Everybody Must Get Stoned: My Favorite Albums 1960-1969



Like a lot of people who are really into music, I also enjoy making lists and putting things in groups.

 

 

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Favorite bands from Boston?

  1. The Pixies
  2. Mission of Burma
  3. Aerosmith

See what I mean? When I get together with my “good time buddies,” we toss around categories and propose hypotheticals. What if the drummer for Def Leppard had zero arms instead of one?

60salbumsI don’t really do sports, so my male bonding comes mainly from the discussion of rock music and old Kids in the Hall sketches.

Out of those conversations comes my ongoing 6-part series: “The Best of Every Decade Until You Just Want to Kill Yourself.”

I’m not doing the 50’s. This isn’t because I don’t think the 1950’s were important. I respect the influences of my favorite artists while knowing nothing about them.

Honestly, show me someone my age who can name 5 albums of any genre from the 50’s.

So we’re starting with the 1960’s. For all of these decades, I’ve tried to be as neutral with respect to critical rankings and lists as possible. I’m going by the albums that I come back to again and again, the ones with which I have a personal experience. Most of these coincide with the “classically accepted 60’s canon,” and there is a bit of a correlation between what was considered “essential” from this decade and what I ultimately absorbed. In other words, since I wasn’t there at the time, all I could do was go by recommendations. Nobody recommends a shitty album to their friends and family. It’s a horrible way to lose both. So maybe I missed the worst of the decade. I’m strangely okay with that.

My Favorite Albums of the 60’s

5.The Kinks – Something Else by the Kinks (1967)

The Kinks are the weird art-school cousins of the Beatles. It’s kind of like a group composed entirely of John Lennons. The Davies brothers and company are unabashedly fey, crafting character studies that cram short-story details into pop formats. Consider the jealous (or idolizing) narrator of “David Watts,” or the melodrama of “Two Sisters.” There are even a few standard rockers like “Love Me Til the Sun Shines.” Plus “Waterloo Sunset!”

4. Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde (1966)

Widely considered to be Dylan’s best album (I’m more of a Blood on the Tracks man myself, but that’s from the 70’s), Blonde on Blonde contains some of his most cutting lyrics and memorable melodies. The raw pain of “Just Like a Woman” jumps out from the speakers. “Visions of Johanna” remains one of the songwriter’s finest epics. My personal high point is the finger-picked acoustic guitar of “Fourth Time Around.” It’s all good, really.

3. The Beatles – The Beatles (1968)

Sometimes great art can be produced by people who are really fucking sick of one another. Just look at The Beatles (aka the White Album), which was very clearly recorded in four very separate and very depressing rooms. While a lot of people may point to Pepper or Revolver as a high point for the group, I’m a proponent of the “throw enough shit at the wall” philosophy. Most of these songs stick. Not just in the first half, either. “Mother Nature’s Son” is one of McCartney’s finest tracks, while “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey” is a  perfect song teleported in from another dimension. Most of these 30+ offerings are good-to-great, and that’s quite a batting average. Then again, they are the Beatles.

2. The Who – Tommy (1969)

The Who was thinking thematically before Pet Sounds or Sgt. Pepper. Their 1966 medley “A Quick One, While He’s Away” basically served as the jumping-off point that would later give way to the groups first rock opera. Tommy is a bit bloated, and the formula would later be refined even further for Quadrophenia, but the sure-footed songwriting and high-minded ambitions of Pete Townshend reach astounding heights here. Tommy is a rare example of a concept album that works as a cohesive unit but can also be divided into songs without sacrificing anything. As for my favorite? Something about “1921” fills me with joy. Even though the song ends with a child repressing a traumatic event. Just one? I should be so lucky.

1. The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967)

What can I say? I love this album, and I keep coming back to it and keep finding new things. Lou Reed’s poison-tinged pop songs, Mo Tucker’s hypnotic beat, John Cale’s drones and Sterling Morrison’s instrumental utility combined to create the indie-rock and punk bible. There is an old saying about the group, often attributed to Jonathan Richman (though I think he denies it). It’s been recycled so many times that it’s entered cliche territory. But this may be one of those cliches that is based in truth.

“Not a lot of people were aware of the Velvet Underground the first time around, but every single one of them started a band.”

The future punk stars were listening to “I’m Waiting for the Man,” while the nascent no-wave movement was taking note of “European Son.”

Add Nico to the mix on a few songs, and it adds just the right amount of icy distance. Regardless of how the group felt about having Nico forced upon them by producer Andy Warhol, the fact remains that the handful of Nico songs work extremely well.

When I get drunk, I will often state that “The Velvet Underground invented music.”

I may be drunk, but I’m not wrong.

 

Keep in mind that this is the product of opinion. If you’re feeling the urge to ask me “Why didn’t you include the Beach Boys,” I encourage you to write your own list.

Just, you know, keep it the hell away from me.

Stay tuned for the 70’s!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 comments to “Everybody Must Get Stoned: My Favorite Albums 1960-1969”
  1. Good list, The Doors first album comes to mind as one of the best of the sixties. Love the Kinks. White Album is still among my favorites. Tommy has not aged well, but was unique for its day. Dylan was definitely an influence on the 60’s. LedZep I had great songs, but I wouldn’t include as best of 60’s.

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