Tag: The Beatles

Mojo Reviews Challenge #007 – Phil Ochs – All The News That’s Fit To Sing

Front Cover copyWhere I dig into something I’ve not heard before, from the reviews section of old Mojo Magazines, on an irregular basis.

Phil Ochs
All The News That’s Fit To Sing
1964 – Elektra

It’s pretty interesting that I’ve never dived into the career of Phil Ochs. I love this era of music. The pre Beatles American folk scene – so well captured in ‘Inside Llewyn Davis‘. The period Chris Thile says that Greenwich Village was the world’s living room of beatniks and poets.

Phil Ochs is always held up as one of the best – and worst – examples of the era. His music managed to reach and connect people. But he doggedly refused to stray from his politics, even when the world moved on. His later years was also marked by personal problems and a struggle to change his sound.

But that is all later, as we are talking about his first album – All The News That’s fit To Sing. He is young, his voice is clear and his ideas are fresh. It is reviewed in Mojo alongside his second album ‘I Ain’t Marching Anymore‘.

My knowledge of Phil Ochs pretty much comes from his mentions in Bob Dylan biographies and his most vocal champion, Billy Bragg. So as I got this album, I also decide to watch the documentary ‘There But For Fortune‘. It is excellent and tells his full story. There’s also heaps of footage, none of which I can find full clips for online. My one big takeaway from the film – how many men did Bob Dylan psychologically destroy? Ochs, Donovan, Dave Van Ronk, the fictional Llewyn Davis….what a jerk!

The worst things about 60s folk are nowhere to be found. The songs are melodic and memorable, not flat and droning. His lyrics are often clever and memorable. But what is most interesting to my new ears is how much heart is in the songs. He genuinely wants to save lives. His sad to see the world fall apart. His anger would rise, but now it seems like a young man sad and trying to change the world.

That he can sustain the one-man-and-one-guitar schtick is impressive. He has a couple of things going for him. One More Parade, Too Many Martyrs and others are emotional, filled with genuine sadness and regret. Or he fills his words with so many ideas and images that there is always something new to discover.

It’s dated, but it was always going to. Mentions of Soviets, Vietnam and Nazis, it could only be the sixties. Yet, it’s powerful stuff, and one wonders why there aren’t equivalent songs about our times. How chickenshit are modern bands?

It is kinda crazy that this album has not come my way earlier. There was a few years here when I would have been responsible for this album. Having never been given a lovin reissue by Elektra, it has passed me by. Which begs the question – why? When even Judee Sill gets lavish reissues, surely this album is deserving of the same treatment? A reappraisal is overdue.

Hippies get a bad wrap, and protest music is out of fashion. It went out of fashion very soon after this album in fact. The Beatles would destroy Ochs. But right now, the world could still be changed by one-man-and-one-guitar. It still sounds pretty good today.


Continuous Hit Music: Paul & Linda McCartney – Ram

Continuous Hit Music – a weekly exploration of vinyl finds in 2012. Read ‘em all here.

Artist: Paul & Linda McCartney
Title: Ram
Original Release: 1971
Label: Apple
Store: St Vincent De Pauls, 683 Darling Street Rozelle NSW
Price: $2
(Original Australian printing)

This record was happily sitting in a bargain bin at Rozelle St Vinnies. Most St Vinnies seem to have a box of records somewhere, usually for a dollar or two. There’s really about a 1 in 3 chance to actually find something good amongst the battered old soundtracks and forgotten country compilations. So, to find one of my favourite albums for $2 randomly is quite a find.

Ram. The only album credited to Paul & Linda McCartney. I know it’s weird to say, but it’s my favourite album that Paul McCartney was ever involved in, and by default my favourite album involving any Beatle. It gets a lot of flack because, I guess, people hate Linda. But I love Linda. And I love how in love with her Paul was. And I love this album that they made.

Ram was the first album McCartney made after he left the Beatles (his first solo album was made in a weird period when he was still technically a Beatle). To escape from it all, they moved to their Scottish farm, and made this rustic, sweet down home recordings. The big people’s anthems that Lennon wrote were missing here, this was a small scale record. Another reason it is hated, I guess.

But the songs are just so sweet. McCartney’s sense of melody is on top form. The yearning “Dear Boy”, the little uke & voice ditty of “Ram On” – all very simple but very beautiful. The biggest thing approaching an anthem was the two part “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”, even that has that has McCartney making phone ringing noises with his mouth. Not really “Imagine” then.

The legend looms large for me. Most of my love for Paul and Linda together comes from this period. Hiding away on their farm, experimenting with sounds, no doubt wearing awesome sweaters, making music for the fun of it. People say Yoko broke up the Beatles, but I think Paul only had the strength to leave that band because he had Linda. And Linda was an extraordinary woman, if not much of singer. She is McCartney’s muse, and that alone makes her more important to the story of popular music than all but three people ever.

I can listen to this album all day. And it ends on one of McCartney’s absolute best songs – “The Back Seat Of My Car”. It’s got those Pet Sounds chords and sadness, and the story is of two young lovers running away to be together. Not only is it a great song for everyone, I imagine Paul and Linda, both about to hit 30, living like they are teens again. They sound so young, so in love, so invigorated.

Macca makes great music to this day, but I keep going back to Ram. And maybe it’s age on my part too. “Imagine” sounds silly to me now. And I get less impressed by big production as the years go on. Something down home and lovely will do.

My copy has a tag taped to it, declaring this album as belonging to ‘Liz Marshall’. She took very good care of it – it doesn’t skip and sounds great. I assume Liz was the first owner, and I don’t know how it ended up in Rozelle St Vinnies. But thank you Liz for passing your copy of this wonderful album on. You’ll be glad to know it’s found a loving home.