Sunday, September 15, 2013

Music Sunday: The "1969 Revisited" Edition

Last month, I wrote about the Woodstock festival in 1969. Musically, at least, and maybe culturally, Woodstock stands at the height of what we know as "The Sixties" (not to be confused with the chronological decade of the 1960s, because the two really don't completely coincide). But, even had Woodstock never happened, 1969 would stand as an extraordinary year in music.

This is true for many reasons, and in many genres in music, but rock music had one of its best years in 1969. Crosby, Stills and Nash and Led Zeppelin each released their first album (and Led Zeppelin also released their second album). Janis Joplin released her first solo album. The Beatles released "Abbey Road", which wasn't well thought of critically then, but has since come to be regarded as one of their best, if not the best album they ever made. The Who released their rock opera, "Tommy". It was the year that Marvin Gaye recorded "I Heard it Through the Grapevine", Bob Dylan recorded "Lay Lady Lay", and Johnny Cash recorded "A Boy Named Sue". And it was the year that John Lennon and Yoko Ono held their "Bed-in for Peace" in Amsterdam and in Montreal. It was in Montreal where they recorded, on June 1, in their hotel and with a room-full of friends, "Give Peace a Chance":

Johnny Cash released "A Boy Named Sue", written by Shel Silverstein, into the world in 1969, at a time when country music was mostly seen as a southern phenomenon. Nonetheless, besides being a number-one song on the country charts in the United States, it reached number two on Billboard's Hot 100 and number one on the magazine's Adult Contemporary chart. Here is a live performance of the song that, from the looks of it, was recorded at one of Cash's prison shows:

The difference between this performance and the radio version of the song is that in the radio version, the phrase "son of a bitch" and the word "damn" near the end of the song were censored out. 1969 was a landmark year in many ways, but the powers that be were still convinced that the republic would collapse if someone said (or sang) a cuss-word over the public airwaves. Nevertheless, the song won both Best Country Song and Best Country Performance, Male, at the Grammy Awards in 1970, when the music of 1969 was honored.

One of the surprises on Janis Joplin's first solo album, "I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!", is that she sings the Bee Gees song, "To Love Somebody". It just seems so unlikely. Yes, she has her own way with the song, as she did with every song she sang. As far as I'm concerned, she improved it greatly:

Blood, Sweat, and Tears' self-titled album was actually released in 1968 (and won Album of the Year at the 1970 Grammy Awards, as their deadlines for consideration are known to be slightly elastic), although my favorite song from the album was released in 1969. "Spinning Wheel" was written by the band's lead singer, David Clayton-Thomas. Here is the longer album version:

And now for something completely different...1969 was also the year that David Bowie released "Space Oddity". And, this is one of the things I like about the music released in 1969; it isn't all the same:

And, one more oddity, of a different kind, before I finish this up for the day: The Doors, with strings and horns. "Touch Me", from the album "The Soft Parade", was a bit of a departure. This live performance, from The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, if I'm not mistaken. There was some feeling among Doors fans at the time that this song, and the album, was sort of a sell-out by Jim Morrison and the band, but I like it:

There's so much more good music from 1969 that I would have liked to share here. Which means that there is probably another 1969 post somewhere, sometime in Music Sunday's future.

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