Saturday, 22 April 2017

April #3 - Annie Get Your Gone

3. Annie Keating - All Gone

The Swede begins his latest post thus: "How often, dear reader, have you opened a post of your own with the phrase 'I don't know very much about this lot, but....', or words to that effect?"

Well, quite.

I know nothing of Annie Keating, other than that I found her 2013 album For Keeps in a charity shop and took a flyer. Turns out that was an excellent move as this is right up my street: folky country rock... let's be frank, Americana... reminiscent of Lucinda Williams or Kathleen Edwards, both of whom I love. Although Ms. Edwards appears to have put music-making on hold at the moment to open a coffee shop in her native Canada... yes, it seems she prefers Americanos to Americana.

Thank you. I'm here all week.

Anyway, in the meantime, Annie Keating makes a very welcome substitute...

Thursday, 20 April 2017

My Top Ten Songs About Prince

It's been a year since he died and I still haven't quite come to terms with it. I accepted Bowie's death, I knew Leonard wasn't long for this world. George was a shock, but not entirely. Prince though...

Of all the artists we lost last year, Prince was the one I felt the hardest. For about a month after his death, I listened to little else but his back catalogue on repeat. He was one of the biggest superstars of my life. Many of the others had been recording long before I was born, but Prince started making music in my lifetime, created some of the most amazing records I ever heard... and then was taken far too soon. I wanted to honour that again, but since I've already compiled My Top Ten Prince Songs, here's the next best thing...

10. The Bloodhound Gang - The Bad Touch

This one again. Sorry about that.

It's just, they're (dreaming) of doing "the kind of stuff only Prince would sing about"...

9. Jesus Jones - Right Here Right Now

It did seem in the early 90s like the world might well be changing for the better. When Jesus Jones wrote this, they proclaimed Bob Dylan's dream was coming true...
I saw the decade in, when it seemed 
The world could change at the blink of an eye
And if anything

Then there's your Sign o' the Times
So... did the world wake up from history?

Did it heck as like.

8. Goldie Lookin' Chain - Guns Don't Kill People, Rappers Do

Witty Welsh rap. What's not to love?
Guns don't kill people rappers do,
From Bristol Zoo to B&Q,
I want to rap, I want to rhyme
Heard it in a song now I'm into gun crime,
Its a sign of the times like Prince changin his name,
Gotta have a shooter to be in the rap game,
Like Michael Ryan about to snap,
Guns don't kill people its just rap!
7. Missy Elliott - Work It

This is probably the first time I've featured Missy Elliott here, but I am a fan in small doses. I particularly like this one: always impressed by her ability to rap backwards. Wonder how she does that live?
You know Missy feel supa dupa
Prince couldn't get me change my name, papa
Kunta Kinte a slave again, no sir
Picture black sayin', "Oh, yessa, massa"
6. Beck - Debra

Beck's whole Midnite Vultures album was a huge departure from his earlier work and wears its Prince influence proudly. A lot of artists have been influenced by Prince musically, but this song also shows huge lyrical influence. It could be the b-side to Raspberry Beret. Speaking of which...

5. Clint Boon Experience - Not Enough Purple, Too Much Grey

I'll just slip this one in here and leave you to decide whether it's about Prince or not. It certainly sums up the post-Prince world to me.

4. Hot Chip - Down With Prince

I'm not always the biggest Hot Chip fan, but how can I resist when they channel the purple one?

3. Eminem - Without Me

Eminem, the self-proclaimed "worst thing since Elvis Presley", rarely has a positive word to say about any other artist (except, maybe, Dr. Dre). But while he cheerfully puts the boot into NSYNCH, Limp Bizkit and Moby in this track, he really can't bring himself to say anything bad about Prince, using him instead as a comparison for how long Marshall Mathers spent writing songs before he got his break.

2. Smog - Prince, Alone In The Studio

Bill Callahan's epic captures better than anything what made Prince a superstar. He was a perfectionist. He lived for his music, more than just about any other artist we've had in popular music. Not all of that music was perfect, but it was his life. More than food, more than sex, more than anything else... music was what mattered to him.

1. Prince - My Name Is Prince

And he is funky.

Of course, the irony of this song was: very soon after, he stopped calling himself Prince and changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol just to piss Warner Brothers off. We all had to call him TAFKAP for the next eight years. But he was always Prince in our hearts.

Goodnight sweet Prince. I Wish You Heaven.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

April #4: Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Crap

While the other half is insistent on poisoning our three year old's ears with the latest Now CD whenever she takes him out in her car, I have pledged to give him a broader musical education. So I've begun compiling CDs full of upbeat, quirky or sunshiney pop songs from the 50s to the present day and I stick them on whenever I'm driving him about. As previously discussed, he picks up songs very quickly, often recognising them from a few notes of the intro ("Daddy, is this Mr. Blue Sky?"), although when he sings along he rarely remembers more than the chorus. You have to be careful with your song choices though... Louise asked me why I'd picked "Crazy For You" by Madonna rather than one of her other earlier hits. Well, I didn't want him singing "Like a virgin" at nursery, did I? And Sexy MF is definitely off the plate.

4. The Carpenters - Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft

He does like this Carpenters oldie though (yes, yes, I know it was originally by Klaatu), particularly because of the funny "radio DJ talking to space alien" intro, and so I was chuffed to pieces when he started singing it in the bath last night. Until...

"Calling occupants of inerplantetary crap."

"No, no, Sam, it's 'craft', not... Calling occupants of interplanetary craft. Don't say... Can you say 'craft'?"


"Erm... 'craft'. CRA-FT."


"No, no, don't say... that's a naughty word, see, we don't say..."

"Well, daddy, there's nothing naughty about craps, just because they have pincers, they don't want to hurt you..."

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Randy Tuesdays #1: Where else am I going to start?

1. Randy Newman

Randy Newman is a mystery wrapped in an enigma with oxymoronic tendencies that lead to a serious dichotomy. On the one hand, he wrote some of the most razor sharp, acerbic lyrical throwdowns of the 60s, 70s and 80s: brickbats such as Rednecks, God's Song and Short People that took sarcastic songwriting to a whole new level. And let's face it, this particular track, written in 1972, is more appropriate today than ever...

On the other, he ended up writing heartfelt ballads for Pixar films, most notably Toy Story's You've Got A Friend In Me, a song guaranteed to force a lump into the throat of even the most hard-hearted cynic (i.e. me). Actually, I think that must be why Pixar gave him the job... and why he did it so well. I've resisted watching any of the Toy Story films for the last 20 years because of my severe Hanks allergy, but I finally relented for Sam's benefit and found them both enjoyable and moving... as long as I hammer nails into my ears whenever Woody speaks, I can really see their appeal. If you want sentiment without saccharine... yeah, Randy Newman was a good call.

Anyway, I've been a fan of our first and foremost Randy for a great many years, but the song that initially brought him to my attention was the glorious 80s pop sunbeam of I Love L.A., a recording that truly manages to have its cake, eat it, then throw the cake back up again... and go back for another piece. You know he's taking the piss, but you also know he genuinely loves the place. No song sums up the curious contradictions of Randy Newman better than this one...

Sunday, 16 April 2017

April #5: Why is Grandaddy's boat in the barn?

5. Grandaddy - The Boat Is In The Barn

I was very cautious about the Grandaddy reunion album. They were one of my favourite bands of the post Britpop era (saw them live at the Leadmill in Sheffield, early 00s), but I've struggled a bit with Jason Lytle's solo material. As Lytle is the driving force behind the band, I wasn't sure if he could really recapture that old Grandaddy magic again.

Well, after spinning the new record for a few weeks, I think it's fair to say he has. Last Place touches on familiar Grandaddy themes (nature vs. technology, the modern world making us obsolete) and is full to bursting with that curious mix of spacey guitars and sad Beach Boys harmonies. It's a worthy successor to their last album, 2006's Just Like The Fambly Cat, and in places even touches on the greatness of their masterpiece, The Sophtware Slump. (Lytle does like to test spellcheck.)

My favourite song at the moment is this one, a classic break-up record. I had to listen to it a while to work out why the boat was in the barn, but once it clicked, the metaphor was perfect.
I saw you sitting at a table by the water
And you were going through the photos on your phone
You looked so happy and relieved to be there all alone

Getting rid of all of me is what I figured
Delete, deleting everything that had occurred
That's when I backed away and headed out without a word

Saturday, 15 April 2017

April #6: "The silkiest chops in the singing game"

6: Lou Rawls - Street Corner Hustler's Blues / World Of Trouble (Live)

Someone famous once said, of Lou Rawls, that he had, "the classiest singing and silkiest chops in the singing game". Now that's a pretty bold claim about any artist, but you might give it a little more credence when you know who said it.

Francis Albert Sinatra.

And I reckon he knew a thing or two about classy singing and silky chops, don't you?

I've been a fan of Lou Rawls for some time now, and he's one of the few... the very, very few... recording artists that I'm interested in hearing a live album by. Generally, live albums... well, you had to be there. But a Lou Rawls live recording... well, you wish you had been there.

Rawls wasn't just a great singer. He was a glorious raconteur too. As evidenced on today's track from his 1966 album Live! I don't know exactly when or where it was recorded, but I would give my little toe to have been there in that club, watching this guy do his stuff...

Take a look in the dictionary under 'cool'. Lou Rawls will be staring right back at you.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

My Top Ten Na Na Na Songs

Whenever I write these lists, I end up talking a lot about lyrics. I've always been a lyrics man, ever since I was a lonely teenager sat with his headphones on studying the Steinbeckian stories of Bruce Springsteen, trying to puzzle out the puns of vintage Elvis Costello or wondering (in my 20s, sadly, as I came to him late) how Morrissey could write so incisively about my life when he'd never even met me.

But... there is an alternative. Those jubilant singalongs where the lyrics don't matter - all you need is a good nananana! Don't even start me on the sha-la-las, lalalas, shooby doos or woo-hoos...

Be warned, this Top Ten starts off scary... and then goes places you really won't want to believe.

10. Bananarama - Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye

Originally by Steam, who had an unfortunate habit of being photographed like this...

...hence why I went with the Bananarama version. Well, that and they have nana in their name.

9. Opus - Live Is Life
Na-na na na-na.
"Formed in 1973, Opus remain active today."

Just you try to sleep tonight with that little factoid pinging around in your cranium.

8. Blur - Charmless Man
Nana nana naa na-naa-aa...
I bet Damon Albarn knows his claret from his Beaujolais. 

7. King - Alone Without You
Na-na. Na n-na. Nana na na na n-na.
Ah, the 80s. So much to answer for. What do you get when you cross a quiff and a mullet? A quillet or a muiff? Surely you must be paulking!

6. blink-182 - All The Small Things
 Nana nana nana na nana naa. Nana nana nana na nana naa.
Always loved the video to this, where the pop punk rascals pretend to be NSYNCH.

5. The Beatles - Hey Jude

Little-remembered beat combo from the 60s. Apparently the lead singer went on to form Wings. Don't know what happened to the rest of them.

4. My Chemical Romance - Na Na Na

Before they imploded and Gerard Way converted to pseudo-Britpop solo albums (!) and comic book writing, MCR became one of the more interesting pop bands of the 21st Century. Emo? What's emo?

3. Wilson Pickett - Land Of 1000 Dances
Na. Nana na naa. Nana na naa nana na nana na. Nana na naaa.
Already featured (in far more detail!) in My Top Ten Mashed Potato Songs, but too good to miss out.

2. Pink - So What
Nana nana na na naa, nana nana na na.
I love Pink. And I don't care who knows it.

She does scare the bejeebus out of me though.

1. J Geils Band - Centrefold

John Warren Geils Jr (pictured above) died earlier this week at the age of '71. He was the lead guitarist of the band that took his name, although lead singer Peter Wolf co-wrote a lot of the bands biggest hits along with keyboardist Seth Justman. In the UK, they're really only known for one song... but what a song!
Na na nana na na. Na na na nana na na na.
Their harmonica player was called Magic Dick.That will be all.

This was a re-post (edited somewhat to act as a tribute to the late J. Geils) from my old blog (December 2010). The scary thing is, the original post was a Top 20. So be warned... I have a volume 2 on standby if you say anything too hurtful in the comments section...

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