Thursday, July 22, 2010

7/22/10 - Songs of the Summer, #27-28: "Wild Thing" and "Respect"

Top Song of 1966: "Wild Thing" by the Troggs and "Respect" by Aretha Franklin

"Wild Thing" is another stone-cold classic, and marks the first appearance of what would later become hard rock. The Troggs are no Led Zeppelin, but "Wild Thing" has some of the qualities that would later lead down the pathway to Zeppelin, Aerosmith, and on into Van Halen/GNR, etc.

First, the primitive sound, which is created by all the space between the guitars, bass, and drums. Listen to this contrasted with "Satisfaction", which has a fluid syncopation between the lead guitar (filling the space between each vocal line with a short melodic lead), the drums (which dance in and out of the mix around the bass, taking only a brief solo spot near the end of the chorus. Sonically, the song is relatively dense - there's only a few parts where everything drops out just for Jagger to sing over the drums.

"Wild Thing" is all pounding quarter notes during the verses, power chords underpinning the sneering lead vocal. And then the point counterpoint of a simple two chord call and response where everything drops out for the vocals. It's like "Satisfaction" with another layer or two stripped out. Richards said that he envisioned the main riff for "Satisfaction" being played on horns; it's impossible to imagine anything in "Wild Thing" being replaced by a horn section.

The primitive simplicity would be sped up by the Ramones and others and turned into punk, but the stop-start dynamics and blues pounding would lead down to songs like "Smoke On The Water", et all. AC/DC is the ethos of "Wild Thing" perfected - in '66, the Troggs were like the first shot across the bow fired by the S.S. Caveman Rock and Roll.

Top Song of 1967: "Respect" by Aretha Franklin

Another classic. It's easy to see how this turned into an unofficial feminist anthem. Compared to the most recent two female-sung songs on the summer charts in previous years ("It's My Party" and "The Locomotion"), this is take-no-quarter firebreather of a gospel raveup. Prime Aretha is less a singer than a force of nature; the power of her vocals belies the whole "just a little bit" lyric: she may say she's only asking for a little respect, but the way she comes at this song it sounds like an ironclad demand for a whole lot of it. It was Aretha's idea to cover the song, and her idea to add all the "Sock it to me"s, and in general she pretty much owns the song.

But a word about the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. The Drive-by Truckers sang about the duality of "The Southern Thing" so memorably on their landmark album Southern Rock Opera, and this song is a good example of it. Only three years earlier the famous Birmingham church burning that killed four young girls rocked Alabama and the nation; even now, as Patterson Hood observes, Alabama carries the cultural imagery of Bull Conner and George Wallace. Less is made of the fact that Alabama musicians put down everything but the piano on "Respect", as well as many other songs recorded by black artists of the period. Even I make references to Alabama as the Deep South with a knowing smirk, though I've never been there, and I hardly have the right. There in the texture of "Respect" is the history coalition that America has always wrestled with, and its presence on oldies radio and at wedding dances show either progress, or blindness, or the inevitable mix of both.

1 comment:

ariyele said...

so interesting to see what songs make it to the number one spot in two years. wild thing is so different from respect. also, you so smart ;)