Ten Songs that became Great


English: J.J. Cale playing the blues
English: J.J. Cale playing the blues (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been meaning to write this for a while. I read A.PromptReply’s post on Ten Things I Love and Ten Things I Hate and I thought to myself, why restrict it? Why not 10 songs I like, 10 books I hate, 10 body parts, 10 cars, 10 destinations and so on and so on and so on and so on?

But then, laziness struck me as it does about 18 gazillion times a day and it didn’t actually get written. Then I read SpunkyBongs post about pretty ordinary songs that became great because they contain a piece of magical phrase, a riff or something that makes them more than ordinary.

I had already written a post about songs that annoy. You can read this here. This was not received well. One “reader” went so far as to rate it 1-star out of a possible 5. Quite why s/he bothered I don’t know. Please read it at your risk because some of those songs will drive you batty for the rest of the day. So here is my list of songs that contain something that makes them stand out, a defining phrase, riff, drum solo or something even intangible, indescribable. A hard-to-define sense that changes it from an ordinary to extraordinary, at least in my personal opinion, which is the only one that really counts. 🙂

First up is JJ Cale with Crazy Mama. A fairly simple blues rhythm coupled with Cale’s laconic singing style and deceptively lazy guitar and simple words. Then suddenly between verses comes a simple 3 chord change. A very simple change but in my head the lights change. Every time.

The Weight by The Band. This is not an ordinary song to start with but it has two things that make it even better. First, the guitar intro followed by the drum kicking in to start things off. Then of course is the multi-part, delayed chorus. “And, And, And, you put the load right on me” and the walk down. Brilliant!

Given my preference for 1960’s psychedelic music and the blues the next one will come as a surprise perhaps, but that driving bass line is irresistible. The Bangles’ Walk Like an Egyptian will make my head bop. Music from the 1980s, or as I call it, My Lost Decade, generally does not vibe with me, but this one does.

Mack Rebennac, better known as Dr John on Such a Night. That piano mates beautifully with his flat metallic drawl and the down changing chords. A delicious combination of sounds, but it’s that trippy piano that gets it a mention here.

Grateful Dead
Grateful Dead (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Operator by The Grateful Dead comes next. A blues song, a great song, acoustic guitars done right, Jerry’s trademark noodles, Phil’s bass lines run through it and it sounds like a regular Dead song. Until Pig Pen puts that harmonica to his lips and blows. Then it makes me want to learn how to play harmonica.

From Jerry, Phil, Bob, Pig Pen, Mickey and Bill we run right along into the husky voice of Scarlett Johansson. It’s a duet with Pete Yorn called Relator. But forget about Pete’s contribution for a second, forget the guitars, and close your eyes. Imagine Scarlett. Singing. That voice. We just lost Spunky Bong, I think.

Moby Grape with It’s a Beautiful Day is a typical hippie song, flutes, love and peace everywhere. But there’s a intertwining of voices, guitars and flutes that make you WANT to shower love and peace everywhere. It somehow makes the sun shine brighter and the girl next to you look cuter.

Supertramp appear on the list courtesy of GoodBye Stranger. Its starts off with the usual keyboards intro then bumps and grinds it way into a full blown screaming guitar solo at the end. The damn radio stations usually cut off the solo, the fools! It’s that solo with the wah-wah pedal that makes that good song a great one!

Now we have a forgotten band, a 1-Hit Wonder. The song is You by Ten Sharp, a Dutch band from the 1990s. Yep. I do listen to music from the 1990s…. Have a listen and tell me that piano, rippling, sliding and driving its way through the voices doesn’t get you.

For goose pimples there’s nothing quite like the piano that opens Love, Reign O’er Me from The Who. You can feel the rain, plinking down, the first few drops, then a few more, Mr Moon calls in the thunder and just as you feel the storm was nothing more than a passing rain shower, the rain settles into a steady pouring out of emotions.

English: Audrey Hepburn and Andrea Dotti Franç...
English: Audrey Hepburn and Andrea Dotti Français : Audrey Hepburn and Andrea Dotti (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I leave you with this long forgotten song. Another 1-Hit Wonder called Where do you go to, My Lovely from Peter Starstedt. A schmaltzy waltz with a piano accordion leading the way and playing sidekick to some inscrutable lyrics. Loads of 1960’s jetset imagery here, maybe Audrey Hepburn in pointed, white framed dark glasses, in a tight A-Line dress, a head scarf getting into a convertible in the sun of St Moritz. Loads of name-dropping, though and the wonder of a “cleverly designed topless swimsuit”.

There are others I could chat about.

Scarlet Begonias from The Grateful Dead – with the little up/down chord at the end of the line and lyrics to die for.

Glad from Traffic – that thumping piano from Steve Winwood.

White Rabbit from The Jefferson Airplane – that F# / G chord combo at the start building up until we get to Grace letting it out; “keep your head” she goes and it’s hard to do that!

The End by The Doors – Krieger’s guitar never sounded better or more eastern as it evokes images of the smoky, dark recesses of your mind; images and memories you don’t want to admit exist. A difficult song to listen to, but sometimes we have to confront the horror, the horror.

That’s it for now, folks, I could go on and on boring you with this. But I do have to get my 8-hour beauty sleep. It’s hard to maintain my boyish good looks otherwise.

Let me know what you think. Feel free to add on songs that made you sit up and take notice, songs that make your head bop, your feet tap. Songs that furrow your brow, songs that make you smile, laugh, dance, feel, heal.

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10 thoughts on “Ten Songs that became Great

  1. Well, I’m most pleased to be somewhat responsible for your post! I haven’t heard of most of these songs before now but Walk Like an Egyptian? That one made me laugh as soon as I saw it!

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    1. Yeah, people do look at me differently when they hear it in my house. Music is such a large part of my life right now that this post could easily have been 5 times as long. I try to collect old songs and rare pieces that I remember hearing in my childhood or earlier years.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this–thoroughly enjoyed it. Listening to “The Weight” now (all this time I didn’t know its title), and getting goosebumps. Of the songs you list I know and love this one; the Who’s “Love, Reign on Me;” “Operator” and Scarlet Begonias” by The Dead (though these aren’t my absolute favorites of theirs); “White Rabbit” (mostly through my husband–he’s the Airplane fan); “Glad” (another one I didn’t know the name of, but it takes me right back; have just listened to it innumerable times on that John Barleycorn album, although I prefer Steve Winwood in Blind Faith (In the Presence of the Lord)); “The End” (again, not that I am an afficionado of this particular song, but have listened to the Doors for so many hours in high school); and, of course–“Where Do You Go to My Lovely”! Was listening to it just the other day and was delighted when it made a little comeback with that weird Wes Anderson film, The Darjeeling Limited. Somewhere I still have the 45 rpm single of that song. (And did you know that Peter Sarstedt is Indian, born in Kolkata?)

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    1. Yes, I did know that about Starstedt. I like Winwood. I confess Arc of a Diver, the album, left me a little unimpressed when it first came out, but has grown on me since, especially the song “Spanish Dancer”.

      My absolute favorite Dead song is “Ripple”. I actually found a recording of myself singing and accompanying myself on guitar. I posted it as my personal “Typewriter Tape”… 🙂 🙂

      Too bad Blind Faith was created on blind faith and thus didn’t live on…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Amazing. I haven’t heard a single song you mentioned. But then, I listen more old Hindi songs 😀 I’m still in the process of acquiring tastes for English songs (I’ve already acquired a bit for country songs) 😀

    PS: I’m reading with “ajeeb dastan hai yeh” in the background 😉

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  4. What a fine repertoire of songs that I can connect with…being on the wrong side of 40…To add to Walk like an Egyptian, also manic Monday..great fan of Phil too…another day in paradise, Richard Marx’s romantic ballads are a real treat, Billy Joel, Bob Marley, Steve Winwood of course, and Dire straits (Mark in particular), Bon Jovi…list is endless..,

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    1. Yes, Marx’s “Right here waiting for you” which I could pick out with one finger on the piano 🙂

      I’m not a huge fan of Phil Collins and Genesis overall. Winwood goes high on the list as part of Traffic, Blind Faith ( what a pity they had only 1 album ) and solo. Knopfler’s got that unique guitar playing style that stands out.

      Thanks – hope you had a pleasant time revisiting these songs. I wonder if you’ll agree with my choice of Annoying Songs ( link provided in this post ).

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  5. Nice….but missed my favorites – S&Gs Bridge over troubled waters, Lennon’s Imagine, Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, Beatles Hey Jude,All you need is love, she loves you, a hard days night…..Kinks you really got me, George Michael ‘s careless whisper, Elvis Are you lonesome tonight, Jailhouse rock……I could go on and on….

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