The Songs That People Sing

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

Month: April, 2008

Sounds To Get You Over The Hump

Sounds For Sunday on a midweek! With the weather outside feeling more like November some little gems of sunshine for you. I’ve got some Aretha Franklin and some Stevie Wonder today.

First up is Aretha with ‘Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do), which is probably my all time favourite Aretha. I love the flute and the little skip in the rhythm when she sings ‘I’m gonna knock on your door’. It’s also for the most part very restrained for Aretha, which is something I like. I prefer subtle sometimes. It also features a writing credit by Stevie Wonder.

‘Nothings Too Good For My Baby’ comes from Stevie’s album ‘Up-tight’. It’s basically a rewrite of ‘Up-tight’ but what a song. It’s a classic stomper. Then I’ve a trio of Aretha tunes that are better known by other people. ‘Groovin’ is best known by The (Young) Rascals and the original ranks up amongst my all time favourite songs. I featured a version by Marvin Gaye a few weeks back. Then we’ve got Smokey’s classic ‘Tracks Of My Tears’. And a very sexy version of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s ‘You’re All I Need To Get By’. And just to round up the Aretha/Stevie connections we’ve Stevie’s groovy version of ‘Respect’.

I have to admit I’m on a bit of a alternate versions kick lately. I’ve been listening to the original versions of some of these songs for years and years. It’s kind of nice to hear a fresh version. Even if it’s not as good it brings new appreciation for the more familiar version.

A final extra tune in keeping with the alternate versions theme…Aretha’s, and Jimmy Ruffin’s versions of garage classic 96 Tears.

Aretha Franklin – Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)
Stevie Wonder – Nothings Too Good For My Baby
Aretha Franklin – Groovin’
Aretha Franklin – Tracks Of My Tears
Aretha Franklin – You’re All I Need To Get By
Stevie Wonder – Respect
Aretha Franklin – 96 Tears
Jimmy Ruffin – 96 Tears

And if you’re in the mood for some more, earlier Aretha head over to see Davy at The Ghost Of Electricity. He won't bite! Well maybe just a little....

Extra: Head over to Planet Mondo as well for an absolutely storming version of Say A Little Prayer....

Sounds For Sunday

Sounds For Sunday is on a Dexys Midnight Runners kick this week. Here’s a handful of tunes that fans of that most marvellous of bands might recognise. The first is a song Dexys covered on their debut Searching For The Young Soul Rebels. The following three were covered on b-sides. Seven Days Is Too Long and Breakin’ Down The Walls Of Heartache are stone cold Northern Soul classics. Soul Finger is a great instrumental by the ‘other’ great Stax band. And The Horse is the great Stax band Booker T & The MGs covering Cliff Nobles’ classic tune. (This particular tune has an interesting history. Follow me for some more information; as well as other versions)

And finally the great man who was the subject of Dexys' first Number One 'Geno', Geno Washington & The Ram Jam Band. Geno was my first gig. He and my father had met at an Alexis Corner tribute event at the Marquee back in the early 80s and became friends. At the time Geno had a restaurant in North West London. At the end of the night he would do some songs, just him, a guitarist and a drummer with only a snare. My dad took me along one night and Geno and the guys played for a couple of hours into the night. Just blues tunes, Little Red Rooster, Got My Mojo Working; things like that. I've seen him a few times over the years, every other time was with a full band, brass section and all. But that was probably the best time.

Sounds For Sunday will be getting an extra helping during the week. Although Sounds To Help You Get Over The Hump And Head Straight For The Weekend doesn't have quite the same ring. Yes, so extra in the week. Because after all, seven days is too long........

Chuck Wood – Seven Days Is Too Long
The Bandwagon – Breakin’ Down The Walls Of Heartache
Booker T & The MGs – The Horse
The Bar-Kays – Soul Finger
Geno Washington & The Ram Jam Band – Michael The Lover

What’s She Like?

Alright Bill?
Come in. Where you been?
Oh round and about you know? Nowhere special.
Oh what you been down Bearwood?
Yeah, that’s right. I looked in down there.
What the Little Nibble? Yeah, that’s it.
Seen anybody down there, any mutual friends or acquaintances or anything down there?
No not really, there was no one about.
No one down there?
There was no one. What were you all talking about when I came in?
What you mean just now?
Yeah, just as I walked in?
Well, you know, just different things really, you know, nothing specific.
No? nothing special?
No central thing no.
You weren’t talking about me were you?
About you?
Yeah me.
No, honestly. No, no, I don’t know where you got that idea from
Are you sure?
Ah look you know, we talked about different things but we never mentioned you honestly. You don’t have to worry about that Bill. Your name wasn’t mentioned.
It’s alright. I know what you were all talking about
Ah you do?
Yeah. I know.
Yeah, hows that then?
Come on tell me, what’s she like?
You know what I mean.
I know what you mean but….

What’s She Like? What’s She like?

In 1985 Dexys Midnight Runners released their follow up to their best selling album Too Rye Ay. The album was called Don’t Stand Me Down. There was no single to introduce the album; front man Kevin Rowland and the band wore suits. Not slick Mod affairs though; these were ones that looked like they worked in a bank. Kevin Rowland talked about how this was their comedy album. In the live shows at the time somebody dressed as a policeman would come on stage and arrest Kevin for ‘burning’. Most of the songs were rambling, long affairs.

The centrepiece for the album, a track called ‘This Is What She’s Like’ was nearly 13 minutes long. It’s a song about the new love that Kevin Rowland has found, that perhaps he’d kept close to his chest until now. It’s also something of a protest song, political with a smallish P.

The conversation above between Kevin and Billy Adams is the first two minutes of the track. It’s not quite comedy, but there is something of the Mel Smith/Griff Rhys-Jones about it. It feels like an ad-lib, something from an amateur dramatics session. You can hear them clearing their throats. There are pauses. In fact most of the record is heavy on the pauses. Adam on his Pretending Life Is Like A Song blog talked about the gap between two of the tracks on the album, Reminisce Pt 2 and I Love You (Listen To This). The gap is almost too short to be a normal section between tracks, it sounds like an intake of breath. After the intro, and another pause, Kevin and Billy sing the following :

Well, you know the kind of people
That put creases in their old Levis? Oh Yeah, Sure
The type that use expressions like tongue in cheek?
Indeed I do…

At this point there is one of those intakes of breath and in crash the band.

I don’t like these people No?
May I state here and now,
But I can’t help thinking,
All the time I’m thinking of her
What’s she like? What’s she like?
In time, in time In time, in time,
Well this is what she’s like…

Let me put it another way Please do.
Well you know how the English upper classes are thick and ignorant?
That’s true
And you’ve seen the scum from Notting Hill and Moseley
They’re called the C.N.D. ? Sure
They describe nice things as wonderful
She never would say that, oh no,
She’s totally different in every way
She is she is
There are so many things I like about these verses. Kevin was standing firmly on his own in 1985. Plenty of bands were actively against the rich, the powerful, the upper class. Socialism was on the rise in music. But Kevin was no Paul Weller or Billy Bragg. The C.N.D. was at it’s peak at this point and people like Weller and Bragg wouldn’t have dared slag them or their supporters.

But obviously Kevin didn’t like those kind of people either. And neither the upper classes nor the trendy socialists were anything like ‘She’. But what was she like? We still didn’t know that and it seemed that Kevin didn’t have the words for it….

What’s she like? What was that? What’s she like?
In time, in time
Tell me, what’s she like?
Come again?
Tell me, what’s she like?
In time in time
Well, this is what she’s like
I would like to express myself
Go ahead

At this point Kevin launches into a wordless vocal part of such passion and fire that it stands up there as my number 1 moment in all music. It’s punctuated by Billy saying ‘oh what do you mean?’ and pretty soon after ‘Ah I know what you mean’ as it all starts to become clear. And then we get some more conversation…

Bill, you know the newly wealthy peasants
You know the ones with their home bars and you know their hi-fis and all that stuff?
You know how they use words like fabulous and super in every sentence they spit out?
Oh yeah,
Well I don’t really like these scumbags You don’t? No
May I be clear on this point, oh no.
But everywhere I see their faces appear,
They say questions to me

They say:
What’s she like? What’s she like?
In time, in time, in time in time
Tell me what’s she like, tell me what’s she like
Bill, I’m trying, I’m trying to tell you what she’s like

We’re five minutes in. Kevin is starting to sound frustrated. Words just don’t do it. Sometimes what you feel just can’t be articulated. Billy and the band just haven’t left it alone. They want to know what’s she’s like. We want to know. The track breaks down to some slow piano, barber shop vocals and then one of those ‘oh, here it comes’ moments as huge drums clatter in underneath them. Then out of nowhere a tempo change and right then and there it seems that Kevin knows how to get the message across:

Oh well I’ll tell you what she’s like
Given half a chance
Can I make this clear
what she’s like
I’ll present a picture of what she’s like
You’ll be in no doubt as to what she’s like
But listen close listen close
And I’ll tell you, I’ll tell you just what’s she’s like
You’ll be in no doubt as to what she’s like
But listen close my friend

Another break down as another section comes in quietly then crashes in with Kevin’s ‘1,2,3,4’, music sounding for all the world like the sun coming up. Could be…we’ve been here along time while Kevin tells his story….

Come on, are you gonna tell us what she’s like or not
Oh yeah, I have every intention, every intention.
I’ll tell you now, listen, you won’t forget this.

Wordless vocals from Kevin, with encouragement from Billy. The track underneath building up, brass and violins and pianos building up the momentum.

Do you get my drift?
Oh yeah, I’m starting to get the picture
Well listen, I can expand on this if you’d like
Yeah, if you would

More of the same, building and building, painting a picture of this perfect woman for whom words aren’t enough. And then one of the funniest moments on the album. “I don’t speak Italian myself you understand, but I knew a man who did”. Like I said not exactly comedy, but great timing, and a certain Goon-ish surrealism.

Well how did all this happen
Just all at once really. Yeah? Just all at once
The Italians have a word for it
What word, what is it?
I don’t really know;A thunderbolt or something
What, you mean the Italian word for thunderbolt?
Yeah, something like that
I don’t speak Italian myself you understand No
But I knew a man who did.

Then the band hammer home that feeling, that Dexys feeling, driving piano, and drums. And then almost whispered:

Well, that’s my story,
The strongest thing I’ve ever seen

Brass, piano, violin, pound out the wordless melody that Kevin gave us a few minutes earlier away to a fade. At this point I normally put the track back to the start, wishing that instead of nearly 13 minutes long it was three times as long. I had a tape with nothing but this track on one side to save me rewinding it. It doesn’t matter that Don’t Stand Me Down wasn’t a hit. I bought my first copy of it in an Our Price on Oxford Street 6 months after it came out for a £1. There were hundreds of copies. And for a long time I didn’t know anybody that owned the album. But everybody that I played it to fell for it in a big way.

Almost strangely, I don’t associate this, possibly my favourite love song, with any particular woman. It’s perhaps almost too physical, too much about the initial ‘what was that?!?!?’ feeling. I do know that for me Dexys before this felt like they were practicing, and after this nothing would be good enough again.

This Is What She’s Like

Follow me:

My favourite post anywhere this week.

(Apart from maybe JC’s video of Edwyn and Roddy at Vinyl Villain…..

Sounds For Sunday On Tuesday

I couldn’t wait until Sunday for this little bunch.

We have several versions of songs by The Beatles. We have a classic Motown band performing Hey Jude, bringing out it’s latent Sly Stone soul. A classic Stax instrumental combo performing the same tune. We have The Supremes from their oddity album A Bit Of Liverpool, a 1964 album where they performed songs from the British Invasion.

It’s a strange album where despite the name several of the songs come from bands who had nothing to do with Liverpool. It’s also odd for a Motown album in that the band are doing fairly note perfect copies of the original ‘beat’ versions, rather than full on soul versions. And for the most part the Supremes sound like they had never heard the songs before the session. It lends it an almost ‘garage’ feel.

From the excellent After Hours series, we have the amazing Ella Fitzgerald performing The Temptations ‘Get Ready’.

And finally, all the way from North London come sixties band The Equals, mostly known for their song ‘Baby Come Back’ and Eddy Grant. While a lot of their material may be closer to pop, give these two very Temptations (in their Sly Stone period) influenced tunes a listen. If it looks like soul, sounds like soul you could probably call it soul…

The Temptations – Hey Jude
The Bar-Keys – Hey Jude
The Equals – Black Skinned Blue Eyed Boys
The Equals – Stand Up And Be Counted
The Supremes – House Of The Rising Sun
The Supremes – A Hard Days Night
Ella Fitzgerald – Get Ready

Sounds For Sunday

I’ve got lasagne for sunday dinner today, thanks to my lovely wife.

And you’ve got some John Holt today. John Holt was one of the first reggae superstars and an inspiration for the smooth soulful style that became known as Lovers Rock.

So pour yourself a large glass of whatever you fancy and ease yourself to the end of the weekend with these….

John Holt – Help Me Make It Through The Night
John Holt (with The Paragons) – The Tide Is High
John Holt – A Love I Can Feel
John Holt – Sister Big Stuff

Sons And Daughters

JC over at The Vinyl Villain had Sons And Daughters in his 45 45s at 45 rundown yesterday, with their song Johnny Cash. Here's the opening track from their latest album This Gift, produced by Mr Bernard Butler. The album's well worth checking out, if you like a mix of Blondie and The Birthday Party; chock full of big drums, big guitars, big voices and big hooky tunes.

Remember: Turn it up!



Hmm. I was going to post a few things this week, but life and work has gotten in the way. Meanwhile, I’m pretty much praying for warmer weather, for sunshine and those long summer evenings. If only so I can go to the pub and not worry about having the standing outside to indulge in my bad habit. The smoking ban has really put me off the pub. Nipping to the pub on the way home for a pint and a cig was one of those little luxuries that I really miss.

So as an offering to the Sun God, here are a couple of tunes that I think should have been big hits in the early 80s that simply glow with sunshine.

A Craze – Wearing Your Jumper (long version)

I loved this tune. A Craze, for those not in the know, were on Paul Weller’s Respond Record label back in the early 80s. They wrote ‘Give It Some Emotion’ which was a decent sized hit for label-mate Tracie Young. There are only a handful of songs in existence but they’re all pretty damn good. Fans of Saint Etienne might find them a little..familiar. Certainly there were a lot of similarities between the two, not least of which was Lucy Barron and Sarah Cracknell’s voices. This track in particular just feels so summery to me. I love the vocals, the restrained but extremely sexy breathiness of it and the lyrics. Mmm. (Keyboards by a certain Mick Talbot as well, and again they’re lovely and restrained.) Go to for some more stuff by Chris Free , the guitarist, and a lovely little demo of an unreleased A Craze tune. (Plus a picture of the lovely Lucy Barron, who should have been a huge star. Wonder what happened to her?)

Friends Again – Sunkissed

Friends Again were another early 80s band that should have been bigger. Featuring Chris Thompson (later of The Bathers) and James Grant (later of Love And Money and solo career), they were along similar lines to Aztec Camera and Orange Juice. Chris’ vocals were incredibly Bowie influenced, and some of the songs owed more to Steely Dan, but on the whole it was jangle-pop with that early 80s funk leaning. Sunkissed was a single in 1983, and one which I never owned until last year. But I never forgot it! This version is from a Japanese CD of their only album Trapped And Unwrapped. I have another version which is slightly different, in that it has more electric guitars on it. If anybody can shed some light on the reason for the difference I’d be grateful!

Come on sunshine!

Sounds For Sunday

I said I’d get around to posting some reggae. I’m afraid I went a little mad this week. I’ve an embarrassment of riches for you this week. Most of the tunes come from various Trojan compilations. If you’ve always wanted to get into reggae but just don’t know where to start, a really good place to begin is the series of Trojan box sets. Most of them have an average of about 50 tracks, and you can guarantee most of those tracks will be excellent.

Ok, the tunes today can be split into a variety of themes, shall we say. There are a couple of classic instrumentals, a couple of great dub tunes, some classic soul tunes that you might know by other people, and some tunes from my favourite of the box sets: Trojan X-Rated.

Keep your ears peeled for some familiar moments amongst these tunes: Clash fans may recognise ‘Marijuana’ by another name; and Specials fans might find something interesting about ‘Birth Control’….

Turn up the bass, get the roast in the oven and sit back and enjoy:

Sly & The Revolutionaries- Marijuana
Dave & Ansell Collins – Double Barrel
Chosen Few – Shaft
Lloydie & The Lowbites- Birth Control
Chosen Few – Tears Of A Clown
Augustus Pablo – Keep On Dubbing
John Holt – Stoned Out Of My Mind
Augustus Pablo & Fae- Bedroom Mazurka
Jay Boys- I Can’t Get Next To You
Charlie Ace & Fay- Punanny
The Harry J Allstars- Liquidator
Bunny”Ruggs”Clarke – Be Thankful For What You’ve Got