Thursday, December 14, 2006


There are a fair few songs out there that defy any effort to describe. I've written before about Pink Floyd's "The Great Gig in the Sky" for example, which has the power to reduce me to a quivering wreck and robs me of the ability to make sense. I also get the same way about Jean Michel Jarre's "Rendezvous".
And now this.
A friend sent me this song not too long ago. I forget exactly why it was sent to me, but I listened to it, thought it was OK, and moved on. For a start, Sigur Ros are an Icelandic band, so I haven't zeroed in on the lyric as I often do. It's also what you might call "emo-ambient," which is not something I readily dive into.
But the damn thing keeps popping up on my iPod and it's been worming its way into my head to the extent that when it comes around now, I stop everything and just drink it in.
Everyone of us carries in our brain the memory of smells that take us back to our childhood, or to a particular time or place, something that brings a lump to our throat or that makes us smile: the particular smell of the sofa in your grandparents' front room, or a baby's freshly-washed hair. Instead of smells, I have songs.
And the damnedest thing is that this song doesn't bring a particular memory to mind, but it just raises ghosts, like the godfather I really missed getting to know or the feeling of security and comfort I remember having at the age of 6, but I'm damned if I remember what house I lived in at the time.
And maybe that's the joy of songs like this: perhaps they're blank canvases that allow us to make of them what we will. They provide the key to some internal door that accesses nameless, orphaned emotions and thoughts.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

"It's a Shame About Ray"

As an impressionable teenager, I revered John McEnroe; I admired his fiery determination, his unwillingness to be anything but himself and the way that he made a virtue out of what I thought was an ungainly, awkward approach to the game.
As I grew older, I began to appreciate something different: his innate, untutored, helpless talent. I don't think he really had a great deal of choice in the matter - he was born to play tennis. All the tantrums, the anger were just so much static - no matter how crappy a day he was having, his tennis was still solid gold.
I know this might be a stretch, but I reckon that Evan Dando may well be the John McEnroe of music. A sublimely talented writer, gifted with such a fantastic voice, he seemed to just sweat great tunes while he was busy doing something else.
Evan Dando had the luck to be able to knock out such fantastic tunes while struggling with addiction and distraction. A song as simple as this, you'd think, must mean it's not all that hard, this songwriting business.
We think to ourselves, "I'm sure I could do it," but the problem is, we probably couldn't. We either don't have the talent or the application, or else we'd be doing it already, wouldn't we?
And the supreme irony is that, to John McEnroe or Evan Dando playing championship tennis or writing this song was probably reasonably easy. They were used to it - they grew up with the talent, they harnessed it.
There's nothing fancy here, but then listen to any truly great pop song - "There She Goes," "Teenage Kicks," "I Saw the Light" - and the genius is in the simplicity: "If I make it through today/I'll know tomorrow not to leave my feelings out on display/I'll put the cobwebs back in place/I've never been too good with names/but I remember faces."

Monday, December 11, 2006


I really, really wish I hadn't seen the video for this song.
I happened to see it late at night and was sucked in to the simple, earthy rhythm of the song, and the images of simple enjoyment, the celebration of community and togetherness that it portrayed.
Then I went hunting for the lyrics:
"I woke up this morning/Now I understand/What it means to give your life/To just one man/Afraid of feeling nothing/No bees or butterflies/My head is full of voices/And my house is full of lies."
And I realised just how many promo videos are made that bear utterly no relationship - and in some cases a completely inappropriate one - to the song and its subject. Mind you, with a song as gorgeous as this you really would not expect a lyric like:
"I'm going crazy/A little every day/'cause everything I wanted/Is now driving me away/I woke this morning/To the sound of breaking hearts/Mine is full of questions/And it's tearing yours apart."
Watch the video and see what you think:

"Love Hurts"

If you search for this song on Google, you'll get any number of results that cite Roy Orbison, or Nazareth, or some other band as having written this song. Go to YouTube and you'll get any number of second-rate versions of this song.
I'm here to tell you that this version - a duet with Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris - is the definitive take on this song.
It was written by Boudleaux Bryant, who's just about the greatest country songwriter that lived -- his songs sold over 300 million million copies for artists like Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers. He never made records himself, but is the only songwriter in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Listen to this song and find out why.
I don't think this song was meant to be a duet, but when you hear their voices entwined, mingling, it's as if the song was written with Gram and Emmylou in mind. The joy of this sad, sad song, the beauty of it, is all in the voices. They could be reciting the phonebook for all I care, and you know it would sound truly magnificent, other-worldly.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

"Don't Nobody Move (This Is a Heist)"

Now, here's an odd one. I remember first hearing this song over 20 years ago. The local TV station in Maine used to play a couple of hours of wall-to-wall videos most Friday and Saturday nights, and one summer this particular song was on heavy rotation. I liked it but I never did find the record itself.

I got hooked on the song: Tony Powers sings it like Tom Waits' slightly disreputable older brother. The lyrics are a complete hoot: lines like "I was in the police station being booked for garlic breath" delivered in the broadest Noo Yawk accent.

Rumor has it that Powers may have had something to do with the 60s one-hit-wonders ? and the Mysterians, and he was the film Goodfellas. But where this song came from, I've no idea.

Move on twenty years and the age of the internet and particularly YouTube, and a casual search reveals the original video in all its glory. Enjoy, and see how many well-known actor faces you can spot.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

"Way of the World"

And here's the song that broke the log-jam, that fused the lights and reminded me that there is nothing, nothing, like a tightly-wound song to reach deep down your throat and put the squeeze on your gut.

Listen to Bun E. Carlos' drumming - it's spare, economical yet it's a force of nature that just will not stop. The portly, doleful-looking guy behind the kit, with the ever-present cigarete drooping out of his mouth, turns out to be the best kind of drummer a band could ever have - a solid, dependable base from which the song can fly.

Listen to Rick Neilsen's guitar - it's an amalgam of Tom Petty's chiming Rickenbacker, Tom Scholz's precise squall and Jeff Lynne's airbrushed fuzz. It's like every major guitarist of the last 30 years was in a car crash, and out of the tangled wreckage stepped this goofy-looking nerd with an unholy genius for hooks.

And because two ugly dudes like Carlos and Neilsen wouldn't exactly pull the punters in, they roped in ahem...better-looking guys in singer Robin Zander and bassist Tom Pederssen. And surprisingly, it's Zander's voice that really tops the cake to perfection here.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Cheap Trick may not have invented power pop, but by God they perfected it.

Couldn't Resist....

Normal service (well, what passes for normal) is resumed. After drying up over the course of a long and somewhat distracting summer, the executives at SongsWithoutWhich Towers have decided that enough outrageously good music has been created in the last 50 years that it would be churlish, nay miserly of us not to continue to bring it to your attention.

The select few of you who follow links will know that I've occasionally contributed to the very eclectic Music to Grow Old To as well. And if I can (ka-tish) do it there, I can do it (ka-tish) anywhere.

It also reflects the belated discovery of YouTube around these here parts, and the realization that it is the work of a moment to embed a video of a particularly fine song so that you, dear reader, can listen, watch AND read at the same time! Assuming, of course, that you're all women, because we all know that men can't multi-task.

On with the music.....

Friday, August 18, 2006

Coda: "Claire de Lune"

The thunderstorm is passing behind the ridge overlooking the house, the hills lit brilliantly for long seconds at a time as the force of nature tears itself apart. To the other side I see the moon, brilliant and sharp in focus over the Mediterranean.

It's not quite humid enough or menacing an atmosphere for the blues, though it is a sore temptation to lay on some Ry Cooder and go for a stroll among the prickly pear and palm. But this place is older, much older than the blues. Black, jagged rocks on the shore that can strip the flesh from the feet of the unwary, while the midday sun can squeeze the breath from the lungs with crushing weight.

Here, there's no place for the rusted, cast-off sounds of blues, of slide guitar and bottleneck. This is pre-mechanical.

Instead, to show the gods of this blasted earth the proper respect, I play something from the salons of Paris, a piece to calm the brutest heart and revive the sorriest spirit. And as the lights go out along the ridge, as the astronomers close the door on their telescopes and as the last moped blares past on the road from the bar, I prepare to close the day, to kiss my sleeping children and lay down to sleep, all to the sound of the whole of one man's eternal yearning.

Monday, July 31, 2006

"Go Now"

I think it's time to put this baby to bed.
SongsWithoutWhich has been a lot of fun, a lot of frustration and a lot of inadvertent discoveries for me, but it's run its course. I think that anyone who can find more than 500 songs -- and I haven't; we're into the mid-300s here -- that they can't live without is probably spreading their jam a little too thinly on the toast.
And when I have to spend time actively looking through my archived tapes and lists for songs that I might have overlooked, rather than have songs just arrive in my head, then it's time to call it quits.
I hope you've enjoyed the ride.


Monday, July 24, 2006

"Love, Reign o'er Me"

I couldn't decide whether to blog this song or Everything But the Girl's "Missing".
Most of us are gasping under the hammering basilisk stare of the sun, commending our souls to the sauna-like sardine tins of public transport each morning and evening, and a breath of fresh, cool air or a fine mist of rain would come in really handy.
So when I happened to be sitting on a train outside London tonight, waiting for the sweet relief of a green light and some progress, what should pop into my head but this song...
"Only love/Can make it rain/The way the beach/Is kissed by the sea/Only love/Can make it rain/Like the sweat of lovers/Laying in the fields." Of course the bit about sweating was a modest turn-off at that precise moment, given that I was getting very intimate with someone's armpit at the time, but you get the idea.
And as I was singing this song to myself, suddenly I found myself making the leap from Roger Daltrey's howl to Tracey Thorn's sweet sweet voice murmuring: "And I miss you/Like the deserts miss the rain." I don't want to come across all nerdy or anything, but rain's much on the general mind these days. Rain, lack of; water, shortages of in coming years; heat and humidity, excessive; warming, global.
Ahem. Back to the subject.
If ever a song were to define the words "magnum opus", I think this would be the one. The sheer scale of the ambition, the immense scope of the song put it right up there with "Stairway to Heaven", a journey taken in a few short minutes from the calm reflection of nostalgia and wistfulness to joyful declamation and decision.
We begin the trip huddling for shelter from the rain, listening to it chill our very souls and as the song progresses we move out into the open, we stand tall beneath its cleansing flow, growing in confidence until at the end we are out there holding hands with nature, accepting and revelling.
Even Daltrey's voice seems to have a freshness about it, a hoarseness that comes not from the dryness of an oppressively hot and dusty day, but from screaming out in joy at nothing and everything. It's the vocal equivalent of an ice-cold drink at the end of a long, hot day.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Full SongsWithoutWhich List

I Saw the Light - Todd Rundgren
The Great Gig In The Sky - Pink Floyd
I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight - Richard & Linda Thompson
Sweet Jane - The Cowboy Junkies
Say It Ain't So Joe - Murray Head
Movin' On Up - Primal Scream
One of Those Days in England Pts 1-10 - Roy Harper
Desperadoes Under the Eaves - Warren Zevon
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds - The Hooters
All Is Forgiven - Jellyfish
Come Back! (The Story of the Reds) - The Mighty Wah!
Me In Honey - REM
A Love Like Blood - Killing Joke
All or Nothing - The Small Faces
Don't Come Around Here No More - Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Beasley Street - John Cooper-Clarke
Downtown Train - Tom Waits
Little Does She Know - The Kursaal Flyers
Surrender - Cheap Trick
White Punks On Dope - The Tubes
I Ain't Ever Satisfied - Steve Earle & The Dukes
Deeper Underground - Jamiroquai
The Sound of Musik - Falco
Peach - Prince
Kiss Me Hardy - Serge Gainsbourg
Tipitina - Professor Longhair
Stay With Me - The Faces
Ace of Spades - Motorhead
Silver Machine - Hawkwind
Homburg - Procul Harum
Effloresce and Deliquesce - The Chills
Whole Wide World - Wreckless Eric
Biko - Peter Gabriel
Tonight - Nick Lowe
The Needle & the Damage Done - Pete Wylie & The Icicle Works
Women in Chains - Tears for Fears
Teenage Kicks - The Undertones
Smile - The Supernaturals
Wasted Time/The Last Resort - The Eagles
Eleanor - The Turtles
You're So Good to Me - The Beach Boys
Stranger in Blue Suede Shoes - Kevin Ayers
(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding - Elvis Costello
Finishing Touches - Warren Zevon
Nancy Boy - Placebo
Darling It Hurts - Paul Kelly & the Messengers
Political Science - Randy Newman
Hello - The Beloved
The Disappointed - XTC
First/Second/Third Rendezvous - Jean-Michel Jarre
Somewhere Only We Know - Keane
How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live? - Ry Cooder
She's a Star - James
Power in the Darkness - Tom Robinson Band
Everything Must Go - Manic Street Preachers
Rex Bob Lowenstein - Mark Germino & the Sluggers
Every Night - Phoebe Snow
I'm On My Way - The Proclaimers
Welcome to the Boomtown - David & David
"Heroes" - David Bowie
In the Bath - Lemonjelly
Exit - U2
Stay on These Roads - A-Ha
Theme From Boat Weirdoes - Joe Walsh
Rumbleseat - John Cougar Mellencamp
Waterloo Sunset - The Kinks
Superstition - Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble
No Matter What - Badfinger
Ezy Ryder - Jimi Hendrix
Wrecking Ball - Emmylou Harris
Deutscher Girls - Adam & the Ants
Pick Up the Pieces - Average White Band
Song 2 - Blur
State Trooper - Bruce Springsteen
Being Boiled - The Human League
Sneaking Sally Through the Alley - Robert Palmer
Istanbul Not Constantinople - They Might Be Giants
Renegade - Warren Zevon
La Grange - ZZ Top
Find You - Jason & the Scorchers
The Pretender - Jackson Browne
Space Truckin' - Deep Purple
There She Goes - The Las
No More 'I Love Yous' - The Lover Speaks
Bittersuite - Marillion
Life Is Hard - Timbuk 3
I'm In Love With a German Film Star - The Passions
(Get a) Grip (On Yourself) - The Stranglers
Powderfinger - Neil Young
Crazy - Icehouse
American Girl - Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
He's My Best Friend - Jellyfish
Ocean Spray - Manic Street Preachers
Go - Steriogram
Vigilante Man - Ry Cooder & David Lindley
I Want to Take You Higher - Sly & the Family Stone
Finishing Touches - Warren Zevon
The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down - The Band
Caroline, No - The Beach Boys
Information - The Rainmakers
Captain Jack - Billy Joel
Let Me Entertain You - Robbie Williams
Alright - Supergrass
Virginia Plain - Roxy Music
Uneasy Rider - Charlie Daniels
Slap and Tickle - Squeeze
A New England - Kirsty MacColl
International Velvet - Catatonia
What a Waste! - Ian Dury & the Blockheads
The Wreck of the 'Edmund Fitzgerald' - Gordon Lightfoot
Anarchy in the U.K. - The Sex Pistols
Lullaby - Shawn Mullins
Well, Did You Evah! - Debbie Harry & Iggy Pop
Rollin' Over - The Small Faces
Video Killed the Radio Star - The Buggles
Journey of the Sorcerer - The Eagles
Total Control - The Motels
Bad - U2
Foreplay/Long Time - Boston
White Rabbit - Jefferson Airplane
Asleep in the Desert - ZZ Top
Neon Lights - Kraftwerk
Hold On I'm Coming - Eric Clapton & BB King
The Load-Out/Stay - Jackson Browne
Will We Be Lovers? - Deacon Blue
American Idiot - Green Day
Voices Carry - Til Tuesday
Every Picture Tells a Story - Rod Stewart
5:15 - The Who
Authority Song - John Cougar Mellencamp
Teenage Dirtbag - Wheatus
FM - Steely Dan
Blinded By the Light - Bruce Springsteen
Overnight Sensation - The Raspberries
One of the Boys - Mott the Hoople
She Still Loves Him - Jellyfish
I Wish - Stevie Wonder
The Fletcher Memorial Home - Pink Floyd
Love the One You're With - Stephen Stills
Welcome to the Pleasure Dome - Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Classical Gas - Mason Williams
Let's Work Together - Canned Heat
Pink - Aerosmith
Boy Crazy - The Tubes
Saturn 5 - The Inspiral Carpets
Misty Mountain Hop - Led Zeppelin
Stop Dragging My Heart Around - Stevie Nicks
Shipbuilding - Robert Wyatt
Keep on Rocking in the Free World - Neil Young
Fall At Your Feet - Crowded House
Life's Been Good - Joe Walsh
Rise - Public Image Ltd
Driving With Your Eyes Closed - Don Henley
The Indifference of Heaven - Warren Zevon
Hoo Dee Hoo - The Rainmakers
English Rose - The Jam
They Shoot Horses Don't They - Racing Cars
Are You Ready to be Heartbroken? - Lloyd Cole & the Commotions
Sebrina, Paste & Plato - Jellyfish
In Your Eyes - Peter Gabriel
Dignity - Deacon Blue
Temptation - Heaven 17
Girls & Boys - Blur
Bad Company - Bad Company
Angel Dressed in Black - Warren Zevon
Gimme Some Loving - Spencer Davis Group
Riders on the Storm - The Doors
Life in the Fast Lane - The Eagles
25 or 6 to 4 - Chicago
Pretend We're Dead - L7
Tiny Dancer - Elton John
Isn't it Time - The Babys
Night Moves - Bob Seger
Every Day is a Winding Road - Sheryl Crow
Three Lions '98 - The Lightning Seeds
Rough Boy - ZZ Top
Disorder in the House - Warren Zevon
Lemon Incest - Serge Gainsbourg
Albedo 0.39 - Vangelis
Here Comes My Girl - Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
We Care a Lot! - Faith No More
A Design For Life - Manic Street Preachers
S-s-s-Single Bed - Fox
I Touch Myself - The Divinyls
Snuff Rock EP - Alberto y Los Trios Paranoias
Buddy Holly - Weezer
Revolutions - Jean-Michel Jarre
Hot Pants Explosion - B52s
Living In the USA - Steve Miller Band
You and Me Song - The Wannadies
Devoted Friends - Wang Chung
Sign o' the Times - Prince
Sunset Grill - Don Henley
Once in a Lifetime - Talking Heads
That's Entertainment! - The Jam
The Distance from Her to There - Lambchop
Detox Mansion - Warren Zevon
Stainsby Girls - Chris Rea
Bela Lugosi's Dead - Bauhaus
Nick of Time - Bonnie Raitt
Fire - The Pointer Sisters
Hole Hearted - Extreme
Easy on My Soul - Free
Follow You Follow Me - Genesis
Casey Jones - Warren Zevon & David Lindley
The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys - Traffic
Love Me Two Times - The Doors
Down at the Doctor's - Dr. Feelgood
Go Your Own Way - Fleetwood Mac
Snake Oil - Steve Earle
Sit Down - James
Calypso - Jean-Michel Jarre
Theme from 'Das Boot' - Klaus Doldinger
The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face - Roberta Flack
Kamikaze - The Thompson Twins
Hello It's Me - Todd Rundgren
Here Comes the Flood - Peter Gabriel
Heart as Big as Liverpool - The Mighty Wah!
No Sell Out - Malcolm X
Synchronicity II - The Police
Parklife - Blur
Funny How - Airhead
It's About Time - The Lemonheads
This is The Sea - The Waterboys
The Rain Song - Led Zeppelin
Police on my Back - The Clash
I Love L.A. - Randy Newman
Who Are You - The Who
Rock & Roll Music - Manic Street Preachers
You've Got My Number - The Undertones
Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't Have)? - The Buzzcocks
I Try - Macy Gray
Dream Police - Cheap Trick
Jerusalem - Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Sorry Mr. Harris - Tom Robinson Band
Don't Touch Me There - The Tubes
Fooled Again (I Don't Like It) - Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
Wherever God Shines His Light - Van Morrison & Cliff Richard
Top Jimmy - Van Halen
She Knows - Balaam & the Angel
Perfect 10 - Beautiful South
Step On - The Happy Mondays
Couple Days Off - Huey Lewis & the News
The Dean & I - 10 c.c.
Prelude/Angry Young Man - Billy Joel
Perfect Day - Various
How Soon Is Now? - The Smiths
Lazy Sunday - The Small Faces
Turn! Turn! Turn! - The Byrds
Everybody Hurts - REM
Gimme Shelter - The Rolling Stones
Stay (So Faraway, So Close!) - U2
Love Rears its Ugly Head - Living Colour
Dream a Little Dream of Me - The Mamas & the Papas
Lust for Life - Iggy Pop
Man of the World - Fleetwood Mac
Motorcycle Emptiness - Manic Street Preachers
Nothing Ever Happens - Del Amitri
Italian Plastic - Crowded House
Ray of Light - Madonna
Whole Wide World - Wreckless Eric
No Matter What - Badfinger
Waterloo Sunset - The Kinks
Biko - Peter Gabriel
Laid - James
The Needle & the Damage Done - Pete Wylie & the Icicle Works
Beat Surrender - The Jam
Drive - The Cars
Rhythm Nation - Janet Jackson
Werewolves of London - Warren Zevon
Movin' On Up - Primal Scream
Pump It Up - Elvis Costello
Luna - Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
When Will You Make My Phone Ring - Deacon Blue
Stay With Me - The Faces
Madame Helga - Stereophonics
Love and Affection - Joan Armatrading
Every Breath You Take - The Police
Blackbird - The Beatles
Regrets - The Eurythmics
New York Minute - Don Henley
Always the Last to Know - Del Amitri
Hollywood Nights - Bob Seger
With a Little Help from My Friends - Joe Cocker
Roadrunner - Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers
Good Times, Bad Times - Led Zeppelin
Suite: Judy Blue Eyes - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Walking in Memphis - Marc Cohn
Fine Line - Paul McCartney
More Than Words - Extreme
Going Down to Liverpool - The Bangles
I Will Not Go Quietly - Don Henley
Ain't No Sunshine - Bill Withers
Bohemian Like You - The Dandy Warhols
Fearless Boogie - Hank Williams III
Try A Little Tenderness - Otis Redding
Ain't So Easy - David & David
Fergus Sings the Blues - Deacon Blue
Don't Let Us Get Sick - Warren Zevon
Lose Yourself - Eminem
Looking for the Next Best Thing - Warren Zevon
Our House - Madness
Sympathy for the Devil - The Rolling Stones
Open Your Heart - The Human League
Tunnel of Love - Bruce Springsteen
Lawyers, Guns & Money - Warren Zevon
Shake Some Action - The Flamin Groovies
Harvest for the World - The Isley Brothers
Running On Empty - Jackson Browne
Government Cheese - The Rainmakers
Mohammed's Radio - Warren Zevon
They Don't Know - Kirsty MacColl
Rednecks - Randy Newman
Cuyahoga - REM
City of New Orleans - Arlo Guthrie
Shout! - Tears for Fears
Creep - Radiohead
Ca Plane Pour Moi - Plastic Bertrand
Hanging Around - The Stranglers
Ebben, andro lontano - Wilhelmina Wiggins Fernandez
Held Up Without a Gun - Bruce Springsteen
Wonderwall - Oasis
Find the Cost of Freedom - Crosby, Stills & Nash
Sparks - The Who
Walk the Dinosaur - Was (Not Was)
Born in the U.S.A. - Bruce Springsteen
A Fairytale of New York - The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl
I Believe in Father Christmas - Greg Lake
Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End - The Beatles
The Green Manalishi - Fleetwood Mac
Pretty in Pink - The Psychedelic Furs
Two Princes - Spin Doctors
Spooky - Atlanta Rhythm Section
The Promised Land - Chuck Berry
Slave to the Rhythm - Grace Jones
Time - Pink Floyd
Heartattack and Vine - Tom Waits
Paris, Texas - Ry Cooder
Tenderness on the Block - Shawn Colvin
Life's What You Make It - Talk Talk
Wear It Like a Cape - Del Fuegos
I Wanna be a Boss - Stan Ridgway
I'm Sorry - Hothouse Flowers
Sylvia - Focus
Wild Side of Life - Status Quo
Days - The Kinks
Beautiful Love - Julian Cope
Run Baby Run - Sheryl Crow
Tubular Bells Part 1 - Mike Oldfield
New Sensation - INXS
Are Friends Electric? - Tubeway Army
A Hazy Shade of Winter - The Bangles
Hurt - Johnny Cash
No Surprises - Radiohead
Pretty Vacant - The Sex Pistols
When I'm Dead and Gone - McGuinness Flint
I Feel Love - Donna Summer
Joining a Fan Club - Jellyfish
Teardrop - Massive Attack
Physical (You're So) - Adam & the Ants
My Iron Lung - Radiohead
Do You Wanna Touch Me - Joan Jett & the Blackearts
Must Get Out - Maroon 7
Whispers and Moans - Crowded House
The Best of Everything - Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
Mr. Blue Sky - Electric Light Orchestra
Exodus - Bob Marley & the Wailers
Roberta - Billy Joel
Centerfield - John Fogerty
The Great Gig In The Sky - Pink Floyd
10538 Overture - Electric Light Orchestra
Father and Daughter - Paul Simon
These Foolish Things - Bryan Ferry
Boom Boom - John Lee Hooker
The Best of You - Foo Fighters
The Envoy - Warren Zevon
What A Piece of Work Is Man - "Hair"
Love Reign O'er Me - The Who
Go Now - The Moody Blues
Claire de Lune - Claude Debussy
Way of The World - Cheap Trick
Don't Nobody Move (This is a Heist) - Tony Powers
Love Hurts - Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris
Home - Sheryl Crow
It's a Shame About Ray - The Lemonheads
Hoppipolla - Sigur Ros
The Man With a Harmonica - Apollo 440
Saturday In The Park - Chicago
Whipping Post - Allman Brothers Band
They Called It Rock - Nick Lowe
Crimson & Clover - Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
Into Dust - Mazzy Star
You Belong to Me - Steve Earle
Dixie Chicken - Little Feat
Tipitina - Professor Longhair
Darling Nikki - Prince
Soul Sacrifice - Santana
I'm Alive - Jackson Browne
Birdhouse in Your Soul - They Might Be Giants
Born on the Bayou - Creedence Clearwater Revival
White Punks on Dope - The Tubes
Elusive - Scott Matthews
I'm Free - The Who
Sweetheart of the Rodeo - The Byrds
Machine Gun - Jimi Hendrix
If You Won't Leave Me I'll Find Somebody Who Will - Warren Zevon
Bodies - The Sex Pistols
The First Cut is the Deepest - P.P. Arnold
Silver Machine - Hawkwind
Cut My Wings - Seasick Steve
Just Like Honey - The Jesus and Mary Chain
Man In the Corner Shop - The Jam
You're All That I Have - Snow Patrol
Time - Pink Floyd
I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever - Stevie Wonder
Jesus Says - Ash
Tower of Strength - The Mission
Sunshine of Your Love - Cream
Smells like Teen Spirit - Nirvana
In Every Dream Home a Heartache - Roxy Music
Downtown Train - Tom Waits
Stay With Me - Lorraine Ellison
The Older We Get - Hothouse Flowers
Ezy Ryder - Jimi Hendrix
(I Never Loved) Eva Braun - The Boomtown Rats
Daydream - The Lovin' Spoonful
Nimrod - Edward Elgar
One Day Like This - Elbow
Lido Shuffle - Boz Scaggs
Don't Believe a Word - Thin Lizzy
Etude, Opus 10 No 1 - Frederic Chopin
Lithium - Polyphonic Spree
Cigarettes and Alcohol - Oasis
Quark, Strangeness and Charm - Hawkwind
I'm In Love With a German Film Star - The Passions
Wichita Lineman - Glen Campbell
Fooled Around and Fell in Love - Elvin Bishop
Dancing the Night Away - The Motors
Trumpets - The Waterboys
Hello - The Sonic Executive Sessions

"What A Piece of Work Is Man"

I was raised in a classical music household. My earliest musical memories are Chopin etudes, Strauss waltzes and hours and hours of Schubert and Beethoven. From the age of 8 I took lessons on a variety of instruments, though only the piano and woodwind instruments really engaged my interest. I still have a huge love for the classical repertoire today.
My introduction to - for want of a better description - rock 'n roll came from the only record in my parents' collection that wasn't classical music, and somewhere in my attic is that same record: a much-scratched, much-loved copy of the original Broadway recording of the musical "Hair", so original that "Hair's" writers - Gerome Ragni and James Rado if I remember correctly - sing the two lead roles.
I still find it hard to put into words the impact that record had on me at the time, and it's one of my great pleasures and indulgences to listen to it from time to time and reconnect with that thrill. So when Cameron Crowe wrote the scene in the film "Almost Famous" where the young boy inherits his sister's record collection, I knew just what he was experiencing.
It's not easy to pick a particular song from "Hair" that stands out - each one lifts me up out of my seat. But there's one that's a bit special because, as the liner notes put it, "it was written by William Shakespeare." Now I'm not going to reproduce the lyric here, because I think you all should go look it up and read it for yourselves, but the title of the song is the clue.
It's not exactly rock 'n roll the way you might describe it today, but it and the rest of the album was like opening the magic door into a parallel universe. This is where it started for me.

"The Envoy"

I want to make it quite clear at the outset that this post is not intended to be facetious or even satiric. Just an observation and a musical link.
It just so happens that one part of the world is loudly chewing itself up in an orgy of blood-letting, something that's been going on for so long now that many of the rest of us have forgotten (or misremembered at the very least) the cause.
In this global family of ours there has to be a rebellious contingent, a maladjusted teenager busy finding a new way to break the family china. And as ever, there has to be a trusted senior family member dispatched to knock some heads together and re-establish some peace and respect.
And so we have the Middle East. In another decade long, long ago when the other world leaders actually possessed a will to see a fair and equitable solution, they'd send some big-shot to do the metaphorical head-knocking. Anyone remember Philip Habib?
Well, this song is by way of a tribute to him, I suppose. The last time there was a spike in the violence in the Middle East, Ronald Reagan sent Habib into the area to try and thrash out a lasting peace. Didn't get it, sadly, but his efforts inspired Warren Zevon to write this song.
"Nuclear arms in the Middle East/Israel's attacking the Iraqis/The Syrians are mad at the Lebanese/And Baghdad does whatever she please/Looks like another threat to world peace/Send the envoy."
I've looked long and hard, but it doesn't seem that international diplomacy is fertile ground for songwriters, and so whenever I come away from watching the TV news, it's this song that I've found myself humming.

"The Best of You"

There's a moment in each of our lives when we just have to blow up. Be it rage, despair, exhilaration or just the force of life within us that needs to be vented, we need to lift to lid on the dormant volcano and let the pyrochastic flow just ... go. The bubbling fury of emotion can be a wild, vivifying ride or it can be a frightening, disheartening plunge.
You get the impression from this song that it can be both at the same time. The fantastically dialectic nature of the chorus -- "Is someone getting the best of you?" -- shows just how sharp that knife's edge can be. Are you getting the very best of someone's support, friendship, love; or are they delicately undermining you and gaining the upper hand?
One the one hand, Grohl sings: "I needed somewhere to hang my head/Without your noose/You gave me something that I didn’t have/But had no use," but on the other, he follows it with: "My heart is under arrest again/But I break loose/My head is giving me life or death/But I can’t choose/I swear I’ll never give in/I refuse." Which kind of leads me to suspect that someone's putting one over on him in this song.
What commends this song to me most, though, is the sheer force, the emotion expressed in such a wild, unfocussed way. This is the sound of the lid coming off.

"Boom Boom"

Wow, it's hot. The kind of weather that suggests quietly but firmly that you should either stay indoors and try to move as little as possible, or pop the roof on your convertible and head for the open road.
And if you choose the latter, may I suggest some John Lee Hooker to accompany your cruising? This is serious driving music, the sort of thing you'd play if you were in a rush to get out of California before midnight and had a posse on your tail.
One thing I am eternally grateful for is the electrification of the blues. Now, I yield to nobody in my appreciation of Robert Johnson and his peers who brought the blues out of the cotton fields and into the radio stations, but listening to the old recordings of one man and a bottleneck kinda pales in comparison to what can be achieved with electric amplification.
Case in point here: you get the old, hoary, dirty growl that comes as a standard part of the Hooker package, standing solidly on a bedrock of blues that just begs to be played loud. The intro is as close to perfect as you'll ever get, the half-spoken words over an insistent, hurried riff but when the entire band joins in... well, it's as good as it gets. Small wonder that "Boom Boom" is officially one of the songs that shaped rock and roll.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

"These Foolish Things"

A favourite film sequence of mine occurs in the film "Diva", when the protagonist (the young postman) and the diva walk around Paris through the night and into the early hours of the morning - a silent, aimless stroll that takes in all the beauty and atmosphere of one of the world's truly great cities.
The sequence is set to an absolutely gorgeous, if derivative, piece of music -- go find "Sentimental Walk" by Vladimir Cosma and play it back-to-back with "Trois Gymnopaedies" by Erik Satie -- which draws out all the romance, all the elegance of a place and a moment in time.
But I bet, I just bet, that if the postman were to look back on this moment in his life from a distance of about twenty years, if he were to watch a grainy, jumpy silent black-and-white film of that night, he'd reach for this song to play as an accompaniment.
It's difficult to imagine how a song as wistful, as rose-tinted and gently bruised as this one, can exist among the clash and clamour of those chest-beating, wailing self-indulgent songs of loss. Many of which I love to bits, of course...
Just as Paul McCartney has an obsession with the old music-hall tradition, Bryan Ferry has a fixation with the era of Noel Coward, Irving Berlin and slightly louche smoothies in impeccable dinner jackets, men who wooed a girl rather than took her up to their penthouse apartment. Ferry's lounge-lizard image steps on stage intact here, before it slowly crumples beneath the perfect, crystalline memories of an old affair: "And still those little things remain/That bring me happiness or pain."
It's the casual brilliance and sharpness of the observations that takes this song beyond the mundane: "A cigarette that bears a lipstick's traces/An airline ticket to romantic places/A tinkling piano in the next apartment/Those stumbling words that told you what my heart meant/A fairgound's painted swings/These foolish things/Remind me of you."
There ain't nothing foolish about them things.

"Father and Daughter"

I heard this song recently for the first time. It's not often that a song makes me sit down and bawl like a baby, but this one did, and still does whenever I play it. This morning I was on the train to work, and this song suddenly popped up on my iPod. I had to find a dark corner of the train to go and plug the waterworks. By the time I got to work, things had calmed a little but I still needed to wheel out the old excuse about hay-fever....
I suppose there are few things more powerful than the conversion from a lifelong obsession with one's self to an obsession with one's children and the utterly irresistible imperative to see that they grow up strong and happy. The transfer of priorities just happens, bang, like that and your life, which has been running full speed in one direction, suddenly shoots off in another and you hang on for grim death until you get a handle on what it is that's suddenly hijacked your life.
Having said that, what also arises is something that sustains us for the rest of our lives: the huge, all-conquering love for our progeny that will not be derailed or mellowed by any mistake, event, mishap or distance.
"I'm going to watch you shine/Gonna watch you grow/Gonna paint a sign, so you'll always know/As long as one and one is two/There could never be a father that loves his daughter more than I love you." That pretty much says it all, doesn't it?

Friday, June 23, 2006

"10538 Overture"

In brief: This song is the bastard child of the Beatles' White Album and Sergeant Pepper, with a guitar riff so good that Paul Weller stole it.
Less brief: It's no secret that Jeff Lynne was the mystery musical heir to the Beatles, and there can't have been many songs that were more obviously hommages to John Lennon than this one. The closing coda, with its French horns and deep scrapes from the cello, is straight out of "I Am the Walrus", while the vocals have been thinned out to resemble Lennon's voice.
The guitar riff is almost like something Radiohead might have cooked up, but this song is 35 years old and just adds to the theory that all the best songs have already been written - though we know that isn't true, don't we? But Paul Weller must have thought so, because he lifted the riff straight off this record and made it the core of his terrific single "The Changingman." This song is like a borrowers' daisy-chain.
10538 was the first, and probably the best, example of the ELO experiment to marry strings and the more traditional rock ensemble. Before Lynne became a devotee of the producer-as-musician school, he laid down this plain, unvarnished gem, where the strings are front and centre rather than buried in the mix as they were to become.
Truly revolutionary.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

"The Great Gig in the Sky"

When I first blogged this song, I said it shows how sex and death are opposite sides of same coin - I might have been wrong.
This song is The Passion, like something the classical composers of old would write, where they'd detail their passion as a kind of ecstatic liturgical trance - I remember seeing once a painting of Johann Sebastian Bach, sitting back at his desk and laying down his pen, eyes closed as if savouring the last vestiges of the Passion as it ebbs away.
And like those Passions from centuries ago, this music emerges from the ether into some cavernous cathedral filled with all the longing humanity can muster, channeled through Clare Torry's other-worldly voice, from the whispering, faltering huskiness at its weakest moment through to its raw, bleeding climax when her instrument touches the very limit of expression as if it were being stretched and crucified.
At times she seems to be searching, feeling in the darkness, as if terrified of the animal she's unleashed. Her sobbing, faltering howl seems to repeat itself momentarily as she waits for the next jolt of celestial electricity to transport her.
What scares me about this song is what it creates, what it generates within me; a visceral reaction that not only raises the hairs on my neck, but that almost convinces me that I could transcend this earthly plane. Almost. You can hear the song take over Clare Torry like some swirling witch-doctor's spell, hear as it pulls her away from earth, and imagine it doing the same to you.
The best part? This song doesn't have to be about anything in particular. It's about everything and nothing at the same time - the all-consuming love of a parent for his or her child, a feeling of superhuman power that comes from fulfilment, a celebration of life after death, or merely an acknowledgement that Life, the Universe and Everything is just so massively huge and wonderful that sometimes our efforts to understand it crash all our circuits and turn us into drooling, raging nerve-endings. And when we can't form the words, we have to resort to forming the sounds, just as Clare Torry does so beautifully here.
There aren't many songs that take us outside ourselves, somewhere pure and powerful. Treasure them when you find them.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


Here we go, sports fans. A month of football heaven, replete with "the joy of victory and the agony of defeat", to quote a famous American sportscaster. We're going nuts for the next four weeks. There'll be statistics, debate, complaints about referees and in-depth medical discussions about metatarsals, hamstrings and adductors.
The shame of it is, I've already blogged what I believe is the best football song yet written. I realize that worthy musicians from New Order to Rod Stewart have made their own contributions to this genre, but when it comes to a song that will lift the hairs on the back of your neck when it's sung by 50,000 fans I'm sorry, but Ian Broudie has already been there with "Three Lions."
So instead, I'm casting the net a bit wider today. Boxing, for example. Here we have two contenders: Bob Dylan's epic "The Hurricane" (which admittedly isn't totally about boxing) and Warren Zevon's "Boom Boom Mancini", where the chorus urges us to "Hurry home early/Hurry on home/Boom Boom Mancini's fighting Bobby Chacon." It's also the only song I know of to deal with the risks that some sports entail: "When they asked him who was responsible/For the death of Du Koo Kim/He said, "Someone should have stopped the fight/And told me it was him."/They made hypocrite judgments after the fact/But the name of the game is be hit and hit back." No apologies, then.
There are no end of what our American cousins call "fight" songs: team- or college-oriented songs of encouragement, but these aren't necessarily about sports. Equally, there are no end of songs that have been appropriated by sports fans: Queen's "We Are the Champions" or "We Will Rock You" are just two.
But when it comes to songs about the love of sport, the fan's true dedication, there are only two that stand out: the aforementioned "Three Lions" and John Fogerty's "Centerfield".
"Well, beat the drum and hold the phone - the sun came out today!/We’re born again, there’s new grass on the field/A-roundin’ third, and headed for home, it’s a brown-eyed handsome man/Anyone can understand the way I feel."
See? I bet you're already feeling that itch of anticipation, that first quickening of the heart as you settle down to live and breathe your team's agony and ecstasy. I'll just bet Wayne Rooney is humming the chorus: "Oh, put me in, coach - I’m ready to play today/Put me in, coach - I’m ready to play today/Look at me, I can be centerfield." Sshhhhh! Don't tell him it's a baseball song!
It needs a special song to be adopted by all fans of a sport, one that transcends the tribal associations or even national ones. You can bet you're bottom dollar that we'll hear more than one chorus from "Three Lions" in Germany this summer, just as right now, across the US, fans are raising their voices to sing Fogerty's song: "Got a beat-up glove, a homemade bat, and brand-new pair of shoes/You know I think it’s time to give this game a ride/Just to hit the ball and touch ’em all - a moment in the sun/It’s gone and you can tell that one goodbye!"

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Prostitution isn't an easy subject to discuss at the best of times, much less write a song about. Let's stand as far away from the subject as possible, and sidestep for a moment the argument that it exploits and objectifies woman. Wearing our most rose-tinted glasses and with our romantic hearts pinned firmly to our sleeves, there is something about the lonely, shamefaced man and the beautiful, remote woman that stirs the soul. Yes, the man can be an object of pity, disgust or censure. Yes, the woman can be an object of pity, disgust or censure as well. But for every encounter there's a back-story, and I ask you to suspend your cynicism for just four minutes and thirty-three seconds.
Why can't a man fall for a prostitute? Why can't he see in her something akin to fulfilment, happiness or even pride? And anyway, how many men do in the real world? Ask yourself: how did they meet? How did they manage to transcend the dark shadows of the netherworld in which prostitution is forced to exist?
Maybe they listened to this song. "Roberta, you say you know me/But I see only what you're paid to show me," sings Billy Joel. "Roberta, how I've adored you/I'd ask you over but I can't afford you/It's tough for me/It's tough for you."
Maybe Joel believes in something that's so powerful, so ultimately redeeming, that the circumstances in which it flourishes aren't relevant. But maybe he also believes in the Real World, the one that comes crashing through the door at the end of the night. How else could he have written a love song so tender, so confused but still so doomed? "Roberta, I really need you/But I suppose that my small change won't see you through."
The wretchedness of a man trapped by his own heart to follow a path that leads only to disappointment was never captured so sweetly as here. In between the verses, Joel conjures a requiem, a lament for something damned to fail, and as his desperation and disappointment grow the song gently sheds some of the sweetness so that by the end, you're almost tasting the bitterness of loss. Sheer magic in the real world.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


It's hard to think of reggae as being a form of music that either rouses passionate emotions, or one that can serve up apocalyptic visions in the same way that, say, the Stones did on "Sympathy for the Devil". Think of reggae and you can't help but be seduced by that sexual, insistent beat that suggests a humid midday spent in the shade with something to drink and of course something to smoke too. And there's plenty of reggae that fills that stereotype. Just not this one.
"Exodus" winds itself up into a tight ball before it sets off for the promised land. From its delicate, dangerous opening as the various components take their place, to its steady, marching fade, this is a campaigning song, a determined vision set to music that brooks no opposition, that insists and demands, just like the urgent shouts of "Move!" that recur throughout.
Of course it helps that you can dance just about any way you like to this song. It's tailor-made for anything from waving your arms like a spastic scarecrow to the tightest dance-floor choreography. You don't even notice that the song never breaks step - not once. The rhythm is set in stone, the beat never lets up for a second.
What this song has that so few other songs do is inclusiveness. You can't resist it and hell, you don't even want to.

"Mr. Blue Sky"

Hey, check out that weather today! While I was away getting rained on in foreign parts, it looks like someone had a word with the people in charge of these things, and now that I'm back, all is brightness and warmth. So, time for something upbeat and meteorological, methinks.
I can think of a hundred people I know who'd scoff and snicker, saying how immensely naff and wrong this song is, but when you get up and pull those curtains back to reveal a clear blue sky and the first inklings of that warmth that will go right through to your bones, then there is No Finer Song to play while you're scrubbing and exfoliating in the shower.
Yes, this is pop. It doesn't have any pretensions to street credibility, to hipness or even to pushing the boundaries of popular music. It's also ab-so-bloody-lutely perfect. I challenge anyone to find any note out of place, any piece of production that isn't utterly essential to the whole song.
I love the luxurious layers of voices soaring and dipping all around the lead vocal, the slightly preposterous operatic harmonies towards the end, and the fact that this song never, ever ends.... each time you think it's winding towards a big finish, it just sits back, lays the ball off to the winger who's storming up the sideline on the overlap (gratuitous World Cup reference there, folks) and then watches as the song lopes along another fifty yards or so.
It doesn't even matter that the words are pretty lame: this is a song about mood and feeling. It's the first ray of sun peeking out from behind the clouds, the shaft of light that touches you on the shoulder as you're walking your own particular line. In fact, it's like a dog shaking itself free of the accumulated drizzle and scampering off to set about the neighbourhood cats.

Monday, June 05, 2006

"The Best of Everything"

Growing up, even for old crusties like me, isn't always fun or even desirable. There's a degree of "tempus fugit", the nasty whizzing sound that time makes as it rushes past, and it's not always in the faces of other people that we see it. Bonnie Raitt describes the sensation beautifully here, but today I'm talking about the feeling that comes from within, the realisation that today is a day that you won't ever recapture, the people you met one shining will never be the same as they were for those few moments that you were together. "Yeah it's over before you know it/It all goes by so fast/The bad times take forever and the good times/Don't ever seem to last."
And it's hard to say goodbye to places, to people or even to the old self as we knew it. This weekend I've said goodbye to one close, loved relative, I've celebrated my daughter's birthday and I've started coming to terms that people I've known and been close to - dare I say, even loved in my effervescent youth - have moved on. That hissing sound, that kiss of rubber on tarmac, it can be a little unsettling at times.
This is a handy song for moments like the last weekend. Tom Petty has written and performed so many songs that speak to the passionate, youthful nature that to come across a song of gentle acceptance, of grateful valediction comes as a real, warm treat.
"So listen honey, Wherever you are tonight/I wish you the best of everything, in the world/And honey I hope you found/Whatever you were looking for."

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

"Whispers and Moans"

And while this title may sound like a song that could just possibly be about sex, it isn't. This is a song about escape, about running away and getting off the production line: "Dull, dull grey/The colour of our times/Cool, cool space/That I still hope to find." Or even "Slow, time bomb/The clamour of the street/I hear this town/It never goes to sleep." The sort of life, the sort of time and space where "I will catch the taxi driver/Weeping like a wounded beast." Doesn't that give you chills? The idea that our world can be so hurtful, even in its inert, deadening weight, that it reduces us to our innermost instinctual response?
What a song, what a simple, elegant expression of the storm within. It's an ackowledgement of the hammering sameness of most of our days, very similar to the one that Del Amitri sing about here.
This is simply a gentle call for release, a plea for freedom. And if that freedom comes from within, from the exalted state that we clamber into when we meet our match, our soul's mate, then we don't have to really *go* anywhere: "Then I wake up in your room/To share one piece of your life/When tomorrow comes we may not be here at all/Without your whispers and moans."
I like the idea that we can fashion our own little piece of space out of time, out of place, where we can just be, where the rest of the world falls away like a melting piece of film. Or, as Crowded House put it so much better: "We are the mirrors/Are the mirrors of each other in a lifetime of suspicion/Cleansed in a moment of recognition/You gave your life for it/Worth it's weight in gold/And growing empires and art collectors/And Alan's sound investments/Will one day be forgotten/One day be forgotten, yeah."

Sunday, May 14, 2006

"Must Get Out"

Where has the time gone? The last week has passed like a needle skipping over a record (gratuitous vinyl reference for the over 35s, there), with snatches of reality blaring out in between bursts of static and ear-numbing scrapes. And all the time, the sensation of time ticking away, a gentle but insistent ticking to remind me of the things I promised myself I'd do, of the plans I'd made for this afternoon, or that weekend.
And on the subject of ticking, I've been listening to a gentle, insistent song that has spent the last year slowly winding its way around my gut, like an indestructible garden weed. It starts with a ticking clock, a single piano note, a thrumming bass drum, slowly gathering strength, until "I’ve been the needle and the thread/Weaving figure eights and circles round your head/I try to laugh but cry instead/Patiently wait to hear the words you’ve never said."
In contrast to the many, many songs that bleed passion, conviction or desire that I've written about before, this is a song of shoulder-shrugged, almost bland acceptance. Yes, the singer knows, as he says, "I’m letting you down," but then again, "There’s only so much I can do for you/After all of the things you put me through." You get the sense this is a transactional relationship that's finally broken down due to a lack of credit.
I like, I mean LIKE, this song. Maroon 7 are as tight as any band Stevie Wonder put together and Adam Levine sings like a god. Anyone who saw them perform at the Live 8 concert can attest to the fact that they can do it live, too.
It's a slow, gently-charged song that forsakes the medieval passion and grandiloquent gestures of another time for, effectively, a shrug and a mutter of "whatever." And sometimes that's about as much as we can muster.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

"Do You Wanna Touch Me"

Music has always had a pretty adversarial relationship with the straight and narrow. I'm talking about things like censorship, political correctness and from time to time, even plain old good taste. Anyone that remembers the Judas Priest court case in 1985, or the sight of Frank Zappa, Dee Snyder from Twisted Sister and, get this, John Denver all speaking out in front of a Senate Committee against the labelling of records in the US, will know the sort of thing I'm talking about. Or the sad spectacle of James Brown being led away by the police on suspicion of transporting a minor across state lines. Or Whitney Houston's crack-fuelled meltdown.
A lot of folks argue that musicians and artists in general are special cases, that we might want to make allowances for their oddness, for their weakness, for the fact that they don't live by the same code that we, the general public, do.
Music doesn't like to be harnessed and wrangled, told what to say and what it can't say. And nor should it. But what's often more problematic is the sort of musician that comes along with that freedom of speech. Often it's simple human frailty that leaves a once-great musician washed up, broken on the wheel of addiction. Other times it's a lack of judgement that leads them astray. Other times it's just greed. The music business has the power to confer great influence and great wealth on individuals. And while it doesn't necessarily take that wealth away, it can just turn off the tap when it chooses to.
I'm not sure where this post is going except to say that today's SongWithoutWhich is, sadly, an example of a fantastic tune that's almost unplayable these days because of who its writer was, and has become. I can see all the various ironies here, believe me!
I've chosen Joan Jett's version for that reason, but also for the fact that Joan knows what this song needs: a proper, full-throated kick in the guts. This is music written from the pit of the stomach rather than the heart, or the head or even the groin. Yes, the lyric is about sex and yes, it's one of those panting-teenage-horniness songs, but listen to Joan's version and marvel at the sheer energy and power here.
This isn't so much a song about "lurve" as a chant from the football terraces, a romping, stomping declaration of intent. And no matter what's happened in the years since this was first written, you can't erase the sheer excitement, the adrenalin rush, that this song produces.

42 songs - Intermission

Over on Music to Grow Old To, they're listing favourite songs to match ages.... seemed like a decent challenge when I started to make my list, but it's turned into a bit of a brain-twister. In any case, here are 42 songs that do things to me.

I Saw the Light - Todd Rundgren
The Great Gig In The Sky - Pink Floyd
I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight - Richard & Linda Thompson
Sweet Jane - The Cowboy Junkies
Say It Ain't So Joe - Murray Head
One of Those Days in England Pts 1-10 - Roy Harper
Desperadoes Under the Eaves - Warren Zevon
All Is Forgiven - Jellyfish
Come Back! (The Story of the Reds) - The Mighty Wah!
Me In Honey - REM
All or Nothing - The Small Faces
Don't Come Around Here No More - Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
White Punks On Dope - The Tubes
I Ain't Ever Satisfied - Steve Earle & The Dukes
The Needle & the Damage Done - Pete Wylie & The Icicle Works
Smile - The Supernaturals
Sylvia - Focus
Wear It Like a Cape - Del Fuegos
Hurt - Johnny Cash
No Surprises - Radiohead
Movin' On Up - Primal Scream
A Design For Life - Manic Street Preachers
Rough Boy - ZZ Top
Pink - Aerosmith
Darling It Hurts - Paul Kelly & the Messengers
Political Science - Randy Newman
Sheep - Pink Floyd
Second Rendezvous - Jean-Michel Jarre
"Heroes" - David Bowie
No Matter What - Badfinger
Ezy Ryder - Jimi Hendrix
Will We Be Lovers? - Deacon Blue
Wrecking Ball - Emmylou Harris
Renegade - Warren Zevon
La Grange - ZZ Top
I'm In Love With a German Film Star - The Passions
Go - Steriogram
Caroline, No - The Beach Boys
Rollin' Over - The Small Faces
Keep on Rocking in the Free World - Neil Young
Teardrop - Massive Attack
State Trooper - Bruce Springsteen