Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Name That Tune: Our Top Ten Barbara Songs

No surprises who introduces us to this week's post. Here she is with Neil, showing us how showbiz should be done...

Barbra Streisand & Neil Diamond - You Don't Bring Me Flowers

As you might expect, this Babs gets name-checked all over the place (in a surprising number of rap tunes, for one thing). 

Alyson says...

A DJ duo called Duck Sauce recorded something called Barbra Streisand in 2010 sampling a Boney M song. Truly terrible but it was big hit.

Duck Sauce - Barbara Streisand

Ms. Streisand also pops up here...

T-Rex - Observations 

Livin' in the car, make it to the bar
We'll meet up with the guys who
Make love to Barbara Streisand
Then we'll all split the scene
Make it like a dream
West Side Brighton, or we're just ridin'
Turn on the chicks and then we'll blow our kicks
And we'll fly high

And, best of all, here...

American Music Club - All Your Jeans Were Too Tight 

You and I brawl
To give me all your clothes
But all your jeans were too tight
And why did you paint your bathroom black
I can understand liking Barbara Streisand
But I'm not sure about the soundtrack from Diva

But back to Alyson...

Other than the obvious Barbra (whom I adore, especially when she sang Guilty with Barry Gibb - there is an excellent clip when she introduces him and he appears from the darkness, a vision in his tight white trousers - 'It oughta be illegal'), there is Barbara Dickson.

This Barbara worked for my friend's dad as a junior civil servant in Rosyth before becoming famous. Quite liked her early stuff and Answer Me is one of the few songs I can sing quite well, as no high notes.

Is there any end to your famous connections, Alyson?

I hope you won't mind that I picked this one as it stuck in my mind from a very young age... I suspect I have Mr. Wogan to thank for that.

Barbara Dickson - January, February

Still, as Charity Chic points out, there are many other famous singing Barbaras...

I've a plethora of Barbara soul singers...

Barbara Acklin - Am I The Same Girl?

Barbara Pennington - 24 Hours A Day

Barbara Lynn - You'll Lose A Good Thing

Barbara McNair - It Happens Every Time

Barbara Randolph - I Got A Feeling

Barbara Jean English - I'm Living A Lie

And let's not forget...

Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin - It's My Party

Barbara Mandrell & George Jones - I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool 

Barbara Jones - Just When I Needed You Most

Barbara Keith - Detroit Or Buffalo

And they were just the ones I found on my hard-drive.

But what of the Barbara songs?

Let's start with this week's elephant in the room, shall we?

Heaven help us, says Martin...

Aqua - Barbie Girl

I listened to one second of that and it was enough to bring back nightmares. And Rigid Digit agrees...

I'll happily never hear that song again having spent a weeks holiday with 4 daughters under 10 singing it constantly.

I still get shivers.

I should probably have not suggested Barbie... I'm not even sure it is derived from Barbara. Still, while we're here, can we find a decent Barbie song?

Jim in Dubai thinks not...

Big In Japan - Cindy & The Barbi Dolls 

(Almost as bad as Aqua.)

Still, Jim does also offer this, which is a hell of a lot better...

Shonen Knife - Twist Barbie

And I also found these, each one better than the last...

Pink! - Barbies

Little Jackie - Black Barbie

Dolly Parton - Backwoods Barbie

Rialto - Broken Barbie Doll

However, Rigid Digit wins the prize for best song to mention a Barbie... although it's a bit of a stretch.

Carter USM - Sherriff Fatman

Moving up on second base
Behind Nicholas van what's-his-face
At six foot six and a hundred tons
The undisputed king of the slums
With more aliases than Klaus Barbie
The master butcher of Leigh-on-Sea
Just about to take the stage
The one and only - hold the front page

Stay with Rigid Digit, but moving on to actual Barbaras...

Pere Ubu - Nonalignment Pact

Carrie Ann
And Betty Jean
And Sue
Barbara Ann
It's all because of you
It's all because of you girl

Although I do have to disqualify that under the Song For Whoever Rule. Sorry, RD.

What else did you have for me this week? 

Let's ask C...

Herman's Hermits - Lady Barbara 

A sweet song, and Peter Noone was so sweet-faced too (my big sister had such a crush on him she used to cry whenever he came on the telly).

Reminds me of listening to Brian Matthews, Radio 2, Saturday mornings. As for Peter and his Hermits... well, they don't make album covers like this anymore, do they?

For a different kind of loveliness, says The Swede (from whom, more in a moment) try...

John Fahey - Barbara Namkin Blues

Meanwhile Martin also offers...

The Temptations - Barbara

Lyrically, there's... 

Vampire Weekend - Hannah Hunt 

In Santa Barbara Hannah cried, amidst those frozen beaches

And didn't We Are Scientists have an album called Barbara?

Apparently so. I have no idea why.

We Are Scientists - I Don't Bite 

Jim in Dubai adds...

If you could stretch it a little, I could have also added 

Duran Duran - Electric Barbarella 

The Photos - Barbarellas

(That last one was on my longlist, Jim.)

Finally, you'll be be glad to know that my millennial hipster politico friend, Ben, found himself dragged back into making suggestions again this week... even though it wasn't all about him. I don't expect him to stay around since I'm sure he'll be distracted by some other bright shiny things very soon. Young people today. Etc. Still, while he's here, I'm happy to share his ideas... 

Regina Spektor - Chemo Limo

Oh my god, Barbara
She looks so much just like my mom

Because that was on my longlist too. Along with...

Johnny Cash - The Ballad of Barbara

Rufus Wainwright - Barbara

Aerosmith - Major Barbra

Dolly Parton - Barbara On Your Mind

Bobby Vee - Please Don't Ask About Barbara

Peter Frampton - Barbara's Vacation

That's pretty awful. I only include it to show there are worse Barbara records than Duck Sauce or even Barbie Girl. I mean, it's almost as bad as this...

Ringo Starr - English Garden

Barbara and me in our English garden.
Barbara, buster and me in our English garden
(and you too Monty) in our English garden.

Better lyrical offerings came from...

Boz Scaggs - You Got Some Imagination

Lean and mean, Barbara Jean
You got a mind like a tattle tale magazine
So stop your scheming you must be dreaming
To think I'd fall for you
You got some imagination

Adam Green - Crackhouse Blues

Now the captain ran for cover when the steamboats crashed
Driving off the bridges cause they got no class
Barbara's got my number, now I've got to run
Pizzas to deliver in the crackhouse slum, you know

Bobby Bare - A Million Miles To The City

Well, how far away is the city? 

You know that's a great big town

And Barbara said why it's a million miles 

And then the story got around

Brad Paisley - Celebrity

I'll get to cry to Barbara Walters when things don't go my way
And I'll get community service no matter which law I break
I'll make the supermarket tabloids, they'll write some awful stuff
But the more they run my name down the more my price goes up

Melissa Etheridge - You Can Sleep While I Drive

We'll go thorough Tucson up to Santa Fe
And Barbara in Nashville says we're welcome to stay
I'll buy you glasses in Texas a hat from New Orleans
And in the morning you can tell me your dreams

And finally this, which came very close just because it's The Hold Steady...

 The Hold Steady - Don't Let Me Explode

Saint Barbara I'm calling your name. 
Don't let me blow up.
We'll hook it all up. 
I guess there's fields of speed where there's fields of grain.
Saint Barbara don't let me explode. 
I can feel the whole scene starting to corrode when we're fooling around on the frontage roads.

But there could only be ten.

And here they are...

10. Father John Misty - Leaving LA

I'm starting the countdown with this one just to bait my millennial hipster politico friend, Ben, who texted earlier in the week to tell me:

New Fleet Foxes album is awful. There, I saved you some time.

I'll make up my own mind about that, thank you very much. 

The worst thing that could ever come from Foxes? I Love You, Honeybear.

Undaunted in the face of his youthful denunciation, I do like me some Father John Misty. As has been previously established here. I'm sorry, but lyrically, this is right up my cross-section...

My first memory of music's from
The time at JC Penney's with my mom
The watermelon candy I was choking on
Barbara screaming, "Someone help my son!"
I relive it most times the radio's on
That "tell me lies, sweet little white lies" song
That's when I first saw the comedy won't stop for
Even little boys dying in department stores

9. The Everly Brothers - Barbara Allen 

The Swede says...

Shirley Collins has recorded the ballad 'Barbara Allen' at least three times over the years, most recently for her latest LP 'Heart’s Ease', but I'd personally go for the 1968 version from 'The Power Of The True Love Knot', featuring her sister Dolly's ghostly flute-organ accompaniment. 

Shirley Collins - Barbara Allen

But, with a song as old as this, there were many different versions to choose from, and I found the Everly's harmonies a little easier on the ear. Sorry about that, Swede

I was even tempted to go with this version...

Frank Turner - Barbara Allen 

Charity Chic adds:

Emmylou Harris' Going Down to Harlan also references Barbara Allen...

Emmylou Harris - Going Down to Harlan

And if you were Willie Moore
And I was Barbara Allen
Or Fair Ellen all sad at the cabin door
A weepin' and a-pinin' for love
A weepin' and a-pinin' for love

8. Pavement - Rattled By The Rush 

Winning the Rhyme of The Week award, hands down...

Getting off, on the candelabra
We call her Barbara
Breeding like larva

7. The Boomtown Rats - Diamond Smiles 

Before saving the world and losing his cool in one go, Bob Geldof was a great pop star. This is one of my favourite Rats songs that wasn't a Number One. Plus it mentions Barbara Cartland, so any excuse...

Everybody tries,
It's Dale Carnegie gone wild,
But Barbara Cartland's child
Long ago perfected the motionless glide.

6. Grant Hart - Barbara

Grant Hart had a song called Barbara on his Hot Wax album, says Swiss Adam, who's still kicking himself for missing the first post in this series. Never mind, this is a cracking track that more than makes up for your absence there, SA.

Barbara, always avoids unpleasant situations
She rides right next to me, between the streetcar stations
Her knees are big and bony, she takes up all the cushions
Barbara, always avoids unpleasant situations

And I just added Grant Hart to my Requires Further Investigation list. Even before I realised he used to be in Hüsker Dü.

5. Shirley Brown - Woman To Woman

Shirley finds Barbara's name & number in her husband's pocket and makes a call that basically says: Back off, Bitch.

As a sweet soul ballad, of course.

4. John Prine - Come Back to Us Barbara Lewis, Hare Krishna Beauregard

It's John Prine. I'd happily give John Prine a honorary position in this chart every week.

I gotta shake myself and wonder
Why she even bothers me
For if heartaches were commercials
We'd all be on TV

3. Fountains of Wayne - Barbara H

Martin suggested Seatbacks and Traytables for another Santa Barbara reference... 

Is that Santa Barbara? 
I think I've been there

It's a fine song, but I felt there was a more obvious song from the FoW guys.

So did Jim in Dubai. 

I think the obvious FoW song is Barbara H.

2. Flight of the Conchords - We're Both In Love With A Sexy Lady

Came very close to topping the chart this time, especially as it's about both a Barbara and a... erm... Brabra.

This was also the first suggestion to come through from my millennial hipster politico friend Ben... so there's obviously a reason I keep him around.

1. The Beach Boys - Barbara Ann

As Martin said, this was the "obligatory, obvious" Number One.

Not a Brian Wilson original, it was originally recorded in 1961 by The Regents. There are similarities to the more famous version, but it also sounds very much of its time. The Beach Boys version (with Dean Torrance from Jan & Dean sharing an uncredited lead vocal with Brian) is timeless.

There's a purity to early Beach Boys recordings that is unmatched in the entire sphere of popular music.

A pretty hyperbolic statement, no?

Listen to this and tell me I'm wrong...


(We may need a bigger boat.)


  1. First thought was Charlie Daniels Band - The Devil went down to Georgia and Charlie Cunningham with You sigh.

    Then The Clash appeared in my mind with Charlie don't surf
    Red Hot Chilli Peppers - Charlie
    The Coasters - Charlie Brown

    Lightnin' Hopkins - I'll Be Gone:
    Do you know your rolling mill is burnin' down?
    Mister Charlie
    Do you know your rolling mill is burnin' down?
    Mister Charlie said if you ain't got no water boy
    Just let that old mill burn on down
    Little boy was lonesome, he walked off and cried, he said--

    Toy Dolls - Charlies's Watching
    Sparks B.C.
    My name's Aaron
    Hers is Betty
    Our boy is a Charlie, so the neighbors sing "hooray for ABC"
    ABC forever, each endeavour that I do, I do to keep together

    Jeff Beck - Come Dancing
    When Charlie speaks of Lester
    You know someone great has gone
    The sweetest swinging music man
    Had a Porkie Pig hat on
    A bright star
    In a dark age

    And a song from my very younger days by German folk musician Hannes Wader - even it is named Charley

  2. Goodtime Charlie's Got The Blues by Danny O'Keefe. It's been covered by Dwight Yoakam, Willie Nelson and (my favourite version) Waylon Jennings.

    About another 20 cover versions of that song.

  3. Here's Waylon's version:


  4. Rickie Lee Jones - Chuck E's In Love - does that count as a Charlie song?

  5. Impressed by the relatively obscure T.Rex song featured in this post, I'll suggest 'Charlie', an early Marc Bolan acoustic demo. It would also be remiss of me not to mention 'High Water (For Charley Patton)' by Bob Dylan.
    As for performers, I'll go for the great Charlie Rich. His solo piano version of 'Feel Like Going Home' is one of my Desert Island Discs.

  6. Another sweet '60s song from me for this one: Charlie and Fred by The Hollies.

  7. The Prodigy - Charly Says

    REM - Man On The Moon
    "Mister Charles Darwin had the gall to ask"

    Smiths - Queen Is Dead
    "I said Charles, don't you ever crave
    To appear on the front of the Daily Mail
    Dressed in your Mother's bridal veil?"

    The Band - Up On Cripple Creek
    "To Lake George, Louisiana
    Little Bessie, girl I once knew
    And she told me just to come on by
    If there's anything she could do!

    And for the artist: Charlie Harper - leader of UK Subs, 112 years old, and just completed the alphabet with the UK Subs 26th album Ziezo

  8. Artust: Prince Charles and The City Beat Band.
    Song.McCarthy did a song called Chalres Windsor

  9. Charlie by Split Enz
    When I Kiss You I hear Charlie Parker Playing by Sparks
    Charlie's in the Garden by The Retro Spankees
    Charlie Girl by Hefner

    1. Argh, I can't believe I forgot Charlie by Split Enz; we've been on a bit of a Split Enz fest in this house lately! (I have developed something of a crush on Noel Crombie - who doesn't like a man who can play the spoons?!)

    2. You can't go wrong with Split Enz, always preferred them to Crowded House, some of those 70's video were brilliant, enjoy your Enz Fest :-)

  10. One more: Charlie by Scrawl.

  11. I have two today! I had to retire in defeat the last few weeks as I had nothing new to suggest by the time I got on board. But this time there are a couple of what I consider really worthy songs in my collection that have not been mentioned yet. First off, there is The Low Anthem, with "Charlie Darwin", the (more or less) title track of their 2008 album. A fine slice American indie folk which may go over well with some ears around here if any are not familiar with it.

    Secondly, from my personal favourites of all time, the Trash Can Sinatras (or if you prefer to be up with the times, Trashcan Sinatras), there is an obscure b-side in the back catalogue entitled "Charlie's Atlas", with deliciously satirical lyrics full of their usual brand of wordplay and cutting linguistic cunning.

  12. Don't think anyone's mentioned Charlie Brown yet by The Coasters. It was written by Lieber and Stoller and I've just discovered the first song they wrote, called Hard Times, was recorded by an artist called Charles Brown - Not sure if that's just a coincidence or not.

    As for the artist - There's Chas of Chas and Dave fame, although possibly breaks a rule. Another duo is Charles and Eddie who it seems were at the No. 1 spot when I was on my honeymoon in 1992 with Would I Lie To You. Bit of trivia: They performed the song at Bill Clinton's inaugural ball in 1993, which was ironic considering the pickle Bill found himself in down the line re Ms Lewinsky.

  13. Maurice and Charles and a track called I, Carpenter which pays homage to Escape From New York.

  14. F.S.K. - The Wall "two more miles to Checkpoint Charlie

  15. For lyrics i can add Oliver's Army by Elvis Costello.
    "There was a checkpoint Charlie, he didn't crack a smile"


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