Wednesday, 24 May 2017

May #3: If It's Wednesday, Mark Kozelek Probably Has A New Album Out

3. Sun Kil Moon - Seventies TV Show Theme Song

I gave this post that title as a jokey reference to the fact that Mark Kozelek has now stolen Prince's crown as the most (over?)-productive songwriter / musician in the music business. I mean, this guy makes Ryan Adams look like Evan Dando. (That's a muso joke. I figure I can get away with  a muso joke on a Sun Kil Moon post.) Ironically though, as I sat down to write about the new Sun Kil Moon album - which, to be fair, came out in February, so I admit to being behind the curve - I discovered Kozelek had actually released another new record that very day (a second collaboration with ex-Godflesh rocker Jesu). Keeping up with Mark Kozelek is becoming a full time occupation: I may have to quit my job.

The weird thing is, I only really got into Kozelek a couple of years back when Steve recommended Benji as one of his favourite albums of 2014. I fell in love with that album and MK's rambling, stream of consciousness narratives about all the people who'd died in his life in the last few years. For an album centred around death it was both very funny and packed with honest human detail. It sounded real. Realer than Richie Manic carving '4 Real' into his arm, albeit not quite as rock 'n' roll.

Since then, I've gobbled up anything I could get my hands on from Kozelek, some of which has left me cool (Benji's immediate follow-up, Universal Themes), some of which left me more than pleasantly surprised (Mark Kozelek Sings Favourites, last year's piano-based covers album which I listened to for about 6 months).

Which brings us to Common As Light And Love Are Red Valleys Of Blood, which could well be as good as Benji, though in a very different way. It's a lot funnier than Benji, for a start. Kozelek has refined the rambling to the point it sounds like a well-planned stand up routine in places. Elsewhere, it's as dark and angry and personal as you'd expect. All human life is here, from hometown nostalgia to true crime to Donald Trump to transgender bathrooms to the nice letter a promoter sent Mark one time after a show. Whatever Kozelek wants to sing / talk / rap about, he does... often in the same song. Because he does not have an off button. This album has 16 tracks, the shortest of which is just over 5 minutes in duration. The longest, almost three times that. Listen to the whole album in one go and... well, I've been on shorter holidays. If Mark Kozelek hadn't become a songwriter, he'd have been an excellent blogger.

This is a record I've enjoyed a lot over the last few weeks, and I suspect I'll keep listening to it for a good long while because there's so much in it to discover. It's also a lot more immediate than some of his other albums. I didn't have to work at it; tracks like the one below, I loved the first time I heard them. Maybe you will too. I dunno... maybe not.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Randy Tuesdays #6: Why Don't You Cut Your Hair?

6. The Monkees - Alternative Title (Randy Scouse Git) 

As has been previously established by Kenny Wednesdays, I can also feature songs with Randy in the title in this feature. So you may have been expecting this one... except that, of course, it wasn't called Randy Scouse Git on the radio as the record company thought the title might lose the song airplay in the UK. The irony being, of course, that Micky Dolenz stole the title from Alf Garnett in Til' Death Us Do Part, so British audiences were well used to hearing it.

I do like a bit of timpani...

Sunday, 21 May 2017

My Top ∞ Radio Songs #7: In The Beginning...

It should come as no surprise to me that last week's radio post drummed up a few memories. It made me happy to hear how radio reminded you all so much of growing up, of listening late at night under the covers, of your parents and families...

Me too. Here are a few of my earliest radio memories:

  • Terry Wogan in the morning before school. I wrote about Tel last year on his untimely passing. He started on the Radio 2 breakfast show in 1972, the year I was born, so he was there all through my childhood. We were never a Radio 1 household, my parents being that much old and my brother and sister both having left home, so Terry's musical choices helped shaped my own in my formative years.
  • Jimmy Young after Terry. I remember hearing the famous Terry / JY handovers a lot when I wasn't at school. I remember my dad had a radio in his shed and he listened to JY in there once he retired from the motor trade (when I was a teenager) and went back to being a joiner. JY's musical choices were a bit more old school than Terry's, so he was more likely to play my dad's favourite: Frank Sinatra. If the radio wasn't on in my dad's shed, you could place money on the chances of him whistling Strangers In The Night to himself... if the circular saw wasn't whirring.
  • John Dunn and Ray Moore too. Oh my father had a rabbit and he thought it was a duck...
  • Friday Night Is Music Night. My dad worked as an auctioneer for a big motor auction company before being made redundant when I was about 7. After that, he set up his own car auctions (with a couple of former colleagues), though it was a bit of a struggle to get that business off the ground at first. They couldn't even afford a cleaner, so dad, mum and me used to go over there after school on a Friday night and clean the offices, stopping off for fish and chips on the way home. Friday Night Is Music Night reminds me of that, and my dad's love of the big bands. He was a trombone player himself when he was a kid and I followed his footsteps into the local brass band as a teenager, playing tenor horn. 
  • Late night radio. I'm not sure I remember exactly who was on Radio 2 at nights when I was a kid (I should probably look it up), but I do know that from an early age I kept my bedside clock radio on all through the night. Not for me, hiding the pocket-sized tranny under the covers. Late night radio was legit in my house... maybe that explains why I still need music to help me get to sleep forty years later. More on that another time though...

In the meantime, here's another favourite radio song. Art Alexakis from Everclear is a little bit older than me, probably nearer the age of some of you guys who left comments last time. His radio flashback begins in 1970 when all we had was the AM radio (or Medium Wave, as it was known in my house).

7. Everclear - A.M. Radio
I'd be in bed with the radio on
I would listen to it all night long
Just to hear my favorite song
You'd have to wait till you could hear it on the
AM radio

Friday, 19 May 2017

My Top Ten Paper Round Songs

I never had a paper round when I was a kid. I did, however, have a special fascination with the newsagents where I bought my weekly Spider-Man comics... I even went and interviewed the owner, Mr. Hudson, about his job, for a school project.

Here are ten songs about getting your papers delivered... which, I guess, not many people do these days. Bloody internet.

Special mention to Eli 'Paperboy' Reed, someone who's definitely worthy of further investigation, if Name Calling is anything to go by.

10. Jilted John - The Paperboy Song

Graham Fellows never fails to make me laugh. I love his description of getting his papers from the newsagents...
I walk into the paper shop
And say good morning, Keith
"Good morning, Keith!"
"Good afternoon!" Keith would shout.
Keith marked the papers out
A boy called Gary helped him
But he just pissed about.
9. The Marvelettes - Paper Boy

Not content with pestering the postman, The Marvelettes also went after the paper boy...

8. Soft Cell - Kitchen Sink Drama

A lonely housewife who imagines herself as Elizabeth Taylor has an eye on the paper boy while her husband's out at work. Does exactly what it says on the tin. 

7. The Courteeners - Take Over The World

He's only a paper boy from the north west, but he scrubs up pretty fine in his Sunday best.

Liam Fray may be a bit of an egomaniac, but he does know how to write a good song.

6. July Talk - Paper Girl

OK, here's my discovery of the week. While researching this post, even though I had loads of songs to go at from my own collection, I couldn't think of any that featured Paper Girls. So I did a little search and came up with this Canadian alt-rock band who are pretty amazing. In fact, I just bought their first album. Can't afford their second one (from last year) just yet, but it'll be on my wishlist if the tracks I've heard so far are anything to go by. Love the mix of vocals by Leah Fay and Peter Dreimanis, who sounds not unlike this next gentleman...

5. Tom Waits - Saving All My Love For You

Not the Whitney Houston song... but wouldn't it be cool if Tom covered that?

Anyway, here he gets up so early that everyone's sleeping but the paper boys... poor kids are gonna be scared out of their wits if they bump into Tom on their round.

4. Guillemots - Made Up Love Song #43

My favourite Guillemots song. I love its theme of finding magic in the everyday, even if it can't help but remind me of the end of American Beauty.
You got me off the paper round
Just sprang out of the air
The best things come from nowhere
I love you, I don't think you care
3. Morrissey - I Have Forgiven Jesus

Much has been made lately of the fact that Morrissey is actually a bit of a dick. Even my (local) poetry hero Simon Armitage, on his recent 6Music show, after saying how Morrissey and Dylan were the two songwriters he felt were closest to being actual poets... then went on to remark, "Morrissey, who I had the great pleasure of meeting earlier this year... hmm." Never meet your heroes, Simon!

Anyway, despite all this, Moz will always be the second most important songwriter in my record collection, and I'll always love him for songs like this... which at the time of its release spoke to me more than just about any other song I'd ever heard.
I was a good kid,
I wouldn't do you no harm,
I was a nice kid, 

With a nice paper round
Forgive me any pain,
I may have brung to you,
With God's help I know,
I'll always be near to you...
Don't worry, Moz. I'll always forgive you. 

2. Don McLean - American Pie

There are whole websites devoted to the lyrics of American Pie. I'm not sure why, its meaning seems pretty straightforward to me: the British Invasion stealing away the American monopoly on rock 'n' roll soon after Buddy Holly's death. It all begins though with a very young Don delivering the fateful headlines that mark "the day the music died". No wonder February made him shiver. 

1. David Bowie - Modern Love

Of course, we should never take Bowie's lyrics literally. However, the intro to Modern Love always puts a very specific image in my head of the Dame chasing after his paper boy, presumably for chucking his copy of the Observer into the rose bushes outside Bowie Towers one time too many. He knows when to stay in; he knows when to go out... he definitely knows how to catch a paper boy.

If your paper round went past David Bowie's house, you'd have probably wished he would chase after you. That'd be the equivalent of having Prince turn up on your doorstep on a Sunday morning with a copy of Watchtower.

Which one gets ink on your fingers?

Thursday, 18 May 2017

May #4: Huey Au Naturel

4. Huey Lewis & The News - Naturally

These guys were one of my favourite bands when I was growing up, and the album Fore! remains one of my favourite albums of the 80s. There is no better feel good band than Huey Lewis & The News. They make me smile just thinking about them; Huey was and is a thoroughly likable, all-round decent bloke with zero pretensions.

I'm sure you know all the singles from the album, and love them as much as I do. If not, drink lots of water and seek medical assistance immediately. Hip To Be Square. Simple As That. Stuck With You. The Power Of Love. (If you don't love The Power Of Love, your doctor cannot help you. Try a shaman, visit Tibet or consult a ouija board.) You may, however, be unfamiliar with Naturally. You poor, poor thing.

When Sam was a tiny baby, just out of the hospital and trying to settle into a sleep pattern (we can't complain: compared to most babies, he's been pretty much a champion sleeper), I used to sing this to him at bed time. I probably didn't do it justice like Huey and the guys did. 80s doo wop doesn't come any finer than this...

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

May #5: Aimee Goes Mental

5. Aimee Mann - Patient Zero

I'm proud to say I've been an Aimee Mann fan since I found her first solo album in the radio station chuck-out box way, way back in 1993. I've followed her ever since, from a distance since the restraining order was enforced (that gag never grows old), and I can honestly say that her new album, Mental Illness is one of her best. If you want to know why she called the record that, or what her inspirations were this time round (mostly acoustic guitars, lush strings and 70s oohs), Aimee explains all here.

Lyrically, there's a lot going on in this new album, mental or not... if you can decipher those damned fine metaphors. Aimee's rarely one to tell a story literally. If you're not bothered about what songs mean, just lie back and enjoy that voice, smokey and sultry as ever.

Here's the first "single", Patient Zero, which scores extra points for featuring Bradley Whitford in the video. Cat lovers might prefer Goose Snow Cone... but keep your tissues at hand.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Randy Tuesdays #5: Not Actually A Member Of The Band

5. Randy Fitzsimmons

Randy Fitzsimmons is chief songwriter and manager for Swedish band The Hives, although he doesn't appear to actually play or perform with the band. As such, finding a photo of him was rather difficult. The internet claims that's him in the middle, with the glasses on, standing in between Iggy and Ringo. And, let's face it, if you get to stand in between Iggy and Ringo, with Jimmy Page close by, you've pretty much made it.

I like The Hives a lot whenever I listen to them. I don't listen to them a lot. Somehow, I manage to have accumulated four CDs by them, which I guess means they end up in charity shops a lot, since I've never bought one through more legitimate means. No surprise then, to see Charity Chic feature the band earlier on this month... although I was rather miffed when he selected my two favourite songs: Main Offender and Hate To Say I Told You So. Still, there's plenty more to go at, even though they do all start to sound the same after a while.

One thing I really like about The Hives is that they must be the most self-referential band in rock. I can find about half a dozen song titles wherein they directly reference themselves, and I only own a fraction of their output. These include: T.H.E. H.I.V.E.S.; The Hives Meet The Norm, The Hives Introduce The Metric System In Time, The Hives Declare Guerre Nucleair (which I'm guessing is French for the main aim of Donald Trump's presidency) and this... which is an instrumental. I don't often feature instrumentals here because, you know, I'm a lyrics kid. So whenever I do feature an instrumental, it has to be pretty cool...

Oh, and finally, I thought I'd throw in a link to lounge supremo Richard Cheese's cover of HateTo Say I Told You So because it's... niiiiice.

That's half my Randies done. Have I included your favourite yet?

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