Archive for 60s

Unenlightened

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 27 July 2009 by eT

Unenlightened: adjective not enlightened in outlook.

Histories of ages past
Unenlightened shadows cast
Down through all eternity
The crying of humanity

-Donovan, ‘Hurdy Gurdy Man’

Another lyric that doesn’t exactly ring out through the ages with its clarity and insight, but still, Hurdy Gurdy Man is very much of its time.  Released in 1968 and charting in the top 5 in both the UK and US, the song exemplified the increasing commerciality of psychedelic-tinged pop songs laden with unusual effects.  Donovan claims that Jimmy Page played lead guitar on the recording, but others involved with the recording dispute this.  Devotees of unusual cover versions should examine the film of Eartha Kitt performing a menacingly odd renditionof the song on German TV in 1970 – it’s short, sweet, and frankly loopy.  Personally, whenever I hear Hurdy Gurdy Man I can’t help but remember the made-up lyrics on Neil from The Young Ones’ Neil’s Heavy Concept Album‘Flaky pastry, flaky pastry he sa-a-ang…’

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Mediocrity

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on 1 July 2009 by eT

Mediocrity: noun 1 the quality or state of being mediocre. 2 a person of mediocre ability.

Tonight I’ll sing my songs again
I’ll play the game and pretend
But all my words come back to me in shades of mediocrity
Like emptiness in harmony I need someone to comfort me

(Simon & Garfunkel, ‘Homeward Bound’)

In the coffee houses of Soho in the ’60s few folked as folksily and successfully as Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.  Sure, they dressed like The Wiggles in their roll-necked sweaters, but then so did everyone else.  Simon & Garfunkel‘s blending of the intellectual spirit of folk music with the indelible teachings of the pop canon ensured the duo’s standing as one of the pre-eminent pop acts of the decade.  Homeward Bound, a 1966 single release reputedly written by Simon whilst on tour in England, having been stranded overnight in a Widnes railway station, reached number 5 in the US charts and number 9 in the UK.  The video below shows the duo performing the song at the Monterey Pop festival in California, in June 1967:

Myriad

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on 17 June 2009 by eT

Myriad: noun 1 (also myriads) an indefinitely great number. 2 (in classical times) a unit of ten thousand; adjective innumerable — ORIGIN Greek murias, from murioi ‘10,000’.

The myriad choices of his fate
Set themselves out upon a plate
For him to choose
What had he to lose

(The Velvet Underground, ‘The Black Angel’s Death Song’)

In Homer’s Iliad, doom is presaged with the portentous words, ‘Achilles’ cursed anger sing, O goddess, that son of Peleus, which started a myriad sufferings for the Achaeans’.  While I’m not sure if Lou Reed sings like either Achilles or a goddess, he (along with co-writer John Cale) certainly knows a good lyric when he sees one.  This gloomy piece, from the famous debut album, 1967’s The Velvet Underground & Nico (yes, the one with the banana on the cover), is atmospheric and eerie.  Reed’s Hannibal Lecter-ist inhalations all add to the effect, but of course our main concern is the use of ancient Greek vocabulary to kick off a 1960s heroin-chic mind-bender.