As the new year draws closer, we’ve decided to take a look the music that’s gotten us to where we are today. So in an effort to broaden our musical horizons and our understanding of contemporary artists, we’re counting down 2012 by counting up from 1952, taking a look at a handful of songs from a different year every day until January 1st. You can find the full list here. Today we’re heading back to 1960!
John Coltrane - "Giant Steps"
Before hearing Giant Steps, I thought standards (like "Black Coffee," below) were pretty much all there was to jazz. This record showed me an entirely new, dizzying, and highly complex side of the genre. As the title track attests, Coltrane's free-flying arrangements are bursting with energy, neatly echoing the increasingly fast pace of New York City at the dawn of the 60's. It's the sound of bustling movement, wild ideas, and unpredictability. Incidentally, this song is known to be popular jazz music's most difficult chord progression.
Julie London - "Black Coffee"
Julie London's voice is soaked in so much smoke and booze and sex, she could literally sing about her own poop and it would still play like that scene of Jessica Rabbit singing in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Here she is singing a biting 1948 standard about loneliness and the male double standard.
John Cage - "Water Walk"
Cage, whom I last mentioned in 1956, appears here on a 1960 episode of I've Got a Secret, performing "Water Walk" to welcome laughter. His ability to find music in absolutely anything is equal parts playful and genius, and continues to inform a great deal of experimentalism.
Chubby Checker - "The Twist"
This song is grating as hell, despite belonging to one of the best genres of all time: dance instruction (see also: "The Cha Cha Slide", "Mashed Potato Time"). Nevertheless, this #1 hit birthed a total dance craze, embedding the dance in popular culture for decades to come and leading to criminal overplaying.
Roy Orbison - "Only The Lonely"
Orbison pitched this song to both Elvis Presley and The Everly Brothers, but neither bit. Good thing for Roy, because the song launched his career. His voice, as you can tell, is incredibly powerful, operatic but still human.