Although the early ’60s is considered by some a somewhat fallow period for rock ‘n’ roll music, Roy Orbison is one of the notables who made that era worthwhile. Behind those shades lurked one of the most stunning voices in rock history. He brought operatic intensity and range to the rock era, with tales of romantic angst and longing that have stood the test of time. His influence has reached vocalists from Chris Isaak to k.d. lang to Glenn Danzig (really). Let’s pay tribute to Roy by grabbing your iPod/MP3 player, hitting shuffle and sharing the first ten songs that come up.
The Guess Who — Baby’s Birthday (Shakin’ All Over): In its early days, The Guess Who were a fairly typical ’60s rock band, playing a mix of garage rock, pop and light psychedelia. This song, off of a cool Sundazed compilation of those early days, sounds a bit like on of Mike Nesmith’s tunes from The Monkees.
Loretta Lynn — You’ve Just Stepped In (From Stepping Out on Me) (All Time Greatest Hits): Doesn’t the title say it all. Another great Lynn wounded woman song, with Lynn telling her straying man that if he doesn’t change his ways, she going to be “stepping out on you someday.” In this song, Lynn hits upon the dilemna of a woman who wants to leave but is scared to.
Guided By Voices — Ester’s Day (Bee Thousand): Like a lot of people, this album was my first exposure to GBV, who were at the forefront of the low fi movement. Of course, this was due to circumstance, not artistic intent. But they learned how to work it to their advantage, especially on the little song fragments that glued together their albums. The lower fidelity gives this track, and many others, a haunting feel.
The dB’s — Love Is For Lovers (Like This): Peter Holsapple, the front man for the latter day dB’s, wrote a great piece on this song for the New York Times. This was it, the perfect hit single. Which never came close to being a hit. He talked about the process and the frustration. And frustrating it had to have been, as this song is awash in hooks, full of twists, and has great lyrics. An awesome tune indeed.
The Boys — Heroine (Alternative Chartbusters): This underrated British ’70s pop-punk band threw a curveball on this slow piano based song. This has a whiff of Beatle-ish psychedelia and arm waving Slade glam balladry. A nice change of pace.
Fools Face — What You Hide (Fools Face): Fools Face are heroes to a select group of power pop fans who have their limited release albums from the ’80s. This Springfield, Missouri band had four equally adept songwriters who mined the best of pop and power pop from the ’60s and ’70s. The band’s 2002 reunion album was a jawdropper, because other than the beefier production (one of the members had gone on to becoming a big time recording engineer), it otherwise picked right up where its 1983 Public Places album had left off. This is a muscular psychedelic rocker that sounds like a less arrogant Oasis.
The Saints — Demoltion Girl (Wild About You: 1976-1978): The Saints are true contemporaries of the Ramones, and they were starting up punk Down Under the way the Ramones did in NYC. Whereas the Ramones revved up classic ’60s pop archtypes like Phil Spector, The Saints were turbo-charging basic R & B. Along with Radio Birdman, The Saints established a special hard edge that is always associated with Aussie punk.
Redd Kross — Secret Life (Show World): Show World was the final Redd Kross album, though there is still a possibility that Steven and Jeffrey McDonald might get another one out. If they don’t, this was quite the finale. After starting out as a teen punk band, Redd Kross settled into classic power pop mode. And with Show World, they perfected their sound. This is a rather powerful soaring ballad that sounds like it was made for ’70s AM radio.
Split Enz — Marooned (Frenzy): This album was the break away from the earlier art-pop of the first three Enz albums into the radio friendly new wavish-pop that made them known around the world. Frenzy was not quite as slick as the subsequent efforts and had an energy befitting the album title. This song sounds like a mid-point between early XTC and Field Music.
k.d. lang — Tickled Pink (A Truly Western Experience): The first k.d. lang effort is a bit uneven, but it established that she loved country music so much that she couldn’t take it too seriously. Thus, she brought a fresh perspective to music that respected traditions, while tweaking them to give it a feel that fit her clever lyrical sensibility. The album also let everyone know that k.d. lang is an amazing singer. This song manages to have a country structure, but also has a bluesy feel, augmented by the use of a Hammond organ. Nice.