Monday, 6 February 2023

Celebrity Jukebox #67: Barrett Strong

It didn't seem like two minutes since I was eulogising Lamont Dozier, when last week came the news of Barrett Strong's passing. The top song I played for Lamont is just as fitting here...

Norman Whitfield & Barrett Strong
Are here to make right every thing that's wrong

As a singer, Barrett Strong is best remember for the original version of Money (That’s What I Want), a song that would later be covered by both the Beatles & the Stones... not to mention The Flying Lizards. Berry Gordy claimed he wrote the tune, and removed Barrett's name from the songwriting credits... Barrett remembered it differently, but wasn't going to bite the hand that fed... even if it wasn't feeding half as much as it should have been.

Strong & Whitfield would get credit for many other classics though, including Papa Was A Rolling Stone, War, Wherever I Lay My Hat (with Marvin Gaye), and I Heard It Through The Grapevine.

But who, besides Billy Bragg, has paid lyrical tribute to Barrett Strong? Let's open up the jukebox and see.

Let's start with a "One-Man Punk Band" from Norway-via-West Virginia...

And if she wants to know what's wrong,
(Ask) my Tanqueray, and my Barrett Strong,
And if she lets me wait my turn
I'll show her all my 20 class A cigarette burns,

...and let's finish there too, more's the pity. Compared to Lamont, Barrett doesn't really get the lyrical tributes he deserves. Which I find odd, considering it's much easier to rhyme Strong that Dozier. So let's close with another Whitfield / Strong classic. RIP, Barrett.

Sunday, 5 February 2023

Snapshots #278: A Top Ten Edge Songs

I don't really have an opinion about The Edge. I mean, it's not as though he's the most annoying man in music. Although he does share a stage with him, and has chosen to do so for 40 odd years, which does make you wonder. Apparently they called him The Edge because of his weird shaped head. Not because he keeps edging out of the room whenever that egotistical dullard/blowhard he works with shows up. 

Anyway. Here are ten songs that have nothing to do with David Howell Evans...

10. Not Ralph, Veronica or Robert.

Not Ralph Waldo Emerson, Veronica Lake or Robert Palmer.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Knife Edge

Last time, I featured ELP here, back in Snapshots #78, Charity Chic was keen to point out that there was much more to Keith, Greg and Karl than just Fanfare For The Common Man. (Yes, you were, CC. Check here if you don't believe me.) That was April 2019. How time flies...

9. Invincible, like Elvis Costello's mouth 

Elvis Costello has a Mouth Almighty.

The Almighty - Over The Edge

8. A definite reason to be cheerful.

Ian's boy, obviously.

Baxter Dury - Picnic On The Edge

7. Ben's cursing Peter, due to a mix-up.

"Ben's cursing Peter" is an anagram.

I almost stopped myself this week, wondering "can you really justify featuring Bruce so often in these countdowns"? Then I reminded myself that this is my blog and I can do what I want. Maybe when I run out of anagrams... which doesn't look like being any time soon.

Bruce Springsteen - Darkness On The Edge Of Town

6. If you don't guess this one right, I'll call you a moderately insulting name. 

That's a pretty minor threat.

Minor Threat - Straight Edge

A song that gave its name to a movement wherein those taking part "refrain from using alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drugs, in reaction to the excesses of punk."

5. Mad as a...

Mad as a box of frogs, obviously.

A band formed by the members of the Yardbirds who didn't go on to greater things.

Box Of Frogs - The Edge

4. School of Aspiration.

Dream Academy - The Edge Of Forever

3. It's a Wonder, she's a thief.

Stevie Wonder nicks stuff.

Stevie Nicks - Edge of Seventeen

2. Fe+C.

The chemical symbol for Steel. Played by David McCallum in Sapphire & Steel.

David McCallum released four instrumental albums in the 60s, in collaboration with David Axelrod. As classically trained musician, McCallum composed many of the tracks and conducted the orchestra that performed then. His most famous track is The Edge, which has been repeatedly sampled in hip hop circles, most notably by Dr. Dre.

David McCallum - The Edge 

1. Bar.

What? You never had a Wham Bar?

(That picture really didn't need any words. The clue was in the image.)

A truly great pop song...

Edge on back this way next Saturday for more Snapshots...

Saturday, 4 February 2023

Saturday Snapshots #278

What are your plans for this weekend? Maybe you're Going Down To Liverpool... or you fancy Walking Like An Egyptian? Or perhaps you just want a rest before another Manic Monday. 

Before you get on with all that, here are ten pop stars to identify... and puzzle out the connection between their songs.

10. Not Ralph, Veronica or Robert.

9. Invincible, like Elvis Costello's mouth 

8. A definite reason to be cheerful.

7. Ben's cursing Peter, due to a mix-up.

6. If you don't guess this one right, I'll call you a moderately insulting name. 

5. Mad as a...

4. School of Aspiration.

3. It's a Wonder, she's a thief.

2. Fe+C.

1. Bar.

Close your eyes, give me your hand, darling... and I'll give you the answers tomorrow morning.

Friday, 3 February 2023

Neverending Top Ten #5.8: Pride

Sam had an excellent report at Parents' Evening. He's doing really well in school. He's also really good at sport and regularly scores goals in his football games.

Yet I've rarely been more proud of him than when he heard Air Supply singing Making Love Out Of Nothing At All on the car stereo and said to me, "this sounds like a Meat Loaf song, daddy".

Making Love... was written by Jim Steinman for inclusion on Meat Loaf's third album, Midnight At The Lost And Found. However, the record company refused to pay Jim's going rate, so the songs ended up going to other people. Meat would later record a lot of the tunes Steinman gave to other artists, but sadly never did a version of this one. It remains the best Meat Loaf song that Meat Loaf never sang. Bonnie Tyler did a pretty epic version though, which gives us some clue as to how it might have sounded on a Meat album. The original Steinman demo, with vocals by Rory Dodds, is also worth a listen, for completists.

As for Air Supply... well, their version sounds a bit beefier than their usual melodic soft rock fare. Probably because it's got two E Streeters, Roy Bittan (keyboards) and Max Weinberg (drums) on backing... not to mention a guitar solo from Rick Derringer, formerly of The McCoys, and a frequent collaborator with both Edgar and Johnny Winter. In 1983, Air Supply were held off the Number One position on the Billboard chart for 3 weeks by another Steinman composition some say was originally written for Meat Loaf (though Jim later denied this), Total Eclipse Of The Heart.

Sam might not know any of this just yet, but he was able to spot Jim Steinman's signature sound after only a couple of listens.

Daddy's lessons are paying off.

Thursday, 2 February 2023

Record Collection Recollections #5: Charity Cheek

I was off work for the last couple of weeks, dealing with the bureaucratic bunglings that accompany a bereavement. The last doctor to see my dad alive was off ill, so his death was referred to the coroner. There was lots of back and forth in order to get a death certificate sorted so that the funeral could go ahead as planned last Thursday (it did, thankfully). On top of that, the DWP (an initialism that always makes me picture Ian Paisley) recorded my dad's date of death on my mum's pension account, then tried to deny having done so and blame the mistake on "an external agency". Being that they were the only government agency I'd informed at this point, that was impossible. But once again, it took rather a lot of sorting out.

To take my mind off such matters, I went on a brief tour of the area's lesser-visited charity shops. It looked like slim pickings for a while (as opposed to Slim Pickens: I would have happily bought a copy of his 1977 album if I'd come across it); the first couple of shops I visited didn't have any CDs at all!

After a while, things started to improve. Hard times have forced me to sell off large sections of my CD collection over the years, so I'm always on the look out for cheap replacements... or even better, things I've never owned before. I hit a pretty good seam towards the end of my expedition, including albums by Michelle Shocked, the U.S. Girls, Cud, Kate Rusby, Lou Reed, Loretta Lynn, Emiliana Torrini and - best of all! - Gavin Osborn! Charity Chic would be proud.

I had a couple of amusing experiences along the way, including the lady who asked a colleague how much the CDs were (£1 each) who then tried to charge me £2 for an excellent condition copy of Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds because it's a 2 disc album.  I would have paid it, to be honest, but her colleague soon stamped down on that. And then, in the very last shop I visited (where I picked up some like-new compilations by Josh Rouse, Van Halen, Prince and John Fogerty), the young girl behind the counter was also unsure what to charge. I showed her the sign that clearly read "£1 each - 2 for £1.50" which soon cleared that up. As I was handing over my cash, she smiled and explained, "we don't sell a lot of these DVDs anymore".

Young people nowadays, eh? They don't even know a CD from a DVD... what hope is there?

Here's a track from the best of the bunch...

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