics including “I Want You to Want Me” and, in my very important opinion, is one of the most underrated classic rock bands.
Show Me The Way- Peter Frampton
I’ve inserted a photo of the one and only Peter Frampton as the title image, to show you what a 1970’s sex god looked like. Just a little bit different than Zac Efron or Ryan Gosling. No matter what your taste in romantic partner, Peter Frampton is no doubt a rock god. His use of talk box, which is defined by Wikipedia as a “unit that allows musicians to modify the sound of a musical instrument by shaping the frequency content of the sound and to apply speech sounds (in the same way as singing) onto the sounds of the instrument”, is incredibly satisfying.
Life In The Fast Lane- Eagles
Eagles are an American classic if there ever was one. The recent passing of Glen Frey has brought the Eagles old tracks up a bit more. This particular song choice is a good listen if you are feeling rebellious.
Panama- Van Halen
Van Halen underwent lots of changes during their run as a rock band; still they remain a staple to this list.
Achilles Last Stand- Led Zeppelin
One of the longest Led Zeppelin songs (just over 10 minutes), “Achilles Last Stand” includes the one critical element of a truly perfect rock and roll track, an infinitely long guitar sequence.
Mary Jane’s Last Dance- Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
While many will credit Free Fallin’ as Tom Petty’s greatest song, it’s me, so I’ve got to veer off from the typical choice a little bit. That’s where Mary Jane’s Last Dance comes in. This song inspired me to learn how to play harmonica because of the sick (excuse my out dated so cal terminology) use of harmonica. Other than violin, harmonica is my favorite supplemental rock instrument.
Purple Haze- Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix is absolutely one of the most gifted guitarists that ever lived. I gave you a beginner track, but if you catch feelings for Jimi check out his rendition of the star spangled banner live from Woodstock.
More Than a Feeling- Boston
This is by far one of the most well-known classic American rock songs of all time and is most definitely Boston’s most popular track. I have more than a feeling about Boston, if you know what I mean.
Whether or not you agree with my choices, there’s no doubt that if you are a rock and roll beginner, these are some pretty solid training wheels.
Welcome back Aztecs! I’m back to the daily school grind and that means I’m back to cranking out some sweet playlists for all of you. For the sake of your precious time, I’ll keep this one short and sweet.
For those of you that don’t already know, I like to listen to music that not exactly on the straight and narrow. So I’ve compiled a short list of songs that were on the Top 40 (and/or were relatively popular) and should have stayed there.
In my personal opinion, Wonderwall is one of the most beautifully ambiguous songs ever created. It is truly one of those songs that can be whatever you want it to be. It is very user centric.
Smells Like Teen Spirit- Nirvana
Everyone needs a little teen spirit and Nirvana caters to the grungy teens from the 90’s that were desperately lost, high, and confused (teens these days haven’t changed that much…). The ultimate demise of Kurt Cobain catapulted Nevermind into the stratosphere, solidifying its place in rock history.
Lips Of An Angel- Hinder
This is one of the more “recent” songs on my mini playlist. Less rock elements and a slower pace brought this song onto the top 40 in the mid 2000’s, no questions asked.
Ocean Avenue- Yellowcard
My all-time favorite band, not my all-time favorite song. That being said, it seems to be one of the general populations top rock choices. I still can’t get over the use of violin by Yellowcard. Violin and rock music are a perfect mix. If you don’t believe me, give it a listen.
Gives Me Hell- The All American Rejects
The best humorous break-up song that ever appeared on hits radio. Although The All American Rejects are sub-par at best, its quality fruit on the rather fruitless top 40 tree.
No matter your music taste, everyone needs a few new songs to play on repeat once in a while. Have at it folks.
Alright, this is a big one. It’s the legendary Abbey Road by The Beatles. I have not talked about an album of nearly the same stature before so I’ll try my best to do this record justice. On this blog I’ve attempted to look at albums that are sometimes overlooked nowadays either because the artist has more famous works that overshadow a certain album or because the artist just isn’t as popular anymore. This album is different, at least I hope. If you haven’t listened to ABBEY ROAD by THE BEATLES you should really do that and I’ll tell you why. It’s one of the most iconic albums in history written by the most influential band of all time. If you somehow still aren’t convinced, keep reading and I can go into a bit more detail for you.
For those of you who are unaware, Abbey Road was written at the very end of The Beatles’ career. The disastrous Get Back sessions (that produced no album) nearly broke up the band right then and there at the beginning of 1969. When another album was planned The Beatles made sure to do it right and not repeat the same experience. What came out of this was some of the best music that The Beatles ever wrote in their long and storied career. Not that it was all sunshine and happiness, the band was irreversibly fractured and according to interviews there was a feeling that this would be their last record. The album is one of the best sounding from the whole 1960’s decade, and at this point music began to sound modern in the sense that if recorded right it could hold up with music released today. Abbey Road could have been made yesterday and nobody would know otherwise. I can maybe think of one or two albums recorded before Abbey Road that has a better sounding mix. The band that pioneered modern recording techniques, taking pop music out of the stone ages, had gone full circle and guided guided the industry to its current state. Abbey Road is the real last record of The Beatles and a fitting end to their careers.
The album starts off with John Lennon’s well known composition Come Together. The song features somewhat cryptic lyrics of a character that many fans have assumed refers to each of the members of the band. Paul McCartney’s bass line is one of his best, a smooth and groovy riff that is one of the defining features of the song. Come Together half of the single released to promote the album.
Up next is George Harrison’s Something. It was the other half of the double-sided single released for the album alongside Come Together. Something is one of Harrison’s most famous compositions and was a sign that he had matured into a songwriter on par with his band mates John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Frank Sinatra once called it the best love song he ever head, it’s hard to garner higher praise.
The third song is Paul’s first piece for the album. Maxwell’s Silver Hammer pales in comparison to the dual team of Come Together and Something but it’s charmingly quirky in its own regard. The song is about a serial killer named Maxwell Addison who murders innocent people with his hammer. Interestingly, the song is one of the few on the album that includes a Moog synthesizer, one of its first uses in recorded music. Anybody who says The Beatles weren’t original don’t know what they are talking about.
If Maxwell’s Silver Hammer was Paul’s pop song on the first side then Oh! Darling is his big rocker. It’s in the style of songs that The Beatles would write or cover early in their careers. It is one of McCartney’s most scorching vocal performances and it required him to come to the studio early in the morning to stretch his voice beforehand so he could sing it right.
The fifth track on the album is Octopus’ Garden, Ringo Starr’s second and last composition for The Beatles. One of the happiest and most relaxing songs on the album, it was written to identify with Ringo’s image as singing songs for children, like he did with Yellow Submarine and Good Night. Even with the tense circumstances that the album was recorded under, everybody pitched in to help Ringo with his little masterpiece.
The last song on the first side of the album is Lennon’s I Want You (She’s So Heavy). The song is simple in composition and lyrics. The song alternates between two progressions, the ‘I Want You’ part is a bluesy call from John to Yoko Ono, who he wrote the song for. The ‘She’s So Heavy’ sections revolve around an interlocking guitar groove from both George and John. Ringo’s jazzy drumming complements the song nicely while Paul’s bass playing is some of his most technically proficient in his career. Billy Preston plays organ on the song, reprising his role from the Get Back sessions. After the third go around of the ‘I Want You section, the ‘She’s So Heavy’ guitar groove hits like a torrent. A slowly plodding groove that builds and builds with windy and white noise sound effects swirling on and on in goose bump raising fashion until the song abruptly cuts to end the first side.
The second side of Abbey Road starts off with George Harrison’s beautiful Here Comes The Sun. One of the other tracks that also features the Moog synthesizer, the song can’t help but make you feel happy. It is one Harrison’s songs that doesn’t feature John Lennon, an unfortunate trait that carried back several albums. It is one of the ultimate feel good songs and it makes you wish it would go on for the rest of your day.
From the cheer and sunshine that is Here Comes The Sun we go to the gloomy and mysterious Because. John Lennon was inspired to write it when Yoko Ono was playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, Because uses the same chords but in reverse. The song is a three part harmony between Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison. The Beatles were put on the map because of their songwriting acumen and uncanny ability to harmonize their vocals and Because could very well be their best harmony.
The rest of the album comprises the so called Abbey Road medley. Comprised of short songs strung together from the White Album and Get Back sessions, the medley was a product of Paul’s and producer George Martin, Lennon was characteristically unamused, but a few of his contributions made their way into the medley.
The medley begins with You Never Give Me Your Money, a Paul song consisting of a few segmented musical ideas. The song features Harrison and Lennon trading guitar arpeggios and solos as the song fades out and is terrifically catchy.
Sun King slowly fades in and is one of John’s songs in the medley. Like Because, it also showcases harmonies between himself, Paul, and George. There is a word salad section where the Beatles all sing foreign language words and slang terms in a somewhat rhyming manner.
Segueing from Sun King is Lennon’s Mean Mr. Mustard, a short piece written while on The Beatles trip to India. The song cuts to Lennon’s third song on the medley Polythene Pam, which is a bit more of a rocking song than the previous two. Polythene Pam moves into the last song in this section of the medley She Came In Through The Bathroom Window was a Paul contribution, written with the inspiration of a particular Beatle fan desperate to see him via the exact method described in the title.
The last three songs are also Paul tunes, the first being Golden Slumbers which moves directly into Carry That Weight. Both songs share a similar composition, Carry That Weight even echoes portions of You Never Give Me Your Money, tying together the medley idea even more. To close out the album is appropriately titled The End. A seminal Beatles track, it is the only song to feature a solo by all members of the band, including Ringo’s only drum solo ever. Paul had all three of the other Beatles play short guitar solos, alternating between each other every few bars. The song ends with a final couplet that states, “And in the end, the love you take/ is equal to the love you make.” A perfect summation of the positivity that the band created in their short eight years of recording music.
It wasn’t quite The End, hidden about 20 seconds after the song is over is a short 23 second track entitled Her Majesty. A little Paul bit accompanied by an acoustic guitar. It was supposed to be placed in between Mean Mr. Mustard and Polythene Pam but was cut out of the reel, a sound engineer told not to throw anything out and not knowing what to do with it stuck it on the end. The Beatles liked the little surprise track and left it on.
Just as The End wasn’t the real end for Abbey Road, the album wasn’t actually the last released while The Beatles still existed as an entity. Months after John Lennon had already left, the Get Back session material was mixed under the supervision of Phil Spector and released in 1970 as Let It Be, which is considered the last Beatles album even though it was recorded before Abbey Road.
It’s hard to state the significance of this album. Just the fact that the cover art has been imitated so many times is a testament to how important it is to the history of recorded music. This is the crossroads between art and how it influences people. What is the meaning behind a 47 minute long collection of pop songs? How does music as an art form matter? I’m not sure I can answer those questions. I will say that albums like Abbey Road have moved millions of people into thinking and feeling in a different way. Maybe that’s the significance of art, connecting humanity to experience thoughts and emotions outside of their previous experience.