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Posts Tagged ‘Earth Wind and Fire’

Unrequited love again

November 6th, 2009 7 comments

The theme of unrequited love continues to provide a goldmine, and we’re not even close to even scratching the surface! It’s a universal thing, of course; most people have had a bout of unrequited love. If it was infatuation, they got over it fairly soon. If it really was love, they bear the scars forever. Or at least until they find another true love. Surveying the search engine terms that bring visitors here, there are many people looking for music to soundtrack their lovelorn existence (there are also lots of hits for the songs about impossible love, which tells you all you need to know about just how fucked up a thing romance is). Anyway, if he or she doesn’t love you back, remember to love yourself.

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Cat Stevens – Here Comes My Baby (1967).mp3
cat_stevensWell, it does sound like everything is well with the still beardless Cat. He”s taking a walk at midnight, which is nice. But soon we are alerted that all is, in fact, not well, for the mile he walks is not only long (as miles go), but also lonely. And he keeps “seeing this picture of you”. Which is were the songtitle comes in. But, oh no, she”s not alone: “It comes as no surprise to me, [she”s] with another guy”. And things don”t look like she”ll dump the chump any time soon: “Walking with a love, with a love that”s all so fine. Never could be mine, no matter how I try.” So is Cat entirely discouraged and looking to move on? Is he fuck! Like anybody in unrequited love, he hangs on to that thread of hope woven from the strands of a particularly thin cobweb: “I”m still waiting for your heart, because I”m sure that some day it”s gonna start.” Let”s make a bet it won”t, Cat. The loser turns Muslim.

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Warren Zevon – A Certain Girl (1980).mp3
zevonZevon is having a conversation about his unrequited love “” and not just unrequited love, but the dreaded frienditis “”coyly refusing to reveal the name (aaah!) of the “certain chick I”ve been sweet on since I met her”, which is “a long, long time” ago. He resolves that “someday I”m going to wake up and say: “˜I”ll do anything just to be your slave””. In the interim he”ll do what most guys in unrequited love do: procrastinate, hoping that the girl will suddenly realise that actually she is in love with him. Which she won”t, not because Warren refers to her as a “chick”, but because, as she will point out, it”ll destroy the fucking friendship.

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Earth, Wind & Fire ““ Wait (1979).mp3
Frienditis is indeed a bastard. Here, our singer is suffering his frienditis with a heroic and surprisingly jaunty optimism, as though he is inebriated with the godfather of self-help books, The Power Of Positve Thinking. “To wait, it takes love that”s for real”, and if his love is authentic, he reasons, reciprocity is inevitable. The certainty “” not just mere hope “” that she will eventually fall for him sustains him. All he needs is patience, that great source of succor for the poor devils suffering from frienditis: “It”s crazy if you think we”re just friends. Loving when infatuation ends. The wait for you, baby it now begins.” He seems to pick up mixed signals “” “You sigh, when I come close to your heart” “” which persuade him that she shall come around (“someday you”ll grow”). Of course, these sighs might be prompted by her discomfort at his clumsy moves, perhaps because she knows how he feels, and how she feels, and that there will be one broken heart and the end of a friendship.

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Sam Cooke – Cupid (live, 1963).mp3
sam_cookeAh, a Cupid who unquestioningly follows orders would be a fine thing. Alas, the best alternative, if one wishes to invoke imaginary entities, is to outline your predicament with a plea for intercession. Sam, heard here in his live performance at the Harlem Square Club, states his case to Cupid with humility and urgency: “Now, I don”t mean to bother you, but I”m in distress. There”s danger of me losin” all of my happiness, for I love a girl who doesn”t know I exist. And this you can fix.” He knows Cupid”s methods “” “draw back your bow and let your arrow go straight to my lover”s heart for me” “” and makes a pretty big pledge should Cupid choose to make “a love storm” for him: “I promise I will love her until eternity”. Ah, go on then Cupid, let”s test the dude”s ambitious promise.

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Pete Yorn – A Girl Like You (2001).mp3
yornIf you can”t get the one you want, aspire for a clone. That”s what Pete Yorn is doing on this rather good bonus track from his musicforthemorningafter album: “Some day I”ll look into her green eyes and know that she”ll come with me ““ a girl like you. Tomorrow I think I”ll tell you something, the thing that I haven”t said ““ to a girl like you.” The poor girl-like-her will, of course, be just a proxy, forever liable to be compared to Unrequited-love Girl, and possibly hear Pete moaning Unrequited-love Girl”s name in the throes of passion. And, unless Pete isn”t just throwing a strop here, he might pass on some perfectly great girls who don”t have green eyes”¦

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Liz Phair – Extraordinary (2003).mp3
phairAn anthem for the outsider girl in love with a guy who she thinks has too high expectations. He might see her as average, but she thinks of herself as extraordinary. And not just ordinarily extraordinary; she”s “your ordinary, average, every day sane psycho supergoddess”. And she”ll go to extraordinary measures to get him (or at least his attention); “I drive naked through the park, and run the stop sign in the dark; stand in the street, yell out my heart”¦To make you love me.” I can”t quite put my finger on it, but there probably is a good reason why the guy isn”t falling for Liz.

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Mama Cass Elliott – I Can Dream, Can”t I? (1969).mp3
cassThe story of Cass” life in the “60s was defined by her unrequited love for Papa Denny Doherty, with whom she started on the road to stardom in the Mugwumps. So when she sang about unrequited love (as she did with Denny on Glad To Be Unhappy) in this beautiful version of the old standard, she did so from her broken heart, the pain of which is palliated by daydreaming. She doesn”t go into the specifics of her reverie, other than “that I”m locked in the bend of your embrace”. She takes a frequent reality check as she justifies why she won”t give up on her dream: “I can see no matter how near you”ll be, you”ll never belong to me. But I can dream, can”t I?”

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Wilco – I’m The Man Who Loves You (2002).mp3
Tweedy goes all poetic on us, blathering on about unsent love letters and dropping metaphors about him apparently being like the sea. Basically your average victim of unrequited love who can”t find the right words to say. And then he nails it when he makes the most basic observation: “But if I could, you know, I would just hold your hand and you”d understand: I”m the man who loves you.” Sometimes that works better than complex literal devices.

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Indigo Girls – Ghost (1992).mp3
The spectre of a person the singer was in love with (unrequited, death; though a line in the first verse suggests that it might have been a failed adolescent relationship) lingers still, and does terrible injury. “And time passed makes it plain, of all my demon spirits I need you the most. I”m in love with your ghost.” She has sexual dreams about the person which just add to the pain: “When I wake, the things I dreamt about you last night make me blush. And you kiss me like a lover, then you sting me like a viper.” The protagonist is trapped by a love that will never find expression: “Unknowing captor, you never know how much you pierce my spirit. But I can”t touch you. Can you hear it? A cry to be free. Oh, I”m forever under lock and key as you pass through me.”

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Merle Haggard – Always Wanting You (1975).mp3
merleApparently a song about Dolly Parton. As country singers do, Merle is telling Dolly, and us, exactly how he feels: “Always wanting you but never having you makes it hard to face tomorrow, “cause I know I”ll be wanting you again. Always loving you but never touching you sometimes hurts me almost more than I can stand.” And there he had thought that he had it all together. The song could go into the post on love that can”t be, and maybe that”s where it belongs, since there seemed to have been “a yearning and a feeling across the room that you felt for me”, suggesting that Merle”s feelings were reciprocated, if not actually acted on. Of course, when a relationship isn”t possible, love remains unrequited even when the sentiments are reciprocal. Either way, Merle regrets knowing her: “I”d been better off if I”d turned away and never looked at you the second time.”

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The Age of the Afro: '70s Soul Vol. 3

March 14th, 2008 12 comments

After a hiatus of a few weeks, we return to the age of the Afro, the glorious times of sunny soul which talked about love and preached social-consciousness. Read more…

Love Songs For Every Situation: Love ends

February 13th, 2008 3 comments

And after love comes the break-up. We’ll deal with the long-term effects of that later. For now, let’s get caught in the moment of the break-up.

Kris Kristofferson – For The Good Times.mp3
Few songs are as much in the moment as this: Kris is proposing break-up sex to celebrate what must have been a great relationship, and to signify that the split is amicable (“There’s no need to watch the bridges that we’re burning”). There is still some love there (it is unclear who actually wants to leave). There is much tenderness in the chorus: “Lay your head upon my pillow.Hold your warm and tender body close to mine. Hear the whisper of the raindrops, blowin’ soft against the window,and make believe you love me one more time…for the good times.”

Crowded House – Better Be Home Soon (live).mp3
Interpreting Crowded House lyrics can be a precarious past-time. I read those for “Better Be Home Soon” (here a live version from the Farewell To The World album) as a desperate plea to save a relationship. Perhaps the couple has already separated, or one partner is playing away, or (as I read it) the couple is experiencing a great personal distance, but the protagonist is asking to fix a relationship that is dying. The effort must come from both sides: “So don’t say no, don’t say nothing’s wrong, cause when you get back home, maybe I’ll be gone.” This is a great song to play on guitar. For the tabs check out the Guitariotabs blog whence I borrowed this file from.

Missy Higgins – Ten Days.mp3
A relationship is certainly dying in this song, by another Australian artist, but not so much because the love has been extinguished, but as the effect of long-distance (“so tell me, did you really think…I had gone when you couldn’t see me anymore?”). Missy is “cutting the ropes”, even though “you’re still the only one that feels like home”.

Powderfinger – Wishing On The Same Moon.mp3
More Aussie heartbreak in this slow-rock song from last year’s Dream Days at the Hotel Existence album. The dude is still totally in love, but has been left. He’s not bitter yet (that’ll be dealt with in later posts); in fact “whenever you set free your devil smile on me, I melt”. The poor guy knows it’s over, and is now reduced to begging: “I’m calling out for you, pleading for your love. You’re falling from my view and there’s nothing I can do.” So, what does one do when one cannot be with one’s love? Why, look up at the stars and the moon, of course. That’s what they are there for, it’s what he and she can share: “I’m waiting in the afternoon for the sun to sink and let the night back in. It’s when I feel close to you, when the stars they swoon and bring their night time bloom.”

Prefab Sprout – When Love Breaks Down.mp3
An obvious break-up song from the great 1985 Steve McQueen album. There isn’t much drama in this split; the relationship is fizzling out, the inevitable being delayed to avoid the pain. They don’t see each other much, so “absence makes the heart lose weight, till love breaks down, love breaks down.” So, what will it be like when he’s single again? Paddy’ take: “When love breaks down, you join the wrecks who leave their hearts for easy sex.”

Carole King – It’s Too Late.mp3
Another song about love fading undramatically. “It used to be so easy living here with you. You were light and breezy and I knew just what to do. Now you look so unhappy and I feel like a fool” — that is such a brutal realisation. It’s over, but it is reciprocal: “There’ll be good times again for me and you, but we just can’t stay together, can’t you feel it too? Still I’m glad for what we had and how I once loved you.” They’ll have their memories, and they’ll be good.

Fleetwood Mac – Go Your Own Way.mp3
A classic in the genre, this track, from the 1977 Rumous album, was Lindsay Buckingham’s “fuck off” letter to Stevie Nicks. He wants to give her his world, but “how can I when you won’t take it from me”. Much has been made of the line: “Packing up, shacking up is all you wanna do”. Either Stevie was cheating (which she denies), or it refers to the rejected wedding proposal. Mick Fleetwood’s furious drumming and Buckingham’s angry guitar solo help to underscore the acidity of the lyrics.

Abba – The Winner Takes It All.mp3
Another song about band members splitting. Everything that has been said in praise of this song is true. Agnetha’s vocals are drenched in the pain of her own separation from Bjorn, who said he wrote it with a bottle of whisky as a companion. “I was in your arms, thinking I belonged there. I figured it made sense, building me a fence. Building me a home, thinking I’d be strong there, but I was a fool, playing by the rules.” The disillusionment of love, and trust, broken. The dude goes on to somebody else, (“but tell me, does she kiss like I used to kiss you?”). In this split someone is going on with life, the other feels foolish, desperate, frustrated and lonely.

Earth, Wind & Fire – After The Love Has Gone.mp3*
A marriage is blowing up after several good years, and our man can’t understand why. “We knew love would last. Every night, something right would invite us to begin the day.” Then things went awry. “Something happened along the way, what used to be happy was sad…” Words and melody combine to express an inner drama in the singer’s bid to make sense of it all (seeing as it’s Maurice White singing here, maybe a clue is in his sexual selfishness as revealed in yesterday’s post).

Odyssey – If You’re Looking For A Way Out.mp3
This is the saddest song among all these sad songs. A ballad from the funkster’s 1980 Hang Together album, the singer knows her man’s love has died, and puts the ball into his court. “Tell me I’m wrong”, but if she isn’t, “if you’re looking for a way out, I won’t stand here in your way”. Dude needs telling. She knows he cares: “Ain’t that just like you to worry about me. But we promised to be honest with each other for all eternity.” But she also knows that his love is gone: “Your kisses taste the same, but it’s just a sweet disguise.” Are you feeling tears coming on yet? Try this for size then: “Don’t look at the tears that I’m crying, they’ll only make you wanna stay. Don’t kiss me again, ’cause I’m dying to keep you from running away.” So what does the guy do when he is told: “Better tell me what’s in you heart. Oh baby now stop pretending, stop pretending, stop pretending”? He might be ready to tell her what’s in his heart, but then she adds: “Don’t you know I’ll always love you.” Checkmate.

Love Songs For Every Situation: Being In Love

February 12th, 2008 1 comment

Here’s the trouble with Valentine’s Day, apart from the crass commercialisation and pressure to spend a month’s salary on a dozen frozen roses shipped in from Argentinia or wherever. Valentine’s Day is just for the select few, the lucky ones who are experiencing love in a good way. It excludes those who yearn for love, those who have had their heart shredded to ribbons, those who love somebody they cannot have. No, it doesn’t just exclude hem; it mocks them. The forced inclusiveness — red and white dresscodes, the Valentine’s cards and, worse, Valentine’s e-mails to people — creates an illusion that love causes no pain, that love is like it is in the movies (and how many rom coms open at your multiplex on February 14?). Worse, Valentine’s Day makes people in a relationship say or do things they may not really mean, even if they don’t really know what they are doing. So for most people, the most appropriate Valentine’s Day song is the one I posted a few days ago: Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris – Love Hurts.mp3

For most people, Valentine’s Day is a banal fraud, and so are many of the songs that extol the glory of love. In lyrics, romantic love, of whatever brand, is usually a musical McGuffin, the plot device that drives the song. The Beatles sang exclusively about romantic love until Rubber Soul, their sixth album, “Nowhere Man” breaking the mould. Some of the emotions portrayed in some of these songs ring true, of course. Sometimes the lyrics are eloquent even. But do they convey the feeling of love accurately? Does, say, Kylie Minogue communicate it today? The challenge today, as it was on the mix-tape I posted on Saturday, is to find songs that can convey being in love believably, in lyrics, sound and performance (songs marked with an asterisk have been recycled from older posts).

Art Garfunkel – All I Know.mp3
“I bruise you, you bruise me. We both bruise too easily, too easily to let it show.” Art Garfunkel breaks our hearts in his beautiful 1973 version of the Jimmy Webb song. Being in love is a fragile reality. You are vulnerable. Your future is determined by the one your with: “All my plans have fallen through, all my plans depend on you; depend on you to help them grow.” Hurt may be just around the corner. Is Art neurotic or realistic when he sings: “But the ending always comes at last; endings always come too fast”? All these questions have no answer. There is only one answer: “I love you, and that’s all I know.”

Sarah Bettens – Grey.mp3
Sarah Bettens, of the folk-rock duo K’s Choice, takes the vulnerable route too. Here, love isn’t red, nor black or white. It’s somewhere in between: grey. Love can die, and Sarah says it might do so from her side even as she pleads to be loved. “You can’t be my everything and I am not half you. But you can make it all worthwhile, and that’s why I love you.”

The Weepies – Cherry Trees (live).mp3
Yeah, posted again. This is a gorgeous love song based on Pablo Neruda’s poem. “I wanna do with you what spring does with the cherry trees”, the idea nicked from Neruda, means that love must renew itself and grow. “Sometimes our love is like a mountain: solid and steep, grounded in heat. And sometimes we rage like a river, cold and fast, then quiet and deep. We ride the storm, ’cause when it’s through we have changed and love is new.” This is the key love surviving summarised in two lines.

Everything But The Girl – Love Is Where I Live.mp3*
Some of the songs here are love-giddy, others communicate the fear of being in love. Of the latter, this is the darkest. Tracy Thorn seems certain that this love won’t last. It’s here now, but may not always be. So she repeats these three words like a mantra: “It won’t last”. She’s been burned in love before, clearly. Love is here, but it cannot survive when one partner thinks it is already doomed. What Tracy needs is a shot of Donny Hathaway’s brand of love.

Donny Hathaway – A Song For You.mp3
In this definitive version of Leon Russell’s stunning declaration of love, Donny Hathaway puts us through the wringer. He has treated the woman he professes to love poorly, but now he is going to articulate just how much he loves her back: “and if my words don’t come together, listen to the melody, ’cause my love is in there hiding”. He’s not lying: the melody is enveloped in pure love. It communicates tenderness and vulnerability. But the words do come together: “I love you in a place where there’s no space or time. I love you for in my life you are a friend of mine. And when my life is over, remember when we were together: we were alone and I was singing this song to you.” Would you not melt? Would that not reassure Tracy Thorn?

Herb Alpert – This Guy’s In Love With You.mp3
It may be a little premature to include this Bacharach composition here. It might belong in yesterday’s post. Our dude has only just picked up that the girl he desires seems to like him back. From here on, Herb gets into it. The deal, as far as he knows, is done. Back out of the deal, he tells her melodramatically in the best bit of the song, and he might not survive it: “My hands are shakin’, don’t let my heart keep breaking ’cause I need your love, I want your love. Say you’re in love and you’ll be my girl…if not…I’ll just…die.” To great effect, when it seems that the song has ended on that note, it resumes with Herb’s trumpet, indicating that probably the girl has not given him cause to die. Yay!

Blue October – Calling You.mp3
We’ve not dealt with the insecurity in love that produces quasi-stalker behaviour, have we? This is where alt.rockers Blue October come in to help us out. This seems to be quite a sweet song: guy finds girl (probably out of his league), life has become easier and better…except he feels the need to phone her all the time to see if she is thinking or dreaming of him (yup, way to keep the girl, dude, waking her up all the time). The thing is, love makes people act stupidly. We may laugh at our dude here, but who in love has not ever had the same impulses?

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

Style Council – You’re The Best Thing (extended).mp3
Presumably Paul Weller wrote this for Dee C. Lee, a former Wham! backing singer who joined the Style Council in 1984 when she and Weller hooked up. So when he sings stuff like: “I could be discontent and chase the rainbows’ end, I might win much more but lose all that is mine” (meaning Dee C.’s love), you sort of wonder what their chances are. All good intentions in vain, Weller and Lee ended up getting divorced.

Sarah McLachlan – Ice Cream (Live).mp3
Sarah McLachlan takes the more conventional route to explain love: it’s like ice cream or chocolate. A jubilatory song that conveys the euphoria that comes with being in love, and being loved back. A note of caution: ice cream and chocolate melt in heat; will the romance retain its shape in the heat of passion?

Minnie Riperton – Lovin’ You.mp3
A song just dripping with love. The birds are singing, so is Minnie, hitting orgasmically high notes. The song was written with her husband, and in the end Minnie sings, in multi-syllable mode, the name of their daughter, Maya (SNL comedian Maya Rudolph). Which is lovely, I think. The lyrics are simple, yet communicate all that needs to be said. The line, “Stay with me while we grow old, and we will live each day in springtime” is a great one for wedding proposals (though these are best not uttered on February 14). In the context of this song it is poignant: Minnie died of cancer in 1979, five years after “Lovin’ You” was a hit.

Earth, Wind & Fire – Love’s Holiday.mp3
Love finds expression in sex. So, to round this thing off, a couple of songs saturated with love and sex. On “Love’s Holiday”, Maurice White rocks his sonorous voice in the most seductive manner. Forget about Barry White or Isaac Hayes, Maurice’s is the voice of a sex god. “Would you mind if I looked in your eyes till I’m hypnotised, and I lose my pride?” Playa got game. But, ooops, what’s this: “Would you mind if I make love to you till I’m satisfied, once again.” Till you are satisfied, Mo? What sort of seductive proposition is that? Promise her satisfaction twice over before you think of yourself, you selfish goon!

Foo Fighters – Everlong (acoustic version.mp3)*
Maurice’s women may be better off with Mr Grohl, who may not look particularly hot, take much care of his hair (if the Grammys performance is a reliable guide) or have a particularly sexy voice, but he has a way with words: “Slow how you wanted it to be… Breath out, so I can breathe you in, hold you in.” And here is the beauty of Grohl’s seduction technique: he doesn’t make grandiose promises of being a bureau-of-standards-approved lovemachine; he doesn’t flatter about bodies being wonderlands. He just outlines how he plans to make an emotional connection while in the act of making love. Which makes this is one of the best song about sex ever.

The Age of the Afro: '70s Soul Vol. 1

January 29th, 2008 9 comments

My brother is currently visiting me. He has noted with some amused disdain my facility to jump musical genres within minutes. So, one minute I might be listening to a song by AC/DC, then a Motown track, followed by Wilco and Dean Martin. And it’s true, I love music so much, and for so many different reasons, I take joy in hearing a song I love, or even just like. But the one genre I will always return to is the soul music of the 1970s. And so, proceeding from the ’60s soul three-parter, here we inaugurate my series of ’70s soul, revisiting the age of the afro. Read more…

1981

July 16th, 2007 2 comments

And so on to 1981. Again, these are tunes that evoke that year “” a year of some fun, several foreign trips, a temporarily close friend named Epstein, shit teachers at a shit school, an idiot of a younger brother (who turned out to be very cool), and the teenage depression most 15-year-olds experience. These are not necessarily favourites songs, then or now.

John Lennon – Watching The Wheels.mp3
The murder of John Lennon ushered in my obsessive Beatles period. I had been a fan since I was 11 (and I listened to the Blue album the night before Lennon was shot), but now I bought every Beatles LP I didn’t yet have, including the unlistenable Live At The Hollywood Bowl and the US releases (Japanese and Greek pressings. Are there collectors for Greek Beatles LPs?). “Watching The Wheels” was my favourite track from Double Fantasy, and remains my favourite Lennon track. I’m still fascinated by Lennon, though he was by no means the saint after whom airports should be named. And “Imagine” is one dreadful anthem to hypocrisy.

Billy Joel – Summer, Highland Falls (live).mp3
My Beatles period was followed by a few weeks of intense Billy Joel obsession. For a while, in my deep teenage depression, I listened to Turnstiles, The Stranger, 52nd Street and especially the magnificent Songs In The Attic ad nauseam. I think Billy Joel is often underrated by the Good Taste Police, but these four albums are quite excellent. After 1983 at the latest Joel became an objectionable hack. But he also was my companion through unhappy times. So thanks, Bill.

Ideal – Blaue Augen.mp3
Those of my generation growing up in West-Germany will recall the impact of Die Neue Deutsche Welle, the new wave of German new wave. Before German music consisted of the ubiquitous Schlager herberts (usually with English stage names like Roy Black or Chris Roberts), hoary Kraut rockers doing their thing in English (the bloody Scorpions), chanson merchants (Konstantin Wecker) and the very occasional cool-ish acts (Udo Lindenberg, Marius Müller-Westernhagen, and obviously Kraftwerk). Suddenly there appeared a new sound for a young generation. Looking back, some of them were awful (Markus, Hubert Kah), but at the time even the rubbish acts spearheaded a revolution, with Berlin band Ideal at the vanguard. “Blaue Augen”, one of the first Neue Deutsche Welle hits, has an important place in music history. Without it, there might not have been “99 Luftballons”. Whether or not that was a welcome consequence, you decide.

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Joan Of Arc.mp3
OMD were on the forefront of the post-punk New Wave. First there was “Enola Gay”, then came this song, with its synthethizered martial beat, and it was all quite wondrous. It was great seeing OMD singer Andy McCluskey doing his crazy flaying arms dance to this when I saw them in concert in London four years later.

Soft Cell – Say Hello, Wave Goodbye.mp3
To be honest, this might actually belong in early 1982; I’m not quite certain. It’s a song that, with the Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” and Duran Duran’s “Girls On Film”, reminds me of the first club I frequented: the notorious Kaisersaal, where no nice parents wanted their nice children to go. Of course, my friend Mike and I and other pals used to go there, starting in late 1981. We U18s had to be out by 10pm; but from 7-10pm the club was cooking already, playing new wave, heavy metal and old rock (“Starman”, “Black Betty” etc). We felt all grown up, which leads me to…

Hazel O’Connor – Will You.mp3
Hazel O’Connor produced a shedload of terrible music, and a couple of decent ones: “All Grown Up”, “Eighth Day” and “Will You” is one. The latter in particular is an excellent song; the saxophone solo is quite lovely. It really needs to be covered by somebody more talented than Ms O’Connor. The song featured in Breaking Glass, a mess of a film.

Ricchi ̩ Povere РSara Perche Ti Amo.mp3
Italian hits were always big in Germany. Umberto Tozzi, Adriano Celentano, I Santo California, Giana Nannini, this lot… you couldn’t escape them. This song tastes of 1981. I’d like to say it reminds me of pizza places, but I might be making up an association here. The song does smell of pizza and beer and sunshine though. And of fun fairs

Earth, Wind & Fire – Let’s Groove.mp3
EWF were classified as disco back then, and disco was not really considered cool. Stuff like this was a “guilty pleasure”. Where I grew up, you wouldn’t admit to liking this stuff to your friends unless you fancied a bloody nose for being a bit of a Popper. Likewise, you wouldn’t admit to liking Roxy Music if you knew anyone with a leather jacket. Alas, my school was full of assholes with leather jackets.

And my favourite item of clothes at the time (oh, hell, EVER!), the FC Nantes jersey:

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Higher and higher

July 9th, 2007 1 comment

Here is a music cliché that pisses me off: that a singer who is able to hit high notes must have a problem with testicular position, constriction or development. Or maybe I’m just being sensitive because I can do a mean falsetto and the contents of my scrotum are in perfect working order (too much information, right?). In honour of all men who can hit the high notes, here are some of the best:

Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind & Fire has a good claim to be the king of falsettoists. Check out the live version of the magnificent “Reasons” when he goes into duel with the alto sax. But Bailey demonstrates the skill it takes to sing falsetto not when hitting the glass-shattering high notes, but when he goes down deep (listen to his “ba-a-a-aby” just before the sax comes in).
Earth, Wind & Fire – Reasons.mp3

They say “Keep On Trucking” was the first disco hit when it reached the US #1 in 1973. By then, Eddie Kendricks had already established his legendary status as a member of the Temptations. The falsetto you hear on “Get Ready” is Kendricks’. I’d say in the battle of ’60s falsettos, Eddie wipes the floor with the chipmunkish novelty yelpings of Frankie Valli.
Eddie Kendricks – Keep On Trucking.mp3

Closer to the Valli sound was Eddie Holman, who had a hit with the cute “Hey There Lonely Girl” in 1970. This signalled the emergence a whole string of falsetto-dominated soul acts throughout the ’70s. Most, like the excellent Chi-Lites, the Delfonics, the Manhattans or the more poppy Stylistics, alternated the high pitches with deeper voices. Some, like Blue Magic led with the falsetto “” and it was beautiful. These acts enjoyed a fair run of success. Poor Jimmy Helms remained a one-hit wonder. His exquisite falsetto on “Gonna Make You An Offer You Can’t Refuse” suggests that this was a musical tragedy.
Eddie Holman – Hey There Lonely Girl.mp3
The Chi-Lites – Stoned Out Of My Mind.mp3
Blue Magic – Sideshow.mp3
Jimmy Helms – Gonna Make You An Offer You Can’t Refuse

By the ’80s, the falsetto had become unfashionable, perhaps because of its association with disco acts (if so, then unfairly so). There were a few exceptions, but even then, only a handful found commercial success. One singer cruelly denied such recognition was Paul Johnson, the bespectacled British soulster whose joyful 1987 single “When Love Comes Calling” was one of the finest recordings in its genre in the decade (oh yes), and arguably the finest falsetto performance of the past 25 years. I can think of only one rival to that claim: Prince (or “symbol”, as he called himself then) singing “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World”.
Paul Johnson – When Love Comes Calling.mp3
Prince – The Most Beautiful Girl In The World.mp3

Lastly, an artist whose gentle countertenor would sometimes slip into a most restrained falsetto and back again: Curtis Mayfield. This song is not a falsetto, and I’m posting it gratuitously because it is a most beautiful song most beautifully performed. Released just a few weeks before the accident that robbed Curtis of his mobility in August 1990, this belongs in the canon of Mayfield’s absolutely greatest hits. But nobody seems to have picked up on that. You judge:
Curtis Mayfield – Do Be Down.mp3

C'mon, get happy…

June 1st, 2007 2 comments

Everybody has a set of songs that cheer them up. Sometimes these songs have a happy message, or a happy sound; sometimes they trigger happy memories. Here are some of my happy songs.

Chuck Mangione – Feels So Good.mp3
Rarely has a jazz-fusion song been so appropriately titled. On a forum I frequent, somebody described Mangione as the Kenny G of the flugelhorn. Slander. If you want to be scathing about Mangione’s descent into smooth jazz, then compare him to David Sanborn — another one who traded credibility for Quiet Storm commercialism. But listen to Mangione’s 1975 album Chase The Clouds Away, especially “Can’t We Do This All Night”, and you have something much closer to the mighty Crusaders than Kenny bloody G.

Earth, Wind & Fire – In The Stone.mp3
A companion piece to “Feels So Good”. Anything by EWF can make me happy, but none more so than “In The Stone”, with its happy melody, soaring horns, jaunty bassline, funky guitar, and Latin percussion. And the “Never…” outro is pure singalong magic.

Bill Withers – Lovely Day (Sunshine Mix).mp3
An obvious choice on any happy-song list, and with good reason. This is the 1988 Sunshine Mix, which is nit as good as the original, but more difficult to find. I concede, it sounds a little aged now (the female “hey hey”s!), but — unlike the original — this remix can get a party going. And, let’s face it, you can’t fuck up that great a song.

Bill LaBountyLivin‘ It Up.mp3
Bill LaBounty should be a legend in the Guilty Pleasures department which includes the likes of Boz Scaggs, Ambrosia, Linda Ronstadt etc. Somehow, fame eluded the dude, despite at least one quite excellent album which included this wonderful track. It’s a song of denying the pain of a love lost, set to a happy melody. Magnificent.

Strawberry Switchblade – Since Yesterday.mp3
In 1984 I somehow got to see Howard Jones and his mime sidekick at the Hammersmith Odeon. But it was the support act that blew me away. A couple months later, Strawberry Switchblade’s “Since Yesterday” was a Top 10 hit in Britain. It remains of one of the finest moments of pop in the 1980s.

Fifth Dimension – Stoned Soul Picnic.mp3
The happy association is obviously in the title.