Monday, November 3, 2014

L.A. in the 60s had KHJ’s Boss30, a weekly list of top pop songs.  The first survey was issued in July 1965 and “Satisfaction” was No. 1.  “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” was there, and so was “Mr. Tambourine Man.”  It was a time when we were all on the same page, at least on the same survey; a time before Disney Girls and songs “feat.” somebody else.  James Brown, the Stones, the Byrds, all on the same survey.  Pop radio in the new millennia just makes me sad.

There are many more AM10s on the singles chart and the following list represents five personal favorites.  As AM10s, one can’t be “more perfect” than the next and so they appear in no particular.  At AM we want your feedback, but keep in mind that just because your faves didn’t make the list, they could have, and should have.  Add them on - but to qualify, they must have made it onto the Boss30, America’s Top 40 (Casey Kasem) or have been in the top half of the Billboard 100.

“Ventura Highway” by America.  The most iconic riff in rock is Keith Richard’s “Satisfaction.”  In less than a measure there isn’t anyone who can’t identify that signature.  The opening chord to “A Hard Day’s Night” has been argued for 50 years (it’s Fadd9, by the way, as played on George’s 12 String Rickenbacker).  In kind, there’s “Ventura Highway.”  All you have to do is hear that riff and you’re “Chewin’ on a piece of grass, walking down a road.”

“Bennie and the Jets” by Elton John.    From “electric boobs” to “benny antoinettes” these lyrics have been classically and comically misunderstood.  And no, it’s not about “Brown Bennies,” a sort of 70s methamphetamine, it’s an anthem to the 70s music scene, with its crazy experimentation and wild fashion.  Elton hated the song; didn’t even want it to appear on Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road, but a quick studio fix that included reverb, a Jimi Hendrix loop, and a “live audience” and Bennie crushed the charts.

“Try a Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding.  I’m really an auteur fan.  As much as I’m a Sinatra aficionado, I’m always put-offish about a stylist who doesn’t write his own music.  But the man was the ultimate cool and it was a time of standards.  There were songwriters and there were singers and barely the twain ever met.  Otis Redding was at the end of that cozy arrangement, and I’m not an Otis Redding fan, but this song is the consummate expression of passion in a singer.  Etta James nailed it in “At Last” and Sinatra was the master, but this is the ultimate interpretation of a stylist.

“America” by Simon and Garfunkel.  In Steven Holden’s 1972 New York Times review of Bookends he writes: “America was Simon’s next major step forward. It is three and a half minutes of sheer brilliance, whose unforced narrative, alternating precise detail with sweeping observation, evokes the panorama of restless, paved America and simultaneously illuminates a drama of shared loneliness on a bus trip with cosmic implications.”   That’s pretty overblown, innit?  Every word is truth.  

“I’m Not in Love” by 10cc.
  Suffice it to say that this is my favorite song of all time.  It’s me in my teens, in love, unrequited - and it’s stayed with me all these years.  From Godley and Creme’s incredible production to tape loops to “Big boys don’t cry,” this is my jam, as they say.  You’ll appreciate it a whole lot more if you watch this short documentary on the making of. 


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