Desert Island Discs: 1960s Classic Rock Edition

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Our voters for 1960s-era classic rock Desert Island Discs were of two minds: The band of the decade was clearly the Beatles, while the album vote went to the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds.

The Fabs received 12 total votes from 11 voters — yep, DeRiso had two Beatles albums on his list — but with those nods spread out between four separate projects: Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s and Abbey Road. (The Beatles earned both more first- and second-place nods — with five and four, respectively.) Each of the seven votes for the Beach Boys was for Pet Sounds.

<<< BACKWARD (Live albums!) ||| ONWARD (1970s R&B, Soul and Funk!) >>>

Elsewhere, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Bob Dylan both received four total votes, while Jimi Hendrix earned three. The Band, Pink Floyd and Chicago found their way onto a pair of lists.

That still leaves room for the Rolling Stones, Joni Mitchell, Paul Butterfield, Sly Stone, CSN and Cream, among many others, as we grab the ’60s classic rock records we simply couldn’t live without if something went wrong on our three-hour tour … our three-hour tour …


1. THE BEATLES – RUBBER SOUL (1965): A confession: I actually skip over a track or two on both Revolver and Sgt. Pepper. But not Rubber Soul.
2. THE BEACH BOYS – PET SOUNDS (1966): Brian Wilson sent the Beatles back to the drawing board with this record. That’s how good it is.
3. PAUL BUTTERFIELD BLUES BAND – EAST/WEST (1966): This one ushered in the long-form rock jam later championed by the Allman Brothers. It works great if you have a good enough guitarist and few were better than Mike Bloomfield.
4. JIMI HENDRIX – ELECTRIC LADYLAND (1968): The fullest manifestation of Hendrix’s talents, especially his talent for obliterating the lines between “white” and “black” music.
5. CROSBY STILLS AND NASH – CROSBY STILLS AND NASH (1969): No need to fuss over whether to bring a Buffalo Springfield, Byrds or Hollies record to the island when this record combines some of the best strands of all three. And those three part harmonies set a bar that’s yet to be cleared.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Even the Beatles sometimes, well, sucked. Join us as we count down the times where the Fab Four took a bad song … and made it worse.]


1. THE BEACH BOYS – PET SOUNDS (1966): Those who initially dismissed the group as a bunch of guys singing about girls, cars, and the beach must have been shocked by this landmark rock album. With Pet Sounds, Brian Wilson proved himself to be a master songwriter and arranger.
2. THE BEATLES – REVOLVER (1966): Sgt. Pepper may have captured the ’60s zeitgeist, but Revolver forever changed the rock world through its songwriting, sound loops, and avant-garde touches.
3. JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE – ARE YOU EXPERIENCED? (1967): With this one album, Hendrix shattered any preconceptions of what a rock guitar can sound like. Anyone could instantly identify the unforgettable riffs from such classics as “Foxy Lady,” “Purple Haze,” and “Fire.”
4. SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE – STAND! (1969): Sly Stone became the eccentric genius of soul, and this album became his most artistic statement yet. In addition to more socially conscious lyrics, tracks like “Sing A Simple Song” blurred rock and funk like never before.
5. CREDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL – WILLY AND THE POOR BOYS (1969): What a formidable band CCR was, and this album contained so many strong tracks. In addition, few songs better defined late 1960s turmoil like “Fortunate Son.”

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Who would have guessed, after decades of awful public squabbling, that the battling Beach Boys would return at all — must less in perfect harmony?]


1. THE BEATLES – REVOLVER (1966): The Beatles at their most inventive and varied–stylistically, thematically, and lyrically. In addition to major contributions from George, Revolver makes for a prime and eclectic showcase for John and Paul’s increasingly divergent approaches to songwriting, experimentalism, and execution.
2. THE BEACH BOYS – PET SOUNDS (1967): More bicycle bell! Cohesive and purposeful in its conceptual chronicling of the downward spiral of love and relationships, from romance to ruin, Pet Sounds reaps the benefits of allowing a freed-up Brian to fully implement his idiosyncratic production skills and craftsmanship.
3. BOB DYLAN – HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED (1965): “I had to rearrange their faces, and give them all another name”: Dylan orders up a jarring new reality that runs an evocative gamut from the hard-knocks bristle of “Like a Rolling Stone,” to the harrowing surrealism of “Desolation Row.” You know something is happening here.
4. THE KINKS – ARTHUR [OR THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE] (1969): While others were cranking up Grand Funk or Meddle, I was putting on the headphones to backtrack and blast irresistible pop-rock — from a group banned from touring in the U.S. yet — about the “land of my Victoria” or a song about postwar tin-drives and what “Mr. Churchill said.” Witty, raucous, wry and all Ray Davies.
5. CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL – GREEN RIVER (1969): CCR’s no-muss, no-fuss brand of earthy and earnest accessibility nevertheless contains a dark undercurrent of a “Bad Moon Rising,” or a “Sinister Purpose.” There’s thoughtful nostalgia in “remember[ing] things I love,” but there’s also a refuge and solace: “You’re gonna find the world is smould’rin,’ and if you get lost come on home to Green River.”

[SHOWS I’LL NEVER FORGET: On this night, Bob Dylan once again proved he was no fan of history. And that’s why I’ve been a fan of his for so long.]


1. CREAM – WHEELS OF FIRE (1968): Sure, it had a crazy-long drum solo. But it also had that brutal cover of “Crossroads,” a wicked take on Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful,” and of course there’s the bolero-driven “White Room.”
2. THE BEATLES – REVOLVER (1966): “Tomorrow Never Knows” goes in my top 10 of great psychedelic rock tunes.
3. JEFFERSON AIRPLANE – SURREALISTIC PILLOW (1967): Oh my gawd: Embryonic Journey -> White Rabbit -> Plastic Fantastic Lover. It’s enough to build a career on.
4. PINK FLOYD – THE PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN (1967): Filled with heavy psychedelia (“Astronomy Domine,” “Interstellar Overdrive”), but leavened with Syd Barrett’s sense of drug-induced whimsy (“Bike,” “The Gnome”), this album has new details to give up even after all of these decades.
5. THE DOORS – THE DOORS (1967): Yeah, Morrison could certainly be a jerk, but he was a jerk with too many brains in his head. I can’t live without “The End.”

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: We dig back into some favorite Eric Clapton tracks from across his storied career, including “Had To Cry Today,” “Pilgrim,” “The Core” and others.]


1. THE BEATLES – ABBEY ROAD (1969): The boys saved their best for last. The album offers a little bit of every style of music The Beatles knew how to play, all done to perfection.
2. CHICAGO – CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY (1969): The 3rd DID list this album has appeared on. The best horn rock record ever. Case closed.
3. THE BEACH BOYS – PET SOUNDS (1966): So much has been written about this wonderful set of music that writing about it again almost seems trite. Listening to it today makes me sadder than in the past because of everything Brian Wilson went through in his life. The best pop vocal album ever made.
4. JOHN MAYALL – BLUESBREAKERS WITH ERIC CLAPTON (1966): This is the album that made Eric Clapton’s reputation and elevated him to god-like status. Before Hendrix blew onto the scene a year later, Slowhand became the first eternal guitar hero.
5. LED ZEPPELIN – II (1969): I’m not a metal fan, and I know this album really isn’t metal, but it was the template for all the 100s of metal bands that followed. It’s perfect for days when I want to disturb the fish swimming near my island.

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1. THE BEACH BOYS – PET SOUNDS (1966): This is, in my view, one of the most perfect albums ever constructed. It features a horde of bells, organs, flutes, harpsichords, dog whistles, strings, and dogs – and yet it may well be one of the most heartfelt and pure records put to wax.
2. THE BEATLES – REVOLVER (1966): Often credited as one of the first psychedelic records, Revolver featured loads of studio innovation – like reverse guitar and looped effects – but never lost its melodic core in the ruckus.
3. BOB DYLAN – BLONDE ON BLONDE (1966): Because 1966 was a really good year and because Dylan’s poetry has rarely been so compassionate. And because nobody was better at playing New York hipster run through a Nashville mesh.
4. THE BAND – MUSIC FROM BIG PINK (1968): This is one of those albums that really showcased a band as a band, cohesive and close. Three of the songs are Dylan songs, but the best song (“The Weight”) comes from the impeccable mind of Toronto-born Robbie Robertson.
5. THE ROLLING STONES – LET IT BLEED (1969): This December 1969 release introduces Mick Taylor and says goodbye to Brian Jones. It also encapsulates nothing less than pure dread, dumping nothing less than the Apocalypse through the speakers. It also features Keith Richards on lead vocals by himself for the first time (“You Got the Silver”) and sets off a bomb with “Gimme Shelter.”

[REMEMBERING LEVON HELM: We celebrate Levon Helm’s stirring legacy both as a solo artist and as the loamy voiced, rail-jumping rhythmic center point of the Band.]


1. CHICAGO – CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY (1969): This album has made it to multiple lists for good reason. It’s a classic, it’s a gem and that fiery energy burns just as hot today as it did when the album was first released when it was recorded.
2. THE BEATLES – ABBEY ROAD (1969): No ’60s list would be complete without at least one Beatles album and Abbey Road is my favorite Beatles album. Having been born a few years after the Beatles split up, my perspective on them is decidedly different than many other Beatles fans but to me this album seems to aged the best of all the albums in their brilliant catalog. It sounds nearly as fresh now as when it was recorded and released.
3. THE SONS OF CHAMPLIN – LOOSEN UP NATURALLY (1969): Another album that keeps popping up on my lists and with good reason: The Sons of Champlin were a tight unit with monster talent.
4. THE MOODY BLUES – DAYS OF FUTURE PASSED (1967): I finally took the advice of all those who recommended this gem and I was not disappointed. Lush and beautiful, one of the first “prog-rock” albums — and they set the stage for many other great acts to follow in their wake.
5. THE BEACH BOYS – PET SOUNDS (1967): The Beach Boys’ masterpiece. There’s not a bad song on this. Lush and atmospheric the pinnacle of Brian Wilson’s musical genius.

[SOMETHING ELSE INTERVIEW: Bill Champlin makes an impassioned defense for the David Foster-era of Chicago, saying he “really put some life back in that band.”]


1. THE BEATLES – REVOLVER (1966): Mercurial and majestic, Revolver produces sonic orgasms at every decibel. With each passing album, the Beatles pushed the envelope farther and farther, but this disc surpassed even their own lofty vision.
2. THE YARDBIRDS – ROGER THE ENGINEER (1966): Always an experimental lot, the Yardbirds turned the innovation on full force here. Electric blues multiplied by two, divided in half by psychedelic freakouts galore, added with a pinch of jazz and country tossed in for good measure, and there you have it.
3. PAUL REVERE AND THE RAIDERS – MIDNIGHT RIDE (1966): Garbed in colonial war costumes, Paul Revere and the Raiders were marketed as a teen dream band. Mixing music with comedy, their live shows were wildly entertaining and stacks of discs were sold in the process. But on record, the band nixed the humor and laid down some of the roughest, toughest tunes imaginable.
4. THE BYRDS – YOUNGER THAN YESTERDAY (1967): One of the most influential and inventive bands of the decade, the Byrds released yet another masterpiece with ‘Younger Than Yesterday,’ which seamlessly combines folk, country, jazz, psychedelic rock and stream of consciousness mumbo jumbo into a singular collection of stunning performances.
5. CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL – BORN ON THE BAYOU (1969): Taking inspiration from the rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll sounds of icons like Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Little Richard, and slapping a fresh spin on the bopping stuff, Creedence Clearwater Revival provided a nice diversion to the self-indulgent, acid-wracked jams that were so prevalent during the era. Exploding with catchy songs, “Born On The Bayou” informs us just how tight and energetic these guys were.

[BEYOND THE BEATLES’ HITS: Think you know the Fab Four? Kit O’Toole’s ‘Deep Beatles’ series takes you into some undiscovered corners of the group’s ageless musical legacy.]


1. JONI MITCHELL – CLOUDS (1969): “I’ve looked at life from both sides now, from up and down, and still somehow, it’s life’s illusions I recall, I still don’t know life at all.” — how sweet, sorrowful, and beautiful these lyrics are. For me, no truer words were ever spoken through song.
2. THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE – ARE YOU EXPERIENCED? (1967): The thing I love about Hendrix is that you can really sink your teeth into his music. It evokes a kind of rawness out of us. But the magic is with his versatility on songs like “Red House,” a 12-bar blues, where we get a bit of a softer shade mixed in.
3. THE BEATLES – SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS BAND CLUB (1967): This album is PACKED! “A Day in the Life,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “With a Little Help from My Friends,” “When I’m Sixty-Four” … Need I say more?
4. CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL – GREEN RIVER (1969): Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t listen to “Green River” without dancing.
5. SIMON AND GARFUNKEL – BOOKENDS (1968): The rain just finished pouring down here in England, the sun is starting to burst through the clouds, glaring down — I can’t think of a better song than “Bookends” to go along with this moment.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: The Beach Boys have — let’s face it — often charted a roadmap to disappointment. Join as we count down the times when this legendary band, well, sucked.]


1. THE BEACH BOYS – PET SOUNDS (1966): In so many words, McCartney has basically said without this masterpiece there would have never been a Sgt. Pepper’s. But then again without Rubber Soul, there might not have been a Pet Sounds. Regardless, this album was Brian Wilson’s euphonious pearl to the world.
2. THE BAND – THE BAND (1969): Songwriter Bernie Taupin once said this album felt like a passport back to America for people that had become so estranged with their own country; they felt like foreigners even when they were in it. No other description has ever pegged their sound more precisely, or poetically.
3. THE BEATLES – SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND (1967): The album where they went from being performers, to undeniable artists that would forever change the Western world. This is the single album that embodies completely the revolutionary spirit of its time.
4. BOB DYLAN – HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED (1965): With a bluesy-rock sound intertwined with his profound lyrics, Dylan painted a picture of the current state of his splintered county, as well as a glimpse of what was to come. But where Dylan did this with his words and a flat box before, he now had gigantic amplifiers and an electric all-star band with the likes of Mike Bloom?eld on lead.
5. THE GRATEFUL DEAD – LIVE/DEAD (1969): This collection of live performances is the upper crust of rock improvision. Considered the meat and potatoes of what a jamband should strive for.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: An intrepid group including S. Victor Aaron, Nick DeRiso, Kit O’Toole and Beverly Paterson took a second look at the Beatles’ masterpiece finale ‘Abbey Road.’]


1. THE BEATLES – ABBEY ROAD (1969): If you’re a McCartney fan, this remains his brightest, most artistically satisfying, moment. However, it’s Lennon’s punctuations (and, to a quickly emerging degree, Harrison’s), that undoubtably make it so. For a band moments away from imploding, I think Beatles fans particularly love Abbey Road because those separate personalities seem whole again for one last, shining moment.
2. THE BAND – THE BAND (1969): Practically a greatest-hits package all on its own, every important permutation of the Band’s quickly emerging legend can be found inside this loose-knit yet completely assured song cycle that examines our familial and societal connections amid dying traditions.
3. THE BEATLES – REVOLVER (1966): A triumph in every important way. The album is by turns sun-filled and sublime, folky then kaleidoscopic, but never (I’m looking at you, Paul) hokey. George’s contributions are finally measurable, and we get the first — and some of the best — tastes of John’s trippy 1960s psychedelia.
4. BOB DYLAN – HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED (1965): The gauntlet could be found clanging around on the floor from the opening stanza of Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” a career-making track from this second electric album. “The first two lines,” Dylan once said, “which rhymed ‘kiddin’ you’ with ‘didn’t you,’ just about knocked me out.” Me, too.
5. PINK FLOYD – PIPER AND THE GATES OF DAWN (1967): The Floyd effort most strongly influenced by the doomed genius Syd Barrett — whose hallucinogenic, weirdly innocent lyricism is decisively offset by the spacey gloom of the instrumentation, in particular the work of secret-weapon keyboardist Richard Wright. To my ears, the greatest psychedelic rock album ever.

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