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The Originals Vol. 32

September 18th, 2009 12 comments

This time we look at the Carpenters hit that began life as an ad for a bank and was first released by a man with a one-off moniker; the Righteous Brothers classic which Phil Spector saw fit to issue only as a b-side; Gram Parsons’ famous song that was first recorded by a country singer before the co-writer had the chance; The Platters hit that was first an instrumental; and the Manhattan Transfer hit that was first recorded by a husband and wife team. Many thanks to Dennis, Walter and RH for their help.

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Freddie Allen ““ We”ve Only Just Begun (1970).mp3
Carpenters ““ We”ve Only Just Begun (1970).mp3
Curtis Mayfield – We”ve Only Just Begun (1971).mp3

freddie_allenWe”ve Only Just Begun first made its appearance in 1970 in a TV commercial for a bank (video), whence it was picked up by Richard Carpenter to create the popular wedding staple. But before Richard and Karen got around to it, it was recorded a few months earlier by Freddie Allen, an actor who under his stage name Smokey Roberds was a member of “60s California pop group The Parade, and later formed the duo Ian & Murray with fellow actor and Parade member Murray MacLeod.

As Roberds tells it, one day he heard the Crocker National Bank commercial on his car radio (presumably the ad transcended media platforms), and recognised in the tune the signature of his composer friend Roger Nichols, who had written the ad”s song with lyricist Paul Williams. He phoned Nichols, ascertained that he had indeed co-written it, and asked him to create a full-length version. Nichols and Williams did so, and Roberds intended to produce it for a band he had just signed to White Whale Records. The deal fell through, so Roberds decided to record the song himself, but couldn”t do so under his stage name for contractual reasons. Since he was born Fred Allen Roberds, his Christian names provided his new, temporary moniker (see interview here, though you”ll go blind reading it).

carpentersPaul Williams” memory is slightly different: in his version, Nichols and he had added verses to subsequent updates of the advert, and completed a full version in case anyone wanted to record it. When Richard Carpenter heard the song in the commercial, he contacted Williams to ask if there was a full version, and Williams said there was “” and he would have lied if there wasn”t. Perhaps that happened before Allen recorded it. (Full interview here)

The remarkable Williams, incidentally, sang the song in the ad and would later write Rainy Days And Mondays and I Won”t Last A Day Without You for the Carpenters (both with Nichols), as well as Barbra Streisand”s Evergreen, Kermit the Frog”s The Rainbow Connection and the Love Boat theme, among others.

Freddie Allen”s single, a likable country-pop affair, did well in California, but not nationally, which he attributed to promotion and distribution problems. Released a few months later, the Carpenters had their third hit with We”ve Only Just Begun, reaching #2 in the US.

Also recorded by: Perry Como (1970), Mark Lindsay (1970), Dionne Warwick (1970), Paul Williams (1971), Bill Medley (1971), Johnny Mathis (1971). Mark Lindsay (1971), Jerry Vale (1971), The Moments (1971), Andy Williams (1971), Claudine Longet (1971), The Wip (1971), Grant Green (1971), Barbra Streisand (recorded in 1971, released in 1991), Johnny Hartman (1972), Henry Mancini (1972), Reuben Wilson (1973), The Pacific Strings (1973), Jack Jones (1973), Ray Conniff (1986), Ferrante & Teicher (1992), Grant Lee Buffalo (1994), Richard Clayderman (1995), Stan Whitmire (2000), Bradley Joseph (2005), Peter Grant (2006)

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Bobby Bare ““ Streets Of Baltimore (1966).mp3
Tompall & The Glaser Brothers – Streets of Baltimore (1966).mp3
Gram Parsons ““ Streets Of Baltimore.mp3
Nanci Griffiths & John Prine – Streets Of Baltimore (1998).mp3
Evan Dando – Streets Of Baltimore (1998).mp3

tompall_glaserTompall Glaser was one of the original country Outlaws, along with the likes of Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard. With his brothers, he supported Johnny Cash on tour in the early 1960s before as Tompall & The Glaser Brothers they signed for MGM Records in 1966. The same year Tompall wrote Streets Of Baltimore, the sad story of a man who selflessly gives up everything, including his farm back in Tennessee, so as to fulfill his woman”s dream of living in Baltimore “” with no happy ending, at not least for him.

Tompall”s cousin Dennis, who worked for him, told me in an e-mail that the original song had many more verses. “Harlan told me once that Tompall stopped by his office and gave him a copy of what he”s written, which was much longer than the final version. And said: “˜Here, fix it”. It sounds like something Tom would say.”

bobby_bareBut the Glasers didn”t recorded the song first; Bobby Bare got there first. Recorded in April 1966 (produced by Chet Atkins) his version was released as a single in June 1966; the Glasers” was recorded in September. Bare went on to have hit with it, reaching #7 on the Country charts. The song became more famous in the wonderful version by Gram Parsons, which appeared on his 1973 GP album. Likewise, the 1998 duet by the magnificent Nanci Griffiths and the awesome John Prine is essential.

Dennis Glaser also said that the song has been mentioned in an American Literature textbook “as an example of songs that reflect actual life”.

Also recorded by: Capitol Showband (1967), Charley Pride (1969), Statler Brothers (1974), The Bats (1994), Tony Walsh (1999), Skik (as Grachten van Amsterdam, 2004), The Little Willies (2006)

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The Three Suns – Twilight Time (1944).mp3
Les Brown & his Orchestra – Twilight Time
(1945).mp3
Johnny Maddox and the Rhythmasters – Twilight Time (1953).mp3
The Platters – Twilight Time (1958).mp3

three_sunsThe Three Suns ““ brothers Al (guitar) and Morty Nevins (accordion) and cousin Artie Dunn (organ) ““ were an instrumental trio founded in the late 1930s in Philadelphia. Although not particularly well-known, they had a long career that lasted into the “60s (albeit in latter years with competing entities going by the group”s name, including one with Don Kirshner who later invented the Monkees). Unusual orchestration notwithstanding ““ their Twilight Time sounds like carousel music “” the Three Suns were sought-after performers who spawned imitation groups, including the Twilight Three. (More on The Three Suns here)

Not much seems to be known about the genesis of Twilight Time other than it becoming something of a signature tune for the group. They eventually recorded it in 1944. It had become so popular that songwriter Buck Ram put his evocative lyrics ““ “Heavenly shades of night are falling, it”s twilight time” ““ to the melody. The first cover version of the song was recorded in November 1944 by bandleader Les Brown, and released in early 1945. But it is unclear whether it featured vocals. Several sources, including not always reliable Wikipedia, say that Brown’s version features Doris Day, and therefore is the first vocal version of the song. I”ve not been able to find the song or even proof that Doris Day sang it. Featured here is the instrumental version Brown, released as the b-side to Sentimental Journey, the first recording of that standard which Doris did sing.

A recording I have of an old radio programme of the Armed Forces Radio Service, called Personal Album, features five Les Brown songs. Four of them are sung by Doris Day, but when announcing Twilight Time, the presenter says that Doris will “sit that one out”. So I doubt she ever recorded it with Brown, though she might have sung it on stage.

If Doris Day did not lend her vocals to Twilight Time, then the first recording to feature Buck Rams” lyrics would probably be that released, also in 1945, by Jimmy Dorsey featuring Teddy Walters on the microphones, which appeared in the MGM movie Thrill Of A Romance. Alas, I have no recording of that version.

plattersTwilight Time had been recorded intermittently “” including a rather nice ragtime version by Johnny Maddox and the Rhythmasters “” by the time Ram signed the vocal group The Platters, for whom he co-wrote some of their biggest hits, such as Only You and The Great Pretender. By 1958 it had been almost two years since The Platters had enjoyed a Top 10 hit. Ram dug out Twilight Time and his protegés had their third US #1. The song also reached #3 in Britain, their highest chart placing there until Smoke Gets In Your Eyes topped the UK charts later that year.

Also recorded by: Roy Eldridge & His Orchestra (1944), Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra featuring Teddy Walters (1945), Johnny Maddox And The Rhythmasters (1953), Otto Brandenburg (1960), Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas (1965), Billy Thorpe & the Aztecs (1965), Gene Pitney (1970), P.J. Proby (1973), José Feliciano (1975), Carl Mann (1976), Dave (as 5 Uhr früh, 1980), Willie Nelson (1988), John Fahey (1992), John Davidson (1999), The Alley Cats (2000), Anne Murray (2004) a.o.

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Art and Dottie Todd – Chanson D”Amour (Song Of Love) (1958).mp3
Manhattan Transfer – Chanson D”Amour (1976).mp3

art_dottie_toddFew songs have irritated and fascinated me in such equal measures as Manhattan Transfer”s 1977 hit Chanson D”Amour, a UK #1. Their cover was ingratiatingly camp and absolutely ubiquitous, a middle-aged finger raised at punk. It is also a most insidious earworm. Almost two decades earlier, the Wayne Shanklin composition had been a US #6 hit for the husband and wife duo Art and Dottie Todd. The couple”s version competed in the charts with an alternative take by the Fontane Sisters. Ar and Dottie scored the bigger hit. It was also their only US hit. Chanson D”Amour didn”t chart in Britain, but the Todds had their solitary hit there with a different song, Broken Wings. So they ended up one-hit wonders on both sides of the Atlantic, but with different songs.

The Todds, who already had enjoyed a long career and even presented a radio show after getting married in 1941 (they met when accidentally booked into the same hotel room), proceeded to entertain in the lounges of Las Vegas for many years before their semi-retirement in 1980 to Hawaii, where they opened a supper club. Dottie died in 2000 at 87; Art followed her in 2007 at the age of 93. Somehow it seems right that this couple, who lived and worked together for six decades, should be remembered for a Song of Love.

Chanson D”Amour was resurrected in 1966 by easy listening merchants The Lettermen, who had a minor US hit with it. And a decade later, Manhattan Transfer recorded their cover, adding a French 1920s cabaret feel to the Todd”s template, which they followed quite faithfully.

Also recorded by: Also recorded by: The Fontane Sisters (1958), The Lettermen (1966), Gheorghe Zamfir (1974), Ray Conniff (1979), BZN (1981), André Rieu (2003), In-grid (2004) a.o.

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Todd Duncan – Unchained Melody (excerpt) (1955).mp3
Unchained Melody Mix (39MB):
Les Baxter – Unchained Melody (1955)
Al Hibbler – Unchained Melody (1955)
Roy Hamilton – Unchained Melody (1955)
Gene Vincent & his Blue Caps – Unchained Melody (1957)
Merri Gail – Unchained Melody (1960)
Vito and the Salutations – Unchained Melody (1963)
The Righteous Brothers – Unchained Melody (1965)
Boots Randolph – Unchained Melody (1967)
Elvis Presley – Unchained Melody (1977)
Kenny Rogers – Unchained Melody (1977)
Willie Nelson – Unchained Melody (1978)
U2 – Unchained Melody (1989)
Clarence Gatemouth Brown – Unchained Melody (1995)

todd_duncanIt takes something special to record a song that had been recorded many times and been a hit for various artists, and in the process appropriate it in the public consciousness. The Righteous Brothers did so with Unchained Melody, a song that made its public debut as a theme in the otherwise forgotten 1955 movie Unchained (hence the song”s cryptic title), sung on the soundtrack by the African-American singer Todd Duncan (pictured), the original Porgy in the 1935 production of Porgy & Bess, who died at 95 in 1998 (the last surviving original cast member, Anne Brown, who played Bess, died a few months ago at the age of 96). Duncan was also a professor of voice at Harvard. I”m afraid the poor quality clip I”m posting here is the best I could find (thanks to my friend Walter).

The song was written by Alex North and Hy Zaret (whose mother knew him as William Starrat). The story goes that the young Hy, in an episode of unrequited love, had written the lyrics as a poem, which North set to music in 1936. The yet nameless song was offered to Bing Crosby, who turned it down. Thereafter it sat on the shelves until almost two decades later North was scoring Unchained, a prison drama, which in a small role featured the jazz legend Dexter Gordon, at the time jailed for heroin possession at the prison which served as the movie”s set. Unchained Melody received an Oscar nomination (Love Is A Many Splendored Thing won) “” the first of 14 unsuccessful nominations for North, who eventually was given a lifetime achievement award.

ray hamiltonDuncan”s version went nowhere, but the song was a US top 10 hit for three artists in 1955: Les Baxter, in an instrumental version, and vocal interpretations by Al Hibbler and Roy Hamilton, with Hibbler”s becoming the best known version for the next decade. In June the same year,  singer Jimmy Young took the song to the top of the British charts, the first of four times the song was a UK #1 (the other chart-toppers were the Righteous Brothers, Robson & Jerome, and Gareth Gates).

Ten years later, the Righteous Brothers” recorded it, produced by Bill Medley (though some dispute that) with Bobby Hatfield”s magnificent vocals, and released on Spector”s Philles label. With so many versions preceding the Righteous Brothers” take, one can only speculate which one, if any, provided the primary inspiration. I would not be surprised to learn that Hatfield drew at least something from Gene Vincent”s vocals in the 1957 version, which oddly omits the chorus.

As so often, the classic started out as a b-side, in this case to the Gerry Goffin & Carole King song Hung On You, which Spector produced. To Spector”s chagrin, DJs flipped the record and Unchained Melody (which had no producer credit on the label) became the big hit, reaching #4 in the US.

righteous_brothersIn 1990 Unchained Melody enjoyed a massive revival thanks to the most famous scene in the film Ghost, featuring Patrick Swayze (R.I.P.) and Demi Moore playing with clay. The song went to #1 in Britain, and would have done likewise in the US had there not been two Righteous Brothers” versions in the charts at the same time. The owners of the 1965 recording underestimated the demand for the song and failed to re-issue it in large quantity. Medley and Hatfield took the gap by recording a new version, which sold very well. Since the US charts are based on sales and airplay, the 1965 version charted in the Top 10 on strength of the latter, while the reformed Righteous Brothers reached the Top 20.

Unchained Melody represents another footnote in music history: it was the last (or second last, sources vary) song ever sung on stage by Elvis Presley. And fans of the Scorsese film GoodFellas may recognise the doo wop recording of the song by Vito and the Salutations.

Also recorded by: June Valli (1955), Jimmy Young (1955), Cab Calloway (1955), Chet Atkins (1955), The Crew Cuts (1955), Harry Belafonte (1957), Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps (1957), Ricky Nelson (1958), Andy Williams (1959), Earl Bostic (1959), Sam Cooke (1960), The Blackwells (1960), Ray Conniff (1960), The Browns (1960), Charlie Rich (1960), Merri Gail (1960), Marty Robbins (1961), Cliff Richard (1961), Floyd Cramer (1962), Duane Eddy (1962), Conway Twitty (1962), Steve Alaimo (1962), Les Chaussettes Noires (as Les enchaînés, 1962), The Lettermen (1962), Frank Ifield (1963), Vito & the Salutations (1963), Johnny De Little (1963), Matt Monro (1964), Anne Murray (1964), Bobby Vinton (1964), Brenda Holloway (1964), Sonny & Cher (1965), Dionne Warwick (1965), The Wailers (1966), Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles (1966), The Supremes (1966), The Englishmen (1967), The Caretakers (1967), Robert Gennari (1967), Igor Mann e I Gormanni (as Senza catene, 1968), Roy Orbison (1968), The Sweet Inspirations (1968), David Garrick (1968), Jimmy Scott (1969), The Platters (1969), Waylon Jennings (1970), The New Overlanders (1970), Dean Reed (1971), Blue Haze (1972), Al Green (1973), Donny Osmond (1973), James Last (1974), Bamses Venner (as En forunderlig melodi, 1975), Greyhound (1975), The Stylistics (1976), Kenny Rogers (1977), Paris Connection (1978), Willie Nelson (1978), Clem Curtis (1979), George Benson (1979), Heart (1980), Will Tura (as Oh My Love, 1980), Magazine 60 (1981), Gerry & The Pacemakers (1981), Joni Mitchell (1982), Bill Hurley (1982), Manhattan Transfer (1984), Leo Sayer (1985), U2 (1989), Maurice Jarre (1990), Ronnie McDowell (1991), Richard Clayderman (1992), Dread Zeppelin (1993), Captain & Tennille (1995), Michael Chapdelaine (1995), Al Green (1995), Clarence Gatemouth Brown (1995), Robson & Jerome (1995), Melanie (1996), Günther Neefs (1997), LeAnn Rimes (1997), Joe Lyn Turner (1997), David Osborne (1998), Neil Diamond (1998), Mythos ‘n DJ Cosmo (1999), Gareth Gates (2002), Justin Guarini (2003), Marshall & Alexander (2003), Bruno Cuomo (2003), Cyndi Lauper (2003), Jan Keizer (2004), Il Divo (2005), Joseph Williams (2006), Barry Manilow (2006), Damien Leith (2006), David Phelps (2008), Johnny Hallyday & Joss Stone (2008), Carrie Underwood (2008) a.o.

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More Originals

Twattery in Pop: Bono

March 29th, 2009 18 comments

It appears that there still are some U2 fans out there ““ including the reviews staff of the increasingly irrelevant Rolling Stone which saw fit to praise an album which even die-hard U2istas have virtually disowned. Hell, I bet even Johnny Drama hates it. Mr Agreeable certainly did. But my objection to U2 resides not with the music, shocking though the new single is. Even in the more recent U2 catalogue, there are some songs which I like, such as City Of Blinding Lights or Vertigo. No, my particular problem with U2, apart from their tax-dodging, is that Bono is  intolerable.

I once was a devoted U2 fan. In the summer of 1985, I saw them live three times on three successive weekends in three countries. My bedroom was plastered with huge promotional posters for U2 records and gigs. I had all their singles in their original sleeves, in various editions. I bought the Under A Blood Red Sky Bono jacket with the sleeves cut off (I was too embarrassed to wear it in public though). But even then I knew that Bono was a bit of a prat, though the full extent of his twattery would reveal itself only later. We did get a clue of it when U2 cheerfully broke municipal law by playing an inner city rooftop concert “” the first time ever an act had done that, probably! “” for the Where The Streets Have No Name video, with no regard to the traffic chaos they were causing (anyone who knows the frustration of being stuick in a traffic jam you can’t get out of will empathise with the poor motorists affected by U2’s arrogance). Confronted by law enforcement officials, Bono played the martyr. The chaotic defiance we witnessed in the video was all smart editing, of course. Bono and his chums obediently packed up the moment the LAPD told them to.

Bono in Twatland, 1987

Bono in Twatland, 1987

Once Bono had come to rule the world”s stadia (on the back of the rather overrated Joshua Tree album), and his group traded earnesty for what they mistook for “irony”, he became even more insufferable. And we slowly got to know the real character of the salad tosser so admired by TIME magazine and their ilk, and so despised by many right-thinking people. Most disagreeable was Bono”s duet with Frank Sinatra on the latter”s final cash-in outing. In I”ve Got You Under My Skin, the simpering fuckwit changes the lyrics in an embarrassing show of star-struck insinuation, crooning: “Don”t you know, Blue Eyes, you never can win.” You see, Bono is on intimate terms with the legendary Sinatra (himself a price goon), so much so that he feels entitled to address him intimately by “¦ his media nickname. You just know, beyond a doubt know, that at some point the fawning fuck did that I”m-not-worthy bowing routine to Sinatra (who doubtless thought: “You got that right, Jack”). How do we know? Because Bono does that crap to any overhyped media sensation that comes his way.

Blair and Geldof come to blows over Africa.

Blair and Geldof come to blows over Africa.

At the best of times, all that “” the coloured shades, the embarrassing posturing and the smug, fake self-deprecation “” would be very annoying but borderline tolerable. It”s Bono’s pompous delusion that he, and the other greasy Irishman, are doing any good in their caped crusades in the diplomatic milieu. Their fancy is not only inappropriate but also deleterious. The objection resides not in the notion that Bono and the ghoulish Bob Geldof administer diplomatic fellatio to the likes of George W Bush, who grant them an audience only because they think they”re down with the kids when being seen with superannuated rock stars. It is the notion that Bono and Geldof believe they are being taken seriously as they are doing so, cheered on by a toadying press. Of course they are not being taken seriously. Would you buy a used peace from Bono the Clown? In his orange shades? Would you agree in principle on any proposal peddled by somebody looking (and sounding, when he manages to extricate Dubya”s testicles from his big gob) like Bob Geldof? Let me put it closer to home: would you want your child to be taught by people like Bono or Geldof? Would you let your conscience be formed by a pair of obsolete classclowns? If not, why should The Man?

The caption competition is now open.

The caption competition is now open.

But if they were teachers, at least they”d act with a mandate. When they represent Africa, they act without a mandate. I cannot think of any African leader who appreciates the lobbying these bozos are presently doing on the continent”s behalf. Except maybe by Mandela, in exchange for a generous donation to his mammoth charity which believes that people like Annie Lennox are still relevant. But, just to be clear, Bono and Geldof do not represent Africa. In no way, in no form. If anything, their self-congratulatory hobby of hobnobbing with pols harms Africa. Bono and Geldof are part of the problem. The Man pats these obeisant puppies on their heads, making soothing sounds so that they stop their ineffectual yapping and continue to do what they have always done: exploit Africa while making mealy-mouthed voices.

Does the tax-dodging Bono not realise how racist it is for him to think that an artistically bankrupt pop star going by his childhood nickname in blue or orange shades can do a better job of engaging and negotiating for Africa than Africans themselves? Bono and Geldof are trivialising and misrepresenting Africa. Not that the patron saint of smug is willing to face that reality.

I fear that I have failed here to summarise the full extent of Bono”s twattery. The music author Dave Marsh does so with much greater refinement and asperity than I have in his hugely entertaining article on Rock & Rap Confidential (get the follow-up by subscribing to the newsletter on rockrap@aol.com), which I discovered through the good offices of The Hits Just Keep Coming blog.

U2 were lacking edge

U2 were lacking edge

Still, there”s the music. So here is some U2. Two of them live recordings, one my favourite post-Joshua Tree U2 song (and probably Johnny Drama’s); the other a quite entertaining performance of Dancing Queen in Stockholm in 1992, accompanied by Benny Anderson and Björn Ulvaeus (and doesn’t Bono say “We’re not worthy”, the predictable cliché merchant).

Then there is an example of U2 at their most horrible, doing an entirely misconceived version of Cole Porter’s Night And Day “” on an album that was intended to be in tribute of Porter. Cole, as Bono would doubtless call Mr Porter, would have been aghast. After Sinatra had changed the word “darling” to “baby” on Night And Day, Porter once told him not to record his songs if he felt the need to mess with the lyrics!

U2 – City Of Blinding Lights (live in Brooklyn).mp3
U2 – Dancing Queen (live).mp3
U2 – Night And Day.mp3

Richard Cheese – Sunday Bloody Sunday.mp3

Categories: Twattery in Pop Tags: ,

Music for Bloggers Vol 2

August 7th, 2007 2 comments

Here is the second installment of my favourite blogs (and a couple of bloggish websites). Again, my apologies if someone feels ignored — they may well feature next time.

Fullundie
I might be easily impressed, but as a ’60s and ’70s soul fan, I am constantly blown away by Fullundie’s collection of soul albums from the era, many of which were already difficult to find when LPs could still be bought at record shops. Fullundie is a goldmine. Here’s one of my favourite ’70s soul songs (just noticed that I forgot to correct the filename. Sloppy! It’s correct in the ID tag):
The Five Stairsteps – Ooh Child.mp3

Mr Agreeable
British music writer David Stubbs is a genius. His site is not really a blog, but a collection of incisive articles and pure comedy. The Reaper is particularly brilliant, slaying sacred cows with asinine wit and knife-sharp logic. Also check out his Match Reports of England’s football games as written from the perspective of an old aristocratic xenophobe who believes that Britannia ruling the waves is the natural order as ordained by God (doubtlessly an Englishman of noble birth himself). Read a Mr Agreeable invective to make sense of my choice of song.
Martha Wainwright – Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole.mp3

Greatest Films
Not a blog, but possibly my all-time favourite non-music site. I discovered it a decade or so ago, when it was still in its infancy, and delighted in the detailed scene-by-scene synopses, with liberal quotes from dialogue, of the classic movies I loved “” and many I had not yet seen. And all that illustrated with the relevant movie posters. Today the site is legendary, as it deserves to be, with even Roger Ebert bigging it up (pity about the pop-ups though). I e-mailed webmaster Tim Dirks a few times back in the day, and he was very friendly indeed. And from my joint favourite film of all time, Singing In The Rain:
Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor & Debbie Reynolds – Good Morning.mp3

Peanut’s Playground
The Peanut and I like much of the same kind of music. That means that when I check out Peanut’s Playground, I find that I already have most of the music on offer (which is just as well, because the Peanut puts it all on Rapidshare, which hates me). The fun is in reading the blog, with all sorts of diverting features, such as the Top 25 Albums of all time kind of lists and the new “The Movie of My Life”s Soundtrack“ gig. And I really like the design. The Playground pals have voted their 25 top albums of all time, getting some things terribly wrong (I mean, is Arcade Fire’s Funeral really the best album ever?). Each to their own, of course. In my view, Pet Sounds, Abbey Road and The Queen Is Dead are the only albums which would even have a sniff at the top 100. Since everybody ought to own Abbey Road already, here’s a cover version of a track from that album.
Peter Tosh – Here Come The Sun.mp3

Just Good Tunes
I love the eclectic, sticking-it-to-the-taste-police attitude of this album blog. The man doesn’t say much, but lets the music speak for itself. Look at the collection on page 1: Steely Dan, Bjork, Dr Seuss, Journey, Miles Davis, Cindy Lauper, and later a character called Slim Dusty, who seems to be a C&W singer. JGT likes Donovan, as do I. Therefore, here’s my favourite song by the Glaswegian troubadour.
Donovan – Atlantis.mp3

Csíkszereda Musings
Andy H is an Englishman who lives in Csíkszereda, on the fringes of Romania, as one does. His blog reflects on life in Csíkszereda, where broccoli is a recent addition to culinary delights, but where Dijon mustard remains conspicuously absent from the deli shelves. Sounds mundane? Not as Andy introduces us to life in Csíkszereda. I doubt that Andy is a massive Lisa Loeb fan, but he does support Sheffield Wednesday, so…
Lisa Loeb – Waiting For Wednesday.mp3

Mulberry Panda 96
There are movie sites I which read for the essential information “” did a movie receive good reviews; who’s in it etc “” and there are movie sites I read to be entertained. I have found few of the latter that have hit the spot, but Mulberry Panda 96 strikes the right note, with a bit of a light touch and lack of pretension. Here is the greatest song from a movie in this decade (or, indeed, many others), by Stephen Trask.
Hedwig & the Angry Inch – Wig In A Box.mp3

The Black Hole
Liz will not speak to me ever again if I don’t show her blog some love. Not a blog for grand manifestos, yet in its totally The Black Hole amounts to a grand manifesto via smart Oceanian slogans at the end of most posts. I imagine that every morning, Liz’s computer asks: “So, Liz, what are we going to do today?” And Liz replies: “Same as we do every day…” Liz loves U2 and hates ABBA (a deplorable inversion of good taste), so what better dedication than this:
U2 – Dancing Queen (live).mp3

SecretLove
Pure dude got it bad, falling in love with someone he shouldn’t have (ha, no, I won’t put up that song). So he guides us through his emotions through the medium of song lyrics and poetry. Even if not every lyric and all the poems are a Shakespeare sonnet, they express SLs emotions sincerely. And all of us who have had their hearts broken by love hat couldn’t or wouldn’t be can totally empathise. This song breaks my heart:
Jem – Flying High.mp3

Hot Chicks With Douchebags
I follow this blog, guiltily, for stuff like the pic on the right, with the Oompa Prompa in pink (who I’m sure is a lovely guy, but if he walked down your road, how would you react?). It’s a pretty mean spirited site, really, but some of these guys”¦what are these girls doing with them (unlike the hapless Oompa Prompa, there are some proper sleazeballs on that site)? At the same time, look at some of the girls, and wonder what the douchebags are doing with them. Anyway, for a bit of vindictive laughter at douchebags who pull beautiful girls like we nice guys couldn’t, this blog is sweet, and often very funny, revenge.
Joe Jackson – Is She Really Going Out With Him.mp3

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).