The Brits are here to stay
By by nick firstname.lastname@example.org
Feb. 14, 2012 at 5:04 p.m.
Updated Feb. 14, 2012 at 8:15 p.m.
Editor's note: While the American scene found itself re-energized, the British bands remained energized and proved to audiences that they were more than a passing fad. Britain had arrived to stay and rock music remain dominated by both nations.
The Kinks: "Waterloo Sunset" (1967)
One of the most beautiful songs to come out of the 60s, "Waterloo Sunset" showcases singer/songwriter Ray Davies' abilities as a remarkable lyricist. The song is full of imagery that reflects the London scenery. Dave Davies' guitar solos are steeped in Country music, which, surprisingly, fit.
Pink Floyd: "See Emily Play" (1967)
Syd Barrett, the founder of Pink Floyd, was the band's primary songwriter on the band's debut album, "Piper at the Gates of Dawn." However, as he descended into madness and drug abuse, the band had to drop Barrett, replacing him with David Gilmour, setting the powerhouse quartet they would become. However, Barrett would be the muse for much of Pink Floyd's later music, especially for the albums "Wish You Were Here" and "The Wall."
"See Emily Play" was a popular hit for the band, but rarely played live, and not at all after Barrett's departure. The song shows the band's budding complexity and Barrett's sense of humor and adventure, well represented by the brief harpsichord scale in the first bridge.
Moody Blues: "Tuesday Afternoon" (1967)
"Tuesday Afternoon" was part of the Moody Blues' album, "Days of Future Passed," which relayed a single day cycled into music. The song was written by lead singer and guitarist Justin Hayward, who has said he wrote it while sitting in a field.
The imagery of sitting in a field fits the song well, as the keyboards give a faraway, fantastical sound, blending well with Hayward's lyrics such as "Something calls to me/the trees are drawing me near/I need to find out why."
"Tuesday Afternoon" beautifully represents the band's attempts at blending classical music and rock, which features a tempo change and a nice flute solo at the end that mimics the vocal melody.
Cream: "Sunshine of Your Love" (1967)
"Sunshine of Your Love" is the song most definitive of Cream, a supergroup made up of Eric Clapton on guitar and vocals, Jack Bruce on bass and vocals, and Ginger Baker on drums.
With its mixture of psychedelia, jazz and heavy blues, the song strongly identifies the 1960's British sound. Baker even emulates African drum rhythms while Clapton's finesse with the main riff and solo, as well as his use of the wah-wah pedal is legendary. Bruce, who wrote the main riff, keeps the bottom from falling out with his exceptional bass work.
Bruce and Clapton exchange vocals on this song.
Traffic: "Dear Mr. Fantasy" (1967)
With music written by band members Steve Winwood and Chris Wood, and lyrics penned by Jim Capaldi, "Dear Mr. Fantasy" is a jam band favorite, being performed by a number of bands from the Grateful Dead, to Jimi Hendrix, to Tesla.
The reason is that the song is open ended, with tempo changes that allow guitarists ample solo opportunities.
The Zombies: "Time of the Season" (1968)
Strangely, the Zombies were a bigger hit in the U.S. than in their native Britain.
"Time of Season," written by keyboardist Rod Argent, is possibly the soundtrack of the "Summer of Love" period. The song features unique rhythms and bass runs. Colin Blunstone's vocals are eclectic that include sighs, and call and response in the main verses.
Led Zeppelin: "Communication Breakdown" (1969)
This song rocks.
Former Yardbirds guitarist Jimmy Page was looking for a band that would perfectly match his ideal sound: raw, blues-based and full of loud. He found his band in the high-pitched voice of Robert Plant, the musical sophistication of bassist John Paul Jones and the frantic drumming of John Bonham.
One of the most noticeable features of "Communication Breakdown" is Page's downstroke picking, which would influence Johnny Ramone. The tune is Led Zeppelin's heaviest song.
The Who: "See Me, Feel Me/Listening to You" (1969)
Off the Who's rock opera album, "Tommy," "See Me, Feel Me" features Roger Daltrey singing as Tommy, a deaf, mute and blind boy who is a "Pinball Wizard."
The song starts off slow and continues to build tempo throughout, kept in time by drummer Keith Moon and sang with sweet three-part harmony in the finishing piece, "Listening to You."
David Bowie: "Space Oddity" (1969)
A watershed song for David Bowie, "Space Oddity" gives a glimpse into what he would become, both as a songwriter and a character. The song is about a doomed astronaut, Major Tom, and the title pokes fun at "2001: A Space Odyssey."
Big in Britain, the song originally did little in the U.S., but became a major hit when it was re-released in 1973.
Rolling Stones: "Gimme Shelter" (1969)
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards' Apocalyptic "Gimme Shelter" is arguably the Stones' finest. The song features Richards' use of alternative guitar tunings and a howling lead.
The most potent feature of the song, however, is the powerful voice of Merry Clayton, who even gets a vocal solo in the song. Previously, Clayton had been one of Ray Charles' Raelettes and, later, would sing background on Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama."