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 1970!
Black Sabbath – “Black Sabbath”
In 1969, Anton LaVey published The Satanic Bible, and the Judeo-Christian post-war generation began to have their religious crisis. Was there a battle for the hearts of men looming? “Black Sabbath” was what the first metal band ever heard when they imagined the fulfillment of this fear, and made a bleak heralding of Satan’s return. For the first few seconds we hear a rainy day near a church, before Tony Iommi’s blasphemous guitar line begins and makes the holy arena something vile and intolerable. Ozzy Osbourne plays the horrified onlooker decrying the earth’s fate, though this escaped the thousands of enraged puritans who would declare the band evil incarnate for as long as they made music.
The Stooges – “T.V. Eye”
This year, proto-punk’s premiere group released Fun House, another incredible album only a year after the (until then) unmatched ferocity of their self-titled debut. My favorite part of this track has to be the middle bit, with Ron Asheton’s gale-force guitars and Iggy’s layered screams, barks and strung-out rambling. Perfection.
Charles Manson – “Cease to Exist”
Over the next two decades, popular music’s association with the Devil would be prominently questioned in the coming years (see you soon, backmasking controversy and Judas Priest trial), and we can at least partially thank Charles Manson for that. Beyond his diciples writing the lyrics to “Helter Skelter” in blood at the scene of the Tate murders, Manson’s connection to pop goes much deeper. “Cease To Exist” was written by Manson and given to Dennis Wilson (of The Fucking Beach Boys) in an attempt to break into the music industry. It got retooled into The Beach Boys’ much sunnier “Never Learn Not To Love,” with Wilson given full credit. Manson apparently threatened Wilson’s life, until Wilson beat the shit out of him. Badass.
Simon & Garfunkel – “Bridge Over Troubled Water”
In 1970, pop music belonged to two odd looking men from Greenwich Village. “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is just one amazing song from Simon & Garfunkel’s final album together (though the only one that sold six million copies of the single), and ended up topping charts, winning six Grammys, and becoming the ship that launched a thousand Garfunkel jokes.
The Beatles – “Across The Universe”
Phil Spector produced music as he lived, on the edge of acceptable notions. And while we all loved George Martin and are very grateful that he produced all the Beatles albums, it’s incredibly dope that they got Spector to produce their re-recording of “Across The Universe.” I’m more familiar with the version from Let It Be… Naked, which is also very good and, as many would argue, better. Jai Guru Deva, y’all.
Funkadelic - ”Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow”
Before they recorded their abstract funk masterpiece Maggot Brain, Funkadelic explicitly took it on the man and their own listeners on “Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow,” taken from the eponymous album. It’s a song borne out lots and lots of LSD, which is also exactly what it sounds like; guitar lines that could cut steel collide pile on top of voices, distorted synth lines, and much more. The ceaselessly competing elements are ultimately exhausting, just as living in a truly confused mind can be.
The Velvet Underground – “Who Loves The Sun”
One of my favourite VU songs, and probably the most bouncy and effervescent song about crippling post-breakup depression ever written. Take a look at the lyrics. Without the “Pa Pa Pas” it reads like a goddamn suicide note.
Krafterk – “Ruckzuck”
The krautrock and electronica pioneers made their debut this year with their hypnotic self-titled record. While other early krautrock outfits were pretty naturally transitioning from psychedelic rock, Kraftwerk are taking a more unique, minimal approach. You won’t hear guitars here – just flute, drums, organ, one chord, and a skillful dose of crazy noise.
John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band – “Mother”
Lennon wrote this on the suggestion of his therapist to come to terms with his father’s abandonment in his early years, and his mother’s death when John was seventeen. This therapy also led to “Working Class Hero” and “Isolation.” There’s also a Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Band record that came out the same day, featuring Yoko’s insane howling (see: “Why”) and is either brilliant or awful, depending who you ask (I think it’s pretty cool).