Tuesday 29 July 2014

My Top Ten Walking Away Songs

Don't you just hate those people who introduce you to their record collections saying, "yes, I have a very eclectic taste in music"? Well, I'm gonna do just that this week. Sometimes these top tens come together with such a delightful blend of genres... I feel quietly proud of myself. And you should hear some of the songs I left out! Come on, allow me a little hubris for once... don't walk away just yet.

Special mention to Juliana Hatfield for her instructional album, How To Walk way.

10. Cast - Walkaway

I have a bit of a downer on Cast. Britpop-by-numbers, my abiding memory of the band is seeing them play live at a festival back in their fifteen minutes; the onstage electric went out and John Power piped up, comedy Scouse, "'Ey - 'ave we not paid the 'leccy meter?"

But this is a lovely little song despite my prejudices. And I still prefer them to Oasis.

9. The Zac Brown Band featuring Alan Jackson - As She's Walking Away

A song about falling in love with a girl at first sight and doing absolutely nothing about it. Because, as Elton once sang, it's easier to walk away.

Pretty much sums up my teenage years and most of my 20s. Sadly, I never had Alan Jackson to give me his neat-moustached advice.

8. Black Sabbath - Walk Away

And this is why they call it Classic Rock.

7. Franz Ferdinand - Walk Away
I love the sound of you walking away... 
...is a great kiss off, and there's more to come as Alex Kapranos nicks Morrissey's poison pen...
And as you walk away
My headstone crumbles down
As you walk away
The Hollywood winds will howl
As you walk away
The Kremlin's falling
As you walk away
Radio Four is static
One reason why FF are a fantastic foursome.

(And yeah, I almost went a week without mentioning the M word. Sorry.)

6. Sisters of Mercy - Walk Away

To appreciate this fully, you have to watch the video. Andrew Eldritch: sunglasses, hair, glittery dance... and a voice like Satan serenading sea lions.

5. The King Blues - Walking Away

I miss The King Blues since they split. I know Johnny Itch is still doing his own thing, but this band burned very brightly while they were around. Like Billy Bragg, they had two sides: the angry young men & women (angrier, at times, than Billy ever got) and the sweet-hearted romantics. This is firmly in the latter camp, a gorgeous little bus stop romance. Goes nicely as an accompaniment to my number #2 song this week.  

4. Tom Waits - Walk Away

From the soundtrack to the Sean Penn / Susan Sarandon film Dead Man Walking, it's time for Tom to walk away and start all over again. Nice and jaunty. (There's a word I'm not sure I ever typed before. It looks weird on the screen.)

3. ELO - Don't Walk Away

Classic Jeff Lynne orchestral melodrama, sounding more like the Bee Gees than the Beatles on this one.

2. Billy Bragg - Walk Away, Renee (version)

A version, but not a cover, though Billy does get Johnny Marr to strum the tune from our number one song while narrating a tender, touching and beautifully funny tale of first love left behind. So many great lines, I never tire of listening to this.
But all love is strange
And you have to learn to take the crunchy with the smooth, I suppose

She began going out with Mr. Potato Head
It was when I saw her in the car park
With his coat around her shoulders that I realised
I went home and thought about the two of them together
Until the bathwater went cold around me
I thought about her eyes and the curve of her breasts
And about the point where their bodies met

I confronted her about it
I said, "I'm the most illegible bachelor in town!" and she said "Yeah that's why I
could never understand any of those silly letters you sent me"

And then one day it happened
She cut her hair and I stopped loving her.
1. The Four Tops - Walk Away, Renee

The original version of this song, by The Left Banke, is a very fine record indeed. But it doesn't quite stop my heart in the same way Levi Stubbs' vocal does. This is heartbreak at its finest, pure and simple. One of Motown's greatest recordings... which makes it one of the best pop singles ever. No hyperbole.

Before you walk away... leave a comment, won't you?

Tuesday 22 July 2014

My Top Ten Decapitation Songs

"Orf with their 'eads!" as the Queen of Hearts would have it...

10. They Might Be Giants - Till My Head Falls Off

Classic TMBG. If you don't like it, you might need a check-up from the neck-up.

9. Maxïmo Park - The Night I Lost My Head
Why did we have to meet on the night I lost my head?
A decent little tune from MP's debut album... also good for those of you who are still learning to count.

8. Angelica - Bring Back Her Head

Lost 90s bitter indie-pop classic from the band that would become The Lovely Eggs.

Take out the carving knife and cut
Cut off her head.

7. Morrissey - Margaret On The Guillotine

Mozzer's subtle-as-ever anti-Thatcher drone, briefly resurrected last year when its central question was finally answered.
And people like you make me feel so old inside...
6. Elvis Costello - Tear Off Your Own Head (It's a Doll Revolution)

A single from possibly the last truly great Costello album - When I Was Cruel - though I do keep trying to find the time to give his later offerings a reappraisal. It's tough, because he was one of my favourite songwriters throughout the 90s, but his insistence on paring down the lyrical barbs in favour of a purer, more universal kind of songwriting following this album left me largely cold. Doll Revolution still carries plenty of the infamous Costello spite though... and was covered later by The Bangles in an attempt to get back to their own rock 'n' roll basics.

5. The Magnetic Fields - Chicken With Its Head Cut Off

From the magnificent 69 Love Songs, the only truly essential triple album in my record collection, this is Stephin Merritt at his camp and catty best... this guy knows how to extend a metaphor till it crackles!
Well my heart's runnin' round like a chicken with it's head cut off
All around the barn yard falling in and out of love
Poor thing's blind as a bat
Gettin' up, fallin' down, gettin' up
Who'd fall in love with a chicken with its head cut off?

It ain't pretty!
4. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Heads Will Roll

Probably my favourite Yeah Yeah Yeahs song - Karen O makes a perfect Queen of Hearts. Having a hard time believing it's already five years old though.

3. Frightened Rabbit - Heads Roll Off

I'll dedicate this one to my old pal JC, The Vinyl Villain, who came back from a terrible tragedy last year when his original blog (years of work) was merciless destroyed by the Blog Police. Many bloggers would have called it a day after that, but JC came back fighting with a new TVV - still one of the best blogs on the internet.(And he was kind enough to give me a plug the other day, so I thought I'd return the favour.)

Over the years, JC has introduced me to many fine records and bands - Frightened Rabbit are one of his very best recommendations. And this song's kind of apt as a tribute, as it's all about not giving up.
When my blood stops,
Someone else's will not.
When my head rolls off,
Someone else's will turn.
And while I'm alive, I'll make tiny changes to earth.
Here's to you, JC... I'm sure you'll be horrified by my #1.

2. Warren Zevon - Roland, The Headless Thompson Gunner

I've had this one as an earworm a lot lately, a stand-out track from Zevon's outstanding Excitable Boy album. It's the grimly hilarious story of a Norwegian mercenary targeted by the CIA who becomes a vengeful ghost with a submachine gun that just keeps shooting.

Tragically, this was the last song Zevon ever performed live, on the David Letterman show in America, shortly before his death in 2003.

1. Queen  - Don't Lose Your Head

The album A Kind of Magic wasn't particular well-received with the critics, being largely a soundtrack to the (not-very-good - sorry, 80s fans, but it isn't) movie Highlander. And this isn't even one of the best songs on that album. So why do I love it, why do I give it Number One above all the excellent records that preceded it on this list?

Because it's very special to me. Although Queen's Greatest Hits was the first LP I bought (or I might have asked for it as a Christmas present), A Kind of Magic was the first of their studio albums I got into. I'd have been about 15 or 16 (so a couple of years after it's release, but I was a late developer in all things musical... I've been making up for that ever since) and I often spent my evenings baby-sitting for my sister or brother, both of whom are a good sight older than me, married young, and had kids (my nephews) who ended up being just a few years younger than their Uncle Rol. Much of that time I'd spend listening to their record collections, and I think both of them had copies of A Kind of Magic on vinyl... it was probably one of the few albums their collections had in common. I wore the grooves off this record, and eventually bought my own copy on which to do the same.

Don't Lose Your Head, then, isn't one of the great Queen songs. It's an average Roger Taylor album track (hence the drums are more prominent than any other instrument), distinguished slightly by Joan Aramatrading on guest vocals. But it's one of my formative musical experiences and, thus, irreplaceable.

Those were my headless chickens. Which is your Marie Antoinette?

Wednesday 16 July 2014

My Top Ten Songs About Morrissey

Before we get onto the main subject of this week's Top Ten, a small addendum to my last two posts. After revealing My Top Ten Songs About American Writers and My Top Ten Songs About British / Irish Writers, my Aussie Top-Tenning equivalent, Deano, has responded to my challenge and unveiled his own Top Ten Songs About (or with a tenuous link to!) Australian Literature. Excellent work, Deano - if any other international readers want to respond in kind, do let me know. I'm still thinking about compiling a Top Ten Songs About European Writers or a Top Ten Songs About Russian Writers, but I'm also thinking about flying to the moon on a clothes line prop, so don't hold your breath.

This week's post is a much delayed companion piece to My Top Ten Songs About Bruce Springsteen written back in February '13... and My Top Ten Songs About Elvis, written the previous October. Johnny Cash will get his, one day...

So there's a new Morrissey album out and the reviewers all seem to like it. A sparsity of pennies means I don't own a copy yet, but I've read countless articles saying it's his best in 20 years... largely in magazines that gave favourable reviews to his last few records, but oh, how soon they forget. That kind of thing all plays into the Moz-stique though, the idea that the whole world's against him... which couldn't be further from the truth when you start to investigate songs that have referenced the great Steven Patrick of Hulme in one way or another.

In the process of researching this post (see, they're not all just thrown together), I came across dozens of Odes To Moz... many of them loud and screechy... quite a few of them not all that complimentary... and most of them bloody awful. Here are some of the more "interesting" ones that missed out on this list...

Pony Death Ride - I Think My Boyfriend's Gay For Morrissey

O Pioneers!!! - My Life as a Morrissey Song

Mika (sadly not the Grace Kelly dude) - Now I Know How Morrissey Felt

Pink Industry - What I Wouldn't Give

30 Foot Tall - Feel Like Morrissey

Dreaming In Oceans - Hell Knows I'm Miserable Now

The Ergs! - Introducing Morrissey

See Colin Slash - You Make Me Feel Like Morrissey

A Wilhelm Scream - Me Vs. Morrissey in the Pretentious Contest

From First To Last - Populace In Two

Help, She Can't Swim - What Would Morrissey Say?

And finally (look away now if you're easily offended):

Anal Cunt - Johnny Violent getting his ass kicked by Morrissey

(Poor old AC-without the-DC, they're still striving to make the Radio 2 playlist - heaven knows why they won't let them on.)

From my own record collection, however, there were three notable omissions. I thought I'd give them a mention anyway.

The Organ - Steven Smith

Art Brut - Bang Bang, Rock 'n' Roll (which did very well in My Top Ten Bang Songs a few weeks ago)

Ryan Adams - (Argument with David Rawlings Concerning Morrissey) (the opening track of Ryan's terrific debut album which misses out because a) it's not a song, just two blokes talking... b) its not much of an argument either... and c) Ryan's terrible attempt at a Dick Van Dyke English accent towards the end)

OK, enough of the pre-amble. I've written more in the introduction than I do in most posts! Let's get onto the meat and potatoes of this list... or potatoes and potatoes, considering our opening offering:

10. Sandie Shaw - Steven (You Don't Eat Meat)

As mentioned above, while there are many songs about Morrissey that didn't make this list because they're not very good, the b-side to Sandie Shaw's 1986 cover of Lloyd Cole's Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken? does bear a place... even though it's pretty bloody awful.

A shoeless legend in the 60s, Shaw's career was revived in the 80s largely down to her association with The Smiths. She recorded a number of Morrissey/Marr compositions, including a version of Hand In Glove in which she took Mozzer's place fronting the rest of The Smiths on Top of the Pops. Steven (You Don't Eat Meat) was a weeeeeeird tribute song written by Shaw and record producer Clive Langer...
Oh Steven
You dressed me in my glad rags
You in your gladioli
Just like those other lifetimes
At least that's what you told me
The taste of reality was
Such a hard, bitter-sweet pill
You took to your bed again
Oh, are you still ill?
Are you still ill?
You don't eat meat
But you eat your heart out, Steven
Better still, Sandie's follow-up single featured a b-side tribute to Johnny Marr, Go Johnny Go, which chides him for not taking her calls. Despite (or perhaps because of) lyrics like these...
If I was a Stratocaster, shiny and new
You’d pick me up, you’d put the call through
You’d talk to me madly, like a man obsessed
Dripping wet on the carpet, wearing only your vest
...and these...
You’re always engaged, or you’re not taking calls
Or you’re stuck in the bathtub

Or you're doing your smalls
...and these...
They say you’re washing your hair, or you’re taking a shower
You’ve gone down to Woolies, be back in an hour
...it's a much better song than 'Steven...'.

9. Jamie Cullum - Mixtape

So, from the ridiculous to... Jamie Cullum.

Yes, I said Jamie Cullum.

The shortarse jazz-pop, Sophie Dahl-marrying, would-be-Buble wunderkind wrote a song on his 2009 album The Pursuit in which he boasts about the size of his record collection. A homage to eclectic mixtapes (and from the onetime writer of a blog about mixtapes... much respect, Jamie), it asks...
Do you even have a tape machine?
To facilitate my plastic dreams?
All the things that I have seen, from
Morrissey to John Coltrane, Ah!
Cinematic Orchestra, De La Soul, the Shangri-La's
An adolescent love letter,
A sparkling jewel of manual labour...
Coincidentally, the American alt-rock band Brand New also have a song called Mixtape which takes shots at an ex-girlfriend thus...
I've got a twenty dollar bill
That says no one's ever seen you
Without makeup
You're always made up
And I'm sick of your tattoos
And the way you always criticize
The Smiths
And Morrissey
And I know that you're a sucker
For anything acoustic
But when I say let's keep in touch
I really mean I wish that you'd grow up
8. The Associates - Stephen, You're Really Something

Many believe the Smiths songs William, It Was Really Nothing was written about Morrissey's old pal, Billy MacKenzie, lead singer of the Associates. This was Billy's response... misspelling Morrissey's name was probably the final straw in their friendship.

7. Frank Turner - Sunshine State

Frank gets dumped and his lady heads for California... so this is all he has left.
You left me to these small skies, and to rain-soaked concrete,
To Morrissey and Robert Smith and complicated streets I know,
On which you lost your patience and your way,
The way you always did on steel grey rainy days.
6. The Courteeners - What Took You So Long? 

I really liked the early Courteeners records, although, having seen them live, I can confirm that their lead singer would give Liam Gallagher a run for his money in the arrogant a-hole stakes. That attitude might well be confirmed by the lyric you can hear here...
Do you know who I am?
I'm like a Morrissey with some strings
Still, there's nothing wrong with aiming high, and there's something satisfyingly Moz-ish about the chorus of this, possibly The Courteeners' best song...
What took you so long?
Was there a queue at the post office?
What took you so long?
Was there a dirty, double-decker Stagecoach
You just happened to miss?
5. Electronic - Getting Away With It

Following the break-up of the Smiths, Johnny Marr had mixed feelings about his ex-sparring partner. Enter Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys who co-wrote this track with Marr to exorcise some of those demons. It's a great pop song, though the sentiment's a little confusing. The verses (written by Tennant) parody Morrissey's image as a miserable old git...
I've been walking in the rain just to get wet on purpose
I've been forcing myself not to forget just to feel worse
(Ironically, the verse is sung by Bernard Sumner of New Order / Joy Division... pot, kettle, anyone?)

The chorus, however, (written by Marr) reveals the following...
However I look it's clear to see
That I love you more than you love me
Given that the song's written in the first person - from Morrissey's perspective - this might lead to all kinds of questions about why Marr really left the band. I've read my fair share of books that deal with the break-up of the Smiths, but I guess the only two people who'll ever know the truth are the Manc M&M.

See also Miserablism by the Pet Shop Boys, wherein Tennant takes further issues with Morrissey's carefully curated public persona...
Just for the sake of it, make sure you're always frowning
It shows the world that you've got substance and depth
4. Lloyd Cole - Seen The Future

I've seen Lloyd Cole perform live even more than I have Morrissey (but then, Lloyd does tour more often). He often tells amusing stories about various meetings with Moz over the years. Here, he ponders the future of rock 'n' roll... which is, famously, what Jon Landau called Springsteen back in the early 70s... while paraphrasing David Bowie on T-Rex (via Mott The Hoople). All that in one song - result!
Man, I need TV...
For when I got my Morrissey!
3. Manic Street Preachers - 1985

In 1985, Nicky Wire turned 16... lost his innocence, and found his voice. With a little help from his friends...
In 1985, my words they came alive,
Friends were made for life,
Morrissey and Marr gave me choice.
In 1985, in 1985.
2. Sparks - Lighten Up, Morrissey 

Russell Mael complains that his girlfriend won't give him the time of day because he's nowhere near as smart or witty as the man himself.
I got comparisons coming out my ears
And she never can hit the pause
If only Morrissey weren't so Morrisseyesque
She might overlook all my flaws
I'm sure this song made Morrissey chuckle (yes, it does happen) and extremely proud. He's a huge fan of Sparks - his first appearance in the NME was a letter praising Sparks written to the mag when he was 15.

1. Morrissey & The Smiths - Pretty Much Their Entire Recorded Output

Perhaps this is a bit of a cheat for Number One... but really, nobody writes more (or better) songs about Morrissey than the man himself. And honestly, how can any of us possibly know how he feels?
They said they respect me, which means their judgment is crazy.
I've had my face dragged in fifteen miles of shit,
And I do not, and I do not, and I do not like it.
So how can anybody say they know how I feel,
When they are they, and only I am I?

"I know you all secretly hate me so I won't bother asking for your comments - they mean so very, very little to me, anyway."

Thursday 10 July 2014

My Top Ten Songs About British & Irish Writers

After last week's Top Ten Songs About American Writers, I thought a list devoted to British wordsmiths would be easy. After all, we invented English Literature... surely Shakespeare, Dickens, Chaucer and Roger Hargreaves must have been name-checked by songwriters aplenty? And if Prince and Ryan Adams can write dirty love songs for Dorothy Parker and Sylvia Plath, surely Tom Jones must have, at some point, fancied getting into Elizabeth Barrett Browning's knickers?

However, while there are plenty of songs inspired by the works of British writers (from Wuthering Heights to all those Rush songs about Middle Earth), it proved much trickier to come up with songs dedicated to the authors themselves. In the end, I had to cheat and include Irish writers as well... for two good reasons. Firstly, the chances of me coming up with a separate Songs About Irish Writers Top Ten were slim to non-existent... and secondly, how could I leave out Oscar? Apologies to any Irish readers who object to being lumped in with us Brits... but you guys helped me out of a hole here.

Special mention to The Jane Austen Argument.

10. Manic Street Preachers - Jackie Collins Existential Question Time

After beginning my American list with Danielle Steele, it seemed only fair to open this time with her British equivalent. That is, until Radiohead record a song about Jilly Cooper. Go on, Thom, you know you want to...
Oh, mummy, what's a sex pistol?

9. Jefferson Airplane - ReJoyce

Grace Slick has a good stab at echoing Joyce's evocative, occasionally nonsensical lyricism...
Molly's gone to blazes,
Boylan's crotch amazes
any woman whose husband sleeps with his head
all buried down at the foot of his bed.

Sadly, Ode To Joyce by Half Man Half Biscuit isn't about James.

8. Murder By Death - I’m Afraid Of Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf

MBD are one of those frustrating bands whose songs never sound as good as their promising titles. This comes from an album called Like The Exorcist But More Beakdancing which also includes tracks called Flamenco's Fuckin' Easy, Intergalactic Menopause and Holy Lord, Shawshank Redemption Is Such A Good Movie... none of which quite live up to their potential.

Still, I always thought To The Lighthouse was overrated too.

7. Company of Thieves - Oscar Wilde

I'm sure Oscar would appreciate a band singing about "making this world our hell" in his name.

See also Oscar Wilde Gets Out by Elton John. Although Oscar might think that one a little... ordinary. 

6. Patti Smith - My Blakean Year

Patti Smith marries heaven and hell with her tribute to the famous poet and painter.

5. John Cale - Graham Greene

John Cale shares an Earl Grey with the author of Brighton Rock in this bizarre indictment of the English class system.

4. Warren Zevon -  Lord Byron's Luggage

One more reason Warren Zevon deserves a posthumous sainthood (if that's not tautology).
Lord Byron had a lot of luggage
He took it when he travelled far and wide
He didn't get to bathe very often
But he liked to change his clothes all the time

And if that's not good enough for you, check out the bit where he rhymes Henley Regatta with persona non grata. Byron would blush.

3. Burt Bacharach featuring Rufus Wainwright - Go Ask Shakespeare

You'd think a lyrical philosopher as smart as Burt would have the answers to the woes of the world, yet here he confesses that while ignorance may be the curse of God and knowledge the wing wherewith we fly to heaven... his own words fly up but his thoughts remain below. To paraphrase his muse...
I keep hoping for a better day
It's a long time coming, but I wait anyway
Life's a miracle or a foolish tale
I don't know, go ask Shakespeare

See also... Shakespeare's Got A Gun by Dan Bern in which the Bard gets bent out of shape that a monkey just outside Pittsburgh finally typed out Hamlet... and goes after it with an uzi.

2. Dexys Midnight Runners - Dance Stance (Burn It Down)

Dexys' 1980 debut single was a fiery statement of intent that name-checks a litany of famous Irish writers in its defiant and rebellious lyrics. But it's got a great Northern Soul beat...
Never heard about, won't think about...
Oscar Wilde and Brendan Behan,
Sean O'Casey, George Bernard Shaw.
Samuel Beckett, Eugene O'Neill, Edna O'Brien and Lawrence Stern.
Sean Kavanaugh and Sean McCann,
Benedict Keilly, Jimmy Hiney
Frank O'Connor and Catherine Rhine.

1. The Smiths - Cemetry Gates

No, Morrissey can't spell cemetery... but that's (one of) the point(s). Mozzer's famous ode to plagiarism has Keats and Yeats on your side, but Wilde - of course - on his. T.S. Eliot apparently said "Mediocre writers borrow. Great writers steal." (echoing Picasso's "Good artists copy. Great artists steal.") and in his early lyrics, Morrissey stole lines from the likes of Shelagh Delaney, Elizabeth Smart, Noël Coward and even Jeffrey Archer (“I was only joking when I said...you should be bludgeoned in your bed.” comes directly from Archer's novel First Among Equals). He even lifted a good chunk of the lyrics for this song from the movie The Man Who Came To Dinner.

Apologies to those of you who were expecting another Smiths song, Shakespeare's Sister, to make the top slot... but I gave that a Number One already.

Finally, I can't let this one go without playing you this excellent tribute to Charles Dickens from "The Smiths"... courtesy of the BBC's Horrible Histories programme. Almost makes me want to give Dickens another go...

Which one passes muster with the Booker jury?

Thursday 3 July 2014

My Top Ten Songs About American Writers

This post was originally called "My Top Ten Songs About American Authors"... but then I discovered a band called American Authors and thought that would be too confusing for their fans.

And naturally, this one's about American Writers because I'm saving Oscar Wilde and Willy Shakespeare for another day. Actually, Bill will probably get a Top Ten all his own. I'm relying on Deano to do a Top Ten Songs About Australian Writers in reply...

Special mentions to Harold Robbins (in the innuendo-laden Pulling Mussels From A Shell by Squeeze) and Dr. Seuss (in The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite by REM).

10. The Beautiful South - Danielle Steele (The Enemy Within)

Let's start with the most successful American writer ever. No, I'm not joking. With an estimated 800 million books sold, no one else comes close. Not even Dan Brown(!)

Paul Heaton doesn't appear to be a fan though...
And even photo love
With its pages filled with sin
Couldn't lick the boots of the enemy within
It can only be a chapter
'till her heart will give in
The enemy within
Nothing is as phallic
As a moaning violin
To Danielle Steele
The enemy within
9. Kenny Chesney - Hemingway's Whiskey

Although The Old Man & The Sea and For Whom The Bell Tolls are bloody good reads, neither are as insanely exciting as Hemingway's life story... you have to wonder how far Kenny Chesney will got to find inspiration?

Ah, it's tough out there, a good muse is hard to find
Living one word to the next, one line at a time
There's more to life than whiskey, there's more to words than rhyme
Sometimes nothing works, sometimes nothing shines

Like Hemingway's whiskey

Sail away, sail away, three sheets to the wind
Live hard, die hard, this one's for him...
8. The Go-Betweens - The House That Jack Kerouac Built / 10,000 Maniacs - Hey, Jack Kerouac

Couldn't decide between these two so I called it a draw. Natalie Merchant's is the more direct, biographical take (love the opening where she feels sorry for Jack's mum) but the Go-Betweens capture some of the Beat spirit - with beats.

7. Modest Mouse – Bukowski

More critique than tribute, yet somehow perfectly fitting for the work and reputation of the writer in question...

Woke up this morning and it seemed to me,
that every night turns out to be
A little more like Bukowski.
And yeah, I know he's a pretty good read.
But, God, who'd wanna be?
God, who'd wanna be such an asshole?

See also Charles Bukowski Is Dead by the Boo Radleys...

You'll never touch the magic if you don't reach out far enough...

6. Billy Bragg & Wilco - Walt Whitman's Niece

Woody Guthrie's misremembered meeting with a (possible) relative of one of his literary heroes, brought to life by Billy Bragg and Jeff Tweedy.

5. Lou Reed - Edgar Allen Poe

Lou recorded a double album of songs based on the writings of the master of the macbre, including a dark reworking of Perfect Day.

These are the stories of Edgar Allan Poe
Not exactly the boy next door
The diabolic image of the city and the sea
The chaos and the carnage that reside deep within me
Decapitations, poisonings, hellish not a bore
You won't need 3D glasses to pass beyond this door

Love that final line!

4. Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians - Raymond Chandler Evening

The top male author on my list (yes, equality fans, my top three songs are all about women writers!) is also one of my own personal favourites. Chandler struggled with his reputation as a "pulp" writer, desiring instead the recognition of a "serious" novelist. History has judged him far more fairly, with many critics now treating him with almost the same respect as Fitzgerald or Hemingway. Personally, I'd rather re-read Chandler than either of those, much as I enjoyed Gatsby and The Old Man & The Sea. There's something about the classic 40s L.A. noir of Philip Marlowe that provides perfect escapism... and Chandler's much funnier than any of his more revered contemporaries.

Robyn Hitchcock's tribute was quoted word for word in a famous sequence from Jim O'Barr's comic The Crow.

See also Raymond Chandler Said by Michael Anderson... if you can find it anywhere online. 

3. Ryan Adams - Sylvia Plath

As literary girlfriends go, Sylvia Plath strikes me as the sort of woman you'd fall for as a miserable teenager. Being much older than that, I'd steer well clear, no matter how much Ryan Adams might romanticise her...

2. Prince - The Ballad of Dorothy Parker

A night on the town with Dorothy Parker, on the other hand, would surely be a blast (though she'd probably cut you down to size in the process). She even makes Prince take a bubble bath with his pants on. (That may be a euphemism... one, I'm sure, Ms. Parker would approve of.)

1. Little Green Cars - Harper Lee

I only recently discovered this band but I've fallen in love with this particular song and quite a few others from their debut album. If I had to describe them, I'd say they sounded like an Irish Fleet Foxes, though others might churlishly compare them with the Mumfords. Lyrically they're far more interesting than either, as demonstrated by their excellent "tribute" to the author of To Kill A Mockingbird.
I put mice in the kitchen to see if you’d kill them
Oh no, you let them live now there’s twelve thousand kids
Oh yeah, you let them breed now I’ve got mouths to feed
Oh yeah, you let them stay now they have taken my place
Oooh yeah, you left them alone now they’re eating our home...
Maybe that was the unpublished plot of Lee's second novel? She was probably right to quit while she was ahead... To Kill A Mockingbird has been an influence on more than one rock band, however... just ask the aforementioned Boo Radleys, for a start!

Which one gets your Pulitzer Prize?

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