It's often said that playing wargames will drag you into learning history. I have already found this to be true of of Downtown, but it turns out to be musical rather than military history that has caught my interest.
My friend and I are gearing up to get this on the table, so we've both hauled out our copies (mine acquired in the recent GMT winter sale) and started brushing up. As soon as I realized that the list of scenarios was also a track list I thought: "wouldn't it be cool to have that as a playlist for listening to while playing the game"?
So I sat down last night to make that a reality. None of the tracks in question were in my current library (one I own on a CD buried somewhere in storage), but we live in the age of digital distribution, so this was no obstacle. I'm pleased to say between Amazon's MP3 store and iTunes (in one case) I was able to assemble all but one of the tracks I wanted, and out of those 20 tracks, I only needed to resort to theft twice.
My goal was to select the original artist's version of each track, or that version that Adrian Cronauer would most likely have been spinning. In this, Wikipedia was my ally, giving me detailed information on most of the songs, such as when they charted, and what variants existed.
1) "Downtown" - Petula Clark
Gotta start here, the rules even mention it explicitly.
2) "Surfin' Bird" - The Trashmen
I was intrigued to learn this was what would now be called a mashup... of "The Bird is the Word" and "Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow", both by the Rivingtons.
3) "Here, There, and Everywhere" - The Beatles
My first resort to theft. Dear Beatles' estate: the fact that you are keeping the Fab Four's tracks out of digital distribution doesn't mean I can't conveniently get them. It just means I can't conveniently pay you for them.
4) "Beginnings" - Chicago
I have to confess of all the tracks on this play list, this is the only one I don't like. Not even this nice remastered version. Just too much treacle.
5) "You Keep Me Hangin' On" - The Supremes
I became torn on this one, and almost substituted the Vanilla Fudge version, because it's still period, and it's so dang good! But in the end, I'm reserving it for a possible "remakes and covers" sequel to this playlist.
6) "The Wheel of Hurt" - Margaret Whiting
This was my second resort to theft, and a minor triumph. Apparently there were two versions in close succession, the one above, and a slightly earlier, slightly less popular one sung by Al Martino.
Margaret Whiting is almost absent from the digital distribution universe, except occasional one offs in Christmas or "romantic" collections. Al Martino fairs slightly better, but with the focus on Italian schmatlz. Neither version of this track is to be found on either iTunes or Amazon.
BitTorrent didn't help either, even a giant collection of Al Martino songs that boasted "even the hard core fan will be hard pressed to find one missing" was found wanting.
But then Google turned up an excellent rip of the Margaret Whiting version on YouTube of all places and I was able to put this one to bed.
7) "Spirit in the Sky" - Norman Greenbaum
Not much to say about this one. I was amused to learn that it was written as a "sure, how hard can it be to write a spiritual?" exercise
8) "Respect" - Aretha Franklin
This one resulted in some waffling. Turns out it was originally by Otis Redding and his version did chart. The Aretha version was however much more popular, and frankly, it is her signature song. Both songs were in play during the period the game covers.
At first I decided to go with the Otis Redding version, just for variety, but then later I discovered that that left me with two Otis tracks on the playlist, so I switched back to Aretha. (and all respect to Mr. Redding, Aretha blew your doors off on this one)
9) "Thick as a Brick (Edit No. 1)" - Jethro Tull
Clearly the original, in all its 40+ minute conceptual glory wasn't going to work in playlist format. After some poking around I allowed as to how this small digestible chunk from their 1976 "Greatest Hits" album would be a suitable stand in. Really don't mind if you sit this out...
10) "All Tomorrow's Parties"
The one track I actually owned, but I ponied up a .99 "no digging through dusty old boxes of CDs" convenience fee. Once again, thank you Penn Jillette for turning me on to the Velvet Underground so long ago.
11) "I Wish it Would Rain" - The Temptations
12) "Smoke on the Water" - Deep Purple
13) "Superfly" - Curtis Mayfield
14) "What's Going On" - Marvin Gaye
All these tracks were uncontroversial. Man, "Smoke on the Water" is fun to play in Guitar Hero, though Can you dig it?
15) "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" - The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
This one goes all the way back to the 1930's and the Carter family, but this looked like the version that would have been out there and popular at the time we are considering. From the album of the same name, a version featuring Maybelle Carter and Doc Watson among others. I think I'll need to check out this album in more detail!
16) "Walk on the Wild Side" - Lou Reed
17) "Graveyard Train" - Credence Clearwater Revival
18) "Where Are You Now, My Son?" - Joan Baez
My only shortfall. Apart from the original vinyl, this track only appears to be available as part of a virtual "box set" that requires you buy the whole thing to get that one track, which I was not willing to do. And the torrents remain silent as well. Also, the track in question is 22 minutes long!
Yet it is also the quintessential track for this playlist. It was recorded in Hanoi while it was being bombed. I'd love to have featured an excerpt, but for now I have settled for "Only Heaven Knows", the lead track from the other side of the album. I think I'll keep digging on this one though...
19) "The Match Game" - Otis Redding
Mr. Redding gets his due, after being bumped by Aretha.
20) "Fall On You" - Moby Grape
21) "The Dust Blows Forward 'n' The Dust Blows Back" - Captain Beefheart
The only version of this track I found was a live a cappella version. It's a little rough, but I think that's the point?
And there we have it. 21 tracks, coming in at a nice 76 minutes, which meant I could squeeze it on an 80 minute CD for play at my friend's house. Another victory for gaming as the most educational hobby around!
I only needed to resort to theft twice.
Wilhelm Fitzpatrick, you must now stand trial for crimes against humanity.
I had started to put my own mp3 playlist together last year, and you've inspired me to finish the search.