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Grizzlies Draft Watch: Four Weeks Out

Since I’ll be stuck between stations through this year’s NBA draft and free agency, I’m going to weigh in here on occasion.

With a month to go before the draft and only one real Grizzlies draft workout in the books, let’s focus today on the team’s pick at number four, and start by setting some apparent parameters.

Current Operating Assumptions

We’re in the middle of what one NBA professional I talked to this week dubbed “smokescreen season,” so consider all of this somewhat subject to change. But for now these are our operating assumptions, presented in descending order of solidity:

1. Deandre Ayton is off the board: I listened to a podcast from ESPN’s Ryen Russillo on the plane home to Memphis late this week and he told a story about a recent discussion he’d had with an NBA front office executive he considers to be among the brightest. Russillo asked the front office guy about all the concerns about Ayton’s fit in the modern NBA game, about whether he’d even be on the floor at the end of close games. And Russillo said the exec looked at him like he was crazy and said, essentially, “Have you seen this guy? He’s awesome. He’s the pick. Don’t overthink it.” I am that front office executive. For Grizzlies purposes, though, it doesn’t matter. Ayton’s the one player who has no chance of being there at #4.

2. Trading up is out: There was a discussion on 92.9, home of my radio side hustle, recently about the prospect of trading up. Would you trade the #4, #32, and Dillon Brooks to get to #2? Two hosts said they would not. This was presumably based on the defensible belief that the talent gap in the 2-4 range in this draft is relatively flat. But it’s a moot point: Even if that’s true, Brooks and #32 is still not enough added value to move up two or three spots within the Top 5 of a draft. Given the first-round pick they still owe to Boston, the Grizzlies don’t really have the assets to move up to #1 or # 2. Maybe to #3 if Atlanta senses who the Grizzlies want, it’s not who they want, and they squeeze a little something out of their leverage.

3. Memphis is the wrong place at the wrong time for Mo Bamba: Set aside the unfair Hasheem Thabeet comp. Bamba is a more fluid athlete and higher-upside prospect. He’s on the short list of players who could end up being the best player in this draft, which has to make him a candidate at #4. But, wisely or not, the Grizzlies want immediate help from this pick. Because of his project status and because he probably can’t play with Marc Gasol, that’s not Bamba. More importantly, the Grizzlies need a cornerstone for the future. That certainly could be Bamba, but the Grizzlies are right to worry about risk. Bamba presents too much of it given the other options.

4. Trading out is unlikely: As much as the Grizzlies want to be back in the playoff mix next season, it’s hard to see the #4 pick fetching an established all-star-level player in his youngish prime, especially given the added and likely unwanted salary that would probably have to be attached to the pick. Anything less than that in return isn’t worth forgoing the long-term potential/rookie-salary-scale value of picking at #4.  

5. The fourth pick is ultimately too high for Wendell Carter Jr. or Trae Young or Mikal Bridges: I like all of these players, but they seem like trade-down options (more on that next), not picks at #4. Bridges is a decent bet to be a long-term NBA starter, but players of his type (those who don’t emerge as lottery-level prospects until deep into their college careers) have a risky history and the star upside seems minimal. I believe in Young as a deep shooter and playmaker, two of the most important skills in the modern NBA, but worry that his severely limited size/athleticism will make him too weak a defensive link to fully mine those skills, and the presence of Mike Conley on a still-lengthy contract makes Memphis a hard place to maximize Young’s value anyway. Carter is a closer call, but I just don’t think he has the same upside as the big men likely to be taken earlier and also think his poor fit alongside Gasol undercuts his instant-impact potential.

6. Trading down can’t be discounted but is still unlikely: The Top 10 of this draft is deep enough to envision a team moving down a few spots and still getting the guy they want or a close runner-up. I could see this as more of an option for the Grizzlies if someone falls hard enough for Bamba (or, less likely, Young) to move up for him. Here’s an entirely made-up scenario:

  • The #4 pick and Ben McLemore to Orlando for #6, Jonathan Simmons, and #35.

Something like that. The Magic’s front office seems to have a hankering for wingspan. Dallas, at #5, needs a center. Maybe Orlando wants Bamba and can’t be sure to get him #6. Who can say at this point?

You’re not adding a star by moving down within the lottery, but I could see scenarios where the Grizzlies can bolster next year’s rotation while still getting a similar-level draft prospect. Still, I probably wouldn’t move down from #4 unless I could still get the exact player I would draft at #4.  

7. Michael Porter is too risky: As consensus Top 4 prospect before last season with a game — a big face-up combo forward with go-to scorer potential — that fits well in the rapidly changing NBA, Porter has to be a candidate at #4 if his medicals aren’t an issue. But I don’t see how his medicals won’t be an issue. He had back surgery less than a year ago and didn’t look right at all during his too-early return at the end of the college season. The back questions, especially given the Grizzlies’ recent history with damaged goods acquisitions, just seems like too big a risk this high in the draft. Even fully healthy, Porter’s not a sure thing. There are questions about every prospect, but defense, shot selection, and mentality are among Porter’s. Let’s set aside the Kevin Durant comp. Porter doesn’t have that length. He could be Jayson Tatum. He could also be a Ghost of Grizzlies Past (Rudy Gay/Jeff Green). He’s on the outside looking in right now. If he gives the Grizzlies access to his medicals and assents to a workout, he could move into the following discussion.

Where That Leaves Us

The process of high-to-mid-lottery elimination leaves three names standing: Luka Doncic, Marvin Bagley III, Jaren Jackson Jr.

We could spend thousands of words on this trio, but we’ve still got a month to go, so let’s stick to only a few quick observations for now:

Buckets and Boards vs. The Little Things: The debate between Bagley and Jackson in the frontcourt is partially about what you value at the position. Bagley profiles as an Amare Stoudemire/Zach Randolph-style 20-10 machine, a go-to-scorer whom you may have to work around on defense. Jackson profiles as an Al Horford/Serge Ibaka/Draymond Green type: A versatile defender and spot-up shooter who will impact both ends of the floor but may never be a 20-point scorer.

The first type is traditionally perceived as more of a “star,” the second type more of a glorified “role player.” Why take a role player in the top four, some would say?

Because there’s ample evidence that the NBA has shifted in a way that this second type of frontcourt player contributes more to winning.

Bagley’s signature skill is his quickness off the floor. This results in rebounds and dunks.

Jackson’s signature skill is his combination of length and defensive awareness. This results in blocked shots that Jackson shows a knack for keeping in play and snuffed out offensive actions.

The buckets and boards are crowd-pleasing, but are they more important that the defense?

I’m putting a little bit of a thumb on the scale, rhetorically, for Jackson here. I’m torn between the two, and think Bagley has more potential for improvement than his staunchest critics allow. But I do think Jackson has the kind of game that’s built for the modern NBA, more so than it was built for a year of college basketball as an 18-year-old under a traditionalist coach.  

Present vs. Future: Bagley and Doncic have the kinds of pedigrees (elite-ranked prospects who have backed it up with elite production) that have a good NBA track record. They also seem like the players, other than Ayton, best equipped to impact NBA games as soon as they become a part of them.

This combination of future and present value would be hard to pass up for a franchise that hopes to acquire a first foundational piece for a post-Gasol/Conley future but also wants someone who can help make some noise alongside them in the short term.

Positional fit adds to the sense that Doncic or Bagley could be immediate impact players in Memphis. The Grizzlies are weakest on the wing and have put an increasing (probably overdue) emphasis on pairing Conley with secondary perimeter playmakers. Doncic, who needs a ball handler/defender at the point to pair with, seems perfect for the Grizzlies and vice versa.

As for Bagley, his high-motor work around the rim would shore up a Marc Gasol weakness. Perhaps more importantly, Gasol’s ability to (at least theoretically) anchor a defense from the center position while stretching the floor offensively would cover some of the weaknesses Bagley would bring into the league. Memphis is probably the best potential fit for Bagley.

Jackson may present more ultimate risk than Bagley and Doncic (this is debatable), but certainly seems like less of an instant-impact option. He’s younger and less fully formed physically (which might suggest more growth potential going forward) and his best position in the NBA is likely to be at center.

Still, Jackson’s perimeter skills, especially on the defensive end, giving him a path to playing alongside Gasol while he develops into the team’s starting center of the future. That’s why Jackson might be a better short- as well as long-term bet than the more seasoned but also more defensively paint-bound Wendell Carter Jr.    

Tie Goes to the Perimeter: The great case for Donic is history of production paired with position/style. In the old NBA, the tie went to the big man, now the tie goes to the perimeter player. Could even that short-sell the current shift? Might “reaching” for perimeter talent such as a Trae Young or Mikal Bridges prove the smarter gambit?

Positional value would seen to give Doncic an edge over Bagley and Jackson. But the league’s perimeter tilt may work in favor of Jackson, at least relative to Bagley, even if he’s the biggest player in this discussion.

The now-overused term “unicorn” was intended for big men who can both the protect the rim and stretch the floor. In this draft, as eye-popping as Deandre Ayton and Mohamed Bamba may be as physical specimen, that’s Jackson. He blocked shots at a higher rate than Bamba. He was the best three-point shooter among the lottery bigs, a skill projection bolstered by 80 percent three-throw shooting. But Jackson adds a third dimension to this sense of rarity: At north of 6’11” with a wingspan past 7’5”, he’s the most comfortable big in the mix, by far, at guarding the perimeter. At defending pick-and-roll plays, at switching onto guards and wings, at closing out on shooters.

As a more traditional big, Bagley has moved away from the modern game by standing still. But a shift that has endangered big men generally has perhaps had the effect of increasing Jackson’s value.

Maybe the Decision Will Be Made For Them

We can argue about these players for the next few weeks, but odds are the Grizzlies won’t have to on draft night. At #4 there may be only one of them left, and perhaps the lone man standing will be both the obvious and right pick.

Maybe they’ll be debating between the one left vs. taking a chance on Michael Porter vs. trading down. But Doncic vs. Bagley vs. Jackson is likely not a choice the team would actually be making.

Is Doncic really part of all of this? I suspect he’ll be gone before #4, but ESPN’s Jonathan Givony has suggested there’s a 50-50 chance Doncic is still on the board at #4. There are enough legitimate questions about how his athleticism translates to the NBA and enough highly regarded draft competition, that I don’t thinking Doncic “slipping” is at all far-fetched.

Other Related Issues

Mock Draft Consensus: I started tracking 10 higher profile mock drafts after the lottery and the first, um, drafts had Jaren Jackson as a pretty strong consensus at #4. That’s changed a little since. The current distribution for the Grizzlies’ top pick: Bagley (4), Jackson (3), Porter (2), Bamba (1).

Ed Stefanski Moving On: Grizzlies VP of player personnel Ed Stefanski took a plum job last week to oversee a basketball operations rebuild in Detroit, where he’ll apparently have leeway to pick the team’s day-to-day operations leader at GM and a new head coach, allowing the East Coast-based Stefanski to guide the team without having to be on the ground every day. It’s not an unexpected departure — Stefanski has been mentioned as a candidate with multiple teams in the past year. The immediate questions for the Grizzlies: Will Stefanski take anyone else to Detroit with him and will the Grizzlies make any high-level hires to replace him?

On the former, in first reporting Stefanski’s hire, ESPN suggests that Grizzlies front office assistant Tayshaun Prince, a former Pistons star, might follow Stefanski to Detroit. This makes sense on the surface, but I wouldn’t count on it happening until it actually does. Prince has been a quietly important figure for the Grizzlies, as perhaps the front office figure closest day-to-day to the players and coaching staff. Stefanski provided sage advice and guidance, especially to some of the team’s junior executives, which includes not only Prince, but former Iowa Energy general manager Chris Makris, who’s quietly risen within the Grizzlies management structure to a key player personnel/scouting role. Perhaps the Grizzlies hire to replace Stefanski, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the franchise move forward with a core of Chris Wallace, John Hollinger, Prince, and Makris steering the ship.

Josh Okogie: The Georgia Tech wing is now the first and so far only actual draft prospect (at #32) in for a workout in Memphis. I’d expect action on that front to pick up as we get into June. I was on a plane when Okogie was in town, and so wasn’t at the workout. I listed some of my outside-the-lottery faves in my final Pick-and-Pop column. Okogie wasn’t on the list, but that’s only because he wasn’t (yet) considered. He’s on the list of players who were not considered 2018 draft prospects until deeper into the season. Others: Maryland shooter Kevin Huerter, Villanova sixth-man Donte Divincenzo, and international guard Elie Okobo. Divincenzo was on a team I was already watching, and I took a liking to him early. The other three fell under the radar for me.

Okogie’s combination of physical make-up (7’0” wingspan, elite athletic testing results at the draft combine) and production (18-6-3 as a sophomore, with 38 percent three-point shooting, 82 percent free-throw shooting, 1.8 steals, 1.0 blocks) is impressive and he seems to be trending up enough that he may not last to #32.

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Personal News

Yesterday was my final day at The Commercial Appeal. I’m going to take a little break. But to your regret, relief, or disinterest, Memphis will still have my byline to kick around.

The Commercial Appeal, like all places populated by writers and editors, is full of good people trying to do good work, and quite often succeeding. I have nothing but admiration for my now-former colleagues there and for those who moved on in the years since I arrived. In the absence of another compelling opportunity within this city, I may well have been there as long as they would have had me, though like most Memphians I lament the paper’s shift toward being a corporate cog in a Nashville-centric Tennessee network.

But I was coming up on five years at the kind of place — the traditional daily newspaper — I never really planned on being. I was ready for a change, and I was worn out by the regimented five-days-a-week flow of the The 9:01 column I’d been doing for the past couple of years.

At its increasingly infrequent best, I thought The 9:01 was pretty good, and though it drained me over time, it was definitely good for me. It helped broaden the scope of topics I wrote about and helped fine-tune my voice. I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to former editor Louis Graham, who took an unconventional chance in hiring me from an alt-weekly and who was the primary catalyst for what became The 9:01. Former digital director Danny Bowen came up with the title/time concept, a bit of genius I came to regret on mornings when that deadline loomed too near. Former digital editor Gary Robinson, now living his best life as a retired grandfather, shepherded it to completion in those first few months when I was just getting the hang of it. New editor Mark Russell kept it alive after Graham’s departure. Former (sensing a pattern?) sports editor David Williams and his successor Dave Ammenheuser let me be me — at any length — in my weekly Pick-and-Pop Grizzlies/NBA column.  

Before shifting into a columnist role, I was somehow granted the privilege, as an editor, of directing a staff of John Beifuss, Bob Mehr, Jennifer Biggs, Michael Donahue, and Mark Richens. The first name on that list really threw me for a loop. I was a fan of John’s before I was a friend and a friend before I was an editor. Former features editor Peggy McKenzie was gracious in showing me the ropes.

What’s next?

I can’t say too much at the moment — information will be forthcoming. But I’ll re-emerge later this summer, writing about many of the same topics in many of the same ways, but in different formats and at different frequencies. I love living in Memphis and I love writing about it. I look forward to continuing to do both.

Until then, you can still find me on Twitter at @ChrisHerrington and @HerringtonNBA (though I’m thinking of folding those into one feed) and, when I’m not on vacation, still on the radio at 10 a.m. every weekday on “The Geoff Calkins Show.”

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Bruce Springsteen Wrote Freedom Songs

My wife and I road-tripped to Little Rock last weekend to see Waxahatchee, the Alabama-rooted/New York-based indie rock band fronted by Katie Crutchfield.

Waxahatchee’s latest album, Out in the Storm, was one of my very favorites from last year. It tightens Crutchfield’s singer-songwriter tendencies into rock-and-roll. Riffs, beats, and bass lines conspire to elevate a song-cycle about a relationship seen clearly in Crutchfield’s rear-view. It’s half-an-hour long, and nearly a year and dozens of spins later, its tricks still work.

Waxahatchee was playing a double-headliner tour with Hurray for the Riff Raff, a roostier band fronted by Bronx-raised Puerto Rican singer Alynda Segarra. I’d seen Segarra once before, but solo, in an outdoor setting with questionable sound. Waxahatchee was the pull; Hurray for the Riff Raff was a nice bonus.

As it turned out, even making the club a few minutes before 9:30, we missed the first three-or-four songs of Waxahatchee’s middle set. When Crutchfield grew annoyed at the loud talking during her quieter numbers, she pulled the plug on the show a few songs short. It was a disappointment. Hurray for the Riff Raff made it not matter.

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Segarra’s crack band blended Latin rhythms, soul cadences, folk melodies. This is an Americana I want to hear. Her music and stage presence echoed, at various times, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Debbie Harry.

They played in front of a big banner with the words WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER and played songs that fit the theme: “Rican Beach,” surveying a theft and devastation grown worse since the song was written. “Hungry Ghost,” dedicated to “all the queers.” “Nothing’s Gonna Change That Girl,” about life impervious to a male gaze. “Living in the City,” a Lou Reed-meets-Woody Guthrie paean-of-sorts to city life. And the closing “Pa’Lante,” both exhortation and comfort, translating as “onward” or “forward.”

In contrast to their tourmates, Hurray for the Riff Raff played this small club in this small city like they were in the midst of a world-altering triumph, and when they bounded back onto the stage for an encore, I wondered how they’d follow themselves.

The first notes were familiar and my immediate thought was don’t be a tease, don’t be a tease.

It wasn’t. They played Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark,” and I’m convinced that of the thousands if not millions of songs known to humankind none would have been as perfect in this moment.

Here they are playing it at another club, on another night:

“Dancing in the Dark” is Springsteen’s most successful single, from his most successful album, 1984’s Born in the USA. And while I’ll argue with anyone that it’s also his best album, it’s not as fashionable a taste today as some of the records that came before. The keyboard riffs and booming drums suggest a specific time, a specific studio-to-radio sound. It’s harder to be romantic about that music than about Born to Run, for instance.

But Hurray for the Riff Raff didn’t play it tongue-in-cheek. They didn’t play it nostalgic. They weren’t amused with themselves. They played it as an anthem that bundled up all of the feelings of their preceding set and launched them skyward, like a shot from a confetti cannon.

“I ain’t nothing but tired/I’m just tired and bored with myself”

“You can’t start a fire/Can’t start a fire without a spark”

“There’s something happening somewhere/Baby, I just know there is”

“You say you gotta stay hungry/Hey, baby, I’m just about starving tonight”

The song is struggle as celebration. Personal as political. Dancing in the dark as an expression of defiance.

My favorite moment of 2018 is likely to remain the sight of Hurray for the Riff Raff’s keyboard player, Sarah Goldstone, bouncing along, playing these don’t-call-them-corny riffs, smiling to herself.

This was the best, most righteous, and most perfect cover I’d heard since … another Bruce Springsteen cover by another contemporary female singer at least partly representing a marginalized community.

Memphis’ Julien Baker covered Springsteen’s “Badlands,” from 1978’s Darkness on the Edge of Town, backstage at the Newport Folk Festival a couple of years ago:

As is common with Baker, she starts tentative and grows, finding herself in the song, talking herself into it, before nearly coming undone at the end, in a final verse that grips you with both hands:

For the ones who had a notion

A notion deep inside

That it ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive

I wanna find one face that ain’t looking through me

I wanna find one place

I wanna spit in the face of these badlands

Springsteen has long transcended his generation. But his music is still mostly associated with straight white guys like him, like me. Segarra and Baker claim this music. Take it somewhere else.

I used to think “Rosalita” and “Thunder Road” were the best Bruce Springsteen songs. Much like the signature “Born to Run,” they are thrilling, but there’s just so much Bruce Springsteen in them. There’s so much of the moment of their creation in them.

Now I think the best Bruce Springsteen songs are “Dancing in the Dark” and “Badlands.” They are about right now. They are about tomorrow. They are the folk songs that inspired him. They belong fully to anyone who’s singing them, or anyone who’s singing along. They belong to you and to me and to Julien Baker and to Alynda Segarra.

Revisited · Uncategorized

1967 Revisited

This list (unlike the first one) and others that will (probably? maybe?) follow are the product of a kind of cultural mid-life crisis. Lately, I’ve found myself spending too much time listening to talk radio and podcasts and watching Netflix-y television shows that are rarely quite as good as they’re made out to be.

As a reaction, and because writing about new music is now a very small part of my professional life, I’ve decided to relisten to my record collection, or most of it, filling in the some gaps along the way via Spotify or YouTube or whatever. I’m doing a 50-year stretch of pop music that encompasses what I think of as the album era, which started around 1965, when artists like Bob Dylan (Highway 61 Revisited) and The Beatles (Rubber Soul) changed the conception of the album as a complete work of art, to 2014, to create a tidy half century time span and land amid a moment when technology shifts, for better or worse, are changing the notion of what an album is.

So I’m doing one year at a time, non-chronologically, until I finish them all or decide to stop (you never know). I’m adding a longer singles list and shorter movies list, probably without commentary. Album commentary will be half-formed thoughts and only occasional. When I get to years with records I’ve written about in the past, I may crib from older writing I still agree with and don’t find embarrassing. Future years already planned: 1973, 1988, 1996. After that, I dunno.

On 1967: I decided to start here because the idea came while I was re-reading ‘Nixonland” and a section about Sgt. Pepper’s made me want to re-listen to that album. I came of musical age in the late 1980s and Rolling Stone magazine’s 1987 “100 Best Albums of the Last 20 Years” issue looms very large over my musical education, as it does for pretty much every music writer of my generation that I’ve met. It was an introduction to the classic-rock canon and a kind of checklist. (Shoutout to the old second floor of the Memphis main library, at Peabody and McLean, where I checked out most of the albums from the list.) Sgt. Pepper’s, of course, topped the list. Baby boomer nostalgia was rampant at the time, and Sgt. Pepper’s is a now a generational talisman twice over I’ve been attracted to or repulsed by at various points over the years.

In album terms, I feel like 1967 was not quite as good as it was momentous. Part of that might be that “psychedelic” is among my least favored rock forms. Among some of the Class of 67 psychedelic also-rans that didn’t make this list, I’d rank them, roughly: Cream, 13th Floor Elevators, Youngbloods, Pink Floyd, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane’s trippier sequel.  The list …

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Top 25 Albums:

  1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band — The Beatles: I’ve gone back and forth on this over the years, and pulling it out for the first time in a few years was surprised at how fresh it sounds. The further removed from the tyranny of “20 years ago today” baby-boomer nostalgia, the better it sounds, the more timeless its topicality. Not The Greatest Album Ever Made, and probably not the Beatles’ very best. But I’ve come back around to it being pretty great, and just maybe the best of its day. (Order was tough on this top three.) Other than “Within You Without You,” which I would still ditch, and “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” which I wouldn’t, it’s not really all that psychedelic. It renders much of its cohort dated and a little silly by comparison. A generous consideration of a then-exploding generation gap, where studio meticulousness doesn’t dampen humor or musicality. They have empathy for the old. They envision being them one day. Some of them made it.
  2. The Velvet Underground & Nico — The Velvet Underground & Nico: The S&M anthem “Venus in Furs” works because it’s sung and written in a muffled laugh. (Or is that my own?) “Heroin” is about as thrillingly unsettling as recorded music gets. It’s texture and particular beauty stand apart from the rest of the culture of its moment. Do I always play all of the eight-minute noise-freakout outro “European Son” the way I do the next year’s 17-minute “Sister Ray”? I do not, which goes to show that they progressed, I guess. But I’m not sure they made a better record.
  3. Are You Experienced? — The Jimi Hendrix Experience: My first favorite album, as in my favorite album the first time I ever decided to make a list of favorite albums. Now seems ossified, more the idea of an album, but then I put it on and woooshhh. Play loud.

  4. I Never Loved a Man (The Way That I Love You) — Aretha Franklin: Singles and filler, but oh what singles and oh what filler. Title track sounds most shocking. The Ray Charles is better than the Sam Cooke, but the combination is a turf grab.

  5. The Byrds’ Greatest Hits — The Byrds: 11 songs, 4 Dylan covers, all (ok, mostly) chiming perfection. Captures the band and its moment better than any of their studio albums.

  6. Forever Changes — Love: My favorite hippie record.

  7. You Got My Mind Messed Up — James Carr: The peak of Memphis soul, circa 1967, album and single, did not come from Stax.

  8. The Immortal Mississippi John Hurt — Mississippi John Hurt: The calm yin to Howlin’ Wolf’s turbulent yang atop my personal blues pantheon.

  9. The Who Sell Out — The Who: I admire the craft, charm and smarts of this radio-broadcast concept, especially as a juxtaposition to the indulgences that surrounded it, but have never felt the concept quite rewards repeat listening in accordance with its classic status.

  10. Axis: Bold as Love — Jimi Hendrix Experience: Lighter and slighter than the debut, but underscores Hendrix’s poetry and vocal affability in addition to his historic guitar.

  11. Live in London – The Stax/Volt Revue: Better than the more celebrated Otis solo disc with which it shares one song, ceding the spotlight to Sam & Dave.

  12. King & Queen — Otis Redding & Carla Thomas: Lovable lark.

  13. Born Under a Bad Sign — Albert King

  14. Flowers — The Rolling Stones: I love how this was a retrospectively bad year for the Rolling Stones. “Summer of Love” was not their most comfortable milieu, with greatness before and after but not so much here. (Big Between the Buttons fans would argue this point.) My favorite of their three 1967 releases is this singles comp.

  15. Magical Mystery Tour — The Beatles

  16. Younger Than Yesterday — The Byrds

  17. Wild Honey —  Beach Boys

  18. Live in Europe — Otis Redding

  19. Moby Grape — Moby Grape

  20. Between the Buttons — The Rolling Stones

  21. The Soul of a Bell — William Bell

  22. Safe as Milk — Captain Beefheart

  23. Surrealistic Pillow — Jefferson Airplane

  24. Chuck Berry in Memphis — Chuck Berry

  25. The Doors — The Doors: Do 9th graders still have their minds blown by this? A kind of schlock classic at this point. Silly, but more enduringly enjoyable than many of the year’s alleged cult classics

SINGLES:

  1. “The Dark End of the Street” — James Carr
  2. “Respect” — Aretha Franklin
  3. “Sing Me Back Home” — Merle Haggard
  4. “Tramp” — Otis Redding & Carla Thomas
  5. “Cold Sweat” — James Brown
  6. “Strawberry Fields Forever”/“Penny Lane” — The Beatles
  7. “Soul Man” — Sam & Dave
  8. “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You” — Aretha Franklin
  9. “If I Could Build My Whole World Around You” — Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
  10. “Chain of Fools” — Aretha Franklin
  11. “Waterloo Sunset” — The Kinks
  12. “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” — Aretha Franklin
  13. “Born Under a Bad Sign” — Albert King
  14. “I Am the Walrus” – The Beatles
  15. “I Second That Emotion” — Smokey & the Miracles
  16. “All You Need is Love” — The Beatles
  17. “When Something is Wrong With My Baby” — Sam & Dave
  18. “I’d Rather Go Blind” — Etta James
  19. “Don’t Hit Me No More” — Mable John
  20. “For What It’s Worth” — Buffalo Springfield
  21. “I Can See For Miles” — The Who
  22. “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad” – Tammy Wynette
  23. “Cold Hard Facts of Life” — Porter Wagoner
  24. “Higher and Higher” — Jackie Wilson
  25. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” — Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
  26. “I Think We’re Alone Now” – Tommy James & the Shondells
  27. “Purple Haze” — Jimi Hendrix Experience
  28. “Let it Out (Let it All Hang Out)” – The Hombres
  29. “I’m a Believer” — The Monkees
  30. “The Letter” — The Box Tops
  31. “Ode to Billie Joe” — Bobbie Gentry
  32. “Your Precious Love” — Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
  33. “Nobody But Me” — The Human Beinz
  34. “Soul Finger” — The Bar-Kays
  35. “I’ve Been Lonely Too Long” — The Rascals
  36. “Expressway to Your Heart” — The Soul Survivors
  37. “Groovin’” — The Rascals
  38. “I Was Made to Love Her” — Stevie Wonder
  39. “Jackson” — Johnny and June Carter Cash
  40. “Mercy Mercy Mercy” — Larry Williams and Johnny Watson

MOVIES:

This isn’t a film project, but I’ll throw a Top 5 or Top 10 movies list (depending on how deep my viewing is for a particular year) at the end of these for the hell of it. My sense has never been that the 1960s were a particularly great movie decade, particularly for American movies. I prefer both the 1950s and 1970s. This year, in particular, is lousy with cultural touchstones that either aren’t that good (Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, In the Heat of the Night) or that I feel like might be pretty overrated but would like a re-watch to confirm (Cool Hand Luke, The Graduate). One cultural touchstone of 1967 that is not overrated tops this list:

  1. Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn)
  2. Point Blank (John Boorman)
  3. Playtime (Jacques Tati)
  4. Weekend (Jean-Luc Godard)
  5. Belle de Jour (Luis Bunuel)

Honorable Mention:  The Good, the  Bad and the Ugly (Sergio Leone)