In Memoriam – September 2017

October 5th, 2017 2 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Not Feeling Guilty Mix Vol. 8

September 28th, 2017 3 comments

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

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

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

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

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Not Feeling Guilty Mix 1
Not Feeling Guilty Mix 2
Not Feeling Guilty Mix 3
Not Feeling Guilty Mix 4
Not Feeling Guilty Mix 5
Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 6
Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 7

Bacharach & David Songbook Vol. 1

September 21st, 2017 9 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Life In Vinyl 1985 – Vol. 2

September 14th, 2017 1 comment

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In Memoriam – August 2017

September 6th, 2017 6 comments

I dealt with the big death of September, that of Steely Dan’s Walter Becker, already on Sunday, before I had a  chance to post the August round-up… So, here are last month’s dearly departed.The headliner death in August doubtless was that of Glen Campbell. Much has been said about Campbell’s singing career, which truly hit its stride with those great Jimmy Webb songs — there are many people who report Wichita Lineman as their all-time favourite song. Campbell might have fallen from musical relevance for many years, but his career-closer will surely be regarded as a landmark record in time to come, as the baby boomers and the generation that followed it slowly face age-related illnesses and mortality. In his swansong, poignantly titled I’m Not Gonna Miss You, Campbell says a last goodbye before his Alzheimer’s would kick in.

The tributes noted Campbell’s session work in the 1960s, and that he was a Beach Boy for a while. He was indeed a member of the group on stage, though not an official part of the recording group. But as a member of the collective of LA session musicians known as The Wrecking Crew he played on several of their songs. On Pet Sounds alone, he played the guitar on I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times, I Know There’s An Answer, Caroline No, That’s Not Me and Put Your Head On My Shoulder. He also played on many Phil Sector records, including Ike & Tina Turner’s River Deep-Mountain High. And he played on records by Elvis (on Viva Las Vegas), Sam Cooke, Jan & Dean, Dick Dale And His Del-Tones, Ricky Nelson, Nancy Sinatra, Merle Haggard, Quincy Jones, The Monkees, Harper’s Bizarre, Gene Clark, Delaney & Bonnie, Jefferson Airplane, Randy Newman, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and more.

An alumnus of the Sun label in the mid-1950s, rockabilly singer and guitarist Sonny Burgess had a reputation for raucous performances but also sang gospel — a bit like that other Sun star, Jerry Lee Lewis. Unlike Lewis, Burgess never had a big breakthrough. Still, he kept performing and recording, receiving recognition late in life, especially in Europe. In his 80s he was still presenting a radio programme in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

Recording engineers and mixers rarely get the props they deserve. Jason Corsaro, who has died of cancer at 58, might not have been a household name but he was a big name among producers, including Nile Rodgers. He first made his name in the mid-1980s is New York’s Power Station studio, in particular as the engineer and mixer of Madonna’s Like A Virgin album and the debut by the supergroup that took its name from the studio’s name. He engineered or mixed for acts as diverse as Duran Duran, The Cars, Sly & Robbie, Peter Gabriel, Spyro Gyra, Motörhead, Cameo, and Soundgarden (including Black Hole Sun, which featured to mark the death of Chris Cornell in In Memoriam May 2017.

I could not in good conscience take part in the mawkish tributes for comedian and occasional singer Jerry Lewis. The cross-eyed, gurning, quack-voiced village idiot shtick that once passed for comedy (and, mystifyingly, still does in parts of Europe) is not my jam in any way. Though as a serious actor Lewis did a great job basically playing himself in King Of Comedy (a film in which one is tempted to root for Rupert Pupkin). He released a few records, even reaching the US Top 10 with one, performed in that stupid comedy voice. In the In Memoriam series I have shared some pretty awful stuff by way of tribute, but I won’t inflict Jerry Lewis’ stylings on you.

Lewis was not a nice man. He was a misogynist and a bigot of many stripes who admired Donald Trump. And he was unspeakably rude to interviewers. Whatever bonus points he might merit for is impressive charity work are deducted for Lewis’ tendency to use that to self-aggrandise himself. “Nobody has worked harder for the human condition than I have” indeed. “[Syrian] refugees should stay where the hell they are,” Lewis said in a spectacularly ugly interview a couple of years ago. Those are the words of a very dark man.With Wilson das Neves one of the great names in Brazilian music has passed away. In a career that spanned more than 50 years, the percussionist and singer played on countless records by some of the country’s biggest names in music, apart from those he released himself. He is credited with having had a great influence on samba in particular. He also played with international artists such as Sarah Vaughan, Toots Thielemans and Michel Legrand. At the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics in 2016, das Neves appeared in a segment with other Brazilian stars Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso and Anitta.

Americans of a certain generation will know the sound of Larry Elgart’s saxophone well: it featured on the theme of American Bandstand, performed as part of his brother Les’ big band. Larry brought the big band sound back inti the charts in 1982 when he compiled the Hooked On Swing medleys.

Few people outside Oakland, California, will have heard of Dave Deporis. It would be a happier circumstance had it stayed that way. But on August 9 the singer-songwriter was sitting in an outdoor café when thieves grabbed his laptop computer and fled in it in a car. Deporis gave chase but got caught on the car. The drivers didn’t stop but dragged the musician for 200 metres before running him over, causing lethal injuries. On that laptop was all his music…

Sometimes LP cover designers merit a mention in the In Memoriam series, and so it is with Chris Whorf, who has died at 76. He made his mark especially as the art director of Casablanca records, where he was responsible for everything from corporate design to music videos. As for the LP covers he designed or art-directed, there are hundreds of them. Most notable among them are Isaac Hayes’ Hot Buttered Soul, John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s Double Fantasy and — a very controversial cover — Yoko Ono’s Seasons Of Glass. A small selection is represented in the collage below (a bigger version of it is in the mix).

Richard Shirman, 68, singer of psychedelic rock band The Attack, on July 26
The Attack – Lady Orange Peel (1968)

Goldy McJohn, 72, keyboardist of Canadian band Steppenwolf, on August 1
Steppenwolf – Magic Carpet Ride (1968)

Daniel Licht, 60, soundtrack composer and musician, on August 2
Daniel Licht – Theme from Dexter (2006, score)

Tony Cohen, 60, Australian producer and engineer, on August 2
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – The Carnival Is Over (1986, as producer-engineer)
The Cruel Sea – Black Stick (1993, as producer)

Jessy Serrata, 63, US Tejano musician, on August 4

Luiz Melodia, 66, Brazilian singer, songwriter and actor, on August 4
Luiz Melodia – Falando de Pobreza (1978)

Bruno Canfora, 92, composer, conductor and arranger, on August 5
Shirley Bassey – This Is My Life (La Vita) (1968, as composer)

Chris Whorf, 76, LP cover designer, on August 5

Glen Campbell, 81, country legend, on August 8
Ike & Tina Turner – River Deep-Mountain High (1966, on guitar)
Glen Campbell – Wichita Lineman (1968)
Glen Campbell – If These Walls Could Speak (1988)
Glen Campbell – Southern Nights (1977)
Glen Campbell and The Wrecking Crew – I’m Not Gonna Miss You (2014)

Barbara Cook, 89, singer and actress, on August 8
Barbara Cook with Arthur Harris’ Orchestra – Glad To Be Unhappy (1958)

Janet Seidel, 62, Australian jazz singer and pianist, on August 8
Janet Seidel – I’ve Got The Sun In The Morning (2001)

Dave Deporis, 40, singer-songwriter, killed on August 9

Robert Yancy, 39, drummer, son of Natalie Cole, on August 14

Benard Ighner, 72, songwriter and producer, on August 14
Marlena Shaw – Loving You Was Like A Party (1975, as producer & co-writer)
Randy Crawford – Everything Must Change (1977, as writer)

Jason Corsaro, 58, engineer and mixer, on August 16
Duran Duran – A View To A Kill (1985, as engineer, mixer, co-producer)
Steve Winwood – Higher Love (1986, as engineer)
Ramones – Pet Sematary (1989, as mixer)

Jo Walker-Meador, 93, long-serving heads of the Country Music Association, on August 16

Jesse Boyce, 69, producer, songwriter and musician, on August 17
Bottom & Company – Gonna Find A True Love (1974, as member on bass)
Bill Brandon & Lorraine Johnson – Just Can’t Walk Away (1977, on bass and piano)

Sonny Burgess, 88, rockabilly singer, songwriter and guitarist, on August 18
Sonny Burgess – We Wanna Boogie (1956)
Sonny Burgess – Ain’t Got A Thing (1957)

Bruce Forsyth, 89, English TV entertainer, on August 18
Bruce Forsyth – Can’t Take My Eyes Off You (2011)

Bea Wain, 100, Big Band singer, on August 19
Larry Clinton and his Orchestra feat. Bea Wain – Deep Purple (1939)
Bea Wain – My Reverie (1944)

Concha Valdes Miranda, 89, Cuban composer, on August 19

Margot Hielscher, 97, German singer and actress, on August 20
Margot Hielscher – Frauen sind keine Engel (1943)

Jerry Lewis, 91, actor and occasional singer, on August 20

John Abercrombie, 72, jazz guitarist, on August 22
Dreams – Devil Lady (1969, as member)
John Abercrombie & Andy LaVerne – Now Hear This (2005)

Martin ‘Big Larry’ Allbritton, 80, blues singer and drummer, on August 24

Winston Samuels, 73, singer with Jamaican ska band The Aces, on August 24
Desmond Dekker & The Aces – The Israelites (1968, on backing vocals)

Wilson das Neves, 81, Brazilian singer and percussionist, on August 26
Wilson das Neves – Bólido 74 (1969)

Melissa Bell, 53, singer with British funk band Soul II Soul, on August 28
Soul II Soul – Be A Man (1993, on vocals)

Larry Elgart, 95, jazz bandleader, on August 29
Les Elgart and his Orchestra – Bandstand Boogie (1954, on saxophone)
Les & Larry Elgart – Nowhere Man (1966)

Skip Prokop, 73, drummer of Canadian groups Lighthouse, The Paupers, on August 30
Mike Bloomfield & Al Kooper – That’s All Right (1968, on drums)
Lighthouse – Feel So Good (1969)

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Any Major Steely Dan Covers

September 3rd, 2017 10 comments

The death today of Steely Dan’s equal half, Walter Becker, merits a tribute to the band, especially on a site titled Any Major Dude With Half A Heart.

Steely Dan is the kind of band that invites strong opinions. Their music is not very soulful but expertly executed, using some of the finest session players of their time. For some it’s too cold; others can bathe in glow of the music’s brilliance. I can see why one might not be touched by the music, even finding it too clever, too self-consciously sophisticated. It’s a fair criticism, even if I don’t share in it. But the musicianship and the innovation deserve admiration. Much of it was Walter Becker’s work.

After starting out as a conventional rock group, Steely Dan soon became the two-some of Becker and Donald Fagan, surrounding themselves with a collective of top session musicians. Almost all the drummers that have featured in the Session Players series have played with Steely Dan: Bernard Purdie, Steve Gadd, Hal Blaine, Jim Gordon, Jim Keltner, Ricky Lawson

Fagan was pretty much the frontman, taking the lead vocals. Becker’s primary job was to see to the intricate arrangements, with those complex rhythm tracks and finely tuned harmonies.

And that is where the critics of Steely Dan might do well to listen with new ears. I think they’ll find many surprises in most tracks.

And now, having bigged up the arrangements, I’m presenting a collection of cover versions.

It is not easy to do covers of songs that rely on intricate arrangements, and only very few Dan songs have been covered any significant number of times. This is what Steely Dan share with ABBA. But where the versions on the ABBA covers mix mostly required reinvention to be any good, Steely Dan songs can be covered fairly straight and still be good.

One version here is not good. Donny and Marie Osmond singing Reelin’ In The Years as the opening production of their show on 13 January 1978. Having done their job on the song, the toothy siblings hand over to the easy listening choir that scores an ice-skating routine, complete with high kicks. It is quite a show; take a look at it! Strangely, even though Reelin’ In The Years is pretty much the simplest, most straight-forward Steely Dan track, I’ve not heard a cover of which that I really liked.

And with that, here’s to the legacy of the great Walter Becker. May he rest in peace.

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

1. Wilco – Any Major Dude Will Tell You (2000)
2. Ben Folds Five – Barrytown (2000)
3. Nathan Haines with Damon Albarn – F.M. (2003)
4. Turin Brakes – Rikki Don’t Lose That Number (2011)
5. Minutemen – Dr. Wu (1984)
6. Rickie Lee Jones – Show Biz Kids (2000)
7. Atlanta Rhythm Section – Hey Nineteen (2011)
8. Michael McDonald with Donald Fagen – Pretzel Logic (1991)
9. Waylon Jennings – Do It Again (1980)
10. José Feliciano – Dirty Work (1974)
11. Poco – Dallas (1975)
12. Snake Davis Band – Deacon Blues (2016)
13. David Garfield – Josie (2003)
14. Sara Isaksson & Rebecka Törnqvist – Fire In The Hole (2006)
15. Ivy – Only A Fool Would Say That (2000)
16. Zo! feat. Phonte and Sy Smith – Black Cow (2011)
17. Toto – Bodhisattva (2002)
18. Woody Herman Band – Aja (1978)
19. Donny & Marie Osmond – Reelin’ In The Years (1978)

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Any Major Jones

August 31st, 2017 8 comments

No surname, surely, appears in pop songs more frequently than Jones. So it seems appropriate to issue a mix or two (or even three; I have enough songs for that) of songs referring to somebody called Jones. And I’ve so far excluded songs that use the name Jones as a noun (such as Love Jones), never mind as a verb (jonesing).

That John D. Loudermilk song sounds a lot like a later track, possibly by the Bee Gees, a real potential case for Copy Borrow Steal. Who can out me out of my misery and tell me which song I hear in this track?

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

1. Frank Sinatra – Have You Met Miss Jones (1961)
What the Jones? Well, he has met her and now Miss Jones is stuck with him forever, poor girl.

2. Amy Winehouse – Me And Mr. Jones (2006)
What the Jones? What kind of fuckery indeed is this with Mr Jones?

3. Kool & the Gang – Jones vs Jones (1980)
What the Jones? It got too hot, now it’s the end between him and her.

4. Billy Paul – Me And Mrs. Jones (1972)
What the Jones? They have, as you probably know, got a thing going on…

5. Dusty Springfield – Willie & Laura Mae Jones (1969)
What the Jones? A song about he temporary condition of racial harmony, but that was another place and another time…

6. Small Faces – Lazy Sunday (1968)
What the Jones? “Cor blimey, hello Mrs Jones, how’s your old Bert’s lumbago?”

7. John D. Loudermilk – Angela Jones (1962)
What the Jones? He’ll carry her books home if she’ll just give him one little Doot’n do doo.

8. Bee Gees – New York Mining Disaster 1941 (1967)
What the Jones? The logic of asking Mr Jones lots of questions and then telling him to answer at a volume nobody can hear lest he cause a landslide…

9. Bob Dylan – Ballad Of A Thin Man (1965)
What the Jones? Mr Jones the journalist has no clue. Or Bob’s just being an asshole.

10. Ben Folds – Fred Jones Part 2 (live, 2005)
What the Jones? Ben Folds witnesses the retirement of a veteran newspaper man (not Bob’s hack, though), and anticipates the manufactured decimation of the traditional newsroom by profiteering enemies of professional journalism.

11. Counting Crows – Mr. Jones (1993)
What the Jones? Mr J is Sideshow Bob’s partner in perving at women.

12. The Jam – Smithers Jones (1979)
What the Jones? Smithers Jones the conformist, like his cousin Fred, gets shafted by the capitalist exploiter.

13. Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Brown To Blue (1981)
What the Jones? Another divorce knees-up. She’ll become Mrs Jones and he’ll be blue.

14. Porter Wagoner – The First Mrs. Jones (1967)
What the Jones? A pretty melody for a very disturbing murder song, with a hell of a scary punchline.

15. Bobby Bare – Mrs. Jones, Your Daughter Cried All Night (1970)
What the Jones? Bobby met Miss Jones, and Mrs Jones didn’t approve.

16. Claudia Lennear – Casey Jones (1973)
What the Jones? There are many songs about John Luther “Casey” Jones was a railroad engineer who was killed in an accident in 1900, becoming a hero for saving many lives in the process. Lennear’s version is that by Furry Lewis, written in 1928.

17. Jerry Butler – Tammy Jones (1970)
What the Jones? Jerry wants to elope with Tammy from their gossiping town. Hmmm, Tammy Wynette was married to George Jones at the time. No wonder the town was gossiping…

18. Flaming Ember – Westbound #9 (1970)
What the Jones? The Reverend Jones preaches in a town of hypocrites. Time to get out on the Westbound #9.

19. The Supremes – Nathan Jones (1971)
What the Jones? Nathan upped and left and broke The Supremes’ heart. Well, here’s hoping Nathan ended up like the idiot who ghosted his girlfriend who turned out to be his boss ten years later.

20. The 5th Dimension – Black Patch (1972)
What the Jones? Jones got his mean streak from the gutter, got his kindness from God. If he didn’t get the invite, the former would probably emerge.

21. Scott Engel – Mr. Jones (1961)
What the Jones? The future Scott Walker wants to make Mrs Jones’ daughter the future Mrs Engel.

22. Dr. John – Save The Bones For Henry Jones (2006)
What the Jones? Originally from 1953, is this the first song about vegetarianism?

23. Roberta Flack – Sunday And Sister Jones (1971)
What the Jones? Reverend Jones dies and Sister Jones doesn’t hang about.

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Any Major American Road Trip – 7

August 24th, 2017 5 comments

So finally we are reaching an end to our seven-part musical American Road Trip which began in Boston and took us via New York and Philly down to South Carolina, through the Deep South and Texas into the west via Arizona, up the coast of California, turning right via Las Vegas through the Mid-West, and leaving us in Akron, Ohio when we last stopped.

In this mix we are staying briefly in Ohio, at the university town of Kent to pay tribute to the students shot dead there in 1970. We then move into blue-collar Pennsylvania, an area that is said to have swung things Trump’s way last November. It’s safe to say that the men singing about life in Pittsburgh and Youngstown would not recommend voting for Trump, nor for the enemies of the working and middle classes that are leeching off the institutionalised corruption in Washington.

From Pittsburgh our journey covers destinations which one might describe as unsung, except this mix is proof that they, in fact, are sung: places like Wheeling, Roanoke, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Myrtle Beach. Revisiting South Carolina and, briefly, Georgia, we come to Florida, ending up right at the tip of The Keys, at Key West — as you will see on the back cover.

By then, we’ll have covered 119 towns in 153 songs. I hope you enjoyed the trip. Next Europe?

 

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

1. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Ohio (2004 – Kent, OH)
2. Bruce Springsteen – Youngstown (1995 – Youngstown, PA)
3. Pete Seeger – Pittsburgh Town (1957 – Pittsburgh, PA)
4. Billy Joel – The Ballad Of Billy The Kid (live) (1981 – Wheeling, WV)
5. Tim Rose – Roanoke (1969 – Roanoke, NC)
6. Chuck Berry – The Promised Land (1964 – Norfolk, VA)
7. Starbuck – Moonlight Feels Right (1976 – Chesapeake, VA)
8. Aimee Mann – Ghost World (2006 – Myrtle Beach, SC)
9. Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland – Yolanda (1974 – Charleston, SC)
10. Lovin’ Spoonful – Jug Band Music (1966 – Savannah, GA)
11. Josh Turner – Jacksonville (2003, Jacksonville, FL)
12. John Hiatt – The Tiki Bar Is Open (2001 – Daytona Beach, FL)
13. Jimmy Buffett – Ballad Of Skip Wiley (1995 – Orlando & St Augustine, FL)
14. The Jayhawks – Tampa To Tulsa (2003 – Tampa, FL)
15. Drive-By Truckers – The Flying Wallendas (2010 – Sarasota, FL)
16. Elvis Presley – Fort Lauderdale Chamber Of Commerce (1965 – Fort Lauderdale, FL)
17. Sarah Vaughan – Moon Over Miami (1960 – Miami, FL)
18. Keith Whitley – Miami, My Amy (1985 – Miami, FL)
19. Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – Miami (1986 – Miami, FL)
20. Bertie Higgins – Key Largo (1982 – Key Largo, FL)
21. Shel Silverstein – The Great Conch Train Robbery (1980 – Key West, FL)

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Any Major Elvis Covers

August 16th, 2017 9 comments

Where were you when you learned of Elvis’ death, 40 years ago on August 16? I was at a church summer camp. At 11 I didn’t really appreciate the importance of Elvis. To me, he was a name and face one just knew, like those of Charlie Chaplin or Bing Crosby — both of whom also died in 1977. But, as it so often is, the death of an icon kicked off a mania. Suddenly everybody was an Elvis fan, myself included.

A greatest hits type of double album was my introduction to Elvis. It had all the important stuff on it. Some months later I bought a four-album set of Elvis rock & roll stuff. I was blown away by it, and adopted I Want To Be Free as my nominal favourite Elvis song.

It took me longer to get into latter period Elvis, other than the usual suspects (Suspicious Minds, In The Ghetto etc), and only grudgingly came to appreciate some of Movie Elvis period output.

I have previously run two mixes of the originals of songs Elvis had hits with (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2). To mark the 40th anniversary of Elvis’ death, here is a mix of artists covering Elvis songs. Almost all were Elvis originals; the three that aren’t — All Shook Up, Suspicious Minds, Burning Love —were rather obscure before Elvis recorded them. So no Hound Dog or Blues Suede Shoes here.

James Brown recorded his version of Love Me Tender after Elvis’ death, by way of tribute by what he says is one king to another. Humility was never JB’s strong suite. Of the soul covers here, his is not the best: that would be Candi Staton’s In The Ghetto.  And yet I was tempted to include the bizarre cover by Sammy Davis Jr that featured on The Ghetto Vol. 1.

Three covers here are by people who wrote the songs. Otis Backwell’s version of Return To Sender appeared on an album defiantly titled These Are My Songs. Dennis Linde’s recording of Burning Love sounds like it ought to have been a hit for Creedence Clearwater Revival. And Mac Davis took four years before he recorded the Elvis hit he had co-written, A Little Less Conversation.

Most songs here more or less follow the Elvis template, with some variations. So The Pogues’ version of Got A Lot O’ Livin’ To Do is reworked in the band’s customary Irish folk-punk sound, but the song retains its intregrity; likewise Albert King gives Jailhouse Rock a blistering blues treatment, but it’s still discernibly Jailhouse Rock. I suppose it might be difficult to immediately recognise Teddy Thompson’s wonderful version of I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone as the rock & roll track Elvis created, but that’s just clever arranging.

Two tracks, however, totally rework Elvis: John Cale’s Heartbreak Hotel has only passing acquaintance with the original. The Jeff Beck Group — with “Extraordinaire Rod Stewart”, as the sleeve notes have it, on vocals, backed by Beck, Ron Wood and Nicky Hopkins — stir into All Shook Up a heavy dosed of blues-rock. What, one may wonders, could have been had Elvis adopted that kind of sound in the late’60s. Poor “Colonel” Parker might have spontaneously combusted, leaving behind a pile of dust and a rock where his heart once was.

The benefit of listening to others sing Elvis is that one can understand the lyrics. Presley was a wonderful singer, but his diction was awful. I don’t think there’s a single up-tempo Elvis song which has not required me to innovate some alternative lyrics. So a good number of songs here have helped me disabused me of misheard lyrics. One of those was Devil In Disguise, thanks to candidates for inclusion which I rejected in favour of the one cover here that isn’t in English. It’s in Czech and performed by veteran crooner Karel Gott, “the Sinatra of the East”. It is, let’s say, interesting. I suspect Elvis might have approved as left the building.

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

1. Albert King – Jailhouse Rock (1969)
2. Roy Orbison – Mean Woman Blues (1963)
3. Buddy Holly – You’re So Square (Baby I Don’t Care) (1958)
4. Otis Blackwell – Return To Sender (1977)
5. Ry Cooder – Little Sister (1979)
6. Dillard & Clark – Don’t Be Cruel (1968)
7. Teddy Thompson – I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone (2007)
8. Mac Davis – A Little Less Conversation (1972)
9. Dennis Linde – Burning Love (1973)
10. Candi Staton – In The Ghetto (1972)
11. The Persuasions – Good Luck Charm (2003)
12. Chuck Jackson – (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear (1966)
13. James Brown – Love Me Tender (1978)
14. PJ Proby – If I Can Dream (2011)
15. Françoise Hardy – Loving You (1968)
16. Sandy Posey – Don’t (1973)
17. Chris Isaak – I Forgot To Remember To Forget (2011)
18. Fine Young Cannibals – Suspicious Minds (1986)
19. The Pogues – Got A Lot O’ Livin’ To Do (1990)
20. Bruce Springsteen – Viva Las Vegas (2003)
21. Wanda Jackson – Hard Headed Woman (1961)
22. Conway Twitty – Treat Me Nice (1961)
23. Bobby Stevens – Stuck On You (1960)
24. Robert Gordon with Link Wray – I Want To Be Free (1977)
25. Vince Eager – A Big Hunk O’Love (1972)
26. The Jeff Beck Group – All Shook Up (1968)
27. John Cale – Heartbreak Hotel (1975)
28. Karel Gott – Dábel tisíc tvárí má (Devil In Disguise) (2011)

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Elvis movies mix & quiz

August 10th, 2017 8 comments

What it says in the title… A mix of songs from Evis movie — one from each — and guess the Elvis movie from the synopsis. Clue: all the movies referred to in the quiz were made after Elvis served his fatherland. The answers are in the comments section (if some of the comments seem old, it’s because I first posted it in 2008). Not that I expect anybody but the greatest Elvis fan to know most of the answers; the fun resides in the questions. When Elvis went to Hollywood, he hoped to inherit James Dean’s mantle of rebellion. As these questions may suggest, he didn’t even inherit Bing Crosby’s mantle of casually whistling acquiescence.

1. Elvis is a singing heir to a pineapple plantation in Hawaii who becomes, as you do when the future holds a panama hat, a tour guide. He falls in love and sings 14 (count ’em) songs, including that ghastly tune ignorant people tend to call “Wise Man Say”.

2. Elvis is a singing swimming pool lifeguard who couldn’t cut it in the circus. He falls in love. With a bullfighter. Alas, it was not an edgy message movie fighting a culture of homophobia well ahead of its time. The bullfighter is — and the shrewd reader guessed it — a woman.

3. Elvis is a singing rodeo rider. Looking for gold, he falls in love and — don’t say you didn’t see that one coming — gets married to his lady love. Aaah!

4. Elvis is a singing racing driver working as a bus boy (which means, he clears tables, not speed through the streets in a doubledecker). He falls in love with a swimming instructor. And — spoiler alert — together they win a talent competition. Hurrah!

5. Elvis is a singing charter boat pilot in Hawaii who is torn between two girls. In the end (spoiler alert redux!) he goes — gulp — for the good girl.

6. Elvis is a singing bush pilot who takes care of a little Chinese kid. He then, yes, falls in love.

7. Elvis plays a non-singing (!) gunslinger come good. He fails to sing, but — phew — he does fall in love (else what movie would there be?). With a dance hall queen, as you do.

8. Elvis is a singing rodeo rider (again), but with an ethnic twist: he is of Native-American descent. This time, Elvis doesn’t so much fall in love but play the field, going for a mother and daughter combo. Off-screen Elvis preferred the teenage daughters; will he go for the MILF on-screen?

9. Elvis is, but of course, a singing racing driver who, plausibly enough, falls in love with a singing government agent in go-go boots. The story we all have to tell.

10. Elvis is a singing boxer who is supposed to take a fall. But he does fall. In love. With the love interest from movie (1).

11. Elvis is a navy frogman. Oh, but he is. And the kicker is, at night he sings in a nightclub. Oh, but he does. The unbelievable plot device here: Elvis fails to fall in love but goes treasure hunting instead. Will he find the treasure?

12. Elvis is a singing helicopter pilot. And guess where. No, really, please do take a wild stab in the dark. Why, he’s a singing helicopter pilot in Hawaii. But this movie is not like all the others in which Elvis is a singing action man who falls in love with a pretty girl while being pursued by the town harlot. Here he doesn’t fall in love with one or two women, but romances three, count ’em, of them.

13. Elvis is a singing racing car driver. Incredibly, the thing isn’t called Deja Fuckin’ Vu. Elvis again has three women to choose from, as he did in movie (12) which preceded this one (the 1960s morals had loosened, evidently). And they have some pretty ordinary jobs: drummer, self-help author, heiress…

14. Elvis is a singing heir, to a rich Texas oilman, who roughs it a bit as a waterski instructor (doing it fully clothed!). Among his clients is a woman who is looking for a rich husband. Oh, the hilarious complications that arise when Elvis falls in love. How will Elvis get out of this one?

15. Elvis is an occasionally singing photographer of stylish advertisements and of nudie pics (nobody showed the Colonel that script, I bet) who experiences psychedelic trips involving people in dog costumes (actually, was Tom Parker at all awake?). Yup, there is a love interest, seeing as you ask.

16. Elvis is a singing US soldier who falls in love with a dancer and sings a German folk song to a puppet.

17. Elvis is a ghetto doctor who doesn’t sing an awful lot. But he falls in love. With a nun. Oh naughty Elvis. But how could he know of her profession when she is swanning about in civvies. No wimple warning. There isn’t even a happy ending: we never learn whether the nun, played by a TV legend, goes with Big El or with Big Al. No wonder this was the last Elvis movie (a couple of documentaries apart).

18. Elvis is a singing insurance salesman who moonlights as a lion tamer and falls in love with the circus clown’s daughter.

The movies were mostly terrible (and yet strangely alluring in a camp sort of way), and not infrequently so was the music. Still, there were some stomping numbers, few more so than Bossa Nova Baby (watch great the excerpt from Fun In Acapulco here) with its sample-worthy keyboard line. Written by the legendary Leiber & Stoller, who just a decade earlier had written Hound Dog and other rock ‘n’ roll classics, it was first recorded in 1962 by Tippie & the Clovers, whose version the song’s composers preferred over Elvis’. Why the bossa nova sounds Mexican and, in fact, nothing like a bossa nova is anybody’s guess.

Another Leiber & Stoller composition, one that hints at Elvis’ affection for gospel, is I Want To Be Free, from Jailhouse Rock. It has been an Elvis favourite of mine since I first heard it on 4-disc set of our boy’s rock ‘n’ roll recordings which I bought when I was 12. The version featured here is the one from the film, not that from the soundtrack (which, it must be said, is superior).

Elvis might have gone soft on us after returning from the army, but on his version of Ray Charles’ What’d I Say, he rocks out. From 1964’s Viva Las Vegas, it was the b-side of the excellent title track. And on G.I. Blues Evis even revisits Blue Suede Shoes. And here’s the thing: the cover of the first cover is note-for-note faithful, the arrangement is he same, but it lacks the ejaculatory power of the 1956 version. The army demonstably had emasculated Elvis.

From 1962′ Girls Girls Girls, Return To Sender sounds like it might have featured in a pre-army movie. In fact, it sounds like a good companion piece to King Creole. It was co-written by Otis Blackwell who had previously written All Shook Up, Don’t Be Cruel, Fever (all recorded by Elvis) as well as Jerry Lee Lewis Great Balls Of Fire. Look out for Blackwell’s own version of it on a mix next week.

For a perfect fusion of Cool Rock ‘n’ Roll Elvis and Cheesy Movie Elvis, one may turn to What A Wonderful Life from 1962’s Follow That Dream, in which Elvis plays the singing son of a vagabond heading down Florida way et cetera.

There was a period when the crapness of Elvis’ music coincided with the shittiness of his movies to create a sewerage of artlessness. I would locate that point at 1965/66. Some argue that Harum Scarum in 1965 was the nadir, and it is a perfectly defensible position; I propose that this was just a stop before the all-time low: Spinout in 1965. There are no redeeming songs at all from that wretched movie. But rules are rules and I had to include one from each film. So you have the pleasure to sample the misogynistic Smorgasbord wherein our hero narrates his philandering ways by way of comparing his conquests to Scandinavian fingerfood. It’s so bad, it really is bad.

Things improved shortly, though not without further humiliations. You Gotta Stop from the following film, Easy Come, Easy Go is a few steps up from his nordic epicurean adventure, and then we get Long Legged Girl (With the Short Dress On) from Double Trouble (you remember Double Trouble, don’t you?), which is a fine performance, poor lyrics notwithstanding. Not that it saved poor Elvis’ dignity. In the same movie he was made to sing Old McDonald Had A Farm. Apparently he stormed out of the studio upon being told that the King of Rock & Roll was required to sing that. But sing that he did, on record and in the movie. It is a pathetic spectacle.

But improve the things did. In 1967’s Clambake — another cinematic triumph —  Elvis sang Jerry Reed’s Guitar Man, getting deep into his country roots. On Stay Away, Joe (everybody remembers that) he reconnects with the blues, in a manner, with All I Need Is The Rain; and in 1968’s Live A Little, Love A Little, he hits on a career highlight with A Little Less Conversation (a song that returned him to the charts almost 40 years later).

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

1. We’re Gonna Move (Love Me Tender, 1956)
2. Got A Lot O’ Livin’ To Do (Loving You, 1957)
3. I Want To Be Free (Movie version) (Jailouse Rock, 1957)
4. Hard Headed Woman (King Creole, 1958)
5. Blue Suede Shoes (G.I. Blues, 1960)
6. Flaming Star (Flaming Star, 1960)
7. I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell (Wild In The Country, 1961)
8. No More (Blue Hawaii, 1961)
9. What A Wonderful Life (Follow That Dream, 1962)
10. I Got Lucky (Kid Gallahad, 1962)
11. Return To Sender (Girls, Girls, Girls, 1962)
12. They Remind Me Too Much Of You (It Happened At The World Fair, 1963)
13. Bossa Nova Baby (Fun In Acapulca, 1963)
14. Kissin’ Cousins (Kissin’ Cousins, 1964)
15. What’d I Say (Viva Las Vegas, 1964)
16. Wheels On My Heels (Roustabout, 1964)
17. The Meanest Girl In Town (Girl Happy, 1965)
18. Put The Blame On Me (Tickle Me, 1965)
19. So Close, Yet So Far (From Paradise) (Harum Scarum, 1965)
20. A Dog’s Life (Frankie And Johnny, 1966)
21. Hard Luck (Paradise, Hawaii Style, 1966)
22. Smorgasbord (Spinout, 1966)
23. You Gotta Stop (Easy Come, Easy Go, 1967)
24. Long Legged Girl (With The Short Dress On) (Double Trouble, 1967)
25. Guitar Man (Clambake, 1967)
26. All I Needed Was The Rain (Stay Away, Joe, 1968)
27. Let Yourself Go (Speedway, 1968)
28. A Little Less Conversation (Live A Little, Love A Little, 1968)
29. Charro! (Charro!, 1969)
30. Clean Up Your Own Backyard (The Trouble With Girls, 1969)
31. Have A Happy (Change Of Habits, 1969)

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