The Big Chill soundtrack (Vol 1) saved me, or at least part of me. My older sister did have a pretty eclectic collection of LPs, from Abbey Road, to Twisted Sister. So let me rephrase that, The Big Chill soundtrack shaped me.
As a kid I attended a french school and anglos were few, but I was paired up with another anglo just arrived from Chicago. We not only shared language, but we were assigned the same bus seat. The driver was a lanky grey faced grump who sported two toned eyeglasses and rarely ever smiled. The school bus not only reeked of cigarettes, but we weren’t even permitted to open the windows, and the heater located directly beneath us, was always on, even on sweltering days. Any who, once my US compadre and I clued in that we both loved the Big Chill soundtrack, our forty-five minute ride home became the amateur duet hour. We fumbled our way sequentially through all ten songs, starting with Marvin Gaye’s rendition of ‘I Heard it Through the Grapevine’ and petering out somewhere around “Tell Him” by The Exciters. Still after all these years, anytime I hear any of those songs, no matter the context, I’m immediately transported back to that musty sweaty bus. Looking back on it, growing up with those songs really shaped my songwriting. A few in particular…
‘A WHITER SHADE OF PALE’
by Procol Harum
I love everything about this song, from the crashing drums basked in reverb, to the hidden piano that creeps in and out of the mix, to the meandering hoppy bass line. The organ part, for which the song is probably best known, is centred around Bach’s Orchestral Suite. It wasn’t full on plagiarism (which by the way was happening everywhere you turned in the 1960’s), but it was definitely the spark. In some ways this tune is an early pioneer of heavy metal music (albeit in a backwards and crafty kind of way) by combining rock and classical music. Randy Rhodes and Metallica in particular come to mind…
The mood is akin to sinking into an overly lush and heated velvet couch, plus I believe every word coming out of the singers mouth. Having said that I have no idea what the song is about, and I prefer to keep it that way. Being a massive Beatles fan, I was super tickled to learn that John Lennon loved this song and apparently listened to it over and over (especially on acid…).
When I die, I’d be happy if this song were playing as I shift from this place to the next.
‘I HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE’
by Marvin Gaye
I always thought this song had one verse too many, but when the band sounds this good does it really matter? Hearing a song like this as a kid, anything is possible. It’s deceptively simple. Just the intro alone and the way the instruments build upon each other is a real lesson in life and relationships. If you can figure that out, you’ve pretty much got it covered.
‘GOOD LOVIN’ by The Rascals
I had to mention this tune for the raw powder chord guitar riff alone, it’s so pre punk. The track itself is full of life right from the count in…”1! 2! 3!”, with a different member saying each number. I thought for the longest time that they were saying “Who to Love?”. I’m still convinced thats what they sang.
It’s got a great Hammond organ solo, which was a little uncommon for a rock/pop group to feature in ‘66. A stellar performance from a group of guys in the their early twenties who were apparently not even satisfied with this recording.
‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’
by Aretha Franklin
This song is otherworldly. From Aretha’s heartbreakingly confessional vocal, to the natural yet devious string arrangement, to her sisters Carolyn and Emma on back up vocals. That alone is worth a chapter in itself. It’s like the Everly Brothers dipped in sweet honey and thrown into a hurricane. This song has so many things going for it. From the genius behind the songwriting partnership of Goffin and King, to the brilliant mind of producer Jerry Wexler (who also co-wrote the song). But when I think about this song, I don’t think about any of those things. This song just makes you feel. It’s packed so full of emotion and brilliance that it’s on verge of erupting at any given moment. It’s unparalleled. There hasn’t been anything like or equalled to since. Nothing in the last sixty years has even touched it or come close to it. A lost art, if you will.
I desperately want to write about Smokey Robinson, which I believe to be the silkiest male voice ever to grace the planet. I want to go on for hours and hours about the intro drum roll on ‘Ain’t to Proud to Beg’, but enough said.
Listen to SUNFIELDS new album here: https://open.spotify.com/album/0Ccu0EAoVtEjh9DySR3XsF?si=RI3xPlCwRdSTw9t5fkSWuw&nd=1