Occasionally, a songwriter writes a tune that’s essentially a letter to a musical peer or fellow composer. Sometimes that message is delivered in the form of a tribute and sometimes it’s delivered as an angry diatribe. Our playlist today features both but, like our opening track JAZZ THING from Gang Starr, most of our songs are marks of respect.
I like to include a little country music every now and again, especially if its by the great Johnny Cash. As a contribution to this week’s playlist, he sings about his country music idol on THE NIGHT HANK WILLIAMS CAME TO TOWN. Punk rockers The Ramones praise the rock artists who preceded them on DO YOU REMEMBER ROCK N ROLL RADIO. And then it was UK group Television Personalities, who are obviously Pink Floyd fans with I KNOW WHERE SYD BARRETT LIVES.
The most familiar soul hit on the airwaves during 1967 was Arthur Conley’s SWEET SOUL MUSIC on which he paid tribute to other great soulmen like Otis Redding and James Brown:
When it comes to soul, Stevie Wonder knows how much is owed to our jazz legends. SIR DUKE is his tribute to Duke Ellington, the influential jazz legend who died in 1974. He also acknowledges Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald.
In 1980 Dexy’s Midnight Runners appeared out of nowhere, with a sound all their own. Nobody else at the time would have dreamt of producing an impassioned, brass-powered tribute to neglected 1960s soul singer Geno Washington, but they did and they took GENO to #1 in the UK.
Dexy’s Midnight Runners also recorded a version of JACKIE WILSON SAID, but I’m faithful to the original by Van Morrison which had to be part of the list too.
A little more country music was up next with the gorgeous Gillian Welch singing the ELVIS PRESLEY BLUES. This was followed closely by the one and only Ian Dury with his incredible piece of hero worship, SWEET GENE VINCENT. On this video Mick Jones of the Clash joins the band, The Blockheads. And as Dury quips to Jones: “Listen, we’ve got four chords on this one Michael!” Great band, great song. How does Mick Jones get through this number without once dropping the ciggie from his mouth? Hilarious.
Ian Hunter and Mott the Hoople’s reluctant youth anthem, ALL THE YOUNG DUDES was written by David Bowie. It namechecks T-Rex and references The Beatles and The Stones. Here they are, (with Bowie on back up!), performing at the Freddie Mercury tribute at Wembley Stadium:
The wonderful Jonathan Richman never disappoints me and he delivers again for this week’s playlist. On his song VELVET UNDERGROUND he even performs a few bars of the Velvet Underground’s Sister Ray in between dispensing eloquent insights into his heroes’ dark magic. How good is that!
Bono says that U2’s song STUCK IN A MOMENT YOU CAN’T GET OUT OF is a tribute to INXS singer Michael Hutchence. According to Bono it’s the conversation he wishes had actually taken place.
John Martyn, who died at a relatively early age himself, extends a concerned hand to a fading Nick Drake on the devastatingly tender SOLID AIR.
Canadian group Barenaked Ladies recorded a hit song about mental illness that references Beach Boy BRIAN WILSON. And just in case you’re wondering, Brian Wilson does do a version during his own live shows. And why wouldn’t he? It’s a great song. Fellow Canadian Allanah Myles also had a huge hit with my favourite of all the Elvis tribute songs: BLACK VELVET.
Paul Jones and Dave Kelly honour Blues legend SONNY BOY WILLIAMSON and Neil Young references Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols on HEY, HEY, MY MY (Into the Black). The line ‘It’s better to burn out than to fade away’ also became infamous in modern rock after being quoted in Kurt Cobain’s suicide note.
On a cheerier note, The Saw Doctors sing I’D LOVE TO BANG THE BANGLES, which pretty much speaks for itself. If you thought that was a wild proposition, you should take a listen to Bongwater’s NICK CAVE DOLLS. But hang in for the punchline on that one. A perfect follow up to that tune is Adam Ant’s GOODIE TWO SHOES, supposedly a critique of Cliff Richards virtuous and conservative image. “Don’t drink, don’t smoke… what do you do?”
A terrific song from Dory Previn is STONE FOR BESSIE SMITH. It isn’t just about the Blues singer Bessie Smith; it’s primarily about Janis Joplin who paid for Bessie Smith’s headstone but forgot to put anything aside for her own.
Early in his career, David Bowie often wrote about artists he admired, from Lou Reed to Andy Warhol to Iggy Pop. On SONG FOR BOB DYLAN a pre-Ziggy Bowie adopted Dylan’s nasal vocal style in order to pay tribute.
Down By Law also do an excellent tribute to the best rock band in the world: I WANNA BE IN AC/DC. Me too guys, me too.
It was hard choosing a song to go out on. Yes, of course there’s American Pie and Losing My Edge and the various spats between Paul McCartney and John Lennon, but in an effort not to be too predictable I’ve chose TUNIC (Song for Karen). Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon does a beautiful job of casting herself as the tragic Karen Carpenter reporting back from heaven.
I’ve got a marathon effort lined up for the next couple of weeks and I need your help! The playlist next week will start with a song referencing Zero or less and I’ll progressively play songs in numerical order until I run out of ideas. For example I could start with Elvis Costello’s Less Than Zero progress to Yeah yeah yeah’s Zero then Bob Marley’s One Love … you get the idea. Let’s see how far I get. If you help me we could be doing this for weeks! To make it easy to participate I’ll be posting onto the Theme Park Radio Facebook page.
But in the meantime, here’s this week’s complete playlist to peruse:
Jazz Thing – Gang Starr – Moment of Truth
The Night Hank Williams Came To Town – Johnny Cash – The Best Of Johnny Cash
Do You Remember Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio – The Ramones Shrek OST
I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives – Television Personalities And Don’t The Kids Just Love It
Sweet Soul Music – Arthur Conley – 60’s Soul
Sir Duke – Stevie Wonder – Songs In The Key Of Life [Disc 1]
Jackie Wilson Said (I’m In Heaven When You Smile) – Van Morrison
Geno – Dexys Midnight Runners – Searching For The Young Soul Rebels
Elvis Presley Blues – Gillian Welch – Time (The Revelator)
Sweet Gene Vincent – Ian Dury and The Blockheads – The Very Best Of Ian Dury And The Blockheads
Blackbird, Bye Bye – Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Jack DeJohnette – Bye Bye Blackbird
All The Young Dudes – Mott The Hoople – Rock Classics 60’s & 70’s Volume 2
Velvet Underground – Jonathan Richman – I, Jonathan
Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of – U2 – The Best Of 1990-2000 & B-Sides CD1
Solid Air – John Martyn – No Little Boy
Brian Wilson – Barenaked Ladies – Barenaked Radio: Easter Special
Sonny Boy Williamson – Paul Jones & Dave Kelly – Live In London
Black Velvet – Alannah Myles – The Very Best of Alannah Myles
Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black) – Neil Young – Rust Never Sleeps (Live)
Goodbye Pork Pie Hat – Charles Mingus – Mingus Ah Um
I’d Love To Kiss The Bangles – The Saw Doctors – Play it Again Sham
Nick Cave Dolls – Bongwater – Box of Bongwater
Goody Two Shoes – Adam Ant – Antics In The Forbidden Zone
Stone For Bessie Smith – Dory Previn – Mythical Kings And Iguanas
Song For Bob Dylan – David Bowie – Hunky Dory
(I Wanna Be In) AC/DC – Down By Law – Windwardtidesandwaywardsails
Tunic (Song For Karen) – Sonic Youth – Goo (Deluxe Edition) [Disc 1]
Next week: NOUGHT TO WHATEVER (Part 1)
Hello thrillseekers! One of my regular listeners contacted me to say that after tuning into the show each week they felt as if they had been on a rollercoaster. I’m not sure if it was supposed to be a compliment but, hey, it’s not called Theme Park for nothing!! What I love about a program that investigates a different theme each week is that it necessitates me listening to music that I wouldn’t have otherwise. This week’s show did that for me with all kinds of songs about shoes – from sneakers to high heels, boots and shoes of every colour. But, more importantly, it took me on a musical trip that stretched from jazz and blues right through to hip-hop – and I loved every minute of it. So, this is how this week’s ride went:
We opened the show with BETTY LOU’S GOT A NEW PAIR OF SHOES by John Caferty & The Beaver Brown Band. They played the music on the Eddie and the Cruisers film soundtrack. I don’t think it was a great movie but the soundtrack did very well. And then it was one of my favourite tracks of the show: Kirsty McColl with IN THESE SHOES? Kirsty sadly passed away in a controversial accident a few years ago. Here she is appearing on a UK television program in 2000.
Some great funk followed with STEPPIN IN HER I. MILLER SHOES from Betty Davis, (ex wife of Miles Davis). Now if you haven’t heard of the I. Miller Shoe Company let me enlighten you. Israel Miller started his career as a designer and maker of shoes for the theatrical profession in New York. The I. Miller Shoe Company took over a large building in Times Square that he had remodelled in 1926 with decorative sculptures on the building’s façade. The building was a tribute to the theatrical profession with statues depicting Ethel Barrymore, Marilyn Miller and Mary Pickford. The store’s slogan, (and I love this), was “The Show Folks Shoe Shop Dedicated to Beauty in Footware.” Another tidbit: In the mid 1950’s the I. Miller Shoe Company hired artist Andy Warhol on a retainer as their chief illustrator. You can still find examples of their shoes for sale on sites such as E-Bay and they, and the catalogues, are highly sought after.
Adam Ant sang GOODY TWO SHOES: “don’t drink, don’t smoke, goody, goody two shoes”. My guess is that Adam Ant is miles away from being a ‘goody two shoes’ but that’s what makes the song so memorable I guess. Check out this wonderfully kitch clip from the Solid Gold TV show of 1982. Ten points to Adam for the dance moves.
The Gorillaz impressed with GET THE COOL SHOE SHINE and then it was NEW SHOES by the very gorgeous Paolo Nutini from his 2007 album, These Streets: “Hey, I put some new shoes on, And suddenly everything is right, I said, hey, I put some new shoes on and everybody’s smiling, It’s so inviting…”. Yes, Paolo I couldn’t agree more. Buying a new pair of shoes is the answer to all the world’s problems. Well, it’s as good a theory, as any, for being a shoe-a-holic, so I’ll stick with it. Here he is performing the song live at Bush Studios in the UK. Very talented…. and good looking too, which can’t hurt.
One of the defining tracks of Acid Rock was Traffic’s HOLE IN MY SHOE, so that got a play. And then it was time for some Blues and you can’t get better than Ruthie Foster singing DEATH CAME A-KNOCKIN’ (TRAVELLIN’ SHOES), Joe South & the Believers with the classic, WALK A MILE IN MY SHOES and Bobby Blue Bland with TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES.
My discovery this week was an album called Van Lear Rose. This was a collaboration between Loretta Lynn and Jack White of the White Stripes. It’s a Grammy award-winning album that was intended as a musical experiment, blending the styles of Lynn and White. The title refers to Lynn’s origins as the daughter of a miner working the Van Lear coal-mines. Until this week I have to confess that I hadn’t heard of the album but I am now a big fan. I played LITTLE RED SHOES – an outstanding track spoken, not sung, by Lynn. Amazing.
A very young Roy Orbison covered Carl Perkins’ BLUE SUEDE SHOES with his band, The Teen Kings, and then Robert Parker cranked out a hit from the 60s called BAREFOOTIN’. Graham Parker and The Rumour appear to know all about SOUL SHOES and the Presidents of the United States have a thing for PUFFY LITTLE SHOES, whatever they are….
I’m a big R&B fan and adore Chuck Willis’ rendition of HANG UP MY ROCK AND ROLL SHOES and Tommy Tucker’s HIGH HEEL SNEAKERS, so they had to make the list. And then Patti Griffin dedicated her song, BURGUNDY SHOES, to her Mother. We followed that with the Jenny Lewis track LET MY SHOES LEAD ME FORWARD from her terrific 2005 album Love and Youth. Here’s the clip, an animation, featuring 500 pairs of shoes. It was directed by Johannes Nyholm, Perisak Snalls and Andreas Nilsson. Brilliant fun.
I’m a new convert to Hip-Hop, (let’s face it, its not my era!) but when Rapper Slug from Atmosphere sings: “Those are your shoes, these are my shoes, we’ve got issues”, it does speak to me. Yes, we all know that the right or wrong shoe can define a relationship. The song’s name? SHOES (of course).
I couldn’t omit the fabulous Nancy Sinatra from the list and THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR WALKING brought back lots of memories. And it was great to discover that MAXWELL SMART is still talking into his shoe-phone when we played a nice little extract from Get Smart.
Ella Fitzgerald contributed the very cute GOTTA PEBBLE IN MY SHOE, Paul Kelly told us that YOU CAN PUT YOUR SHOES UNDER MY BED, (I bet he says that to all the girls), and the very lovely Katie Melua sang a great ballad – BLUE SHOES.
Steely Dan’s song BAD SNEAKERS is just as much about Pina Coladas as it is about shoes. Elvis Costello, apparently, is into RED SHOES. Here’s the Buddy Holly look-alike belting out RED SHOES on Top of the Pops in 1977. Loving the comments superimposed towards the end of the song. Take a look.
The Disco era wouldn’t have been complete without our last song this week: KC and the Sunshine Band with BOOGIE SHOES. A suitably upbeat finale that had us all up dancing.
Here’s the complete playlist:
Betty Lou’s Got A New Pair Of Shoes – John Caferty & The Beaver Brown Band
In These Shoes? – Kirsty McColl
Two Shoes – The Cat Empire
Steppin In Her I Miller Shoes – Betty Davis
Walk In My Shoes Feat Lupe Fiasco – Emily King
mr bowling shoe giver outer – Vintage radio commercial
Goody Two Shoes – Adam Ant
Let’s Dance – David Bowie
Get The Cool Shoe Shine – Gorillaz
New Shoes – Paolo Nutini
Hole In My Shoe – Traffic
Take off Your Shoes – Bobby Blue Bland
Death Came A-Knockin’ (Travelin’ Shoes) – Ruthie Foster
Walk A Mile In My Shoes – Joe South & The Believers
Little Red Shoes – Loretta Lynn
Blue Suede Shoes – Roy Orbison
Barefootin – Robert Parker
Soul Shoes – Graham Parker & The Rumour
Puffy Little Shoes – The Presidents Of The United States Of America
Hang Up My Rock And Roll Shoes – Chuck Willis
Hi-Heel Sneakers – Tommy Tucker
Burgundy Shoes – Patty Griffin
Let My Shoes Lead Me Forward – Jenny Wilson
Maxwell Smart Clip from Get Smart
These Boots Are Made For Walking – Nancy Sinatra
Shoes – Atmosphere
Gotta Pebble In My Shoe – Ella Fitzgerald
You Can Put Your Shoes Under My Bed – Paul Kelly
Blue Shoes – Katie Melua
Red Shoes – Elvis Costello
Bad Sneakers – Steely Dan
Boogie Shoes – K.C. and The Sunshine Band
Next week: each song will be about RADIO!
Listen to Lyn McCarthy at the Theme Park on BayFM Tuesdays 2-4pm, (Sydney time). Also streaming on http://www.bayfm.org