Researching a show where all the songs referenced famous people was actually quite enlightening. Who knew that so many famous people felt compelled to record songs about other famous people? I suppose there’s a little bit of the fan in all of us. It was a shame that I had used up some very good songs that would have fitted the theme during my Men’s Names and Women’s Names shows, but there were still plenty of tracks left over to fit the bill. I did try and stay away from the more mawkish tribute songs, so no Candle in the Wind amongst this lot I’m afraid.
We opened the show with the Beloved’s HELLO. The song mentions a number of famous people chosen to loosely fit a “saints and sinners” theme. Those that get a nod include Jeffery Archer, Fred Astaire, Little Richard, Barry Humphries and Charlie Parker. I like the way the Supremes are simply called “Mary Wilson, Di and Flo”. Even Fred Flintstone gets a mention.
Next it was another song with a list. Eminem recently won the MTV award for Best Hip Hip Video for WE MADE YOU. The song spoofs, among others, Sarah Palin, Amy Winehouse and Jessica Simpson. Hopefully it hasn’t reached viewer saturation point yet, ’cause here it is again:
Allanah Myles’ #1 hit, BLACK VELVET is about Elvis Presley. It can refer to either his likeness frequently being painted on black velvet or his voice. Here’s a bit of trivia for you: Black Velvet was the name of the hair dye that Elvis used to give his naturally brown hair its distinctive black sheen.
SWEET GENE VINCENT remained in Ian Dury’s set list for almost his entire career, even after other songs had been dropped because of the singer’s worsening health. It was played at his very last concert at the London Palladium in February 2000 and is still performed by The Blockheads. Ian Dury was arguably Gene Vincent’s biggest fan and he claims to have bought every single that Vincent ever produced. Dury’s stage clothes also reflected Vincent’s influence, notably black leather gloves. Dury constantly denied that his identification with the singer, who was also crippled and forced to wear a leg brace, was in any way an attraction. He claimed that he didn’t even know Vincent was crippled when he first became a fan. According to Dury, it was all about the voice and his look. That’s Gene Vincent on the left and here is a clip of Ian Dury and the Blockheads performing at the Concert for the People of Kampuchea in 1979. The big bonus is the addition of Mick Jones from the Clash. Brilliant.
BETTE DAVIS EYES was a huge hit for Kim Carnes. Even Bette Davis herself was a fan. The actress admitted to loving the song and approached Carnes and the songwriters to thank them. She said that it made her seem very up-to-date with her grandson. She had Carnes sing the song live for her at a tribute held just before her death.
I included a couple more songs about actors: Bree Sharp’s song about DAVID DUCHOVNY proves that she is also an adoring fan of the actor from X-Files and, more recently, Californication. Billy Bragg & Wilco gave us a song dedicated to INGRID BERGMAN, with lyrics by Woodie Guthrie.
David Bowie played the song ANDY WARHOL to the artist, who reportedly disliked it as he thought the lyrics made fun of his physical appearance. When the song had finished playing, Warhol and Bowie supposedly just stared at each other for a while until Warhol said “I like your shoes” and the pair then had a conversation about shoes. As you do.
The Modern Lovers sang about another artist, PABLO PICASSO and Simon & Garfunkle contributed a song about the great American architect FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT.
The ever-cheerful ska star, Prince buster, was more concerned with spelling the name of his subject in AL CAPONE. A guilty pleasure followed: Boney M with RASPUTIN. Who knew that this Russian baddie was a raging love machine? Here’s the clip, just to remind you of how much fun disco actually was:
Although David Bowie admits that JEAN GENIE is a clumsy pun on the name of the author Jean Genet, he claims that the real subject of the song is his friend Iggy Pop. The line “He’s so simple minded, he can’t drive his module” would later give the band Simple Minds their name. There are several clips of this song available but take a look at this one. I chose it just because of the outfit. Oh, and the band rocks too.
Morphine gave us a song not just about, but in the style of, the American beat poet and author Jack KEROUAC. And then it was Bob Dylan with his protest song HURRICANE about the boxer Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter. The song compiles alleged acts of racism and profiling against Carter, which Dylan describes as leading to a false trail and conviction. The song is credited with helping to overturn the conviction.
We lightened the mood somewhat with a bit of Pop from Bananarama: ROBERT DE NIRO’S WAITING. And then it was The Clash with their song about the another actor, Montgomery Clift, who, after a serious accident, could only be shot from THE RIGHT PROFILE (see left).
U2 paid homage to singer Billie Holiday with their song ANGEL OF HARLEM and then The Barenaked Ladies told the story of a man whose life parallels that of the Beach Boys’ BRIAN WILSON, particularly during his time spent with a psychologist.
Two tracks followed that are quite critical of their subjects. Carly Simon with a song supposedly about Warren Beatty – YOU’RE SO VAIN and then it was Modest Mouse with BUKOWSKI. “Yeah, I know he’s a pretty good read, but God, who’d want to be such an a….hole.” True.
Next was a wonderful song from George Harrison, dedicated to John Lennon: ALL THOSE YEARS AGO. Here, in tribute to both of them, is the clip.
We closed the show with one of my favourite new artists, Julian Velard, with JIMMY DEAN & STEVE McQEEN.
Here’s the complete playlist. If the title doesn’t tell the story, I’ve bracketed the person who the song is about.
Hello (various) – The Beloved
We Made You (various) – Eminem
Black Velvet (Elvis Presley) – Alannah Myles
Sweet Gene Vincent – Ian Dury
Sir Duke (Duke Ellington) – Stevie Wonder
Bette Davis Eyes – Carnes
Michael Caine – Madness
David Duchovny – Bree Sharp
Ingrid Bergman – Billy Bragg & Wilco
Andy Warhol – David Bowie
Pablo Picasso – The Modern Lovers
So Long Frank Lloyd Wright – Simon & Garfunkel
Marvin Gaye – Josh Rouse
Al Capone – Prince Buster
Rasputin – Boney M.
The Jean Genie – David Bowie
Kerouac – Morphine
Hurricane (Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter) – Bob Dylan
Robert De Niro’s Waiting – Bananarama
The Right Profile (Montgomery Clift) – The Clash
Angel Of Harlem (Billie Holiday) – U2
Brian Wilson – Barenaked Ladies
You’re So Vain (Warren Beatty) – Carly Simon
Bukowski – Modest Mouse
All Those Years Ago (John Lennon) – George Harrison
Jimmy Dean & Steve McQueen – Julian Velard
Next week: COVERS THAT ARE BETTER THAN THE ORIGINALS
Listen to Lyn McCarthy at the Theme Park on BayFM, Tuesdays 2-4pm, Sydney time.
Also streaming on http://www.bayfm.org
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