Earworms 20 March 2023

Good evening, and welcome to your selection of songs about walks taken. ‘A Walk in the Black Forest’ (above) was very popular when I was a child, in our house, at least. I don’t think I’ve thought of it since, but it flew into my head as soon as Fintan suggested the topic. And very jolly it is, too.

If you have an Earworm you’d like to share, please send an .mp3, .m4a or a link to adempster73@gmail.com, together with a few words about why you’ve chosen it. Next week’s theme will be creatures you might keep as pets – free reign, so if you want to adopt an aardvark or a dragon, you can. Worms should reach me by close of play on Sunday 26 March.

Many thanks to all contributors. Stay sane!

Planxty – Arthur McBride – Suzi: Two young Irishmen take an early morning walk by the seaside, only to be accosted by a recruiting sergeant and his crew. The conversation is quite polite until the lads make it clear that they’re not going to enlist, thank you very much.

Oysterband – The Road to Santiago – Suzi – Pilgrims have walked the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain for centuries. Originally you started from your home, today various starting places mark the beginning of a journey of several hundred miles to Santiago de Compostela, believed to be the last resting place of St James the Apostle. ‘We’ll walk that wild Atlantic shore/ And the Devil walks behind us.’

Richard Thompson – Walking the Long Miles Home – Suzi: The party’s over, a relationship has ended and the last bus has gone, or maybe doesn’t exist. He has to walk home – and he’s feeling better every step of the way.

Lal Waterson – Piper’s Path – Suzi: A winter’s walk down a country path to the sea. I’m assuming that the ’seaweed men’ seen on the way are seaweed gatherers, seaweed being very good for crops.

Jackson Browne – Walking Slow – Fintan28: Thoughts of death and personal strife aren’t enough to ruin Jackson’s day. The old neighborhood looks just fine. And he’s got David Lindley’s smooth slide to set the pace (he’ll be missed). “I’m puttin out my left foot…”

Mink DeVille – Spanish Stroll – Fintan28: A stroll through Spanish Harlem and it must have been a glorious day. The band is floating on air and the folks are out looking their best. (Gosh, haven’t heard that for years – good shout. Ed.)

Siegel-Schwall Band – I Like It Where We Walked – Fintan28: Some little spot along the Ohio River – lots of things to miss about her but that walk is what he’s longing for.

Ondara – An Alien In Minneapolis- tincanman and
Ondara – A Witch And A Saint – tincanman
: J.S. Ondara, now just Ondara, is a self-taught young musician from Kenya who followed his muse to America to live in the home state of his idol and oracle, Bob Dylan. His songs range from frank autobiographical ‘reporting’ to subconscious writing that doesn’t explain itself to him until he’s out on the road singing them to people.

Squire – Walking Down the King’s Road – severin: Something that London punks used to do every Saturday for no apparent reason other than making an appearance. From Sloane Square to Worlds End, cross the Road and then back again. I’m not saying I did it myself and I’m not saying I didn’t. Squire were one of the early punk>mod revival bands and released this in 1979.

Goldfrapp – Road To Somewhere – severin: Alison (not that one) certainly starts off walking down Mercer Street. Probably the one in Manhattan. Later on she has the radio on so she’s either got home, got in the car or is doing her radio listening in the street. The song’s mainly about wanting a defunct relationship to start up again.

Ultimate Painting – Central Park Blues – Uncleben: Wandering across Central Park in a haze of snow and smog (followed by some stuff in cabs that rather undermines the theme, but we’ll ignore that).

Heather Fyson – Scented Ground – DebbyM: One for the folk lovers.

Lilly Among Clouds – Look at the Earth – DebbyM: A bit of a shoehorn, but it’s about appreciating our surroundings (while we still can) as we stumble and fall.

Jackie Leven – Walking in Argyll – glassarfemptee: Jackie Leven wants to walk with you down to the harbour in Oban town on a May morning, watch the fishing boats coming home…

Ray Davies – One More Time – glassarfemptee: A bit tangenital, but Ray starts “I was walking on the coast road, when the harbour came in view”.

Ludovico Einaudi – The Path of the Fossils – glassarfemptee: Einaudi did a series of seven albums based on his walks in the Italian Alps. Here’s the fossil path.

Ivor Cutler – Life in a Scotch Sitting Room – shoegazer: Storytime.

Dr. Feelgood – Walking on the Edge – MaggieB: I can relate to this, having also stood at pedestrian crossings choking on traffic fumes impatient for the lights to change.

Led Zeppelin – Ramble On (remaster) – LongTallSilly: It had to be. I’m sure Jimmy was a founder member of the Ramblers🤔

Seasick Steve – Walkin’ Man – LongTallSilly: And what could be more romantic than stashing my sleeping roll under your bed for when I get back from the end of the line?

James Taylor – Walking Man – LongTallSilly: Another walking man of an older vintage. I wonder if he’s stopped yet?

Procul Harum – Pilgrim’s Progress – LongTallSilly: Not quite Bunyan, but I’m sure there is merit in this voyage.

Ivan Drever – The Road and the Miles – AliM: Innocent companionship walking the road to Dundee. Cauld winter was howlin’ o’er moor and o’er mountain / Wild was the surge on the dark rolling sea / When I met about daybreak a bonnie young lassie /Wha asked me the road and the miles to Dundee / Says I, “My young lassie, I canna’ weel tell ye / The road and the distance I canna’ weel gie / But if you’ll permit me tae gang a wee bittie / I’ll show ye the road and the miles to Dundee”…

Marc Cohn – Walking In Memphis – AliM: Love this song.

The Most Classic Song by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention

Much of the following draws heavily on Wikipedia as I haven’t had time to research it thoroughly, but I hope it will be of interest and perhaps start a friendly debate. I have never been much of a fan, tbh, but living with someone who is has exposed me to a lot more of their ouvre, and converted me from thinking most of it is questionable/awful to thinking some of it is actually very good. The following potted and probably inaccurate history covers the period 1966-1975, and shouldn’t be confused with Frank Zappa’s individual output, although his mad genius tends to overshadow everyone he collaborates with.

The Mothers of Invention, formerly an R&B band called Soul Giants, formed in 1964. Frank Zappa took over as guitarist in 1965, following a disagreement between two of the band members, and insisted that they cover his original material. On Mothers Day (see what I did there?) in 1965 they changed their name to The Mothers, but record executives felt this was inappropriate and demanded a name change, and so they became The Mothers of Invention.

The band gained popularity in California’s underground music scene and signed to Verve Records, a jazz label. Verve released their debut double album, Freak Out! in 1966 (which included the questionable Motherly Love, above. When I say questionable, it pays to remember that Zappa was a great satirist). Three well-received albums followed, in spite of line-up changes – Absolutely Free, We’re Only In It For The Money, which satirized hippie and flower power culture (and had a spoof Sgt Pepper-type cover) and Uncle Meat. The next album, Cruising with Ruben and the Jets was a collection of doo-wop songs, with a theme from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring in the middle of one song. No one could accuse them of being predictable. In addition, Zappa wrote film, instrumental jazz and classical oriented music for the band’s concerts, which confused audiences. Much of this was released on live albums as opposed to the studio albums mentioned above.

Zappa disbanded this version of the Mothers in 1969; remaining recordings with the band from this period were collected on Weasels Ripped My Flesh and Burnt Weeny Sandwich (both released in 1970). The new line-up and additions lasted until 1971 when Zappa was pushed off stage by a member of the audience, he fell fifteen feet onto a concrete floor and was confined to a wheelchair for about a year afterwards.

Further Mothers studio albums followed alongside live albums and Zappa’s other work. These were The Grand Wazoo (1972); Over-Nite Sensation (1973); One Size Fits All and Bongo Fury (1975). Bongo Fury featured live recordings from a 1975 tour that temporarily reunited Zappa with Captain Beefheart. It was the last new album to be credited to the Mothers, although several band members would continue to play for Zappa in the years to come.

So, out of this brief history and a prolific volume of work, I am choosing this as “most classic song”: https://youtu.be/X8nRpGHUzFc

Have at it, what do you think?

Earworms 13 March 2023

Good evening, and welcome to your songs about Oscars, and related subjects. I’m thrilled to be here tonight, and I’d like to thank my mum, my dentist, my support group, my friends and family and most of all you, dear readers, such an infinite variety of music this week!

If you have an Earworm you’d like to share, please send an .mp3, .m4a or a link to adempster73@gmail.com, together with a few words about why you’ve chosen it. Next week’s theme, as suggested by Fintan28, is: songs that describe a walk taken (as opposed to the physical act).

Worms should reach me by close of play on Sunday 19 March. Many thanks to all contributors – stay sane!

Underworld – STAR (#Drift Episode 5 ‘Game’) – shoegazer: Quite a few Oscar winners & contenders mixed in this one.

Tobias Jesso – Hollywood – glassarfemptee: Tobias sings “I never understood how everyone lies in Hollywood…I think I’m going to die in Hollywood” on his 2015 debut – which also proved his swan song.

Phosphorescent – Los Angeles – glassarfemptee: Phosphorescent (Matthew Houck) shares the concerns of Tobias Jesso, as he sings “I ain’t come to Los Angeles just to die”. And that Tinseltown is built on lies and exploitation: “They told me those lies/Just grinning from ear to ear/They showed me a lie/They said “here is our offer, ain’t it fine”

Cigarettes After Sex – Starry Eyes – glassarfemptee: “What can I do for your attention?” ask Cigarettes After Sex in this 2012 track.

Pearl and the Beard – Will Smith Medley – DebbyM: Yes, it’s Pearl and the Beard again! They split up several years ago and I miss them. I have never been a big Will Smith fan, in fact I think I’ve only ever seen him in Men In Black (apart from last year’s Oscar ceremony, of course, which was pretty hard to avoid) but there’s something in this medley pushes all my happy buttons.
This link takes you to the video (which always makes me smile).

M – Les Triplettes de Belleville – DebbyM: This was nominated for an Oscar in 2003 or 2004, but lost out to Lord of the Rings. Abominable!

10cc – Somewhere in Hollywood – DebbyM: I really loved 10cc when I was a kid, but hadn’t listened to anything by them for years. I stumbled upon them again recently and have been revisiting The Original Soundtrack a lot. I thought it might be a bit much to nominate an entire album, though, so I’ve chosen this song instead.

Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglova – Falling Slowly – DebbyM: An actual Oscar-winner! I don’t believe I’ll be the only one sending this in 😉

Joni Mitchell – Shades of Scarlet Conquering – severin: About a woman obsessed with the images of glamourous Hollywood stars and wanting to emulate them at any cost. Mentions Gable and Flynn.

Earthling – 1st Transmission – severin: References to many famous people including film stars. “Oh gosh, oh gosh, I’m Juliette Binoche” etc…

Neil Sedaka – Betty Grable – severin: Irresistible. I share the same birthday as Betty. And I’ve got the legs.

Stephen Malkmus – Jo Jo’s Jacket – Chris7572: Here’s a typically odd tribute (?) to Yul Brynner, Oscar winner for his role in The King And I, from the Pavement founder. Including the man’s own comments on his famously bald bonce.

Felice Brothers – Inferno – tincanman: They start out to see Fight Club, but you don’t talk about that so they see something else and end up talking about Kurt Cobain.

Colourbox – Looks Like We’re Shy One Horse – tincanman: Trippy play on the famous line from Once Upon a Time in the West.

Justin Townes Earle – Midnight At The Movies – tincanman: The late, troubled JTE paints a Hopper-like portrait of a night at the cinema. Will the next generation even know what going to the movies felt like?

The Beatles – Act Naturally – Suzi: Ringo goes C & W for the Fabs’ movie ‘Help!’

Dionne Warwick – Do You Know The Way To San Jose – Suzi: Bacharach/David song which won Dionne her first Grammy. Could hardly leave this out, especially in view of Bacharach’s recent passing. It’s such an absolute classic, although Warwick herself apparently didn’t like it!

Cornershop – Brimful of Asha – Suzi: Indian movie stars, more often than not, didn’t actually sing in their movies. Background singers were used, and Asha Bhosle – the name ’Asha’ also means ‘hope’ – provided the background singing for many a Bollywood extravaganza. If you’d seen the movie, you’d buy the ’45 – and if you don’t remember those you’re a lot younger than I thought! – to extend the happiness that the film brought you. ‘Everybody needs a bosom for a pillow, mine’s on the 45.’ Music as a comfort blanket – I think we can all relate to that!

Billy Bragg – Ingrid Bergman – Suzi: A Woody Guthrie song, in which the singer lusts after the famous film star. A fair amount of innuendo!

Louis Prima & Keely Smith – That Old Black Magic – Fintan28: In 1943 That Old Black Magic was one of 10 songs nominated losing out to You’ll Never Know. In 1958 Louie & Keely said we can better that. Their version went to #18 on the Billboard charts and won the very first Grammy ever given for Best Vocal Group.

Dusty Springfield – The Look Of Love – Fintan28: In 1967 the Academy proved their incompetence at music by passing over Dusty and Phil Harris giving us The Bare Necessities for Rex Harrison’s Dr. Doolittle doing Talk To The Animals – emphasis on the talk part. For me Dusty will always be The Look Of Love.

The Righteous Brothers – Unchained Melody – Fintan28: In 1958 Unchained Melody was passed over for Love Is A Many Splendored Thing. The Righteous Brothers wrapped it up in their Blue-Eyed Soul and gave us something to guide enraptured couples round a darkened dance floor.

Juliette Armanette – Les Moulins de Mon Coeur – Fintan28: In 1968 The Thomas Crowne Affair gave us the winner with the haunting & evocative The Windmills Of Your Mind. I just love this very spare version. It transforms my thoughts in a most delightful way.

Tony Bennett – The Shadow of Your Smile – MaggieB: Absolutely perfect. (From the award-winning film, The Sandpiper – Ed.)

The Dickies – Stuck In A Condo (With Marlon Brando) – wyngatecarpenter: The winner of the award for Best Comedy Punk Song About An Oscar Winner.

Pink Floyd – Astronomy Domine – LongTallSilly: Any excuse to play early Floyd, but obviously this refers to Merle Oberon in the lyrics! Not sure if she played Titania though 🤔Magazine writers didn’t know what to make of Merle Oberon when she took Hollywood by storm in the 1930s. One writer described her as “bizarre, bewildering, and different”, while others marvelled at her “delicate” oval face, “eloquent” emerald eyes, “bright red lips” and “alabaster” skin. Though her 1936 best actress Oscar nomination for the coming-of-age drama The Dark Angel affirmed her place in a league with Katharine Hepburn and the eventual winner, Bette Davis, the glamour paragons of the day, it was only later that the world discovered Oberon was a south Asian woman passing for white.

Sesame Street – The Grouch Song – LongTallSilly: An Oscar to aspire to, a lifelong role model for me! 🤣🤣

Dexys Midnight Runners – Dance Stance – LongTallSilly: Never heard about Oscar Wilde / Don’t know about Brendan Behan / Know anything about Sean O’Casey / Or care about George Bernard Shaw / Or Samuel Beckett / Won’t talk about Eugene O’Neill / He won’t talk about Edna O’Brien / Or know anything about Lawrence Stern… Works for me as an Oscar!

America – Hollywood – AliM: From their 1974 album, ‘Holiday’. Very laid back. Sounds like the after-party. “Stumble through the bars on Forget-Me-Not Lane; Stumble through the glitter but don’t feel the pain…”

Don McLean – Magdalene Lane – AliM: from his first album, ‘Tapestry’ (1971). About Judy Garland, amongst other things. ‘MGM studios can’t make the nut / They’re auctioning Dorothy’s shoes / Gable is gone, the good witch is a slut / And I’ve got the parking-lot blues / The wizard brought Benzedrine smiles / And he never let Dorothy doze / Ha – she died as she walked down the aisle / And all that remains is her clothes…’

The Most Classic Song from the Goth Scene 1979-1988

Thanks to Carole for throwing the floor open once again. I initially thought of covering a specific band for this one (clue – there’s a strong possibly that my choice will be by that band) , but I decided it might be fun to do what Carole does very occasionally and widen it out to cover a genre, one that I doubt Carole was ever planning to cover, the much misunderstood and derided genre of goth. I appreciate there’s only one or two of us here with a real interest in it, but I guess most of you have at least a passing familiarity with it.

First of all what is it? Despite it being a genre that persists to this day around the world , and is every so often noticed my the mainstream culture, there’s a lot of disagreement as to what artists are goth or aren’t goth , muddied still further by the fact that almost any of the leading exponents from the early days denied that it was anything to do with them.

So what is it ?

Wikepedia describes gothic rock as a subgenre of post punk that was distinguished by “its darker sound, with the use of primarily minor or bass chords, reverb, dark arrangements, or dramatic and melancholic melodies, having inspirations in gothic literature allied with themes such as sadness, nihilism, dark romanticism, tragedy, melancholy and morbidity. These themes are often approached poetically.”  Not a bad attempt but as always you kind find acts that don’t really get covered by that description. And I don’t find a lot of sadness or melancholy in the peak years.

Simon Reynolds is also quoted , describing it as typically featuring “scything guitar patterns, high-pitched basslines that often usurped the melodic role [and] beats that were either hypnotically dirgelike or tom-tom heavy and ‘tribal'” and vocal style as consisting of “deep, droning alloys of Jim Morrison and Leonard Cohen”. 

Again , a worthy attempt but it’s more varied than that. So I’m going to attempt a potted history …here goes….

It’s not too controversial to say that ground zero for goth is Bauhaus’ 1979 debut single Bela Lugosi’s Dead , 10 minutes of spooky atmosphere and melodramatic vocals that sounded like pretty much nothing else at the time and immediately established the cliché of goth bands singing lugubrious songs about vampires, except that no one called it goth at the time, it was still under the umbrella of punk. Bela is a very obvious choice for the genre classic. There were several other bands around at the time that people will still argue whether or not were goth – Joy Division, The Cure , The Birthday Party, and of course Siouxsie & The Banshees. I don’t really think of any of these as goth other than perhaps the Banshees who set a template of dark glamour , icy demeanour, unsettling subject matter and once Budgie and John McGeoch were on board a kind of post punk psychedelic sound. They weren’t happy with the goth tag at all of course, but it’s pretty hard not to hear 1981’s Ju Ju retrospectively as a goth album. Spellbound could be put forward as the classic, as could Nightshift , Israel and any number of others. I’ll dismiss them anyway if only because Carole has already covered them.

Bauhaus became massively popular very quickly and besides Bela there’s a whole load of other choices such as Passion of Lovers, Hollow Hills, Spirit, and She’s In Parties. They imploded in 1983, but not before becoming unlikely pop stars and unwitting pioneers, not bad for a band that were frequently making it up as they went along. In their wake came a bunch of other bands who wanted to push punk in a more experimental and sometimes theatrical direction. UK Decay were one very influential band of the time who are often overlooked, but who are with hindsight one of the “missing links” between punk and goth, and even claimed to have been the first band to call themselves goth. Songs such as Unwind, Uninvited Guest and the 10 minute epic Werewolf show them varying tempos, and making use of guitar effects and dramatic vocals. There was also Theatre of Hate with their spaghetti western guitar, wailing sax and even more wailing in the vocals of Kirk Brandon. Their debut single Original Sin is very much seen as a classic of the time.

Both were even shorter lived than Bauhaus but paved the way for a diverse bunch of bands that the NME dubbed the “positive punk” movement – this included among others the tribal drum sound, sparse guitar and foghorn vocals of Southern Death Cult; the off kilter sound and somewhat challenging vocals styles of  Sex Gang Children and Ausgang; the atmospheric synth stylings of potential pop stars Danse Society;  oddball glam pop outfit Gene Loves Jezebel; and the more avant-garde performance art of Ireland’s Virgin Prunes. What was nowhere to be heard were the later goth cliches of deep vocals or lyrics about vampires. There was also an overlapping scene emerging around the Batcave club in Soho , based around house band the heavily glam influenced Specimen and Alien Sex Fiend , who were the unlikely cockney mutant offspring of the Cramps and Alice Cooper but with a lot more synthesiser.

A few records coming out of this loose scene that might be considered classics of the ill defined genre included Sex Gang Children’s Sebastian , Alien Sex Fiend’s Ignore The Machine, RIP and EST (A Trip To The Moon), Virgin Prunes; Pagan Love Song and Baby Turns Blue, Play Dead’s Shine and Southern Death Cult’s Moya . This scene was a long way from the image of moody, sensitive types in frock coats hiding in their bedrooms and reading books. Gigs were lively affairs with followings attaching themselves to bands and tagging along for whole tours and causing speed addled mayhem. A mate of mine who was there at the time says that there were a lot of “mad bastards” involved and frankly he should know. Southern Death Cult in particular built up a huge live following in the space of just 18 months and looked set to be huge, until frontman Ian Astbury walked out – more on him soon…

Meanwhile in the north there was a separate scene focussed on Leeds and a bunch of bands making dark sounding guitar rock such as the March Violets, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry and the Sisters of Mercy. The latter in particular with their deep vocals , heavy bass, reverb drenched guitar and then novel use of a drum machine , not to mention their habit of shrouding themselves in dry ice on stage , came to be seen as almost the definition of goth. The music press lumped this northern scene and together with the positive punk and Batcave scenes and the goth label eventually stuck. A few classics from this scene were the Sisters’ Alice and Temple of Love , March Violets’ Snakedance and Walk Into The Sun and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry’s Hollow Eyes and Walking On Your Hands.

Ian Astbury meanwhile got together with former Theatre of Hate guitarist Billy Duffy and formed Death Cult , soon shortened to the Cult in an effort to shake off the goth tag. Nevertheless they initially still sounded distinctly goth, albeit beefed up with one eye on future stadium success. They had their breakthrough with She Sells Sanctuary , no doubt many people’s contender for goth classic (though I prefer their debut Spiritwalker). In the next couple of years they were joined in the charts , and on the trajectory to rock excess, by goth supergroup The Mission formed by ex-members of the Sisters and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry. I was never a fan of the Mission personally , though Wasteland and Severina would probably rank on the goth classic list. There’s also the Tower of Strength which I think is their best moment despite giving the game away with it’s Kashmir-esque sound. Alternative rock was shaking off it’s embarrassment about liking Led Zeppelin.

Soon after Andrew Eldritch’s new version of the Sisters of Mercy also entered the mainstream with the unashamedly bombastic, Jim Steinman (over)produced epic This Corrosion. For some this is the definition of goth , though at the time some thought Eldritch had sold out. Lucretia My Reflection is another popular Sisters track from the time, and is arguably the most goth title that any chart hit has ever had, though the ever aloof Eldritch would disdainfully put down anyone suggesting that the Sisters were or ever had been goth. He doesn’t get to decide though!

Cult , Mission and the Sisters really represented the commercial peak for goth in the UK and all to varying degrees moved into rock with a capital “R”. Goth had gone from being an experimental genre attempting to forge new sounds in the wake of punk , and had reverse backwards to pre-punk stadium rock. Unsurprisingly , with the exception of the Sisters, the focus for many of the surviving bands was breaking the US.

A couple more bands managed to break through into the mainstream under the goth banner before the end of the decade. All About Eve were always an odd one to me, they felt much more like updated hippy / folk rock. On the other hand Fields Of The Nephilim were undeniably the real goth deal (not that they seemed convinced) shrouded in dry ice and with Carl McCoy’s almost inhumanly deep vocals. Whereas previous goth bands hand usually dealt with a range of themes, albeit often dressed up in obscure imagery, the Nephilim were lyrically impenetrable unless you were the kind of person who’d read the complete works of Aleister Crowley. Musically I think they were as much about sound and atmosphere as they were about songs. They could still claim to have produced some contenders for the classic track such as Preacher Man , Moonchild, and the majestic Last Exit For The Lost.

And that’s where I’m leaving it. There were of course good goth bands after this – the bombastic Marionettes and the more electronic James Ray’s Gangwar being favourites of mine – and the scene exists today and has spread arounds the world, with bands branching off and dabbling in metal, industrial and even dance music but if I’m going to pick a definitive classic I think it has to be from the period 1979 – 1988.

The obvious choice is Bela Lugosi’s Dead. Too obvious, perhaps. And it’s an odd sounding record even within the context of goth , it doesn’t really sound like anything else. Instead the record I’m going for is one is from a few years later but still sounds like a template for large chunks of the genre. No record encapsulates the whole genre, but this one encapsulates a lot – droning bass ,  reverb heavy guitar , cold vocals , and  lyrical themes including drugs , mental breakdown, wary references to the occult and a young woman on the edge (something of a recurring goth theme) . With apologies to the man who sings on the records  – how much more goth can you get? The answer is none. None more goth. https://youtu.be/-YJq08ioNX4

Album of the Year – 1956

Here’s the thing. I wasn’t even a twinkle in 1956, but there was undoubtedly some good music around.

In the UK, nineteen-year-old Shirley Bassey released her first single, Burn My Candle (At Both Ends). Elvis Presley, Frankie Vaughan and Lonnie Donegan achieved their first UK top ten singles. Bill Hayley and his Comets had six hit singles. Doris Day got to No. 1 with Que Sera, Sera. I should probably mention Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Dean Martin and Winifred Atwell, so I will. In the USA, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Buddy Holly , Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry and Harry Belafonte were all busy. Charles Mingus, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck and Count Basie were amongst those to wow the Newport Jazz Festival at Freebody Park on Rhode Island in July, although the era of big bands and swing music was drawing to an end as the bands were expensive to maintain, and new musicians were breaking into jazz.

Notable musical births included Paul Young (singer), Johnny Rotten, Paul Cook and Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols), Ian Curtis and Peter Hook (Joy Division), Brian Robertson (Thin Lizzy, Motorhead), Steve Harris (Iron Maiden), Nigel Kennedy (violinist) and Andy Cox (The Beat). Hancock’s Half Hour and Opportunity Knocks made their UK TV debut. In the cinema, top-grossing films included The King and I, The Ten Commandments and The Searchers, and Brigitte Bardot became a sex kitten in French romantic film And God Created Woman.

In other news, Norma Jean Mortenson changed her name to Marilyn Monroe and married Arthur Miller; Nasser vowed to reconquer Palestine; Morocco declared independence from France; Pakistan became the first Islamic republic; Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier; the first Eurovision Song Contest was broadcast from Switzerland; labour riots in Poznan, Poland led to many deaths when Soviets opened fire; 13-year-old Bobby Fischer beat grandmaster Donald Byrne in the Rosenwald Memorial Chess Tournament; the Suez crisis erupted; Russia invaded Hungary; the Summer Olympics were held in Melbourne and the Winter Olympics were held in Italy.

Were you around in 1956? What sort of music influenced you? If you weren’t buying albums at the time, which ones would you chose now? If you are a mere stripling, like me (yeah, right – Ed.) what do you make of the music of that era?

Earworms 6 March 2023

Good evening, and welcome to your selection of songs about speaking / talking / chattering and orating. As Shakespeare put it, “Men of few words are the best men”, and as I come from a long line of strong and silent ancestors I would tend to agree. But there are times when speaking is necessary, to help, encourage, protest or explain, or even just for the fun of it. Anyway, I am much more comfortable behind a keyboard but I can’t deny that you’ve sent in a fine selection of songs. And here they are.

If you have an Earworm you’d like to share, please send an .mp3, .m4a or a link to adempster73@gmail.com, together with a few words about why you’ve chosen it. Next week’s theme, set by DebbyM, will be Oscar related, e.g. films, stars and awards (although any famous Oscars may also be accepted) and worms should reach me by close of play on Sunday 12 March.

Many thanks to all contributors – stay sane!

Tackhead – Mind at the End of the Tether – Shoegazer: The 2nd Tackhead single from ‘85.

Anathallo – Tower of Babel – glassarfemptee: Anathallo were a Michigan/Chicago band that had critical success with ‘Canopy Glow’ (from which this track is taken) and then faded away…

Luna – Everybody’s Talkin’ – glassarfemptee: Nilsson had a hit with Fred Neil’s song, when it was in the soundtrack to ‘Midnight Cowboy’. Many other covers have been released. Here’s Luna’s…

Let’s Eat Grandma – Strange Conversations – glassarfemptee: Norwich duo Let’s Eat Grandma are an extraordinary talent. This is from their latest album, ‘Two Ribbons’. 

Lori Liebermann – Killing Me Softly – DebbyM: A song about being moved by a story (told in another song).

Rockpile – Girls Talk – DebbyM: Indeed they do.

Chas & Dave – Rabbit – DebbyM: Am I the only one dares send this in? Well, somebody had to…

Melody Gardot – Preacherman – DebbyM: A professional talker and answer of questions. (There is a marvellous but heartbreaking video of this song on Youtube, in memory of Emmet Till).

Pearl and the Beard – Voice In My Throat – DebbyM: May be more about singing if you listen hard enough, but stories are told, thus it qualifies 😉

Good Shoes – Everybody’s Talking – severin: Them again. That’s two week’s running. For bonus points, it’s from an album called ‘Think Before You Speak’.

Joni Mitchell – Talk To Me – severin: Strictly speaking this is about somebody who (unlike Joni) isn’t much of a talker but she wishes he would give it a go. From her “difficult” ‘Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter’ album. Joni is the only person apart from my mother who I have heard calling William Shakespeare “Willie the shake”.

Modest Mouse – Talking Shit About A Pretty Sunset – Fintan28: We all know that guy. Hell I’ve caught myself being that guy. Opining on whatever, whether the world wants to know or not. Then there’s that moment you catch a glimpse…

James Brown – Funky President (People It’s Bad) [‘Tell Me’] – Fintan28: James Brown making a case for himself as Governor. This was his response to Nixon being pardoned by Gerald Ford. WTF as they say today.

Chuck Berry – Nadine – Fintan28: “I was campaign shouting like a southern diplomat…” Chuck can write my speeches anytime.

Norman Doray – I Have A Dream In Kalifornia – tincanman: Everyone has heard Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ refrain, but few know that on weekends he liked to dabble in French house music.

Jontavious Willis – Long-Winded Woman – tincanman: Old-school acoustic country blues – and he’s just turned 25. No wonder people are talking.

Tracy Chapman – Talkin’ Bout a Revolution – Suzi: I like to think that Betty would’ve liked this!

Mesa Music Consort – Gossiping Sparrows – Suzi: On my first visit to Canada, a long time ago now, I heard this group’s music and was sufficiently charmed by it to buy their Spirit Feathers album. So, some sparrows gossiping!

Jake Thackray – On Again, On Again – Suzi: Jake complains about women’s alleged habit of incessant chattering, apparently unaware that many men are perfectly capable of boring on and on for ages, given half a chance. Indeed the song itself goes on for quite a bit, but as it’s quite funny, Jake is forgiven for his admitted misogyny.

Peter Gabriel – Come Talk To Me – MaggieB: I’ve been listening to quite a bit of Peter Gabriel recently.I had almost forgotten how much I like this track.

We’re a bit short of other links this week, so here’s a little YouTube playlist to compliment the big playlist (Ed):

The Most Classic Song By The Flying Burrito Brothers

Most people think that the Flying Burrito Brothers were founded by Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman, both formerly of The Byrds, which is broadly true, except that the band was the brainchild of Ian Dunlop and Mickey Gauvin, both ex-members of Parsons’ International Submarine Band. However, this original never really got to hop, let along fly, so the name was reused when Parsons and Hillman decided to form a country rock band together in Los Angeles in 1968. The original members were Parsons, Hillman, bassist Chris Ethridge, drummer Eddie Hoh and pedal steel player Sneaky Pete Kleinow.

Drummer Hoh was a session guy and also had substance abuse issues, so didn’t stick around for too long, although he did play on a couple of tracks on the band’s debut album, The Gilded Palace of Sin, released in February 1969. He was replaced by ex-International Submarine Band drummer Jon Corneal, who would also soon be off (he went to Nashville to play country music) and replaced by Michael Clarke, another former Byrd. A revolving door membership policy was something that would bedevil the band throughout its existence.

After having shifted The Byrds towards country music on 1968’s Sweetheart of the Rodeo, Parsons got the sack, and it is fair to suggest that the Burritos pretty much delivered the world’s first fully-fledged country rock album with their debut release.

Right from the opening track “Christine’s Tune”, also known as “The Devil In Disguise” the band were laying down a sound that would be copied by a stream of bands who would follow on from the Burritos, many of them started by ex-Burrito members, The Eagles formed by Bernie Leadon being a prime example.

It isn’t unfair to suggest that this first album is pretty much Peak Burritos, and it also contains much which one might consider to be Classic, including Side One’s two covers, “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” and “The Dark End of the Street“, both soul tracks written by Chips Moman and Dan Penn. The direction might be country music with a rock tinge, but “My Uncle” has anti-draft, anti-Vietnam hippy peacenik sentiments aplenty and the closing track, “Hippie Boy” is a counterculture response to the 1968 Chicago DNC riots. The track “Hot Burrito #2” is another terrific track, with Sneaky Pete excelling on spaced-out pedal steel guitar.

It is weird when a band’s first album overshadows everything that comes after it, but that is pretty much what happened with The Gilded Palace of Sin. Of course, as seems to be the case with seminal great albums, it hardly sold at all, but it did get approval from some of Rock’s heavy hitters, people like Keith Richards and Bob Dylan. The Burritos turned Woodstock down but toured America by train. This was due, apparently by Parsons having a fear of flying. The tour was notable for its chaotic nature, probably exacerbated by epic levels of boozing and drug-taking. The Flying Burrito Brothers did play at Altamont, but they managed to get off stage before the madness took over and the Hell’s Angels started their violent rampage through the crowd.

1970 saw the release of a second album, Burrito Deluxe which, inevitably perhaps fails to replicate the brilliance of the first album. Having said that though, Burrito Deluxe has a lot going for it. The album also contains one significant change in the band. Chris Ethridge had quit because 1) the band wasn’t successful and 2) he didn’t care for the heavy country bias in the band’s music. Chris Hillman reverted to playing bass with Bernie Leadon coming in as second guitarist. Burrito Deluxe is notable for containing the first recorded version of the Jagger/Richards song “Wild Horses“, and a very fine thing it is too. The album’s real problem is that the band’s own songs lack the quality of the songs on their debut. There are some good ones though, “High Fashion Queen” is a stand-out and the southern gospel song “Farther Along” also works well. The problem was really that Hillman and Parsons weren’t feeling inspired and their writing partnership wasn’t working anymore. Having said all that, Burrito Deluxe is still a better country rock album than we would hear from most of the bands who were influenced by the Burritos. The band were not particularly happy with its lack of commercial success, causing tensions to rise, leading to confrontation.

The song-writing fulcrum of Hillman and Parsons had a major falling out and, in a repeat of Parsons’ departure from The Byrds, Hillman fired him for a second time. Before beginning work on a third Flying Burrito Brothers album, Rick Roberts was hired to replace Parsons, who was now embarking on a solo career which was definitely country rather than country rock. Rick Roberts, his replacement was more rock than country and this was reflected in the music recorded for what would be released in June 1971 as The Flying Burrito Bros. Apart from three covers, most of the songs were Rick Roberts ones, with Chris Hillman relegated to a secondary role. If you listen to the album, what you hear is the sound which Bernie Leadon would replicate, with greater commercial success in The Eagles, the band he would soon form with Glenn Frey and Don Henley, two musicians he had got to know while working in Linda Ronstadt’s backing band in the summer of 1971.

The Flying Burrito Bros isn’t a bad album, in fact it is pretty much standard fare for early-70s West Coast pos-psychedelic country rock. The real problem is also the thing that makes it a not-bad LP. It isn’t too distinctive and it is, to be honest, a bit bland and lacking in excitement. The best tracks are “Colorado” and “Four Days of Rain“, both Roberts tunes, a Gene Clark cover, “Tried So Hard“, Merle Haggard’s “White Line Fever” and the Roberts/Hillman joint efforts “Just Can’t Be” and “All Alone“. Like both its predecessors, it was a commercial failure. Bernie Leadon wasn’t the only departure, with pedal steel guitar wizard also deciding that he’d had enough and that session work was more likely to pay the bills.

I don’t usually spend much time on bands’ live albums, but for the Burritos, their fourth release Last of the Red Hot Burritos is significant because it marked the end of original incarnation of The Flying Burrito Brothers. Also, it is a terrific live record. With Chris Hillman the only original member of the band left, and a touring commitment to be fulfilled, new members Al Perkins (guitars and pedal steel) and Kenny Wertz (guitars and banjo) joined Hillman, Clarke and Roberts and toured. After the tour was over, Chris Hillman and Al Perkins upped sticks and joined Stephen Stills in his new band, Manassas.

Last of the Red Hot Burritos is an album I pretty much grew up with. It was the first Flying Burrito Brothers album I heard and I loved it. I still love it. It has a vibe that never fails to make me happy. The presence of veteran country fiddler Byron Berline adds an interesting dimension to the music and the band mesh together really well. The album is a mix of classic Burritos material and country and bluegrass classics in “Dixie Breakdown“, “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down” and “Orange Blossom Special”, plus the Homer Banks song “(Ain’t That) a Lot of Love“, previously recorded by Taj Mahal and much later by S*mply R*d. The album also contains another great some previously recorded by Taj Mahal, the country classic Six Days on the Road.

A&M Records released Last of the Red Hot Burritos as the album that fulfilled the Flying Burrito Brothers’s original contract. Rick Roberts put a scratch band together to fulfil a European tour and then that was it.

The band was brought back to life periodically several times after this, but there is no reason to talk about those. I saw one version in the mid-70s in London. It was fine, a perfectly decent gig, but no one on stage gad been in the band previously. Effectively it was a FBB tribute act.

So, people might be wondering why I have written about a band that had no commercial success, whose albums were all worse than their first one and whose founding genius was kicked out of the band after their second album. Well, the reason is this; despite being unsuccessful at the time, they were so hugely influential on the development of 1970s West Coast rock , country rock, alt-country and actual mainstream country and western. Gram Parsons, despite his many failings has become one of those iconic figures, undervalued while he was alive but now seen as a wellspring of a certain attitude and”authenticity” in all manner of musical ways. He has become one of a select band whose reputation has grown massively, alongside people like Nick Drake and Syd Barrett, and bands like The Velvet Underground.

So, is there a Burrito Classic? Well, yes there is and it is THIS SONG HERE.

Album Of The Year – 1990

The football World Cup in 1990 brought us Gazza’s tears, Gary’s poo and Diego’s Hand Of God (Oh no it didn’t! That was in ’86 – Ed Fuel). It also brought us the first credible tournament record, New Order’s World In Motion. Even the FA had noticed Madchester and decided to try Hooky and co, instead of the embarrassing efforts of the past (I make no judgement on John Barnes’ rap…).

The Hacienda had been around for a few years and was starting to turn sour and dangerous but the Happy Mondays threw fuel on the fire with Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches, The Charlatans released Some Friendly and Inspiral Carpets released Life.

The indie movement(?) continued to morph, producing albums from the Cocteau Twins, Ride, Pixies, The Breeders, Sonic Youth and others. For me, Mazzy Star’s She Hangs Brightly, The Fatima Mansions’ Viva Dead Ponies and The Heart Throbs’ Cleopatra Grip took the prizes.

The oldies were still producing though, with albums from Neil Young, Little Feat, Megadeath, Judas Priest and Paul Simon among others. I was attracted to John Cale’s collaborations: Songs For Drella, with Lou Reed, and Wrong Way Up, with Brian Eno. The Grateful Dead released their last contemporaneous concert album and I went to see them in the October at Wembley: both events were disappointing. Because of my son’s determination to find music I hated (joke), I was also aware of Public Enemy’s Fear Of A Black Planet and records by LL Cool J, Ice Cube and A Tribe Called Quest. I even drove him and some mates down to London to see Public Enemy (see below for an explanation) later in the year.

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Earworms 27 February 2023

Good evening, and welcome to your selection of songs about places you’ve lived, as suggested by DebbyM. Also a warm welcome back to DsD; nice to see you in these parts.

If you have an Earworm you’d like to share, please send an .mp3, .m4a or a link to adempster73@gmail.com, together with a few words about why you’ve chosen it. Next week’s theme will be speakers, orators, chatterers and talkers, in memory of the late Betty Boothroyd whose death was announced today. You don’t get many Bettys to the pound.

Worms should reach me by close of play on Sunday 5 March. Many thanks to all contributors – stay sane!

The Mountain Goats – Genesis 3.23 – shoegazer: “So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.”

The Clash – The Guns of Brixton – Uncleben: I’ve lived in Oxford, Windsor, Canterbury, Manchester, Cambridge and Coventry. But I decided to settle down in Brixton 33 years ago because it has better songs written about it.

The Beatles – Penny Lane – DsD: I went to school (6th form) near one end of Penny Lane, and almost all of my teenage record buying cash went into Penny Lane Records’ till!

Shack – Streets Of Kenny – DsD: Not normally where you’d choose to live in Liverpool, but apparently on the up, and tessimmel (gordonimmel’s daughter) is a current resident.

The Christians – Greenbank Drive – DsD: I did quite a few of my driving lessons there, and around Sefton Park.

The Mighty Wah! – Heart As Big As Liverpool – DsD: Bombastic, enthusiastic, defensive AND in-yer-face; yeah this is me and my home city to a T.

Ian McNabb – Liverpool Girl – DsD: Yeah I knew plenty of these too BITD (albeit I’m too old for Cream)!

Les Yeux d’la Tête – Hamburg – DebbyM: An absolutely fantastic band live, I was lucky enough enough to catch them a couple of weeks ago at the final gig of their tour (Should anyone be in Paris in April, they’re throwing a party on the 14th and we’re all invited 😉 )

Kettcar – Landungsbrücken Raus – DebbyM: Landungsbrücken is the station down at the harbour and it’s where you take all your visitors for a stroll along the riverfront. Or you’ve just moved to your first flatshare in the big city and you stand there looking over the water in the pouring rain, nursing your broken heart.

Good Shoes – Morden – severin: Where I have lived for the past 29 years and not far from where I started off in Merton Park, I have sent this in before but it fits too well to leave out. They do try rather desperately to make the place sound like the mean streets though.

Merton Parkas – You Need Wheels – severin: They were from Merton Park and so was I. I don’t agree with their line about a ticket in your hand but so it goes. Features Mick Talbot (later of the Style Council) on keyboards. Last I heard, the singer was a chemistry teacher.

Imelda May – Can’t Say – severin: It mentions Shepherd’s Bush and I lived there in the early eighties.. And she’s a great singer. Off it goes to the Earworms then.

Stompin’ Tom Connors – Big Joe Mufferaw – tincanman: It is not true that my teenage tales of derring do in the Ottawa Valley inspired this song. But the places are all real and I did get up to stuff in most of them.

Fred Wedlock – Virtute et Industrial – Suzi: Although I’ve lived in a number of different places, for some strange reason not many of them have inspired songs (that I know of, anyway.) This song, written by Adge Cutler, is dedicated to all inhabitants of Bristol, past and present. I imagine that it will be an education for anyone not familiar with the Bristol dialect and the local habit of adding an ‘l’ to words wherever possible. There’s a theory that this is the origin of ‘l’ that ends the name of the city itself, since it was originally called Brygestowe, which by the 15th century had evolved into Bristowe. The song’s title adds the ‘l’ to the city’s motto, Virtute et Industria – by virtue and industry. More things to note – ’thee bist’ = you are, ’thee cass’ = you can, ‘gurt,’ = great (as in huge), ’tanners’ = sixpences. ’See thee down the Labour,’ refers to what used to be called the Labour exchange, now the Job Centre.

R.E.M. – All The Way To Reno – Fintan 28: I grew up In Sparks, Nevada which is an inch from Reno. There is however a profound difference in the towns. Reno is an illusion mostly and those who come to live there often get caught up in it. I met my wife in Reno, our first house was in Reno and my children were born in Reno. None the less I’m from Sparks. Proudly. R.E.M. do a fine job of plucking at the wrapping on this. Always remember the House has the odds.

Dean Martin – That’s Amore – Fintan28: I spent 7 months in Naples 69/70. It’s where I discovered wine, great bread and food as a pleasure. Not to mention Gelato. I loved all of it. I’ve loved this song since I was 5. It’s in my favourite movie Moonstruck. It just makes me smile. Viva Napoli. Scusi … Tarantella anyone?

Maja Bugge – Lullaby for Standedge Tunnel – LongTallSilly: The tunnel that connects my old home in Saddleworth with my current home in Kirklees. The longest, highest, deepest canal tunnel in England. (Also has a big kink in the middle as they tried digging from both ends, and missed! 🤣) Lovely cello sound deep underground.

The Spinners – In My Liverpool Home – DsD: One of my earliest singalong memories; album was in the house because there was some connection (my dad/work?) with Cliff Hall.

The Proclaimers – Streets of Edinburgh – MaggieB: Strictly speaking I lived a 15 minute bus ride south of the city but I loved the place.

Show of Hands – Paignton – Suzi: I have quite a few Show of Hands albums but not this one, which is an instrumental journey around the coast of the West Country. I have, however, lived in Paignton, and return there quite often, so here’s an evocatively seaside-y piece.

A Saddleworth Festival Overture Golf Richards Hosannah Leeuwarden – LongTallSilly: A change of pace, Saddleworth on Whit Friday is famous in brass band circles. 13 villages, 13 contests (blind judged) with cash prizes, coaches whizzing between the villages with bands from the most famous to junior start ups competing on a level playing field (or park bandstand) and most importantly a beer tent by every contest. There is something nostalgic about all generations getting wasted to the sound of brass!

Barclay James Harvest – Mill Boys – Long Tall Silly: I was born on the route of the number 12 (it went past the end of Sheepfoot Lane where Royal Oldham Hospital is) on its way to Tandle Hills where I played as a kid. BJH all lived in the villages where I moved to as a teenager, and we used to listen to their rehearsals at Diggle Youth Club!

New Model Army – Green and Grey – LongTallSilly: Another bus journey. This time along Thornton Road Bradford. A lovely long road from the heart of the city to Bronte country.

Show of Hands – Bristol Slaver – AliM: I was born in Bristol, and it still feels like home. I lived there for 20 years and went to school there. Like Liverpool, much of Bristol’s wealth came from the slave trade. You may remember relatively recent reports and discussion of the statue of Edward Colston being thrown into the harbour.

Winterbourne – Sunrise – AliM: Winterbourne hail from Australia, where I have never lived, but I did live in Winterbourne in Gloucestershire from the ages of 2-20. This is rather pleasant.

Roger Davies – Huddersfield Town – AliM: This is a very tender song about Huddersfield, my adopted home. Twenty-five years and counting. I know I’ve shared it before but I like it.

The Most Classic Song By David Bowie

I’ve tried to write this piece a couple of times in the past, but the sheer size and variety of his musical legacy is so incredibly daunting I never got very far. This time around, I am going to base my article on my belief that his Golden Years were all in the decade and a bit from 1970 to 1980. It is my opinion that this period was when all his themes, stylistic devices, obsessions and musical tropes were invented, synthesised and honed to perfection.

Between 1969 and 1980, Bowie gave us a number of enduring personae which seemed, at the time to express something about the man himself. He was Major Tom the Astronaut, The Man Who Sold The World, a Starman, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Halloween Jack, a Plastic Soulboy, the Thin White Duke, an extra-terrestrial (more than once), a Pierrot, Major Tom the Junkie and much more.

I am not being too adventurous or controversial when I suggest that the enduring thing about Bowie is that he is usually adopting the persona of an outsider, a detached observer and commentator and at the same time a totemic leader or shaman figure. His music, especially in the earlier part of this period often talks about beings from Somewhere Else who will replace the human species, Supermen, Lovecraftian Elder Gods and Aliens. He also plays around with themes of dictators, fascism, societal breakdown and even the end of the world. Paranoia, insanity, megalomania and the pitiless cruelty of the universe are never far away. Of course, as time passed, Bowie had plenty of experience of many of these themes, often due to his drug addictions and the god-like devotion he engendered in his fans.

I’m not going to critique all of his albums here, as I am sure that most people have at least a passing knowledge of most of them, but it is interesting to note that none of his albums were commercial successes until Hunky Dory and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars in the UK, with Ziggy being relatively commercially successful globally. His big commercial breakthrough was Aladdin Sane. Of course, he was a growing live phenomenon from Ziggy onwards, and by the time he killed the Ziggy character off, he was massive. Ziggy Stardust, of course was a shamanic pop god sent to save the world, based on Iggy Pop.

In many ways, Ziggy Stardust was Bowie as most people will always remember him, the androgynous, alien changeling with a dark glamour that both seduces and enslaves. The Aladdin Sane album, which was recorded and released before Bowie broke up the Spiders From Mars band, was Bowie’s first global success and, as usually happens, success definitely went to David’s head. He found it increasingly difficult to separate David Bowie from Ziggy, the Lad Insane. Life on tour was life fuelled by drugs and excess.

After Pin Ups (an album of covers) and Diamond Dogs, an album that emerged from Bowie’s abortive efforts to write a stage musical based on George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, Bowie left Glam Rock behind and produced Young Americans, an album that leant heavily on Soul and R ‘n’ B and which was fuelled by Bowie’s now heavy dependence on cocaine. It is probably fair to suggest that listening to the album represented a bit of a shock to a lot of Bowie’s dyed-in-the-wool Glam Era fans, as well as being the first time that many white rock fans ever heard Luther Vandross.

Cocaine was taking Bowie over, and his next album Station To Station, is a masterpiece of icy, alienated, paranoid delusions and megalomaniac intensity. It was during this period that Bowie seemed to many people to have embraced Fascism, something that he has always denied, saying that when he performed a character, that is all it was – a performance. Of course, paranoia and megalomania are hallmarks of a massive coke addiction.

Paradoxically, to escape the druggy madness, Bowie moved to France and then Berlin to live with Iggy Pop. Not a move that most people would have seen as a life-enhancing choice, but it seemed to work. Working with Brian Eno, he released his so-called Berlin Trilogy of albums, Low, “Heroes” and Lodger. Of the three records, only “Heroes” was completely recorded in Berlin’s Hansa Studios, with a few songs from Low also being completed there. Still, rock journos do love their legends and labels.

His last album of the period I am discussing was Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), which saw Bowie embracing New Wave and New Romantic ideas, as well as continuing to work with Brian Eno and Robert Fripp.

So, Classic Bowie? Where to start? Clearly, his earliest potential classic is 1969’s “Space Oddity“, but it isn’t really typical of his later work, even though Major Tom seems to have been one of Bowie’s favourite stock characters. Many people might see Hunky Dory‘s “Life On Mars” as his classic. It is certainly a huge epic thing, but I wonder if its modern popularity has more to do with the TV series of the same name than anything else. Could “The Man Who Sold the World” be classed as a classic? It was a hit for Lulu, but Bowie never released it as a single. Hunky Dory has a couple more contenders; “Changes” and “Oh! You Pretty Things” are possibles. Of course, Ziggy has quite a few Classic Contenders; I’d say that “Five Years“, “Soul Love“, Starman“, “Moonage Daydream” and “Ziggy Stardust” are definitely up there.

What about Aladdin Sane, though? It is often seen as a kind of coda to Ziggy, but it does have some tracks that might been seen as classic. The tile track is a possible, as are “Drive-in Saturday” and “Jean Genie“, but really, the songwriting isn’t that inspired. Diamond Dogs is an album that has grown in popularity, critically-speaking since 1974. The opening segue of “Future Legend/Diamond Dogs” is as arguably as good as anything on Ziggy and better than anything on Aladdin Sane and the centrepiece of side one, the extended “Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing (Reprise)” is not only epic, but also tipping a wink towards Bowie’s future musical plans.

Moving on to post-Glam Bowie, what do we have left? Young Americans gives us a few possibles, with the title track, “Fame” and maybe “Fascination“, but the sound world of the album is something of an outlier. Station To Station is another album that lives in its own world, but the songs are epic things, even though the album itself is so aloof it seems like Bowie didn’t really care if you liked it or not. I would say that the title track and “Golden Years” should be given strong consideration, especially the former.

Moving on the the “Berlin Trilogy”, where are the classic cuts? Three very good albums, but experimental, introverted and, I think, deeply personal for Bowie. Low is an odd record because Bowie is trying out a new way of working. There are instrumentals, ambient sounds, art rock tracks and an icy, detached beauty, but nothing I’d say was a Bowie classic song. “Heroes” is a different beast, though. The title track has CLASSIC running all the way through it. Elsewhere, the album continues the ambient soundscapes, art rock and experimentation of Low, but in a more focused way. I’m not sure that Lodger, an album I admire rather than love, is a happy hunting ground for classic cuts.

This brings us to the 1980s. I’ve already mentioned Scary Monsters, but I really need to include Let’s Dance in our selection. Both albums have obvious contenders for classic status in “Ashes To Ashes” and “Let’s Dance“, but both albums have other possibilities. The title track on Scary Monsters and the cover of the Tom Verlaine song “Kingdom Come” are worth considering.

Of course, some people might want to nominate songs from after my, admittedly arbitrarily cut-off point, and I think that both of Bowie’s last two albums, The Next Day and Blackstar have some excellent tracks, particularly the latter.

So, where am I going with this? To be honest, it has been a real struggle. My love of Bowie’s music makes it very difficult, I could pick almost anything, but I think I am going to go with a track that I think encompasses so many of the contradictions, complexities and different facets of one of the absolute greatest rock musicians the UK has produced.


Album Of The Year 2011

Photo by Felix Koutchinski on Unsplash

The year of the “Arab Spring” when citizens of various countries across the Middle East protested or rose up against their governments. People in Libya, Syria, Egypt, Tunisia and others Tweeted, blogged and shared videos in a very 21st century, social media fuelled phenomenon.

The year of a Japanese Tsunami caused by an underwater earthquake. Both of which events caused several meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant leading to contaminated water entering the Pacific Ocean. It was also the year of a nother disastrous earthquake in New Zealand which killed 185 people.

The year when “Occupy Wall Street” protests began in the USA and rioting broke out in Tottenham, London after the shooting of Mark Duggan by Police. The rioting spread to other UK cities in another example of protest being spread, in part, via social media.

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Earworms 20 February 2023

Good evening, and welcome to your songs about nothing.

The topic was wide open to interpretation and not particularly clear, for instance williamsbach interpreted ‘nothing’ as ‘anything you like’, which is a completely fair interpretation especially when it means including a track by Aretha Franklin. LongTallSilly went off down a black hole and discovered that “nothing” doesn’t exist, it’s actually quantum foam. I am a simple soul and I’ve been singing “Something Good” from The Sound of Music all week “Nothing comes from nothing / Nothing ever could…” and I shall be heartily glad to get it out of my head.

If you have an Earworm you’d like to share, please send an .mp3, .m4a or a link to adempster73@gmail.com, together with a few words about why you’ve chosen it. Next week’s theme will be Places you have lived, as suggested by DebbyM. Worms should reach me by close of play on Sunday 26 February.

Many thanks to all contributors, stay sane!

Zaz – Ces Petites Riens – DebbyM: (See header) Zaz at her best with just two guys and their strings accompanying her and I stumbled upon it on youtube when I was looking for the Serge Gainsbourg original.

Ivory Joe Hunter – Empty Arms – Fintan28: Reaching out for what makes your world go round and coming up empty. Whole buncha of nothing. But there’s hope to fill that void.

Neil Young and the Bluenotes – Coupe de Ville – Fintan28: Sitting there counting up all you have & it adds up to … Nothing … ” if I can’t have you I don’t want nothing else”.

Bruce Springsteen – The Ghost of Tom Joad – Fintan28: Woody Guthrie & John Steinbeck coming alive through another generation of people with nothing left but their clothes. The Boss just nails this.

Orbital – Nothing Left 1&2 – shoegazer: Orbital’s 1999 epic from The Middle Of Nowhere.

Jaimee Harris – Sam’s – tincanman: From Boomerang Town, Jaimee’s new album, her second. The theme isn’t new: small town America can trap you for life. But it’s better than most.

Chumbawamba – Buy Nothing Day – DebbyM: I tend to have several of these the second half of every month 😦

AnnenMayKantereit – Nicht Nichts – DebbyM: A very German pop song.

Ben E King – I (Who Have Nothing) – glassarfemptee: I seem to remember hearing this as a child (in Italian). Leiber and Stoller wrote completely different English lyrics. Since covered many times, but here’s the original ’63 release from Ben E King.

Billy Bragg – No One Knows Nothing Anymore – glassarfemptee: Billy Bragg is good at lambasting smart arses, “No one knows nothing anymore/Nobody really knows the score”. And this pre-dates social media and Trump.

Jackie Leven – Empty in Soho Square – glassarfemptee: Jackie Leven sings of his nadir, as a homeless drug addict.

Harry Nilsson – Pretty Soon There Will Be Nothing Left For Everybody – severin: So mind how you go. Originally from his Sandman album but I have it on a greatest hits compilation

Lauryn Hill feat D’Angelo – Nothing Even Matters – severin: Except loving this chap she’s singing to.

Ebony Alleyne – All For Nothing – severin: More a question than a statement. I’ll get the whole album into your .mp3 libraries eventually.

Grateful Dead – He’s Gone – Chris7572: My Deadhead friend Nick just died too soon, leaving a hole in many lives. This song became the traditional lament in Deadland, so it can mourn his passing too: “Like a steam locomotive rolling down the track/He’s gone, gone, and nothing’s gonna bring him back/He’s gone”.

Ghost Woman – Down Again – tincanman: Evan John Uschenko is a little more hit-and-miss on Anne, If, his follow up to last year’s self-titled debut as Ghost Woman. But he can still hit that hazy psych pop sweet spot like no other.

John Renbourn – New Nothynge – Suzi: My mother told me that her grandmother had a saying: ‘a lovely (?) new nothing to hang on your sleeve.’ Neither of them are still around to ask, and I’ve not been able to discover the precise meaning of this cryptic phrase. Anyway, here’s the former member of Pentangle with an instrumental which, naturally, doesn’t throw any further light on the subject!

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss – Nothin’ – Suzi: She’s leaving, he doesn’t want her to leave anything behind. Sorrow and solitude are the only things precious to him now. A Townes Van Zandt song.

Aretha Franklin – Dr. Feelgood – Williamsbach: For some reason, my wife purloined my Aretha Franklin Atlantic recordings cd to play in the car last week. Consequently, I have been whistling ‘Dr Feelgood’ (the song, not the band*) ever since. It’s such a great tight blues number in the proper r&b style (that’s why it’s called Rhythm and Blues, kids). Difficult to be certain which musicians are on it, since recording of the album it’s from – I Never Loved A Man The Way That I Love You – was shifted part-way through from Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals to Atlantic’s own place in NY. Even more confusingly, some of the Fame crew, a.k.a. the Swampers, known to pick a song or two according to Lynyrd Skynyrd, came up to NY to keep working on the song. A Dr Feelgood, btw, was the name given to a medical professional willing to prescribe – ahem – happy pills for a price. Aretha rejects all of that in the song, saying HER Dr Feelgood doesn’t need pills to cure every one of her pains and ills. Well, well…

Billy Preston – Nothing from Nothing – MaggieB and Williamsbach:

MaggieB: Good to see a band so happy about nothing 🙂

Williamsbach: Here’s a real ‘nothing’ song, but it’s probably already been suggested.  A real foot-jiggler to which I was introduced by a local band called ‘Electric Hat’.  In case that’s of any interest whatsoever…

Ben Prunty – Quantum Foam – LongTallSilly: Amazing what you find when searching YouTube!

Hawkwind – Black Elk Speaks – LongTallSilly: There is nothing to pray to but you.

Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody – LongTallSilly: Nothing really matters any more. A revelation when it made top of the pops! Songs don’t have to be 3 minutes and structured as standard to be popular, who would have thought it!

Seasick Steve – I Started Out With Nothin’ (and i still got most of it left) – LongTallSilly: Seasick Steve at his finest. As he says in the preamble, it’s a song about nothing.

Sheryl Crow – All I Wanna Do – AliM: “Apropros of nothing…”

Hollis Brown – Sweet Nuthin’ – AliM: Lou Reed cover.


Earworms 13 February 2023

Good evening, and welcome to your blooming wonderful collection of songs about wild flowers.

If you have an earworm you’d like to share, please send an .mp3, .m4a or a link to adempster73@gmail.com, together with a few words about why you’ve chosen it. Next week’s theme will be nothing – I leave it to your imagination – and worms should reach me by close of play on Sunday 19 February.

Many thanks to all contributors – stay sane!

Over the Rhine – Wildflower Bouquet – glassarfemptee: When she dies, Karin just wants a wildflower bouquet.

Mark Lanegan – Wild Flowers – glassarfemptee: The late lamented Mark Lanegan asks “Will you still be convinced wildflowers will be waiting for you” on this 1990 offering.

Charlene Soraia – Daffodils – glassarfemptee: Charlene Soraia was a contemporary of Adele and Kate Nash at the Brit School. This is from a 2008 EP.

Echo and the Bunnymen – Flowers – shoegazer: 2001 period Bunnymen – only Will & Mac left from the original four.

Gillian Welch – Acony Bell – Fintan28: Lovely song celebrating what makes our worlds go. The flash of the rose is nice but it’s the simple and plain keeps it all together. Brilliant stuff.

Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood – Some Velvet Morning – Fintan 28: To walk among “dragonflies and daffodils” can be perilous & bewitching. Or somesuch. Even Lee & Nancy weren’t quite sure.

Duke Ellington – Fleurette Africaine – Fintan28: This sensual and untamed little flower sends its roots cleverly round you to find it’s own spot amongst the other wild flowers.

Kathleen Ferrier – To Daisies – severin: 1905 setting of a poem by 17th Century poet Robert Herrick by British composer Roger Quilter. And sung by Kathleen on a 78 released in 1951. The other side of the disc was called “Now Sleeps The Crimson Petal” apparently…

Annette Hanshaw – Telling It To The Daisies (But it Never Gets Back to You) – severin: 1930 recording by “The Personality Girl”. Released under the pseudonym Gay Ellis which, according to Wiki, was used when she recorded “sentimental numbers”. But it also notes six other names that were used at various times, including when she was impersonating the style of other singers.

Keziah Jones – Walkin’ Naked Thru A Bluebell Field – DebbyM: Doesn’t everyone?

LaBrassbanda – Ringlbleame – DebbyM: Wearing wild flowers in her hair.

Travellers’ Joy – Jackie Oates & John Spiers – DebbyM: I just heard this by the English Fiddle Ensemble (who happened to mention it’s the name of a wild flower!) but I can’t find a clip, so we’re going with the wonderful Jackie Oates instead.

Laura Veirs – Black-Eyed Susan – Uncleben: I think the moral of this story is not to befriend wild flowers in the desert.

Sandy Denny – Sweet Rosemary – Suzi: Not about the herb itself, but about a young woman called Rosemary, who’s looking forward to her wedding day. She’s ‘gathering sweet primroses,’ perhaps to wear in her hair, or to decorate the tables for the wedding feast. Sandy sings beautifully as ever.

Tom Petty – Wildflowers – MaggieB: A sweet song and video from Tom Petty.

Bert Jansch – Wild Mountain Thyme – severin: Well it has flowers even if we know it better as a herb. And it does mention the blooming heather of course. And all the flowers of the mountain. And I do like Bert’s version.

Thin Lizzy – Roisin Dubh (Black Rose) – LongTallSilly: Is the black rose wild? I think so. At their best mixing Irish legend and rock. Such a shame that Phil Lynott died, a huge talent. 

Genesis – Supper’s Ready – LongTallSilly: Genesis at their most surreal (or all off their faces) Narcissus is a flower!
A young figure sits still by a pool / He’s been stamped “Human Bacon” by some butchery tool / He is you / Social Security took care of this lad / We watch in reverence, as Narcissus is turned to a flower…

Lana Del Rey – Violets for Roses – AliM: Two for the price of one.

The Wailin’ Jennys – Wildflowers – AliM: My latest favourite girl band.

The Most Classic Version Of A Burt Bacharach Song

I was relatively unsurprised by the sad announcement that Burt Bacharach had died at the age of 94. I was unsurprised because of his age but saddened because he was undoubtedly one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century. His songs have been covered by a massive range of performers and, to most of us, his work is part of our musical lives, often without us even knowing it.

Burt Bacharach with Dusty Springfield on the Burt Bacharach Show, 1970. Photo by: ITV/Shutterstock

I’ve chosen a photo of Burt with Dusty, because she was one of the very best interpreters of his songs. This piece is really all about the greatest interpretations of songs which in their own right are classics. What I am thinking about here are the most distinctive and brilliant versions, ones that stand out from the rest.

Burt Bacharach was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1928 but grew up in Queens in New York. He learnt classical piano as a child, but much preferred jazz and he used to sneak into jazz clubs as a teenager, at a time when bepop was The Big Thing.

He studied music at university in Montreal, in New York and in Montecito, California. He studied jazz and composition, as well as other forms. Among his teachers was the French composer Darius Milhaud, who Bacharach later described as his biggest influence. Bacharach plated in dance bands while doing his stint in the Army, both performing and arranging. Once free from the military, Bacharach worked with popular singer Vic Damone, as a pianist, arranger and conductor. Damone, in a later interview said, “Burt was clearly bound to go out on his own. He was an exceptionally talented, classically trained pianist, with very clear ideas on the musicality of songs, how they should be played, and what they should sound like. I appreciated his musical gifts.

Burt Bacharach worked for all manner of people, including Marlene Dietrich and also played at Catskill Mountains holiday resorts. He worked with Dietrich and toured with her until the early 1960s. However, in 1957 he teamed up with lyricist Hal David and became a Brill Building songwriting partnership, but with Burt also writing with others. Eventually though Bacharach and David become a proper musical partnership and wrote hundreds of songs together, with many of them being written for Dionne Warwick, who had many B&D hits. She had 38 hits with Burt Bacharach’s songs, 22 of them being Top 40 Hits.

Of course, plenty of other people have recorded Burt Bacharach’s songs. The list is huge and includes, in addition to Dionne Warwick and Dusty Springfield, Aretha Franklin, Manfred Mann, Tom Jones, Love, B.J Thomas, The Beatles, The Carpenters, Herb Alpert, The 5th Dimension, Elvis Costello, Diana Krall, Isaac Hayes, Sandie Shaw, The Walker Brothers, Perry Como, Gene Pitney, The White Stripes, Marty Robbins, The Drifters, Neil Diamond and many more. Burt also recorded his songs himself and released several albums.

I am sure that we all have favourite versions of his songs. Mine include Aretha Franklin’s “I Say A Little Prayer“, Bill Evans’ “Alfie“, Dusty’s incomparable “The Look Of Love” (one could say that nobody does it better), Love’s “My Little Red Book“, Dionne Warwick’s “A House Is Not A Home” and The Walker Brothers’ “Make It Easy On Yourself” but there is one song that always stands out as an epic, spine-tingling thing.

My Classic Burt Bacharach cover IS THIS ONE HERE.

Public service announcement. For folkies.

(Photo of Martin Carthy from diariodenavarra.es)

You may not be a great fan of folk music. You may already know all about this. In either case, feel free to ignore this post.

If, however, you live too far away to just pop round to the folk club of your choice (assuming the folk club of your choice survived the lockdowns), this just might be of interest for you.

When Folk Weekend Oxford was hit by Covid restrictions, the team decided to try offering music via zoom sessions. And it was welcomed, both by performers and audience. At some point last year I stumbled across an announcement that Martin Carthy would be playing a living room concert, which I could access online, and I was hooked.

No, it’s not the same as sitting in a club, breathing in the vibes. But it can be a decent substitute. It’s not free, but you only need one ticket per household and you can pay less than the standard price if you’re skint.

Sometimes the music is broadcast live from a gig, sometimes the musicians are in a living room of their own. There’s usually a question-and-answer session thrown in after the interval via the chat function.

Apart from Martin Carthy, I’ve enjoyed Jackie Oates & Jon Spiers, Nick Cope (my Little’Un loved him!), Granny’s Attic, the English Fiddle Ensemble; unfortunately I missed the Karine Polwart gig before Christmas. The sharper-eyed among us might notice the likes of Eliza Carthy and Becky Unthank joining in the chat.

Enough name-dropping for now? Interesse erweckt? Then pop over here for a butcher’s: https://livetoyourlivingroom.com/

Album Of The Year 1962

Where were you in ’62? George Lucas was asking that question a decade later in American Graffiti. Well in ’62, as the photo from April of 1962 shows, people were living it, even my 13 year old self. “Draggin’ Main” was a thing and even if I had to wait a few years to do it myself it was cool. Young Americans loved their cars and their Rock and Roll. Some thought it had been going down hill since Buddy Holly died but stuff was happening.

On the west coast that Surfing shit became a whole cultural thing complete with it’s own soundtrack, John Glenn was sent off the planet and was back before lunch, Robert Zimmerman went to New York and changed his name to Bob. Dylan that is. Marilyn Monroe died in August breaking hearts and leaving questions, Nelson Mandela was arrested leading to years of incarceration and eventual redemption.

October proved chock full of events that would entertain or haunt us to this day. Sean Connery introduced us to James Bond and 60 years on he might finally be dead (we’ll see), James Meredith became the first black student admitted to the University of Alabama and now we can’t teach that in places, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Wolf premiered on Broadway leading many couples to reevaluate their marriages, the Cuban Missile Crisis riveted the world for 13 days causing many to ponder their mortality and the afore mentioned Mr. Zimmerman to write a classic song. And something called The Beatles was making teenage girls twitch & scream while they did Love Me Do. November gave us the first episode of That Was The Week That Was changing the way news hit us and in December came the publication of A Clockwork Orange and the future looked??? Hmm?

If you were a Jazz fan it would be a fantastic year. Multiple offerings from the likes of Herbie Hancock, Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon , Art Blakey and Bill Evans, lead by John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, & Ella Fitzgerald with at least 4 each , dominated the charts. Even Kenny Ball had 3. The Rat Pack were there also. Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin made the charts several times. Dean had more with four. The Tornadoes went round the world with Telstar connecting all of us, Aretha Franklin made her first Television appearance and the world was introduced to Little Stevie Wonder. Not bad.

I had first one and then 2 paper routes. First time I ever had my own money. Major purchases were real Levi’s 501 jeans, real Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars, 2 pairs, One for school & 1 for the basketball court, (My Mom was appalled at the extravagance) and 45 records. Dancing & dances were the main social events in my town and a timely 45 was an invitation to a party. I remember having 45s from Chubby Checker, Little Eva, Dee Dee Sharp, Dion, Gene Chandler, Sam Cooke, Mary Wells, Ketty Lester, Lee Dorsey, Patsy Cline, The Marvelettes, Mr. Ackerbilt and Barbara Lynn. Albums were rare. I mostly had to wait until the next year and my introduction to the Columbia Record Club to have a fair number.

So, whether you were alive yet or not, what touched you from ’62?

Albums acquired since:

  • Ya Ya – Lee Dorsey
  • Blues Cross Country – Peggy Lee
  • Rambling Rose – Nat King Cole
  • College Concert – The Kingston Trio
  • Pure Religion – The Rev. Gary Davis
  • Etta James – Etta James
  • Joan Baez – Concert
  • Lawrence of Arabia: Soundtrack – Maurice Jarre
  • Twisti’ The Night Away – Sam Cooke
  • Surfer’s Choice – Dick Dale & His Del-Tones
  • Peter, Paul & Mary – Peter Paul & Mary
  • Green Onions – Booker T & The MGs
  • Bob Dylan – Bob Dylan
  • Modern Sounds In Country & Western – Ray Charles

Albums acquired that year:

  • Surfing Surfari – The Beach Boys
  • The Lonely Bull – Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
  • The Ventures Play Telstar & The Lonely Bull – The Ventures


My Mom was born and raised in Oklahoma & her cultural attitudes were mainly southern. That she liked Nat King Cole and Sammy Davis Jr. was somewhat radical in her parts. Ray Charles doing Country? Blasphemous. Still she bought it and I listened to it regularly. It’s an amazing piece of work and easily passes the bar for AOTY for me.

Earworms 6 February 2023

Good evening, and welcome to your selection of songs about rain. There’s a lot of the hard stuff out there.

If you have an Earworm you’d like to share, please send an .mp3, .m4a or a link to adempster73@gmail.com, together with a few words about why you’ve chosen it. Next week’s theme will be wild flowers of any variety.

Worms should reach me by close of play on Sunday 12 February. Many thanks to all contributors, and stay sane!

Shriekback – And The Rain – shoegazer: Shrieks get wet.

Idir – Pourquoi cette pluie – DebbyM: (I’m leaving Zaz for Fintan this week 😉).

The Running Mates – No Rain – DebbyM: Blind Melon cover by our (my!) favourite you-tubers.

Norah Jones – I Think It’s Going to Rain Today – DebbyM: I was going to suggest Randy Newman (and I very much expect somebody else will), but I came upon this cover by Norah Jones and I really like it!

David Crosby – Traction In The Rain – Fintan28: Really more about spinning one’s wheels in general. Still David Crosby’s voice is exquisite and the harp makes lovely raindrop sounds so it’s in.

Moby Grape – Sitting By The Window – Fintan28: Trying to conjure the rain to match his mood. Clouds in his heart & in his skies. Is she on the other side of the rain? Lovely melancholy.

Ann Peebles – I Can’t Stand The Rain – Fintan28: The rain claws at her heart just like it claws at the window. Memories. It’s just too much to take.

Money Mark – Rock in the Rain – Uncleben: While the world is always re-arranging, Money Mark (best known for his collaborations with the Beastie Boys) stays put like a rock in the rain. Which makes the song sound rather miserable, but it’s not.

Maddy Prior and the Girls – Rain – Suzi: ‘Don’t go inside, stay out and feel the water… let it cleanse and soothe you… let the rain fall all around you.’

Bruce Ruffin – Rain – severin: A rainy love song, also recorded by Jose Feliciano and many others.

Betty Hall Jones – I Never Miss The Sunshine (I’m So Used To The Rain) – severin: One way of looking at disappointment or misfortune. I had another song by her on a compilation which I wanted to send in last year for songs about wine. Couldn’t find the comp so I bought an album of her songs. This one was also on it. Great singer, songwriter and piano player.

Oysterband – After Rain – Suzi: ‘After rain/ We can walk in green fields once again/ And all my life I’ll read the sky.’

Guided By Voices – Cousin Jackie – tincanman: No idea who Cousin Jackie is, but I don’t need to know more than s/he can make it rain wine and whiskey. Robert Pollard’s latest, La La Land, sounds like what The Beatles might have grown into, so maybe Jackie is Uncle Albert’s kid.

Eliza Gilkyson – A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall (Dylan) – tincanman: The story I heard is Dylan didn’t want to waste his best ideas if the world was ending so he put them all in one song. Eliza gets it. Everyone else gets seduced by the chorus.

Alice in Chains – Rain When I Die – tincanman: This is supposed to be a love song, which, maybe, ok, could be, who knows? I picked it for the guitar tone, engineered by producer Dave Jerden’s signature blending of three amps.

Jake Thackray – The Rain On The Mountainside – Suzi: Yes, I know, I sent this one in around a year ago, for songs about February. Jake’s usually known for his comic songs, but this poetic tribute to the Yorkshire landscape and its people is worth another listen, I think.

The Imagined Village – Cold, Haily, Windy Night – Suzi: Chris Wood, Eliza Carthy and Martin Carthy with the rest of the band in this classic tale of a lady and a faithless soldier.

Scott Walker – It’s Raining Today – MaggieB: Couldn’t resist this one… I am always amazed at the perfect orchestration on Scott Walker songs.

Grateful Dead – Looks Like Rain – Chris7572: One of Bobby’s best songs, here played by a pig-tailed Jerry and a one-armed Bill in front of the Giza pyramids. The tempo is a little erratic but the Sphinx knows why…

John Martyn – Singing in the Rain – AliM: For DebbyM, though I love it too. From his beautiful 1971 album, Bless the Weather.

The Beatles – Rain – Suzi: Good grief, a Beatles song I’ve never heard before. It was on the B-side of Paperback Writer, which is in my music library, but this isn’t. I be fair mazed.

Willie Nile – A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall – LongTallSilly: For me proof that Dylan is a better writer than performer!

Bryan Ferry – A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall – LongTallSilly: Another one better than bobs! 🤣🤣🤘

Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie – When the Levee Breaks – LongTallSilly: Slightly less rocky than Led Zep. The original version.

Led Zeppelin – When the Levee Breaks (Alternate version outtake) – LongTallSilly: And the best version!!!

The Most Classic Song About Sickness

I’ve been a bit under the weather this week and my partner has been truly sick with a cold of utter vileness. It isn’t Covid, because we have done tests. This made me think about being ill and sickness in music. Sickness is often used as a metaphor for being in love in popular songs, e.g. “Fever” and “Shakin’ All Over” as well as being used in an actual medical sense and, of course, being ill can also be a terminal affair.

There are also many forms of sickness that are not about infection, e.g. hangovers, sea-sickness etc (as in the image above) and therefore I decided to write a brief post about songs that refer to being ill or sick (or even dead) in all possible ways.

I’ve already referred to two classic songs that use sickness as a metaphor for love or infatuation, but there are many more. Even Bob Dylan has used the link, not least on his “Love Sick” from the Time Out Of Mind album. However, there are also plenty of songs about actual sickness. These tend not to be too light-hearted, because they often end in death. Examples here are “T.B. Blues” by the country singer Jimmie Rodgers, who died of tuberculosis at the age of 35, Woody Guthrie’s “Dust Pneumonia Blues”, “Pneumonia Blues” by Lightning Hopkins and Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Bottle” about alcoholism. On a less serious note, there is always “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu” by Huey “Piano” Smith and many others. Tuberculosis seems to be a popular theme for sickness songs, and one of the most surprisingly harrowing is the early Van Morrison track “T.B. Sheets“, given the loose R ‘n’ B backing to what are seriously heartbreaking lyrics. Industrial diseases pop up too. June Tabor’s “He Fades Away“, about a dying asbestos miner is an obvious choice here.

I am hoping that there is, metaphorically-speaking something here for everyone this week. What would be your classic song about sickness, either a metaphor or as a real clinical thing? One I have mentioned or maybe something completely different?

I think that I am going to pick a track that follows sickness to its conclusion.


Album Of The Year 2003

Early in the year the Space Shuttle Columbia suffered a catastrophic failure and disintegrated in the skies above Texas. It was a very human failure, brought about by a combination of complacency and hubris, that took the lives of 7 astronauts and set the shuttle program in limbo several years.

In March American hubris led us to a far, far greater loss of life and national purpose. Darth Cheney and his partner Bobo the Chimp (AKA Bush) leveraged outrage over the 9/11 attack and launched an all out war on a country with no known connection to 9/11. British Poodle Tony Blair trotted along for the parade and the world was the worst for all of it. The French declined to be part of this charade and were severely chastised by the American right by having their food renamed Freedom Fries. The French continued referring to it as frites. And so it went.

The Volkswagen Beetle, on life support in Mexico for many years, finally came to an end. It had been a lingering death. An Austrian actor became Governor of California, Itunes launched a legal Mp3 marketplace, the Lord of the Rings – Return Of The King won 11 Oscars and still somehow missed out on Most Interminable Ending, The Concorde made it’s final supersonic crossing and (in a true sign of the end times) Sir Mick Jagger became a reality.

Fortunately there was music. Debut albums by Animal Collective, Kings of Leon, Amy Whitehouse, TV On The Radio, Arcade Fire, Beyonce and Kanye (hold my beer I’m changing my name) West made their appearance. Fine offerings by regulars like David Bowie, Radiohead, Neil Young and The White Stripes were at hand. And Warren Zevon gave us a graceful exit from life’s stage with The Wind. Even The Beatles hit the mark by finally scrubbing Phis Spector’s overindulgences from Let It Be excavating George Harrison’s guitar from the mud Spector tossed over it in the process. A great year for compilations with Sam Cooke and Nina Simone leading the field. So what tickled your fancy in 2003. Here’s mine.

Albums procured in the intervening years:

It Still Moves – My Morning Jacket

Veneer – Jose Gonzalez

Diamonds On The Inside – Ben Harper

Hello Starling – Josh Ritter

Soul Journey – Gillian Welch

Albums procured in the year:

Give Up – The Postal Service

Mambo Sinuendo – Ry Cooder & Manuel Galban

Trouble No More – John Mellencamp

Chain Gang of Love – Raveonettes

The Evening Of My Best Day – Rickie Lee Jones

What’s Wrong With This Picture – Van Morrison

Greendale – Neil Young & Crazy Horse

The Diary Of Alicia Keys – Alicia Keys

So Much For The City – The Thrills

The Wind – Warren Zevon

You Are Free – Cat Power

Let It Be Naked – The Beatles

Fever To Tell – Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs

Transatlanticism – Death cab For Cutie

Room On Fire – The Strokes

Elephant – White Stripes


Chutes Too Narrow – The Shins

Perfect and shimmering from start to finish. I was still playing it nearly everyday well into 2004.