Journal: News & Comment

Monday, August 09, 2004
# 11:04:00 AM:

Oh yeeaaaaah!

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CBC Radio is trying the impossible task of defining 50 essential music tracks from the 20th century, five per decade. They're doing a pretty decent job, but while I am a child of the '80s, I play in a band that focuses on the '60s, so I know that decade's popular music pretty well.

Now, the list the panel has assembled is pretty good—"In My Life" by the Beatles, "Mr. Tambourine Man" by the Byrds, "My Girl" by the Temptations, "Stop! In the Name of Love" by the Supremes, and "Born to be Wild" by Steppenwolf. Especially since the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" was voted off the final short list, I suspect that when the public votes come in, the Beatles will completely crush the others, just as Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" ran away with the '50s title.

Still, I was disappointed that neither "Louie Louie" by the Kingsmen nor "You Really Got Me" by the Kinks was even nominated. Both are elemental, thrashy guitar-stomp hits, and are among the first things any garage band learns.

They are easy to figure out, but nearly impossible to play right (and oh, I've tried), because to do that you have to emulate young musicians who play sloppily and make mistakes, yet somehow create magic in the process. You have to stumble over the transition to the last verse of "Louie Louie," as the Kingsmen did, or play the guitar solo in "You Really Got Me" like Dave Davies, as if your fingers might slip off the fretboard and ruin it at any moment.

If I had to choose from the two, I might give the slight edge to the Kinks. Listen to so many things that followed: the Beatles' distorted "Revolution," heavy metal in general (including Steppenwolf, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Van Halen, Metallica, and every [whatever]-core band imaginable), the Sex Pistols, the Knack, Nirvana, and the Hives-Vines-Yeah Yeah Yeahs-White Stripes retro-guitar craze of today. They all just built off the template the Kinks set up, and none of them has significantly improved on that monster guitar sound. Now that's essential.

Oh, and you can learn the lyrics to "You Really Got Me" without having to look them up.


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