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Top Ten Tunes

Glenn A. Baker

music writer, broadcaster

Ladies and Gentlemen! A little hush if you please in the Dayglo...we know the Kahluas and milk are kicking in about now (for those of you who unwisely choose not to be drinking Two Paddocks on this your big night out) and you're all a tad over-excited, but look, tonight you'll not just be dancing, but you might just learn something. Because tonight's special guest DJ knows more about rock, and pop, than pretty much anyone else alive. So much so he won "Rock Brain of the Universe" no less than three times on the BBC. It has been his life's work. At last, someone who knows what they are talking about. Not just that, but he's managed bands (notably Ol' 55, with the brilliant Frankie J. Holden), writes music, has done his time -- decades -- on radio and television, run record labels (you remember actual records...Raven Records he runs to this day), written countless books and articles on music, and heaps of other stuff. We love him at HQ as he helps while away the hours on our favourite airline QANTAS with his regular audio programme "Reelin' in the Years."

He is a scholar of music, a booster of Australian music in particular, and above all a fan. He knows everyone living or dead in popular music, and has stories about them all. He is also a generous and good bloke, he's great company, and we are delighted to have him here in the Dayglo (this weeks colour -- chunder-chartreuse), a big Dayglo Dazzle of a hand for the distinguished and learned...Mr GLENN A. BAKER!

  1. Like a Rolling Stone - Bob Dylan

    We are all captives of our adolescence and, musically, mine began not so much with the Beatles as with a burst of confrontation, allegory, opaque poetry and stream-of-consciousness that washed away yeah yeah yeah and moon-June-spoon. The radio would never sound the same after I'd been exposed to Bob Dylan's Like A Rolling Stone, with Al Kooper's incomparable and eternally evocative organ intro (rather amazing for a guitarist). I knew I would be a writer after I'd lived with this for a few months. The Blood On The Tracks album, from a decade later, remains my favourite long player.

  2. My Generation - The Who

    My GNow whether it was 1965 or me being 13 in 1965, I skittered around like the steel ball on a pinball table. When The Who's amphetamine-fuelled vocalist Roger Daltrey stammered “Why don't you all ffffade away....... I hope I die before I get old” in My Generation, I almost went out and bought a razor blade (which would have been no use at all to me for shaving). Chairman Pete Townshend, with his windmilling guitar, his absolute understanding of his generation's confused stance, was a worthy hero. The pure anarchy of the Who was the punk era's blueprint. That Clash probably owed them royalties.

  3. That's Alright Mama - Elvis Presley

    I was the only kid I knew who went backwards as well as forward when rock'n'roll enveloped me. Elvis Presley may not have mattered much when the Who/Stones/Beatles/Yardbirds/Animals/ Kinks were reigning but I understood implicitly just what he had done a decade before at 706 Union Avenue in Memphis. When I got hold of the Sun Sessions I could hear white country and black rhythm being fused into rock'n'roll before my very ears. Which song? Buggered if I can choose between That's Alright Mama, Mystery Train, Trying to Get To You and Good Rockin' Tonight.

  4. Be My Baby - Ronettes

    He must have been insufferable to be in a studio or even a room with but the Napoleonic Phil Spector arrogantly thrust upon us a Wall of Sound that increased your heart rate and pulse. His name is on the writer credits for some of the most loved songs of their time (You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' Spanish Harlem) but what really matters is that when he heard Veronica Bennett's Hispanic lisp and saw he beehive and slit skirt he cast the Ronettes into immortality with Be My Baby. He also married her and left Ronnie Spector a sad and imprisoned lady but that's another story. River Deep Mountain High could represent him just as well but he didn't fall in love with Tina.

  5. Friday on My Mind - Easybeats

    I have to go back to '65 again. Sitting in my jim jams cross legged before the telly watching The Easybeats on Saturday Date, absorbing instantly that they were both the Beatles and the Stones and that they were ours, even if they were actually a bunch of ragged rock urchins from England, Scotland and Holland who'd only been down under for five minutes. Eight smash hits in eighteen months and then off to England to create a working class anthem that would capture David Bowie's imagination so much that he'd later cover it -- Friday On My Mind. Vanda & Young would do it again with Good Times and a brace of ambitious London studio masterpieces such as Falling Off The Edge Of The World. Heaven & Hell and Come In you'll Get Pneumonia.

  6. Surf's Up - The Beach Boys

    Like Spector, Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson was crafting pocket symphonies for the kids and the word genius was not misplaced when it came to the epic Good Vibrations. But the step toward his unparalleled masterpiece was found in its follow-up, Heroes and Villains, with compelling words by Van Dyke Parks. The association crumbled in a narcotic haze but not before they put together Surf's Up for the ill-fated Smile album. Rescued to be a 1971 album title track, its shimmering majesty, its poetic complexity, it's sheer bloody beauty makes it rock's Mona Lisa. I have no idea what it means yet it moves me so powerfully every time I hear it.

  7. I Think It's Going To Rain Today - Randy Newman

    You can throw in a few dittos for I Think It's Going To Rain Today. Wry, dry Randy Newman, a lifetime before he was winning Oscars for Toy Story songs, was defining the genre of the singer-songwriter for all time, with little tossed-off gems that took the piss and also put an icepick through your heart. Like Jimmy Webb's The Moon's A Harsh Mistress, this perfect observation of the human condition is moving in almost any treatment, though I'm particularly partial to Joe Cocker's and Judy Collins'. Those opening words should be engraved on marble somewhere: “Broken windows and empty hallways, a pale dead moon in a sky streaked with gray. Human kindness is overflowing and I think it's going to rain today.” A considerably younger Jackson Browne almost got there with These Days but Randy gets the cigar.

  8. What's Going On - Marvin Gaye

    I feel almost guilty passing over I Heard It Through The Grapevine, with its eerily atmospheric opening lines and Motown pre-eminence, but Marvin Gaye -- who was pretty much unknown to anyone listening to Australian radio in the 60s and 70s - climbed into another stratosphere again with his What's Going On album and song in 1971. So on the money about the forces shaping his environment was he that he frightened even his label boss Berry Gordy, who'd have preferred to have incinerated the tapes than release them. Like Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, it came from another place and each year gains another captivated following.

  9. Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen

    To be dubbed a love child of Phil Spector is too odious a tag to place on anyone but Bruce ‘ The Boss' Springsteen existed because he and a brace of other determined creators lit up their firmaments with honking, howling, pumping, sweating rock'n'roll. The New Jersey folkie of two Dylanish albums arrived commercially on the simultaneous covers of Time and Newsweek and then showed what all the fuss was about with his own Like A Rolling Stone moment -- the instinctive illumination of Born To Run, left him places to go though none would ever be as scintillating. Rendered live with his E. Street Band it was truly cataclysmic. “Oh Baby this town rips the bones from your back, it's a death trap, it's a suicide rap, We're gotta get out while we're young ‘cause tramps like us baby we were born to run.” Apocalyptic visions indeed. RIP Clarence.

  10. Don't Look Back in Anger - Oasis

    Ornery and irritating little bastards they might have been but the Gallagher brothers understood the essential elements of rock like few others. Oasis wanted so very badly to be their generation's Beatles and must have been watching a video of the Fab Four playing Hey Jude on the David Frost Show when they cooked up the rather grand and eloquent Don't Look Back In Anger. It think I was permanently positioned in my consciousness when I saw the video clip, with Patrick MacNee driving a black cab in a county estate as if he belonged there. A perfect hook and refrain: “And so Sally can wait, she knows it's too late as we're walking on by. Her soul slides away but don't look back in anger I hear you say.” I guess I'm a sucker for a chorus.

Is that ten? Oh dear, what about Waterloo Sunset, A Day In The Life, Pretty Vacant, You Can't Always Get What You Want, Goin' Back, Fortunate Son, Return Of The Grevious Angel, Mr. Tambourine Man, Golden Miles, Rain, Before Too Long, Immigrant Song, Walking On The Moon, Suite Judy Blue Eyes, I'm Not In Love, Both Sides Now, Alfie, What Is Life, Life On Mars, A Change Is Gonna Come, Strange Fruit, Try A Little Tenderness, In Dreams, Reason To Believe, Orchard Road, The Logical Song, Tutti Frutti, That'll Be The Day, Blue Suede Shoes, almost anything by Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie, more Leiber & Stollers than I can count, the perfect pop of Dancing Queen, Heart of Glass, Venus, West End Girls and I Got You, and a few thousand others. Oh well, you all know who you are.

Well, what intolerable torture to ask a man who loves music more than life itself, so much music, to whittle it down to only 10 songs! Too bad Glenn old boy, that's the way we do it here.

But what a list! Can't possibly take issue with any of these (with the exception of those pallid 60's-wannabes Oasis), and look there it is -- the song that the Prop considers the greatest 3 minutes in rock history The Beach Boys' Surf's Up, a pocket symphony... Glenn A. Baker -- a man of erudition and enlightenment, and a Top 10 to write home about. Beautiful work.

Thanks Glenn mate. Ladies and Gents, another roar if you please as he modestly leaves the stage... Mr Glenn A. Baker!

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