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)
Slip on your kaftans and tie-dye t-shirts. Adorn yourself with flowers and beads. We’re going to light-up some joss-sticks, “ban the bomb” and “make love not war!” This week’s theme is dedicated to that period in 1967 that saw as many as 100,000 people converge on the Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood of San Francisco, creating what was to become known as the counterculture movement. The melting pot of music, psychedelic drugs, sexual freedom, creative expression and politics became a defining moment of the 60’s and forever more will be known as THE SUMMER OF LOVE.
It’s easy to reject songs that seem to have been around forever, but consider the context of these songs’ origins and you’ll realize that what many of these musicians were doing hadn’t been done before and, in many cases, would never be done again. So respect to the hippies and the funk soul sisters & brothers and the year 1967 – a time of exploration and finding new ways of expression.
We opened the show with the THE ACID COMMERCIAL from Country Joe & The Fish and then it was the Beatles with ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE. Arguably the greatest band in the world at the top of their powers, Lennon’s anthem to love may not be his strongest but it’s definitely his catchiest. The Beatles made a worldwide television broadcast of the song, in between sessions of transcendental meditation, and it became a #1 hit in both the US & UK. Check out the clip from this transmission and see if you can see Mick Jagger in the audience.
A song that summed up the mood of those flocking to Haight-Ashbury in that Summer of 67 is, of course, Scott McKenzie’s IF YOU’RE GOING TO SAN FRANCISCO, (be sure to wear flowers in your hair). Written by John Phillips of the Mamas & The Papas, it was originally created to promote the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, which is regarded as being the beginning of the Summer of Love.
FOR WHAT ITS WORTH, by Buffalo Springfield, is about the closing of the Pandora’s Box Club on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles and the clash that followed between the police and kids. But the song quickly took on a larger meaning, symbolizing the generational friction happening all across the country as the hippies and flower children freaked out the authorities from coast to coast. Here’s a great clip from the Monterey Festival:
When you listen to PURPLE HAZE, from Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Are You Experienced?’ album, you can’t help but imagine the rush of a million wanna-be guitarists running into music stores hoping to be just like Jimi. Check out this video from 1967 with Jimi Hendrix on Guitar, Noel Redding on Bass and Mitch Mitchell on Drums:
In the early sixties The Beach Boys were synonymous with surfing and Californian youth culture. By the mid-sixties, however, their musical style had become a little more complex. A 1967 example of this new sophisticated sound was HEROES AND VILLAINS. We followed with a song that had the distinction of being the first track to be played on BBC Radio One when it launched in 1967, FLOWERS IN THE RAIN by The Move. And, to round out the triple play, The Turtles with HAPPY TOGETHER. This track can lift anyone’s mood. While their vocal harmonies verged on sugar-sweet, I don’t know anyone that doesn’t like this song.
I’M A BELIEVER, the Monkees’ hit, was written by none other than Neil Diamond. The song stayed at the top of the charts for six weeks and was the biggest selling single of 1967. That’s right, they even outsold the Beatles and the Stones, and while Neil Diamond, continued to write and perform, he never really needed to work another day in his life after this song took off. The Mamas & Papas hit, DEDICATED TO THE ONE I LOVE, was originally a hit for the Shirelles in 1961. Here are the Mamas & The Papas with their ’67 version:
Three more classics of the period: Cream’s I FEEL FREE, the Byrds’ SO YOU WANT TO BE A ROCK N ROLL STAR and Jefferson Airplane’s SOMEBODY TO LOVE. And then it was Procol Harum with WHITER SHADE OF PALE. This track contains perhaps the most recognizable Hammond B-3 organ rock line ever, snatched from Bach and perhaps a soul player or two. The vague lyrics, however, aren’t very memorable, making the organ bit seem even more imposing and significant than it probably deserves. But hey, what do I know? Here they are on Top of the Pops 1967. Make up your own mind.
Three more songs from that magical time in 1967 referred to as THE SUMMER OF LOVE include I’M A MAN from The Spencer Davis Group, written by Steve Winwood, SAN FRANCISCO NIGHTS from Eric Burdon & the Animals and GET TOGETHER from the Youngbloods.
But the band that epitomised the musical creativity of the sixties is The Beatles. A DAY IN THE LIFE, from their Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, utilised a 40 piece orchestra taking 24 bars to go from the lowest note on their instruments to the highest and six people banging on three pianos at the same time in order to produce one huge power chord. The song obliterated every rule that ever existed for what a pop song should sound like and how it should be made, simple as that. Check it out:
One of the most instantly recognizable riffs in rock history is SUNSHINE OF YOUR LOVE, from Cream. And one of the most representative of the period is the Small Faces tune ITCHYCOO PARK. For me, though, when it comes to this period, I can’t overlook Janis Joplin. So an essential track from 1967 has to be Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin singing DOWN ON ME.
Jimi Hendrix also deserved another play and this time it was FOXEY LADY. It’s probably worth mentioning here that up until this point Blues guitarists would never have done what Hendrix does on this track. The rule was that the guitar sound should be clean and pure. Jimi however, never got that memo and thank goodness for that.
As well as a time that was marked by anti-Vietnam demonstartions, 1967, unfortunately, was also a time of race riots, which also fed into the peace movement and hippie revolution with its ideals of compassion, awareness and love. So, in deference to our soul brothers and sisters, it was time for some R&B with I HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE by Gladys Knight and the Pips. This song became a #2 hit in 1967 and Marvin Gay’s renditon hit #1 the following year. But sticking to the plan, we listened to The Pips version and followed with the one and only Jackie Wilson with his landmark single, HIGHER AND HIGHER.
Although they were a white band, the Young Rascals GROOVIN’ was pure soul with its memorable Afro-Cuban mood and mid-tempo groove. Timeless song. Check out the clip of them performing live.
The next track was a bit of a cheat, since it wasn’t released until 1969, after the band had broken up. But TIME OF THE SEASON by The Zombies was written and recorded in August 1967 and the vibe is pure SUMMER OF LOVE, baby. And then it was the Who with I CAN SEE FOR MILES, the only real hit from their crazy concept album The Who Sell Out and SHE’S A RAINBOW from the Rolling Stones. We’ll overlook the Stones vain attempt of trying to one-up the Beatles and just concentrate on those first seven piano notes, which have been likened to the musical equivalent of heroin.
We closed the show with STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER from the Beatles. The band recorded a version by themselves in one key and then they did a version with an orchestra in a different key. The version you know and love is BOTH versions mixed together, speeding the band version up and the orchestral version down. Magic. This promotional video was filmed in January 1967 and was directed by Peter Goldmann, at the time a Swedish TV director.
Now next week’s show is going to be hotter than hot. As a tribute to the upcoming Summer holiday season the theme will be HEAT. Put your thinking caps on and get in touch!
Here’s this week’s complete playlist:
Next week: HEAT
Listen to Lyn McCarthy at the Theme Park on BayFM, Tuesdays 2-4pm, Sydney time.
Also streaming on http://www.bayfm.org
So what makes a great cover? I think it’s when an artist makes a song his or her own, while still respecting the essence of the original. There are some exceptional covers that completely redefine a song to the point that we identify the tune with the cover artist forever more. And we had a few of those this week in our show about COVERS THAT ARE BETTER THAN THE ORIGINALS.
John Coltrane transformed The Sound of Music’s perky pick me up MY FAVOURITE THINGS into something of a jazz landmark, so, as our opener, it served as a very good example of a song that was reinvented for the listener. Another supreme example of a good cover is Ray Charles rendition of the Beatles ELEANOR RIGBY. His powerful and moving version uses R & B piano and gospel vocals to create something unique from what was a pretty perfect piece of pop to begin with. Check out this clip from the Dick Cavett show 1972. Loving the Raelettes moves, not to mention the pastel kaftans!
In his latter years Johnny Cash recorded a number of covers that, at first glance, seem at odds with his ‘country’ persona. None is more moving than HURT. Cash takes all the self-pity out of the Nine Inch Nails junkie confessional and turns it into an old man’s devastating deathbed testimonial. Take a look at this video clip. It’s a poignant performance that’s almost haunting, as it was created just prior to Cash’s untimely death. Whether or not you’re a Johnny Cash fan, this performance is powerful and deep with emotion.
ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER from Jimi Hendrix was written, and first recorded, by Bob Dylan. He’s one of the most-covered musicians in history for a reason: Besides writing some of the best songs of the rock era, he’s made lots of recordings that sound unfinished, even skeletal.The original of ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER is spine-chilling in its own strange way, but the song didn’t become a classic until Jimi Hendrix unleashed his version. Hendrix seems to channel pure myth and mystery. Of course, it wouldn’t work without Dylan’s lyrics and unsettling chords, but the Hendrix solos actually sound like wind howling and wildcats growling, don’t you think?
Canadian band, Cowboy Junkies, version of The Velvet Underground’s SWEET JANE was based on the one that was included in 1969: The Velvet Underground Live. Lou Reed himself described it as “the best and most authentic version I have ever heard”. At the risk of including way too many video clips, I have to show you this:
The Lennon/McCartney single, WE CAN WORK IT OUT, comes from the middle of The Beatles most radical creative reinvention, the 1965 shift from the straightforward pop of Help! To the multi-faceted Rubber Soul, which would revolutionise their music, and by extension, everybody’s else’s. So, it’s fitting that when Stevie Wonder covered the song on 1970’s Signed, Sealed & Delivered, he was in the middle of a similar transition from Motown’s teenage wunderkid to the socially conscious and superfunky artist he became in the mid 70’s. Wonder’s performance is so powerful, in fact, that it changes the meaning of the song without changing a word.
We teamed that with Ike & Tina Turner’s version of PROUD MARY. As Tina explains in the fairly subdued preface: “We never, ever do nothin’ nice and easy. We always do it nice and rough.” The Turners – and their band – then tear the intro to shreds by kicking up the tempo, adding horns and driving it all with a beat that practically demands that people dance. By comparison, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s original mid-tempo rock number sounds positively bland.
One sure-fire way to reinvent a song is to flip the sex of the singer. Two examples of that are Melanie’s version of the Stones’ RUBY TUESDAY and Regina Spektor’s version of John Lennon’s REAL LOVE.
Another is Janis Joplin’s cover of Roger Miller’s ME AND BOBBY MCGEE. Joplin’s version gave her the only number one single of her career and only the second posthumous number one single in rock n roll history (the first was Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding).
Back to boys on boys: Edgar & Johnny Winter do a wonderful version of TOBACCO ROAD, recorded originally by the Nashville Teens. And idiosyncratic Melbourne performer, C.W. Stoneking, puts a whole new spin on the White Stripes SEVEN NATION ARMY. The clip is from radio station’s Triple J’s ‘Like A Version’ series, available on CD/DVD. Wild.
My favourite number in this week’s playlist was suggested by a Sydney listener, Lynden (thank you!): Jazz singer Patricia Barber with her interpretation of Sonny & Cher’s THE BEAT GOES ON. And then Stevie Ray Vaughan gave Jimi Hendrix a run for his money with his version of VOODOO WOMAN.
Two of my all time favourite R&B artists followed: Al Green taking the Bee Gees ballad HOW CAN YOU MEND A BROKEN HEART to a whole new level and Aretha Franklin showing us how her version of Otis Redding’s RESPECT made it, not only an anthem for the feminist movement and the civil rights moviement, but, her very own signature song. Here’s a great little doco from Ovation TV looking at Aretha’s background and the important place that the song has in history.
English groups of the 60’s, in particular The Beatles, weren’t adverse to borrowing from the American R&B artists of the day to create some of their early hits (think of the Beatles Please Mr. Postman as an example). One R&B song that achieves a great transformation from R&B to rock is the Rolling Stones cover of the Temptations JUST MY IMAGINATION.
A male rock song that benefited greatly from being sung by a woman is GLORIA. Patti Smith introduced bisexuality and religious guilt to the horny garage rock song, originally recorded by Van Morrison’s band Them.
BY THE TIME I GET TO PHOENIX was originally recorded by Jimmy Webb. Isaac Hayes takes the listener on an epic journey by re-imagining the song’s entire context so persuasively that by the time he starts actually singing, the emotional force just about knocks our socks off.
Sometimes it’s hard to listen to any Doors song with a straight face, let alone LIGHT MY FIRE. Jackie Wilson had a bit of fun with his vastly superior version: its pure funk and I love the way Wilson punctuates it with his trademark squeals and screeches. It’s way sexier than the Doors’ psychedelic original, that’s for sure.
One of those songs that will forever be owned by the cover artist is Sinead O’Connor’s NOTHING COMPARES 2 U. Originally recorded by Prince’s group Family but no-one much remembers that now. Here’s the official clip showing her at the pinnacle of her career. Beautiful.
Now before the messages start filling my inbox, I’m sure that I’ve missed some obvious great covers and two hours is not nearly enough time to give credit where credit is due. Let’s go on the record as saying that, yes, every cover of a Leonard Cohen number is probably better than the original (sorry Leonard) but if I hear HALLELUJA one more time I will scream; that Cat Power is very good, but not a genius and that no-one can do Roy Orbison like Roy Orbison, not even kd lang.
And so I chose to go out with the Clash’s cover of I FOUGHT THE LAW AND THE LAW WON, originally recorded by The Bobby Fuller Four and then it was something quite special: ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? was first published in 1926 and was most notably covered by Elvis Presley in 1960. I have no idea when this version was recorded, most probably when the Beatles toured the US in the mid 60’s. It’s Elvis with Roy Orbison and the Beatles doing back-up. I’ve only been able to find it as a download but if anyone has any back story on this, let me know. And the finale was The Beatles covering TWIST & SHOUT, originally recorded by the Top Notes but most people may be more aware of the Isley Brothers version. The Beatles definitely made this one their own.
Here’s the complete playlist, with original artists in brackets:
My Favourite Things (Julie Andrews/ The Sound Of Music) – John Coltrane
Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles) – Ray Charles
Hurt (Nine Inch Nails) – Johnny Cash
All Along The Watchtower (Bob Dylan) – Jimi Hendrix
Sweet Jane (Lou Reed/Velvet Underground) – Cowboy Junkies
We Can Work It Out (Beatles) – Stevie Wonder
Proud Mary (Creedence Clearwater Revival) – Ike & Tina Turner
Ruby Tuesday (Rolling Stones) – Melanie Safka
Real Love (John Lennon) – Regina Spektor
Seven Nation Army (White Stripes) – C.W. Stoneking
Tobacco Road (Nashville Teens) – Edgar & Johnny Winter
Me And Bobby McGee (Roger Miller) – Janis Joplin
The Beat Goes On (Sonny & Cher) – Patricia Barber
After Midnight (JJ Cale) – Eric Clapton
Voodoo Child (Jimi Hendrix) – Stevie Ray Vaughan
How Can You Mend A Broken Heart? (Bee Gees) – Al Green
Respect (Otis Redding) – Aretha Franklin
Just My Imagination (The Temptations) – The Rolling Stones
Gloria (Van Morrison/Them) – Patti Smith
By The Time I Get To Phoenix (Johnny Rivers/Glen Campbell) – Isaac Hayes
Light My Fire (The Doors) – Jackie Wilson
Nothing Compares 2 U (The Family/Prince) – Sinead O’Connor
I Fought The Law (Bobby Fuller Four) – The Clash
Are You Lonesome Tonight – Elvis Presley & Roy Orbison (with the Beatles as the backup singers)
Twist And Shout (Top Notes/Isley Bros) – The Beatles