Friday, 26 August 2016

My Top Ten Songs About 1969

Following on from My Top Tens Songs About 1972, we slip back three years before I was born to the days when man first walked on the moon and The Beatles were still a thing (but not for much longer). The year PJ Harvey, Cate Blanchett, Edward Norton, Dave Grohl, Javier Bardem, Graham Coxon, Matthew McConaughey, Nicky Wire & James Dean Bradfield, Ice Cube, Christian Slater, Elliott Smith, Justine Frischmann, Jack Black, Cerys Matthews, Michael Sheen, Keith Flint, J-Lo, Jay-Z and Badly Drawn Boy were born.

The year of Woodstock, Nixon and (according to the book cover above), nudity. Yep, no one had ever taken their clothes off until 1969. Reason enough to celebrate with nine songs that mention that year... and one complete shoe-horn.

10. The Vines - 1969

The closing track from that electric first Vines album - 14 years ago, when it was 1969 in their heads.

9. Babes In Toyland - Sweet '69

Joyous racket from the third Babes In Toyland album, made all the more exciting by the inclusion of a cowbell in the percussion section. 

Love the video.

8. Jane Birkin & Serge Gainsbourg - 69 Année érotique

From the album that brought us Je t'aime... moi non plus. More kitschy sleaze from the master.

Bad Seed Mick Harvey translated this (along with many more Gainsbourg compositions) into English on his 90s albums Intoxicated Man and Pink Elephant. They're nice enough versions, but the lyrics only work in French.

7. Sonic Youth & Lydia Lunch - Death Valley '69

Seriously scary (don't even watch the video) which closed the second Sonic Youth album: sounds like Jim Morrison's worst nightmare set to wax. Amid all that horror, Kim Gordon's bass stands proud.

6. The Highwaymen - Songs That Made A Difference

Johnny Cash recalls the good old days - y'know, when pop songs were actually about stuff. Willie, Waylon and Kris help jog his memory.
Hey babe, do you remember,
Back in nineteen sixty-nine?
We gathered round the room.
You sang yours and I sang mine.
We took turns with the guitar,
In the front and center seat.
Shel and Kris and Dylan,
And a couple off the street.
Joni Mitchell cried on, "Both Sides Now."
We sang songs that made a difference.
And we can again somehow.
5. REM - Star 69

OK, so I know this one isn't about 1969 at all, just the 'last number called' feature on American phones, but I couldn't resist shoehorning it in because it features some of Stipey's most bonkers lyrical ramblings about a mate who burns down a warehouse then calls Michael for an alibi.
I know all about the warehouse fire
I know squirrels didn't chew the wires
3 people have my number
The other 2 were with me
I don't like to tell-tell but I'm not your patsy
This time you have gone too far with me
4. Morrissey - Little Man, What Now?

The shortest - and oddest - song from Viva Hate. With nods to both Judy Garland and German novelist Hans Fallada, Moz affectionately recalls a TV star of the late 60s who has slipped into obscurity. Various theories abound on who the Little Man in question was... Alan Bennett seems to think it was Jimmy Clitheroe.

3. Nanci Griffith - Drive-In Movies and Dashboard Lights

I picked up a copy of Nanci's 1988 album Storms in a charity shop a few weeks back and it's a beautiful record. She looks really young on the cover, so I was surprised to read that it was her 8th album and she already had over ten years in the business when it was released. Apparently it was seen at the time as her "pop" album... "pop" meant something very different back then.

Drive-In Movies & Dashboard Lights is my favourite track - the tale of a small-town girl who gets by on looks alone... and learns a hard lesson a few years later...
Where is she now?
The backseat queen of fraternity
Where is she now?
She's heavy on thigh
And light on integrity
Someone should have told her
When beauty's all you offer
How soon the world discovers
That your beauty's gone
It's gone
Unlike our Number One artist this week (who only pretended to be), Nanci actually was 16 in 1969. Which might explain why she sets a number of her songs in that year, including So Long Ago and her Viet Nam elegy Traveling Through This Part Of You.

2. Iggy & The Stooges - 1969

The first Punk album? Discuss.

The opening track on Iggy's debut racket doesn't sound like anything else released in 1969... maybe that's why he was so bored?

1. Bryan Adams - Summer of '69

I sometimes think I should have called this blog 'Irk The Purists' ('Irk The Musos' might be more on-point, but that wouldn't reference Half Man Half Biscuit). Bryan Adams at Number One? Bryan Adams ahead of Iggy Pop? Are you saying Bryan Adams is more rock 'n' roll than Iggy, Rol? Are you? Are you? 'Cos them's fighting words.

Clearly, I'm not saying anything of the sort, but this song - his finest hour, by far - will always take some beating. (Plus, his mum's from Huddersfield like me.)

Just listen to those opening chords and tell me your heart doesn't beat a little faster. And when he buys that first guitar at the five 'n' dime, tell me you're not instantly transported back to the (nostalgia-tinged) summers of your youth. Iffypedia Mathematicians will quickly be able to establish that Bryan was only 10 years old in '69 though: perhaps a little too young for a job at the drive in and some of the other stuff he gets up to in this song. Turns out - shock horror! - the title isn't actually a reference to the year at all... it's something to do with sex-type-stuff. (You see, that's what Iggy was missing*!)

Somehow, I have managed to live the last 32 years without ever seeing the video to this song. It's cheesy as a Quattro Formaggi, but it still brought a grin to my face.

Apparently One Direction covered this. No, I'm not going to listen to that. I have SOME standards!

Which one makes you remember the best days of your life?

(*Yes, I seriously doubt that too.)


  1. You're quite right, my heart did beat a little faster when I heard the opening chords of 'Summer of '69' - though only because I was sprinting across the room to turn it off :-). I'm starting a campaign 'Iggy For No.1!'

    1. Well, at least I gave you some exercise.

      Irk the purists! ;-)

  2. Irk the purists indeed! Hey Rol, just wanted to say hi. Stumbled across your blog when I saw folks were being referred from yours, just wanted to say thanks, and I've reciprocated by adding you to the blog list over at my place. I love a good ten record playlist - I'll try to make sure we're not doubling up on any themes! Oh, and I love The Swede, but he's wrong about Summer of 69: it may be populist but it's def a tune.

    1. Thanks DT, I really enjoy your blog as it makes me feel a little less alone in the serious muso blogosphere! Long may your record collection (Barron Knights et al.) rein!

  3. The summer of '69 is overrated if you ask me. I was there and all I did was sit around in a pram, occasionally drinking milk. Also, when it comes to Bryan Adams songs, I prefer 'Run to You'. Also, I LOVE 'Death Valley '69'!

    1. "I was there and all I did was sit around in a pram, occasionally drinking milk."

      ...and you were 36 at the time!

      Run To You is overrated. ;-p


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