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)
This week we paid homage to Winter which started June 1, here in the Southern hemisphere. So it was a case of battening down, buttoning up and making the most of it! We opened the show with IT MAY BE WINTER OUTSIDE (BUT IN MY HEART ITS SPRING), a wonderfully optimistic tune by the Love Unlimited Orchestra, a group created by the master of smooth soul himself, Barry White.
For this show, as usual, I pilfered from all genres, from jazz and r&b through to folk, country and pop, with lots of rock, both classic and alternative thrown in for good measure. And we even got Tom Waites to read the weather!
As it was raining, yet again, here in the Northern Rivers, we set the mood with a great terrific piece of doo wop from the Spaniels: STORMY WEATHER and then it was a great version of BABY ITS COLD OUTSIDE by Tom Jones with Cerys Matthews from Catatonia. This take on Frank Loesser’s pop standard certainly cements Tom’s reputation with the laaadies. The video for this is so camp, you must check it out:
Sarah McLachlan offered up SONG FOR A WINTER’S NIGHT while Annie Lennox sang about the COLD with such intensity that I could almost feel it penetrating my bones. And then the Pixies belted out a fantastic, upbeat version of Neil Young’s WINTERLONG.
The Hank Williams song COLD COLD HEART has been covered by many artists but you know that I had to include Roy Orbison’s version, which I love. It’s from his Hank Williams tribute album. We followed that with Sister Hazel and YOUR WINTER and Simon & Garfunkle’s A HAZY SHADE OF WINTER.
Our mild winters, here in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, help to make this a very pleasant place to live all year round. So when you start whingeing (like I do) about how cold the nights are, consider some of these CHILLING FACTS:
1. Charlotte Pass (NSW) has the Australian record for the lowest recorded temperature. It was -23 degrees C on 18/6/94.
2. In Vostok, Antartica, the lowest minimum temperature in the world was recorded on 5/2/1892. It was -89.2 degrees C.
Brrrr. Thank goodness we’ve got music to warm the cockles of our hearts. What does that mean exactly? What are the cockles of your heart? Really, I’m perplexed, so if anyone knows how this saying came about I’d love to know.
Gwen Stefani is surprisingly good with her rendition of EARLY WINTER as is one of last year’s big discoveries, Fleet Foxes with WHITE WINTER HYMNAL. And for all you animation freaks, (of which I am one), here is the amazing video clip for you to savour.
A very moving tune by the Eels from their album, Electro-Shock Blues followed. DEAD OF WINTER was written largely as a response to frontman Mark Oliver Everett’s sister’s suicide and his mother’s terminal cancer. Although that sounds rather bleak, the album’s underlying message is a positive one, about coping with life’s tragedies and moving forward. I absolutely love the honesty of this album and highly commend it to you.
After Bobby Bland’s tortured COLD DAY IN HELL, we definitely needed a bit of cheering up and Fats Domino delivered with LET THE FOUR WINDS BLOW.
Here’s another Chilling Fact about Winter: Wind chill is a calculation of how cold it feels outside when the effects of temperature and wind speed are combined. A strong wind combined with a temperature of just below freezing can have the same effect as a still air temperature about 35 degrees colder. Brrr and double Brrrr.
Now someone who knows all about chilly winds and cool temperatures is Tom Waites. He very kindly presented the weather, of sorts, with his EMOTIONAL WEATHER REPORT. Here is a version that he performed in 1977 in Berlin, but if you can get a copy of his 1975 album Nighthawks at the Diner, you will get what I think is a better, and still live, performance. But hey, check this one out, still highly amusing for all kinds of reasons.
It doesn’t matter how cold it gets, if you’ve got a lover to keep you warm. So says Billy Holiday who sang I’VE GOT MY LOVE TO KEEP ME WARM and then it was Muddy Waters with BLOW WIND BLOW. And a first for Theme Park, was Madonna with a perfect piece of pop for a show about Winter: FROZEN, from her Ray of Light album.
Led Zeppelin gave us their IMMIGRANT SONG, written while on a tour of Iceland in 1970 and I couldn’t really leave out Foreigner with COLD AS ICE or STONE COLD from Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, could I?
Belle & Sebastian’s very twee THE FOX IN THE SNOW and the equally cutesy CLOUDY from Simon & Garfunkle sequed beautifully into ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN IN THE MARKET. This very silly tune is classic Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers.
I was obviously going a bit nutty with my winter tracks and so there was no stopping the delirium. Why not play Trans Siberian Orchestra with their crazy bit of Orchestral Rock, WIZARDS IN WINTER? But hopefully my credibility was saved with The White Stripes and IN THE COLD COLD NIGHT. Congrats to Meg White who recently married Jackson Smith, son of Patti Smith. Now there’s a gene pool for you!
OH LARSEN B, by British Sea Power from their 2005 album, Open Season followed, along with a cutey by The Fiery Furnaces: TROPICAL ICELAND. And a crazy video clip to match – check it out:
Final song for the show was one of my obsessions. AC/DC with THUNDERSTRUCK. And no matter how many times I see this video, I can’t get enough of Angus and that glass runway. May as well add to the 21 million hits on YouTube. So, here it is, just because I can!
Another one of my obsessions has given me the topic for next week – SHOES! So send me some suggestions, I would love to hear from you. Meanwhile, here is the complete playlist from this week:
It may be Winter Outside (But in my Heart it’s Spring) – Love Unlimited Orchestra
Baby its Cold Outside – Tom Jones and Cerys Matthews
Come Rain or Come Shine – Ray Charles
Song For A Winter’s Night – Sarah Mclachlan
Cold – Annie Lennox
Winterlong – The Pixies
Cold, Cold, Heart – Roy Orbison
Your Winter – Sister Hazel
A Hazy Shade of Winter – Simon and Garfunkel
Early Winter – Gwen Stefani
White Winter Hymnal – Fleet Foxes
Dead of Winter – Eels
Cold Day in Hell – Bobby Bland
Let The Four Winds Blow – Fats Domino
Emotional Weather Report -Tom Waits
I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm – Billie Holiday
Blow Wind Blow – Muddy Waters
Frozen – Madonna
Stone Cold – Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow
Cold As Ice – Foreigner
Immigrant Song – Led Zeppelin
Abominable Snowman In The Market – Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers
Cloudy – Simon & Garfunkel
The Fox In The Snow – Belle & Sebastian
Wizards in Winter – Trans-Siberian Orchestra
In The Cold Cold Night – The White Stripes
Tropical Iceland – The Fiery Furnaces
Oh Larsen B – British Sea Power
Thunderstruck – ACDC
Next week’s show: SHOES
Listen to Lyn at the Theme Park on BayFM 99.9 every Tuesday 2-4pm (Sydney time). Also streaming at http://www.bayfm.org