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Any Major Jones Vol. 2

June 21st, 2018 3 comments

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

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

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

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Own Goal – The Singing Footballers

June 7th, 2018 15 comments

own_goal_1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cristiano Ronaldo: Your moms want to bang him.

Cristiano Ronaldo: Your moms want to bang him.

 

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

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

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

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Any Major Music from ‘The Deuce’

May 24th, 2018 5 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Stars Pick Your Songs Vol. 3: Celebs

May 17th, 2018 1 comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Larry Carlton Collection

May 10th, 2018 4 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Any Major Eurovision

April 26th, 2018 2 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Any Major Whistle Vol. 2

April 19th, 2018 14 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Any Major Soul Train

April 12th, 2018 7 comments

 

If you say Soul Train, Americans of a certain generation and fans of soul and funk anywhere will think of funky dancers with big ’fros and hot threads, Don Cornelius’ flamboyantly fashionable suits and baritone voice, the animated train, hair care products ads, scrambleboards, awkward audience questions, cool catchphrases and great music. You could bet your last dollar, it was gonna be a stone gas, honey.

Soul Train’s cultural impact was tremendous. The first nationally syndicated black music show, it was owned by a black man (presenter Cornelius, who sadly committed suicide on February 1, 2012), staffed mostly by black people, sponsored by a black company selling black hair products, and featured black artists who did not often feature on TV. Socially, Soul Train was TV’s raised fist of black consciousness. Culturally, Soul Train helped popularise dances, fashion and hair.

 

Still from the famous Afro Sheen commercial with civil war era activist Frederick Douglass administering a lesson in ‘fro-dom. No wonder Donald Trump thought Douglass was still alive.

 

The afro, it is said, became so potent a symbol of black identity – the hirsute extension of the Rev Jesse Jackson’s “I Am Somebody” mantra – in large part thanks to Soul Train (and its sponsors, the Johnson Company with its Black Sheen products). The dances were widely copied, by the kids at home and by the stars. Michael Jackson copied the Moonwalk from Jeffrey Daniels, and breakdancing took its cue from Bodypopping, Locking, The Robot and other moves pioneered on Soul Train. And when rap broke in New York, Soul Train helped break it nationally – much as Cornelius resented hip hop. Soul Train even produced its own superstar musical act: Shalamar comprised Soul Train dancers Jeffrey Daniel, Jody Watley and, after a couple of personnel changes, Howard Hewett (boyfriend of Cornelius’ secretary), and in the US were signed to Cornelius’ Soul Train Records label.

 

Don Cornelius, who died on February 1, 2012 at the age of 75. This post, minus the mix but with other tracks, was first posted here in 2011 and re-posted after Don’s death. It is running here with a brandnew Soul Train mix.

 

And, of course, that’s what Soul Train was about most of all: spreading black music, from the smooth harmonies of The Delfonics to the gangsta rap of Snoop Dogg. This did not mean that the show practised apartheid. Gino Vanelli was the first white artist to appear on the show (Cornelius told the Italo-Canadian jazz-funkster that he was “half-black”; the first white act to feature was Dennis Coffey, whose funk anthem Scorpio provided the music for a Soul Train Gang dance number; the first mixed act to appear on the show was Tower of Power). Soon after, acts such as Elton John, David Bowie, Average White Band, Frankie Valli and Michael McDonald appeared on the show (in later years, such unsoul acts as Duran Duran, Sting, A-ha  and Berlin, as well as the dreaded Michael F Bolton, took a ride on the Soul Train).

 

The Soul Train Gang in action, 1972.

 

Soul Train’s theme song, in its second incarnation, became a #1 in the US, and a massive hit all over the world (to borrow from its brief lyrics). In 1973 Cornelius approached Philadelphia soul maestros Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff to come up with a theme for the show to replace King Curtis’ Hot Potatoes, which it did in November 1973. The result was so good, that the composers wanted to release The Theme of Soul Train as a single. When they did, recorded by the Philadelphia International Records (PIR) house band M.F.S.B. with The Three Degrees providing backing vocals, it topped the charts and provided the sound of 1974.

But it didn’t chart under the title The Theme of Soul Train. Cornelius baulked at the idea that PIR release it using the words “Soul Train” in the title because, as he recalled in a VH-1 documentary a couple of years ago, he was being overprotective of his trademark. He would describe that as the “worst decision” he had ever made. So today the Soul Train theme is known as T.S.O.P. (for The Sound Of Philadelphia).

In 1976, T.S.O.P. was replaced as a theme by The Soul Train Gang’s theme, but made a comeback in 1987 in George Duke’s version. It would remain the Soul Train theme, in several re-recordings, until the show’s end in 2006, some 13 years after Don Cornelius signed off for the last time with the words: “And as always in parting, we wish you love, peace and SOULLLLLL!”

If you dig the pics in this post, there are 179 more which I made of Soul Train scenes HERE.

 

Here is a mix of songs that were performed on Soul Train. To narrow down the selection I chose only from tracks that appeared on the wonderful 7-DVD set of Soul Train performances. The first two themes feature on the mix as they appeared on the show; the Soul Train Gang theme, which really is not great, is included as a bonus track on its full version.

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

1. Soul Train (King Curtis) – Hot Potatoes Theme (1971)
2. The Five Stairsteps – O-o-h Child (1970)
3. The Chi-Lites – Have You Seen Her (1971)
4. The Spinners – I’ll Be Around (1972)
5. Main Ingredient – Everybody Plays The Fool (1972)
6. Four Tops – Ain’t No Woman (Like The One I’ve Got) (1972)
7. Brighter Side Of Darkness – Love Jones (1972)
8. The Sylvers – Wish That I Could Talk To You (1972)
9. O’Jays – Love Train (1972)
10. Soul Train – Souuuuuuuuuuuuul Train
11. Jermaine Jackson – Daddy’s Home (1973)
12. The Stylistics – You Make Me Feel Brandnew (1973)
13. Gladys Knight & The Pips – Neither One Of Us (1973)
14. Tower Of Power – So Very Hard To Go (1973)
15. Isley Brothers – That Lady (1973)
16. Soul Train Theme (1973)
17. Barry White – Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love, Baby (1974)
18. Billy Preston – Tell Me Something Good (1974)
19. Ecstasy, Passion & Pain – Good Things Don’t Last Forever (1974)
20. L.T.D. – Love Ballad (1976)
21. Lou Rawls – You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine (1976)
22. Marvin Gaye – Got To Give It Up (Part 1) (1977)
23. Teddy Pendergrass – The Whole Town’s Laughing At Me (1977)
24. Don Cornelius – Love, Peace and Soul
BONUS TRACKS: MFSB – TSOP (1974)
Soul Train Gang – Soul Train ’75 (1965)

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Any Major MLK

March 29th, 2018 2 comments

On April 4 we will observe the 50th anniversary of the martyrdom of Rev Martin Luther King Jr. There doubtless will be many tributes being paid and many opinions aired about the great man’s life and legacy. Here, I shall let the music do the talking by way of a mix of songs about MLK.

The two most obvious songs to include would be Stevie Wonder’s Happy Birthday and U2’s Pride (In The Name Of Love). You’ll know how to find them. There were too many good tacks I already had to exclude, because CD-R length. A few of them I include as bonus tracks.

The mix begins with a number of songs that mourn the assassination in Memphis, soon after the event. One song in that lot is of indeterminate date. The Norfleet Brothers, a gospel outfit, tell in two parts the story of Martin Luther King; part 2 features here. They note the 1958 assassination attempt by Izola Ware Curry in New York, but don’t refer to the murder by James Earl Ray. Either it was recorded before that awful day, or so soon after that it was not necessary to mention the glaring obvious, just as at a funeral you needn’t point out that the deceased has died.

In the song after, Shirley Wahls (like Minnie Riperton, another the Rotary Connection member) issues the reminder that the struggle must continue even after King’s death. The Impressions did likewise in 1968, to keep on pushing and moving on up. Curtis Mayfield would sing We’re A Winner on stage into the 1970s.

 

 

There aren’t an awful lot of songs about MLK that precede his death. Bob Dylan namechecked him, among many other celebs, in 1962’s I Shall Be Free, but another Dylan song features here. Jerry Moore’s The Ballad of Birmingham from 1967. Based on a poem by Dudley Randall, it recalls the 1963 bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The lyrics imagine a girl asking her mother whether she may take part in a freedom march. Citing the dangers, mother sends the girl to church — which is then firebombed by the Ku Klax Klan terrorists.

In a coda, in 2002 a couple of these terrorists were convicted thanks to the work of Doug Jones who in late 2017 defeated the racist scumbag, alleged sexual predator and thinly disguised instrument of the devil Roy Moore in a senatorial election.

Some songs don’t need to refer to King to be about him. The lyrics of Minnie Riperton’s The Edge Of A Dream read like a King speech. The tangential link to MLK is, of course, the concept of the “Dream”, of which the martyr had one. Indeed, many lyrics obliquely refer to him as “The Man With The Dream”, to the point of that being a bit of a cliché. On such song, a catchy number by Tom Jones, features here. One of the more unusual representations of MLK here is in his Young New Mexican Puppeteer, wherein the eponymous marionette handler carves images of such bringers of hope as Lincoln, Twain and King.

Incidentally, it was a singer, the gospel legend Mahalia Jackson, who urged King to deliver his “I Have A Dream” speech. Sitting near him on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, Jackson reportedly told King, “Tell them about the dream, Martin”. So he did…

 

 

On some songs, King has to share the star billing. Most famously, on Dion’s 1968 hit Abraham, John And Martin he does so with Lincoln and John F Kennedy. The version featured here is by Tom Clay, a radio DJ who cut together spoken bits and pieces of the Bacharach composition What The World Needs Now with very 1960s vocals about JFK, MLK and Bobby Kennedy, who was assassinated just a couple of months after King. For the record, King thought that John F Kennedy’s commitment to civil rights was only “token”, and Bobby authorised the FBI to tap King’s phone.

On Bob Dylan’s 1986 song They Killed Him, MLK’s assassination stands alongside the execution of Jesus Christ and the murder of the Mahatma Ghandi.

Elvis Presley wasn’t much of a political guy, but two months after the murder of King he recorded a song written and tribute of and quoting from MLK. If I Can Dream was written at the last moment for Elvis’ 1968 televised comeback special by Walter Earl Brown. On hearing it, Elvis reportedly exclaimed: “I’m never going to sing another song I don’t believe in. I’m never going to make another picture I don’t believe in.” His manager “Colonel” Parker wasn’t keen on Elvis doing that kind of song, but The King put all his soul into this tribute to King, apparently making his backing singers weep.

Remember when that nice guy John McCain opposed the institution if the Martin Luther King holiday? Six years after Stevie Wonder launched the MLK holiday campaign in song, the 1980s custom of bringing together a conglomeration of stars to raise money or highlight a cause found expression in a single by the cumbersomely-named King Dream Chorus and Holiday Crew. There were some impressive artists behind those names. The King Dream Chorus included Whitney Houston, J.T. Taylor, El DeBarge, Stacy Lattisaw, Lisa Lisa with Full Force, Stephanie Mills and teen bands Menudo and New Edition. The Holiday Crew was rappers Run–D.M.C., Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Melle Mel, Whodini and The Fat Boys. As so often, the sum of all the great talent is much less than its parts. That’s why it is a bonus track.

That nice guy McCain came around to The Fat Boys’ point of view in 1990. A year later Public Enemy turned their anger towards McCain’s home state Arizona, which along with New Hampshire refused to recognise the national Martin Luther King holiday. In the video Public Enemy showed the governor of Arizona being blown up in a car bomb. Presumably they referred to racist fuck Evan Mecham, a car salesman who was the first Arizona governor to be impeached, rather than his successor, Rose Perica Mofford, who seems to have been a decent person. A plebiscite in Arizona in 1991 confirmed Mecham’s refusal to recognise the MLK holiday.

Funeral procession of Martin Luther King in Atlanta, Georgia, on 9 April 1968.

 

Ben Harper’s track from 1994 draws a parallel between two Kings: Martin and Rodney. The assault on Rodney King by LA Police — which now, in an age where police killing black people has become so frequent, seems almost minor — was a betrayal of the promise of progress after the civil rights movement. Like the next track, it features here as a bonus track.

Brad Paisley sang his 2008 song Welcome To The Future in the White House for Barack Obama. The US had just elected its first black president and, as Steve Colbert (as his idiot right-wing alter ego) used to remind us: Racism has been solved. So our country-singing friend was just as naively optimistic as many people a decade ago when he observed: “I had a friend in school, running-back on a football team. They burned a cross in his front yard for asking out the home-coming queen. I thought about him today, everybody who’s seen what he’s seen – From a woman on a bus to a man with a dream. Hey, wake up Martin Luther, welcome to the future. Hey, Glory glory hallelujah, welcome to the future.”

Alas, in 2018, there is Trump and the racist establishment that supports him, both actively and by neglect. Fifty years after he was murdered, Rev Martin Luther King Jr would still look from the mountain top at the Promised Land, and say: “One day…”.

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

1. Big Maybelle – Heaven Will Welcome You, Dr. King (1968)
2. James Chapmen – In Memory Of Martin Luther King (1969)
3. The Norfleet Brothers – The Story of Martin Luther King (Part II) (c.1968)
4. Nina Simone – Why (The King Of Love Is Dead) (1968)
5. Shirley Wahls – We’ve Got To Keep On Movin’ On (1969)
6. The Impressions – We’re A Winner (1968)
7. Billy Paul – Let ’Em In (1976)
8. Leroy Hutson – Time Brings On A Change (1973)
9. Minnie Riperton – The Edge Of A Dream (1976)
10. Elvis Presley – If I Can Dream (1968)
11. Billy Bragg – Days Like These (1985)
12. UB40 – King (1980)
13. Public Enemy – By The Time I Get To Arizona (1991)
14. Bobby Womack – American Dream (1984)
15. Mavis Staples – MLK Song (2016)
16. Lyle Lovett – Good-Bye To Carolina (1994)
17. Bob Dylan – They Killed Him (1986)
18. Patty Griffin – Up To The Mountain (2007)
19. Tom Jones – The Young New Mexican Puppeteer (1972)
20. Tom Clay – What The World Needs Now-Abraham, Martin & John (1971)
21. U2 – MLK (1984)
Bonus Tracks: Ben Harper – Like A King (1993)
King Dream Chorus & Holiday Crew – King Holiday (1986)
Black Oak Arkansas – You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down (1976)
Brad Paisley – Welcome To The Future (2009)
James Taylor – Shed A Little Light (1991)

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Any Major TV Theme Songs Vol. 4

March 22nd, 2018 2 comments

This fourth mix of full-length versions of popular TV themes has been sitting almost ready to go for a couple of years. I was reminded to complete it a couple of months ago with the death of French composer and innovator Pierre Henry, whose 1967 song Psyché Rock served as the template for the theme from Futurama.

Good thing it went unposted, so as to include a couple tracks from newish TV shows, Bloodline (the first season of which was superb) and Big Little Lies (ditto).

This batch also features the extended versions of themes of two all-time great TV series: Game Of Thrones and The Shield. The latter tends to be overshadowed by The Wire; I think The Shield is The Wire’s equal — and that is not to underestimate the latter, which was a landmark TV show. But, my goodness, if you have never seen The Shield, do whatever you must to fill that gap.

All but one theme here is from the US; the exception is CCS’ cover of Led Zep’s A Whole Lotta Love, which served as the theme of the weekly BBC music show Top Of The Pops from 1970-77. For British youths, TOPT was required viewing. Its cultural and social impact was so immense that there is a highly entertaining podcast discussing — no, surgically dissecting — random old episodes from the 1970s and ‘80s. Titled Chart Music, it is presented with much humour by Al Needham with a rotating team of veteran music journalists such as David Stubbs, Simon Price and Neil Kulkarni. I recommend it.

This mix features a couple of familiar names. Mike Post was on Vol. 1 with the theme from Hill Street Blues and twice on Vol. 3, with the themes from Magnum and Quantum Leap. Here he returns with the theme from The A-Team and, as co-writer, with the theme from The Greatest American Hero, sung by Joey Scarbury under the title Believe It Or Not, which reached #2 on the US charts. One Mike Post theme of which there’s unlikely to be a full version is that of Law & Order. It’s shorter than many a ringtone, but it is instantly recognisable, and therefore spoofable.

Bill Conti appeared on Vol. 3 with theme from Cagney & Lacey, which always puts me in a happy mood, even though I was no fan of the show (still, with nothing else on TV I watched that as well). Here he returns with the theme from Dynasty, which in retrospect was probably the best thing about that load of drivel.

Anybody who has ever taken an interest in TV themes will know David Portnoy’s voice well: he wrote and sang the theme from Cheers.  TV themes was his thing, it seems. Here he is with the title song of 1980s show Punky Brewster. Portnoy also composed the theme from Mr Belvedere, sung by Leon Redbone.

Some themes are not properly credited (or, in the case of that from The Shield, awkwardly credited). One that doesn’t have a proper credit is of a show with a really good theme, Night Court. Where it appears, it is uncredited, so I’ve given the composer the headliner credit, featuring the saxophonist. Composer Jack Elliott also co-wrote the themes for shows such as Charlie’s Angels (on Vol. 1) and Barney Miller (Vol. 3). Saxophonist Ernie Watts has backed a Who’s Who of jazz; you might have heard him on Marvin Gaye’s LPs Let’s Get It On and I Want You. I don’t know who the bassist was; he certainly deserves a credit, too.

Few themes are sung by their stars, but so it was with the 1980s series The Fall Guy, whose lead, Lee Majors, sang the title song, entitled The Unknown Stuntman. In it, the narrating Stuntman namedrops the stars for whom he has stuntmanned, such as Burt Reynolds, Robert Redford and Clint Eastwood. He also kisses and tells (after telling us that he’s not the type to do that) about his conquests — including Farrah Fawcett, to whom he used to be married in real life. So, old Lee advertising his bedpost notches when he names Sally Fields, Bo Derek, “Jackie” Smith and Cheryl (presumably Ladd)?

I’ve linked already to Volumes 1 and 3 of the extended themes mixes. Volume 2 is still available, of course.

Short versions of TV themes (that is, as you knew them when you saw them on the gogglebox) are gathered together HERE, which also includes a mix of German TV themes.

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

1. Ray Anthony and his Orchestra – Dragnet Theme (1953, Dragnet)
2. CCS – Whole Lotta Love (1970, Top Of The Pops)
3. Christopher Tyng – Theme of Futurama (2007, Futurama)
4. Michael Kiwanuka – Cold Little Heart (2017, Big Little Lies)
5. Book Of Fears – The Water Let’s You In (2016, Bloodline)
6. Ramin Djawadi – Main Theme of Game Of Thrones (2011, Game Of Thrones)
7. Vivian Ann Romero, Ernesto J. Bautista & Rodney Ale – Just Another Day (2006, The Shield)
8. The Refreshments – Yahoos And Triangles (2009, King Of The Hill)
9. The Rembrandts – I’ll Be There For You (1994, Friends)
10. Paula Cole – I Don’t Want To Wait (1997, Dawson’s Creek)
11. David Schwartz – Theme from Northern Exposure (1992, Northern Exposure)
12. Vonda Shepard – Searchin’ My Soul (1998, Ally McBeal)
13. Dr. John – My Opinionation (1991, Blossom)
14. Joey Scarbury – Believe It Or Not (1981, The Greatest American Hero)
15. Jack Elliott feat. Ernie Watts – Night Court Theme (1984, Night Court)
16. José Feliciano – Chico And The Man (Main Theme) (1974, Chico And The Man)
17. The Mash – Suicide Is Painless (1970, M*A*S*H)
18. Bill Conti – Theme From Dynasty (1982, Dynasty)
19. Jack Jones – Love Boat Theme (1979, The Love Boat)
20. Maureen McGovern – Different Worlds (1979, Angie)
21. Lee Majors – The Unknown Stuntman (1982, The Fall Guy)
22. Thom Pace – Maybe (1977, The Life And Times Of Grizzly Adams)
23. Gary Portnoy – Every Time I Turn Around (1984, Punky Brewster)
24. Mike Post & Pete Carpenter – Theme from The A-Team (1983, The A-Team)

GET IT!

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