As the year 2019 draws to a close, I celebrate four records which were recorded in 1969 and still sound as fresh as they did then. In order of recording ....
The Beatles - Abbey Road. I don't have any recollection of ever sitting down and listening to this record at the time although it must have been played frequently in the background. The only real memory that I have is of someone on the kibbutz where I was in 1973 who used to play 'I want you (she's so heavy)' constantly. As I have written before about the Beatles, their songs used to creep in by osmosis. But when compared to the other records in this small list, they were no longer the kings of music in 1969.
King Crimson - In the court of the crimson king. I wasn't aware of this record until about February 1970 but it had an extreme effect on me - at least, side one did. Now more than then I appreciate the woodwind arrangement of 'I talk to the wind'; this is excellent as it stands, but is light years better than the early versions of this song which exist.
Fairport Convention - Liege and Lief. Talk about extremes: this record is at a completely different place in the music universe compared to the previous record, yet they were recorded within two months of each other. I don't listen to this enough these days. I saw on YouTube a few weeks ago a documentary about Fairport - or more specifically, about Liege and Lief, which reawakened my interest in it.
Van der Graaf Generator - The least we can do. This was recorded in four days at the end of 1969 and is a companion piece to King Crimson, as I've written before. I heard this in its entirety a few days ago; the first two tracks are still as powerful as they ever were, whereas the other four songs pale in comparison to VdGG's later work (especially 'Godbluff' or 'Pawn Hearts') - but they're still better than the crimson king!
But in 1969, I had yet to hear any of these records (except for maybe 'Abbey Road'). I had my first guitar and was beginning to learn how to play it. I took it with me to the five day winter camp which would have started just before the new year. One of the leaders had brought an Israeli record which they played quite frequently, from which we learnt two songs. The first was about Russian Jewry, which was starting to become an issue at this time. The second was a song about peace, but what was striking about it was the excellent arrangement - already it seems that I had an ear for this. I worked out the chords (they weren't too difficult) but for some reason was relegated to playing 'bass guitar' when some of us performed the song at the closing party. We weren't to know at the time but the instrumentalists were to metamorphosise into the excellent Israeli group, Kaveret. When my parents went to Israel for the first time in April 1970, I asked them to buy this record for me (somehow I knew what it was called and who it was by).
Years later, I realise that the best song on the record is neither of the two that we played all the time, but rather the title song of the album - בהיאחזות הנח"ל בסיני. Over the past few months I've been working now and then on an arrangement of this song which I intend to present at next year's Yom Kippur evening. I've been working mainly from my memory of the song, which makes it slightly different to the YouTube version. I also found what seems to be a demonstration version by the song's author which is far worse than the YouTube version.
This song is very interesting, both lyrically and musically. Each verse starts off with the author 'seeing' something, except that every verse uses a different verb. The song mentions 'Good old Israel' which I don't remember being a concept in 1969, although of course, I'm not an expert on this. Musically, each verse has a slightly different structure, which maintains interest. Even more interesting is that the most dominant chord in the song (which is played for maybe a third of the song) is a minor 6th chord, which is normally very sad and somewhat dissonant.