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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.”

Any Major Halloween Mix 2

October 28th, 2009 2 comments

halloweenFollowing the slightly spooky Halloween mix posted on Monday, this one comprises songs mostly of less serious tone, setting what I hope is a bit of a party atmosphere, with a bit of rock, rock & roll and downright silly novelty numbers, including one by Soupy Sales, who died last week. The sense of levity this mix aims at is not of the literal variety.

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TRACKLISTING
1. Tim Curry – Anything Can Happen On Halloween (1986)
2. Golden Earring – The Devil Made Me Do It (1982)
3. Morgus & the Ghouls – Morgus The Magnificent (1958)
4. The Tarantulas – Black Widow (1961)
5. Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs – Haunted House (1964)
6. Big Bopper – Purple People Eater Meets The Witch Doctor (1958)
7. The Kingsmen – Haunted Castle (1963)
8. The Five Blobs – The Blob (1958)
9. The Fifth Estate – The Witch Is Dead (1967)
10. Bobby Bare – Vampira (1958)
11. Johnny Cash – Ghost Riders In The Sky (1978)
12. R Dean Taylor – There’s A Ghost In My House (1967)
13. Alice Cooper – Feed My Frankenstein (1992)
14. Rob Zombie feat. The Ghastly Ones – Halloween (1998)
15. Medeski, Martin & Wood – End Of The World Party (2004)
16. The Pogues – Turkish Song Of The Damned (1988)
17. The Specials – Ghost Town (1981)
18. Jimmy Buffett – Halloween In Tijuana (1985)
19. Soupy Sales – My Baby’s Got A Crush On Frankenstein (1962)
20. France Gall – Frankenstein (1972)
21. Danny Elfman – This Is Halloween (1993)
22. David Seville – Witch Doctor (1958)
23. Bobby Rydell – That Old Black Magic (1961)
24. The Moontrekkers – Night Of The Vampire (1961)
25. Allan Sherman – I See Bones (1963)
26. Lord Melody – The Creature From The Black Lagoon (1957)
27. Lambert, Hendricks & Ross – Halloween Spooks (1960)

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And to bring the mood down a bit again, here is a track sent to me by a friend, whose knowledge in music in encyclopedic. He points out that the artist, folk singer Jackson C Frank, is “ the single unluckiest man in music history”. Read this to find that this is most probably so.

Jackson C. Frank – Halloween Is Black As Night.mp3 (reuploaded)

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The Originals Vol. 8

October 5th, 2008 1 comment


Jackie DeShannon ““ Needles And Pins
The Searchers ““ Needles And Pins
Last night I watched The Commitments on DVD, with the scene at the wedding where the singer belts out a cheesy version Needles And Pins. What struck me is how difficult it is to mess the song up. Even Smokie”s 1977 version was quite good. It is, of course, regarded as a classic in its incarnation by the Searchers (a group I used to confuse with the Seekers, featured above). It was written by Sonny Bono and Jack Nietzsche and first recorded by the vastly underrated Jackie DeShannon in 1963, crossing the Atlantic the same year in Petula Clark”s version before the Searchers finally scored a hit with it in 1964 (actually, DeShannon”s version, while not a hit in the US, topped the Canadian charts). The story goes that the Searchers first heard Needles And Pins being performed by Cliff Bennett at the Star Club in Hamburg and immediately decided that the song should be their next single. It became the second of their three UK #1 hits. They did retain DeShannon”s pronunciation of “now-ah”, “begins-ah” and “pins-ah.
Also recorded by: Petula Clark (1963), Buddy Morrow & his Orchestra (1964), Cher (1965), The Wallflower Complextion (1967), Smokie (1977), The Ramones (1978), Crack The Sky (1983), Tom Petty & Steve Nicks (1986), Mr. T Experience (1998), Willy DeVille (1999), Raimundos (2001), The Commercials (2001) a.o.
Best version: DeShannon”s original has a great energy, Smokie”s I have a nostalgic attachment to, but the Searchers had a moment of pop perfection with their version.

Jackie DeShannon – Bette Davis Eyes
Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes
In 1981, my half-sister”s boyfriend went on holiday to Colorado. For us in Germany, that was tremendously exotic. Although we had by then travelled through much of central Europe, America seemed another world. Where we had medieval churches, all of American architecture seemed to be mirrored skyscrapers (cf. the Dallas titles montage), and where our forests were populated by Rumpelstiltskin, granny-eating wolves and poisonous mushrooms, American woods were run by Grizzly Adams. And, most significantly, new LPs were available in America before they came out in Germany. So when our man came back from Colorado and told of his adventures (in what probably was boring suburbia), his tales were soundtracked by Juicy Newton”s Angel Of The Morning and Kim Carnes” Betty Davis Eyes. The former has long been pencilled in to feature in this series, the latter joined the list only when our friend RH sent me the original.

I hadn”t known it was a cover version: neither did the song”s subject, who went out of her way to thank first Carnes and then the songwriters for introducing her to a whole new generation (including myself) and giving her cool status among her grandchildren. Davis and Carnes remained friends till the actress” death. As noted above, Jackie DeShannon was not just an underrated singer, but also a songwriter. She co-wrote Bette Davis Eyes with Donna Weiss, and recorded it in 1975 in a country-boogie woogie style. Her version attracted little attention, but seven years later Carnes” cover became one of the biggest hits in US chart history, spending nine weeks at #1 (a week less than the year”s top-seller, Olivia Newton John”s Physical). As for the titular eyes which warranted a song, apparently they were the product of a thyroid condition Davis suffered.
Also recorded by: Gwynneth Paltrow (for the film Duets, 2000), Crash Test Dummies (2001), Handsome Devil (2004), Space Cadet (2005)
Best version: The Carnes version reworks the song entirely. The guitar, synth and the somewhat sleazy drums complement Carnes” raspy voice in the slowed down. That production evokes Davis” (public) personality better than the original does.

The Highwaymen – Whiskey In The Jar
The Seekers – Whiskey In The Jar
The Pogues & the Dubliners – Whiskey In The Jar
“Musha ring dum a doo dum a da” is gibberish, apparently. And “Whack fol the daddy O” is not slurred “50s slang. Whiskey In The Jar is an old Irish folk song about a girl betraying the highwayman who loves her. Folk historian Alan Lomax (who among many other things did that recording of Black Betty featured earlier on in this series) suggested that the song goes back, in some form, to the 1600s and might have inspired John Gay’s 1728 The Beggar’s Opera. When the folk revival hit in America in the 1950s and “60s, Whiskey In The Jar, which had long enjoyed popularity in the US, was among the many traditional tunes to be performed by the likes of The Limeliters and Peter, Paul & Mary. The oldest recordings that I”ve been able to turn up are thise by The Highwaymen from 1962 (thanks to caithiseach of The Great Vinyl Meltdown) and from 1964 by the Seekers. The song is, of course, more famous now as a rock song, thanks to Thin Lizzy”s iconic 1973 interpretation (which took some liberties with the lyrics). The Dubliners, whose 1967 hit with the song returned it to its native land, re-recorded it to fine effect with the Pogues in 1990. Some people talk highly of Metallica”s 1998 Grammy-winning take, but since I boycott those Napster-busting fuckers, it won”t feature here.
Also recorded by: The Dubliners (1967), Jerry Garcia & David Grisman (1995), Pulp (1995), Metallica (1998), Brobdingnagian Bards (2001), Belle & Sebastian (2005), Gary Moore (2006), as well as Roger Whittaker, Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, The Irish Rovers, the Poxy Boggards, Seven Nations, King Creosote, Axel the Sot, and Smokie (a.o.)
Best version: The Dubliners and Pogues nail it.

Albert Hammond – The Air That I Breathe
The Hollies – The Air That I Breathe
I feel very old when Albert Hammond needs to be introduced as “The Dad of the dude from the Strokes”. Hammond Sr is of course the more significant figure in pop, having scored hits on his own and written many more for others. The Air That I Breathe, composed with frequent collaborator Mike Hazlewood, is among those (and at least one more will feature in this series). Hammond”s 1972 recording on his debut album, It Never Rains In Southern California, went by fairly unnoticed. It starts of uncertainly, but mid-way through hits a strange stride. Perfect it is not, but interesting it certainly is. According to Hammond, it was written for a physically unattractive girl while Hazlewood came up with the title upon glimpsing LA”s smog ““ I rather like that story. The song was then recorded by Phil Everly in 1973, but became a hit in the hands of the briefly resurgent Hollies a year later. Subsequently Hammond and Hazlewood received an unexpected songwriting credit on Radiohead”s Creep for its resemblance to The Air That I Breathe.
Also recorded by: Cilla Black (1974), Olivia Newton-John (1975), José Feliciano (1977), Hank Williams Jr (1983), Julio Iglesias (1984), Steve Wynn (1995), Barry Manilow (1996), k.d. lang (1997), Simply Red (1998), Patti LuPone (1999), The Mavericks (2003), Blue Mule (2005), Tom Fuller (2007)
Best version: It”s a great song to interpret (as Thom Yorke would agree), but the Hollies version is just lush.

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1985

July 23rd, 2007 3 comments

A great year in which I got to see loads of concerts. In 1985 I was a huge U2 fan, and saw them in successive weeks at Milton Keynes, at Phoenix Park in Dublin, and at Torhout in Belgium, and in between saw Bruce Springsteen twice at Wembley Stadium. I rounded off the summer by being at Live Aid, which despite its largely crap music was a fantastic event. I had another unrequited crush on a McGirl (the lovely Lucy McGrath) and got to meet a lot of famous people while working in a restaurant in Chelsea. A great year indeed.

Big Sound Authority – This House (Is Where Our Love Stands).mp3
I saw the Big Sound Authority live at Camden Town in January 1985, a really good gig, and thought they’d make it big. This fine soul-pop song (released in late 1984 but a top 20 UK hit in ’85) apart, they never did. Puzzling and, indeed, it’s almost perverse. The brass was rather brilliant, the sound was rich and energetic, and singer Julie Hadwen had a mighty voice for a petite woman. She is still recording, it seems. Video of “This House” here.

The Colourfield – Thinking Of You.mp3
Another one hit top 20 wonder. The Colourfield was the new group of Terry Hall, formerly of the Specials and Fun Boy Three. This is a cute song, with its vaguely Bossa Nova guitar and Hall’s slightly flat singing complemented by Katrina Phillips vocals. Video here.

Strawberry Switchblade – Since Yesterday.mp3
I saw Strawberry Switchblade, who looked like the cutest Goth girls, supporting Howard Jones (yeah, I know, I know) in 1984, and was quite smitten. When the enchanting “Since Yesterday” (video) rose up the charts, I was very excited: the first act I had seen play live before they hit the big time. Alas, this remained the only big time they hit, even though their cover of “Jolene” was excellent. Idiot record buying public. For more Strawberry Switchblade music, right click and open into a new window/tab out this treasure trove of rare tracks. (previously uploaded)

Killing Joke – Love Like Blood.mp3
Killing Joke were the original grunge band, except on “Love Like Blood” they sounded like a U2 and Soundgarden hybrid (we didn’t know that yet, of course, because Soundgarden didn’t exist). Truth be told, I have little time for much else by Killing Joke but the Night Time album which yielded this track.

Duran Duran – A View To A Kill.mp3
Well, Duran Duran had to be accommodated at some point in an ’80s review. The theme song to Roger Moore’s funniest Bond movie, “A View To A Kill” had a great video. Simon Le Bon and his wife Yasmin used to frequent the restaurant where I worked (I once gave his serviette to a Duran fan I knew; it was the only time I know of that I brought a girl to an orgasm without touching her). In 1986, the British tabloids played up Yasmin’s pregnancy and subsequent miscarriage. At one point, when the whole press hype had died down, the Le Bons patronised the restaurant. As usual, we waiters were discreet and pretended not to recognise the celebs. Except Juan, a huge, extravagantly camp winewaiter from Spain, who moseyed over to Simon and Yasmin, and gormlessly asked: “And how is the baby”? Ouch. To Simon’s credit, he responded simply: “I think you have the wrong couple”.

Godley & Creme – Cry.mp3
The 10cc veteran’s surprise hit reminds me of the Heysel Stadium disaster, its chart run broadly coinciding with that traumatic event. It’s a good song, but it scraped into the top 20 on strength of a great, groundbreaking video, with faces morphing into one another (an overdone device since, but very remarkable in 1985). I love the chipmunk “cry” at the end of the song.

Marillion – Kayleigh.mp3
I got into Marillion the previous year, with tracks like “Punch And Judy” and “She Chameleon” (which I nearly uploaded for the ’84 trip). Those tracks sound terrible now, horrendous prog rock. I don’t remember much about Misplaced Childhood, from which this song came. I don’t think I liked it very much. But “Kayleigh” I loved so much, I even bought the 12″ picture disc. I left it behind when I departed from London in 1987; my records were supposed to be sent on to me in South Africa, but never were. I hope the picture disc is worthless now. It probably isn’t.

Bruce Springsteen – Trapped (live).mp3
Long a Springsteen concert staple, Broooce played this Jimmy Cliff cover on his 1985 tour, a highlight in the 3-hour show as the band builds up to a crescendo and then dramatically drops in unison to let Roy Bittan’s keyboard hum on quietly. This recording appeared on the We Are The World compilation, but we shouldn’t hold that against it.

The Pogues – Sally Maclennane (live).mp3
I bought the single for the b-side, a particularly version rousing of “The Wild Rover”, the greatest drinking song of them all. That is no reflection on “Sally Maclennane”, which was on the album anyway (this file is a live recording). Few acts can make you feel so happy one minute, and then make you weep as the Pogues do (you try to laugh when you hear “Thousands Are Sailing” or “Streets of Sorrow/Brimingham Six”).

China Crisis – Black Man Ray.mp3
It was never really cool to like China Crisis, at a time when uncool was not yet the new cool. 1982’s “Christian” and 1984’s “Wishful Thinking” were fine songs, but “Black Man Ray” (from Flaunt The Imperfection, produced by Steely Dan’s Walter Becker) is the classic in the China Crisis canon.

Maze feat. Frankie Beverley – Too Many Games.mp3
One of my all-time favourite soul groups. In 1985 Maze announced a five-nighter at the Hammersmith Odeon. I hurried from Archway, where I lived, to Hammersmith to buy my ticket (as I often did) before having to go to Chelsea for work. When I arrived, people were queuing around the block. I couldn’t join the long line of Wide Boys, and even the ticket agencies were sold out. It still hurts to have missed the gigs; Maze were an incredible band in concert, as their two live albums prove (and DVDs thereof). “Too Many Games” is a great song, a real ’80s soul favourite of mine; but it scraped into the Top 40 on the back of its flipside, the funk instrumental “Twilight”, a club
fave at the time.

New Order – Sub Culture.mp3
Like the “1-2-3-4-5” of XTC’s “Senses Working Overtime”, so is the chorus of this piece of electro bombast burnt into my subconscious. I tend to spontaneously break out into singing the line, “What do I get out of this, I always try, I always miss”. I think it might be the anthem of my life.

Feargal Sharkey – A Good Heart.mp3
I forgive Feargal Sharkey a lot for having been an Undertone, even this unworthy #1 hit. Actually, it’s quite a sweet song, but not as nearly good as the soulful “Loving You” from earlier that year (reaching only #26). Around the time “A Good Heart” was a hit, one of my three flatmates, David, took me out clubbing. We went to Golders Green where his friend Camilla lived, so that we could drive to Charing Cross in her car. As we were ready to leave, the backdoors opened, and on both sides two black chicks got in, one pretty, the other quite ugly. They said “hello”. Their voices were deep. So the nickname Camp David was not a reference to the US president’s holiday home. The plan obviously was to take straight dude to a gay club, flanked by crossdressers. And so we ended up at Heaven. Initially I was nervous, but once inside I relaxed. It was a liberating experience to be clubbing without invoking the “How Soon Is Now” scenario of not having scored. I was very flattered when I was approached by guys wanting to buy me a drink. I declined but rather enjoyed the notion that here was a club where I could pull, if only I was gay….

The Waterboys – The Whole Of The Moon.mp3
More evidence that the British record-buying public have always been idiots. This work of utter genius (about an utter genius) reached only #26 in the charts. At the same time, Paul McCartney’s Frog Chorus was making a run on the top 10, and the same sort of imbeciles who propelled the unspeakable Jennifer Rush to the top of the charts in June were now buying Elton John’s revolting “Nikita” instead of “The Whole Of The Moon”. Grrrr…

U2 – Bad (live).mp3
My all-time favourite U2 song, which provided one of the few musical and dramatic highlights at Live Aid (remember a mulletted Bono dragging the girl from the crowd for a dance. I bet she was terrified that she’d have to screw the chief roadie later for the privilege. She certainly did look petrified). At the concerts in June, Bono would ad lib some lines from “Do They Know It’s Christmas” during the performance of “Bad”. Except he’d sing “do they know that springtime is coming”. There is no springtime anywhere in June, Bono. Even metaphorically, Band Aid was hardly going to create a symbolic springtime for the starving Ethiopians, just a bit of relief. This proves that Bono was a self-important idiot even in his pre-shades years. Nonetheless, “Bad” is a great song, and he doesn’t do that Band Aid shit on this fine performance from the Wide Awake In America EP, which was released in the US for no good reason whatsoever in 1985. (Below, my pic of Bono at Torhout. Even from far away, you can make out his horrid mullet).