Monday, July 31, 2006

"Go Now"

I think it's time to put this baby to bed.
SongsWithoutWhich has been a lot of fun, a lot of frustration and a lot of inadvertent discoveries for me, but it's run its course. I think that anyone who can find more than 500 songs -- and I haven't; we're into the mid-300s here -- that they can't live without is probably spreading their jam a little too thinly on the toast.
And when I have to spend time actively looking through my archived tapes and lists for songs that I might have overlooked, rather than have songs just arrive in my head, then it's time to call it quits.
I hope you've enjoyed the ride.


Monday, July 24, 2006

"Love, Reign o'er Me"

I couldn't decide whether to blog this song or Everything But the Girl's "Missing".
Most of us are gasping under the hammering basilisk stare of the sun, commending our souls to the sauna-like sardine tins of public transport each morning and evening, and a breath of fresh, cool air or a fine mist of rain would come in really handy.
So when I happened to be sitting on a train outside London tonight, waiting for the sweet relief of a green light and some progress, what should pop into my head but this song...
"Only love/Can make it rain/The way the beach/Is kissed by the sea/Only love/Can make it rain/Like the sweat of lovers/Laying in the fields." Of course the bit about sweating was a modest turn-off at that precise moment, given that I was getting very intimate with someone's armpit at the time, but you get the idea.
And as I was singing this song to myself, suddenly I found myself making the leap from Roger Daltrey's howl to Tracey Thorn's sweet sweet voice murmuring: "And I miss you/Like the deserts miss the rain." I don't want to come across all nerdy or anything, but rain's much on the general mind these days. Rain, lack of; water, shortages of in coming years; heat and humidity, excessive; warming, global.
Ahem. Back to the subject.
If ever a song were to define the words "magnum opus", I think this would be the one. The sheer scale of the ambition, the immense scope of the song put it right up there with "Stairway to Heaven", a journey taken in a few short minutes from the calm reflection of nostalgia and wistfulness to joyful declamation and decision.
We begin the trip huddling for shelter from the rain, listening to it chill our very souls and as the song progresses we move out into the open, we stand tall beneath its cleansing flow, growing in confidence until at the end we are out there holding hands with nature, accepting and revelling.
Even Daltrey's voice seems to have a freshness about it, a hoarseness that comes not from the dryness of an oppressively hot and dusty day, but from screaming out in joy at nothing and everything. It's the vocal equivalent of an ice-cold drink at the end of a long, hot day.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Full SongsWithoutWhich List

I Saw the Light - Todd Rundgren
The Great Gig In The Sky - Pink Floyd
I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight - Richard & Linda Thompson
Sweet Jane - The Cowboy Junkies
Say It Ain't So Joe - Murray Head
Movin' On Up - Primal Scream
One of Those Days in England Pts 1-10 - Roy Harper
Desperadoes Under the Eaves - Warren Zevon
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds - The Hooters
All Is Forgiven - Jellyfish
Come Back! (The Story of the Reds) - The Mighty Wah!
Me In Honey - REM
A Love Like Blood - Killing Joke
All or Nothing - The Small Faces
Don't Come Around Here No More - Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Beasley Street - John Cooper-Clarke
Downtown Train - Tom Waits
Little Does She Know - The Kursaal Flyers
Surrender - Cheap Trick
White Punks On Dope - The Tubes
I Ain't Ever Satisfied - Steve Earle & The Dukes
Deeper Underground - Jamiroquai
The Sound of Musik - Falco
Peach - Prince
Kiss Me Hardy - Serge Gainsbourg
Tipitina - Professor Longhair
Stay With Me - The Faces
Ace of Spades - Motorhead
Silver Machine - Hawkwind
Homburg - Procul Harum
Effloresce and Deliquesce - The Chills
Whole Wide World - Wreckless Eric
Biko - Peter Gabriel
Tonight - Nick Lowe
The Needle & the Damage Done - Pete Wylie & The Icicle Works
Women in Chains - Tears for Fears
Teenage Kicks - The Undertones
Smile - The Supernaturals
Wasted Time/The Last Resort - The Eagles
Eleanor - The Turtles
You're So Good to Me - The Beach Boys
Stranger in Blue Suede Shoes - Kevin Ayers
(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding - Elvis Costello
Finishing Touches - Warren Zevon
Nancy Boy - Placebo
Darling It Hurts - Paul Kelly & the Messengers
Political Science - Randy Newman
Hello - The Beloved
The Disappointed - XTC
First/Second/Third Rendezvous - Jean-Michel Jarre
Somewhere Only We Know - Keane
How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live? - Ry Cooder
She's a Star - James
Power in the Darkness - Tom Robinson Band
Everything Must Go - Manic Street Preachers
Rex Bob Lowenstein - Mark Germino & the Sluggers
Every Night - Phoebe Snow
I'm On My Way - The Proclaimers
Welcome to the Boomtown - David & David
"Heroes" - David Bowie
In the Bath - Lemonjelly
Exit - U2
Stay on These Roads - A-Ha
Theme From Boat Weirdoes - Joe Walsh
Rumbleseat - John Cougar Mellencamp
Waterloo Sunset - The Kinks
Superstition - Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble
No Matter What - Badfinger
Ezy Ryder - Jimi Hendrix
Wrecking Ball - Emmylou Harris
Deutscher Girls - Adam & the Ants
Pick Up the Pieces - Average White Band
Song 2 - Blur
State Trooper - Bruce Springsteen
Being Boiled - The Human League
Sneaking Sally Through the Alley - Robert Palmer
Istanbul Not Constantinople - They Might Be Giants
Renegade - Warren Zevon
La Grange - ZZ Top
Find You - Jason & the Scorchers
The Pretender - Jackson Browne
Space Truckin' - Deep Purple
There She Goes - The Las
No More 'I Love Yous' - The Lover Speaks
Bittersuite - Marillion
Life Is Hard - Timbuk 3
I'm In Love With a German Film Star - The Passions
(Get a) Grip (On Yourself) - The Stranglers
Powderfinger - Neil Young
Crazy - Icehouse
American Girl - Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
He's My Best Friend - Jellyfish
Ocean Spray - Manic Street Preachers
Go - Steriogram
Vigilante Man - Ry Cooder & David Lindley
I Want to Take You Higher - Sly & the Family Stone
Finishing Touches - Warren Zevon
The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down - The Band
Caroline, No - The Beach Boys
Information - The Rainmakers
Captain Jack - Billy Joel
Let Me Entertain You - Robbie Williams
Alright - Supergrass
Virginia Plain - Roxy Music
Uneasy Rider - Charlie Daniels
Slap and Tickle - Squeeze
A New England - Kirsty MacColl
International Velvet - Catatonia
What a Waste! - Ian Dury & the Blockheads
The Wreck of the 'Edmund Fitzgerald' - Gordon Lightfoot
Anarchy in the U.K. - The Sex Pistols
Lullaby - Shawn Mullins
Well, Did You Evah! - Debbie Harry & Iggy Pop
Rollin' Over - The Small Faces
Video Killed the Radio Star - The Buggles
Journey of the Sorcerer - The Eagles
Total Control - The Motels
Bad - U2
Foreplay/Long Time - Boston
White Rabbit - Jefferson Airplane
Asleep in the Desert - ZZ Top
Neon Lights - Kraftwerk
Hold On I'm Coming - Eric Clapton & BB King
The Load-Out/Stay - Jackson Browne
Will We Be Lovers? - Deacon Blue
American Idiot - Green Day
Voices Carry - Til Tuesday
Every Picture Tells a Story - Rod Stewart
5:15 - The Who
Authority Song - John Cougar Mellencamp
Teenage Dirtbag - Wheatus
FM - Steely Dan
Blinded By the Light - Bruce Springsteen
Overnight Sensation - The Raspberries
One of the Boys - Mott the Hoople
She Still Loves Him - Jellyfish
I Wish - Stevie Wonder
The Fletcher Memorial Home - Pink Floyd
Love the One You're With - Stephen Stills
Welcome to the Pleasure Dome - Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Classical Gas - Mason Williams
Let's Work Together - Canned Heat
Pink - Aerosmith
Boy Crazy - The Tubes
Saturn 5 - The Inspiral Carpets
Misty Mountain Hop - Led Zeppelin
Stop Dragging My Heart Around - Stevie Nicks
Shipbuilding - Robert Wyatt
Keep on Rocking in the Free World - Neil Young
Fall At Your Feet - Crowded House
Life's Been Good - Joe Walsh
Rise - Public Image Ltd
Driving With Your Eyes Closed - Don Henley
The Indifference of Heaven - Warren Zevon
Hoo Dee Hoo - The Rainmakers
English Rose - The Jam
They Shoot Horses Don't They - Racing Cars
Are You Ready to be Heartbroken? - Lloyd Cole & the Commotions
Sebrina, Paste & Plato - Jellyfish
In Your Eyes - Peter Gabriel
Dignity - Deacon Blue
Temptation - Heaven 17
Girls & Boys - Blur
Bad Company - Bad Company
Angel Dressed in Black - Warren Zevon
Gimme Some Loving - Spencer Davis Group
Riders on the Storm - The Doors
Life in the Fast Lane - The Eagles
25 or 6 to 4 - Chicago
Pretend We're Dead - L7
Tiny Dancer - Elton John
Isn't it Time - The Babys
Night Moves - Bob Seger
Every Day is a Winding Road - Sheryl Crow
Three Lions '98 - The Lightning Seeds
Rough Boy - ZZ Top
Disorder in the House - Warren Zevon
Lemon Incest - Serge Gainsbourg
Albedo 0.39 - Vangelis
Here Comes My Girl - Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
We Care a Lot! - Faith No More
A Design For Life - Manic Street Preachers
S-s-s-Single Bed - Fox
I Touch Myself - The Divinyls
Snuff Rock EP - Alberto y Los Trios Paranoias
Buddy Holly - Weezer
Revolutions - Jean-Michel Jarre
Hot Pants Explosion - B52s
Living In the USA - Steve Miller Band
You and Me Song - The Wannadies
Devoted Friends - Wang Chung
Sign o' the Times - Prince
Sunset Grill - Don Henley
Once in a Lifetime - Talking Heads
That's Entertainment! - The Jam
The Distance from Her to There - Lambchop
Detox Mansion - Warren Zevon
Stainsby Girls - Chris Rea
Bela Lugosi's Dead - Bauhaus
Nick of Time - Bonnie Raitt
Fire - The Pointer Sisters
Hole Hearted - Extreme
Easy on My Soul - Free
Follow You Follow Me - Genesis
Casey Jones - Warren Zevon & David Lindley
The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys - Traffic
Love Me Two Times - The Doors
Down at the Doctor's - Dr. Feelgood
Go Your Own Way - Fleetwood Mac
Snake Oil - Steve Earle
Sit Down - James
Calypso - Jean-Michel Jarre
Theme from 'Das Boot' - Klaus Doldinger
The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face - Roberta Flack
Kamikaze - The Thompson Twins
Hello It's Me - Todd Rundgren
Here Comes the Flood - Peter Gabriel
Heart as Big as Liverpool - The Mighty Wah!
No Sell Out - Malcolm X
Synchronicity II - The Police
Parklife - Blur
Funny How - Airhead
It's About Time - The Lemonheads
This is The Sea - The Waterboys
The Rain Song - Led Zeppelin
Police on my Back - The Clash
I Love L.A. - Randy Newman
Who Are You - The Who
Rock & Roll Music - Manic Street Preachers
You've Got My Number - The Undertones
Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't Have)? - The Buzzcocks
I Try - Macy Gray
Dream Police - Cheap Trick
Jerusalem - Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Sorry Mr. Harris - Tom Robinson Band
Don't Touch Me There - The Tubes
Fooled Again (I Don't Like It) - Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
Wherever God Shines His Light - Van Morrison & Cliff Richard
Top Jimmy - Van Halen
She Knows - Balaam & the Angel
Perfect 10 - Beautiful South
Step On - The Happy Mondays
Couple Days Off - Huey Lewis & the News
The Dean & I - 10 c.c.
Prelude/Angry Young Man - Billy Joel
Perfect Day - Various
How Soon Is Now? - The Smiths
Lazy Sunday - The Small Faces
Turn! Turn! Turn! - The Byrds
Everybody Hurts - REM
Gimme Shelter - The Rolling Stones
Stay (So Faraway, So Close!) - U2
Love Rears its Ugly Head - Living Colour
Dream a Little Dream of Me - The Mamas & the Papas
Lust for Life - Iggy Pop
Man of the World - Fleetwood Mac
Motorcycle Emptiness - Manic Street Preachers
Nothing Ever Happens - Del Amitri
Italian Plastic - Crowded House
Ray of Light - Madonna
Whole Wide World - Wreckless Eric
No Matter What - Badfinger
Waterloo Sunset - The Kinks
Biko - Peter Gabriel
Laid - James
The Needle & the Damage Done - Pete Wylie & the Icicle Works
Beat Surrender - The Jam
Drive - The Cars
Rhythm Nation - Janet Jackson
Werewolves of London - Warren Zevon
Movin' On Up - Primal Scream
Pump It Up - Elvis Costello
Luna - Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
When Will You Make My Phone Ring - Deacon Blue
Stay With Me - The Faces
Madame Helga - Stereophonics
Love and Affection - Joan Armatrading
Every Breath You Take - The Police
Blackbird - The Beatles
Regrets - The Eurythmics
New York Minute - Don Henley
Always the Last to Know - Del Amitri
Hollywood Nights - Bob Seger
With a Little Help from My Friends - Joe Cocker
Roadrunner - Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers
Good Times, Bad Times - Led Zeppelin
Suite: Judy Blue Eyes - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Walking in Memphis - Marc Cohn
Fine Line - Paul McCartney
More Than Words - Extreme
Going Down to Liverpool - The Bangles
I Will Not Go Quietly - Don Henley
Ain't No Sunshine - Bill Withers
Bohemian Like You - The Dandy Warhols
Fearless Boogie - Hank Williams III
Try A Little Tenderness - Otis Redding
Ain't So Easy - David & David
Fergus Sings the Blues - Deacon Blue
Don't Let Us Get Sick - Warren Zevon
Lose Yourself - Eminem
Looking for the Next Best Thing - Warren Zevon
Our House - Madness
Sympathy for the Devil - The Rolling Stones
Open Your Heart - The Human League
Tunnel of Love - Bruce Springsteen
Lawyers, Guns & Money - Warren Zevon
Shake Some Action - The Flamin Groovies
Harvest for the World - The Isley Brothers
Running On Empty - Jackson Browne
Government Cheese - The Rainmakers
Mohammed's Radio - Warren Zevon
They Don't Know - Kirsty MacColl
Rednecks - Randy Newman
Cuyahoga - REM
City of New Orleans - Arlo Guthrie
Shout! - Tears for Fears
Creep - Radiohead
Ca Plane Pour Moi - Plastic Bertrand
Hanging Around - The Stranglers
Ebben, andro lontano - Wilhelmina Wiggins Fernandez
Held Up Without a Gun - Bruce Springsteen
Wonderwall - Oasis
Find the Cost of Freedom - Crosby, Stills & Nash
Sparks - The Who
Walk the Dinosaur - Was (Not Was)
Born in the U.S.A. - Bruce Springsteen
A Fairytale of New York - The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl
I Believe in Father Christmas - Greg Lake
Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End - The Beatles
The Green Manalishi - Fleetwood Mac
Pretty in Pink - The Psychedelic Furs
Two Princes - Spin Doctors
Spooky - Atlanta Rhythm Section
The Promised Land - Chuck Berry
Slave to the Rhythm - Grace Jones
Time - Pink Floyd
Heartattack and Vine - Tom Waits
Paris, Texas - Ry Cooder
Tenderness on the Block - Shawn Colvin
Life's What You Make It - Talk Talk
Wear It Like a Cape - Del Fuegos
I Wanna be a Boss - Stan Ridgway
I'm Sorry - Hothouse Flowers
Sylvia - Focus
Wild Side of Life - Status Quo
Days - The Kinks
Beautiful Love - Julian Cope
Run Baby Run - Sheryl Crow
Tubular Bells Part 1 - Mike Oldfield
New Sensation - INXS
Are Friends Electric? - Tubeway Army
A Hazy Shade of Winter - The Bangles
Hurt - Johnny Cash
No Surprises - Radiohead
Pretty Vacant - The Sex Pistols
When I'm Dead and Gone - McGuinness Flint
I Feel Love - Donna Summer
Joining a Fan Club - Jellyfish
Teardrop - Massive Attack
Physical (You're So) - Adam & the Ants
My Iron Lung - Radiohead
Do You Wanna Touch Me - Joan Jett & the Blackearts
Must Get Out - Maroon 7
Whispers and Moans - Crowded House
The Best of Everything - Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
Mr. Blue Sky - Electric Light Orchestra
Exodus - Bob Marley & the Wailers
Roberta - Billy Joel
Centerfield - John Fogerty
The Great Gig In The Sky - Pink Floyd
10538 Overture - Electric Light Orchestra
Father and Daughter - Paul Simon
These Foolish Things - Bryan Ferry
Boom Boom - John Lee Hooker
The Best of You - Foo Fighters
The Envoy - Warren Zevon
What A Piece of Work Is Man - "Hair"
Love Reign O'er Me - The Who
Go Now - The Moody Blues
Claire de Lune - Claude Debussy
Way of The World - Cheap Trick
Don't Nobody Move (This is a Heist) - Tony Powers
Love Hurts - Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris
Home - Sheryl Crow
It's a Shame About Ray - The Lemonheads
Hoppipolla - Sigur Ros
The Man With a Harmonica - Apollo 440
Saturday In The Park - Chicago
Whipping Post - Allman Brothers Band
They Called It Rock - Nick Lowe
Crimson & Clover - Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
Into Dust - Mazzy Star
You Belong to Me - Steve Earle
Dixie Chicken - Little Feat
Tipitina - Professor Longhair
Darling Nikki - Prince
Soul Sacrifice - Santana
I'm Alive - Jackson Browne
Birdhouse in Your Soul - They Might Be Giants
Born on the Bayou - Creedence Clearwater Revival
White Punks on Dope - The Tubes
Elusive - Scott Matthews
I'm Free - The Who
Sweetheart of the Rodeo - The Byrds
Machine Gun - Jimi Hendrix
If You Won't Leave Me I'll Find Somebody Who Will - Warren Zevon
Bodies - The Sex Pistols
The First Cut is the Deepest - P.P. Arnold
Silver Machine - Hawkwind
Cut My Wings - Seasick Steve
Just Like Honey - The Jesus and Mary Chain
Man In the Corner Shop - The Jam
You're All That I Have - Snow Patrol
Time - Pink Floyd
I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever - Stevie Wonder
Jesus Says - Ash
Tower of Strength - The Mission
Sunshine of Your Love - Cream
Smells like Teen Spirit - Nirvana
In Every Dream Home a Heartache - Roxy Music
Downtown Train - Tom Waits
Stay With Me - Lorraine Ellison
The Older We Get - Hothouse Flowers
Ezy Ryder - Jimi Hendrix
(I Never Loved) Eva Braun - The Boomtown Rats
Daydream - The Lovin' Spoonful
Nimrod - Edward Elgar
One Day Like This - Elbow
Lido Shuffle - Boz Scaggs
Don't Believe a Word - Thin Lizzy
Etude, Opus 10 No 1 - Frederic Chopin
Lithium - Polyphonic Spree
Cigarettes and Alcohol - Oasis
Quark, Strangeness and Charm - Hawkwind
I'm In Love With a German Film Star - The Passions
Wichita Lineman - Glen Campbell
Fooled Around and Fell in Love - Elvin Bishop
Dancing the Night Away - The Motors
Trumpets - The Waterboys
Hello - The Sonic Executive Sessions

"What A Piece of Work Is Man"

I was raised in a classical music household. My earliest musical memories are Chopin etudes, Strauss waltzes and hours and hours of Schubert and Beethoven. From the age of 8 I took lessons on a variety of instruments, though only the piano and woodwind instruments really engaged my interest. I still have a huge love for the classical repertoire today.
My introduction to - for want of a better description - rock 'n roll came from the only record in my parents' collection that wasn't classical music, and somewhere in my attic is that same record: a much-scratched, much-loved copy of the original Broadway recording of the musical "Hair", so original that "Hair's" writers - Gerome Ragni and James Rado if I remember correctly - sing the two lead roles.
I still find it hard to put into words the impact that record had on me at the time, and it's one of my great pleasures and indulgences to listen to it from time to time and reconnect with that thrill. So when Cameron Crowe wrote the scene in the film "Almost Famous" where the young boy inherits his sister's record collection, I knew just what he was experiencing.
It's not easy to pick a particular song from "Hair" that stands out - each one lifts me up out of my seat. But there's one that's a bit special because, as the liner notes put it, "it was written by William Shakespeare." Now I'm not going to reproduce the lyric here, because I think you all should go look it up and read it for yourselves, but the title of the song is the clue.
It's not exactly rock 'n roll the way you might describe it today, but it and the rest of the album was like opening the magic door into a parallel universe. This is where it started for me.

"The Envoy"

I want to make it quite clear at the outset that this post is not intended to be facetious or even satiric. Just an observation and a musical link.
It just so happens that one part of the world is loudly chewing itself up in an orgy of blood-letting, something that's been going on for so long now that many of the rest of us have forgotten (or misremembered at the very least) the cause.
In this global family of ours there has to be a rebellious contingent, a maladjusted teenager busy finding a new way to break the family china. And as ever, there has to be a trusted senior family member dispatched to knock some heads together and re-establish some peace and respect.
And so we have the Middle East. In another decade long, long ago when the other world leaders actually possessed a will to see a fair and equitable solution, they'd send some big-shot to do the metaphorical head-knocking. Anyone remember Philip Habib?
Well, this song is by way of a tribute to him, I suppose. The last time there was a spike in the violence in the Middle East, Ronald Reagan sent Habib into the area to try and thrash out a lasting peace. Didn't get it, sadly, but his efforts inspired Warren Zevon to write this song.
"Nuclear arms in the Middle East/Israel's attacking the Iraqis/The Syrians are mad at the Lebanese/And Baghdad does whatever she please/Looks like another threat to world peace/Send the envoy."
I've looked long and hard, but it doesn't seem that international diplomacy is fertile ground for songwriters, and so whenever I come away from watching the TV news, it's this song that I've found myself humming.

"The Best of You"

There's a moment in each of our lives when we just have to blow up. Be it rage, despair, exhilaration or just the force of life within us that needs to be vented, we need to lift to lid on the dormant volcano and let the pyrochastic flow just ... go. The bubbling fury of emotion can be a wild, vivifying ride or it can be a frightening, disheartening plunge.
You get the impression from this song that it can be both at the same time. The fantastically dialectic nature of the chorus -- "Is someone getting the best of you?" -- shows just how sharp that knife's edge can be. Are you getting the very best of someone's support, friendship, love; or are they delicately undermining you and gaining the upper hand?
One the one hand, Grohl sings: "I needed somewhere to hang my head/Without your noose/You gave me something that I didn’t have/But had no use," but on the other, he follows it with: "My heart is under arrest again/But I break loose/My head is giving me life or death/But I can’t choose/I swear I’ll never give in/I refuse." Which kind of leads me to suspect that someone's putting one over on him in this song.
What commends this song to me most, though, is the sheer force, the emotion expressed in such a wild, unfocussed way. This is the sound of the lid coming off.

"Boom Boom"

Wow, it's hot. The kind of weather that suggests quietly but firmly that you should either stay indoors and try to move as little as possible, or pop the roof on your convertible and head for the open road.
And if you choose the latter, may I suggest some John Lee Hooker to accompany your cruising? This is serious driving music, the sort of thing you'd play if you were in a rush to get out of California before midnight and had a posse on your tail.
One thing I am eternally grateful for is the electrification of the blues. Now, I yield to nobody in my appreciation of Robert Johnson and his peers who brought the blues out of the cotton fields and into the radio stations, but listening to the old recordings of one man and a bottleneck kinda pales in comparison to what can be achieved with electric amplification.
Case in point here: you get the old, hoary, dirty growl that comes as a standard part of the Hooker package, standing solidly on a bedrock of blues that just begs to be played loud. The intro is as close to perfect as you'll ever get, the half-spoken words over an insistent, hurried riff but when the entire band joins in... well, it's as good as it gets. Small wonder that "Boom Boom" is officially one of the songs that shaped rock and roll.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

"These Foolish Things"

A favourite film sequence of mine occurs in the film "Diva", when the protagonist (the young postman) and the diva walk around Paris through the night and into the early hours of the morning - a silent, aimless stroll that takes in all the beauty and atmosphere of one of the world's truly great cities.
The sequence is set to an absolutely gorgeous, if derivative, piece of music -- go find "Sentimental Walk" by Vladimir Cosma and play it back-to-back with "Trois Gymnopaedies" by Erik Satie -- which draws out all the romance, all the elegance of a place and a moment in time.
But I bet, I just bet, that if the postman were to look back on this moment in his life from a distance of about twenty years, if he were to watch a grainy, jumpy silent black-and-white film of that night, he'd reach for this song to play as an accompaniment.
It's difficult to imagine how a song as wistful, as rose-tinted and gently bruised as this one, can exist among the clash and clamour of those chest-beating, wailing self-indulgent songs of loss. Many of which I love to bits, of course...
Just as Paul McCartney has an obsession with the old music-hall tradition, Bryan Ferry has a fixation with the era of Noel Coward, Irving Berlin and slightly louche smoothies in impeccable dinner jackets, men who wooed a girl rather than took her up to their penthouse apartment. Ferry's lounge-lizard image steps on stage intact here, before it slowly crumples beneath the perfect, crystalline memories of an old affair: "And still those little things remain/That bring me happiness or pain."
It's the casual brilliance and sharpness of the observations that takes this song beyond the mundane: "A cigarette that bears a lipstick's traces/An airline ticket to romantic places/A tinkling piano in the next apartment/Those stumbling words that told you what my heart meant/A fairgound's painted swings/These foolish things/Remind me of you."
There ain't nothing foolish about them things.

"Father and Daughter"

I heard this song recently for the first time. It's not often that a song makes me sit down and bawl like a baby, but this one did, and still does whenever I play it. This morning I was on the train to work, and this song suddenly popped up on my iPod. I had to find a dark corner of the train to go and plug the waterworks. By the time I got to work, things had calmed a little but I still needed to wheel out the old excuse about hay-fever....
I suppose there are few things more powerful than the conversion from a lifelong obsession with one's self to an obsession with one's children and the utterly irresistible imperative to see that they grow up strong and happy. The transfer of priorities just happens, bang, like that and your life, which has been running full speed in one direction, suddenly shoots off in another and you hang on for grim death until you get a handle on what it is that's suddenly hijacked your life.
Having said that, what also arises is something that sustains us for the rest of our lives: the huge, all-conquering love for our progeny that will not be derailed or mellowed by any mistake, event, mishap or distance.
"I'm going to watch you shine/Gonna watch you grow/Gonna paint a sign, so you'll always know/As long as one and one is two/There could never be a father that loves his daughter more than I love you." That pretty much says it all, doesn't it?