The Speed of Pop


The movie American Grafitti, an ode to teenage life in 1962, was released in 1973 only 11 years after the year it is so nostalgic about. But even though it was such a short space of time it looked like a different world and sounded like it too, the gulf between Chuck Berry and David Bowie was just enormous — and you could say roughly the same about a movie made in 1983 about music in 1972. Today the equivalent would be a movie set in 2004 that got all misty-eyed about listening to “Hey Ya!” and “Milkshake” on an iPod Mini. While I’m sure there are people with reasons to be nostalgic for that time and those records, the musical gulf between then and now doesn’t seem nearly so wide. They certainly don’t sound over a decade old, a time-span which used to be an eternity in pop music years.

So is pop music not changing as fast as it used to, or am I just a clueless and out-of-touch old fart?

The 1960s were obviously a time of rapid upheaval, but the following 20-plus years didn’t exactly stand still either, giving us (off the top of my head) Prog, Metal, Reggae, Glam, Disco, Punk, Post-Punk, Hip-Hop, Synthpop, Shoegaze, Techno, and House. Pop used to change clothes as often as Cher playing a show in Vegas but I just don’t hear that quick turnover of ideas and styles anymore.

If I’m not imagining things and there is a notable down-shifting now, it could be due to music-biz economics and the internet. Downloading and streaming has destroyed the old business model and bands make more money from concerts than records now, so they spend longer on tour and try to milk an album as much as possible before moving on to the next one.

It used to be standard for an act to put out an album every year – or even two a year in some cases — but now two years is the minimum a major artist takes between long-players, often longer. Coldplay have made six albums in 15 years, if The Beatles had put them out at that rate Rubber Soul would have been released in 1978. The lifecycle of pop has gone from being like a Mayfly — cramming a lot into a very short time — to more like an elephant. 

I loves me some Charli, Taylor, and even Miley, so I don’t have a huge beef with modern mainstream pop. But I do want pop music to be constantly zooming forward and discarding old ideas the way it used to. Maybe I should just be grateful that Coldplay have only made six albums.

Download: We Live So Fast (Extended Mix) – Heaven 17 (mp3)

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Our Winnie


I found out the other day that Jacqueline Bisset’s real first name is Winifred.

Winifred!

Does this woman look like a Winifred to you?

Download: You Don’t Know My Name (Reggae Remix) – Alicia Keys (mp3)

I can’t remember where I got this track from but it’s terrific. I loved the Kanye-produced original and  it’s even sweeter in reggae style, like old-timey Lovers Rock.

My Mother’s Records


Shirley Bassey’s cover of “Something” got to #4 in the UK charts in 1970, the same spot The Beatles’ original reached the year before. I never heard the Fab Four’s version at the time and didn’t for years, but my mother had a 45 of the Shirley Bassey which she loved so that was the version I knew growing up. I even heard it by Frank Sinatra before the original too.

As a result I thought of “Something” as an adult standard instead of a pop song, so to my ears George Harrison sounded too young to be singing it. The Beatles’ version is great of course, but it feels more about the happy rapture of young love while Shirley brings a grown-up sensuality to it which I prefer. Instead of lovey-dovey infatuation, she sounds like she’s singing about sex.

Download: Something – Shirley Bassey (mp3)

Something for the Weekend



The sad death of the great Allen Toussaint earlier this week got me falling down a YouTube hole of records he either wrote, produced, or performed himself. Bouncing between Irma Thomas, Lee Dorsey, Dr John, The Meters, Aaron Neville, and Labelle really brought home what an extraordinary amount of great music he was responsible for. Like this joyous beauty he wrote.

Though I didn’t know the original version of this song was recorded by Frankie Miller of all people.

Games Boozers Play


Who cares that England never qualified for a World Cup in the 1970s when we had Indoor League on the telly to show off our world-beating skill at pub sports? I bet the Germans were rubbish at Skittles.

Televised Shove Ha’Penny sounds like a Monty Python sketch — and looks like one too — but this was real and actually on our televisions in the 1970s. If you’re desperate to see that exciting Shove Ha’Penny final it starts around 3:25.

Download: Spiel Ohne Grenzen – Peter Gabriel (mp3)