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Any Major Love Mix 2009 Vol.2

March 31st, 2009 3 comments

I posted a mix of songs about being in love last year, for Valentine’s Day, with a view to facilitating loads of romantic seductions (or something). That mix got deleted by ZShare. Responding to a request, I have revised the tracklisting, dropping a few songs, adding a few new, changing the track order. The Jonatha Brooke song I owe to Barely Awake In Frog Pajamas blog. So here is Any Major Love Mix Vol. 2.

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1. Jets To Brazil – Sweet Avenue (1998)
“˜ Now all these tastes improve through the view that comes with you. Like they handed me my life, for the first time it felt worth it, like I deserved it.”

2. Michelle Featherstone – Rest Of My Life (2007)
“˜ How “bout that? Waking up every morning with me. Spend our time drinking coffee, speaking softly as the days go by.”

3. Mindy Smith – It’s Amazing (2004)
“˜ It”s amazing what you do to me: took my heart and made me feel things I never felt before. It”s changing me, Which direction so certainly; shook me up and threw me around. When we learn to breathe it all in.”

4. The Weepies – Gotta Have You (2006)
‘No amount of coffee, no amount of crying, no amount of whiskey, no amount of wine “” no, nothing else will do. I’ve gotta have you.’

5. Richard Hawley – Baby, You’re My Light (2001)
“˜But I believe in you and now I”ll show it. And as life goes on you know you don”t have to hate all you find. Baby, you”re my light.”

6. Ron Sexsmith – Whatever It Takes (2004)
“˜The sun alone will never do, without your love to shine on through”

7. Ben Kweller – Falling (2002)
‘We could talk if days weren’t so fast, and mistakes just leave it so unsure. Wanna hold you like never before ’cause we’re falling and I love you more and more.’

8. Hello Saferide – Get Sick Soon (2006)
“˜ Oh, I love you! I wish you got the flu, you”re the cutest thing I”ve ever seen “” like a teddy bear on heroin … You can lay your weight on me and I”ll be your backbone. Lay your weight on me, you won”t have to worry.”

9. Ben Folds – The Luckiest (2001)
“˜And where was I before the day that I first saw your lovely face? Now I see it everyday, and I know: I”m the luckiest.”

10. Bright Eyes – The First Day Of My Life (2005)
“˜ Yours was the first face that I saw, I think I was blind before I met you. I don”t know where I am, I don”t know where I”ve been, but I know where I want to go.”

11. Iron & Wine – Such Great Heights (2004)
“˜I am thinking it”s a sign that the freckles in our eyes are mirror images, and when we kiss they are perfectly alligned.”

12. Mason Jennings – Ballad For My One True Love (2000)
“˜And all the while I “˜m dreaming of the ballad for my one true love, searching for the perfect way to say: I love you sweetheart, this is my dream come true.”

13. Joseph Arthur – Echo Park (2004)
“˜ The fire never understands the spark, the way it is with you and me.”

14. Kate Walsh – Your Song (2007)
‘I knew I was wrong to jump straight on into this picture so pretty, but he is so pretty to me.’

15. Colbie Caillat – Realize (2007)
‘If you just realized what I just realized, then we’d be perfect for each other, then we’d never find another. Just realized what I just realized, we’d never have to wonder if we missed out on each other now.’

16. Jackie Greene – Love Song; 2.00 am (2006)
“˜ Should your mind forget me, regret me, or even do me wrong, you”ll always live here in my heart, “cause, baby, that”s where you belong.”

17. Jonatha Brooke – Because I Told You So (1997)
‘Could you see it like me and believe what I see? Could you listen, and remember that i love you, only because I told you?’

18. Peter Mayer – Now Touch The Air Softly (1999)
“˜And I”ll love you as long as the furrow the plow, as However is Ever, and Ever is Now.”

19. Bob Schneider – The World Exploded Into Love (2001)
“˜The world exploded into love all around me, and every time I take a look around me, I have to smile.’

20. Jens Lekman – You Are The Light (2003)
“˜Yeah I got busted, so I used my one phone call to dedicate a song to you on the radio.”

21. Liz Phair – Good Love Never Dies (2003)
“˜ Tell me what can I say to keep you in my life, all the words slip away when I look in your eyes, because I can never relax.”


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Any Major Love Mix 2009 Vol. 1
More Mixes

Twattery in Pop: Bono

March 29th, 2009 18 comments

It appears that there still are some U2 fans out there ““ including the reviews staff of the increasingly irrelevant Rolling Stone which saw fit to praise an album which even die-hard U2istas have virtually disowned. Hell, I bet even Johnny Drama hates it. Mr Agreeable certainly did. But my objection to U2 resides not with the music, shocking though the new single is. Even in the more recent U2 catalogue, there are some songs which I like, such as City Of Blinding Lights or Vertigo. No, my particular problem with U2, apart from their tax-dodging, is that Bono is  intolerable.

I once was a devoted U2 fan. In the summer of 1985, I saw them live three times on three successive weekends in three countries. My bedroom was plastered with huge promotional posters for U2 records and gigs. I had all their singles in their original sleeves, in various editions. I bought the Under A Blood Red Sky Bono jacket with the sleeves cut off (I was too embarrassed to wear it in public though). But even then I knew that Bono was a bit of a prat, though the full extent of his twattery would reveal itself only later. We did get a clue of it when U2 cheerfully broke municipal law by playing an inner city rooftop concert “” the first time ever an act had done that, probably! “” for the Where The Streets Have No Name video, with no regard to the traffic chaos they were causing (anyone who knows the frustration of being stuick in a traffic jam you can’t get out of will empathise with the poor motorists affected by U2’s arrogance). Confronted by law enforcement officials, Bono played the martyr. The chaotic defiance we witnessed in the video was all smart editing, of course. Bono and his chums obediently packed up the moment the LAPD told them to.

Bono in Twatland, 1987

Bono in Twatland, 1987

Once Bono had come to rule the world”s stadia (on the back of the rather overrated Joshua Tree album), and his group traded earnesty for what they mistook for “irony”, he became even more insufferable. And we slowly got to know the real character of the salad tosser so admired by TIME magazine and their ilk, and so despised by many right-thinking people. Most disagreeable was Bono”s duet with Frank Sinatra on the latter”s final cash-in outing. In I”ve Got You Under My Skin, the simpering fuckwit changes the lyrics in an embarrassing show of star-struck insinuation, crooning: “Don”t you know, Blue Eyes, you never can win.” You see, Bono is on intimate terms with the legendary Sinatra (himself a price goon), so much so that he feels entitled to address him intimately by “¦ his media nickname. You just know, beyond a doubt know, that at some point the fawning fuck did that I”m-not-worthy bowing routine to Sinatra (who doubtless thought: “You got that right, Jack”). How do we know? Because Bono does that crap to any overhyped media sensation that comes his way.

Blair and Geldof come to blows over Africa.

Blair and Geldof come to blows over Africa.

At the best of times, all that “” the coloured shades, the embarrassing posturing and the smug, fake self-deprecation “” would be very annoying but borderline tolerable. It”s Bono’s pompous delusion that he, and the other greasy Irishman, are doing any good in their caped crusades in the diplomatic milieu. Their fancy is not only inappropriate but also deleterious. The objection resides not in the notion that Bono and the ghoulish Bob Geldof administer diplomatic fellatio to the likes of George W Bush, who grant them an audience only because they think they”re down with the kids when being seen with superannuated rock stars. It is the notion that Bono and Geldof believe they are being taken seriously as they are doing so, cheered on by a toadying press. Of course they are not being taken seriously. Would you buy a used peace from Bono the Clown? In his orange shades? Would you agree in principle on any proposal peddled by somebody looking (and sounding, when he manages to extricate Dubya”s testicles from his big gob) like Bob Geldof? Let me put it closer to home: would you want your child to be taught by people like Bono or Geldof? Would you let your conscience be formed by a pair of obsolete classclowns? If not, why should The Man?

The caption competition is now open.

The caption competition is now open.

But if they were teachers, at least they”d act with a mandate. When they represent Africa, they act without a mandate. I cannot think of any African leader who appreciates the lobbying these bozos are presently doing on the continent”s behalf. Except maybe by Mandela, in exchange for a generous donation to his mammoth charity which believes that people like Annie Lennox are still relevant. But, just to be clear, Bono and Geldof do not represent Africa. In no way, in no form. If anything, their self-congratulatory hobby of hobnobbing with pols harms Africa. Bono and Geldof are part of the problem. The Man pats these obeisant puppies on their heads, making soothing sounds so that they stop their ineffectual yapping and continue to do what they have always done: exploit Africa while making mealy-mouthed voices.

Does the tax-dodging Bono not realise how racist it is for him to think that an artistically bankrupt pop star going by his childhood nickname in blue or orange shades can do a better job of engaging and negotiating for Africa than Africans themselves? Bono and Geldof are trivialising and misrepresenting Africa. Not that the patron saint of smug is willing to face that reality.

I fear that I have failed here to summarise the full extent of Bono”s twattery. The music author Dave Marsh does so with much greater refinement and asperity than I have in his hugely entertaining article on Rock & Rap Confidential (get the follow-up by subscribing to the newsletter on rockrap@aol.com), which I discovered through the good offices of The Hits Just Keep Coming blog.

U2 were lacking edge

U2 were lacking edge

Still, there”s the music. So here is some U2. Two of them live recordings, one my favourite post-Joshua Tree U2 song (and probably Johnny Drama’s); the other a quite entertaining performance of Dancing Queen in Stockholm in 1992, accompanied by Benny Anderson and Björn Ulvaeus (and doesn’t Bono say “We’re not worthy”, the predictable cliché merchant).

Then there is an example of U2 at their most horrible, doing an entirely misconceived version of Cole Porter’s Night And Day “” on an album that was intended to be in tribute of Porter. Cole, as Bono would doubtless call Mr Porter, would have been aghast. After Sinatra had changed the word “darling” to “baby” on Night And Day, Porter once told him not to record his songs if he felt the need to mess with the lyrics!

U2 – City Of Blinding Lights (live in Brooklyn).mp3
U2 – Dancing Queen (live).mp3
U2 – Night And Day.mp3

Richard Cheese – Sunday Bloody Sunday.mp3

Categories: Twattery in Pop Tags: ,

Songs about impossible love

March 27th, 2009 13 comments

Love that cannot be is a vicious thing. Love is reciprocated, happiness is within one”s grasp (the song Pachelbel makes a beautiful reference to that), but something ““ marital obligation, family or class politics, sexual orientation, age gap, distance, wrong time and place ““ obstructs the path to bliss. Here”s then to songs (a couple of them recycled from last year”s post on the subject) about impossible love.

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Karma – Pachelbel.mp3
karmaI am recycling this incredibly moving song from last year. It seems to have been very popular indeed, even though it was a mere album track from an album that was not a big hit even in Karma-Ann Swanepoel”s home country, South Africa. Karma has found someone with whom to connect on an intimate level. As the alert reader might have predicted, there is something that makes this love impossible. They have been talking a lot, always skirting around their true feelings: “So we”ll talk every now and then about our day-to-day, never saying the things we both planned to say.”

In song, however, she tells the object of her desire how she feels: “Thought it best to let you know, you crept into my mind.” And later, the most beautiful line: “I think I smile a little differently when you”re close by.” There are times when impulses threaten to take over: “Then your arms were close enough to kiss.” But, “it doesn”t happen; never will, I guess. But I can hope.” So she is stuck in a love limbo: “And it”s too late to say goodbye, it”s too early yet to think you can”t be mine.” She is distressed, and yet she finds that “there is pleasure to be found in this kind of pain”.

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Rilo Kiley – Does He Love You.mp3
jenny_lewisThe song reflects the experiences of two female friends who are presently conversing. One has an affair with a married man who promises to leave his wife and join her in California. The other is in a difficult marriage ““ it seems she married her husband only because she felt her “time was running out”. But now that she is pregnant, she seems to love him (or so she says). “But now you love him and your baby; at last you are complete. But he”s distant and you found him on the phone, pleading, saying: “˜Baby, I love you, and I”ll leave her and I”m coming out to California”. Ooops! Obviously the husband is in love with the first woman, who loves him too. And the geometry of the relationships will be further complicated when the love triangle turns into a square soon. Woman #1 realises what will happen: “And your husband will never leave you. He will never leave you for me.” An impossible love for at least two people here, beautifully dramatised by the gorgeous Jenny Lewis.

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Roberta Flack – Our Ages Or Our Hearts.mp3
roberta_flack_first_takeThe obstacle of the age gap was explored by Gary Puckett in his anthem to narrowly but judiciously avoided statutory rape. We don”t know how old Gary was vis-a-vis the young girl, but in Roberta Flack”s lovely song from her 1969 debut album, First Take, the relationship is between two consenting adults. The age difference here seems to be too vast to reconcile. I have difficulty buying into that: she is 21, he is 34. That”s just 13 years (and the 21-year-old girl is probably more mature than the guy). But, as Roberta tells it, “now I find according to society that our ages, they must keep us apart.” She rightly believes that the age difference is immaterial when the two of them are so much in love, “a love too strong for gossip to kill”. But gossip seems to be winning; her man unreasonably a hostage to parochial prejudices. So Roberta has to put an ultimatum to him: “What will it be ““ our ages or our hearts?”

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Marilyn McCoo – Saving All My Love For You.mp3
mccooThe 1978 original of Whitney Houston”s 1985 hit by the one-time singer of the 5th Dimension. It is, of course, another adultery song (which I think is used better here than in the cheating songs instalment). Naturally, the arrangement of clandestinely banging a married man is not ideal, but she really seems to love him, and, one suspects, he really loves her too, believing that this in itself would justify ending his marriage. “You used to tell me we”d run away together. Love gives you the right to be free.” But she knows that he doesn”t really believe this to be true, that he cannot sacrifice his marital obligation on the altar of love. “You said be patient, just wait a little longer ““ but that”s just an old fantasy.” So, is he a cheating cad who is just using Marilyn? Or is he in a desperate situation in which at least two ““ and if his wife finds out possibly three ““ hearts are broken?

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Erykah Badu – Next Lifetime (live).mp3
erykah_badu1Ouch, she fell hard ““ “You make me feel like a lilting girl. What do you do to me?” ““ but is trapped in another relationship. “Now what am I supposed to do when I want you in my world? How can I want you for myself when I”m already someone”s girl?” For Erykah, extra-curricular activity, which her object of desire seems to be proposing, is not an option: “I know I”m a lot of woman, but not enough to divide the pie.” So it won”t happen; they cannot be together, ever. Forever ever? Well, the idea of brutal finality might be just a little too much for Erykah to bear, so she makes a deal: they”ll be together in the next lifetime. “I guess I”ll see you next lifetime. I”m going to look for you.” Which must bring modest comfort to the atheist lover.

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Snow Patrol feat Martha Wainwright – Set The Fire To The Third Bar.mp3
set_the_fireHere we have two people who are in love, but geographical distance is coming between them. “I find the map and draw a straight line over rivers, farms, and state lines; the distance from A to where you”d be”¦” He and she, for it is a duet with Loudon”s daughter (ergo Rufus” sister), are feeling depressed about it all. “I”m miles from where you are, I lay down on the cold ground. I pray that something picks me up, and sets me down in your warm arms.” Unlike many others in the impossible love predicament, our two friends may well activate their love fully when they do get together. And in their imagination, they already are: “After I have travelled so far, we”d set the fire to the third bar. We”d share each other like an island until exhausted close our eyelids.” Can the promise of sweaty sex compensate for the agony of separation?

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Morrissey – Driving Your Girlfriend Home.mp3
morrissey_kill_uncle1As the title suggests, Morrissey and his pal”s girlfriend are in a car, but instead of dreaming about double-decker busses, Morrissey is engaged in a conversation punctuated by directions. It turns out that she is not really happy with Morrissey”s pal. “So how did I end up so deeply involved in the very existence I planned on avoiding?” Morrissey has no answer, for he can”t run his mate down in a quest for this girl. She instructs him to drive on, and he does. There is an obvious attraction. Eventually they get to her place. Will she invite him up for “a cup of coffee”? Would he accept such a suggestion? In the event, she doesn”t though she probably was tempted to, and with what seems like profound regret, Morrissey notes: “I”m parking outside her home. And we”re shaking hands “˜Goodnight”, so politely.”

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Jem – Flying High.mp3
jem_finally_wokenI”ll cheat and use the same text as I did last year. Welsh songbird Jem usually does the electronica thing, but here she is in ballad mode. And what a sad ballad it is, continuing the close-but-not-close-enough riff of Pachelbel. “I know that we can”t be together, but I just like to dream. It”s so strange the way our paths have crossed, how we were brought together.” The wonder of love desperately seeks physical expression, but even though she”d “love to spend the night”, she “can”t pay the price”, even if they are “so close to giving in”. The realisation arrives: “I know there”s no such thing as painless love”¦we can never win.” And still, in the next line Jem reiterates just how giddy this impossible love makes her “” it makes her “flying high”.

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In this series so far:
Love hurts
Unrequited love
Being in love
Longing for love
Heartbreak
Adultery
Death

More Songs About Love

American Road Trip Vol. 3

March 25th, 2009 3 comments

stlouis_memphis_tupelo

When we last checked in from our US tour, we were on our way from Kansas City. You will have received our postcards from Albuquerque, Amarillo, Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Wichita.

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St Louis, Missouri

Well, isn”t that typical. We turn up at the fair, but where was Louis? All the best laid plans”¦ Without Louis in tow and nothing better to do, we revisit that other great song about St Louis. The Blues named after the city is said to be one of the first and longest-lasting blues cross-over song. Written by W.C. Handy (whose 1923 instrumental recording features here) in 1914, it inspired the foxtrot. Covered by a cast of zillions “” from Louis Armstrong to Chet Atkins to the Flaming Groovies “” wikipedia says the song is often called “the jazzman”s Hamlet”. Travelling the US can be educational.
W.C. Handy ““ St Louis Blues (1923).mp3
Bessie Smith ““ St Louis Blues (1929).mp3

Memphis, Tennessee

Having made a huge detour in our bid to meet up with that schmuck Louis, we heads back south along the Missouri, passing Union City (where Goodyear tires are made) but not stopping because we think Blondie”s song is about the California or Connecticut city of the same name, and arriving in Memphis. Of course, our first stop is Beale Street where we meet a chap wearing “” oh dear, what a cliché “” blue suede shoes blabbering on about how he is a Christian for tonight because of Al Green, or something (to his credit, he also mentions W.C. Handy). We see the same fellow again at Memphis” obligatory destination number 2, Graceland, and quickly take flight when he pretends to see the ghost of Elvis.

Repasting to a bar, we meet a terribly heartbroken fellow from Denver. He tells us his sad tale of how he made the decision to leave for Memphis instead of staying put to be with the girl he loves (and who might have dumped him). “I waited my whole life just to see Memphis,” he says, “now all I can see is her.” As he wells up, we cry cry cry with him.
Marc Cohn ““ Walking In Memphis.mp3
Cry Cry Cry ““ Memphis.mp3

Tupelo, Mississippi

Elvis' birthplace

Elvis' birthplace

We might have cut our visit to Graceland short, but we aren”t going to miss out the place where Elvis was born one cold winter”s morning in 1935, and where his father, Vernon, went to prison for what is said to be the only crime he ever committed. And the town where the Presleys lived in a tiny white enclave in an African-American area, giving the young boy a feel for the rhythms of black music. Two men, a balding Englishman with a languid drawl and a rather peculiar Australian compete to instruct us on Elvis life.

The Australian goes off on a discourse riffing on John Lee Hooker”s song Tupelo and cryptically characterising Elvis as some sort of apocalyptic Messiah. “Yes, that”s nice, dear,” we say, tipping him generously as we turn to the other fellow. Drawlin” Baldy constructs a treatise which holds that after making the movie calamity that is Clambake Elvis lost his way (Baldy evidently has not seen many of Elvis “˜60s movies) and ought to have returned to the innocence of Tupelo. Or something. Which leads us to Krusty the Clown, and whether he has reached his Clambake yet.

I ought to point out that I didn”t choose Van Morrison”s very lovely Tupelo Honey because it”s not about the town but about the tupelo gum tree which gave the town its name via a civil war battle “” but is known in Tupelo as the blackgum tree, horticulture fans.
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Tupelo.mp3
Mark Knopfler – Back To Tupelo.mp3

See you in Louisiana next time.

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Previously on American Road Trip

The Originals Vol. 19

March 23rd, 2009 3 comments

In the 19th instalment of The Originals, we look at “60s classic Doo Wah Diddy Diddy, Joe Cocker”s chestnut You Are So Beautiful, a couple of legendary Motown his and the sorry tale of the Verve”s Bitter Sweet Symphony.

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The Exciters – Do-Wah-Diddy.mp3
Manfred Mann – Do Wah Diddy Diddy.mp3

excitersIt was a huge hit for the unlikeliest pop star ever to emerge from Johannesburg (yeah, I know, Mr Lubowitz”s stage name applied to the whole band). But a year before that, in 1963, it was recorded, minus a diddy, by a soul girl group which never enjoyed as much success as it deserved. The Exciters are remembered mainly for their single big hit, the Bert Berns composition Tell Him.

Do-Wah-Diddy was written by Brill Building hitmakers Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, who wrote many girl group hits such as Be My Baby, Baby, I Love You, And Then He Kissed Me, Da Doo Ron Ron, and River Deep Mountain High (Greenwich also co-wrote the Exciters” other hit, He”s Got The Power, and ““ incidentally ““ discovered Neil Diamond).

The song made a comeback of sorts when Bill Murray and Harold Ramis sang it in a marching scene from Stripes (1981), the first half of which was very funny. Earlier in the film, Ramis uses another Barry & Greenwich composition, Da Doo Ron Ron to good comedic effect.

Also recorded by: Sheila (as Vous les copains, je ne vous oublierai jamais, 1964), Jan & Dean (1965), A la Carte (1980), Silicon Teens (1980), Showaddywaddy (1980), The Dolly Dots (1982), Neil Diamond (1993), Mr. Al (1997), Murry Lachlan Young (1997), DJ Ötzi (2001)

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Undisputed Truth – Papa Was A Rolling Stone.mp3
Temptations – Papa Was A Rolling Stone (full version).mp3
Temptations – War.mp3
Edwin Starr  – War.mp3

papa-was-a-rolling-stoneIn Motown”s happy family it was common that the same songs would be recorded by different artists. Sometimes, that custom would result in two chart-toppers within a year, as in the case of I Heard It Through The Grapevine (see Volume 2). In other cases, one version would become legendary, and the other virtually forgotten. So it is with Papa Was A Rolling Stone and War, both muscular soul-funk tunes written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong.

The Undisputed Truth, who may be remembered for their hit Smiling Faces Sometimes (which was originally recorded by the Temptations), recorded Papa Was A Rolling Stone as a single release in 1971. It did not perform spectacularly well, peaking at #63 in the US charts. A year later, Whitfield gave the song to the Temptations when he produced their 1972 All Directions album, on which it appeared as a 12-minute workout. The shortened single version went on to top the US charts.

The song dated the death of the deplorable Papa to “the third of September”, which happened to be the date Temptations singer Dennis Edward”s father died. Edwards was allocated that line, leading him to suspect that Whitfield had written the line knowing of that particular detail. Whitfield denied that (as he well might), but nevertheless exploited Edward”s anger about it by having him sing the line in repeated takes until the singer sounded very irate indeed. For his troubles, by the Temptations dismissed Whitfield as their producer. The group would never recorded anything better than Whitfield”s epics. And when Whitfield (who died last year) eventually left Motown, the Undisputed Truth followed him.

psychedelic-shackWhile the Temptations scored with the Undisputed Truth”s song, Edwin Starr had a hit with a Temps song, War. The anti-Vietnam protest song appeared originally on the Temptations 1970 Psychedelic Shack album. By popular request, Motown decided to release it as a single, but not by the Temptations, because the label did not want to associate its big stars with political causes. Indeed, the Temptations themselves were apprehensive about offending some of their fans (though exactly why anybody who would dig the drug-friendly psychedelic grooves of early-“70s Temptations might be offended by an anti-war sentiment is a mystery). So Motown gave the song to a relative unknown who two years earlier had enjoyed his solitary hit. Edwin Starr”s anthemic, fist-raising version was far more fierce and furious than that of Temptations. Catching the zeitgeist, Starr”s War was a US #1 hit. And guess who appears on the backing track? The Undisputed Truth.

Also recorded by: (Papa Was A Rolling Stone): David Lindley & El Rayo-X (1988), Was (Not Was) (1990), The Lovemongers (1992), George Michael & Queen (1993), Isaac Hayes & Soul II Soul (1996), 4 the Cause (1998), Lisa Fischer & Chris Botti (2003), Gilbert Montagné (2006).
(War) D.O.A. (1982), The Jam (1982), Frankie Goes To Hollywood (1984), Tom Jones (1985), Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street band (1986), Mace (1976), Laibach (1994), Hexenhaus (1997), The BB Band (1999), Joan Osborne (2002), Gilbert Montagné (2006), Boyz II Men (2007), Maria Muldaur (2008)

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Billy Preston – You Are So Beautiful.mp3
Joe Cocker – You Are So Beautiful.mp3

billy-prestonFew noises in mainstream pop history have been as disturbing as Joe Cocker”s croaked note at the end of that staple of soppy love songs, You Are So Beautiful. Some people might regard the song best crooned by Homer Simpson, but they are probably not familiar with Billy Preston”s rather good original. The song was written by Preston and his songwriting partner Bruce Fisher, with Beach Boy Dennis Wilson”s uncredited lyrical contribution  (Wilson would sing the song as an encore at Beach Boys gigs in the late “70s and early “80s). Preston”s version was recorded shortly before Cocker”s slower version in 1974. The former remained an album track, while Cocker”s version reached the US #5 in 1975 (but didn”t chart at all Britain).

Also recorded by: John Davidson (1976), Tanya Tucker (1977), Bonnie Tyler (1992), Babyface (1993), Kenny Rogers (1994), Captain & Tennille (1995), Al Green (2005), Sam Moore with Billy Preston, Zucchero, Eric Clapton & Robert Randolph (2006), Diana Ross (2006), Carnie Wilson (2006), Westlife (2006), Kenny Rankin (2007), Donny Osmond (2007) a.o.
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Andrew Oldham Orchestra – The Last Time.mp3
The Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony.mp3

andrew-oldham-orchestraOf course, this is not so much the story of an orignal and its cover as the unhappy tale of a sample and greed “” all revolving around a loop in the Verve song that was lifted from Andrew Look Oldham”s 1966 instrumental adaptation of the Rolling Stones” The Last Time. Oldham was not only a musician, but also the manager of the Stones in their early pomp. He sold his contract to Allen Klein ““ has there ever been a more lawyerly name in rock? ““ in 1966. By 1997, when the Verve”s Urban Hymns album came out, Klein controlled the Stones” 1960s back catalogue.

The Verve had actually secured permission to use the sample, but when Klein heard an advance copy of the song, he threatened to sue, claiming that the us of the sample exceeded what had been agreed on. The band and publishers settled on a 50/50 royalties split. As the album hit the shops, Klein reneged on the agreement and demanded 100%, successfully so, because by now the album could not be pulled from the shelves. The out-of-court settlement was a defeat for the Verve ““ and, to some extent, for Oldham. All royalties were ceded, and the songwriting credit went to Jagger & Richards, even though their version of The Last Time had no significant influence on Bitter Sweet Symphony. The Verve”s Richard Ashcroft, who wrote the song, later commented caustically: “This is the best song Jagger and Richards have written in 20 years.”

verve-bitter-sweet-symphonyIt can be argued that Jagger and Richards didn”t even write the song from which Ashcroft didn”t sample; The Last Time was based (or ripped off, if you are feeling less than overly charitable) on a 1950s recording by the Staple Singers of almost exactly the same title, This May Be The Last Time. It”s a shame the Staple Singers didn”t think to sue”¦ And just to turn this sorry tale into a real farce, when Bitter Sweet Symphony was nominated for two Grammys, the credit went to Jagger and Richards as writers and the Andrew Oldham Orchestra as artists.

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More Originals

Songs of love and death

March 20th, 2009 8 comments

Let”s bring everybody down a bit with love songs about death (though the final song should resurrect some mirth). To me the song of death will always be Julie Covington”s Don”t Cry For Me Argentina, the last record my mother and father listened to together before his sudden death in 1977. My mother would play the record at high volume for months after. This selection is about the kind of loss my mother felt. Some can, or even do, apply to the loss of somebody other than a lover. And, no, the notorious Honey does not feature.
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Missy Higgins – The Sound Of White.mp3
missy-higginsThis entirely gorgeous song is not about the death of a love interest, but about that of Melissa”s sister in a car crash. The sisterly love must have been profound “” as deep as that of romantic lovers (which is why this song works for them too). “My silence solidifies, until that hollow void erases you so I can”t feel at all. But if I never feel again, at least that nothingness will end the painful dream, of you and me”¦”

Although not religious, Missy goes to a church, presumably Catholic, to pray before a statue of the Virgin Mary. “I knelt before some strangers face, I”d never have the courage or belief to trust this place. But I dropped my head, “cause it felt like lead, and I”m sure I felt your fingers through my hair.” That physical contact is, of course, just an illusion. All that”s left are the memories: “And if I listen to the sound of white [presumably meaning a state of blankness or meditation] sometimes I hear your smile and breathe your light.”

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Death Cab For Cutie – I”ll Follow You Into The Dark.mp3
death-cabBen Fold in his song The Luckiest ““ possibly the greatest love song ever written ““ tells the story about his neighbour, an “old man who lived to his 90s” and one day dies in his sleep. His wife lives on for a couple of days and then follows him. The notion of not being able to live without a loved one is the point of this song, performed by a singer much younger than 90. He sets out his stall early: “Love of mine, some day you will die. But I”ll be close behind, I”ll follow you into the dark.” There are hints of suicide should the tragic moment come, and that point may be imminent, suggesting the presence of a terminal illness. “You and me have seen everything to see from Bangkok to Calgary, and the soles of your shoes are all worn down. The time for sleep is now. It”s nothing to cry about, “cause we”ll hold each other soon ““ the blackest of rooms.”

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Iron & Wine – Naked As We Came.mp3
ironandwineMusically and lyrically a companion piece to I”ll Follow You Into The Dark, Sam Beam is pondering the death of a lover: “One of us will die inside these arms. Eyes wide open, naked as we came, one will spread our ashes “round the yard.” The instructions have been given: cremation, no burial, just scatter the ashes. “She says, “˜If I leave before you, darling, don”t you waste me in the ground.”

That notion corresponds with my postmortal plan: bury my ashes into a hole in the garden, and plant a fruit tree over me. The idea comes from a German poem by Theodor Fontane, apparently based on a true story, I learnt as a child, about a Herr von Ribbeck in the Havelland (near Berlin), who”d give passing schoolchildren a pear from his tree. As his death approaches, in 1759, he gives instruction that a pear tree be planted over his grave, because his miserly son would not continue the distribution of fruit. His final wish is honoured, and generations of passing children will now help themselves to a pear (at least until the tree”s destruction in 1911), thanks to Herr von Ribbeck. (English translation of the poem)

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Anna Ternheim – Lovers Dream.mp3
ternheimSwedish songbird Ternheim rounds off the trilogy of not wanting to live when the other has died. The twist here seems to be that she wants to be in death with someone whom she could not be with in life. “Maybe I could be yours, maybe you could be mine. God, I waited so long, maybe my time has come to walk by your side. Please put me at ease, now my soul is ready for peace.” Which is a twist on the saying, “See you in the next life.”

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Bobbie Gentry – Ode To Billie Joe.mp3
bobbie-gentryThis song can be interpreted in several ways. We know that Billy Joe MacAllister committed suicide by jumping off the Tallahatchie Bridge on Choctaw Ridge. For Bobbie”s family it seems to be the stuff of casual dinner conversation: “Well, Billy Joe never had a lick of sense. Pass the biscuits, please”. And so the conversation goes, except Bobbie seems to have lost her appetite entirely when mother mentions something uncanny: “”That nice young preacher, Brother Taylor, dropped by today. Said he”d be pleased to have dinner on Sunday. Oh, by the way, he said he saw a girl that looked a lot like you up on Choctaw Ridge, and she and Billy Joe was throwing somethin” off the Tallahatchie Bridge.”

Shortly we leave the dining table and fast forward a year as Bobbie updates us. “A year has come “˜n” gone since we heard the news “bout Billy Joe. And brother married Becky Thompson, they bought a store in Tupelo. There was a virus going “round, Papa caught it and he died last spring, and now Mama doesn”t seem to wanna do much of anything. And me, I spend a lot of time pickin” flowers up on Choctaw Ridge ““ and drop them into the muddy water off the Tallahatchie Bridge.” We can only guess what Billie Joe was to Bobbie, and why Billie Joe committed suicide. A popular theory has it that what the preacher saw them throwing off the bridge was their baby (though how blind must the parents have been to fail noticing their daughter”s pregnancy?) or a premature, self-administered abortion. Whatever it is, Bobbie”s grief ““ for Billie Joe or her putative child ““ runs deep.

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Ari Hest – Didn”t Want To Say Goodbye.mp3
ari-hestApparently written about a 9/11 victim, singer-songwriter Ari Hest does what most grieving people do when confronted with a sudden, unnatural death ““ asking why. And for those with religious faith, it can be shaken by such an event, as seems to be the case here. “I can ask all I please, I can beg down on my knees, for a reason, for a sign. But these answers I won”t find.” So instead, “I”ll go on without you, and what”s left for me to do but to stay where I am in my world of pretend.”
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Loudon Wainwright III – Sometimes I Forget.mp3
loudon-historyThe song starts off unpromisingly as Loudon sets the scene: “Sometimes I forget that you”ve gone. You”ve gone, and you”re not coming back.” But we quickly learn that he has not been dumped as he surveys the scene: “And your bookcase still holds all your books; it”s as if all you”ve done is go out of town”¦” The addressee could be returning any minute now, but the person “” my guess it”s his father, so let”s identify him as such “”never went on a journey. “But your suitcase is empty, it”s right here in the hall. That”s not even the strangest thing. Why would you leave your wallet behind. Your glasses, your wristwatch and ring.” He has unresolved issues with his father, having failed to say what needed to be said. Death creates a distance, but Loudon feels his father”s proximity. “You”re not far away, you”re near. Sometimes I forget that you”ve gone. Sometimes it feels like you”re right here. Right now it feels like you”re right here.” Wainwright does not specify the nature of his relationship to the deceased, so it can be applied, at least in spirit, to a separation by death of any loved one.
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Richard Thompson – Vincent Black Lightning 1952.mp3
rthompsonTurning the teen death genre (which we”ll turn to in the next item) on its head a little, Thompson tells the story of an outlaw in love. James Adie, a criminal, and Red Molly fell in love over the eponymous motorbike. Then the day comes that James robs a bank and is shot by the police. Red Molly is called to his deathbed. James declares his love for Molly and the bike, then “he reached for her hand and he slipped her the keys, saying: “˜I”ve got no further use for these. I see angels on Ariels in leather and chrome swooping down from heaven to carry me home”. And he gave her one last kiss and died, and he gave her his Vincent to ride.”

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Jimmy Cross – I Want My Baby Back.mp3
jimmy-crossI promised that we”d end off with a much-needed laugh. The early “60s were a fertile period for teen death songs such as The Leader Of The Pack, Tell Laura I Love Her, Teen Angel, Dead Man”s Curve, Run Joey Run, and Ebony Eyes. Jimmy Cross” 1964 song is a parody that moves swiftly from the ridiculous to the bizarre.

Jimmy fills us in on that fateful night, putting on his best Ferlin Husky accent: “I don”t hardly know where to begin. I remember, we were cruisin” home from the Beatles concert. I”d had such a wonderful evenin” sittin” there watchin” my baby screamin” and tearin” her hair out and carryin” on. She was sooo full of life. Then…” disaster strikes. “I see this stalled car right smack in front of me! Well, I wa”nt about to slam on the brakes “cause I didn”t have none to start to with. So I swerved to the left, and what do I see? Some mush-head, on a motorsickle, headin” right at us! And I knew at last, me and my baby were about to meet the leader of the…” CRASH! “Well, when I come to I looked around, and there was the leader, and there was the pack, and over there was my baby.” Time flies, and he still misses his baby. So, punning unsubtly, he takes a spade and digs up her grave and, lo, he has his baby back. Oh blessed joy ““ a happy, necrophiliac ending!

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In this series so far:
Love hurts
Unrequited love
Being in love
Longing for love
Heartbreak
Adultery

More Songs About Love

American Road Trip Vol. 2

March 18th, 2009 5 comments

In the first part of this series, we started our US tour in Albuquerque, moved east to Amarillo, and further east to Oklahoma City. Continuing our musical journey we now leave Oklahoma City and move north-west across the Arkansas river to Tulsa.

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Tulsa, Oklahoma

On our way to an appointment in Wichita we pick up a hitchhiker on his way to Tulsa. He tells us that he left his home in Tulsa a while ago to pursue a career in the movies (he even thought Arizona was glamourous, which tells you something about our destination). Well, our boy didn”t cut it in Hollywood (or Phoenix), so he is coming home, to go “livin” on Tulsa time”. We too live on Tulsa time “” for five minutes, and move on.
Eric Clapton ““ Tulsa Time (live, 1980).mp3

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Wichita, Kansas

Moving north along the Arkansas we go on to Wichita to ask one of the locals about the offside rule in football (or “soccer”, as the locals call it) which his colleagues can never get right. Well, our new friend don”t know nuthin” about that. Turns out, it was all a misunderstanding hinging on a missing letter. Instead our friend tells us about his adventures as a telephone technician who conducts his romantic liaison from the top of a telephone pole, and how the weather determines when he may take time off.  To be honest, half the time we cannot make out what our pal is on about. Best be on our way.
Glen Campbell ““ Wichita Lineman (1968).mp3

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Kansas City, Missouri

American geography is a bastard. Apart from idiosyncrasies in the pronunciation of certain names (Arkinsaw?), you have Kansas City located not in the state of Kansas (not Kinsaw?), but just across the state border in Missouri. Stop confusing us, Americans! Kansas City  has a mayor with a great name: Mark Funkhauser. Anyway, on the corner of 12th Street and Vine we see a strange dude and his girl drinking a bottle of Kansas Wine, the taste and effect of which we prefer to imagine than to experience. But the girl is not his wife, oh no. She”s one of the “crazy little women” the man came to the city for. Hmmm, maybe time to move on before Any Major Dudette gets suspicious.
Wilbert Harrison ““ Kansas City (1959).mp3

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We”ll go down south on the Missouri to reach our next destination. If you are going ahead, I”ll meet you there.

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Previously on American Road Trip

The Originals Vol. 18

March 13th, 2009 5 comments

Another batch of originals, looking at Homeward Bound, Hurting Each Other, Blame It On The Boogie, Istanbul (Not Constantinople) and Rose Garden.

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Chad & Jeremy ““ Homeward Bound.mp3
Simon & Garfunkel ““ Homeward Bound (live).mp3

chadjeremyIn 1965, Chad & Jeremy were a popular English folk-rock duo when Jeremy Clyde met the songwriter of promising newcomers Simon & Garfunkel at a party for Bob Dylan. Paul Simon was delighted to be asked to play some of his songs for the folk star, and proceeded to play 18 tracks, many of them future classics. One song in particular, Homeward Bound, appealed to Jeremy, and he recorded it with Chad Stuart in London on 26 November 1965 (with Simon dropping in during the session). A few weeks later, in December, Simon & Garfunkel got around to recording their own version of the song which Paul Simon had started writing while stuck at Widnes station (or Dutton or Wigan, accounts vary) in northern England.

Chad & Jeremy considered Homeward Bound for a single release, but having got wind of Simon & Garfunkel considering the song as a follow-up to their hit The Sound Of Silence, they opted for a rocker titled Ballad Of A Teenage Failure. It turned out to be a ballad of a failure, teenage or not. Chad & Jeremy in the end released Homeward Bound in August 1966 on their Distant Shores album. Simon & Garfunkel had a #5 hit with it earlier that year. The Simon & Garfunkel version posted here is a live recording from the soundboard bootleg of their 1968 Hollywood Bowl concert.

Also recorded by: Mel Tormé (1966), Petula Clark (1966), Cher (1966), Richard Anthony (as Un autographe, SVP, 1966), The Quiet Five (1966), Jack Jones (1968), Glen Campbell (1968), Brenda Byers (1970), Buck Owens (1971), Jermaine Jackson (1972), Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson (1983), The King’s Singers (1989)

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Jimmy Clanton ““ Hurting Each Other.mp3
Carpenters ““ Hurting Each Other.mp3

jimmy-clantonAs previously noted, the Carpenters had a way of appropriating songs first recorded by other people. In part, this owes to an astuteness in often picking songs that weren”t very well known. Once Richard Carpenter imprinted his imaginative arrangements and Karen her marvellous vocals on such a song, it almost invariably was theirs. And so it was with Hurting Each Other, which the siblings recorded in late 1971 (apparently a news segment filmed them putting down the backing vocal track). It appeared on their excellent 1972 album, A Song For You, and the single reached #2 on the US charts.

Hurting Each Other was written by Gary Geld and Peter Udell, whose songwriting credits also included Brian Hyland”s Sealed With A Kiss. The first recording of the song was released in 1965 by teen idol Jimmy Clanton, a white R&B singer from Baton Rouge who had a string of hits (including Neil Sedaka”s composition Venus In Blue Jeans) in what has been called “swamp pop” and then faded into the sort of obscurity that has nonetheless ensured a performing career that continues to this day, complemented by a line in radio DJing.

Also recorded by: Chad Allan & The Expressions ( who would become Guess Who,1965); Walker Brothers (1966), Ruby & The Romantics (1969), Peter Nero (1972), Percy Faith & His Orchestra (1972), Ray Conniff and The Singers (1972), Johnette Napolitano with Marc Moreland (1994), Stan Whitmire (2000)

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Mick Jackson – Blame It On The Boogie.mp3
The Jacksons ““ Blame It On The Boogie.mp3

Loo & Placido – Should I Stay Or Should I Boogie.mp3
mick-jacksonHow many cover versions have been sung by the namesake of the original performer? Mick Jackson was a German-born English pop singer. His Blame It On The Boogie, which he also co-wrote, sounds like a presentable Leo Sayer number. The Jacksons changed little in the song”s structure “” Mick”s original has all the touches we know well, such as the “sunshine, moonlight, good time, boogie” interlude “” and yet they turned a pretty good song into a disco explosion of joy, presaging Michael”s Off TheWall a year and a bit later.

Mick Jackson actually wrote the song with Stevie Wonder in mind (and it”s easy to imagine how it might have sounded), but was persuaded by a German label to record it himself. When the freshly minted record was played at a music festival in Cannes, a rep for the Jackson “” no doubt alerted by the performer”s name “” secretly taped the song, flew it to the US and had the Jackson brothers record and release it in quick time, to release it before Mick could have a hit with it. With both singles out at the same time, the British press had some fun with the Jackson “Battle of the Boogie”. Mick”s single reached #15 in the UK and #61 in the US. The Jacksons” version became the classic.

The song made a comeback in South Africa in 2003 in a version by a 13-year-old Danish character called Jay-Kid. That version was used in Loo & Placido”s rather splendid 2005 mash-up with the Clash”s Should I Stay Or Should I Go, titled Should I Stay Or Should I Boogie?

Also recorded by: Rita Pavone (1979), Big Fun (1989), Fat Boy Slim (as Blame It On The Baseline, 1989), Luis Miguel (as Será que no me amas, 1990), Dynamo’s Rhythm Aces (1999), Jay-Kid (2003), Captain Jack (2003), Marcia Hines (2006)

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The Four Lads – Istanbul (Not Constantinople).mp3
They Might Be Giants ““ Istanbul (Not Constantinople).mp3

the-four-lads-istanbulIt casts a reflection of some kind on They Might Be Giants that many people believe the novelty number Istanbul (Not Constantinople) to be their original. It is, in fact, an old swing number from the 1950s written “” borrowing copiously from Putting On The Ritz “” by Nat Simons and Jimmy Arnold, the latter frontman of Canadian singing quartet the Four Lads. The song was the group”s breakthrough hit in 1953, and they had enough of a career to enable a reconstituted version of the group to trawl the nostalgia circuit.

They Might Be Giants recorded their faster cover version in 1989, drawing from the klezmer style of secular Jewish music to get that Middle Eastern effect (hey, they are Americans”¦). One may assume that the song would cause some perplexity in Greece, where the Turkish city on the Bosphorus is referred to as Constantinople. (Thanks to Philip)

Also recorded by: The Radio Revellers (1953), Frankie Vaughan (1954), Caterina Valente (1954), Santo & Johnny (1962), Edmundo Ros (1953), Al Caiola (1962), Bette Midler (1977), The Residents (1987), The Sacados (1990), Mad Dodo (1992), Chris Potter & Kenny Werner (1994), Trevor Horn Orchestra (2003), Reggie”s Red Hot Feetwarmers (2005), Ska Cubano (2006), Ayhan SicimoÄŸlu (2006)

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Joe South – Rose Garden.mp3
Lynn Anderson ““ Rose Garden.mp3

joe-southOnce upon a time, I hated the song as being representative of everything I loathed about country music. I still didn”t like it when I saw the light and embraced the genre, for Anderson”s hit record is rather naff. Then I heard Joe South”s version, and it became clear to me just how good a song it is. Alas, a few weeks ago I watched an audition for South Africa”s Idols show during which a spectacularly untalented woman performed the song she retitled “Ahr Burk Yurr Pahrrdynn”, singing it aggressively out of tune and with no regard to the correct lyrics. It is her tragicomic version which I now hear, alas, when I think of the song.

In the three years before Lynn Anderson got around to scoring a hit with it in 1971, Rose Garden had been recorded by a soul singer (Dobie Gray), another country singer (Glen Campbell) and three easy listening merchants (Ray Conniff, Ronnie Aldrich and His Two Pianos, and Boots Randolph, under his almost real name Homer Louis Randolph III). For Joe South it was just an album track. He”d have a hit later with Games People Play, and wrote a couple of hits for Billie Joe Royal (Down in the Boondocks and Hush, which would become a Deep Purple classic), The Osmonds and Elvis.

Lynn Anderson almost did not record the song. Execs at her record company, Columbia, didn”t like it much and thought it inappropriate for a woman to sing a song which represents a male perspective (for example in the line “I could promise you things like big diamond rings”). As it happened, there was some spare time during a studio session, and the track was recorded. The label”s micro-managing head, Clive Davis, heard it and decided that it should be Anderson”s next single. It was a big hit in the US and Europe, and Anderson”s version remained the biggest selling recording by any female country artist until 1997.

Also recorded by: Dobie Gray (1969), Glen Campbell (1971), Homer Louis Randolph III (1971), Ray Conniff (1971), Ronnie Aldrich and His Two Pianos (1971), Peter Horton (with German lyrics, 1971), Johnny Mathis (1971), Loretta Lynn (1971), New World (1971), Andy Williams (1971), Dottie West (1971), The Fevers (as Mar de Rosas, 1971), Claude François (as Je te demande pardon, 1971), Bakersfield California Brass (1972), k.d. lang (1986), Kon Kan (1989), Suicide Machines (2000), Tamra Rosanes (2002), Socks (2004), Martina McBride (2005), Southern Culture on the Skids (2007), Aldebert (as Je te demande pardon, 2008)



More Originals

American Road Trip Vol. 1

March 11th, 2009 7 comments

Any Major Dude With Half A Heart is going on a tour of the USA. Not physically, alas, for Any Major Dude is poor and cannot afford to travel. So what we have here is a new series in which I start a musical journey, starting from a random place in the United States, post a song that mentions that location, and travel to the nearest town which brings to my mind a lyric, and then to another. Next instalment I move on from the last featured town. Sounds complicated? Well, come and join me on my tour and make sense of it as we travel together.

The scientific blind-stab-at-the-map of the United States brings us to”¦an empty spot in the middle of nowhere near Albuquerque. So in that amusingly-named town, we begin our journey

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Albuquerque, New Mexico

In Albuquerque we meet a fellow you seems to be too well-known in nearby Santa Fé, so he comes down to the bigger city of Albuquerque for a bit of anonymity, grabbing a cholesterol swelling breakfast on theway. Shall we accompany him on his return north to Santa Fé (where we might encounter Bob Dylan, Brooks & Dunn or Bon Jovi)? Head east, you say? Ok, do you know the way to Amarillo?
Neil Young ““ Albuquerque (1975).mp3

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Amarillo, Texas

It never occurred to me that Amarillo was a real place. Well, the good people of Amarillo will have you, and me, know that their”s is the 14th biggest city in the Lone Star state, with a population of about 200,000. According to Wikipedia, Amarillo also boasts one of the largest meat packing areas in the US, and has the only nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly facility in the country. Wow! And here, in the one-time Helium Capital of the World, we meet sweet Marie, who is waiting for the sha-la-la-la-la-la-la-ing Tony Christie. As the church bells are ringing, we retire to a bar where we encounter a dude playing on a pinball machine, feeding coins into a juke box to play the country stylings of Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton. The fool left the lovely Emmylou Harris behind in Atlanta, we learn. Which way is Atlanta? Due east? Let”s be on our way.
Emmylou Harris ““ Amarillo (1975).mp3
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Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

So we turned right from Amarillo and landed up in Oklahoma where the exciting new Wilco-esque band Deep Vibration (presumably named after the cellular adventures of one Ashley Cole) entertains us with a sound so rich, we have no idea what the man is singing. Something, it seems, is on his mind. Fun fact about Oklahoma City #1: It is twinned with Rio de Janeiro, which seems somehow less than obvious. Fun fact about Oklahoma City #2: It is the 31st biggest city in the United States. Fun fact about Oklahoma City #3: It has water taxis, which is pretty cool.
Deep Vibration – Oklahoma City Woman Blues (2008).mp3

Next stop north, south, east?

Great Moustaches in Rock: Orleans

March 10th, 2009 11 comments

I offer little new insight when I register that the 1970s was the acme of nightmare-inducing moustaches. Even James Brown got in on the act, managing in the process to look even more than ever like my sister-in-law”s former mother-in-law. After a long hiatus of Great Moustaches in Rock, we turn to the misadventures in hirsute stylings perpetrated by soft-rockers Orleans.

orleans-dancewithme

To our relief (or frustration, if you are looking for comedy), Orleans” moustachoid period was mercifully brief. Soon the tough thrashing monsters of soft rock (well, in comparison to David Gates” soggy Bread anyway) asserted their uncompromising masculinity with thatch all over their faces, doubtless taking the lead from the diminutive stud-muffin on the far left. Then division set in as two members realised the follicular folly of their comrades” ways and”¦oh, say it isn”t so”¦shaved! Or were the apostates in fact new members? I know little about the group, but scanning their covers, Orleans seemed to gain and shed members as rapidly Zsa Zsa Gabor”s nuptial turn-over.

And so Orleans appeared on the cover which has established them as legends in every worst-covers-of-all-time catalogue, an incongruous presence amid fundamentalist Christians, doll-killing maniacs and other assorted representatives of the psychotic recording artiste community. In most such anthologies, Orleans are the only outfit that actually sold records. Still The One remains a staple of “70s soft rock nostalgia, and that appeared on 1976″s notoriously sleeved Waking And Dreaming album.

orleans-topless

I don”t think it”s a bad cover at all. It is a bit odd, that much is true. But what we have here are five guys who clearly like each others” company and are not self-conscious about exhibiting their closeness, the two chaps on the right especially. The reason why it is included in those amusing covers collections is not because some Orleans members have comedy fur on their heads, or because their torsos are nauseating, but because the photo looks “gay”. More cultured observers would invoke the terminology of “homoerotic”.

I think I”ve made the point before that the generalised use of that concept is homophobic. Of course, there is such a thing as homoerotism, but it cannot be applied indiscriminately. If one describes the Orleans cover as homoerotic, then one is ascribing all manner of meaning to a snapshot in time. Perhaps the chaps on the right are indeed gay. Perhaps they are heterosexual but not embarrassed to show affection towards other men. Perhaps they were horsing around. Perhaps comedy-beard dude in front is trying to move whispy-tache”s hand away. Certainly hairy dude in front seems to be puzzled at it all.

Whatever the context, the photo cannot be arbitrarily sexualised. And even if one does so, and even if some members of Orleans are gay, including it in funny-covers collections is an act of homophobia. Intentionally or not, it communicates that being gay, or giving rise to suspicions of homsexuality, is somehow hilarious, and that men who show affection for one another are likewise “hilariously” gay. That common prejudice and the resultant compulsion by most men to avoid demonstrations of affection towards other men lest they be thought of as being homosexual is such a great loss to humanity “” and reinforces anti-gay sentiments.

Of course, faced with such perceptions, the cover was ill-advised. Frontman John Hall once explained that the topless pic was entirely unplanned. The photo shoot had been going for a while when the photographer suggested our friends take their shirts off (you can”t see it, but they still have their trousers on). Obediently, they did; a few pics were taken, and two minutes later the five put their shirts back on. And of all the photos taken at the session, the record company chose that one for the cover. At least Orleans are not forgotten “” indeed, in some incarnation or other, they are still touring the nostalgia circuit.

Orleans – Dance With Me.mp3
Orleans – Still The One.mp3

Previous moustaches