Krause Publishing 2011
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THE FIRST FIVE – OR, THE GREATEST SONGS YOU’LL EVER HEAR
BUS STOP (1) by the Hollies
Composed by Graham Gouldman, the one UK songwriter who seriously rivaled Lennon/McCartney’s grasp of melody in the sixties, “Bus Stop” was just one in a stream of hits for Graham Nash and co. But it arrivedt bedecked with such glorious harmonies and magnificent melody that nothing else they ever did came close. In common with many of Gouldman’s compositions – and, by 1965, he was already writing hits for the Yardbirds (575) and Herman’s Hermits(868) – the song was at least partially written with his father, Hyme Gouldman.
“The idea for [‘Bus Stop] came to me one day when I was sitting on the bus, going home from work, looking at a bus stop from the window. I told my father about the idea and another day when I came home, he’d written the words… He’d written ‘Bus stop, wet day, she’s there, I say please share my umbrella,’ and it’s like when you get a really great part of a lyric or, I also had this nice riff as well, and when you have such a great start to a song it’s kind of like the rest is easy. It’s like finding your way onto a road and when you get onto the right route, you just follow it. So I took that up to my bedroom and then wrote the song, except for the middle eight, which I finished off on the bus going to work.”
The Hollies were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010. “Bus Stop” tells you why.
SEASON OF THE WITCH (2) by Donovan
“The tune was seminal,” Donovan wrote of “Season of the Witch.” “The riff is pure feel. My early practice on drums found its way into the groove. The lyric of ‘Season of the Witch’ proved to be prophetic in the months to come. There is a line in it that goes ‘some other cat looking over his shoulder at me,’ and there were certainly cats looking over their shoulder at me. Soon these bad cats would come calling at my door.”
He told his The Hurdy Gurdy Man autobiography, “Led Zeppelin often played ‘Season of the Witch’ (actually, it was Robert Plant) [and it] would be recorded by Al Kooper and Steven Stills. Julie Driscoll and Brian Auger would also make it a must in their music.” He is being modest. Since “Season of the Witch” first fetched up on his Sunshine Superman album, majestic covers by, indeed, Driscoll/Auger and Kooper/Stills have been followed by fresh takes by Vanilla Fudge, Terry Reid, Pesky Gee!, Dr John, Hole, Luna, Joan Jett and Richard Thompson.
Of these, Pesky Gee!’s version is simply shimmering, with Kay Garrett staking her claim amongst the most astonishing, and astonishingly unsung, British vocalists of the late 1960s. Jett’s version is strangely spectral; Thompson’s is tired and world-weary. But Driscoll/Auger’s is perhaps the finest, despite Auger admitting, “I never imagined I would ever be doing a Donovan cover. A lot of those tunes that Julie chose, they were kind of enigmas to me, how to turn them around so they sounded like Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and the Trinity! If you listen to the Donovan version, it’s much, much faster tempo, and so these things were kind of conundrums, how to arrange them so that they fit into our repertoire, and we give them our own stamp?”
JUNGLELAND (3) by Bruce Springsteen
The greatest of all Springsteen’s street fighting epics (or anybody else’s, for that matter), the ultimate American dream-turned-nightmare resets West Side Story on the New Jersey Turnpike, where pianos tinkle to the clash of switchblades and every lyric chases the hungry and the hunted round the parking lot battlefield.
WON’T GET FOOLED AGAIN (4) by the Who
IN HIS OWN WORDS – JOHN ENTWISTLE (bassist): Of all the songs that Pete wrote during that period of the Who, ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ really stands out, because he was saying things that really mattered to him, and saying them for the first time. So those lyrics just came out of him in one long flood of anger and frustration, and then he built everything up around it. By the time he was finished with the demo there really wasn’t anything left for the rest of us to do, and that was always when the Who were at their best, because it was like ‘you think you’re finished? We’ll show you, you bastard….”
ROCK AND ROLL (5) by Gary Glitter
IN HIS OWN WORDS – MIKE LEANDER (producer/co-writer): “[Gary] was very much into rock’n’roll, so I said to him, ‘Let’s go into the studio with a couple of friends, and you and I will write something as we go along, and see what we come up with.” A tape of one of Glitter’s earlier releases, a stomping piece of nonsense called “Shag Rag, That’s My Bag,” was duly put on the deck, and they began playing along with it. “Friends dropped in during the evening, people came into the studio, played for a while and then drifted away, it was all very loose, and eventually this developed into an impromptu jam session as we started to get into a rock’n’roll rhythm, and then we built it up from there.
“And suddenly it all came together. We had produced something that was like all the records we had ever heard before, and yet was different to them all. We were writing and making the sort of record that we had both loved to listen to when we were 14 and 15 years old, yet it wasn’t preconceived. We had not planned it that way. But when we played the tapes back the sound we heard was a revelation.” What they came up with was a primeval stomp; 15 minutes long, they called it “Rock And Roll.” Edited down to a more manageable length, they renamed it “Rock And Roll (parts One and Two).”
“Rock’n’Roll” is the tribal war cry of the 20th Century. Forget its absorption into American sporting iconography; forget, too, the fact that Gary built a five-year career at the top of the British charts, from recycling that same primeval formula. You can even forget that, thanks to sundry personal indiscretions, Glitter is widely considered a leper in his homeland. “Rock’n’Roll” is important because of its lyrics; and those lyrics, the most joyful, meaningful, and utterly, defiantly, triumphant lyrics in the entire history of modern music, go “rock’n’roll, rock’n’roll, rock’n’roll, rock’n’roll.” That’s part one, anyway. Part two is even better. That one goes “hey, hey, hey, hey, hey.”