Friday 19 October 2007

Sleeping in my bed, strange thoughts, running through my head...

You lucky people.

I was all gearing up to start writing up my earworms of the week when someone went and rescued you all from that fate by volunteering. I'm only fractionally disappointed by this, and I imagine that most of you aren't disappointed at all. Even the fact that my list would certainly have included the Foo Fighters cover of "Band on the Run" probably doesn't make having a proper Guest Editor anything less than a delight. Mind you, the fact that I've just watched a programme that counted down a list of the most annoying songs ever recorded should probably automatically disqualify me from listing any earworms for at least a month. If not longer ("Barbie Girl"? "My Heart Will Go On"? "Come On Eileen"? Crazy Frog? Band Aid 20? dear oh dear...)



This week's guest is a long-term reader who has recently become a valued and thoughtful commentator and shuffleathon participant....

Without further ado, I shall leave you in his more than capable hands and go back to watching the 3rd place play-off in the rugby.......

Earworms of the Week - Guest Editor #72 - The Great Grape Ape

My head is always spinning with some song or other, usually what I have been listening to in the car on the way to and from work. These are what have been in my mind this week.

> Bellowhead – Across the line

I have been earworming their Burlesque album after including a track from it in my Shuffleathon selection and I have been singing this track (which is probably my favourite from the album) under my breath on several occasions this week, along with Jordan and that great Coppersong One May Morning Early. They are best served live but in the absence of space in the front room for 11 bouncing musicians (not to mention their enormous instruments – cripes vicar have you seen the size of that euphonium!) the recorded version will do.

> Scott Walker – The Escape

I have this on a self made compilation and think it is one of the best tracks on “The Drift”. I love the sinister Donald Duck voice which comes in three quarters of the way through this dark piece of music. The man has a great sense of humour.

> Richard Hawley – Coles Corner

Having seen Mr Hawley recently in the Scott Walker documentary film (Thanks Mr Toni for revealing that it was out on dvd ) and being impressed by his 1950s sartorial genius and top Sheffield accent, I pulled out Coles Corner and Lowedges again. I think I prefer Coles Corner, and this, the opening track is just wonderful. It’s easy to write his music off as pastiche but his songwriting is really good. There’s nothing surprising there but what he does, he does beautifully. Nice to see someone keeping Brylcreem in business too.

> Anne Briggs – Fine Horseman

This song is an old favourite of mine, was originally written by the great Lal Waterson and has been covered by many people over the years. Anne Briggs “The Time Has Come” album has recently been re-released and this has been in my head ever since.

> Alemayehu Eshete – Eskegiew Bertchi

Is an Ethiopian singer who sings in Amharic and has been going since the 1960s. This is a really funky track which I think dates from the 1970s and has an insistent nagging beat. I also love this because it sounds like he is singing the whole thing backwards.

I can’t comment on the content of the lyrics.

> Bjork – Dull Flame of Desire

Mmm, I have a bit of a love/hate thing going with Bjork. I bought religiously her first few solo albums but sort of lost interest after Vespertine. Largely because I found her tendency to fleece her obsessive fans by releasing copious versions of things rather offputting. I have come to the conclusion that I like to listen tracks by her in isolation so as not to get tired of her quirkiness which can get boring after a while. This track off Volta is such a tender beautiful piece of music. It’s the horns that do it – apparently a female Icelandic brass band called “Wonderbrass”. Oh and it’s a duet with Antony (of the Johnsons) and his voice melds beautifully with Bjorks. I did love Andy Kershaw the other month on Front Row (BBC Radio 4 arts programme, foreign readers) repeating in his gruff Rochdale accent at volume “The woman can’t sing”. I think he sort of has a point but still think she has the capacity to create music of a quality which makes that irrelevant. Two other tracks off Volta, Earth Intruders and Wanderlust have also been in my head this week.

> Steeleye Span – Copshawholme Fair

A track which Bellowhead have also done a version of , but I have had the Hark ! The Village Wait (the album from which this comes) on in the car this week. It’s a lovely old song about the Cumberland hiring fairs or mop fairs as they were sometimes called.

> Robyn – With every heartbeat

Top pop song of the year, and fantastic to have had as a number one UK single. Throbbing synthesisers, classical strings and vocals which sound almost Kate Bush at times. Nothing is surplus to requirements. It’s the “maybe we could make it happen baby” bit which I can’t remove from me head. I don’t expect a song of this quality to make number one for some time to come.

> Robert Wyatt – Heaps of sheeps

I dug out the “Shleep” album from which this comes last week to listen to in the car. I haven’t heard his latest album yet. This is the first song and the one I keep humming. It’s from 1997 but it has almost a Madchester sound at times.

> Joni Mitchell – Shine

Joni Mitchell, first new album in ten years, yadda, yadda, yadda. Joni Mitchell is one of the few artists whom I think has incredible talent and has been pretty consistent over the years. I own most of her back catalogue and automatically buy every new release. It’s a good album, with few surprises and as has been the case with Joni for some time, sounds awfully MOR at times. Which is fine. She has been criticised for her almost na├»ve approach to the world’s problems on this record (as well as releasing this on Starbucks’ own record label) as this is a protest record of sorts. It’s theme is essentially “hope is the only thing we can have in the face of such overwhelming adversity”. War is bad. Religion can be bad. What we are doing to the environment is bad. People have the potential to be good. I don’t find her lyrics embarrassing because I think she lives them and also because I agree with her on most of them. This song keeps cropping up in my head.

> Rachel Unthank and the Winterset – My Donald / Fareweel Regality (sic)

They are from the North-East of England and they sing with Geordie accents. The album from which these songs are from,“The Bairns”, is, no question, my favourite album of 2007.

I play the album at least once every day at the moment and am consequently earworming every song off it at least once every week. If I was to draw up a list of earworms based on the amount of time each song spent whizzing round my head then the list would probably be 100% Unthank. These two are currently the most popular. The music is made up of mainly traditional Northumbrian folk songs but with covers of songs by people such as Will Oldham and Robert Wyatt and their talented pianist and arranger Belinda O’Hooley thrown in for good measure. The arrangements of the songs draw on jazz, classical folk and even ambient rock influences. I have recently been reading a book called Crow Country which is my favourite book of the year so far and this is the perfect soundtrack to it, bringing to mind bleak autumn and winter landscapes, silhouettes of trees, beaches under snow and hordes of black birds flocking to roost. As you can perhaps detect, it’s not a laugh a minute but amongst it’s dark songs of domestic violence, infant death and life at sea are a few moments of humour and positivity .

It is, by the way, a grower – it took me about ten listens to realise its incredible strength but I have been hooked ever since.

(Cheque payable to Mr G G Ape please, Ms Unthank)


My thanks to the GGA. A sterling effort and a welcome break from the usual guitar-orientated nonsense that pops into my head every week. Any hints as to your likely shuffleathon content there, I wonder?

With any luck, this will soon be available in podcast form (thanks as always to E. for all her sterling work there).

Next week: hopefully someone other than me! (volunteers welcome)

Have a nice weekend y'all, and let's hope for a nice, tight, niggly game of rugby tomorrow, with England still in the hunt going into the last ten minutes....

[Previous Guest Editors: Flash, The Urban Fox, Lord Bargain, Retro-Boy, Statue John, Ben, OLS, Ka, Jenni, Aravis, Yoko, Bee, Charlie, Tom, Di, Spin, The Ultimate Olympian, Damo, Mike, RedOne, The NumNum, Leah, Le Moine Perdu, clm, Michael, Hyde, Adem, Alecya, bytheseashore, adamant, Earworms of the Year 2005, Delrico Bandito, Graham, Lithaborn, Phil, Mark II, Stef, Kaptain Kobold, bedshaped, I have ordinary addictions, TheCatGirlSpeaks, Lord B rides again, Tina, Charlie II, Cody Bones, Poll Star, Jenni II, Martin, Del II, The Eye in the Sky, RussL, Lizzy's Hoax, Ben II, Earworms of the Year 2006, Sarah, Flash II, Erika, Hen, Pynchon, Troubled Diva, Graham II, Cat II, Statue John II, Sweeping the Nation, Aravis II, Olympian II, C, Planet-Me, Mike, Michael II, Eye in the Sky II, Charlie III]


  1. Slating Dexy's is a capital offence!

  2. What a great list! I love the Bellowhead and Rachel Unthank albums as well. Try the new June Tabor, it's great.

  3. Wonderful selection, and bang on about Robyn. A cracking Number 1 single. Absolutely heartbreaking, appropriately enough...