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Archive for February, 2010

Covered With Soul Vol. 1

February 26th, 2010 4 comments

Generally I”m wary of cover versions, especially if the song being covered is already well known in its original form or is otherwise identified with a particular artist. There is not much you can do to improve on, say, Bridge Over Troubled Water other than to strip the song down and rework it completely. Not many artists have succeeded in doing so. But for an example of how a well-known song can be totally reworked, one might look to Otis Redding”s version of Try A Little Tenderness (originally recorded by Bing Crosby). Or listen to what Donny Hathaway does with the standard Misty on this mix.

The songs covered by soul artists come almost exclusively from a non-soul tradition. Some are standards (Don”t Fence Me In, Misty, Nature Boy), some country (King Of The Road, Harper Valley P.T.A.), some were pop or rock hits. Only two songs here were originally soul numbers, though For Once In My Life had traversed genres before Gladys Knight & the Pips released their take in 1973 (see HERE). The other, originally by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, is redone here by Chic man Bernie Edwards in a rather nice poppy way. Merry Clayton (whom we last encountered HERE) may be covering a Rolling Stones song, but it is she who sang on the Stones in the first place, so it’s really half a cover.

I”d be interested to know which covers worked for the listener, and which fell flat. As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R , and a front and back cover is included.

TRACKLISTING
1. The Isley Brothers – Listen To The Music (1973)
2. Merry Clayton – Gimme Shelter (1970)
3. Erma Franklin – Light My Fire (1969)
4. Stevie Wonder – Bang Bang (1966)
5. Jackie Wilson – Eleanor Rigby 1969)
6. The Dells – Wichita Lineman/By The Time I Get To Phoenix (1969)
7. Isaac Hayes – It’s Too Late (1973)
8. The Delfonics – Alfie (1968)
9. Donny Hathaway – Misty (1970)
10. Grady Tate – Don’t Fence Me In (1974)
11. Joe Tex – King Of The Road (1965)
12. Vivian Reed – Harper Valley P.T.A. (1970)
13. Flaming Ember – Spinning Wheel (1971)
14. The Supremes & The Temptation – Got To Get You Into My Life (1968)
15. George Benson – Nature Boy (1977)
16. Bernard Edwards feat. Jocelyn Brown – You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me (1983)
17. Charles Brimmer – We’ve Only Just Begun (1976)
18. Gladys Knight & The Pips – For Once In My Life (1973)
19. Roberta Flack – Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye (1969)
20. Billy Paul – Mrs. Robinson (1970)
21. Voices Of East Harlem – For What It’s Worth (1970)

GET IT!

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Answer Records Vol. 4

February 23rd, 2010 12 comments

Three new answer songs, though one is more a case on expanding on the story of the original. The first answer song here is one of the funniest in the genre. The Carol in the title of Neil Sedaka”s song was his high-school girlfriend Carole King, though we should not be deceived to believe that this was some kind of soul-baring singer-songwriter moment. After Oh Carol became a hit, the budding songwriter, still all of 18 years old, responded with a pretty funny response. Alas, it was not a hit. The third featured song here is the excellent Harper Valley P.T.A., a country song that has crossed over into soul music. Look out on Friday for a version by the great Vivian Reed.

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Love is reciprocated after all

Act 1: Neil Sedaka ““ Oh, Carol (1959).mp3
Poor Neil, he loves Carol, but Carol acts like she doesn”t love him. “You hurt me and you made me cry,” he whine. But he vows to keep on taking her shit because “if you leave me I will surely die” (there is no time for understatement when you”re in love). Evidently Neil has not heard of George Constanza”s theory of The Hand, because he keeps on begging: “I will always want you for my sweetheart, no matter what you do.”

Act 2: Carole King ““ Oh, Neil (1960).mp3
Ah, relief. Carol, who (in the song) hails from Tennessee, is hot for Neil too, and has been for a long time; ever since she saw him at square dance, in fact. And when she saw him, something skipped a beat. It may be a misheard lyric, but her “bowel skipped a beat” and her “heart felt so heavy like I had too much to eat”. In the obligatory spoken bit, Carol promises to go as far as giving up “a month”s supply of chewing tobacco” if this is going to make her be known as “Mrs Neil Sedakee”, her murderous Sedaka music-hating gran”pappy notwithstanding. And at the end, gran”pappy makes his climactic cameo.

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On a point of pop evolution

Act 1: Barry Mann ““ Who Put The Bomp (1961).mp3
Sedaka and King had a Brill Building colleague in Barry Mann, who with King”s future husband Gerry Goffin pondered pop”s perennial point of pedantic philosophy: “Who put the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp?” It seems urgent that the brains arrive at an answer soon, because Barry would like to thank that man, for these words let Barry dip da dip da dip his rama lama ding dong in his girl”s boogity boogity shoo.

Act 2: The Fabulous Marcels – I Put The Bomp (1961).mp3
Ah, look no further, Barry, it was The Fabulous Marcels (in particular the bass singer) who put the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp, and they would appreciate your shaking their hands in gratitude “” preferably after you”ve washed them having done the dip da dip da dip with your rama lama ding dong. Personally, I think The Fabulous Marcels, for all their doo wop chops and the dang-a-dang-ding-donging of the Marcel”s (of whom these guys may be an extension, cousins or impostors) Blue Moon, are presenting a false picture of pop music”s evolution. Genesis, which provides us with an incontestably complete account of all creation, teaches us that God completed the rama lama ding dong, having cut a ram from the dong, as dusk fell on the sixth day, saw it was indeed good, and said: “Let there be Saturday Night Fever disco light”. Or that”s what I learned in Sunday school.

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The gossip you sow”¦

Act 1: Jeannie C Riley – Harper Valley P.T.A. (1968).mp3
Don”t y”all be talking trash behine mah back! Well, that”s what the Parent-Teacher Association did to the widow Johnson, accusing her in a letter delivered via her daughter of social and sartorial misconduct so severe as to render her unfit for parenthood. Perhaps the P.T.A. worthies believed that Mrs Johnson was too preoccupied with drunken promiscuity to notice their flaws. They certainly underestimated the victim of their own hypocrisy. At the next P.T.A. meeting “” the same night, as it happens “” Mrs Johnson turns up in her mini-skirt, and dishes the dirt about adultery and alcoholism and lack of discretion within the respectable nomenclature of local school politics. You can feel Bobby Taylor squirm as Mrs Johnson reveals how many times he has asked her for a date, and his wife quickly dousing the fires of her indignation at her husband”s betrayal as the meeting learns about her liberal use of ice. Mrs Johnson threw all the stones cast by the hypocrites back at them.

Act 2: Effie Smith – Harper Valley P.T.A. Gossip (1968).mp3
And don”t think that the ass-kicking which Mrs Johnson administered to the pharisees of the P.T.A. will remain privileged information. Effie Smith (a veteran of the Big Band scene now turning seriously funky) gets on the phone to her friend Mabel (of course!) as soon as she hears, doubtless lamenting that the invention of Facebook is still four decades away. From Effie we learn about the cause of Mrs Johnson”s widowhood as she refers to the gossip-buster as: “Clyde Johnson who drank himself to death”s wife”. And so it continues as Effie dishes the scandals with absolute glee. Such as the P.T.A.”s secretary, signatory of the note that started all this, who had to leave town twice under clouds of scandal. Effie evidently has no high opinion of the P.T.A.”s dignitaries. Teacher Shirley Thompson, she of the gin-breath, apparently she has “bird legs”¦looking like matchsticks walking on a loaf of bread”. So, does anyone have any juicy beef on Effie Smith?

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The Originals Vol. 36

February 19th, 2010 7 comments

After a couple of Original specials “” Beatles and Reworked Hits “” we return to the usual random selection of five lesser known originals: the Bacharach/David song I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself, the seriously great Super Duper Love (which became a hit for Joss Stone), Gordon Lightfoot’s Early Morning Rain, rock & roll classic See You Later Alligator, and the story of the Coke jingle that first was another song and then a megaghit which most of us might have preferred to have been taught.

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Tommy Hunt – I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself (1962).mp3
Dusty Springfield – I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself (1964).mp3
Dionne Warwick – I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself (1966).mp3
Isaac Hayes – I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself (1970).mp3

One should think that a song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, arranged and conducted by Bacharach and produced by the legendary Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller would become a big hit. Alas, R&B singer Tommy Hunt”s version, released on the Scepter label as a b-side to And I Never Knew and as the title track of Hunt”s 1962 album, went mostly unnoticed. Tommy Hunt a former member of The Flamingos (of I Only Have Eyes For You fame), never achieved the breakthrough, but he was very popular on Britain”s Northern Soul scene, and performed on the circuit as late as the 1990s. Scepter tried their luck with the song a second time in 1965 with a version by Big Maybelle, which used the same backing track as Hunt”s. It went nowhere.

In 1964, I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself provided Dusty Springfield with her second top 10 hit , while in the US Dionne Warwick “” the great performer of the Bacharach/David songbook “” had a US hit with it in 1966, also on the Specter label.

Also recorded by: Big Maybelle (1964), Jill Jackson (1964), Sheila (as Oui, il faut croire, 1964), Joan Baxter (1964), Chris Farlowe (1966), Chuck Jackson (1966), Smokey Robinson & The Miracles (1966, released in 2002), Brook Benton (1969), Isaac Hayes (1970), Gary Puckett (1970), Cissy Houston (1970), The Dells (1972), Marcia Hines (1976), Demis Roussos (1978), Elvis Costello & The Attractions (1978), The Photos (1980), Linda Ronstadt (1993),Linda Ronstadt (1994), Bloom (1997), Nicky Holland (1997), The Earthmen (1998), Sonia (2000), The White Stripes (2003), Steve Tyrell (2003), Trijntje Oosterhuis (2007), Tina Arena (2007), Jimmy Somerville (2009) a.o.

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Sugar Billy ““ Super Duper Love (1975).mp3
Joss Stone ““ Super Duper Love (2003).mp3

Not much is known about Sugar Billy, who was known to his mom as William Garner. Apparently a producer of some sort before he released what seems to be his sole album, also called Super Duper Love, on Fast Track Records in 1975, he then promptly faded into obscurity. It”s a pity, because the LP is quite wonderful (though some of it must have seemed a little outdated even by 1975), and the cover is one of the sexiest I can think of. Super Duper Love was the album”s lead single, released in 1974. It didn”t dent the charts. I don”t even know whether Billy, who is also playing the great guitar on the track, is still alive, though it seems that he eventually retired from the music industry and worked as a builder.

Joss Stone launched her career as a 16-year-old in 2003 on the back of her version of Super Duper Love (and a regrettable cover of the White Stripes” Fell In Love With A Girl) in 2003. It was an inspired choice: a catchy tune which only few people knew, and poppy enough that it did not require her to imitate soul singing. It has a pleasant “70s soul vibe “” as it should have, since several “70s soul legends appear on it, such as Timmy Thomas (on keyboards) and Betty Wright (as co-producer and on backing vocals). I hope that Sugar Billy did okay on the royalties. If Super Duper Love had been representative of the Joss Stone sound, I”d have been quite content. Alas, the white teenage girl from suburban Brittania was hyped as some sort of mystic incarnation of a soul mother from the deepest south, which clearly she was not. The Grammys loved it, of course, though that is rarely a token of artistic credibility. The girl didn”t know better, but she paved the way for a flood of entirely redundant British white soulstresses.

Also recorded by: nobody else, it seems

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Ian & Sylvia – Early Morning Rain (1965).mp3
Gordon Lightfoot – Early Morning Rain (1966).mp3
Paul Weller – Early Morning Rain (2004).mp3
Richard Hawley ““ Early Morning Rain (2009).mp3

Several artists had a bite of Early Morning Rain before the song”s writer, Gordon Lightfoot, released it (though he had already recorded it). First up were Lightfoot”s Canadian compatriots Ian & Sylvia, a folk duo discovered in 1962 by Bob Dylan”s future manager Albert Grossman, who”d also sign Lightfoot. The married twosome”s version, with a rather good bass break, appeared on their 1965 album named after Lightfoot”s song. It featured another song by the still mostly unknown Lightfoot, For Lovin” Me, as well as the original version of Darcy Farrow.

Both Lightfoot songs recorded by Ian & Sylvia were soon covered by Peter, Paul & Mary, who released Early Morning Rain as a single in late 1965, by Judy Collins and by the Kingston Trio. In November 1965 it was also recorded on a demo by the Warlocks, who a month later would become the Grateful Dead, though their version would not be released till later (listen to the full Warlocks session here). Peter, Paul & Mary”s single release tanked, but a 1966 version by George Hamilton IV reached the top 10 of the country charts (he also had success with another Lightfoot song, Steel Rail Blues).

By then, Lightfoot had finally released the song, closing the A-side of his debut album, Lightfoot!, which came out in January 1966 but had mostly been recorded in December 1964. The songwriter, incidentally, had spent a year in Britain presenting the BBC”s Country & Western Show (among his viewers very likely was country fan Keith Richards).

Also recorded by: Peter, Paul & Mary (1965), Judy Collins (1965), Kingstion Trio (1965), Chad & Jeremy (1966), Bobby Bare (1966), Carolyn Hester (1966), The Settlers (1966) ,Joe Dassin (as Dans la brume du matin, 1966), Julie Felix (1967), The What’s New (1967), Bob Dylan (1970), Pendulum (1971), Elvis Presley (1972), Jerry Lee Lewis (1973), Eddy Mitchell (as Chaque matin il se lève, 1974), Moose (1992), Bill Staines (1995), Tony Rice (1996),Grateful Dead (1965, released in 2001),Eva Cassidy (released in 2002), Raul Malo (2004), Richard Hawley (2009) a.o.

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Bobby Charles – Later Alligator (1955).mp3
Bill Haley and his Comets – See You Later Alligator (1956).mp3

We previously looked at Haley”s Rock Around The Clock (first recorded by Sonny Dae & his Knights; see The Originals Vol. 11). See You Later Alligator, the final of Haley”s trilogy of million-sellers, was a cover of Bobby Charles” Cajun blues number. Born Robert Charles Guidry in Louisiana, Charles (who died in January) recorded the song as Later Alligator in 1955 at the age of 17. It was released in November 1955 without making much of a commercial impact. His hero, Fats Domino, also recorded a couple of his songs, first Before I Grow Too Old and in 1960 the hit Walking To New Orleans. Charles also wrote (I Don’t Know Why) But I Do for Clarence “˜Frogman” Henry, and played Down South in New Orleans at The Band”s farewell concert (it appears on the 4-disc set of The Last Watltz but, alas, not in the film). That Band song wasn”t his, but he co-wrote Small Town Talk with Rick Danko.

Haley recorded See You Later Alligator on December 12, 1955, apparently allowing his drummer Ralph Jones to play on it, instead of the customary random session musician. Released in January 1956, Haley”s version sold more than a million copies, but reached only #6 in the Billboard charts.

Contrary to popular perception, the catchphrase “See you later, alligator” with the response “in a while, crocodile” was not coined by the song, neither in Bobby Charles” nor Bill Haley”s version. It was an old turn of phrase, used by the jazz set already in the 1930s, along the same lines as “What”s the story, morning glory?”, “What”s your song, King Kong?” and “What”s the plan, Charlie Chan?”. It was, however, due to Haley”s hit that the phrase spread more widely throughout he US and internationally.

Also recorded by: Roy Hall (1956), Freddie and the Dreamers (1964), Millie Small (1965), Mud (as part of a medley, 1974), Rock House (1974), Orion (1980), Ricky King (1984), Dr. Feelgood (1986), Zachary Richard (1990)

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Susan Shirley – True Love And Apple Pie (1971).mp3
Coca Cola commercial ““ I”d Like To But The World A Coke (1971).mp3
The Hillside Singers ““ I”d Like To Teach The World To Sing (1971).mp3
The New Seekers ““ I”d Like To Teach The World To Sing (1971).mp3

The contribution of advertising to the origination of pop hits is scarce. There was We”ve Only Just Begun (discussed here) and, well, I”d Like To Teach The World To Sing, whose original function was to peddle Coca Cola. And somehow, a little-known Australian squeezed in her version as the song”s original release.

In January 1971, Coca Cola were looking for ways to popularise its new slogan, “It”s the Real Thing”, which had replaced the classic “Things Go Better With Coke”. The company”s advertising agency, McCann-Erickson, brought together its creative director, Bill Backer, with songwriters Billy Davis (who had written for Motown) and Roger Cook, a member of Blue Mink. Cook already had a melody, a ditty called True Love And Apple Pie which he had written with his regular collaborator, Roger Greenway. The Cook/Greenway partnership was prolific over the years, including hits such as Something”s Gotten Hold Of My Heart, Melting Pot and Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress. The three wrote the words for the jingle overnight in a London hotel room, with the New Seekers in mind as its performers. As it turned out, the New Seekers thought the song was trite and not just a little silly (and that”s the New Seekers pronouncing on sentimentality).

True Love And Apple Pie and was released in March 1971, produced by Greenway and with Davis credited as a co-writer. It seems that the Coke jingle had already been flighted a month earlier on US radio, albeit to negative response. There seem to have been legal wrangling as a result of a version of the jingle Coca Cola had commissioned being in circulation. Shirley”s song certainly received little promotion.

Meanwhile, the McCann-Erickson agency devised a new way to promote the jingle, deciding it needed visuals. The resulting TV commercial (video), filmed by the great Haskell Wexler, became an instant classic. The song, I”d Like To Buy The World A Coke, became so popular that radio DJs persuaded Davis to record it with adapted lyrics. Recorded by session singers without the branding, it was released under the name Hillside Singers, and started to climb the US charts when the New Seekers eventually consented to record it, minus the “it”s the real thing” tag. It became a massive hit, topping the UK charts in January 1972 and reaching #7 in the US.

Unbelievable though it may sound, those creators of entirely original music, Oasis, were sued for plagiarising from I”d Like To Teach The World To Sing, lyrics and music, for their song Shakermaker. The original opening line went: “I”d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony.” How did the monobrowed twits expect to get away with that?

Also recorded by: Ray Conniff (1971), The Edwin Hawkins Singers (1972), The Congregation (1972),Jim Nabors (1972), Chet Atkins (1972), St. Tropez Singers (as Endnu er jorden grøn, 1972), Klaus Wunderlich (1972), Peter Dennler (1982), Jevetta Steele (1990), No Way Sis (1996), Lea Salonga (1997), Demi Holborn (2002), Bobby Bare Jr’s Young Criminals’ Starvation League (2003), Eve Graham (2005) a.o.

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This is Splitsville

February 16th, 2010 3 comments

Much as there are songs about the sweetness of being in love, as we saw last week, the shards of a broken relationship glisten on the corridors of popular music. This lot of ten songs has a fair share of numbers dealing with break-ups and divorce; happily not an action I am contemplating.

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P.P. Arnold – Letter To Bill (1968).mp3
Poor Bill. This morning he left his happy home for the office in good spirits, but when he returns he will not embraced by a loving P.P. She is gone, having left him an enigmatic letter announcing her departure that morning. It will be of scant comfort to poor Bill to learn that “it”s not that I don”t love you” and that “I”m not leaving you for anything you”ve done” (ah, the old “it”s not you. Nooooo! It”s me” chestnut). Bill probably will not feel comforted by her reassurance that she still remembers “the good times”, certainly not if he hadn’t realised there actually had been bad times. Thoughtfully she left housekeeping instruction (“tell the milkman to drop down on the order”), and observe her counsel concerning neighbourhood gossip. But most of all, Bill will be dismayed by her admission of having written the letter hurriedly under pressure of the train timetable. She couldn”t even bother to write a proper letter? Ouch.

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Kool & the Gang – Too Hot (1979).mp3
Kids, don”t get married too young. Mr and Mrs Kool were 17 when they fell in love, “high school sweethearts, love was so brandnew”. So they got married and things were fine. Until they drifted out of love. Now, with all the anger and recrimination, the climate is one of excessive heat, as the song title alerts us. Kool (yeah, I know, it”s really J.T. singing) doesn”t quite understand how or why everything changed. Apparently, they failed “to stop and feel the [unspecified] need”. Oh, but it hurts. “So long ago, you were my love. Feeling the pain!” The excellent guitar solo won”t palliate the distress. Kool continues to assure us that it is indeed very hot before letting us in on the twist: recalling that once they took their vows, he insists: “We”re man and wife forever!” And then the final plea: “Baby, please won”t you listen?” Ah, it looks like only Mrs Kool wants out.

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Tompall Glaser – If I”d Only Come And Gone (1975).mp3
You”ll remember Tompall Glaser as the co-writer of Streets Of Baltimore (featured in The Originals Vol. 32), which could feature in this post. Here, Tompall got himself tied down after what seems to have been a one-night stand. She had no idea that he was a bit of a cad “” “If you”d only stopped to read cold hard words I caved on the other bedroom walls” “” and now she”s stuck with a man who wants out. He regrets that he”ll hurt her. If only he had come and gone, Tompall notes by way of double entendre, “you”d be safely tucked away among the pleasures I”d remember “stead of laying here beside me fearin” restless thoughts inside me that might awaken with the breaking of each new day.” Yes, if he had “only come and gone the way I”ve always done with summer girls before, shared one night with you and never reached for more, then we wouldn”t face this long and painful righting of the wrong”.

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Boz Scaggs – It”s Over (1976).mp3
Boz is having what seems to be an inner confrontation with two contrary voices conversing in this deceptively upbeat song, with former Ikette Maxine Green doing backing vocals duty. First there”s the lovelorn man who can”t face up to the end of a relationship. “Best of friends never part; best of fools has loved forever from the bottom of his heart.” The second voice, in the chorus, gives it to him straight, in a brutish and artless fashion: “Why can”t you just get it through your head? It”s over, it”s over now. Yes, you heard me clearly now, I said it”s over, it”s over now.” But Voice One isn”t ready to hear that, protesting wretchedly: “You might say that. I can”t take it, I can”t take it. Lord, I swear I just can”t take it no more.” Voice Two urges him to cut his loses: “Go away”¦it”s too late to turn back now, and it don”t matter anyhow.” And then comes Voice One”s admission of guilt: “I”m to blame; can”t go on the same old way.” And still he protests that he”s not over her.

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Tift Merritt – Keep You Happy (2008).mp3
The relationship isn”t over, but it will be soon. There will be no drama; it will just slip away. Tift doesn”t want it to end but is resigned to it. He is dutifully holding her, but “a feeling has me and tells me it will never stay. Your heart beats miles now, I feel them as they fly away. Close gets so far away.” He is drifting away and she yearns for a place where she could keep him happy. But there is no such place. She sadly reflects: “Why do we pretend there is something to hold onto? See how my world fell in? I was trying to hold you; I was just trying to hold you.” And the sound of a slowly crumbling heart is is set to the prettiest of melodies. What kind of man could ever tire of the lovely Tift Merritt?

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Hem – Too Late To Turn Back Now (2006).mp3
Same story here: the breakdown is inevitable and irrevocable. Here, the pair have clearly done pretty horrible things: “You know we both been feeling reckless since we crashed into the come down.” Bridges have been burnt. “What will keep you next to me, my love, since it”s too late to turn back now.” And yet there is always a flicker of hope. “I caught your face in the reflection, I thought I recognised a corner of your smile. A tired light from your direction; that will keep me in the meanwhile.” And still she knows, they will keep moving forward into separate futures.
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R.B. Greaves – Take A Letter Maria (1969).mp3
Our man R.B. is a pragmatic sort of guy. Coming home one evening, he finds his wife with another man. More emotional types, usually found in country music, might take a gun and shoot the wife and/or her lover; and, if they have no intentions of writing a song about it, perhaps bring the sorry scene to a climax by means of suicide. Not so Ronald Bertam Aloysius Greaves III (apparently a nephew of Sam Cooke). Clearly a man of professional success, he calls in his secretary, the titular Maria, to dictate a terse letter addressed to his wife: “Say I won’t be coming home, gonna start a new life.” And don’t forget to send a copy to his lawyer. Divorce business out of the way, we get an idea as to why Mrs Greaves had John Terry paying nocturnal visit. “Was I wrong to work nights to try to build a good life? All work and no play has just cost me a wife.” Ah, but it seems that R.B. hopes that all work and no play might have brought him closer to a liaison with Maria, who apparently has been a good secretary to him. He comes on strong: “I never really noticed how sweet you are to me. It just so happens I’m free tonight. Would you like to have dinner with me?” Our friend is indeed a pragmatists; dictating the letter to Maria was just a ruse to let the her know that he no longer is attached. Word of warning: office romances are terrible ideas.

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Barbra Streisand – One Less Bell To Answer/A House Is Not A Home (1971).mp3
The Burt Bacharach/Hal David song was a hit for the 5th Dimension (featured on the Burt Bacharach mix), but let”s have Barbra”s perspective from 1971. There is a bright side to a split. Babs enumerates them: one less bell to answer, of course; one less egg to fry, less tidying up. Great! Except, and your hunch was quite correct, she is not happy. Not at all happy. All she does, as Johnny Cash once did, is to “cry, cry, cry”. When the doorbell goes, it reminds her of him. More tears (which, as Barbra would later note in another song, are not enough). “I end each day the way I start out: crying my heart out.” Even simple grammar falls victim to desperation: “one less man to pick up after” (just how many men are you living with, Babs?). But we forgive her grammatical lapses “” for which, in any case, we ought to blame Hald David “” as we feel her pain: “Somebody tell me, please: where did he go, why did he go, how could he leave me?” My guess is that he couldn”t live on just one fried egg any longer. Babs expands on the post-split vibe in the second part of the medley, noting a house is not a home when it’s empty of love.

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Tammy Wynette – D.I.V.O.R.C.E. (1968).mp3
Standing submissively by her man didn”t work out too well for Tammy, and today is the day the divorce is coming through. She is hurting at the end of her marriage, of course, because she still loves the man by whom she had stood. But mostly she feels the pain for four-year-old Joe, who is cheerfully oblivious to the imminent trauma. Mom and Dad evidently have done little to prepare the kid for the rupture, having thrashed out matters by spelling them out, literally, Sesame Street style. “We spell out the words we don”t want him to understand” like one might spell out “T.O.Y. or maybe S.U.R.P.R.I.S.E.”. Those are fun words; D.I.V.O.R.C.E. and C.U.S.T.O.D.Y. obviously less so. Tammy, who has custody of Joe, suffers pain from two sides: the prospects of losing her husband and of seeing the little boy suffer. “I love you both and it will be pure H.E. double L for me. Oh, I wish that we could stop this D.I.V.O.R.C.E.”. Alas, we get a sense that this is not going to happen.

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Rilo Kiley – Breaking Up (2007).mp3
Breaking up need not be all emotional trauma. Rilo Kiley”s Jenny Lewis evidently thinks that worse things could happen. “It”s not as if New York City burnt down to the ground once you drove away.” That”s not to make light of a break-up, however. It hurts. “Are we breakin” up? Is there trouble between you and I? Did my heart break enough? Did it break enough this time?” The emotions are conflicting, though tinged by resigned cynicism. “Here”s to all the pretty words we will never speak. Here”s to all the pretty girls you”re gonna meet.” Hey, maybe he feels bad too. Or maybe not. He let Jenny down, and she kicks back: “Betrayal is a thorny crown; you wear it well, just like a king.” And in the chorus, the ultimate fuck-you to the ex, repeated three times: “Oooh eh [sounds like a taunting “˜nyah nyah nyah”], it feels good to be free.”

Songs by the Dumped
More Songs About Love (happy, unhappy, ending etc)

Being in love again – Part 2

February 13th, 2010 7 comments

To aid the Valentine”s Day scramble of many lovers to find the right song to express their sincere love, here is the second lot of songs about being in blissful, requited love (the eagle-eyed reader may have seen this post up incompletely for a few hours in the week thanks to a mis-clicked button. Looks like the Elton song is very popular). If none of these and none of the first part”s songs do the trick, try the two mixes linked to at the end of this post. As promised, next week we”ll do break-ups.

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Elton John – Seasons (1971).mp3
Written for the 1971 film Friends, this is Elton John at his musically most articulate. I the brief lyrics we have a friendship blossoming, through the seasons, into romantic love. It”s the song that cures the dreaded disease of frienditis (so brilliantly explained on the Todger Talk blog). “Oh, it”s funny how young lovers start out as friends.” Or older lovers, Elton and Bernie.

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Terry Callier – I’d Rather Be With You (1973).mp3
The folk-inflected soul man lays out his options in this rather lovely ballad. “I could take my guitar and hit the road, try to be a star.” He even explains the method by which he would aim to accomplish that goal (basically involving playing gigs as a one-man band). He further points out that he could “” just like that “” take a Greyhound bus west “to watch the sun set on San Francisco Bay.” Oh, there must be loads of things he could do, but “” and here the song”s title sort of scoops the punchline “” he”d rather be with her (her being, we fervently hope, the friendly lady on the album cover).  And like any lovestruck fool, he launches into sappy metaphor: “It”s your bright sunshine that lifted all the shadow off my mind and your sweet love led me to a brighter day.” Hence his reassurance: “So you never have to worry “bout me leaving you behind.” Don”t want those shadows returning. And then the peculiar challenge: “Wait and see, I won”t ever turn away”¦” He asks her to await and then observe nothing happening? Hell, if he chooses to sacrifice the potential for loads of groupies (presuming that one-man bands attract many of those), she should trust his sincerity. And if that doesn”t do, then his insistently repeated promise of the title should persuade her.

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Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty – You”re The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly (1982).mp3
You wouldn”t guess it from the title, but this is in fact a country song. Loretta and Conway are in a good-natured slanging match, blaming one another for their diminishing finances and good looks “” and the apparent hideousness of their kids. Though, if I may interject, Loretta, your kid”s baldness isn”t Conway”s fault “” androgenetic alopecia is passed down the mother”s genes. So Conway complains: “You”re the reason I changed to beer from soda pop”, and Loretta moans: “And you”re the reason I never get to go to the beauty shop”. But all that is not as important as what they have: “looks ain”t everything, and money ain”t everything. But I love you just the same”.

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The Flamingos – I Only Have Eyes For You (1959).mp3
Originally sung by Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler in the 1934 movie Dames, this is the only version one needs. The introduction, “My love must be a kind of blind love, I can”t see anyone but you” is filled with tension. The singer seems desperate about the debilitating effects of being love. Having nervously ascertained that the present status of the sun is of no concern of him, our friend relaxes and croons that he has eyes only for her (though with careless positioning of the word “only”). So dazed is he that “I don”t know if we”re in a garden or on a crowded avenue”, which can be quite dangerous “” you might fall down a well or be knocked over by an Acme delivery van. But of what menace are such perils when a man is with his girl, and “maybe millions of people go by, but they all disappear from view. And I Only Have Eyes For You”.

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Ray Noble”s Band with Al Bowlly – Midnight, The Stars And You (1932).mp3
We previously encountered Noble and singer Bowlly in the Sinatra special of The Originals with their 1936 hit version of I”ve Got You Under My Skin. This song precedes that by four years, and is probably best known as the song that plays out The Shining (the scene in which we see Jack Torrance”s face in the old ballroom photograph). The lyrics are brief and elementary: “Midnight with the stars and you, midnight and a rendezvous. Your eyes held a message, tender saying: “˜I surrender all my love to you.” A few more platitudes, Noble fulfilling his job description by leading the band, and we”re done. Time enough then to have a look at the trailer for the upbeat version of The Shining (“Meet Jack Torrance”¦).
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Maxine Nightingale – If I Ever Lose This Heaven (1975).mp3
In one of at least four versions of this song released in 1975, English soulstress Maxine Nightingale is on a paranoid trip. See, her man seems to be a bit moody sometimes, and she interprets that as an immediate threat of impending dumphood. “If you”re foolin”, only foolin”, all I ask is “˜Why”?” His love has built her up so high that should he drop her, she”ll be in freefall. “If I ever, ever, ever lose this heaven”¦ I”ll never be the same.” With the vulnerable honesty/emotional blackmail out of the way, let”s accentuate the positive: “You”re fascinating, more fascinating than the dark side of the moon.”  Yeah, okay, if that floats your boat. But even if potential references to overrated snoozefest LPs fail to flatter, this line should ensure that Maxine won”t lose her heaven: “You”re so exciting that I”m re-writing the book of love called You.” After that, pal, you cannot possibly dump her.

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Badly Drawn Boy – Magic In The Air (live, 2002).mp3
Ah, the falling in love”¦ At this point, Damon Gough pays no mind to the consequences of all the heartaches it may later produce. He”s giddy, and it seems she is giddy too. “We laughed so much, then we cried all night. And you left your shoes in the tree, with me. I”ll wear them to your house, tonight. Magic in the air, tonight.” There is not much evidence of embarrassment or inhibition here. At the end, the singer notes: “Love is contagious, when it”s alright.” Now, with all the romantic buoyancy, why does the melody sound so pensive?
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Heatwave – Always and Forever (1977).mp3
People in love should be counselled not to make promises you can”t keep (and not to lie about love to get laid!). “I know tomorrow will still be the same, “cause we”ve got a life of love that won”t ever change.” Yeah, wait till the serotonin wears off. So he expects it all to be sunshine and melting smiles, and that is all very nice, dear. But he has also hit on an essential ingredient in sustaining the love, communication and sharing: “Take time to tell me you really care. And feel sad tomorrow together.” So perhaps he”ll keep his insistent promise: “I”ll always love you, forever, forever.”

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Lisa Loeb ““ Sandalwood (1995).mp3
This is the song where the singer tells us that none of the above applies to the love she has for her man. “She [random singer, possibly a singer-songwriter with a guitar] can”t tell me that all of the love songs have been written, “cause she”s never been in love with you before.” Oh, fresh true love, deluded that it is so different from all the other true loves. But no doubt, Lisa is in love. The fear and the passion and the clumsy idealisation. The fear: “I”m trying to keep cool, but everyone here likes you. I”m not the only one.” The passion: “I want to kiss the back of your neck, the top of your spine where your hair hits, and gnaw on your fingertips and fall asleep.” Less promisingly, she threatens: “I”ll talk you to sleep.” Not in a restaurant, presumably. And the clumsy idealising: “Your skin smells lovely like sandalwood. Your hair falls soft like animals.” I may seem cynical, so let me make it clear that I do think the final verse is quite lovely: “Your hand, so hot, burns a hole in my hand.”

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Any Major Love Mix Vol. 1
Any Major Love Mix Vol. 2

More Songs About Love (happy, unhappy, ending etc)

Being in love again – Part 1

February 11th, 2010 2 comments

Yeah, I know, Valentine”s Day is commercial and naff. All kinds of idiots will play Every Breath You Take or You”re Beautiful or similar inappropriate to complement the overpriced roses. There is nothing wrong, of course, with letting music doing your talking, but nothing declares love as sloppily as a badly chosen song. To be clear, Perfect Day and fucking With Or Without You are about love, but not in a romantic sense. Here is the first part of a few songs which, I think, do a good job of expressing romantic love, or talking about being in requited love. As an antidote to all the happiness, I”ll do a Splitsville edition next week.

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Lowell George – 20 Million Things (1979).mp3
The Little Feat frontman made one solo album before dying far too young. On 20 Million Things, Lowell encounters the procrastinating inertia that can accompany the preoccupations of being in love. So “all the letters never written don”t get sent” and broken rocking chairs don”t get fixed. He observes the nature of procrastination: “And all the things that I let slip, I found out quick, it comes from moment to moment, day to day. Time seems to slip away.” And all that because of love. “But I’ve got twenty million things to do, twenty million things. And all I can do is think about you. With twenty million things to do.”

At this point the alert reader will remind me that I promised songs about romantic love. Lowell may well be singing, like Lou and U2 about drugs or God. Or his favourite football team, for that matter. But unlike the songs I mentioned, 20 Million Things is a bit of a blank canvas. If it”s not about romantic love, it very much should be. More importantly, it is an absolutely wonderful song that is not heard..

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Linda Jones – Your Precious Love (1972).mp3
So your true love is far away, physically or emotionally? Why, write a letter (the song is from 1972, and so predates e-mail and Facebook messages)! This being a soul song, the notion of postal correspondence assumes fervent dimensions, and naturally God is invoked to deliver or preserve love. Linda, who is addressing “especially the ladies”, provides a template for a love letter in the spoken bits, albeit with a heavy bias towards cliché (“For your precious love I”d climb the highest mountain”). But when she gets into the song that was originally performed by Jerry Butler, it becomes immaterial what she is singing: romantic love, we learn, is driven by passion, desire, fear and hope.
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Ben Folds – The Luckiest (live, 2006).mp3
I”ve said it before: this might be the best declaration of love ever written in pop music. Alas, Folds has since divorced the woman he addresses in this song, performed here with the Western Australian Symphony Orchestra. Ben notes his tendencies to hit-and-miss (and, apparently, miss again), but “now I know all the wrong turns, the stumbles and falls, brought me here”. So as he is seeing her lovely face every day, he considers himself to be experiencing the ultimate in fortuitous fates. And having pondered the random quirks of generational timing, Ben picks up a sweet definition of true love: “Next door there”s an old man who lived to his nineties, and one day passed away in his sleep. And his wife; she stayed for a couple of days, and passed away.” Yes, not the most orthodox way of communicating your love, but bear with him: “I”m sorry, I know that”s a strange way to tell you that I know we belong, that I know that I am”¦the luckiest.” I hazard to guess that a woman to whom such a song is sung would probably think of herself as pretty lucky too. At least until the divorce.

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The Association – Never My Love (1967).mp3
They gave us one of the great songs about unrequited love, and here they give us one of the great songs about love requited. And not only is love reciprocated, but she is also fearful that it will end, which he knows (well, thinks he knows) will not be the case; hence the denial of the title. “You say you fear I”ll change my mind and I won”t require you. Never, my love!” In fact, he cheerfully admits that he needs her as much as she needs him. No manipulative power games for our friend: with this song he is proposing marriage. How can she say no?

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Angie Mattson – Thank You (2007).mp3
This singer-songwriter is not nearly well known enough. Here”s a song expressing gratitude to a partner”s unconditional love and support. “Sometimes I don”t land on all fours, but you come pick me up off my concrete floor. Even after what I said to you, you looked past it and you always come through.” Simple sentiments that articulate an essential constituent in real love. Incidentally, Mattson, apart from being a very talented musician, is a bit of an adventurer. At one point, she apparently sold all her possessions and moved on to a boat for a year, sailing in the West Indies. While on the seas she taught herself to play guitar and started writing songs. Back on dry land, she recorded a demo and in 2007 released her full debut album, Given To Sudden Panic And Noisy Retreat, on which this song appears. (Angie Mattson on MySpace)

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Ambrosia – The Biggest Part Of Me (1980).mp3
In the late “90s, Christian a cappella outfit Take Six turned this into a love song to God. It was a smart adaptation of the original lyrics, in which the singer makes grand promises as though he was some sort of love genie: “Make a wish, baby, well and I will make it come true.” Ah well, love is beginning and hyperbole is to be expected. But we can”t doubt his sincerity when he pleads and pledges: “Ain”t no risk now in letting my love rain down on you, so we can wash away the past, so that we may start anew.” We feel his joy when he spells out just how much he is in love: “You’re the life that breathes in me; you”re the biggest part of me.”

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The Crimea ““ Lottery Winners On Acid.mp3
I posted this two years ago, but let”s get giddy again with John Peel-championed Indie-rockers The Crimea (here with the original EP version, not the inferior re-recording with which they scored their 2006 UK hit). The song has a “60s-like exuberance about it, and not just because of the acid reference. Our boy is so deep-fucked in love, he even loses his grasp on basic grammar: “If she get a black eye, I want a black eye. If she get a splinter, I want a splinter too.” And later: “If she get a disease, I want a disease. If she go tripping, I go falling over.” And his Mom might rightly enquire: “If she jumps off a bridge, would you jump as well?” Of course our boy would. “Everything she say, I was thinking anyway.” Isn”t that just the way love is, initially?

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And all this calls to mind an experiment apparently conducted by a New York psychologist called Professor Arthur Arun, who instructed his subjects, total strangers to one another, to reveal intimate information about their lives in face-to-face conversations lasting exactly 30 minutes, and then silently to stare into each other”s eyes for four minutes. Most of the subjects reported feelings of attachment to their experiment partners, and one couple later got married. Subjects who were told to stare at other body parts didn”t get off on that (not both of them anyway).

Dr Arun's research subjects, yesterday

It does sound like a good plan: the sharing of personal details facilitates emotional bonding, and during the staring contest, the pupils dilate, which evidently heightens attraction.

Any Major Love Mix Vol. 1
Any Major Love Mix Vol. 2

More Songs About Love happy, unhappy, ending etc)

Curious Germany Vol. 3

February 9th, 2010 7 comments

In the previous instalments of Curious Germany we noted the tendency in the 1960s of artists re-recording their hits in European languages, particularly in German to cater for the mainland continent”s biggest market. Here are a few more German re-recordings, plus a Motown-goes-Schlager track, a most unexpected cover, pre-Schlager stardom Krautrock, a slightly strange Beatles cover, and another singing footballer.

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The Beatles ““ Komm, gib” mir Deine Hand.mp3
The Beatles ““ Sie liebt Dich.mp3

The Fabs recorded their first record in Germany. Backing Tony Sheridan on his Bert Kaempfert-produced LP, they sang on a couple of songs (Ain”t She Sweet and My Bonnie) and recorded a self-penned instrumental, Cry For A Shadow, on which George Harrison got a writing credit alongside John Lennon (it was intended to be a parody of The Shadows). And, of course, in St Pauli the boys really grew up. And yet, they did not seem to have much of a sentimental attachment to the country that gave them their first international break. A mini-tour of three cities “” Munich, Essen and Hamburg “” in 1966 was the extent of their concerts there (with typical teutonic subtlety, the sponsors, teen mag Bravo, called it a “Blitz” tour). And the Beatles really did not want to record any of their songs in German, or any other language.

The idea to do so originated with the group”s German label, Odeon, whose executives thought that German-language singles would sell even better than the orginals in their country. The Beatles resisted the instruction to record in German, going as far as not turning up to the booked session in the EMI Pathe Marconi studio in Paris in January 1964. A stern George Martin (who himself thought the idea was stupid) had to remindhis truant boys of their professional obligations before they gathered in the studio the following day, January 29. Komm gib mir eine Hand was quickly recorded to the backing track sent from London, but the instrumentation of the German She Loves You had to be re-recorded because the tape with the original track had been lost. It took 14 takes to record the song. Once they were done, with a little time to kill, the Beatles started work on a new song written by Paul called Can”t Buy Me Love.

The lyrics for the two German songs had been written by singer and TV personality Camillo Felgen under the pseudonym J. Nicolas. Two other non-Beatles are credited: one Montogue on Sie liebt Dich, and a H. Hellmer on the German version of I Want To Hold Your Hand. These credits have long puzzled Beatles historian. It appears that both Heinz Hellmer and Jean Montague (incorrectly spelled on the credits) were additional pseudonyms employed by Felgen, I would guess as a tax dodge.

These credits appeared on the German single release and the US album Something New, on which the German songs incongruously turned up. Subsequent releases, such as Beatles Rarities and Past Masters, credit only Lennon-McCartney.
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Cindy & Bert – Der Hund von Baskerville.mp3
We previously encountered husband-and-wife duo Cindy & Bert in the 1973 installment of the nostalgia series Stepping Back, with a typically horrible Schlager. The pair epitomised square. My grandmother thought Cindy & Bert were delightful. They reminded us of the nice young couple who rented the apartment on the top floor of her house and always paid the rent on time. So Oma would have been shocked to discover that Cindy & Bert”s catalogue included a cover version of Black Sabbath”s Paranoid (it need no pointing out that my grandmother would not have been a big Sabbath fan even if “” especially if “” she knew who they were). The cover photo of the 1970 single, which is not bad, is entirely misleading. Did I mention that Cindy & Bert were considered squares?
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Howard Carpendale ““ Du hast mich.mp3
Daisy Clan – Glory Be.mp3

In German Schlager history, Howard Carpendale wrote a particularly successful chapter. Unable to hack it in his home country South Africa as an Elvis impersonator, the former shotput champion moved to Germany, learned to speak the language with just enough of a touch of an accent (as I”ve noted before, German audiences really got off on foreign accents; in entertainment, not in shops, pubs or public transport), and became the leading romantic singer of the 1970s and “80s Schlager scene, selling some 25 million records. None of those 25 million records soiled my collection, I am pleased to say, for I always thought he was a bit of a drip. His first breakthrough came with the standard Schlager Das Mädchen von Seite 1 (The girl from the front page). The flip side, however, was entire unschlagerish, a rocker called Du hast mich (You Have Me), a cover of the song Glory Be by German psychedelic rockers Daisy Clan which sounds like a heavy fuzz-guitared, organ-hammering Santana number. Thanks to my friend Sky, I can”t consider Carpendale as a drip any longer. The dude actually knew how to rock.

Glory Be was the b-side of Daisy Clan’s 1970 single Love Needs Love, apparently the group’s final English-language single (their final release in 1972 was appropriately titled Es geht vorrüber, which could be translated as “It passes on”). The Daisy Clan apparently were Schlager singer Michael Holm and songwriter Joachim Haider, going by the name of Alfie Khan. Holm had his first chart entry in 1962, but did not really break through until late 1969 with his version of the Sir Douglas Quintett’s Mendocino. It seems that his Schlager success put paid to his career as a psychedelic rock musician; Holm enjoyed a long string of Schlager hits (he featured HERE and HERE). Just to prove that not all Schlagersingers are naff fools with bad hair, Holm also collaborated with the eternally cool Giorgio Moroder in a project named, unappetisingly, Spinach. Holm has even been nominated for Grammys three times as part of the ambient music outfit Cusco.

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Dusty Springfield – Auf Dich nur wart” immerzu.mp3
Like her contemporaries Petula Clark and Sandie Shaw, Dusty Springfield did a fair number of German recordings. Auf Dich nur wart” ich ich immerzu (I”m always waiting for you only) was her German version of I Only Want To Be With You, released as a single in July 1964 with a German rendering of Wishin” And Hopin” as the b-side. Like most other songs transcribed from English to German, it was not a hit. It was quite usual for the original performer of a French or Italian song to score big successes with their German versions of these “” singers such as Mireille Mathieu and Salvatore Adamo made a career of that “” but English pop translations rarely impressed the record-buying public. I suspect the reason for that was two-fold. Firstly, pop sounds better in English, its own language; secondly, the German listener could differentiate between a Gilbert Bécaud”s heavy accent interpreting the lyrics and English-language singers not knowing what they were phonetically singing.
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Marvin Gaye ““ Wie schön das ist.mp3
Marvin Gaye – Sympatica

Motown had their stars record many versions of their songs in Spanish, Italian, French and German. Curious Germany Volume 2 included German covers by the Supremes and by the Temptations. Marvin chipped in with this take on How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You). The vocals were usually sung from phonetic lyric sheets, and most international stars who recorded in German did not pay meticulous attention to the standards of their pronunciation. I have no idea whether Marvin Gaye was a polyglot or whether he just gave more of a shit, but he did a better job of it than most of his peers. Wie schön das ist was the b-side of a song Gaye recorded exclusively in German, Sympatica, which was written by Schlager composers Jonny Bartels (not to be confused with singer Johnny Bartel) and Kurt Feltz. So here we have one instance of Motown going Schlager, sort of.
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Katja Ebstein – A Hard Day’s Night.mp3
Katja Ebstein had a reputation as one of Germany’s more sophisticated Schlager stars. When she represented West Germany in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1980, her song was titled Theater. It got nowhere. Ten years earlier the singer born in Poland as Karin Witkiewicz did somewhat better, coming third with the rather good Wunder gibt es immer wieder, and repeating the trick the following year with the ecological number Diese Welt (see, it wasn’t only Marvin Gaye who was concerned). The international exposure helped her maintain an international career, recording in French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, English and even Japanese.

Ebstein’s rather peculiar version of A Hard Day’s Night preceded her breakthrough by a year; she was still something of a leftist activist (she still is; in the 1980s she was arrested for taking part in a blockade of a US nuclear arms depot; in 2003 she demonstrated against the invasion of Iraq). Released in 1969 on the Katja album (the legend Twen on the cover advertises a youth magazine which promoted the LP), the Beatles cover was the set’s only English-language track. In her hands, the hard day was suffered not by her but by a unspecified him, and the whole shebang includes a strong hint of a Harrison-style eastern vibe.  File under “Interesting Beatles Covers”.

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Johnny Cash – Viel zu spät.mp3
Johnny Cash – Wo ist zu Hause, Mama.mp3

Cash”s 1965 German version of I Walk The Line also featured in the second volume of this series. In 1959, Cash recorded two other German versions of his songs, though neither was released until 1978. Viel zu spät (Much too late) is a take on the murder ballad I Got Stripes; Wo Ist Zu Hause, Mama (Where is home, mom) is the allemanic version of Five Feet High and Rising. Both, it seems, were intended to be released as a single, but I can find no record of their release. Cash”s relationship with Germany went back to the early 1950s, when he was stationed as a GI in Bavaria (it was a local girl who damaged his hearing when she stick a pencil in his ear). And it was there that Cash started to become serious about music.

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Radi Radenkovic РBin i Radi bin i K̦nig.mp3
Here”s an example of an idiosyncratic accent helping to create celebrity on the football pitch and in the pop charts. Yugoslav Petar “Radi” Radenkovic was the goalkeeper for the München 1860 football team, which won the German championship in 1966 (the last team playing in blue shirts to do so). The goalkeeper was something of a humorous character on the pitch who had the entertaining tendency to run outside his penalty area to dribble around opponents., He was hugely popular. As one does, he recorded a single to celebrate his celebrity. This frankly quite awful ditty fuses Radenkovic”s guttural Serbian accent with the thick Bavarian dialect which has the rest of Germany (or Prussia, as a Bavarian might counter) amused at its sheer yokelness. The song “” literally: “Am I Radi am I king” “” does little to suggest that Radenkovic”s parents were in fact fairly successful musicians.

More Curious German

Any Major Soul 1980-81

February 5th, 2010 8 comments

I thought that this series would come to a natural end with 1979, but the early 1980s were not as deficient as one might imagine. The difference resides in the volume of quality and the widening chasm between the great and the utterly abject in the “80s. A lot of bad soul music was created in the “80s, and the genre has never recovered. The next couple of installments of Any Major Soul will, I hope, highlight the bright spots in a declining genre.

The two opening tracks, by Clyde Milton and Sam Butler, are apparently quite difficult to find. Both are excellent, and would merit being regarded as “80s soul classics ““ if they were more widely known outside the Northern Soul scene. Milton”s single sold on eBay for $199 last month; a promo copy of Butler”s single was going for $500 last week. I have not been able to find out anything about either singer.

Ruby Wilson has had a prolific if not necessarily high profile recording career, releasing ten albums. She has performed with the likes of Isaac Hayes and B.B. King, and apparently is a hugely popular on the Memphis circuit. She suffered a mild stroke in June last year, and has recently taken to the stage again. Check her out on Facebook, where visitors can learn how to donate towards her medical bills and order her greatest hits CD.

The Movers provide a fix of South African soul-funk. I can”t recall from which excellent site I got this track from, but I ought to express my appreciation for it.

The late Grover Washington Jr is not an obvious choice for a soul compilation, but Be Mine (Tonight) from the excellent Come Morning album does fit the bill. Grady Tate, a terribly under-appreciated singer, delivers the cool and very sexy vocals. The smash of the cymbal in the midst of the instrumental break at 5:45 is one of my favourite moment in popular music.

Con Funk Shun were founded in 1968 and after 1972 worked as a backing band at Stax. During that time they released a few albums on a local Memphis label. Their breakthrough came when they were signed by Mercury where they released a string of albums of varying quality.

Odyssey are better known for their great disco numbers, such as Native New Yorker and Going Back To My Roots. If You”re Looking For A Way Out is a slow soul song that will melt your heart, telling the story of a break-up from the point of view from a woman who still loves her man but has given up.

PW is amdwhah.

TRACKLISTING:
1. Clyde Milton – I’d Rather Leave On My Feet
2. Sam Butler – I Can’t Get Over Loving You
3. Grover Washington Jr feat Grady Tate – Be Mine (Tonight)
4. Maze feat Frankie Beverly – The Look In Your Eyes
5. The Dramatics – You’re The Best Thing In My Life
6. Ruby Wilson – Seeing You Again
7. Lou Rawls – I Go Crazy
8. Odyssey – If You’re Looking For A Way Out
9. The Jones Girls – At Peace With Woman
10. The Movers – Give Me A Day
11. Chaka Khan – Heed The Warning
12. Mtume – So You Wanna Be A Star
13. Tavares – I Don’t Want You Anymore
14. Patrice Rushen – Message In The Music
15. Ebonee Webb – Do Me Right (Everybody Needs A Little Love)
16. Con Funk Shun – All Up To You
17. Peaches & Herb – I Pledge My Love To You
18. Commodores – Lucy

GET IT!

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In Memoriam – January 2010

February 3rd, 2010 3 comments

Having rounded up most of the deaths of musicians in 2009, I”ll start to do so monthly as of now. I won”t include everybody who has died. So jazz drummer Ed Thigpen, who died on 13 January at 79, doesn”t feature because I have no music by him. Others won”t feature because their genre is meaningless to me (death metal, for ironic example). And a few will surely slip under my radar, though probably fewer than the numbers ignored by the Grammys. I will include only musicians; songwriters, producers, managers, label bosses and so on are excluded unless they also recorded, as is the case with the man who heads this month”s list and was all these things. The Grim Reaper certainly had a productive month in January…

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Willie Mitchell, 81, soul/jazz musician, producer, boss of Hi Records, on January 5.
Willie Mitchell – Mercy Mercy Mercy

Robert “˜Squirrel” Lester, 67, second tenor in “70s soul group The Chi-Lites, on January 22
The Chi-Lites – Stoned Out Of My Mind

Sandra Wright, 61, gospel, blues and soul singer, on January 11.
Canned Soul – Unbelievable

Teddy Pendergrass, 59, soul singer, on January 13
Teddy Pendergrass – It Don’t Hurt Now

Mano Solo, 46, French singer, on January 10
Mano Solo – Je Suis Venu Vous Voir

Lhasa De Sela, 37, American-born cross-genre singer, on January 1.
Lhasa De Sela – El Desierto

Alistair Hulett, 58, Scottish-born and Australia-based socialist folk singer, on January 28.
Alistair Hulett ““ L”Internationale

Kate McGarrigle, 63, Canadian folk singer, on January 18.
Kate & Anna McGarrigle – I’m Losing You

Carl Smith, 82, country singer and songwriter and ex-husband of June Carter, on January 16.
Carl Smith – Air Mail To Heaven

Bobby Charles, 71, songwriter and country/rockabilly singer, on January 14.
Bobby Charles – Time Will Tell

Shirley Cadell, 78, country singer and ex-wife of Willie Nelson, on January January 27.
Shirley Cadell and the Aristocrats – The Big Bounce

Mick Green, 65, English guitarist with Johnny Kidd and Billy J Kramer, on January 11
Johnny Kidd and the Pirates – Shakin’ All Over

Jay Reatard, 29, American punk musician, on January 13
Jay Reatard – It Ain’t Gonna Save Me

Gregory Slay, 40, drummer of alt-rock band Remy Zero, on January 1.
Remy Zero – Save Me

Pauly Fuemana, 40, singer of New Zealand band OMC, on January 31.
OMC – How Bizarre

Young Cliff, member of rap kreyole group Barrikad Crew, in Haiti”s earthquake on January 12.
Barikad Crew – Toup pou yo

Yabby You, 63, reggae singer and producer, on January 12.
Yabby You – Zion Gate

Lyn Taitt, 75, influential reggae guitarist, on January 20
Lyn Taitt and the Jets ““ Unity

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Intros Quiz – 1965 edition

February 1st, 2010 4 comments

Here we begin a new five-yearly cycle of intros quizzes, starting with 45 years ago: 1965. Next month we’ll skip to 1970, then 1975 and so on.

As always, twenty intros to hit songs from that year of 5-7 seconds in length. All were single releases that year. The answers will be posted in the comments section by Thursday. If the pesky number 13 bugs you, e-mail me at halfhearteddude [at) gmail [dot] com for the answers, or  better, message me on Facebook. If you”re not my FB friend, click here.

Intros Quiz – 1965 edition


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