#575: The Beach Boys – I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times

You won’t find a lot of Beach Boys on my playlist. I have written a post about two of their songs before; those that I’ve yet to come to can all be listened to on the album Pet Sounds. Gotta love that album, very much a milestone in popular music.

At a time when artists were creating some far out music in the 60s, breaking boundaries and going an extra mile in terms of their sound and production, The Beach Boys – led by musical genius Brian Wilson – were drifting away from their usual surf-pop style and into a more grandiose and symphonic soundscape. People weren’t ready for that change. Not even a few of the group’s members themselves, which really got Brian Wilson down and continued to do so until he had a bit of a breakdown due to drugs and intense pressure. It was clear that something massive was happening, though why couldn’t anyone else see it?

That’s really what today’s track is about. Not solely about Wilson himself (well, obviously it is in a way), but for anyone who feel their ideas are to advanced for their peers to understand, are frustrated by the situation, and think that in another time their work would be appreciated. Quite the sticky subject. A very universal one too, I’m sure.

Took me a while to actually get into this track. It’s the most recent one from the album I decided to put on my phone. When I first listened to Pet Sounds the whole way through and proceeded to again a further few times, ‘These Times’ would start and I’d really wait for it to finish instead of really listening to its message and melodies. That was a mistake. I realised that, just like (almost) every other song on there, you give enough time to it and it slowly seeps into your mind. You’ve got the tremendous vocal group that overlap in that build-up to the chorus, and the instrumentation provided by The Wrecking Crew is perfect to a tee. And all of it was constructed by that expansive mind Brian Wilson possessed. Very admirable. Quite scary too.

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My iPod #563: The Who – I Can See for Miles

Another old one. ‘I Can See for Miles’ is the seventh track and single from The Who Sell Out – the band’s third album overall – released in late 1967. I’m in that group, figuratively speaking, that rates the album as one of their best. Well, a lot of people would say that too. But I think it’s miles better than Tommy. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. All four members have more or less equal vocal duties on here and sound like they’re having a good time on every song (all 23 of them if you own the 1995 remaster/remixed edition). Plus this was the apex of The Who’s power-pop phase before they became the hard rock staple from the 70s onwards. Every song is just very entertaining.

The song concerns a narrator who, in basic terms, does not like to be taken for a fool and is number one when it comes to being observant but this is exaggerated to make it seem as if they are an all-seeing entity that can see far beyond any boundary. ‘I Can See for Miles’ is meant to sound massive. Pete Townshend described it as “the raunchiest, loudest, most ridiculous rock and roll record you’ve ever heard”. In some ways, the performance lives up to its description. I’m sure there are at least two drum takes by the manic Keith Moon on here, with drum rolls and various cymbal crashes overdubbed for full effect. It contains a memorable chorus characterised by rising vocal harmonies. There’s a guitar solo that consists of only one note. And there’s a key change for the last verse and chorus. You’d think it had everything to make it a great hit.

Apparently not. It peaked at ten in both the British and American singles charts in its day. Some would be thrilled about that, but Townshend was not too particularly happy. Despite how well (or not so) it did commercially, one can’t deny its audacity and ferocity. It also influenced Paul McCartney to write ‘Helter Skelter’ which is not so bad.

Below is a clearly mimed performance the band did for French TV in 1968.

My iPod #555: Bloc Party – Hunting for Witches

Kele Okereke was interested in the media reaction to the 9/11 and London 7/7 terrorist attacks. The lead singer of Bloc Party felt that the media had earned their trade through scaremongering and using fear to control people. His observations aided him to create “Hunting for Witches”, the second track on the band’s sophomore effort A Weekend in the City, released in 2007.

The violent ringing at the end of “Song for Clay (Disappear Here)” fades right into “Hunting for Witches”, but it is almost a minute into the latter that you hear Kele’s voice. The introduction starts with chopped-up radio samples that scatter around your ears before being overlapped by a panning alien-spaceship sounding guitar riff, the drums of Matt Tong, and finally the song’s spindly guitar riff delivered by Russell Lissack with dagger-sharp execution. The track reminds me a bit of “Helicopter” due to the interplay of guitars, particularly during the instrumental break before the final chorus, and the busy rhythm section, but with more of a processed sound and a fuller vocal performance from Okereke.

Released as the album’s third single, the song received a music video which features the band performing the track in a dark room. There it is above all of this. It probably would have been the last single too, had it not been for “Flux” which arrived a few months later.

My iPod #383: They Might Be Giants – For Science

“For Science” is a small yet dramatic track, briefly about the sighting of a UFO and soldiers being sent to meet the aliens even though it will end with their inevitable deaths but mostly about a man who begins a relationship with a female alien, knowing that he will be a slave to her love all eternity. This is all done in the name of science.

A track that was created during the making of their first album, “For Science” was first released on the “(She Was a) Hotel Detective EP” in 1988, and then re-released on the groups B-Side compilation “Miscellaneous T” (which is the album I first heard the song on).

Linnell plays the announcer at the start of the track, Flansburgh takes the role of the love-struck man, and “Lt. Anne Moore” – as she is known as on the EP – provides the female vocals.

It’s a funny little track, one that has apparently only been played live by the band three times. They’ll have their reasons as to why that is.

My iPod #382: The Killers – For Reasons Unknown

One time when I was in year seven, just starting life in secondary school, a friend of mine randomly started singing “there was an open chaaiiiiiiir” and kept on repeating that line again. This forced me to question what was wrong with him as I joking began to question him about his mental health.

It all made sense a few months later, when the video “For Reasons Unknown” started showing on MTV. The line makes up a funny second verse in the track where Brandon Flowers wails: “There was an open chaaaaaiiiir/We sat down iiiiiiiiiin/The open chaaaiiir”, before going into the pre-chorus again. Still, that track was played over and over again that I eventual began to start liking it. I had no choice to be honest; the lyrics were permanently etched into my brain to the video’s excessive air time.

The song was released as “Sam’s Town”‘s final single, before the band went away for a year or so preparing their third album. The track is different from many other Killers stuff, as Brandon Flowers actually takes bass duties while Mark Stoermer plays the second guitar (as is shown in the video). I did not know that the track was a narrative based on Flowers’ grandmother who suffers/ed from Alzheimer’s disease. Kind of brings me down thinking about it, actually. But it is a very bold and strident track, with a very passionate vocal performance from Brandon. And an overall solid performance by the four guys.

My iPod #381: The Beatles – For No One

A slow song about the gradual ending of a relationship, “For No One” written by Paul McCartney and performed by The Beatles is one of the saddest tracks in the group’s catalogue.

McCartney was going through a rough patch with a girlfriend many many years ago, and this is one of many songs that he wrote about that point in time. This seems to detail the eventual end of that ‘patch’ ‘cos from “Sgt. Pepper” onwards he didn’t write those types of songs anymore. In fact, it seemed to be getting so much better for him from that point onwards. Still, “For No One” is details McCartney’s regret and sadness caused by the situation.

Accompanied by only by drums (courtesy of Ringo Starr) which you can barely hear and a mournful French horn that gets its own solo and appears again near the song’s conclusion, “For No One” is the one track from “Revolver” that will have you tearing up and feeling Paul’s pain. John Lennon was a fan of this one too, but probably not because of that reason.

My iPod #359: Weezer – Falling for You

It’s good to hear that people are liking Weezer’s new album. Or at least they feel like it’s the best the band has done in many years. But we all know that Weezer were so much better. There are those that completely disregard Weezer’s work after “Pinkerton“, that’s how offended they’ve been. I am not one of those people. Though I have to agree that the band’s second album is the last jaw-dropping thing the band have done.

“Falling for You” has many amazing moments in itself. Too many to describe. Anything I could say has already been written, and it’s a much better read. Have fun with it. In general, there are goosebumps-a-plenty when listening to it.

It is in this track, after eight songs where the narrator has no idea why he’s so shitty when it comes to relationships, that an actual relationship finally begins – only for it to end in the next and last track.