Archive for the ‘Get This!’ Category

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Vive le phonq

January 17, 2014

Imagine the pop landscape in 1967. It wasn’t just the trousers that were starting to get expansive. Everything’s got that slightly psychedelicised and trippy, frazzled edge to it. Itchycoo Park. Heroes and Villains. Penny Lane. Purple Haze. See Emily Play. Even The Temptations and other wide-lapel wearers on the Motown roster were abandoning their sure-fire recipes for success. Psychedelic Shack anyone? A future post for sure. Records became longer, more free-form and stretched out. Less structured, with not so much emphasis on the tried ‘n tested verse/chorus formula. But still pop. That bit’s important. The time was ripe for Sly and the Family Stone.

In 1967, Sly Stone didn’t like his record company. In fact, he didn’t trust them one iota. Sly had a bit of leeway though. He’d just had a top ten smash hit both sides of the Atlantic with Dance To the Music, a tune that did exactly what it says on the tin. So when Clive Davis at CBS asked Sly to follow it up with more of the same, the ever-willful and awkward Sly did just that.

sly keyboard

Sly decided to follow up Dance To The Music with a garage punk/funk version of the exact same track, stripped of all vocals save a tiny spoken word part and the chorus…..which this time was to be be sung entirely in French.

Naturally, he chose to call it Danse à La Musique. Released under the nom de plume of French Fries, it was terrific. The same du-du-du-dumb four-to-the-floor caveman stomping beat and growling fuzz bass drives it along. Street corner jazz scat vocals ping-pong back and forth, trying to be heard above the din of a joyfully fuzzed up, wasp-stuck-inside-your-car guitar track, clearly being played by a guitarist who’s just wired up a fuzzbox for the very first time. There’s precious little brass, replaced instead by a primitive keyboard that plays random Eastern-tinged phrases like a snake charmer on acid. The champion of a tambourine player never once stops throughout. His/her arm must’ve ached like a teenage boy’s with a Meaty, Beaty, Big ‘n Bouncy bargain Box Set for company. The whole thing is over and done with in three freaked-out flare-flapping minutes. I think you’ll like it.

 

sly kathyBONUS TRACK!

Here‘s a demo of Sly and co turning The KinksYou Really Got Me into a piece of proto Acid Jazz. Not sure if I like this or not, but it’s a curio right up Plain Or Pan’s street. And yours…

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Lucky Seven

January 2, 2014

Plain Or Pan began back in January 2007. December 2013 saw the 7th full year of the blog. The end of the year makes me come across all misty eyed and giddy at the thought of this blog being not only still in existence but in rather rude health. At some point recently, the one-and-a-half millionth visitor crossed the threshold to read all about James Brown or Lou Reed or some forgotten Teenage Fanclub b-side. Facebook followers are in abundance, Twitter sends its fair share of readers in this direction and if you read that wee panel on the right, you’ll notice visitors from as far afield as Buenos Aires, Berlin and Ayr. Thank you one and all!

What better way to celebrate 7 years of typos, titbits and factual inaccuracies than with the annual Plain Or Pan Best of the Year CD*.

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*I’ll provide the tunes. You make the CD.

Our team of stat monkeys works double shifts over the festive period before presenting me with documented proof of the most listened to and downloaded tracks from Plain Or Pan throughout the year and I compile them into a handy CD-length album, complete with artwork, that can be added straight to your iTunes or wherever and onto your iPod to listen to during that new-fangled jogging craze you’ll ditch by February. Alternatively, it could be burnt off to listen to, old-skool style, on a couple of shiny discs in the car.

Tracks included:

PixiesRiver Euphrates (Gigantic ep version)

Victoria Wood14 Again

The SmithsRusholme Ruffians (demo)

James Brown(Hot) I Need To Be Loved

SupergrassCaught By The Fuzz (acoustic)

The CrampsI Wanna Get In Your Pants

The House of LoveDestroy The Heart (demo)

Neil YoungBirds (Mono single version)

Elizabeth Archer & the Equators - Feel Like Makin’ Dub

Beak>Mono

Dave EdmundsBorn To Be With You

The CliqueSuperman

Ike TurnerBold Soul Sister

CanI’m So Green

WilcoImpossible Germany

The Mamas and PapasSomebody Groovy

Santo & Johnny -Sleepwalk

Dee ClarkBaby What You Want Me To Do

The SpecialsToo Much Too Young (LP version)

Barry AdamsonSet The Controls For The Heart Of The Pelvis

NeuHallogallo

MogwaiThe Sun Smells Too Loud

Trash Can SinatrasLittle Things That Keep Us Together

Roxy MusicVirginia Plain (Peel Session)

*** a cracker! ***

Get it here.

pop 7 cover art

Normal service resumed next week. Lookin’ forward to it!

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Ghosts Of Christmas Past (2)

December 19, 2013

Incredible but true. The fact remains that two of the main creators of The Best Christmas Song In The World…Ever are now dead and neither of them is Shane MacGowan.  13 years ago yesterday, Kirsty MacColl was killed by an out of control speedboat whilst swimming with her family off the coast of Cuba. And Pogues guitarist Phil Chevron succumbed to cancer in October of this year. Yet MacGowan, coming in at 18/1 with all his beautiful flaws and imperfections somehow manages to stagger on.

pogues shane

First Appeared December 13, 2011

 

This time last year I read an article in one of Mrs Plain Or Pan’s magazines about Christmas. The article asked a carefully selected sample of celebrities to describe their perfect Christmas Day.

A long walk in the woods with my fiancé,” cooed Kathryn Jenkins, “before curling up in front of the log fire with a glass of mulled wine.”

“We always start the day with a champagne breakfast,” revealed Maureen Lipman. “Traditionally, we open presents after dinner, then the whole family settles down to watch The Snowman.”

How very twee and Daily Mail of them. I don’t know about your house, but mine on Christmas Day is nothing like that at all. “Those carrots are mushy…and the sprouts are still raw! You useless bleep!”(whispered of course,  so the relatives can’t hear us arguing, 3 feet away on the other side of the wall). “You told me when to put them on!” “Could you not tell the carrots were ready? Couldn’t you use your bleeping brains for once?” etc etc etc. Like I said, I don’t know about your house, but I’m inclined to think it’ll be more like mine than Kathryn Jenkins’ or Maureen Lipman’s come next Wednesday.

 

Still Alive! Todd Marrone did this, the talented so-and-so.

 

You know this already, but just for the record, Fairytale Of New York is the best Christmas song of all-time. It doesn’t matter what’s gone before (the Phil Spector album, Bowie ‘n Bing’s Little Drummer Boy, the glam slam of Slade and Wizzard) or what came after (East 17? Cliff Richard? Kylie Minogue panting her way through Santa Baby with all the sex appeal of Shane MacGowan having an asthma attack?) Some of these records are better than others, but none of them come close to capturing the essence of Christmas (raw sprouts, useless husbands and all) quite like The Pogues.

 

A Fairytale Of New York is almost unique amongst Christmas songs in that it tackles the ‘C’ word with none of the blind enthusiasm or misty-eyed schlock normally reserved for such events. Slade set their stall out before a bell has even been clanged in excitement. “It’s Christmaaaaas!!” yells Noddy, and you know from then on in you’re in for a rollicking yuletide ride. Wham drown that thinly-disguised same-sex love song of theirs in a gazillion sleigh bells and suddenly everything in George Michael’s garden is rosy.  “All I Want For Christmas,” enthuses Mariah Carey, “is yooouuuuooooouuu!” Yeah, and an X-Box, an iPod and a flat screen TV, Mariah. We’re all materialistic over here. And while you’re at it, could you get me a job too? And maybe find someone who’ll give us a mortgage? Aye, bah humbug ‘n all that jazz. The Pogues have gone for none of that. Fairytale Of New York is still romantic, but it’s also raw, real and ragged, full of remorse for past misdemeanours while hoping for a better future. Nicely gift wrapped of course in a Pogues-punk waltz-time, with added BBC ban-defying swearing.

 

 

It’s a terrific arrangement, put together quite masterfully by Steve Lillywhite. Initially written as a duet between Shane MacGowan and Pogues bass player Cait O’Riordan, then scrapped when she left the band, it was Steve Lillywhite who suggested getting the missus in to duet with MacGowan instead. Listen to the demos below and hear how he transformed The Pogues’ half-finished ideas into the final record, with its peaks and troughs and instrumental breaks. Hear too how he gets the best out of Shane, who at this point in his life was eating tabs of acid the way the Fonz eats gum (all the time, if you didn’t know), whilst washing them down with enough brandy to drown a whale. Lillywhite somehow coaxes him out of the famous fluent Macgowanese mumble and into that raucous final take.

 

The Music:

 

Ennio Morricone’s Overture from Once Upon A Time In America, from where Shane pinched the melody. Play it (below) – you’ll spot it immediately! It’s a terrific piece of emotive, melancholic music in its own right:

One of the first takes. Fluffed lines, missed cues….and the band played on.

Shane ‘n Cait almost full-length run-through duet with alt. lyrics, missed cues, forgotten words………and the band played on.

The ‘blueprint version’– Starts with Shane ‘n James Fearnley on accordion. Different lyrics again. Shane struggles with the concept of singing in tune. Band in top form as usual. After listening to this you can begin to appreciate the contribution Kirsty MacColl made to the finished record.

The final take. The best Christmas song ever.

pogues fairytale cover

 

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Quiff Richard

November 26, 2013

little richard 57

Elvis may have been the King, but Little Richard was certainly the Queen. He’s terrific, isn’t he? The high priest of camp; his pompadoured hair like a Texan oil slick, sticky and stationary above those mad, popping eyes and perfectly plucked brows, the occasional dog-bothering ‘whoooo!’ while his hands pound away on the pianer with all the frenzied dexterity of a teenage boy with unlimited broadband and a lock on his bedroom door. Tee-riffic.

little richard gif

Slippin’ And Slidin’. Tutti Frutti. Lucille. Good Golly Miss Molly. Rip It Up. Long Tall Sally. Every one a throat-ripping, stone cold classic……..the building blocks of rock and roll and all that was to follow. But you knew that already.

Before Elvis, there was nothing‘, said John Lennon, but The Beatles owed Richard Penniman a huge debt or two. McCartney for one modelled his whole voice on Richard’s every single time his group broke free from the shackles of balladry and ruffled their rugs to the delight of the watching world – from the backing vocals on The Beatles’ own version of I Wanna Be Your Man right through to the White Album’s Why Don’t We Do It In The Road, the spirit of Little Richard was never far away.

DICK CLARK, LITTLE RICHARD

Here’s one you might not’ve heard before:

The Most I Can Offer (Just My Heart) is superb. Released on his 3rd album The Fabulous Little Richard by a slightly twitchy record company after he’d indicated a preference  for thumping the bible rather than the thumping boogie woogie of yore, The Most I Can Offer is a mid-paced soul-shaking break-up ballad (of course!), all rasping tenor sax and ding-ding-ding minor 7ths on the keys. It throws me every time. Why? Because it sounds like a duet between a high, quavering falsetto’d voice and a southern souler. Imagine if William Bell had sung with the black cleaner lady who appears from the waist down in every Tom And Jerry cartoon. Except The Most I Can Offer seems to be Richard and Richard alone, his voice alternating between broken-hearted blues mama and a down-on-his-knees tear-soaked gospel bawler. The version I’ve given you is Take 4. Which sounds exactly like takes 1, 2 and 3 and no doubt the master version too. If you have but an ounce of soul you’ll want to play this again and again and again.

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And here’s another:

Hey Hey Hey Hey, as reprised on the Beatles For Sale LP by those self-same Little Richard fans mentioned earlier. An out-and-out rocker, this features Richard at his most extreme, extravagant and extraordinary, pompadour bouncing while the piano pumps out primal jive ‘n wail. You can almost see the whites of his eyes on this recording.

And if you think the original’s good, you should have a listen to the Jim Jones Revue‘s outstanding needles-in-the-red version;

Proof, if any were needed, that Little Richard is as relevant today for any musician seeking the mother lode of rock ‘n roll.

little richard passport

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Rockin’ Bob’s Rockin’ Revue

November 17, 2013

Elvis.

You can never have too much Elvis…

The story goes that Elvis’ domineering manager Colonel Tom Parker was a Dutch illegal immigrant to the States and that, once/if the authorities ever found out, he’d be extradited straight back to where he’d come from (“you can leave that phony made-up ‘Colonel’ title at the door, thank you very much, and you better get used to folk calling you Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk once again”). Consequently, poor Elvis never got to tour the world as a recording artist, the paranoid Colonel convinced that somewhere along the way his illegal alien status would be uncovered and the land of the brave and the home of the free wouldn’t let him back in. The only time Elvis saw anywhere other than the States was during his time in the US army based in Germany. But you knew that already.

elvis prestwick

Here in Ayrshire, any mention of Elvis is met with a slightly smug response. Prestwick Airport, just up the road from where I’m typing, is the *only British soil ever graced by the feet of The King, as he dropped past for a quick wave to his fans while his plane stopped to refuel between Germany and the US, and the folks of Ayrshire have quite rightly been dining out on this pop nugget ever since. For a long time, the airport was a tacky shrine to all things of a Presley persuasion, with his face/image/signature filling up much of the available wall space with all the faded glamour of a 1980’s Butlin’s burger bar. Disgraceland might’ve been a more apt name for it had they not de-Presley’d it slightly during a re-branding programme a few years ago.

*only British soil? Tommy Steele claims to have spent a day with Elvis in 1958, showing him the sights and sounds of the city of London. But, unlike the picture above, there’s no photographic proof that this ever occured, so here in Ayrshire we tend to gloss over the possibility. It ruins a perfect story. And it would be another costly re-branding exercise for our pokey wee airport.

Last weekend you may have caught the show on the telly featuring the nation’s favourite Elvis tracks. No surprises by any stretch of the imagination, but this got me thinking about those Elvis tracks that never get their time in the spotlight. For such a prolific recording artist, Elvis seems to have had his discography squashed and squeezed into an assortment of handy 20 track all-you-need compilations. Well, no. He’s never recorded the classic album, much of his output in the 60s was flowery soundtrack fodder and filler and his 70s material is almost considered a white jump-suited parody, but there’s more to Elvis’ music than you might think.

bob stanley

Who better to ask than pop scholar, member of St Etienne and author of Yeah Yeah Yeah (The Story of Modern Pop), Bob Stanley. I suppose this makes this feature a Six Of The Best of sorts….with Tupelo trainspotter Bob picking 10 rare-ish Elvis tracks and giving each one the briefest of moments in the spotlight. It’s by no means a definitive guide to the backwaters of Elvis (I’d have included Pocketful Of Rainbows and Stranger In This Town. You probably have others of your own,) but it’s a good springboard if you fancy diving into the murky depths of the Presley canon.

elvis scotty 1950s

1. Blue Moon

Released in 1956, standard ballad Blue Moon was one of Elvis’ first recordings after leaving Sam Phillips and Sun Records for RCA.

Neither rock nor roll, country nor western, its eerie, distant, ghostly vocal and hillbilly clip-clopping rhythm sounds like some extra-terrestrial broadcast from a by-gone era. The fragile yin to Heartbreak Hotel‘s ferocious yang, Blue Moon is Elvis at his most unselfconscious and tender.

2. Crawfish

Elvis and his movies have always been a bit of a standing joke amongst ‘serious’ music fans who never really recovered from seeing their idol misdirected for a good decade or more through Colonel Tom’s none-too-subtle capitalistic urges in the chase for cold hard cash.

A shame, as there are some stone cold Elvis classics waiting to be discovered amongst the dusty grooves;

1958’s hit ‘n miss King Creole soundtrack included Crawfish, a southern gumbo of a duet between Elvis and Kitty White. Elvis and Kitty might sound like a pair of light opera singers high on hooch ‘n moonshine, but the sparse backing music is not a million miles away from anything Lux Interior would’ve been proud to add his name to. Crawfish also happens to be one of Joe Strummer’s favourite Elvis tracks.

3. Doin’ The Best I Can

Another from a movie, 1960’s GI Blues, Doin’ The Best I Can is perfect Elvis – the waltzing lilt, Scotty Moore’s subtle guitar picking, the brushed drums and The Jordanaires ethereal gospel doo-wop all coating the track in magic dust. The last track on GI Blues, it deserves a wider audience. Play it, love it as you will and pass it on.

elvis 1960s

4. Animal Instinct

Elvis released three (!) films each and every year in the 60s and Harum Scarum was one of 1965’s offering. Consider the pop landscape for a second – The Beatles were ingesting marjuana for breakfast and on the verge of becoming studio auteurs. Motown was in full four-to-the-floor swing. Elvis was out of touch releasing hokey films accompanied by what many consider to be his poorest musical output.

Harum Scarum (along with the previous year’s Roustabout) suffered the indignity of being ‘promoted’ without the release of an accompanying single. Animal Instinct was recorded for Harum Scarum and although it featured on the soundtrack LP, wasn’t actually used in the film instead. The track itself is a loungecore/exotica/rhumba hybrid, with a moody, kohl-eyed Elvis laying bare his sexual desires in none-too-dressed-up animalistic metaphors.
5. Please Don’t Stop Loving Me

From 1966’s Frankie And Johnny soundtrack.

Look out! Here come The Jordanaires and their measured pitch-perfect harmonies once again. The best sound in music, would you agree?

There’s a tinkling piano in the background and a ‘My Way‘ feel to the guitar riff (I think by Scotty Moore again) as Elvis gets down to full-on ballad mode and gives birth to a gazillion impersonators in the process. You were born… just to be…. in my arms…. in my arms…..your lips were made…just to be… kissed by me….kissed by me. Not a dry seat in the house, I’d wager.
6. Edge of Reality

From the soundtrack to 68’s Live A Little, Love A Little, Edge Of Reality was recorded at the same sessions as A Little Less Conversation. Whereas the latter’s throwaway lounge funk was designed solely for the displaying of the Elvis pelvis, Edge Of Reality showcases an Elvis vocal that verges on the edge of parody, all softly rolled ‘rs’ and a rich baritone croon that channels his inner Scott Walker. Edge Of Reality eventually found its way onto the b-side of If I Can Dream, although the loose-limbed Hal Blaine drum track and orchestral brass section wouldn’t sound out of place on an Isaac Hayes LP. Ain’t nothin’ like Hound Dog, that’s for sure.

elvis 70s

7. I’m Leavin’

I’m Leavin’ is a little-known track from 1971.  Released as a stand-alone single, you won’t find it on many of the more bog-standard compilations. As such, it’s something of an Elvis obscurity, not helped by it reaching the lowly chart position of 36 on its release. I’m Leavin’ is a masterful Elvis performance. No hysterics, no histrionics, for once he actually sings almost behind the musicians, showcasing his crack band of Nashville sessioneers for what they are. As the title implies, this is Elvis singing about love gone wrong, something he was experiencing in his own life at the time. Indeed, many of the tracks recorded around this era were as autobiographical as Elvis could get, considering he didn’t actually write them……
8. Patch It Up

Patch It Up is terrific – a staple of his early 70s Vegas shows (see That’s The Way It Is and it’s essential accompanying soundtrack), it’s a riot of fuzz bass, stinging James Burton guitar licks and warm Stax brass. This is larynx-loosening guttural grunt Elvis in full-on remorse mode. He’s wandered, he’s strayed and now he’s back telling the object of his affections that he loves her. Somewhat mirroring his home life with Priscilla at the time, this wouldn’t be the only time Elvis laid his soul bare for all to see, doing it to more dramatic effect on Suspicious Minds. Although, if you watched the telly at the weekend, you’ll know that already.

Trivial fact – One of those roof-raisin’ female voices in the background of Patch It Up is Darlene Love, who’d previously found success recording with Phil Spector.
9. True Love Travels On A Gravel Road

Recorded in Memphis at the duck-tail end of the 60s, True Love Travels On A Gravel Road was also a staple of the Elvis Vegas set. An RnB/country/southern soul hybrid, with a healthy sprinkling of female gospel singers, it’s one of the last great Elvis tracks. The record benefits from a terrific production and Elvis is  restrained, soulful and passionate, the complete opposite to the bloated, huffing and puffing performer he could sometimes be at the time. Spare your ears, but I seem to recall a Shakin’ Stevens version doing the rounds sometime in the 80s.
10. Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues

In 1973, Elvis found himself recording at the world-famous Stax Records studio. Known as the home of southern soul, Stax gave birth to many great artists and tunes – Booker T, Otis Redding, Rufus & Carla Thomas, The Staple Singers….many of the artists that pop up regularly on this blog…..I could go on, but you’ll know them all yourself. A good few duds were recorded in his time at Stax, but Good Time Charlie.. isn’t one of them. An easy listening croon atop a backing that’s fluid and meandering and nothing at all like the Elvis of old, it was perhaps not surprising when it was considered flim flam by the record buying public at the time. However, the appreciation for Good Time Charlie has, like the Elvis girth of the day, grown to generous proportions.

An impressive list. Track them down and you’ve got yourself a good wee alternative Elvis compilation. Add the afore-mentioned Stranger In This Town and Pocketful Of Rainbows and you’ll have a cracker. And if you can add the full-on gospel rockin’ and God-fearin’ Milky White Way…..

…..you might just have yourself Now That’s What I Call The Best, Least-Heard Elvis Tracks In The World…Ever. Uh-huh.

elvis_olympic_theater_florida_aug_1956

Bob Stanley is currently out and about promoting his book. He might be coming to a town near you. You can check all things Bob-related here.

You can buy Yeah Yeah Yeah here, plus at all the other usual places. An ideal addition to your Christmas list.

Bob’s Blog, Croydon Municipal is here.

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A.R.E.T.H.A.F.R.A.N.K.L.I.N.

November 2, 2013

For anyone who needs it spelt out, Aretha Franklin is the greatest female soul singer of all time. Some come close. But no-one comes close enough. There’s a life-lived-full’s worth of hard graft and soul in that free-phrasing vocal of hers. A voice that swoops and soars around a melody; a voice that is in equal parts carried away and controlled, with its ebbs and flows a mirror to the intricacies of her complicated life, Above all else, though, it’s effortless. That’s clear if you listen to any of her records. Aretha is the of Queen of Soul.

  aretha cig

Not bad for someone raised in a broken home from the age of 5 by her wanderin’, wayward, women-lovin’ preacher father. And despite giving birth to 2 illegitimate children at the ages of 12 and 14, she was already well on her way to recording success before she was out of her teens.

You’ll know this already, but if you don’t….

Aretha began her singing career essentially playing support act to her father’s holy-rollin’, roof raisin’ sermons. Dubbed “the man with the million dollar voice“, he had friends in high places, and it wasn’t unusual at home for Aretha to be called on to sing for her father’s high calibre guests such as Martin Luther King or Sam Cooke after dinner. It was Cooke who inspired ‘teen mom’ Aretha to pursue a singing career. For six years she recorded jazz standards for Columbia (after, at her father’s insistence, she stopped short of signing for Berry Gordy’s nascent Tamla label – whatever happened to them?). All very polite and safe, but by the mid 60s, pop music had such a hold on Aretha (perhaps she should’ve gone with Gordy after all) and she signed for Atlantic Records. In 1967, she cut 2 LPs with the in-house musicians at the famous Muscle Shoals Studios in Alabama. The tracks she recorded there have since become so fabricated into the rich tapestry of soul music that it’s easy to forget they actually began somewhere – haven’t they just always been around?

That’s the demo for I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Loved You), Aretha at her piano finding her way around the song, as the Muscle Shoals rhythm section allow her the space to express herself.

From here, it was but a mere hop and a skip to creating solid soul gold. Respect, Dr Feelgood, Chain Of Fools, Do Right Woman, Do Right Man, Save Me, Baby I Love You…I could go on and on….

aretha 68

Here’s a few (note – I’ve featured quite a few tracks – every time I thought ‘that’s enough for now‘, another Aretha great would crop up, meaning I had to include it. Really, you should just get yourself to a shop and buy the lot)

Baby, I Love You (from 2nd 1967 LP Aretha Arrives)

Baby, Baby, Baby  (from 1st 1967 LP I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Loved You))

Save Me (from 1st 1967 LP I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Loved You))


See Saw (from 1968’s Aretha Now)

A Change Is Gonna Come (from 1st 1967 LP I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Loved You))

Chain Of Fools (this is the complete, unedited Plain Or Pan favourite, all shimmering, twangy guitar and melodrama on the intro)

aretha bw

The relatively unknown but soulful and groovy Sweetest Smile And The Funkiest Style from the Hey Now Hey (The Other Side Of The Sky) LP.

Rock Steady (alt mix from the Young, Gifted And Black LP)

The Weight (Cover of The Band track, with good ol’ southern boy Duane Allman on guitar)

….and this writer’s own personal Aretha favourite – Don’t Play That Song, from her 3rd Atlantic LP of the same name. Soaring, swooping, uplifting, effortless Aretha. Call and response vocals (“a-woo!”) atop a Motownish bassline boogie. A subtle one-chord orchestral swell. Brass that builds up to a mid-song breakdown. It has it all. Aretha in a jar. They might play this when they dispose of my dead body sometime in the future.

aretha mic

*Bonus Track!

Hot Damn! Even the Coca Cola advert she recorded with Ray Charles has more soul in it’s pinky than any of those awful ‘soul’ singers on TV talent shows:

aretha and ray

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Kinks, Konkers and Kids in Kasualty (slight return)

October 3, 2013

Slightly recycled from Plain Or Pan’s back pages, this article is adapted from one that first appeared 5 years ago…

Autumn. The nights are drawing in and the curtains are drawing shut. The heating comes on a bit earlier than normal and stays on that wee bit longer. You can smell winter coming in the air. The leaves are turning red and yellow. Conkers are on the ground and in the playground. Kids are off to the medical room for a good dose of TCP and a telling off.

kinks rsg

It’s round about now that I like to dig out ‘Autumn Almanac’ by The Kinks, a song that so perfectly sums up this time of year. You don’t even have to be quintessentially English to appreciate lines such as, “I like my football on a Saturday, roast beef on Sundays, alright! I go to Blackpool for my holidays, sit in the open sunlight.”

No doubt about it, it’s one of my all-time top 5 favourite songs ever. Just ahead of ‘Ally’s Tartan Army’  by Scotland’s 1978 World Cup Squad, though just behind ‘There She Goes’  by The La’s.

Lee Mavers once lectured me on the brilliance of Autumn Almanac  for a good 10 minutes. “From the dew-soaked hedge creeps a crawly caterpill-ah!” he offered, in his sing-song Mersey twang. “How good a line is that, La!?! ‘Friday evening, people get together…hiding from the weather…’ The chords, the feel, the melancholy…….it’s not as good as Waterloo Sunset, though, is it?”

kinks autumn almanac ad

The single version of Autumn Almanac was recorded in September 67 and released 3 weeks later. No great strategic marketing campaign with focus groups, target audiences and avoidance of any other big act’s single being released at the same time. Get in the studio, cut the record, release the record. Times being simpler then, Autumn Almanac climbed to either number 3 or number 5 on the charts, depending on which music paper you were reading.

Recorded for Top Gear just a few weeks after, on October 25th 1967 at the BBC’s Maida Vale Studio 4 and broadcast 4 days later, the above track is taken from a well-known Kinks bootleg* called ‘The Songs We Sang For Auntie’, a 3 CD set that compiles most of (or all?) the unreleased BBC session stuff from 1964-1994. A must-have for any fan of a band who were matched surely only by The Beatles in terms of high quality output.

Ask anyone to name 3 Kinks singles and they’ll give you all the usual suspects, but I bet it’d be unlikely Autumn Almanac would feature in too many lists. It’s an under appreciated classic, that’s for certain. Just ask Lee Mavers.

*Since writing this article, there’s been an official Kinks BBC release. But you probably knew that already.

Yes, yes, yes! It’s my Autumn Almanyac!

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