Friday, 17 January 2014

Billie sings and Basie swings....

Earworms of the Week

It's been a while since we did this, I think.  So how about we launch straight into the first earworms of 2014?  It's been a long week: I spent most of Tuesday thinking that it was Thursday, which was.... disappointing.  Shall we get on?  OK, let's do it.

"Empire State of Mind" - Jay Z

It's clearly a New York thing, isn't it?  We've been back for the best part of two weeks, and I'm still missing the Big Apple and the friends who live there.  It might have been in the grips of the Polar Vortex, but NY is one hell of a city.  Lots of songs have been written about it, but not many of them are better than this one.

"Welcome to the Jungle" - Guns n'Roses

Surely one of the best opening tracks to an album ever... nevermind the best opening track on your debut album.  Sensational song, sensational album.  Honestly, just ignore pretty much everything that came after this.  Whatever you do, don't think ginger dreadlocks..... oh, dammit.

"(Marie's The Name) His Latest Flame" - Elvis Presley
"Rusholme Ruffians" - The Smiths

Such a good riff that it was stolen by someone with as impeccable a taste as Johnny Marr.  Both songs are marvellous, but the lyrical content diverges somewhat.

This is the last night of the fair
And the grease in the hair
Of a speedway operator
Is all a tremulous heart requires
A schoolgirl is denied
She said : "How quickly would I die
If I jumped from the top of the parachutes?'

What do they say?  Genius steals.  Well, Marr may have stolen the riff, but Morrissey's lyrics are all his own.

"San Quentin" - Johnny Cash

I've got lots and lots of Johnny Cash records, but I've only just acquired the two live albums recorded in prisons: Folsom Prison and San Quentin.  Both are excellent, and incredibly atmospheric with various announcements from the prison tannoy captured on the recordings....but what really shines through is the humanity of Cash.  Although he spent the odd night in jail, he wasn't really a bad boy, but this doesn't stop him from making a connection with his captive audience that simply jumps off the recording.  Legend.

"Everybody Dance Now" - C&C Music Factory

I can't remember the last time I even heard this song.  Quite why I suddenly started singing the chorus out loud in the office at my desk earlier this week, I suppose we'll never really know.  Who could possibly hope to understand such things?

"Make It Easy on Yourself" - The Walker Brothers
"Matilda" - Scott Walker
"The Amorous Humphrey Plugg" - Scott Walker

I've treated myself to a box-set of Scott Walker albums from 1967-70 and it's been a real treat rediscovering them.  I also watched the documentary "Scott Walker: 30 Century Man" and marvelled all over again at the journey of the man from teen idol to a singer of songs of death and sexually transmitted disease and on to a career as the architect of very occasional records that use slabs of meat for percussion.  It's an astonishing career, mostly powered by that remarkable voice.  It's astonishing to watch Walker introducing a live performance of "Matilda", his cover of the song by Brel, on national television saying "This song deals with a sadomasochistic love affair."  You don't get that kind of thing on X-Factor, do you? Really?  And as for the lyrics on "Humphrey Plugg"... ah.

I've become a giant
I fill every street
I dwarf the rooftops
I hunchback the moon

Ok, so he'd swallowed the songbook of Jacques Brel by this point, but it's just enchanting and seductive and all sung in that unsurpassable voice.  I've been idly toying with the idea of doing a bit of singing.  If I do, you'll have Scott Walker to thank (blame?).

"Lucky" - Radiohead

I've had my ups and downs with Radiohead (and the Scott Walker documentary reminded me that, for a long time, "Creep" was called "The Scott Walker Song").... They really lost me when I attended a gig of theirs at the Nottingham Arena when they were touring "Hail to the Thief", and they looked like they would rather be playing anywhere other than an arena, and spent the whole time ignoring the audience and fiddling with their electronic equipment.  Don't want to play arenas, boys?  Simple.  Don't book'em.  That said, "The Bends" and "OK Computer" are pretty much as good as any albums recorded at any time by any band anywhere.  Fact.  This was actually the first song off "OK Computer" that I heard, because it was also the band's contribution to the "Help" charity album.  Sounds as good now as it did in 1996, if not better.

"Africa" - Toto

Do I need a reason?  OK, check out this cover.  It's stupid and it's cheesy, but I really love this record.

"Mellowship Slinky in B Major" - Red Hot Chili Peppers

Damn, but I've fallen back in love with "Blood Sugar Sex Magik".  I thought that I preferred "By the Way", but extensive listening to the RHCP this week has confirmed that, in fact, the band did nothing better than this... well, they haven't yet, anyway, and without John Frusciante, I'm not sure that they ever will.  Individual songs on the later albums ("Dosed" springs immediately to mind) might be better and feature the most beautiful harmonies, but for an album as a whole, BSSM is unsurpassable.  This song because the rhyming is both ridiculous and irresistible.

I'm on the porch 'cause I lost my housekey
Pick up my book I read Bukowski
Can I get another kiss from you
Kiss me right here on my tattoo

Loved it when I was 17 years old, love it now.  Good lord.  Is this album really that old?  Am **I** really that old?

And on that bombshell..... have a good weekend, y'all.

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