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 1972!
Big Star – “Thirteen”
Big Star was arguably the first "indie" band. Though not the first group of musicians to operate outside of a major label, the band's sound has influenced every subsequent generation's independent pop music. “Thirteen” is a good example of a song that encapsulated the band's most enduring strength, which thousands still aspire to: working from a foundation of modern singer/songwriter tropes and ascending to something more heartfelt through a series of personal and esoteric flourishes.
Jimmy Cliff – “The Harder They Come”
The Harder They Come is a legend of Jamaican crime cinema, was a star-making vehicle for its lead, and unlike Purple Rain, was actually a decent flick on its own. However, the movie is a footnote in the story of its soundtrack, which is globally recognized as responsible for putting reggae in turntables outside of Jamaica. That's thanks in most part to “The Harder They Come,” the movie's theme tune, which blends reggae, pop and soul for a saga of injustice, resistance and Christ-like virtue that was a palatable introduction to those uninitiated to the music and culture.
Al Green – “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?”
This is a cover of a Bee Gees tune, but why would you need any other version? Al Green turned the tune into a soul standard, redefining the genre with imposing, devastating melancholy. I can't imagine going through heartbreak without this song.
Roxy Music – “Ladytron”
One of my biggest regrets is that I didn't have a Roxy Music phase as a teen. Instead of listening to disposable techno and whatever else I've successfully blocked out, I could have been strutting through the halls with Brian Eno's old art-rock band soundtracking my every move. I like “Ladytron” because it has the intergalactic electronic odyssey of a Stardust-era Bowie tune that dives and pivots at a moment's notice for some really beautiful and unique sounds (courtesy of Eno, who handled a lot of the instrument processing).
10cc – “Rubber Bullets”
One hell of an infectious, rascally and underrated band, 10cc wrote a bunch of great music that's never really had its day. Like a playful sibling, “Rubber Bullets” gets American rawk music in a headlock and musses its hair, creating a brilliant piece of art that refuses to take itself too seriously. At the time of the song's release there was some speculation as to whether the lyrics were referencing the British Army's use of rubber bullets in Ireland, which it wasn't.