Name That Tune

Following on from last night’s Country wig-out, comes this little beauty from First Aid Kit.

For a lot of people in the UK – myself included – my first encounter with First Aid Kit came as I sat jealously watching the live-ish coverage of the Sunday afternoon shenanigans from Glastonbury in 2013.

If memory serves, the BBC had just finished showing Kenny Rogers’ Legends slot on the Pyramid Stage, and then, with no word of an introduction, the camera faded to the view over the Park Stage area, before pulling back to reveal sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg. A bit like this. Well, a lot like this actually. In fact, exactly like this:

Like so many others, judging by the comments under clip, I was stopped dead in my tracks. I’d never heard anything so beautiful; shortly afterwards my phone started buzzing as I got text after text from similarly smitten friends asking if I’d seen them.

So here then is the bar set high, not just in terms of gorgeous Swedish folk music, but in terms of the amount of famous people (four! count ’em!) to get a name-check in the song (for that’s why we’re here, remember?)

For those who don’t know who those named are, the titular Emmylou is Emmylou Harris, one of the most influential female country artists of all time. I had always thought that she and the Gram from the song – Gram Parsons, that is, formerly of The Byrds and alt-country forefathers The Flying Burrito Brothers – had been lovers, but on researching this post I find that may not actually be the case. Instead, it seems that their relationships may be one of the great unrequited love stories in music history.

The two recorded together, most famously their version of Everly Brothers classic “Love Hurts”:

Their chemistry was undeniable , but Parsons was married and Emmylou was a respectable Southern girl. Then Parsons filed for divorce, but not, it seems, as I had thought, to be with Emmylou. Instead, he had his eye on Margaret Fisher, a high-school sweetheart of his with whom he had rekindled a relationship. Emmylou, however, seemed to be blissfully unaware of this.

Parsons was due to head out on tour with Emmylou and the band in September 1973, but before he did so he headed out to the Joshua Tree National Park (or Monument as it was then known) with Fisher, personal assistant Michael Martin, and Dale McElroy, Martin’s girlfriend.

Two days later, he was found dead in his bedroom, killed by an unintentional overdose of morphine and alcohol. He was just 26. I say it was unintentional as the autopsy revelealed that Parsons had consumed enough morphine to kill three regular users, and so with a new leaf starting in his life it seems unlikely that his death was intentional. More likely is that he had overestimated his tolerance considering his experience with opiates. In the 2004 documentary “Fallen Angel” Keith Richards, perhaps a little unsympathetically, said that Parsons understood the danger of combining opiates and alcohol, and should have known better. But then I guess it’s easy to be dismissive when you’ve done as many drugs as Keef has.

Anyway, I say that Emmylou was unaware of his taking up with Fisher because in an interview after his death she said: “A couple of weeks before, I’d finally accepted the fact that I was in love with him. But, you know, why even tell him? I was going to see him in a few weeks. I had all the time in the world . . . I was savouring the moment. I didn’t want to say it to him over the phone. I wanted to say it to him in person. But I never got the chance.”

If only, eh?

To cheerier matters. Or maybe not. The other two name-checkees in the song are John and June, who of course are Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, and I imagine you don’t need me to fill in quite so many blanks with them.

They first met in 1955 backstage at the Grand Ole Oprey and were married in 1968. The couple continued to work and tour together for 35 years – in fact June co-wrote Cash’s biggest hit “Ring of Fire” with Merle Kilgore (“Ring of Fire” is one of those songs which is so synonymous with one particular artiste that many assume Cash himself had some hand in writing it, but no).

In March 2003, Cash released the now legendary cover version of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” and the video that accompanied it is also the stuff of legend,  featuring images from Cash’s life interspersed with footage of – well, let’s just say he doesn’t look well – Cash performing the track as best he can.

Similarities can, of course, be drawn with the recent passing of Bowie, and his video for “Lazarus” (although as someone far wiser than I commented on Twitter “We were so pleased to have him back, we didn’t realise he was saying goodbye”). But with Johnny, well this was undeniably his farewell, and we knew it.

For what it’s worth, the promo was named the best video of the year by the Grammy Awards and Country Music Association Awards, and in July 2011 the NME voted it the best video of all time by NME in July 2011.

I can’t not show it now, can I?

The bit that gets me every time I watch that is not the frail state that Cash is in, distressing and uncomfortable as it is, nor the reliving of past glories – it’s the moment at around 02:35 when you suddenly see June standing on the staircase, adoringly watching over him.

And the reason it gets me every time is this: June died in May 2003. Cash, as if he could see no reason to carry on without her, died four months later.

Jesus, was that thirteen years ago??

Well, this has all got rather gloomy, hasn’t it? I think it must be the hangover from the far too many rock star deaths in Black January, a trend which sadly seems to be continuing into February too.

So let’s bring this back to the original song I came here to write about:

First_Aid_Kit_Emmylou

First Aid Kit – Emmylou

More soon. And something more cheery, I promise.

Friday Night Music Club

Evening all. Hope you’ve all had a decent week since I last graced these pages with anything new for you to chow down on. It’s Friday Night and that can only mean one thing: it’s time for the latest additions to the Music Club canon.

And this week, we’re going a bit country. Well actually, quite a lot country.

No wait, come back!

It’s not all ten gallon hats and Republican rednecks, I promise! That’s Country and Western, and we are most definitely not going Western tonight.

So saddle up (doh!), stick around, and you never know, you might learn – or even like – something.

First up, and to carry on where I left it last week, a song by The Fall. Well, almost. A song which The Fall released as an extra track on the UK CD version of their 1991 album “Shift-Work”.

The song was written by J.P. Richardson, who is perhaps better known as The Big Bopper, and perhaps even better known for having died in the same plane crash as claimed the lives of Buddy Holly and Richie Valens – the infamous “day the music died” Don McLean wrote about in “American Pie”.

Alas, Richardson didn’t have chance to record it before his untimely death, leaving the late great George Jones to record this rollickingly definitive version:

CS513136-01A-BIG

97. George Jones – White Lightning

George of course is renowned for two things: being married to Queen of Country Tammy Wynette, and having a drink problem that makes it a minor miracle he lasted until he reached the grand old age of 81. The latter makes his choice to cover this record – a tale of family-produced moonshine – rather unsurprising.

Two examples to illustrate how much George liked a tipple: when he turned up at the studio to record White Lightning, he was so bladdered he needed around 80 attempts to get it right. The bass player, Buddy Killen was rumoured to have so many blisters on his fingers from playing it so many times, he not only threatened to quit the recording session, but also threatened George with a bit of ABH. When the session producer ultimately chose the first cut they had done that day to release, I’m sure he saw the funny side though.

The second example is one that has gone down in country music folklore. Here, then, from his aptly-titled autobiography “I Lived To Tell It All”, in his own words:

“Once, when I had been drunk for several days, Shirley [his second wife] decided she would make it physically impossible for me to buy liquor. I lived about eight miles from Beaumont and the nearest liquor store. She knew I wouldn’t walk that far to get booze, so she hid the keys to every car we owned and left.

But she forgot about the lawn mower. I can vaguely remember my anger at not being able to find keys to anything that moved and looking longingly out a window at a light that shone over our property. There, gleaming in the glow, was that ten-horsepower rotary engine under a seat; a key glistening in the ignition.

I imagine the top speed for that old mower was five miles per hour. It might have taken an hour and a half or more for me to get to the liquor store, but get there I did.”

You will notice that booze plays quite a part in a few of tonight’s choice. Before we go any further though, I owe you one Fall song, so here’s their version (and unofficial video):

Moving on, another country legend who I’ve waxed lyrical about on these pages before, and another artist who, I think it’s fair to say has battled a few of his own demons in his time:

kris_kristofferson_jesus

98. Kris Kristofferson – Out of Mind, Out of Sight

“Let’s keep drinking ’til we’re blind”, indeed.

As I’ve mentioned before, I was brought up listening to Kristofferson, and whilst he has continued recording, railing against the authorities and touring right up to the present day (I was gutted to be too slow to manage to grab a ticket for his recent gig at the Union Chapel in Islington, but did manage to catch about half of one of his gigs in Bristol a few years back – I’ll explain why some other time), for me his real purple patch was from 1970 – 1972. If you’re curious to dig a little deeper (though they will be featured at some point in these pages if you want to stick around), or if you like the kind of alt-country that folks like Wilco or Ryan Adams produce, then I can heartily recommend 1970’s “Kristofferson” (which was re-released in 1971 under the title “Me and Bobby McGee” after Janis Joplin had released her simply stunning version of said song), 1971’s “The Silver Tongued Devil and I” and 1972’s “Jesus Was A Capricorn”, each displaying his flawless ear for a tune.

Now, just to prove that country music ain’t just about boys and their booze, here’s Michelle Shocked from her sophomore album “Short Sharp Shocked”, with a tale about Saturday night drinking and the rush to get to the local liquor store before it closed (presumably not on a lawn-mower):

Michelle Shocked - Short Sharp Shocked FRONT

99. Michelle Shocked – (Making the Run to) Gladewater

As I mentioned last time Michelle’s name came up on the pages, she seems to have developed some rather questionable views on gay and lesbian issues which I’m not going to give time to here, partly because I don’t think I agree with her views which seem rather unclear at best, but partly because if I do I’d have to mention Piers Morgan, and we all know the only thing worse than having questionable views on gay and lesbian issues is being Piers Morgan, so I’ll leave it there. If you’d like to read more though, you can do here.

So, having established booze is playing a large part in tonight’s Yee-Hawing, we may as well expand that to include the other thing on your bona fide country star’s list of forbidden fruits. So here, for the none-more-country-named Broken Family Band:

51H6AyCgcdL

100. The Broken Family Band – The Booze And The Drugs

It seems apt that a song about booze and drugs, two things which will feature fairly large in my A History of Dubious Taste thread, should be the 100th record here.

Surprisingly, The Broken Family Band are not, as you might assume from their name and their sound, from some sleepy southern state backwater; rather they actually hail from that most un-country-music-esque of towns: Cambridge, England. It’s not just their country credentials which are exemplary: they recorded two sessions for Peel, did a cover version of Neutral Milk Hotel’s “The King Of Carrot Flowers Part 2” on their mini-album “Jesus Songs”, and in 2007 their Welcome Home Loser” album was included in The Guardian newspaper’s ‘1000 Albums To Hear Before You Die’.

Next on to a band who from their album titles (such as Kiss My Grass: A Hillbilly Tribute to Kiss”) you can tell a) love a pun (their very name is a pun on Aussie rockers AC/DC), b) love a cover version, and c) haven’t really grasped the idea of making decent album covers. Yup, from their “Weapons of Grass Destruction” (see??) album, it’s Hayseed Dixie, and no prizes for guessing which of their oh-so-many- covers I’ve plumped for (I’ve not mentioned the folks who recorded the original for absolutely aaaaaaaaages):

MI0000650987

101. Hayseed Dixie – Down Down

Relax ladies, they’re married.

No further comment needed, I think we’ll leave that there, shall we?

To more contemporary tuneage, and two songs which are in no way country, other than having the word “Country” in their titles (and the first one featuring a banjo). First, the lead single from their eighth studio album, which I’m slightly surprised to learn, is their highest ever UK chart-placed single. No further introduction required, the magnificent:

803fb18bb187be3ce8aee3d56205fbb8_395

102. Primal Scream – Country Girl

A change in pace now. In 1997, fresh(ish) from winning the race to Number One in the UK Singles chart, a Pyhrric victory if ever there was one, given the battering they subsequently took in the album sales, Blur regrouped and came back with an album which was such a departure from their previous “sound” they were almost unrecognisable.

Oasis may have won the day in terms of popularity and record sales, but for my money, with the follow-up to 1995’s “The Great Escape”, Blur demonstrated a musicality and diversity which their rivals could only dream of.

It can’t be underestimated quite what a surprise it was back in January 1997 when Blur released first the lead single (and UK Number One) “Beetlebum”, swiftly followed in April by second single (and UK Number Two, appropriately) “Song 2”, and there, sandwiched in between, was the wonderful, if not wonderfully titled, “Blur” album, from which this next track is lifted:

blur_cd_cover_big

103. Blur – Country Sad Ballad Man

Bit different to “Country House”, that, innit?

And finally, what better way to round things off for tonight than a truly iconic record from a truly iconic album capturing a truly iconic live performance by a truly iconic country star, perhaps the greatest country star:

700023_640px

104. Johnny Cash – Folsom Prison Blues

You don’t need me to explain this one do you? Thought not.

More soon.

And please remember to drink responsibly.

 

 

Sunday Morning Coming Down

After a lot of umming and ahhing about what to post this morning, I’ve settled for this slice of loveliness:

R-2439075-1359126190-9649_jpeg

Dennis Wilson & Rumbo – Lady

Whilst this may have been written by Dennis with the intention of it being recorded by The Beach Boys, it was passed over for both the “Surf’s Up” and “Sunflower” albums. So Dennis hooked up with the fantastically-named Daryl Dragon (who went on to become better known as The Captain from 1970s MOR duo Captain and Tennille) to record and sneak it out in the UK as a B-Side to “Sound of Free” in 1970.

Enjoy.

More Soon.

The One and Only

As a companion piece to my “Same Title, Different Song” thread, I thought it might be fun to look at some songs which, as far as I’m aware, have no such duplication and what’s more, are really unlikely to. So if you’re reading this expecting to see a homage to Chesney Hawkes, well I’m sorry to disappoint. Actually, I’m not sorry at all.

Sheela na gigs are architectural grotesques found on churches and castles in Ireland and Great Britain. Specifically, they are figurative carvings of naked women displaying an exaggerated vulva, said to ward off death and evil.

Makes you proud to be British, doesn’t it?

Sheela-Na-Gig is also an early single by the one and only Polly Jean Harvey. You will know her better as PJ Harvey and she is the Kate Bush of our generation: constantly innovative, always fascinating, permanently brilliant.

Sheela-Na-Gig Front

PJ Harvey – Sheela-Na-Gig

PJ is the only person to win two Mercury Music Prizes (for 2001’s “Stories From The City, Stories From the Sea” and 2011’s “Let England Shake” – truly she is the Tottenham Hotspur of music, only winning things when the year ends in a 1. Roll on 2021.), an annual music prize awarded for the best album from the United Kingdom and Ireland. She is also – and I had no idea about this until I was researching this piece – an MBE. Having chuffed on for ages a couple of posts ago about how reliable Wikipedia is these days, I did wonder if I was being pranked with that info – surely I’d know that?? – but no. Here’s the evidence:

_71655253_pjharvey

PJ and Lizzy. What a collaboration that would be!

New PJ tuneage is afoot, and if you have Spotify you can listen to new track “The Wheel” here. I would strongly recommend that you do. It is, excuse my language, fucking immense.

In a year which has started off pretty shittily, the return of PJ is a much needed boost.

More soon.

Same Title, Different Song

I mentioned over the Christmas period that I’m a big fan of eels. The band that is, not the slippery fishy things.

That was slightly disingenuous of me, as they are very much a band that I’m still discovering. Like most people here in the UK I first discovered them via their hits:

and the gloriously weird and unsettling

but it’s only recently that I’ve started dipping a little further into their canon of work and I have to say, they appear to be that very rare beast: a band who don’t seem to have made a bad record.

Here, from their “Daisies of the Galaxies” album, is a tune which, if I didn’t own a song with the same name, would probably have featured in either the Late Night Stargazing or the Sunday Morning thread here at some point or other.

Eels_-_Daisies_Of_The_Galaxy

eels – I Like Birds

eels, in essence, is Mark Oliver Everett, or “E”, the son of Hugh Everett III, who devised the many worlds interpretation of quantum theory, and of the use of Lagrange multipliers for general engineering optimizers. But you don’t need me to tell you about all that, right? (Phew!)

Terry Scott, on the other hand, was an English comic actor, best known for starring in the long-running and terminally unfunny “Terry and June”, along with several of the films in the “Carry On” series, the latter of which gives you some idea of the standard of this very very different song with the same title. Let’s just say it is “of it’s time” and move on, shall we?:

terry-scott-i-like-birds-pye

Terry Scott- I Like Birds

Phwooarrr!!

You’re welcome!

More soon.

How To Do a Cover Version

Today’s selection is, in cricket terms, a three-for.

Ask any Brit to name things which are truly American, they will recite a list to include one or more of the following:

a) obesity (like, we can talk…)

b) a tendency to elect idiots to positions of power (like, we can talk…)

c) an unhealthy attachment to firearms (phew!)

d) an inability to understand irony

e) joining World Wars really quite late indeed

(American readers – I mean no offence by this. I’m sure you have a similarly inaccurate check-list for us Limeys, he says as he cocks his bowler hat to one side and tucks his newspaper under one arm, umbrella under the other)

Eventually, though, they will say Route 66.

Route 66 originally ran from Chicago, Illinois through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma (where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain), Texas, New Mexico and Arizona before ending at Santa Monica, California, covering a total of 2,448 miles.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that it is a road of folklore, and which many male Brits embark on a pilgrimage to drive along at some point in their lives.

It has, of course, spawned a rather famous song about it:

0001675815_500

Nat King Cole Trio – Route 66

Over here in the UK, there is a slightly more famous version:

gr262

The Rolling Stones – (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66

But for those of us in the know, there is a much better version. An anglicised one. One which extols the virtues of one of our greatest roads. I speak of none other than the hallowed turf that is the A13:

2391927

Billy Bragg – A13, Trunk Road To The Sea

I know which wins in my book.

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

I don’t see why Saturday into Sunday should have the monopoly on these, so here’s one a night earlier than usual.

Frankly, I could have picked any song from this album for inclusion here, but I figured I’d be obvious and take the title track:

2011-02-22_spiritualized-ladies-and-gentlemen

Spiritualized – Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space

I strongly recommend that you play this either before or after the Public Service Broadcasting tune I posted back here.

More soon.