Thought I can’t necessarily parcel my personal journey as a music fan into clear, clean divisions, I have had a few distinct phases, stretches when the material I sought out was actively influence by one source or another, be it individuals or, in a couple of case, entire radio station music libraries. And then there are the periodicals, led by the foundational and sometimes regrettable impact of Rolling Stone on my taste. I hold far greater fondness for a later period of time I think of, as I must, as “The Mojo years.” I started buying the U.K. magazine after reading an online article that lamented the sorry state of similar publications on this side of the Atlantic, citing Mojo as one of the exemplars of how a music magazine could be done right. I agreed, falling under its thrall right away. Interestingly enough, it didn’t exactly fulfill my endearing need to learn about the best new music, a need I felt especially strongly in the late nineties, having left radio and without the vast internet resources now available. Their coverage of new music was solid enough, especially in the astute if occasionally overly generous review section. What really captured me was the magazine’s extensive coverage of what I think of as the hidden history of rock ‘n’ roll.
By the time I was actively engaged in the hunt for records, a canon of rock ‘n’ roll had been established, laid out by Rolling Stone and ratified by sound-alike classic rock stations from coast to coast. Want to know about the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, Bruce Springsteen, or Led Zeppelin? No problem. Just about anyone else, and you were on your own. Even the Kinks, who should have been as big as any of them, were largely relegated to “Lola,” a fine enough song, but burdened enough by the whiff of novelty that it was roughly akin to treating Chuck Berry like “My Ding-a_ling” was his most important song because it happened to be the only one of his singles to top the Billboard charts. I knew from my own experience in college radio that often the best songs were those that didn’t catch on with a broader audience, for whatever reason. I was pretty well-versed in what the hidden gems from 1989 were. I wanted to know about the equivalent treasures from 1979 and 1969. Mojo became a idiosyncratically-educated crate-digger pal to me, regularly championing releases that I’d never heard a blip about and writing about them with such vigor and enthusiasm that I couldn’t wait to get my ears on them. And if one of those bands had a song that was about baseball, all the better.
Earth Opera was a psychedelic rock band from Boston in the later nineteen-sixties. In their lush, intricate arrangements, they somewhat anticipated the prog rock that would flood the market in the next decade, but their was a pleasing airiness to the Earth Opera songs, providing just enough of a sense that they might not be taking this stuff too seriously. If rock ‘n’ roll was about to get battered into clumsy lumps by its own pretensions towards greater art, bands like Earth Opera showed that bigger, bolder sounds could be achieved without distancing stuffiness. And being Boston boys, they clearly had to take a little time to celebrate, perhaps somewhat ironically, the hometown team. I can’t definitively claim this music is better than that of the artists who get to be celebrated as iconic in perpetuity, but the great breadth of music should allow for a little more variety. I’ll sure take this over just about any track from the Doors.
Listen or download –> Earth Opera, “The Red Sox are Winning”
(Disclaimer: As far as I can tell, the two full length Earth Opera albums are out of print, at least as physical items that can purchased new from your favorite local, independently-owned record store in a manner that compensates both the proprietor of said store and the original artist. It is therefore shared hear with the understanding that doing so causes no fiscal harm to any innocent parties. Record companies don’t count. Regardless, I know the rules. I will gladly remove it from this humble corner of the interweb if asked to do so by any person or entity with due authority to make such a request.)