I was a kid in the 50’s but a teenager in the 60’s and that’s when I really started listening to music and when popular music really exploded. I still like a lot of stuff from the 60’s and maybe this list will show how my taste evolved while remaining true to the music that I first loved. Or maybe not
This isn’t a definitive list and it never could be. It’s compiled mostly by going through my Itunes list of tracks –and therefore not in any meaningful order- mostly copied from my own CDs plus some downloads. A number of my CDs are packed in boxes in the garage and are inaccessible and not all of them have been copied to my hard drive so there will be a few omissions which I’ll only recognise later. It certainly isn’t a definitive guide to my taste and there are lots of artists I like that I’ve left out. The tracks I’ve included here have something special about them.
Though I’ve tried to keep it to one song per artist, I’ve sometimes included a runner up track (or three). There are some notes or odd comments but often the tracks will be left to speak for themselves. And I’ve shoved in one unattributed but hardly obscure quote from the lyrics of one song just because I’d been listening to it recently and it amused me.
My single all-time favourite track ever and will never change.
Fotheringay: The Way I Feel.
Fotheringay was basically Sandy Denny’s band but she didn’t take all the lead vocals with her husband Trevor Lucas sometimes getting one as he does here with this Gordon Lightfoot song. Denny comes in gradually on harmonies building slowly and beautifully until it almost becomes a duet. The imagery is autumnal and reflects the breakup of a relationship but it can also be considered a metaphor for death. There’s some great understated drumming from Gerry Conway and simply gorgeous guitar playing by the brilliant American Jerry Donahue.
I love this so much that I’ve left an instruction in my will that it’s to be played at my funeral.
Runner-up: Fotheringay: The Banks of the Nile.
The B-52s: Is that you, Mo’Dean?
Alien abduction was never so much fun or so crazy.
BB King: The thrill is gone.
Beach Boys: Sloop John B.
Big Country: In a big country.
Their greatest hits album is one of my favourite CDs. A great Scottish guitar band lead by the late lamented Stuart Adamson. Runner-up: just about any off that CD.
Big Mama Thornton: Wade in the water.
A big woman in every sense of the word with a voice which could knock Howlin Wolf through a wall but also caress with great delicacy. This gospel tune has some great guitar work in it.
Billy Boy Arnold: Shake your hips.
Harmonica player who came up with Bo Diddley but went off to do his own thing until Bruce Iglauer of Alligator Records brought him back to great effect. There’s some great interplay between his harp and the guitar on this driving track.
Blind Willie Johnson: Nobody’s fault but mine.
A legend of gospel-blues. Hell, a legend full stop who should rank with Robert Johnson.
Blondie: Hanging on the telephone.
One of the greatest pop singles ever.
Bob Dylan: Lay, lady, lay.
Just to pick one of a dozen or more. Runners-up: All along the watchtower, Hurricane, Subterranean homesick blues, etc.
Bonzo Dog Doo-dah Band: The intro and the outro.
British surrealist humour which manages to be good music.
Booker T & the MGs: Green Onions.
Bronski Beat: Smalltown boy.
Poignant effective song about being young and gay.
Bruce Springsteen: Born in the USA.
Come on, I mean what else could I pick? Runners-up: The River, Glory Days, Into the fire, Cover me, etc, etc.
Buffalo Springfield: Mr Soul.
The Byrds: So you wanna be a rock’n’roll star.
Byther Smith: Give me my white robe.
Canned Heat: On the road again.
Let’s boogie! Runner up: Burning Hell (with John Lee Hooker).
Chicken Shack: I’d rather go blind.
Chris Rea: Steel river.
Chuck Berry: Roll over Beethoven.
Cowboy Junkies: Sweet Jane.
Turbo-charged journey to hell. If this doesn’t stir you, you’re dead.
Cyndi Lauper: Time after time.
Just lovely. Runner-up: True colors.
Donna Summer & Barbra Streisand: No more tears (enough is enough), long version.
I don’t like disco, I don’t like Streisand (though I do like Donna Summer) but this epic has just brilliant singing, a great arrangement and is just a great song.
The Doors: Riders on the storm.
Echo & the Bunnymen: Villiers Terrace.
Runners-up: Crocodiles, Zimbo (live), The Cutter, etc, etc.
Eric Clapton: Knockin’ on Heaven’s door.
Fairport Convention: Matty Groves.
Runners-up: Fotheringay, Crazy Man Michael, Sloth, etc, etc.
Fela Kuti: Zombie.
Brilliant piece of music as politics –the zombie is any and all soldiers of the Nigerian government and boy did it piss a lot of people off. Runners-up: Shakara, Water get no enemy.
Fleetwood Mac: Black Magic Woman.
Runners-up: The Chain, Oh well pt1. I like the blues band and the later incarnation.
Florence and the Machine: My boy builds coffins.
Frank Zappa (feat.Captain Beefheart): Willie the Pimp.
George Thorogood: Gear jammer.
Nobody plays electric slide better, or louder, than George: Put this track on and set your speakers for 11. Your neighbours will love you forever.
The Glee Cast: Bust a move.
Runner-up: Gold digger. Don’t. Say. A. Word!
Grateful Dead: China cat sunflower/I know you rider (live).
Heart: Crazy on you.
Runners-up: Barracuda, These dreams.
The Hollies: The air that I breathe.
The best of mid-60’s Brit pop when I was a teenager.
Howlin’ Wolf: Smokestack Lightning.
Human League: The Lebanon.
Janis Joplin: Ball & chain.
Jefferson Airplane: Volunteers.
Runner-up: We can be together.
Jimi Hendrix: All along the watchtower.
Runner-up: Catfish blues.
Johnny Cash: Hurt.
Johnny Clegg: Take my heart away.
Jonathan Richman: Pablo Picasso.
Joy Division: Love will tear us apart.
The Kingsmen: Louie Louie.
Like I wouldn’t include this. Runner-up The Trashmen: Surfin’ Bird.
Kirsty MacColl: In these shoes?
Larry Garner: Thought I had the Blues.
“She don't like other women, she likes whips and chains.
She likes cocaine and flipping' out with great Danes.
She's about all I can handle; it's too much for my brain
She got me under pressure.”
Lazy Lester: Bloodstains on the wall.
The Levellers: Hope Street.
Crusty folk/rock that’s live and exciting and left-wing.
From the Excello label down on the bayou, the laid-back swamp blues of Lightnin’ Slim. Electric blues at its most minimalist: electric guitar, percussion, and harp (often Lazy Lester), plus the most wonderful world-weary voice you’ve ever heard in your life.
Link Wray: Jack the Ripper.
Lucinda Williams: Lonely girls.
New Country? Singer-songwriter? Who cares, she’s just great.
Luther Allison: Bad love.
Electrifying blues and his double CD Live In Chicago is one of the best live albums ever.
Mahavishnu Orchestra: One word.
Something quite extraordinary and unique.
Mike Scott & the Waterboys: Will ye go away.
Sometimes he’s Mike Scott, sometimes he’s The Waterboys, sometimes he’s both. But he’s always good. Runner-up A fisherman’s blues.
Muddy Waters: Hoochie Coochie Man.
Neil Young: Like a hurricane.
Runner up: All along the watchtower (feat. Chrissie Hind), Southern man, Tonight’s the night. I could fill up the rest of this page with titles. For me, the greatest rock star ever.
New Order: True Faith.
Otis Redding: Dock of the Bay.
Pat Benatar: Love is a battlefield.
Pattie Smith: Babelogue/Rock’n’roll nigger.
Runner-up: Because the night.
Pentangle: Cruel sister.
Peter Gabriel: Biko.
The Police: Every breath you take.
R L Burnside: Goin’ down south.
The Ramones: I wanna be sedated.
Oh hell, just pick any of their songs at random.
The Rolling Stones: Sympathy for the Devil.
A minor 60’s band. Had a couple of hits then disappeared. Runner-up: Wild horses.
Sandy Denny: It’ll take a long time/ Who knows where the time goes. Tie.
Sheryl Crow: Soak up the sun.
Just a good time.
Simple Minds: Waterfront.
Steeleye Span: Thomas the Rhymer.
Everybody needs some British folk-rock in their lives. Runner-up: Gaudete.
Steely Dan: Do it again.
Stephen Stills: Soldier.
Made a couple of really good solo albums but Neil Young he aint.
Steppenwolf: Born to be wild.
Is there anyone who doesn’t like this?
The Stranglers: No more heroes.
Talking Heads: Take me to the river.
The Teardrop Explodes: Reward.
Classic Brit-pop by a madman/genius who also writes really good books.
U2: Pride (In the name of love).
Runners-up: One, New Year’s Day, With or without you. Plus a load more. One of my very favourite bands ever. Just listen to the music.
Youssou N’Dour: Leaving (Dem).
ZZ Top: Sharp-dressed man.
Doing the iconic boogie.