I’ve had a little while off from the internet, as a whole pile of things have been building up that needed dealing with offline, so I’ve not even checked my email for a week (I see I have emails from Sarah, Pillock, Brad, Tilt, Trevor, Alex and Richard that need dealing with…) and Twitter for longer but I’m off work for 9 days now, so by the end of the week PEP! will be out, and I should have something posted every day. (For those who’ve sent me concerned emails, everything’s fine…)
I haven’t done a spotify playlist for a while, so here’s one with no theme except that the songs sounded good in a row together:
10358 Overture by ELO is one of two Roy Wood tracks on this. The song was actually written by Jeff Lynne (the man who after this first album to all intents and purposes was ELO) but that wonderful string and horn arrangement is not only written by Wood, but he played all of it himself. Wood is one of the great unsung musical geniuses of British pop music, and those who don’t know his work (especially with the Move, and his solo albums) are missing out.
Open Your Window by Ella Fitzgerald is from an absolutely marvellous album called Ella, from 1969, that I discovered through a playlist by my friend Tilt that included her version of Savoy Truffle. It includes versions of Got To Get You Into My Life, Randy Newman’s Yellow Man, Knock On Wood and more, but somehow works very, very well. This is the best track though, a version of a Nilsson song that is close to her style anyway. One of the few examples of a pre-60s artist coping well, and with dignity, with the transition to a new style of music.
Songs Of Praise by Roy Wood is from his solo album Boulders – and it was an actual solo album. He wrote every song, produced it, played every instrument, did all the lead and backing vocals, and drew the cover art. This is probably the catchiest and most conventional thing on the album (apart from the varispeeded backing vocals) – a fairly straightforward pop-gospel song along the lines of the Beach Boys’ then-recent He Came Down – but the whole album is just wonderful, and one of the most imaginative things I’ve ever heard.
Electric Trains by Squeeze is the last great single that great singles band did, mostly due to being one of Chris Difford’s few truly strong late-period lyrics (though it would still be nothing without Glenn Tilbrook’s music and vocals, as Difford’s solo remake with different music showed a few years later). The listing of very specific memories actually manages to get across a very accurate feeling of what it’s like for all adolescents growing up.
Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby? by Jimmy Reed is one of the all-time blues classics. You all know this one, I’m sure.
Stagger Lee by Mississippi John Hurt is one of the earliest variants of this blues standard, and as you can hear very different from the later versions (the most famous of which is the version popularised by Lloyd Price, though everyone from Doctor John to Nick Cave has done their own version of it), Personally I like this folk-blues style far more than the swaggering R&B strut of the more famous versions, though both have their merits.
In Germany Before The War by Randy Newman is the most beautiful song about child murder ever written. This version is from Songbook, Vol 1, an album of solo piano rerecordings of many of his best songs (a better idea than it sounds, as many of his best songs had backing from people like the Eagles, which detracted from them quite a bit – he’s a far better songwriter than producer).
A Magical Night by Laurie Biagini is probably my favourite song from Ridin’ The Wave. Biagini is another one who writes and plays everything herself (though far from Wood’s level) and this one reminds me of Kirsty MacColl.
Revolution #9 by The Thurston Lava Tube I discovered through the same playlist that had the Ella Savoy Truffle in. I love this just because it manages to turn Revolution #9 into a two-minute surf instrumental that is still recognisable, more or less.
Don’t Let It Go by L.E.O. is a perfect imitation of the ELO sound, by a ‘supergroup’ including members of Hanson, Chicago and Jellyfish among others. Amazingly, this is actually a good thing. No, really. Really.
Still I Dream Of It by Brian Wilson is one of the most heartbreaking recordings ever to be released. His home demo of a song he later recorded with full orchestration, this was written at his most mentally ill – and it clearly shows, the lyrics being more or less a stream of consciousness. But this isn’t ‘outsider music’ – it’s some of the most heartfelt communication ever to have been made into art. The reason Wilson’s work is so variable is the same reason he’s so adored by musicians – the man has absolute command of the technical aspects of his work, but has no filters at all – his music is an absolutely open, honest, almost childlike expression of everything going through his mind, but it has an extraordinary technical complexity that makes it a *PRECISE* expression.
Dann Schon Eher Der Pianoplayer by France Gall is there to cheer you up after the depressing song before it. As it’s in German, I have no idea what it’s about, but it’s a very cheery arrangement.
G-Spot Tornado by The Invisible Birds is a surf-guitar and organ version of one of Frank Zappa’s most fiendishly complex pieces (one he thought for many years was unplayable by human beings at all). It’s rather remarkable both how well the piece suits the idiom and how well they render it, though they take it at a much slower pace than it’s intended. (This is from an album of surf versions of Zappa songs by various artists, many of which are surprisingly good).
Maybe I’ll Move To Mars by Klaatu might be the most 1970s thing ever.
And I Go To Sleep by The Kinks was Ray Davies’ very first truly great song (though the Kinks had made great records before this) – obviously hugely influenced by Bacharach, but very much the first sign of the man who would shortly be giving us Something Else and Village Green Preservation Society