The Songs That People Sing

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

Month: October, 2010

Talking Of Springsteen…

I’ve been on a Boss kick these past couple of weeks, loaded up everything up to Tunnel Of Love onto the Ipod, hit random and settled back into my train seat and closed my eyes.

My favourite album is probably not one that everybody would name, Tunnel Of Love. There’s a simplicity to the lyrics that I find really appealing, especially when you compare them to some of the other albums. And the title track is one of my favourite lyrics by anybody anywhere. Especially the following lines:

“Then the lights go out and it’s just the three of us
You me and all that stuff we’re so scared of”

Which I think in two simple lines says so much, far more than I read into it when I first heard it – blimey 22 years ago – when I was 19. I really think it’s a wonderful bit of writing which resonates so strongly, and it’s not just about a bad or dying relationship either, it pretty much fits any relationship.

It’s also a great tune…


30 Years

Blimey. It’s now over 30 years since I started secondary school. Nothing captures that time better than this monster hit from that Autumn, Baggy Trousers. It really does say it all. Except for that constant fear at the core of it. School was a war zone, a minefield. I did well at school, but I hated every minute of it.

Andy Pawlak

Back in the late 80s I bought an album called Shoebox Full Of Secrets by singer-songwriter Andy Pawlak. If you’ve never heard him then here’s a tune of his called Mermaids. I don’t know much about him, other than he was from the same part of the world as Paddy McAloon.

The album isn’t one I’ve listened to much over the years, infact I no longer own it, except in digital form. But it’s one of those I think about a lot.

It reminds me of being in my late teens, wearing fingerless gloves and chainsmoking, chasing girls who thought poetry was both romantic and sexy. Nobody ever warned me about those girls. They were dangerous, far more so than the girls I grew up with. At least the girls I grew up with were straightforward. If they liked you then you could touch. If they didn’t then they would hit you.

The romantic moody ones who wanted life to be somewhere between Wuthering Heights and Betty Blue with a soundtrack by Kate Bush; they were scary and the weather around them could change in the blink of an eye. Unsteady ground.

Back to Andy: Musically Andy’s works would sit alongside the Prefabs, also Roddy Frame, the Blow Monkeys, The Style Council and lots of the mainstream Scottish pop like Love And Money. Poetic lyrics, melancholy pop songs that verge on the funky but started off as acoustics strums in a bedroom somewhere. You know the kind of thing. And lots of you out there like that kind of thing…

Gregory Isaacs

Ah, we’ve lost yet another one.

Reg King (The Action)

Apparently we’ve lost another one. 😦 I’ll expand if I hear anything else.

*From what I understand he actually passed away a couple of weeks ago following an illness. The Action only released a small amount of material (all of which is worth checking out if you have even a passing interest in things Mod or 60s or Soul) but it is material that I have listened to on a regular basis for nearly 30 years now and I can honestly say that for me Reg King is one of the finest singers this country ever produced. Similar to Steve Marriot but calmer, more controlled and somehow more ‘real’. There’s none of Stevie’s cockney moments and Reg’s voice was altogether more stylish.

Go and search out The Action. You won’t regret it.

The Jetset

The Jetset were a mid 80s Mod band, who were modelled on the Monkees, right down to the car. They had been put together by Melvyn J Taub and Paul Bevoir with the help of Paul Bultitude, who was the drummer with Secret Affair and was also Mari Wilson’s drummer. Melvyn was also on backing vocals with Mari.

They weren’t the deepest of bands, but they had some great songs and it was all a lot of fun. I never knew of the Mari Wilson connection with the Mod scene that I moved through back in those days. And looking into it tonight I find that there’s also a connection with me. Turns out Melvyn went to the same school as me, although it was nearly a decade before I went.

And here’s Mari Wilson, Just What I Always Wanted. Melvyn is the shorter of the backing singers.

Etta James – I’d Rather Go Blind

Somebody did this on the X-Factor tonight, and it’s a measure of the song that it wasn’t a bad performance. It wasn’t great by any means, but it wasn’t bad. Some of that might be because as the girl performed it I could hear this version in my head. I love this song, absolutely love it. It’s one of those performances that just gets you, right here in your guts, and makes all the hairs on your body stand up. I get shivers.

How We Used To Live – Saint Etienne

How We Used To Live was almost this blog’s title when I was first thinking of starting one.  I was obsessed for a while with the things you lose, the things that disappear.  Especially in London.  Its such a fluid city, people move on, buildings get knocked down and areas change upwards and downwards. 

The title that stuck came from a song I wrote about that kind of thing, but also about traditions that don’t really get recorded.  I’m sort of talking about folk traditions, handing on songs and stories but also about those funny little bands that never made it, the old painted adverts for soap or cigarettes, or the little shop down a funny street that sold old fashioned sweets or buttons or bicycle parts.  I think you know what I’m talking about.

No band captures that sense of loss mixed up with an eye for the small details better than Saint Etienne.  Yes its often rose tinted specs time, but it’s a defense mechanism.  Saint Etienne know things weren’t better in the past, it just makes it easier to deal with the present.

Rose Elinor Dougall

Something quite new for the autumn.  Rose Elinor Dougall used to be in The Pipettes (lead voice on Dirty Mind and Judy) and is currently to be heard to great effect on the latest Mark Ronson album.  But she also has a solo album of her own out called Without Why

There are those of you out there who will need to get this album.    It is a mix of guitars, both fuzzy electric and gently strummed and picked.  There are pop songs that soar and swoop and ambient atmospherics with strings and buzzing synths and moody pianos.  There is the voice, very English, almost folk.  And there are lyrics that slide into the brain sideways.

As the leaves change colour it is starting to sound like a perfect soundtrack.

To use comparisons, if you like The Sundays and Belly and Sandie Shaw singing Hand In Glove you will like this.  It is old fashioned Indie (with a capital I), the way it was when you could buy an album on Rough Trade with a fiver and still have change for a fish supper.  The voice sounds like the missing link between Harriet and Miss Ellis Bextor.  It is music for floppy fringed Indie boys to dream to.

This is probably the centrepiece of the album, a beautiful slice of something to watch the leaves leave the trees.

Solomon Burke RIP