Awake and Scheming

 

This mix, in its original form, started as a mere concept to show the beauty of Pop music that is purposefully arty and outwardly beautiful; the type of stuff that the form has really sought to do on a few remarkable occasions (the 1966-1967 sunshine era, the mid-1980’s jangle period, and the early 90’s post-modern boom). It started when I noticed the remarkable similarity in a melodic motif in Chad & Jeremy’s ‘The Cruel War’ (an outtake from Before and After that is listed as being from Chad and Jill Steuart) and Sagittarius’ ‘Would You Like to Go’ from 1967 (from one of the great Pop lps ever made, Present Tense). From there it was just a very loose playlist, something I’d add to every time I heard something I thought highly artful, but poppy. Then, after a few listens, a bunch of lyrical references pointed me in the direction of day and night and a concept emerged, the most repurposed idea in all of Pop: that there are conflicting natures, and artists often represent them similarity. Hopeful happiness is painted with imagery towards light and darkness sitting in for depressive melancholia. What if the mix was a Pop journey through literal darkness, a night spent tossing and turning in bed listening to a still, quiet city or township outside in complete stillness, only connected, if at all, in the minds of those who have psychosis wandering about in insomnia-induced states. The playlist then becomes where the beauty in Pop music comes from: the deep black nights of the mind and those that have optimism enough to provide the lamplight with which to brighten the shadowy recesses. At a few points you’re even able to see the passage of time in references to the slow moving alarm clock numbers. It’s then, in equal measure, the most depressive and optimistic playlist I’ve ever made. Or, in the words of a song selected here, ‘For I have the warmth of the sun/within me at night’. Continue reading

Songs I Love: ‘Hey Old Lady and Bert’s Song’

The other day, probably in response to Ken Burns’ new miniseries Vietnam War, I saw a discussion online about pop songs that should never be used again in service of soundtracking the events of US involvement in southeast Asia in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. You could guess the ones overused; Hendrix’s ‘All Along the Watchtower’, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Fortunate Son’, Jefferson Airplanes ‘Volunteers’, Grand Funk Railroad’s ‘Closer to Home’, the Doors ‘Break On Through’ or ‘The End’ etc, all good songs to be sure, but all heavily overused in pop culture on the topic (I’d even seen a few people calling the Stooges ‘Search and Destroy’ overused what with its opening line concerning a ‘heart full of napalm’). So then the conversation turned to what to use instead? It’d need to be anthemic, or at least righteously angry on the topic at hand (and made in the era in question), and catchy enough to prompt something akin to familiarity on first listen. I started to drift around to many options, it was the first real era of mainstream searing electric guitar. Continue reading