Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Nostalgia night

I'm on a nostalgia kick today. Last night I was wandering around the YouTube wonderland, thinking up names of bands and songs from my teen years of the '60s, and these were some videos I picked as being the most representative of what I liked about mid-'60s rock.

All of the bands are from the UK. I saw England as a place where bands appreciated what was great about American rock and beamed it back at us. In the U.S. we haven't always appreciated great R&B artists or early rock. In that era the Brits were sending over their versions of American rock, and the Americans, using the Brits as their model, were rediscovering our own roots. It made for an interesting cycle.

The Who's "Substitute" is my favorite of their early hit songs. The bass, the drums and Pete's driving guitar, not to mention some very interesting lyrics. Like nothing any of us on this side of the pond had heard before.

When I went to get my hair cut this morning I saw a young man come in the barbershop with hair a lot like lead singer Keith Relf of the Yardbirds, circa 1966. Man, I wanted hair like that in the '60s. Jeff Beck plays the distinctive guitar riff in this song. I saw him on an HBO special a few weeks ago and he looks just like he did 45 years ago.

The Kinks blew me out of the front seat when this song first came over my tinny AM car radio. It's not true to the music the Kinks made later in their career, with the funny lyrics and social commentary of lead singer-writer Ray Davies, but it was a sheer joy to listen to, a two-minute rocker to bring the house down. Ray has so much excitement in his voice it makes you want to jump right up and wiggle your ass, as my dear old rock'n' roll-hating dad used to say.

The next two songs weren't songs that made it to the American hit parade, but they're great songs by fine bands, nevertheless. Marmalade, a band from Glasgow, Scotland, had several UK hits and one monster international hit with "Reflections Of My Life" in 1969. They had the vocal harmonies, they had the looks...I don't know why this 1967 song, "I See the Rain" wasn't popular in the U.S. Maybe the references to England killed it here, but I don't know why, because the Beatles made those references all the time. Just chalk it up as our loss at the time. The video is from a TV show in Holland, and it's a horrible lip-synch job. As far as costuming the guys look like they are making the transition between 1960's London-chic and hippie-chic.

I knew the Pretty Things from their hit, "Rosalyn," and I owned their first album at one time over 40 years ago. Even though the title "Raining In My Heart" fools us into thinking it's a cover of the Buddy Holly song, it's not. Songs like this led me to listen to the old blues singers, and a form of music that was kept away from white audiences until the British started doing their own versions and sending it back to the U.S. It was groups like this that made some of us whiteys curious to hear the original versions of such dynamic music. It also revived the careers of many old bluesmen, giving them a whole new and appreciative audience.

No comments: