April 10, 2006

1966.

Sippican Cottage, one of our very best commenters -- he kicked ass in the punk thread -- is writing about music, and focusing on 1966. I'm utterly charmed by this, and I've got to point to this old post of mine, which picked 1966 as the greatest year for music. (I was torn between 1965 and 1966, and "Substitute" determined the outcome.)

45 comments:

SippicanCottage said...
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knoxgirl said...

he did indeed kick ass in the punk thread, among many others!

Jennifer said...

Second the motion, knoxgirl. My personal favorite Sippican post is the NYTimes as retarded alien staggering about the countryside.

Maxine Weiss said...

Mine is 1970 because of all the serious ballads on the top-50 that year.

You've got the Carpenter's "We've Only Just Begun"

---Bread "Make it with You"

---Simon & Garfunkel "Bridge over Troubled Water"

These are sad and serious songs.

And, you still had the Beatles rather poignat "Let It Be".

1970: such a sad, wistful, somber, and rather serious year in music (ballads), considering how bizarre and zany (what a contrast) film was that year ie....."Myra Breckenridge" !!!!!

Eli Blake said...

Something else jumped out at me when you mentioned that year. It is the year that really changed sports in a lot of ways. Great year for music, but it was a watershed year for sports.

The great Koufax retired after having probably the best five year stint as a pitcher in the history of baseball, and in his final World Series, just couldn't keep up with Willie Davis' three consecutive errors in the outfield, so he went out a loser. The Baltimore Orioles won their first World Series after over 60 title-less years (including as the St. Louis Browns).

The Houston Astrodome opened. Baseball indoors and on plastic? Yes, it is.

Of more import to baseball (and eventually to all of professional sports), a little known labor relations attorney named Marvin Miller was elected to head the baseball player's union.

The Boston Celtics won their eighth consecutive NBA championship behind Bill Russell. They won some more later, but the streak stopped the next year. After that, teams could step up and win (and the Celtics still did that as well as anybody), but there would always be more teams on their heels. Nobody could take it easy anymore (although the Bulls in the Jordan era came close to achieving that level of dominance).

Then again, if you haven't seen 'Glory Road' it was also the year that Don Haskins shocked the world by starting five black players against the all white University of Kentucky and won. What if he'd lost? Interesting topic of discussion. Sooner or later things would have changed but the segregationists would have had their moment to gloat.

Also in 1966, The Green Bay Packers won the NFL title, while the Kansas City Chiefs won the AFL title. They then agreed to meet in a challenge game. Today known as Super Bowl I (played on January 15, 1967).

In 1966, Bobby Orr led the NHL in scoring-- as a defenseman, completely redefining the position and the game.

In 1966, Englishman Graham Hill, who had been a formula I driver in Europe, tried his hand at the Indianapolis 500 and sprang the biggest upset in Indy history. Hill's victory opened the door to American racing to drivers from many other countries.

Maybe you don't care a thing about sports, but it is safe to say that if the events of 1966 in the sporting world had not occurred, things would be much different today.

Steve Donohue said...

Greatest year in music: 1824.

Beethoven's Ninth.

We have different criteria for "great".

Aspasia M. said...

My personal favorite Sippican post is the NYTimes as retarded alien staggering about the countryside.

Tis' true. This was also my favorite quote from Sippican. I loved the image of of the author saying 'Whoa! I've discovered Dinner!'

I also enjoyed the quote of the "My little pony nihilism." Although the confluence of "girly" with "punk" appeals to me.

SippicanCottage said...
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SippicanCottage said...
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CraigC said...

Ann, I used to think that '65 was the best year, but there was too much good stuff that came after. Maybe it's because I was 13 and had my ear stuck to the radio, listening to those great top 40 stations that Sippican talked about where you'd hear soul and pop and the British Invasion one after the other that I loved '65 so much. The Beatles, ? and the Mysterians, The Young Rascals, The Supremes, The Beau Brummels, Little Anthony, Joe Tex......wow.

Steve Donohue said...

Besides from my elitism, I have a reason to resist discussions such as these.

The baby boom generation has such a monopoly on cultural discussions that anything that happened in the 1960s takes on extremely elevated importance. I happen to find some 60s music quite pleasant, actually, but I think by sheer numbers that the baby boom bubble of self-regard has resisted popping.

Also, at least when you guys were growing up, you could legitimately argue that your music was on par with your parents. Unfortunately, I know that my generation's music is basically crap. I have no arguments on that score.

So yes, of years that people alive today were alive, 1966 was a rather good year. Heck, maybe even not completely crapola. Of course, part of the 60s mindset is the abandonment of all that came before it, and perhaps it is that which I am resisting.

On a different note: it is rare that a commenter on a blog develops a cult following, so Sippian, I say run with it. Don't stop at playing cards- T-shirts, coasters, action figures (which, admittedly, might be difficult). If the NYT can try to make a buck of this "blogging" business, so can you or I!

Palladian said...

"Greatest year in music: 1824.

Beethoven's Ninth.

We have different criteria for "great"."

We do too - the Ninth is vastly overrated, as interesting and wonderful as it is. If you want to locate the greatest year in music with Beethoven, try two years later when he wrote the "Gro├če Fuge", originally as the finale of the Op. 130 string quartet but was ultimatedly published separately (as Op. 133) because it was both too difficult to perform and too complicated and difficult to understand as the conclusion of the quartet. He was also, of course, completely deaf when he wrote it (and 19th century music critics would have said that that fact showed in the piece).

I would put my personal "greatest year" of music arbitrarily at 1750, the year Bach composed much of his unfinished "Art of the Fugue", probably in many ways his greatest work, before passing away on 28 July. 1750 was indeed a great year for music; by that year all of Bach's music had been written and would be available to be heard as Bach had written it, without the corruption of the 19th century romantic vision of Bach performance that was to come later with his "rediscovery".

But then, deciding on one year as the greatest in music history is only an amusing intellectual exercise; to seriously make such a decision would be folly.

Palladian said...

Vivaldi?

Vivaldi is a warmish cup of camomile tea with just a little too much honey drunk on a late-spring evening.

Good that you picked a baroque composer though.

Aspasia M. said...

Steve- We never claimed it wasn't crapola. We said it was pleasant crapola.

Yeah. I second that.

I am sure that I am not qualified to judge music. That's why Mr. Geoduck moans in agony, occasionally, as a result of my music choices.


I will leave you all with two quotes from the DayGlo Abortions, as these lyrics seem mildly appropriate (If the DayGlo's can ever been considered appropriate) and somewhat amusing:

"Is this how a punk song goes?/
I'm asking 'cuz I'm dying to know!" and

"We are old school - Oi oi oi oi!"

Aspasia M. said...

Sippican,

P.S. - I'd buy the trading cards!

CraigC said...

Steve Donohue:

"Besides from my elitism?"

Credibility gone.

Steve Donohue said...

The 9th of Beethoven is not my favorite work. But it is the ideal synthesis of the classical and the romantic, and it is upon this foundation that every significant symphony of the past 180 years stands. Without it, the symphony would hardly exist as we know it, and I believe the symphony to be the highest possible musical expression.

But I fear I am hijacking this thread, and so I desist.

SippicanCottage said...
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SippicanCottage said...
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Aspasia M. said...

geo, you're killing me. Old School? I write under that pseudonym.

You do? I didn't know that.

I'll go find the lyrics of the song. They're pretty funny and are probably a good way to end up our punk discussion.

Aspasia M. said...

There's a debate in American Puritan history about whether Puritans allowed any singing in church. Some scholars say it was more like chanting the psalms, but recently others have argued that there was some singing-like activity.

I also wonder about the music in the Roman Empire.

---------

I can't listen too long to the Dayglos, because like most punk bunds they quite literally give me a headache.

But their lyrics are pretty funny:

I'm an old school punk rocker - He's a Punk Rocker!
And I can play, hay hay hay - Not One note!
Cuz when we started out - Out Out Out!
You didn't have to - Not Necessary!

Non uh me lyrics rhyme - They Don't Rhyme!
Cuz basically I'm illiterate - He's Illiterate
Actually I'm a bit confused - He's A Bit Confused
And my songs are a bit confusing too - What??

We are Old School - Oi Oi
Old School Old School - Oi Oi
Even if we never finished school - Oi Oi
We're still Old School - Oi Oi

We like to dress up like pirates - Pirates?
We wear funny haircuts and pins and things - Pins And Things!
Then we get drunk and stagger around - They Stagger Around!
And spit on each other and old ladies and things - Spit On Old Ladies!

SippicanCottage said...
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SippicanCottage said...
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Palladian said...

Steve Donohue: "The 9th of Beethoven is not my favorite work. But it is the ideal synthesis of the classical and the romantic..."

Well, strike one and two as far as i'm concerned. And I think Wager or Brahms is a better choice as a synthesis of those two trends.

"...and it is upon this foundation that every significant symphony of the past 180 years stands."

Eh, perhaps, but then it also stands on the foundation of Haydn and Bach.

"Without it, the symphony would hardly exist as we know it..."

And that would be a bad thing because?

"...and I believe the symphony to be the highest possible musical expression."

Ah, I see. I tend to take the opposite view - the symphony form ushered in everything that I dislike about classical and especially romantic music: bombast, formulaic rigidity, spectacle, the elevation of texture and color over structure, etc.

Sippican: "I picked Vivaldi because he's important. As far as I can tell, he invented modern music. Before him, it was all just chanting in church."

Not true. Vivaldi was born in 1678, a contemporary of Bach (born in 1685). While he was important in the context of the flowering of the Baroque style, his contributions to music were not particularly epochal; it's downright wrong to attribute "modernity" to him. The shift from the modal music of the middle ages (what you refer to as "chanting in church) to tonality and modernism was a subtle one rather than a revolutionary stroke by a single composer. Tonality was already significantly developed by the time Vivaldi came along, and the secular baroque music of someone like Henry Purcell (d. 1695) was at its peak while Vivaldi was still in short-pants. There was, of course, also quite a significant tradition of secular music even before the modern era, and many composers such as Orlando Gibbons, William Byrd, Dowland, or Gesualdo were writing post-modal compositions before Vivaldi was a gleam in his mother's eye. Vivaldi certainly had his admirers (Bach among them, who arranged a number of Vivaldi's works for keyboard) but once the Baroque went out of style, he was out of luck. He died penniless and was basically forgotten until the 20th century.

I tend to take Stravinsky's (another vastly overrated composer!) view that Vivaldi didn't write hundreds of concertos, he wrote one concerto hundreds of times.

Slocum said...

Nah--the greatest year for music is always this year. 1966 totally sucked in comparison. When you think of all the great music that hadn't yet been written and performed yet, you realize how musically impoverished 1966 really was.

MadisonMan said...

Hmm. 1966 was indeed a great year for music! I'm a Believer, The Ballad of the Green Berets, Winchester Cathedral -- classics all!

vw: neciedrw -- whatever happened to i before e except after c

SippicanCottage said...
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Ron said...

Wagner was just another Eric Korngold wannabe...

ballyache said...

Beethoven and I share the same birthday but I still prefer The Mamas & Papas. Just a hopeless philistine I guess.

Steve Donohue said...

Palladian, you and I agree on a few things- our views of Stravinsky and Vivaldi, for exaple- but I fear that your view of Romanticism is hopelessly backwards :-)

Joan said...

Ah, Althouse blog, where a (shallow) education in music history awaits you!

Seriously, guys, this thread is cracking me up and enlightening me at the same time.

Not to sound too much like a fangrrl, Sippican, but I love the image of a cop telling a musician, "Step away from the lute!"

Balfegor said...

Bach composed much of his unfinished "Art of the Fugue", probably in many ways his greatest work, before passing away on 28 July.

That final contrapunctus is beyond compare -- and the way it suddenly trails off is devastating. It's illusory, of course, but you can imagine the Master passing there, as he scrawls those last few notes. It's a pity more performances of the Art of the Fugue don't simply end like that, but use later proposed completions.

SippicanCottage said...
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Richard Dolan said...

I was in high school (near Boston) in 1965-1966, and I listened to all of that music but can't claim that any of it really stuck. It's still fun to listen to, as long as I don't listen to it very often.

So much of it was just too loud, the themes were too limited (although I didn't think so then) and the musical idiom just too similar from one song or band to the next. And how interesting can a style of music really be that conceives of itself in little 3 to 5 minute bite-sized chunks? In that sense, pop music spanned the musical spectrum all the way from A to B. It's comfortable and not very demanding, but still evokes a response although not as strong as it once did. But that's about all. When my kids are a little older and see all those old LPs (yes, I still have them), I think they will look at me in the same way I did with my parents in 1965, when they extolled the pleasures of Frankie or Bing or some other crooner that they listened to in the late '30s-40s.

For those offering musical favorites and particular choices for the annus mirabilis in music, I'm surprised that Mozart hasn't gotten a vote yet. Figaro is as delightful and insightful today as it was at its premier in 1786. And if you want a miracle year, you'd be hard perssed to top Mozart's astonishing productivity in his last year, 1790-91. Beethoven and JS Bach are certainly understandable choices as an alternative, but just on the strength of his operas, Mozart would be my choice.

Vivaldi isn't quite in that league, and certainly did not have as huge an impact on the history of music as did M, B and B. If it's the transition from church to secular settings that is of interest, then I think Monteverdi was the more important composer in bringing that transition about. Vivaldi was really the beneficiary on that score more than he was the originator.

Balfegor said...

And how interesting can a style of music really be that conceives of itself in little 3 to 5 minute bite-sized chunks?

I don't think it's the short duration that's the problem (for me) though -- it's that all the modern music I've heard is so repetetive and the progression is so dull. If you listen to "Un Bel Di" (sp?) from Madame Butterfly, the song has a main theme, but the theme isn't just repeated. It's developed as the song goes on, even though the song is quite short. If you listen to Rachmaninoff's "Vocalise," it's the same, despite the brevity. Right now, I'm listening to Shotakovich's 24 preludes and fugues, and some of them are extroardinarily short -- perhaps 2 minutes for the fugue -- but so exquisitely developed, it's like a piece of origami just before the final "reveal," where you pull one side (one theme) and the whole thing unfolds into something beautiful.

Short pieces can be great too.

Joan said...

Richard: Mozart's my main man! If I had to pick a single favorite composer, it would be him. As for the other comments, I agree that there's a sameness of sound and theme, but I'll dispute that all pop music is simplistic crap (not that you said that, exactly.) I will admit that the more musically interesting groups seldom achieved the popularity of the groups repeating 1-4-5 in every single song, though.

Balfegor, which recording do you have of the Shostakovich? I have Keith Jarrett's and I love it, but I've never heard any other, so have nothing to compare it to! Yes, they are sublime.

Balfegor said...

Balfegor, which recording do you have of the Shostakovich? I have Keith Jarrett's and I love it, but I've never heard any other, so have nothing to compare it to! Yes, they are sublime.

I have Jarrett's too, although I've listened to a copy of the Vladimir Ashkenazy (I think it was) recording, and it was good too. I actually prefer the Jarrett, though, possibly because it's the first one I heard.

Or rather, the first one I ever heard played by a professional on a real piano. My first introduction to Shostakovich's preludes and fugues was actually a MIDI of the final D-minor fugue on the old PRS Classical MIDI archives. I played it out through my Roland, and liked it so much I converted the MIDI data into sheet music and learned to play it for myself. I subsequently purchased the Jarrett recording and a real copy of the sheet music (although as it turned out, we had a copy at home already, thanks to my mother's old piano teacher). I had missed a note in the first section of the fugue, but I still play it without that particular note, because I like and have got used to the phrasing without it. I do the same with that first C-major Bach Prelude from Book 1 of the Well-Tempered Klavier -- there's one measure where I have heard it played wrong so often that the correct version sounds wrong to me.

Balfegor said...

I should also clarify that by "modern" there, I really mean pop. Because I happen to love a lot of Arvo Part's stuff, Tan Dun is not bad, and Krzystof Penderecki is fun even in his weird experimental work.

SippicanCottage said...
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Richard Dolan said...

"Richard- If I had to choose one composer as the greatest ever, I'd have said Mozart. He's even better than Tommy Tutone." It's nice to see a little swell building for Wolfie. Perhaps they'll play one of his catchier tunes on next New Year's Eve's "top 100" countdown if we keep this up.

But, as for that Tommy Tutone stuff, well Sippican, now you've got me. I'd never heard of Tommy Tutone (and neither has your older brother). I googled the name, and can't say that I'm familiar with any of the songs he wrote. Perhaps I heard them on the car radio when they were playing 20-odd years ago, although around 1980 I switched stations on the car radio more or less permanently to QXR (Texaco opera and all that). That's about when my wife and I had our first date -- Ballo in Mascera at the Met, Placido singing, 5th row orchestra tix bought (at the box office!) just a few minutes before curtain (talk about the good old days ...) Just from the look of young Tommy, I don't think they played him much on QXR. Besides, he probably wasn't any good at the opera quiz.

Palladian said...

Balfegor:

You're right, Contrapunctus 14 is one of the greatest compositions in music history, amazing for an unfinished work. As far as I'm concerned, the ONLY recording of that final fugue to listen to is Glenn Gould's. He follows the first print edition and stops at full volume at the end of bar 233. It's a goosebump-inducing moment; there's a wonderful video he did about fugues which ends with a performance of Contrapunctus 14 and when he reaches that note his hands snap violently upward from the piano and the video freeze-frames at that point, his hands in mid-air. Sublime. Bach also introduced the letters of his own name (if German musical terminology is used, h is b natural, b is b flat) as a theme late in this final fugue; Gould considered the entrance of the "BACH" theme the most beautiful moment in all of music.

And at the risk of getting lynched after dismissing Vivaldi, I must also note my feelings about Mozart to this discussion; Mozart may be the single most overrated composer in history. He certainly wrote some nice things, but (speaking of Glenn Gould) I would echo Gould's opinion that Mozart "developed towards mediocrity". Gould's interview with French violinist and filmmaker Bruno Monsaingeon on the subject of Mozart is highly entertaining.

SippicanCottage said...
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Steve Donohue said...

Palladian, you're on the money again, this time about Mozart.

The man wrote 41 symphonies, and at most, 5 were decent. 2 were outstanding. That's not a significant canon to leave, especially for someone who devoted so much time to the symphony.

Palladian said...

"Calm down, Palladian. Mozart and Vivaldi fans don't generally show up at your door with pitchforks and torches."

Perhaps not, but I'm not taking any chances after the siege of the Schumann and Borodin enthusiasts that my army repulsed last year- they nearly made it over the moat.

SippicanCottage said...
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