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Five from 2009 (March)

March 8th, 2009 4 comments

I don’t cover nearly enough new music, so here’s an undertaking that I will do so at least occasionally. I have not heard the new U2 album, and I most certainly will not. The new single is just horrible “” what sort of quality control do these guys employ? “” and as for the album, I shall be guided by Mr Agreeable’s magnificent review. I think Mr Agreeable is being admirably restrained when he asks: “F***ing Bono ““ how much worse is this self-important f***ing channeller of the f***ing flatulence of Satan going to get? Read more…

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Songs of Adultery

March 6th, 2009 7 comments

The theme song for infidelity, Your Cheating Heart, will feature in another instalment, so we will have to do with this bunch of adulterers (all but one men) and the people they”ve hurt (all but one of them women).

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Hello Saferide – Last Bitter Song.mp3

hellosaferide4Annika Norlin has been cheated on with a thin blonde “with a peanut for a brain and volleyballs for chest”. Worse yet, the dude did the dirty deed “with Miss Non-Bitterness” in her apartment. But, bastard dumped, Annika is getting over it by way of carthasis: “Now, this will be the last bitter song. It will be my last, real bitter song about you.” She will find new themes: “From now on, I”ll write about flowers and butterflies, chickens and kittens and shit.” And she”ll “try to find someone who knows I exist”. Which is the best kind of therapy. And, look, it”s working: “I”m feeling cheerful already. I”d like to break his neck, if I may. But most, I”d like to cut off that hair, and cut off that head, and cut off those volleyballs, and I hope she gets her heart broken, and I hope she turns bitter, really really bitter ““ like me.”

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Jim Reeves – He”ll Have To Go.mp3

jimreevesOh, what a set-up. Jim is on the phone with his woman, who presently is in the company of another man. Reeves has her on the phone, establishing a sense of intimacy and communicating instant forgiveness: “Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone, let”s pretend that we”re together all alone. I”ll tell the man to turn the juke box way down low”. And then he goes for the jugular: “And you can tell your friend there with you he”ll have to go.” He wants an answer now though: “Though love is blind, make up your mind. I”ve got to know ““ should I hang up or will you tell him he”ll have to go?” No whining, nor sulking, nor recriminations. Make up your mind, woman, and when you do, of course he”ll have to go.

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Nicole Atkins – Kill The Headlight.mp3

nicole-atkinsJim Reeves is willing to trust again, but that commodity is extinct when Nicole”s man cheats on her. “I know you and you are bound to stray. It”s a foul of men ““ they swear that they”ll never hurt you again, then give their best shots”, but if that is to no avail, “my heart you won”t have it again, so just don”t try.” The relationship will not be healed and it will be over. There won”t be a point in trying to mend it: “Don”t pull over, just kill the headlights.”

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Carrie Underwood – Before He Cheats.mp3

underwoodWhere Nicole Atkins won”t give second chances, Carrie Underwood doesn”t even let it get as far as that. Acting merely on suspicion, she gets her revenge in before the act. “Right now, she”s probably up singing some white-trash version of Shania karaoke. Right now, she”s probably saying, “˜I”m drunk”, and he”s thinking that he”s gonna get lucky. Right now, he”s probably dabbing on three dollars worth of that bathroom cologne.” So, just in case her imagination corresponds with reality, Carrie has “dug my key into the side of his pretty little souped-up four-wheel-drive, carved my name into his leather seat. I took a Louisville slugger to both head lights, slashed a hole in all four tires.” That should teach him to even think of cheating. He also might forget about keeping pet rabbits.

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Kelis – Caught Out There.mp3

kelisIt is fair to presume that the beautiful Kelis will not take back the perfidious scoundrel who cheated on her. She is not well disposed towards him, as the line “I hate you so much right now” may suggest. But, from Kelis” side of the story, one empathises with her. What she didn”t do for him? “Held you when you were sick, even sucked your dick” (which, if both ministrations were performed simultaneously, would require soundtracking by Marvin Gaye”s last big hit). Now it”s revenge time on the lying swine. Going one better on Carrie, “I”ll set your truck to flames, and watch it blow up.” Then comes the taunt: “Tell me: How you go”n see her now?” Aaaaaaarrrrgh!!!!!

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Smokey Robinson & the Miracles – Ooh Baby Baby.mp3

smokey-go-goSmokey is the prince of broken hearts. And here, the heartache is of his own making. He cheated and got dumped. “I did you wrong. My heart went out to play, but in the game I lost you. What a price to pay! Hey I”m crying.” Now he tearfully wants her back: “I”m just about at the end of my rope, but I can”t stop trying. I can”t give up hope, “cause I feel that one day I”ll hold you near, whisper “˜I still love you”.” In the interim, “until that day is here ““ I”m crying.” Would you take him back?

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Mindy Smith – Jolene.mp3

mindy-smithI could have chosen any number of versions of Jolene, from Dolly Parton”s original to the delightful Strawberry Switchblade version. It is heartbreaking how the singer humbles herself before the beautiful Jolene, with her ivory skin, emerald eyes and smile “like a breath of spring”. She knows she has lost her man, who keeps saying Jolene”s name in his sleep. Her only hope is that Jolene might dump him, and so she appeals for her rival”s mercy (and, possibly, self-sacrifice). There”s some point-missing going on: “You could have your choice of men, but I could never love again. He”s the only one for me, Jolene. I had to have this talk with you. My happiness depends on you .”

But what if Jolene truly loves the man too. She might well attract another one, but will it be mutual love? Perhaps she won”t ever be able to love again too. And might the singer not be deluding herself that being with a man who doesn”t love her will be an arrangement conducive to “happiness”? The poor sap has no say in the matter, of course. He is being traded like a piece of meat whose feelings are immaterial. But then, being a man, he might appreciate not being forced to make a liver-curdlingly difficult decision.

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Shirley Brown – Woman To Woman.mp3

Barbara Mason – From His Woman To You.mp3

sbrownShirley phones Barbara to warn her off her “old man”. “It”s only fair that I let you know that the man you”re in love with ““ he”s mine.” Not only does she pay for his clothes and car, but she “loves that man”. And, like Jolene, Barbara is being asked to end it for the sake of her lover”s wife. “Woman to woman, if you”ve ever been in love, then you know how I feel. And, woman to woman, now, if you were in my shoes, wouldn”t you have done the same thing too.” So she warns: “I ain”t gonna let you break up my happy home.”

bmason1Happy? Really? Barbara responds to that in her own song, and it doesn”t look like Shirley”s begging and threats have had any effect, as the title already proclaims. She might not be above to satisfy his material needs, but she can give what he really wants: “I can give him love”. As far as Barbara is concerned, the nameless sap has already made his choice and his bed: “He spent last night with me, where he wanted to be.” So the guy has the choice between a woman with whom he has great sex and a wife who provides all the material comforts. Knowing that Mason”s lyrics were written by a man, how do you think the story will end?

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More Songs About Love

The Originals Vol. 17

March 3rd, 2009 7 comments

Time for another round of Originals. Apologies for the relative scarcity of posts in the series. They are rather research-intensive, so one post of five songs can take up to 5-6 hours of work. Still, I enjoy writing these posts very much, so I”ll keep on going.
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Richard Chamberlain ““ They Long To Be Close To You.mp3
Dusty Springfield ““ (They Long To Be) Close To You.mp3
Carpenters ““ (They Long To Be) Close To You.mp3

Isaac Hayes – (They Long To Be) Close To You (full).mp3
Jerry Butler & Brenda Lee Eager – Close To You (live).mp3
Gwen Guthrie ““ (They Long To Be) Close To You.mp3
Paul Weller – Close To You.mp3

richard-chamberlain-close-to-youThe Carpenters drew heavily from often not very well known songs, making them their own in the process. This was not so, however, with what is widely regarded at their signature tune. (They Long To Be) Close To You had been recorded a few times before the Carpenters got their turn in 1970.

It started out as a humble b-side to Richard Chamberlain” (yes, the actor) 1963 single Blue Guitar. Within a year both Dionne Warwick and Dusty Springfield had recorded it, though Dusty”s version was not released until 1967, on her lovely Where Am I Going? LP.

Composer Burt Bacharach was not happy with either of the hitherto published versions when he offered the song to Herb Alpert, who had in 1968 recorded a rather good version of Bacharach”s This Guy”s In Love With You. Alpert, however, declined to do Close To You (apparently he didn”t like the line about sprinkling “moondust in your hair”), and gave the song to the Carpenters, who had released their debut LP on Alpert”s A&M label. An similarly hesitant Richard Carpenter and Alpert arranged the song “” with the latter”s prominent trumpet track “” and created aversion Bacharach was happy with.

carpenters1Close To You has been covered many times since. The genius of the song is that it can stand distinct treatments. It did not suffer from Isaac Hayes slowed down, psychedelic-soul 1971 take, nor from Jerry Butler & Brenda Lee Eager’s 1973 gospel-blues rendition (from the legendary Save The Children concert), nor from Gwen Guthrie”s wonderful upbeat, joyous soul interpretation in 1986. Even Paul Weller on his 2004 album of cover versions couldn”t mess it up. Indeed, I like his raspy-voiced version on which he struggles to keep in tune, but I seem to be in a minority here. Listen to it and tell me what you think. And, of course, it”s Homer and Marge”s wedding song (in the movie; regular viewers will recall several weddings).

Also recorded by: Dionne Warwick (1967), Gabor Szabo (1970), Johnny Mathis (1970), Perry Como (1970), Nancy Wilson (1970), Diana Ross (1970), Leon Spencer (1971), Frank Sinatra (1971), The Moments (1971), Claudine Longet (1971), Barbra Streisand & Burt Bacharach (1971, on Bacharach’s TV show), Cilla Black (1971), Eddy Arnold (1971), Richard Evans (1972), Errol Garner (1973), The Clams (1974), B.T. Express (1975), The Cranberries (1994), Richard Clayderman (1995), Yasuko Agawa (1996), Billy Baxter (1998), Marshall & Alexander (2003), Gerald Levert & Tamia (2003), Tuck & Patti (2004), Soulbob (2005), Rick Astley (2005), Herb Alpert (2005), Barry Manilow (2007), Mario Biondi & Duke Orchestra (2007), Steve Tyrell (2008), Tina Arena (2008) a.o.

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Anita Carter ““ Love”s Ring Of Fire.mp3
Johnny Cash – Ring of Fire.mp3

anita-carterAt the time when June Carter was falling heavily for Johnny Cash, she was regularly writing songs with fellow country singer Merle Kilgore (the first song they wrote together was titled Promised To John, recorded by Anita Carter with Hank Snow). As Kilgore recalled it, Ring Of Fire was born the day June spoke to him about her love for Cash. Later, seeking an idea for a song, June remembered a letter she had received from a friend going through a divorce which described love as “a burning ring of fire”. And thus a classic song title (which even appealed to the manufacturers of haemorrhoid ointment; Roseanne Cash blocked its use in an ad for such a product) was born. Or, if you choose to doubt Kilgore, the writers lifted it from an Elizabethan love poem (or maybe June”s friend got the line from that source).

The song essentially describes June”s feelings for Cash. But it was her sister Anita “” reportedly a one-time girlfriend of Elvis Presley”s “” who recorded it first, in November 1962. In fact, the song was only half-finished when Anita was ready to record it (June had led her to believe the song was already complete). June and Kilgore banged the rest together in ten minutes, fortuitously retaining the word “mire” from a provisional lyric.

cash-ring-of-fireCash liked the song when he heard Anita”s record (as he well should) and decided he would record it. Deferring to his future sister-in-law, he waited four months before recording his version. In the interim he had a dream about the song featuring Tijuana trumpets “” possibly inspired by June”s comment about her having borrowed the song”s swirling sound from the music at a merry-go-round in Villa Acuna, Mexico. Shortened to Ring Of Fire, Cash”s version was a hit, his first since October 1958, this saving his about-to-be-cancelled recording contract with Columbia. And for years later, Kilgore was the best man at Johnny and June”s wedding.

As a postscript, Cash”s ex-wife Vivian claimed that June (or Kilgore) wrote the song, saying it was Johnny”s song about June”s vagina (or “bearded clam”). Attractive though the idea of the song as a metaphor for cunnilingus may be, Vivian”s claim is less than utterly persuasive.

Also recorded by: Roy Drusky (1964), Kitty Wells (1964), Jerry Lee Lewis (1965), Dave Dudley (1966), Tom Jones (1967), Lynn Anderson (1968), Eric Burdon & The Animals (1968), Tommy Cash (1969), Hank Williams Jr (1970), Ray Charles (1970), The Buckaroos (1971), Earl Scruggs & Linda Ronstadt (1972), Olivia Newton-John (1977), Blondie (1980), Wall of Voodoo (1980), Carlene Carter (1980), Dwight Yoakam (1986), Social Distortion (1990), Frank Zappa (1991), McPeak Brothers (1992), Dick Dale (1994), Martin Belmont (1995), Stop (1995), Bhundu Boys & Hank Wangford (1996), Elliot Humberto Kavee (1997), David Allan Coe (1998), The Caravans (1999), The Du-Tels (2001), Billy Burnette (2002), Michel Montecrossa (2003), James Carr (2003), Rachel Z (2004)
Bobby Solo ( 2004), Joaquin Phoenix (2005), The Regulars (2006), Leningrad Cowboys (2006), Lucy Kaplansky (2007), Elvis Costello (2007) a.o.

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Sir Mack Rice – Mustang Sally.mp3
Wilson Pickett – Mustang Sally.mp3

mack-riceMustang Sally is the karaoke number of blues and soul, thanks in large part to The Commitments spirited performance in the eponymous 1991 film. But it was in overuse before that: John Lee Hooker”s San Francisco blues club sported a sign on its stage warning: “No Mustang Sally”.

The song was written by the songwriter Bonnie “Sir Mack” Rice (who also wrote the soul classic Respect Yourself) as a bit of a gag on somebody”s desire for a Ford Mustang, calling it first “Mustang Mama”. Reportedly it was Aretha Franklin who suggested the renaming to Sally. Mack had a minor (and his only) hit with it in 1965; in late 1966 Wilson Pickett recorded his now legendary version “” which almost died the moment it was finished. Apparently the tape snapped off the reel, fragmenting on the floor of the Muscle Shoals studio. The engineer, Tom Dowd, gathered the pieces and spliced them back together again. With that, he saved one of the great soul performances. Of course the great story of the broken tape ignores that Pickett could have simply recorded the thing again. Apparently the men from Desperate Housewives are singing it in the new series; have mercy”¦

Also recorded by: Chambers Brothers (1965), The Kingsmen (1966), Young Rascals (1966), Ken Boothe (1968), Mar-Keys (1969), Muddy Waters (1974), Maurice Williams (1975), Willie Mitchell (1977), Snooks Eaglin (1978), Rufus Thomas (1980), Magic Slim & the Teardrops (1983), Frank Frost (1988), Andy Taylor (1990), Buddy Guy (1991), The Outcasts (1993), John Clark (1993), Hiram Bullock (1994), Sam & Dave (1995), Vance Kelly (1998), Fiona Day (1999), Albert Collins (2000), Los Lobos (2000), Solomon Burke (2004) a.o.

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Lis Sørensen – Brændt.mp3
Ednaswap ““ Torn (acoustic version).mp3

Trine Rein – Torn.mp3
Natalie Imbruglia ““ Torn.mp3

lis-sorensenWhen Natalie Imbruglia”s Torn had its long run in the upper reaches of the British and US charts in 1997, word was that the song was a cover of the Norwegian hit by Trine Rein. The rumour was repeated so often that it became received wisdom. The truth is that it wasn”t even the first cover, or even the first Scandinavian version.

The song”s journey to hit-dom is a little complicated. The song was written by Ednaswap members Anne Preven and Scott Cutler in 1993. The same year it was recorded in Danish by Lis Sørensen as Brændt (I got her version from Danophile Whiteray of Echoes In The Wind), but by Ednaswap only in 1995. Still, those who overplayed the Norwegian angle aren”t entire wrong though: Imbruglia”s cover is a straight copy of Rein”s version, right down to the guitar solo. Ednaswap were a not very successful “90s grunge band, who came by their name when singer Anne Preven had a nightmare about fronting a group by that name being booed off the stage. Well, with a name like that”¦ Preven has become a songwriter, receiving an Oscar nomination for co-writing the song Listen from Dreamgirls.

Also recorded by: Off By One (2002)

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Marion Harris – I Ain”t Got Nobody.mp3
Ted Lewis – Just A Gigolo.mp3
Louis Prima – Just a Gigolo/I Ain”t Got Nobody.mp3

marion-harrisBased on his early “50s stage act, Louis Prima craftily took two songs and seamlessly turned them into one. Just A Gigolo, the first part of the song, is based on the 1929 Austrian hit by Richard Tauber, originally known as Schöner Gigolo, Armer Gigolo (Beautiful Gigolo, Poor Gigolo ““ as in the 1978 movie in which Marlene Dietrich sings the song), which tells the story of a soldier who ditches his uniform to become a “dancer-for-hire” after World War I. In the interim, the song has become a German big band standard. Soon after it was released in Austria, it crossed the Atlantic. The translated lyrics, by one Irving Caesar, moved the action to Paris and eliminated the social commentary on post-war Austria. It was first recorded in the US by French singer Irene Bordoni. Ted Lewis” 1931 is the oldest of the German-language versions I could come by, thanks to One Hep Kat.

Prima brings the gigolo”s fatalism (“When the end comes I know, they”ll say “˜just a gigolo” as life goes on without me”) to the obvious conclusion in the second part, in which the gigolo laments his loneliness via I Ain”t Got Nobody. The song was written, as I Ain’t Got Nobody Much, by Spencer Williams (who also wrote Basin Street Blues) in around 1915, and was first recorded in 1917 by Marion Harris (1896-1944), providing her biggest hit (sorry about the low bit-rate of the MP3). By the time Prima got around to merging it with Just A Gigolo in his 1956 debut album, The Wildest!, it had become a standard. Prima”s audacity in taking two standards and presenting them as one song is matched by his genius in creating from a medley a single version which in itself is now a standard, one that towers over the other two.

Also recorded by: (Just A Gigolo): Louis Armstrong, Leo Reisman, Bing Crosby (his first hit), Leo Reisman And His Orchestra, Jack Hylton, Billy Ternent, Jaye P Morgan, Sarah Vaughan, Thelonious Monk, Erroll Garner, Oscar Peterson, Eartha Kitt, Marlene Dietrich a.o. (I Ain”t Got Nobody): Bing Crosby, Mills Brothers, Cab Calloway, Wingy Manone, Chick Webb, Emmett Miller, Merle Haggard, Bob Wills, Coleman Hawkins, Rosemary Clooney a.o. (Prima medley): Village People, David Lee Roth, Alex Harvey, Lou Bega a.o.

More Originals

Intros Quiz – 1974 edition

March 2nd, 2009 3 comments

bravo74Continuing of five-year cycle, this month”s intros quiz covers the year 1974: all songs were single releases in that year (which means they may have been on LPs released in 1973 or hits in 1975).

As always, each of the 20 intros is 5-7 seconds in length. I will post the answers in the comments by Thursday. If you can”t wait till then to find out what the blasted number 7 is, please feel free to e-mail me or, better, message me on Facebook. If you”re not my FB friend, click here and become one.

Intros Quiz – 1974 edition


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