Sunday, May 31, 2015

Songs About People # 88 Johnny Carson

A real oddity this one. The Beach Boys from 1976 with all manner of awkward rhymes.

Death # 1 Jody Reynolds

Time for another spurious series. Death is as good a subject as any. Won't make this a mixtape daily thing as I've currently got one on the go and that would give me a pretty morbid month to get through. Still, so many great songs on this theme, particularly from the Fifties to the Seventies. To start off with this one. Pretty much flawless. A Billboard # 5 hit in 1958.

The Velvet Underground - Venus in Furs

Just because it's there. Early demo of this song sung by John Cale and his voice, and the general arrangement make it sound quite Medieval!

Mixtape - Songs that Steal the 'Be My Baby' Drum Sound # 10 Clearlake

Side 1 Track 10 3.39. From the sun to the rain. It's overcast, though Sunday morning not evening so no excuse for that strange ennui that sinks in with the realisation towards the end of the day that it's back to work again shortly. From a very American landscape and mindset with Earth Wind & Fire to one that could only ever be an English one. Seeped in our melancholy and resignation. From a band, Midlake,  that sounded like a minor league Blur when they turned up, I think at the end of the Nineties. They cut some very good tracks on this record and it deserves to be up here if only for the lines, 'It's one of those washed up days. Let's face it there isn't much on. Except Songs of Praise.' You'd have to be English, or British at least, to get that reference. They take the basics of the Be My Baby drums for their purpose, shift it round slightly to make sure it wrings out suitably depressed. Job well done.

Song(s) of the Day # 497 Earth Wind & Fire

'I Am  has to stand alone, simply because it is the high watermark of an extraordinary group.'
Gary Mullholland, Fear of Music

Yesterday was a sunny morning. Daylight streaming through the tall windows of my flat. I put Earth Wind & Fire's I Am on first thing. Probably the first time I've listened to it for twenty years. It won't be another twenty. It's a wonderful record. I imagine the apogee of their career and I've been working towards using that word almost the entire two years that I've been writing this blog.

I don't really have any records that I could slot next to it if I chose to organise my collection in terms of genre rather than alphabetically, (yes I've thought about these things). It could probably be classified as a Disco record but it transcends that narrow definition. The musicianship is far too distinguished for such a narrow category. Get it. Play it. It will feel as if happiness has suddenly come on tap where you live.

'We critics like things obvious. If the singer sings, 'I am in existential torment,' then we can safely say he is in existential torment, and praise him for being deep, emotionally honest and authentic. If the singer sings, 'I love you and I'm happy,' we can safely say he is a bland person who is just trying to ingratiate himself with a mass audience. Your average listener, being a little smarter, is not so easily fooled by the surface of things.'
Gary Mullholland, Fear of Music

He's right. Be happy!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Songs About People # 87 Jayne Mansfield

he 5,6,7,8s. Proper Japanese Garage Band. They're best knock for their performance in Kill Bill where they performed this, amongst others. Their cover of Green Onions which followed this on my YouTube feed is less highly recommended.

Lyrics - The Lemonheads - Hospital

'There's a disease. Going 'round the hospital. Green, green leaves. Falling from the trees.'

A minor classic. From their pretty decent mid-Nineties record, Car Button Cloth. Written by Evan Dando at the Silver Hill Hospital in Boston where he wound up after an acid induced breakdown. One thing that cheered him slightly while he was there was the discovery that Edie Sedgewick had once been committed there, which led him to get out his guitar and start strumming Just Like a Woman the song Dylan reputedly wrote about her.

Mixtape - Songs that Steal the 'Be My Baby' Drum Sound # 9 Elvis Costello - No Dancing

Side 1 Track 9 2.43. Elvis Costello stood out from the pack that emerged during Punk in that he clearly understood what he was doing from the off. He knew his craft and could compress all of the drama, romance and melody of the Sixties into concise, punchy, angry statements better than anyone else and still sound utterly fresh.

Song of the Day # 496 Associates

A track from their 1980 album The Affectionate Punch. Incredibly inventive, from start to finish. Some band!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Record Sleeves # 34 Captain Beefheart & his Magic Band - Safe As Milk

Mixtape - Songs that Steal the 'Be My Baby' Drum Sound # 8 Candi Staton - I'm Just A Prisoner

Side 1 Track 12 - 3.11 - Proper Southern Soul, from an Alabama girl. Uses the slave metaphor to great effect.  Only steals a few seconds of Be My Baby at the beginning and then mid way through. Just enough to make its point.

Song(s) of the Day # 495 Dyke & the Blazers

Now there's a band name. his week's discovery. I found out about this lot a couple of days ago leafing through Dave Marsh's The Heart of Rock & Soul, a great read which I'll get back to at length at some point. There's also an album of theirs on the jukebox at my local, so all round a result. So here's a selection of their stuff. Pretty much the second Funk band in America in the late Sixties after the JBs. Their career was cut short when leader Arlester Christian was shot dead on the streets of Phoenix in 1971.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

May 28th 1945 John Fogerty

John Fogerty is Seventy today. Fitting really, at least for me personally, as I've just finished a three week slog writing a review of Creedence's hits compilation. He's a great songwriter obviously but also a very interesting lyricist and a quite specific personality. 

The Creedence story is a very sad one despite the success they achieved. As I commented a couple of week's back, in some ways it's an American tragedy. The story of a band whose history, poor luck and judgement ripped their personal relationships apart, and the wounds that were left for the three surviving members are clearly not yet healed.

As for the record itself. I promised a post script and here's a hurried one. Over half is undeniably great and will last as long as these things do, right pretty much towards the very top of the tree. Some of it of course is less resonant and dates less well. As Creedence were very much hit-makers I might as well make my own Top Twenty from the selections on here. Subjective, as these things must always be of course but generally I think I've separated wheat from chaff:

1. Born on the Bayou
2. Who'll Stop The Rain
3. Bad Moon Rising
4. Have You Ever Seen The Rain
5. Green River
6. Proud Mary
7. Long As I Can See The Light
8. Fortunate Son
9. Lookin' Out My Back Door
10. Lodi
11. Up Around The Bend
12. Down On The Corner
13. Travelin' Band
14. Suzie Q
15. Commotion
16. Good Golly Miss Molly
17. Keep On Chooglin'
18. Sweet Hitch Hiker
19. I Heard It Through The Grapevine
20. Hey Tonight

Personally, I'd ditch the bottom five and possibly six and replace them, Firstly with Run Through The Jungle, one of the best things they ever did, but also with Ramble Tamble (the opener of Cosmo's Factory), Sinister Purpose, Walking On The Water, Someday Never Comes, I Put A Spell On You and Don't Look Now. For three weeks this music had me under its spell. Happy Birthday John!

Lyrics - David Bowie - Rock & Roll Suicide

'Time takes a cigarette. Puts it in your mouth...'

Just because it's a great line. The song's not shabby either!

Covers # 5 Shonen Knife

“When I finally got to see them live, I was transformed into a hysterical nine-year-old girl at a Beatles concert.”Kurt Cobain

Another Cobain selection. The ever wonderful Shonen Knife do the ever wonderful Carpenters.

Songs About People # 86 Jackie Mittoo

Superchunk, never really in the front rank of America Indie Guitar Bands, are remarkably still going. Setting off in the early 1990's from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, they released their tenth album a couple of years back. The peak of their career may well have been their lone NME cover back in the early Nineties. Oh and this song about Jackie Mittoo. Almost AOR, Indie music strangely!

Mixtape - Songs that Steal the 'Be My Baby' Drum Sound # 7 The Shins - Turn on Me

Side 1 Song 7 3.42. The Shins can do very little wrong in my eyes. Like so many James Mercer songs it seems to be about heading forth to pastures new.

Song of the Day # 494 The Knack

“Our songs have the standard pop format: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo, bad solo. All in all, we sound like the Knack and the Bay City Rollers being molested by Black Flag and Black Sabbath.” Kurt Cobain
Cobain listed Get The Knack amongst his favourite 50 albums. To be honest having listened through to it the other day at work, not all of it stands the test of time too well with the obvious exception of My Sharona, the one song of theirs that hit big in the UK. This though, the opening track on the record, sounded ok to me too.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

May 27th 1957 Siouxsie Sioux

                                                         Born Susan Dallion.

Mixtape - Songs that Steal the 'Be My Baby' Drum Sound # 6 Johnny Boy - You are the generation that bought more shoes and you get what you deserve

Side One Track 6 - 3.08 An example of how this drumbeat can propel something from somewhere quite ordinary into something almost transcendental. Produced by James Dean Bradfield who also borrowed the drum beat during his time with Manic Street Preachers. Brilliant. This reached # 50 when released in the UK more than ten years back. It should have been # 1.

Garry Mulholland
Sunday 23 May 2004
The Observer

'Every now and again, a record appears that behaves as if the pop surrounding it simply doesn't exist. Look at the title of this song and the name of the band and you might safely assume that this will be shouty bloke agit-rock, of which there is always plenty. But it isn't - in fact, it so isn't that it makes one want to dust off a long-rejected phrase and believe in the idea of 'subversive pop' all over again.'You are the Generation that Bought More Shoes and You Get What You Deserve' - to give it its full title - is a call to arms against consumerism delivered in an ancient but timeless language. It begins with one of the most blatant steals imaginable: a huge, portentous thud of kick drum and a slap of snare and tambourine that will always add up to the intro of 1963's 'Be My Baby' by the Ronettes, a pleading, weeping, girl group love song transformed into high art by Phil Spector. Who better to rip off for an anti-materialist song than the man once labelled the Tycoon of Teen?
Johnny Boy, a duo comprising Davo from Liverpool and Lolly from London, hook up Spector's echoing glockenspiels, acoustic guitars and fanfare brass to a gradually galloping rhythm and a melody of heartbreaking sadness and joy. Then Lolly's voice (part indie-girl fragility, part Shangri-La stridency) paints a picture of winter evening streets swimming with consumerist middle-youth 'heathens', complaining that things are getting worse, yet unable or unwilling to grasp their own cool-hunting complicity.'

Song of the Day # 493 Susan Sondfor

Norwegian singer-songwriter. Her voice starts to do extraordinary things a couple of minutes in. This is from three years back. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Songs Heard on the Radio # 55 The Saints

One of the truly great Punk Rock singles. A bona fide classic. From a band who came over to the UK from Brisbane, Australia at the height of Punk and showed a great many of those around them exactly how to do it. A great way to start a radio show which this just has.

May 26th 1948 Stevie Nicks

An incredible day for birthdays. Miles Davis, Peggy Lee, George Formby, Levon Helm and Mick Ronson for starters. But this time Stevie Nicks gets it.

Mixtape - Songs that Steal the 'Be My Baby' Drum Sound # 5 Roky Erikson - I Walked With a Zombie

Side 1 Song 5 2.35. Now this is a strange one. Recorded during Erikson's long, wilderness years when he was clearly suffering from the effects of his institutionalisation and the appalling impact of his Sixties drug-taking. All sung in a slightly odd approximation of Mick Jagger's singing voice too.

Song of the Day # 492 Sissy Spacek

As the star of Coal Miner's Daughter of course she can sing. A version of a Hank Williams tune and she nails it.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Album Reviews # 43 Creedence Clearwater Revival - Hits Album # 20 Suzie Q

So, to the last song on the record, after almost three weeks. With a drumbeat and a sound that follows behind it that seem to come out of nowhere. This was the idea of the Creedence sound that John Fogerty, with time and thought distilled into a formula and hit paydirt with. A beautiful take on the Dale Hawkins,Fifties song but at the same time, a better version. The idea that this song actually bubbled out of Southern mud was already in Fogerty's head and he moved forward with that, towards remarkable and deserved success. A proper consideration of the record and Creedence as a whole will come shortly.

May 25th 1965 Sonny Boy Williamson

'Blues harmonica player, singer and songwriter, Sonny Boy Williamson died in his sleep. Van Morrison, Aerosmith, The Who, The Animals, Yardbirds and Moody Blues all covered his songs. According to the Led Zeppelin biography Hammer of the Gods, touring the UK in the 60's, Sonny Boy set his hotel room on fire while trying to cook a rabbit in a coffee percolator.

Mixtape - Songs that Steal the 'Be My Baby' Drum Sound # 4 The Carpenters - Only Yesterday

Side 1 Track 4 - 3. 47. Like so many I grew up with a Carpenters soundtrack as it was one of the few records in my mother's collection. She was right! It also seems to steal the slightly Hispanic castanet click from Be My Baby although as with all the Carpenters productions it sounds more synthetic and altogether Seventies. Worth watching the video too, for the flares alone.

Song of the Day # 491 The Milk Carton Kids

I posted something from this lot a couple of days ago but here's something else. Simon & Garfunkel of course are the obvious reference point. But just great on its own terms. Good name for a band too.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Album Reviews # 43 Creedence Clearwater Revival - Hits Album # 19 Good Golly Miss Molly

As basic as it gets. The second of three covers that tie up the record. Not a bad one this. The band are tight and Fogerty's voice is more than up to it. 

Mixtape - Songs that Steal the 'Be My Baby' Drum Sound # 3 Cocteau Twins - In the Gold Dust Rush

Side 1 Track 3 - 3.40. Definitely starts with the Be My Baby drum sound. Then becomes something else entirely. Quite wonderful too.

Song of the Day # 490 Sudden Death of Stars

A band from Rennes in France who sound as if they like Syd Barrett an awful lot. Nothing wrong with that.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

American States # 26 Michigan

Spotify really is a wonderful thing! From my latest discoveries Milk Carton Kids who have a new record out now.

Album Reviews # 43 Creedence Clearwater Revival - Hits Album # 18 I Heard It Through The Grapevine

I feel a bit sad winding down to the end of this review. Mainly because the songs at the tail end of the second side simply aren't as good for the most part as the tracks which preceded them. Grapevine is a case in point. A truly great song obviously but one that had already been nailed by wonderful, and quite definitive versions by Marvin Gaye and Gladys Knight & the Pips. 

There's an interview on YouTube with bassist Stu Cook where the Australian interviewer tells Cook that Creedence that in the Seventies the Australian general public only knew the song through the Creedence version because so little black music was played on the radio at that point in time. Cook is quite rightly taken aback and also looks slightly ashamed. Listen to the other takes on it instead. Or even, the later, almost unhinged take on the song by The Slits. All put Creedence's version quite in the shade

Mixtape - Songs that Steal the 'Be My Baby' Drum Sound # 2 The Beach Boys - Don't Worry Baby

Side 1 Track 2 2.59. Remarkably, a B-Side. To  I Get Around. Perhaps the most immediate appropriation of that opening drum trick after Be My Baby itself came out. Until The Beatles came along Spector was probably the bench mark by which Brian Wilson by which he measured his progress. One of the best things he ever wrote.

"Don't Worry Baby" is lush with echo and gorgeous open-throated background harmonies that set off a sweet tenor lead vocal by Wilson himself. The intro is pure Spector, as befits a song originally intended as the Ronettes' follow-up to "Be My Baby"; Hal Blaine drumbeats lead into surging harmonies, followed by a reverbless post-surf guitar slashing the meter in half.
If those are "Don't Worry Baby" ' s roots, its lineage extends just as deeply into the future. Give it a country accent and you have an apotheosis of the seventies California rock epitomized by the Eagles. Similarly, Mike Love's doo-wop bass balanced by a choral backdrop drawn straight out of the Four Freshman handbook of harmonic corn sets the stage for Lindsey Buckingham's seventies arrangements for Fleetwood Mac.

With "Don't Worry Baby" Wilson casually overturns everv convention of a genre he all but invented, turning melodramatic car crash numbers like "Dead Man's Curve" and "Tell Laura I Love Her" inside out. Rather than face death in order to prove his devotion or his cool. the singer is troubled because he's "shot [his] mouth off" about his car and now fears that he's going to be defeated in a drag race (and lose the car, not his life or his love). Rather than toughing it out, he confesses that he feels this foreboding all the time. It's a moment of male vulnerability that was probably unprecedented in rock and roll at that time, and one which laid the groundwork for every singer/songwriter confessional of the seventies. What rescues him from his own dread is his girl's reassurance, which she repeats to him in the title phrase. That's corny, too, but it's also extremely effective. Not to mention useful, and maybe even emotionally truthful.'

Dave Marsh - The Heart of Rock & Soul

Song of the Day # 489 Buck Owen

I mentioned the Sound of Bakersfield a couple of days ago when talking about Lookin' Out My Backdoor.Here's its best known practitioner.

Friday, May 22, 2015

May 22nd 1959 Morrissey

It's also Jerry Dammers birthday today but Morrissey just shades it.

Mixtape - Songs that Steal the 'Be My Baby' Drum Sound # 1 Jesus & Mary Chain - Sowing Seeds

'As part of the session-musician collective known as the Wrecking Crew, drummer Hal Blaine left his imprint on pop music—sometimes physically, as is the case of the sheet music and concert venues marked by his customized rubber stamp: “Hal Blaine Strikes Again.” (Backed by the Wrecking Crew for “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’,” Nancy Sinatra even joked that she had Blaine’s stamp tattooed somewhere on her person.) But even if the dozens of hits that Blaine played on were lost to history, his most crucial contribution to the pop canon would remain: the booming intro to The Ronettes’ 1963 single “Be My Baby.” For three beats of a bass drum followed by a snap of snare and tambourine, the pattern has proven wildly versatile.' 

'I see people going down. All god's people going down.'

Song One, Side 1 - 2.50. We'll kick off here. The Jesus & Mary Chain did this doomed glamour better than anyone else. The Psychocandy album stands up remarkably well thirty years down the line though I'm not sure they themselves ever managed anything else that really even stood in its shadow. They understood however, as The Ramones did,  that all of this stuff comes straight from The Ronettes and The Shangri-Las. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Song of the Day # 488 Canned Heat

As I come towards the end of Creedence, this seems to me the contemporary band most similar in sound and tone to them.

Album Reviews # 43 Creedence Clearwater Revival - Hits Album # 17 Hey Tonight

Now this I'm afraid is perfunctory. Creedence are winding down as a band and it shows. I can't really think of very much to say about it. It's one of the songs that lead to Status Quo. Not, for me at least, a good place to wind up.

Song of the Day # 487 Joachim Witt

Originally a Talking Heads song of course. From the album Fear of Music. Here it is in German.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Songs Heard on the Radio # 54 The Band

I'm not always totally enamored of everything The Band did but this sounded good coming out of the radio just now. From their first record, Music From The Big Pink.

Album Reviews # 43 Creedence Clearwater Revival - Hits Album # 16 Lookin' Out My Backdoor

'Just got home from Illinois. Locked the front door, oh boy...' 

The last true classic on this record. A tribute to The Bakersfield Sound, a genre of Country Music which came to prominence in the late Fifties involving musicians such as Buck Owens and Merle Haggard among others. Owens gets a name check here. Creedence was always a band that looked back when they were at their best.

This song is a joy from start to finish. Written reportedly by John Fogerty for his young son. He was also aware that it was likely to be pegged as a 'drugs' track, which actually happened in case of point though Creedence were a notoriously abstemious band. 

In fact it's a song about kicking back in the most innocent sense. A far better child's song about escape, release and sheer wonder than The Beatles managed with their Ringo throwaways or Paul's comedic, show hall tunes. It's gone in two minutes an twenty seconds, charted at # 2 in 1972 where Creedence seemed destined to always land in the American Charts. Of course it was rebooted in a famous sequence from The Big Lebowski  twenty years later, Now he was taking drugs of course.

May 20th 1972 T.Rex

Their fourth and last # 1 in the UK, today in 1972.

Song of the Day # 486 Moe Tucker

Saw her playing this in a New York club fifteen years back. So she's a right wing Tea Party fan. She's still Moe Tucker.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Songs Heard on the Radio # 53 Honey Ltd.

Sixties Girl Group, produced and no doubt given some helping direction from Lee Hazlewood. Backed by the Wrecking Crew studio musicians. They achieved little success at the time, I suppose because this style was so ubiquitous at that point. Still, like this!

Album Reviews # 43 Creedence Clearwater Revival - Hits Album # 15 Sweet Hitch- Hiker

This is all rather unseemly, promo and song. Sadly the wheels started coming off round about here, with the making of Mardi Gras, after Tom Fogerty left the group and songwriting duties inadvisably divided up between the remaining trio resulting in a shocking drop in terms of quality all round. This was among the better songs on there and that's a sad reflection of the rest of the record. John Fogerty's strength was never really in terms of love songs as they generally came across as unbridled lust which hasn't endured particularly if indeed it ever passed muster. 

This particular song makes little effort to be anything but unbridled lust. The melody is quite passable but the thought of the three remaining members of Creedence swerving onto the hard shoulder bearing down on some poor girl looking to catch a lift was not a particularly attractive one. With a real low-pont, 'Won't you ride on my fast machine?' as the worst, least dignified lyric John Fogerty ever wrote. 

As I said the tune has something going for it but generally, sadly it's a snapshot of a band going through difficult times and through the motions with the joy of what they were doing largely spent and their former leader trying to salvage something worthwhile from the impending wreckage and not pulling it off. 

May 19th 1945 Pete Townshend

70 today!

Song of the Day # 485 Johnny Thunders

The counterpoint to the quote at the top of this page. His greatest song.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Album Reviews # 43 Creedence Clearwater Revival - Hits Album # 14 Have You Ever Seen The Rain

'Shining down like water.'

One of the greatest breakup songs. And one of the best Creedence songs of all. Again I think Fogerty speaks best for himself.

Song of the Day # 484 Smokey Robinson & the Miracles

The follow up to Tears of a Clown in the US and UK. Went Top 20 in both charts.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Covers # 4 Barbra Streisand

Bowie himself didn't rate it. He said, in a 1976 Playboy interview. "Bloody awful. Sorry, Barb, but it was atrocious." I have to say, I don't really agree.

Lyrics - Big Star - You Get What You Deserve

'All God's orphans get face in the dream..'

One of the very oddest lines imaginable. Last song on the first side, and one of the finest on the record from Big Star's excellent second effort Radio City. The song itself is just wonderful, expressing a strange, undefinable resentment. The rest of the lyric's not bad either.

'Try to understand what I'm going through
Don't blame me for what folks will do
For some of us it's not a good time
But, you're going to get choosed to
And you'd better resign yourself

You get what you deserve
You ought to find out what it's worth
And you've gotta have a lotta nerve.

You just do what pleases you
Go on and sigh out every move
You gonna get place in the scene
All God's orphans get face in the dream now

Too bad such a drag
So much pain went down the drain
And a lot of us ain't got many friends.'

Album Reviews # 43 Creedence Clearwater Revival - Hits Album # 13 Green River

'Stoppin' at the log where catfish bite,Walkin' along the river road at night,
Barefoot girls dancin' in the moonlight.'

'After Bayou Country, I began to feel I had the freedom or power to do what I wanted. And where I went, starting with “Bad Moon Rising”, was right to my emotional, musical core, which was very resonant of Sun Records. “Green River” was my favourite song from the Creedence era, because it really had the whole Sun Records vibe to me – and the album, too. The barefoot boy with a cane pole down by the river – it seemed to have that feel all over that album. My own personality really came to the fore. When I was 7, 8 years old, I started collecting titles, and “Green River” came from sitting at the counter at the drugstore a block-and-a-half from my house in El Cerrito. They served soft drinks, and behind the counter was a big bottle of Green River, which was a syrup. On the label there was this artist’s rendering of a sunset behind a little creek. I said, “‘Green River’… that’d be a cool song. Someday I should grow up and write it.”

“Green River” was a true place. It just seemed very Southern in nature, although it happened to be a place in Northern California. It was where my parents took the family on summer vacation, a two-room cabin. The creek, Putah Creek, was no more than 15 or 20 feet from the back door, and there was a rope hangin’ from the tree. I discovered pollywogs the first time I went underwater. It was quite a strong memory. Here, nearly 60 years later, it’s still quite a strong memory of… I don’t know… discovery, independence.'
John Fogerty

He says it better than I can. A riff and melody as clear as a bell.Beautifully simplistic, and one of Fogerty's best lyrics.

Song of the Day # 483 ESG

Where Las Kellis, the band I posted yesterday, come from. They dd a cover of this.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Stooges - Down on the Street

A contrast with the last song. Written about the same time. I don't known if a comparison between the two has ever been made. In any case, the mindset could not be more different.

Album Reviews # 43 Creedence Clearwater Revival - Hits Album # 12 Down on the Corner

'Down on the corner. Out in the street. Willie & the Poor Boys are playing. Bring a nickel. Tap your feet.'

More myth-making. The other side of the coin from the slightly later Travelin' Band  which appropriately is second song on the first side of this record while this lies second song on the reverse. Travelin' Band was where they actually were by this point, Down on the Corner an imagining of where they started. Essentially fake of course but hey, we all like stories and a sense of childhood awe was what Fogerty the idea of Creedence was built on anyway.

It's corny too but as a band they never shied away from that kind of hokiness. It's also Fogerty's retort to Sgt. Pepper where the Beatles pulled the same trick in equally hokey fashion. Another example, if one was needed by this point of Fogerty's ability to churn out winning tunes. Good time music. The idea that the band playing at the end of your street could be the best band you'd ever hear. Another big hit. The other side to the much more venomous Fortunate Son single.

Song of the Day # 482 Las Kellies

An Argentinian response to Brazil's CSS. Something of the lightness of Tom Tom Club and ESG thirty five years down the line about this. Find the recorded version if you can, unfortunately, not on YouTube.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Album Reviews # 43 Creedence Clearwater Revival - Hits Album # 11 Proud Mary

'Cleaned a lot of plates in Memphis. Pumped a lot of 'tane down in New Orleans.'

'The first album came out on my 23rd birthday, May 28, 1968, and we were off and running as Creedence, but still kind of a second-on-the-bill act. But all through that time, I’m writing very busily. This was where all that evolution very dramatically occurred in me. I’ve seen science-fiction movies where the guy’s head suddenly doubles in size; that’s actually what occurred to me. All that stuff – all that imagery, that Southern lore, all that fable stuff that’s in the songwriting, starting with the name and the plaid shirt – was going on in me, and the other guys were still the bar band.

Bayou Country really stated what Creedence Clearwater Revival was and should be. There were hints of it on the first album. The singin’ is good, and the band plays well; it just doesn’t sound as authentic as Stax. But Bayou Country just lands very authoritatively. The title track, with that droning chord and that whole spooky thing, that’s such a great opening. And the cover shot, which was just by accident, was spooky and undefined, and it did nothing to dispel the vision.

Because I was writing – this is late ’67 and early ’68 – it occurred to me one day that what I liked was song titles. So I went down to the drugstore in El Cerrito at the mall, and I went and got myself a cheap little notebook, and I made myself a title page that said “Song Titles” [laughs], and the first thing I wrote was “Proud Mary”. I looked at it and said, “Hmm… what does that mean? Maybe it’s like a domestic worker, a maid.”

Then I began to write some melody. The flow sounded good, but I had no idea what it was about. So I go back to the song-title book and “Proud Mary” is sittin’ there, and dang if it didn’t sound like a paddle wheel goin’ around. I said, “Man, that sounds like a riverboat!” Now, that’s the magic, the myth, the voodoo of this whole deal. I began to write the song – the story – of that boat, Proud Mary. It was the central character. That’s exactly how it happened; it’s no more mythical than that.

We went into RCA in Hollywood, Studio A, to record Bayou Country in October [1968]. We had the music for “Proud Mary” recorded, and I knew what I wanted the backgrounds to sound like. I showed the other guys how to sing the backgrounds, having remembered what we’d sounded like on “Porterville”, which was very ragged, not melodious, and I had this beautiful harmony sound in my head, kinda like what the old gospel groups would do. And I heard our tape back, and I just went, “Nahhh, that’s not gonna work.” So we had a big fight over that. I said, “I’m gonna sing all the parts” – ’cause I’d been doin’ that for years with my tape recorder at home, and I knew harmony, and the other guys, frankly, did not. We literally coulda broke up right there.

I was well aware of the sophomore jinx; I did not want to go back to the car wash. I actually made that speech: “If the second one stinks, we’re a one-hit wonder.” Instead of delving into the underground, my Elvis-and-Beatles upbringing came directly into play. And I was able to write songs that would go on Top 40 radio, because that’s what I had wanted to do since I was four. I wanted to make hit singles; I thought that was my job. At the conclusion of “Proud Mary”, I even said to myself, “Wow, that’s my first standard.” '

What's to say about Proud Mary? It sounds, of course, like it's always been there and it feels difficult to imagine what it must feel like to be the guy that wrote it. I can't really say anything much about it because it's just too omnipresent though that's really a tribute to the song rather than a criticism of it. It's played at virtually every wedding in the States and must have been covered by more artists than any other Creedence song, probably most notably by Ike and Tina Turner who all but stole it away from them. The nature of standards.

As attested by Fogerty above it was both his statement of vindication and the moment when things started to go wrong in terms of band relations. Brutally put, it was a stark statement to the rest of them of how talented Fogerty truly was. It was originally backed with Born on the Bayou, pretty much as bold a statement as it's possible to make in terms of a breakthrough single. It's myth making of the highest order. Made all the more powerful by the fact that it's an act of imaginative creation rather than something that actually organically rose up from the swamps.

' In other hands this ersatz remembrance of the way things never were on riverboats might have seemed like a case of overexposure to Life on the Mississippi especially given Fogerty's total immersion accent, which (in true New Orleans style, pretty rare for a California kid) transforms 'work' to 'woik' among other things.

Fogerty gets away with it, though, because he came up with a riff and rhythm that roll along as mighty as the Mississippi itself. The surging flood of guitars and drums, the bass line's undertow and the liquid guitar solo justify every vocal and lyric affectation. By the end the story seems natural and eternal, which maybe means that those studied qualities aren't affectations after all.'

Dave Marsh, The Heart of Rock & Soul