I’ve been away in my home town of Sydney for a couple of weeks but you can’t keep me from Byron Bay for long, so I was all fired up for this week’s show on SONGS WITH SOUND FX in them. I’ve discovered that many a song has been enhanced by a clever piece of non-musical noise and our opening song, MY BROTHER MAKES THE NOISES FOR THE TALKIES summed up the program beautifully. It’s by the very entertaining UK group, the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.
Sounds of thunder accompany a song that suits the weather we’re having up here at the moment. WALKING IN THE RAIN is by the Ronettes, best known for their work with Phil Spector. With their beehive hairdos and tight skirts, they were known as the ‘bad girls’ of rock n roll. And now you know where Amy Winehouse go her ‘look’.
The sound of lapping waves welcomes in Otis Redding’ standard, SITTIN’ ON THE DOCK OF THE BAY. Redding wrote this song while living on a houseboat in Sausalito on the San Francisco Bay. It was recorded shortly before his tragic death at the age 0f 26. Released posthumously, it is his biggest hit ever.
There’s lots of playground noise on Cat Steven’s (REMEMBER THE DAYS OF) THE OLD SCHOOL YARD. And The Beatles use all kinds of carnival noises on BEING FOR THE BENEFIT OF MR. KITE.
Jazz great Charles Mingus got his band to use their instruments to sound like foghorns and other harbour sounds on the remarkable A FOGGY DAY. In complete contrast, but somehow weirdly complementary, is M.I.A.’s PAPER PLANES. She utilizes the sounds of a cash register and heavy gunshot noise on this very provocative piece of hip-hop.
There were lots of requests for MONEY by Pink Floyd. And it had to be played, if not for the very good use of various sound effects, but because, well ….. it’s Pink Floyd!
Another fantastic song with sound effects is NO TIENE BILLET from Fruko y Sus Tesos. The rifle fire that tears through this brilliant Colombian tune implies that the eruption of violence, in a very poor country especially, is almost inevitable. On NITE CLUB, by the Specials, the only aggression heard is raised voices and the clinking of glasses.
George Gershwin’s AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, written in 1928, is full of imagery gone wild. It’s a brilliant song and a brilliant film too. This was Gene Kelly’s magnum opus. His choreography was of such a standard that the Academy of Motion Picture Sciences created a special Oscar that year in recognition of his achievement. Dancing to a segment of George Gershin’s stunning music, here is Kelly’s duet with the beautiful Leslie Caron:
Michael Jackson uses sound effects to the hilt on THRILLER and the Doors gave us another perfect weather song, with its thunder and lighting sound effect: RIDERS ON A STORM.
There are some very suggestive street sounds on what happens to be one of my all time favourite songs: LOOKING FOR THE HEART OF SATURDAY NIGHT from the sublime Mr. Tom Waits. And then there’s a beautiful song that reminds me of my home town, Sydney: The Platters’ HARBOR LIGHTS.
Yep, that’s a baby gurgling throughout Stevie Wonder’s ISN’T SHE LOVELY. And as far as car sounds go, you can’t go past the highly influential electronic pioneers, Kraftwerk, with AUTOBAHN. Check this out:
Talking of road sounds, you didn’t actually think I was going to leave out LEADER OF THE PACK by the Shangri Las did you? This clip is from the television show ‘Ive Got a Secret’, recorded in 1964. The ‘bikie’ is Robert Goulet!
Dancehall queen, Lady Saw, inserts self-made creaking sounds on BED NOISE. They’re so convincing that I can hear the neighbours complaining already! Neo Ska group, The Specials, seem to put sound effects on most of their songs. This is one of their big hits: GHOST TOWN. These guys have been around for 30 years and still going strong. Here they are on Top of the Pops in 1981. Blast from the past. Love, love, love.
The Surfaris break a surfboard just to make a point on WIPEOUT. Creaking doors and other creepy sounds illustrate MONSTER MASH, by the marvellously named Boris Pickett and the Crypkickers. And crashing glass introduces Billy Joel’s YOU MAY BE RIGHT. How’s that for a trio of songs with sound effects? And just because I can, here’s a nice little clip with lots of fun horror film clips, backed up by MONSTER MASH. Do you see where Michael Jackson got his inspiration for Thriller?
Our last song went out to Des who so ably sat in for me while I was away for a few weeks. His favourite is Bob Dylan and it seems that Bob isn’t against using a sound effect either. There’s a mean sounding whistling siren on HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED.
Hopefully I won’t need to use any alarms to keep you awake during next week show on SLEEP AND INSOMNIA. Lots of great songs in this category so get your thinking caps on and send me your suggestions. But remember, we’ve done DREAMING and TIREDNESS, so the list has to be specifically about sleeping, or not.
Here’s this week’s complete playlist:
My Brother Makes The Noises For The Talkies – Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band
Walking In The Rain – The Ronettes
(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay – Otis Redding
(Remember The Days Of The) Old School Yard – Cat Stevens
Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite! – The Beatles
A Foggy Day – Charlie Mingus
Paper Planes – M.I.A.
Money – Pink Floyd
No Tiene Billete – Fruko y Sus Tesos
Nite Club – The Specials
An American In Paris – George Gershwin
Thriller – Michael Jackson
Riders on the Storm – The Doors
(Looking For) The Heart Of Saturday Night – Tom Waits
Harbor Lights – The Platters
Isn’t She Lovely – Stevie Wonder
Autobahn – Kraftwerk
Leader Of The Pack – The Shangri-Las
Bed Noise – Lady Saw
Ghost Town – The Specials
Wipe Out – The Surfaris
Monster Mash – Bobby (Boris) Pickett and the Crypt-kickers
You May Be Right – Billy Joel
Highway 61 Revisited – Bob Dylan
Next week: SLEEP AND INSOMNIA!
How come every songwriter hasn’t written at least one song about schooldays? Come on, it has all the vital ingredients for a hit: that age-old conflict between discipline and rebellion, close friendships, sexual awakenings and enough traumatic experiences to feed a healthy persecution complex for the rest of your life. Mind you, while every songwriter may not have taken up the opportunity to reveal all about their schooldays, those that did contributed to a pretty good playlist this week.
We opened the show with SCHOOL DAYS by Chuck Berry who turns the joy of hearing the final bell into some hot rock’n’roll. Then it was Young MC who seems well versed in being sent to the PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE, while the Pipettes LIKE A BOY IN UNIFORM. Don’t we all?
Belle & Sebastian could pretty much compile an album of songs about classroom politics but the pick of the bunch is EXPECTATIONS, from the soundtrack to Juno. The song’s misfit heroine wins the heart of every indie boy by “making life-size models of the Velvet Underground from clay”. Now why didn’t I go to that school?
Jack White is a bit of a hero of mine, so I had to include The White Stripes with WE’RE GOING TO BE FRIENDS. Everyone needs a best buddie at school that’s for sure.
A couple of real classics followed. I would have been sent to detention if I hadn’t included ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL from Pink Floyd or Ian Dury and the Blockheads’ fantastic diss on school, JACK SHIT GEORGE.
Steely Dan had us bopping along to the fact that they are “never going back to” MY OLD SCHOOL. And then it was Sam Cooke with WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD.
Sonny Boy Williamson contributed one of the most provocative tracks on the playlist this week, GOOD MORNIN’ LITTLE SCHOOLGIRL. This blues classic was written about the schoolgirl as sexual fantasy. It’s since been covered by every classic-rock band under the sun, but I think the original is still the best.
ME AND JULIO DOWN BY THE SCHOOL YARD is a song performed by Paul Simon from his 1972 self-titled album. In my opinion he’s one of the best contemporary songwriters we have. Here he is performing the song live:
The music video of BAGGY TROUSERS, by Madness, was shot in an English school and park. The band’s saxophone player, Lee Thompson, decided he wanted to fly through the air for his solo, with the use of wires hanging from a crane. The resulting shot is one of the most popular of any of the Madness music videos.
ROCK N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL by The Ramones was followed by a personal pick: CATHOLIC SCHOOL GIRLS RULE, by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Yes, being an old tyke, or as they say in the trade a “lapsed Catholic”, I have to agree that Catholic Schoolgirls do rule!
A couple of little morality tales followed. James Brown warned DON’T BE A DROPOUT and then it was the wonderful Brenda Holloway performing with the Supremes, as back-up (how’s that!). The song was PLAY IT COOL, STAY IN SCHOOL. All good advice of course.
Cat Stevens took a trip down memory lane with OLD SCHOOL YARD and Busted revealed, THAT’S WHAT I GO TO SCHOOL FOR, a disarmingly frank pop tune about having a crush on a teacher.
Babs Gonzalez taught us a bit about Bebop with PROFESSOR BOP while Nat King Cole favours all things extra-curricular in YOU DON’T LEARN THAT IN SCHOOL.
Boomtown Rats followed with I DON’T LIKE MONDAYS and then it was Billy Bragg with the brilliant, THE SATURDAY BOY which I’ve played before, but with its school setting was a certainty to be played again this week.
Like most of The Coaster’s songs, CHARLIE BROWN was written by the songwriting team of Leiber And Stoller. They wrote hits for many artists, including Elvis Presley, The Drifters, and Ben E. King. The songs they wrote for The Coasters were usually more comical. In this case, the song is about a kid who is always getting in trouble and asks “why is everyone always picking on me?”
A nice piece of reggae followed, suggested by Lynden in Sydney: Dennis Alcapone with TEACH THE CHILDREN.
Otis Rush’s distinctive guitar style features a slow burning sound and long bent notes. With similar qualities to Magic Sam and Buddy Guy, his sound became known as West Side Chicago blues and is cited as an influence on many musicians, including Eric Clapton. Rush is left-handed and, unlike many left-handed guitarists, plays a left-handed instrument strung upside-down with the low E string at the bottom. He played often with the little finger of his pick hand curled under the low E for positioning . It is widely believed that this contributes to his distinctive sound. Check it out on this video where he performs HOMEWORK:
A little change of pace then with The Smiths and THE HEADMASTER RITUAL followed by Graham Parker & The Rumour with BACK TO SCHOOLDAYS.
Jerry Lee Lewis uses high school as a setting, rather than a storyline, in HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL. This would have been his fourth consecutive hit in a row, if controversy hadn’t raged about the fact that his new wife was hardly old enough to be in high school. Oops. Doesn’t seem to bother the audience at this concert in London in the 60’s:
It was nearly time for the final bell, but we still squeezed in another triple play: The Hollies with CARRIE ANNE, N.R.B.Q. with STILL IN SCHOOL and WAITIN’ IN SCHOOL from Ricky Nelson.
Our finale was reserved for a song that divides people. Personally I have a bit of a soft spot for TO SIR WITH LOVE, from the film of the same name. How gorgeous was Sidney Poitier? Here’s a clip of Lulu performing the song very recently, (I think it may have been 2008). And how good does she look?
Next week, I’m going to go against the grain. Yes I know that Valentines Day is coming up soon but the cynic in me has decided to mount an ANTI LOVE show. So, if you have any suggestions drop me a line.
Here’s the complete playlist from this week:
Next week: ANTI-LOVE