Any Major Jones Vol. 2

June 21st, 2018 No comments

Here are some songs about people named Jones. Like the first compilation on the theme, this mix is pretty eclectic, running from soul music to Americana to ’80s new wave to country and culminating with a couple of pretty amusing tracks from the 1930s by Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald — and all manner of stuff in between.

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

  1. The Temptations – Don’t Let The Joneses Get You Down (1969)
    What the Jones? The poor Jo-Jo-Joneses got a bad rap: “Keeping up with the Joneses, it’ll only makes your life a mess: bill collectors, tranquilizers and getting deeper in debt… So leave Jo-Jo-Joneses alone.”
  2. Nicolette Larson – Dancin’ Jones (1979)
    What the Jones? Representing the noun Jones, here’s the story of a girl who is compelled to “shake her bones” when she hears The Rolling Stones. Let’s call her Amanda.
  3. Talking Heads – Mr. Jones (1988)
    What the Jones? Mr. Jones, he is not so square, apparently. But now his pants are falling down…
  4. John Mellencamp – Case 795 (The Family) (1993)
    What the Jones? Tony Jones stabbed Alice Jones on their first anniversary down in Dallas, Texas. And now sad Tony is in court, citing mitigating circumstances. It’s a sorry tale.
  5. Ryan Bingham – Ghost Of Travelin’ Jones (2007)
    What the Jones? Disappointingly, not a ghost story. Travelin’ Jones is a metaphor for life experience…
  6. Stephen Duffy – Wednesday Jones (1985)
    What the Jones? Wednesday Jones and Stephen won’t be each others’ lover. I suspect Wednesday was put off by Duffy’s nickname, “Tin Tin”.
  7. Ocean Colour Scene – Mrs. Jones (1996)
    What the Jones? Mr. Jones, the cad, has upped and left, and now Mrs. Jones has to face the bills…
  8. The Vapors – Jimmie Jones (1981)
    What the Jones? Jimmie is a false prophet: Beware!
  9. Ray Davies – Next Door Neighbour (2006)
    What the Jones? Mr Davies has a neighbour called Jones. And another called Smith, and another called Brown. Is it a migrant-free zone where Ray lives?
  10. The Rolling Stones – Miss Amanda Jones (1967)
    What the Jones? Debutante Amanda’s gone groupie. Allegedly about 1970s disco singer Amanda Lear.
  11. The Grateful Dead – Casey Jones (1970)
    What the Jones? Stoners-in-charge have a lessons for the kids out there: Don’t do cocaine and drive a train!
  12. Clarence Carter – Willie And Laura Mae Jones (1970)
    What the Jones? Willie and Laura Mae Jones were the perfect neighbours. Then another place and another time happened… This song featured in another version on Volume 1 — can you guess the difference?
  13. Stevie Wonder – Do I Love Her (1968)
    What the Jones? Stevie declares his love for Ms Jones to her mother. But will mom approve?
  14. Van Dyke Parks – John Jones (1972)
    What the Jones? Van Dyke Parks thinks John Jones is a bit of an asshole. Do you know a John Jones?
  15. Dwight Yoakam – Floyd County (1988)
    What the Jones? A good man has died and it’s a sad day in Floyd County.
  16. Johnny Cash – Roll Call (1967)
    What the Jones? Atkins, Baker, Carter, Calahan, Clement, Johnson, Moran, McCoy, Perkins, Rivers, Revere, Stepherd, Thomas, Wilson… all fell in the mud of Vietnam. As did Jones.
  17. Buck Owens – Sweet Rosie Jones (1968)
    What the Jones? Sweet Rosie Jones left Buck for a tall dark stranger, and now spurned Buck is at the river’s edge… Don’t do it, Buck! Don’t jump!
  18. Cisco Houston – Great July Jones (1958)
    What the Jones? So big July Jones, “All muscle, meat and bones”, tries to sexually assault a woman, she beats him off, he falls in love and proposes marriages, and she tweets “#metoo, motherfucker”. Except, she doesn’t. It’s 1958, not 2018. She says yes.
  19. The McGuire Sisters – Delilah Jones (1956)
    What the Jones? “High flying flootie” gets ripped off by fraudulent loverman and pumps him full of lead.
  20. The Orioles – Deacon Jones (1950)
    What the Jones? Deacon Jones is laid out in his coffin in church, and all sorts of hi-jinx ensue. (Not to be confused with Deacon Jones, “the country’s greatest lover”, in Louis Jordan’s hit of a few years earlier.)
  21. The Mills Brothers – The Jones Boy (1954)
    What the Jones? The whole town talks about how that nice Jones boy is acting peculiar now, but there’s a reason for that (and the reason is, to be truthful, a bit unexciting).
  22. Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five – Sam Jones Done Snagged His Britches (1939)
    What the Jones? Best song title on this mix. It’s a cautionary tale about gambling, kids. So, don’t gamble. And don’t do cocaine while driving trains.
  23. King Cole Trio – Mutiny In The Nursery (1938)
    What the Jones? There’s a hell of a party going on, what with all the jitterbugging, as the kids call it. And you’ll find Miss Jenny Jones swinging lightly.
  24. Chick Webb & his Orchestra feat. Ella Fitzgerald – FDR Jones (1938)
    What the Jones? A satirical number about the large number of black families naming their children after Franklin D Roosevelt; performed three years later by Judy Garland – in blackface. Will someone do a song in orangeface about white supremacist families naming their babies after Donald J Trump?

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Not Feeling Guilty Mix Vol. 9

June 14th, 2018 4 comments

Just as I thought that I might have wrapped up the series of AOR stuff about which one need never feel guilty, I felt like putting together another mix — in fact, two, but presently I shall share the first of those; and the ninth in the series. This stuff is addictive.

Aside from an aversion to the letter G in the endin’ of a word and some really awful lyrics, the acts here share in common a knack for a good hook, and high standards of musicianship.

Some come from a jazz fusion background.  Jeff Lorber is better-known as a fusion musician; doing vocals for him here are Arnold McCuller and Sylvia St. James. McCuller is a recording artist in his own right, having released six albums, but also has prolific track record in backing vocals, including on The Jackson’s Can You Feel It and Odyssey’s Native New Yorker. He has also backed two acts that appear on this mix: Brooklyn Dreams and Stephen Bishop — and Sylvia St. James on one of her two albums.

Brooklyn Dreams had greater success as the backing outfit for Donna Summer in the late 1970s than with their own records (they wrote Bad Girls, among other songs). The trio scored two minor hits; one of them was the track featured here, which has been liberally sampled in hip hop. Lead singer Joe Esposito went on to write scores for hit movies like Flashdance and The Karate Kid; keyboardist Bruce Sodano went on to marry Donna Summer.

Featured here as The Dukes, Dominic Bugatti & Frank Musker recorded also as a duo under their own names. But they made more of a mark as songwriters. Not everything they wrote was gold: our friends wrote the 1977 UK hit Reggae Like It Used To Be (which should have had as its subtitle A White Man’s Lament) for Paul Nicholas. They wrote another track featured here, Air Supply’s Every Woman In The World.

You might not know Junior Campbell, but you likely have heard his biggest hit: Reflections Of My Life, which he co-wrote as Marmalade’s lead guitarist with singer Dean Ford (the guitar solo is by Campbell). After leaving Marmalade in 1971, he scored a couple of UK hits with Hallelujah Freedom and Sweet Illusion. He later went into producing and arranging, as well as writing scores. In the latter endeavour, he wrote prolifically for the children’s TV series Thomas The Tank Engine.

Canadian singer Craig Ruhnke didn’t really have a great rock & roll name, and he looked more like a geography teacher than a rock star. Still, Mr Ruhnke was a regular on Canada’s airwaves, and periodically troubled the country’s charts. He also enjoyed attention in Japan, as you do.  By 1983 he had founded his own independent label, from which the present track came. After a while he turned to producing music for commercials but continued to release new songs from time to time.

And if Ruhnke is not really the name to propel you to mega-stardom, the moniker Fred Knoblock is not likely to either. On the staff of Mr Ruhnke’s school, Mr Knoblock was the coach (others on the teaching body included Mesrrs. Walter Egan, James Felix, Bruce Hibbard and Stephen Bishop). Still, his name notwithstanding, Fred Knoblock has enjoyed a Top 20 hit, and his career has merited induction into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame.

As ever, CD-R length, home-yachted covers, PW in comments.

1. Far Cry – The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ (1980)
2. Jackson Browne – Somebody’s Baby (1982)
3. James Felix – Open Up (1980)
4. Boz Scaggs – Georgia (1976)
5. Brooklyn Dreams – Music Harmony & Rhythm (1977)
6. Jeff Lorber – Your Love Has Got Me (1981)
7. The Dukes – So Much In Love (1982)
8. Walter Egan with Stevie Nicks – Magnet And Steel (1980)
9. Jim Capaldi – That’s Love (1983)
10. Robbie Dupree – Free Fallin’ (1981)
11. Fonda Feingold – Feelin’ Your Love (1978)
12. Eric Tagg – A Bigger Love (1982)
13. Pablo Cruise – Atlanta June (1977)
14. Craig Ruhnke – Give Me The Nighttime (1983)
15. Stephen Bishop – Save It For A Rainy Day (1976)
16. Air Supply – Every Woman In The World (1980)
17. Junior Campbell – Highland Girl (1978)
18. Karla Bonoff – Personally (1982)
19. Fred Knoblock – It’s Over (1980)
20. Bruce Hibbard – Never Turnin’ Back (1980)

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Not Feeling Guilty Mix 1
Not Feeling Guilty Mix 2
Not Feeling Guilty Mix 3
Not Feeling Guilty Mix 4
Not Feeling Guilty Mix 5
Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 6
Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 7
Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 8

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Own Goal – The Singing Footballers

June 7th, 2018 15 comments

own_goal_1

Their goals might cause you distress, if they are scored against your team. But no torment the stars of football (or soccer, as some call it) might inflict upon you can compare to the furious torture I am unleashing with this mix of unmitigated crap. And yet, if you are football fan, you might actually want to hear it, even four years after I first posted this mix.

In fact, you should. Art consists not only of beauty, but also expresses the dissonant dystopian future/present in which we are caught. And few do so more eloquently than football legend Johan Cruyff in his oompah-band stomper “Oei Oei Oei (Dat was me weer een loei)”, for in no language can you locate greater dystopian dissonance than in Dutch. Be careful, you might sing along with the honey-voiced Johan.

On July 7 the world will observe the 44th anniversary of West Germany beating the Netherlands 2-1 in the World Cup final (and let’s put to rest the legend of lucky Germany: in the second half they had a clear goal disallowed and an obvious penalty denied. So, 4-1). The winner was scored in the 43rd minute by Gerd Müller, the greatest goal scorer ever, who anticipated his subsequential valiance in flat monotone in the same year of Cruyff’s aural assault.

The captain in 1974 was Franz Beckenbauer, who stayed clear from footballing sentiment in his heavy-accented 1966 Schlager hit. It nevertheless kicks off with the rhythmic clapping which seems to begin every football song of the era, just in case we mistake Franz for a serious singer. Which, it must be said, is fair enough.

More lately, players have turned to hip hop and dance music, usually with the help of some friends. France’s Karim Benzema did so to best effect in 2010, using the platform with French rapper Rohff to slag off previous France coach Raymond Domenech and express his dislike for Barcelona.

Not everybody shares Benzema’s bad-minding ways. On his record with something called Brings, Germany’s Lukas Podolski is asked whether he can sing. Podi responds, bright as a flash, by asking whether Brings can play football. It’s a relevant point to raise, in the event that Brings ever try to enter the world of professional football. The song is quite deplorable, so perhaps Brings might indeed be urged to seek a different career.

own_goal_2Unbelievably, some footballers genuinely thought that they had the talent to contribute to the world of pop in ways beyond the disposable arena of novelty. Kevin Keegan, with his Smokie-produced effort comes closest, but there is a reason why the whole world didn’t luvv it, just luvved it.

The contributions by Ruud Gullit (that cover!),  Andy Cole (doing bad things to the Gap Band) and Ian Wright are pretty dismal, but none was as appalling as Glenn Hoddle & Chris Waddle’s UK #12 hit “Diamond Lights”, a mulletted horror so offensive I felt compelled to exclude it from this CD-R timed mix for reasons of lacking in quality, for crying out loud (it’s there as a “bonus”, as is the worthy anti-apartheid “South Africa”, which Gullit recorded with reggae outfit Revelation Time).

Cameroon legend Roger Milla does a straight song, about fatherhood. He has no discernible musical talent, however; the whole debacle is mitigated by the vocals of the talented Senegalese singer Julia Sarr. This was a single from Milla’s album Saga Africa. Imagine what the rest is like!

In the late 1980s, John Barnes was British football’s King of Rap. To this day, British hip hop fans whisper in hushed tones: “Before Dre, before Pac, before Snoop, before MC Hammer, there was Liverpool attacking midfield sensation John Barnes.” Barnes rapped on the notorious “Anfield Rap”, which reached #3 in the UK charts, in anticipation of Liverpool’s defeat to AFC Wimbledon in the FA Cup final. Britain remembered, and in 1990 he was allowed to rap on New Order’s World Cup song “World In Motion”. He gave us what one night describe as a sing-song accumulation of words which is a lot worse than the middle-age white dudes’ conception of rap as perpetrated in the box-office hit Three Men and A Little Lady of the same year.

What John Barnes could do, Paul Gascoigne thought he could do better. So he ventured into the sidestreet as rapping icon Gazza, and enriched the body of hip hop with the incisive social commentary of “Gazza’s Rap”. The backing track exploits every cliché of early 1990s dance music; Gazza’s rapping draws its influence from Kenny Everett’s “Snot Rap” from 1983.

One can laugh at almost every vocally-disoriented, good-sense-deprived footballer featured here, but Clint Dempsey’s rap gets a bye —he sounds even scarier than John Barnes and might seek me out to bust a cap in my ass, to employ the jargon of the circles in which Dempsey moves. There is no cause for mirth in Pelé’s bossa nova number; dude can’t sing, but it is quite nice.

Cristiano Ronaldo: Your moms want to bang him.

Cristiano Ronaldo: Your moms want to bang him.

 

The biggest laugh must be reserved for Cristiano Ronaldo’s bid at usurping Julio Iglesias’ crooner crown. It might have been for a TV commercial, but if Portugal’s Banco Espírito Santo in their best judgment thought it was okay to unleash the crooning talents of young Ron upon the world, I don’t think I would trust them with my hard-earned cash.

This whole catastrophe is timed to fit on a CD-R, though I cannot conceive of any earthly circumstances which might drive you to committing this on to a disc. So I have not bothered to make home-scored covers. PW in comments.

1. New Order feat. John Barnes – World In Motion (1990)
2. Edcity & Ronaldinho – Vai Na Fé (2014)
3. Pelé & Gracinha – Meu Mundo é Uma Bola (1977)
4. Cristiano Ronaldo – Amor mio (2009)
5. Canelita feat Sergio Ramos – A Quien Le Voy A Contar Mis Penas (2012)
6. Castro feat. Asamoah Gyan – African Girls (2011)
7. Youri (Djourkaeff) – Vivre dans ta lumière (2000)
8. Andy Cole – Outstanding (1999)
9. Kevin Keegan – Head Over Heels In Love (1979)
10. Ruud Gullit – Not The Dancing Kind (1984)
11. Ian Wright – Do The Right Thing (1993)
12. Brings feat. Lukas Podolski – Halleluja (2012)
13. Rohff feat. Karim Benzema – Fais moi la passe (2010)
14. Clint Dempsey – Don’t Tread On This (2011)
15. Jay Jay Okocha – I I Am Am J J (1994)
16. TKZee & Benni McCarthy – Shibobo (1998)
17. Roger Milla – Sandy (1991)
18. Gazza (Paul Gascoigne) – Geordie Boys (1990)
19. Johan Cruyff – Oei Oei Oei (Dat was me weer een loei) (1969)
20. Franz Beckenbauer – Gute Freunde kann niemand trennen (1966)
21. Gerd Müller – Dann macht es bumm (1969)
Bonus: Glenn (Hoddle & Chris (Waddle) – Diamond Lights (1987)
Bonus: Revelation Time & Ruud Gullit – South Africa (1988)

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In Memoriam – May 2018

May 29th, 2018 6 comments

This month May’s dead and their music come to you before the month is out, due to travelling schedules. It has been another fairly easy-going month. In 2016 the never-ending streak of superstar deaths culminated in the election of Donald Trump. Maybe the unusually quiet year 2018 is preparing the way for the monster’s political demise. What’s that phrase he used to chant about Hilary Clinton?

The funky drummer

May started on a shitty note as James Brown drummer John Jabo Starks died at 79, just over a year after his fellow J.B.’s drummer Clyde Stubblefield passed on. Starks and Stubblefield are likely the most-sampled drummers. Apart from laying down the funky beats for Brown, Starks also drummed for blues legends like Bobby “Blue” Bland and B.B. King.

The inventor’s Satisfaction

Often great innovations have their roots in misadventure. So it as with Glenn Snoddy’s greatest legacy: the invention of the fuzz guitar pedal which came to define the Nashville Sound and found its most famous expression in the intro riff of the Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction. Snoddy was engineering Marty Robbins’ 1960 song Don’t Worry when he noticed a distortion in Grady Martin’s guitar (coming at 1:24). He found that the transformer in the amplifier had blown up. But the effect was great and so it was retained on record. It proved so popular that Snoddy set about inventing a device which could easily create that sound. Snoddy also engineered some classic country tracks, including Hank Williams’ Your Cheating Heart and Johnny Cash’s Ring Of Fire. In 1967 he set up his own studio, Woodlands, were classics like the Charlie Daniels Band’s The Devil Went Down To Georgia, The Oak Ridge Boys’ Elvira and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s album Will The Circle Be Unbroken was recorded. Oh, and he was the one who hired Kris Kristofferson as the janitor atColumbia, which would lead to great things.

Triple-force

Reggie Lucas made his mark in three fields of record-making: he was a fine guitarist who served a sideman to Miles Davis and others in the 1970s; he was a producer for Madonna (on her debut album), Randy Crawford, The O’Jays, The Spinners, Stephanie Mills, Lou Rawls, Phyllis Hyman and others; and he was a songwriter of classic soul tracks like Mills’ Never Knew Like This Before, Hyman’s You Know How To Love Me, Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway’s Back Together Again and The Closer I Get To You, as well as Madonna’s Borderline. For a brief time, he was a member of the soul-funk trio Sunfire.

The last dance

One of the most delightfully dark songs of the 1960s must be Esther & Abi Ofarim’s One More Dance, wherein two lovers regard the illness and eventual death of the woman’s rich husband with undisguised glee. I hope that when he died at 80, Abi Ofarim had nobody observing his demise with such relish. He and Esther divorced in 1970, after scoring hits such as Cinderella Rockefella and the Bee Gees-written Morning Of My Life. He kept recording and arranging, and also acted as a manager. In recent years he founded a project for impoverished seniors in Munich.

The Schlager paradox

A better example of German Schlager was provided by singer Jürgen Marcus, who has passed away at 69. Marcus is a good summary of Schlager music: like so much in the genre, his music was banal and yet often inventive, catchy yet embarrassing; his image was square and ingratiatingly conventional, yet he was secretly gay (of a conservative sort; he later come out, but opposed gay marriage because of his Catholic beliefs). He was the son-in-law every mom wanted for their daughter, and not a few moms wanted for themselves. His songs sometimes abruptly changed genre in mid-track: listen to Ein Festival der Liebe: it’s standard Schlager fare, including oompah intro, until  the bridge slows things down and morphs into a samba-influenced chant-along interlude interrupts proceedings, and then resumes to the clap-along gumph the Germans are so fond of.

The Williams brother

With his brothers, including the younger and more eventually more famous Andy, Dick Williams began performing on radio as a pre-teen in 1938 as The Williams Brothers. It was the start of a long career during which they appeared in four movies, backed Bing Crosby, and formed a popular nightclub act with the singer and actress Kay Thompson. While Andy Williams became one of the most popular entertainers of his time, Dick joined Dick James’ band as a singer.

 

John ‘Jabo’ Starks, 79, drummer with James Brown’s J.B.s, on May 1
Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland – Turn On Your Love Light (1961, on drums)
The J.B.’s – Pass The Peas (1972, on drums, also as co-writer)
James Brown – Super Bad (1970, on drums)
James Brown – The Payback (1973, on drums, also as writer)

Stu Boy King, 64, drummer with proto-punk band The Dictators (1974-75), on May 1
The Dictators – The Next Big Thing (1975)

Takayuki Inoue, 77, lead guitarist of Japanese rock band The Spiders, on May 2
The Spiders – Hey Boy (1966)

Tony Cucchiara, 80, Italian singer and songwriter, on May 2
Tony Cucchiara – Gioia mia (1965)

Tony Kinman, 62, (cow)punk singer and bassist, on May 3
The Dils – I Hate The Rich (1977)
Rank And File – Rank And File (1984)

Abi Ofarim, 80, Israeli musician, on May 4
Esther & Abi Ofarim – Morning Of My Life (1967)
Esther & Abi Ofarim – Cinderella Rockafella (1968)
Abi Ofarim & Tom Winter – Slow Motion Man (1973)

Steve Coy, 56, member of English pop band Dead or Alive, on May 4
Dead Or Alive – In Too Deep (1985)

Dick Williams, 91, singer with vocal group The Williams Brothers, on May 5
Bing Crosby – Swinging On A Star (1944, on co-vocals)
Harry James and his Orchestra – Mona Lisa (1950, on lead vocals)

Maurane, 57, Belgian singer and actress, on May 7

Gayle Shepherd, 81, member of vocal group Shepherd Sisters, on May 7
The Shepherd Sisters – Alone (Why Must I Be Alone) (1957)

Big T, 52, American rapper, on May 7

Carl Perkins, 59, member of New Zealand reggae band House of Shem, on May 9

Sammy Allred, 84, country entertainer, on May 9
The Geezinslaw Brothers – Change Of Wife (1967)

Ben Graves, 46, drummer of heavy metal band Murderdolls, on May 9

Scott Hutchison, 36, Scottish singer, songwriter and guitarist, suicide on May 10
Frightened Rabbit – Living In Colour (2010)

Glenn Branca, 69, avant-garde composer and guitarist, on May 23

Hideki Saijo, 63, Japanese pop singer, on May 16
Saijo Hideki – Young Man (1979)

Jack Reilly, 86, jazz pianist and academic, on May 18

Philip ‘Nchipi’ Tabane, 84, South African jazz singer and musician, on May 18
Philip Tabane – Ba Nyaka Ke Wele (1969)

Reggie Lucas, 65, producer, guitarist and songwriter, May 19
Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway – The Closer I Get To You (1978, as co-writer)
Mtume – So You Wanna Be A Star (1980, as producer & guitarist)
Sunfire – Young, Free And Single (1982, as member, producer, guitarist)
Randy Crawford – Almaz (1986, as producer)

Glenn Snoddy, 96, engineer and inventor of the fuzz guitar pedal, on May 19
Hank Williams – Your Cheatin’ Heart (1952, as engineer)
Marty Robbins – Don’t Worry (1960, as engineer)
Billy Joe Royal – Hush (1967, as producer)

Phil Emmanuel, 65, Australian guitarist, on May 24
Phil & Tommy Emmanuel – The Shaker (1994)

Roger Clark, 67, Muscle Shoals drummer, on May 24
Narvel Felts – Reconsider Me (1975, on drums)
Bill Brandon – No Danger Of Heartbreak Ahead (1977, on drums)

Andy MacQueen, bassist of Australian pop-punk band Exploding White Mice, on May 27
Exploding White Mice – Always Ends The Same (1994)

Stewart Lupton, 43, singer of indie group Jonathan Fire*Eater, on May 28
Jonathan Fire*Eater – Station Coffee (1997)

Josh Martin, guitarist of grindcore band Anal Cunt, in an escalator accident on May 28

Jürgen Marcus, 69, German Schlager singer, on May 29
Jürgen Marcus – Eine neue Liebe ist wie ein neues Leben (1972)
Jürgen Markus – Ein Festival der Liebe (1973)

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Any Major Music from ‘The Deuce’

May 24th, 2018 5 comments

In many TV shows, music plays a character in its own right. A song on the radio can portend a looming crisis or the state of mind of two lovers in bed (with their Z-shaped sheet). The 2017 HBO drama The Deuce used music to brilliant effect to help set the scene of early 1970s in New York City’s underbelly of prostitution, pornography, police corruption and organised crime.

The series had no orchestral score to guide the viewer; that job is done by the incidental music — on the radio, from passing cars, on a juke box, etc. George Pelecanos, co-producer of The Deuce with David Simon (they also did The Wire and Treme together), has explained that much thought went into choosing the right song for each scene. Music placement on TV is never random, but here extraordinary thought went into it.

Much of the music draws from the pool of late-1960s, early-’70s soul and funk. With the setting being the underworld, and many of the protagonists being black, there must have been a temptation to litter the soundtrack with blaxploitation film music (The Tarantino Option, as I call it). Pelecanos said that this would have been inauthentic; people didn’t play that stuff on their HiFis or on the juke-box. It would have been clichéd and was wisely avoided.

Music supervisor Blake Leyh explained in Billboard that “we made a conscious decision to feature lesser-known tracks to a large degree – although we have some of the more obvious favorites like James Brown and the Velvet Underground when appropriate. But much of the music is more likely found in a record collector’s obscurities bin.”

Starting with the smartly chosen theme song, Curtis Mayfield’s discombobulating If There’s A Hell Below We’re All Going To Go, there are songs that communicate purely by their sound the pressure and violence of that world. Other times there’s the old but useful trick of contrasting a sweet tune with cruelty on screen (one that was employed to particularly memorable effect in The Sopranos, when the weakened Tony Soprano beats up his hapless and innocent driver in a show of strength; all the while the cheerful doo wop tune Every Day Of The Week by The Students is playing).

Pernell Walker, James Franco and Maggie Gyllennhaal in a scene from HBO’s series The Deuce.

As it is with many other TV shows, the choice of music used in them presents us with a treasure of new songs to discover or to revisit forgotten tracks.

Pleasingly, the songs featured in The Deuce, other than the closing theme (by The Wire alumnus Lafayette Gilchrist), fit into the time-frame of the show. An exception is Johnnie Taylor’s Standing In For Jody in Episode 1, set in 1971. The song came out only in 1972 (perhaps the musical directors thought of Taylor’s 1970 song Jody’s Got Your Girl And Gone). And if that is the extent to which one can nitpick, then the music supervisors did a fantastic job.

Few songs here have been used in other TV shows, but Darondo’s sublime Didn’t has been used in several other TV shows: Ray Donovan (another series with excellent music), Breaking Bad, The Blacklist, I’m Dying Up Here and the shortlived Lovesick.

The present mix is a small selection of music featured in the show’s eight episodes (the first episode alone featured close to 30 songs). I’ve tried to create a bit of a story arch: The mix begins with the Mayfield theme, and ends with the Ray Charles track that plays in the jukebox as the series concludes, followed by the closing theme.

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

1. Curtis Mayfield – If There’s A Hell Below We’re All Going To Go (1970)
2. Rufus Thomas – (Do The) Push And Pull (Part 1) (1970)
3. Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose – Treat Her Like A Lady (1971)
4. James Brown – Out Of Sight (1965)
5. Darondo – Didn’t I (1972)
6. The Manhattans – I Don’t Wanna Go (1969)
7. James Carr – These Ain’t Raindrops (1969)
8. Lee Williams & The Cymbals – Peeping Through The Window (1967)
9. Johnnie Taylor – Standing In For Jody (1972)
10. Ann Peebles – I Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody’s Home Tonight (1971)
11. Dusty Springfield – Haunted (1971)
12. Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds – Don’t Pull Your Love (1971)
13. The Guess Who – These Eyes (1969)
14. Velvet Underground – Pale Blue Eyes (1969)
15. The Persuaders – Thin Line Between Love And Hate (1971)
16. The Notations – A New Day (1971)
17. Honey Cone – Want Ads (1971)
18. Jean Knight – Mr. Big Stuff (1971)
19. War – Slippin’ Into Darkness (1971)
20. George McGregor & The Bronzettes – Temptation Is Too Hard To Fight (1967)
21. The Temptations – Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me) (1971)
22. The Lovettes – I Need A Guy (1967)
23. Ray Charles – Careless Love (1962)
24. Lafayette Gilchrist – Assume The Position (2004)

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Stars Pick Your Songs Vol. 3: Celebs

May 17th, 2018 1 comment

This is the third mix of songs chosen by guests on the long-running BBC radio programme Desert Island Discs. This time, celebs of various backgrounds are choosing their music for your listening pleasure.

Most of them are British, though some are world-famous, like zillionaire Bill Gates, boxer George Foreman, author Bill Bryson, tennis legend John McEnroe, footballer David Beckham, survivalist Bear Grylls, Facebook chief Sheryl Sandberg, over-the-hill comedian Ricky Gervais, 1960s model Twiggy etc.

In any case, the concept is just the framework for putting together a fun eclectic mix that opens with the Sex Pistols anthem of no future and closes with a song promising the return of happy days, chosen in the middle of a war.

The concept of Desert Island Discs, which had remained unchanged since it first aired in 1942, is that the invited guest chooses eight songs he or she would take with them to a lonely island. In the course of often revealing interviews, they explain why they chose those songs. A massive collection of Desert Island Discs episodes is available for download in the form of MP3 podcasts from the BBC website.

The mix ends with a song selected by the first-ever castaway. On that debut Desert Island Disc, broadcast on 29 January 1942, British actor and comedian Vic Oliver chose British bandleader Jack Hylton’s 1930 version of Happy Days Are Here Again. It’s a quite remarkable choice, coming right in the middle of World War 2.

As ever, CD-R length, home-picked covers, PW in comments.

1. Sex Pistols – God Save the Queen (1977 – John McEnroe,2017)
2. The Jam – Going Underground (1980 – Lee Mack,2013)
3. David Bowie – Starman (1972 – Stella McCartney,2017)
4. The Rolling Stones – Wild Horses (1971 – David Beckham,2017)
5. Al Green – So Tired Of Being Alone (2012 – Michael Johnson,2012)
6. The Temptations – I Wish It Would Rain (1967 – George Foreman,2003)
7. Booker T & the MGs – Soul Limbo (1968 – Gary Lineker,1990)
8. Prince – Raspberry Beret (1985 – Steve McQueen,2014)
9. The La’s – There She Goes (1988 – Jamie Oliver,2002)
10. Counting Crows – A Long December (1996 – Sheryl Sandberg,2017)
11. Bright Eyes – First Day Of My Life (2005 – James Corden,2012)
12. Loudon Wainwright III – Your Mother And I (1986 – Bill Bryson,1998)
13. Cat Stevens – Lilywhite (1970 – Ricky Gervais,2007)
14. Johnny Cash & June Carter – Jackson (1967 – Bear Grylls,2012)
15. The Beatles – She’s A Woman (1964 – Brian Epstein,1964)
16. Roy Orbison – Only The Lonely (1960 – Billy Connolly,2004)
17. Ella Fitzgerald – Do I Love You (1956 – Stephen Fry,2015)
18. Edith Piaf – Les amants d’un jour (1956 – Marcel Marceau,1972)
19. Billy Joel – New York State Of Mind (1976 – Brian Cox,2012)
20. Willie Nelson – Blue Skies (1980 – Bill Gates,2016)
21. Francis Ruffelle – On My Own (1985 – Twiggy,1989)
22. Jack Hylton and his Orchestra – Happy Days Are Here Again (1930 – Vic Oliver,1942)

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The Larry Carlton Collection

May 10th, 2018 4 comments

Larry Carlton is a big name for fans of session guitarist and jazz fusion in particular, but most followers of pop will have heard him play.

Perhaps Carlton’s most famous piece music is the guitar on Mike Post’s Theme of Hill Street Blues (or, perhaps, on the theme of Magnum P.I., another Post composition). Carlton made his name as a session in the areas of rock (Steely Dan), pop (Fifth Dimension), soul (Randy Crawford), jazz fusion (Crusaders), folk (Joni Mitchell), country (Dolly Parton), easy listening (Sammy Davis Jr) and so on. He appeared on hundreds of records, many of which previous Session Players in this series appeared on.

A case in point is the Casino Lights recording of Randy Crawford and Al Jarreau singing Your Precious Love, which features Ricky Lawson on drums, while Bernard Purdie drums on Steely Dan’s Kid Charlemagne.  B.W. Stephenson’s recording of Shambala features Jim Gordon on drums, as does Joan Baez’s Blue Sky (which Carlton also arranged and plays acoustic guitar on), and on Thelma Houston it’s either Gordon or Jim Keltner doing the stickwork. On the title track of Steely Dan’s Aja, he plays alongside Steve Gadd (as featured on The Steve Gadd Collection Vol.3). And while Carlton does guitar duty on Michael Jackson’s She’s Out Of My Life, Louis Johnson is playing the bass.

Carlton’s guitar solo on Kid Charlemagne was voted #80 in the 100 greatest guitar solos of all time. I really like the solo in Cristopher Cross’ Never Be The Same, as it is with the solo on Your Precious Love… But my favourite Carlton moment is when the band comes in after Wilton Felder’s absurdly long note on the Crusaders’ So Far Away, a musical orgasm led by Carlton’s guitar.

Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen said: “He’s a real virtuoso. In my opinion he can get around his instrument better than any studio guitarist.” Carlton played for Steely Dan on Katy Lied, The Royal Scam, Aja and Gaucho, as well as on Fagen’s solo debut The Nightfly.

On top of that Carlton was a member of the Crusaders and Fourplay, and recorded a bunch of solo albums.

As always, CD-R length, home-picked covers, PW in comments.

1. Mike Post feat. Larry Carlton – Theme from Hill Street Blues (1981)
2. Megan McDonough – Guitar Picker (1972)
3. B.W. Stevenson – Shambala (1973)
4. Christopher Cross – Never Be The Same (1979)
5. Linda Ronstadt – Sail Away (1973)
6. Al Jarreau & Randy Crawford – Your Precious Love (1982)
7. Marlena Shaw – Feel Like Makin’ Love (1975)
8. Michael Franks – The Lady Wants To Know (1977)
9. Paulinho da Costa – Dreamflow (1979)
10. Crusaders – So Far Away (live) (1974)
11. Steely Dan – Kid Charlemagne (1976)
12. Joni Mitchell – Edith And The Kingpin (1975)
13. Dusty Springfield – Who Gets Your Love (1973)
14. Lobo – My Momma Had Soul (1973)
15. Johnny Lee – Lookin’ For Love (1980)
16. Joan Baez – Blue Sky (1975)
17. Greenfield – New York Is Closed Tonight (1973)
18. Four Tops – Ain’t No Woman (Like The One I’ve Got) (1972)
19. Thelma Houston & Pressure Cooker – To Know You Is To Love You (1975)
20. Larry Carlton – Blues Bird (1981)

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Previous session musicians’ collection:
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 1
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 2
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 1
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 2
The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 1
The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 2
The Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 1
The Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 2
The Steve Gadd Collection Vol. 1
The Steve Gadd Collection Vol. 2
The Steve Gadd Collection Vol. 3
The Bobby Keys Collection
The Louis Johnson Collection
The Jim Keltner Collection Vol. 1
The Jim Keltner Collection Vol. 2
The Bobby Graham Collection
The Ringo Starr Collection

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In Memoriam – April 2018

May 3rd, 2018 9 comments

The soul writer

A close collaborator with the legendary Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting and production team, at Motown and on their Invictus label, Ron Dunbar counted among his writing credits some of the greatest soul classics of the early 1970s: Clarence Carter’s hit Patches, Freda Payne’s Band Of Gold (which happened to play at a restaurant where I lunched the day after his death), the Chairmen of the Board’s Give Me Just A Little More Time… The sorry twist is that Lamont Dozier later claimed that it was Brian Holland who write the latter two tracks, but Dunbar was credited because Holland couldn’t be, for legal reasons. Also a prolific producer and A&R man, Dunbar attributed his songwriting success — much of it with the Chairmen’s General Johnson — to the great mentorship of Holland-Dozier-Holland. Even if Dozier was talking the truth, Dunbar’s co-writing credits include some other stone-cold classics, including the Flaming Embers’ Westbound #9, and Pay To The Piper and Dangling On A String for the Chairmen of the Board (who also recorded the original of Patches, and whose co-founder Danny Woods died in January). He later collaborated also with George Clinton and his P-Funk collective. In the 1990s he returned to work with the Holland company.

The jazz pioneer

Just weeks after his one-time collaborator and bassist Buell Neidlinger died, jazz pioneer and classically-trained pianist Cecil Taylor passed away at 89. In the 1950s they were at the vanguard of introducing a new sound in improvisational jazz, an avant-garde a form which would become known as free jazz. It’s fair to say that Taylor’s music, certainly after the 1950s, was not aimed at a mainstream, but it had great appeal for the few who dig the atonal extemporisations of free jazz, and of immense interest to musicologists.

Big in Sweden

By all accounts, Lill-Babs (born Barbro Margareta Svensson, her moniker is equivalent to Little Barbie) was one of Sweden’s biggest stats, and someone who helped define that country’s pop culture in the 1960s. At 23 she represented Sweden in the Eurovision Song Contest with April April, coming 14th out of 16 contestants, but by then she was already a star, having shot to prominence in 1958 with the song Är du kär i mej ännu Klas-Göran?, which sounds like something I might say at the end of a drunk night out. But her Eurovision appearance helped her launch a career in the much bigger market of West-Germany, where she also acted in some films. In 1963, she was the star turn on a Swedish TV show at which the not yet well-known English beat combo The Beatles appeared. Apparently they asked Lill-Babs for her autograph. The singer remained in the limelight especially on Swedish TV, for most of the rest of her life. When she died, Swedish TV stations changed their programming to pay tribute to Lill-Babs.

The country scion

He was the son of a country great, the bluegrass pioneer Earl Scruggs, but Randy Scruggs made his mark on the genre himself, as a songwriter, producer and guitarist, picking up four Grammys along the way, and receiving the CMA Musician of the Year award three times (1999, 2003, 2006). He wrote several country hits, including three of Earl Thomas Conley’s four consecutive chart toppers in the 1983. He produced acts like Waylon Jennings, Emmylou Harris, Levon Helm and Alison Krauss. And as a guitarist he backed acts such as Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, George Strait, Randy Travis, Jones, Ricky Skaggs, Townes van Zandt, Lisa Loeb, Miranda Lambert, Dixie Chicks and Wilco.

Original Fantine

Before Les Misérables was a phenomenal musical, it was a French concept album based on Victor Hugo’s book. One of the many showstoppers in the musical is Fantine’s I Dreamed A Dream (which won Anne Hathaway an Oscar). On the original album the song was titled J’Avais Rêvé d’une Autre Vie and was sung by Rose Laurens, who has died at 65. Laurens gained fame throughout Europe for her 1982 hit Africa. A singer-songwriter, she continued to record regularly until 2015.

Almost a Beatle

An old pal of The Beatles in their Hamburg days, singer and keyboardist Roy Young took part in their very first recording, the album they made with Tony Sheridan, including the single My Bonnie, which brought the John, Paul, George and Pete to Brian Epstein’s attention. It is even said that Epstein invited Young to join The Beatles, but the singer had a gig at the Star Club which he didn’t want to put at risk by joining the yet-to-be signed band (and thereby he avoided the experience of being rejected by Decca). Young, who had recorded already in 1959, later joined an Epstein-managed band, Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers (for whom McCartney did production work, including on the Beatles cover featured here), and later backed David Bowie on Sound And Vision and Low, as well as putting out a few records himself.

 

Audrey Morris, 89, jazz singer and pianist, on April 1

Ron Dunbar, 77, soul songwriter, on April 3
Chairmen Of The Board – (You’ve Got Me) Dangling On A String (1970, as co-writer)
Honey Cone – Sunday Morning People (1971, as co-writer, executive producer)
Dusty Springfield – Crumbs Off The Table (1972, as co-writer)
Parliament – Agony Of De Feet (1980, as co-writer)

Lill-Babs, 80, Swedish singer and actress, on April 3
Lill-Babs – April, april (1961)

Cecil Taylor, 89, pioneering free jazz pianist and poet, on April 5
Cecil Taylor – African Violets (1959)

Ali Zainab Nielsen, 29, Nigerian singer, suspected homicide on April 5

Jacques Higelin, 77, French pop singer, on April 6
Jacques Higelin – Je suis mort qui, qui dit mieux (1971)

Laura Lee Perkins, 78, rockabilly singer, on April 6
Laura Lee Perkins – Don’t Wait Up (1958)

Nathan Davis, 81, jazz saxophonist, on April 8
Nathan Davis – The Flute In The Blues (1965)

Liam Devally, 85, Irish singer and TV presenter, on April 9

Yvonne Staples, 80, baritone singer with The Staple Singers, on April 10
The Staple Singers – Going Away (1959)
The Staple Singers – I’ll Take You There (1972)

Timmy Matley, 36, lead singer of Irish vocal group The Overtones, on April 11
The Overtones – Gambling Man (2010)

David Mullaney, 86, member of ‘70s electronic group Hot Butter, on April 12
Hot Butter – Popcorn (1972)

Deborah Coleman, 61, blues musician, on April 12
Deborah Coleman – I’m A Woman (2000)

Stan Reynolds, 92, British jazz musician, on April 14
The Beatles – Martha My Dear (1968, trumpet solo)

Jim Caine, 91, British jazz pianist, radio presenter, on April 16

Dona Ivone Lara, 97, Brazilian samba singer and composer, on April 16

Randy Scruggs, 64, country guitarist, producer, songwriter, on April 17
Earl Thomas Conley – Angel In Disguise (1983, as writer)
Alison Krauss – When You Say Nothing At All (1995, as producer)
Randy Scruggs with John Prine – City Of New Orleans (1998)
Johnny Cash – The Man Comes Around (2002, on guitar)

Big Tom (McBride), 81, Irish country singer, on April 17
Big Tom And The Mainliners – Life To Go (1973)

Peter Guidi, 68, Italian jazz saxophonist and flutist, on April 17

Stuart Colman, 73, English producer, musician and broadcaster, on April 19
Flying Machine – Smile A Little Smile For Me (1966, as member on bass)
Shakin’ Stevens – This Ole House (1980, as producer and on bass)

Mr. Yosie Locote, 42, Mexican rapper, shot dead on April 19

Avicii, 28, Swedish house musician, producer and DJ, on April 20
Avicil – Wake Me Up (2013)

Robbee Mariano, 47, bassist of German pop-band Söhne Mannheims, on April 20

Brian Henry Hooper, 55, bassist of Australian alt.rock band Beasts of Bourbon, on April 20
Beasts Of Bourbon – Chase The Dragon (1991)

Bob Dorough, 94, jazz musician,  writer of US edu-series Schoolhouse Rock, on April 23
Bob Dorough – Three Is A Magic Number (1973)

Alain Milhaud, 87, Swiss producer and manager, on April 24
Los Bravos – Black Is Black (1966, as producer)
Pop-Tops – Mamy Blue (1971, as producer)

Paul Gray, 54, Australian musician, songwriter and producer, on April 24
Wa Wa Nee – Stimulation (1985, on vocals and keyboards)

Charles Neville, 79, saxophonist of The Neville Brothers, on April 26
The Neville Brothers – In The Still Of The Night (1990)

Roy Young, 81, British rock & roll singer and pianist, on April 27
Roy Young – Hey Little Girl (1959)
Cliff Bennett & The Rebel Rousers – Got To Get You Into My Life (1966, as member)
David Bowie – Be My Wife (1977, on piano)

Roberto Angleró, 88, Puerto Rican composer and singer, on April 28

Rose Laurens, 65, French singer and songwriter, on April 30
Rose Laurens – J’Avais Rêvé d’une Autre Vie (1980)
Rose Laurens – Africa (1982)

Tim Calvert, 52, guitarist of metal bands Nevermore, Forbidden, on April 30

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(PW in comments)

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Any Major Eurovision

April 26th, 2018 2 comments

For Europeans and other purveyors of musical kitsch, the Eurovision Song Contest is annual appointment TV. The international singing competition has been held since 1956. Up to the fall of the Iron Curtain, competing countries were drawn from Western, Southern, Northern and Central Europe, plus Israel and, a few times, Morocco. Today the contest is hugely popular in Eastern Europe — and lately even that well-known European country Australia has taken part (but if Israel can, then why not Australia?).

Making a list of “favourite” or “best” Eurovision songs is dicey business. The sober music fan will laugh at you for even considering such a thing; the hardcore Eurovision fan will absolutely hate you for not including Estonia’s entry for 1998 which never deserved to finish in 23rd place. Still, here I am and can do no other.

So, here is a collection of the songs I chose as those I like the best of the thousand-something songs that were composed in the hope of winning the Grand Prix (99,6% of which have been utterly awful). They may not be the best of the lot; the dominance of 1970s entries suggests that childhood nostalgia influences my choices. So I happily accept that Teach-In’s 1975 winner Ding-A-Dong fails to represent a highwater mark in popular music, even in that dismal year. But when I hear it, I am transported to the cobblestoned street where I grew up, riding my green chopper bicycle, hatching new adventures with my friends.

I exclude some common favourites. There’s no place for Cliff Richard’s Congratulations, nor for Lulu, Brotherhood of Men, Nicole, Dana (Irish or International), Lordi, Katrina & the Waves, or Bucks Fizz, nor for many of the winners of the last few decades. I also have no love for Germany’s 1979 entry Dschinghis Khan, a song about a genocidal psychopath which the Germans saw fit to perform, of all places, in Jerusalem.  And I really cannot stand Israel’s winner that year, Milk & Honey’s Hallelujah.

With all these possibly worthy candidates sifted out, I expect to be asked what the hell Sophie & Magaly’s Papa Pingouin, Luxembourg’s 1980 entry which finished 9th with a slightly disturbing performance featuring an absurd man-penguin, is doing here (indeed, my incredulous wife just earlier asked me, upon hearing me play it, what the fuck I am listening to). Well, it’s a catchy enough song, written by German serial Eurovision offender Ralph Siegel. Despite receiving little love from the juries, Papa Pingouin became a million-seller. Alas, due to a brutal contract the French twins saw very little of the loot. And then Siegel dropped the singers, trying to sting them out of the little money that was due to them. Magaly died in 1996 of AIDS; Sophie is battling with depression. Siegel is still churns out songs for the Eurovision.

Siegel wrote several entries for Germany, including the afore-mentioned Dschinghis Khan, the runners-up in 1980, ’81, and ’87 — Theater (Katja Epstein), Johnny Blue (Lena Valaitis) and Lass die Sonne in dein Herz (Wind) — and the 1982 winner, Nicole’s Ein bisschen Frieden. None of them feature here.

Germany’s best-ever entry, in my view, was 1970’s third-placed Wunder gibt es immer wieder by Katja Epstein, the arrangement of which is truly a marker of its time. The wonderful Epstein returned the following year, again finishing third with the ecological anthem Diese Welt, featured here in the English version, River Run River Flow.

The second-best German entry also features here in English: the late Joy Fleming’s superb, soulful Ein Lied kann eine Brücke sein (Bridge of Love). Incredibly, it finished 17th in a field of 19, despite being backed by soul singer Madeline Bell, close friend of Dusty Springfield and ex-member of Blue Mink. National juries are idiots.

I also really like Guildo Horn’s Guildo hat Euch lieb (Guildo loves you all), which was Germany’s entry in 1998. Written by off-the-wall entertainer Stefan Raab under the pseudonym Alf Igl it was a parody of Ralph Siegel (as Raab’s alias suggests). In the national elimination round, the song beat out three Siegel compositions, despite the mass-circulation Bild running a campaign against Horn and his manic and anarchic ways. Raab took part himself in 2000, with an even more subversive number, sung in an invented German dialect.

The greatest Eurovision song of all time is, inevitably, ABBA’s Waterloo, the winning entry for Sweden in 1974 (amazingly, ABBA failed to qualify in the national qualification contest the previous year. Sweden’s Decca moment). Waterloo had it all: a great tune, international lyrics, bright outfits, Björn’s star-shaped silver guitar, and a conductor dressed like Napoleon. But it wasn’t an easy win, as I explained in the article accompanying the ABBA cover versions mix. The nearest contender, Italian Gigliola Cinquetti’s more traditional ballad Si, put up a strong fight. That song also features here, unlike Cinquetti’s 1964 winner Non ho l’età.

The deserved winner in 1967 was Sandie Shaw with Puppet On A String, the song the barefooted singer hated and performed virtually under duress. Coming only fourth that year, representing Luxembourg, was Greek-born and Germany-based singer Vicky Leandros with L’amour est bleu. That song became famous as the easy listening classic Love Is Blue by Paul Mauriat, who stripped the song of all the emotions, lyricism and style which Leandros had invested in it.

Leandros would eventually win the thing, also for Luxembourg, in 1972 with Après toi. This time around, she had an international hit with the song, in its original French version, in West Germany as Dann kamst Du, and in Britain, where it reached #2 as Come What May.

Luxembourg had a way of picking winners: in 1965 it was the appropriately-named French singer France Gall, whose Poupée De Cire Poupée De Son was penned by Serge Gainsbourg, inspired by Beethoven. Her performance was off-key, causing her lover at the time, singer Claude Francois, to scream at her in a discouraging manner. The charm of the catchy song, with its clever lyrics, and of France Gall herself evidently won over the juries.

Perhaps even more famous internationally than Waterloo and Love Is Blue is Italian singer Domenico Modugno’s 1958 entry: Nel blu dipinto di blu. You’ll know it better as Volare, probably in Dean Martin’s version. Modugno finished only in third place with it. As I said, juries are idiots. The singer tried his luck again the following year, finishing 6th. A third Eurovision attempt in 1966 ended in disaster: Modugno came last, with nil points.

The winner that year was German-Austrian singer Udo Jürgens, winning the contest for Austria with Merci Chérie. It was Jürgens’ third successive participation in the Eurovision.

Austria would have to wait until 2014, shortly before Jürgens’ death, to win again. But what a winner that was: bearded drag artist Conchita Wurst singing a fantastically dramatic song which in the artist’s hands became a liberation anthem for LBGT+ communities. Before the contest, no Austrian record company was willing to release it, possibly because the vehement opposition by conservative and right-wing politicians to the mould-breaking artist. So national broadcaster ÖRF had to release it themselves. The song became a hit in many countries…

If I became the dictator of a newly-founded state and was looking for a rousing national anthem, I’d repurpose Séverine‘s 1971 Eurovision winner, Un banc, un arbre, un rue. Take the chorus (which, brazenly, kicks off the song), slow it down a bit and give it the national anthem arrangement. I could win wars with that national anthem. The song was the only winning entry for Monaco. I reckon my army could take on Monaco’s troops, especially with that anthem.

I hope this collection of songs will give lie to the notion that Eurovision has offered only cliché and acts of grievous musical battery. In fact, many of these songs may well stick in your head to give you not unpleasant earworms.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes home-nilpointed covers (the cover promises 25 tracks; I added one for your delight), as well as a larger version of the above collage of single covers. PW in comments.

1. Abba – Waterloo (1974, Sweden #1)
2. Cliff Richard – Power To All Our Friends (1973, Great Britain #3)
3. Sandie Shaw – Puppet On A String (1967, Great Britain #1)
4. France Gall – Poupée De Cire Poupée De Son (1965, France #1)
5. Vicky Leandros – Après toi (1972, Luxembourg #1)
6. Katja Ebstein – Wunder gibt es immer wieder (1970, Germany #3)
7. Anne-Marie David – Tu Te Reconnaîtras (1973, Luxembourg, #1)
8. The New Seekers – Beg, Steal Or Borrow (1972, Great Britain #2)
9. Joy Fleming – Bridge Of Love (1975, Germany, #17)
10. Lynsey de Paul & Mike Moran – Rock Bottom (1977, Great Britain #2)
11. Teach In – Ding-A-Dong (1975, Netherlands #1)
12. Catherine Ferry – 1, 2, 3 (1976, France #2)
13. Sophie & Magaly – Papa Pingouin (1980, Luxembourg #9)
14. Guildo Horn – Guildo hat euch lieb (1998, Germany #7)
15. Charlotte Nilsson – Take Me To Your Heaven (1999, Sweden #1)
16. Conchita Wurst – Rise Like A Phoenix (2014, Austria #1)
17. Joëlle Ursull – White And Black Blues (1990, France #2)
18. Secret Garden – Nocturne (1995, Norway #1)
19. Gigliola Cinquetti – Si (1974, Italy #2)
20. Katja Ebstein – River Run River Flow (Diese Welt) (1971, Germany #3)
21. Séverine – Un Banc, Un Arbre, Un Rue (1971, Monaco, #1)
22. Mocedades – Eres Tu (1973, Spain #2)
23. Vicky Leandros – L’amour Est Bleu (Love Is Blue) (1967, Luxembourg #4)
24. Udo Jürgens – Merci Cherie (1966, Austria #1)
25. Domenico Modugno – Volare (Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu) (1958, Italy #3)
26. Grethe & Jørgen Ingmann – Dansevise (1963, Denmark, #1)

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Any Major Whistle Vol. 2

April 19th, 2018 14 comments

And here is part 2 of the whistling mixes, following Any Major Whistle Vol. 1, which was also recycled from 2009. As before, I’ve tried to mix the obvious (and avoiding some of the more notorious candidates) with the unexpected. As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CR-R (hence two bonus tracks). Home-blown covers included.* * *

1. Beach Boys – Whistle In (1967)
Yes, the Beach Boys feature twice. You can’t have a whistling collection and not begin it with a song called Whistle In, can you? Whistletastic moment: 0:01 Dum-dum-dum-dum-dum and whistle.

2. Peter, Bjorn And John – Young Folks (2006)
I have avoided the inclusion of many an obvious song. No Scorpions. No Don’t Worry Be Happy. No apartheid-boycott-busting Roger Whitaker. But this one had to be included. It’s Swedish, it’s cheerful, it’s earwormy. Whistletastic moment: 0:08 Everybody purse your lips and whistle along! Or play the percussion bit on your thigh.

3. David Bowie – Golden Years (1976)
I cannot hear this song without thinking abut the bizarre dance sequence with Heath Ledger and Never-heard-from-again Actress in the quite wonderful medieval caper A Knight’s Tale. Whistletastic moment: 3:03 Chameleon-like, the former Ziggy trades his guitar for lips and air.

4. Lovin’ Spoonful – Daydream (1966)
The Lovin’ Spoonful really covered about every genre in popular music, and then mashed them up. Here we have a bit of 1920s pop and a bit of blues. Gotta love the Spoonful. Whistletastic moment: 1:14 Chirpy whistle solo, which returns at 2:06 to see the song out.

5. Otis Redding – Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay (1968)
The last song Otis Redding recorded before getting on that plane, apparently. Otis didn’t whistle on here; the job was done by a session man of whom Redding inquired after a poor first take whether he knew what he was doing. We know he did. Whistletastic moment: 2:19 Perhaps the best ever whistle solo in pop.

6. Simon & Garfunkel – Punky’s Dilemma (1968)
This is Simon & Garfunkel 201 — the sort of song you get into once the many great hits have become boring. Whistletastic moment: 1:50 A breezy whistle solo, not by Paul Simon (whom we hear talking in the background), takes us to the song’s end.

7. The Beatles – Two Of Us (1970)
Recorded during the turbulent Let It Be sessions, this is one of the rare (and I think last) post-mop tops era occasions when John and Paul dueted. How nice then that the song ends with a cheery whistle solo before I Dig A Pony kicks in. Whistletastic moment: 3:14 I suppose this is Lennon whistling, as was his wont some of his solo tracks.

8. Bobby Bloom – Montego Bay (1970)
Anyone remember Amazulu’s cover in the 1980s? That probably had no whistling (nor showtune segment). Bobby Bloom’s original has a recurring whistle hook. Whistletastic moment: 0:01 The hook kicks off the song.

9. Earl Hagen – Theme of the Andy Griffith Show (1960)
As doubtless whistled across America once upon a time while washing-up, sweeping the driveway, doing the paper round or constructing a skyscraper. Whistletastic moment: 0:01 The whole thing consists of whistling.

10. The Steve Miller Band – Jungle Love (1977)
Underrated ’70s rock band whuch deserve to be remembered for more than The Joker and Abracadabra. Whistletastic moment: 2:46 Freestyle whistling!

whistling11. The Fratellis – Whistle For The Choir (2006)
Jangly guitars recall the early ’70s. Irresistibly catchy. Whistletastic moment: 2:26 Whistle interlude

12. Liliput – Die Matrosen (1980)
Neue Deutsche Welle with ska sensibility searching for the young soul rebel, in English. Whistletastic moment: 0:52 Song-defining communal whistle interlude, repeated 50 seconds later, and again at 2:32 and 3:33.

13. The Flaming Lips – Christmas At The Zoo (1995)
Let’s go slightly weird: what do you think Coyne and his gang are doing in a zoo at Christmas? Whistletastic moment: 2:27 Whistle solo comes in helpful when you have no lyrics but the music still goes on.

14. Grizzly Bear – Deep Blue Sea (2007)
This sounds so like a country song. It was recorded at home by Grizzly Bear Daniel Rossen.  Whistletastic moment: 2:41 Whistle bridge.

15. Guster – All The Way Up To Heaven (2003)
Guster toured and performed with Ben Folds and Rufus Wainwright. This song, vaguely reminiscent of Sgt Pepper’s and Pet Sounds, is very lovely indeed.  Whistletastic moment: 0:50 You almost think they are about to break out into the Colonel Bogey March.

16. Cat Power – After It All (2005)
One of the songs that make me appreciate 2005’s The Greatest album. And, I noticed only now, the only woman in the mix. Whistletastic moment: 0:06 The piano and a couple of guitar chords set up the song for the recurring whistle hook.

17. Sammy Davis Jr. – Mr Bojangles (1972)
The song that Sammy took over. As we covered in The Originals series, the song was written by Jerry Jeff Walker. Whistletastic moment: 0:20 Sammy whistles (unlike the other performers of My Bojangles) and does so again later to see the song out.

18. Gene Pitney – Only Love Can Break A Heart (1963)
Gene Pitney Fun Fact 1: He wrote Hello Mary Lou for Ricky Nelson, Rubber Ball for Bobby Vee and He’s A Rebel for the Crystals. Gene Pitney Fun Fact 1: The Crystals’ version of He’s A Rebel kept Pitney’s version of Burt Bacharach Only Love Can Break A Heart from reaching the US#1. Gene Pitney Fun Fact 3: He was the first singer from the rock idiom of pop to sing at the Oscars, performing Town Without Pity in 1962. Whistletastic moment: 0:16 Tremelo whistle.

19. Roxy Music – Jealous Guy (1981)
Roxy Music’s cash-in “tribute” released double-quick after John Lennon’s murder. Hunting Tory greaseball Bryan Ferry whistled better than Rolls Royce socialist Lennon. Whistletastic moment: 3:25  Ferry cross the whistle.

20. Leonard Cohen – One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong (1967)
Don’t dig Cohen? Gentlemen, remember this: when Cohen sings about love and sex, it is intensely sensual. If you want to impress a poetry-loving girl, don’t forget to include Leonard Cohen on your mixtape. This song, for example. Whistletastic moment: 3:19   Laughing Len affords himself a bit of levity by seeing the song out with a (less than accomplished) whistle solo, backed by recorder and the sound of singing hangers-on presmably being interrogated by the Spanish Inquisition..

21. Tom Waits – Green Grass (2004)
As I am playing this song, Any Minor Dude inquires: “What the hell is this?” I reply: “Son, it’s an acquired taste, like Gin, Brussels sprouts or the philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard.” “Well, it’s crap anyway. Whistletastic moment: 2:29 Tom stops groaning to sweeten the song with a melancholy whistle solo.

22. Billy Joel – The Stranger (1977)
It all starts so prettily until the cynical guitars kick in to introduce Billy’s cynical ruminations on the alienation of the self, or something. When he’s done, he reprises the pretty part, just to show that he’s not all cynical, as he’ll soon demonstrate on the LP with a soppy love song imploring Elizabeth not to go changing her hair or trying some new fashion, only to dump her a few years later for a fashion model with lovely hair. Clearly he didn’t let her see the stranger in himself. Whistletastic moment: 0:26 The whistle joins the pretty intro until the cynical guitar comes in. It returns later, with the pretty outro.

23. Glen Campbell – Sunflower (1977)
Nothing cynical in Campbell’s sunshiney, optimistic song; a catchy number even if you hate it. Whistletastic moment: 2:15  Just in case we didn’t catch in just how a good mood Glen is, he sees the song out with a jolly whistle.

24. Monty Python – Always Look On The Bright Side of Life (1979)
You didn’t think I could avoid including this, did you? Whistletastic moment: 0:30  The first whistled response to Eric Idle’s appeal to buoyancy.

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