The Songs No iPod Should Be Without


Two weeks ago I offered up five recent songs.  This week, I’m taking you on a trip through time.  To that long ago time called the seventies.  Yup, the seventies—well before many of you were born.  The seventies—a time that many of us who were alive would like to forget.  The seventies were a very strange time.  The radical and idealistic sixties had ended and the cynicism and fun of the eighties were still a ways off.
The next five songs are all iconic.  They include: a former Beatle’s best effort–EVER, the last really great Beach Boys song, Bad Company’s eponymous calling card, a southern rock song steeped in religious morality and mythology and lastly a New Wave one-hit wonder.
Okay, so here they are: five…great songs from the seventies.  Some you may know.  Some you may not.  It really doesn’t matter.  Check ‘em out, you’ll like ‘em.

101. It Don’t Come Easy – Ringo Starr

You can hear the Motown influences.  You can hear Ringo’s influences (John, Paul, George and whatever was popular at the time) in everything he wrote.  This is the best song he ever wrote.  It went gold in 1971, at a time when Ringo’s solo career was doing better than expected and was more successful, than Lennon, McCartney and Harrison.  Whodathunkit!?!

The song sounds like he’s singing it to his former bandmates.  Judge for yourself:

It don’t come easy,

You know it don’t come easy.

It don’t come easy,

You know it don’t come easy.

Got to pay your dues if you wanna sing the blues,

And you know it don’t come easy.

You don’t have to shout or leap about,

You can even play them easy.

Forget about the past and all your sorrows,

The future won’t last,

It will soon be over tomorrow.

Recommended versions can be found on: the re-mastered version of Ringo (Capitol/Apple, 1973) where it is one of the bonus tracks ‘cause it was originally released as a single, VH1 Storytellers Polygram, 1998), Photograph: The Very Best of Ringo Starr (Capitol/Apple/EMI, 2007), Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band: The Anthology (Koch International, 2001) and the out-of-print Blast From Your Past (Capitol/Apple, 1975).

102. Sail On, Sailor – The Beach Boys

“Sail on Sailor” is the highlight of the group’s critically acclaimed Holland album. Sung by Blondie Chaplin, the song’s lyrics tell the story of a sailor struggling through life.  The music flows like a tide—back and forth.  The song is hypnotic and beautiful.  Brian Wilson is a genius; the lyrics with the help of Van Dyke Parks and others are full ebb and flow and imagery:

I sailed an ocean, unsettled ocean

Through restful waters and deep commotion

Often frightened, unenlightened

Sail on, sail on sailor

I wrest the waters, fight Neptune’s waters

Sail through the sorrows of life’s marauders

Unrepenting, often empty

Sail on, sail on sailor

Caught like a sewer rat alone but I sail

Bought like a crust of bread, but oh do I wail

Seldom stumble, never crumble

Try to tumble, life’s a rumble

Feel the stinging I’ve been given

Never ending, unrelenting

Heartbreak searing, always fearing

Never clearing persevering

Sail on, sail on, sailor

I work the seaways, the gale-swept seaways

Past shipwrecked daughters of wicked waters

Uninspired, drenched and tired

Wail on, wail on, sailor

Always needing, even bleeding

Never feeding all my feelings

Damn the thunder, must I blunder

There’s no wonder all I’m under

Stop the crying and the lying

And the sighing and my dying

Sail on, sail on sailor

Sail on, sail on sailor

Sail on, sail on sailor

Sail on, sail on sailor

The production is almost Spectoresque.  It is hypnotic and layered—a wall of sound and water.

Recommended versions can be found on: Holland (Caribou, 1973), Carl & The Passions – So Tough / Holland (Capitol, 2000) and many “Best Of” and box set collections including: Classics: Selected By Brian Wilson (Capitol, 2002), The Warmth Of the Sun (Capitol/EMI, 2006) and Good Vibrations: Thirty Years Of The Beach Boys (Capitol, 1993).

103. Bad Company – Bad Company  

So good that they named the band after the song.  Or was it the other way around?  The title song on the eponymous debut release.  Yep, Bad Company released the song “Bad Company” on the album Bad Company.  Not a lot of originality among the naming conventions.  Go figure.   Great bass line.  Great lyrics…

 Company always on the run
Destiny is the rising sun
Oh I was born 6-gun in my hand
Behind a gun I’ll make my final stand
That’s why they call me Bad company

 Great song.

Recommended versions can be found on: Bad Company (Swan Song, 1974), 10 From 6 (Swan Song/Atlantic, 1985) and the double-disc Original Bad Company Anthology (Elektra, 1999).

104. The Devil Went Down to Georgia – The Charlie Daniels Band

Biblical imagery.  Morality.  Wagering one’s soul against a fiddle made of gold.  Sin.  Demons.  Fire.  Brimstone.  And a country boy named Johnny who out-plays the Devil.  Sounds like fun…  and gotta admit, I love it.  Also, truth-be-told, I like the Devil’s solo better.  It kicks A$$!

Recommended versions can be found on: Million Mile Reflections (Epic, 1979), All_Time Greatest Hits (Epic, 1993), 16 Biggest Hits (Epic/Legacy, 2006), The Essential Charlie Daniels Band (Epic/Legacy, 2003) and The Live Record (Koch, 2001).

105. Mirror Star – Fabulous Poodles

A Rolling Stones/Kinks-type rocker about playing air guitar and singing in front of the bedroom mirror.

He was a lonely boy, no good at sports

He couldn’t run, his legs were short

He walked the streets inside his head

And spent a lot of time in bed

He practiced on his way to school

His friends all said, you’re off the wall

He played a tight elastic band

His mic was just his empty hand

Mirror, mirror, mirror star

He posed in front of every car

They all called him crazy kid

He ran up to his room and hid

The song has a clanging guitar riff, driving melody and a great backbeat.  What’s not to like?

Recommended versions can be found on: Mirror Stars (Epic, 1979 a compilation of the band’s two U.K. albums—the album was re-issued as a 2 LPs on 1 CD with Think Pink by American Beat in 2009) and the “Best Of” collection His Masters Choice (Sequel, 1995)

I’ve written this before and I’m sure that I’ll write it again.  I want to hear from you.  What songs are your all-time favorites?  What songs would you take to a desert island?  What are your must-have songs?  What are the songs you can’t imagine your iPod not having loaded on it?  Send me an e-mail telling me what music you like and why.  Those of you who have written to me know that I will respond to your e-mails.  I’ll feature your song selection in a future column.  If you have an idea for an entire column based on a theme, send your ideas along.  E-mail me at: [email protected]. Type Can’t Live Without in the Topic. Til Next time!

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