The eleventh month of the year, like the others around it, was named after its original position in the Roman calendar, ninth (novem).
In the UK, we associate it with Bonfire Night, when we remember, remember something about rebellion, plots, gunpowder and torture by causing colourful explosions in the sky, in our annual ritual of reckless fun.
In Mexico, it starts with a ritual of memory and affection for the Dead.
Which cues up this month’s song: The Eleven by the Grateful Dead. Created initially as a band work-out, it was also a storming live feat, particularly with the complex harmony rounds delivering the 12-Days-Of-Christmas-related lyrics. The song was always moored fore and aft to other songs, necessitating the time signature to flip from 4/4 to 11/8 and, later, back again. Heroic lunacy.
The Eleven, from November 1969
Time for your November-related songs. Light those rockets!
Hi there, and welcome to a very belated Earworms (delayed due to unprecedented sunshine and being sidelined by other activities). Thanks to LongTallSilly for the cartoon, which is not aimed at anyone in particular… :), and to all of you who sent in songs about pets.
If you have an Earworm you’d like to share, please send an .mp3, .m4a or a link to email@example.com, together with a few words about why you’ve chosen it. Next week’s theme will be tardiness, and worms should reach me by close of play on Sunday 13 June. Or not, as the case may be.
Many thanks to all contributors.
Nina Nastasia – It’s A Dog’s Life – shoegazer: Title track from her first album.
Rufus Thomas – Walking the Dog – glassarfemptee: Rufus Thomas looks after his dog, and dances at the same time. Later he got a pet chicken…
Martin Wasilewski – The Cat – glassarfemptee: Now I know why The Prof likes Polish jazzer Marcin Wasilewski – ‘cos he has a song about a cat!
Jake Thackray – Ulysses – severin and Suzi: About a dog who loves him too much to allow for any social life.
Genesis Wusus – The Other Black Dog – severin: “Who’s the pet and who’s the teacher?” he says. But not really/literally about a pet at all. Could be a reference to Churchill’s metaphor for depression but I suspect there’s more to it than that. One of this year’s tracks that I first heard on Song Bar.
Ani di Franco – Little Plastic Castle – debbyM: In which we encounter goldfish. I’m pretty sure we had goldfish when I was a kid. These days I only share my home with spiders, and they invite themselves.
Vinegar Joe – Never Met A Dog – tincanman: Seventies classic rock that’s outlasted many of the ‘classics’. What a great wig out – Rob Tate? pounding the skins, Peter Gage? on bottleneck guitar, David (no relation) Brooks’ sax solo….Come for Robert Palmer and Elkie Brooks, stay for the band.
Fruit Bats – The Pet Parade – tincanman: A pet parade is a costume party for your pets, Eric D. Johnson fondly remembers from childhood. The best songwriting, he says, starts with a literal experience but isn’t literal.
Pink Floyd – Lucifer Sam – Suzi: Written by Syd Barrett about one of his Siamese cats, from Pink Floyd’s first album, Piper at the Gates of Dawn.
Robb Johnson – Buster – tfd: Robb Johnson, hardest-working-musician-in-the-pandemic, is now back performing in pubs (and I’m trying to persuade my Hove daughter to invite me down for a visit so I can go and see him); but he’s spent the last 14 months singing to his laptop in his back room, not continuously but giving us a two-and-a-half hour concert every week on average, with a few Zoom concerts with his mates thrown in, not to mention two new albums and innumerable new songs. The laptop concerts can all be watched on his Facebook page and that’s how I came across this song and subsequently bought the album. On eBay, granted, but most of RJ’s back catalogue isn’t available any more, and I did buy the new albums as well (not from eBay). Buster is a cat and Robb is a vegan.
Donkey Kid – Birdhouse – debbyM: Birds and cats can be a tricky combination. This is a young lad from Berlin, friend of a friend of a friend of TheBoyWonder’s, and I’m going to be looking out for more of his songs.
Anyone up for a Summer ‘Spill? We did the 60’s a couple of years ago. Last year, well, you all know what happened, last year. So let’s celebrate the gradual return to normality with your three favourite songs released between Jan 1, 1970 and Dec, 31, 1979.
E-mail mp3s or mp3 links to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you don’t have an mp3 available, elves can magic one from a YouTube. Picks are 1st come 1st served, if you are beaten to a choice, I’ll let you know & you can pick another.
We will ‘Spillcast the results later in the Summer
I’ll admit that I’ve been avoiding this one. People tend to have very strong opinions about REM and there are people I know who dismiss everything after the band joined Warner Bros as being “too commercial”. However, I think that for many people, their most obvious classic tracks come from their 1990s albums. It is a kind of Lose-Lose game.
Anyway, we have a band that has distinct periods. There is the IRS Indie REM, the Warner Bros platinum-selling REM and there is the post-Bill Berry REM. So, where to start?
I am going to suggest that each period has potential classic tracks, but if we are going to think of “classic” as meaning a standout tract that defines what the band represents, I don’t think we need to look at the post-Bill Berry albums, even though there are some great tracks there.
Is it fair, also to suggest that the early albums, dark, interesting and opaque as they are in places are also not packed full of classics? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love their early albums, but they take a lot of work to really appreciate and it isn’t really until their final IRS album, Document that the band starts getting radio-friendly enough to grab a mass market audience.
So, I am left with the Warner Bros albums, which are packed with songs that show the band at the peak of their powers. I’d say that the run of releases from Green through to New Adventures in Hi-Fiis pretty much immaculate in terms of explaining what classic REM sounds like, although I just know that some people will howl at this claim.
The sheer variety of REM’s output is boggling. They have made records that can reduce me to tears, because of the sheer poignancy of Michael Stipe’s voice and the content of the words he is singing, but they have also created uplifting music which fills me with joy and music that fills me with a stillness and a sense of being somewhere else. It is tough. Whatever I pick will be “wrong” once I’ve posted this blog piece.
So, we come down to actual songs. What does classic sound like? Does it sound like “Pop Song 89”, “Stand” or “Orange Crush”? How about “Radio Song”, “Near Wild Heaven”, “Shiny Happy People” or “Losing My Religion”? Maybe it sounds more like “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite”? Or does it sound like “Everybody Hurts” , “Man On The Moon”, “Nightswimming” or “Drive”? Of course, it could sound like “Crush With Eyeliner” or “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?”?
It might even sound like a few tracks from later on. The Reveal album has some great stuff.
I will admit to finding it difficult to pick a track. I spent a long time in the 80s and 90s having periods where I was listening to REM somewhat obsessively.
I think, though that on reflection there is one song that summons up the classic appeal of the band. It is HERE. (click on the link)
October sees the prosaic numbering system, offset by 2, continue. What used to be the eighth month of the Roman year occupies a generally dreary time of year (in the northern hemisphere), as vegetaion dies off, the air gets chillier and the clock is adjusted to prepare for Winter.
Although there may be individual dates that resonate – National Cat Day is on the 29th in the USA, for example – the only event that connects with lots of people is Halloween, when we do our best to scare as many small children as possible and make them assess how much chocolate is worth waking up in the middle of the night, pursued by a ghost….
The GD usually pulled out a few stops and skeleton costumes for Halloween concerts and I was contemplating putting up a song that often became an encore on those nights, Warren Zevon’s The Werewolves Of London, but it’s rather a plod. So I’m going with their Dire Wolf instead which, after all, was inspired by The Hound Of The Baskervilles and does have its own spooky qualities:
When I awoke, the dire wolf, six hundred pounds of sin Was grinning at my window, all I said was “Come on in”
An acoustic Dire Wolf, from October 1980
Time now for your songs celebrating Halloween – or US Cat Day, if you prefer. A (sanitised) lollipop for the best ones….
WARNING to ALL UK citizens: Your government is about to make your personal medical history available for commercial exploitation and profit.
From 1st July NHS Digital will take your data and that of your children from your GP as it gets updated, irrespective of your wishes.
Although that data will be stripped of identifying details initially, NHS Digital will be able to re-attach it “in certain circumstances, and where there is a valid legal reason”. Whatever that means.
The ONLY way to stop this happening to your medical records is to download a form, print and sign it and then give it to your GP before 23rd June. We all have printers attached to our phones, right?! (If not, you can call NHS Digital and ask them to post you a form. It’s almost as if they hope we won’t bother……)
Greetings, whoever you are, on this sunny Bank Holiday Monday. Welcome to your selection of songs about Identity, an increasingly fraught question in these times of communication by social media.
If you have an earworm you’d like to share, please send an .mp3, .m4a or a link to email@example.com (that’s really me), together with a few words about why you’ve chosen it. Next week’s theme will be pets -furry, cute, teachers’, hates … as always, the interpretation is up to you. Please let me have your contributions by close of play on Sunday 6 June.
Many thanks to all contributors, and enjoy your Bank Holiday if you have one,
Oysterband – Native Son – Suzi: John Jones with song addressed to the land of his birth – ‘I was born to tell the truth and run…remember me, I’m still your native son.’
Catatonia – International Velvet -Suzi: Singing in Welsh, Cerys Matthews tells us that the flame of her Welshness may be slightly weak but is still a vital part of her identity. The refrain – sung in English – tells us that she’s very happy with that – ‘Every day, when I wake up, I thank the Lord I’m Welsh.’
Allison Russell – Montreal – tincanman: THE most talked about album this year is all about Allison’s journey from sexually abused child to homeless teen to wanderer to stumbling into music and finding her calling (Po’ Girl, Birds of Chicago, Our Native Daughters).
Anthony Joseph – Calling England Home – tincanman: Anthony explores his post-Windrush identity as a British Trinidadian. From his latest, The Rich Are Only Defeated When Running for their Lives.
Plain Characters – I Am A – Shoegazer: Just 3 singles and an album – bands came & went back then. This is the 1st single.
India:Arie – I am not my hair – DebbyM: This is a song I first heard back in the old RR days. There are several duets available, including with Pink oder Akon, but I love this pared down version with acoustic guitar, rattle, vocals.
Nina Hagen Band – Unbeschreiblich weiblich – DebbyM: Late-70s Nina at her best, singing about not needing to want babies or kitchen sinks to feel ultra-feminine
Zaz – Je veux – DebbyM: Life as a free spirit. This song lifts my heart whenever I hear it.
Pillow Queens – Ragin’ – tincanman: This much-talked-about all-girls band from Dublin have utopian views. But you still have to sometimes hide the real you from Irish society.
Unthanks – For Today I Am A Boy – Severin: Becky and Rachel mixed things up a bit by covering Antony’s song on their first “Diversions” album (2001). Apparently there is an Unthank brother, between the two girls in age and, when she was very young, Becky fully expected to become a boy at his age and then a girl again at Rachel’s.
X-Ray Spex – Identity/I Am A Cliche – severin: Included in case nobody else does. Identity was a major issue for Marianne/Poly as the recent film notes. If you haven’t seen it, do. It’s heart-breaking and inspiring in equal measures.
Joel Culpepper – Black Boy – severin: “When I was writing I kept going back to this one memory of a boy I worked with, just this one morning when he was running late, bowling through the playground with such a confidence and an air about him. He had his older sister’s leopard-print coat, a pink lunchbox, these ankle-swinger trousers with no socks on. Some of the kids were saying stuff, but he was just head forward, bowling through, didn’t care. I’ll never forget me turning around to the other teachers and them going ‘he’s got it, in’t he?’ Like fair play mate, you’ve sussed out life”
But …. I am only considering the Los Angeles-based, coke- and alcohol-fuelled, relationship-busting Buckingham/Nicks version of the band, because otherwise it just gets silly.
Of course, I might look at the Peter Green version at some future date.
Anyway, the multi-platinum version of Fleetwood Mac arrived on our turntables with their (second) eponymous 1975 album, and then the lid pretty much blew off the whole can of worms for everyone concerned. They followed it up with 1977’s Rumours, Tusk in 1979, Mirage in 1982 and 1987’s Tango In The Night, after which Lindsay Buckingham quit the band. There have been three further studio efforts, Behind The Mask, Time and Say You Will, but none of those are really in the running when it comes to Classic Mac.
I know that for many people the glossy AOR rock of this version of the band is a big turn-off, but they were incredibly successful records and both Fleetwood Mac and Rumours kind of invented a whole genre of radio-friendly stadium rock which continues to sell to this day. I think it is fair to say that there are quite a few candidates for classic status here.
The first contender has to be Rhiannon, I think. It pretty much announced the band and it is probably the most well-known track from the 1975 album, although my personal favourite on that record is Landslide.
Rumours is backed with candidates, though. Dreams, Don’t Stop, The Chain, Go Your Own Way and You Make Loving Fun can all lay claim to classic status.
Tusk, a complex and overblown affair, is lacking in true classic material but Sara ought to be considered and, maybe the title track too.
Mirage is thin pickings when it comes to classics, but perhaps Gypsy might be looked at.
Finally, we have Tango In The Night. It was the band’s biggest seller after Rumours and has a few tracks with a listen. Big Love, Little Lies and Everywhere might be thought of as swimmers in the sea of classics.
For me, though, I am drawn to 1977 for the real classic sound. Although the antithesis of the turmoil, ferment, sound and fury of Punk, it is an album that still sounds like the year it was released
Like its predecessor, September was named after its original position in the Roman calendar, seventh (septem). Unlike its predecessor, it retained that name even after the insertion of January and February as months one and two.
The traditional month for the return of kids to school – ah, those were the days! – September also sees the Autumn/Vernal equinox and the slow reduction of daytime. September was called harvest month in Charlemagne‘s calendar, it seems, and it’s the month of Harvest Festivals in English churches.
I’m taking up the number seven option. Weir and Lesh loved an off-kilter rhythm – and Garcia even put a bit of 7/8 in Uncle John’s Band – so here’s a Bobby twofer with a seven-beat rhythm: Lazy Lightning/Supplication. Although the frightening/lightning rhyme still grates, the jam in the middle could produce some very fine music indeed.
So, go out into the fields and bring me back sheafs of September songs!
Greetings everyone, and welcome to your selection of songs about Highs and Lows. Hope this catches you all on the upbeat.
If you have an earworm you’d like to share, please send an .mp3, .m4a or a link to firstname.lastname@example.org, together with a few words about why you’ve chosen it. Next week’s topic will be Identity – I leave the interpretation to your fertile imaginations – and worms should reach me by close of play on Sunday 30 May.
Many thanks to all contributors, and stay safe everyone.
Drakeo the Ruler & JoogSzn – GTA VI – tincanman: Fitting because we’re having a gang war in Vancouver this spring. Targeted shootings in public places. Well, Drakeo says from experience, cruising around playing gangster just gets you jailed or killed by a real one.
Abbey Lincoln – Brother, Can You Spare A Dime (w Stan Getz) – tincanman: Maybe the ultimate riches-to-rags song and Abbey sings it best. That Getz guy wasn’t half bad on the sax either.
Grateful Dead – High Time – Chris7572: A song not about LSD but about hope finding its way through difficult times. A long, slow song with the solo at the beginning and this simple reminder: Nothing’s for certain / It could always go wrong… For some reason, it was one of the 5 songs they played at Woodstock, as the wind and rain were blowing the stage away.
Maysa – Higher Love (feat Najee and Nick Colionne) – severin: Another track from the 2010 soul compilation album where I first heard Ebony Alleyne. Some people prefer the higher love. Some people prefer the lower love. Life’s rich tapestry.
W H lung – Bring It Up – severin: Baffling lyric but it’s got the word “up” in it and it sounds great imho. From their 2019 debut album. Actually, their only one, as far as I know.
Joan Armatrading – Deep Down – severin: It’s a high but it goes down deep and therefore low. So there. From Into the Blues and not exactly lyric-heavy. I’m counting on someone else picking Down To Zero.
Kate Rusby – High on a Hill – Suzi: A song reminiscent of a Shaker hymn, calling people to join together and defy the Devil.
Jonathan Byrd – Clean – Suzi: The song’s protagonist claims that he doesn’t know how he got so low, but as he ‘waits to meet the candy man,’ it’s clear enough that he’s on a downward spiral of addiction.
Edwyn Collins – North of Heaven – shoegazer:I’ll build a little place just north of heaven / I’m kinda tired of living south of hell.
Daði Freyr – Lag sem ég gerði – DebbyM: This is a young Icelandic guy living in Berlin and I’ve been fascinated by the hype concerning him and the Eurovision Song Contest. His music just makes me happy! This is a song (recorded live in Berlin) about a song, but the opening lyrics supposedly translate as ‘Higher than the highest peaks’ and thus qualify for this week’s playlist.
June Tabor – Lay This Body Down – DebbyM: Can’t get much lower than the grave! June Tabor is one of my favourite singers ever, and this is absolutely haunting.
I clearly missed a trick by doing Bob Dylan’s classic track a few weeks ago, but ho-hum, so it goes. Anyway, this week is probably likely to be another one of those times where there is always going to be a plethora of ideas about the classic cut.
Clearly, there is one song that stands out as The One in most people’s minds, and it tends to lurk in the upper reaches of all those “Greatest…..” lists. It has been parodied by Terry Pratchett in his novel “Soul Music” as “Pathway To Paradise“and even features in a notable scene in the film “Wayne’s World. It has been the subject of a lengthy legal case over plagiarism and allegedly it is the most requested song ever on US FM radio. Inevitably, a US Christian evangelical loon, Paul Crouch claimed that the track contained secret “masked” messages promoting Satanism.
There are a number of tracks that people might consider to be classic Zeppelin, Dazed and Confused, Whole Lotta Love, Immigrant Song, Black Dog, Achilles’ Last Stand, Kashmir , Battle Of Evermore and even Communication Breakdown all have the right to be considered as classic examples of different facets of the band’s sound.
Robert Plant once, in an interview with Dan Rather, said that Kashmir was one of his favourite Zep songs, even going as far as to say that “Well, I mean there was such a variety of songs that I guess I would have to go along, today I would have to say yes.” but when asked “Tomorrow maybe something else?” he replied “Yeah, exactly.”
In a 1988 Rolling Stone interview with David Fricke Plant also described Kashmir as the definitive Led Zeppelin song. In the same interview, he said those who considered “Stairway” to be Zep’s signature song “missed the point.”
In a 2012 Rolling Stone interview, again with Fricke, Jimmy Page singled Kashmir out, saying “I suppose ‘Kashmir’ has to be the one. I knew that this wasn’t just something guitar-based. The orchestra needed to sit there, reflecting those other parts, doing what the guitars were but with the colours of a symphony.”
Clearly, for Plant and Page, Stairway To Heaven isn’t the definitive sound of the band.
So, is Stairway To Heaven really the ultimate Zeppelin classic?
Well, as a fan of the band since I first heard their music in 1969, I am conflicted. Kashmir is probably the single most powerful and complex thing the band ever recorded, and it is a fan fave, without doubt, and it was one of the tracks that Page and Plant selected to revisit on their 1994 No Quarter album and it really packs a punch there too. But …………. what does my heart say? Is there a bustle in my hedgerow or am I mistaking all that glitters for gold?
I think you all know where I am heading here, there are two paths I can go by, but will I change the road I’m on?
Again, there’s no ambiguity about this month’s origin: it is named after Augustus Caesar, although, until January and February were inserted at the start of the Roman calendar, it was originally called Sextilis.
The traditional month for family holidays in the UK and the month when Paris goes en vacances en masse (is that still true?), we still think of August as the height of summer. Maybe it will be again this year. We can only trust Boris to keep us safe.
There’s only one Deadsong possible for this month: Wharf Rat.
My name is August West And I love my Pearly Baker best, more than my wine More than my wine More than my maker, though he’s no friend of mine
Like Wharf Rat‘s narrator, I have time to hear your songs about August, so let’s have ‘em!
Greetings everyone, and welcome to your undulating selection of songs about waves.
If you have an earworm you’d like to share, please send an .mp3, .m4a or a link to email@example.com, together with a few words about why you’ve chosen it. Next week’s theme, which is only slightly similar, is highs and lows, interpret it as you will.
Worms should reach me by close of play on Sunday 23 May. Many thanks to all contributors – Debby, I have added links for two of yours as you didn’t send attachments, hope this is OK. Careful hugs to you all, assuming we’re still allowed to do that now.
Anouar Brahem – Dance with Waves – glassarfemptee: I have troubled Earworms with Anouar Brahem before. I became addicted thanks to Nilpferd of this parish. The Tunisian oud maestro invites you to dance…
Victoria Bergsman – Watch the Waves – glassarfemptee: Victoria Bergsman (ex the Concretes) is a beguiling indie talent as Taken by Trees. She likes to watch the waves crashing…
Fiona Apple – Love Ridden – tincanman: In her trademark disarming way, Fiona reduces a fading relationship (ridden to the ground?) to a single line – pretty soon all we’ll have left is a casual wave if our paths cross.
Two Gallants – Waves Of Grain – tincanman: Reviewers like but don’t love Adam Haworth Stephens’s “brutal” and “raw” songwriting. Here he typically strips the layers of paint and veneer off the American Dream (waves of grain are romanticized in America The Beautiful), just not as poetically as some.
Seth Lakeman– Solomon Browne – Suzi: A tribute to the heroic crew of the Penlee lifeboat, who, in December 1981, perished in a vain attempt to save the crew and passengers of a stricken coaster. ‘All sixteen perished in that mighty wave.’
Katrin Finch and Seckou Keita – Les Bras de Mer – Suzi: A Welsh harpist and a Senegalese kora player together create a beautiful musical description of waves gently breaking on the shore.
Pere Ubu – Street Waves – severin: One of the tracks from their (then) startling debut album. I ride a street wave right by her side, and I can hear the city, city coming round. I have been listening to them a lot lately which hasn’t been the case for a few years.
Unthanks – High Waving Heather – severin: One of the Emily Bronte poems set to music by Adrian McNally for their recent mini-album.
Adverts – Safety In Numbers – severin: What are you going to do with your new wave? TV Smith got in pretty early with his dismissal of bandwagons and crowd mentality.
Lorelle Meets the Obsolete – Waves Over Shadows – Shoegazer: From Mexico.
Juli – Perfekte Welle – DebbyM: Early 21st century pop (from the time where German language finally became mainstream in the pop charts) about a perfect wave on a perfect day. This is a remix with Paul Kalkoffer’s Sand & Sky, which gives it a bit more oomph than the original radio version.
Rush – Closer to the Heart – LongTallSilly: This is from the he 40th anniversary Permanent Waves album, recorded in Manchester, unfortunately I remember the first version coming out, puts me in the realm of “old git”!
Focus – Moving Waves – AliM (see header): Oddly compelling. Like most of their music.
This week it is all about the clash of egos, the excessive lifestyles, the fights and the harmonies. I am not thinking here about any of the offshoots (Crosby/Nash) or the solo stuff or even the precursors (Buffalo Springfield). It is all about the core trio, with or without the addition of Neil Young.
To be honest, there isn’t a great deal of music to choose from, and some, but not all of it is of a high standard, but perhaps that means we might be able to distil the whole thing down to the actual crème de la crème.
Excluding live albums and compilations all there is is this;
1969 Crosby, Stills & Nash (CSN) 1970 Déjà Vu (CSNY) 1977 CSN (CSN) 1982 Daylight Again (CSN) 1983 Allies (CSN) (live and studio) 1988 American Dream (CSNY) 1990 Live It Up (CSN) 1994 After the Storm (CSN) 1999 Looking Forward (CSNY)
Now, being brutal here, all the albums recorded after the end of the 1970s are pretty poor and some are absolute stinkers, so we are only looking at three albums with classic tracks.
Let’s look at the albums in reverse chronological order, beginning with 1977’s CSN. This was the last time the trio really worked together, mainly because after this David Crosby’s drug problems pretty much took him over and all subsequent albums relied more and more on outside voices. There are a couple of potential classics on this album.
Next, the only CSN&Y album I am looking at, Déjà Vu. This is, by any stretch a great album of the period and often cited as one of the “greatest albums of all time”. Weirdly, though, it isn’t really an actual band album. Neil Young’s song contributions stand out as separate things, but his musical contributions are telling. As potential classic songs, there are several contenders.
Finally, the first album, Crosby, Stills & Nash. I am not sure that they ever really knew exactly how big this album would be, and it was massive. In many ways, this album cast a shadow so long they never really managed to get out from underneath it. Interestingly, it was really the brainchild of Stephen Stills, who played most of the instruments on most of the tracks. However, the thing that works so perfectly is the interplay of the voices.
So, what are the real classics? “Marrakesh Express” gets a lot of airplay, but is it a classic? I don’t think so. The same thing applies to “Our House”, another Graham Nash song. The CSN&Y cover of “Woodstock” is a terrific version, but I don’t think it is a classic example of the band’s sound.
I think there are several contenders across the three albums and, in no particular order they are;
There’s no ambiguity about July’s origin: it is named after Gaius Julius Caesar.
Containing the start of school summer holidays (in the northern hemisphere), July is bathed in a romantic glow of sunshine and warm breezes. The reality is, of course, often drastically different, as we continue to screw the climate up.
A couple of countries look to July to re-confirm their nation’s glorious past: the Americans’ declaration of Independence from the evil Brits and the start of the French Revolution with the storming of the Bastille. I’m latching this week’s Deadsong – the best of the Hunter/Weir compositions – on to the former celebration:
Leaving Texas, fourth day of July Sun so hot, the clouds so low, the eagles filled the sky Catch the Detroit Lightning out of Santa Fe The Great Northern out of Cheyenne, from sea to shining sea
Friends, Romans, countrymen, give me your songs about dictators, revolutions, liberations and whatever else you associate with July.
Greetings all, and welcome to your arresting selection of songs about cops and robbers.
If you have an earworm you’d like to share, please send an .mp3, .m4a or a link to firstname.lastname@example.org, together with a few words about why you’ve chosen it. Next week’s theme will be waves – airwaves, hair waves, sea waves, waving, or even waiving. Interpret it as you will.
Worms should reach me by close of play on Sunday 16 May. Many thanks to all contributors.
Falco – der Kommissar – debbyM: One of the first German-language songs to be a huge (international!) hit, this still gets played a lot in discos – well, it was still being played until the plague set in and stopped us going dancing – and we can all sing along.
Ministère AMER – Sacrifice de poulet – debbyM: This is more police & rioters than cops & robbers. A reaction to police ‘heavy handedness’ at demos, this hip hop anthem led to a run-in with le Ministre de l’Intérieur and a radio ban (not all French music is chansons, folks).
Richard Thompson -1952 Vincent Black Lightning – Suzi: James has robbed many a man to get his Vincent machine – but now he’s dying of a shotgun wound to the chest, and the cops have caught up with him. His girl is called to his bedside, and he tells her, ‘In my opinion, there’s nothing in this world/ Beats a ’52 Vincent and a redheaded girl.’ So, with one last kiss, he gives her his precious motorbike to ride. How romantic is that?
The Traveling Wilburys – Tweeter and the Monkey Man – Suzi: Drug dealers rather than robbers, but an undercover cop features very significantly. Bob Dylan tells the story.
Gregory Issacs – Mr Cop – severin: A plea for the police to leave peaceful ganja smokers alone and not be so uptight. A mellow tune that’s maybe too mellow to work as a topical comment these days.
Joni Mitchell – Raised On Robbery – severin: Well, sort of… What she’s proposing isn’t robbery or even necessarily illegal. Just being friendly, nothing going on here.
Barbara Dickson – Prison Song – severin: From the Blood Brothers soundtrack. Not like Porridge.
Bad Company – Bad Company – severin: Deserters, probably from the Confederate army in the American Civil war, turned outlaws. Written in a cottage in Surrey.
Brooklyn Funk Essentials – Recycled – tincanman: Well that escalated quickly.
Run The Jewels – Walking In The Snow – tincanman:And everyday on evening news they feed you fear for free / And you so numb you watch the cops choke out a man like me / And ’til my voice goes from a shriek to whisper “I can’t breathe”.
The WIld Angels – I Fought the Law – glassarfemptee: The Wild Angels’ No.1 hit (in Sweden), which Mitch Mitchell could sing with conviction (pun intended) after a paid-for holiday in Pentonville.
Junior Murvin – Police and Thieves – glassarfemptee: Junior Murvin’s classic reggae hit, bemoaning the chilling effect of both the cops and the criminals.
This week, a band whose music was widely shunned during the band’s existence and whose records only ever sold in dribs and drabs, but who are now claimed to be an influence and a seminal act by all sorts of people.
I suppose, first of all it is worth reminding ourselves that the band only released four studio albums with the key members, plus under the VU name with later recruit Doug Yule playing almost all the instruments, making it more of a Yule solo album.
The four VU albums are The Velvet Underground & Nico, White Light/White Heat, The Velvet Underground and Loaded. The albums are basically two related pairs. The first two, when John Cale was a member are experimental, avant garde and dissonant, especially the second album and the latter pair are much more straightforward rock albums. None of them ever really bothered the chart listings.
So, where to start?
Their first album was born out of the band’s time as Andy Warhol’s house band at The Factory in 1966/7. Now regarded as a classic, it sold poorly because it was simply impossible to play most of it on the radio, due to its subject matter, and it was only with the advent of punk rock a decade later that most critics began to mention it. It took until 2003 for Rolling Stone to re-evaluate it as “the most prophetic rock album ever made“. Clearly, it is the album that most people have heard and know about out of the four.
The second most well-known is, I think, the band’s swansong, Loaded, mainly because of the song “Sweet Jane”, which Lou Reed continued to perform for years afterwards. Reed, typically perhaps, left the band before the album was released.
The band’s eponymous third album is a musical precursor to Loaded, being similarly full of radio-friendly Lou Reed songs, some of which are reasonably well-known.
Now, we come to White Light/White Heat, which is, it has to be said, is a pretty hard listen for the uninitiated, being based around the kind of improvisations which formed much of the band’s early live show, especially after Nico jumped ship. For us true fans it is, of course a classic recording.
So, we are looking at the kind of songs which can be considered as “classic Velvet Underground”. Do we want songs with melodies or to we want what is now often called “noise rock”? Do we want the music that had so much influence on future acts or the radio-friendly choons? For me, the answer is simple. We need to look at the stuff with John Cale on it.
So, let’s start with the Warhol period. We have several candidates;
“I’m Waiting for the Man”
“Venus in Furs“
“All Tomorrow’s Parties“
And from the second album, I think;
“White Light/White Heat“
“Lady Godiva’s Operation“
And to be fair, a handful from the later pair of albums;
“Pale Blue Eyes“
“Beginning to See the Light“
“Rock & Roll“
I think that these all show one or another facet of the band’s music but I am leaning strongly towards the earliest stuff.
Like its predecessor, there are two theories about the origins of the name June. It either takes its name from the Roman goddess Juno, the goddess of marriage, or, following on from the majores derivation of May, it is dedicated to the young ‘uns. June also sees the Summer/Winter Solstice (depending on your hemisphere).
I’m going with the marriage option, linking to Garcia’s complaint in this song that his wife has been trouble all his life…
As a side note, Garcia was married four times, although he seemed to spend as little time as possible with all of them. I suspect he – and his obsession with playing – was the real trouble.
Let’s hear your songs about marriage, kids, solstices and whatever else you associate with June.
Happy wet Bank Holiday Monday, and welcome to your fine selection of songs about the moon.
Did anyone have problems with the playlist last week? It kept stopping for me and DebbyM, I’m wondering if it’s because I’ve been using some .m4a files without converting them to .mp3, like I used to (largely because I have lost iTunes and am not using my own laptop). Let me know if anyone else has had problems listening to last week’s playlist.
If you have an Earworm you’d like to share, please send an .mp3, .m4a or a link to email@example.com, together with a few words about why you’ve chosen it. Next week’s theme will be cops and robbers, or any loose interpretation of that idea.
Many thanks to all contributors, stay safe.
Welcome to Lunar Industries – shoegazer: From Clint Mansell’s soundtrack for Duncan Jones’ film.
Elvis Presley – Blue Moon – Suzi: If anyone had asked, I’d have said that the Marcels’ version was my favourite, but that’s not in my music library, and this is. Listening again after a very long time, I really like this one, with its plinky-plonky accompaniment and whoo-whooing (excuse these technical terms). His first recording of the tune, from 1954, when he was a mere lad of 19.
Tom Waits – Grapefruit Moon – Suzi: The sight of the moon ‘with one star shining,’ together with a beautiful, dreamy melody, puts Tom in a wistful, nostalgic mood.
Guy Clark & Emmylou Harris – I Don’t Love You Much Do I – tincanman: They don’t say someone is “all that and a bag of chips” in Texas; someone you admire and adore is said to have “hung the moon”, as in she thought her Daddy hung the moon. It’s not an affectation like a lot of slang. It’s just the way it’s said.
SamLee – The Moon Shone On My Bed Last Night – tincanman: Sam Lee hunts down ‘ye olde British folk’ songs to study, catalogue, and record. He likes to shine them up just a wee a bit with modern instruments and techniques, but there’s never a doubt about their provenance. He’s a national treasure and still just 40.
Afro Celt Sound System – Dark Moon High Tide – severin: From their debut album in 1996. That’s 25 years ago – or last Thursday as I like to think of it. Instrumental so the moon connection is just implied. (trans – I haven’t the foggiest).
Mammut – The Moon Will Never Turn On Me – severin: From Kinder Versions; their fourth album and the first with English lyrics. Weirdly optimistic. “I won’t see the sun collapse, I won’t see the stars decay, And the moon will never turn on me, So all is ok.”
Annette Hanshaw – Get Out and Get Under the Moon – severin: Good advice from the “personality girl”.Afro Celt Sound System – Dark Moon High Tide – severin: From their debut album in 1996. That’s 25 years ago – or last Thursday as I like to think of it. Instrumental so the moon connection is just implied. (trans – I haven’t the foggiest).
David Bowie – Let’s Dance – DebbyM: The serious moonlight takes me straight back to the Vendée in the summer of 1983, it being one of the dozen records on repeat in the disco at the little campsite I was working on. What it was to be young!
Jonathan Richman – O Moon, Queen of Night on Earth – DebbyM: I have loved Jonathan Richman ever since I took mid-teen TBW to see him in concert and he absolutely charmed the pants off him.
Another potential minefield this week, and also possibly another discussion about what “classic” actually means. I am taking classic to mean a song that manages to be both popular and also something that defines what the band or artist is all about.
There have been several incarnations of the band, with Siouxsie and Steve Severin being the only constants. The sound of the band has changed too, over time, evolving from their punk origins to take in psychedelia, electronica, the avant garde and much more. So, what is “classic Banshees”? What defines the band?
For me, the real problem is deciding which period is the most productive and innovative, which songs really stick in the mind and what, if anything defines what is the essence of the band.
There are albums like A Kiss in the Dreamhouse which strike out in new directions and which contain tracks I love, songs like “Melt” and “Slowdive” and others, especially, to my ears like Juju which are just packed with fantastic Banshees music. There are also albums like Hyæna which are sophisticated and full of clever layered songs, as is the following album, Tinderbox, a record which pushes the band’s sound towards a more electronic, keyboards-based world. Of course, there are people whose love is for the early Banshees music. As I said, it is a bit of a minefield.
So, all I can do is fall back on the songs that I love the most, and then pretty much just go with the one that, for me says “this is the Banshees song I love best”.
I love “Cities In Dust”, but is it classic? Not sure. I also like “Peekaboo”, but in terms of defining the band it doesn’t do it for me. How about “Dazzle”? It is wonderful, a tour de force by Siouxsie, but I think it is really one for the fans. I’ve already mentioned “Melt” and “Slowdive“, but there are others. “Christine”? “Dear Prudence”? “Candyman”? “Spellbound”? All great tracks. I am sure that some people might even want to chuck “Hong Kong Garden” into the mix, but I wouldn’t.
OK, I know what I want to pick. Click here to see what I’ve chosen.
A couple of options for the origin of this month. Either it is another dedicated to fertility, with its name being derived from the Latin version of the Greek deity Maia, or it is named after the Latin word majores, dedicating it to the elders.
May has its own specific Day, of course (also a distress call….), and I remember the Whitsun walks from my childhood that I tried to steer well clear of. I’m sure you can come up with other associations but I’m going with the majores line, as it allows me to include Brown Eyed Women with its account of the effects of age on Jack Jones, bootlegger of Bigfoot County.
Greetings earthlings, and welcome to your illuminating selection of songs about light.
If you have an Earworm you’d like to share, please send an .mp3, .m4a or a link to firstname.lastname@example.org, together with a few words about why you’ve chosen it. Next week’s theme will be the moon, and all things related (as suggested by DebbyM). Please get worms to me by close of play on Sunday 2 May.
Many thanks to all contributors, and stay safe.
FKA Twigs – Lights On – severin: Do it with the lights on? That’s not natural is it? Not on a first date anyway.
Siouxsie and the Banshees – Red Light – severin: From the 1980 album Kaleidoscope. Made after John and Kenny had quit. It was something of a rebirth for the band. The red light is from a camera. Severin (the other one) plays synth.
Yola – Love Is Light – severin: Metaphorical light but if I can send in a Yola song I will. I thought she was about to become mega famous at the beginning of 2020 but other factors intervened.
Jason Burnstick – All I Want – tincanman: Jason, an exceptional guitar player, tries his hand at writing. He grew up in a residential school, where at night rows and rows of cots were made up in the gymnasium for the 50 or 60 little boys. The only light was from a dim, red EXIT sign at one end, and Jason would lie there dreaming about what might lay beyond it.
Elin Manahan Thomas (Georg Frederic Handel) – Eternal Source of Light Divine – Suzi: The Welsh soprano’s beautiful rendition of Handel’s cantata, aka Ode on the Birthday of Queen Anne.
Kraftwerk – Neon Lights – Suzi: Finding beauty where others might not, a mainly instrumental celebration of ’shimmering neon lights…the city’s made of light.’ Lovely.
Little Walter – Boom Boom (Out Go The Lights) – shoegazer: Little Walter meets Tackhead.
Oysterband – Put Out the Lights – Suzi: They always end their set with this lovely number. ’The dark is warm, let me take you in my arms.’
Doc and Richard Watson – Turn the Lamps Down Low – DebbyM: I have loved Doc Watson forever, so he’s my Number One choice for this list. Here he’s accompanied by his grandson, Richard, playing I song I until very recently thought was titled ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’.
Esther Phillips – Turn the Lamps Down Low Dim – DebbyM: Dim the lighting before I turn into a Stepford wife. A song for our (Covid) times?
Bell X1 – Lampposts – glassarfemptee: Irish band Bell X1 is named after the rocket plane that Chuck Yeager piloted to break the sound barrier for the first time. They have never really made it as big over here as they should. I am pretty sure I have troubled your ears with this one before, but it bears a replay. “I’ve been walking you/Into those lampposts again/I’d rather do that than/Let go of your hand”.
M Byrd – Morning Sun – DebbyM: Max used to be the guitarist in TheBoyWonder’s band and launched his solo career last year by winning the Krach + Getöse Award for Hamburg’s new talent. This is his latest single, released last week.
Milva – Guarda che luna – DebbyM: Milva, one of the Grandes Dames of chanson, passed away on April 23rd, so I’m sending this as an homage. (I think moon could probably be a theme on its own but I wanted to stay as on topic as possible).
Miwata – Kerze Reggae auf deutsch! – DebbyM: The lyrics suggest lighting a candle instead of stumbling though the darkness.
Ruth Danon & Illay – Banu choschech legaresch – DebbyM: Observant ears will recognise this as the song I’ve sent in for December festivity playlists. It’s a Hannukah song about driving away the darkness, ‘In our hands is light and fire’, and this is by far my favourite version.
Richard and Linda Thompson – I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight – Suzi: The excitement of going out on the town!
I will admit that I have been avoiding writing this one for a long time. I mean, where to start? Even choosing a picture is problematic. So I went with this one.
OK, now the music. His career spans seven decades and umpteen albums, but, for most people the classic period began in 1963 and ran through until 1975. It is certainly my opinion.
So, where are the classics? I suppose that there are people who still think that the early stuff is the classic Dylan, and they might go for the “pure” folk sound of “Blowing in the Wind” or “The Times They Are a-Changin'”.
Me? Nah. I hanker for something more. I’d never shout “Judas” when he plugs in a Strat. So, where to start? I think that there are predominantly four places; Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde and (jumping forward in time) Blood on the Tracks. Of course, there are great songs on most of his records, but these are the albums that I return to over and over. Dylan himself spoke about a certain sound;
“I always hear other instruments, how they should sound. The closest I ever got to the sound I hear in my mind was on individual bands in the Blonde on Blonde album. It’s that thin, that wild mercury sound. It’s metallic and bright gold with whatever that conjures up. That’s my particular sound. I haven’t been able to succeed in getting it all the time. Mostly I’ve been driving at a combination of guitar, harmonica and organ, but now I find myself going into territory that has more percussion in it and rhythms of the soul.”
I think that is the sound of his 60s electric music.
So, I am going to list some candidates for classic Bobness;
“Subterranean Homesick Blues“
“Love Minus Zero/No Limit”
“It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue“
“Like a Rolling Stone“
“Visions of Johanna“
“Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again“
“Tangled Up in Blue“
Now, all I have to do is pick one as the classic, and I am torn between three here, “Like a Rolling Stone“, “Visions of Johanna” and “Tangled Up in Blue“.
Again, we have to thank the Romans for the month’s name – from Aprilis – but we’re not sure why. It may be to do with aperire, meaning ‘to open’ or it may be to do with the Greek name for Venus, Aphrodite.
Whatever the reason for the name, April is the month of changeable weather, exemplified by the rain showers that that are celebrated in a couple of songs you may have encountered. Please feel free to suggest them, or any other April-related song, here. I’m using it as an excuse to play Looks Like Rain, a GD song with three different personalities: an early, aching ‘crying song’, a mid-life sweet lament and a late, dramatic torch song.
Greetings everyone, wherever you are, and welcome to your songs about islands. Fancy a quick getaway? Well, good luck with that one, we can all dream.
If you have an earworm you’d like to share, please send an .mp3, .m4a or a link to email@example.com, together with a few words about why you’ve chosen it. Next week’s theme will be lamps, lights, lanterns, candles and any other form of illumination, and worms should reach me by close of play on Sunday 25 April.
Many thanks to all contributors, and to magicman and everyone else who has helped and encouraged me to persevere with WordPress.
Dubblestandart (Jstar remix)- Island Girl – shoegazer: Austrian dub outfit with the late Ari-Up.
Phantom Band (UK) – Island – tincanman: Over a couldn’t-be-less eight minutes, this determinedly indie Scottish indie band from the early 2000s takes us on a circle tour from forlorn and alone to a rousing singalong with mates. And back again.
Chris Whitley – From One Island To Another – tincanman: Metaphorical islands, I guess. This is from his barren and gripping Dirt Floor (’98). He and Elliott Smith have similar life stories and styles (at times), but Smith was 10 years younger and moodier.
Tananas – Zanzibar – glassarfemptee: Tananas was a South African band, here celebrating an island forming part of Tanzania, in their jazzy, sun-kissed style.
Jackie Leven – Island- glassarfemptee: The late lamented Jackie Leven’s song recounts the frustrations and limitations of being raised on an island, which feeling I share having been raised in the West Indies. Though he doesn’t celebrate the equal joys of island life!
Brian Eno – Over Fire Island – severin: From Another Green World. A short instrumental. But it’s still about an island, dammit.
Betty Wright – Tropical Island – severin: From her late eighties album Sevens. The same album as her classic Pain single. This one is lighter in tone.
Concerto Caledonia ft Jim Moray – Fairest Isle (from the opera, King Arthur)– severin: Henry Purcell and John Dryden had the idea before Rick Wakeman. This is from Purcell’s Revenge, an album of his music featuring various contemporary singers. The names of the others temporarily escape me.
Show of Hands – The Preacher – Suzi: A preacher living alone on a stony, treeless island, becomes fixated on a quarryman’s wife. It doesn’t end well.
The Saw Doctors – Clare Island – Suzi: Summer stars are in the sky, and here’s a romantic invitation to escape to an island off the coast of Co. Mayo. Sounds irresistible!
Jake Shimabukuro – Island Fever Blues – DebbyM: He’s from an island (Hawaii), there’s an island in the title, and the sounds this guy coaxes from his ukulele just blow me away. Enjoy!
Shred Kelly – Archipelago – DebbyM: Shred Kelly are brilliant live, but they’re in Canada and I’m in Germany, so I’ve not seen them for a while. Here’s a whole bunch of islands for you.
Leonard Cohen – Bird on the Wire – MaggieB: So the story goes that Leonard Cohen was on the island of Hydra when telephone wires were first installed. He was looking out of the window one day and noticed that birds were perching on the new telephone wires, then he wrote a song…
Dead Objectives – Marshall Island – wyngatecarpenter: From one of my favourite new bands, good anarcho-influenced punk with shades of goth. The Marshall Islands (not Martial Island as it says on the link) include Bikini Atoll , site of multiple US nuclear tests.
Laura Nyro (born Laura Nigro in 1947) grew up in The Bronx in the 1950s, exposed to all kinds of music as a child (her father was a jazz trumpeter). She taught herself to play the piano and later sang in groups with high school friends. She recorded her first album in 1966, when still in her teens but initially found success when many of her songs were covered by other people, including Barbra Streisand, Blood, Sweat and Tears and The 5th Dimension. Her best song from this period is “Stoney End”, a huge hit for Streisand.
In 1967, following her performance at the Monterey Pop Festival, David Geffen became her manager and her career really began to take off. It is from this period that her best-known work comes. Her second album “Eli And The Thirteenth Confession” , released in 1968 is probably her most popular album, with several tracks covered by other artists.
Between 1969 and 1971, Laura released three more albums, “New York Tendaberry”, “Christmas And The Beads Of Sweat” and “Gonna Take A Miracle”, the latter with the group Labelle, which I think comprise her best work.
Although Laura produced a number of albums in the late 70s and afterwards, she never hit these heights again. Sadly, she died of ovarian cancer aged 49 in 1997.
For many people, her music is seen as difficult at times. She was capable of creating and performing joyous and uplifting music, but also of writing songs that are dark, confessional and private. She mixed the sounds she grew up with into a mix which included Brill Building pop, doo wop, gospel and even Broadway to create something that was entirely her own.
So, where do we go to find the classic Laura Nyro? We could go to “Gonna Take A Miracle”, which is an album of cover versions, performed with Labelle, which is a hugely uplifting and wonderful experience, but it isn’t her work. “Christmas And The Beads Of Sweat” is a tough album in many ways, some of it is pretty bleak, especially the closing number, “Christmas in My Soul”, despite the presence of the Muscle Shoals session crew and Duane Allman. It is, I think, an album for hardcore Nyro fans.
So, we are looking at “Eli And The Thirteenth Confession” and “New York Tendaberry” as the source for a classic, and I think that the former is where I am heading. Laura clearly never suffered from “difficult second album syndrome” because this album is packed with some fantastic music; blue-eyed soul, gospel, Brill Building radio-friendly pop music and confessional personal songs way ahead of the Laurel Canyon movement of a couple of years later.
So, what will I nom as her true classic song? For me, there is only one choice. CLICK HEREto hear it.