One of the many gifts of living here in the Northern Rivers is the abundance of bird life. I am lucky enough to live on a property with a rainforest remnant plus tropical and native gardens, so there is no shortage of beautiful birdlife for me to enjoy. And while they are lucky enough to be wild and free, I do feel that they are my little buddies. When it comes to music, bird references are to be found in every genre, so I had plenty to choose from in this week’s show about BIRDS. Some of the songs I chose were just plain silly and some very serious. But what they all revealed was a little bit about how we relate avian qualities to our lives and ourselves.
We started the show with the incredibly appropriate I LIKE BIRDS from the Eels’ album Daisies of the Galaxy. And why wouldn’t you like a creature that has come to represent peace, freedom and happiness to name just a few of the more positive traits that appear in this week’s play-list?
History, however, hasn’t been too kind to blackbirds. They are often portrayed negatively, even though they are just as good looking and intelligent as other species. Paul McCartney spins this symbolism into a message of hope in the Beatles 1968 hit BLACKBIRD. We followed with The Be Good Tanyas and their version of Clarence Ashley’s THE COO COO BIRD. I’ve discovered that the Coo-Coo bird, unlike most other birds, rarely occur in pairs or as part of a group. Shy and retiring, they’d rather be heard than seen. Hmmm. Sounds a bit like a couple of radio presenters I know…
A nice triple play followed: Bob Marley with the very optimistic THREE LITTLE BIRDS, LITTLE WING from Jimi Hendrix and then the Purple one, Prince, pumped it out with WHEN DOVES CRY.
Alfred Hitchcock was one of the quirkiest directors ever. His 1963 film THE BIRDS, starring Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedron was notable for its lack of music. Except for a couple of songs sung by characters in the film, the soundscape was made up of screeching birds. The trailer for the film was just as idiosyncratic. Hitchcock presents it himself, under the guise of A LECTURE ON BIRDS. I think its hilarious. Take a look:
The Bluebird is a common symbol of happiness and optimism. Two songs we played, that epitomise this notion, are Johnnie Taylor’s LITTLE BLUEBIRD and Ella Fitzgerald, the queen of scat, singing BLUE SKIES.
John Lennon sings of the Sweet Bird of Paradox in SURPRISE, SURPRISE from his 1974 album Walls and Bridges. We followed that with KT Tunstall’s WHITE BIRD. An excellent artist who, despite the awards and peer support cruises under the radar somewhat. Take a look at this clip and become a fan:
Ready for some classical? No, its not Swan Lake. It’s my favourite Duck, DAFFY, with his version of THE HUNGARIAN RHAPSODY:
One of my favourite Australian singers is Jack Ladder. From the Love is Gone album, MOTHER, is a strange little song that likens his Mum to a chicken (I think…). The song also references BIRDS THE WORD and we took a listen to the RIVINGTONS original version of that tune too.
Taj Mahal and Etta James sang a great version of MOCKINGBIRD, originally recorded by Inez and Charlie Foxx and one of the last hits for Australian icon Johnny O’Keefe (with Margaret McLaren).
How could we have a show about BIRDS and not include Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker. His nickname was originally ‘Yardbird’ and that was shortenend over time to simply ‘Bird’. There are two stories as to how he got the name: One was that he lived “free as a bird”. The other is that when touring with Jay McShann, they accidentally hit a chicken (a yardbird) with their car and Parker made them stop to pick it up so he could have his landlady cook it. I think I’m going to go with the first possibility. It fits beautifully with the track we played – BLUEBIRD.
I had to include the theme from the Woody Woodpecker Show. Mel Blanc was the original voice of this animated character. He also voiced Daffy Duck and many, many more of our favourite cartoon characters. Woody made his first appearance in a short film in 1940 and you’ll still find him on children’s cartoon shows today.
And how good is AIN’T NOBODY HERE BUT US CHICKENS by Louis Jordan? James Brown has been quoted as saying that Jordan was one of his greatest influences: “He could sing, he could dance, he could play, he could act. He could do it all.” Jordan’s vocal style was arguably an important precursor to rap. On our show for DAYS OF THE WEEK we played “Saturday Night Fish Fry” (1950) which featured a rapid-fire, highly syncopated semi-spoken vocal delivery that is strongly reminiscent of the modern rap style.
No reason to leave the farmyard when you can play the Rolling Stones and LITTLE RED ROOSTER. Check out this clip featuring a very young, fresh faced Mick Jagger in 1965.
There are lots if songs about birds that talk of love and longing. Three that I particulary like are BLUEBIRDS OVER THE MOUNTAIN from Richie Valens, (also recorded by The Beach Boys), YELLOW BIRD from Chris Isaak and SONGBIRD by Bernard Fanning.
Time flew on this week’s show but before I flew the coop (groan…), I had time to play a rediscovery: A great songwriter and singer, still performing and probably better now than ever – Russell Morris with his 1972 hit THE WINGS OF AN EAGLE. Take a look at this recent clip and see if you agree. This song has a timeless quality.
Couldn’t resist closing the show with a piece of whimsy suggested by one of my loyal listeners: CHIRPY CHIRPY CHEEP CHEEP from the perfectly named band MIDDLE OF THE ROAD. This clip from Top of the Pops 1971 is worth including just for the outfits. I want those boots! And did I hear “bring back hot pants!”
Here’s the complete playlist:
I Like Birds – The Eels
Blackbird – The Beatles
The Coo Coo Bird – The Be Good Tanyas
Three Little Birds – Bob Marley
Little Wing – Jimi Hendrix
When Doves Cry – Prince & the Revolution
Bye Bye Blackbird – Etta James
Alfred Hitchcock ‘The Birds’ Lecture (Trailer)
Rocking Robin – Bobby Day
Chicken Payback – The Bees
The Chicken And The Hawk – Big Joe Turner
Little Bluebird – Johnnie Taylor
Blue Skies – Ella Fitzgerald
Surprise, Surprise (Sweet Bird Of Paradox) – John Lennon
White Bird – KT Tunstall
Daffy’s Rhapsody – Mel Blanc
Bird Dog – The Everly Brothers
Shake A Tail Feather – Ray Charles
Mother (Bird’s The Word) – Jack Ladder
Mockingbird – Taj Mahal & Etta James
Bluebird – Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker + The All-Stars
Night Owl – Carly Simon
Mockingbird – Rob Thomas
Woody Woodpecker Show – TV Themes
The Bird’s The Word – Rivingtons
Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens – Louis Jordan
Little Red Rooster – Rolling Stones
Blackbird – The Beautiful Girls
Bluebirds over the Mountain – Ritchie Valens
Yellow Bird – Chris Isaak
Songbird – Bernard Fanning
The Wings Of An Eagle – Russell Morris
Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep Middle of the Road
Next week: SPORT! I promise there will be no footie anthems. Help! Whaddyagot?
Listen to Lyn McCarthy at the Theme Park on BayFM, Tuesdays 2-4pm, Sydney time.
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