Friday 27 November 2015

My Top Ten Bad Woman Songs

Sometimes I pick a topic that, for one reason or another, fills the Top Ten with music of one particular genre, or era. Most of this week's list comes from the 60s and 70s... which suggests it's no longer seen as politically correct to write about bad women. Which is nonsense, considering some of the misogynistic crap that gets on the airwaves these days. (Although it'd be just as sexist to stop writing songs about bad women - since true equality comes from seeing the bad and the good in everyone.)

Oh, and in case you were wondering where all the bad girls are... They'll get their turn one day.

10. Skip James - Devil Got My Woman

Originally recorded in the early 1930s, though it wasn't widely known until its re-release in the late 60s (shortly before James's death in 1969) and, no, I didn't discover it until I read / saw Ghost World. I guess the blues don't get much more authentic than this. But I'm not going to pretend to be an expert.

9. Cher - Dark Lady

Cher had three US Number One Hits in the 70s, though only Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves was an international success.The second #1 was Half-Breed, in which she portrayed a woman outcast for being half white, half Cherokee. (The video for that, from The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, is hilariously wrong in a Parks & Recreation-style way.) And then came Dark Lady, in which Cher returned to her Gypsy roots with a watered-down version of Redbone's The Witch Queen of New Orleans (which I'm saving for my Top Ten Voodoo Songs, in case you were wondering why I hadn't found room for it here). It was 25 years before she had another Number One record... you know, the one that gave us Auto-Tune. Don't hate her for that.

By the way, Cher is 69 this year. Isn't it time she started putting some clothes on?

8. Allman Brothers - Black-Hearted Woman

A direct descendant of Skip James's woman - and his music.

7. Eric Church - Devil, Devil  (Prelude: Princess Of Darkness)

The only contemporary record on the list this week, this is from Eric Church's latest album, The Outsiders, and it's an eight minute epic. Think you know what modern country music sounds like? Think again...

Oh, and the Devil in question...? Her name is Nashville.

6. Lou Rawls - Evil Woman

Lou Rawls has one of my favourite voices in soul music . Don't go searching for the lyrics online though - every lyrics site I checked had confused this song with another Evil Woman we'll meet a little bit further down this list. Which only goes to show that all those sites steal content from each other and don't bother to check its veracity.

Lou's song is actually a cover of Evil Woman by Spooky Tooth,  a cool slice of laidback 60s psychedelia. Cool... but not Lou.

5. Cliff Richard - Devil Woman

OK, you have every right to hate me for this... like I care what you think. This is one of Cliff's three  biggest selling singles; I was four when it came out and my mum listened to a lot of Radio 2. Plus, I prefer it to the Marty Robbins track of the same name. Just.

If you don't like Cliff's version, I suggest you listen to the one by Krystine Sparkle (the song's co-writer). I can guarantee you'll go back to Cliff. Alternatively, check out the versions by All About Eve, Hayseed Dixie or Cradle of Filth. Something for everybody.

Also, if it wasn't for Devil Woman, we wouldn't ever have had...

4. Flight of the Conchords - Demon Woman
Demon woman
You sit on a rock
Looking nice in your frock
But you're scaring my livestock
'Nuff said? Oh, all right then...
Demon woman
You cut puppies' toes off
Pull an animal's nose off
How'd you magic my clothes off?
I can't wait for the Flight of the Conchords movie.

All of which leads quite nicely into...

3. Crow - Evil Woman (Don't Play Your Games With Me)

You may be more familiar with the Black Sabbath version, but this is the original from a year earlier (1969). Ozzy's is heavier but it doesn't have a trumpet solo.

While we're on the subject of Black Sabbath, I suppose I should also offer Lady Evil for your consideration.

2. Elvis Presley - Hard Headed Woman

Rock 'n' roll Elvis at his most pure. Scotty Moore's guitar just blows me away here.
Samson told Delilah
Loud and clear
"Keep your cotton-pickin' fingers out my curly hair!"
See also Cat Stevens' song of the same name - Cat obviously hasn't heeded Elvis's warning.  

1. ELO - Evil Woman

It's good to see Jeff Lynne getting some respect again this year - proof positive that if you stick around long enough, even the muso-snobs will come around to the fact that you're a national treasure. Not heard the new ELO album yet (beyond the typically Lennon-esque single), but this is one of their very best. Love that opening...

Who's your favourite naughty old lady?

Saturday 21 November 2015

My Top Ten Waitress Songs

This is the first time I've ever edited a Top Ten after publishing...but shortly after posting it for the first time earlier this afternoon, Simon popped up in the comments and pointed out the most egregious ommision I have ever made. I've forgotten great songs before when compiling Top Tens, but I've never neglected a glaringly obvious Number One before. Well, I just couldn't let it stand. So let's try this one again...

Ten songs dedicated to hard-working waitresses everywhere.

The image above is the cover to the Felice Brothers' album Favourite Waitress... but sadly, there's no song to go with it.

Special mention (as it's getting close to Christmas) to The Waitresses...

...and to Material Issue - Kim The Waitress

A great little power pop story that starts out sweet and shy... 
Writing poems in a corner booth
That I'd die
If she 
Before taking a much darker turn...
Though I don't stand a ghost of a chance with her
She's pretty (and that bothers me)
So pretty (and that bothers me)
And it bothers me.
It was Number Ten until I had to restructure this list to squeeze in the new Number One, and I didn't want to just drop it completely.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled programme...

10. Loudon Wainwright III - Tip That Waitress

Leave it to Loudon to describe the horrors a real waitress faces every night...
She's been on her feet nearly half the damned night
Bringing your beverage and your late night bite
She remains cheerful, when you're nasty and tight
Makes change for a 50 in dim candlelight
Ignoring the groping, hoping you might
Come across with a tip and sympathize with her plight
Tip that waitress!
Mr. Blonde would disagree.

9. Tori Amos - The Waitress

When waitresses go to war. Don't mess with Tori, bitch! She'll kill you.

8. 5 Chinese Brothers - She's A Waitress (And I'm In Love)

A sage warning from the brothers who weren't Chinese (not sure they were brothers either... were there even 5 of them?) about never falling for that smile the waitress gives you...
In her tight uniform with a low-cut neck
And the way that the grease mixes with her sweat
She smells as good as the inside of a new Corvette
She fits your dreams like a baseball glove
And when she smiles at you, that's when you realize
That's not the way she smiles at all the other guys
You see her sneak a peek from behind the pies
She's a waitress, and you're in love
There is no happy ending to this story.

7. Belle & Sebastian - Dear Catastrophe Waitress

The title track from Stuart Murdoch's most outrageously "pop" album (he even hired Trevor 'Buggles' Horn to produce). Lyrically, it's the usual Murdoch mix: equal parts melancholic whimsy and 'the sun'll come out tomorrow' pipe dreams.

6. Fountains Of Wayne - Halley's Waitress

Any excuse to play some Fountains. This is one of the most laidback tunes in their repertoire. Reminds me a bit of Steely Dan, yet it's still unmistakably FOW.

5. Flight of the Conchords - The Most Beautiful Girl (In The Room)

OK, it's a shameless Prince spoof from a sitcom soundtrack album... but that doesn't stop it being one of my favourite songs of the last 15 years. The musos would have you believe that the above disqualify it from contention. I firmly disagree. This song makes me smile every time I hear it. In that alone, it's on a par with Wichita Lineman...
You're so beautiful...
You could be a waitress

You're so beautiful...
You could be an air hostess in the 60s
You're so beautiful...
Well, you could be a part-time model
(But you'd probably still have to keep your normal job)
I'd probably have made it Number One, but I wanted to save it up so I could use it again on my Top Ten Flight Attendant Songs*, Model Songs, and Beautiful Girl Songs...

(*And if you're wondering where Waitress In The Sky by The Replacements is (Miller), there's your answer.)

4. Don Henley - Waiting Tables

Taken from Don Henley's first album in 15 years, Cass County, which is a damned fine record. Proof, if proof were needed, that he can still tell a great story... and sing it with the voice of a weary angel.

3. Joni Mitchell - Barangrill

Joni at her storytelling best...
Three waitresses all wearing
Black diamond earrings
Talking about zombies and Singapore slings
No trouble in their faces
Not one anxious voice
None of the crazy you get
From too much choice
The thumb and the satchel
Or the rented Rolls-Royce
And you think she knows something
By the second refill
You think she's enlightened
As she totals your bill
You say "show me the way
To Barangrill"
 ...apparently inspired by a stop-off at a late night gas station where the attendant started singing to her (when she wouldn't sing to him).

2. First Aid Kit - Waitress Song

11 months on and Stay Gold is still my favourite album of 2014. (I'm currently considering this year's Top Ten... a tough selection process!) This is one (of many) stand out tracks, a song about wishing you could run away and start over somewhere else, with a sly nod to Cyndi Lauper.

And yes, First Aid Kit were originally Number One on this countdown. Until Simon pointed out the obvious...

1. The Human League - Don't You Want Me?

One of the great songs of the 80s? Apparently Phil Oakey thought it was a substandard filler track and didn't even want it releasing as a single (particularly as the album it came from had already spawned three hits and he thought the record buying public was "sick of the Human League"). It went on to become the 23rd best-selling single in UK chart history - and a Christmas Number One to boot.

Sheffield has a lot to answer for... although the video was filmed in Slough.
You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar
When I met you...

Please don't leave a tip. I don't deserve one this week. Just don't tell me I forgot another classic waitress song... 

Monday 2 November 2015

My Top Ten Debra / Deborah / Debbie Songs

Ten songs about women named Debra, Deborah or Debs.

Special mentions to a couple of the famous Debbies referenced below...

10. Stina Nordenstam - When Debbie's Back From Texas

Frustratingly absent from youtube, but I wanted to include it anyway because I love Stina's voice... and because I always wondered if the Debbie in question had been visiting... erm, Dallas.

9. The Fat Lady Sings - Deborah

Forgotten (by all but the blogosphere) Irish band of the early 90s. This is from their still-impressive debut album, Twist. 

8. The B52s - Debbie

Sounds pretty much like every other B52s record you ever heard. Still loads of fun.

7. Beck - Debra

From the days when Beck wanted to be Prince. He does a pretty good impersonation...

6. Mojo Nixon - Debbie Gibson Is Pregnant With My Two-Headed Love Child

All you need to know about this is the title... and the fact that Winona Ryder plays Debbie Gibson in the video. She claims it was her favourite role ever. Well, it's certainly a better performance than the one she gave in Bram Stoker's Dracula.

5. Helen Love - Debbie Loves Joey

Another irresistible bag of cartoon indie popcorn from Helen, Sheena and Ricardo Autobahn.
When they walked downtown all the people would stare
They used to laugh at their clothes and the colour of their hair
She was 17 and she didn't care
Cause baby's gonna take her everywhere
Cause he said they'd live in New York
And the stars would be their own
She was Debbie Harry and he was Joey Ramone!
4. Slaves - Where's Your Car, Debbie?

So Slaves get lost on the way home from a gig and can't find their mate's car. That's pretty much the entire song (until it all goes a bit Blair Witch)... but we've all been there, and that's what makes this a tiny blast of turbo-charged genius.

3. Courtney Barnett - Debbie Downer

Does Courtney consider herself a Debbie Downer? She shouldn't. She always cheers me up...
Tell me when you're getting bored and I'll leave
I'm not the one who put the chain around your feet
I'm sorry for all of my insecurities, but they're just a part of me
"Envy is thin because it bites but never eats"
That's what a nice old Spanish lady once told me
"Hey Debbie-Downer turn that frown upside down and just be happy!"
2. T-Rex - Deborah

Yes, if anyone was going to rhyme Debra with Zebra, it would have to be Mark Bolan: King of Naff Rhymes. (The critics say "he made nursery rhymes sound profound"... I think he was either off his mitts or taking the bliss.)

Deborah was Bolan's first ever Top 40 "hit", from back in 1968 when his band was still called Tyrannosaurus Rex. It was reissued in 1972 when T-Rex were much a bigger thing and then it made the Top Ten. Lyrically it was utter tosh, but Bolan was a proper pop star, so we could forgive him anything. 

1. Pulp - Disco 2000

Based on a true story about a girl called Debbie that young Jarvis was infatuated with... the only bit he made up was the "woodchip on <her> walls".

Watching Mark Radcliffe's recent BBC4 documentary series on the history of indie (Music For Misfits), a good argument was put forward by the assembled talking heads (chiefly The Grauniad's music critic Alex Petri-dish) that Pulp should not be classed as Britpop as they had so little in common with Blur, Oasis and the New Lad / New Labour pop culture of the mid-90s. I'll always have a soft spot for Britpop as those were my gig-going years and I had many a fine evening watching the likes of Shed Seven, The Bluetones and The Verve... but yes, Pulp were more than just a cut above: they were in a league all their own.

Disco 2000 is Pulp at the height of their chart-conquering success. But just as the name Deborah never suited the girl in the song, being pop stars never really suited Jarvis and co. They hated fame so much they were soon keen to press the self-destruct on Top of the Pops success and go back to being a proper indie band.

They even banned the record from being used in any TV or radio trailers in the run up to the Millennium. Which would have made them a pretty penny... but I guess they were never in it for the money.

Which Debbie does your Dallas? And which is your Debbie Downer?
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