As August begins to dwindle and autumn approaches, here’s a content advisory for this blog. We’re approaching the 40th anniversary of that pivotal season when I first discovered the radio and the music on it—which means that things are probably going to be more moony and reflective than usual around here between now and Christmas, or thereabouts. Before we hit the anniversary itself, we ought to take care of some business that predates the fall of 1970.
Most of the songs on my Desert Island list are those I can remember as current hits on the radio, but not all. Nine of the songs on the list were popular before the fall of 1970. I found them in succeeding years, and by some alchemy they became favorites. I’ve already written about one of them: “The Weight” by the Band. The other eight follow here, with commentary Twitter-style:
“Crimson and Clover”/Tommy James and the Shondells. Like a marijuana brownie with lots and lots of frosting on it—you get stoned and sugar-buzzed at the same time.
“Hang ‘Em High”/Booker T. and the MGs. In which Booker T. at the organ is like a guy who’s good with a knife—when he gets you with his weapon of choice, you’re cut to shreds before you realize what’s happened.
“Only the Strong Survive”/Jerry Butler. A single drum kick, an angel chorus sings “I remember,” and the Iceman begins to preach the lesson for today. A Gamble and Huff production.
“Crystal Blue Persuasion”/Tommy James and the Shondells. Sunshine, lollipops, rainbows, weed, etc. Despite having come out in the summer of 1969, this is pure 1970s. (And I believe the version here is the mono 45.)
“I’m Gonna Make You Mine”/Lou Christie. One of the first pre-1970 records to make the Desert Island list, back when I was creating it as some point in the 1990s. It doesn’t matter that I can’t remember why. What follows is the most bizarrely incongruous video I’ve ever seen. The process by which this was deemed a good idea, I can’t imagine.
“Love Goes Where My Rosemary Goes”/Edison Lighthouse. First heard this during the 1970 year-end countdown on WLS. Have maintained ever since that the louder you crank it, the better it sounds.
“Ride Captain Ride”/Blues Image. In which the hippie dream of sailing off someplace and building a brand new world still seems possible. (Click here for a clip of the band performing the song on the John Byner-hosted music series Something Else.)
“Into the Mystic”/Van Morrison. Relatively new to the Desert Island list. Sounds like it has existed forever. (Not linking to a version of this, since Van hates the Internet—he’s dumped his official YouTube channel and reduced his own website to a single page with no content. Aim the gun a little lower, sir . . . yeah, right at your foot. There you go.)
When I put the Desert Island list into chronological order, the next song on the list comes from October 1970, so you know what that means.
Recommended Reading: A review of the opening night of the Donald Fagen/Michael McDonald/Boz Scaggs “Dukes of September” tour. They’ll be in Milwaukee on September 15th, but we can’t go, and it’s killing me. The Mrs. will have to sedate me that day. Anybody who’s ever stared at a blank page for too long will probably enjoy whiteray’s struggle for inspiration. At 30 Days Out, the recurring feature “Your Sister’s (Record) Rack” has been looking into her singles collection. (Part 1 here, part 2 here.) And for a while now, I have been digging the eclectic selection of tunes at Four Steps From the Blues. You should check it out, too.