Any Major Freaks & Geeks

November 16th, 2017 6 comments

Every two or three years I make a pilgrimage to my set of 18 episodes of the short-lived TV series Freaks And Geeks. It is not only the greatest series ever to be cancelled after only one season, but one of the greatest TV series of all time. Almost every scene is a marvel.

To me, it completes the great American Schools Trilogy: The Wonder Years, Dazed And Confused; Freaks And Geeks. The first outlived its magnificence by about two or three seasons; the Linklater film absolutely needed no sequel; but Freaks And Geeks was put to death prematurely.

All three narratives about schooling succeeded because, though set in US schools with the culture that comes with it, the characters are almost universally recognisable. We’ve all met them, or some of them. Maybe we were them.

I went to school in Germany, where there no high school sports teams, and the sub-cultures were different. We had punks, poppers (New Romantic conservatives), rockers, Neo-Nazi skinheads… and mostly unaffiliated people. Not being much of a joiner I was among the unaffiliated. In Freaks And Geeks terms, I’d have been a “Freak” — though, like the Geeks, I loved Bill Murray and the movie Stripes (I even agree with Neal that the second half of that movie is best forgotten).

But whatever differences in the sub-cultures, I have known Wayne Arnold (who might as well have been modeled on my school nemesis, Marvin) and Paul Phyffer in The Wonder Years, Mitch Kramer and his two pals, Mike Newhouse and Tony Olson, Randall “Pink” Floyd, Fred O’Bannion and Don Dawson (another nemesis) in Dazed And Confused, and Sam Weir, Neal Schweiber, Bill Haverchuck (they were all my friends at some point), Alan White (bullies are all the same), Nick Andopolis and Ken Miller in Freaks And Geeks.

I’m on less safe ground identifying with girls, because if you’re a boy, your school domain is largely male. Still, I know Kim Kelly — the great Busy Philips in Freaks And Geeks —very well.

To me, Freaks And Geeks resonates in particular because in 1980/81, when the show is set, I was 14, the same age as the junior trio of Sam, Bill and Neal. While the cultural markers are different, these characters are my peers.

And so, if we can recognise the characters, or identify with them, then their experiences need not mirror ours exactly for us to be part of the story.

As in The Wonder Years and Dazed And Confused, the music is an important character in Freaks And Geeks (indeed, I did a mix of songs from The Wonder Years a few years ago). Here I cannot draw from the well of nostalgia. That American 1980/81 is not my 1980/81. And still, of the songs on this mix, which all featured on Freaks And Geeks, I owned six at the time (since you ask: Bowie, Seger, Billy Joel, Deep Purple, Supertramp, Jethro Tull).

As a bonus track I add “Lady L.”, the hackneyed love song Nick (Jason Segel) writes for Lindsay (Linda Cardellini), which has attained something of a cult status. The music-related scene that sticks with me, however, is the one where the Weir parents listen to The Who’s Squeeze Box to determine whether the British band’s concert is suitable for their teenage daughter.

The CD-R length rule required me to omit some worthy contenders; indeed, I expect to be hated for choosing Supertramp ahead of XTC (but I really don’t like No Language In Our Lungs) or Rush (whom I don’t really like, full stop). Maybe there’ll be a follow-up…

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

1. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – Bad Reputation (1981)
2. Joe Jackson – I’m The Man (1979)
3. Warren Zevon – Poor, Poor Pitiful Me (1976)
4. Bob Seger – You’ll Accompany Me (1980)
5. Little River Band – Reminiscing (1978)
6. Billy Joel – Rosalinda’s Eyes (1978)
7. Kansas – Dust In The Wind (1978)
8. Jethro Tull – Aqualung (1971)
9. George Baker Selection – Little Green Bag (1969)
10. The Who – Squeeze Box (1975)
11. Deep Purple – Hush (1968)
12. Van Halen – Little Dreamer (1978)
13. Journey – Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’ (1979)
14. Styx – Renegade (1978)
15. David Bowie – Fashion (1980)
16. Supertramp – Take The Long Way (1979)
17. Charlie Daniels Band – The Devil Went Down To Georgia (1979)
18. Pure Prairie League – Amie (1972)
19. Grateful Dead – Ripple (1970)
20. Jason Segal – Lady L. (2000)

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Any Major Year

November 9th, 2017 10 comments

I was startled a little while ago while listening to Billy Joel’s Songs In The Attic album that its opening track about a post-apocalyptic USA is set in 2017. Things might be bad in real 2017, and the apocalypse might be a greater possibility now than it was just a couple of years ago, but the bridges of New York City are still standing.

Billy Joel first released the song in 1976 — featured here is the vastly superior  live version released five years later — when 2017 was 41 years away. Recently I read an article that we might have a post-apocalypse by 2050, i.e. only around 30 years from now. The future isn’t as far off a place as we may think.

Some other songs here anticipate the future. Boz Scaggs, singing in 1977, is having a bad trip. “It’s like 1993 and it’s weird as hell to me…This spoof reality is just like outer space to me.” Boz, lad, 1993 is cool. You should see 2017 and the Evil Keystone Kops running the show now!

Maybe Prince knew something. He didn’t expect the world to last much beyond the new millennium, hence is invitation to party now like it is 1999.

The Temptations in 1971 are looking at 1990 without mentioning 1990. It starts off like they’re in 1970, 1990 and 2017 at the same time. “Well, we got trouble in the White House, poverty in the ghetto…Thousand of jobless people walking the streets, with no food or place to sleep. What will become of them, America?” And so on in that righteous vein — until they go all Fox News on us with a sickly barrage of patriotic stuff about “America! I ain’t ashamed to say that I love ya. There ain’t another place on Earth I’d rather be.” Not even a place where there are no crooks in government and there are no poor and no ghettos?

A whole lot of songs in this mix look back into the past, including a couple of songs about World War I, most hauntingly the Motörhead track — and John Cale’s song about what I suppose is sexual frustration loosely set during the Versailles treaty negotiations.

Al Stewart’s The Last Day Of June 1934, from an album of historical vignettes, takes as its centrepiece the Night of the Long Knives, during which Hitler wiped out internal Nazi opposition (weep not for the victims here). Stewart frames that event around French lovers unconcerned about such things and British intellectuals discussing war.

Randy Newman in 1974 sang about the risible political response to the Louisiana flood in 1927; he would need to change only a few words to turn it into Louisiana 2005 with Hurricane Katrina, or 2017 with Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico.

Other songs take a very personal glance at the past. Randy Travis would like to fix a mistake he made in 1982 (four years earlier from the time of singing); Josh Rouse imagines the vibe in 1972, the year he was born.

And then there are a couple of songs that require little time travel. Swedish singer Hello Saferide welcomes the year 2006 with great scepticism — “January 1st and it’s already clear: It’s gonna be another shitty year” — and a hope that she’ll land that partner she seeks: “And on the top of the list there’s you. I’m going to be with you. I haven’t told you yet but I’m going to be with you.” I hope she got you.

Finally, The Barracudas in 1980 were nostalgically yearning for 1965. In today’s money that’s nostalgia for the year 2002. Suddenly I’m feeling so very fucking old…

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

1. Billy Joel – Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway) (1981)
2. Prince – 1999 (1983)
3. The Four Seasons – December ’63 (Oh What A Night) (1976)
4. Boz Scaggs – 1993 (1977)
5. New Order – 1963 (1987)
6. The Barracudas – (I Wish It Could Be) 1965 Again (1980)
7. The Smashing Pumpkins – 1979 (1995)
8. Hello Saferide – 2006 (2006)
9. Josh Rouse – 1972 (2003)
10. Al Stewart – The Last Day of June 1934 (1973)
11. Ralph McTell – England 1914 (1969)
12. Motörhead – 1916 (1991)
13. John Cale – Paris 1919 (1973)
14. Harry Nilsson – 1941 (1967)
15. Randy Newman – Louisiana 1927 (1974)
16. Loudon Wainwright – 1994 (1995)
17. Randy Travis – 1982 (1986)
18. The Statler Brothers – The Class of 57 (1975)
19. Gil Scott-Heron – The Summer of ’42 (1975)
20. The Temptations – 1990 (1973)
21. Paul McCartney & Wings – Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five (1973)

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In Memoriam – October 2017

November 2nd, 2017 6 comments

Regular readers may know about my side project Bravo Posters wherein I run daily posters or cover pages of Germany’s Bravo magazine from the era up to the mid-1980s . On October 22 the featured item was the cover of Bravo of 20 October 1977, with a run-down of that edition’s stories in headline style. One of these was ‘John Paul Young: the singer from whom the Bay City Rollers “stole” a hit.’ That hit was “Yesterday’s Hero”, which was co-written by George Young. Who died the very same day Bravo Posters ran that frontpage.

George Young, the older brother of AC/DC’s Angus and Malcolm and no relation to the singer who gave two popes his name, was a prolific writer and producer, usually in partnership with Harry Vanda. On Australia’s music scene he was a giant. He and Vanda produced AC/DC’s early albums, and wrote John Paul Young’s breakthrough hits Standing In The Rain and Love Is In The Air (and, of course, Yesterday’s Hero, “stolen” by the Bay City Rollers). In the 1980s they wrote another international hit with Flash In The Pan’s Waiting For A Train. But Young and Vanda’s greatest legacy is one of the finest 1960s pop songs featuring minor keys. As members of The Easybeats, they wrote and played on Friday On My Mind.

With Fats Domino we have lost one of the nice guys on rock ‘n’ roll — a family man whose worst vice was a bit of gambling, a guy who never trash-talked his colleagues and was generous with his genius. Although his star faded somewhat in the 1960s, his legacy as a rock & roll pioneer was already secure, much as he insisted that he was a R&B musician. Domino influenced those who would become influential themselves. John Lennon named Domino’s Ain’t That A Shame as the first song he could ever play in full. Later The Beatles wrote Lady Madonna as a Domino tribute; Fats then covered it, bringing together a circle of genius. And Fats Domino (whose surname actually was Domino; he received his nickname after Fats Waller) might be the only #1 musician who inspired the stagename of another #1 musician: Chubby Checker.

I fear I shocked some of my US friends when I confessed to not knowing very much about the music of Tom Petty. He was one of those curious cases of musicians who are huge in the US but also-rans in the rest of the world. In the UK, Petty had one Top 30 entry — I Won’t Back Down reached #28 in 1989. In most of the world he was probably more famous as Muddy/Charlie T. Wilbury.  I became aware of Petty in 1977 when I saw him on a poster in Bravo magazine. I liked his face but didn’t know his music. In fact, I didn’t hear his voice, at least knowingly, until some time in the 1980s. And, I must confess, I never became a great fan, though I did like quite a few of his songs.

One of my favourite baritone voices has gone silent with the death of soul singer Grady Tate. Alas, he never became a huge star, despite a couple of very good albums and a clutch of great singles, plus those magnificently seductive vocals on Grover Washington Jr’s superb Be Mine (Tonight). Tate had greater recognition as a jazz drummer for the likes of Cannonball and Nat Adderley, Quincy Jones, Miles Davis, Milt Jackson, Lalo Schifrin, Stan Getz, Herbie Mann, Gabor Szabo, Hubert Laws, Roy Ayers, Jimmy McGriff, Freddie Hubbard, Houston Person, Lionel Hampton, George Shearing, Dizzy Gillespie, Bobby Hackett and Mary Lou Williams. He also backed vocalists such as Louis Armstrong (on What A Wonderful World), Aretha Franklin, Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway, Marlena Shaw, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Paul Simon, Bette Midler, Sarah Vaughan, Diana Ross, Carly Simon, Phoebe Snow, Lou Rawls, Peggy Lee and Kate & Anna McGarrigle.  He drummed for six years in the houseband of Johnny Carson’s Tonight show, and he hit the skins at Simon & Garfunkel’s famous Concert in Central Park.Sometimes research for this series can be very frustrating. In some obituaries for Dixie Hummingbirds guitarist Howard Carroll, who has died at 92, he is referred to as an original member of the band — which was formed in 1928, when he was three, an age still too young even as founder James B. Davis was only 12. Carroll seems to have joined the gospel group only in 1952. He stayed with it for the rest of his life, and was the longest-serving active member at the time of his death.

Producer Jerry Ross, who has died at 84, was the first man to give the young Kenny Gamble — the future Philly soul kingpin — his break. Together they wrote I’m Gonna Make You Love Me, which was first recorded by Dee Dee Warwick, then by Madeline Bell before it became a huge hit for Diana Ross & The Supremes & The Temptation. Ross was also a successful producer — among the biggest hits he produced were Bobby Hebb’s Sunny; Jay And The Techniques’ Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie; and Shocking Blue’s Venus — as well as a record label founder and A&R man.

And talking of Philly soul, a man who was in the thick of that story has passed on. Bunny Sigler made a mark as a singer. He recorded a few records for Cameo-Parkway in the ’60s before joining his friend Leon Huff at Philadelphia International Records as a songwriter (for acts such as The O’Jays) and producer for the likes of The Whispers, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Billy Paul, Lou Rawls, Jimmy Ruffin, Archie Bell & The Drells, The O’Jays, Loleatta Holloway, Patti LaBelle, Stephanie Mills and Curtis Mayfield. One of the biggest hits he produced was Instant Funk’s I Got My Mind Made Up, which featured in the In Memoriam – April 2017. He also had a few hits in his own right.It’s not a good year for people associated with the P-Funk collective; every few months somebody from Parliament/Funkadelic dies. This month it was backing singer Debbie Wright, who was giving her voice to the P-Funk from 1975 onwards. In between, he was one of the P-Funk all-female off-shoot Parlet, but left the trio after one album. In January the Reaper took Walter ‘Junie’ Morrison, in February it was Leon Ware who wrote songs for Parliament, in March singer Robert ‘P-Nut’ Johnson, in April drummer Barry “Frosty” Smith, who once toured with Funkadelic.

With the death of Skip Haynes, all three members of early ’70s rock trio Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah are now dead. Keyboardist John Jeremiah died in 2011, drummer John Aliotta in 2015. And now guitarist Haynes. The band’s biggest hit was Lake Shore Drive, which was about a Chicago highway. This being 1971, it was widely assumed that there was a hidden meaning in the song communicated through the initials of the song’s title — which, to be fair, the trio also enunciate in the lyrics and included in the title in parentheses.

For Canadian rock fans of a certain age, The Tragically Hip are a very important band. I hadn’t heard of them until mid-2016 when I read about the brain cancer of lead singer Gord Downie, who has now died of his illness. After Downie’s death, even Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued an emotional tribute. There is a reason I hadn’t heard of the band, nor, I suspect, most of those who are reading this. Unlike virtually every Canadian act that breaks big, The Hip, as their fans call them, never moved to the US. The rest of the world barely registers that Neil Young or Joni Mitchell or Bryan Adams or Justin Bieber are Canadians; in the general consciousness they become Americanised. The Tragically Hip, however, remained proudly Canadian, earning them cult status in their country.

Nick Newall, 77, saxophonist, flautist, keyboardist, on Oct. 1
Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band – Florence Of Arabia (1966, as member)
John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers – Looking Back (1969, on tenor saxophone)

Kenny Beard, country songwriter and producer, on Oct. 1
Trace Adkins – The Rest Of Mine (1997, as writer)

Tom Petty, 66, rock musician, on Oct. 2
Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers – Listen To Her Heart (1978)
Stevie Nicks with Tom Petty – Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around (1982, as vocalist, producer, writer)
The Traveling Wilburys – Last Night (1988, co-lead vocals)
Tom Petty – Free Fallin (1989)

Skip Haynes, 71, guitarist and songwriter, on Oct. 2
Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah – Lake Shore Drive (1973)

Jerry Ross, 84, producer, songwriter, label owner on Oct. 4
The Sapphires – Who Do You Love (1964, as writer)
Bobby Hebb – Sunny (1966, as producer)
Supremes & Temptations – I’m Gonna Make You Love Me (1968, as co-writer)
Jay & The Techniques – Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie (1968, as producer)

Alvin DeGuzman, guitarist of hardcore band The Icarus Line, on Oct. 5

Bunny Sigler, 76, soul singer, songwriter, producer, on Oct. 6
Bunny Sigler – Let The Good Times Roll (1968)
The O’Jays – Sunshine (1973, as writer and producer)
Bunny Sigler – That’s How Long I’ll Be Loving You (1976)
Bunny Sigler – Let Me Party With You (Party, Party, Party) (1978)

Lou Gare, 78, English free jazz saxophonist, on Oct. 6

Jimmy Beaumont, 76, lead singer of doo wop group The Skyliners, on Oct. 7
The Skyliners – Since I Don’t Have You (1959)
Jimmy Beaumont – Tell Me (1965)

Grady Tate, 85, jazz drummer and singer, on Oct. 8
Louis Armstrong – What A Wonderful World (1968, on drums)
Grady Tate – All Around The World (1968)
Grady Tate – Sack Full Of Dreams (1974)
Grover Washington Jr. – Be Mine (Tonight) (1981, on lead vocals)

Andy McGhee, 89, jazz saxophonist, on Oct. 12

Iain Shedden, 60, Scottish drummer (The Saints) and journalist, on Oct. 16
The Saints – Music Goes Round My Head (1988)

Gord Downie, 53, bassist of Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip, on Oct. 17
The Tragically Hip – Blow At High Dough (1989)
The Tragically Hip – In View (2005)

Debbie Wright, 67, singer with Parliament/Funkadelic and Parlet, on Oct. 17
George Clinton & Parliament – Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker) (1975)
Parlet – Cookie Jar (1978)

Howard Carroll, 92, guitarist of The Dixie Hummingbirds, on Oct. 17
The Dixie Hummingbirds – The Final Edition (1959)
The Dixie Hummingbirds – Loves Me Like A Rock (1973)

Phil Miller, 68, English rock/jazz guitarist, on Oct. 18

Eamonn Campbell, 70, guitarist and singer with Irish folk-group The Dubliners, on Oct. 18
The Dubliners & The Pogues – The Irish Rover (1987)

Boris Lindqvist, 76, Swedish rock & roll pioneer, announced Oct. 19

Martin Eric Ain, 50, bassist of Swiss heavy metal band Celtic Frost, on Oct. 21

George Young, 70, Australian musician, songwriter and producer, on Oct. 22
The Easybeats – Good Times (1968, as co-writers and members)
John Paul Young – Yesterday’s Hero (1976, as co-writer & co-producer)
AC/DC – Whole Lotta Rosie (1977, as co-producer)
Flash and the Pan – Waiting For A Train (1983, as co-writer & co-producer)

Scott ‘Daisy Berkowitz’ Putesky, 49, co-founder, guitarist of Marilyn Manson (1989-96), announced Oct. 22
Marilyn Manson – Lunchbox (1994)

Al Hurricane, 81, singer and songwriter, on Oct. 22

Larry Ray, 63, guitarist of power-pop band Outrageous Cherry, on Oct. 24
Outrageous Cherry – Stay Right Here For A Little While (2002)

Fats Domino, 89, legendary R&B singer-songwriter, on Oct. 24
Fats Domino – The Fat Man (1949)
Fats Domino – Ain’t That A Shame (1955)
Fats Domino – I’m Walking To New Orleans (1960)
Fats Domino – Lady Madonna (1968)

Robert Guillaume, 89, actor and occasional singer, on Oct. 24
Bob ‘Benson’ Guillaume – The Streets Are Filled With Dancing (1978)

Juliette, 91, Canadian jazz singer and TV presenter, on Oct. 26

Shea Norman, 45, gospel singer, on Oct. 26

Dick Noel, 90, crooner and advertising jingles singer, on Oct. 27
Ray Anthony and his Orchestra – Count Every Star (1950, on vocals)

Mike Hudson, 61, singer and guitarist of US punk band The Pagans, on Oct. 27
The Pagans – Dead End America (1979)

Keith Wilder, 65, US-born singer of UK funk group Heatwave, on Oct. 29
Heatwave – Always And Forever (1977)
Heatwave – Turn Around (1980)

Daniel Viglietti, 78, Uruguayan folk singer-songwriter and political activist, on Oct. 30

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Any Major Halloween Vol. 4

October 27th, 2017 5 comments

Here is the fourth and most likely final Halloween mix. This lot aims to be a bit spooky for about half of it, and then a little more relaxed, but without going too much novelty, other than that great disco track and that bizarre closing track.

One of the tracks here is in itself slightly spooky: The Doors’ Ghost Song was recorded in 1978, eight years after singer John Morrison’s death. Morrison’s spoken vocals were unscored recordings of his poetry; in 1978 the rest of the band put music to those recordings. The present track has very much a late ’70s disco-influenced vibe. This is what the Doors might have been.

So, four mixes of Halloween, and I have managed without the Rocky Horror Show, and didn’t need to consider those other Halloween staples, Ghostbusters and Thriller — though I did use The Monster Mash in the Halloween in black white mix from last year.

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

1. John Carpenter – Halloween Main Theme (1978)
2. Florence And The Machine – My Boy Builds Coffins (2009)
3. Kate Bush – Watching You Without Me (1985)
4. Genesis – Home By The Sea (1983)
5. The Chameleons – Swamp Thing (1986)
6. The Fall – Lucifer Over Lancashire (1986)
7. Ween – Cold Blows The Wind (1997)
8. Team Ghost – Dead Film Star (2013)
9. Menomena – Ghostship (2007)
10. Danny Elfman – This Is Halloween (1993)
11. Steeleye Span – Allison Gross (1973)
12. Tom Waits – Big Joe And Phantom 309 (1975)
13. The Doors – Ghost Song (1978/1970)
14. Oingo Boingo – Dead Man’s Party (1985)
15. Blue Magic – Born On Halloween (1975)
16. Hot Blood – Soul Dracula (1976)
17. Five Man Electrical Band – Werewolf (1974)
18. Iron Butterfly – Real Fright (1969)
19. France Gall – Frankenstein (1972)
20. Lambert, Hendricks and Ross – Halloween Spooks (1961)
Bonus track: Jethro Tull – Flying Dutchman (1979)

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Any Major Halloween Vol. 1
Any Major Halloween Vol. 2
Any Major Halloween Vol. 3

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Stars Pick Your Songs Vol. 2: Actors

October 19th, 2017 4 comments

A few weeks ago we had the first volume of songs chosen by musicians on the long-running BBC radio programme Desert Island Discs. This time, the people who are choosing their music for your listening pleasure are from the world of film — almost all actors, with the exception of one director, the great Fred Zinnemann.

The simple 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. One guest, opera singer Joan Sutherland, chose eight records sung by herself.

It seems to me that the thespians have a better taste in music than the musicians — though my shortlist of songs picked by Politicians & Authors is even better.

Special props to Colin Firth for picking a great favourite of mine, and the venerable Deborah Kerr for choosing Gram Parsons. Marlene Dietrich in 1965 picked a couple of Burt Bacharach songs, which might be surprising — if one forgets that the German diva was at the time recording folk songs like Blowin’ In The Wind and Where Have All The Flowers Gone.

As a general rule I have excluded classical music from consideration, but will make a couple of exceptions. One is here, where Hugh Grant has selected a piece of classical music, from Verdi’s opera Nabucco, which I might list myself if ever I get an invite from the BBC.

Terence Stamp, meanwhile, chose my favourite Beatles song; in as far as one can have one such favourite. George Clooney picked a contender for my favourite Sinatra song. His interview is as good as one might expect. One of his selections was William Shatner’s absurd version of Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds — as an incentive to escape the desert island.

Gloria Swanson, a guest in 1981, picked a Mel Tormé song, which is always a recommendation. Her interview is one of the most enjoyable I’ve listened to, which is not surprising, since her autobiography is one of the best I’ve read.

A massive collection of Desert Island Discs episodes is available for download in the form of MP3 podcasts from the BBC website, with new ones added regularly. The songs are featured only as clips, for licensing reasons, but the interviews are really worth listening to — when you get tired of Any Major Mix-tapes.

I was delighted to read the lists of desert island discs which some readers offered. Please keep them coming in the comments. Maybe there will be enough to make a mix of them.

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

1. Talking Heads – Once In A Lifetime (1980 – Tom Hanks, 2016)
2. Dar Williams – As Cool As I Am (2000 – Kathleen Turner, 2000)
3. Little Feat – Willin’ (1972 – Colin Firth, 2005)
4. Gram Parsons – She (1973 – Deborah Kerr, 1978)
5. Bob Seger – We’ve Got Tonight (1978 – Natalie Wood, 1980)
6. Randy Newman – Love Story (1968 – Patrick Stewart, 2005)
7. The Beatles – You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away (1965 – Terence Stamp, 1987)
8. Sandie Shaw – Always Something There To Remind Me (1964 – Marlene Dietrich, 1965)
9. Marvin Gaye – Let’s Get It On (1973 – Tim Robbins, 2010)
10. Roy Ayers – Love Will Bring Us Back Together (1979 – Damien Lewis, 2014)
11. US3 – Cantaloop (1992 – Emma Thompson, 2010)
12. Bill Withers – Lovely Day (1977 – Whoopie Goldberg, 2009)
13. Brook Benton – Rainy Night in Georgia (1969 – John Malkovich, 2001)
14. Frank Sinatra – Nice n’ Easy (1960 – George Clooney, 2003)
15. Ella Fitzgerald – I’ve Got A Crush On You (1950 – James Stewart, 1983)
16. Mel Tormé – Wonderful One (1955 – Gloria Swanson, 1981)
17. Nina Simone – Mississippi Goddam (1964 – Ian McKellen, 2003)
18. Cab Calloway – Minnie The Moocher (1931 – Fred Zinnemann, 1991)
19. Sister Rosetta Tharpe – My Journey To The Sky (1948 – Hugh Laurie, 2013)
20. London Symphony Orchestra – Va, pensiero (1970 – Hugh Grant, 1995)

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Any Major Schlager Covers Vol. 1

October 12th, 2017 9 comments

 

The germanised cover version was a staple of the Schlager scene. Often they were cash-ins of songs that were big hits in other countries — not just from the Anglophone world but also from other European countries, especially France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands.

But not all German covers were cash-ins. Some were sophisticated and sincere interpretations by artists who in France would record under the rather more satisfying title “chanson”. These artists included the likes of Daliah Lavi, Katja Ebstein, Dunja Raiter and Joy Fleming, who are represented here. And others were reinterpreted in ways that gave the artist a break from recording grandmother-approved music. Some of these were filler album tracks. For example, former Les Humphries Singers member Jürgen Drews covered Hotel California, which features here, as he eas having a hit with Eddie Rabbitt’s Rocky Mountain Music (as Barfuss durch den Sommer).

The collection kicks off with Joy Fleming’s cover of Aretha Franklin’s version of R-E-S-P-E-C-T. And if there was one German singer qualified to sing soul, it was Fleming, a woman of big voice and big personality. In 1975 Fleming came third-last in the Eurovision Song Contest with a soul-touched song that deserved better, Ein Lied kann eine Brücke sein. Fleming sadly died in September, after this mix had been compiled.

Former teen star Manuela gives us a version of Percy Sledge’s When A Man Loves A Woman. The title, which translates as When Night Falls In Harlem, is not promising, but her version turns out to be okay. The singer, who was something of Germany’s version of Connie Francis, resists the temptation to emote.

Also singing soul is Katja Ebstein with her 1972 take on Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay, which has a tasteful arrangement and is well interpreted. Ebstein also represented West-Germany in the Eurovision, coming third in 1970 with the excellent Wunder gibt es immer wieder, and again in 1971 (with the ecology song Diese Welt), and second in 1980 (backed by mimes, with Theater). A social-democrat, the now 72-year-old Ebstein is still an engaged social activist.

Like Ebstein, Israeli singer Daliah Lavi, who died this year, enjoyed mainstream success with music that transcended the clap-along fare of the Schlager scene. Her take on The Beatles’ Something is a proper, understated reinterpretation of the song, most of it spoken. Lavi had a powerful voice; she knew better than to let it loose here.

It’s probably a stretch to call Volker Lechtenbrink a Schlager star. He already had a long career as an actor when he recorded his well-received debut album in 1976, which consisted almost entirely of covers of Kris Kristofferson songs. As a KK afficionado I can confirm that he did the man’s songs no injustice. Hear his version of Sunday Morning, Coming Down to see if you agree.

Also starting out in acting was Croatian-born Dunja Raiter. In her musical career she was always was more chanteuse than Schlager singer. Her soulful version of Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne bears that out. There was not much clapping-along to be had with that.

Given the poor production values of many German versions of international hits, one is entitled to expect awful things from Hoffmann & Hoffmann’s German take on The Boxer. The lads sing it well enough — neither will be mistaken for Art Garfunkel, though — and the arrangement stays clear of cliché and shortcuts.

Worse things might have happened to another ’60s classic here. Peter Haupt’s version of Monday Monday is not likely to displace the Mamas & the Papas’ original, with those gorgeous harmonies, in anyone’s affection, but he gives it his personality without disrespecting the song. Haupt never became famous and died in 1999 at 58.

Those who know the Schlager scene might suspect that I tagged on Nina & Mike with their version of In The Year 2525 as a bit of a joke. They were very much of the mind-killing rhythm-defying clap-along variety of Schlager (sample their hit Fahrende Musikanten as an example). But, Nina and Mike had higher aspirations than shitty Schlager music. Folk Music, not Volksmusik. In that they were much like their fellow husband-and-wife act Cindy & Bert, whose cover of Paranoid we encountered in Curious Germany.

That Curious Germany mix also included a bunch of songs sung in German by English-speaking artists. Two more feature here: Alma Cogan gives us her German take on Tennessee Waltz; Cliff Richard appears here with his German version of Power To All My Friends, his 1973 entry for the Eurovision (here he is just grateful for having friends; he doesn’t want to give Germans ideas about power). I once actually posted a whole mix of international stars singing their hits in Deutsch.

Another foreign Eurovision alumni, this one a winner, here is Dutch singer Cory Brokken, singing her very songbirdy version of Do You Know The Way To San José, which Bacharach would approve of. Here the coffee is hot in San José, presaging the liquid crimes that coffee chains like Starbucks (boo!) commit today. Brokken died last year, earning a backgrounder entry in In Memoriam thanks to her unusual career: from being a singer to becoming a lawyer in her 40s and then a judge — before making a showbiz comeback.

Also from far shores was Bill Ramsey, who was born in 1931 in Cincinnati. Stationed with the US Air Force in Germany in the 1950s he began to play on stage, and went on to have a career in Germany. Most of his early stuff was square, sometimes ingratiatingly so. With the advent of beat music, Ramsey found a new voice, which often delivered some clever lyrics in that genre. Here he is with an interesting version of Jimi Hendrix’s The Wind Cries Mary. A bit over a decade later, rock group Spliff seemed to borrow from Ramsey’s vocals on their hit Deja Vu.

Another artist who got his big break thanks to the US army was Gerhard Wendland — but in his case it was thanks to being a POW of the Americans after World War 2, through Berlin station RIAS. His first record actually already came out in 1943, under the mentorship of Franz Grothe, a full-on Nazi who unaccountably enjoyed a long career in West-Germany. In the 1950s Wendland, already in his 30s/40s, was one of the biggest singing stars in West-Germany. By the 1960s his star started to fade slowly; now in his 50s he was an anachronism. His Sweet Caroline is the worst of the lot here.

In the 1990s old Schlager music enjoyed a rehabilitation, along the lines of semi-ironic nostalgic cult, and few artists benefitted from the revival in reputations more than Marianne Rosenberg. The good girl from next-door started out as a performer of standard Schlager fare before in the mid-‘70s tapping into that new-fangled disco music. Her cover of Blondie’s Heart Of Glass belongs in that context. Rosenberg is one of the classic gay club favourites in Germany.

Rosenberg’s version of Heart Of Glass is not bad, nor is it particularly great. I do, however, like Christina Harrison’s rather faithful cover of ABBA’s S.O.S. The singer had previously released singles as Christina May. After her career, Christina became a practitioner of ayurveda (an Indian wellness approach) and an activist for Native American rights, having lived on a Lakota reservation. In 1990 she married old Beatles friend Klaus Voormann, the designer of the Revolver cover, with whom she still lives near Munich.

The most demented track here is Karel Gott’s take on the Stones’ Paint It Black. The Czechoslovakian singer with the presumptuous surname was better known for his clean-cut crooning; later he’d sing the theme song for an animated kids’ show about a bee. But here Karel, “The Sinatra of the East”, goes apeshit: the arrangement is Slavic gypsy, and the singer can barely contain his voice with arousal as he yelps and hits high notes for no good reason, and as the song climaxes, Gott lets out a devil-possessed scream. It’s bizarre and absolutely wonderful. You’d think a well-mannered crooner would have political views as bland as most of his music, but Gott was a committed supporter of his country’s communist regime — and apparently remained a communist even after the fall of the regime there.

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

1. Joy Fleming – Geld (1975 – Respect)
2. Mary Roos – Die Liebe kommt leis’ (1972 – You Can’t Hurry Love)
3. Corry Brokken – Heiß ist der Kaffee (1968 – Do You Know The Way To San José)
4. Monica – Bang Bang (1966 – Bang Bang)
5. Karel Gott – Rot und schwarz (1969 – Paint It Black)
6. Bill Ramsey – Der Wind ruft Mary (1971 – The Wind Cries Mary)
7. Daliah Lavi – Manchmal (1971 – Something)
8. Katja Ebstein – Der Mann am Meer (1972 – Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay)
9. Manuela – Wenn es Nacht wird in Harlem (1967 – When A Man Loves A Woman)
10. Dunja Rajter – Susann (1969 – Suzanne)
11. Hoffmann & Hoffmann – Der Boxer (1977 – The Boxer)
12. Volker Lechtenbrink – Sonntag Morgen (1976 – Sunday Morning, Coming Down)
13. Hans Hass Jr – American Pie (1972 – American Pie)
14. Jürgen Drews – Hotel California (1977 – Hotel California)
15. Olivia Molina – Aber wie (1972 – Let It Be)
16. Gerhard Wendland – Sweet Caroline (1970 – Sweet Caroline)
17. Christina Harrison – S.O.S. (1975 – S.O.S.)
18. Marianne Rosenberg – Herz aus Glas (1979 – Heart Of Glass)
19. Cliff Richard – Gut daß es Freunde gibt (1973 – Power To All Our Friends)
20. Alma Cogan – Tennessee Waltz (1964 – Tennessee Waltz)
21. Eileen – Die Stiefel sind zum wandern (1966 – These Boots Are Made For Walking)
22. Peter Haupt – Monday Monday, was bringst Du mir (1966 – Monday Monday)
23. Nina & Mike – Was wird sein in sieben Jahren (1972 – In The Year 2525)

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In Memoriam – September 2017

October 5th, 2017 2 comments

The death of Walter Becker was marked here before even the August instalment of In Memoriam was posted, by way of a tribute in the form of covers of Steely Dan tracks. In the linernotes I emphasised Becker’s pivotal role in Steely Dan as the main arranger of those intricate and innovative songs, titled Any Major Steely Dan Covers. Of course, he also co-wrote those songs and played bass and (from Pretzel Logic onwards) guitar. All that came to an end in 1980 when Becker went into semi-retirement after a series of personal problems, including drug-use. He became an avocado farmer, but through the 1980s he also produced albums by the likes of Michael Franks, Rickie Lee Jones and Fra Lippo Lippi, as well as English new wave band China Crisis, who even listed him as a member on their excellent Flaunt The Imperfection album. He reunited with Donald Fagen in the early 1990s. Becker produced Fagen’s 1993 album Kamakiriad; Fagen co-produced Becker’s solo debut album the following year. They also started touring again as Steely Dan, and in 2000 and 2003 released two further well-received albums.

A few days after Becker, another influential man of many talents went: German musician Holger Czukay. As a young man, Czukay’s interest was in avant-garde music and he studied under the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen from 1963-66. A year after finishing those studies, Czukay heard The Beatles’ I Am The Walrus, inspiring him to connect his interest in experimental music with rock. In 1968 he co-founded Can (whose drummer, Jaki Liebezeit died in January), staying with the band until 1977. Can was among the “Krautrock” improv bands that influenced the likes of David Bowie and Talking Heads as well as acts like Joy Division/New Order, The Fall, Talk Talk, Public Image Ltd, Primal Scream, Jesus & Mary Chain and, for their sins, Radiohead. After leaving Can, Czukay released some funky records but also produced a string of albums that were not, safe to say, aimed at the commercial market. He developed something he called “radio painting”, whereby he’d splice together pieces of recordings from shortwave radio — an early form of sampling. Other efforts, especially in collaborations, were more accessible. Check out the lovely obit by Jono Podmore, a collaborator with Czukay and Liebezeit.

This monthly series, by its nature, is not an occasion for joyful celebration, even as we do celebrate the lives of musicians who brought much joy. Still, there are few other vocations were the conversation segues from Holger Czukay to Don Williams. I must confess that for many years I had an aversion to Don Williams. It had nothing to do with his music or personality, and everything to do with German highway rest-stops where cassette tapes of his 20 golden best of greatest hits would be displayed alongside the tapes of 20 golden best of greatest hits by stetson-wearers with and without moustaches, and the obligatory easy listening merchants of Roger Whitaker’s stripe. The selection clearly was aimed at truck drivers, not hip people like myself. Well, over time I found out that the smooth tones of Don Williams make for warm, effortless listens. And that he recorded the original for Eric Clapton’s Tulsa Time. And I’ve come to know many very cool truck drivers who are just as likely to listen to Czukay as they might to Gibson.

In the world of reggae, all-round musician Earl “Wire” Lindo was a big name, thanks to his work, especially on the keyboard, with Bob Marley & The Wailers (of whom he was a member, with a hiatus from 1974-79), Burning Spear, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Peter Tosh, Marcia Griffith, Gregory Isaac, Rita Marley, Black Uhuru, Dillinger, The Heptones, Melody Makers and many others. Occasionally he’d branch out, playing with acts like Taj Mahal, Garland Jeffreys (who, in any case, drew heavily from reggae) and, er, John Denver and Kenny Chesney. Until recently he was still touring with The Wailers Band. He died suddenly in London at 64.

Brazilian percussionist Laudir de Oliveira was a member of Chicago from the mid-1970s till 1982, when he was told to move out in favour of Bill Champlin in the band’s bid to become more commercial. But even before and while he was with Chicago, he played on several notable records as a session percussionist. That’s how he became a member of Chicago in the first place, having played on three albums before being invited to join the band. He first made a mark with his great conga playing on Joe Cocker’s Feelin’ All Right. Among others he played with are The Jacksons (on Blame It On The Boogie), Kenny Loggins, Gilberto Gil, Earl Klugh, Sergio Mendes, Chick Corea, Herb Alpert, Paul Anka, Milton Nascimento, Leon Ware, and Jennifer Warnes

German Schlager singers don’t have a reputation of being great exponents of soul music. But one who could make such claim was Joy Fleming, who has died at 72. Born with the very un-soul name Erna Raad, Fleming was most famous for her foray into the Eurovision Song Contest. Her 1975 entry features here: unaccountably, she finished 17th out of 19 entries, in the year that Teach-In’s Ding-A-Long won. Fleming was a fine soul, disco and blues performer with a big voice to match her big personality, and a fine interpreter of hits, also recording in English.

The actor Harry Dean Stanton enjoyed cult status in his field; lesser known are his occasional forays into the world of music. Periodically he toured, performing what one might call alt.country music, and recorded a few records. The first track featured here, from 1993, is a cover of a soul song by William Bell; the other is the excellent b-side.

The life of Rick Stevens illustrates how it is easy to fall from the, well, tower of power of celebrity once the fame goes. As the lead singer of 1970s soul-funk band Tower of Power, Stevens enjoyed some success for a time, especially with the hit You’re Still A Young Man, but prodigious use of drug led to his departure from the Tower. A few years later, in 1976, he killed three men in a drug-deal gone-south. He was sentenced to be executed, but soon after that California declared the death penalty unconstitutional, and Stevens’ sentence was converted to life imprisonment. He was paroled in 2012. Having mended his ways in jail, Stevens took to performing in prisons to spread the message to inmates that it is possible to turn one’s life around. So his life is not only a cautionary tale, but also a story of redemption.

 

Mick Softley, 77, British folk singer-songwriter, on Sept 1
Mick Softley – Time Machine (1970)

Hedley Jones, 99, Jamaican musician, audio engineer and inventor, on Sept 1

Walter Becker, 67, Steely Dan legend, producer, on Sept 3
Steely Dan – Only A Fool Would Say That (1972)
China Crisis – You Did Cut Me (1985, as producer/band member, on synth, percussion)
Walter Becker – Junkie Girl (1994)
Steely Dan – Slang Of Ages (2003, also on lead vocals)

Dave Hlubek, 66, guitarist of rock group Molly Hatchet, film score composer, on Sept 3
Molly Hatchet – Fall Of The Peacemakers (1983, also as writer)

Earl ‘Wire’ Lindo, 64, Jamaican reggae musician, on Sept 4
Bob Marley and The Wailers – Get Up, Stand Up (1973, as member)
Peter Tosh – Apartheid (1977, on keyboards)

Holger Czukay, 79, German rock musician, member of Can, on Sept 5
Can – She Brings The Rain (1970)
Holger Czukay – Cool In The Pool (1979)
Holger Czukay / Jah Wobble / The Edge – Snake Charmer (1984)

Leo Cuypers, 69, Dutch jazz pianist and composer, on Sept 5

Rick Stevens, 77, lead singer of soul-funk band Tower of Power, on Sept 5
Tower Of Power – The Skunk, The Goose, And The Fly (1971)
Tower Of Power – You’re Still A Young Man (1972)

John Jack, English jazz producer and promoter, on Sept 7

Don Williams, 78, country singer and songwriter, on Sept. 8
Poco Seco Singers – Take My Hand For A While (1969, as lead singer)
Don Williams – Tulsa Time (1978)
Don Williams  – That’s The Thing About Love (1984)

Josh Schwartz, 45, singer-songwriter and guitarist, on Sept 8

Troy Gentry, 50, country singer, in a helicopter crash on Sept 8
Montgomery Gentry – You Do Your Thing (2004)

Michael Friedman, 41, musical composer and lyricist, on Sept 9
James Barry & Benjamin Steinfeld – Rock Star (2010, from Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson)

Virgil Howe, 41, British musician, remixer, on Sept 10
Virgil Howe – Someday (2009)

Jessi Zazu, 28, lead singer of country-rock band Those Darlins, on Sept 12
Those Darlins – Wild One (2009)

Riem de Wolff, 74, singer of Dutch-Indonesian band The Blue Diamonds, on Sept 12

Grant Hart, 56, drummer with Hüsker Dü, singer, songwriter, on Sept 14
Hüsker Dü – Turn On The News (1984, also as writer)
Hüsker Dü – She’s A Woman (And Now He Is A Man) (1989, as writer and on lead vocals)
Grant Hart – Is The Sky the Limit (2013)

Lil Ameer, 14, Nigerian hip-hop artist, traffic accident on Sept 14

Harry Dean Stanton, 91, actor and occasional singer, on Sept 15
Harry Dean Stanton – You Don’t Miss Your Water (1993)
Harry Dean Stanton – Across The Borderline (1993)

Laudir de Oliveira, 77, Brazilian percussionist with Chicago, on Sept 17
Joe Cocker – Feelin’ Alright (1969, on congas)
Chicago – Feelin’ Stronger Everyday (1975)
The Jacksons – Blame It On The Boogie (1978, on percussions)

Mark Selby, 56, blues-rock musician, on Sept 18
Mark Selby – I Will Not Go Quietly (2013)

Bill Hatton, 76, bassist of English pop group The Fourmost, on Sept 19
The Fourmost – Hello Little Girl (1963, written by Lennon/McCartney)

Johnny Sandlin, 72, producer and engineer, on Sept. 19
Allman Brothers Band – Jessica (1973, as producer)

Cees Bergman, 65, singer of Dutch glam-rock band Catapult, on Sept. 21
Catapult – Let Your Hair Hang Down (1974)

Johnny Burke, 77, Canadian country singer, on Sept 21

Guy Villari, 75, singer with doo wop band The Regents, on Sept 21
The Regents – Barbara Ann (1961, original version)

Eric Eycke, lead singer of metal band Corrosion of Conformity (1983-84), on Sept 22

Ammon Tharp, 75, lead singer and drummer of Bill Deal and the Rhondels, on Sept 22
Bill Deal and the Rhondels – What Kind Of Fool Do You Think I Am (1969)

Mike Carr, 79, English jazz keyboard player, on Sept 22
Donovan – Wear Your Love Like Heaven (1967, on vibraphone)

Harold Pendleton, 93, founder of London’s Marquee Club, on Sept 22
The Who – My Generation (1967, live at the Marquee Club)

Charles Bradley, 68, soul singer, on Sept 23
Charles Bradley and The Bullets – This Love Ain’t Big Enough For The Two Of Us (2005)

Gérard Palaprat, 67, French singer-songwriter, on Sept 25

Joy Fleming, 72, German singer, on Sept 27
Joy Fleming – Bridge Of Love (1975)
Joy Fleming – Are You Ready For Love (1978)

CeDell Davis, 90, blues musician, on Sept 27
CeDell Davis – She’s Got The Devil In Her (1993)

Tom Paley, 89, folk musician, on Sept 30
The New Lost City Ramblers – Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down (1958, as member)

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Not Feeling Guilty Mix Vol. 8

September 28th, 2017 3 comments

Here is the eighth Not Feeling Guilty mix — and about time, too. The last one was in October, since when Valerie Carter, featured here on track 9, has died.

I don’t think there any acts left to introduce in this lot. The famous ones you know, and the not famous ones I’ve written about before.

So, everything is self-explanatory and you know how it works: CD-R length, home-crafted covers, PW in comments.

1. Steely Dan – FM (1978)
2. Doobie Brothers – Minute By Minute (1978)
3. Gary Wright – Love Is Alive (1975)
4. Boz Scaggs – It’s Over (1976)
5. Bill LaBounty – Comin’ Back (1982)
6. Robbie Dupree – Brooklyn Girls (1981)
7. Ambrosia – If Heaven Could Find Me (1978)
8. David Roberts – Boys Of Autumn (1982)
9. Valerie Carter – Lady In The Dark (1978)
10. Rupert Holmes – Let’s Get Crazy Tonight (1978)
11. Dr. Hook – Sexy Eyes (1979)
12. Paulinho Da Costa with Bill Champlin – Seeing Is Believing (1979)
13. Pages – Who’s Right, Who’s Wrong (1979)
14. Paul Davis – ’65 Love Affair (1981)
15. Lauren Wood – Work On It (1981)
16. Orleans – Love Takes Time (1979)
17. Jim Photoglo – More To Love (1981)
18. Player – Let Me Down Easy (1978)
19. Atlanta Rhythm Section – Imaginary Lover (1978)
20. Christopher Cross – The Light Is On (1979)

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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

Bacharach & David Songbook Vol. 1

September 21st, 2017 9 comments

It is probably redundant to deliberate at length about Burt Bacharach’s massive influence, other than to point out how incongruous it is that there were times when it was seen as somehow uncool to dig Bacharach’s music. That, to me, is the equivalent of coffee being declared socially unacceptable. Still, a few words seem necessary.

Bacharach and lyricist Hal David probably were the most prolific Brill Building partnership; if others exceeded their output, then certainly not with as much success. And consider some of these Brill alumni: Goffin & King, Mann & Weil, Leiber & Stoller, Sedaka & Greenfield, Barry & Greenwich, Neil Diamond, Laura Nyro… The pair scored their first major hit soon after taking over a cubicle in the Brill Building in 1957: Perry Como’s Magic Moments. Over the next few years they scored a series of minor hits, many of which featured on the Bacharach: The Lesser Known Songbook mix.

The breakthrough arguably was meeting Dionne Warwick in 1961, who would become something of a muse for the songwriters. Warwick’s initial task was to sing on the demo recordings of songs destined for others. Warwick’s interpretations, however, were usually quite perfect. And so many songs came to be written with Dionne in mind. Some of these Warwick would be the first to record, others would be given to other artists first, to be covered later by Warwick (who had 22 US Top 40 hits with Bacharach/David songs). The triumvirate fell apart in the early 1970s amid a flurry of lawsuits.

By the 1970s the Bacharach style became unfashionable, incongruously labelled as easy listening fare. But it wasn’t: many Bacharach songs are best heard as soul songs, as the Covered With Soul Bacharach/David mix proved.

Soul singer Lou Johnson recorded several Bacharach/David songs before they became hits, though Kentucky Bluebird (later a Warwick hit as Message To Michael) was recorded by fellow soulster Jerry Butler a year earlier. Lyn Collins in her 1974 recording (featured here in the superior single version) proves further that many Bacharach songs are really soul songs, as do Aretha Franklin and Isaac Hayes, who had a way of transforming Bacharach songs into acid trips, though the present live version of The Look Of Love is a straight take on the song. Luther Vandross also was an outstanding interpreter of Bacharach, as he shows here on the slooowed down version of Anyone Who Had A Heart.

But outside soul and a few pop visionaries, Bacharach was considered uncool for a long time. When Frankie Goes To Hollywood singer Holly Johnson in the mid-’80s wanted to record a version of (Do You Know The Way To) San José, his laddish colleagues vociferously opposed the idea. In the event, they did record it, — perhaps because they could play Born To Run in return — and their version is quite lovely, if a bit wedding bandish. Arguably this was a significant step towards the rehabilitation of Bacharach which was complete by the late ’90s, with even the likes of Oasis’ chief plagiarist Gallagher paying tribute to Bacharach.

Bacharach had made something of a comeback with a few hits in the 1980s, co-written with wife Carole Bayer Sager, such as Arthur’s Theme, On My Own and Dionne Warwick’s comeback saccharine hit That’s What Friends Are For (as so often with Bacharach and Warwick, it had been previously recorded, by Rod Stewart for the soundtrack of 1982’s Nightshift).

Bacharach went back to his roots, in a way, when he composed, with occasional collaborator Elvis Costello, the song God Give Me Strength for the 1996 film Grace Of My Heart, which was loosely based on Brill alumni Carole King. Bacharach’s 1998 album with Elvis Costello, Painted From Memory, was a patchy effort, as was his 2005 solo album, At This Time. Much better was their lovely retro reworking of I’ll Never Fall In Love Again.

Burt’s unusual surname is German; there is a town called Bacharach in the Rhineland.

 

Bacharach’s melodies and arrangements are, obviously, exquisite. They also work well as instrumentals. But the lyrics of Hal David, who died in 2012, elevate these songs. David brought an old-school approach to lyrics to what was then modern pop. It is not only the elegance and poetic wordsmithery that sets David apart from most of his contemporaries, but also the rhythm of the words. In both regards, David was the equal of any lyricist that came before him, bar Cole Porter.

I think that Cole Porter would have killed for a line like this: “What do you get when you kiss a girl? You get enough germs to catch pneumonia. After you do she’ll never phone ya…” Hal David’s lyrics capture universal emotions with great perception and imagination. A couple of lyrics — Wives And Lovers, Wishin’ And Hopin’ — are rather of their time and awfully sexist, at least by our standards today. Both will feature on Vol. 2. But these are exceptions. Few lyricists have communicated heartbreak quite as close to the nerve as David; just listen to One Less Bell To Answer.

So it is right that this mix bears both names, Bacharach and David, even if the eagle-eyed pedant will point out that not every song here features the lyrics of Hal David. One song on this mix, Any Day Now, has Bob Hilliard’s words, sung by Elvis Presley. At least one other Hilliard song (Tower Of Strength) will be on the second Bacharach/David mix.

On this mix I am not experimenting: every one of these version is a favourite; most of them are the definitive interpretations. Still, I have imposed my usual rule: no artist is going to appear twice on a mix. A few will appear twice over the two mixes; certainly the muse Dionne Warwick.

The showstopper here is Barbra Streisand’s duet of herself with a mash-up of One Less Bell To Answer/A House Is Not A Home, which was covered to great effect in 2010 on the TV show Glee by Kristin Chenoweth and Matthew Morrison.

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

1. Carpenters – (They Long To Be) Close To You (1970)
2. B.J. Thomas – Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head (1969)
3. Herb Alpert – This Guy’s In Love With You (1968)
4. Sandie Shaw – (There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me (1964)
5. Dusty Springfield – I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself (1964)
6. Jackie DeShannon – What The World Needs Now Is Love (1965)
7. Dionne Warwick – Walk On By (1964)
8. Elvis Costello & Burt Bacharach – I’ll Never Fall In Love Again (2000)
9. Frankie Goes To Hollywood – San José (1984)
10. Luther Vandross – Anyone Who Had A Heart (1986)
11. Barbra Streisand – One Less Bell To Answer-A House Is Not A Home (1971)
12. Isaac Hayes – The Look Of Love (live) (1973)
13. Lyn Collins – Don’t Make Me Over (1975)
14. Aretha Franklin – I Say A Little Prayer (1968)
15. The Sweet Inspirations – Reach Out For Me (1967)
16. The Stylistics – You’ll Never Get to Heaven (If You Break My Heart) (1972)
17. Lou Johnson – Kentucky Bluebird (Message To Martha) (1964)
18. Jimmy Radcliffe – There Goes The Forgotten Man (1962)
19. Walker Brothers – Make It Easy On Yourself (1966)
20. Gene Pitney – Only Love Can Break A Heart (1963)
21. Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas – Trains And Boats And Planes (1965)
22. Elvis Presley – Any Day Now (1969)
23. Trini Lopez – Made In Paris (1965)

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More Bacharach:
Bacharach: The Lesser Known Songbook
The Originals: Bacharach Edition
Covered With Soul Vol. 7: Bacharach/David Edition

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Life In Vinyl 1985 – Vol. 2

September 14th, 2017 1 comment

 

After a bit of a delay (more on that shortly) we hit the second half of 1985 in A Life in Vinyl. This seems a good opportunity to commend to you the Chart Music podcasts, one of which dealt with an episode of Top of the Pops in 1985. Produced by Al Needham, the erstwhile Nottingham’s Mr Sex with whom I collaborated on this thing some eight years ago, the podcasts have the host discuss with two guests in forensic and often very funny detail an old episode of the BBC show Top of the Pops. The guests typically are alumni of the now defunct Melody Maker, such as David Stubbs, Simon Price or Neil Kulkarni. For those interested in British music and culture in the ’70s and ‘80s, these podcasts are a treasure. For all other Pop-Crazed Youngsters, they are great fun.

And while I’m plugging sites, I might also mention the repository of old Smash Hits magazines set up by Brian McCloskey on Like Punk Never Happened, and my own side project, Bravoposters, wherein each day one or two posters, title pages, charts or ads that appeared in the German teen magazine Bravo from the 1950s to early 1980s are featured.

And so to the second half of 1985, about which I had written an extensive retrospective. Had I written it in 1985, I might still have it on paper. But I wrote it on a computer and saved it to an external hard-drive. You can guess the rest of my sorry tale. I believe I might have used the words “Oh fucking golly gosh” once to express my sentiments about having lost this and other bits of writing.

The first part of 1985 in A Life In Vinyl took us up to August. The dividing point of my year was not Live Aid but getting a new job in Chelsea, London, in September. My place of work was only three minutes’ walk from King’s Road, and not far from Kensington Market, so there were lots of interesting shops in which to browse. While my fashion sense bordered on the daring — few people could pull off my sartorial combination of Indie melancholy and Duran Duran coked-up what-the-fuck-are-you-thinking-of pastels. I was Morrissey Le Bon.

It was at that time that a flatmate invited me to join him and some friends for a night out at a nightclub called Heaven. As we were leaving to drive to Heaven, two rather gorgeous women joined me on either side in the backseat of the car. Momentarily I thought my luck was in — until they uttered their greetings, in quite unladylike voices. At that point I realised that Heaven is a gay club.

As we walked down Charing Cross to get to the club I was feeling a little apprehensive, as if a reporter of The Sun might be jumping out from the shadows to photograph me for a story headlined “Straight boy attends gay club”. Turned out, I loved the place. I loved that I felt no pressure to evade the fate of Morrissey, one I was familiar with, in How Soon Is Now —  “So you go and you stand on your own, and you leave on your own, and you go home and you cry and you want to die”. Liberated from that pressure, I enjoyed myself more than I did at any other club. And when a very shy Asian guy offered to buy me a drink, I politely declined but felt an elation that somebody actually found me attractive. For an insecure, introverted 19-year-old, that was a big thing.

At that time I also managed to smuggle a group of us into the exclusive Stringfellow’s club a few times by asking the bouncers if Mr So-and-so from the embassy of this-or-that country had arrived yet. No? Well, we better get in to wait for him. The 1980s were a simpler time.

I loved that second part of 1985; it was one of those rare times when everything felt good and warm. For that reason, all of the songs featured here, and many more, evoke that fuzzy feeling I had at the time when I hear them now. What a pity then that not all of the songs of that time that conjure these sentiments were very good. Feargal Sharkey’s A Good Heart or — oh, the humanity — Red Box’s Lean On Me (Ah Li Ayo) are two examples of that. I won’t force those on you, though there are a couple of songs on this mix which I would not necessarily endorse as a critical blogger of music. Still, when I hear Midge Ure’s If I Was, I’m back in my North London room, feeling good about the world. Artistic merit? Unimportant.

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

1. Madness – Yesterday’s Men
2. The Smiths – The Boy With The Thorn In His Side
3. The Cure – Close To Me
4. Cameo – Single Life
5. Hipsway – Ask The Lord
6. Simple Minds – Alive And Kicking
7. Midge Ure – If I Was
8. Lloyd Cole and the Commotions – Lost Weekend
9. The Jesus & Mary Chain – Just Like Honey
10. New Order – Subculture
11. The Waterboys – The Whole Of The Moon
12. Talking Heads – Road To Nowhere
13. Grace Jones – Slave To The Rhythm
14. Dee C. Lee – See The Day
15. A-ha – Take On Me
16. Wham! – I’m Your Man
17. Fine Young Cannibals – Blue
18. Latin Quarter – No Rope As Long As Time
19. Isley Jasper Isley – Caravan Of Love

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