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)
Ok, so there are intros and then they’re are great intros. What qualifies as great in my books? In this week’s playlist some songs feature opening segments that are totally independent from the rest of the track. Others just start with the main riff. Our opening song, INTRO/SWEET JANE is from Lou Reed’s live album Rock n Roll Animal, released in 1974, and it’s a terrific example of a great intro. The opening jam from guitarists Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner creates an air of anticipation for what is still to come. The quality of this video clip isn’t great but I had to include it because any chance to see Lou and the band performing in 1974 is worth the annoyance.
The Breeders, (what a brilliant name for an almost all girl band), was formed in 1988 by Kim Deal of The Pixies and Tanya Donnelly of Throwing Muses. Their most successful album Last Splash produced the hit single CANNONBALL and the outstanding part of that song’s intro is the bass line, performed by Josephine Wiggs. The music video was directed by Kim Gordon and Spike Jonze and its a doozy:
The opening salutation on Stevie Wonder’s SIR DUKE is not an introduction that blends into the song; those actual chords are never repeated. It’s a tribute to Duke Ellington and so the intro sets the tone for the piece as a whole, foreshadowing the looser, jazzier solos later in the song.
On Isaac Hayes’ brilliant funk version of the Dionne Warwick classic WALK ON BY the intro becomes a song within a song. On this clip Isaac performs live at Music Scene in 1969. OMG: Sex on a stick. But, about those girls dresses…..
The song ONE STEP BEYOND is from the Madness album of the same name. It was originally written and recorded by the Jamaican ska musician Prince Buster. The spoken line, “Don’t watch that, watch this” in the intro is from another Prince Buster song The Scorcher. Here they are at Glastonbury 2007 showing why they have such a great reputation for live performance:
One of the most recognisable intros in rock history is HOTEL CALIFORNIA from The Eagles. But when it comes to intros that get your attention and then drag you in, kicking and screaming, it has to be rock legends Led Zeppelin. IMMIGRANT SONG is famous for Robert Plant’s distinctive wailing cry at the beginning and the recurring staccato riff from Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and, (sigh), John Bonham.
The Rolling Stones’ GIMME SHELTER starts rather timidly, with Keith Richards’ set of wavering chords, but it soon builds into a crescendo dominated by the lead guitar line. Here they are performing live in Amsterdam, 1995 with Lisa Fisher on back-up. Watch until the end and get a little bonus from Charlie Watts.
SMOKE ON THE WATER from Deep Purple is known for Ritchie Blackmore’s instantly recognisable opening riff. The lyrics of the song tell a true story: on 4 December 1971 Deep Purple had set up camp in Montreux Switzerland to record an album using a mobile recording studio at the entertainment complex that was part of the Montreux Casino. On the eve of the recording session a Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention concert was held in the casino’s theatre. In the middle of Don Preston’s synthesizer solo on “King Kong”, the place suddenly caught fire when somebody in the audience fired a flare gun into the rattan covered ceiling. The resulting fire destroyed the entire casino complex, along with all the Mothers’ equipment. The “smoke on the water” that became the title of the song referred to the smoke from the fire spreading over Lake Geneva from the burning casino as the members of Deep Purple watched the fire from their hotel across the lake.
It was difficult to pick from AC/DC’s repertoire of great introductions but I went with my all-time favourite, THUNDERSTRUCK. Angus Young gets the crowd going during this intro at Donnington 1991:
Derek & The Dominoes’ LAYLA has got to be one of rock’s definitive love songs. The introduction contains an overdub-heavy guitar solo, a duet of sorts between Duane Allman’s slide guitar and Eric Clapton’s bent notes.
A couple of controversial tracks followed, both with unique introductions. FIRESTARTER, by UK band The Prodigy, caught attention because the song was deemed, by some, to be violent. The video clip, directed by Walter Stern, further fueled these claims. Shot in stark black and white, in an used part of the London Underground, some television stations refused to air the clip. Which just makes me want to show it to you, even more! I think its brilliant.
The Prodigy are a hard act to follow but I think we succeeded with the compelling and dark Massive Attack track INTERTIA CREEPS. It’s from their excellent album Mezzanine.
When The Temptations’ PAPA WAS A ROLLING STONE was released in 1972 it was 12 minutes long! Thankfully there is a shorter version that’s suitable for radio that keeps that amazing intro intact. It begins with an extended instrumental starting with a solo plucked bass guitar, backed by hi-hat cymbals. Other instruments including a blues guitar, wah-wah guitar, Wurlitzer Electric Piano, handclaps, horns and strings gradually join in.
In 1974 David Bowie became obsessed with soul music and it resulted in the album YOUNG AMERICANS, which he created with the help of the great soul singer Luther Vandross. Here’s the Thin White Duke on the Dick Cavett Show in 1974 with, amongst others, Vandross singing back-up! Loving the shoulder pads.
The Beatles track I FEEL FINE was the first recorded song to feature guitar feedback. The story goes that, while recording, John Lennon accidentally left his guitar too close to his amp, producing the interesting whine that’s in tune with the riff’s opening note.
As an intro to our Gig Guide, I couldn’t resist playing some of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ I PUT A SPELL ON YOU. The demented opening and the cabaret style act, together with a cigarette smoking skull called ‘Henry’, laid the foundation for future ‘shock rock’ performers like Dr. John.
Another iconic opener belongs to the The Small Faces tune TIN SOLDIER. Here’s some rare coverage of the band with P.P.Arnold on Belgium TV in 1968. Go the Mods!
Quentin, from BayFM’s ‘Q’s Blues & Jazz’ suggested I do a show on Roads and Streets but I’d already done that quite a while ago. (I know, even I can’t remember what themes I’ve covered most of the time!). But she planted a seed that led me to Gerry Rafferty BAKER STREET and that consequently led to this week’s theme. So thank you Q! BAKER STREET has a stand-out opening with its prominent eight-bar saxophone hook, played by Raphael Ravenscroft.
As we headed for the close of the show, my favourite rock groups came to the fore. Pink Floyd’s MONEY had to be included for its distinctive opening of an impressive bass line and its seven-beat loop of money related sound effects.
While the Beatles may have been the first band to use feedback on a recording, the incredible Jimi Hendrix perfected the art. Again, which track to choose? FOXY LADY has always been a favourite and it does feature that almost excrutiating feedback at the beginning.
Our final track had me pushing up the sound and dancing out of the studio. Led Zeppelin seem to specialise in fantastic opening segments. A track that I absolutely adore is KASHMIR.
Next week we’ll be previewing the Mullumbimby Music Festival. Lots of great music and, I hope, an interview or two. Should be fun.
Here’s the complete playlist from this week’s show on Great Introductions:
Intro / Sweet Jane – Rock And Roll Animal, Lou Reed
Cannonball – Last Splash, The Breeders
Sir Duke – Songs In The Key Of Life [Disc 1], Stevie Wonder
Walk On By – Dead Presidents, Isaac Hayes
One Step Beyond – Total Madness: The Very Best Of Madness Madness
Hotel California – Hotel California, The Eagles
Immigrant Song – Rock 3, Led Zeppelin
Gimme Shelter – Hot Rocks, 1964-1971 [Disc 2], The Rolling Stones
Wipe Out – The Perfect Wave, The Surfaris
Smoke On The Water – Machine Head, Deep Purple
Thunderstruck – Razor’s Edge, AC/DC
Layla – Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs, Derek and The Dominos
Firestarter – Fat of the Land, The Prodigy
Inertia Creeps – Mezzanine, Massive Attack
Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone – Motown: The Classic Years [Disc 2], The Temptations
Young Americans – Young Americans [Bonus Tracks], David Bowie
I Put A Spell On You – Replay/Gold – Vol 1 No 5, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
I Feel Fine – Beatles 1, The Beatles
Tin Soldier – The Best Sixties Album In The World Ever III-[Disc 2], The Small Faces
Baker Street – City To City, Gerry Rafferty
Money – Pink Floyd, Pink Floyd
Foxy Lady – Experience Hendrix: The Best Of Jimi Hendrix, Jimi Hendrix
Kashmir – Physical Graffiti, Led Zeppelin
Next week: MULLUMBIMBY MUSIC FESTIVAL PREVIEW