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In Memoriam – August 2011

September 5th, 2011 6 comments

The two most notable deaths in August happened on the same day: the 22nd. I’ve already paid tribute to Nick Ashford (HERE); on the same day that great songwriter passed away, Jerry Leiber died. I don’t think it’s necessary to go into detail about the Leiber & Stoller story other than to say that they had a crucial impact on the development of rock & roll. Leiber was the lyricist, and as such got Elvis Presley to sing the great line in Jailhouse Rock: “Number 47 said to number 3,’You’re the cutest jailbird I ever did see. I
sure would be delighted with your company, come on and do the Jailhouse Rock with me.'”

Billy Grammer died at 85. Fans of The Originals will appreciate the song in this mix: Grammer’s I Wanna Go Home later became a hit for Bobby Bare as Detroit City. Grammer played at the rally during which the racist Alabama governor and presidential hopeful George Wallace was shot. Grammer apparently wept after the incident, suggesting that his views on race relations were less than entirely endearing.

Akiko Futaba, one of Japan’s most popular singers, had a lucky break in utter tragedy on 6 August 1945. Just as the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, the train she was travelling in entered a tunnel. The singer, who had started recording in 1936, lived to the age of 96.

In May, we lost Bob Flanigan of the pioneering vocal group The Four Freshmen; this month the last surviving member of the original line-up, Ross Barbour, died at the age of 82. Through many changes in the line-up, Flanigan and Barbour remained Freshmen until the latter’s retirement in 1977.

I don’t often include recored executives in the In Memoriam series, but there are two this month who qualfy. Rich Fitzgerald, who has died at 64, had a massive influence on pop music. In the 1970s he worked for RSO, with whom he helped spearheaded the massively-selling Saturday Night Fever and Grease soundtracks (and, later, that of Fame). After RSO, he ended up via a handful of record companies as vice-chairman of Warner Bros. Along the way, he helped give artists such as The Pretenders, Prince, Madonna and Green Day achieve their breakthrough.

Frank DiLeo was a executive at Epic Records where he nurtured the careers of acts like Meat Loaf, Luther Vandross, Gloria Estefan, Cyndi Lauper, REO Speedwagon and Quiet Riot, as well as the US success of The Clash and Culture Club. He was twice Michael Jackson’s manager, in the late 1980s and at the time of Jackson’s death. And he played Tuddy Cicero in GoodFellas, impressing as Paulie’s brother who executes Joe Pesci’s obnoxious Tommy character. He also appeared in Wayne’s World.

Finally, it’s not at all usual to include non-musicians on account of their being the subject of a song. But in the case of William ‘Stetson’ Kennedy I must make an exception. The human rights activist’s infiltration of the Ku Klax Klan helped bring down the racist organisation and made it his mission to expose racists. Woody Guthrie wrote a song named after Kennedy.

Trudy Stamper, 94, Grand Ole Opry artist relations manager and first female presenter on US radio, on July 30
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – Grand Ole Opry Song (1972)
Grand Ole Opry Intro (Prince Albert Theme) (1940)

DeLois Barrett Campbell, 85, singer with gospel group The Barrett Sisters, on August 2

Andrew McDermott, 45, singer of English metal group Threshold, on August 3

Conrad Schnitzler, 74, German musician (Tangerine Dream, Kluster), on August 4

Marshall Grant, 83, country bassist (in the Tennessee Two/Three with Johnny Cash) and manager (Cash, Statler Brothers), on August 6
Johnny Cash & the Tennessee Two – Cry Cry Cry (1955)
Leo Mattioli, 39, Argentine cumbia singer, on August 7
Leo Mattioli – Despues de ti (2006)

Joe Yamanaka, 64, Japanese rock singer, on August 7
Joe Yamanaka – Mama Do You Remember

Billy Grammer, 85, country singer-songwriter and guitarist, on August 10
Billy Grammer – I Wanna Go Home (1963)

Jani Lane (born John Kennedy Oswald), 47, frontman of US glam-metal band Warrant, on August 11
Warrant – Cherry Pie (1990)

Richard Turner, 27, British jazz trumpeter (Round House), on August 11
Rich Fitzgerald, 64, record executive, on August 15
Frankie Valli – Grease (1978)

Akiko Futaba, 96, Japanese singer, on August 16

Kampane, 33, New York rapper, murdered on August 16

Ross Barbour, 82, last original member of barbershop band The Four Freshmen,
The Four Freshmen – It Happened Once Before (1953), on August 20
Jerry Leiber, 78, legendary songwriter and producer, on August 22
Elvis Presley – I Want To Be Free (1957, as lyricist)
The Clovers – Love Potion Number 9 (1959, as lyricist and co-producer)
The Exciters – Tell Him (1962, as co-producer)
Donald Fagen – Ruby Baby (1982, as lyricist)

Nickolas Ashford, 70, soul singer, songwriter and producer as Ashford & Simpson, on August 22
Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – You’re All I Need To Get By (1968, as songwriter)
Ashford & Simpson – Street Corner (1982)

Glen Croker, 77, singer and lead guitarist of honky tonk band The Hackberry Ramblers (joined in 1959), on August 23

Cephas Mashakada, 51, Zimbabwean sungura musician, on August 23
Esther Gordy Edwards, 91, Motown executive who lent brother Berry Gordy the money to start Motown, and founder of the Hitsville USA museum, on August 24
Rod Stewart – The Motown Song (1990)

Frank DiLeo, 63, music executive, ex-manager of Michael Jackson and actor (GoodFellas, Wayne’s World), on August 24

Laurie McAllister, 53, bassist in The Runaways (post-1978) and founder of The Orchids, on August 25

Liz Meyer, 59, US-born and Netherlands-based blugrass singer, on August 26

William Stetson Kennedy, 94, author who helped bring down the KKK and subject of a Woody Guthrie song, on August 27
Billy Bragg & Wilco – Stetson Kennedy (2000)
Johnny Giosa, 42, drummer of hard rock band BulletBoys, on August 28
BulletBoys – For The Love Of Money (1988)

George Green, 59, songwriter (especially with John Cougar Mellencamp), on August 28
John Cougar – Hurts So Good (1982, as co-writer)

David ‘Honeyboy’ Edwards, 96, Delta blues guitarist and singer, on August 29
David ‘Honeyboy’ Edwards – West Helena Blues (1988)

Alla Bayanova, 97, Russian singer, on August 30
Alla Bayanova – Wolga
Alla Bayanova – Romance Ya ehala domo

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Music for a royal wedding

April 27th, 2011 10 comments

The alert reader might have noticed that one William von Saxe-Coburg und Gotha is going to marry his blushing bride Catherine on Friday. Perhaps young William is better known by his family”s stage name Windsor, the name of one of the joints his family owns, chosen in order to distance the family from its German provenance during World War I.

This blog likes a good wedding, and in the spirit of the nuptial celebration would like to offer Wilhelm and his Frau a few sincerely selected party tunes for the reception, to be played when the wedding band takes a break from doing Come On Eileen. We mean it, man.

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The Redskins ““ Bring It Down (This Inane Thing) (1985).mp3
“You”ve never had it so good; the favourite phrase of those who”ve always had it better. You never had so much, is the cry of those who”ve always had much more, much more than you and I. Burn brother burn, fight together, this altogether”s an insane thing, insane thing. Bring it down.”

The Men They Couldn’t Hang – The Colours (1988).mp3
“I was woken from my misery by the words of Thomas Paine. On my barren soil they fell like the sweetest drops of rain. Red is the colour of the new republic, blue is the colour of the sea, white is the colour of my innocence, not surrender to your mercy.”

Stone Roses – Elizabeth My Dear (1989).mp3
“Tear me apart and boil my bones, I”ll not rest till she’s lost her throne. My aim is true my message is clear: It”s curtains for you, Elizabeth my dear.”

The Housemartins – Flag Day (single version, 1985).mp3
“So you thought you”d like to change the world, decided to stage a jumble sale for the poor, for the poor. It”s a waste of time if you know what they mean, try shaking a box in front of the queen “cause her purse is fat and bursting at the seams. It”s a waste of time if you know what they mean.”

Manic Street Preachers ““ Repeat (1992).mp3
“Repeat after me: Fuck queen and country. Repeat after me: Royal Khymer Rouge. Repeat after me: Imitation demi-gods!”

Moțrhead РGod Save The Queen (2000).mp3
“God save the queen, she ain”t no human being. There is no future in England’s dreaming” etc.

Billy Bragg – Take Down The Union Jack (2002).mp3
“Is this the 19th century that I”m watching on TV? The dear old Queen of England handing out those MBEs. Member of the British Empire; that doesn”t sound too good to me”¦ Take down the Union Jack; it clashes with the sunset.”

The Smiths ““ The Queen Is Dead (1986).mp3
“Farewell to this land’s cheerless marshes hemmed in like a boar between arches. Her very Lowness with a head in a sling, I’m truly sorry, but it sounds like a wonderful thing.”

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The Originals Vol. 26

June 12th, 2009 21 comments

In this instalment, three songs featured are perhaps well known to some in their original form; one original (Galveston) is pretty obscure; and one song may not immediately ring bells until one hears it (German readers of a certain age will recognise it by another name). There are ten versions of Reason To Believe, one of the greatest songs ever written. I”ve posted Tim Hardin”s original separately and the nine cover versions in one file.

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Tim Hardin ““ Reason To Believe.mp3
Johnny Cash – Reason To Believe (1974)
(reupped)
NINE VERSIONS OF REASON TO BELIEVE
Bobby Darin – Reason To Believe (1966)
Scott McKenzie – Reason To Believe (1967)
Marianne Faithfull – Reason To Believe (1967)
The Dillards – Reason To Believe (1968)
Glen Campbell – Reason To Believe (1968)
Cher – Reason To Believe (1968)
Carpenters – Reason To Believe (1970)
Rod Stewart – Reason To Believe (1971)
Billy Bragg – Reason To Believe (live) (1989)
tim_hardin The mark of genius in a song resides in its adaptability. As the various covers featured here show, Reason To Believe (not to be confused with Bruce Springsteen”s song of the same title) is the sort of rare song into which artists can project their emotions, making it their own. The 1966 original by Tim Hardin, who wrote it, is suitably affecting, as befits a lyric of betrayal (the line “Knowing that you lied straight-faced while I cried; still I look to find a reason to believe” is heartbreaking). But in my view, the definitive interpretation of the song, one of my all-time favourites, is that by the Southern Californian country band The Dillards (1968), who inspired bands such as the Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers. It is perfect.

DARINReason To Believe was not a hit for Hardin. A gifted songwriter, he enjoyed his biggest hit with somebody else”s song, Bobby Darin”s twee Simple Song of Freedom, which Darin wrote in return for Hardin providing his big comeback hit If I Were A Carpenter. Darin, by then in his folk phase, also did a very credible version of Reason To Believe. Hardin”s story is tragic. As a marine in Vietnam in the early 1960s he discovered heroin and became addicted to the drug. Added to that, he suffered from terrible stagefright, which is not helpful when you are an entertainer. He died on 29 December 1980 from a heroin and morphine overdose. He was only 39.

The two best known versions arguably are those by Rod Stewart (1971) and the Carpenters (1970). Stewart is a fine interpreter of songs, and his take of Reason To Believe is entirely likable. Stewart”s take was released as a single a-side; in the event the flip side, Maggie Mae, became the big hit.

EDIT: The Johnny Cash version linked to above comes courtesy of Señor of the WTF? No, Seriously. WTF? blog.
Also recorded by: Bobby Darin (1966), Scott McKenzie (1967), Marianne Faithfull (1967), Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (1967), Rick Nelson (1967), David Hemmings (1967), Cher (1968), The Dillards (1968), The Youngbloods (1968), Glen Campbell (1968), Suzi Jane Hokom (1969), Brainbox (1969), The Wray Brothers Band (1969), Ramblin’ Jack Elliott (1970), Andy Williams (1970), The Carpenters (1970), Rod Stewart (1971), Skeeter Davis (1972), Johan Verminnen (as Iemand als jij, 1989), Wilson Phillips (1990), Jackie DeShannon (1993), Don Williams (1995), Paul Weller (1995), Stina Nordenstam (1998), Ron Sexsmith (1999), Rod Stewart (2003), Vonda Shepard (2001) a.o.

Jimmy Driftwood ““ The Battle Of New Orleans.mp3
Johnny Horton ““ The Battle Of New Orleans.mp3
Les Humphries Singers ““ Mexico.mp3

jimmy_driftwood Oh, you probably do know the song. And if you don”t, you should. Originally a traditional folk song known as The 8th of January, it tells the story of a soldier fighting with Andrew Jackson”s army against the British in the 8 January 1815 battle of the title. It was first recorded in 1957 and released the following year by Jimmy Driftwood, a school teacher in Timbo, Arkansas. Born James Morris, he is said to have been one of the nicest guys in the folk music scene (not surprisingly, he was a collaborator with the great Alan Lomax). As a history teacher, Driftwood considered song to be a teaching device, and so in 1936 (or 1945, depending which sources you believe) he set the fiddle-based folk song to lyrics “” there were no definitive words, only snippets of recurring phrases “” to benefit his students. In the 1950s, Driftwood was signed by RCA, and eventually recorded The Battle Of New Orleans, with the label”s session man Chet Atkins on guitar. He later wrote another country classic, Tennessee Stud, which became a hit for Eddy Arnold and Johnny Cash (Tarantino fans will know it from the Jackie Brown soundtrack).

johnny_horton_new_orleansShortly after Driftwood recorded The Battle Of New Orleans, the doomed country star Johnny Horton did a cover which relied less on manic fiddling and dropped such radio-unfriendly words as “hell” and “damn”, and scored a big hit with it (he even changed the lyrics for the English market, turning the enemy “British” into random “rebels). Horton released several “historical records” (most famous among them, perhaps, Sink The Bismarck), though it would be unfair to reduce his influence on country music to that. A close friend of Johnny Cash”s, Horton died in a car crash in 1960, widowing his wife Billy Jean for the second time “” she had been married to Hank Williams when the country legend died. Spookily, both Williams and Horton played their last concerts at the Skyline Club in Austin, Texas.

There is a crazy idea on the Internet that associates Horton with the revolting racist records of a fuckwitted spunkbucket going by the name of Rebel Johnny (such as the charming “I Hate Niggers”). I am at a loss to understand how such a confusion could arise and thereby smear the name of a great country star.

les_humphries_mexicoTwo other cover versions are notable. Also in 1959, skiffle legend Lonnie Donegan reached the UK #2 “” but received no airplay on Aunty Beeb until he changed the word “ruddy” to “blooming”. The song was revived in 1972 by the Les Humphries Singers, a multi-ethnc and multi-national English-language ensemble of hippie demeanour that was very popular in West Germany with its Ed Hawkins Singer meets Hair shtick. Humphries, an Englishman, renamed the song Mexico (not a stretch; that country”s name appears in the original lyrics) and scored a massive hit with his outfit”s joyous rendition. Their performances, in English, captured the era”s exuberant spirit of social and sexual liberation. The trouble is, Humphries credited the song to himself, a brazen act of plagiarism. I have found no evidence that Humphries, who died in 2007 at 67, was ever sued for his blatant rip-off.
Also recorded by: Vaughn Monroe (1959), Eddy Arnold (1963), Harpers Bizarre (1968), Johnny Cash (1972), The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (1974), Buck Owens (1975), Bob Weir (1976), Bill Haley (1979)

Johnny O’Keefe – Wild One.mp3
Iggy Pop – Real Wild Child (Wild One).mp3

johnny_okeefe_wild_one Johnny O’Keefe was Australia”s first rock & roll star, notching up 30 hits in his country. Like Elvis, he was born in January 1935. He died just over a year after Elvis, of barbiturate poisoning. Often referred to by the title of his big hit, released in 1958, O”Keefe was the first Australian rock & roll star to tour the United States. But it was while Buddy Holly & the Crickets were touring Australia that the song came to traverse the Pacific. Crickets drummer Jerry Allison went on to record it under the name Ivan as Real Wild Child, enjoying a minor US hit with it.

It took almost three decades before O”Keefe”s song would reach the higher regions of the charts when Iggy Pop scored a UK Top 10 and US Top 30 hit with his David Bowie-produced track, as Real Wild Child (Wild One), in 1986. It isn”t clear which version inspired Mr Osterberg, but in 1982 Albert Lee recorded it under the same title.
Also recorded by: Jerry Lewis (1958; released in 1974), Jet Harris (1962), Billy Idol (1987), Christopher Otcasek (1989), Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (1993), Lou Reed (1993), Status Quo (2003), Wakefield (2004), Everlife (2006)


Dave Edmunds – Queen Of Hearts.mp3
Juice Newton ““ Queen Of Hearts.mp3

dave_edmonds Here”s one of those songs that some might know better in its original version, and others as the hit cover. Queen Of Hearts was a UK #11 hit for Dave Edmunds “” previously featured in this series for covering Smiley Lewis” I Hear You Knocking “” in 1979, and two years later a US #2 hit for the unlikely-named Juice Newton. She will return to this series soon when her other big hit of 1981, Angel Of The Morning. Newton earned a Grammy nomination for best country song for her version, and it was her remake that inspired the veteran French singer Sylvie Vartan, who once performed on a bill with the Beatles, to record her French take on the song (retitled Quand tu veux , or When You Want It). A couple of years earlier Newton had tried to have a hit with another British song, but her version of It”s A Heartache lost out in the US to that by Welsh rasper Bonnie Tyler. Later Newton enjoyed a #11 with Brenda Lee”s Break It To Me Gently.
Also recorded by: Rodney Crowell (1980), Sylvie Vartan (as Quand tu veux, 1981), The Shadows (1983), Lawrence Welk (1984), Ramshackle Daddies (2003), Melanie Laine (2005), Valentina (2007)

don_ho_galvestonDon Ho ““ Galveston.mp3
Glen Campbell ““ Galveston.mp3

Jimmy Webb sat on the beach of Galveston on the hurricane-plagued Gulf of Mexico when he wrote this song, which might appear to be about the Spanish-American war but was just as applicable to the Vietnam War, which in 1966 was starting to heat up (“While I watch the cannons flashing, I clean my gun and dream of Galveston” and “I”m so afraid of dying”). The composer subsequently said it was about the Vietnam War but at other times also denied it. Whatever Webb had in mind, its theme is universal about any soldier who”d rather be home than on the killing fields.

glen_campbell_galvestonWebb had previously written By The Time I Get To Phoenix (first recorded by Johnny Rivers), which Glen Campbell would have a hit with. He later wrote Wichita Lineman especially for Campbell. Galveston would complete the trinity of Webb hit songs for Campbell, who in 1974 recorded a whole album of Webb numbers. The original of Galveston was recorded by the relatively obscure Don Ho, a Hawaiian lounge singer and TV star who was known for appearing with red shades and died in 2007 aged 76. Campbell later said that, while in Hawaii, Ho turned him to Galveston. Campbell sped it up a bit to create his moving version. Apparently, after “giving” the song to Campbell, Ho would not sing it any more.
Also recorded by: Lawrence Welk (1969), Jim Nabors (1968), The Ventures (1969), Roger Williams (1969), Jimmy Webb (1971), The Lemonheads (1997), Of Montreal (2000), Joel Harrison with David Binney (2004)

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More Originals

Unrequited love – Glad To Be Unhappy

February 6th, 2009 11 comments

What is worse: losing a love you once had, or never been loved, or not being able consummate reciprocated love, or never having been loved back? They all suck, of course, and we”ll visit all of these in this series. Here we deal with unrequited love, a subject we”ll return to again later in the series.

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The Mamas and the Papas – Glad To Be Unhappy.mp3
glad-to-be-unhappyThe group”s main songwriter John Phillips was a bit of a bastard. He had Cass Elliott singing about being fat, and he had his not always scrupulously faithful wife Michelle sing about her inability to remain monogamous. On 1967″s Glad To Be Unhappy he had Denny Doherty and Cass Elliott sing about unrequited love “” knowing well that Cass was in unreciprocated love with Denny and that Denny was in love with John”s wife (need I post a Venn diagram?). There was, clearly, a lot of pain. So John has them croon the sadistic taunt “Like a straying baby lamb, with no Mama and no Papa, I”m so unhappy”! And then the mocking: “I can”t win, but here I am, more than glad to be unhappy.” The sentiment is not foreign to the experience of unrequited love, of course. “But for someone you adore, it”s a pleasure to be sad.” That ties in with the lyric of a song used in last year”s series (and which will be recycled this year): “There is pleasure to be had in this kind of pain” “” the emotional masochism is a lifeline to hope, the delusion that the true love will come eventually.

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The Holmes Brothers – I Want You To Want Me.mp3
holmes-brothersThis is a slowed down, quite superb cover of the Cheap Trick hit by the blues/soul/gospel Holmes Brothers. The lyrics make more sense when sung by a goofy pop-rocker, but this version is just too lovely to be ignored. Unsurprisingly, the singer is promising sacrifices to get the girl, right down to shining “up the old brown shoes” and making himself even more presentable by wearing a new shirt (throw in the use of deodorant and shampoo, and you might clinch the deal). It is not clear, of course, whether our hero”s sartorial countenance is the problem. Indeed, he seems quite clueless if he thinks that shiny shoes will provide comfort to the girl who seems to be experiencing a case of dejection herself, as our singer observes: “Feelin” all alone without a friend, you know you feel like dyin”. Oh, didn”t I, didn”t I, didn”t I see you cryin”?” Or is he just projecting?

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Damien Jurado – Simple Hello.mp3
Frienditis is the condition when the person you”re in love with just wants to be friends. It usually happens to nice guys. Women love these men, but “just not in that way” (the dreaded phrase). And if she gets a boyfriend, the former confidante might well be dispatched (and he”d be an idiot to stick around anyway, having her relationship mock him into perpetuity). This is what seems to have happened here. Damien in his 2005 song recalls that “we used to be friends” who”d talk on the phone every night. He later reveals that she has her own group of pals now, having previously established that she now completely ignores him (“Simple hello would”ve been nice. Instead you walked right by”). But this isn”t a song about just friendship; his feelings obviously ran deeper. Now she has a man: “Every time I see you with him I think: “˜Why even try?”” It”s not that Damien is bitter; he is despairing: “Think I”ve had enough, and I think I”ve lost control “¦Think I”ve lost my mind.” Sorry, mate, but you”˜re on your own here. Burn the pictures. Let her go.

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Ani DiFranco – Untouchable Face (live).mp3
ani_difranco2There is an even more acute sense of hopelessness when the object of unrequited affection is in a solid, happy relationship. So it is in this superb song. “I think you two are forever, and I hate to say it, but you”re perfect together.” Which sounds pretty magnanimous. Except it isn”t, as we learn in the next verse: “So fuck you and your untouchable face, and fuck you for existing in the first place.” Quite right. This isn”t in angry outburst, though. There is some self-loathing and immense sadness in this song. Witness the final verse: “In the back room there”s a lamp that hangs over the pool table, and when the fan is on it swings gently side to side. There”s a changing constellation of balls as we are playing. I see Orion and say nothing. The only thing I can think of saying”¦is fuck you.”

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Weezer – Only In Dreams.mp3
weezer-blueAfter all this profundity, we can find refuge in Weezer and in dreamland. Mr Cuomo is in love: “She”s in the air, in between molecules of oxygen and carbon dioxide”, but evidently he is too shy or otherwise reluctant to approach her, except in his dreams where he has the courage to ask her to dance, and she accepts (rhyming “˜dance” with “˜chance” ““ charity impels me to interpret this as a shrewd homage to the lyrical genius of Abba). In his fantasy he is charming and considerate, literally sweeping the girl off her feet on the dancefloor: “It”s a good thing that you float in the air ““ that way there”s no way I will crush your pretty toenails into a thousand pieces.” We imagine she laughs with her head tilting back, revealing her throat (Body Language 101: it means she wants you). We don”t go to Weezer for lyrical sophistication, so we see the conclusion coming: “But when we wake, it”s all been erased.”

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The Association – Cherish.mp3
This 1966 hit was recommended last year by the great whiteray of Echoes In The Wind. The opening verse is perfectly eloquent in expressing the yearning of the fool in unrequited love: “Cherish is the word I use to describe all the feeling that I have hiding here for you inside. You don’t know how many times I”ve wished that I had told you; you don”t know how many times I”ve wished that I could hold you; you don”t know how many times I”ve wished that I could mould you into someone who could cherish me as much as I cherish you.”Â  Then comes the despondent resignation: “Perish is the word that more than applies to the hope in my heart, each time I realise that I am not gonna be the one to share your dreams.” So wonderfully poetic, you”d think she”d fall for him. And yet: “I”m beginning to think that man has never found the words that could make you want me, that have the right amount of letters, just the right sound that could make you hear, make you see, that you are driving me out of my mind.” The trouble is, our bard here thinks that she”ll call bullshit on his attempts of persuasion: “Oh, I could say I need you, but then you”d realise that I want you, just like a thousand other guys who”d say they loved you with all the rest of their lies, when all they wanted was to touch your face, your hands and gaze into your eyes.” And here”s the obstacle many people in unrequited love face: they are so fearful of rejection, the end of the dream, that they will scratch for excuses not to make a move. Some other schmuck will, she will fall for it, and The Association will sing their beautiful and sad song forever.

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Barenaked Ladies – Jane.mp3
The songs so far have described pretty straightforward situations of unrequited love. This one is more complex. He is what seems to have happened. Our hero met the apparently very lovely Jane (named after a Toronto street corner) in a shop where she worked. They moved in together and, at Jane”s insistence the relationship remained platonic (he”d sing and she”d dye his hair; sounds like frienditis to me). Jane is being admired by many men, but doesn”t want relationships. “Jane doesn”t think a man could ever be faithful.” Experience might have given her good reason to think that. And our hero seems to agree. “Jane isn”t giving me a chance to be shameful.” And he seems to think that the relationship wouldn”t work anyway (“I wrote a letter, she should have got it yesterday. That life could be better by being together is what I cannot explain to Jane”). The housesharing arrangement ends ““ nicely put by reference to Juliana Hatfield and Evan Dando. Jane still works at the shop, and our hero is “still dazzled by her smile while I shoplift there”.

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Billy Bragg – The Saturday Boy.mp3
billy-braggThere aren”t many songs that feature the word “unrequited”. We”ve had Glad To Be Unhappy earlier, and here”s Billy Bragg using it in perhaps the best song from his 1984 debut album. It”s the poignant story of a schoolboy crush. At first she reciprocates the affection, but after a while (which in schoolboy terms is a wink of the eye) things cool off. “But I never made the first team, I just made the first team laugh. And she never came to the phone, she was always in the bath.” The boy experiences his first broken heart, poor kid. “In the end, it took me a dictionary to find out the meaning of “˜unrequited”, while she was giving herself for free at a party to which I was never invited.”