Friday, March 21, 2008

Battle of the Decades

Beck swept the field last time, with one vote for Pat Benatar from Caitlin, and Mike Kaufman entering the game because I finally got his e-mail address right, and he immediately disgraced himself with a vote for Georgia Gibbs. Well, a student of mine wrote a brilliant paper a couple of semesters ago, comparing the LaVern Baker and Georgia Gibbs versions of "Tweedle Dee" and finding much to admire in Her Nibs.

Here's the new one, and I can predict two votes: Charis for the Kinks and Alex for Hootie.

THE 40s
Charlie Barnet

THE 50s
The Chantels
He's Gone

THE 60s
The Kinks
You Really Got Me

THE 70s
The Bee Gees
How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?

THE 80s
Hall & Oates
You Make My Dreams

THE 90s
Hootie & The Blowfish

I'll eliminate Hall and Oates first. They were there, they made hit records, they were terminally boring.

The Chantels were one of the first and one of the best girl groups, and if this were "Maybe" they'd rate higher with me -- and this is almost as good. The BeeGees in their disco days were the kings of disco, but you can't say much else for them. This was pre-disco, when they were still heavily Beatles influenced, and actually very good, and this is from that era, although no "Massachusetts" or "New York Mining Disaster 1941" (was there a New York mining disaster in 1941?) And hoots though I may get for this, I'll put Hootie in the same list of songs you'd like to listen to but not actually vote for.

We haven't had a contender from the 40s for a while, but Charlie Barnet was one of the good ones, and "Skyliner" is one of his best -- not as good as "Cherokee," which became a jazz standard and the basis for Bird's "Koko." Barnet was a rarity among jazz musicians, a rarity to the point that he may well be the only one, in that his parents were millionaires. He was also one of the first jazzmen to integrate his band, although not the group he had for this video. It's nice reading the comments on the YouTube video -- one from the son of Barnet's trumpet soloist and one from the grandson of one of the other trumpet players.

And the Kinks. Ray Davies is one of the three British rock songwriters I use when I teach my British lit survey course (Lennon/McCarney and Strummer/Jones are the others). "You Really Got Me" is one of his good ones (well, they were all good). If this were "Superman" or "A Well Respected Man" or "Young Conservatives" or especially "Lola" I'd vote for the Kinks in a second. On the other hand, if it were "Cherokee" or one of the Charlie Barnet numbers with a scat-singing telegram from Bunny Briggs, I'd tip that way.

As it is...oh, I dunno...the Kinks. Or maybe...but no, I've made my choice. But watch this anyway.

1 comment:

Fart guy said...

"New York Mining Disaster 1941 was allegedly inspired by the Aberfan mining disaster in Wales. Between this and Massachusetts, you get the idea that the BeeGees were preparing to break into the American market by writing songs about the US, while actually knowing nothing about the place.

They were intutitive songwriters, maybe, but not indefitagable fact-checkers.

At the time, the BeeGees were releasing their records with the added bonus of marketplace rumors that they were the Beatles recording under a pseudonym.