Monday 25 November 2013

My Top Ten Lullabies...

...with the word "Lullaby" or "Lullabye" in the title. Because there are plenty more songs I could (and probably will) wade through to accomplish the same end.

I'm kinda getting sick of the lullaby CDs we first got to play to Sam at bedtime. The version of Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star is particularly offensive as the singer insists on over-pronouncing the word "diamond" as "DOY-MOND" and it grates every time we hear it. Sam has yet to be annoyed by it, but we'll soon teach him. We also bought some lullaby versions of Queen, Elvis and Guns 'n' Roses songs (thanks to Deano for pointing us in their direction!) which go down quite well, even though Louise claims to only know two Guns 'n' Roses songs... someone else in need of education. I'll learn them both by the time I'm done.


10. Dixie Chicks - Lullaby

See, the Dixie Chicks aren't just there to stick two fingers up to George Bush and kill off Dennis Franz.

9. Brad Paisley featuring Alison Krauss - Whiskey Lullaby

Speaking of my favourite TV actor, here's one of his former partners, Ricky Schroder, meeting a sticky end courtesy of Brad and Alison.

8. Billy Joel - Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)

I don't know why Billy Joel decided to pack in songwriting 20 years ago. He still tours but it seems he didn't have anything else to say, which is a great shame because I was a huge fan growing up. This is from his last ever album, River of Dreams. It's a simple piano ballad, the kind of thing he excelled at... the kind of thing I wish he'd write again.

7. Alice Cooper - Lullaby

Because we all need a little Alice to send us off to the land of nod. This is from his ridiculously pompous 90s concept album collaboration with Neil Gaiman which, at the time, I thought was pretty pants. A recent reassessment has led me to consider it a barking kind of genius. My critical faculties are obviously fading along with all my other bits.

6. Patti Scialfa - 23rd Street Lullaby

Here's why Patti deserves to be known as more than just "Mrs. Springsteen".

5. The Pogues - Lullaby of London

MacGowan's love/hate lullaby for a capital city as shabby, shameless and spectacular as he is.

4. Tom Waits - Midnight Lullaby

Early Tom Waits, from the days before he started gargling with razor blades. Should you prefer the latter to send of off to dreamland, try this instead: Lullaby.

3. Starsailor - Lullaby

I  always felt the critics were unkind to Starsailor: they wrote some cracking songs and singer James Walsh had a proper rock star voice. Listen to this again and give them a second thought.

2. The Cure - Lullaby

Mad Bob can't sleep because Spider-Man is having him for dinner. If he really sleeps with that much lipstick on, he must have to change his pillowcases every morning.

1. Shawn Mullins - Lullaby

And this is why I will never be cool...

There were plenty more lullabies in my collection (Birdland came close)... but which one sends you off to dreamland?

Sunday 17 November 2013

My Top Ten JFK Songs

Although it happened 9 years before I was born, I've always been fascinated by the events of November 22nd 1963. It seemed inevitable, then, that I would commemorate the 50th Anniversary of that date with a list such as this. Except... when I started looking into it, there were as many JFK songs out there as there are conspiracy theories...

For a more complete list, I suggest checking here. (A lot of those songs deal far more directly with the Kennedy assassination that many of my own choices... but it's my party and I'll stick with the ones that mean the most to me. As usual.)

Special mention for The Dead Kennedys, of course.

10. The Fall - Oswald Defence Lawyer

If Lee Harvey had made it to trial, he could have done worse than get Mark E. Smith to stand up in his defence...
How do you think that jury made up of putrid mass
Embraced theory of triangle bullet lines
Turning in circles twice,
Then incredible, marvelous, exiting back of mind?
9. The Beach Boys - The Warmth of the Sun

Written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love within hours of the news of the JFK shooting; that knowledge makes you hear these otherwise lovelorn lyrics in an entirely new light.

8. Guns N' Roses - Civil War

In Axl's earliest memory, they shot John Kennedy. (By my reckoning, he was a little over 21 months old at the time, so his memory is pretty damned good.) Still, a great camp, subtle-as-a-brick protest song as you'd expect from the Roses...
What's so civil about war, anyway?
7. Lou Reed - The Day John Kennedy Died

On the other hand, Lou's memories of that fateful day are truly visceral...
Talking stopped, someone shouted, "What!?"
I ran out to the street
People were gathered everywhere saying,
did you hear what they said on TV
And then a guy in a Porsche with his radio hit his horn
and told us the news
He said, "The president's dead, he was shot twice in the head
in Dallas, and they don't know by whom."
He goes on to dream himself the president... now, if only that could have come to pass.

6. Steve Earle - Conspiracy Theory
What if you could've been there on that day in Dallas ?
What if you could wrestle back the hands of time?
Maybe somethin' could've been done in Memphis?
We wouldn't be livin' in a dream that's died?
'Nuff said.

5. Simon & Garfunkel - The Sound of Silence

Another song written in the aftermath of 22/11/63 (no, I'm not writing it 11/22/63, not even for Stephen King).
Hello darkness, my old friend, 
I've come with talk with you again...
4. Manic Street Preachers - I Am Just A Patsy

Great track from one of my favourite Manics albums...
I am just a patsy
The Oswald in Lee Harvey
...they're just a patsy for your love.

3. The Wedding Present - Kennedy

Already Number One in my Top Ten American President Songs, which also features another track from this very list... though this time, that one wins top spot. 

2. The Dream Academy - Life in a Northern Town

Ostensibly a song about Nick Drake, this also contains the memorable refrain...
He said "In winter 1963
It felt like the world would freeze
With John F. Kennedy
And The Beatles."
...which means I can shoe-horn it in here. Good job: it's ace.

1. Okkervil River - The President's Dead 

Although it doesn't mention JFK, Oswald or Dealey Plaza, this still has enough references to that infamous day ("a shot from the crowd and a shot in the head") as well as tackling the question of "where when you when...?" that anyone who lived through November 22nd 1963 will have been asked at one time or another. Plus, it's my all-time favourite Okkervil River song, and the first song I thought of when I decided to compile this Top Ten.

Those were my Dealey (Plaza) Boppers... but which is your Love Gunman?

Sunday 10 November 2013

My Top Ten Don't Cry Songs

Sam isn't a bad kid when it comes to crying. I've heard tell of babies who are much, much worse. But there are times... times when nothing we do will soothe him, when we feel that crushing mix of frustration, guilt and pain which every parent must grow to understand. Still, music has powers to soothe the savage beast, to paraphrase William... Congreve. (Yeah, I thought it was Shakey, too.) Here's ten tunes to do just that...

10. Oasis - Stop Crying Your Heart Out

Every time I include an Oasis song in a Top Ten, an angel loses its wings. This is one of those rare compositions from the monobrowed chuckle brothers that doesn't annoy the jogging bottoms off me. Still... sorry, seraphim.

9. Elkie Brooks - Don't Cry Out Loud

A hit in the US for Melissa Manchester (it was written by Peter Allen and Carole Bayer-Sager), but Elkie's UK hit is a little less Streisand. 

8. Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons - Big Girls Don't Cry

Silly boys...

7. The Streets - Dry Your Eyes

I really shouldn't dig Mike Skinner's soppy Ray Winstone Jr. routine... And yet...

6. Guns 'n' Roses - Don't Cry

Never ones to do things by halves, GnR actually released two different versions of this song (the lyrics of the verses were entirely different) as part of the mammoth double album exercise in self-destruction that was Use Your Illusion. This is the alternate version. If you're sad, like me, you might want to compare the two. They blew the video budget on the first version though.

5. Richard Hawley - Don't You Cry

 Epic (10 & 1/2 minutes) sadness from the Sheffield Sinatra.

4. The Pretenders - Stop Your Sobbing

Written by Ray Davies (Chrissie Hynde's boyfriend at the time - what a cradle snatcher!) and originally recorded by The Kinks... though the Pretenders made it their own with a little new wave bite. Their debut single - hard to believe it only reached #34 in the charts.

3. Spiritualized - Stop Your Crying

Phil Spector has a lot to answer for.

"Orchestra? Check. Choir? Check. Gratuitous destruction of musical instruments? Check. Kitchen sink? Where's that bloody kitchen sink!?"

2. The Cure - Boys Don't Cry

So, tell me, Mad Bob McMad, why exactly don't boys cry? It can't be for fear of making their eyeliner run...

1. INXS - Baby Don't Cry

Probably my favourite INXS song, a joyously anthemic pop cookie. What U2 might sound like if Bono wasn't such an utter knob.

Which one stops your sobbing?

Monday 4 November 2013

My Top Ten 'Born To...' Songs

Still celebrating the birth that changed our lives forever... and wondering just what our son, Sam, will be born to do...

There will be no prizes for guessing Number One.

10. Transvision Vamp - Born To Be Sold

My first piece of fatherly advice... keep away from girls who look like Wendy James, lad. They'll only bring you trouble.

9. Lana Del Rey - Born To Die
The road is long, we carry on
Try to have fun in the meantime
Words to live by, Lana. 

8. Pulp - Born To Cry

Well, he's a baby, Jarvis. They do cry. We'll deal with that in more detail in a future Top Ten.

See also the cool Tony Christie version.

7. The Rare Earth - Born To Wander

Embrace your right to ramble... 
Cause the wind was my mother
The highway is my brother
I was born to wander
And it's time for movin' on
I was born to wander
Turn around and I'll be gone, gone, gone
6. Patrick Hernandez - Born To Be Alive

Possibly the campest record ever made. FANTASTIC.

5. The Go-Betweens - Born To A Family

Sometimes I feel this could be about me.
Born to a family of honest workers... then I came along
Everyone else in my family has a trade. They do good, honest, skilled work.
I was square into the hole
There was something in my soul
What could I do... but follow the calling?
Son, whatever you want to do with your life, I hope to encourage you. But people will always need plumbers...

4. Bon Jovi - Born To Be My Baby

Look, you can come in here with your cool, hip, indie-kid shoes on... I wear those shoes plenty myself. But if you try and deny the supreme majesty of the Jove at their rocking best... well, don't let the door hit your backside on the way out.

3. Steppenwolf - Born To Be Wild
Get your motor running...
This song was written by Mars Bonfire. Yes, I said Mars Bonfire.

We were struggling a long time to think of a name for our baby. Mars Bonfire Hirst came very close.

2. Dion - Born To Be With You

Originally recorded by The Chordettes in 1956, Dion's Phil Spector-produced cover from the mid-70s is a record of staggering beauty.
All my life through I was born, born, born, born, born to be with you
1. Bruce Springsteen - Born To Run

Only one of the greatest songs ever written.
I'll love you with all the madness in my soul

Which were you born to choose?
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