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)
The mercury’s rising, summer is here and I’m feeling hot, hot, hot. So, it’s time to get the sarongs out, start mixing up a marghertia or two and celebrate our steamy weather. Yes, folks this week’s show was a sizzler.
We opened with THE HEAT IS ON from American soul and funk group, The Isley Brothers, released in 1975 on the album of the same name and then it was Buster Poindexter, otherwise known as David Johansen of the New York Dolls. His cover of Arrow’s HOT, HOT, HOT apparently haunts him to this day. Well Dave, thats what happens when you record a hit pop tune. Just be happy with the royalties. He’s not looking too unhappy in this clip:
If the weather doesn’t deliver, you can always find other ways to raise the temperature. Ask Martha and the Vandellas who gave us one of the greatest intros in pop music with their song HEATWAVE. The high octane James Brown knows a thing or two about the topic of his tune, BODY HEAT. Here’s a clip from The Lost James Brown Tapes, a 60 minute video tape available on DVD.
One of my all time favourite films is Napoleon Dynamite and the soundtrack to the film is great too. Check out one of the signature tunes, from the film, CANNED HEAT from Jamiroquai:
Every now and again I like to throw a bit of contemporary pop into the mix and this week it was Katy Perry with HOT ‘N’ COLD and we followed with one of my favourite dance tracks, Adam Freeland remixing the wonderful Sarah Vaughan’s version of FEVER.
Anyone remember glam rock? Marc Bolan & T-Rex were up next with one of the best examples of this genre: HOT LOVE. Check out this clip from Top of the Pops, 1971. Ah go-go girls, whatever happened to them? Well, the ones in this clip are probably all grandmothers now. Scary.
More roaming down memory lane: Style Council with LONG HOT SUMMER and then it was The Triffids’ dreamy and disturbing TOO HOT TO MOVE, TOO HOT TO THINK. The song reflects on our hot, Australian summer nights.
The idiosyncratic, and highly influential, Captain Beefheart divides people. I’m a fan, especially of our next song, HOT HEAD. The Captain takes the usual hot-love cliches to deliriously literal extremes with his funky brand of the Blues.
Ella Fitzgerald reckons it’s TOO DARN HOT and Prince Buster agrees. His delicious piece of Jamaican Ska, TOO HOT had me up and grooving in the studio. And then it was time for one of the highlights of the recent Mullumbimby Music Festival, Oka with THAT’S HOT.
I can never listen to Glenn Frey’s THE HEAT IS ON without conjuring up the film BEVERLY HILLS COP. So to put it into context, here’s the official video, using footage from the film, starring Eddie Murphy:
Another favourite of mine is John Fogarty, this time with the wonderful gospel group The Fairfield Four, singing A HUNDRED AND TEN IN THE SHADE from Fogarty’s Blue Moon Swamp album. Great album and worth a listen if you’re a Fogarty or Creedence fan. Here’s a clip to whet your appetite:
Of course we had to include Billy Idol’s HOT IN THE CITY. Not so obvious, maybe, is the next tune we played: MELT YOUR HEART from the divine Jenny Lewis. A nice suggestion too, from listener Zoe: SUMMERTIME CLOTHES from Animal Collective. Andy’s suggestion was Nouvelle Vague’s I MELT WITH YOU and Lynden’s suggestion was a little on the obscure side. But when John Lennon’s goes COLD TURKEY his temperature rises and his fever is high. So, yeah, into the show on HEAT it went.
The great Ray Charles was next with IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT along with a little smooth jazz from Paul Hardcastle and the Jazzmasters, with Helen Rogers on vocals for BODY HEAT.
We closed the show with disco queen Donna Summer and HOT STUFF and the Godfather of funk, James Brown with HOT PANTS! Can you believe that this clip from 1985 was just a rehearsal?
Next week’s show is my Christmas A-Go-Go special, so tune in for some surprising Xmas tunes and I’ll have some giveaways especially for my lovely Theme Park listeners. In the meantime, here’s this week’s complete playlist.