Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Randy Tuesdays #10: The Downtown, Downbeat Guy

Like our very first Randy (Mr. Newman), the last on the list has made a successful career for himself in Hollywood composing scores for films such as Ghostbusters II, Twins, Kindergarten Cop, My Cousin Vinny and Vin Diesel's XXX. He even wrote the theme tune to MacGyver.

Prior to this, back in the 70s, he was a songwriter whose work was recorded by The Carpenters, Barry Manilow, Dionne Warwick and Olivia Newton-John, among others. He also had a big solo hit covering Unit 4+2's 60s hit Concrete & Clay.

But it's his lesser-known "hit" single (it just scraped the UK Top 30 in 1976) which has scarred itself onto my subconscious. To the point that I was truly amazed when so many of you failed to guess his identity. Really! How could you forget...?

10. Randy Edelman

Why do I love Uptown, Uptempo Woman so much? It fits my love of 70s piano balladeering, scratching my Billy Joel itch. It spins a moving, finely detailed yarn like Harry Chapin did so well. It's another Wogan song, I guess. It must be Terry who planted it in my brain. It tells a complete love story, from infatuation through to passion, cooling off to loathing. When the protagonist tries to leave, to avoid a bitter confrontation... that's the day his lady comes home early. Really, it breaks my heart. To me, it's a true story. I feel honest emotion every time I hear it.

I know. I'm weird.

Plus, it's got one of those lyrics that I always amusingly misunderstood as a kid. In the opening verse, when Randy first meets his Uptown, Uptempo Woman in New York, he tells us...

A thousand people crammed in one place
But the only face was you
I grabbed your hand and we raced out
Hardly said a word
I’d only seen you for a minute
But I was roundin’ third

That last line is obviously the popular American romance/baseball metaphor, but I didn't hear it that way as a kid. I thought he actually sang, "But I was round in third" and I always wondered why he couldn't get his car up to fourth gear? Was his gearbox knackered? Was that a metaphor? No, no, don't spoil this song with innuendo too...

All of which brings us to the end of Randy Tuesdays. Thank you for sticking with it. I hope your favourite Randy had their moment of glory. I don't know what I'm doing next... or even if I am doing another one of these for the time being. Haven't made my mind up yet, and I'm going to be shaking things up here from July, probably cutting down the number of posts I wring out every week to give you all a break. We'll see.

Friday, 23 June 2017

My Top Ten Innuendo Songs (Volume 1)

That's Gary there. He's getting down to business, apparently. Like this.  Kind of reminds me of Jermaine in Flight of the Conchords. It was Business Time For Him too. But only on a Wednesday.

When I were a lad, pop songs used to allude to matters sexual. Subtly. You know, like My Ding-A-Ling. Subtle. You listen to what the young people are listening to these days and they're doing it in the kitchen, in the hall, in the back of a Vauxhall Astra... they've got no shame. And they just come right out and say it! Where's the fun in that? Where's the phnarr? Honestly, things were so much better back in the day...

Anyway, here's ten songs that would have Kenneth Williams crying, "Matron!"

10. Adam Ant - Goody Two Shoes
You don't drink,
Don't smoke,
What do you do?
Subtle innuendos follow...
There must be something inside
All very well, Adam, but I'm not sure how subtle it is if you have to tell us it's a bloody innuendo!

9. Diana Ross - Chain Reaction

I'm really not sure I believe this one or if it's all just an internet myth, but apparently, the lyrics to Chain Reaction are really, really smutty. Barry? Maurice? Robin? DIANA!?

Say it ain't so...

(Investigate this one at your peril.)

Cards on the table though, I love Chain Reaction.

The song. I mean the song!

8. Aerosmith - Love In An Elevator

The opening to this song / video is puerile, offensive and ridiculous. I feel ashamed for admitting it makes me laugh every time I hear / see it. Actually, there's very little innuendo here, it's just pure smut. But Steven Tyler is such a rock star caricature, it's hard to be offended by it.

7. The Who - Squeeze Box
Mama's got a squeeze box
She wears on her chest
And when daddy comes home
He never gets no rest
'Cause she's playing all night
And the music's all right
Mama's got a squeeze box
Daddy never sleeps at night
From the same band who were just looking at their Pictures of Lily, nothing else.

6. Prince - Chocolate Box

Not one to use an innuendo when he can be Prince (Gett Off, Cream, Come, etc. etc. etc.), Chocolate Box is actually Prince at his most restrained. It's not about a box of chocolates.

5. Billy Bragg (via Woody Guthrie) - Ingrid Bergman

Who knew Woody Guthrie was such a dirty old man?

4. Grace Jones - Pull Up To The Bumper

I will hold my hand up and say that for years, I had absolutely no idea there was anything remotely sordid about this track. It's just about a traffic jam, isn't it? Isn't it?

3. Cinerama - Quick, Before It Melts

David Gedge is on about a one night stand here, not an ice cream. And the perils of doing that when you've reached a certain age... or had too much beer, I guess.

He stole the title from a dodgy 60s farce, by the way...

2. Alison Moyet - Love Resurrection

One of those songs which got away with it for years because nobody really listened to what Alison was singing.
Show me one direction
I will not question again
For a warm injection
Is all I need to calm the pain

What seed must I sow
To replenish this barren land
Teach me to harvest,
I want you to grow in my hand

Let's be optimistic,
Let's say that we won't toil in vain
If we pull together
We'll never fall apart again...
Phew. Cold flannel, anyone?

1. Squeeze - Pullin' Mussels From A Shell

What goes on behind the chalets should stay behind the chalets.

Everybody knows that this is a nudge-nudge, wink-wink song... but have you EVER heard anyone use the title as innuendo in real life? Iffypedia tells us, "the phrase 'pulling mussels' is British slang for sexual intercourse, mainly used in England". Really? Not where I live, mate.

I have a load more big ones if anybody wants to see them.

Your suggestions are always welcome...

Thursday, 22 June 2017

June #3: Comedy & Errors

3. Father John Misty - Pure Comedy

The way I feel about the third Father John Misty album is exactly the way I felt about the last one. I absolutely love... about 60% of it. The rest, particularly in the case the latter half where J. Tillman dispenses with any pretence of a traditional verse-chorus structure and just sings whatever he wants to whatever tune fits at that moment... well, I find that a bit harder to get on with.

Still, Tillman is a unique voice in the music industry, he's exactly the kind of artist we need at the moment. He reminds me of Mark Kozelek sometimes, though he's a lot more tuneful and not quite as ornery. Not quite as funny or engrossing either, but when FJM gets it all right... as on the "isn't the entire human race just very, very silly?" title track... well, he just can't be beat. The fact that he manages to cram lyrical observations like those below into a smooth, 70s-sounding piano ballad makes me want to love him more...

Oh, their religions are the best
They worship themselves yet they're totally obsessed
With risen zombies, celestial virgins, magic tricks, these unbelievable outfits
And they get terribly upset
When you question their sacred texts
Written by woman-hating epileptics

Their languages just serve to confuse them
Their confusion somehow makes them more sure
They build fortunes poisoning their offspring
And hand out prizes when someone patents the cure
Where did they find these goons they elected to rule them?
What makes these clowns they idolize so remarkable?
These mammals are hell-bent on fashioning new gods
So they can go on being godless animals

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

June #4: The Longest Day

It's the longest day of the year. High time for my shortest post of the year, and a song about passing the midsummer point in your life and starting to feel the nights drawing in...

4. John Mellencamp - Longest Days
All I got here
Is a rear view mirror
Reflections of where I've been
So you tell yourself I'll be back up on top some day
But you know there's nothing waiting up there for you anyway

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Randy Tuesdays #9: The Runners Up

Not The Village People.

And so we reach the penultimate Randy post, and - as has become traditional - I get to count down the runners up. Thanks for your suggestions... a couple of which I hadn't considered at all.

10. Randy Jackson

No, not the Randy Jackson I featured last week. Not the one from The Jacksons. An entirely different Randy Jackson who I came across higher in the rankings on google after searching for last week's RJ.

As well as being a former judge on American Idol, Randall Darius Jackson has worked as a bass player, backing singer and producer with a wide range of acts - from Journey and Boston to Mariah Carey and Paula Abdul. He's also worked with Keith Richards, The Divinyls, Madonna, Jean-Luc Ponty... and, in the early 90s when the E Street Band were having a rest... he played bass for Bruce. Click the link for one of my favourite Randy Jackson basslines... no surprises.

9. Randy Rhoads

Former Quiet Riot guitarist who then hooked up with Ozzy. Might not be your thing, but dude can play guitar.

8. Randy Howard - Suddenly Single

Cheesy 80s country balladeering which probably didn't improve this particular Randy's romantic prospects.

7. Earl Jean - Randy, You're Quite A Guy

The Cookies were a short-lived r 'n' b trio in the 50s who went on to become backing singers for Ray Charles (The Raelettes). A new version of the band was formed in the early 60s featuring Earl Jean McCrea, younger sister of original Cookie Darlene. Earl Jean also recorded a couple of solo singles (minus her surname), including the Goffin / King composition above. I have this track on a Cookies compilation, but I didn't know it was actually released as a solo recording until today. Well, you learn something new...

6. Randy Brecker

I can honestly say I'd never heard of The Brecker Brothers until The Swede suggested this guy. Further investigation is definitely required.

5. Randy Scruggs

Son of legendary bluegrass banjo picker Earl Scruggs, this particular Randy followed his pop into country music, working with Mary Chapin Carpenter, Waylon Jennings and Emmylou Harris, among others.

4. Randy Travis

Arguably the most successful and famous of the runners up. Much as I like country music though, I've never really been drawn to Randy Travis. A bit too slushy for me... plus there's the whole driving naked while intoxicated thing to take into account.

3. Randy Jones

Thanks to Alyson for this one. I can honestly say I never knew any of The Village People by their first names... but I think I'd like to...

2. Randy California

Founding member of California rockers Spirit, who may or may not have "inspired" Jimmy Page to write Stairway To Heaven. Their Orwellian single 1984 was banned by American radio in 1970 for being a bit too political. C suggested this one.

1. Randy Bachman

For a while there, Smashie & Nicey may have killed You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet, but I think enough time has passed for us to now reassess this as a classic. Randy was the lead guitarist and songwriter of this hugely successful Canadian rock band (even though they only had one hit in the UK). The lead singer, Mr. Turner, was called Fred. (Fred Mondays, anybody?) Sadly, there was no one in the band called Julian Overdrive.

There we go. Only one Randy left. That must be obvious now, surely? (No, Swede, it's not Randy Fuller of The Bobby Fuller Four. Sorry.)

Monday, 19 June 2017

My Top ∞ Radio Songs #11: It's Just The Same Old Show...

As I’ve mentioned here before, I was late coming to music, but when the bomb finally hit, it blew my life apart… and thirty years later, I’m still piecing together the shrapnel. I never had a solid idea growing up about what I wanted to do with my life, or at least nothing more solid than the old “become a writer” dream which I’d been toiling at since I first set pencil to jotter. But even at an early age, I knew that was going to be a struggle. So what else could I do? What else did I love… besides telling stories?

As I've explained in my blog before (and also in the n*v*l promoted in my sidebar), as a child I used to run my own TV and radio station. My young imagination knew no bounds. And while the TV side of things was merely an extension of my interest in storytelling, my fascination with radio was different. I’m not sure if I was a lonely child, but I was a solitary one. My brother and sister were both a lot older and had already left home by the time I started growing up. I had friends, but none of them lived nearby, so while I saw them at school and sometimes on weekends and holidays, I also spent a lot of time by myself. That didn’t really bother me because I always had things to do, games to play, books and comics to read and write… and later, records to listen to. Still, it was nice to occasionally hear someone talking to you, besides your parents, and that’s where the radio came in.

From my pre-teens listening to Radio 2 with my parents through to my eventual discovery of Radio 1, I took a lot from the intimate relationship between presenter and listener. It’s trite to say I saw these people as my friends while growing up, but it’s also true. And sooner or later it occurred to me that there really couldn’t be a better job (except telling stories for a living) than sitting around playing your favourite records while talking to everyone and no-one all day.

It was around this time I first discovered local radio. It wasn’t half as exciting or glamorous as National Radio 1, but it was a lot more real. And a hell of a lot more realistic an option for a boy from nowhere. These people were living the dream – not in London, not for the BBC… but right on my doorstep. Remember, this was long before the homogenization of ILR, this was back when – for the most part – local jocks really did say and play whatever they wanted. I’m not saying that always made for unmissable listening – often it was cheese-on-a-stick claptrap sandwiching together Joan Armaplating and Lionel Richtea or segueing The Captain & Toenail into Olivia Neutron Bomb.

Still… they were obviously enjoying their work - and they were only on air three or four hours a day! Even with a couple of hours show-prep, that left them loads of free time to pursue other career opportunities. (Even back then I must have realised that a lot of professional writers also had a day job to pay the bills.) So I made up my mind. I had to get into local radio. You can imagine how well that went down with my school Careers Advisor.

Neverthless... slowly, but surely, I drew the plans for my future…

11. The Selecter - On My Radio

For years, whenever I heard On My Radio by The Selecter, when Pauline Black (real name Belinda Magnus, fact fans) sings, "He said he loved me but he loved the beat", I thought she meant The Beat. I thought she'd been dumped by her man because he preferred Ranking Roger.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

June #5: A Few Words From Alan...


Just finished reading the above Booker Prize contender, whch made me LOL on a number of occasions. (Of course I'm using LOL ironically. Just like Alan.) Two of my favourite quotes follow...
"I try as far as possible to keep my radio show apolitical but teachers really are blithering scum, and whatever they disagree with, I agree with."

"In 2008 I spotted Haddway in a hotel steam room. I strode over, introduced myself and said I wanted him to sing on a jingle I'd written. The sessions went badly, and it was only when I visited the same hotel and saw him dredging the pool that I realised he wasn't Haddaway, just a man who worked for Jurys Inn."
I could, of course, play you some Haddaway after that, but I do have some standards. Instead, here's Roachford... with thanks to Jez.

"Your fog lamps are on! There's no fog!"

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