Following Diana Ross' exit from the Supremes, the pressure for her solo career was on. Her debut single, the inspirational "Reach Out And Touch (Somebody's Hand)", under-performed. It peaked at #20. In response, songwriters Ashford & Simpson opted for a more unconventional route for single #2 - a reworking of Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough". The original version was a breezy back-and-forth duet about unstoppable love; where not even the most extreme peaks of the Earth's topography could get in their way. Diana's version, however, rearranges the entire structure. The exhilarating chorus doesn't appear until the end and the verses are spoken instead of sung.
Her rendition also turns "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" into a moment of spiritual rejuvenation. The surrounding Gospel choir comforts her throughout; especially when she cries out those overpowering "ahhhhhhhhh"'s. In the first verse, the instrumental and vocals hush to a minimal volume, while she gives a final goodbye to her ex. The break-up isn't a result of bitter circumstances, however. He's forced to move on to fulfill his dreams. Her tone starts off reassuring and accepting; stating she'll be "there in a hurry" if things change and that she'll be okay ("...only needs the thought of you to grow"). However, desperation soon surfaces in the "please, my darling, let it be me" line.
The second verse leads into this "no wind, no rain" bridge, which involves Diana finding relief in the backing choir. The intense "if you are gone" finally upsets her and, during the third verse, the tension escalates. The piano and guitar pings take prominence and uncertainty emerges in her voice. Her tone now sounds like a warning (like she's saying "don't you dare forget about me"). This climaxes in this big twist: "Just remember what I told you / The day I set you free". He didn't break-up with her, she broke up with him. She recognized that she was holding him back, but loved him enough to let him find happiness without her. The rest of the song is then carried by the "mountains, valleys, rivers" chorus. At first, it's a proclamation supported by blaring horns; but the melody and orchestra soon ease up to help lift Diana's spirits.
"Ain't No Mountain High Enough" is an intriguing song. It's a mature perspective and Diana is a fighter.
Note: the album version is over 6 minutes long, but the single edit cuts it down.
After years of minimal success as a songwriter, Neil Diamond finally caught a break in 1966. "Cherry, Cherry" introduced him to the Hot 100 top 10, and his composition "I'm A Believer" became a massive hit for the Monkees. His first #1 as a singer, however, would have to wait nearly four more years.
"Cracklin' Rosie" can be interpreted two ways: he's either hooking up with prostitutes or he's guzzling low quality wine. The phrases "poor man's lady" and "store-bought woman" indicate that he's using them as a substitute for an actual woman. And the line "No need to say please to no man / For a happy tune" hints that his standards are low. It's Neil's cure for the lonely nights. He performs "Cracklin' Rosie" as if it's the drunken jam he wishes to hear on the bar jukebox that night. The buoyant melody raises his spirits and he continually requests someone to "play it now". However, his anguish and misery soon escalate at the end of every verse and chorus. The horns and strings contribute to both the relief and tension. His voice also cracks on lines like "a poor man's lady" and "if it lasts for an hour". Which signifies him acknowledging his escape will be temporary. But, with lines like "that's all right / We got all night to set the world right", he's going to enjoy it while it lasts.
The chorus begins like a clappy sing-along. Neil's voice becomes tipsy as he flirts with the female backing singers ("You got the way to make me happy"). Towards the end, there's an awkward key change. But it's followed by some clanging bells and "ba ba ba ba"'s (too drunk to remember the lyrics?).
Neil takes the whole thing in stride, though. I mean, he is speaking to an inanimate object.
The Jackson 5's fourth single, "I'll Be There", was a ballad. And it proved that they weren't one trick ponies; since their previous singles were all similar-ish sounding danceable uptempos. It was also the lead single from the imaginatively titled Third Album.
The song is like a goodbye hug; one that follows a break-up. It juxtaposes Michael's tender approach in the verses with Jermaine's hopeful devotion in the chorus ("Build my world of dreams around you", "I'll be your strength"). Both offer reassurance with a warm smile. Michael begins the track with "You and I must make a pact, we must bring salvation back" (ie. let's get back together if/when we wind up unhappy); while the backing vocals show their support throughout. The tambourine also brightens things up. But he soon releases cries of anguish and insecurity on lines such as "Let me fill your heart with joy and laughter", "I'll be there to protect you" and "If you should ever find someone new". It's as if she needs convincing of the first two and the latter is already a concern. Following this, his tone on the "I know he'd better be good to you / 'Cause if he doesn't, I'll be there" bit implies that it's more of a "when he doesn't..."
"I'll Be There" also references the ultimate Motown song of reassurance - "Reach Out I'll Be There" by the Four Tops (a #1 hit in 1966). The phrases "reach out", "I'll be there" and the encouraging "Just look over your shoulder(s)" appear in both songs.
Michael sings "I'll Be There" with maturity, as usual. But, aside from the piano bit in the intro and the aforementioned tambourine, the instrumental isn't all that exciting.
I wonder how Mariah's version will do in 22 years.
The Partridge Family was a 70's sitcom starring Shirley Jones and David Cassidy (as well as a pre-teen Danny Bonaduce). The show's characters played in a fictional family band. And they achieved a real life #1 hit during their first season with "I Think I Love You". Though only David and Shirley appeared on the track.
The song describes a common feeling in uncomplicated words. The chorus basically sums it up: "I think I love you / So what am I so afraid of? / I'm afraid that I'm not sure of / A love there is no cure for". A new crush can evoke feelings of joyous ecstasy. But for David, it riddles him with anxiety; which grows each time the melody descends. At first, he resists it, but it disrupts his sleep. Then, he accidentally blabs his secret to her. He's uncertain if it truly is love ("I think"), he's inexperienced on how these things progress ("I've never felt this way"), and he doesn't know what to expect ("I don't know what I'm up against"). He's also scared of the possibility of rejection. Though he does wind up asking her "Do you think you love me?". Meanwhile, the lyrics clumsily stumble about like a nervous wreck who's putting their heart on the line.
"I Think I Love You" rides the late 60's bubblegum pop trend. It includes a harpsichord and focuses on hooks. There's a "ba ba ba" intro. The verses emphasize certain words: "I'm sleeping / And right in the middle of a good dream / Like all at once I wake up...". And the chorus begins with a burst of "I THINK I LOVE YOU". There's also two fake outs of said chorus (after the first verse and at the end).
David's performance is a bit faceless, though, and the kiddie backing vocals are cringeworthy (even if their role is minor).
0059. Ray Charles And His Orchestra - "Hit The Road Jack" [2 weeks - 1961]
Ray Charles best song and much more R&B than the other songs he had hit #1. Whoever the female is on this song is fantastic. I wonder if she had a career. I saw the movie Ray and remember there was some sort of issue she had with Ray, but can;t remember for the life of me.
0073. David Rose And His Orchestra - "The Stripper" [1 week - 1962]
LMFAO, I'm trying to imagine this getting the kind of airplay on the radio that would make it a #1. I've heard this dozens of times, but had no idea it was a #1 in the 60s. I actually thought it was much older than that.
"The Tears Of A Clown" was originally left behind as an album track in 1967. However, three years later, it was randomly pushed as a single in the UK. It subsequently climbed to #1 there, and the US followed suit a couple of months later. It would be Motown's 7th Hot 100 #1 in 1970; more than any other year.
With the inclusion of jolly circus music interjections (via the calliope and huffing bassoons(?)), "The Tears Of A Clown" does align more with the experimental 60's. The song's concept involves Smokey comparing himself to a clown since both put on a fake smile to mask their true hidden emotions. The only time he cries is "when there's no one around". However, a clown does so because it's their occupation, whereas Smokey does it to prevent humiliation and shield his pride. Relationships are about power, and his ex gained the upper hand by dumping him. Smokey responds by not allowing her to see his pain ("But don't let my show convince you / That I've been happy since you decided to go") and by acting unaffected ("Don't let the smile I wear / Make you think that I don't care"). Like he must prove that he's better off without her. He also references Pagliacci; an opera about a clown who murders his adulterous wife... that's one way to gain back power.
The instrumental (which also includes deep brassy foghorns and brisk drums) and Smokey's soulful but chipper vocal strains likewise attempt to create a façade.
I like the concept of "The Tears Of A Clown" and it doesn't beat you over the head with the circus stuff.
0073. David Rose And His Orchestra - "The Stripper" [1 week - 1962]
LMFAO, I'm trying to imagine this getting the kind of airplay on the radio that would make it a #1. I've heard this dozens of times, but had no idea it was a #1 in the 60s. I actually thought it was much older than that.
I feel like it was used in Bugs Bunny cartoons or something.
George Harrison was the first (and the eventual last) Beatle to score a #1 hit outside the group. Ironic considering that his compositions were routinely undermined by Lennon and McCartney while he was in the band. Though Paul would, of course, have the most successful solo career of the four; which we'll witness soon enough.
There exists a vast number of ambiguously worded songs that are directed at both God and a significant other, and make sense in both contexts. In "My Sweet Lord"'s case, however, George morphs them into the same entity. He wants to meet God face to face, and to develop a personal relationship with him. He's confused on which path to take, though. There's an urgent need for answers, but he won't be able to find them. It's an introspective song, much like his previous material; as well as an indecisive one. He alternates between the "it takes so long, my lord" and "it won't take long, my lord" lines. The yearning vocals are matched with a breezy guitar jam instrumental and chants of solace. And those chants rotate between Christian ("hallelujah") and Hindu ("hare krishna") ones. Meanwhile, the second half of the song runs in circles as his quest continues.
I find it a difficult song to rate, though.
The flipside, "Isn't It A Pity", encompasses an elaborate Phil Spector Wall Of Sound arrangement. It gradually adds more and more instruments; and accumulates anthemic tension for 7 minutes. George, meanwhile, remarks on how people selfishly break other people's hearts; as if it's a force of nature. The song never reaches a climax, though, and just progresses at a ponderous pace.
7/10 I guess
Also, "My Sweet Lord" does have a similar melody to "He's So Fine", but I don't care that much.
The narrative of "Knock Three Times" is pretty straightforward. Lead singer Tony Orlando has a crush on the stranger who resides in the apartment that's directly below him. He lacks the confidence to meet her face-to-face, however. So, instead, he sends a note through her window. And requests that she communicate her response through code: "Knock three times on the ceiling if you want me / Twice on the pipe if the answer is no". The song even supplies broom taps and clanging metal sounds to reinforce the point. Along with the "I can hear your music playin'" line (the instrumental suggests she listens to Mariachi music), they're also typical characteristics of an apartment setting.
However, the jauntiness of the arrangement and Tony's vocal delivery renders "Knock Three Times" as a song that doesn't take itself seriously enough. There's just something unconvincing about it. He's also quite presumptuous ("Hey girl what ya doin' down there / Dancin' alone every night while I live right above you"). And his note would probably scare her off ("Read how many times I saw you / How in my silence I adored you").
The pauses that occur after the broom stomps and the song title do create a decent hook, though.
A frequent complaint surrounding "One Bad Apple" is that it's a blatant rip-off of the Jackson 5 formula. And I don't necessarily disagree. The melody is similar to "I Want You Back". The song features interjections of Donny's shouty prepubescent vocals. And the Osmonds are another five member family band. However, where the Jackson 5's hits breathed life, conveyed urgency, and offered a mature perspective; the Osmonds embody innocuous innocence. "One Bad Apple" is just so instinctively cheerful; especially with those high pitched whistling chimes. And any tension is minimal.
The song explains how the narrator's crush has given up on love. Her ex-boyfriend caused her so much pain that she wishes to avoid suffering a second time. In response, he reasons that not all boys are like that. And does so by inverting a common saying: "One bad apple don't spoil the whole bunch". However, his intentions appear to be self-serving. The lyrics basically read as "Don't give up on love, girl, think of how it will affect me! Notice how great I am!". And lines such as "Some guy brought sad into your happy world" are rather trite. But there is a moment of selflessness in "I'd rather hurt myself than to ever hurt you".
Either way, this and "Knock Three Times" are just... lame. There's no better way of putting it. Donny's sections attempt to provide despair, but it's not enough.
Ok let's try this again. I find the early 70's tedious to get through (1974/5 are especially ridiculous with the number of #1's), but it'll be worth it once I get past them. I can't promise how frequently I'll be updating this, but I'll aim for maybe 4 a week? That would put me somewhere around 1978 by the end of 2016. If I do 5 a week, I'll be in the 80's, but that might be too much.... I'll see.
0250. Janis Joplin - "Me And Bobby McGee" [2 weeks - 1971]
So here it is, the song that gave me writer's block. I struggled to figure out which angle to take with it.
Janis Joplin overdosed from heroin in 1970. She became part of a series of premature deaths around the dawn of the 70's, along with Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison. All four of them died at the age of 27 by the way, which is one eerie coincidence. Their deaths were a poignant reminder that the 60's were over. But, Janis' posthumous #1 is a reminder that 60's influences will continue to survive into the decades that follow.
"Me And Bobby McGee" was originally a country song; it was co-written by Kris Kristofferson. But Janis tells this story like it's her own experience. She also carves a new identity for the track by fusing the country elements with a bluesy sound and adding her signature raspy vocals. Her vocal performance is indeed impassioned and spontaneous. I mean, Janis doesn't even require lyrics to convey the depth of her complex pained emotions here. Her uncontrollable ad libs, especially towards the end, express so much. Similarly, her feelings of missing Bobby McGee cannot be repressed. And neither can the instrumental when it switches to a bluesy jamboree around the 3 minute mark. Actually, the guitar and organ wander to their own paths in the first half too.
The song involves Janis reminiscing over a memory of Bobby, where being stranded brought them closer together. It's definitely relatable how love can be found during these shared unique miserable experiences. However, some years later, the two of them went their separate ways. She didn't want to settle down. Janis concludes in the main hook that "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose" (I usually love deep-sounding analytical lyrics like that). Meaning that she can only be free by sacrificing everything that matters.
In usual country lyric fashion (from what I know of the genre anyway), "Me And Bobby McGee" is a narrative-driven song that references very specific details. For example, Janis mentions her clothes from that day (faded jeans and a dirty bandanna). These facts aren't necessary, but they help paint vivid imagery, and allow the story to be both personal and down-to-Earth. As does name-checking Louisiana cities, the flat tires, the hitch-hiking, the impromptu singing in the car ride, etc. I was drawn into "Ode To Billie Joe" and "Harper Valley PTA" for similar reasons.
A ry4n description of "Me And Bobby McGee": it's so natural and effortless sounding that it feels like it exists without anybody needing to create it. Like it just happened without any prior thought. Which, as I said, matches the narrative.
"Just My Imagination" saw the Temptations return to their mid-60's sound after delving into socially concious psychedelic soul during the previous few years. It certainly paid off for obvious reasons; though their last #1 was only two years ago. It was also the group's final single to feature Eddie Kendricks as a member, who fittingly sings lead vocals here.
It's a noticeably delicate and fragile song. You can even feel Eddie's heart breaking throughout. His vocals lightly tip-toe over the subdued yet intricate orchestral instrumental. The woman of Eddie's dreams doesn't even know he exists. This situation is seemingly unchangeable. But he's trapped in a hopeless fantasy anyway. He continually reminds himself that it's "just his imagination running away with him"; while the tense strings and the harp after the chorus disrupt the fantasy.
Listening to "Just My Imagination" in the background isn't all that engaging. The vocals and the instrumental don't really soar and crash to intense highs and lows. But when I really pay attention to the song, I can hear subtleties that I would've otherwise missed. It's not meant to contain melodramatic desperation (even the "Dear Lord, hear my plea" bit isn't as distressed as it could be); it's more a song about Eddie suffering in lonely silence. It reminds me of "Close To You" by the Carpenters in that way, a #1 from the previous page. His introverted-ness is the true obstacle.
6 weeks atop the Hot 100, the year-end #1 of 1971, and the biggest hit of Three Dog Night's career.
It's easy to see why "Joy To The World" was capable of appealing to a variety of audiences, though. The song expresses a straightforward and generic message of celebration, and its arrangement is essentially an elementary school auditorium sing-along constructed for adults. There's a dichotomy between juvenile and mature. The former is displayed in the everyone-hold-hands chorus (plus the cheesy "Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea") and the latter in the intrusively-howling verses that mention partying, alcohol and sex. The title is borrowed from a well-known traditional Christmas carol. The lyrics are inane (ie "Jeremiah was a bull frog"). And Three Dog Night sing it with conviction and with plenty of vocal tics. The second half also repetitively drills the chorus into your head. The instrumental, meanwhile, follows a bright pace with enough switch-ups to maintain interest.
Much like "Mama Told Me (Not To Come)", Three Dog Night are aware of, and pride themselves in, their uncoolness. They're just a group of normal guys. "A straight-shootin' son of a gun" indeed. But in "Joy To The World", they're at the safest party they'll ever go to. They're much more calm in this environment than their last #1. Sure, the anthropomorphic bullfrogs, the ramblings about ending wars, and the overconfident flirting probably imply that everyone's drunk, but the crowd is just so innocently happy.
But this is my problem with "Joy To The World". It seems like one big inside joke that goes over my head. I can enjoy feel-good songs, but I don't really connect to this. The song is too absurd, I guess.
Ugh I need to stop falling behind. Thankfully the next two are ones I'm excited to write about!
When the 60's concluded, the Beatles and the Supremes both called it quits. Which was only inevitable, since neither were a cohesive unit anymore. The Rolling Stones, however, decided to keep going into the next decade... and the decade after that... and the decade after, well, I'm sure you know the rest. The death of Brian Jones and the Altamont disaster were tragic, but life went on. The band had transitioned to their own record label, and "Brown Sugar" proved that they still had more to offer in the 70's; though it was recorded in 1969. The social awareness and overall disorder and crudeness from their 60's material is still present here. But, it's still one of their most energetic performances yet.
It's an eye-brow-raising-ly controversial song. I interpret it as Mick trying to understand why he enjoys S&M. It gives him a newfound unexplained adrenaline rush. But he compares it to... 18th century American slave owners who sexually abused their (possibly underage) black female slaves. It's not a road many songwriters would go down, but it's what the lyrics seem to imply. The song was recorded in Alabama, so I guess that's where they found inspiration. There's mentions of whipping, it being late at night, "young" girls, etc. And it's ambiguous whether any of the participants are willing. The term "brown sugar" means either interracial oral sex or heroine, apparently. So the thrill Mick gets from these sexual adventures or drug trips are due to participating in something that's disapproved of (at the time anyway).
The term adrenaline rush is apt though, because "Brown Sugar"'s arrangement is exactly that. The song is pushed by its overpowering guitar riff, which the Rolling Stones were experts at. "Satisfaction", "Jumpin' Jack Flash", and the eventual "Start Me Up" being other examples (incidentally, I tend to confuse that last one with "Brown Sugar"). They hook you in from the start and are difficult to forget. On this one, the brisk jam-session-like instrumental is easy to get lost in. Especially with the sax breakdown (which I used to think was a harmonica) and the castanets (?). Mick, meanwhile, spouts out the lyrics in a brazen and reckless manner, and sounds like he's sweating from the danger of it all. And the outro, with the "yeah yeah yeah woo"'s, offers one final moment of release.
The subject matter is undoubtedly problematic. The Stones are so outspoken, unabashed and unapologetic about it. They don't care what anyone thinks. And I'm not sure if I respect them for that or what. But it's a catchy song either way, so:
"Want Ads" is centered around a silly, although memorable, concept - it uses newspaper phrases as song lyrics. The story involves lead singer Edna Wright deducing that her boyfriend is cheating. The signs are obvious - there's "lipstick on his collar". And after spending numerous nights in misery, she decides to post a dating profile in her local newspaper; the 1971 version of using Tinder. But since it's a newspaper, there's a likely chance that her boyfriend (or his friends or his side chicks) will unexpectedly discover the personal ad. It's the perfect opportunity for revenge. "He thinks that I'm a fool", she laughs, we'll see who's a fool now! It's a sneaky way to publicly expose his misdeeds. I assume those are Edna's intentions, anyway. The line "Extra extra, read all about it" implies that it is.
Edna's vocals cry in bitter despair several times. And "Lipstick on his collar..." is a solid hook. However, "Want Ads" doesn't employ enough sass or bite or cleverness for me. The newspaper phrases are a bit novelty. The instrumental lacks attitude and is too breezy to match the subject matter (it also copies the Jackson 5 uptempo formula). And the song lacks empowerment because she's just desperately running to another man's arms instead. She asks to be "rescued" and she'll even lower her standards to a "young trainee".
Excited was probably a bad word... I meant this and "Brown Sugar" are easier to write about lol.
Carole King was one of the most prolific songwriters of the pre-Beatles era. She (co-)wrote numerous classic hits, including the #1's "Will You Love Me Tomorrow", "Take Good Care Of My Baby", "The Loco-Motion" and "Go Away Little Girl". She attempted a solo career in the subsequent years, but didn't achieve massive success until 1971. Her Tapestry album released that year eventually sold 25 million copies worldwide, and it accumulated an impressive chart run on the Billboard 200. I believe it was the best-selling album by a female solo artist until Alanis/Shania/Celine (or The Bodyguard soundtrack) arrived in the 90's. Carole also swept the 1972 Grammy Awards. Which begs the question... why?
I think it's partly because she defines ordinary. She's an ordinary woman who does ordinary things in her ordinary life. Her morning probably consists of making a cup of coffee, petting her cats, reading the newspaper, and sitting by her piano to pass the time. She doesn't come off as some rich Hollywood celebrity who lives an unrelatable lifestyle, she's your non-threatening next door neighbour or aunt who happens to possess unexpected musical talent. She epitomizes the singer-songwriter identity.
"It's Too Late" doesn't narrowly appeal to one audience. The song avoids being a flashy, attention-seeking spectacle. It's free of pretension, excessiveness, socio-political controversy, or anything that's jarring or polarizing. The lyrics aren't deeply complex or riddled with hidden meanings that go over your head; they describe a basic, universal situation. Carole isn't really belting in melodramatic anguish to steal the spotlight. Hooks are never the top priority. And the instrumental remains smooth and gentle; capturing the atmosphere of your local jazzy, artsy café (especially with the guitar/sax interlude). If there's any reason to feel unaffected or alienated by "It's Too Late", it's because it's too dormant.
Carole, appropriately, opens up about a relationship that's turned dormant. Her lyrics are contemplative and recognize the reality of the situation. Many break-ups are caused by disagreements, mistreatment, betrayal, deception, resentment, jealousy, power and control, etc. But not this one. The spark has just simply died. These things happen sometimes and neither party can feel bitter about it. This is what a relationship between two ordinary adults is like. They put forth their best effort, but she can't fake it anymore. The hushed jazzy instrumental appears introverted at times as it dims and hides itself during the verses. It's deep in thought like Carole. Her voice then raises as she declares "it's too late" (even singing the phrase twice to reinforce the hook/point). It's as if she's interrupting her lover mid-sentence to break the news. And her tone indicates that she knows that this is the right decision.
"I Feel The Earth Move", on the other hand, does display thrills and hooks (the hesitations in "I feel the Earth... move... under my feet" are catchy). This song can best be summed up as Carole awkwardly, and embarrassingly, dancing around her living room as she daydreams about her latest crush. It's charming. She spits out the chorus in a bouncy fashion, and her fingers enthusiastically dance over the piano keys. I also like how the instrumental "tumbles down" at the end to match the lyrics.
Carole's music can be criticized for being boring, and I don't necessarily disagree with that. Her vocal tone is plain and lacks personality. The latter is certainly evident on "I Feel The Earth Move" where she seems out of her element, but I guess crushes do that to you. However, I appreciate "It's Too Late" for embodying the ordinary. The song also never feels forced or dated.
"Indian Reservation" was originally recorded by Marvin Rainwater in 1959. But it wasn't a hit until Don Fardon covered a decade later. His version reached #20 in the US and #3 in the UK. The Raiders then produced their own rendition in 1971, which ultimately charted even higher.
Most of us are probably familiar with the general history "Indian Reservation" refers to. The Europeans settled in North America from 1492 onwards, they assumed ownership of the land despite it already being inhabited, they established governmental authority over the continent, and they sought to culturally assimilate and religiously convert the Native Americans. The song mentions the Cherokee Nation specifically, which were one of the so-called "Five Civilized Tribes". During 1830's, theses tribes were displaced from the southern states to modern-day Oklahoma due to American expansionism policies.
The song's bitter and resentful attitude is definitely justified. The line "They took the whole Cherokee Nation / Put us on this reservation" makes it clear which side was dictating the rules. The narrator and his fellow tribe members have been deprived of their dignity, disrespected, and treated as inferior, unimportant human beings for centuries. Their society was viewed as "uncivilized". Their culture was disregarded (ie. "Took away our native tongue / And taught their English to our young"). The colonial powers removed who they were and denied their right to live where they wanted. And there wasn't much the Native Americans could do about it.
"Indian Reservation" aims to reclaim that dignity and pride. The song's arrangement is an intimidating message directed towards their oppressors. It opens with a shrieking Halloween-y organ note, leading to the intensifying, ominous instrumental in the verses. The build-up has a way of creeping up on you. It encourages the fed-up, disenfranchised tribe to rally together. You can sense them steadily emerging from the background. In the chorus, there's a menacing cry of "So proud to live / So proud to die"; conveying the narrator's dedication to and the importance of this cause. The song then ends with bellows of "Will return, will return", each one louder and more threatening than the last, followed by the organ returning to stand firmly in their faces.
But I'm difficult to please with politically-charged songs; just see my reviews for "Eve Of Destruction" and "War". I appreciate all three for addressing issues that I think deserve prompting public discussion, but there's something holding me back each time. "Indian Reservation" employs a solid concept, but there's an amateur quality to the song. The "Cherokee people / Cherokee tribe" bit is cheesy, the pattering drums sound gimmicky and the production in general sounds a bit... stiff? Maybe I'd prefer something darker or more impassioned or more motivational. Or maybe I just don't like politics in music... I don't know.
The term "Indians" when used in reference to Native Americans has always been a pet peeve of mine too, but that's trivial.
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