The Melbourne Cup is Australia’s major thoroughbred horse race. Held since 1861, on the first Tuesday in November, it’s billed as The race that stops a nation. It’s the richest and most prestigious “two-mile” handicap, and one of the richest turf races, in the world. So, it was inevitable that this week’s theme would tie in with this iconic Australian event. GAMBLING, therefore, it was. We contemplated the repercussions of hedging your bets, whether it was on the ponies, at the poker table or simply as a result of playing that universal game of chance, love.
Bob Seger & The Silver Bullets opened the show with their highly energetic live rendition of RAMBLIN’ GAMBLIN’ MAN. We followed with a request from regular listener, Andy, who wanted to hear Ry Cooder’s I GOT MINE. It’s from the Chicken Skin Music album and, apparently it’s an old pop song from the minstrel and medicine show tradition. Cooder says that he learned this version from renowned Blues artist Pink Anderson, who followed tent shows in his early years.
Another regular contributor to the show, Robyn, asked for jazz-rock group Steely Dan’s DO IT AGAIN. The track features on their debut 1972 album Can’t Buy A Thrill and is the first in popular music to include an organ solo. Here they are live on the Midnight Special 1973:
Now if you want to hear a song or two about gambling guilt then you can’t go past the Blues. Lightnin’ Hopkins’ ONCE WAS A GAMBLER featured on the Crazy Heart soundtrack and it was a terrific suggestion from Des. And just to prove that gambling is not just a man’s preoccupation, pioneering singer and guitarist Memphis Minnie bemoaned the life of a GAMBLING WOMAN.
Could Lady GaGa be today’s version of Memphis Minnie? For all of you out there who may doubt this performer’s artistry, check out her acoustic and live version of POKER FACE on BBC Radio. Any doubts about her talent should now be dismissed, surely.
Ska revival band, The Specials, have to be one of the coolest bands on earth. Formed in 1977 and still going strong after a lengthy break between 1981 and 2008, we played their cover of the Pioneers race-track tune, LONGSHOT KICK DE BUCKET. Here they are in 1979:
Another of my fave bands is Wilco and they gave us their gambling track, CASINO QUEEN. Wendy contacted us and requested THE JOKER from The Steve Miller Band. Great choice. Here they are live on the Jools Holland show. Even Cee Lo Green was loving this peformance. Cool pink suit too, Cee Lo!
Big Audio Dynamite was formed in 1984 by the ex-guitarist and singer of The Clash, Mick Jones. The band was notable for their effective mixture of varied musical styles incorporating elements of punk rock, dance, hip-hop, reggae and funk. Here they are with THE BOTTOM LINE.
Melissa contacted me to say that she loves Ray Charles. Who doesn’t? He is a music legend. Frank Sinatra called Ray “the only real genius in show-business”. His song BLACKJACK was a perfect song for this week’s theme. A little less known is blues and sould singer Little Johnny Taylor. He recorded throughout the 60’s and 70’s and performed live throughout the 80’s and 90’s. His song YOU WIN, I LOSE is another of those tunes about hedging your bets on love and it’s a beauty.
Closer to home, The Little River Band have a number of tracks that suit this week’s topic but none better than LONESOME LOSER. And if you’re looking for some bellylaughs, then Melbourne group, Mic Conway and the National Junk Band’s RACE CALL OF LIFE TO DEATH should do the trick. It’s on their Corporate Chook album. As they so cleverly point out, our whole life is a gamble so we may as well just go for it!
The Animals’ HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN was a shoo-in, of course. As was The Rolling Stones with TUMBLING DICE, from their Exile on Main Street album.
I bet by now you were wondering whether I would play the absolutely predictable THE GAMBLER by Kenny Rogers?” Well, of course, yes. I have no shame. This is an absolute classic and couldn’t possibly be omitted: “You got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em, know when to walk away, know when to run.”
And talking of classics…..
Big Joe Turner was an American Blues “shouter” who came to fame in the 1950’s with his pioneering rock and roll recordings, particularly Shake Rattle & Roll. His unique voice was well served on our featured song this week, LIFE IS LIKE A CARD GAME.
The Band’s song about the dangers of drinking and gambling, UP ON CRIPPLE CREEK, features on their second self-titled album and was released as a single in 1969. They also perform the song on the live concert film The Last Waltz:
The hero of UP ON CRIPPLE CREEK gets into all kinds of trouble essentially because he’s looking for love. The great T-Bone Walker, the first Blues artist to use an electric guitar, also knows all about love gone wrong on LOVE IS JUST A GAMBLE. We followed with the legendary Stanley Brothers who contributed their thoughts on the matter with a great piece of bluegrass called IF I LOSE.
The Jerry Garcia Band performed DEAL live at Shoreline Ampitheatre California on September 1, 1990. A Grateful Dead concert was to have occurred at the venue on this date but was cancelled due to the untimely death of Dead keyboard player Brent Mydland. That one was for Hudson who follows The Theme Park with an excellent BayFM program, Post Modern Backlash.
I’m sure that there would be no argument if I asserted that Jimmie Rodgers is the godfather of Country music. His deceptively simple delivery of a song like GAMBLING ROOM BLUES, with his distinctive yodelling added for good measure, is just so evocative. He performed in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
Big jump to 1979, (a very good year btw), with The Clash and THE CARD CHEAT from their 3rd album, London Calling.
Tim Freedman of Australian group The Whitlams knows a thing or two about telling a story in song. And, as we headed for Theme Park’s finishing post, what better way to comment on this country’s obsession with gambling than to play The Whitlams’ BLOW UP THE POKIES? Here’s Tim on the SBS program Insight explaining the meaning of the song and doing a beautiful solo performance.
Just to lift the mood, our closing double appealed to the rock chick in me: Everclear with BLACKJACK and the one and only AC/DC with a song that has a couple of versions, and is rife with double meaning. Of course I choose to interpret THE JACK as being about gambling. What they’re gambling on, of course, is up for discussion.
Thanks too to Melissa, Robyn, Des, Andy & Wendy for your suggestions for this week’s show. Much appreciated.
Next week’s theme, is on NIGHT which has been inspired by last week’s RECLAIM THE NIGHT women’s march. I’d like to thank all the women, young and old, who marched together in Byron Bay, and the men who supported us. It was inspirational, empowering and a heap of fun. If you weren’t there, make sure that you get involved next year. Violence against women is prevalent and shoudn’t be accepted. (End of community service announcement!)
Here’s this week’s complete playlist:
Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man – Live Bullet, Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band
I Got Mine – Chicken Skin Music, Ry Cooder
Do It Again – Can’t Buy A Thrill, Steely Dan
Once Was A Gambler – The Best Of Lightning Hopkins, Lightnin’ Hopkins
Gambling Woman – High Rollers – Vintage Gambling, Memphis Minnie
Poker Face – The Fame, Lady Gaga
Longshot Kick De Bucket – 1992 – Live: Too Much Too Young, The Specials
Casino Queen – A.M., Wilco
The Joker – Groovin’ 70’s [Disc 10], The Steve Miller Band
The Bottom Line – Planet BAD: Greatest Hits, Big Audio Dynamite
Blackjack – Pure Genius, Ray Charles
You Win, I Lose – Mo’ Mod Jazz, Little Johnny Taylor
Lonesome Loser – Greatest Hits, Little River Band
Race Call Of Life To Death – Corporate Chook, Mic Conway’s National Junk Band
House Of The Rising Sun – Time Life: Sound Of The Sixties, The Animals
Tumbling Dice – Exile On Main Street, The Rolling Stones
The Gambler – Greatest Hits, Kenny Rogers
Viva Las Vegas – Command Performances: The Essential Elvis Presley, Elvis Presley
Life Is Like A Card Game – High Rollers – Vintage Gambling, Big Joe Turner
Up On Cripple Creek – Anthology, Vol. 1, The Band
Love Is Just A Gamble – 50s R&B Classics, T-Bone Walker
If I Lose – Theme Time Radio Hour, The Stanley Brothers
Deal – Garcia, Jerry Garcia
Gambling Bar Room Blues – High Rollers – Vintage Gambling, Jimmie Rodgers
The Card Cheat – London Calling, The Clash
Blow Up The Pokies – Take 40 Australia, The Whitlams
Blackjack – Slow Motion Daydream, Everclear
The Jack – High Voltage, AC/DC
This week at the Theme Park I’ve been totally indulgent. The theme, GOODBYE TO THE NOUGHTIES, allowed me to play a selection of my favourite tracks from the past decade.
We opened the program with M.I.A. and her breakthrough hit, PAPER PLANES, in which she samples The Clash, brags about being a so-called terrorist, and uses gunshots and a cash register as the focus of the song’s chorus. A wonderfully innovative piece of music that satirises the very real fear of terrorism that swept the globe during the Noughties.
The other interesting bit about M.I.A. is that she came to prominence in early 2004 through file sharing her singles on the Internet. Ten years ago no one was listening to music on anything other than a radio or CD player. Now it’s on your phone, your iPod, your computer and your TV. Pro Tools is no longer just for pros and with basic software, we can make our own music and share it on the World Wide Web. We can even make a video clip and put it up on YouTube. We could, theoretically, also program our own radio station. And then there’s podcasting, blogging and, not to mention Facebook and Twitter. Whew. If the Noughties stand out for one thing, it’s that technology has revolutionised the entertainment business with its peer-to-peer digital communication. Goodbye conventional notions of creativity and distribution, hello independent artist. Viva La Revolution, I say.
Outkast released their double album Speakerboxx/The Love Below in 2003 and it’s a classic example of the decade’s soul/dance/hip hop fusion. The expansive, split-personality masterwork paved the way for artists like Kanye West, Dizzee Rascal and others. In the same year The White Stripes released their attention-getting rock album Elephant. Check out SEVEN NATION ARMY:
LCD Soundsystem’s LOSING MY EDGE is a fabulous piece of satire that puts the boot into the ageing hipster who depends on an encyclopedic knowledge of cultural references to keep him or her relevant. Sound like anyone you know? Hilarious and scary, all at the same time.
Amy Winehouse’s YOU KNOW I’M NO GOOD has got that classic soul sound. Mix it up with some unfortunate self-destructive tendencies, and you have one of my favourite singer/songwriters of the decade. Just forget the tabloid sensationalism, close your eyes and listen to the Back to Black album. Heaven.
Another great singer songwriter is Lucinda Williams. WORLD WITHOUT TEARS is the kind of song she does best. It’s from her 2003 album of the same name. Seemingly tragic, the song is really a celebration of life over death. Here she is performing the song live.
And now for something completely different! Swedish group Hellsongs’s cover of AC/DC’s THUNDERSTRUCK can only be described as Lounge Metal. They’re an acoustic three-piece. Check it out. You’ll either love it or hate it. I love it:
What can you say about Tom Waites? He’s just the bomb. His Real Gone album of 2004 is almost brutal in its authenticity. The track we played, GREEN GRASS, is melancholic, bluesy, disturbing and hynotic. “Don’t say goodbye to me. Describe the sky to me. And if the sky falls, Mark my words, We’ll catch mocking birds.” Wow.
Possibly one of the Noughties best rap artists is Eminem. On one of the most original rap
tracks of the decade, STAN, he is ably assisted by another terrific artist, Dido. A great combination. The Noughties was also the decade of the mashup/bootleg. A STROKE OF GENIUS, by Freelance Hellraiser combines an instrumental edit of The Strokes track ‘Hard to Explain’ with Christina Aguilera’s pop hit ‘Genie in a Bottle’ and is probably still one of the best examples of the genre. This is where the sum is so much better than its parts. Sort of like peanut butter and chocolate ice-cream. Who thought the combination could be so good?
If you want to listen to perfect rock n roll you can’t go past Queens of the Stone Age and their track NO ONE KNOWS. Here’s why:
I was really happy to receive Roseanne Cash’s new album The List for Christmas. Lots of great tracks to choose from but, for this show, it had to be SEA OF HEARTBREAK which she sings with a little help from Bruce Springsteen. Her Dad, Johnny Cash, gave Roseanne a list of songs that he felt it was essential for her to know and she held onto that list for 35 years. Finally the time was right and she has chosen 12 songs from that original list of 100 for this great album.
Another great album is Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, released in 2002; my favourite track from the album is JESUS etc. Superb. Check it out:
Two of the decades most successful rock bands also made an appearance: Kings of Leon with SEX ON FIRE and Green Day with BOULEVARD OF BROKEN DREAMS. But my favourite rock band has to be Radiohead. We played a track from their 2007 album, IN RAINBOWS. Now this album is particularly interesting because it was initially released through the band’s own website as a digital download for which customers could make whatever payment that they wanted, including nothing; the site only advised, “it’s up to you”. Reportedly 1.2 million copies were sold by the first day of release. In March 2008 aniBoom, together with Radiohead’s label TBD REcords, launched the In Rainbows Animated Music Video Contest. Animators from all over the world competed. Out of over one thousand entries, Radiohead chose four grand winners. Each winner received $10,000 to complete their submission. This animation by Japanese artists Kota and Totori perfectly illustrates the track we played: 15 STEP.
The Strokes, in my mind, were one of the first great rock album of the Noughties. Nine years later I still love listening to LAST NITE and all the other tracks on the very cool Is This It album. Another ‘must include’ are Arcade Fire and the track I chose was WAKE UP from their album FUNERAL, released in 2005. They mix the playfulness of Talking Heads with the Gothic quality of The Cure but it’s a sound that is entirely their own. Actually they are just a bunch of nerds having fun. Gotta love that.
I closed the show with the most outrageous of the decade’s gender benders. Lady Ga Ga has nothing on Peaches. And who better to help her out than Bad Boy Iggy Pop. The track is KICK IT. Who said punk was dead?
Have a wonderful New Year’s Eve. Play safe and drive carefully. Here’s the complete playlist:
Next week: DUETS
Listen to Lyn McCarthy at the Theme Park on BayFM, Tuesdays 2-4pm, Sydney time.
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
Tragically also on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/maccalyn
No longer on Twitter! I’m not that tragic after all.