In my opinion, a ‘list’ song, if it’s genuine, should feature at least half a dozen items. In compiling this week’s playlist I didn’t feel it was good enough to include songs that simply rattled off one number after another or letters of the alphabet, although place names and girl’s names did get a bit of a look in. So it was a bit of a challenge, but that’s what makes it so much fun.
We opened the program with the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band’s spoof of band leader introductions, INTRO & OUTRO, in which each instrument is played by an unlikely public figure: “Looking very relaxed, Adolf Hitler on vibes. Nice.” I couldn’t find a video clip of the original song but here are the Bonzos performing a version with the cast of the pre-Python show, “Do Not Adjust Your Set”, 1967-1969:
That song set a pretty high benchmark for the rest of the show. The only thing to do was to take a completely different direction and consequently it was a couple of R&B standards: Sam Cooke with WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD and The Temptations with THE WAY YOU DO THE THINGS YOU DO.
Bob Dylan’s SUBTERRANEAN HOMESICK BLUES is a lively example of the list song if ever there was one. I’ve played this before and also posted the video clip, so let’s don’t do that again. Instead let’s have a look at feminist electro-punk trio Le Tigre, who pay tribute to dozens of female visual artists, musicians, writers, feminists and others who have inspired them, in HOT TOPIC.
Just to stir things up, we followed with UK group Pop Will Eat Itself with CAN U DIG IT. It’s a list of their favourite things including disco, comic books, AC/DC and the Twilight Zone. Somehow I don’t think that Le Tigre and PWEI should ever meet.
In the 40’s & 50’s list songs were sophisticated affairs, delivered with polite confidence. There’s no better example than Sarah Vaughan singing THEY CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME. Vaughan died 10 years ago this week. Jazz commentator Scott Yanow described her as having “one of the most wondrous voices of the 20th century” and I couldn’t agree more.
John Lennon wasn’t concerned with being polite on his 1971 recording of GIMME SOME TRUTH. In fact, just the opposite, as he expressed frustration with deceptive politicians at the time of the Vietnam War: “short-haired, yellow bellied sons of Tricky Dicky”. It’s from the Imagine album. Here’s an extract of the documentary on the making of the album, featuring GIMME SOME TRUTH:
It’s also the 10th anniversary of Ian Dury’s death (on March 27th). He was a master of the ‘list’ song. Hard to choose, but decided to go with REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL (Part 3). If ever there was a tune that encapsulated Durie”s love for jazz, rock & vaudeville and his collaborator Chaz Jankel’s love of funk, then this is it. Here’s an extended version performed live in 1985.
If you are ready to ditch someone from your life, it was probably time to take a few notes from Simon & Garfunkle as they explained about the 50 WAYS TO LEAVE YOUR LOVER.
If you’re looking for a female perspective on the subject then Carole Bayer Sager is your girl. She’s in total control as she tells her ex-lover YOU’RE MOVING OUT TODAY. Lucinda Williams goes one step further. She’s CHANGED THE LOCKS:
Two more of the great jazz and blues singers are Etta James and Nina Simone. We played James’ THESE FOOLISH THINGS REMIND ME OF YOU and Simone’s AIN’T GOT NO, I GOT LIFE.
LOSING MY EDGE was LCD Soundsystem’s first single in 2002 and was born out of James Murphy’s horror at realising that he was being branded ‘cool’. It’s laugh out loud funny in my books and, not to mention, has a great vinyl list to cross check your ‘coolness’ against:
“But have you seen my records? This Heat, Pere Ubu, Outsiders, Nation of Ulysses, Mars, The Trojans, The Black Dice, Todd Terry, the Germs, Section 25, Althea and Donna, Sexual Harrassment, a-ha, Pere Ubu, Dorothy Ashby, PIL, the Fania All-Stars, the Bar-Kays, the Human League, the Normal, Lou Reed, Scott Walker, Monks, Niagra, Joy Division, Lower 48, the Association, Sun Ra, Scientists, Royal Trux, 10cc, Eric B. and Rakim, Index, Basic Channel, Soulsonic Force (“just hit me”!), Juan Atkins, David Axelrod, Electric Prunes, Gil! Scott! Heron!, the Slits, Faust, Mantronix, Pharaoh Sanders and the Fire Engines, the Swans, the Soft Cell, the Sonics, the Sonics, the Sonics, the Sonics.”
Moving back in time it was Wilson Pickett with LAND OF 1,000 DANCES and a track that I held back from my HAIR show last week because it was so perfect for this theme, BALD-HEADED LENA from Piano Red, later known as Dr. Feelgood. And to round out the triple play, it was Screamin’ Jay Hawkins with a recipe, which of course is nothing but a list. The song: ALLIGATOR WINE.
The Queens of the Stone Age delivered FEEL GOOD HIT OF THE SUMMER. Apart from the single word “and”, their salute to stimulants is nothing but a list, performed with the enthusiasm of those who know of what they speak. Unlike myself of course. Here’s the official clip with a nice piece of animation.
If you’re after something a little more highbrow, and also quite funny, then you can’t go past Divine Comedy with BOOKLOVERS. It lists over 70 different authors for you. Names that live forever.
Here’s a beauty – Monty Python with a song that asserts that all of the great philosophers were drunks – BRUCE’S PHILOSOPHY SONG. Here they are performing at the Hollywood Bowl. Hilarious.
And now for something completely different: Antonio Carlos Jobim with Elis Regina singing the Brazilian classic AGUAS DE MARCO, an impressionistic flood of nouns representing the journey of life towards death. The title is translated as WATERS OF MARCH. Here’s a link to a very good blog that will tell you more about ‘Tom’ Jobim and will also give you the English version of the lyrics: http://leftbankpress.blogspot.com/2006/02/aguas-de-marco-waters-of-march.html
And, from me (and YouTube, of course), a clip of the duo performing the song live:
Having put you in a Latin mood, it was time for some Latin fusion and the next number would surely have had you up and dancing. Lou Bega’s MAMBO NUMBER 5. Can you believe that it was Australia’s #1 single in 1999?
As we were heading towards the end of the program it was great to get my dose of Roy Orbison by including The Travelling Wilburys in the show. George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Roy Orbison made up the super group. Legends, one and all, they contributed an interesting little ditty called DIRTY WORLD, with Bob Dylan on lead vocals. And then it was time for two other ex-Beatles with songs about LISTS: Paul McCartney and Wings with LET EM IN and, how could we leave out John Lennon’s GIVE PEACE A CHANCE?
Billy Joel defended the Baby Boomer generation with his hit WE DIDN’T START THE FIRE. As the song goes: “We didn’t start the fire. It was always burning since the world was turning.” Well, yeah, but …
We closed the show with REM’s IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT (AND I FEEL FINE). Inspired by Bob Dylan’s SUBTERRANEAN HOMESICK BLUES, the track is known for its quick flying lyrics taking the form of what appears to be a stream of consciousness. Michael Stipe says that he wrote the song after dreaming that he was at a birthday party where all the other guests had the initials L.B. hence “Leonard Bernstein, Leonid Brezhnev, Lenny Bruce and Lester Bangs, birthday party, cheesecake, jelly bean, boom!”
And on that note it was fini. Next week the theme will be FRIENDS & NEIGHBOURS, so get your thinking caps on. And try to avoid themes for sit-coms. Yes, it’s going to be harder than it looks.
Here’s the complete playlist for this week:
Intro And The Outro – Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band
What A Wonderful World – Sam Cooke
The Way You Do The Things You Do – The Temptations
Subterranean Homesick Blues – Bob Dylan
Hot Topic – Le Tigre
Can U Dig It – Pop Will Eat Itself
They Can’t Take That Away From Me – Sarah Vaughan
Night Train – James Brown
Gimme Some Truth – John Lennon
Reasons To Be Cheerful (Part 3) – Ian Dury and The Blockheads
Fifty ways to leave your lover – Simon & Garfunkel
You’re Moving Out Today – Carol Bayer Sager
Changed The Locks (Live) – Lucinda Williams
These Foolish Things (Remind M – Etta James
Ain’t Got No I Got Life – Nina Simone
Losing My Edge – LCD Soundsystem
Land Of 1000 Dances – Wilson Pickett
Bald-Headed Lena – Piano Red (Dr. Feelgood)
Alligator Wine – Frenzy Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
Feel Good Hit of the Summer – Queens of the Stone Age
The Booklovers – Divine Comedy
Bruce’s Philosophers song – Monty Python
Aguas de Março – Elis Regina & Antonio Jobim
Mambo No.5 – Lou Bega
Dirty World – Traveling Wilburys
Let ‘Em In – Paul McCartney & Wings
Give Peace A Chance – John Lennon
We Didn’t Start the Fire – Billy Joel
It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) – R.E.M.