Monday, 20 August 2018

My Top Ten Songs About Aretha Franklin

Following on from my Top Ten Aretha Songs... here's ten songs that namecheck the Queen of Soul and pay tribute...

10. Okkervil River - Famous Tracheotomies

The opening track to the new Okkervil River album does exactly what it says on the tin. It's a  song about famous people who've had tracheotomies. No, wait, it's a hell of a lot better than that sounds!

No, Aretha never had a tracheotomy. However...

Mary Wells, she was known as Motown's Queen
But laryngeal cancer left her unable to sing
They tried radiation, multiple surgeries
But she didn't have insurance and lost almost everything
Poor thing
But Diana Ross helped with her bills
Aretha Franklin tried her very best to help out Mary Wells
And Dionne Warwick did all she could do
And Mary Wells, she pulled through
For one more year or two

9. Le Tigre - Hot Topic

A song about all the different artists who inspired Le Tigre. Aretha shares some pretty offbeat company in these lyrics...

Gertrude Stein, Marlon Riggs, Billie Jean King, Ut, DJ Cuttin Candy, David Wojnarowicz, Melissa York, Nina Simone, Ann Peebles, Tammy Hart, The Slits, Hanin Elias, Hazel Dickens, Cathy Sissler, Shirley Muldowney, Urvashi Vaid, Valie Export, Cathy Opie, James Baldwin, Diane Dimassa, Aretha Franklin, Joan Jett, Mia X, Krystal Wakem, Kara Walker, Justin Bond, Bridget Irish, Juliana Lueking, Cecilia Dougherty, Ariel Skrag, The Need, Vaginal Creme Davis, Alice Gerard, Billy Tipton, Julie Doucet, Yayoi Kusama, Eileen Myles

8. Parliament - Chocolate City

In which George Clinton plans his ideal government...

And don't be surprised if Ali is in the White House
Reverend Ike, Secretary of the Treasury
Richard Pryor, Minister of Education
Stevie Wonder, Secretary of fine arts
And Miss Aretha Franklin, the First Lady

7. Dar Williams - Midnight Radio

Here's to Patti
And Tina
And Yoko
And Nona
And Nico
And me
And all the strange rock and rollers
You know you're doing alright
So hold on to each other
You gotta hold on tonight

6. Drive-By Truckers - Ronnie & Neil

A song about Muscle Shoals, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Neil Young, Otis Redding... and Aretha.

The history of Southern music in one 5 minute song.

5. Graham Parker - Obsessed With Aretha

You get a lot of girl singers obsessed with Aretha
You get a lot of little swingers wishin' they could be her
Some of those sisters can rock and roll
All god's children gotta little bit of soul
But not that much... no no no, not that much

4. Scritti Politti - Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)

Each time I go to bed I pray like Aretha Franklin

I never understood how exactly that made one a Wood Beez. Or what exactly a Wood Beez was.

3. Cat Power - Aretha, Sing One For Me

Me and my baby, we had a big fight
We ended our romance the same night
In an angry mood, he walked out the door
I said this song's going to an Aretha Franklin show

Hey, Aretha, sing one for me
Let him know our life's in misery
Will you sing a song that will touch his heart
And make him sorry that we are apart

2. Eric Burdon & The Animals - River Deep Mountain High

In which Eric and the lads rework Phil Spector's classic into a psychedelic monster, changing one specific line in the process...

I love you baby, like Aretha Franklin needs to sing

1. Rumer - Aretha

Possibly the most gorgeous tribute song ever written?

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Saturday Snapshots #46 - The Answers

If you're Crazy In Love with Saturday Snapshots, time to see if we can Work It Out together. Check On It below... 

(As part of my Aretha Tribute Weekend... which continues tomorrow... it seemed the right time to include Beyoncé, who surely owes her entire career to Aretha paving the way for her.)

Anyway, a full scale scrum took place yesterday morning just after 8.30 with Charity Chic, Lynchie, C - and even George (welcome back, George) fighting to see who could type their answers fastest. No, sorry, FBCB, there are no marks for neatness in the game... although I'm pretty sure you clinched the victory this week anyway. Alyson deserves credit for working out this week's stinkers - number 9 - a song I doubt anyone remembered (even I'd forgotten it) and number 3 (Martin or The Swede might have got that, but I seriously doubt it's in Alyson's record collection). Well done to you all, and thanks for playing as always...

10. Clashing with the cops... even though one of them was a cop - completely!

Clashing with the cops would be fighting with the law. Clashing because the Clash covered this song.

I'm going to have to stop using the police clue for Bobby after today... but it made more sense here than most times I've used it.

The Bobby Fuller Four - I Fought The Law

9. Donald plants citrus seeds on the White House lawn. What will grow there?

President Trump is a fool. The White House lawn is his garden.

Citrus seeds may grow into a Lemon Tree.

Fool's Garden - Lemon Tree

8. Move the pan so the babies don't get singed.

A Jamaican cooking pot / pan is called a Dutchie. This song was originally about drugs, but when this bunch covered it, they changed the lyrics so that it was about food instead. (Ironically, Dutchie then came to be drugs slang as a result.)

Babies would represent youth. Singed is a bad pun for musical AND burned.

This generation... rules de nation... with version!

Musical Youth - Pass The Dutchie

7. Plan a social gathering with this luscious nomad.

The name Wanda actual means "wanderer"!

And then there was Luscious Jackson.

Wanda Jackson - Let's Have A Party

6. Will you go out with me? Yes? What do your friends call you? Like your heavenly body? (Slap!)

Will you go out with me?

Go on then.


Yes. I Will Be Your Girlfriend.

What do your friends call you?

They dub me Star.

Like your heavenly body? (Slap!)

Dubstar - I Will Be Your Girlfriend

5. Throw the clairvoyant at that beauty spot.

Chuck the prophet at that freckle.

Chuck Prophet - Freckle Song

4. Char lady required for diminutive queen? You're not wrong!

The Queen is Elizabeth. A diminutive form of that is Betty.

If you're not wrong, you are right.

Char ladies clean up.

Betty Wright - Clean Up Woman

3. Hugh shares a sweet affection for the Go-Betweens' favourite actress.

Hugh Hefner.

The Go-Betweens' favourite actress would be Lee Remick. This is a completely different song though...

Hefner - Lee Remick

2. Why stand on the Big Bad when you could be going on David Copperfield's rug?

Why step on a big bad wolf when you could be riding on a magic carpet? (Originally I wanted to make that Paul Daniels' rug, because that would have been funnier, but I didn't know how well he'd be known internationally.)

Steppenwolf - Magic Carpet Ride

1. Stooping to pick up a Scouse bracelet.

Explains itself, surely?

Martin did a post recently about music videos that stop the music unexpectedly half way through. There's a great example here, courtesy of Mr. Leonard Nimoy...

If I Were A Boy... or even a Naughty Girl... I'd come back here next Saturday for some Déjà Vu. See you then.

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Saturday Snapshots #46

Still paying our Respects to the Queen of Soul, here's ten clues designed to make you Think... can you identify the artist and song for each one? Of course you can, you're no Chain of Fools!

10. Clashing with the cops... even though one of them was a cop - completely!

9. Donald plants citrus seeds on the White House lawn. What will grow there?

8. Move the pan so the babies don't get singed.

7. Plan a social gathering with this luscious nomad.

6. Will you go out with me? Yes? What do your friends call you? Like your heavenly body? (Slap!)

5. Throw the clairvoyant at that beauty spot.

4. Char lady required for diminutive queen? You're not wrong!

3. Hugh shares a sweet affection for the Go-Betweens' favourite actress.

2. Why stand on the Big Bad when you could be going on David Copperfield's rug?

1. Stooping to pick up a Scouse bracelet.

I Say A Little Prayer that you'll join me for the answers tomorrow morning...

Friday, 17 August 2018

My Top Ten Aretha Franklin Songs

RIP, Aretha Franklin. After some consideration, here are my own personal favourites. I won't try to justify them beyond saying that I was a child of the 80s - which will explain two of these entries... Who's Zoomin' Who could well have been #11.

10. Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves (with the Eurythmics)

9. Spanish Harlem

8. I Knew You Were Waiting For Me (with George Michael)

7.  I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)

6. Chain of Fools

5. Rock Steady

4. (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman

3. Think

2. I Say A Little Prayer

1. Respect

Thursday, 16 August 2018

2018 Contenders: Egg & Daughter Nite, Lincoln Nebraska, 1967

When it comes time to compile my Top 18 of 2018 in December, you can pretty much guarantee that  you'll find the latest album from John Prine somewhere very near the top. There's a warmth and wit to this record unlike anything else I've heard this year, and every song feels like an old friend.

The album kicks off with a new entry into the pantheon of great screen door song (I still intend to do a Top Ten of those one day), a great bluesy lost love lyric, followed by a sweet little duet with Brandi Carlile, I Have Met My Love Today. It's the kind of love song you'd think it'd be impossible to write these days, given the weight of 80+ years of popular love songs that precede it, but Prine makes it look easy. Similarly, if you're going to write a new song called God Only Knows, you better make it a belter. And he does. (That's got Jason Isbell on backing vocals too - even more bang for your buck.) Then comes The Lonesome Friends of Science - the end of the world as we know it, but John feels fine...

Poor ol' planet Pluto now
He never stood a chance no how
When he got uninvited to
The interplanetary dance
Once a mighty planet there
Now just an ordinary star
Hangin' out in Hollywood
In some ol' funky sushi bar

My favourite track has to be this one. It's parenthetical titled is (Crazy Bone), and that probably gives you more of an idea of what it's all about. S-e-x. From being a horny teenager to a randy old man in a nursing home. It also contains my favourite verse of the year thus far...

Don't be stuck up in Alaska
When you should be in Nebraska
On a Thursday when it's Egg & Daughter Nite
When the farmers come to town
And they spread them eggs around
And they drop their daughters down at the roller rink
Well you're prob'ly standin' there
With your slicked-back, Brylcreem hair
Your Luckies and your daddy's fine-tooth comb
If they knew what you were thinkin'
They'd run you out of Lincoln
Just blame it on that ole' crazy bone

I've seen a few critics calling The Tree of Forgiveness "John Prine's last album", and considering he's 71 (as old as Johnny Cash got), this is his first album of original songs in 13 years, and he's been dodging the bullet healthwise recently, I guess I can understand why they might write that. But I dearly hope it isn't so, because when we do lose John Prine, we'll have lost one of the greatest songwriters to ever walk the earth. Still, at least he knows what he's going to do when that day finally comes...

When I get to heaven, I'm gonna shake God's hand
Thank him for more blessings than one man can stand
Then I'm gonna get a guitar and start a rock-n-roll band
Check into a swell hotel; ain't the afterlife grand?
And then I'm gonna get a cocktail: vodka and ginger ale
Yeah, I'm gonna smoke a cigarette that's nine miles long
I'm gonna kiss that pretty girl on the tilt-a-whirl
'Cause this old man is goin' to town

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

My Top Ten Auteurs Songs...

...can be found over at The Vinyl Villain today, where JC has kindly allowed me to indulge myself over the next three weeks with a trio of tributes to the great Luke Haines in the form of three Imaginary Compilation Albums.

Please visit The Vinyl Villain if you haven't been there already today for Part 1.

Meanwhile, here's a track I didn't have room for... one of many!

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Hot 100 #71

The band SR-71 (named after a Lockheed fighter plane) have actually featured on this blog before as they recorded the original version of my favourite Bowling For Soup Song, 1985. They also had a couple other minor hits, most notably Right Now. Worth a listen if you like the early noughties American guitar band sound of Blink-182 et al.

Songwise, the number 71 proved much trickier for you guys. In fact, this is the closest this feature has yet got to...

Alyson tried her best with '71 I Think I'll Make A New World by the Magnetic Fields, from one of my favourite albums of last year, but as I may have mentioned when I began this feature many, many weeks ago, I'd ruled that album out; otherwise I could have featured one of its songs every week so far. Each track on the album is about one year in Stephin Merritt's life, so I could have chosen this glorious gem for '78 or this belter for '77 or this euphoric classic for '76... well, you get the picture. Time will sadly run out for this as an option come '66 Wonder Where I'm From, the opening track on 50 Song Memoir. Until then, you're welcome to suggest them even though technically they're disqualified.

The only other suggestion this week came from Rigid Digit - and yes, it was another one that could have satisfied multiple entries on this countdown: Saturday Gigs by Mott The Hoople...

In Seventy-one all the people come
Bust a few seats but it's just in fun
Take the Mick out of Top of the Pops
We play better than they do

That one's only got a couple more weeks to run too.

What else did I find lurking in my record collection for Number Seventy-One then?

The final track on the album Black Cadillac by Roseanne Cash is called 0:71. The record was written while Cash was dealing with the recent loss of her mother (Johnny's first wife, Vivian Liberto Cash Distin), stepmother (June) and father, but 0:71 isn't actually a song... it's 71 seconds of silence. One second for every year of Johnny's life. A cool tribute, but hardly a "song" I can choose to represent 71 in the Hot 100.

Fortunately, I didn't have to rely on it because I also found this, from the late Jason Molina's second band (his first was Songs: Ohia). Some nice, laidback Americana for a Tuesday morning...

Which brings us to 70. Hopefully there'll be less tumbleweed next week, though I still expect some Mott The Hoople...

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