Something for the Weekend



It was my birthday yesterday. I’m not quite as old as Madonna who turned 60 (!) a couple of weeks ago, but closer than I’d like it to be.

This record helps the years melt away though I don’t think my knees would let me dance to it the way I used to.

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All The Boys Think She’s A Spy


Speaking of having no idea that a record you liked was a cover version (which I was last week), how many of you knew that “Bette Davis Eyes” was originally recorded by Jackie DeShannon in 1974? I certainly didn’t.

DeShannon co-wrote the song and her original is in a jazzy honky-tonk style which just sounds bizarre and wrong if, like most people, you’re only familiar with Kim Carnes’ hit 1981 version. The best cover versions are ones that re-imagine a song and, if they do it well enough, make it impossible to hear it any other way which Carnes certainly did. Her smoky, noir treatment seems so much more suited to a song with evocative lyrics like “Her hair is Harlow gold” and “She got Greta Garbo stand-off sighs” that you wonder how it could have been done any other way.

Before this, the sandpaper-voiced Carnes had been around for several years as a songwriter and singer doing things like singing duets with Kenny Rogers with middling success. Then she hitched her star to the then-trendy “New Wave” wagon with this record and scored a massive hit. But though it’s all cool synths and electronic claps this sounds more like Adult Contemporary Soft Rock than the Human League. It’s slicker and more polished than British synthpop from 1981 (it came out the same year as Dare), with a luxe sheen that became one of the hallmarks of the decade and helped electronic pop move from Sheffield discos to big-time movie soundtracks.

I don’t know (or care) if it was a calculated move to get a hit, but I’ve always liked the sultry, neon glow of this. If it wasn’t used in Miami Vice it should have been.

Download: Bette Davis Eyes (Extended Mix) – Kim Carnes (mp3)

Turn The Beat Around


Darryl Pandy’s 1986 classic “Love Can’t Turn Around” was the first House record to be a chart hit so it’s an epochal and important track. It blew me away back then and is still one of my all-time favourite dance tunes. But I didn’t discover until about 15 years later that it was basically a cover of Isaac Hayes’ 1975 tune “I Can’t Turn Around” but doesn’t give Hayes a credit which is one reason why I didn’t know. I was a bit shocked because it’s the sort of shit I usually know and immediately turned in my Music Trainspotters Club membership badge.

I assume Pandy’s version changed enough of the original to not be technically or legally considered a “cover” because the song is credited to House producers Farley Jackmaster Funk and Vince Lawrence, but Hayes’ song is definitely in there.

This was the last track on Hayes’ album Chocolate Chip where he made the switch from Funk to Disco rhythms, and I guess now you would call this one proto-House.

Download: I Can’t Turn Around – Isaac Hayes (mp3)

The Compass Points To Love


This is one of the those records that was on the radio a lot when I was a kid, so it always feels to me like it’s coming out of a little transistor radio and providing the soundtrack to sunny days with not a care in the world.

Reparata & The Delrons were an American trio who never had much in the way of hits despite making some excellent records (and having one of the best group names ever). “Captain Of Your Ship” is a real Girl Group classic and their only UK hit in 1968 so I would have been 6 when this was on the radio, no wonder it makes me feel so happy.

Download: Captain Of Your Ship – Reparata & The Delrons (mp3)

This was co-written by Kenny Young who also co-wrote The Drifters’ “Under The Boardwalk” and then went on to form the group Fox (recently featured on this very blog!) and co-write “Ai No Corrida” with Chas Jankel so he has quite the CV.

Queen


I didn’t cry when Bowie died. I didn’t cry when Prince died. It’s not the sort of thing I do, no matter how much I loved the person’s music. But I was sitting at my desk at work yesterday getting quite choked up and teary thinking about Aretha. I was a little surprised at how deeply I felt, but one listen to the records and I know why.

You know where the obituaries are so you don’t need me to tell you about her. This track always hit me right in the heart, and now I find it hard to get through without blubbing again.

Download: Angel – Aretha Franklin (mp3)

Love Me Do, Or Else


Last weekend on my Twitter feed some bloke expressed disbelief that a person could actually dislike The Beatles, then someone else said that anyone who claimed they did was only trying to be “cool”. I don’t know if they were all reacting to some story or tweet somewhere but the collective, absolute certainty of them really got my back up. Experience has taught me not to get involved in Twitter fights so I wrote this instead.

Let me say right off the bat that I think The Beatles are fine, I like them, but anyone who think it’s impossible to not feel that way is operating under the old-fashioned and blinkered assumption that the default position of pop music is white boys with guitars. The truth is that hasn’t been the case for about 30 years now and Kraftwerk and James Brown have been far more influential on the last few decades of pop than the Fabs. If you grew up loving Hip-Hop, Techno, or even Death Metal they would not only mean fuck-all to you, but you might not even like the sort of thing they do.

I know there’s a difference between not thinking they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread and actively disliking them, but I swear some Beatles evangelists act like the former position is the only correct one and they can prove it by citing the number of classic songs they wrote like it’s empirical data. But music isn’t football and you don’t “win” the game by scoring more goals. The Fabs did write an incredible number of great songs — they probably have the best goal difference of any band — but I honestly like “Tin Soldier” or “Waterloo Sunset” more than all of them (if we’re comparing apples to apples).

My own personal feeling about The Beatles is more admiration than love. I wouldn’t claim that The Jam were a “better” group but I prefer them because they mean more to me. I swear I’m not just trying to be cool (ha!) when I say that I would take All Mod Cons over Revolver any day.

Given attitudes like the above it’s not surprising there are still teenagers who feel the need to declare “THE BEATLES SUCK!” and think they’re being punky rebels by doing so. I know we all have a patronizing laugh and tell them it’s just a phase they’ll grown out of, but I completely understand the impulse to say that. Who needs some middle-aged man (and it always is men) telling you what you’re supposed to like and calling you a liar if you don’t? It’s the sort of bollocks that makes me want to say this is better than the original. Not that I would, but…

Download: Strawberry Fields Forever – Candy Flip (mp3)

Jungle Groove


I think most people here know that the Happy Mondays’ “Step On” was a cover of John Kongos’ 1971 hit “He’s Gonna Step on You Again”, but I didn’t know until recently that they also covered his follow-up “Tokoloshe Man” on the b-side of their 1991 single “Judge Fudge”.

Kongos was from South Africa and the groove of “He’s Gonna Step on You Again” uses a tape loop of African drumming while “Tokoloshe Man” sounds like Slade playing Afrobeat. I’m not surprised the Mondays were drawn to these which both have shaggy, stomping beats right up their own ramshackle alley. Kongos never says “You’re twisting my melon, man” though, that’s all Shaun Ryder.

Download: He’s Gonna Step on You Again – John Kongos (mp3)
Download: Tokoloshe Man – John Kongos (mp3)