YOUR Playlist: A Dozen Picks by Readers
A sequel to our first special, this time with George Harrison, Kate Bush, The Kinks, Gillian Welch, Moby Grape, Capt. Beefheart and more. Plus: An early Merry Christmas from The Beatles.
Greg Mitchell is the author of a dozen books, including “Hiroshima in America,” “Atomic Cover-up,” and the recent award-winning “The Beginning or the End: How Hollywood—and America—Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.” His “Atomic Cover-up” just debuted on PBS and you can watch here. And “Memorial Day Massacre: Workers Die, Film Buried" remains free on the PBS site. Both have companion books, which you can easily find at Amazon.
We tried this a few weeks back, with some success, so offered again, a few days ago, to replace my usual playlists with YOURS. Naturally a good number of candidates poured in.
Most took seriously my advisory that you did not have to name your “all-time favorite song” but could pick something more obscure or quirky or recent. I was surprised how few “classics” were promoted. But there was a startling number of bands or individuals I’d barely heard of.
Note: Some picks were eliminated because a link would not work here or the promoter picked several songs, not one, or simply named a favorite artist without a song selected. Candidates arrived via the Comments section and email.
Anyway, here are a few I have selected to elevate today, with an eye on mixing a few big names and some not so well known. Enjoy. If you have not, please subscribe, it’s still free, and you never know what you’ll hear next.
Largely forgotten now, but early rockabilly/country singer-songwriter Margaret Lewis (“Mountain of Love” etc.) here with one of the hits she wrote for others, “Reconsider Me,” picked by Thom Hickey.
A fella named Denny claims: “Their first album still ranks as one of the best ever. Moby Grape.” I wouldn’t go quite that far but in any case The Grape never recovered from overhype and Columbia Records’ hubris. Here’s Denny’s pick, “Omaha.”
From the same era, Nancy Alenier listens to The Equals’ “Police on My Back” when she “feel sluggish, faithless, sullen.”
But my faves from the period were the Kinks, and here’s a live vid with two of their little tunes from the once ignored, now classic, Village Green album. Contributor Steve has “Lately been listening to The Kinks albums from 1967-1971. A lot.”
Big fan of Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings from the start, and now Gene Combs advises, “You will be entranced by this scholar and pure breath of the spirit of soulful music,” with a live “Time (The Revelator).”
For me, Kate Bush is a non-acquired taste, but Abby offers, “Kate's first version of ‘Wuthering Heights’ was awesome. She re-recorded it and elevated it to every more awesome heights.”
The one and only Captain Beefheart with “Observatory Crest,” chosen by Joe Farmer, who explains, “The comments section beneath this song has some moving statements. I ain't the only schlub who digs it.”
A certain “Victoid” proposes Mink DeVille’s “Mixed up Shook up Girl” with “his best band ever.”
John Fiorelli writes, “On his album 33 & 1/3 George Harrison sang a beautiful homage to William Smokey Robinson. ‘Pure Smokey’ contains a sneaky sweet fade in, some great Harrison solo guitar work, and some nice horns from Tom Scott (and samples of lyric from one of Smokey songs).”
Another Brit guitarist, Chris Rea, had a number of chart-toppers in the UK, just one hit in the USA in the late 1980s, “Fool (If You Think It Over)”, which earned him a Grammy nod as Best New Artist. Here on Letterman back then, with “Road to Hell,” which may remind you of Mark Knopfler. He’s still at it today.
Ann Peebles’ album named after her “I Can’t Stand the Rain” single was one of the best of the ‘70s (and she was a terrific writer). From the same album, reader Gina picked oft-covered “Playhouse.”
George Stavis was a pioneer in “banjo improvisation” back in the late 1960s and had a long career. His landmark debut album was Labyrinths, from that the standard “My Favorite Things.” Thanks to Tad Richards.
An antiwar song by Robby Hecht, a much-covered if not well-known singer-songwriter, picked by Steve Grob.
Bonus: David Stone reminded us that a little group, with a hit single this year, called The Beatles, used to release a Christmas greeting/recording each year early on. Not a lot of music but plenty of silly/Spikey humor.
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