Friday, 15 April 2016

My Top Ten Misunderstood Songs

I often feel misunderstood. I reckon this blog is very misunderstood. We try our best, but it's so easy to sow the seeds of misunderstanding wherever we go. This week - ten songs that feel the same.

Special mention to 60s psych-rockers The Misunderstood.

10. Pink - Missundaztood

It all goes back to Madonna. If Lady Gaga is David Lynch Madonna, then Pink Alecia Beth Moore is Riot Grrrl Madonna. To be honest, this isn't one of P!nk's best - it's pretty average pop-filler material, although it was the title track of her second album. It does sum up her character quite well... but she'd record far better pop songs as time went by.  

9. The Grapes of Wrath - Misunderstanding

Forgotten (by me, at least) Canadian alt-rockers of the late 80s, this was their debut single from 1985.

8. Mötley Crüe - Misunderstood

Yes! It's been far too long since I managed to find room for a decent slice of poodle rock on this blog. It's always good to piss off the musos (then again, maybe that's why I have so few readers... do they misunderstand me?)

This is pretty sedate and serious compared to the Crüe's usual excesses, perhaps because it comes from the era when regular lead singer Vince Neal had buggered off to go and play with race cars. His (as it turned out, temporary) replacement was John Corabi, a man who obviously took things a little more seriously. Or maybe the record company were just trying to reposition the band to capitalise on the success of Guns 'n' Roses at the time. I don't claim to be a poodle rock expert, but I don't mind a little mosh now and again.

7. Electric Soft Parade - Misunderstanding

2007 single from this extermely under-appreciated indie band ("psych pop", according to iffypedia) made of up Brighton brothers Alex & Thomas White. Sunshiny guitar music that's always worth a spin.

6. Wilco - Misunderstood

Here's an interesting one, as Jeff Tweedy takes on the perspective of a disgruntled fan, still bitter over the break-up of Tweedy's previous band, Uncle Tupelo. According to what I read on t'internet, anyway. It's all a bit vague to me, just what Jeff is whinging about. Good song though.

5. Gene Clark - Some Misunderstanding

Before Roger McGuinn took over (with a little help from Bob Dylan), Gene Clark was the lead singer and songwriter of The Byrds. Later, he released a number of unsuccessful solo albums which would become far more influential and critically acclaimed after his death. Clark always claimed the album this song comes from, 1974's No Other, was his masterpiece. Forty years later, the likes of Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear would surely agree. 

4. The Contours - A Little Misunderstanding

Great lost Motown nugget, co-written by Stevie Wonder (he also plays drums). The Contours are more well-known for their earlier smash Do You Love Me? (which, if you're my age, you'll probably have encountered first on the soundtrack to Dirty Dancing). The lead vocal is performed by Levi Stubbs' brother Joe, having replaced original singer Billy Gordon. He only lasted one song though before Dennis Edwards of the Temptations took over. Although Joe Stubbs' doesn't quite have his brother's pipes, I still think this sounds like prime Motown - it could well have been a Four Tops song.

3. Eric Church - Mr. Misunderstood

I kind of cocked up my Best Albums of 2015 countdown by including Eric Church's The Outsiders, which it later turned out had been released the year before. This, however, is the title track from the album Eric actually did release last year (he's a prolific bugger)... and damn, if it isn't even better.

Mr. Misunderstood starts out as a song about not being into the same music as your mates... something I presume most of the regular readers of this blog have experienced at one point or other in their lives.
Now, your buddies get their rocks off on Top 40 radio
But you love your daddy's vinyl, old-time rock and roll
Elvis Costello, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and think Jeff Tweedy is one bad mother
Mr. Misunderstood, Mr. Misunderstood
 (And now I have to go out and find me some Ray Wylie Hubbard.)

Typically for an Eric Church record, though, it then goes on to tell a much bigger story (which is probably why I like Church so much - he does love words, and he ain't afraid to use them). 

2. Richard Thompson - I Misunderstood

I saw Richard Thompson play live a few years back and I was mesmerised: he may well be the greatest guitar player I've ever seen up-close. But it wasn't the fretwork that originally made me fall for him, it was the dark yet heartfelt lyrics, of which this is prime example. Here he misreads a polite brush-off as an encouraging come-on... and by god, if we haven't all been there.
She was laughing as she brushed my cheek
"Why don't you call me, angel, maybe next week
Promise now, cross your heart and hope to die".

But I misunderstood, but I misunderstood, but I misunderstood
I thought she was saying good luck, she was saying good bye...
If the synthy 90s mix from the video doesn't quite push your buttons, try the rawer live version from a few years back. Shivers.

1. Elvis Costello - Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood

Originally recorded by Nina Simone in 1964 (and you've got to go some to beat her version), then perhaps most memorably by The Animals a few years later. The disco version recorded by Santa Esmerelda & Leroy Gomez that Quentin Tarantino appropriated for one of the Kill Bill soundtracks is also pretty cool (as you'll see above, they win top prize in the record cover contest). Most recently recorded by Lana Del Rey, a contemporary artist I used to have a lot of time for (the Chris Isaak Madonna?)... until she revealed herself to be a one-trick pony.

So why does Elvis Costello's 1986 cover from King of America take the crown for me? It's the voice. And the conviction. I believe every word he sings. Plus, I was a teenage Elvis Costello fan, and the records of your youth stay with you to your grave...
Baby, do you understand me now?
Sometimes I feel a little mad.
But don't you know that no one alive can always be an angel?
When things go wrong, I seem to be bad.
But I'm just a soul whose intentions are good:
Oh Lord! Please don't let me be misunderstood...

Which is your most misunderstood record? No prizes for saying 'Born In The USA' or 'The One I Love' by REM... that's an entirely different Top Ten.


  1. I've a couple of Ray Wylie Hubbard albums - I think you'll like him

  2. Can I pitch "Little Miss Understood" by Rod The Mod:

    1. Another new discovery... can't go wrong with a bit of Mike D'Abo.

  3. You missed the best "Misunderstood" song EVER!!!

    1. Fair play. I'd never heard that before, but I love it now. Thanks!


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