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Covered With Soul Vol. 22

July 20th, 2017 7 comments

It has been more than two years since the last Covered With Soul. This collection draws from a wide range of genres to produce what I think is a pretty smooth flow of good soul music.

Those genres include rock (Come Together), 1960s pop (Windy, You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling, Breaking Up Is Hard To Do) and ’70s pop (Spirit In The Sky, Your Song, Mr Bojangles), folk (Fire And Rain, Where Have All The Flowers Gone, Tin Man), country (For The Good Times, Break It To Me Gently, Misty Blue), and standards (Unforgettable, The Glory Of Love, It’s All In The Game, Fever, even I’ll Build A Stairway To Paradise from the MGM musical An American In Paris) .

And there is a soul version of the Irish song Danny Boy which strips that old chestnut of its accumulated kitsch and gives it a soul treatment which sounds a decade older than its year of release, 1981. It is performed by LV Johnson, who had more success as a songwriter than he did as a recording artist, alas. He died in 1994 at the age of 48.

One country track here may be more famous as a soul number, but not in the featured version. Misty Blue was written for Brenda Lee but became better known in Eddie Arnold’s version. Its biggest success, however, was in the southern soul version by Dorothy Moore, which hit the Top 5s in both the US and UK — three years after it was first recorded. The present version by Joe Simon from 1969 is the missing link. Coincidentally, it was also a minor hit three years after it was first recorded.

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

1. Dorothy Morrison – Spirit In The Sky (1970)
2. Earth Wind & Fire – Where Have All The Flowers Gone (1972)
3. Clydene Jackson – Mr Bojangles (1975)
4. Maxine Weldon – I’ll Build A Stairway To Paradise (1975)
5. The Manhattans – Fever (1974)
6. Brothers Johnson – Come Together (1976)
7. Bobby Womack – Fire And Rain (1971)
8. Isaac Hayes – For The Good Times (1971)
9. Joe Simon – Misty Blue (1969)
10. Al Jarreau – Your Song (1976)
11. Chocolate Milk – Tin Man (1975)
12. Aretha Franklin – Break It To Me Gently (1977)
13. L.V. Johnson – Danny Boy (1981)
14. Eddie Holman – It’s All In The Game (1970)
15. The Dells – The Glory Of Love (1969)
16. Gene Chandler – Unforgettable (1970)
17. Carl Graves – Breaking Up Is Hard To Do (1975)
18. Billy Paul – Windy (1970)
19. Vivian Reed – God Bless The Child (1976)
20. Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway – You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling (1972)

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Any Major Whistle Vol. 1

July 17th, 2017 17 comments

Here I am recycling a mix on whistling in pop I posted in 2009. As a vigorous (and in-tune!) whistler, I appreciate the art of musical blowing of air. I presume that most of the whistling was perpetrated by the performers themselves, but there have been moments when an act has made use of session whistlers. For example, the fade out whistling on Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay (not featured here) is not Otis Redding’s lipwork; in fact, he berated the session whistler for being out of tune in the first take.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on to a standard CD-R.

1. Elvis Presley – A Whistling Tune (1962)
The perfect opener: it’s got the right title, it starts with a whistle, it’s Elvis (though I don’t know if it is him whistling). Elvis doesn’t strike me as the whistling type). Whistle-tastic moment: 0:01 Whistling right off the bat.

2. Roger Miller – England Swings (1965)
London was swinging, as TIME magazine established, so country singer Roger Miller imagined its swingingness. Oh yeah, the Bobby is on a leisurely beat. It’ll take Plod two years to work out that Mick and Keef are smoking naughty stuff in the privacy of their own home. Whistle-tastic moment: 0:01 From the top and returning throughout.

3. Johnnie Ray – Just Walking In The Rain (1956)
Poor old Johnnie Ray. Sounded sad upon the radio. He moved a million hearts in mono. Here he is crying, believe it or not. And, happily, whistling a catchy blow-air riff. Whistle-tastic moment: 0:01 Johnnie lets blow from the start before singing, just like our fathers.

4. Pat Boone – Love Letters In The Sand (1957)
Pat Boone was never very cool. But I can forgive him his reactionary pop posing for his whistle solo in Love Letters In The Sand, proudly wearing his Bing Crosbyness on his lips.  Whistle-tastic moment: 1:27  And all the girls play air whistle.

5. The Mamas & The Papas – Dream A Little Dream Of Me (1968)
If by 1968 anybody had a doubt who the star of the Mamas And the Papas was, here’s the proof: Cass gets a special intro. Glorious. Whistle-tastic moment: 2:58  Enough of the ad-libbing da-da-da-ing; give a little whistle.

6. Rilo Kiley – Ripchord (2004)
If there had been Indie rock in 1928, Ripchord (from the excellent More Adventurous album) would have been the hit. Whistle-tastic moment: 1:44  The whistling is not very good, and yet entirely charming.

7. Badly Drawn Boy – You Were Right (2002)
Why do some people not like Badly Drawn Boy? This is perhaps the wolly-hatted one’s best song, with great lyrics. I like his obliviousness to the deaths of stars, and his rejection of Madonna’s possible romantic designs on him.  Whistle-tastic moment: 4:03  The boy can whistle as well as Roger Whitaker (sorry, apartheid-boycott-busting fans; he won’t feature): a great 23 second solo.

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You know how to whistle, don’t you? You just put your lips together, and blow.

8. Andrew Bird – Masterfade (2005)
It’s obvious a singer named Bird should make the whistle a regular element of his music. Happily, the whistling does not define Bird’s kicked-back indie sounds  Whistle-tastic moment: 1:39  Vibrato whistling!

9. Loose Fur – The Ruling Class (2006)
I’ve been told that the recurring whistling here is committed by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, for whom Loose Fur was a side-project and takes the vocals on this track. It’s a good riff.   Whistle-tastic moment: 0:09   Take care; the whistle riff might become a constant earworm.

10. The Lemonheads – If I Could Talk I’d Tell You (1996)
It took me a while to decide whether to use this version or Evan Dando’s solo live cut  (I love this song in either incarnation). Dando live is amusingly off-key on the first note of the whistle solo, an error I’ve tried hard to replicate. If I could talk I’d tell you why I went with the Lemonheads’ take (OK, put away your waterboard: it’s a question of sound quality).   Whistle-tastic moment: 1:53   One of the birds flying around Snow White’s head must have had some of the evil queen’s bad apples and turned up totally goofed at the Lemonheads’ recording studio.

11. Tenpole Tudor – Wünderbar (1981)
The indiscriminate use of the umlaut notwithstanding, this is still a great song – I’d have thought that 28 years on it would be vaguely embarrassing. Not so, I’m jiving to it as I write.  Whistle-tastic moment: 1:38   An extended group whistle solo. Wonderful.

12. XTC – Generals And Majors (1980)
Post-punk new wave was not a fertile soil for the art of whistling. Except if you were XTC, who rocked the whistle more than once. Whistle-tastic moment: 0:41  The whistle interlude sets the scene for tempo change (listening closely, is it the synth whistling?).

13. Dexys Midnight Runners – Until I Believe In My Soul (7:01)
I held this one over from the flute series. If I was planning a series of fake laughing in pop – and I am not – or one about irritated mumbling interludes in music (ditto), this would be a contender too. Whistle-tastic moment: 5:05 After lots of emotional build-up, the song goes silent for a second; then Rowland whistles reassuringly to introduce the fiddle-backed mumblinations that precede the repeated YESes.

14. Eels – I Like Birds (live) (2006)
E insists that the song is about his appreciation of our feathered friends. The feeder for you to perch on is…for birds?  Whistle-tastic moment: 0:37  The whistle represents a bird.

15. Jens Lekman – A Man Walks Into A Bar (2005)
Oh Jens, you’re so ironic. The memories of a childhood amateur comedienne makes you sad, years after. Just beautiful.  Whistle-tastic moment: 0:54  The whistle interlude allows us to reflect on Lekman’s irony and wallow in his melancholy. And he repeats the trick. And gives us a harmonica solo to boot.

16. Josh Rouse – Quiet Town (2007)
Josh Rouse left Nashville, found love and settled in a quiet town in Spain which sounds like a relaxing place, with much leisure and contentment. And what do you do when you’re leisurely contented? Why, you whistle, contentedly.  Whistle-tastic moment: 1:13  Josh is leisurely contented.

17. John Lennon – Nobody Loves You When You’re Down (1975)
It may seem impossible to imagine, but John Lennon had moments of self-pity. Oh yes, but he did. Rarely in his solo career did the self-pity serve him better than on this bitter song, extracting from Lennon fine, understated vocals.  Whistle-tastic moment: 4:27  John goes into resigned  “oh fuck it” whistling mode, repeating his party trick from Jealous Guy..

18. Shawn Phillips – Steel Eyes (1971)
Phillips is an unjustly ignored long-hair folk merchant now living in South Africa. Steel Eyes comes from the wonderful Second Contribution album (worth looking up just for the title of the opening track).  Whistle-tastic moment:2:12   You think the song is over; then, after a three-second silence, Phillips gives it a whistle interlude. Forty seconds later, it ends. But it doesn’t; he starts again. Oh how you tease, Shawn.

19. Sun City Girls – The Shining Path (1990)
And today’s prize question: Which famous melody are the unfeminine Sun City Girls ripping off here? And what on earth are they singing?  Whistle-tastic moment: 0:01  Unlike your average spaghetti western, Sun City Girls don’t let you wait long for whistle action.

20. The Beach Boys – Disney Girls (1957) (1971)
The moment the Beach Boys, led here by Bruce Johnstone, turned into Paul McCartney. It has whistling and flute. Gorgeous.  Whistle-tastic moment: 3:47   The whistling comes in randomly at the end.

21. Paul Simon – Me & Julio Down By The Schoolyard (1971)
Paul Simon once said he didn’t really know what Mama saw. Still, it seems obvious that an act of a sexual nature was observed. But let’s put to rest the idea that Rosie was the leading administrator of favours to matters phallic because she was the queen of something sharing the name with a cigar – Corona is a New York neighbourhood. Whistle-tastic moment: 1:12   Simon lets blow. Good job. Bad pun.

22. Danyel Gérard – Butterfly (French version) (1971)
I’ve posted the German version of this before, and I shall do so again. The German, English and French versions all have the whistling interlude. The song? Yeah, it is cheesy. And quite wonderful.  Whistle-tastic moment: 3:17   After establishing a sing-along party atmosphere, our floppy-hatted friend wistfully (look, Ma, no puns) whistles the song out.

23. Richard Cheese – Creep (2006)
It’s so mother-fucking special.  Whistle-tastic moment: 1:07  Cheese announces it: WHISTLE SOLO!.

Bonus: Mrs Miller – Downtown (1966)
You have to love Mrs Miller: she was deadly serious about her singing, yet she knew that to everyone else it was amusing. Hear Mrs Miller fluff her line, get flustered, and then gamely catches herself to take us to perhaps the most disturbing whistle solos in the history of popular music — after which she fluffs the lyrics some more.  Whistle-tastic moment: 1:07  Mrs Miller is so stoked about her whistling chops that she gives us an encore.

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Any Major Beach Vol. 2

July 13th, 2017 2 comments

It’s the middle of summer for most people who read this blog (though not for us poor southern hemisphereans), so it’s a good time to for summer music. For those of us in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa or the colder parts of South America, there is always the Winter mix.

The four-part summer songs series finished a while ago, but last year I returned to the theme with a special focus on the subject of the beach. So this is the second mix on that theme.

The theme was suggested a while ago by reader Rob, who suggested the inclusion of The Drifters’ On The Boardwalk. The Drifters featured last time, but this mix includes a cover version of it by the never less than cheerful John Mellencamp. Here I again allow the Beach Boys an exemption from my one-artist-per-theme rule — if only to offset some of the less light-hearted songs on this mix.

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

And don’t forget to wear a sunhat.

1. First Class – Beach Baby (1974)
2. The 5th Dimension – On The Beach (In The Summertime) (1970)
3. Françoise Hardy – Sunshine (1970)
4. Glen Campbell – Galveston (1969)
5. Three Dog Night – Yellow Beach Umbrella (1976)
6. Michael Franks – Blue Pacific (1990)
7. Colin Hay – Beautiful World (2000)
8. Blake Shelton – Some Beach (2010)
9. George Strait – Marina Del Rey (1982)
10. Natalie Merchant – Maggie And Milly And Molly And May (2010)
11. The Pogues – House Of The Gods (1990)
12. John Mellencamp – Under The Boardwalk (1985)
13. Brenda Lee – White Silver Sands (1962)
14. The Brothers Four – Marianne (1960)
15. Frank Sinatra – Sand And Sea (1966)
16. Elvis Presley – Never Ending (1964)
17. The Who – Bell Boy (1973)
18. The Beach Boys – The Girls On The Beach (1974)
19. Brian Eno – On Some Faraway Beach (1974)
20. Diana King – Summer Breezin’ (2002)
21. The Bloodhound Gang – Screwing You On A Beach At Night (2007)

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Any Major Summer
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Curious Germany – The Collection

July 11th, 2017 8 comments

Here is a mix of German curiosities, some chosen because they are very good or interesting (or both), and a couple of football-themed songs at the end, selected because they are entertaining in their musical poverty.

This mix was previously posted in May 2013. Some tracks have featured here before, but the links are long dead. I’ve also cribbed a few notes from those instalments. As ever, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes hausgemachte covers. PW in comments

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1. Die Toten Hosen – Bayern (2000)
The title refer to Germany’s most dominant football club, whom non-fans regard, with no exaggeration, as a cancer in the body of German football. So the alternative rock band Die Toten Hosen (The Dead Trousers) composed a very catchy number explaining how, if they were “super-talented” young footballers, they would never sign a contract with that club because such an act would be thoroughly corrupting. At one point the singer demands to know: “What kind of parents must one have to be so stupid as to sign for that shitty club?”

2. Alexander Wolfrum – Hey Büblein (2006)
When somebody records an acoustic version of “Hey Joe” and renders the title as, roughly translated, Hey Little Boy, it’s worth listening to. The lyrics have nothing to do with the original either: it deals with metaphors involving thin ice, drowning in a lake and a rescue. And in-between a female voice warns that Joe is going to catch a cold.

Wolfrum, known by everybody as Sandy, is a singer-songwriter who performs in the dialect of Franconia  — the region around Nuremberg — and founded a Festival der Liedermacher (or Festival of Songwriters) in Bayreuth, the home town of Richard Wagner.  Check out more by Alexander Wolfrum.

3. David Bowie – Helden (1977)
In his Berlin period Bowie fused the cultures of the Weimar Republic cabarets, Krautrock and Kraftwerk, and the local junkie scene. It’s very nice that David Bowie sought to pay tribute to the city that served as his muse by recording in German, but since he lived and recorded there, one might quibble that he could have taken better care with his pronunciations. As it turns out, he put as much effort in enunciating German words correctly as English football commentators do in pronouncing the names of German (or any non-Latinate) football players.

4. Cindy & Bert – Der Hund von Baskerville (1970)
Husband-and-wife duo Cindy & Bert were a Schlager duo that epitomised the idea of the Spiesser (square) in the 1970s. My grandmother thought Cindy & Bert were delightful, so Oma would have been shocked to discover that Cindy & Bert’s catalogue included a cover version of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”, with the lyrics taking a Sherlock Holmes theme.  It need no pointing out that my grandmother probably wasn’t a hardcore Sabbath fan.

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5. Howard Carpendale – Du hast mich (1970)
In German Schlager history, Howard Carpendale wrote a particularly successful chapter. Unable to hack it in his home country South Africa as an Elvis impersonator, the former shotput champion moved to Germany, learned to speak the language with just enough of a touch of an accent (German audiences really got off on foreign accents; but only in entertainment and romance, not in shops, pubs or public transport), and became the leading romantic singer of the 1970s and ’80s Schlager scene, selling some 25 million records. None of those 25 million records soiled my collection, I am pleased to say. His first breakthrough came with the standard Schlager “Das Mädchen von Seite 1” (The girl from the front page). The flip side, however, was entire unschlagerish, a rocker called “Du hast mich” (You Have Me), a cover of the song Glory Be by German psychedelic rockers Daisy Clan which sounds like a heavy fuzz-guitared, organ-hammering Santana number.

Glory Be was the b-side of Daisy Clan’s 1970 single “Love Needs Love”, apparently the group’s final English-language single (their final release in 1972 was appropriately titled “Es geht vorrüber”, which could be translated as “It goes by”). The Daisy Clan apparently were Schlager singer Michael Holm and songwriter Joachim Haider, going by the name of Alfie Khan.

6. Udo Jürgens – Peace Now (1970)
The first of a fistful of English-language tracks here is by the late Udo Jürgens, the Austrian-born Swiss national who enjoyed immense success in West Germany, the place of his parents’ birth. Jürgens was as big a star as any on the Schlager scene, though his songs tended to be a notch or five above the usual banalities of the genre. Jürgens also wrote hits for Matt Munro, Sammy Davis Jr and Shirley Bassey.

“Peace Now” was the rocking English-language b-side of a German single titled “Deine Einsamkeit”, released in October 1970. It’s pretty good, in a dated sort of way that draws from rock, funk and gospel. Udo, exhibiting a rather lilting German accent, buys into the Zeitgeist as he sings: “Everybody is talkin’ ’bout peace in the world, but every time I hear a hungry baby cry I ask: Peace, now show me your face.”

7. Heidi Brühl – Berlin (1969)
Schlager singers, as a rule, were not cool. Heidi Brühl was not cool either. She had been a popular child actress, making her screen debut in 1954 as a 12-year-old. As a 17-year-old she became a Schlager singer, selling a million copies of her 1960 hit “Wir wollen niemals auseinandergeh’n”, the runner-up in the Eurovision Song Contest that year. In the late ’60s Heidi, now married to American actor Brett Halsey, wanted to be cool — understandably, since her first hit in three years in 1966 was a cover of “The Ballad of the Green Berets”.

By now living in Rome, she went to London and recorded in English. “Berlin”, released in 1969, has that Swingin’ London sound which might have had a revival in an Austin Powers movie. Brühl’s new sound — think Petula Clark covering Nico — was not well received, and the excellent “Berlin” was relegated to the status of a b-side. In 1970 the singer moved to the USA, thereby putting a slow end to her Schlager career. Brühl died of breast cancer in 1991 at the age of 49.

8. Vicky Leandros Singers – Wo ist er (1971)
Last weekend a whole continent took part in the annual ritual of the Eurovision Song Contest. Here is a singer who won the thing in 1972, for Luxembourg with a song called “Après Toi”. The English version of it, “Come What May”, reached #2 in the UK. But the career of the Greek-born singer was based mainly in West Germany, where her singer father had moved in search of success. Vicky began recording as a teenager in the mid-60s, but broke through when she adopted her dad’s Christian name as her surname.

“Wo ist er” is a German take on George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord”; an obvious imitation of the Edwin Hawkins Singers, whose Oh Happy Day arrangement this borrows from (and which inspired Harrison). Vicky’s vocals are quite excellent.

Until recently Leandros participated in Greek politics. Under the magnificent name of Vassiliki von Ruffin (her real first name and the surname from her second marriage) she has served as deputy mayor of Piraeus as a representative of the  Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) .

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9. Barry Ryan – Zeit macht nur vor dem Teufel halt (1971)
Best known for his crazy hit “Eloise”, Barry Ryan had a fairly decent career in West Germany, where he recorded his rather good Sanctus album in 1971. In 1972 he had a top 10 in West Germany hit with the catchy “Zeit macht nur vor dem Teufel halt” (Time stops only before the devil). The melody was written by his brother Paul Ryan, and used for Irish singer Dana’s song “Today”. Barry Ryan even appeared on the only German-language music show ZDF Hitparade with “Zeit macht nur vor dem Teufel halt”, to my knowledge the first time an international rock star appeared on the show.

10. Françoise Hardy – Ich bin nun mal ein Mädchen (1965)
The French superstar had some hits in Germany as well, with covers of French hits as well as German originals with material that took a bit from chanson, a bit from what was called Beat music. As a former student of German, her command of German was excellent, with that lovely French inflection. She also recorded in English and Italian. “Ich bin nun mal ein Mädchen” (I am a girl after all) was a version of her French 1964 hit “Pourtant tu m’aimes”, itself a cover of The Joys’ “I Still Love Him”. It’s a cute song with cute lyrics. The song was a minor hit in 1966.

11. The Supremes – Where Did Our Love Go (German) (1964)
Berry Gordy could spot a marketing opportunity, and so he had the stars of his Motown roster record their big hits in various European languages, apparently singing from phonetic lyric sheets. Unlike most others, Diana Ross makes a game attempt at it; one can understand her implorations not to be left by the addressee of the song.

12. Marvin Gaye – Sympatica (1964)
I have no idea whether Marvin Gaye was a polyglot or whether he just gave more of a shit, but, like La Ross, he did a better job of it than most of his peers — and even sang a German original composition. So here we have one instance of Motown going Schlager, sort of.

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13. Johnny Cash – Wer kennt den Weg (1966)
In 1966, Johnny Cash recorded “I Walk The Line” as “Wer kennt den Weg?” (alas not as Johannes Bargeld). In the early 1950s, Cash had been based as an US soldier in southern Germany. Clearly he did little in that time to benefit from the opportunity to learn German; his accent is quite appalling.

14. Peter, Paul & Mary – Puff (1963)
It must have seemed an excellent idea for Peter, Paul & Mary to record their version of “Puff, The Magic Dragon” in German. The monster in question became a Zauberdrachen, and our biblically-named trio sung it with clear diction. So it is a little unfortunate that they titled the song “Puff” — the colloquial German for the word “brothel”.

15. Hildegard Knef – From Here On It Got Rough (1969)
The actress Hildegard Knef was a remarkable woman. Having made her breakthrough just after World War II with the film classic Die Mörder sind unter uns, she became the first actress in German cinema to do a nude scene in 1950, for which the Spiesser (squares) couldn’t forgive her for a long time. She was so good that Hollywood beckoned, but she turned down Hollywood because she was expected to change her name to Gilda Christian and pretend to be Austrian (she later acted on Broadway as Hildegard Neff). Privately, Knef fought several battles with cancer; when she died in 2002 at 76, it was emphysema that claimed her, not the Big C.

Knef became a singer and frequent songwriter in 1963, though not on the Schlager scene but in the Chanson genre, singing in German and English. “From Here On It Got Rough”, an amusing autobiography with a cute pay-off line, was the English version of her song “Von nun ging’s bergab”.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCpU6zw68-8

16. Max Raabe & Palast Orchester – Lady Marmalade (2002)
The career of Max Raabe, a 54-year-old baritone, is predicated on conjuring the chanson of the Weimar Republic, either by covering songs or writing songs in the style of the era. He is brilliant at it, with his clipped diction and straight-faced wit — so much so that one yearns for Marlene Dietrich and Noel Coward to join on him on stage. He performed at the wedding of Marilyn Manson and Dita Von Teese, which must have been quite a scene. Raabe records prolifically; this track comes from the second of a pair of novelty albums on which Raabe covers pop songs, with mixed results.

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17. Kandy – Die Kung-Fu-Leute (1974)
It was quite normal for Schlager acts to record German versions of international hits. I have no information about Kandy, but despite obviously not being German, it was his lot to record the teutonic take on Carl Douglas’ novelty hit “Kung Fu Fighting”. And when Douglas said everybody was kung fu fighting, Kandy meant it was the kung fu people doing the fighting.  It was produced by Michael Kunze, who also gave us the Silver Convention and has since become the German equivalent of Andrew Lloyd-Webber (though possibly with a more attractive persona).

18. Udo Lindenberg – Reeperbahn (1978)
Udo Lindenberg was the posterboy of the anti-establishment in the 1970s and ’80s, with his long hair, his sneering brashness, his supposedly cool one-liners, and presumably his steadfast refusal to hold a note. He gets aggressively out-of-tune on “Reeperbahn”, his cover of The Beatles’ “Penny Lane”, transposed to the street in Hamburg’s red light district where The Beatles spent their formative musical years. In his nostalgic paean, Lindenberg pretends to have grown up in the city in which he lived; he actually grew up in a small town near the Dutch border and moved to Hamburg only in 1968.

19. Klaus Doldinger – Theme of Tatort (1970)
This is the full theme of the German crime TV series Tatort, which has run for 43 years now. I know the theme has been re-recorded twice, in 1978 and 2004. I’m not sure which version this is, but on the original our friend Udo Lindenberg from the previous song played the drums. Composer Klaus Doldinger, a jazz saxophonist, also wrote the theme of the German cinema classic Das Boot, which was directed by Wolfgang Petersen. And Petersen came to national prominence for directing a landmark Tatort episode in 1977, tited “Reifezeugnis” and featuring the teenage Nastassja Kinski in various states of undress.

20. Peter Gabriel – Schock den Affen (1982)
I include this for reader Johnny Diego, who in a comment (you do know that you are welcome to comment, right?) proposes the theory that “there are two languages that lend themselves perfectly to [rock] music. One is, of course, English. The other is German, with its harsh guttural sounds. One can hear some that gutsiness in German bands that will never be heard in, say, French speaking bands.”

This track is from Peter Gabriel’s second effort at re-recording an album in German, new instrumentation and all. The first was the self-titled 1980 album with “Games Without Frontiers”; the second was the self-titled 1982 album with “Shock The Monkey”, the German take of which features here.

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21. Zeltinger Band – Der lachende Vagabund (1980)
The Zeltinger Band was a punk outfit fronted by what may be Germany’s first openly gay singer, whose bruising appearance challenged the stereotype of common imagination (see this video). Their biggest hit was a cover of the Ramones song Rockaway Beach, which was renamed “Müngersdorfer Stadion” — after the public swimming baths, not the football stadium — and advocated the practice of fare dodging on public transport. “Der lachende Vagabund” is a contemptuous version of the 1957 Schlager hit by Fred Bertelmann, which was a cover of the country song Rusty Draper’s 1953 hit “Gambler’s Guitar”. The German version was so popular, it sold more copies in Germany that Draper’s million-seller did in the US. Hear Draper’s song and Bertelmann’s.

22. Agnetha – Señor Gonzales (1968)
Before she became one of the As in ABBA, Agnetha Fältskog tried to realise the ambition of many Scandinavian singers of the day with a dream of musical success: breaking into the German Schlager scene. Agnetha released a batch of German singles between 1968 and 1972, most of them quite awful even by the low standards of the genre, though a couple were actually quite good. In her endeavours, Agnetha — who already had a career in Sweden but put it on hold while going for stardom in West Germany — was produced by her boyfriend, Dieter Zimmermann. Once Dieter was history, her next boyfriend, Björn, worked out better on the way to stardom.

“Señor Gonzales” was Agnetha’s second German single. I see no reason why it shouldn’t have been a Schlager hit: it has the necessary clichéd lyrics and banal melody; it even has the faux-Mexican sound the Schlager-buying public was so fond of — though here Agnetha might have been ahead of her time; the Mexican Schlager wave peaked in 1972 with Rex Gildo’s superbly tacky “Fiesta Mexicana”.

23. Gerd Müller – Dann macht es bumm (1969)
Fans of English football (or soccer, as my American friends would say) are likely to cringe at the memory of their players’ attempts at pop stardom: Kevin Keegan’s 1979 hit single “Head Over Heels”, or Glenn Hoddle & Chris Waddle with their 1987 UK #12 hit “Diamond Lights”, or Paul Gascoigne teaming up with Lindisfarne to warble “The Fog On The Tyne” (there’s a Newcastle United thread here). Bad though these might be, English football fans would have no cause to cringe if they knew what their German counterparts have been subjected to, horrors that would make Hoddle & Waddle seem like the Righteous Brothers.

Two Bayern München legends perpetrated particular crimes against music. I’ll spare you Franz Beckenbauer’s attempts at romancing the Schlager audience, but shall inflict upon you the stylings of his teammate Gerd Müller. His nickname, just a quarter of a century after World War II, was “Der Bomber”, though this was based on a mistaken notion: though the greatest goalscoring machine ever, Müller didn’t have a powerful shot. His single, “Dann macht es bum” (“And then it bangs”), perpetuates the mistaken notion of the blitzkrieging bomber. It also perpetuates the reality that Gerd Müller wasn’t particularly bright

24. Village People & die Deutsche Fussballnationalmannschaft – Far Away In America (1994)
Sticking with the football theme, we close this mix with a most bizarre collaboration: the Village People and the German football squad, recording the official song for the German team’s participation in the 1994 World Cup in the USA. It is as awful yet insidiously catchy as one would expect, continuing a lamentable tradition of the German team recording the most appalling songs their federation could commission, and giving them the worst production possible. There was even an LP, which featured such acts as Udo Lindenberg, The Scorpions and — you guessed it — David Hasselhoff.

The lyrics of “Far Away In America” were possibly not inspired by Goethe or Schiller. “We’re gonna make it, get it up and shake it. You’re gonna fight for the light, baby, come on and know it’s allright,” Klinsmann, Matthäus, Völler and pals croon with the Village People. Bring on those light-demanding Bulgarians, baby! The football-loving German public sent its team on its way to defend the World Cup title by propelling the lead single to the dizzy heights on the hit parade of…#44.

Bonus:  Albert Brooks – The Englishman-German-Jew Blues (1975)
We’re ending this collection with a song that has no real connection with German music, nor much with Germany, but this is so good I want to share it. It’s from Albert Brooks’ concept comedy album A Star Is Bought, on which various music stars appeared as the comedian tries to become a musician. On this track, he riffs with blues legend Albert King, whose career is based on feeling blue”.

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In Memoriam – June 2017

July 4th, 2017 4 comments

A mercifully easy month… No big names died, but as always, some interesting characters left us.

Every perceived wanker on an English football pitch, and at sports events all around the world, will have been serenaded by way of insult to the tune co-written and first recorded by Gary DeCarlo, who has died at 75: Na, Na, Hey, Hey Kiss Him Goodbye. De Carlo and two associates, Dale Frashuer and producer/writer Paul Leka, wrote and recorded the song as the fictional band Steam. It became a worldwide mega-hit, and got covered by an array of stars, from The Supremes to Liberace. To promote the song a bunch of lip-synchers were put together for public performances. DeCaelo didn’t like the deception and walked away from it. DeCarlo also recorded under the name Garrett Scott, though with little success.

This year has seen the death of two Allman Brothers alumni— Butch Trucks and Gregg Allman — and now their associates are dying too. Guitarist Jimmy Nalls was a session musician — including on Gregg Allman’s 1973 solo album Laid Back — before joining Allman Brothers members Chuck Leavell (with whom he had worked before), Jaimoe and Lamar Williams to form blues-rock band Sea Level in 1976. After Sea Level split in 1981, Nalls returned to session work. After he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1994 he had to scale back his work, but nonetheless released two solo albums– the latest was released only two days before his death at the age of 66.

An unsung hero in the lore of Earth, Wind & Fire is jazz musician Phil Cohran. Already richly experienced as a multi-instrumentalist for Sun Ra in the late 1950s and early ‘60s, Cohran mentored future members of EWF’s horn section as part of a black empowerment project in Chicago. His friend Maurice White would take inspiration from an instrument Cohran invented, the Frankiphone (or Space Harp), which is basically an electronic mbira or kalimba. This prompted White to use an electronic kalimba on EWF’s records.The greatest song which country singer-songwriter Norro Wilson ever wrote and recorded became a worldwide hit for somebody else — and under a different title. In 1969, Wilson released a song named Hey Mister. A few years later Charlie Rich reworked the thing under the name The Most Beautiful Girl In The World. To be fair to the old Silver Fox, his version is better. But Norro’s more understated original is pretty good too.

In 1958, doo wop band The Olympics had a hit with Western Movies; a year later they initiated a dance craze with (Baby) Hully Gully, even if their song wasn’t a hit. They kept releasing records for the better part of a decade, including an early version of Good Lovin’, recorded a month after Lemme B. Good’s original and a year before The Young Rascals had a big hit with it. With the passing of tenor Eddie Lewis, who kept performing with the band even after the death in 2006 of cousin and lead singer Walter Ward, the last original member of The Olympics has died.

As the “German Johnny Cash”, country singer Gunter Gabriel was pals with the real Johnny Cash, who’d call his German counterpart to join him on stage when he played in Deutschland. And in 2010 Gabriel played Cash in a stage play. Gabriel carefully maintained his man-of-the-people country image, in deliberate image construction as well as in his hard-drinking, fortune-losing, loved-ones-alienating, self-destructive ways. Gabriel’s heyday was the 1970s, when he had hits with songs whose titles translate as “Hey Boss, I Need More Money”, “Come Under My Blanket”, “With A Hammer In The Hand (Song Of The Common Man), “Daddy Drinks Beer”, and “He’s A Tough Guy (My 30-Tonner)”. He also wrote and produced big Schlager hits, such as Juliane Werding’s 1976 hit “Wenn Du denkst Du denkst” and Frank Zander’s comedy number “Ich trink auf dein Wohl, Marie”. Gabriel died a few days after breaking his neck in a fall, on the eve of his 75th birthday. Going out country style.

Eddie Lewis, tenor of The Olympics, on May 31
The Olympics – Western Movie (1958)
The Olympics – (Baby) Hully Gully (1959)
The Olympics – Good Lovin’ (1965)

Carl Driggs, singer of Kracker, Foxy, Paul Revere and the Raiders, on May 31
Kracker – A Song For Polly (1973)
Foxy – Get Off (1978, also as co-writer)

Richard Caire, 81, songwriter and guitarist as Kai-Ray, on June 2
Kai-Ray – I Want Some Of That (1961)

Educated Rapper, 54, rapper with hip-hop group UTFO, on June 3
UTFO – Roxanne, Roxanne (1984)

Skipp Pearson, 79, jazz musician, on June 5

Vin Garbutt, 69, British folk singer, on June 6
Vin Garbutt – If (1983)

Sandra Reemer, 66, Dutch singer, on June 6

Norro Wilson, 79, country singer-songwriter, on June 7
Norro Wilson – Hey Mister (1969)
Norro Wilson – Do It To Someone You Love (1970)

Rosalie Sorrels, 83, folk singer, on June 11
Rosalie Sorrels – Starlight On The Rails (1967)
Rosalie Sorrels – My Last Go Round (2006)

Sheila Raye Charles, 53, singer-songwriter, daughter of Ray Charles, on June 15

Thara Memory, 68, jazz trumpeter, arranger and educator, on June 17
Thara Memory – Livin’ For The City
Esperanza Spalding – City Of Roses (2012, as arranger)

Chris Murrell, 61, jazz and gospel singer, on June 18

Prodigy, 42, rapper with hip hop duo Mobb Deep, on June 20
Mobb Deep – Hell On Earth (1996)

Belton Richard, 77, Cajun accordionist, on June 21

Jimmy Nalls, 66, founder and guitarist of Sea Level, on June 22
Gregg Allman – Don’t Mess Up A Good Thing (1973, on guitar)
Sea Level – King Grand (1978)

Gunter Gabriel, 75, German country singer, composer and producer, on June 22
Gunter Gabriel – Hey Boss, ich brauch’ mehr Geld (1974)
Juliane Werding – Wenn Du denkst Du denkst (1975, as writer and producer)

Nick Knowlton, singer of rock groups Katfish, Katahdin, on June 23
Katfish – Dear Prudence (1975)

Geri Allen, 60, jazz pianist, composer and educator, on June 27
Geri Allen – Let Us Break Bread Together (2011)

Dave Rosser, 50, guitarist with Indie bands Twilight Singers, Afghan Whigs, on June 27
The Twilight Singers – The Beginning Of The End (2011)

Gary DeCarlo, 75, singer and songwriter, on June 28
Steam – Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye (1969, on lead vocals)

Phil Cohran, 90, jazz musician, on June 28
Sun Ra – Tiny Pyramids (1960, released 1967, on cornet)
Kelan Phil Cohran and Legacy – Cohran Blues (2010)

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