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)
What’s captalism’s favourite pastime? Well, SHOPPING of course! Some of the songs in this week’s list were critical of the commodification of our society while others celebrated shopping as retail therapy. Objects of desire included everything from clothes and cars to food and liquor and we shopped in that threatened species, the little corner store, as well as their replacements, the supermarkets and malls. We gave away tickets to local charity event, The Spring Into Bangalow Fashion Parade, and welcomed local girl-group The Swinging Cowgirls into the studio for a live performance. All in all, a fun show.
The program kicked off at a rather luxurious looking pet shop, where Patti Page asks HOW MUCH IS THAT DOGGIE IN THE WINDOW? Let’s face it, if you’re a shop-a-holic you could do a lot worse than rescue a pup from being a living and breathing window display. I call that charity work myself.
The Coasters sang of being in a high-end department store without any credit on SHOPPING FOR CLOTHES. And we followed with Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, whose Mum told them to always SHOP AROUND when it comes to looking for love. Not bad advice actually.
Ben Folds does a great cover of the Clash song LOST IN THE SUPERMARKET for the kids film Over the Hedge, which had to make the list. As did The Kinks with the very appropriate DEDICATED FOLLOWER OF FASHION. Check this clip from 1973. I love Ray Davies: “Let’s have a laugh, because no-one’s here for art.” Genius.
Chuck Berry refined and developed rhythm and blues into the major elements that made rock and roll distinctive, with lyrics focusing on teen life and consumerism. On this week’s show he went shopping for a car on NO MONEY DOWN.
Here’s De La Soul with their critique of hip-hoppin’, gold-diggin’ girlfriends on SHOPPING BAGS. Its from the underrated album The Grind Date:
Up here in the village of Mullumbimby, the locals have lost the fight to stop a large Woolworths complex from being built in town. So I included a couple of songs for all those activists who are trying to preserve their quality of life. First up, Jonathan Richman bemoans the disappearance of the CORNER STORE. We followed with a perfect partner, Eugene McDaniels with SUPERMARKET BLUES: “I’ve got the supermarket blues, If I could choose, its really them I’d like to lose.” Yes, indeedy.
Two very funny tunes on the list are They Might Be Giants’ I AM A GROCERY BAG and TOO HIGH FOR THE SUPERMARKET from The Uninvited. It’s tough finding the ingredients for a simple tuna sandwich in a huge supermarket, especially when focus is a problem. Hilarious.
Fergie knows that shopping for labels is just shopping for affection on LABELS OF LOVE, from the soundtrack to the film Sex & The City, which is basically just a big ad for Manola’s etc. The Beatles have a bit of advice for the shopaholic in all of us on CAN’T BUY ME LOVE.
I’m not a big fan of The Pet Shop Boys but their 1987 techno-pop tune SHOPPING, which is more about political corruption than a day in the mall, proved to be especially suitable for this week’s show.
Margo Timmins, of The Cowboy Junkies, is going to buy you something small and frail and plastic. As she puts it: ‘CAUSE CHEAP IS HOW I FEEL. Brilliant.
Dolly Parton is also a bit partial to a little metaphor on THE BARGAIN STORE. And lending a little gravity to the list was good ol’ boy Bruce Springsteen with QUEEN OF THE SUPERMARKET.
Jonathan Richman championed the LONELY LITTLE THRIFT STORE and Bruno Mars, with a little help from Damian Marley, sang about the LIQUOR STORE BLUES.
And then I happily welcomed the Swingin’ Cowgirls into the studio for a bit of a jam and a singalong. They are going to be performing at the upcoming charity fashion event, Spring into Bangalow, and going by what we saw on the show, it will be a great night. Here they are performing at another local event, earlier this year:
We said goodbye to the Swingin’ Cowgirls with an equally sassy dame, Lily Allen. She’s giving her granny a hard time on NAN, YOU’RE A WINDOW SHOPPER.
The Replacements’ punk rock defense of the CUSTOMER was followed by Paul Weller and The Jam with MAN IN THE CORNER SHOP, a song about some middle-class punk rockers who suddenly have a whole lot of money but nothing substantial to spend it on.
Before Steven Patrick Morrissey was simply Morrissey, he was lead singer of The Smiths, a band who never charted higher than #10 but who nevertheless generated a cult following. Here they are with SHOPLIFTERS OF THE WORLD UNITE:
Sublime’s influences were reggae, punk and ska and our final track was an old ska song that they recorded a version of in 1996 called PAWN SHOP. The story goes that lead singer Brad Nowell’s raging addiction saw his guitar being pawned quite often, with their manager having to pay to get it out before their gigs. Sort of puts all those songs about SHOPPING into perspective doesn’t it?
Next week the show will be one of pure joy. Every song will feature HANDCLAPPING. I’d love to hear from you if you would like to request a track, or you may have an idea for a theme for an upcoming show. Let me know! Love to have your input.
Here’s this week’s playlist:
How Much Is That Doggie In The Window – Everlasting In Original 125 Golden Oldies (Vol.3), Patti Page
Shopping for Clothes – Atlantic Rhythm & Blues (1958-62) Vol. 4, The Coasters
Shop Around – The Ultimate Collection, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
Lost In The Supermarket (Clash cover) – Over The Hedge soundtrack, Ben Folds
Dedicated Follower Of Fashion – The Complete Collection, The Kinks
No Money Down – After School Session, Chuck Berry
Shopping Bags (She Got from You) – The Grind Date, De La Soul
Corner Store – Jonathan Goes Country, Jonathan Richman
Supermarket Blues – Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse, Eugene McDaniels
I Am A Grocery Bag – TMBG UnLtd April, They Might Be Giants
Too High for the Supermarket. – Too High, The Uninvited
Labels Or Love – Sex And The City, Fergie
Shopping – Actually, Pet Shop Boys
‘Cause Cheap Is How I Feel – The Caution Horses, Cowboy Junkies
Can’t Buy Me Love – Hey Jude, The Beatles
Shopping Carts – (comedy skit), Steven Wright
The Bargain Store – The RCA Years 1967-1986 [Disc 2], Dolly Parton
Queen Of The Supermarket – Working On A Dream, Bruce Springsteen
Liquor Store Blues (feat. Damian Marley) – Single, Bruno Mars
The Lonely Little Thrift Store – I’m So Confused, Jonathan Richman
Nan You’re A Window Shopper – Alright, Still Lily Allen
Customer – Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out the Trash, The Replacements
Man In The Corner Shop – Direction, Reaction, Creation, The Jam
Shoplifters Of The World Unite – The Best Of Part 1, The Smiths
Pawn Shop – Sublime, Sublime