Is this the first show in radio history to play Ella Fitzgerald, immediately followed by The Slits?

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The answer is I don’t know, but it’s not a combination you’re likely to come across very often. In fact the contrast in styles works surprisingly well as the First Lady of Song coos “Fascinating Rhythm” and Ari Up responds with an energetic, eye-opening version of I Heard It Through the Grapevine.

Too much music today is compartmentalised. Music should be an adventure that takes you out of your comfort zone and opens your ears to different styles, artists and generations. There’s eclectic, and there’s The Beat Goes On eclectic.

Anyway, welcome to the second part of the “Sisters with Voices” special edition of The Beat Goes On, featuring some wonderful performances by female artists. You can listen to the whole show online by following this link to Mixcloud.

This monthly two-part blogpost contains a full playlist and cool links to all the music, with added video clips.

Enjoy the second half of the show!

Just the 73.5 million YouTube views so far for the Welsh singer’s 2008 international hit, co-written by her and Steve Booker. If it sounds like a cover of a soul classic, or even the original of a soul classic, that’s because it’s a soul classic. Duffy once said she sings Mercy several times a day and “it’s just like having sex every time” – so if you like singing in the shower, this could be a fun song choice.

Now here’s Sammy Davis Jr to introduce Mama Cass.

My six-year-old wanted me to play this on the show for his infant school choir, who are learning the song. (Based, I imagine, on Paloma Faith’s version, which was released earlier this year.) It’s strange, but Cass Elliott died, aged just 32, in 1974. She’d be 76 years old now, yet I still feel sad about her early death whenever I hear that lovely voice.

Now talking of lovely voices, here’s the loveliest of them all.

The Gershwins wrote Fascinating Rhythm in 1924, and Ella’s version dates from 1959 and her Songbook recordings. Then, a mere two decades later, this happened …

No one would claim Ari Up was in the same league as Ella as a singer, but there’s an energy and honesty about The Slits’ work that makes them one of the most interesting punk bands, much more so than most of the boys. I love this cover version. If you are interested in The Slits, I strongly recommend Viv Albertine’s memoir – Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys. It’s compelling, beautifully written, sad and funny.

Swing Out Sister – named after the 1945 American musical comedy film Swing Out, Sister – with a live performance on Top of the Pops in 1992. If you’re worried about what Corinne has on her head, it’s her spectacular bun.

This reached No 21 in the UK charts; Dusty Springfield’s excellent recording of the song in 1969 had faltered at No 43. For a really soulful version, however, try the Barbara Acklin original. Am I the Same Girl has such an interesting history, and has been covered so widely, that I’m preparing a separate blogpost just about this song.

The next item combines two regular features of The Beat Goes On: Frank of the Month and I Hope I Die Before the Band Gets Old – it’s Frankie, by Sister Sledge.

Debbie, Joni, Kim and Kathy Sledge had been singing together all their lives and made their first record in 1971. Debbie and Kim are still performing as Sister Sledge, nearly half a century later.

The lyrics for Frankie were written by multi-millionaire socialite, philanthropist and Democratic Party fundraiser Denise Rich after she had a dream about Frank Sinatra while dozing on a plane.

My daughter-in-law Eleanor Marsh released her crowdfunded first solo album, Splashes of Colour, this year and it’s lovely. It’s not on YouTube yet but this promo gives a flavour of the album.

Now for a guilty pleasure from the 1970s, co-written by Carole, Bette Midler and Bruce Roberts. I still find the lyrics amusing after, oh, a few hundred listens.

Watching the video, it’s not surprising that Burt Bacharach fell for her. We all did. Today, in her mid-70s, Carole is an artist and writer living in New York City.

Happy birthday to Belinda Carlisle (briefly “Dottie Danger” as drummer with The Germs), who was 60 in August, and to The Go-Go’s, celebrating their 40th anniversary this year with a new Broadway musical and gigs featuring the classic line-up: Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin, Charlotte Caffey, Gina Schock and Kathy Valentine. This, from their 1981 debut album Beauty and the Beat, remains their signature song.

Not long after The Go-Go’s made their breakthrough, a British band called Monsoon were making their debut on Top of the Pops with Ever So Lonely.

Vocalist Sheila Chandra, aged 16, had just left the cast of the popular children’s TV series Grange Hill. Now she was in the UK singles charts (at No 12) with this highly original, for the time, fusion of east and west. Sheila continued to record after Monsoon broke up but in 2010, tragically, was diagnosed with the horrible rare condition burning mouth syndrome – as a result of which she can’t speak, laugh, cry or sing without suffering intense pain.

Described at the time by one critic as “an avant-pop stampede of pounding percussion and deranged shrieks”, Sat In Your Lap remains weirdly powerful, and powerfully weird, all these years later. It sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard, or ever will hear, or ever could hear. How it became a hit single I don’t know; it wouldn’t in these blander, less experimental times. The product of a creative genius, this makes me think of Kate wheeling around the recording studio, swooshing bamboo sticks through the air.

Another unique talent, the brilliant, cruelly underrated, Laura Nyro. To a Child, from her 1984 album Mother’s Spiritual, expresses the joys and fears (and exhaustion) of becoming a parent better than anything I’ve ever heard. She just has a way of opening up her soul and inviting you in.

We could build the dream with love: a two-part tribute to Laura Nyro

Here are some of the other female artists I had hoped to included in this two-hour session: Joni Mitchell, Sarah Vaughan, Marianne Faithfull, Betty Carter, Martha Reeves, Dianne Reeves, Alicia Keys, Jill Scott, Mary J Blige, Brenda Russell, Dinah Shore, Julie London, Julie Driscoll, Etta James, Billie Holiday, Poly Styrene, Sandy Denny, Bessie Smith, Siouxsie Sioux, Gladys Knight, Sandy Denny … the list could go on. I promise to play them all in the future.

Back to the music with Thelma Houston and Someone is Standing Outside, a lovely Jimmy Webb song from 1969. Jimmy’s compositions deserve an entire show to themselves.

Thelma Houston is no relation to Whitney, but Whitney’s mum, Cissy, does appear on our final song, played as a tribute to the late, great Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin – the only plausible rival, in my opinion, to Ella Fitzgerald for the crown of greatest female singer of them all.

Co-written by Stevie Wonder, the 1972 Aretha version features a stellar line-up of musicians: Aretha herself on piano, Donny Hathaway electric piano, Joe Farrell flute, Hugh McCracken guitar, Chuck Rainey bass, Bernard “Pretty” Purdie drums, and Gwen Guthrie alongside Cissy on backing vocals. An absolute gem of a record.

RIP Aretha.

Listen to The Beat Goes On live at kennetradio.com – the next show, featuring another eclectic mix of great music, will be broadcast on Wednesday 26 September from 9-11pm (21:00 to 23:00 BST).

Twitter: @AAA_Band_Names

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Sisters doing it for themselves … two hours of great music, and not a male voice to be heard

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The latest edition of The Beat Goes On, the quirky radio show hosted by the editor of this website, is a special edition entitled Sisters with Voices – two hours of great music featuring only female artists, with hardly a male voice to be heard apart from the presenter (me).

As well as a tribute to the late Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, you can hear Ella Fitzgerald, Grace Jones, Kate Bush, Sister Sledge … and many more. Listen to the whole show any time online by following this link to Mixcloud.

If you haven’t time to listen to the whole thing, this is the first of two blogposts containing a full playlist and cool links to all the music, with video clips.

So settle back and enjoy the show!

Britney channels her inner Cher – or is it Sonny? – with this strange, but oddly haunting, live version of the show’s theme song. The album track was produced by The All Seeing I, whose own version of the tune was featured last month. Both were based on Buddy Rich’s arrangement, starring his 12-year-old daughter Cathy, 30 years earlier.

Now it’s time for a welcoming Hello, Hooray from Judy Collins. If you only know this song from the Alice Cooper cover, you are in for a treat. Judy’s beautiful, pure voice is at its thrilling best. From her fine 1968 album Who Knows Where the Time Goes. The superb guitar is by Stephen Stills.

The theme of this show is “sisters with voices”, so here are S-Double-U-V in 2000, sampling Human Nature, the best song (in my humble opinion) on Thriller.

Coming up next: one of the first singles of the 1980s, and one of the best. Two Marthas and a bunch of Canadian guys singing about a beach that didn’t exist. Catchy and exhilarating, it sounds as fresh today as it did 38 years ago.

From Echo Beach to Sandie Shaw. The 1967 Eurovision Song Contest winner had acquired a bit more attitude by the time she recorded this with The Smiths (minus Morrissey) in 1984.

Patrice Rushen is such a superb artist, as singer, composer, and (more recently) jazz pianist. She is still best known, and destined to remain so, for her 1982 post-disco classic Forget Me Nots. Patrice cowrote the song with Freddie Washington, who is on bass; Gerald Albright plays the saxophone solo.

Before I played this, I tried to teach my listeners, the good people of Newbury and Thatcham, in Berkshire, England, how to clap along with it. Feel free to join in. Ready … one (clap), two (clap), three (clap), four (clap clap) …

Next, in The Beat Goes On’s regular People Say We Monkee Around slot, it’s Susanna Hoffs, of the Bangles, aided by Matthew Sweet, with a lovely live version of Michael Nesmith’s Different Drum (written for, but not recorded by, The Monkees, although briefly performed in the TV show). From Under the Covers, the duo’s 2006 album.

And now, ladies and gentlemen … HERE’S GRACE!

Style or substance? How about both, as demonstrated by Grace Jones on not just one of the finest records, but one of the most iconic events, of the 1980s. Strange now to think Slave to the Rhythm was originally intended as Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s follow-up to Relax. Click here, and you can join the 100 or so people who have heard the demo of their very different version.

American Spring – originally a trio called The Honeys, then Spring, but there was a rival Spring, so they changed again – were Marilyn Wilson, wife of Brian Wilson, and her sister Diane Rovell. Shyin’ Away (1972) was co-produced by Brian, and the instrumental arrangement is very Brian-esque.

Great title for the latest single from one of my favourite British bands, a restrained affair by their standards: a steel band sound with a lilting choral melody. Live, The Go! Team resemble The Spice Girls on speed. Fun, but exhausting.

From Nuyorican Soul’s 1997 debut album, which features guest appearances from, among others, Roy Ayers, George Benson, DJ Jazzy Jeff and Tito Puente. Jocelyn Brown is the lead singer on this faithful cover of the stunning 1971 recording by Rotary Connection (a psychedelic soul band whose members included the late Minnie Ripperton).

The best Motown single EVER. Or at least, one of the best. If an alien from Mars ever lands in your garden and you want to teach them what pop music is all about in just a couple of minutes, I suggest you play them this. And it’s not just Diana Ross: the backing vocals are great too.

James Taylor, the world’s greatest Hammond organist, and his brilliant quartet, featuring Yvonne Yanney’s fine lead vocal, bring the first half of the show, and this blogpost, to a close.

Coming soon: the second half of the show, featuring Duffy, Ella Fitzgerald, The Slits, The Go-Go’s, Aretha Franklin and lots more!

Twitter: @AAA_Band_Names

 

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The Beat Goes On at the movies, part 2 … Beatles, Blues Brothers, Barbra and more

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Welcome to the second half of the soundtrack special edition of The Beat Goes On, featuring an eclectic variety of music from the movies, ranging from A Hard Day’s Night to The Blues Brothers and from South Pacific to Sex and the City.

The Beat Goes On is a new radio show, hosted by the editor of this very website, on Kennet Radio, a community radio station in Berkshire, England, on 106.7 FM (no static at all … well, not much). You can listen to the whole show online by following this link to Mixcloud.

If you don’t want to listen to the whole thing, this two-part blogpost contains a full playlist and cool links to all the music, with added film and video clips.

Enjoy the second half of the show!

Great theme tune. The show was going to be called The Alley Cats, and then Harry’s Angels, but they changed it to avoid confusion with Harry O. This brings back memories of heated playground discussions as to which one was our favourite. Mine was David Doyle.

Heatwave (initially Chicago’s Heatwave) were a class act, and this is one of the great records of the 1970s, composed by the late Rod Temperton, who went on to write Rock With You, Thriller and other classics for Michael Jackson. Boogie Nights has appeared in several movie soundtracks, including Eyes of Laura Mars and The Stud, but ironically not in Boogie Nights itself (lead singer Johnnie Wilder Jr, a devout Christian, objected on moral grounds).

Boogie Nights to Thriller: Rod Temperton, the soul genius most fans have never heard of

In the regular “Hope I Die Before the Band Gets Old” slot are Kool & The Gang, formed in 1964 as The Jazziacs and not just still in business more than 50 years later but, incredibly, with four original members, including main men Robert “Kool” Bell and his brother Ronald. Listen closely to this wonderful, all too brief clip from Saturday Night Fever and you will hear the Gang play a few bars of Streets of Cairo (the “snake charmer” song), which is even older than the band, dating from the 1890s.,

“Are you a mod or a rocker?” “I’m a mocker.” Funny, innocent, but slyly knowing, and still watchable today, A Hard Day’s Night captures the moment when Beatlemania (the original title of the film) captured the world’s imagination and The Beatles changed it for ever.

Want to know how to play the opening chord, the most famous guitar chord in history? John, Paul and George each had a crucial role. Keith Smart tells you exactly how they did it.

“You won’t have heard of them. It’s by a group called The Beatles”

“What’s New, Pussycat?”, the 1965 movie in which this appeared, was a greeting Warren Beatty used on the phone to his many girlfriends. Paul Jones of the Manfreds does a decent job on a fine Burt Bacharach-Hal David song that was not really suited to his style. Love’s punkier version was much better, and here’s amazing footage of Arthur Lee and friends (including Alban “Snoopy” Pfisterer on snare drum) miming to it on TV in 1966.

If the Kids are United, which reached No 9 on the UK charts exactly 40 years ago, was featured in the 1996 film When Saturday Comes, a poor man’s The Full Monty in which Sean Bean, improbably, propels Sheffield United to FA Cup glory by scoring a last-minute penalty against Manchester United. Blades fans, of whom I am one, still sing “Sheffield United will never be defeated” (not true, sadly) to this tune. But of course in Sheffield, we ‘ad it tough in them days …

Michael Palin, the only Yorkshireman, is the only one to get the accent right but it’s still a pretty funny sketch. And accurate.

Jennifer Hudson’s power-packed All Dressed in Love – written by Cee-Lo of Gnarls Barkley, MC Jack Splash from Plantlife and producer Salaam Remi – brings Sex and the City, the movie, to a suitable close. Sadly, they made a sequel in 2010; it gained seven Golden Raspberry nominations and three awards, including Worst Actress (for all four principal characters).

From the depths of The Damned to the top of the charts, Captain Sensible (Raymond Burns), introduced by John Peel and backed by guitarist Robyn Hitchcock and Dolly Mixture, in 1989 with his surprisingly likable version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, from South Pacific.

“Parfait mélange” indeed: a hauntingly beautiful song, in any language, by the French singer, dancer and actor Guesch Patti, the title track of her 1995 album and the best thing in Peter Greenaway’s movie The Pillow Book, perhaps the ultimate example of his obsession with style over substance.

It’s 106 miles to Chicago … we got a tank full of gas … half a pack of cigarettes … it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses … HIT IT!

Jake and Elwood Blues at their best.

Great lyrics from an original Modern Lover and Talking Head: “Pretty girl, young man, old man, man with a gun, two people in love – the rules do not apply.” Like Sister Carol’s Wild Thing (see previous blogpost), this is from Jonathan Demme’s excellent 1986 black comedy Something Wild.

Now it’s time for Frank of the Month, another regular feature in the show. Last time we had Frank, the Amy Winehouse album. For The Beat Goes On soundtrack special it’s … Lieutenant Frank Drebin. Here are some of Leslie Nielsen’s best moments from The Naked Gun trilogy.

When I see five weirdos dressed in togas stabbing a guy in the middle of the park in full view of 100 people I shoot the bastards!

That was a Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar, you moron. You killed five actors – good ones.

The next edition of The Beat Goes On, later this month, will feature two hours of great music featuring only female artists, from Aretha to Ella, from Sister Sledge to The Slits. To whet your appetite, here’s Barbra Streisand.

Pass me a hanky, please. I think I’ve got something in my eye.

And that’s about it. But there is one more thing …

Listen to The Beat Goes On live at kennetradio.com – the next show will be broadcast on Wednesday 22 August from 9-11pm (21:00 to 23:00 BST).

Twitter: @AAA_Band_Names

 

 

 

 

 

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