Staff Picks: Our Favorite Articles From REBEAT’s First Year

On Thursday, REBEAT celebrated its first birthday. Over the past 365, we’ve published over 500 interviews, features, reviews, columns, and articles. Naturally, it would be much easier — and honest — to say we love it all, but because I’m a cruel and vicious editor, I requested that the staff bite the bullet a pick a few of their favorite pieces, written both by them and their fellow contributors. Here’s what they came up with (and I tacked my on at the end, just to be fair).

1) James Ryan

For me, it was less any one piece than it was the columns; there are two that keep me coming back. You never really just watch movies without asking “why,” if you’re serious about film. I enjoy the revisits and reconsiderations through the “Not How It Seems” and “Wonderful Westerns” columns and am always interested as to what gets attention when given another look. Also, “The Adventures of Mr. Schneider,” a dummy’s quick visit all over the 1960s.  It’s simple, and it works all the time; all we need is Schneider wearing Patrick Troughton’s outfit at the TARDIS helm, and I can die a happy man. (Editor’s note: Psst — hey, Mary!)

2) Louie Pearlman

Props go to “Burn Baby Burn: A Look Back at Disco Demolition Night,” an early REBEAT article about the roots of the insidious anti-disco movement of the Seventies. Insightful and revealing,  carefully discusses the forces that hated disco so much, and the reasons why they felt such a joyous and lush genre of music was so threatening to their way of life.

3) Rick Simmons

It’s a good thing Allison gave us some freedom to expand here because until I started going back through the features, I had forgotten how many great articles I loved on REBEAT this year.

First, like Louie did above,  I want to refer to Pam Sosnowski’s work. I’ve never met, talked to, or even emailed Pam, but I have been a great admirer of her exceptional work on Go Retro for years. Last summer, she mentioned there that she had done a piece called “Paul is Alive… Kiss Him, Kiss Him,” for a new magazine named REBEAT. That brought me here, and what a wonderful world I discovered! I contacted Allison a few weeks later and asked if she’d be interested in any contributions I could make, and by early August I’d signed on and my first piece came out in early September.

Along the way, I’ve read a lot of articles that made me think, “I wish I’d written that.” The disco demolition piece by Pam that Louie mentioned was another great one, and I also loved her “Why David Bowie didn’t Want to Sing with Bing Crosby.” I don’t know a lot about the Archies other than that I still want to interview Ron Dante and/or Toni Wine one day, but Louie‘s article “Mourn Archie Andrews with the Archie’s Top Ten” last July let me know that this was going to be a cool place to write because quirky and offbeat was okay, so I would be able to explore some of my more obscure interests.

Speaking of offbeat articles, I’ve become a big Carey Farrell fan too: I loved “Battle of the Fake Bands,” and I actually went out and tried to learn more about Betty Betz after reading “9 Vintage Party Tips from Betty Betz.” Carey’s “15 Times the Beach Boys Embarrassed Us” was hilarious. A few others that have stood out over the last year were Andrea McEneaney‘s “5 Reasons Connie Converse is the Most Interesting Female Musician You’ve Never Heard Of” (she was right — I hadn’t heard of her but she was very interesting!), Erika Abrams’ “My Grandfather Overdubbed the Beatles on Ed Sullivan,” and George Brandon‘s “Dickie Goodman and the Art of the ‘Break-In’ Record” (really fascinating if you remember these things as I do).

Finally, I loved Gretchen Unico‘s two part interview with Tommy James and because I do a lot of interviews I’m jealous; I’ve always wanted to talk to him. And that Allison’s interview with Brian Wilson and especially her article about “What It’s Like to Interview Brian Wilson” were great goes without saying.

4) Carey Farrell

I’ve loved every writing opportunity REBEAT has brought me this year, but my two favorite articles to write were the ones that had the most personal meaning to me. Let’s Go To Hawthorne: A Beach Boys Pilgrimage was a one-of-a-kind chance to tour my favorite band’s early history, and Hail Atlantis: A Long, Strange Trip In The Life Of The Psychedelic Garage Ensemble spotlighted the Old Town School of Folk Music, a Chicago institution near and dear to my heart, and some of the talented and wonderful people who keep me coming back there every Thursday night.

5) Sarah Stacey

Being able to write for REBEAT has been a joy. As soon as I saw the site for the first time, I knew it was my kind of place. I am constantly inspired by all the amazing articles that appear, but I have to mention Erika‘s wonderful take on various Beatles-related things. So much has been written about the Beatles and yet Erika’s articles manage to make you think about them in a new way. I particularly loved “When I’m 72: Paul McCartney Redefines What It Means to be a Veteran Rocker” and “My Grandfather Overdubbed the Beatles on ‘Ed Sullivan’.” Another article which has stuck with me is Jen‘s “Displaced Youth: 8 Pros and Cons of Being a Millennial ‘Classic Rock’ Fan.” I could really relate to everything she said about being a younger fan of mid-century music. I also thought Allison’s Brian Wilson interview was fantastic, and Carey’s article about “15 Times the Beach Boys Embarrassed Us” was really good fun to read.

I’m a really big fan of Deep Tracks and I always love reading people’s selections. I enjoyed contributing to that myself as it allows for full-on expression of love for a band’s back catalog. On a personal note, I enjoyed writing a retro review of Alice Cooper’s Welcome To My Nightmare (1975), as it was a chance to revisit one of my favorite albums, and the first piece I wrote for REBEAT: “The (Only) Night the Beatles Rocked Dublin.”

6) Emma Sedam

REBEAT has been a great experience for me. I’ve loved everything my cohorts have written and even a couple of my pieces. I really loved getting to write “A Look Back at the Albums of George Harrison,” which was way more fun to do than the research paper I did in high school.

But I’m not nearly vain enough to continue tooting my own horn. I love the entirety of REBEAT. It’s something that makes to very proud to be a part of it. I’ve enjoyed reading all kinds of retro-specific articles that usually make me jealous I didn’t think of them first. I loved reading about “The Origins of Rap in 10 Unlikely Places,” as well as Pamela’s “It’s the Same Old Song: 9 Notable Cases of Music Plagiarism.” “Retro Off the Rack” was also a favorite of mine.

7) John Hamilton

Writing for this website has been a pure delight and I have to give a massive shout out to fellow REBEAT writer Gretchen Unico for exposing me to this site. As for a favorite article, that is an extremely tough choice to make. I sadly haven’t gotten around the every article on the site, but if I can channel Mr. Ryan, I’d like to cite the JUKEBOX series. It’s always fascinating to see what gets listed and find out people’s different taste in music. I can’t wait to see what’s next for the site and its future.

8) George Brandon

It wasn’t an easy task picking out a favorite REBEAT piece from the past year. Lots of great folks worked hard to make REBEAT a mighty awesome place to visit. Some great interviews were conducted, and numerous reviews were written that were informative and intelligent.

The articles were the ones I found myself reading and really digesting. It’s a bona fide treat to read someone’s take on an artist or album when they provide a well thought out discussion about a topic that means a lot to them. This is why I chose Sharon Lacey’s “An Ode to Bobbie Gentry at 70” as my fave REBEAT posting for the year.

Bobbie Gentry is an enigma. Hecksfire, her biggest hit “Ode to Billie Joe” is the king (or rather queen) of enigmatic songs. I wrote a bloated blog post about that song a few years ago, and called it “a poor man’s ‘American Pie.’” I meant that with the utmost respect to Ms. Gentry, because “Billie Joe” is also full of unanswered questions. What was the deal between the narrator and Billie Joe? Why did he kill himself? Most importantly, what in tarnation did they throw off the Tallahatchie Bridge?

Sharon’s article reminded me that there was so much more to Bobbie Gentry than the hit. I’ve heard a handful of her albums, and they are magnificent. There are plenty of artists who may be wrongfully remembered for just one hit, but thanks to folks like Sharon, we can be enticed into digging a little deeper and being much better off for it.

If you missed her article, go check it out, and be sure to listen to the music links she provided.  Bobbie Gentry may have exiled herself from the world like a musician’s version of Harper Lee, but there’s plenty of material there to appreciate. And if you figure out what they threw off the bridge, please let me know.

9) Sharon Lacey

It’s hard to choose a favorite article from REBEAT’s first year because, for me, it’s really been a huge treasure trove of great writing and great discoveries; so many artists I had never heard of before have been added to my iPod thanks to this site. I am so often in awe of the talent and the breadth of knowledge of its writers. Nowhere is this more evident though, I think, than Sally O’Rourke‘s fantastic column “It Was 50 Years Ago Today,” where she looks back in detail at various #1 singles from around the world. It’s always a fascinating and entertaining history lesson in pop culture and if you haven’t read it, you really should.

Recently I loved Gretchen Unico’s two-part interview with Tommy James, who I must admit I didn’t know too much about before reading Gretchen’s superb article, and the movie buff in me really enjoyed James Ryan’s look back at the classic Hammer Horrors, which were a staple of my childhood. On a personal note, it was something of a joy to interview folk legend Vashti Bunyan, who crazily still seems surprised and thrilled that people are interested in her music. If you ever get a chance to see her play live, go, because she is as every bit as lovely and wonderful as she seems on record.

10) Erika Abrams

Peter Yarrow

Even if I weren’t on staff, REBEAT would be one of my favorite magazines — ever. I love its fresh take on mid-century music and culture from the perspective of people who may not have been born yet but love it all the same. There are so many favorite articles, but that really stick in my head are Jen Cunningham’s “Displaced Youth: 8 Pros and Cons of Being a Millennial ‘Classic Rock’ Fan,” new takes on old customs in Carey Farrell’s “9 Vintage Party Tips From Betty Betz and Her 1947 ‘Teen-Age Guide to Social Success,’” and Allison Boron’s fab interview with Brian Wilson. I also love the columns, especially Emma Sedam‘s weekly take on the feminist side of movie musicals in “Not How It Seems,” and going in-depth with Sally O’Rourke in her “It Was 50 Years Ago Today” column.

As for me, I’m so grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had as a writer. I’ve been able to write about favorite artists like Paul McCartney, learn more about fascinating cultural institutions like teen music shows, and share my out-of-control love for Mad Men with weekly recaps. But out of everything, I’m most grateful for the chance to interview one of my childhood idols, Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary. (I swear I didn’t embarrass myself too much with excessive fangirling!)

11) Pam Sosnowski

I’m still in disbelief that we’ve already surpassed the first anniversary of REBEAT by a few days now, giving street cred to that old saying, “time flies when you’re having fun”! Not only am I having tremendous fun as a contributor to Allison’s groovy site and am honored to be among such a fine array of writers, but I’ve also had as much fun reading their pieces over the last 12 months. There’s always something new about music history and artists to be absorbed on this site, moreso than any music history class can give you.

One of my favorite pieces on REBEAT that did teach me something new, and one that I’ve forwarded to friends, is Allison’s retrospective look back at the album many Paul McCartney fans consider to be one of his least impressive efforts, Driving Rain. It wasn’t entirely his fault; he was under the demon spell of “that woman” whose name most fans refuse to mention, and Allison took a humorous look at the good, bad, and weird that inspired the album. It also taught me that the line, “Something’s open, it’s my heart,” from the title song of “Driving Rain” was inspired by McCartney’s home security system telling him his garage door was open. (See, I said there was always something to be learned by reading REBEAT!)

As a Mad Man fan, I also loved the weekly show recaps that Erika Abrams posted each week the day after each episode of the final season aired. I picked up a few character and plot insights that I had missed and her summaries gave me something to ponder each week in between episodes as the show wound down.

And as the author of a retro pop culture blog, I found James Ryan’s article, “Those Weren’t the Days: The 1950s Revival of the 1970s” a fascinating observation, and one I’ve never noticed myself before. Why were the 1970s — the years of my own childhood — so seemingly constantly reminiscing about the days of finback cars, pompadour hairstyles, and doo wop? Give his article a read and find out!

Many of the controversial album covers that Rick Simmons showed us in his excellent  “12 Censored, Altered, and Banned Album Covers from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s” piece were completely new (and some painful) to my eyes. Did you know that the Mamas and the Papas are among his dirty dozen examples of censored album art?

Lastly, I got a huge chuckle out of Jen Cunningham’s tongue and cheeky “5 Things We’ve Learned About British Culture From British Bands.” But really, I wish I could list all of the articles I’ve read during the past year on REBEAT, because they’re all so…well, good! Here’s to many more years of insightful writing and reading to come.

12) Danielle Zabielski

Although I haven’t been a member of the REBEAT family for long, I must say that I’m so proud of all that’s been accomplished in this first year and am thrilled to be a part of something so near and dear to my heart. Finding likeminded individuals who are as passionate about mid-century music and culture as I am has inspired me beyond belief. The first article I read was “Burn, Baby, Burn: A Look Back at Disco Demolition Night”, being that I had typed “disco” into the search box (after all, I am a bit of a Bee Gees fanatic). The depth of that article stuck with me; it was well written, backed by research, and contained meaningful insights. I found myself then wandering throughout the Deep Tracks tag, taking a listen to tracks I’d either never heard before or ones I’d heard a million times, always reveling in the fact that I’d found people who I could relate to at a time when I felt very alone.

bee geeessss

I knew then that REBEAT was something beyond just writing articles, comics, and reviews. Sure, that’s a big part, but it’s more than simply that: it’s a community of love and acceptance, bound together by the enjoyment of the music and culture we hold so dearly. I wish I could choose more favorite pieces from the past year, but I have so much fondness for them all that I feel it’d be unfair. Each and every post has given me something, and for that I am forever thankful.

13) Allison Boron

In my column last Monday, I talked about how REBEAT came to be and why it’s been such a special privilege for me to work with these amazing writers and friends. I’ll admit that I’m typing this after having read and edited everyone’s submissions above and so many of their choices are favorites of mine, too. I always look forward to Sally’s “It Was 50 Years Ago Today” (or “IW50YAT” as we call it behind the scenes) every Tuesday, but I also love Rick’s creative and inspired listicles. His piece on censored songs from the early ’50s is a special favorite, and I’d give my eyeteeth to see a sequel.

I have sort of a strange perspective on this whole thing, being not only a writer, but the one who often sets up interviews, coordinates reviews, and works to ensure cogs don’t get jammed. I remember setting up the Tommy James interview for Gretchen and working with her on it since it was her first interview. Then, when I saw Tommy later that week after the article ran, both he and his lovely manager, Carol, gushed about how brilliant she was and how much he loved talking to her. I hope Gretchen (or Tommy) doesn’t mind me telling that story — it’s just one example of the moments that come through the content of the site that are absolutely priceless.

For me, personally, one of the greatest things about this past year were the connections that came out of content. People have come into my life that now, I can’t ever imagine not knowing, both professionally and otherwise. Getting to chat with P.F. Sloan was a huge item off the bucket list, and interviewing Brian Wilson for a second time was really wonderful. Though RAVER is a real rarity (and more work than it looks like), I absolutely love when I have a spare second to dive into my teen mags and come up with something cool. But my favorite chunk of (my own) coverage was definitely the British Invasion tour and all of the interviews, reviews, and pictorials that came with it. It was such an honor and profound experience to go to the shows and help spread the word about both parts of a once-in-a-lifetime tour. Words can’t even express the impact.

I know I really failed to mention many articles at all, but that’s because, honestly, I can’t choose. Carey’s tireless work on our Beach Boys week back in June resulted in one of the funniest articles I’ve ever read about the band. Sharon’s Eurovision countdown really enlightened me to an institution I really didn’t know much about. I’ve loved reading Erika’s Beatles coverage, particularly the oft-referenced piece about how Paul McCartney redefines what it means to be a “veteran rockstar,” to which I responded that he’s really redefining what it means to age, period. Jim Ryan’s in-depth looks into the world of comics and sci-fi are a whole new realm for me, and I’m always amazed at the breadth of his knowledge.

Over the past year, we’ve tried to shed new (or at least a little twisted) light on subject matter that’s overwrought, undiscovered, or less than well-known. The best part has been hearing your feedback through the comments or via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or email. The community that has sprung out of this incredible staff’s dedication and inventiveness is breathtaking to me. Like Pam says, I can’t believe it’s been a year. (Funnily, I remember sitting on the phone with her saying, “Yeah, I want to start this thing called REBEAT. What do you think?” and then finally meeting up with her at Kowloon in Boston reminiscing that it all happened.)

I really hope that you’ll join us in the ensuing years. I can’t wait to see what’s next.