The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

It’s Sunday and the end of yet another a busy week that left very little time for music. But this shall not prevent me from putting together a new installment of The Sunday Six – coz life without music is simply unthinkable! I think I got a pretty decent and diverse fresh set of six tunes. Hope you enjoy it!

Henry Mancini/Peter Gunn

As more frequent visitors of the blog know, I’m a huge fan of vocals, especially when sung in perfect harmony. But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a great instrumental, so let’s get started with a true classic. Peter Gunn by Henry Mancini was the opening track of the American television show of the same name. Starring Craig Stevens as private eye Peter Gunn, the series ran for three seasons between 1958 and 1961. The first version of the theme I heard was the live rendition by Emerson, Lake & Palmer from their 1979 album In Concert, which as I recall got decent radio play in Germany at the time. Peter Gunn was first released as a single in 1959 and also became the opener of the soundtrack album The Music from Peter Gunn. I find this combination of rock and jazz really cool. I wonder whether it inspired Monty Norman’s James Bond Theme from 1962.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers/Refugee

Tom Petty wrote many great songs, so I certainly had plenty of choice. If I could only pick one, I’d go with Refugee from Damn the Torpedoes, the third studio album by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Released in October 1979, it’s not only one of the most beloved Tom Petty records among his fans, but it’s also the band’s most commercially successful album in the U.S., and one of their highest charting on the Billboard 200 where it surged to no. 2. Moreover, perhaps not surprisingly, Damn the Torpedoes is on Rolling Stones’ list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Unlike many other older records on that list, remarkably, it moved up from no. 313 in 2003 to no. 231 in the latest revision from September 2020. Co-written by Petty and Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell, Refugee also appeared separately as the album’s second single in January 198o and became the band’s second top 20 song in the U.S., peaking at no. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100. Chart success was even bigger in Canada and New Zealand, where the tune reached no. 2 and no. 3, respectively. Such a great song!

The Beach Boys/Good Vibrations

How about some additional great vibes. While I wouldn’t call myself a fan of most Beach Boys songs, which to me can sound pretty repetitive, I always felt their harmony singing was out of this world. One of the greatest tunes I can think of in this context is Good Vibrations, my all-time favorite by The Beach Boys. Composed by the ingenious Brian Wilson with lyrics by Mike Love, the song was first released as a single in October 1966. Topping the charts in the U.S., UK and Australia, and surging to no. 2 in Canada, The Netherlands and Norway, Good Vibrations became The Beach Boys’ best-selling single reaching Platinum certifications in the U.S. and the UK. It also holds the distinction of becoming the costliest single ever recorded, involving a host of session musicians at four Hollywood studios and more than 90 hours of footage captured between February and September 1966. While that effort certainly sounds excessive, the outcome remains nothing short of breathtaking to this day. Initially, Good Vibrations was supposed to appear on Smile, but it remained an unfinished album at the time. Instead, the tune was included on Smiley Smile, The Beach Boys’ 12th studio record from September 1967. In September 2004, Brian Wilson released Brian Wilson Presents Smile, his forth solo album that featured all-new recordings of the tracks he had originally written for Smile.

Steely Dan/Deacon Blues

Continuing the theme of all-time favorite tracks, let’s turn to Steely Dan and the amazing Aja album. Their sixth studio release from September 1977 remains the Mount Rushmore of Donald Fagen’s and Walter Becker’s output, IMHO. It’s one of those rare albums without any tracks that feel like fillers or are otherwise not as compelling as the remaining tunes. Still, if I had to pick one, I’d go with Deacon Blues. The tune was mostly written at Fagen’s house in Malibu and, according to Wikipedia, was prompted by his observation that “if a college football team like the University of Alabama could have a grandiose name like the ‘Crimson Tide’ the nerds and losers should be entitled to a grandiose name as well.” Quoting Fagen from Anatomy of a Song: The Oral History of 45 Iconic Hits That Changed Rock, R&B and Pop (Marc Myers, 2016), Wikipedia adds: “The concept of the “expanding man” that opens the song may have been inspired by Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man. Walter and I were major sci-fi fans. The guy in the song imagines himself ascending to the levels of evolution, “expanding” his mind, his spiritual possibilities, and his options in life.” Instead of continuing the near-impossible task of interpreting Steely Dan lyrics, let’s just listen to the bloody song!

The Chesterfield Kings/I Don’t Understand

If you’re familiar with my music taste, perhaps with the exception of the first track, none of the picks in this post thus far should have come as a big surprise. The picture might change a bit with this next track appropriately titled I Don’t Understand, by The Chesterfield Kings – well, let me explain and you will understand! It all started when fellow blogger Max who pens the PowerPop blog recently featured She Told Me Lies, another tune by this former American garage and psychedelic rock band from Rochester, N.Y. I loved their cool sound right away, which prompted me to listen to The Mindbending Sounds of the Chesterfield Kings, one of sadly only three albums that are currently available through my streaming music provider. I Don’t Understand is the opener of that 2003 album. Founded in the late ’70s by Greg Prevost, The Chesterfield Kings were instrumental in sparking the 1980s garage band revival, according to Wikipedia. A partial discography there lists 11 albums by the group that was active until 2009. Credited to The Chesterfield Kings, I Don’t Understand has a neat Byrds vibe – see, told ya, now you understand this pick! 🙂

Little Richard/Long Tall Sally

Once again, this brings me to the final tune of yet another fun zig-zag journey through music. Let’s make it count and tell Aunt Mary ’bout Uncle John: Long Tall Sally by the amazing Little Richard who I trust needs no further introduction. Co-written by Richard (credited with his birth name Richard Wayne Penniman), Robert Alexander “Bumps” Blackwell and Enotris Johnson, the classic rock & roll tune was released as a single in March 1956 and included on his debut album Here’s Little Richard that appeared at the same time – and, boy, what an album! It also featured Richard gems like Tutti Frutti, Slippin’ and Slidin’ and Jenny, Jenny. Perhaps it’s his equivalent to Chuck Berry’s third studio album Chuck Berry Is on Top from July 1959, which alternatively could have been titled The Greatest Hits of Classic Rock & Roll. Long Tall Sally became Richard’s first no. 1 on Billboard’s Hot R&B chart. Based on Wikipedia, the tune also was his most successful single on the mainstream chart where it peaked at no. 6.

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube

21 thoughts on “The Sunday Six”

  1. I love Peter Gunn, but you didn’t mention the most famous version. By guitar star Duane Eddy in 1959. He’s the one who had all the great instrumental hits with his famous twangy guitar sound, like Rebel Rouser and Cannonball. And like you I always thought Peter Gunn inspired the James Bond theme.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ok. Nehmen wir hier mal „Here’s Little Richard“. Das Album ist so gut, dass man es gleich zweimal hintereinander spielen kann. Die Musik durchzuckt einen wie ein Stromschlag. Little Richard singt ohne Rücksicht auf Verluste und die Band spielt scharf und satt, im treibenden Beat der alten Stax-Schule.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the mention Christian! Glad you liked it. I have some more from that genre coming soon.
    Good Vibrations, Refugee, and Peter Gunn….THAT is a great selection!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You sound like you need to hear more of the Beach Boys. The early stuff is simple but Brian Wilson turned into a brilliant composer quickly with the ability to mix sophistication with accessible tunes. Good Vibration is kind of the apex of that, but there’s a lot of great stuff on albums like Today! and Pet Sounds, and later on stuff like Sunflower and Surf’s Up.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I guess it depends on what you mean by repetitive – that Pet Sounds/Today! era is very creative in terms of composition, but it’s mostly based around the Phil Spector wall-of-sound type arrangments.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I was mostly mostly referring to their surf rock music. BTW, don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I dislike these songs, especially from a vocal perspective. But once you’ve listened to a few, they all sound very similar.

        Also, to be frank, while I recognize “Pet Sounds” is a remarkable album, I never quite understood the big fuzz so many people have made about it. To me, “Sgt. Pepper” is far superior. Of course, I have to admit that as a huge Beatles fan it’s safe to assume I’m biased.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I quite enjoy how the Beach Boys are fallible. More flawed than The Beatles for sure, especially because Mike Love is a dominant personality yet arguably the least talented one. But lots of gems scattered in the rough – I don’t think I’ve ever heard a single Beach Boys song after 1966 on the radio, apart from Kokomo, but lots of gems that deserve play like ‘Sail on Sailor’ and ‘Long Promised Road’.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Another good batch, which I have come to expect each Sunday. The first song was used to great effect in Robert Rodriguez’ movie, “Sin City.” I’m familiar with all of them except for The Chesterfield Kings, which I also first heard on Max’ blog. They sound so much like The Rolling Stones on this one. I also like the extended Good Vibrations version you shared.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I noticed the similarity to Peter Gunn when I first heard this album. That riff has actually been used a lot of times over the years. Most famously by the B-52’s on Planet Claire. And also pretty much anything that has to do with a private eye. Like the James Bond theme and a bunch of other movie songs

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Christian, you ever heard Clarence Clemon’s version of Peter Gunn off of ‘Porky’s Revenge’ (Great soundtrack) soundtrack. Killer. You’ll love it. Solid picks again. The Dan and Petty are faves. So is the Richard cut.

    Like

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