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In Memoriam – April 2012

May 2nd, 2012 4 comments

The name Andrew Love will probably mean little to most music fans; but as a leader of the Memphis Horns (with Wayne Jackson), everybody will know at least some tunes the tenor saxophonist played on. The Memphis Horns were part of Stax”s session crew, and they also recorded on Hi Records. You”ll know them from tracks such as Elvis Presley”s Suspicious Minds, Neil Diamond”s Sweet Caroline, Al Green”s Let”s Stay Together and Dusty Springfield”s Son Of A Preacher Man. They are believed to have played on something like fifty #1 singles! This year they received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, sadly an award that is now mentioned only as an aside.

The marquee death of the month probably was that of US TV icon Dick Clark, a man who in the music industry seems to have engendered respect more than affection. No doubt his American Bandstand show helped make rock & roll mainstream, and probably a bit more square. Clark acknowledged that, but defended it in 1985: “But I knew at the time that if we didn’t make the presentation to the older generation palatable, it could kill it.”

Finally, the collector of Bruce Springsteen curiosities might enjoy The Dictator”s Faster & Louder: he provides the count-in.

Jimmy Little, 75, Australian singer, on April 1

Barney McKenna, 72,  member of Irish folk group The Dubliners, on April 5
The Dubliners  & The Pogues – Rare Old Mountain Dew (1987)

Jim Marshall, 88, founder of Marshall amplifiers, on April 5

Cynthia Dall, 41, singer songwriter, on April 5
Cynthia Dall – Aaron Matthew (1996)

Jim Niven, keyboard player of Australian groups The Sports and The Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band, on April 9
The Sports – Who Listens To The Radio (1979)

José Guardiola, 81, Spanish crooner, on April 9

Richie Teeter, 61, drummer of The Dictators, on April 10
The Dictators – Faster & Louder (1978)

Hal McKusick, 87, American jazz saxophonist, clarinetist and flautist, on April 11
Dinah Washington ““ Someone”s Rocking My Dreamboat (1958, on alto saxophone)

Andrew Love, 70, half of the Memphis Horns, on April 12
Otis Redding – Try A Little Tenderness (1966)
Dusty Springfield – Son Of A Preacher Man (1969)
The Memphis Horns – What The Funk (1977)

Rodgers Grant, 76. jazz pianist, on April 12
Mongo Santamaria – Yeh-Yeh (1963, as co-writer and pianist)

Teddy Charles, 84, jazz vibraphonist, keyboardist and drummer, on April 16

Chris Gambles (aka Slip), 49, singer of English band Audio Rush, on April 16
Audio Rush – She’s Got Them Looks (2004)

Dick Clark, 82, legendary TV producer, on April 18
Chuck Berry – Sweet Little Sixteen (1958, American Bandstand reference)

Levon Helm, 71, singer, drummer and composer, member of The Band, on April 19
The Band ““ The Weight (1978)
Levon Helm – No Depression In Heaven (2011, recorded 2008, vocals by Sheryl Crow)

Greg Ham, 58, flautist and saxophonist of Men at Work, body found on April 19
Men At Work – Who Can It Be Now? (1981)

Bert Weedon, 91, English guitar pioneer and composer, on April 20
Bert Weedon – Guitar Boogie Shuffle (1959)

Duke Dawson, 83, blues drummer, on April 20

Joe Muranyi, 84, jazz clarinettist and producer, on April 20
The Village Stompers – Washington Square (1963)

Iküzöne, 46, bassist of Japanese rap group Dragon Ash, on April 21

Tom “˜Pops” Carter, 92, blues musician, on April 22

Chris Ethridge, 65, bassist of The Flying Burrito Brothers, on April 23
The Flying Burrito Brothers – Lazy Day (1970)

Tommy Marth, 33, backing saxophonist with The Killers, suicide on April 23

Billy Bryans, 62, Canadian producer and drummer of the Parachute Club, on April 23
Parachute Club – Rise Up (1983)

Éric Charden, 69, French singer and songwriter, on April 29
Éric Charden –
Le monde est gris le monde est bleu (1967)

Kenny Roberts, 84, country singer, on April 29
Kenny Roberts – She Taught Me To Yodel (1965)

 

 

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“But I knew at the time that if we didn’t make the presentation to the older generation palatable, it could kill it.”

In Memoriam – May 2011

June 6th, 2011 4 comments

This series has noted a couple of hundred musicians’ deaths. Not many have caused me so much sadness as that of Gil Scott-Heron. Never mind that the man was a drug addict, and that he once wrote a homophobic song. He was a poet, and he set his poetry to glorious music. He was the Bob Dylan of the ghetto. I hope that with his dying breath, Scott-Heron appreciated the fact that astronauts were just then making a final journey and the US president has introcuded health care reform he was demanding in Whitey On The Moon).

As a soul fan, I noted with particular sadness the passing of jazz-funk guitarist Cornell Dupree, who played that opening riff of Aretha Franklin’s version of Respect, and also backed favourite acts like Bill Withers and Marlena Shaw.

We tend to mourn deaths by suicide, though that of Gramy-winning songwriter, screenplsy writer and director Joseph Brooks, who wrote the much-loathed You Light Up My Life, leaves us at best with mixed feelings: he killed himself while under indictment for a series of “casting couch” rapes (the details of which are nauseating). Not a very nice guy at all, it seems.


David Mason, 85, English trumpeter who played the piccolo solo on The Beatles’ Penny Lane, on April 29
The Beatles – Penny Lane (1967)

Hume Patton, 65, guitarist of Scottish psychedelic rock group The Poets, on April 30

Ernest ‘Shololo’ Mothle, 69, South African jazz bassist and percussionist, and session musician for Robert Hyatt, Hugh Masekela, Mike Oldfield, Jonas Gwangwa a.o., on May 2
Mike Oldfield – In Dulci Jubilo (1975) (as percussionist)

Odell Brown, 70, jazz/soul organist, arranger and songwriter, on May 3
Marvin Gaye – Sexual Healing (1982) (as co-writer)

Nigel Pickering, 81, rhythm guitarist and vocalist of Spanky and the Gang, on May 5
Spanky and Our Gang – Like To Get To Know You (1968)
John Walker, 67, founder of The Walker Brothers, on May 7
The Walker Brothers – Just For A Thrill (1966)

Big George Webley, 53, British composer and arranger of TV themes, including The Office (UK), and radio broadcaster, on May 7
Big George Webley (feat Fin) – Handbags and Gladrags (2001)

Johnny Albino, 93, Puerto Rican bolero singer, on May 7
Johnny Albino – 7 Notas de Amor

Cornell Dupree, 68, soul and jazz-funk guitarist, on May 8
Cornell Dupree – Teasin’ (1974)
Marlena Shaw – Time For Me To Go (1973) (as guitarist)

Dolores Fuller, 88, actress and songwriter for Elvis Presley a.o. (also cult director Ed Woods’ girlfriend, as portrayed in the movie), on May 9
Elvis Presley – Rock-A-Hula Baby (1961) (as composer)
John Carter, 65, producer, songwriter and A&R man, on May 10
Strawberry Alarm Clock – Incense and Peppermints (1967) (as writer)

Norma Zimmer, 87, “Champagne Lady” on The Lawrence Welk Show, backing singer for Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Perry Como a.o., on May 10

Zim Ngqawana, 51, South African jazz saxophonist, on May 10

Snooky Young, 92, jazz trumpeter with Jimmie Lunceford, Count Basie, Lionel Hampton a.o. and with The Band, on May 11
Count Basie Orchestra feat. Tony Bennett – Life Is A Song (1959)
The Band – Rag Mama Tag (1972)

Lloyd Knibb, 80, drummer of Jamaican ska band The Skatalites, on May 12
The Skatalites – Fidel Castro (1964)
Jack Richardson, 81, producer of Guess Who, Bob Seger, Rage Against The Machine a.o., on May 13
Bob Seger – Night Moves (1977) (as producer)

Bob Flanigan, 84, singer of The Four Freshmen, on May 15
The Four Freshmen – It’s A Blue World (1952)

M-Bone, 22, American rapper with Cali Swag District, killed in drive-by shooting on May 15
Cali Swag District – Where You Are (2010)

James ‘Curley’ Cook, 66, blues guitarist and founder member of Steve Miller Band, on May 16

Sean Dunphy, 73, Irish singer (the first to record in Nashville), on May 17
Kathy Kirby, 72, English ’60s pop singer, on May 19
Kathy Kirby – Dance On (1963)

Joseph Brooks, 73, songwriter (You Light Up My Life), suicide on May 22

Jeff Conaway, 60, actor (Kenickie in the movie Grease) and singer of 1960s ban The 3 1/2, on May 27

Gil Scott-Heron, 62, musician and poet, on May 27
Gil Scott-Heron – I Think I’ll Call It Morning (1971)
Gil Scott-Heron – Whitey On The Moon (1974)

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iPod Random 5-track Experiment Vol. 6

March 31st, 2008 3 comments

To end off the month, here the five random tracks my iPod threw out for your pleasure. Actually, I’m cheating, because it listed a couple of tracks I recently posted…

The Band with Neil Diamond – Dry Your Eyes.mp3
From The Last Waltz. Neil Diamond must have retained some of the cool he had rightfully acquired before going all lamé on us (cf. Pissing off the Thought Police with Neil Diamond), else surely Messrs Danko, Robertson, Manuel et al would not have invited the man to jam with them. And the crowd seems happy enough to welcome him on stage. It’s all good. I like pre-lamé Neil, I like The Band, and I like this song. Thank you, iPod Shuffle Function.

Moldy Peaches – Anyone Else But You.mp3
Originally from the Moldy Peaches eponymous 2001 debut — and so far only — album, this is everybody’s favourite song from the quite wonderful Juno soundtrack (lovely film too). The one Ellen Page and Michael Cera sing at the end. Kimya Dawson, the female component of the Moldy Peaches, features very prominently on the soundtrack. Her solo albums are well worth seeking out as well.

John Barrowman & Kevin Kline – Night And Day.mp3
iPod loves soundtracks. First The Last Waltz, then Juno, now DeLovely. I was hoping it would give me chance to post something from Cabaret, actually. I may be committing some sort of credibility suicide here, but this is my favourite version (of those I know, which must be a dozen at least) of Night And Day, in terms of tempo, arrangement and vocals. A great though pretty difficult song to croon along to.

4 Non Blondes – What’s Up (Piano Version).mp3
Sometimes iPod surprises me. I didn’t know that this slowed-down acoustic version of the 1993 hit by Linda Perry and chums was residing on it, and I certainly can’t see why I might have thought it necessary to copy it over. Still, having listened to it again for purposes of this post, I think it’s quite a nice version, and a pretty good song, too.

Lloyd Cole & the Commotions – Rattlesnakes.mp3
To me, this is the sound of 1984. The lines “She looks live Eve Marie Saint in On The Waterfront; she reads Simone de Beauvoir in her American circumstance” (hey presto, and another movie reference) are among my favourites from the ’80s.

And for our listening pleasure, a song which iPod didn’t random shuffle: the original version of the Sesame Street/Muppets classic Mah-na Mah-na, by Italian film score composer Piero Umiliani, from 1969. Of the two muppetised versions, I prefer that of Sesame Street, also made in 1969, with the two female backing singers who communicate bemusement better than many a movie actress, and the singer who looks like heroin addict (video). The Muppets’ version (video) has a stoned hippie and some pink animals. Good, but not as good. By the way, links open in the same window, so click new tab/window, or you’ll lose this page.
Piero Umiliani – Mah-ná-mah-ná.mp3

And an added bonus for my fellow Weepies fans: the title track from their new album, due for release on April 22:
The Weepies – Hideaway.mp3

Love Songs For Every Situation: Unrequited Love

February 19th, 2008 7 comments

Unrequited love is a real bastard. The rejection can scar a person for life, depending on its nature. My chapter of unrequited love was set in the seasons 1988/89 and 1989/90, and was cruelly soundtracked by the disgusting cheering of the fans of Arsenal and FC Liverpool, as if to taunt me further in my indescribable pain. There was no comfort, other than Manchester Utd’s FA Cup victory just days before the object of my desire left South Africa. I cannot say whether it was a good thing or not that she and I were very close friends. There was much affection, indeed a certain kind of love. But from her side obviously not that kind of love. So there was always hope, which again and again and again would be gently but brutally crushed. Would it have been easier to let unrequited love turn to festering hate?

Morrissey – There Is A Light That Never Goes Out (live).mp3
I presume everybody has this Smiths track already, so here is a live performance by Morrissey from 2004 in Manchester, ripped from DVD. That line about the doubledecker bus crashing into us is justly regarded as a classic lyric, but the one that really gets me is this one: “And in the darkened underpass I thought, ‘Oh God, my chance has come at last’, but then a strange fear gripped me, and I just couldn’t ask.” Don’t I know the feeling! For days, weeks, months one prepares for the perfect moment. The words are ready and practiced, the mood is set in one’s mind. And then, when the perfect opportunity presents itself, one chokes. And what setting could be better than a darkened underpass, where the object of ones desire cannot see the blushes. Ah, but she’d see the potentially crushed face, the dazed look, when they emerge into the light. At which point the 10-ton truck killing the both of us would appear to be an inviting proposition. So one waits for a really long, dark tunnel…

Freshlyground – I’d Like.mp3
South Africa’s most popular band, probably, engaged in a spot of self pity in this tender anthem to unrequited love and the self-loathing which often accompanies it. To the casual observer, the reactions she anticipates from her putative displays of affection seem exaggerated, even silly. Would her object of desire really say the singer deserved to die or humiliate her otherwise for showing affection or making a phone call? I suppose any vaguely negative response, or even a lack of response, would feel like an extreme reprimand or punishment to the one who is in unrequited love. The song might be dealing with a further complication: the lyrics make sense also in a context where the protagonist has same-sex feelings for somebody who is heterosexual (which could also explain the fear of being rejected harshly). Either way, the singer asks questions that make sense to anyone who has experienced unrequited love: “What do I do with all these feelings tearing me up inside? What do I do with all these wasted hours dreaming of you at night?”

Weezer – Pink Triangle.mp3
Weezer provided the flip-side to the theory posited in the entry for “I’d Like”. Here the protagonist is falling for a lesbian. “I’m dumb, she’s a lesbian. I thought I had found the one. We were good as married in my mind, but married in my mind’s no good. Oh, pink triangle on her sleeve.” Which raises the question if there is any comfort to be had if the woman a man desires is at least not with another man. Is Rivers holding out some hope when he asks: “If everyone’s a little queer, can’t she be a little straight?”

Nick Drake – Man In A Shed.mp3
This apparently is based on Drake’s own experience of living in somebody’s backyard, admiring the girl of the house from afar, but she doesn’t acknowledge his existence, presumably thinking she’s above his station in life. Drake clearly doesn’t buy into the class hierarchy (and Amen to that). Employing what might be termed Byronic Marxism, he declares: “So leave your house, come into my shed. Please stop my world from raining through my head. Please don’t think I’m not your sort. You’ll find that sheds are nicer than you thought.” Observe also Drake’s exquisite guitar work on this track.

Mazzy Star – Give You My Lovin’.mp3
You have to love Hope Sandoval. So it is difficult to believe that Hope should have any unhappy experience of unrequited love. And yet she sings: “When I see you I want to kiss you, but I know that ain’t right. So I ask if I can hold you. Oh babe, I need you so bad. Oh babe, I only want to make you glad.” What crazy fuck would say no to these words from the wonderful Ms Sandoval? She believes such crazy fucks do exist: “Discomfort arouses when I speak of you, as if you’ve been saying something bad about me.”

The Band – It Makes No Difference.mp3
You may thank one of the commenters in this series for this song from The Last Waltz, which would otherwise slipped below my radar. And what a fortuitous alert: this is a most beautiful and heartbreaking song. It makes no difference, Rick Danko sings, “where I turn, I can’t get over you when the flame still burns… the shadow never seems to fade away… like a scar, the hurt will always show… who I meet, they’re just a face in the crowd on a dead-end street.” The Counting Crows are drawing their influence from The Band (even framing a song around the news of Richard Manuel’s death), but their lyrics are usually unpenetrable. Here Danko is writing poetry you can actually make sense of, hitting the listener in the guts. “Well, I love you so much, and it’s all I can do just to keep myself from telling you that I never felt so alone before.”

The Temptations – Just My Imagination.mp3
The sweetest song about unrequited love. Our guy plays a trick on us as he begins: “Each day through my window I watch her as she passes by. I say to myself, ‘You’re such a lucky guy. To have a girl like her is truly a dream come true.’ Out of all of the guys in the world, she belongs to me…” Ah, but the alert reader will have spotted that in this post nothing is as well as that. So in verse two, the punchline pokes you in the eye: “But it was just my imagination running away with me.” Our friend even pleads with God to play cupid (and here we briefly call to mind Sam Cooke’s hymn to unrequited love), but how can God fix him up when “in reality, she doesn’t even know me”.

Joe Jackson – Is She Really Going Out With Him.mp3
And from the sweetest song to the most acerbic. Observing from indoors, Joe sees Jeannie, and every other pretty woman, walking with gorillas down his street. This makes him angry. Knowing that he is puny, and they are gorillas, he employs his imaginary superpowers: “But if looks could kill, there’s a man there who’s more down as dead.” Zapp! He is possibly better served engaging his wit: “They say that looks don’t count for much, if so, there goes your proof”, he sings about Jeannie’s boyfriend (would that be the same Jeannie whose diary Eels wish to be a page in?).

The Buzzcocks – Ever Fallen In Love.mp3
It seems that our boy is having some sort of relationship with the woman who nonetheless is rejecting his love. She doesn’t treat him well. “You spurn my natural emotions, you make me feel like dirt.” He won’t cause a scene though, because then he might just lose her. So while she keeps rejecting him, he’s getting increasingly frustrated and, the clue here is not in the lyrics but in the intensity of music, obsessed with the one-sidedness of it all. Unrequited love happens in established relationships as well. Think of the stunning Odyssey song I posted in the Love Ends post.

Johnny Mathis – Misty.mp3
The person in unrequited love often is like a pathetic puppy. Mathis certainly is in this definitive reading of Erroll Garner’s standard, better even than Sarah Vaughn’s. And the key is that Mathis actually does sound like a lovestruck puppy. The girl sounds like a bit of a tease (she lets him hold her hand), “you can say that you’re leading me on”, and Johnny likes it, “but it’s just what I want you to do”, because as long she takes notice of him, he has hope that his total love will find reciprocation.

Jens Lekman – Maple Leaves.mp3
This song puts an unusual spin on unrequited love. Jens can’t find a way into her heart “” “if you don’t take my hand I lose my mind completely” “” but the problem seems to be twofold. For one, the girl has such low self-esteem, she perhaps cannot accept that somebody could love her (“You said you hated your body, that it was just a piece of meat. I disagreed”). The second problem may be that incredibly unjust curse suffered by millions of nice men: the girl sees you as a friend! A bloody friend! “So we talked for hours and you cried into my sheets”. Of course, it may be that Jens just couldn’t understand her accent. “She says the dreamer just make-believe, but I thought she said maple leaves… and when she talked about about the fall I thought she talked about Mark E Smith.” No wonder he “never understood at all”.

Joshua Radin – Do You Wanna.mp3
I might be way off the mark here, but this is how I read the song: Joshua is in love with his friend (Ducky Dales everywhere!). She is in a destructive relationship. He brings comfort, but doesn’t want to be seen doing so with the ulterior motive of preparing the ground for his romantic relationship with her. And, you know, he cares firstly for her well-being. Which makes him a star among men “” and sets him up for friendship standing in the way of romance and sex. “No one believes you smile alone. You wanna retrieve your high on the phone, but when you hang up all I wanna do is help you to pick up the pieces from your past. But there’s nothing more to gather, holding on to moments that won’t last. Or would you rather end it all; do you wanna?” Well, even if I’m totally wrong, I’d be pleased if this song, from Radin’s excellent First Between 3rd And 4th EP in 2004, is going to turn one or the other reader on to this wonderful singer-songwriter, whose new album will feature Ingrid Michaelson and Catherine Feeny, plus some production by Rick Rubin.

Barenaked Ladies – If I Had $1000000.mp3
Beneath the jocular mirth of this song there is a slightly pathetic subtext. Here our boy wants, Dr Evil style, a million dollars (Canadian, presumably) to buy the object of his desire everything, from a “nice reliant automobile” to a green dress (“but not a real green dress, that’s cruel”). All that sounds very nice, even amusing, until the pathos of the final line of the third verse: “If I had one million dollars, I’d buy your love.” Poor bastard.

Richard Cheese – Creep.mp3
I presume that everybody who needs it already owns Radiohead’s “Creep”. So here, to introduce some levity into the proceedings, is the lounge-jazzy version by the great spoofologist Richard Cheese. In the original, our boy is so intoxicated with self-loathing that he places himself several leagues below hers. He might have a good reason for doing so, but for every “creep” and “weirdo” there is a beacon of hope: Pete Doherty pulled Kate Moss. That must give hope to anyone who believes the unattainable to be just that.