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Archive for October, 2014

Songs about Vietnam Vol. 2

October 30th, 2014 7 comments

Songs_About_Vietnam_2

To mark the 50th anniversary of the election of Lyndon B Johnson as US President, here is the second mix of anti-Vietnam songs (you can find the first mix HERE). Nixon might have sabotaged the opportunity for peace in 1968, just to win an election, and Kennedy might have started it, but Vietnam was very much LBJ”s war, as Bill Frederick noted in his 1967 song and Tom Paxton in his song two years earlier.

Soul and folk singers were in the forefront of protesting against the war, though Motown “” the voice of young America “” played it safe until 1970. That year Martha Reeves and the Vandellas released the first protest sing on the label, I Should Be Proud. That opened the floodgates a little. Soon Edwin Starr had a hit with War, The Temptations with Ball Of Confusion and Marvin Gaye with a large swathe of his What”s Going On LP (and long after the fact, Stevie Wonder on his blistering 1982 track Front Line, which with Do I Do marks an end to classic Stevie brilliance).

Perhaps the most touching song here is Bill Withers” I Can”t Write Left Handed. The opening verse lands a couple of punches the way Lennon”s thesaurus-robbing Give Peace A Chance doesn”t: “I can”t write left-handed. Would you please write a letter, write a letter to my mother? Tell her to tell, tell her to tell, tell her to tell the family lawyer, trying to get, trying to get a deferment for my younger brother…”

vietchoppers

And if it”s straight-talk you want, Gene McDaniels (who featured on Vol. 1) socks it to us via Roberta Flack in Compared To What: “The President, he”s got his war. Folks don”t know just what it”s for. Nobody gives us rhyme or reason; have one doubt, they call it treason.” Three and a half decades later, another president had his war, and his critics were called traitors.

Sensitive listeners might want to avert their ears when Country Joe McDonald does his swearwordy chant in the beginning of his Woodstock performance. He clearly isn”t impressed with the crowd”s spirited singing to his 1967 song: “Listen people, I don”t know how you expect to ever stop the war if you can’t sing any better than that. There”s about 300,000 of you fuckers out there. I want you to start singing. Come on!” With that in mind, the placing of the next song, by Pete Seeger, is no accident. Listen to it to see why.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes covers. PW in comments.

1. Stevie Wonder – Front Line (1982)
2. Roberta Flack – Compared To What (1969)
3. Martha Reeves and the Vandellas – I Should Be Proud (1970)
4. Freda Payne – Bring The Boys Home (1971)
5. Joe Tex – I Believe I’m Gonna Make It (1966)
6. Bill Withers – I Can’t Write Left Handed (1973)
7. Kris Kristofferson – Broken Freedom Song (1974)
8. Tom Paxton – Lyndon Johnson Told The Nation (1965)
9. Bill Frederick – Hey Hey LBJ (1967)
10. Country Joe McDonald – Feel Like I’m Fixing To Die Rag (1969)
11. Pete Seeger – Bring Them Home (1969)
12. Phil Ochs – Draft Dodger Rag (1965)
13. B.J. Thomas – Viet Nam (1966)
14. Bob Seger System – 2+2=? (1968)
15. Grand Funk Railroad – People Let’s Stop The War (1971)
16. Jimmy Cliff – Vietnam (1970)
17. Terry Callier – Ho Tsing Mee (A Song Of The Sun) (1973)
18. Marvin Gaye – What’s Happening Brother (1971)
19. Johnny King & the Fatback Band – Peace, Love Not War (1969)
20. Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band – Let’s Make Love Not War (1971)
21. The Emotions – So I Can Love You (1971)
22. Johnny & Jon – Xmas In Vietnam (1965)

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Any Major Halloween Vol. 1

October 23rd, 2014 7 comments

Halloween_1

A few years ago I posted a couple of Halloween mixes. Neither exists any longer, so it seems good to revisit the project. So, for this Halloween, the first new mix.

There are spooky and unnerving songs “” The kind of stuff that might freak out Bart, Lisa and Milhouse in their treehouse. “” as well as a few more light-hearted novelty tracks, and a pretty funny comedy song by a young Jimmy Fallon. None of them are The Monster Mash.

One artist features twice: Dr John with 1968″s unsettling Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya, and nine years before that as Morgus & The 3 Ghouls, riffing on a popular TV character of the time.

Stan Ridgway“s Camouflage is as spooky a song as they come with the story of a ghostly soldier in battle; Warren Zevon has a similar theme, with some politics thrown into the stew for good measure.

For a truly sad tale, read the tragic story of Jackson C Frank, who was produced in the mid-“˜60s by Paul Simon and went on to influence artists such as Nick Drake and his ex-girlfriend Sandy Denny. He might well be the most luckless man ever in music history.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-scared covers. PW in comments.

1. The Go! Team – Phantom Broadcast (2005)
2. Rob Zombie feat. The Ghastly Ones – Halloween (1998)
3. The Pogues – Turkish Song Of The Damned (1988)
4. Tony Joe White – They Caught The Devil And Put Him In Jail In Eudora, Arkansas (1971)
5. Dr John – Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya (1968)
6. The Box Tops – I Must Be The Devil (1969)
7. Donovan – Wild Witch Lady (1973)
8. The Who – Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1968)
9. Fleetwood Mac – The Green Manalishi (1970)
10. Golden Earring – The Devil Made Me Do It (1982)
11. Squirrel Nut Zippers – Hell (1996)
12. Sam the Sham – Haunted House (1964)
13. The Duponts – Screamin’ Ball (At Dracula Hall) (1958)
14. Soupy Sales – My Baby’s Got A Crush On Frankenstein (1962)
15. Big Bopper – Purple People Eater Meets The Witch Doctor (1958)
16. Morgus & The 3 Ghouls – Morgus The Magnificent (1959)
17. The Moon-Rays – Blues For Vampira (2004)
18. Hoodoo Gurus – Hayride To Hell (1985)
19. Stan Ridgway – Camouflage (1986)
20. Warren Zevon – Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner (1978)
21. Jackson C Frank – Halloween Is Black As Night (1960s)
22. Tim Curry – Anything Can Happen On Halloween (1986)
23. Nancy Dupree – Fankenstein (1970)
24. Jimmy Fallon – Happy Halloween (1998)

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Any Major Halloween Vol. 2
Any Major Halloween Vol. 3
Any Major Halloween Vol. 4
Any Major Murder Songs Vol. 1

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A Life In Vinyl: 1979

October 16th, 2014 8 comments

A Life in Vinyl 1979.

As 1979, the year I turned 13, began I tried to fast-track myself to serious popfanship. The previous year I had started to investigate the pop music of the past. I had read up about the rock & roll of the 1950s in a fanzine, and I had been particularly taken with the 1960s. The Box Tops’ The Letter, released ten years earlier and therefore in another lifetime altogether, was a particular favourite. For Christmas I asked for and received the three essential Beatles double album compilations: 1962-66, 1967-70 and Love Songs.

And in 1978 I had dabbled in punk. Now I flirted with the other side. I listened to Al Stewart, whose music I still like but who didn’t really aim for 13-year-olds. I pompously expounded on the “brilliance” of Barclay James Harvest’s XII album, which I neither understood nor actually liked. It is, indeed, quite awful. I soon became sick of the pretense. That didn’t stop me, however, from getting Supertramp’s Breakfast in America album later in the year.

By the time my birthday in April arrived, I had reverted to eclectic record-buying. LPs by Status Quo and Queen, and singles by artists as diverse as Thin Lizzy, Hot Chocolate, Billy Joel and the disco outfit The Richie Family. With that in hand, Barclay James Harvest and their prog-rock noodling was soon passé.

I was not immune to questionable musical choices. I would hesitate to describe ownership of Olivia Newton-John”s Totally Hot LP or Suzi Quatro’s Smokie-produced If You Knew Suzi…  album as evidence of musical sophistication. Still, I knew the real horrors of 1979, the songs which are forgotten by the nostalgia that recalls the year  as a highwater mark in pop — which, of course, it was.

Much of the charts were infected by some of the worst music ever made. There were some post-disco horrors around in Europe: Snoopy, Luv and Luisa Fernandez (couldn’t sing, couldn’t dance) were among the most talent-free offenders, and the Vader Abraham Smurfs song cannot be redeemed even by the most indulgent childhood nostalgia (Holland, you nearly fucked up 1979!).

covers79_2

But I reserved my most virulent bile for two particular songs which, with hindsight, I acknowledge to be quite brilliant. First there was Patrick Hernandez Born To Be Alive”, which blighted every German school disco (where I lived, it was “danced” to by jumping with legs closed from one side to another, if possible tothe beat). The song still evokes the taste of cheap cola and peanut twirls, and the anxiety of relating to girls who suddenly had become romantic notions.

The other musical nemesis was Cliff Richard’s We Don”t Talk Anymore. It’s a very good song, but it was ubiquitous in the summer of 1979. Besides, I had taken a dislike to Cliff Richard before I ever knowingly heard a note he sang. I was not going to surrender my antipathy to that song.

In 1979 I was sent on a church youth camp, as I had been two years before. In 1977 the camp group had been great. I had fallen “in love”, we had great outings and fantastic leaders. In 1979 the group was populated by creeps, and I didn’t like any of the girls other than those older than I was, and therefore unattainable. On top of that, the camp leaders ignored my complaint of theft, the sort of commandment-violation one might think would require some sort of reaction in a church-run jam. I never went again.

Things picked up in autumn. And what an autumn it was — indeed, the stretch from autumn 1979 to early summer 1980 produced a fantastic run of singles purchases. It started with The Knack’s My Sharona, the cover of which, I must confess, excited my hormones the way the girls in my age cohort on summer camp didn’t (I liked the song, too. Still do, dodgy lyrucs apart). There were some new kind of sounds. Gary Numan’s Tubeway Army, with the synth sound that seemed more musical to me than the robotic Kraftwerk, set the scene for the New Romantics which would arrive within a year and a bit. Video Killed The Radio Star sounded very unusual too.

But my favourite act of 1979 was the Boomtown Rats. I had liked them before, of course, but I Don”t Like Mondays was a few cuts above She’s So Modern or Like Clockwork. I loved their The Fine Art Of Surfacing LP. It has not really stood the test of time, but I’ll stand by the trio of singles — Mondays, Diamond Smile, Someone’s Looking At You, and closing track When the Night Comes .

And as 1979 ended, I started to get into AC/DC — just in time for Bon Scott”s death in February 1980.

covers79_1

For those who really need to know, songs with a green asterisk I owned in 1979 on Single, red on LP (track 7 on a compilation album), blue on tape.

1. Status Quo – Accident Prone **
2. Thin Lizzy – Rosalie (live) *
3. Hot Chocolate – I’ll Put You Together Again *
4. Patrick Hernandez – Born To Be Alive
5. Ritchie Family – American Generation *
6. Billy Joel – My Life *
7. Gerard Kenny – New York, New York *
8. Elton John – Return To Paradise *
9. George Harrison – Blow Away *
10. Art Garfunkel – Bright Eyes *
11. Clout – Save Me *
12. Amii Stewart – Knock On Wood *
13. The Knack – My Sharona *
14. Tubeway Army – Are ‘Friends’ Electric *
15. Electric Light Orchestra – Don’t Bring Me Down *
16. B.A. Robertson – Bang Bang *
17. The Buggles – Video Killed the Radio Star *
18. Thom Pace – Maybe *
19. Boomtown Rats – Diamond Smiles *

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Not Feeling Guilty Mix Vol. 3

October 9th, 2014 15 comments

Not Feeling Guilty Mix Vol. 3

After two recycled mixes in this series, here”s a brand-new collection. This one is at least as good as the other two, with some glorious songs one doesn”t hear often today, even on radio stations that specialise in retro stuff. And because I have relaxed the no-duplication-of-artists rule, some acts return with tracks that are as good as those I picked for the first two mixes “” Ambrosia are one example; Boz Scaggs, Dan Folgelberg and Player others. And there is Kenny Loggins, a man who is unjustly maligned by some people.

His “Heart To Heart” is mighty, with its great bridge leading to the punchy chorus.  The thing was co-written with David Foster and Michael McDonald, who does backing vocals and keyboard duty. David Sanborn, operating in an era before he was the Kenny G it was sort of OK to like, adds a nice sax solo. It”s good to be alive when one hears that song.

As far as I can see, only one song here is a cover, Carly Simon”s version of The Doobie Brothers” “You Belong To Me”, later covered to good effect by soul singer Anita Baker.

As previously noted, the genre which some call yacht rock (I”ll watch the satirical series of the name one day, but, the cover above notwithstanding, I hate the moniker) or adult contemporary (yeurgh) was underpinned by top class session work, its practitioners often coming from the world of jazz fusion. Two songs here are in fact credited to fusion people: Lee Ritenour”s “Is It You”, with Eric Tagg on vocals, and Stanley Clarke & George Duke”s “Sweet Baby”. The Internet tells me some people don”t like the latter; I think it has a lovely vibe.

There will be a fourth mix. In the meantime, this lot is timed to fit on a CD-R, and includes home-knitted covers. PW in comments.

1. Boz Scaggs – Lido Shuffle (1976)
2. Hall and Oates – Say It Ain”t So (1983)
3. Kenny Loggins – Heart To Heart (1982)
4. Lee Ritenour with Eric Tagg – Is It You (1981)
5. Eddie Rabbitt – Suspicions (1979)
6. Ambrosia – The Biggest Part Of Me (1980)
7. Jim Messina – Seeing You (For The First Time) (1979)
8. Stanley Clarke/George Duke Project – Sweet Baby (1981)
9. Bill LaBounty – Never Gonna Look Back (1982)
10. Player – Givin” It All (1980)
11. Dan Fogelberg – Missing You (1982)
12. Robbie Dupree – Steal Away (1980)
13. Carly Simon – You Belong To Me (1978)
14. Gino Vanelli – I Just Want To Stop (1978)
15. Bertie Higgins – Key Largo (1982)
16. England Dan & John Ford Coley – We”ll Never Have To Say Goodbye Again (1978)
17. Orleans – Dance With Me (1975)
18. Nicolette Larson – Give A Little (1978)
19. Elvin Bishop – Fooled Around And Fell In Love (1975)
20. Andrew Gold – Lonely Boy (1976)

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Not Feeling Guilty Mix Vol. 1
Not Feeling Guilty Mix Vol. 2

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Any Major Summer Vol. 4

October 2nd, 2014 6 comments

Any Major Summer Vol. 4

The title of a rather peculiar Beach Boys instrumental once announced that “Fall Breaks And Back To Winter”. And so it is for the northern hemisphere. Summer”s gone, and here is a fourth summer mix to say farewell till next year. For us in the southern half of the globe, of course, summer is still coming.

This mix brings the summer comps to a full cycle: I posted the first summer mix during the northern winter, to warm you up. The second mix was in spring, by way of anticipation. The third mix was posted during summer, which made sense. And now the fourth goes out in the autumn.

There”s still enough for a fourth mix (yes, with The Doors closing the series).

summer-covers

As always, the mix fits on a CD-R and includes bright, summery covers. PW same as always.

1. Meat Loaf – You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth (1977)
2. The Cars – Magic (1984)
3. The Go-Go”s – Vacation (1982)
4. Bananarama – Cruel Summer (1983)
5. Wham! – Club Tropicana (1983)
6. Windjammer – End Of Summer (1982)
7. Chairmen Of The Board – Summerlove (1983)
8. Billy Paul – July, July, July, July (1975)
9. Brighter Side Of Darkness – Summer Ride (1972)
10. Spanky Wilson – The Last Day Of Summer (1969)
11. The Beach Boys – The Girls On The Beach (1964)
12. Lesley Gore – Sunshine, Lollipops And Rainbows (1965)
13. Connie Francis – Vacation (1962)
14. Pat Boone – Love Letters In The Sand (1957)
15. Robin Ward – Wonderful Summer (1963)
16. John Tavolta & Olivia Newton-John – Summer Nights (1978)
17. Stray Cats – Lonely Summer Nights (1981)
18. The Kinks – Sitting In The Midday Sun (1973)
19. Elvis Costello – The Other Side Of Summer (1991)
20. Belle & Sebastian – A Summer Wasting (1998)
21. The Alarm – Rain In The Summertime (1987)
22. Foo Fighters – Summer”s End (2007)

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Any Major Summer Vol. 1
Any Major Summer Vol. 2
Any Major Summer Vol. 3
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