A couple of years ago I started an occasional series of songs that popped up on my iPod’s random shuffle. I had sort of forgotten all about it, but it’s rather good fun (and liberating) to explore these random songs instead of working from carefully compiled shortlists. So, here are five more in the Random 5-track iPod Experiment.
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Tracy Chapman – If Not Now (1988).mp3
I have many great memories which are soundtracked by Tracy Chapman’s excellent 1988 debut album, particularly a life-changing trip to Zimbabwe. I played Side One of the album to death, put off by a couple of songs on the second side which simply weren’t as good, especially the two openers, Mountain O’ Things and the cod-reggae of She’s Got A Ticket. If Not Now is the side’s penultimate song, preceded by the outstanding For My Lover. Great memories of Zimbabwe apart, the Chapman album now always reminds me of my wedding day in 1993, when my brother played the album loudly while dressing that morning. The wedding video film captures him binding his tie and singing loudly along to Behind The Wall, a song about…domestic abuse.
Joy – Paradise Road (1980).mp3
Oh, great pick, iPod. Released in 1980, this was the first number 1 on South Africa’s “white” charts by a local black act, topping the Springbok charts for nine weeks. That was remarkable under apartheid, of course, even if the song is mainstream pop. Even more remarkable, it was quite evidently an anti-apartheid song, taking issue here with the laws that outlawed sex (and therefore marriage) across the colour lines. I’m not sure which Paradise Road is being referred to. There is one in Cape Town, in the upscale suburb of Claremont, but that isn’t near the tracks that separated white from black (as Tracy Chapman once put it). It is a fine song, with a most wonderful vocal performance by the late Anneline Malebo, who became the first South African celebrity to announce her HIV-positive status. Despite the mammoth success of Paradise Road, which remains a South African pop classic, and supporting such acts as Lamont Dozier, Timmy Thomas, Clarence Carter and Dobie Gray on their South African tours (before the cultural boycott took hold), Joy had split up by 1983. More on Joy and the tragic, inspiring Malebo.
Bill LaBounty – Didn’t Want To Say Goodbye (1982).mp3
The iPod is caught in an ’80s vibe, it seems. Bill LaBounty’s self-titled 1982 album is a criminally overlooked gem. Perhaps it came three years too late, belonging to the AOR genre populated by the likes of Ace, Player, Rupert Holmes, Orleans, Ambrosia etc — the types featured on this mix, in which LaBounty was also represented with the stand-out track of the 1982 album, Living It Up. Another fine track from the album, Look Who’s Lonely Now, was also recorded in 1982 by Randy Crawford, but I don’t know which version came first. The eponymous album was his last for 12 years as LaBounty returned to writing songs for others. In the 1990s he branched out into country, writing several hits for Steve Wariner.
Linda Lewis – Been My Best (1972).mp3
This is really nice. Not a song I’m particularly familiar with. Well, I wouldn’t have known it had you asked whether I have this song, even though I have played the album it’s from often. It resides in the middle of Side 2 of Lewis’ 1972 album Lark, a lovely affair in which Lewis creates a folky fusion of Joni Mitchell and Minnie Riperton. The shuffle function is a great way of discovering songs. The versatile Lewis could do the easy folk thing well; I’ve know her better as the future soul singer who as a child actress appeared in A Hard Day’s Night, as a backing singer, with Tina Charles, on Steve Harley & the Cockney Rebel’s hit Come Up And See Me (she also did backing vocals for the likes of David Bowie and Cat Stevens), and for her glorious ’80s disco number Class-Style (I’ve Got It), which featured on Any Major Funk Vol. 4.
Dean Martin – Everybody Loves Somebody (1964).mp3
Dino at his most languid. I don’t think that Dean Martin was very serious about this song, written 17 years earlier and recorded spontaneously at the end of recording session. His sardonic delivery, accompanied by antiquated backing vocals that just scream kitsch, is an indication. Everybody Loves Somebody Sometimes became a massive hit and one of a handful of signature tunes for Martin. In fact, the title apparently is engraved on his tombstone. In the US, Everybody Loves Somebody took over the #1 spot from the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night — which he had predicted the song would do. He also sent Sinatra, who had recorded the song earlier, a telegram, telling his old pal: “This is how you do it”. While a huge hit in the US, Everybody Loves Somebody reached only #11 in Britain, a market which cannot be said to have been averse to easy listening schlock, as the career of the regrettable Engelbert Humperdinck illustrates.