I can’t believe that going into our 5th season I still hadn’t put a show together on carnivals, circuses and the like. Well, we remedied that this week. A great introduction was supplied by Eddie Izzard doing a cover of The Beatles BEING FOR THE BENEFIT OF MR KITE. It’s from the soundtrack to the film Across The Universe directed by Julie Taymor. “Just tune in, turn off, drop out, drop in, switch on, switch off, and explode!”
Yes, I know that the Red Hot Chilli Peppers do a great version of LOVE ROLLERCOASTER, but it was the original that made the playlist. It first appeared on the Ohio Players Honey album in 1975. In this clip from the television show Midnight Special, you get the bonus of Wolfman Jack doing the intro and some crazy boy dancers. Ahhh the 70’s.
Thanks to Ku Promotions for our giveaway this week: two tickets to The Audreys’ concert. They’re a band of four boys and one girl, playing rootsy kind of music and are based in Adelaide, Australia. They have released two records, one in 2006 called Between Last Night and Us and one in 2008 called When the Flood Comes, both of which has won the ARIA Award for Best Blues and Roots Album. I’ve seen them perform twice now and they really are a knockout. Their latest album, Sometimes the Stars, features the track TROUBLE SOMEHOW:
I love the collaborative work between Mark Lanegan (ex Queens of the Stone Age) and Isobel Campbell (ex Belle & Sebastian). THE CIRCUS IS LEAVING TOWN is from their latest album, Ballad of the Broken Seas. Here’s a great interview with them which features a slice of the song within it. It was shown when Isobel won the Mercury Prize for the album, which she produced.
Total change of pace came with a couple of tracks from the 60’s: Al Johnson with CARNIVAL TIME from his 1962 album, Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Freddie Cannon with his hit, PALISADES PARK. And just to mix it up a bit I threw in some Fun Lovin’ Criminals with CONEY ISLAND GIRL.
The Stylistics were one of the most successful soul groups of the early 70’s and their song SIDESHOW fitted the theme perfectly. As did a true classic from Smokey Robinson and the Miracles – THE TEARS OF A CLOWN.
Nellie the Elephant is a classic children’s song written in 1956. It became a UK #1 hit for punk band, The Toy Dolls, when they covered the song in 1983. Michael ‘Olga’ Algar, led vocalist, guitar and bass player, is the only remaining member of the original line-up, who continue to perform. I love the way that they used the aesthetics of punk to express a real sense of fun.
This following clip is from the Martin Scorsese film The Last Waltz, a documentary of the concert by The Band, held on Thanksgiving Day, November 25 1976. It was advertised as the group’s last show and they were joined by an illustrious line-up of talent including Van Morrison. Here they are with CARAVAN:
The Decemberists’ songs range from upbeat pop to instrumentally lush ballads, and often employ instruments like the accordian, Hammond organ, Wurlitzer organ and upright bass. In their lyrics, the band rejects the angst and introspection common to modern rock and instead favour a storytelling approach, as evidenced in songs such as MY MOTHER WAS A CHINESE TRAPEZE ARTIST. It’s from the 5 Songs EP.
The 1986 Madness song (Waiting for) THE GHOST TRAIN was actually about apartheid in South Africa but hey, I love the title and based on that alone it made the playlist.
“I got blisters on my fingers!!!!” yells Ringo Starr, (I think), at the end of The Beatles’ frenetic HELTER SKELTER. Written by Paul McCartney, he deliberately tried to create a sound that was as loud and dirty as possible. Done.
Moving onto something a lot more mellow, it was Alison Goldfrapp with the very beautiful CLOWNS from her 2008 album Seventh Tree. And you thought I only played the old stuff. Oh you of little faith!
With his astonishingly accomplished guitar playing, Stevie Ray Vaughan ignited the blues revival of the ’80s. He was inspired equally from bluesmen like Albert King, Otis Rush and Muddy Waters and rock & roll players like Jimi Hendrix and Lonnie Mack as well as the stray jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell, developing a uniquely eclectic and fiery style that sounded like no other guitarist, regardless of genre. It’s been said that Vaughan bridged the gap between blues and rock like no other artist had since the late ’60s. His tragic death in 1990, at the age of 35 in a helicopter accident, only emphasized his influence in blues and American rock & roll. Here he is with Double Trouble performing TIGHTROPE:
There Goes Rhymin’ Simon is the second solo studio album from Paul Simon, released in 1973. the album covers several styles and genres. Our choice from the album was, of course, TAKE ME TO THE MARDI GRAS.
Natalie Merchant has been quoted as saying that she named her first solo album Tigerlily because the word evoked a feeling that was both ‘fierce’ and delicate’. Released in 1995 the album included the hit single CARNIVAL in which the protaganist compares the colourful sights and sounds of New York with being at a carnival.
A trio of guilty pleasures were lined up next: Back in 1967 The Hollies released ON A CAROUSEL and Manfred Mann were also were enraptured with the circus on HA! HA! SAID THE CLOWN. But the guiltiest of pleasures was still to come: In 1971 Cher released her first chart-topper, as a solo artist, in the United States: GYPSIES, TRAMPS AND THIEVES. Come on, you’ve gotta love Cher!
Swedish group, The Cardigans, had their first international breakthrough with their 1995 album Life which included the track CARNIVAL, a very cruisy pop tune with the gorgeous Nina Persson on vocals.
Beirut is an interesting band. They’re American yet their music combines elements of Eastern European and Balkan folk with Western pop music. They successfully fuse mainstream and indie-rock with the World Music market and consequently have a very unique sound. CAROUSELS, from their 2007 album Lon Gisland, is a great example of their work.
Beirut proved to be a great lead in to our final song of the day, the very gothic CARNY by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. I love the use of accordian on this track (thanks to Warren Ellis). It gives the song an even more intense circus-like feel.
I’m happy to say that I’ll be back for another season of the Theme Park, same time same airspace. So keep listening locally on BayFM99.9 or streaming live on BayFM.org. And I’d love to get your suggestions for next week’s show, which will be on GAMBLING.
Here’s this week’s complete playlist:
Being For The Beneﬁt Of Mr. Kite – Across The Universe, Eddie Izzard
Carnival – The Black Rider, Tom Waits
Love Rollercoaster – Funk Classics, The 70’s, Ohio Players
Enter The Circus – Back To Basics, Christina Aguilera
Troubles Somehow – Sometimes the Stars, The Audreys
The Circus Is Leaving Town – Ballad of the Broken Seas Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan
Carnival Time – Mardi Gras In New Orleans, Al Johnson
Palisades Park – The Rock ‘n’ Roll Classics, Freddy Cannon
Coney Island Girl – Come Find Yourself, Fun Lovin’ Criminals
Sideshow – Ultimate Slow Jams 9 [Disc 4], The Stylistics
The Tears Of A Clown – Motown’s Biggest Pop Hits, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles
Nellie The Elephant – The Wonderful World Of The Toy Dolls, Toy Dolls
Caravan – The Last Waltz [Disc 2], The Band + Van Morrison
My Mother Was A Chinese Trapeze Artist – 5 Songs, The Decemberists
Goodbye Cruel World – Jukebox Hits 1961, James Darren
The Ghost Train – Rock TV Classic, Madness
Helter Skelter – The Beatles (White Album) [Disc 2], The Beatles
Clowns – Seventh Tree, Goldfrapp
Tightrope [Live] – SRV (Disc 3), Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble
Take Me To The Mardi Gras – There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, Paul Simon
Carnival – Tigerlily, Natalie Merchant
Fire Eater – Naturally, Three Dog Night
Ha! Ha! Said The Clown – Manfred Mann
On A Carousel – The Hits Of 1967, The Hollies
Gypsies, Tramps And Thieves – Billboard Top Rock ‘N’ Roll Hits: 1971, Cher
Carnival – Life, The Cardigans
Carousels – The Lon Gisland EP, Beirut
The Carny – The Best Of, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Our theme this week was Star Signs – songs of the zodiac, songs that highlight the way someone’s birth date can influence their very being (or maybe not). All the songs on this week’s list try to deal with the notion that we’re emotionally and intellectually influenced by the movement of some distant stars and planets. Some songwriters are more than happy to go along with the idea and some reject the concept outright. We opened the show with Diana Ross and the Supremes singing NO MATTER WHAT SIGN YOU ARE. Written by Berry Gordy and recorded in the the late 60’s it tried to cash in on the success of the musical HAIR and the hit tune AQUARIUS.
For jazz great Cannonball Adderley the zodiac was so fascinating that he devoted a whole 1972 album to it. With narration by DJ Rick Holmes – noted on the sleeve for his “sophisticated rhetoric” – SOUL ZODIAC is seduction par excellence, not to mention a reflection on an era when ‘The Age of Aquarius’ captured everyone’s imagination. If you’re celebrating your birthday this month, like BayFM presenters Helen from Q’s Jazz & Blues or Post Modern Backlash’s Hudson, or my gorgeous daughter Zoe, then you’re a Pisces. So it was fitting that we chose PISCES from Adderley’s album to move the show along.
Kris Kristofferson reminded us that there was a very famous Capricorn who “ate organic foods, believed in love and peace and never wore no shoes”. Yes, JESUS WAS A CAPRICORN. And then it was Creedence Clearwater Revival with a warning: there’s a BAD MOON RISING. Here they are performing the song live, in a rare video clip:
Curtis Mayfield’s “funky woman” decides, rather unfairly I think, that they’re incompatible because of what she reads in the newspaper. He tells us all about it in READINGS IN ASTROLOGY. The Floaters followed with their very groovy 1977 hit FLOAT ON.
Albert King blames the zodiac for all his troubles in BORN UNDER THE BAD SIGN. Albert was born on April 25, which makes him a Taurian. Seems like negativity might be a Taurian trait.
Jamiriquai were having a BLACK CAPRICORN DAY. Singer Jason Kay was born on December 30 and the song is reputedly autobiographical, telling of how he was kicked out of home as a teenager and surviving on the streets. I’m a Cappie myself, so I know how it feels when those occasional dark times descend. Luckily we’re essentially the zodiac’s eternal optimists so there’s always a silver lining under every black cloud. Check out the Jamiriquai video clip:
Talking of optimists, Adem is totally swept away with the power of the stars in THESE LIGHTS ARE MEANINGFUL. Tori Amos seems to be saying farewell to a February/March lover in GOODBYE PISCES. Cannonball Adderley and DJ Rick Holmes were at it again, this time with what many consider the best track from the SOUL ZODIAC album, CAPRICORN.
The Moody Blues delivered a song for all my crazy, brilliant, Gemini mates: GEMINI DREAM. Check out this video of them performing live in 1984 at Wembley Arena. Little bit of overkill on the smoke machine, methinks, but you’ve got to love the Moodies.
It’s been raining cats and dogs up here in the North, so a dose of the The Fifth Dimension with AQUARIUS and LET THE SUNSHINE IN lifted the mood somewhat and, hopefully, will influence the weatherman.
Some more Cannonball Adderley (it’s a great album, really!): Having already heard about the water sign PISCES and the earth sign CAPRICORN, it was time to find out about the fire sign ARIES. Prince couldn’t care less what sign you are, all he wants is your KISS.
Teenage Fanclub try to dismiss the power a star sign can hold: “Hey, there’s a horseshoe on my door,” they sing, “big deal. Hey, there’s a black cat on the floor, big deal.” But the Fanclub accept that people’s days are changed by whatever they wish to believe. For Rush, the question of whether the “stars aren’t aligned, or the gods are malign” is very simple. “I will choose a path that’s clear,” they proclaim. “I will choose freewill.” Hmmm, now there’s some food for thought. Check out the video of Rush performing live in 1981. Brilliant.
Regina Spektor is another favourite if mine. She’s an Aquarius and she’s recorded a song of the same name that’s intensely personal and worth checking out if you are also one of those highly intelligent, humanitarian people born under this particular water sign.
A great piece of instrumental followed, called SCORPIO, from the brilliant jazz guitarist and ex-Funk Brother, Dennis Coffey. This guy has played with all the soul greats, including Mavin Gaye, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder….. the list goes on. And he’s white! Just goes to show, there’s no colour barrier to soul. If you’ve got it, you’ve got it.
More Cannonball Adderley (can I help it if the guy’s a genius and he just so happened to record a whole album that suited the theme?). He gives the air sign LIBRA its due attention, and we know that Librans like attention don’t we! . German Big Bander Gunter Noris contributed the track GEMINI from an album called ‘The In Kraut Hip Shaking Grooves”. I kid you not. The 70’s have a lot to answer for.
SAGITTARIUS SILVER ANNOUNCEMENT is from the album Embryonic, by the band that dared to remake Dark Side of the Moon and actually got away with it – the Flaming Lips. I don’t have a decent clip of them performing this great track, but I encourage you to check out their very good website at http://www.flaminglips.com
The next double was a very moving one. First up it was George Harrison with a song about his own star sign, PISCES FISH and we followed with one of the most beautiful tunes I’ve heard of late, GUIDING STAR by Neil Finn. It was recorded on the album Caution: Life Ahead as a fundraiser for the Buttery rehabilitation centre here in the Northern Rivers.
Now I did choose to cover Western Astrology for this week’s show but I want to recognise that this is the Chinese Year of the Tiger. For those of you born under this sign you are courageous, daring, confident and a born leader. But you can be unpredictable and tempestuous, sometimes territorial and possessive. Because 2010 s the Year of the Metal Tiger, it also brings you additional strength and determination. And in celebration of what looks like a dynamic year for all of us, and as a tribute to all the Leos out there, we closed the show with Al Stewart’s YEAR OF THE CAT. Kung Hei Fat Choy! That is, I hope this year brings you all good fortune and prosperity.
I’m often quoted as saying that I’ll do a show on almost anything, including fruit and vegetables and I realized I hadn’t actually created a show about these very healthy food items, so next week FRUIT AND VEGIES it is. Whatchagot?
Here’s this week’s playlist: