Out of This Place
If I had to sum up the purpose of this blog in a sentence, I'd be tempted to do it thus: "This blog is largely about the way the music we grew up with affected us then, and how it sticks with us now." Memory can be (and around here, it often is) a simple phenomenon--old songs remind us of who we were, what we did, and/or how we experienced them back in the day. Sometimes this remembering is a more sophisticated process. Occasionally, we ponder how the meaning of certain songs or the work of certain artists evolves in our lives as our lives tick by.
Most of us who lived our youth with the radio on were fortunate enough to do so in (relatively) peaceful settings. Not everyone. Those who served in Vietnam did so with radios on, too. Doug Bradley, director of communications for the University of Wisconsin System, is one of them. He's collaborating with UW African-American Studies professor Craig Werner, author of several terrific books on R&B, soul, and gospel, on a book that examines the meaning of 60s rock music to those who served in Vietnam. Bradley and Werner have interviewed several hundred vets, and although the book has yet to be published, the authors already have a list of the songs most often mentioned:
1. "We Gotta Get Out of This Place"/The AnimalsOther Recommended Reading: Also making a list recently were the people at National Review Online, who compiled a list of the Top 50 Conservative Rock Songs. In true conservative fashion, NRO required a $21.95 subscription to their website to see it. In true rock and roll fashion, however, it foiled the establishment's best attempts to contain it and busted out. Number One: "Won't Get Fooled Again" by the Who. Pandagon, one of my favorite political/cultural websites, discussed a few of the songs to make the list. If you're a conservative, you'll probably want to skip the Pandagon post and pony up the money at NRO. If you're a liberal, get thyself to Pandagon forthwith.
2. "Chain of Fools"/Aretha Franklin
3. "Fortunate Son"/Creedence Clearwater Revival
4. "(Sitting on) The Dock of the Bay"/Otis Redding
5. "These Boots Are Made for Walking"/Nancy Sinatra
6. "The Fightin' Side of Me"/Merle Haggard
7. "What's Going On"/Marvin Gaye
8. "Nowhere to Run"/Martha Reeves and the Vandellas
9. "I Feel Like I'm Fixing to Die Rag"/Country Joe and the Fish
10. "Purple Haze"/Jimi Hendrix
At Salon, there's a review of a new book called Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll's Legendary Neighborhood, by Michael Walker. There's an argument that the roster of late 60s/early 70s residents in the Laurel Canyon area of Los Angeles meant as much to rock history as the artists on the bill at Woodstock or the ones who lived in the Haight-Ashbury during the Summer of Love: Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, John and Michelle Phillips, Carole King, Jackson Browne, Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman of the Byrds, John Densmore and Robby Krieger of the Doors, John Kay of Steppenwolf, Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees, and Mark Volman of the Turtles. (If you're not a Salon subscriber, you'll have to watch a brief ad before you can read the article, but this one is worth the wait.)
Also: Jean Knight's "Mr. Big Stuff" became one of the last great classics of Southern soul during the summer of 1971. Soul Sides pays tribute, with downloads--but hurry, the post went up late last week, and the links are only live for a few days.