Thursday 30 October 2014

My Top Ten Vampire Songs

To celebrate Halloween, here's ten tunes that will drive a stake through your heart.

I had to whittle this list down somewhat: I had enough vampire songs to fill a Top 30. Apologies if your favourite didn't make the cut.

Special mentions to Vampire Weekend, Nosferatu D2 and Baron Von Rockula.

Meanwhile, if you're looking for more Halloween horror, check out My Top Ten Zombie Songs and My Top Ten Haunted Songs.

10. Future Bible Heroes - I'm A Vampire

Wonderfully kitsch glam Vampirella spoof from the twisted mind of Stephin (Magnetic Fields) Merritt.
The sun will never touch me
I abhor its filthy light
I am the mistress of the damned
And of the children of the night
I have all the love I need
It is your blood I crave
I am the bitch goddess from beyond your grave
I can turn into a bat
I can cast the evil eye
I have ever so much money
I'm gorgeous
And I can fly
I survied the Inquisition
Been a harlot
Been a queen
Survived for seven hundred years
And still look seventeen
In a similar vein (punintended), you might also enjoy I've Got A Fang by They Might Be Giants.

9. Queens of the Stone Age - The Vampyre Of Time And Memory

As close as QOTSA ever came to a ballad... although the video is terrifying! 

8. My Chemical Romance - Vampire Money

MCR do the Ramones. Hilarious.

See also Vampires Will Never Hurt You. When all around you are popping fangs - how can you keep your head?

7. Radiohead - We Suck Young Blood

One of the best post-OK Computer Radiohead songs... and let's face it, if you were casting a movie about vampire rock stars, Thom Yorke would be your first call. After Robert Smith and Andrew Eldritch. And Nick Cave. And Cher.

6. The Sleepy Jackson - Vampire Racecourse

See, this is when I start to realise how fast time goes by. It only seems like yesterday I was buying the debut album by Aussie band The Sleepy Jackson on the strength of this single... turns out it was eleven years ago. I wish I was immortal...

(No idea what this song is about or why the vampires are racing... but it's cool.)

5. Concrete Blonde - Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)

Creepy southern gothic, perfect for Halloween. Johnette Napolitano could be the voice of Vampirella: The Musical. If they ever made Vampirella: The Musical. They really ought to. 

4. Neil Young - Vampire Blues

I don't claim to be the smartest guy on the internet... but I reckon this just might be Neil having a dig at the oil industry. See kids, metaphors are ace.

3. Arctic Monkeys - Perhaps Vampires Is A Bit Strong, But...

And speaking of metaphors... here's Alex Turner taking pot shots at the music industry. This could well have sneaked into my Top Ten Songs About Record Companies, but I thought I'd save it for now instead.

2. The Birthday Party - Release The Bats
My baby is alright
She doesn't mind a bit of dirt
She says 'horror vampire bat bite'
She says 'horror vampire
How I wish those bats would bite'
Whooah bite! bite!
I'm glad Nick Cave calmed down a bit with age. If he'd kept up this level of intensity, he'd have been dead long ago.

1. Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead

If vampires are the ultimate in gothic horror, you don't get much gothier than this. Even Christopher Lee's scared of this bunch. Great song... all nine and a half freaky-deaky minutes of it. 

Those got my vampiric votes... but which one makes you rise from the grave?

Tuesday 21 October 2014

My Top Ten Pigeon Songs

And so we reach my Top Ten Pigeon Songs, a post I wrote over a year ago... but I've been holding it back in reserve for the moment when I finally ran out of time to write any new ones. Luckily, it's half term next week, so hopefully I'll have a little more time to stockpile blogposts until Christmas. Otherwise... it may go a little quiet round here for awhile.

Anyway: pigeons. I like pigeons. Although I do seem to be in the minority. Here's ten odes to "rats with wings", some of them decidedly unpleasant...

Special mentions to The Pigeon Detectives and Lieutenant Pigeon.

10. Blur - The Woodpigeon Song

Obscure b-side... and, let's be honest, lads, it sounds like one.

9. The Uncle Devil Show - Sidelong Glances of a Pigeon Kicker

A one-off side project for Del Amitri's Justin Currie, this bizarre Beatles-esque pop tune was one of a handful of songs released by The Uncle Devil Show around ten years back. You could spot Currie's cynical tone a mile off...
A bird on the wing is a beautiful thing
With the exception of species whose speciality's faeces
So here's permission to land under the half brick
In my hand, in my hand...
8.  Genesis - Pigeons

Amazingly, this is post-Gabriel Genesis. Can't help but feel they were trying a little too hard to out-weird their former leader. From the Spot The Pigeon EP, which brings us nicely to...

7. Dick Dastardly & Mutley - Stop The Pigeon

Someone else who isn't a pigeon fancier. But how could I leave this out?
Mutley, you snickering,
Floppy-eared hound
When courage is needed,
You're never around.
Those medals you wear on
Your moth-eaten chest
Should be there for bungling
At which you are best.
6. John Prine - Clay Pigeons
I'm tired of running round looking for answers to questions I already know.
Written by Blaze Foley - now there's a great name for a country singer... or a burnt out detective.

5. Tom Lehrer - Poisoning Pigeons In The Park

Another classic slice of comic misanthropy... and pigeonthropy.

4. Cyndi Lauper - Sally's Pigeons

Cyndi recalls a childhood friend who's no longer with us.

Watch out for a young Julia Stiles playing teenage Cyndi in the video.

3. Kid Creole & The Coconuts - Stool Pigeon
Now if you wanna squeal, said the FBI
We can make a deal, make it worth your while...
Not about your feathered variety of pigeons, obviously. Kid Creole was cool.

2. The Handsome Family - Passenger Pigeons

Once upon a time, the Passenger Pigeon was one of the most abundant species of bird on earth. It was hunted to extinction at the beginning of the 20th Century... probably by the likes of Justin Currie, Tom Lehrer and Dick Dastardly.
Once there were a billion passenger pigeons
So many flew by, they darkened the sky
But they were clubbed and shot
Netted, Gassed, and Burned
Until there was nothing left
But vines of empty nests
I can't believe how easily
A billion birds can disappear
1. The Unthanks - King of Rome

Dave Sudbury's song tells the true story of Charlie Hudson, whose racing pigeon was entered into a 1913 race from Rome back to its home in Derby. But...
On the day o' the big race a storm blew in 
A thousand birds were swept away and never seen again
...and Charlie's bird was feared lost with them. But then, a miracle happened.
I was off with me mates for a pint or two 
When I saw a wing flash up in the blue 
"Charlie, it's the King of Rome 
Come back to his West End home 
Come outside quick, he's perched up on your roof"
Originally recorded by Sudbury, made famous by June Tabor... but this glorious version by the Unthanks and the Brighouse & Rastrick Brass Band takes some beating.

Ten pigeons set flying... but which one will win your race?

Tuesday 14 October 2014

My Top Ten Songs About Record Companies

Bah - pop stars. They always blame their label when things don't go well...

10. Stiff Little Fingers - Rough Trade

The SLFs claim to have been betrayed by Rough Trade lies...
We quit our jobs and got all set to fly
Your promises had us riding high
But it's a dirty rough tough trade we find
"Yeah we agreed, but you hadn't signed
Sorry, son, gonna have to throw you
Our lawyers say we don't even know you"
Music is money, kids are no-account fools
You trade in us, we get betrayed by you
9. Graham Parker & The Rumour - Mercury Poisoning

Meanwhile, Graham Parker remains "the best kept secret in the West" because of his own lacklustre record company...
The geriatric staff think we're freaks
They couldn't sell kebabs to the Greeks, the geeks!
Inaction speaks, and

I've got Mercury poisoning - it's fatal and it don't get better!
8. Lynyrd Skynyrd - Working For MCA

From back in the days when record companies handed out free money just for a signature on the dotted line... and some fools tried to take advantage of that.

7. Half Man Half Biscuit - 4AD3DCD

Nigel Blackwell gently pokes fun at the most indie of record companies and its roster of bizarrely named bands.
I dream of occasional fanzine mentions
I’ve been to one too many David Lynch Conventions
I play postal chess with a man who doesn’t know me
I’ve got a better frown than Tony Iommi
And I’ve got a 4AD3DCD
And I’m on a foundation course
6. The Byrds - So You Wanna Be A Rock 'n' Roll Star

A warning to all prospective rock stars about the dangers of going downtown and selling your soul to the company man when all they want to do is "sell plastic ware".

5. The Sex Pistols - EMI

The outrageously rebellious image of the Sex Pistols seems now like yobbish posturing steered to success by the machiavellian mind of Malcolm McClaren. How seriously could anyone take the world's most famous punk once he started selling dairy products? At the time though, it was utterly (butterly) believable and the final track on Never Mind The Bollocks... was a giant one-fingered salute to their former record company that helped make Richard Branson more The Man than anyone at EMI.

See also the rather less scabrous B.L.U.R.E.M.I. and this marvellous lo-fi eulogy to the record company dinosaurs, Wave Goodbye To EMI by Beans on Toast.

4. Willie Nelson & Waylon Jennings - Write Your Own Songs

Straight talkin' from Willie & Waylon...
We write what we live and we live what we write, is that wrong?
If you think it is Mr Music Executive why don't you write your own songs?

And don't listen to mine, they might run you crazy
They might make you dwell on your feelings a moment too long
We're making you rich and you're already lazy
So just lay on your ass and get richer or write your own songs.
3. The Clash - Complete Control
They said we'd be artistically free
When we signed that bit of paper
They meant let's make a lotta money
And worry about it later
A smarter and more credible record company protest song than the Sex Pistols could ever have managed. The Clash were true punks, even when they went reggae.

I wish I'd been aware of this song back when I was writing my Rebel DJ versus Evil Corporate Entertainment Company comic, The Jock. I could have put lyrics like this to excellent use...
This is Joe Public speaking
I'm controlled in the body, controlled in the mind


2. Tom Petty - Into The Great Wide Open

A promising rock 'n' roll career implodes, perhaps because "Their A&R man said 'I don't hear a single"... or perhaps because the temptations of rock star excess prove too much. A young Johnny Depp plays Eddie Rebel in the video, the "rebel without a clue" whose luck turns bad when he turns his back on his manager, Faye Dunaway. Stick around for a cameo from a pre-Friends Matt LeBlanc in the song's closing moments...

1. The Smiths - Paint A Vulgar Picture

You don't get a more caustic assessment of the "sickening greed" of the "sycophantic slags" who work for The Man... although there's a certain irony now hearing Morrissey deride the culture of "Re-issue! Repackage! Repackage! Re-evaluate the songs...", not to mention "Best of! Most of! Slip them into different sleeves!" Still, he's yet to give away a tacky badge. It was a very different business back then though, wasn't it?

See also Frankly, Mr. Shankly which was Moz taking poisonous aim at Geoff Travis, head of Rough Trade, a man who (apparently) wrote some truly awful poetry...

Which one would you sign with?

Tuesday 7 October 2014

My Top Ten Underground Songs

Still no time to write new Top Tens and my backlog is dwindling. When I post My Top Ten Pigeon Songs (the one I always hold in reserve), you'll know the barrel has been well and truly scraped.

Meanwhile, here's ten top tunes that live beneath the surface.

10. Sneaker Pimps - Six Underground

Even though it isn't strictly Britpop (trip-hop?!?), this reminds me of that era when I worked in a radio station record library, got loads of free CDs, and went to many free gigs. 18 years ago... yes, I'm still feeling my age.

9. The Jesus & Mary Chain - My Little Underground

Loud and distorted-to-fuck... like all the best J&MC records.

8 The Beautiful South - Hold Me Close (Underground)

Paul Heaton's morbid wit at its anti-love song best.

Potholers do it with the lights off
Hikers do it long and slow
I'll still be trying to get your clothes off
When I lie 6ft below

7. Kimya Dawson - Underground

Kimya's head is about to explode and kill everyone in close proximity. Great lyrics.

So I tattoo instructions on my ass
That say "don't ever put this body in a casket
Burn it and put the ashes in a basket
And throw them in the Puget Sound
I don't ever want to be under ground"
Oh no, oh no

6. Radiohead - Subterranean Homesick Alien

Imagine if aliens came to earth to find out what human beings were really like... and they ended up abducting Thom Yorke.

5. Curtis Mayfield - Undergound

What begins as a terrifying vision of a future world driven underground after destroying its home on the surface... becomes something entirely different, in a dark, sightless world where everyone is suddenly equal.

The Mole Man's favourite record.

4. Jonathan Richman - Velvet Undergound

Jonathan pays tribute to his biggest heroes and asks the question... how in the hell did they make that sound?

3. Ben Folds Five - Underground

A great song about feeling like you don't belong to any of the cool scenes.

Who's got the looks?
Who's got the brains?
Who's got everything?
I've got this pain in my heart
That's all
Hey you, with the long and lonely face
There's gotta be something else...

It wasn't just me, was it?

2. Bob Dylan - Subterranean Homesick Blues

In which Bob Dylan invents the lyrics video.

You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows...
1. The Jam - Going Underground
Some people might say my life is in a rut...
Well, what else could it have been?

The Jam's first Number One single has an interesting story behind it. Originally, Going Underground was meant to be the b-side, but a cock up at the factory meant it became a double a-side with Dreams of Children. DJs got to choose which track they played on the radio (ah, those were the days!) and Going Underground won out. It entered the chart in the top spot, something that happens all the time these days but was pretty rare in 1980. Putting that into further context, the Number One before it was Together We Are Beautiful by Fern Kinney... and it was followed by The Detroit Spinners: Working My Way Back To You.

Of course, this isn't the Jam's only undergound-related song... and I'd argue that Down In The Tube Station At Midnight is even better. But I'm saving that for another chart.

God, Weller looks young in this video!

You choose your leaders and place your trust
As their lies put you down and their promises rust
You'll see kidney machines replaced by rockets and guns
And the public wants what the public gets
But I don't get what this society wants

Go on, dig down into your record collection...
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