Lean On Bill

The 70s were a golden age for soul music with giants like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Curtis Mayfield pushing the frontiers of what soul could sound like and be about. By contrast, the late and very great Bill Withers‘ appeal was more honest and blue-collar. He was the guy from the factory who just happen to be able to write incredible, heartfelt songs about the trials of everyday life with a minimalist, conversational simplicity.

Being able to do simple things brilliantly meant that he was probably a little underrated — especially given his competition at the time — but his catalogue is rich with classics, like this sumptuous ballad from his 1975 album Making Music.

Download: Hello Like Before – Bill Withers (mp3)


Just Like The Girl In Dr. No

Originally published May 2011.

Despite being inspired by a rather kitsch advertising campaign I think “I’m Mandy, Fly Me” is the greatest thing 10cc ever did, better even than the sublime magnificence of “I’m Not In Love.” Those of us old enough to remember will know that the title comes from the National Airlines advertising campaign of the early 70s (though I could have sworn it was it was Pan Am) featuring pretty air hostesses urging you to “Fly Me” which wasn’t in the slightest bit suggestive, no sir.

The song shouldn’t be that great at all given those origins, but somehow they turn this unlikely source into a beautiful Pop Art mini-movie packed with great moments and genuine pathos: the swooning, pillowy-soft beginning, the scorching guitar solo, and then the line “I felt Mandy pull me up, Give me the kiss of life, Just like the girl in Dr. No, no, no” which makes no sense if you’ve actually seen or read Dr. No but still sounds beautiful and evocative.

I don’t really like flying that much myself anymore. It’s not the thought that the plane will suddenly plunge into the sea (to the sound of a guitar solo), or the security checks and the cramped seats, but it’s the white-knuckle anxiety I now feel when the plane is taking off and you can feel the power of the roaring engines and, as it climbs into the sky you’re keenly aware that this monster vehicle is just hanging in the air. In those moments the slightest bump or shake will give me kittens and make my heart skip a beat. I never used to have the willies about flying and actively enjoyed it, but now that spoils the whole experience for me. I’d much rather take the train these days, pity those don’t go to England from here though. Maybe I just need a Mandy to soothe my anxiety with a blanket and a little bag of peanuts.

Download: I’m Mandy, Fly Me – 10cc (mp3)

Something for the Weekend

Kate was on a lot of TV shows at the start of her career and YouTube is full of clips of her miming songs on all sorts of cheesy music variety programs all over Europe. This one is better than most of them because she’s obviously worked out some choreography with the single camera and it’s like she’s dancing with it.