The Beat Goes On (2): Pretenders, Monkees, Radiohead, Amy Winehouse and lots more

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Here’s the second half of the first The Beat Goes On, a new show presented by the editor of this very website.

The Beat Goes On was launched last week (Wednesday 27 June) 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 first 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.

Welcome to the second half of the show!

The original lineup of The Pretenders in 1981 at the top of their game. Recorded in Paris – hence Chrissie’s exclamation “like Brigitte Bardot!” – and featuring brilliant interplay between Pete Farndon on bass and Martin Chambers on drums (guitarist James Honeyman-Scott is no slouch either). I remember when they appeared on Top of The Pops doing this: it was positively thrilling; Freeez made their debut with Southern Freeez on the same show. The coolest edition ever.

From their excellent 1967 album Headquarters. Davy Jones holds out longer than the others before lapsing into giggles, but then he was an actor who had appeared in Coronation Street. There actually was a Mr Dobalina: Peter Tork heard an airport announcer calling “Mr Dobalina, Mr Bob Dobalina” to his flight and thus, indirectly, giving him a kind of immortality, especially after he was sampled in …

Ice Cube’s cousin (real name Teren Delvon Jones) was 19 years old at the time of this recording, which as well as Zilch samples Stone to the Bone (James Brown), Gloryhallastoopid (Parliament) and Give It to You (Upp). Mistadobalina was a hit all over Europe, except in the UK. Britain out of step with the rest of Europe? Surely not.

One of the greatest and most influential singles of the 1960s, or indeed any era, and the first psychedelic hit (The Byrds released Eight Miles High a month later). Jeff Beck’s amazing solo was played on one string, the G, on a 1954 Fender Esquire guitar; he later recalled: “There was mass hysteria in the studio when I did that solo.” I estimate that I have listened to this record at least 2,500 times since its release in 1966, and it still sounds fresh and exciting. Everything about it is perfect but my favourite bit is the little thing Jim McCarty does after the chorus and guitar solo on his bass drum and hi-hat. Happy birthday Jim – 75 this month (on 25 July).

Poignant advice from Bill Callahan to his widow-to-be, including the great lines “Wink at the minister/blow kisses to my grieving brothers”. Funny, sad and moving track from the 2000 album Dongs of Sevotion (sic).

Now a couple of tracks by The Barbarians, one of the best 60s garage bands, perfectly combining the innocence and insolence characteristic of that genre.

Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl?, which reached No 55 in the US charts in 1965, was (like Moulty) co-written and produced by Doug Morris, now chairman of Sony Music Entertainment. In a blogpost for the Guardian, I wrote that it neatly satirised the older generation’s largely inaccurate claims that “you can’t tell the boys from the girls these days”.  Moulty, which reached No 102 in the charts in the following year, tells the story of one-handed drummer Victor “Moulty” Moulton, later to receive an honourable mention in the Ramones song Do You Remember Rock’n’Roll Radio? The Hawks, later to become The Band, backed Moulty on the recording.

The haunting, slightly off-kilter nature of the song is matched by the eerie quality of the video, shot by the band themselves on 25 April 1980, three weeks before Ian Curtis killed himself and a month before Love Will Tear Us Apart was released. The record, made at Strawberry Studios in Stockport – U2 were in the studio too, discussing a deal for their first album – was a hit in the UK on four separate occasions and was named Best Single of All Time by NME in 2002. Ian’s widow, Deborah, had “Love Will Tear Us Apart” inscribed on his memorial stone. The band taught Ian one chord so he could play guitar live on this song, an almost unbearably sad detail.

Wonderful live version of the track from Frank, her first album, named in part as a tribute to Frank Sinatra; Ol’ Blue Eyes was name-checked in a fine song, Half Time, that didn’t make the final cut of the record.

Fine track from the lovely 1966 album If I Were a Carpenter, composed by Jeffrey Stevens; the song, and Bobby Darin’s vocal, sound rather like Gene Clark of The Byrds. There’s a good live performance of this on YouTube but, unlike this version, it doesn’t include the amazing bagpipes.

The band formerly known as On A Friday give an astonishing performance of a song inspired, according to Thom Yorke, by Victorian ghost stories and The Stepford Wives. It was recorded at Tottenham House, a rundown stately home near Oxford; the band camped out in caravans as producer Nigel Godrich thought it would add to the atmosphere. It worked.

Although best known for Escape (The Piña Colada Song), Rupert Holmes has written dozens of hit songs and a Tony Award-winning musical, published two excellent novels, and released several brilliant albums. Songs That Sound Like Movies, a recently released three-CD set of his 1970s recordings for Epic, is highly recommended. Our National Pastime, from Widescreen (1974), his first album, is typical of Rupert’s wit and originality. The late Alice Playten plays Karen.

Endless Acrimony might have been a more appropriate title for an autobiographical number about The Beach Boys, but Bruce Johnston’s pretty ballad makes up with sincerity for what it lacks in historical accuracy. The harmony, if not endless, is lovely when Carl Wilson joins Bruce on the last verse and at the end. This is a track from Keepin’ The Summer Alive, the band’s 24th studio album, released in 1980.

Ronald Isley, at the age of 76, is in superb voice on this version of the great Marvin Gaye song. His brother Ernie and Carlos Santana play guitars on this track from the terrific  album Power of Peace, released in 2017 – an astonishing 63 years after the Isleys first recorded.

James Taylor, one of the world’s greatest Hammond organ players, brings The Beat Goes On to a close with a teaser for the next show, which will feature two hours of great music from movie and TV soundtracks.

Listen to The Beat Goes On live at kennetradio.com – the next show will be broadcast on Wednesday 25 July from 9-11pm (21:00 to 23:00 BST).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Beat Goes On: genius from Prefab Sprout and XTC, fashion advice from Gogol Bordello

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At last! After a six-month sabbatical, the slacker who edits this website has finally roused himself and relaunched And And! And: the Ultimate Guide to Band Names … now accompanied by a new regular radio show featuring a quirky, eclectic selection of good music.

The Beat Goes On was launched this week (Wednesday 27 June) 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 first show any time 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.

Enjoy the show!

Wrecking Crew bass player Carol Kaye came up with the syncopated bass line that is the really compelling thing about this song. After he fatally skied into a tree in 1998, Congressman Sonny Bono’s widow inscribed his gravestone with “And The Beat Goes On”, which is actually a song by The Whispers. Serves him right for pronouncing reminisce “rem-O-niss” and keeping the best lines to himself (“Men still keep on marching off to war”) while forcing poor Cher to sing “Electrically they keep the baseball score”. However, she still performs the song today. Truly, The Beat Goes On.

More syncopation on the bass line and piano, a lovely melody, brilliant lyrics, what more could you want? Recorded in 1993 but not released until 2009. Paddy McAloon namechecks Nile Rodgers, Miles Davis and Pierre Boulez, and rhymes “heroine” with “the unnerving, unswerving Irving Berlin”. The man’s a genius. And what about that synth harp at the end! Sublime.

Lou Reed: “Rock & Roll is about me. If I hadn’t heard rock’nroll on the radio, I would have had no idea there was life on this planet!” From the 1970 album Loaded.

Sound fashion advice and a fine video from the New York gypsy punks, who changed their name to Gogol Bordello from Eugene Hütz and The Béla Bártoks, according to Hütz, because “nobody in the US knows who the hell Béla Bartók was”. (But they all know who Gogol was?) Before that, Eugene was in bands called The Fags, then Flying Fuck. He knows how to pick a band name.

It’s 50 years since Elvis recorded his “Comeback Special“, showing he could still cut it after all those years of making schlocky movies. Great chops and banter between Elvis, Scotty Moore and the rest of the guys, plus screams from a couple of girls who positioned themselves nice and close to the microphone just to annoy us for the next half century. I love the way the band don’t know how to finish the song. The parody of MacArthur Park at the end suggests Elvis was not the biggest fan of Jimmy Webb’s epic.

From The King, to King for a Day. A superb Colin Moulding song from the 1989 album Oranges & Lemons. It reached only No 89 in the UK charts, a criminal indictment of the record-buying public. Swindon’s finest showing once again why they are one of the very best British bands, ever, with or without the silly hats.

Eccentric 2010 offering by Jim Jupp from the album Welcome to Godalming. Belbury Poly is an institution in That Hideous Strength, a 1945 sci-fi novel by CS Lewis. It’s probably been upgraded to the University of Belbury by now.

Another great single (it reached No 64 in 2011) from the indie outfit who met at a posh boys’ school in Hampstead, north London. Bombay Bicycle Club, a big improvement on their initial name The Canals, was a US chain of Indian restaurants.

I have loved this song for 48 years but until I played it on my show, I had never heard it on the radio. From the excellent (even if the critics hated it) second Alice Cooper album, Easy Action, when they were a proper band, not just a bloke with a snake.

A very cool track from a very cool album, Year of Meteors (2005). The wonderful Laura Veirs may look like a 1950s schoolteacher, but she was once a riot grrrl you know, in a band called Rair Kx!

One minute and 33 seconds of whimsy from Procol Harum, the flipside of Homburg, their underrated 1967 follow-up to A Whiter Shade of Pale. This was a cult record for my mates and me at school, partly because of the lyrics – “see the naked lumberjack/sip his aphrodisiac” – and partly because of the title, which for no particular reason we found hilarious.

If you like this, I recommend Wallpaper for the Soul, the French band’s splendid 2002 album. If you don’t like it, I recommend a visit to your nearest tin ear clinic. The vocal by Xavier Boyer is, as always, magnifique. Tahiti 80, incidentally, was a slogan on one of his dad’s old T-shirts.

From their first “proper” album, which The Beta Band hated, demonstrating that the artists are not necessarily the best judges of their own work, because it’s great. Featured in the soundtrack of the 2002 movie Igby Goes Down.

Coming soon: the second half of the show, featuring The Pretenders, The Monkees, The Barbarians, and lots more!

 

 

 

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Let’s face it, most Christmas songs are rubbish. Here are 10 that are actually rather good

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Can it really be 12 months since 10 Christmas songs that won’t make you think King Herod had the right idea after all? It surely can. If there hasn’t been much in the way of goodwill to all in the intervening 365 days or so, let’s hope for a little more peace, love and understanding in 2018. Meanwhile, it’s time for another selection of alternatives to the sickly slush on offer in shopping malls and supermarkets the world over at this time of year.

There’s plenty of choice. Just about everyone’s made a Christmas record, from The Kinks to The Who, from Pink Floyd to Radiohead, from Iggy Pop’s White Christmas to Marc Bolan’s It’s T.Rexmas. Trying to think of the unlikeliest artist to have produced a Christmas record, I came up with Jimi Hendrix. I was wrong. That leaves Charles Manson, and he’s probably left a posthumous Yuletide single somewhere in a recording studio’s archives.

The problem is that when credible artists record a Christmas song, they are often just messing about and their efforts are rarely heard in public. This leaves us at the mercy of Mariah Carey, Cliff Richard and the rest of the seasonal schlock merchants, which is about as welcome as a “Happy Nuke Year” message from Donald Trump to Kim Jong-un.

With so much Christmas fare, and so much of it rubbish, sorting the gems from the duds is quite a task – but as you’ve been good girls and boys this year, I’ve done it for you. Here, then, are 10 songs to bring genuine cheer this holiday season.

The 2017 festive countdown starts at No 10 with Godfather Christmas himself, James Brown, and Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto, from the 1968 LP A Soulful Christmas. Among a smattering of seasonal songs the album also featured one of his biggest hits, the Black Power anthem Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud. A great record at any time of year.

If Santa heeded James Brown’s advice, it may explain why he omitted to drop in on Canadian singer-songwriter David Myles; hence the lament Santa Never Brings Me a Banjo, at No 9, two minutes and 10 seconds of pure delight with a video to match. Spoiler alert: he does get a banjo in the end.

No Christmas carol service would be complete without Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, and who better to perform it than The Fall, at No 8, from a John Peel session broadcast on BBC Radio 1 in December 1994. Mark E Smith is on fine form and there’s some nice guitar from Brix Smith. The same session featured a frenetic 70-second reading of Jingle Bell Rock that puts all other versions of that oft-covered ditty to shame.

At No 7, who should have dropped in on our musical office party but James White to sing Christmas With Satan, a deranged classic from the Ze Records compilations of the early 1980s that also gave the world such alt-Christmas joys as Cristina’s Things Fall Apart and Suicide’s Hey Lord. I love the band’s offbeat improvisations around seasonal favourites, effortlessly segueing from White Christmas to Hava Nagila. As for the lyrics – “All year we’ve been waitin’/for Christmas with Satan” – Christmas time, mistletoe and wine, it ain’t. James White, by the way, is better known as James Chance, a founder member of Teenage Jesus and The Jerks.

From the ridiculous to the sublime, Gloria Estefan is at No 6 with Christmas Through Your Eyes, a song that artfully demonstrates how to be sentimental without being schmaltzy. Beautifully arranged, performed and produced, this is the perfect Christmas record, with bells on.

I’m pretty sure Gloria would agree that it’s cliched to be cynical at Christmas. But don’t just take our word for it: punk satirists Half Man Half Biscuit (from Birkenhead, near Liverpool) are at No 5 with It’s Cliched to be Cynical at Christmas. If you like this, I recommend another seasonal classic by the same band, All I Want for Christmas is a Dukla Prague Away Kit. This, by the way, is what a working-class British Christmas looks like.

Time for an instrumental, and who better than vintage guitar virtuosos The Ventures, at No 4 in the list with Sleigh Ride (and a little taste of their biggest hit, Walk Don’t Run, thrown in for good measure). It’s from their excellent 1965 Christmas album.

The Three Wise Men are at No 3 with Thanks for Christmas, and if it sounds remarkably like XTC, that’s because it is XTC’s 1983 Christmas single (despite the songwriting credits: Kaspar/Melchior/Balthazar). The prince of off-kilter English pop, Andy Partridge, revealed: “I have a soft spot for Christmas songs. I wanted the female staff at the Virgin Records office to sing it and we’d put it out under the name The Virgin Marys but they thought it would be sacrilegious, so the band did it under the name The Three Wise Men.”

The Sonics were one of the great mid-1960s garage bands, and highly influential: Kurt Cobain, The White Stripes and Bruce Springsteen were all fans. Here they are, recorded on a two-track tape machine, and sounding as if they were playing in an actual garage, at No 2 with Santa Claus. Among various covers of this song, The Gruesomes did a good version in the 1980s but nothing quite captures the thinly veiled menace of the original.

To make a great Christmas record takes an unlikely combination of dignity and a sense of the ridiculous. Irony is fine; taking the piss isn’t. All the songs I’ve chosen, however different, maintain a certain optimism in the face of the inevitability that Christmas will almost certainly fail to live up to expectations. If there’s one artist who really gets this, it’s Sufjan Stevens, ticking every box with Songs for Christmas and Silver & Gold, five-EP box sets released in 2006 and 2012. A collection of carols, Christmas classics, obscure folk songs and original compositions, the songs are variously devotional, inspiring, sacred, profane, funny or sad, sometimes a mixture of all those things. That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!, perhaps the best song, is too unbearably poignant so to cheer us all up I’ve gone for Come On! Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance!

I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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Twitter: @AAA_Band_Names

 

 

 

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