Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Name That Tune: Our Top Ten Ben Songs


These are The Bens, a super-group comprising of Ben Folds, Ben Lee and Ben Kweller, artists who all did time in my record collection before joining together like the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers into a huge unstoppable indie robot of destruction. Or something.

Ben Folds - Rockin' The Suburbs

Ben Lee - 10 Feet Tall

Ben Kweller - Careless

The Bens - Just Pretend

Anyway, they seemed the perfect choice to illustrate our choice of Ben, Benjamin and Benny songs, although you guys were also kind enough to suggest...

Jim in Dubai...

Little Benny & The Masters - Who Comes to Boogie


Jorge Ben - Taj Mahal (Unconsciously Plagiarised by Rod Stewart on Do Ya Thing I'm Sexy)


Benny - Die Wieder Frei (German Ca Plane Pour Moi)

There's German version!? Brilliant!

Then came Brian with these doozies...

Benny Profane (known by a few for the C86-era "hit" Hang Fire)

Couldn't find Hang Fire on t'internet, Brian, but I did find this one...

Benny Profane - Rob A Bank

LaBrenda Ben (lost Motown artist from very early '60s, beautiful voice)

LaBrenda Ben & The Beljeans - The Chaperone

Lost Motown truly is the gift that keeps giving.

Benny Benjamin (drummer, legendary Motown studio band the Funk Brothers)

The internet seems mostly convinced that Benny played drums on one of the greatest records ever made... any excuse to squeeze that in.

The Isley Brothers - This Old Heart Of Mine (Is Weak For You)

Bennie Benjamin (songwriter best known for Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood)

I doubt you'll object to me playing this version, Brian...

Elvis Costello - Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood

Benny Goodman ('nuff said)

Benny Goodman - Stompin' At The Savoy


What about The Swede?

If we're talking performers I'd go for Benmont Tench, who has played with all manner of people, not least Tom Petty and Bob Dylan.

He's pretty good on his own too...

Benmont Tench - Veronica Said

What about George? Well, he's obviously on commission from these guys...

Before anyone else gets there...........Benjamin and Barnaby Green, one of Portugal's top pop acts!

Benjamim & Barnaby Keen - Madrugada

And then there's my millennial hipster politico friend, Ben, who is way too young and cool to participate in blog-reading. He's of the podcast generation. Which, if you ask me, are just blogs for people too lazy to read. Anyway, Ben suggests...

Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie 

Ben's choice of song is a b-side ("because, of course...") cover of a Freedy Johnston song... 

Death Cab For Cutie - Bad Reputation 

I should take this opportunity to point out I have a Ben Gibbard live solo track in my hard drive (plus all the obvious Death Cab stuff) and it too is a cover...

Ben Gibbard - Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Anyway, more from my millennial hipster politico friend, Ben later.

At this point, I feel I should remind you all of the rules to this game. We're not after artists with the name Ben (although I'm happy to give them a mention if they're of the calibre of the Bens above)... but songs that feature them.

John Medd likes to have his cake and eat it...

Here's a twofer: 

Ben Webster - the best tenor sax player of his, or indeed any, generation - with Ben's Blues.

Ben Webster - Ben's Blues 

Here's another one from me... kind of.

André 3000 - A Life in the Day of Benjamin André

But what of the SONGS?

Here's some you suggested that didn't quite make the cut, starting with Martin...

I almost included that one in the Ten, just to annoy George.

The Swede?

Can't think of Focus without hearing...

“After the Identical Cocteau Twins, came the final act, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Focus.”

What have you got, Walter?

There are many Benny's around: 

Toy Dolls - Benny The Boxer

Madness - Benny Bullfrog

The Fall - Who Makes The Nazis?

Who makes the Nazis?
Benny's cob-web eyes!
Who makes the Nazis?
Bad-bias TV
Arena badges
BBC, George Orwell, Burmese Police!

That one did make me smile. Thanks, Walter.

Rigid Digit, meanwhile, has a contentious argument regarding good & bad...

The Good: 

Iron Maiden - The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg

The Bad: in We Didn't Start The Fire, Billy Joel (not Benny Joel) lists:

Buddy Holly, Ben-Hur
Space Monkey, Mafia
Hula Hoops, Castro
Edsel is a no-go

It runs to 4 verses before he realises that he's only got to 1963, so compresses the next 30 years into a single verse.

Now even if you didn't know (which you do) that Billy is one of my favourite artists, RD... well, I never understood the hate that's always thrown at this track. It's almost become cool to hate on it. But even though it's not Billy's finest hour, I will defend it to my dying day. It's a great pop song.

The bleedin' awful (although some may like it): that song by Wacko Jacko about a rat.

Yes, we'll get to that in a moment.

First though, here are the scrapings from my hard-drive...

I should stop right there, I know.

This week's runner up comes from Brian. It would have made the Top Ten on its title alone... had I been able to find a link to it anywhere online.

The Sugarplastic - Ben Takes a Walk to Lose Company and on the Way He Sees Some Ice Skaters

OK... onto The Top Ten...

10. Michael Jackson - Ben

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


As for Ben songs, I don't have much. Will there ever be a time when it's ok to enjoy MJ songs in a guilt-free manner? I always loved the rat song so hope it does end up in there but would understand why it might not.

What about my millennial hipster politico friend, Ben? If anyone can advise us on such a PC-minefield, surely it's him? Except... turns out it's a little more complicated than that.

I'm named after the Ben that Michael Jackson sang about in the 80s. 

Ouch. So you're named after a rat?

No, that sick kid who died in the hospital in the 80s.

Now I have to admit that I have no recollection of this myself, but my millennial hipster politico friend Ben claims that MJ sang the song as a tribute to a sick child back in the decade he was only born right at the end of. I did question what he knew of the 80s based on his tender years, to which he replied:

I use Boys From The Black Stuff and Robert Palmer as the two extremes, then just make assumptions about what goes in between.

(This is the kind of reply that makes me feel like Ben and I should do our own middle-aged loser vs. hipster politico podcast... however, the likelihood of me ever having the time to indulge in such fripperies seems zero.)

Anyway, the point is, I never really got an answer on whether it's OK to listen to Michael Jackson songs these days. So I'll play this instead...

Crispin Glover - Ben

I mean, you can't argue with George McFly, can you?

9. Lee Scratch Perry - Big Ben Rock

Thanks to The Swede. Didn't sound at all like I imagined it would. I like to be surprised.

On the subject of Big Big, Jim In Dubai gives us...

The Monochrome Set - Big Ben Bongo

Brian suggests...

Roddy Frame - Big Ben

While The Soul Of A Collector offers a favourite of mine from years gone by...

If we are allowed to include clocks in the figurin', then I am guessing there are a number of songs alluding to London's famous timepiece, the best of which I can come up with is:

The Beautiful South - From Under The Covers

It's 6.00am and even Big Ben
Is trying to get his head down for a kip
But no sooner is it down
And then it's on with dressing gown
For this city very rarely loses grip...

And how could we let Big Ben pass without mentioning this...?

Roger Miller - England Swings

(Be warned, if you click on the link you'll be whistling that all week.)

England swings like a pendulum do
Bobbies on bicycles, two by two
Westminster Abbey, the tower of Big Ben
The rosy-red cheeks of the little children

8. The Cryan' Shames - Ben Franklin's Almanac

Suggested by both Charity Chic and C, who adds...

Ah, Ben/Benjamin, my first love was called Ben, and I have fond memories of holding hands with him on a Summer afternoon. I was only six (and so was he, I hasten to add!)

As for songs - I brought Mr SDS (who is not called Ben) in on this one and he came up with a slice of '60s garage pop called 'Ben Franklin's Almanac' by the Cryan' Shames. None from me, I'm afraid.

7. Bobbie Gentry - Benjamin

Because Bobbie Gentry deserves a place in any Top Ten I can get her into.

6. Steve Earle - Ben McCulloch

Top suggestion from Charity Chic and Lynchie.

Goddamn you Ben McCulloch
I hate you more than any other man alive
And when you die you'll be a foot soldier just like me
In the Devil's infantry

5.  Veruca Salt - Benjamin 

This one was suggested by my millennial hipster politico friend Ben, who always insists he isn't a Benjamin himself.

I should point out that when I asked him to contribute to this post, I did tell him that the choice of name for this week was in no way down to him. Subconsciously, however, it probably was, since our ongoing text chats about music, film, comics and the occasional bit of politics (which I only pretend to understand) over the past few months have been one of the only things that have kept me sane. I should thank him for that. But I probably won't because neither of us do sincerity very well.

Ben's lyrical suggestion was this...

MF Doom - Is He Ill?

British born rapper who wears a Doctor Doom mask to perform and the song features the line:

Getting Benjamins like Nettenyahu

...speaking to the absolute corruption of Nettenyahu as the leader of the Israeli state whilst putting a spin on the traditional rap conceit of hustling, suggesting it's not always a good thing.

Don't worry, I didn't understand that either. But I do like that he wears a Dr. Doom mask. 

4. Ben Folds - Hiroshima (B-B-B-Benny Hits His Head)

Oh, look, it's that Ben Folds guy again. I don't feel too bad about featuring him twice (as I've long been a huge fan) because Alyson emphatically stated:

Ben Folds for the artist.

And Martin added:

Plus anything by the always-excellent Ben Folds Five.

This isn't actually by the Five, but it does owe more than a little debt to this...

(As does Ben's whole career, come to think of it.)

3. Elton John - Bennie & The Jets

I'll start with the obvious one, said Charity Chic, and indeed it was, so a few of you also suggested it. It's a great live performance, lyrically satirising the music industry of the 70s, with more than just a passing nod to Ziggy Stardust, I reckon, care of Bernie Taupin.

And if you don't like that, perhaps you'll prefer the Beastie Boys... ahem... "sloppy version"...

Beastie Boys - Benny & The Jets

(They changed the spelling, not me.)

2. Heavenly - Ben Sherman

Top of Brian's list and almost at the top of mine. Brilliant stuff.

He's saving up for a new Ben Sherman
He says he'd like to fuck Uma Thurman
I don't think that he'll get too far
With either those dreams
He's got his eyes on a pair of Pumas
He says I should cut my hair like Uma's
If he thinks I'd go along with
His sordid fancies

1. Shack - Streets Of Kenny

I've got to give this week's win to John Medd though. It's only a lyrical nod (in a song already featured in Kenny Wednesdays, way back when)... but what a song!

Looking for the boys again
Can't find Joe or Benny


Once again, there will be an obvious Number One. But what else can you find to fill out the 10...?


  1. Okay, the obligatory obvious ones first:

    The Beach Boys - Barbara Ann

    And, heaven help us:

    Aqua - Barbie Girl

    Lyrically, there's Hannah Hunt by Vampire Weekend, which has "In Santa Barbara Hannah cried, amidst those frozen beaches".

    And, er, Seatbacks and Traytables by Fountains of Wayne has "Is that Santa Barbara, I think I've been there".

    Oh, and there's Barbara by The Temptations.

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

    See how I've written all this obvious stuff with mentioning Streisand?

  2. 'Lady Barbara' by Peter Noone & Herman's Hermits. 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).

  3. 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. For a different kind of loveliness try 'Barbara Namkin Blues' by John Fahey.

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

  4. I've a plethora of Barbara soul singers but can't think of any songs other than a couple covered above

  5. 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.

    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.

  6. Barbie Girl?

    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

  7. Lyrically:
    Carter USM - Sherriff Fatman
    "Moving up on second base
    Behind Nicholas van whats-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"

    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"

  8. I think the obvious FoW song is Barbara H.
    Can also add:
    Twist Barbie by the Shonen Knife
    Cindy & The Barbi Dolls by Big in Japan (almost as bad as Aqua)
    If you could stretch it a little i could have also added Electric Barbarella by Duran Duran and Barbarellas by The Photos.

  9. Grant Hart had a song called Barbara on his Hot Wax album

  10. Took the time to listen to Benny Goodman’s Stompin’ At The Savoy - It was referenced in Chic’s Le Freak but didn’t realise until recently what that line meant.

  11. I remember Isaak Hayes with Hey You! Get of my mountain:
    You're just like my Ken and Barbie doll
    You dress up and play the game
    You're just like my Ken and Barbie doll
    Your name will never change

    Joni Mitchel - Snakes and Ladders:
    In a shopping mall
    Finally met the perfect girl
    She is all that matters
    The only one in all the world
    Like a Barbie doll
    Oh, love is snakes and ladders

    The Temptation - Barbara

    The Everly Brothers (beneath others) - Barbara Allen

    John Prine - Come back to us Barbara

    1. Thanks, Walter, a little late to be included in tomorrow's post now, but some will definitely feature.


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