Monday, 8 September 2014

My Top Ten 'The Ballad of...' Songs

I was astounded by how many songs in my record collection are Ballads of... somebody or other. I reckon I could have stretched this to a Top 50 if I'd had the time. These were the best ballads of the bunch...

10. Georgie Fame - The Ballad Of Bonnie And Clyde

One day, I might get around to compiling a Top Ten Bonnie & Clyde Songs... amazingly, this 1967 Georgie Fame Number One might not make it to the top of that list.

9. Frank Turner - The Ballad of Me and My Friends

Friendship is a recurring theme in Frank Turner's work and he writes about it in a very open, honest and emotional way. It seems most of Frank's friends are tortured artists...
Everybody's got themselves a plan,
Everybody thinks they'll be the man, including the girls.
The musicians who lack the friends to form a band are singer-songwriters,
The rest of us are DJs or official club photographers.
And tonight I'm playing another Nambucca show,
So I'm going through my phonebook, texting everyone I know,
And I quite a few I don't, whose numbers found their way into my phone,
But they might come along anyway, you never really know.
However, while most of them might never reach their intended destination... they're definitely enjoying the journey.
We're going nowhere slowly, but we're seeing all the sights.
And we're definitely going to hell,
But we'll have all the best stories to tell.
8. The Mystery Jets - The Ballad of Emmerson Lonestar

From my favourite album of 2012... we must be about ready for a new Mystery Jets record now. Come on, lads, don't keep us waiting much longer.

7. Dr. Hook  - The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan

Or ...Lucy Jordon, as the record was originally released. This week's song about growing old... as I've said previously, I listen to a lot of those these days.
At the age of thirty-seven she realised she'd never
Ride through Paris in a sports car with the warm wind in her hair.
So she let the phone keep ringing and she sat there softly singing
Little nursery rhymes she'd memorised in her daddy's easy chair.
There's a splendid cover version by Marianne Faithfull, but I still prefer Dennis Locorriere's vocals on the original.

6. Bloodhound Gang - The Ballad of Chasey Lain

I'll let you google Chasey Lain if you're unfamiliar with her ouvre... but perhaps don't do that at work. 

Juvenile in the extreme, as all the best Bloodhound Gang records are. If you're easily offended or don't have the mind of a puerile 14 year old boy, skip along to the next song.

5. The Beatles - The Ballad of John and Yoko

One of the first John Lennon solo records, in all but name. George and Ringo were both absent from the session and although Macca filled in for them on bass, drums and piano, and shared the songwriting credit with John as always, he had little else to do with the song's creation.

Denied as much airplay as other Beatles records due to its references to Jesus and crucifixion (Lennon further developing his earlier "more popular than Jesus" comparison) it still made the top spot on the UK charts, although it did prove to be their final Number One, and marked the beginning of the end for the group.

4. XTC - The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead

Andy Partridge's infamous JFK/Malcolm X/Jesus allegory about a man just too damned virtuous to survive in high office.

But he made too many enemies
Of the people who would keep us on our knees

3. Jim's Big Ego - The Ballad Of Barry Allen

One for the geek vote, this obscure American indie song is a tribute to the DC Comics hero The Flash (soon to star in his own TV show... I hope it's better than Arrow). Gets to the targic heart of the character in a way the comics long since stopped bothering.

2. Space & Cerys Matthews - The Ballad of Tom Jones

It's a credit to 1998 that a creepy, John Barry-esque tribute to the Welsh crooner, a bizarre anti-love song duet with a chorus like this...

You stopped us from killing each other
Tom Jones, Tom Jones
You'll never know but you saved our lives

Tom Jones, Tom Jones
I've never thrown my knickers at you
And I don't come from Wales

...could make number 4 in the charts. It's been years since I listened to this - blimey, I'd forgotten how good it was.

1. Todd Snider - The Ballad Of The Kingsmen

Todd Snider tells the true story of The Kingsmen, the 60s garage band responsible for the huge one hit wonder 'Louie Louie', a record that ended up being investigated by the FBI for its supposedly obscene (but really just plain unintelligible) lyrics. From there he goes on to wonder whether Marilyn Manson records were really responsible for the Columbine massacre... and why we keep blaming our failings as a society on dumb (yet ultimately harmless) pop songs. Brilliant stuff.

Those were my best ballads... but which one makes you go Aye-yi-yi-yi?


  1. Replies
    1. Damn it - I meant to include that too! Somehow it fell off the list mid-compilation and I forgot all about it.


  2. As you beat me to the XTC track all I can offer is: New Model Army - The Ballad Of Bodmin Pill.

  3. I wrote to explain I'm your biggest fan. I just wanted to ask...


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