Friday, 7 October 2016

My Top Ten Songs About Magicians

After all that maths, time for a little magic...

There are, of course, hundreds of songs about magic and magic tricks, so I tried to specifically stick to songs that mention magicians in the title or specifically tell stories about magicians. So no Queen, Pilot, Lovin' Spoonful, ELO, Perry Como... or the Steve Miller Band. Not this time, anyway.

Special mentions to The Magicians and 4 or 5 Magicians (whose excellent Tom Waits Blues is worth tracking down if you can find it anywhere).

10. Jefferson Starship - Magician

There is a grey area, a twilight zone, if you like, between the psychedelic wonder of Jefferson Airplane and the 80s radio conquering might of Starship. This is that strange hinterland, the coccoon phase, the metamorphosis. Tread carefully...

9. Barenaked Ladies - Vanishing

 A track originally called 'Magician', all about a... well, y'know. And you're the one vanishing...

8. The Marvelettes - My Baby Must Be A Magician

Should probably save this one from my Top Ten Hypnosis Songs... ah, sod it, I'll just run it again then too. If you haven't fallen under its spell in the first ten seconds, there's no hope for you.

7. The Crookes - Yes, Yes, We're Magicians

It must be tough being a new band from Sheffield: you're instantly shouldered with the burden of being the next Arctic Monkeys, Pulp or Human League. Particularly if Steve LaMacq gets on your case.

The Crookes were cursed to fail in just such a way a few years back... and we've heard very little of them since. Shame, because this one was lovely.

6. Clifford T. Ward - Time, The Magician

If like me, you're tired of getting older, quicker, every day... CTW's song places the blame for our unhappiness squarely at the feet of that old robbing bastard with the hourglass.

5. Amy Rigby - Magicians

That Rigby woman again. Damned if I can get her out of my headphones.
You tell me life is just unfair
But I can hear that anywhere
Let's leave reality out of this shall we
No need to mention it it's always here
Stick the rhetoric with those old slick politicians
We're magicians
We make reality disappear...
4. Jason Isbell - The Magician

The former Drive-By Trucker is enjoying unprecedented solo success at the moment - he won Artist, Song and Album of the Year at the American Music Awards recently for his latest album, Something More Than Free. Deservedly so, it's one of the best records I've heard in the past 12 months.

This is from his debut solo record, Sirens of the Ditch, and the magic was definitely there back then too...
And I am an orphan man but ain't we all?
And I can make myself disappear
I am an orphan man but ain't we all?
And I could be somewhere worse than here...
3. Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip - The Magician's Assistant

I mentioned my love of Scroobius Pip over at A History of Dubious Taste recently and was pleased to hear that Jez agreed with me that (although, musically, Dan le Sac's beats weren't really our thing) Pip is a wordsmith par excellence.

The Magician's Assistant is the perfect example of that. It's a letter to an ex-girlfriend who may or may not have taken her own life, and it stops you in its tracks... if you can get past the whirling, blipping racket in the background. Which I can, easily. But I'd still rather have a guitar, piano and some real drums.

If you can't deal with the blips, here's Pip performing it unaccompanied.

2. Barton Carroll - Let's Get On With The Illusion

Barton Carroll is a new discovery... who's been hiding in my record collection for a good few years now. Maybe it's just me who does this, but I trip over so much music that interests me, from time to time I buy a record and don't get round to listening to it... for years.  This is from his 2010 album Together You & I, which I must have bought soon after its release but only became hooked on a couple of months back.

Carroll's a bit of an enigma: he doesn't even have a wikipedia entry, so lazy bloggers like me can't summarise his discography with one easy click. It took me ages to work out whether he was American or British (he sounds like a Yank, but some of his songs employ a very English vernacular: at times he reminds me of Richard Thompson, but other times he sounds nothing like that). I can't even find out the identity of the female singer who duets with him here. I did discover that he's now giving this album away for free on his website, and I highly recommend you take the time to download... AND LISTEN... to it!
And I’ll buy you a dress and a big diamond ring
And the vows that I conjure up won’t mean a thing
But if you can lower that curtain and get me to sing

(Him and Her)
I’ll take the magic, black or white
I couldn’t care less if it’s bona fide
Since you and I know love’s a lie
Let’s get on with the illusion
1. Prefab Sprout - The Old Magician

As time goes by, my appreciation for the last Prefab Sprout album, Crimson / Red, grows ever stronger. I love the early Sprout records, but this 2013 MASTERPIECE (let's not use that word lightly, fellow bloggers) is surely one of the most consistently excellent collections of songs released in the 21st Century. It confirms Paddy McAloon's place as a lyrical GENIUS (two-hyperboles-for-the-price-of-one, this week only).

The Old Magician works on two levels: as the story of an aging conjuror coming to terms with the fact that his best tricks are behind him... and as a metaphor for growng old itself. It's witty and heartbreaking at the same time, and it contains some of the best lines Paddy has ever written. I can't decide which is my favourite, but it's probably a toss up between the two highlighted below...
Lord have mercy and be kind
When our faculties unwind
Overlook the hat and gloves
The tired act that no-one loves
There was a time we produced doves

The old magician takes the stage
With sleight of hand he’ll disengage
As dignified as you’ll allow
He’ll take his last, his final bow
He’s lost all his illusions now

Remember: there was a time we produced doves...


  1. I'm so with you on Crimson/Red. Was my No. 2 album of 2013, and I still play it with regularity. Can't get over how good it sounds. This isn't Paddy hanging on to the past. Very contemporary.

  2. Very good - Just listened to CTW and like you want the Magician to slow down a bit. Don't know if it's down to revisiting old songs this year, but have been very conscious of how fast time seems to be passing nowadays and SO much I still have to do!

    1. Me too... such as writing about every record in my collection...

      Hahahahahahahahahaha..... (That laughter is hysterical.)

  3. If there is such a thing as a "Guilty Pleasure", then Clifford T Ward is the one for me.

    Another suggestion - Len Price 3: The Great Omani.
    Escapologist inspired by Harry Houdini, performed around Brighton and Bognor from the 1950s.
    His last stunt was performed in 2005 at the age of 90

    1. Nothing to feel guilty about over Cliff. Home Thoughts From Abroad is gorgeous.

      Like the sound of The Great Omani: sadly youtube let me down. I will endeavour to seek it out elsewhere.


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