A friend of mine sent me a link to John Denver singing his own song, Leaving On A Jet Plane, first a hit for Peter, Paul and Mary in the Sixties, then, Chantal Kreviazuk. and, most recently, was recorded by the Cast of Glee.
The yard goes on forever- and so does a great song. That’s the magic and lasting power of music.
He’d never heard this version by the song’s writer, which made me realise just how much good music is lost to, at least, a generation of music fans, and how music companies are sitting on a gold mine with their back catalogues, but still doing diddley with them.
Looking beyond the obvious- the Beatles, the Stones, Dylan, Bowie, Led Zep, Pink Floyd, Hendrix, The Who- there’s the music of the Kinks and the songwriting of its leader Ray Davies, below, which has hardly earned their dues- or airtime.
Bah, humbug to Spotify. It’s overrated and is already irrelevant.
After taking those same 3-4 Louie Louie chords that started life with “You Really Got Me” and tapered off with “See My Friend”, which was raga-based even before George Harrison picked up a sitar, and the Byrds flew “Eight Miles High”, Ray Davies changed tact by writing the more complex and almost Vaudevillian “Sunny Afternoon” and “Waterloo Sunset”, two extremely influential songs to some, but which have always flown under the radar.
This was Ray Davies, Storyteller, capturing the mood of his London, and when Terry met Julie, a reference to actor Terence Stamp and actress Julie Christie, before turning foppish with “A Dedicated Follower Of Fashion”, and, after, a break, returning with the very clever, “Lola”.
It’s been said that if not for Ray Davies, there’d be no Damon Albarn, and though the latter is a very clever boy making the music he wants, those early Blur records could have been the Kinks, and the affected Cockney accent heard even on Gorillaz tracks is pure Ray Davies cloning.
When that whole British Beat Boom happened, many tried, like hipsters do today, to “dig” bands on the periphery.
Sometimes, these attempts were a little misguided by trying TOO hard to like the Pretty Things, Downliner Sect, and the vastly overrated Yardbirds even during their Eric Clapton period whereas hit singles with Jeff Beck in the lineup was pretty much Pop fluff, there were some gems.
Four tracks that come to mind as a quartet that should be unearthed are the instrumental “Albatross”, the beautiful and achingly sad, “Man Of The World” plus “Oh Well” and “Green Manalishi”, recorded in 1970 during guitarist Peter Green’s descent into LSD madness and paranoia.
It was his farewell two-finger salute to the band which he left feeling he had been financially ripped off, and the song referring to the evils of money and a dream in which he came face-to-face with a barking green dog that was dead.
This was during the first incarnation of Fleetwood Mac, and when Peter Green had most of his faculties intact.
He was what Lindsey Buckingham was to become to the band when it returned with “Rumours”.
Some day, someone will make a movie about Fleetwood Mac and what an amazing story it will tell of sex, lies, drugs, breakups, freakouts, losing band members to religious cults, resoluteness and comebacks- though the Peter Green period, and what happened to the best Blues guitarist in the UK at the time who became a grave digger for a while, will always be very much shrouded in mystery.
Thank gawd, at the centre of it all is this amazing band’s musical legacy and uncanny ability to reinvent itself.
Before this post becomes a tome and a house becomes a home with one less bell to answer and one less egg to fry, like any good song, music has a verse, a chorus and a bridge before hitting that chorus again.
Have all the best choruses been written- and all the best love songs sung- and all the musical heroes come and gone?
Maybe. But, at least, there’s the music from, as they now say, “Back in the day”. Gawd, I hate that expression.
Here are Ten Blasts From The Past from “back in the day” that should never be deleted from any memory bank, and, at least to these ears, still sound as fresh as when first recorded.
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