Saturday, January 31, 2004

"All Is Forgiven"

I was just about the biggest Jellyfish fan going. They had this Beach Boys-meets-Stevie Wonder in Todd Rundgren's head vibe which made them incredibly fun to listen to. And they wrote intelligent lyrics which is always a bonus. This one's a full-on almost-metal racket, just about to go out of control, and then they stop for a second to do this amazing "aaaahhhhhhhhh" in perfect harmony. Total bliss. I saw them live in London on their first tour - I don't think they'd seen someone stage-dive before, and they all collapsed laughing when the first punter went flying.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

"Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds"

It took me about a minute before I realised what song this is, and then I was thinking: "Damn, that's clever!" I had thought the Hooters were a really typical mid-80s fashion-handicapped band till I heard this. Deconstructing a classic: they slow it down, pick apart the intricate patterns the Beatles built, and it works!

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

"Desperadoes Under the Eaves"

Warren Zevon was the most under-rated songwriter of the last 30 years, bar none. He came across like this scruffy, mumbling street person who picks over the rubbish in the street and stops passers-by to tell them something that they'll remember the next day and think, "You know, he's absolutely right!" He writes angry songs, sad songs, funny songs and each one sticks in your head. This song has my favorite lyric: "And if California slides into the ocean/Like the mystics and statistics say it will/I predict this motel will be standing/Until I pay my bill." Various Beach Boys sing harmony, which can't be bad......

"One of Those Days In England (Parts 1-10)"

Never mind Roy Harper's an ancient hippy, never mind he's always been slightly the other side of bonkers, this is stunning. Part 1 is, for Roy, a reasonably taut pop song with only eccentric lyrics and a gorgeous chorus: "My love it seems so long away/Since when we both together lay/And yet it's only yesterday/Dreaming of tomorrow/My love, there's no today". Parts 2-10 are a rambling yet focused 20-minute epic, stuffed full of philosophy, sex, violence and Arthurian/Olde England references, a treat for the ears as well as for the brain.

Friday, January 23, 2004

"Movin On Up"

Gospel dance rock by Primal Scream. It's as if Sly Stone got religion, discovered guitars and took downers all at the same time. I like to play this one LOUD. There's a hint of "Sympathy for the Devil" about this one, and those gospel voices and that looping guitar suggest drugs may have been involved.

"Say It Ain't So Joe"

Some of the most wondrous singing ever committed to record. Murray Head's voice goes from a thin, warbly squeak all the way to intense passion. It's probably one of the saddest songs ever written, and one of the most beautiful. Steer clear of Roger Daltrey's pale imitation.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

"Sweet Jane"

It's not quite like playing the Velvet Underground original at 33 rpm instead of 45, but it's damn close. For some reason, the Cowboy Junkies get their version to sound like a finished song, while the original feels like it just ran out of steam. There's a groove that you think you can ignore, but it's so insidious and so strong despite sounding like nothing at all. And the voice sends shivers up my spine.

"I Want to See The Bright Lights Tonight"

Richard Thompson's three-minute opera for Friday nights. It's like listening to an ancient folk song about being down the pub. The lyric is so simple and timeless, and is all the better for Linda Thompson's plaintive delivery; "Couple of drunken knights fighting on the floor/Is just the kind of fun Im looking for". I like the version with the brass band, gives the song a sort of marching feel to it.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

"The Great Gig In The Sky"

Stately piano, an old man talking about death, gorgeous swooning guitars, and then Clare Torry's feral, orgasmic keening. A song that proves how sex and death are just opposite sides of the same coin. Every time I hear this I just stop whatever I'm doing and let it wash all over me. Pink Floyd may have stopped making fresh music ssome time in the 70s, but this one will live forever.

"I Saw The Light"

Todd Rundgren's mad-genius ultimate three-minute pop song, in which he proved he could do it better than anyone else. So much of what he's done is kind of hard to get into, but once in a while he comes up with something that's just so perfect - plays every instrument, sings all the harmonies, writes the perfect hook. Damn. There's a dash of the Carole King-Brill Building bubblegum thing, and a healthy dollop of George Harrison's guitar from "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" but -- get this! -- it's double-tracked for harmony. Crazy. I know a lot of folks who go for "Hello It's Me" instead, but Todd's trick was to put the bittersweet lyrics against an upbeat riff.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

The premise

I'm a tad obsessive when it comes to music. Fussy. Anal.

I like to enhance, create, upgrade or calm the environments in which I find myself by the judicious application of tunes.

On the other hand, when you're jumping around the kitchen, creating a masterpiece there are only certain songs that'll do.

And when you're contemplating your loved one with a view to some bedroom gymnastics, there's a particular kind of music that helps encourage those thoughts and turn them -- with luck -- into the real thing.

Music has that useful ability to turn things round, turn things up, or even show the blues the door.

This is my list.