August 1, 2005

Two idle questions about music.

1. What is the peak year for you, for your favorite music recordings? I'm torn between 1965 and 1966 for reasons best illustrated here, here, here, and here. I'm going to go with 1966, with this single as the big tiebreaker.

2. Which great singer's reputation was most harmed by going into the movies, and which great singer's reputation was most improved? I won't give my personal selections, because they are so obvious. In fact, I think the answers are so obvious that it would be a better question to ask: Which great singer's reputation was second most harmed by going into the movies, and which great singer's reputation was second most improved?


Unknown said...

1991 - The start of grunge. Nirvana's Nevermind and Pearl Jam's Ten, etc.

The 90's had tons of great bands. Much better than the 80's. I went to high school and college in the 80's too, so I don' think I'm being age biased...

Gordon Freece said...

If we define 1973 just a little bit loosely: The New York Dolls, Roxy Music, Raw Power by the Stooges, Brian Eno, Exile on Main Street, the Modern Lovers, Can't Buy a Thrill, Grievous Angel by Gram Parsons, Brothers and Sisters by the Allmans, the first Big Star album, and Berlin by Lou Reed. Tonight's The Night was recorded in 1973, I believe. Elton John was making good records back then, too.

Freeman Hunt said...


Nirvana - MTV Unplugged in New York
Beck - Mellow Gold
Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral
Pearl Jam - Vitalogy
Soundgarden - Superunknown
Stone Temple Pilots - Purple
Toadies - Rubberneck
Weezer - The Blue Album

Though not in that order.

goldsoundsz said...

Ann, I assume the great singer's reputation most harmed = Elvis?

Most improved = Frank Sinatra?

DannyNoonan said...

"1991 - The start of grunge. Nirvana's Nevermind and Pearl Jam's Ten, etc."

You beat me to it. I agree with 1991. PJ's "Ten" and Nirvana's "Nevermind" are the main reason, but 91 also brought us REM's "Automatic for the People" and U2's "Achtung Baby."

Freeman Hunt said...

I had a very hard time deciding between 1991 and 1994. 1991 was definitely more momentous, but I thought 1994 was more the peak of grunge.

Contributors said...

Elvis was most damaged obviously. Second most damaged might be Mariah Carey. "Glitter" made her a punchline for 5 years. She's just now recovering.

Sinatra was most improved. It was the role of Maggio and the Oscar for "From Here To Eternity" that saved him from being Mr. Ava Gardner, not music. The comeback was final too. It cemented him in both film and music for three more decades. It's probably the greatest show-biz comeback in history. And he made some great films after that including "Manchurian Candidate" and the underrated "Von Ryan's Express."

Second most improved... Dean Martin's comeback was in "Rio Bravo." That boosted him enormously as a musician as well. Bobby Darin landed an Oscar nomination. Lot's I'm not considering. Huey Lewis anyone?

DannyNoonan said...

"I had a very hard time deciding between 1991 and 1994. 1991 was definitely more momentous, but I thought 1994 was more the peak of grunge."

I had a hard time deciding between any particular year in the early 90s. 1992 was big too. STP and Soundgarden followed the path set by PJ and Nirvana with "Core" and "Badmotorfinger." Dr. Dre also revolutionized rap music with "Chronic." Picking a 5 year gap would be much easier than an individual year.

Unknown said...

I can't stand her, but Barbara Streisand was certainly helped by her films.

Unknown said...

I would say Judy Garland was helped the most.

Contributors said...

As far as peak year -- I'm not going to defend the quality -- but this is "favorite," soooo...1985. I was just out of high school and working in a record store in Florida. And naturally the big albums of the day were played over and over and over: Like a Virgin, Born in the USA, Sade, Bryan Adams, Tom Petty's Southern Accents, The Cars last album...

It probably wasn't the best year for music but it was for memories and those songs always bring me back.

The best music was decades before I was born anyway. And Sinatra sung it.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Downtownlad: Good suggestion, and you can add these to the list of great 1991 albums: The Smashing Pumpkins' Gish, Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger, Red Hot Chili Peppers' Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Metallica's "Black Album."

But 1966 has to be the winner, just for Revolver, the "Penny Lane"/"Strawberry Fields Forever" single, Pet Sounds, and the "Good Vibrations" single.

Ann Althouse said...

Downtownlad: I was listening to Barbra Streisand on the radio when I thought up this question, but she was for me an example of someone who was hurt by movies -- though her movie career was very successful. I think she lost the charm that she had in the 1960s when her first few albums came out. There was something so new and sweet about her that was lost through the maudlin deification process of her movies. She became an annoying diva. It wasn't fun to like her anymore.

Unknown said...

I've always found Barbara to be annoying.

I'm proud to say that I know nothing about when her movies came out and when she was releasing songs on the radio, etc. I actually haven't seen one of her films thank god.

Based on your timeline, I'll definitely go with you in that her career was hurt the most. Although Elvis has to be up there.

If we want to go more recent and talk about bands, U2 was not helped by Rattle and Hum. I would call that the low point of their career. Pink Floyd was certainly helped by The Wall.

goldsoundsz said...

Downtownlad, as much as I identify with and love grunge, the 80's definitely had some great music:

Husker Du, Janes Addiction, Prince, Sonic Youth, Replacements, Smiths, Pixies, Guns 'n' Roses, The Police, REM, Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, The Cure, New Order

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks, John: I was going to check the year for "Pet Sounds." Wasn't sure if it was '66. Anyway, here's a list of my personal favorites from the WABC radio top 100 for the year:

8 "We Can Work it Out"–The Beatles
9 "Turn! Turn! Turn!"––The Byrds
10 "Monday, Monday"––The Mamas and the Papas
12 "The Sounds of Silence"–.Simon and Garfunkel
13 "California Dreamin' "–The Mamas and the Papas
14 "Summer in the City"–The Lovin' Spoonful
18 "Paint It Black"––The Rolling Stones
21 "96 Tears"––? And the Mysterians
22 "Hanky Panky"––.Tommy James and the Shondells
24 "19th Nervous Breakdown"–The Rolling Stones
27 "Wild Thing"––The Troggs
28 "A Groovy Kind of Love"–.The Mindbenders
30 "Walk Away Renee"––.The Left Banke
31 "Sloop John B"––The Beach Boys
32 "Nowhere Man"––.The Beatles
33 "Well Respected Man" –The Kinks
37 "Good Vibrations" ––. The Beach Boys
38 "Sunshine Superman" –. Donovan
39 "Paperback Writer"––The Beatles
41 "Daydream"––The Lovin' Spoonful
43 "Uptight (Everything's Alright)"–Stevie Wonder
44 "I Got You"––.James Brown
45 "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35"–Bob Dylan
47 "Bang Bang"––Cher
53 "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me"–.Dusty Springfield
54 "As Tears Go By"––The Rolling Stones
56 "Wouldn't It Be Nice"–.The Beach Boys
57 "Younger Girl"––The Critters
61 "Black is Black"––Los Bravos
64 "Barbara Ann"––The Beach Boys
74 "Mellow Yellow"––Donovan
78 "Secret Agent Man"––Johnny Rivers
87 "Dirty Water"––The Standells
88 "Gloria"––The Shadows of Knight
89 "Bus Stop"––The Hollies
90 "You Didn't Have To Be So Nice"–The Lovin' Spoonful
91 "Ebb Tide"––The Righteous Brothers
92 "Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind"–The Lovin' Spoonful

DannyNoonan said...

JAC wrote "Good suggestion, and you can add these to the list of great 1991 albums: The Smashing Pumpkins' Gish, Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger, Red Hot Chili Peppers' Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Metallica's "Black Album.""

The list keeps going. But Badmotorfinger was 92 and nobody listened to Gish until it was rereleased in 94ish.

Ann Althouse said...

Downtownlad: Yes, Elvis is absolutely, clearly first. A great tragedy.

And Sinatra is my "obvious" answer for most helped. They even put it in "The Godfather."

Contributors said...

Okay, "The Godfather" thing is a malicious unfounded rumor and if this is going to become "The Sinatra Bashing" site, we're gonna have a problem!

And except for the malicious unfounded rumor part, I'm kidding.

Unknown said...

Goldsoundz - The 80's definitely had great music, but you can't forget all of the crap that all but dominated the airwaves then. Think of every big-hair metal band, etc.

The best band of the 80's though might have to be The Stone Roses, although their style, like most of the Manchester scene (Happy Mondays, etc.), was really pre-grunge. Nirvana was the break-through band.

It wasn't until the 90's that alternative music really went mainstream.

Dannynoonan - I owned Gish in 1991.

Richard Fagin said...

"Black is Black" was a big hit in 1967, not 1966. "Sound of Silence" hit the charts in late 1965. "Hanky Panky" was a 1966 re-release. The song was released first ona different label in 1963.

1965 might be better than 1966. "You're the One" (Vogues) - just about the best garage rock band song ever recorded, "Eight Days a Week" (Beatles), "Help me Rhonda" (Beach Boys), "Mr. Tambourine Man" (Byrds), "I Got You, Babe" (Sonny and Cher) all came out that year. I think "Go Now" (Moody Blues) was also a 1965 release.

You're right, Prof. Althouse - tough call between those two years. After all, I turned my radio off in 1967.

Ron said...

Does anyone think Madonna's reputation was improved by being in films? Past Desperately Seeking Susan anyway?

She's been savaged more than Elvis was! And perhaps Elvis (as a superstar ) was done by the time he made most of those films... At the time, those things made money, (which is why they kept making them) and I think people didn't feel pop stars could last as long as he did, so why not do them?

Dwight said...

So much to choose from on years. For now I'd probably go with 1977, simply because music was going in so many different directions (yeah, I know...when wasn't it?) and there was high quality in all of it. If my notes are right on the year, you had Never Mind the Bollocks, Blank Generation, Rumours, two Cheap Trick albums, The Clash (as an import only at that point), Marquee Moon, two Ramones albums, Dancer with Bruised Knees, two Iggy Pop records, Low, Street Survivors, The Belle Album, In the City, Stick to Me, Talking Heads 77, Hard Again, It's Bootsy Baby, Dancing in Your Head, True to Life, Love You, Sweet Forgiveness, and Ghost Writer. For starters... fingers are tired after that so I didn't put artist, but I think most will know. Pretty varied, and I'd listen to any of those this instant.

Ann Althouse said...

Danny: Amazon shows October 1991 as the release date of "Badmotorfinger."

Looking back on my list from 1966, I find it interesting that there was a cast of title "men" and I'm picturing them all together, you know: Nowhere Man, Sunshine Superman, Secret Agent Man, and Well Respected Man.

Meade said...

Hard to top Percy Sledge's When A Man Loves A Woman in 1966. Forty years later, it's still hard to top it

Dwight said...

Regarding singers reputations going up, two I would add would be Pat Boone and Tom Waits.

I'm not sure where Frankie and Annette would fit into the mix...

Unknown said...

Madonna's films sucked, but her career was amazingly unscathed.

Ann Althouse said...

LMeade: "When A Man Loves a Woman" is one of the good songs I cut from the top 100.

Richard: Funny you should mention "Go Now." I just heard it on the radio today and was absolutely stunned by its greatness.

To everyone who likes the early 90s: I agree, that was a really great peak.

Re 1985: That was right when I first got MTV. All those video songs are fun to remember.

There was some fine stuff in the 1970s. Some great Lou Reed. Patti Smith's first album. "Rumours." Talking Heads. Not enough to fill up a decade though.

And as for Madonna movies: "Desperately Seeking Susan" was great.

John Althouse Cohen said...

The question about your favorite year of music causes us to focus on great albums instead of great singles. I'd like to see a chronological list of the greatest '50s rock singles. As a Buddy Holly fan, I suggest 1957. The focus on albums is also unfair to doo wop and Motown, and even Simon and Garfunkel and Jimi Hendrix.

I'm surprised that with all the discussion of 1994 no one has mentioned Radiohead's The Bends. Also, Green Day's Dookie and Alice in Chains' Jar of Flies EP.

Dannynoonan, not only was Badmotorfinger released in 1991 as already mentioned, but it's especially incorrect to say that with that album Soundgarden was following Nirvana's path. Nevermind came out only a few weeks earlier. When Nirvana and Soundgarden were both obscure, each band was very aware of the other, as they were on the same record label in the same city. So I would be very hesitant to claim that one band was simply following the other.

John Althouse Cohen said...

I'm not sure what the references to Madonna are doing in a discussion of "great singers."

steve said...

Ann's right - Substitute by itself is enough to crown 1966 the winner.

Gerry said...

I think Art Garfunkle acquitted himself well in the movies.

And J-Lo certainly did not help herself with Gigli.

Gobble gobble.

Anthony said...

Hmmmmm. Tough to say. I can't really subscribe to the notion of One Great Year because I like a LOT of stuff. The mid-late 70's was great for a lot of the stadium bands that I liked (REO Speedwagon, Kansas, Supertramp). I liked a lot in the early 80s with the new wave and new romantic bands (Spandau Ballet, for example, more that I can't think of because I'm in a hurry). But the late 80's early 90s were great, too, with Grunge (I live in Seattle), and U2's Achtung, Baby has gotten a LOT of play over the years.

I can say I didn't like much in the late 80s though, or the 60s and early 70s except for Sinatra, Bobby Darin-type stuff.

d-day said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
d-day said...

1991 gets my vote for all of the above + Slayer's Decade of Aggression double live album.

My vote for artist being hurt by being in movies is the Spice Girls. Sure they were doomed to failure once Ginger Spice left the band, but their not-fit-for-TV Hard Day's Night rip-off certainly didn't help matters. Spice World remains the one and only movie I've ever walked out of.

Nevermore said...

Another vote for 1991.

In addition to the bands mentioned, don't forget U2's groundbreaking Achtung Baby. And there were not just 1, but 2 albums that changed the face of music in 1991. The first, of course, is Nirvana's; anyone remember the 2nd? :)

(Hint: it was not a big seller but has acquired a cult over the years and is considered a never-to-be-repeated gold standard among musicians of almost ALL genres. And the album's impact destroyed the band, who feared they could never improve on the 1991 classic.)

Jim Bouman said...

McCann/Harris released this album right after Montreux in late 1969. "Compared to What" became a hit single in 1971. It was pure hot jazz-funk, but made it to the pop charts because of the infectious appeal of the lyric.

The lyric is reproduced below in full. Sounds pretty contemporary to me.

I was an inner-city juvenile probation officer in 1970/73. Whenever I had a kid in my car, he was always punching the buttons (pre-cassette tape days) looking for this tune.

When people start talking about the greatest protest songs of the 60s, I always haul out this one. Mostly folks agree. Except the ones who were in the YAF; they like "Ballad of the Green Berets"

Donald Dean, Drums
Benny Bailey, Trumpet
Les McCann, Keyboards,
Eddie Harris, Electric Saxophone, Piano, Saxophone
Leroy Vinnegar, Bass

Compared to What

by Eugene McDaniels
as performed by Les McCann and Eddie Harris. Montreux Jazz Festival, 1969.

Love the lie and lie the love
Hangin' on, with a push and shove
Possession is the motivation
that is hangin' up the God-damn nation
Looks like we always end up in a rut (everybody now!)
Tryin' to make it real — compared to what?

Slaughterhouse is killin' hogs
Twisted children killin' frogs
Poor dumb rednecks rollin' logs
Tired old ladies kissin' dogs
Hate the human, love that stinking mutt (I can't stand it!)
Try to make it real — compared to what?

The President, he's got his war
Folks don't know just what it's for
Nobody gives us rhyme or reason
Have one doubt, they call it treason
We're chicken-feathers, all without one gut (God damn it!)
Tryin' to make it real — compared to what? (Sock it to me, now)

Church on Sunday, sleep and nod
Tryin' to duck the wrath of God
Preacher's fillin' us with fright
Tryin' to tell us what he thinks is right
He really got to be some kind of nut (I can't use it!)
Tryin' to make it real — compared to what?

Where's that bee and where's that honey?
Where's my God and where's my money
Unreal values, crass distortion
Unwed mothers need abortion
Kind of brings to mind ol' young King Tut (He did it now)
Tried to make it real — compared to what?!

Jay said...

1. I'd go with 1808 and Beethoven's 6th symphony.

2. What's a movie? ;)

Charles said...

I would put 1970 up against just about any year out there for the sheer number of classic albums released.

Grateful Dead: American Beauty & Workingman's Dead
Rolling Stones: Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out
Beatles: Hey Jude & Let It Be
Van Morrison: Moondance
Rod Stewart: Gasoline Alley
Neil Young: After the Gold Rush
Derek & the Dominos: Layla
Miles Davis: Bitches Brew
Elton John: Tumbleweed Connection
Led Zeppelin III
Velvet Underground: Loaded
Traffic: John Barleycorn Must Die
Jackson 5: ABC
Carpenters: Close To You (Don't laugh!)
Creedence Clearwater Revival: Cosmo’s Factory

Plus some great singles like Rainy Night In Georgia, Spirit In The Sky, Ooh Child and Ball of Confusion

John Althouse Cohen said...

Jay: Also the 5th.

Nels said...

Extending the category to less-than-great singers, I would say that Will Smith benefited quite a bit from going into the movies, transforming himself from juvenile jokester to All-American family man, just at a time when rap was losing its appeal solely as a novelty act. It's doubtful he would even still be making records without his film star celebrity status.

Nevermore, just a guess but I'm going to go with My Bloody Valentine.

katiebakes said...

I can't believe that no one (from what I could tell as I skimmed the 41 comments) has mentioned Eminem's movie role in 8 Mile.

While he was, indeed, essentially playing himself, I found his performance to be moving, and he definitely showed off a bit of a "softer side" to many of his critics.

I think his reputation was greatly enhanced after the movie. I guess the big question is whether he counts as a "singer".

DannyNoonan said...

JAC wrote:
"Dannynoonan, not only was Badmotorfinger released in 1991 as already mentioned, but it's especially incorrect to say that with that album Soundgarden was following Nirvana's path. Nevermind came out only a few weeks earlier. When Nirvana and Soundgarden were both obscure, each band was very aware of the other, as they were on the same record label in the same city. So I would be very hesitant to claim that one band was simply following the other."

My mistake. Badmotorfinger was 1991. I coulda swore... I guess that's another reason it's tough (for me) to pick a single year. Also, perhaps "paving the way" wasn't the best metaphore. But I remember Nirvana being the first to break into the mainstream. Smells like teen spirit hit number 1 that year. It was an alternative song knocking the King of Pop down a notch on the charts. It was a big deal. I think a lot of people started listening ot Soundgarden because they heard Nirvana or Pearl Jam and wanted more. At least that was the way it was in my circle of friends at the time.

Stephen said...

I'm going with 1994. Additional albums not mentioned elsewhere in the comments:

Live - Throwing Copper
The Offspring - Smash
Toad the Wet Sprocket - Dulcinea
Hootie and the Blowfish - Cracked Rear View
Bush - Sixteen Stone

Pat Patterson said...

Either 1967 with Jimi Hendrix's "Are You Experienced?", or The Sex Pistols in 1977 with "Never Mind the Bollocks". Most improved was Frank Sinatra in "From Here to Eternity" while the most damaging was harder but I came up with k.d. lang in "Salmonberries", in which her face was described as looking somewhat like Carrie-Anne Moss(The Matrix). I think the comment was ironic, at least I sincerely hope so.

Wade Garrett said...

If "Rubber Soul" had come out one month later, then 1966 would win in a blowout! Rubber Soul and Revolver are the best two albums released by any one band within a calendar year of each other, though some Dylan fans might disagree with that assesstment.

I like Radiohead's The Bends the best of the 1994 albums. Turn on any modern rock station and you'll hear Coldplay, Keane, Interpol, and any number of other bands who wear their Radiohead influence on their sleeves

dick said...

I would go with 1955 if for no other reason that Elvis Presley and the 6 great songs of that year he recorded. When you add Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland from the same era, you will blow away all the grunge in the world in a heartbeat.

miklos rosza said...

I was very young then so it's hard to remember exact years and I'm too lazy to look it up but "The Velvet Underground and Nico" came out in 1965 or '66 and "White Light/White Heat" followed within a year before John Cale left or was pushed out because of Lou.

And "96 Tears" was in '65 I think. But "Psycho" by the Sonics was earlier... but maybe the Doors first album was in '65.

I don't understand anyone who can knock the 70s -- the 80s by comparison just sucked. Didn't Michael Jackson show up then? He had only one good song and couldn't sing at all.

Hurt by being in films? Well, Elvis made the "Elvis-movie" a genre of its own, like Ed Wood movies... and I think after "Susan" Madonna was hurt -- at least in some of the perception of her for some of us, as each film just got worse and worse and her naked ambition became more and more repellent.

So too after "Purple Rain" Prince became a joke.

Yeah, the 90s were okay. And rap was actually interesting (Public Enemy, Eric B. and Rakim) for a while.

Adam said...

Nevermore, that would be MBV's Loveless. A mindblowing sonic template.

1993 did have Exile in Guyville, In Utero, Siamese Dream, PJ Harvey's Rid of Me and 4-Track Demos, the Breeders' Last Splash and the King Missile album with "Detachable Penis". That's gotta count for something.

Dwight said...

Sorry, I can't let the comment on the 70s ("Not enough to fill up a decade though") uncontested. Charles post starts at the beginning, mine fills it out 3/4s of the way through.

And if all the 70s did was show the maturity of Neil Young, Van Morrison, and Bob Marley, that would be enough to fill up any decade.

bill said...

I need to finish reading all these posts - 50 at the moment, but as I've seen 1991 mentioned a couple times, I must state that 1991 could not exist without 1984.

1984 is all about the Twin Cities and the Seattle and grunge sound never would have happened without The Replacements and Husker Du. Both had phenomenal, near perfect records - "Let it Be" and "Zen Arcade." Over the last couple years, Paul Westerberg has been sitting in his basement churning out some of the best rock music ever. Seriously, this guy is a rock god and few people know who he is.

Can't mention 1984 and the Twin Cities without Prince and "Purple Rain." Pretty much defined the sound of R&B for the rest of the decade.

I'm not a Sprinsteen fan, but that was the year of "Born in the USA." A few people consider this a great album.

Talking Heads and the big white suit from "Stop Making Sense." Anotehr movie, wasn’t Repoman” 1984? Another great soundtrack.

What else, the rebirth of Tina Turner with "Private Dancer." Lou Reed, X, Cyndi Lauper, Bangles, Run D.M.C, Special AKA, Rickie Lee Jones. Beakout albums by new artists and older artists turning out their best work in years.

1984 didn't just have great music, it had great albums covering the whole specturm of music. Just a small slice being the climax of the best of punk, new wave, garage, and funk. Bands and albums that influenced the next 20 years.

Most improved by movies - Sinatra; he was a better actor than singer. Nels mentions Will Smith - excellent, move him to the top and Frankie gets the 2 spot.

harmed by movies - elvis; turned him into a harmless cartoon. It’s TV, not movies, but the “Partridge Family” destroyed Shirley Jones’ broadway career.

Pat Patterson said...

Thought of more in the film category of a reputation being improved, Mark Wahlberg in "Three Kings" and Ice Cube in "Boyz in the Hood". Yeah, yeah then Ice Cube destroyed his reputation in the second XXX film. Also how about someone singing so badly in a film it might have damaged their career. Minnie Driver singing "Stand by Your Man" in "Goldeneye", she did look good in the cowboy outfit.

bill said...

my post (2 above) has a number of typos I'd like to apologize for and blame on fatigue+insomnia.

Forging past that lame excuse, I would like to claim one typo as a newly created word: specturm.

Specturm: combination of spectrum and sturm und drang. A range of ideas or activities in constant turmoil.

nice to talk to you,

Unknown said...

Bill - Yes The Replacements have got to be considered one of the best bands ever. Alex Chilton is one of my top three songs from the 1980's.

Truly said...

My vote’s for 1791.

Mozart: Requiem in D; The Magic Flute

Haydn: Symphony No. 94 in G major (Surprise Symphony)

Luigi Cherubini: Lodoïska

Antonio Salieri: Davidde for soloists, choir and orchestra; Saul for soloists, choir and orchestra

Muzio Clementi: Duet (3) for Piano 4 hands, Op. 3: no 1 in C major; Duet (3) for Piano 4 hands, Op. 3: no 2 in E flat major; Duet (3) for Piano 4 hands, Op. 3: no 3 in G major

Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf: Hokus Pokus (opera)

Ann Althouse said...

Hokus Pokus is also one of the incredibly bad Elvis movies. Or was that Harem Scarem?

Tom said...

I'm going to cheat and say 19861987 becuase they were practically one year for me, anyway. I was a college student in the Twin Cities at the time and so The 'Mats, Husker Du, Flaming Ohs, Suburbs, The Mekons, Run Westy Run, Soul Asylum, etc. were at their peak and I count myself lucky to have been there for it. There were other great things those years, too--Peter Gabriel's "So," Steve Winwood's "Back in the High Life," Prince's "Sign o' the Times" (one of the most underrated albums ever), U2s "Joshua Tree," REM's "Life's Rich Pageant," David and David's "Boomtown," Iggy Pop's sublime single "Real Wild Child," The Cure's "Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me," Public Enemy's "It Takes a Nation of Millions...", RUN DMC and Aerosmith's re-working of "Walk This Way," Del Fuegos' "Boston, Mass." Mellencamp released a great album that year, too, and Springsteen took a 180 degree turn away from the bombast of "Born in the USA" with "Tunnel of Love." Damn good stuff. I also went to a concert in 1987 by Mudhoney, the very first grunge band from Seattle, although I have to admit, I didn't think much of them at the time.

In general the 1980s get a bad rap for music and mostly, I would agree (Sly Fox? Baltimora? Kajagoogoo? Come on, how did some of these people get record contracts?). But if you looked hard enough, you could find some great stuff.

bill said...

Tom, Twin Cities 1986-1987 and you didn't mention The Wallets or Urban Guerillas?

Also Boiled in Lead, Jayhawks, Trip Shakespeare, Prudence Johnson, and Paul Cebar journeyed from Milwaukee enough to be included in this list.

and a bunch of bands I sadly can't remember names for:
Then there was that reggae band that couldn't fit in the 400; the band that did Living Color better than Living Color; that jazz quartet

Basically, the Twin Cities owned the 80s.

Joseph Angier said...

A singer boosted by being in the movies? How about Charles Aznavour in "Shoot the Piano Player"?

Anonymous said...

It's hard to tell for sure....but it would seem that most posters here are conforming to the CW that the best year in music is roughly around the time you are in your early 20's.

Ann Althouse said...

Joseph: Great -- and classy! -- choice. Haven't seen that movie since I was in college. And the DVD's been sitting on my shelf for years, along with "Two English Girls," which I've never seen.

Dwight said...

Wish I had thought of these yesterday when posting--Two more singers that benefited greatly from being in movies (and on TV), although they are probably outside the timeframe you're thinking: Eddy Arnold and Gene Autry.

Ann Althouse said...

Stranger: I would have thought it was high school. But several people have picked a year from before they were born.

LarryK said...

Somebody's gotta mention the great albums Dylan made in 65/66 - Bringing it All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde. Without question the best trio of records put out in just over a year by anyone. I think the first two of these came out in '65, which would give it the edge for the better of the two yrs, in my book.

So we know that 65, 66, 91, 94 and (less definitively) 73 were great years for music, but what were some of the worst years? I would nominate 1959-1963, roughly the years between Elvis going into the army and the British invasion, and 1979, when punk died and radio was ruled by disco and bad midwestern stadium rock (Kansas, REO, Styx etc.). Any others?

bill said...

another singer benefiting from movies would have to be Tom Waits. He's acted in 20 movies and his songs have been used in 57 movies.

I'd wager you're more likely to hear a Waits song in the theater than on the radio.

Ann Althouse said...

LarryK: I should have put those Dylan albums in the original post, and I just didn't take the time to look up the particular years. Those are the three best Dylan albums. It was really amazing to live through that. It meant a lot to me. Too much really. It was beyond music.

As to the slump before the British invasion, some of my favorite things are there. The Shirelles and the Crystals -- the great girl groups. Dion. And the group that was my first love: The Four Seasons. Really, it was the last permutation of Doo Wop. And what about early surf music? "Surfin' Safari" was '63. And there were just a lot of cool singles then -- things like "Hats Off to Larry." We used to have slumber parties and play 45s like that. I'm thinking about "American Graffiti" which had the tag line "where were you in '62?" Ever listen to the soundtrack from that movie? It's brilliant!

Nevermore said...

"And there were not just 1, but 2 albums that changed the face of music in 1991. The first, of course, is Nirvana's; anyone remember the 2nd?"

Nels and Adam both were correct. It was "Loveless" by My Bloody Valentine, an album so strange and beautiful that it stymied even it's creator, Kevin Shields.

LarryK said...

I'm willing to reconsider 1959-63 -it was a little before my time (born in 1962) and my wife has the American Graffiti soundtrack so I'll give it a listen.

But I do remember one character in that movie (the guy who drove around with Mackenzie Phillips) complaining about the music of the day - not the best evidence, I know, but it does suggest that some people at the time thought the quality of music dipped in the early 60s from where it was a few years earlier. One reason I mentioned this era is that it seems like kind of a hiatus - coinciding with the ruination of rock and roll's early promise (Elvis in the army, Jerry Lee Lewis disgraced, Little Richard voluntarily "retired," Chuck Berry in jail etc.) and before the early/mid 60s explosion.

But I stand firmly behind the musical horror of 1979, which I lived through. In fact, 1979 just might be the worst post WWII year in US history, all things considered - but that's a subject for another post.

Tom said...

Bill: Yes, I probably put the "etc." too soon in my Twin Cities music post, didn't I. The Wallets "Totally Nude" is totally great. And there was no better St. Patrick's Day party than Boiled in Lead at First Avenue.

As for others in the Cities, don't forget Ipso Facto and Paul Metsa. And pretty much the entire catalog of Twin Tone and Blackberry Way records. And this isn't even touching the R&B scene--The Time, Alexander O'Neal, Flyte Time and all that. The previous post was right--the Twin Cities owned the 1980s.

Coco McJesus said...

1964 is pretty hard to beat - First, you have A Love Supreme by John Coltrane, perhaps the best American art - of any medium - ever. Add to that Horace Silver - Song for My Father, Wayne Shorter, Spak No Evil and Eric Dolpy - Outto Lunch - that's a pretty unbelivable year and heralds a totally new sound in jazz - which ultimately influences a total new sound in American soul and thus popular music as well. Add to that Its a Hard Day's Night and Meet the Beatles as well as ANother Side of Bob Dylan, plus the Stones are discovered big time in the U.S. and its one hell of a year for music lovers.

Stephen said...

On the "what age you were" theory, I said 1994; I was 13, and in the 7th grade.

And I'm quite impressed by the evidence in favor 1966, and would place that 2nd.

Heck, I'm 23 now. Can you imagine anyone saying that music of right now, or any of three years prior will be a peak year?

Freeman Hunt said...

Also on the "what age you were" theory:

I also picked 1994, and I was 14 at the time and didn't listen to rock. Maybe the twenty-something rule only applies on the pre-1990 dates.

Can you imagine anyone saying that music of right now, or any of three years prior will be a peak year?

Heh heh.

Meade said...

WaPo settles it then - 1965.

David McDougall said...

Heroes. Trans-Europe Express. Animals. My Aim Is True. Pink Flag. Suicide's self-titled 1st album. Gary Wilson's 'You Think You Really Know Me'. everything chrees said. am I really the only other vote for '77?

Meade said...

"Lightnin' Strikes" - Lou Christie

"California Dreamin'" - The Mamas and the Papas

"I Fought the Law" - Bobby Fuller Four

"You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" - Dusty Springfield

"Hanky Panky" - Tommy James and the Shondells

"Lil' Red Riding Hood" - Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs

"I Saw Her Again" - The Mamas and the Papas

"The Land of 1000 Dances" - Wilson Pickett

"Black Is Black" - Los Bravos

"96 Tears" - Question Mark & the Mysterians

"Reach Out I'll Be There" - The Four Tops

"Walk Away Renee - The Left Banke

"What Becomes of the Brokenhearted - Jimmy Ruffin

"Poor Side of Town" - Johnny Rivers

"Good Vibrations" - The Beach Boys

"You Keep Me Hangin' On" - The Supremes

"Devil With A Blue Dress On / Good Golly Miss Molly" - Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels

"I'm a Believer" - The Monkees

"(I Know) I'm Losing You" - The Temptations

Unknown said...

though I was only 10, I seem to have imprinted on 1966 as well. Maybe because I had older siblings? Or my good taste was already apparent at that time.
Oh. And Dusty Springfield!

Unknown said...

Whoops! Just realized I commented on a 9 year old thread! My bad
*slinks away*

Ann Althouse said...

I love when people comment on old threads!