Jul 23, 2012

Monday Music Duel #6: Somebody to Love

A comprehensive 7-1 victory to The Prodigy last week, although kudos to commenter Kevin for going in to bat for our Kylie. I'm sure the pop princess will get another go round in the Music Duel stakes before long, so we'll see how she does then. Remember, you've got to leave your pick via a comment here to have your vote counted (in this competition that has absolutely no meaning, prize or credibility)!

This week, I'm feeling a little lonely. A little introspective. A little desperate. Do you know what I need?

Somebody to Love by Jefferson Airplane

Open a window, it just got a bit 1967 in here. I can smell the body odour, marijuana and frangipani scent of last night's party still wafting through the beaded curtains. Somebody pass me a recovery hogie. Is hogie another word for a wacky tabacky? Or is it a sandwich? Either way, pass me one, I'm about to get F-R-E-A-K-Y.

Actually, I don't think you even need drugs to appreciate the majesty of Jefferson Airplane's psychadelic classic, Somebody to Love. It's an instant mind-broadener; not so famous perhaps as the band's standout hit White Rabbit (which makes you feel like you're getting 'Nam flashbacks, even if the closest you've ever been to the country is an amateur theatrical production of Miss Saigon); but still a journey into consciousness raising and trouser-lowering. 'Twas the Summer of Love, after all, and JA were at the forefront of the Tune In and Drop Out movement. Lousy hippies. Sorry, I've just always wanted to say that.

Somebody to Love is in something called "chromatic-minor", which I'm assured is a type of musical key. Or something. Anyway, it has a slightly Eastern, discordant feel about it, helped along by twanging guitars. Coupled with Grace Slick's distinctive soaring vocals, and rounded out by the constant refrain Don't you want somebody to love/don't you need somebody to love/Wouldn't you love somebody to love/You better find somebody to love - the song manages to be both haunting AND taunting.

The verses themselves are simple rhyming couplets, reflecting the gaping hole of yearning desire for a deeper connection; but at the same time, giving a nod to some of the geo-political conflicts so infamously tied to the era: civil rights, Vietnam, women's liberation and the threat of nuclear war. "When the dawn is rose they are dead/ Yes, and you're mine, you're mine, you're so full of red".

What else can you say? It's just pretty rocking, dude. Speaking of rock...

Somebody to Love by Queen

Queen is one of those bands who seemed to hit it out of the ballpark pretty much anytime they rocked up to a recording studio. Take a random survey of anyone reading this, and I daresay they know they lyrics to at least four or five Queen songs by heart. Sure, the anthemic We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions are easy beginners, and it's actually physically impossible to resist chorusing "Galileo! Figaro! Magnifico-oh-oh-oh!" whenever Bohemian Rhapsody plays; but think outside the box - Killer Queen, Bicycle, Fat-Bottomed Girls, I Want It All, Radio Gaga... zeitgeist, man. Those dudes nailed it.

1976 was a time of glam-rock/disco crossover; but for this number, Queen looked elsewhere: to soul music, and particularly Aretha Franklin. They used multi-tracking to turn the backing vocals of just three dudes - the incomparable Freddie Mercury, Brian May and Roger Taylor - into a choir, then stuck Freddie out front to do his gospel thing on piano. The lyrics reflect the cry of the downtrodden and downhearted: Freddie works hard (he works hard) every day of his life "I work till I ache my bones/At the end of the day I take home my hard earned pay all on my own". Alone and miserable, Freddie questions the very existence of God, because if he can't find him somebody to love, what good is he? "Can't anybody find me somebody to love?"

And then noted astrophysisist Brian May turns up for a guitar solo. I have been reliably informed by long-time Queen fan The Wah that Dr May is in fact the greatest axe-man in the universe, and given his field of expertise that may very well be true. It's certainly hard to think of a rival when that soulful grind takes flight. By the way, I bagsies the name "Soulful Grind" for when I open a coffee shop that plays only jazz music. The song then concludes with Freddie resolving to take action himself "Ain't gonna face no defeat/I just gotta get out of this prison cell/Someday I'm gonna be free, Lord!".

The video is simple, as they were back then, but check out May's winged jumpsuit, and Mercury's array of chest-less unitards. Nothing like a skinny man in lycra to get you calling to God, is there?

Verdict: SO HARD. Both are super songs by super bands. But I think Jefferson Airplane just nudges ahead for me. It's just too evocative of a time I never experienced, and drugs I'll never take. But am I right? Leave your comments below!


  1. I am glad to see you choice in music has improved.

    Tough real tough choice.

    But Queen by smidgeon.

    Much better pub/karaoke song.

  2. Yeah sorry, but Queen and as usual the Wah is right.

  3. Queen by a mile (though when I saw the title, it was the Jefferson Airplane chorus that started playing in my head).

  4. I hate to follow the crowd but it's all about Queen.

  5. Can I vote for a tie? I just can't place one song as more awesome than the other. Of course this means I could have just sat back and not voted at all.

  6. Definitely Queen

    Um. You forgot the bass player John Deacon.

  7. I don't actually know the Jefferson Airplane song (and can't get to YouTube at work), but as a long time Queen fan, they're definitely gonna get the gong from me.
    "Can anybody fiiind meeeeee, some body toooooo loooowooowoowowowowoooo-oooove"

  8. Ah Wah you can be forgiven your views on this,,,after all, you were not born in the Sixties.... The Groove man, the Groove...Everything was Cool man, Cool (Lies back, lights up and inhales deeply,,,Aaaaaaah!) You should ask Birmo about the Sixties Man.
    I will however grant you the May riff although I could maybe find a better one among the many Pink Floyd CD's
    The Ancient Man

  9. Hey Nat,

    I love 60s music and love Jefferson Airplane so my vote is for them. Grace Slick, their singer, is awesome. An outstanding female frontwoman that often gets overlooked in those types of music polls, where Debbie Harry, Stevie Nicks, Chrissie Hynde etc always get mentioned. I love Queen too but JA wins for me this time.

    keep up the good work :)

    Erin T.

  10. I cannot BELIEVE i missed this one due to being overseas. Although I don't think the result is in doubt. It's Queen all the way. I actually quite like the JA song and Grace Slick has a great voice, but how do you compete with one of Queen's classics? Even taken objectively, the music in Queen's song is a multi-layered masterpiece, while JA is simply serviceable.

    I love the voacl interplays between Freddie and the other guys, which he was really playing around with at this point in the bands career. And the way May's guitar solo comes spiralling out of the bridge like a physical growth... it's magic.