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GREAT SOLO SONGWRITERS FORUM - PART 2

Posted on: September 26, 2009 10:22 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2009 10:51 am
 

                                 THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK


In this version. I would like to continue with what I call complete songwriters, those who write both lyrics and melodies, that originated from some part of the British Empire. At it’s greatest, the British Empire included England, Ireland, India, Australia, parts of the Caribbean and the Asian islands around Indonesia and the Philippines. For argument’s sake, let’s include continental Europe so I have some place to put Mark Knopfler(I guess this would also make ABBA eligible although I won’t be writing that one!!!!) Once again, I’m asking everyone to hold back on songwriters who are primarily collaborators, such as JAGGER/RICHARDS, PINK FLOYD, U2, ELTON JOHN/TAUPIN, etc. as we can cover them in part 3. This should still give us a large amount of  songwriters to discuss. Again, I tend to be most knowledgeable in the mainstream rock genre from the mid 60s to the late 80s and will concentrate my writings in that area. Others of you who can fill in the niches I’m less familiar with or who have particular songwriters they feel strongly about please should feel free to extol their virtues as I don’t want my own point of view to dominate this too much. OK, enough rules, let’s try to have some fun.

I have a theory that much of the succcess of the British invasion and their point of view on life and art is the result of growing up in post World War II England. I have seen many interviews/shows on how many of this generation of English kids were fatherless and grew up in bombed out suburban settings that Americans can never duplicate or fully understand. It has to be more than a coincidence that so many significant musical figures come from England and were born between 1938 and 1950, including all of THE BEATLES, THE ROLLING STONES, THE WHO and THE KINKS. These kids didn't have playgrounds, they had remnants of bombed buildings to play in. A large percentage of them attended British art schools as well. Perhaps this required them to develop their creative imaginations at an earlier age, perhaps its all just a fluke. Regardless, this has to be the richest period for producing a new generation of artists that all longed for the paradise they thought America to be compared to their homeland and sought it out in the rhythm and blues of the black musicians of the American south.


Category: General
Comments

Since: Mar 20, 2008
Posted on: September 28, 2009 3:22 pm
 

GREAT SOLO SONGWRITERS FORUM - PART 2

ROCK, thank you for the contribution. Elvis is certainly a poet of the first degree. Several sites I visit in researching have him in their top five. I really like watching him talk music on the show SPECTACLE. He is immensely literate and talented, a lyricist without peer, able to make eloquent songs about any subject in a variety of musical genres. Like the best lyricists, he has a talents for combining seemingly unrelated words that paint images as vivid as any picture. He also is a wonderful vocalist, particularly on his slower songs where the vibrato and resonance of of voice really stand out. I only have a few of his CDS, but he has all of my respect.

I'm not gonna get too sentimental
like those other sticky valentines

Enough said!!!!



Since: Jul 23, 2007
Posted on: September 28, 2009 9:15 am
 

Elvis Costello

Elvis Costello may be the most literate songwriter in the history of popular music.

What more is there really to say about him?

OK, he paid his dues playing in London's pub rock scene in the early 70s; he began his recording career as the epitome of rck's "angry young man."  Early in his career he was associated with the punk rock and new wave movements, but his songwriting draws on every imaginable genre.  Music critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote, "Costello, the pop encyclopedia, can reinvent the past in his own image".

Costello is a master of wordplay; he has described himself as "Rock & Roll's Scrabble champion."  In my opinion, only Warren Zevon and Bob Dylan can compete with Costello as a lyricist.  Combine that with his ability to write beautiful melodies and irresistible hooks, and it's wasy to see why Elvis Costello has to be considered one of the greatest songwriters of the last 100 years.

Randy's Picks:

"Allison"
"The ANgels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes"
"Oliver's Army"
"Beyond Belief"
"American Without Tears"
"Veronica"

and too many more to name.



Since: Jul 23, 2007
Posted on: September 28, 2009 9:03 am
 

GREAT SOLO SONGWRITERS FORUM - PART 2

Hard to follow those great reviews, Fans!  Very insightful posts; I especially enjoyed the one about Pete Townsend.

Anything I write now is gonna be so lame by comparison!



Since: Dec 13, 2007
Posted on: September 28, 2009 1:09 am
 

GREAT SOLO SONGWRITERS FORUM - PART 2

WOW!

And then WOW again!

Incredible reviews Fans. Especially the wonderfully detailed rant on Pete Townshend.
I can tell that you really know your stuff.
Pete Townshend seems to have spent a lot of his career in the shadows of Lennon/McCartney when it comes to songwriting. But he definitely deserves all of the praise that you heaped upon him. So many excellent songs in his catalog! Both musically and lyrically.
And I would agree that the album WHO'S NEXT is probably in more people's Top 5 lists than any other album by anyone. It is a truly amazing collection of some of the best songs ever recorded by anyone!
And then you throw in his amazing guitar playing and decent singing voice and it is tough to beat.





Since: Mar 20, 2008
Posted on: September 27, 2009 12:11 pm
 

GREAT SOLO SONGWRITERS FORUM - PART 2

      
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p;      PETE TOWNSHEND

IF Pete Townshend had a weakness, it would have to be that his aim for the art he produced was too grandiose even for him.  Townshend did have the advantage of playing with perhaps the most musically gifted sidemen to ever form a single band. Roger Daltry is one of the great power singers in rock and roll history, yet he seemingly had no ambition to write songs or lyrics, content instead to be an interpreter of Townshend’s deeply personal musings. John Entwistle is simply the best bass player ever, a true pioneer of the instrument who spent more time playing lead lines to compliment Townshend’s guitar than just providing a bass rhythm for songs to be built on. His bass runs from MY GENERATION are probably the most recognizable ever recorded and were recorded IN 1965!!!! Any discussion of rock’s greatest drummers, or at least most unique, start and end with Keith Moon. Like Entwislte on bass, he was not content with providing simple rhythms for Townshend’s songs. He seemed more in rhythm with Daltry as the lead singer than with any conventional sense of rhythm. And Townshend himself, choosing to play both RHYTHM AND LEAD GUITAR, being equally proficient at both and doing both within the confines of single songs!!!  Fortunately, the playing styles of Entwistle and Moon fleshed out the rhythm parts while Pete played lead to give the WHO a deceptively full sound for a simple three piece band. They are among the loudest bands of any size ever and probably produced a greater number of ROCK ANTHEMS then any other group. But all of this musical talent would only have made them a British version of RUSH(no insult intended there, Rush fans) without Townshend’s intensely personal and prolific songwriting. Aiming to produce multiple ROCK OPERAS would seem overly ambitious,  but listening to TOMMY and QUADROPHENIA prove that the WHO were up to the task. Just think how many lines from there songs have become lexicons of our language,

“hope I die before I get old”
“See me, feel me, touch me, heal me”
“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss”
“Who are you?”
“It’s only Teenage Wasteland”
“I can see for miles and miles”

It may be fitting that their greatest album, certainly on almost everybody‘s list of five best albums ever, WHO”S NEXT is the result of Townshend’s inability to pull off the overly ambitious LIFEHOUSE opera project. Ironic that one of rock’s greatest recordings was a failure in in creator’s mind. WHO”S NEXT is the most complete album ever recorded, IMHO, with not a single filler track on it and several of the greatest songs ever produced, from BABA O’REILLY to BARGAIN to THE SONG IS OVER to the incomparable genius of side two starting with the beautiful GETTING IN TUNE, the playful GOING MOBILE, the introspective and repressed rage of BEHIND BLUE EYES and finally, the anthem won’t GET FOOLED AGAIN, maybe the most openly defiant song signaling the end of the hopefulness of the flower power era ever. Throw in the groundbreaking use of synthesizers and sequencers with the top rate musicianship of the band and Glynn Johns impeccable production and you have a rock masterpiece. Unlike the Beatles and the Stones, who started out and then expanded the form of American rhythm and blues, the Who had developed a whole new sound and genre of music unlike any other, hard driving rock characterized by carefully organized chaos in the musical playing, soul baring lyrics of a truly tortured songwriter, and the voice of the feelings of a whole new generation as it struggled to take over from it’s predecessors. All of this and the band has only been together for seven years!!!  QUADOPHENIA is flawed by being too far ahead of it’s time, produced for the anticipated four channel sound systems that were supposed to make stereo’s obsolete. (Everybody old enough to have bought a quad sound system besides me please step forward.) QUADROPHENIA  truly needs to be heard in four channel to be fully appreciated for the richness of its production, but it still produced some of rock’s most memorable songs, particularly 5:15 and LOVE REIGN O’ER ME, perhaps Daltry‘s most powerful vocal performance ever. THE WHO BY NUMBERS is a personal chronicling of Townshend’s fight against drug addiction and his struggles with the other band members, an intensely intimate look at the inner workings of his tortured soul. WHO ARE YOU is worth getting just based on the title track, one of the most chaotic and autobiographical songs ever recorded. None of the parts of this masterpiece is a song on it’s own, but when assembled, these disparate sounds make up a truly wonderful musical experience. How does someone assemble all of these diverse musical sections in their head and then make a complete song of them. Townshend was notorious for recording demos of his songs recorded at his home one track at a time with him playing all the instruments and bringing them in for everyone to learn their parts from. These demos were more complete and polished than many albums recorded by average bands, but Townsend was smart enough to realize that even he couldn’t reproduce the sounds of Entwistle and Moon or to carry off the vocals like Roger Daltry. That was a big part of genius, knowing the strengths of his band mates and writing to them and knowing his own strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, Keith Moon passed away shortly after WHO ARE YOU, and while Kenny Jones took his spot, no mortal drummer could truly replace him. Townshend continued to write very good songs both for his solo recordings, ROUGH BOYS, LET MY LOVE OPEN YOUR DOOR, and the Who, EMINENCE FRONT, YOU BETTER. YOU BET and others. Even after the death of John Entwistle, Townshend wrote some great Who songs, most notably 2006’s A GOOD LOOKING BOY. Anybody who doubts Pete’s prowess on the guitar as a lead player should listen closely to the intro to EMINENCE FRONT, another song that seems to have a very abstract form made up of unrelated parts that fit together like a puzzle to form a complete picture with Townshend’s blazing solo providing the first crucial piece. It’s sparse with as much space as musical fills, technically proficient with numerous runs showcasing his speed, and sonically spellbinding. Just imagine what the song would sound like with Moon on the drums. Obviously, I am a big fan of the Who, but I think I make a pretty good argument for why. Townshend’s ability to write so many great songs to fit the styles of the great musicians he played with completely on his own elevate him to the highest level of songwriters IMHO.  When all is said and done, I would rank only Dylan on the same level as PETE TOWNSHEND.




Since: Mar 20, 2008
Posted on: September 26, 2009 11:36 pm
 

GREAT SOLO SONGWRITERS FORUM - PART 2

      
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bsp; THE TWO OF US      JOHN LENNON and  PAUL McCARTNEY

I  will start off with a controversial entry, LENNON/McCARTNEY. While they are listed as collaborators on their Beatle compositions, they were more often solo songwriters with a publishing rights agreement that required them to share credits on all their Beatle compositions. And while they did collaborate on some of their earlier songs, by 1966 with the release of RUBBER SOUL and REVOLVER, they were mostly writing songs individually. After SGT, PEPPERS and the death of Brian Epstein and the start of Apple records, John and Paul were barely talking or playing on each others songs. Of course each also went on to have successful solo careers after leaving the Beatles on which there is no argument about who wrote what. A good web site to go to that explains how and who wrote each and every Beatle song is:



WIKIPEDIA also has a lot of interesting info on this subject at :



      
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p;  PAUL McCARTNEY

I always felt like Paul McCartney rode John Lennon’s coattails to success, but the harder I looked at which Beatle songs are my favorites, the more I discovered that McCartney was the writer of these. I don’t think there is any question the John was a much better songwriter in their solo careers as McCartney descended into a series of SILLY LITTLE LOVE SONGS, Lennon laid his soul bare. But McCartney’s talent with the Beatles is extraordinary with songs like YESTERDAY and BLACKBIRD, which he wrote and performed without any of the other band members. Add to this the greatness of songs like THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD(please listen to the LET IT BE - NAKED version to hear the real beauty of this song without George Martin’s strings addition), LET IT BE, WHY DON’T WE DO IT IN THE ROAD, HEY JUDE, ROCKY RACOON, WHEN I’M 64, OH DARLING,  GET BACK,  ELANOR RIGBY and PENNY LANE, all songs that are strictly McCartney compositions and you have to give the man his due for being a genuine songwriting savant. Couple this with the change he brought about in the role of the bass guitar in rock and roll music, although I personally thought his style became ponderous and overbearing after SGT. PEPPERS, and you have someone who is not just a great singer/songwriter but also a genuine influence on all of rock and roll musicians. Now I have to temper it somewhat with the fact that he also wrote some of the Beatles worst songs IMHO, such as HELTER SKELTER, GOT TO GET YOU INTO MY LIFE, and MAXWELL’S SILVER HAMMER.  Certainly his solo work has been uneven at best, he has certainly sold a tremendous amount of records and his career extends over four decades and still continues. Much as I hate to admit it, I have to place Paul McCartney VERY HIGH up on my list of great songwriters, probably in the top five. I hate doing it, but it is just a fact that cannot be denied if you actually go back through all the Beatle songs and see just what a high percentage of their best songs are really HIS best songs. SIR PAUL, just like the devil, I will give you your due.

      
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p;     JOHN LENNON

I always thought anyone that argued that John Lennon was THE BEATLES was automatically right, but I have been forced to change that opinion. He certainly did write his share of some of the greatest songs of all time while in the Beatles, but I think his real genius came after leaving the Beatles. While he may not have sold as many records as Paul, songs like HOW DO YOU SLEEP, GOD, MOTHER, IMAGINE, WORKING CLASSS HERO, COLD TURKEY, and WATCHING THE WHEELS  are among the most honest, soul baring, emotional songs ever recorded by anyone. Lennon’s voice becomes more of an instrument of despair and sorrow than a traditional singer’s voice that he seems to reach into your very soul to convey the rawness of his pain in these songs. Lifting your spirits was never his strong point, as that seemed to be Paul’s job, but only Dylan and Springsteen can truly rival his ability for introspection. Among his best songs as a Beatle are classics like ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, THE BALLAD OF JOHN AND YOKO, NORWEIGEN WOOD, HAPPINESS IS A WARM GUN, I WANT YOU, I AM THE WALRUS, and GLASS ONION. As if these weren’t enough, you have to consider the b-side to PENNY LANE, STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER, a song that changed recording techniques forever and showed the first glimpses of what would follow in his solo career. PENNY LANE/STRAWBERRY FIELDS might be the best 45 ever released, each side containing a musical masterpiece by two musical savants. It is definitely the greatest 45 ever released to never reach #1, beaten out ironically by a popular little ditty called PLEASE RELEASE ME from Englebert Humperdink!!!!  DOUBLE FANTASY certainly showed that John had not lost his touch, though it is pretty tame compared to THE PLASTIC ONO BAND and IMAGINE. Who can tell which direction John would have proceeded in if not for his untimely death, but I like to think he would still be making the wonderful spine tingling, soul baring socially relevant songs from his best and earliest solo career. I have to rate John Lennon among the three or four best songwriters of all time based on his twenty  year career, elevating him into the most rarified of atmospheres of modern music. Like Dylan, there probably are no significant songwriters after 1970 who were not significantly influenced by his songs and stylings.



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