Ready to do a little California dreaming? Set the mood by taking this play-list of 1960s California-based music for a spin. Selected by rock and roll journalist Dave Thompson, these are just a few of the songs highlighted in his new book, “1000 Songs That Rock Your World,” the ultimate visual guide to the best rock music ever produced.
“Piece of My Heart” by Big Brother & The Holding Company (1967). Erma (sister of Aretha) Franklin had the first hit with this Bert Berns number; Janis Joplin and Big Brother made it their own, regardless.
“Psychotic Reaction” by Count Five (1966). A bristling, saber-toothed tiger of a single, “Psychotic Reaction” is one of the songs people are talking about when they start going on about garage rock. And it’s true — it does fit all the criteria: the sound of a mid-’60s teenaged rock band, punking it up in the car port. But it also transcends almost all that it ought to be to emerge a song so brutal that one can only imagine … if the Count Five had been as big as The Beatles, would the ’60s have stayed peace and love?
“Pipeline” by The Chantays (1963). The sound of surfing USA … in pastime parlance, a pipeline is when the crest of the wave goes over the surfer and crashes down in front of him, to leave him in the center of what could be described as a pipe made from water.
“Eight Miles High” by The Byrds (1966). History remembers The Byrds for breaking through with a rocked-up version of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man.” But it was this nugget of protopsychedelia, all knowing grins and crafty winks, that truly set things rattling.
“I Fought the Law” by The Bobby Fuller Four (1966). And the law won. But they never found out who murdered Bobby …
“California Dreamin’” by The Mamas and The Papas (1966). The quintessential West Coast harmonies, drenching and determined. There’s no place like home — especially when the weather sucks. John Phillips wrote from the heart, too; he was in New York pining through a chilly East Coast winter when he and wife Michelle wrote it. While Barry McGuire recorded a fine version soon after, it was the Phillips’ own group, The Mamas and The Papas, that really brought the lyric home.
“On The Road Again” by Canned Heat (1968). The loneliness of the long-distance jam band.
“I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night” by The Electric Prunes (1967). When you say “dream,” what exactly do you mean?
“Pleasant Valley Sunday” by The Monkees (1967). Sunny on the surface, but there’s also something very Stepford Wives-like lurking under the surface.
“Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” by Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969). Stephen Stills’ dedication to then-girlfriend Judy Collins. “It started out as a long narrative poem about my relationship with Judy … It poured out of me over many months and filled several notebooks. I had a hell of a time getting the music to fit. I was left with all these pieces of a song and I said, ‘Let’s sing them together and call it a suite,’ because they were all about the same thing and they led up to the same point.”
“Surf City” by Jan and Dean (1963). When Brian Wilson handed his friends Jan Berry and Dean Torrance an unfinished song he was writing, he could never have imagined that “Goody Connie Won’t You Come Back Home” could ever become a surfing anthem. But it did!
“Hello I Love You” by The Doors (1968). Riding a riff that the early Kinks could have conjured, The Doors rock like a garage band.
“Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival (1969). The end of the world set to music. It is every horror film you’ve ever seen, and every nightmare you’ve ever had. It echoes through the soundtrack of “An American Werewolf in London,” and it works there; it rebounds through “Twilight Zone” (the movie, not the vastly superior TV show) and “Shaun of the Dead” and wrapped up the first season of “Supernatural.” And it works there, as well.
“I Feel Like I’m Fixing to Die Rag” by Country Joe and the Fish (1967). Flippant enough to become a favorite campus singalong, but dark enough to taint even the most lighthearted get together, San Francisco’s fish celebrate the draft with jug-band joy.
“White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane (1967). Lifting Lewis Carroll’s Alice out of the rabbit hole and into the heart of psychedelia, one of the crucial sounds of the late-’60s freak scene, with one of the most intriguing lyrics.
“Alone Again Or” by Love (1968). Love guitarist Bryan MacLean wrote this as a tribute to his mother, who was a flamenco dancer.
“Happy Together” by The Turtles (1967). The future Flo and Eddie chime the ultimate romance.
“Eve of Destruction” by Barry McGuire (1965). The protest boom was fading when P.F. Sloan penned “Eve of Destruction,” but McGuire took it to No. 1 regardless, as he rounded up absolutely everything that was wrong with the world … probably never even guessing that half a century on, the song still sounds frighteningly relevant.
“Trouble Coming Every Day” by Mothers of Invention (1966). Mid-’60s inner-city America seen through the melting pot of growing social and cultural discontent, set to one mutha of a riff.
“Born to Be Wild” by Steppenwolf (1968). Hawkwind’s Nik Turner ranks this among his Top 5 songs. Here’s why: “I remember raving all night long to this with my friend, the late, great poet Robert Calvert, in Margate in the late ’60s. He was a manic depressive, but in his manic moods, he would keep me awake for days, with his fantastical rantings about all things completely off the wall, phantasmagorical, bizarre, way-out science fictional/fantastical, turning me on to great literature, films, poetry and art.”
“Morning Glory” by Tim Buckley (1967). Buckley grew up close to a hobo camp in southern California and wrote this song about the pride of its inhabitants.
“Walk Don’t Run” by The Ventures (1960). But you do run when you hear it … to turn up the volume and grab your air guitar. The Pink Fairies, curiously, later added a few verses to the original instrumental experience, but the riff remains the rocking soul of the ensuing picnic.
“I Got You Babe” by Sonny and Cher (1965). Veering into protest song territory, two mid-’60s longhairs shrug away the world’s antipathy by reminding one another it doesn’t matter what anyone else says about the length of their hair or the cut of their clothes. They have each other, and that’s all that matters.