Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Kenny Wednesday #3 - Love, Shack

Nowhere in the rules does it state Kenny Wednesdays always have to involve a person called Kenny. Today, it's an area of Liverpool (L6) where the Quarrymen made their first recording.

Famous sons of "Kenny" include Ian McNabb; David Morrissey; Joe, Mark and Paul McGann; and the Head brothers, John and Michael, otherwise known as The Pale Fountains... and Shack. Which brings us to this little love letter to the Heads' hometown, from Shack's 1999 masterpiece, HMS Fable...

3. Shack - The Streets of Kenny

Monday, 20 February 2017

The Top Ten Songs I Hated When I Was A Kid... #2

...but like or love now.

It's time to get Nutty.

2. Madness - Baggy Trousers

I was 8 years old when Madness released the single that defined their "Nutty Boys" image. And at my junior school, the tough kids loved it. They'd jump up and down in their junior DMs, pulling your hair and encouraging you to eat dirt in honour of their favourite song. I've always hated bullies, so it follows that I'd hate their music too... especially when they were ramming it down my throat. Along with their fist.

As the years went by, I grew to like and respect Madness, although their greatest moment was a Labi Siffre cover, and I still find Suggs annoying. Listening to Baggy Trousers now though, I can appreciate the witty observational detail of the lyrics, particularly, "all the teachers in the pub, passing round the Ready Rub". But it still makes me feel a little of that 8 year old's anxiety, the fear of the school bully. Ironically, I got off lightly at junior school: I suffered far worse at high school, by which time Baggy Trousers was a distant memory.
Oh what fun we had
But at the time it seemed so bad...

Sunday, 19 February 2017

February #3 - A Bad Year For Rock 'n' Roll

At the end of 2016, there was one thing that every blogger I read agreed on. And now Chuck Prophet's put that to music, on this lead track from his new album, Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins...

3. Chuck Prophet - A Bad Year For Rock 'n' Roll

'Nuff said.

Friday, 17 February 2017

My Top Ten Science Song Songs Volume 2: Physics

This week's science lesson is on Physics. Take notes in your books; there will be a test.

10. Landscape - Einstein A-Go Go

Let's start with the father of modern physics... and some classic oddball synthpop from 1981.

See also Einstein On The Beach by Counting Crows which you probably won't like as much as Landscape... though I do.

9. Jim White - Objects In Motion

Jim White finds a suitcase full of old love letters floating in a river... and starts getting metaphysical.

From the album Drill a Hole in That Substrate and Tell Me What You See... which shows Jim also has an interest in geology, I guess.

8. The Verve - Space & Time
We have existence and that's all we share...
More metaphysics from Tricky Dicky Ashcroft. Or Mr. Smiley as I like to call him.

This whole album is very evocative for me of '97 / '98, when the world still seemed full of endless possibility... and aching loneliness. I could probably write more about that, but it has very little to do with physics, so I'll save it for another post.

7. They Might Be Giants - Particle Man

Forget Einstein. This is what genius sounds like.

6. Pixies - Distances Equals Rate Times Time

And this is how you create a great pop song in under one minute twenty seconds. 

Missing from my Maths Top Tens because I thought it to do with Physics.

5. Nick Cave - Higgs Boson Blues

In which Nick Cave drives his car down to Geneva to teach you some particle physics.

If I'd had a Physics teacher like Nick Cave, I'd have got higher than a D.

4. Big Audio Dynamite - E=MC2
I like a bit of a cavort.
For years, I thought the dialogue sampled in this song were Michael Caine.

It's actually James Fox from Nic Roeg's Performance.

But you knew that.

3. Ooberman - Physics Disco

The only song I own which actually features Physics in the title. 

Ooberman are one of My Top Ten Unsung Legends of Pop. They should have been bigger than Oasis.

2. Billy Bragg - Qualifications

OK, so the top two songs are only tenuously connected to Physics, but both brag about a qualification in that particular field of science... and both of them make me smile a lot whenever I listen to them.
So what's the point in university?
For three years I read philosophy
Now I read barcodes all day long

Beep-beep-beep sings that check-out song
With my qualifications
Talking bout my qualifications
Would you like to see my Ph.D.?

I gotta First in Physics so I ought to know
If your fries are for here or to go
1. The Undertones - My Perfect Cousin
He's got a degree in Economics
Maths, Physics and Bionics
No wonder he's his mother's little golden boy...

Not the obvious Number One, but indisputably the best song on here. 

 Which one makes you want to get physics-al?

Thursday, 16 February 2017

February #4: Who's The Boz?

A nice bit of Boz for you today...

4. Boz Scaggs - Alone, Alone

Boz Scaggs is a difficult artist to pin down. A founding member of the Steve Miller band, he went on to a successful career as a solo artist in the 70s, developing a smooth, soulful sound at times not a million miles away from the jazz-rock stylings of Steely Dan.

Dig a little further back into his catalogue though, before the hits started coming, and you find a more varied sound, case in point: today's offering, the alt-country vibes of Alone, Alone from his 1971 album, Moments. Shades of Gram Parsons on this track written by Santana bassist David Brown.

I can honestly say I've listened to this song over and over and even studied the lyrics online... and I really can't say what Boz's message is here. Is it that no matter how many friends we have, we're all inevitably alone? Or that everyone feels alone and doesn't appreciate the friends they've got? Or that no matter how well you know someone, you can never know how lonely they feel? It's certainly got me thinking... and the mournful steel guitar matches the tone of the lyrics well, as does the album cover.

Plus: Boz Scaggs. Great rock 'n' roll name or what? His real first name is William (so is mine: though I only ever use it at work, all my friends know me by my second name, the one you guys know me by), but I was pleased to discover that Scaggs is his actual surname. Suggestive of an old, worn out guitar case that's been on the road too long...

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Kenny Wednesday #2 - The Gambler

No, we're not back to Kenny Rogers. Not yet. (Although The Gambler is a great song.)

Instead, for the second Kenny Wednesday, I bring you... Kenny G!

(No, not that one. Yet.)

2. Kenny Gamble

This Kenny was one half of the legendary songwriting partnership Gamble & Huff. Kenny & Leon (Huff) also formed Motown rival Philadelphia International Records and pioneered the Philly sound. They're the men responsible for many, many classic soul standards, including If You Don't Know Me By Now, Backstabbers, Me & Mrs. Jones, Show You The Way To Go and When Will I See You Again?

But there are two Gamble & Huff compositions which stand out above all others to me, and I really couldn't choose between them... so I'm going to play you both...

The first one reminds me of being a teenager, when I was neck-deep in my first full-on Motown phase. It also reminds me of a teenage crush, unrequited love... you know the sort of thing. But this was the song which could turn that around. The rules were all right there in the lyrics, I just had to follow them one step at a time...
I'm gonna do all the things for you
A girl wants a man to do, oh baby
I'll sacrifice for you
I'll even do wrong for you, oh baby
Every minute, every hour
I'm gonna shower
You with love and affection
Look out it's comin' in your direction...

The restraining order still stands, thirty years later.

And then there's this, which I discovered quite a bit later. A charidee record, released in 1977 when the New York City dustbin men went on strike... it led on to a lot more socially-conscious work for Gamble & Huff, putting their money back into regenerating parts of Philadelphia to really clean up the ghettos Gamble grew up around...

That really is an All-Star line up: Teddy Pendergrass, Archie Bell, Billy Paul, The O'Jays, Dee Dee Sharp... and the peerless Lou Rawls doing that incredible spoken intro.

Monday, 13 February 2017

February #5: Goodnight, Al

5. Bob James, David Sanborn & Al Jarreau - Since I Fell For You

Farewell then to Al Jarreau, who passed away on Sunday, aged 72. I won't pretend to be the biggest expert on his work (I'm not going to attempt a Top Ten), but there are two recordings of his I will treasure forever. Both are from the soundtrack to the TV show Moonlighting, and I've explained my teenage obsession with that show in previous posts. Of course, Al recorded (and co-wrote) the Nile Rodgers-produced theme tune, which brings memories flooding back whenever I hear it. But there's another, lesser-known song he also recorded for the soundtrack which I love even more.

Since I Fell For You was written in 1945 by Buddy Johnson and has been recorded many, many times since by everybody from Van Morrison to Glen Campbell, Fontella Bass to The Rascals. But though I've heard a number of other versions, nothing comes close to this collaboration between Al Jarreau and jazz heroes Bob James and David Sanborn. And that's all down to the first time I heard it...

Towards the end of the third series of Moonlighting, the "will they, won't they?" dynamic between Cybil Shepherd and Bruce Willis was reaching its peak. Episode 11 was titled Blonde On Blonde, and it is possibly my favourite episode of any television show ever. A bold claim, perhaps, but I vividly remember the first time I watched it, my reaction to the final scene, and how fortunate I felt to have recorded it on VHS so that I could watch it again and again and again... until the tape wore out and I had to buy the series on DVD.

In the episode, David Addison (Willis) becomes insanely jealous when he realises his business partner Maddie Hayes might be heading off to find a stranger for a one night stand. He follows her all across town to "protect" her, but ends up following the wrong blonde and gets arrested for a murder he didn't commit in the process. Willis has never been funnier and Glenn Gordon Caron's script is bursting with cracking one liners I now know off by heart. While in the police station holding cell, David meets the "wrong" blonde he's accidentally been following who confesses to the murder herself and also persuades David to tell Maddie just how he feels. Released from custody, David hot foots it over to Maddie's house late at night, in the pouring rain, to profess his love. As he knocks, he - and the viewers - feel the weight of three season's build up... and then, Mark Harmon opens the door.

This is the moment teenage Rol sat up in bed and screamed at the TV: "Nooooo!"

Fade up Al Jarreau over the closing credits...

Moonlighting ran for another couple of seasons and I loved every episode, even the duff ones, but it was never as good as this again.

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