Love, and all its complexities, provides a bottomless pit of inspiration. A perfect opener for our Valentine’s Day protest this week was Bobbie Gentry’s rendition of I’LL NEVER FALL IN LOVE AGAIN. ‘What do you get when you kiss a guy? You get enough germs to catch pneumonia.” Songwriter Hal David was convinced that the angst-ridden game of love was no better than a chronic illness and who am I to disagree? The song is typical of all anti-love songs however: it’s resolve to give up on love is usually very short lived. Rather than a virus, it’s more like an addiction, for sure.
Jerry Butler is over it. He’s GIVING UP ON LOVE, a typical knee-jerk reaction from someone who has had his heart broken. The Dramatics, on the other hand, find out the hard way that there’s A THIN LIVE BETWEEN LOVE AND HATE.
Lot’s of suggestions from listeners this week for various Bob Dylan numbers but my choice was LOVE SICK from his 1997 album Time Out of Mind. He’s in love with a woman who he suspects of cheating and all he can do is wander the streets, moaning “I’m sick of love, but I’m in the thick of it.” Come on Bobby, man up!
Janis Joplin’s idol was Bessie Smith, (she even organised a campaign to pay for her tombstone after finding that the great Blues singer was buried in an unmarked grave). In the song CARELESS LOVE, Bessie’s been a-cheating and a-dumping, but is it her fault? Hell, no.
Rosemary Clooney, (now forever known as George Clooney’s auntie), makes a slightly less convincing argument against love, blaming it for sending her “a Joe who had winter and snow in his heart”. Bummer. The song is LOVE YOU DIDN’T DO RIGHT BY ME. Here’s a clip from the film WHITE CHRISTMAS, starring Clooney and Bing Crosby:
Next it was Soft Cell’s version of TAINTED LOVE, first released in 1964 by Gloria Jones and covered by Soft Cell in 1981. It’s a bit of a gay anthem and to celebrate that, here’s a wonderful video that uses the music as backing to Laurel & Hardy’s soft shoe shuffle in the film WAY OUT WEST. Enjoy.
Richard Hell & The Voidoids have a perfect response to the notion that love is perfect, a fairytale fed to us by Hollywood and the mass media. In the song LOVE COMES IN SPURTS Richard reckons love “murders your heart – they didn’t tell you that part”.
Bobby Bland is convinced that there AINT NO LOVE IN THE HEART OF THE CITY. Well he’s probably right about that. Poor Fats Domino thinks NO-ONE LOVES HIM, but at least he’s hopeful about the future, so no need to be too down in the dumps.
Talking of dumps, the Ben Folds Five gave us SONG FOR THE DUMPED and then the divine SoKo was equally candid with I WILL NEVER LOVE YOU MORE. And she plays the ukelele! Can it get better than that?
Joan Jett covered J. Geils Band hit, LOVE STINKS, on the soundtrack of a very mediocre film called MR WRONG starring Ellen De Generes. Despite the lame film, Joan’s version gives the song a bit more bite I think. Another of my favourite female artists is Shirley Manson, lead singer of the band Garbage, so we included their 1998 hit, SPECIAL. Here they are live on Letterman in 1996:
Betty Davis was the second wife of Miles Davis and an amazing artist in her own right. ANTI LOVE SONG is from her self-titled debut album and is notable not just for her powerful voice but for who she used to support her on the album. The Pointer Sisters sing back up, bassist Larry Graham and drummer Greg Errico, both veterans of Sly & the Family Stone are there, plus fellow San Francisco luminaries like master keyboardist Merl Saunders and guitarists Neal Schon and Douglas Rodriguez (both associated with Santana at the time) give this whole album reams of cred.
The great soul singer Teddy Pendergrass who sadly passed away a couple of weeks ago, contributed LOVE TKO and then another soul singer, who probably isn’t as well known but with a fine voice, Angie Stone, sang WISH I DIDN’T MISS YOU.
Here’s a perfect choice for our Anti-Love show: Public Image Ltd with THIS IS NOT A LOVE SONG. Thanks to regular contributor Lynden for that suggesiton.
Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks offered up a song that will surely put a smile back on your face if you’ve been disappointed by love: HOW CAN I MISS YOU WHEN YOU WON’T GO AWAY? Then it was Amy Rigby, married b.t.w. to punk rock alumni Wreckless Eric. She seems skeptical about romance as she contemplates a marriage based not on love but resignation. Not sure what Eric thinks about all that. The song is CYNICALLY YOURS.
The 13th Floor Elevators are convinced that YOU’RE GONNA MISS ME and we followed with something completley out of left field. From Gang of Four’s 2005 album Return the Gift, ANTHRAX is another of those songs that makes love out to be, not just dangerous, but lethal. Yikes.
Belle & Sebastian sound so sweet as they sing that they DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE. Maybe they’ve been listening to Nick Lowe’s song CRUEL TO BE KIND. Along with Wreckless Eric, Elvis Costello and others he was part of the Stiff Records line-up of artists. I’m thinking it might be time for a show dedicated to the ‘stiffies’ as they were referred to. Let me know what you think. Here’s a clip of Nick Lowe singing CRUEL TO BE KIND:
Heading into the home stretch, we played a very nice number by The Corrs, I NEVER LOVED YOU ANYWAY from their second album Talk on Corners. The final two songs couldn’t be more different from each other. First up it was Robert Plant and Alison Krauss with GONE, GONE, GONE – a good piece of advice for anyone in an unsatisfactory relationship. And then it was a song for all the battle weary lovers out there. Blossom Dearie is much more generous than many of us when we’ve been given the heave-ho by some love rat, but maybe there’s a lesson there. The song is the delicious I WISH YOU LOVE.
Now as well as February 14th being Valentine’s Day it’s also Chinese New Year. I did consider doing a show next week on all the Chinese animals (you know Year of the Tiger, Rat, Dog etc etc), but as I’ve already done cats and dogs, thought better of it. How about we stick with Western Astrology? Next week, the theme will be STAR SIGNS. Drop me a line if you have any requests or suggestions.
Here’s this week’s playlist:
Next week: STAR SIGNS
As the saying goes: if you smile the whole world smiles with you. A genuine, infectious smile and/or laughter can make a bad date turn good, seal a business deal and make friends wherever you go. So, it was my job this week to put a smile on everyone’s face with an absolute abundance of songs about SMILING AND LAUGHING. What better way to open the show than with David Bowie’s attempt at a novelty song – THE LAUGHING GNOME – released as a single in 1967. I’m not sure that he was laughing all the way to the bank with that release, but hey, I got a kick out of it.
Now I’ve discovered that not all songs about smiling and laughing are cheerful at all, which kind of threw me as I was hoping to enjoy a fully upbeat show this week. But those renegade R&B singers, in particular, are prone to turning any song into a lover’s lament, but what can you do! It was up to Sly & The Family Stone to deliver a very funky pop tune with YOU CAUGHT ME SMILIN’ to get the show moving in the right direction.
Winners of the prize for silliest band name ever has to be The The. Luckily, they are a very good band. We played what was probably their most successful track, UNCERTAIN SMILE, from the 1983 Soul Mining album. Jools Holland, in his role as session muso, played piano on the original recording. Here they are, without Jools, unfortunately, performing live.
It was inevitable that the 60’s soul singers would bring the sad clown into the mix. Mary Wells sang about her LAUGHING BOY and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles reminded us of the paradox that is the TEARS OF A CLOWN, written, by the way, by Stevie Wonder. We needed to jump a couple of generations to entertain both sides of the love coin. Matchbox 20’s Rob Thomas is madly in love with a particular girl, particularly WHEN SHE SMILES but that little vixen Lily Allen finds a bit of revenge on an ex-lover is all she needs to make her SMILE. The video made me smile, I know that much. Take a look:
Next it was Nat King Cole with IF YOU CAN’T SMILE AND SAY YES, recorded in 1946, which explains all the references to nylons and the like. The beautiful voice of Alison Krauss followed with her cover of WHEN YOU SAY NOTHING AT ALL. Krauss was already a veteran bluegrass fidler and vocalist at age 23 when the recording won the 1995 CMA award for “Single of the Year”. Take a look:
More R&B songs followed and, as expected, smiling was a struggle: The Undisputed Truth were Motown hitmaker Norman Whitfield’s favourite band and their track, SMILING FACES SOMETIMES,repossessed from the Temptations, was their only chart success. Wendy Rene’s song AFTER LAUGHTER (Comes Tears) was recorded on the Stax label in 1964. In 1967 Wendy was scheduled to fly with Otis Redding to what would have been her last live performance. She changed her mind at the last minute, wanting to stay home with her family. The plane crashed and Redding and six others perished. Thankfully Wendy is alive and well and resides today in Tennessee where she runs a publishing company.
Thank goodness for reggae! Max Romeo and The Upsetters (great name) cheered us up with SMILE OUT A STYLE. And you can always rely on the Jazz singers for inspiration. Astrud Gilberto does a stunning version of THE SHADOW OF YOUR SMILE that had to be included (Thanks Quentin for the suggestion).
I also love Regina Spektor and her song that questions God’s sense of humour – LAUGHING WITH – is beautiful. It’s from her latest album ‘Far’. Here’s the official clip:
Even more sad songs about smiling and laughing: Teddy Pendergrass’ has a problem with his ego. He reckons that THE WHOLE TOWN IS LAUGHING AT ME; Dusty Springfield is pining for JUST ONE SMILE and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, milking the sad clown story for all its worth, gave us the much covered THE TRACKS OF MY TEARS. Happily, Bowling For Soup have got a completely different outlook on life. As their song SHUT UP AND SMILE states, all they need is love and beer.
Happy to include three musical icons: Van Morrison with JACKIE WILSON SAID, Bob Dylan with IT TAKES A LOT TO LAUGH, IT TAKES A TRAIN TO CRY and Neil Young with THE OLD LAUGHING LADY.
We closed the show with Michael Jackson’s rendition of the classic ballad, SMILE. The song was originally used as an instrumental theme in the soundtrack for the 1936 film Modern Times and was written by comic genius Charlie Chaplin. Here’s a great video clip of Chaplin’s work with MJ singing SMILE over. Two of the best all-round entertainers the world has known:
Thanks to Quentin, Kira & Des for their help with the playlist this week. Remember, whatever happens: keep on smiling!
Here’s the complete playlist:
The Laughing Gnome – David Bowie
You Caught Me Smiling – Sly & The Family Stone
Uncertain Smile – The The
Laughing Boy – Mary Wells
The Tears Of A Clown – Smokey Robinson & the Miracles
When She Smiles – Matchbox 20
Smile – Lily Allen
If You Can’t Smile and Say Yes – Nat King Cole
The Smile On Your Face – Allison Krauss
We Laugh Indoors – Death Cab For Cutie
Smile Out A Style – Max Romeo & The Upsetters
After Laughter (Comes Tears) – Wendy Rene
Smiling Faces Sometimes – The Undisputed Truth
Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me) – Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel
The Shadow Of Your Smile – Astrud Gilberto
Sara Smile – Hall & Oates
Laughing With – Regina Spektor
The Whole Town Is Laughing At Me – Teddy Pendergrass
The Tracks Of My Tears – Smokey Robinson & the Miracles
Just One Smile – Dusty Springfield
Shut Up and Smile – Bowling for Soup
Die Laughing – Therapy?
The Old Laughing Lady – Neil Young
It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry – Bob Dylan
Jackie Wilson Said (I’m in Heaven When You Smile) – Van Morrison
Fooled By A Smile – Swing Out Sister
Smile Like You Mean It – The Killers
Smile At Me – Rocksteady
Smile – Michael Jackson
Now I know that in reality fire is pretty frightening, and I don’t take the current fire warnings lightly, but for songwriters, flames represent love, dancing and, above all, passion. And that just can’t be a bad thing.
In reggae and punk, however, fire has a moral – almost purging – quality to it. Recorded as riots swept Britain in 1979, the Ruts incredibly tense BABYLON’S BURNING foresees the demise of western civilisation. Extra points, too, for starting the song with a fire alarm and siren. Excellent.
DISCO INFERNO from the Trammps, would normally be a scary newspaper headline but when you’re grooving away to very this funky track, you know that it’s more about burning up the dance floor, rather than burning down the building. Here’s a clip from the song that is probably best remembered from the film Saturday Night Fever :
The Pointer Sisters know all about passion. Cause when they kiss, its oooooh FIRE. Dido, on the other hand is way more restrained in her rendition of FEELS LIKE FIRE, her contribution to Carlos Santana’s album Shaman. This is a very interesting album and worth a listen with its mix of hip-hop, rap and pop artists.
Last week in our Covers show, Patricia Barber did a great version of the Doors’ LIGHT MY FIRE. I wasn’t beyond playing the tune again, as it suits the theme, but this time it was the very sexy version by the beautiful Julie London. In complete contrast, M.I.A. came out fighting with FIRE, FIRE as she reckons relationships are more like a battlefield. Fair enough.
Country fans weren’t ignored. First it was a classic from Johnny Cash – RING OF FIRE – that I teamed with BABY I’M BURNIN’ from the wonderful Dolly Parton. To round out the set, who else but, Bruce Springsteen burning up the airwaves with I’M ON FIRE.
Time: 1983. Place: Any Disco in Town. Talking Heads creepy dance track, BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE, was inspired by the crowd at a Funkadelic concert shouting ‘Burn Down the House’ but David Byrnes’ penetrating delivery suggests that he may have taken it way too literally. At the same time Madonna was emerging as the next big thing and she exhibits the combination of erotic heat and disco fever that would keep her in good stead for the rest of her career. The song, of course, was BURNING UP. Here’s a clip of Talking Heads with BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE, a great example of art-school punks of the 80’s.
In a show about FIRE we can’t leave out Deep Purple’s SMOKE ON THE WATER. So, we didn’t. Here’s a clip of the original Mark II lineup in New York, 1973. One of the final performances, this is one of the only videos of the band performing it in the 70’s with Ian Gillan and Roger Glover.
The second hour of the show was suitably launched with the Lord of Hellfire himself, Arthur Brown with FIRE. That was followed by Brian Eno’s strange little song, BABY’S ON FIRE. It started Eno’s post-Roxy Music solo career and owes as much to Robert Fripp’s guitar solo as it does to Eno’s sinister vocals. Then it was time for some lovin’ music and Teddy Pendergrass & Stephanie Mills were definitely burning with desire with their song FEEL THE FIRE.
Last week on our Covers show I played some Elvis, (Presley that is, not Costello), and Mel from BayFM’s Rollin’ program told me that she was sorry that we didn’t hear more of the King on local radio, so who am I disappoint the gorgeous Mel, especially when it fits so beautifully with this week’s theme? So it was one of Elvis’ best: BURNING LOVE.
Here’s a great triple play: Jimi Hendrix with FIRE, Prodigy with their first UK number one single, the controversial FIRESTARTER and then it was the Stones with PLAY WITH FIRE. This track was the B side to ‘The Last Time’. Released in 1965, it was recorded the night before they left to tour Australia. The video for this track is quite pedestrian, so I’d rather show you something wild – and so, the Prodigy’s official video for FIRESTARTER it is. Enjoy.
There was still time for Nirvana’s LAKE OF FIRE and Natalie Merchant’s THIS HOUSE IS ON FIRE. I really liked the combination in this set. And then it was time to finish up with Aussie made good Daniel Merriweather supported by Adele, with WATER AND FLAME. The final song was a guilty pleasure (as if I didn’t include enough of them already!) – a song that I probably should have included in the program on FAMOUS PEOPLE – Billy Joel’s WE DIDN’T START THE FIRE. Check it out and you’ll understand why:
Here’s the complete playlist: