May 2016


220px-Instantk#3– John Lennon – “Instant Karma!” – (1970)

Pretentious alert! This is John Lennon’s best solo work, but it’s still reeks of that whole “artistry” thing that irritates me about him so much. Here’s why: in the U.K. the song was titled “Instant Karma” and was credited to Lennon/Ono with the Plastic Ono Band. In the U.S., the song was called “Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)” (because U.S. audiences apparently need their titles dumbed down, and it was credited to John Ono Lennon. I can see why people hate Yoko so much. Despite all of this, this remains an incredible song.

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Crosby,_Stills,_Nash_&_Young_-_Deja_Vu#4– Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – “Woodstock” – (1970)

Okay, there’s a lot to say about this one. First off, choosing a song from any CSN or CSNY album is a toughie – even if it is a cover. And this one is: it was originally done by Joni Mitchell but because Joni Mitchell’s voice is ear-grating at best and CSNY perfected vocal harmony better than just about anyone this side of the Beach Boys, we are going with their version.

Then you have what this song means – what it represents. Graham Nash was dating Joni Mitchell and CSNY had just performed at the Woodstock festival (which is an incredible story for another day, but hint: it was their second ever performance as a quartet, which is incredible, even if Neil Young was a complete douche about the whole thing). So Mitchell wrote the song and CSNY took it to #11 in the U.S. The song was used in the credits for the film Woodstock (which, fun fact, Martin Scorsese actually worked on).

So what does it mean? This song is the sum of the 1960s. If you look at Woodstock as the culmination of everything that had been building in a decade, this sums it up. But it does so solemnly: the 1960s were over. This was the 70s. It’s the perfect transition song between two times – even if the spirit of the 60s was alive well into the 70s, the 60s themselves were complete. Not to oversell it, but t’s a huge song. 

 

 

220px-Three_Dog_Night_-_It_Ain't_Easy#5– Three Dog Night – “Mama Told Me (Not To Come)” – (1970)

This song was originally recorded by Eric Burdon & The Animals but the vocals in this version are superior to almost anything Eric Burdon ever set eyes on (no offense to Eric). In fact, the song was written by Randy Newman and you can almost hear Cory Wells mocking Newman’s singing style in his delivery. It is funky, groovy and just spot on awesome. 

Elton_John_-_Elton_John#6– Elton John – “Your Song” – (1970)

Isn’t it amazing that Elton John has been pumping out hits since 1970? This was actually from his second album and was a top ten hit in the U.S. It may not be his biggest chart success, but it remains one of his most loved songs and would make the cut of “signature songs” (because he doesn’t have just one). What I really love about it is the conversational tone that the lyrics take.

220px-LetItBe#7– The Beatles – “Get Back” – (1970)

Trying to pick a song off of Let It Be isn’t easy but this is my favorite track from the album. This album wasn’t exactly a happy one, and this upbeat rock song features the amazing Billy Preston – the only Beatles song to share credit with another performer. It was also a #1 hit.

VanMorrisonMoondance#8– Van Morrison – “Moondance” – (1970)

This song is absolutely marvelous (as is the night, apparently, for a moondance). The song is beautiful and among Van Morrison’s best. It’s jazzy and light and actually about the fall. It also happens to be one of the finest driving songs ever written: the perfect tune to drop the top on a cool, clear night and race under the stars. And no, the lyrics do not say that anything “whispers: Anne Heche.”

220px-Love_Grows#9– Edison Lighthouse – “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) ” – (1970)

A #1 in the U.K. (and #5 in the U.S.), “Love Grows” is a staple of Oldies radio. The song was originally recorded by some studio musicians but when it became a hit, they had to actually assemble a band. Strangely, two bands with the name Edison Lighthouse exist today. One guy has the rights to use the name in the U.K., another in the U.S.

James_Taylor_-_Sweet_Baby_James#10– James Taylor – “Sweet Baby James” – (1970)

One of James Taylor’s best songs, this was also the name of his second studio album. It was the album’s first single but it never charted – yet it is still one of his most loved songs. It was not written about himself, though, but rather his nephew and it’s pretty much just straight lullaby.

220px-MungoJerryElectronicallyTestedAlbumCover#11– Mungo Jerry – “In the Summertime” – (1971)

This album actually came out in 1971, but the single was released in 1970 – the same year it peaked on the charts. It hit #3 in the U.S. and #1 all over the world. This was easily the band’s biggest hit and was supposedly written in 10 minutes.

 

Simon_and_Garfunkel,_Bridge_over_Troubled_Water_(1970)#12– Simon & Garfunkel – “Cecilia” – (1970)

Bridge Over Troubled Water is a legendary album, so to be the chosen song off of that album is pretty big. This top five hit actually features a relatively strange instrument: a piano bench that Paul Simon’s brother was banging on during a party. They recorded it and then played it back and recorded the banging over the recording making a cool sound and, once in the studio, Simon looped a section of it for the backing sound in this song.

220px-Neilalbum#13 – Neil Diamond – “Cracklin’ Rosie” – (1970)

“Cracklin’ Rosie” was Neil Diamond’s first #1 hit in the U.S. and should be the de facto anthem of winos everywhere. It’s about wine and if you listen to the lyrics it’s wonderfully done. Proof Neil Diamond was a great songwriter in his prime.

Idesvehicle#14 – The Ides of March – “Vehicle” – (1970)

The Ides of March were an Illinois-based rock band that turned out this ridiculously funky horn-infused track in 1970. It only peaked at #2 on the Hot 100 but it is said to be the fastest-selling single in Warner Bros. history. 

220px-After_the_Gold_Rush#15 – Neil Young – “Southern Man” – (1970)

Is this Neil Young’s best solo work? Maybe. The song is a strong-worded tale of racism in the American South. It’s interesting how Canadians have such strong opinions on how America does everything incorrectly. Despite this, Neil Young is responsible for some of the greatest “American” songs of the era. This is also the song that inspired Lynyrd Skynyrd to write “Sweet Home Alabama.”