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Any Major Whistle Vol. 2

April 19th, 2018 11 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)

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Any Major Dylan Covers Vol. 5

March 15th, 2018 3 comments

The final collection in the series of Bob Dylan covers reveals which song I’ve chosen to represent Joan Baez: North Country Blues; his former lover covered it in 1968. At last, there are also Peter, Paul & Mary with a track from 1967.

Bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs covers Dylan’s Song For Woody. Likely, Scruggs might have known Guthrie since they were contemporaries. His version comes from a star-studded 1975 album (which also starred Baez and Roger McGuinn, both of whom appear on this mix). On Song For Woody, he plays with Johnny Cash, New Riders Of The Purple Sage (including ex-Byrds bassist Skip Battin) and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott.

In Volume 1 of this series I promised that one track would appear twice. That song is Mr Tambourine Man, and when you hear William Shatner’s version you’ll know why it had to feature twice.

But Shatner’s plaintive cry at the end of his offering doesn’t quite conclude the series. There are a few bonus tracks that somehow failed to make it on any of the mixes, mostly owing to the CD-R length limit I set.

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

1. Dave Alvin – Highway 61 Revisited (2013)
2. The Black Crowes – When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky (1998)
3. The Waterboys – Nobody ’Cept You (1985)
4. Terence Trent D’Arby – It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) (1989)
5. Ben E. King – Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You (1970)
6. Bettye LaVette – Everything Is Broken (2012)
7. Luther Johnson – Pledging My Time (1995)
8. Taj Mahal – Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream (2012)
9. Sonic Youth – I’m Not There (2007)
10. Frank Black and The Catholics – Changing Of The Guards (1998)
11. Transvision Vamp – Crawl Out Your Window (1991)
12. Jeff Buckley – If You See Her, Say Hello (1993)
13. The Angels Of Light – I Pity The Poor Immigrant (2005)
14. Roger McGuinn – Up To Me (1976)
15. Joan Baez – North Country Blues (1968)
16. Earl Scruggs Revue – Song To Woody (1975)
17. Peter, Paul & Mary – Bob Dylan’s Dream (1967)
18. William Shatner – Mr Tambourine Man (1968)

Bonus tracks:
Julie Felix – Gates Of Eden (1968)
Spooky Tooth – Too Much Of Nothing (1968)
Manfred Mann’s Earthband – Father Of Day, Father Of Night (1973)
The Boo Radleys – One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later) (1992)

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Any Major Happy Songs Vol. 1

March 1st, 2018 8 comments

Is there a scientific formula to create a song that makes you happy, that lifts your spirits to take you to another place where the sun shines and people always smile? If there is, I suppose Pharrell Williams figured it out when he wrote Happy, his mega hit from a couple of years ago.

I’ve tried to make Happy seem unhappy by singing along to a karaoke track of it with lyrics straight out of the Sad Country Songbook: my wife is a-cheatin’ with my best friend, I’m as broke as a rat in mud, the bossman fired me, them kids be ill etc. It didn’t work: I was still happy. The experiment was, of course imperfect. Not only was I in on the joke but I was also its perpetrator, having rather too much fun with my excruciating rhyme (or distinct lack thereof). I could have tried my experiment on unsuspecting bystanders, but I cannot escape the conclusion that their emotion would have been neither happy nor unhappy but excessively violent.

Still, Happy is self-evidently happy. So is Chuck Mangione’s Feels So Good or Bill Withers’ Lovely Day. They are upbeat and happy songs, and would be understood to have those qualities even if their titles didn’t give us emotional instructions.

Many songs on this mix fit the definition of the “happy song”; the Young Rascals even insert birdsong into their groove of chilled-out joy on this mix. Others suggest the happiness by their lyrics, such as Stoned Cold Picnic. But that can deceive. To me The Delfonics’ Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) has a giddily cheery sound but it is actually a pretty brutal break-up song (of course, it doesn’t feature). Likewise The Five Stairsteps’ O-o-h Child sounds like a happy number but the lyrics make only a promise in a time of darkness that things will get better — which might qualify it for this series, should there be one, anyway.

Some others may express my personal, subjective experience of being uplifted by a piece of music, perhaps even by a happy memory. Saturday In The Park is one such selection.

So, here’s a first batch of my happy songs. What would be yours?

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

1. Bill Withers – Lovely Day (1977)
2. Andy Gibb – I Just Wanna Be Your Everything (1977)
3. Earth, Wind & Fire – In The Stone (1979)
4. Chuck Mangione – Feels So Good (1977)
5. Fatima Rayney – Hey (1997)
6. Corinne Bailey Rae – Put Your Records On (2006)
7. Colbie Caillat – Bubbly (2007)
8. Hedwig and the Angry Inch – Wig in a Box (2001)
9. Lenny Kravitz – It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over (1991)
10. TLC – Diggin’ On You (1994)
11. Gwen Guthrie – (They Long To Be) Close To You (1986)
12. Blow Monkeys – It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way (1986)
13. John Lennon – Instant Karma (1970)
14. Young Rascals – Groovin’ (1967)
15. The 5th Dimension – Stoned Soul Picnic (1968)
16. Stevie Wonder – Uptight (Everything’s Alright) (1965)
17. Four Tops – I Can’t Help Myself (1965)
18. Mood Mosaic – A Touch Of Velvet-A Sting Of Brass (1966)
19. Chicago – Saturday In The Park (1972)
20. Mungo Jerry – Mighty Man (1970)

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Any Major Impossible Love

February 13th, 2018 3 comments

In the past few years we have celebrated being happily in love, and happy in love in black and white; we have dealt with the pain of unrequited love. And for this year’s Valentine’s Day, here’s a mix of love that cannot be: the impossible love situations where two people want to be together but, for some reason or another, can’t.

Usually it involves one or both of these people being married, so this genre of love songs can veer into territory of furtive sex. So Billy Paul’s Me And Mrs Jones is usually classified as a cheating song. But I’m not sure it is one. Billy and Mrs Jones meet in a public place: the juke box is playing their favourite, and after some holding hands it’s time for them to be leaving. The relationship may or may noy be consummated; Billy Paul gives us no evidence of that.

Whereas Marilyn McCoo, in the original version of the future Whitney Houston hit, is definitely engaging in adultery. But the act of sex seems to add to the pain and the longing she has for the cad who is playing two women. That storyline is replicated on several songs here.

The Impossible Love genre is dominated by love thwarted by obligations, but there are songs about other reasons for love that cannot be. Class differences, family relations (the Romeo & Juliet theme, which isn’t explored on this mix), sexuality (Karma’s song here might be about same-sex attraction that cannot be acted on), mental illness (Joseph Arthur’s Honey And The Moon hints at that)…

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-lovelorn cover. PW in comments. Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

1. Denise LaSalle – Married, But Not To Each Other (1975)
What’s stopping them? A hit for country singer Barbra Mandrell, this is the original by the recently late soul singer who co-wrote the song. The title reveals the romantic dilemma: “You’re tied to her and I’m tied to him. We don’t wanna hurt either one of them. So what can you do?” She finds an ambiguous answer: “Hurry up and love him, hurry up and please him. And when it gets right, you’ve got to leave him. You better leave him.”

2. The Soul Children – We’re Gettin’ Too Close (1974)
What’s stopping them? There’s an affair involving two otherwise attached people, but their love is becoming too obvious: “She’s gonna get hip to you, and he’s gonna get hip to me.” Time to call it off.

3. Billy Butler – I Know The Feeling Well (1977)
What’s stopping them? When you love two people and have to choose — and either way, you lose. Billy knows the feeling well.

4. Johnny Darrell – Margie’s At The Lincoln Park Inn (1969)
What’s stopping them? The singer (originally Bobby Bare, but Darrell sings it better) is torn: hot passion with Margie in a hotel, or family life with children and teaching Sunday school without bearing the conscience of a hypocrite.

5. Merle Haggard – Always Wanting You (1975)
What’s stopping them? Haggard wrote this about Dolly Parton, at a time when both were married. “Always loving you, but never touching you, sometimes hurts me almost more than I can stand.”

6. Randy Travis – On The Other Hand (1986)
What’s stopping them? On the one hand, in her arms he feels feel the passion which he thought had died. On the other hand is a golden ring…

7. Howie Day – Collide (2003)
What’s stopping them? Here opposites attract in an inexplicable love which the singer would probably prefer to be unrequited: “I’ve found I’m scared to know I’m always on your mind.”

8. Karma – Pachelbel (1998)
What’s stopping them? There’s hope in hopelessness: “And it’s too late to say goodbye, it’s too early yet to think you can’t be mine.” But, chin up, “there is pleasure to be found in this kind of pain.”

9. Jem – Flying High (2004)
What’s stopping them? Jem knows that she and the object of her desire can’t be together, for reasons unstated, and she “can’t pay the price” for acting on the reciprocal feeling, even if they are “so close to giving in”. The situation is painful by this impossible love also makes her giddy, as love tends to do. Hence she is “flying high”.

10. Joseph Arthur – Honey And The Moon (2002)
What’s stopping them? He loves her, she loves him back, they already seem to be together, but “right now, everything you want is wrong. And right now all your dreams are waking up.” He wants to follow her “to the shores of freedom, where no one lives”. It’s possibly a case where depression stands in the way of love’s final fulfilment.

11. Rilo Kiley – Does He Love You (2004)
What’s stopping them? A love triangle: a woman has an affair with her pregnant friend’s husband. He says he’ll leave her, but the protagonist knows he won’t.

12. The Decemberists – We Both Go Down Together (2005)
What’s stopping them? His parents will never consent to this love, for they are rich and the girl is “a dirty daughter from the labour camps” with tattoos (what?). But he’ll hold her hand…

13. Snow Patrol feat. Martha Wainwright – Set The Fire To The Third Bar (2006)
What’s stopping them? Two people are in love, but it’s long-distance. “I’m miles from where you are, I lay down on the cold ground. I pray that something picks me up, and sets me down in your warm arms.” Unlike many others in the impossible love predicament, our two friends may well activate their love fully when they do get together. Or the long distance will break them apart.

14. Bob Dylan – Ninety Miles An Hour (Down A Dead End Street) (1988)
What’s stopping them? Bob’s married, she’s married, and a drunken one-night stand turned into an affair which will end in disaster. “As a bad motorcycle with the devil in the seat, going ninety miles an hour down a dead end street… I didn’t want to want you, but now I have no choice, it’s too late to listen to that warning voice.” Kids, don’t try that at home.

15. Conway Twitty – Linda On My Mind (1975)
What’s stopping them? Oh, what complication: Linda had a crush on Conway but Conway loved her friend. Now Conway is tied to her friend but is in love with Linda, who is still in love with him. Who is now, as the title reveals, on his mind. As he is lying in bed next to his crying wife…

16. Hank Locklin – Please Help Me, I’m Falling (1960)
What’s stopping them? A desperate plea in the title, because Hank belongs to another whose arms have grown cold. But he promised “to have and to hold” the wife forever, so he can never be free.

17. Billy Joe Royal – Down In The Boondocks (1965)
What’s stopping them? He loves her and she loves him. But, coming from the boondocks, he doesn’t fit in her society.

18. Luther Ingram – (If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right (1972)
What’s stopping them? Our man Luther is having affair and tries to rationalise his bid to have the love that can’t be. It’ll all end in tears, because he is not going to leave his wife, “who needs me just as much”, but he’ll continue his affair (perhaps he’s the cad in the last song on this mix). He asks: “Am I wrong trying to hold on to the best thing I ever had”? Well, is he?

19. Clydene Jackson – Somebody Else’s Love (1975)
What’s stopping them? More falling in love with somebody else’s love. All the playing in pools in the park wouldn’t get them to be together. It was never going to be, so that fling is a thing of the past.

20. The Glass House – Stealing Moments From Another Woman’s Life (1972)
What’s stopping them? The singer has the self-awareness that being with the man of her desire affects another woman, “stealing moments” from her. So now she dumps the guy.

21. Billy Paul – Me And Mrs. Jones (1972)
What’s stopping them? She’s got her own obligations, and so, and so-o-o, does he-e-e-e.

22. Marilyn McCoo – Saving All My Love For You (1978)
What’s stopping them? He says: “Be patient, just wait a little longer”. Which translates to: he’ll never leave his wife.

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Any Major The Wonder Years

February 6th, 2018 10 comments

Few TV shows ever have so accurately observed the condition of the suburban teenager as The Wonder Years did. One may regard the series, which started its run of six seasons exactly 30 years ago last week (it ran in the US from 31 January 1988 to 12 May 1993), as an exercise in nostalgia. Coming into the middle of a nostalgic  revival that celebrated the 1960s and the beginning of the ’70s, it benefited from fortuitous timing, but as a story of growing up as told by an adult man, the timeframe made perfect sense.

Some may accuse the show of being an apologia for the oppression of nameless bourgeois suburbia, or right-on rhetoric to that effect. Indeed, in the pilot episode the narrator does defend suburban life, arguing that far from being anonymous, suburbia has plenty individual stories to tell. Like that of Kevin Arnold. It may be rose-tintedly nostalgic, it may be middle-class, but it is also profoundly human.

Kevin’s stories are not extraordinary; they are universal, at least for those growing up in similar western middle-class circumstances. Imagine the teen embarrassment at having to take a three-year younger girl to a dance where everybody is a head smaller than you, as Kevin has to in one of my favourite episodes.

 

The Arnold family plus Best-Friend-Paul in The Wonder Years. Who didn’t loath bully brother Wayne?

 

Fred Savage as Kevin was outstanding. The nuances of his body language were as articulate as his delivery of the scripted lines. Daniel Stern narrates as the adult Kevin, and Savage expresses the inner life exposed in the commentary, with a half-smile here or raised eyebrow there. He was wonderfully understated.

And we can recognise the people around him. People much like them existed in our own families or in the circles of our childhood friends. The obnoxious brother Wayne? Know him. Geeky friend Paul? Know him? Grouchy dad Jack? Know him. Kindly mom Norma? Know her. Schoolmate Hobson? Oh dear, yes, I know that son of a bitch too.

I don’t think the female roles are as well realised. Winnie looks like she is going to cry even when she’s full of joy. Nemesis Becky Slater is one-dimensional. Sister Keren too often slides into the realms of caricature. But so does Wayne, even as his obnoxiousness is awesome.

The thing is, we are watching these people exclusively through the filter of Kevin’s memories, with all his biases. So Winnie is soft as a melting marshmallow because that’s how Kevin sees her. Keren is an overcompensating hippie because Kevin remembers her that way. And Mrs Arnold might be sexy, for all we know, but Kevin won’t see her like that, so nor shall we.

 

Kevin Arnold flanked by best pal Paul and marshmallow Winnie.

 

Almost three decades ago, when I first watched The Wonder Years, my empathy resided almost exclusively with Kevin. I was in my mid-twenties, and remembered well being a teenager. Now I have a grown son, and I can identify with the father, too. Well, not entirely. Although Dan Lauria, who played Jack Arnold, was younger than I am now when the show was filmed, he seems to be so much older, at least in my mind (I bet Jack Arnold wouldn’t write blogs about his favourite TV shows). But I can see the father’s point of view better now.

Lauria’s performance was admirably subtle, at least if one looks carefully. There is an almost imperceptible moment in the first season in which Lauria captures the loving father beneath the grumbling gruffness. Kevin and his dad had bonded during a day spent in Jack’s office. Back home at night, Jack lets Kevin look through his telescope. As Kevin looks through the instrument, Jack has his hand on the boy’s shoulder. He gently strokes it with his thumb, as fathers do. It’s a beautiful scene. I somehow grieve Jack’s death, though fictional and post-scripted in the final episode to 1975.

The first four seasons (the first consists of only six episodes) are as good as any half-hour show on TV. By the fourth season, the storylines became more laboured, and by the fifth the steam was beginning to run out. The sixth and final season, in which Kevin suddenly grows up, was one too many.  Still the latter seasons featured the always watchable Giovanni Ribisi (and a more regular future Friends star, David Schwimmer).

In The Wonder Years we were also introduced to Juliet Lewis, as Wayne’s girlfriend, and John Corbett (Northern Exposure, Sex And The City, My Big Fat Greek Wedding) as Keren’s libertine hippie boyfriend who gets fiercely interrogated by little Kevin. And Teri from Albuquerque (pictured right), whom Kevin kisses while on holiday in Ocean City in season 3, went on to become porn star Holly Sampson (article here).

Until recently, The Wonder Years was not available on DVD, apparently because of licensing problems with the many songs featured in the show – several repeatedly, such as The Byrds’ Turn Turn Turn, The Temptations’ My Girl, Joni Mitchell’s version of Both Sides Now, Joan Baez’s Forever Young, The Association’s Cherish, Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. The title song, Joe Cocker’s version of With A Little Help From My Friends, was astutely picked — suitably nostalgic with lyrics that invoke the broad premise of the show (that is, the importance of relationships).

The songs were well chosen — not many TV shows were scored with pop numbers back then. The pedantic music fan will, of course, be mildly irritated when scenes are scored by songs that had not yet been released at the time. But evident care was taken to ensure that songs that featured in a storyline – playing in the background on the radio, perhaps, or being referred to by name – already existed at the time the scenes are set in.

And so on to a mix of songs that featured in The Wonder Years. In brackets are the year of the song’s release, followed by the season and episode number it appeared in. As usual, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes covers. PW is in the comments section, where I have retained comments to a previous version of this post in 2011.

TRACKLISTING:
1. Joe Cocker – With A Little Help From My Friends (1968 – 4/68)
2. The Beach Boys – When I Grow Up (To Be A Man) (1964 – 6/111)
3. The Association – Cherish (1966 – 1/6)
4. Lovin’ Spoonful – Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind (1965 – 3/44)
5. Percy Faith Orchestra – Theme from A Summer Place (1960 – 2/23)
6. The Chordettes – Never On A Sunday (1961 – 2/23)
7. Hank Williams – Hey Good Lookin’ (1953 – 4/51)
8. Marty Robbins – A White Sport Coat (1957 – 6/113)
9. Johnny Rivers – Swayin’ to the Music (Slow Dancin’) (1977 – 6/105)
10. Jackson Browne – Jamaica Say You Will (1972 – 5/70)
11. Elton John – Seasons (1971 – 3/40)
12. The Spinners – Could It Be I’m Falling In Love (1973 – 6/109)
13. Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – You’re All I Need To Get By (1967 – 3/37)
14. Fontella Bass – Rescue Me (1965 – 4/58)
15. John Fred & The Playboy Band – Judy In Disguise (With Glasses) (1968 – 5/89)
16. Ronny and the Daytonas – Little G.T.O (1964 – 5/74)
17. Jo Jo Gunne – Run Run Run (1972 – 5/85)
18. Iron Butterfly – In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (1968 – 2/20 & 3/40)
19. Mott The Hoople – All The Way From Memphis (1973 – 6/106)
20. Johnny Cash & June Carter – If I Were A Carpenter (1970 – 5/73)
21. Randy Newman – I Think It’s Going To Rain Today (1968 – 4/68)
22. Joni Mitchell – The Circle Game (1970 – 3/27)
23. Joan Baez – Forever Young (1974 – 4/47 & 5/83)
24. Pachelbel – Canon In D Major (2/13)

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Any Major Guitar Vol. 1

January 25th, 2018 15 comments

You know you’re losing it as a writer when you start off writing padding crap in the amateur league of “Guitar solos, everybody loves ’em”. Obviously, to spare you the tedium I’ve deleted all the noodling on about guitars — just as one might wish some musicians would do on their recordings, and on stage.

Having said that, it’s not awfully difficult to compile a list of favourite guitar solos, some of which may even be very long. Hell, I even love me a dose of Freebird now and then.

By definition, a list of anything “favourites” is subjective. They may include unheralded guitarists and exclude masters of the craft. My list certainly does. Slash and Eddie and Sambora? Missing? Dudes from Metallica or Led Zep? Nope. Any number of blues guitarists? I’m afraid not there. But the session guy from Wuthering Heights features.

So this is not an attempt at compiling “greatest-ever” guitar solos, though some of those here are contenders, or to bring together the greatest guitarists, though by the nature of things, many of the greatest will feature. This mix puts together songs on which there is guitar work that makes me sing along in the style of “Byoong, bee-bee-byoom-bee-byum – diddiddiddiddi-byoong-byoo-byoo-byoo-byoo-byoooo”.

And, of course, I apply my usual terms & conditions: one song per guitarist and, if it can be helped, no repeated acts either. This is just Volume 1, so please don’t shout at me for excluding Jimi Hendrix.

And tell me what are some of your favourite guitar solos? What makes you sing “Byoong, bee-bee-byoom-bee-byum”?

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

Cream – White Room (1968)
Byoong moment: 4:00. Cream make us think that the song is over, and then Eric Clapton goes all guitar solo for the remaining minute. So many Clapton solos to choose from… Bell Bottom Blues was another leading contender.

Chicago – 25 Or 6 To 4 (1970)
Byoong moment: 1:58. Whoever said Chicago were soft? Terry Kath threatens to let rip for a couple of minutes, then eases himself into his 2:15 minutes long second guitar solo which becomes increasingly aggressive.

Steely Dan – Reelin’ In The Years (1972)
Byoong moment: 1:58. His mini-solo kicks off the song, then session guitarist Elliott Randall gives us two solos for the price for one: first a “wanna-take-me-on” duel with the rhythm section, then a triumphant face-contorting solo.

America – Sister Golden Hair (1975)
Byoong moment: 0:00. It’s not really a solo; the slide guitar intro and its reprise after the break last only a few seconds, but what a beautiful ethereal sound. Rumour had it that it was played by George Harrison (since George Martin produced the song). Boringly, lead singer Gerry Beckley played the guitar, inspired by Harrison’s work on My Sweet Lord.

Wilco – Impossible Germany (2007)
Byoong moment: 2:29. If was asked to vote, I might nominate this as my all-time favourite guitar solo. Even if it features two soloists: Nels Cline (right speaker) and Jeff Tweedy (left speaker). It’s 3:28 minutes of exquisite, exciting and epic elation.

Foo Fighters – Everlong (live) (2006)
Byoong moment: 3:44. From the acoustic Skin And Bones live album, one doesn’t expect so much noise in the instrumental interlude and (aptly) climax. Not really a guitar solo, but those instrumental breaks are driven by Dave Grohl’s acoustic and Pat Smear’s electric guitars.

Crowded House – Don’t Dream It’s Over (live) (1996)
Byoong moment: 2:24. Neil Finn’s glistening guitar is all over it, in the studio version and in this gorgeous live recording from Sydney on the Farewell To The World set, but it really kicks in after the organ solo, and certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome.

Gary Moore – Still Got The Blues (For You) (1990)
Byoong moment: 3:39. Plenty of byoong throughout as Gary Moore puts on his orgasm-face and noodles exquisitely on his Les Paul. A court ruled that Moore plagiarised the solo from a 1974 song called Nordrach by the German prog rock act Jud’s Gallery — and the similarities are indeed there. But there’s a reason several thousands of people have had sex to Moore’s song, and only eight to that by Jud’s Gallery.

The Isley Brothers – Summer Breeze (1973)
Byoong moment: 3:51. There are few guitar solos in soul music, but when there is one, you can do worse than Ernie Isley laying it down, turning the gentle warm breeze into a heatwave. His solo on Who’s That Lady was another contender.

Toto – Georgy Porgy (1978)
Byoong moment: 1:58. There is so much musical excellence going on (and Cheryl Lynn’s superb vocals) here that the fleeting, half-minute guitar solo by Steve Lukather can be overlooked. But it is exquisite.

Eric Gale – Blue Horizon (1981)
Byoong moment: 3:44. The only instrumental here, by the late, great fusion guitarist Eric Gale. The real star of the show on this song is the recently late Hugh Masekela’s flugelhorn, perhaps even Peter Schott’s keyboards, to which Gale’s guitar offers accompaniment — until Gale takes centrestage with two brief solos; after which he lets his guitar sing like a bird that is desperate to mate.

Commodores – Easy (1977)
Byoong moment: 2:47. A guitar solo that comes from nowhere. Lionel goes: “Ooh!” and Thomas McClary lets his fuzz guitar sing. It’s superb, but be alert for another great McClary moment: that tiny fill at 2:23.

Carpenters – Goodbye To Love (1972)
Byoong moment: 2:47. Another fuzz guitar solo, by the late Tony Peloso. If you’ll disqualify the Cline/Tweedy solo, I’ll nominate this as my all-time favourite guitar solo, alone because it comes so unexpectedly in a Carpenters song; guitar solos did not really feature on easy listening numbers. The first solo, at 1:21, sounds at first melancholy, reflecting Karen’s resignation and sadness, then it tries to lift her up. But that second solo, if Karen doesn’t invite love back in after the big solo that closes the song, backed by celestial harmonies, then she really has no chance.

Fleetwood Mac – Never Going Back Again (1977)
Byoong moment: 0:44. No “byoong” here, just lots of finger-picking acoustic guitar by what essentially is a Lindsey Buckingham solo track. I was very close to picking Buckingham’s solo for Landslide (which features on Any Major Fathers).

Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights (1978)
Byoong moment: 3:47. Given that he discovered Kate Bush, I sort of guessed that the guitar solo that sees out Wuthering Heights, and takes centre-stage, was played by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour. It was, in fact, the work of Scottish session musician Ian Bairnson, formerly of glam-pop band Pilot.

The Knack – My Sharona (1979)
Byoong moment: 2:43. My Sharona is dominated by that insistent riff and the stuttering vocals and “whooo”s, but that guitar solo by Berton Averre is one of the finest in late 1970s pop music. It goes on a bit, so it does need that furious power pop drumming, with the brutal assault on the cymbals, to sustain it. The Freebird for the new wave generation.

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NYC – Any Major Mix Vol. 1

January 23rd, 2018 20 comments

I am among the many who are profoundly fascinated by New York. Without ever having been there, I feel an affinity with the place (at this point I might invite the multi-millionaires among my loyal readers to come forward with offers for an all-expenses trip to NYC for me and my family). Obviously I’m not alone.

When I first made up this collection in 2009, I thought I’d even make it two mixes. Then I began shortlisting. The list grew longer and longer. Then I culled, ruthlessly. I ended up with five mixes, including the New York in Black & White mix I re-posted a couple of years ago.

So, how much do I love NYC, without ever having been there? Well, consider this: a large framed print of the photo below, bought almost 25 years ago, hangs above my bed. As I said, wealthy benefactors…..

 

1. Billie Holiday – Autumn In New York (1954)
NYC hook: When Harry repeatedly met Sally, his creepiness was relieved by the beauty of NYC’s fallen, brown leaves. I’m not sure that match-making via Harry Connick is what Billie had in mind. It’s beautiful nonetheless. No wonder the creep eventually managed to hook the rather attractive Sally, playing lovely music like this for, to and at her.

2. Ray Charles – New York’s My Home (1961)
NYC hook: Well, it’s his favourite city, not just a visiting place. It’s, as the title shrewdly implies, his home.

3. Bobby Darin – Sunday In New York (1964)
NYC hook: Ah, those innocent days when shops would be closed on Sundays, and there’d be nothing better to do than window shopping — and sing infectiously upbeat songs about it.

4. Ad Libs – Boy From NY City (1964)
NYC hook: Well, there’s a boy, and he’s from New York City, and a girl named Kitty, for reason of rhyme, is urged to tell us about him. We learn that he is no clown, which is a relief.

5. Harpers Bizarre – 59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovy) (1967)
NYC hook: Slowly following the S&G city map, Harpers Bizarre are finding cause to feel pretty good — or groovy, in the era’s vernacular. As the title might have told you. What else can make you feel groovy?

6. Gerard Kenny – New York, New York (1978)
NYC hook: It’s safe to say that Gerard Kenny likes New York. In his enthusiasm, he claims inaccurately that on account of how good the city is, it was named twice, like the pederast in Nabokov’s Lolita. Of course we know that his Sesame Street level assertion does not correspond with reality, yet we would feel guilty disabusing him of his error. It would crush him.

7. Russ Ballard – New York Groove (1975)
NYC hook: A little under a decade after people were feeling gently groovy, Russ thumped us with the NY GROOOVE, symbolising the transition from weed to coke. Ex-Argent member Ballard wrote the song, but didn’t release it. Instead, Hello in 1975 and Ace Fehley of Kiss in 1978 had hits with it.

8. Nicole Atkins – Brooklyn’s On Fire (2007)
NYC hook: It’s Independence Day and, Nicole counsels us, Brooklyn is on fire. Not literally, even though the chorus does sound deceptively alarming. It’s the fireworks, and romance is in the air.

9. Ramones – Rockaway Beach (1977)
NYC hook: Joey and his “brothers” hitch a ride to the Beach. The Surfin’ USA for New Yorkers.

10. Bruce Springsteen – Sherry Darling (1980)
NYC hook: New York traffic is a bastard, and more so when you have to ferry around your nagging future mother-in-law. Our Bruce likes his Sherry, but one more word out of Mom, and she walks.

11. Ryan Adams – New York New York (2001)
NYC hook: Ryan loves New York a lot, and this is his declaration of love. The video for this song was filmed four days before 9/11, and apparently the song played on loop for days after the attack. Apologies to New Yorkers in whom this track evokes horrible memories.

12. Elliot Smith – Amity (1998)
NYC hook: This mix is like a soap opera. Remember Kitty who told us about the boy from New York City? Well, it seems the Boy from New York City has returned to New York City, with Kitty. “Hello, hello Kitty, happy in New York City.”

13. Bright Eyes – Old Soul Song (For The New World Order) (2005)
NYC hook: The only song in this mix not to mention New York, its geography or landmarks. But it is set in New York, describing the big February 2003 demonstration against George W Bush’s illicit, indefensible declaration of war against a state that posed no threat to his country’s security. As we knew then, if we were ready to refuse to believe the brazen lies peddled by Dick, Don and Dubya, and their gurning poodle in Britain. Remember them? These evil fucks seem so innocent in Trump’s 2018…

14. Rosie Thomas – Much Farther To Go (2007)
NYC hook: A broken heart in New York City, with the Statue of Liberty as a prop. Without wishing to engage in undue hyperbole, this is a most beautiful song.

15. Rufus Wainwright – Chelsea Hotel No 2 (2006)
NYC hook: Casual celebrity oral sex; it’s the New York way. The cover may be even better than Laughing Len’s original.

16. Everything But The Girl – The Only Living Boy In New York (1997)
NYC hook: One person leaves New York, the other stays behind. The second Simon & Garfunkel cover in the mix, and I have two more of their songs lined up…

17. Mondo Kané feat. Georgie Fame – New York Afternoon (1986)
NYC hook: We’ve had Billie Holiday in autumn and Rosie Thomas in winter; here Mondo Kané and Georgie Fame (produced by the soon-to-be-evil-but-still-excellent Stock Aitken Waterman) enjoy a nice summer afternoon in various New York landmarks.

18. Prefab Sprout – Hey Manhattan! (1988)
NYC hook: And coming in on the flight after Mondo Kané’s are wide-eyed tourists Prefab Sprout, admitting to being entirely star-struck. Brooklyn Bridge, 5th Avenue (where Sinatra walked), JFK hang-out The Carlyle… But look out for the denouement as our tourist friends become aware of New York’s class division.

19. Neil Diamond – Brooklyn Roads (1968)
NYC hook: Neil grew up in Brooklyn. No dazzled observations about famous landmarks and celebrities here. Reminiscing on his childhood, Neil is smelling cooking in the hallways of his block; I get the scent of Mrs Diamond’s boiled cabbage. Wistfully, he imagines a new generation of children living in his old room, perhaps dreaming, as he did, of busting loose.

20. Gil Scott-Heron – New York City (1976)
NYC hook: You’d think angry Gil would hate New York. But he doesn’t. He loves it. Not quite sure why. Nothing much wrong with it, he says. And that’s just as well, seeing as the city reminds Gil of himself.

21. Steely Dan – Brooklyn (1972)
NYC hook: The charmer under me is…the guy who lived below Fagen and Becker in Brooklyn. All there is to it.

22. Lou Reed – Dirty Blvd. (1989)
NYC hook: Face it, Lou Reed could sing ice cream commercials on a gondola or pack a surf board on a beach surrounded by gaggle of busty blondes, and whatever he was singing would still be about the grime of New York City’s underbelly. The Venetian gondolier would be a pimp, the surfer a pusher and the busty blondes junkie hookers. It’s what Lou did.

23. Bob Dylan – Hard Times In New York Town (1961)
NYC hook: Young Bobby Zimmerman escaped from cold Minnesota to Greenwich Village and joined the folk circuit. Recorded before he released his (not terribly good) debut album, we can sympathise here with the complications he is facing in his adopted home.

24. Bob James – Angela (Theme from Taxi) (1978)
NYC hook: What would a series of songs about New York be without reference to the yellow cabs. Taxi was, of course, the show about, well, taxis which brought together Danny DeVito, Tony Danza, Jeff Conaway, Carol Kane, Randall Carver, Judd Hirsch, Marilu Henner, Christopher Lloyd and Andy Kaufman.

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