The 10 Greatest Songs That Didn't Make The Pitchfork List Pt. 2
#5 Cream--"Tales of Brave Ulysses" from Disraeli Gears
Eric Clapton must've mailed anthrax to Pitchfork headquarters in Chicago. That's the only way that I can reconcile how neither his work in the Yardbirds, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, nor Cream yielded one song on Pitchfork's 200 greatest songs list.
There was a reason why British youths in the 1960's sprayed "Clapton is God," graffiti all over London and this song shows why. A fusion of blues-rock, pop and psychedelia, "Tales of Brave Ulysses," is a simple but gracefully written ballad about the Greek hero Ulysses. Set to the backdrop of Clapton's rippling guitar licks that almost explode with color and Ginger Baker's steady drum beat, "Tales" is the high point off of Cream's finest album 1968's Disraeli Gears.
In the course of their abbreviated two-year career, Cream wrote several other hit singles, most notably "White Room," and "Sunshine of Your Love," but while those singles surely deserve to make any list of greatest songs, "Tales of Brave Ulysses," showcases the finest writing of the bunch. With lyrics written by Martin Sharp and Eric Clapton, "Tales" maintains a tight focus, a tough task considering that during the mid-60s Clapton was simultaneously tripping on acid while swigging a fifth of Jack during most recording sessions. Plus, it boasts one of the great first verses of the decade:
"You thought the leaden winter would bring you down forever/but rode upon a steamer to the violence of the sun/and the colors of the sea blind your eye with trembling mermaids/and you touch the distant beaches with tales of brave Ulysses/how his naked ears were tortured by the sirens sweetly singing/for the sparkling waves are calling you to kiss their white laced lips."
Does it reek of hippie-dippy imagery? Well, obviously. But does it rock. Well, obviously. Needless to say, Cream=all sorts of awesome. Lists without Cream=not all sorts of awesome.
Download: Cream--"Tales of Brave Ulyssses."
#4 Love-"A House Is Not a Motel" from Forever Changes
Quite a way to eulogize recently departed Arthur Lee, easily one of the greatest songwriters of all-time, by featuring none of his songs. The list did include a token Love song "Alone Again Or," off of Forever Changes. However, that song was written by Love's other songwriter Bryan Maclean.
Keep in mind, this list included four songs from the Shangri-La's and two Monkees songs. I'll just assume that the Shranri-La's and the Monkees are infinitely better songwriters than Arthur Lee. That makes sense. Besides, that Davey Jones was surely dreamy.
At any rate, any good list of Greatest Songs of the 60's needs more than one Love song. In fact, I'd argue that off of Forever Changes alone, four songs deserved inclusion: "Alone Again Or," "Maybe the People Would Be the Times Between Clark and Hillsdale," You Set the Scene," and "A House Is Not a Motel." You could also argue for Love's cover of "My Little Red Book," or "Signed D.C," off of their eponymous first album, "Stephanie Knows Who," off of Da Capo, or even "Singin' Cowboy," off of Four Sail.
Yet out of Love's inimitable canon of work, "A House is Not a Motel," stands out as the most eerily prophetic of the bunch, and strangely resonant nearly forty years after it was written. The high point of the song comes directly after the bridge kicks in the one minute mark, as Maclean's hard folk rock guitar and Lee's eerie yells fill the space admirably. Then suddenly, out of the wildnerness, Lee seems to descend like a crazed and wild-eyed holy man stepping down off of a mountain with revelations:
"By the time that I'm through singing/the bells from the schools will be ringing/more confusions/blood transfusions/the news today will be the movies of tommorow/and if you don't think so/go turn on your tub/and if it's mixed with mud/it'll turn to gray/and you can call my name/I hear you call my name."
This song isn't just one of the 200 Greatest Songs of the Decade, it's one of the greatest ever written.
Download: Love--"A House is Not a Motel"
#3 The Beatles--"While My Guitar Gently Weeps" from The White AlbumTo the list's credit, it did include 5 Beatles songs, most of which were well-chosen, "Eleanor Rigby," "I am the Walrus," "A Day in the Life," and "Tommorow Never Knows." However, I'm still scratching my head over the inclusion of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand." Clearly, the listmakers weren't interested in iconic tunes, after all "Blowin' in the Wind," "The Times Are a Changin," and "Purple Haze," didn't make the cut. So why include "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," clearly a sappy song, showing the Beatles style still developing. (though it is a fine song).
And if you're going to have any list of great Beatles songs, any list would be remiss without a George Harrison song. Granted, Harrison only got two or three shots each LP, but the George songs are quite often pop masterpieces. Yet none stands out more than "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," off The White Album, the Beatles' last perfect album in my book, and an album that didn't land one song on the list.
According to legend, the Beatles were feuding pretty heavily during the White Album sessions. Paul and John were barely speaking. George was being weird and growing his mustache. And Ringo, well Ringo was Ringo, which means he was being generally pretty awesome. However, when the Beatles brought in Clapton to play guitar on the track, apparently everyone shut up and Paul even stopped serenading Linda McCartney to play the beautiful piano introduction.
Of course, everyone's heard this song 1,000 times before, but unlike many other Beatles songs, this one is impossible to get sick of. How this didn' t make the list is beyond me. Then again this song did feature Clapton on guitar, which of course brings up those unsavory anthrax rumors.
Download--The Beatles "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"
#2 Bob Dylan--"It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" from Bringing It All Back HomeBob Dylan is the greatest songwriter of all-time and anyone would be hard-pressed to understand music history or the 60's if he didn't understand Bob Dylan. If it weren't for Dylan, this list would've looked a whole lot different and for that reason, the man was probably worthy of more than five songs to make the list. Granted, the Dylan picks were on the money: "Visions of Johanna," "It's Alright Ma," "Dont Think Twice It's Alright," "Like A Rolling Stone," and "Subterranean Homesick Blues," are all outstanding choices. But if I'm going to include the best songs that didn't make it, I'd be remiss not to include the Dylan cuts left out.
Picking the greatest left-out Dylan song is practically impossible. There's "A Hard Rains Gonna Fall," "Spanish Boots of Spanish Leather," "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands," and "Ballad of a Thin Man," that come readily to mind. But out of anything, "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue stands out as the greatest of the bunch.
Describing a Bob Dylan song is worthless because any combination of words choosen will always pale in comparison to the transcendence of his lyrics. However, not only is "It's All Over Now Baby Blue," one of the most beautiful songs ever written, it maintains significant historical importance as it served as Dylan's kiss-off to the folk scene that he came up in. While the lyrics probably refer to Dylan's ex-wife, Sara Lowndes, who he nicknamed Blue, he played this song at the jeering fans Newport Folk Festival in 1965, right after debuting his new non-folk songs. The cliche goes that "rock n' roll would never be the same again." There's a reason why it's a cliche.
Download--Bob Dylan "Its All Over Now, Baby Blue"
#1 The Doors: "The End," from The Doors
Apparently, it's not cool in music critic circles to like The Doors. This was news to me when I started blogging. After all, as a wise man once told me, "anyone worth knowing has had a Doors phase at some point in their life." And generally, as I've gone about my life, I've found that to be true. Nearly everyone cool has had a Doors obsession at one point or another (usually in their 7th and 8th grade years).
This brings me to one of two conclusions. Either music critics are not cool or that they used to have Doors posters on their wall for Junior High. I haven't decided which is which. However, I will state point blank that dismissing The Doors' greatness is ridiculous position to take.
Earlier this year, Blender magazine, named "The End," one of the worst songs ever written. I suppose that's why Francis Ford Coppola, used the song at the beginning of Apocalpyse Now. Because he really wanted to start off his film with something that completely sucked. Something that had no emotional resonance,
The fact that Pitchfork didn't include one Doors song in their list of the 200 Best of the Decade
is pretty laughable. Not "The End," not "Break On Through," "Light My Fire," "Strange Days," "Five to One." Nothing. You'd think a bunch of guys as obviously intelligent as the Pitchfork writers would respect Morrison. Say all you want about him being stupid, other than Dylan, Morrison might have been the most literate rocker of the 60's.
People can play elitist all they want, there will never be another Jim Morrison. Gifted with a haunting and rich baritone and the talent to craft surrealist Rimbaud-esque poems, Morrison admittedly had his stumbles, "The Soft Parade" is practically unlistenable. However, the Doors left behind a canon of work that will hold up forever. Just like the Smiths, the Doors will always appeal to alienated youth, thanks to Morrison's themes of non-conformity and rebellion.
While "Break On Through," and "Light My Fire," reveal The Doors' talent for songcraft, "The End," might be their greatest work. An 11 and half minute Oedipal epic, "The End," is one of the most haunting songs ever written. There has never been another song like it and there never will be. People can say all they want about Suicide's "Frankie Teardrop," "The End," will top it every time. You can label Morrison intellecually vapid. You can point to his embarassing behavior. You can call the Doors a band for teeny-boppers. That just isn't the truth. The Doors might not hold up as the best American band of all-time, but they came pretty damn close.
Download: The Doors--"The End"
On that note, stay classy, San Diego.