Inspired by the choice of song for the first dance at my niece’s wedding at the weekend, and since it seems increasingly unlikely I’ll ever be in a position to be choosing one of my own, I thought I’d write a short series featuring a few of the ones I recall from weddings I have been to (fairly) recently.
Shortly after I moved to London, two different couples I’m friends with announced their impending nuptials, and invited me to attend their big days which, to be clear, were held several years apart. But in a very odd moment of serendipity, both couples chose the same song as their first dance.
It’s by a band who inspire utter devotion from their fans, but a band that I’ve never really “got”, a band – neither dislike nor particularly love.
Were friends to describe the sort of bands I usually like, then you could be forgiven for picturing The National as being one of those bands. Yet, there’s a weird disconnect which I’ve never been able to bridge. I don’t change radio channels when their songs get played (in fact, I’m more likely to turn the radio up), but I don’t rush to buy their new stuff – in fact, I own very little by them – and, were I to compile one, they wouldn’t be anywhere near bothering a list of my 100 favourite acts.
That said, I can see precisely why newly-weds might choose their songs for their momentous moment. There’s something awkwardly but gloriously romantic about their sound, I think.
Maybe, as with so many other acts, I just need to investigate them further.
Before we get going a disclaimer: if I seem a little distracted tonight, it’s because I’m trying to accomplish that task that so many (men) find difficult – multi-tasking. For tonight, whilst writing this, I am also watching Spurs in the Champions League. So, if my demeanour takes a turn for the worst towards the end, you’ll know why. (As you can see, I’m full of optimism….).
So, to business: last week I left you with “The House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals and asked for your suggestions for songs to link to it, and, as usual, you’ve not let me down with the standard of suggestion or level of link.
As is often the case, the majority of the suggestions fell into the same categories, and this time there were four
Links to the names of members of the bands
Links to the word “Animal(s)”
Links to the word “House”
Links to…erm…the oldest profession in the world.
There are a few others which we’ll sprinkle liberally throughout the post too.
Band Members Names
Now, you’ll remember that the reason we’re looking at “The House of the Rising Sun” was because one of the members of the band was Chas Chandler, who went on to manage Jimi Hendrix, the subject of last week’s post, so it only seems right that we start with a Chas related record.
Also, there wasn’t that much in the way of cheese last week; this redresses that immediately.
Over to you, Charity Chic (who is going to be annoyed that I have already started one sentence with the word “So”):
“Let’s get the cheesy one out the way at the start – Chas ‘n’ Dave with Snooker Loopy”:
“John Steel of The Animals met Alan Price in Byker. Byker Grove was a TV programme that gave us Ant and Dec…but we’ve already had Ant and Dec….I’ll start again…”
And have a word with yourself while you’re at it, George. It was PJ and Duncan we previously featured, and as we all know, they were completely different to Ant and Dec. One of them had been tragically blinded in a bizarre paintballing accident, for a start. (“Bizarre Paintballing Accident” sounds like a suggestion from a random “New Order/Half Man Half Biscuit/Elvis Costello” title generator, doesn’t it? Actually, thinking about it, that joke works just as well with the words “New Order” and “Elvis Costello” removed from it.)
Time for my first suggestion of the week. Alan Price appeared in, and composed the music for, “O Lucky Man!”, a 1973 film directed by Lindsay Anderson. Five years earlier, Anderson released arguably his most iconic film, “if….” which is also the name of a famous poem by Rudyard Kipling, but is also the name of a single culminates in a glorious sing-a-long, probably my favourite song by The Bluetones, who make their hat-trick appearance here on The Chain.
Last one for our linking band members names, and here’s The Beard:
“Alan Price had success after leaving The Animals with Simon Smith and The Amazing Dancing Bear which was also covered by The Muppets on their debut album.”
It was, and I very nearly posted their version (it’s by Scooter, which would have led to a lot of very disappointed fans of the German dance band accidentally stumbling across this place), but the Muppets will be making an appearance later, so we’ll pass on that.
Besides, I don’t think that’s the record our Bearded Buddy was looking to nominate, as he continues:
“Animal was, of course, the drum bashing Muppet. A similar sounding drummer is Philthy Animal Taylor from Motörhead. Their single No Class is in fact pure class.“
Which leads us rather nicely onto the next category, but before we go there: we’ve all seen over the years boy bands exploit their innocent fan base by releasing a single which featured a different member of the band on the cover? Well, who knew that such acts weren’t just restricted to the teen market….?:
Time to sprinkle a little uncategorisable magic dust. And some more shameless nicking of ideas.
I’ll let The Great Gog, who suggested it, take over:
“The Animals also recorded We Gotta Get Out Of This Place, which was covered by (lovable?) 90s Scousers, Space. A couple of decades earlier, a French band of the same name came to our attention with the then futuristic-sounding Magic Fly.”
Take a look at that sleeve. Remind you of anyone? Seems a little bit daft, a little bit punk to me. And there was me thinking Daft Punk were ground-breaking, and it turns out they’re just rehashing ideas from their fellow countrymen from the 1970s. Luckily, very few of the UK’s current pop stars follow suit, or most of them would be in prison. Maybe that should be unluckily…
By the way, that suggestion continues a trend which I’ve encountered a couple of times since I started hosting The Chain, and which Alyson identified following my Halloween night post, a condition known as “Oh so that’s what that record’s called”. (see also “House of the King” by Focus and another one that I’ve forgotten already.)
Speaking of Focus, that hasn’t been an issue for me so far, it’s 0-0 at half time, in case you’re interested.
Last one before we start looking at the sings in the Animal(s) category, and here’s The Robster from Is This The Life?:
“Japan is known as the Land of the Rising Sun. Melt-Banana is a Japanese band who have quite a few songs that mention animals. They once released a compilation called 13 Hedgehogs which included tracks called Iguana In Trouble, Turtle vs. Bunny (Who One?) and Pig To Dog. But I’m going for the fabulously-titled Bird-Like Monkey in Cave, Singing in Drops, basically because it’s the only one of the above that breaches the 2-minute mark. (There’s also Bird-Like Monky Part 2 on the same album if you prefer – it’s just seven seconds long and for that reason might be a little more bearable for those with tender ears…)”
Regular readers will know I love Japanese bands like Shonen Knife and Puffy AmiYumi, who have a knack of stumbling across the odd cracking tune every now and then. So when The Robster suggested this lot, who I’d never heard of before, I was positively moist with anticipation:
Let’s move on to some Animal based fun. Not that kind of fun. Purely aural fun. Not that kind of aural fun either, you mucky lot.
You’ll remember that last week I had to disqualify one suggestion because, well, as far as I could establish, it was wrong. I was disappointed, as the link led to one of my favourite cover versions. I’m delighted to report that Swiss Adam from Bagging Area has taken up the challenge:
“The Animals are named after our four legged friends. On the cover of The Rockingbirds’ ‘Gradually Learning’ 12″ single the guitarist (who also plays with Edwyn Collins) is riding a horse (which is of course an animal). The Rockingbirds covered Right Said Fred’s Deeply Dippy….”
“Eric Burdon always looked grumpy whenever I saw him perform or in photographs. Decided it was maybe because he was also moonlighting as an ironmonger (the jackets in the HOTSR cover are just like those worn in our local shop when I was a youngster). Whenever your dad asked them for anything in the shop it was never on a shelf and they always had to go upstairs to the storeroom for it. Led me to thinking of Upstairs at Eric’s by Yazoo and I think my favourite from that album was Don’t Go.”
For our American readers, that’s Yazz to you, which must have been very confusing when the other Yazz and her Plastic Population appeared a few years later.
Hold up, The Robster’s back, and he’s only going to suggest something else by Melt-Banana….:
“I’ve reassessed my choice of Melt-Banana track and thought maybe we should have something that vaguely resembles a song. Which led me to another compilation the band released called Return Of 13 Hedgehogs. It contained their cover of Toots & The Maytals’ ‘Monkey Man’. Certainly a mite more tuneful than ‘Bird-Like Monkey…’”
Remember earlier when I said I liked Shonen Knife and Puffy AmiYumi, who have a knack of stumbling across the odd cracking tune every now and then? Well it turns out that Melt-Banana do too, it’s just they’ve stumbled over one that isn’t one of their own:
It’s funny how the menfolk who make suggestions here tend to feign ignorance when it comes to “being told” what kind of house is being described in The House of the Rising Sun. Take Dirk for example:
“Alright, apparently [see? – Ed] said house in the song really seems to be a brothel, a bagnio, a bordello, or, if you’d rather, a whorehouse. And this reminds me of Wreckless Eric’s ‘Semaphore Signals’. “Why’s this?”, you might be asking yourself – and quite rightly so! The truth of the matter is that for years and years I misheard the lyrics of ‘Semaphore Signals’ a little bit (blame it on my poor English, but hey – could you Englanders sing along to all of Tocotronic’s fantastic debut album? Nah, I bet your German is not good enough, right? I can though!). Either way, it was an embarrassing moment when I finally found out, albeit 15 years or so too late, that Eric says in the chorus “Messages of love down to her house” and not “Messages of love from the whorehouse”.
Still, he should have done. Perhaps. ‘Cos, whenever the tune comes up in the car when I’m on me way to work in the morning these days, I have a picture in my brain of half naked hookers waving little flags … and it always brings a stupid grin to my face!
P.S.: the Peel-Session version is marginally better than the album version.”
Mental note to self: stay off of the autobahn in the morning.
Here’s the Peel Session version, complete with a sleeve where Wreckless Eric’s name has inexplicably been mis-spelt (it’s entirely possible it’s a different Wreckless Erik, but there’s can’t be two, can there?):
“The fact that in this house the oldest profession was practiced it leads me to two songs about prostitution.” There. He’s said it. “First was Blondie’s X-Offender where she first played with her sexual attitude in front of the band.”
“The other one is ‘Killer Queen’ by Queen. Mercury made no bones about the song’s meaning, explaining, ‘It’s about a high class call girl. I’m trying to say that classy people can be whores as well. That’s what the song is about, though I’d prefer people to put their interpretation on it’.”
We don’t really need to bother, now you’ve told us, do we Freddie?
Elvis Costello – Love For Sale (or the Nina Simone version, if you prefer). Cole Porter rules.”
Now. I have looked everywhere for a copy of Nina Simone performing “Love for Sale”. I can’t find it, or any reference it. But rather than disqualifying a suggestion for the second week running, and in the unlikely event that you may have just got them mixed up somehow, you can have Billie Holliday’s version instead:
Which just about wraps it up for the prostitution related songs, except, well just in case you don’t get the Sting reference, I found this when I was trying to track down the Nina Simone version of Love for Sale:
Now, I have no idea who Idina Menzel is, or rather I didn’t until I decided to add her to this post. She’s an actress, best know for appearing in “Glee” and more recently for being Queen Elsa in “Frozen” which apparently means it is her that sings that “Let it Go” song which seems to get referenced everywhere these days, but which I’ve never heard, nor do I ever want to, thanks very much.
Anyway, the reason I’ve included her version is for the audience reaction, which at the start of “Love for Sale”, a Cole Porter composition, is absolutely nothing, before a smattering of applause and whooping (it’s recorded in America) welcomes the second line of “Roxanne”, like the crowd have been stirred from their slumber by something they kinda recognise.
Oh, wait. I have one more song from this theme. As regular readers know, I love this band, particularly their early stuff, and this is a song which is right up there amongst my favourite ever tunes by them. Wikipedia says the song “concerns a young man’s encounter with a prostitute”, which explains why they called it “Mystery Song”. Although “Song Concerning a Young Man’s Encounter with a Prostitute” would have been a great title too, should Colorblind James Experience ever decide to cover it.
Anyway, put simply, this rocks, it rocks more than anything else on this page. So there.
Incidentally, there’s a vaguely amusing story behind that song. That came out in 1976, when the band were at the height of their fame, and also well on the road to the drug addiction which made lead singer Francis Rossi’s septum fall out. When they were in the studio working on their “Blue For You” album, Rossi laced Rick Parfitt’s cup of tea with “an inordinate amount” of speed, not expecting him to drink it. You can work out how the rest of the story goes: he drank the lot, oblivious to the contents, began playing this riff and continued to do so until the rest of them left the studio, leaving him in there all night. On their return the following day, he was still sitting in the same place, playing the same riff, some twelve hours later. “I just couldn’t go wrong,” Parfitt recalls, “everywhere my fingers went on the fretboard it sounded fantastic.” Drugs, see kids. Don’t do them. Especially speed. Anyone who has read my article about what happened at Glastonbury the year I found a bag of the stuff will know I know exactly what I’m talking about.
Okay we’re on the home straight now, just some more sprinkles of magic dust to go, and to start off this final section, can we all give a very warm Chain Gang welcome to Rigid Digit from Stuff & Nonsense (and anyone with a picture of Rigsby as their avatar is alright by me):
“Approaching his 50th Birthday, John Otway asked his fans for a second hit single to follow 1977s “Really Free”. The chosen track – Bunsen Burner – nicked the music from Disco Inferno, and Otway fashioned a lyric after helping with his daughters chemistry homework. The link to House Of The Rising Sun? HOTRS was the B-Side (or second track on CD single) – the track featured 900 fans (all credited on the record sleeve) in a glorious ‘call and response'”
“Can I have another go, please? Ta. Be warned, this one is more than a little convoluted…”
Excellent. The Beard’s links are becoming my favourite links here each week, if not for the songs, then the reason he gives. As close to Comment Showboating as anyone has managed this week (apart from my quite brilliant even if I do say so myself link to The Bluetones). Time for the rest of you to up your game, I think.
“The Rising Sun is a pub on Beverley Road in Hull. Grafton Street is a thoroughfare, one end of which comes out on Beverley Road. Down Grafton Street is The Grafton, the pub where the video for Happy Hour by The Housemartins was filmed. Phill Jupitus appears in the video. He was also a captain on Never Mind the Buzzcocks. Howard Devoto left Buzzcocks to form Magazine. A Song From Under The Floorboards by Magazine is fanruddytastic.”
And that would be that, had The Beard’s suggestion not prompted a couple of further ideas from Rol, which I’ll allow, as they’re the next step on a couple of references The Beard makes. Plus, Rol is as brief as brief can be (although, just to be contrary, I’m posting them in the different order to suggested, just because his first suggestion sounds more like an end of the show track than his second to me):