Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Another Birthday

To celebrate my baby girl's 4th birthday today, we're posting some of her favorite songs this year. Before you leave this page and think "oh brother...," Zoe has impressive taste in music, which all you '60s fans will surely approve. Yes, that's my girl listening to The Zombies' Odessey And Oracle album on our turntable. She requested it, so I had to document the evidence, of course! While she still enjoys the songs that were in her birthday feature last year (here), here are the newest ones in her playlist.

Before I even knew what "the birds and the bees" really meant, I loved to sing along to this Jewel Akens' song. Now it cracks me up to see Zoe enjoying the same catchy tune. Reminiscent of 1950s honky tonk-style hits (like Fats Domino's "Blueberry Hill"), this international hit was released in 1964 and reached #2 on the US Cash Box singles chart and #3 on the Billboard chart. Although considered a one-hit wonder, Akens did have other minor hits and even toured with The Monkees. He just passed away this past March at the age of 79. Here's a classic TV performance of "The Birds & the Bees."

It's not surprising that my daughter loves one of the most influential records in pop music history, but her favorite selection from The Beach Boys' 1966 Pet Sounds is not one of the popular ones. Written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love with Brian as the producer, "I'm Waiting for the Day" is considered art rock and is very experimental as a combination of an orchestral ballad and a modern rock song. Using our beloved "Wrecking Crew" studio musicians, this positive song features a very exciting instrumentation such as timpani, bongos, strings, flute, English horn, ukelele, organ, bass, and drums. Nothing like driving in your car and hearing your child singing all the lyrics.

Here's another surprising tune from Zoe's playlist: Harry Nilsson's "Mr. Tinker." While his 1968 album Aerial Ballet includes great songs like "Everybody's Talkin'" (a huge hit in '69) and "One" (later covered by Three Dog Night), my daughter is drawn to this beautiful and melancholy number. The arrangement and instrumentation is excellent and so moving as the lyrics tell a story of Mr. Tinker the tailor. Nilsson is such a unique songwriter and I love his variety; even cooler that my kid enjoys the deep tracks like this. And we're in good company: he was the favorite artist of The Beatles!

I guess I must play quite a bit of '60s Baroque Pop around the house because Zoe has caught on to how great it is! While she does love the well-known "Walk Away Renee" by The Left Banke, she really enjoys their second hit single, "Pretty Ballerina." Released in December of 1966 and reaching #15 on the Billboard chart, this haunting tune is not your typical pop song of the era, featuring beautiful string/oboe accompaniment and the soaring vocals of Steve Martin (Caro). Definitely an under-rated band!

While it's appropriate that my kid has a Bubblegum pop tune amongst her favorites, I think the underlying reason she loves this song may be due to the fact that she thinks it's about a large, furry Star Wars character of the same name. In March of 1969, Ohio Express's "Chewy Chewy"became their second million seller and reached #15 in the US, #6 in Australia, and #2 in Canada. While Ohio Express was a studio creation by Super K Productions, they had their biggest success during this time with singer Joey Levine, however, the touring group included a completely different of musicians. Nothing like a little Bubblegum to get the happy juices flowing.

This next gem comes from the wonderful 1968 album The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society. A collection of thematic vignettes of English town and hamlet life, written by The Kinks' own Ray Davies, "Animal Farm" is wonderful, 'pastoral escape' that makes excellent use of the Mellotron, simulating string and woodwind backing tracks. Although the record is widely considered one of the most influential and important works by the Kinks, it failed to chart upon release, and only sold about 100,000 copies; it was released November 22, 1968, the same day The Beatles released their White Album. Now this Kinks album is ranked amongst Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Another under-rated album now in that list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, The Zombies' Odessey and Oracle definitely caught my daughter's attention but with the most unexpected song. Recorded at Abbey Road Studio in 1967, "Beechwood Park" has a smooth groove complete with a mellow guitar intro, dreamy lyrics, and the breathy vocals of the talented Colin Blunstone. Although one of the biggest songs of the '60s came from this album ("Time of the Season"), Zoe is fascinated by this extraordinary beauty by my beloved Zombies.

And seriously, what kid wouldn't like a song about an octopus's garden? From The Beatles' last recorded album, Abbey Road, released in 1969, "Octopus's Garden" was drummer Ringo Starr's most successful songwriting effort, and was inspired by a trip to Sardinia aboard Peter Sellers' yacht (yes, the hilarious British actor, long story). I still have my parents' original Abbey Road album and now course, the love of this childhood favorite of mine has been passed down in the family.  

Zoe has a dear friend named Caroline, so as soon as she caught the lyrics of this Neil Diamond classic, she requested to hear "Sweet Caroline" every time we drove in the car (where we do most of our music-listening). Released in September of 1969, this soft rock song reached #4 on the Billboard chart and eventually went platinum for sales of one million singles. In recent years, Diamond revealed that he was inspired by a picture of President JFK's daughter, Caroline, riding a horse as a young child. In recent years, the song has become popular at sporting events, especially at the Boston Red Sox home games.

An American orchestra leader and film composer, Hugo Montenegro is best known for his interpretations of the music from Spaghetti westerns, especially the cover version of the main theme from the 1966 film The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Originally composed by Ennio Morricone, Montenegro's version was his biggest pop hit in 1968, reaching #2 on the Billboard chart, #3 in Canada, and four weeks at #1 in the UK. Zoe loves this song, especially the whistling, and refers to it as "the cowboy song." This was also a favorite of my dad's, and our family had a joke about the lyrics, or what I suppose are lyrics. We called this song "Egg roll," because it sounded like a bunch of cowboys attempting to talk while eating a hot egg-roll. Seriously, what are they saying/grunting? Here's one of the most iconic scores in film history with clips from the classic movie.
While Zoe does enjoy The Temptations' "My Girl," she is even more interested in the lesser-known cover version of the same song by The Mamas & The Papas. Originally written by Smokey Robinson and Ronald White, this tender interpretation was first heard on the group's 1967 album Deliver, and was later released as the B-side of "Do You Wanna Dance" in 1968, although it charted rather poorly. With a new, ascending vocal intro, this version is a textbook-example of The Mamas & The Papas' harmonious sound that can surely put a smile on anyone's face. Gotta love my kiddo's variety!

 Happy Birthday to my sweet 4-year-old!