As someone who relies on trying to create a diverse playlist, week after week, the topic of MUSIC GENRES is one that’s dear to my heart. Useful as they are though, identifying genres is a murky and nebulous exercise, open to countless individual interpretations. Just go into any music store and try to establish why Ian Dury’s Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll can find itself in pop, rock and alternative, all at the same time, and you’ll know what I mean.
In 1979 Malcolm McLaren’s art school classmate Robin Scott had a one hit wonder with POP MUZIK, an ironic and mischievous little tune, under his pseudonym, M: “New York, London, Paris, Munich…. everybody’s talking ’bout pop music.”
According to Bob Seger, today’s music doesn’t have the same soul. He’s feeling nostalgic for some OLD TIME ROCK N ROLL. Sugarhill Gang, on the other hand, are more interested in hip-hop. Their song, RAPPERS DELIGHT, while not the first single to feature rapping, is generally considered to be the song that first made hip hop popular.
Wild Cherry’s song PLAY THAT FUNKY MUSIC is autobiographical in that Wild Cherry was mostly a hard rock outfit. In 1976, however, the Disco era was all the rage and many of the group’s loyal followers were asking for more dance songs. And so was born the request: “play that funky music, white boy”:
Back in 1970, Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground celebrated ROCK & ROLL with their hit song of the same name. By 1977, Bob Marley – together with Steve Tyler & Joe Perry – were giving us three genres for the price of one on ROOTS, ROCK AND REGGAE.
Punk rocker Wreckless Eric took a swipe at the record companies, for the pressure they put on artists to produce a hit single, on POP SONG: “Just a two minute song with a snazzy middle eight.” Yeah, that’s all they wanted.
The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band refuse to take anything too seriously, even the blues. So if you merge music hall and blues, it begs the question: CAN BLUE MEN SING THE WHITES? Our girl Joan Jett is nothing but a rock chick so of course she’s going to sing, I LOVE ROCK N ROLL.
Brooklyn rappers Stetsasonic responded to early criticisms of their sampling by releasing TALKIN’ ALL THAT JAZZ which used a clever collage of borrowings from the likes of Lonnie Liston Smith and Donald Byrd.
I think Lynyrd Skynyrd may know a little bit about the track, SWAMP MUSIC. This style of music is particular to America’s south, particularly Louisiana and Southeastern Texas but it’s developed a worldwide following and I, for one, love it.
It’s both funny and revealing that The Killers wrote INDIE ROCK N ROLL to poke fun at the pretentious and sterile independent scene in their native Las Vegas, only to find that the song was embraced world-wide as a cheerfully un-ironic anthem. Here they are playing live and sounding great:
The Beatles take Chuck Berry’s ROCK N ROLL MUSIC and attack it with such intensity that it seems to symbolise what became known as the British Invasion of the 60’s. In total contrast is Wilco’s wistful ode to youth on HEAVY METAL DRUMMER, from the album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot:
Stevie Wonder ‘s contribution to this week’s topic came in the form of his dedication to Duke Ellington and other jazz greats on SIR DUKE. Arthur Conley did something similar, with his shout out to all the soul icons, on SWEET SOUL MUSIC:
Time for some blues, Creole style, with BOOGIE WOOGIE ZYDECO from Chubby Carrier & the Bayou Swamp Band. Then it was a great piece of music, that recognises the enormous influence of Jazz on all kinds of music: JAZZ THING from Gang Starr. It’s from the soundtrack to the Spike Lee film MO BETTER BLUES, starring Denzel Washington. Absolutely brilliant clip.
There are so many songs that pay tribute to rock n roll that I had to be careful to not let them dominate. But there’s one that I couldn’t leave out – Ian Dury and the Blockheads with the rock n roll anthem, SEX & DRUGS & ROCK N ROLL. I hate the overuse of the word ‘awesome’ but in this case, it’s warranted – AWESOME!!
A song that merges soul and reggae is the very appropriately named REGGAE GOT SOUL from Toots and the Maytals. There are also loads of songs with Blues in the title, so many in fact that I had to restrain myself in this department too. But if you’re going to play one of them, you can’t get better than Buddy Guy with THE FIRST TIME I MET THE BLUES. In this clip he performs with bass player David Myers. It’s from the film CHICAGO BLUES, made in 1970. Now that’s what I call real music.
Bet you thought I wouldn’t give classical a mention. Well, Chuck Berry helped me out there with ROLL OVER BEETHOVEN. Here he expresses the desire for rhythm and blues to replace classical music on his local radio station. On this video clip he’s having a little bit of fun on a French TV show. Not sure of the year, but the song was recorded in 1956:
Couldn’t let disco get away with just a passing mention, so space was made for FRENCH DISKO by Stereolab. The Ramones rescue their disco queen and introduce her to something a bit more rebellious. Now, SHEENA IS A PUNK ROCKER.
We closed the show with a classic from Dire Straits – a song about a jazz band called SULTANS OF SWING.
Love to have your input for next week’s show. The theme is FUNNY SONGS: Songs that make you laugh or at least smirk because they are clever and witty. Ooh I’m looking forward to seeing what you send me.
Meanwhile, here’s this week’s complete playlist:
Pop Muzik – Pop Muzik, M
Old Time Rock N’ Roll – Bob Seger
Rappers Delight – Sugarhill Gang
Play That Funky Music – Those Fabulous ’70s, Wild Cherry
Rock and Roll – Velvet Underground
Roots, Rock, Reggae – Chant Down Babylon, Bob Marley + Steven Tyler + Joe Perry
A Pop Song – Big Smash, Wreckless Eric
Can Blue Men Sing The Whites? – Cornology [Disc 1], Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band
I Love Rock and Roll – Joan Jett
Mambo Italiano – Latin Fever [Disc 1], Shaft
Talkin’ All That Jazz – Hed Kandi: Back to Love, Vol. 4 Disc 2, Stetsasonic
Swamp Music – Lynyrd Skynyrd
Indie RnR – Demo, The Killers
Rock And Roll Music – Live At The BBC [Disc 2], The Beatles
Heavy Metal Drummer – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco
Sir Duke (Duke Ellington) – Songs In The Key Of Life, Stevie Wonder
Sweet Soul Music – 60’s Soul, Arthur Conley
Boogie Woogie Zydeco – Boogie Woogie Zydeco, Chubby Carrier & the Bayou Swamp Band
Jazz Thing – Moment of Truth, Gang Starr
Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll – No Thanks! – The ’70s Punk Rebellion (Disc 3), Ian Dury
Soul Makossa – Makossa Man: The Very Best Of Manu Dibango, Manu Dibango
Reggae Got Soul – True Love, Toots & The Maytals
First Time I Met The Blues – Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues – A Musical Journey, Buddy Guy
Roll Over Beethoven – 1956-Rock & Roll Era, Chuck Berry
French Disko – Refried Ectoplasm, Stereolab
Sheena Is A Punk Rocker – All The Stuff (And More), The Ramones
Sultans of Swing – Dire Straits
Listen to Lyn McCarthy at the Theme Park on BayFM, Tuesdays 4-6pm, Sydney time