Listen to this track by Kiwi art-rockers turned new wave hit-makers Split Enz. It’s their 1980 hit single “I Got You” as taken from their landmark album True Colours.
By the time this song made waves internationally, the band had created a solid following in their native New Zealand from the early ’70s. By 1977, they’d taken on a new member in Neil Finn who was fresh out of high school, joining his older brother and founding member Tim.
Neil Finn’s skills as a musician were impressive, but still in their developing stages, slightly divergent from the complex art rock style of the band he’d joined. So, with this less elaborate approach and a more back-to-basics pop tendency in the younger Finn, he would go on to pen one of their most memorable, and enduring singles – this one, later to be widely covered over the years by acts as diverse as Pearl Jam, Marilyn Manson, and Semisonic.
Being from a musical family, and idolizing his older brother, it was maybe no surprise that Neil would build his own profile as a performer and songwriter, as opposed to becoming just a replacement member of a high-profile band. Split Enz would be a vital training ground for Neil, and he’d pay them back by writing this song, eventually becoming one of their most recognized tunes. It would achieve accolades on the charts and in other quarters besides.
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Listen to this track by masked and anonymous Parisian disco-electro twosome, Daft Punk. It’s their made-for-summertime single “Get Lucky” as taken from their long-awaited 2013 record Random Access Memories. The song features vocals by Pharell Williams, a vocalist, songwriter, and one-half of The Neptunes production team.
Also joining them on this track is the one and only Nile Rodgers playing that impossibly funky rhythm guitar part that only he can play. If only they could have got Bernard Edwards and Tony Thompson too for the full on Chic effect, although that bass part played by Nathan East nails that Edwards style. But, that’s the thing with this song, and with the rest of the record as well; it is very conscious of its inspirations.
This tune is unabashedly 20th century, with ’70s disco, and ’80s electro being the main courses, supplemented by fender rhodes soft rock textures and real drums, as played by Omar Hakim no less, to supplement the duo’s characteristic vocoders, drum machines, samplers and synths.
There seems to be quite a lot of sentimentality on this record as a whole, with a number of other contributions and references to bygone eras to be found therein.
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Listen to this track by super-stylin’ three-sided jazz force of nature The Oscar Peterson Trio, led by the aforementioned ivory-tinkling Montrealer Oscar Peterson. It’s “Night Train” the title track from the classic 1962 release of the same name – Night Train. Peterson is joined on this by one-time Mr. Ella Fitzgerald and acoustic bass colossus Ray Brown, and supernaturally slick drummer Ed Thigpen.
When the song was recorded for Peterson’s record, it was aimed at the charts specifically by producer, and former Verve owner Norman Grantz. That’s why it doesn’t stretch out as much as some jazz tunes of the era. It’s the length of pop song that would get play on early ’60s radio, perhaps like a song like “Take Five” by Dave Brubeck had done. And it certainly was a big success for Oscar Peterson, being one of the most recognized records he’d put out during a long and celebrated career.
But, this tune and the record it comes off of holds a special place in my heart during my teenage discovery of jazz. And I know I’m not the only one. Read the rest of this entry
Summer is nearly upon us! And so, summer tunes are required. There have been a lot of requests from cool bands from all over to get their songs included here on this here pop music blog. It’s a huge honour to be asked!
In the spirit of the oncoming summer season, I thought I’d present a digest of tunes from a few acts who’ve turned my head in the last few months. So here are some highlights for the Delete Bin’s June Tunes 2013!
Usually, I try and make lists of 10. But, I’ve kicked that format to the curb this time around. I just couldn’t say no to any of these. So, there’s 14 big tunes to savour, good people! It’s like a ready-made summer compilation album!
What do you think ? Read the rest of this entry
Listen to this track by Preston-based multi-cultural, multi-genre concern Cornershop. It’s “Brimful of Asha” as re-mixed by Norman Cook, who heard the original track, made his mix, which then became a number one. The original track appears on the 1997 album When I Was Born For The Seventh Time. This version of the song hit the charts in February of 1998, becoming in the minds of many, the definitive version.
In many ways, “Brimful of Asha” is a prime candidate to display the state of things in 1990s where British pop/rock music was concerned. For one thing, it’s remixed version is a clear example of how dance music, and guitar-bass-drums rock music could live together quite happily without the seams showing, and without it looking like a cynical marketing move. Norman Cook re-mixed it because he loved the original source material.
This song touches on a number of cultural crossings besides, with the intermingling of genres being one example.
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Listen to this track by Athens Georgia ’60s hairdo sporting new wave quintet The B-52′s. It’s “Rock Lobster”, a 1979 hit record as taken from their self-titled debut album the B-52′s. This is the longer version of a record that had been released earlier in a shorter form. The song established their sound early on as an amalgam of ’60s surf music, B-Movie aethetics, and of course a DIY spirit that played right into punk and new wave. Their timing was perfect.
Serving as their first single, the song was an instant pop hit, despite the fact there was nothing to prepare audiences for it. Of course too, the sound of the record goes against the system too, full of surf guitar, tinkly keyboards, and call and response backing vocals that aren’t really backing vocals, but more like shared leads.This is thanks to Kate Pierson (who also plays Farfisa organ) and Cindy Wilson, who come off as post-punk Shangra-Las.
It became a signature hit for the band along the way. Even in an era when weird, cool records were more common in the mainstream than perhaps they are today, it’s popularity was widespread, played at every school dance for years after its release.
Where did this song come from? Read the rest of this entry
Listen to this track by Californian musical concern as led by Mark Oliver Everett (or ‘E’ just to make things simple), Eels. It’s “Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues”, a single released in February of 2000 and later to appear on the album Daisies of the Galaxy as a bonus track. His record company, apparently, insisted on it.
The song itself is a glorious three chord wonder, with the titular Mr. E providing his signature Eeyoresque voice to a song that is defiantly optimistic, co-written with Dust Brother Michael Simpson. The song charted in the top 20 in the UK. So, goddamn right indeed. The song would also appear on movie soundtracks for the films Road Trip, and Charlie Bartlett.
The optimism to be found here is in some ways to be contrasted by what had preceded it, namely Electro-Shock Blues which is considered to be E’s strongest artistic statement, and perhaps one of the best records of the 1990s to boot. That record was a loose concept record around the theme of death and mourning, in part inspired by the passing of Everette’s sister, mother, and a number of other family members and friends in close succession.
Needless to say, “Mr E’s Beautiful Blues” is the sound of a man emerging from a darkened room and outside into the sunlight, perhaps a little bit rumpled, squinting, and sore. But, alive, aware, and ready to move on. Even still, there remains to be a hint of mourning left over from E’s previous release. Read the rest of this entry
Listen to this track by Mancunian jangle-merchants The Smiths. It’s “Bigmouth Strikes Again” a 1986 single that also appears on their next-to-last record, The Queen Is Dead. The song reached #26 on the British pop charts that year. But, it would go on to become one of the band’s most memorable hits, and a staple tune to frontman Morrissey’s solo set after The Smiths came to an end.
Johnny Marr’s guitar work distinguishes the song as well, with Marr proving himself to be among the last of the guitar heroes, a disappearing breed by the mid-to-late ’80s. Marr was able to meld a number of musical strands together into a unique whole, from echoey and serrated post-punk playing, to old-school British Invasion jangle, to strident folk-rock strumming that you’re hearing on this track. As such, he would create a signature sound that was widely influential at the time, and that is still referenced by guitarists to this very day.
I remember reading about Modest Mouse looking for a guitar player who “sounded like Johnny Marr”, and then having Marr himself audition for the job. Oh to be a fly on the wall to see the reactions of other players who also showed up at that audition! Marr of course got that gig, whether that story is mere legend or not.
But, perhaps one of the reasons why “Bigmouth Strikes Again” looms so large in the Smiths sterling catalogue of singles is because it captures Morrissey’s persona as a singer, and as it turns out, as a public figure too. Read the rest of this entry
Listen to this track by Sheffieldian blues-rock exemplar Joe Cocker, who today turns 69. It’s “Feeling Alright” as taken from Cocker’s 1969 record With A Little Help From My Friends. The album is well-named, given the range of talent that went into its creation, taking Cocker’s own formidable talents as a given. Among the many contributors to the record as a whole include Jimmy Page, Stevie Winwood, Tony Visconti, Henri McCulloch, and Chris Stainton, among others.
On this track, a cover version of Dave Mason’s song that first was heard by Traffic, Carol Kaye holds down the bottom end on bass guitar, David Cohen on guitar, Paul Humphrey on drums, and Artie Butler on the piano. It’s Butler’s ivory-tinkling that really stands out here, balanced against Cocker’s gruff and impossibly soulful vocals. It’s hard to believe that Butler would make his name later on as a musical director for Barry Manilow and Neil Sedaka, among other middle-of-the-road acts. But, there you are.
The concoction made for one of the most memorable songs of the era, eclipsing the original and creating a template for many versions to follow. This isn’t a bad feat for an interpretive singer at a time when interpreters were making less and less impact covering the material of others – although Cocker would pen tunes on the record as well. So, what’s the difference here? Read the rest of this entry
photo: Peter Castleton
The Mayan Calendar. Rumours of the Rapture. Rod Stewart’s new Christmas album. All of them have been recently featured in the news over the past few years to make us wonder whether or not the end is nigh. Well, maybe the Rod album only makes me wonder that.
Anyway, as established with our 10 songs about death list, we can all agree that one day everything meets its end. This of course must include civilization as we know it; the end of the world. But, maybe making civilization and “the world” synonymous is just human arrogance. After all, the world existed before we came along, right?
And yet we’re a species that’s marked with a blessing, or is it a curse: we know that the end is coming. Maybe it’s both.
So, as a result, songwriters have taken it on. And how has it turned out?
Well, here’s 10 songs about doomsday in several possible forms. Sometimes, it really is about the end of everything. At other times, its about endings that just seem like the end of everything from a certain point of view. But, with all of them, it’s about confrontation with a force that we have to deal with whether we’re at the end of the line or not; our own humanity.
Take a look.
*** Read the rest of this entry