Monkees “Last Train to Clarksville”
I’m still not sure who to thank for the genius that is the Monkees. This infectious rip off of the Beatles “Paperback Writer” was their first Number 1 hit. It’s a Vietnam protest song masquerading so well as pop music that the Army used it in one if their induction videos. Take note: smart and pretty are not mutually exclusive.
We Five “You Were On My Mind”
Possibly the best thing to come out of San Francisco, We Five’s poppy re-arrangement of an Ian and Sylvia song is a masterpiece in disguise. It’s also your mother’s favorite song.
The Who “A Quick One”
Actually a very long one. But this cut will give you everything you need to know about The Who from their operatic aspirations to their amp-blowing, fist-pumping fury. When you need to blow off some steam, shut the door and rock out to this one. Just don’t break anything.
Nov3 – Four Tops “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)”
The Tops’ signature song is the very best of Motown. Somehow Levi Stubbs’ shouting captures all the pain and exuberance in the world at once. You’ll think someone keeps turning the stereo up, but it’s just your heart racing. There’s a good reason this one was covered by David Johansen.
Nov 1 – Bob Dylan “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”
Mr. Zimmerman at the height of his songwriting power. Dylan is always best writing about break-ups and this dark tune is the cruelest of kiss-offs. But as you grow up you’ll learn that there’s nothing wrong with a little heartbreak. Check out the great cover by Van Morrison.
Oct 30 – The Beatles “Twist and Shout”
I suppose no boy;s musical education can go without a song from the lads from Liverpool. Find your own path here, but I always preferred their rock and roll numbers before they all grew beards.
Oct 25 – Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers “Why Do Fools Fall in Love”
There’s just too much good doo-wop to name here, but you won’t find much better than this number. Recorded in 1956 it had all the raw rhythm and blues energy that later doo-wop groups swapped out for glee-club perfection. Just don’t try to sing this in karaoke—not many people can match Frankie’s boy soprano.
Oct 21 – Little Richard “Long Tall Sally”
When you’re ready for rock n roll, start here. It’s got all the hootin’ and hollering and raunchiness you need for having a whole mess of fun. No one puts on a show like Little Richard, a great example of the rule “On stage is no time to be shy.”
Oct 18 – Hank Williams “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”
The greatest American songwriter of all time, Hank Williams is all that is good in country music from his sad voice to his rebel ways. I first heard this song watching Bob Dylan serenade Joan Baez and Bobby Neuwirth in Dont Look Back. You couldn’t get a better endorsement than that.
Oct. 13 – Nat King Cole “Straighten Up and Fly Right”
Jack Benny called Nat king Cole “the best friend a song ever had.” This is Nat’s first big vocal hit for Capitol Records. I heard it’s based on a folk tale that his preacher father used to use in his sermons. It’s good advice for sure, but man, that voice. There’s nothing like it. Besides Elvis, there is no one your grandfather wanted to be more than Nat King Cole. A true gentleman during a time in this country when many people were not.
Oct. 5 – Woody Guthrie “This Land Is Your Land”
A rebel, but with talent. Woody Guthrie was a master storyteller who had the guts to stand up to injustice, but the charm and sly wit to do it without letting it become more important than the music. Melody first, son. Then message. This song is a great example of the simple beauty of his songs and his love of America. But just like Woody himself, it becomes more complex the longer you listen to it.