Category: Certain Songs

Certain Songs #1546: Peter, Paul & Mary – “Puff, The Magic Dragon”

Album: The Best of Peter, Paul & Mary: (Ten) Years Together
Year: 1963

. . .

Weirdly enough, there weren’t a lot of records in my house when I was growing up. While my parents were definitely into the 1950s rock and roll of their teen years, the responsibilities of children and their belief that pop music was something that you outgrew meant that there were no Beatles or Stones or even Monkees records in my house when I was a kid.

But there was Peter, Paul & Mary. Or at least their greatest hits album, which came out the year I turned eight. So I listened to it a lot as a pre-teen — though not nearly as much as the Bob & Ray and (sorry) Bill Cosby albums that they also had around that time, not to mention the Winnie-The-Pooh and Royal Guardsmen records that I wore out — but pretty much rejected it when I hit my teen years.

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Certain Songs #1545: Peter Holsapple & Chris Stamey – “I Know You Will”

Album: Mavericks
Year: 1991

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In case you don’t recognize the names, Peter Holsapple & Chris Stamey were the co-founders and principal songwriters of The dB’s, the legendary east coast power pop band who started out their career with two great albums, 1981’s Stands for Decibels and 1982’s Repercussion before Stamey left in 1992.

While Stamey released some solo albums, Holsapple carried on as the main songwriter of the dB’s, and while things took a hit on 1984’s Like This, I still think that their fourth album, 1987’s The Sound of Music is one of the greatest power pop albums of all time.

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Certain Songs #1544: Peter Gabriel – “Red Rain”

Album: So
Year: 1986

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After putting out four albums in five years — Peter Gabriel, Peter Gabriel, Peter Gabriel and Peter Gabriel, cos this is the last time I get to make this joke — Peter Gabriel slowed it down a bit, and his next studio album didn’t come out until 1986.

Of course, he didn’t disappear: a lot of folks loved his 1983 double live album as well as his all-instrumental soundtrack for the film Birdy, but I’m sure people wondered if he was going to keep the momentum he’d built up in the U.S. when “Shock The Monkey” — driven by massive MTV play — became a top 30 hit, because back then, four years between albums was a long time.

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Certain Songs #1543: Peter Gabriel – “No More Apartheid”

Album: Sun City
Year: 1985

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The final song on Peter Gabriel was a long, haunting dirge entitled “Biko,” which was all about the death of anti-apartheid activist Stephen Biko in police custody in 1977.

And while it’s just a bit long and dirgy for me to love it as much as I loved other songs on that album, I didn’t really know what it was all about until I went back into it in the wake of a whole album that it directly inspired, Artists United Against Apartheid’s Sun City.

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Certain Songs #1542: Peter Gabriel – “Games Without Frontiers”

Album: Peter Gabriel
Year: 1980

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It probably goes to my age that two of the running subplots of Certain Songs are 1960s/1970s songs about SPACE! and 1980s songs about nuclear destruction, the latter of which “Games Without Frontiers” is an absolutely stellar example.

Featuring spooky guitar and synth noises, a disjointed but steady drum beat, “Games Without Frontiers” opens with a Kate Bush-sung hook that I misheard for, well, decades really. I can’t remember if there was a lyric sheet on my copy of Peter Gabriel, but what I’ve heard her sing was:

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