Friday, 19 November 2010
News, Views and Music Issue 81 (Top Five): AAA Utopias
♫ Erm, not sure what happened there. That must have been another of those time travel submissions we keep getting so often these days. Anyway, that’s the buzz from the Lifehouse about the way to live, the way to be and the way to get things together. The Who are hardly unique in wanting to embrace the whole of humanity into one ideal way for the human race to live, however, so here in our latest top five is our guide to the other greatest AAA utopian concepts...
5) (What A) Wonderful World – song appearing on albums by Art Garfunkel (‘Watermark’, 1978) and Otis Redding (‘Otis Blue’, 1965): This Sam Cooke/Herb Alpert collaboration from the 1940s should sound a million miles away from the AAA largely hippie philosophy that if you give peace a chance we’ll all benefit from a better and wider vision for humanity. But the sentiments obviously rang a few bells for two of our AAA members, who both chose to make this song one of the highlights of their seminal 70s and 60s releases respectively. And what a wonderful world it would be for the humble narrator in both cover versions, listing his faults before telling his girl what a wonderful world it would be if she were to join him in his. Otis takes this song as a cowed, almost frightened narrator suddenly bursting forth with joy as optimism takes hold in the chorus whereas Art Garfunkel’s sweet tones are wrapped around a ‘round’, with the deeper tones of James Taylor and Paul Simon (unusually singing falsetto) pushing him on to find the true love of his life. Both versions sound very different – Otis’ is pure soul whereas Arty’s could come in a box marked ‘singer-somgwriters of the 1970s’ but the result is the same: in both versions the listener simply goes ‘aaah!’
4) Wonderland – song appearing on album by Nils Lofgren (‘Wonderland’, 1983): You may have noticed that I’ve listed this little known song from perhaps Nils’ most obscure album of all as one of my three favourite Lofgren tracks on our forum. This minor classic has Nils’ teenage narrator imagining a world that is perfect, one where there’s no ‘Fairytale Hollywood people messing with your head’, ‘nobody has to hurt anybody for yourself to get ahead’ and even the pretty girls ‘think that being nice is cool’. The whole song is wrapped up with a lovely catchy tune and some witty observations about the small things in life that could change our lives so easily if only we did something about them, making ‘Wonderland’ a lovely place where ‘compassion is something people understand’. Talking about compassion, how about seeing this rarest of all Lofgren CDs released so all the Lofgren newcomers can get to hear this track too?
3) Wooden Ships – song appearing on an albums by Crosby, Stills and Nash (by Crosby, Stills and Nash, 1969) and Jefferson Airplane (‘Volunteers’, 1970): This co-write between Crosby, Stills and the Airplane’s Paul Kantner is the ultimate 60s hippie utopia. Fleeing from the remnants of the Earth caused after a nuclear bomb has been dropped, the narrator sails off in his own boat to a distant land where the survivors of the two sides in the war mingle, find they have much in common and begin to respect each other, working together to give humanity another, better, more peaceful chance. The opening lines, sung by Stills but actually taken by Crosby from an American church, that ‘if you smile at me I will understand because that is something everybody everywhere knows in the same language’ was taken as sacred text by music lovers of a certain ilk in the late 60s (me included) where life is ‘easy, you know – the way it’s supposed to be’. We look at this song in greater detail on our review of the first CSN album, no 29 on our list.
2) The Nutopian National Anthem –song (well, of sorts) appearing on album by John Lennon (‘Mind Games’ 1973): Roll over John Cage – when John Lennon was going through his immigration hassles in America, desperate to stay in the country he’d visited with Yoko but facing deportation because of a minor drug’s conviction in 1968, Lennon dreamed of a country with no borders and immigration controls, where people could join him if and when they wanted. These three seconds of silence at the end of side one of the Mind Games album are Lennon’s very Yoko-influenced attempt to make up a new anthem that wouldn’t be restrictive or patriotic in any way, with the listener free to come up with their own thoughts or sing their own made-up anthem over it if they chose. Lennon even gave the buyers of the ‘Mind Games’ album a chance to become an ambassador of Nutopia in their respective countries if they chose, in which case hello to you, fellow Nutopians! The title of Lennon’s imaginary country is a typically goonish take on the words ‘new’ and ‘utopia’, with Lennon updating the hippie concept of paradise for the 70s generation. See news and views no 77 for more.
1) In Search Of The Lost Chord – album by The Moody Blues (1968): ‘The Lifehouse’ by another name, this is The Moodies’ take on the grand old theme of ‘The Lost Chord’, a note in music mankind was given at his creation and that if re-discovered could unite humanity and heal all the rifts that have developed across time. That concept gets lost somewhere across this record, only really being heard on the moody ‘House Of Four bDoors’ looking at the development of humanity through the years in terms of the music discovered in each period and the beautiful ‘Visions Of Paradise’ imagining a better tomorrow on a song that merges Western and Eastern instruments. There are, however, a number of interesting diversions into the importance of thinking for yourself, travelling across the world to find answers because ‘we’re all looking for something’ and meditation. See review no 22 for more.
And that’s that for another issue. There might be a bit of a delay getting the next issue to you – possible teething problems with the new-look site and all that – but we’ll do our best to be back on the net in no time at all. If The Coalition don’t get us first! Happy reading!