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)
NIGHT is a time that’s often associated with danger and the fear of the unknown. Midnight, especially, has a particular importance in human imagination and culture. Seances, for instance, are usually conducted around this time. And then, of course there are the vampires and werewolves, who only come out at night. Yes, there’s lots happening out there in the dark! When it comes to song lyrics, however, night-time is a great time for love-making. As Ray Charles points out, NIGHT TIME IS THE RIGHT TIME. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
We opened the show with HERE COMES THE NIGHT. The song was originally recorded in 1964 by Lulu but the version we played was a huge hit for the band Them and their lead vocalist Van Morrison in 1965.
I’m pretty impressed by the very talented singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens who contributed one of the few songs on the list that references the occult. THEY ARE NIGHT ZOMBIES! THEY ARE NEIGHBOURS! THEY HAVE COME BACK FROM THE DEAD! AHHH is from his 2005 album Illinois. Here he is performing live with the very cute Illnoisemakers:
We followed with supreme soul singer Marvin Gaye with IF I SHOULD DIE TONIGHT. It’s from his classic 1973 album Let’s Get It On. Serving as Gaye’s first venture into the funk genre and romance-themed music, Let’s Get It On incorporates smooth soul, doo-wop and quiet storm. It’s been noted by critics for its sexually-suggestive lyrics, and was cited by one writer as “one of the most sexually charged albums ever recorded”. Woohoo.
And talking of Woohoo, thanks to the Woohoo Review Band who donated their latest album, Dear Animals, for a giveaway on the show this week. They’re a Melbourne based, gypsy style band and the song we played from the album, MR 9 O’CLOCK was a good example of the madcap dance tunes that inhabit the album.
They say that Frank Sinatra was at his best vocally in the 1950’s and it’s hard to argue when you listen to IN THE WEE SMALL HOURS OF THE MORNING . That goes out to Inchie who does a great show on BayFM on Friday’s 4-6pm, called Strictly Vinyl.
Back to the 70’s. The Eagles were one of the most successful recording artists of the period. Their 1975 album, One of These Nights, was the last album to feature founding member Bernie Leadon, who left the band during the One of These Nights tour, disillusioned with the direction the band were going in. With the departure of Leadon, the Eagles’ early country sound almost completely disappeared and the band moved on to a harder sound. One Of These Nights would prove to be a breakthrough album for the band, making them international superstars.
You all know by now that I consider Roy Orbison the patron saint of Theme Park and I realise that I’ve played this song before, but hey, what the …. had to give Roy’s I DROVE ALL NIGHT another play. Jeff Lynne remixed Orbison’s 1987 recordings for the posthumous album King of Hearts of which I DROVE ALL NIGHT was one of the tracks.
Brilliant reggae artist Gregory Isaacs passed away on October 25 after a long battle with lung cancer. So of course, I had to play his signature tune NIGHT NURSE.
I’m also a bit of a Tom Waits fan and his debut studio album, Closing Time, recorded in 1973 is an absolute classic. It was produced and arranged by Lovin’ Spoonful member Jerry Yester. The song we chose was MIDNIGHT LULLABY. Then it was time to go way back to 1953 and some New Orleans Blues with Professor Longhair singing IN THE NIGHT. I’m pretty sure Tom would have approved.
Opening the second hour of the show was Gladys Knight & the Pips with their 1973 number one hit single, MIDNIGHT TRAIN TO GEORGIA. Oh my God, The Pips, the moves! Check it out:
Two goodies from 1965 followed. Maryanne Faithful sang of SUMMER NIGHTS and The Strangeloves did a great version of NIGHT TIME. The Strangeloves were a New York garage band who created a false back-story that they were Australian sheep farmers. I don’t think it helped their record sales somehow, so not sure what that was all about!
Here’s a quirky Blues number for you: Zulu Bollin with WHY DON’T YOU EAT WHERE YOU SLEPT LAST NIGHT? Reasonable question, surely.
The 85 year old B.B. King is still going strong and, in fact, will be here next April for the Byron Blues Festival. I, for one, can’t wait. We played the sublime NIGHT LIFE with King and Willie Nelson. How great would it be to see Willie Nelson at the Festival? One can only hope and pray I ‘spose.
Another of my faves is Bob Seger. You can’t sit still to anything he plays and that includes NIGHT MOVES.
I also can’t get enough of Tom Waits so we had to play LOOKING FOR THE HEART OF SATURDAY NIGHT from the album of the same name, released in 1974. The album cover is based on THE WEE SMALL HOURS by Frank Sinatra, which we had played earlier in the show.
Van Morrison thinks he knows how to have a WILD NIGHT. But I have a feeling that The Rolling Stones might know a thing or two about that too. LET’S SPEND THE NIGHT TOGETHER was written by bad boys Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and was originally released as a single in 1967. Here’s a clip from Top of the Pops from that same year:
NIGHT TIME IS THE RIGHT TIME is a blues standard that has been interpreted and recorded by a variety of music artists. Ray Charles’ hit version was released in 1958 and is featured on the soundtrack to the film Ray.
I almost didn’t include The Moody Blues’ classic anthem, NIGHTS IN WHITE SATIN, simply because it might seem just so predictable. But, let’s face it, that hasn’t stopped me in the past! Here they are at The Montreaux Festival in 1997, still going strong.
As a prelude to the end of the show, could I find anything better than the beautiful sound of The Spaniels with GOOD NIGHT SWEETHEART. It’s a great piece of doo-wop from 1953.
I closed the show with a great double. Eric Clapton’s AFTER MIDNIGHT got the ball rolling and it was taken up with a vengeance by AC/DC. This time it was YOU SHOOK ME ALL NIGHT LONG from the 1980 album Back to Black. Here they are performing live at Donington in 1991:
For next week’s show I’m looking for songs that announce themselves in style, so start nominating your FAVOURITE SONG INTRODUCTIONS. Leave me a message on the blog or at the Theme Park page on Facebook. I’d love to hear from you.
Until then, here’s this week’s complete playlist:
Here Comes The Night – The Best Of Van Morrison, Them
They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbours!! – Illinois, Sufjan Stevens
If I Should Die Tonight – Let’s Get It On, Marvin Gaye
Mr 9 O’Clock – Dear Animals, The Woohoo Revue
Nighthawkin’ – Greetings From L.A., Tim Buckley
December 1963 (Oh What a Night) – Oh What a Night, Four Seasons
In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning – In the Wee Small Hours, Frank Sinatra
One Of These Nights – One Of These Nights, The Eagles
I Drove All Night – The Soul of Rock And Roll, Roy Orbison
All Night Long – The R&B Years – 1954 [Disc 4], Joe Houston
Night Nurse – Night Nurse, Gregory Isaacs
Midnight Lullaby – Closing Time, Tom Waits
In The Night – Martin Scorsese Presents: The Blues, Professor Longhair
Midnight Train To Georgia – Mellow Moods [Disc 2], Gladys Knight and The Pips
Summer Nights – Marianne Faithfull, Marianne Faithfull
Night Time – Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From The First…., The Strangeloves
Why Don’t You Eat Where You Slept Las Night – Hot Rhythm And Cool Blues, Zulu Bollin
Night Life – Deuces Wild, B.B. King With Willie Nelson
Night Moves – Greatest Hits, Bob Seger
(Looking For) The Heart Of Saturday Night – The Heart Of Saturday Night, Tom Waits
Night Train – Sex Machine, James Brown
Wild Night – Twentyfourseven, Van Morrison
Let’s Spend The Night Together – Hot Rocks, 1964-1971 [Disc 1], The Rolling Stones
(Night Tiime Is) The Right Time – Ray, Movie Soundtrack, Ray Charles
Nights In White Satin – The Moody Blues
Goodnight Sweetheart, Goodnight – Earth Angel – Doo Wop Classics, The Spaniels
After Midnight – The Cream Of Clapton, Eric Clapton
You Shook Me All Night Long – Back In Black, AC/DC
I can’t believe that going into our 5th season I still hadn’t put a show together on carnivals, circuses and the like. Well, we remedied that this week. A great introduction was supplied by Eddie Izzard doing a cover of The Beatles BEING FOR THE BENEFIT OF MR KITE. It’s from the soundtrack to the film Across The Universe directed by Julie Taymor. “Just tune in, turn off, drop out, drop in, switch on, switch off, and explode!”
Yes, I know that the Red Hot Chilli Peppers do a great version of LOVE ROLLERCOASTER, but it was the original that made the playlist. It first appeared on the Ohio Players Honey album in 1975. In this clip from the television show Midnight Special, you get the bonus of Wolfman Jack doing the intro and some crazy boy dancers. Ahhh the 70’s.
Thanks to Ku Promotions for our giveaway this week: two tickets to The Audreys’ concert. They’re a band of four boys and one girl, playing rootsy kind of music and are based in Adelaide, Australia. They have released two records, one in 2006 called Between Last Night and Us and one in 2008 called When the Flood Comes, both of which has won the ARIA Award for Best Blues and Roots Album. I’ve seen them perform twice now and they really are a knockout. Their latest album, Sometimes the Stars, features the track TROUBLE SOMEHOW:
I love the collaborative work between Mark Lanegan (ex Queens of the Stone Age) and Isobel Campbell (ex Belle & Sebastian). THE CIRCUS IS LEAVING TOWN is from their latest album, Ballad of the Broken Seas. Here’s a great interview with them which features a slice of the song within it. It was shown when Isobel won the Mercury Prize for the album, which she produced.
Total change of pace came with a couple of tracks from the 60’s: Al Johnson with CARNIVAL TIME from his 1962 album, Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Freddie Cannon with his hit, PALISADES PARK. And just to mix it up a bit I threw in some Fun Lovin’ Criminals with CONEY ISLAND GIRL.
The Stylistics were one of the most successful soul groups of the early 70’s and their song SIDESHOW fitted the theme perfectly. As did a true classic from Smokey Robinson and the Miracles – THE TEARS OF A CLOWN.
Nellie the Elephant is a classic children’s song written in 1956. It became a UK #1 hit for punk band, The Toy Dolls, when they covered the song in 1983. Michael ‘Olga’ Algar, led vocalist, guitar and bass player, is the only remaining member of the original line-up, who continue to perform. I love the way that they used the aesthetics of punk to express a real sense of fun.
This following clip is from the Martin Scorsese film The Last Waltz, a documentary of the concert by The Band, held on Thanksgiving Day, November 25 1976. It was advertised as the group’s last show and they were joined by an illustrious line-up of talent including Van Morrison. Here they are with CARAVAN:
The Decemberists’ songs range from upbeat pop to instrumentally lush ballads, and often employ instruments like the accordian, Hammond organ, Wurlitzer organ and upright bass. In their lyrics, the band rejects the angst and introspection common to modern rock and instead favour a storytelling approach, as evidenced in songs such as MY MOTHER WAS A CHINESE TRAPEZE ARTIST. It’s from the 5 Songs EP.
The 1986 Madness song (Waiting for) THE GHOST TRAIN was actually about apartheid in South Africa but hey, I love the title and based on that alone it made the playlist.
“I got blisters on my fingers!!!!” yells Ringo Starr, (I think), at the end of The Beatles’ frenetic HELTER SKELTER. Written by Paul McCartney, he deliberately tried to create a sound that was as loud and dirty as possible. Done.
Moving onto something a lot more mellow, it was Alison Goldfrapp with the very beautiful CLOWNS from her 2008 album Seventh Tree. And you thought I only played the old stuff. Oh you of little faith!
With his astonishingly accomplished guitar playing, Stevie Ray Vaughan ignited the blues revival of the ’80s. He was inspired equally from bluesmen like Albert King, Otis Rush and Muddy Waters and rock & roll players like Jimi Hendrix and Lonnie Mack as well as the stray jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell, developing a uniquely eclectic and fiery style that sounded like no other guitarist, regardless of genre. It’s been said that Vaughan bridged the gap between blues and rock like no other artist had since the late ’60s. His tragic death in 1990, at the age of 35 in a helicopter accident, only emphasized his influence in blues and American rock & roll. Here he is with Double Trouble performing TIGHTROPE:
There Goes Rhymin’ Simon is the second solo studio album from Paul Simon, released in 1973. the album covers several styles and genres. Our choice from the album was, of course, TAKE ME TO THE MARDI GRAS.
Natalie Merchant has been quoted as saying that she named her first solo album Tigerlily because the word evoked a feeling that was both ‘fierce’ and delicate’. Released in 1995 the album included the hit single CARNIVAL in which the protaganist compares the colourful sights and sounds of New York with being at a carnival.
A trio of guilty pleasures were lined up next: Back in 1967 The Hollies released ON A CAROUSEL and Manfred Mann were also were enraptured with the circus on HA! HA! SAID THE CLOWN. But the guiltiest of pleasures was still to come: In 1971 Cher released her first chart-topper, as a solo artist, in the United States: GYPSIES, TRAMPS AND THIEVES. Come on, you’ve gotta love Cher!
Swedish group, The Cardigans, had their first international breakthrough with their 1995 album Life which included the track CARNIVAL, a very cruisy pop tune with the gorgeous Nina Persson on vocals.
Beirut is an interesting band. They’re American yet their music combines elements of Eastern European and Balkan folk with Western pop music. They successfully fuse mainstream and indie-rock with the World Music market and consequently have a very unique sound. CAROUSELS, from their 2007 album Lon Gisland, is a great example of their work.
Beirut proved to be a great lead in to our final song of the day, the very gothic CARNY by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. I love the use of accordian on this track (thanks to Warren Ellis). It gives the song an even more intense circus-like feel.
I’m happy to say that I’ll be back for another season of the Theme Park, same time same airspace. So keep listening locally on BayFM99.9 or streaming live on BayFM.org. And I’d love to get your suggestions for next week’s show, which will be on GAMBLING.
Here’s this week’s complete playlist:
Being For The Beneﬁt Of Mr. Kite – Across The Universe, Eddie Izzard
Carnival – The Black Rider, Tom Waits
Love Rollercoaster – Funk Classics, The 70’s, Ohio Players
Enter The Circus – Back To Basics, Christina Aguilera
Troubles Somehow – Sometimes the Stars, The Audreys
The Circus Is Leaving Town – Ballad of the Broken Seas Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan
Carnival Time – Mardi Gras In New Orleans, Al Johnson
Palisades Park – The Rock ‘n’ Roll Classics, Freddy Cannon
Coney Island Girl – Come Find Yourself, Fun Lovin’ Criminals
Sideshow – Ultimate Slow Jams 9 [Disc 4], The Stylistics
The Tears Of A Clown – Motown’s Biggest Pop Hits, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles
Nellie The Elephant – The Wonderful World Of The Toy Dolls, Toy Dolls
Caravan – The Last Waltz [Disc 2], The Band + Van Morrison
My Mother Was A Chinese Trapeze Artist – 5 Songs, The Decemberists
Goodbye Cruel World – Jukebox Hits 1961, James Darren
The Ghost Train – Rock TV Classic, Madness
Helter Skelter – The Beatles (White Album) [Disc 2], The Beatles
Clowns – Seventh Tree, Goldfrapp
Tightrope [Live] – SRV (Disc 3), Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble
Take Me To The Mardi Gras – There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, Paul Simon
Carnival – Tigerlily, Natalie Merchant
Fire Eater – Naturally, Three Dog Night
Ha! Ha! Said The Clown – Manfred Mann
On A Carousel – The Hits Of 1967, The Hollies
Gypsies, Tramps And Thieves – Billboard Top Rock ‘N’ Roll Hits: 1971, Cher
Carnival – Life, The Cardigans
Carousels – The Lon Gisland EP, Beirut
The Carny – The Best Of, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Our playlist this week was dedicated to SONGS WITH MEANINGLESS WORDS. We’re talking Na-na-na songs, obla-di songs, even la-la-la songs. Because, let’s face it, without meaningless words we may have missed out on some of our favourite pop anthems.
So WHO PUT THE BOMP IN THE BOMP, BOMP, BOMP, BOMP, BOMP? Well the original was recorded by Barry Mann in 1961. It parodied the nonsense words of the doo-wop songs that were popular during that period. Two that he refers to are the Marcels’ BLUE MOON and The Edsels’ RAMA LAMA DING DONG, which had both charted earlier that same year.
Ella Fitzgerald’s HOW HIGH THE MOON is a great example of scat singing, where the vocals are improvised using random and nonsense syllables. Fitzgerald is generally considered to be one of the greatest scat singers in jazz history. Pioneering Jamaican DJ and singer, Sister Nancy, also incorporates some scat into her chat with BAM BAM. Don’t ask me, I have no idea what BAM BAM means. And I’m not sure what BOM BOM means either. That was the title of our very own Daddy Cool’s contribution to this week’s list.
Time then for a counterpoint to all the merriment. There aren’t too many performers who could turn a “sha la la la” song” into one of romantic longing, but Tom Waits does so briliantly in JERSEY GIRL. And yes, I know that Bruce Springsteen does a version of this too, but it’s got to be Tom’s original version for me.
Way back in the 50’s The Gladiolas recorded LITTLE DARLIN’ in which they used their voices as instruments (adding an extra layer to the already full-on percussion). Their main aim wasn’t to experiment, however. All they wanted to do was to get you up dancing. As did The Crystals in 1963 with DA DO RON RON.
Yes, songs with MEANINGLESS WORDS have served generations of American black music very well indeed. And today, it seems it’s still all about the moves, baby. You only have to check out Beyonce’s SINGLE LADIES and my point is proven.
What I love about a show on SONGS WITH MEANINGLESS WORDS is that it gives me a great opportunity to play some comedy. Spike Milligan claimed that he wrote the YING TONG SONG as a bet with his brother, who claimed that Spike couldn’t get a song into the hit parade that only had two chords (in this case G and D7th). And Spike won!
We followed with punk group The Dickies with their version of BANANA SPLITS (The Tra-La La Song), from the soundtrack to the film Kick Arse and to round out the set, another fruit related song with some meaningless words, the wonderful Little Richard with TUTTI FRUTTI. I’m not sure where or when this concert took place, but I wish I’d been there!
Is there anyone in the world that doesn’t know the refrain from HEY JUDE by The Beatles? Na, Na, Na, Na- Na- Na. I don’t think so. That one was for Judi who listens via the Internet from Far North Queensland and who has sent me a very nice email. So big shout out to Jude!
It’s true that you can’t help but sing along to SONGS WITH MEANINGLESS WORDS isn’t it? Even Mr. Grumpy himself, Van Morrison, can’t help but deliver a song that, ironically, has made a lot of people very happy over the years: BROWN EYED GIRL.
Donna Summer’s version of STATE OF INDEPENDENCE was released in 1982 and featured a choir that included Michael Jackson, Dionne Warwick, Kenny Liggins, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder and others. She’s always been known for her powerhouse vocal delivery and she’s one of the most successful recording artists of the 1970s. Her website states that she has sold more than 130 million records worldwide. One of today’s most fascinating artists is Lady Gaga and we played BAD ROMANCE from her Fame Monster album which also has a few meaningless words in it. As of April 16, 2010, her music videos gained over one billion viral views, becoming the first artist to reach this milestone. So she obviously doesn’t need any help from me so I’m going to get you to have a peek at Donna Summer instead!
Its been mooted that catchy songs are just that because they’re easy to sing along to. Meaningless words seem to help that process. Here’s another example for you: The J. Geils Band with CENTERFOLD. We played this one in our ‘Fashion’ show, but its such a good example of meaningless words in a song, it had to be included here too. Na, na, na, na, na,
A great triple play of classics followed: Reggae artist Barrington Levy with HERE I COME, the great Otis Redding with FA-FA-FA-FA-FA (SAD SONG) and Major Lance with UM, UM, UM, UM, UM. Another classic that wouldn’t be the same without its meaningless words is NA NA HEY HEY KISS HIM GOODBYE from Steam. It may have been a bit of a one-hit wonder but its served sports fans very well, ever since it was recorded in 1969.
All girl Aussie band, The Spazzys, offered up SUNSHINE DRIVE, which first appeared on their Aloha Go Bananas! album. I found my copy on the soundtrack to the film Suburban Mayhem. Its easy to see that they’re influenced by The Ramones who had a song of their own called PINHEAD that produced their concert catch-cry “Gabba, Gabba, Hey!”. For some reason that I can’t fathom, I didn’t actually play this song but, as penance, here’s a clip to satisfy all you Ramones fans. Who said punk was dead?
Back to some Pommy classics: the Kinks with DAVID WATTS, the Beatles with OB-LA-DI, OB-LA-DA and Manfred Mann with DO WAH DIDDY DIDDY. How upbeat is this little ditty? Check it out:
Pocket rocket, Brenda Lee recorded a very catchy tune that uses meaningless words, DUM DUM. No idea what the words mean and I’m not sure that Sting and the Police have a clue what they’re singing about when they declare DE DO DO DO, DE DA DA DA.
Another couple of classic tunes with meaningless words came from The Drifters with I COUNT THE TEARS and the Delfonics with LA LA MEANS I LOVE YOU. Does that mean that if you go to local club La La Land you’ll find love? Hmmmmm, don’t think so somehow.
We signed off with a doozy: GOOD MORNING STARSHINE by Oliver. Impossible not to singalong to this one.
Next week’s show will be on SHELTER. I’m thinking of both interpretations of the word. It could be a building or it could be the protection or refuge you find in something or someone. So get those suggestions in and, yes of course, the Stones GIMME SHELTER is a given!
Here’s this week’s playlist:
Who Put the Bomp (In the Bomp, Bomp, Bomp) – #1 Hits of the ’50s Volume 4, Barry Mann
Rama Lama Ding Dong – The Rama Lama Ding Dong EP, The Edsels
Blue Moon – The Original 60’s Summer Album, The Marcels
How High The Moon – Conﬁrmation, Ella Fitzgerald
Bam Bam – One Two, Sister Nancy
Bom Bom – The Essential Daddy Cool [Disc 1], Daddy Cool
Jersey Girl – Heartattack And Vine, Tom Waits
Little Darlin’ – Rock n’ Roll Boogie Hits Of ’57, The Gladiolas
Da Do Ron Ron (Re-Recorded / Remastered) – – Soundtrack To The ’60s (Re-Recorded / Remastered, The Crystals
Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) – Beyoncé
Ying Tong Song – Let’s All Sing Along With The Goons, The Goons
Banana Splits (The Tra La La Song) – Dickies
Tutti Frutti – Little Richard, Little Richard
Hey Jude – The Beatles
Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrison
Bad Romance (Album Version) – Lady Gaga
State of independence – Donna Summer, Donna Summer
Centerfold – Best Of The J Geils Band, The J Geils Band
Here I Come – Here I Come, Barrington Levy
Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song) – Otis Redding
Um Um Um Um Um – Soul Masters: Um Um Um Um Um, Major Lance
Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye – ’60s: Gold, Steam
Heebie Jeebies – A Portrait Of New Orleans Jazz CD1, Louis Armstrong
The Sunshine Drive – Suburban Mayhem Soundtrack, The Spazzys
Do Wah Diddy Diddy – The British Invasion: History of British Rock, Vol. 2, Manfred Mann
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da – The Beatles (White Album) [Disc 1], The Beatles
David Watts – Greatest Hits, The Kinks
Dum Dum – Sweet Nothin’s, Brenda Lee
de do do do, de da da da – The Very Best, Sting & The Police
I Count The Tears – Greatest Hits, The Drifters
La La Means I Love You – The Legend of The Delfonics, The Delfonics
Good Morning Starshine – Billboard Top 100 Of 1969, Oliver
Next week: SHELTER
Listen to Lyn McCarthy at the Theme Park on BayFM, Tuesdays 4-6pm, Sydney time
Tragically also on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/maccalyn
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