Archive for June, 2008

Music for Bloggers Vol. 6

June 27th, 2008 3 comments

I last bigged up some fellow bloggers two months ago. So I thought I’d showcase a few more today. I made a shortlist, which soon turned into a very long list. I managed to whittle the lot down to 11. But that is too much to handle in the little free time I have right now. So, five now, and the rest within the next couple of weeks. As always, just because your blog has not featured does not mean I don’t love you (and two of those I’m holding over have a long-standing friendship with this blog).

my hmphs
Most bloggers who write about music tend to illustrate their posts with MP3 files. I like those blogs a lot, and the attentive reader of my little effort here might have spotted that I do exactly that myself (I do realise that everybody comes here to read every word I write, hanging on each with rapt attention…). my hmphs is one blog that offers nothing by way of music, other than the occasional embedded YouTube video (which my browser seems to hate). The blog started as a reaction to possibly the most objectionable pop hit in all of history: Black Eyed Peas’ My Humps. If people embrace that sort of crap, the idea went, then it is necessary that people with an appreciation of music contribute to the counterrevolution by discussing alternatives. The owner of my hmphs does so engagingly, almost invariably finding subject matter I can relate to. And I really like the clean layout. To celebrate the purpose of my hmphs, here’s a credible artist doing a (admittedly very good) song by a pop starlet who has little credibility. Check the Death Cab For Cutie singer telling the sniggering crowd that he isn’t taking the piss but “fucking love(s) this song”.
Ben Gibbard – Complicated.mp3

Visions Of Wrong Terrence
Disclaimer: I “know” Wrong Terrence from the Interweb; he posts on a message board I occasionally lurk on. So I am very familiar with his random musings on all manner of things, and the quality of his spontaneously cobbled together stories. I am a great fan, as I intend to demonstrate. He has just relaunched his blog (which for months lay dormant with four forlorn posts), and at the moment there is only one post. But what a fine post it is: it’s funny, self-deprecating and tells a good story. This is Wrong Terrence’s strength: he can tell a good story even when the subject matter is mundane. That is the mark of a really good writer. Alas, he does not write professionally. Lack of desire or talent are not the problem here. Forests the size of Belgium are denuded every day to provide the paper on which dull, dull, dull hacks spout forth their half-baked thoughts in poor prose. It is a scandal that the public is presented with so much rubbish when genuinely original, talented and hugely entertaining writers such as Wrong Terrence is roaming free. Most editors are obviously idiots. If I edited a newspaper in the right environment, I’d immediately appoint Wring Terrence to write a regular column. And I’m not saying so because I “know” the guy, or like to engage in self-righteous hyperbole. Judge for yourself. Wrong Terrence’s name isn’t actually Terrence (if you are an editor and want to give him a job, e-mail me and I’ll give you his name). Real Ter(r)ences in the world of entertainment have included Spike Milligan, Matt Monro, Mark Wynter, Terry Kath and Snowy White, the guitar-wielding ex-Thin Lizzy man who scored a hit in 1984 with this:
Snowy White – Bird Of Paradise.mp3

Don’t Burn The Day Away
Stephen of Don’t Burn The Day Away shares two passions with me: he likes early Billy Joel (we are amassing an army to defeat the Taste Police) and he has an affinity for songs that feature flutes. He even agrees with me that Josh Rouse’s James possibly has the best flute in pop history. I had long planned to do a post on flutes in pop; Stephen beat me to it with a promise of a follow up. So I’ll defer the flute beat to him. The man is talking sense: “You may think of the flute as similar to the Cowbell, but we all know we need more cowbell, so why not the flute?” And to celebrate the flute in pop, here’s another kick-ass example of the excellent use of the instrument — and a song everybody should own — from 1975′ Midnight Band: The First Minute Of A New Day (and, oddly, not on the masterful album with the same songtitle).
Gil Scott-Heron – Winter In America.mp3

Mine For Life
Blogger Fiftypercent decribes himself as “just a guy who likes music”. He can write about it as well, and has introduced a few brilliant ideas on his blog — and posts some difficult to find material. In my favourite feature on the blog, Fiftypercent presents the singles reviews from Britain’s Number 1 teen-pop magazine in the mid-80s, posting as many of the tracks featured as he can find. The vacuousness of the reviews makes for fantastic entertainment; especially when these half-brained critics dismiss songs that would become hits, or big-up songs which flopped horribly (of course, a great many fine singles have flopped despite their excellence). Much of the stuff here is ’80s oriented, which is heaven for the nostalgist who remembers that the decade was not just about Culture Club, Madonna and Come On Eileen… Fiftypercent’s latest post is about Alphaville’s Forever Young and the quite acceptable cover of the song by Australia’s Youth Group. He posts the Youth Group version; here’s the original:
Alphaville – Forever Young.mp3

3 Minutes 49 Seconds
A blog named after the perfect running time for a pop record, or something. The blog’s owner, Paul Allen, is a veteran of the blogging thing, having launched 3:49 in November 2003. At that point I was not even conscious of the blogging revolution. I stumbled over Paul’s blog by accident: I was looking for a review of some album or other (I think it was the new Counting Crows album), liked what I read, looked around, found a fine entry on Ben Folds, and read some more. This year Paul has gone through reviews of Beatles albums, listed 12 essential tracks by Weezer and Jay-Z, and wrote a totally spot-on review of Kathleen Edwards’ excellent new CD (which I mentioned in the On Current Rotation post). Like my hmphs, 3:49 offers no MP3s; but the reading material more than compensates for that. Like a couple of blogs previously featured in this series, Paul writes from Minnesota. There must be something in the cold air over there. Guess how long this song is:
Boomtown Rats – Diamond Smiles.mp3

Previously featured:
Music For Bloggers Vol. 1: Totally Fuzzy, Not Rock On, Serenity Now (RIP), Stay At Home Indie Pop, The Late Greats, Tsururadio, 200percent, Jefitoblog (RIP), Television Without Pity, Michael’s World
Music For Bloggers Vol. 2: Fullundie, Mr Agreeable, Greatest Films, Peanut’s Playground, Just Good Tunes, Csíkszereda Musings, Mulberry Panda, The Black Hole, Secret Love, Hot Chicks With Douchebags
Music For Bloggers Vol. 3: Girl On A Train, Maybe We Ain’t That Young Anymore, Earbleedingcountry, Spangly Princess, Ill Folks, Deacon Blues, One-Man Publisher, CD Rated
Music For Bloggers Vol. 4: Pop Dose, Todger Talk, Holy Goof (RIP), Echoes In The Wind, Sunset Over Slawit, The Hits Just Keep Coming, The Ghost of Electricity, Guitariotabs
Music For Bloggers Vol. 5: The Quietus, Barely Awake In Frog Pyamas, The Great Vinyl Meltdown, Fusion 45, Inveresk Street Ingrate, The Songs That People Sing

The Beatles – Alone Again (1975)

June 26th, 2008 2 comments

Continuing our journey in the alternate universe in which the Beatles did not break up, we reach the year 1975. As three years earlier, the four members brought their songs together for another double album. Of course, our four friends had grown musically; solo projects and collaborations with other big names had amplified each member”s distinctive style ““ except, perhaps, for Ringo. But even he chipped in with a number he had co-written (with Vini Poncia), All By Myself (in real life, Lennon played the guitar on this track from Goodbye Vienna). Ringo”s other two contributions, I”m The Greatest and Photograph, were written by John and George respectively.

The most prolific writer had been Paul. Alas, some of what he brought into the studio was so bad, he would record it under the pseudonym Wings, the better to avoid soiling his good reputation (Ringo almost left the group because of Paul”s insistence to record Listen To What The Man Said. Happily). What remained, however, was some of his finest work. Let Me Roll It especially is outstanding. As Beatles tradition demanded it, this album had to include one drippy number which all the serious fans would hate but which their girlfriends would love. Hence the inclusion of My Love (which I rather like myself, being a big girl”s blouse).

John was in a dark mood: Nobody Loves You When You”re Down And Out is Lennon mired in self pity, gloriously so. But Mind Games is utterly gorgeous ““ almost a soul song — and rarely did Lennon write something as wistfully sweet as #9 Dream.

George may be under-represented here, but his tracks here are very good. With poetic justice, the often under-appreciated Harrison would boss the final Beatles album, released after John”s death, which I will post next week. As always, this mix should fit on a standard CD-R

Side 1
1. Band On The Run (Paul McCartney)
2. What You Got (John Lennon)
3. I’m The Greatest (Ringo Starr)
4. Mind Games (John Lennon)
5. Let Me Roll It (Paul McCartney)

Side 2
6. Give Me Love (George Harrison)
7. #9 Dream (John Lennon)
8. You (George Harrison)
9. Photograph (Ringo Starr)
10.Jet (Paul McCartney)

Side 3
11. Little Lamb Dragonfly (Paul McCartney)
12. Nobody Loves You When You’re Down (John Lennon)
13. One Day At A Time (John Lennon)
14. My Love (Paul McCartney)

Side 4
15. Letting Go (Paul McCartney)
16. Dark Horse (George Harrison)
17. All By Myself (Ringo Starr)
18. Junior’s Farm (Paul McCartney)
19. Whatever Gets You Thru’ The Night (John Lennon)


Categories: Beatles, Mix CD-Rs Tags:

On current rotation – June

June 24th, 2008 1 comment

I’m not sure if 2008 is turning out to be a good year for music or not. A year ago, new releases by Wilco, Rosie Thomas, Bright Eyes and Brandi Carlile had me very excited. Sky Blue Sky turned out to be my album of the year, and I will be listening to it for many years to come. I’m not sure I’ve yet discovered my album of 2008, even though there are some albums I really like. But, none as much as Wilco’s last year. Here are tracks from some of 2008’s albums I’m enjoying very much, to go with the previous rotation, which featured Tift Merrit, whose effort may well be my album of the year so far, with Kathleen Edwards and the Weepies in the mix.

Jay Brennan – At First Sight.mp3
Jay Brennan – Half-Boyfriend.mp3
Jay Brennan – Housewife.mp3 (all three direct download links)
To start off, three tracks from an exciting new artist in the genre of “guys with guitars named like schoolteachers”. The alternative title for the genre would be singer-songwriter, but that has become a bit of a dirty word (unjustly so). I am sharing the above tracks at the invitation of Jay Brannan’s record company, where he is stablemates with the absolutely wonderful Rosie Thomas. And Brannan does channel the Thomas/Damien Jurado/Sufjan Stevens vibe, right down to the engaging lyrics which ask you to pay attention (just listen to Housewife ““ video here). His debut album, goddamned, will be released on July 1. I’m looking forward to hear more of Brannan’s songs; on evidence of these three songs, it could well be contender for my year-end list.

The Weepies – All Good Things.mp3
The Weepies – Can’t Go Back Now.mp3
I have bigged up the Weepies since I started this blog. The new album, Hideaway, came out in April, and has been on regular rotation ever since I got hold of it. It’s one of those albums I play when I survey my music, and have no idea what I fancy; the default go-to album de jour. The Weepies ““ Deb Talan and Steve Tannen ““ have produced a richer sound than previously without straying too far from their acoustic roots. This is a very warm album; I sort of imagine it like having good coffee and freshly baked waffles on a sunny Saturday morning.

Kathleen Edwards – I Make The Dough, You Get The Glory.mp3
I featured Kathleen Edwards (and Deb Talan) in the Songbirds series. So I was really looking forward to her new album, Asking For Flowers. At the first listen, I was a little disappointed. Second, third listen…same. I was about to write off the album when Indie Pop Ian virtually instructed me to give it a few more chances. Seeing as he is a man of refined taste who shares my love for the Songbirds, I did. And, boy, was he right, and I wrong. This is a mesmerising album with fantastic lyrics and a great bent. Forgive me, Kathleen, for doubting you. Come December, this may well be in the top 3 of my albums of the year.

Weezer – Heart Songs.mp3
Some say Weezer are living off the greatness of two albums they made in the ’90s. I think that’s a little harsh. The last set was, in my view, pretty good (Perfect Situation is a top notch song). So I approached the new album with hope, and some trepidation. Because Weezer albums can be quite poor, too. The new album, nicknamed the Red Album, falls in between the two extremes. There are a few tracks that beg to be skipped, and others that are a joy. I particularly like Heart Songs, in which Rivers Cuomo tabulates all the artists who influenced him, from childhood to stardom: Gordon Lightfoot, Eddie Rabbitt, Springsteen, Grover Washington, Abba, Devo, Quiet Riot, Judas Priest and so on ““ though I think he might be confusing Debbie Gibson with Tiffany…

Death Cab For Cutie – Talking Bird.mp3
And yet another album I had been looking forward to. I was gratified to read The Quietus giving it a positive review (more surprisingly, The Quietus didn’t rip the new Coldplay album to shreds, as I had expected and, indeed, hoped). Death Cabs’ Narrow Stairs is a fine, richly textured album which rewards repeated listens. It satisfies my occasional desire for a Death Cab fix ““ for now. The rub is this: Narrow Stairs does not have the stand-out tracks of 2005’s Plans (I’ll Follow You Into The Dark, Soul Meets Body), and as an Indie symphony does not quite reach 2002’s Transatlanticism‘s lofty level. So I wonder if in, say, three years time, I will listen to Narrow Stairs instead of these two albums (or, indeed, some of the earlier ones, such as We Have the Facts And We’re Voting Yes from 2000). Maybe it’s too early to say: I will continue to play Narrow Stairs in the hope that it will lodge itself permanently in my head. It just might.

Neil Diamond – Act Like A Man.mp3
The regular reader will know that I hold Neil Diamond in high esteem. His early phase marks him out as a giant in songwriting. I can do without his Streisand-duetting period, but in 2005 he released the quite wonderful 12 Songs, produced by Rick Rubin (who did such fantastic work with Johnny Cash on his American series). Diamond has teamed up again with Rubin on Home Before Dark. Where 12 Songs was a whisper, the new album sounds more like early Neil Diamond, albeit without the stadium singalong stompers like Sweet Caroline. Act Like A Man is one of the tracks that recall the raw Diamond of old. There are a couple of songs on the new album that fail to hit the spot, but most of it is a solid and very listenable.

Micah P. Hinson – Throw The Stone.mp3
I played this album with Any Minor Dude sitting next to me (playing a football manager game). He looked up from guiding Manchester United to greater glories and pointed out that he liked what he was hearing: Micah P. Hinson and the Red Empire Orchestra (Any Minor Dude also endorsed Jay Brannan, by the way). Sounds like Johnny Cash, he said. And he is quite right, of course. In fact, throw in Nick Cave and Steve Earle, and you have Hinson’s sound. The album is coming out in mid-July, so I trust that the buzz is going to build. This album deserves it.

The Beatles – Alone (1972)

June 22nd, 2008 11 comments

Suspend your disbelief. Imagine, if you will, that the harmonious recording of the Abbey Road album had served to reignite the amity between the four Beatles. Linda and Yoko became firm friends; George was finally accepted as an equal; Ringo was delighted with all of this and decided that being a Beatle was better than being famous for having been one. Apple Inc. was running well, and a manager in shining armour appeared on the scene.

For the purpose of this scenario, we acknowledge that the various members had solo aspirations (George and John had already issued solo albums before the release of Let It Be in 1970, Paul released one a week after announcing the Beatles” disbandment). To accommodate these, the four decided that the band would take off two years, and in 1972 re-assembled to record an album together. By now, John had given peace a chance and from the backseat of his chauffeur-driven white Rolls imagined all the people having no possessions, Macca had given Ireland back to the Irish, and George had recycled the music of early “˜60s girlbands. Even Ringo had recorded an album of standards, presaging the strategy of young-and-upcoming Rod Stewart by three decades. Paul was especially touched by John”s thoughtful song wishing for a resolution to his old friend”s insomnia problems. And so the Fab Four brought into the studio the songs they had accumulated for their 13th album. They would release two more albums, in 1976 and shortly after John”s death in 1980.

So here is the first of three mixes which suppose how Beatles albums released in the 1970s might have sounded; this compilation pseudo-dated December 1972. One of these songs might in fact have become a real Beatles track: Lennon”s Jealous Guy had been written for the White Album, but with different lyrics. Originally called Child Of Nature, Lennon continued to play it during the sessions which resulted in the Let It Be album (known as the Get Back sessions). Eventually he dumped the flower-child lyrics, wrote the self-flagellating ode which we know today, and released it on Imagine in 1971.

Of course, not all tracks sound like Beatles songs as we know them. Hi Hi Hi, which opens this compilation but was the last to be released before the cut-off date, certainly has the Wings sound. As we reunite the Beatles in our imagination, we must allow for musical growth and changing sounds. It”s easy to forget that only two years passed between With The Beatles and Rubber Soul, and also just two years between Help and Sgt Pepper”s. And yet, it”s easy to conceive of Lennon”s Crippled Inside, Harrison”s What Is Life or McCartney”s excellent Maybe I”m Amazed appearing on, say, the White Album.

As always, this mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R. The next two mixes will; go up over the coming couple of weeks.

1. Hi Hi Hi (Paul McCartney)
2. Instant Karma (John Lennon)
3. Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey (Paul McCartney)
4. What Is Life (George Harrison)
5. Jealous Guy (John Lennon)
6. Another Day (Paul McCartney)
7. Love (John Lennon)
8. It Don’t Come Easy (Ringo Starr)
9. Maybe I’m Amazed (Paul McCartney)
10. Ballad Of Sir Frankie Crisp (George Harrison)
11. Working Class Hero ((John Lennon)
12. Mother (John Lennon)
13. If Not For You (George Harrison)
14. The Back Seat Of My Car (Paul McCartney)
15. Crippled Inside (John Lennon)
16. Oh My Love (John Lennon)
17. Isn’t It A Pity (George Harrison)
18. Gimme Some Truth (John Lennon)
19. Wild Life (Paul McCartney)
20. Back Off Bugaloo (Ringo Starr)

DOWNLOAD (New link)

Albums of the Year: 1972

June 20th, 2008 No comments

In September 1972 I started school, so I didn’t know any of these albums at the time (in contrast to many of the hit singles of that year). Over time, music from all eras has accumulated in my collection, making it possible to compile top 10s for almost every year (though I would struggle to do so for some years in the “90s). For 1972, it could have been a top 20 of albums I genuinely love. I have chosen my top 10, leaving behind great albums by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Kris Kristofferson, Al Green, Neil Young, The Spinners, Billy Paul, Neil Diamond, the O’Jays, Bobby Womack, Nilsson, the Crusaders, and Donny Hathaway & Roberta Flack. As always, this is not a list of the year”s “best” releases, but my subjective choice of ten most favourite albums (which tomorrow might well read differently).

1. David Bowie – The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust …
I believe this was the first album from 1972 I ever bought, around 1979. I think it was hearing Starman which persuaded me to buy it. So Ziggy Stardust sits at number 1 as much for nostalgic reasons as it does for my actual enjoyment of it (and it remains my favourite Bowie album by a mile). Oh, but it is all pure gold from the moment the stylus/laser/WinAmp-start-button hits on Five Years. The b-side starts off with two relatively underwhelming tracks (I actually really dislike Lady Stardust), but I challenge you to point me to an album that closes with three songs as mind-bogglingly brilliant as those on Ziggy Stardust: Mick Ronson”s fantastic opening riff of Ziggy Stardust, the mania of Suffragette City (“Oh, wam bam, thank you ma”m”), the resigned drama and possible redemption of Rock “n Roll Suicide. Ziggy Stardust is, obviously, a concept album, with Bowie going as far as personifying the fictional Ziggy, giving him life (and making peole mourn for Ziggy when Dave dumped the costume). The concept”s execution is genius. The threads of the concept are neither too tightly woven, nor too loosely. The album provides a coherent narrative ““ giving listeners ample room to flesh out the story in their own minds ““ and yet every song can be taken out of the context of the story, and make sense on its own.
David Bowie – Starman.mp3
David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust (demo).mp3

2. Donny Hathaway – Live
Alas, Donny Hathaway. If popular music had patron saints in the ways of the Catholic Church, Hathaway could be the patron saint for depressives. Depression ““ clinical depression, the kind one cannot “snap out of”, as some idiots like to suggest to those suffering from it ““ killed Donny”s promising career, and ultimately, in January 1979, the man himself (if one discounts the speculation about foul play). Hathaway was a gifted songwriter and a brilliant interpreter of other people”s songs. Here, only two songs are co-written by Hathaway; the rest are covers, but he makes them his own. Opener What”s Going On very nearly eclipses Marvin Gaye”s original, and Lennon”s Jealous Guy (like What”s Going On then just released) ought to have dissuaded Bryan Ferry from crooning it after Lennon”s murder. Hathaway was among the slew of early “70s soul singers who gave articulation to life in the ghetto. On this set, there are two songs featuring the word: the affecting Little Ghetto Boy, and The Ghetto, a Latino-funk workout that at more than 12 minutes doubles its original running time on Donny”s impressive 1970 debut, Everything Is Everything. Live is worth getting just for that rendition, which has the crowd going absolutely crazy (and which Justin Timberlake definitely has heard before). After the sweaty funk explosion of The Ghetto, Hathaway slows things down a bit, creating a kind of warm intimacy which rarely translates from the stage on to record. I might have included in this post Hathaway”s album of duets with Roberta Flack as well; instead I”ll recycle the best song from that LP.
Donny Hathaway – The Ghetto.mp3
Donny Hathaway & Roberta Flack – Be Real Black For Me.mp3

3. Carpenters – A Song For You
Sometimes one has favourite albums on the basis of one side only. Steely Dan”s Pretzel Logic is one of them; A Song For You is another. Look at the tacklisting of the a-side: A Song For You, Top Of The World, Hurting Each Other, It’s Gonna Take Some Time, Goodbye To Love. That is one side of pure greatest hits material (actually, I think most or all did appear on the Carpenters” singles album a year later). With an side 1 like that, one need not flip the record over. Unlike Pretzel Logic, however, the flipside is very good, with the lovely I Won”t Last A Day Without You and the sweetly forlorn Road Ode standing out. All that is undermined by Richard’s lithping interludes. Still, it”s the first side one always returns to, immersed in the sweet sounds until the siblings announce the bathroom break. Perhaps that is so because these songs are so well known. One looks forward to the little touches: the lovely rendition of Leon Russell”s title track (done better, incidentally, by Donny Hathaway) with its saxophone solo; the pain in Karen”s phrasing in Hurting Each Other (“tearing-each-other-apaaart”), the fuzz guitar solo in Goodbye To Love; the admirable flute solo (yay!) on It”s Going To Take Some Time. Get three of the songs from this album and more Carpenters stuff (plus Hathaway”s version of Song For You) here.
Carpenters – It”s Going To Take Some Time.mp3

4. Steely Dan – Can”t Buy A Thrill
The eagle-eyed music experts among readers of this blog might have sensed that I have an affinity for Steely Dan, but that affinity finds full expression only periodically. I must be in the right mood to hear their music; exposed to it in the wrong mood, and I might even resent them. Can”t Buy A Thrill is the only Dan album I can listen to at any time (I suspect my trouble with the Dan has partly to do with Fagen”s voice, which I sometimes love and at other times cannot stand; on this album Donald shares the lead vocals with the soon-ousted David Palmer). Fagen and Becker”s debut is their most accessible album, and as such is often recommended as an entry point to the Steely Dan canon. I’d rather expose the Dan novice to the first side of Pretzel Logic or The Royal Scam, because Can”t Buy A Thrill might set up false expectations. This album is a compilation of what would become the jazz-tinged Dan sound (Do It Again, Kings, Fire In The Hole, Turn That Heartbeat Over Again) and West Coast rock (Reelin” In The Years, Dirty Work), which would soon be abandoned. Some tracks fall right between these styles: the fantastic Only A Fool Would Say That, Midnite Cruiser, Change Of The Guard, Brooklyn (the latter brilliantly lacing the soft-rock with hints country, jazz and soul). Or maybe the nascent Dan fan should be introduced to the band with Can”t Buy A Thrill. It is an astonishing debut album, inventive and self-assured, packed with instant classics. From here, it must be a joy to discover how the sound developed.
Steely Dan – Brooklyn.mp3
Steely Dan – Reelin’ In The Years.mp3

5. John Denver – Rocky Mountain High
I suspect that not many people bought both Steely Dan (or Hathaway or Steely Dan) and John Denver in 1972. To be honest, John Denver is a recent discovery for me. To me, he always was the corny muppet with the blond hair and round glasses singing granny-friendly music. Then the great Echoes In The Wind blog posted Denver”s 1970 Whose Garden Was This album. When Whiteray bigs up the unexpected, I”m willing to listen. To cut a long story short, I”ve fallen for John Denver”s early-period music, and none more so than Rocky Mountain High, with its title track which demands the use of the cliché “achingly beautiful” (which I won”t use) and the equally lovely Goodbye Again. I know that Darcy Farrow is a cover version (Denver did a lot of those), but I don”t think I”ve ever heard an version other than Denver”s. In his hands it is just fine (though I can imagine a rougher country singer doing great things with the song). The guitar instrumental that starts the Season Suite has the approval of guitar-playing Any Minor Dude. The biggest surprise on the album is Denver”s take on the Beatles” Mother”s Nature Son. Denver recorded a fair number of Beatles songs; some of these interpretations are OK, a few less so. His version of Mother Nature”s Son, in my view, is better than the original; something I say about very few covers of Beatles songs. Alas, the album also includes the track which anticipates Denver”s descent into muppetdom: the sickly For Baby (For Bobbie), which features ““ for fuck”s sake ““ a children”s choir.
John Denver – Rocky Mountain High.mp3

6. Curtis Mayfield – Superfly
It”s a shame that the cinema of the early “70s which recorded the African-American experience and were soundtracked by some kick-ass hot funk have been lumped together as “blaxploitation”, acquiring a hackneyed reputation. In that regrettable calculation, Shaft, a good movie which traded in cliché, equals Superfly, which was more social critique than action (the karate chops were really a nod to crowdpleasing). Both, of course, had classic funk tracks as their theme ““ but only one was remade with the oh-so-fucking-too-cool-for-skool goon Samuel Jackson in the lead (I don”t like Samuel Jackson much, as you might have gathered). Mayfield”s soundtrack played a starring role in Superfly; rarely has a film theme been so tightly integrated into a movie. Where the movie is ambivalent about the pushermen ““ blaming society, not personal ethics, for their nasty trade ““ Curtis” lyrics betray little sympathy for the eponymous dealer, while at the same time not moralising either. Indeed, No Thing On Me (in my view the album”s best track) repudiates the need for drugs, “my life”s a natural high, the man can’t put no thing on me” (sure is funky). And this was the strength of Mayfield”s social lyrics: the recurring notion of empowering one”s self to effect change or to escape destruction. Sometimes Mayfield would spell out what needed to be changed, or what self-destructive threats were present (here, for example, on the cautionary Freddie’s Dead). Crucially, Mayfield did neither sermonise nor, unlike Marvin Gaye, come over all hippie. Superfly, movie and soundtrack, has been cited as being hugely influential on Gangsta Rap. If that is true, then it is regrettable that this influence did not extend to the incorporation of Curtis Mayfield”s thoughtful methods of observation and engagement.
Curtis Mayfield – No Thing On Me (Cocaine Song).mp3

7. Big Star – #1 Record

Rarely has an LP been as spectacularly misnamed as this. #1 Record was a flop when it was released, mainly due to poor promotion by the record company. Perhaps Big Star”s mature power pop simply was not of its time “” it was the day of the Partridge Family, Fat Elvis, prog rockers and folk singers. Indeed, much of #1 Record could well have been recorded by Indie acts in the “90s ““ or even the day before yesterday. Big Star would break up after another album and only then attained cult status. Their influence on later acts is evident. I would not be shocked to read a customer review on, applying the lazy (and often inaccurate) “if you like the Lemonheads, you”ll definitely like this” routine. But, guess what, I do like the Lemonheads and I like Big Star (and, of course, Evan Dando covered Big Star on the Empire Records soundtrack). There is no poor track on #1 Record, but, truth be told, also few essential classics. There is, however, one song every human being should know and fall in love with irredeemably: The Ballad Of El Goodo, with its marvellous chorus: “There ain”t no one goin” to turn me around”.
Big Star – The Ballad Of El Goodo.mp3

8. Nick Drake – Pink Moon
Nick Drake is the John Kennedy Toole of music. Like the author”s masterpiece Confederacy Of Dunces, Drake”s three beautiful albums found no audience during their creator”s lifetime. Only after their respective suicides did Toole”s book and Drake”s music find success and cult status. Pink Moon was Drake”s final album before his 1974 suicide (often attributed to depression linked to his commercial failure; perhaps Drake can co-chair the patronage I have already assigned to Donny Hathaway). Drake recorded the album in two sessions lasting two hours each. This, and the album”s sparseness (symbolised by almost half the song titles being single words; no title is longer than four words), lend Pink Moon an immediacy; yet it is in many ways less accessible than Drake”s two previous LPs. It’s necessary to listen to Pink Moon several times before the depth of the album”s sad beauty reveals itself fully. It is not quite a masterpiece, but despite its flaws it becomes easy to love thanks to Drake”s gentle voice and his quite excellent guitar work.
Nick Drake – Pink Moon.mp3

9. Van Morrison – Saint Dominic”s Preview
St Dominic”s Preview is not my favourite Morrison album by any stretch; when in the mood for some Van, I”m more likely to put on Moondance or Tupelo Honey. But when I do play it, I”m invariably delighted with it. Saint Dominic”s is not packed with hits; only Jackie Wilson Said is well-known. All the more the joy at hearing Morrison material that has not been overplayed (and, hell, I have come to hate Brown Eyed Girl by now). The long, intense Listen To The Lion is the album”s centrepiece. A one point Van”s goes for a bizarre impression of a stoned lion doing an imitation of an inebriated buffoon”s insensitive mimicking of a gibbering idiot. It is strangely captivating. The listener who sits through all that (or makes use of the skip button/playlist editor) will be rewarded with a great double-whammy of songs which should have been huge: the great country-blues-rock title track and the very lovely Redwood Tree.
Van Morrison – Saint Dominic”s Preview.mp3

10. Lou Reed – Transformer
I am not a particularly big fan of Lou Reed (I don’t get him much of the time), but there is one recording of his which is something like my musical Rosebud: a live performance at New York”s Bottom Line Club which was broadcast in full on northern Germany”s NDR2 radio in about 1980, and which I taped. I don”t think it”s the gig immortalised on the much-maligned Take No Prisoner album; the broadcast concert actually sounded great. Or perhaps I just remember it being so. And why am I mentioning it here when I’m supposed to discuss Transformer? Well, it”s here for the big tracks: Take A Walk On The Wild Side, Perfect Day, Vicious (a rather shameless rip-off of Wild Thing), Andy”s Chest, and especially the glorious Satellite Of Love. These more than compensate for the guff on the album, of which there is quite a bit. Since Ziggy Stardust tops this list, it seems necessary to mention that Transformer was produced by David Bowie and features Mick Ronson on guitar.
Lou Reed – Satellite Of Love.mp3

Beatles – Album tracks and B-Sides Vol. 2

June 17th, 2008 4 comments

This is the 1967-70 mix of Beatles b-sides and album tracks (and in one case a demo). The running order is roughly in the order in which the songs were recorded. While in the first mix that was not much of a problem — the Beatles would often release songs within a couple of weeks of recording them — it is a bit of a problem with tracks that came out after Sgt. Pepper’s. Most glaringly, here tracks from Let It Be, released in 1970, precede those from Abbey Road, which was recorded after but released before the final album. Likewise, tracks from Yellow Submarine (released in 1969) precede those from the White Album (released in 1968).

A final anomaly, and useful piece of trivia: the final track, Harrison’s gorgeous I Me Mine, is on Let It Be but appears in this mix last. That is because it was the last song the Beatles ever recorded. What happened is this: during the filming of the Let It Be documentary, the Beatles are seen playing around with the song, but they never actually recorded it. When the film did include the I Me Mine sequence, George, Paul and Ringo hurried to the studios in early January 1970, and recorded it for inclusion on the soundtrack. By then John had already left the band, albeit unofficially. Paul’s announcement of the split on 10 April 1970 merely formalised the end of the Beatles.

The rules my able assistantand I set precluded the inclusion of songs that featured on the Blue Album. Here we find two exceptions: the original version of Across The Universe, recorded for a World Wildlife Fund charity album and featuring the backing vocals of two female fans who had been loitering outside the studio; and Don’t Let Me Down, represented here in its demo form, with much ad libbing, from the Let It Be…Naked album. Actually, the inclusion of Revolution #1 is a third exception. On the Blue Album we have the hard rock version (in which Lennon no longer prevaricates about destruction — you can count him out); this version is the slower, bouncier incarnation. Besides that, the White Album (actually titled The Beatles) was a rich mine for album tracks. A good case could be made for re-sequencing the double album, cutting out all the rubbish and avoiding such disasters as Revolution #9 rendering side 4 unlistenable (point of fact, Any Minor Dude digs Revolution #9).

1. Getting Better
2. She’s Leaving Home
3. Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite!
4. Baby You’re A Rich Man
5. All Together Now
6. Across The Universe (original version)
7. Hey Bulldog
8. Revolution #1
9. Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey
10. Sexy Sadie
11. Dear Prudence
12. Cry Baby Cry
13. Helter Skelter
14. Happiness Is A Warm Gun
15. Long, Long, Long
16. I’m So Tired
17. Don’t Let Me Down
18. Two Of Us
19. I’ve Got A Feeling
20. Dig A Pony
21. Because
22. Oh! Darling
23. Golden Slumbers
24. Carry That Weight
25. The End
26. I Me Mine


Categories: Beatles, Mix CD-Rs Tags: ,

Albums of the Year: 1987

June 11th, 2008 No comments

Some time ago I started a series of my favourite albums of the year, starting with round-ups of the ’50s and the years 1960-65. It was a good idea, but the prospect of choosing ten albums from 1966 and writing about them somehow put me off. So I procrastinated in continuing the series. Then, this morning, it hit me: why the compulsion to follow the years in a rigorously tidy chronology? Surely I won’t receive a flood of complaints if I focus on random years. So we’ll continue the long dormant series with a random year, inspired by the album I was playing in the car as I had my brainwave, and which tops the list. A few caveats: these lists represent my top 10 of albums in terms of my own enjoyment and/or the nostalgic bonds they represent. Greatest hits type compilations are not considered (else New Order’s Substance album would have featured). And, no, I never liked The Joshua Tree much, by 1987 I was past my Depeche Mode phase, and never owned Actually.

1. The Jesus And Mary Chain – Darklands
Somewhere I read the Jesus And Mary Chain’s 1985 aptly named debut Psychocandy described as the Beach Boys being played by vacuum cleaners, or a notion to that effect. The description is spot on: the rather lovely tunes struggled to be heard above the feedback. It sounded great, but somehow one wondered how great JAMC might be with a cleaner sound. Two years later the Reid brothers switched off the vacuum cleaner and, Hoover be praised, produced that clean sound. Listen to Cherry Came Too: you can imagine it being sung by the Beach Boys back in the day. Indeed, the Reid boys wore their influences with ease. The dark Nine Million Rainy Days pays homage, wittingly or not, to the Stones’ Sympathy To The Devil. Closing track About You could have been sung by Nico and the Velvet Underground. The title track channels Berlin-era Bowie (but is much better than that). Yet, they could not be accused of plagiarism, as Oasis would be later. The whole thing incorporates earlier sounds without compromising the JAMC’s originality. Two decades later, the album still sounds fresh and exciting. A forgotten classic.
The Jesus And Mary Chain – Darklands.mp3
The Jesus And Mary Chain – Nine Million Rainy Days.mp3

2. Prince – Sign O’ The Times
There probably is a critical consensus that Sign O’ The Times is the best album of 1987. There is indeed much to be admired. The music is great, of course. Provided one is in the mood for it, because it can be a bit tedious. Let it play on a non-Prince day — and surely everybody but the most devoted Prince fan has these — and the whole thing has the capacity to irritate. It is not a pop masterpiece like Purple Rain; SOTT demands that you to listen it, and forgive its trespasses, especially the flab (oh, but if you condensed it down to a single album, which tracks would you cut?). SOTT is to Prince what the White Album was to the Beatles: despite the flaws that tend to be a by product of innovation, a masterpiece.
Prince – Sign O’ The Times.mp3
Prince – Starfish And Coffee.mp3

3. The Smiths – Strangeways Here We Come
A year earlier, the Smiths had released their ageless opus, The Queen Is Dead. Now Morrissey, Marr and chums themselves delivered their swansong. It was not necessarily their finest hour: lead single Girlfriend In A Coma is a lightweight novelty number, presaging Morrissey’s solo career that is riddled with similar witless doggerels. It was a bizarre choice for a single. I submit that Unhappy Birthday might have become a big cult hit on the back of its wonderfully vicious lyrics. A Rush And A Push… and the oppressive Death Of A Disco Dancer are excellent, and Last Night I Dreamt Somebody Loved Me is one of the most affecting songs in a canon jam-packed with such things. The line “Oh mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head” is emotionally exhausting. It is a great piece of sequencing that this track, a throw-back to the self-pity years, is preceded — at least on the CD, for Last Night… opens side 2 — by a song called Stop Me If You Think That You’ve Heard This One Before.
The Smiths – Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Love Me.mp3

4. Alexander O’Neal – Hearsay
When ’80s soul became unfashionable, O’Neal became something of a reject emblem for the out-of-favour genre. It was rather unfair on the man. He made some classy soul music in his time, thanks to his effortlessly expressive voice and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis’ sparkling funk-soul-pop arrangements. Hearsay is a concept album, with dialogue intros preceding each song (they tend to grate once the novelty has worn off). The first side is the going-to-a-party section with great funk tracks such as Fake and Criticise, on the flip side things mellow down a bit, though the thing continues to groove, as on the gorgeous duet with the frequent collaborator Cherelle, Never Knew Love Like This. This is one of the great soul albums of the ’80s. Why would anyone want to dismiss Alexander O’Neal? Little known fact: O’Neal was the singer of a group called the Flyte Tyme (with Jam and Lewis). The group was signed to Prince’s Paisley Park label, but after a dispute with His Tiny Highness, O’Neal left the group, which hired one Morris Day and renamed itself The Time, providing the baddy foil to Prince’s flawed hero in Purple Rain.
Alexander O’Neal – Criticise.mp3

5. Lloyd Cole & the Commotions – Mainstream
In a comment to a post in which I featured Lloyd Cole’s best song, Rattlesnakes, Rol from the fine Sunset Over Slawit blog wrote that he “could live inside” that song. I know exactly what he means. Likewise, I could spend a lost weekend (with or without a brand-new friend) in Cole’s Mainstream album. Lloyd’s final album with the Commotions, it did less well than its two predecessors. This is a pity, because — and this may be fighting talk — it is in some ways even better than the debut, Rattlesnakes, and most certainly superior to the sophomore album, Easy Pieces. On Mainstream, Cole and his increasingly distant friends returned to the guitar-based sound of the debut. Lyrically, Cole seemed to be at war with himself, his band and the world. On the side two opener he prnounced himself Mr Malcontent, and on the excellent From The Hip, he declared that he doesn’t care anymore. Oh, but he did. There are a couple of commitment songs, notably Jennifer She Said. That line “her name on you…Jennifer in blue” is a regular earworm, sometimes supplanted by the repetitious “that’s forever she said…”.
Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – From The Hip.mp3

6. Basia – Time And Tide
There is a very good reason why this jazz-pop singer goes by her Christian name. Basia Trzetrzelewska (try saying that after a few pints of finest Hevelius) provided the splendid three-octave female voice on Matt Bianco’s first LP. While I rather enjoyed Matt Bianco, their Get Out Of Your Lazy Bed song used to irritate me when I was still a notorious morning grump. There was nothing aggravating about her 1987 solo debut, a finely judged collection of Latin-tinged jazz-pop which could with ease move the twinkletoed to the dancefloor to do the samba (or its Capetonian cousin, the jazz). The title track and Promises received fairly wide exposure, and are indeed the strongest numbers on the album. But the entire set is strong, with the possible exception of Prime Time TV and How Dare You. Check out songs such as New Day For You or Astrud.
Basia – New Day For You.mp3

7. The Housemartins – The People Who Grinned Themselves To Death
Like an Indie-pop supernova, the Housemartins burnt out after two albums. It probably was just as well: the überanorak shtick was going to get them only so far. So bassplayer Norman Cook became a DJ and then Fat Boy Slim; singer Paul Heaton and replacement drummer Dave Hemingway formed the Beautiful South. Before going their own way, our Marxist-Christian pals left us with a maddeningly uneven yet rather enjoyable album, the title of which was a reference to the royal family. By now the political consciousness started to mingle uneasily with the wackiness. What at first was endearing started to irritate. The single Five Get Overexcited, catchy jangly guitar pop with a message about superficiality though it was, had annoying lrics (“I am mad from Scandinavia, I want a guy in the London area. He must be crazy and Sagittaurus, ’cause I am Leo and I’m hilarious”). Conversely, a serious song about the rotten class-system like Me And The Farmer fails to convey its message thanks to a happy melody (and a very silly video). The People Who… is at its strongest when things are allowed to calm down a bit. And so the stand-out tracks are the quieter Build and The Light Is Always Green. As an opponent of apartheid, I particularly appreciated the inclusion of Johannesburg, although the Housemartins deviation towards jazz was less welcome.
The Housemartins – The People Who Grinned Themselves To Death.mp3

8. Wet Wet Wet – Popped In Souled Out
This may be one of the most unjustly disrespected albums of the ’80s. I cannot understand why Wet Wet Wet have such a poor reputation. Is it because they were initially marketed as the teenybopper group they never could be (I mean, Marti Pellow was good looking, but the drummer and the little one are hardly dreamy heartthtrobs)? Is it because that song from a Hugh Grant movie was so ubiquitous? Was it the name? The answer is beyond me, but it surely cannot have been the music on the Scottish band’s debut album. This is high-quality blue-eyed soul, made by people who clearly understand the genre. The sound draws from ’60s pop and ’70s soul, and Pellow’s vocals settle for a fine balance between soul technique and pop delivery. The songs are very catchy. Strings swell, but never in a corny way. The lyrics aren’t Tom Waits or Patti Smith, but they remain on the right side of pop banality (and sometimes they are pretty good). What, I beg you, is there not to like here?
Wet Wet Wet – Wishing I Was Lucky.mp3

9. INXS – Kick
Let the record reflect that I had no time for INXS before Kick, and none after. And yet, I love this album. It is the most accessible INXS album; the slew of hits that emanated from it testifies to that. It is also their least self-conscious album; Hutchence lets it hang out like Jagger and actually seems to be enjoying himself. On Need You Tonight, Hutchence is sex personified. When he sings “Your moves are so raw, I’ve got to let you know…I’ve got to let you know: you’re one of my kind”, he is having hot ‘n sweaty sex. With you (well, if you happen to be listening to it). I can happily live without a few tracks from Kick, such as opener Guns In The Sky or Calling All Nations, but for all their exposure, I am never unhappy to hear Devil Inside, Never Tear Us Apart, Mediate, New Sensation, Mystify or the song on which Hutchence is having sex with us.
INXS – Need You Tonight.mp3

10. Johnny Clegg & Savuka – Third World Child
I like Johnny Clegg. I like it that an English-born Jewish boy would defy apartheid, which was predicated not only on the separation of races but also of cultures, and assimilate with Zulu culture but not lose the awareness that he could never be a fully-fledged Zulu. His affinity with the Zulu culture is sincere, as was evident in his previous group, Juluka. When Juluka colleague Sipho Mchunu left the group, Clegg founded Savuka. His new group continued in the Juluka tradition; in concerts the setlist included most Juluka classics and the old dance routines with the highkicks. Third World Child was more commercial and polished than Juluka, possibly consciously so as to appeal to the fans of Paul Simon’s Graceland. It was a better album for it, I think. One has the direct comparison of Scatterlings Of Africa, a Juluka single in 1982 and re-recorded by Savuka for this album. The latter version is marginally better. At times Third World Child, like everything Clegg does, is a little too earnest, and sometimes it seems Clegg got bored with an idea before completing its development. But, goodness, when it’s good, it really is great. Apart from Scatterlings, the stand-out tracks are Great Heart and the great anti-apartheid song dedicated to the then still jailed Nelson Mandela, Asimbonanga, with its moving litany of activists who were murdered by the regime.
Johnny Clegg & Savuka – Asimbonanga.mp3

Previously featured:

Beatles – Album tracks and B-Sides Vol. 1

June 10th, 2008 10 comments

My nephews, aged 18 and 16, surprised me over Christmas by suddenly taking an interest in the Beatles, after years of my futile attempts to prod them in that direction. The catalyst for them was the Love album of remixes and mash-ups, which I found interesting rather than exciting. Their favourite tune, played ad nauseam, was Hey Jude; a typical portal kind of songs for people starting to get into the Beatles (and one I am sick of hearing). Soon after they watched the film Across The Universe, and that deepened their interest in the Beatles (on the soundtrack, bloody Bono sings I Am The Walrus, the utterly predictable tosser). Others have been turned on to the Beatles by the entirely redundant 1 collection a few years ago.

So, if one plans to introduce a newcomer to the Beatles oeuvre, my suggestion would be to give them the red and blue albums, both excellent departure points for a Beatles journey. But these clearly cannot suffice. Ideally, one might then give such a nascent Beatles fan a few of the essential albums. But that might be overwhelming (and, to be honest, the White Album contains much off-putting crap among the obvious diamonds). With this in mind, my son and I compiled two volumes of album tracks and b-sides which we think are essential. The ground rule was simple: if it appeared on the red or blue albums (and therefore on 1), it was excluded. So in away these mixes are sequels of sorts, or extensions, to the 1973 albums. For those whose Beatles collection does not go beyond the red and blue albums, our mixes will doubtless fill a big gap; perhaps one or the other song will somebody go and buy a proper Beatles album.

Even limiting the number of songs to the CD-R limit of 80 minutes was a challenge, requiring lots of debate and tough decisions (I had to give up Good Day Sunshine, Any Minor Dude had to forfeit much of Help!). The sequence of tracks follows roughly in the order in which they were recorded, rather than following a chronology of release dates. This is less an issue in the 1962-66 collection, but becomes a problem in the 1967-70 mix, since the material for Let It Be was recorded before but released after Abbey Road. That mix should go up next week.

The file includes all recording dates of songs on this mix, as well as a front and back cover in jpeg and PDF format (for easy printing out).

1. P.S. I Love You
2. Do You Want To Know A Secret
3. I Saw Her Standing There
4. It Won’t Be Long
5. I’ll Get You
6. Tell Me Why
7. This Boy
8. I Wanna Be Your Man
9. I Should Have Known Better
10. If I Fell
11. I Call Your Name
12. I’ll Be Back
13. Any Time At All
14. Things We Said Today
15. Baby’s In Black
16. I’m A Loser
17. No Reply
18. Every Little Thing
19. I’ll Follow The Sun
20. She’s A Woman
21. I Need You
22. You’re Going To Lose That Girl
23. I’m Down
24. It’s Only Love
25. I’ve Just Seen A Face
26. If I Needed Someone
27. You Won’t See Me
28. Think For Yourself
29. Tomorrow Never Knows
30. Rain
31. And Your Bird Can Sing

32. I’m Only Sleeping
33. For No One




Categories: Beatles, Mix CD-Rs Tags: ,

11 Football songs

June 5th, 2008 7 comments

To mark the start of Euro 2008 on Saturday, here are a few random football-related songs; all unrelated to Euro 2008. A couple are brilliant, some are rather interesting, and a couple are so horrible that any collector of bad music should experience ecstasy at the prospect of adding to their miscellany of horrors.

Luciano Pavarotti – Nessun Dorma.mp3
It is a cruel irony that football suddenly became hugely popular after the worst World Cup since 1962. Italia ’90 was mostly dire, a few bright exceptions such as the performances by Cameroon and West Germany apart. And in many ways the marketing explosion that followed Italia ’90 has corrupted football. I don’t know how much we can blame old Pavarotten for it, but the decision to adopt a rousing bit of opera (from Puccini’s unfinished opera Turandot) as the World Cup’s theme song surely helped persuade the snobs who previously regarded football as a sport for yobs and the working classes that it could be socially acceptable, even desirable.

Pel̩ & Gracinha РMeu Mundo ̩ Uma Bola.mp3
From the most famous tenor to the most famous football player. Normally when one thinks of football players recording music, one recoils in horror (remember Kevin Keegan’s Smokie-esque 1979 hit Head Over Heels, or Diamond Lights by Glenn & Chris, who should have insisted on being credited as Hoddle & Waddle). Not so with the greatest footballer of all time, who actually had musical talent. Old pictures from Santos or Brazil tours often show him with guitar in hand, practising some bossa nova number or other. So in 1977 he finally released a single, a duet with somebody called Gracinha. His collaborators are redoubtable: Sergio Mendes and Gerry Mulligan. It’s a fine song which in 1998 merited inclusion among the greats of the genre in a quite comprehensive compilation titled 40 Years Of Bossa Nova.

New Order – World In Motion.mp3
One would not have immediately connected the residents of the Hacienda with football culture, yet here they were, recording a theme song for England’s 1990 World Cup campaign, doubtless inspiring the team to give their best World Cup performance outside their sceptre’d isle. Since losing that 1990 semi-final on penalties, England have had a hilarious run of misadventures, usually involving penalty shoot-outs (so what were Chelsea thinking when they picked an English player to take the potentially match-winning penalty in the “Champions” “League” final?). That run of failure has reached an amusing climax with England’s failure to qualify for Euro ’08. I may be gloating, but on a personal level I feel a tinge of regret because the absence of John Terry and his pals in Switzerland and Austria also means a deprivation in the supply of the genius match reports by the great David Stubbs, writing in the character of a superannuated upperclass imperialist with a non-too-subtle bigoted bent. Read some of them here.

Die Toten Hosen – Bayern.mp3
Many followers of the English Pemier League complain about only the big four clubs having a chance of winning the league (well, three really). Spare a thought then for the German Bundesliga, where only one club dominates, the satanic incarnation that is FC Bayern München. Occasionally Bayern will have a poor season, and Werder Bremen or VfB Stuttgart get a turn to become Meister (and Schalke 04 to finish second), but you can be assured that next season Bayern will be back on top. For the past 30 years or so, Bayern have successfully followed a strategy of buying the best players from other clubs ““ not to strengthen their squad, but to weaken that of their competitors. Bayern are rightly hated by anyone who does not support them. Die Toten Hosen, Germany’s equivalent of Green Day, wrote a catchy song about that hatred. In it, the singer imagines himself as a prodigious football talent who would reject Bayern”s approaches on principle. He observes that playing for Bayern is a certain way to spoil one”s good character, and asks: “What kind of parents must one have to be so stupid as to sign a contract with that shit club”. The song fades out with an energetic chant pledging: “We would never go to FC Bayern”. It is a pity that Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose weren’t fans of Die Toten Hosen (literally, The Dead Trousers).

Sportfreunde Stiller – 54-74-90-2006.mp3
And from Munich, Sportfreunde Stiller recorded the unofficial German World Cup anthem for 2006. Catchy though it is, it”s not threatening to break into the pantheon of rock classics. But it captures the German mood during the World Cup (I was lucky to spend two weeks in Munich during that time). The numbers 54, 74, 90 refer to the years in which (West) Germany won the World Cup; 2006 expresses the hope for “a sensation” (and unfancied Germany came pretty close to cause one). The Sportfreunde ““ an old-fashioned term for the gymnastic clubs which were very much part of the German culture in the 19th century ““ rightly point out that the win in 1954 was “a miracle”, in 1974 “luck” and in ’90 “the deserved reward”. After Germany finished 3rd in 2006, the band re-recorded the song to reflect the same optimism for Germany”s success in 2010 in South Africa.

Deutsche Fußball Nationalmanschaft – Fussball ist unser Leben.mp3
I posted this opus last year, as part of the Time Travel series. At the time I wrote about it: “The World Cup 1974 song of the West German football squad. The title eschews cliché in favour of positing a theory designed to solve the ultimate philosophical conundrum, which has exercised the greatest minds throughout history. “Football is our life”. The concise simplicity of this statement must have shamed Liverpool’s legendary Bill Shankly “” the man who made famous the borrowed phrase about football being more important than life and death “” to such ends that he immediately announced his resignation, doubtlessly upon hearing the meaning of life revealed by these sons of Goethe, Schiller and Mann. The tune is crap, though.” The clumsy phrasing suggests that I wrote the paragraph in a haste and without much editing (as I often do, I must confess), but I stand by the sentiments.

442 – Come On England.mp3
The attentive reader of this blog might have noticed that I not only exhibit excellent musical taste most of the time, but am also a casual collector of shockingly bad songs. By that I don’t mean that I have a folder reserved for the likes of My Humps or My Heart Will Go On. Such songs are awful, of course, but not in a way that invites an ironic appreciation or makes your jaw drop at the audacity of somebody actually having thought it a good idea to record it (such as Crispin Glover”s breathtaking version of These Boots Are Made Fir Walking on the first mix of Singing Actors). Come On England, recorded for Englands Euro “04 campaign, falls somewhere between jawdropper and My Humps. It is a cover, of sorts, of Dexys Midnight Runners” Come On Eileen ““ a song whose reputation has suffered unduly as a result of being played “ironically” at weddings and being ripped off by purveyors of fuckbucketry such as 442. If this is the quality of music written in support of England these days, then the team”s hilarious failure to qualify for Euro “08 is not surprising and indeed welcome.

TKZee & Benni McCarthy – Shibobo.mp3
Benni McCarthy currently plays for Blackburn Rovers. His two most famous moments were the goals he scored for FC Porto in the Champions League against Manchester United, thanks to which Porto went on to knock out United and eventually win the competition. Born in Cape Town, Benni would not have listened to much township music as a kid; his social milieu would have been infused with soul/R&B, rap, jazz fusion and the sounds of the Kaapse Klopse in the city”s coloured community (it”s the designation the “mixed-race” members of that former apartheid classification tend to use; though there is still debate about its legitimacy). Somewhere along the line, McCarthy (who had just joined Ajax Amsterdam) picked up a taste for kwaito, the dance music of the townships, and teamed up in a rapping capacity with one of the biggest names in the genre, TKZee. Recorded for the World Cup ’98, Shibobo (a South African term for the football trickery known as the nutmeg) became the fastest selling South African single of all time. In downloads terms, it”s also one of the most popular songs I”ve posted.

Manchester United – Move Move Move (The Red Tribe).mp3
Manchester United – Come On You Reds.mp3
I have exercised a preferential option for Manchester United ever since I first became interested in English football, as a nine-year-old in Germany. The impulse was not gloryhunting though; I was watching highlights from a game, and the team in red was playing good football. The commentator identified the team in red as having just been promoted, so I thought they were plucky underdogs. Ah well. Oddly, it was greater fun to be a United fan before the long era of success began in the “90s; when crunching out a lucky win at Birmingham was a source of joy, not of relief. Often I wish I was a Tottenham supporter instead. I might have been one, had I not followed English football before I lived in London in the mid-80s. Living initially in Finsbury Park, Tottenham were a local team, and the first game I went to see in England was at White Heart Lane (2-2 against West Ham, Boxing Day “84). Anyway, Manchester United might be winning all manner of trophies, but they probably are never going to be in the running for a Mercury Prize. Come On You Reds, from 1994, was a collaboration with Status Quo (how uncool is that?) with all the horribleness a mix of two-chord rock and football chanting implies. Two years later, United went for a dance track which might well be the nadir of the genre with Move Move Move.

West Ham Utd – I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.mp3
Not the Michael Jackson song. West Ham might have been impressive in that game against Tottenham on Boxing Day “84, coming from 2-0 down, but soon after I heard that the slippery runway in Munich song was very popular down Boleyn Ground. So I never liked them much. But you have to admire a club that has sung the same anthem for 80 years, as West Ham have with I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles. Originally a Broadway show tune from 1918, the song was introduced to West Ham in the late 1920s in homage of a player nicknamed Bubbles, one Billy Murray. West Ham also reminds me of the times I met the Man Utd legend George Best, who used to patronise the restaurant where I was working as as waiter. One conversation I remember vividly, involving that Sunday”s game between West Ham and Man Utd. Best, who was at that game, gave me a match summary, and we both bemoaned how crap Man Utd were playing and commiserated with each other about Bryan Robson”s latest injury.

For more football-related music and Euro “08 blogging, visit the excellent 200percent blog.

Intros Quiz – 1988 Edition

June 3rd, 2008 2 comments

Another month, another quiz. As always, 20 five-second intros to popular songs from a year, this time 1988. All were single releases in Britain or the US, except one well-known song which was an album track in 1988 but was released as a single a decade and a half later. It is a bit of a classic though, so many should get it.

Some charting clues:
1. Everybody should know that one
2. ibid
3. Big dance track, #8 in the UK (#3 US dance charts)
4. #11 UK, became a big hit later in the US, I think
5. Easy
6. Top 5 UK
7. Top 10 UK, possibly not big in the US
8. Indie classic; first released in ’88, became a hit later
9. Top 5 UK, Top 10 US (I think)
10. Hit in the US, only #60 in UK, but well known
11. Top 5 UK
12. US #2, from one 1988’s biggest albums worldwide
13. UK #1 and Us #2
14. UK Top 10 by US group (US R&B #1)
15. #1in both UK and US
16. UK Top 10
17. US hit; from one the 1988’s biggest albums
18. One for the US audiences, flop in UK
19. UK Top 10
20. Well-known album track from seminal group

As always, I’ll put up the answers in the comments in a few days. If that pesky number 15 drives you crazy, feel free to e-mail me for answers.

Intros Quiz 1988

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