Music

Music to Change By

Our favorite songs from the ’60s, plus stuff that just feels transformation-y.

At Last!
Etta James
1961, Argo

God, what is there to say about Etta James? She says it all on her own, so really all you need to do, if you haven’t listened to this album already, is TAKE MY WORD FOR IT. Her voice is so CLEAR, but she carefully chooses when to get a little raspier and let the power lie in her subtlety—BUT it doesn’t really sound like a choice, it sounds like it just HAPPENED ’cause of all the EMOTION, and good grief, is it powerful. I recommend “Girl of My Dreams” for when you wanna dance around in your room slowly and sweetly, and “Stormy Weather” for when you have a shit day but want to feel kind of like “AH WELL, LIFE IS STILL BEAUTIFUL SOMETIMES” instead of going into full on depresso Morrissey mode. The title track sounds like combined relief and excitement, and plays in my head every time I get home from school all cranky and finally get to sit down to a nice pack of Ho-Hos. —Tavi

Odessey and Oracle
The Zombies
1968, CBS

This album is my official Teenage Soundtrack. It came into my life at the point when my friends and I learned to drive and started going on real adventures; this was what was playing on our car stereos. Odessey and Oracle (the misspelling of odyssey was either intentional or a mistake on the part of the album-cover designer, depending on whom you believe) is a pop masterpiece whose songs illustrate almost everything I love about music from the ’60s: psychedelic introspection, bizarre narratives, British boys harmonizing, jangliness up the wazoo…this album does it for me. It starts off with the most magnificent pop jam I have ever heard in my life, “Care of Cell 44.” It’s about someone’s lover finally being released from jail. Singer Rob Argent belts, “Feels go good you’re coming home soon!” and it became the lyric I associated with best friends coming home from college or boys I liked coming home from wherever boys go. I am particularly attached by the songs halfway through the album, such as “Hung Up on a Dream” and “Brief Candles,” that are somewhat somber and dark but build and take you soaring to beautiful places with their PSYCH POP WIZARDY. Also, if you’re graduating from high school right now, just TRY not to make “This Will Be Our Year” your theme song…TRY, foolish senior, but you will fail. On the other side of the record, their ridiculously boppy songs like “Friends of Mine” and “I’ll Call You Mine” are hearts and love, butterflies flying, driving down the highway in a Bug and it starts showering sprinkles, it is Christmas and the Fourth of July and your birthday all in one and you have a backyard by the beach full of puppies…I don’t know how to write about pop music because all it does is make me feel intense things, and those are the visions I receive. So if you’re into any of that, you know, Odessey and Oracle is for you, too. —Dylan

The Very Best of Dusty Springfield
Dusty Springfield
1998, Island/Mercury

When you are practicing with Tavi’s beehive tutorial this weekend, put on a some Dusty Springfield. She was basically the one who, with her recordings from the late ’50s through the ’70s, paved the way for Adele and Amy Winehouse, although it’s hard to compare anyone to her, really. Dusty’s voice was filled with this powerful, emotion-invoking soul that kick-starts my heart in a totally different way than Mariah’s does, so obviously this means SOMETHING. “I Only Want to Be With You” showcases Dusty’s take on the girl-group sound, while her sultry voice echoes on “The Look of Love,” then she brings down the house with “Son of a Preacher Man” (my #1 karaoke choice). Dusty was also one of the few public people back then who openly spoke about being bisexual. Do yourself a favor and enter the church of Dusty. I will be sitting in the pews doing my makeup to look like her signature “panda eyes” waiting for your arrival. —Marie

Everything by the Mamas & the Papas
1965-1972

I decided to run for school president in high school, and my “platform” was basically to foist everything that was great about the ’60s onto the entire student body. For my campaign speech I came out blasting Donovan’s “Mellow Yellow” on a (paradoxical) boombox (it was 1987) in a pair of my mom’s humongous dragging bellbottoms covered in hand-painted “flower power” symbols. (I was not elected.) In my brain, the Mamas & the Papas were a huge part of everything that was great about the ’60s. I played and replayed my cassette tapes that held the magic of their signature sound: perfect four-part male/female vocal harmonies. But CASS ELLIOT is the true superstar of the group. It’s really all about HER VOICE and her perfection. Also: “California Dreamin’” is a perfect pop song. —Sonja

Le Jardin de Heavenly
Heavenly
1992, Sarah Records/K Records

This album is full of bright 1960s vibes, despite being recorded in a pretty grungy time. It’s one of the most landmark albums in twee, a genre that transformed punk ideals and bits of culture into something new and sweet and charming and awesome. Twee, and this album particularly, exhibit basically the same sentiments of punk, but without the teeth. Also, “C Is the Heavenly Option” is one of the most fun duets ever. —Amy Rose

God Help the Girl
God Help the Girl
2009, Rough Trade

If you are a fan of Belle and Sebastian’s lyrical wizardry, you may be familiar with the project God Help the Girl. Years ago, B&S lead singer Stuart Murdoch started writing songs that he felt weren’t exactly meant for B&S. He decided they should be sung by a female…and made into a film! The first time I heard this album’s title track, about a “girl warned to be contrary,” I laughed at how on point the contradictions in the song were to me personally, even though it was written by a MAN. I mean…“If he gave me a sign / I’d think about it for a week / I’d build it up / And then I’d turn him down.” UGH that has been me a time or two. After listening to more of the songs, I could see how they could easily be made into song-and-dance numbers for a musical. Last year, GHtG held a Kickstarter to raise money for the film’s production, and I just read that Elle Fanning is going to play one of the leads! Here’s a cute video of them performing live if you need any more convincing. —Marie

Transformer
Lou Reed
1972, RCA

You can listen to this record at any point in your life, no matter what’s going on, and it always sounds just right. That’s a scientific fact. There are only 11 tracks, but they contain an overwhelming amount of magic—like, how is there room for the genius of “Vicious” AND “Satellite of Love” AND “Perfect Day” on the same album? My favorite song, though, is “Walk on the Wild Side,” which covers the whole Warhol scene of the ’60s so beautifully, with references to drugs, gender-bending, and sexual exploits. It’s also really catchy and I always end up singing along when it comes on the radio, which has made for some really awkward car rides with my parents. —Anna

69 Love Songs
The Magnetic Fields
1999, Merge

Oh my god, this album. It just encompasses so many genres, condensing them into a beautiful and essential collection of songs about you and your heart and everything that you go through together. I would recommend not picking a particular song to “try out” before you get this—they’re all really short and work better when you hear them together. If you don’t like a given track, it’s fine, because the one that comes after it will most likely be wildly different. 69 Love Songs is one of those albums that you listen to and are like, “How did a group of human beings make music this good?” One of those game-changers. What a gorgeous, glorious thing this is. —Amy Rose

Everything by Flower Travellin’ Band
1968-1973, 2007-present

I like heavy music. Flower Travellin’ Band is a truly excellent Japanese heavy psych band created in the late ’60s by Yuya Uchida. The band was active in the early ’70s and took a gigantic hiatus till 2007. Uchida formed the band after visiting his friend John Lennon in the UK, where he had been influenced by Jimi Hendrix and Cream and wanted to introduce this sound to Japan. But whatever. FTB came up with their own thing altogether and it is pure psychedelic voodoo magic ROCK. I especially like the straight-ahead album MAKE UP. The album Satori from 1971 is a tripped-out mega-opus of PSYCH. Their old concert footage is so awesome I want to cry. —Sonja
P.S. I also highly recommend Animals by Pink Floyd.

Bitches Brew
Miles Davis
1970, Columbia

Released in early 1970, just as the last bit of innocence had been bled from the ’60s, Bitches Brew undoes jazz and then remakes it completely, in the process helping to invent jazz fusion. Later on fusion became synonymous with horrible, but right at that moment, on this album—with its clattering chaos and harsh, confounding tones, forceful bits of rock and free jazz snaring each other up—it was a revelation, the perfect mirror to America’s widening cultural abyss. It’s not an easy record to listen to—it’s harsh and melancholy, the songs are long and sharp—but it sold millions of copies. The first time I heard it, I cried. It was a revelation, the shape of an exact thing—a sound, a bleak expanse to get lost in—that I had always been missing. Even if you don’t think jazz is for you, is not your thing—this record just might be. —Jessica

There’s Gonna Be a Storm: The Complete Recordings 1966-1969
The Left Banke
1992, Mercury

I’m never sure which song to pick when introducing someone to the Left Banke for the first time. I usually end up going with “Pretty Ballerina” because it’s a perfect song, but there is so much to love about this amazing and often overlooked ’60s pop outfit. Just get the whole album—you’re likely to find a whole lot of new favorites. —Amy Rose

The Beatles (aka The White Album)
The Beatles
1968, Apple

This album transcends genres, simultaneously including pop, rock, folk and experimental sounds. I especially love the White Album because it seems to demonstrate the scope of the Beatles’ abilities, as well as the increasingly conflicting personalities of the four men in the band. And also Yoko! Yoko appears on this album! I’ve written here before that I like to treat Yoko Ono appreciation as a litmus test for how well I’ll get along with a person, and reading the comments on this YouTube video of people who just do not know how to deal with her fills me with feminist glee. —Anna

Romantically Yours
Twiggy
2011, EMI

After four years of modeling and basically changing the earth, Twiggy retired from that job in 1970, stating, “You can’t be a clothes hanger for your entire life!” She had other things to do—like acting and singing. Her voice is very pretty on this album, which includes covers of Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen” and Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” (she performs the latter with her daughter, Carly). Here she is on The Muppet Show singing a Beatles song and being her beautiful self:

(By the way, she got those eyes by layering three pairs of false eyelashes over her own and painting extra “twigs” underneath.) —Sonja

39 Comments

  • Ktkellz April 19th, 2012 11:24 PM

    Beyoncé is L I T E R A L L Y Etta James, though! In Cadillac Records! (w/ Adrien Brody mmm <3) It is a beautiful combination of my two fave things — drug abuse and raspy voices.
    (It is actually really good though and Adrien is dime and so is my homegirl B.)

  • teenager April 19th, 2012 11:28 PM

    I’m pretty sure 69 Love Songs is the soundtrack to my life
    + Lou Reed is just like, the coolest person to ever live
    + UHG THE MAMAS AND THE PAPAS.

    I bow down to Rookie for our mutual obsession with all things 60s-y!

    http://interstellarsuburbia.wordpress.com/

  • Starboardd April 19th, 2012 11:28 PM

    I once made a video of pictures of Thai Fried Rice using “At Last” as the background music. These are accurate feelings I feel for Thai Food, and thank god for Etta James.

  • KinuKinu April 19th, 2012 11:33 PM

    UM, who else is wigged out (watching Buffy too much is a thing) by Twiggy’s long hair. I love her regardless but WHOA. Never seen her with long hair before. I love her voice and plan to Youtube all of these songs. I listen to K-pop too much, so any other genre of music is now foreign to me. I practically know Korean. I’m a weirdo and I know it. Ok,Bye.
    p.s I almost officially done with my zine. Anyone interested in a TRADE of sorts?

    • TessAnnesley April 19th, 2012 11:52 PM

      I’l trade zines! I’ve been looking for someone to do this with! Do you have a tumblr/something like it so I can get it touch! :D

      • KinuKinu April 20th, 2012 4:20 PM

        OK,Awesome!! I don’t have a blog yet.I plan to make a tumblr for my zine.But right I don’t have one :( You can email me supergirlzine@gmail.com.I can’t wait :D

    • nutellacube April 20th, 2012 12:10 AM

      maybe I should start listening to Twiggy, since I pay way too much attention to Kpop. We may have similar tastes

      http://pennilesszen.blogspot.com
      http://canned-mumble.blogspot.com

      • KinuKinu April 20th, 2012 4:24 PM

        I love both of your blogs.Our tastes are super similar!! K-pop is ALL I listen to.I can’t stop.It’s addicting(if you like that sort of thing :D) Cooool,fellow K-poppers on Rookie.

  • TessAnnesley April 19th, 2012 11:51 PM

    omg music from the sixties is da best

  • tellyawhat April 20th, 2012 12:05 AM

    YESSSSSSS

    MAMA CASS & HEAVENLY are my dream boats. Transformer got me through high school. And Dusty Springfield, the Zombies and the White Album have been part of my shop soundtrack this spring.

    http://www.tellyawhat.com/2011/07/witchy-mama.html

    http://www.tellyawhat.com/2011/06/heavenly-for-sure.html

  • adriennelee April 20th, 2012 12:07 AM

    Um… YES YES YES @ Odessy and Oracle. One of my favorite albums of all time.

  • nutellacube April 20th, 2012 12:08 AM

    fuck yes Bitches Brew!!!

  • elleminte April 20th, 2012 12:14 AM

    Twiggy’s voice is so pleasant!

  • Susann April 20th, 2012 12:35 AM

    The Beatles will always be the best! :)

    http://fashioninpepperland.blogspot.com

  • missblack April 20th, 2012 1:00 AM

    MUH the Mamas and the Papas are my JAM. Any and every song of theirs is perfection.

    (and Dream A Little Dream Of Me is 65% of the reason I started playing the ukulele.)

    Little&Trivial

  • SpencerBowie April 20th, 2012 1:11 AM

    THE MAMAS AND THE PAPAS DID HELP ME THOUGH CHANGE!!! During summer when I was seventeen, THEY were the soundtrack of my life. My comfort, my inspireration, the best songs to listen to in the bed with headphones untill you see daylight!

    Plus, Twelve Thirty was written for ME!!! :)

    • SpencerBowie April 20th, 2012 1:18 AM

      Also, Love Angel Music Baby by Gwen Stefani CHANGED EVERYTHING ABOUT ME!!! That album introduced me to fashion, pop, albums (it was the first I bought with my own money), punk rock (yes I researched Vivienne Westwood and the pandoras box was OPENED!), from there to David Bowie, glam rock, 80′s new wave and beyond!!!

      Change indeed!

      All beacause she said…WHAT CHA WAITING FOR? :)

  • Arden April 20th, 2012 1:23 AM

    Have you heard the Los Campesinos! cover of “C is the Heavenly Option”? It is SO GOOD! A really good fit for their band to cover.

  • Madeline April 20th, 2012 1:27 AM

    This is so close to the playlist my friend and I played in her car the summer between the end of highschool and everything that came after highschool that it’s spooky.

  • etnorb April 20th, 2012 5:44 AM

    I love this! Especially ‘Bitches Brew’ by Miles Davis ^_^

    http://theflyingcatbus.tumblr.com/

  • Ginger April 20th, 2012 8:19 AM

    Why isn’t Push arman to Open Old Wounds or If You’re Feeling Sinister on here? Don’t get me wrong, GHTG if great, but no were near as fantabulous as the rest of B&S! Though I may be a bit bias, considering as they’re the only band to ever use my name in a song and spell it right (*cough*SukieInTheGraveyard*). And the rest of the list is wonderful! Etta James, The Zombies, The Mamas and the Papas… It’s like you raided my IPod! :)

  • flora April 20th, 2012 9:24 AM

    thank you for reminding me about the mamas and the papas….

    and now i dance!

  • dandylioness April 20th, 2012 9:32 AM

    God help the girl!!! Yay! Sometimes it feels like I’m the only one who listens to my type of music…

  • deuxiemesexe April 20th, 2012 9:44 AM

    Wait, Dylan, it is Colin Blunstone singing in “Care of Cell 44″… Rod Argent is the (marvellous) main songwriter of The Zombies.

  • wanderlusted April 20th, 2012 10:08 AM

    Oh my goodness…so reassuring to find others who share my love for these bands, since none of my friends really relate. The Zombies, The Left Banke, The Mamas and the Papas, and so many more have given me endless days filled with glorious pop sunshine and harmonies since my own driving-in-high-school times. I recommend giving some early Kinks a try!

  • rootytooty April 20th, 2012 10:08 AM

    if anyone is still doing legal album purchasing, it would be of note to know that the left banke cd mentioned is out of print! buuuut both of their albums were given a fancy pants reissuing and repress (on vinyl!) last year.

  • Moskje April 20th, 2012 10:52 AM

    <3 LOU REED

  • cherrycola27 April 20th, 2012 11:58 AM

    I love The Zombies! My senior year we used to play “the iPod game” which is when you put in headphones so you can’t hear yourself then belt out a song and embarrass yourself in front of your friends, and I remember picking “This Will Be Our Year” a time or two. :)

  • Madness April 20th, 2012 3:10 PM

    Wow. This will be our year IS my senior theme song!

    • Madness April 20th, 2012 3:14 PM

      And also I’m really happy to see Bitches Brew on this list. It truly is transfoormative

  • lavendersparrow April 20th, 2012 7:16 PM

    I love Etta James! I also adore the Mamas and the Papas. This gave me some new artsists to look into. Great article!

    http://lavendersparrow.wordpress.com/

  • Adrienne April 21st, 2012 2:40 AM

    Brilliant music as always! <3 Especially The Beatles and Etta James!!!

    http://theaverageasiangirl.blogspot.com

  • Juli April 21st, 2012 5:57 PM

    I could literally listen to Etta James FOREVER. Her voice is just so magnetic! Enough said.

  • Kaleidoscopeeyes April 21st, 2012 10:54 PM

    I feel like So Tonight That I Might See by Mazzy Star deserves a spot here because it’s nostalgia and the future and everything sounds better in my head and then I type it and it looks like ridiculous shit.

  • Caitlin Rose April 23rd, 2012 6:00 AM

    I am so glad you wrote something about Etta James!! I think she is wonderful and sometimes overlooked because of other amazing singers at the time of similar genre. Her voice can be so beautiful and fragile but sometimes so strong it makes me teary. Thank you Tavi!

  • christamelonae April 24th, 2012 3:12 PM

    I love Etta James, her voice is amazing!

  • parlamode May 7th, 2012 5:29 AM

    I always seem to find myself singing along to God help the girl it is so good.
    Xoxo
    Sasha
    http://bubblingupinblue.blogspot.com/

  • teabully May 12th, 2012 6:26 PM

    Magnetic Fields <3