Dept. of Guilty Pleasure

posted by Tom Moon on May 05, 2009 at 4:08 pm
in , , , ,

Tripping back to a time when craft happened on pop radio....

After spending a few days immersed in St. Vincent’s brilliant new album Actor, it was probably inevitable that I’d develop a hunger for a particular type of pop thrill from the late ‘60s – not bubblegum or Motown or overt psychedelia, but hooky, full-blast radio songs made by craftsmen who’d been listening to (and assimilating) the ideas of the rock elite. There were a lot of bands working that general terrain – the Rascals, the Lovin’ Spoonful. And the Grass Roots.

Nobody mistakes the Grass Roots for high art. But during a long run on the charts that began in 1966, this group (actually several groups, owing to constantly shifting personnel) cranked out an impressive string of sunny, smartly harmonized, almost desperately optimistic singles. Among them: “Sooner or Later,” “Temptation Eyes,” “Let’s Live For Today.” They’re love songs, mostly, expressions of an innocent, idyllic bliss that seems downright quaint today. But the tunes themselves, gathered on this decent compilation, endure surprisingly well – watch out, because these streamlined, downright infectious melodies are powerful enough to beam you back to a time when love, and a good solid hook, really was all you needed.


Don't believe me? Check this version of "Midnight Confessions," from 1968.

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#1 from Steve di Costanzo, Redding, CT - 05/05/2009 11:34

Hi Tom:  Will just have to pull out some vintage vinyl tonight!  Thanks for coming on Radio Base Camp tonight on WPKN 89.5 FM in Bridgeport, CT.

#2 from fds - 05/06/2009 8:18

I miss real pop music.

#3 from Dofang - 05/07/2009 1:56

The guitarist on the left should be Creed Bratton, best known today as “Creed” in the NBC show “The Office.”  I say “should,” since they barely show him!

#4 from fds - 05/08/2009 7:08

wow insane call

#5 from Adam, New Jersey - 05/08/2009 9:05

I think these are all variants of “blue eyed soul.”  I’d put The Box Tops in there.  And the Rascal’s great hit, Good Lovin, is a cover of the Olympics.
Is this a palatable ‘60s version of white soul for a top 40 audience just as the 50s gave us Pat Boone covering Little Richard.  I don’t think so.  Another interesting point here is who is coming out of these groups:  Lou Reed worked in the Brill Building.  Donald Fagen and Walter Becker wrote songs like this and toured with, who, Jay Black and the Americans.  Very, very subversive.

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