The Songs That People Sing

First let's hear somebody sing me a record that cries pure and true

Month: February, 2008

And now….

Danger – The Polish Radio Orchestra

These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things…

and your bird can sing; walk out to winter; the great depression; mr blue sky; the look of love; kings of the wild frontier; come on train; sixty eight guns; see those eyes; complete control; uptown top ranking; native boy; sweet jane; dolphins; devil in my car; you’re a better man than i; taste of cindy; ten miles high; paint it black; gloria; london lady; meeting over yonder; stupid marriage; infected; me, myself and i; smokebelch II; same old scene; david watts; sad eyed lady of the lowlands; lady love your c**t; levi stubbs tears; boxerbeat; whole wide world; dot dash; what’s my scene; the morning fog; you keep running away; stutter; rattlesnakes; iou; country of the blind; desire as; happy house; i feel for you; birds; back on the chain gang; panic in detroit; guns of brixton; careless memories; heartache avenue; electricity; tiny sticks; chant no 1; another hazy day on the lazy a; my feet keep dancing; on the beat pete; tell your parents i hate their guts; john wayne is big leggy; china girl; joe 90; pretty green; the things that dreams are made of; the girl with the sun in her head; running on the spot; you keep me hanging on; church of the poison mind; v2; somebody elses guy; the horse; rock the house; i’m falling; what; m386; include me out; best thing that ever happened to me; friday night saturday morning; cap in hand

(iTunes, random play: a hard habit to break)

Mod stuff….

Back in the 80s I was floating around the Mod scene. After The Jam split Mod went underground, not to be seen in the light until the Indie Dance scene broke through with The Stone Roses (try telling me they weren’t a Mod band and I’ll argue with you until tomorrow!) and then again with Blur and Oasis and the Brit-Pop/Dad-Rock thing of the mid 90s.

But back in the mid 80s you had to be walking a pretty individual path, at least in London, to announce you had anything to do with Mod. So there was me 16 and suited and booted for the most part. My mates at the time were all ex-Mods and Skins and Rudeboys who thought the best insult they could throw at me was ‘Mod’ in the same tone you’d reserve for a Tory; all the while walking around in golf jumpers and Princess Diana hairdos….

There was quite a thriving little scene at the time, lots of bands releasing singles and at least an album or two. But it never quite broke through. The closest to success was a band called Makin’ Time, who featured a young and suited Martin Blunt who went on to form The Charlatans. Who sounded a little like another band who Makin’ Time toured with – The Prisoners.

A few years later I’d stopped looking like a Mod, but as I was going out all night to raves, listening to mad dance music and possibly indulging in substances that kept me up all night I guess you could say I was behaving like a Mod…and it’s still how people think of me twenty years later…I guess it sticks. I can still spot an aging Mod from a mile off. We must have a look…

Here’s some tunes from those days that still sound good to my ears….

(The Five Thirty is a b-side from about 1990, but they actually formed and gigged back in the Mid 80s on that very underground scene. When they turned up in the indie dance thing I must admit to getting a bit smug and excited!)

The Direct Hits: A Place In The Eighties

Makin’ Time: Here Is My Number

The Moment: One, Two, They Fly

The Prisoners: Melanie

Five Thirty: Things That Turn You On

Walk Out To Winter

One of my all time favourite songs: Aztec Camera’s Walk Out To Winter. This is the single which is so much better than the version on High Land Hard Rain. Roddy Frame has never been consistent as far as I’m concerned, but every so often through his career he has come up with some absolute gems. And this one stands head and shoulders above his own songs, and most of anybody elses.

“Walk out to winter, I swear I’ll be there
Chill will wake you, high and dry, you’ll wonder why
Walk out to winter, I swear I’ll be there
You’ll find snow blind, this is why, this is why”

It’s another of those songs where you’re not quite sure what it’s about. It seems to be about being young and rebellious, and perhaps replacing the previous generation’s icons (faces of Strummer..). That makes Roddy sound like The Alarm or something.

But to me Walk Out To Winter is a love song, perhaps only in love with being young, but a love song nonetheless. And it’s a love affair that’s already over before it’s begun. Just listen to the way Roddy Frame’s voice cracks on that last chorus. Heartbreak, pure heartbreak. Then the second solo kicks in and it’s all melody and melancholy. Simply one of the saddest songs I’ve ever heard. And yet there’s sunlight in it’s grooves, spring just around the corner….

Walk Out To Winter mp3

There was a light that went out

Mark Eitzel – Firefly

When I heard this song I’d been through a prolonged period of partying. I was in love – or maybe just lust – with a girl – we’ll call her ‘Irish’ – I shouldn’t have been. And moody, good God was I moody. Having a hangover can do that to you I guess. The world was pretty up and down at that point. And it hit a pretty low point when her boyfriend and some of our friends found out. Cue lots of shouting and crying, finger pointing and cold shoulders.

And to make matters worse, the usual tunes wouldn’t lift my spirits as they usually did.

At the time I was working at a certain Megastore on Oxford Street so I had a pretty big bag of new tunes to try out to see if I could break the mood I was in. I’d heard a song or two by this band American Music Club which I’d really liked so I went to their section in the racks. Unfortunately we were all sold out at that moment, but there was a solo live album, Songs Of Love Live by their singer Mark Eitzel. Hmmm, I thought, I’ll give it a listen.

The opening track on that album is Firefly. I’ve since heard the studio version, and several cover versions, including one by Everything But The Girl. The original studio version is a bit slick, a bit country rock, but pretty enough.

The live version is just Mark and a borrowed guitar. It’s rough, soulful, and shambolic; indeed it nearly falls apart in the middle. But it was the most beautiful thing I’d heard. And it sounded like music for a man to live his life to, rather than the teenage soundtracks I’d previously consumed. (Of course at that time I was behaving like the biggest little boy around. Hindsight is cruel)

I’m not quite sure what it’s about, a lot of Mark’s songs sound like they could be about love, but there’s a lot of death and drinking and weirdness around the edges. Firefly could be about a doomed love affair. Or it could be about a love affair with somebody who’s doomed. I’m not sure. And now it sounds like a place I don’t want to visit again. But back then…I dived in head first and almost drowned.

The thing with ‘Irish’ got heavier for a while, and then fell apart almost overnight. And afterwards all that was left was this song. And for a little while it was completely coloured by the life I’d been living. Sometimes I have to leave songs behind when that happens. The stains don’t wash out. But thankfully this song now stands mostly on its own, free of stupid behaviour, and raven haired Irish girls with twinkly eyes.

A Morning Quickie

Pretending Life Is Like A Song hits 2 years old. My meant to be brief but waffled on for hours comment is probably worth saving in these pages too. Cheers Crash!

“Happy early birthday to your blog!

I’ve actually been around these blogs that I’ve been commenting on for a while; Lee’s old ‘number one songs in heaven’ was the first blog that I ever read. I was searching for Respond Records in the hope that some of those old Weller proteges were available on CD somewhere and Lee had posted The Questions ‘Price You Pay’.

From there I bounced through the links he posted to other blogs, and a whole new world opened up to me, the world of the mp3 blog. It’s part mix-tape and part second hand record shop: if Nick Hornby hadn’t got a publishing deal this is where he would be.

And thanks to yourself and that post yesterday I finally took the plunge to join in.

So thanks; a single comment made me think about my own voice and how to use it. A small thing, but after nearly 40 years it’s nice that life can still throw up brand new experiences.

And what can I say about ‘My Ever Changing Moods’? I love The Style Council. I didn’t really get The Jam until Beat Surrender, and that was mostly because of Tracie, another one of my teenage crushes.

Weller looked like a kid from school Danny, who came from a really rough family that lived on my estate. Arson, GBH, drugs, burglary all by the age of 16. He was scary. So I couldn’t get into The Jam without thinking about Danny.

But by the time Weller started The Style Council I was old enough to see past that. And he was writing such beautiful songs. (I suspect High Land, Hard Rain was on Weller’s turntable at the time – listen to Pillar To Post and then put on Shout To The Top). My Ever Changing Moods came out as a single around the same time I turned 15, and that sense of melancholy pretty much defined the rest of my teens (and quite possibly the rest of my life!).

Lyrically Weller was at his peak for me around then; some of those songs were the perfect soundtrack to teenage unrequited love!”

First Post First Single

And that first single I bought for 75p back in February 1981? “Kids In America” by Kim Wilde.

Kim, if you’ve never heard of her, was kind of the Home Counties Debbie Harry, all peroxide hair and New Wave sneer. Kim was also the first poster on my wall.

And, for a first single purchase, Kids In America is actually a really great pop tune, atmospheric synth pop verses and a big catchy New Wave chorus.

A lot of people talk about their first music purchases in a sheepish tone, too embarrassed sometimes to admit to it and rewriting history by claiming something cooler. But I think this wasn’t a bad choice for starting my music collection!

Kids In America (file removed)