More Looney Tunes (How to Do a Cover Version edition)

Back on Halloween, I posted a song from a compilation album , called “Looney Tunes” that I got given as a kid, which sparked a bit of interest, so as requested, and as promised, I said I’d post a few more tunes from it.

A few of the acts feature twice: The Coasters, David Seville (although on one of the tunes he’s accompanied by The Chipmunks), Nervous Norvus, and the starting point for this post: The Rivingtons.

When I posted back on Halloween, regular Chain Gang contributor Alyson from “What’s It All About, Alfie” commented thus:

“I’ve been trying to work out what that song that goes Papa-Oom-Maw-Maw is called for years and it turns out it’s just that – Don’t know how it could fit into The Chain but I’m going to try as I want to hear it again! One of the tunes of my childhood listening to Junior Choice.”

(Me, my brother and two of our friends had a joint birthday party when we were kids; my Mum wrote into Junior Choice and the sadly missed Ed “Stewpot” Stewart – another victim of 2016 – read it out. But that, my first glimpse of fame, is a story for another time. Although I have pretty much just told you all of the key points.)

Now Alyson has just reached the milestone of her 100th post, so it seemed an apt moment for me to fulfil my promise to post said tune. Congratulations Alyson. And the rest of you, if you don’t already, you should pay her blog a visit.

Here you go. No, in fact, have both of their songs from that album:

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The Rivingtons – Papa Oom Mow Mow

The Rivingtons – Bird’s The Word

There’s a reason I posted both, of course. In 1963, The Trashmen amalgamated the two tunes into what is almost definitely the first example of a mash-up:

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The Trashmen – Surfin’ Bird

There are two – actually, there’s probably many more than two, but two will do for now – versions of that by more recent, much cooler bands. From 1979, this lot of utterly demented weirdos who I can’t believe I’ve only started to get into in the last five years or so – what on earth was I thinking?

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The Cramps – Surfin’ Bird

And from a couple of years earlier, 1977 to be precise, the coolest rock’n’roll band to ever grace this planet, and a again a band I was shamefully late to, a situation which my old mate Johnny Groves (hello, if you still read this!), who couldn’t believe I didn’t own anything by them, rectified by furnishing me with a cassette of “All the Stuff (And More) Volume One”:

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Ramones – Surfin’ Bird

More soon.

Friday Night Music Club (That Summer Feeling #4 – #14)

Evening all.

Remarkably, the shockwaves of me posting summery records for three consecutive days doesn’t seem to have had any detrimental effect on the weather – in fact if we’re to believe the weather forecasts it’s set to continue for the rest of the weekend.

So, I thought I’d give you a few more tunes to soundtrack your barbecues and beach parties over the next couple of days. Nothing terribly surprising in here, I don’t think, bar maybe one or two. But every one is an absolute pearler,

The first couple of songs pretty much sum up how my week working in That London has been. Here’s Sir William Broad, under his alter ego, the King of the Curled Lip:

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326. Billy Idol – Hot In The City

and this, one of the greatest summer records ever, in my not so humble opinion:

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327. The Lovin’ Spoonful – Summer In The City

I first came into ownership of both of these records at roughly the same time, when I was at 6th Form, where I took on the responsibility of providing tunes for the common room. There was a cheap and knackered old stereo in there, a turntable with a worn down belt that prohibited anything being played at the correct speed, and a radio that the aerial had long since perished on, and two tape decks, only one of which worked.

As you’ll find out soon – this is my definition of soon, mind – in the eponymous auto-biographical thread of this blog, it was at 6th Form that I forged my musical identity, if that doesn’t sound too pretentious, and I took great pleasure in preparing a new mixtape pretty much every night to grace the airs of the musty common room. My parents will doubtless recall me spending every night hunched over my Dad’s recently acquired Midi system, headphones on, studiously selecting a new set of tracks to dazzle my peers with instead of, say, doing my homework. It was these tapes, finely honed to ensure every taste was catered for, that I think laid the foundations for me starting to DJ a few years later – not the technical skills, mind, I’ve never got the hang of “proper” mixing – but the ability to tailor a set to an expectant, diverse crowd.

By the time the first summer arrived, at the end of my stint in the Lower 6th, I was, I felt, a fully fledged Indie kid, but didn’t want to be one of those people who forces their music down everyone’s throats, so I elected to temper the cool stuff with some more mainstream records. I would ask that you bear this in mind for coming posts, as this will be my defence for having purchased some pretty poor pop in the same period. It wasn’t for me, it was for those other kids who, y’know, wouldn’t know a cool record if it bit them on the arse.

As part of this campaign, I bought a Now! album – the only one I have ever purchased – Now! That’s What I Call Summer. It’s a mixed bag, as you’d expect, with Cliff Richard a little more prominent than is frankly necessary.

But there were an above average strike rate of good stuff on there too, and “Summer in the City” was chief among them, head and shoulders above many of the tracks featured.

In June 2000, fresh from picking up the Best New Act Award a year earlier at the Brits, through some pretty canny exploitation of voting via that there new-fangled internet thing, Belle & Sebastian released this absolute corker, which, if you’re unfamiliar with, may have you scratching your head as to why I’m including it in a summer mix. Well hold your horses, and give it until the lyrical refrain at the end:

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328. Belle & Sebastian – Legal Man

Now, I may find myself saying this a lot tonight and over the summer posts that will follow over the weekend, but this is one my favourite summer songs ever:

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329. The Undertones – Here Comes the Summer

The song has recently been used in a TV ad campaign by Aldi, and I can’t make up my mind whether that’s a good thing or not. Sure, it means that every now and then I get to hear it blasting from my TV for 40 seconds, but on the other hand – Aldi????? Is nothing sacred?? Whatever next – The Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs” being used to advertise Pirelli tyres? “Tame” by Pixies advertising Smirnoff vodka? Oh wait….both those things have happened…..

So, anyway, if you’re lucky, you’ll be spending some time soon on a beach somewhere, so here’s a few beachy heads which sound just as ace today as they did when they first came out, none of which require any introduction or comment from me:

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330. Ramones – Rockaway Beach

(I’m gobsmacked. Unless I forgot to tag them previously, this is the first time I’ve posted a Ramones tune. I deserve to have my blogging credentials revoked.)

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331. The Go-Go’s – Beatnik Beach

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332. Martha And The Muffins – Echo Beach

Another one that featured on that Now! album, there. See, £4.99 well spent already (which dates me, obviously. A newly released double album on vinyl for £4.99 – them’s were the days…)

I was about to say “Now,onto something more contemporary”, which would be true, since the most recent tune I’ve posted so far came out sixteen years ago, but I was saddened to find this came out ten years ago. Saddened only in the sense that it means it’s ten years since I witnessed bass player Thomas “The House of Lords” Dartnall fall off the stage in Cardiff’s Barfly. *Sighs* “I grow old…I grow old…I shall wear the bottom of my trousers rolled.” (Bit of Prufrock for you there, poetry fans).

Still, it carries on thematically from Legal Man and Echo Beach in depicting a protagonist desperate to escape the drudge of an office job to enjoy some time soaking up the rays (NB: My boss should read nothing into this):

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333. The Young Knives – Weekends And Bleak Days (Hot Summer)

“Hot summer, what a bummer”, indeed.

The next two songs were released ten years apart, but in my mind the latter is the spiritual offspring of the former.

First, here’s Damon and the Blurboys with their observations on the beery shag-culture of holidays in Greece:

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334. Blur – Girls & Boys

…and here’s Mike Skinner, living the dream:

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335. The Streets – Fit But You Know It (Radio Edit)

And so to the last tune for the night, and to one my favourite summer songs ever, by one of the coolest and most influential artists ever to walk this earth:

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336. Sly & The Family Stone – Hot Fun in the Summertime

That’ll do you for tonight.

More soon.

Friday Night Music Club

Hello!

I’ve been struggling all week to come up with anything to play this week. And then, tonight, Friday, a day later than I usually start writing these posts, on my way home from work I found myself thinking about how the way that I get to hear about new music has changed so much.

Nowadays, I’m pretty much reliant on my blogging chums to flag new stuff to me; bar Jools Holland’s “Later…” there’s next to no music television programmes on in the UK these days (Friday night BBC4 documentaries excepted); or occasionally a friend will text, tweet or email me to ask if I’ve heard of someone or other, or to see if I want to go see someone I’ve never heard of live (the answer’s generally yes, as long as a) I’m not skint; b) I can track down at least one song that I like by the suggested act, and c) whether or not I value the opinion of the person asking or not).

When I was a kid, new music did not appear on the Multi-Coloured Swap Shop. Songs that were already hits appeared on Top of the Pops. And I had no idea what the Old Grey Whistle Test was, and would probably would have avoided it even if I did.

No, when I was growing up the only way I heard anything new was via the radio.

And that gave me an idea for tonight’s post. Four words to strike fear into the heart of any of you who endured my recent run of TV show titled posts. To misquote Martin Luther King: “I have a theme..”

Radio.

So I got home, cranked the laptop up, opened iTunes and typed “Radio” into the search window.

427 songs were suggested.

Jesus, this thread is going to finish me off, I thought.

But fear not: by the time I’d eliminated all the songs I have by TV on the Radio, or by Radiohead, or were on a rather fine Radio Soulwax mix I downloaded recently, or any that were on the list because they were the Radio Edit of a single, I was down to a much more palatable amount.

So, let’s crack on, shall we?

And what better place to start than with this stone cold classic:

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273. R.E.M. – Radio Free Europe (Original Hib Tone Version)

I’ve had a life-long love affair with R.E.M. Well, not quite life-long. I wish I could say I bought this when it first came out, but no. I first heard it on the third R.E.M. album I ever bought, a Best of (regular readers will perhaps be surprised to learn it wasn’t the first record I ever bought by the band) called “Eponymous”.

Radio Free Europe first came out in 1981, the band’s first single, later resurfacing as the opening track on their debut album “Murmur” two years later. I didn’t buy anything by the band until 1987’s “Document”, four years and five albums later, but I’d still like to think I was a little ahead of the majority of the pack here in the UK, where most were unaware of them until 1988’s “Green” album, interest growing somewhat by the time 1991’s “Out of Time” came out, and hitting absolute peak with 1992’s flawless “Automatic For The People”.

In the summer of 1989, I somehow found myself at quite a posh garden party, full of young darlings, public school types, who had been quite astonished that I didn’t know I was supposed to kiss the proffered hand of a young lady I was introduced to. Yes, THAT posh. (I shook it, an act which was greeted by quite the round of disbelieving guffaws.)

Anyway, feeling ever so-slightly out of place, I proceeded to get phenomenally pissed, and wandered into a barn where a DJ was trying had to tempt the fops onto the dancefloor. He played R.E.M.’s “Orange Crush” from their Green album, which pleased me (not enough to dance, mind), that was until the DJ took to the microphone and said: “That was R.E.M. a new, up and coming band from the U.S.of A.”

I couldn’t take it, marched over and started to berate him about how they were neither new nor up and coming, how they’d been around for years, how that track was from their sixth album and how that was the sort of thing he really should know if he was going to make it in the cut-throat world of DJ’ing, quietly omitting to mention that I’d only been a fan since the album before.

Musical snobbery, eh? Never gets you anywhere. Oh, what do you philistines know, anyway?

Moving on to 1993, and another of my favourite bands:

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274. Teenage Fanclub – Radio

I don’t have much to say about this, apart from it being the lead single from their “Thirteen” album, that it’s a quite magnificent single from a quite magnificent album, which, for reasons that I don’t think I’ll ever really understand, saw the band completely fail to capitalise on their break-through album “Bandwagonesque”. If you don’t own them, kids, go get ’em. Or, if you hang around here long enough, I’ll probably end up posting every song from them both sooner or later.

Moving on to another artist whose work I’ve admired for a great many years:

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275. Elvis Costello – Radio, Radio

This is from 1978, when Mr McManus was at his snarling best, so much so that following an appearance on US show Saturday Night Live in 1977, he found himself banned from appearing again.

Here’s the story: The Sex Pistols were booked to appear on the show, but for one reason or another – reportedly, a lack of visas – they couldn’t make it and Elvis and his band The Attractions were roped in. His record company wanted them to perform their current UK single “Less Than Zero” – which was about Oswald Moseley, leader of the fascist movement in the UK – but Costello was less keen, thinking the song wasn’t exactly going to resonate with an American audience.

So Costello took the stage, started to play “Less Than Zero” before calling proceedings to a halt a few bars in, announcing “I’m sorry, ladies and gentlemen, but there’s no reason to do this song here” before launching into “Radio Radio” instead.

Going so far off message was not appreciated by the powers that be; he wasn’t invited back until 1989. He did, later, however reference it on the 25th Anniversary Show, when, as Beastie Boys were just getting going on “Sabotage”, this happened:

Wow.

Where do you go to top that? Well, you can’t, but I know someone who’ll give it a bloody good go:

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276. The Wonder Stuff – Radio Ass Kiss

Ironically, this track, written by popular rhyming slang Miles Hunt, was only ever released as a single in the US, and not here in the UK, where it remained just another track from their second, not-quite-as-good-as-their-first album “Hup!”. Quite how they got away with lines like “Bugger the plugger” is beyond me. But maybe I shouldn’t be surprised: many years ago I saw Phil Collins being interviewed after he had appeared in US hit TV show “Miami Vice”. Collins related how when he attended the script run through, he’d found that his character repeatedly used the phrase “wanker”, and Collins asked the producers if they knew what it meant.

“Sure,” came the response, “it’s English slang for ‘idiot’, right?”

Fortuitously, there was nobody better qualified than Collins to enlighten them as to the true meaning.

One of the other acts who were approached to appear on Saturday Night Live on that night Costello so infuriated the TV bosses, were this next lot. They declined the invitation, giving this as their explanation: “We don’t substitute for anybody.” Bonus cool points.

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277. Ramones – Do You Remember Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio?

Well, yes, Joey, Johnny, Tommy, Dee Dee, I do, which is why I’m writing this post.

You don’t need me to tell you about the Ramones, now do you? Thought not.

One person whose music is perhaps as far away from the Ramones and Rock’n’Roll Radio as can be is the next chap:

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278. John Denver – Late Nite Radio

Denver is probably best known over here for a) Annie’s Song, b) looking like the Milky Bar Kid, c) his love of the Rocky Mountains, and d) his love of flying. Sadly, he failed to survive the occasion when he inadvertently combined those last two by crashing his plane into one of them.

Time for a musical interlude. Not that I’m saying what you’ve had so far wasn’t musical, just…this sounds like a musical interlude. And that’s a good thing. Particularly when it’s provided by a band who most people only know for one song, and that a remixed version of it, and even more so when to the best of my knowledge, this sounds like nothing else they’ve ever done:

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279. Cornershop – Kalluri’s Radio (Version)

And we’re back in the room.

Next up, a song which first came to my attention via a compilation album called “The Trip: Created by Saint Etienne”. It’s crammed full of Northern Soul, down-tempo numbers, lost and obscure nuggets from the 60s and 70s; if you’ve never heard it then I urge you to track down a copy.

I say it’s created by Saint Etienne, it’s more likely to just be Etienne stalwart and fountain of all pop knowledge Bob Stanley that compiled it. Bob once was kind enough to retweet a link to these pages once, so I reckon I owe him a name-check.

In the real world, knowing that a member of Saint Etienne had read one of my posts would earn me extra bonus points; alas it was predominantly about Bucks Fizz with a healthy portion of Shakin’ Stevens, so I reckon I’m probably in cool point deficit now. Ho hum.

But I digress. This is Douglas Dillard, banjo player (banjoist? banjoer?) and founder member of bluegrass outfit The Dillards, and Harold Eugene “Gene” Clark, singer, songwriter, guitarist  and founder member of The Byrds.

Together, they came together under the inspired name of:

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280. Doug Dillard & Gene Clark – The Radio Song

Two to go now, and it’s time for some 2 Tone ska. I don’t feature nearly enough of this kind of stuff on these pages, which some of you poor misguided fools may consider a blessing, so here’s an absolute belter to rectify that:

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281. The Selecter – On My Radio

And so to the last one for tonight, and any post about songs with the word Radio in the title, inspired by my musings on how I rarely listen to the radio these days (6music at the weekends aside, and particularly former Fun Lovin’ Criminal Huey Morgan’s show of a Saturday morning, which is simply unmissable), would not be complete without this polished gem (it features and was produced by Trevor Horn, so it was never going to be anything but polished, now was it?):

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282. The Buggles – Video Killed The Radio Star

What’s extraordinary about that record is that although it’s written from a future perspective, it was actually first released in 1977 (by Bruce Woolley and The Camera Club), before music videos were anywhere near the peak they would become. MTV wouldn’t even be launched for another four years, yet all that the song prophesizes – how polish, image, self-promotion, glamour and glitz would become the prevalent (X) factor, as opposed to, y’know, how good you are and what you sound like – has pretty much come true.

Which is a fairly bleak way to wrap things up, but there you go.

More soon.

How Not to Do a Cover Version

Some songs are crying out for a cover. Others are just so perfect in the first place, you should steer clear.

Today, one simple lesson if you decide to tackle the latter.

Don’t.

Especially if you’re in The Beautiful South:

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The Beautiful South – Blitzkrieg Bop

Erase that from your memories immediately. Here’s the original:

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Ramones – Blitzkrieg Bop

More soon.