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Any Major Disco Vol. 10 – Party Like It’s 1981

December 30th, 2021 1 comment

I call this mix “disco”, but by 1981, we are really in the post-disco era. The “Disco Sucks” movement thought it had vanquished disco, and as a commercial force in the US charts, disco had indeed virtually disappeared. Kool & The Gang’s Celebration was the only song of a disco heritage to top the US charts (one might, on a quibble, add Blondie’s Rapture). Even Nile Rogers was virtually in hiding.

But the genre wasn’t dead; it just kept evolving, and in different directions, with a growing emphasis on keyboards, synth, and drum machines, as well as a greater influence of hip hop. And it wasn’t called disco. Within a year or three, the brothers, sons and daughters of disco — Michael Jackson, Prince, Lionel Richie, Madonna, Whitney Houston — were the world’s biggest stars. And Nile Rogers would bounce back, producing mega hits for the likes of David Bowie, Madonna and Duran Duran.

Disco was dead, but for dance music, 1981 was a mighty year, and one that set the scene for all dance music of the 1980s.

The closing track, Heartbreak Hotel, is by The Jacksons, who had ridden the disco wave to good effect. And Heartbreak Hotel was at the centre of one of my favourite articles about music and journalism, from 1980 by English writer Danny Baker, writing for the New Musucal Express. Titled “The great Greenland mystery”, it concerns a press conference held in LA by The Jacksons to promote their Triumph album (the one with the soaring Can You Feel It). The subject matter lends itself to the bizarre, of course. For the most part of this pretty lengthy article, the Jackson angle is at once central and peripheral.

From experience, I know that Baker’s portrayal of the presser is hilariously accurate — especially so in the context of entertainment writing, as I experienced during a brief excursion into the field in the ’90s. And I suppose every entertainment hack has met guys like the hapless Yoshi, who takes centre-stage in Baker’s very funny piece

Here are the pertinent excerpts, transcribed for your reading pleasure. The whole lot is also in the illustrated PDF which is included in the package with the CD-R length mix and home-shaken-up covers.

Danny Baker, back in the day

I LOVE press conferences. Nobody says anything for the first ten minutes and then, when someone does, questions fly about in little spurts. In the gaps, hungry hacks eye up and down their comrades’ columns to see if someone is going to ask a question a split second before they open their own cake-holes, thus shutting down their own effort in its first syllable.

Then there’s the all-out strain to see who can project the best image of the seen-it-all pressman. Never admit it’s your first PC. Also sort out where the majors are present. No one wants to admit they’re from the Basildon Non-Ferrous Metals Weekly when you’re sandwiched between the Times and the Telegraph.

It’s wonderful to spot potential questioners. You can see their lips moving as they run over and over the question, ironing it out a full quarter-hour before popping it. And worse! If some bastard creep gets in your query first, they usually get approving nods from all around and you feel like screeching, ‘But I was going to ask that!’

[pre-PC preparations]

Then there’s the well-used but still fresh-looking notepad that on every page has the standard four lines of shorthand at the top. You have to rattle a pencil around your teeth — never chew it! — until you get an ‘idea’. Then you add another half line of shorthand culminating in finally slamming your notebook shut with a disturbing air of confidence. Then you just sit back, arms folded, surveying the lesser hacks who’ve yet to complete the preliminaries.
[…]
Once the artists enter you’re treated to a stampede of photographers — forming tight bundles like mating-crazed frogs. […] All the smudges yell ‘This way please, Cecil’ even though Cecil never does. They usually nick a glance from somebody else’s successful bid.
Before photographers do all this, they pick straws to see who will be the one who goes around behind the artists and takes a shot or two of All The Other Photographers Taking Photos of Cecil. The runner-up gets to be the essential smudge who stands firm snapping away after the others have retreated. He carries this on until a bouncer leads him away.
[…]
If you meet someone you know at a press conference, you always ask each other what you’re doing here. The you both decide ‘It’s a giggle’, the subject is only fit to be sent up, and ask who was that berk who asked such and such a question halfway through. Then you destroy the berk’s paper.

Michael Jackson and his brothers have entered, “all sporting huge jamtart sized sunglasses”.

The questions are real tat. ‘Ven fill hue be wisiting Sweden, Michael?’ ‘Are you a close family, Michael? (to which the family Michael showed a keen drollery in snapping back ‘No Sir’), ‘Can you give us information about your new record?’ It was pretty bleak until this one poor wretched Japanese-looking bloke committed the cardinal sin of any press conference — he tried to crack a joke. Oh, but he did. Y’see, there’s a track on their new LP called “Heartbreak Hotel” and this bloke — who had little command of English anyway — thought he had cooked up a real zinger.

‘Ah, Michael’, he stuttered, seizing his chance. ‘Ah if you had not been a hit with your LP, ah, would you have gone to, ah, Heartbreak Hotel?’

In the ensuing silence, the wind blew, crickets chirped and you could hear the guy swallow hard as the apologetic grin froze on his chops. It turns out nobody understood him. Tito asks him to repeat the ‘question’. ‘Ah, Michael, i-if your LP had n-not been success…w-would you have, ah, have gone t-to Heartbreak Hotel?’

By now most of us hacks have caught on to what’s being said and the less valiant turn away and clear their throats. The guy is still grinning although he has stopped blinking by now and is wobbling perceptibly.

A Jacksons aide steps in. ‘Er, Yoshi, what do you mean?’
‘Ah Michael. If your album h-h-had not been su-su-success wouldyouhavegonetoHeartbreakHotel?’

Michael shakes his head and Jackie tries. ‘OK, I got Heartbreak Hotel but that was on our LP — what’s it got to do with Michael?’

Poor Yoshi is drenched in flop-sweat. He is darting his eyes around looking for an ally. His neck has gone to semolina and his palms perspire like the Boulder dam.

‘I-I-I’m playing with words you see.’
Nobody sees and Yoshi’s grasp of the lingo falls an inch short of the word ‘joke’.
‘P-P-Playing with words…words.’

The eyes of the world are burrowing deep inside that tweed jacket of his. He’s trembling like a sapling in monsoon and smoke is starting to belch out of his ears. Then a voice at the back ends the torture. ‘I think the guy’s trying to make a funny.’
‘Yis! Yis! That’s it!’ babbles the released spirit. ‘I’m making funny! Funny!’

As he begins to appeal for clemency, the final cruel blow sounds. Amidst the unnecessary sighing the aide says: ‘Hey Yoshi. This is a press conference, man. Save the funnies, huh?’

The dumb questions resumed but I couldn’t take my eyes from the broken Japanese. Ruined, he never heard another word all afternoon. Today, I suspect he sits in a bathchair in some far off sanatorium, grey-haired and twitching, mumbling to anyone who will listen: ‘The words. Playing with words you see…is funny.’

______________

Pity poor Yoshi. Personally, I reckon he bounced back. So, here’s what people danced to on New Year’s Eve 40 years ago — if they had a good DJ.

So, from me, HAPPY NEW YEAR! May your 2022 be corona-free and  filled with good health, good fortune and much love!

1. Bill Summers & Summers Heat – Call It What You Want
2. Carl Carlton – She’s A Bad Mama Jama (She’s Built, She’s Stacked)
3. Earth Wind & Fire – Let’s Groove
4. Cheryl Lynn – Shake It Up Tonight
5. Brothers Johnson – The Real Thing
6. Patti Austin – Do You Love Me
7. Melba Moore – Take My Love
8. Sister Sledge – All American Girls
9. B B & Q Band – On The Beat
10. Change – Hold Tight
11. Southern Freeze – Freeez
12. Odyssey – Going Back To My Roots
13. Champaign – Can You Find The Time
14. Chaka Khan – What Cha’ Gonna Do for Me
15. Grace Jones – Pull Up To The Bumper
16. The Jacksons – Heartbreak Hotel

Categories: Disco, Mix CD-Rs Tags:

Any Major New Year’s

December 24th, 2021 2 comments

How has your 2021 been? Mine? A mixed bag: the pandemic has screwed me over financially (the Rainy Day Fund? Gone), and my health is trying to tell me that I’m getting older. But I’m still loved and I’m still loving. Be that as it may, 2021 can very much piss off, and take that pandemic with it.

So, as we may look forward to a better new year, with the hope it won’t be our last, here’s a mix of New Year’s Eve songs, a week before we do our Auld Lang Synes.

I have managed to compile it without the help of U2, but a couple of obvious tracks have to feature (hello ABBA). Still, I expect that this collection contains some pleasant surprises (one of them being three songs with the same title being sequenced to follow one another, quite unintentionally).

And that’s what I’m hoping for in 2022: pleasant surprises for all of us, and an end to the nightmare of the past two years.

In that spirit, I wish you a good slide into the new year, as the Germans say.

And do pop in on Tursday for the annual year-end disco mix — or post-disco, if we want to pick nits, since it covers songs to boogie on down to from 1981.

As ever, this mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-countdowned covers. PW in comments.

1. Eagles – Funky New Year (1978)
2. Charles Brown – Bringing In A Brand New Year (1964)
3. The Cameos – New Year’s Eve (1957)
4. The Coolbreezers – Hello Mr. New Year (1958)
5. Jo-Ann Campbell – Happy New Year Baby (1958)
6. The Zombies – This Will Be Our Year (1968)
7. Dan Fogelberg – Same Old Lang Syne (1981)
8. Barry Manilow – It’s Just Another New Year’s Eve (1977)
9. ABBA – Happy New Year (1980)
10. Carole King – New Year’s Day (2011)
11. Mary Chapin Carpenter – New Year’s Day (2012)
12. Taylor Swift – New Year’s Day (2017)
13. Tom Waits – New Year’s Eve (2011)
14. Harry Connick Jr. feat. George Jones – Nothin’ New For New Year (2003)
15. Lightnin’ Hopkins – Happy New Year (1953)
16. Mary Harris – Happy New Year Blues (1935)
17. Vera Lynn – The Happiest New Year Of All (1946)
18. Mae West – My New Year’s Resolutions (1966)
19. The Heartbeats – After New Year’s Eve (1957)
20. Otis Redding & Carla Thomas – New Year’s Resolution (1967)
21. Nancy Wilson – What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? (1965)
22. Paddy Roberts – Merry X-Mas You Suckers (And A Happy New Year) (1962)
23. Franklin MacCormack – My New Year’s Wish For You (1948)

GET IT! or HERE!

More CD-R Mixes

Categories: Mix CD-Rs, X-Mas Tags:

Any Major Santa Claus

December 16th, 2021 2 comments

A few years ago I put up a mix of traditional Christmas carols as sung by pop artists. In those songs, obviously, the birth of Jesus was at the centre. But for many people, the person at the centre of Christmas is Santa Claus, so here’s a mix of songs about the old reindeer-exploiting face of rampant commercialism. As far as I can tell, none of these songs have featured in previous Any Major Christmas mixes (at least I tried my best to make it so).

Santa Claus, as most people know, is based on the Christian 4th-century Saint Nicholas of Myrna, who was a bishop in Asia Minor, or modern-day Turkey. Which means that in the US, UK and Western Europe, there are people who’d prefer to deny the original Santa entry into their country. The Santa of this mix, of course, has special access everywhere, including chimneys, in which he might get stuck from time to time, as Ella Fitzgerald explains.

We also know from The Sensational Little Shana Lynette, as the 10-year-old Kansas kid was billed in 1983, that Santa was in danger of falling victim to international terrorism at the hands of the dastardly Soviets, or “Mr Russian”, as Shana politely says in her Cold War propaganda song. I suspect that agent Father Frost, who had replaced Santa Claus in the festive celebrations in the USSR, would have loved to get a shot at his capitalist rival.

Similar Zeitgeist silliness found expression in other seasonal songs. In 1957, Bobby Helms had “Captain Santa Claus” and his reindeers going on space patrol in a track that served as the b-side to his X-Mas hit, Jingle Bell Rock. And George Jones, still to grow into his sonorous voice and macho persona, involves Santa in the twist craze of the early 1960s.

Santa is at times something of a sex symbol, in ways most overweight and white-haired men of a certain age are not. We had Eartha Kitt trying to seduce the old feller in Santa Baby on the Any Major Gals’ Christmas mix last week. Here we up the ante by having Mae West apply her seductive wiles to ole Nick. And since West was 73 when she issued her version in 1966, it is rather more age-appropriate than that by Kitt, who was 26 when she tried to get Santa and his sack into the sack. Not that one should judge inter-generational sexual attraction between consenting adults, of course.

Most famously, Santa Claus was kissing Mommy underneath the mistletoe. Of course — and here I issue a spoiler alert for the uninitiated — it wasn’t really Santa whose tongue was roaming in Mom’s mouth (and here I wish to introduce you to the great German concept of “Kopfkino”). I’m particularly pleased that on this mix we have John Prine sing this song, giving proof to the fact that Prine could make even the most dreadful songs sound entertaining.

An even more unlikely candidate for the performance of trivial X-Mas songs is Bob Dylan, yet here he is singing Here Comes Santa Claus (which is not a Santa sex songs. Neither is Back Door Santa, nor Santa Claus Got Stuck In My Chimney). The original performer of that song — which featured on Any Major Christmas Originals — was Gene Autry. The “Singing Cowboy” is also represented on this mix, with When Santa Claus Gets Your Letter, the b-side to the original release of Here Comes Santa Claus.

As ever, this mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, includes home-ho-ho-hoed covers, and the above text in an illustrated PDF. PW in comments, and links to previous Christmas mixes below.

Next week I’ll post a mix of New Year’s songs, and before New Year’s Eve the traditional disco mix. If I don’t see you before Christmas, let me wish you a very merry, peaceful and healthy Christmas!

1. The Weather Girls – Dear Santa (Bring Me A Man This Christmas) (1983)
2. Bob Dylan – Here Comes Santa Claus (2009)
3. John Prine – I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (1993)
4. The Beach Boys – Little Saint Nick (1964)
5. Elvis Presley – Santa Claus Is Back In Town (1957)
6. Bob Seger & The Last Heard – Sock It To Me Santa (1966)
7. James Brown – Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto (1968)
8. Louis Jordan – Santa Claus, Santa Claus (1968)
9. Lou Rawls – Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town (1967)
10. Mae West – Santa Baby (1966)
11. Ella Fitzgerald – Santa Claus Got Stuck In My Chimney (1950)
12. Nat ‘King’ Cole – The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot (1953)
13. The Mills Brothers – You Don’t Have To Be A Santa Claus (1955)
14. Fats Domino – I Told Santa Claus (1993)
15. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy – Is Zat You Santa Claus (2004)
16. Albert King – Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’ (1974)
17. The Holmes Brothers – Back Door Santa (2003)
18. Sufjan Stevens – Get Behind Me, Santa! (2006)
19. Sia – My Old Santa Claus (2018)
20. Dwight Yoakam – Santa Can’t Stay (2015)
21. Homer & Jethro – Santa’s Movin’ On (1956)
22. Jim Reeves – Señor Santa Claus (1963)
23. Gene Autry – When Santa Claus Gets Your Letter (1950)
24. George Jones & The Jones Boys – My Mom And Santa Claus (Twistin’ Santa Claus) (1962)
25. Bobby Helms – Captain Santa Claus (And His Reindeer Space Patrol) (1957)
26. The Di Mara Sisters – Santa’s Italian Wife (1971)
27. Shana Lynette – Mister Russian, Please Don’t Shoot Down Santa’s Sleigh (1983)

GET IT! or HERE!

More Christmas Mixes
Any Major Christmas Favourites
Any Major 1980s Christmas
Any Major 1970s Christmas
Any Major 1960s Christmas
Any Major 1950s Christmas
Any Major 1940s Christmas
Christmas Mix, Not For Mother
Any Major X-Mas Mix
Any Major Christmas Pop Vol. 1
Any Major Christmas Pop Vol. 2

The Originals: Christmas Edition
Any Major Christmas Carols (in pop)
Any Major Christmas Bells
Any Major Smooth Christmas Vol. 1
Any Major Smooth Christmas Vol. 2
Any Major Smooth Christmas Vol. 3
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 1
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 2
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 3
Any Major Doo Wop Christmas
Any Major Rhythm & Blues Christmas
Any Major X-Mas Blues
Any Major Country Christmas Vol. 1
Any Major Country Christmas Vol. 2
Any Major Acoustic Christmas
Christmas In Black & White Vol. 1
Christmas In Black & White Vol. 2
Christmas In Black & White Vol. 3
Any Major Christmas ABC
Any Major Gals’ Christmas
Song Swarm: Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer

Or all in one place

Categories: X-Mas Tags:

Any Major Gals’ Christmas

December 9th, 2021 9 comments

Today, as I write, I’ve felt unusually Christmassy — thanks to this mix! As the title subtly hints at, this collection comprises Christmas songs sung by women. And if that concept strikes you as a bit sexist (and I’m not sure why it should), let me reassure you that next year I’ll have a mix of songs only by guys.

The festive sense I’ve felt kicked in right from the beginning, with Kylie Minogue’s richly retro version of It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year. And while I might not be a dedicated follower of Christina Aguilera’s catalogue — I’m mostly indifferent to it — I find her interpretation of Donny Hathaway’s lovely This Christmas quite outstanding.

This collection covers various eras and styles. The youngest recording here is from 2015; the oldest is Eartha Kitt’s Santa Baby from 1954. There’s the lighthearted stuff — Ella Fitzgerald’s Santa Claus Is Coming To Town is great fun; Etta James’ bluesy Merry Christmas Baby is sexy stuff — and some is traditional and reflective. Of the latter, Emmylou Harris’ Light Of The Stable is particularly beautiful.

Almost all of these artists are well-known; only Margie Joseph exists on the margins of popular music. Except for fans of 1970s soul, who’ll readily acclaim her as one of the great singers of her generation. She also featured on the second volume of the Albums of The Year: 1971, which went up a few weeks ago.

I had several contenders for inclusion of women who performed The Christmas Song, and I nearly chose the gorgeous rendition by Anita Baker. In the event, there was no way past Natalie Cole, the daughter of the man who first recorded the song and made it something of a signature tune. Her version is, of course, very lovely, too.

There will be another Christmas mix next week. Check out the previous Christmas mixes in the list below (or the whole lot here). As far as I can see, all links are working. If you need anything re-upped, let me know in the comments.

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

1. Kylie Minogue – It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
2. Christina Aguilera – This Christmas
3. Wilson Phillips – Warm Lovin’ Christmastime
4. Mariah Carey – Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
5. Carole King – Everyday Will Be Like A Holiday
6. Nancy Sinatra – We Need A Little Christmas
7. Natalie Cole – The Christmas Song
8. Doris Day – I’ll Be Home For Christmas
9. Julie London – I’d Like You For Christmas
10. Keely Smith – Blue Christmas
11. Darlene Love – Winter Wonderland
12. The Supremes – My Christmas Tree
13. Eartha Kitt – Santa Baby
14. Ella Fitzgerald – Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
15. Etta James – Merry Christmas Baby
16. Vanessa Williams – Christmas Is
17. Gladys Knight & The Pips – When You Love Someone (It’s Christmas Everyday)
18. Margie Joseph – Feeling Like Christmas
19. Emmylou Harris – Light Of The Stable
20. Dolly Parton – We Three Kings
21. Olivia Newton-John – Christmas Never Felt Like This Before
22. Nancy Wilson – The Christmas Waltz
23. Dinah Washington – Silent Night
24. Sarah McLachlan – Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

GET IT! or HERE!

More Christmas Mixes
Any Major Christmas Favourites
Any Major 1980s Christmas
Any Major 1970s Christmas
Any Major 1960s Christmas
Any Major 1950s Christmas
Any Major 1940s Christmas
Christmas Mix, Not For Mother
Any Major X-Mas Mix
Any Major Christmas Pop Vol. 1
Any Major Christmas Pop Vol. 2
Any Major Christmas Carols (in pop)
Any Major Christmas Bells
Any Major Smooth Christmas Vol. 1
Any Major Smooth Christmas Vol. 2
Any Major Smooth Christmas Vol. 3
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 1
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 2
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 3
Any Major Doo Wop Christmas
Any Major Rhythm & Blues Christmas
Any Major X-Mas Blues
Any Major Country Christmas Vol. 1
Any Major Country Christmas Vol. 2
Any Major Acoustic Christmas
Christmas In Black & White Vol. 1
Christmas In Black & White Vol. 2
Christmas In Black & White Vol. 3
Any Major Christmas ABC
Song Swarm: Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer

Or all in one place

Categories: X-Mas Tags:

In Memoriam – November 2021

December 2nd, 2021 4 comments

The Reaper has eased off after a hectic few months. Still, in November he took some musicians who have appeared on songs most of us will profess to love, and he claimed one of Brazil’s brightest talents in a tragic air crash. Personally, I was most saddened by the passing of UB40’s Astro, who was the best thing about the band’s concert I saw back in the 1980s. Remarkably, there was casualty from the world of country music; I hazard to guess that in the long time I’ve done this series — some 11 years — this might be a first.

The Moody Blue
The Moody Blues are probably best remembered for the classic hit Nights In White Satin. With its orchestral arrangement, which in 1967 was still a novelty in rock, the English band’s hit exercised a great influence on other groups. Another pioneering prog rock device was their use of spoken poetry. These poems were written by drummer Graeme Edge, who has died at 80. Apparently the band thought his poetry was a bit too rambling to work as song lyrics.

Edge remained with the band for most of its run, which as a recording concern ended in 2003 and as a live act in 2015. In the 1970s, he took some time out — by his own account, to decompress from his own sense of self-importance — and formed the Graeme Edge Band with Paul and Adam Gurvitz.

The Stage Writer
I’ll be honest about Stephen Sondheim, the musicals lyricist who has died at 91: other than the obvious stuff — West Side Story, Send In The Clowns, bits and pieces of other musicals and films — I know very little about him or his craft. And other than West Side Story, I’m rather lacking in exposure and knowledge to it. At the same time, there are people whose musical judgment I fully respect who swear by Sondheim’s genius. There are those who even argue that Sondheim was our epoch’s Shakespeare.

And when I listen more closely to his lyrics, I can see their point. Aside from the obvious knack for a good turn of phrase, without which nobody would bring up Shakespeare, he also was also courageous and even subversive. The song America from West Side Story is as strong an indictment of US society as you could accommodate in a musical in the 1950s. And Officer Krupke from the same musical include references to drugs, junkies, transvestites and venereal disease, hardly staple subjects for 1950s society.

I suspect that I might be well served to investigate Sondheim’s catalogue with greater attention.

The Wailers’ Percussionist
As its percussionist, Alvin ‘Seeco’ Patterson, who has died at 90, was integral to the sound of Bob Marley & The Wailers in their most commercial phase. He played on all albums, from 1973’s Catch A Fire to Confrontation, released in 1983 after Marley’s death. It’s safe to say that Seeco played on all of the tracks of the ubiquitous Legend compilation. It was also the older Seeco who took the unknown Wailers to their first recording session in 1964 and encouraged the young Bob Marley to become a lead singer.

His friendship with Marley lasted till the singer’s death in 1981. Seeco was there when gunmen tried to assassinate Marley; and when Bob battled cancer, Seeco was constantly at his side. After Bob’s death, Seeco — who was born in Cuba of a Jamaican father and Panamaian mother — continued playing with The Wailers, only rarely doing session work outside.

The Backing Singer
Evette Benton never put out a record under her own name, as far as I know — but you’ll have heard her voice as a backing singer on many hit records. As part of a session trio named the Sweethearts of Sigma, or just The Sweeties, with Barbara Ingram (whom we lost in 1994) and Carla Benson, Benton sung on soul classics such as — deep breath in — Billy Paul’s Me And Mrs Jones and Let’s Make A Baby; on The Spinners’ Could It Be I’m Falling In Love, I’ll Be Around, Ghetto Child, You Make Me Feel Brand New, They Just Can’t Stop It The (Games People Play) and The Rubberband Man; The Manhattans’ Hurt and Kiss And Say Goodbye; Major Harris’ Love Won’t Let Me Wait; Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes’ Don’t Leave Me This Way and Wake Up Everybody; The Trammps’ Disco Inferno; Lou Rawls’ Lay Love and Tradewinds; The O’Jays’ Use Ta Be My Girl and Brandy; Bell & James’ Livin’ It Up (Friday Night); Michael McDonald & Patti LaBelle’s On My Own, and more. That’s aside of her work on many great soul albums, especially those produced for Philly Soul label PIR.

And while she was appearing on hundreds of records, she also worked as a special education teacher and later became director of a pre-school program in Camden, New Jersey, the town where she and her fellow Sweeties hailed from.

The GAP Man
With the death of Ronnie Wilson, only one of the three brothers who made up The Gap Band survives. A multi-instrumentalist, Ronnie was responsible for the trumpet, flugelhorn, piano, synthesizer and percussion. He was also the leading songwriter in the group.

The band’s name is a reference to the Tulsa Riots, the pogrom against African-Americans in the 1920s in the Oklahoma city. The word “Gap” is an acronym of the three worst-affected streets in the racist pogrom: Greenwood, Archer and Pine.

The Reggae Rapper
When it came out, I loved UB40s Red Red Wine, even though it was a departure from their edgier old sound. As it is with the eponymous liquid, too much of a good think isn’t good, and with it being overplayed I came to dislike the song. With the death of UB40’s MC Astro at only 64, I listened to their cover of Red Red Wine again — and found it’s actually a pretty good record, immeasurably enhanced by Astro’s rap.

On stage, Astro was as much frontman as his friend and lead singer Ali Campbell. Behind the scenes, according to a friend of mine who knew him, Astro — real name Terence Wilson — was a gentle soul who kept in touch with his bandmate even after UB40 split amid acrimony. The death of the UB40 co-founder came less than three months after that of UB40 saxophonist Brian Travers.

And the nickname? Apparently it came from the name of a pair of Doc Martens boots he wore, named Astronauts.

The Brazilian Superstar
In Brazil, singer-songwriter Marília Mendonça, who has died at 26 in an air crash, was a sensation and possibly the country’s biggest female singing star, selling multi-platinum records and providing women with a voice through many of her songs. In 2019 she won a Latin Grammy for best sertanejo album.

On November 5, Mendonça entered an air taxi with her uncle/manager and three others. They never reached Caratinga, their destination. The singer leaves behind her husband and a 22-months-old child.As always, this post is reproduced in illustrated PDF format in the package, which also includes my personal playlist of the featured tracks. PW in comments.

Alvin ‘Seeco’ Patterson, 90, Cuban-born Jamaican percussionist, on Nov. 1
Bob Marley & The Wailers – Trenchtown Rock (Live) (1975, as member)
Bob Marley & The Wailers – Exodus (1977, as member)

Pat Martino, 77, jazz guitarist and composer, on Nov. 1
Pat Martino – Along Came Betty (1974)

Emmett Chapman, 85, jazz musician, inventor of Chapman Stick, on Nov. 1
Emmett Chapman – Back Yard (1985)

Ronnie Wilson, 73, member of funk group The Gap Band, on Nov. 2
The Gap Band – I Don’t Believe You Want To Get Up And Dance (Oops Up Side Your Head).mp3 (1979)
The Gap Band – Big Fun (1986)

Ernest Wilson, 69, Jamaican reggae singer, on Nov. 2
Ernest Wilson – Let True Love Be (1976)

Declan Mulligan, 83, Irish-born member of rock group Beau Brummels, on Nov. 2
The Beau Brummels – Laugh, Laugh (1964, on rhythm guitar and harmonica)

Georgie Dann, 81, French party songs singer, on Nov. 3

Marília Mendonça, 26, Brazilian singer-songwriter, in air crash on Nov. 5
Marília Mendonça – Sentimento Louco (2015)
Marília Mendonça – Ciumeira (2019)

Beldina Odenyo Onassis, 31, Kenyan-Scottish singer-songwriter and musician, on Nov. 5

Andy Barker, 53, member of British electronic group 808 State, on Nov. 6
808 State – In Yer Face (1991)

Maureen Cleave, 87, British journalist (Lennon’s ‘more popular than Jesus’ interview), on Nov. 6

Astro, 64, singer, rapper and musician with UB40, on Nov. 6
UB40 – One In Ten (1981)
UB40 – Red Red Wine (1986, also on rap)

Evette Benton, 68, soul backing singer, on Nov. 6
The Spinners – Could It Be I’m Falling In Love (1973, on backing vocals)
Major Harris – Love Won’t Let Me Wait (1976, on backing vocals; moans by Barbara Ingram)
Teddy Pendergrass – All I Need Is You (1979, on backing vocals)

Barry Coope, singer with English folk trio Coope, Boyes & Simpson, on Nov. 6
Coope, Boyes & Simpson – We Got Fooled Again (2010)

Bopol Mansiamina, 72, Congolese singer, musician, composer, producer, on Nov. 7
4 Stars Etoiles – Mayanga (1985, as member and writer)

Kōzō Suganuma, 62, Japanese jazz drummer, on Nov. 8

Margo Guryan, 84, singer-songwriter, on Nov. 8
Margo Guryan – Sunday Mornin’ (1968, also as writer)

Edgardo Gelli, 86, Italian singer, in car crash on Nov. 8

Sean Higgins, 68, synth player and songwriter, on Nov. 9
Australian Crawl – Things Don’t Seem (1981, as member and co-writer)

Mike ‘Bones’ Gersema, rock drummer, on Nov. 10
L.A. Gun – Face Down (1994, as member and co-writer)

Miroslav Žbirka, 69, singer, songwriter of Czechoslovakian rock band Modus, on Nov. 10

Spike Heatley, 88, British jazz and rock double bassist, on Nov. 10
Donovan – Sunshine Superman (1966, on double-bass)
C.C.S. – Whole Lotta Love (1970, as member on bass)

Graeme Edge, 80, drummer of The Moody Blues, songwriter, poet, on Nov. 11
The Moody Blues – Go Now (1964)
The Moody Blues – You And Me (1972, also as writer)
Graeme Edge Band feat. Adrian Gurvitz – Down, Down, Down (1977, also as writer)

Mark Gillespie, Australian singer-songwriter, on Nov. 11

John Goodsall, 68, British rock guitarist with Brand-X, on Nov. 11
Brand X – Euthanasia Waltz (1976, as member)

Greg Mayne, 67, bassist of heavy metal band Pentagram, on Nov. 13

Joe Siracusa, 99, drummer with Spike Jones and His City Slickers, on Nov. 13
Spike Jones and His City Slickers – Yes We Have No Bananas (1950, also on backing vocals)

Philip Margo, 79, singer with vocal group The Tokens, on Nov. 13
The Tokens – He’s In Town (1964)

Heber Bartolome, 73, Filipino folk singer, on Nov. 15

Belinda Sykes, 55, founder of British folk group Joglaresa, on Nov. 16

Keith Allison, 79, bassist and singer with Paul Revere & The Raiders, on Nov. 17
The Raiders – Birds Of A Feather (1971, as member)

Young Dolph, 36, rapper, murdered on Nov. 17

Dave Frishberg, 88, jazz pianist and songwriter, on Nov. 16
Dave Frishberg – I’m Hip (1966, also as lyricist)

Theuns Jordaan, 50, South African singer-songwriter, on Nov. 17

Slide Hampton, 89, jazz trombonist, on Nov. 18
The Slide Hampton Octet – Milestones (1961)

Ack van Rooyen, 91, Dutch jazz trumpeter and flugelhornist, on Nov. 18

Hank von Hell, 49, singer of Norwegian punk group Turbonegro, on Nov. 19

David Longdon, 56, singer and musician with UK rock band Big Big Train, on Nov. 20
Big Big Train – Evening Star (2009, lead vocals, organ, dulcimer, flute, mandolin, glockenspiel)

Billy Hinsche, 70, pop multi-instrumentalist, on Nov. 20
Dino, Desi & Billy – I’m A Fool (1963, as member)

Jim Gallagher, 78, drummer of surf rock band The Astronauts, on Nov. 20
The Astronauts – Baja (1963)

Ted Herold, 79, German rock & roll pioneer and actor, in a fire on Nov. 20
Ted Herold – Hula Rock (1959)

Yul Anderson, 63, soul, jazz and classical musician and inventor, on Nov. 21
Yul Anderson – Eyes Of Music/All Along The Watchtower (1981)

Paolo Pietrangeli, 76, Italian singer-songwriter, film director, on Nov. 22

Joanne Shenandoah, 63, Native-American folk singer and composer, on Nov. 22
Joanne Shenandoah – To Those Who Dream (1991)

Volker Lechtenbrink, 77, German singer and actor, on Nov. 22
Volker Lechtenbrink – Ich mag (1981)

Gared O’Donnell, 44, singer of metal band Planes Mistaken for Stars, on Nov. 24

Marilyn McLeod, 82, soul (Motown) songwriter and singer, announced Nov. 25
Diana Ross – Love Hangover (1976, as co-writer)
High Energy – You Can’t Turn Me Off (In The Middle Of Turning Me On) (1977, as co-writer)

Stephen Sondheim, 91, American composer and lyricist, on Nov. 26
Sammy Davis Jr – West Side Story Medley (1961, as lyricist)
Judy Collins – Send In The Clowns (1975, as lyricist)
Bette Midler – Everything’s Coming Up Roses (1993, as lyricist)

Alexander Gradsky, 72, Russian rock pioneer singer and musician, on Nov. 28

Meñique, 87, Panamanian singer and songwriter, on Nov. 28
Meñique – Manigua (1972)

Martin Wright, guitarist of English indie bands Laugh/Intastella, on Nov. 30
Laugh – Paul McCartney (1987)

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Any Major Hits from 1961

November 25th, 2021 1 comment

 

One last anniversary mix before we leave the Year 2021, a date which must have seemed like the calendar of science fiction 60 years ago, when all the songs on this collection were hits. Where are those flying cars we were promised?

Unlike the Any Major Hits from 1971 mix, which drew from both US and UK (and European) charts, the 1961 selection is very US-centric, though some of these songs charted in Britain, too. It was a strange time for pop music, it seems — an interregnum after the frenzy of Rock & Roll and the advent of the British Invasion, the innovation of bands like The Beach Boys, the rise of soul music and Motown, the anarchic power of garage rock. Within five years, there’d be The Beatles’ Revolver album and Brian Wilson’s Good Vibrations (five years ago, in our money, is 2016). Within six years, there’d be Jimi Hendrix and Pete Townsend doing violence to guitars on stage at Monterey. In 1961, you didn’t see Dick Dale smashing his Fender or Duanne Eddy setting his Gretsch on fire!

But let the record also show that the music of 1961 was the context in which Lennon & McCartney and their cohorts were consumers. In don’t dare to guess how many of these featured songs they knew, but they certainly listened to early Motown, represented here by Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, and other R&B records. And Ricky Nelson’s featured Everlovin’, a cover of a record by the Australian band The Crescents, has all the hallmarks of the early Beatles sound. Did George Harrison know the song? Well, it did reach #23 in the UK. And even 35 years later, Van Morrison based his song Days Like This on The Shirelles’ 1961 hit Mama Said.

Of course, at the risk of stating the blatantly obvious, the 1960s were a time of rapid epochal change in the West. But 1961 doesn’t seem part of the 1960s. And some of the music here illustrates this. The musical Grease is generally accepted to be set in 1959, the movie in 1958 (both set at the fictional Rydell High School, named after Bobby Rydell, one of the artists on this mix). Almost any of the tracks here could have featured among the covers on the soundtrack of Grease, the movie.

And one track here was virtually copied for the closing number of Grease, We Go Together, with its doo wop-inspired nonsense lyrics. Barry Mann’s Who Put The Bomp set a template for the Grease song, with its “Boogity boogity boogity” and “Bop in the bop shoo bop shoo bop”.

Both songs include the line “Rama lama ding dong” (slightly adapted in the Grease number). That was, of course, the title of the hit for doo wop band The Edsels. I don’t know whether Mann borrowed from the Edsels or they from Mann (who’d become one of the great Brill Building songwriters with his wife, Cynthia Weil). Either way, it sounds more 1950s than 1960s.

Doo wop was still big in 1961, and now black artists actually had hits with their songs, rather than white artists cashing in on their talent. By 1961, the US charts were far more integrate than they had been in the 1950s. On this mix, about half the acts are black. Among them are The Pips, featuring the young Gladys Knight on lead vocals.

I’ll leave you with an observation about vocal styles on two tracks on this mix:  When the UK singer Helen Shapiro recorded her international mega-hit Walkin’ Back to Happiness, she was 14 but sounded twice her age. But when the recently late Sue Thompson had a hit with Sad Movies, she was 36 but sounded like she was 14.

In other words, Thompson was old enough to be Helen’s mother — and in 1961, pop music has something of a mother obsession. On this collection, we have Mama issuing sound counsel to Smokey Robinson and The Shirelles, is lied to by Sue Thompson, provides Kenny Dino (in the bonus tracks) with guilt-inflicting information, and Ernie K-Doe has trouble with his mother-in-law. Still, the CD-R length mix ends with daddy coming home.

So, yes, there are two playlists: the CD-R length one and another with the 18 bonus tracks. I won’t list them, but I’ll point out one: The Impressions’ Gypsy Women, which in its original version already captures the sound of ’60s soul, and so is very much ahead of its time. Other acts among the bonus tracks include Farts Domino, The Shadows, Roy Orbison (with a song that sounds like Only The Lonely recycled), Elvis, Bobby Darin, and a young Tony Orlando.

The mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-ramalamadingdonged covers. The text above is included in an illustrated PDF booklet. PW in comments.

1. Chubby Checker – Let’s Twist Again
2. Bobby Lewis – Tossin’ And Turnin’
3. Chris Kenner – I Like It Like That (Part 1)
4. The Drifters – I Count The Tears
5. Eddie Cochran – Weekend
6. Ray Peterson – Corinna Corinna
7. The Everly Brothers – Walk Right Back
8. Don Gibson – Sea Of Heartbreak
9. Patsy Cline – I Fall To Pieces
10. Sue Thompson – Sad Movies (Make Me Cry)
11. Brenda Lee – Emotions
12. Connie Francis – Where The Boys Are
13. Helen Shapiro – Walking Back To Happiness
14. The Jive Five – My True Story
15. The Shirelles – Mama Said
16. Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry – (I Don’t Know Why) But I Do
17. LaVern Baker – Saved
18. Smokey Robinson & The Miracles – Shop Around
19. Sam Cooke – That’s It-I Quit-I’m Moving On
20. Bobby Rydell – Good Time Baby
21. Del Shannon – Runaway
22. The Edsels – Rama Lama Ding Dong
23. The Chimes – I’m In The Mood For Love
24. Ricky Nelson – Everlovin’
25. Barry Mann – Who Put The Bomp (In The Bomp, Bomp, Bomp)
26. The Dovells – Bristol Stomp
27. Bobby Vee – Run To Him
28. Curtis Lee – Pretty Little Angel Eyes
29. The Pips – Every Beat Of My Heart
30. Ernie K-Doe – Mother-In-Law
31. The Belmonts – Tell Me Why
32. Shep and The Limelites – Daddy’s Home

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Previously in Any Major Hits:
Any Major Hits From 1944
Any Major Hits From 1970
Any Major Hits From 1971
Life In Vinyl 1981

Life in Vinyl Series

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Any Major Beatles In French Vol. 2

November 18th, 2021 9 comments

 

 

Here’s the keenly-awaited second volume of The Beatles in French. How do I know it is keenly-awaited? Because The Beatles in French Vol. 1 was unexpectedly popular, with some readers saying they can’t wait for Volume 2.

This second volume covers the French versions of Beatles songs from years 1965 to 1970, or from Rubber Soul to Let It Be. And this means that the new volume includes the French cover of the one Beatles song which practically every Beatles fan of any rank wants to hear performed in French: Michelle. Or, in the case of the cover version, Michel, for in the 1966 rendering by Danielle Denin, Michelle becomes a Michel, and Danielle inserts herself into the proceedings as well. Cependant, les mots vont-ils encore bien ensemble en Français?

The first mix covered the Beatles output over just three years, and the second covers almost six. The compulsion to cover The Beatles was clearly driven by the Yé-yé sub-culture; once that faded, the need to record Beatles songs apparently diminished. One might think that the more mature Beatles songs might lend themselves to the stylings of the chanson, but that doesn’t seem to have panned out that way. There a few exceptions: Johnny Hallyday, still rocking furiously on Volume 1, pulls Girl into that direction on his 1966 recording, Eddy Mitchell (whom we met on Vol. 1) gives us a hint of how good a Gilbert Bécaud version of Fool On The Hill might have been, and Canada’s Gérard Saint Paul shows why The Long And Winding Road is really a chanson. But was there no chansoneer to tackle Something?

If it is your opinion that it is impossible to drag the regrettable Yellow Submarine from the bottom of the ocean, I commend to you the cover by veteran entertainer Maurice Chevalier, who gives the maritime vessel a new coat of paint, and is now travelling on the Green Submarine.

Almost all songs here are more or less contemporaries of the Beatles originals. Anne-Renée took her time, releasing her take of You Won’t See Me nine years after the original appeared on Rubber Soul. By far the newest cover kicks off this mix: Drive My Car, covered in 1998 as Tu peux conduire ma bagnole by German-French synth-pop duo Stereo Total, whose singer Françoise Cactus we lost in February this year.Comme toujours, la compilation est programmée pour tenir sur un CD-R standard, comprend des pochettes faites maison, et ce texte au format PDF. Mot-de-passe dans la section Commentaires.

1. Stereo Total – Tu peux conduire ma bagnole (Drive My Car) (1998)
2. Anne-Renée – Je veux savoir (You Won’t See Me) (1974)
3. Stone – Seul (Norwegian Wood) (1966)
4. François Fabrice – Les Garçons sont Fous (Think For Yourself) (1966)
5. Danielle Denin – Michel (Michelle) (1966)
6. Johnny Halliday – Je l’aime (Girl) (1966)
7. Erick Saint Laurent – Eleonor Rigby (1966)
8. Renée Martel – Entre tes bras (Good Day Sunshine) (1969)
9. Johnny Hallyday – Je Veux Te Graver Dans Ma Vie (Got To Get You Into My Life) (1966)
10. Olivier Despax – Dis-Moi (Here, There And Everywhere) (1967)
11. Maurice Chevalier – Le sous-marin vert (Yellow Submarine) (1967)
12. Les Blue Notes – Tout peut s’Arranger (We Can Work It Out) (1966)
13. F.R. David – Il est plus facile (Strawberry Fields) (1967)
14. Dominique Walter – Penny Lane (1967)
15. Donald Lautrec – L’amour quand tu es là (With A Little Help From My Friends) (1969)
16. Le 25ième Regiment – Lucie Sous un Ciel de Diamants (Lucy In The Sky…) (1967)
17. Erick Saint-Laurent – C’est Devenu Un Homme (She’s Leaving Home) (1967)
18. Marcel Amont – Dans 45 ans (When I’m 64) (1967)
19. Les Baronets – La même chanson (Your Mother Should Know) (1968)
20. Eddy Mitchell – Le fou sur la colline (The Fool On A Hill) (1968)
21. Les Intrigantes – Hello, Goodbye (1968)
22. Bruce Huard – Lady Madonna (1968)
23. Francoise d’Assise & Michel Pagliaro – Hey Jude (1968)
24. Patrick Zabé – Oh! Darling (1969)
25. Marie Jane – Suis-moi (Two Of Us) (1972)
26. Gérard Saint Paul – Let It Be (1970)
27. Gérard Saint Paul – Le Long Chemin Vers Toi (The Long and Winding Road) (1970)

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Any Major Albums of the Year: 1971 Vol. 2

November 9th, 2021 5 comments

Here’s a second lot of “best albums of 1971”, following on from the Top 20 of that year’s LPs. On any other day, half of these albums might have made it into the Top 20, especially the Baby Huey album, which provides the stand-out track on this collection. Huey’s psychedelic cover of Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come is quite extraordinary; I doubt that Cooke had any references to “funny cigarettes” in mind when he wrote the song.

The album, The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend, was released posthumously: James Ramey, as Baby Huey’s mom knew him, died at 26 on 28 October 1970.

For the past 30 years, you’ve been lucky if a your favourite act released a new album every two years; in 1971 it was not uncommon that an act would release two a year. Two such acts feature on both volumes of the best albums of 1971: Isaac Hayes (Black Moses and the Shaft soundtrack) and Carole King (Tapestry and Music, the latter released as the year ended).

I might have afforded a much less known singer the same accolade: soul singer Margie Joseph, who released a pair of superb soul albums in 1971: Makes A New Impression and Phase II. I picked the latter, but there’s little to separate these two sets.

One album that just slipped into the Top 40 is Stevie Wonder’s Where I’m Coming From. It’s a mere training run for that incredible sequence of Wonder albums that would start with 1972’s Music Of My Mind.

Obviously I was too young to buy any of these albums in 1971 (as a five-year-old, I’d probably have bought something by Dutch child-singer Heintje). But by the time I was 18, I had three of them: Led Zep’s unnamed album (generally called IV), The Who’s Who’s Next?, David Bowie’s Hunky Dory. And possibly Little Feat’s eponymous debut on tape.

These two mixes serve as good companions to Any Major Hits from 1971 and Any Major Soul 1971.

As always, CD-R length, home-nostalgiaed covers, text in illustrated PDF. PW in comments.

1. The Who – Behind Blue Eyes (Who’s Next?)
2. Led Zeppelin – Misty Mountain Hop (IV)
3. Sly & the Family Stone – Family Affair (There’s A Riot Going On)
4. Shuggie Otis – Strawberry Letter 23 (Freedom Flight)
5. Baby Huey – A Change Is Going To Come (The Baby Huey Story)
6. Stevie Wonder – If Your Really Love Me (Where I’m Coming From)
7. Carole King – Carry Your Load (Music)
8. Rod Stewart – (Find A) Reason To Believe (Every Picture Tells A Story)
9. David Bowie – Oh! You Pretty Things (Hunky Dory)
10. Serge Gainsbourg – Ballade De Melody Nelson (Histoire de Melody Nelson)
11. Leonard Cohen – Famous Blue Raincoat (Songs Of Love And Hate)
12. Little Feat – Strawberry Flats (Little Feat)
13. Don McLean – Empty Chairs (American Pie)
14. Dolly Parton – The Way I See You (Coat Of Many Colors)
15. Carpenters – Let Me Be The One (Carpenters)
16. The Stylistics – Betcha By Golly, Wow (The Stylistics)
17. Margie Joseph – That Other Woman Got My Man And Gone (Phase II)
18. Isaac Hayes – Theme from Shaft (Shaft)
19. S.O.U.L. – Soul (What Is It)
20. The Persuasions – Good Times (Street Corner Symphony)

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In Memoriam – October 2021

November 2nd, 2021 2 comments

It was a strange month: The Reaper claimed nobody madly famous, but many of those who left us in October were of great interest, as the 12 write-ups testify. Sometimes I wonder what it’s like going through life knowing that you’ve played on, say, The Beatles’ Yesterday, but if you mention it in the pub, the barflies might call you a bullshitter (though I’m sure that this was no situation in which the admirable Kenneth Essex ever found himself in). I find that this is one of the satisfactions in doing this monthly series: to highlight not only the works of the well-known but also the contributions of the people whose names few who listen to the music take note of.

The Main Jay
The second, and longer-serving, Jay of The Americans has died. The first lead singer of Jay & The Americans was Jay Traynor, who died in 2014. When Traynor left in 1962, having enjoyed one Top 10 hit with the band, David Black of one-record doo wop act The Empires replaced him. Black (born David Blatt) changed his name to Jay Black, to keep the band’s name intact, seeing as it was given to them by the legendary Leiber and Stoller. With Black on lead vocals, the band recorded a string of hits in the 1960s, with Come A Little Bit Closer, Cara Mia, and This Magic Moment hitting the US Top 10 between 1964 and 1968.

Check out the featured song, Got Hung Up Along The Way, and tell me if it doesn’t sound like a Style Council song, some 16 years before Weller and Talbot recorded Café Bleu.

The Elvis Drummer
Drummer Ron Tutt left us on October 16 with an impressive curriculum vitae. On stage, the Dallas-born musician was on the drums behind Elvis Presley for nearly a decade, as a member of the TCB (Taking Care Of Business) Band, often getting a drum-solo slot at concerts. Of course, he was the drummer on the famous “Alloha From Hawaii” broadcast of an Elvis concert. He was also Neil Diamond’s chosen drummer, on tour and in the studio, and the same for Jerry Garcia after the TCB Band split after Elvis’ death.

He recorded with Billy Joel, Nancy Sinatra, Johnny Cash, Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, Helen Reddy, Barbra Streisand, Johnny Rivers, Chi Coltrane, B.J. Thomas, Kenny Rogers, Gram Parsons, José Feliciano, Emmylou Harris, Carpenters, Los Lobos, Elvis Costello, Roy Orbison, Jerry Garcia, Stevie Nicks and Michael McDonald, and many others. Often he’d also provide backing vocals.

Big hits he played on include Presley’s Burning Love; Diamond’s Cracklin’ Rosie, Song Sung Blue, Sweet Caroline, I Am…I Said; and Billy Joel’s Piano Man.

The Wham! Bassist
A sought-after bassist who was taught by Motown legend James Jamerson, Deon Estus made his most significant contribution as the bass player on that spectacular run of great Wham! Between 19823 and 1986, and after that on George Michael’s first two solo albums. Born in Detroit, Estus had some success in the soul/disco band Brainstorm in the late 1970s, before going on tour with Marvin Gaye in the early 1980s. After that tour, he remained in London and soon joined up with unknowns George Michael and Andrew Ridgley. As a member of Wham!, he toured in China in 1985.

That year he also released his first solo record, a duet with Amii Stewart. In between session work, Estus released a few more solo records in the late 1980s, scoring a couple of hits, most notably Heaven Help Me in 1989, with George Michael on backing vocals.

The Irishman
With his group The Chieftains, which he co-founded in 1963 and led for almost six decades, Paddy Moloney helped bring Irish folk music to an international audience. It helped that the group played with many international artists, sometimes guesting and on one album a galaxy of stars guesting. Among these collaborations was a superb album credited to them with Van Morrison.

Moloney played the uilleann pipes (Irish bagpipes), the accordion, the tin or penny whistle, and the bodhrán, a flat Irish drum. He did session work for the likes of Peter Gabriel, Sting, Art Garfunkel, Paul McCartney, Mike Oldfield, Roger Waters, Gary Moore, Midge Ure, Herbie Hancock, Ry Cooder, and the recently late Nanci Griffith, among others. He also composed for films such as Braveheart, Gangs of New York, and Barry Lyndon.

Moloney’s death was a big deal in Ireland. Irish President Michael D. Higgins paid tribute: “Paddy, with his extraordinary skills as an instrumentalist, notably the uilleann pipes and bodhrán, was at the forefront of the renaissance of interest in Irish music, bringing a greater appreciation of Irish music and culture internationally.”

The Candy Man
British composer and lyricist Leslie Bricusse had a hand in writing many classic songs from film and musical, many with Anthony Newley: The Candy Man from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory; What Kind of Fool Am I? from Stop the World – I Want to Get Off; Le Jazz Hot from Victor/Victoria; If I Ruled The World from Pickwick;  Talk To The Animals from Doctor Dolittle; and the Bond film theme songs Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice, hits for Shirley Bassey and Nancy Sinatra respectively. Younger (and some older) people might recognise his composition Christmas At Hogwarts from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

But not everybody was impressed with the songs of the multiple Oscar-nominee (and twice winner): In 1986, Bricusse was a nominee, with Henry Mancini, for the Raspberry Award for Worst Song. The offending number was Life In A Looking Glass, sung by Tony Bennett in the comedy That’s Life. It lost out to Prince (for Love Or Money). But the song was also Oscar-nominated — it lost to Berlin’s Take My Breath Away from Top Gun.

The Soul-Funk Man
One day in October I was planning the annual disco mix for late December. The next day, the Reaper claimed the co-writer of a few songs I’d be playing that evening. William Shelby, who died at 65, was the keyboardist and singer with the soul bands Dynasty and Lakeside, and he played on several albums by The Whispers, Shalamar, S.O.S. Band, Carrie Lucas, The Sylvers, Klymaxx, Atlantic Starr, and others.

As co-writer, Shelby co-write and played on hits such as The Whispers’ And The Beat Goes On and It’s A Love Thing, and Shalamar’s Make That Move, I Can Make You Feel Good, The Second Time Around and Friends.

The Beatles Violist
Unless you are the buffest of classical music buffs, the name of violist Kenneth Essex might mean little to you. But I can guarantee that you’ve heard him play. In June 1965, the English viola player, along with two violinists and a cellist, was called to the EMI studios at Abbey Road in London to play on a recording. It was so quick, the string quartet received only half-session pay. The song he played on was Yesterday. According to some obits, he also played on Hello Goodbye (violinist Sydney Sax from the Yesterday sessions also played on various Beatles songs). You might also have heard Essex play on the theme of the UK sitcom Fawlty Towers.

Though a classical musician, Essex also played on records by Cleo Laine, Harry Nilsson, Grace Slick, Freddie Cole, Everything But The Girl, Eartha Kitt, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and — bringing things a full circle — Paul McCartney on the Pipes Of Peace and Tug Of War albums (The Chieftains’ Paddy Moloney, who died a day later, also played in the sessions for the latter album). Essex also played on the original soundtrack of The Phantom Of The Opera.

Earlier this year, before his 100th birthday, the World War II veteran raised funds by doing a series of walks. In 2019, just before his 100th, he raised 16,000 pounds by doing a 10km walk.

The Beatles Singer
The story is the stuff of Beatles legend: The band was recording the Lennon song Across The Universe on February 4, 1968, when it was decided that the track needed high-pitched female backing vocals. So Paul went outside the Abbey Road studio building to ask whether anyone in the group of fans camped outside, the so-called Beatles Scruffs, had suitable voices. Two of them volunteered and were invited to join the recordings: Lizzie Bravo and Gayleen Pease. Their vocals featured on the original charity version of Across The Universe, but the teenagers’ voices were excised from the remixed Let It Be version.

Lizzie, a Brazilian au pair working in London in 1968, died of heart disease-related causes on October 4. Gayleen also died this year, on June 24.

The Glitterman
For many, it’s impossible to enjoy the music of convicted sex-offender Gary Glitter, much as it is difficult to hear the music of, say, R. Kelly without that bit of bile sitting in the throat. Alas, as the perp’s music is understandably cancelled, so is the work others created in support of his music. So it is, at least nominally, with his backing band, The Glitter Band, whose founder and trombonist/saxophonist Joe Rossall has died at 75. I say “nominally” because on the records, the only members who actually played were Rossall and Harvey Ellison, who died in 2017. The rest of the band backed Gary Glitter only on tour.

In 1974 The Glitter Band started releasing records of their own, also produced by Glitter’s svengali, Mike Leander. Between 1974-76 they enjoyed six UK Top 10 hits. Most of them didn’t involve Rossall, who had assembled the group to back Glitter but left the group on the last day of 1974. He launched a solo career with yielded a number of non-charting singles between 1975 and 1981.

By all accounts, Rossall had no time for Gary Glitter, certainly not after his former boss’ conviction.

The All-Rounder Composer
People living in the UK will have heard the compositions of Alan Hawkshaw, whose works include the themes of quiz show Countdown, school-soap Grange Hill (via his 1974 song Chicken Man), and the Channel 4 News. Before all that, Hawkshaw already had enjoyed a productive career. He was a member of early 1960s British R&B group Emile Ford and the Checkmates; backed a young David Bowie at the BBC sessions; played with The Shadows; arranged for Olivia Newton-John, Cliff Richard, Jane Birkin, and Serge Gainsbourg; played keyboards for Donna Summer; composed a song for Hank Marvin that was later sampled by Jay-Z (see the featured tune); and released a 1979 disco album under the moniker Bizarre, having also arranged the disco hit Here Comes That Sound Again for Love De-Luxe.

The Murdered Rapper
The execution-style murder of 19-year-old Swedish rapper Einár, son of a well-known actress, attracted so much publicity that even the prime minister commented. At the 2020 Grammis awards — Sweden’s version of the Grammys — Einár won the “Newcomer of the Year” and “Hiphop of the Year” awards. Shortly after that, he was kidnapped by rival rapper Yasin and his criminal gang. Yasin and another rapper were jailed in July for the crime. Einár received death threats and was using a protected identity. He was scheduled to testify in another trial at the end of the month. It didn’t come to this: on October 21 he was found dead, shot execution style.

The Cover Boy
On October 7, the Dexys Midnight Runners announced on their Facebook page that the lad on the cover of their 1980 debut LP Searching For The Young Soul Rebels, Anthony O’Shaughnessy, had died. Normally I’d not include people on record covers in the In Memoriams, but Anthony commented a few times on this blog 12 years ago, when I wrote about that album cover. Read the story of the cover and Anthony’s comments.

Finally, something for the Spooky Corner: an R&B singer going by the name of Emani 22 died in an accident on October 14… at the age of 22! Nominative determinism at its most lethal.As always, this post is reproduced in illustrated PDF format in the package, which also includes my personal playlist of the featured tracks. PW in comments.

Robin Morton, 81, Irish folk musician, producer, label owner, broadcaster, on Oct. 1
The Boys of the Lough – Farewell To Whisky (1973)

Ewert Ljusberg, 76, Swedish musician and activist, on Oct. 1

Sebastião Tapajós, 78, Brazilian guitarist and composer, on Oct. 2
Sebastião Tapajos & Pedro dos Santos – Ganga (1972)

John Rossall, 75, trombonist/saxophonist of The Glitter Band, on Oct. 2
The Glitter Band – Goodbye My Love (1974)
John Rossall – Beautiful Monday Morning (1981)

Anoman Brouh Felix, 86, Ivorian guitarist, bassist, percussionist, on Oct. 3
Anoman Brouh Félix – Chinché (1977)

Lizzie Bravo, 70, Brazilian backing singer on Across The Universe, on Oct. 4
The Beatles – Across The Universe (1968)

Hobo Jim, 68, American folk singer-songwriter, on Oct. 4
Alaska’s Hobo Jim – The Beauty Of You (1984)

Pat Fish, 64, leader of UK Indie band The Jazz Butcher, on Oct. 4
The Jazz Butcher – The Human Jungle (1985)

Anthony O’Shaughnessy, LP cover star, announced on Oct. 7
Dexys Midnight Runners – There There My Dear (1980, as cover star)

Everett Morton, 71, drummer & percussionist of UK ska band The Beast, on Oct. 8
The Beat – Hands Off-She’s Mine (1980)

Petru Guelfucci, 66, French-Corsican singer, on Oct. 8

Jem Targal, 74, bassist, singer and songwriter with psych-rock band Third Power, on Oct. 8
3rd Power – We, You, I (1968, also as co-writer)

Jim Pembroke, 75, English-born singer of Finnish rock group Wigwam, on Oct. 9
Wigwam – Wishful Thinker (1970, also as writer)

Dee Pop, 65, drummer of new wave band Bush Tetras, on Oct. 9
Bush Tetras – Too Many Creeps (1980)

Shawn McLemore, 54, gospel singer, on Oct. 9

Deon Estus, 65, bassist (Wham!) and singer, on Oct. 11
Brainstorm – Lovin’ Is Really My Game (1977, as member)
Wham! – Everything She Wants (1984, on bass)
Amii Stewart & Deon Estus – My Guy, My Girl (1985)
Deon Estus – Heaven Help Me (1989)

Kenneth Essex, 101, British violist, on Oct. 11
The Beatles – Yesterday (1965, on viola)
Dennis Wilson – Fawlty Towers Theme (1975, on viola)
Everything But The Girl – Come On Home (1986, on viola)

Paddy Moloney, 83, co-founder of Irish folk group The Chieftains, on Oct. 12
The Chieftains – Away We Go Again (1977)
Paul McCartney – Rainclouds (1982, on pipes)
Nanci Griffith – On Grafton Street (1994, on tin whistle)
The Chieftains feat. Mick Jagger – The Long Black Veil (1995)

Andrea Haugen, 52, German singer of UK metal band Cradle of Filth (1993-94), on Oct. 13

Emani 22, 22, R&B singer, on Oct. 14
Emani 22 – Better Days (2019)

Tom Morey, 86, drummer & ukulele player; surfing engineer, on Oct. 14

Regi Hargis, 70, bassist and guitarist with jazz-funk band Brick, on Oct. 15
Brick – Dazz (1976)

Willie Garnett, 85, British jazz and rock saxophonist, on Oct. 15
The Charlie Watts Orchestra – Stomping At The Savoy (1986, on alto sax)

Ron Tutt, 83, session drummer, on Oct. 16
Neil Diamond – Holly Holy (1969, on drums)
Elvis Presley – Burning Love (1972, on drums)
Billy Joel – Piano Man (1973, on drums)
Emmylou Harris – Boulder To Birmingham (1975, on drums)

Tom Gray, 70, blues-rock slide guitarist, singer, songwriter, on Oct. 16
Delta Moon – Money Changes Everything (1978, as member and songwriter)

Alan Hawkshaw, 84, keyboardist, guitarist, arranger, TV composer, on Oct. 16
Alan Hawkshaw – Chicken Man (1974, also as writer)
Olivia Newton-John – I Honestly Love You (1974, as arranger and co-producer)
The Hank Marvin Guitar Syndicate – New Earth Part 1&2 (1977, as composer)
Love De-Luxe – Here Comes That Sound Again (1979, as writer, producer, arranger, keyboardist)

Franco Cerri, 95, Italian jazz guitarist, on Oct. 18

Lloyd ‘Gitsy’ Willis, 73, Jamaican reggae guitarist, songwriter, producer, on Oct. 18
Chaka Demus & Pliers – Tease Me (1993, on guitar)

Ralph Carmichael, 94, pop and gospel composer and arranger, on Oct. 18
Nat ‘King’ Cole – L.O.V.E (1965, as arranger)

Leslie Bricusse, 90, British film and musical composer, on Oct. 19
Shirley Bassey – Goldfinger (1964, as co-writer)
Sammy Davis Jr – The Candy Man (1972, as co-writer)
Julie Andrews – Le Jazz Hot (1982, as co-writer)

Antonio Coggio, 82, Italian composer, arranger and producer, on Oct. 19
Claudio Baglioni – Questo piccolo grande amore (1972, as co-writer and producer)

Allan Wilmot, 96, Jamaican-born singer with The Southlanders, announced Oct. 21
The Southlanders – The Mole In A Hole (1958, as member and bass singer)

Robin McNamara, 74, singer-songwriter and musician, announced Oct. 21
Robin McNamara – Lay A Little Lovin’ On Me (1970, also as co-writer)

Sergei Krinitsin, 65, drummer of pioneering Russian rock band Autograph, on Oct. 21

Tommy DeBarge, 64, bassist and singer with soul-funk band Switch, on Oct. 21
Switch – I Call Your Name (1979)

Einár, 19, Swedish rapper, in witness-execution on Oct. 21

Jay Black, 82, singer of Jay and the Americans, on Oct. 22
The Empires – Time And A Place (1962, on lead vocals and co-writer)
Jay & the Americans – Come A Little Bit Closer (1964)
Jay & The Americans – Got Hung Up Along The Way (1967)

Sonny Osborne, 83, bluegrass banjo player with the Osborne Brothers, on Oct. 24
The Osborne Brothers – Rocky Top (1967)

Ginny Mancini, 97, jazz singer, widow of Henry Mancini, on Oct. 25

Willie Cobbs, 89, blues singer, songwriter and harmonica player, on Oct. 25
Willie Cobbs – You Don’t Love Me (1960)

Walter Herbert/Sy Klopps, 73, singer, guitarist, manager (Santana, Journey, Roxette), on Oct. 26
Sy Klopps Blues Band – Pretty Women (1995)

Rose Lee Maphis, 98, country singer, on Oct. 26
Joe and Rose Lee Maphis – Remember (I’m Just As Close As The Phone) (1964)

Gay McIntyre, 88, Irish jazz musician, on Oct. 26

Russell Hardy, 80, pianist and songwriter, announced on Oct. 27
Ian Dury & The Blockheads – There Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards (1979, as co-writer)

Benjamin Vallé, 47, ex-guitarist of Swedish indie-rock band Viagra Boys, on Oct. 27

William Shelby, 65, soul-funk keyboardist, singer, songwriter, on Oct. 27
Dynasty – I’ve Just Begun To Love You (1980, as member, co-lead singer, keyboards, co-writer)
The Whispers – And The Beat Goes On (1980, as co-writer and on keyboards)
Shalamar – The Second Time Around (1980, as co-writer and on keyboards)

Jorge Cumbo, 78, Argentine quena (Andean flute) player, on Oct. 28
Jorge Cumbo – Entre la Tierra y el Cielo (1977)

Raymond Guy LeBlanc, 76, Canadian musician and poet, on Oct. 29

Fan Tsai, 26, drummer of Taiwanese indie band No Party for Cao Dong, on Oct. 30
No Party For Cao Dong – Simon Says (2016)

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Any Major Murder Songs Vol. 3

October 26th, 2021 5 comments

It’s Halloween this week, and to scare the children, here’s the third mix of Murder Songs. I didn’t post one last year, when the pandemic was claiming so many lives. But this year, death by Covid is mostly a matter of choice, at least in countries where vaccinations are freely available. So here we go.

These compilations of murder songs are a bit like a TV crime shows such as Law & Order. At least in some of the cases featured in the songs, the killers have been brought to justice. In some songs, that justice is distributed through the death penalty, which in itself could be defined as a form of murder (in that a person who is defenceless and doesn’t pose an immediate threat is being put to death by people who have the tools to perform that function, usually to extract a firm of retribution).

A couple of songs tell stories that describe acts which amount to vigilante justice. One can’t really justify that sort of thing, of course, but it is quite satisfying when Stagger Lee gets shot in the balls or the killer of Nell in the Cisco Houston song gets his comeuppance. I fear that there’s a bit of Charles Bronson in even the most liberal among us.

Some of our killers here are filled with remorse, and some with none at all. There seems to be a thread of mental illness issues in most of these cases — or all, if psychopathy is a mental illness.

In almost all of these songs, presented from various perspectives, there is a story being told that teaches us something about the human condition. Even the nasty Guns n’ Roses song is a reflection of an uncomfortable reality.

Happy listening!

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, includes home-law-and-ordered covers, and the text above and tracklisting below in an illustrated PDF. PW in comments.

  1. Blondie – Youth Nabbed As Sniper (1978)
    The Vic: Random people, by a sniper
  2. The Boomtown Rats – I Don’t Like Mondays (1979)
    The Vic: Two adults at Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego
  3. Bruce Springsteen – Johnny 99 (1986)
    The Vic: A night clerk, while Johnny was drunk and sad.
  4. Richard & Linda Thompson – Did She Jump Or Was She Pushed? (1982)
    The Vic: She. Could’ve been suicide, but they found some fingerprints right around her throat…
  5. Johnny Cash – Delia’s Gone (1994)
    The Vic: Delia. In real life: 15-year-old Delia Green, shot by Mose Houston, also 15, on Christmas Eve 1900.
  6. Grateful Dead – Stagger Lee (1978)
    The Vic: Billy DeLions, thrower of a lucky dice. Here a Delia gets justice.
  7. Robert Cray – Smoking Gun (1986)
    The Vic: An unnamed woman, shot by a paranoid jealous partner.
  8. Barry Manilow – Copacabana (At The Copa) (1978)
    The Vic: Why, Tony, of course.
  9. Eminem feat. Dido – Stan (2000)
    The Vic: Stan’s pregnant girlfriend, tied up in the trunk…
  10. Alice Cooper – Killer (1971)
    The Vic: Do we know? Here the (unrepentant) killer goes off to be executed.
  11. Guns n’ Roses – Used To Love Her (1988)
    The Vic: A complaining girlfriend. The national anthem of Misogynia.
  12. Elvis Costello & The Imposters – The Name Of This Thing Is Not Love (2004)
    The Vic: A fling, according to the self-justifying murderer.
  13. Gillian Welch & David Rawlings – Poor Ellen Smith (2020)
    The Vic: Poor Ellen Smith, shot through the heart. 20 years on, the killer gets out of jail.
  14. Cisco Houston – The Killer (rel. 1968)
    The Vic: Blake, the murderer of Nell.
  15. Kingston Trio – Tom Dooley (1958)
    The Vic: Unnamed victim, stabbed by Tom Dooley.
  16. Charley Pride – The Banks Of The Ohio (1968)
    The Vic: The only woman he loved, killed by the singer himself.
  17. Big Tom and The Mainliners – Life To Go (1973)
    The Vic: The singer’s honky-tonk friend, 18 years ago.
  18. Doc & Merle Watson – The Lawson Family Murder (1971)
    The Vic: Charlie Lawson’s family. On Christmas Eve. Why? Nobody knows.
  19. Momus – Murderers, The Hope Of Women (1988)
    The Vic: Sweet Fanny Adams, his wife.
  20. Rosie Thomas – Charlotte (2002)
    The Vic: Charlotte, a victim of domestic abuse.

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