You may have heard that revenge is sweet but the truth is that it can be devastating, (well for one of you at the very least!). Hey, but I’m not here to give you a reality check. We all know that being sensible is incredibly difficult when you’re the one suffering from jealousy, or you’re demoralized, humiliated or simply just mad as hell. It’s times like these that you can’t be blamed for at least fantasizing about acts of vengeance.
Songwriters are in a great position to retaliate against slings and arrows than us mere mortals. They can attack their enemies in song and get away with it. Its non-violent and, (here’s the best bit), they even get paid to do it! How good is that? Maybe success is the best revenge!
We started the show with the ‘Godfather of Soul’, Mr. James Brown, singing THE PAYBACK from the album of the same name, released in 1974. The song’s lyrics are about the revenge Brown intends to take against the man who betrayed him, stole his money and his woman. Triple ouch! Here’s a clip from a show he did in Zaire in the same year as the album was recorded. Loving the bling.
Why shouldn’t Ben Folds get a little upset on SONG FOR THE DUMPED? After all, she took off with his black t-shirt. Unforgiveable.
Two of the great revenge songs have been covered ad infinitum. Wilson Pickett does a great version of STAGGER LEE as does Sam Cooke with FRANKIE & JOHNNY so, of course, both had to be included in the list.
When Alanis Morissette recorded the album Jagged Little Pill it changed the course of her career. The whole album is a revenge tactic against an old boyfriend but YOU OUGHTA KNOW is the standout track. Here’s a clip recorded live at Nulles Part Aillerurs in 1995. No longer the pop/dance artist of her teenage years, she’s quite the rock chick by this stage.
Lily Allen is hilarious on her revenge song, NOT BIG. Is there a better way to get revenge on a guy than to suggest that he doesn’t stack up in a certain department? The gorgeous Rihanna, on the other hand resorts to BREAKIN’ DISHES when her man has been out all night cheatin’. Of course this was way before a certain incident indicated that breaking dishes wasn’t going to make much difference to this girl’s love life. But let’s don’t go there. There’s been enough said, surely. Let’s just check out a very hot performance:
It was time for a response from the male sector: Robert Cray tried to convince us that he came out on top in I GUESS I SHOWED HER. And on BB King’s and Etta James’ THERE’S SOMETHING ON YOUR MIND, you have to wait a while for the punchline, but it’s worth it.
The Beatles deliver a nice little revenge tale with ROCKY RACOON, from their White Album, and The Dixie Chicks use comedy to get away with murder in a song aimed squarely at the issue of domestic violence on GOODBYE EARL.
Jimi Hendrix does a great version of HEY JOE, about a guy who takes retribution when his wife cheats on him. Here he is performing on the TV show ‘It’s Lulu’, sometime in the 70’s, and I love the expression on his face when the guitar goes out of tune for a second. A bit of a bonus too, with an extra song – dedicated to Cream – ‘Sunshine of Your Love’.
Mississipi John Hurt sings about a woman who takes some drastic action when her man does her wrong on FRANKIE. Bob Dylan’s revenge song steers away from domestic dilemmas and, instead, is aimed squarely at the Greenwich Village residents who criticized his departure from traditional folk towards the electric guitar and rock music. The song is POSITIVELY 4th STREET.
Robyn requested IT’S ALL OVER NOW BABY BLUE. She loves the song so much she suggested that I could play any version I like. So here’s Graham Bonnet with his excellent cover of the Bob Dylan classic. The clip is dated 1977. Thanks Rob!
I also included two New Wave songs that fit our theme of ‘Revenge’ very nicely. First up, another request from Robyn: Graham Parker gives the bird to all those girls that rejected him once upon a time on LOCAL GIRLS. And Deborah Harry sounds something akin to a ‘bunny boiler’ on a track that takes me back – ONE WAY OR ANOTHER.
Next up, it was a brilliant revenge song from the Drive By Truckers. THE WIG HE MADE HER WEAR is from their latest album The Big To Do and is, in my humble opinion, the best thing on it. Wish I had a decent clip of this track for you but alas, nowhere to be found.
Another request came from Judi. She wanted to hear any version of CRY ME A RIVER. When you give me carte blanche like that what am I to do than to take the opportunity to slip in the very sensuous voice of Julie London? Judi, who lives miles away in Cairns, Northern Queensland, tells me that she listens on the Internet. You can do that too you know. Just go to the BayFM.org site at the time the show is on air and press the listen button. Simple as that.
For something completely different, it had to be Kate Miller-Heidke with a song that I had to censor a little for radio. But no problem with uploading a clip here on the blog, assuming you don’t mind very funny, if explicit, lyrics. Here’s a live version of ARE YOU F****ING KIDDING ME? (THE FACEBOOK SONG).
Had to include the classic revenge song, Nancy Sinatra’s THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR WALKING and something just a little more serious, J.J. Cale’s quite disturbing song about retribution, RIVER RUNS DEEP. But for a different kind of revenge song altogether, how about WHAT IF WE ALL STOPPED PAYING TAXES?, from Sharon Jones and the Dapkings. Yeah, let’s get back at the government! Brilliant idea.
We closed the show with an amazing track from The Decemberists: THE MARINER’S REVENGE SONG, a song filled with evil sea captains, vengeful mariners, giant whales, and much sea-faring woe. Revenge of the nerds, indeed.
Next week I won’t be here, but the lovely Des will be filling in for me with a show on MEN and I’ll be back the following week with a show on MADNESS.
In the meantime, remember that the greatest revenge is to live well.
Here’s this week’s complete playlist:
The Big Payback – The Big Payback, James Brown
Song for the Dumped – Whatever and Ever Amen, Ben Folds Five
Stagger Lee – I’m in Love, Wilson Pickett
Frankie & Johnny – Greatest Hits, Sam Cooke
You Oughta Know – Jagged Little Pill, Alanis Morissette
Not Big – Lily Allen
Breakin’ Dishes – Good Girl Gone Bad, Rhianna
I Guess I Showed Her – Strong Persuader, Robert Cray
There’s Something On Your Mind – BB King & Etta James
Revenge of the Sugar Plum Fairy – Transiberian Orchestra
Rocky Racoon – The Beatles (White Album) [Disc 1], The Beatles
Goodbye Earl – Fly, Dixie Chicks
Hey Joe – Jimi Hendrix
Frankie – Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues, Mississippi John Hurt
Positively 4th Street – Biograph (Disc 2), Bob Dylan
It’s All Over Now Baby Blue – Graham Bonnet
Local Girls – Squeezing out Sparks, Graham Parker
One Way or Another – Parallel Lines, Blondie/Deborah Harry
The Wig He Made Her Wear – The Big To-Do, Drive By Truckers
Cry Me A River – Diva Classics Icons, Julie London
Are You F*cking Kidding Me (Facebook Song) – Live At the Hi-Fi, Kate Miller-Heidke
These Boots Are Made For Walking – Boots, Nancy Sinatra
River Runs Deep – Naturally, J.J. Cale
What If We All Stopped Paying Taxes – The Dynamic Funk and Soul Sound of Daptone Records, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
The Mariner’s Revenge Song – Picaresque, The Decemberists
Week after next: MADNESS
Listen to Lyn McCarthy at the Theme Park on BayFM, Tuesdays 4-6pm, Sydney time
Tragically also on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/maccalyn
Our theme this week was Communication – not the deep psychic stuff, but good old fashioned talking, letter writing and, would you believe telegrams (remember them?). I was going to play M.I.A.’s ‘U.R.A.Q.T.’ about texting (“you’re fuckin’ with my man and textin’ all the time…”) but I would have been in a bit of trouble over the expletives, I’m afraid. But I did play some other excellent hip-hop during the show, as well as my usual eclectic mix of rock, pop, blues, jazz and whatever I could find to fit the theme.
We opened the show with the Marvelettes ‘Beachwood 4-5789’. They also recorded the first Motown hit, ‘Please Mr. Postman’, but I had already showcased that one during the Motown Show in January. Besides, ‘Beachwood’ was a great opener for this particular show.
The telephone, whether it be landline or mobile, talking or texting, is still probably the most prominent way we keep in touch. So ‘Hanging Up the Telephone’, sung by Blondie’s Debby Harry was not only pop-punk perfection, but it also opens with the sound of a ringing phone. How good is that? Here’s the video from 1978.
Most letter songs feature absent lovers and none convey the absolute thrill of receiving a long awaited message better than ‘The Letter’ from the Boxtops. They were known as a major ‘blue-eyed soul’ group during the 60’s. Hard to believe that Alex Chilton, who later formed Big Star and went onto a solo career, was only 16 at the time this was recorded in 1967. The song has been widely covered, most notably by Joe Cocker, but this original version still stands up well.
Sonny Boy Williamson confimed what I have always knows, (that men are the worst gossips), with his rendition of ‘Don’t Get Me Talking’ while Buddy Guy and Junior Wells contributed ‘A Man of Many Words’ to the Blues segment of the show.
My Roy Orbison song this week was a great one: ‘Communication Breakdown’. Written by Bill Dees, whose collaboration with Orbison led to a string of successful hits for Monument Records including ‘Communication Breakdown’, ‘Pretty Woman’ and ‘It’s Over’, just to name a few.
And then it was onto an absolutely divine song by Nina Persson of the Cardigans, ‘Communication’ – “If this is communication , I disconnect”. If only it was that easy. Here’s a video of them doing a live performance in 2007.
‘Hello Operator’ presented mobile phone refusenik Jack White choosing to use an operator, just like in the good old days. And, as if this was even too newfangled, by the second verse he’s trying to get his message out via canary. Ah ha, rightio then.
Remember when a wedding wasn’t a wedding without the best man reading out several telegrams from absentee friends and family? I haven’t been to a wedding in ages. Tell me, do they read out emails and texts? Just doesn’t seem the same does it? In ‘Western Union Man’ Jerry Butler gives us a passionate attempt at contacting a girlfriend who won’t answer his phone calls. And Chuck Berry tries to get in touch with people who have phoned him in ‘Memphis Tennessee’. Today we would be asking why the hell aren’t they on Facebook! And then there’s Twitter, but please can we not go there? (really).
Joe Jones seemed to be talking right at me with ‘You Talk Too Much’ and I loved Crowded House’s version of ‘Everybody’s Talkin’. But how good was Hank Penny’s ‘Sweet Talkin Mama’ recorded in 1938? You can find this terrific bit of country swing on the compilation album You Done Me Wrong (Vintage Country Cheating Songs 1929-1952) distributed by Buzzola.
There are lots of songs written in the form of letters. One of the best examples of this is Eminem’s ‘Stan’, a masterpiece of escalating desperation that exploits its conceit to its fullest. Sampling Dido’s ‘Thank You’ as the chorus is a piece of genius and the result is a song of chilling elegance that recognises that a letter is always a one-sided conversation.
We followed that with a total contrast – ‘Don’t Explain’ by Billie Holliday and then it was up to Muddy Waters to elevate the mood with ‘Long Distance Call’. There were so many other great songs. I particularly liked Bonnie Raitt’s take on people who talk behind your back. Her advice? Give them ‘Something to Talk About’. Absolutely.
We finished the show with one of my favourite Aretha Franklin numbers: ‘Say A Little Prayer’. This one had me up out of the seat and dancing. And then a fantastic close from Mr. Cool Jazz himself, Chet Baker, with ‘Every Time We Say Goodbye’. I loved this week’s show and I had a blast. Hope you did too.
Here’s the complete playlist:
Beachwood 4-5789 – The Marvellettes
Hanging On The Telephone – Blondie
Rikki Don’t Lose That Number – Steely Dan
The Letter – The Boxtops
Take A Letter Maria – R.B. Greaves
Please Read The Letter – Alison Krauss/Robert Plant
Don’t Start Me To Talkin’ – Sonny Boy Williamson
A Man Of Many Words – Buddy Guy & Junior Wells
A Little Less Conversation – Elvis Presley
Communication Breakdown – Roy Orbison
Communication – The Cardigans
Telephone Line – Electric Light Orchestra
Memphis, Tennessee – Chuck Berry
Hey, Western Union Man – Jerry Butler
Hello Operator – The White Stripes
You Talk Too Much – Joe Jones
Everybody’s Talkin’ – Crowded House
Sweet Talkin’ Mama – Hank Penny
Stan – Eminem & Dido
Don’t Explain – Billie Holiday
Long Distance Call – Muddy Waters
The Phone Call – The Pretenders
Ring Ring Ring – De La Soul
The Word – The Beatles
I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Paul Weller & Amy Winehouse
What’d I Say – Ray Charles
People Are Talking – Shep & The Limelites
Something to Talk About – Bonnie Raitt
Answering Bell – Ryan Adams
I Say A Little Prayer For You – Aretha Frankin
Every Time We Say Goodbye – Chet Baker
Next week, the theme is Money. Any suggestions for songs for the show, or themes for future shows, are always welcome.
Listen to Lyn at the Theme Park, Tuesdays 2-4pm, Sydney time, on BayFM 99.9 or streaming at http://www.bayfm.org