Song 230: Penny and the Quarters, “You and Me” (1970)

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Not much was known about this song until recently, which is a rare occurrence in the digital age. The recordings that made up Numero Group’s 2007 compilation Eccentric Soul: The Prix Label were found at a garage sale. They were given to the archival label soon after.

In 2010, “You and Me” played a prominent role in the film Blue Valentine. The film’s success made the song very popular, which caused fans—including Numero co-founder Ken Shipley, who wanted to give the group their royalties—to seek them out. It was known that the song was recorded by a group called Penny and the Quarters in 1970, in Columbus, Ohio. But the people behind it seemed to be gone forever.

That is, until a record collector happened to run into Penny in Europe. Penny then sat down for an interview with the since-folded alt-weekly The Other Paper in which she talked about the song’s origins. Sadly, that interview is now lost (nothing in this story is easy!), but this Yahoo! recap retains the gist: Nannie “Penny” Sharpe, just out of high school, made the song with her siblings as a demo, though she didn’t realize at the time that it was being recorded. According to Shipley, Sharpe and others have since made quite a bit of money off the song.

I love that story, and I love that it centers around a beautiful ballad that sounds like a hidden gem. “You and Me” is quiet and unassuming, but extremely powerful. I first heard the track on a promo copy of the Numero compilation, and it completely stopped me in my tracks. Sharpe sings simply and without affectation, and she sounds absolutely sure that this love is for real. It’s stunning in its clarity, and it stands as another reminder that if the song is great, you don’t need much else.

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Song 164: Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Long As I Can See the Light” (1970)

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Creedence Clearwater Revival is a band that I think is constantly undervalued. We’ve all heard their hits so many times that they blend into the background, and there are so many hits. It’s astounding what this band did in so short an amount of time; in only five years, CCR made “Who’ll Stop the Rain?”, “Born on the Bayou,” “Proud Mary,” “Down on the Corner,” “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?”, “Fortunate Son,” and my favorite Creedence song, “Long As I Can See the Light.”

On his recent appearance on the WTF podcast, John Fogerty said this song came from a very dark time and place. He didn’t elaborate about that time and place, but he didn’t really need to: it’s clear that the narrator desperately needs a home, even as he’s leaving his home behind. It’s a sweet and sad song, one that recalls the mythical wanderers of the blues and adds that image of a lone candle in a window. It’s both epic and intimate in the way it blends the apocryphal and the personal, and Fogerty, howling like an animal in the wilderness, sings the hell out of it. What a gorgeous song.

As Marc Maron mentioned on WTF, there’s something timeless about Creedence. We associate the band with the late sixties and early seventies, but (topical songs like “Fortunate Son” aside) these songs could be from any era, from any period in our collective consciousness as Americans. These are songs about what it’s like to live in this country, a crazy place with bayous, rock stars, rich boys getting out of senseless wars, and riverboats. Fogerty clearly loves this country, but he also seems to understand that it’s sometimes a very strange place to be.

One more great thing about Creedence Clearwater Revival: they sound great in a car. I think The Dude would agree with me there.


Song 163: The Five Stairsteps, “Ooh Child” (1970)

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For me, “Ooh Child” does just what it sets out to do: when those snares hit and the horns sound, I’m immediately soothed and happy. It’s just the right tempo, just the right temperament, to work it’s magic on me, every time.

I think the arrangement of this song is really something else, especially in the first verse, in which those light piano chords drop the song gently in your lap. The song slowly build from there: strings, brass, some funky drums, a single note sung by background vocals out of a boys’ choir. Then the thing folds in on itself, like a burst of the sunshine promised in the lyrics. It’s all very reassuring.

Speaking of the lyrics, I love that the words to this song aren’t promising perfection, just improvement. Things are gonna get easier, not totally fixed. I also love the phrase “We’ll put it together and we’ll get it undone,” not only because of the way the syllables rest perfectly in that spot, because it’s not the order you expect. We’ll put it together, only to disassemble it? But that’s the great thing about this song: it’s about working it out, even if it means starting over. Things will get brighter, but not without a little work, time, and patience.


Song 132: Derek and the Dominos, “Anyday” (1970)

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“Layla,” of course, gets the most love. “Bell Bottom Blues” is another well-known one, and “Keep On Growing” has its famous fans. But in my opinion, “Anyday” is the secret best song of Derek and The Dominos’ Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs, a record that combines the strengths of Eric Clapton and Duane Allman. Clapton had a handful of short-lived bands, but Derek and The Dominos have always been my favorite.

In 1970, Clapton was fresh off two of those short-lived bands, Cream and Blind Faith. All of Derek and the Dominos had been in a band with husband-and-wife rock/soul duo Delaney & Bonnie, and they all defected to do their own thing. There are a few stories about how the name “Derek and the Dominos” came to be, but the best one is that someone misheard the suggestion “Eric and the Dynamos.” (I’m going to take a wild guess and say that more than one person in that interaction was high.)

This song is a classic example of tension and release. The verses, all about rejection and anger, are sung to chords that are going down, down, down. The pre-chorus, with its slightly optimistic “If you believed in me,” opens the door a little bit, and the chorus, sunny and weightless, kicks it open. It’s pure hope, but only, as the chorus states, for a little while.

Derek and the Dominos is also one of Duane Allman’s finest hours. I have a hard time picking him out of each song, but I think that’s the band’s best feature: Clapton and Allman are obviously amazing guitarists, but the Dominos were a true group effort. Unlike Cream, which featured three musicians playing spare, distinct parts (and brilliantly so), Derek and the Dominos were all about cacophony. Not chaos, but a flurry of music. I love it.


Song 67: George Harrison, “All Things Must Pass” (1970)

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Why do such simple statements sound so profound when coming from George Harrison? There’s something in his delivery that’s so trustworthy, a kind of grizzled wisdom that the other Beatles could never muster (nor, I guess, did they want to). Harrison always seemed like the most centered of the group; Paul is so goofy, John was distractingly self-conscious, and Ringo, though he definitely seems comfortable with his place in the Beatle pecking order, is still Ringo.

I can’t think of many other musicians and songwriters who can pull off something like “All Things Must Pass” without coming across as cloying. This isn’t self-help nonsense, this is meant to comfort by telling you some facts: everything ends, good and bad. Like my favorite Beatles song, “Here Comes The Sun,” this song is almost spiritual in its simplicity. Things happen. You’re not special, but you’re part of something big, and that makes you valuable.

Some have interpreted the album cover as depicting Harrison’s newfound independence from the Beatles. His former bandmates had rejected “All Things Must Pass,” which now seems like a ridiculous notion (they wanted “Back In The U.S.S.R” but not this song?!), and Harrison must have been thrilled to be out on his own. It sure paid off.