Archive for January, 2013

TV Themes: The Office (UK)

January 31st, 2013 5 comments

Ricky Gervais is a funny man. His stand-up shows always include a few memorable gags (usually the most outrageous ones, such as the Schindler”s List masturbation story), and his hosting stints of the Golden Globes were triumphal “” his introduction of Ashton Kutcher as Bruce Willis” son might be my second favourite awards show moment ever, after David Niven and the streaker.  Alas, his TV shows have been a tale of diminishing returns, most annoyingly his gratuitous bullying of Karl Pilkington on the horribly titled An Idiot Abroad. His new show, Derek, debuted in Britain last night; perhaps it will arrest the downward spiral.

Gervais is indeed a funny guy. But his masterpiece was predicated on pathos. Gervais” conception, in script and portrayal, of The Office“s David Brent, an unfunny man who thinks he is funny, was perceptive and nuanced. He kept Brent recognisable and believable, stepping back from the temptation of exaggeration for comedic effect which stains lesser comedies. Brent never becomes a caricature.

In a comedy of embarrassment, Brent”s serial buffoonery was the easy part. But Gervais invested in the character a depth which makes you root for him, almost despite yourself “” and you applaud him when he finally tells his “friend” Finchy what one day Pilkington might well tell Gervais.

David Brent earns his staff's approval with his rendition of Free Love Freeway (with Martin Freeman and Mackenzie Crook).

Occasionally Brent surprises by living up to his own hype. In the fourth episode in Season 1, Brent revealed that he once was in a band: Foregone Conclusion, for whom Scottish band Texas opened (but could Texas run a successful branch of a paper merchants?). He fetches his guitar and we expect the worse, squirming in anticipation. It turns out that the song he plays, Free Love Freeway, is rather good. Well, the melody is good. But, in Brent fashion, he undoes all the good work with the most banal lyrics of  sexism (“which I hate”)  to muddled cliché, from “pretty girl on the hood of a Cadillac”Â  to the incongruously weeping cowboy.

In the 2003 Christmas special, which brings The Office to a conclusion, we learn that after being fired by Wernham Hogg, Brent released a single. Typically, he puts what is good second: Free Love Freeway is the b-side; the a-side is a mediocre cover of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes” If You Don”t Know Me By Now. His interpretation is hackneyed, unoriginal and abjectly sung (those ad libs; those groans!), when the relegated b-side is so much better. And the video is hilariously bad (watch it here). In real life, Free Love Freeway received a rehabilitation, of sorts, when Oasis” goon Noel Gallagher recorded it with Gervais.

Gervais actually started in show business not as a comedian, but as a musician. He was half of the successless but not entirely awful New Romantic duo Seona Dancing, who split after releasing just two singles in 1983, experiencing the dizzy heights of reaching #79 in the UK charts once.


The theme of The Office was an instrumental of the song Handbags And Gladrags , arranged by Big George Webley, a session musician and writer of many TV themes, who died at the age of 53 in May 2011.

Big George had previously been the bassist of Paul Young”s Q-Tips. For the sung closing credits version he roped in the singer of a band called Waysted (a lazy pun which Brent would thoroughly enjoy) going by the terminally snappy moniker Fin, who had replaced Young in the Q-Tips. His vocal performance makes this one of my favourite versions of Handbags And Gladrags.

The song, best known in the version by Rod Stewart, was written by former Manfred Mann singer Mike D”Abo and first recorded by Chris Farlow in 1967 (D”Abo recorded it in 1970).

Two files here: one of stuff from The Office, the other the four songs by Seona Dancing. PW in comments.

The Office – Opening Theme
Big George Webley (feat Fin) – Handbags And Gladrags (The Office closing theme)
Ricky Gervais & Noel Gallagher – Free Love Freeway
David Brent – If You Don’t Know Me By Now
Songs from Season 1 Episode 4:
David Brent – Free Love Freeway
David Brent – Starman
David Brent – Goodnight Sweet Princess


The cover of Seona Dancing’s Bitter Heart; Gervais in sailor cap.

Bitter Heart
Tell Her
More To Lose
You’re On My Side


Passwords in the comments section. On the subject, some dick took the trouble to comment that he thinks passwords are for 12-year-olds. The reason for using passwords, in fact, is to protect files from overzealous deletion. Dick said he won’t be back, and my heart is obviously shattered by the knowledge of that, but I’m afraid the passwords must remain, even if they complicate things a little, for you as well as for me.


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Any Major London Vol. 1

January 24th, 2013 21 comments

A couple of years ago I posted a series of CD-R mixes comprising songs set in or about New York. This is the first in a series of mixes of songs set in or about London. I think there are four or five mixes in it — your reaction will guide me. I’ll try not to pick the most obvious songs, and no artist should feature more than once (sorry, The Kinks!).

Here and there, songs will come from surprising sources. Hall & Oates, for example, are not immediate candidates for London songs, nor is Glen Campbell. For Jane Birkin, who made her name as an artist and actress in the French scene, her London song is a sort of homecoming, with lyrics by Rufus Wainwright (whose dad turns up eight songs later) and guitar by Johnny Marr.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and home-stewed covers are included. PW in comments.

1. Thames TV – Start-Up Sound (1968)
2. Glen Campbell – London (I’m Coming To See You) (1974)
3. Elvis Costello – London’s Brilliant Parade (1994)
4. Everything But The Girl – Oxford Street (1988)
5. Aztec Camera – Get Outta London (1990)
6. Josh Rouse – London Bridges (2007)
7. Michelle Featherstone – Camden Town (2009)
8. Jane Birkin – Waterloo Station (2006)
9. The Boo Radleys – Blue Room In Archway (1998)
10. Saint Etienne – London Belongs To Me (1991)
11. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Brompton Oratory (1997)
12. Hall & Oates – London Luck And Love (1976)
13. Linda Lewis – Hampstead Way (1971)
14. Ralph McTell – Kew Gardens (1969)
15. Nick Drake – Mayfair (1968)
16. Loudon Wainwright III – Primrose Hill (1997)
17. Jimmy MacCarthy – Missing You (1991)
18. The Pogues – Lullaby Of London (1988)
19. The Jam – Down In The Tube Station At Midnight (1978)
20. XTC – Towers Of London (1980)
21. Nick Heyward – Traffic In Fleet Street (1988)
22. Nouvelle Vague – Guns Of Brixton (2004)
23. David Arnold & Michael Price – Theme of Sherlock (2010)



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Free e-Book of A Brief History of Country

January 17th, 2013 19 comments

I have brought my History of Country series under one roof, with a few edits, in an illustrated eBook (well, a booklet, really) in PDF format, titled A Brief History of Country.

Please feel free to pass it on in good conscience or to link to it on your website: while I assert my copyright for the text, the eBook is completely free. The more people read it and, I hope, gain enough of an understanding of the genre so that they will never call it “Country & Western” again, or say “yee haw, pardner”, the more they will appreciate the wealth of country.


Download A Brief History of Country eBook


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A History of Country series



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Any Major Soul 1967

January 10th, 2013 6 comments

And in our series of soul through the 1960s we arrive in 1967, when Southern Soul was still going strong (and King Curtis provides the recipe) and Motown was about to hit its highest heights.

Many artists here are well-known: Four Tops, Carla Thomas, Wilson Pickett (represented with the original of I’m In Love, written by Bobby Womack and recorded to great effect by Aretha Franklin in 1974), Gladys Knight & the Pips, Joe Tex (whose Show Me was release in 1966 but became a hit in 1967), Aretha Franklin, Dee Dee Warwick, Isley Brothers, Lee Dorsey etc.

Others are more or less forgotten or always were pretty obscure. So I know very little about Appolas, other than they recorded some great music. Ila Vann should have been a big star; she worked with the likes of Sam Cooke and Louis Armstrong and recorded a string of fine singles, but success eluded her. Still, Ila is stil performing today.

J.J. Jackson was a songwriter and arranger for Brother Jack McDuff, Jimmy Witherspoon, The Shangri-Las and The Pretty Things. Now 70, he seems to still perform. The Soul Brothers Six actually were five brothers, named Armstrong. The sixth member of the moniker was not a brother, but singer John Ellison, who wrote their Some Kind Of Wonderful (not to be confused with the Drifters song written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin).

Barbara Lynn is not only a singer and songwriter, but also a guitarist. She toyred with some of the brightest names in soul and pop, including Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, James Brown, Al Green and Marvin Gaye.

Jeanne & The Darlings were an Arkansas gospel outfit that recorded as backing singers on Stax. Led by Jeanne Dolphus, they released six singles on Volt (whose label design is one of my favourites), of which their answer to Sam & Dave, written by Isaac Hayes and David Porter, was the second. Alas, none of the singles were hits, but Jeanne ha remained in the music business, and has passed the torch on to her daughters.

This mix features a song by Chuck Jackson, who in 1962 recorded the original version of Bacharach/David’s Any Day Now, covered on this mix by Carla Thomas.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes home-brewed covers. PW in comments.

1. King Curtis & The Kingpins – Memphis Soul Stew
2. Joe Tex – Show Me
3. Bunny Sigler – Let The Good Times Roll
4. Appolas – Seven Days
5. Aretha Franklin – Save Me
6. Wilson Pickett – I’m In Love
7. The Isley Brothers – That’s The Way Love Is
8. Chuck Jackson – Good Things Come To Those Who Wait
9. Lee Dorsey & Betty Harris – Love Lots Of Lovin’
10. Laura Lee – Dirty Man
11. Carla Thomas – Any Day Now
12. Freddie Scott – Where Were You
13. Barbara Lynn – You’ll Lose A Good Thing
14. Mable John – I’m A Big Girl Now
15. Ila Vann – Got To Get To Jim Johnson
16. Jeanne & The Darlings – Soul Girl
17. Brenton Wood – Baby You Got It
18. Gladys Knight & The Pips – You Don’t Love Me No More
19. Dee Dee Warwick – Do It With All Your Heart
20. Tammi Terrell – I Can’t Believe You Love Me
21. Brenda Holloway – Just Look What You’ve Done
22. Linda Carr – Everytime
23. Fantastic Four – I Don’t Wanna Live Without Your Love
24. Jay & the Techniques – Stronger Than Dirt
25. J.J. Jackson – Sho’ Nuff (Got A Good Thing Going)
26. Soul Brothers Six – Some Kind Of Wonderful
27. Lou Courtney – The Man Is Lonely
28. Four Tops – I’ll Turn To Stone
29. Little Anthony and the Imperials – My Love Is A Rainbow


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Notable music deaths of 2012

January 7th, 2013 2 comments

2012 is done and dusted “” except for the award shows. At the Grammys, the only part that still pleases me is the section in which the past year’s music dead are commemorated to the backing of some sad music, possibly performed by some goon with excess of gravity. Though, given my monthly In Memoriam update, that section holds few surprises for me, but all the more surprises at inexplicable omissions.

Here, then, are the most notable deaths in the past year, in my view, sorted by category in leagues of five. These categories include one for most influential people, the Movers & Shakers, who left for the great recording studio in the sky. If the Grammys contrive to omit any of these then they ought to shut shop. Read more…

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In Memoriam – December 2012

January 3rd, 2013 2 comments

The Grim Reaper had a busy December. The headlines went to Ravi Shankar and Dave Brubeck, but the month also claimed two of the 1960s more unjustly overlooked female soul singers, Fontella Bass and Marva Whitney.

Hal Schaefer, who has died at 87, might have been a fine musician, but his greatest fame resides in the “Wrong Door Affair”. Google this quite amazing story involving Schaefer and Marilyn Monroe, whose vocal coach he was, Joe DiMaggio, Frank Sinatra, private detective Barney Ruditsky and a wrong address. Schaefer was also vocal coach for Mitzi Gaynor, Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland.

Gil Friesen was the business chief of A&M Records where co-founder Herb Alpert took care of the artistic side, and Jerry Moss of promotion. He was the taxi driver Read more…

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