I’ve got something I want to tell you. I like grass. No, I’m not ‘fessing up to the local authorities. I really do like the smell and feel of good old-fashioned grass, the kind you find in paddocks, or lawns if you’re in the suburbs, especially after it’s just rained. And with the Splendour in the Grass music festival about to descend on Byron Bay once more, this week’s theme ‘GRASS’ seemed an obvious choice. And, yes, there was some mention of a certain recreational substance in the line-up this week. But hey, it was all in good fun and not necessarily an endorsement.
And talking of fun: Pink is in Brisbane next weekend as part of her FUNHOUSE TOUR. The tour’s major sponsor,Optus, kindly offered Theme Park two tickets to give away on air to one lucky listener. The winner, Vanessa, is off to see a dazzling carnival style set, daring aerial feats and the vocal powerhouse that is PINK. Thanks Optus!
We opened our show about grass with GRAZING IN THE GRASS from the Friends of Distinction and the R&B feel continued with a couple of songs about the grass being greener on the other side of the fence: Wilson Pickett’s advice is DON’T LET THE GREEN GRASS FOOL YA while Dr John still thinks that THE GRASS LOOKS GREENER YONDER.
After Tom Waites entertained us with the brilliant GREEN GRASS from the Real Gone album, it was QUIT PLAYING GAMES WITH GOD! from Mark Mothersbaugh (ex Devo), the theme music from a terrific documentary by Ron Mann called GRASS. You can watch the whole film, in several parts, on You Tube, btw. Thanks Ron! And then a perfect follow up: Petula Clark’s pop-hit about more castles in the sky: THE OTHER MAN’S GRASS IS ALWAYS GREENER. As the lovely Pet puts it: let’s be thankful for what we’ve got. A track from 1966 that supports that notion is GREEN GRASS by Gary Lewis and the Playboys and it was great to hear that particular piece of pop again too.
The Ink Spots gave us a great, if somewhat strange, track called WHISPERING GRASS. A song about gossiping: Be careful what you tell those “blabbering trees” say the Spots. Okaaaaay. Time then for some vintage blues with Lil Johnson lamenting the fact that her best friend stole her man, the low-down dirty SNAKE IN THE GRASS. She’s talking about the friend there, not the boyfriend. Hmmmm. I think there might be two snakes in that crop of grass.
A couple more songs from the GRASS soundtrack followed: FRESH AIR from Quicksilver Messenger Service and John Prine singing ILLEGAL SMILE. Loving the help he gets from the audience at what sounds like a particularly good-time live performance. Yeah, they were ” just trying to have me some fun”. Fair enough too.
Buck Owens knows how to get to a woman: if you break up with him, he asks, WHO’S GONNA MOW YOUR LAWN? Yes, worth considering I’m sure. Check out this clip fronm 1969. Hee Haw indeed.
I had to have a chuckle when Japanese punk group Hi-Standard delivered the television theme GREEN ACRES for our listening pleasure. Nicely followed by Toby Keith and Tim McGraw with some serious country with WHERE THE GREEN GRASS GROWS and then it was the beautiful voices of the Everly Brothers with BOWLING GREEN, recently covered by Neko Case. But as much as I love Neko, you can’t top the original version.
Time then for some jazz and blues: Sarah Vaughan does a great version of BLUE GRASS that was recorded in 1947. I love the line – ‘you can’t keep me warm with a racing form’.
Cab Calloway’s REEFER MAN was followed by THE LUNATIC IS ON THE GRASS from Pink Floyd’s album Dark Side of the Moon and then it was some Aussie nostalgia. A Glenn Shorrock double: Axiom with ARKANSAS GRASS followed by the Twilights with NEEDLE IN A HAYSTACK. Let’s have a look at one the fastest songs ever: Cab Calloway and REEFER MAN. Loving the outfits!
Appropriately, we followed with KILLING JIVE from the Cats & The Fiddle, ITCHYCOO PARK from the Small Faces and RAINY DAY WOMEN from Bob Dylan. They made up a nice trio of ‘Grass’ songs dedicated to all my friends out at Nimbin.
Crazy about the experimental sound of Animal Collective, especially the track GRASS from their Feel album of 2005. Apparently they had a piano untuned (yes, you read that correctly) and then tuned all their instruments to the out of tune piano. Mad. Check out this video and then try to convince me that psychedelia is dead!
My last song about grass was the great soul sound of Ella Washington with THE GRASS IS GREENER.
The show finished with a tribute to Terrie Wells, otherwise known as Red Terra, one of BayFM’s most dedicated and skilled presenters who, sadly, died on Monday July 20th after collapsing at home on the previous Thursday. Our thoughts go out to her family and I know I speak on behalf of everyone at BayFM when I say that we will miss her passion and commitment to community radio and to the environment. She was simply an inspiration. The O’Jays STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN was played in her honour.
Here’s the complete playlist:
This week’s theme was all about sex and drugs, but not just rock n roll. In fact it was a lot of early blues. I just love those early (30s, 40s, 50s) gutsy hot mamas, like Barrel House Annie and Julia and Her Boyfriends who shed their inhibitions and sang about their desires. I also played some C.W. Stoneking, who with his wife Kirsty Fraser, know how to evoke and extend the highly provocative ditty – listen to ‘You Took My Thing’ to find out what I mean. And, of course, there was rock ‘n’ roll with Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis as well as the great r&b/soul singers Etta James and Marvin Gaye. And that was just in the first hour!
One of my favourites from the show was Tina Turner singing Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love”. Here’s a clip lifted from her ‘Simply the Best’ VCR for you to enjoy. Little wonder that I followed this with Tom Jones singing ‘Sexbomb’.
In the second hour I played a piece of Janis Joplin that clearly showed the influence of the great Bessie Smith. “Mary Jane” is a live performance, recorded in 1965 with the Dick Oxtot Jazz Band. If you want to track it down, look for the 1975 compilation album Janis or the 2007 compilation The Very Best of Janis Joplin. Did you know that Joplin so idolised Bessie Smith that she remedied the scandal of her unmarked grave by organising the appropriate carved inscription: “The greatest blues singer in the world will never stop singing”?
Another discovery for me, thanks to the Bob Dylan Theme Time compilation, is Mary Gauthier. Her song, “I Drink” cuts straight to the bone. What a potent and powerful song, both in its lyrics and its delivery. Apparently Gauthier is a recovered alcoholic who grew up in an abusive and alcoholic household. As Bob Dylan so eloquently puts it, “the song plays like a bittersweet farewell to a dangerous lover.”
Long before she carved out her hugely successful pop career with sensual versions of great love songs, the gorgeous voice of Dinah Washington was used to belt out some very suggestive blues numbers. I included the blatantly lascivious ‘Big Slidin’ Thing’ in this week’s show. It finds Washington pining for her absent man who’s apparently proficient with his extraordinary instrument – a trombone people, a trombone! Such a tragedy that Washington would die at 39, after an accidental overdose of prescription diet pills mixed with alcohol.
My Roy Orbison song this week was ‘Mean Woman Blues’, initially recorded by Elvis as part of the soundtrack for his 1957 motion picture, Loving You. Roy recorded it with ‘Blue Bayou’ in 1963, as a 45rpm single and it went to #5 on the Billboard Hot 1oo music charts. I love the line: ‘Well I ain’t braggin’, it’s understood. Everything I do, well I sure do good’. Oh yeah.
Finished the show with Verve’s ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ which, although most listeners might assume is an anti-drugs song, is, in fact, about the father of one of the band members. He was being treated for cancer, the drugs stopped working and he died. Aaargh.
Sorry to end on a bit of a downer. So, let’s get cheerful next week. I overlooked the fact that January 12th (my birthday as well!) was the birthday of Motown. So next week its all things soulful on Theme Park. Hope to have you all listening in. Streaming details at end of this week’s playlist which follows.
Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll – Ian Dury
Minnie The Moocher – Cab Calloway
Dynamite – Cheech and Chong (Comedy clip)
The Old Dope Peddler – Tom Lehrer
Monkey On My Back – Ross Hannaford Trio
Gotta Gimme Whatcha Got – Julia Lee & Her Boy Friends
If it don’t fit – Barrell House Annie
You Took My Thing – C.W. Stoneking
The Girl Can’t Help It – Little Richard
Great Balls Of Fire – Jerry Lee Lewis
You Can Leave Your Hat On – Joe Cocker
Addicted To Love (with Brian Adams Live) – Tina Turner
Sexbomb – Tom Jones
I Just Want To Make Love To You – Etta James
Sexual Healing – Marvin Gaye
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – Drug Lists (Movie Clip)
Rehab – Amy Winehouse
Cocaine Habit – Captain Matchbox
Mary Jane – Janis Joplin
I Drink – Mary Gauthier
Rocket – Connie Lee
Big Long Slidin’ Thing – Dinah Washington
Afternoon Delight – Starlight Vocal Band
Itchycoo Park – Small Faces
Mean Woman Blues – Roy Orbison
Burning Love – Elvis Presley
Take a Walk on the Wild Side – Lou Reed
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds – The Beatles
Mother’s Little Helper – The Rolling Stones
Cold Turkey – John Lennon
The Drugs Dont Work – The Verve
Next week: The History of Motown!
Listen to Lyn McCarthy at ‘Theme Park’ on Bay FM 99.9, Tuesdays 2-4pm, Sydney time. Also streaming on http://www.bayfm.org